Spidey Round Up

Remember my previous post on Ultimate Spider-man? I now take all that back. Why? One word: Spider-cyle…

That and this show is just unbelievably annoying! They can’t go 30 seconds without breaking the 4th wall and talking to you! The show is WAY to crowded with characters and villains you just don’t care about. To be fair I can’t find fault in the talent behind the show. They’ve got some great people working on it. But again, I can hear some stupid executive saying, “We gotta give Spidey a cool motorcycle and make Aunt May cooler! And have more cool gadgets he can use!” I’m gonna vomit. And the story is literally going nowhere fast. And yes, you can take both the nowhere and the fast part VERY literally.

I watched it today only because I was stuck at home sick. Afterwards, I had to cleanse my mind by watching Spectacular Spider-man again. And it made me even more upset that there’s no season 3… So I googled it like ya do…

Here’s what Greg Weisman said,

Greg responds…

Marvel DIDN’T cancel it.

It’s all very complicated, and we were certainly the recipients of bad corporate luck, but no single company cancelled the series. We just wound up with a situation where no single company could proceed with it.

I’ll try to break it all down:

1. Sony had originally produced SpecSpidey as part of their overall entertainment license of the Spidey property (which of course included the extremely lucrative live action films).

2. But in order to win some concession on those live action feature films, Sony returned the animation rights to the character back to Marvel.

3. So now only Marvel could produce a Spider-Man cartoon. Sony no longer could, which meant SpecSpidey couldn’t continue at Sony.

4. I have no idea whether Marvel was interested in continuing Spectacular Spider-Man or not. But let’s assume for the sake of argument that they would have liked to.

5. They couldn’t.

6. Why? Because Sony owned all the specific elements (designs, storyline, etc.) to the SpecSpidey VERSION of Spider-Man. So Marvel would have had to license all that BACK from Sony.

7. You can imagine how unlikely THAT scenario was. Marvel finally gets the rights back to do an animated version of their marquee character, and then they have to pay Sony to do it instead of just starting from scratch. That was never going to happen.

8. Of course, all this was complicated by the fact that Disney purchased Marvel, and Disney and Sony are direct competitors.

9. And I’m sure Marvel was excited to put their own stamp on an animated Spider-Man. Who could blame them?

10. So that was it. We were toast through no fault of our own. The folks at Marvel, Sony and even Disney all seemed to like our show, but the corporate mess made it impossible for us to continue.

11. And, yes, it is a bummer. (For me, at least.) But it’s no single person or single company’s fault. It’s just how things shook out.

12. And finally, though I have no involvement with the upcoming Ultimate Spider-Man, you can’t deny that a lot of great people have worked on it. There’s no reason to think it won’t be as good or better than SpecSpidey. To a certain generation, SpecSpidey will always be THEIR Spider-Man cartoon. But to a new batch o’ viewers, I’m sure their Spidey of choice will be the Ultimate.

There may still be hope though. Maybe if enough sign the petitions… Well, it can’t hurt. So sign!
http://www.petitiononline.com/petitions/ss3w3625/signatures?page=1
http://www.change.org/petitions/marvel-bring-back-the-spectacular-spider-man
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-back-the-spectacular-spiderman-for-a-third-season/261337810583530

In other news there is also a major motion picture reboot… ya mighta herd of it…

I’ll keep it brief. I liked it overall better than the previous movies. Mainly because of the intimate realistic take. There were some flaws. I would have taken more cues from the aforementioned animated series in terms of setting up future characters. Peter’s journey as a hero wasn’t quite as moving as Raimi’s take. But it was at least very emotional. I also thought it was too melodramatic at times. It just seemed a bit forced; especially the soundtrack. But at least Garfield pulled some funny quips that were missing from the Raimi films. I’m looking forward to see where the new series takes us. At least this helps makes up for the disaster that is Ultimate Spider-man.

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The Legend of Korra – Season One Recap

No new Korra today… so sad. Time to post my thoughts on its first season.

First of all, Korra probably has the best television animation I’ve ever seen! No joke. It’s movie quality. In fact, it’s better than a lot of movies. It has all attention to detail balanced with cool stylization that anime has, with all the complex movements that American animation has. It’s the best of both worlds.

