Thursday, 6 March 2014

The Lego Movie (A Review)

Ladies and gentlemen...we have it. The greatest 1 hour and 40 minute toy commercial of all time.

A crazy unique looking cast that works remarkably well together
The Lego Movie is pure joy. There's no better way to describe it. By all accounts it should be a shallow marketing ploy for one of the most popular toys ever, but the movie is actually so strong of a comedy that it transcends it's superficial marketing purposes. The humour travels a mile a minute, the characters are brilliant send-ups of classic story archetypes, the visuals are bright and colourful, and that song...oh man, that song. Like the song says: "everything is awesome." Y'know, I could just stop there and tell you I highly recommend this flick, but if you're interested in the finer points within this tiny bricked world, then read on.

First of all this film is written and directed by the duo of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. Don't recognize those names? Well, maybe it's about time you do. They started with the criminally underrated animated comedy Clone High before directing Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (a movie I thought was gonna suck until I saw it,) and more recently the 21 Jump Street remake (a movie which, again, people thought was gonna suck, but then were pleasantly surprised with it.) Are you noticing a trend? Clearly, people need to take note of Lord and Miller and start giving these two the benefit of the doubt on whatever project they're working on. (Or studios need to know how to advertise their shit better.) As soon as I saw these two were attached, I knew we were in for a tight comedy with clever writing and a joyfully juvenile spirit. In short: I was pumped when I saw that they were directing this movie, even more pumped when I saw the first trailer, and yet the movie still somehow met my lofty expectations. That's pretty rare nowadays!

Fun Fact: Will Forte voices Abe Lincoln in both The Lego Movie and Clone High!

So what's the plot? Well, the best way I can describe The Lego Movie is Toy Story meets The Matrix on a sugar high. Enter a world completely made out of Lego where our hero, a construction worker named Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt,) is optimistically taking part in the corporate system he seems to fit right in with, when suddenly he is thrust into an undercover resistance against the ruler of this Lego land, President Business (Will Ferrel.) President Business (moonlighting as the evil "Lord Business") has separated each themed Lego world into their own sets (wild west, space, etc) and is obsessed with order. Meanwhile, Emmet is recruited by the Master Builders, an underground rebel group fronted by the kick-ass Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks) and the wise wizard Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman.) The Master Builders believe in creativity over all, and have the ability to construct wild, new and outstanding things out of the Lego pieces that their world is made out of. As it turns out, Emmet got himself stuck with a mysterious relic, dubbing him "the special" who is meant to fulfil some sort of prophecy (there's always a prophecy) that will stop President Business for good. The problem: Emmet doesn't have a creative thought in his head, and is in no way the messiah-type figure the Master Builders are looking for.

Our hero, Emmet: The Untalented Optimist
If this is all sounding classic "hero's journey" fare, that's because it is. You have the unknowing hero, the evil bad dude, the tough chick, the wise mentor, the Batman (oh yeah, Batman is in this movie. We'll get to that in a bit.) They're all archetypes we've seen a million times, just now they're represented by goofy looking Lego figures... and that's why it's brilliant! Everything is over the top to the point of parody, but without being patronizing. Everyone takes all of this action and plot seriously, despite using terms laughably attempting to be "epic" such as "the special" or "the piece of resistance." And if that was the only note on which this film worked, we'd have a good movie on our hands...but the rabbit hole goes even deeper then that...

Without giving too much away (and yes there are things to give away in The Lego Movie, so please try to avoid spoilers,) this movie isn't just about characters living in a Lego world, it's about Lego itself. About Lego, the child's play thing, in today's mainstream culture, and about how different people approach the toy. You have those who follow the instruction manuals and builds the structures that are in each Lego set, then you have those who just take whatever Lego pieces you have available and build whatever comes to mind. It's here in where The Lego Movie goes from good to great, and while some will definitely see where this is all going ahead of time, I'm convinced the younger movie goers will mark this as one of the best executions of a film's message of this generation. But again, I don't want to say too much about this, so let's just go ahead and talk about Batman.

