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.

Cars 2: It has finally begun.

Cars 2

Well, it's finally begun. I knew it would happen eventually, but now it's official.

After a strong opening weekend, Cars 2 TANKED. It immediately began plummeting disastrously off the top-grossing movie charts and has been declared Pixar's first critical bomb.

This is it, folks, the beginning of the crowd's finally realizing that the Emperor isn't wearing anything after all. It has taken over a decade and a half, but finally people are beginning to realize that Pixar is not the be-all-end-all talent that the press has been proclaiming them to be.

When I had to see it (and believe me, I wish to make it clear that I did not pay money to see this stupid movie -- that was someone else's responsibility, thank God), I honestly didn't think it was any better or worse than all of the rest of Pixar's junk; it was simply more of the same.

What happened is that people are finally wisening up. The calculated focus-grouped formula is finally beginning to stop working. And I personally think that one of the many reasons why critics for ages have all praised these things is because all the peer pressure made them feel forced to participate in proclaiming them masterpieces; they didn't want to appear as fogyish as they are. It certainly would not have been the first time this has happened with anything related to Hollywood (remember the fight over the "hot" script to Radio Flyer?).

I can't recall the source off the bat, but I read today somewhere some newspaper critic bemoaning that they "hope Pixar isn't succuming to the same sequel-itis that plagued Disney sequels". Uh, guess what? They've been doing that for years now! It's just that no one has wanted to admit it! What they've been doing is what every other studio often attempts to do when it decides to pull the insane stunt of "creating one movie a year": release sequels to keep output appearing while at the same time producing the next "real" project in the shadows. It doesn't work, and is always the kiss of death for any studio attempting to "keep up appearances", as the saying goes.

So now that critics and more of the general public are suddenly starting to realize that saying Pixar isn't perfect won't make them uncool after all, let's all watch and see what happens. Pixar may wobble back and forth for a little while with "Oh good, another hit! See? It was just a one-time fluke" and "What, again? Another bomb? Pixar, what happened to you?" before the dust finally settles and folks realize that they've been had.

But one thing's for sure: as far as the press is concerned, Pixar now finally has a chink in their armour. And that's never a good thing for any marketing franchise, which is what Pixar really is after all.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A near-perfect gauge with which to measure a decade's drop in quality

Fortunately the eighties were still a lot of fun and a thoroughly enjoyable decade despite a massive amount of lousy cartoons that flooded the market. There can be no doubt as to how sloppily the decade's quality for cartoons fell, and there are several ways to look at it:

You can see it as the decade when television cartoons were at least still trying to come up with some original ideas to present and ended with the merchandising tail wagging the dog.

You can look at it as starting when Battle of The Planets, the latest of a tiny handful of popular Japanese works, was a huge hit in 1980 and ended when Akira began to make its highly-publicized round on American theaters in 1990.

You can discuss it as when Disney was struggling to get people of all ages to not be embarrassed to admit they were going to a Disney animated feature in 1980 and were later kicking and screaming to get in to see the latest Disney animated feature in 1990.

You can view it as when NBC began having a hit lineup of Saturday morning cartoons in 1980 and eventually abandoned them all to go entirely live action after Saved By The Bell.

Or, if you really want to take a technical and literal look at it, you can take a look at the very first cartoon broadcast as 1980 began and compare it to the very last one aired as 1989 came to a close. I had originally hoped to do that, but unfortunately I just can't seem to get my hands on such information no matter how much I've tried over the years.

But I can do something fairly close to that. Let's take a look at the award-winning show The Smurfs.

At the beginning of the eighties, Peyo's delightful little blue elves made their appearance to American audiences and none of us were really prepared for just how much we'd all be won over by them, and for excellent reason. The original European comic strip was wonderful, and Hanna-Barbara did a surprisingly masterful job of adapting the Smurfs to the boob tube. Many of the stories were actually based on Peyo's own original tales, itself an unusual move for HB, with only slight alterations (Peyo understandably had final say on how everything was presented).

But as each year wore on, the network -- as networks always do -- were only interested in one thing: something new. Whether a new character or new concept, something had to be added to a show even if it was already an established hit, and The Smurfs was no exception. For the longest time, it was simply newly-added characters, but finally, the last season was a disaster as it yanked even the beloved fairy tale setting away.

So as a result, The Smurfs sets a pretty good gauge for how badly the quality of cartoons fell in general for the entire decade.


Ladies and gentleman, may I present for your examination and comparison what is said to be the series' very first entry and what is said to be its very last.

