My Favorite Animated Films from 2021

Now then, the original plan was to do a list for My Most Disappointed Animated Films of 2021, My Runner-Ups for Best Animated Films of 2021, and My Favorite Animated Films of 2021, but we will just cut it down to My Favorites, due to how it’s a new year, I am so far behind, and I want to get this list done. I’ll try to do more of these varied lists for 2022. I hope you understand, and if you want to see the entire list of films, here is a hyperlink to my Letterboxd list. Let’s get some honorable mentions out of the way! 

Honorable Mentions: Luca, New Gods: Nezha Reborn, Seal Team, Josep, Raya and The Last Dragon, and Flee.



Now then, let’s get started so we can talk about 2022’s films next! 



10. Fortune Favors Lady Nikkuko

I know some people weren’t happy with this film due to how it wasn’t a big ambitious follow-up to Watanabe’s previous film with Children of the Sea, but this coming-of-age dramedy about a mother and her daughter in a small sea-side town, finding connection with not just life and the people around them, but each other is a charming experience. It might not feel as grand on the big screen, but it sure looked nice up with Studio 4C’s amazing animation and Watanabe’s detailed directing of a fairly offbeat kind of story. It has its moments where the jokes fall flat, but the heart is in the right place.

9. Poupelle of Chimney Town

CGI animation in Japan, whether its use is in anime series or films, has evolved. That they can now craft a vibrant and distinct dieselpunk world in this film shows that the medium of CGI animation is still evolving. The medium is used to tell a rather sweet coming-of-age tale about a boy and his friendship with a mysterious robot in a capitalist and smoke-covered world. It might be a little clunky at some points, but it’s a fun little story that is visually distinct and a thrill to see from beginning to end for film lovers of all ages. 

8. Calamity

It’s a real shame this got such a small US release and one that was so barebones. It’s a crime it only has a digital-only release with no extras or an English dub for people who prefer a dub over subtitles. The director of Long Way North’s follow-up is a rip-roaring western adventure with some beautiful visuals that really show the western landscape throughout every scene with some of the best character development of any animated film from 2021. 

7. The Bears Famous Invasion of Sicily 

Do you know what else is a crime? This gorgeous and incredible animated film still doesn’t have a proper US release for some unknown reason, when it’s one of the most visually stunning features in animation. You could literally frame every frame as a painting and get something out of it due to this film’s striking use of CGI and 2D animation. It definitely uses emotional and fairytale logic to tell its story and presents its themes of colonialism, greed, and discrimination to the audience, but not every film needs to be logical to be enjoyable, and it’s more of a crime that a company like GKIDS has yet to pick this film up. 

6. Words That Bubble Up Like Soda Pop

People worry too much about creativity and originality in storytelling, and are willing to overlook films that are just straight-up rock solid and charming as all get out. It’s a bit of a bummer this film is stuck on Netflix, but the fact they brought over this adorable rom-com between two teens who feel like outcasts due to one thing or another is also a runner-up in 2021’s most visually stunning animation seen on screen. Sometimes, all you need is a well-executed experience in storytelling that will carry you through to the end credits. 

5. Encanto

It sure does feel like it has been a hot minute since Disney had a huge worldwide hit animated feature since 2016, right? While the film might be entering its backlash phase due to how it was always in the public eye since its November release on Disney+, there is a reason why this film became beloved due to its soundtrack and its focus on familial drama instead of your typical Disney good vs evil formula. Sure, the music might have some of the typical aspects of Lin Manuel Miranda’s music-writing quirks, and I get why people felt divided by its ending, but I give Disney kudos that they want to make animated films that deal with topics that were not seen in a lot of US animated fare. Granted, by now, we have had a few, and we could use some shaking up, but the fact is that Encanto is still a fun charming musical adventure that was a refreshing take after a couple of years of making non-stop sequels. 

4. The Summit of the Gods

This film that Netflix sadly buried on their service was a beautiful journey of human ambition and what you are willing to sacrifice to reach your goals. When people want more “adult” animation, it’s not more stuff like Paradise PD, but stuff that tells a story that you don’t normally see in animation, which shows what you can do with the incredible medium of animation. With stunning landscapes, interesting characters, and some of the best animation from 2021, The Summit of the Gods is a film that sadly should have had more people watching it. 

3. Josee, The Tiger, and The Fish

With the current trend of every film needing to be big and bombastic in the tentpole area of the film-going experience, it’s always good to remember that story, writing, and character are more important than big flash visual effect shots. This is a coming-of-age story about dealing with the trials and tribulations of life and overcoming hardship and challenge, all wrapped up in a very nice romcom setting with some of Studio Bones’ most visually lush animation that has ever come from one of the top-tier animation houses in Japan. It might have a few story beats that are predictable, but the overall journey is important, and if I enjoyed it from start to finish on a consistent basis, then it did its job. 

2. The Mitchells vs. The Machines

Honestly, these next two could basically tie for first place, as Sony Pictures Animation somehow raised the bar in stylized animation with a quirky family dramedy about the disconnect between a father dealing with his daughter moving out for college that just happens to line up with a robot apocalypse. With some of 2021’s most stylized visuals, there was a reason why this film took the world, Netflix, and animation fans by storm with its complex and intensely hilarious themes and comedy. Just a delight from start to finish, but if we had to pick a film that could beat it by the slimmest of margins, it would be…

1. Belle

I know some people find this film too overly ambitious and unfocused, with its combination of a coming-of-age story, a musical, a drama, a romance, and commentary about the social media age which is what we are dealing with in this day and age, but you know what, the emotional throughline of a girl dealing with the loss of her mom and becoming a stronger individual really pulls it all together. With jaw-dropping visuals, bombastic and powerful musical numbers, and some of the best storytelling from the director himself, there is a reason why this film beat out The Mitchells vs. The Machines by the slimmest of margins.

The Other Side of Animation 284 – Scrooge: A Christmas Carol

(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!)



One of the biggest problems with having a timeless classic is how it branches off into a multitude of different adaptations of the said classic. You will see them take one form, and then another one, or maybe a musical! And then, you will see that musical get adapted into a film, and then people want their crack at that version of the timeless tale. It’s tough, because you don’t want to radically change anything that makes the original amazing, but not every adaptation needs to fully be a 1 on 1 comparison. You need to have some kind of fingerprint that makes your take distinct due to how many versions of something like A Christmas Carol there are in the world. You can usually find one that has stuck with you whether it has Mickey Mouse, The Muppets, or the film adaptation of the Leslie Bricusse Scrooge starring Albert Finney, which is my favorite version. So, this year’s Christmas review will be of Scrooge: A Christmas Carol, a CGI animated feature that is an animated take on the musical. 

This version of the classic tale is directed by Stephen Donnelly, co-written by Donnelly and the original writer of Scrooge, Leslie Bricusse (which is probably more of a royalty/rights situation due to Leslie passing away in 2021). The animated version of the story obviously stars Mr. Ebaneneezer Scrooge, voiced by Luke Evans. As the story goes, Scrooge hates Christmas with a vengeance and how everyone delights in partaking in it, including his employee Bob Cratchit, voiced by Johnny Flynn. That night on Christmas Eve, Scrooge goes home with his dog Prudence only to have the arrival of the ghostly spirit of Scrooge’s last partner, Jacob Marley, voiced by the High Sparrow himself, Jonathan Pryce. Marley puts the fear of the afterlife in Scrooge and tells him that he will be visited by three spirits. These include the candle wax-like Ghost of Christmas Past, voiced by Olivia Coleman, the bombastic and lively Ghost of Christmas Present, voiced by Trevor Dion Nicholas, and the ghoulishly evil-looking Ghost of Christmas Future. Can Scrooge change his ways? 

