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Archive for the ‘Cartoons and Shit’ Category

Pinocchio (2022) (the Guillermo del Toro one)

Wednesday, December 28th, 2022

Well, would you look at that? Guillermo del Toro (BLADE II) finally finished his stop motion version of Pinocchio! Looks like it was first announced 15 years ago. Like with his Frankenstein and his In the Mountains of Madness I’d kind of given up on it ever happening. Then when it clearly really was happening it was stop motion so it took some years.

After all that it’s kind of a bummer that it’s a Netflix production with too limited a theatrical release for me to see it on the big screen. But they do seem to be promoting it more than most of their movies, and maybe more people will watch it at home than would’ve if a real movie company put it out. I don’t know. The point is he finally got to make it (co-directing with Mark Gustafson, a Will Vinton claymation veteran and animation director for THE FANTASTIC MR. FOX). And even better, I think it’s really good.

I wasn’t sure I would love it. I was a little put off in the opening, because this Geppetto has a young son named Carlo who is… dare I say, pretty annoying? Something bothered me about this boy (Alfie Tempest) who seems to have no friends, life or interests outside of spending the day with his strangely-old-to-have-a-young-son father. Mrs. Vern said I hated Carlo because he was an obedient little boy, which made me realize why he had to be that way: he’s what Pinocchio will think he has to live up to. But I don’t know, man. Of course it’s incredibly sad for this elderly man to lose his young son and only friend, but it would move me even more if the kid wasn’t so damn cloying. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Present / The Junky’s Christmas

Friday, December 23rd, 2022

I don’t usually post on Fridays, but here is my second one today, because I got two last stocking stuffers for you before the holiday weekend. Here are reviews of two Christmas related shorts, one horror, one crime (sorta). Pretty obscure ones, but both worth checking out.

First up is THE PRESENT, which is a 2005 episode of a Japanese anthology show called Kazuo Umezz’s Horror Theater (released on DVD as part of Horror Theater 3). The titular Kazuo Umezu (the spelling varies) is a famous author of horror manga, as you can guess by the art laid over the introduction to the show, so this is an adaptation of one of his stories. He’s been around long enough that the 1968 movie THE SNAKE GIRL AND THE SILVER-HAIRED WITCH is based on his comics too.

THE PRESENT filters the classic American form of the killer Santa movie through a more Japanese (and specifically manga) style of fucked-upness. It’s about a little girl named Yuko (Kiyo Ôshiro) who wakes up on Christmas Eve, terrified by a nightmare about Santa. She has a Christmas tree in her room and a stocking on her bedpost – I’m not sure if that’s how they do it in Japan, or if it’s weird. But her parents comfort her and tell her to go back to sleep and she’ll get presents because she’s a good girl (though “if you do bad things he’ll come and get you.”) (read the rest of this shit…)

Wendell & Wild

Wednesday, November 30th, 2022

Henry Selick, the director of THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, just made his first movie in thirteen years. Stop motion animation takes a long time, of course, but not usually that long. (With the exception of MAD GOD.)

It’s not like he took a vacation. Only a year after CORALINE Selick moved from Laika to Pixar to start a new stop motion division called Cinderbiter. They actually animated much of a movie called THE SHADOW KING – $50 million worth – and then cancelled it. And then he developed a bunch of other movies with a bunch of other people that didn’t even get that far.

But now, finally, he has a new, completed and released one called WENDELL & WILD. He wrote it with Academy Award winning screenwriter Jordan Peele, it stars the voices of Key and Peele, it’s about demons and zombie skeletons and shit, and it has Selick’s eye for design and increasingly sophisticated stop motion, so it’s the kind of thing some people ought to be interested in, in my opinion. Only trouble is it was produced by Netflix, so they just squirted it out in a little glob exactly like Wendell & Wild squirt the cream that grows their father’s nose hairs (more on that later), so most of the people I’ve mentioned it to never heard of the fuckin thing. I read that it didn’t even make it into Netflix’s top ten when it came out, but the computer animated movie THE BAD GUYS did a couple days later when they picked it up after it had already been on DVD, blu-ray and Peacock for five months.

That doesn’t seem fair. I figured I should write a review just so it’s on record somewhere that WENDELL & WILD is a real, existent movie that was made and released and can be viewed with your eyes and everything. (read the rest of this shit…)

Little Nemo / Freddie as F.R.O.7 (and the weird animation of summer ’92, part 2)

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022

Although the weird blockbusters like ALIEN 3 and BATMAN RETURNS were a defining feature of summer ’92, it’s hard to overstate how much weird animation popped up in this little window between Disney reinvigorating the animated feature and anybody else figuring out how to get in on the action in a reasonable way. Earlier I reviewed the well-meaning environmental fantasy FERNGULLY: THE LAST RAINFOREST and mentioned Don Bluth’s bizarre Elvis-rooster movie ROCK-A-DOODLE. Now I need to bring up two July releases that I skipped over because I’d previously reviewed them: COOL WORLD (co-starring Brad Pitt of JOHNNY SUEDE fame) and BEBE’S KIDS (written and produced by BOOMERANG’s Reginald Hudlin). Both were rated PG-13, which was very unusual for the time… and I guess would be now too, huh? BEBE’S KIDS is groundbreaking as an animated feature from a Black director and about a Black family. It’s also kind of cool that it’s adapted from a standup routine. And Tone Loc got more to do (voicing a fucked up baby) than he did in FERNGULLY (where he was a lizard).

