The Other Side of Animation 197: Over the Moon 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/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!)

Heads up!: I was able to watch this film before it’s release due to obtaining an advance screener from Netflix.

As I get closer and closer to reviewing 200 animated films, I hope it’s clear that, as many of these are non-Pixar/Disney, I do not hate Disney or Pixar animated films. Honestly, they can be some of my favorite films from the years they are released. I don’t have some deep-seated grudge against them. Now, I don’t like a lot of the business side of things with Disney as a whole, but in terms of what we are talking about right now, I enjoy and even love the animated films they make. However, taking out the Pixar gems, I do think something changed right around the time after Moana was released. I like Ralph Breaks the Internet and to a degree, Frozen II, but they were missing something that I think is filled by the foreign/indie scene of animation. They missed a very genuine heart, and while their last two films do have some great elements, would you consider them the best of their 2010s output? I wouldn’t. Even with the Pixar gems like Inside OutCoco, and so on, my attention and love for animation has gone into supporting what everyone else is doing. Making money and making art is a balancing act, so if you want to make it in the industry, you have to do both. I’ve seen the worst of both the money and art side, and it makes me more thankful when I get to see films like Over the Moon.

Directed by Glen Keane in his first feature film gig as a director, co-directed by John Kahrs, written by the late great Audrey Wells, and animated by Pearl Studios and Sony Pictures Imageworks, this is the newest film in the push for the streaming service Netflix to have exclusive animated features. Last year, we saw that come through with Klaus, and this year, we have The Willoughbys, Animal Crackers, and now Over the Moon. Not going to lie, if this is the level of quality a streaming service is going to be putting out in top-shelf animated features, then everyone else needs to step up after this and Wolfwalkers

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Our story revolves around Fei Fei, voiced by Cathy Ang. She lives with her mother, voiced by Ruthie Ann Miles, and her father aka Ba Ba, voiced by John Cho. Unfortunately, in animated film fashion from an ex-Disney veteran, the mom passes away while Fei Fei is young. After a few years pass, she finds out that her dad is seeing someone else, and meets a young boy who may or may not end up being her brother-in-law. His name is Chin, voiced by Robert G. Chiu. After a blow-up one night when the entire family is over, Fei Fei decides to make a rocket and head to the moon to meet the Moon Goddess that her mom told her stories about! The only catch is that her stepbrother, her rabbit, and her stepbrother’s frog get roped in, and they crash on the moon. Luckily, they are safe, but are then taken to the Goddess of the Moon named Chang’e, voiced by Phillipa Soo. Fei Fei wants to get proof that she exists, and the Goddess is willing to give her that proof. However, the catch is that Fei Fei needs to get a gift for her, and she needs to get it before the entire moon is dark. Can Fei Fei get this supposed gift and bring back proof that the Goddess is a real entity? 

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So, for Glen Keane’s first directorial feature, I think he overall did a great job with his team in crafting this film’s story. If I had to say what the film is about, in terms of story and themes, I think the film is about family, love, dealing with loss, loneliness, and pushing forward. I think one of my favorite aspects of the writing is that there are fun little symbolic elements thrown into the mix, but they have layers to them. The more you invest your time into paying attention to the story, there are satisfying payoffs. For example, Chen says he can go through walls, and anytime that he does try to, he yells “No Barriers!” Well, sure there is a payoff to that aspect of his character, but you can also see it as a way of saying ‘there are no barriers between us as brother, sister, and family”. Even during the big family dinner sequence, the grandfather will throw out a line that may be about his obsessions with hairy crabs, but it matches with what is thematically going on with Fei Fei’s character at that moment. Even Fei Fei’s hair has little story elements to it, and I adore this much detail that Glen and Audrey Wells put into the story beats. I bring up these story beats because I think the trailer undersells the actual maturity and depth that the film offers. It’s very much a Smallfoot and Abominable situation, if you catch my drift with how the marketing made the films look sillier than they are. Don’t get me wrong, this film can be silly, and not all of its jokes land, but it’s still pretty funny with a fairly universal style of humor. Still, a lot of Over the Moon reminds me of how Moana and Studio Ghibli have handled antagonistic forces in films. Chang’e might be a goddess on the moon, but she isn’t evil or wants to wreck the world or the universe. She’s alone, and bitter about what happened in her past. There is more nuance to Chang’e and Fei Fei’s connection as characters, and it reminds me of films like Song of the Sea, where it plays around with the themes of emotion, love, and connection. Even if I think some characters could have had better connections or maybe a little more plot or scenes together, I can’t think of a character that was truly superficial to what was going on in the story. I know some people cringed when they saw Ken Jeong as Gobi, and they were dreading him being the comedic side character, but I found him pretty tolerable, and his scenes with Fei Fei are cute and earnest. He even gets some lines that help the story move forward. 

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Everything feels cohesive in this film, and that includes the animation. With Pearl Studios doing the previous year’s Abominable in 2019, and Sony Pictures Imageworks helping out, the animation in this film is high quality. The humans look great, their animation is expressive, and when we get to the kingdom of the moon, it’s a rainbow of colors. Seriously, when I saw the teaser back in June, and the new trailer recently, I loved the colors. It’s very unique compared to much that has come out this year. The simplistic designs and vibrant colors remind me of Yayoi Kusama or something Science Saru would do. It even has a little bit of the online world Summer Wars has. Now, since this is directed by an ex-Disney animation legend, of course, the movie is a musical. The music has a little bit of the magic that The Little Mermaid had, and that shouldn’t be a shock, since Keane was also an animator in that movie. The songs themselves are quite good. I might like some more than others, but I couldn’t find one that was pure filler or felt out of place. The team of Steven Price, Christopher Curtis, Marjorie Duffield, and Helen Park deserves a major shoutout for making some amazing music that captured that old Disney spirit that I think was missing from many of their recent output. It’s funny how ex-Disney animators have been able to be more Disney on top of their own identity than Disney themselves. The voice cast is also pretty strong, with a cast including Cathy Ang, Robert G Chiu, Phillipa Soo, Ken Jeong, John Cho, Ruthie Ann Miles, Margaret Cho, Sandra Oh, Kimiko Glenn, and Artt Butler. It’s a great cast, and I felt their genuine chemistry between the characters. I think my favorite moments are the scenes with the family. It reminds me of a time where we could get together for a big family meal around the holidays. 

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Now, while I think this is a very cohesive film, I do have a few complaints. I think I would have liked at least one more scene of Fei Fei and Chun bonding, because they are separated for the majority of the film, and I think it would have helped make their bond at the end stronger. I know this film was more about Fei Fei’s personal growth as an individual, but still. While I am probably more on the side of loving Ken Jeong’s character than hating him, I wanted a stronger outcome for his character. He came back after being exiled, so wouldn’t the goddess have some kind of comment about that or something? I don’t think he was added for the sake of having another animal sidekick, since the film already had two with Bungie and the frog, and even then, the frog is barely in the film. My point is, I wish there was a little more of a satisfying ending to Gobi’s arc.

