The Other Side of Animation 142: The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales

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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!)

Comedy is probably the most consistent genre that animation is saddled with in the mainstream market area. It’s not like that’s a bad thing, to be honest. Comedy lends itself very well to animation, since you have full control of any kind of comedy that you want to do, from physical comedy to visual gags. As much as live-action can do great comedy, it’s limited by the fact that you can do more with animation. Unfortunately, comedic animation, unless you are Warner Bros., simply means fast movements and not much else. I think a lot of US animation studios wanting to make a comedy should look at Benjamin Renner’s The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales. Distributed by GKids here in the states, and originally a planned trio of TV specials, The Big Bad Fox was one of the films I was super excited to see. Probably for understandable reasons, it took forever to finally see this movie, and I’m happy to say, that the year-long wait was worth it. Let’s quickly dive in, and get on with this comedic masterpiece.

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The story revolves around three plays! The first story focuses on Rabbit, dubbed by Adrian Edmondson, and Duck, dubbed by Bill Bailey. The two are sent on an adventure to deliver a baby, when a stork crashes into a tree. Unfortunately, Duck and Rabbit are not the brightest bulbs, and Pig, dubbed by Justin Edwards, must go along to make sure the baby gets to where it needs to go. The second story revolves around Fox, dubbed by Giles New, who wants to be big and tough, but constantly fails to get a chicken to eat. After getting some help from Wolf, dubbed by Matthew Goode, Fox ends up with three eggs that hatch, and the chicks think that Fox is their mother. The final story centers around Duck and Rabbit thinking that they accidentally killed Santa Claus, and go on an adventure with Pig to save Christmas!

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There has been a lot of great comedies this year that have made my sides split, including Game Night, The Death of Stalin, and Blockers. However, I think The Big Bad Fox has the best comedy out of any film in 2018. Why? Because it knows what makes comedy work. Sure, it has plenty of physical gags, but the writing is also very witty, grounded, and just the right amount of sass that makes these talking farm animals feel real. Although, I have to say, the physical comedy in this film is really funny. It’s not too cartoonish or fast. It’s the right pace that you would see in Animaniacs or the old Looney Toons shorts. You can see the control the animators had over the movements that made, quite honestly, every joke land. It’s rare when a joke will land time after time after time. I think it’s because the jokes that you see in this film are pretty universal. It’s not full of gross-out humor, its dialogue is not meant to shock for shock’s sake, like Paradise P.D., and you can tell that they were careful with picking out each and every joke. Of course, good jokes wouldn’t work unless the characters did as well. While this is definitely not a story-driven experience, I still found myself loving the strictness of Pig, the wimpy demeanor of Fox, the silly goofiness of Duck and Rabbit, and the laziness of Dog. They still have moments where they change as characters, and do grow.

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In terms of the animation, it’s beautiful. The same 2D-flash watercolor look from the director’s previous film gels so well. Sure, you can see multiple lines on the characters not linking to one another, but Renner’s style has always been fast, and you get the overall point. The children’s book-style look fits the stories that are told for this film. The animation is still expressive, snappy, and wonderful to look at. In terms of the voice cast, while I wish they could have gotten actors like Bobby Moynihan and Steve Blum to play certain characters, I do think the British cast was the right choice. Sure, the trailer with the English dub on it doesn’t give off the best impression, but while watching the movie, it’s pretty well synced. I can maybe say one small moment where the lips and the dialogue might not match, but it’s more of an animation issue than the script.

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Really, the biggest gripe I have with the film is that, while I love the play aspect, I do wish they had found a better way to weave the story together. You see these characters all the time, but due to how this was originally supposed to be three TV specials, there is nothing truly connecting one story to the other. Some characters don’t even appear in the other stories. Also, for a film called The Big Bad Fox, his story is set in the middle of the film. I guess it’s to break the pacing of the two other stories revolving around Rabbit, Duck, and Pig, but it is odd that there wasn’t a different name to the overall film. Then again, it’s based off of Renner’s graphic novel of the same name, and honestly, at this point, I’m nitpicking.