So, not to get personal with this review, but the 1970s Scrooge is one of my, if not my favorite Christmas movie. I watch it every year with the family on Christmas Day, and it’s the adaptation of the book I watch the most. So, if I sound more critical, it’s because this incarnation is basing itself on a film that’s close to this critic’s heart. What was one of the fun aspects of the original story is how it’s a cautionary tale, but also gothic horror. It was a dark story, and to be frank, this film does seem like it wanted to have its gothic horror, but their main focus was making a family-friendly version of the tale so it would be in that roundtable of A Christmas Carol viewings for families, alongside the Disney and Muppet version. It leans a bit too much on the family-friendly side, as they do what a lot of Toei animated films used to do all of the time back then with the small animal mascots. Scrooge gets a dog, and The Ghost of Christmas Past and Future share these little sprite-like beings that have no real reason to be there. Sure, depending on the version you watch, Christmas Carol can get dark, but it’s a fun dark, and not intensely stressful like Smile, Nope, or Hereditary. They expand upon Scrooge’s past and show more scenes of his slow turn from a kind human to who he was in the present time period. It just seems like they didn’t need to do this because you get the idea of what happens when the “Happiness” sequence happens, but they shorten that part to make room for more scenes and original song sequences that are exclusive to this version of the film. 

Oh, right, there are original songs in this film, and they are a mixed bag. This wouldn’t be so distracting if they didn’t remove songs from the original musical to make room for these new ones. They feel too modern and really detract when they do use music from the original musical. Not that they aren’t sung well, but the first song used in this version of the film is very forgettable. That being said, you can tell that the animators by Timeless Films did a lot of great work during this opening sequence, and make sure to give this film its own distinct visual flair. It has a lot of bright vibrant colors that do detract from the original’s more somber atmosphere. The other new songs are fine, but they feel out of place with the other ones including Luke Evan’s rock opera song that he sings before Marley arrives. It just has a ton of different story decisions that really do hamper the original tone that, while having its own moments that work, don’t compare to the original. The one song sequence I did like was between Luke Evans and Jessie Buckley, but when push comes to shove, the original version of Happiness is still the best version of that moment in the film when Scrooge sees his past. They even push the side characters even more to the side and don’t leave much of an impression unlike the live-action film. The rest of the humans look great and while they come close to looking like they are from something from either advertisements or some of the more well-known mobile games, the film looks fine for what was assumedly not on a large budget. They throw in a lot of Christmas flair and visuals, but personally, the ghosts got the best design boost by being in animation. The Ghost of Christmas Past and Jacob Marley have probably my favorite visual designs. Marley’s more ice/blue flame look is awesome to see unfold when he arrives and Christmas Past is inspired by a candle and made of wax has some of the best animation in the film. You can tell the animators had a ton of fun making her work. Even if Olivia Coleman is maybe hamming it up too much. Ghost of Christmas Future has the least interesting design, and what makes some other adaptations work is how they handle this specific ghost in general. Even Jim Carrey and Robert Zemeckis’ take on the ghost does some truly spooky things by making it a shadow along the walls, and that’s great. Sadly, the animation isn’t consistently well done when you get to the Thank You Very Much scene, the animation took a hit and is way too robotic and stiff when it is one of the more darkly comedic and lively scenes from the original musical. The one thing this film doesn’t fully mess up is the stuff with Tiny Tim. I mean, it’s hard to mess up one of the most adorable kids in fiction. If you mess that up, then you aren’t a good director. 

It sounds like this isn’t a very good adaptation, but there is stuff to like. A lot of the animation looks good, and at moments, it really captures the somber and eerie tone of the film even when it’s aiming for a more family-friendly version. The voice cast is pretty good with Luke Evans, Johnny Flynn, Jessie Buckley, Olivia Coleman, James Cosmo, Fra Fee, Rupert Turnbull, Rebecca Gethings, and Giles Terera to name a few of the major actors they got for the film. When it does slow down and show some of the plot beats from the original, it does do those scenes well. The music is composed well by Jeremy Hollen-Smith, and while I’m not super fond of the new and old songs in how they are executed, they are sung well. When you have a guy who was the Genie on the Aladdin Broadway show, you know you are going to have a fantastic Ghost of Christmas Present. 

It’s a solid adaptation, but if it didn’t try to feel so modern and family-friendly, even compared to other more family-friendly adaptations of the source material, it would leave a more lasting impression. It has some solid visuals, a few decent musical numbers, and good voice performances. It’s a fun time, but I wouldn’t call it one of the better films of the year. If you have yet to see this version, then there is a reason to give it a watch. It’s different enough to stand out, but even with my underwhelming impressions of this version, I bet this one will make the rounds every Christmas. Most people will watch more than one version of A Christmas Carol every year during this time period. Either way, see it for yourself and come up with your own thoughts about it. For now, it’s time to relax, work on some editorials, and enjoy the holidays. 

Rating: Rent it (well, it’s a streaming-only film, but still.)

The Other Side of Animation 283: Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio 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!)

Guillermo Del Toro is one of the most recognizable and beloved filmmakers in the film industry. Anytime he makes a new film, you know you are going to be in for a whimsically crafted experience of mature tones and a wonder that you won’t find with any other filmmaker. Who else could jump between genres crafting films like Pacific Rim, Mimic, The Devil’s Backbone, Pan’s Labyrinth, Nightmare Alley, The Shape of Water, Blade II, Hellboy, and Crimson Peak? Every film he has created has resulted in one that is distinct and could not be mistaken for any other filmmaker’s work. He has such a passion for what he loves, and there is a reason why so many have fallen head over heels for his films. Of course, to me, it’s no shock that he has a love for animation and not just because he has produced the hit Netflix series Trollhunter or was a producer on films like Rise of the Guardians. Del Toro probably loves animation and the art of the medium more than most fans, including myself. You have probably seen the clips of him speaking to a late-night host or someone and calling out the entertainment industry’s lack of respect for the medium and how it’s not just for kids. Sure, films and shows might be aimed at kids, but the best filmmakers make films and series that kids and adults will enjoy. This is how the best directors and studios stick around, and that’s no different here with Guillermo Del Toro throwing his newest directorial effort, an animated film, at us on Netflix called Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio

This lovingly-created stop-motion feature is directed by Guillermo Del Toro and Mark Gustafson, written by Del Toro and Patrick McHale, and produced by Double Dare You! Productions, ShadowMachine, and The Jim Henson Company. This iteration of the famous story by Carlo Collodi takes place during World War I, where we follow Geppetto, voiced by David Bradley, a wood carver that lives with his son in Italy. After working on a cross for the church, the town in which Geppetto and his son live gets hit by a bombing raid, and his son named Carlo is killed when a bomb hits the church. In his grief, for years on end, Geppetto drinks his days away in front of the grave where his son is buried. In his anger and depression, Geppetto cuts down the tree that they planted and crafts a wooden boy that just happens to have a talking cricket inside named Sebastian J Cricket, voiced by Ewan McGregor, who is also the narrator of our story. That night as Geppetto falls asleep, a blue fairy arrives voiced by Tilda Swinton, and brings the boy to life and makes a deal with Cricket for him to guide this wooden boy in the right way. The next morning, the boy comes to life and is named Pinocchio, voiced by Gregory Mann. Can Geppetto and Pinocchio bond as father and son together? 

We have had an absurd number of animated films based on Pinocchio this year, the Lionsgate DTV film, another Russian-animated Pinocchio film that’s entirely different, and then the Disney remake. To no shock, they all lost the core reason why the story is so beloved and therefore have no real reason to be watched. Del Toro and Patrick McHale’s focus on actual character and story leads this adaptation miles and leagues above other adaptations. Setting it during 1930 Italy while changing the setting to a degree, doesn’t actually change much from the original story or if you have seen the classic Disney version. Instead of dealing with a walking talking fox, his cat compatriot, and the carnie that takes Pinocchio on his traveling puppet show, we get those three wrapped up into the duo of Spazzatura, voiced by Cate Blanchett, and Count Volpe, voiced by Christoph Waltz. They may have changed the island where the boys get turned into donkeys and sold to mining, but instead, we get Podesta, voiced by Ron Pearlman, who takes his son Candlewick, voiced by Finn Wolfhard and Pinocchio to a youth camp that trains boys to become soldiers. As you can tell, not much has changed and it fits into the overarching themes of the film. 

