The Other Side of Animation 92: A Stork’s Journey 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!)

One of my main rules is that I don’t tackle straight-to-video animated films, unless it has a reason for me to check it out, whether it be a streaming exclusive, or getting a limited theatrical released. I don’t do it with every straight-to-video schlock, because if I did, I would probably not want to review another animated film for life. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have to watch films like Spark or today’s review of yet another Lionsgate alumni, A Stork’s Journey. This German-animated film is directed by Toby Genkel and Reza Memari. It was a Google Play exclusive, but got a theatrical release at the end of June 2017. Listen, I know I have been critical towards Lionsgate and their animation distribution, since they tend to bring over some truly awful films, but I’m always willing to give them a chance. Let’s dive in and see if they should have made an “art house” film instead of this “wide appeal” film.

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The story is about a small sparrow named Richard, voiced by Drake Bell. After the movie decided to go Tarzan on his parents within the first three minutes, he was raised by storks. He feels upset that his father doesn’t love him, and isn’t allowed to travel with his adopted family to Africa. Richard then decides to say “screw it” to how birds actually work, and not realizing that sparrows don’t travel, tries to fly to Africa. Along the way he meets an owl named Olga, voiced by Jane Lynch, and a parakeet named Kiki, voiced by Marc Thompson. They travel, and go on a high flying adventure to find Richard’s parents.

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This movie was another chore to watch. While I get that not every studio around the world can throw around money or talent like Pixar and Disney, you would think by now, they could get the tech, tools, and talent used by, at the very least, 2011 Pixar. A Stork’s Journey doesn’t look good on a visual level. Everything looks like it was ripped right out of a full-motion cut scene from the original PlayStation days. It has flat textures, and everything from the grassy fields to the desert lands of Africa look so dull, way too shiny, and lifeless. While it doesn’t look as bad as Spark, Stork’s Journey is still way below theatrical-quality animation. Normally, I could look past wonky animation if the story or characters were any good. Sadly, that is not the case here. Richard is a really grating individual who is a pill of a character to watch. It doesn’t help that he’s kind of bone-headed, and constantly puts himself in danger. Jane Lynch’s character’s gimmick is that she has an imaginary friend, and while there are some scenes that almost hit a decent emotional note, it grows tiring really fast. Kiki, on the other hand, is just unlikable for the first half of the film, and became a character I lost interest in mere minutes after he appeared on screen. His story arc is so rushed, that it pretty much ends within, say, 14 minutes after he is introduced into the story.

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Actually, a lot of areas of the film feel rushed. Richard’s parents are killed within five minutes of the film, Kiki has no character besides being foppish after his “arc” wraps up, and they throw in a real last-minute villain into the mix. So the main characters can’t hold the story, what about the side characters? Yeah, good luck with that. The mother is bland, and the father is just the worst type of person. He will constantly put the rest of the stork flock in danger because of his stubborn pride, and the old “I’m a guy so I don’t need help” trope. Like, they get to Africa, find out the watering hole they usually go to is dried up. He gets an offer to find another watering hole, but he, for no reason, declines the offer. It’s 2017, and parents can be portrayed in unique and various ways. They don’t need to be the most hateful characters anymore. It’s a boring film to sit through, since you know how these buddy road trip films go, and since I don’t care for anyone in the film, I can’t think of a reason to watch it.

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The film also has this weird element of having yet another YouTuber as one of the actors getting top billing when they don’t even show up in the movie a whole lot. The “actor” this time is famous YouTuber ijustine as one of the couple of internet-addicted pigeons that you see throughout the film. I mean, I’m sure she is a nice person and all, but did she truly need to be one of the three actors mentioned at the top of the DVD case? It’s not like they really needed her for the role, when any actress could do what she did. This might just be me pushing a bias issue of YouTubers attempting to be more than what they are, but I never found why hiring them was such a big deal. I understand to get with the times and know that YouTubers are some of the bigger “celebrities” out there, but at the same time, incidences like the hugely mediocre EA E3 conference and the recent Vidcon stories makes them look horrible, no matter if they are personally involved or not.

