Animation

danger_room_protocols  

I have to admit when the X-Men 90s cartoon was airing I was busy bopping around Boston and then towards the end getting married, so I missed this whole era.  To be honest the aesthetic really isn’t my thing, but I respect the kids who grew up around it that are completely devoted to the particular brand of action that the cartoon delivered and delivered well by all accounts.

Youtube user joelyface is putting together his own fan series and the results are fantastic.  Check out the video below to see a faithful recreation of the character designs and support him if you can.  

Let’s get some biases out of the way. I’ve spent the last few months hate watching Arrow. I’m a little reluctant to blame the show itself for my distaste. I expect I am being a fuddy duddy and am trying to project my long held understanding of the character onto Stephen Amell.

I’m not generally insistent that fantasy shows have any sort of basis in reality, but characters in Arrow consistently pull 180 degree morality turns.  Kill or not killers, I love you today, hate you tomorrow and love you again during the next story arc. The whole thing feels very frustrating.

The Flash shares some of these problems, but I find that enjoyable. I don’t think it went as far as it needed to in the first season, but now that the main arc is finished they may be able to explore some some of the more gonzo story lines, which is where the show excels.  That may be part of the problem with Arrow, because the show is trying to be grounded it may not be capturing my attention.  Moody, unshaven angst bores me while a telepathic, genetically modified gorilla causes me to cheer.

I have high hopes for DC’s Legends of Tomorrow, you can see their version of Hawkman and Hawkgirl above.  Hawkman looks a little like Batmanuel, but having more Tick in the world is never a bad thing.  LoT is a time travel show and I have long maintained that the only way to do a time travel show properly is to go full gonzo. A series of insane, confusing, logically suspect “I am my own grandpa” style of stories.  Doctor Who does this well, and LoT needs to follow suit.

I’m grateful to the Arrow for giving us these shows, but wish it could become more like them.  Maybe the CW will skip ahead a few years in the plot and do aging, on-armed, cantankerous Green Arrow from The Dark Knight Returns.  Now that would be good television.

Source: First Look at Hawkgirl & Hawkman’s “DC’s Legends of Tomorrow” Costumes – Comic Book Resources

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I will forgive you if you don’t remember this one. 

The Mighty Orbots cartoon ran from September to December in 1984. Most likely I saw every single episode, but am hard pressed to remember any sort of plot. I consumed everything related to giant robots and I couldn’t let this one pass by.

I remember thinking at the time that it felt like a sanitized version of the mecha anime I was used to, even compared to Transformers.  The animation is more sophisticated than I remember and it is clear that a Japanese studio was involved.  (TMS Entertainment

I expect that traditional US toy companies and network executives didn’t really understand why Japanese media was resonating with children and their attempt to capitalize on it was a tepid version of what was already available.  In the end it was sued out of existence by Tonka who was licensing the GoBots line from Japan and clearly copying elements from other toy lines including Godmars.  It lasted only thirteen episodes and the toys are nonexistent except for the rumor of prototypes and preview catalog pictures like the above.

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You will get some crusty ole’ individual who shakes their fist and insists that Huckleberry Hound was superior to the nonsense that is on TV days but this is colored by experience. I also legitimately feel the absence of the Saturday Morning Cartoon block. Aside from the warm comfort of nostalgia you can objectively see that the content, quality and morality of children focused animation has become progressively stronger. 

There is some argument that the decade old trend of non-sequitur in cartoons has weakened this trend, but even then I can argue that the intelligence of early Spongebob, Ren & Stimpy, and even Uncle Grandpa are still shoulders above the tepid toy driven programs of the eighties.

I love seventies and eighties cartoons and newer experiences will never take away from those experiences, try and watch some of these older programs though and they can become a bit tedious with adult eyes.  You will see repeated and reused animation sequences, plotlines that go nowhere or make no sense and dubious moral choices that would end in tragedy in real life.

Note that I am not talking about cartoons in the first half of the 20th century that were written and designed for adults before intrusive censorship and the idea that cartoons were only for children. In some ways modern animation reclaim this legacy, cartoons that have broad appeal but are clever enough to speak to both audiences without pandering to either.

