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Titan A.E.

a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

June 16, 2000

Just before a race of alien energy-beings called the Drej blow up the Earth, Errol Flynn looking scientist hero Sam Tucker tosses his towheaded son Cale on an evacuation shuttle with Tone Lōc and goes off to fly a ship called the Titan on a mission to save the human race. He gives the boy a ring and it’s obvious to the audience that it will be the key to saving humanity but jesus christ dude make it clear to the kid! All he says is “Take this. As long as you wear it, there’s hope.” it’s a god damn miracle that he still has it when we pick up 15 years later. What in the hell were you thinking you god damn idiot, don’t be subtle about this shit.

So, grown up Cale (Matt Damon, THE DEPARTED) is some kind of space-iron-worker, a roughneck working class dude from Colorado, gettin it done on the outsides of ships and stuff, but he still has the same dumb ’90s boy band haircut from childhood. Since most humans are dead he’s a minority living among a bunch of creatures who eat food that he thinks is gross. So when a square-jawed Earthling captain and contemporary of his father named Korso (Bill Pullman, CASPER) comes to find him, you can see why he eventually agrees to join him on a mission to find the Titan.

Korso shows him that the ring can be activated to light up a map under the skin in his hand. So he and a motley space crew try to translate the map and follow the clues, avoiding the Drej and other foes. The crew includes Akima (Drew Barrymore, FIRESTARTER), a human female pilot he instantly has a boner for; Gune (John Leguizamo, SPAWN), a scientist who looks like a turtle or Maz Kanata; Stith (Janeane Garofalo, MYSTERY MEN), a kangaroo-ish warrior with giant double-kneed legs that, frankly, are not enjoyable to look at; and Preed (Nathan Lane, NUTCRACKER: THE UNTOLD STORY), who when multiplied by Stith equals a Sebulba.

This is pretty bland sci-fi. Nothing seems very new or original about the story and characters. They could fit into any generic early ’80s attempt to cash in on STAR WARS and SUPERMAN: THE MOTION PICTURE. Cale’s father sending him away from Earth before it blows up – and later appearing to him in a holographic message – is kind of a reverse Jor-El move, though at the time this was developed it was probly more related to pre-millennium tension like DEEP IMPACT and those types of movies.

The one thing that makes it unique is that it’s animated. Produced by Fox Animation Studios, a short-lived company that tried to compete with Disney it was directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman (who had also helmed the studios’ only other films, ANASTASIA and its DTV sequel BARTOK THE MAGNIFICENT).

Bluth and Goldman had been Disney animators in the troubled ROBIN HOOD era. They left to form their own studio in ’79 and made the hits THE SECRET OF NIMH, THE LAND BEFORE TIME and AN AMERICAN TALE. As a directing team the duo were responsible for ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN, ROCK-A-DOODLE, THUMBELINA, A TROLL IN CENTRAL PARK, THE PEBBLE AND THE PENGUIN and those other two Fox movies, and now here they are doing one in the future with space battles, and a PG rating “for action violence, mild sensuality and brief language.”

Translation: they show his butt in a medical context and then she touches his hand while he only has a towel on and he’s worried he’s gonna get a boner. Also he walks in on her after a shower and sees a smidgen of side boob. I almost fainted! But don’t worry, prudes, at the end when they almost kiss they get interrupted.

(Seriously though, it had been less than a year since HEAVY METAL finally got released on video, so I guess animated sci-fi nudity was still a novelty, even in this teasing PG form.)

Bluth clearly captures some of the old school Disney spirit in his character designs, but I think he has a tendency to overplay the expressions and gestures so that they seem overly sentimental. He’s pretty toned down on this one, but there are some drawings that make me cringe. There’s a really elaborate sequence of the evacuation of Earth – show-offy camera moves that could only have been done in that era of animation as crowds flee carrying their belongings and Cale’s dad rushes him to the escape vehicle. We’re supposed to think it’s cute that Cale is oblivious to the adults scrambling for their lives and is looking up at the swarms of helicopters over head, going “Awesome!”