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While it might not be as emotionally in-depth as Ernest & Celestine, The Big Bad Fox is still an amazing movie! It’s easily the best comedy of 2018, and one of the best animated features of this year. I luckily got to see this at an advance screening, and it will be going through a limited release on October 19th, so keep an eye out for a release in your neck of the woods. If you can’t see it, buy it on DVD. The wait was worth it, and I’m happy with that. Since it’s now October, it’s time to look at something that has more of an edge to it, and maybe, be one of the most entertaining animated flicks of 2018 with Ruben Brandt Collector. Thanks for reading! I hope you enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

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Worst to Best Animated Films of 2013 Part 3 (Finale)

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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. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Now it’s time to look at the final 11 films from 2013, and be done with this underwhelming year of movies!

11. Colorful

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Before making one of my favorite films of 2016, Miss Hokusai, Keiichi Hara made this animated feature, Colorful. This film is about a soul that gets a second chance at life by being brought back into the body of a young boy who committed suicide. It is up to the soul to find out who he is before six months are up. For the first half of the film, I was not enjoying it. I thought the character designs were ho-hum, the lead character was a giant jerk, it was sort of boring to sit through, and the lead’s voice actor was really annoying. I was sitting there wondering why it was so popular at festivals, and why so many people were gushing over it like it was the most important animated film of all time. When I got to the second half, it finally started to get good, and show why this film was made and its purpose. I loved the scenes between the lead and the father, the lead with the odd friend, and the more atmospheric and quiet moments. When the lead was actually putting his head into the game as to why he was chosen to be brought back, he becomes much more interesting as a character. It has a lot of great moments, but sitting through half a film of mean-spirited characters to get to a really good second half was difficult. I’ll go more into detail at a later date with this film, but I can definitely say that in the end, it was worth checking out.

10. Approved for Adoption

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This is one of the few animated films from 2013 that I would wholly consider unique. Approved for Adoption is an animated/live action documentary about the life of Korean-Belgium comic artist known as Jung. It is about his life when he was adopted by a Belgium family when he was a kid during the Korean War. It’s mixed with beautiful CGI-animated sequences, home-movie footage, and archival footage from that period in time. You can technically call this cheating, since it isn’t purely animated, but in my opinion, it’s animated enough to count. It deserves to exist more so than half the movies on this list. It’s a touching story of Jung’s life as he grows up with his adopted family, and finds his identity in the world. I do have some complaints, like the CGI animation is at times clunky, kid Jung is a punk, and the mother is unlikable as the film goes on. I wasn’t expecting rainbows and lollipops, in fact, it’s probably best that the film doesn’t sugarcoat the actual person’s life, but still. It’s definitely a film that’s not going to appeal to everyone, but it’s a touching story that deserves your attention.

9. Frozen

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I’ll be frank, the reason why this film is in this spot is because Disney milked it to death, and it ruined the charm for me. It’s still a great movie, with likable characters, great dialogue, funny comedy, touching moments, and is overall a fantastic film, but Disney couldn’t let this film be. They squeezed so much cash from this cow that it started to bring out the hipster effect, to where the film got too popular and people started to backlash against it. It does have its faults, like the troll song in the third act, the villain, and the unique fact that this is the first Disney film to be about two sisters and one becomes a queen, but they stay separated for a majority of the film. The ending is also pretty weak, but it’s still great, due to how touching the final moment is and how good the acting was. I still love this movie, but I think a few elements could be better.

8. From Up on Poppy Hill

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I know there is a bit of a split on whether people like this movie or not, but with the exception of the ending, I really enjoyed the story of two kids in a post-World War 2 setting. It really reminds me of the corny, but ultimately charming, Whisper of the Heart. It’s a very laid-back film that has some really great moments between characters, and a rather intriguing mystery on whether the two leads are actually related. Unfortunately, the ending just abruptly happens, and it ends on a whimper. It’s a shame, since the film was directed by Goro Miyazaki and was written by Hayao Miyazaki. It’s still a solid movie, but I wish the ending was better.

7. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox

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There is very little surprise as to why this is one of the best reviewed DC-animated films. It’s a well-executed mature film about a “what if” situation focusing on The Flash, and shows the results of one change to the timeline, and how one thing just dominoes into a much different future. The mystery was good, the history changes were intriguing. It was interesting to see some of the dramatic changes, like how Bruce Wayne is killed, and his parents become Batman and The Joker separately, and how essentially, the cataclysmic event of the film was partly started by one of DC’s punching bags, Aquaman. Yeah, I have a few problems that revolve around that, but in the end, that was the one problem I had with this film. It always seems like the writers for the animated stuff had more fun writing for The Flash than any other character. This is one of the few DC animated films that I have seen that I would highly recommend watching on Netflix, or buying a copy if you are curious.

