Go Hugo, Go! (1993) | Animated and Degraded
You don’t often stumble across a film of this type while perusing your local video store (if there were any more video-stores, that is). You might find an old Disney TV special on DVD, or a rare Warner Brothers flick, maybe some lesser-known Japanese movie that you don’t remember seeing, but suddenly remember watching late at night on the Sci-fi channel. This, however, is on a whole different level.
Go Hugo, Go! is a Danish animated production created and directed by Flemming Quist Møller, about the adventures of an indescribable little yellow creature, known only as Hugo; and how he is taken across the Atlantic Ocean to California, where he must now brave the unfamiliar territory of the big city, and escape the people who kidnapped him. Along the way, Hugo meets a young, rambunctious fox girl named Rita, and the two hit it off quite well, even developing a bit of a romance. But sadly, Hugo eventually must leave the city to return to his banana trees, and so whilst sailing back on the cargo ship that brought him here, he waves goodbye to his one and only love, Rita: saying that someday he may come back again.
Now, the premise for this film, like most animated films, is pretty basic and sounds just fine: nothing strange or out of place here, right? Its execution, however, is one of the worst and more irritating I have ever had to sit through.
I mean no offense to the Danish people, or to the Germans, Russians, or French for that matter. But what is it about the European movie industry that makes so many animated films from these regions so irritating and insane to watch? What is it about these cultures that breed such obnoxious stereotypical characters, cringe-worthy humor and dialogue, terrible musical numbers, and an over-all contempt for the intelligence of the audience?
This certainly isn’t true of all European films, as many French, British, and Irish productions stand as some of the best that we have these days (Ernest & Celestine, Song of the Sea, etc.), especially with 2D films. But often times when you have a product like this that’s done on a smaller budget and seems to be designed for a very youthful market—perhaps even to be shown on television soon after its release—the production design, plot, and characters seem to fall in line with this very narrow view of what the filmmakers assume kids enjoy watching. And just like many have said before me, it’s akin to jangling keys in front of a child’s face: constant movement, constant noise, and no room for a break or a breather.
The titular Hugo can best be described as a derivative of a bear-like creature, with bright yellow fur, and disturbingly human-like feet with big pudgy toes, same with his hands. He’s almost like the Grungees from Jetson’s the Movie, except less like a knock-off of the Ewoks. His character is one that prefers to laze around, dance, leap, climb, and play, all while singing really lame songs with his two best friends: Zig and Zag.
Hugo, I would assume, isn’t meant to be obnoxious. And admittedly I don’t think he really is. However, his English voice actor, Bronson Pinchot, is not very good at creating a likable and endearing young teenage character, and instead makes Hugo sound like… well… a full-grown man trying to sound like a baby who coos way too much. Every other moment he’s either “Ooohing” or “Aaahing” or wailing in fear. I mean, just MAKE IT STOP!
I will never understand why American dub directors find it so essential to have the actor’s vocalize every single open-mouthed expression on a character’s face. The Japanese keep their characters relatively quiet unless they’re in a particularly fearful state of shock or terror. Most of the time, even if a character is working tirelessly on something, or is being jostled around on a carnival ride, or is maybe looking around frantically during a car chase, the Japanese keep things pretty quiet, because constantly grunting and groaning doesn’t add anything to the story, it just detracts away from the action. So here, in Go Hugo, Go!, I think we could have done without the constant noise from Bronson Pinchot, because even if Hugo didn’t have all that much to say throughout the film, there shouldn’t have been a need to make him say more by making him scream and wail all the time.
The cast does not improve when we meet Izabella Dehavalot, a relatively young up-and-coming movie star, and wife to movie mogul, Conrad Cupman. Her character is basically your typical whiny and bitchy self-centered movie-starlet, except you take all of best parts of Darla Dimple’s good side, crank them up to 11, and then make her really pitiful and over-acting. Izabella is so irritating that I literally had to pause the film multiple times during her scenes just to take a break.
Now the reason that Hugo finds himself over in America amongst the skyscrapers and asphalt streets, is because Izabella is intent on snatching up a rare and exotic cute animal to star along-side in her first big movie role, which Conrad Cupman is reluctantly willing to comply with, and has specifically taken his wife all the way over to Africa in a small yacht in order to find such a creature. Upon being bagged and gagged, Hugo comes face to face with Izabella and Conrad, and immediately tries to escape, as I’m sure he’s never found himself amongst humans before. But they tie him up good, and throw him below deck in a banana crate. Thus, Hugo is now thrust out to sea, where he will have a whole new jungle to traverse… in CALIFORNIA!