Unfortunately, I believe the characterizations and character development suffered a lot in comparison to Avatar. While the first season of Avatar had a lot of character development, but little plot, I felt Korra had a lot of plot, but little character development. This is sad because it’s one the the things that made Avatar such a great show. It’s the sam pitfall the movie fell into. Fortunately, Korra was no where near that bad and was still a decent show. And like Avatar in its second season found a better balance, let’s hope Korra does the same. Your thoughts?

Madagascar 3 Review

Be afraid.

So you may have noticed Madagascar 3 got considerably good reviews this weekend. I have to say first, that I was not a fan of the first movie, but I really enjoyed the second. That being said, I think this was my least favorite.

Plot
If it wasn’t already painfully clear, there was no reason for another sequel. Dreamworks has begun to milk its cash cows. So it begins. Even though I already knew this, I was still surprised at the lack of continuity from the previous movie. There is no believable reason for these characters to want to go back to New York. The pacing is also too fast.

Comedy
Obviously the biggest element of this movie. Although many of the gags are very creative and funny, they suffer from being too fast-paced and often to over-the-top compared to the previous movies. A major gag (and plot point) in the movie involves the Russian tiger jumping through a hoop the size of a ring. This would have been a hilarious gag if it hadn’t been drawn out to the beyond-absurd-point. Once you actually have time to think about it becomes increasingly less funny to where you just ask yourself, “Why?”
Another complaint: while there were some mild innuendos in the previous movies, this one had a few over-the-top, off-color gags as well. I could hear most of the audience groaning more than laughing.

Music
Hans Zimmer. Nuff said.

Animation
I’ve always loved the character designs in these movies. The actual animation was my favorite part. As you’d expect Dreamworks Animation is beginning to rival that of Pixar. The circus scenes were my favorite, with beautiful, abstract visuals, creating lighting, music, and choreography.

Acting
The acting is great of course. Dreamworks always has a good cast, and Madagascar has made better use of its celebrity actors than most of their other movies. My complaint though, is that the fake European accents are painfully irritating. I seriously wanted to cover my ears.

The Story
My biggest complaint is with the story. Aside from there being no good reason for this movie to exist, it’s unbearably cliched. It’s nothing you can’t see everyday on Nickelodeon. It really offers nothing new. And  it’s so over-the-top that any take-away is left buried under an unholy plethora of gags. And if there is a take-away, it’s a pretty terrible one. The whole “message” (if you can even call it that) of the movie is that you can do anything and defy all odds and even do the physically impossible. Why? Well, they never really got to that part. You just can. This may sound good on the surface, but think about it for a second. The psychically impossible? Isn’t inherent impossibility something you want to avoid? Now, I know you’re already thinking about things like space travel and such. And yes, you should strive to set your mind on your goal. But I’m reminded of a certain high school commencement speech from this past week.

That’s right. You’re not special. This is a message we don’t, but need to hear often. I believe more that our true strength can only be achieved by first acknowledging our genuine limitations. Sometimes we just need to let go and acknowledge what we can’t do. And that’s okay. Then we can move forward and fulfill our true destiny. When I am weak, I am strong. Conversely, when I am strong, I am weak.
Need more proof? Think about this and go watch another Dreamworks title that I believe gets this profound message across: Kung Fu Panda (one of my favorites).

Whisper of the Heart


Disney just released its English dub of Studio Ghibli’s Whisper of the Heart, originally released in Japan in 1995. I’ve got to say, the Blu Ray transfer is excellent. If it weren’t for the appearance of old laptops and lack of widely-used internet in the movie, you’d think it had just been made recently. While I can easily criticize Studio Ghibli for constantly reusing the same characters, designs, stories and facial expressions, I simply can’t for this one. I mean, when can you ever?

The story has the typical Ghibli feel to it. A young girl experiencing a world that’s new to her and falls in love with that tall kid with ambiguously blue hair. Many who have only seen Ghibli’s more popular titles like Spirited Away or Howl’s Moving Castle, may think that the Studio’s charm lies in its portrayal of the fantastic. But seeing as this movie takes place completely in the real world and still carries all the charm of it’s best titles (this is probably my favorite now) it seems to be just the opposite: Studio Ghibli has a remarkable ability to take the mundane and make it fantastical.