I also hate that most of the aliens are drawn as basically cartoon bugs or animals. What a failure of imagination. The real Disney made the same mistake in their own space movie, TREASURE PLANET. The worst example here is a purposely obnoxious cook (Jim Breur) who is straight up just a cartoon cricket with a chef’s hat. When Cale and Korso trash his kitchen during a chase we’re supposed to laugh that he’s upset about it, and since he attempts to sell them out to the Drej we’re supposed to laugh again when he’s shot and explodes into goo and a set of chattering teeth. No respect for cartoon bug life.

I guess Preed is supposed to be based on a bat, but I like his lanky frame and the way it makes him move. He’s the best alien design by far, though the gruff characterization is somewhat undermined by Lane’s voice.

I also really like the designs of the Earthlings Sam and Korso, old fashioned manly swashbuckler types that would be hard to cast in live action in the modern day. And also this was one of the last gasps of 2D animation in that time when the Disney Renaissance had been choked out by the rise of Woody and Buzz. So at least they’re drawings. The character animation looks pretty slick, certainly much better than most of COOL WORLD. But they awkwardly integrate a ton of CG effects – first as a gimmick, then to deal with budget cuts. The Drej are 3D animations, and rarely share the frame with drawings. The ships and space backgrounds are usually computer generated, often looking jarringly different from the characters. Cale’s space suit and many of the vehicles are 3D models outlined to look like drawings. That works pretty good.

The universe of TITAN A.E. is standard issue, but there are a few details and ideas here and there that are cool. I like the map inside his hand and the way it leads him to one place where he has to stand and hold it up to align with a star system to tell him to go to another place. I like the glowing “gas trees” that they establish are full of methane, so they glow and look cool and then blow up during an action scene. I like the part where they’re being chased through an icy version of an asteroid field, and the reflections of their ship turn it into an ENTER THE DRAGON hall of mirrors type sequence. Although they project it a little too much, I really like that (SPOILER) the pure-energy bad guys obsess over finding this ship, only to be turned into the power source to activate its terraforming capabilities. Suckers!

And I really like the concept of the “wake angels,” etherial beings that follow the heat of space ships, and pilots enjoying leading them around. And it makes sense to turn that into a song montage. But, uh, I don’t agree with the song “It’s My Time To Fly” by The Urge.

There’s also your standard “everybody working together to fix up an old junker” montage set to a pop punk song.

That’s one thing I didn’t mention. Like most movies in the Summer Flings series, TITAN A.E. has a compilation soundtrack. This is a future set to songs by Powerman 5000, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Jamiroquai and Luscious Jackson. On the DVD commentary track, Goldman describes it as having “a very trendy pop sound, or rock sound… since our target audience was teenagers, the music had to be tailored to fit them.” Bluth admits that “it isn’t necessarily cutting edge rock, it’s pretty soft,” but Goldman adds that going “too hard-edged” would lose some of the adult members of the audience. Both mention that using songs like that could date the movie. They were right, but I don’t remember them being cool at the time either. (I’m sure some people like them.)

Fox originally developed the project for live action, but decided to pawn it off on the animation studio. They accepted it as the alternative to laying everybody off because they didn’t have another project ready, but two other directors (I have not been able to ascertain which ones) developed it for a year and a half before Bluth and Goldman took over. The script is credited to Ben Edlund (The Tick) and Joss Whedon (SPEED) and John August (CHARLIE’S ANGELS), or as Goldman put it in an interview with Alternative Magazine, “about 14 top writers from the sci-fi genre, including Josh Whedon and John August.” I haven’t been able to determine who actually originated the idea, but August describes in a blog post coming in “to do a quick dialogue polish, which became a bigger rewrite as it went through several directors’ hands.” He says Whedon took over after him and that he “couldn’t honestly tell you what he wrote versus what I wrote versus what Ben Edlund wrote.”

I could be wrong, but it seems to me like Whedon took a crack at the dialogue. There’s a smart-assy banter that’s very reminiscent of his work, and though that approach is everywhere you look now it still feels pretty fuckin hip for a Don Bluth cartoon. I definitely pegged him as the writer of the scene where they try to get past a guard using the STAR WARS trick of one pretending to be the other’s prisoner, but the guard points out all the reasons why their story doesn’t make sense. Sure enough, Goldman says on the commentary during that scene, “This is Joss Whedon dialogue, it’s always very saucy and very funny.”

