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Animated Asterix Films: 'Asterix and the Vikings'

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Introduction | Asterix the Gaul | Asterix and Cleopatra | The Twelve Tasks of Asterix
Asterix versus Cæsar | Asterix in Britain | Asterix and the Big Fight | Asterix Conquers America | Asterix and the Vikings | Asterix: The Mansions of the Gods


Twelve years after Asterix Conquers America, Asterix and the Vikings was released. This film is one of the best Asterix animated films to date, combining excellent animation and a well-developed story and characters, with obvious attention to detail prevalent throughout.

After Asterix Conquers America

The year after Asterix Conquers America, a film was released that changed animation forever –  Pixar's Toy Story. It ushered in the computer generated age for animated films. In the following decade, animation studios such as Dreamworks Animation Studios and Blue Sky Studios that embraced CGI prospered, while those which stuck to traditional methods collapsed. These included Fox Animation Studio and Universal Animation Studios. Even the most traditional of studios such as Disney and Aardman embraced the new computer-generated format, with only a few stand-alone specialists such as Japan's Hayao Miyazaki resisting.

It is unsurprising, in this uncertain animation environment, that French cinema turned to making live action Asterix films, starring Gérard Depardieu, one of France's most successful and talented actors, as Obelix. With the success of Asterix and Obelix Take on Cæsar and Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra it seemed all hope of another animated Asterix film was lost.

The Making of Asterix and the Vikings

In December 2001 Albert Uderzo, the surviving creator of Asterix, saw the film Help! I'm A Fish by Danish animation company 'A Film', along with representatives from France's M6 studios. M6 Studios had previously contacted him about the possibility of making an Asterix animated film, and hoped to find a suitable animation studio to collaborate with. The film impressed him and he gave permission for A Film and M6 Studios to jointly produce an Asterix film. As A Film were a Danish company, it seemed logical for it to be an adaptation of Asterix and the Normans, a book which featured Vikings. The film took four years to plan and complete, and was finally released in 2006.

Voice Cast

  • Asterix - Paul Giamatti
  • Obelix - Brad Garrett
  • Justforkix - Sean Astin
  • Abba - Evan Rachel Wood
  • Timandahaf - John DiMaggio
  • Vitalstatistix - Daran Norris
  • Getafix - Jeff Bennett
  • Cryptograf - Greg Proops
  • Olaf & Unhygienix - Diedrich Bader
  • Vikea - April Winchell
  • Cacofonix - Jess Harnell
  • Dogmatix & SMS - Dee Bradley Baker
  • Impedimenta - Grey DeLisle
  • Fulliautomatix - John DeMita
  • Doublehelix - Rip Torn

Paul Giamatti is an award-winning Hollywood screen actor best known for his roles in Sideways, American Splendor, The Illusionist, Barney's Version and the TV mini-series John Adams, for which he receieved an Emmy Award. He also played Tim the Gate Guard in the animated movie Robots. Brad Garrett is probably best known in America for being in the long-running television sitcom Everybody Loves Raymond. He has also had roles in animated films including A Bug's Life and Finding Nemo, and was Auguste Gusteau in Pixar's Ratatouille.

Sean Astin, who plays Justforkix, has appeared in two fantasy franchises that first hit the silver screen as animations and then had live action adaptations made. He is most famous for his role as Samwise Gamgee in the live action The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and he also played Twoflower in the live action adaptation of Discworld's The Colour Of Magic. Astin was also in The Goonies (1985) and Memphis Belle (1990).

Greg Proops is best known for his regular appearance in the improvisation comedy TV series Whose Line is it Anyway?. He provided the voice for Fode, the English speaking half of the two-headed pod race commentator, in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Jess Harnell is best known for voicing Wakko Warner on Animaniacs and did voices for the live action Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen films, as well as Up.

