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?


Animation in Korea

Thought I’d share this. Animation Producer/Director Lesean ThomasĀ  (The Boondocks, The Legend of Korra, Black Dynamite: The Animated Series) is creating a series of video blogs on his life in South Korea (where most actual traditional animation is done). It’s really interesting. I’m looking forward to seeing the next episode.

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.

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.

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.

Hans Zimmer. Nuff said.

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.

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. AndĀ  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.

New Pokemon Animation for Game Trailer

So, I saw this trailer today. Much has been abuzz about comparing it to the current anime. And rightfully so. The Pokemon anime was initially a great show, which was sadly killed by its own popularity.

Yes, 600 episodes of Pokemon have just been pwned by a 5 minute game trailer…

For me, the solution is simple: produce fewer episodes and spend more time on them so you don’t force the writers to reuse formulas. Or produce two different series. One that’s more like this trailer, aimed at older audiences and another that continues Ash’s story so they can keep Pikachu as the mascot. Actually, they could even make the Ash story more focused on older audiences and the one based on the game for the younger crowd. The point is, they’re alienating a huge demographic that still consumes the games.

And now this