Summer Shorts: Choices

05-Jun-09 12:00 PM by
Filed under Films; 3 comments.

All the shorts posted thus far, even those inspired by existing properties, have been standalone films, requiring no background knowledge to appreciate. Choices deviates from that path, being based on one of my favorite Saturday morning cartoons, Dungeons & Dragons, the complete series DVD box set of which included this short:

As you might imagine, I did not choose this film for its pedigree of actors. It's instead an example of a cartoon come to life, which is always a risky proposition (especially when the source material, a pencil-and-paper RPG, is yet another medium removed). In its limited television run, the D&D cartoon never saw a satisfying conclusion, opening the door for films such as Choices that posit the protagonists — kids from our own world trapped in a fantasy realm — never made it back home. What situations would they face, and what decisions would they make, in the face of such despair?

Unfortunately, this is a flawed premise for such a vignette, as the same topic was already addressed by the original cartoon. Episode 20 of 27, "The Dragon's Graveyard", had the heroes' salvation sabotaged once again by the evil Venger. After too many such defeats, the kids go on the offense and take the battle to the wicked warlord. The episode culminates in them capturing Venger, and as Hank pulls back his magical bow, the audience asks, will he really do it? Of course not — this is a Saturday morning cartoon! Hank instead shoots Venger's bindings and sets him free, but with a warning.

Hank's decision was as much about a moral lesson for the show's youthful audience as it was about complying with television standards. Whereas Japanese anime has generally been more realistic in showing the consequences of violence, animation intended for an American audience has historically been limited to a safer setting. The ABC cartoon ReBoot often made the most of the situation by parodying its censors, BSnP. In one scene, the hero was to make a hasty entrance by crashing through a window, but instead deployed a protective bubble called a "BSnP" that safely transported him through the barrier with no damage to either.

As an online production, Choices is not restricted by these censors. But without that boundary to work within, it doesn't demonstrate the creativity of either Dungeons & Dragons or ReBoot. Though it's entertaining to see one director's vision of popular series come to life, this adaptation doesn't offer much beyond that.

3 Responses to “Summer Shorts: Choices”

  1. TwelveMile adds:

    The actor playing Hank isn't bad at all, and with a good director, would be even better. The actress, sadly, is hopeless.

    This was a scene, not a story, so it seems more like a showreel piece, rather than a finished work.

  2. Ken Gagne adds:

    Thanks for the perspective, TwelveMile. The group that put together this scene were also working on an adaptation of a full episode of the cartoon. Ironically, the success of the above short discouraged, rather than encouraged, the completion of that endeavor:

    The main one is simply the fact that we’ve already created a five-minute, original story fanfilm, and, by getting it included on the DVD box set, achieved far more than we thought we would with it. To us, it has been a smashing success, one that would be hard to top, even with a full half hour episode.

  3. TwelveMile adds:

    That is very interesting! To be included in the DVD boxed set most definitely was as achievement for them. They deservedly can be proud of that.