The Other Side of Animation 245: Back to the Outback 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.

Netflix has been making a name for themselves with the teams and talented individuals they hire to craft their animated work. Streaming has opened up a much wider field for there to be differences within the animated medium. We have gotten shows and films that would not fly within the big studio scene, and it leads to a much healthier artistic freedom. Not to say there aren’t huge improvements to be made behind the scenes, because there absolutely are with how animators, writers, and entire teams are paid and treated, but you can still appreciate the work that they have made. Hopefully, things become better behind the scenes, because the products these talented individuals are making have been really fascinating. For example, this new animated film called Back to The Outback. 

Directed by Clare Knight and Harry Cripps, our story revolves around a group of “dangerous” animals at a zoo in Australia, because if you are going to have a film about dangerous animals, you might as well go the route and place it in a country with some of the deadliest animals around. Moving on, we are following the story of a Taipan snake named Maddie, voiced by Isla Fisher. She lives in a glass cage in the area of the zoo that has “dangerous” animals. These animals include a funnel-web spider named Frank, voiced by Guy Pearce, a thorny devil named Zoe, voiced by Miranda Tapsell, and a scorpion named Nigel, voiced by Angus Imrie. They are treated as the worst things ever, compared to their zoo counterpart, a koala named Tom/Pretty Boy, voiced by Tim Minchin. Pretty Boy is the star of the Zoo while everyone else is treated like garbage. After a crocodile is taken away after scaring a kid, Maddie and her friends decide to escape the zoo to head back to the outback! Unfortunately for them, they have to take Pretty Boy with them and are now on the run! They are being hunted down by a handler at the zoo named Chaz, voiced by Eric Bana, and his son named Ben, voiced by Diesel La Torraca. Can our gang of animals outmaneuver the humans and make it back to the wild?



Listen, this film is getting stuck between so many big releases and releases that aim for a more adult audience. It’s a real shame, because while it is a smaller story, the film itself is still creative with how it handles its themes. There is a lot of subtextual commentary with how the “dangerous” animals are portrayed, and how the zoo handlers get them ready for the show. There are so many little moments and details that you can pick up from the film’s animation beats, that the cutesy designs are almost there to really catch you off-guard with the subtext underneath the cuteness of the visual style. Even the villain, while nothing super memorable, follows through the themes of the film. There is nothing better than watching a film taking full advantage of the themes it lays out on the table for everyone to see. Throughout the entire film, the story itself has all of these little creative jokes and moments that play up the themes of the film in clever ways. Sure, on the surface this looks like a lot of smaller-scale animated films, but when you look past its cute designs and past the somewhat familiar trappings of most family-focused animated features, there is a lot to find admirable about how it talks about the subject matters. Even the comedy has a lot of wit via its dialogue and visual gags. If you are at all familiar with the history of animals in Australia, then some of these gags are going to be a laugh riot. 

Animation-wise, it gets the job done. The designs of the animals and humans are good. The animals themselves are expressive and they mesh well with the human characters. The voice cast is delightful, and they are all going at it like how most actors should be doing voice work. You know, like actual acting gigs. They all capture their characters perfectly. The cast is stacked with plenty of big names that include Isla Fisher, Tim Minchin, Guy Pearce, Miranda Tapsell, Angus Imrie, Eric Bana, Rachel House, Keith Urban, Celeste Barber, Wayne Knight, Jacki Weaver, Aislinn Derbez, and Diesel La Torraca. The soundtrack has the proper Australian vibe composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, and there are a few songs that are sung by the characters in the film. It will definitely remind you that Keith Urban has a great singing voice. 

While the film suffers from some familiar story beats that we have all seen in road trip films, some characters are better fleshed out than others, and not all of the jokes hit, Back to the Outback is a wild romp that sets out to be a fun little animated adventure, and at the same time, deals with themes of discrimination. It’s on Netflix, so you have no excuse to miss out on it. Plus, Netflix, despite their many faults, was willing to let these directors and their talented team of writers and animators make a movie that was a surprise. Rarely do many films result in a positively surprising reaction. Now then, it’s time to dive into some screeners with My Sunny Maad. 


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 244: Encanto 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!)


Only counting their canon-animated films, from the beginning to now, The Walt Disney Company has made 60 animated films. That’s incredible, and the fact so many of them are influential classics, award-winning staples, and pop culture fixtures is impressive. Not all of them are great, and some are really bad, but considering the context of the time period they were released, you can understand what was going on behind the scenes with them.  Still, to have a pretty good overall batting average is what a lot of animation studios hope to have. While the number of amazing films doesn’t wash away a lot of the problematic and troubling elements the company has, I’m glad to have been able to see the different generations of Disney films be released and see how things have changed for the studio for better or for worse. How about we see how well their 60th animated feature turns out? Let’s dive into the world of Encanto


Co-directed by Charise Castro Smith, Jared Bush, and Byron Howard, and co-written by Charise Castro Smith, and Jared Bush, the story stars Mirabel Madrigal, voiced by Stephanie Beatriz. She is one of the many children of the Madrigal family in Colombia, a family who has been blessed with many of the members having their own “miracles” that make them special. One sibling can shapeshift, another is super-strong, or can hear from miles away, and you get the idea. Mirabel, on the other hand, has no powers and feels like a disappointment among the family members. One night, after the celebration of a new sibling getting the power to talk to animals, Mirabel gets visions of the house falling apart and the magic leaving the family. What is going on exactly? Why does no one talk about Bruno? What is going on with the house and the magic? 



The first thing to really notice about the overall story is how smaller-scale and personal it is. There’s no “this will be the end of the world as we know it.” plotline or something that could change the face of the earth as we know it. A mass majority of the film takes place either within the magical house or adjacent to it. It doesn’t turn into a globe-trotting adventure, and instead becomes a more intimate story about family and legacy alongside the stress and pressure brought upon by the previous generations. The “miracles” you see within the film are not just a creative quirk given to a majority of the family members. Instead, the powers represent the different struggles of certain members of the family. For example, Luisa is super-strong, but her gift is also causing immense stress of having to carry the weight and legacy of the family on her shoulders. Pepa and her ability to control the weather via her emotions create so much pressure to always be sunshine and peachy and never sad. Isabela has to be constantly perfect, and while she looks like she does it effortlessly, there is some real turmoil under her facade. Camilo can shapeshift, but you can look at it as a perspective on both finding out who he is and having to have a certain look to help with the image of the family. The execution here reminds me of something you would see in something via Pixar or in something akin to a film from overseas. While they could have spent a little more time expanding or exploring some of these ideas, I love that they went in this direction with the powers and the main conflict being the bond between the family members. 

