Posts Tagged ‘Animation’

Top 11 Favorite Disney Villains Pt. 2

November 3, 2018

We now return you to regularly scheduled programming.

Top 11


5 Ursula (The Little Mermaid 1989)

Ursula was a sea witch who lived near the kingdom of Atlantica somewhere under the sea. From the looks of it, she lived on the outskirts of the kingdom where few people dared to go. She lived among the bottom feeders and decay of the ocean. She lived there because she had been banished by King Triton, the ruler of Atlantica. Her crimes are unexplained but, based on her actions during the plot of the film, she probably deserved her banishment. Even so, she has plotted her revenge against Triton for a long time. She is a practicer of magic and, like Dr. Faciler above, has great power to make magical bargains with merfolk. She is akin to a crossroads demon. Through the power of the bargain, she has been able to punish merfolk who were foolish enough to leave Atlantica to visit her. She makes magical bargains with these poor unfortunate souls and when they cannot hold up their end of the bargain, she is able to transform them into helpless sea polyps. Eventually, she targets Triton’s youngest daughter Ariel who wishes to connect with the human world. She agrees to transform Ariel into a human in order to pursue Prince Eric but she stacks the deck in her favor by taking Ariel’s voice in the bargain. Without the gift of speech, Ariel finds it more difficult to make a true connection with the object of her affection. When Ariel comes close to beating the odds, Ursula uses her magic to hypnotize Eric to win the wager. She then uses Ariel as a bargaining chip in order to take Triton’s power. Now having succeeded in her revenge, she remains petty and tries to kill Eric and Ariel and that leads to her getting killed in the tussle. If she had simply gone back to the sea and consolidated her power, she could have easily killed Ariel, Eric, and the rest of both royal families.


4 Jafar (Aladdin 1992)

Jafar was the Royal Vizier of Agrabah, a Middle Eastern-flavored land ruled over by a Sultan. In many Muslim countries, the Vizier is a high-ranking political advisor and Jafar had somehow made sure to ascend to this position. He was the Sultan’s most important adviser and he wielded great political power acting often as the Sultan’s voice. Based on what we know of the Sultan from the film, Jafar may have been the most direct cause of the disparity between economic classes in Agrabah. While it is not completely his fault, he has an obvious disdain for the working class and the poor and probably never did anything to help. He uses the country’s rules to help him manipulate the Sultan into making decisions favorable to Jafar’s plans of domination and power. His magic seems to be derived mostly from researching and obtaining enchanted objects. Eventually, his goal becomes to find the legendary Cave of Wonders where he will find a genie who will grant his wishes for the power to achieve his goals of domination. When that plan initially fails, he becomes desperate and tries to force marriage on the Sultan’s daughter, Jasmine, in order to inherit the power he wants. He uses mind control and manipulation to try to achieve that. Eventually, he successfully obtains his wishes and becomes a powerful sorcerer and seems to have more ready access to magic. He uses that to punish those he felt wronged him, damage the city, and even tries to enslave the mind of Jasmine. He tries to kill her when that does not work but he is felled at the last minute by his own hubris. Jafar always desired power and used the rules to manipulate those around him but, in the end, he was captured by somebody else’s rules.


3 Hans Westergaard (Frozen 2013)

Hans was born as the thirteenth son of the king of the Southern Isles. His family would often mistreat him and he always felt that he got lost in the shuffle when it came to the royal family. As one would expect, he was bullied by his older brothers and he felt neglected by his parents. As a result, he grew bitter and desperate for some sort of path to power so he could finally be above his brothers. The problem was that he was so low in the line of succession that he would never become king of the Southern Isles. He decided to try and marry the newly crowned queen of Arendelle, Elsa, in order to escape his position. When Elsa proved to be inaccessible, he targeted her naive younger sister Anna. He used her desperation for human contact and her storybook outlook of love to manipulate her into agreeing to marry him the first day they met. He planned to use this love as an open door to become the heir to the throne of Arendelle. His marriage proposal caused friction between the sisters and caused the Queen to curse the land into eternal winter. He used that crisis to further ingratiate himself to the citizens of Arendelle by leading relief efforts. He allowed the Duke of Weselton to drum up anti-Elsa sentiment which led to an assassination attempt on the fugitive Queen. He later decided to let Anna die, blame it on Elsa, and then execute Elsa for the crime and also to bring back summer. That plan ultimately fails as the sisters are able to reunite and refute his claims of marrying Anna and he is defeated and captured. He is sent back to his former life to be punished by his father and his brothers. In the end, he tried to escape a bad situation the wrong way and he made it worse.


2 Mother Gothel (Tangled 2010)

Gothel was a witch living alone in the wilderness when she observed a single drop of sunlight fall to the Earth. She tracked the point of impact and found a flower infused with its magic and she found that being near the flower had healing properties and stopped the aging process. She hid the flower’s existence and used its magic for hundreds of years to stay young and healthy. Eventually, the kingdom of Corona came into existence nearby and she avoided it. When the Queen of that kingdom grew deathly ill, Gothel was powerless when guards found the legendary flower and it was used to heal the Queen. The flower’s magic passed on to the Queen’s daughter, Rapunzel, and her hair gained the healing properties. Gothel decided to kidnap the baby and raise her in her tower in the wilderness in order to maintain that healing magic for herself. So, first she kept the flower a secret so that only she had access and then she kidnapped a child for the same reason. She positioned herself as Rapunzel’s mother in order to control her but never loved the child. She constantly ground Rapunzel down with passive-aggressive and sarcastic behavior and kept her isolated and ignorant. When Rapunzel convinced Flynn Rider to guide her away from the tower, Gothel was furious and desperate. She hired mercenaries to track the pair down, perfectly willing to let them harm Rapunzel and kill Flynn. Even at the end, she tried to manipulate her false daughter who was also her kidnapping victim into choosing to be re-imprisoned in exchange for Flynn’s life. She dies when Flynn does what she could never do and sacrifices the magic for somebody else’s happiness.


