Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Unofficial Ridiculous Cartoon Cliche List

Have you ever noticed how many ridiculous cliches cartoons have started over the years since the beginning of animated time? Some of these are so pervasive that they even managed to leak over into live action productions, and not necessarily for comedic purposes either. Here are some of my favourites (and please take note, this list will be continuously added on to as I think of more):

The Unofficial Ridiculous Cartoon Cliche List

The Little Mommy Syndrome

Where the cast's female character eventually get saddled with younger "child" characters for her to mother over and show maternal guidance to, usually happening sometime following her first season on the air. Examples of this include Smurfette, who eventually found herself involved with the "smurflings" and little Sassette, and Pammy Panda in Shirt Tales, who ended up watching over a young kangaroo named Kip.

The Parent/Elder Syndrome

Similar to "The Little Mommy Syndrome", except this time already existing successful characters suddenly either have children (The Pink Panther and Sons) or nephews/nieces (Donald Duck). Sometimes said characters are actual familes with both parents present when they have said children (The Flintstones); more often than not these days, though, they are not, probably in an attempt to be PC with all those single-parent kids out there. Which leads us to...

The Dead or Missing Parent Syndrome

Related to both "The Little Mommie Syndrome" and "The Parent/Elder Syndrome" when a young character is presented with having either only one one parent or none at all, not always with an explanation. Sometimes the writers will toss out the ever-convenient "orphan" label to explain the situation, other times the mother or father will simply not be around.

Wisecracking Kids

Now this one speaks for itself. Sarcastic youth characters cracking wise beyond their years, and it has always been a popular entertainment staple.

The Narrating Character

Popular in superhero cartoons such as The Superfriends, in which the main character will persistently talk/think aloud to themselves explaining everything they do just to be sure that tots of all ages at home can understand precisely what's going on. I don't know about you, but I think that if a real superhero was always running around pulling this stunt they'd get institutionalized.

Reused Animation

An instance in which actual animation from a studio's previously existing output will be reused for a newer production by simply tracing the new characters over the older animated sequences in an effort to save time, money and energy. My two all-time favorite examples of this have to be the "Phony King of England" musical sequence from Disney's Robin Hood in which Maid Marian's dancing was lifted directly from Snow White's cottage party while the animals playing instruments were likewise lifted from The Aristocats, and the personal guilty pleasure cartoon The Brady Kids, whose band movements were lifted from Filmation's earlier production The Archies (only Cindy Brady required new instrument-playing movements).

Reused Battle Footage

Similar to "Reused Animation" when a character in an action series is either in battle or getting prepared to go into battle and will have an extremely specific, highly-detailed piece of animation played every time as they do. Once an episode fulfills all the government requirements, but doing it several times an episode is not at all uncommon. Examples include He-Man and She-Ra's transformation sequences, G-Force transformation sequences in Battle Of The Planets, and Lion-O's sword bit in Thundercats, not to mention the Tigersharks preparing to go into an underwater adventure.

The Repetitive Motion Syndrome

Similar/related to both the above Reused Animation and Reused Battle Footage, in which animation will be created specifically to be reused every single time such a scene for its action is needed. Incredibly popular with cartoons based on musical concepts, such as Josie and The PussycatsThe Jackson 5 and The Osmonds, in which specific movements involving dancing and playing instruments were created specifically for use in every episode's musical interludes to represent the act's performances, often with both background and colour variation added.

Market Tested, a.k.a. MT

A horrendous blight on the creative process in which marketers, having been allowed to run amok in this country for a long time now with their control, do all they can to shape/change/force an entire concept as much as possible to supposedly be more "marketable" according to their ever-oh-so-very-precious marketing data. As a result, fewer and fewer artists are allowed to properly have their say. Sometimes an entire concept is hijacked in mid-presentation and twisted entirely into something else (witness the creation of The Partridge Family in 2200 A.D.), other times designs are specifically created around the notion of, say, how the characters would look as toys and are resultingly given shockingly inappropriate colour schemes and details (Tiny Toon Adventures -- Dizzy Devil was made pink/lavender with a spinning beanie on top simply because it was decided by marketers that it would make him look great as a toy, and both Calamity Coyote and Little Beeper were given shoes to wear in order to appease shoe advertisers). Yes, it's stupid. And just how much longer this nightmare will continue is anyone's guess, particularly when one of MT's most notorious weapons is still the...

Focus Group, a.k.a. FG

This diabolical concoction is one of the worst evils plaguing the world today. For those who don't know, a focus group is a select group of individuals who are hired to watch a specific new movie/cartoon/show in order to test their reaction to it. After viewing, they are given a form to fill out in which to answer various questions on what they personally liked, didn't like, what they would personally want to see more of, etc. Scenes and content are then re-edited, re-shot and generally changed around in an attempt to match the reactions of the focus group's participants in an appalling attempt to make it as market-friendly as possible, usually against the wishes of the project's creators. Rsponsible for approximately 98% of the glop haunting the entertainment industry today.

