The Other Side of Animation 172: Finding Santa Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Heads up!: I obtained this film through a screener given to me by Tricoast Entertainment for review purposes. I did not get any other kind of compensation other than this screener. Thank you, Tricoast Entertainment for reaching out to me to review this film!

So, for the first time in my writing career as an animation critic, I got a screener! For those that are not familiar with screeners, they are essentially ways for critics to watch upcoming releases of new films either physically or digitally. I was originally going to review something else, but when I received an email offering to tackle an animated film, I had to put Batman vs. TMNT and I Lost My Body on hold, and now, I’m tackling another Christmas film called Finding Santa.

Directed by Jacob Ley, this is a Swedish animated film that was released back in 2016 and was brought over to the states by Tricoast Entertainment. Did this Christmas feature deserve the cold shoulder? Or did it deserve a little love during this festive time of year?

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The story revolves around an orphan boy named Julius. Like I just said, he lives at an orphanage with other kids, and loves Christmas and especially Santa Claus. Sadly, some of the other orphans despise Julius, and decide to reveal that Santa isn’t real. It breaks his heart once he finds out that their caretaker pretended to be Santa, and he runs to a shed out in the woods where he keeps a small box of trinkets. As he arrives and opens the box, a blue light shines, and Julius is sucked into a magical realm where Santa is missing, and the evil Krampus has taken over his duties and wants to deliver coal to the children around the world. It is up to Julius, and his new friends to save Santa and Christmas.

So, what is good about this Christmas film? While not my favorite visual look, I do admire the direction the animation took. The way the characters move, look, and are painted, the entire film looks like a children’s book. It matches that visual tone easily, and I can tell they had a certain look they wanted to go with. It reminds me of Broken Age with that same children’s book look. I know some might scoff at the paper puppet human designs, but unlike some films that use Flash and motion-tween to make the characters move, they have a bit more animation to them, so they aren’t lifeless like those 2D wood or paper puppets. However, I will also admit that sometimes the designs do become unintentionally creepy. To me, it’s the teeth that make the characters look unnatural.

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In terms of what I liked about the story, while I have my issues with it due to the dialogue, I can tell they tried to do something different here. I see a team trying to make a more whimsical and fantastical fairytale-like Christmas story. There is also a bit more at stake with Julius who wants to find out where he is from. As an orphan, I bet there is a lot of that kind of wondering due to the situation they are put in by being at an orphanage. It might not fully work out, but I get the sense there was more depth to the story than you would think.

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Sadly, even for 80 minutes, I found Finding Santa to be a slog to get through, and I can name the main reason why, with the two villain children. There is a difference between making children mean for the sake of the story, and then there is making them so mean, that even if there is development and they take a chill pill, they are too mean for their own good. I know it can be a joke that children can be unintentionally or intentionally monsters, but the two antagonists push it too far, and the film grinds to a halt each time they show up. The film has a mean streak at a lot of points, and they don’t feel naturally planted within the story. Also, I feel this film is at different sides of the tone it wants to reach. Finding Santa was obviously made for younger audience members, but it also has some slightly darker and more mature moments that don’t gel well. It doesn’t earn the darker moments, and the dialogue and characters don’t mix well. The English dub is not the greatest. I found the English dub to be grating, and that doesn’t help things when Krampus is so high-pitched and whiny sounding.

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As a whole, I admire the ambition and effort put into Finding Santa, because unlike a lot of foreign made-quick animated fare that gets quietly brought over to the states, you can tell the director and his team had an idea in mind. Unfortunately, I found elements of the film to clash with other elements, and the overall experience to be lacking. Still, at least I found stuff to admire and/or enjoy about this than say, Wonder Park or UglyDolls. If you are curious about this film and want to see it for yourself, it is on DVD, and it will be readily available on most digital on-demand platforms like VUDU, Itunes, Google Play, AT&T, DirectTV, Hoopla, Sling/Dish, and Amazon December 3rd. I think I would want to check out Klaus and Arthur Christmas more, but I’m glad I found out about films like Finding Santa. I’m always down for Christmas films for kids and families that put in the elbow grease to do something that isn’t a typical Christmas film. Now then, let’s talk about the newest Netflix animated feature that they purchased, I Lost My Body.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it

The Other Side of Animation 171: Klaus Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

When it comes to films centered around the holidays, I’m very picky about which ones I want to watch. I’m especially picky when it comes to Christmas movies. I don’t hate them, because my family has a slew of Christmas classics we love to watch, but much of the time, most films based around a holiday like Christmas aren’t great. So many are either try-hard, cornier than a monster made of corn, or unintentionally mean-spirited. It doesn’t help either that most Christmas-related fare gets shoved into romance films that Hallmark makes all of the time. Like making any movie, all you need to do is focus on writing and story, and you should be good! That’s why when I find a Christmas movie I adore, I support it with all of my strength, which is why I’m tackling Netflix’s Klaus!

