Animating Halloween: The Addams Family (2019) Review

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re altogether ooky – The Addams Family! *snap snap*

Breakdown: The Addams’ Family has always been a well-respected and awesome franchise. I used to love watching the old TV show, and I am fan of the movies that came out in the 90s. They’re a very cool and creepy family who were never ashamed of who they were. They embraced their creepiness and owned it, and we loved them for it. So when I first saw the trailer for an animated movie, I was actually looking forward to it. The trailer looked fairly promising, and what better time to check out an Addams’ Family reboot than for Animating Halloween?

They definitely went into this movie having a lot of respect for the franchise. While they obviously modernize things and add some stuff, especially considering the freedom that animation provides them, they make a lot of references to the original series, even including the always beloved theme song in the trailers and the movie itself a few times, and they keep pretty much everything in line with what it has always been.

Gomez and Morticia Addams are dreadfully in love, but their family has always been hated and feared by others because of their dark and grotesque manner of living. They adore all things dreary, dirty, horrifying and gruesome, and they have supernatural friends and abilities, to a degree. They’re always playfully doing risky and harmful things in their trap-ridden haunted mansion, but underneath all of the death and destruction, there lies a family that is just as close and loving, if not moreso, than your average family.

In this movie, Gomez and Morticia are driven away again, during their wedding no less, by an angry mob. Morticia wishes for a normal life for her future children. They run over their future butler, Lurch, who is a runaway from the nearby abandoned asylum, and adopt the creepy haunted asylum as home sweet home.

Thirteen years later, Gomez and Morticia have two young children – the oldest, Wednesday, and the youngest, Pugsley. They’ve all been confined to the foggy mansion ever since they arrived because their parents were worried about their safety, so their lives are shaken when the fog lifts and reveals a nearby brightly colored, pristine perfect-person town called Assimilation, where, as you would probably guess, everyone is the same pearl-clutching bland ‘normal’ person who puts on fake smiles and goes overboard being positive and ‘accepting’ when they’re really anything but.

They go just a tiny bit too far with the depiction of these people. I get that it’s supposed to be a parody of those squeaky clean white collar neighborhoods full of stuck up snobs, but it’s a little too blatant. For instance, there’s some pep squad team thing and they sing a song that sounds like a cult that’s not even trying. “What’s so great about being yourself when you can be like everyone else? It’s easy to be happy when you have no choice.”

Enter the giant-bouncy-haired plastic-faced Margaux, who literally created the town of Assimilation. She hosts a home remodeling show, and her biggest project was fixing up an entire town and filling it with happy homeowners. When the Addams’ creepy mansion on the hill is revealed through the lifting fog, she tries to turn their house into another one of the clean, bright and sparkly houses in Assimilation because no one will want to move or stay in the town with a scary house visible in the distance. The Addams’ gladly accept her offer, but are forced to ultimately decline because they have the entire family coming over in the next two weeks and don’t have the time for her remodeling.

Margaux is not as she seems on the surface, however. She secretly installed cameras in all of the remodeled houses of Assimilation, and she frequently pretends to be other people on her neighborhood community app, Neighborhood Peeps, to spread harmful rumors about others so they’ll fall in line or the others in town will force them to leave.

Wednesday, however, is intrigued by the town and the normal people since she has never been outside of the mansion’s grounds. She soon attends the local school and befriends Parker, the daughter of Margaux. She’s a social media obsessed girl who wants her mother’s attention, but also resents that she forces her into the happy peppy pastel coated world her mother has fabricated. She finds Wednesday weird and frightening at first, but comes to respect and like her when she stands up against her bully.

Wednesday slowly starts adopting more colorful clothing styles and branches out more into the ‘normal’ world, while Parker gains the confidence to wear goth/punk styled clothing to rebel against her mother. In Wednesday’s situation, it’s kinda confusing. She expresses that she’s actually disappointed her mother was accepting of her new colorful look, but when she becomes more unaccepting of it, Wednesday runs away to live with Parker. She does treasure her freedom, so maybe she just disliked her mother controlling her more than she liked her anger.

It’s also kinda weird on Morticia’s end. She was the one concerned about her children living a safe and (ab)normal life, but when Wednesday is starting to be accepted by the outside world, she resists against it firmly. I get that a good part of it is Wednesday starting to pull away from her as well, but much of it is reacting to the stuff she’s doing.

When Wednesday goes to Parker’s house, they accidentally find Margaux’s weird lair, much to Parker’s surprise and disgust. Margaux catches them and locks them in the attic so they won’t mess up her plans to drive the Addams out of town so she can destroy their house.

Meanwhile, in plot B, Gomez is trying to prepare Pugsley for his Mazurka, which, in this case, is a very long and complicated dance with a saber that every Addams boy must complete in order to gain the respect of the family and formerly enter manhood. Above all else, though, it’s symbolic of the boy’s ability and drive to protect the family from anyone who would harm them.

Pugsley isn’t doing well with his practice. He’s more of a demolitions kid than a swordfighter, but this Mazurka is a big event. The family is gathering for the first time in thirteen years to see it, and Gomez, an avid swordfighter, put on one of the best Mazurka performances in the family. Puglsey tries his best, but he simply can’t get it down, much to Gomez’s disappointment.

You really feel bad for Pugsley because, even though he doesn’t much care about the Mazurka, he’s still trying his best and working hard to make his dad proud, and it’s just not working out.

The two plots collide when the extended Addams family finally arrives in town for the Mazurka, right as Margaux’s TV show is filming its season finale. Margaux has already planted the seeds in Assimilation to rally the townsfolk against them all, and once the family arrives, they become an all-out angry mob lead by Margaux.

And, ya know, much in same vein as how Arnold’s Halloween tends to get under my skin a little because of how believable it is for a group of idiots to nearly hurt or murder a bunch of kids because they believe they’re aliens, even if these townspeople are overly done, it’s also not outside of the realm of possibility for a town of bubbled up posers to be stirred into an angry mob, even in modern times, and actually attack a family to drive them out based on rumors and being afraid of others for being different. Especially in New Jersey.

Granted, yeah, the Addams family do cause actual harm to others sometimes, though typically not on screen, but they didn’t do anything to the townsfolk besides be weird. In fact, many of them were quite kind and polite to them.

Parker and Wednesday see what she’s about to do from the window, so Wednesday breaks them out of the room to go save her family.

Pugsley, predictably, does poorly in his Mazurka. He apologizes to Gomez for letting him down, but Gomez apologizes for not supporting him and letting him be himself. Just as the Mazurka finishes, Margaux and the townsfolk start slinging boulders through the mansion with a catapult. Gomez asks Pugsley to remember the true meaning of the Mazurka – protecting the family. Gomez hands him one of his bombs and tells Pugsley to go out and do what he does best.

Pugsley does indeed get to strut his stuff with his precious bombs, fighting off the slue of boulders being flung through the walls and protecting the family, but eventually he runs out of bombs before they run out of boulders and it seems like it’s the end of the Addams’ family. In the nick of time, however, Wednesday shows up and uses Icabod, the living tree, to save everyone from the collapsing house. Morticia and Wednesday reunite and make up.

Thing happens to have one bomb up his slee–….Uhm….Anyway, Thing throws the bomb to Pugsley, he blows up the catapult and finishes his own brand of Mazurka.

In a rather sad scene, Gomez reiterates something Morticia said earlier – people can be cruel. As the townsfolk see the Addams’ are just people like them – people that they’ve frightened, attacked and nearly murdered – the citizens realize that THEY were the real monsters all along. Dun dun dunnnn.

Margaux, however, doesn’t see it that way, even after Parker sides with the Addamses. She is completely adamant in destroying their house and making Assimilation and her season finale perfect no matter what. She tries to get the townsfolk back to what they were doing, but Wednesday reveals to them all of Margaux’s hidden cameras in the houses of Assimilation. Even after being ousted, Margaux still doesn’t care about what the townsfolk think. They’re just extras in her show to her, and she won’t let even them come against her.

Parker reveals that none of this matters anyway because she’s been streaming her mother’s tirade since the start. Millions of people have been watching the real Margaux Needler, and it’s caused such a backlash online that her show was immediately canceled. However, she still has a bunch of houses she needs to sell. In comes Fester with his pitch to sell the rest of the houses to the Addams family so they can all live nearby each other.

The townsfolk all offer to help fix up the Addams’ house, melding their ‘normal’ style with the rough gothic chic of the Addams (Although, this gets reverted back to the full dark, dank motif after the spirit haunting the place returns after fleeing from the attack.) Fester not only teams up with Margaux to make a realty company, but he also starts dating her…..which…I found to really unrealistic. I mean, I guess he does love her for the monster she is, but why she would love him back I do not know. Margaux did not have a redemption arc at all. She was horrible from start to finish…and not in the fun way. I’m not sure I like that she was given a happy-ish ending after all that.

Back at the mansion, the family honors Pugsley’s Mazurka and officially commemorates him as a true Addams.

Cousin Itt takes their family picture, and the movie ends with a pretty cool remake of the original 1964 opening theme song sequence of the TV show. I actually checked and did a side by side comparison. They did the entire sequence shot by shot exactly, they even mimicked slight body language like Morticia’s little smile on her second snap and Gomez’s deep breath and side smirk. That was really cool of them.

However….it is kinda ruined when the credits come in and it’s a colorfully animated sequence with a hip hop song behind it….I have nothing against the song itself, it’s actually pretty good if you ask me, but it doesn’t belong in an Addams Family movie…

Overall, it’s a pretty good movie on its own and a much better sendup to an old franchise than a LOT of other reboots and remakes. I found myself laughing several times and smiling through a good chunk of the movie.

There were some bothersome intrusions like I still find it kinda hard to get used to all the modern updates in reboots like this. For instance, the townsfolk were holding up their phones with an app running that showed a torch instead of them actually using torches. I also got very thrown off when they had a segment where Lurch suddenly sings ‘Everybody Hurts’ by REM in a far higher tone than his normal voice as they had a montage of Morticia, Wednesday, Gomez and Pugsley all dealing with their problems in the midway point. What the hell even was that?

There was also another hip-hop song that played when Cousin Itt arrived. He pulled up in a limo and had fancy shoes and a pimp cane and it was playing him up so much. I get it. Cousin Itt is a beloved character and he hadn’t been in most of the movie, so why not make his entrance grandiose? Still, it felt a bit weird. You know what’s also weird? Snoop Dog ‘voices’ Cousin Itt…..Yeah…I…don’t know why either.

The absolute ending was a bit rushed, in my opinion. Like I already said, Margaux’s redemption was not earned in the slightest, not to mention that she suddenly started accepting these ‘freaks’ just because she was able to sell houses to them. The reunion and make up scene between Morticia and Wednesday just kinda fizzled. And they somehow managed to not properly wrap up an ending to a particularly important character.

Anyone notice that I explained the entire ending without mentioning Parker? What the hell happened to her? I had to rewatch the ending to see if she was even shown. She was. She was filming Pugsley’s final ceremony, but she wasn’t even centered in the shot – it was focused on Wednesday giving an approving nod to her brother. Did she make up with her mom? I doubt it. They never show them interacting after Parker literally destroyed her mother’s career. Where does Parker go from here? Is she going to go live with her dad (her parents are divorced), is she going to stay with the Addamses or what? What was the conclusion to her character arc anyway?

Is The Addams Family perfect? No. But given the absolute trash that we’ve had to wade through in regards to reboots and remakes over the past couple of decades, I know for a fact that they could’ve done so, so, so much worse.

They respected the franchise very well, they kept nearly every facet of the original series, though some information was more taken from the ‘90s movies, they added their own spin on it without being too bothersome with the updates and changes, and they managed to do all of that while still being pretty clever, funny, endearing and likable. They even made me give a crap about Pugsley, and I honestly never cared about him in any incarnation.

The art and animation are very stylized, and it works quite well with the Addams Family motif. And the music, while having some questionable tracks, is still really good. The voice acting was also done well. Allison Janney owned her role as Margaux. I think this would be a really good watch, especially around Halloween, for fans of the franchise and for newcomers.

Recommended Audience: This is obviously a bit dark, being The Addams Family, but there was no point where I’d ever consider shielding a child’s eyes from it. The point where I got the most weirded out was when Morticia used the ashes of her parents as eye shadow and blush. That’s about it. 7+

Final Notes: A sequel is being released on Halloween 2021. I’m looking forward to it, and will probably review it, whether for Animating Halloween or otherwise.