 6. The Painting

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This is essentially Inception with paintings. It is the story of people who live inside paintings that go and search for their creator. This is one of my favorite European-animated films of this decade. I just love the focus, and sincere emotions, and chemistry the characters have for one another. I love the sequences where they jump to and from different paintings that lead them into different worlds and min-sets of said worlds. I adore the great colorful art style that definitely makes this CGI film stand above and beyond a majority of the competition in terms of how good CGi from overseas can look. I do wish there were some sequences explained more, but I can live with that.

5. Wrinkles

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Here is possibly the saddest film on the list. Wrinkles is a film from Spain that follows the life of a retired banker who is slowly going through the states of Alzheimer, voiced by Martin Sheen, as he is moved into a retirement home and becomes roomates/friends with  another old man, voiced by the late George Coe. The story is very mature, and is very much about the relationship between Sheen and Coe’s characters, and how they affect one another. It’s touching, sad, visually fun, humorous, charming, and that last scene. I cried during that last sequence because the words said are so tragic, yet touching. It does have a groaner joke here and there, and I can totally understand if this is not everyone’s cup of tea, but I can highly recommend Wrinkles for anyone looking for a mature animated film that isn’t a stoner comedy.

4: A Letter to Momo

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Once you know this was directed by the same guy who did Jin-Roh: The Wolf Brigade, it makes for an interesting contrast between that dark political thriller and this mature, but more light-hearted film. I have reviewed this film as well, as it’s a wonderful slice-of-life drama dealing with the loss of a loved one, and moving on. It has great characters, wonderful comedic animation, and has yet another Ghibli-style mood and atmosphere with how laidback a good chunk of the film is. There are some moments that somewhat annoy me, but they never bothered me enough to ruin the experience. The best characters were very much the three spirits that follow our female lead around. They worked well off each other, were hilarious, and were likable characters by the end of it all. It can be a very odd movie, but I highly recommend checking out A Letter to Momo if you are looking for a good Studio Ghibli-style movie.

3: Ernest & Celestine

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This was the film that got me into loving everything that GKids does, so it should be no surprise that I put it this high on the list. I already did a review of this movie since it was my very first animated film review, but the story of a mouse and bear becoming close friends in a world where that isn’t allowed, won my heart over, and was the film I think should have won Best Animated Feature, but I digress on that. The beautiful watercolor art direction, with some great animation and good timeless physical comedy, combined with some great chemistry among the characters, makes this one of the most appealing animated films to watch and is easily the first one I would recommend watching if you want to get into the GKids library of animated films.

2. The Wind Rises

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This is definitely one of the more controversial animated films of the past few years. The Wind Rises is a romanticized/fictional biographical story of Jiro Horikoshi, the man who designed the kamikaze fighter jets. I can definitely understand the raised brows and concerns, but since this is Hayao Miyazaki, they don’t approve or praise what Jiro did. More of the focus is Jiro’s passion of making planes. He even regrets and hates that his beautiful planes and designs were used for such a hateful incident. The rest of the movie is about his journey and life as a plane designer. It has everything you love about Ghibli films with its atmosphere, likable characters, quiet moments, and the whimsy. The voice cast is also fantastic, with Joseph Gordon Levitt doing an amazing job as Jiro. Sure, the love interest played by Emily Blunt might not be in the movie a lot, but she and Jiro, while not having too much time on screen, are adorable. I just loved this movie, and if this was actually Miyazaki’s final film, I would have been happy. It might be long, but The Wind Rises is a fantastic movie.

1. Wolf Children

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Surprise of the century that a Japanese animated film could do a better job at a Pixar/Disney film than Disney and Pixar in 2013! Seriously though, Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children is my favorite movie from this year. The story of a widow taking care of her half-human half-wolf kids is right up there with Spirited Away in terms of the best Japanese animated films of all time. It does everything right, in terms of an animated movie. It has likable/endearing characters, a well-paced story, subtle mystical elements that never feel distracting, complex themes of how kids can grow up differently, kid characters who are actually good, top-notch animation, and a fantastic musical score. It’s what you look for in a movie and it’s just a perfect animated film. If you felt like 2013 was bad in terms of animation, I dare you to say that after watching Wolf Children.

