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

Sunday, June 9, 2024

Happy 90th Birthday, Donald Duck!

Today, pals, is the 90th anniversary of the first appearance of Donald Duck.

Here at The Signal Watch, we have an affection for the duck in the sailor suit and with the speech impediment.   To us, Disney's "Mickey and Friends" characters work because they're different aspects of "the everyman".  Mickey is the spunky, energetic underdog we may see ourselves at in our youth - and, in some appearances, the center of gravity holding chaos together.  But Donald is us just trying to get through the day with its infinite frustrations and what we know we're like when we aren't handling our challenges with grace.  He can also be a tad vain, and would love to be the star, but, you know... Donald be Donald sometimes.

He first showed up in the short "The Wise Little Hen".

The funny thing is that these characters have been around so long, and can be interpreted through so many lenses, I keep the Donald of "Mr. Duck Steps Out" in my head right alongside the gag/ joke character and adventuresome Donald of Carl Barks and Don Rosa.  While also knowing one of my favorite Donald bits is his agent of chaos in "The Band Concert" (apologies for the short clips.  YouTube doesn't carry the full cartoons.) 

I think most folks in the US are aware that Donald Duck appeared in comic books - most folks of a certain age can recall spinner-racks with Disney characters included.  But what most only caught a glimpse of was the work of Carl Barks and Don Rosa that Disney has turned into Ducktales.  

Friday, May 31, 2024

Disney Watch: Zootopia (2016)

Watched:  05/31/2024
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  2.5th
Director:  Byron Howard, Rich Moore
Selection:  Joint

Zootopia (2016) is one of the movies I really wish I hadn't missed in the theater.  Yes, yes, the story is actually great as both cop story and metaphors we could learn a lesson from.  But, visually, it's mind-boggling.  And hilarious.  

No, it doesn't have the completely insane experimentation and visual dynamics of the Spider-Verse movies, but what does?  What it does have are a million ideas and gags, a lot of very clever stuff relating to the animals of varying species and sizes.  It's got crazy good design that feels absolutely coherent despite numerous changes of scenery and "worlds".  And, I dig the character design like crazy.  Every single character is a great example of how you take an expressive character doodle from page to 3D.  

I'm sure Michero could weigh in more on what this movie does well visually (the lighting in the jungle sequence is tricky and great, imho), but - if nothing else - pause the movie and look at the backgrounds, look at the DVD covers, have a good laugh at the Disney film in-jokes (I just noticed the weasel is named Duke Weaselton, and that is gold).  

But, yeah, the story has some meat on it.  Alone, Judy's story of "believe in yourself and you can do anything" is *fine*.  I'm not going to tell people, especially kids, that it's not a good 'un.  But Nick's story and how it reflects on the sins of Zootropolis - and what it all says about how we try to live together in urban environments, is really great.  As is the "othering" to claim power that was way, waaaaaay too prescient in 2016 that I think it lands better in 2024 than it did then.

Anyhoo... I also just like the two leads.  They're well-conceived.  I dig that Judy is the eager do-gooder, but still feels like she's that way because she believes in the dream of Zootropolis.  Nick Wilde is fun as the hustler, but they know where to set the dials so he doesn't seem like a cliche - and, of course, has no illusions about Zootropolis.  They're not as dewy eyed as the princesses.  Kids aren't likely to dress up as Nick and Judy, but I think they play as well as any buddy-cop, post-48 Hours duo is like to.  

The writing is solid, and it's dropping some funny stuff beyond the visuals, without relying on so much of what's become the go-to of falls and farts in kid's cartoons.  I will forever enjoy the wee Godfather reference and his bee-hived daughter.  And, man, do they commit to the bit with Flash and the DMV workers.  That's next level.

It just seems like this movie was a hit at the time, but didn't really stick in the US (evidence tells me Asia embraced it more than we did).  It did a billion with 65% of that overseas.  And Shanghai just got Zootopia land, which I think people here would find odd.  

If nothing else, it's got Shakira playing a Gazelle, and that's good movie.

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Moana 2 Trailer?

So, I did not know this was in production.  I recall vague mentions of "maybe they'll make Moana 2" but then nothing.  

But, like, two days ago I was pitching to Jamie a list of Disney movies I'd like to re-watch and included "hey, I want to re-watch Moana.  I probably need a good, hard cry."*  Like, I love Frozen and other modern Disney and Pixar stuff (need to re-watch Soul and Luca) - it's just a good time for Disney and Pixar animation these days. 