"I'm the Lego piece that Lego Land deserves..."
Yes, the goddamn Batman is in this movie. For you see, since the movie can use any property that Lego has made toy tie-ins for, this leads to the movie having a ton of Lego-versioned cameos from various areas of pop culture. Some you see coming, and some I was genuinely surprised about, but definitely the big one Warner Brothers is focussing in on their advertising is Lego Batman. And for good reason. Not just a cameo, Lego Batman (played by Will Arnet, pitch perfect casting by the way) becomes a main supporting character about a third of the way into this movie. And then he proceeds to totally steal the show. He's a perfect parody of the brooding, gritty Dark Knight era Batman. It's an era of Batman that pulls on our nostalgic heartstrings from our childhood, but is now portrayed as a dark and serious drama. In a way, Lego Batman shows us that this whole damn movie is like that: a epic movie-tie in to what was originally intended as a simple children's product. It's kinda getting meta, I know. I'm surprised Lego Batman got me to this point almost as I'm sure you are. Nevertheless, the lampooning of Batman here perfectly encapsulates why this film works, and on more than just the level of "oh hey look, it's Batman! Cool!"

Limited movement. Unlimited fun.
What adds even more to the fun is the visuals and animation itself. The film is a computer animated feature, but it takes major cues from the stop-motion amateur animated Lego movies I'm sure many budding animators have attempted at some point (yet another notch for the nostalgic charm-o-meter.) Things like a lowered frame rate in some areas, to attention to texturing details in scratches and smudges on the Lego figures are the little attentions to details that make the film's visuals stand out. But since this film is computer animated, they're not totally limited to stop motion techniques, making things like face acting (blinks, lip-sync, etc) nice and smooth.

But there are other challenges with animating this movie. Because of the rules they've set up with this world, these characters still move and act as Lego figures. That means stiff movements, light weighed characters, and no character can even bend their knee! It does make some aspects of the animation limited, but I often say that limitations force people to be creative, and luckily the animation team on this feature rose to the challenge to give us something truly different. The lack of joints in a character's model is never an issue with the way the characters dart and move, and also in how the world around them is build and is optimized for the Lego characters to act around. And thanks to some rather obvious animation cheats, the Lego characters can perform hard to imagine tasks (like a Lego man changing a shirt) all while winking and nodding at the audience. It's all self-aware visual humour, which is always a bit of a gamble, but it works remarkably well here.

Pew, pew!
And I didn't even mention the effects animation yet! Holy jeez, give the effects animators on this feature a prize or a delicious dessert of some kind, because these guys really had to work in a different way for this one. Remember me saying some rules of this Lego universe provides some challenges for the animation teams? One of those rules is everything in this Lego world is made of Legos... EVERYTHING! That includes all effects: water, fire, explosions, smoke, soap, lasers, EVERYTHING! That's really working outside of the box for effects animation, and the team blew it out of the water! You haven't seen anything until you've seen a Lego ship race across an ocean of blue Lego pieces acting like real water with waves and splashes and everything. Good job guys.

This was that sugar high I was talkin' about...
I'm not surprised this movie worked. The talent behind every aspect has proven themselves, and a movie about a world of Legos always sounded fun to me. What I'm amazed at is how well this movie works, and on how many levels. I didn't even mention characters I loved like Benny the 1980-something space guy (Charlie Day) or the Unikitty (part unicorn, part kitty, all awesome, voiced by Allison Brie.) Hell, there's a whole subplot with Liam Neeson's Good Cop/Bad Cop character, that is surprisingly touching, that I didn't even get a chance to mention! This is a film that revels in creativity, both in its message and it's execution. It's a glorious send-up of a nostalgic brand from our youth being turned into a big budget Hollywood film, while somehow still being it's own special and unique animal. If you still haven't seen this one, I highly recommend you do. It's still early in the year, but I wouldn't be surprised if come December this is in my top 10 movies of 2014. Yeah. It's that good.

"Everything is awesome" indeed. (I did mention that song is super catchy, right? Cause...y' is.)


- Moo

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Top 10 Animated Horses

Special mention to the horse from "What's Opera Doc" for being fantastic

Chinese New Years just ended, and 2014 marks the year of the horse! Because of this event, and because the internet likes lists (my Top 10 Animated Dragons article is still one of my most popular blog entries) I present to you my top 10 animated horses! Because why not!