Screenshots Courtesy of cap-that.com.


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Exploring Disney’s Castle: The Reluctant Dragon (1941) Review

Rating: 7.5/10

Plot: Robert Benchley wants to pitch an idea about making a book called The Reluctant Dragon into a cartoon to Walt Disney. As he enters the animation studios, he is sent on a tour while he waits for his appointment and is escorted by an annoyingly uptight man named Humphrey. As he tries to dodge Humphrey, he finds his way into the many different departments of Disney’s animation studios and gets to see how animated features are made. Oh and eventually you’ll see a cartoon version of The Reluctant Dragon.

Breakdown: The Reluctant Dragon is a bit of an odd duck, and really seems like it’s false advertising a little.

Most of the movie is made up of behind-the-scenes exploration of Disney’s animation studio, showcasing nearly every aspect of making an animated feature from the voice acting to foley artists, animations, backgrounds, music, character design and more. The Reluctant Dragon feature doesn’t come until the very end of the film and only takes up about 20 minutes of screen time.

But maybe calling it false advertising is too harsh considering that there is a message at the front of the movie that says ‘This picture is made in answer to the many requests to show the backstage life of animated cartoons.’ so at least it’s telling you straight out that its intention is purely that and The Reluctant Dragon is basically a sample of the work they do there.

My problem is that the box art is nothing but The Reluctant Dragon (with Baby Weems) and the title is simply ‘The Reluctant Dragon‘. If some kid really just wanted to watch some cutesy dragon story and ended up with nearly an hour of education on the ins and outs of animation, they’d likely be a little pissed.

I’ve decided not to really take that into consideration in my final verdict. While, yes, it is sneaky, I want to stress how much I enjoyed this movie and the animated shorts included with it. So let’s dissect this movie into the various segments shall we?

Live Action/Behind the Scenes:

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I adore this part of the movie. I really can’t get enough of it. I love seeing all of the various aspects of making an animated feature, and I especially love how fun and kooky they make the world of Disney Animation Studios out to be.

There actually is a plot here beyond just taking a tour of everything in the studio and seeing everything in development. The story of the movie is that a man named Robert Benchley is prompted by his wife to make a pitch to Walt Disney involving making an animated movie out of a children’s book called The Reluctant Dragon. He RELUCTANTLY (Bwahaha!) agrees and he’s brought on a tour of the studio by an annoying man tasked with essentially babysitting him until his appointment.

As he tries to avoid him and sometimes by accident, he sees the inner workings of the various departments in the studio starting with a life drawing class, then going onto music and voice acting work, followed by foley work, then the black and white movie shifts to color (Technicolor!) during the scenes in the camera room, which is awesome, (adore the multiplane camera), the ink and paint department, the maquette department, storyboard department, animation department and finally meeting with Mr. Disney himself in the projection room for a twist ending.

Casey Junior:

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Our first animated short, and yes there are several, is during the segment in which Mr. Benchley is in the foley department. The employees are setting up sound effects for a short involving a train, and the subsequent short is our first feature.

The short is very simple. It’s a train named Casey Junior, the same train from Dumbo, riding down the tracks and getting into hijinks. Like you’d expect of a short animated Disney feature made in the 40’s, everything is very overly exaggerated, practically everything has a face or is otherwise living, and conflicts just tend to suddenly happen. All of this short is intercut with shots of the foley artists making the sounds for each action that occurs on-screen, which I find to be awesome.

As for the short itself, it’s fine. It’s very short; only a couple minutes long, but it’s a little entertaining. Animation on the bullet train was a bit rocky, but overall solid in that department too.

Donald Duck:

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There’s a very short animation of Donald Duck interacting with Benchley as he explains the way that animation works. It’s a very cute albeit extremely short segment.

Baby Weems:

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A short shown while in the storyboard department, Baby Weems is definitely a unique experience from a Disney perspective. The start of the story is merely showing the various segments of the storyboard for the short in progress. Once we get past the first part, however, the rest of the short is very minimally animated while still showing the rough art style of the storyboard.

You just don’t expect a short like this with Disney. Everything traditionally animated by Disney is usually very polished and fluid. I understand what they’re going for here. It’s done in such a way that it’s almost roughly like how seeing each segment of the storyboard would be animated together in your head. However, it’s still a quirky little short.

This is the first of the shorts to actually have a plot, story, as well as beginning, middle and end.

The short is about a newborn baby who is incredibly intelligent. Not only can he talk, but he is also one of the most intelligent super geniuses ever born, even easily debunking one of Einstein’s theories. Everyone in the world is fascinated by Baby Weems, and he instantly becomes a public sensation.

However, his parents can’t even get a second to see him due to his incredibly hectic schedule. As he grows more and more famous, it only becomes more difficult to even catch a glimpse of their son, and they even get so desperate to have him with them that they put the radio that constantly reports his activities in a bassinet.

Baby Weems soon falls ill, and the world is taken by storm by the news. We get a slue of fairly racist depictions of people across the world including probably the most racist depiction of a black person that I’ve ever seen. I was going to avoid posting a screencap, because the shot just makes me that uncomfortable, but I can’t explain this properly without you seeing it so here ya go.

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It’s like they mixed those racist cartoons of black people back in those days and combined them with a duck. It’s so ridiculous that I’m just mind-boggled by it. They even animate the mouth moving really fast and have the sound effect that accompanies it be clacking, like a duck bill….What is even this?

Anyway, the world obsesses over the health of Baby Weems, and since the parents are so fiercely barred from seeing their child, they’re forced to wait outside the hospital and constantly monitor the radio for news. Baby Weems eventually recovers, and as he’s set to make what is supposed to be a world-changing announcement, he reveals that he can no longer talk and is no longer a mega ultra genius. He’s merely a baby of the goo-goo-ga-ga kind.

The world dumps Baby Weems like he’s moldy cheese and he’s finally handed over to his parents to live as a happy healthy baby boy.

This short is very interesting, creative, and certainly memorable….I do have one major problem with it, though.

Baby Weems….is an asshole.

Think about it, he was a super genius. One that seemingly cared a lot about changing the world for the better and caring for people. He had to have known that he had parents who would logically want to be with him and loved him deeply, yet he never tried to make any time in his schedule to see them at all. They never had a millisecond with the kid. He was taken into the custody of the spotlight from practically the second he left the womb. It’s terrible and probably illegal how his parents were always barred by other people to see him, but the fact that Baby Weems never spoke up to let them in or wished to even visit them is just awful.

How to Ride a Horse:

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I adore the how-to videos with Goofy. They are by far my favorite type of Disney short. This one is very good, and I got plenty of laughs out of it, but sadly it’s not really one of my favorites.

The Reluctant Dragon:

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The main feature of our movie is obviously The Reluctant Dragon, which is debuted when Benchley meets Walt. The big twist or irony is that Benchley went through all that trouble to get a meeting with Walt to pitch a short or movie based on The Reluctant Dragon book only to find that Disney had just got done producing one. I would’ve checked with the author before going through all that, but whatever.

As for the short itself…..I don’t like it.

The art and animation are lovely as always….it’s the story and the characters, moreso one in particular that I don’t like. The story of The Reluctant Dragon involves a medieval town going crazy after spotting a dragon. A local farmhand’s son who seems to be quite the bookworm goes off to investigate only to find that the dragon is far from the big bad violent creature it’s made out to be. He speaks in a very effeminate manner, has very fancy mannerisms and is disgusted by the concept of performing regular dragon duties like battling knights, reigning terror on countrysides and kidnapping damsels. He’d rather do nicer things like write poetry, playing the flute and taking baths.

The young boy, disappointed that the dragon is nothing like what his books describe, walks away mid-conversation with the dragon and goes back to the village only to find that a knight, Sir Giles, has taken it upon himself to kill the dragon.

The boy returns to the dragon to warn him, but he just scoffs at the idea of fighting and shoos the boy away. He decides to speak with Sir Giles next only to find that the real Sir Giles is also far from the knights depicted in his books. Instead of a muscular manly swordsman with long blond hair, he meets a very spindly older man who also writes poetry. Upon hearing that the dragon is kind and will not fight, Sir Giles agrees to go to the dragon’s location and speak with him about the impending fight.

When they arrive, they have a nice picnic with the dragon and he and Sir Giles bond over poetry. When the boy finally breaks up open mic night, he brings up the imminent fight only to have the dragon completely refuse to take part.

The boy and Sir Giles then romanticize the battle and shower the dragon with flattery to get him to partake. It works for a bit until he hears that Sir Giles will be using a spear. Worried about getting hurt, the dragon refuses again but they develop a secret plan to avoid injury. Also, this entire scene is in poem form….

The battle is made into a big sporting event, and after getting the dragon mad enough to breathe fire, the fight begins. Obviously, it’s a staged fight and Sir Giles and the dragon screw around while putting on a show for the audience. I will admit that this is the first part of the short to actually make me smile. Some aspects of it are pretty funny like making the dragon mad and the horse getting irritated at the silly shenanigans of the dragon and Sir Giles when he was expecting a legit fight.

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In the end, Sir Giles pretends to slay the dragon and the battle ends. Later, the dragon, despite seemingly being killed, is claimed to have been tamed by Sir Giles, and the local villagers welcome him as a member of their society.

And to wrap up the live action segment, after the film, we see Benchley driving home with his wife as she berates him for letting them make the film while he was dillydallying around the studio. Because, yes, they developed an entire short animated film in 45 minutes. She continues to rag on him claiming anyone else would’ve caught onto the idea and got it to Disney long before now, but Benchley basically tells her to pipe down in a Donald Duck voice and we fade out. Also, she’s the one who first gave the idea to Benchley. So, technically, she should be at fault for not showing the idea to him sooner.

Bottomline: I really do like this movie a lot. I love seeing and learning about all of the various aspects of the animation process, seeing in-progress animated works of early Disney, behind the scenes tidbits, and I love the tone and creativity put into its presentation. The shorts are all pretty memorable and entertaining in their own rights while only varying slightly in quality and entertainment value. However, the big issue for me here is the main feature presentation of The Reluctant Dragon.

If The Reluctant Dragon were just another short included among all the rest, then I’d probably be fine with it existing in this movie without really giving it much of a thought. However, considering this is the main feature of our movie and the main focus of all of the advertising, including the box art and theatrical posters, I am forced to give it the scrutiny it deserves.

It goes without saying that the art and animation for the short are fantastic a la classic Disney, though I did spot one slight animation error during the battle. Some of the sound effects or lack thereof bothered me, but I was overall fine with it.

My issue, as I stated, is with the story and the characters. Most notably the dragon himself. Who came up with his character? Because he just comes off as a really wimpy self-important snob with a seriously annoying voice and manner of speaking. This probably makes for more comedy, but a more likable and sympathetic option would probably be someone less selfish and annoying and more gentle, kind, shy and not annoying.

The story is not really very creative. It’s the same story of avoiding a fight by having a fake one that has been done numerous times, even before this period of time, they’re just adapting a dragon vs. knight motif to it. You can predict everything that will happen from the second you see that Sir Giles is equally as soft and squishy in character. The ending also makes no sense. They straight out say that they’re staging the dragon’s death, and they do, yet he returns later to be a member of the village?

Like I said, I did get a few smiles out of it, but no laughs, and it’s really disappointing that this is our main feature of the movie.

My final rating is taking into regard anyone with an interest in the animation process and Disney works, and people who go into this not expecting a feature length dragon movie.

If you meet those criteria, then it’s a pretty darn good movie. If you don’t, then probably move on.

Recommended Audience: Outside of some racist depictions brought to you by the ’40s (I didn’t even mention the Chinese elephant they were drawing, complete with music track…) and some nip-less nudity on a female centaur figure, it’s perfectly fine. I don’t know how many kids would really be all that interested in the live action parts, though. 7+


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AniManga Clash! Yu-Gi-Oh (Manga) vs. Yu-Gi-Oh Season Zero Chapter 1/Episode 1

Plot: Yugi is a timid kid without many friends. He’s smaller than most of the other students, and frequently gets bullied by Jounouchi, who claims he’s trying to help him be a man, and his friend Honda. Yugi’s precious treasure is an ancient puzzle from Egypt called the Millennium Puzzle that he believes will grant his wish upon completion. His wish? To have true friends. However, he’s been working on it for over eight years and hasn’t solved it.