Anyhoo, I think Moana is just top-tier.  So to just log in this morning and see "oh, here's the second one", is kind of stunning.  

*not a Coco level cry, something a bit less intense

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Uncanny Valley Watch: Beowulf (2007)

I have no idea how to feel about them putting heels on Grendel's mommy

Watched:  03/26/2024
Format:  Paramount+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Robert Zemeckis
Selection:  Me

When Beowulf (2007) was released, all it did was make me feel guilty I'd never read the book.  I never had it as a class assignment, and despite owning a copy, I just never prioritized it.  However, it would still be 2023 before I finally got around to blowing through what is a quick read via audiobook.  

But then I forgot to watch the movie, which I have now finally taken care of.

First:  I had no idea the whole movie was animated - I'd only heard about animated, naked Angelina Jolie which is a YMMV proposition.  

Once I figured out Robert "Polar Express CGI Nightmare Fuel" Zemeckis was in charge of this venture, I settled in.  

Look, I'm not a Norse Mythology scholar.  Nothing close to it.  Neil Gaiman, one of the two screenwriters on the film (the other being Roger Avary) is, actually, a Norse Mythology scholar, so I bow to him on the many and significant changes he made to the brief story.  I don't know what his motivation was, but it's a re-shaping of the story that has an impact on the sparse themes and point-of-view of the original poem.  Which is a fair thing to do with a text that's about a 1000+ years old.  And it's highly unlikely the version we've been handed down was anything like the original 500 or so oral-tradition tellings of the story.

Sunday, August 27, 2023

Arleen Sorkin Merges With The Infinite

Actor and voice actor Atleen Sorkin has passed.

When Batman: The Animated Series premiered back in the early 1990's, I was a skeptical Bat-reader, but literally by the end of the credits, I was in.  By the time I saw Batman getting dragged behind Man-Bat through the skyline of Gotham, I was out of my mind.  In many ways, I think the show is the epitome of Batman as a concept, but it also went beyond adapting a comic and movie concept to a cartoon, it restored and built upon the decades of Bat-mythology.  And chief among those addition was Dr. Harleen Quinzel, aka: Harley Quinn.  

We're still reeling from that addition.  And brought to brilliant life through writing, art, animation and the unforgettable voice of Arleen Sorkin.  

Sorkin was probably best known as an actress as Calliope Jones on Days of Our Lives, where she appeared for decades across hundreds of episodes.  

 As much as comic characters could be identified by their silhouettes, cartoon characters need to be specific and memorable to really work - and that was something voice director Andrea Romano brought to fore with BTAS.  But with Harley Quinn, they'd found absolute gold in Sorkin. 

A face of a Bat-villain might drive a certain thought process, but Harley was new, an invention of the show, and maybe the logical extrapolation of what the difference is between comics and animation - suddenly you can do new things with a voice alone.   For comic fans and Batman fans, Sorkin's voice and character would be the magical ingredient.  A kind of Brooklyn-ese taken to extremes.  Funny, crazy, a little sad.  High energy, with the potential for violence.  A crack in the voice here or there could say it all.  An octave jump something else.  

Anyway, as soon as the show hit and Harley appeared, the doors of fandom were thrown wide open to Harley as a new addition, and she was soon appearing in comics as well as the show.  If there was resistance by die-hard Batfans, those voices were drowned out.  Harley became so popular, DC eventually realized they had to transform her.  No more chasing after a killer clown, seeking his love.  She'd become a sort of agent of chaos within the DCU, sometimes on the side of the angels, and sometimes... less so.

The voice of Harley by Sorkin would go on to survive art changes, changes in leadership in WB animation, and make the jump to video games.  She's the voice you hear in your head when reading the comics, and what Margot Robbie borrowed across three feature films as a live-action version of the character.  

Like Kevin Conroy before her, she passed way too young.  But she also will have left millions of people with the memory of her voice, instantly recognizable, and which will be imitated by others for decades to come.

Thursday, July 27, 2023

90's Watch: South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (1999)

Watched:  07/23/2023
Format:  Max, I think
Viewing:   Unknown
Director:  Trey Parker

If you'd told me in 1998 or so that South Park, the goofy animated construction-paper show on a young Comedy Central would now be a permanent part of the cultural landscape in 2023, you could have knocked me over with a feather. 

Like any 20-something with cable, I was a watcher of the show and in 1999, shocked to see they were going to the big screen.  