Yup plain and simple, the horse character has been around pretty much as long as animators needed to do a 4-legged walk cycle, but these horses, in my opinion, go above and beyond their colt brethren to become the best of the best! I'm only looking at horses represented in animation (comics and video games are a neigh,) and only 1 entry per franchise. Points for horses with memorable personalities, cool design, or just something funny or interesting about them. So without further ado, let's get started!

10) Bullseye (Toy Story)

It's kind of a played out cliché in western animation: if you want to make an audience connect with a non-human character, make it act like a dog. People love dogs. Whether it be objects, like a lamp in Luxo Jr., or more recently a moose in Frozen, dog mannerisms are always a sure fire way to instantly love a character, even if you don't pick up right away that this thing, that is clearly not a dog, is acting like a dog.

Horses, being a reoccurring companion to hero characters, are no stranger to being "dogified," but Bullseye from the Toy Story franchise is definitely the least subtle about it. From jumping up and licking people on the face, to his fierce loyalty, I in fact find Bullseye's dog-like behaviour to be even a little too on the nose. However, what saves Bullseye from being cut on this list is the way he's animated. Being a toy horse, Bullseye moves with the same lanky, rag-doll movements that his owner Woody does. It's this extreme acting and overshooting action that makes Bullseye fun to watch for me. His animation kinda reminds me of the Camel with the Wrinkled Knees from Raggedy-Ann and Andy...but, you know, more energetic...and not as depressing...and also not a camel...

9) The Headless Horseman's Horse (The Legend of Sleepy Hollow)

Most of the time animated horse characters are companions to the archetypal hero. Usually they're kind, bright, loyal, or as mentioned before, dog-like. Very rare do we get a truly terrifying beast of a horse....but that's what we got here!

The Headless Horseman from Disney's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (one of two shorts on Disney's film The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad) is a superbly animated force of terror. His pursuit of Ichabod in that short is a great blend of fun and scary, and of course it would be nothing if he wasn't racing along on his manic horse from Hell! (May not actually be from Hell, the ending's a bit vague.) With his blood red eyes, this horse means business...and in this case, business is killing you! Because after all, what's the Headless Horseman without a horse?? Just...."The Headless," and that's not nearly as scary. So points for evil Hell horse for being different, and being an essential part to an awesome villain.

8) Khan (Mulan)

Okay, not all of these are Disney horses, I swear!! But I felt I needed to put Khan in here somewhere. Not as memorable as other horses on this list, or even as memorable a character in this movie, but I really liked Khan because this horse was There was very little "dogifing" like other animated horses, yet he still had a very distinct personality. He was a warhorse. A horse who is serious and brave; the perfect companion for Mulan to ride into battle! And on top of that, the character design of this horse is truly awesome. He looks very muscular, with such a thick neck, but skinny legs. Plus the style of drawing on Khan goes with the movies Chinese painting motif, making this horse a unique looking entry to the list. Not as memorable, but I think cool enough to make it to number 8. 

7) James Baxter the Horse (Adventure Time)

Hurray!! It's time for some animation inside jokes!! So...

To those not in the know, the Adventure Time episode "James Baxter the Horse" might seem odd. The plot is there's a horse named James Baxter who balances himself on a beach ball while saying his name in a horse whiney-like way. Whenever anyone sees James Baxter the Horse, they get so happy that they forget all their troubles. Finn and Jake see this, and they try to emulate what James does, but they just can't seem to spread cheer the same way James Baxtor the Horse can, even outright failing.

Folks watching this episode might have some questions like, "who the hell thought up this plot?!" or "why is that horse really, really well animated?!" Well, the answer to that last question is because legendary animator James Baxter (animator on films such as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame) guest animated the titular horse (as well as provided the neighing of his name.) The quality of animation on the Horse is so much more detailed compared to the simplistic and stylish characters that normally populate Adventure Time, it really does cheer people up, both in and out of the show. But even more to that, if you read between the lines of this episode, it could be a metaphor for a wishful animator (maybe even Adventure Time creator, Pendleton Ward) wanting to be as good as these classic Disney animators. However, failing to reach that quality of work, they just have to appreciate the work they do and embrace their own style and techniques. But hey! That's just how I read the episode. Maybe I'm not supposed to read too much into a show where a horse balances on a beach ball...but hey! At least that's a good segue to...

