The Furry History Project, Part-6: The 1970's
In 1970, Richard Bach penned Jonathan Livingston Seagull. This intensely popular best seller redefined the concept of the Furry Fable, in a sense taking Furry back to its most ancient roots, but also firmly establishing a precedent for Furry literature that appealed to adults on the basis of intellectual content.
In 1970, Roald Dahl penned Fantastic Mr. Fox.
In 1970, The Disney Company released its first post-Walt animated feature, The Aristocats.
In 1971, 2 issues of a comic called Air Pirates were published in the underground press, resulting in a lengthy lawsuit with The Walt Disney Company, which the creators of Air Pirates deliberately provoked. Read more. Air Pirate #1 included the first appearance of Bobby London's Dirty Duck, which would later become a regular feature of National Lampoon and Playboy Magazine.
In 1971, Robert C. O'Brian penned Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. A novel for children with strong Green leanings that utilized the precedent opened by Kimba The White Lion. Here the author makes heroes of animals and villains of scientists, even going so far as to name the villains after a real world government institution. And like Tezuka, O'Brian not only got away with it, he won awards for it.
In 1971, Bob Foster introduced Myron Moose.
In 1971, Shinbone Alley, based on Archy And Mehitabel, which demonstrated the pushing of the limits back in 1916, became the first offering of a new era of liberated adult oriented animation. But by this time Mehitabel's promis-cuousness was hardly impressive to adults of the fast fading hippie era. She would pass the torch to another feline the following year who would take on the boundaries of modern times and trash them, as only a Furry character can do.
In 1972, Richard Adams penned Watership Down. It is one of the most referenced examples in Furry Fandom among those who attempt to explain the Furry interest. It achieved a new extreme in allegorical literature through its extensive development of a unique culture for an animal species, requiring a glossary of unique words peculiar to rabbit language and extensive glimpses into the culture, religion and sociology of the rabbits.
To this day Furry Fandom stands in awe of this book, and most serious Furry authors measure their work against it, few daring even to aspire to such literary achievement and popular acclaim.
In 1972, Fritz The Cat hit the big screen, exposing the world's first major adult Cartoon Animal star to a much wider audience, opening doors to a new adult oriented animation industry. However, though it took a Funny Animal to knock down the walls that kept animation in the kiddie corner, Funny Animals would not play a large role in the adult animation to be produced in the 70's and 80's. And, perhaps because of this, nothing that followed would equal the success of Fritz The Cat, which is still the most successful independent animated film of all time.
Also in 1972, the art rock band Genesis released an album called Foxtrot. On the cover of Foxtrot was an anthropomorphic fox. Given the penchant of many progressive rock bands to display influences from early children's literature, this was not surprising. What dropped jaws was that Peter Gabriel walked out on stage and performed as a female anthropomorphic fox wearing a red dress. Furry tunes by Genesis include White Mountain, All In A Mouse's Night, and Squonk.
In 1973, another art rock band, Jethro Tull, inserted a six minute narrative into their album A Passion Play called The Hare Who Lost His Spectacles. Incorporated into the stage performance of the album was a film of the band members dressed in anthropomorphic costumes, humorously acting out the story. A song omitted from the album that would appear on their next release would become one of the most popular Furry tunes of all time, Bungle In The Jungle. Other animal songs omitted from "A Passion Play" appear on a collection of unreleased works called "Nightcap," including Law of the Bungle and Look At The Animals.
In 1973, Disney released an anthropomorphic parody of Robin Hood. By the 80's, Disney's Robin Hood had become one of the most frequently cited influences among Furry fans trying to explain The Furry Interest and what got them into it.
If there was anything new about Disney's Robin Hood, it was the fact that the hero and heroine were anthropomorphic foxes. Previously animals like foxes were rarely portrayed in a positive light. Thus, Disney's Robin Hood may have indoctrinated many modern day Furry creators to the idea of completely divorcing anthropomorphic animal characters from their relative roles in nature and granting them the personal choice of whether to be heroes or villains. Thus predatory animals like foxes, which translate beautifully to anthropomorphics, could now be looked on as admirable.
Another possibly significant aspect of Disney's Robin Hood may have been the influence and style of Don Bluth. Bluth added a fluidity of motion, as well as more human proportions to anthropomorphic characters than had ever been seen before. Thus his animal characters became more human, giving them a greater ability to mesmerize viewers with their beauty.
In 1973, Marvel comics inadvertently developed a new kind of Funny Animal when Howard The Duck, a character created as a gag, took off and became an unexpected star of The Marvel Universe.
In this way, Marvel Comics became custodian of one of the first Funny Animal characters in comics to attract a more mature audience without an X rating. Unfortunately it would seem that the Marvel company has never known what to do with this oddity. And the character's creator expresses the opinion that Marvel generally fumbled the ball and prevented Howard The Duck from exploring its full potential.
