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

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.


Friday, April 19, 2013

Supermarathon Update: The Fleischer Cartoons

On Wednesday night I watched some of the Fleischer Studios Superman cartoons from 1941 and 1942.

TitleRelease dateNote
Superman (a.k.a. The Mad Scientist)September 26, 1941The short film Superman is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
The Mechanical MonstersNovember 28, 1941The short film The Mechanical Monsters is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
Billion Dollar LimitedJanuary 9, 1942The short film Billion Dollar Limited is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
The Arctic GiantFebruary 27, 1942The short film The Arctic Giant is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
The BulleteersMarch 27, 1942The short film The Bulleteers is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
-lifted straight from Wikipedia


There's a lot more to go, and I'll watch a few more before I'm done with the Fleischer/ Famous Studios Superman cartoons.

If you're a Superman fan in any capacity, these early Superman cartoons are must viewing.  You have to remember these played in movie houses that might have seen Superman in a comic book, but had never really seen stuff quite like this animated - and it's so amazingly well crafted, it's hard to imagine something like this being made again even today.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Wreck-It-Ralph, Birthday, Quiet Man, Pam Grier is well liked

I should probably have something smarter to say, as I haven't really posted much on the usual topics the past several days.

On Saturday evening I wasn't feeling up to snuff, so we watched the Disney film Wreck-It-Ralph, which turned out to be a pretty good flick.  While the themes and story are going to hold up, I am concerned that the trappings of the nostalgia and with the concept of a modern game (or kids paying to play games at an arcade at all) it'll fall into Oliver and Co. territory for Disney, a sort of dated product of its time.  Still, at this time, it was a really fun movie that, even if the kids don't quite get all the gags, they can stick with what's offered up on a story and emotional level.  The "over their heads" bits seemed mostly winky stuff towards 80's video games, much as the Toy Story movies might reference a toy from a Gen X'er's youth.  Heck, one of the credit songs is performed by Pac-Man Fever maestros Buckner and Garcia.

Today was my brother's 40th, and we spent most of the day out at my folks' place with a wide variety of characters.  I saw people I hadn't seen in years, including the children I had never met of several of Jason's pals.  Some of those kids are kind of not so little anymore.  Time flies, man.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

All New Mickey & Friends Cartoons!

Made for web consumption and with semi-limited animation, they still get Mickey (and company) right.

It's all in French, but you'll never notice. Outrage over a delayed pastry works in every language.





Thursday, January 31, 2013

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Saw Louis CK and other Bits into the Weekend

Somehow we wound up with 6th row tickets to see Louis CK at the Moody Theater this evening.  Right on the center aisle.  Kind of crazy.  I insisted to our friends who had seats a bit further away that you could feel the comedy spraying across us from that close.

Louis's brand of comedy isn't for everyone, and certainly his show on FX isn't something I'd likely watch with my folks.  I do find his work challenging (the last bit this evening on 'Of Course' vs. 'But Maybe' isn't necessarily going to be for every audience and runs the risk of being misunderstood by some audiences).

If you know Louie (the oddly misspelled showname of Louis CK's FX program), you might like this. NSFW.  Sorry.




Sports!

I didn't get to watch, but UT's Women's Volleyball team is once again headed for the National Championship!  We've got as good a chance at winning as not, and no matter what happens, it's been a great year for the squad.

But it'd still be amazing to see a National Championship.

Unfortunately, I never get to watch the games.  They broadcast on the controversial Longhorn Network that I don't have, and I travel so much, I never buy tickets, even though they play across the street.  I mostly keep up via articles online or asking one of our Sys Admins who goes all the time.

The Weekend

We're in San Antonio as of tomorrow as this is the weekend of the wedding I'm officiating.  No Hobbit for me this weekend, I guess.

Looking forward to the wedding.  Of course seeing Julia and Bill get hitched from the best seat in the house is a treat, but Matt & Nicole will be there, as well as other pals like Jonathan and Billie.  This is going to be all right.

After the wedding, I plan to come home, finish Christmas shopping, then lay very, very still before Dug and K arrive for the holidays.  I have a feeling that when my feet hit the ground at the start of January, work is going to be nuts.  I need to plan summer vacation now or its not going to happen.


