Summer Shorts: There She Is!!

16-Jul-10 11:00 AM by
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Today's summer short is another classic, this one from 2004. It's about finding love not only where it's least expected, but also when it's least desired. Please enjoy There She Is!!

This video by SamBakZa (English translation) is the first in a five-part series. I personally prefer the plot and soundtrack of the second video, "Cake Dance":

This continuation of the first episode shows how quickly a relationship can develop. When a romance is new, its participants feel like they're engaged in something that's never been experienced by anyone alive. They unabashedly dedicate themselves to celebrating this new experience, and "Cake Dance" demonstrates that level of devotion that trumps all societal pressures and norms, and that taboos often become less stigmatic as love becomes more prevalent — all while being a good music video, too.

In that this animated world is populated by bunnies and kitties, it reminds me of Bill Holbrook's Kevin & Kell, supposedly the first ever Web comic about a wolf and a rabbit who meet through an online dating service. I followed the dead tree edition of the strip for some years, and though it effectively focused its humor at Internet geeks, the characters' backstories and plots eventually grew too convoluted for me.

What short videos have you found that celebrate love?

Family Guy: Something Something Something Darkside

22-Dec-09 9:18 AM by
Filed under Star Wars, Television; Comments Off on Family Guy: Something Something Something Darkside

Here's yet another TV preview, this time for Family Guy, which two years ago performed its own rendition of Star Wars: A New Hope with its animated spoof episode, "Blue Harvest". Faster than LucasArts can pump out sequels, you can already catch the Family Guy's Empire Strikes Back, "Something Something Something Darkside", released today on DVD. Here's the trailer:

The timing of this DVD release means it's already available as a stocking stuffer (and in Blu-Ray, too!).

A sequel parodying Return of the Jedi titled "We Have A Bad Feeling About This" is planned.

Drives Us Bats

13-Oct-09 2:22 PM by
Filed under Television; 3 comments.

What show isn't improved upon by a good musical number? Otherwise tonal adventures such as Xena and Buffy have featured impromptu chorus numbers and dance routines not only to break from the traditional script but also as a way to gently lampoon themselves.

Batman has often proven ample fodder for other sorts of parodies, perhaps because the Dark Knight takes himself so seriously. In the October 23rd episode of his latest televised incarnation, The Brave and the Bold on Cartoon Network, the villanious Music Meister, played by Neil Patrick Harris, uses his own symphonic satire to bring down Gotham's defender. Courtesy Entertainment Weekly, here's a sneak peek at one such scene:




Hat tip to Dr. Horrible himself!

Star Trek: The Motion Comic

05-Sep-09 1:00 PM by
Filed under Star Trek; 1 comment.

Three years ago, I reported that a new Star Trek animated series was in the works. No news on the project has since crossed my radar, leading me to assume that JJ Abrams' reboot of the series led to a reprioritization of studio projects. Novelist Dayton Ward recently confirmed the cartoon's status and provided links not only to more details, but also to a sample script and an author's commentary podcast.

Though I wasn't eager to have the series leapfrog 150 years, I'm not sure I like the path the known Star Trek universe is taking, either. What I was looking forward to was a new animated series. I think the successes of Pixar and DreamWorks have done much to diminish the perception of animation as an immature medium, and I'd like to see how the changes in technology and culture in the thirty years since Trek's last animated outing would affect the series.

Once again, Dayton Ward to the rescue. A few years ago, I hired artist Tom Vilot to turn a photograph into a painting; I was very pleased with the results. Another artist has now taken the similar approach of starting with a live-action still and drawing over it to produce this fan creation — Star Trek: The Motion Comic:

Converting a popular franchise from live action to still life was also the unique approach that gave us Bored of the Rings, and crossovers such as implied by the above video's end are also nothing new: Predator, Batman, Robocop, and others have all crossed paths at one time or another. But sometimes, it's the original application of an existing idea that leads to success. Star Trek: The Motion Comic is a dramatic (if occasionally stilted) work that reminds me a bit of digital comic books that were available for PCs, back when the shiny CD-ROM was still new andswa attracting publishers with its multimedia potential. I'm almost hesitant to see the promised continuation to this crossover coalesce, as horror doesn't seem like a good fit for this crew or genre. Still, I hope the inspired artist does create more episodes — though given the four months he says it took him to create this eight-minute clip, I wouldn't blame him if he doesn't.

In what other crossovers or media would you like to see Star Trek appear?

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.

The Star Trek Family Guy

28-Mar-09 9:09 AM by
Filed under Star Trek, Television; 1 comment.