It’s also, simply put, nice to see the team make a film that’s entirely focused on a family. It’s not Mamoru Hosoda’s level of focus, but the fact that they keep the family as the main focal point and don’t really leave some of the members out as secondary characters is great. They have done this before, where they introduce a whole family, but most of them get sent to the background. Here, while some family members get more focus than others, the overall family still plays an important part to the story. The igniting point still might be Mirabel and her relationship with her grandmother, but how many animated films have you seen that keep the family as the focus? Even Pixar has been hit-and-miss with the family dynamic in their films. 

Animation-wise, Disney is always going to be showing off how much they spent on their animated films. The time and care that goes into their animated films show why they are at the top of their game. The gorgeous color palette makes this one of the most visually stunning animated features of the year. The designs are also improving from the usual Disney look, and while some of the typical Disney designs are there with the eyes, the fact the main cast has so many different body types is impressive. The voice cast is also great. You have a film full of Latinx and Colombian representation, and for the heck of it, one cameo from Alan Tudyk. Still, outside of that, we have an incredible cast that includes Stephanie Beatriz, John Leguizamo, Wilmer Valderrama, Angie Cepeda, Jessica Darrow, Diane Guerrero, Maria Cecilia Botero, Rhenzy Feliz, Carolina Gaitan, Mauro Castillo, Adassa, Ravi-Cabot Conyers, and Maluma. Of course, this is a musical, with a score by Germaine Franco, and songs by Lin Manuel Miranda. Out of his two animated offerings this year, Encanto has the better song list than Vivo, and I enjoyed Vivo a lot for its music. 

Now, there are a few nit-picks that build up over time. Personally, the film should have been longer. Disney is gonna Disney, and for some reason, most of their animated fare is always 100 minutes. Not to say there needs to be a regular runtime for certain animated films, but they could have easily expanded upon the story and themes a little more to really dive into the story. It would have also helped pace out the songs due to how many there are and how close they can be to one another. It might be the fact that Disney, even though they are pushing themselves a little further now than in previous films, is still feeling like they are held back by their own identity as a brand. It’s going to start hurting them once other studios start going outside of their own boundaries as Sony has. There is much more competition these days, and Disney needs to remember that they can be beaten at the award game if they are not careful. Hopefully, they can, but this is just the animation critic side of me coming out. 

Even with the small complaints, Encanto is quite possibly the best Disney animated feature in ages. It, at the very least, might be my favorite animated film from Disney in a good long time. It doesn’t quite beat a few other animated films of the year, but it’s going to be in the top five. That is, unless some other films come through my animation-loving targeting. Now then, next time, we will be covering  Back to the Outback, the final Netflix animated feature that they are willing to tell you about. I mean, there is also Green Snake and the other animated films they are bringing over, but unless you hear it from them, you won’t know. Either way, we have some animated films to talk about this month! 

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.

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 239: Poupelle of Chimney Town 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!)

Studio 4C is one of the premiere animation studios from Japan. While they might not be as well known as Science Saru, Ghibli, Chizu, or Madhouse, their work is some of the most visually stunning and impressive to be seen. The thing is, you probably have seen their work. If it’s not Masaaki Yuasa’s Mind Game, then it may be their shorts seen in anthologies like Batman: Gotham Knight, Memories, and The Animatrix. You may also have seen their anthology films like Genius Party and Genius Party Beyond. Their other films include Tekkonkinkreet, Spriggan, Princess Arete, the Golden Age Arc Berserk films, Harmony, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, or the visual masterpiece from 2019, Children of the Sea. Whether you gel with their experiences or not, you can’t deny the immensely talented animators, directors, and artists they have that craft some of the most distinct films out there. They are also one of the earlier adopters of CGI among the many studios in Japan. It’s not always perfect, but when you live in a world that has both Ex-Arm and Tesla Note, you can do so much worse. Plus, a lot of Studio 4C’s work is quite good! This includes their newest CGI feature film, Poupelle of Chimney Town. 


Directed by Yusuke Hirota, the story follows a young boy named Lubicchi, dubbed by Antonio Raul Corbo. He lives with his mother in a large city known as Chimney Town, a grime-and-smoke-covered city where the only lights visible to the people are from the buildings, as the smoke is so thick that it covers the sky. Before he went missing, Lubicchi’s father Bruno, dubbed by Stephen Root, told Lubicchi about stars in the sky and a world not covered in smoke. Unfortunately, anything relating to said stars or any kind of optimism is squashed by a zealous cult that gets rid of people that bring that kind of stuff up. One day, Lubicchi encounters a being made entirely of trash, who is dubbed by Tony Hale. Lubicchi learns that this trash individual may have been from beyond the smog-and-smoke-filled sky, and decides that he wants to see what the outside world is like while avoiding the grasp of an evil cult. 

A good way to go into this film’s story is that it plays out more like a fairytale. It has very dream-logic  and fantasy world-like logic, but if you try to put too much logic in what is going on, then you will probably not like this movie. Luckily, there is more than one way to tell a story, and luckily, this film has a lot of substance behind its fairytale-like story with commentary about the environment, family, connection, believing in the truth, and is scathing towards organized cults and capitalism. The entire plot and why Chimney Town is in this condition is based around someone trying to solve the problem with greed. It’s a film with an ambitious story within its whimsy, and it finds a way to properly balance out both. It takes a lot of time to let the characters bond and let them breathe within its smog-filled world. Some characters are not as memorable as our two leads, but there are enough characters that are appealing that will make up for some of the film’s lesser characters. 

