The Other Side of Animation Awards 2020!

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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!)

Welcome, one and all, to The Other Side of Animation Awards! To end the decade, we will be celebrating the theatrical animation scene. I’ve got to tell you all, this was tough! With a group of judges of me, myself, and I, I decided to make an award show that would pay tribute to the thrilling year of 2019. Before we begin, if you wonder why I chose me, myself, and I as judges, well, that’s because of the 32 animated films submitted last year, I saw 29 of them. That’s more than most of the Academy Voters ever see. Now, let’s get started!

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Best US Animated Film: The category for the best US feature film.

NOMS: Toy Story 4, The LEGO Movie Part 2, Abominable, Frozen II, Missing Link, How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World, Klaus, and Spies in Disguise.

Result: This was tough, because while I did enjoy all of these films, 2019 was a mixed bag. Not all of it was great, but I still very much enjoyed the contestants here. I was thinking about which one gave me an overall splendid and emotional experience, and that kicked off Abominable, How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and Frozen II. I love those three films, but their overall enjoyability was hampered by certain story elements. Spies in Disguise was surprising, but it could have been stronger. So, that leaves us with The LEGO Movie Part 2, Toy Story 4, Missing Link, and Klaus. Toy Story 4 probably had the best emotional story of the four choices, LEGO Movie 2 was poignant, but I enjoyed films like Klaus and Missing Link more. In the end, I had to make it a tie with Klaus and Missing Link as the Best US Animated Features, because they gave me two experiences that were refreshing and unique to see. Plus, it’s my award show, and I can do what I want.

Winner(s): Missing Link and Klaus

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Best Foreign/Indie Animated film: the category for the best foreign/indie animated film of the year.

Noms: Funan, Bunuel, Promare, The Swallows of Kabul, Weathering with You, White Snake, Marona’s Fantastic Tale, Children of the Sea, Penguin Highway, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, Okko’s Inn, I Lost My Body, This Magnificent Cake, Nezha, Another Day of Life, and Pachamama.

Result: As usual, the foreign animation scene was strong this year with many powerful, important, and incredible films. This was tough, because I recommend everyone check out these films. Some of them had downright jaw-dropping animation, and some had great stories. Due to how hard this was, I had to narrow it down to just a few films. My choices then came down to Marona’s Fantastic Tale, Bunuel, Funan, Promare, White Snake, and Weathering with You. I chose those, because they were the most compelling of the films, but then it came down to what I looked for in an animated film that was able to balance out both animation and story. At the end of the day, I had to go with Dennis Do’s Funan as the most fulfilling and satisfying balance of story and animation, but I think everyone should check out the films in this category.

Winner: Funan

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Best 2D Animation: This Category is to award the film with the best use of 2D animation.

Noms: Funan, Bunuel, Promare, Children of the Sea, Weathering With You, The Swallows of Kabul, Penguin Highway, Klaus, Okko’s Inn.

Result: This is tough, because technically, most 2D animated films use some level of CGI, so I decided to nominate the films that use mostly 2D visuals, but CGI to enhance the experience. Promare is a visual treat, but a lot of it is using CGI. Weathering With You is drop dead gorgeous, but it has the same look as most of Shinkai’s films. It’s iconic, but familiar. Penguin Highway has some wonderful visuals, but you don’t get to the trippy stuff until the third act. Okko’s Inn is beautiful, but the more family friendly designs may turn off viewers. Bunuel has great visuals, but the animation can look stiff. It then came down to Children of the Sea, Klaus, The Swallows of Kabul, and Funan. All four of these films have incredible animation to them, and while I could technically make a four-way tie, I don’t want to keep doing that for each category. I then took it down to two films, Children of the Sea and Klaus. Both were stand outs in the animation scene due to their visuals and the execution of visuals. While the techniques used in Klaus are nothing new if you keep up with animation tools, the fact they took 2D animation and painted them like they were 3D models is wildly impressive. This is a nail biter of a decision, because the award could have gone either way, but I had to give it to Children of the Sea, because you watch that film in motion, and you get some of the most ethereal visuals that you will ever see in animation. Seriously, how it mixes its beautiful 2D animation with the CGI sea animals is out of this world.

Winner: Children of the Sea.

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Best CGI Animation: This category is for the film with the best CGI animation.

Noms: Toy Story 4, Frozen 2, The Lion King, White Snake, I Lost My Body, The LEGO Movie 2, Abominable, Nezha, and Spies in Disguise.

Result: This one was a bit easier to narrow down in terms of what I thought had the best animation. The Lion King was a technical marvel, but outside of how bonkers real everything looks, that’s all it offers, and it’s not like we don’t have realistic CGI being used all the time. I love the look that I Lost My Body has made with its mix of CGI models and 2D textures and features, but the stuff with the detached hand was more interesting to look at animation wise than the humans. The LEGO Movie 2 looks great, but it’s still the same we have seen with the previous LEGO Films. Abominable had great scenery and some standout shots, but otherwise, it looks like another CGI animated film. Spies in Disguise is probably Blue Sky’s best looking film, even if some of the designs looked wonky, but I found the lighting super impressive. This leads us to the finale of the remaining nominees, Toy Story 4, Frozen II, White Snake, and Nezha. To me, while the two Disney films objectively look better, the visuals I saw in White Snake and Nezha were way more wild and surprising to me. CGI animation was rough for a good decade or so with Chinese animation, but now, we have these two films that look like they had Disney/Pixar money thrown at them. I then had to think about which one had the better shots, and I had to go with White Snake. Everyone should get a copy of White Snake and Nezha and watch them to see how far Chinese CGI animation has come, and to put it in their Blu-ray player of choice, and be in shock and awe at how gorgeous they are. Still, White Snake had some of the prettiest visuals I saw last year, and that’s why I chose it.

Winner: White Snake

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Best Mixed Media Animation: This category lists the nominees are the films with the best mix of different kinds of animation styles.

Noms: Promare, Marona’s Fantastic Tale, I Lost My Body, Another Day of Life, and Bunuel.