The Other Side of Animation 64: Long Way North 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. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

While I do think GKids is the best foreign/indie animation distributor, I wish more companies were like them. There are probably a slew of great foreign animated films, new and old, that we never get to see. It always seems like besides the stuff GKids brings over, companies will bring over the worst of the worst because they are cheap and won’t cost a lot to get some B or C-list celebrities to voice the characters. Not to say they are all utter schlock, but you have to look pretty hard to find one of these cheap films that are actually competent. Luckily, some companies still know quality when they see it, and to the best of their abilities, bring it over for everyone to see. You have Sentai Filmworks who brought over Short Peace, Funimation bringing over the amazing movies by Mamoru Hosoda, and now we have a new contender, Shout! Factory Kids. This is the family/children spin-off of horror/sci-fi distributors Shout! Factory. So far, their animated film offerings have been just okay. They have some unique films, like the French-made Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart, A Monster in Paris, which I have already reviewed, and the Canadian-produced Snowtime! And yes, I will get to them during Christmas. However, to me, their best-to-date, in terms of what they have brought over, is today’s review, Long Way North. This French/Danish collaboration is from first-time director Rémi Chayé. This might be his first directorial job, but he has been around the European animation scene for a good while, and has worked on many classic animated films. Heck, a lot of people on here worked on some of the best overseas-animated films of all time. It’s like a European animation version of The Avengers. Rémi Chayé worked on films that include The Painting, The Secret of Kells, and Eleanor’s Secret. One of the producers, Claus Toksvig Kjaer, was a producer on Song of the Sea. Another producer for Long Way North, Henri Magalon, was a producer on Ernest & Celestine. The composer, Jonathan Morali, also has his name under the critically acclaimed video game, Life is Strange. The individuals in charge of the art direction, Han Jin Kuang Liane-Cho, worked on The Illusionist, Ethel & Ernest, Zarafa, and The Little Prince, and Slaven Reese worked on Ethel & Ernest, Song of the Sea, Zarafa, and The Prophet.  Like, wow, you’ve got some really good individuals involved with this movie. So, is it as good as the 100% critic score or the 80% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes rating it has as of October 23rd, 2016? Well, let’s find out.

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The film takes place in Russia in 1882. We follow the story of a young Russian aristocrat named Sasha, voiced by Chloe Dunn. Sasha is still getting over the supposed death of her grandfather, Olukine, who left on a journey across the ocean to find the North Pole. After an incident with a royal snob that would have promised her father a strong political spot, Sasha decides to go off on her own to find a ship to go in search of her grandfather and his ship. What will she find? What will happen to her?

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I want to start with the animation since it’s fairly unique. At least, to me it’s unique. Long Way North has a beautiful art style, but the animation is very simple. It’s not super-fast or detailed. However, it’s very expressive, and you can easily get a lot of the emotions from the characters. It’s a beautiful movie with lush countrysides, freezing landscapes, and you can essentially feel the salty air in the seaside town Sasha finds herself in during the film. This film definitely has a vibe that you would see in a Mamoru Hosoda film or something from Studio Ghibli, with characters that can be tough, but with a kind heart to them. Sure, there are some crabby individuals, and I will get to them later in the review, but this film has something that reminds me of the interactions you see in films like Castle in the Sky or The Boy and the Beast. Long Way North also has a more mature tone. It’s nice to see this be a rather dark film in the later part. You don’t know if Sasha will actually find her grandfather’s ship and make it back. Sasha is a great character who is smart, active, and is willing to learn new things, and you want to see her succeed, but man, it can be grim later on. Not enough to ruin the film, but it can be as dark as something like Song of the Sea. The overall adventure is enjoyable to watch, with the highs and lows being pretty balanced, and the highs don’t overshadow the lows.