FGTD, a.k.a. Focus Group-ed To Death

An incredibly lousy film/cartoon/show which has obviously been put through so many focus groups in an attempt to "fix" it that any notion of an appealing idea that its creators may have had or intended has been completely destroyed. You can spot these a mile away; you know the ones, they are usually trumpted as a would-be instant hit upon first release only to vanish just as quickly without a trace.

The Damsel in Distress

*Ahem*... no explanation needed, I take it? I mean, we all know this one, right? Right? ;)

Trendy Content

This one's probably a no-brainer, and it's certainly not unique to cartoons, but I'm mentioning it anyway simply because it's so pervasive.

Product Placement, or PP

You all know this one. Subliminal advertising, cartoons, movies and books based on toys... it all went crazy in the 80s when for the first time the merchandising tail was allowed to wag the dog. It finally hit it's most ridiculous extreme when a designer clothes mascot was allowed to have his own show (Rude Dog and The Dweebs).

Celebrity Placement

A cartoon either starring or has as (a) guest star/stars based on real-life popular motion picture and television personalities (not to be confused with satirical gag-based celebrity appearances in shows such as Tiny Toon Adventures or Animaniacs). Examples include The Brady Kids, the previously mentioned Partridge Family in 2200 A.D., the appearance of "The Partridge Kids" in Goober and The Ghost Chasers, The Harlem Globetrotters, Fonz and The Happy Days Gang, and The All-New Scooby-Doo Movies, which featured a guest star every episode.

The Celebrity Vanity Project

Similar to "Celebrity Placement", except in this case the celebrity in question usually has complete personal control. Possibly the most famous example of this is Little Rosie, which was personally created by Roseanne Barr after gaining television fame. Other examples technically include programs such as Mr. T, but these were usually done with good intentions, such as helping children learn how to defend themselves or a moral.

Stolen Concept

I'm sure I don't have to go into much detail on this one. A cartoon attempting to copy as close as possible (or at the very least the success of) an existing television property, a smash hit cartoon, best-selling book, series, movies, or for that matter anything that becomes popular simply because a competing company/studio wanted a piece of the pie. (And how many wanna-be Smurfs competitors did we get during the first three or so frantic years of USA-based Smurfmania alone???)

Stolen Gag

When a cartoon (usually produced in Hollywood) deliberately steals a gag from an earlier property. In many cases this has become so commonplace that it can be a shock when one discovers new ideas for gags present in what they're observing simply because they are so used to the repetition.

Recycled Gag

Related to the "Stolen Gag", only in this case a studio is deliberately choosing to recycle it's own previously-used gags. This tended to happen particularly in cartoons originally designed for theatrical release, such as Looney Tunes shorts, simply because it was easier to get away with it as they were fewer and further between at the time.

Stolen Storyline

Related to "Stolen Concept", "Stolen Gag" and "Recycled Gag", only this time it's plots. Now to be fair, lifting plots goes all the way back to Shakespeare, but ever since television came on the scene it got particularly ugly, and has only grown uglier ever since.


Self-explanatory, I'm sure.

The Endlessly Repeating Background

A common device used to simulate walking or travelling in which a background specifically designed to repeat itself is inserted into the background and shot as a "loop", usually with the characters moving/travelling on the foreground. Every once in a while, you'll see a really sloppily-designed such occurance in which you can physically see the shift between the end and restart of the background used, such as an episode of Star Blazers (Space Cruiser Yamato) when The Star Force encountered a planet with a phony sun rotating around it: watch the scene when they are observing for the first time the wilted planets on the surface below.

Great Opening, Lousy Quality Thereafter

A truly irritating act in which a studio will go all out to give high-quality animation to a show's opening title sequence while the actual show itself has ultracheap production values in a shameless attempt to make the program seem better animated and of a higher quality than it actually is. One of the worst examples of this is Thundercats, which takes the time to create a (mostly) high-quality opening theme song routine, but features horribly chintzy animation within its episodes. Well, except for the sword-transformation bits that is (see "Reused Battle Footage"). Say what you will about a stupid show like He-Man and The Masters of the Universe; at least its level of quality was decently consistent throughout.

The Have-Your-Cake-And-Eat-It-Too Syndrome

A cartoon basically trying to please both audiences and teachers/parents/moralists/etc. at once by finding ways to stick in educational/teaching material into an show otherwise trying to simply entertain. Examples of this include He-Man and She-Ra, in which each episode concluded with one of the characters injecting a moral into that particular episode regarding morals and common sense, and Silverhawks, which featured snippets teaching various scientific facts. This was done more and more often as PTA groups and the like continued to get numerous laws passed regarding the "necessity" of including educational material along with children's programming. (Incidentally, this situation finally reached ridiculous heights when at the close of the 80s live action shows such as Saved By The Bell were introduced and were classified by the networks as "educational material" in order to appease the demand of the new laws even though those shows never featured any educational material in them whatsoever -- and got away with it. Which only goes to show just how "intelligent" such would-be moral guardians were in the first place.)

"If It's Ugly, It Sells."

