Sunday, 29 January 2012

Top 10 Animated Dragons

Sooo, I’m a little late on this one, but nevertheless: Happy Chinese New Year everyone!! 2012 marks the Year of the Dragon! Probably the coolest of all the Chinese zodiac signs (sorry pig and rat.) So what better way to ring in the new year for all my Chinese reader (you know who you are,) by counted down my list of the top 10 animated dragons!! 
(Honorary mention goes to Dragonite from Pok√©mon, photoed here being a total boss.)

10) Elliot (Pete’s Dragon)
Honestly, I always found this movie pretty dull as a kid. It was slow, boring, and pretty sappy. But I watched it anyway. Why? Because there’s a sweet-ass animated dragon that only the main character can see! Plus, Elliot here’s animated by famed animator Don Bluth before his departure from Disney. That’s pretty frickin’ cool. And honestly, what kid wouldn’t want their own personal invisible cartoon dragon? Boring kids. That’s who. The kind whose favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla and who actually enjoy the plot of Pete’s Dragon

9) Puff (Puff the Magic Dragon)
Originally a hippy-dippy sing-along song, later turned into a hippy-dippy animated movie. He’s often confused with our number ten spot, Elliot, but I feel Puff gets the edge over him for two reasons. One: he has a bow tie, and that’s just plain classy. And two: pretty sure he’s high, which is funny. If he’s not, then his parents certainly were when they named him “Puff.” That would also explain why his hair kinda looks like pot. 

8) Mushu (Mulan)
The first actual Chinese dragon to hit this list, Mushu here’s kind of a mixed bag. He’s a dragon, yes, but he’s also puny. He did a pretty good job being the tokin comic relief in Disney’s Mulan. I mean, he’s pretty much just Eddie Murphy as a dragon. That’s pretty cool. But on the other hand…he’s just Eddie Murphy as a dragon…hrmm… Like I said, it’s a mixed bag. 

7) Dragon (Shrek)
The dragon creatively named “Dragon” was first used as a big second act set piece in the first Shrek movie, then later as a reoccurring character in a franchise that’s slightly overstaying its welcome. She deserves a spot on this list, not just for being kick-ass, but for also reppin’ lady dragons everywhere. Although the weird thing is Dragon gets “bizz-ay” with Eddie Murphy’s Donkey character, producing three little adorable dragon/donkey abominations. Man! Eddie Murphy mustreally like dragons…ehhh, it’s probably best not to think about it too much…

6) That Dragon From Beowulf (Beowulf)
Sometimes just being really, really, really, really badass is enough reason to make it on a list. This dragon acts as the final act in the 2007 mo-capathon film directed by Robert Zemeckis. The film kinda falls into that category of looking soooo realistic at the time, but just kinda looks like standard stuff CG now (along with Polar Express and Final Fantasy: Spirits Within.) But what does hold up is this dragon and the epic fight old man Beowulf has with it. When you think about what a classic dragon should be, think of this sucker. He’s classic dragon all the way. 

5) Draco (Dragonheart)
Yes he’s old CG in a live action movie. Doesn’t matter. Wanna know why? It’s Sean Connery as a dragon… Let me repeat that again. It’s Sean Connery as adragon. Nuff said.

4) Toothless (How to Train Your Dragon)
Remember when I was talking about Elliot from Pete’s Dragon? And how cool it would be to have a personal dragon as your best bud? You know what would be cooler than that? A freakin’ kick-ass dragon who’s crazy fast, a powerful fighter, is feared by all, and let’s you ride him. And on top of that, when you feed him he acts like a kitty cat. Sign me up movie! I want to live in your world!

3) Trogdor the Burninator (Homestar Runner)
Sometimes, you don’t need to look proportionally accurate to be awesome. Sometimes all you need is a S shaped body, consummate V’s, and a big beefy arm stickin’ out of the back of your neck to strike fear into the hearts of peasants and to have kickin’ rock songs about you. Trogdor’s popularity sky rocketed during the mid 2000s as one of the internet’s earlier inside jokes, getting so popular to have his own adventure game, and his song appearing in Guitar Hero II. Way to go, Burninator. Way to go. 

2) Smaug (The Hobbit)
Ohhhh, ho ho! We’re certainly getting in to the heavy hitters now. While we still have to wait until we get a glimpse of Peter Jackson’s version of this Tolkin terror, Smaug has already had his big screen debut in the 1977 Rankin/Bass animated film. True, this isn’t exactly how I pictured this big baddy, what with the Thundercat-like face and the headlight-like eye beams, but still! With his booming voice (by Richard Boone) and all the great hype the film gives to this character, it’s hard to deny how cool he is. This is a dragon you don’t want to mess with. Honestly, there’s only one dragon that I think could give ol’ Smaug a run for his money…

