It’s been awhile since I’ve talked cartoons, but you guys, don’t think I haven’t been thinking about it.
After my lengthy discussion on The Princess And The Frog, I thought about penning a review, but I honestly didn’t have much to say. Enjoyable. Toe-tapping. Awesome villain. Not too racist. I’ll buy it when it comes out on DVD and proceed to annoy Taylor with every conceivable piece of trivia I can find about it.
Hey guys did you know that Alicia Keys was trying for the voice of the main character OMG OMG OMG
These are things that no human being needs to know.
Anyways, having already watched the greatest animated films of 2009 (I’m looking at you, Fantastic Mr. Fox) it’s time to start looking to the future, and compiling unnecessary lists of the movies I plan to watch in 2010. Some look marvelous. Some I just want to mouth off about. All of them will take some hard-earned cash from my pocket come their release date.
Let’s start with the predictable, shall we?
Toy Story 3
Being twenty-two years old, I’m what you would call a Pixar baby. I’ve seen all of their films in a theater, and the quality and complexity of their films has aged as I have. For an animation buff my age, Toy Story 3 is like…well…it’s like…
You guys, remember when there was Jesus? And Jesus was awesome. And then Jesus died and came back and was Jesus Two, Sequel To Jesus. Now, like, what if Jesus died and came back again? Came back for Jesus Part Three, The Hot Fudge Sundae Party?
That is what Toy Story 3 sounds like. The third coming of Jesus with hot fudge sundaes.
The Pixar team had never planned on making a third Toy Story film, but they had also never planned not to. John Lasseter, the head of Pixar and the director of the first two installments of the trilogy, often said that they were just waiting for the right story to tell, and wouldn’t promise a film before they had a concept that really needed to be shared. This philosophy – story first, film second – is what has thus far ensured the quality of Pixar’s features, and is a part of Toy Story 3‘s appeal.
The rest of the appeal comes from the pleasant ’rounding out’ aspect. Some film series don’t need to be made into trilogies, but the last time we encountered Woody and Buzz (Tom Hanks and Tim Allen) there were hints of a future we were all made curious about. The introduction of Jesse The Cowgirl (Joan Cusack) showed us that all toys, even in Pixar’s utopia of make-believe have an end. Despite the magic of the character’s consciousness, their children continue to grow, and with growth comes change. Jesse was forgotten by her child. Would Woody and Buzz be treated the same way? Where would they end up when Andy was gone?
Toy Story 3 picks up with Andy leaving for college and making some tough decisions about his childhood possessions. The original Toy Story came out when I was Andy’s age, and it seems the trilogy is ending just as I’m careening into adulthood. It’s all much more metaphorical and representational than it should be, but I’m eager to gain closure. It’s the end of an era, that’s for sure.
How To Train Your Dragon
I’ve been keeping an eye on Jay Baruchel for awhile. He’s kind of like Michael Cera, except without the rumors of douchism and the constantly slack jaw. Admittedly, How To Train Your Dragon wasn’t a film that had appeared on my radar before I saw the preview. I had heard it thrown around a bit, but somehow assumed that it was just going to be another thrown-away exercise in computer animation, but when I heard Jay Baruchel’s nasally voice and saw the rich setting unfolding on the movie screen, I quickly changed my mind.
How To Train Your Dragon follow a young viking named Hiccup who is really just kind of awful. He’s not that into manly displays of viking prowess…in fact, he doesn’t have much viking prowess at all. But what he lacks in muscles and grog-drinking abilities, he makes up for in wit. He seeks to prove himself in training, where young vikings compete to become dragon slayers. After catching his first dragon, though, Hiccup quickly finds a new purpose and a reason to use his wit for something bigger than himself.
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It sounds hokey, but have you guys seen how pretty this film is? Look. Looky look look look.
That grainy brown color palette! That simplistic character design! The almost Seussian shape of Berk, Hiccup’s home-island! It’s easy to see that a great amount of detail and love have gone into crafting this film, and I’m always one to reward that sort of effort with a bought ticket. Besides, did I mention Jay Baruchel? You remember Jay Baruchel, the straight man in Tropic Thunder? The sensitive stoner in Knocked Up?
Please tell me I’m not the only one who thinks he’s adorable.
Shrek Forever After
So here is where I open up a can of worms and say that I am totally burned out on Shrek.
Okay, okay. I liked the first movie. I really liked it! It was clever! It was original! It took an expected genre and did rude and unnatural things to it, and it all turned out enormously well. I was somewhat less pleased, though, when Dreamworks (and Disney) took Shrek’s winning formula and reapplied it.
The typical Shrek humor started cropping up in every animated film that popped into the market. Wholesome family humor with a helping of pop culture and snide adult jokes. Something for everybody! Five stars, A+, two thumbs way, way up. It got old fast, and I viewed the coming of Shrek 2 with a sort of vague distrust.
But then Shrek 2 was also totally awesome, if not only for the inclusion of Puss In Boots.
I groaned, knowing it meant a whole new conveyor belt of ‘edgy children’s films’, and saw it three times in theaters. I even tried to give some of its bastard halfbabies a chance. Shark Tale, Madagascar, Over The Hedge, I saw them all and tried hard to enjoy them, but behind every shallow joke, every rap reference and Starbucks parody, I could see an ominous green shadow. Dreamworks had found a winning formula, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s a winning formula.
Especially if it rarely wins.
I don’t think I need to say much about Shrek The Third, except that I hated it. I was excited for it, having enjoyed the previous two, but there were too many new gimmicks mixed in with all of the old gimmicks they tried to rerun, and none of it meshed. I contented myself with the thought that now…now it was over.
But now there is Shrek Forever After, otherwise known as The Fourth Money Maker I Mean Shrek Movie. You may be wondering why I’m including it in this list, if I’m going to be so venomous about it.
When I went to go see Avatar, there was a preview for Shrek Forever After, and it made me laugh out loud, and if the preview makes me laugh, I’ll give it a solid chance. Besides, Dreamworks Animation has started churning out some truly worthwhile films. It seems like they might have finally learned their lesson…you can’t fight Pixar with cheap-o movies crapped out in a year. With the unignorable success of Kung Fu Panda and the upcoming How To Train Your Dragon (see previous gush) it seems they’re on the right track again, and I’m willing to let them end their Shrek franchise with an appreciative nod of the head and light applause.
Besides, I hear tell they’re finishing a Puss In Boots movie to be released in November, 2011.
And I fucking LOVE Puss In Boots.
Tune in on Thursday for Part II, where I continue to evaluate films based on a vague understanding of a complicated industry! Hurrah!