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I was hooked on this movie from beginning to end. However, I do have some complaints. They are minor, but I should bring them up. The royal prince that you see in the film should have been taken out. He has no real character besides being a spoiled jerk. Heck, he only appears at the beginning and the end of the film. I don’t see why he had to be an ignition point for the story to get started. Why not have Sasha find the navigations on her own, and then try to deal with her parents, who are not outwardly dealing with the loss of the grandfather, but don’t want to hear that there might be a possible way to find out what happened to him. I also feel like they could have made the film a bit longer. The real end of the film is the still frames in the credits. It would have felt more powerful if we got to see it all in motion. The pacing could also use some work. Long Way North flows pretty well, but there are some bits all over the movie that could have been better.

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Long Way North might not be anything innovative or groundbreaking, but it’s a freaking good movie. It’s simple, but well executed. It’s hopeful, but it’s not afraid to be tough. It has simple animation, but it’s gorgeous and well done. If you have a theater playing this movie, you should really see it. It’s one of my favorite films of 2016. It’s easily in my top 10. It’s also coming out on DVD in January, but still, find some way to watch this great movie. Next time, we will look at one of the most popular Japanese films of recent years with Miss Hokusai. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials

Was It Really Our Fault For The Death of 2D Animation?

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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. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Around the mid-2000s, 2D animated films were struggling, with a majority of the flops coming from Disney and DreamWorks. This was when their 2D animated films were not bringing in waves of delicious greenback bills, and were instead being critically panned, and flopping/underperforming. This list of films include Home on the Range, Brother Bear, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, Treasure Planet, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, and you get the idea. The only 2D animated films that were doing really well during this time period were the films made by Studio Ghibli, like Spirited Away and Howl’s Moving Castle. When Home on the Range and Sinbad came out, both Disney and DreamWorks told the world that 2D animation was not a profitable way of filmmaking anymore, no one was seeing 2D animated films, and the new profitable form of animation was CGI-animation. This was essentially throwing 2D animation under the bus. So, was it really the public’s fault that 2D animation was dead? Is there a reason Europe and the rest of the world is keeping it alive and not getting wide releases? Well, let’s talk about what was going on around this time period.

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On one side of the spectrum during the early to mid-2000s, the only financially/critically successful animated films that were being made were of CGI, and Pixar and DreamWorks were leading the charge. This was when we were getting films like Shrek 2, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. All of these films were critical darlings, and are pretty fantastic films. On the other spectrum, you were unfortunately getting Disney and DreamWorks 2D animated films that were not doing well with audiences and the bank. Like I said above, the 2D animated films were not making enough of a profit, and were getting critically panned at the same time. Sure, you would get a film like Lilo & Stich, Emperor’s New Groove, and Spirits: Stallion of the Cimarron, but those films were few and far between in terms of being successful 2D animated films. The point is Disney and DreamWorks were losing money, and the only thing that was bringing in the cash besides their live-action films were their CGI animated films. Not to say that each CGI animated film during this period was a success, since this was when DreamWorks was trying to compete with Disney/Pixar, but the numbers and money talked.

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So, does this mean that 2D animation was 100% dead? Of course not! Even if Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks were moving toward full-on CGI animation, due to the masses leaning more to CGI animation by overall audience appeal, there were a few studios and directors that were passionate or really stubborn about Hollywood’s sudden lack of 2D animation. This was when we were getting a lot of the Studio Ghibli films brought over by Disney, like Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Porco Rosso to name a few. Other directors like Sylvain Chomet gave the public The Triplets of Belleville, one of the best pieces of 2D animation around, and was a critical and Oscar winner. Japan has a multitude of amazing animated films during this time period, and even today we have incredible 2D animated films, like the late Satoshi Kon’s Paprika, Mamoru Hosoda’s Wolf Children, The Boy and the Beast, and Summer Wars, Makoto Shinkai’s The Garden of Words, and of course, Katsuhiro Otomo’s slew of films like Steamboy, and anthology project, Short Peace.  Europe has been rocking the 2D animation, with films from France, Spain, Scotland, and other areas including Song of the Sea, The Secret of Kells, A Cat in Paris, Phantom Boy, Ernest & Celestine, The Illusionist, Nocturna, Wrinkles, and Chico and Rita. Even Disney came back with two 2D animated films, with The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh. Sure, they didn’t break a gigantic amount of bank, but I love that Disney at first was going to do one 2D film, then a CGI film, and go on like that until they went full-on CGI animated. Even Brazil gave us Boy and the World, one of the most visually amazing films, not just animated films, I have ever seen.