Result: This is a fun one, because every once in a while, an animated film will stretch itself, and expand on what animation as a medium is. Bunuel and Another Day of Life do something fun by combining either Bunuel’s 2D animation with footage from the real life documentary they are making in the film, or Another Day of Life combines vibrant comic book-like visuals with actual live-action documentary-style footage of the time period in which the film takes place. I Lost My Body, like mentioned above, combines CGI models with 2D textures and designs. Promare uses a super vibrant color pallet with its mix of cartoonish 2D visuals and CGI models. However, the one winner for me in this category is Marona’s Fantastic Tale. Since it’s told from the perspective of a dog, the visuals take advantage of this fantastical world seen through the eyes of the dog, and every person the dog meets is animated differently. I could honestly gush about this film’s visuals all day and how there are fun symbolic elements to some of the characters. In short, Marona’s Fantastic Tale wins this award.

Winner: Marona’s Fantastic Tale

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Best Action/Adventure Film: This category awards the film that symbolizes the best action/adventure film in the animation scene this year.

Noms: Promare, Toy Story 4, Spies in Disguise, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, Missing Link, White Snake, Nezha, and Batman vs TMNT.

Results: This was another category that was easy to break down, because the nominees were limited, and it was fun to break down what films I thought had the best action sequences, and gave us the best adventure out of the animation scene. Batman vs TMNT was the first to go, due to the limited budget hampering the film. They really should have spent the extra coin to give the animation to a studio like Studio MiR. Toy Story 4 has a lot of entertaining sequences, but it’s more of a drama. How to Train your Dragon: The Hidden World also got put on the chopping block due to its focus on story and comedy. Missing Link is a great adventure film, but the action is limited as it also focuses more on story and comedy. That left me with Nezha, White Snake, and Promare. While these three films do have great stories and characters, I then had to get critical with the action sequences. Nezha was ambitious and very creative, but it does have that low point where they resort to a fart joke to help progress the fight. The action in White Snake and Promare are both flashy, over-the-top, stylized, and are fun to watch. It was really splitting hairs, but I had to go with the one that had the more coherent fights, and I went with White Snake. Like I said, it was splitting hairs, and while I enjoy Promare more as a whole, White Snake had the more focused and enthralling story. Like I said though, I was splitting hairs.

Winner: White Snake

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Best DC Animated Film: This category awards the best of the straight-to-video films from DC and WB.

Noms: Reign of the Supermen, Batman vs TMNT, Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans, Wonder Woman: Bloodlines, and Justice League vs. The Fatal Five.

Results: Unlike most years, 2019’s lineup of direct-to-video DC features was pretty stellar. Each one had a certain theme and intriguing story that made them more worthwhile watches than most of the DC films that come out in this category. Like the Best Animated Feature and Best Foreign/Indie Feature, I look for the film that gives me the best overall experience. It really came down to Justice League vs. The Fatal Five, Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans, and Batman vs. TMNT. I then narrowed it to just Teen Titans Go! vs. Teen Titans and Batman vs. TMNT. To be honest, while Teen Titans Go! was funny and amusing, I’m getting tired of the style of humor with the whole self-deprecation and meta aspect they know that no one likes this iteration of the teen team. That’s why I chose Batman vs. TMNT, because it checked the boxes of what I look for in these films. Does it have good writing? Check! Does it have solid animation? Check! Is the story interesting enough from beginning to end to be invested into? Check! It also had a different art-style, which I always look for. It was the one film where I don’t hesitate watching again.

Winner: Batman vs. TMNT

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Best Comedy: This category goes to the film with the best comedy.

Noms: The Angry Birds Movie 2, Toy Story 4, Frozen II, Klaus, The LEGO Movie Part 2, Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans, and Missing Link.

Results: This is a tricky category, because comedy is so subjective and any winner I choose could be someone’s least favorite comedy. The first film to go was Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans, because while I found it funny, that show’s style of humor is starting to get a touch tiring, even if it is still pretty funny for 90% of the time. Klaus was next, because while the jokes and the characters are funny, I enjoy the writing and the chemistry the most and the great jokes are ones I don’t consistently think about. The same goes with Frozen II, because it’s funny, but I think more about the dialogue and the chemistry. Toy Story 4 probably has the best comedy of the four films in the franchise, but, like a broken record, I think about the story first and the jokes second. To me, the jokes came first for this award, and the last three films were hard to choose from because the comedy in Missing Link, LEGO Movie Part 2, and The Angry Birds Movie 2 are all different. Missing Link uses slow and very subtle wit. The LEGO Movie Part 2 uses the brand meta comedy that Lord & Miller have made popular. The Angry Birds Movie 2 uses the approach of being as ambitious as possible with all the humor and jokes that we push into the film. It’s wildly brave at how many kinds of jokes they try out, and for the most part, work. So, do we award it to meta humor, subtle wit, or everything and the kitchen sink comedy? Well, here is a good question, which film has the best comedy and what has the best combo of both story and comedy? When I thought about that, I had to give it to Missing Link. I love the story and the humor, whereas the other two films don’t fully live up to their stories.

Winner: Missing Link

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Best Drama: This award goes to the best drama-focused animated film.

Noms: Funan, Bunuel, Children of the Sea, Toy Story 4, Frozen II, The Swallows of Kabul, I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, I Lost My Body, Okko’s Inn, and Weathering With You.

Results: So, like usual, I nominate a lot of films, but then start to break them down with how I enjoyed the drama and the story. I first films I let go of were I Lost My Body, Frozen II, then I Want to Eat Your Pancreas, Okko’s Inn, and then Children of the Sea. That left me with Toy Story 4, The Swallows of Kabul, Weathering With You, Funan, and Bunuel. These remaining films have very personal stories with intimate themes of life and personal discovery. I took off Weathering With You and Toy Story 4 because of story elements that hindered their experiences. That results in Funan, Bunuel, and Kabul. This is really hard, because I then had to cut Bunuel due to the slightly repetitive nature to Bunuel’s drama. At the end of the day, I decided to choose The Swallows of Kabul, because while Funan has great drama, The Swallows of Kabul lingers with me with its drama.

Winner: The Swallows of Kabul.

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Best Director: This category goes to the best director or dual directors.

Noms: Salvador Simo (Bunuel in the Labyrinth of the Turtles), Dennis Do (Funan), Jennifer Lee (Frozen II), Zabou Breitman and Elea Gobbe-Mevellec (The Swallows of Kabul), Sergios Pablos (Klaus), Hiroyuki Imaishi (Promare), Josh Cooley (Toy Story 4), Makoto Shinkai (Weathering With You), Chris Butler (Missing Link), Anca Damian (Marona’s Fantastic Tale), and Troy Quane and Nick Bruno (Spies in Disguise).