July 4, 1999, Austin received some rain and fireworks were unlikely.  The folks who'd assembled at our apartment decided to load up and go see the movie to extend our day.  Mostly what I remember was that the theater was only partially full, and almost immediately, people were trickling out.  

Wednesday, June 14, 2023

PodCast 245: "Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse" (2023) a KTB episode w/ Dug, Jamie & Ryan

Watched:  06/03/2023
Format:  Theater
Viewing: First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson

It's a leap across the Spider-Verse, and that means bringing the gang together from across space and time. Join Jamie, The Dug and Ryan as we ponder the latest installment in the adventures of Gwen and Miles. Join us as spin a web of conversation, and try to decide if this movie is Signal Watch Canon.



Annihilate - Swae Lee, Lil Wayne, and Offset 
Calling -   Swae Lee, Nav, A Boogie w/ a Hoodie 

Marvel Movies Playlist 

Friday, June 9, 2023

Ghibli Watch: My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

Watched:  06/09/2023
Format:  Max
Viewing:  First
Director:  Miyazaki

So, aside from a movie or two, I had never really delved into the Studio Ghibli output.  Sue me.  I love animation, but I love a lot of things, and I always thought someone would foist it upon me, and that hasn't happened.  Thus, in 2023, I finally decided to start making my way through the Ghibli output.  

It does seem silly, however, to try to add to the conversation on these much-watched, well-loved films with millions and millions of fans, and plenty of ink spilled over them.  All I'll really say is:  what an absolute delight of a movie.  I felt like I got the full Miyazaki experience on this one.

Monday, April 17, 2023

Nintendo Watch: The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023)

I officially entered a new phase of life on Saturday when I went to see The Super Mario Bros. Movie (2023) with a cohort of second graders in support of my nephew's birthday.  I'm now an uncle who goes to movies he didn't select.  It's a good thing.

I am not anti video games, but I can describe my relationship to gaming as "apathetic".   The how's and why's of this phenomenon are uninteresting and best served in a dedicated blog post.  But even when we got our first Nintendo Entertainment System, I didn't have any Mario-related games.  I was spending my money on comics and tapes at the time.  Aside from a brief flirtation with a Wii and Mario Kart, never got into it.

Monday, April 10, 2023

The Great Al Jaffee Merges With the Infinite

If you don't think you know Al Jaffee, you do.  He was one of the staples of Mad Magazine for decades and decades.  He's the reason you were always trying to properly fold the back of your Mad into thirds.  

Jaffee was 102, which means he saw almost *everything* comics had to throw at the world.  He would have been about 17 when Superman arrived, fer chrissake.  His first work was published in 1942, and he joined Mad in 1955.  He delivered art to Mad until the end of 2019.  Mind-bending.  

As a cartoonist, Jaffee didn't just do fold-ins.  He also delivered classic Mad bits with a pitch and tone that informed the comedic sensibilities of the many generations who read his work.  I, myself, always appreciated the Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions, which it probably took me decades to deprogram myself from emulating.

That longevity and variety of offerings means Jaffee brought laughs to folks for 80 years.  I mean, I've lost a lot of time putting this post together just because I've been reading Jaffee's work.  It holds up like crazy!

We'll miss Jaffee, but, man, what a career. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

PodCast 229: "The Addams Family" Comics, TV, Movies and More - Jamie and Ryan

Movies/ TV Watched:  
  • Addams Family (1991) 01/16/2023
  • Addams Family Values (1993)  01/17/2023
  • Addams Family (animated - 2019) 01/19/2023
  • Wednesday (2022)
  • The Addams Family (original series, 1964-1966)
  • Addams Family/ Values/ Wednesday - Netflix
  • Addams Family (animated film)/ original series - YouTube
  • Addams Family/ Values - Unknown
  • Addams Family (animated) - First
  • Addams Family/ Values/ Wednesday - Barry Sonenfeld
  • Addams Family (animated film) - Greg Tiernan/ Conrad Vernon

Join us as we get creepy and kooky, mysterious and spooky, and all together ooky, as Jamie and Ryan talk Addams Family comic strips, television, movies and more! We ponder questions of family values, romance, and what makes an ever-evolving franchise work when it passes through so many hands as new generations get involved. And what IS movie perfection, and why is it only seen in the two Addams Family films?




The Addams Family Theme - Vic Mizzy
Addams Groove - Hammer

What is Love? Playlist

Saturday, November 26, 2022

Fairy Tale Watch: Disenchanted (2022)

Watched:  11/24/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Adam Shankman

If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story. - Orson Welles

There's a lot of good in Disenchanted (2022), but it's a weird film.  Perhaps it's an unnecessary film?  

