The Other Side of Animation 271: Lost Ollie 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 keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

As you can tell with The Other Side of Animation, we don’t really talk about live-action films that cross over into the world of animation. The closest we have talked about it is with Cool World, and the only other contender to talk about in this category is Who Framed Roger Rabbit. We don’t get many of these projects because making them work is a challenge and a half. Not only do you need to worry about how the animation looks, but you have to make it match up and feel composited on the live-action footage. That takes way too much time and money that you know studios will want to not invest into that much time and effort unless it’s a well-known director. Not that it never happens anymore, but it’s very rare. When it does happen, it’s worth checking out, and when they are able to deliver on both the impressive technology with a good story, then you know you are in for something truly special. This is where this new limited series by Shannon Tindle comes into play with Lost Ollie on Netflix. 

Created by Shannon Tindle and each of the four episodes directed by the incredible Peter Ramsey, this is based on the book called Ollie’s Odyssey by William Joyce. We follow a small stitched-together bunny doll named Ollie, voiced by Johnathon Groff. He was the toy that belonged to a small boy named Billy, played by Kesler Talbot. He winds up inside a small vintage antique store. He is curious as to why he is no longer with his kid, and plans to escape. While there, he meets an old clown toy named Zozo, voiced by Tim Blake Nelson. The two of them decide to leave the store together and also meet up with a teddy bear that knows Zozo named Rosy, voiced by Mary J Blige. Along the journey they will discover more about what has happened with Ollie and his past with his human owner, and discover what exactly happened with the humans that Ollie knew. 

So, what kind of level of interaction are we looking at here between the toys and the live-action humans? Shockingly, both humans and toys are kept separate for the majority of the time. You see some interactions with Ollie and Billy’s family, but most of the time it’s either the toys on their adventure to find Billy, or dealing with what the humans are going through. There are a few times where it focuses on Billy, his family, and Ollie, but outside of a few areas where the three toys are with humans, like at the hospital, it’s two parallel stories. The human side is more about a very terrible thing Billy and his parents are dealing with, while Ollie is doing his best to remember the locations on the map he stitched together from memories with Billy and his family. It’s a very interesting approach because it lets the toys be their own living characters, while also slowly weaving the story’s emotional beats into the narrative as they intertwine with one another. At the end of the day, the story tackles themes of family, dealing with loss, and how grief can affect you. The story does a fairly solid job showing how people deal with loss, and how it can shape people for better and for worse. The limited series tend to weave in small details on where you can pick up on the intentions and mindset of the characters as you traverse your way through the four episodes. Things take a real sudden shift in tone by the end of the second episode, but by that point, the third episode explains the dynamic between certain characters and what drives them. It can get dark, but if you have seen films like A Monster Calls, then you will feel right at home with how the story unfolds. There is a real humanity to everything, and it makes for a somber, but powerful experience as we follow the journey of both the toys and the humans. 

Now, animation-wise, the toys look great. They follow the rules of their own design of how they maneuver around the world. Sometimes studios aren’t allowed the time or the talent to take the extra step to make the characters all move distinct and different from one another, and it results in everyone feeling the same. Ollie feels different from Zozo, and Zozo feels different from Rosy. Not once was it ever distracting or I felt pulled out of their world or watching their story unfold from their perspective. There is a great sequence on a train that really brings the best out of the voice actors and the animation. It doesn’t hurt that the actors attached to the toys are also great. Tim Blake Nelson is fantastic as Zozo, Jonathan Groff brings a southern innocence to Ollie, and Mary J Blige has this stoic but vulnerable side to Rosy. The humans are also strong with Kesler Talbot being a good child actor and able to bring the somber and anger to certain points. Gina Rodriguez and Jake Johnson are great as the parents to Billy. Now, the southern accent can almost teeter on being a touch much, but it never got to the point where it sounded like a parody of a joke of what a southern accent sounds like. The other actors are fine, and the only real individual I was distracted by was the bully who is just a bit too cartoonishly mean. I wish there was some kind of hint of why he was like that to Billy, but sometimes, we don’t get those answers and some people just have a heart full of hate. 

While it maybe could have used one more episode to help pace out the story a bit and expand a little more on the characters, and how sometimes the southern accent could almost veer into being a little corny sounding, Lost Ollie is a powerhouse journey of the themes of love, grief, dealing with loss, and how you use said emotional baggage to shape your own person. Some may say this limited series is corny, but there is a lot of passion and love put into the character beats, and if you all love stuff like A Monster Calls, then this is an ideal limited series to check out. I can’t wait to see what Shannon Tindle, Peter Ramsey, and this talented crew of writers do next, and you should absolutely check this show out. Hopefully, they can also put this on a nice Blu-ray with some behind-the-scenes features of how they made the animation work as well as it does. Now then, we must journey to Japan for this next review, but you will see what the review is next time!




Rating: Go see it!

The Other Side of Animation 147: Smallfoot 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!)

2018 was an interesting year for animation marketing. Early in the year with Sherlock Gnomes, the first trailer for the film made it look awful. I haven’t seen if the scenes used in the first trailer were deleted or reworked, but the final product, while still a movie I didn’t care for, was not as awful as I was thinking it was going to be. It’s still not a great movie, but you wonder why the marketing team used those scenes when they wouldn’t be in the film in the first place. Sometimes, you get what they are marketing in trailers like Duck Duck Goose, Isle of Dogs, where the films were just as good or as bad as they were marketed. Sometimes, you even have trailers that undersell a film’s premise, like Ralph Breaks the Internet, Incredibles 2, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. That is what happened with Warner Bros. Smallfoot. Directed by Karey Kirkpatrick and animated by Sony Pictures Imageworks, Smallfoot came out September 28th, 2018 to pretty positive reviews. It underperformed in the US, but was more of a hit overseas. The trailers made it look like a goofier film than what the end product offered. I think if the trailers were more honest, the film would have done better. Why? Let’s see what happened.

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Smallfoot stars a yeti named Migo, voiced by Channing Tatum. He lives in a society of yetis that live at the upper-half of a high mountain in the Himalayas. Migo, along with everyone else in the village, believes in what is written on the stones that is worn by The Stonekeeper, voiced by Common. Migo lives a pretty good life with his father Dorgle, voiced by Danny DeVito, being the gong ringer of the village. One day, after doing a practice ring, he ends up outside the village and witnesses a plane crashing at the top of the mountain. While approaching it, he sees a human pop out, and gets excited/shocked to see one. In yeti culture, we humans are known as Smallfoots. After trying to show everyone the proof, he gets banished from the village, but then is recruited by a group of yetis known as S.E.S., if you are curious, that means Smallfoots Evidentiary Society. Its members include Kolka, voiced by Gina Rodriguez, Fleem, voiced by Ely Henry, Gwangi, voiced by LeBron James, and the leader Meechee, voiced by Zendaya. They plan to finally reveal the existence of humankind to the yeti world! While this is going on, a struggling animal documentary show host named Percy Patterson, voiced by James Corden, is desperate to try and find something to put his show back on top of the ratings. If you can already tell, Percy and Migo encounter one another, learn to be friends, and maybe find out why the yetis and humans live separately from one another. Can yetis and humans coexist?

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I think the first thing I want to talk about with this movie is the animation. Not that it is standing out like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, but more in how it is executed. Smallfoot has really good textures, great designs, fluid animation, incredible visual moments, and amusing physical comedy. So, what stands out about it? For a film that was marketed as a comedy, the animation is more slow-paced. It has its snappy moments, but the overall feel of the film’s comedy, writing, and story is much more like a Pixar/Disney film in execution than a traditional Warner Bros. comedy.

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It has a lot more quiet moments, and while there are many jokes and humor in the overall product, it’s shocking to see a non-Pixar/Disney film be more story-oriented. You can make great work with a more comedy-focused film, but that’s tough to do, and it feels like a weak scapegoat excuse to make a lackluster story in a middling comedy like the ones Illumination and DreamWorks make.

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It’s rather commendable to see Warner Bros. tackle something less focused on the comedy. The story itself is mostly about being true to yourself, not believing everything you are told, the dangerous power of lying or manipulating the ignorance of people, acceptance, and tolerance flow throughout the entire film. It may be head-scratching to see the main group of good yetis be conspiracy theorists, but, at least these theorists are actually interested in proof and not if frog people are running our government. Migo is a very likable character who may be a typical nice male lead, but you do sympathize with him wanting only the best for his kind. While you might not remember the names of the other characters, Migo works well among the conspiracy crew and the human characters. While James Corden’s character starts out fairly obnoxious, they do tone him down, and you understand his plight as well. Again, you might have seen this story and these characters before, but if you can execute them well, and make them pleasant, then that’s all you need to do. I even enjoy the fact that the film’s “antagonist” is not really evil. The villain is just doing what he thinks is best for the yetis, but not going down that path of killing off everyone for the greater good. Another thing that this film does that you don’t see many do outside of Disney films, is be a musical. Yeah, this wasn’t originally going to be a musical, but then six or so months into development, it became one. While no one is singing from the diaphragm, everyone sounds great. I mean, sure, hearing some of these songs after Teen Titans Go! To the Movies made fun of these songs, I won’t deny that I love Common’s song, Let it Lie. I listen to that song a lot to be honest. Again, I respect that Warner Bros. decided to do something different.

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So, what doesn’t work about Smallfoot? Well, while I like the music for this film, the songs are sort of forgettable. They sound nice, but I don’t remember the lyrics to a lot of them, and one of them is a different lyrical version of Under Pressure, which is lazy. By the way, that different version of Under Pressure is easily the weakest moment in the film. While the film isn’t really a full-blown comedy, a lot of the humor didn’t work for me. Not all of the jokes hit, and they really didn’t need the small annoying yeti. There is even a funny reoccurring joke that the small yeti is obnoxious and he sucks as a character. On one hand, they are easily some of the best jokes of the film. On the other hand, they are basically saying that this character is terrible, but still they have him in the movie. It’s one of those elements that feels so forced in family films that are usually never done right. It also hurts, because everyone else is really funny.

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Smallfoot might not be a big step in a unique or interesting way, but it’s a great and charming movie. It gets better the more I watch it, and I would dare say it’s better than Incredibles 2. It’s just another sad fact that it had to go against some heavy competition for the family audience during that period of time. It’s out now on Blu-ray and I recommend picking up a copy. Now then, it’s been on the chopping block for a long time, so how about we take a look at Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse next? It’s pretty much the best US-animated feature of 2018. Thanks for reading! I hope you all enjoyed the review, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Go see it!