Result: To me, the best director did, well, the best directing with the film. Like, who helped make the best experience, which director got the best performances out of their actors, and you get the idea. To me, that resulted in Salvador Simo, Dennis Do, Zabou Breitman/Elea Gobbe-Mevellec, Anca Damian, and Sergios Pablos. All of these directors did such fantastic jobs with their films, and if I wanted to, I could and really want to give it to all of them. I then finally broke it down to between Dennis Do and the duo of Zabou Breitman and Elea Gobbe-Mevellec. Like a lot of this editorial, it came down to splitting hairs, but I went with the duo behind The Swallows of Kabul, Zabou Breitman and Elea Gobbe-Mevellec.

Winner: Zabou Breitman and Elea Gobbe-Mevellec. (The Swallows of Kabul)

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Best Short: This category goes to the best animated short.

Noms: Hair Love, Kitbull, My Moon, Memorable, Hors piste, and Sister.

Results: The animated shorts scene this year was unique as Disney didn’t really have one for their films, and Pixar was moving their shorts to Disney+ through their SparkShorts program. I then had to really rely on what got nominated and which ones I saw online. Now, the winner might be very obvious, but this wasn’t to say that it was an easy task of picking to award just one. They are also all different types of experiences. Yes, they all share a personal relationship theme, but some of them are funny, some are abstract, and some hit on very personal subject matters. However you may weave how I chose the short to win this award, but I had to give it to Hair Love. While I might adore the animation in some of the films slightly more, Hair Love is so personal, loving, caring, funny, relatable, and took the animation world by storm. Still, I highly recommend everyone get online to try and find a way to watch all of the shorts nominated.

Winner: Hair Love.

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Best New Release That Was Previously Unreleased in the US of 2019: This category is for the best animated film that finally got a release in 2019.

Noms: Aya of Yop City, Son of the White Mare, Genius Party/Genius Party Beyond, The Case of Hana and Alice, and Mai Mai Miracle.

Results: As usual, the challenge came down to what gave me the best experience. I love the two Genius Party films, but those are anthology films, and you will either love every short or find some to be annoying. The Case of Hana and Alice is a sweet endearing teen drama, but it takes a bit too long to get going. Son of the White Mare is a visual marvel, but a bit repetitive due to its fairytale-style story. That left us with Aya of Yop City and Mai Mai Miracle. Both are great in their own respective ways as they show life during a certain period in history. I then decided to award the one I would watch the most, and that narrowed it right down to Mai Mai Miracle. I’m not shocked I liked this movie the most, since it’s the same director behind In This Corner of the World.

Winner: Mai Mai Miracle.

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Best Lead Actor: This category awards the best male lead in an animated film.

Noms: Jorge Uson (Bunuel), Simon Abkarian (The Swallows of Kabul), Tom Hanks (Toy Story 4), Billy Matez (Promare), Brandon Engman (Weathering With You), and Jason Swartzman (Klaus).

Results: While it might not be on camera, actors still need to put in good performances to pull you into the film. Since this is the first time I’m awarding voice actors, I decided to go with variety. Jason Swartzman brings a lot of earnest sarcasm and pathetic nature to his character. Tom Hanks is just great as a wise and weathered Woody. Brandon Engman does well as a teenager finding his place in the world. Billy Matez does a good job at keeping up that impossibly optimistic and heroic spirit. Jorge Uson portrays a director trying to save his career while conflicted with his past and who he is as an individual. Simon Abkarian was also great as a man tired and weary of his country’s ideals as he tries to figure out what to do about the driving force of the story. After thinking about it, it came down to Jorge Uson and Simon Abkarian, and between the two, I think the best actor goes to Simon Abkarian. He left an impression on my viewing experience with a powerful and subtle performance.

Winner: Simon Abkarian (The Swallows of Kabul)

Best Supporting Actor: This category awards the best male supporting actor in an animated film.

Noms: Fernando Ramos (Bunuel), J.K. Simmons (Klaus), Zach Galifianakis (Missing Link), Johnny Yong Bosch (Promare), and Lee Pace (Weathering With You).

Results: To me, I was looking for an actor who was going toe to toe with the lead. The actors I chose for this award definitely accomplished that. Each of these actors was able to either keep up or even outshine the main character. It was tough, because I enjoyed all of these performances, but the one that stuck with me the most, and the winner of this one is Fernando Ramos from Bunuel, because he was so good as Ramon, and going head to head with the lead in the film, and having his own stand out scenes and lines.

Winner: Fernando Ramos (Bunuel)

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Best Lead Actress: This category awards the best lead performance by an actress.

Noms: Zita Hanrot (The Swallows of Kabul), Stephanie Sheh (White Snake), Lizzie Brochere (Marona’s Fantastic Tale), Ashley Boettcher (Weathering With You),  Annie Potts (Toy Story 4), and Mana Ashida (Children of the Sea)  

Results: like I said above, I went with variety this year and this was even tougher to really narrow it down. I had to look at who I felt put in the stronger performance and I thought they all did. I went with who left a stronger impression on me. When it came down to it, my favorite performance was from Zita Hanrot from The Swallows of Kabul.

Winner: Zita Hanrot from The Swallows of Kabul

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Best Supporting Actress: Obviously this award goes to the actress with the best supporting role.

 Noms: Hiam Abbass (The Swallows of Kabul), Christina Hendricks (Toy Story 4), and Yu Aoi (Penguin Highway).

Results: I know I said the other acting noms were tough, but this was the toughest one, because I didn’t find that many supporting roles that felt substantial from the female characters in the films from last year. When I thought about these three, I looked at their characters and their performances, and the one that stood out to me the most was Christina Hendricks as Gabby Gabby from Toy Story 4. She felt unique as a villain and was someone right out of a Ghibli film due to her layered character. This is probably my favorite acting that I have seen from Christina Hendricks, and she’s a good actress.

Winner: Christina Hendricks (Toy Story 4)

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Best Soundtrack: This award goes to the best soundtrack and that includes the musical numbers.

Noms: The Swallows of Kabul, Children of the Sea, Funan, Bunuel, Frozen II, The LEGO Movie Part 2, Promare, and Weathering With You.