Directed by Sergio Pablo, and animated by SPA Studios, it was picked up and distributed by Netflix, and released November 8th in the US to pretty positive reviews, and will be getting an Oscar push for this year’s award season. It’s also the first original animated-feature for the streaming service. I was personally excited about the film, and I only got more excited when I saw the behind-the-scenes event at Animation is Film. So, what do I think about this festive new film? Well, let’s get to that part of the review!

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Our story focuses on a young man named Jesper, voiced by Jason Schwartzman, an individual who has no real drive in life who would rather lay around and be lazy since his father is wealthy. After trying to get kicked out of the postal academy his father enrolled him in, his father has a different idea. Instead of falling for Jesper’s shenanigans, he sends Jesper off to the furthest place on the map to a small town called Smeerensburg to be that town’s postman. Unfortunately for him, Jesper quickly finds out that Smeerensburg is the unhappiest place on earth, with two rival clans of families that have been fighting since the literal dawn of time. Jesper only has one year to make a functioning postal service in this town, or else he’s cut off from his family’s money. Can he change his ways and make a living postal service work in such a wretched town? What about this mysterious woodcutter, voiced by J.K. Simmons, at the end of the island, and the woodcutter’s mysterious barn of toys?

As the marketing, the behind-the-scenes event, and the story have revealed, this is an origin story for Santa Claus. It’s essentially, a modern-day and better-animated version of the Rankin-Bass classic, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I don’t mind that, because it’s a pretty straight forward origin story for the jolly red man. It’s about the origins of a fictional character told through the view of a young man learning to be a better person, and how a nice gesture creates another nice gesture. That theme, by the way, is why this movie is so good! I always enjoyed themes like this, because, while it might be a simple one, it sticks with you. I mean, when has an act of meanness ever inspired someone to work with you or do something mean to someone else? It doesn’t take that much effort to do something kind and caring. The theme sticks with me more, because of the premise of the town Jesper is in. It’s a town that has had a long-standing rivalry bred by toxic and hateful behaviors and traditions. One an act of kindness starts in the town, it spreads and everyone becomes better people, and they get rid of the traditions that were brought upon them by the previous generations.

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In terms of the characters, I enjoyed my time with them. Sure, Jesper can be a little annoying at first, but since he’s another in a long line of “whiny individuals that redeems themselves in the end”, I find him to be one of the better versions of this character. He does start as a jerk, but then realizes what his good deeds lead up to, and he’s written better than most of these types. The other characters also ooze and flow with charm and personality. A lot of it is who they got for the roles and the animation, but I loved the characters. From Rashida Jones’ Alva to Will Sasso and Joan Cusacks as Mr. Ellingboe and Mrs. Krum, the film is full of amusing characters. I also adored J.K. Simmons as Klaus. They give him a lot of pathos in who he is, and Simmons puts in another fantastic performance. Even Norm Macdonald as Mogens, the boatman, has a lot of character to him. The villains are especially deviant as, while they are joke villains, there is a bit more imposing and threatening to their centuries of hatred and ignorance that makes them threats. As for the comedy, I remember busting out into laughter many times due to the delivery of the jokes, and I’m sure everyone had fun playing these characters. The jokes range from mostly physical and visual gags, but the dialogue is kept timeless as to not add any pop culture references to date the script. Some lines may feel a touch more modern, but it’s in the way that the Emperor’s New Groove has more modern-sounding dialogue, but still fits the setting.

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The animation though, we have to talk about it! This is one of the most visually splendid films of 2019. It’s pure 2D animation goodness. Sure, some parts may have used a tiny bit of CGI, and yeah, it’s a lot of digital coloring and lighting, but due to how talented the team of animators is, and how much passion and little details are put into the final product, the result is a film that feels like Christmas. You look at the lush landscapes and the bitter cold town that Jesper is stuck in, and you feel like you are there. The film feels grand in scale as the cinematography brings you into this world. It’s a film with a visual presentation that I would have loved to have fully seen on a big screen.

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I love this movie, and it’s not just because it’s 2D animation. However, I do have some very minor complaints about it. First off, the pop songs. Now, the main soundtrack to Klaus by composer Alfonso Aguilar Gonzalez is incredible. What’s forgettable and just okay are the pop songs in the film, and while one of them is played as a joke that works, the other ones heard are okay, but nothing special. I wonder if this was a thing that Netflix requested, because if you took out the pop songs, you would miss nothing. They don’t ruin the scenes they are in, but they stick out.