1 Oogie Boogie (The Nightmare Before Christmas 1993)

Obviously, the world of Halloween Town is different from ours and morality plays out a little differently. However, when it comes to Oogie Boogie, he is clearly on one side while the rest of the town is on the other side. The citizens of Halloween Town like to scare and disgust the humans of our world but none of them seem to actually want to harm anybody. Obviously, our world responds well to being scared on Halloween but not the rest of the year. However, Oogie has a different idea about Halloween and his kind of fear and desire for harm are not fun for anyone. Because of this, Oogie seems to have been banished and ostracized by the rest of Halloween Town except for his minions. He is constantly scheming to take over Halloween and he would probably make it a much darker holiday. It is obvious that he has taught his minions to be more violent than the other citizens as demonstrated in their song. If he was successful in his plans, it is sure that the world at large would suffer and humans might die. He is constantly kept in check by the presence of Jack Skellington, the only thing he seems to actually be afraid of himself. When Jack gets distracted by depression and Christmas, Oogie sees his opening and convinces his minions to give him Santa Claus. He tries to consume Santa Claus. Although it is unclear what this would have achieved, at the very least it would have at least magically damaged Christmas if not outright killing it. In the end, he was defeated (but not killed) because fear made him run from Jack and he was defeated by his carelessness.

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Top 11 Favorite Disney Villains Pt. 1

September 22, 2018

Top 11

Obviously, I am adding a SPOILER WARNING here but for eleven movies that you should have seen by now. There are still a few Disney animated films that I have not seen but these are my favorite based on how important I think they are but mostly how much I enjoyed them. Some, like the Evil Queen and Malificent, have become more iconic to me in later materials but this is based solely on their appearances in Disney films.

11 Syndrome (The Incredibles 2004)

Syndrome did not start out as a villain. He used to just be Buddy Pine, a boy who was a huge fan of Mr. Incredible. He geeked out over his favorite superhero but his fandom started to become unhealthy when he started to take it farther. He tried to convince Mr. Incredible to accept him as a sidekick and in the process, endangers himself, others, and causes trouble for Mr. Incredible. As a result, Incredible gets frustrated and has Buddy taken away from the police and rejects him. As a result, Buddy grows resentful and bitter and changes into the super villain Syndrome. Since he could not become a hero, he decides to kill all heroes so that he can finally be the only hero. Whether intentionally or not, Syndrome represents the worst parts of fandom. First, he becomes such a fan that he tries to insert himself in Mr. Incredible’s life and career. He is rightly rejected because his sudden appearance causes complications. Second, he becomes bitter by being rejected instead of just going off and doing his own thing. He could have forged himself as an impressive hero and earned respect as Mr. Incredible’s peer eventually. Third, he grows to hate the thing he loved because it is not how he envisioned it. He is played with annoying perfection by Jason Lee as a sociopathic, toxic young man.


10 Ernesto de La Cruz (Coco 2017)

Ernesto was a famous musician in Mexico who became an Elvis-level celebrity, with elaborate stage shows, costumes, and backup singers. He died in a stage accident and he is still mourned and practically worshiped at least by the people of his hometown of St. Cecilia and probably the rest of Mexico. However, like a lot of celebrities, the public does not know the whole story. In truth, Ernesto does have a lot of talent for performing but had little imagination. He dreamed to become a celebrity for the fame and fortune and not at all for the love of music. Fortunately for him, he was able to convince his friend Hector to join him on the road to stardom. Hector was truly gifted and was able to write many beautiful and popular songs. When a homesick Hector wanted to go back home, Ernesto killed him and took his songbook for his own. This is especially despicable because, if Ernesto asked, Hector might have given him permission to play his songs as Hector had given up on being a star. In the afterlife, Ernesto remains a big celebrity but he still only plays the songs Hector wrote. When he meets Miguel, Hector’s great-great-grandson, he sees another Hector he can exploit. However, when Miguel proves as difficult as his ancestor, he tries to take him out too. Ernesto is arrogant and uncaring but deep inside he is also afraid of his secret getting out, desperate for fame, and jealous of men like Hector. He is willing to ruin or kill anybody who opposes him and thinks nothing of exploiting the people around him. He is played by Benjamin Bratt with Antonio Sol doing the singing. His performances makes him smarmy but it makes you believe that he could convince others to love him.


9 Scar (Lion King 1994)

Scar is the brother to Mufasa, the ruler of the Pride Lands which is an area around Pride Rock which is somewhere in the African wilderness. They both belong to a pride of lions who have passed down the title of ‘king’ from father to son for generations. In the event that his brother were to die, he would become king but that was changed when Mufasa and He observed the birth and early childhood of his brother’s son Simba with obvious displeasure. Scar always wanted to be king and resented that his brother became the monarch of the area. He was forced to resort to the lesser role of adviser to the king. This is a role he is obviously not satisfied with. He befriends some of the scavengers of the land and stages a coup by murdering his brother and convincing his nephew that it was his fault. In Simba’s absence, Scar rules over the Pride Lands as a cruel dictator instead of the benevolent monarch that his brother was. Scar is largely based on Claudius from the play Hamlet who envied his brother’s life and killed him and took it over. Scar is much like any bad bureaucrat who believes they know what is best but do not actually have any good ideas. Scar and his cronies over hunt the Pride Lands and the environment suffers and a once thriving area suffers. Scar holds no illusions that he is what the Pride Lands need. He is gleeful about being cruel to get what he wants and uses fear to control his subjects. Jeremy Irons is really good at being unapologetically evil and slimy which became kind of a theme for his career around that time.

