The Other Side of Animation 241: Extinct Review

(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 was able to watch this series before its recent release via a screener sent to me by Netflix. I got no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you, Netflix.

One of the worst things you can do as an animated film is to be forgettable. When you are good or catastrophically bad, then you will at least be remembered for being really good or really bad. When you are unremarkable, well that’s an entirely different problem to have. You have left such a nothing impression on the audience that you will be completely forgotten, and then take up space on the shelf of a store or streaming service library that could be used for something that did leave an impression for a viewer. It’s important to know what kind of experience you want with your animated fare, and what you are going to have to offer to the viewers and reviewers that will get them hooked. Luckily, when you have some alumni from The Simpsons, Extinct, the focus of today’s review, is able to stand out from the other smaller animated film releases. 

The story focuses on Op and Ed, voiced by Rachel Bloom and Adam DeVine. They are these circular donut-like animals known as Flummels. They live peacefully on an island with their kind, and are not the most popular beings among the Flummels. To try and fix a mistake they caused early in the film, Op and Ed find a magical flower that results in our two leads traveling through time. They end up in the modern-day, and encounter a small fluffy dog named Clarence, voiced by Ken Jeong. Clarence tells the two that they are in the future where the Flummels are no more. Ed and Op then set off on an adventure to try and save their species from going extinct. They’ll learn about the meaning of trust and friendship, and meet a colorful cast of characters along the way. 

One of the first things to keep in mind is how there are two directors and three writers that have worked on The Simpsons behind this film’s story and script.  You have David Silverman, Raymond S. Persi helming the film. Then you have Joel H. Cohen, John Frink, and Rob LaZebnik as the writers. While the film isn’t as sharp as the famous show, Extinct’s brightest spot is that it has a rather witty script. It’s not the wittiest, but it has a snappy comedy edge that includes a solid amount of dialogue, as well as visual, and dark jokes that give the film a punchier vibe than what you would expect. So many smaller-scale films tend to feel so boilerplate because they weren’t given enough time to make the dialogue and script more interesting. Extinct on the other hand, feels like it has something more to it, even if the overall story feels a tad busy. It kept me invested with what was going on because I wanted to see what the next joke was going to be or the next visual gag. The characters are solid enough with Op and Ed both being reflections of cynicism and reckless optimism, but they work well off each other. The side characters aren’t the most memorable, but they do have a few decent lines here and there that make them not entirely forgettable. 

Animation-wise, it definitely looks like a film with a smaller budget, but the textures and compositing look good. There aren’t any real signs that the studios which made the animation have only the bare minimum with which to work. Everyone moves well and there were only a few times where the film showed its budget limitations. If you had to compare it to films in terms of animation quality, it’s on the same level as Red Shoes and the Seven Dwarves, Mosley, or Secret Magic Control Agency. It looks like a slew of the higher-end CGI fare from smaller releases. There is one musical sequence, and while the song itself is charming about whether you want to be safe in this safe room or die out there in history due to the many horrible things that happen in history, it’s not as much of a toe-tapper that it could have been. The voice cast is overall pretty great! They put in some more low-key comedy chops, and they deliver the jokes with some solid timing. It helps there are some fun actors involved with the cast. Ya have Adam DeVine, Rachel Bloom, Zazie Beets, Ken Jeong, Jim Jefferies, Benedict Wong, Catherin O’Hara, Henry Winkler, Alex Borstein, Reggie Watts, Nick Frost, and Richard Kind.  

The one major downfall for this film is that the time travel aspect becomes way too complicated. It starts out well enough and easy to follow, but when the twist happens, well, it starts to unravel. It becomes too much, and it’s not like it needs to be this complicated. They do their best to explain it all, but even after seeing this film a couple of times, it feels like they still skipped a beat here and there. The side characters are also mostly forgettable. What elevates them slightly are the voice performances, but there are so many side characters that come in for one or two gags that they are never brought up again or add anything to the overall story. There were some of the characters that had a lot of fun concepts to them, but there was a real struggle to remember their names. 