I wish there was more time for Jesper and Alva’s relationship to bloom. They have decent chemistry, but I wanted there to be more time for the two to spend with each other instead of the film relegating her to be the love interest in the second half of the film. It almost makes me wish they didn’t end up together, but their chemistry was cute. They also pull the third act “liar revealed” gag, and while it’s not the worst trope I know, and it is a bummer it was used, it still makes sense in a way? Like, I wish animated films and films in general would stop using this trope, but as long as they are executed well, I don’t mind seeing them in the film.

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Normally, I temper my hype, because I always go into a movie ready to be disappointed by it, but Klaus was worth all of the hype, and it is worth getting all of the support it needs to help bring back interest in 2D animation to the theatrical scene. I highly recommend everyone who has Netflix to watch this movie right now, and constantly during the holidays. It’s a new Christmas classic, and one I would put on par with The Nightmare Before Christmas. In terms of animated Christmas movies from this decade, I would argue that it’s better than Arthur Christmas, but that’s just me. Now then, we got our Christmas movie out of the way early, how about we jump into some DC comic book movies for a while? I need to catch up on them, but before we tackle Batman vs. TMNT, I got a screener to review first, and that will be a surprise to you and me with how this next film turns out!

 

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2018 Part 3

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial/list!)

I really need to get these out faster. Anyway, let’s get started with part 3 of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2018! We are now diving into the films that I really enjoyed. Let’s get started!

23. Teen Titans Go! To the Movies

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While it might not be anything too special for a show based on a “controversial” show, they took advantage of being feature length, and had some of the biggest laughs out of any animated film from 2018. It was basically the same kind of film as 2019’s The Angry Birds Movie 2. It’s a light-weight story with good character chemistry and a lot of different kinds of jokes. It’s a fun time, even if it does fall back on a lot of juvenile jokes, and the mid-credit scene will be trolling fans of the franchise until the end of time.

22. Mindgame

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While this may be a 2004 film, the US finally got an official release last year, and that means it counts for this list. This was Masaaki Yuasa’s first major film, and it is a wild ride with diverse visuals and a set of complex themes. It might not be told the best in terms of storytelling, but I’m so happy that we now have an official release for this flick. Just go in knowing little-to-nothing.

21. Batman Ninja

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Man, the best DC-animated film was the one that went out of its way to be different. Gee, it’s like people love unexpected projects like this. While Batman Ninja is all style and little substance, who is going to really complain about a movie where Batman is transported to feudal-era Japan, and has to basically go all ninja on the Joker? Yeah I thought so. It might not have the best CGI animation, its visuals and action set-pieces are a delight to watch unfold. This is easily one of the most fun, and probably my favorite DC-animated feature so far.

20. Flavors of Youth

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While this film may have been better if they didn’t try so hard to copy Makoto Shinkai’s style, I still admire the types of stories they wanted to tell about childhood, identity, and you get the idea. The animation doesn’t fully match Shinkai’s gorgeous art direction, but the fact we got a small-scale anthology film is nice, and something we wouldn’t really see in theaters.

19. Seder Masochism

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Listen, I get why many are not on board with the director’s Nina Paley’s personal beliefs. I get why many would absolutely not want to check out her work, but I’m a critic, and I have to review stuff like this whether we agree or not with the beliefs. So, outside of that, I enjoyed Seder! I found it an interesting and quaint little film with some great visuals, fun music mixed into the scenes, the commentary about religious extremism was fascinating, and the recordings of her and her father talking about religion were easily the best parts about the film due to how personal they felt. While many may not like her personal opinions, I still recommend people check out the film.

18. Next Gen

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While Netflix is still working its way into having a good animated film line-up, Next Gen is that, well, next step into the animation scene. While many called it a mix of Big Hero 6 and The Iron Giant, I found Next Gen to stand on its own. It has a fun female lead, commentary about the overreliance on technology, and a touching friendship between the girl and the robot in the film. It’s also one of the few animated mainstream films to have major action beats in it. It might not be perfect, but Next Gen is a fun little ride, and a hidden gem for animation fans.

17. Early Man

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While this film absolutely did not deserve to bomb, and was wrongfully crushed under the incredible Black Panther, Early Man is still another feather in Aardman’s cap. It might not be the best written, and the third act is the film’s weakest part, it’s still full of that Aardman charm and wonderful animation that you have come to know from the studio. Sadly, it’s mostly forgotten, because audience members think stop-motion is dated. Oh well, I still enjoyed my time in the Stone Age.

