Sunday, May 9, 2010

Day 31: TC & the Gang

In some parts of the world it was called Boss Cat, in most others, it was, and is (to me) Top Cat.

The gang: TC (Top Cat) Choo-Choo (“Chooch”), Brains, Fancy-Fancy, Spook and Benny the Ball...I didn’t have to look them up, I remembered. Here’s a little-known thing that stunned me: Hannah-Barbera cartoons only made 30 episodes of this feline version of The Phil Silvers Show. My memory tells me that they made many more than that?

I loved Top Cat, so much so that I have the theme tune on my iPod, but that’s for another story, another day. What did I like about the show? I guess it was TC: irreverant, rebellious, smart, cluey, anti-authoritarian, anarchic, charming and savvy. Everything that I wanted to be. As a child, I must have sat in front of the television and thought to myself: “when I grow up, I want to be just like that TC.”

One thing though, I always struggle to differentiate between Spook and Fancy-Fancy? It’s bit like the scene in the movie Stand By Me where the boys sit around the campfire at night, discussing Disney characters: “If Mickey’s a mouse, Donald’s a duck and Pluto’s a dog, then what’s Goofy?” Reasonable question, I’ve always thought and one I still puzzle over. Indeed, my godson and his brother have just been made recipients of a Goofy and a Pluto (gifts from Disneyworld/land/place, by relatives) and even now I look at them and continue to find it one of life’s riddles; a bit like that existential of all questions: “who’s the boss?” It can’t be Tony Danza, surely?

TC is “... the leader of the gang...”(not Gary Glitter), despite Brains’s name, he’s the dim-witted one, Choo-Choo is the awkward one and Benny the Ball was the cute, short one; what were the differing character traits between Spook and Fancy-Fancy? I think Fancy was the ladies man/cat of the gang, so that just leaves me with Spook. I’ll get onto it.

Before I forget, something I saw recently that moved me: Stand By Me. A beautiful film, a maturation plot, in which we meet the devastatingly talented and very young River Phoenix. The story is told in flashback by the Richard Dreyfuss character who, as an adult bookends the film, having just learnt about the fate of his friend, the boy played by River Phoenix. In adult years, River Phoenix’s character has just died, prematurely and violently. At the end of the film as Richard Dreyfuss is reflecting on this, my memory tells me that he thinks back and we see River Phoenix one more time, before his image dissolves and disappears forever, before our eyes. When I first saw that film it was a touching moment in a film, now it’s a tender “thanks and so-long!”of life itself.

River Phoenix, Top Cat and the guys, have all, mercifully, been captured for us on celluloid to hang out with, any time we like. Both had short but oh-so ‘sweet’ runs, but what huge impressions they left, making the world a richer and "cooler" place.

Day #31 Tip: Plural Protagonist vs Multiprotagonist
Stand By Me and Top Cat both feature Plural Protagonists.

Plural Protagonists: I’ll defer to, and quote, Robert McKee: “All individuals in the group share the same desire. In the struggle to achieve this desire, they mutually suffer and benefit. If one has a success, all benefit. If one has a setback, all suffer.”

In Stand By Me, the boys - on the eve of starting high school at the end of the vacation - all go looking for the dead body, along the railway tracks together. In Top Cat, TC and the gang always enjoyed variations of trying to run some scam and outwit Officer Dibble into the bargain.

Towering Inferno (they all want to get out of the blazing building), The Poseidon Adventure (they all want to get off the sinking ship), In Which We Serve (David Lean’s film of a Noel Coward story, in which all the survivors of the sunken ship - led by NoelCoward himself - want to be rescued from the life raft). In another favourite film of mine, The Magnificent Seven, they all wanted to save the town.

They don’t have to be groups though, they can be twos or threes: Thelma and Louise (both want to be liberated from their men and lives of repetitiveness), Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid (both want to rob banks without harming anyone, make a few bucks and kick back). The Three Musketeers (all wanted to swash & buckle, or something like that).

The Plural Protagonist film is always about more than one character, and they all want the same thing. The Multiprotagonist film is about more than one character who want different things: Short Cuts, Nashville, Magnolia, Hannah & Her Sisters....they may be thematically linked, but their individual goals are different (more on this tomorrow).

There is a superb book by Linda Aronson called Scriptwriting Updated (AFTRS/Allen & Unwin, 2000) that is the most authoritative work on writing Plural and Multiprotagonist films. I found it enormously helpful when writing two of my scripts: The Comedians and The Savages.

One thing that I never gave a second thought to about Top Cat...actually it was more than one thing: how come he could walk around on two legs, upright? And, how did he get away with wearing just a hat and a waistcoat? I could never pull that off.

No comments:

Post a Comment