Results: So, I decided to combine both soundtrack and original songs into one category, because it’s easier that way for me. Put another coin in the jar, because I decided to make this category hard for myself. I love the music in these nominees, but which one had the best overall package of songs? Well, I loved Promare’s two theme songs, but I don’t fully remember the rest of the music. The same goes for Frozen II and The LEGO Movie Part 2. While I love the soundtracks to Funan and Bunuel, I don’t fully remember the individual tracks used outside of one song. At the end of listening to the soundtracks, I had to go with the soundtrack from Children of the Sea. It, like its movie, is so other worldly and mesmerizing. It captures a mood and experience unlike any other. Then again, it’s also Joe Hisaishi, and he always makes great soundtracks.

Winner: Children of the Sea.

And there we go! I apologize it took a month or two to get this done, but I hope you all enjoyed this, and I think I’ll do it again next 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 154: Missing Link 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!)

SPOILER TALK HEADS UP!: Due to a certain joke occurring in the movie, I am going to be talking about one of the most important scenes of the film, and talking a little bit about where I stand with the situation.

As I sit here and type this review, a cloud of sadness and frustration looms over me. Not because of the movie I’m reviewing itself; it’s because of the current state of what thrives and dies within the current Hollywood theatrical film climate. It’s this uneven balancing act between the studios and the audiences to make this dance work, because when both forces aren’t synced up, good films end up falling by the wayside. People want original ideas and films, but then don’t go to see them, and instead, go see something that is based on a pre-existing property. However, studios need to know that not every film they release needs to be making billions, or cost $300 million. Because of the current climate, certain films seem to be popping up less and less on the big screen, but then flourish on streaming services. Maybe stop-motion animation should join that list due to today’s review, Missing Link. Directed and written by Chris Butler, Missing Link is the next film in Laika’s long line-up of beautifully-crafted stop-motion features that garner high praise, but sadly, underperform or bomb. Missing Link seems to be suffering from that scenario as of writing this review. Maybe this film’s box office was more elusive than the Missing Link himself. Let’s see what’s up!

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The story revolves around Sir Lionel Frost, voiced by Hugh Jackman. He is an explorer who seeks out legendary and mythical monsters to prove that they exist. His main goal is to join this Adventurer’s club, but is constantly rejected for lack of proof of his adventures. One day, after getting back from another adventure, Lionel finds a letter that says that the individual in the letter is Big Foot, and tells Lionel to meet him in the Pacific Northwest to find him. Once getting there, Lionel meets the Big Foot in question, Mr. Link, who later goes by Susan, voiced by Zack Galifianakis. Susan asks Lionel to take him around the world to where the Yetis live, to help him find his own kind, and to find his place in the world. Along the way, the two are joined by Adelina Fortnight, a widow and old love interest of Lionel, voiced by Zoe Saldana, and avoiding the grasps of Lord Piggot-Dunceby, voiced by Stephen Fry, and Willard Stenk, voiced by Timothy Olyphant. Can Lionel help Susan find his people? Will Lionel make it into the club?

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I think what I love the most about this movie, is how laid back it is. It’s a grand adventure, but it feels smaller in scale, due to how intimate the story is. For me, what makes the low-key charm of the film work is the chemistry between the three main characters. I know when the first trailer for Missing Link came out, people were worried, for some reason, that Laika was going to give up on their identity to be more mainstream. Well, to all of the skeptics out there, I was right, and had nothing to worry about! The character interactions in Missing Link always felt natural, especially the scenes with Lionel and Susan. They hold this movie together, and they work off each other well. Both characters have the same goal of being accepted and being a part of a community, but they cleverly show off the difference between the two. Susan wants to find the Yetis, because he is the last of his kind, and wants to find his way in the world, and being with the Yetis might help him, because they are “relatives”. Lionel wants to join this adventurer club for the sake of doing so, because he was told “no”. One is obviously more selfish than the other. Both characters though share that drive of wanting something so much, that it hurts when they aren’t able to get it. It also deals with themes of identity and looking at the bigger picture. While I know some were disappointed that Lionel is Laika’s first adult protagonist, because they think kids really want to see themselves as the heroes, I like him. He’s entertaining and enough of a jerk that you don’t just hate his guts throughout the entire film. Susan, voiced by Zack Galifianakis, is easily the most likable character. Either because of the writing or great directing, Zack makes Susan a very funny character. I know it’s easy to label Galifianakis as the inept weirdo comedy relief due to the Hangover trilogy and other films, but I think he has proven that he can be more than that, and this film is a great example of it. A lot of the humor is very witty and British in tone, and I think that makes it a more watchable film for the years to come. People will be coming back to this one more than any Illumination or Blue Sky comedy. It shows how smart comedic writing that’s not loud, fast, and pop-culture-focused can work. I also adored Zoe Saldana as Adelina Fortnight. She was a strong, fiery female who would always call out Lionel for his buffoonery, and it’s one of the few animated features that have the male and female lead not end up together. Good! Not every animated feature needs to have the male and female lead get together.

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Of course, I can’t talk about this film, without talking about the gorgeous animation. This is easily the most ambitious animation Laika has done. You just see the blood, sweat, and tears put into the detailed environments, the characters, the movements, how smoothly everything moves, and the colors. It’s a beautiful movie to look at and be amazed how a lot of it was made by hand with very little CGI used. Even if you aren’t fully on board with the film or its characters, you can’t deny that the animation is well done. The voice cast is, to no surprise, good! I know there is this push for more voice actors to take lead roles, but you also have to understand that most casual movie audiences don’t know who famous voice actors like Tom Kenny, Jim Cummings, or Tara Strong are. That’s why they use celebrities, and while sometimes you can’t separate the actor from the character, here they do a good job with their respective roles.