The school public morals officer, Ushio, takes it upon himself to punish Jounouchi and Honda for bullying Yugi by beating them senseless. When Yugi arrives to defend them, Ushio agrees to let up if he pays him 200k yen as a bodyguard fee.

Yugi doesn’t have anywhere near that kind of money, so he struggles with figuring out what to do. In an effort to clear his head, he decides to work on his Millennium Puzzle. He manages to almost finish it, but is shocked to find a piece is missing. Jounouchi had taken it earlier that day and thrown it into the school pool.

Yugi’s grandfather, Sugoroku, arrives with a surprise – the missing piece! Jounouchi had secretly retrieved it from the water and returned it to pay Yugi back for defending them.

Upon completing the Puzzle, Yugi is endowed with dark powers and a stark new personality – one who punishes evil people by challenging them to shadow games – competitions where your life, soul and sanity lay on the line.

‘Yami’ Yugi invites Ushio to school claiming he’ll pay him his money. Even moreso, in fact. 400K worth. However, there’s a catch. Ushio has to play a shadow game with him to get it.

Ushio accepts. The game is simple, yet dangerous. They each take turns stabbing the stack of money as it is perched on their hand. Whoever has the most money on the knife at the end wins. Whoever has the least or stabs himself, loses.

Ushio’s greed manifests itself in a force controlling his hand. Worried that this force will drive the knife too far, Ushio opts to stab Yugi instead and take the cash. Having broken the rules, Yugi punishes him with a never ending hallucination of money raining from the sky.

Yugi reverts back to normal with no memory of what had just occurred that night. He meets with Jounouchi, who kindly offers his friendship, and Yugi realizes that his wish had come true.

Breakdown: I’ve been wanting to do an episode-by-episode review of Yu-Gi-Oh Season Zero for a long time now – but why not go for the gold and also include an AniManga Clash for you guys? For those unaware, Yu-Gi-Oh Season Zero is the (Unofficial) name given to a 1998 anime based on the original Yu-Gi-Oh manga.

Both the manga and Season Zero are much darker and, outside of the characters, virtually nothing like the 2000 ‘reboot’s’ plot.

In the manga (before it was essentially soft rebooted) and Season Zero, the stories are more episodic and there’s a much wider variety of games being played.

In the 2000 ‘reboot’ (Which is really just a new series that focused more on the later parts of the manga (Chapter 60 and onward) that shifted tone and focus), the plot is almost exclusively driven by Duel Monsters with only a few variations, such as Dungeon Dice Monsters and Capsule Monsters (which is also in the classic manga), popping up. That’s why Yugi is the actual King of GameS. Kinda weird to get a title like that when you really only play one game.

Since this series is so episodic, I decided to go chapter by chapter instead of volume by volume like I normally do, though there will be some exceptions down the line.

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Let me just point something very obvious out before we start – the art, in both versions, is just terrible. Absolutely awful. Laughable at many points. Anyone who has made fun of the reboot’s art hasn’t seen anything yet.

In a complete 180 move, Honda, who was originally a fellow bully to Yugi and best friend to Jounouchi, gets turned into somewhat of a goody two shoes in the anime. He’s a school beautification club member and was even up for student council president, but lost the election.

I never thought I’d say this while doing this comparison, especially so early, but the reboot actually did this part more accurately. Even though this version gives Honda more personality and differentiates himself more from Jounouchi, the later anime keeps him as a fellow bully and best friend to Jounouchi, later fellow friend to Yugi…..And he basically becomes a load of nothingness once he stops being a bully because, unlike Jounouchi who has a strong personality, continues to better himself and goes off to become an amazing duelist, Honda basically stagnates for all of eternity, only duels all of once, and strives to…..drive a motorcycle, hit on his best friend’s sister and turn into a robot monkey.

This is a welcome change that I would’ve actually liked to have been kept in the reboot, kinda. At least it would’ve given Honda more personality. Honestly, it wouldn’t give him more of a reason to exist, but still, it’s better than nothing. My issue with the Season Zero!Honda in this situation is that he also gets beat up later in the episode even though he wasn’t one of the bullies attacking Yugi in this version, so you kinda feel bad for him.

Honda’s role is also increased quite a bit as he was basically a background character for most of the original seven volumes of manga this series bases itself from, only getting the spotlight a few times before being bumped up a bit to a moderate side character. This change was probably for the sake of increasing the main cast size and story padding since the material is typically a bit thin to run for a full 22 minutes.

Likewise, a character who barely exists in the manga, Miho, also has her role greatly expanded to being a side character. I assume this decision was for the sake of adding a little more to Honda’s character, as he has a massive crush on her, and to maybe add more girls/fanservice to the series. Miho, in the manga, appears for only one chapter centered around Honda trying to confess his love for her through a jigsaw puzzle. At the end, she rejects him and is never seen again.

Believe it or not, the bully, Ushio was indeed a public morals committee member who strictly enforced all school rules. In fact, if the subs on the anime are any indication, he WROTE all of the school rules, which I highly doubt.

Anzu is nicer in the manga than she is in the anime in this instance. She originally says that she couldn’t stand to watch a nice guy like Yugi get harassed by Jounouchi. She further expresses her frustration with them by explaining that Jounouchi and the other boys got the girls to play basketball with them just so they could see their panties when they jumped. In the anime, she says she has to be tough or else they’d pick on her too and berates Yugi for claiming Jounouchi’s not actually a bad guy since that kind of attitude is what gets him mocked in the first place. Kinda funny how a character who will later be known for her friendship speeches is acting like a cool jerk who believes thinking the better of people is good for nothing but getting your ass beat.

Also, Yugi’s a bit of a perv in the manga…….and noses come and go.

Minor, but the manga has a misunderstanding where Yugi tells Anzu that the puzzle is a memento of his grandfather, leading her to believe his grandfather passed away. When he brings her to the game shop later, she’s shocked to find he’s alive. Yugi then corrects himself and says he meant to say it’s going to be a memento of his. That’s a bit morbid, there, Yugi.

Sugoroku is a pervert in both the anime and the manga, by the way.

Ushio originally asks for 200k yen in the manga whereas, in the anime, he asks for 20k. The anime amounts to about 200 USD, while the manga amounts to about 2000, which is why it’s a bit more understandable for Yugi to be outraged. It’s still a lot in either version, but 2000 bucks is much more ridiculous to ask for than 200.

In the manga, Ushio says he’ll pass on the responsibility of punishment to Jounouchi and Honda if he pays the 200k. Yugi pretends to be interested in beating them up for the sake of getting Ushio off their back. As a bit of a down payment, Ushio beats up Yugi for a bit. In the anime, we cut straight from Yugi reacting to the 20k fee to him thinking about how to get the money while he continues work on the puzzle.

The scene in Yugi’s room continues beyond the point of finding that the last puzzle piece is missing. In the manga, Yugi starts crying and panicking because the piece is gone. Sugoroku arrives and hands it to him stating that a soaking wet boy delivered it to the house and asked to give it to him. It was Jounouchi, but he asked Sugoroku to not tell Yugi it was him. He had gone into the school pool to fish it out as a bit of repayment for Yugi protecting them from Ushio. Yugi then finished the puzzle and instantly becomes Yami.

In the anime, Sugoroku never comes into Yugi’s room or gives him the piece. Instead, he runs to school at sundown in hopes of finding where he dropped it.

In the manga, the now Yami’d Yugi invites Ushio to school at midnight with the promises of giving him the money he ‘owes’ him. Yami reveals that he ‘accidentally’ brought 400k yen instead of 200k and claims if he wants the additional 200k that he’ll have to play a shadow game. All they’ll need is Ushio’s knife.

In the anime, Ushio is still at school, for some reason, and catches Yugi returning. He asks for the money, but Yugi says he doesn’t have it nor does he think he’ll be able to get it. Ushio then takes Yugi out behind the school for some ‘education’ in the form of a beating. Jounouchi, who had just retrieved Yugi’s puzzle piece from the canal, and Honda see this happen, return his puzzle piece to him and attack Ushio in defense of Yugi. While he lies on the ground, Yugi mutters to Jounouchi that his wish was for true friends.

As they get beat by Ushio, Yugi elaborates more on his wish in inner monologue. When he sees Jounouchi and Honda lying unconscious, he crawls over to the puzzle and adds the final piece. Upon completion, Yami possesses Yugi.

Shadow Game

In the manga, today’s shadow game is fairly simple. They each take turns placing the stack of money on their hands. Then they take the knife and stab the money. However much money they stab through, they keep. Whoever has the most money at the end of the game wins. If you stab yourself at any time during the game, you lose. If you break the rules, you end up with a penalty game.

Yami goes first. He gets less than ten bills.

Upon Ushio’s turn, Yami gives him a tip – don’t use too much strength or you’ll stab yourself. The aim of the game is to control your greed. He uses more strength than Yami, earning him more bills.

As the game goes on, Ushio pulls out ahead, but he finds himself struggling with controlling his arm as the amount of bills decreases.

As Ushio’s about to take his turn, Yami reveals that shadow games unveil a person’s true character and sort of turns that into something physical IE Ushio’s inability to control his hand. In order to win the game and save his hand, he has to learn to control his greed.

Ushio thinks there’s an easier solution to this problem that allows him to use all of his strength, save his hand and get all the money – simply stab Yami/Yugi to death.

Yami is able to dodge out of the way. Since Ushio broke the rules, Yami punishes him with a penalty game: illusion of greed. He is now cursed for all eternity to having uncontrollable hallucinations about money falling all around him.

The next day at school, he’s rolling around in leaves and garbage, thinking they’re piles of cash.

In the anime, the game is entirely changed. As Ushio walks away, he’s suddenly teleported to the side of the school’s water tower, hanging by a rope. Yami appears with the money and challenges Ushio to a game, which Ushio accepts out of pride over never having lost a game in his life.

Yami also descends down the tower, revealing he and Ushio are connected via the rope. The lower he goes, the higher Ushio goes and vice versa. He drags a trail of playing cards behind him. Each of them will take turns flipping over the cards. The higher the value, the more you ascend. Whoever reaches the top, gets the money. He neglects to explain what will happen to the loser until the game is up.

Yami indeed wins the match, but Ushio’s not done with him. He climbs up the tower anyway, accusing Yami of fixing the game in his favor. Yami briefly warns him to not break the rules or else something bad will happen. He knocks Yami off the tower and cuts the rope, seemingly murdering him. He reaches for the money only to find that it’s a deck of playing cards.

As punishment for breaking the rules, Ushio is ‘swallowed by his greed’ which equates to him being eaten by a bunch of giant worms. In real life, however, he’s perpetually locked in a nightmare and ends up huddled in a fetal position crying out that he’s scared.

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I’m a little torn about this comparison, to be honest. The anime changed several things, but I can’t deny that some of them might have been for the better. Cutting out Yugi’s first beating was fine in my opinion. It didn’t make much sense to beat him then anyway. Plus Yugi trying to get out of it by saying he’ll beat Jounouchi and Honda was a little strange. He was asking for the money anyway and seemed like he’d let him off without him making that declaration.

Jounouchi did witness Yugi getting beaten up for them, but I think simply the act of standing between him, Honda and Ushio was enough to prove to Jounouchi that Yugi had guts and actually cared about them, despite what they did to him.

There was much more substantial buildup to Yugi getting his puzzle piece back in the anime. In the manga, Sugoroku just hands it over immediately after Yugi realizes that it’s missing. He never even learns that Jounouchi is the one who returned it to him (Granted, he’s also the one who took it….)

Yugi getting the piece back right before Honda and Jounouchi try to fight Ushio for Yugi’s sake is so much better. The inclusion of Jounouchi and Honda fighting for Yugi is a much better addition overall, to be honest. In the manga, Honda doesn’t do anything to earn Yugi’s friendship, and Jounouchi just gets wet. Even though Honda doing this when he was rewritten to not be a bully seems kinda unfair, it was still a cool thing to do.

Giving Honda more of his own personality was also welcome, even if it’s not the best personality. I don’t want him to be a watered down Jounouchi clone, but I also don’t want him to be such a massive bore like the reboot version is.