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Outside of some of the secondary and minor characters getting criticized, I love Over the Moon. It’s a touching film about love and family. It’s easily one of the best animated films of the year, and in a year where animation has taken front seat even though most of the big players have delayed their releases to next year, Over the Moon would still be in my top five animated films of the year. Once it hits Netflix later this month on the 23rd, I highly recommend everyone check it out. If you need a pick-me-up for what has been going on throughout this year, Over The Moon will be that pick-me-up. So, let’s move on from our trip to the moon, and back down to the world of Lupin the 3rd. Since his newest film is coming out in the states (better have some virtual screenings of it), I think it would be fair for us to check out the last special in the trilogy of specials from The Woman Called Fujiko Mine with Lupin the 3rd: Fujiko’s Lie

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! 

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 193: Fe@rless 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/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!)

2020 has been an underwhelming year for theatrical animation. The obvious reason being COVID-19, and COVID-19 is awful. Everything has either been pushed back or is now having to either do small limited screenings at safe places like drive-thru theaters, or virtual screenings that are only viable through a computer, and requires some tedium and such if you don’t have a smart TV. As an animation critic, it’s not hard to find stuff to review. I have an immense back-catalog of films I need to write reviews for, and I’m a co-host of Tooned Up! podcast where we mostly talk about the TV shows that are on streaming services. Unfortunately, in between the major show releases and the bare-bones film releases, you will have to scavenge for any new features that may go under the radar, for both good and for bad. Guess which side Fe@rless stands on? 

Animated by Vanguard Animation, and directed by Cory Edwards, this is the newest film from the notorious low-budget feature studio that had no real marketing outside of a trailer on “not Netflix”’s main YouTube channel. For some reason, I have searched the internet, and there are no real news stories or press release articles about this film. I learned about it last month before its August 14th release, and to no real shock, the film has very few reviews, and what reviews are there are universally negative. If you want to hear me talk about this film, you can go to this link here to listen to me and my co-hosts talk about it. For now, though, these are my written thoughts and my review of the film. 

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So, how do I explain this story to everyone? We follow our lead, a young male gamer named Reid, voiced by Miles Robbins. He is the only gamer in the known world to get far in a game, Captain Lightspeed, that is notoriously difficult. He beats the second to the final level of the game as the titular hero, voiced by Jadakiss, who also happens to have three babies with superpowers. Well, within the game itself, the villain known as Arcannis, voiced by Miguel J. Pimentel, attempts to steal the babies with his henchman named Fleech, voiced by Tom Kenny. They succeed in kidnapping the babies, but then the babies end up escaping and going through a wormhole. By the way, all of this is happening while Reid is playing the game. Anyway, the wormhole opens up into the real world, and Reid has to take care of the babies, alongside his classmate who he ends up roping into the situation. It’s up to him to protect the babies and avoid the grasp of both the military and Arcannis. 

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So, while the story summary that I have given is as good as I can offer, the film goes out of its way to make this setup way more complicated. The entire story comes off like it’s the first draft of a premise that didn’t have time to go through a second or third run. Why does Captain Lightspeed need to be a videogame character? There is nothing in this film that required him to be a videogame character or having to do with games. He could have easily been a human-like alien from another galaxy. Also, the video game elements don’t come into play a whole lot for the entire story. They are brought up, the film tries to have a “don’t waste your days away playing video games, do more!”, and then the day is saved because Reid played a video game. The film doesn’t do a good job showing off how Captain Lightspeed gets from his video game realm to the real world, and somehow gets connected to one of Reid’s not-shown gamer friends. Another part of the story that doesn’t work is the villain. Arcannis is easily one of the animation world’s most non-threatening villains. He only becomes a threat, because the story, by no will of his own, gives him easy outs in terms of getting far into the plot. The story tries to have something akin to Jack Jack from The Incredibles, but it misses the entire point of Jack Jack’s storyline from the first and second Incredibles film. I know it seems unfair that I’m ripping apart the story of this film, when most bad movies, or films I considered bad, don’t get this kind of under-the-microscope treatment. It’s because in a year where the theatrical film experience has been limited to non-existent, if animated films want to come out this year, then they are going to get critically judged like the rest. It’s also the fact that the characters are bland, and the story is not engaging enough to not make me notice all of the flaws or plot holes. Like how Arcannis does eventually absorb the babies of their powers, but the babies still have their powers during the final fight. So, did Arcannis not absorb all of it? Also, why are Captain Lightspeed’s upgradable weapons, babies with superpowers? Maybe the game he’s in is notoriously difficult, but only because all of your weapons in-game are babies, and babies are, well, not useful in a fight. The film does nothing to keep you invested with the characters, the story, and the writing. This might be yet another Vanguard Animation project, but even then, the studio does have moments where there is a fun idea at hand, like with their still unreleased in the US film Charming. Once again, without really knowing, unless someone from the team wanted to speak up about it to me personally, everything feels like a first draft that got sent into production, and it shows. Everything is so bare-bones from the dialogue, the jokes, to the character dynamics, and how the overall world works. You don’t even see some characters mentioned.

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Speaking of what feels bare-bones and what didn’t get a second or third pass-through, let’s talk about the animation. I know this studio is known for having very small budgets, and you don’t need $75 mil to make a good looking film, but I will not take anyone seriously if they tell me that an Illumination Entertainment film looks worse than Fe@rless. You can make a visually stunning film on a smaller budget, and we saw that with films like On Gaku: Our Sound, but doing straight-up generic-looking CGI fare on a small budget is only going to make the film look worse, and Fe@rless looks awful. It, again, looks like a first run, in terms of animation. They are all very basic textures, movements, designs, and visuals. Normally, other studios would keep rendering, polishing, and doing what they need to in order to make it look visually better, but it’s obvious Vanguard Animation does not have that time or that’s, for some reason, not high priority. It was more important that the budget be used for Lionel Richie royalties than anything else. I know I haven’t talked about the voice cast, and that’s because it’s a mixed-to-mostly-negative bag of thoughts and comments. On one hand, the film has a predominantly black cast, which is rare for animated films, and I think that’s highly commendable. On the other hand, I think only one person gives a decent performance, while everyone else doesn’t know how to act or were given bad direction. Everyone sounds so wooden, bored, or like they aren’t even trying. The only one who is doing anything worth giving credit to is Gabrielle Union, who plays General Blazerhatch. She has one of the few funny or chuckle-worthy lines in the entire film. The problem is that you could have easily gotten voice actors for all of the roles, and they probably would have done a better job with the material. Why the heck did this film even need Susan Sarandon for a voice cameo? It’s a waste of talent that wasn’t used well at all. It’s the most bare-bones example of celebrity stunt casting being used, and the film coming out worst for it. I hate that I have to say that, but the acting is not great in this film. 