With the new Star Trek movie due in just six weeks, there is hope that JJ Abrams' take on Gene Roddenberry's vision for the future will revitalize the entire franchise. The last time Star Trek needed a rebirth, it received it courtesy The Next Generation — and that show's cast is eager for a swan song and the chance to reprise their roles in another TNG film.

That day may never come, as that show's actors have mostly aged and moved on, the set dismantled, the public ready for something new. But diehard fans can be very un-Vulcan-like in their passion for these memorable characters. For them, the animated series Family Guy offers a special reunion in this Sunday's episode that reunites the bridge crew of the Enterprise-D:

Trek lore is rife with tales of on-screen characters played by actors who loathed each other, and it's refreshing to know the cast of TNG is not immunue to such petty rivalries, even twenty years after the show's debut. Their seven-year mission must've been laced with false politeness that just barely masked their contempt for each other:

(Hat tip to Levar Burton)

Saturday Morning Watchmen

07-Mar-09 8:56 AM by
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It's Saturday morning, the day after the debut of Watchmen. For those of you who caught the film on its opening night, why not continue the adventure on your home television today with the exciting Watchmen Saturday morning cartoon?

If you're not familiar with the personalities and darkness of the source material, the above clip may seem like your typical kid-friendly cartoon, capturing perfectly the silliness of shows like Superfriends or Captain Planet. But it is in fact a hilarious perversion of everything Watchmen embodies, with undertones that would be completely lost on its apparent target audience. Alan Moore found his original graphic novel so unfilmable, he's taken his name off Zack Snyder's adaptation; imagine how he'd feel about this?

Utterly Enchanted

24-Aug-08 11:59 AM by
Filed under Reviews; 1 comment.

On a recent first date, I offered a typical probing question: what's your favorite movie? Acceptable answers include TRON, Star Wars (episodes IV – VI only, of course!), Wit, and the like. So I didn't know what to make of someone who responded with Enchanted. A Disney movie? I don't know why I was so taken aback; I count Aladdin and The Incredibles among my DVD collection. I proved more curious in the film than in its admirer, and after renting said movie, I'm happy to report something positive came of the evening.

Enchanted soundtrack coverEnchanted is a 2007 film that draws on the House of Mouse's extensive library to create an original yet familiar tale. It opens with an animated musical sequence that introduces us to a wicked stepmother, her royal son, and an innocent beauty whose friends are the woodland creatures. Desperate to keep the blissful couple apart, the stepmother casts the girl into a foreign land "where there are no happy endings" — New York City. The film then transitions into a live-action story with occasional glimpses back into the cartoon world.

From here, the story is somewhat predictable: Giselle (Amy Adams) wanders around the Big Apple until native New Yorker and divorce lawyer Robert Philip (Patrick Dempsey) takes her under his wing until her Prince Edward (James Marsden) can come to the rescue. In the meantime, both Giselle and Robert have the values of their worlds to teach each other, producing some comical pairings. Yet the predictability does nothing to deter the joy of the experience.

The star of the film is without a doubt Amy Adams, whose wide-eyed naivet&#233 is captured in her every nuanced movement. Her poise, carriage, and inflections make it believable that she really is a Disney princess stuck in a real person's body. When other characters from the magical land of Andalasia arrive in New York, their performances are amusing, but nowhere near as detailed as Ms. Adams'.

James Marsden is almost unrecognizable as the over-the-top, single-minded, valiant prince. I'm familiar with the actor's work only as brooding characters, such as Lois Lane's husband in Superman Returns and the mutant Cyclops in the X-Men trilogy. To see him acting so goofily was a welcome contrast. Susan Sarandon gets little screen time but is a wickedly wicked witch.

It's not just the transplants who are bewildered by their surroundings, as their behavior befuddles their New York friends in many amusing scenes. Giselle's animated proclivity to randomly burst into song embarrasses Robert, who doesn't want people to stare — and when the song explodes into a full dance number, he's astonished to see Central Park overtaken with choreography as he finds himself in one impossible scene after another.

Disney's heritage is evident in more than just the 13 minutes of cel-animated, non-CGI animation, or in the catchy, upbeat soundtrack and colorful musical numbers. We have clich&#233 and tropes from every past film, including talking animals, poisoned apples, and bumbling henchmen, but updated and even lampooned enough to make them enjoyable. Not all the allusions are so obvious; multiple shots and scenes are set up exactly like their cartoon ancestors, as shown in this side-by-side image gallery. Even just a simple but effective twist freshens what otherwise would've been a hackneyed climax.

Enchanted is both classic and modern Disney. It's a traditional tale that young audiences will enjoy, but pays homage to the predecessors that adults grew up with. Like any excellent family film, Enchanted has something for everyone.