Picky About Pixar?

Four years ago, you would’ve not found a bigger Pixar fan.

Well, okay, I’m not really the collecting type, but that’s because I’ve never had the money to collect a whole bunch of Pixar movie-related merchandise. I also didn’t really want to talk someone’s ear off about a movie I know that they’ve seen before. Most people have seen most if not all of the Pixar movies.

Inside one of the studios.

But I wanted to work there. I was obsessed with wanting to work there, and be a storyboard artist or a character designer. I’ve watched most of the Pixar documentary movies. I saw how animated the storyboard artists were when writing. I see them laughing. I see John Lasseter involved in almost everything. I obsessed over their fun-looking offices and the secret rooms they had. They were all just big kids doing a fun job, and I wanted to be a big kid there too. I wanted a job at Pixar.

So by the time Senior year of high school came around, we had a senior project with a whole thirty minute presentation, and a ten paged paper. We had to prove a thesis, and mine was “Pixar is one of the most innovative companies in the world.”

Now I feel that’s beginning to be a bit arguable.

Don’t get me wrong. Their stories have always been creative. I mean, I did prove my thesis in my paper and presentation. Back in the day, John and the Pixar crew were trendsetters and problem solvers. They were one of the first companies to have a successful 3D animated movie, Toy Story. They also created their own software to animate. One of my favorite stories is something I read in David Price’s book, The Pixar Touch. When the Pixar crew was working on A Bug’s Life, there were too few ants in a scene when they needed many more. The software they currently had couldn’t upload more than a few ants. John wasn’t happy with the number. They built the program stronger so that instead of just a few ants, they could have several hundred in the same shot. And of course, all of their stories were new and captivating, dominating the first weekend at box offices.

If that’s not innovation I don’t know what to tell you.

But there was something that changed when they finished making movies out of the idea that had written down on that restaurant napkin.

Pixar most certainly fell in a slump. Then I noticed a bunch of announcements of sequels that were planned by them. I’m not a huge fan of sequels. Toy Story 2 I liked, but not for the story itself, but the reason it came to be (huge story overhaul in less than a year before release date). But I didn’t even touch Cars 2. I don’t think a whole lot of people liked Cars 2. Then there’s going to be a Cars 3, Toy Story 4, The Incredibles 2, and Finding Dory!

“Why more sequels?….”

And out of all these movie announcements, only three of them are completely original stories. One was Inside Out, which, to be honest I haven’t seen yet so I already feel like I’m in the wrong. However people loved it. Another one of them is coming out soon, The Good Dinosaur. The next original movie will be out in 2017, but then that’s it. We won’t see any other original content from Pixar until, maybe, 2020.

This also doesn’t mean that the sequels will be bad either. Toy Story 3 was the perfect ending for most of us. Monster’s University was a different aspect and perspective on characters we already knew, and it captured the hearts of most excited college students. People are going insane for The Incredibles 2, and Finding Dory is going to be fun, I know.

But my fear is that sequels are going to be more dominating than the original content, especially when I feel that Pixar is the king of original content. This is a common Hollywood problem (like, how many more Terminator movies do we actually need?).

It’s because sequels guarantee money.

People will go and see something they love and are used to. Original content is change, it’s new, and things that change and are new are scary.

Now I don’t want to start a trend where I start bringing down companies that do produce good content. Pixar is still making good movies, and good sequels, so there’s still hope for original content after 2020. I don’t want this post or my last to be a constant thing, but it’s like I said before: I will point out the flaws in a company that I’ve known that can make good content yet do something not so great for the sake of money.

I know I’m not the only one that feels this way.

(Picture from blog.cogswell.edu and screenshot from Youtube “Toy Story 3 – Playtime at Bonnie’s [HD])

The Disney Downer

Something’s been bugging me lately. I have to get it off my chest. I feel if I don’t tell you, my faithful audience, any sooner it will become a problem:

I’m not a fan of Disney.

Now, I won’t go into the deeper reasons as to why Disney isn’t the greatest. A simple Google search of “Disney racism” will do a lot better job than I ever will.