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Sometimes, there is a decent line and the character of Captain Lightspeed himself could have been a decent Saturday morning cartoon character, but outside of that, this film is bad. It’s easily the worst animated film I have seen this year, and I wish I didn’t have to say that. Not all animated films are going to be made equally, but after multiple years of seeing nothing but mediocre from Vanguard Animation, it’s disheartening. No real change seems to be at hand with the studio, and the fact that Netflix thought this should have been one of the high points of August is disappointing since Netflix is already under fire for a lot of their business decisions. I would say avoid this film, but I know people already have. If you are 100% curious to check this film out, then do so, but there are so many better films on Netflix and in general that you can watch. Well, we can only go up from here, and you know what? I want to review something I enjoy and it’s time we go back to GKIDS and Keichi Haara with Summer Days with Coo.

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! 

Rating: Blacklist/The Worst

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2019 Part 3

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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 back! Now, it’s time to get into the films that I enjoyed! This is the long part as we count down from 27 to 11! If you have yet to see the first two parts, make sure to use the tags in this editorial to get to Part 1 and Part 2. Now then, let’s keep counting down!

27. Son of the White Mare

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While this is a film from a few decades ago, it was never fully or officially released in the states until last year and will be coming out on Blu-ray this year. That’s a bloody shame, because this movie is awesome. The visuals are striking; the storytelling is straight-forward, but really, you watch this movie to see the amazing visual experience that it offers. Otherwise, it’s a simple fairy-tale-style story that relies way more on its abstract visuals to comment on certain topics. However, sometimes, you want to sit back and take in a film that offers outstanding visuals and enjoy the ride! I can’t wait until more people see Son of the White Mare.

26. This Magnificent Cake

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I honestly contemplated whether I would include this film on the list. Not because it doesn’t count as one, but I just find it odd that a 45-minute or as it’s called, a mid-length feature, is a film. Still, outside of that personal opinion, this is a very poignant and very dark piece about colonialism in the Congo. It obviously could have used a longer running time for everything to be a bit more impactful, and the ending fizzles out into abstract weirdness that is symbolic and meaningful, but it’s still one of the most unique experiences you can find in animation. I can understand why Barry Jenkins loved this film.

25. Abominable 

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It’s always a gamble nowadays on whether a DreamWorks release will be good or not, and that’s a shame because when they release something like Abominable, it shows why people still support them. Sure, it might not have the strongest characters or the beefiest story, but Jill Culton and her team were able to still bring a solid story with some gorgeous visuals to life with a way more interesting villain and tone that you don’t see a whole lot from the studio. I still have my issues with this studio, but Abominable shows that they still have a better sense of talent and storytelling than most animation studios.

24. Teen Titans Go! vs Teen Titans

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While I’m not a huge hater on the current iteration of the teen superhero team, I’m starting to get a little tired of it all now. It’s still a delightfully funny experience, the action is decent, and they were able to make the chemistry between the two different versions of the characters work. It’s always funny to see the same voice actor play two different versions of the same character. This iteration of the franchise might be losing its steam now, but if you enjoyed 2018’s Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, then you will find a lot to enjoy in this one.

23. Aya of Yop City 

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Produced by the director of 2013’s The Rabbi’s Cat, and directed by the creator of the comic series it’s based on, Aya of Yop City is easily one of the hidden gems of foreign animation. Not only is it one of the few animated films I have encountered that star an all African cast of characters, but isn’t about any of the major turmoils that are set in that country in a manipulative way. It’s more of a slice-of-life story, as Aya and her family and friends go through the challenges of relationships, love, jobs, and life. It can be surprisingly funny, endearing, and has a great visual look. It’s a shame that it wasn’t released until this year. Sadly, the story flounders in the end, and Aya herself is not the most interesting character, but people should still really check out this film. Just be ready to experience a film that doesn’t have a traditional story.

22. Wonder Woman: Bloodlines

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It’s rather sad that we finally got a second animated feature after 10 years, but the wait was worth it. The drama between Wonder Woman and one of the villains was compelling, the action was stellar, and it was nice to see a superhero film with a mostly female-lead cast. It’s also a bummer that there are a few moments where you can tell a guy directed the film, and the final act falls into generic action fare, but for a direct-to-video DC animated film, I enjoyed this one!

21. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

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It might be the weakest of the three DreamWorks Dragon films, and it 100% shows that DreamWorks doesn’t know how to handle its side characters, but it’s still a pretty stellar finale with downright stupidly good-looking animation, fantastic scenes with Hiccup and Toothless, and it shows how to somewhat properly cap off an incredible franchise.

20. I Lost My Body

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This shouldn’t be a big shock. Yes, I was not as huge of a fan as everyone else in the world with this multi-festival winning film. I didn’t think the film balanced out both stories well, I found the humans to be the biggest issue with the film, and I felt like other films should have been nominated. With all that said, this is easily one of 2019’s most unique films. It’s ethereal and mesmerizing watching the sequences with the hand and how the story unfolds. It also has a unique visual style that no other film in 2019 can copy. While I do not have the same love and support of it, I still found the experience to be enthralling from beginning to end.

19. Batman versus TMNT

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It seems like that my love for the DC animated films that go direct-to-video always leans to the non-Action 52-style storyline going on right now. I adored the art direction, the action was thrilling, and due to the two properties getting combined into one movie, the story goes bonkers with some sequences. It’s 2019’s Batman Ninja, and I am all here for it.

18. Frozen II

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The first film was lightning in a bottle, and Frozen II was going to have to go through some hurdles to overcome the giant challenge of trying to be as good or better than the first film. To a degree, I do like Frozen II better. I like the songs better, I like the tone, I like the commentary, and the film still does show why Anna and Elsa are great. It’s also a film that feels like the last act got changed due to probably being too dark. I don’t know if I’ll ever know what exactly happened with the third act that rubbed me and others the wrong way, and how Sven got the short end of the stick in terms of plots, but despite the rough spots, I still enjoyed my time with Frozen II.

17. Spies in Disguise

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It’s rather refreshing to sit here and type out the fact that I absolutely loved a Blue Sky Studios film. Seriously, outside of The Peanuts Movie and to an extent Robots and FerdinandSpies in Disguise feels like Blue Sky’s most cohesive film. The animation, the lighting, the designs, the characters, and the themes it tackles with how it handles aggressive and defensive tactics in spy work is rather ambitious for a film from a studio that has a mixed reputation. It doesn’t do it perfectly, and certain casting choices are distracting/bad, but overall, I would absolutely watch Spies in Disguise again in the future.

16. Mai Mai Miracle

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Don’t worry, this is the last of the “we didn’t get this movie until now” films on the list. Honestly, it is shocking that it took until 2019 to get one of the more charming animated features from Japan. It’s very much a film in the same vein as My Neighbor Totoro or the director’s recent work, In This Corner of the World. The story is about two girls from different financial classes enjoying and exploring the countryside post-World-War II. It has the same kind of problem as with the other films listed, where it seems like they had to have some kind of conflict, but if you love films like My Neighbor Totoro, you will love Mai Mai Miracle.