1) Shenron (Dragon Ball
With all the fighting, powering up, grunting, yelling, and more powering up that the series is known for, it’s not uncommon to forget about the dragon that the titular balls are named for. Known as Shenron, the summoning of this dragon was the main MacGuffin of the original Dragon Ball series. And even while it was used more as a side element in Dragon Ball Z (really only being used as a means to get dead characters back into the show) you got to admit that even though the cast has summoned this guy time and time again, his presence was always a big deal. I mean, just look at the guy! Apart from being just so impossibly massive, this dragon also has the power to do…well…anything! He’s pretty much dragon God, and deserves to be number one atop this list. 
I hope you all enjoyed this list. Happy Year of the Dragon, everyone!
- Moo

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Thoughts on The Oscars: 2012

Ok, just a quick thing on the Oscar noms for best animated feature in 2012. The nominations are A Cat in ParisChico and RitaKung Fu Panda 2Puss in Boots, and Rango
Here’s my thoughts. First of all, let’s touch on the movies that didn’t make it. I’m glad Cars 2 didn’t slip on by this year, even with their previous Pixar cred. That movie was bad, and maybe it’ll be a nice wakeup call to Pixar. Winnie the Poohis sadly missing, which is another blow to Disney continuing hard-drawn animation. That’s a bit of a shame; I wish it took the place of one of the Dreamworks movies. Tintin is probably the biggest surprise though, having it already won the Golden Globe for animation. While lots of the animation community is happy it’s not there, stating how motion capture isn’t true animation so it shouldn’t even be considered for the category, I still think it should have been up there (again, instead of one of the Dreamworks movies.) And either way, I think it just wasn’t nominated based on it’s merit as a film, and not because of the use of mo-cap. So anti mo-cap people: you can take this as a victory if you want, but at the end of the day I’m pretty sure Hollywood’s still going to qualify this as animation. So tough cookies.
I’m glad to see 2 indie flicks on there with A Cat in Paris and Chico and Rita. I’ll need to track those down as soon as I can. But at the end of the day, usually the mainstream still wins, so my money’s on the winner being Rango. It’s not a perfect film, but it was a great blend of something new with something old, and of course it looked amazing. We’ll see if I’m right come February. 
- Moo
(Also…”Man or Muppet” from The Muppets got nominated for best song…there is some good in the world…)

Saturday, 21 January 2012

Come on, ya Bone-heads…

IGN reports that a movie based on Jeff Smith’s cult classic comic series Bone is in the works, and now has someone on board to pen the script, so the project seems to be moving forward.
This isn’t the first time a Bone movie was attempted. Nickelodeon was in talks to do a movie in 2000, but creative differences between them and creator Jeff Smith ended the project before too long. (That and Nickelodeon wanted the characters to be voiced be child actors and feature pop songs of the time…no thank you, late 90s pop.) So now the movie rights have been passed to Warner Brothers, and it looks like things are going to go through this time. So with that said, Warner Brothers…please….PLEASE don’t screw this up.
- Moo

Friday, 20 January 2012

A Tale As Old As Time…IN THREEE-DEEEEE!!! (A Rant about Beauty and the Beast in 3D)