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So, this must be truly worse than Spark right? Well, not really. Spark is still the worst animated film of the year, because it feels cynical and no real passion went into making the movie. While I don’t think A Stork’s Journey is great, I can, at the end of the day, tell that they were at least trying to tell a good story and have a story of being true to yourself no matter what, and so on. It doesn’t work at all and the film is obnoxious to sit through, but there was an attempt to make a film. I also think Jane Lynch, while her character is aggravating at points, has probably the only semi-emotional moment where she talks about her backstory and how she met her imaginary friend. It’s also done in a nice 2D animated sequence that doesn’t look bad. It makes you wonder why the rest of the film wasn’t done in 2D. I also respect the idea behind the pigeons being addicted to the internet as they sit along the wires. It could have led to an interesting bit of social commentary.stork09Even then, while it’s not as bad as Spark: A Space Tail, A Stork’s Journey is still terrible, and I have no idea why Google Play and Lionsgate wanted anything to do with this movie. You wonder with how much money they make being Google, and Lionsgate’s live-action stuff, they can’t afford to invest into some foreign films that people would actually want to watch. This is just another mediocre animated film that will be forgotten by the passage of time, with actors like Jane Lynch wasting their talents in it instead of firing their agent to find better projects. This movie annoyed me more than I thought it would, and I don’t want all of the animated films I’m reviewing counting down to the 100th review to be bad. How about next time, we try to do nothing but animated films that are amazing? Next time, we will look at Porco Rosso. Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the article, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Blacklist/The Worst

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The Other Side of Animation 46: Tarzan (2013) 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!)

With a new film released about the man among apes, Tarzan, called The Legend of Tarzan, I decided to get on the bandwagon, and review something, well, Tarzan related. Since I review animated films, I tried to find one that wasn’t the classic Disney film. So, what I did find was a CGI animated film from Germany. Yeah, we are heading into some weird and horrible territory. Tarzan was released back in 2013 in Russia (odd, since it’s a German-animated film), but made it stateside, and everywhere else in 2014. The film was directed by Reinhard Klooss, and animated in motion-capture. I remember nothing about this film’s marketing, Not even a trailer or one ad online. All I have read about this film are the reviews, and boy, the reviews were not kind at all. So, do we have one of the worst animated films of all time? Let’s find out.

While the film does follow a bit of the story of Tarzan, with his parents getting killed off, and Tarzan now being raised by gorillas, that’s pretty much any similarities this film has with the original source material. What does the plot follow in this film? Well, during the age of the dinosaurs, a meteor crash-landed into Africa, and holds a limitless and powerful energy inside it. Skip to modern day where Tarzan (this time, he is American and not British, for some reason), played by Kellan Lutz, meets a bumbling scientist and his daughter, Jane, played by Spencer Locke. They team up and have to stop Clayton, played by Trevor St. John, from destroying the environment and obtaining that meteor. Can Tarzan save the day? Can this film waste my time and give me time I will never get back?

Boy, where do I start with this film? I seriously had a hard time writing this because there is way too much wrong with this movie to put into a nicely organized line. I guess I will start out with the animation. This film was advertised that it was made heavily using motion-capture technology. Listen, this kind of technology is still very impressive to me, but it doesn’t seem like a big deal, since this was made a few years after the closure of Image Movers Digitals, the studio behind films like Polar Express and Beowulf. To be frank, this kind of technology doesn’t really make for great animation for films. Sometimes you can work around it, but it always looks clunky, and the character models clash with the more realistic designs and movements because of the motion-capture. The human character models are too cartoony looking, and the proportions never look right. Sometimes the scenery views are pretty to look at, but then you have to go back to 2013 video game CGI models. It’s extremely distracting. I don’t mean to draw parallels to the Disney Tarzan film that came out 17 years ago, but the Disney film used the medium to its advantage. You remember how cool, fluid, and fun it was to watch Tarzan slide, slip, ride, and swing on vines and trees, due to the animators taking the movements from extreme sports athletes, and how they would make Tarzan look like he was surfing/skating on those vines? It was freaking amazing. Unfortunately, due to the limitation of motion-capture or lack of creativity, watching the somewhat ugly character models move is boring and off-putting. The reason why I harp on this film’s character design so much is because they use rather realistic animals, and they don’t mix with the Barbie-dollish look of the characters. It worked in films like The Polar Express and Beowulf, because they had consistency with all the characters.  The character models also don’t have very expressive eyes, and look dead half of the time. Why does it seem so hard to animate eyes?