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I think the biggest issues this film has can be attributed to a few different criticisms. The first one revolves around the villains. I get what they were going for with Piggot and Stenk, with them being villains that you would have seen back in the old action adventure movie days, but they are easily the weakest characters of the film. They are played well by Stephen Fry and Timothy Olyphant, but they are a touch too simple. There was also another tired male prisoner joke in the film. It’s short, but I’m getting tired of seeing this joke being used. I also wish they did more with the Yetis. They aren’t in the film much, but are more of an obstacle that the heroes have to overcome than actual characters. It’s a shame too, because Emma Thompson, who voices the lead Yeti, probably has the best joke in the movie. It seems like sometimes, Laika has a problem with their third acts with how they are paced. There is also a joke that I have seen split people down the middle about when Mr. Link decides to go by the name of Susan. It’s a touching scene, but I can see why it sparked some debate if it’s unintentionally hurtful due to the fact that Lionel will sometimes, either accidently or the script forgot to make that change, will call Susan, Mr. Link. I have heard many opinions on the gradient of this discussion, and I don’t really have a fully-fledged opinion. I don’t think it’s as bad as others make it out to be, but I’m not dismissing the fact that it could be taken the wrong way. I think it’s unintentional in its execution. While I loved the chemistry between the characters, I wish there was maybe one more scene with the characters bonding. It’s one of the few times a film that’s 95 minutes long, could be almost two hours due to how laid back and enjoyable it is.

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While I am mad that people are not seeing Missing Link, and are instead going to see Pet Sematary and Little, and Laika not having enough resources for marketing, I still love Missing Link. It might not be Kubo and the Two Strings or Coraline, but I love this movie. Heck, I love all of Laika’s movies. If people truly desire and want new or original stories and films, then they need to not hesitate on seeing films like Missing Link, because it’s stop-motion. Go see the film, and if you love it, that’s awesome, and if you didn’t find it to be impressive, then that’s okay as well! What matters is, is that you went to see and supported an original property. I can’t wait to own this flick on blu-ray when it comes out. Well, while we wait to see how enjoyable or cynical Ugly Dolls is in May, let’s check out one of DC’s newest films with Justice League vs. The Fatal Five. Thanks for reading the review! I hope you all enjoyed it, and I will see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/essentials

Let’s Fix the Animation Scene Part 1: Theatrical Films

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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/list!)

A common complaint I hear every year when any award show for films pops up is that no matter who is nominated, the combination of Disney/Pixar is always going to win. While I definitely shrug my shoulders, and sort of agree with the masses who are tired of seeing Pixar or Disney win, there is a reason why they are consistent winners every year. Yes, there are a few years where I thought there were better films, but for the most part, Disney as a whole constantly earns and deserves the massive praise and success. It has led to me wanting to talk about this situation, but it’s a gigantic task at hand. What can I talk about? Is it right to give Disney and Pixar so much flack? Is it really their fault for no one else being able to compete?

I mean, I don’t normally like commenting on topics with hot takes, because hot takes are a terrible way to form an argument, because it shows you put an unintelligible effort into your comment. Instead, I’m going to do a cool take, which is more thought-out, and worth talking about. So, for this situation, this is my cool take, it’s not Disney/Pixar’s fault for having way more success than everyone else! Listen, they don’t always earn it. I think the Oscars from the years 2012 to 2014 should have gone to different Best Animated Feature films, but instead of blaming Disney for other studios not being able to compete, maybe it’s not all Disney’s fault? To me, Disney and Pixar are being smart with their films, and are constantly making films that people keep coming back to. Maybe the industry needs to start stepping up to the plate. For this editorial, I’m going to talk about how certain parts of the film industry can be improved with “optimistic solutions” as to how they can compete with Disney and Pixar. The first part will be about the industry, and how the other big studios can take some steps into getting on the level of Disney and Pixar’s success. The second part will be tackling the indie/foreign scene, and the final part will be tackling the Oscars. Let’s get started!

Don’t Chase Trends/Find Your Own Identity!

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Let’s cut to the chase. As much as other studios want to be the next big Pixar and or Disney animation studio, there is only one Pixar and one Disney. This happens a lot when you see other studios lock their eyes on a film or franchise that becomes a massive hit, and they want to follow that success with their own take. We saw this with Warner Bros and Don Bluth in the 90s trying to follow Disney’s massive money train. DreamWorks consistently took cynical jabs at Disney, and tried to follow up a Disney or Pixar film with their own take on the basic set-up. Heck, DreamWorks tried to copy Illumination Entertainment’s success with Home. In the end, when you try to chase a trend, and it’s not executed well, people are going to catch on quickly. What studios need to do is to find their own identity. Disney and Pixar have their identities with interesting takes on fairy tales and family films with timeless topics, writing, and characters. DreamWorks has suffered with an identity for years, but always has a consistent identity when they make good character-driven films. Studio Ghibli flips anime onto its head by being so anti-anime with more western ideals and less focus on what makes anime in Japan popular. Science Saru has their own simple, yet stretchy visuals that would rather the movements look good and fluid, rather than how much detail they can put into each character. Laika makes mature family films using stop-motion. Aardman makes charming and well-written animated features. Warner Bros. Animation Group has made consistently entertaining and very funny comedies with heart. Heck, the identities you can give to Blue Sky and Illumination Entertainment as their claim to fame is that they don’t really have one. That is its own problem, but still. When I watch a film by a certain studio, I want to be able to point out that this film is from that studio. Variety is the spice of life, and competition is good. Be your own creative filmmakers. I know having your own identity can come from many elements, like having certain writers and directors at your beck and call, but I still stand that you should make sure you stick out. The worst thing you can do is be a forgettable studio.

Don’t Half-bake Your Overall Plots

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So, most of the time, the big budget animated films are comedies with some story attached to them. Okay, that’s fine. There is nothing wrong with being more about the jokes than the story. However, what seems to happen to many films is that they know and have seen Disney and Pixar films, but only follow the base steps of their plots to put into their own plots. For example, last year, there were probably more films made that had no real idea how to make their stories emotionally connect with the audience. Despicable Me 3 has a slew of potential story arcs for their characters, but either don’t do anything with them, or do only the bare minimum in execution. Ferdinand has some of the more emotionally gripping and interesting story and character moments out of Blue Sky’s films, but they still threw in so much of their bad family film pandering elements, that makes it frustrating to watch. The Emoji Movie doesn’t even bother to try anything to be more complex, have some kind of clever commentary about social media or the young generation who do act like they are glued to their phones. Cars 3, a film from Pixar themselves comes so close to making it one of their best films, but fumbles when having the villains have more to them than their simple traits. The Boss Baby might be heavy on the creative visuals and a lot of fun humor, but it lacks emotional stakes, because I do not care about the characters, and they try so hard to force the family bond on the two leads. Lego Ninjago and My Little Pony dump out what made their respective properties fun and entertaining, and their films are fun, but they lack substance. It’s fine if you want to be more about story, be more about the comedy, or be a mixture of both. Just put in the mental power that you would if you were working on a film you cared about. Don’t treat it like a paycheck film.