There’s also alot of sentiment, little moments and talks between the characters that almost work, but are just a little too corny when expressed through these drawings and the voice actors in a recording booth speaking in hushed tones. Or maybe they’re just too awkwardly jammed together. I was thrown off by the scene where Cale has rushed an injured Akima to some people in New Bangkok for first aid, then immediately turns to admire a kid playing with a soccer ball. And you can’t just have a kid playing with a soccer ball, you gotta have his older sister who stops reading Robinson Crusoe to come over and explain how “that stupid ball” is “his favorite thing in the world” because “it was our dad’s back on Earth” and show him a trading card of their dad and he has to give this fuckin Bluthian expression:

“I think it’s very appealing to a worldwide audience because soccer is so popular around the world,” explains Bluth.

Despite its many weaknesses, I’d say this is unique enough to be worth watching. It’s kinda cool and different to see an animated sci-fi movie done in this Disney-derived American style, the action scenes (mostly chases) are well done and fast paced, and the characters’ senses of humor make them go down easy.

Though it could be argued that Fox didn’t give the movie a big enough push, there were definitely signs of them trying to turn it into a thing. There were, of course, action figures. And there was that soundtrack album. And collector’s cards. And there was a novelization by Steve and Dal Perry and also two prequel novels by Kevin J. Anderson (also wrote Star Wars, X-Files and Dune books) and Rebecca Moesta (Star Wars, Star Trek) – one about Cale, and about Akima. Dark Horse Comics published a three-part series about Sam and his crew.

A video game was developed, slated to be released some time after the movie, but they cancelled it in part because it did poorly at the box office. It opened in 5th place, crushed even by MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE 2 in its fourth week (#1 was John Singleton’s SHAFT). It grossed less than a third of its $75 million budget.

Some used TITAN A.E. as evidence to declare 2D/hand-drawn animation was dead, overtaken by 3D computer animation. It was also a sign that American audiences had trouble accepting non-Disney cartoons. ANASTASIA had been a hit, but it mimicked Disney’s entire formula. While there was definitely an audience hungry for different types of animation, nobody was able to translate that into a hit. In the previous summer, Brad Bird’s THE IRON GIANT – now considered a classic – flopped in theaters.

Arguably Warner Brothers didn’t promote that one enough, but even Disney was struggling to get people excited. Their 2000 release was the troubled THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE, poorly received at the time. In the next four years only their lower budget LILO & STITCH seemed to connect with audiences, and after HOME ON THE RANGE they decided to abandon the 2D business their founder had built.

Damon didn’t give up on animation. Two years later he was the lead voice in a more successful hand-drawn feature, SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON. Years later he played a character in George Miller’s computer animated HAPPY FEET TWO.

Bluth and Goldman didn’t give up on animation either, but animation kind of gave up on them. Before the movie was even finished, Fox started laying off animators and outsourcing their scenes to smaller companies. Studio head Bill Mechanic was fired and the animation studio was closed ten days after the movie came out. 17 years later, the duo still haven’t directed another feature. They have done some work for video games and a Scissor Sisters video called “Mary” that doesn’t seem to be on Youtube. They’ve been trying to develop a feature based on their ’80s animated arcade game Dragon’s Lair, but they don’t have studio backing – just a Kickstarter to make a proof of concept.

I should say that although I think it’s fair to categorize TITAN A.E. as a movie that didn’t catch on, there are enough people fixated on it that I had to dig through their fan art when trying to find pictures for this piece. Fox has not rewarded them with a Blu-Ray release, but they can buy the DVD new on Amazon for $3.74.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 25th, 2017 at 11:06 am and is filed under Cartoons and Shit, Reviews, Science Fiction and Space Shit. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

43 Responses to “Titan A.E.”

  1. I am a fan of this one — I haven’t seen it in a while but I recall enjoying the more adult characters and story as compared to other animated movies at the time. Certainly worth seeing for sci-fi fans, it’s way better than TREASURE PLANET.

  2. I saw this one in the theaters, and I remember liking it at the time, but I haven’t seen it in decades. When I later heard that Whedon wrote some of the script, I automatically assumed that one of the last lines of the film must have been him. The main character claims that he’s going to name this new planet he created “Bob.”