Never the less, between Fritz The Cat and Howard the Duck, the slap stick Funny Animal of old was completely obliterated in favor of Funny Animals that could now be as serious, mortal and sexy as their creators desired.
In 1973, E.B. White concluded his trilogy of Furry novels with The Trumpet Of The Swan.
In 1973, Alan Aldridge and William Plomer created an art book called The Butterfly Ball And The Grasshopper Feast, which greatly expanded on the 1802 poem by William Roscoe. Intent on creating an animated movie based on the book, the authors enlisted the help of Deep Purple's Roger Glover to create the soundtrack. Glover then brought in quite a number of notable personalities associated with Deep Purple and related projects to create the soundtrack album, which was released in 1974. Unfortunately, the movie was never to be. Only the short video below was produced, with Heavy Metal legend Ronnie James Dio voicing the frog. Without an accompanying movie, the soundtrack became regarded as a concept album and was subsequently produced for stage as a Rock Opera.
In 1974, Dungeons & Dragons became the first commercially published Role Playing Game. RPG's opened the door for fans to create their own Furry characters and share them for fun, rather than having to publish them for profit.
In 1974, Roger Corman and Charles Swenson attempted to cash in on the X-Rated success of Fritz The Cat with Dirty Duck. (No relation to Bobby London's Dirty Duck.) If Fritz The Cat was construed as a high point in the history of animation, or Furry for that matter, Dirty Duck was regarded as a serious low. It can be assumed that the producers had no real interest in Anthropomorphic Animals, but they felt they needed one in the title roll to ride on Fritz The Cat's coat tails. There is otherwise not a single non-human in the whole cast.
What the film really appeals to is the counter culture art scene. Very psychedelic, raunchy and not a trace of cuteness. But in 1974 the Vietnam War ended, and this would cause the counter culture to abruptly fizzle out. Life became more secure and affluent. Indulgence would be the watchword of the late 70's, not art.
This also marked the end of an era for Furry. The end of its rebellious adolescence, during which it had dared much and established precedents for all manner of Furry entertainment to be created. But with the art conscious years of pop culture gone, would anyone want to pursue the potential of any of those precedents?
In the late 70's an explosive renaissance of fantasy began to be seen, much of it having Furry implications.
A new generation was taking over. The world was no longer something to be saved. It was something to be escaped from through fantasy and science fiction. And once marketers stopped thinking of fantasy as something strictly for small children, the stage was set for a new era in which fantasy would remain a serious part of many peoples' lives as they matured into adulthood and beyond.
In 1976, the underground comix artists, dispossessed by the collapse of the counter culture, found a new home in the APA Vootie, The Fanzine Of The Funny Animal Liberation Front, in which artists like Reed Waller would evolve the next stage of adult comics. Note that the rare sample cover below clearly proclaims the existance of a "Funny Animal Fandom."
In 1976, Fantasy Games Unlimited published Bunnies & Burrows, an RPG based on Watership Down.
In 1976, Neal Barrett, Jr. penned Aldair in Albion, the start of a 4 volume science fiction saga about animals "uplifted" by science.
In 1976, The Muppet Show spun off from Sesame Street as an all ages, non-educational prime time variety show. The show had great success in endearing Furry characters to adults. It ran on TV into the 80's and spun off 8 feature films.
In 1977, Disney released The Rescuers, based on Margery Sharp's Miss Bianca series.
In 1977, the first Star Wars movie opened. Aside from the wookie, Chubaka, there would be myriad other anthropomorphic creations of the non-furbearing variety that opened the door on a whole new generation of sci-fi Furries.
In 1977, K-9 made his first appearance on Doctor Who. Normally there is a very visible line between Furry anthropomorphics and robotic anthropomorphics. But K-9 is an anomaly - a Robotic Anthropomorphic Animal. Still, an Anthro-pomorphic Animal in any variation is subject to the same probability of popularity. K-9's popularity proved that Anthropomorphic Animals don't need overly large eyes and cuddly soft fur to generate their appeal. K-9 would spin-off his own show and has a new show anticipated in the near future.
In 1977, Pink Floyd's album Animals demonstrated the extended impact of "Animal Farm" on politically conscious popular culture.
In 1977, Piers Anthony began his Xanth series, kicking off a boom in the fantasy novel market, which Anthony would dominate through sheer prolific output. His magical worlds providing a whole new take on the Mythical Beasts and Fabulous Monsters that are of great interest to a large segment of the fandom.
In 1977, Dave Sim began Cerebus The Aardvark. A parody picking up on the ground broken by Howard The Duck, it would go on for 300 issues and be described as "The longest sustained narrative in human history."
In 1977, a line of animal puppets called The Furry Folk Puppets created by Folkmanis began production. Folkmanis would later create the puppets seen on The Funday PawPet Show, which has become a popular feature at Furry conventions.