This iteration tackles themes of the disconnect between generations, dealing with loss, growing up, and dealing with and defying a world full of hate via nationalistic extremes. Yeah, with this taking place in 1930 Italy, expect this film’s story to take an entirely different side of mature tones with Pinocchio discovering how fascist the country is. Also, alongside Titina, this is the second film this year that has brutal jokes and jabs at Mussolini and fascist extremists. Just a fun observation of recurring themes or gags against horrible human beings across multiple films. It even makes a poop joke work when those would normally be the lowest-hanging fruit of humor. It’s not all doom and gloom, but a lot of the journey is of Geppetto and Pinocchio’s broken relationship as Geppeto deals with the fact that he has a son, but can’t get let go of his sadness for the gift of life and having a second chance of being a father to our wooden lead. Pinocchio’s arc is more or less invincible when revealed by Death, and is also voiced by Tilda Swinton. Pinocchio’s arc then becomes learning how important and precious life is and how we can only do our best to find happiness in this life. It’s a compelling and deep story that still finds ways to be funny, heartwarming, intense, and fantastical. It’s something that only Del Toro and his team could craft into existence. 

The animation is breathtaking. With the combination of ShadowMachine and The Jim Henson Company, Del Toro and his team of artists were able to craft an unbelievable visual treat. The way the characters look has this wooden doll/figure look to everyone, but are flooded with personality as you can tell what kind of people they are by their designs alone. They find ways to make things that would be unsettling to be full of whimsy. The reveal of Pinocchio is a good example of that. The craft on screen might not be as polished as you see in Aardman and Laika productions, but keeping the imperfections the same way Wendell & Wild does bring more charm than being overly polished with their animation. The lush backgrounds, the lived feeling of the world, the fact that parts of the world they live in does change with wear and tear make this one of the most fully realized worlds seen in film and animation. The voice cast is delightful. One of those most perfect ways to use a mixture of both named voice actors, character actors, and big names. It has some of its recurring Del Toro regulars like Ron Pearlman and Burn Gorman, but with the previously mentioned actors, they have Tom Kenny, John Turturro, Tim Blake Nelson, and Finn Wolfhard. Though it is great that in the credits, the animators are listed first over the celebrities, which should be a normal thing required by every animated film. The music is composed by Alexandre Desplat of The Shape of Water, Isle of Dogs, and The Grand Budapest Hotel fame. So you know he has a way of finding fantastical tunes and combinations that help elevate the moments in the entire run. Now, this movie is a musical with songs written by Del Toro, Desplat, and Roeban Katz, and while they aren’t the most memorable tunes, they grow on you and have their own charm to them with some great singing by our cast. They also add to the story and don’t detract from them. 

Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is a miracle of filmmaking. A beautifully crafted adaptation of a classic story that adapts and changes some of the elements most people know about from the original tale, but loses none of the heart and soul of the journey from beginning to end. Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio is what can be considered a perfect film. A fabulous journey through the trials and hurdles of a father and son’s journey through loss, grief, acceptance, and overcoming adversity for being different, while also criticizing religious and nationalistic extremists. A film that doesn’t sugarcoat the flaws in our characters, and still leads you on one of the most satisfying journeys of storytelling in 2022. A film that not only tops the best animated films of 2022, but also the best film of 2022. It’s a reminder that animation is indeed film, and one needs to remember and accept that. Treat animation with respect. Now then, here is hoping we get a Criterion release of this film because it sorely needs a physical release alongside other animated films Netflix is keeping locked up on their service. For now, let’s go on a journey to Christmas time in London and talk about Scrooge: A Christmas Carol Netflix didn’t do a great job at letting you know existed. Anyway, see ya next time! 

Rating: Essentials!

The Other Side of Animation 282: My Father’s Dragon Review

(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com/camseyeview. It would help support my work, and keep the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Since 2009, Cartoon Saloon has been in the major conversation of being one of the greatest animation studios around. With five films under their belt with a multitude of award nominations and critical acclaim, they have become one of the landmark heads of animation. The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, The Breadwinner, and Wolfwalkers have shown what they can do with their stories that are aimed at all ages, telling compelling stories of family and showing off some of the last decade’s best 2D animation. Tom Moore and Nora Twomey have both put out some incredible works, and that won’t stop anytime soon, especially with the acclaim of Nora’s newest film, My Father’s Dragon, which took home one of the main three prizes at Animation is Film a few weeks ago. 

Directed by Nora Twomey, written by Meg Lefauve, and produced by Cartoon Saloon and Mockingbird Pictures, we follow the story of a boy named Elmer, voiced by Jacob Trembly, who moves from a vibrant village to a cold and imposing new city due to his hometown falling under economic despair. After an argument with his mother, he runs away to the docks to scream his frustration with the world and how his mother and he are unfortunately given a bad hand. With all that said, Elmer encounters a talking cat voiced by Whoopi Goldberg, and she tells Elmer how he can change his luck around by going to an island that’s far off into the ocean blue to find a real-life dragon to bring back. As he journeys to this island with the help of a whale, he finds that the dragon is being held hostage by a large gorilla named Saiwa, voiced by Ian McShane. After freeing the dragon, he catches a ride and ends up crashing into a different part of the island with said dragon. As he awakens, he meets the dragon in the flesh whose name is Boris, voiced by Gaten Matarazzo. The two go on a journey to assist Elmer to get off the island to help his mother, and for Boris to be a stronger dragon. Can they do all of this while the island is slowly sinking and tensions are rising between the island’s inhabitants? 

One of the first things you will notice is how this film has a more western film vibe to it. Not that it’s a bad thing, but it definitely stands out from the rest of Cartoon Saloon’s catalog. From the writing to the more celebrity-studded cast, it has more American film ideologies. The cast is great, and it’s not like Cartoon Saloon hasn’t used celebrities before, but not to this unusual degree. Still, if your agent told you there was an opening for a film from this prestigious studio, I wouldn’t say no to that possible casting gig. Some of the jokes and humor come off as slightly modern, but it’s all pretty universal humor, so don’t expect me to say that it has more western sensibilities than something on the level of old DreamWorks. With the writing and how the story unfolds, it’s probably the most approachable film from the studio. The other films are also approachable by any film and animation fan of all ages, but this one is more family-friendly, and that isn’t a bad thing. Not every film needs to be aimed at hardcore film fans. Animation has no age limit. 

With all that said, what does that mean for the overall story? From Animation is Film, Nora and her team talked about how they needed to expand upon the story as the book wasn’t very long. The story itself added on the struggling mother and son storybeat to give a reason for Elmer to arrive at the island, and how we see the animals on Wild Island are reliant on a temporary solution to stop a long-term problem. The fun thing about how the story unfolds is while there are some antagonistic forces like Kwan, everyone is driven by fear of change and uncertainty. There are no real overarching villains, as Saiwa wants to save the island and protect everyone by using Boris to solve the problem. It’s a coming-of-age story as we take a journey to Elmer becoming brave for him and his mother, and Boris becoming a better dragon. Much of the time, the characters are told that being afraid is a bad thing, but it’s okay. Fear is a natural part of living. Like a Sam Elliot-voiced T-rex from Pixar’s The Good Dinosaur once said “You can’t get rid of fear. It’s like mother nature. Can’t beat her or outrun her, but you can get through it.” I know we are quoting a Pixar film to describe one of the major storybeats of My Father’s Dragon. Suit up. Now, granted, how the story gets from point A to point B can be a tad predictable, which is a shame due to how many Cartoon Saloon films tend to have solutions and outcomes that are not the easiest things to obtain. The story also touches upon how greed/selfishness can force us to make bad decisions, and how working together to help one another can make fixing the solution better. It might be aimed at an overall audience, but the beauty of this film’s story can still be seen through its visuals and writing. 