Find your own designs/animation style!

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While this could go into the identity part of the list, I feel like this was worthy of its own entry on the editorial. A problem that I see studios have is that their films are all visually similar, and fail to show off the distinct style that only that studio has. You can tell when you are seeing an Aardman film. You can tell when you are seeing a Disney film. You can tell when you are seeing a Laika film. You can tell when you are seeing a Ghibli film. Heck, even Illumination had learned from this, and you can tell by their designs when you are watching their films. DreamWorks and Blue Sky are constantly changing their styles for better or for worse, and they don’t make me think “oh man! This is a film by those guys!” You don’t even need to spend massive amounts of money. In terms of animation budgets, if you can’t get as much as other studios, get creative. That’s why people were so impressed with Captain Underpants. It looked impressive for a film that had a budget of $30 million. Even other studios overseas are finding ways to get creative with their small budgets. Sure, some will still look awful, but the ones that stick out, found a way to make their films work with creative visuals and smart writing. You would be amazed at how many foreign animated films trade big budgets for creative visuals, and focus more on writing. Just be careful about what textures you use as well. If you are going use more realistic textures and designs, then don’t do cartoony movements and reactions. Leap! is a good example of this, because it had pretty decent CGI animation, but due to the odd choice to have realistic textures and somewhat more realistic designs, any time a cartoony reaction happened, it looked creepy. Make sure you have got a visual style you can call your own.

Not Everything Needs To Be a Comedy!

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Listen, I get why most animated films are comedies. I know that’s a very popular genre of film that can easily be taken advantage of with animation, due to its limitless potential. However, not everything needs to be a comedy. The worst part about this is if you are a comedy, and you don’t measure up to the other animated comedies of that year, I’m going to forget about you. It’s like how the game industry is trying to make “live services” a thing. When a better “live service” comes around, I’m going to go to that one instead. Same goes for animation. Once a better comedy comes around, I’m going to watch that comedy more than yours. I have done that plenty of times with the films from 2017. Spice things up a bit and try out different genres. Why do you think people still love talking about Kubo and the Two Strings, UP, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Isle of Dogs, Inside Out, Kung Fu Panda 1-3, The LEGO Movie, How to Train your Dragon, or Wolf Children? While they have their own comedic elements that work out for them, they still fall back heavily on writing, characters, action, and story. Just because it’s an animated feature, doesn’t mean that you can’t be an action film, a thriller, a horror film, a rom-com, or whatever. Don’t box yourselves into one genre. Don’t make a comedy for the sake of making one.

Thanks for reading part 1! Next time, we will talk about the foreign/indie side of animation!

The Other Side of Animation 54: Kubo and the Two Strings 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!)

I am very passionate about animated movies that don’t get the treatment they deserve. I think it’s obvious everyone would rather watch a great movie and support it than something drummed up from Hollywood that shows they have no idea what they are doing. Still, it’s probably the most infuriating thing when a great movie is drowned out by utter garbage. I think one of the best examples of this was with Kung Fu Panda 2. This 2011 sequel was released around the same week that The Hangover Part 2 was released. What happened? More people went to see the mediocre sequel to a film that wasn’t really that great in the first place, instead of a sequel that did everything right by being not just a great movie, but a great sequel. Kung Fu Panda 2 did well enough, but seeing it get beat out by a mediocre sequel was no short of maddening. I could go into detail about why the public movie-going audience can be a major problem about the movie industry, but I‘ll tackle that another time. Today, I’m going to talk about what is quite possibly the best animated movie of the year, Kubo and the Two Strings. Yes, the masters at Laika have made the best animated movie of the year that tops even the amazing Zootopia and The Little Prince. This film, by director Travis Knight in his first directorial position, wowed me. I mean, why did it wow me? Well, let’s find out.

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The story follows the adventure of a young boy named Kubo, voiced by Art Parkinson. He lives in a mountainside cave with his mother. During the day he performs magical shows with his shamisen bringing origami characters to life, but always returns by nightfall at his mother’s request. One day, Kubo accidentally stays after the sun has set, and encounters two creepy raven-like women named Sisters, both voiced by Rooney Mara. Kubo’s mother comes down to save him, but ends up sending Kubo away. Kubo then wakes up in a snowy part of the world, and is now accompanied by a white monkey, voiced by Charlize Theron. They run into a humanoid beetle-like samurai named, well, Beetle, voiced by Matthew McConaughey. The three set off to find a legendary set of weapons and armor to take down the Moon King, voiced by Ralph Fiennes, the powerful being that has been trying to take Kubo for his own needs. Can Kubo survive and find the weapons to take down the Moon King?

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Let’s talk about the good, because I have nothing but good things to say about this remarkable movie. The story is perfectly packed with what you want in a good action adventure movie. It has a great male lead. Kubo is one of the best child characters I have ever seen, not only this year, but in animation in general. He cares for his mother, is enjoyable around the people in his town, and has a great realistic child personality. Speaking of great personalities, the film has an impressive cast of side characters. These are some of the most likable secondary characters, with Monkey’s protective and serious persona, and Beetle being a great fighter, but a mostly light-hearted tone to him. The three characters, Kubo, Monkey, and Beetle work so well off each other, and that happens because of a terrific script. The best part about scripts from Laika is the fact that the humor gels well with classic dialogue that, like The Little Prince, is timeless. Everyone sounds like they were from that time period. The film has a great voice cast. While I could argue the tightrope argument of why Laika didn’t cast more Asian actors for the roles, since the two that they hired, George Takei and Cary-Hiroyuki are side characters who play no major role of the story, but that’s for another article that I won’t talk about here, because even with that little hiccup, the cast they hired for this movie is perfect. The actors all pull off amazing performances that make you see the characters, and not just actors being actors. I have noticed that recently, many animated films have made sure to get actors that fit the roles, and can immerse themselves within them. Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, Matthew McConaughey, Art Parkinson, Brenda Vaccaro, and George Takei and Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, for as big or small as their roles are, all did amazing jobs. I don’t know whether the person in charge of the performances did a great job, or whether these actors felt super passionate about the project and animation, or both, but give them all A+ on their performances. The movie knows how to pace itself with fights, story, and world-building. While some could argue that they could have added another fight, I am so happy that this film balanced out some really good fights, and how they took their time with developing the characters and the world around them. Too many times do action adventure-oriented films put all their bets on the animation and action, while not having much focus on everything else. Kubo and the Two Strings was just a remarkable movie to be in, and has stakes and sequences that keep you invested and wanting to know what happens until the very end.