8 Gaston (Beauty and the Beast 1991)

Gaston is the most handsome alpha male in the small town where the heroine Belle lives with her father. It is never explicitly mentioned but he is a town hunter who provides meat for the town. As a result, he seems to be idle often and he also seems to be independently wealthy as well. He is accompanied by his assistant LeFou who he treats horribly. However, he seems to treat everybody in town pretty horribly.  Gaston gets it into his head that he is the town’s most eligible bachelor, an idea that is reinforced as many women in town pursue him and flirt with him. As the most eligible bachelor, he believes that he deserves Belle as his wife. To get this clear, he believes that he <deserves> Belle as an award for being the most handsome and the strongest guy in town like she is some award. When Belle repeatedly turns him down, he cannot accept it and remains in denial as if it was some sort of game she is playing. Instead, she is not interested because Gaston is a pig and has no chemistry with her because she is a dreamer and an intellectual and he is shallow. When Gaston finds out that Belle might be falling for somebody else, somebody ‘unattractive’, he flips out and lets toxic masculinity completely take over. He tries to blackmail her into marrying him but when that does not work, he decides to kill her potential suitor. When he is defeated in combat, he is granted mercy but he still refuses to believe that he has lost his chance at Belle and attacks only to be accidentally killed by the man he was trying to kill. He is the patriarchy made flesh and he dies, still raging about not being the winner for the first time in his life. He would have lived if he had just accepted that one girl in town did not want to kiss him.


7 Judge Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame 1996)

Frollo is a judge and minister of justice in Paris, France. He presides over the Palace of Justice and he uses them to both keep the peace and further his personal agenda. Like a lot of the most misguided religious people, Frollo is prejudiced. He believes in a ‘natural order’ but that natural order involves Christianity and nothing else. If you are not Christian, then you are guilty in the eyes of Judge Claude Frollo. Specifically, he has a vendetta against gypsies because they are heathens in his eyes. They flaunt their non-Christian lifestyle and seem to make a mockery of society. In the beginning of the movie, he accidentally kills a gypsy woman and is shamed into adopting her baby. However, her baby grows up with a hunchback and a disfigured face so Frollo treats him like an abomination. Years later and his goal has become to discover the Court of Miracles, the Gypsy sanctuary, and destroy it and murder them all. Yes, this is a Disney film. When a Gypsy girl, Esmerelda, defies him in the middle of the city, it enrages him and his twisted mind fixates on her. He hates what she is but he finds that he also lusts after her and racism and bullshit guilt clash in his head. He pursues her across the city terrorizing, torturing, or murdering anybody who he thinks might be hiding her. When he is questioned by his captain of the guard, he sentences him to death for insubordination. When Esmerelda refuses to sleep with him, he tries to kill her too. When all of this fails, he tries to kill the young man who is supposed to be his son. He only dies because his religious mania makes him see the face of Satan which frightens him into death by falling. He is an unstable man who got further destabilized and twisted by his religion and it ultimately killed him.


6 Dr. Facilier (The Princess and the Frog 2009)

Dr. Facilier is a fortune teller and general voodoo practitioner for hire (also known as a bokor) on the streets of New Orleans. Bokor are usually supposed to serve the loa (or voodoo spirits) with ‘both hands’ meaning they work for good and for evil. However, Facilier apparently was somehow connected with dark loa who are much more proficient in dark magic. So, Facilier became accustomed to being in control of dark powers through his ‘friends from the other side’. Of course, he also seems to be indebted to these loa and trusting in them ultimately proves to be his undoing. While these dark powers may have influenced him into a wicked life, it seems that he did not start off so good anyway. He mentions being descended from royalty but he has obviously fallen on hard times as he tries to swindle tourists and locals on the streets of New Orleans. He has formed a grudge against the wealthy of the Big Easy and actively works against them, seeming to believe he is owed wealth and power. This is a direct contrast with Tiana who works hard for everything she has and is not looking for handouts. He built an infamous reputation around town and is left with the desperate and the ignorant to prey on. He shows that he is very willing to curse or kill to get what he wants and what he wants is to rule New Orleans. Facilier cannot grant himself boons through his magic and so he manipulates others by giving them gifts whether they want them or not. He does not care who gets hurt as long as he satisfies his own desires and pays his debt to his dark masters.

March Madness 5: The Pixar Quarterfinals Pt. 1

July 2, 2018

Bracket

Up vs. Toy Story

Up is the story of an old man who tries to go on one last adventure to honor his wife and unexpectedly and reluctantly teams up with a small boy. He gets more adventure than he could have possibly expected. The first couple of minutes of Up are done largely with very little dialogue and it is one of the most touching scenes in cinema history. In the future, the opening sequence of Up will be used by Blade Runners to root out replicants. That portion sets the scene for the rest of the movie and it ended up being a very emotional movie for me. It also had some real genuine laughs. Ed Asner plays the lead character, Carl, and his weary, grumpy demeanor hides a depth and heart that gradually is revealed. He is joined by a small kid, Russel, who is a very accurate portrayal of a kid. Unknown Jordan Nagai plays the role naive, energetic, kind of dumb, but it is hard not to like him. Finally, we have Dug, the talking dog who is played by director Pete Docter similar to a kindergartener who unconditionally loves everybody. The combination of all three bring a lot of laughs but they also bring a lot of heart. The movie has a mix of nostalgia for the pulp adventure films of the first half of the 20th century but also some new ground.