The animation is jaw-dropping and gorgeous. It’s Cartoon Saloon and its iconic visual style, so what do you expect? Sure, they didn’t use the distinct felt-like visuals of the original, but they were able to adapt the designs from the book to this film and they pulled it off. The world they create feels like it’s right out of a children’s book with how they craft the locations from the original story of Elmer and his mom, the gloomy and soulless look of the city they move into, to the patchwork and vibrant locales of Wild Island. Even the smaller locations have so much life to them, and, of course, seeing them all on the big screen made those visuals pop even more. The music by brother duo Jeff and Mychael Danna brings a fanciful approach to the world this film throws you into, and the two are extremely talented individuals. Mychael Danna was the same composer behind The Life of Pi, whereas Jeff Danna was behind films like Silent Hill, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, and Pixar’s Onward. He composed the latter two films alongside his brother. While the English voice cast is definitely more star-studded than in previous endeavors, they still chose some pretty good actors. Of course, Jacob Trembly does a fabulous job as Elmer, Ian McShane and Chris O’Dowd are imposing as the antagonistic force of the Saiwa and Kwan. The one that was the biggest surprise to me is Gaten Matarazzo as Boris the titular dragon. Most would know Gaten from the hugely successful Stranger Things franchise and the recently released Honor Society. It was good to see him in a different realm outside of the hit Netflix series to see where he could go, and he brings a delightfully goofy, but layered performance to the character. The rest of the cast that also perform their roles well include Golshifteh Farahani, Jackie Earl Haley, Dianne West, Alan Cumming, Judy Greer, Rita Moreno, Leighton Meester, and Spence Moore II. Some leave a stronger impression than others, but the cast definitely vibes well with the overall adventure rather than becoming distracting.  

While a touch clunky at times, My Father’s Dragon is a whimsical journey for our young hero to overcome the fear of the unknown and hurdles that life may throw at you. It’s a shame that many people weren’t able to see this on a big screen. Pandemic or not, this deserved to have had a wider big-screen release than it got. Sure, I might rank it a touch lower than other Cartoon Saloon films, but considering how they don’t have a bad film in their lineup, then that doesn’t really mean much. It’s a good movie that deserves to be checked out by everyone. We need to make sure films by studios and teams like Cartoon Saloon do well, because they show a different side to animation that most US audiences won’t get. Now then, next time, we will be talking about one of the most critically acclaimed animated films of the year. You will just have to see what it is next time. 

Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 279: Wendell & Wild 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!)

When you look at 2022, it has been a positively popping year for stop-motion animated features. Even if I didn’t personally enjoy every single one of them, 2022 has shown how diverse and different the medium of stop-motion can be. Oink, Mad God, The House, Marcel: The Shell With Shoes On, and the upcoming Guillermo Del Toro’s Pinocchio. When was the last time we saw so much from this side of the medium? It’s rather depressing how poorly they have done in the past because people chose to see something else. Once again, if audience members want to see something different, unique, and in this case, made with stop-motion, then they actually, you know, need to see the films! Whether they show up in wide release, limited release, or on streaming, whatever hang-ups you have about where movies show up, you have to get over them. Seeing more of what you want means you need to actually support it when it comes out. That means that whether you saw it in its limited theatrical release or its soon-to-be home on Netflix, then you need to watch Wendell & Wild

Directed by Henry Selick and co-written by Selick and Jordan Peele, this new stop-motion feature from the master himself tells the story of a teenager named Kat Elliot, voiced by Lyric Ross. After losing her family at a young age, she has been having one heck of a life that ends up with her going to a boarding school called RBC Girls which is run by a priest named Father Bests, voiced by James Hong. While this is all going on, two demon brothers are stuck making new haircare products for their father named Wendell and Wild, voiced by the iconic Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele. They one day find out that they are essentially connected by magic and blood with Kat and find a way to use her to get their plans set in motion. Can Kat reconcile the emotional baggage she has been carrying with her while saving the day and not letting her personal demons have their way with bringing something to fruition? However, Kat’s demons may not be the only monsters with whom she is going to deal. 





One of the best elements in this film is how we see an entirely different set of character dynamics than in most animated fare, which is probably due to the fantastic writing combo of Selick and Jordan Peele. For one thing, the lead character doesn’t end up with a romance option with anyone. While there is debate about the whole romance or no romance option of lead characters going on right now due to comments made about the upcoming live-action Snow White remake, it is nice to see two of our leads just be good friends or accomplices to the antics without having to deal with ‘will they or won’t they’ story beats. The main goal of our lead Kat is to find a way to bring back her parents and deal with whatever is going on with the school she is living in. Our two demonic brothers bring in a distinct take of the magical entities that team up with a human story trope. They do trick her, and in the end, get redeemed not only in the eyes of Kat and their father, but they do act like demons. They lie and take advantage of Kat’s emotional luggage, they do things behind her back, and they are mischievous. You still care for them and are intensely entertaining characters, but they aren’t 100% good, which makes sense due to them being demons. Everyone from the adults to the other students all have layers to them that make this entire cast some of the more complex character lineups in 2022. Rarely does this film let any of the characters fall to the wayside and feel undercooked. With the exception maybe being the two friends of Siobhan’s friends Sweetie and Sloane, what they lack with multi-dimensional personalities, are picked up by characters like Sam Zelaya’s Raul, who is one of the most fun characters in animation this year. Seriously, there is so much personality shoved into this film, that there will be a chance that everyone watching this will result in rewinding or pausing to see all of the details or small character beats that you will definitely want to catch while on your second or third time through.  It’s going to be a bit bumpy because it’s tackling themes of death, family connections, grief, loss, and how shady, powerful, and metaphorically demonic individuals take what sounds like hopeful ideas/ideals and use them for their own greed and desires ala what is going on with the school Kat attends. Sure, it can feel a bit stuffed at 105 minutes, and I agree to a certain degree that it was a lot to juggle, but the strong character dynamics and themes were keeping this animation fan glued to the screen during Animation is Film when it was on the big screen. Even stuff with the hair cream has symbolic meaning to the overarching story, and its details like that and how you can see Wendell and Wild have different facial animations while in hell and in the human world makes films like this special. 




The animation, to no surprise, is amazing. Instead of tightly polishing the stop-motion elements as other studios would do, Henry Selick made sure to keep the imperfections that make stop-motion extremely special. It would be boring if they just edited out the different lines for the separate face pieces. Plus, like Anomalisa, you can take the little line you see on Father Bests’ face and spin it as a metaphorical mask he puts on for the students that hide his true intentions until he is around the others. Every character has either circular or angular designs that all have such punch and flair to them that is helped by the fact Selick hired a caricature artist to do the designs for this film. It results in some of the most distinct characters you see this year. As I referenced, Wendell and Wild themselves have what looks like two different facial movements when they are in different locations and little touches like that along with other small details like the janitor’s feet give you that Henry Selick punch that we all know and love. The voice cast is diverse, and they all play their respective roles well. Of course, you have the duo Keegan Michael Key and Jordan Peele, but you also have Lyric Ross, Angela Bassett, James Hong, Ving Rhames, Sam Zelaya, Tamara Smart, Seema Virdi, Ramona Young, Michele Mariana, Natalie Martinez, Tantoo Cardinal, Igal Naor, Gary Gatewood, Gabrielle Dennis, David Harewood, and Maxine Peake that round up a satisfying cast of distinct characters. Bruno Coulais was the composer behind this film, and he brings all the quirky, scary, and macabre that you would want for what is essentially a horror comedy. If his name sounds familiar, it’s because he also helped out with films like 2014’s Mune: Guardian of the Moon, Song of the Sea, 2018’s White Fang, and 2020’s Wolfwalkers, which makes all of the sense when you really think about his musical talents and sounds that he likes to deliver to the table. It pairs well with the amazing afropunk soundtrack that gives the horror a special rock edge.

Hollywood needs to stop beating around the bush and stop getting hung up on how much stop-motion animated features cost. The execs in the major studios sure as heck like spending money on massive tentpoles and pre-existing IPs that they are running into the ground when they don’t need to. Just cut a blank check to Henry Selick and let him make whatever films he wants. Wendell & Wild is a fantastic film, and it’s not just one of the best films in the medium of animation in 2022, but one of the best films in general of 2022. If you can, just find time to watch it when it hits Netflix, because I can absolutely see this becoming an instant classic in the world of film. Hopefully, a company like Criterion can put it out on a nice blu-ray with a ton of features. It’s amazing how fantastic 2022 has been in general with animation, especially with stop-motion showing how vibrant the medium is. Now then, next time, well, you are going to have to wait and see. 