No, these are just personal opinions that developed while observing Disney over the years, and how my personal tastes have changed.

*I found that I’m not a fan of the trope where either one or both parents are dead or unspoken of.

The Little Mermaid? No sign of the mother.

Cinderella? Mom dies and gets a terrible new mom.

Saddest moment of our younger lives.

Lion King? Mufasa [SPOILER ALERT] dies and Simba has to learn to grow on his own.

Lilo and Stitch? Both parents are dead, and now she’s being stripped from the custody of her sister (brutal).

You look at almost every Disney movie, something happened to the protagonist’s parents.

You would think Disney would move past this? Well, no. Some of the last two bigger Disney movies, the characters lost their parents: Big Hero 6 and Frozen.

Now there are some Disney movies that don’t necessarily have this trope. In Mulan and Tangled, both characters still have their families (well, technically in Tangled, Rapunzel finding her origins is a plot device, so maybe that doesn’t count).

But it’s just so sad. Maybe it’s suppose to be for a stronger more happier ending. I just think it’s a little overused, and Disney can find other plot devices to tell a story. However, as of right now, it works for them.

*I’m not a huge fan of the Disney channel.

Now one of my favorite cartoons is on the Disney channel….well, actually Disney X-D to be exact. I feel like that’s where cartoons go to die, and the actual Disney channel has bunch of child actors screamin’ and hollerin’.

Screenshot from youtube:

This is stupid.

There have been GOLDEN NUGGETS of entertainment thanks to the Disney Channel. Lizzie McGuire, Even Stevens, and fun movies like Halloweentown. These shows and movies weren’t perfect, but they brought good humor and the characters were very relatable. Lizzie was you average, teen girl just trying to get through school, with a little animated character of herself that broke the fourth wall explaining conscious. Most girls related to that (not so much having little animated characters in their heads talking to an unknown audience, but I’m sure animated Lizzie resonated with a lot of females viewers. She did for me.). I don’t know many who can relate to Dog with a Blog.

There was also some great animated shows like The Proud Family and Kim Possible that were a huge hit with my generation. They were well written and highly entertaining shows that people loved. The best Disney got down the road was Phineas and Ferb, then later Gravity Falls. However, both of those moved to Disney X-D to make room for more studio-shot sitcoms. It’s almost like Disney makes animations for the theater but never for their own television station, which doesn’t make sense. It’s even worse when the quality isn’t quite there anymore.

*I’m tired of Princesses

There’s too many…

Okay shoot me. I don’t like the whole princess thing. They’re everywhere. They’ve taken control. I find it to be boring. I feel It’s why I like Hunchback, Mulan, and Hercules (I guess technically he’s a prince…or some other deity). I find them to be more interesting. Yes, they have to deal with romantic interests, but they also have other struggles.

Quasimodo deals with self-acceptance. Hercules learns what it means to be a true hero. Mulan…saves China.

But one thing that is true is that princesses are Disney’s money makers. They unfortunately don’t make money on characters like Quasi or Mulan, or even on princes. There’s a lot of princess merchandise that little kids (or kids at heart) just eat up. Princesses are a guaranteed money maker.

I won’t deny that Disney has done a lot for our culture. It’s really built it in so many ways, but I can’t help pointing out what Disney did right, and then refuses to do again because of money. To me, that’s not the point of storytelling.

[Pictures from daily.co.uk, Screenshot from youtube: “G Hannelius – Dog With A Blog – Season 1 Highlights – A collection of clips from every episode”, and giphy.com]

Top 5 Animated Show Intros

Facebook and ads nowadays are getting so good on how they hook us. I was strolling through my feed and saw this animated tidbit for an upcoming Netflix exclusive: The Mr. Peabody and Sherman Show.

The great color choices and design caught my attention so well. Everything looked pleasant, and the logo flashed near the middle of the video was some of the best design that I’ve seen in awhile. I’m a fan of fun, clean looking designs. I’m not a huge Mr. Peabody and Sherman fan, but this trailer got me wanting to at least try the first episode.

