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+

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TO: A Space Fantasy Review

Rating: 8.5/10

Plot: Based off of the sci-fi manga 2001 Nights, TO adapts chapter 14, Elliptical Orbit and chapter 15, Symbiotic Planet in two episodes.

Breakdown: Yet another ‘anime’ adaptation of the wonderful 2001 Nights manga, this OVA brings us two more stories from the anthology. However, unlike the previous OVA, this one is done entirely in CGI.

And, really, that is the only difference between the two as this is an incredibly loyal adaptation to the manga’s stories – so close, I’d be tempted to believe they made the storyboard directly out of the manga pages. Since they’re so close together, I’ll give my individual opinions on each story.

The first episode, Elliptical Orbit, centers around the return of a ‘ghost ship’ called the Flying Dutchman returning from years of being gone off to Alpha Centauri to mine liquid hydrogen. The cargo transport station, the Midnight Bazooka, accepts their shipment as the Dutchmen docks with them.

The captain of the Bazooka, Dan, has an existing relationship with one of the crew members of the Dutchman, Maria, and she’s been gone for over 15 years. While she happily reports on the success of their trip, the tone turns to somber when Dan updates her on how his life has been going, including the death of someone dear to both of them.

A group of pirates then hijack the ship demanding that some of the liquid hydrogen be shot towards the moon base, which would result in the death of over 300,000 people. The pirates reveal that they’re from a continent that lost in the African war and that they experience 300,000 deaths every day due to starvation when those in space have more than enough food and other supplies. Hearing this over the intercom, Maria and Dan decide to fight back to save the people on the moon base as well the rest of the liquid hydrogen from being stolen by the pirates.

This story was confusing to me when I first read it in the manga due to the ambiguity on the relationship between Dan and Maria, and I will admit that it’s really not one of my top favorite stories in the manga. However, it’s still a pretty solid story with good characters and a decent twist at the end.

The second episode, Symbiotic Planet, centers around a romance between a man from a European/American colony, Ion, and a woman from the nation of Eurasia, Alena, both of which are at odds with each other and may be on the verge of war. Figureheads on both sides know of the relationship and try to end it, but neither half of the couple are willing to abandon the other for petty politics. The two nations are trying to coincide on a newly colonized planet that is covered in weird balloon-like creatures called picards and clouds of unidentified spores.

Ion, a biologist working to determine if the environment is safe enough to traverse without helmets and suits, later gets contaminated by the spores in his lab and tries to quarantine himself.

In a meeting addressing water needs for each nation, tensions come to a head when the Eurasian government suggests the creation of a river, which the European/American colonizers take as a border, indicating territories and land claims. As the meeting takes a break, Alena is lead to Ion’s laboratory where he updates her on the situation, which might not be as dire as they believe. While he and the laboratory rats were in pain earlier, they are no longer as such. He’s experiments to see if the spores really have any adverse affect on the human body before releasing himself from the quarantine.

In an odd strafe from the manga, the anime has Alena walk away reluctantly from the laboratory while the manga has her opening the door in desperation to see Ion, despite the danger of infecting herself with the potentially dangerous spores. This change is odd because it forces the removal of a pretty dramatic scene in the manga – Ion carrying a seemingly lifeless Alena into a room full of people and solemnly announcing that the entire colony is now infected.

Instead, they don’t reveal who opened the doors, though it’s heavily implied that some random person from Eurasia did for whatever reason as he was listening the entire time. In an effort to have the best outcome in this, some of the Eurasians take a ship and leave the colony while alerting people at their military base that the colony had become infected with a deadly spore and lethal action has to be taken in order to keep it from spreading. Ion has to take it upon himself to save the colony, even if they may all be doomed either way.

I really like this story, even if one particular side effect of the spores seems a little deus ex machina at the end in regards to the political tensions.

I would really like to know why that one scene was changed. There are some things added to the movie, perhaps for the sake of time, such as Alena meeting her mother about her relationship with Ion, but there was no real reason to change the part at the lab door other than to make Eurasia look bad and maybe make it seem like they had planned this all along. In the manga, neither side is clearly the villain. It’s a largely gray area. I have no idea why they would actively try to create one.

Since the stories are almost entirely loyal to the manga, you really have to judge this adaptation on how well it portrays the characters and emotions through the medium they have chosen, and sadly I just don’t think the CGI works well.

Don’t get me wrong, they did a great job recreating almost all of the character designs and environments, even if Maria got a completely different hairstyle for whatever reason, her mother was made to look older yet somehow much more beautiful than her manga counterpart, and the bearded crew member from the Dutchman looks like his beard was bought from a dollar store. However, I don’t think the faces are expressive enough in this format to properly convey the feelings behind the reactions and dialogue like they do in the manga. In other words, the characters sometimes seem like they’re plastic doll versions of the manga characters. They move just fine, but their faces only seem to match well about half the time.

Plus, while they also did a pretty decent job on the ship designs, they still can’t match the beautifully detailed art of the manga that made you really feel like you were on the ship, planet or even floating in the vast emptiness of space.

The voice acting, Japanese version, was very well done. While some voices were a little on the shaky side, others were simply fantastic.

The music was also incredibly well done and fitting for the stories, and the ED is simply beautiful.

Bottomline: This is a very well made and loyal adaptation of two stories from 2001 Nights, but one could argue that since they’re so loyal, with their only changes being ultimately unnecessary and somewhat damaging to the overall plot, that this could be one of those times when ‘just go read the manga’ would be appropriate.

This adaptation, while being good, also doesn’t bring anything new to the table for people who have read the manga. As much as people complain about changes between original sources and adaptations, one of the points of adaptations is to bring somewhat of a new view or spin to the story to make it worth retelling. This one basically just copy-pasted the manga chapters while putting a CGI veil over it. That’s not really bad, per se, it just doesn’t give me any reason to really fall in love with it or revisit it.

Considering that the CGI is one of the few significant problems with this OVA, that makes it even worse. Space Fantasia: 2001 Nights may not have been a visual spectacle either, but at least I felt like they were trying to use what they had to work with to their advantage instead of trying to be a complete carbon copy of the source material in regards to visuals.

In the end, this is still a great watch for both fans of the manga and people who haven’t read it. However, fans of the manga won’t find any reason to rewatch it and those who haven’t read the manga should read the manga version before or after watching this for more detailed and emotive visuals. I usually don’t like suggesting that, but I feel this is one situation where it may be beneficial.

Recommended Audience: The only real note here is that several people die of laser blasts in the first episode, and the resulting wounds are slightly graphic, but not really considering they basically cauterize the wound immediately and the wounds are kept in shadow due to the lighting. There’s also one instance of non-sexual nudity. 10+

Pokemon Extravaganza! Movie 05: The Guardians of Altomare/Guardian Gods of the City of Water: Latias and Latios (Sub) Review

Rating: 7/10

Plot: Satoshi, Kasumi and Takeshi are on an island called Altomare where they treasure the heroes of their local legend, Latias and Latios. Satoshi is lucky enough to see them after saving a Latias from the thieves Zanner and Lion, but they still have plenty of plans in store for the pair. Plans that could involve the destruction of the town.

Breakdown: Now THAT is a much better poster, Japan. That is eye-catching, detailed, well organized, contains scenes from the actual movie and just looks great. If I would complain about anything, it’s the lack of Kasumi, Takeshi and Team Rocket, but seeing as how they’re basically not a part of the movie, I can’t damn it too much.

There’s also this poster, which is more complex.

That is pretty good too, and Kasumi and Takeshi are included this time as well. Plus there’s the awesome soul dew center piece. My problems are the slight nitpick that Satoshi wasn’t wearing his vest or regular pants in the race, Kasumi was wearing a life jacket (the Water Pokemon trainer’s wearing a flotation device but not Satoshi? Weird) and the odder issue with what the hell Takeshi is even doing there.

That shot, to my recollection, is not in the movie, though his role really is just gushing over girls. It’s a shame, it’s like they wanted to include him but realized he did absolutely nothing the entire movie. They would’ve been better off using stock pictures, to be honest.

Alright, well, since we may be dealing with first movie level changes according to Dogasu, I’m going to go through the movie step by step again. I’ll try to glance over scenes whenever possible to avoid unnecessary text walls. Here we go!

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The ‘World of Pokemon’ opener starts us off even though it seems faster and like it’s missing a couple scenes in contrast to the dub. For example, this version doesn’t include the further shot of Satoshi in Okido’s lab, and it includes scenes from the first episode with Satoshi and Pikachu running from the flock of Onisuzume/Spearow and the classic battle between Iwark and Gangar from stock Pokemon League footage.

Our movie actually starts off with….me wondering if I put the right movie on—oh god it is the first movie all over again!

Alright, alright!….Deep breaths, everyone! I’m sure we’ll be fine.

 

We start off with some pretty cool looking construction-paper cut-out-like animation of the town of Altomare. In the Japanese version, Altomare is one word. In the dub, it’s two. I don’t understand why, but I’ll assume it’s because the Italian translation is two words…

 
A female narrator starts explaining the backstory of Latios and Latios. Back in the ancient days of Altomare, an elderly couple found two children, a boy and a girl, injured and washed up on the beach. They took the children in and cared for their injuries. As the children were recovering, a gigantic monster that looked like a huge cloud made of dark gears appeared and…..wait, dark gears?….Black Gears?! Someone call the Digidestined, looks like Devimon’s up to his old tricks again!

 
The monster took over and started destroying the town. The elderly couple tried to shield the children from the monster’s attack but were startled when the children started transforming. The children became the Infinite Pokemon, Latios and Latias. Together, they called upon their other Latios and Latias friends to defeat the darkness with what seems to be the power of the Heart Drop (The Soul Dew).

 
As we cut out to the shots of the book actually seen in the dub, we learn that peace returned to the island, and the two Latios and Latias who were cared for by the elderly couple started frequently visiting the city of Altomare to ensure that the peaceful state remained.