I really want to direct you to my review of COOL WORLD if you haven’t read it, though, because this is a real headscratcher of a movie from indie/adult animation pioneer Ralph Bakshi, working with Paramount and making all kinds of concessions that might’ve turned it even weirder. Back then I liked it (or wanted to like it) enough that I saw it twice in the theater, then when I watched it five years ago to write that review I decided to retire from watching COOL WORLD. But in any study of the weirdness of summer ’92 it must be acknowledged.

Now let’s move on to two more distinctly befuddling animated features released, unsurprisingly, in August, the month of misfit movies. LITTLE NEMO: ADVENTURES IN SLUMBERLAND (onscreen title: just LITTLE NEMO) is a long-in-the-works Japanese-American co-production. It was a 1989 release in Japan, but we got it on August 21st, 1992. (read the rest of this shit…)

Pinocchio (2022) (the Robert Zemeckis one)

Tuesday, September 13th, 2022

Well, I’m afraid it seems my fellow people who write about movies were not open to a giant corporation treating an 80+ year old animation masterpiece as i.p. to remake in a modern style, especially coming from a once A-list director they’ve turned on in his later, weirder years. So they engaged in a hyperbole measuring contest to find out who could hate Robert Zemeckis’s PINOCCHIO (2022) most outlandishly.

I get it, I guess, but I don’t relate. I can see refusing to give in to the existence of these remakes, I can see not wanting them to do it to PINOCCHIO specifically (it’s my personal favorite Disney movie), I can see not liking the finished product. But I can’t see thinking it’s terrible, let alone the worst thing you’ve seen lately/in years/ever. That’s just silly talk.

Yes, that is correct, I liked it for what it was. I’ll get into it in a minute. Just let me pre-amble a little bit more. (read the rest of this shit…)

Pinocchio (1940) (the Disney one)

Thursday, July 21st, 2022

In 1992, Walt Disney Animation was on an undeniable upswing. WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT had been a smash in ’88, THE LITTLE MERMAID reignited their musical fairy tale formula in ’89, BEAUTY AND THE BEAST was so respected in ’91 that it got a best picture nomination, and they had ALADDIN coming out in November. It would be funny if they felt the need to re-release classics in the summer to sabotage potential competitors, since ROCK-A-DOODLE and FERNGULLY were long gone by June 26th, 1992 anyway. But I think this was just a reliable money-making technique they had developed, to release an old one in the summer and a new one at the end of the year. Remember that in last year’s summer of ’91 retrospective I got to review the re-release of 101 DALMATIANS, which was really not needed to stave off ROVER DANGERFIELD, in my opinion.

The “WALT DISNEY’S CLASSIC” for 1992 was the studio’s second-ever animated feature, PINOCCHIO, returning in celebration of its 52nd anniversary, I guess. 1940 was the same year Daisy Duck made her debut in Mr. Duck Steps Out, Bugs Bunny made his in A Wild Hare, Woody Woodpecker made his in Knock Knock, Abbott and Costello made theirs in One Night in the Tropics, and Captain America and Bucky made theirs in comic books. It was the year of Charlie Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR, the year DUNKIRK happened, the year Winston Churchill became prime minister, the year the first McDonald’s opened, the year nylon stockings came out. Pretty long ago. (read the rest of this shit…)

Mad God

Friday, July 15th, 2022

MAD GOD is a bizarre stop motion journey through the large intestine of a nightmare. It’s hard to describe (or know) what it’s about, but its version of the STAR WARS opening scroll is an actual scroll inked with a menacing threat from Leviticus. It ends, “I WILL MAKE THE LAND DESOLATE SO THAT YOUR ENEMIES WHO SETTLE IT SHALL BE APPALLED BY IT. AND YOU WILL SCATTER AMONG THE NATIONS AND I WILL UNSHEATH THE SWORD AGAINST YOU. YOUR LAND SHALL BECOME A DESOLATION AND YOUR CITIES A RUIN.”

Gee, thanks God!

The God of this movie may or may not be a weird priest played by REPO MAN director Alex Cox, one of a few live action characters seen briefly. He’s the one who sends a character I know from reading is called “The Assassin” – a man in a gas mask who is lowered in a diving bell past towers and rocks and layers of dinosaur bones and stone idols to a war-torn wasteland. He seems to be on a mission to set off a suitcase of dynamite deep in the earth, and most of the movie is a long journey downward, following an ever-crumbling map.