15. Okko’s Inn

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Technically, I saw this film two years ago at Animation is Film, and I still stand by my opinion that it is easily one of 2019’s hidden gems to check out. It’s a delightfully low-key coming-of-age drama that despite having a more simplistic art style, was able to really invest you into Okko’s trials of losing her parents. It also has some set pieces that are a wonder to the eye to see unfold with the power of animation.

14. I Want to Eat Your Pancreas

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I perfectly get why people would absolutely be on the fence with this one. It’s another one of those teen dramas that has one of the teens with a deadly disease and, yeah, sometimes it milks it a bit too much, and the film is a touch too long, and the designs aren’t all that memorable. However, In terms of these types of films, it’s easily one of the best versions of it. The animation is great, the characters have actual chemistry, and I was able to be fully sucked into the drama and romance. Your reception to this film will vary, but one thing we can all agree on is that this film costs way too much to purchase, Aniplex! Lower the blu-ray’s price!

13. Penguin Highway

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For a first time directing gig, Penguin Highway is a smart and creative coming-of-age story about a boy going through puberty and wondering about the world around him. Granted, I don’t know if your journey through growing up included a random infestation of penguins, but still. It overstays its welcome a tiny bit, and I can understand people having an issue with the boy’s fixation on an older woman character, but other than that, I really enjoyed it. I can’t wait to check out Studio Colorido’s future projects.

12. The LEGO Movie 2

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It’s truly a shame WB decided to burn through too much of the LEGO IP and it’s understandable as to why this film underperformed. I think it deserved to do better because it’s still a fantastic film with a great theme of boy vs girl mentalities, toxic masculinity, and identity. It’s still lighting quick with its wit, highly enjoyable comedy, and the characters are still strong, and I would argue are better than the first film. It might not have that lightning in a bottle hype the first film got, but overall, this film deserved to have done better.

11. Toy Story 4

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While I disagree with its Oscar win for Best Animated Feature due to it being the safest bet of the films nominated, and it runs into the DreamWorks situation of not being able to do anything with its side characters that aren’t the new ones, Toy Story 4 is still a stellar film in probably the most consistently high-quality franchise in animation. It might be an epilogue for Woody’s story, and Buzz gets short-changed, but the story is still strong, the characters are likable, the jokes are funny, and it still has a lot of that Pixar love that people adore about the studio.

Thanks for reading the editorial/list! 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 184: The Willoughbys 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/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!)

Something I’m noticing that I would argue started back in 2015 with the release of Blue Sky’s The Peanuts Movie film, is the fact that bigger studios are starting to slowly move into being more experimental and creative with the visuals and usage of CGI animation. While I think CGI animation gets a bad rep due to how overwhelming it is, and I, of course, would love to see more 2D animated features from the bigger studios, getting more ambitious with CGI visuals is a good direction to go into. Think about it, we had the already mentioned The Peanuts MovieCaptain Underpants: The First Epic Movie, 2018 gave us Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, and Disney/Pixar are doing more creative visuals in their shorts. We also have this year’s Connected from Sony Pictures Animation, and I think that’s pretty healthy. I have said in the past that studios and films need to have their distinct flavor and look, and the major studios are only now catching on what the indie/foreign scene has been doing for the better half of a decade or more. Unless the execution is off, I don’t see why more studios can’t experiment a little more. Heck, that’s why I adored Netflix’s newest animated feature, The Willoughbys.

Directed by Kris Pearn, co-directed by Rob Lodermeier, and written by both Kris Pearn and Mark Stanleigh, The Willoughbys is yet another film on Netflix’s streak of original animated projects! It’s produced and animated by Bron Animation, the same studio that did the unfortunately disappointing Henchmen film. So, how did Netflix’s next step into animation go? I say grow your beefiest mustache and let’s get to it!

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The story follows the four Willoughby children, Tim, voiced by Will Forte, Jane, voiced by Alessia Cara, and Barnaby A and Barnaby B, voiced by Sean Cullens. They are part of a famous family with a prolific legacy of adventurers, inventors, and so on. Unfortunately, the Willoughby children are the kids to the current Willoughby adults, Father, voiced by Martin Short, and Mother, voiced by Jane Krakowski. The two adults are neglectful of their kids to the point that when the children find an abandoned baby, they get kicked out of the house. The children then come up with a plan to “orphan” themselves by getting rid of their parents. They send the terrible duo on an epic adventure that has multiple areas that may result in them six feet underground. Along the way, the children will encounter other adult individuals, like Linda the nanny, voiced by Maya Rudolph, and the candymaker Commander Melanoff, voiced by Terry Crews. Can the children get rid of their parents? Or will they find their true family elsewhere?

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Let’s cut to the chase, and talk about the first thing that stands out about this film, the animation. For those that are curious, it’s using CGI, but everything is crafted and animated like it’s stop-motion. I know some have an issue with this for some unknown reason, but to me, it’s smart for CGI animation to start experimenting with how they tackle visuals. A lot of animation fans complain about how most CGI films look the same, so why not go out of your way to look distinct? It has a style that makes it stand out, and it looks gorgeous. There are so so many bright colors and fantastic designs that make the world the film takes place in pop. You can even see it in the trailer that the colors are vibrant, and it might be very candy-coated colors, but man, do I love it. They even match the snappy stop-motion movements of the style it’s imitating. It looks good and while it is fast-paced, the humor and movements are not fast enough to be missed or are too overbearing.

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Now, as for the story, while this film is not meant to be taken seriously, it does balance out the quirk with the more serious themes that it’s tackling. Sure, the major moral of the film is that family is what you make of it, and it’s a nice theme, but the film doesn’t excuse the fact that the parents in the film, while dialed to 11, are awful. Unlike most films, this one doesn’t try to redeem or sideline the parents. They are terrible, and the film constantly paints them in a negative light. Martin Short and Jane Krakowski do put in some very funny performances, but they are incredibly neglectful of the kids in the film. Luckily, the rest of the characters constantly mention it. The kids themselves also have great chemistry and distinct personalities that feel fairly grounded. Yes, this world is wacky and colorful, but you get why the kids act as they do. I know they are mostly played by adults, but for a comedy like this to work, I don’t know if I would run the risk of using child actors. Plus, the cast works well off of one another. Will Forte, Sean Cullen, Martin Short, Jane Krakowski, Terry Crews, Maya Rudolph, and Alessia Cara all put in charming performances. However, I will say that the film’s marketing is a touch misleading, as the main character is not Jane. In fact, the main character of the film, and who gets the most fulfilling character arc is Tim.