 
The book is held by two thieves, Zanner and Lion – Annie and Oakley respectively in the dub – and they run off before they’re caught stealing the book. Also, according to the Wiki, they’re sisters in both versions, but I don’t recall hearing them ever say that in the dub.

 
In the car, Zanner points out that the story is just a legend, but Lion says there’s plenty of evidence to support that the story is real, and there’s also a hidden secret in the book that leads to something much better than the jewel. They drive off and then fly off on Barbie’s magic dream jet/convertible and head towards Altomare.

 
We get our title screen and it beats out the 4Kids one. They did a better job with the jet transition and the tidal wave effect. Plus the actual title itself looks like finished CGI.

 
For comparison’s sake, I made a gif of the dub movie’s title sequence too.

 

 
We cut to the start of the race and learn that it’s actually Altomare’s Summer Festival and this is just a water race for the festival as opposed to the actual race being the big event, the Tour de Alto Mare – and I’m just now realizing that 4Kids was probably referencing the Tour de France with that…..you know, the French bicycle race? France, Italy? They’re both foreign, who cares? Bicycles, boats? They’re both modes of transportation, who cares?

 
The race begins and we get our theme song which is just another remix of the same Mezase Pokemon Master song we’ve heard every single movie so far. Guys, it’s a fine song, but change is good. As much as I love the original Pokemon theme song, even that would get old after hearing it for so long. Variety is the spice of life, people.

As for how this remix fares….it’s okay. It’s pretty poppy for my tastes. They remove the Pokemon sounds, so that’s something.

Everything’s fine and dandy throughout the race, except we don’t hear Takeshi talking to that girl when he’s on the bridge. Not a big surprise, even though I don’t get why they’d leave it alone in movie 02 and 03 and yet add dialogue again here.

Satoshi wipes out, gets saved by Latias and then pulled by Latias and we cut to Kasumi and the other guy vying for first place. Believe it or not, 4Kids almost left his name intact. He’s Rossi in the original and Ross in the dub.

Satoshi catches up, but gets diverted when Latios skews him off course and he crashes. Meanwhile Kasumi pulls out the win.

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Rossi offers a ride in his boat to celebrate, and the gang heads off with him on his gondola. Kasumi marvels at her medallion, but there’s nothing stating that the symbols tell the story of Altomare. In fact, now that I really look at it, the only symbols are Latios and Latias. How is that a ‘story’?

Kasumi asks what the statues of Latios and Latias are and Rossi basically just gives the cliffnotes version of the legend. And now it makes perfect sense why Latios and Latias are both on the statues instead of just a Latios like the dub legend states.

Cut to Zanner and Lion’s little camera thing and the icky CGI people below. They explain the same thing about how Latios and Latias can disguise themselves as humans so they’re scanning the people. Latios and Latias have lower body temperatures than people, so the thermal imaging can quickly spot Latias.

As they pursue Latias on their boat, they splash Team Rocket and Kojiro instantly recognizes them as two of the top thieves ever. Yup, another change between the two versions is that Zanner and Lion are merely great thieves, not spies for Team Rocket, nor members of Team Rocket at all. I don’t have any clue as to why 4Kids changed that.

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The comparison states that it was big rumor that the two were part of Team Rocket before the movie even came out, but that’s not really an excuse seeing as how they eventually got and translated the damn script themselves. Unless they started writing the dub script before the movie even came out….I wouldn’t put it past them.

Sucks, actually. While they don’t do a whole lot, I like when Team Rocket actually does villainous organization things. Like how I liked Vicious in movie 04. Though I’d prefer if one day the whole organization got off their asses and did something big and movie-worthy for once. All I remember is them taking over the St. Anne and a few things Butch and Cassidy did. They’re a pathetic organization….

They get basically the same idea as the dub, only they want to outwit and beat them at thieving not follow them and try to learn from them.

Back with Satoshi and the others, Rossi bids them farewell and tells them of a great crepe shop, not an ice cream shop and seafood place like the dub. Surprisingly, the ‘ciao’ is also present in the dub, and I feel weird about that for some reason.

The gang runs off for some crepe-y goodness while Pikachu goes off to a fountain. Latias, in human disguise, turns on the faucet for him and Pikachu starts drinking and cooling off. Satoshi arrives and thanks Latias for turning on the water for Pikachu. Latias gets in his face, circles him and runs off.

Latias continues her stroll until Zanner and Lion spot her, out her as Latias and pursue her. Pikachu hears the fuss and runs off, prompting Satoshi to follow, and Zanner and Lion catch Latias. Satoshi to the rescue, but Zanner sends out Elfie/Espeon to attack Satoshi.

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Satoshi counters with Pikachu’s electricity and runs off with Latias while Ariados and Elfie pursue.

They run through the town giving us that ‘flying’ shot, but it’s slightly helped by the inclusion of footsteps. It’s still way too smooth to be running, though.

Satoshi gets a bit lost, and Latias leads him back to Kasumi and Takeshi before mysteriously disappearing.

Satoshi reunites with Kasumi and Takeshi and they head off to some temple. Oh, it’s a temple and not a museum. I guess that makes more sense considering the only things I saw there were the two fossils and the machine.

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Zanner and Lion spy on them with their little robot and Lion says he won’t get away, which I guess means she doesn’t want to keep Latias and him apart like the dub said.

At the temple, Satoshi and the others see the fossils of Ptera/Aerodactyl and Kabutops. As expected with the different backstory, there’s no mention whatsoever about these two nearly destroying the city. In fact, they’re not even the only fossils at the temple supposedly. I’m not exactly sure why they’re there, but there ya go.

They’re brought to the machine and Takeshi says his pointless and confusing line about finding a girlfriend in the city all because he saw stained glass.

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As we cut to an outer shot, the old man explains that, in ancient times, the temple that they’re currently in and a neighboring building called the Sun Tower were built for Latias and Latios as an expression of the people’s gratitude for them saving the city. The machine was also seemingly built for the sake of peace, but no one knows how to operate it.

Satoshi sees what he thinks is the girl from before and takes chase. When he finally catches up, he asks the girl why she ran away but she just asks what he’s talking about and walks away.

The chase continues, but he gets lost and gives up right as they spot Latias, who drags them through town some more until they reach the portal.

They go through the portal, find themselves in a park and find Latias yet again, but Latios springs up out of the water and attacks Satoshi and Pikachu. The assault is halted by Latias, and Kanon/Bianca soon shows up to see what the fuss is about. Kanon hears Satoshi’s story about how he followed Latias into the park, but she finds it suspicious and sics Latios on him. He’s instantly stopped by Vongole/Lorenzo, however.

Everything’s sorted out and they start playing together, and we cut to Kanon and Vongole talking to Satoshi about how they protect the secret garden as a sanctuary for when Latios and Latias come to visit the island.

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Wait, that just raises more plot holes in the dub. The city was supposedly just a regular land-based city before the evil trainer and his Kabutops and Aerodactyl attacked and then it became flooded with water that Latios delivered. Unless Latios made a damn OCEAN when it defeated Kabutops and Aerodactyl…in which case, why is Latios not a Water Pokemon?

They also explain that the Latios and Latias before them are indeed brother and sister with Latios being the older brother.

Latias steals Satoshi’s hat and playfully teases him while Latios starts sight sharing, called Dream Projection in the original (though, to be honest, sight sharing is a more logical name) before diving underwater.

After that’s over, we’re brought back to the secret garden where we catch the tail-end of the legend of Latios and Latias, and they solidify that these are not the same Latias and Latios from the legend nor are they the direct children of the one/ones responsible for it, they’re their ancestors.

They explain the stuff about the Heart Drop being used in conjunction with the device from before even stating that the many Latios and Latias helped them build it, which explains how it’s all magical and stuff.

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Satoshi is tasked with keeping the garden and the Heart Drop a secret, he agrees, and Latias and Latios try to play some more. He politely declines as he says he needs to get back to his friends, but promises to come back and play later.

They exit out of the door in Vongole’s gondola workshop while Zanner and Lion’s camera captures images of Latias and Latios in the garden, and Kanon escorts him to the Pokemon center.

Meanwhile, back with Team Rocket, they see Zanner and Lion roof-hopping, try to follow them and fail. And thus ends their kinda-sorta-ish-maybe-a-little-okay-not-really subplot.

Zanner and Lion knock out Vongole again and break into the secret garden. Latios and Latias try to fight the intruders, but they ultimately fail. Latios is captured, but manages to let Latias escape.

Latios and Latias sound awful in both versions. In the dub, they have higher-pitched squeals, and in the original, Latias has a high-pitched squeal while Latios constantly sounds like he’s saying ‘Wha-hoo!’ It’s not unbearable but it is annoying.

Zanner and Lion steal the Heart Drop and Lion scans the tablets on the floor to figure out how to use the Heart Drop in conjunction with the machine. It’s here where we learn the not-stupid explanation of what happens later in the movie.

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The tablet warns that the Heart Drop should not be used for evil. If it is, the Heart Drop will be defiled and will vanish along with the island. It was a warning to the villagers stating that, as long as they’re responsible with the Heart Drop and the machine, their land will forever be protected, but if they decide to use the powers they’ve been given for evil nothing but destruction will follow. Much better explanation than ‘Oh yeah, if the Soul Dew is used at all, or if it’s kept out of its water tank for more than 15 minutes, our protected land will be wiped out by a tidal wave caused by the thing we used to protect ourselves.’

I still say that the secret garden has the worst security measures ever. They don’t even have a lock on that damn entrance in Vongole’s workshop. Town-destroying jewel, the instructions on how to use it right next to it and two legendary Pokemon sitting right there and you can’t be arsed to buy a damn padlock. Does Altomare have no hardware store?

Zanner and Lion head to the temple to use the Heart Drop with the machine, Vongole and Kanon arrive only to get knocked out, and they start the machine.

Meanwhile, Latias goes back to Satoshi in the Pokemon center, and Takeshi and Kasumi are made privy to the situation. Latios uses Dream Projection to show Latias, Satoshi, Takeshi and Kasumi what’s going on.