Many other members of the cast are experienced voice actors, and have had roles in animated series and films. Diedrich Bader has appeared in Ice Age, The Simpsons, Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, and The Penguins of Madagascar and has also voiced Batman. Dee Bradley Baker voiced clone troopers for Star Wars: The Clone Wars, was in SpongeBob SquarePants and Happy Feet, and played Piglet in Winnie the Pooh. John DiMaggio voices Bender in Futurama, while Jeff Bennett voiced Johnny Bravo. Grey DeLisle voiced Emily Elizabeth in Clifford the Big Red Dog and is the Dark Jedi, Asajj Ventress, in Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Plot

The Vikings love to pillage, plunder and slaughter, yet find that whenever they try to raid somewhere all the locals flee, leaving no one behind. This annoys their chief, Timandahaf, who consults with his priest Cryptograf. When Cryptograf uses the metaphor 'fear lends them wings', Timandahaf takes this literally, and believes that learning fear will enable him to fly. He decides to find a champion of fear to teach the Vikings how to fly, promising to give the man who captures the champion of fear anything in exchange. Cryptograf, wanting to take advantage of this, declares that the champion can be found in Armorica, Gaul – home of Asterix.

In the Gaulish village, meanwhile, Asterix and Obelix are asked to train newly-arrived Justforkix, chief Vitalstatistix's nephew. Justforkix is a pacifist vegetarian, and his father Doublehelix hopes Justforkix will become a manly hero just like him. However Justforkix is more interested in girls than fighting and confesses he is scared of everything. This is overheard by Cryptograf's son, Olaf, who kidnaps Justforkix and takes him aboard the Viking longboat.

On the longboat, Justforkix meets Abba, Timandahaf's adventurous daughter, who wishes she had more freedom for adventure and excitement, and does not want to always stay at home as her father wishes. Along with the other Vikings, she believes that Justforkix can fly.

When they return to the frozen North, Cryptograf asks Timandahaf to let Abba marry Olaf in return for kidnapping the champion, which he agrees to. Cryptograf hopes to thus rule the Vikings through his son when Timandahaf is gone. Although Asterix and Obelix pursue them and try to rescue Justforkix, he instead insists on rescuing Abba from the wedding, and in a fight with Olaf the fact that he cannot fly is revealed. However, after Abba falls down a deep volcanic ravine, Justforkix rescues her through the use of a hang-glider and they fly off together and soon get married. At the wedding, held in the Gaulish village with the Vikings in attendance, Cacofonix sings, and so at last the Vikings learn the meaning of fear.

Asterix and the Normans

Asterix and the Vikings is an adaptation of the comic Asterix and the Normans, with a few changes. These on the whole improve the story and make it more dramatic, and finally provide the Asterix series with a worthy heroine in the form of Abba, a vast improvement on the sighing and screaming Panacea and the ankle-spraining Atishoo.

The journey to the north gives the film a more dynamic, dramatic edge than would be felt if all the action stayed around the Gaulish village. Cacofonix's role is rather reduced; his finest moment at the end, however, in which he teaches the Vikings fear, is still maintained and used to best effect.

Another strong influence on the film is the second half of the comic Asterix and the Great Crossing, which takes place in a Viking village. The feast, Great Dane and houses are all inspired by that book.

Gauls who are not in the book Asterix and the Normans appear in the film, including Unhygienix, Impedimenta and Geriatrix. Most interestingly Influenza, known as Zaza, appears even though she only lived in the village briefly in the comic Asterix and Cæsar's Gift, although similar-looking nameless female villagers are in the book. Postaldistrix, the Gaulish messenger in the book, does not appear in the film.

New Characters

Asterix and the Vikings has five new main characters not in the book Asterix and the Normans. These are:

  • Abba - She is the daughter of Viking chief Timandahaf and is adventurous, wanting to see more than her home village.

  • Cryptograf - the Viking priest. As Odin curiously seems to suggest things which would benefit him, it seems that Cryptograf is in the priest business just for the power and influence it gives him when everyone else is far stronger than he is. It is his use of the phrase 'fear lends them wings' that leads to the Vikings visiting the Gaulish village. Olaf is his son.