As much as I, too, wondered how Giselle - she of the cartoon kingdom - was going to adjust as a fish-out-of-water in New York, a fairy tale princess who now has to live in the Big Apple in a place with varying races, religions, opinions, illness, war, injustice...   I'm kind of wondering now - Maybe we didn't need to check in?  Maybe "happily ever after" is the ending this story needed.  After all, this movie starts to push on the edges of what it means to live happily ever after as it continues the tale of Giselle and Robert as it asks "what next?  What about ennui?  What about missing one's homeland and the way in which they were raised?  Isn't life deeply imperfect?"

I don't think it's wrong to limit the challenges of the movie to teen-angst, mean moms, commutes sucking and other suburban and relatable concerns within the control and world of your average schmo.  We have enough to deal with when it comes to the magical challenges of the film that will fill the runtime and primary concerns of the movie's A-plot.  

Charles Schulz at 100

Today marks the 100th birthday of cartoonist Charles Schulz, creator of pop culture force, comic strip and animation favorite Peanuts.  

The Peanuts characters are embedded into American and Western culture in ways that will mean they last for a few more generations at minimum - becoming indelibly associated with holidays thanks to cartoons playing each year for the past nearly 60 years.  These days, the cartoons live on over on Apple+, but there's also plenty of decoration and ornamentation that includes the staple characters, and who doesn't know the beats and moments of the specials, even if just by osmosis?

When Apollo 10 was mounting up, NASA asked to use Snoopy as their safety mascot.  Since, they've adopted Snoopy as a mascot for safety writ large and just kind of in general.  Even as we cross this 100th birthday, there's a Snoopy doll floating around inside Artemis as it circles the moon.  That's pretty amazing.  

Of course it all started with a comic strip, and Schulz drew almost 18,000 installments over 50 years.  He created household names, concepts (Lucy pulling the football away, kite-eating trees), brought diversity to the comics page and delivered a lot of joy into people's lives.  In an era of splintered interests, it's hard to understand how something like a daily comic strip could cross generational, geographic and sociological divides as a surprisingly smart reflection of the world.  

Schulz himself went by "Sparky", a name picked up from a comic strip, Barney Google (Spark Plug was the name of a horse in the strip).  He had comics in his blood and managed to keep his strip on track, and the translations of his characters to other media remarkably consistent.  It's hard to imagine fifty years of work, but he did it.  And the strips still run in papers across the country.

Schulz passed on February 12, 2000, but here we are, with Snoopy circling the moon.  Let's hope there's a Snoopy snack bar when folks are living up there.

Monday, November 21, 2022

Fairy Tale Watch: Enchanted (2007)

Watched:  11/29/2022
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Director:  Kevin Lima

Jamie wanted to watch the new straight-to-Disney+ Disenchanted, and I said "I've never seen Enchanted (2007), though."   This led to some small debate.  Jamie had seen it, and thought that we'd seen it together (we had not) and so we had some comedic back and forth before she gave up and let me just put on Enchanted to see if it would ring any bells.  

I had not seen it.

Look, I don't care.  Amy Adams and Idina Menzel are in both movies, so I'd watch whatever.  But it's nice to start at the start.  I'm assuming Jamie saw the first one with her secret boyfriend.

I'm glad Enchanted was still a Disney movie and didn't feel like it needed to go "edgy".  I think I've kind of seen the joke of running sweet characters through a PG-13 meat grinder enough, and, instead, welcome bringing some of that Princess magic to the real world.  Sure, there's a version of this that's double-entredres and boner jokes that one could make and I might chuckle at, but - and maybe I'm a horrible person - but I never feel like they go dark enough if that's what they want to do.  And the results are usually kind of dumb.  As a result, I found charm in the high road version of this film (even if it absolutely winked at the audience on a key idea about the importance of a kiss).  

Sunday, November 20, 2022

PODCAST 221: "Batman: Mask of the Phantasm" (1993) - in memoriam, Kevin Conroy - w/ Stuart and Ryan

Watched:  11/18/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing: Unknown
Decade:  1990's
Director:  Kevin Altieri, Boyd Kirkland, Frank Paur

Stuart and Ryan get together to discuss the 1993 animated film that featured the voice talent of Kevin Conroy, the voice of Batman to multiple generations. We talk about the performances, art, and craft of the 1990's animated Batman material, and the tremendous impact of the cartoon and Conroy.



