Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Let's Read the Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder!

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

It feels like it's been forever since I did a Vintage Paleoart post doesn't it?  I have a sharp-eyed reader to thank for this one.  Over at DeviantArt, Spongebob Fossilpants correctly identified an illustration from my Syntarsus post as being from the Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder written by Dr. Michael Benton and published by Kingfisher books in 1992.  I ordered a new copy of the book right away, because this was my go-to dinosaur reference book for many years.

Let's jump right in.  The color illustrations are by Jim Channell and David Holmes, and line illustrations are by Kevin Maddison and Ralph Orme.  According to the copyright notice in the book, some of them date back to 1988.  That might help explain a few things, for example, this:

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

Do you remember a time when we used to classify big burly theropods as Carnosaurs and little wiry theropods as Coelurosaurs?  Cause this book sure does.

Note also the odd silhouettes for Prosauropoda and Ornithopoda, as well as Segnosaurs.  The latter is a topic for another day. 

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

The book is arranged in alphabetical order and has a nice balance of popular and unpopular animals illustrated.  And they are all very weird looking, even by the standards of late-80's/early-90's dinosaur books.  Acanthopholis looks a little embarrassed to be here.

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

As does Albertosaurus.  He's basically drawn here as "A T. rex, but smaller.  Except not really that much smaller, if we're to believe that scale graphic."

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

And here's good old Allosaurus in full on "A T. rex but with more fingers" mode.  Man, poor Allosaurus.

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

Here's a truly strange one.  Euoplocephalus confidently identified as Anklosaurus.  I distinctly remember a shift in dinosaur books where they tended to swap out Ankylosaurus for (correctly identified) Euoplocephalus as their token ankylosaur.  And I can't help but suspect it's because Euoplocephalus, while harder to pronounce, is way easier to draw.

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

Archeopteryx strutting her stuff and showing off the creepy little hands growing out of her wings.  Because that is totally how avian wings work.  At least she isn't a Sparkleraptor this time out.

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

Turns out Avaceratops probably did not look like a thing like this outside of being a smallish ceratopsian.  What really got me with this illustration, though, was that beak!  We're going to be seeing a few dinosaurs with crazy-looking beaks in this book.

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

Good old Quadrupedal Baryonyx! I can't get over how bizarre this looks in hindsight.

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

Reminder: all big, burly theropods are Carnosaurs. If you want to draw a specific genre, just swap out the heads and hands and maybe add a horn or a sail.

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

Poor Ceratosaurus suffered terribly from that method, didn't he?  Where are your teeth, buddy?

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

I admire how adamantly old-school this Coelophysis illustration is. The dragging tail, the vaguely creepy snout, those dainty hands and feet...

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

Dinosaur and Other Prehistoric Animal Fact Finder

I will leave you with Supposed Giant Murderbeast Deinocheirus. Because there isn't anything not to love about this.


Sketch of the Day! Here's a Heffalump for Sketch Dailies:

Sketch Dailies - Heffalump

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Princess Project - "Brave" Commentary Part Two

So when we left off, I had learned some surprising things from rewatching "Brave" and analyzing it as I go along.

Short version, I came into "Brave" expecting to defend Merida as a great character and the movie as not deserving the critical rubbing it gets .

And halfway through, it turns out I don't quite like the movie as much as I thought I did, and that Merida might be the main antagonist?!?

Yes, turns out the real main character of the story might be Queen Elinor! I'm as surprised by that conclusion as you probably are.

It also turns out that a LOT of my staunch cheerleading of the film is really due to it being the Only PIXAR Movie About Women.

"Brave" is flawed as f***. At times, It feels as if two (at least) incompatible movies were rammed together.

The thing is, we have no way of knowing if Chapman's original vision of the movie wouldve been better/more coherent/more interesting.

It's really obvious as I dissect it that "Brave" was (for want of a better term) executive meddled to w/in an inch of it's life

But this is about analyzing "Brave" as-is. So let's get right back into it shall we?

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Crappy screenshot but Merida's reaction to Elinor acting like a bear is abject horror.

As damn well it should be - that is her MOTHER!

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And yet... mother and daughter are actually having more fun together then they have since Merida was a child!

I have no hope of finding it again but I once read a book that had a really cool analysis of Beauty and the Beast-type stories

...and the author argued that being an animal for a while made the transformed human a better person in the long run.

We can see that here with Elinor; she's finally starting to understand why Merida loves this.

Oh, heck with it! Elinor is the real main character here, just like Merriweather was in "Sleeping Beauty". There's almost no question now.

