Alakazam the Great (1996) Japan
Alakazam the Great Image Cover
Additional Images
Director:Daisaku Shirakawa, Lee Kresel, Osamu Tezuka, Taiji Yabushita
Studio:Orion Home Video
Writer:Keinosuke Uekusa
Rating:4.5 (7 votes)
Date Added:2010-05-08
Genre:Kids & Family
Daisaku Shirakawa, Lee Kresel, Osamu Tezuka, Taiji Yabushita  ...  (Director)
Keinosuke Uekusa  ...  (Writer)
Frankie Avalon  ...  
Kiyoshi Komiyama  ...  
Noriko Shindô  ...  
Hideo Kinoshita  ...  
Setsuo Shinoda  ...  
Tags: Buddhism drama

Summary: ALAKAZAM THE GREAT (1961) was the English-dubbed version of the Japanese animated feature, SAIYUKI (1960), an adaptation of "Journey to the West," the Chinese literary work devoted to the famous legend of the Monkey King. It was distributed in the U.S. by American International Pictures and featured a whole new music score, four new songs and a host of celebrity voices, including Jonathan Winters, Arnold Stang, Sterling Holloway and, as the singing voice of the Monkey King, Frankie Avalon.
The English dub goes a long way towards divorcing the material from its cultural context, reducing the original mission of its characters, bringing Buddhist scriptures to China from India, to simply a "pilgrimage." It also gives ridiculous new names to all of the characters, including Buddha himself (called King Amo here) and the Emperor of Heaven (renamed Merlin the Magician!). Goku, the Monkey King, is called Alakazam, and Pigsy, the shape-shifting pig, is dubbed Sir Quigley Brokenbottom. The new songs have little to do with the original story and tend to slow things down considerably.
Still, it's a beautifully animated piece with rich color and at least a semblance of the original legend. Most importantly for today's young audiences, it depicts the cultural antecedents of the popular "Dragon Ball" cartoon TV series, which is shown on the Cartoon Network and available on home video. Identical points of reference include the flying nimbus cloud and power pole employed by Alakazam/Goku, the same tools possessed by the hero of "Dragon Ball," also named Goku. Oolong, the cowardly, lecherous pig seen in "Dragon Ball," is clearly modeled on Pigsy/Sir Quigley, who also has the power to transform and an eye for the ladies. Also significant is the fact that pioneering animator Osamu Tezuka was a co-writer/co-director of this film (three years before "Astro Boy"), which was adapted from his own manga (comic book) version of the legend. There were many other films and TV series based on "Journey to the West," both animated and live-action, made in China, Hong Kong and Japan, but few are easily available in the U.S.