  3. A friend of mine has access to a gigantic Bluth archive that he donated to his alma mater. I keep trying to convince him that if a Dragon’s Lair or Space Ace cell went missing and ended up in a mailbox with my address on the envelope, no one would probably notice. Alas, he disagrees…

  4. What? EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE was poorly received? I remember it being loved as some fresh air within the stale, Disney dominated animation world! Also I’m not sure if TITAN A.E. really needed more of a push, because I saw the trailer for it attached to every damn movie for at least half a year before it started! (And back then I could afford to go to the movies at least twice a month or even weekly!) But maybe because the German movie market is smaller, it just seems like it was advertised stronger. Even the official music video for it was on TV all the time. (OVER MY HEAD by someone whose name I forgot. I think they also did a video with Pamela Anderson. I wanna say Bis, but I’m sure that’s wrong and I’m too lazy to google that.)

    The movie itself, well…let’s say I didn’t like it. But I have a weird relationship to Bluth anyway. I admire his “let’s traumatize kids, they can take it” approach (although I credit a certain scene in SECRET OF NIMH for my arachnophobia)and I love the first AMERICAN TAIL (Yes, it’s a pun and I’m sure the porn version has the same name) and ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN. But as a kid, the bleakness of most of his movies bored me to death and even with the “Well, he didn’t have a Disney budget” bonus, his animation is very hit or miss. And especially in this one and ANASTASIA I hated the incorporation of CGI. Not because it’s CGI, but it looked like shit and didn’t fit the rest of the movie at all. (Not to mention that in ANASTASIA it was overdone in a grotesque way. Someone opened a door, the door was CGI. Someone picked up a picture frame, the picture frame was CGI. Someone scratched his ass, the ass was CGI [I might remember the last one wrong])

    The two things here that made me laugh, though, were “Planet Bob” and when the turtle looking alien seemingly dies and says something about how he must sleep now as his “last words”, but then later makes a heroic return, saying something like “I woke up!”

  5. CJ the band you’re thinking of is Lit. As soon as I read your post I thought back to that video with them playing on Pam Anderson’s body and funnily enough that song (You Make Me Completely Miserable) popped up on my spotify radio. So of course I added it to my playlist.

  6. As for this movie. I actually grew up as a bit of a Bluth acolyte. His Amblin work was a big part of my childhood and ALL DOGS GO TO HEAVEN was pretty great in my book. I really used to root for him when he became an underdog during the Disney Animation Renaissance era.

    That being said by the time this came out I was already too old for it (late teens) to make an impact. I really hated ANASTASIA (my sisters loved it) so I just felt that I outgrew Bluth and pretty much just slept on TITAN A.E. altogether. The irony being that it was this and stuff like Disney’s ATLANTIS that symbolized western animation was growing up right along with those of us who were kids in the late 80s. Yet they couldn’t be anymore unappealing to people in my age group.

  7. Yes, Lit, exactly. At least I was right about it being a 3 letter name.

  8. As a cartoon nerd, I rooted for this one and ATLANTIS to be good and do good so that we could get more variety in our animation genre selection. Alas it was not meant to be as both movies aren’t terribly good.

    TITAN tries but it never becomes anything other than a generic STAR WARS knock-off. It has the advantage of being much better than STARCHASER: LEGEND OF ORION at least in the cartoon STAR WARS knock-off category. Nothing stands out in this one but it is watchable and it does try.

    ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE is a better movie but that one gets so damned stupid and sloppy in it’s second half that it keeps me at arms-length and I thus can’t forgive it’s many problems and focus on what it does good. This is one of those ones I watch every few years in hopes that this will be the time I actually like it. I agree with KingNewbs that it’s better than TREASURE PLANET. Technically that should be listed with TITAN and ATLANTIS as it was trying to be an older-person animated movie. Too bad that one did very little right and had one of the more obnoxious lead characters I can recall.

    So since this one bombed and is not well-regarded, who is Joss Whedon blaming for it doing so?