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After all, this is all Merida's fault, and Elinor has the most to lose here: herself!

By the way, while we were distracted by that bloody stupid castle escape, notice how vehemently Merida denied her fault throughout it. Huh.

Yes, that's just how teens are. I'll be the first to admit it doesn't make her likeable. But as I said WAAAY back in the beginning of this project, I rate good definitive characterization over how well I'd be able to stand the person in real life.

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Shades of "Beauty And The Beast": Mordu has defaced the portrait of his former self.

But whereas Beast tore apart his Prince Simon LeBlah portrait out of rage and sorrow...

...I'm willing to bet that Mordu wrecked his because he is just f-ing DONE with his human past.

I appreciate, by the way, how Mordu is left kind of mysterious and unexplained beyond this. Any more and he wouldn't be scary.

And I mean scary as an actual entity and as a concept. He personifies selfishness and dumb teenage impulses.

So Mordu is... Darkest Timeline Merida... O_o

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Hey, remember when this scene turned up in the trailer and there was speculation over the plot being...

...something about the daughter of a bear-hunting King having to rescue a mother bear and her cubs...

...after they'd been confused with another, much more vicious bear? Good times, good times.

Okay hang on to your hats, we've got to sneak back into the castle. Glee.

One of the things "Brave" does right is acknowledging an awesome (but not very marketable) aspect of being a Princess: Political Powers!

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That's really when Merida becomes a real hero: her mom's unavailable so she must step up and be responsible.

Suddenly, this is my favorite scene in all of "Brave". Merida's been awesome in an arguably conventional Strong Female Character sense...

...but now we finally see her acting like an adult and taking charge by negotiating! Her WORDS bring the kingdom back together!

And huge character development moment: Merida publicly admits she screwed up!

"I'm sorry for being a dumb teenager and not being a completely flawless role-model to all the girl PIXAR fans of the world." XD

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And best of all, she's made Elinor proud. My heart...

Here's where things get interesting from an analysis standpoint. If you've been seeing "Brave" from Merida's POV, the pantomime scene is odd.

But from Elinor's POV, it's a huge deal, since it means she really has changed her mind and is willing to break tradition.

I also love the bit with the princes. Turns out they weren't keen on this betrothal thing either.

Oh, by the way, King Fergus has no idea what the hell has been going on all this time...

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This scene is, honestly, dark as f***. Think of what conclusions he must be drawing! It's a shock that "Brave" even goes near this place!

I'm starting to wonder if the original version of "Brave" was much darker (though certainly not consistently THIS dark) and more serious?

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And I for one would love to see that alternate universe more serious version of "Brave" because guess who's back?!?

So help me, Bear!Triplets look like something created by the (ahem) Marketing Genius behind Teletubbies and Oogieloves.

Uuuuugh, these three f***ers are going to be involved in another wackity smackity doo chase scene aren't they?

I swear this whole plot twist was invented by a marketing executive so they could sell adorable teddy bears. Ugh.

I will spare you the screenshots because good lordy... Anyway, of COURSE they get into a wacky chase! Which interrupts the most dramatic moments in the film.

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We now return you to your regularly scheduled Dark And Serious Dramatic Climax.

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"How am I doin', Pocahontas?"

(Okay, I may not like "Brave" as much as I did before, but it is at least a damn sight better and more fun to discuss than "Pocahontas".)

More dumb comedy w/Bear!Triplets and suddenly AWESOME BEAR FIGHT!!!

And seeing as Mordu personifies selfishness and bad decisions, it's awesome that Elinor and Merida must defeat him together.

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Then Mordu is redeemed and turned into... a Force Ghost? And then a Wisp? Uh, Celtic Folktale Logic, yeah!

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Oh man. This whole scene...

Dammit, Bear!Triplets stop interrupting the climax of "Brave" this isn't even about you!!!

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Where were we? Oh yeah, this whole scene...

You know what, I STILL like "Brave" a lot for the moments it gets absolutely right. But man, it's hard to ignore the rest...

Speaking of, our "Too Many Butts in 'Brave'" Count is at three. Yeah, I figured.

Maybe critics who complained about vast galloping herds of bare buttocks in "Brave" FELT like there were more butt jokes then there are because the mood whiplash is so severe?

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Imagine if along with individually-sold Bear!Triplets, they sold this embroidery kit?

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Now, animated films usually have lots of writers, but I feel there was a Too Many Cooks thing going on here.

I say that because according to these credits, EVERYONE in the PIXAR Brain Trust had a go at "Brave". No wonder it's muddled!