Friday, November 16, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Toy Story 2 (1999)

By 1999, "Buzz" and "Woody" had become household names.  It would be another three years before I'd be skipping out on a day of a conference at Disneyland and stop short, realizing that the two characters were as cemented in the minds of most people as Mickey and Donald when 6'5" versions of Buzz and Woody wandered past me at the Happiest Place on Earth.

In 1999, the sequel to Toy Story arrived and was met with a sort of exclamation point of surprise that somehow - against all expectations - a beloved kid's movie had turned in a sequel that was its own story/ film and which pushed the characters forward with genuine narrative purpose.

There's a certain existential undertone to the Toy Story movies that this film acknowledges, and which the 3rd film fully realizes: toys are a disposable part of a human lifecycle and toys are at the mercy of the giants above them.  Childhood doesn't last forever, and children one day put away toys.  The theme is tied in with the idea presented in the second installment in unwanted fourth wheel toy "The Prospector" who never had an opportunity to be loved by a child, sitting on a shelf somewhere, unsold.

But the toy that's been loved and abandoned?  It tells us that sooner or later, all toys meet a tragic fate of some sort or other.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Signal Watch Watches: Toy Story (1995)

I straight up love the Toy Story franchise, and its taken no small amount of willpower not to start collecting the many, many Toy Story items one can buy at Target.

Yes, the animation from the first installment doesn't always hold up as well as I'd like, but everything about the script, direction and voice acting still works as well today as it did the first time I saw the movie.

Speaking of - so I was in film school in 1995, and my roommate had a bad Thanksgiving break.  I don't remember specifics, but she'd gotten into some tiff with the family.  We went up to the film lab to work on our project and then decided we'd go see this Toy Story thing as it was 9:00 Sunday night and the kids would be skipping that screening as school started in the morning.

The place was still packed.  Curious college kids and others were there, and it was a surprisingly great movie.  But in the mid-90's, there were a lot of surprises when it came to kids' movies.  This was right around when I was telling people "Y'all got to go see this movie, Babe".*  And I knew who Pixar was.  I'd seen some of their shorts.  I just had expected it to have that same hacky vibe one got from all of the installments in the The Santa Clause series.  Harmless, perhaps, but not exactly anything you'd actually recommend to anyone.

But Pixar got it right.  The movie had real character in its made-up world of talking toys, and real things at stake for the characters and even for the unsuspecting Andy.  And the great thing was - they didn't make sequels until they had something to say.  Toy Story 2 built on the world from the first movie and showed us the worst fears of a toy come to life - but kept Jessie's story startlingly human.  And the third film started with the scariest threat of all, only to find the highest highs in any of the three films.

Anyway, I'm a fan.  It's popular entertainment at its best.  We can save the technical discussion for another day.




*If you have anything bad to say about either Babe movie, I will fight you with a pitchfork

Monday, October 29, 2012

AXE COP. NICK OFFERMAN. GO!!! (Halloween, Cartoons and Awesomeness)

If you're like me, you're busily trying to model your entire work persona off Ron Swanson, head of the Parks Department on NBC's Parks and Rec.*  Ron Swanson is played by the amazing Nick Offerman, the man manly enough to be married to Megan Mullally.

Mr. Offerman is now also The Voice of AxeCop.**

Here is the first clip from the upcoming show, an adaptation of one of the "Ask AxeCop" mailbag sections popular in the comic strip.

Bear in mind, the strip is written by a 6 year old. That may fill in some important blanks as you consider the mind-boggling sequence about to beset your eyes.



*and, seriously, Parks and Rec is one of my favorite shows right now
**thanks to Kristen B for the link!

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Thinking out loud about a few things around DC Entertainment

Huh.

So, for the first time since probably 2003, I didn't look at the solicitations for DC Comics' coming books the day they were released.  I just forgot to do so.  But that's sort of where I'm at with DC these days.

It's time, once again, for my:  "Something is Up at DC" Amazing Criswell Psychic Predictions.

Cartoons:

DC is part of WB, which also owns The Cartoon Network.  About a year and a half ago, we first heard of the coming "DC Nation" block of cartoons, which never turned into a full block.  It was an hour with some small cartoons tucked in, lasting about 80 seconds or so apiece.  They were pretty great.