    Speaking of disappointments I guess I’ll chime in on Don Bluth as well. I think he’s a great talent and he deserves his accolades for his badass move of jacking Disney’s best animators from under them and then making a movie that blows all of their work from the last few decades away (both entertainment and technical skill) and made for a fraction of the cost. He then made some other good ones and then he made a string of garbage in the ’90’s. Damn shame to see a man who was forging his own path to make not one but TWO cheap Disney knock-offs with THUMBELINA and ANASTASIA. On top of that when he was on his drastic quality decline he refused to take any criticism. There is a popular supposedly true story about his animators being concerned that ROCK A DOODLE was turning out to be a piece-of-shit, so he agreed to a work-in-progress screening for them. Afterwards he handed out comment cards and upon receiving them back he threw them all in the trash in front of them and told them ‘Now that that is done let’s get back to work!’ I guess I should be a little nice in regards to ANASTASIA and TITAN A.E. as he was supposedly brought on last minute for both of them. I don’t think he was well-suited for movie though. His Kickstarter for that DRAGON’S LAIR proof-of-concept was an embarrassing failure from what I heard so it seems he will be using his last active years as a teacher instead of filmmaker.

  9. CJ: I remember that CG/2D blending in both ANASTASIA and TITAN AE to be hot-garbage even at the time. Also NEW GROOVE was pretty hated by the critical/animation community when it came out (still is). It also bombed in theaters but ended up being one of those ones that got a fanbase thanks to video (and a vocal one at that). Thus it got it’s own forgettable/terrible DTV cheapquel and TV series.

    Did you ever see the damn-near banned documentary on the making of it? THE SWEATBOX by Trudie Styler (Sting’s wife) is a really great blunt look at how completely ass-backwards (and marketing-driven) Disney’s film-making process is.

    Broddie: Good point about about how around that time they were trying to age animated movies with our generation but completely failed to convince said generation that seeing a ‘older-person’s’ cartoon is worth it.

  10. The late 90s and early 00s was a pretty rough period for American animation, the Disney renaissance was petering out as was 2D animation in general, which makes it all the more noteworthy than an all time classic, THE IRON GIANT, dropped right in the middle of this, even though it flopped in theaters, sometimes I wonder if this is why anime gained a foothold in America around this time because a lot of was way more impressive than most of what was coming out in the US at the time.

    As for myself, since I was still a young’un at the time I saw a few of these in theaters, namely THE ROAD TO EL DORADO, which I liked and ATLANTIS, which I remember being real hyped for but was disappointed in, I never bothered with TITAN AE, in fact I only remember the Creed song used in the tv commercials (“Can you take me hiiiiiiiigher!”)

    My opinion on Don Bluth is, while he made some good ones in the 80s, he pretty much just created wannabee Disney movies in the 90s.

  11. Also, I downloaded a bootleg of THE SWEATBOX once and honestly Disney didn’t come off as bad in it as I expected, considering they treated the thing like it was the nuclear football.

    About the most shocking thing was David Spade says “pussy” at one point, which easily could have been cut out, it was overall not too far removed from your average making of doc and was in fact pretty interesting.

  12. I remember liking this well enough, but don’t remember ANYTHING about it. I do agree with someone above that I saw the trailer pretty repeatedly for about half a year.

    I was 25 when this came out, and myself and a group of friends saw pretty much every Disney and otherwise animated film out around the time. TARZAN, ROAD TO ELDORADO, The first few Pixars, ANTS, SHREK, and even the first Pokemon I remember distinctly seeing in the theater. All with the same group of 20 something guys.

    This one I missed in the theater, but remember it being one of my earliest Netflix rentals. I have no idea if that’s significant or not.

  13. Never saw the documentary, but I heard about the troubled production history of NEW GROOVE. Still, I refuse to believe that the movie was really that hated on release, especially in the animation community, where director Mark Dindal was well liked because of CATS DON’T DANCE, which features a similar Looney Tunes-esque style of ultra cartoony cartoon humor. It even was nominated for 11 Annie Awards (although it had no chance against the behemoth that was SHREK).

  14. I actually have two of those action figures from the press junket for this movie. It was one of the first I ever covered. (Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo bears the primary honor.) I even liked it so much I attended two early screenings, but then I’ve never seen it since.

    I did buy the soundtrack though. The Lit and Bliss tracks were tight.

    The family film that quickly trounced Titan AE was Chicken Run.

  15. Oh, I also recall Emperor’s New Groove being beloved. Perhaps that was only in my critics circle who saw it for work and realized it was brilliant. It wasn’t a blockbuster but I remember it doing solid business for a non summer non princess Disney movie. I’ll have to check box office mojo.

    Certainly the feeling that it deserved Lion King/Aladdin success is reasonable. Disney certainly didn’t treat it as a premiere title.

