Showing posts with label cartoons. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cartoons. Show all posts

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Disney Watch: Zootopia (2015)



I guess my biggest question about this movie is why it's called "Zootopia (2015)" to begin with when the name of the city in question is "Zootropolis".   Further confusing the point, I think that in England the movie was released as "Zootropolis", but I'll let someone from across the pond confirm or deny that notion.

We're a number of years on from Disney's Home on the Range, the worst Disney film I can remember ever seeing, and the one that threw the future of Disney animation into question.  No, there's no glorious return to 2D hand-drawn animation, and I suspect we've seen the last of that artform on the big screen from any major studio.  That's okay.  Walt would have wanted innovation and character.  And gags.  And, Zootopia delivers on all fronts.

What's different now is that, I think, you can feel the impact of John Lasseter's influence spread from Pixar to Disney, and not just in animation technique.  He's as much Disney as Pixar these days, and I can only think it's helped put Disney on a better track, and the sensibility of story coming first now lives at Disney as well as their cousins in San Francisco.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

In Memoriam Watch: Justice League - The New Frontier (2008)



With the passing of Darwyn Cooke, I had my quick appreciation write-up, and on Sunday, as I was eating my oatmeal and pondering the fact I had to work all afternoon, Jamie pitched watching the animated version of Cooke's comics classic, Justice League: The New Frontier (2008).

For a while there, I was purchasing every single new DVD WB Animation pushed out as DC got into the feature-length animated film business.  These days I limit my actual purchases (my last purchase being Flashpoint, which seemed as good a place to jump off DC Entertainment in many-a-ways), but I have a pretty good run of Batman, Superman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman and Justice League videos.  And, as I type this, why the hell didn't they ever make a Flash movie?  It seems like an obvious fit.

But I don't think I'd actually watched this disk in something like 6 years.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Pixar Watch: Toy Story (1995)



Well.

I sure as heck am not bothering with a plot synopsis on this one.  If you're old enough to read, you've seen this one.

Disney had a special on Thursday evening talking about the production and legacy of Toy Story (1995), and it was well worth catching.  I'd forgotten Joss Whedon was on scripting duties for the movie, and its actually a bit of fun to remember the state of technology and animation from the era.  If you get a chance to catch the special on TV or on a DVD extra sometime, I suggest giving it a whirl.

This year marks 20 years since Toy Story hit the big screen and changed animation and entertainment forever.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Happy Birthday, Uncle Walt


Today marks the 114th Birthday of Walter Elias Disney.  Maybe you've heard of him?

Since the 90's it's been both fair game and fun for the internet to point out Disney's many flaws from a modern context.  Yup.  The man was a product of his times, both in the best and worst ways, and his influence on the world magnified those traits considerably.  Also, if you think Walt was somehow unique in those questionable opinions, it's both a testament to the progress of American culture that we've reached a point where the documentable sexism, classism and racism seems weird, and - if that surprises you - maybe a sign you're not much of a non-fiction reader.

I recently watched the American Experience doc on Walt Disney, so you can probably pick up my opinions from that.

In the meantime, as we consider the absolutely gigantic multimedia empire Disney has become (TV networks, cable carriers, movies, innumerable TV shows, print and web, Amusement parks, cruise ships, private islands, that Frozen Freefall game Jamie plays non-stop)...  it all started with a Mouse, and one I have a lot of affection for.





Sunday, November 8, 2015

Snoopy Watch: The Peanuts Movie (2015)



I don't consider myself a hardcore Peanuts fan, but then you have that moment when you realize that somewhere along the line you did, in fact, pick up some Peanuts-related trivia along the way.  I guess reading the newspaper strips your entire youth and watching the same Christmas and Thanksgiving special every year for your entire life will make that happen.

So, this Sunday we were the creepy people who came to the mid-day show of The Peanuts Movie (2015) with no kids in tow.

The movie is so fundamentally a Peanuts project that you half-expect ads for Dolly Madison pastries to pop up, and I did waste a stray thought or two wondering what year this was set in as not a single game console or mobile device made an appearance, and there were gags that included telephone cords and kids going outside without a parent or being fitted with a helmet.

While the movie does reference the Peanuts holiday specials you know and love, it doesn't hang on referencing them for the movie to work.  It's not necessarily an all-new story - it's the story of Charlie Brown becoming infatuated with The Little Red Haired Girl - but it feels like a solid entry in the decades of Peanuts cartoons.

Pixar Watch: Inside Out (2015)

The last time I saw a wide-release movie that was intended as one really long metaphor for what was happening elsewhere in the movie was probably when I watched Tron way back in the day.



I didn't catch Inside Out (2015) when it was released earlier this year.  Something about it struck me as a riff on a 1950's educational film where some baritone-voiced omniscient narrator would explain how "Mr. Angry" was responsible for all those bad feelings you have inside, while "Ms. Happiness" was wrestling with him for control.  And, you know, that's more or less exactly what the movie was.  That's not a dig, just kind of my take-away.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Disney Watch: Brave (2012)

I didn't intentionally miss Brave (2012) when it came out in theaters, and I certainly haven't been avoiding it.  But Disney/ Pixar doesn't just dump their animated films out there in the usual release windows, instead controlling them pretty carefully and maximizing profits, etc... none of which I hold against them.  They know what they're doing.  This I learned in 3 summers working a cash register at The Disney Store.



