Project #230: The Electric Piper

Hello and welcome to Project Nitsuj and welcome to another edition of Animation Bang. Let’s talk about modernization. In this day and age, we’re seeing classic children fairy tales being modernized to make the story more up to date and relatable for today’s youth. A good idea, except for the fact that every time a classic fairy tale goes through modernization it winds up sucking. A good example of this is the Dr. Seuss films and probably the worst example of modernization would be Disney’s Chicken Little movie. A simple story about a kid being tricked into believing the sky was falling got turned into one of the worst animated movies of all time. Yep, fairy tales that go through modernization suck pretty bad except for one, The Pied Piper. Another simple story with a simple lesson. A town is plagued with rats so a traveling piper says he’ll get rid of them for a price. He plays his pipe getting rid of all the rats only to have the town go back on their word and give him nothing for his efforts. Rightfully pissed he leaves and comes back the next day where he plays his pipe hypnotizing all the kids and leading them out of the town forever never to be seen again. Yeah it has a dark ending but it was justified and the moral was good. Don’t go back on your word and keep your promises. A simple lesson told in a simple manner and during the early 2000s when modernization was at an all-time high this tale got repackaged as the rock opera TV movie The Electric Piper. This movie is considered a lost movie in the world. It was produced in 2000 but was broadcast on Nickelodeon in 2003. This movie only aired one time on the channel and it just came on randomly. I only saw a little bit of it when it aired and even than I was like, what? After airing the movie pretty much went into obscurity never to be seen again and was never released on home media due to the obscurity until last year when a copy finally became available for everyone and today we’re gonna take a look at it. Was it so bad that the people involved wanted to erase its presence from the world? Let’s find out, this is The Electric Piper.

Our story begins in a decade where things made less sense than they do today, the late 60s (ready your weapons should hippies surround you), and in the town of Hamlin which is the name of the town in the original story. We see that the town is a suburban area where the adults are strict, rules must be followed, order is the law, and children really don’t have a say in what they can and cannot do (not to sound racist but this is definitely the 60’s version of Whiteville). Everything was fine (for the adults. The kids, not so much) until the rats (a secret division of the Fire Nation) invaded the town (and they came in a huge pack, I’m honestly surprised nobody noticed them). While that’s going on we focus on two kids named Mick and his sister Janis who are the children of the mayor Nick Dixon (an obvious shout out to Richard Nixon, arooooooooo~) driving his kids home from school after the son got in trouble for playing his guitar in history class (okay that was stupid of him. I can understand the need to rock out but there is a time and place for it. The middle of class is not that time. You don’t see me Carlton Banks people in the middle of my blogs do you?). We quickly see that the kids sort of have the mindset of hippies, they’re tired of the status quo and want to change things. Mick wants to be a musician who can express himself and not be tied down by the rules of his father. Janis, wants to be treated with equal opportunity and not looked over because of her gender (it was the 60s, back then women having jobs was rare, they weren’t taken seriously, barely got any attention, were treated as trophies by men, and were told to just marry a smart man and not worry about anything else except being a good wife and taking care of kids. Sadly, there are some people out there who still think along these lines and some women who actually go along with this line of thinking. It’s quite sickening if you ask me). Nick takes away Mick’s guitar and tells him to just focus on his studies and Janis wants to be punished as well since she herself isn’t doing so well in school but Nick tells her not to worry about that and just focus on finding a smart guy to marry (again, it was the 60s, not one of our finest decades). The kids begin to notice the rat infestation sweeping over the town but the adults are too distracted with their daily lives and keeping their kids in line that they don’t notice the rats at all (how do you miss these fuckers!? I haven’t seen this many rats since the Republican Party Convention).

After a song number a bus drops off our Pied Piper for the evening Sly a cool Jimmy Hendrix looking magical traveling rhyming musician who says he can get rid of the rats for them since he’s a traveling pest control musician (it’s not an exciting life but it’s a life nonetheless). The kids are a little bit hesitant to believe him (you mean to tell me this town doesn’t have an exterminator or pest control? You’re seriously telling me this town has remained pest free for God knows how many years? I find that very hard to believe) so he starts to sing and play his guitar driving a few rats away giving the kids a demonstration of his skills (well I’m convinced, how much?). The kids take Sly to Nick in the middle of a meeting in town hall (oh my God a black man) where Sly says he’ll get rid of the rats if Nick gives him his old Harley he keeps out back (right next to his wooden cross and white robe. I’m just saying we haven’t seen many minorities in this town and it’s starting to worry me a little). Yeah it turns out in his youth Nick was quite the rebel himself (I know right? This tight-laced clone of Nixon was actually a bad boy? Try picturing that) and used to be the leader of his own gang until he met his wife, they got married, he settled down, became mayor, and had kids (which pretty much made him into the selfish man he is today. See what happens when you get married?). Even though he doesn’t ride it anymore he still refuses to give it to Sly as payment (selfish jackass. I know I’m being very hard on this guy but just like Nixon he epitomizes everything that was wrong with the 60s) and says they’ll just plant traps (against the rats who have displayed human intelligence? That’ll end well). He tells Sly to leave which he does in a peaceful manner but he says he’ll stick around for one more day by the river should they change their mind. Once the rats find out that Sly is gone they completely takeover the town (and in ten seconds no less. Impressive. They may be filthy vermin but you’ve gotta respect their work) and Nick finally caves in and asks Sly to save them. So just like in the original story Sly plays his instruments and rather than kill them he instead hypnotizes the rats (using this very trippy scenery and song) to swim away and never come back (next stop, Pittsburg). As everyone cheers for Sly, he goes to town hall to get his Harley (he’s definitely more than earned it) but Nick decides to be a huge dick and refuses to give the bike to Sly saying he didn’t earned it (he got rid of all the fucking rats. If anything he deserves more than just a Harley. You should be thanking him for being so generous) because he doesn’t work half as hard or long as him (that’s what this is all about? You’re jealous of the guy because he doesn’t have to work as much as you to get what he wants? Why do I get the feeling that if Nick lived in today’s society this would be his catchphrase: Rather than call the rats back or use his magic on the town (which is something I would totally do. Be honest, you would do it too) he just leaves singing a song (which honestly is the best song in the movie in my opinion) about how he too had a dad similar to Mick and Janis who never kept his promise and never understood Sly. He sings about how he lived in a place where he didn’t feel he belonged so he left to find his own path and he became happier from it. He decides to go hang out in his cave in the mountains but before leaving he tells the kids not to let their potential be held back by their parents. This inspires the kids to rebel against their parents (row row fight the power) and they leave with Sly (now this is new and something I like. In the original the Piper just hypnotizes and leads them out of the village where they’re never seen again. Here, Sly didn’t hypnotize them at all, they’re following him of their own free will. They recognize that what happened to Sly was unfair and wrong and that what he said about their parents was true. The parents for the most part take no interest in hearing what their kids think or say. There’s no room for negotiation, it’s either their way or the highway. While I’m sure the parents are thinking about what’s best for their children there are times when they can be wrong in what they’re thinking. This is why parents and kids need to have an open communication with each other. I’m not saying parents need to give up their authority, I’m just saying they need to pay more attention to their kids and listen to what they have to say rather than tell them what to do all the time).