16. Incredibles 2

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After years of waiting, we finally got a sequel to Brad Bird’s The Incredibles. I mean, I could talk about why it took so long, but that’s for another time, and while I have plenty of issues with this film, I still did like it. It might have a weak villain and concepts that aren’t fully fleshed out, but the film has gorgeous animation, strong writing, more great family chemistry, and the action is fun. It’s definitely not Brad Bird’s best film, but it’s a great film, and I’m glad it did well.

15. Smallfoot

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It’s a shame that Smallfoot was a victim to bad marketing that made out a rather ambitious film to be no more than a dumb comedy. The comedy aspects are themselves hit or miss, along with the musical numbers as well, but the main story and what it tackles about identity and what is the right thing to do, is so refreshing. It’s also a gorgeous film with a fun cast and likable characters.

14. White Fang

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This is one of 2018’s biggest surprises and one of 2018’s most underrated gems. It has a gorgeous art style, a more mature and quiet atmosphere, and a solid voice cast. It might be a bit lightweight, but I still highly recommend watching this lovely film from Netflix.

13. Tito and the Birds

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It’s nice that we are getting some high quality animation from Brazil, and Tito and the Birds is a good first introduction to that country’s animation scene. It might be a bit familiar to those who are fans of 80s films, but its message of overcoming and not letting fear mongers get their way gels well with the beautiful animation.

12. Modest Heroes

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It might suffer from being an anthology film where one of the shorts isn’t as good as the others, but the fact that Studio Ponoc was able to craft three different stories about being a hero with varying art styles, and giving some new voices in the animation industry a chance to tell a story is delightful.

11. Liz and the Blue Bird

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This is easily one of Kyoto Animation’s best films. While it might be a spin-off of an anime series, you can watch it without knowing about the series on which it’s based. That’s because when you break it down, it’s a coming-of-age romance and friendship story between the two female leads. It’s a sweet little film that I think everyone should buy a copy of.

Next time, we will break down what I consider to be the 10 best animated films of 2018! Thank you for checking out this list, and if you want to help support my work, you can go to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

The Other Side of Animation 170: Arctic Dogs Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Okay, let’s get this out of the way. This review is about Arctic Dogs. Directed by Aaron Woodley, produced by Assemblage Entertainment, AIC Studios, and Ambi Media Group, and distributed by Entertainment Studios, this is yet another film in a long line of films to make ya wonder how on earth this got into theaters. Originally announced back in 2015 as Arctic Justice: Thunder Squad, this CGI animated feature was set to release January 2018. Unfortunately, the first distributors of this venture, Open Road Films, went bankrupt, and then the film was picked up by Entertainment Studios, the same distributor that put out 47 Meters Down, the sequel 47 Meters Down: Uncaged, Chappaquiddick, The Hurricane Heist, Hostiles, and the classic horror film you forgot existed, Friend Request. Word of mouth among the animation community spread as the founder of Entertainment Studios, Byron Allen, took interest in animation, but had no real idea or concern about what went into making profitable animated features.

Even after promising a proper marketing plan for this flick, and being released November 1st when films like The Addam’s Family was starting to lose its legs in theaters, Arctic Dogs bombed at the box office. Reportedly on a budget of $50 mil, Arctic Dogs has, as of writing this article, only brought in $3 million. It is now the spot holder for the biggest failure to open in over 2,000 theaters, or so some comments and articles have made out. So, we have an animated film that took forever to make, being greenlit by people who never worked in animation, being distributed by a guy who has no money left in this film distribution venture, directed by a guy with already one animation bomb in his filmography, having to deal with questionably intelligent people above him, and it bombed hard, opening in 10th place. Yeah, let’s just pick up our plate of vegetables your mom told you to eat, and get this over with.

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Our story revolves around an arctic fox named Swifty, voiced by Jeremy Renner. He dreams of becoming one of the mail delivery dogs that are the talk of the town and the cream of the crop. Unfortunately, due to his size, he is constantly told that he can’t be a delivery dog by his boss, Magda, voiced by Anjelica Huston. He ends up working the assembly line with his pal PB, voiced by Alec Baldwin and Lemmy, voiced by James Franco. One day, he gets tasked with taking a package by his fox friend Jade, voiced by Heidi Klum to a base way out in the tundra. Swifty ends up encountering a walrus scientist named Otto Van Walrus, voiced by John Cleese. Swifty finds out Walrus’ evil plan, and it is up to him and his friends to find a way to prevent Walrus from destroying their home and the world using “BAD Gas.”