And that’s a good intro or teaser in general. They make you want to watch the show. Since I was inspired, I wanted to spend this post listing my Top 5 cartoon intros as of recent. This is going to stem from the later 2000’s till now. I won’t be posting the Spongebob theme or Scooby Doo, because those are so classic and iconic in themselves, it’s like judging people in the Hollywood Walk of Fame to me: they’ve already made top lists. They were already good and iconic to begin with.

  1. Star vs. the Forces of Evil (Disney)

This is the kind of show that 11 to 14-year old Haleigh dreamed about. Star vs. the Forces of Evil is a recently produced on Disney with it’s debut back in late Spring/early Summer. It’s super wacky, with a silly heroine that’s super powerful and extremely energetic. The intro matches that energy that’s produced throughout the show. It accurately gives the viewer a taste of what the show will be about, if they have never seen it before. A two second brief at the beginning already telling you the history of the protagonist, random enemy fights that turn out to be dancing buddies later, and floating unicorn heads. Ya know, the usual. Like I said before, pre-teen Haleigh would think the theme song is amazing. It’s a little frenetic and random for my taste currently (it doesn’t even rhyme at times), but it does it’s job. It accurately portrays the show that will play for the next 22 minutes.

  1. Steven Universe (Cartoon Network)

Rebecca Sugar always does great music work on shows. Some of my favorite songs are when she helped with Adventure Time, like “I’m Just Your Problem” and “I’m All Gummed Up Inside”. She exceeded my expectations in music when Steven Universe came out. She does great songwriting. The current Steven Universe intro is actually a revamp. I thought the original looked great, and then I saw this one that blew me out of the water. The backgrounds look amazing, like they do in the show, they added more characters, and everything is more fleshed out and more detailed. For someone to just begin watching the show, they could get a little lost in what’s about to go on when they see a little girl with a big sword in front of a donut shop, and then everyone is just chilling on the beach, but they need to go back to the first season anyway to catch up. Regardless, it’s a beautifully done intro, and props to Sugar and her team for making it that way. It just makes you want to break out your ukulele and sing along.

  1. Wander Over Yonder (Disney)

Guys…Craig McCracken knows what he is doing. He’s been in this business long enough to know what he’s doing, and he does it well. He was the main guy behind The Powerpuff Girls, and with a show that iconic and great, you can see where this is going. It’s an intro for a cute and clever show called Wander Over Yonder that I don’t think Disney does any justice. It’s a gem that I believe gets hidden due to more of the live-shot productions Disney does, and would do even better if it was on Cartoon Network. Bitterness aside, the intro is amazing. We see exactly the personalities of the characters that we’re about to get involved with, and nature of the show itself, without knowing too much. Wander, the main protagonist, goes to different planets to make friends with the different inhabitants, all while trying to befriend the evil Lord Hater. I love good animation bits, like the part when Wander rides his steed, Sylvia, and gawks with excitement at the world around him. It’s done so well and so smoothly, I severely geeked out the first time I saw this intro. The colors are amazing and make the backgrounds intriguing. The theme is so quirky, cute, and most importantly simple and short. It’s so that it doesn’t get annoying so quickly. Not to mention the logo if fantastically done. McCracken knows how to wrap up an intro like he’s wrapping the perfect present.

  1. Gravity Falls (Disney)

This intro almost made it to my number one slot. You know exactly what kind of show you’re about to get into, but leaving enough mystery about what sort of episode is about to play. It has it’s quirky style, but adds enough attraction that you want to know more. It let’s you know the characters, our setting, and the sense of adventure to come. One of my favorite aspects about the intro is that there are hidden messages and secrets that you can find within the opening. They also will change the opening with new episodes from time to time, to change those secrets so that they correlate with the story. That’s commitment to your own product, Alex Hirsch. Good on you. The theme itself is so spooky, yet upbeat. There have been so many remixes with the theme song since the show took popularity. It’s become iconic now. You play the song, any nerd is going to recognize it.