  • Olaf - he does not understand much other than how to kill. He is one of the strongest Vikings, yet is heavily influenced by his father Cryptograf.

  • Vikea - she is Timandahaf's wife and is obsessed with getting furniture and matching skulls for her home.

  • SMS - short for Self Message Servisix, is Justforkix's loyal homing pigeon.

Review

Asterix and the Vikings is a strong return to form after Asterix Conquers America. The humour is pitched to entertain both adults and children, it has extremely colourful, impressive animation throughout, and the instances when 3D animation techniques are used are in keeping with the look of the rest of the film and do not jar, in contrast to the computer-generated sequences in Asterix Conquers America, which did.

There are three sequences in the film which particularly stand out: first of all, the opening sequence which introduces us to the Vikings, the real heroes of the story, and their voyage through storm and seas to a deserted village. Justforkix's training montage, with elements and scenes taken straight out of the book, is played perfectly with humour and in-jokes, yet still developing the story and establishing Justforkix as an identifiable character. The use of the Rocky training song 'Eye Of The Tiger' adds a humorous element for adults watching the film, yet is a wonderful catchy and exciting song for children to enjoy. The third breathtaking sequence is the end fight and flight, complete with an ice-sculpting bird.

The voices, though not the strongest line-up an Asterix film has known, are still for the most part perfectly cast, with Greg Proops and Sean Astin giving the best performances. Paul Giamatti as Asterix and Brad Garrett as Obelix do not quite seem natural for their roles, having too strong American accents to be convincing Gauls1 and Paul Giamatti's voice seems too deep to be Asterix, yet the way they say their lines with pathos and feeling more than makes up for any shortcomings.

There are some minor loopholes in the plot. Firstly, Getafix gives nonsense directions to Asterix who wants to know how to follow the Vikings. Getafix then compounds his error by stating that to get to the Viking village from Armorica, Gaul, you simply have to follow the North Star. How heading due north from the Gaulish village would get you anywhere other than the Dorset coast is never really explained.

Curiously the pacifist Justforkix, who refuses to fight, carries a sword. Is this a decoration, a means for him to impress the ladies? Asterix, after all, also carries a sword, yet he is never seen fighting with it in an Asterix film.

Another question is, at the end of the film, why doesn't Panacea attend Justforkix's wedding? Panacea is Vitalstatistix's niece just as Justforkix is the nephew of Vitalstatistix. This implies that even if they are not actually siblings, they are cousins at the least. There is definitely a strong family resemblence between them. Both are blonde, both have no problems attracting members of the opposite sex and ideally they both prefer their partners to wear capes. Both have spent their formative years in Lutetia (also known as Paris or 'Parisium'), both are pacifists who refuse to fight the Romans, both are kidnapped in the woods outside the village, and both want to settle down to married life. Yet never in an Asterix film are both seen at the same time.

The film has the best end sequence of any Asterix film, with pictures showing what happened next. Scenes include the use of Cacofonix on battering rams to frighten the enemy as well as Abba and Justforkix living happily ever after, which is a nice, comforting touch.

Soundtrack

Like Asterix Conquers America, Asterix and the Vikings delivers a strong modern soundtrack. It uses established classics, including 'Eye of the Tiger' by Survivor, and 'Superfreak'. The end song, 'Let Your Heart Decide', by Celine Dion of Titanic fame, is not in the same league as Asterix Conquers America's 'Say Goodbye' by Bonnie Tyler, but is adequate. A French version, entitled 'Tous les secrets', was also recorded.

Connections with Other Asterix Films

  • Like Asterix Conquers America, there is a fierce storm at sea. A fierce storm also strikes in Asterix and the Big Fight.

  • This is the second example of snow in an Asterix film, after Asterix and Cleopatra.

  • Just as the map in Asterix Conquers America does not show Egypt, the Vikings' map in Asterix and the Vikings curiously only depicts Gaul and Britain, and not any Viking lands such as Norway, Sweden or Denmark.

  • Self Message Servisix the homing pigeon is not the only homing pigeon in an Asterix film. The following Asterix live action film, Asterix at the Olympic Games, features a homing pigeon called Telegraphix.