A trend that started taking off around the time The Cabbage Patch Kids were introduced; suddenly every toy company and cartoon studio wanted to create something ugly because it was regarded by some in the general public as a form of rebellion against traditonal Americana. Sometimes it just happened to be that way simply because that's the way its creator's personality was (The Simpsons) and could at least claim to be honest... more often than not, though, it wasn't. And even though such material still tries to wear the "rebellious" mantle, it is so pervasive by now that it has become absorbed into even the squarest segments of culture and has become "the new normal", meaning that more often than not we tend to be shocked these days when someone actually wants to create something that's honestly beautiful.

"If It's Gross, It Sells."

Directly related to the above, only this time the rule applies to material that's deliberately considered gross. This really started gathering speed around the time of the Beetlejuice cartoon. All of the above points for "If It's Ugly, It Sells" apply here too, of course.

"If It's Japanese, It Sells."

Do I really need to explain this one?

The Muppet Babies Syndrome

An inane trend that started with The Muppet Babies. Not only did this show effectively kill the actual Muppet Show overnight, it did far worse damage. After an imaginary flashback of the muppets as babies was introduced in the motion picture The Muppets Take Manhattan and a hit award-winning cartoon resulted, suddenly we were all flooded with cartoons featuring already-established characters who had been "reduced in age". The Tom & Jerry Kids Show, Yo, Yogi!, The Flintstone Kids... the list goes on and on. Hanna-Barbara, not surprisingly, tended to be the worst offenders in establishing this programming trend. Tiny Toon Adventures did all it could to technically not proclaim itself the same thing, but it still counts anyway as it has the exact same intentional mindset no matter how much some of the writers did all they could to take the time slot they were given and run with it.

"This Way!"

Roger Ebert has pointed this out about all-too-many movies, but it's also common in many cartoons as well so I'm mentioning it, especially since it's so ridiculous. It involves a situation in which the male character present with a female character will (sometimes by taking the female character's hand) set off on his way while she follows meekly along behind him. As nutty as this is, it's especially hilarious when it happens in a show that all-too-obviously has it making even less sense than usual, such as an episode of a Superfriends cartoon starring Wonder Woman, or Jana of The Jungle, in which the female character in question is obviously far more gutsy, strong, and well-equipped to handle risky situations than the male character is himself.

"Follow Me."

Similar to "This Way!", only in this case it can, and often does, also involve more than just two characters. While it can happen in also any situation offered, it is particuarly popular with mystery/adventure serials. The male character present who is either the eldest or the biggest will start leading the way and everybody else follows obediently after him; a female character with the same characteristics will do this only if there's no male present. Often the female characters will do so with their front hands outstretched before them in an act of caution during risky/adventurous situations, the more nerdy and less physically able ones will start either theorizing on the possibilities of the situation at hand or swapping wisecracks, and the most obviously uncomfortable/frightened one(s) will take the rear, usually glancing backwards over his/her/their shoulder(s), terrified of someone/something possibly sneaking up from the rear. Which leads us to our next subject...

The Shaggy Syndrome

Related to the above, in which virtually all groups of characters who might otherwise be taken seriously need at least one cowardly/bungling character for comic relief. Even in superhero cartoons like The Superfriends this idea was injected even though such characters were never necessarily included with the original inspirational material, so sidekicks were invented from scratch.

The Brainy Chick

Also related to the above but on the opposite end of the scale, most such groups also need at least one really brainy chick who knows their stuff and to deduce all of the most ingenious solutions/conclusions for her pals. They can be designed to be either attractive (think Captain Caveman and The Teen Angels) or nerdy (Velma of Scooby Doo fame), all depending on the producers' personal whims on which is most appropriate. And sometimes they aren't even allowed to tag along at all (remember Clue Club's youngest whiz kid?).

"I'm Here For Political Reasons."

An instance in which a particular type of character is included simply due to political/trendy reasons. For example, in 1983 when the short-lived ground Menudo became popular, not only did they get little "educational" song snippets in-between Saturday morning cartoon programming on ABC, but all the new cartoons themselves resultingly either had a hispanic family in the starring role (Rubik The Amazing Cube) or thrown in as an afterthought extra (The 13 Ghosts of Scooby Doo), and while I certainly didn't mind seeing more latino characters in cartoons, the fact that they were being tossed in just to cash in on the brief Menudo as a form of PP struck me personally as being flat out insulting and bordering on racism. Also see Animaniacs, in which the main starring characters, The Warner Brothers (a concept that actually made sense), had a sister tossed into the mix for absolutely no reason whatsoever other than concerns (which interrupted the execution of the concept and caused it to make no sense whatsoever). Not that Dot wasn't expressive and entertaining once the writers got hold of her, but isn't it kind of sexist to toss a character into the cast simply because she's female?

Speech Impediment

Having a wacky voice goes all the way back to the times of Mickey Mouse and Steamboat Willie, but these days it's often seen as a sign of desperation to add "personality" into a character who otherwise lacks a proper personality as opposed to being a natural fit. Everybody wants to create the next Donald duck or Goofy, but jeez, you need to start with a heck of a lot more than just a voice (although it could be argued that Goofy started that way and was later allowed to develop as a bit character before finally hitting it big).

