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On a midsummer night when the sun never sets, the troll Dunderklumpen (voiced by Halvar Björk) sneaks into the home of Beppe Wolgers and brings his children’s toys to life so that he’ll never be lonely again. But Dunderklumpen also steals the children’s treasure chest. Jens Wolger spies the troll making off with his toys and sets off in pursuit with his father Beppe close behind. Soon Jens and Beppe find themselves in the magical world of Sweden’s countryside where they encounter all sorts of creatures and mystical beings.

Dunderklumpen! (1974) is the invention of Beppe Wolgers. For almost a decade Wolgers hosted a children’s fairytale program in Sweden before writing the screenplay for Dunderklumpen!. Wolgers was Sweden’s leading child entertainer who often took elements of Swedish folklore and combined them with his own fanciful tales. Dunderklumpen! is the greatest expression of Wolgers’ methods and interests as it combines distinctly Swedish cultural references with the quest narrative but adorned with all the musical interludes of a Disney cartoon.

Beppe Wolgers’ fanciful tale of living cabins and mountains, trolls and witches, and helpful bumble bees is executed by director Per Åhlin. Per Åhlin was Sweden’s preeminent animator at the time and manages to create a world of live-action footage and cell animation that puts Bedknobs & Broomsticks (1971) to shame. Animated characters traverse photographic terrains right alongside flesh and blood actors with a smoothness to this synthesis that, even in the 21st century, is impressive. For Åhlin Dunderklumpen! was a move away from the avant-garde towards the mainstream. However, the technical practices that Åhlin developed and perfected in I huvet på en gammal gubbe (1968) serve the fantasy world of Wolgers’ creations quite well.

The nature of the film Dunderklumpen! is episodic. The chase or quest may form the back bone of the plot, but the bulk of the film is made up of isolated vignettes that often feature a whimsical little song. Some of these episodes can be a bit tedious at times though generally speaking they are sustained by the artistry of the animation and the commentaries of Wolgers’ writing. The fantastic story of Dunderklumpen! is a means by which Wolgers can communicate socialist political values as well as an appreciation for nature. Wolgers’ style isn’t all that subtle which is, of course, to be expected in a film made for children.

Call it “trippy”, call it “surreal”, call it anything you’d like but there’s no getting around the fact that Dunderklumpen! is one of the most unique animated films of the seventies. What’s really incredible is that fact that the first animated feature film made in Sweden was completed only six years prior to the production of Dunderklumpen!. This makes Wolgers’ and Åhlin’s film one of the seminal cinematic events in the history of the Swedish cinema.