  16. Despite its flaws (including some truly draw dropping revisionist reactionary politics (not a flaw to everyone I guess!!)) I do really like ANASTASIA, and certainly think it’s aged a lot better than the actual Disney movie that year; HERCULES is essentially ARCHED EYEBROW: THE MOVIE, a better executed riff on the same kind of “ironic” exercises in unabashed decadent commercialism that led to SPACE JAM and BATMAN & ROBIN. The CGI embellishments may not have aged well, or necessarily have looked that good at the time, but I certainly wouldn’t call it cheap.

    The lifecycle of the SHREK franchise in the public consciousness, from beloved to disappointing to “no, nobody ever actually liked these” to King of the incomprehensible memes, is something that fascinates me.

  17. Apologies for the double exclamation marks, that was a mistake, and an unjustified lapse into naffness

  18. The demise of SHREK* can be attributed to the not-as-good sequels, the millions of copycats and the people who were too young to remember how groundbreaking(-ish) it originally was. But it’s still interesting how a movie like SHREK actually owes a lot to Disney’s HERCULES in terms of (pop-)cultural satire and zany comedy and how audiences and critics rejected it back then, but later went gaga over the animated comedies of Dreamworks, Blue Sky and Co.

    *Note that Vern was one of the earliest people who didn’t like it.

  19. Maybe I’m wording it wrong. The audience pretty much liked NEW GROOVE but the animation insiders and industry people who where privy to the behind-the-scenes stories hated it (and still do). Despite CATS DON’T DANCE having a bit of a cult-following, director Dindal is pretty much looked at as a hack like how Ratner is in regards to X-MEN: THE LAST STAND. It was pretty funny how a little bit back Cartoon Brew made a comment about how NEW GROOVE was instantly forgettable (after talking about how awesome the original version was going to be) and everyone in comments jumping on the guy.

  20. Yeah, but Cartoon Brew is known for two things: Great articles about the history and business side of animation and having writers, who love to be contrarian, just for the sake of it. (See for example: Their yearlong crusade against PHINEAS & FERB.)

    From what I’ve heard, the insiders and industry people love and always loved NEW GROOVE too. (Maybe we just talked to two completely different groups of animation fans and creators?) Not sure what their opinion on Dindal as a person is, but I guess CHICKEN LITTLE, which WAS disliked by everybody, seemed to have killed his career.

  21. SHREK as an internet meme is some funny shit.

    I remember really, really liking the original SHREK and the second was fun if shallow, but that was all I ever bothered to watch, SHREK was an initially fresh idea that wore out it’s welcome quickly.

  22. CJ: Never forget: It is very strongly believed that Cartoon Brew accidentally birthed the Brony movement with their contrarian ways.

    Anyways I’ve met very few people who didn’t dig NEW GROOVE so something tells me that the circles I usually see are just upper-crust animation snobs who have their own opinion of what animation (or at least in this case, Disney cartoon movies) SHOULD be.

    I don’t think it’s fair that Dindal got blacklisted though. I don’t think CATS DON’T DANCE is some forgotten classic like it’s vocal and rabid fanbase says but it’s pretty good from what I remember. It’s a minor miracle that NEW GROOVE is any good at all much less as good as it is considering the cluster-fuck production. CHICKEN LITTLE wasn’t any good though but unless there are some nasty behind-the-scenes stories that haven’t leaked I’m not sure why that would make him ostracized.

  23. I guess IF Dindal was blacklisted or something after CHICKEN LITTLE, it was most likely because it was his third strike. Even in animation you can only make a few movies that bomb or underperform before they stop answering your phonecalls and although at least his first two were well received, none of them set box office on fire. (I checked. NEW GROOVE just made enough money in its theatrical run to call it an underperformer, instead of a bomb.)

  24. Mark Dindal was actually attached to DreamWorks’ “Me and My Shadow” for a couple of years. He left due to “creative differences,” and despite a few new directors, the film has still yet to be made.

    As far as I know, Dindal’s stuck in the studio shuffle: attaching himself to movies that ultimately don’t get made.

  25. That has to be both horribly frustrating as an artist and awesome if you’re just looking to get paid without a whole lot of work to do (well not as much).