Rating: Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 278: Oni – Thunder God’s Tale 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!)

2022 has been an extremely chaotic year for animation. Starting with Netflix trying to put out a forest fire as big as Texas, they canceled mostly all of their diverse shows and a mass majority of their animation projects. Not to be outdone, the awful Warner Bros. Discovery pretty much canceled 90% finished projects and screwed over every known talent in the entertainment and animation industry, and that’s not even counting everything else. Seriously, on top of all of this, we are now seeing the anime demand bubble pop via the struggle to keep a healthy group of animators working in a consistently awful work environment, and English dub actors getting screwed over via the Mob Psycho 100 incident. The overall animation industry is also getting scapegoated by inept greedy number-crunching executives that are putting more and more of their hopes and dreams on IP-driven work. It’s heartbreaking to see such an industry use a vibrant medium of storytelling as a bad faith argument of what people actually want to see. Because sooner or later, those pieces of art that are more focused on preserving popular brands are going to die out. Now more than ever, you need to support original projects, and you do that by ignoring and not taking part in the discussion/discourse of whatever new based-on-an-IP thing is out right now, and instead, giving your support to new and original projects like Oni: Thunder God’s Tale

Directed and created by Daisuke Tsutsumi, written by Mari Okada, and produced by a collaborative effort by Tonko House, Megalis VFX, Dwarf Studios, and Marza Animation Planet, this four-episode limited series is about a young girl named Onari, voiced by Momona Tamada. She lives in a village full of Kami with her father Naridon, voiced by Craig Robinson. She is training to bring out her true powers along with her fellow friends who are being taught by Mr. Tengu, voiced by George Takei. As Onari discovers her true powers and who she is, things start to unfold as they have to protect the village from a group of monsters. Can Onari and Naridon save the day? What exactly is up outside of the village? Are the monsters actually threats? What is the true connection between Onari and Naridon? 

Let’s start with the animation. The visuals and delightful designs are drop-dead gorgeous. This is mostly stylized CGI that is animated like stop-motion. That’s wildly impressive, because the sets they use, the designs, the textures, and what have you, look so darn good! It almost looks like real stop-motion. Yes, they aren’t fluidly animated in their movements, but you can still get the point across about their expressions and actions. It’s not like what they are thinking isn’t readable, because it is. The entire look of the show is a pleasing gift for the eyes as we see heavy uses of lighting, shadows, mixed-media elements, and how it just looks like you could reach in and touch the characters themselves. You can tell that the studios involved with bringing life to this limited series were all working with a cohesive goal in mind in how they wanted this to all look. The designs are all adorable, and all have very distinct personalities and diverse ways of movement. Even the designs of what the monsters turn out to be are handled well and don’t clash with the designs of the kami, which is very helpful when you craft up a consistent look and feel for the show. You never want to see a character that absolutely doesn’t match up with other designs in the show or film. 

The voice cast is stellar. The one that left this writer impressed, outside of Momona Tanada’s powerful performance as the excitable yet vulnerable Onari, is Craig Robinson as Naridon. When you usually see Craig, he’s typically playing a version of himself or a more cartoony version of himself that we see most of the time he shows up. Not to say that’s bad, because it isn’t. What’s so fascinating about watching this show is how Naridon doesn’t say a single word, but his movements, grunts and noises, and facial expressions tell you everything. It’s all through visual storytelling and that’s so cool that they went with that for one of the show’s main characters. The other characters are also likable, funny, quirky, and have fun little visual gags that are attached to them. The rest of the cast includes some heavy hitters like Omar Benson Miller, who is just killing it in the voice-acting game right now, Archie Yates, George Takei, Tantoo Cardinal, Yuki Matsuzaki, Brittany Ishibashi, Anna Akana, Charlet Chung, Seth Carr, and Robert Kando rounding out an incredible cast. It’s also an interesting twist on some of these actors who are having to play something fairly different than what they usually get cast in. It’s refreshing to see how much certain actors show that they actually have range. 

Now, as for the story, it’s a very sweet tale that tackles themes of found family, discrimination, the power of fearmongering, and how to become strong to overcome your fears. It looks like a very child-friendly show, but it finds a way through the four episodes to weave in more complex moments, emotionally complicated moments, and quiet moments to let the characters breathe, and allow you to become enveloped in this show’s atmosphere and world, due to how amazing the animation is.  It’s a show that joins the current generation trend of animated entertainment by being made for everyone. That’s because, as we really need to jab and ram into every executive’s head, animation is not a genre, it’s not just for kids, and it can be made for everyone and not just one side or the other. Oni: Thunder God’s Tale is one of those entities that is able to be there for everyone. Young kids will enjoy the cute designs and visuals, whereas everyone else can spot some fantastic visual gags and absorb the themes and commentary that are being told and shown throughout the show. It’s the power of animation, it is for everyone. 






In a year where we have had some rather impressive feats of animated storytelling with stuff like Lost Ollie, The Legend of Vox Machina, Inu-Oh, Bee and Puppy Cat, and Entergalactic, we are still not done with this year as we are about to get a string of fantastic-looking films, and with this limited series that Daisuke Tsutsumi has crafted with their team with Oni: Thunder God’s Tale. It’s four episodes full of charm, wit, laughs, and themes about family, discrimination, saving the environment, and finding your inner strength to take down the fears that are inside all of us. It’s a beautifully crafted world with some of the year’s most distinct and visually stunning and unique animation with its combination of stop-motion, CGI, and some 2D elements as well. It’s on Netflix, and while Netflix has been making some very frustrating and questionable decisions, they still let Daisuke Tsutsumi craft a beautiful story about a big ol’ goofy ogre and his daughter. It maybe could have had one more episode to pace everything out a bit more, but if that’s the only criticism that can come out of this writer’s brain that is essentially saying “I want more of this”, then that’s saying something. Definitely give this incredible series a watch. It’s one of 2022’s best new shows/event series. Now then, next time, we will be taking a trip through devilish punk rock vibes and encounter everyone’s new favorite mortician magicians and their human cohort in the next review. 

Rating: Essential! 

The Other Side of Animation 277: Entergalactic 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!)

In 2022 alone, we have seen what animation can do. We have shows that push the boundaries of what can be defined as adult animation,  films based on TV shows elevate themselves out of the trappings that they could have been stuck with, and you get the idea. Animation is such a unique experience to tell art, and sadly, the entire industry is doing everything in its power to dismiss it as a whole. With whatever Warner Bros. Discovery and especially Netflix are doing with canceling half a dozen projects and removing them off the face of the earth, this medium of storytelling needs to keep pushing back against the higher-ups that don’t understand art or the art that actually moves people. Netflix especially was the streaming service to be on if you wanted to see creative animated projects. It might still be making some, but its “blank check” days are over, and it makes you wonder what couldn’t have been made now that was greenlit almost over a decade ago. Would they have greenlit Del Toro’s Pinocchio? What about City of Ghosts? Centaurworld? The Sea Beast? Wendell and Wild? Maya and the Three? Would they have greenlit today’s review of the multi-media experience of Scott Mescudi’s Entergalactic? Because if the answer is no, then that is damning evidence of what these “creative” higher-ups think about stuff like Entergalactic

Executively produced by Scott Mescudi (Kid Cudi) and Kenya Barris, this TV Special is directed by Fletcher Moules and animated by DNEG Animation. It follows a blossoming comic artist named Jabari, voiced by Scott Mescudi himself. He has finally gained a dream job of adapting his ideas for a comic book company. However, just as he is celebrating his victory and living in a bachelor pad while hanging with his two friends Jimmy and Ky, voiced by Timothee Chalamet and Tyrone Griffin Jr., he encounters two women. The first one is his ex whom he broke up with five to six months ago named Carmen, voiced by Laura Harrier, who he has a one-night fling with, but also, he encounters his neighbor, named Meadow, voiced by Jessica Williams. Can Jabari maneuver through his new life and find ways to balance everything out, and does that balancing act include a potential new romance? 