Animation-wise, this was going to be one of the interesting elements to the film. The original picture book has such a vibrant style that would be a challenge to bring it to life in film. The film and studio decides to go the route of using CGI animation, which to some animation purists is a sin when it’s really not. Sometimes, CGI is the only way to properly bring certain visual styles to life. While Japanese animation studios are still getting used to working with CGI, the visuals are really good here! The animation is snappy and expressive, the world around the characters is oozing with small details, and the world they have crafted feels fully realized. The music is also whimsical and even has a random Halloween dance number. It’s all composed by Yuta Bando and Youki Kojima. Voice acting-wise, the English dub is the first time I have seen Eleven Arts dive into the world of bringing on celebrity voice actors. At least they brought on great character actors with Tony Hale and Stephen Root having some of their best performances not only as voice actors, but actors in general. Antonio Raul Corbo is also good as our child lead. For one of his first voice overperformances, he does an excellent job. You also have Misty Lee, Hasan Minhaj, Ray Chase, Kari Walghren, Aleks Le, Mick Wingert, James Mathis, Laura Post, Greg Chun, and Fred Tatasciore. It’s a cast that does a fantastic job with their roles. 

Now, it might get overshadowed by the other foreign features being released during award season, and sadly, we might not be seeing this in limited release until 2022, but when you can find a way to watch the film, please do. It’s one of the most charming animated features from 2021 and one of the best and most visually stunning films from the acclaimed studio. It’s great that Eleven Arts is bringing over more animated fare and we can all hope they do more of that. Now then next time, we will be talking about another Netflix original series as we are diving deep into a few screeners. 

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

Let’s Talk About That Boss Baby Oscar Nomination

(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!)


I was on a podcast recently talking about what the award season looks like for animation. One of the companies that came up with just a brief mention was DreamWorks. We discussed how it really doesn’t have a leg in the race this award season with two films that aren’t all that stellar. When you are competing against heavyweights like Belle, Encanto, Luca, Where’s Anne Frank, Flee, and Summit of The Gods and all you have is Spirit Untamed and Boss Baby: Family Business, well, that doesn’t look great. 

Now, some may argue that it is possible, due to how the first film was nominated for Best Animated Feature, and it was a financial success that spawned a Netflix series and the sequel. Yes, there is a chance for it to maybe slide in and get a nomination here or there, but in the grand scheme of things, Boss Baby: Family Business will not be nominated. It has a lot of elements to love about it, but it’s a film that would have maybe done better in a weaker year than this one. A lot of people seem to think just because one film made it, it means the sequel will make it when that isn’t always the case. 

What many seem to forget is everything around a film’s release matters. It’s important to know what the time period is, the political climate, the release window, what else was getting released during or around that time, what kind of year was it for animation and film, and what have you. I know many will groan at that listing of things that can and will absolutely affect a film’s release, but I don’t know what else to tell you.All you can do is to get over it. You do need to take in what was going on at the time, so let’s break it down bit by bit. 

First up, the theatrical animation climate for 2017 was a vastly different climate than what we were dealing with back in 2016, which many would argue was an incredible year for animation. 2017 on the other hand was sparse and mostly filled with US-based animated features that were middling to lackluster with a few that were really good. This was the year we got The LEGO Batman Movie, Despicable Me 3, Cars 3, The Nut Job 2, The Emoji Movie, Ferdinand, Coco, The LEGO Ninjago Movie, Smurfs: The Lost Village, and you get the idea. If you wanted your art intake, then you had a much better time following what was getting released by the likes of GKIDS, Elevenarts, and other distributors that year. That way, if you felt burnt out from the US animation scene, you could watch films like Mary and The Witch’s Flower, A Silent Voice, In This Corner of The World, The Breadwinner, Loving Vincent, Window Horses, Birdboy and The Forgotten Children, and The Girl Without Hands. 

With that out of the way, you know what also happened in 2017? You can probably guess what happened since what happened in 2017 was a result of something that happened in 2016. Due to that world-changing event, shows like SNL decided to parody the infamous person of interest by having Alec Baldwin play him in skits making fun of the person in question. As you can tell, due to a multitude of events that are political and entertainment-based, the fact there was a movie about a baby who may or may not be inspired by a multitude of characters fictional or real voiced by the guy doing the impression of the president at the time, well, it was going to have some kind of appeal. 

With the US-based animation scene feeling a touch lackluster, the academy and most award season groups were allergic to overseas animated fare. The one film that, while not the most critically well-received, was part of the pop culture zeitgeist for the year, so it’s not a surprise that the film was nominated. Online film fans and snobs constantly talk about how award shows should nominate the “best” but also, the most important films to that year. That means that a film like The Boss Baby, in the world of animation and film in 2017, is important. It sure does sound like your brain is going to explode with thinking that, but talking about the most influential animated films means including films like Despicable Me, Minions, Hotel Transylvania, The LEGO Movie, and you get the idea. 

Context is everything, and now we must ask the question about the sequel. Normally, since the first film was nominated, that would mean the second film surely has a chance, right? Since this editorial doesn’t need to be longer, let’s break down why Boss Baby: Family Business will not be nominated. 

1. Too much competition from other studio distributors like Disney, Pixar, Netflix, Sony,  GKIDS, and Neon. 

2. It wasn’t received that much better than the last film. 

3. It very much left the pop culture zeitgeist as quickly as it arrived. 

4. Did you remember there was a Boss Baby sequel this year? 

While there were plenty of other films that were worthy of being chosen in 2017 for the Oscars, looking back at everything going on during that chaotic year, it’s not a real surprise it was chosen. Even if the Academy wasn’t allergic to all foreign animation, what other US animated film would you have chosen? Cars 3? I doubt it. Despicable Me 3? It made a billion, but Illumination was never in the running for awards. What about the two LEGO Movies? They were pretty neglectful of the first one, and there was no changing that fact with the voters. So, you either go with the films that were chosen or you risk the academy choosing lesser films. You COULD pray to whoever will listen for the other foreign features, which they won’t do unless they make a huge splash or were festival favorites. At the end of the day, award shows don’t truly show our personal preferences of what we find to be the best films of the year, and you should like whatever you want. Just know that sometimes, the most important films of every year, or what you would consider important, are not the most acclaimed films of any given year. 