  26. Well what do you know IFC has it coming on the air in about 15 minutes. Guess I’ll give it a look.

  27. flyingguillotine

    July 26th, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    A friend of mine really liked this movie, and I watched it at his place. It seemed pretty generic; I remember very little. Though I distinctly recall there is a moment in which Gune is firing a gun, and he shouts something like, “Who’s your daddy? Gune’s your daddy!” which I thought was pretty stupid.

    Though it did make me laugh when that they joke about naming the new planet “Bob,” and at the very end we get an image of Earth 2, with (Bob) in parentheses. Okay, that was clever.

    I’ve always rooted for Don Bluth. I think he’s a very talented guy. But the industry seemed to pass him by. I think he might have done well by bringing his skills to TV; I think it’s only the insistence on remaining in feature that worked against him.

  28. I also really dig the creepiness in Bluth’s movies- there’s always some scene where something’s a little too magical, or a has a few too many teeth, or glows a little too weirdly for a Disney movie. That scariness is super cool, and I think it could be argued that one reason Disney films from the early eighties were not the strongest was because they didn’t get this element in their movies as well as Bluth. Like, say in THE BLACK CAULDRON.

    But I probably won’t watch TITAN A.E. again.

  29. Man, BLACK CAULDRON is such a disappointment. I actually quite enjoy the books and if anyone was wondering, the movie is not a terribly good adaptation. The movie has many problems but I think my favorite part is how the movie drills into our head how no one can find the titular macguffin. Our heroes find it literally the first place they look (a cottage in the forest).

    Funnily Bluth does have a kinda CAULDRON connection. CAULDRON was the guy who ran the Animation Studio’s dream project and wanted to ‘train’ his animators before they ready to tackle the movie (maybe that’s why the movies were so bland in that time, no one was really invested in them maybe?). So yeah then Bluth comes in and stages the epic walkout and takes the best (and almost all) animators with him. Leaving Disney with a fresh young crew to make the movie (exactly what they were trying to avoid). Then the movie got censored by newly-hired Eisner and Katzenberg and then released and no really liked it and it’s semi-forgotten now as Disney treats it like a red-headed step-child (at least it gets released every now and then unlike the boring and mostly crappy SONG OF THE SOUTH). It’s legacy will live on through it’s vocal fanbase and be known as the one Disney cartoon that was too violent for us to see so it was edited down (I think it’s only like a few seconds mostly or all bodies melting).

  30. There is one scene in CAULDRON, where a skeleton jumps at a soldier and you can hear a very clear jump in the backgroundmusic. What was cut was a shot of the mauled corpse of the man. You can even find the image of that online. If I remember right, this was the only scene that was really cut for violence, but some more stuff was cut for runtime reasons, because whoever was in charge back then, didn’t allow the movie to be one minute longer than it is now. There are many interesting stories about the making of it.

  31. “CJ: Never forget: It is very strongly believed that Cartoon Brew accidentally birthed the Brony movement with their contrarian ways.”

    Bullshit, it came from 4chan, I was there in fall of 2010 and seemingly overnight you saw those ponies EVERYWHERE on the site.

  32. I loved EMPERORS NEW GROOVE. When I saw it, I thought it was one of the most entertaining and original straight Disney (ie not Pixar) in years.

  33. I liked SHREK quite a bit when it was new. And it does seem that everyone, including myself, kind of quit caring at some point. I think it had to do with being really cutting edge…but that particular edge moved really fast.

    I know the somewhat similar MONSTERS INC seems to have aged a lot better.

    Love the SHREK memes. Meme culture and humor is so truly bizarre and nonsequiter…I love it!!! Wacky and creepy and head scratching all at once. Pretty sure a lot of it is originating from people whom SHREK was a movie kind of always on in their youth.

  34. Griff: That’s why I said ‘strongly-believed.’ The pony-posts supposedly really started to become omnipresent after Cartoon Brew posted an article called ‘The Death of Creative Animation’ or something. I remember that one, in that one they lamented that talents such as Lauren Faust (a great animator and storyboard artist on various projects such as POWERPUFF GIRLS and CAT’S DON’T DANCE) and Rob Renzetti (MY LIFE AS A TEENAGE ROBOT) had to do a lowly toy commercial cartoon instead of developing their own ideas.