6) Spirit (Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron)

Maaaaatt Daaamooon horse
Yes, James Baxter (the animator, not the horse) was the supervising animator on the titular character from Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron (there's your reason he was a horse in Adventure Time! Ya happy now??)

Now, I know a lot of people haven't seen this movie...and let me say, if you want some beautiful animation, check this shit out! Oh man! Most of it is stunning sweeping shots, amazing scenes of running horses, and just jaw dropping animation. And it's one of the few 2D animated features done at DreamWorks Animation, so that alone makes it a unique feature. Like Khan from MulanSpirit's horses are more realistic in their horse animation. In fact the main character, Spirit, doesn't talk or make pop culture references, or anything! Well...there is internal horse monologues provided by Matt Damon, but still!

Now, to be fair, the character of Spirit is a bit bland, but in my book you can still get to number 6 on this list if you just look really awesome. And yeah...the animation, again, is just really awesome. If you missed this film and are craving the traditional hand-drawn animation of yesteryear, track this one down. 

5) Derpy Hooves (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic)

Ermahgerd! Mah lerttle perner!
Ok, you knew there had to be at least one mention to My Little Pony on this list, right? And I know technically this entry is a pegasus, not a "horse" per say but you know what? Fuck it. It's my list. If I want a wing-a-ling pony on my list, gosh darn it I'm gonna have my wing-a-ling pony! And truly, out of all the My Little Pony characters I could have put on this list, no character is as "special" as the fan named character Derpy Hooves. 

As the tale goes, this grey background pony appeared in the first episode of the series with inexplicable crossed eyes. Was it a slip up? A layout artist having some fun with the background characters? Who knows! But pony fans loved this goofy background character, dubbing her with the moniker "Derpy Hooves." But wait! It gets better! The show's creator, Lauren Faust, loved the fan reaction so much that the character was brought back, messed up face and all, to be hidden in future episodes! Starting with their second season the cross eyed wonder played the role of "Where's Waldo." Eventually, even the character name "Derpy" became cannon within the series! Finally Derpy made her way into an episode in a talking role, even being called by name. But of course, controversy over if this character was poking fun at the mentally handicapped was brought up (which, you know, is totally a legit complaint,) and since then all official mention of this character's name was removed. However, love for the pony formally known as Derpy still persists. Even after they removed her name from episodes, Hasbro released a special edition 2012 Comic-Con figure of Derpy just for the fans! The figures don't have the name of the character anywhere on the package...but we all know who she really is...we all know... (PS, it's Derpy.)

4) Horace Horsecollar (Mickey Mouse)

Ohhh...Mr Horsecollar... What happened to this character?! At one point he was pretty much Mickey Mouse's best friend and sidekick! Mickey frickin' Mouse! And hell! This rubber hosed horse even has the honours of being co-created by the same duo that made that massively marketable mouse: Ub Iwerks and Walt Disney! And Disney himself originally voiced Horace, much like when Mickey first got to speak! So I ask again...what happened to him?!

I guess the easy answer is he just got pushed aside. Other Disney side characters Goofy and Donald were, in many ways bigger and more interesting personalities than good ol' Horace. Horace wasn't as dumb as Goofy, or as temperamental as Donald. So even though he was still featured in groundbreaking Mickey Mouse shorts like "The Band Concert," this "cheerful know-it-all" character just remained on the sidelines of Disney history. He remained more prominent as a side character in the Disney comics for a while, acting as a detective partner with Mickey, but even that faded away eventually. I've always had a soft spot for this relatively obscure character though. And hey! We're even beginning to see a reemergence of Horace! Whether it be self-referential about his obscurity in the Epic Mickey video game series, his role as the technician on the TV series House of Mouse, or as a main character in the 2014 short that appeared before Frozen in theatres, Get a Horse, we're seeing a lot more of Horace! Could this be the triumphant return to form for one of animations long-lost sidekicks?? not. But still! It's cool that he's still around. Keep on truckin' Horsecollar. Keep on truckin'.