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!

The Other Side of Animation 237: Maya and The Three

(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!)

Jorge Gutierrez is one of the most visually distinct artists in the animation scene. His distinct Hispanic/Lantinx inspiration has made him a fan-favorite artist for his work on El Tigre and 2014’s The Book of Life, to name a few of his incredible works. When we talk about artists with visually distinct styles, he is one to be on the lookout for. There is something so incredibly charming and appealing about his work, and hearing that he was one of the original artists picked up to make something original for Netflix was thrilling to hear. Luckily, his newest project, Maya and The Three, a nine-part limited event series, is quite possibly his best work and one of the best new shows/event series of 2021. 

The story revolves around a young lass named Maya, voiced by Zoe Saldaña. She lives with her family who are mighty warriors that include her father King and queen Teca, voiced by real-life couple and creators of the show Jorge R. Gutierrez and Sandra Equihua. On her 15th birthday, the underworld gods tell her that she must come with them to pay for her sins and past actions made by her family. To try and prevent her fate, Maya goes on an adventure to try and uphold the prophecy that her parents told her, about how a mighty eagle warrior and her allies will take down the God of War and save their people. 

The best part about this limited series is how well it fleshes out its characters. The creators tend to take an admirable amount of time to set everything up, and it never feels awkward or unnatural for the plot to snap back from giving each of the backstories of our characters to going back to the main plot of the episode. It’s a straightforward story as Maya encounters her three allies while taking on Gods of all shapes and sizes. It makes for a fun watch that never skips on what needs to be told and the stellar action sequences. While there are goofy and silly elements to the overarching story, it’s one that can get dark, and there will be character deaths. It’s a tale that has themes of death, dealing with loss, family, discrimination, and dealing with legacy. You may assume this is for kids only, but be ready to turn into an emotional messy blob with how difficult the story beats will impact you in the feels. If you have loved the stories from films like Kubo and the Two Strings, then you will feel right at home with this show’s tone. There are some that may say it would have been cool to see as a movie, but the nine-episode runtime gives everything enough room to develop. Sure, there could be some downtime for the characters to breathe, but it’s a show that knows where it wants to go with its story. 

One of the goals for this show from Jorge and Sandra was to make Maya a series with a theatrical look and budget, and boy howdy, they got it down. This is one of the best-looking tv/event series you could find on the streaming service. The CGI is top quality from the animation studio Tangent Animation, Mexopolis, Maya Entertainment, and Netflix Animation. The designs carry Jorge and Sandra’s iconic visual flair with the designs with Jorge translating extremely well into CGI. Characters have a ton of detail to them, but it never feels too busy. You can tell what kind of character each individual is by the look of their designs. They even throw in some 2D sequences to add a little flair to the overall polished package. The world they craft is so creative. Rooster-shaped magic schools, lunar moon islands, mist-covered temples, colossal golems, neon speed lines, upside-down pyramids, gods that can cause tornadoes, gator-headed gods, and you get the idea. They went all out to make a fantastic world in which everyone thrives. 

The voice cast is fantastic, with a Hispanic/Latinx cast that has a ton of amazing actors and some of them get to play against type, which is really refreshing to see when you sometimes only see these actors play one type of character. You, of course, have the incredible  Zoe Saldaña who is fantastic as our lead heroine. You also have Diego Luna, Stephanie Beatriz, Gabriel Iglesias, Alfred Molina, Gael Garcia Bernal, Danny Trejo, Allen Maldonado, Cheech Marin, Rosie Perez, Wyclef Jean, Queen Latifah, Carlos Alazraqui, Eric Bauza, Joaquin Cosio, Isabela Merced, Rita Moreno, and other incredible voices. They put out some of their best work as these characters, and the voice acting is matched by an incredible score composed by Gustavo Santaolalla, who composed the music for The Last of Us series, Brokeback Mountain, The Book of Life, and Narcos: Mexico. Tim Davies, who also helped with music for Darksiders, Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack in Time, Batman: Arkham City, The Simpsons Movie, Ant-Man, Crimson Peak, Frozen II, and many other shows, films, and games also composed the show’s score.

The fact of the matter is, Maya and the Three is incredible. This is one of those event series that you get hyped for, and the hype is 100% worth it. It’s incredible to see a creator like Jorge and his amazing team put together something truly inspiring, grand, and beautiful. You have one of the best stories told in animation this year, and if you are in the mood for something truly distinct, then you will need to watch this epic series. Now then, I’m going to keep what’s coming next under wraps. You will just have to check in next time to see the next review. 

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

The Other Side of Animation 235: Firedrake the Silver Dragon 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!)

Listen, it is pretty much impossible to have every studio make films on the level of the top-tier giants like Chizu, Science Saru, Disney, Pixar, and you get the idea. Not every studio all around the world is going to throw down the money for the tools, the talent needed, or will have the smoothest production cycle to make films on par with what’s coming out these days. That’s okay for the most part. Not everything needs to look like the most polished animated film from the bigger studios. With that said, with so many smaller studios making animated features, you have to do something that stands out. If your film makes viewers remind them of much better films, then you are in trouble as a studio. It’s always going to be disappointing when you see a small film from a studio that wants to make an impression, and then come off as something that was made because someone wanted to make an animated film due to how profitable they can be. This is where most people will fall with Dragon Rider aka Firedrake the Silver Dragon


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Directed by Tomer Eshed, the director behind the incredible CGI short Our Incredible Nature: The Common Chameleon, Firedrake was written by Cornelia Funke, John R. Smith, and was just released on Netflix. The story follows a silver dragon named Firedrake. He can’t breathe fire, the other dragons treat him like some odd individual, and his only friend is a creature called a Brownie. He talks to the elder dragon of his kind to learn about the Rim of the World, a location where dragons live freely and away from humans. One day, they find out that the humans are creeping ever so close to where the dragons live. It’s up to Silverdrake and his friend to find the famed dragon rider to help find this location and avoid the evil grasp of Nettlebrand, a mechanical dragon that wants to eat the dragons of the world. 