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For as much as I adore this dark comedy family feature, I have three issues with the film. The first criticism I have is that the absurd elements sometimes clash with the pacing of the more traditional story bits. Not in a distracting way, but it’s noticeable when the film has to halt the breaks on the absurdity for the story to hit certain beats. It’s not that the more story-focused beats are bad, but they are just story bits that you have seen before. The second issue I have is with the original song and the placement of it. I get that Netflix wants to get a chance to be nominated for an original song at something like the Oscars and such, but it felt like it was somewhat forced into the last third of the film. I bring this up because the film, as I have mentioned, does market Jane as the lead when she is not, and while the song is pretty solid, it was distracting. It’s a double-edged sword for the film, since you know why it’s there but still may not care for it. Finally, I did not like Ricky Gervais as the cat narrator. Yes, the cat does have a few great lines, but I think Gervais was miscast, and I do mean that without also admitting that I do not like him as a comedian or actor. The cat needed to be played by someone else, as I was thinking of maybe someone like Matt Lucas or Eddie Izzard. The character needed someone with a bit more energy and goodwill associated with them.

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While rough around the edges in some areas, The Willoughbys is a new Netflix hit that I think everyone should check out. I understand, if respectfully disagree, with some of the more negative reviews of the film, but I get why this film might not be for everyone. It’s a film that’s abstract and out there, and you are either for it or not. I simply hope one day, Netflix puts this film on Blu-ray alongside their other original animated features, so I can own them physically. So, we shall now move on from quirky family film to a film based on a video game that’s unintentionally a backdoor pilot for sequels. That’s right, next time, we are going to look at Mortal Kombat Legends: Scorpion’s Revenge.

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!

Rating: Go See It!

Worst to Best Animated Films of 2019 Part 2

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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!)

Here we are with Part 2 of the Worst to Best Animated Films of 2019! We shall now dip our toes into the films that were, simply put, okay, and some that are pretty solid! Nothing wrong with that. If you have yet to see part 1, then I recommend doing so. Now then, let’s get started!

39. Reign of the Supermen

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While I like the second part of the infamous Superman story arc, I still find it overall just okay. Sure, it might have better character dynamics, better jokes, and some solid action, but it’s still having to follow up a story that already had to pretzel itself into fitting the storyline, and it’s one of the last stories in the current DC animated film universe. Hopefully, they can end on a high note.

38. Batman Hush

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Yet again, we have another DC adaptation of a famous comic book that decided to change things up for some reason. I love the chemistry between Batman and Catwoman, and before the reveal, I loved Hush as a villain. Even characters I don’t have the patience for, like Damian, get a good line. Sadly, the twist does undo a lot of the mystery, and I get that they wanted to probably change it, since fans already know, but still. Don’t change too much, DC and WB, or else you might end up ruining the entire point of the story.

37. The Lion King (2019)

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On one hand, yes, this is quite possibly the worst animated film of the year. It was a pointless retelling of an already good film. The photo-realistic CGI is impressive, but it takes away the emotion of it all, and the fact that no one talks about it anymore, but is yet a billion-dollar maker is frustrating, when people could have gone and seen other movies. Films like this shouldn’t be rewarded. On the other hand, I find the tech highly impressive, the cast is great, and I get why people went to see it. I still prefer the original, and if I could, I would combine elements from both the remake and the original into an ultimate version, but alas, we have yet another remake that shows that the Disney remakes aren’t dying anytime soon.

36. Zombillenium

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Out of all of the animated films from overseas that I was interested to see, Zombillenium was the biggest disappointment for me. It has such a fun setting and a cool art style, but the dialogue is weak and the film can’t commit to either being a family film or focused on the commentary of the workforce. It has its moments, and I love some of the darker jokes, but I can understand why this film went under the radar and got overshadowed by other films.

35. Justice League vs. The Fatal Five

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For once, I can talk about a newer Bruce Timm DC animation product and not be on the back of my heels for it. Sure, it falls apart near the third act, and Miss Martian felt tacked on, but the main story and how it handled talking about traumatic events and characters was combined with some of the better action sequences of the DC animated films. I’m rooting to see them return to the so-called Justice League universe in future animated films.

34. The Addam’s Family 

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Out of all of the big theatrical animated features, this one was the most disappointing. It felt like they didn’t want to go far with the dark humor, the story was lopsided in giving characters satisfying arcs, and the animation was cheap-looking. It has a lot of fanservice for fans of the franchise, the casting was great, and when the dark comedy was able to breathe, it was really funny. Hopefully, they can make a sequel that’s better looking, and better told the next time we see this kooky spooky family.

33. Pachamama

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Probably the most family-friendly film of the list, Pachamama was a simple, but charming film that I had the opportunity to see before it hit Netflix, and it’s such a treat. Not only does it take place in, and is a bit more faithful to the culture it’s based on, it also has a unique visual style that it can call its own. It’s more family-friendly, and it’s a fairly simple film, but nothing wrong with well-executed simplicity.

32. The Angry Birds Movie 2 

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Talk about one of the biggest surprises of 2019. Yes, the story isn’t the strongest, and yes, when the jokes don’t land, they fall hard, but who would have thought this was going to be one of the best comedies of last year? On top of the solid animation, the jokes go out there, and are in such an abundance of different flavors of comedy. I give the team that made this film so much credit for going out there, and making this one of the best video game animated films out there.

31. Genius Party/Genius Party Beyond

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This is a wild bunch of shorts that we finally got legally, and it is one of the purest forms of what animation can do, in terms of visuals and storytelling. Some of them don’t work, and the ones that don’t work absolutely don’t work, but when they do, they are some of the most creative visuals you will see out of Japan. I hope they don’t stop doing these anthology shorts, so they can keep bringing in or showing off talented individuals in the animation industry.

30. The Case of Hana and Alice 

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While it is a prequel to a live-action film, the mix of roto-scope and CGI animation doesn’t fully work, and it can be a touch slow, I found myself enjoying the story of these two friends. It takes its time with the actual story that connects the events, but the chemistry of the two female leads sells you on their friendship. It might not be one of the best films out there, but I found the overall charm and small-scale story to be worth watching.

29. Another Day of Life 

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Based on the true events of a famous Polish journalist, Another Day of Life combines CGI roto-scope animation with live-action documentary footage in a dramatic and war-torn time of the Angolan Civil War. It also has some pretty out-there visuals, and can be a rather gripping story. I think it’s a little long, and it’s not a film I’m thinking about rewatching multiple times, but it’s an interesting story, and the visual look alone is worth checking this flick out!

28. Ne-Zha

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It’s amazing how in one year, China was able to show the world that they should be taken seriously with their theatrical animation, and Ne-Zha is one of those films. While looking downright gorgeous, and telling a story about discrimination and destiny, it is also seasoned with some of the best action you will see in CGI animation. It’s a shame that while the story can be deep and the lead characters are likable, the comedy drags the story down, and it’s a lot of comedy that isn’t funny. Still, seeing this become one of China’s biggest hits, and it was one of two amazing animated films from China, it shows a bright future ahead for the industry.