Do shows like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, The Regular Show, Bee and Puppycat and so on spark your imagination or leave you wishing for days of yore? Please discuss in the comments or join us on Facebook

Source: Are today’s cartoons the best that kids’ television has ever been? | Polygon

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Possibly the greatest animator of our generation gets a loving tribute to his work.

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I somehow missed this as the song has been around for at least a year, but the animation makes it perfect.  Stick around for some of how the animation sausage is made.

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In what is beyond good news for old school anime fans Discotek has announced that they will be producing a new unabridged version of the 1976 giant robot classic Gaiking for the first time in North America.  Gaiking had been previously available in a horribly cut up version when I originally watched it as part of the Force Five programming block and later as a set of abridged DVDs from Shout Factory.

This new version that arrives next year with Japanese audio and English subtitles is a gift for long suffering anime fans like myself.  It will contain all of the character development (and probably filler) that a four decade old baseball themed robot anime can provide. 

Come celebrate with me by soaking in the original Japanese intro and let the glee of colorful giant mecha and monsters wash over you.

Source: Discotek Adds 1976 Gaiking, Wicked City Anime – News – Anime News Network

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Sometimes the world feels pretty gross.  Bad things happen to good people and sometimes people say some terrible things in response to the bad things that happen.  It can be pretty exhausting.  

I am acutely aware of the tragic nature of life, it is easy to get caught up in it. I need reminding that there are better things in the world aside from negativity and cynicism. Fiction seems to be where the optimism gathers.  If writers don’t like the world they experience they have the opportunity to craft one better.  These are not rose colored glasses covering the truth, but they tend to be worlds that represent the best of us, what we can become in our shining moments.    

When Rod Serling became frustrated working in traditional media he created the Twilight Zone, widely regarded as being some of the most challenging television material of the period. Concepts considered too intellectual or too controversial within the bounds of typical narrative became easier to digest within a world of distorted pig faced aliens or gremlins on the wings of planes torturing a lone man.

Humans (myself included) tend to not react well when confronted with change or concepts that are foreign.  This is the benefit of animation as a medium.  The simplified, illustrated humanoid form is abstract enough to experience the emotional content without awareness of confrontation. Note that I am speaking from personal experience rather than gathered data, I’ll let experts talk to the reality and numbers.

After what feels like decades of dark, gritty animation or shows that consisted of pure absurdity it feels like we have a block of shows now that speak to the concepts I mention above, optimism, hope and the struggle to maintain your innocence despite external circumstances.

There are multiple shows that fit this criteria, Adventure Time, Bee and Puppycat, anything that Lauren Faust has created in the past few years and anime like Girls und Panzer, lately I’ve been focused on Steven Universe.

From the promos Steven Universe looks like every other Cartoon Network program.  I would not be shocked if people just passed it by like I did thinking it was standard animation fodder. I finally decided to watch it because of the continued noise from social media regarding the show.

It was the second episode that made me a fan, I felt like I understood exactly what show creator Rebecca Sugar was trying to accomplish. 

Steven Universe has a simple fantasy structure.  A boy of limited ability living with three super powered caretakers going on a hero’s journey to achieve his destiny.  That setup could be any number of fantasy novels or movies in the past few decades, but Rebecca Sugar has turned this on its head by having our protagonist Steven ask questions and perform actions that any human can relate to.  

Where Adventure Time was a television show that celebrated play and childhood, Steven Universe is about the actual experience of growing up, of doubt and discovering that adults are just really taller children with a bit more time under their belt.  Every character here is deeply flawed without being discouraging and overwhelming. The battle is uphill but you know in your bones that they will succeed.  The skill in the writing is that you don’t really know how the character will get there, but you know that they will.  The characters come in every shape, size and temperament and there is bound to be one that your child and you as an adult can connect with.

Despite the outrageous framework Steven is a very real child, arguably one of the most realistic children on television and this has been compelling to children and adults alike.  Steven Universe is a my prime example for how television has changed and overcome the eighties and nineties toy driven properties that had little impact outside of amusement.