It’s very difficult to come up with a compelling story that feels refreshing and constantly keeps your attention. Unfortunately, this film doesn’t do a stellar job at keeping the audience’s attention. If you have seen any kind of fantasy film with dragons as the focus, then you will have seen this film. It has a few good lines and morals, but when you are struggling to remember the characters that said it, or when they said it, that’s a problem! The fantastical elements mixed with modern-day human civilization feel undercooked. The humans don’t seem to care that giants, sea serpents, and other mystical beings exist in this world, when the opening of the film explains that humans and dragons used to live together. Okay, well, why should I care? Viewers will find it hard to feel engrossed in this bog-standard world with a mediocre story attached. There are themes of moving on past a tragic event in your life, and how everyone is flawed, but can do good things. To give the film credit, those are decent points. 



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Getting to those points is what makes the film such a struggle to watch. It feels too childish for adults, and not engaging enough for kids. It makes references to much better films you would rather be watching, and those references can come off as both cute and very desperate. The two references by the way are for Ice Age and the obvious comparison point for this film, How to Train Your Dragon. To be fair, the film is based on a book,and could have been simply a bad adaptation of the story. To be even fairer, most viewers won’t care if it’s based on something, because the film needs to be good on its own, and no one wants to see fantastical creatures reference stuff like the internet, Skype, and you get the idea. It feels insulting that this film thought it needed to take place in the modern-day when if you change the time period, it wouldn’t matter. Sure, you would have to change a few scene executions around, but you wouldn’t have to change the overarching story. 




The characters fall flat. Firedrake is your typical dorky outcast who wants to be a powerful dragon but doesn’t know how. Sorrel is the snarky one who doesn’t trust humans. Ben had the potential to be an interesting human character, but viewers will have seen much better orphaned characters with shows like Kid Cosmic that came out this year. The villains and side characters that help flesh out the world don’t offer too much, which is shocking since you would think a giant mechanical dragon voiced by Patrick Stewart would be more entertaining than it actually is. The film’s story is a real crushing case of going in one ear and out the other. 




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The animation for Firedrake and the Silver Dragon looks like those videos you see on YouTube, where they take a game that has colorful cartoony graphics and run it through the hyper-realistic textures and graphics of the Unreal Engine, but then don’t translate the cartoonish character designs. The animation looks clunky and stiff. They also do a lot of repeated character models and looping animations. The overall vibe that I personally took away from this film is an animation school graduate project. Patrick Stewart’s character Nettlebrand has the best character animation on him, but it makes you wonder whether making him metal had a reason for it. A different team would focus more on his robotic elements than it looking like an alternate costume/skin from a video game. The human designs are unappealing to look at, and another sign of either the talent not being there or the talent not having time to go over a few sequences to make them look less horrifying at points. The film also feels like the CGI characters are at times flying against a flat background.


Since it wants to be like How to Train Your Dragon, it does have a few moments of action and flying, but they feel unimaginative. How to Train Your Dragon felt like you were there while the flying was happening. The overall film lacks that cinematic edge, and whether it was due to time or resources not being handled well, the action and flying sequences don’t have that spark and magic to them. Yes, for the most part, you can judge this film on its own merits without having to compare it to films that were obviously made by large teams of talented animators and directors. With that said, when a film like this is making references and wants to be like that more popular film, well, it’s open season on the comparisons.

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The voice cast does have a few big names including Thomas Brodie Sangster, Felicity Jones, Patrick Stewart, Freddie Highmore, Meera Syal, Sanjeev Bhasker, Nonso Anozie, Alex Norton, and Jimmy Hibbert to name a few. The performances range from annoying to some of them trying their hardest to work with the mediocre material, and some of them are completely forgettable. Patrick Stewart seems to be putting in most of the legwork to leave an impression, and even the weakest Patrick Stewart performance is better than most actors in this film. 






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Netflix is an odd beast when it comes to animation. They have all of this money and they have put out a lot of incredible work, but then you see them buy films from overseas that would look at home on the film rack in a grocery store next to direct-to-video animated fare. If I wanted to see a company bring over direct-to-video films, I would have gone to Lionsgate. Firedrake the Silver Dragon is not the worst of the year, but it’s definitely a bottom-tier animated film for 2021. Maybe if this film came out in a weaker year I would have liked it more, but since the films are so strong this year, it’s going to end up near the bottom. There are so many better animated films with dragons in them right now that you would have to use a map to find a reason to watch this one. If you do want to watch it, then go ahead. Watch the film at your own leisure and see how you come out of the experience. Well, next time, we will be looking at yet another CGI animated film coming to Netflix, but you will have to wait and see what it is.

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: Lackluster!

The Other Side of Animation 230: Vivo 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.

Sony Pictures Animation has had quite a year, hasn’t it? The Mitchells vs. The Machines, Wish Dragon, the upcoming release of Hotel Transylvania 4, and with a lineup of other amazing and promising projects coming down the pipeline, Sony Pictures Animation is experiencing a renaissance of artistic creativity that has matched the likes of Disney and Pixar at their peaks. It’s nice to see a studio like Sony find their route through the sea of animation and result in some of the best or more interesting animated films for the past few years. They are doing what every studio should do by diversifying the experiences that you can’t get from other studios. Don’t try to make a Disney-like experience. If I want a Disney experience, I’ll go to Disney. Luckily, Sony Pictures Animation is so distinct that you won’t have a problem seeing them craft something other studios have turned down for some reason. For example, let’s talk about their newest film, Vivo. 


Directed by Kirk DeMicco and Brandon Jeffords, this new animated feature was born from a passion project by Peter Barsocchini and a failed pitch from Lin-Manuel Miranda with songs written by Miranda and his collaborator Alex Lacamoire. It was originally pitched at DreamWorks Animation after Miranda’s play In the Heights was a hit, but due to DreamWorks getting restructured in 2015, the pitch fell through. Later greenlit through Sony Pictures and set for release back in November 2020, Vivo was delayed due to the pandemic. Afterward, Sony made a deal where their animated films and live-action films will make it to the streaming service Netflix. So, where does this land on Sony’s recent streak of animated films? Well, you will have to read to find out. 