The biggest hurdle with dealing with films like Arctic Dogs is that there is not a whole lot to talk about with worthwhile substance to it. There are only so many times you can say, there is nothing to this movie!  Arctic Dogs is an animated film that lacks ambition. Animation-wise, the film looks better than most of the low-grade flicks that somehow end up in theaters, but for a film that supposedly cost $50 mil, I’m finding it hard to believe that it cost that much. Maybe a lot of it went to the cast, which explains why the animation is so lifeless. There are low-grade textures, stiff movements, incorrectly executed physical comedy, and the film lacks the small animation details that would have given it more blood pumping through its veins. It’s one of those animated films that give CGI animation a bad name. It also doesn’t help that the designs are boring as tar. There is no life to them, and they look like stock assets in an animation program. Walrus looks the best, but it’s not enough to save a bland looking film. You can make great looking animation done on a non-Disney/Pixar budget, but it takes really good art direction to pull that off, and that isn’t the case here. It may somehow have cost $50 mil to make, but the film’s visuals tell you otherwise. Even the concept art for this film looked better.

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So, the animation is of poor quality, but what about the characters and the cast? Surely, you can make up for a bad animated feature with good writing and memorable characters? Yeah, no you can’t. Maybe a better writer could have done more with this film’s climate change commentary, but there is no substance to it. The characters are all boring family film archetypes, and no one stands out as memorable. Jeremy Renner is probably the biggest get for this film, but this is not a good performance for him. The way he talks and acts in the film makes me think this was meant for a younger actor like Zac Efron. It also doesn’t help that he has some hefty abuse allegations against him right now, so, yeah. The rest of the cast is also not very compelling. James Franco is sleepwalking through this flick, Heidi Klum’s character could have easily been played by a voice actress with more energy, and I almost like Alec Baldwin’s take on PB, but then I remember how invested he was in films like The Boss Baby and Rise of the Guardians, and realize that he, like Franco, sleepwalks through the film. It’s even funnier seeing Angelica Huston in the cast, as of the reveal of this film’s existence, she was bad-mouthing older actresses for being in stuff like Poms, while she considers herself as an “art-only” actress. Yeah, explain to me how this soulless animated film is art, ya hypocrite. John Cleese is the only one having any fun, but that’s because he’s playing a 1-dimensional villain and is the only one to have fun with his character.

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The writing and pacing of the film are whiplash-inducing. The film has such a stop and start way of going about its scenes, that it felt like the story had to pause for jokes, then story, then clunky bonding dialogue, story, joke, story, the lead character looks like a giant jerk, and so on. It never felt fluid or made me want to invest in what was going on. I would love to know the process of writing this script because it comes off like it was very “this is our first major film script”. Nothing about the dialogue feels like there was an effort to make it witty or clever.

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When I saw Arctic Dogs, I wondered whether it was going to be worse, or on par with Wonder Park, the film that has held my worst animated film of 2019 spot since March. I had to ask myself if being more ambitious, but failing every step of the way was better or worse than setting out what you wanted to do, but being completely bland and forgettable. Well, I have to say, Wonder Park has now been dethroned by Arctic Dogs. I couldn’t stand Arctic Dogs. I feel badly for any trouble the director and animators had to deal with while working on this film, and please do not go after them if you did not like this film. It’s not as bad as other cheap-animated films you see slide into theaters for no reason, but it’s not too far off as being one of the worst examples of such. I would say avoid this movie, but since no one is seeing it, you are already doing so. Save your money and wait for Frozen II and Spies in Disguise. Well then, I need something to liven up the mood a bit. I honestly had a hard time choosing what to review next, but how about we review some Netflix films next? I think that sounds like a good idea! Let’s talk about the new Holiday-favorite film, Klaus.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

The Other Side of Animation 169: Zombillenium Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

One of the best aspects of animated features which go the distance is that they are more than willing to talk about a problem that we have to deal with in real life. Maybe it’s something relating to family, maybe it’s related to society as a whole, and they felt like it was important to talk about it. The best-animated films either made in the US or overseas usually have something to say underneath the main story. Sadly, not all studios have that freedom, and either can’t go too deep with the commentary or have to stay within the parameters of a film aimed at a family audience. I think that is what happened with Zombillenium.

Directed and written by Arthur de Pins and Alexis Ducord, and based on the comic series of the same name and by the same duo, Zombillenium was released back in May 2017 in France, and from what I could gather, bombed, only making a little over $1 mil of its $15 mil budget. It then appeared at the Annecy Film festival in 2017 where it competed against films like Tehran TabooEthel and ErnestBig Fish & BegoniaA Silent VoiceAnimal CrackersLu Over the WallLoving Vincent, and In This Corner of the World. It was even one of the first films chosen for the first annual Animation is Film Festival in LA that same year. After that, the film’s release went silent, until recently, when fans or unknowing animation-goers saw that it was brought over quietly by Universal and went straight-to-DVD. Even the few reviews I have found for this film were mixed to negative. So, was it worth the wait? Or did this film get buried for a reason? Let’s zombie shuffle our way through the park and find out!