So, when you think of Scott Mescudi and the vibrant world of animation, alongside the fact this film is also cross-promoting his new album of the same name, you think there would be some kind of disaster like what The Carpenters did back in the day with their album Passage that also had a TV special tie-in. Luckily, it’s more than just a fancy piece promoting a new album. Not that it has never happened in animation, due to how animation and promoting music have worked for decades from Looney Tunes to even older than that. What does save this project from being more than a promotional tool is how it weaves an actual story. The music is there, and there are plenty of moments where the music is played over dialogue-less sequences of animation, but the overall film is a romance film. It might be a mood and a vibe at most points when you combine the gorgeous art direction and music, but there is a story here between Jabari and Meadow and their journey of finding one another. Jabari has to deal with his situation of working at a comic company that may have pulled a Disney and only hired him to make something for them, calling his art “too risky” for their audiences, and not truly let him craft his art. Meadow tries to find her path as an artist and what the relationship and dynamics mean to her and Jabari. This romance film is able to let the characters breathe, we get to see how they live and hang out with one another, and it offers a depth that you don’t often see in romcoms or romance movies. It’s not just will they or won’t they. You can easily find yourself invested with the characters or see yourself as one of them here or there. The underlying themes of racism might not be the main focus of the plot, but the main focus is on the relationship between our two lovebirds. Everything that goes on around the two are to enrich the world they live in.

It’s become a bit cliche now to reference how animated projects like this owe a lot of their success to Into the Spider-Verse. That one film yet again kicked down the doors for studios to start doing more with their visuals, and while there is definitely a lot of the more stylish and lush visuals of Spider-Verse, the movements and how characters emote comes off like it had a little bit of City of Ghost in its veins via the low-framerate movements of the characters. Wherever this special got its influences, it perfectly matches up with something you would see Mescudi crafting, and the talented team behind the animation did a fantastic job. While the low-framerate animation can be distracting to some, the individual characters are still extremely expressive, and you can tell what’s going on through their thoughts. It even combines CGI with splashes of 2D animation with Jabari’s comic character, Mr. Rager, and it looks phenomenal. The bright and dark colors mix very well to bring this sunrise/sunset look to most scenes and the colors really pop when they show the characters off during the daytime periods. 

The voice cast is great, and while some celebrity voices don’t get that many lines, everyone plays their individual roles well. Mescudi is likable and relatable as our lead, as he wants to keep true to who he is, but still puts his guard up when he senses something is up. Also, who wouldn’t want to be as chill as him? However, while Timothee and Tyrone do a good job with their roles, The rest of the cast is where it all comes together. When you see Macaulay Culkin pop into the film, it’s endearing, funny, but also heartwarming and deep, and that’s just one of the many fun splashes of personality that comes with having such a distinct cast and story. Jessica Williams is adorable and fun to watch as Meadow, and Laura Harrier brings this passive, and partly aggressive tone to her character who does like Jabari, but clashes with him on an emotional and personal level. The rest of the cast includes Vanessa Hudgens, Christopher Abbott, Daniella Balbuena, Jaden Smith, Keith David, Teyana Taylor, Arturo Castro, Maisha Mescudi, Luis Guzman, and Francesca Reale. The soundtrack is straight-up fantastic. Of course, the main pull are all of the songs Mescudi crafted with a ton of collaborators, and each song felt like they fit the scene like a glove and encapsulate the area in which the film takes place. It definitely makes this film feel like its mood and vibes, but they do a good job gelling with the storytelling. The non-album stuff is very lo-fi and calming, which blends well with the atmosphere the film provides. 

Entergalactic is, simply put, fantastic. It isn’t just a mood, it’s a vibe. It’s an experience where Scott Mescudi takes us through a combination of fantastic music and out-of-this-world visuals with a heartwarming romance between two souls wanting to find where they want to be with their lives. Its story might be a straightforward romance between our two leads, but the themes that it weaves throughout our leads’ journey through love are eye-opening and vibrant with some of 2022’s most luscious visuals. It ain’t afraid to combine intimate relationships, sex, comedy, and 100% vibes via Cudi’s new soundtrack leads to one of the best examples of what kind of stories you can tell via animation. It’s honestly one of the best pieces of art to represent an adult story. More animation needs to be like this, and it’s a real shame that as of writing this review, the animation industry is about to dive into another possible dark age where creativity is frowned upon over what can be made for cheap and they can rake in more money. Entergalactic might be a tie-in with Mescudi’s new album, but it works as a stand-alone film and you should all check it out! Now then, there is no real idea what will be next, but you know it will be animated and offer a wondrous journey into the realm of storytelling. 

Rating: Essentials

The Other Side of Animation 273: Bee and Puppycat 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!)

2022 in TV animation has been underwhelming. With 2020 and 2021 giving us great and unusual shows that sound like disasters, but are not. With 2022, well, there’s Vox Machina, Super Giant Robot Brothers, The Cuphead Show, and that’s about it. There should always be this push to have more original shows that help keep the creative landscape of animation alive, since IP-driven projects and continued seasons of already existing shows can’t be the only thing that keeps the landscape of animation vital. You need to be able to stand out from the pack and not be just a variation of something else that exists. You need to be something like today’s show and review, Bee and Puppycat on Netflix. 

Based on the original shorts by Natasha Allegri, which were then rebooted into the version you see on Netflix, this show is chiefly directed by Joji Shimura, created by Natasha Allegri, and produced by Oriental Light and Magic aka OLM Inc. We follow our lead Bee, voiced by Allyn Rachel, a young woman who lives on an island and works at a cat cafe. One day, after some shenanigans that result in her getting fired, she encounters an unusual puffy cat thing known as Puppycat. While wondering where her next paycheck is going to come from, Puppycat warps her to a place where she can get a multitude of temporary work gigs that will take Bee and Puppycat across the universe and into the possible hands of some unknown entities that are looking for our heroes. 

With it being 2022, we have now had a good 12 years of how cartoons of this current era have been handled. Instead of having thicker outlines and sharper corners, we have thinner outlines and rounder designs. What has helped make these shows stand out is how abstract and unusual they are. Instead of having one genre or one type of set-in-stone story, they cross the streams and become genreless due to how they are a multitude of different genres. Some are more adventure-focused ala Adventure Time, some have more of a dash of sci-fi to them like Steven Universe, and some had more references or vibes of an 80s cartoon like The Fungies. They also tend to have a more modern and low-key tone and humor to them. Even when things get zanier, the humor is still more universal or has a quirky side to it all. The point I am trying to make is that after more than a decade of shows like Amphibia, Infinity Train, The Owl House, Steven Universe, Adventure Time, Kipo and the Age of Wonderbeasts, and so on, you have to do well to stand out from the rest. So, what does Bee and Puppycat do that differentiates them from the pack? Have you ever dived into the deep end of the indie game scene? Do you know those indie games that have an art direction that’s more akin to modern cartoons and have lo-fi beats, and are usually more story-driven ventures? Or maybe they are visual novel-like experiences? This is kind of like that but in a more concentrated form. Everything here is so lo-fi and chill that even down to the voice performances, everything is relaxing and soothing. It has its moments where things get twisted and dark, but even then, the music doesn’t change to anything intense or extreme with its execution. Even when the show is showing you rather mature or shocking moments and plot twists, you will still feel as though you were wrapped up in a cozy blanket with a hot cup of tea on a cold winter morning. It’s honestly refreshing. Even when the shows get grander in scale and stakes are now cataclysmic, the show never feels like it changes all that much. 