This past week I was able to step inside a time capsule and revisit an old animated gem. And here’s my thoughts on seeing it again for the first time since the 90s, and my thoughts on Disney’s trend of 3D rereleases. 
Originally released in 1991, Beauty and the Beast is probably one of Disney’s most prestigious animated films. It’s considered by many to be the crowning gem in Disney’s animation renaissance of the 90s, and for a long time held the honour of being the only animated film to be nominated for the best picture Oscar (until Pixar’s Up in 2010.) And now, after the success of The Lion King’s 3D efforts,Beauty and the Beast returns publicly to theatres after over two decades of its release. And it’s a good thing too, cause I actually haven’t seen the film since I was a kid!
I still loved watching it, but I was surprised. Perhaps it was the goggles of childhood nostalgia, but many of the reasons I loved the film now changed from the reasons I loved the film as a kid.
So…what more is there really to say about this movie? It’s the same animated tale that was released years ago, after all. And chances are if you’re reading this you’re already familiar with the source material. So instead of actually “reviewing” said film, I felt like I should just mention some of my passing thoughts while enjoying this particular screening.
I suppose the first thing that came to my mind is “wow…this film feels old.” Not in that the story doesn’t hold up, but rather that you would never, ever see a new flick like this in theatres nowadays. Case in point: our leading lady. Belle, while being perhaps a bit more independent then previous Disney princesses, surprisingly still feels very much the easily frightened damsel of bygone years of Disney’s golden past. That’s something I didn’t remember noticing when I was a kid. Maybe it’s the fact that since Belle we’ve had princesses who are even more self reliant, such as the titular Mulan and Tiana from The Princess and the Frog. But rather than seeing the character as a big step forward for women characters in animation, like it was back then, looking backwards it’s surprising to see just how much she has in common from princesses of Disney’s golden era, like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty. It’s not a bad thing, and I kind of like how it pays homage to the fairy tale princess archetype that Disney set before this, only making Belle a more proactive version of the archetype. Again, not bad, but just something that didn’t really cross my mind seeing this as a kid. 
Speaking of things that I liked as a kid, let’s talk about the side characters, specifically Lumiere and Cogsworth. As a kid, I was crazy about these characters and my love for them probably went even so far as to cloud the whole movie with their presence. Their antics are still amusing, but now as an adult I’m able to appreciate other characters for their subtlety. The Beast’s emotional transition was much more interesting to me now. I was able to actually see Gaston’s transformation from a harmless (albeit, ignorant) brute to a full fledged, bloodthirsty villain. And suddenly, these side characters that completely populated the movie as a kid were put…well…to the side. And I guess that just speaks volumes to classic Disney and it’s ability to craft well rounded stories that both kids and adults can enjoy, but now I can see first hand that they don’t have to enjoy it for the same reasons. It’s something that seems like a no brainer now, but experiencing it first hand was noteworthy. 
Ok, enough on looking back. I’m ignoring the big three dimensional elephant in the room and the one thing different about this screening. So, does the 3D really add anything? Well, in The Lion King’s 3D outing, there actually were some moments where the 3D really helped me get sucked into this world, such as the “Circle of Life” opening and the stampede scene. But that was about it. WithBeauty and the Beast there’s even less scenes that benefited from the 3D “enhancements.” I already found hand-drawn animation with 3D effects a bit odd, like someone holding a piece of paper infront of another piece of paper, but I’m sure weather or not a film would benefit from 3D didn’t even factor why they chose this film (and others on it’s way, like The Little Mermaid) to get the 3D treatment. So let’s call this rerelease of classic Disney movies with 3D upgrades out for what it really is: a cash grab. Disney is the master of milking old titles to get the maximum amount of profit from them (with George Lucas being a close second.) With 3D, Disney has another excuse to rerelease old movies to new audiences. I see both good and bad things that can come out from that. 
Let’s start with the bad: adding 3D to a movie does not automatically make it a better movie. That’s something I wish Hollywood would understand. The best uses of 3D are films that have, since the beginning of their development, decided to be done in 3D. That way, the choices made during the film’s development directly effects the use of 3D and the audience’s viewing experience (great examples are movies like AvatarHugo and Coraline.) The problem with adding 3D effects to a completed movie not made with 3D in mind is that you have no idea if the 3D would benefit it at all. In the end three things could happen: scenes could benefit from the 3D, scenes could be worsened by the 3D, or the 3D doesn’t do anything in particularly special. Beauty and the Beast falls into this third category easily, but depending on what movie they’re adding 3D to, it’s still just a crap shoot. I could go on and on about my thoughts on 3D in animation, but I won’t (at least not today.) So I’ll leave the subject for now with this thought: if 3D wants to be seen as more than just a gimmick, we need to start seeing it as less of an add-on and more as its own separate medium.
Now the good part about this 3D rerelease is, and it might seem like not much, but it’s the fact that it gives an excuse to bring this movie back. Honestly, if it wasn’t for the 3D pull, Beauty and the Beast wouldn’t get another worldwide theatrical rerelease like this. And I think that’s very important. There are many kids who probably have never seen a classic Disney musical like this. And even though it’s in “3D” let’s not forget that the animation itself is still 2D, and any excuse to get 2D animation back in theatres is a good excuse in my book. Maybe these types of events by Disney will inspire more traditional animated movies to be made in the future. Only time will tell. 
Overall, yeah, Beauty and the Beast is still awesome. Would I have seen a 2D version last week in theatres if I had the choice? Probably. But the 3D wasn’t distracting, and regardless it was well worth revisiting this epic tale, finding new things I enjoyed about it, and reminding myself why Disney is still regarded as on the finest animation companies in the world.
Now, here’s an amusing picture!
- Moo

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

An Open Letter To Brad Bird…

Mr Bird:
Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol was good. In fact, it was frickin’ amazing. You’ve proved your point. Your directing powers know no match. It matters not if it be animated or live action, a unique premisse or a dying franchise that hasn’t seen a good movie in years. Your unique way to inject fun and amazingly well choreographed action is unmatched. Congradulations. You’re awesome.
Now…where the hell is The Incredibles 2?!
Love,
- Moo

Monday, 2 January 2012

Who’s-It Ralph? Wreck-It What?

While I did miss this in my look forward at 2012’s animated movie line-up, I recently just found out about Disney’s 52nd animated feature, Wreck-It Ralph. I’m kicking myself for going this long without knowing about this movie…
It looks to be like a Who Framed Rodger Rabbit type universe which houses a multitude of fictional video game characters, including the titular Donkey Kong inspired character. They even made a fictional 80s style arcade cabinet at the last D23 Expo to promote the upcoming film. While this subject matter does seem a little “un-Disney,” as an old school gamer and animation buff, I’m crazy pumped for this.
-Moo