  1. Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends (Cartoon Network)

Remember when I told you McCracken is a genius? Let me remind you. I believe this is one of the most iconic animated show intros up there with Scooby Doo and Spongebob. I wonder sometimes why this intro is so good, and why it’s my favorite. I think it’s because it’s so simple. The colors are beautiful, but simple. Backgrounds are well done, but simple. Even the beginning of the intro when everything is drawn is such a simply beautiful concept. It does tell a story, introduces you to the main characters, but also adds heart into there. Everyone is laughing and hugging at the end. There’s excitement and friendship that’s shown. There’s a sort of warmth after watching it that you get when you’re about to go into the show, aaand…not much more is needed. It’s super effective. Also, anyone my age or from my generation will know this song. They will. If they don’t, that means they missed out on a great part of their childhood that I would love to introduce to them because this show is a classic. Everytime I hear this song a smile spreads on my face. I’ve wanted for the longest time to learn how to play the theme on piano, and I kick myself for not doing so yet. So again, McCracken knows how to wrap it up nicely. I can’t wait to see what’s next up the McCracken family sleeve.

The Renaissance

We were in a slump. Cartoons weren’t as bright, clever, or appealing anymore…at least to me they weren’t. I thought that, maybe, I just grew out of cartoons. There were a few gems here and there, but nothing I could get truly excited about. Nobody seemed to care about them. It was kind of a shame.

Then, back around 2008, I saw a pilot for a show pitch for Nickelodeon on YouTube. It was a young boy in a white rabbit hat saying ridiculous lines with his wacky, stretchy dog all the while trying to save a candy princess. The 15 year-old me loved it so much. I thought it was a hilarious short, and I showed it to all my friends and even teachers (I was quite an ecstatic child). I was obsessed with it, however, I never knew if it got picked up or any more news about it. It disappeared.

It wasn’t until two years later that I saw it being promoted as a brand new show on Cartoon Network. I freaked out. I couldn’t believe that little funny show actually got picked up. I also didn’t know how huge of a phenomenon it would become. Within the coming years, this show became so popular. I saw merchandise based on the show everywhere. Characters on shirts, backpacks, toys, and even bumper stickers (a personal favorite).

From EpicFamilyDecals on Etsy

So why does something like Adventure Time get so much acknowledgement? Why does it become so popular?

Well for one, it’s the story arc! You’re wrapped up in all of Finn’s silly and epic adventures in the Land of Ooo in each episode, but there’s an underlying plot that connects them all together. Without spoiling too much of the show, there’s a dark enemy called The Lich that haunts many of the characters throughout episodes. We also learn more about the Land of Ooo, and it’s secrets about being a post-apocalyptic world.

Screenshot from “Gravity Falls – Season 2- SDCC Trailer” on YouTube.

Similar cartoons that also have a huge following cater to the same format. Gravity Falls is another show where each episode is different, but also follows a deeper plot that allows to know more about twin’s situation in a strange town in the North West. Cryptic messages, American myths, and Illuminati mentioning. They’re quirky enough to keep fans attached and wanting to know more. Avatar: The Last Airbender has a HUGE cult following, but it’s format is a little different. Instead of quirky individual episodes with a hidden bigger plot, the plot is more upfront yet follows like an epic. Three separate books, or “chapters” if you will, that follow Aang and his friend’s adventures and watching Aang master the natural elements.

You want people to get attached to your characters, follow along with them, learn along with them. We love that stuff.

From Steven-Universe.wikia.com.

Another reason why this new wave of cartoons have become so popular is the representation of minorities is growing. Steven Universe is much like Adventure Time and Gravity Falls in that it follows the same story build with wonderfully fleshed out characters. They also have a huge cast of predominantly, non-white voice actors. LGBTQ members are also represented within the characters. Though portrayed mostly feminine, Rebecca Sugar (creator of Steven Universe) claim that the “crystal gem” characters are genderless, and there are partners in the show that illustrate queer relationships. This is a huge step for this industry. If people see a show they relate to, the more they’re going to follow and become fans of said show. If people feel represented, they’re going to feel supported, especially when there is lack of support, love and care. That’s what Steven Universe does.

From cartoonsmartblog.wordpress.com.