Miho is a bit of a question mark because she has no purpose here outside of making Jounouchi and Honda go away, which they were going to do anyway.

Anzu also kinda being changed to a slight jerk, in this episode anyway, also didn’t do it any favors.

The biggest aspect that the manga has in its favor is the shadow game, which is vastly better than the anime’s version. I don’t know why they changed it so drastically, to be honest. Was the knife thing too frightening?

The manga’s game actually involved Ushio’s greed and required a sense of self-control. The anime’s game relied entirely on luck. The only aspect that involved Ushio’s greed was in him cheating in the end. His attempt to kill Yugi there was pointless. He could’ve grabbed the money and ran, but instead he straight up murdered Yugi/Yami. However, he states he could survive a plunge into the canal and only end up getting wet, which is weird because the canal isn’t very deep and that is a very high tower.

His attempt to kill Yugi/Yami in the manga actually did have a point. It was either do that or stab his hand or risk losing the money.

The penalty game was also better or at least more creative in the manga than the anime. Him being trapped in a perpetual hallucination of money both fits his situation better and is a hell of his own design. In the anime, he’s just scared of giant worms with teeth.

All in all, it was really close, but I’ll have to give this episode to the anime. The additions and changes they made were almost entirely for the better outside of the shadow game, and while the shadow game was a lot better in the manga than the anime, it wasn’t enough for it to pull ahead.

Winner: Anime

Since the next chapter isn’t in the anime, I’ll be reviewing that as a singular chapter.

Chapter 2…..

Episode 2/Chapter 4

Final notes: I feel I should mention that the 2000 Yu-Gi-Oh series did indeed keep this backstory for Yugi, Honda and Jounouchi, but obviously it’s toned down immensely in that series. It was cut down to basically a minute-long barely-animated flashback. Also, there’s no mention of Ushio getting comeuppance in any way outside of the dub which claims he got expelled because of his actions.


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Mobile Suit Gundam 0079 Review

Rating 8.5/10

Plot: In the year 2124, or Universal Century 0079, humans have built and lived in space colonies that are orbiting earth for over half a century. The colonies on the outermost section, called Side 3, united and started calling themselves the Principality of Zeon. In an effort to win their independence from the Earth Federation, Zeon declared war. The war has lasted for eight months, and while both sides have endured heavy casualties, it seems there is a stalemate. However, the war has quickly been turned on its head by the creation of humanoid mechs called Mobile Suits, and the newest model, the Gundam, is the most powerful to date. The problem is, no one has manned it yet.

The engineer’s son, Amuro Ray, hijacks the Gundam in order to help protect his friends in a nearby battle and finds himself the designated pilot of Gundam and a reluctant soldier of one of Earth Federation’s best ships, the White Base. Under the command of Bright Noa, and with a crew of civilian soldiers, Amuro faces off in numerous battles against the Zeon forces, including their fiercest soldier, Char Aznoble.

Breakdown: The first ever Gundam series and the show most people hold as a standard set for all Gundam series to follow, Gundam 0079 is a vast exploration into the many facets of war.

One of the most interesting aspects of this series is the fact that almost all of the people on White Base are not soldiers, nor do they have any formal combat or technical training. In fact, many of them are teenagers and several are children. Almost all of them are reluctant soldiers at that, having been suddenly drafted after an attack on their colony.

You usually only get a civilian point of view from outside of the war, but still experiencing the effects of it. This set up gives a realistic take from both sides of the horrors of war. You see characters struggle to learn, break under the pressure, emotionally cope with their being forced to kill people as well as deal with the losses of their comrades, try to force themselves to grow up in order to protect themselves and their loved ones and even develop a family on board that familiar Trojan Horse (The White Base’s nickname).

Interestingly, a bulk of the time, the Zeon forces also aren’t treated as soulless evil bastards you never care about. Unlike many other similar shows of the time, the Zeon forces are frequently shown in a light that both reflects their status as the enemy but highlights their humanity. They have families, they fall in love, they deeply care for their comrades and they feel the horrors of war like the Earth Federation.

I appreciate this view, but it gets ruined later in the series. While Char and some other Zeon soldiers maintain a fair amount of humanity to continue to relate to them, the Zeons are, as a whole, completely solidified as heartless evil bastards who just want to take over everything instead of winning their independence. If you don’t believe me, many Zeon soldiers are given that stereotypical stupid thug voice, speak like the average violent thug would speak, and some of the higher ups, even Char, commit incredibly deplorable acts both against the Earth Federation and their own people, especially the giant mess that is the Zabi family, leader of the Zeons.

But as a topping on this MUAHAHA cake, we have a conversation between Degwin Zabi, sovereign ruler of Zeon, and his son Giren, a high ranking soldier in the Zeon forces. Degwin compares Giren’s ideals to those of Hitler, and Giren gladly accepts this comparison and even calls the Zeon forces the followers of Hitler. Yup, Zeon is literally Hitler.

The Earth Federation forces have some bad eggs, but for the most part it’s a politically clean and non-corrupt military force. There are some atrocities to be had, but these are mostly always shown as necessities to the war effort instead of furthering some personal or political agenda.

This series is largely battle-based as the main linear story and, outside of the political mess happening in Zeon, is fairly disjointed. I’m not saying the story doesn’t make sense, but it’s more a collection of mini-stories that are built on character development milestones.

Speaking of characters, the collection we have here is interesting and likable, though there are some speedbumps.

Frow Bow is a very kind and gentle mothering character who serves as the pseudo-love interest for Amuro. I say ‘pseudo’ because he treats her poorly for a bulk of the series – despite being childhood friends and one of the only people from his home that he has left beside him. However, a significant chunk of their time on screen is them fighting or him being dismissive and rude to her.

Frow Bow seems to take up more of an older sister with a rebellious younger brother role than she does love interest, and that’s fine. I just wish there had been more in regards to serious bridge mending between them later on in the series. He quite drastically shifts his tone to her out of nowhere, even calling her ‘beloved’.

Bright Noa is a strong leader who is one of the few who doesn’t want to take any of Amuro’s crap, even though he gives into his behavior several times because he needs him as a Gundam pilot. He has a very strong moral compass, and is always striving to do what’s right, even if it means disobeying military orders. Bright’s not without his flaws either, as he definitely struggles with his position sometimes.

Mirai takes to military life surprisingly quickly and basically becomes Bright’s first mate and one of the most effective and useful people onboard the White Base that never pilots a mech. She’s very mature and, if Frow Bow takes the role of older sister, Mirai definitely takes a motherly role. She is extremely loyal and close to Bright, and despite some uninteresting/annoying intrusions of her love life, she is one of my favorite characters.

Kai is voiced by Richard Ian Cox, so I love him yet hate him. Kai is an annoying smart-aleck who is always taking shots at people, particularly Bright and Amuro, but he is a very brave individual who is usually willing to fight to protect his allies on the White Base with the Guncannon. He grows on you a little, especially after his mini-arc where he abandons White Base, but he still grates on the nerves a bit.

Hayato is another childhood friend of both Frow and Amuro, though he’s more strongly connected with Frow than Amuro. He’s very short and gives off more of a vibe of being a kid than anyone else on the White Base, despite being the same age as Frow, Amuro and Kai. Because of this, he kinda sees Amuro as a measuring stick of his own successes. Even in the end, he seems to feel like he can’t match up to Amuro given his increasingly impressive abilities with the Gundam and his status as a Newtype.

No matter what, however, Hayato gives it his all in everything he does on the Trojan Horse, particularly in piloting the Guntank. He deeply cares about his friends and always wants to keep fighting to protect them, even when wounded. Hayato was another of my favorite characters.

Sayla was mostly just kinda there to me for a good chunk of the series until she’s finally given more development and backstory midway into the show. Until then, she’s mostly just another pair of hands on the White Base. After she steals the Gundam in order to find out more about her family, she is rightfully reprimanded (because those few episodes were stupid, to be honest), but, in light of her piloting skills, she is designated as the pilot of the Core Booster, being Amuro’s main support in battle. She eventually becomes more ingrained into the story as a whole, but I won’t spoil that.

We’re now at the first ever Gundam protagonist and Gundam pilot, Amuro Ray. And, I gotta say, it took me an insanely long time to warm up to Amuro.

Amuro, at least in the beginning, is hard to root for. I know he’s 16, but he’s incredibly impulsive, abrasive, immature and just has a bad attitude. I get that he’s a teenager thrown into war, but he basically threw himself into the war by stealing the mobile suit. Then he feels entitled to being the pilot of the Gundam despite breaking numerous military rules and laws, not being technically a military officer and the fact that he, ya know, stole the damn thing to begin with.

At the very least, he gets he gets a serious reality check when he returns. I can at least be thankful that those at White Base don’t welcome him back with open arms when he does decide to come back after his little tantrum in stealing Gundam after hearing he might be replaced as pilot. They throw him in jail the instant he returns and claim that they only want Gundam back and not him.

This is a good start at that reality check because now Amuro is basically going nuts with egotism claiming he’s the best pilot and only logical choice for Gundam. He even claims he has a perfectly reasonable explanation in leaving which is complete BS.

Dude, you left because you were sad they were going to take your robot away so you selfishly and immaturely stole the thing and ran off into the desert, leaving White Base very vulnerable to attack. You may have done a couple of good things in your absence that benefit the federation, but that doesn’t change the fact that what you did was done under selfishness and immaturity not because you had White Base’s or the federation’s best interest in mind. In no scenario would taking their best line of defense and refusing to return when requested would be beneficial to anyone but you.

Amuro did grow on me slowly but surely, but even at the end I wasn’t sure how much I really liked him as a character.

Speaking of characters, there was another issue that annoyed me throughout the series. Gundam 0079 has a nasty habit of introducing characters from nowhere, leaving them around for a few episodes, then killing them and having their death be extremely impacting for one character or another. They do this so frequently, especially in the second half of the series, that it seriously gets annoying. Half of these characters seem so superfluous or weren’t fleshed out nearly enough that I honestly can’t remember most of their names. Sleggar and Matilda come to mind, and there were countless Zeon higher ups that suffered from this.

The fact that Lalah became so focal in the end was also unwelcome. They act like she and Amuro had known each other very deeply and spent a lot of time together when they spend, collectively, a few hours together and had a psychic back and forth a few times.

The introduction of Newtypes was a little on the out-of-nowhere side, but I’m glad that everyone, to some degree got Newtype-ish powers instead of having everything cool go the hero again. Though it is odd that Char is only recognized as a Newtype when someone suspects he’s a Newtype. He doesn’t really display any Newtype abilities before then, outside of just being really good at piloting mechs.

If I had one more big complaint about Gundam 0079, it’d be the ending. The series just kinda ends out of nowhere. I mean, there is a little buildup when a sudden major death happens, but other than episode number, you really don’t expect the series to end on those last few episodes. And while the climax is pretty good, I was expecting more bang for my buck.

Plus, the dub completely ruins it. In their ED’s background scenes, they play the very last scene of the show full out without really any editing. Why? Why? Why? What is the goddamn point of doing that?

Art and Animation: Very dated, very noticeable reused footage, craggy in several respects, but for the time it’s not that bad. The art is classic and has many great designs. They don’t go too fancy with the mobile suits, but that’s alright.

Music: Also dated, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love it. I sing along to the OP whenever it comes on and the ED is a great way to come down after an episode, particularly emotional ones.

Voice Acting: English – This dub is pretty dated, but stands up fairly well. Everyone’s voices fit well, and there’s a decent amount of emotion in each performance. Char’s VA in particular really helped bring this character to life.

Bottomline: Gundam 0079 was a fantastic first run of a much-loved franchise. I wouldn’t say it’s phenomenal, but I never disliked watching it, even during episodes where I was angry at some of the characters. Even during those times, at least I was being invested and feeling strong emotions for what was happening. It may be a bit too dated for many anime fans today, but any fan of Gundam or mech as a whole, or space operas, should watch this. You won’t regret it.

Additional Information and Notes: Gundam 0079 was directed and written by Yoshiyuki Tomino, creator of Gundam as a whole and director and writer of many, many Gundam titles. It was produced by Sunrise and is currently licensed in North America by Sunrise as well.