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So, if 2D isn’t technically dead, since the rest of the world and the indie scene are treating it with the respect it deserves, then what really killed it? Well, it’s actually pretty obvious and simple. There is no reason to go into a college-based philosophical journey for the answer. Really, it’s the Hollywood machine, and the studios’ fault for killing off 2D animation.

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Yeah, I know it sounds like a hipster thing to do, and blame the bigwigs for killing off a style of animation, but it’s quite frankly the truth. So, during the mid-2000s of 2000-2005 or so, what were the companies releasing during this time that was 2D? This was when Disney was releasing films like Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Brother Bear, Treasure Planet, Lilo & Stich, Emperor’s new Groove, and Home on the Range. On top of that, this was also the tail end of their Straight-to-DVD fling, where they released a bunch of mediocre sequels to their popular Disney films. I’m sure you can find merit and something positive to say about certain elements of these films, but they were really scraping the bottom of the barrel in terms of quality with these straight-to-DVD flicks. DreamWorks on the other hand only released about two 2D animated films, with one being a hit, and the other causing the infamous “2D animation is dead” quote with Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Sinbad. Now then, we’ve got our suspects from the 2D side of things from both companies, what went wrong with the studios making these films? After watching them recently, with the few exceptions that I have mentioned above, the rest feel like movies that were ruined by the higher-ups putting their focus-grouped hands into the mix. Films like Brother Bear, Sinbad, Treasure Planet, and Atlantis: The Los Empire could have been incredible movies, but what you get are films with bits and pieces of greatness and things to like, but then have to get past the elements that are distracting or not very interesting. Most of the time, the biggest blunder these films made was within its dialogue. When the characters talked like they were part of that time or setting, it was great and engaging. You felt like you were there with them. However, when the modern dialogue, Disney whimsy, and hip lingo pops into time periods where it isn’t remotely appropriate, and is only put there because some idiot higher-up thinks everyone would like it, it’s frustrating. It’s like they couldn’t fully stay invested in their own tones. If you want to be dark in Atlantis, then you need to keep the mature tone, and not throw in so many side characters, humor, and a weak bad guy. How much better could Brother Bear be if he didn’t turn into a bear and he was kept just as a human? I could say all of this with the other films like Treasure Planet and Sinbad. These studios, for the most part, would rather throw someone or something under the bus to avoid the honest truth that they made a bad movie that no one wanted to see, or have to admit that they were trying to cater to the lowest common denominator, and it wasn’t working. Oh, and was anyone really asking for Home on the Range? I mean, really?

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Yeah, I don’t buy that 2D animation died because people stopped caring about it. I think it died because studios here in the states kept giving us films that either couldn’t stay in the tone they set out for, higher-ups got their meddling hands into the pie, or were just terrible movies. Luckily, with the huge success of films like Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets, Finding Dory, and the animated films distributed by GKIDS, animation has become a huge success during 2016, where with a few exceptions; a mass majority of the 2016 big Hollywood flicks are not panning out. Sure, you could argue it’s just the summer movies, but I feel like the animated films and indie films have been getting more of the spotlight and praise. Hopefully, this means that the bigger companies can try and come back to 2D someday, but due to how current Hollywood is run, it will probably take some time. Just remember, it’s not always your fault Hollywood made a stupid mistake. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the article, and see you all next time.

The Other Side of Animation 38: Go West! A Lucky Luke Adventure 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. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

So, on The Other Side of Animation, we have seen a lot of animated films that try to capture that old Tex Avery and Looney Toons-style of speed and comedy. It has worked for some, from the more subtle physical comedy of Ernest & Celestine, to the overly hyper Cool World. It can be a tricky line from either being really good comedic animation to being mentally draining to watch. You have to pretty much pick and choose when to make the animation work, and not be an eye sore on the viewer. Today’s review is a film that straddles that line. Go West! A Lucky Luke Adventure is a French animated film based off of the popular long-running franchise that was released back in 2007. It was also a part of the 32nd Annecy International Animated Film Festival, and was in the same year as Nocturna and Sita Sings the Blues. You can guess correctly that Sita Sings the Blues won, but how is Go West!? Well, let’s find out.

