Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Kill, Refurb, Marry Villains!

Little late to the party, but why not?

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This month, the topic is Disney Villains. I'm sticking with Disney Animated Canon characters only.  And I'll be rating the baddies based on how great they are as Disney characters (ignoring their source material where applicable, and no, I do not actually want to marry any of these people.  They are just the worst.  But they're good at being the worst.)

Kill:  Unmemorable villains like Whats-His-Name from "Aristocats" and So-And-So from "Home on the Range".  In fairness, these movies have significant problems already (they constantly vie for the position of Worst DAC Feature in my mind), but the dubious antagonists are just yawn sauce on the snore-pie.

Refurb:  Here we have an interesting case, because the villain in question has essentially been refurbished for us by another animation team.  Let me explain.  The villain is the Horned King from "The Black Cauldron".  He looks scary, he's got an awesome voice, and he's got minions, nasty wyvern-thingies, and an army of the cursed undead.  And unfortunately, it wasn't the Golden Age of theatrical animation anymore, and it wasn't the modern age yet, so this potentially awesome villain was the victim of serious wimping out on the part of the executives.  If you want a better version of Disney's Horned King, watch the episodes of "Adventure Time" centered around the Lich King.  Seriously.

Marry:  I'll make this simple: notice how Maleficent gets to be the leader of the villains whenever they have a crossover?  Yup.

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Sketch of the Day!  Here's what happens when I watch a Let's Play of "Ni-No Kuni"

Ni-No-Kuni Doodles

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Birds of 2014

A little while ago, I mentioned that I had been listing all the birds I'd seen in one year for the first time ever.  Since I kept my list in the (reasonably good) Peterson Field Guide iPhone application, it's easy to post the final list as a series of screenshots.

And so here they are, every bird I saw in 2014, from the Song Sparrow to the Brant:



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The Princess Project - "Aladdin" Commentary

Tweets originally posted on 11/5/2014

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Who'd like to join me in finally tying up a loose end this fine morning?

For those of you new to the Princess Project (or who have forgotten since its been a while) I'm live-Tweeting a Disney Princess movie…

...analyzing the Princess' role in it and learning whether she is a Good Role Model/Strong Female Character/etc.

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This was our first indication that Aladdin was going to be... different.

There's a LOT to discuss here in Aladdin. I'm going to focus on Jasmine's role in the movie to streamline things, but until she shows up…

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Jafar: best Andreas Deja villain? Discuss.

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Remember how awesome this was in 1992?

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Potential Best Deja Villain sadly hampered by Possibly Worst Minion.

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Aladdin = severe hottie.

I apologize for the crappy DVR screenshots. Blame Disney for acting like it is the hardest damn thing in the world to put Aladdin on bluray.

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These backgrounds!

Woah, out of nowhere "Adventures of Prince Achmed" diss!

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So here's Jasmine, the character we're here to focus on.

She spends her introduction complaining about Princess Life. Okay…?

We'll track her characterization from there, but personally, Jasmine always struck me as the least compelling character…

...mostly because it felt like she was hastily rewritten in reaction to the positive responses Ariel and Belle received.

The fact that Jasmine, unlike her Renaissance-era sisters, isn't the main character in her movie made this difficult.

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SYMBOLISM!!!

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Jasmine's solution to her Princess angst is to run away - and she's immediately out of her element.

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Jasmine and Jafar only have a few scenes where they confront each-other and Euw, Jafar you're such a creep!

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Nailed it, Abu.

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This. Character. Design. Wanna meet the person who animated this. Wanna buy them a drink.

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Also wanna meet whoever animated this sequence, buy them a drink.

Yay! They didn't cut out Abu's "Oh, SH*T!!!"

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Reminder that instead of an awesome Cave of Wonders ride a la Disneyland's Indiana Jones, we got an off-the-shelf spinner.

Meanwhile, Jasmine is all "AAAAANGST!!!"

So, yeah, Jasmine is pretty much the least interesting character in a movie that has been full of memorable characters so far.