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The main story revolves around a man named Hector, a compliance officer who essentially makes sure things are running well. You can say he’s a health inspector for companies. After he drops his daughter off at school, he then arrives at the famous amusement park, Zombillenium. He finds the park not staying up to code, but Hector pushes on, as the manager of the park, a vampire named Francis tries to stall the inspector as many times as he can. Hector then stumbles onto something he shouldn’t see, and Francis decides to take care of it personally. He turns Hector into a monster who can’t leave the park. Maybe another monster in the park can help raise attendance because the park is losing customers fast. It’s being threatened by Satan himself to be shut down, and all the monsters there will be sent to hell. Can Hector find a way to help revitalize the park? Can he ever become human again? Will he be able to see his daughter?

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So, what is the overall point of this film? I have finally seen it, and to me, it’s juggling a “we have to save the park, because we are all a family” storyline and, to me, the film’s main appeal, a commentary about the workforce. Having the film set in a theme park, where most of the workers are zombies and other monsters add a fun creative spin to the commentary about how employees are treated at places like this, and in general. The film is full of symbolic context that gives the film much more substance under the skin than you might think. However, that’s also the biggest problem. The film wants to show off that commentary, and it does bring it up in the dialogue, but it’s not the focus. The focus is more on the family-friendly storyline of saving the park. Granted, the stakes are high, since if they don’t save the park, they all go to literal hell, but still. The more family-friendly side of things isn’t even all that interesting. The dialogue feels clunky, a lot of the jokes do not land, and the pop culture references are sadly dated. It’s the problem when it takes so long to make indie animation that the jokes may not land, or the references are dated. Expect a lot of Twilight-related jabs.

So, the overall story is flawed, but what about the characters and the dubbing? Sadly, I did not like the English dub for this film. Some dialogue moves fast, sometimes they don’t match the lip movements, and I found most of the voices grating. It’s one of those times where I prefer the subtitles over the English casting. It’s not that everyone is bad, it’s the execution and the voice choice for some of the characters. Speaking of the characters, I found many of them to look cool, but lack dimension within their personality. I don’t know if it’s because they had to cram an entire story into 80 or so minutes, but it suffers for it. I found myself only rooting for a few of the monsters like Francis, the cool skeleton guy, adoring the witch, and a day of the dead-looking zombie woman. Hector isn’t a bad leading male, but his redemption arc happens abruptly at times, and it never felt natural. I’m going to assume that the characters are way more fleshed out in the comics, because some of this screams that it maybe should have been a TV series and not a movie.

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So, what do I like about it? Well, the animation, while showing some clunky movements here and there, is very unique compared to what usually comes out of CGI from overseas. They translated the look of the comic perfectly, and despite not having the biggest budget, they made the characters stand out. Everyone has a different look and movement. It’s a unique looking movie that looks like it was made with 2D designs wrapped around CGI bodies. Despite not caring for many of the jokes due to how they don’t land or are outdated, when the jokes work, they are really funny. I think the best jokes revolve around the skeleton, and they take advantage of him a lot. Once again, I also adored the commentary when they focused on it.

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I can see Zombillenium growing a fanbase over the years to come, but I can also see why no one knows about it, and why Universal quietly threw it on DVD. It feels incomplete and fighting against itself to be both a family film and a slightly more creative young teen/older adult film. It has a bit too much edge for younger kids, but it’s too childish for adults. If you want to see it. I would recommend renting it, but the DVD itself is only $10 on Amazon if you want to buy it. Maybe if they can make a sequel, they can improve upon the writing and story, but seeing how it bombed, and not fully knowing if they are not hurt by all of this, I don’t think we will be returning to Zombillenium anytime soon. Still, I would rather go back to the zombie-filled amusement park than where we will be going next time. I won’t even say where we are going, and you will have to find out.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Rent it!