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 181: Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon 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/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!)

Listen, what I’m about to say may sound silly and ridiculous, but I think if stop-motion animated features want to be around, they need to stop being in theaters. Let’s face it, the film-going community and the casual audience have failed to keep stop-motion alive in theaters, and while some of the blame should be put on the marketing teams and release strategies, you have to go see these films in theaters for them to make money. If you want to see them in theaters in the future, then you should have made sure Early ManMissing LinkKubo and the Two StringsThe Shaun the Sheep Movie, and other stop-motion films that weren’t Coraline made money in theaters, and not just afterward by renting or buying the Blu-ray. That’s why I thought it was smart when Netflix picked up and released Aardman’s recent animated outing, Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon.

Directed by Will Becher and Richard Phelan, this is a sequel to the previous Shaun the Sheep film and series, but you can simply watch this film without having seen the first film or the series. It helps that this series is as basic as can be in all of the right ways possible. So, what do I think about the newest Aardman film? Well, let’s find the crop circles in the fields and check it out.

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The story revolves around our lovable shenanigans-driven sheep Shaun. After getting into more trouble with the farmer and Bitzer, Shaun encounters an odd new addition to the farm in the form of an alien! This spacey individual landed on the outskirts of the town, and is trying to get back home. That won’t be easy for Shaun, since not only does he have to take care of an alien that’s a child, but the Ministry of Alien Detection, also known as M.A.D, is on the lookout for it as well. Can Shaun help out his new alien friend while also learning to become more responsible?

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So, let’s talk about the story as a whole because unlike the previous film, this one is focusing on Shaun himself. The rest of the cast is there, including the other sheep, Bitzer, and the farmer, but until a little later on for Bitzer, everyone else gets relegated to a side story. The main theme and arc for Shaun in this film is for him to be an adult and to take responsibility in life. It’s not a complex theme, but it is something you see throughout the entire film, as Shaun and the alien explore the town and avoid the hands of M.A.D. You can tell that Shaun is characterized more as a teen, while the alien is the kid as you see him try to keep the alien kid out of trouble and to mature throughout the story. Despite there being no dialogue in the film, the chemistry among the characters is relatively strong. I’m sure anyone watching this can relate to Shaun on some level as he acts like a big brother or sibling to the alien. Another step up from the previous film is that the villain is more interesting. Yes, it’s a generic FBI/Area 51 organization, but the leader of the group is way more interesting than the animal control person from the first film. It also helps that her goons and the little robot assistant are also given a lot of personality. Like I said a second ago, there is no spoken dialogue, so you have to rely on the performances of the characters, main and secondary, to give the individual characters personality and life.

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Animation-wise, it’s Aardman, and their stop-motion work is always top-notch. It might not reach the impeccable work that Laika does with their stop-motion, but the animators at Aardman are still masters of the craft. Every single character is so easily identifiable in who they are as characters. Even down to the most minor of characters, you can tell who they are by their movements. Like the previous film and the two TV series, the physical comedy and the visual gags are always funny. Sure, this film has some slightly childish humor, but it’s executed well, so it’s not as distracting as the fart joke in Early Man or the juvenile humor seen in Ne-Zha.

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My only real complaint is how the film handles the side characters with the farmer and the other sheep. Due to the fact that the story focuses on Shaun, the side story of the farmer wanting to bank on the alien phenomenon isn’t as great. Or, at the very least, it takes a little too long for the payoff to be funny. It feels like a sequel problem that they have all of your favorite characters from the series, but they have nothing to do. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some very funny visual gags with the sheep, but I missed their presence through a lot of the film. It even takes to about the halfway point for Bitzer to have more to do with the main story. I will say that at least the payoff with the side story colliding with the main story is very entertaining, and leads to a much more endearing and enjoyable third act than the first film.

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While I don’t think it has the same charm and heart as the first film, I still loved Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon. I wish this had a chance in theaters, but knowing how everyone has turned on stop-motion films in theaters, it’s for the best that it ended up on Netflix. They actually care to have different animated films with varied and creative animation styles. Since we are all under lockdown until further notice, I highly recommend watching this film, and the new Shaun the Sheep series on Netflix, Shaun the Sheep: Adventures from Mossy Bottom. It’s another feather in Aardman’s cap, and I can’t wait to see what they do next. Now then, it’s time to play a little catch-up before Trolls: World Tour and The Willoughbys, so let’s check out a film that I have needed to review for a while. Next time, we will be looking at Sword of the Stranger.

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!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 180: Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back-Evolution

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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!)

Well, it took 179 reviews, but I am finally talking about something from the Pokémon franchise. I know that seems a touch nutty that I avoided talking about this franchise for so long, but I wanted to tackle something Pokémon-related when I found a film I wanted to talk about. There are so many films to dig into that it’s a daunting task. I could probably get a good few months of content from just reviewing Pokémon films alone, but that didn’t interest me. If I wanted to talk about Pokémon, I needed a film that had more meat on its bones. That’s why, out of all of the films to talk about, I want to talk about the recent remake, Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back-Evolution.

Directed by Pokémon movie mainstay Kunihiko Yuyama and Motonori Sakakibara, this is Pokemon‘s first foray into CGI theatrical animation by Oriental Light & Magic. It was released last year in July 2019 and finally got a wide release in February 2020. So, did giving the first film in the franchise a CGI remake improve and evolve? Or did it take an Everstone and not evolve or improve one bit?

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Well, the story of this remake is, well, the story of the original Pokémon film. I could keep it at that, but that wouldn’t be very professional of me. We follow our original trio of ragtag Pokémon trainers with Ash Ketchum, dubbed this time by Sarah Natochenny, Misty, dubbed by Michele Knotz, and Brock, dubbed by Bill Rogers. After having another fruitful battle, Ash and the gang are invited to an island where the supposed “strongest trainer in the world” lives. If only Ash knew that the trainer in question was Mewtwo, dubbed by Dan Green, a Pokémon that is the clone of the legendary Mew. Once Ash and his friends get to the island and find out about Mewtwo, the cloned Pokémon decides to reveal his plan of destroying the human race and any Pokémon that sides with humans. Can Ash find a way to stop Mewtwo from taking over the world? Will Team Rocket get in the way and maybe steal the film like usual? Did you see the original film?