Another aspect of this show that’s really surprising is that, despite its cute visual look, there is a lot of cursing. So, yeah, this isn’t a show that’s really aimed at kids. They only bleep out some of the curse words, but they will be there out in the open. If your children aren’t bothered by that, then the rest of the show’s tone and the journey will feel similar to most modern cartoons.Maybe it’s because this individual didn’t watch the original shorts, but seeing what looked like another fun family show turn out to be more for teens and young adults was a pleasant surprise. It honestly results in this being another great example of an adult animated show that doesn’t try to be like Family Guy or South Park. It’s a show that tackles themes of depression, love, dealing with loss, grief, relationships, abandonment, the challenge of change, and dealing with lingering unkempt emotional baggage. It’s always the most innocent-looking cartoons that decide to scar you with intensely emotionally-driven themes and trauma. However, that is what is fun about shows like this. They aren’t just goofy characters in a goofy setting and hitting the reset button after every episode. The people in this show are diverse and have different personalities and story arcs and relationship dynamics with one another. Every character interacts with another differently. It’s also a weird show for the sake of being weird, and much of the time, that’s okay! You can still be a layered show, but also just have an oddball character for the sake of it tying in with some of the themes sewn together throughout the plot. The action when it happens is flashy and fun, but it’s never the most impressive part of the show. What’s fun is watching Bee and Puppycat take on multiple odd jobs on surreal and weird planets that feel reminiscent of stuff like Super Mario Galaxy and seeing how they unfold into the story and connect the main plot with the overarching narrative. It’s you finding out who exactly Puppycat really is, the drama between the humans, Bee and her relationship with her father, and to whom these giant demonic hands that are chasing after Puppycat are attached. 

On the animation front, the show looks like Science Saru made a show that stuck to a more American-made mindset. Personally, Bee and Puppycat feel much more like a vibrant Science Saru show than this year’s Yurei Deco, and that’s saying something. With its combination of soft-looking humans, the muted and mostly pink and purplish-hued color palette, and the sporadic energetic movements of the characters, it doesn’t move or flow like a normal US-made cartoon. Maybe it’s because of the art direction or the studio that produced this show, OLM inc, but it has more of an anime sensibility to it as well. It’s an odd mix of western and eastern animation philosophies that match up in this oddly satisfying way. Then again, with the shows that OLM have had a hand in producing, weird and odd are not too far out of their wheelhouse. The voice cast is great, but once again, the fact they all softly speak their lines shows a real commitment to the calming tone of the overall show. It must have been a hassle to keep all emotions and line reading on one level. You would think this would get grating, but you get used to it, and it makes the comedy land better. The cast is small, but it has a ton of well-known names including Allyn Rachel, the vocaloid system Oliver, Diana Garnet, Malle Flannigan, Natasha Alegri, Emilia Sheldon, Terri Hawks, Kent Osborne, Ashly Burch, Alexander James Rodriguez, Kumail Najiani, Arin Hanson, Doug Smith, Shannon McCormick, Natalie Lynn, Stephen Root, Eric Bauza, Donna Jay Fulks, Jennifer Tilly, Steve Blum, Cynthia McWilliams, Freddie Wong, Jason Greene, and Robbie Daymond. The calm relaxing beats are provided by composer Will Wiesenfeld. They bring a soothing and pleasant vibe to everything, and it’s amusing how it never becomes unpleasant or intense when the characters are in trouble. 

Bee and Puppycat is an out-of-this-world ethereal journey in animation. It has its moments where it can be a touch clunky and it’s pretty obvious that there is either a new season planned or a batch of episodes that have yet to be released due to its ending, but if you are looking for another “new” show to sink your teeth into with the symbolism and relaxing atmosphere, then you will definitely love this show. There is some confusion about if this new show is actually just season 2, but it’s mostly an Evil Dead 2 or a Desperado situation. It’s partly a reboot of the first series of shorts and a sequel series, but all told as if it was made for a first-time audience. Bee and Puppycat is great, and you all should definitely give it a watch if you are looking for new non-returning shows to put on your Netflix playlist. Now then, next time, we will be talking about a rather exciting and technologically driven action romp that you will have to wait and see for yourself. 

Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 264: The Sea Beast 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!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from Netflix. I received no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you Netflix for this opportunity.

With the recent chaos going on at Netflix, it does seem like it’s the very end of an era. You would walk in, and they said you could make something that a normal studio wouldn’t bother making, due to how most studios function. While there is still going to be some creative animated fare in production that will get finished and made, that means we have to, as lovers of animation, support these projects when they come out. Being a fan and supporter of the hard-working teams that make these projects means you have to actually watch them on the service they are put on or when they are in a theater in your area that’s playing it. Be loud, be supportive, and make sure word gets around when these films or shows come out. Sadly, due to the fact most streaming services, especially Netflix won’t put the money down for a marketing team, they are solely relying on word of mouth, and that’s not always a winning solution. It usually results in amazing shows and films getting thrown under the bus. For example, if you have yet to add the amazing The Sea Beast to your watch list, then you need to this instant.

This film is directed by Chris Williams, written by Chris Williams and Nell Benjamin, with animation being produced by Sony Pictures Imageworks. We follow a sea-faring monster hunter named Jacob Holland, voiced by Karl Urban. He is a crew member among a ship run by Captain Crow, voiced by Jared Harris. They go on adventures looking for a specific beast to strike down. All of this is happening while the royalty of this world is trying to outdo the small monster hunter ships with big bombastic navy ships. One day though, after taking down another monster, Jacob goes into town and encounters a young girl named Maisie Brumble, voiced by Zaris-Angel Harter. She tries to convince Jacob to let her on the ship and he tries to be a reasonable individual declining her offer to join the crew. Now, granted that should stop the story right then and there, but Maisie ends up sneaking onto the ship and joins the crew anyway. After another attempted takedown of a known beast, Jacob and Maisie get separated and presumed dead by Captain Crow, when in reality, Jacob and Maisie end up washed upon a shore of an island where the famed beast is located. Can Jacob team up with Maisie and get back to land? What will happen with their relationship with the beasts, and what mysteries and secrets will they unravel as they trek their way across the sea? 


First off, it’s really cool that we are getting this action adventure film in a time where there are more action-oriented animated films coming out. Theatrical animated films tend to fall under the comedy genre because they have wider audiences, but with there being a recent push for more variety is refreshing. Not that we haven’t had any straight-up action adventure films of recent years, but they still tended to lean into the comedy aspects. With this film, it gives you the tone right off the bat with this world being framed as imposing, threatening, and dangerous while traversing the high seas. The way this film shows off the scale of the monsters as they attack the ships, and how truly small the humans are makes you feel like you are living in a world filled with giants. The entire film does a great job balancing out the action and the story, so it doesn’t feel like one of those action-adventure films where the action was given priority and the story suffered, or vice versa. It’s always a tricky balance. There were plenty of big action set pieces between the ships, the monsters, and because it is a film about giant monsters, there is a sequence where two giant beasts combat one another. It’s all set up to be intensely thrilling and satisfying to watch. Animation is such an amazing medium for storytelling, and the way they execute these battle scenes is like a work of wonder with how fun they are. 




Like I said though, this is a film that found the perfect balance between action and story, and that means the story itself is just as good as the action beats. What feels so refreshing about this film’s plot is how, while it does revolve around two polar-opposite individuals with Jacob being in the anti-sea monster side of the equation and Maisie the more pro-monster, they give enough time for the typical story beats you see with these stories. They are given the time they need, and the execution feels precise and effective. You end up having some of the most complex characters of any animated feature from 2022. You understand why Jacob would be against the sea beasts due to his past, and how Maisie’s more optimistic and hopeful outlook on life and the sea beasts would shine a different perspective on the situation, with the dynamic between the beasts and the humans. It’s also a film that is absolutely willing to go to more mature spaces. Yes, the monsters have more cartoony looks to them compared to the humans, but don’t expect the story to stay simple. It’s a film that tackles themes of fear-mongering, it’s anti-war, extremely critical of the royalty that runs this world’s political system, and illustrates how history can be told and structured to fit a certain narrative. It’s surprising, but also refreshing how animated films are willing to talk about issues that are more than what most people assume every single animated film is about. It’s all in the execution, and the fact this film is taking itself as seriously as it needs to be is refreshing, especially when some entertainment experiences that are absolutely silly are taken seriously and conversely, experiences that are dark are trying to play as silly. While there are moments of humor, and much of the time the monsters have squishy-looking designs, it never feels out of place when the film has to move back to the the more serious moments. For a film that has all of this going on, it never felt like there were parts where someone put in a note to be more modern or try to appeal to younger kids. Like, you already have pirates, ships, and giant monsters, what else do you need?! Giving something the audience wants means playing your premise straight with no attempts to try and modernize or cater to more modern kids. It’s a fantastical setting. We aren’t at a time where we need to try and be like the next hot animated fare. It’s also nice to see an animated film that actually is two hours long. Most animated films these days are only at 100 or so minutes and there has been this eerie sense of “either this needed to be paced better or they needed more time to expand upon the story, the world, or the characters”. Thankfully, while the runtime is long for an animated film, it’s paced to where it doesn’t quite feel like it, and even when you do get a sense of the film’s length, it’s nice to see the film breathe so it doesn’t feel like it’s trying to get to each set piece as quickly as possible. 