It finds charm and excitement in simple moments. Its beauty is truly in its simplicity. For such a simple and intimate movie, I was surprised at the epic feel of it. Perhaps because it deals with things that touch on the meaning of life: our purpose in this world, though in the most un-preachy way. The main character Shizuku struggles with feelings of inadequacy. She doesn’t know what to do with her life, where to go next or how to move forward. It’s something all of us, not the least of which, myself, struggle with.

I really loved this movie. Some may find it drags a bit, but I was hooked from the beginning. The opening sequence is quite beautiful. Actually, it’s beautiful from beginning to end. Just as good as Spirited Away or The Secret World of Arriety, if not better. Again, I must say, the utter sincerity of these movies is incredibly refreshing. I felt, in a way purified after watching this. It may sound strange, but this just reminds me of how powerful the medium of movies and animation is. So much of our subconscious, our feelings, our habits, our words, choice of friends and overall culture is highly influence by what we see when we turn on the screen, for good or ill. Again, more than ever, I feel the call towards a career in animation.

Avengers Review

So I saw the Avengers this weekend and wanted to share my thoughts. Yes, it’s worth watching. Is it the best superhero movie ever? Some say, “Yes.” I say, no. Is it the best Marvel movie? Again, I say no. Here’s why.

First of all, I have to say that I believe based on comments made by the films editors, there is enough footage out there that there may be a cut of the film that will please me. I am just not that pleased with the final cut, but I rather expected it.

Summer blockbusters always follow this formula: safe. That’s right. Studios rarely like to take risks when it come to what they expect to be a blockbuster. Marvel has been especially guilty of this as of late. They’ve spent about a decade experimenting and figuring out what works. And since Iron Man they’ve stayed with what works. Very small risks. And who can blame them? Look at the reaction to the first Hulk movie (which I actually liked… I know, hate me if you want), X-men 3, and Spider-man 3. Those movies were all big risks and big failures. And Disney has been even worse with this. Their live-action department is horrendously bland. So combining Disney and Marvel does not make this movie-goer too happy. This may change in the future now that Rich Ross is gone. I hope it does.

And how does the content of the movie fair? Just as you’d expect from the previous paragraph. Plenty of good action, funny lines, character interactions, etc. Problem is, we’ve seen it all before. It’s nothing new, it’s just the fun of seeing the different characters interact. And it was fun, but to be honest, I expected more. Much was cut for the sake of actions scenes. I truly hoped for something more engaging. The kind of conflict that Captain America and Thor had was much more engaging. Avengers was mostly just physical conflict. Yeah, there was the whole thing about them getting along and all, which was good. There were some very good scenes. But just when it felt something cool happened it was interrupted by cheesy one-liners.

SPOILER WARNING
Another thing that really annoyed me was Loki. I expected great things from having him as a villain. There’s so much they could have drawn from in Thor. But it was only touched on. He was dismissed from being a major threat right from the start. Some advice to Marvel and Disney: don’t put the main antagonist in a cage for the first half of the movie.

Okay, so the movie wasn’t that bad. I enjoyed it. But I fear unless Marvel and Disney change their strategy, this may be the best we get. And trust me, it could be much better.

Diverse City: Diversity in Animation

I recently watched the latest episode of Young Justice. I was suddenly struck by how diverse the cast is. What struck me even more is that it took me a while to notice it. Which means characters are never stereotyped. The focus is always story. It got me thinking back about some the history of diversity in animation.

 
While the United States grows increasingly diverse, most of the media remains predominantly white and male. The faces you see on TV rarely reflect the faces you see in your everyday life. On top of that, women are often portrayed as having no other goal in life than to find their guy. Now, I’m no supporter of feminism. I think modern feminism had done more harm to women than anything else. But the media is what’s largely fueling the fire of stereotypes. Some shows, like LOST have successfully broken many of those, but when there’s one that breaks the mold there are ten more to counter it. It used to be that animation was even farther behind in the realm of diversity with even fewer minorities and female characters. But lately, I’ve noticed a huge change in the trend. Now it seems animation is surpassing live action.

I started to notice it when I went back and watched some episodes of Pepper Ann. Pepper Ann was a city on hill in the 90s in terms of diversity.