The story follows our main cowboy hero Lucky Luke. He arrives in a city to oversee the Dalton brothers, four brothers who end up breaking loose from jail and going down a street of banks robbing them. After a creative car chase and great slapstick, Luke and the Daltons get wrapped up in helping out a caravan of people. They make it to California to acquire a piece of land that will otherwise be owned by a greedy individual. Can Luke make sure all goes well?

Well, let’s get the good out of the way first, since there are some great elements to the film. For a film based on a popular license, you would think no effort would be put into the animation. Luckily, this is French animation and not American animation, because the 2D animation for Go West is fantastic. It’s good fluid cartoony animation that made me think of some elements from Looney Toons, Ren and Stimpy, and Tex Avery cartoons. There was no time where I felt like the animation felt out of place. Even though slapstick can be done poorly these days, the slapstick is admirable here since it, for the most part, feels genuine and thought out. It might be a bit too cartoony for the physical timing, but it’s pretty enjoyable, especially in the first 16 minutes of the film. Speaking of those 16 minutes, that is probably the best part of the movie. It’s like a longer version of the great chase sequence from Ernest & Celestine, but with a Looney Toons flare. It’s a creative chase to try and get the Daltons from stealing the money.

With all that said, this is one of the few French films I have found to be a disappointment in many ways. After the 16-minute mark, the film becomes boring and tiring. Due to the fluid cartoony animation, it becomes too busy at points, and it feels like it’s trying to be funny all the time. A lot of gags and jokes fall flat. Why do they fall flat? Well, because a majority of the characters, besides Lucky Luke himself, are stupid. Comedy doesn’t work if everyone is acting the same. It comes off of the interaction between two or more different characters. That’s why it works in Pinky and the Brain or Tom and Jerry because the two duos are different in terms of personalities. The stupidity of the characters also leads to there being no real threat, since like I said, the characters are not that bright. The film also feels like it had no real plot to begin with, and tries to fill it out with slapstick and character quirks that don’t work. I can’t feel invested with a lot of the characters besides Lucky Luke. I also found some of the logic to not be executed well. Why would one of the Daltons get really upset at his brother for cleverly hiding the stolen money inside the balls and chains that were attached to them? I feel like that’s a creative plan. I also found a lot of the characters forgettable. I don’t remember any of them. Even most animated comedies try to make you care about the characters.

It’s such a shame that so much effort went into the animation, but the story fell flat. I mean, if this is what the original source material was like, then that’s fine, but it doesn’t really attract or appeal to anyone outside of the fan base. You should always make a good movie first, than worry about the fan base. This is why films like Ratchet & Clank are not working. And yes, we will get to Ratchet & Clank at a later date. Go West is not a horrible movie by any means, at least it had a few memorable parts, but unless you want to own every animated film released in the states, then you are better off finding the full English version on YouTube than going out and finding a copy of the film to own. I can also understand if this was made for a younger audience in mind, but wouldn’t you rather make a movie everyone can see? I know sometimes it’s best to make a movie geared toward one crowd, but sometimes, it’s good to make it all around enjoyable. Well, let’s move onto something different. How about an animated short film called The Monk and the Fish? Thanks for checking this article out! I hope you liked it, and see you all next time!

Rating: Rent It

The Other Side of Animation: Ernest & Celestine Review

 

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For the first review for The Other Side of Animation, I struggled to pick the first film to talk about. I could have talked about one of my recent favorites, Tom Moore’s Song of the Sea, which was nominated for an Oscar, but lost to Disney’s Big Hero 6. I could have also talked about the vibrantly beautiful Azur and Asmar: The Princes’ Quest by famed French writer and director Michel Ocelot. However, while I will get to those movies in due time, I wanted this first review to be special. This Oscar-nominated film, Ernest & Celestine, was directed by Stèphane Aubier, Vincent Patar, and French cartoonist Benjamin Renner. If you have heard of the first two directors, Aubier and Patar, that is because they made a stop-motion animated film called A Town Called Panic back in 2009. The film was produced by Didier Brunner, who has been around the French animation scene with collaborations with Michel Ocelot on Tales of the Night, Sylvain Chomet’s The Old Lady and the Pigeons and The Triplets of Belleville, and Michel Ocelot’s Kirikou and the Sorceress. Not only that, but he also helped out Tom Moore with his first major film, The Secret of Kells. Now then, shall we get started? Is Ernest & Celestine a classic that should have gotten more attention?

