Thursday, January 30, 2014

Around the world, Verne style

Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days was published on this day in 1873. It’s a busy date. Charles I was beheaded in 1649, Oliver Cromwell likewise, though posthumously in 1661, Hitler came to power in 1933, Ghandi was assassinated in 1948, and Churchill was buried in 1965. Verne didn’t make it on Clement K. Shorter’s list of a hundred best books from 1898, because he was still alive at the time of its compiling, but since the date fits so nicely, I’ll write about the book anyway.

I’ve already written about my favourite Verne novel earlier, Journey to the Center of the Earth. Around the World would be my second favourite Verne. But I have only read it once. The story in all its variations is more familiar to me from films and TV series.

Like the Three Musketeers I wrote about last week, an animated series first introduced me to the story in the early 80s. In Around the World with Willy Fog, Phileas Fogg – the fearless adventurer – was depicted as a lion named Willy Fog. All characters were anthropomorphisms of various animals; the good guys were felines and all the crooks were canines. It was shown once a week, and woe if I missed an episode. (This was before we had a VCR.)

I was a bit older, twelve or so, before I read the book. It turned out to be quite different from the animated series with themes I was too young to fully comprehend. Some plots, like saving Aouda from the funeral pyre, were changed in the cartoon. And while it’s perhaps natural to avoid that topic in a children’s series, it’s actually very rarely used in other adaptations Ive seen either. The woman is rescued, but from various other perils.

Around the World in 80 Days was a wonderful book to read as a child. All those exotic countries, the adventures, and the excitement of the chase, as the detective Fix from Scotland Yard tries to keep up with Fogg, tickled my imagination perfectly. Not all adaptations I’ve seen have managed the same, but they are rarely so bad I wouldn’t watch them. And nothing beats the cartoon. Perhaps not even the book.

Here are the opening credits the English version, which I have to say is not as good as the version of my childhood. You can also watch full episodes on YouTube.

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