So anyway, there's "Brave" for you. Hope you all enjoyed this Disney Princess commentary!

Sadly, Princess Commentary has to stop here until Netflix's evidently one copy of "Aladdin" arrives. Ah well.

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Then again, the above movie isn't available at all anywhere I've looked, so thank goodness for small favors...

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Princess Project - "Brave" Commentary Part One

Tweets originally posted starting on 2/12/14. And oh, this was a lively one. It'll have to be split into two posts.

Okay, first off, I still defer to this fantastic review/analysis. And I still mostly agree with it. Mostly.

Okay here we go: "Brave". Starting the most misunderstood Disney Princess since I can't even remember when.

And yes, we'll be considering Merida a Disney Princess, so as not to get overwhelmed by semantics.

Also, PIXAR's part of Disney, and they made a movie -A movie. One. But we'll get to that- that primarily addresses girls. Deal with it.

Alright, here we go. This might get to be an intensive commentary here so hang on to your hats/mullets.

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I'm not really a Font Person but... this font...

Screenshots in this one might be iffy but... Let me put this on the table. It was easier to find pretty stills in the hand-drawn films...

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"Brave" is a Disney Princess movie that is all about a mother's strained relationship with her teenage daughter.

And it's painful how many critics appeared to have a problem w/that. Cause I guess there are TONS of other movies focused on a teenaged Princess and her mother...

Okay, NOW I must Nerd Rage RE: the Stories of My People...

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Lots of critics had a problem with the Will O'Wisps. In this story neck-deep in Celtic folklore.

"WTF? They're just a magical plot device?!"
Um, maybe because they are supposed to be? (Also our 1st Miyazaki shoutout.)

Anyway, in the folklore, which is contradictory about so many supernatural beings, which is why I think it is awesome...

...there's little agreement about Wisps beyond "mysterious glowing things/creatures; weird stuff happens if you follow them."

Here they "lead you to your fate" - and note that young Merida is led back to her mother. Hmm...

(By the way, I swear I remember a particularly boneheaded review that stated Brave was set in Ireland. Yeah.)

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Our first encounter with our "false antagonist".

The whole Mordu subplot is strange and interesting but well get more into it later...

Five minutes in Merida says, "I'm the Princess." And I swear this is the moment where most critics stopped paying attention.

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Flaws or no flaws, this is a GORGEOUS movie.

The whole dinner table scene, with some modification, could be my family as seen by Teenaged Me.

And here lies a major tangent. I feel like a great deal of "Brave"'s appeal -or not- lies in one's relationship with their mom...

...and also how comfortable/embarrassed one is with how they acted (esp towards their family) as a teenager.

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This is a fantastic moment I haven't seen many people comment on: Elinor's tapestry is her IDEALIZED family.

This is the teenaged daughter she secretly longs for. It explains so much!

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And here's how well this works out in reality.

Look for the moment when Elinor realizes how miserable Merida is here. She would've had to gone through this too, long ago.

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"Dammit, mom. Let me have my own identity at least!"

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Here we go. The Lords, their sons, and their clans.

I've been quietly avoiding this issue so far but now I have to drop it right on the table so we can deal with it...

...and it is that I've definitely noticed that feelings re: "Brave" tend to be pretty well split down gender lines.

And I have seen a lot of male critics pile on this movie because, "ALL the men are big burly violent Dudebro buffoons!"

I honestly cannot come up with a not-sarcastic response to this. So here comes the sarcastic one! :D

"Golly, it really sucks when the only people the same gender as you in a movie are lame stereotypes you can't relate to, doesn't it?"

I'd also like to point out that there's more than one male character here. That's more than I can usually hope for.

I'll pause here to talk a little more about gender issues in "Brave" later, cause we've got a LONG ride ahead of us.

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Anyway, Elinor is just f-ing done with this isht. :D

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Never mind all that highfalutin' academic talk about gender issues for now -- LOOK AT THESE SHEEP!!!

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By far the strangest criticism I often see for "Brave" is, "There's too many butt jokes!"

Of which the above is the first of, I think, three? Total? I don't really want to keep track...

...but this whole project has been about setting the record straight on these movies so, I guess keep track of butts I must.

Let the record show that I am looking forward to this as much as you are.

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Merida finds her loophole...

Now in the less-interesting version of this movie (and, I think, the teaser), this'd be a huge triumphant You Go Girl moment.

Instead, Merida's actions here screw everything up for everyone including her! This is a bold choice story and character wise.

But as we have discussed before, who can honestly relate to a flawless protagonist? One who's decisions are always right?