Season 2 of Cartoon Network started about three weeks ago, and then last Saturday - it just wasn't on.  They showed a different program in that time slot.  The same day we got an announcement that (a) they were pushing the show back to January and (b) DC Animation was releasing a few films, not the least of which was DC's Flashpoint story which led into the New 52.

I'm wondering - and this is just me talking out loud - if DC has decided that they don't want to do the New 52 in their new animated shows, but that was a last minute decision.  DC had already released one Justice League movie based in the world of Young Justice, and I assume that Flashpoint would be the same sort of thing - spinning the New 52 Universe into the Young Justice world - or eliminating it so they could do a New 52 Justice League cartoon.

Maybe that isn't happening.  Or maybe its a far greater problem to introduce the New 52 to a casual audience than devoted comic shop geeks and its causing all sorts of issues.

Or maybe they're finding that DC comics characters can't draw in an audience for a television program.  Honestly, both the Green Lantern cartoon and Young Justice are really, really dark shows.  Avengers may be dopey and badly voice-acted, but the characters don't all seem perpetually miserable, and that's the Marvel cartoon, about heroes with real-life problems.  Go figure.

But DC and CN pulled the plug on Batman: Brave and the Bold, which was a terrific program, so what do I know?

Or, DC is holding off until the new Batman and other cartoons are in the can and they can have a true programming block of 2 hours or so.  Which would be keen.

The bottom line is - WB's investment in DC as a multimedia IP farm just went kaput very publicly on DVR's all across the country.

Meanwhile over in comics - The Supersuit

I have to think someone noticed Superman's new costume is more trouble than its worth.

In the January solicits, Superboy seems to have inherited the current costume, and Superman is back to jeans and t-shirt.

My guess is he winds up with something more movie-centric without the collar, or we get something much closer to the original suit.

I don't think anyone liked that supersuit.  And it would have been nice to see two artists draw it the same way.  Ie:  Do not let Jim Lee design your supersuits anymore.

Meanwhile, Steel's new look is spoiled on the cover for Animal Man.  I like John Henry Irons, but have no fixed idea regarding his look except:  it's gray or shiny metal.  So, this is fine.

At the end of the day, no matter how many jokes you make about the red trunks, etc...  Superman is an icon first and a character second.  It's a bit like trying to hip up the Coca-Cola label or a Campbell's Soup can.  It's a nice design exercise, but on the shelf, its not what people are looking for.

The Wonder Woman pants/ no pants debate was surely of some use to DC.  At least they understood that when she's in pants, nobody has any idea what they're looking at and they're trying to mess with 70 years of brand recognition.  Its just a bad idea (surely as bad as the current DC logo, by the way).

We'll see what happens, but I suspect we'll get something much more familiar in our supersuit before all is said and done, whether it's the George Reeves look or the Henry Cavill speed suit.  I will not miss the Lee design.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Animated Watch: Dark Knight Returns (Part 1)

When I was in 6th grade, I walked into Austin Books and Comics and had some birthday or Christmas money to spend.  I don't remember much about my early days of comics collecting, or chronological order of events, but I most certainly remember standing in ABC, flipping through the pages of a collection of Dark Knight Returns and not buying it.  I've always regretted the decision.

Because it was a whole 3-6 months later that I bought a trade paperback of the comic that changed everything for me.  And I could have read that comic much, much earlier.




Today that copy of Dark Knight Returns is in a sealed bag with a board.  It's worn from wear from the literally dozens of times its been read cover to cover, not counting the hundreds of times it was simply picked up and leafed through, nor the times it was handed off to friends (even as they were told: do not lose this, do not tear the pages, do not read it while eating, do not in any way harm this book) and, when I was making some early decisions about Jamie, she took it with her as assigned reading.

Flat out, I have most of the book memorized.  Like some people spent their middle-school years memorizing baseball stats or all the words to their favorite sci-fi movie, I (and a lot of you, I'd guess) were memorizing every caption and thought bubble in Miller's comic attributed to Batman.  I was a Batman nut.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Today Would Have Been the 100th Birthday of Chuck Jones

If you have to ask who Chuck Jones was, I pity you, for you were not born into a world in which Looney Tunes seemed to be on the air 24 hours per day.