I was aware of how far Disney and Pixar have taken animation, and while I wish they'd delve into stylized pictures a bit more (Big Hero 6 is probably the closest to what I'm talking about in recent memory),* it is pretty amazing what they can do with blending the natural and real with the imaginary.  You have to be kind of crazy not to appreciate everything about the character animation in Brave, blending Disney cartoonism with the absolutely believable wild strays of Merida's red curls.

Further, a couple of years ago I was at Disneyland with The Dug, my brother-in-law, and we spotted Merida crossing the park, and he said "let me send you a video tonight" and, as it turned out, the actress had perfected Merida's determined walk, something that was very non-Disney Princess-ish in its galumphing purposefulness.  It's that kind of attention to character, rotoscoped or otherwise, that tells who the character is, that even the other big gun American animation studios could stand to pay more attention to.

Pixar has absolutely lit a fire under Disney Animation proper, and the self-awareness and deconstruction of traditional Princess ideals in Brave (Pixar) and Frozen (Disney proper) should hopefully resonate a bit more than Aurora passing out for a good chunk of Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella sitting around thinking positive thoughts and, if not for deus ex machina and a rich guy, she'd be stuck in a life of domestic servitude.  Brave is a really solid first stab at dismissing the Disney Princess demure non-player-in-her-own-story problem Disney has had since Snow White stumbled her way into a house full of short miners, and may be a bit on the nose in making sure we know this is not a cute princess movie.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Sheep Watch: Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015)

Jamie's a sport and, thanks to that whole "we share a home" bit, she watches a lot of stuff she wouldn't select on her own (ex: The Keep).  But back when we started dating, one thing we could agree on was Aardman Animation's Wallace and Gromit.  We were both pretty big fans of Nick Park's adventures of an absent-minded inventor and his roommate/ canine companion, Gromit.



So, this evening, we made our way out to see Aardman's latest theatrical release, Shaun the Sheep Movie, a feature length of the animated TV series and Wallace & Gromit spin-off character.  The reviews seemed decent, I guessed, as it had a 99% at Rotten Tomatoes.

What I had forgotten, until the movie started, is that the Shaun the Sheep franchise has been aimed at very young kids.  So, you know, a 40 year old dude was not the intended audience.   But the thing about Aardman animation is that they've always focused on a broad audience, so parents need not worry about wanting to spend the run-time checking their cell phones and spacing out while inanity or Thomas the Train-level story-telling unfolds.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Rowdy Roddy Piper Merges With The Infinite

just look at that magnificent bastard

Working a crowd isn't easy, especially doing so as the bad guy.  But, man, somehow Rowdy Roddy Piper became not the villain people loved to hate - people just plain ol' loved him.

I don't follow wrestling now at all, and my window of interest when I was a kid was pretty narrow, so my viewership occurred primarily during that early 1980's window where the WWF was suddenly everywhere, and you had colorful characters like Jimmy "SuperFly" Snuka, George "The Animal" Steele, Mr. Fuji, the Iron Shiek, Andre the Giant and Hulk Hogan.

At age 8, I liked it a lot.  The plots were straightforward.  Mean Gene Okerlund had a cool, dry wit we all admired, and it was a lot like watching live-action comics, but only as complicated as the Hostess ads.  There were good guys and bad guys, and sometimes they switched.

Among the wrestlers I liked, I counted Rowdy Roddy Piper.  That guy had moxie.  He was hilarious, he didn't take anyone seriously, and he was just fun to watch.  I just assumed because I liked him he was a good guy who happened to talk trash or something.  He had a kilt, bagpipes, and a mouth that didn't really stop.  But, no, he was a bad guy.

In fact, his gig was more or less that he was the biggest SOB in wrestling, pretty keen with an insult or gag or low-blow.  All with a cocksure attitude backed up with wins, and a fanbase that adored the act.  The clips you watch now are, uh... un-PC, to put it mildly.  But he didn't need to be un-PC, he just needed to be a needling jerk.

In fact, he's been voted the best "heel" in wrestling multiple times.

That, my friends, is the sort of life goal I aspire to.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Sadly, this is not a new Calvin and Hobbes strip

Calvin and Hobbes Comic Strip on GoComics.com


Can someone please confirm that this is all new?

edit:  In a month when we got back Bloom County and with Watterson ghosting some Pearls Before Swine last year, literally anything seemed possible. It is now apparent this is not new Calvin and Hobbes.  As you were.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Justice League TV Show - Secret Origins

I don't know what the hell is going on with my cable at home, but it isn't good.  Likely a mixture of the fact that we haven't updated our boxes or our modem in years and the technology has obviously continued to change.  So, we're basically cable-less until we get a technician out sometime next week.

In this spirit, Jamie got into the DVDs, and popped out with Disc 1 of the first season of Justice League, the 2001ish launch of the DC Heroes team-up show featuring "The Magnificent Seven":  Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Martian Manhunter, Green Lantern, Hawkgirl and The Flash (traditional magnificent seven swapping Aquaman for Hawgirl, but I get the motivations behind the swap and, frankly, it worked beautifully).