Animation-wise, this is an incredible looking film. The humans have distinct visual designs that aren’t trying to ape off of a similar style or go the more safe typical CGI route with humans that look like Pixar or Disney CGI characters, but look a touch off from those. The humans in this film are stylized, and while having some exaggerated design choices, they mesh well with the cartoonier monster designs. Even though this is Sony Pictures Imageworks, it plays against the usual type of animated films that are under their umbrella. They have a similar design direction that you would see in old pirate or sailing stories. Yes, it is thrilling to get more animated films that take inspiration from Spider-Verse, but The Sea Beast handles its visuals well, and we need animated films to tell compelling stories while having incredible details in their animation. The camera swings and moves around the beasts to really emphasize their size and they have a “pseudo How to Train Your Dragon” feel to their movements and mannerisms. Their bright colors contrasting with the humans and world’s more realistic and drab colors is eye-catching. One of the best details from the art direction is how the main town and kingdom that the film’s entire world is built around looks like the compass on an old map. You can see the design when you watch the trailers or when the ship arrives in port. Voicecast-wise, there is a fantastic lineup of actors who bring some delightful performances to the journey throughout the seven seas. Even though most know Karl Urban for his current role in Amazon’s The Boys, he brings a charming seriousness to Jacob, and Zaris Angel-Hator delivers a performance making Maisie one of the best child protagonists of the year. Jared Harris is great as Captain Crow. Some of the other big names include Marianne Jean-Baptise, Dan Stevens, Helen Sandler, Xana Tang, and Kathy Burke. The music by Mark Mancina reunites Chris and Mark from their time working on Moana. It’s epic, adventurous in tone, and of course, being sailors in this sea-faring flick, there is a sea shanty that you can bet a gold doubloon on that the fandoms revolving around sea shanties will be all over the one in this film. 




The fact of the matter is that The Sea Beast is an incredible adventure. A rip-roaring sea-faring adventure filled with the heart as big as the film’s titular beasts for everyone big and small. It’s hands down, one of the best films of the year and one of the best films to premiere on the streaming service. There is a real shame that this didn’t get a wide theatrical release because this film was made for an Imax screen. This is the power of how services like Netflix worked for letting creators make the films they want, but then just greenlight these projects for the sake of content and give them no real support. Everyone should give this film a watch when it hits the streamer. Hopefully, Chris Williams is able to make more compelling flicks like this, because if he does, I will be there on day one no matter where he ends up making a film. Now then, next time, we will be talking about a new Japanese feature hitting English shores with The Deer King!




Rating: Essential

The Other Side of Animation 258 – Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood 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!)

Heads up: I was able to watch this film via a screener sent to me from Netflix. I received no other form of monetization other than the screener. Thank you Netflix for this opportunity.



Childlike memories are unreliable, fuzzy, and nostalgic in a lot of ways. I’m sure most people tend to look back on their childhood from time to time. Maybe to remember their time as a child with their families, maybe to look back at what that time period was like in terms of politics, social climate, and you get the idea. Sometimes, we look back in the past to see where we were back then, or maybe we see where we are now compared to back then. Living through historic events and trends can really shape what you do and how you see the world around you. It’s very difficult to capture that feeling of nostalgia and fondly look back at memories of your childhood on film, because you either look navel-gazing, pretentious, or like an old man yelling at clouds. You have to bring earnest energy into the story or the overall experience, and some directors are able to make that work to their advantage, like Cameron Crowe before his career ended and today’s director, Richard Linklater with his new film, Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood


Directed and written by Richard Linklater, we follow the childhood of Stanley, voiced/played by Milo Coy. The narrator of Stanley’s story is, of course, an adult Stanley, who we never see, but is voiced by Jack Black. The story revolves around adult Stanley recalling his childhood during the big space race/ space-age craze time period of the 1960s when Apollo 11 landed on the moon. The one twist is that adult Stanley adds a twist to the story of kid Stanley getting chosen by two NASA Officials played/voiced by Glen Powell and Zachary Levi to help NASA with going to the moon. 

So, if you are curious about what kind of story is being told here, it’s less a major three-act story where there is a story about NASA hiring a kid to go into space. It’s more about the narrator remembering the time period and his childhood. It’s a more grounded story, but has that small bit of whimsy of Stanley training to go into space. The overall story covers multiple aspects of the time period, including politics, war, a small splash of the racial inequality of the time, pop culture, what the film industry was like, how families around NASA worked, food, and you get the idea. It’s all about capturing that time period through a nostalgic lens. As mentioned above, you have to be so careful, because it can come off either sappy or extremely cynical in an entirely different way. No one wants to see a film about an old man saying “life was good in my day”. The film even points out elements like how kids were punished back then, as more of a low point than anything else. It was able to capture the childlike viewpoint and mindset, and how everything going on was fed through the lens of a kid going through the times. I’m sure most viewers will be able to spot themselves or their families or the parents of your family knowing what it was like back then. Apollo 10 ½: A Space Age Childhood overall has a charm that you can’t find in many films with this type of story set-up. It makes you remember when the big new things in pop culture were the colored TV, Baskin Robbins having 31 flavors, syndicated television, and you get the idea. It has its adult moments, but it has one graphic moment and very little swearing. It has adult themes and elements, but it doesn’t indulge in what most people think of when the term “adult animation” pops up. 

Linklater has, for the third time, returned to rotoscope animation, and it’s definitely his most polished take on the animation art form. It’s not rough like Waking Life or as surreal and unusual as A Scanner Darkly. They said the inspiration for the art style is similar to what animated shows were like back when Saturday morning cartoons were like that, and while it’s more similar to the color palette of that time period, the animation does look great. The fact we are getting more films like this, including 2017’s Loving Vincent, is nice to see. Animation is such a vibrant medium, that you must be a real uneducated tool to think animation is just for kids. It has its moments of clunkiness, but rotoscope animation is going to feel like that, but that’s why you have animators and hardworking VFX people to make it look as good as possible. The voice cast or in this case, traced-over actors are fantastic with Glen Powell and Zachary Levi as the two NASA agents, Jack Black bringing a loving warmth to the narration of the entire film, and the other cast including Milo Coy, Bill Wise, Lee Eddy, Josh Wiggins, Natalie L’Amoreaux, Jessica Brynn Cohen, Sam Chipman, and Danielle Guilbot all doing a great job to make you feel like a part of this time period. Normally, there is a sentence or two here talking about the composer, but the composer is really the soundtrack that looms over this film’s entire runtime that is full of a lot of great old tunes and rock-and-roll that perfectly fit the time period.  

The only real criticism this critic could find is that there could have been a bit more time put into the kid’s fantasy of getting hired by Nasa. It’s the opening scene and the instigator of what can be charitably called the third act. Again, it’s more of a time “capsule retelling” of the period, and that stuff is great, but when the film’s trailer paints it more about the space mission, it’s mismarketed, and your tolerance for nostalgic look-back at time period films will depend on how you, the viewer, will tolerate how much of the first and second act is all about it. 

This film is quite the nostalgic experience. It’s less, ‘Nasa sends a boy to space’, and more about being a kid during the big space race and space-age boom in Houston. It’s a fantastic film, but I can understand that some viewers may see the marketing of Nasa sending a literal kid to space instead of the more metaphorical and symbolic angle it goes for. It’s on Netflix, and if you love yourself some Richard Linklater charm and some distinct and unique animated offerings that show animation is more than “just for kids”, then definitely give this film a watch. Next time, we will be talking about Netflix’s other big April tentpole animated offering. 

Rating: Go See It!