I can't really state how much impact Bugs may have had on me and my occasionally completely inappropriate responses to thuggishness.

this is my manifesto

I contend that Warner Bros. and the cartoons made at the studio under the eyes of huge talents like Fritz Freleng (an extraordinary talent), Tex Avery (who would go on to do his own work) and Hanna & Barbera (also - left to do their own work), were a huge cultural touchstone for folks who grew up in multiple decades from the 60's - 80's, when one could pretty much count on the likes of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck to teach them important lessons about not taking things all that seriously, even when faced with dynamite or a falling anvil.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dark Knight Rises Prep: Bat Bat and The Bug Wonder

For reasons unknown to science, in the late 1980's someone let Ralph Bakshi and John Kricfalusi (of Ren and Stimpy fame) make a Mighty Mouse cartoon.  It's run was brief, and it went down in a hail of PMRC bullets when some killjoy thought Mighty Mouse smelling a handful of flower petals was him snorting Scarface piles of cocaine.  Which it was not, but this was Nancy Reagan and Tipper Gore's America, airing in the same time when people really believed in hidden messages in metal albums, and so the show disappeared.

World's Finest?

If Mighty Mouse is a Superman analog (and he is), then he needs a crime-fighting pal. Bakshi and his crew obviously had their eye on Batman comics at the time, giving us a pretty well post-Miller Bat Bat, but with more than a hint of Burt Ward in The Bug Wonder (the red, tick-like fellow atop Bat Bat's shoulder). 

This was all during an era where Bart Simpson was still considered terribly edgy and bad for children, when cartoons were mostly considered strictly juvenile entertainment. The goofy satire and riffing on old serials and whatnot was surely lost on the kids who were supposed to be watching the show. But with a soft spot in my heart for Mighty Mouse, I'd tuned in - and I thought the show (when I could catch it) was pretty great.

You at least need to skip to 0:49 to see Mighty Mouse calling upon Bat Bat for assistance.




You also have to like how he drives the "Manmobile".

In my possession I still have the Wendy's Kid's Meal collectible Bat Bat.



Sunday, July 8, 2012

Movie Watch 2012 - "Rio" (2011)

Huh.

So, I wasn't particularly interested in seeing Rio (2011) when it was released in theaters.  Goodness knows I like going to see kids' movies, especially those by Pixar and Disney, but Rio struck me as the sort of movie that's become standard fare from Dreamworks and other animation companies, and which has plagued Disney animation itself since Aladdin scored huge bucks at the box office.  And, truthfully, I'm not sure the animation companies are exactly wrong in their assessment since they keep making money...

But the idea is this:

Anything said in a wacky voice = funny.
Wacky voices include: anything that doesn't sound like a standard non-regional American accent.  Thus, George Lopez is assured work in animation until he goes mute or dies.
The faster a line is delivered, the wackier and thus, funnier a line is.  Even if it's just "I'm going to wash the dishes".  Say it with zing and a hint of latino flavor and BAM.  Comedy.
Also:  characters must pop into a new pose every 2-5 seconds unless experiencing the pre-requisite pity party for all animated leads, in which case they must move extra slowly, and with terrific slouching.



Again, I blame Aladdin.   Somehow Robin Williams burned through the last of whatever appeal he'd had channeling through Genie, and every movie since has been struggling to replicate the (at the time) shocking appeal of a character that pushed the boundaries of what we expected in a Disney movie, breaking the fourth wall, indulging in anachronisms and basically acting as a chaos agent.

Movies like Shrek decided this was good fun, and basically made a whole movie that was Genie.

Because kids are always being made fresh, and they tend to laugh at things that go boom or squish, the idea that Walt Disney had that he was animating storybooks for an all-ages audience has been mostly forgotten and is now the domain of a way to kill 90 minutes where you can only half-focus on your kids as they half-focus on a screen, and to keep their little attention-deprived brains on the flickery, pretty lights, everything in every animated movie has become Genie.

You guys remember that Beauty and the Beast was up for an Academy Award as best picture?  It was.  It's a really beautiful, all-ages, film, still.