In a tweet the other day, I had said that Steven Universe was more grounded than most prime time television and I meant this wholeheartedly.  Just like Rod Serling did decades ago with difficult moral choices and warnings against losing your humanity Steven Universe does with hope, optimism and making childhood a little less frightening.

In this case I’m giving the same advice that I normally give to parents about video games. Invest in challenging media for your children and engage with them.  Watch cartoons, perform a role, get nerdy about speculating about plot points and connections, write your own stories about the characters. In essence play just like your children are playing.  

I think parents often complain about the declining attention spans and television being vapid, but the kids who sat in front of a blue glow with a bowl of sugary cereal on Saturday mornings have grown up to create some important stories.  At first glance you may not be able to recognize them as such, but I promise, you will be rewarded.

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One of the great traditions of a seventies/eighties childhood was sitting in front of the cool blue glow of the television on Saturday morning in footie pajamas with a bowl of crunchy, colored sugar.  Alas, this great ritual is now lost as those darn fangled children can watch cartoons when ever they want on the Huluflix or the Nettubes.  

On any given Saturday you would also see the same PSAs over and over again for a period of years.  So much that we all know the songs and can likely sing along.  Here is my favorite.  Bonus points if you can sing the whole thing to the end.

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When I go back and watch things that I loved in my early teens I don’t always see the charm in them that I did. I notice flaws and tired tropes that were new to me at the time.

The experience is no longer the same, a bit of the magic is gone, but I remember how they made me feel the first time. The fantasies of my childhood were filled with good vs. evil and the good people winning the fight despite the hardship that they had to endure.

This all seems trite to a cynical adult, but I really believe in these things and those memories remind me of my original hopes and dreams for the future. It isn’t a bad future and despite all my grown-upishness I still want that future.

If you grew up in the eighties and caught Robotech after school or woke up early before you catch the bus I hope all those fond memories float back for you too. Here is the original Harmony Gold intro as a reminder.

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Perfect blending of both fantasy epics. My only wish is that it could be longer. All the art here is perfect and it makes me want to dive into Legend of Zelda right now. Alas, it is a work day.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=QGxy1SpZYPQ%3Fw%3D640

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A good children’s story will be hopeful, will have a bit of romance, a bit of loss and a healthy dose of scary.  If there is no conflict, no point where I am wondering if they will really make it, then the journey is not worth the effort.

We visited the Providence Children’s Film Festival yesterday specifically to see Song of the Sea.  If you have previously seen Cartoon Saloon’s The Secret of Kells you know the kind of quality you should expect and the emotional roller coaster to be prepared for.

Song of the Sea is based on the Irish tradition of the selkie mirroring the spirit of the original tales without diving into the soul crushing tragedies of the originals.  Cartoon Saloon allows themselves to be influenced by studios like Studio Ghibli, without losing their own unique identity.  Even without the excellent story Song of the Sea is a pleasure to look at and to listen to.

If you can’t catch it at a festival then you will find it available on Amazon in Blu-ray or DVD, I encourage it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dmzH_GKOGmw

 

I don’t know what it was about the original combining transformers, but I was possessed with them as a kid.  Especially Devestator.  This guy meant business, you could tell because he was chartreuse.  Lime green always means business.

As reported by Kotaku, Devastator will be part of the new Transformers Combiners line.  Pics and individual shots can be found here.

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I’m not sure who to attribute this to, but I think they deserve a medal.

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In retrospect the eighties were kind of terrible, completely rad at moments but overall kind of lousy.  I guess everyone who lives through a decade probably feels the same way.  People can look back at decades they didn’t live through and synthesize it down into iconic looks and moments and the eighties had lots of those moments.

As kids we had some wonderful entertainment during that decade. Media companies know who has the money now and are playing to our nostalgia.  I honestly have no problem with this, reliving the best moments now without all the awkwardness of trying to fit in parachute pants and Members Only jackets.