Hell, you could even read this as Elinor's story of growth and change (heh) with Merida as the main antagonist! O_O

For now, I'm taking this as Merida = protagonist. It's something I'll keep in mind though...

...especially where some upcoming scenes are concerned. Still, two female protagonists a viewer could side with!

I'd say "good on PIXAR" but (here's another giant magic bear in the room) as awesome as they are...

...they've asked me to relate to male toys, a male ant, male monsters, male humans, a male robot...

...a male rat, male CARS, before finally giving me a female human -female at ALL- main character. Yup.

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Preemptive response to "But but those movies all had girl characters in them!!!???!!!"

I'll note that PIXAR female supporting characters tend to be awesome. They just... haven't been the MAIN characters until now.

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Preemptive response to "Your PIXAR movie chronology is wrong!"

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OK, moving on! Usually, this kind of awesomeness ends with everyone cheering our hero and good times for all.

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But instead, "Brave" goes here.

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Exhibit A in that argument that Merida's the real antagonist here. Or, possibly, that she is a teenage girl.

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In either case, notice how Elanore has her, "Oh sh*t, what have I done" way earlier than Merida does.

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Remember how the teaser implied the Standing Stones would be a bigger part of the plot?

Instead of the Random Mysterious Supernatural Thing they actually are, I mean. Not unlike the Wisps.

Also notice how Angus is freaking out and refuses to enter the circle. Shades of Miyazaki again!

This is as good a place to note I love everything about the Wisps' design/sound effects. Adorable and otherworldly.

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Speaking of Miyazaki, the witch is totally Zeniba. No question.

The witch's obsession with bears led to a great fan-theory: bear-related spells are all she knows and when all you have is a hammer...

It's one of the vanishingly few fan-theories I've ever encountered that hasn't made me want to hurt people.

(Well, there's also the theory where she's Time Lord Boo but... No.)

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Raven = Best.

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I'd like to visit the alternate universe Disney store where they market things like this. Also: foreshadowing!

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Okay here we go: the "Change my fate" spell.

I have heard critics pile on Merida for feeding her mother a mysterious thing that could potentially harm her.

Note Merida's exact words are: "I want a spell that'll change my mom!" She's acting out of selfishness! Merida DGAF!

News Flash: Teenagers are sometimes stupid and selfish or they may do impulsive harmful things. Cause see, they're not adults.

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Oh, Elinor, you could've saved us an awful lot of pain if you'd just eaten the whole thing...

Note how insistently Merida is asking questions about the wedding, even as Elanore's in obvious digestive agony!

Right here we go: Elinor's transformation.

Even considering Folktale Logic (which this movie runs on), it is... an admittedly odd plot twist. But taking it as-is...

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The argument has come up that Bear!Elinor is a comic relief animal character. Er...?

The whole point of Elinor's transformation is how horrific it is for her. Compare her to Beast, Kenai, or Tiana...

...and aside from Beast, you'll notice they never have to truly deal with "Oops I'm not human anymore!" the way Elinor does.

It's probably because instead of being surrounded by friendly animals on her quest, Elinor must deal w/a human. Her daughter.

She's had difficulty speaking w/Merida before, now she can't even speak. Transformed Disney characters don't usually have that problem.

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The Escape From The Castle scene is admittedly hard to get through, but it's mostly thanks to these three effers.

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LaFou and Mr. Bean both unavailable for comment.

It appears to me that Elinor's transformation and subsequent escape from the castle...

...seems to be where critics who didn't already zone out at "I am a Princess" zone out for good.

And admittedly *I* zone out here as well, (though I focus back in afterward). It'd be a damn sight less tedious w/out triplets

They feel like a discordant element thought up by a marketing committee and thrown in the story at the last minute.

It wouldn't surprise me one wit if the triplets or the more comedic aspects of Elinor's transformation weren't in the original script.

(I don't remember if that was the case but I also don't remember seeing them in the earliest concept art.)

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Anyway, they're about to get even more marketable...

And I will spare you a screenshot but our "OMG TOO MANY BUTTZ" count is at a grand total of two, about halfway through. Yeah.

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Oh goodness, this flashback. Right in the feels...

There was a very good movie in here, I'm sure. Just sucks that it was taken away from its creator and you can REALLY tell.

Thing is, I'm not even sure if *I* like "Brave" as much as I thought I did when I started this analysis, however...

...I do still, as I have with all these movies, wish to dispel some of the "Did we even watch the same film?"-type criticisms.

And on that note, part two will be up Friday!