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Lion starts controlling the machine, revives the Ptera and Kabutops fossils to have them do her bidding, and sets up grates to block all exits and entrances, except, as I mentioned, the damn waterways, while Satoshi escapes the Pokemon Center with Pikachu before they’re trapped as well.

Satoshi grabs a boat and heads to the temple, but Ptera attacks them, destroying their boat and nearly drowning Satoshi. Latias saves him and they grab one of the boat things I still can’t identify to continue traveling.

Back with Takeshi and Kasumi, still trapped by the grates, they let out Crobat, Sunnygo/Corsola (Sunnygo?….That sounds really weird. And I keep thinking of Sunny D. I know it has actual meaning; the word Sunny mixed with sango (coral) but still, weird.) and Nyoromo/Politoed to help Satoshi.

Nyoromo has an incredibly cute and goofy Japanese voice, by the way.

They valiantly go off to help Satoshi, ashamed of the fact that their combined strength can supposedly not support the weight of Satoshi’s monster balls and belt. If only monster balls weren’t made of dark matter!

Kasumi and Takeshi’s Pokemon help Satoshi take down Kabutops and he heads back off towards the temple.

Lion, spying on them with the machine, realizes that Kabutops and Ptera failed, so she uses her waterbending to create a water spout that ensnares Latias and Satoshi. However, Latias uses her psychic powers to break the water.

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This results in the machine going haywire while Satoshi, Pikachu and Latias try to free Kanon, Vongole and Latios, meaning I get to watch Satoshi the human battering ram again! Hahaha! The entertainment value with this is endless.

They eventually do get Latios out, and the machine shuts down. Everyone’s okay, even if Latios is worse for wear. Kasumi and Takeshi arrive because they exist, and Zanner retrieves the Heart Drop.

However, it’s completely tainted by evil and expels a huge burst of energy when she tries to remove it. Zanner and Lion both fall into the machine as it powers back up again and spins them right round baby. Right round. Like a record, baby. Right round round round.

The legend starts coming true as the water starts receding into a giant town-destroying tidal wave. Latias and Latios realize that they can’t depend on any of the other Latios and Latias who are around to come in and help, because that would just save the life of one of their kind and everything. The Celebi from movie 04, you are not. They head towards the wave and use their psychic power to disperse the water in a harmless manner across the town again.

Latios dies due to expending too much energy and bids farewell to Latias.

The effects of the machine start to disappear over the town, and Satoshi and the others head out into the water to find Latias. They find her being rescued by some Water Pokemon and are soon made aware of Latios’ fate.

Latias’ dream projection activates and Latios shows them his view of the clouds and the earth from space (or maybe it’s heaven now that I think about it) and Latios either makes a new Heart Drop or becomes one, it’s not entirely clear. In this version, the Latias and Latios who gave the initial Heart Drop just had one, no one died for it that I know of, but they keep saying ‘Latios’ to the new Heart Drop so *shrug*

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Satoshi and the others are leaving the city, so they bid farewell to Vongole. They want to say goodbye to Kanon as well, but she seems to have stepped out for a second. Also, this shot lends more credence to the theory that it was Latias in the end and not Kanon. There’s really no reason why Kanon/Bianca wouldn’t have responded when being called numerous times unless she was Latias and couldn’t speak. Not only that, but you’d think Kanon would hear that Satoshi and the others are leaving and ask out the window that they wait for a second while she gets the picture to give to Satoshi.

Satoshi and the others leave until they realize ‘Kanon’ is following them. They stop, she hands Satoshi a rolled up drawing, puts her mouth hole to his face and runs off.

Satoshi opens the paper to see a drawing of him and Pikachu and they depart from the island once again, seeing a bunch of Latias and Latios on their way out, segueing us into the end credits. The end song in Japanese is ‘You Are Not Alone’ by coba & Kazufumi Miyazawa. I really like this song. It has a great melody, wonderful singing and the instruments being used fit in wonderfully with the setting. It’s probably my favorite Pokemon end theme so far, movie wise anyway.

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If I have one complaint, it’s that the opening is a little too peppy to really fit the tone of the final couple of shots. 4Kids’ little CD mashup may have been random, but they did purposely start off with a nice slow song.

During the end credits we see Zanner and Lion in prison, Vongole fixing up the machine or temple, Kanon drawing and Satoshi and the others traveling some more. The end.

=======================

That was actually a lot better than the dub, mostly because it actually made sense. Who woulda thunk it?

I know I’ve mentioned that 4Kids, oddly enough, sometimes changes stuff to make it worse than it actually is to create drama and tension, but I still can’t get over the fact that their revised story involves so much death and murder. Kabutops and Aerodactyl get forcibly drowned, probably alongside the unnamed evil trainer, the citizens are left with the worry that their town will be destroyed and everyone will be killed if a ball accidentally dries out, and Latios from the legend dies while sacrificing himself for the town. The original story was perfectly fine and very sweet, yet they made it dark and nonsensical for no real reason.

Think about that. Let it sink in. The company that is so scared of death that it’s basically became a meme to replace ‘death’ with ‘the shadow realm’ or something, purposely added in much more death to the movie. I can’t even begin to comprehend that.

What I really find problematic is I cannot in any way justify why they changed it. The whole thing with Mewtwo way back when, they probably changed that just to make it a more clearcut struggle of good vs. evil. Can’t make Mewtwo too sympathetic until his redemption. Plus, they were really trying to shoehorn in a ‘violence is bad and we don’t condone it’ message to the parents of the world who were outraged at Pokemon for the violence and ‘cockfighting’.

However, I can’t understand why the original story wasn’t good enough. If it was really because the art style for the story part upset them for whatever reason, then it’s still not justified. They repeat the story without the special construction-paper animation, so they could just parrot the story without showing the opener. I see nothing wrong with any part of the original story to warrant changing so it’s really just boggling my mind.

It’s boggled even further by the fact that most of the movie besides that is left completely alone for the most part. Some minor changes, but nothing that major.

Bottomline: It’s much better than the dub…..but I’m still not all that into it. I love Latias and Latios, Kanon’s made to be more tolerable than Bianca, the story here actually makes sense, the death scene with Latios is on par with or better than the dub’s, the town is probably the best location Pokemon has had to date, the music’s great and very fitting for the location, but the plot is still predictable from practically the first scene with the only real shock being Latios’ death. The giant tidal wave, once it’s actually explained why it’s happening in a way that’s not out of the blue and dumb, makes for a pretty good scene as well. I can better understand why this is Dogasu’s favorite Pokemon movie thusfar, but it’s still nothing that special to me.

Recommended Audience: I’ll actually lower the rating for the original merely on principle that 4Kids added death. 3+

Aardman’s Clay: Wallace and Gromit – Curse of the Were-Rabbit Review

Rating: 8/10

Plot: Wallace and his dog, Gromit, live in a town where vegetables are everything. They live to grow, care for, eat, and display their veggies, all building up to an annual vegetable competition. Wallace and Gromit run an anti-pest (though mostly bunny) company that humanely captures pests and protects the vegetables of the town.

One night, Wallace gets the idea to stop the bunny plague once and for all by using a mind-altering device to eliminate obsessive thoughts about veggies from their minds. It seems to work, but, in the process, they created a monster….a veggie destroying were-rabbit.

Breakdown: Okay, so yes, the plot does sound very silly, but it’s supposed to.

This was my first ever venture into the Wallace and Gromit series. I’ve heard about it several times in the past, but never actually watched the movie, TV series or played the game….Even though I have the game (from a Humble Bundle).

Curse of the Were-Rabbit is a very entertaining and fun movie that, while not making me bust a gut, did have me smiling and laughing out loud numerous times. It has a very unique style and sense of humor that I thoroughly enjoyed, even if some things about the movie irked me.

For example, I think Gromit deserved a bit more of a hurrah for all the stuff he did over the course of the movie, which is damn near everything. While Wallace is certainly useful as an inventor and bunny catcher, there’s no denying that Gromit does a hell of a lot more in this movie. In addition to being the only one who is effective against the were-rabbit, he also basically waits on Wallace hand and foot with Wallace only barely giving Gromit his props here and there. Not to mention it was Wallace’s invention that started the were-rabbit fiasco in the first place.

Also, I get that he had good intentions, but if the rabbits stopped being a problem, wouldn’t they be out of a job?

The overall unraveling of events were fairly predictable. I knew from the instant they used that machine what the ‘plot twist’ would be.

Ending spoilers. Finally, they give no explanation as to why Wallace turns back at the end. He saves Gromit from falling to his death, turns back into a human and the curse just seems to go away. He didn’t get shot with the golden carrot, so I just have no clue how or why Wallace was cured of this problem…..because he ‘died’ and was seemingly revived by the smell of cheese?….If so, that is really dumb.

End of spoilers.

All in all, I really enjoyed this movie and I look forward to playing the game seeing as how I’ve had it on Steam for like three years and never got around to playing it. *cough*

Recommended Audience: There is quite a bit if innuendo, though some of it might be my filthy mind playing tricks on me. Like that scene where Totty is showing Wallace her giant carrot. Dear God, the things she says can easily be turned into dirty talk. Other than that, though, really nothing to bother with. 6+

Pixar’s Lamp: Toy Story 2

Rating: 8/10

Plot: It’s a terrible day for toys when Andy’s mom announces a yard sale. In an effort to save a beloved old squeaky penguin named Wheezy from being sold, Woody finds himself getting stolen in the yard sale instead.

The thief is the owner of Al’s Toy Barn, an avid toy collector, and he finds himself among a collection of toys based on the show Woody’s Roundup. He’s treated like a hero to the other toys; Jessie the cowgirl, Bullseye the horse and the prospector, but he’s still desperate to get back to Andy. Buzz and the other toys from Andy’s room travel to find Woody and bring him home, but the other Woody’s Roundup toys are convincing him that it’s better to stay in a toy museum instead of going back home where Andy will eventually grow up and forget about him.

Breakdown: Pixar’s first sequel and Pixar’s first relative ‘meh’ movie supposedly. I’ve never heard anyone say this is a downright bad movie, but most people agree that it’s not really fantastic either. I think people just fell under the impression that Pixar could do no wrong and finding that a movie wasn’t up to their high standards left it with a bigger dent.

