Originally, I viewed this film as a "combative comedy" due to the fight-scene between Barnaby and Tom Tom. As of 2-27-13 I've decided that neither Tom Tom nor Barnaby have the superlative qualities necessary to justify that categorization. However, the film's final battle between the Boogeymen and the giant toy soldiers-- both of whom have greater-than-average dynamicity-- does fulfill the mode of the combative. No such high-dynamicity conflict appears in the 1961 Disney remake.I've probably devoted too much thought to this minor fantasy already in this post, particularly since it wasn't even a film I enjoyed. Nevertheless, the mere fact that I incorrectly labeled it as a "combative comedy" requires me to give it greater consideration.
At least the persona-classification of the protagonists (Stannie Dum and Ollie Dee, potrayed by Laurel and Hardy) and their antagonist Barnaby proves pretty straightforward. Barnaby is a villain of the first rank, but neither the comic stars nor the supporting "handsome young guy" Tom Tom are heroes. Again, it's their quality of "positive persistence," not their lack of high dynamicity, that makes them demiheroes. I've given an example of a high-dynamicity demihero here and an example of a low-dynamicity hero here. In fact, it's my consideration of the MIGHTY MAX cartoon-- in which the hero has no great dynamicity but one of his support-characters does-- that makes me reconsider categorizing the 1934 film as a "combative comedy."
That the significant value of the combative is there is beyond question. I reiterate my interpretation that Barnaby and Tom Tom, the two characters contending over heroine Bo Peep, are not exceptional enough to generate any significant value of the combative. However, the two supernormal forces that battle at the film's finale do generate that value. Both of these forces, the toy soldiers and the Boogeymen, can be seen as "genies" through which the heroes or the villain respectively seek to accomplish their ends.
In the case of the heroes, the toy soldiers are constructed by Stannie Dum when he misinterprets Santa Claus' order. Instead of building 600 one-foot-tall soldiers, Stannie constructs 100 six-foot-tall soldiers-- complete with working guns, which makes one wonder if the Stannie character was a part-time member in the NRA.
In the case of Barnaby, his connection to the Boogeymen goes unexplained, but somehow he's able to gain control of them and turn them against the town of Toyland. The attack is then repelled when Stannie and Ollie activate the soldiers and unleash them against the Boogeymen.
But I find myself asking: though the soldiers and the Boogeymen are extensions of the will of heroes and villain, are they central to the struggle, or just supporting characters in the story? My rationale for not considering MIGHTY MAX as a combative adventure is that I deem Max's powerful ally Norman to be a secondary character, and so his contributions to the stories are secondary-- and non-centric-- as well. It would be a different matter if I felt that Max and Norman comprised what I've termed an *ensemble.* But I do regard Norman to have only non-centric status. Similarly, that's also the reason that the presence of a powerful supporting character of the DOCTOR WHO series, K-9, does not confer combative status upon the episodes in which he appears. However, in K-9's own 2010-11 teleseries, he is the star and therefore his clashes with powerful aliens are fully combative. By the logic of these examples, then, the toy soldiers and the Boogeymen are support-characters, and their exceptional combat does not generate a narrative value. They are not comparable to the "iron genies" I discussed here.
On another front, I've recently reviewed the film OZ THE GREAT AND POWERFUL. In this "prequel" to Baum's WONDERFUL WIZARD OF OZ, protagonist Oscar Diggs also lacks the quality of "glory" that I deem necessary to a "hero"-- although ironically, he wants to have that glory.
Early in the film he says:
I don't want to be a good man... I want to be a great one.In one of the film's few insightful moments, though, his supporting character Glinda sees the truth of his nature, telling him at the film's end that he actually is a good, rather than a great, man, with all the responsibilities the former role entails. In my review I contrasted these values of glory and persistence thusly:
Glinda/Annie gets the last laugh at the ending, for through her influence Diggs becomes an ego-effacing "good man" rather than the ego-serving "great man" he wanted to be.
However, though Diggs fits my criterion for demihero-dom, he does have some power that at least rates as "exemplary." Diggs' power is that of illusion, of trickery, and it is through that power that he, Glinda and the Oz-ites are able to overthrow the superior forces of the Wicked Witch-Sisters.
Now, if Diggs were more of a comic bumbler like Stannie and Ollie dependent on dumb luck-- if he was not able to out-strategize the Witches-- then OZ would not be have the narrative value of the combative, in spite of the violent magical conflict between villainess Evanora and supporting-character Glinda.
I hope to work around to an "ethic of the combative mode" in future, FYI.