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

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Disney Watch: Raya and the Last Dragon (2021)




Watched:  07/18/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  
Don Hall
Carlos López Estrada
Paul Briggs
John Ripa

I had very much wanted to see Raya and the Last Dragon (2021) in the theater.  Disney and Pixar are creating big-screen-worthy films left and right, and I already have two Pixar films under my belt since December that I will see if they're re-released post-COVID.

For some time, Disney has been making Princess movies from all over the planet, from Frozen, to Moana, to Tangled and now Raya and the Last Dragon.  I admit to some confusion in this film because the film skips around a wide swatch of Southeast Asia and the various islands and archipelagos, but it's all Disney Fantasy Land, so I think marrying yourself to any particular culture here is as useless as figuring out which Scandinavian country where Frozen takes place.  But, nonetheless, you may find yourself saying "is this Vietnam, or Thailand, or...?"

Anyway, I was surprised in a very good way that RatLD turned out to be an action/adventure picture - really the first in the modern Disney era.  Expect no song and dance sequences - this is a straight adventure where the Maguffin is "friendship".  Because Disney.  But, yeah, Disney has definitely done non-musical movies in recent years with the Wreck-It-Ralph movies, Zootopia and Big Hero 6, but if you see "princess" and think "what is her 'I Want' song?", you will be disappointed.

Thursday, July 15, 2021

PODCAST: "Luca" (2021) - it's Pixar Talk with Ryan Michero, JAL and Ryan S



Ryan Michero is back to go shed some light on the latest Pixar film! We go deep on our transformative journey, talking about Ryan M's work on the film, as well as what makes this one a bit different, and, therefore, special. And, what's Pixar like during pandemic times? Sadly, I forgot to ask any questions about the cat. I loved that cat.




Music:

Portorosso - Dan Romer, Luca OST
Un Baccio a MezzanoteQuartetto Cetra


Pixar Talk:

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Pixar Watch: Luca (2021)




Watched:  06/26/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Enrico Casarosa

Sometimes when I see a Pixar movie, I'm pretty sure I'll need to watch it one or two more times before I can do anything but say "wow, that was amazing".  Luca (2021) is one more Pixar movie to elicit this response from me, and, once again, it gets a "wow" on every level.  Story, design, music... you name it, this movie hits all the buttons.  

Not every Pixar film has done this for me, but certainly Soul and Luca were sorely needed movies for my brain here over the past year.  While Soul spoke to me, now, as an adult, and my concerns about "what the hell, exactly, am I doing with my life?", Luca was both a reminder of the value of pushing boundaries that we did as kids as we looked beyond our own yards for what else was out there, and as an adult - maybe that same need continues to exist?  Even when people just want to protect us?

By now you've likely seen the trailers - and while I was dazzled by the look and feel I saw, I wasn't sure what the story would be, or if there would be enough story.  One of my criticisms of other animation or kids' film efforts is that they become too fixated on gags and easy laughs and character and story just feels recycled and that, in turn, makes the jokes a little hacky.

Luca avoids the trap, and tells the story of two boys from under the sea who come to land, and a small port town in coastal Italy where they dream of obtaining a Vespa and riding off into the sunset to explore the world.  A world neither knows a dang thing about - one because he's a sheltered homebody, and the other a stray, abandoned and playing it safe on his island, thinking he's got it sorted out.  

Soon, a new friend starts opening doors for them, gets them involved in a triathlon, and a hunt for sea monsters ensues.  I ain't spoiling anymore.

I'm hoping to grab Ryan M again and do a podcast on Luca soon, so I can ask about making the movie in the pandemic, and then gush about the design of the film, from character (which is very non-Disney) to the town to the underwater sequences to the dream sequences... but first I need to get in touch with the guy.  So, maybe?  Soonish?  In the meantime, go watch Luca.  




Thursday, June 10, 2021

Disney Watch: 101 Dalmatians (1961)



Watched:  06/09/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  oh, man.  Who knows?
Decade:  1960's
Directors:  


You ever wonder what people from Dalmatia think about dogs being known better than people from their land?  Like, you live somewhere for thousands of years, and no one can find you on a map, but someone mentions a spotted dog and everyone gets really excited.