Does it really deserve any flak though?

In my opinion? No. I really like this movie. It’s the weakest of the trilogy in my opinion, but that doesn’t make it a bad, meh or even weak film.

The storyline isn’t a rehash of the first film like a lot of sequels, and it touches upon the topic of the toys’ owners growing up and leaving them behind. They won’t really take this plot line and shove your heart into a paper shredder like the third movie, but still. And it also reminded me that, not only does that suck, but toys can be immortal to a degree. They can definitely live throughout a few generations at least if they’re taken care of, so it’s not only sad to think that the toys might be thrown out or spend their time rotting somewhere, but they could also see owner after owner ‘outgrow’ their use and be abandoned.

There are new characters added, and the background of Woody is explored, though I don’t quite get stuff like this. I don’t really understand why Woody doesn’t realize that he’s this famous. If he is an original, that must mean he’s over 50 years old, yet he doesn’t seem to act like he’s had previous owners and has completely forgotten his origins. I have to wonder why some toys realize what they are immediately yet toys like Buzz, Woody and the Aliens are under some delusion about it once they awaken.

Jessie’s pretty grating when you first meet her, but she grows on you and she is the poster child for the topic of the movie as she had an owner who grew up and ended up abandoning her. I’m still left wondering why she remembers that considering, from all I can tell from this girl’s room, this happened around the 60s or 70s, yet Woody can’t seem to remember anything pre-Andy days.

Bullseye’s a cute little character that can be a good addition to the group, but it seems weird that a toy like that is introduced when it’s been established that Woody and the others get along fine with Buster.

The storyline with Buzz, Delusional Buzz and Zurg felt forced. The opener is enough to attest for that because it felt like it was too long. Some of the interactions with Delusional Buzz were funny, especially the first scene, but after that it just felt like it was shoehorned in and a bit annoying. It’s almost like they weren’t quite sure what to do with Buzz to give him enough screentime. Plus, there’s the irritating nagging in my head that there was a Buzz Lightyear cartoon including Zurg and maybe this could’ve just been a big plug for that.

They also rehashed a few too many jokes from the original movie, but it’s not constant.

I think that this movie is actually better now that I’ve seen Toy Story 3. It’s acts as a great mediator between 1 and 3.

The first movie is about being there for Andy, no matter who he may seem to give more attention to and knowing that Andy loves to play with all of his toys.

The second is about dealing with the fact that, despite this, there will be a time when Andy becomes too old to play with his toys, but until that time comes they’ll be there to play with him no matter what.

And the third is finally dealing with what happens when Andy grows up and stops playing with his toys as well as addressing the various futures of toys when their owners grow up.

While it is a bit OOC for Woody to ditch Andy to be in a museum, it’s understandable that he’d feel that way. After hearing Jessie’s story and being shelved, as well as seeing what could’ve been the fate of Wheezy, it’s perfectly reasonable that he’d be scared and, in a way, its a story of mortality. You either live a true and happy life that eventually ends or throw it away to chase immortality.

Also, it reminds me that in Toy Story 3 Jessie’s situation and feelings should be much worse considering she was already dumped once before.

I think Woody singing “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” on Woody’s Roundup was probably one of the best ways to handle Woody’s revelation that he needed to go back to Andy. It really was an incredibly touching scene…..Though I think the little boy on the show was a little on the creepy side.

The reprise at the end I could’ve done without, though, even if it is performed by Robert Goulet. Especially given that Wheezy skips some lines during it.

Bottomline: It’s a thoroughly enjoyable movie. Not as good as the original, no, and there are some annoying and seemingly pointless things in there, but most of the jokes are really funny, the plot’s interesting and like I said it’s a great bridge between movie 1 and 3. I can see how some people may be disappointed with it, but I’d still gladly rewatch it several times.

Recommended Audience: There is very very slight innuendo that I doubt any kid would get, but otherwise nothing objectionable. E for everyone!

Pokemon Shorties! (5) Camp Pikachu

Rating: 3/10

Plot: It’s the return of the Pichu Bros, and they need help from Pikachu and the gang. They got knocked off of a train that was supposed to be taking them back to their home town, and they have to find their way back.

Breakdown: Well, now we’re treading into completely unfamiliar territory. Despite the fact that I’ve seen Pokemon Heroes a few times, I’ve never seen the accompanying short, Camp Pikachu.

I’ve only ever seen Pokemon Heroes On Demand, and for some reason the short that went with the movie was never included or offered separately. I never bought the movie on DVD, so Camp Pikachu became an unknown feature to me.

Should be interesting to tackle something I have no knowledge about thusfar so let’s dive right in!

We start off with the Pichu Bros., apparently they’re becoming a recurring thing in the shorts now, riding on top of a train. The narrator tells us that they’re taking the train back to their hometown, but they hit some…hanging bag or something and end up flying back into the forest. This is why you should’ve purchased a ticket. Damn rail-riding hobos.

They fly into a tree branch that has a Wynaut on it and they all get flung into another direction—again with the flinging Pokemon. Why is this a weird running gag in Pokemon shorts?

We cut to Pikachu, Togepi, Psyduck, Corsola, Cyndaquil, Totodile and Phanpy playing by themselves in the forest. No idea where Ash, Misty and Brock are. Again. I also have no clue where all of the other Pokemon are, nor why none of Brock’s Pokemon are present here. Again. They just seem to pick and choose who gets to be in the shorts sometimes.

The Pichu Bros and Wynaut land on Psyduck’s head, have a quick reunion with their old pal Pikachu and explain what happened. They need to get to the train station to find another train back to their hometown and we get our disgusting CGI wood title screen.

Be glad you didn’t get an animated gif version.

The gang starts their journey and if you ever wanted Pokemon to have a hoedown song, your dream’s about to come true!

I seriously can’t make heads to tails of this choice….Why a hoedown song? Did they immediately think ‘redneck’ when they thought of camping? I haven’t even seen any camping so far – they’re just walking through the woods. I would almost say this song sequence is trippy. It’s just…it doesn’t seem like something Pokemon would have….ever…The singer saying the word ‘Pikachu’ in itself is so odd to me. Plus the banjo….I just…I feel weird.

Cut to Meowth and Wobbuffet who seem to be legit camping and are currently on a nature walk. I find it funny that the times when Team Rocket chooses to go on vacation or just not be around are during times when it would be insanely easy to catch Pikachu. They roll down a steep hill together, end scene.

Back with the Pokemon, they play around in a river for a bit with Totodile’s Water Gun, we cut to sunset when the Pokemon play with their shadows and then we cut to night time when they have a nice campfire courtesy of Cyndaquil.

One of the Pichu Bros. spots something behind them and goes to investigate with Wynaut to find that it’s a Duskull. It scares Pichu for a minute until Wynaut reveals that it’s friends with Duskull.

Back at camp, a stick pokes the scruffy-haired Pichu Bro and he goes off to investigate only to be spooked and chased by Duskull. He chases Pichu into the camp and the other Pichu and Wynaut pop up laughing to reveal it was all a joke. Those silly little rapscallions. Everyone else laughs along with them and we cut to later that night.

It starts downpouring and they’re soon approached by a Volbeat who tells them how to stay out of the rain – by using big leaves as umbrellas.

Volbeat leads them to a water mill for a dry place to spend the night.

Meowth and Wobbuffet are also stuck in the rain, and they’re soon spooked by Duskull as well, causing them to tumble down a hill and into the water wheel. They take shelter in the water mill, which they believe is empty, but the other Pokemon are sleeping upstairs.

Meowth and Wobbuffet accidentally activate the water mill causing all sorts of hijinks and slapstick. During the chaos, Meowth and Wobbuffet get flung out of the water mill, into the water and flung off into the woods.

After more hijinks, Pikachu and Volbeat find the lever and shut off the mill.

The next morning, everyone wakes up and bids farewell to Volbeat and heads off for the train station.

Back with Meowth and Wobbuffet, they take out one cookie as their final food for the trip (Team Rocket is just friggin’ awful at managing their damn food supply.) and a Skarmory that appeared earlier grabs the cookie from them. However, Wobbuffet and Meowth grab onto it to get the cookie back and end up flying away on it.

The group finds their way to the train station, but the train is already heading out. They toboggan down the hill on giant leaves and grab a handcar. Wynaut calls a bunch of its Wynaut friends out of nowhere to help them push the car.

Scruffy-haired Pichu makes it onto the train, but the handcar starts losing speed and the other Pichu can’t make it on. They try to go faster and Cyndaquil decides to use his Flamethrower off the back of the hand car to make them go faster. I’m pretty sure that doesn’t work that way. If it did, Cyndaquil would fly off whenever it would use that attack.

They start catching up but Psyduck gets flung off the car and into the track switcher, which causes the handcar to go up a mountainside that still seems to roughly follow the train’s original tracks. While they’re on a bridge overlooking the train, Phanpy throws Pichu off towards the train, but all of the Pokemon end up flying off it as well. Totodile realizes that Pichu won’t quite make it so he Water Guns him further towards the train.

Pichu reaches the train and reunites with his brother, the other Pokemon fall into a conveniently placed pile of hay, Meowth and Wobbuffet also land on the train, which I guess they needed to do and the Pichi Bros wave goodbye to the gang.

Bottomline: Well, that….certainly was….boring. It’s not awful or even particularly stupid….it’s just boring. I kinda regret writing out the whole synopsis because I barely had a note to say about it the entire time. The Pichu Bros need to get on a train, so they go to the train and get on….that’s about it. It seems like these shorts are just increasingly becoming more and more of ‘watch cute Pokemon be cute, but do nothing.’

Is anyone else a little pissed that this short is called ‘Camp Pikachu’ and yet all of a minute and a half involve anything camping related? They had a campfire that they didn’t even really do anything at because the Pichu Bros were too busy with Duskull. And….that’s it.