  • There is a similar dance to that in Asterix the Gaul, but with only one row of men and one of women, rather than two rows of men as in Asterix the Gaul. No moustaches are pulled.

  • Just as in the animated version of Asterix in Britain the Beatles do not appear, in Asterix and the Vikings Justforkix does not perform the Rolling Menhirs.

  • Disguises again play a major role. Asterix and Obelix, who were disguised as Romans in Asterix Conquers America, disguise themselves as Vikings. Just as Caligula Minus changed the last two letters of his name as part of his disguise in Asterix the Gaul, to become Vikings Asterix changes his name to Asteraf, and Obelix becomes Obelaf. Abba also disguises herself as a man.

  • Getafix appears to have moved house yet again. In Asterix the Gaul he lived in a cave, in The Twelve Tasks of Asterix he lived in a house with nothing nearby. By Asterix Versus Cæsar he had moved into a house with a waterfall to its right but in Asterix Conquers America his home had a quarry to its left. He must have missed his previous abode as Getafix has moved back next to the waterfall.

  • The pirates appear as part of Justforkix's training programme.

  • Asterix and Obelix undergo their journey in a small boat for the third time. They travelled in a small boat to Britain in Asterix in Britain and to America in Asterix Conquers America.

  • Cryptograph is a fraudulent priest. The medicine man in the previous film, Asterix Conquers America, was a fraud. The film before that, Asterix and the Big Fight, had a fraudulent soothsayer in the character of Prolix.

  • There is a tent-throwing scene similar to one in the live-action film Asterix and Obelix: Mission Cleopatra.

  • Justforkix is kidnapped in the forest just outside the Gaulish village, this time by Vikings. Other people kidnapped in that forest have included Getafix (twice), Panacea and Tragicomix.

  • Soon after travelling north from Gaul, Asterix and Obelix reach a thick patch of fog. Presumably they are rounding the coast of Britain, which in Asterix in Britain is surrounded by fog.

Historical Perspective

Asterix and the Vikings is one of the least historically accurate of the animated Asterix films. The first issue is the date of the Viking period. The first recorded Viking raids in France started in around 860 AD. Asterix is set in 50 BC. That's a difference of 910 years! The Vikings' portrayal is also more in keeping with stereotypes than historical accuracy. Although these stereotypes may seem to be modern inventions, they were also the Roman's own view of the northern races. Vetruvius, a Roman contemporary of Julius Cæsar, wrote:

Those who are born in colder regions, by their fearless courage are better equipped for the clash of arms, yet by their slowness of mind they rush on without reflections.

The central plot of Asterix and the Vikings is that the Vikings are fearless, matching the 'fearless courage' description. Similarly, the Vikings are not shown as being particularly intelligent. Olaf in particular fits the 'slowness of mind' description and the Viking warriors agree with any slogan shouted to them. They certainly do rush into battle without reflection, and rush off a cliff at the end of the film.

In the time of the film's setting, 50 BC, disco dancing and record players had not been invented, so Justforkix's dance sequence makes little contemporary sense. Despite this, the film's background details are quite accurate. The Roman Fort does resemble the design of real forts found all over the Roman Empire, including those on Hadrian's Wall. Similarly, the Romans fight in their famous testudo 'tortoise' formation and their equipment, arms and armour matches historical sources, such as on Trajan's column.

Novelisation

Asterix and the Vikings was novelised under the same name. The English translation was by Anthea Bell, and on first publication it was an unnumbered part of the Asterix series. It follows the film closely, although references to Parisium are replaced with Lutetia to bring the novelisation closer to other books in the Asterix series.

One of the bonuses of the novelisation is the full-colour 'making of the film' section at the back, which despite lacking details of how the film was made, contains copious drawings of the characters and scenes used in the film. The book is full of lavish stills from the film, with each double-page spread being made up of text and a picture on one page, and pictures taking up all the other.

1Although why a British accent would be more appropriate is not clear.

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