Then there’s the art. Art is a HUGE proponent for me, as well as other people. Companies and crew members that take the time to make sure their show looks good really does pay off. The Marvelous Misadventures of FlapJack had a great style during it’s run, with 2-D, computer drawn animation as well as some traditional work for the title cards.
Steven Universe’s character designs and backgrounds are gorgeous. Most of their works in progress are posted on their blog on tumblr
. Art is important because it’s what going to catch our eye and make us initially interested.

This is why I would call this new age of animated shows “The Renaissance of Cartoons”. Our favorite 90’s cartoons had fantastic style, and might take a political stance, but this new wave of cartoons have really catered to their audience without completely selling out. You have to remember that the creators now were inspired by the same shows we used to love, and wanted to make something just as good or even better.

The Rise and The Fall…

We all remember our favorite cartoons growing up as a kid. Especially, as a 90’s kid. Everyone remembers Doug trying to get it with Patti Mayonnaise, the Stoop Kid afraid to leave his Stoop, and us laughing at Dexter whenever Dee Dee entered his laboratory.

From heyarnold.wikia.com

We were given good cartoons as kids. As I touched on my first post, there were a lot of good cartoons, like Rugrats, that gave me a better insight on a different culture, or educated me in some way. The cartoon Hey Arnold! was very sensitive and situational. It focused on the relationships that the main character, Arnold, had with the other variety of characters within a large New York-like city.

One of my favorite examples was when three of Arnold’s classmates were mischievous (if my memory serves me correctly, I believed they mooned the principal), and somehow the blame shifted to Arnold. Arnold knew the culprits, but never said their names. He believed that it wasn’t his place to do so. That stuck with me for a long time and became one of my own philosophies when I got older.

Another character from another fantastic show was Steve from Blues Clues. He had such an impact on us because of how he talked to us through the camera. It was very personable, and he worked well with the writing of the show. Reddit recently brought a video of Steve Burns to their frontpage where he talked a bit about his experiences on the show (some of it a little racy, but nothing too terrible).

Even though his life was so vastly different than how we imagined, he was still able to come through and give us good content. Creators really did know what they were doing.

Then there’s creators where I’m not too sure they knew what we really wanted.

As some of our favorite cartoons started cancelling and or wrapping up their final seasons, some new cartoons emerged to fill in their spot. I really wanted to touch this subject and period of time because it was a really weird time for cartoon television. A good note here is that I will only touch the ones that really stood out to me…in an unfortunate way.

Between the years 2004 to 2010 I started seeing these shows pop up. It seemed like a period of really uninspired, lackluster shows that would either insult your intelligence or annoy you. Some shows that were mostly spin offs of movies, like Back at the Barnyard, which I didn’t pay much attention to for obvious reasons, and I don’t think anyone else did either. Another one that baffled me was Tak and the Power Juju, which was originally a video game from 2003 that was just okay, but got a lackluster show in 2007 that didn’t last very long.

From gympartner.wikia.com

Then there were shows that I just didn’t like at all. My Gym Partner’s a Monkey was one of them. It was a creative and cute situation, a child stuck in an animal’s school, but it didn’t really go anywhere. Another one was Camp Lazlo, which was done by the same people who did Rocko’s Modern Life. I loved all the characters in that show, but it never really got anywhere. Total Drama Island was very popular, and got picked up for several more seasons. My brother really loved that show but I was pretty indifferent. I didn’t like the animation style because I wasn’t a fan of tweening at the time (that’s for a later blogpost), nor did I like the teen humor at the time. Just wasn’t my cup of tea.

But the bane of my existence was certainly Squirrel Boy. How that show even got picked up, I’m not really sure.

It could be that since I was getting older, that I just wasn’t the demographic anymore. Those shows weren’t suppose to appeal to me because they weren’t for me. My brother really enjoyed watching Total Drama Island, and I would sit with him and watch it. Some people really enjoyed My Gym Partner’s a Monkey, and would even draw fanart of it.

Nobody liked Squirrel Boy though.

Maybe I was just out of the loop now. Maybe I was growing up? Maybe I wasn’t suppose to like cartoons anymore.

However, some creators were about to blow that thought out of the water, and save everyone’s day.

From silhouettesfree.com