Even Pikachu didn’t do much in the short, which baffled me. He turned off the water mill with Volbeat, and that’s about it. Wynaut knew the way to the train station, Cyndaquil made them a fire, Volbeat gave them Leaf-brellas and shelter, Wynaut got its friends to help move the handcar, Cyndaquil made it go faster, Totodile launched Pichu at the end and Pikachu amounted to nothing for a change. Don’t get me wrong, that’s actually a breath of fresh air, but it’s weird. Camp Pikachu has a severe lack of CAMP and PIKACHU.

We still never found out where Ash and the others are. Pikachu and the others have to be fairly far away from where they were left at this point since it took them over a day to get to the station, and they stayed overnight during the journey. Ash and the others are probably basket cases by now.

There wasn’t even a big conflict in this one. The first one had Charizard stuck in a pipe, the second one had the storm, the third had the tire fort thing, the fourth had the psychopathic lawnmower from hell and this one has….nothing. There are mini-conflicts but ultimately nothing.

There wasn’t even any funny parts except maybe Wynaut and Wobbuffet going back and forth like Psyduck and Slowpoke did back in the day.

The art and animation, at least for the Pokemon, was a step up, as it usually is, but the backgrounds and CGI suffer for it. The backgrounds look scratchy as hell, like a kid made them most of the time, and the CGI is just ick. Either it looks fake as hell or it looks overly realistic.

The music was weird, too. The concept of a Pokemon Hoedown still baffles me and the execution is awkward. The BG music and end credit music are forgettable.

Overall, like other shorts, this is probably good for a little kid to watch just to enjoy the cute Pokemon flying everywhere and doing cute things, but everyone else can pass.

Recommended Audience: If you’re not conceived yet, you can probably still watch this.

Exploring Disney’s Castle: Dinosaur (2000)

Rating: 7/10

Plot: The egg of an iguanodon is separated from its parents and ends up traveling far away from any dinosaurs on an island where he’s found and cared by a family of lemurs who name him Aladar. Despite being vastly different from anyone on the island, he lives a very happy life with his family. One day, a horrible meteor shower wipes out their home and most of the animals that they knew. While escaping the aftermath, Aladar and his family, his mother, grandfather, sister and uncle, run into a herd of many dinosaurs trying to make it back to their nesting grounds since they believe it may be a safe haven from this catastrophe. Lead by Cron, a cruel iguanodon who believes in survival of the fittest, the herd tries to make it to their nesting grounds alive, but Aladar doesn’t agree with Cron’s methods and wishes to get everyone, the old, young, sick and injured there alive no matter what.

Breakdown: I remember seeing this a while back and not getting a huge impression about it. It’s not bad, there are many good points, but there’s nothing very fantastic about it. The visuals, especially during the meteor shower and Aladar’s egg traveling to the island are wonderful, but unlike what I first thought, the backgrounds are almost always actual footage of real locations with only the animals and the effects CGI. The visuals are still great, though, and the CGI meshes well with the environment.

The story’s somewhat predictable, though the meteor shower comes right out of nowhere. There’s still several parts that are heartwarming, tragic and impacting, especially when Eema, one of the elderly dinosaurs, starts to deteriorate.

The romance is predictable as well. Only female iguanodon tail meet only other iguanodon around that isn’t your brother or a dick (Cron being both)

The characters are where it loses me a bit. We have Zini who is Aladar’s lemur uncle. He’s obnoxious and that’s all there is to it. We’re supposed to feel bad for him because he can’t find a mate, but if you watched him for five minutes you’d know why he can’t find one. And of course he’s a total playboy by the end for no reason. His character does nothing in the slightest. His little sister, Suri, does way more than Zini does.

The lemurs on their own don’t do much anyway. They ride the backs of the dinosaurs and make comments about what’s happening around them. That’s about it. The mom does some stuff, as does Suri, but after the opening scene they’re just kinda there.

Then we have I guess his name is Url. He’s a ankylosaurus that acts like a dog for reasons beyond my understanding. I don’t know why some of these dinosaurs are smart and can speak but then we have dog-like dinosaurs like Url and carnosaurus who are nothing but hungry beasts incapable of rational thought.

Cron’s a pretty decent bad guy, but you can’t sympathize with him very much. I know that in dire circumstances sometimes you need to do harsh things in order to ensure that even some survive instead of none, but by the end it really seems like he didn’t give a crap about any of the herd and that if any of them didn’t make it they didn’t deserve to make it. In some circumstances he was nearly causing their death by his blowhard plans.

That’s supposed to make Aladar look like a real hero by contrast, which it does, but they clearly want you to have some sort of connection to him since he’s noted as being Neera’s (female iguanodon) brother.

Bottomline: This isn’t a fantastic movie, but it’s still a very enjoyable film with plenty of suspense, action, some romance, and likable characters especially in Eema and Baylene. The story is predictable, but it’s not horribly cliché. The art and animation along with the music are fantastic, with maybe the lemurs looking the worst. You may get annoyed by Zini, but he gets hardly any screentime so I wouldn’t worry about it. I’d still watch it if it was randomly airing on TV.

Recommended Audience: This is a Disney production, so it’s not too bad in the content department, but you do have sudden apocalyptic conditions, corpses, some dinosaurs die on screen, some dinosaur corpses are eaten by raptors and carnosaurs, non-graphically for the most part, and a good chunk of it takes place off camera, there’s some blood….eh 10+.

Pixar’s Lamp: A Bug’s Life

Rating: 8/10

Plot: A colony of ants has been essentially been enslaved by a group of grasshoppers lead by the cruel…well, Hopper. They’re tasked year after year with gathering a food offering for the grasshoppers in addition to the amount of food that they need for themselves before the rainy season comes. An ant named Flik who tends to cause trouble all the time with his gadgets and inventions accidentally knocks the annual food offering in the waters surrounding their home. As punishment for their lack of offering, Hopper demands a double offering after summer and fall have ended when the final leaf on the tree above the ant hill falls. Flik gets an idea to find help outside of the colony by bigger and tougher bugs and the colony’s princess and soon-to-be queen, Atta, agrees in order to keep him out of trouble while the rest of the ants gather food.

Flik eventually finds a circus troupe whom he believes are actually warrior bugs. Likewise, the troupe believes him to be a talent scout with his story of the grasshoppers being the story of the show and agree to help him. However, everything falls apart when the truth is revealed and the last few leaves begin to fall from the tree.

Breakdown: I’ve already reviewed Antz and explained the little ‘who ripped off who’ war with Dreamworks. I also noted how it’s somewhat unfair to compare these two movies in terms of being ‘rip-offs’, whichever one you may believe is the rip-off, because they are two fairly distinct movies with seemingly different target audiences, plot points, characters, art styles and side characters.

So since it wouldn’t be entirely fair to compare these two side by side, let’s do it anyway!

Let’s tackle the art and animation first, shall we? The art is set more towards being cartoon-y with huge eyes and blue colored ants. I mentioned in the Antz review that the blue thing bothered me because ants aren’t blue and at least Antz was more realistic with having brown ants. I did find something called a blue ant, but it’s not blue (if anything it’s black with a metallic-like coating and red legs) and it’s more of a wasp than an ant. Then again, it seems like Antz was going more towards an older demographic that would probably want realism over cartoon style whereas A Bug’s Life is clearly aimed more for a younger audience. I can’t say either of them is really better in the art department. A Bug’s Life is definitely more visually appealing, but Antz was more of a stickler for details.

Animation-wise, though, there’s no denying that Pixar’s is a lot smoother.

In terms of characters, our main lead, Flik, is more relatable and likable than Z, end of story. Z, while meaning well, was a big whiner who was constantly complaining about how the conformity within the colony was stifling. While he had a point, that doesn’t mean I liked to hear his constant complaining.

Flik, on the other hand, wants nothing more than to help the colony do bigger and better things. He makes inventions and has ideas that sometimes end up screwing up and ruining everything, but he only wants to make things better and easier for the colony as a whole. He does mope for a bit, but it’s relatable moping of feeling like you’re a big screw up no matter how good your intentions are. In addition, he only does it a couple of times. He doesn’t spend half the movie doing it like Z. Dave Foley is also much easier to listen to than Woody Allen.

Princess Atta is much different than Bala. Bala wanted nothing more than to shed her royal duties and just relax every now and then with the commonfolk, which is pretty much a common princess plotline. Atta is the complete opposite as she wants nothing more than to do a good job as a princess and later on as a queen. She’s obsessed and a bit of a worry-wart about running everything and doing everything right. Therein lies her connection with Flik. Despite their drastically different stances in life, they both feel like they’re big screw ups.

Atta is definitely the more fleshed out and unique character, plus she actually evolves through the movie. Bala is pretty forgettable and has a cliché princess personality. She doesn’t change much throughout the movie.

The big conflict in A Bug’s Life is the fact that a group of grasshoppers, lead by the most originally named grasshopper ever, Hopper, have been terrorizing a colony of ants for a long time under the excuse that they protect them from harm, even though they live about a day away from them and would never be able to prevent trouble in time. Every year, the ants are forced to gather food for the grasshoppers in addition to themselves. The major issue is that they live on a very small island that has a limited supply of food. When Flik accidentally knocks the food offering into the water, which they can’t retrieve because they can’t swim, Hopper and his gang get pissed and demand that they offer twice as much food before the final leaf on the one tree of their island falls.

So they have to not only collect the double offering, but they also have to collect food for themselves, which will be difficult, if not impossible, under the circumstances as they barely manage to make their singular offering in time.

The conflict in Antz really doesn’t come to light until later, but the major issues are that the ants are a bunch of mindless conformists who only do what they’re told and nothing else. One of the soldier ants creates a Nazi-esque plan behind the scenes to wipe out all of the worker ants so only the princess and the more deserving soldier ants will live.

Two very different stories, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say I thought A Bug’s Life’s was more interesting and could hold a longer run time. That is one of my main issues with Antz. To me, it was good, but forgettable. There are problems with A Bug’s Life that are glaring and will be addressed in a minute, but at the end of the day, despite those problems, A Bug’s Life was just more entertaining and enjoyable to me whereas Antz I could really give or take.