People who demand a strong narrative will melt into a puddle and be lapped up by weird crab monsters with human teeth. There’s a story here, but it’s all dream logic, told with mood, atmosphere and symbolism, not words. There’s virtually no human language that can be heard clearly – just some grunts like in those original Aeon Flux shorts. The score by Dan Wool of Pray For Rain (Cox’s guy since SID & NANCY) is crucial, but so is the sound design by Richard Beggs (TUCKER: THE MAN AND HIS DREAM, CHILDREN OF MEN), which helps bring life to these inanimate objects. It’s all ticking clocks, whirring servos, tinkling music boxes, puttering engines, rattling cages, crackling flames, clicking gears, flittering wings, collapsing earth, air raid sirens, explosions, gunfire, gnomes chirping like Jawas, babies crying in the distance, and most of all the sounds of the Assassin’s thick coat shifting around, and his boots crunching into dirt. (read the rest of this shit…)

FernGully: The Last Rainforest (and the weird animation of summer ’92, part 1)

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

“This ‘weird creature’ is a human!”


FERNGULLY: THE LAST RAINFOREST is a well-meaning but not so great movie that was more successful than most of the non-Disney animated features in this very strange early ‘90s period. It didn’t make a ton of money, but it seemed to capture the imagination of some kids, and even got a DTV sequel in 1998. I would venture to guess it will be the most normal animated feature of summer ’92, but like most of the movies that were trying to compete with Disney without doing something drastically different from them, it feels kinda off and out of touch.

It reunites PUMP UP THE VOLUME couple Christian Slater and Samantha Mathis, this time with Mathis as the lead and Slater as the jealous secondary boy in her life. Mathis (before SUPER MARIO BROS.) plays a hummingbird-sized fairy named Crysta, and Slater is her shirtless male friend Pips. They fly around and can turn into blue and green (respectively) light and they live in a rainforest that’s supposed to be in Australia and has kangaroos and platypuses living in it. Also there are little goblin guys voiced by Cheech and Chong who fly around on large beetles, but I was a little distracted that they sit on top of their wings, so the beetles seem to just magically float. (read the rest of this shit…)

Toxic Crusaders

Tuesday, March 8th, 2022

Murakami Wolf Productions was an American animation studio founded in 1967 by Jimmy T. Murakami and Fred Wolf. Murakami was an animator at the UPA studio and then co-directed the live action Roger Corman films HUMANOIDS FROM THE DEEP and BATTLE BEYOND THE STARS in addition to animated features like WHEN THE WIND BLOWS and segments of HEAVY METAL; Wolf had been an animator on The Alvin Show and The Flintstones before directing such hippie era TV artifacts as The Point, Free to Be… You & Me and Puff the Magic Dragon. In the late ‘80s the toy company Playmates hired Murakami Wolf’s new satellite studio in Dublin to produce a mini-series based on a culty black-and-white comic book to test the waters for a possible line of action figures. It was called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and you may remember the hubbub – cowabunga, fight for rights and your freedom to speak, Michelangelo is a party dude, etc.

Several years later, after the entire world had been shaken to its core by the effects of Turtle Power, I guess it seemed to some of those guys like any weird underground shit could be magically turned into a massively lucrative, completely inexplicable pop culture phenomenon. According to Lloyd Kaufman’s book, an agent named John Russo asked if he’d ever considered making his unrated gore and boobs franchise THE TOXIC AVENGER into a G-rated kiddie cartoon, and introduced him to Buzz Potamkin, Emmy-nominated producer of the Berenstain Bears cartoons, the Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue anti-drug PSA and Hawaiian Punch commercials. Potamkin and Murakami Wolf proposed turning THE TOXIC AVENGER into a kid friendly cartoon – an idea that became one 13-episode season of The Toxic Crusaders, which aired in syndication between March 1st and May 20th, 1990. (read the rest of this shit…)

The Animatrix

Tuesday, December 14th, 2021

A widely circulated anecdote about THE MATRIX (I believe coming from an interview on the DVD extras) says that when the Wachowskis pitched the movie to producer Joel Silver they showed him Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 anime film GHOST IN THE SHELL on video and said, “We wanna do that for real.”

The internet being the internet, that story evolved into the usual exaggerations – THE MATRIX is nearly a scene-for-scene remake, so close they had to ask permission, bullshit like that. There’s a cool video on Youtube showing images from THE MATRIX that seem inspired by or lifted from GHOST – lines of green code, plugs in the back of necks, a cool way that Neo lands – but it runs 1:16. There are quite a few other parts in THE MATRIX, in my opinion.

Still, the influence is undeniable, and the Wachowskis have been open about it. You can see what they were interested in there: the intersections between man and machine, super-powered battles in the midst of or above a large city, badasses in sunglasses taking on a bunch of armored cops, or being clawed at by inhuman machines. They did all that for real. (read the rest of this shit…)