Thursday, May 31, 2012

"Timid" would be a far more appropriate title.

Pixar Studios
Kelly Macdonald, Emma Thompson, Kevin McKidd
Pixar, you dunce, you coward, you spineless know-it-all know-nothing, you've really done it this time. It's amazing just how much this studio is full of itself and how convinced it is of its own supposed brilliance. Every time they release a new piece, they just get stupider and stupider. And now with Brave, even I'm surprised by how lowly they've gotten.

People who check out my page already know that I rip Pixar to shreds on a regular basis, and not just because of their previously-mentioned theft of my own work either, but this particular project really stinks, its stench so wretched with even more unoriginality than usual that it actually manages to make their previous trash look brilliant by comparison. For a movie called "brave", Brave isn't brave at all; in fact, it may very well be their most coldly and commercially calculated product to date. All calculation and no heart as usual, Pixar has their stubborn formulas even more firmly rooted than ever.

Don't be fooled by all of those trailers trying to make it look like this is about a bold princess archer trying to beat the bad guys in a tournament with a scene that hints at her whupping their collective villain butts in battles to come (as the oh-so-clever advertising so evilly wants you to believe). The story is anything but. And, as is the norm for Pixar, it rips off more sources carefully picked to appeal than your average Britney Spears album.

It involves a Scottish princess named Merida (Kelly Macdonald) who's one of those, ahem, newfangled princesses who's an annoyance to their parents, the well-meaning Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson) in particular, by refusing to want to be what a traditional princess is supposed to be like in their eyes and instead would much rather be out riding around, practicing her archery and the like. Gee, we haven't seen this kind of character before, now, have we?

Anyway, after mention of a legend about a prince (of course), a tournament is held for all those who wish to compete for her hand in marriage and, you guessed it, only certain types are allowed to participate who measure up to the King and Queen's personal traditional standards and, again you guessed it, they're all as ugly and unappealing as sin. One of them lucks out and manages to hit the bullseye, but because she doesn't want to marry the poor sap she announces that she will then compete for her "own hand" to get out of the deal, fires an arrow and perfectly splits the winner's own. Disney's animated Robin Hood, anyone? And even in Matrix-style slow motion, yet. Snore.

Her mother is pissed, of course, so off goes annoyed Merida into the forest where she eventually runs into some old witch -- you know, the type who always seems to be conveniently on hand for movies like this -- who whips up a little something to change Merida's mother around. And does it ever: after eating it, it turns The Queen Mum into a bear, the King discovers and, instead of puzzling over the fact that a bear has mysteriously appeared in the castle and wanting to investigate the situation intelligently, especially since his own daughter seems to have a very apparently guilty hand in the situation somehow and obviously may be responsible, immediately and stupidly declares on impulse instead that this is a good excuse to practice his hunting skills as he just loooooves to hunt bears, Merida and Mama Bear escape off into the forest, and from that point on the whole thing begins ripping off all sorts of ideas straight out of Brother Bear for the rest of the movie just for extra good measure, trying hard to only hit what Pixar felt were the "appealing" parts of that earlier effort.

Blah blah blah, Merida helps her mother catch fish and eat properly in the wild, blah blah blah, witch has completely disappeared without even leaving behind a proper name, much less her forwarding address, phone number or even her email for that matter, simply vanishing because, again, she's the type of witch who's always called on to pull such stunts in a movie like this, blah blah blah, gotta break the spell somehow, blah blah blah, thrashing about in the wood, blah blah blah blah blah. Does it go without saying that the family triplets also got into the same Witch's Junk Food prepared for Mama Bear and all become bears themselves, and for pret-ty much no reason whatsoever other than the fact that the resulting toys should be extremely marketable? And what about that previously-mentioned prince? Think we'll ever run into him? Or, to be more precise, what happened AFTER he got himself into trouble? And boy is he ever pissed.

Notice how the mom doesn't become something truly horrendous, like an ogre -- which, come to think of it, Shrek already beat to death far into the ground already -- but instead something cute and loveable and sooo TOTally marketable. Every single little move programmed and toy-ready to the max. And, again of course, you just KNOW that in the process of all this gruel Merida is gonna realize that she's never gonna have probs with her mother again, she's grateful for her and loves her just as she is after the inevitable happy ending. Thoughts to live by. And good for the kiddies, and especially the PC movie watchdogs who scare modern studios to pieces, to hear. How very challenging for the audiences of today.

What swill.

And the biggest insult? Talk about that Pixar high horse: their "big achievement" here that they keep blathering on about is how this is their first movie with a female lead. Ooooh, big deal. Like that hasn't been done before either... I wouldn't make such a big stink about it if it weren't for the fact that they trumpet that fact as though it's groundbreaking genius! As though they thought up the whole notion of doing such a thing in the first place! What sort of vacuum do those idiots live in, anyway?! THIS is "genius"?? And a princess, too... gosh... no marketing intentions there either, I suppose?

What a cowardly movie. Even after all these years, Pixar still refuses to do anything even slightly different, imaginative or challenging. Pathetic. And, sadly, I'm sure it will also most likely do very well.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

I hate to say it, but it's true.

Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures
Bakshi Productions

I was going to be nice about this subject, but as I'm incredibly cyncial about this thing I'm just going to start off by saying the very first thought in my mind: if I hear yet another animation "expert" praise this thing for "saving us from the American cartoon rut" I'm gonna hurl.

Ralph Bakshi's Mighty Mouse had a simple premise, one that all those idiots reading "rebellious" and "alternative" statements into it fail to accept: he simply got the rights to create a new Mighty Mouse cartoon, hired a group of artists to do so, and simply let them have at it and do whatever they wanted to do. Now this is, of course, the way that cartoons are supposed to be produced in the first place; and it backs up my statements regarding the fact that anything made with artistic honesty, no matter what its quality, will automatically get top bill in the eyes of the public over anything else simply because audiences in this country are starved for it. And unfortunately, it also proves my statements regarding the results of all the interlopers who then jump on the bandwagon, which I briefly discussed here.

Now when it first came out, I was just finishing up high school, and I was just as intrigued by its look as everyone else and learned from it, although I seriously began to outgrow it around mid-'92 or so. But technically speaking, this thing hasn't aged well at all, and it seriously looks threadbare. These days it appears to be an '80s relic more than anything else. But while it is indeed true that it has been monumentally influential, that's the whole problem with the thing in the first place. I never thought I'd say this back then, but after seeing the results now I have no problems with doing so although a part of me pains to do it:

In the end, Bakshi's Mighty Mouse was NOT good for cartoons.

Ever since this thing came out, we've gotten all sorts of glop that ended up transforming the entire North American animation style into ugly, primitive designs, and after it begat junk like The Simpsons and Bakshi's protegee Jon Kricfalusi went off and followed suit afterwards by creating that godawful flash-in-the-pan hit Ren & Stimpy (whose popularity even HE hated), which was basically Mighty Mouse's style taken to its most nauseating extremes, we're never heard the end of it. Now EVERYTHING that gets produced here just HAS to have buttcracks, fart jokes, vomiting and so-called "outrageous" design. And all the beauty and lushness of the North American cartoon has all but been completely destroyed.

Am I blaming Bakshi's Mighty Mouse for all the toilet-humour-ridden sludge we've been forced to put up with in the decades since its creation? Yeah, I pretty much am. These days, you get mocked for doing anything in good taste; I actually had an extremely arrogant woman get after me for creating G-rated cartoons, telling me, "Cartoonists HAVE to put in rude humor and designs in it, otherwise everyone's going to think they're some kind of child molester." It's actually come to THAT, folks. This slop has become so commonplace that people actually believe that it's "the new normal". Is there a more insulting statement than that said woman's comment?

Vastly overrated to Nirvana's Nevermind extremes, this thing has landed us all in hot water and deserves to be forgotten once and for all. Bakshi's intentions were fine and good, but the overall message of "let the artists have their say" was once again grossly misinterpeted and as a result the show ended up completely ruining the North American cartoon. Just completely and thoroughout ruined it. This show is The Yoko Ono Stereotype of the entire North American animation industry. I can't even talk about it anymore, it's too depressing.

(NOTE: The reason I use the term "The Yoko Ono Stereotype" as opposed to just saying "The Yoko Ono" is to make sure it's perfectly understood that I have personally never believed the whole stereotype that she singlehandedly "broke up The Beatles" and am therefore referring to the stereotype itself, not the actual artist.)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

One of the most outraging shocks of my life: discovering Pixar had stolen my picture and concept for their "original" movie Up

Directed by a plagurist named Pete Docter
Written by a thief named Bob Peterson
96 minutes
Rated PG (for some peril and action, as well as teaching children that you can make a fortune off of stealing someone else's idea)

[NOTE: This is where I usually share a publicity still of the movie in question that I happen to be reviewing and commenting on. This time, for obvious reasons, I simply refuse to do it.]

I cannot begin to tell you how much this release enrages me.

For those of you out there who have not yet heard; Pixar, who had already established a track record for ripping off other people's characters, concepts and ideas, STOLE MY PICTURE AND CONCEPT FOR THIS MOVIE.

What had happened was this:

Back in 1987 when I was still living in the Tri-Valley of the Bay Area, there was a restaurant over in the Target parking lot of Dublin called The Big Yellow House. It looked exactly like its name and was a victorian-style two story building, and it looked gorgeous both on the outside and inside. I had gotten to eat there a handful of times due to my parents being fans of it, and one night after one of those visits I came up with a project idea while I had the Willy Wonka song Pure Imagination spinning around in my head; and because I still had a delight for the concept of having my cartoon characters travel by balloon, especially since falling in love with the record cover of Prince & The Revolution's Around The World In A Day, why not a series of houses?

