Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Early "Avengers" Reference in "Super Hero Squad"?

Yesterday I caught an episode of The Super Hero Squad Show from 2009 (a fabulously hilarious show by the way). Thor has a crush on the Asgardian heroine, Valkyrie, and towards the end of the episode he asks her if she wants to go get some shawarma.  Fans of The Avengers (and probably anyone who has been told about it) get the reference.  Unfortunately I can't find a video to post, but needless to say my mind was blown.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Thoughts on "Legend of Korra" Finale

This past weekend was the finale to season one of The Legend of Korra the sequel to the successful Avatar: The Last Airbender on Nickelodeon, and holy cow was it great!

Caution: Some mild spoilers may follow.

Like most fans of the original series, I was a bit skeptical of a sequel series, largely because the original was such a wonderfully self-contained story.  I always have respect for TV writers whose series have a definite beginning, middle, and end, and Avatar pulled it off fantastically with the tale of Aang.  I was worried that Korra was just going to be an attempt to capture lightning in a bottle twice.

Luckily, my worries were put to rest almost immediately.  The new series is a perfect example of what a proper sequel should be:  it builds upon what was laid down previously but is not afraid to write its own story within that world.  I think a lot of people wanted a direct continuation of the characters with whom they fell in love the first time around, but I'm glad they did not do that.  "The Last Airbender: Part 2" would have been fun at first, but I think it would have quickly gone stale without more newness to offer.  Instead, we got new characters, many with connections to the old series, some without.  My personal favorite was Tenzin.  As Aang and Katara's son, he is an important bridge between series, and I absolutely love how they constructed his uptight personality that at least partially yearned to balance work with play the way his father did.  Plus his three children had me in stitches every time they had screen time.

Also included in that group of new characters is Korra.  It took me a while to warm up to the new Avatar.  I found her difficult to like at first because of her brash personality and tendency to not think things through.  I was also bothered by her lack of progress in training to become a fully-realized Avatar, and early on it felt like there were to many distractions for her to properly focus on her training.  After  few episodes however, I finally saw that that was the point.  Korra is not Aang, nor is she supposed to be.  She is thrust into this new rapidly modernizing world at the same time we are, and her discoveries are the audience's as well.  In addition, she is perhaps the strongest female lead in a series (animated or otherwise) that I have seen in a long time.  While there is an obligatory love story sub-plot, it is not front and center for much of the season and is thankfully resolved when all is said and done.

The final moments of the finale gave me exactly what I wanted to see and it felt like a massive release after a dozen episodes of building conflict and tension.  I was a little disappointed by the revelations about Amon, the story's main antagonist, but the way his arc was resolved (hopefully), while initially appearing like a cliche, "I will have my revenge!" moment was shocking and inspired in its execution.  My hat is off to Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko on a brilliant finish to a fantastic season and keep it up in the forthcoming season 2.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Welcome to the Party

Welcome one and all to my new animation blog.  Here I will express my thoughts regarding animated shows, films, and other aspects of animation that pop up on my radar.  I'm no industry insider, and many of the technical aspects elude me, but I am a guy who cares passionately about cartoons and wants to share that love with the world.  Hopefully you will want to come along for the ride.

Let's start out with Disney's announcement of their new film Maleficent.  While not an animated film per se, it serves as a prequel of the classic Disney rendition of Sleeping Beauty.  The only plot details released so far are that the movie will provide the lead up to the original Disney film, only from the perspective of Maleficent as a misunderstood user of the dark arts who, presumably through a series of tragedies and misunderstandings becomes the villain for which she is so well known.

Basically it's Wicked but with Sleeping Beauty.  That alone is enough to turn me off.  It may be an immensely popular show, but I reject Wicked on principle because it takes one of the most famous and iconic movie villains of all time and makes her much less interesting by giving her all of the foibles and motivations that everyone has.  I don't want to see this happen to one of my favorite Disney villains.  Maleficent is so deliciously evil that I don't want to understand her or feel empathy.  The woman condemns a child to DEATH because she wasn't invited to a party.  She is the self-described mistress of all evil.  That doesn't happen because your true love was turned into one of those little pig people or whatever they have cooked up.  I just don't see a lot of wiggle room for a nature vs. nurture debate.

Sleeping Beauty was one of the last great Disney animated films (at least until the animation boom in the nineties).  It was the last Disney film to use hand painted cels before xerography worked its wicked tendrils into the production process.  Eyvind Earle's medieval-inspired art design made it look nothing like what had come before.  Best of all, despite an initially poor performance, the film has become one of the most revered animated films to date.  It did what great classic Disney movies did best: they pushed the artistic boundaries of animation and nearly bankrupted the studio in the process.  Maleficent feels like just the opposite to me; a desperate attempt to cash in on the recent upswing in fantasy movies and the popular trend of humanizing villains.  I'll try and reserve full judgment until the film comes out in 2014, but it has a real uphill battle ahead of it.  Oh, and it stars Angelina there's that.

More info and pics here at Entertainment Weekly: