If Hollywood has taught us anything about Mother Nature, it’s that her vast and bountiful animal kingdom is a wellspring of box-office gold. With a weakness to anthropomorphize creatures from towering dinosaurs to the tiniest titmouse, moviegoers have only been indulged further by the leaps and bounds of computer generated cine-magical effects that no longer require the use of a whip and a jar of peanut butter to make it look like Fido is cracking a one-liner. If Father Time has anything to say about it, it’s that real monkeys in furs and monocles are surefire entertainment.
“Lancelot Link: Secret Chimp” (live-action film series)
Created by Stan Burns and Mike Marmer
Starring chimps (voiced by Dayton Allen, Joan Gerber and Bernie Kopell)
This series stars an all-chimp cast loping around and solving crimes in homage to 1960s “Get Smart” — but with monkeys. Replete with gags and gratuitous puns like character name Mata Hairi, “Lancelot Link” took its seven-figure budget and used it to costume apes in wigs, monocles, trench coats and mustaches while they ride motorcycles, speak into walkie-talkies and solve mysteries. Interspersed with musical interludes by psychedelic rock group and all-chimp band “Evolution Revolution,” “Lancelot Link” is at turns both morally questionable and unquestionably magnificent.
“The Dogway Melody” (live-action shorts)
Directed by Zion Myers and Jules White
Starring dogs (voiced by Myers and White)
This short is part of the “Dogville Comedies” series of popular films done doggy-style. “Melody” itself is an all-canine cast parody of 1929’s musical hit “The Broadway Melody.” With their dialogue dubbed by the directors, costumed dogs awkwardly walk on hind legs to give this surreal spin that delusional touch of believability. “Melody” is set against the backdrop of scruffy mutts in suit coats and derby hats commiserating in a bar lounge while a lecherous pooch gets his advances rebuffed by a canine starlet. For “Dogville Comedies,” dogs decked out in Golden Age glamor of pearls, furs and three-piece suits are put into all manner of old-world drama and intrigue while they pour themselves cocktails and smoke cigarettes.
“Fritz the Cat”
Directed by Ralph Bakshi
Starring Skip Hinnant, Rosetta LeNoire and John McCurry
Legendary underground comic artist and notorious curmudgeon Robert Crumb despised this take on his running strip of the same name. An X-rated animated feature-length film, “Fritz the Cat” follows its free-wheeling, anthropomorphized feline protagonist as he explores sex, culture and politics. A far cry from any cuddly sequel to “Beethoven,” Fritz encounters group sex, hard drugs and political revolution in this cartoon feature that’s anything but family friendly.
Directed by James L. George and Bob Seeley
Starring Rodney Dangerfield, Ronnie Schell and Shawn Southwick
Somehow, the idea to produce a film about a bug-eyed and tie-wearing animated dog with the voice and spirit of Rodney Dangerfield got its legs — four, to be precise. Rover is a stumpy hound who, if there are any doubts, “gets no respect.” When he runs interference on a shady deal involving his owner’s two-bit boyfriend, Rover gets thrown into the rushing waters of the Hoover Dam. Washing up on a picturesque farm, the neurotic city slicker pooch quickly adjusts to life in the countryside in this film that loses no opportunity to remind the audience that Rover Dangerfield is, yes, a dog version of Rodney Dangerfield.