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The story is set in this strange world where mice live underground, and bears live above-ground. The main focus is on a little mouse girl named Celestine, voiced by Makenzie Foy of Twilight fame. The adult mice send Celestine above-ground to obtain a cub’s tooth from a family of bears who live above the candy store, in order to replace their own teeth. In the process, she gets trapped in a trash can. The next day, she ends up meeting a hungry bear named Ernest, voiced by Forest Whitaker. What results in this meet-up is a powerful bond of friendship, outrunning the police, and tackling the challenges that their societies have brought upon them.

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So, what do I really love about Ernest & Celestine? I mean, I started this series off with this one movie, so it must be pretty fantastic, right? Well, not to spoil anything, but I am going to explain why this movie is amazing. First off, let’s talk about the story. It’s pure and simple, but its execution is where it shines. It doesn’t have an overarching villain, or annoying side characters, or musical numbers. The main appeal of the story is the focus on the relationship between Ernest and Celestine. It’s charming, heartwarming, funny, and it feels genuine. Both Ernest and Celestine are likable characters that you can connect with, due to them being in a world where society tells them that they should do one thing and not another. Due to how simple the story is, there is more time spent on focusing on the relationship between Ernest and Celestine. It’s nothing romantic or off-putting, it’s a wholesome and easy-to-relate-to friendship. You get such a warm feeling when you watch the two of them bond. This is especially true with the final scene in the film. There is also a clever bit of commentary about discrimination, and running a business racket. What do I mean by that last example of commentary? Well, Nick Offerman’s character is a candy store owner. He makes sure to rot people’s teeth out with delicious sweets. That’s fine and all, but where do the bears go to get replacements? Why not head over right across the street to the teeth store that is owned by the wife of Nick Offerman’s character? I found this bit of commentary funny.

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The animation is outstanding. This is some of the slickest animation I have ever seen. The fact that it looks like watercolor makes it stand out even more. Every character is incredibly expressive, and a good example of that is when Ernest and Celestine are in Ernest’s house, and she is expressing her hatred for glue traps. The expression on Ernest’s face as Celestine goes into detail about why the glue traps are torturous is hilarious. The slick animation also helps out with some of the best scenes from the movie, like the underground to above-ground chase scene. It just screams old-fashioned movie making, with well-executed stunts and slapstick that you would see in the very early days of film. The animation also leads to some incredibly artistic and creative sequences. For example, there is a scene where the two need to hide the delivery fan that they got away in. Instead of just putting a cloth over it, they paint the entire vehicle to look like the environment around them. Another great scene where the animation is expressive is when Ernest plays the violin. It reminds me of something out of Fantasia, where the artist animated what they heard through the music.

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The voicework is phenomenal. Each character in the English dub is well-casted. Forest Whitaker voices Ernest, Makenzie Foy is Celestine, and the rest of the cast includes big names like William H. Macy, Nick Offerman, Megan Mullally, Paul Giamatti, Jeffrey Wright, and the late Lauren Bacall.  The music is also extremely well-executed. Composer Vincent Courtois brings us music that is elegant, charming, heartwarming, and energetic when needed. If I had to pick my favorite track, I think it has to be the song at the end of the film, and rightfully so, is the film’s theme song. I might not understand the French lyrics, but I always feel calm and collected, and have a smile on my face each time I listen to it.

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If I had to say one little nitpick that doesn’t detract anything from the movie, there is a sequence where both Ernest and Celestine go through a nightmare where they each know that they are both there for one another. It happens in a span of five minutes, and I felt like they could have put maybe a minute or two more between both nightmare sequences.

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Outside of that, Ernest & Celestine is a fantastic movie. It’s one of my favorite movies, and one of the best animated films of the past couple of years. If you are tired of seeing films done in the same formulaic Disney style, and want something more in the vein of when Pixar is on a roll, then I would highly recommend you buy this movie. I don’t know what else to say, but get a copy and enjoy it! Now then, how about I dip my toes into some Irish animation next with Song of the Sea? See you next time on The Other Side of Animation!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials