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.

Dungeons, Dragons, and Janes

21-Aug-07 9:44 AM by
Filed under Films, Potpourri; Comments Off on Dungeons, Dragons, and Janes

Hiphopguy23 saw Becoming Jane in the movie theater last week. There were many scenes where the life of Jane Austen could've used more imagination.

Is it wrong to imagine there is a rogue climbing the wall of the ivy-covered castle?

Or to picture a hired assassin blending into the background during the royal ball?

Or to make believe when a couple goes for a romantic walk in the woods that a group of elves is hiding in the brush, waiting to ambush them?

Or before the couple lean in for their first kiss, to imagine a renegade barbarian unsheathing his bastard sword out of jealousy?

Hiphopguy23 is just wondering if these thoughts are normal.

Mazes & Monsters – A Requiem

05-Jan-07 12:10 PM by
Filed under Television; 1 comment.

Late last night, I added the complete Dungeons & Dragons animated series to my shelf of TV shows I've watched. The DVD extras were nice, but I was a bit surprised by how much I enjoyed the episodes themselves. Though the first season rambled a bit, there was a definite progression of character development and storyline, and even the occasional moral. The episodes I remembered were nostalgically appreciated, and the handful I'd never seen before (mostly the third season) were undiscovered treasures.

But that wasn't the best part. (more…)

More Than Meets the Eye

30-Dec-06 10:06 AM by
Filed under Films, Television; Comments Off on More Than Meets the Eye

New trailer for The Transformers is up.

One person on TheForce.net writes that all his doubts and skepticism about a live-action film based on our favorite childhood cartoon have been erased by this trailer. I don't see how that's possible; it looks like a bad Sci-Fi Channel action flick to me.

Fortunately, I'm getting my Transformers fix in another fashion: watching the Dungeons & Dragons complete animated series on DVD. The connection to robots in disguise: the villainous Venger is voiced by Peter Cullen, while Uni (like almost every cartoon animal ever) is played by Frank Welker. These two voice actors will be reprising their roles in next year's film as Optimus Prime and Megatron, respectively.