Even these tapes cost something

  A Journey Through Fairyland
1985 | Sanrio Co. Ltd.
A Journey Through Fairyland Celebritys Just For Kids Sanrio

From unexpectedly downbeat Sanrio (Unico) to really unexpectedly depressing Sanrio (Ringing Bell) to exactly what you'd expect Sanrio... or is it?

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Fairy Florence (Yousei Florence) would be the last film released by Sanrio under their Sanrio Films label for twelve years bringing to an end an almost annual series of releases that had begun in the late 70's with the Ringing Bell/Chiisana Jumbo/The Mouse and his Child matinee.

Released on 19th October 1985 after four years in production - each cell hand-painted. Fairy Florence was written by Sanrio's founder himself Shintaro Tsuji with the intention of being Japan's answer to Disney's Fantasia, something the company had already attempted with less than bankable results in 1978's Metamorphosis aka Winds of Change. It also marked director Masami Hata's last collaboration with the studio for several years.

The film tells a whimsical, musical tale of young musician Michael who finds time the plants in the greenhouse more enjoyable than the time he should be spending in class rehearsal. When he is late one too many times the teacher expels him leaving Michael sad and dejected. To restore his faith in himself and his musical talent a fairy called Florence who lives inside a flower Michael rescued, takes the boy on a journey through her world where his faith in his abilities is restored.

To enhance the musical theme of the film Masachika Ichimura, a member of the Shiki Theatre Company - one of Japan's oldest and best loved Musical Theatre Groups, was cast in the lead role of Michael. Co-Founder of the New Japan Philharmonic Naozumi Yamamoto was asked to select the classical pieces for the film alongside composing Fairy Florence's signature song and conducting the Tokyo Philharmonic in creating them. To accompany the film a soundtrack LP was released containing an art book of stills from the lavish production.

Sanrio later revived the Fairy Florence as a short-run live stage show, with Hello Kitty replacing Michael, which has also been released on video and DVD.

Fairy Florence's most notable release in the west was the 1991 Celebrity's Just For Kids video re-titled A Journey Through Fairyland, which received a wider rental re-release in 1995.

Produced by Mark Headly, one of the names behind the Ringing Bell localisation, and dubbed by several Harmony Gold background players, this version sticks closely to the original Japanese version, only adding the name Professor Lo Note to the previously un-named music teacher.

The sleeve of this release displays quotes from a number of sources praising the film. Interestingly, two of the publications supplying their comments, School Library Journal and Video Business, are owned by the same parent company.

The Film Advisory Board, an organisation that reports on the suitability of family oriented programming, gave A Journey Through Fairyland their Award of Excellence recommendation, commenting that it was "A delightful journey in music and animation".

This is not the only anime video to receive this award, it was also handed to Les Miserables (also part of the Just For Kids range) and the 1992 Fox Video release of Miyazaki's My Neighbour Totoro.

Other releases deemed worthy of the Advisory Board's rosette for "Quality children's entertainment" include Captain Planet and the Lamenters, Jingle All The Way, Kangaroo Jack and The Santa Clause 2.

A Journey Through Fairyland was released even earlier in the UK, 1990, by Parkfield Playtime a subsidiary of the long running Intervision Video. Unfortunately the company folded shortly after, meaning the film didn't receive a very wide release.

Yousei Florence Fairy Florence Movie poster Yousei Florence Fairy Florence Movie poster Yousei Florence Fairy Florence OST LP
Yousei Florence Sanrio Video VHS
Japanese Movie Poster
Alternative Movie Poster
The soundtrack LP
Japanese VHS
At last, for the first time in far too long, we have a rental tape with trailers!

First up is the snappily titled Matt the Gooseboy (IMDB 8.9/10 283 votes). That's right, the Matt the Gooseboy. Not so much a trailer as an abridged version of the film with a running commentary from Kid Pix's Mr Angelo, no less. A kid called Matt is accused by Lord Blackheart of stealing a goose, a crime of which he is innocent.

At one point Mr A states "Lord Blackheart soon found himself alone with the stranger and in a most compromising position. The humiliation of his lordship was total!" while we see the young lad beating the Lord's backside with an umbrella. At the end the voice over claims this film "...teaches a wonderful moral lesson" presumably to do with dominance and submission!

Matt the Gooseboy
Second of the three is Captain of the Forest (IMDB 7.8/10 145 votes) and another feature-length trailer. Captain Schnauzer, a very well known character of many adventures the voice over assures us, is on the case of the Mick-Fleetwood-mulleted-mastermind Zero. The narrator tries to sell it as "A warm story about trust and friendship that parents will be glad to have their children watch" and "A laugh-a-minute, with hilarious non-violent action, that everyone will love!" I'm not sure that I could love non-violent action nor am I willing to give it a try.
Captain of the Forest

Finally... "Meet the award winning film star, who is capturing the hearts of kids all over the world" That sounds like an apologetic introduction for an unknown foreign property if ever I've heard one!