So, that's a lot of pre-amble to explain how I felt about Rio.

Rio is a technical masterpiece using a phenomenal palette, the Escher-esque ziggurat of Rio de Janeiro as the setting, deft 3D animated camera work, astounding character design and realization of bird and monkey characters...  to create a completely forgettable, derivative and in-no-way funny movie in which birds basically get mangled repeatedly as one of them attempts to unite with his owner.

It's not a bad movie, but it's not a good movie.  It's an incredibly poorly scripted movie that could have used someone with an actual sense of humor to touch up the script and make it relevant to an audience older than the age of 5 or 6 who has never seen this storyline before.  Or, you know, to add actual jokes to the movie that so, so badly wants to be funny but feels like that kid in your class in high school who just repeated impressions from Saturday Night Live and drew a low chuckle from people remembering Phil Hartman's skit rather than anything the kid actually did (and, of course, if you don't chuckle a little, you're going to break the little bastard's heart).

The whole movie, in this way, is sort of an echo of better movies with better plots, actual songs, comedy, etc...  and feels so utterly unnecessary.  Wordlwide, it made a half billion dollars, so I'm thinking nobody really gives a crap about any of that, but they do want to get the hell out of the house with the kids and remember what it was like going to the movies before the kids, with the hope that one day they will see one of these movies that isn't just a trainwreck.

It's made by some of the same folks who keep trotting out the really, really not good Ice Age movies (people, you do not have to keep seeing these movies.  The first one was awful.) if that gives you any idea of what you're in for.  Celebrity voices.  The occasional poopie joke.  And!   Lots!  of!  Quick!  Line!  Delivery! With!  Snap!!!!!

In other words, I may not have been the intended audience for this movie.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Oh, for Pete's sake, DC. Just let Rob Pratt make Superman cartoons for you.



You'll remember Rob Pratt from his prior Superman Classic cartoon.



These things totally get everything great about pre-Crisis Superman. Especially the circa 1941 years. Just great Lois and Clark chemistry.

Special thanks to SimonUK for showing me the latest video. We've been emailing back and forth today in a sort of geek fest on the topic.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

No Post Friday - Pam Poovey

The past year, I have become a fan of the FX after-9:00 PM cartoon Archer.  If you haven't caught Archer, well, I pity you.

Normally when I didn't feel like posting because its a Friday and I've already said my piece for the week, I'd go dig up a picture of some lady film star of days gone by.  But I didn't find any new Marie Windsor pictures, and I don't feel like I know Audrey Totter well enough to start obsessing yet, so today we're talking Pam Poovey.



Pam is, of course, a cartoon and the HR Director at ISIS, a sort of freelance spying...  oh, forget it.  She may not be the buxom field agent of the show, nor voiced by the incredible Jessica Walters, but Pam Poovey is my kind of lady.


Also, start watching Archer.  Its really pretty funny.



Monday, December 26, 2011

Signal Watch watches: Tintin

As I understand it, Tintin is a global phenomena that somehow never exploded in the US the way the character has entertained generations across good chunks of the rest of the globe.  Its telling that the release of The Adventures of Tintin: Secret of the Unicorn came to the US months later than the rest of the world.  Because it is not "ours", this has meant low-flying expectations for the boy reporter here in the states and a welcome not unlike how we treat foreign exchange students when they arrive at our high schools in clothes not bought at Foley's.



We're talking about the movie here for a number of reasons.  1)  It is based upon the comics by Belgian comics-smith HergĂ©.  2)  It is a high-flying adventure movie.  3)  Its the creation of a wide-range of geek friendly folks from Steven Spielberg to Steven Moffat.

At the Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin, the pre-show rightfully showed clips of adventure serials, Indiana Jones homages, etc...  before the movie.  The comic strips in which Tintin appears actually pre-date Indiana Jones by about fifty years, so I want to make this clear to the legions of Americans who believe that action stars come in either Sylvester Stallone or Jason Statham models and find the idea of a Belgian action hero hilarious:
A)  Van Damme  B) this is the most pure adventure movie to hit the screens in the US in a decade.  And that sort of worries me about American movie-making.