When you think of horror films, much less animated ones, the last company you would ever believe to have made one is Sanrio, the company that owns Hello Kitty. Even more surprising is the source material and its author. Titled Chirin no Suzu (Ringing Bell), the movie was released in January 1978 by Takashi Yanase. If that name rings a bell, it’s because Takashi Yanase is the creator of everyone’s favorite pastry-based superhero, Anpanman.
The story follows a young lamb named Chirin, so named for the bell around his neck. He lives an idyllic life on a farm with his mother and the rest of the flock until a wolf kills his mother. After that Chirin begins a quest for revenge. While this seems part and parcel of a story aimed at older children, both the book and film were meant for a younger demographic. The film, released in March 1978, didn’t shy away from the tonal shift and cemented itself as nightmare fuel for many children and most likely a few parents.
While the darker story elements and scary imagery would kick up a fuss with plenty of parents today, this was par for the course in the ’70s and ’80s, whether or not showrunners actually intended to psychologically scar their young audiences. If anything, the themes and stylistic elements are fairly similar in tone to The Last Unicorn, which would release four years after Ringing Bell. The film was also an antithesis to more sanitized Disney and other fairy tale films of the era, actively showing the world in shades of grey and leaving the film’s messages and conclusion up to the viewer.
While the film is an important part of Sanrio’s history as a company, it’s not surprising that they’ve left the film to the annals of time. It’s doubtful anyone who grew up with the movie would be clamoring for an adult Chirin or Wolf toy. If you’re curious about this little bit of animation history, the film has been uploaded to Youtube in its entirety by various users over the years, and a DVD version produced in 2014 is available for sale on Amazon.
Source: Bloody Disgusting (Contains spoilers)