So I began creating a series of sketches for such a project to be used for its cover and "main" pages. The centerpiece for the book's cover was a yellow house inspired by the Big Yellow House Restaurant being carried lovingly away through the clouds by multicoloured heart-shaped balloons. I called the book Free. I was hoping to eventually use it to raise money for charity, which has always been my lifelong goal with my work. The title was designed to be white and gracefully giving the impression of being written in the sky above as though it were written from air and cloud, and while no characters would be present in the actual cover, they would become visible upon opening the cover in a closeup of the house itself. Other airloft houses and designs would also decorate and engage the reader to encourage the notion of emotional and physical freedom, a peacful reflection to refresh the spirit of whoever looked at it.

After having copies of it mailed to myself via registered mail to protect it, I put it away for future completion as 1998 brought on the whole mess of my family's disaster and implosion, suddenly having to move away and my whole life immediately being thrown into chaos.

One day a certain individual from England who now had my business card, whom I now wish with all my heart and soul I had never met due to all the trauma he ended up causing me, asked to see some of the samples of my work that I had been creating over the years, and I was happy to share them. Certain pictures he asked if he could have copies of because he enjoyed them so much, and, as was my custom at the time, I said yes, of course. One of those pictures was the main cover illustration for Free. I had told him that he was allowed to have copies so long as he promised not to show them to anyone.

So guess what? Soon afterward I had found out the creep had posted several of my pictures (along with my name, address and telephone number!) on something I was unfamiliar with at the time called the internet, and had even handed several such pictures over to other peoples' personal amateur book publications for inclusion!

I demanded to know what he thought he was doing, and it was obvious that he was stubbornly convinced that he was supposedly "doing me a favor" by giving me "exposure".

At first it seemed fairly simple to get rid of most of them, but my cover for Free was apparently a popular one: it kept popping up on the web all over the place! I can't begin to tell you how many years I spent chasing it down and telling people to remove it, how hard I tried so hard to protect my baby, but then finally around 2002 or so, it seemed that I had finally managed to get it permanently removed. Thank God, I thought to myself, now it's safe again. Or so I thought. But years later I would learn that my troubles were only magnified.

Fast forward to just a few years ago: imagine my shock and horror when one day I was going to work and saw, right in front of my eyes, MY OWN PICTURE STARING BACK AT ME IN A MOVIE POSTER FOR AN UPCOMING PIXAR THING CALLED "UP"!

I just stared at it in sheer outrage and horror. It was my exact house. My exact concept. The lettering style I had created for my title had been stolen. Even the clouds in the background were in the exact same formations! Everything, EVERYTHING, was exactly the same. The only two differences were (a) the balloons were now normally-shaped ones as opposed to heart-shaped, and (b) it was digitally created by computer as opposed to hand-drawn. Apart from that, exactly the same.

Can you imagine how I felt when I saw that?

I had already watched for years as Pixar would steal ideas, characters and concepts before, but I never once thought they would take advantage of and steal from a penniless charity artist.

Current circumstances which cannot be discussed here prevent me from being able to actually sue, but let me just say that I politely discussed the situation with certain people immediately after discovering it, explaining that I have legal proof in my possession. Afterwards, I have noticed little alterations made since in the film's advertising. The original movie poster advertising for Up which was blatantly stolen from me now tends to be replaced with a different picture of the house up in the sky at the top left corner of the photograph and the film's three main characters hanging off its bottom with a hose. The title graphic now tends to have a smaller graphic of a ballooned house placed within the center of the letter "P" so as to create a bit of difference from my own. And the current DVD boxes are far different still.

However, nothing will mollify me from this situation. That's my concept up there. That's my idea. And it really makes me sick that others clearly lacking in imagination, talent and inspiration would stoop so low. If any of those people involved, ANY of them, tell you that it's an original idea and how they supposedly came up with Up entirely on their own then they are lying. Plain and simple.

What do I want? I don't want their damn money. I couldn't care less about that. What I want is for them to have the balls to GIVE ME CREDIT HERE. Which, so far, I have yet to see them do.

It has taken me quite a while to control my sheer outrage over the situation to actually sit down here and write about this whole nonsense. I ended up having to sit through this thing one day while waiting to have my teeth worked on, so I'll go ahead and attempt to remark on my reaction to the story itself.

The actual script, which has been praised to death by sheeple critics for reasons I still can't fathom considering how very Pixar-traditionally calculated it is, starts off with two children who both have a strong desire to see the world, especially after seeing footage of an explorer named Charles Muntz (and also after seeing my own illustrations, apparently) who disappears after attempting to prove that he discovered a "lost world". Ho hum, such originality. The kids' names are Carl and Ellie. They grow up, fall in love, have a big Yellow House, and suddenly they are elderly, Ellie is gone, and Carl has pretty much closed himself off. Deciding that enough is enough and that he's going to at least make that One Special Trip he and Ellie had been hoping on all their lives, he attaches the balloons and attempts to fly there, accidentally bringing along a scout kid in the process, and reach Paradise Falls, which is basically a weird patchwork of ideas and goals stolen from countless other films, not to mention an annoying take on the usually lovable idea of talking dogs.