3) Twinkles the Wonder Horse (Dave the Barbarian)

Ok, if you haven't seen Dave the Barbarian, you should probably get on that. One of the, in my opinion, many underrated Disney saturday morning cartoon shows from the early 2000s, Dave the Barbarian was created by Doug Langdale (creator of The Weekenders) and Savage Steve Holland (creator of Eek! The Cat) and the result is...strangely a perfect blend of those two shows, but with a fantasy setting. It's weird, I know, and by all accounts I would say that wouldn't be a good mix of styles but...surprise! The show is actually really hilarious. It parodies tropes and clichés commonly found in fantasy, has a biting and oftentimes brilliantly sarcastic script, and features some wonderfully strange side characters. For example, the minor character Twinkles the Wonder Horse. A girly looking horse with a beautiful pink and yellow mane who talks like Christopher Walken and has a extreme case of depression.

...yeah...the jokes just write themselves. Twinkles the Wonder Horse: nuff said. 

2) Maximus (Tangled)

This character made this movie for me. Not to say Tangled isn't a good movie. It's fine. It has a nice fairytale plot, an interesting villain, decent songs, yadda, yadda, yadda. But this horse! My God this horse! This took me by surprise!

There's been so many horse characters from Disney, but Maximus stands out to have the most unique and fun personality of the bunch. Charged with the task of hunting down the thief Flynn Rider, Maximus quickly proves that he's more capable than the captain of the guards who's riding him. And this is where we see the sheer determination of Maximus. He's on a one-horse mission! His persistency won't let up! He's an unstoppable force! Like The Terminator....but a horse!! And that premise alone leads to some of the funniest jokes and scenes in the movie. Much like other horse characters, many dog-like characteristics are given to Maximus, but what makes Maximus even more hilarious is when they give him human-like acting to do. Actions such as shaking hands, or sword fighting (a horse in a frickin' sword fight!) just become that much more hilarious when it's animated with a regal, fairly realistically designed horse.

And hey, that leads perfectly too...

1) Mr Horse (The Ren & Stimpy Show)

Truthbomb time: I'm not a huge fan of Ren & Stimpy. Even as a kid, I just found it too juvenile. I know I'm in the minority here, but I don't know. Gross out humour never really appealed to me. And that, for the most part, was a lot of what Ren & Stimpy had to offer. But I watched it anyway. I have no idea why. It was...mesmerizing? Confusing? A bit of both?

And once in a while, a moment will catch me off guard. Sometimes a pose, or a drawing would be so wacky, so off model, so detailed in weird ways, that it would be beautiful in a strange way. And of course, sometimes there were jokes that still, despite my feelings for the show, just made me laugh. And thus we have Mr Horse, voiced by John K himself.

Mr Horse is one of those jokes that, again, baffle me. I don't even know why I love this guy, but maybe it is because, compared to the rest of the animals on Ren & Stimpy, Mr Horse looked more like a realistic horse, and stands out from the crowd simply by looking normal (relative to the rest of the cast, that is to say.) And on top of that his mannerisms as so very human. The way he talks, the way he dresses. We've seen horses acting like dogs to cute effects. We've seen horses kinda acting like humans for hilarious effect. Well here's a horse who straight up acts human in every way, and it's hilarious. The juxtaposition is so ridiculous, but he acts so serious. It's a simple joke, but for some reason, he stays in my thoughts and is the #1 horse I think of when I try to think of animated horses. 

And hey! If you don't agree with me and my list, at least Mr Horse has the perfect response for you.

Happy Year of the Horse, folks!

- Moo

Sunday, 12 January 2014

Frozen (A Review)

Gosh darn, Disney!! You do not know how to market your own shit!!

