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

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Bat Watch: Gotham By Gaslight (2018)


Watched: 02/23/2018
Viewing: First
Format: Amazon Streaming
Decade: 2010's


Way, way back in - I think - early high school, the slim, prestige format comic Gotham By Gaslight arrived in comic shops, and as a good little comics-kid, I picked up my copy, read it, loved it, and it was probably in a longbox until the great purge a few years ago.  I am 95% certain I have it in a collection somewhere amongst the Batbooks, but its been two decades since I've read the thing.

Like everyone else, I was batty for Gotham by Gaslight upon arrival.  It featured art by Mike Mignola and a pretty decent story by Brian Augustyn, and I think it took off much better than DC figured.  This put the idea of Elseworlds into DC's head, and for the next two decades we got endless versions of Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, and sometimes others, in various periods, geographies and genres.  It took a concept like "but what if Superman emerged in conjunction with, say, War of the Worlds!?" or "Batman, but a pirate" and sold a couple of prestige-formatted issues.  Or, you got some "what if?" sort of story, like "what if Krypton never exploded?"

Some of it was great, some of it serviceable or bad.  Some of it got way overhyped (everyone needs to relax about @#$%ing Red Son.  It's not that good.).  But Gotham By Gaslight started it all, and - for my money - though I haven't actually re-read it in two decades - was among the very best.

The movie is okay.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Today is the 89th Birthday of Mickey Mouse

Today is the 89th anniversary of the debut of Steamboat Willie, the first Mickey cartoon to be released. We'll celebrate that next year on the 90th, but this year let's watch Plane Crazy, the first Mickey cartoon worked on by Walt and Ub Iwerks, but held off on release until they could add sound, after Steamboat Willie.



I may have an affection for all eras of Mickey cartoons, but the early, chaotic rubber-hose-armed early era holds a special place in my heart. The ingenuity of story, art, ideas and character is all there from the beginning, just popping off the screen. Yeah, there's influence from contemporaries like Felix and Koko, but Mickey and Minnie are a force unto themselves.  And these cartoons are as funny today as they ever were.  Just great stuff.

Happy B-Day, Mouse!

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Great Andrea Romano, Voice Director for Animation, is Retiring


Like every other DC Comics nerd, I know Andrea Romano's name from watching my Batman, Superman and Justice league cartoons a little too closely.  And, of course, the extras on the DVD sets.

It seems she's hanging up her... headset?  microphone?  and passing off her duties as she heads into well-earned retirement.

It's hard to say how one measures the skill of a voice director for cartoons, but here's a sample of shows she's worked on:


  • Chip N' Dale Rescue Rangers
  • Duck Tales
  • Tiny Toon Adventures
  • Animaniacs
  • Batman: The Animated Series
  • Freakazoid
  • Superman
  • Batman Beyond
  • Static Shock
  • Justice League
  • Teen Titans
  • Batman: The Brave and the Bold
  • Spongebob Squarepants
  • The Boondocks


and a whole lot more

I know the folks 10 or 15 years younger than me will disagree because they've got nostalgia on their side, but I couldn't ever figure out what was wrong with the acting in the Marvel cartoons of the 1990's (or, heck, today).  The voice acting always sounded rushed, like people just shouting lines into a mic.  But DC's work always sounded natural, like a radio show or movie, just animated.  Her characters were distinct, had their own cadences and personalities.

And when you think of shows like Animaniacs or Tiny Toons - those voices were so specific and as much a part of the characters as any cell animation - you can't really separate the two.  Hell, the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) still bounce around in my head in perfect pitch.

Yeah, that's because WB has a great stable of voice actors, but they've also been working under Romano for decades now.   She brought in name talent like Clancy Brown for Superman, and she found a fellow by the name of Kevin Conroy and made him "the" Batman for two or three generations of fans, no matter who was putting on the cowl in the feature films.

Back when I was still buying DVDs and BluRays of DC movies and series, I'd always jump immediately to the extras and hope they'd have an interview with Romano, who was casual but a total pro every time she was on camera.  Her feel for the characters and, really, how to work with actors was superb, and it played out in every story, in every series and movie and arc.  And even though she's not associated with Justice League Action - which all of you should be watching - the show's production carries so much of her stamp, such is her legacy at at WB Animation.

I'm sad she's retiring, because it means less of her work, but it's important to say a big thanks to Ms. Romano, who has been such a huge part of so many hours of entertainment we've all been able to enjoy, and who's amazing abilities elevated an artform that many thought of hokey kid stuff.

Here's to you, ma'am.





Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Cartoon Short as Promo for Pixar/Disney's upcoming "Coco"



Love the combo of classic Disney character animation with 3D.  Could have been a "Pluto" back in the day.

Hope this one is as good as the last few Disney features.


Friday, December 23, 2016

Christmas Watch: Arthur Christmas (2011)



I'm not going to write this up, because... well, whatever.  It's Christmas.  I got stuff I'd rather be doing.  But this movie was better than I thought it would be, and has some pretty funny stuff for the adults in a family-friendly/PG way.

I am kind of sick of the paramilitary strike force elf idea which seemed everywhere a few years ago, but if you can grit your teeth through the first part, lots of pay-off.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Disney Watch: Moana (2016)



This will be an easy movie to write up.  (1) I assume most of you who are the target audience (parents of young 'uns) will have seen this movie, and (2) I sort of lost any critical eye I might have had for the movie about five minutes in.

I just straight up liked this movie.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Disney Re-Watch: Zootopia (2016)



I was glad to get a chance to re-watch Zootopia (2016), which I'd last caught on a plane from Austin to London, and that's never an ideal viewing environment.  You can read my write up here.  I also think that whatever version I saw on the place was the British version, which was maybe called Zootropolis, because in the version we watched last weekend I'm pretty sure they called the city Zootopia.

Whatever.

Anyway, I still liked the movie just as much.  It's not the same instant myth-making as Frozen or Beauty and the Beast (and did y'all see that trailer for the live action version?  Pretty keen.), it's too high concept and plot-driven.  In it's way, it's dealing with a lot of cultural abstractions that, pretty clearly, a lot of people are not quite internalizing and dealing with in the adult world, which makes the all-ages nature of the film kind of a peculiar fit.

But, yeah, I still like the movie quite a bit.

Friday, November 11, 2016

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016)



Had this movie not been released the week of the election, I expect this movie would have made a bit bigger splash in the media, maybe even gaining some mainstream media attention.

If you're looking for some pure, escapist fun to watch with the kids* (and you want to guarantee they'll enjoy the action while you enjoy the jokes), I really can't recommend the newly released Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders (2016) enough.

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.