Main Title - Shirley Walker, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm 

DC Movies Playlist

Friday, November 11, 2022

Kevin Conroy Merges With The Infinite

Here at The Signal Watch, we're absolutely heartbroken to hear that actor Kevin Conroy has passed.  

Conroy voiced Bruce Wayne/ Batman across innumerable cartoons, video games and other projects.  For generations of Bat-fans was the definitive portrayal of the character.  

Thursday, October 6, 2022

PodCast 214: "DC League Of Super Pets" (2022) - A Kryptonian Thought Beast Episode w/ Jamie & Ryan


Watched:  10/02/2022
Format:  HBOmax
Viewing:  First
Director:  Jared Stern and Samuel J Levine

The podcast goes to the dogs as Jamie and Ryan talk 2022's furriest super-offering. Join us as we sniff around for a take on family fun in Metropolis as Superman's lesser-known pal gets his own feature and DC/ WB tries to kick-start a lucrative super franchise for the kiddos.



DC Movies Playlist

Tuesday, July 19, 2022

Cartoon Watch: Beavis & Butthead Do the Universe (2022)

Watched:  07/18/2022
Format:  Paramount+
Viewing:  First
Director:  John Rice, Albert Calleros

I remember watching fireworks on the 4th of July, 1993, and my dad threatening to smack me if I didn't stop muttering "huh huh!  fire.  FIRE!"  So it's a little weird that here, 30 years later, I'm still totally in for watching Beavis & Butthead Do the Universe (2022), which feels *exactly* like Beavis & Butthead of the 1990's.  And it's a reminder of the weird brilliance of the original concept, which used the idiocy of a very recognizable flavor of teen boy to comment on anything under the sun through boner jokes, one word responses and an inability to understand anything other than nachos, boobs, and things sucking or being cool.  

There's a dissertation out there in the wanting about how the show worked as meta-commentary, both in the discussion over videos and in sketches wherein everyone assumed the pair are following and understanding their agenda, but it simply will not process with our heroes.  I'm not sure the show is a prescription for living, but it is definitely saying something about us, what we watch, the world we've built and inhabit.  And that it's incredibly easy for morons to coast alongside us without us really noticing until they've fucked things up, and that does not make us geniuses.  

Also, it is a show about needing TP for one's bunghole.

Anyway - this installment picks up with Beavis and Butthead in high school in 1998 and manages to get them to space camp, then onto the space shuttle where things go south, through a wormhole into 2022.  Where they don't ever really notice they've passed through time, all in pursuit of the shuttle's captain with whom they believe they're going to score.  

Along the way, they go to college, they abuse Apple Pay, they consume nachos, and briefly go to prison.  

Highly recommended.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Disney Watch: Chip n' Dale - Rescue Rangers (2022)

This is a weird one.  It's tough to separate from the weekend twitter meltdowns around the film which have been immediate, loud and remind you 21st Century people are soft, soft @#$%s with some incredibly screwed up priorities, and yet algorithms push these, the worst takes, into your feed.

I didn't watch Rescue Rangers which had an initial run of only 65 episodes, spanning a year and a half between 1989 and 1990.  I'm aware of the show, of course, and starting in 1990 I did watch Tale Spin when I walked in the door from a new school with an earlier release time, but between the timing of the airing of the show and a general disinterest, and being 14 and kinda moving on...  Anyway, back then, to be a nerd did not mean watching everything and hanging onto it forever in quite the way "fandom" insists we do today.

But I am a fan of John Mulaney and Andy Samberg, and guffawed at the trailer for the movie.  It had a nice "I can't believe Disney is letting them do this" vibe, and it was included at no extra cost in my Disney+ subscription.  It looked to be having a nice laugh at a lot of ideas around cartoons, nostalgia, updates and reboots.

There's some strong Roger Rabbit DNA to the film.  Humans and 'Toons co-habitate in this world.  A crime is committed that impacts Toons specifally.  Chip and Dale are actors who played Chip and Dale on their eponymous show (the original Disney shorts are not a part of this world).  All in all, back in the 1990's, we would have called this "postmodernism" in a media studies class.  It's a cute idea for a movie, appeals to older audiences while also pointing the movie and old episodes of the cartoon at kids with a family Disney+ subscription.

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

New League of Super-Pets trailer

Still pretty happy with everything I've seen so far in the trailers and ads for this.  

Hey, we're getting a full DC Super-Pets movie!  That's excellent!