Year: 1979-1980

Episodes: 43

Recommended Audience: There are some mildly sexually suggestive themes-ish, but not really. People die by the droves, but there’s nothing horribly graphic. The tones and subject matter may be a bit heavy for younger viewers out the gate. 13+

Exploring Disney’s Castle – Fantasia (1940)

Rating: 8/10

Plot: A collection of animated shorts set up as a visualization of classical music ranging from abstract to linear stories.

Breakdown: Fantasia is one of the most critically acclaimed Disney movies in regards to its artistry ever made, which isn’t surprising considering how much work and money went into it.

Fantasia was incredibly expensive. The animation costs and the development of the custom sound system of Fantasound made Fantasia a surefire money pit no matter how successful the film would ever be at the box office. This was only compounded by the already existing problem of the war in Europe, which caused box office failure even for the much cheaper project of Pinocchio. And, believe it or not, Fantasia was made to help soften the financial burden of creating the Silly Symphonies short of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, a short that was integrated into Fantasia and is probably the segment most people remember from the film.

Fantasia was supposed to be an ever-ongoing project with new editions coming out every few years. The new editions would see the omission of an old segment and the inclusion of a new one, making for a new viewer experience upon each release. However, money troubles reared its ugly head again with the impacts of low box office performance by Fantasia, and the new trouble of the US’s involvement in World War II made it an impossible venture.

Fantasia did gain a sequel in 2000 called Fantasia 2000…but we’ll get to that later.

Enough history. Confession time. I didn’t want to review this movie. Why? Well, the fact of the matter is that I didn’t think I could really do it justice without any sort of knowledge or experience on classical music. Considering this movie is really a celebration of the marriage between animation and music, I felt like only having one half of the equation wasn’t enough.

Plus, I have a rather embarrassing past with this movie. I’ve owned this movie on VHS for as long as I can remember – in fact I still have it – but I don’t think I ever watched it until a few years ago. I remember putting the movie in once as a kid, getting confused as to what the hell it was and turning it off after only a few minutes. Basically, I robbed myself of the opportunity to have a lifelong connection to this movie simply because I’d rather watch Power Rangers or Rugrats.

After thinking about it, though, I decided that I should still give it a review. Most people who watched this movie have neither a mass amount of knowledge in animation or classical music, and simply having an appreciation for these factors should be enough.

The movie has introductions and interludes in a live-action format. The Master of Ceremonies, Deems Taylor, explains the story or history behind the segment in a cool setup where the orchestra as well as Taylor are shrouded mostly in shadow with colored lights changing depending on the music. The orchestra starts playing the music for the feature as we shift into the animation.

Our first animated segment is introduced – Toccata and Fugue in D Minor by Johan Sebastian Bach.

Fantasia1

Mr. Taylor introduces us to what Fantasia is and how it works. He states that there are three types of features in Fantasia – ones with a solidified story and plot, ones with no real story but visuals and musical themes to create the flow, and ones that exist simply to exist. Basically, the animation is a depiction on what you’d imagine if you were listening to the music, and our first feature is exactly that type.

The segment starts off by showing us the orchestra in silhouette playing the music. When prompted by the conductor, the lights and shadows change on the walls. Eventually, we segue into the animated portion and back into the live-action segment one last time.

I’m….ambivalent about this segment. The animation, as expected, is gorgeous, and it is very creative, especially near the end. However, I really just feel like these types of shorts are just kinda there. They really seem like very elaborate screen savers or a very well-done visualization setting for a music player. Plus, I’m probably in the minority, and this shouldn’t be taken as a con to the movie, but for some reason this segment makes me a little motion sick when played on a big screen.

The Nutcracker Suite by Pyotr Ilach Tchaikovsky

Fantasia2

Here we have something with a bit more substance to me probably because we have actual depictions of actual things actually doing things. In this segment, we get an animation of fairies and the changing of the seasons as the Nutcracker Suite plays. By the way, while I really won’t be making many notes about the music, I really don’t like most of The Nutcracker Suite. Much of it is insanely repetitive, gets caught in your head so easily and many of the parts get annoying in their pitch.

This segment is separated into several parts. The first is the fairies, who are naked…..uh basically magic-fying everything in a forest. I really like this part of the animation because the colors and all the magic effects look fantastic. I especially like the parts with the dandelion and the spider web.

Next, we have a bunch of mushrooms dancing in front of a black screen….riveting.

After that, we have a bunch of flowers slowly falling into a pool of water as they sway in the wind to the music. Then the flowers shift into a more human-like shape to dance along to the music. I have my problems with this part. The beginning is fine and quite beautiful, but I can’t stop thinking that, after the flowers change form, that they’re really a bunch of dancing napkins.

The next part is like a rail shooter. Hear me out – it’s underwater and the plants and fish sway and move to the music, but as the camera moves through the various locations it’s like the fish can see the camera and run away at first glance. I have a personal love of underwater animation, as long as it’s done right of course. It really takes a lot of work and talent to make underwater life seem realistic and it’s done very well here. The synchronicity and colors as well as the really interesting fish are wonderful to watch, and best of all they got one of the segments of The Nutcracker Suite that isn’t annoying, grating or repetitive.

….Oh but let’s change that by segueing into our next part which shifts into the hyper crazy part of the Suite with a bunch of flowers dancing like crazy. The segment is too fast for my liking and is merely flowers rushing around dancing so it’s not very interesting.

We return to our regularly scheduled gentle tones and slow, soothing music as we return to the still-not-clothed fairies. This time, they’re committing mass leaf genocide as we transition into fall. Artistically and creatively, this part is basically on par or even better than the first part with the fairies, but I personally prefer this one since it goes with a better part of the Suite. And I kinda like the warm colors better. I guess it makes sense since Autumn is my favorite season.

We stay with the fairies for a while and the warm colored fairies are soon replaced by blue fairies who bring about the start of winter. I really like when we get into this part because the blue fairies ‘ice skating’ (get it!?) is one of my favorite parts of this whole segment. It’s kinda like a mix between the first segment’s visual style and the fairies in that shot.

The rest of the winter segment with the fairies is also good, but something looks….off about the snowflakes for some reason. I can’t put my finger on it.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice by Paul Dukas

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I find it odd that Disney didn’t vi to put this segment near the end. I mean, it’s featured on all of the box art, you’d think they’d save what is seeming like the grand-ish finale for last, but I guess third is fine too. Maybe this placement was intentional to help sate the impatient children who wanted to see Mickey. Then again, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice short was created specifically because Mickey’s popularity was dwindling. Damn and that would’ve given Oswald the Rabbit the perfect opportunity to take back his limelight.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is by far the most well-remembered segment of Fantasia, outside of Night on Bald Mountain. It’s the origin of Mickey’s other most well-known outfit of the red robe with pointy blue and white-starred hat.

This is the first short to have original music. Since The Sorcerer’s Apprentice was meant to be a stand-alone Disney short or Silly Symphony, it was slated to have such a thing all along. The short was written and the music was composed based on the story itself.

It should also be noted that The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is not an original story. It was based on a story that is thousands of years old.

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is set in ancient times of magic where a master sorcerer, Yensid, mentors his apprentice, Mickey Mouse. Yensid takes off his magic hat and goes to sleep. Mickey, with a passion for magic and a health dose of laziness, decides to steal his master’s hat and use one his spells to enchant a broom to do all of his dirty work. Eventually, he wishes for the broom to stop after it fills up a tub with too much water, but finds that he is unable to stop them. Completely out of control, Mickey resorts to broomicide via axe….wow. But he quickly finds that life, uh uh, finds a way.

The pieces of the murdered broom all soon turn into actual brooms with their own buckets and are ready to flood the place even more. Mickey, unable to stop them or get the water out of the place, is resigned to getting caught in a whirlpool in the basement. Yensid, awoken from his nap, removes the water from the castle and stops the brooms like a boss. As he confronts Mickey and gets his hat back, Mickey returns to his duties with an embarrassed smile as Yensid delivers a swift whack on his ass with the broom.

After the short ends, a silhouetted Mickey congratulates the conductor, Leopold Stokowsky, he does the same for Mickey and they shake hands.

I like this short. I’m not the world’s biggest Mickey fan (his personality tends to be all over the place if you go short by short…) but it’s a nice short story about how the quickest and easiest way is not always the best way, taking things can lead to trouble and messing with supernatural forces beyond your control can leave you drowned in the basement. I also really like the direction and style of this short, especially in the dream sequence and the finale. The colors and style are just great.

Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky

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This segment is meant to be a visual adaptation of Stravinsky’s original intentions for the symbolism of the song. From what I gather in the introduction, he meant it to be about the birth and development of life as a whole. As our MC dictates, the animations that accompany this song are meant to show a scientific recreation of life on earth from the very first single celled organisms to the fall of the dinosaurs.

We start in the blackness of space as we, like celestial beings, look down upon our galaxy. After we zoom in (a lot), we eventually see our rather pitiful looking little planet as it is experiencing numerous volcanic eruptions. The score also leads me to believe that Jaws might be popping up soon, so keep a look out.

For some reason, I’m not liking how they’re animating the fire in this segment. It just feels choppy. The lava is beautifully animated, though.

After all the volcanoes finally let loose and just erupt everywhere, the lava meets the ocean waters and everything goes nuts again. Gigantic storms occur, huge waves cascade over the lands and steam fills the sky. Once the giant volcano nearby becomes consumed with water, the lava is cooled, explosions pop through the rocks and the road is firmly paved for Waterworld to become one of the biggest box office disappointments in recent decades.

Years later, tiny green single-celled organisms, whom Disney somehow made cute, emerge along with other weird life in the water. They split up and split up and split up and split up and split up and—you get the idea, until they are covered in a weird dark cloudy liquid.

Even later, there is more advanced life under the sea and they’re oddly all dancing neon linework. They, too, are covered in the weird dark liquid where we then see even more advanced sea life that actually looks similar to what we may see today.

We follow one fish around as he frantically tries to get away from predators. He soon starts making his way towards land and then we just transition to dinosaurs. Okay, that’s a bit jumpy, but this was dragging a bit.

Who cares anyway? Friggin’ dinosaurs!

We see a bunch of dinosaurs doing dinosaur things like looking awesome, eating and straight up killing each other. Disney’s not really pulling any stops here. Earlier under the water, we saw some poor fish that was drawn with a cartoony face being snatched up and eaten by a jellyfish. He had a panicked expression and everything but it wasn’t in the main focus of the shot. Yeesh.

And we just kinda chill out with the dinosaurs for a while just watching them do things. Until, that is, we see what we all came here to see….the T-rex. He even comes with his own thunderstorm – guys, you don’t need to make a t-rex even more intimidating. It does a fine job on its own.

Naturally, every living thing in its path craps their yet-to-be-invented pants and run off. The T-rex eventually catches a stegosaurus. They face off for mortal combat with all of the other dinosaurs watching like it’s some prehistoric WWE. To its credit, the stegosaurus does put up a decent fight, but this a T-rex, sweetie. You gonna die.

After the stegosaurus dies in the most horrifying yet non-graphic way possible, the T-rex silently roars in victory to a bolt of lightning (Seriously, the T-rex plus the orchestral accompaniment are enough bad-ass. You’re gonna overload the system) and every other dinosaur just walks away after the fight concludes while Mr. Rex eats his meal.

Much later, the dinosaurs start suffering as their once lush lands have dried up under the intense and dry heat of the sun. The food is sparse, water is rare and dinosaurs are dropping like flies as they search for greener pastures.

After all of the dinosaurs have been reduced to skeletons in the wastelands of earth, an eclipse occurs and suddenly the lands are rocked by a massive earthquake followed by another huge wave that cascades over everything. The eclipse becomes full and our short ends.

I honestly don’t know how I feel about this one. I know this may seem dumb to say in a short that is trying to cover the course of life from single-celled organisms to the fall of dinosaurs in a handful of minutes, but I felt it was fairly slow. Also, I didn’t feel like much of the animation was really impressive or awe-inspiring. It was good, but some shots like the rocks falling and the fire felt really rough.

Plus, I don’t really get the finale. A sudden and horrific drought killed the dinosaurs but then the lands were like re-written by a huge earthquake and suddenly the ocean waters reappear and have yet another ungodly huge tidal wave to further remake the lands? And if this is the version they’re going for, how did the mostly aquatic dinosaurs die?

It’s an interesting concept, but I just didn’t get into it very much.

