Saturday, June 20, 2009

Werner Beinhart: A German Cult Classic Cartoon

There are certain cartoons in America that are not directed at children. The Simpsons, Family Guy and South Park are aired at night because some of their subject material might be inappropriate for young audiences. Along with some episodes that are forgettable and some that are some episodes that deal with prejudice and societal attitudes. One episode of the Simpsons comes to mind in which Homer thought his Arab neighbour was a terrorist.

I was looking for East German cartoons. (I still have not found any.) When scouring You Tube, I found a series of cartoons called "Werner Beinhart". The main character likes soccer, drinking beer and outwitting cops. He is definitely not a role model, but he is fun to watch. The graphics of the cartoon have that old quality from the good old days before everything was done by computer. On Line Video Guide describes him as follows.

Werner is a cult-hero among young Germans; he is the opposite of the dutiful, work-oriented model usually promulgated to them. Intead, he roars swiftly through the city on his highly customized motorcycle, cleverly outwitting the traffic policemen whose paths he crosses, while he picks up yet another in an endless series of cases of beer. He has no visible means of support, is as articulate as a stone, and seems to spend his days in a perpetual party.This Animal House like comedy combines live action and animation. The story takes place on the north coast of Germany, and much of the dialog is in an obscure local dialect. ~ Clarke Fountain, All Movie Guide

I found one episode in which Werner Beinhart wakes up in the morning drinking beer and throws open the windows of his apartment. He fancies himself as a sports announcer at a soccer match. The window from which he is "broadcasting" overlooks an open air market. At first, the birds join in, eating popcorn and drinking beer. As the cartoon progresses, Beinhart turns the open air market into a scene of slapstick chaos, narrating every mishap in which hapless shoppers become unwitting players and everything from melons and eggs become impromptu soccer balls.

I could not find any underlying moral or political commentary in the cartoon at all. But so what... The cartoon reminded me of an anarchic form of keep away that we used to play in elementary school that was strictly banned by the recess monitors. It was the only game at which I excelled. The object of the game was to keep the ball in the hands of your team by any means necessary. There were no goalposts and no scores. You could switch teams. We had no set field boundaries and would storm into a baseball game in progress or a round of jump rope. I could easily imagine Werner Beinhart starring at such a game.

In 1990, there was a full length feature Werner Beinhart film that was very successful in Germany. To this day the cartoons have a loyal following. I find the various episodes useful for keeping my very rusty German language skills from going completely to seed. I do not watch it around my younger children. It has the same calming effect on them that can be observed after drinking a 20 ounce bottle of Pepsi. I hope my readers enjoy this classic episode. Sphere: Related Content


Mehmed said...

I Used to live in Berlin Germany when ages 3 to 9. I used to watch Werner every time I had the chance. I just recently began watching the episodes again. I am mad at my self for letting my German shrivel down to just a few words and phrases. But none the less, I laugh just as if I understood what they are saying. It brings back a lot of memories.

Mehmed said...

I don't know if my other comment went through. But what ever. I lived in Berlin Germany from ages 3 to 9. Don't ask why, it's a long story. in short, my family is a war refugee. Thats if you must know. But either way, I watched Werner when I was young, younger then most of what the kids herein the U.S. get to watch at that age. I just recently started to watch the episodes again, after I figured out how to spell the name. ha ha ha. I am mad at my self for letting my German shrivel down to nothing but a few words and phrases. But none the less, I still laugh when I watch the episodes on line as if I understood them. The show brings back a lot of memories from where I spend my much younger years as a child. a lot of time as past in the blink of an eye.