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So, let’s not beat around the bush. This remake is the Lion King 2019 remake of the Japanese animation franchise film scene. Every problem you have had with Disney live-action remakes can essentially be found here with this remake. There is one major difference though to compare this remake to the Disney remakes like The Lion King, this is a worse remake. Listen, I get that this film is super nostalgic for many people. It’s super nostalgic for me! I went to see the original Pokémon film in theaters with my sister when we were young and loved Pokémon as well. However, the film’s story was flawed in its execution, and you can only use so much nostalgia to cover up the plot points that don’t fully work out or are counterproductive to the story’s themes and tone. So, why do I consider this a worse remake than Lion King 2019? Because it doesn’t do anything to improve upon the original. It’s a mediocre remake of a mediocre film. It even ruins some of the original film’s most iconic shots. Sure, you can move the camera around easier in a 3D-dimensional space, but the film looks boring, and it makes you remember how important storyboarding is to the overall execution of scenes. As I said, the story problems don’t get fixed. Mewtwo is still a gullible hypocrite, some of his actions make no sense, the characters say something that is then shot down by a later scene, the film’s morals are contradictive to the main point of the show, the ending is awful because it cuts any stakes or progression in the film had short, and if you are wondering, some characters show up and are never seen again.

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So, what about the animation? Well, the CGI used in the film is okay, but it doesn’t look all that good in motion. The Pokémon look great, because of course they do, but the humans do not look good at all. They are stiff, their animation wants to be cartoony, but it’s not fast or snappy enough, and the look of some characters make them look creepy. Ash and Misty look like porcelain dolls from a horror movie. Team Rocket looks great, but obviously, something happened when the translation from 2D to 3D took place, since the iconic Pokémon human designs become hit-and-miss. Okay, what about the dub? That should mean that they are using a script more akin to the original, right? None of that 4Kids tedious dubbing is there, right? Well, yes. The script is definitely missing that 4Kids kind of cheese, but it’s also missing that 4Kids cheese. Say what you will, 4Kids wasn’t a good company, but sometimes, the writers behind Pokémon got away with a few puns and jokes. Sadly, due to some scene changes, the better jokes from the 4Kids dub weren’t there, and were replaced with slightly more annoying jokes. I will say that at least the dubbing is solid stuff. The actors are doing their best, and they even brought back some returning voice actors for the characters. They do fix a few lines that made the original worse.

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Pokemon: Mewtwo Strikes Back – Evolution is a frustrating sit, because it does everything a bad remake does, and yet, everyone is just going to overlook it, because they liked the original movie. It’s just as cynical, or in my opinion, way more cynical than the Disney live-action remakes. At the very least, the Disney remakes have their original films to go back to. This film only has the original mediocre film to fall back on, and that’s not a good thing. I can’t say it’s the worst movie I have seen so far this year, but until further notice, it will be listed as the worst one until something else comes in. I know I was hard on this film, but you have to leave childhood nostalgia at the door for these kinds of films. I don’t recommend it, but there is nothing wrong if you find yourself or your kids enjoying this film. It’s easily the most harmless bad movie I have seen this year. It’s just another mediocre Pokémon movie in a series that has quite a few of them. Now then, let’s tackle one more Netflix animated film, and review Shaun the Sheep: Farmageddon.

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!

Rating: Lackluster

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 173: I Lost My Body 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/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!)

We seem to have a peculiar relationship with films that go through the festival circuit. Unless you get to be a critic, and fly out to Sundance, Cannes, Annecy, and all of the big and small film festivals, audiences and most critics don’t get to see much from these festivals until they are released in theaters. Then, when more people can lay their eyeballs onto the film, the reaction tends to be different than the festival reactions. Is there a certain kind of air to festivals that changes your perspective on film? Should people trust quick impressions or reviews from said festivals? Either way, I find it interesting when a big festival winner makes it to wide release, and the reaction is different across the board than what the critics say during the festivals. This was my experience with I Lost My Body.

Directed by Jeremy Clapin with a screenplay by Guillaume Laurant, this French animated film was the big cheese of the festival circuit. It was winning left and right, showered with critical acclaim, and was the Grand Prize winner at the 3rd Animation is Film Festival. Now then, despite getting all the acclaim in the world, did it fall victim to the festival crowd, or does it deserve the huge amount of acclaim under its belt? Well, let’s see how attached I feel to this unique film.

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Our story follows a severed hand, as it ventures across an entire city to try and get back together with the body it was attached to. Well, that’s only half of the story. The other half is following a young man named Naofel, dubbed by Dev Patel, as we follow his life from childhood to being a young adult, and his relationship with a woman named Gabrielle, dubbed by Alia Shawkat.

So, where do I stand with this film? Outside of the glowing festival-time reviews, there are two different camps for this film. You are either on the side of loving both sides of the film. Or, you are on the side of loving the severed hand’s adventure, but not the human side of the story. Granted, you need both sides for the story to make sense, but I get it. On one hand (heh), you have a story about a young man who feels confined to a narrow-minded way of living, and feels like he can’t be free. It’s a film with a lot more of an emotional/philosophical logic behind the incidents in the story. It’s a film about connection and freedom. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t get why the hand segments are more loved than the human segments. There is something way more fascinating about watching this hand traverse its way around a city, and try to get back with the body it belongs to. The way the animators have the hand movement is so animalistic and real. It’s like a twisted fairy tale as you see the encounters this hand goes through from fending off rats to ending up in a baby’s crib. Due to the power of animation, there is something magical and entertaining to watching the hand sequences. You get so much emotion and life out of the hand when you compare those moments with the human.

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I’m not saying the human parts are bad, because there are some emotional moments in the film as well. Again, you can’t have just one part, because you need both sides of the film to make sense. If you wanted to make it just about the hand, then you would need to rework half of the story. Unfortunately, there are areas where the human love story has some questionable elements around it. Now, the film is aware of this, and it has a better conclusion than you would think. The film is aware that the male lead encountering the female lead and what happens between them can be considered a touch stalkerish, and it’s not like you can’t make an interesting romance with an iffy set up. The problem is that you have to make it so you forget about the ickier parts, and I don’t really forget that this guy does go around stalking this woman. I know this film is working on more magical/dream logic, but there still needs to be this consistency within the story and tone, and it’s not really there through a majority of the human side of the story. The ending was also underwhelming to me. To be fair, I get what the ending was doing, but it felt a little too open arthouse for me. I get it, but it’s not for me.

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Still, there is a lot to love about this film. The mix of 2D designs with CGI bodies is wonderful, and while the humans are obviously animated with more limitation to them than the dismembered hand, you can tell what the characters are feeling, and the designs are delightful to look at. I had a hard time wondering how they pulled off this look, because you don’t get to see a lot of CGI features that get to branch out, and not look like a third-rate Disney or Pixar film. I highly recommend finding the behind-the-scenes videos about how the director got the look of the film down. I can’t stress again how much I adore the hand sequences. There is a reason this film picked up a lot of traction just for this part of the story alone. The music by Dan Levy is also gorgeous, giving off an ethereal and atmospheric vibe to the overall experience

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Yeah, by the wording of this review, you can probably tell that I’m not fully on board with the immense amount of festival hype, and if I had to be honest, I’m really happy I saw White Snake instead of I Lost My Body at Animation is Film Festival. However, with all that said, I still did enjoy I Lost My Body. Even if I’m not fully on board with arthouse films, I’m glad they exist. I guess you can say I have a complicated relationship with them. I don’t think it fully accomplished its goal, but I also like having something this ambitious and creative around. It’s widely available on Netflix right now, so if you are looking for an animated film to wash out the taste of Arctic Dogs and Playmobil: The Movie, then I would highly recommend I Lost My Body. Speaking of Playmobil: The Movie, why don’t we look at that film next?