Toy Story is the tale of a bunch of sentient toys led by a cowboy toy named Woody. He is threatened by the arrival of a brand new spaceman toy. This is Pixar’s first feature film and it had a monumental effect on the animation industry as it revolutionized both animation technology and storytelling in family films. Pixar took a fresh new approach to things and that rising tide caused the ships in the harbor to rise or sink. Woody was voiced by the always likable Tom Hanks who for once got to be less likable. He is joined by Tim Allen who is a perfectly reasonable straight man and also very likable. The rest of the cast is played by brilliant character actors such as Jim Varney, Jon Ratzenberger, Wallace Shawn, Don Rickles, R. Lee Ermey, and Annie Potts. Their dialogue always immediately shows instead of tells of the long history the toys have had with each other and creates an imaginative backstory without hitting us over the head with it. Woody and Buzz’ tale is familiar in so many ways. As an older brother, I experienced the fear that my younger brothers would usurp me. As a friend, I was worried that my friend’s girlfriends would push me away and cause me to be forgotten. Everybody has experienced that moment of being hot and then fearing they are suddenly not.

Main Character: Carl Fredrickson is a much more rounded and flawed character than Woody’s jealous panic.

Supporting Characters: Russell was an absolute gem of a character and the offbeat comedy of Dug was amazing. Still, they just barely beat Buzz and a cast of some of the best character actors as toys.

Villain: Arguably, Woody is also the villain of the movie and he is a far better villain than Charles Muntz.

Music: Randy Newman’s “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” is probably the best thing he ever wrote but the score of Up beats the score of Toy Story.

Story: The story of laying your wife rest while learning to continue on with life beats the tale of learning that friendship is more important than fame.

Animation: This is not really fair as Toy Story was so early in CGI animation but it blew me away at the time but Up is years in the future and obviously better.

Winner: Up

Coco vs. Toy Story 3

Coco is the tale of a young boy in Mexico who finds himself as a living person stuck in the afterlife during the Day of the Dead festival. Instead of worrying, he decides to use this false death as an opportunity to connect with his ancestors and explore his family history. It is also the tale of musicians and how they connect with music and history. Pixar always does its research and they did a great job exploring the traditions and lore of the Day of the Dead and used that to create an impressive world beyond the veil. They also did a lot of research with actual musicians and they were able to animated fingers on guitar strings in a way that it is clear that the characters are actually playing music. The movie also does a lot to talk about memory and legacy and how important that is and the different ways that it is important to people. Young Anthony Gonzalez plays the lead role, Miguel, and he plays him with both rebelliousness and heart. He is joined by both Benjamin Bratt and Gael Garcia Bernal as his guides through the afterlife. They both do a great job and contrast each other in the best ways, each teaching important lessons. It would be a crime not to mention a beautiful performance from Alanna Ubach as the deceased matriarch of Miguel’s family. She has such power to her personality when she is on screen and she is mirrored by Renee Victor in the living world.

Toy Story 3 is the story of a bunch of toys worrying about the loss of their owner who is about to leave for college, finally officially outgrowing his old friends. Yearning to be played with again by actual kids, they go on an adventure to find their new place in the world. This was the movie that Pixar was not originally going to make but Disney forced their hand when they were prepared to continue the franchise alone. The Pixar crew dug deep and tried to figure out where they could take the story next after two outings. To their credit, they figured out a beautiful way to end a trilogy but also how to open up the story for future opportunities. They made the story fresh again by tweaking the previous formula once again and adding bigger stakes. They also added a real villain with a full backstory for the first time in the franchise and that added a new dimension of conflict into the movie. Tom Hanks and Tim Allen returned to once again portray Woody and Buzz Lightyear, now old friends instead of rivals. They are once again joined by great character actors Don Rickles, Wallace Shawn, John Ratzenberger, and Estelle Harris. Joan Cusack returns from Toy Story 2 and helps to breathe new life into an old franchise. Helping with that, we have a villain in Ned Beatty and there are also newcomers Kristen Schaal, Timothy Dalton, and Jodi Benson. This makes it possibly the most star-studded movie in Pixar (and possibly Disney) history.

Main Character: While it is a bit unfair to have Woody and Buzz gang up on Miguel, the young boy has so much more going on than the two old friends.

Supporting Characters: Although Toy Story 3 has an all-star cast full of likable and fun characters, Coco wins with relative unknowns who have a lot of more subtle charm.

Villain: Ernesto is insidious and spineless and he is a much better villain than Lotso who is probably the franchise’s first real villain.

Music: Hands down the beautiful sounds of the Mexican guitar top a traditional score with the usual contribution from Randy Newman.

Story: A story of family, love, and redemption definitely beats what is basically the same themes being explored as the previous two movies (albeit with new twists).

Animation: Although the two movies are not far removed when it comes to release dates, the art direction of Coco is absolutely stunning and leagues ahead of the more mundane world of Toy Story.

Winner: Coco

Media Update 3/30/17

March 30, 2017


Akira

This movie is the legendary anime film that is pretty much solely responsible for anime reaching the mainstream culture in the United States. The movie was record-breaking in many ways. The two main ones were that it used more drawings and more colors than any previous animated film. Because much of it took place at night or in the dark, a larger and more complicated color palette was needed. Also, it merged action and science fiction in some ways that had not been seen as much in popular culture at the time but are very prevalent now. The movie itself is extremely compelling. It is the story of friendship, giving somebody more power than they can handle, evolution and the results of science reaching too far. It mostly follows two members of a biker gang in post-apocalyptic Japan. One of them gains immense psychic powers and their story spirals out of control, involving other super-powered beings, rebel forces and the government. It has really beautiful animation which obviously influenced most of what came after it. It also very clearly creates a world where there are not really any good guys but everybody is still very sympathetic. The story is also extremely interesting and it had enough twists and turns to keep me guessing at almost every moment. I definitely recommend it to the three anime fans who have not seen it yet.


Glitter Force

I saw this pop up as a “Netflix Original” a long while ago and I laughed and put it on my list to check out at some point. I mentioned before how much I love Magical Girl shows and if nothing else it would be fun to watch the first episode or two. I decided to watch it this week because it fit the week’s theme. However, I almost turned away when I saw the tag “Ages 2 to 6”. Then I googled the show and found a really bitter change.org petition to remove the show from Netflix. I had to watch it now. I am really glad I did. The show is a comedy action magical girl show. It is constructed very similarly to Sailor Moon with five young girls drawing on important values and magical powers to save the day. The comedy is sometimes wacky and sometimes actually pretty dry and, dare I say it, sophisticated. The action is a little formulaic but so is every other anime of its kind. The construction of the girls’ powers is mostly based on their personalities and their hobbies. At the same time, it may be the girliest thing that I have ever watched and that is coming from somebody who has seen multiple seasons of My Little Pony and half a season of Jem. They definitely lean into that and it ends up really working. I can see similarities to Sailor Moon and Madoka Magica but there are definitely some things they make their own. Particularly, all of the main villains are based on villains from fairy tales. I definitely recommend it but I understand if you do not.


One Punch Man

The Game Grumps have been hyping this show for ages now since it showed up on Crunchyroll. Now that it showed up on Netflix, it was time for me to check it out. The show is a anime superhero parody set in a fictional post-apocalyptic supercontinent. The ‘hero’ is a guy named Saitama who is so powerful that he kills every villain he opposes with one punch. The ease of his crimefighting has made him really bored with his life since the thrill of battle was something he really longed for. While the world goes crazy around him, he is very low key and nonchalant while everybody else is taking things way too seriously. The animation is really cool as we see opponents with ridiculously strong powers face off against each other. A lot of it is played for laughs even though there is plenty of gore either visually or through implication. I wish I liked this show more. The action is actually kind of similar to shows like Seven Deadly Sins but without the emotional stakes. All of the action is kind of boring when everybody is kind of a jerk and there is nobody to really root for. I do not think I will be continuing on with this one because I have shows that I actually really want to watch.

Music of the Week:
Teruko Akatsuki – Tokyo Shoe Shine Boy

Buckcherry – Lit Up

Chet Faker – Gold

Royal Blood – Out Of The Black

Babymetal – Megitsune

Weekly Update:
– This week’s theme is Animated Action
– I am almost done Blue Bloods Season 4
– I watched more Lucha Underground Season 1
– I am almost finished watching Haven
– I watched a lot more Iron Fist and it’s still good
– Getting ready for Wrestlemania weekend
– Working on the April A to Z Blogging Challenge
– Happy Media Update 100!

Media Update 9/22/2016

September 22, 2016


Clone High

I have heard over and over that this show was awesome and iconic for its time but I never saw it when it came out. I was in college at the time so this came out a couple years after I stopped watching MTV animation. Until recently I also had nowhere to watch it either. It was driving me crazy to hear people like Kate Leth rave about the show and make inside jokes about it when I had missed out. Finally, I get to check it out and see what all the fuss is about. This show would have been right up my alley. The show is a parody of teen dramas like 90210 and Saved by the Bell. Every episode is a “special episode” that deals with some teen issue and parodies how horribly most shows dealt with real issues. Honestly, they could have stopped there and it would have been a really entertaining show. What they add is that all of the teenagers in the school are clones of famous people from history. The main cast includes clones of Abe Lincoln, Gandhi, Joan of Arc, John F. Kennedy and Cleopatra. Abe Lincoln is a weak-willed guy who is just trying to be popular. Gandhi is an ADHD hardcore partier. Joan of Arc is a goth. John F. Kennedy is a womanizing idiot. Cleopatra is obsessed with popularity and getting it no matter what. Seeing our heroes bent into twisted reflections of their real-life counterparts is really weird but strangely funny too. I definitely recommend you seek this out as it is only one season long.


Camp WWE

I was going to pass this up but then I heard that Seth Green had creative control on it. I was a big fan of Robot Chicken which made me smile at its worst and made me laugh until I was breathless at its best. I wanted to see his take on the WWE roster. I was also intrigued because the show is a hard R while the animation looks incredibly childlike. The show is about all of the WWE stars as children at a sleepover summer camp. The camp is run by Vince McMahon who voices this caricature of himself. He comes across as somewhere between Daffy Duck and Yosemite Sam. He’s insane and money hungry and it is really funny what they get away with. The counselors are made up of Triple H, Stephanie McMahon and various legends. The show is really adult but it never goes too far at least not in the first five episodes. Obviously, the show is funnier if you know the performers in question. It gets even funnier with every scrap of backstage knowledge you know as well. It is definitely a love letter from fans to something they love but obviously they know it’s not perfect. Obviously, those stars cannot be expected to voice their child counterparts so the voice actors they got are really good and add to the cartoonishness of the show. It features performers from now all the way back in the eighties and there are plenty more used as gags in the background. Every episode so far is on the WWE Network but that is as it should be because nobody but a WWE fan is going to want to watch it.


Daria

This show came out right in the middle of the Grunge movement and various other similar movements surrounding the rise of the unpopular kids. It stars an low key, annoyed teen girl who does not buy into what is popular. She alternately uses sarcasm and unbridled honesty as her weapons against those who would try to put her down. Normally I would see her as horribly anti-social and she should just try to get along. However, everybody around her is either corrupt or horribly incompetent including her family. The only person who seems nice is her best friend Jane who is just as bitingly sarcastic and disaffected. This was in the nineties when our ideas on mental health were even worse than they are now. Nobody realizes that being depressed or being different is natural especially for hormonal teens. The animation is actually not great and is pretty ugly and rough. Beavis and Butthead didn’t have the best animation either at least compared to other Liquid Television shows and what other studios were doing. The strength of the show is the voice acting and the offbeat writing. Like Clone High it is very exaggerated but it somehow feels pretty true to my experience in high school. However, the do not really depict us nerds and geeks in the best light from the get go. I liked it but it did not live up to all the hype that surrounds it. I guess I just had to be there. I recommend it because it is pretty funny.

Music of the Week:
Extol – Inferno

Up For Nothing – Sink

Genya Ravan – Love Is a Fire

StarVation- Wolf Pack

The Knocks – Love Me Like That (Feat. Carly Rae Jepsen)

Weekly Update:
– I finished Person of Interest Season 4 and I am hungry for more
– I also finished Once Upon a Time Season 5 and it was really good
– I watched more Charmed I had missed
– Started listening to The Worst Idea of All Time podcast again
– I picked up The Following season 2 again
– I am almost finished with Dark Matter season 1
– I am excited for The Magnificent Seven
– This week’s theme is “Parodies of Childhood – Animated”

Top 11 Disney Animated Films

June 13, 2015

Top 11

I have found myself using the phrase “I’m a huge Disney nerd” a lot lately so I thought I’d prove it by doing a Top 11 Disney Animated films. This does not include films produced by Pixar because that’s a whole list by itself. I also don’t include any movies by Studio Ghibli because Disney just did the American distribution. There’s also numerous other studios that obviously won’t make this list.  These are films that were important to me growing up or spoke to me in more recent times.

11 Alice in Wonderland (1951)

I read Alice in Wonderland and Alice Through the Looking Glass at a fairly young age but I’m reasonably sure that the Disney cartoon was my first exposure to the stories. The world of Alice is fantastic and illogical while still having a certain logic to it. As I grew up, I realized that the books were filled with logic problems, puzzles and riddles but the first time reading it I didn’t know all of that. I liked the story of a young girl travelling through a world that doesn’t making any sense that grows increasingly scary. As in the book, she realizes that none of it is real and wakes up. As I grew, I often wondered about how much she was willing to believe until she refused to believe anymore. The voice acting was very good (for its time) and I especially liked the proper British speech of Alice.

10 Beauty and the Beast (1991)

From a young age I was very interested in books and reading in general. Reading was something I grasped early on and being transported into other worlds was something I clung to. My life was good but there were people having adventures and my imagination wanted fuel to create adventures of my own. Because of all that, I identified heavily with the character of Belle and I have since identified with a lot of the dreamers in fiction. As a kid the story didn’t really effect me the way it does now and even now it’s not the story that sucks me in. I love the songs and all the little side characters and the bizarre world where all of the inanimate objects are characters. The animation is beautiful and definitely still holds up after all of this time. The music is fun and pretty timeless. The voice actors are all great but I especially love Jerry Orbach and Lumiere. That must have been a lot of fun to do.

9 The Lion King (1994)

The Lion King came very near the height of my animation hysteria in the part of my childhood when I thought I might be an animator later on. The Lion King’s animation totally blew me away with how fluid and beautiful it was and, as Frank Sinatra sang, the best was yet to come. Still, Disney really outdid itself with this movie. The voice acting is really great even though they succumbed to the pitfall of using celebrities instead of seasoned voice actors. The music was really well done and I sang along to Just Can’t Wait to Be King and Hakuna Matata everyday for a little while. One of my big problems with the movie is that the main character is kind of entitled and looks forward to adulthood for all the wrong reasons. Of course, part of his journey is learning from those mistakes and earning his place of honor. As I’ve gotten older I’ve come to respect the character Scar more as a dynamic and fun villain and the probably the first villain song I really enjoyed.

8 The Little Mermaid (1989)

Once again, yearning for a new world and wondering about a life beyond what I saw around me were themes that resonated with me. It’s not that I had a bad childhood but nobody has a childhood that’s without its bumps. Like many children I felt unpopular and unliked as a kid, a feeling that actually grew well into high school and in some forms exists today. When Ariel sings about the world “Up There” I think about all the times I wasn’t invited to a party or when I was picked last for kickball games. Don’t get me wrong, I always had friends but every so often I wondered what being a popular kid was like. At the same time, like Ariel, I wanted to be different and I really reveled in the differences between me and the other kids. Of course, I realized all of that later in life, when I was a teenager. The main thing that actually attracted me when I was younger was the music. Jodi Benson, Samuel E. Wright and Rene Auberjonois (no really, Odo had a cameo as a French chef) made songs that were a lot of fun to sing along to and enjoy.

7 Tangled (2010)

Depression is a hell of a thing. Depression lies. Even now I hesitate to call what I have bouts of “depression” because depression just calls me an idiot and to stop faking for attention. I don’t feel depressed right now but I definitely go through it from time to time. It’s just bad brain chemistry and it’s hard to get through but one thing that has always helped me fight it off or pull out of the pit is a good song or a good movie. That’s why I talk so much about the stuff I love here, because it really, really means something to me. Tangled was a movie that briefly cast sunshine on a dark period in New Jersey where I had very conflicting feelings about my life. The fluid animation, great music and slapstick humor almost always elicits a smile. The ending just feels really good to me too but I won’t spoil it here. The music is very good and a lot of it feels spontaneous and improvised while being polished at the same time (if that makes sense).