Yawn, same old, same old. Does this sound like Pixar just threw together a bunch of claptrap in order to have an excuse of a story to hang my idea on to? Of course it does, because that's precisely what it is. I have yet to see Pixar do anything unique or original, apart from the original way that they keep ruining the industry with their recycled trash, and Up is no different. I remember how people used to (and in some circles still do) criticize Spielberg for attempting "deliberate button pushes" instead of honest emotion, and that phrase precisely describes the stunt that Pixar is known for doing. I think it says something that I recently saw a comment on a trailer for their new upcoming movie Brave (which I'm sure is also "borrowed" from yet another source) that remarked, "If it weren't for the fact that it has Pixar's name on it, I wouldn't at all be interested in it." Uh, hello? Whatever happened to individual thinking? Why should you feel obligated to go see something just because Pixar's name is on it if it doesn't look like it interests you at all? But that's another topic for another day.

Meanwhile, as for my book Free, I still plan on publishing it eventually. And when I do, I am not altering its illustrations, much less its cover, in the slightest. It IS my idea and book, after all. And I WILL release it precisely as it was intended.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Tiny Toon Adventures: It bears the famous "WB" logo. So what?

We all know the real reason why television critics at the time all wet their pants over Tiny Toon Adventures, so I won't go into any of that, except to say that if I had been one of those studios putting out some of those other shows back then, such as My Little Pony or The Care Bears, or any of the competitors attempting to knock down The Smurfs such as Herself The Elf or even the televised version of The Littles for that matter (or, duh, Disney's Tale Spin), who were all doing the exact same product placement attempts at letting the merchandising tail wag the dog and sucking every bit as bad at it, I'd have strongly considered slapping Spielberg's name on to my product too. Let me just say that the animators whom the show's episodes were farmed out to were fast making it at least seventy-five percent of the time the worst looking production that the beloved Warner Brothers name had ever produced. I mean, they didn't even have half the fraction of natural ability of a Ralph Bakshi (much less a Chuck Jones), so they went all out trying to bust the show's guts open with nutty exaggerated actions and behaviour which were completely over the top and filled with motions that were convinced the actions and expressions themselves were funny as opposed to realizing that it was what was being reacted to that had made such techniques hilarious in the first place.

The program does have it's occasional (in a "classic" way) moments (i.e. strange ideas here and there), and if I'm charitable I might also say the same thing regarding the cameos of the traditional WB crew (who are all being drawn by hacks who obviously couldn't draw a Looney Toons character to save their souls). However, since this show has yet to this very day to do anything that progresses beyond the obvious (skunks chasing anyone with a white mark of some kind going down their backs, recycled Road Runner gags, egotistical ducks, etc.), and since the writers are not being allowed to cut loose and do their own thing while being shackled to this glop except for maybe a small handful of genuinely entertaining cartoons (the whole "Plucky Duck Goes To Hollywood" bit, which remains the grooviest of the bunch), and since the current "resurrected" WB studio is too paranoid to relinquish marketing control just as stupidly as everybody else, why split hairs/hares?

In Tiny Toon Adventures, the producers created a personal so-called "original" excuse for using the precise same formula of "character age reduction" so inanely popular at the time thanks to The Muppet Babies by claiming that these little imps were supposedly a whole new generation and then turned said "new" characters into overly calculated, recycled cash machines. Cartoon lovers, turning the television set off when this thing comes on will not make you uncool, I promise you.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Glen Keane was without a doubt one of the rudest, most stuck up people I've ever met.

You may have seen a previous post of mine on here and wondered why it is that I am completely unimpressed by Glen Keane. Well, I'm more than happy to share that information.

Back in the early 1990s when I was just getting started what with my first gigs and all, I was still hoping to make friends in the industry (and I've already posted why I eventually gave that dream up) and hoped to meet at least one fellow artist in the animation industry who was a Christian.

Now, I have never been one to be into animation "names", if you know what I mean. I'm not wowed by names. I've never been one to "go Hollywood" (which I'm assured is an advantage for me personally). I've simply been into characters, works and pictures. I've enjoyed tons of characters and the way they were animated while barely knowing who was involved. Oh sure, I've seen all the interviews with the Disney "nine old men" on The Disney Channel back in the 80s, as I thought of such things part of my personal education. But when it comes to specific names or actual animators whom I may "admire", I really can't name many off the cuff apart from maybe one or two and even then I simply say "I tend to like their work in such-and-such" as opposed to actually "admiring" them. I did enjoy Ward Kimball's work for the most part, for instance, but I didn't consider him a personal "hero". Ditto Chuck Jones, whose work I learned from but hardly idolize. I'm just that way. I'm into works, not cartoonist's names.

So when I heard while at a certain location that there was some animator around named Glen Keane who was said to be a Christian, I was interested in talking to him just to see what he was like. I didn't even know who he was, and frankly I didn't care about whatever he may or may not have accomplished or what have you. I just knew that I was just told that he was in my field and was supposed to be a Christian. So I asked if I could be introduced.

He was brought up to me, and YEESH, I had never seen such a mean-looking face. He had this horrible scowl just permanently plastered on to his face. What an awful-looking person, I shuddered to myself. But hey, I immediately thought on the inside, looks can be extremely decieving, so let's say hi and see what happens.