INTERMISSION

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When we return from our break, the MC decides to give us a little visual lesson on sound. We get what is essentially the visualizer from Windows Media Player as it shows the audience that all noises can be represented visually through various types of waves. While it is a very simplistic way of showing us the association between the animations and music, I find it rather charming. My favorite parts are the percussion section and the harp.

With that out of the way, we move on to–

The Pastoral Symphony by Ludwig Von Beethoven

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Mr. Taylor introduces this segment to us as a reimagining of Beethoven’s original idea of the story behind this symphony. Originally, it was meant to convey a day in the countryside. However, Walt Disney decided to adapt the symphony to a story set in Greek mythology.

Our short starts out at Mt. Olympus which doesn’t really look impressive at all. When you have a location description of ‘home of the gods’ you’d think they’d put more effort into making the place look grand and amazing. It’s pretty, it’s just that I would never think this is supposed to be Mt. Olympus.

An episode of My Little Pony starts—Oh excuse me, those are just the unicorns that are drawn in a really similar manner to the typical MLP style (I’m very aware this predates MLP by many years). They frolic through the woods until they come across a bunch of nymphs playing pan flutes. Hearing the music, the unicorns decide to play and dance with the nymphs.

A bunch of pegasuses….pegasi…..P….pega—Dammit. Plural pegasus fly overhead eating leaves and fruit from the trees. A newborn pegasus fawn decides to try his hand at flying, but continuously fails until his mother scoots him along and he’s finally able to fly with the others. He flies with what I assume is his full family complete with demonic looking father pegasus and three multi-colored siblings. I think mama pegasus has some explaining to do.

They eventually reach a large lake where hundreds of other….pegases….pegasasses….pega-HORSES join then. They play around for a while and we cut to a bunch of topless centaurettes. Yes, everyone, nudity in a Disney movie that doesn’t have to be found by some guy with nothing better to do than go through Rescuers Down Under and Who Framed Roger Rabbit frame by frame. They’re bathing because of course they are and it really seems like they’re purposely hiding their horse half to give the viewers boobs without making them feel uncomfortable about the horse part. They later laze about with some cherubs while doing girly things like filing nails and putting on makeup.

The cherubs see a centaur blow a horn to call his friends, all of which have really freaky faces, to go get some centaurette lovin’. The centaurettes prepare for their future lovers with arts and crafts via birds, flowers and lily pads.

The centaurettes do their best to seduce the dead-eyed creepy as hell centaurs with their half-naked dancing, and it succeeds as everyone is now paired up and in love, daww. They’re also conveniently color coded.

Did I say everyone was paired up? I meant one blue centaur is forever alone. And, even more conveniently, a blue centaurette is also forever alone. The cherubs see this and lure the centaurette over to the centaur so they can be in love. Something really IS in the water at Disney isn’t it? Also, I have a feeling all of these cherubs are supposed to be Cupid stand ins?

Anyway, they lead them to a nice place to get it on, the cherubs leave them to their dirty business and pull some curtains over the scene. And as one cherub tries to peek in on them (I don’t need a perverted naked baby, thanks) his naked butt is proudly displayed straight on to the audience before it turns into a heart. You’re really weird, Disney.

The centaurs and centaurettes then make some wine for the god Bacchus, the Greek god of wine and intoxication. Also, the black centaurettes are half zebra for whatever reason. Is that….racist? I can’t tell.

Also, Bacchus is riding on a donkey-corn….Or a Uni-key…that is also getting smashed out of his mind.

They dance and party with Bacchus before he gets seduced by a centaurette. Remember, Greek mythology. No need to bring up anything weird in regards to sexual pairings.

They party some more with Bacchus until a dark cloud appears overhead and a storm starts. Zeus shows his….rather goofy looking face, as does Vulcan, and Zeus starts chucking lightning bolts everywhere, especially at Bacchus. That’s what you get for missing your AA meetings, Bacchus!

Zeus continues to be an ass while everyone runs for their lives, and he even destroys the giant cask of wine!

nooooo

But it’s okay because Bacchus just laps it up and splashes around in it like an idiot.

Zeus finally grows tired of being a sadistic asshole and falls asleep, allowing the clouds to disperse and the sun to shine through once more. As the weather clears, the mythological creatures return to frolicking as Iris creates a rainbow in the sky. The day starts to end, and the sun starts to set, causing Apollo to appear and wave farewell to all of the creatures.

Morpheus appears and causes nightfall, though I thought that was Nyx’s job, and all of the creatures go to their respective homes to fall asleep. Finally Diana, using the crescent moon as a bow, shoots an arrow through the sky that creates the stars.

This short didn’t really mesh with me. It’s not particularly funny or exciting, it’s just cutesy. Cute or at least non-threatening versions of creatures from Greek mythology just basically screwing around for a day. Not to mention that, while the animation is gorgeous, the art is not doing it for me. I understand why the art is so colorful and cutesy, it’s just the style they were aiming for in regards to the kids, but it doesn’t ever make me think we’re at Mt. Olympus. Also, again, what the hell was up with the centaurs? Eugh.

I pretty much sleepwalked through the whole thing. I can’t really say I hated it because it didn’t leave that much of an impact, but I just wasn’t very much interested in it, which is a damn shame because I adore mythology.

Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli

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This section provides the audiences with something more of Disney’s regular style. It’s a comedic short set up as a ballet with a bunch of anthropomorphic animals, each group representing a different time of day; morning, afternoon, evening and night.

Since this is a ballet and most of the short is dancing, I can’t really make another detailed analysis for you, but let me break it down a bit. I will say, however, that it is really hard to watch/listen to this because I can’t not associate this song with ‘Hello Mudda, Hello Fadda’ and that old K9 Advantix commercial….

The first section, morning, is performed by ostriches. Comedic moments are few and far between here. They’re mostly just tiny moments like making their ties dance and swallowing their food with their ties blocking their path. The only major comedic moment comes at the end where the lead ostrich, the one with the pink bow and shoes, tries to eat some grapes after feeding her friends some fruit, but her greedy friends try to steal them from her, resulting in her dropping the grapes in a pool of water. The water bubbles up and the ostriches run away, segueing us into the afternoon section.

The second section is performed by hippos. Nothing really comedic at all happens besides one weird thing – the main hippo’s fat.

The third section, evening, is performed by elephants and I’m just now getting that the whole big joke of this entire short is that a bunch of animals that would really never be considering elegant or graceful are performing a ballet. We get a legit funny moment with one of the elephants blowing a bubble and suddenly a fish appears in it and floats away.

Other than that, the elephants really just screw around with bubbles and make the lead hippo, now asleep, float up in the air with the force of their collective bubbles.

The final section, night, is performed by a bunch of alligators. A bunch of alligators who want to eat the main hippo. A bunch of alligators who are wearing cultist robes while wanting to eat the hippo.

This segment is actually pretty amusing as the hippo is basically being the Bugs Bunny to the alligator’s Elmer Fudd, and it is weird to see a ballet being made of attempted murder.

Eventually, all of the animals get in on the final dance against the alligators and the segment ends with seemingly the alligator’s winning but they don’t eat the animals and the other animals just smile as the song concludes so….*shrug*

While it’s not really amusing until the second half with the elephants and not really close to funny until the section with the alligators and the finale, it’s still a pretty decent short. I think it kinda failed as being the only comedic section of our movie, however. Especially considering that 1) This is Disney. Silly Symphonies much? You can’t get funnier than this? And 2) the darkest part of the movie is coming up next.

Speaking of which!

Night on Bald Mountain by Modest Mussorgsky and Ave Maria by Franz Shubert

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If The Sorcerer’s Apprentice is the most widely known part of this movie, Night on Bald Mountain is definitely the most impacting and interesting.

This segment was made of two separate pieces of music melded together to make a narrative. The first section, Night on Bald Mountain, shows spirits rising up to greet their master, the devil Chernabog, even though the opening narration seems to indicate that it’s Satan as they state that Bald Mountain is the meeting place of Satan and his demons.

Bald Mountain is gorgeously designed, and the colors and design of the surrounding environment are deliciously creepy. Chernabog is one intimidating and creepy SOB, even if his overall design can be seen as a bit uninspired. His closeups are simply striking. Just the way he sends giant shadows of his hands over the town below is chilling, especially when the buildings distort in response.

The animation for the ghosts is a bit weird, it’s like paper cutouts done in CGI, at least during their first handful of shots. Later on, they look like they were made with chalk, which makes them seem really gritty and creepy.

Chernabog surrounding himself in a swarm of spirits and then unleashing the fires of hell upon them is a great moment. Plus the designs of the demons are unsettling. Basically it’s a party in hell and everyone’s invited. Chernabog even cooks up some naked whores made of fire. How nice of him. And Disney even throws in nipples on some of the female hellspawn. It’s art, so shut up parents.

I get hypnotized by this segment. It’s just so….beautiful. In a grim and dark sense, but it is really beautiful. The art, the animation, the setting, the little things going on like turning the pretty fire ladies into beasts, demons being snatched in midair by other beasts supposedly to get eaten, Chernabog toying with everyone and everything like a kid playing with his action figures – it’s just awesome.

But then the Angelus bells ring and Night on Bald Mountain has to end their party because Ave Maria is coming to bring down some serious religion, hope and love on your asses!

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I love how each ring of the bell not only changes the colors in the shot, but also causes pain to Chernabog and the little demons. Upon hearing the bells, the spirits return to their rest back in the desolate ruins of the town. The sun rises over the horizon and Chernabog returns to isolation.

Through the foggy mists of dawn, a procession of lights wade through the land. An endless stream of people slowly travel through the barren landscape. I really like the direction on this part. We go from gigantic Chernabog playing with demons and spirits like they’re GI Joes to him wincing in pain to them returning to hiding because of these little tiny lights of hope, barely visible to us, that walk across the land. It’s a wonderful contrast.

It’s also a great segment to wind down on after the powerful and exciting Night on Bald Mountain. It has a way of making you feel relaxed, calm and even happy.

Through the darkness of the wooded path is a ray of light leading to a beautiful bright and lush forest where the sunlight breaks over the horizon and the bright rays of golden light shoot up into the sky.

The end.

Bottomline: Fantasia is not a flawless film, especially if you bought it for your kids. I mean, I’m all for kids watching more mature programming, not filthy – mature, to give them a glimpse into a more complex world beyond their own, maybe teach them a lesson or two or just prompt them to think about things they otherwise wouldn’t have. However, I can see this being a major snoozefest for kids. There’s only one segment that resembles typical Disney fun and there’s not much that is fun or funny about it, and another one that involves Mickey Mouse, who was at a low point in popularity at the time of release.

Unless your kid is one who will be captivated by some gorgeous Disney art and animation or is a real big fan of classical music, I can’t believe many kids would actively want to watch this very often, at least not younger ones.

Plus, a few of the shorts aren’t that interesting to me. It’s just animals or creatures doing things to musical accompaniment. It may be well-done, but it’s not interesting to me. Plus, I guess I’m just not cultured enough to find any real entertainment or substance to abstract representations of the musical notes. It’s certainly beautiful and you have to respect the manner in which it was made, but the end result doesn’t keep me hooked in.

The art and animation truly is amazing in this movie with special attention and praise on Night on Bald Mountain, Ave Maria and The Nutcracker Suite. I did have some issues, however, such as the fire on The Pastoral Symphony or some of the scenes with the spirits in Night on Bald Mountain, but it’s nothing major. Oh but the centaurs, yeah, I have a problem with them. Eughghghghghgh.

I can’t really comment well on the music. It’s mostly well-known classical tracks, though a few went over my head. I really do hate the Nutcracker Suite, and some of the songs weren’t very memorable to me, but I did really like the music as a whole.

Fantasia is probably overrated, even though I do hate saying that to something that was such a passion project. It’s worth the watch for The Nutcracker Suite, The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Night on Bald Mountain and Ave Maria alone. Hell, it’s worth it just for Night on Bald Mountain and Ave Maria to me. But I just don’t see me wanting to rewatch this movie again any time soon. It’s a beautiful movie, but it doesn’t evoke such strong feelings and excitement as many people would built it up as.

I would say definitely, most definitely, watch this movie at least once in your lifetime. But if you don’t like it, I’d entirely understand.

