The first part of this 1966 Oscar winning animated short is so utterly charming, I’m surprised it hasn’t spawned a contemporary remake. The theme—a brave little flea going up against greedy developers who are transforming his rustic homeland into a high rise vacation paradise for cigar-chomping high rollers and their stacked molls—sounds like the sort of thing that might appeal to Dreamworks.
Of course, we’d need to flesh out the characters if we’re shooting for feature length. Give that shambling donkey and plump-bottomed hen some wisecracking attitude, and maybe some mirrored shades. I’m thinking something in the Chris Rock/Whoopie Goldberg/Nathan Lane-type vein. Get a kid to voice the flea. Doesn’t matter who, as long as he’s relatable and bland. Who’s that kid with the hair?
Obviously, we’re talking 3D CGI. If we thought we could sell the kiddies on a retro 20th-century vibe, we’d bring in Wes Anderson or Tim Burton. They’re sort of into that creepy stop motion deal, right?
Speaking of retro, we could maybe hang onto a bit of the “Spanish Flea” thing out of respect and because of the character being a flea and all. I’m thinking maybe a hip hop remix as the credits roll? Find out if that kid with the hair raps. I forget what he’s famous for…
The original is absolutely perfect as is, funky and funny, with loads of loose‑y goose‑y personality. Like the Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass sound that drives it, it’s both kid-friendly and a bit adult. (If that gyrating changing cabana puts you in mind of the Dating Game, it’s likely more than the “Spanish Flea”/“Bachelor’s Theme” connection. Surely I was not the only child viewer tantalized by the thought of what might happen when the winning bachelor and bachelorette flew off together to take their shared vacation-prize.)
The other half of the short, a riff on “Tijuana Taxi,” another hit from Alpert’s 1965 album, Going Places, is pretty great too.
Produced by legendary animator John Hubley and his wife, Faith, this little two-for-the-price-of-one gem features contributions by some of the period’s other greats: Gerard Baldwin, Phil Duncan, Emery Hawkins, Barrie Nelson, Rod Scribner, and Ed Smith. If it leaves you with a taste for more, have a look at the Hubleys’ work for Dizzy Gillespie, which we featured last week.
A Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass Double Feature won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1966. You can find it in our collection of 675 Free Online Movies, plus our collection of 35 Free Oscar Winning Films Online.