While Extinct is still one in a dozen of smaller film releases that normally come out to either rent or watch and are completely forgotten afterward, it does enough to actually warrant being remembered. It has some cute designs that look good in CGI, the writing is really snappy, and it will keep audiences more invested than other films of its kind. It’s more of a diamond in the rough-style hidden gem than a real bonafide gem, but if you are out of animated films to watch in between the major releases, then I personally recommend giving it a look-see. It does way more than most animated films, and I commend it for that. Even if the film fails on story and writing levels, at least it tries to make its experience memorable. Now then, we are diving into the world of Aardman with their newest stop-motion special, Robin Robin

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 212: Raya and the Last Dragon Review

imageedit_1_5932199426.jpg

(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 easy to forget, but Disney was not always this giant monster of a company that it is today. I mean, it was, but it wasn’t this big of a behemoth. Back when Walt Disney died, they hit a real dark spot, and while they clawed their way out of that dark spot during the late 80s and throughout the 90s, they then fell into another real dark spot in the 2000s. They hit a bad streak and probably one that was much more damaging during the early 2000s than the original Disney Dark Age, because of bad business practices. Almost every single animated film they put out during that period underperformed or downright bombed. When they felt like they needed to chase the trend of other studios coming to power like DreamWorks and Pixar, they fell apart. They lost who they were as filmmakers, and they let down the multiple talented artists that worked for them. While they still have problems with owning a bit too much of everything, it would be a lie to say they are artistically worse than they were back then. Sure, their live-action remakes are not all great, but their animation game has stepped up, and while you can argue about the quality of some of them like Frozen II and Ralph Breaks the Internet (they aren’t my favorites of the last decade, but if you think these were the worst, then you haven’t seen enough animated movies from outside the big film sphere), they have had more hits than misses, and that’s healthy for a company as problematically big as Disney. I won’t be supportive of some of their business elements, or the fact they shut down studios, and bury their non-inhouse-made films, but when they make a film I like, I am going to be supportive of it. For example, let’s talk about their recent film, Raya and the Last Dragon

Directed by Carlos Lopez Estrada and Don Hall, produced by Osnat Shurer and Peter Del Vecho, and written by Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim, this is the newest animated feature from the giant studio that was supposed to have come out last year, but the pandemic screwed over that release, and was recently released on March 5th via a theatrical/Disney+ premier access release strategy. This is Disney’s 59th animated feature. So, what do I think about it? I think you will need to read the review to find out! 

imageedit_3_5302572989.jpg

Our story revolves around Raya, voiced by Kelly Marie Tran. She lives in the land of Kumandra, a land that was once prosperous but is now a barren wasteland due to a corporeal force known as the Druun. The Druun were taken care of due to the sacrifice made by the dragons. Kumandra was then separated into a set of kingdoms with their own ways of living and ideals. When Raya was young, her father attempted to bring the different kingdoms together, but that plan failed when the gem that was keeping the Druun sealed away broke, and essentially all of human civilization was screwed over. Years later, as an adult, Raya sets out to find the dragon that saved the humans back in the day. The good news is that she does find the dragon named Sisu, voiced by Awkwafhina. The bad news is that Sisu wasn’t technically the dragon that saved humanity. It is up to Raya and Sisu to reclaim the broken gemstones and reform the orb to destroy the Druun and bring everyone together. 

