Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Seymour S. Sassafras

Seymour S. Sassafras, from the Rankin/Bass classic, Here Comes Peter Cottontail, voiced by and modeled on Danny Kaye. This amazing action figure was produced about five years ago, one of a series of four that included Peter Cottontail (Casey Casem) with Francois the Caterpillar, Dolly with Bonny the Bonnet, and Irontail (Vincent Price). The company was Diamond Select, and there was a second series planned but never produced. The figure from hat to heel stands a whopping nine inches tall; articulated only at neck and shoulders. The hat is removable, a cane and a very colorful Easter egg are included, but not shown in this picture.

Have you ever seen such a manically cheerful action figure?

Ol' Seymour here reminds me of a certain type of character that was fairly pervasive at the time I was growing up. Archetypically, this kind of guy was a combination of The Wise Old Man and The Trickster; sartorially he was reminiscent of the travelling medicine man. He always wore a hat, usually a top hat, but a derby, straw, or Panama was not unknown. He always wore a suit, with a topcoat and a vest. In that vest pocket was invariably a pocket watch. He carried a cane or an umbrella, and at his side might be a mysterious carpetbag or valise. Inside could be a large and impressive book, or the accoutrements of his fabulous trade. He might wear glasses: a pince-nez was favotite, but a monocle or thick round spectacles were acceptable. Helpful, clever, and creative, with an impish sense of humor, he would often help and test the main character at the same time.

I love characters like that. Is there any modern equivalent?


Anonymous said...

I wonder if they were modelled on the Dauphin from Huck Finn. That would explain the carpetbag. Old Mr Marvel in Wizard of Oz was a good one, too. I think they have died out as the influence of WC Fields has waned! Also, there are not many wide-eyed heroes anymore, the con man figure has been absorbed into the hero figure himself, ala Jack Sparrow. A commentary on our times?

Anonymous said...

Oh God, I've just realized where I've seen a recent example of this kind of character. It was the Mayor of Imaginationland on South Park. Not only did he have the top hat and the suit and the watch, he had a Flying Behemoth! (Note: That's our generic term for any fanciful dirigible--in fact Mr. Sassafras had one he leant Peter.) The Mayor, as befits a character on South Park, had a somewhat acerbic and foul-mouthed side that came out under pressure.