Another giant problem with the film is the setting. Why modernize the setting with helicopters, automatic rifles, and mp3 players? It was timeless with the original setting. Why did they make Tarzan American? I mean, really? Why was his nationality changed? Why is there a sci-fi and environmental element to the film? It really makes no sense, nor does either element have any reason besides being the McGuffin of the story. Seriously the meteor really has no reason to be there. What was wrong with this story being just about Tarzan growing up among the gorillas? Why is there an evil gorilla at the beginning? What was wrong with the relationship between Tarzan and the father gorilla? Another incredibly amateur-hour story bit they brought in was these guardian monkeys that are in this movie that protect the area around the meteor. Well, technically, that’s wrong. They don’t live in the area where the meteor landed, but in the outskirts of the jungle surrounding the meteorite landing area, and they do nothing throughout the entire movie. They don’t really protect anything, and just sit there. Also, did the creators of this movie ever go to Africa? Because Africa in this film is like the most bipolar country, apparently since it not only has a barren wasteland where the meteor landed, but active volcanos, and large snow-covered mountains. And yes, I did look it up and see that in some parts of Africa, there is snow, but apparently it’s not enough for skiing, which is the complete opposite of this movie. Oh, and apparently, Africa has cassowaries (big, flightless birds) even though they are not native to Africa, and giant monstrous vine creatures, made due to the energy the meteor is giving off.

I don’t usually want to sound harsh, but these actors for this film were terrible. I now swear that Kellan Lutz is box office poison, since none of the films he has been in did particularly well, including Legend of Hercules, Immortals, and Expendables 3. I felt like no one gave a really compelling performance, and that’s either because they have never voice acted before, the director in charge of the actors was asleep, or the actors didn’t really care. They even throw in this really forced and really awkward narrator that also has no purpose, and sounds like he was rushing his lines to get out of that recording booth as quickly as possible. The side characters aren’t really side characters, since they have no dimension or personality to them. They were there just because. It feels like that was the line used when people questioned why this film had so many odd and nonsensical changes to it.

Seriously, that is the one term I would use for this movie, “No one really cared”. There was really no effort into making this a good movie. It almost seemed as if they were forced to work on this film when they had no interest in it. No one put any effort into making this film even remotely close to the source material. Say what you will about Disney’s Tarzan film, but at least they kept it pretty similar in a lot of ways to the original source material. The overall product feels like this cynical Hollywood cash-grab that was made for no other reason than to get made.

So, under this massive waste of time, is there something that can be salvaged that would be considered good? Well, not really, but I did enjoy some of the scenery of the jungle. I also sort of enjoyed the quiet moments that were put in between the rest of the bad story and acting. I wish there were more films that were more about no dialogue, like The Illusionist, since you can watch that movie and get what is going on without one tiny bit of dialogue.

Once again, with no exaggeration for the sake of comedy, the 2013 (2014 for the states) CGI-animated Tarzan is one of my top 10 worst animated films of all time. It might even be in my top five worst animated films of all time. How could the studio and the director do such a half-baked nonsensical adaptation of something that isn’t that hard to adapt into film or into CGI animation? Heck, the overall plot really has nothing to do with the source material, with it taking place in modern times, and this pointless, forced, stupid, brain-dead sci-fi/environmental plot point that has no reason to be there. This is also on top of characters that are boring and or annoying, a narrator that is awkwardly put in, and is also quite purposeless, and animation that isn’t all that great due to being limited by the motion-capture. It’s one of the worst cases of motion-capture as well. There might be a nice environmental shot here or there, but those few second shots don’t save the film by any means. Avoid this movie at all costs, like an angry silverback gorilla coming at you. Do not buy this movie. Don’t even rent it for a bad movie night. If you want to see Tarzan in animated form done right, or at the very least, done in not such an insulting way, watch the great Disney film, or check out Legend of Tarzan. I sure as heck know that it will be more worth your time than this pointless adaptation. Boy, while the next review is of an adaptation, I can at least say it was much more enjoyable than Tarzan. Next time, we look at the animated version of The BFG. Thanks for reading. I hope you liked the article, and see you all next time.

Rating: The Worst/Blacklist

The Other Side of Animation: Room on the Broom Review

(If you would like to see more of my work, go to camseyeview.biz and if you would like to, consider supporting my Patreon on patreon.com/camseyeview. Enjoy the review!)

Originally, I was going to review The Book of Life as the second part of this Halloween double feature alongside the first Hotel Transylvania film. However, I remembered a while back about a short film called Possessions that was nominated for the 86th Academy Awards Best Short Film. I looked up the rest of the nominations that were in that award show, and spotted a short film that I have seen on Netflix called Room on the Broom. Directed by Max Lang, known for the short film, The Gruffalo, and Jan Lachauer, Room on the Broom is based off the picture book of the same name by Julia Donaldson. Another distinction it has is how it is described as a 3D stop-motion film where a majority of the film is in stop-motion, and some CGI effects were put in to help with the limitations of making everything with clay. This film is also well known for its surprising cast of actors, but we will get to them later. Now then, shall we see if this witch’s broom had room to win an Academy Award? Let’s find out.

The story is about a witch, voiced by Gillian Anderson of X-Files fame, who, well, has a broom, and a pet cat voiced by Rob Brydon. The overall story is about their travels across the land, meeting new characters like a dog, voiced by Martin Clunes, a bird, voiced by Sally Hawkins, a frog, voiced by David Walliams, and they even encounter a dragon, voiced by Timothy Spall. Oh, and to round out the talent, the narrator is voiced by Simon Pegg.

So, for a short film based on a children’s book, how is it? Well, let’s talk about the good stuff, first. For 27 minutes, the film’s mix of Claymation and CGI is done quite well. It’s bright, colorful, and the animation is expressive. There is a really nice calming atmosphere to the overall journey. It helps that Simon Pegg does a wonderful job telling the story, using a quiet tone that fits the overall mood of everything. It’s not a super intense book, or a story that is hyper. It’s a soothing narration that could easily help a child close his or her eyes on the way to slumberland. The experience also has some simple morals any young person could recognize, like sharing, friendship, and overcoming adversity. The other voice actors do a good job with their roles, even though they don’t have many actual lines.

The overall package is simple, but I do have some complaints. First off, why did the film need big-named actors like Gillian Anderson or Timothy Spall? I understand Simon Pegg, but for characters who don’t talk much, they got some big named people. Granted, I doubt expanding this kind of story would have been worth the time and budget, but the characters are a bit simple, and don’t have a whole lot of personality to them. They are likable enough, but there isn’t much to them. I respect the organization that sets up the Academy Awards for nominating this movie, but compared to other films that were in this category like Possessions and Mr. Hublot, it might be a tad too simple to have actually won. Do I think it didn’t deserve to be nominated at all? Of course not! I’m not too familiar with animated short films, and as one of the few that I have watched, I could understand why it deserved to be on the list. Or, you know, they wanted to find candidates so Disney wasn’t the only one on there.

It’s honestly quite hard to really make this a complex review. It’s such a simple story, and it’s innocent. I didn’t find anything insulting or demeaning to children, which is pretty much a good thing. You can make a simple story, but everything needs to be executed correctly, or else complications can happen that might ruin whatever message or story you are trying to tell. I found it hard to hate such a film that had nothing, but good intentions. It passes with flying colors. With great animation and a whimsical charm to the overall product, Room on the Broom is a fun little romp. Just go in knowing this is written for a younger audience. Well, now that we got that film out of the way, we are getting close to the 10th review on The Other Side of Animation, so we might as well cover two infamously terrible films. Let’s start with a film that blatantly rode on the pigtails of Frozen’s hype with The Snow Queen. Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Rating: Go See It!