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The animation is beautiful. It’s easily the best stop-motion animation I have ever seen. It’s so fluid, the world and character designs have personality, and look unique. The fight scenes are well-animated, and are choreographed beautifully. It’s some of the best action you will ever see in animation, alongside Kung Fu Panda, Ninja Scroll, How to Train your Dragon 2, The Boy and the Beast, and Read or Die. They take advantage of everything about the film, from the surrounding environment to who the characters are, like Beetle being able to fly and crawl on walls. The music is gorgeous to listen to, with some great tunes from Kubo’s Shamisen sequences to the amazing score by famed composer Dario Marianelli, who also did the soundtrack for Everest, The Boxtrolls, and V for Vendetta. The ending song that plays in the credits, While My Guitar Gently Weeps by Regina Spektor, (which she covers so well, it was originally a Beatles song by George Harrison) is performed on a Shamisen. That is so incredible that this singer went all out with this song in terms of performing the song on the main instrument of the film.

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I really don’t have major complaints about the movie. I think this is one of those rare perfect movies that even if you could come up with any negative issues, they wouldn’t bring the movie down at all. Actually the biggest problem this film has is being released in August. I am so upset and irritated that Universal decided to release this during the worst part of August, due to the target audience not being able to see it until the weekend because of school starting, and while a mediocre comic book movie is still at number one. That’s another problem. Why would people go see a movie that is flawed, clunky, and had obvious scenes cut out or sloppily edited, instead of a complete, passion-filled animated film that had more effort and creativity put into it than 99% of the films released this year. This is exactly what happened to Kung Fu Panda 2, and that is a crime that the movie-going public doesn’t fully respect animation and think it’s just for kids. That will be an argument for another time. As you can tell, I’m very passionate about this movie, and I want it to be doing better than as of 8/24/16.

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If you couldn’t tell, I love Kubo. I stand by my opinion that this is the best animated film of 2016. I thought nothing would top Zootopia and The Little Prince, but Laika did it.  It’s not only one of the best stop-motion films of all time, it’s one of the best animated films of all time. Seriously, people, go see this movie. It deserves much more of your attention than a remake of a remake nobody asked for. I don’t mean to bash other movies out right now, and I do like a lot of modern/current movies, but people cry and complain that we don’t get to see enough unique and original movies, and then when one comes out and is critically acclaimed, no one sees it because of maddening reasons. If you love original movies, and want to support something that isn’t a big budget disaster, then seriously check out Kubo and the Two Strings. I have felt so satisfied reviewing good movies, and I want to continue that with one of my favorite indie-animated films of 2016, April and the Extraordinary World. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the movie, and see you all next time.

Rating: Criterion/Essentials!

The Other Side of Animation: The Boxtrolls Review

(If you like what you see, go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work. If you want to, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview.biz. Thanks for checking my site out, and I hope you enjoy the article!)

Before I get officially started, I just wanted to be clear about my editorial on Kubo and the Two Strings. I don’t think there was any intentional racism or anything like that in terms of the casting. I just thought it was a bit weird to see only two Asian actors in a film that was heavily based on Japanese mythology. I don’t think the people at Laika are bad for casting who they did. Heck, if they see this review and my editorial, I would be happy to get in touch with them for an interview about Kubo. It’s honestly my most anticipated animated film of the year. Now then, let’s begin with the actual review for today!

I sort of surprised myself here with this series of reviews. The first surprise is that I haven’t talked about the amazing Studio Ghibli films yet, but I will get to them in good time. The second surprise is that I haven’t really talked about Laika yet. This studio is well known among the animation scene, for being one of the few studios that does the back-breaking work of stop-motion animation and has been very popular among the movie-going audience for their previous hits, Coraline and Paranorman. So, with this series of reviews talking about movies that are lesser known, why am I talking about Laika? Well, I think they are the underrated studio of the animation scene. People might know of their films, but they always seem to be overshadowed by the bigger releases. Since I did an article on their upcoming film, Kubo and the Two Strings, I decided to tackle their most recent film, The Boxtrolls. The Boxtrolls was even better than Big Hero 6. The film was released on September 16th, 2014, and was directed by Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi. These two talented individuals have huge experiences within animation and visual effects for films like Hook, The Rocketeer, Paranorman, Back to the Future, Antz, James and the Giant Peach, A Goofy Movie, and video games like Full Throttle, The Dig, Bone: Out of Boneville, and Nelson Tethers: Puzzle Agent. So, how good is this film with boxes full of trolls, and a governmental organization that has a weird obsession with cheese? Well, get your favorite box and let’s find out!

The Boxtrolls takes place in a place called Cheesebridge. A story goes out that the local monsters known as Boxtrolls have kidnapped a baby and are going to eat it. Luckily, the audience gets to learn that the Boxtrolls have not eaten the child, but instead, have raised it like one of their own. The young boy is named Eggs, voiced by Isaac Hempstead-Wright (you know, Bran Stark from Game of Thrones) and once old enough, he learns about the cruel upper world with the villains of the film, the red hats, who were tasked to get rid of all the Boxtrolls. Along this frightful experience, he gets to know the mayor of the town’s daughter named Winnie, voiced by Elle Fanning. Can Eggs save his Boxtroll family, and learn the truth about his past?

While I do have a lot of praise for this film, I do have a few criticisms. If you have seen the advertising and have seen the movie, you know that the film does not have its dark/mature-toned stories that were in Laika’s other work. It has dark imagery, but I remember when I watched Paranorman for the first time, and was surprised at how in-depth the film was with its characters. The story is also a tad predictable, since we have seen some of these story elements in other films like Tarzan, with Eggs being raised by creatures. Normally, I would be a lot harsher on the more predictable story elements, since we should be seeing something done differently with said tropes, but just like in How to Train your Dragon, they are executed well enough to where I don’t care. I also wish the Boxtrolls got a little more development in terms of how they arrived and why they have boxes in the first place.