Recommended Audience: There are some dark themes like death, killing between animals, starvation, hell and demons. There are, believe it or not, several instances of nudity in regards to topless women with at least two shots of breasts with nipples drawn and colored. Also, naked babies (Cherubs) but you don’t see their genitals. No sex or gore, though they get damn close with that stegosaurus scene. 10+

Episode One-Derland: Karasu Tengu Kabuto

Plot: Kabuto is the last of the Tengu, a clan that sealed away the dreaded Kuroyasha many years ago. Kuroyasha Douki has recently returned and wants revenge on the descendant of the Tengu clan for sealing him and his comrades away. Kabuto is a mighty warrior, but he still requires help to take down the Kuroyasha. He unlocks an ancient demon sword named Hiryuu and calls upon the four guardian gods of his family to help take them down.

Breakdown: Mmm smell that 80’s cheese.

There’s not a whole lot to say here. It’s one of a million ninja clan vs. evil demonic ninja clan shows that peppered the 80’s the 90’s in anime. But this one gives the main character black crow wings. Oooooooohhhhhhh~~~~

As a first episode, it does a good enough job at explaining the backstory, hero, villains and what the objective of the story is. The hero’s just as you’d think, the villain’s just as you’d think, and the intro battles are putty patroler-esque pushovers. The finale gives them these cool flying statues that blow fire, so there’s that.

The art is very dated, and the animation is nearly hilarious with that classic, always mocked, sudden zoom in to a shocked face trope, as well as the regular action animation shortcuts of cutting away during an attack to just animate a lit up slash on a black screen.

That’s not to say the action’s not fun. It’s not some of the best I’ve seen, but it’s pretty good so far.

The music is mostly forgettable, and, remarkably, that’s probably the only aspect of this that isn’t really dated.

Final Verdict:

Anyone who wants a dose of 80’s ninja cheese can enjoy this just fine, but so far there’s really nothing to draw anyone else in. I’ll keep it on the back burner.

Animating Halloween: Spongebob Squarepants – Scaredy Pants

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Plot: Spongebob’s sick of everyone scaring him on Halloween, so he decides to be the one who does the scaring.

Breakdown:……I can’t believe it took me 20 years to figure out that Spongebob was wearing wooden shoes as The Flying Dutchman….because wooden shoes are a Dutch thing…..I am….so stupid.

Oh yeah the episode.

Who doesn’t love a heaping dose of classic Spongebob? This is no laugh out loud riot or anything but several moments had me smiling, and I think the twist at the end still stands up to this day. It’s just enough ‘graphic’ horror for both kids and adults to be a little creeped out, and it does take you off-guard when they reveal it.

I think I should also point out that, essentially, Patrick mutilated his friend for a Halloween prank. Spongebob asked for it, and he said it’d grow back, but still, that’s kinda messed up how his body can just be literally shaved away like that.

This episode is sat at an awkward point because you can tell they don’t quite have all the characters or tone down to their sweet spot yet, but it works well enough. I like remembering when Spongebob and Patrick would have harmless fun adventures instead of having Patrick be a horrible person like he is now.

Squidward was also pretty cool here. He just pulled a harmless prank on Spongebob and had a rare funny back and forth with Sandy. He isn’t being used as a punching bag or being overly grumpy.

This isn’t one of my favorite Spongebob episodes, but it’s a solid Halloween special, albeit short.

Dissecting the Disquels – The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning

Rating: 8/10

Plot: When Ariel was a child, the kingdom of Atlantica was filled with music and laughter. When her mother, Queen Athena, suddenly died, King Triton, not wanting to be reminded of the pain of losing his wife, banned all music from the kingdom.

Ten years later, the kingdom is dreary and rid of music. Everyone is miserable, but no one dare confront King Triton about it.

As Ariel gets more contemptuous over their situation, the girls’ governess, Marina, desperately vies for Sebastian’s job.

Breakdown: This movie…..

 

 

 

Has no right……

 

 

 

 

 

 

To be as good as it is.

Ariel’s Beginning is the last Disquel to be made, not counting the Tinkerbell movies, follow-ups like the Winnie the Pooh movies or movies based on Mickey and the gang. The last Disquel to be made before this one was Cinderella III (Actually, production on this movie was halted so they could get Cinderella III out sooner. Pbt), and I already explained how weird it was that that movie was so good.

What’s even weirder is the Disquel behind Cinderella III was The Fox and the Hound II……I don’t get how or why these Disquels have such stark contrasts in quality. Did they confirm that they were stopping Disquels in a few years so they decided to have their last two actually be good?

The animation here is definitely the best of the Disquels, even though we don’t get any shots that I would say are particularly amazing or anything (The shot at the end with the rainbow lights comes closest). They still have a budget and whatnot.

The voice acting is great, even Flounder, who almost seems like he’s aiming to be annoying.

The new comic relief is, bar none, the best comic relief any Disquel has come up with. Benjamin is Marina’s assistant. He’s a manatee who is very soft-spoken, almost in a Winnie the Pooh manner, and makes a lot of funny observations. He’s not a comic relief character we get often in Disney or nearly any form of media as this role is typically relegated to loud, obnoxious idiots.

While I am still very hardpressed to tell the girls apart, this movie does give more focus to Ariel’s sisters. Fans of the TV show or books might find them more memorable, but considering they barely get any screentime in the original movie and…..are they even in The Little Mermaid II? I usually forget they’re even there. It was nice to get some more characterization for them, even if a bulk of it is just “Attina’s the oldest and most responsible….and there are five others besides Ariel.”

While I can see many people wondering why The Little Mermaid needs a prequel, it does answer a question many people had about the movie – Where is Ariel’s mother? The answer is, she’s dead.

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I would’ve liked more time with Athena because she’s only in the opening scene and barely gets any lines. When her life and death are the main crux behind the conflict of the entire movie, you’d like to get to know her a bit more. All we know is that she looked a lot like Ariel, she was kind, she loved her family, she was deeply in love with her husband and she loved music.

Still, her death sets off the entire plot for this movie, which is good in a writing sense because it’s pretty hard to justify banning music and being so vehement about it.

However, simply banning music isn’t enough of a conflict. We still need a villain. Today’s Disquel villain is Marina Del Rey, voiced by Sally Field, because that’s about as random of a choice as anything. To her credit, Marina is a…fairly entertaining villain – leagues above Morgana anyway, but she’s….probably one of the lamest villains in Disney movies.

Which brings us to the main three problems with this movie.

1) Marina’s a weak villain.

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I give them credit for not trying for another Ursula clone, but that kinda makes matters worse. Unlike Morgana and Ursula, she doesn’t want power or the Trident, she doesn’t even want Triton’s job.

She wants Sebastian’s job.

Sebastian’s job.

Sebastian’s job.

She wants to be a higher grade lackey, essentially. Imagine if they made a Lion King sequel where the villain was trying to overthrow Zazu. It’s on that same level of ‘huh?’ It takes her until the very end of the movie before she even feels compelled to kill Sebastian.

She doesn’t have any sort of magic powers. The best thing she has are a team of electric eels, which are nowhere near intimidating enough to carry her. Having your main driving force being lackeys never works.

Marina’s also very showboaty and loves to wear flashy dresses, much in the same realm of a showgirl. While you could say similar things about Morgana and Ursula, they at least had the power to make it seem like they were justified in their egos, making them seem kinda badass (Ursula anyway). The showgirl thing is just part of Marina’s character, which is fine, but doesn’t seem very unique.

The Wiki compares her to Yzma (and Benjamin is, likewise, compared to Kronk), which I can see, but at least Yzma was murderous, kinda scary, has some form of magic powers and wanted the job of empress.

2) For a movie trying to highlight how grand and powerful music is, their soundtrack is not as good as it should be at all.

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The colors are great in this movie as well.

Compared to the other Disquels, it’s very good, but if you want me to be entranced by beautiful music, you have to have more original music in the movie, particularly lyrical songs.

There’s Athena’s Song, which is very good and a great opener to the movie.

Then there’s our villain song, Just One Mistake, which is not good as a song, but is sung just fine by Ms. Field.

Ariel’s song, I Remember, is also very good. Thank you for finally letting Jodi Benson have a song after she was robbed in The Little Mermaid II. God forbid the character known for her beautiful singing voice be allowed to sing.

Finally, we have I Will Sing, which is a non-musical number song performed by Jeannette Beyardelle, which is fine.

Other than that, we have covers of samba songs, which eat up the rest of the music-oriented parts. I have nothing against mambo, calypso, samba, etc. In fact, I enjoy them, but when you’re listening to Jump in the Line (Shake, Shake, Shake, Senora) for the third time in a row, I get kinda irritated. Also, we have an instrumental cover of Man Smart (Woman Smarter) and I couldn’t even tell it was a cover. I thought it was just random calypso music.

Being fair, the background music is great. I absolutely loved the piano music that was playing during the dialogue-free scene of Triton and Ariel before she runs away. Kudos for attempting the dialogue-free scene in the first place. A lot of animated movies, especially direct-to-DVD ones, don’t try that. It was very impacting.

3) The story can be seen as a rehash of the original movie + The climax bites.

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Something Ariel likes is strictly forbidden.

Her father is seemingly being unreasonable.

There’s a scene in which Triton destroys a sanctuary dedicated to this forbidden thing.

Ariel has a heated confrontation with her father about this and runs away because of it.

Triton and Ariel make up after she realizes why he was so adamant about forbidding the forbidden thing and Triton realizes he was being too harsh and restrictive.

Someone’s killed by a boat.

All of these things happen in Ariel’s Beginning, but I’d be remiss to say this movie is a rip-off of the original. It’s certainly reminiscent, but not nearly as rehashed as some other Disquels.

Something odd about this movie is, despite taking place a year before The Little Mermaid, Ariel actually seems a little more mature, intelligent and reasonable than she is in The Little Mermaid. Also, no, we don’t get a prequel explanation as to why she’s so enamored by human stuff, BUT we do get a prequel explanation as to why Triton hates human stuff so much.

The aforementioned boat death was Athena’s death scene. In the beginning of the movie, Triton, Athena, the princesses and many Atlaneans….no that’s for Atlantis. Atlanti…cans? Atlanticers?…Atlan….fish were enjoying some time in a lagoon, singing and playing along. Triton gave Athena a beautiful magic music box, which had images of Triton and Athena dancing together within it.

A pirate ship came by, and while everyone was trying to run away, Athena was attempting to save the music box. The ship crashed into her, the music box sunk and Athena passed away. While they never outright say this in any of the movies, probably because it would’ve been difficult to show it in this movie and Athena’s story hadn’t been made in the original movie, it can easily be surmised that Triton grew to hate humans because they were responsible for his beloved’s death.

TLMAB5

In regards to the climax, it’s incredibly weak. It is, by far, the worst part of the movie. Marina sics her electric eels on Ariel and Sebastian to keep them from making her lose her job (even though, considering her job involves caring for the princesses, having one die on her watch likely would’ve gotten her fired anyway)

The eels pointlessly stare at them for eons after having them cornered, Flounder, of all characters, saves them. Marina basically has a comedy face-off with Sebastian and, while stuck in a rock formation, tries to crush him, but ends up creating a death fake-out with Ariel, which is pointless because, being a prequel, we know she’ll live.

Then she straight up vanishes, Entirely. The plot forgets about her until the end credits, which suddenly get interrupted by her in prison. It’s like they forgot to include an ending for her until they were already editing the credits together.

Benjamin’s her prison psychiatrist for some reason. The end.

While these problems are very apparent, I still have to say this is one of the best and most enjoyable Disquels by a long shot. It might even contend TLK2 for top spot, and I never much cared for the original Little Mermaid. It has pretty good sentimentality, some good humor (I loved the scene where Marina parodies Ariel’s crescendo scene on the rock, even if it has been done many times by this point, and doesn’t make sense given that this is a prequel, thus Ariel hasn’t done that yet) and a good deal of fun. If the ending was either much darker or had about 20x more action, and it had a more serious or threatening villain, it’d definitely be the best Disquel.

Recommended Audience: They do say the dreaded d-word (died) and one character dies kinda off-screen-ish but other than that, nothing. 5+

SSBS – Saint Seiya/Knights of the Zodiac Episode 2: Burn! Meteor Punch of Pegasus

SSBS - Saint Seiya Episode 2

Plot: Seiya has arrived in Japan right as the Galactic Tournament is starting up. The Galactic Tournament is a series of matches between those who have earned Bronze cloths for the sake of winning one of the 12 Golden Cloths. Seiya has absolutely no interest in joining, however. His one goal in coming to Japan and the tournament arena was to deliver the Pegasus cloth to a man named Mitsumasa Kido, who ran the tournament.