Anyway, I also get very excited thinking about spotted dogs, and growing up, this one was a favorite.  It had (a) talking dogs, (b) adventure, and (c) a very funny cat.   I found Cruella DeVil one of the better Disney villains, and since I'm not paying $30 to watch the new Cruella movie, I figured I'd rewatch this one and then maybe the Glenn Close movies.  

The movie is from the period at Disney in which Walt was still alive, but he wasn't really paying much attention to the animated films.  He had his amusement parks, some live action films going, and was letting animation just do its thing.  The Nine Old Men were running things, as near as I can tell.

If I'm being honest, as much as I love the film, you can feel that the story department was given a backseat to the animation department.  The movie is gorgeous, a huge technical achievement, and has phenomenal character animation.  But it's also got some bits that just go on too long and unneeded sequences that you can tell they just really enjoyed making.  The end result is a fairly brief film that has beats that can really drag.  

But, yeah, I still very much like it, but sometimes you do wonder "what is happening here?"  It's not as bad as The Aristocats, which I find unwatchably dull, but...  I do have notes.  

But if I ever get a cat again, I'm naming it Sgt. Tibbs.  

Monday, May 3, 2021

Animation Watch: The Mitchells vs the Machines (2021)


Watched:  05/01/2021
Format:  Netflix
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Michael RiandaJeff Rowe 

I'm not going to bother writing this up.  Another terrific Lord & Miller produced animation with a terrific voice cast.  Hysterical, moving, gorgeously animated...  very glad this is out there.  

But I figure everyone with a Netflix account will have seen it, so just go nuts on your own on this one.

I don't have kids, and I got this one.  I imagine a lot of you parents were choking back some feelings watching this one.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Doc Watch: The Pixar Story (2007)




Watched:  03/01/2021
Format:  Netflix?
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2000's
Director:  Leslie Iwerks

Biggest complaint:  not enough Michero

A weird movie only in that it's already 14 years old, and it's interviewing Steve Jobs, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, Roy Disney and I am sure others who are already passed since.  And, of course, this is well before Lasseter was shown the door.

But it does a phenomenal job of explaining how Pixar even happened.  Which was a wild mix of "right place/ right time" in the sense of chaos theory, and then key people who made some very right choices at the right time - from Lasseter to George Lucas to Steve Jobs to Bob Iger.  Heck, Tom Hanks' involvement and his delight at his involvement is evident.

Looking behind the scenes of what almost went wrong here or there is curious, but I wish they'd spent more time on Pixar story-management processes as part of the secret sauce.  They go into it very briefly and almost obliquely, but it's there.

Anyway, just to see who all was involved is a trip.  And, of course, to know what was coming after just heightens the joy of the thing.  And, of course, I am certain the place is no longer quite as "start-up-y" as the doc captured.  Sooner or later, efficiency needs and people needing to get home to kids is going to kick in.

But now I want to rewatch Monsters, Inc.  

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Frozen-In Watch: Frozen II (2019)



Watched:  02/14/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  I'm not sure
Decade:  2010's
Director(s):  Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee

The weather in Austin is historically cold and we're having a winter storm like we normally only ever see on television in other states.  It just doesn't do this in Texas.  Or, at least, it didn't tell global warming.  These polar vortexes are a real sonuvabitch.

Anyway - we're all super stressed hoping the power stays on and our pipes don't burst and we don't freeze to death in our own homes.  But, ha ha, we probably won't.  So we watched a movie with an ironic title.

(update:  02/16/21 1:35 PM - it did, indeed, freeze.  We lost power.  It's been rough.  Power is back for the moment.)

Monday, February 1, 2021

PODCAST: "Soul" (2020) - a Pixar Watch featuring Pixar Lighting Lead Ryan Michero! (and NathanC and me)

 


Watched:  01/30/2021
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2020
Directors:  Pete DocterKemp Powers (co-director)


Ryan and Nathan are joined by Pixar Lighting Lead, Ryan Michero, to talk about "Soul", now available on Disney+. We take a deep dive into the technical wizardry and challenges of "how does one light a conceptual construct?" to discussing the process and storytelling that makes Pixar the best there is. Join us for a conversation with one of the folks who makes the magic happen!
 