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Sadly for Jasmine, all the characters in Aladdin are about to be bowled over by Genie.

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Genie: very strong contender for Best Sidekick. Wanna buy Eric Goldberg a drink, etc.

Aladdin continues to be off on fun exciting adventures, Jasmine is still all angsty.

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So... Genie's references to circa early-90's things.

Let's not talk about the "'Aladdin' takes place in a rebuilt post-apocalyptic future world!" theory.

Instead, let's appreciate how *quick* they are!

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Ya gotta feel for Abu here. He spends almost the rest of the movie transformed and trying to adjust.

Weird thing I just realized: Abu's situation here is the *entire plot* of other Disney movies.

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Hey, Beast.

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Roll up in the club like...

Moral of Aladdin: With great wealth and power come Maximum Punchable Smugface.

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Not impressed.

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Seriously though, this whole sequence.

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From this point on, Jafar's the smartest guy in the room.

Jafar: "Where are you even the Prince of?"
Aladdin: "Uhhh... Some... Place…?"

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In Jasmine's defense, she is rightfully super pissed when all the men argue about what they think she wants.

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Quick reminder that meanwhile, Abu is experiencing the entire plot of other Disney movies.

And now for the plot point in "Aladdin" that has stuck in my craw for the last 22 years:

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"Just be yourself" Says the character who can't go half a minute w/out impersonating somebody else.

Aww, they cut That Line!

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"Just shut up, Princes!"

Genie: "Beeeee yourself!!!" Genie you are impersonating something else right this second, no wonder Aladdin doesn't take you seriously!

Ok, A Whole New World still works. :)

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Obligatory ET Reference. But also Those Clouds!!!

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Notice it's also the one sequence in a long while where Jasmine isn't angry or upset at Aladdin. Huh.

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But can you blame Jasmine? She figures out the truth and Aladdin still insists on lying. What the hell, hero?

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"Oh, wait, crap. If I marry Jasmine, I'll have responsibilities! POLITICAL responsibilities!"

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"AHH! MY LIFE IS A LIE!!!"

Yeah, this goes w/out saying at this point but Aladdin's character arc is a hell of a lot more interesting than Jasmine’s.

Though it's not remotely as interesting as Abu’s.

All joking aside, it's "I've lied and lied in pursuit of my true love and now I must redeem myself and save everyone"...

...vs "Wah, being a Princess sucks. Everyone stop deciding what I want FOR me! I love you, guy who lied to me!"

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Love this sequence! We see that Genie would be effing TERRIFYING if he did anything besides funny impressions.

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"You see what happens when you good guys pass around the Idiot Ball?"

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"Now you see that evil will always triumph, because good is dumb!"

"Dumber than usual in this case..."

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In his defense, Aladdin acknowledges that he's failed everyone and this is all his fault. Time for a redemption arc!

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Seems Aladdin is also a direct ancestor of a character we all yelled at in "Prometheus". Idiot balls are genetic!

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Euw. Euw, no. Jafar don't do this! Euw Euw euw!!!

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Funny how the one most obscure impression is the one that appears twice.

(It's every 90's kid's favorite, William F. Buckley Jr.)

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Jasmine is a woman who's willing to suffer to save her city.

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Jafar, don't. Don't do this. It never helps.

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Jafar, seriously. You know what happens to Disney villains who go One-Winged Angel.

This isn't holding the Idiot Ball, this is straight-up Genre Blindness.

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"I'm still going to do one last evil thing before I go! Give Iago an excuse to show up in the sequels and spinoffs!"

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"So... Are we cool? I did just save everybody."

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I'm sad now...

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"From now on, the Princess can marry whoever she loves!"

(Decades later...)
"Can I marry another Princess?"
"Uh..."
"Or how about NOBODY! Can I marry nobody?!"
"..."

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Oh... I'm very sad now...

Disney, release this on Blu-Ray already!

Thanks for joining me in this live-Tweetery of Aladdin!

For more in this series, go here, or click the "The Princess Project" tag below.