One of the worst things about this movie, and its sequel, Hugo, the Movie Star, are the songs. And my God, are they terrible. Like… imagine the most contemptuous, inept, lazy, and downright generic song from PBS, or Children’s Pre-school television that you could possibly think of; and then make it even more lazy and unoriginal than that. THAT is how bad each and every one of these songs is.
Now I could be wrong. These songs could actually be at least a little better than how they sound here because these are the English translations. Perhaps Danish music doesn’t translate so well into English depending on the meaning and construction of the words and sentences. Maybe the English dub team changed the songs more than expected in order to make something fit with the accompaniment, whereas it wouldn’t have otherwise. But I’d still wager a guess, however, that no matter whether it’s Danish or English, these songs are pretty lame. Lamer than lame. The lamest horse manure that you could possibly dream up. I am dead serious.
Just take a gander at the opening song of Go Hugo, Go!, and I’ll show you what I mean:
Wooga wooga, tap tap
Tickle tickle, snap snap
Kissy kissy, clap clap
What a happy day.
Three happy friends
We’re Hu-go and Zig and Zag
Playin’ all day in the sun.
Feel the nice breeze
Swingin’ through the trees
Hangin’ out till the day is done.
And then it goes on from there.
Now I’ll put a link right here: (Go Hugo, Go! Opening scene) for your convenience, as you can’t really appreciate how awkward and terribly forced this song is until you hear it for yourself.
I took a quick look over on the Wikipedia article for this movie, and it stated that not only were certain things cut out or altered in the plot and scenes, but most, if not all of the songs may have been totally redesigned from a rock and/or jazz sound into a light-hearted African sound like you hear here, with the different synth-styled native instruments and drums. Which means that if the tunes themselves were altered, then that might explain why the lyrics are as poor and lazy as they are.
You also might find it a bit odd to see that line “kissy kissy” in there. I’m assuming the actions on screen and that line are keeping in line with the customs of the Danish people, as kissing others as a form of affection is far more broad and is not strictly between romantic partners in certain European countries. So that’s really all that is, it just feels a little weird because many of us aren’t used to such frank affection towards one’s friends here in the US.
To get back to the characters again, the last one I’d like to talk about is Rita, because one of the main reasons I wanted to pick up this film in the first place was because of this lovely little Fox girl, and a clip of a song she sang from the sequel that I saw on Youtube many years back.
Rita is very fun, very encouraging, and quite the clever scamp. She is also rather flirtatious towards Hugo once she really starts to know him. Although she can also be indecisive, and will turn on Hugo on a dime if he so much as screws up once: something that I felt was extremely unfair of her character. Then again, due to the English actress’ delivery of Rita’s lines, you could argue that Rita was just playing up her frustration and disapproval of Hugo’s actions just to get a rise out of him. All in all, I think she’s a very cute and likable character. In fact I find her far more enjoyable to watch than Hugo. I’m also a bit of a fox fan, so most fox characters I immediately love.
Rita’s English voice is also the only one that doesn’t sound bad or irritating. Holly Gauthier-Frankel has an acceptably endearing sound that gives you a sense of youthful sprightliness, a sense of adolescent shyness, and a sense of emotional flightiness when it looks like Rita’s feelings for Hugo might be turning away.
I actually think it’s unfortunate, because I would much rather watch a movie primarily staring Rita than I would Hugo. I just find her character far more interesting and relatable because she’s going through the many issues that young teenagers do, about love, life, and dealing with survival from day to day once she decides to head out on her own. The 2nd movie emphasizes these elements of her character much more, and yet I still wish she would have been the star of her own film.
On the animation side of things, I have far less of an issue here because… the animation is rather good. There’s a lot of energy and expressiveness going on here. The line work and colors are clean. The character motions connect to what they’re saying very well. And their personalities come through in their mannerisms.
I think the closest things I can compare it to would be if you took Bebe’s Kids and crossed it with a little Cats Don’t Dance: very stretchy on the facial animation, very flat solid colors with medium saturation, and broad variations in character body types. There might also be a bit of Oliver & Company in there.
But, even good animation cannot save this film from being the absolute mess that it is. I don’t understand why Flemming thought this story would go over well. Maybe it did in Denmark. But over here it plays out worse than Quest for Camelot, worse than The Care Bears Movie, and worse than perhaps even both of those Titanic animated films. The ONLY saving grace it has is its. But if you aren’t particularly an animation fan, where you seek out weird and eccentric films just to watch how the animation moves, then this won’t be worth your time.
Maybe we’ll have better luck with the sequel.