The story revolves around a young Kunkajou named Vivo, voiced by LIn-Manuel Miranda. Vivo lives with his owner Andres, voiced by Juan de Marcos Gonzalez. They live in Cuba together and play music. Their life is perfect until Andres gets a letter from a previous love interest named Marta Sandoval, voiced by Gloria Estefan. Marta requests that he come to Miami for her last performance so they can see each other again after so many years have passed. Unfortunately, Andres passes away before he can make the trip. At the wake, Vivo meets Andres’ grand-niece named Gabi, voiced by Ynairaly Simo. Vivo decides to go to Florida with Gabi and her mother Rosa, voiced by Zoe Saldana. Vivo then attempts to communicate with Gabi to take Andres’ last song to Marta’s final performance in Miami, and it is up to Gabi and Vivo to get there in time!

Let’s talk about the animation first. Something that Sony Pictures has tied their name to in terms of their visual style and art direction is experimental and groundbreaking innovations and snappy movements. So, What does Vivo bring? Well, due to it being a musical, the animation is still snappy, but it matches more with the music, so the movements are slower-paced to sync with the tunes. It still has the distinct Sony Pictures Animation elements with the human designs, but it doesn’t go as far as Spider-Verse or The Mitchells. With that said, it didn’t need to go that route since it still has its distinct visual look that I can’t match to other animated films that are out there. As per usual though with a Sony animated film, it does have some very vibrant and unique animated sequences that give a unique 2D CGI look using bright neon colors that make certain moments pop. It’s such a cool-looking movie, and I’m glad many of Sony’s animated features tend to have their looks. I adore these 2D/CGI moments in the film that don’t feel like they are trying to copy what another one of their films did. In terms of the voice cast, I adore it all. Lin Manuel Miranda is still growing on me as a lead actor and just an actor in general, but he brings a charm to the character with a certain innocence, and his comedic timing is getting better. I also enjoyed his singing. I know he doesn’t have the best voice, but for how the song was written and set, he passes with flying colors. Ynairaly Simo is also good as Gabi and brings that energetic “I dance to the beat of my own drum” spirit that encapsulates the character. The rest of the cast does a fine job as their respective characters as well, including Juan de Marcos Gonzalez, Michael Rooker, Brian Tyree Henry, Gloria Estefan, Leslie David Baker, Nicole Byer, Katie Lowes, and Zoe Saldana, all making for a memorable cast that has their own identifiable moments. The music by LMM and his co-writer is really good! It’s nice to see a strong musical from someone other than Disney for once. I know other studios have tried, but they tend to try and feel like a Disney musical rather than be their own type of musical. I found myself humming a lot of the tunes as I worked on this review and when I was at my job. 

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Story-wise, it’s a film that’s all about how music connects us, family, love, and the legacy you leave in this world. While the story itself has familiar beats and rhythm to the overarching story, the execution still made the journey through the film worth it. Music is such a universal language, and Vivo showed that no matter who or what you are, music connects us. At first, I was curious about why Vivo couldn’t speak the same language as the humans, but I think that helps reinforce the whole “music is universal” message that the film is going for. The studio sort of goes the route of something like Courage the Cowardly Dog where around everyone, he talks like an animal, but when addressing the audience or interacting for the sake of the audience, he speaks English. It’s an incredibly sweet story overall, and it reminds me of a US studio doing their take on one of my favorite films, Chico & Rita. Not only does it take place partly in Cuba, but the same kind of music is played throughout both films. It has, again, a familiar story beat about family, but I think everyone has gone through this situation where they lost a loved one and didn’t get to say something to them. They didn’t get to leave what they wanted to say to them. It’s an overall touching story, and even some bits with the side characters are fun. 

Something that I wish more US animated films would do is step out of their comfort zones when it comes to certain characters and stories. I say this because the film itself doesn’t offer that many surprises, and that’s a shame because I like the overall experience and story, but it’s full of story elements you have seen before. It makes for an experience that’s well-told, but something we have seen before. You know what’s going to happen, and while it’s all executed well, there are elements to the story that could have been improved. The side characters are a good example of this. To me, they fell flat. The main film should be about Vivo and Gabi, but you still want to see the rest of the cast stack up to them or be memorable in some way, shape, or form. Rosa is just a typical caring mom, the Sand Dollars are typical tyrannical girl scouts, and Lutador is a road stop villain. He isn’t there to be important to the story, but more of a challenge that they have to face when trying to get to their destination. Rooker plays him with a devilish charm, but he’s like Madam Mim from The Sword in the Stone. No real mention or build-up until you see him. I also wanted there to be more time between Vivo and Andres. It gets to the tragedy as soon as possible, and that was jarring. Even when the trailer accidentally spoiled what happened to Andres, I wasn’t too bothered by it since I felt like something was going to happen, but I wish we either had spent more time with Andres, or Andrew lived and got to see Marta in person before passing. I know you would have to retool the film if the story kept him alive, but I feel like we didn’t get much time with him. It’s a shame since I love Juan de Maros Gonzalez as Andres and would have liked to have seen him in more scenes interacting with the people in the city and for there to be more scenes of just him and Vivo. 

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I think the biggest downfall of this film coming out is the fact it came out after something as big and acclaimed as The Mitchells vs The Machines, and it’s not fair to Vivo to be held up to that high standard. Vivo stands on its own two feet in terms of its own experience. I think that’s something quite nice about the animated films from Sony this year. They all feel distinct and different from one another. Sure, I might have a ranking of which ones I Like more, but it doesn’t change the fact that I have still found so much joy in how many unique offerings this one studio has given us this year. If you have yet to watch Vivo, please do. Netflix has done a terrible job with marketing this film, and it would be a real shame for this to get buried because of Netflix’s asinine algorithm and being overshadowed by other films and shows released that day. I love that we got an original film from the amazing Kirk DeMicco, Lin Manuel Miranda, and the other members of this passionate team. Seriously, do not let this film get buried. Now then, I would take a small break from reviewing, but the work is never done! Next time, I will be writing a review about another CGI animated film that Netflix is burying on the site with Monster Hunter: Legend of the Guild. I’m a little worried about how this film will turn out, but it can’t be any worse than that awful live-action adaptation from 2020 right? See ya next time! 