A female lead. Two out of three of the main characters are female, and the male is Hawaiian. What I loved also, is that it could have easily taken the feminist route. Pepper Ann was very much a hipster show. But it didn’t. Pepper Ann didn’t ignore, but embraced true femininity. Pepper Ann is obviously infatuated by boys and is never unfeminine despite being a tomboy. Her story is also never solely focused on getting the guy. She has other goals in life. She wants to be a scientist, beat her rival, be a good friend, etc.

Following is one of my favorite movies ever: Lilo & Stitch. Hawaiian leads? No white main characters? The main human character is a child AND female? AND she actually acts like a real child? AND the movie is a huge hit? Hollywood, take note.

While there are many other examples, I’m moving on and focusing on those that have stood out to me. Enter: Young Justice. Andrea Romano has been great at trying to get diverse actors for the talent. The folks over at Warner Bros. have been moving in this direction for a while. But it has never before been so successful as Young Justice. First of all, I’m surprised that they’ve managed to have no single main character. This is normally thought to be death for childrens’ animation. But Young Justice pulls it off. Female characters are not just tokens. And neither are the minorities. Their first leader is cast as black (Aqualad). They’ve recently opted to include Rocket, a creation of the late Dwayne McDuffie. There are nine main characters, four of which are female, and five are non-white. That’s impressive. And again, you won’t even notice it unless you’re looking for it. Their ethnicity is never the focus; no stereotypes. The characters always have genuine conflict that is relatable to a general audience. I’m also excited that Artemis is portrayed as bi-racial (half Vietnamese). I’m bi-racial myself and most of my friends growing up are as well. (Though they probably should have made her hair a little browner. I don’t think the genes would allow for that bright a color. But whatever, it’s animation.)

Now, the Legend of Korra, which is gonna be a big hit off the heals of Avatar, has another strong female lead, and one who has dark skin.

Hollywood, are you watching?

And now, a sneak peek at the next season!

Ultimate Spider-man VS Spectacular Spider-man

I just started watching Ultimate Spider-man on Disney XD this weekend. While I find it definitely worth watching, there are still a few big flaws.

I’ll give the good points first.

Comedy

It’s something that’s always been part of Spider-man, but this series really takes full advantage of it. Lots of fun with the animation and breaking the fourth wall with Parker’s commentary. There are some clear Scott Pilgrim influences as well. That was a happy surprise as I’ve been hoping it would eventually have an influence on movies and television. Seeing the same use of text and even the K.O. during a villain punch collide with my favorite superhero was a welcome treat.
The downside is that Parker’s commentary becomes too frequent. And some of the dialogues sounds VERY juvenile. It’s not terrible. But it sounds like they’re playing it down for the immature adolescent boys who the show is aimed at. Can’t blame them, but I smell executive meddling.

The Animation

The animation is great! Even better than SS in some ways. Creative script that leads to even more creative storyboards.
Downside: I can’t stand the character designs. They’re just not very appealing and there’s not much stylization. One of my favorite things about SS was the character designs.

Acting

I would say, overall, the voice direction is much better than SS.
Downside is, Josh Keaton still sounds better as Spidey.

Story
I like the fact that they’re incorporating other Marvel characters. I’ve always been a sucker for cross-overs.
Unfortunately, the frantic pacing is sometimes too fast. Especially in the episode Doom, there’s so much being thrown at you all at once that you can hardly tell what’s going on in the last half of the episode. I know kids have short attention spans, but come on! That smell of executives is getting stronger. And then there’s Aunt May. I don’t know if it was this way in the Ultimate comics, but I still don’t like it. Peter actually tells the audience that it would be lame if he was living with his “dotey old aunt” and quickly reassures his audience (who apparently thinks it’s uncool for an orphan to choose to live with his widowed aunt (though he doesn’t really have a choice)) that Aunt May is really “cool!” And by “cool” he means making Aunt May into a completely different character, one who’s feistier, beats Peter at video games, has more energy, strength, looks younger, etc. What’s really uncool? That executive meddling I was talking about. This reeks of it! I’m starting to wish Viacom had bought Marvel instead of Disney.

It’s a good show, but I still prefer Spectacular Spider-man (one of my favorite shows ever!) I also don’t see a reason why this show couldn’t have been a sequel to SS. I miss Gwen Stacy… 😦

Of course, in the end, what you really wanna know is, “Is Ultimate Spider-man worth watching?” The answer is… EDIT