Finally, the message of A Bug’s Life was a combination of strength in numbers, the ‘power of one’ to unite them all, and standing up to bullies, as well as maybe being proud of the fact that you’re different no matter how much you may screw up because of it.

Antz’s message was a little confusing. It seemed to be that conforming, especially to the point of basically being robots, and living for nothing but work was bad, but then you have the fact that the ants were mindless drones no matter what they were told. They did shake off their blind obedience when Z showed them the error of their ways, but then they showed that non-conformity lead to complete and utter laziness and uncaring for your community. Then when they started to question Z in the slightest, they revolted against him in an instant as well. Perhaps the message is that conformity and living for work are wrong, but going too far in the other direction is just as wrong. Living a life in balance is a good lesson, but if that is the main message, they muddled it up horribly.

I should also mention that the little kids didn’t annoy me as much as I remember them doing. Those two little snots who tease Dot are still brats though.

Well, let’s stop with the comparison and get to what’s wrong with A Bug’s Life as a movie, in terms of story anyway. Three things, really.

First, this movie eventually gets to a point where it relies on the “main character lies to his friends and eventually gets found out” trope. Flik enlists the help of a circus troupe made of a (male) ladybug named Francis, a praying mantis named Manny, a black widow spider named Rosie, a dung beetle named Dim, a walking stick named Slim, a pair of pill bugs named Tuck and Roll, and a gypsy moth named….Gypsy. Besides the issue of ‘I hate this trope and it only makes for that incredibly awkward ‘reveal”, it also raises another issue. Flik never lied to begin with. At all. He told his story straight out to the troupe and even a second time to the pill bugs who don’t speak English and speak some kind of made-up language, but he wasn’t aware of that.

If anything, the troupe was at fault for making the totally unprompted assumption that he was a talent scout just really invested in this grasshopper story. They even fully believe it when they arrive at the colony and everyone’s cheering their heads off for the arrival of ‘the warriors’. It’s only until after a welcome dinner that the troupe figures it out and gets mad at Flik for lying to them even though he never ever did.

Hell, in addition to getting pissed and insulting him, the pill bugs slap him! FOR THEIR MISTAKE. Granted, once Flik finds out the truth, he eventually decides to actually lie to the colony about the troupe, which leads to the predictable awkward reveal, but the fact is that the troupe should have been the ones who looked like they were lying or at the very least made a grave error, not Flik.

Second, one other thing I will say in favor of Antz was the fact that they highlighted a big problem with A Bug’s Life. In Antz, the ants were divided up into workers and soldiers at birth and they remained widely segregated in their regular day to day lives.

In A Bug’s Life, there’s a noticeable lack of soldiers. They’re all workers. They have to be in order to be so firmly under Hopper’s thumb. That creates a problem and dare I say plot hole that could’ve just been patched up by saying that the soldiers all got overpowered by the grasshoppers or were killed or abandoned them or something. I’m not an entomologist, so I don’t know how likely it is that this species or specific colony of ants would just straight up have no soldiers, but it’s a noticeable issue to me.

Finally, the climax has a pretty big problem to it. All of the bugs, understandably, have a huge fear of birds. Hopper especially has a fear of birds since it’s implied that he got the big scar on his face and lost sight in his right eye because of a bird attack and is traumatized because of it. Flik, who is already in the trenches of his deception, decides to just screw the whole idea of the warriors in lieu of a new idea – making a mechanical bird made of sticks and leaves that will scare Hopper and the others away.

They complete the bird and are really optimistic about their chances. However, the colony finds out that the ‘warriors’ are really circus bugs and that Flik lied to them. Flik is then banished from the colony and goes off to join the circus troupe in shame while the colony panics because they spent all summer and fall mostly making the bird and hanging out with the warriors instead of gathering Hopper’s food because they no longer intended on paying him his tribute.

They scramble to gather food, which ends up not being nearly enough to offer to Hopper without leaving themselves to starve to death otherwise and completely lose hope.

The problem I have with this is…what the hell happened to the bird? Why is the bird thing no longer a feasible idea? I know it was Flik’s idea and he lied to them thus they might have lost some faith in the bird. Hell, Flik even loses faith in the bird as he’s riding with the troupe. But you have to remember something – the idea of the bird was presented to the circus troupe, who thought it was a great idea. The idea was then presented to the queen, Princess Atta and the royal council, who also thought it was brilliant. The idea was then shown to the entire colony who also had so much faith in it that they were cheering at the presentation. Why did they suddenly lose faith in the bird idea?

It can be argued that the stuff with the ‘warriors’ was moot by the time the bird was done, and the reveal was actually at a celebration party for the completion of the bird! In fact, Flik was figuring out a way for the troupe to escape without being noticed at the party so they could leave before the grasshoppers came. The troupe stayed of their own accord because they liked the colony and had recently lost their jobs anyway.

The bird was completely unrelated, so there’s no reason why they couldn’t have stuck with that plan in the end despite Flik’s deception and banishment. Did they really think they had more of a chance of gathering a double offering in a matter of days? It’s not like they couldn’t have done it since Flik comes back and actually pilots the bird just fine with only a girl scout troupe to help him operate it.

Bottomline: Despite those plot issues, I have to stick by my stance and just say it’s a more enjoyable, memorable and funnier movie than Antz. I commend Antz for trying to be more realistic in their designs and I still enjoyed the movie just fine, but in the end the one who will always win out for me is A Bug’s Life. I’ve gained much more appreciation of Dreamworks productions in recent time, despite the fact I haven’t gotten to their later work, but I still remain as a loyal soldier in Pixar’s colony……Oh wait. Damn you, ant puns!

Recommended Audience: There’s some drawings of bug gore by the little kids (their teacher actually told them to draw one of the good guys as dead to make it more dramatic. The amount of flying that wouldn’t do in an actual school setting is amazing.) no swearing, no innuendos that I remember. Some minor violence, some grasshoppers get killed although not graphically. It’s fine for all ages.

AVAHS Finale – Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

Plot: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer was an adult on Christmas Eve.

What the hell’s with these sequels?

They don’t get continuity.

I guess I can justify it,

Young Rudolph sells more toys.

Parents, go out and buy one

for all your little girls and boys.

Rudolph needs more stuff to do, so he’s going after New Years now.

Franchises aren’t a brand new thing – this is a 60’s 70s cash cow.

Maybe I’m exaggerating – they probably didn’t know.

That in 40 years Rudolph would become,

a retail nostalgia ho!

Breakdown: We haven’t done enough Rudolph this year, right? Plus, this is pretty much one of the only New Years animated specials in existence. As many times as I’ve watched Rudolph, I don’t give as much attention to Shiny New Year. I still watch it fairly regularly on the holidays, but, truth be told, I usually forget to watch it before the holidays are over. I usually have to catch it in passing on ABC Fam…Freeform or ABC or something.

Twelve years after the release of the first movie, Rudolph, who has undergone de-aging surgery between when he left to deliver presents with Santa and when he came back home, is tasked with finding Happy, the baby new year. He’s gone missing, and without him the new year will never come. It will just be December 31st forever.

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I want to question so much about what that really means. Will the earth halt in its orbit? Will calendars be unable to show future days? Will all of the pre-printed calendars for next year vanish? Will the day just repeat itself, like Groundhogs Day? Will time and space warp around us? Isn’t everything fine as long as Happy is alive? Shouldn’t Happy be born on January 1st? When was Happy born if not the start of the next year? Is there really a press of time if December 31st will keep happening until Happy is found? Pretty sure we can survive a few December 31sts.

The only person who can go out and look for Happy is Rudolph because the storm from Christmas is still going on. Why Rudolph has to go by himself without Santa or anyone else is beyond me. Seems really irresponsible considering Rudolph’s basically a fawn again.

While he goes out by himself, he’s eventually joined by General Ticker – a character that literally comes out of nowhere. He suddenly appears by Rudolph’s side when Father Time (Who strangely carries around a scythe for no reason. Is he standing in for death?) narrates that he was soon joined by him. This movie will be less than ten minutes long if you just keep narrating things into existence.

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Here’s something to rejoice about, though – Rudolph’s nose no longer makes that horrible noise! YAY!

When they reach the desert, they’re met by Quarter Past Five, a camel with a clock shoved in its back…..I don’t understand this character’s concept, but whatever.

The big bad in this movie is Aeon the Terrible – basically a giant vulture. He’s not nearly as terrifying as Bumble, but he does the job.

Aeon’s on the hunt for Happy because he’s a creature that only lives for one eon. After that eon, he turns to ice and snow. His eon just happens to be up at the end of this year, so he’s searching for Happy to ensure that the next year never comes.

Through a nice but rather forgettable song break by Father Time, we learn that the baby New Year is actually Father Time. It starts out every year as a baby and grows throughout the year until it’s reached old age in December, where another baby New Year is born and starts the process over again.

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And for a few months he turns into a girl.

I really like this explanation of Father Time and the baby New Year. With the confusion from earlier, it’s nice to see something like this that makes a lot of sense. I was worried the baby New Year was just a novelty to herald in the new year. Speaking of which, they make a nice workaround to mentioning the ball drop in Time’s Square by saying there’s an identical event just with the ball called ‘the magical diamond’.

Now let’s get back to things about this story that don’t make sense to me. Father Time explains that Happy ran away after some people in the castle laughed at him for his big ears.

While it’s obvious that the baby New Year ages much faster than a normal child, are you seriously telling me this baby, who should be essentially new born age, has the cognitive capacity to understand that people are laughing at and mocking his ears? And that he understood this to a point where he rationalized his only option as running away?….And that he was able to run away as a new born baby? In a massive dessert? And not die? How poorly are you watching this incredibly important infant anyway?

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Thank God I’m being watched by the parents from Rugrats.

Rudolph asks where he might go and Father Time says Nanny Nine O’Clock mentioned that he always wanted to go to the archipelago of last years—alright now you’re just making stuff up. This baby not only knew what an archipelago was, knew there was one for the previous years, and had a wish to see it too?….and shared it with others? When he can’t talk?

The islands are the homes of all the previous Father Times from the years that has passed. Each island stays frozen in time for the year that the specific Father Time reigned. When their last day of the year comes up, they retire to that island.

He sends Rudolph off, again, by himself. I can understand why Quart isn’t going, he’s too big, but why isn’t Ticker coming?

He’s directed to the islands through what is probably the stupidest method of directing someone I’ve ever seen. There’s a sundial on a beach with a hand pointing out into the ocean, and that’s the way he’s meant to go…..NOOOOOOOOOOO. Really?! He’s meant to find these ISLANDS out in the OCEAN? I thought they’d be underground. It’d be different if you could take the sundial and it directed you as you traveled, but it just stays on the beach.

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Someone’s screwing with me, right?

Not only that, but how is he supposed to ensure that he stays straight ahead in the boat? Especially when the designs are so wonky that it looks like Rudolph has no other view besides the back of the sail during the whole trip. On the calmest ocean ever.

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Rudolph gets attacked by Aeon and gives off the angriest look I’ve ever seen a reindeer give.

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His nose is red from the blood of his enemies.

He’s saved by Big Ben, a whale with a clock on its tail. Okay, you’re really just shoving clocks onto animals and calling it a day, aren’t you Father Time? Rudolph hitches a ride on the whale, and no, they never explain why Rudolph can’t just fly everywhere. He just flew around the world in a night, but he has one week to find this baby who might be in mortal danger and he’s literally hoofing it everywhere.

To be completely honest, the next ten minutes is just padding. Rudolph, Big Ben, OM (One Million – the first Father Time), and Sir 1023 (A knight, the Father Time from 1023, which is apparently when every fairy tale ever told took place) just search through the various years for Happy with little actually happening. They even take a detour for them to reenact, beat by beat, the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, just with Happy taking the role of Goldilocks.

The central theme of each place they visit is that Happy makes friends with the people there and then they see his giant ears, laugh and he leaves again.

Aeon grabs him, and Rudolph and the others quickly run after him and knock Happy from his clutches. He saves himself in the fall with his hat as a parachute, only to lose him again in a freak gust of wind that carries him off.

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Happy meets another Father Time, this time a Benjamin Franklin look-alike called 1776 or Sev for short. In the island of 1776, every day is the Fourth of July. Don’t question it – just accept it.

Also, if there’s one thing I want to listen to in a New Year’s special or a subset of a holiday special, it’s song about the Fourth of July. Save it for Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July, please.

At this point, I’m really having a hard time believing that this baby who can’t even walk keeps outrunning Rudolph and the gang. Again, would be really useful for you to fly, buddy.

He’s kidnapped by Aeon again. Rudolph and the Father Times can follow him at night because Rudolph’s nose glows. Gotta keep giving that thing purpose. It’s a glorified tiny flashlight that would actually be insanely difficult to deal with in real life due to the red color, but it’s his schtick.

Aeon has taken Happy to his nest on the frigid Island with No Name. As Rudolph and the others climb the mountain to get to the nest, Aeon shrieks and causes an avalanche, encasing them all in balls of snow.

Rudolph is able to break free because of the heat from his nose—oh come on! You can’t add powers to this thing. Even if his nose did emit heat under the logic that the energy used to make the light also creates heat, it’s about the size of a grape. He’d have to have a laser nose for that to even begin to work.

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Rudolph was born on Krypton….we mentioned that in the last movie, right?

With Aeon fast asleep, Rudolph climbs the mountain to get to Hap—uh, Rudy, aren’t you forgetting something?…..Freeing the other Father Times?…..Let them freeze to death? Okay….Wait, what happens a Father Time dies? Are we putting the space/time continuum at jeopardy here?

He tries to connect with Happy by showing him his nose and saying he used to be made fun of for it too, but now it doesn’t bother him. The current Father Time explains that Rudolph was too modest to tell his own story so the wind, trees and mountains helped him out by singing his song. I’ll only forgive this weirdness because it’s accompanied by a rather cute, but crude, traditionally animated version of Rudolph’s story….though that also begs the question of why is this part in traditional animation?

I’m redacting some of my forgiveness because holy hell, they made Santa look horrifying.

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Totally get the Santa=Satan thing now.

Rudolph tries really hard to not make it sound like ‘I gained social acceptance because my deformity proved to be useful’ and gives Happy a pretty cute wink.

I can’t really avoid the message of the movie anymore, so here goes. Rudolph laughs at Happy’s ears when he shows them but then explains that he wasn’t trying to be cruel – he was just filled with so much happiness when he saw them that he couldn’t contain it anymore. No one that he had met with was being cruel either – they felt the same way.

Obviously, this movie was making another go at the message of accepting your differences and those of others and celebrating what makes you special, but this just seems weird to me. Are you seriously trying to tell people who have been laughed at for their differences that the people weren’t being mean, they were just really happy? Hey, Rudolph, remember when you were laughed at all the time for your nose? Do you reckon those people were really happy or just dicks? Because I remember a whole lot of dickery.

I’m just…kinda confused on how to take this. On one hand, I can sorta see how telling a kid this would be a good coping mechanism for when they get laughed at. On the other hand, you’re condoning mocking by excusing it as pure happiness. Most people who laugh at others for their differences aren’t laughing because they’re filled with happiness – like I said, it’s likely because they’re showing their dickish side. They may not mean to hurt the other person’s feelings, but the fact of the matter is that the source of the humor is coming from the oddity. Even people who can laugh at themselves for their differences can still feel a pang of hurt when someone else laughs at them for it.

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He’s adorable, though.

Aeon wakes up, and Rudolph tells Happy to take off his hat. When Aeon sees his ears, he breaks down in laughter.

Father Time: “Well, it’s the first time that monstrosity ever laughed in his life. He laughed so hard that he laughed himself right out of his nest. He laughed right down the side of that mountain….”

And broke his spine in several places on all of those jagged rocks he is clearly hitting his back on.

Rudolph: “Old Aeon won’t give us any trouble now. He’s cured for good. Heck, nobody can turn to snow and ice when he’s all warmed up inside with laughing.”

How do you know that he’s cured? How do you know he won’t turn around and peck your nose off? It’s not THAT funny – he’ll stop eventually. Are you for real about that warmth from laughing thing? Because my bullshit meter’s having a fit. They’re seriously saying this creature who’s been reigning terror on the sands of time and the archipelago of last years since the beginning of an eon suddenly was filled with happiness and will never be bad again because he laughed a baby’s big ears? What?

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Too adorable.

Midnight strikes and they panic because Happy’s not back with Father Time. Rudolph wonders how they’ll manage to get Happy back before the twelfth bong of the clock when Santa suddenly shows up with his magic sleigh and flying reindeer and a slue of shit that would’ve been extremely helpful FIVE DAYS AGO.

He offers them all a ride, and I’m still calling foul because by the time they all got in that sleigh that clock would’ve definitely hit it’s final bong. Someone get the TARDIS. Actually, you really do need the TARDIS because midnight doesn’t start on the final bong of a clock – it starts when the clock hits midnight, which is when the bongs start. The bongs aren’t a countdown to midnight. You’re going to get there right before 12:01.

Santa does justify his ability to get there in time by saying he travels the world in one night so this isn’t a problem, but we’re watching in real time – the disbelief has to be sent into orbit. Also, again, that ability really would’ve been helpful for the past FIVE DAYS. Is saving the world from eternal December 31st not important enough to get you off your ass until you’ve had nearly a week’s worth of naps and cookies or something?

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Ho ho ho! My presence in this movie completely destroys the fabric of the plot.

Happy rings in the new year. Rankin/Bass do their damnedest to make this timeless by saying his year is 19-wonderful, but, sorry fellas, we’re in 20-eh-well-we’re-getting-by-it’s-alright-sometimes.

As the movie concludes, we’re played out by the only fairly memorable song of the movie – Happy New Year.

The End.

————————–

Forgive me if this review seemed a tad harsher than it needed to be. I’m always a bit of a grump on New Years. At this point in the year, I’m still bitter that the Christmas season is over and I never really look forward to the new year.

My sour grapes aside, this isn’t a bad special – it’s just not that good. It definitely has its interesting concepts in regards to the Father Times and baby new years and even the archipelago of last years. However, it doesn’t really have nearly as much charm as the Rudolph special and a lot of it seems like padding. Some of the new characters were nice, like Big Ben, but the other Father Times had absolutely no purpose besides a duty to find the baby new year. They contributed nothing. Big Ben was basically just the movie’s Lapras, Quart was also only useful as transportation. Everyone else was just there.

Plus, even for a movie set in this universe, there’s a lot of stuff that doesn’t make any sense. A lot of the nonsensical decisions seem like they were made purely for plot convenience as well.

The music was fine. None of it was bad, but the only song I ever bothered to remember over the years was ‘Happy New Year’.

The moral of the movie is either terrible or insanely confusing. Were wires crossed or is this just a bad message to give kids? Notice how no one laughed at Happy in the very end. Shouldn’t apologies have been made? Shouldn’t Happy have been shown happily sharing the happiness with his huge ears and the happy laughter of non-dickishness that everyone would’ve been sure to give?

I do like how previous years and snippets of time were shown to give nods to how each new year is different and brings about major changes in the world, but they didn’t seem like they knew the asset they had with this because they don’t take the time to properly appreciate each time period. One Million years ago is just one big unrelated song number. 1023 is skimmed over for the sake of exaggerated olde English and exploring a lot of fairy tales. 1776 is literally one big Fourth of July party, which takes away from the immersion significantly.

I really like what they were trying to do with this movie, especially since most New Years specials, the few there are, typically focus on that tradition of kissing someone when the ball drops. Having a special that aims to do something creative for the holiday is a much needed breath of fresh air. I’m very uncertain over whether Rudolph was necessary here. It seems like they were jumping through hoops to justify why he and he alone needed to find Happy. However, I do love Rudolph and it’s nice to see him on screen, so I can’t complain too much.