The Other Side of Animation 168: The Addams Family Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

It’s that spooky time of year again, and fortunately for me, I have two animated features that I can review that aren’t some old TV specials! It’s not that I don’t care about or have nostalgia for Halloween specials, but I want to tackle animated features that can be enjoyed during Halloween. That’s why I was happy to come across the new Addam’s Family film and Zombillenium. However, let’s tackle the iconic spooky family first with 2019’s The Addam’s Family. Directed by the duo of Conrad Vernon and Craig Tierman, and animated by Nitrogen Studios and Cinesite, it was released on October 11th to mostly mixed-to-negative reviews, but it has made back its budget, and hopefully will make a tidy profit for MGM. I mean, it’s already got a sequel being planned, so that’s a good sign. So, what do I think about the monstrous antics of the Addams Family? Well, read my review, you goofy ghoulies!

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The film stars, of course, The Addams Family. You have the husband Gomez Addams, voiced by Oscar Isaac, and Morticia Addams, Gomez’s wife who is voiced by Charlize Theron. Both of them have two kids named Pugsley Addams, voiced by Finn Wolfhard and Wednesday Addams, voiced by Chloe Grace Moretz. Of course, it isn’t the Addams Family without Uncle Fester, voiced by Nick Kroll, and Grandmama, voiced by Bette Midler. The family lives in a mansion that rests at the top of a mountain overlooking a small town called Assimilation. The town is essentially run by a reality TV star homemaker named Margaux Needler, voiced by Allison Janney. Can the Addams keep living their lives and not fall into the control of people who are against their ways?

Let’s talk about the positive elements of the film. For a film with a $40 mil budget, the animation is decent. The skin textures look a little too smooth, but the fact that they designed the characters off of the original comic is a masterstroke in character design. I know most people are fond of the live-action makeup and costumed version of the spooky family, but I think animation is a prime one-size-fits-all medium for the family. It also helps that all of the characters have little details and character movements that make them stand out. I’ll never get over the fact that Wednesday Addams has noose-shaped pigtails. That’s easily one of the funniest details of the entire film. It’s a delightfully spooky and cartoony-looking film, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

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Speaking of the family itself, I don’t think you could have asked for a better cast. Oscar Isaac, Charlize Theron, Chloe Grace Moretz, Finn Wolfhard, Nick Kroll, and Bette Midler are perfect for the film. While I have some issues with who gets the spotlight, I really adored the interaction between the family members. They feel like a family, and they still carry that spirit of “we are odd, but who cares. We are awesome!” If I had to pick an MVP for the film, I think I would say Wednesday Addams steals the show. Chloe’s dry and slow delivery of the dialogue makes her a laugh riot. She has the best lines and the best scenes. I also enjoyed the scenes with Grandmama and Gomez as well. While there are some issues with the comedy in the film, a bit of that dark comedy is sprinkled throughout it. I’m even interested if I missed a few visual gags when I was first watching it. I found myself laughing and chuckling pretty consistently during the film, maybe not as much as The Angry Birds Movie 2, but I was still laughing pretty often.

Now then, we got all of the positives, and middle-of-the-road stuff out of the way, and now, we get to the parts I didn’t like. Unlike many films that have different issues, or issues that people can’t seem to agree on, you can count me as on the side of “I agree with the main issue”. The main issue is that, for a franchise that is drenched in dark comedy from its premise to the dialogue, the film somewhat defangs the dark humor. There are darkly funny jokes here and there from the film, but it’s not like the 90s films that came out where you had them dumping hot oil on Christmas carolers. The humor feels unevenly spread through a lot of the family members, and that’s a shame that they took a bit of the bite that the franchise is known for. I also felt like it was uneven concerning who the story wanted to focus on. Wednesday Addams gets most of the time onscreen, while the rest of the plot involving the family is not as exciting. I get the themes of discrimination and being okay with who you are, but it doesn’t go far enough with the ideas. It’s a shame, because discrimination is a major issue that we have to solve. Even the villain is a touch on the weak side. She has a terrible (in a good villain way) plan, but again, it’s not taken far enough.

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I also wish the animation was a bit punchier. I don’t know if they were told to not go crazy, but like the humor, it could have had more teeth to it. Either they needed more time and money, or they didn’t know how to go a bit further. It’s disappointing because the team is mostly the same people that made the controversial Sausage Party.

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It might not have the fangs of the original source material, but I still found myself falling for the charm of The Addams Family. It could have used punchier and darker jokes, but it’s a fairly harmless film. Plus, it did well enough to get a sequel. Hopefully, they can improve upon everything that the first film is faulty with. Now then, next time, we shall end our spooky month with a review of Zombillenium.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 167: Abominable Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

As a fan of animation, DreamWorks Animation is in a creative and frustrating situation, and that has always been the case since it was founded. It is an animation studio founded upon bitter petty anger and a lineup of films trying to beat out Disney and Pixar at every turn for no other reason than to try and make edgier versions of the former studio’s films. Sure, at around the latter half of the 2000s, they started to course-correct, and now they have a solid lineup of really good movies. Shrek 2, Prince of Egypt, The Road to El Dorado, the Kung Fu Panda Trilogy, Captain Underpants, and the How to Train Your Dragon films are all some of the best films that have come out of this studio. Though they have slightly course-corrected, the stench of the bitter anger towards Disney still looms, and you can argue that DreamWorks doesn’t have an identity.