'Sure it's foreign, but the natives love it!
'It was France's largest grossing movie [from Hungary] of 1981!'

The Little Fox (IMDB 8.4 1634 votes), thankfully brief compared to the other two. Sounds more like an investors infomercial than a kids trailer, assuring potential clients that it's "... a smash in Europe and is working its magic on American shores!"

The Little Fox Vuk
Interestingly all three of these animated films are Hungarian, showing Japan wasn't the only non-english speaking country Celebrity mined for usable animation. Maybe, somewhere on the ol' net, there is a Hungarian version of this site making fun of these tapes... although I doubt it.


Ohhh god, it's only the opening credits and already I don't like it. Fairies, flowers, classical music and an animated spectacle. This better have some nudity in it (like Winds of Change), or I'm gonna be asleep before the halfway mark...

"Once upon a time their lived a young man named Michael who loved flowers..." Arrrgh!

Michael plays his Oboe for the flowers in the greenhouse while performing a prancy jig like an anime Martin Prince. Unfortunately, conducting all these manly pursuits have left him late for band practice and by the time he reaches class all the other kids have started without him.

A journey through fairyland yousei florence fairy florence

They start off by playing Beethoven's 5th (not the laugh-riot-dog-movie-sequel the ring tone on your cell phone that you don't use) but Michael messes up by sneezing down his instrument during a solo. Didn't they do that on Jackass once? As usual Professor Lo Note (ha ha ha "Lo Note", like what instruments do!) is not impressed and scolds him for holding up the rest of the class (the smart kids).

After school a pretty young girl named Laura encourages drippy Michael to have ice cream with her but he is more interested in a flower he sees discarded on the path. He brushes off his potential hot date to rush back to the girl-free-sanctuary of the greenhouse. "Sometimes I think Michael likes plants more than he likes his friends" wonders Laura. My guess, not all his friends, just the girl ones.

A journey through fairyland yousei florence fairy florence

That night, Michael wakes up in the greenhouse to find his newly rescued Pagonia sparkling. Out of one of the flowers pops a tiny fairy named Florence.

Oh god, she's singing!

Florence reveals herself to Michael, who is no doubt more encouraged by the fact she is flora-related than put off that she is a girl. She explains she and the other plants enjoy Michael's Oboe playing and value his care and attention. Then she does a "fairy dance" for him...

Oh god, she's dancing!

A journey through fairyland yousei florence fairy florence

Unfortunately, before she can even finish her Fairy Dance, the morning light begins to shine through into the greenhouse and Florence must go. Flower Fairies can only come out at night, you see.

That day's band practice goes even worse for Michael and he is expelled from the orchestra by the Professor. Dejected Michael walks back to the greenhouse, past a soccer match. Oh no! Ball games! Don't worry, Michael is fortunate and the ball doesn't roll his way. Further humiliation narrowly missed!

A journey through fairyland yousei florence fairy florence

"Maybe I should give up music," he wonders, "maybe there is something wrong with me." Avoids girls, spends all his time with plants, plays the Oboe... no, perfectly normal teenage boy! To express his sorrow Michael plays the Oboe from on top of a cliff edge. That's so Emo!

  yousei florence  

The young ex-musician packs up his things and prepares to leave the institute, but before he can return home where his three older brothers will constantly beat him up and his tough-guy dad will force him to watch hour after hour of football and NASCAR in a futile attempt to "man him up", he goes for one last fondle in the potting shed. It's night time so Florence is there to meet him and she has a present. "You are about to have a great adventure! Just touch my bud with the magic wand!" No smutty jokes on this website.

The wand she is referring to is the Semper Wand which "has magical powers in Fairyland." Unless it makes heads explode or clothes fall off, I don't think I'm gonna be impressed. At Florence's encouragement Michael uses the Semper Wand to follow her into Flowerland and, if this whole thing is just a stress related delusion, deeper into his psychological meltdown.

He goes in. While passing through the Time Tunnel with his fairy companion the two are separated by Treble the leader of the Goblins. Michael attempts to flee the mischievous Ziggy-voiced Goblin but he hadn't reckoned with his magical power - of interpretive animation! Soon the young boy is dodging quavers, crotchets, minims, semibreves and other musical debris while becoming entangled in spider webs. A mournful organ plays in the background.

A journey through fairyland yousei florence fairy florence

The fun comes to an end when Michael and Treble are faced with another psychedelic freakout, this time - Cuddle bubbles. Sort-of-like and mixture of Nintendo's Kirby and Gloop from the Herculoids. Some slow-paced musical shenanigans take place culminating with Treble getting hold of the Semper Wand. He conducts a musical surrealist nightmare which starts out like the Stardust Speedway Zone in Sonic CD before catching fire then freezing.