6 The Princess and the Frog (2009)

I love jazz music I like it a lot but not enough to listen to it regularly as many other genres float my boat more regularly. I love the big band sort of jazz that is loud and brassy and full of vibrating, bubbling energy. I love the kind of music that Dr. John sings. What a coincidence, Dr. John sings the very first song in the movie!  I have never been to New Orleans but it’s always been spoken of with almost mythical reverence, especially by the jazz community. The art style and voice acting does a great job of setting the scene in a unique setting. It also takes us back to a different time period pretty effortlessly. The music is downright infectious and I especially like “When We’re Human”. I like the different twist on an old fairy tale with the added theme of working hard to make your dreams a reality but not too hard.

5 Wreck it Ralph (2012)

I love video games. I have loved video games ever since I laid eyes on (but was not allowed to touch) the Atari and watched somebody play Donkey Kong. Not long after we got an NES and I was hooked for life as a console gamer. I also hung out with my brothers and friends in several different arcades around town, pumping quarters for another few minutes of fun. This movie made me so nostalgic for those days of playing the hardest games kids were ever tortured with. The movie itself is really funny and also endearing and charming. I have to admit that I’ve done things in my life solely for the reward. I once ran for class president in high school just to see how many votes I could get. I’m not proud of it nor am I proud of hounding the teacher in charge when I never got an exact count. Later that year I actually won an award for service in the drama department and that felt way better. So I really love the theme of not trying so hard to be something you’re not and instead being the best you that you can be.

4 Big Hero 6 (2014)

This is the most recent animated Disney film I’ve seen. The art style, while similar to other recent movies, is also kind of infused with an anime feel which makes sense. The movie takes place in a mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo. I read some of the first run of the comic and Big Hero 6 was supposed to be Japan’s official superhero team. While that movie would have been cool, the movie we got was incredibly creative and had a ton of heart. The movie dealt with a lot of tough issues like death in the family but managed to stay lighthearted enough to not get me down. It’s definitely not your typical superhero movie but Disney’s Marvel Studios has proved that it doesn’t always go where you think they will go. This movie surprised me with how good it was and I think it really deserved to win the Academy Award. I really hope that they can write a successful sequel because I will definitely see it opening weekend.

3 Aladdin (1992)

Aladdin was the first soundtrack I ever owned and listened to until the casette tape was nearly worn out. I can sing along to most of the songs (except Friend Like Me. How did he breathe during that?) and I really enjoy doing so. This movie both started my extreme fandom of Robin Williams and it was also the first time I realized that voice actors are people. Aladdin is the story of a poor kid making it to the top with luck and his wits. It’s also the story of being rewarded for both being true to who you are and a good person. The main characters are flawed people but come through fire. Besides the great music, great story and great characters, I also have a very personal connection with this movie. When I had heart surgery in fifth grade to fix the double aortic arch that I was born with, this was the movie they let me watch in the ICU. So it’s also the only Disney movie I’ve watched on heavy drugs.

2 Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

I think this might be the movie that I’ve mentioned most in this blog and it is a movie that I will probably always be fascinated with. As I’ve grown older, I’ve discovered more and more that I like about it. When I first saw it, I was a huge Tim Burton fan and fascinated with the macabre elements of Halloween. As I grew up, I still loved the dark elements married to the comedy elements but I began to appreciate the craft of stop-motion animation. I started to understand the story more and that led me to imagine the world they had created beyond the bounds of the story. What was Easterland like? What was Thanksgivingland like? As I watched it again in my adult years I now understood the parts about depression and self-discovery and creativity. I am always inspired by this movie and I love consuming anything connected to it.

1 Frozen (2013)

What more can be said about this movie? The movie became a phenomenon overnight and most people I know either love it or are apathetic. I actually thought I was going to hate it because the early trailer absolutely turned me off. It said nothing about what the movie was about but that actually worked in my favor. I wrote the movie off and filed it away somewhere in my brain. It came into theaters and left and I still had not watched it. Now, I had no idea at the time that Kristen Bell played Anna in the movie which would have swayed me as a Veronica Mars superfan. Also, had I known that Frozen had the same songwriters as Avenue Q and Book of Mormon I might have taken notice. No. I heard rave reviews and just decided to watch it one day. I love it now. The characters are so interesting, the acting is excellent and the story is a little bit different from what I’ve seen before in Disney movies. They’re are deep psychological stories being told just under the surface of a straightforward tale about the bond between two siblings. The music is amazing and Kristen Bell and Idina Menzel blew me away with how well they did with it. I definitely recommend this one and I promise I won’t get mad if you don’t like it. Just ask my brother.

Media Update 5/21/2015

May 21, 2015

Forever 12
(Watch it Here)

This one is about a girl who never wants to have to grow up so she invented a magical world that helps her to stay young. The animation is very pretty and colorful and the writing made me laugh and there’s actually a clever little moral snuck in. It feels very similar to the next entry but it is definitely its own animal. I don’t know if the short is going anywhere but I hope that everybody who worked on it gets more work.

 


Star Vs. The Forces of Evil

I have been really, really excited to see this cartoon since Disney released the intro (linked above). The intro was so exciting and lively that I couldn’t help but be curious about it. I also hold a special place in my heart for magical girls and there’s definitely some of that imagery. However, now that I’m two episodes in, I know a little more about the show. It’s pretty much as insane as the intro indicates but it’s also really funny. Alternate dimensions, magic wands, karate and floating unicorn heads are just some of the insanity.

Rick and Morty

It has come to my attention that Rick and Morty appeared in the couch gag of the Simpsons season finale. I’m glad they got a little exposure but I haven’t watched the Simpsons in years as I felt it grew stale. Still, the second season of Rick and Morty is coming this summer and I’m extremely excited about it. The first season is still available on Adultswim.com .