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!

Rating: Go See It!

The Other Side of Animation 171: Klaus 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/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!)

When it comes to films centered around the holidays, I’m very picky about which ones I want to watch. I’m especially picky when it comes to Christmas movies. I don’t hate them, because my family has a slew of Christmas classics we love to watch, but much of the time, most films based around a holiday like Christmas aren’t great. So many are either try-hard, cornier than a monster made of corn, or unintentionally mean-spirited. It doesn’t help either that most Christmas-related fare gets shoved into romance films that Hallmark makes all of the time. Like making any movie, all you need to do is focus on writing and story, and you should be good! That’s why when I find a Christmas movie I adore, I support it with all of my strength, which is why I’m tackling Netflix’s Klaus!

Directed by Sergio Pablo, and animated by SPA Studios, it was picked up and distributed by Netflix, and released November 8th in the US to pretty positive reviews, and will be getting an Oscar push for this year’s award season. It’s also the first original animated-feature for the streaming service. I was personally excited about the film, and I only got more excited when I saw the behind-the-scenes event at Animation is Film. So, what do I think about this festive new film? Well, let’s get to that part of the review!

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Our story focuses on a young man named Jesper, voiced by Jason Schwartzman, an individual who has no real drive in life who would rather lay around and be lazy since his father is wealthy. After trying to get kicked out of the postal academy his father enrolled him in, his father has a different idea. Instead of falling for Jesper’s shenanigans, he sends Jesper off to the furthest place on the map to a small town called Smeerensburg to be that town’s postman. Unfortunately for him, Jesper quickly finds out that Smeerensburg is the unhappiest place on earth, with two rival clans of families that have been fighting since the literal dawn of time. Jesper only has one year to make a functioning postal service in this town, or else he’s cut off from his family’s money. Can he change his ways and make a living postal service work in such a wretched town? What about this mysterious woodcutter, voiced by J.K. Simmons, at the end of the island, and the woodcutter’s mysterious barn of toys?

As the marketing, the behind-the-scenes event, and the story have revealed, this is an origin story for Santa Claus. It’s essentially, a modern-day and better-animated version of the Rankin-Bass classic, Santa Claus is Coming to Town. I don’t mind that, because it’s a pretty straight forward origin story for the jolly red man. It’s about the origins of a fictional character told through the view of a young man learning to be a better person, and how a nice gesture creates another nice gesture. That theme, by the way, is why this movie is so good! I always enjoyed themes like this, because, while it might be a simple one, it sticks with you. I mean, when has an act of meanness ever inspired someone to work with you or do something mean to someone else? It doesn’t take that much effort to do something kind and caring. The theme sticks with me more, because of the premise of the town Jesper is in. It’s a town that has had a long-standing rivalry bred by toxic and hateful behaviors and traditions. One an act of kindness starts in the town, it spreads and everyone becomes better people, and they get rid of the traditions that were brought upon them by the previous generations.

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In terms of the characters, I enjoyed my time with them. Sure, Jesper can be a little annoying at first, but since he’s another in a long line of “whiny individuals that redeems themselves in the end”, I find him to be one of the better versions of this character. He does start as a jerk, but then realizes what his good deeds lead up to, and he’s written better than most of these types. The other characters also ooze and flow with charm and personality. A lot of it is who they got for the roles and the animation, but I loved the characters. From Rashida Jones’ Alva to Will Sasso and Joan Cusacks as Mr. Ellingboe and Mrs. Krum, the film is full of amusing characters. I also adored J.K. Simmons as Klaus. They give him a lot of pathos in who he is, and Simmons puts in another fantastic performance. Even Norm Macdonald as Mogens, the boatman, has a lot of character to him. The villains are especially deviant as, while they are joke villains, there is a bit more imposing and threatening to their centuries of hatred and ignorance that makes them threats. As for the comedy, I remember busting out into laughter many times due to the delivery of the jokes, and I’m sure everyone had fun playing these characters. The jokes range from mostly physical and visual gags, but the dialogue is kept timeless as to not add any pop culture references to date the script. Some lines may feel a touch more modern, but it’s in the way that the Emperor’s New Groove has more modern-sounding dialogue, but still fits the setting.

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The animation though, we have to talk about it! This is one of the most visually splendid films of 2019. It’s pure 2D animation goodness. Sure, some parts may have used a tiny bit of CGI, and yeah, it’s a lot of digital coloring and lighting, but due to how talented the team of animators is, and how much passion and little details are put into the final product, the result is a film that feels like Christmas. You look at the lush landscapes and the bitter cold town that Jesper is stuck in, and you feel like you are there. The film feels grand in scale as the cinematography brings you into this world. It’s a film with a visual presentation that I would have loved to have fully seen on a big screen.

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I love this movie, and it’s not just because it’s 2D animation. However, I do have some very minor complaints about it. First off, the pop songs. Now, the main soundtrack to Klaus by composer Alfonso Aguilar Gonzalez is incredible. What’s forgettable and just okay are the pop songs in the film, and while one of them is played as a joke that works, the other ones heard are okay, but nothing special. I wonder if this was a thing that Netflix requested, because if you took out the pop songs, you would miss nothing. They don’t ruin the scenes they are in, but they stick out.

I wish there was more time for Jesper and Alva’s relationship to bloom. They have decent chemistry, but I wanted there to be more time for the two to spend with each other instead of the film relegating her to be the love interest in the second half of the film. It almost makes me wish they didn’t end up together, but their chemistry was cute. They also pull the third act “liar revealed” gag, and while it’s not the worst trope I know, and it is a bummer it was used, it still makes sense in a way? Like, I wish animated films and films in general would stop using this trope, but as long as they are executed well, I don’t mind seeing them in the film.

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Normally, I temper my hype, because I always go into a movie ready to be disappointed by it, but Klaus was worth all of the hype, and it is worth getting all of the support it needs to help bring back interest in 2D animation to the theatrical scene. I highly recommend everyone who has Netflix to watch this movie right now, and constantly during the holidays. It’s a new Christmas classic, and one I would put on par with The Nightmare Before Christmas. In terms of animated Christmas movies from this decade, I would argue that it’s better than Arthur Christmas, but that’s just me. Now then, we got our Christmas movie out of the way early, how about we jump into some DC comic book movies for a while? I need to catch up on them, but before we tackle Batman vs. TMNT, I got a screener to review first, and that will be a surprise to you and me with how this next film turns out!

 

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!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials