Myths on the Move–Our Mythical Animation . . .


Our Mythical Childhood went to Greenwich University in June, to the Children and Youth on the Move conference, hosted by the Children’s History Society.  The theme was movement, and so we talked about the ways that animators mobilise classical myth in their work for children.

Sonya Nevin showed how she and Steve Simons move myth in their Panoply animations of Greek vases.  We were privileged to see their animation of the Sappho Vase for the National Museum of Poland.

Anna Mik showed us how Walt Disney played with mermaid myths in the 1933 Silly Symphony cartoon, King Neptune.  You can read her Our Mythical Childhood survey entry on King Neptune here.

Hanna Paulouskaya showed us how Soviet animators such as Aleksandra Shezhko-Blotskaya used classical myth to move around the land as part of a national narrative.

And I talked about how the Australian animation, The Deepmoves myth underwater, using classical myths to appeal to an international audience.

Questions and discussion took us around the world, showing once again how myth functions both locally and universally, and to what ends  We talked about the rights of the mermaid, about what a siren really looks like, and what they really get up to.  We talked about how myth is put to use, encouraging Soviet schoolchildren to travel, for instance, or connecting Australian viewers to a wider world of mystery and story.  Sonya showed us how children move myth to their own ends, through the activities she and Steve give them–making their own shields and vases, for instance, and incorporating them in their own stories and mythology.  

The conference in general was emotionally moving, looking at how children move (or are forced to move) around the world, and also about how children’s culture moves through social changes, and how children move culture on, transforming and reshaping adult ideas for new generations.   Putting animation and mythology into these contexts, it is clear that mythology moves as culture moves, offering useful ways to frame children’s experiences and the way that reception is framed in its turn.

— Elizabeth Hale






Classics beneath the waves . . . the monsters and mythology of The Deep

Some of the best children’s products are those that entrance adults too, and I am not ashamed to say that I fell, hook line and sinker, for The Deep, an animated adventure series about a family of underwater explorers.

The Deep

Screen Shot 2018-01-30 at 1.00.40 pm
The Deep began life as a graphic novel, by Melbourne writer Tom Taylor and Brisbane artist James Brouwer, and published by Perth comics publisher, Gestalt.  It concerns the Nektons, a family of aquanauts who explore the oceans in their amazing submarine, the Arronax.  As they journey, they encounter mythical beasts and creatures, usually (but not always) finding a scientific explanation.  They also have some very cool gadgets, including the ‘knights,’ elaborate ‘extra-vehicular activity suits’ which enable them to do some serious discovery work.
Fontaine Nekton in the White Knight EVA suit
Fontaine Nekton in the White Knight EVA suit (image courtesy of The Deep Wikia
At the heart of the story is the Nektons’ possible connection to a lost ancient civilisation, called Lemuria (similar to Atlantis). And in its adaptation for TV by an international collaboration between Australia and Canada, this story  runs delightfully through episodes.  It’s got it all, in fact: a good-hearted set of heroes, including the boy wonder, Antaeus (named for the son of Gaia and Poseidon) and his best friend Jeffrey, a tropical fish with a mysterious past; his sarcastic older sister Fontaine and her possible love-interest, the piratical Finn; and a pair of scientist parents, Will and Kaiko.
The name Nekton comes from a scientific term for the ‘aggregate of actively swimming aquatic organisms in a body of water.’  It turns out the Nekton family, who are all magnificent swimmers, are also descendants of the Lemurians. Together with some mysterious guardians, named after Greek and Roman sea gods (Tethys, Glaucus, Proteus), they search for the lost continent.  As they do, the find mysterious underwater temples, disappearing islands, ancient shipwrecks, and a curious labyrinth in which lurks a pair of seahorse-like Minotaurs.
As January slips away, this is our final Saturnalian surprise.  So where better to conclude than my  own favourite discovery from the first year of researching Our Mythical Childhood.  The Deep was a surprise to me because of its elegant interweaving of mythical and scientific matters, in a wholesome show for children that is engrossing for adult viewers too.  It’s also absolutely gorgeous to look at.

 The Deep Trailer

If you like underwater scenery, beautifully realised, with myth, monsters, and more, then take the time to watch The Deep.  There are 2 series already airing, with a third in the works, and I hope there’ll be many more . . .
— Elizabeth Hale