Six years ago, Kido separated Seiya from his sister after their parents died. He shipped him off to Greece and told him he could only return and be reunited with his sister once he acquired the Pegasus cloth. Now that he has done so, he wants to see his sister.

Saori Kido, Mitsumasa’s granddaughter and current runner of the tournament, gives him terrible news. Not only is her grandfather dead, but Seiya’s sister went missing from the orphanage almost immediately after Seiya was shipped off to Greece. Saori was never told where she was, if her grandfather had anything to do with her disappearance.

However, she is very keen on getting Seiya to participate in the tournament, so she offers to lend her resources and money to him to find his sister should he win the tournament. He’s still not interested, even after also being pressured by the owner of the Unicorn cloth, Jabu, who used to know him in the orphanage.

He goes to the orphanage, known as The Foundation, for clues and meets with his old friend, Miho, who is currently helping care for the children there. She tells him that she also doesn’t know where his sister might be, but suggests that he try to get her to find him by fighting in the tournament. It’s a massively publicized event, and he has a good chance of having his sister find him if he participates.

Seiya agrees, thanks Miho and goes to join the tournament.

His first match is against the owner of the Bear cloth, Geki. The Bear Saint has massive power in his arms, and he boasts about killing hundreds of bears with his bare hands, no pun intended. He tries to strangle Seiya to death, and it seems he has him down for the count until Seiya remembers what Marin once told him when he was a child.

When fighting someone more powerful than you, find the main source of their strength and attack it. Since Geki’s strength is in his arms, he starts crushing the armor on his arms with his hands. He breaks free and uses a flurry of kicks too fast for the human eye to catch to destroy Geki’s cloth and knock him out of the fight.

Seiya’s next match is against Jabu. Who will win a battle of the horses?

Breakdown: We’re getting slightly rushed with this episode because not only do we get thrown into the tournament and see our first match, but we also have to acquaint ourselves with backstory and several new characters.

I love tournament fighters, so I’m not really complaining about the latter, though I will mark something down on that in a minute, I’m moreso complaining about the former.

Seiya’s backstory is pretty good, but I won’t deny that it feels very rushed here. I feel like we needed a full episode to develop this firmly instead of having it crammed into the first part of this episode. The inclusion of Miho felt particularly rushed, especially considering she’s obviously being set up as Seiya’s love interest.

The tournament half was good, and it was nice to see Seiya struggle during his first match instead of flippantly blow his first opponent away just to show what a badass he is, which he did a few times in the start of the episode, but the manner in which he would achieve victory was a little too obvious from the beginning.

What imbecile tells his opponent where his true power lies in the middle of a fight? That’s almost as bad as telling someone where your weakness is. The instant he said ‘My true power lies in these arms’ I facepalmed and said to myself ‘well, now he knows what to attack, you idiot.’ If you manage to take away someone’s source of power, they’re helpless. Hubris, Geki. Hubris.

Then we get an almost insulting scene where Seiya flashes back to his studies under Marin, where she shares the aforementioned lesson. Since Seiya’s a child in this flashback, I wasn’t bothered that it was included, but I could feel my blood pressure increasing when they flashed back to Geki saying his true power lied in his arms, then again when they repeat Marin’s lesson, then again when Geki repeats what he said, then they do it again, and again, and again – we get it! Most people would’ve figured it out on their own without a single flashback, but apparently the writers and editor think we’re so dense that we can’t piece together such a simple strategy.

I also found it stupid that Geki has such massive strength in his arms, but instead of ripping Seiya apart or incapacitating him and beating or crushing him to death in a few blows, Geki gives Seiya ample time to come up with a strategy as he slowly strangles him. He’s not even really aiming to strangle him – he wants to build up enough strength, incredibly slowly, to snap Seiya’s neck, which is something people without bear strength can do in a matter of seconds but Geki wants to savor it I guess.

Seiya breaks Geki’s cloth, so…does that mean the Bear cloth no longer exists?

It was an entertaining match for a little bit, but then the rest of the match is a prolonged strangling session until Seiya is able to break free and give his badass finale move – this time in kick flavor.

Overall, I enjoyed this episode, but it has a bunch of logic issues and the pacing needs work.

Rating: 7/10

Next episode, we meet the Swan Saint and the tournament continues.

…Previous Episode

Exploring Disney’s Castle: Pinocchio (1940)

Rating: 7/10

Plot: A toymaker named Geppetto made a marionette named Pinocchio. Despite his awesome ‘stache, he couldn’t find a woman to mate with him and make him a child, so he wished Pinocchio was a real boy. His wish is granted by a fairy because fairies just do that, but she only brings the puppet to life. In order to become a real boy, Pinocchio has to prove himself to be a kind and moral young lad. However, he doesn’t know the difference between right and wrong so a kindly cricket named Jiminy gets assigned to be his conscience. Then a bunch of weird stuff happens.

Breakdown: While Pinocchio isn’t the closest nostalgic Disney feature in my heart, I do look back on it it fondly, and I remember getting the VHS for the movie way back when I was a wee lass. And, wow, unlike Snow White, I just could not refrain from nitpicking and seeing this movie with a more adult view.

Don’t get me wrong, I still really like this movie, and man I do loves me some of that painted Disney magic, but I was just picking apart the story and then realizing that the second half is one trippy confusing little ride. Not mention how many times I had to stop myself from thinking a scene was pedo-y….

Some things I can’t nitpick too much. I was going to say it’s dumb to send Pinocchio off to school when he’s only been a sentient pile of wood for less than 12 hours, but then I remembered that they seem to live in a weird world of anthropomorphic foxes and cats (even in a world with pet cats. It’s Pluto and Goofy all over again) so that’s not really an issue anymore. And seeing as how Pinocchio’s existence is also completely brushed off by fellow kids, I guess a puppet coming to life is just another day in Italy.

To get to the actual issues though, I’m confused about the fairy’s logic. She specifically says Geppetto deserves a son, but she doesn’t fully bring Pinocchio to life and instead makes him go through a trial of being a good person before he can actually be human. That’s okay I suppose, but then there’s the fact that he has no sense of what’s right or wrong and he’s naïve as all hell. So Jiminy is assigned to being his conscience, but dammit all if he doesn’t suck at it. He doesn’t really give any advice on what’s right or wrong to Pinocchio ever. He just points out that one person is bad without reason once.

Geppetto’s no help either because he doesn’t try to teach Pinocchio anything. He just answers every question with ‘because’ and sends the poor boy off to school not preparing him for how the kids may react or how anything in life works – like stranger danger.

Pinocchio gets into trouble because he really doesn’t know any better and then starts lying to the fairy for no real reason. The Pinocchio in this version has been shown as a very kindhearted yet extremely naïve individual, yet he somehow not only knows how lying works but he does it very naturally and without any actual prompt. Did he think the fairy would get mad if she heard about him getting kidnapped? Because that’s Jiminy’s fault, if anything.

I would say that’s a message of saying that, no matter what your conscience is telling you, it’s up to you to listen or not, which is also fine, but then I have to remember that Pinocchio has no real knowledge of anything in the world at all. Hell, he was setting himself on fire the night before because he liked how pretty the fire was.

He then gets caught by the same people without Jiminy even realizing it, you’d think he’d learn after that to keep a closer eye on the kid but no, and he gets tricked into going to ‘Pleasure Island’….see what I meant about the pedo-y stuff?

Here’s where Pinocchio pulls a complete 180 in character. I could brush off the whole thing about getting kidnapped and going off to join the marionette guy from before because he didn’t really know any better. But when he gets to Pleasure Island, he full on says that he likes being bad, so it seems that even without Jiminy he realizes that what he’s doing is wrong and is going ahead with it for whatever reason.

Oh yeah, let’s address the creepy and downright dark and confusing aspect of Pleasure Island. So a man kidnaps BOATLOADS of misbehaved boys who skip school and do no good. How no one in town has noticed that many kids going missing is beyond me. But considering that they all must be rotten boys, that must be a really awful part of town. Also, I love how it’s only misbehaved boys who are taken. All girls are innocent angels free of sin. ❤

Pleasure Island is a theme park, and I do not understand said theme park. You already kidnapped the kids – why the theme park? Just stick them in a cage or something. And wouldn’t that theme park, that inevitably gets destroyed each time the kids come, cost way more in construction, maintenance, operation and repairs than whatever you get for the kids? And this theme park is specifically designed for little brats since it has robot Indians chucking out cigars to the kids (Aw look, it’s Disney being racially insensitive to Native Americans before Pocahontas. Awww they were so precious.) kegs, and model houses specifically for the kids to destroy.

That’s not even the most baffling part about this theme park. It’s all just a front for a secret operation to turn the kids into donkeys.

Uh. Huh.

I mean, what? How did we go from an innocent story about a puppet coming to life by a fairy and having a bug being his conscience in hopes of someday becoming human to kids being turned into donkeys? I mean, come on Disney. Suspension of disbelief! Pft.

But yeah, the beer and the cigars were poisoned with….something, I dunno, that turned all of the boys into donkeys who would eventually be sold off to salt mines and farms to work until they die. Unless they were young enough to apparently retain their ability to talk because….I honestly have no clue what happened to those boys. Probably kept as a show attraction until they were too old to speak anymore and then sold off into child/donkey labor.

Not one of them were saved. Yeah, screw your happily ever after. Those little brats were never found and were probably forced to work to death. Kinda dark, there, Disney.

Lampwick might have escaped, but I don’t see how.

While this is trippy, dark and confusing, them repeating the stuff about being jackasses (and, yes, they actually say ‘jackass’) basically implies that this scene means if you’re a little brat as a kid, you’re damned to turn into a jackass for the rest of your life….I guess.

Then we get to the weirder stuff. Half-Donkey Pinocchio runs home to find that Geppetto is not there, and I can’t understand how long Pinocchio’s been gone. Last we see of Geppetto, it was the same day Pinocchio was supposed to go to school and he kept looking for him all over town. His first kidnapping took place over the course of a day before he tried to get home again, but I guess the second one took place over days, weeks or possibly months.

Geppetto’s gone and a glowing bird sends down a message to Pinocchio and Jiminy that Geppetto has been swallowed by a whale.

Ya know, typical Tuesday.

……He was swallowed by…..a whale. I can’t even understand how this happened. Geppetto wasn’t swallowed by any old whale – he was swallowed by a huge whale that is known for being particularly murderous and even swallows ships whole.

Apparently, Geppetto was out on his fishing boat when he got swallowed up. This is what confuses me about the timeline. They’re starving to death, act like they’ve been on that boat for quite some time and have little hope they’ll (they being Geppetto, Figaro and Cleo) survive in the next few days. But what was he even doing out on that boat? Like I said, last time we saw him he was looking for Pinocchio after he had gone missing after leaving for school. What was he doing on the boat then? Did he think he’d find Pinocchio out on the ocean? Or had he been missing for so long that he decided to go fishing to clear his mind over the loss of his puppet child?

Also, how could both Pinocchio and Jiminy breathe underwater? The prospect of drowning doesn’t even come up until they exit the whale. I would say this is because Pinocchio’s a puppet, but he seems to have regular bodily functions like in his reactions to the cigars. And his ‘death’ later can only be explained as drowning.

There’s also that thing about making a whale sneeze by setting a fire in its stomach which I don’t even sense make.

Bottomline: I have no idea why I was able to completely immerse myself in Snow White and just gloss over every seeming issue yet I was practically hung up on them in Pinocchio. This just got to be more trippy and dark than I remembered….and confusing, hence why three points got knocked off. But for the most part the movie does have good morals, decent characters and I can’t think of a point where I wasn’t really enjoying myself.

Recommended Audience: Well, the word ‘Jackass’ is said a few times, but I always thought it was stingy to say that’s a swear. It’s in the bible for crying out loud. Kids smoke and drink beer, but the message is obviously that those things are bad to do….and will turn you into a jackass. Plus there’s the downright frightening aspect of that whole Pleasure Island thing. But other than that, it’s perfectly fine. 5+