We watched the first three episodes, also known as the Justice League movie, "Secret Origins", wherein some pretty well designed aliens invade Earth and the seven disparate heroes team up as a unit for the first time, at least in the world of the Timm-verse that started with Batman: The Animated Series and continued with Superman: The Animated Series, both series legends in superhero animation in their own time and something I can't believe people don't talk about more instead of praising the just seriously gawdawful 90's X-Men and other cartoons.*

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Disney Watch: Big Hero 6

Well, wasn't this a very nice superhero story?



We missed this for whatever reason when it hit theaters.  Kind of wish I hadn't because it looks like they were really thinking in terms of 3D projection that my very 2D television did not replicate.

Well, c'est la vie.

Big Hero 6 is maybe the flipped opposite of what DC has been doing with their heroes, and while I am aware the movie did okay ($222 million domestic is impressive, and a total of $652 million internationally is great) I don't think it slipped into the zeitgeist in quite the way it might have.  But I also don't hang around little kids all that much.  So, parents, correct me.

But this is superheroing for the all-ages set in a very good way.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cartoon Watch: Three Caballeros (1944)

Lysergic acid diethylamide was first discovered in 1943 and introduced to the public in 1947,but not popularized until the mid-1960's.   So we're going to assume that whatever inspired the 1944 Disney feature length film, Three Caballeros, was more likely a byproduct of a lovely tour of Latin America and either the psilocybin mushroom or the peyote cactus.



For three summers in the mid-1990's, I worked at the Disney Store.  The soundtrack to the store was always a laser disc, or - more specifically - one side of a laser disc that played over and over in about a 45 minute loop.  For at least one of those summers, part of that loop was the titular song to Three Caballeros, performed by Jose Carioca, Panchito and Donald Duck.  I loved that frikkin' song.*  But I'd never seen the movie, and it hasn't ever really been readily available.

This weekend TCM played a bunch of stuff from the Disney vault, and luckily NathanC turned me on to the fact Three Caballeros was playing, so I finally DVR'd it and watched.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Weekend Movie Rollcall: The Naked Gun, I Know That Voice, The Secret of Nimh, Part of Krull

This weekend was Valentine's weekend, but it was also the tail end of a long workweek.

Our Friday night "I don't want to think too hard" selection was The Naked Gun, one of the finest movies you could possibly show a 12 year old.  And, indeed, my memory of seeing the movie the first time is that I literally laughed myself almost out of my seat just during the credit sequence.



Really, it's tough to top Lt. Frank Drebin when it comes to movie heroes.  He's a fighter, a lover, a man of action.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Smallville Man

Gerry and Randy were kind enough to each send me this video today.  It's a short, animated fan-film that does a great job of communicating what makes Superman tick.  Rather than weigh you down with a pre-amble, I suggest you go ahead and check it out.



As simple as such a film may be, it's shocking how difficult this sort of portrayal of Superman has become over the past two decades, be it in comics or movies or ten seasons of TV.


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Supermarathon: Some 60's Cartoons and "Panic in the Sky"

Back in the 1960's, Filmation had just been formed, and they had a contract to develop some cartoons based upon DC Comics characters.

The New Adventures of Superman rolled out as one of these cartoons, short cartoons long enough to get packaged with other DC characters, so you got a full cartoon between each commercial.  The animation is of the "limited" animation variety.  Lots of Superman's mouth moving and nothing else.  A static Superman in flying position as the background scrolls by behind him.  Lots of stuff re-used.  All to contain cost to deliver just a whole ton of these things at a reasonable cost.

By modern TV cartoon standards, the animations doesn't look so hot, the voice acting is stiff and awkwardly paced (Filmation would go on to do He-Man in the 1980's, a show which - even then - I thought had some very strange voices), and the stories are nigh non-existent.  Still, it's pretty clear these cartoons were aimed at little kids, and as straightforward Superman adventures, they do the trick.  And, as its more likely kids will come to Superman via cartoons than comics, it's not a bad first exposure.  If the kids can make heads or tails of 1960's technology and fashion.*

And, I like the theme song. It's jazzy!

Here's the pilot cartoon in its entirety.



I also watched a few episodes of Season 2 of The Adventures of Superman (live action, black & white, Noel Neill as Lois), including the famous episode Panic in the Sky.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Supermarathon: Superman - The Animated Series! ("Last Son of Krypton" and "Blasts from the Past")

I started developing an interest for Superman in high school, and just after I'd picked up a couple of issues, DC launched the whole "Death of Superman" business, which I knew was a gimmick, of course, and so I didn't bother with it.   And this sounds perhaps a bit trite, but when Superman "returned" with a mullet and entered into what I consider to be one of the weakest eras of Superman writing and development, there wasn't much to grasp onto.*

In 1996, Warner Bros. responded to Fox Kids Network's complaints that Batman was too "dark" by trying their hand at a Superman series.  Superman was a lot spunkier, in theory.  Of course, it's a story that depends on killing an entire planet of people just to get started, but let's not split hairs.