imageedit_5_9092695844.jpg

So, this is Disney’s first original animated feature (not counting Pixar) since 2016’s Zootopia and Moana. It is kind of insane that it’s been that long. Luckily, their original animated features are still pretty strong. The main themes that are approached in this film are dealing with grief, loss, and trust. Throughout the entire runtime, you see many of the characters approach these themes in varying ways. Raya is not trusting of anyone, while her father was overly hopeful when she was younger. Even when Raya is searching for the last dragon, she was about to pull her sword out when she thought she saw some bandits that turned out to be people who turned to stone due to the Druun. It’s an interesting dynamic to see Raya bounce off of Sisu, Raya bounce off of Namaari, Raya bounce off of Noi and Buon, and you get the idea. You even see the darker sides of trust not only through Raya but characters like the Tail Chief. Seeing them deal with grief and loss is also eye-opening with how each of the main characters handles who they lost due to the Druun. A lot of the payoff with these themes and arcs feel very satisfying and that’s due to strong characters. Raya is a fantastic lead and Kelly Marie Tran pulls off her first major lead performance in a film. Awkwafhina as Sisu is divisive, but I don’t find her as annoying as previous comedic main characters, and if you know Disney’s other 58 feature films, there are much worse ones than Sisu. I love how Sisu is built up to be the key to solving the problems of the Druun, but she isn’t. She’s a piece of the puzzle, but not the end all be all. It’s up to the human characters to take what Sisu is requesting and do it on their own. Sisu also encapsulates these themes with her guilt and dealing with the loss of her dragon kind. While characters like Buon, voiced by Izaac Wang, and Noi, voiced by Thalia Tran are great twists on the kid characters, I think my favorite side character is Tong, voiced by Benedict Wong. He has some of my favorite story beats and is a delightful twist on the giant buff guy warrior. A lot of his moments show off great character animation and there is more storytelling within the film if you watch the animation unfold. 

imageedit_7_6736763159.png

Speaking of animation, I think Disney has hit the next level in their animation game. While I think they have always had good CGI animation (outside of Chicken Little and Meet the Robinsons, but they were starting late at that point), they hit a point where some of the weak elements were revealing themselves. Now they have upped their texture work, their human designs look the best since Tangled, and their body types have improved as well. Everyone has distinct movements, the action is stellar, and it shows why Disney has some of the most top-tier animation talents in the world. Seriously, when was the last time you saw some great action in a Disney film? The hand-to-hand combat has weight and is choreographed with excellent precision. The music by James Newton Howard, the same composer behind Pretty WomanThe FugitiveWaterworldThe Sixth SenseDinosaurAtlantis: The Lost Empire, and Treasure Planet, is grand. I adore the epic scale and the intimate tunes found within the film. I dig that they also collaborated with Filipina singer KZ Tandingan, and she sounds fantastic. The voice cast is also pretty stellar. What I usually like about Disney animation casting is that they chose actors that fit the role. They don’t just go by who’s the biggest names they can get, which is something that has plagued animated features since everyone took the wrong lesson from Robin Williams in Aladdin, resulting in films hirings big names simply for the sake of big names. The cast including Kelly Marie Tran, Awkwafina, Gemma Chan, Izaac Wang, Daniel Dae Kim, Benedict Wong, Sandrah Oh, Thalia Tran, Lucille Soong, and Alan Tudyk all are pretty good in their roles. I dug their overall performances with the script, and while I didn’t laugh at every joke that they threw at me, I still had a few chuckles that made me laugh.  

imageedit_9_9649547147.jpg

I don’t have any major complaints. Like, sure, some of the dialogue is a touch modern, but I’ve seen films that are in classical fantastical settings do worse. Namaari could have had a bit more time for her to be fleshed out, but I still love her dynamic with Raya and the small beats with her mother. I think in the end, whatever I could criticize, there is something to counterbalance it. I could go into what they did right or wrong with the Southeast Asian culture and their combining of multiple elements, but that’s not my place or my knowledge, and I don’t want to armchair diagnose any of the cultural elements. 

imageedit_11_9676985952.jpg

All I can do is judge this film as a film, and, well, I loved it. It’s so refreshing to see an original film from Disney Animation that isn’t a sequel, and while I am bummed it’s underperforming, I don’t blame any film underperforming since we are still in a pandemic. If you feel like it’s safe to go to a theater, then go check it out that way, otherwise, you should either wait for it to be free on Disney+ or bite the bullet and spend the Premier Access price for it. At least it’s one time and it’s tied to your account. Either way, Raya is one of my favorite films of the year so far, and I can’t wait to see where it ebbs and flows on my Best to Worst list of 2021. Now then, let’s dive into some foreign animation goodness with The Bear’s Famous Invasion of Sicily


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: Essential Viewing