A journey through fairyland yousei florence fairy florence

Michael finds Treble trapped in a block of ice of his own making. For some reason Michael hugs the frozen block like some creepy guy. "And so, with the warmth of his heart, Michael melted the ice block and freed Treble from his icy prison." That boy's not well. Treble returns the wand and disappears.

  yousei florence  

Next, the background disappears and petals rain down, flowers appear spinning in the air each hiding a tiny fairy. The Fairies fly around Michael and general animated spectacle takes place to an accompanying classical piece. Florence arrives and she and Michael join in with the dancing. All this musical gayety continues for several minutes. In fact, they've barely stopped dancing when the GOBLINS turn up and the dancing begins all over again. Even Sanrio's vast array of mascot characters join in. It all begins to turn a bit Bubble Bobble and then finally ends.

A journey through fairyland yousei florence fairy florence

Florence and Michael float down stream in a leaf-boat. Michael reveals that he has given up playing his Oboe but Florence urges him to reconsider. She then declares that she loves him and that they should both travel to Crystal Waters where she will make him "one of us". Michael takes no time to think it over instead choosing to follow whatever the fairies tell him to do.

So the pair go to the Crystal Waters "...a magical place where a human boy could become a flower fairy too", and Florence encourages Michael to drink the water, having some herself first, perhaps to prove that it is safe. The boy's appearance changes and it is clear to all that he has become a fairy. Perhaps it was destined this way.

A journey through fairyland yousei florence fairy florence

Tonal shift time. Things don't swing as far as in Unico but there is a noticeable shift. A welcome one too if you are a uncultured heathen like me. The flower season has come to an end and it is time for the 'Brambles of Winter' to massacre the fairies. Vast, vicious looking thorned weeds tear through the ground, destroying the colourful landscape smothering it in a bleak and desolate brown. Then the bugs arrive and start smashing up the joint. Fairies are shattered. The circle of life is complete.

A journey through fairyland yousei florence fairy florence

But Michael isn't about to sit back and let nature take its cause. No, he decides to fight back against natural order and to use the Semper Wand to conduct a flower-power counterattack. Treble shows up to join the fight, using his army of notes to shatter the evil insects. The campaign seems to be a success, but soon the real threat arrives. A vast, multi-tentacled mass looms in through the fog and the massacre continues unabated. As you might expect from a Japanese multi tentacled monster, it takes an expressed interest in the ladies. The mass snatches fairies from the sky and stuffs them into its hungry face, its screaming victims flee but it is futile. Rather than let Florence become yet another snackette Michael uses the last of the Semper Wands power to destroy the monster from within, even though it may mean he will never be able to return home.

A journey through fairyland yousei florence fairy florence

Like Unicron before him, the monster detonates from the inside out, hurling Michael through a glowing white light and back into the real world. Alone for a short while, Florence appears in the human world to say thank you and goodbye to her human hero. Its all a big tease really, since she can't stay and they will never see each other again. Before dissolving in the morning due the flower fairy urges Michael to continue playing with his Oboe.

  yousei florence  

The next morning Michael visits Professor Lo Note to beg for his place in the orchestra. The Prof allows him back and demands the other kids come in on their day off so Michael can make up for all the time he was late. I bet they're gonna be pleased to see him.

A journey through fairyland yousei florence fairy florence

And so Michael puts his time in Fairyland to use and becomes the greatest musician in the school. His performance gets a standing ovation from the crowd and, at the close, the Prof tosses him is baton which glows like the Semper Wand as he catches it. Puzzled, Michael looks over to Lo Note who gives him a thumbs up. Am I reading this wrong, or was Professor Lo Note Florence all along? If I'm right... oh god... that's gross!

Missing videos Missing videos

When Seasons Attack
Scary monster time. Multiple tentacles and helpless fairies... uh oh!

Arrival From Flowerland
Florence makes her debut. And then starts singing...

Nicely animated
The monsters were a nice surprise
Not a massively deep story

Sorry, I realise I have been flippant with what many consider an underrated masterpiece. But this really isn't my sort of thing. You know how it is - playing on Xbox Live an hour flies past. When I watched Ringing Bell the 47 mins were over too soon. But when I watch a film where the classical music out ways the script 50-1 it becomes the longest 90 minutes since I last watched Johnny Destiny Space Ninja!

The animation is undeniably impressive, especially when you consider every last frame was hand painted, but the story is paper thin and left me counting the minutes. I'm sure, if you're not a philistine, you may well enjoy this but I would prefer Winds of Change.