This movie isn't about the snowman...if you can believe it...
I was all set to hate on this movie. I had a whole "Disney doesn't know what they're doing no more" rant prepared and everything! The previews looked dumb, the characters looked bland, the tone felt like it was trying way to hard to be "hip" (that's what the kids are saying nowadays, right? "Hip?") I just had a bad feeling about Frozen. Hell, even with the one word adjective title, it felt like I've seen all this before. I even referred to Frozen as "Tangled on ice" for the longest time leading up to this film. Well, as it turns out Disney still knows what they're doing... but Disney's marketing department doesn't know how to market this movie at all. Which is weird, cause you'd think this would be an easy sell. It's a classic Disney formula, involving huge influences from the "Broadway sensibility" that the 90s "Disney renaissance" era brought to animation, but with some awesome twists and turns that make Frozen stand out on it's own and actually ends up being a truly unique fairy tale flick. In other words: DON'T TRUST THE PREVIEWS GUYS! THIS FILM IS ACTUALLY PRETTY GOOD GUYS! REALLY!

Elsa also gets a sweet ice dress that shows off her legs... damn grrrl!
The film is loosely adapted in typical Disney fashion (in other words, incredibly loosely) from the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale The Snow Queen. In Frozen, the plot follows the characters of Anna and Elsa, two sisters who are princesses of the kingdom of Arendelle. The older sister, Elsa, is born with mysterious powers to create ice and snow. One day while playing with Anna as a child, Elsa accidentally strikes Anna in the head with her magic. The King and Queen are able to save Anna's life, but as a result they had to remove any memories of her sister's power, and keep the two sisters separate until Elsa can controls her powers. Unfortunately (and since this is a Disney movie) the parents die in a storm, leading to Elsa to become the queen. At Elsa's coronation she looses control of her ice abilities, takes off into the isolation of the mountains, and covers the kingdom in an eternal winter. This leaves Anna to go on a Wizard of Oz-like quest, meeting up with fun side characters along the way, to eventually try to meet and talk to her sister and hopefully find a way to bring back summer.

What could possibly go wrong! ...oh powers...
And that's only the first act! The script does a great job introducing all of this backstory in a entertaining way. But more importantly, it in no way feels forced. What's even more impressive is that once Anna starts playing the "Dorothy" role in their quest, things still don't go as predictably as you might think from a Disney flick. It's not a typical fantasy quest, as there's no dragon to slay, no evil kingdom, no big baddy at the end. There's just two sisters trying to patch things up between them.

And there in is the biggest change to the Disney formula: this is a story about two sisters. That's kind of a big deal. (And not just cause Disney can add not one, but two more entries into their highly profitable "Disney Princess" lineup.) It's amazing because the focal point for this whole story isn't about finding romance. In a Disney princess movie! It's not about romance! That is just crazy!! I mean, there is love interests in there, and they play a part in the plot, but it really takes a back seat to the true focus of this story. This film is about family. The familial love is what pushes the story forward, and the complex sister relationship is something that is not only not seen in a Disney animated feature, it's a relationship that isn't really prevalent in Hollywood movies in general. So kudos on that call Disney. Ya did good.

Professor X recruits Elsa in the Frozen 2...hopefully...
That leads me to talk about my favorite part of the film: Elsa. Oh man, do I love this character. It's wonderful to get a Disney character who is not good, not evil, just a confused shade of grey. She's far and wide the most interesting personality in this film as she's in a position where she wants to be a good sister and ruler of the kingdom, but bad things happen because of her and her uncontrollable powers. She lives in a world that hates and fears her (just like the X-Men!) and she doesn't even know how to stop what she's doing (just like the X-Men!) It's a coming of age super-power metaphor for puberty (just like....ah, you get it...) In fact, as Elsa finally lets loose her powers during her big power song "Let It Go," you can really feel her happiness and freedom in what is probably the best musical number in the film both thanks to the jaw dropping effects animation of Elsa building her ice castle, and the singing power of Broadway star Idina Menzel (who you may know as Elphaba from, just clueing in that there's a lot of Wizard of Oz similarities going on in this film...neat.)