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 224: Luca 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!)


You know how I have mentioned in a few reviews this year that studios like Disney can and have become very complacent with how they want to deliver their animated features? How the teams at these studios want to push the boundaries on the stories they tell, but know that they have to begrudgingly stay within the boundaries since they are one of the biggest media corporations aimed at families? It must be frustrating because you can tell that they want to do more, but can’t. You can see that in their films like The Black Cauldron from 1985, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and to some degree, Raya and the Last Dragon, they feel like it could have gone further. The same goes for Disney’s other major studio, Pixar. While Pixar tends to get away with a little more than their owners with how ambitious or adult-themed their films can be, they sure did have an identity crisis after 2010. From 2011 to 2020, while still releasing great movies like Inside OutFinding DoryCocoToy Story 4, and Soul, their lineup was less than stellar. It reminds me of how Disney was back in the 60s-80s after Walt Disney died, or back in the 2000s after their streak of hits from the 90s. There are going to be growing pains, but in some ways, that is healthy. Could you imagine being forced to reinvent the wheel over and over again or else you are considered a failure? Or how the studio will function after a major founder leaves or is fired because they were a scummy individual behind the scenes? Anyway, I talk about all of this because of Pixar’s newest film, Luca

Directed by Enrico Casarosa, written by Jesse Andrews and Mike Jones, this is Pixar’s newest animated feature that was unfortunately sent directly to Disney+, and while you can argue about the whole theatrical scene right now due to the pandemic that we are still in, and they made sure everyone could watch the movie, it’s still a bummer they didn’t give the film a theatrical release. Still, how does this new Pixar film stack up among their 26 years of animated features? Well, let’s dive into the crystal blue waters and check out this fishy movie. 

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Our story revolves around Luca, voiced by Jacob Trembly, a humanoid fish being that has been told his entire life that humans are dangerous individuals and has mostly lived his life as a shepherd of fish. One day, while letting the fish graze among the kelp, he finds items from humans that have fallen into the water. As he goes to collect these items, Luca encounters another fish person named Alberto, voiced by Jack Dylan Grazer. Alberto lives on the surface world, and you find out that if sea monsters walk on land, they turn into humans. Luca gets tantalized by the land as he hangs with Alberto. That is until Luca’s parents scold Luca for going onto land and plan to send him off to the deeper part of the ocean. Luca rebels and decides to go to the human town of PortoRosso with Alberto. There, the two meet a young girl name Giulia Marcavaldo, voiced by Emma Berman, her father Massimo Marcavaldo, voiced by Marco Barricelli, a bully named Ercole Visconti, voiced by Saverio Raimondo, and learn about the human way of life. Will Luca ever go back to the ocean, or will he fall in love with the human world? 

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So, it’s hard to talk about this film because of the discussions being had around the studio itself. People have seemed to put Pixar on this unhealthy pedestal of if they aren’t reinventing the wheel, changing your life in the most impactful way possible, or their films don’t make you cry, then they are lesser. This discussion has popped up again due to how small the scale in story and stakes in Luca are. It’s a more casual slice-of-life/coming-of-age story than something as complex as Soul or Inside Out. Apparently, that’s a bad thing, even though animation fans have wanted to see the big studios take on smaller stories like what you would see in foreign animated films. Well, they finally do it, and while I have some complaints about how it’s handled, I enjoyed my time with Luca‘s story and themes. It was nice to see a big-budget film studio tackle a story that’s mostly about two young characters enjoying and experiencing life. It’s not about saving the world, or the risk of the fish people dying off. It’s two boys who experience the human world. Sometimes, it’s good to have a story scale back its experience. There are still themes of acceptance, discrimination, and so on, but the main deal about this story is the friendship between our two leads. The overall film is built around this, and personally, there is still a lot under the surface with the friendship and those themes of acceptance and discrimination. While they have said there is no romance between Luca and Alberto, you can pick up themes from the LGBTQ+ from how the humans treat the fish monsters and, well, the fish people themselves. Yes, the film is about a close friendship, but there may be some things that were put into the film that comes with the territory. 

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Animation-wise, Pixar shows why they are on top of their game. I know some people have criticized the art style, but when you ask for Pixar to change things up, well, this is what you get when you ask them to do such a thing. I found it charming, and it has its little animation details that it can call its own. I saw it used more cartoony blurring movements during some moments, and the mouth movements are pulling more from some modern cartoons. I adored the swimming animation when Luca is a fish monster, and I could go on about how they accurately catch the nervous mannerisms of a fish when Luca is hesitant to go to the surface. It reminds me of a bunch of times being in shallow water and watching fish come up to me to either check me out or nip at my skin. The designs are quite appealing, and the transition between fish and human forms is so fun to watch. The human designs are also pretty fantastic with a look that I can’t pinpoint with any other Pixar film. It shows how far we have come from 1995 to now with CGI animating humans. The visuals are quite lovely as, whether it’s accurate or not, how they portrayed a small coastal town in Italy, and the dream sequences are just a delight for the eyes. Casting-wise, I very much enjoyed who they hired. Sure, it’s odd that they didn’t stack the cast with all Italian actors due to the setting and such, but they all do a pretty good job at capturing their character’s personalities and mannerisms. I mean, when you have a cast that has Jacob Tremblay, Jack Dylan Grazer, Emma Berman, Saverio Raimondo, Maya Rudolph, Marco Barricelli, Jim Gaffigan, Peter Sohn, Marina Massironi, Sandy Martin, and Sacha Baron Cohen, then you know that the cast will be pretty good. The soundtrack though, oh my goodness, the soundtrack is ear-pleasing to the nth degree! It’s one of the best soundtracks of a Pixar film ever with a mix of music composed by Dan Romer, who also composed the music for Beasts of the Southern WildBeasts of No Nation, and Wendy, but the soundtrack is also filled with plenty of Italian pop that blends in with the film to make for a distinct experience. 