 


Taco Bell Breakfast Defector Commercials

These are so ridiculously bad that I actually love them. First, their filmed in grainy black and white as if this revolution is not only televised but done so with “underground” cameras. This one is also filmed ambush style as soon as the couple gets through the drive-thru which makes them those people I hate who park for five minutes to check if their meal was served correctly. The guy being “interviewed” is way over the top while the girl seems more reserved. If you notice, the dialogue even gets so ridiculous that the girl laughs as if to say “It’s just Taco Bell, guys” I like Taco Bell well enough and I’ve had their breakfast twice. It’s not bad but, like fast food breakfast the world over, it’s not very good. They can keep pretending they’re gathering an army against McDonalds though. It’s too funny.

LAIKA Studios Box Set

March 2, 2015

Animation is a brilliant art form. I have been fascinated by it from a very young age which evolved from Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry to watching Saturday morning cartoons to Nicktoons and beyond. For a long time, Pixar was my God of Animation starting with the premiere of Toy Story. I saw Toy Story five times in theater and, at the age of 13, I seriously considered studying animation so I could get into the business. I got lessons on how to use the program Raydream Design Studio so I could develop my own CGI. I went so far as to take a class on Saturdays at the Maryland Institute College of Art where I learned stop-motion animation. I never really cared about stop-motion too much since I didn’t know at the time that it was used for stuff like Star Wars. I just saw it as the artform that brought us kind of lame things like Gumby and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That would soon change.

First I discovered Aardman studios and fell in love with Wallace and Grommit and I was impressed (and depressed) by Creature Comforts. Then a movie was released that blew my mind and changed my life forever and that’s no exaggeration. Of course, I’m talking about The Nightmare Before Christmas which was a brilliant film. It is often attributed to Tim Burton but it was directed and developed by Henry Selick. It felt like they took a slice of my life and transplanted it into a very spooky yet playful garden. It’s my go to movie when I’m depressed around the holidays.

I recently got a collection of all of the Laika Studios films and I decided to watch two of them over again and check out the newest selection.


Coraline

I am a huge fan of Neil Gaiman but I got on the fandom boat a little later than a lot of people. I actually started reading Gaiman with the introduction of The Graveyard Book and I am working on steadily consuming his work. One of the more recent things I got was Coraline because the movie was wildly popular and I wanted to read the book and watch the movie. I eventually broke down and watched the movie first and I was captivated by the glorious return of Henry Selick’s direction and the simple, relateable story. While the movie is different from the book, everyone involved took great pains to capture the spirit of the story and hit all of the key points. Coraline is a tale told about being careful what you wish for, not being so critical of what you have and appreciating those around you even though they’re not perfect. It’s also about monsters and interdimensional travel. It’s a really excellent movie that I’m glad to have in my collection to watch over again.


Paranorman

I will be honest here, I went into this movie with near zero expectations and I didn’t even realize it was from the same studio as Coraline until I looked it up afterward. It was a positively reviewed movie on Netflix and, as previously covered, I like spooky stuff. I remembered the trailer had zombies and ghosts and not much else. What I got was actually a pretty touching story about finding your place in the world and acceptance of who you are and the mistakes others make. At least, that’s what I took away from it. Also, the movie’s pretty funny even if it has a kind of mournful undertone through a lot of it. The trailers made this one look silly and fun and full of action but there is also a lot of emotion here. I definitely recommend it even though I probably just raised your expectations. It should meet them.


The Boxtrolls

Finally, I got to see the Boxtrolls and I soaked in the experience on full, glorious DVD on a spectacular 32″ television. Exquisite. All joking aside, I always want to go see animated films in theaters but pretty much nobody else I know wants to go see them. Also going to the movie theater is a crapshoot on the kind of crowd you’re going to get. Animated movies tend to be populated by families which can mean children who don’t understand the etiquette of a movie theater yet. I’d rather use Netflix or buy a DVD than attend the theater with that risk present. Though, I usually have a rule that I don’t buy DVDs of movies I haven’t seen yet so I don’t end up with a clunker taking up space. However, I make exceptions for movies that got enough good buzz or whose creators have good track records. So I took a chance on LAIKA studios because of Coraline and Paranorman being so good.

I didn’t really know what to expect because strangely enough, I never saw a trailer like I had for the previous two films. I knew a little bit because I had seen fleeting images on the internet and because I’m a fan of Kate Leth. So I had mixed expecations due to so many unknown unknowns. The first thing I noticed was that the studio really stepped up their game on the animation and the movie was even more beautiful than the previous two films. You know, as beautiful as the industrial age/steampunk world could be with all of the really grimy details. I can not say enough about the brilliant art direction since, because of the textures and detail, I often forgot the sets were models. The characters were all just as well-crafted and extremely expressive. It’s an amazing thing when animators or puppeteers can imbue an inanimate object with a soul.

The souls they put in were great too. I was really impressed with a great cast of performers who helped to breathe life into their characters. The characters were weird when they should be weird and touching when they should be touching. I was genuinely happy to meet the good guys and hated the bad guys with a passion. Except that it wasn’t always so black and white (a point that is brought up by some side characters throughout). Elle Fanning and a relatively unknown Isaac Hempstead Wright are brilliant as two children out of their element in a childish adult world. Among the adults are Nick Frost, Ben Kingsley, Simon Pegg, Dee Bradely Baker and plenty of other great actors.

The movie is about a lot of things but there are several themes that pop into my mind. I like how the movie points out how ridiculous normal society looks from the outside and that goes for both societies in the story. There was a definite focus on family and how important those closest to you are even if you don’t always like them. Social status is only as important as you make it and don’t try to be something you’re not. Good and evil are sometimes a matter of perspective and you can’t let yourself get blinded by the lies other people tell.

I whole-heartedly endorse watching this movie as I really had a good time watching it. I laughed, I felt and I had a lot of thought-provoking, philosophical moments. So the next time you think all animated movies are “just for kids”, think again.


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