If he above is true then a Jem reboot was bound to happen. What  you see above is IDW Publishing’s updated take on Jem and the Holograms.  The cover was released early this month and yesterday we got a glimpse at Jem’s antagonists The Misfits.

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Atypically the original Jem was the #1 syndicated cartoon between 1986 and 1987 and while no pre-teen boy would publicly admit it, it was watched pretty widely by all kinds of kids.

Reboots generally can be a mixed bag, especially when something has a cult following as large as Jem does.  I think I can safely say they gave this to the right people.  In a recent io9 piece, writer Kelly Thompson and artist Ross Campbell both expressed a love for the original material and a willingness to modernize and experiment.  There seems to be this sweet spot with reboots where you can only recapture the magic if you respect the fans, but are not slaves to them or to the original material and they seemed to have figured out exactly where that is.

The first issue comes out in March, you can read the official announcement here.  I’m linking the original intro below to jog those nostalgic memories.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRyDxEBiQUY

 

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In the seventies and early eighties Sesame Street didn’t talk down to children, it talked to them.  When you are authentic and honest with children sometimes you will frighten them.  Somehow in the last few decades we have begun shielding children from fear like this.  Now this blog is not the place for moralizing, it is more about joy, more about enjoying things that are and remembering the things that made us.  I am nostalgic though for the old Sesame, the one that talked directly to me and that was like a childhood friend.

There were about four Sesame Street shorts that really haunted my dreams and the following ‘Cracks’ is one of them.  Information about it is hard to track down.  As far as I understand it was only shown on the air about a dozen times before the word came through that it was too scary, too dark for regular consumption.

I had searched for the short over and over again and almost began to think I had imagined it.  Today I found it and it is as glorious as I had remembered.

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Earlier we discussed DX9’s completely sweet homage to GoBot Cy-Kill HERE.  Apparently Dx9 is in the habit of taking things that are lame and making them awesome.

In 1986 we got to see Transformers: The Movie and it was deeply confusing to children, including myself.  Major characters died, there was a curse word, there was Orson Welles in his final role before he died.  Then out of the wreckage of the planet Junkion we received one of the greatest gifts a movie like this could provide, a transforming junk robot motorcycle with a mustache.  As a bonus this motorcycle, Wreck-Gar was voiced by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame and was accompanied by a Weird Al song, a holy trinity of eighties rad.

While easily besting the later Transformers movies by Michael Bay in plot and art direction this movie was essentially an advertisement to sell a new set of toys.  I quickly ran to Child World to find a version of Wreck-Gar and was crushed to find there wasn’t one.

They did eventually release a toy, but imagine my disappointment when in my head I had the uber cool image above and what we received was he below image.

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Blocky, no mustache, poorly articulated.  This wasn’t Wreck-Gar, this was the Transformers equivalent of an accountant. NOTE: I mean no disrespect to accountants, you provide a valuable service, I salute you.

Now, this was mostly remedied by a 2011 release of a new toy in North America.  That figure had some nice lines, even if the face was sculpted so it looked like he should be wearing a truckers cap.

As we mentioned in the earlier Cy-Kill article, DX9 makes some pretty sweet stuff for the grown up toy collector.  They finally did Wreck-Gar justice, even if this figure is not called Wreck-Gar, but Splinter. So, it isn’t ‘officially’ the Transformer I pined for as a child, but good enough.  Dude looks like he is ready to mess up some Decepticons and then down an oil can before his next fight.

This figure will set you back close to $100.  I have seen it at Amazon and specialty toy shops online.  Probably not the best purchase for your smaller transformer fans.

splinter (Custom)

 

Thats all to be said about this.  Feel free to be chatty in the comments and I’ll leave you with one of the greatest songs ever performed. Enjoy.

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This is a weird one, but writing is therapeutic and y’all are nice people so I appreciate you bearing with me.

In stereotypical nerd fashion I have a lot of allergies, horrific seasonal allergies, respiratory issues and I can’t eat a lot of fruit until it is cooked.  I know no one cares about that, but it explains me losing a lot of my sense of smell by adulthood.