Music:
Born to Play - John Batiste, Soul OST
The Great Before/ U Seminar - Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, Soul OST

NPR Fresh Air episode


Disney History Playlist

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Pixar Watch: Soul (2020)




Watched:  12/26/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Pete DocterKemp Powers

I believe we're going to try to do a podcast on this one, so everyone sit tight.  

But, yes, very good.  Recommended.


Sunday, November 1, 2020

Halloween Cartoon Watch: Happy Halloween, Scooby Doo! (2020)




Watched:  10/31/2020
Format:  Amazon Streaming
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Maxwell Atoms

Uh.  So, I guess there's a rabid fanbase of adult fans of Scooby Doo, which, you know, I really like Superman, so, no stones shall I throw.  I was just never a big Scooby Doo fan, even as a kid.  I mean, it was what was *on* in the few hours I was allowed to watch TV as a kid, so I watched it, but I didn't take to it.  Nor did I get onboard with the live action movies from a couple of decades ago.  Basically -  I am out of the Scooby loop.

But...  this year Hanna Barbera/ WB Animation released Happy Halloween, Scooby Doo! (2020), an animated movie featuring the voice talent of Cassandra "Elvira" Peterson as herself/ Elvira.  I gathered from something I read that she didn't just wander in, do a joke, and disappear again, so I paid to rent the film.  




As I mentioned, there's a rabid adult fanbase of Scoob-o-philes, and I was kind of curious how they felt about this movie.  The Scooby Doo I remember had the bland Fred and Daphne, Velma trying to keep things together, and Shag and Scoob as two slackers who had no business in the monster-chasing business and made dangerously large sandwiches.  The new take looks like classic Scoob, but Fred is... dumb?  I couldn't figure it out.  Daphne is... insane?  and the other three felt like how I remember them.  And, honestly, Scooby Doo himself was deeply back burnered, which is not how I remember the show working.

Elvira was allowed to be more or less a PG version of herself, and they went weird with some bits I can see Peterson finding pretty funny.  Bill Nye also plays a sort of Q role for the team, air dropping them a new mystery machine.

Well, according to what I saw online, the adult fans hate this take.    Which - sure.  Key characters are out of character, even with the fan-base approved voice cast.  

The movie is kind of weird, structurally - from including a Batman villain, to an extended road chase that just keeps going.  

Anyway, I probably enjoyed it more as an Elvira movie than as a Scooby Doo movie - and actually understand if fans are weirded out by their favorite characters acting out of character.  See: my confusion about recent DC Comics movies.  I'm not sure I've ever really been much of one for the Scooby Doo formula, but it was interesting/ weird to see the characters looking the same but (especially Fred and Daphne) updated to be more like modern animated characters.  Not sure it worked - but it was something to ponder.  






Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Disney Attempt-at-Spooky Watch: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949)


 

Watched:  10/04/2020
Format: Disney+
Viewing:  I'm calling it a first for the whole movie
Decade:  1940's
Director:  James Algar, Clyde Geronimi, Jack Kenney

So, we were hunting around for something spooky to watch on Disney+, and I saw they had The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad (1949).  I'd never seen the movie in its entirety.  If I ever saw the Wind in the Willows bit that makes up the first half, I don't recall it at all.   

However, the Ichabod Crane part based on Washington Irving's Sleepy Hollow is for good reasons, a Halloween staple.  And, I've seen it a dozen times or so before.  

Taken as a whole, this movie is very weird and unnecessary.  It's clearly two stories that have nothing to do with each other slapped together with a wildly awkward framing device of a library of real books and voice over by, first, Basil Rathbone and then Bing Crosby, which tells me something about how much the left hand and right were talking to each other as this came together.  

As a kid, my first real exposure to Mr. Toad was via the Disney World attraction, Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, which was - I ain't gonna lie - super f'ing fun. My memory was that the ride was chaotic and goofy as hell.  And I understood it was based on a fancy toad who got his hands on a car.  