So the kids enter the mountain with Sly where we get another trippy song where they’re British and on the moon with a London theme (go home movie, you’re high). After that they eat where they have an incredible buffet thanks to Sly and his magical guitar which pretty much gives him anything he wants and creates anything he wants. Back in Hamlin 2 days have gone by and the adults can’t find a trace of the kids (they went inside the mountain on a magic road, how do you miss that? And no I’m not high, that’s what really happened). Nick finally caves in and decides to give up the Harley. He puts it out in front of a sign outside the town hoping Sly will see it and hopefully soon because the adults are starting to age by the day. Before Sly left he put a spell on the adults which causes them to age rapidly by the day and soon they’ll reach old age where they’ll eventually die. Back in the mountains the kids are enjoying themselves and getting to do the things they’ve always wanted to try and do (it’s like Woodstock except everyone there will remember all of it) except for Mick who just wants to play the guitar like Sly. Janis convinces him to ask Sly for lessons and he agrees to teach Mick how to play the guitar correctly. The kids find out what’s happening back in town and decide to return but Sly won’t let them leave (uh Sly you went from cool guy to creeper in the span of two seconds. That’s not a good thing Sly). He blocks the exit saying that everything they need is up here in the mountain (yeah, too bad it’s all an illusion created by the guitar. Dreaming is nice but if you live in your dreams instead of in reality you’re pretty much screwing yourself over). Thanks to Sly’s lessons Mick is able to do a little bit of magic and even though he hasn’t fully mastered it yet he’s able to create a path for everyone out of the mountains. However, Mick falls off a cliff and supposedly dies (how do I know, he has faded color). Sly has a change of heart, revives Mick (why not, that guitar practically does everything, so why not revive a person or two), and helps the kids out of the mountain where they return to Hamlin to see their aging parents and the town pretty much gone. Janis asks Sly to use his powers to revive the town but Sly says only Mick can do that (yeah kid, show us what you’ve learned). So Mick begins playing his guitar and singing where he revives the town (if anything it looks better) and brings all the adults back to their original age where they’ve all learned to listen to their kids and not be so uptight all the time. Nick finally gives his Harley to Sly and he rides off as everyone says goodbye to him (the black man’s work here is done) and he looks back to see the town of Hamlin shiny brighter and better than ever.

Final Thoughts

So that was The Electric Piper, why wasn’t this movie shown more often? This was very good. It pays homage and respect to the original while also adding in its own ideas and themes that in my opinion make the story better. Each character plays their part perfectly and putting the story in a 60s setting was actually a clever idea. The parents as I said before are unfair and don’t listen to their kids believing that they know what’s best them. The kids while rebellious do love and respect their parents but at the same time they want to be allowed to make decisions for themselves and follow their own dreams even if they’re different from the ideology of their parents. The best character in this movie was Sly. He’s the perfect representation of the freedom everyone wanted in the 60s. He’s free, he lives out his life doing what he loves to do and is happy. That one moment where he goes entirely creeper on us was out of nowhere and felt forced but other than that he’s a cool character. The songs are alright, some can be a little trippy and out of left field but I enjoyed them. The animation is nothing great, even for its time it was nothing amazing but it’s not awful either. It’s just basic animation for its time. The voice acting is surprisingly solid with a few well-known VAs and comedy legends such as Rodney Dangerfield one of my favorite comedians and one of the people who helped shaped my comedic style. If I had to name the downfalls of this movie it would be they really don’t touch on a lot of the backstory of characters. Like what got Mick into the guitar, who taught Sly how to play the guitar and use magic, and what made Nick turn into the man he is in the movie? We saw that he was a rebellious guy like Mick so something had to have happened to turn him into the person he is today. That’s really my only complaint with the movie but other than that everything else is good and enjoyable.

Final Score

The Electric Piper gets a final score of a 7/10. This movie shows how to do modernization correctly. I say give a watch, you can find it on kimcartoon and-

*It’s not usual by Tom Jones begins to play and Nitsuj gets up and does the Carlton Dance*

(Nitsuj): Ha! You guys didn’t think I was gonna do anything with this did you? Thanks for reading and I’ll see you next time on Project Nitsuj.

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