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My one major complaint about Luca is that it could have taken a bit more from its obvious Ghibli inspirations by being a longer movie. It’s paced well for 90 minutes, but a lot of the charm of Ghibli films is that Miyazaki and the other directors let the characters lay around and just exist. Sure, it led to a lot of animation flexing from the hard-working animators, but it let the characters simply live their lives in their movies. Luca sort of does this, but doesn’t fully commit to it. It still had to keep the story moving and had to have a third-act conflict that ended in a happy ending. Heck, it even has a third-act conflict that, while built-up better than a lot of Ghibli films, it’s pretty predictable, since it’s about dealing with hateful individuals and discrimination. Granted, with how current events are right now, it’s sadly going to be timely. 

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Luca might be smaller in scale, but it’s a delightful film with a lot of charm. Could it have been even more like a Ghibli film? Sure, but at the end of the day, I still want a Pixar film to BE a Pixar film. A studio is always at their best when they are making films that have their own distinct identity and personality. I highly recommend watching Luca on Disney+ and still wish it got some kind of major theatrical release because this film would look gorgeous on the big screen. Now then, before I get to some other films, I must attend to a screener of a new Netflix original film. You probably know what it is, but if you don’t, well, you will have to wait and see. 

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 

The Other Side of Animation 221: Wish Dragon Review

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Heads Up!: I was able to view this early with a screener. Thank you, Netflix!

(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!)

Sony Pictures Animation has been having quite a renaissance, haven’t they? They went from a studio that people were indifferent to with most people liking Surfs Up, the Hotel Transylvania franchise, and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. They then became the most overly hated studio in the world because they *gasp* made The Emoji Movie, which wasn’t even the worst animated film of 2017 or the most cynically-made animated film of all time. Seriously, the hatred this studio got was incredibly petty and I resent anyone who fueled that flame. They then became the messiah of change in the animation scene with their more recent hits like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and The Mitchells vs. The Machines. With their recent release lineup of animated projects, they seem to be at the forefront of making diverse and distinct animated films that you won’t find from other studios. For example, their next film is quite a delightful experience with Chris Appelhans’ Wish Dragon

Directed by Chris Appelhans and produced by Sony Pictures Animation, Tencent Pictures, Base FX, Flagship Entertainment Group, and a few other companies, the film was set to release back in 2019 but then was delayed to 2020. Of course, it was officially released in China on January 15th, 2021, and will be officially released on Netflix on June 11th. It was even produced by Jackie Chan who also provides the voice of the titular dragon in the Mandarin dub. So, how many wishes does it take for this film to be good? Well, let’s find out! 

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The story revolves around a young man named Din, voiced by Jimmy Wong. He’s a hardworking individual who has big dreams but doesn’t have the right background to reach those dreams. His main goal, while being rich and successful, is to reunite with his childhood friend Lina, voiced by Natasha Liu Bordizzo, who he hasn’t seen since they were little kids. One day, while out on a delivery, Din obtains a jade teapot that houses a magical wish-granting dragon named Long, voiced by John Cho. If Long can get Din to use up three wishes, Long can journey to the afterlife where he will be welcomed with a big parade and his many “fans”. However, an evil trio of goons wants the magic teapot for their nefarious deeds for a supposed mysterious client. Can Din use the wishes to reconnect with his childhood friend? What are the true mysteries of the teapot and the dragon? Are shrimp chips that delicious? 

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What stands out about this film is the fact that the story is really good! I think the story’s core themes of friendship, class dispute, family, and finding out what’s important to you and your life were heartfelt and compelling stuff! I know some people worried about it being too similar to Aladdin (even though the original story of a wish-granting genie was from Chinese origins), but it is pretty much the absolute opposite in terms of story and themes. I mean, yeah, some parts may be familiar, but it has an entirely different vibe and core message than what you would get out of Disney’s take. First off, the Wish Dragon in question has a more sarcastic and pessimistic personality, but Long never becomes overbearing. Long is his own character and doesn’t try to be like the iconic Robin Williams Genie. The characters all feel important and diverse in their goals and dialogue. You get why they are performing certain actions, and they feel fairly realistic. I also love that it’s not a pure romance flick. Din and Lina just want to become friends and it never turns into anything romantic. I’m so happy it’s a platonic relationship because, at the end of the day, it would be stellar if more studios realized ya didn’t need to have the two characters end up together. Even the “villain” of the film has an understandable reason for wanting to get the teapot. The film is also a real laugh riot. There was a lot of fantastic dialogue and visual gags that while maybe more downplayed than Sony’s recent hit The Mitchells vs. The Machines, I still found myself laughing out loud multiple times during the runtime. Seriously, this has some of the best jokes of the year. 

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Animation-wise, I get that some people may be turned off by the animation. The humans look a little basic, and they do rehash some character models for later purposes and gags, but in general, the animation is quite good. Long gets some of the most expressive animations out of any character this year in animation. I even love the head goon’s leg animation. It might be goofy, but the creativity of him not using his hands for a majority of the film is humorous. The action sequences may have a bit more focus on squash and stretch, but it makes it a lot of fun to watch to see the film use more cartoony physics. The music by Phillip Klein is solid as he’s the composer for The Last Measure and has worked on films like 2019’s Joker and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. The voice cast is all pretty good as you have the likes of Jimmy Wong, John Cho, Constance Wu, Natasha Liu Bordizzo, Jimmy O. Yang, Aaron Yoo, Will Yun Lee, Ronny Chieng, and Bobby Lee. 

I will say, the one real downside I have for this film outside of the simple human designs is that the villain is a little weak. His leg thing is super creative and fun, but outside of that, he’s the weakest villain of the bunch. I prefer his henchmen over the main villain. Outside of that, I have already mentioned my issue with the human designs and the fact they rehash multiple models for a multitude of roles, and that did drag me out of the experience at points. Not by much, but it happened every once in a while. 

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Wish Dragon is the type of film I love discovering every year. Something not as bombastic as more major releases, but a film I easily prefer to the more mainstream releases of this year and previous years. Something that I wasn’t expecting and ended up loving is always a blast to find every year. I highly recommend watching Wish Dragon, and congrats to the director and his team for making a fun and enjoyable experience. Next time, I will be talking about another screener, but expect it to land soon. 

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!