Lastly, despite having no lines besides saying ‘Happy’ at the end, Happy is a very adorable little baby. I wouldn’t have laughed at his ears. They make him even cuter.

This is definitely something nice to show the kids around new years, especially since, if they’re anything like my parents were, they won’t be allowed to stay up until midnight so practically every new years celebration is barred from them until their teens or so. It’s a nice bit of nostalgia for adults, and it can be a fun ride sometimes, but it just doesn’t have a lot of substance.

And with that I close out this year’s A Very Animated Holiday Special. I hope everyone enjoyed the entries this year, had a happy holiday season and will have a great new year. 🙂

AVAHS – The Year Without a Santa Claus

Plot: Rudolph the red-nosed—oops, sorry. Felt like I was stuck in a loop there for a minute. Santa, feeling like the Christmas cheer and good will no longer exists, decides to spend this Christmas nursing his aching body and resting rather than going to deliver presents. Will a Christmas without Santa be no Christmas at all?

Breakdown: …..Mmm.

After trudging through those two GoodTimes Rudolph specials, I felt we needed a return to form. A nice review of a good Rankin/Bass Christmas special is what we need to get our Christmas spirit back.

The Year Without a Santa Claus is a special I usually watch every year, at least when I see it on, but it’s not on my absolutely must-watch list. Still, I’ve watched it since I was young and have a nostalgic love for it.

Well, it’s been a couple of years since my last viewing, and, for some reason, this was one of those moments where I rewatch a special with a critical eye and end up not being sure of where I stand with it anymore.

The plot is solid enough, though questionable. Santa feels like no one appreciates Christmas or him anymore so he feels fully justified in taking the year off to nurse a cold he’s having. Sick Santa I can deal with, but the only reason he really feels like no one appreciates him or Christmas anymore is because some grumpy doctor started an impromptu rant session about how Christmas sucks, and Santa was surprisingly swayed by this argument.

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The only reason I have an issue with this is because it seems out of left field without some event providing support for Santa changing his mind about this outside of ‘yeah, he’s right.’ Maybe preface the movie with last year and how the letters were more selfish or demanding or picky. Have him seeing more bad behavior and whatnot over the course of the year. Don’t just suddenly flip a ‘yeah, kids are little brats’ switch, especially from a character who never appears again.

What’s weird is how the people react to this. First of all, they somehow caught wind of the story that Santa’s taking the year off almost immediately after he makes the decision. This means that, not only do the people supposedly have proof that Santa’s real, but they also have a person on the inside feeding them gossip.

Second, despite part of a following song showing the kids deeply saddened by this news and even believing Santa to be dead, soon after the end of the song, we see a group of kids who all collectively give zero shits that Santa’s not coming for Christmas AND…..we learn that they don’t believe in Santa.

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We all asked to be more contradictory for Christmas.

Uh….what? How do you go from stopping two people talking about Santa by saying Santa’s taking the year off to saying you don’t believe in him? How do you mourn the loss of Santa and then not believe in him? How do you have newspaper headlines about Santa with PHOTOS OF SANTA AND MRS. CLAUS and then not believe in Santa?

It’s really surprising that people really don’t seem to care that Santa’s not coming. Even if people have lost their Christmas cheer and good will, surely they’d be sad or angry about missing out on presents.

Another odd thing about the story is that it seems slightly disjointed. At the beginning, you’re kinda tricked into believing that Mrs. Claus might go out and do Santa’s job behind his back, which is actually a very interesting idea considering Mrs. Claus hardly ever gets to do anything outside of cater to Santa’s every whim. But then they scrap the idea after a musical number.

It’s also a bit weird that the song Mrs. Claus sings about being Santa includes lines like ‘anyone can be Santa’. The guy feels like no one appreciates him so straight out say that he’s easily replaceable.

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Mrs. C, rocking the red coat.

Mrs. Claus sends out two elves, Jingle and Jangle, along with the most adorable reindeer ever, baby Vixen, down to earth to see if they can get some proof that Christmas cheer and good will is still alive and well in the hearts of the people.

Vixen, who has been dressed up as a dog (adorable!) gets sick from the hot weather in Southtown and is caught by a dog catcher. They try to free Vixen by talking to the Mayor, only to get shot down. The only way he’ll free Vixen is if they prove their Santa story by making it snow in Southtown, where it never snows.

They recruit Mrs. Claus and a kid they met, Iggy, to help them by talking to Snowmeiser, the creator of ice and snow and master of the north. They have to deal with the bickering of Snowmeiser and Heatmeiser in order to get it to snow in Southtown, so they decide to go to their mother, Mother Nature, to sort everything out. Snowmeiser makes it snow in Southtown while Heatmeiser agrees to not melt the snow and gets to bring summer time weather to the north pole – successfully confirming global warming and drowning Florida.

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We hate each other but sing songs that are virtually identical barring some details and have a direct line to each others lairs with giant video screens.

Might I add that I love how Mrs. Claus and the others patiently wait as Snow and Heatmeiser finish their unprompted song numbers about themselves?

Meanwhile, Santa heads down to earth after figuring out what Jingle and Jangle were up to and meets Iggy, who was one of the kids who lost his faith in Santa and didn’t care that he was taking a vacation. Santa and his parents convince him otherwise with a very touching song and Santa goes off to free Vixen so he can take her back to the north pole, which he does, without the knowledge of Jingle, Jangle, Iggy or Mrs. Claus.

Despite the snow now being unnecessary for Vixen’s release, there was another condition of the agreement – giving Santa an official holiday so he can have a vacation. Just to keep score, Santa now has two official holidays. Most presidents don’t even get that.

Santa is happy that he gets to rest and relax on Christmas, but after a couple of days of rest, he realizes he’s making a big mistake. He gets sent a bunch of presents from the kids on Christmas eve, and he gets letters that show him how much he’ll be missed on Christmas day.

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Guilt-ridden, Santa decides to make the flight and even publicly flies around greeting the townsfolk. Christmas is saved, hooray!

While Rankin/Bass specials are no stranger to odd additions to their films, the side-plot with Snowmeiser and Heatmeiser seems so out of place that it feels like it belongs in another movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I really like Snow and Heatmeiser (Snow’s better, but maybe I’m biased, being from the north), they have some funny interactions, very catchy songs and good dialogue, but I can’t help feeling like the plot of the snow could’ve been done better without them.

I actually wish this movie had been more down to earth. Maybe had Santa have a bad couple of years or something and send him down to earth on the off-season to see how much Christmas spirit is truly alive in the hearts of the people himself instead of sending Jingle and Jangle off to do it. That song that Santa sings really seems like it belongs in the third act of such a movie instead of the second act of this one.

And, really, what did Jingle and Jangle do that helped Santa recognize the Christmas spirit in others? They, or mostly Mrs. Claus, got snow in Southtown, but it’s not like the rest of the residents knew that was a sign of Santa….in fact, it really wasn’t, because he didn’t make it snow – the meiser brothers did.

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Wait, what about the menagerie breaking loose?

It appears as though Iggy changing his mind about it prompted everyone else to start doing the same, even if he never shared these opinions with anyone else outside of his parents.

I will admit, the kids making presents for Santa on Christmas was really sweet. You never think of giving Santa anything but milk, cookies, and a higher risk of diabetes. However, it’s still bugging me that Christmas spirit is waning when they have solid proof that he exists, no matter how many aliases him and his associates use (such as the ever clever “Mr. Claus” (Pronounced “kl-ow-s.”). The fact that he feels free to fly around town, even landing and walking around to talk to people and wave to them, is also very strange. Santa could’ve solved all of his problems if he just did that to begin with if Christmas spirit works that way.

The wonder and magic of Christmas where Santa is involved is in the belief that he exists. Hearing reindeer hooves on the roof, seeing a puff of soot fall from the chimney in the dead of night, seeing the empty plate of cookies and glass of milk etc. I’m almost jealous of kids who still believe in Santa because I never really got to experience that level of belief in something so magical. I don’t really know why – I just never believed in him.

It’s all the more confusing when ‘Santa Claus Comes Tonight’ plays and you see Iggy hiding under his covers to not see Santa….spliced in with Santa flying around town, waving to people like he’s in a parade.

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Another thing I have to point out about this movie is the animation. I already addressed the ‘stop motion is creepy, and Rankin/Bass productions are no exception’ thing, but I have never been more aware that I’m watching animated dolls while watching one of these movies. I don’t know if it’s the lighting or the fact that this special is so much more focused on human characters, but every scene screams ‘dolls’ and ‘stop motion’, which is indeed very weird of me to note considering this is stop motion with dolls, but let me explain.

When Rankin/Bass does specials with non-human characters, it’s much easier to get immersed in the environment and forget that these are models, puppets and dolls being animated, no matter how creepy or obvious the animation is. When you have nearly everyone in the special being human, it somehow breaks the immersion much more and makes the animation quirks even more apparent. It’s not necessarily bad, it just takes you out of the full experience a bit.

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Look at Vixen, though! ❤

Where does that leave this special as a whole, though? Well, it has some very great and memorable songs that I would say are even better than the songs in Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. That song about Santa is heartstring tugger all the way. I like the idea of the plot, Mrs. Claus, the meiser brothers and the adorable little baby Vixen, but I really feel like the execution could’ve been better. The set up is also pretty flimsy without stronger support as to why Santa suddenly feels this way.

Do I even need to bring up one of the most common criticisms of Santa? Dude, you work one day a year, but you need a damn vacation? I’m aware that he still has a cold and doesn’t do this for any compensation, but it’s still just one day a year.

Do his elves get any days off? I doubt it. They work their asses off all year trying to make toys for millions of kids, probably even through illness, yet they get no respect from the children of the world and no compensation to speak of outside of maybe a place to live. I can even bet they’re back to work on Christmas day to get the jump on next year.

All in all, I still very much enjoyed this special no matter the qualms I have with it. It’s sweet, humorous and definitely has its heart in the right place. I’m still not sure this is an unmissable Christmas tradition, but I would understand if it was or became as such. Like many of Rankin/Bass’s works, it just has a certain charm and warmth about it that you just don’t get today.