As a consequence of my broken honker I tend to get quite a few phantom smells.  Sometimes the smells are not really there and sometimes I am smelling one thing, but it is actually something else.

I was just working on the couch and the most powerful smell surrounded me.  It smelled exactly like the little bit of taffy that was included in the packs of the Disney stickerbooks from the late seventies.  I used to gather up my change or beg my parents to buy me these, first for the taffy and then for the four measly stickers that were included.

I kid you not, this taffy was up there with some of the greatest foods ever created.  For reference it was better than the white fun dip sticks, which I know is hard to believe, but you have to trust me on this.  Unfortunately this cannot be proven by science, for if I was to find some of this thirty plus year old taffy I assume it would taste terrible, but I guess I would be willing to try, y’know for science.

Not sure what the smell actually was or even if it was there at all, but it caused me to hunt down and archive the above image, which proves to me that those memories weren’t a hallucination.  Which is comforting.

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SPOILERS: Seriously, if you haven’t seen Guardians yet do not read until you have.

Guardians was very fast and entertaining. So fast that I didn’t have time to consume a lot of the little nods and easter eggs that were left for Marvel fans scattered throughout the movie.  I’m just now slowly going through threads and gathering info about all the background minutiae.

The screenshot you are seeing above is from Thor: The Dark World.  In the post credits scene we get our first intro to the Guardians universe and the space Liberace lair of The Collector, an obscure and ancient character in the Marvel universe.   Notable in this scene is the gooey cocoon above.  If the internet is correct, and by gosh everything on the internet is always correct, the above cocoon contains the regenerating form of Adam Warlock.

I’ve known about Adam Warlock since the seventies and always appreciate when Marvel gives due to some of the older Silver Age characters.  I have no idea how far this is going to go or if Marvel is going to pursue this at all, but supposedly during Guardians of the Galaxy you can see the broken, open cocoon.  I am unsure if this is during the post credits scene or during the movie.  I’m looking for more photo evidence now.

Adam is significant because he possesses one of the Infinity gems that Thanos is looking for, specifically the Soul Gem.   For those unfamiliar with the infinity gem saga this is what I expect the plot of Avengers 3 will be about, with the Infinity gems being at least part of the plot for every Marvel movie going forward.  If anyone can confirm this, give me a shout or feel free to discuss it on our Facebook page.

Bonus: The Marvel Cinematic Universe lore is getting so dense it is difficult to predict where they are going to go.  Here is a nice little pic of Adam Warlock from the animated Planet Hulk feature.

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The Guardians make a couple of cameos in this feature as well.  Significantly one of the main alien races in Guardians of the Galaxy were the Sakaarans, from the planet Sakaar, which is the setting for Planet Hulk.

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I consider myself fairly knowledgeable about Marvel comics characters, although if I put some thought into it I haven’t voraciously read comics since high school.  I first encountered Star Lord in Marvel’s animated adaption of Planet Hulk where he makes a little cameo.

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Just like the first trailer for Guardians of the Galaxy I was all “Star Lord, who?”.  Star Lord had me a little confused.  Marvel already had a space team of adventurers that I had known since I was ten or so, they were the Starjammers.

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The Starjammers have pretty much the same elements of the Guardians, with maybe a bit more Errol Flynn thrown in.  They have a heavy, a witty irreverent leader, a femme fatale and a member who is borderline insane due to his desire for revenge.  Just like the Guardians the lineup has changed a lot over the years, but the parallels are clear, it seems like a duplication of efforts.  I can see that Guardians may be a bit more ‘new reader’ friendly which is not a bad thing, plus they have a talking raccoon.

I don’t really have any complaints about the Guardians.  Gunn is a terrific director (Slither is one of my very favorite horror movies), the cast is fantastic and the writing seems snappy and fun.  It also promises more Marvel cameos than any other Cinematic Universe film before it.  I am praying for a little ROM the Spaceknight or Micronaut cameos, but that may be stretching the bounds of what Marvel is capable of.

We won’t see Guardians until next Friday, but here is the newest clip to get you ready.