Monday, November 14, 2011

Pastoral 4: Orality and Mastery

Pastoral 1 fawn playing pipes

While I emphasized sexual imagery, both explicit and implicit, in my first post on Disney’s Pastoral, the episode also has a good deal of oral imagery. That’s what I want to discuss in this post.

Oral imagery shows up well before any sexual imagery. It’s there at the beginning, albeit in a very special form, that of an on-screen character playing a musical line from Beethoven’s score. As I indicated before, this is the only episode in the whole film where that happens, and it happens several times throughout the episode. Further, the instrument is always a wind instrument, never a stringed instrument, though Beethoven’s symphony abounds in strings.

In the first case we see a faun playing pan pipes. He’s joined by other fauns, all piping and dancing away, and they’re joined by unicorns. Then one faun and one unicorn get to playing around. The faun climbs a pedestal and alternately plays a riff on the pipes and strikes poses, as though he were a statue, while unicorn attempts to make sense of it this harmless trickery. At the end of this back and forth the unicorn licks the faun on the face:

Pastoral oral1 lick the faun

Think of it as an oral link between a faun and a unicorn. We’ll see other such links.

Then we have the young winged-horse at breakfast, then licking his lips afterward:

Pastoral oral2 suckle

Pastoral oral3 lick

After that we see one sibling nibble at some flowers and another eat grapes:

Pastoral oral4 flower

Pastoral oral5 grapes

Flowers will appear as a motif in the second movement, which is about courtship, while grapes will run riot in the third, showing us wine-making, drinking, and dancing.

There is at least one more case of on-screen piping in this first movement, just before the transition to the second. As the second movement evolves we see a cherub pluck a grape from a vine and then present it to a centaurette. She kisses it and the cherub then eats it:

Pastoral oral6 grape to centaurette

Pastoral oral7 grape to cherub

In another scene a centaurette feeds grapes to a recumbent centaur:

Pastoral oral8 centaur

Do those grapes have any cherubic magic infused into them? Whether or not they do, the cherubs close out the movement by playing pipes to entice he and she to meet:

Pastoral oral9 horn trio

At this point music has actively entered into the story as an agent forging certain kinds of relationships.

That movement gives way to the third, the Bacchanal, which opens with centaurs and centaurettes carrying baskets of grapes to a large wooden vat while fauns pipe merrily away. Some of the fauns are inside the vat, piping and stomping. At one point one faun spews grape juice from his pipes. Now we’ve got grapes, and their juice, explicitly identified with music, forging another oral knot.

Pastoral oral10 grape stomp

Pastoral oral11 juice from horn

Then Bacchus enters with his entourage and we have the single most intense bit of oral imagery in the film. One of Bacchus’s attendants refills his cup. He then pours the wine into his donkey’s mouth while sticking out his own tongue for a taste. The donkey drinks, smacks his lips, and burps in satisfaction:

Pastoral oral12 to bacchus

Pastoral oral13 to donkey

Pastoral oral13b to donkey

Pastoral oral13c to donkey

Pastoral oral13d donkey yum

Pastoral oral13e donkey urp

Note that this donkey, like unicorns, has a horn on its forehead. Perhaps Disney wants us to recall that earlier image where a unicorn licked the face of a piping faun. Perhaps that horn is also phallic. Who knows?

We’ve seen how the dance unfolds in the previous post. Bacchus gets drunker and drunker and ends up kissing his donkey:

Pastoral dance22

Now the merriment ends and Zeus conjures up a storm and zaps Bacchus and his donkey with thunderbolts. The last one destroys the grape vat and, by implication, puts a damper on further oral (and sexual) pleasures.

Pastoral 20 got the wine

Still, Bacchus and his donkey manage to exact some last oral pleasure as they sit in a river of spilled wine, playing and drinking:

Pastoral oral14a test1

Pastoral oral14b test2

Pastoral oral14c yes

Pastoral oral14d yes yes

Pastoral oral14e yes yes donkey

Then a centaur stands on a promontory and signals “all clear” with a horn call. The storm is over and the last movement can begin.

Pastoral oral15 sound the horn all clear

As I indicated in the Color and Sound post, this segment focuses on a rainbow and, in particular, on the cherubs and winged horses playing in that rainbow. Disney focuses on one winged horse in particular:

Pastoral oral16 confident flyer

That’s the youngster we first saw suckling. Then, still in the first movement, there’s a sequence where he takes his first uncertain flight, helped by his mother. While he flies with his family through the rest of that movement he’s clearly more awkward than his older siblings. That awkwardness is gone in his rainbow flying. He flies with strength, ease, and confident playfulness, alternately chasing and being chased, and swimming on the water and under it as confidently as he flies.

How’d that happen? I suppose we could imagine that he spent the day furiously practicing while we were watching the courtship and the dancing. But that sort of real-world answer won’t do.

For this is not the real world. This is fantasy. And fantasy answers such questions in a different way. But not here and not now.

Here’s the last oral gesture in the film:

Pastoral oral20 last piping

As the youngsters swim away in the rainbow (you can see it on the surface of the water) a faun pipes away. This scene will give way to a group scene where all the characters gather on a promontory to watch the setting sun.

Next Up: Pastoral 5: All Together Now, Toward an Aesthetics of Surface and Depth, in which Nothing is Hidden, All is Revealed


  1. i do see your point in some of the images but really? a disney movie? ud have to be reeeeeally sick minded to see all of those... now idk what ur problem is but i happen to love that movie and i kindof take offense to some of the comments.

    1. Yes, in a Disney movie. No one's sick, but we're all complicated and live our lives on many levels. Disney got that, which is one reason he's great.