Toon Talk - From the Other Side: Curious George
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by Kirby C. Holt
(c) Universal Pictures
Since his literary debut way back in 1941, Curious George has led, well, a curious life.
The brainchild of authors H.A. Rey and Margret Rey, George and his constant companion, known only as The Man in the Yellow Hat, appeared in a total of seven books that have become a staple of every pre-school reading list. The simple storylines and quaint, primary colored illustrations have endured through the years and delighted generations. Practically everybody who has ever read a Curious George book as a child remember with affection the tales of the mischievous monkey (technically, being without a tail, George is actually a chimpanzee, but his creators have always referred to him as a monkey, so a monkey he is).
What is surprising about his longevity (not to mention his enduring popularity against the onslaught of so many other childhood favorites) is the fact that he has never appeared in any major movie or any lasting television programs. Until now.
With his childlike viewpoint of being the little guy in the great big world, George is a natural for animation. Nevertheless, it has taken all these years for him to break through into major motion pictures and, speaking as a fan who fondly recalls devouring every dog-eared copy of his books I could find in my grade school library, I wish George had stayed on the page. (Any Dr. Seuss fan who has sat through such aberrations as the live action versions of How the Grinch Stole Christmas or The Cat in the Hat know what I’m talking about.)
Although credit is due for the filmmakers’ use of traditional animation in George’s film debut (as opposed to live action, CGI or a combination of the two), most of the whimsy and charm of the storybooks has been culled out, and the end result is just another big screen cartoon.