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The theatrical shorts of Terry Gilliam

In the mid-seventies Monty Python animator Terry Gilliam released two short theatrical animations, both of which have been rarely seen since.

Storytime was one of them, compiled as it was of two cartoons Terry Gilliam (“and The Mutton Works”, according to the show’s end credits) produced for the 1971 to 1972 ATV series The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine - Don the Cockroach and The Albert Einstein Story, joined by a joke similar to one that later opened Monty Python and the Holy Grail - and the Christmas Card animation from Do Not Adjust Your Set, laughtrack-free and tinted yellow.

The other was The Miracle of Flight which was also sourced from The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, although for the theatrical version it lost a grizzly punchline where a man who had failed at his attempt to fly by emulating the ergonomics of a bird takes his revenge by ripping the bird to pieces.

Storytime was later shown with Jabberwocky, while Miracle of Flight was a regular feature of the Python live shows. Both are great works, but The Miracle of Flight in particular is a cornucopia of oddities for the Python connoisseur, containing as it does one line recorded by Terry Jones, the tarred-and-feathered character who appears in Animations of Mortality, the mountain in the finale of the Meaning Of Life computer game and the animated woman from Python who says “Turn that television off - you know it’s bad for your eyes”. Most baffling of all is the muzak in the airport terminal, which is the same as used in the Dental sequence of the Meaning Of Life CD-Rom nearly thirty years later. For sheer numbers of Python iconography appearing in a non-Python production, The Miracle of Flight's only rival is Eric Idle's music video for George Harrison's Crackerbox Palace. But I digress.

Storytime is available on DVD in France as part of Le Court Des Grands, a 2-disc collation of early shorts by famous directors. The short is mislabelled as being from 1968 on the disc, the result of a caption in Christmas Card. The disc also includes a 22-minute interview with Gilliam (in English with French subtitles) on why he went into animation and in which he describes some amazing-sounding pieces he created for The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine (all of which survives in the archives, by the way). The disc also contains texts of Gilliam analysis, biography and filmography, all in French. The Miracle Of Flight remains unavailable officially, but can be viewed on YouTube.

- Zon.

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