For us GenX-ers in the late 70s, after you grew out of Electric Company your next connection with PBS and TPT (then Channel 2) would likely be staying up late for Monty Python’s Flying Circus. And while we were too young to get much of the conceptual, very British humor of the ground breaking comedy troop, we always enjoyed colorful and quirky cut-out animated shorts that filled out in the series.
As Monty Python’s popularity soared through the 70s, it came as a quite a revelation that those animated vignettes were done by the sole American of the ensemble, and that he was from Minnesota. Less surprising is that Terry Gilliam, the inventive and iconoclastic artist, would go on to create one the most singular filmographies in mainstream movies. From Time Bandits to 12 Monkeys, from Brazil to The Adventures of Baron Munchausen, Terry Gilliam must be considered alongside the Coen Brothers and Pete Docter as the most successful and distinctive filmmakers from Minnesota. Now, after decades of tilting at the windmills of making, Gilliam’s plagued passion project The Man Who Killed Don Quixote is finally out in the world.
But before this tortured attempt at telling the original Quixotic tale, and before singular films like Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Fisher King, Terry Gilliam was experimenting with simple cutout animations that were used as transitions and interludes on Monty Python. Before that, Terry Gilliam was growing up in exurban Minneapolis. One can’t help but to wonder how his upbringing in the Twin Cities ‘burbs led to the dynamic, yet dystopian visions in films like the cult classic Brazil. But there are clues in this 1977 interview with producer Cyrus Bharucha for the seminal Twin Cities PBS arts series, Wyld Ryce where Giliam acknowledges he was regarded by his fellow Pythons as a ‘monosyllabic Minnesota farmboy.’
For more on Terry Gilliam’s Minnesota origin story, read Steve Marsh’s recent article in Mpls/StPaul magazine. http://mspmag.com/arts-and-culture/qa-terry-gilliam-the-man-who-killed-don-quixote/