    Was it the sole-cause? Probably not, it probably didn’t help that the article pissed them off (though I argue they missed the point of said article but yeah as CJ stated, Cartoon Brew prides itself on being contrarian assholes) and spurred some discussion/defenses but from what I know the Brony-thing started from simple trolling on 4chan. Guys kept posting it because it pissed people (notably mods) off and others joined in and before they knew it, they ended up legit liking it. ‘Stare into the abyss and it stares back into you’ etc.

    I’m just going off of what I read up on it so I defer to your expertise on the matter.

    As for SHREK, I liked the original when it came out but damn has it not aged well. I never liked the second one and avoided the sequels.

  35. Oh, I’m not an expert, but 4chan was the very first place I ever saw MLP: Friend is Magic, so it seems like bronies originated from there.

    I forgot to mention I really liked EMPERORS NEW GROOVE as well.

  36. Sorry I didn’t word myself too well again.

    They 100% originated from 4chan. Some people speculate that said Cartoon Brew article is what really inspired the trolling as before said article, pony-posts were supposedly few and far between (again supposedly) and it was only after the article pre-judged the show for being shit did the fans trolling increase by quite a bit before it practically became a religion/cult.

    As stated I’m not sure I totally buy that but fans/nerds can get weird when you criticize something a like (especially when the critics did not experience it for themselves and pre-judge).

    I realize now that we have talked more about NEW GROOVE than TITAN A.E. in this comments section…

  37. Oh, pony-posts weren’t few and far between, they were everywhere for a while.

    I think the Cartoon Brew thing was an influence though, Bronies didn’t really explode until 2011, what I saw in the fall of 2010 was the earliest rumblings.

  38. I remember being on 4chan a few months before I heard of full blown “Brownies” and amidst the crazy memes and porn, there would be a pic of one of the ponies with a caption like “Which one’s your favorite? Mine’s Buttercup!”

    I didn’t know there was a new My Little Pony out. I checked it out. I thought maybe they had made it ironic and funny, like an Adult Swim kinda thing. Watched it, and it was pretty much a slightly modernized version of the same old shit.

    Kinda baffled it appealed to that crowd. That it began as a huge troll onlynto find out they actually liked it….makes a lot of sense!

  39. My sister, who turned 40 yesterday, really HATES the new MY LITTLE PONY, from the character design, to the cheap flash animation to the humor. She is not a purist snob who automatically resents everything that’s new, but it really pushes her button. (And she doesn’t even know the darkest facets of that Bronie movement!)

    A few years ago they announced a RAINBOW BRITE show, that was done in the same style and when the first teaser showed a flash animated RB, who talked like an: “Aw my gaaawd, I’m like, y’knaaaaw…” 90s sitcom teenager, my sister banged at the door and yelled: “THESE BASTARDS RUINED RAINBOW BRITE!!!!!”

    Yeah, that’s a completely irrelevant story, but I always chuckle while I tell it.

  40. I’ve never bothered to give MY LITTLE PONY a try, the whole thing is just a little too out there for me, but it does feature some voice actresses that I like, so never saw never.

    The thing is, it really freaked me out when I first heard about bronies, it seemed just so bizarre and creepy to me, but that was years ago now and I honestly don’t care about it anymore.

  41. Man, any chance THIEF AND THE COBBLER can make it into this fling series? You could compare the highly compromised theatrical release with the “re-cobbled” versions etc.

    Pretty essential to this animation conversation!

  42. I agree with the comments about the characters in Bluth films being TOO expressive. Like, I know animation is exaggeration and all, but SHEESH! It doesn’t really come across in stills, cuz the ending keyframe is usually a very nuanced and characterful expression. But the transitions are always way too complex. No one ever just smiles, they do a big full-body shrug as their face contorts a thousand ways and their hands probably gesture, eventually landing on the smile. I feel the same way about The Iron Giant, but in that film it fits with Hogarth’s character that he would be that way. Plus that movie’s a fuckin masterpiece so whatever :p

    Might as well chime in on the emperor’s new groove: I saw it at age 9 and me and everyone I knew thought it was the absolute funniest shit they’d ever seen! My older brothers were of the correct age to be super into David Spade as well, which probably contributed. I know not every Disney movie is a musical, but around that time they mostly all were, so the idea of a non-musical, way more comedy-heavy Disney film was a really fresh idea!

  43. When Vern said THE EMPEROR’S NEW GROOVE was “poorly received” he might have meant that it performed poorly at the box office. I too have heard mainly positive opinions of it.

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