The very first prepared episode for the television Smurfs, I'm told, is the one of the three cartoons that graced the pilot and made an instant impact, "The Smurfette". This cartoon, which was of course necessary to broadcast immediately since it introduces the origin of one of the most popular stars of the show and of all time, is actually based upon one of Peyo's own original stories (despite his not being mentioned in its opening credits -- what, HB simply assumed everyone would know or something? I don't know, you tell me) and shows just how much respect HB had for the source material, and while it's true that there were some odd last minute bits shoehorned in at the last minute, the whole thing was so charming that these seemed minor quibbles. A ratings hit was born.

Fast forward to 1989. The episode that Smurf Scholars (hey, that's a pretty fun christening for someone out there, lol ;) ) assure me is the very last Smurfs cartoon created for television was "Hearts 'N' Smurfs", an embarrassment on all counts. The writing, the concept, the execution, and yes, even the animation have all dropped so badly here that you just want to shut the thing off in humiliation and hope to God that no one caught you watching it. Don't believe me? See it yourself.

So, in other words, if you look at how cartoons went downhill in that way... well, it looks really dismal.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Toy Story 3

Considering the fact that CGI has given Hollywood an even cheaper way than DIC enterprises and the like to furiously churn out more and more glut to dump into theaters everywhere, it's really sad that the public has to make do with something like Pixar, which continues to only remain average at best and yet succeeds simply because it's the only thing released that actually holds their attention throughout its entire running time. Still, you can understand Michael Eisner's having given Pixar a big push. Pixar's two major figureheads, Steve Jobs and John Lasseter, are both spoilt rich fat cats, are self-infatuated, and every bit as greedy and hungry for attention as he is: their movies, especially the Toy Story ones, are seen by advertisers as being major major godsends, because they allow lots of product placement opportunities that will allow them to sell lots and lots of toys. Pixar makes no bones about the fact that they see themselves as "hipper than thou" in the same way as such stuff as The Simpsons and The Family Guy, but even so, their sense of humor is slightly less obnoxious than much of the competition. And are they ever willing to play ball.

Eisner's gamble paid off big time. To this day, it has been impossible to get through a year without hearing some mention of Pixar, and their movies all rake in the moolah precisely as intended. Now, out of all of Pixar's films, I personally found Toy Story 2 to be the one with the most decent and straightforward script, even though it still followed all of their established formulas and hijinks right down to the letter. I wouldn't actually go out and buy it, but at least it's more watchable and better put together than the rest of their junk, especially the lousy A Bug's Life and the even worse Cars.

But whoever came up with the notion that "three's a charm" obviously never saw this latest offering, for there is precious little to be said for Toy Story 3, which is a horribly pessimistic plot concerning the toys being gotten rid of when college time finally arrives and comprises of a lot of wildly desperate attempts at humor and gags which were already all previously worn out in the late 80s after everyone else had gotten finished ripping them off or being "inspired by" the old Hanna-Barbera and Warner Brothers cartoons, and major major cameos of real toys as well as precious few new faces, each and every single detail marketing-ready to the max. This sort of thing all started with He-Man and The Masters of The Universe back in the mid-80s, and it's precisely the same old approach that we were all desperately trying to get rid of back then which turned nearly all of Saturday morning television and animated features into giant commercials/advertisements. Now and again, the Pixar company will attempt to touch on something remarkably tender for such a Cock Of The Walk, but their writers, a bunch of Groening and Kricfaluski wannabes, immediately and deliberately smother the brought-up subject matter with lots of "cool" humor to tell you how much they are above such a maneuver before you can savor the sentiments for very long.

In the end, I found Pixar's public utterances far more interesting that the actual movie itself. At one point I heard that Lasseter had supposed praised current new Disney kingpin Bob Igor for "staying true to the Eisner tradition" (when these guys play ball, hey, they play ball) and I once even ran into a Pixar cronie who remarked on how much he'd love to thank all the women all offering to sleep with him simply because he was with the company.

All in all, Pixar's latest film Toy Story 3, like all their other stuff, is in really about absolutely nothing whatever other than their constant quest for fame, power and money, money, money. Virtually every gag, every line, every character design and toy cameo and Oscar-seeking score in their arsenal feels strongly calculated to induce audiences everywhere to marvel and yell, "GOOOOO, PIXAR!!!" --and to spend more of their hard-earned money on Pixar product. In other words, Pixar releases are the Care Bears and My Little Pony movies with CGI and a wanna-be-trendy sense of humor.