In 1977, The Cartoon/Fantasy Organization was founded to "provide a forum for the promotion of animation and cartoon art, and fantasy and science-fiction drama, in such media as motion pictures, television, comic books, and novels." Among the founders were Fred Patten and Mark Merlino, who would spin-off from The CFO the first known fan club for Furry characters geared towards adult fans.
On the subject of the CFO, Fred Patton offers the following comments.
"The C/FO, Cartoon/Fantasy Organization, was created in May 1977 as a place for fans of Japanese animated TV cartoons to come together. Specifically, the giant robot and s-f cartoons like Space Battleship Yamato, Space Pirate Captain Harlock, and Galaxy Express 999. In the 1980s anime fandom spread out to include other topics such as outer-space teenagers, Japanese history, gay comedy (Pataliro), cheesecake (Dirty Pair), outright pornography (Lemon People), etc., but from 1977 for about the next five years, it was virtually all giant robots and outer-space s-f.
"Furry" could be considered to have started as a subset of the C/FO. There were a lot of early anime fans who were very interested in the Japanese funny-animal cartoons like Kimba the White Lion and The Amazing 3, and in similar American animation like the 1973 Disney Robin Hood, Fritz the Cat, the WB cartoons of the 1940s & '50s, etc.
Of the C/FO's five 1977 founders, Mark Merlino and I got immediately involved in furry fandom when it started in the 1980s. Judith Niver, Robin Leyden. and Wendell Washer did not. Their interest was purely in anime as exotic animation, and they were interested in the WB cartoons, etc. as historic American animation that happened to feature funny animals. They had no interest in funny animals/furry characters outside of the animation."
In 1978, Jethro Tull released a Furry concept album called Heavy Horses. Each of the songs on the album is either about an animal or has an animal hidden somewhere in the lyrics. While the opening song, "The Mouse Police Never Sleeps," refers to the anthropomorphic characters in the song as "Little Furry Folk."
The trailer for the 1973 re-release of Disney's "Cinderella" also makes reference to Cinderella's "Furry Friends." While the character in the 1976 Genesis song "Squonk" is referred to as "My Furry Friend."
The terms "Furry Folk" and "Furry Friends" were not new. They were a long established part of the English language, indicating not just that a creature happens to have fur, but that it is part of that collective society of animals referred to in Old Homestead Tales back in 1930. These terms don't surface much in the 40's, 50's & 60's. But suddenly in the 70's we start to hear them again.
Those in the arts working with Furry characters needed to call them something. And if you weren't into comics, you probably weren't familiar with the term Funny Animals. If you weren't working in animation, you'd never think to call them Cartoon Animals. But for me, around this very point in history, where the term Furry just naturally fell into place was with the novels.
When trying to explain the nature of the genre I was writing in, I needed a simple term to evoke the common element that linked Bambi, Watership Down and Jonathan Livingston Seagull into their own unique genre. And "Furry" was the term I came up with. They were Furry novels. They had a certain quality, a Furriness if you will, due to the unique perspective of intelligent talking animals.
In 1978, Warren Zevon hit the charts with the popular Furry standard, Werewolves Of London.
In 1978, the saga of The Puppy's Great Adventures began on ABC's After School Special.
In 1978, Elfquest began publication. This ambitious independent comic book series featured an element of Furry spirituality, and some imaginative new takes on Fairy Tale elements. But most significantly, it was geared towards adults, and like Xanth and Star Wars, greatly contributed to the change in cultural opinions regarding Fairy Tale like stories.
Fairy Tales weren't just for kids anymore. And, as explained earlier, one of the most dominant elements of the Fairy Tale universe is the Talking/Anthro-pomorphic Animal. Thus it was those who embraced Tolkien's wizards and fairies who laid C. S. Lewis' fascination with Anthropomorphic Animals open for vindication in this new era of fantasy.
In 1978, Watership Down hit the big screen, once again leaving theater goers with their jaws dropped. Suddenly the bunnies weren't cute and funny. They had claws. They could bleed and die. And the audience would relate to it.
Though Watership Down sold itself well and sent many emerging Furry authors scurrying for their pens, it did not inspire a trend. There was no mad tearing rush to produce something like Watership Down. It was considered just an aspect of a wider general fantasy world, and the emphasis in the next few years would be experimentation to see what other kinds of movies the adult fantasy crowd would buy.
In 1978, NBC commissioned Animalympics, a series of animated specials intended to coincide with the 1980 Olympics coverage. Due to a historical mishap, the Olympics coverage and the specials were canceled. But Animalympics was later edited into a movie and enjoyed great success as a video release. It also became an icon of Furry Fandom, taking a place among the titles most often listed by Furry fans as their introduction to the interest.
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