Well, the movie version is... kind of annoying.  I don't really have another word for it.  Unlike most Disney, there's no character development, and Toad just seems like a problem for everyone around him.  Like, that one friend who is now on drugs and you're all supposed to make sure he doesn't harm themself or anyone else.  The animation is pretty good, and it gave us the weasels that pop up in Roger Rabbit, but...  yeah.  This is the rare Disney animation that I just have no affection for - but weirdly like the ride.

And Ichabod itself is also strangely... boring.  And there's no one to actually like.  But, when you do get to the actual Sleepy Hollow scene, it's amazing work.  But 5 minutes or so is not enough to carry a whole movie.

What I guess is that Walt, post-WWII, was just not all that into the animation studio stuff anymore, and you can feel his hand off the wheel in the storytelling department - something that would plague them til Little Mermaid.  It's not horrible stuff, but it feels like someone let the animators just animate whatever they felt like rather than working toward a cohesive story, for two whole stories.  

But, again, that Headless Horseman.


Wednesday, September 16, 2020

PODCAST: "Fantasia" (1940) and "Fantasia 2000" (1999) - a Disney History PodCast w/ NathanC and Ryan

 


Watched:  Fantasia 09/08 and Fantasia 2000 09/10/20
Format:  Disney +
Viewing:  Unknown/ Fourth
Decade:  1940's and 1990's
Director:  multiple on each


More places to listen 

When does animation become become more than popular entertainment? What are the boundaries of art that separate Beethoven and cartoon alligators? What is high-brow entertainment and funny business for the whole family? Walt Disney had a vision to elevate the form of animation and create an entirely new experience. Today, we know the result as "Fantasia", which returned in 1999 with a sequel of sorts in "Fantasia 2000". NathanC and Ryan return to talk all about a pair of Disney classics! 

Toccata and Fugue in D Minor - J.S. Bach
Ave Maria - Franz Schubert

Nathan's Fantasia buddies:


Ryan's Fantasia (and assorted Disney) pals:




Disney History Playlist:



Monday, September 7, 2020

Super Watch: Superman - Man of Tomorrow (2020)




Watched:  09/07/2020
Format:  Blu-Ray
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2020's
Director:  Chris Palmer

The best thing about a movie shouldn't be the trailer for an upcoming Batman Kung-Fu movie that happens to be on the disc you're watching.  

Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Doc Watch: Howard (2018)



Watched:  08/10/2020
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's
Director:  Don Hahn

Let me start by saying: in a lot of ways Disney+ is much better than I ever expected.  I've enjoyed the Disney "from the vaults" content, catching new material, behind the scenes at parks, movies, etc... with One Day at Disney and two series - one on the making of The Mandalorian and an exceptional doc series on the making of Frozen 2

And, of course, then the release of Hamilton.  I haven't watched Black is King yet, but that's a pretty big line in the sand for the Disney brand to put out on their flagship, no-doubt-this-is-Disney streaming service when Disney has usually just avoided anything that invites cultural critique.*

But Disney+ putting a doc about Howard Ashman, a gay man who died of complications from AIDs at the height of the epidemic, and being honest and open about his sexuality and struggle with the disease, is... kind of mind-blowing.  There's something about the platform of their own streaming service and that you've already paid your money to have it that seems to have freed up the Disney Corp to tell some stories well worth telling I don't know we'd see if they didn't have this avenue.

The doc, itself, is the life story of Howard Ashman who - paired with Alan Menken - wrote the musical numbers for Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin.  He also wrote and originally produced Little Shop of Horrors - which was his big breakout hit off-Broadway. 

It's really a pretty great story, well told, and has the heart-breaking knowledge of what happened to Ashman in the back of your head.  And, sadly, the fact he was the musical partner of Menken and that he died of AIDS was all I'd known about him until watching the doc. 

I don't want to get into details too much, but as loving as it is, it isn't shy about who Howard Ashman was and doesn't make him into a saint - while illustrating pretty clearly what sort of mind he had that helped push the Disney cartoon back into prestige territory (and why Disney was flailing at the time he showed up).

For fans of animation, musical theater, or Disney-history - well worth the viewing. 




*Disney tends to get lambasted no matter what they do, and I've stood there and listened to lines of people parrot back the criticisms of Aladdin, Lion King and Little Mermaid during 3 summers at The Disney Store.  I would invariably listen and then say "well, I make $4.50 an hour working here and while I'll tell my manager...  really, your best bet is writing the studio in California."