Oh yeah. And by the way, this is a musical. Surprise! Didn't know it was a musical because the previews didn't even mention this fact? Well...yeah! This is a musical. In fact, music is a huge part of this film. Kind of a big thing to sweep under the rug, Disney marketing! And maybe if you embraced it, more people would be inclined to see this frickin' film! Because, surprise-surprise, the songs are pretty awesome. But whatever, Disney marketing, I'm sure you know what you're doing. ...aaaanyway...

Did someone ask for an EPIC SONG CUE?!

The music is terrific. Much like 90s Disney films employed Broadway familiar employees of the time, here we're treated with some fun musical numbers with a very modern sensibility. Along with getting Wicked flashbacks from Idina Menzel's performance, the songs are penned from Robert Lopez, known for his comedic writing from Avenue Q and The Book of Mormon. And while of course writing for a Disney movie means no raunchy or inappropriate comedy like in those musicals, there's just a huge sense of fun, excitement and at times epic scale to the musical numbers. They're big, loud, exuberant and the centrepieces for all the major plot points. And in my opinion, that's exactly what I want from my Disney flick.

They got different hair! ....that's...somethin'...right?
Now, you might think I've pulled a complete 180 degrees on my opinion of this movie compared to my opinion of its previews, and truth be told, that's not entirely the case. I was in awe with the amazing background designs (especially Elsa's ice castle,) but the character designs...meeeh. There's really no denying the character designs play it a little on the safe side, in that the style is very similar to Tangled. Which wouldn't be a bad thing, but I felt at least in Tangled we got more of a variation between characters, with more unique personalities just from the designs. Elsa and Anna's faces have only tiny variations between that of Rapunzel's (and each other's for that matter.) And while I enjoyed the moose character, Sven, acting like a dog, there's no denying that he was trying to fill that animal sidekick role that the horse in Tangled already did so well (as well as having a much more unique personality.) All in all, most human characters I think could have been designed more interestingly, or with a dash more creativity. True it's a safe design choice, and it's not that bad, but I just kinda wish they'd push the envelope design-wise a bit more.

Graduate of the Lindsay Bluth school of dance 
On the animation side, it's looking good, but I think could've been better. There's a couple of standout character animation performances, one of which being the charmingly clumsy Anna, whose movements are absolutely beaming with personality. Other characters I kinda wished for more animation to convey more of a personality, such as the lead males, Kristoff and Hans (not bad animation mind you, just a little bland.) Then way on the other hand, there's this random Duke character, who is waaaay over the top and cartoony. It seemed like this character was forced in order to get some comic relief in there with his quick pace and awkwardly spastic movements. I know he was trying to be funny, but this character's cartoony animation didn't really fit in with the other, more realistically, animated human characters. But with that said....the effects! Oh man! The effect animation on this flick is just frickin' amazing. The snow looks amazing, and you can really tell they did tests and research on the stuff to make sure this icy wonderland looked brilliant.

Damn it've warmed my icy heart...
Now I know what you're thinking: "you're almost finished your review, and you didn't even mention the snowman!" Yes, the snowman. Olaf. That oddly designed, obvious comedic relief that Disney has been forcing down people's throats as the main icon in their ad campaign for this movie. I thought I'd talk about Olaf last because, in many ways, he kind of embodies perfectly how I felt about this film. Going in it felt like he was forced. Really forced. Like Disney said, "you're going to watch this snowman...and you're going to love him...LOVE HIM DAMN IT!!" And I was all set to "stick it to The Man." I was totally going to reject this false snow icon! Here I thought I was gonna hate the snowman, but upon seeing him...damn it. I kinda love him. True, sometimes his antics were a little irritating, but mostly I found him charming, funny, and even a little heartwarming. And that, in and of itself, is how I see Frozen as a whole: charming, funny and even a little heartwarming. I admit that, like the townspeople who judged Elsa harshly because of her powers, so too did I judge this movie before I saw it. So please, ignore how Disney markets this movie. Ignore the fact that they're awkwardly trying to hide Disney's musical roots, or how they're not showing that this is a unique story about two estranged sisters. Just go see it for yourself and be the judge. For me, it was a great example of classic Disney storytelling tackling a new type of fairy tale for a new audience in a new age.

I guess that'll teach me to judge a snowman before I get to know him.


- Moo