Out of all the studios making feature animation in the US, what makes them different than Illumination, Sony Pictures Animation, and Blue Sky Studios? I mean, you can tell a difference, but that’s only if you know what kind of films each studio makes. To me, DreamWorks was always at their best when they focused on story and character with a dash of comedy thrown in when needed. They do well with smaller character moments, and that’s no different here with their newest film, Abominable. Directed by Jill Culton and co-directed by Todd Wilderman, Abominable is DreamWorks’ first major co-production collaborative effort with a Chinese studio, Pearl Studio. I mean, they used to own this studio until a Chinese company, CMC, bought the stakes and rights to Pearl Studio from Universal. So, with this being the third yeti movie in two years, how is it? Well, let’s find out the mysteries of this zoological wonder.

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Our story revolves around a teen girl named Yi, voiced by Chloe Bennet. She’s a tough working girl who is still getting over the loss of her father. While taking multiple small jobs, she also enjoys hanging out on the rooftop of her building and playing the violin. One evening, she finds something on top of her home building, and it turns out to be an actual yeti! She then makes it her goal to return the yeti, who she has named Everest, back to his home with the help of her friends Jin, voiced by Tenzing Norgay, and Peng, voiced by Albert Tsai. This is all the while, avoiding a rich billionaire named Burnish, voiced by Eddie Izzard and a zoologist named Zara, voiced by Sarah Paulson.

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So, with a film like this, where most critics seem to think it’s just okay, I try to look at what Abominable does well in terms of a DreamWorks film. The biggest problem most DreamWorks films suffer from is that the overall story is not the best part. That’s pretty much the same here with Abominable, but I found myself being more charmed by the smaller character interactions, like Peng and Everest, Everest with Jin, Peng, and Yi, and Burnish, the stereotypical billionaire has little sequences that give him more depth. The film’s theme is obviously about living life and family, and while that’s nothing new, the interactions during the overall story make the trip worthwhile. It also helps that the other human teen/kid characters end up being likable in their own way. Li is probably the most annoying out of the three, but once he realizes what he has to do with his coming-of-age story arc, he has some of the better jokes in the entire film. While there is a slightly comedic edge to the story, it’s also a much quieter film. Sure, it has its family-friendly antics, and the goons do provide a lot of comedic relief, it’s a film that isn’t afraid to simply stop for a moment and let the characters talk and breathe.

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Animation-wise, the visuals are downright gorgeous. Seriously, while it might not be on the level of Disney and Pixar’s photo-realistic textures, the scenes and locations the gang travel to are beautiful. They remind me of those old travel ads or a Planet Earth-style documentary. Despite having a supposed budget of $75 mil, Abominable is one of the most visually beautiful films of 2019. The lush landscapes, stunning color palette, and wonderful VFX effects are very well-executed.

I might be one of the more supportive fans of this film, but I do have some issues with it. It’s a simple film, and that’s not a bad thing, but there could have been a lot more meat on the bones of the story and themes. It’s a film that could have easily been 30 minutes longer to expand on some of the themes and scenes. While the film has some pretty good comedy, the jokes that they show off in the trailer are still the worst in the film. They don’t pop up like that all of the time, but I would say the first third has the worst jokes of the entire film. Thankfully, they don’t do that Taylor Swift scene that you see in the trailer that was shown in theaters before the main trailer, but there could have been better comedic moments that could replace the blueberry butt joke.

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While it might not hit the emotional points of How to Train Your Dragon or Kung Fu Panda, I would consider Abominable to be one of the better films in the DreamWorks catalog. I think people will come back to it more than once depending on how everyone feels about Trolls World Tour and The Croods 2 coming out next year. Still, despite having a shaky experience with inconsistent moments of quality, I’m happy DreamWorks is still around, and from time to time, they will come back to making more character-driven experiences. Plus, this is a good sign for Pearl Studios, as they will be releasing Glen Keane’s newest film, Over the Moon, next year for Netflix. To me, this shows that this is another example of China’s current commitment to high-quality animation. Now then, let’s snap our fingers and next time, we will check out The Addam’s Family Movie.

Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed reading it! If you would like to support my work, make sure to share it out, and if you want to become a Patreon supporter, then you can go to patreon.com/camseyeview. I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!