I was told, "This is Mr. Glen Keane, whom I just mentioned. Glen, this is Mr. Craig Carrington."

I smiled and held out my hand as I said, "Hi, pleased to meet you."

He just looked at my hand a moment.

Instead of shaking it, he then looked me in the eye and said scowling, "Do you know who I am?"

I just looked at him and remained polite. "I was just told you're in the animation industry."

"And you are?"

"I'm an animator. I do charity work."

He immediately let out a loud sarcastic SNORT ...

...and simply walked past me on his way.

Talk about RUDE with a capital "R"!

To hell with him then, I immediately thought to myself. It doesn't matter who someone is or what they do, there's no excuse for flat out rudeness.

I was even less impressed when shortly afterward Disney's Pocahontas was released. I learned that apparently he was one of the "key" people of its production. Yet for someone who professes to be a Christian, he made absolutely no attempt to draw any attention to the famous heroine's Christianity, and even chose to "reimagine" her as a supermodel Barbie doll babe as opposed to the young 12-year-old she was at the time of meeting the married John Smith. What he and Disney have done to her may be the worst abuse Pocahontas has had to suffer of all the things and challenges she went through during her brief life.

I heard recently that he "thinks about scripture" when he draws. Uh huh. Sure he does. I suppose "thinking about scripture" was what possessed him to do what he did to Pocahontas? Sounds like a bunch of "I must look my best for the press" claptrap that is all too common (Hollywood types do far too much of it).

So as far as I'm concerned, I'll believe he's a Christian when he shows it. I have said many times that I don't care who someone is, what they do, what they claim to do or believe in; what matters to me is simply how they are as a human being on a personal level. And Glen Keane has shown me personally that he is an arrogant, self-important snob.

I have no time for such people. Therefore, the reason why I have nothing good to say about Glen Keane.

Monday, August 15, 2011

"Toy Story": the ripoff of the century

Hi, everybody! Just thought I'd go ahead and share with you all a wonderful memory I have of discovering a certain animated movie out there which really touches my heart and reminds me of a very special time in my childhood. :)

See, there was this movie that came out once upon a time, it was about a child who had a favorite toy and returns home from school in time for a birthday party. Meanwhile, what said child doesn't know is that toys are truly alive. They all live, move about, think and talk just like people do, but only when the coast is clear!

And the moment their owner has left the bedroom, they all talk excitedly about things and about how wonderful a birthday is...

...and suddenly one of the child's new birthday presents is in the room, a brand new toy, which is suddenly the center of attention! But that toy doesn't feel the slightest bit comfortable regarding fitting in with the others as some mere toy, not even being conscious that they are in fact a toy at all...

...and eventually the new toy becomes LOST SOMEWHERE OUT THERE BEYOND THE BEDROOM WINDOW! GASP!

So of course other toys have to go out and rescue the newcomer, while hoping at the same time that said newcomer toy finally comes to their senses in the process!

Ah, such wonderful memories I have of discovering this movie on television in 1981 by accident, I didn't even know it was on until accidentally stumbling across it late that one fateful summer night long after it had debuted in the theaters back in 1977, but since I was never taken to see it during its initial release I was indeed grateful to see it being broadcast just for me since Raggedy Ann and Andy: A Musical Adventure was long gone before I could have a chance to ask if I could go see it... what?

Huh? Wait a sec, what are you talking about? What do you mean, we're not talking about Raggedy Ann and Andy? What, you thought we were talking about some thing released by Pixar called Toy Story? Sorry pal, not in my neck of the woods.

Toy Story, as is everything else "created" (stolen) by Pixar, is a complete ripoff of that earlier film. The 1977 feature certainly had its flaws, but it was highly enjoyable nevertheless, especially when compared to the trash Hollywood hands us all these days. Everyone would normally be aware of this already except for the two facts that (a) the original film was a bomb due to kids' refusal to see G-rated films during the '70s, and (b) Pixar has by now built an entire Plagurist Empire upon Raggedy Ann's corpse. The only thing Pixar did not steal were the exact details connecting the plot's dots. Other than that, exactly the same concept with precisely the same basic plot.

There's one other difference between the two films as well. A big one. The original Raggedy Ann film was once described this way: "This film was hampered by an unfairly short production schedule and (Richard) Williams's own inexperience as a producer; at times it can really drag. At its best, though, it is hypnotic and lovely." In spite of its flaws, Raggedy Ann was nevertheless a very sweet and innocent piece of well-meaning animation. By comparison, Toy Story is remarkably sarcastic and mean-spirited. Certainly the visuals are nowhere near as gorgeous, and the music simply not as special as in the earlier 1977 production.

Toy Story could very easily have been renamed Raggedy Ann and Andy Gone Horribly Wrong. Or, perhaps, They Got Paid For Someone Else's Idea? Maybe just Bad Film-Making: with Guest Celebrity Voices. Actually, Trendy Nihilism seems to have the best ring to it.

Poor Raggedy Ann and Andy, having a $4 million dollar budget and top talent and yet being outsted by upstart hacks.

Think of that the next time you decide to go bonkers over Woody and Buzz at Disney World.