Monday, July 27, 2020

Happy 80th Birthday, Bugs Bunny!

in which I argue this is a hero of the people


Because parents are now largely concerned their children will experience any joy that doesn't have bumpers on it,* I don't think kids really know about Bugs Bunny.  Which is a shame.

Being a 1980's latchkey kid who had a Zenith for a babysitter, like most of my generation, I had WB cartoons blasted at me day and night for my entire youth.  From my earliest memories straight through college, Looney Tunes were not just a staple, but a constant.  In a way, the cheap programming of a thousand UHF channels and basic cable options may be the truest common denominator for 2-3 decades of Americans.  All of us know "Rabbit Season/ Duck Season".  We all know the weird, hilarious poetic tragedy of Michigan J. Frog and those who find him.  We all know the best thing to do when pursued is to dress as a coquettish young blonde and flirt with our pursuer.

It's printed on our DNA.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Lockdown Watch: Frozen 2 (2019)


Watched:  03/16/2020
Format:  BluRay
Viewing:  third
Decade:  2010's

One of my favorites from last year, I went ahead and picked this up on BluRay.

And, you know what, I think I continue to like this movie more every time I watch it.

Frozen 2 is a funny thing to like as a near 45 year old dude.  I'm used to picking up an action figure or whatnot when I like an Avengers movie.  Heck, I have an Ant-Man and The Wasp t-shirt.  But, you know, as much as I don't care what cashiers think when I'm buying my usual dumb stuff, there's not much Frozen 2 stuff I thought would make sense for *me*.  So, I bought the BluRay.  And the extras are really excellent.  So, heads-up if you have a chance to watch them.  It's fascinating to see how story is developed at Disney these days.

But do feel free to point me at Frozen II plastic stuff I can own that is not, like, an Elsa wig or 12" doll.

Anyway, refer to my last write-up on this.

And, frankly, I find this scene amazing.





Friday, January 3, 2020

Disney Watch: Frozen II (2019)



Watched:  12/30/2019
Format:  Alamo Slaughter Lane
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2010's

Not to be overly dramatic, but after seeing Frozen II (2019) the first time, I knew I'd need to watch it again before I'd do my usual posting.

The reviews were kind of lukewarm, so going in, I had my expectations set for "it'll be okay", and so... when the movie ended and I was having all the reactions I deeply *want* to have after seeing a movie, I'll admit that I kinda-sorta didn't trust my own reaction and figured it would fade after a day of thinking about (or forgetting about) the movie. 

Monday, December 30, 2019

Disney Watch: Tangled (2010)



Watched:  12/29/2019
Format:  Disney+
Viewing:  Second
Decade:  2010

I don't know that I need to write up Tangled (2010).  But here's what I think:

This movie is a letter of permission for some young women to realize that maybe their relationship with their parents is kinda toxic.

By that I do not mean that all young women have a toxic relationship with their moms, but dang... there is a reason that this movie ends with a young woman cutting off her girlish long locks as she severs her relationship with the woman who has been gaslighting her and filling her head with bad ideas for her entire life.  And I think we've all sorta known that young woman who went to college, realized maybe the world was not the place she'd been taught, and wound up shaving their head by second semester. 

There is some phenomenal character animation in this movie in the classic Disney tradition - I mean, Maximus is a frikkin' delight - and I really enjoy the number by all the tough-guys singing about their dreams.  The new stuff was in the effects - sure - but the movement and camera work in the movie is kinda breathtaking when you watch Rapunzel zipping around like Spider-Man on her own hair.  They really make the space inside the tower work, as well as in the construction-site sequence.

But, yeah, this movie is going to hold up for a very, very long time as it works with timeless themes, for both Rapunzel and Flynn, and the animation may look marginally dated by Frozen II standards, but I'll argue the Disney styling will keep it fresh for decades. 


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Disney Watch: Frozen 2 (2019)


Watched:  11/23/2019
Format:  Alamo Slaughter Lane
Viewing:  First
Decade:  2010's

I liked it a great deal.