With those negatives out of the way, let’s gush! This film has some of the best stop-motion animation around, that might even be slightly better than Aardman! I love the art design with the slightly gothic/Victorian look of the world in which they put the characters. While the theme of class disparity is not very subtle, with the white hats and the boxtrolls, it does bring up some pretty entertaining elements to the characters, like how the white hats would rather spend money on cheese than things that would help the community. While Eggs is a decent enough and likable character, the other characters overlap him as the more entertaining individuals. I love Winnie, and how instead of being constantly afraid of the trolls, is headstrong and has a thing about wanting to see the so-called vicious nature of the Boxtrolls. However, the characters that steal the show are the villains. The Red Hats are probably some of the most entertaining villains I have ever seen in a family film. It helps that the casting for the villains are great, and these actors are hardly recognizable as said characters. You have Nick Frost, Richard Ayoade, and a hard-to-recognize Tracy Morgan as the goons, but the one who I was surprised by the most was the lead villain, who was played by Ben Kingsley. Kingsley’s character also has elements that have reminded many people of Nightcrawler, where you work so hard to obtain your goal whether or not it ends up killing you. Even though I think the villains have the best lines and characters, the rest of the voice cast does a stellar job at fitting the setting. This is why I praise actors who can pull off voice work. It’s not easy as heck, as Chris Rock made into an infamous joke about how much celebrity mugging there is in animated films. Instead of voice mugging, you get actual actors who care about their job of bringing the characters to life. I also adore that the film doesn’t lean on modern pop culture lingo. It makes the movie more timeless for sticking to normal lingo. In terms of humor, some of the jokes fall flat, but it’s a film that made me laugh a lot.

While The Boxtrolls might be a bit more simple compared to Laika’s previous work, it’s still a very creative and entertaining film. If for some reason you have not picked this film up, you should. It was also filmed in 3D, and not retrofitted, so if you had to pick a version of the film to purchase, get the one that has the 3D, Blu-ray, and DVD combo pack. It’s one of the best animated films I have seen of the 2010s. You know what? I loved getting to talk about stop-motion so much, I want to talk about another recent stop-motion classic. Next time, we will take a look at Shaun the Sheep Movie. Thanks for reading, and see you all next time!

Rating: Go See It!

Hit-or-Miss Movie Predictions: Kubo and the Two Strings

(If you like what you see, go to camseyeview.biz to see the rest of my work. If you want to, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. Thanks for reading my article! I hope you enjoy it!)

Welcome back to Hit-or-Miss Trailer Predictions, which will now be called Hit-or-Miss Movie Predictions! This is where I give my first impressions of upcoming animated films, and point out the good, the bad, and the interesting. In the end, I shall predict if it will be a hit, a miss, or something different altogether.

Out of all the studios I have yet to talk about, I have surprised myself that I haven’t talked about Laika. I mean, I should since they are the only ones making stop-motion animated films that really do push the envelope of what can go into a film aimed at all ages. Don’t fret though; I will review their work in the near future. For now, let’s talk about what is quite frankly, my most anticipated animated movie of 2016, Kubo and the Two Strings. Let’s get started with the impressions! Oh, and here is a link to the trailer if you want to watch it for yourself!

Animation/Art Direction

There is no doubt in my mind or anyone’s mind that this is one heck of a beautiful-looking movie. I mean, these individuals at Laika have made some visually impressive movies in the past, and they seem to get better and better after each film. The film’s look just hits all of those moods of delightful, ominous, and weird. You can tell how much love and effort Laika put into their movies, which is leagues more than most third-party studios, even studios like Dreamworks.

 

Humor

I will say, and probably say again in the future, that the comedic aspects of Laika films have always been hit-or-miss with me. For every joke that works, there is one that doesn’t. It definitely depends on the film itself, since I found the jokes in Paranorman to work better than the ones in The Boxtrolls, but my point still stands that the humor is not consistent. Of course, I realize that humor is subjective. It seems like the humor is taking more of a backseat in this film, and I am all for it. Granted, you can probably see one of the jokes coming when they introduce George Takei’s character in the trailer, but overall, it seems like the humor will be more subtle or not as heavy in this movie. I do hope I’m right though, I would hate for something this atmospheric and beautiful to be riddled with bad comedy.

 

The story

Kubo is a young boy who lives with his mother in a village. One day, a spirit from the past releases an age-old vendetta, and causes mass chaos with gods and monsters invading the land to get Kubo and his powers. Kubo then sets off on a journey to obtain a magical armor his father wore to save the land.

 

Any concerns?/Casting

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room, the voice cast. Listen, I can probably guess why they made these casting decisions, but it’s 2016, so this is kind of awkward. With the recent Oscar controversy and the Gods of Egypt casting problems, you would think Hollywood would have been more…cautious with the casting. Not that the actors this film hired are bad, because they aren’t. George Takei, Ralph Fiennes, Charlize Theron, and Matthew McConaughey are not bad actors at all. The problem is that in a film that is heavily inspired by Japanese folklore and mythology, they only hire two Asian actors. I’m sorry, but you can’t tell me this isn’t a bit tone deaf in terms of casting.

Now, with that being said, I can probably understand why they got so many recognizable actors. My guess is that due to stop-motion being a hard sell for some reason, they promised to get some big actors who are popular right now. It’s a shame that Hollywood thinks you can’t make an animated family film in any other form than CGI. I think the acclaim films like Song of the Sea, Ernest & Celestine, and Laika’s other films proven that other animated art forms are still amazing and can lead to great products, but I digress. It just seems like it’s a bummer that they couldn’t find some other great Asian actors that could have fit some of these roles perfectly. Now, of course, if the actors do a good job immersing themselves in their characters, then that is a good thing, but like I said, it is 2016, and to have only two Asian actors in a film that is heavily leaning on themes of Japanese mythology, it’s hard not to notice this.

Another interesting fact is that Laika has made two films in a row with a male lead. Why not make the lead a female? I can understand if by the end, if the main lead isn’t an interesting character, then the gender wouldn’t change anything, but I wonder if they will make another movie with a female lead again, as in Coraline.

 

Prediction: Hit!

Now, whether I think the casting is a big deal or not, I do feel like the film will be a critical hit! To me, Laika hasn’t made a bad movie. Some of their films might have better elements than others, but so far, not one is what I would consider to be an official dud. I think if you have enjoyed their other films, then you should definitely go out and see this movie when it’s released in theaters later this year!