Monday, December 14, 2009

Back with a vengeance...and a rant about this year's bunch of animated movies.

Yeah, for those who ever read this blog and still want to read it, I'm starting it up again. I haven't been having personal problems or anything preventing me from working on the blog, I just kind of forgot about it. But in any case, I'm going back to art school and working on a new Wario cartoon, so the Internet (and hopefully the animation industry) has not seen the last of me.

I'm updating this blog because I think there's something wrong with me. Anyone who knows me in real life knows how much I love cartoons. And last year I thought had two stellar animated films in WALL·E & Kung Fu Panda, with the latter becoming one of my all-time favorites. (Yes, I enjoyed Kung Fu Panda more than WALL·E. Deal with it.) Bolt wasn't half-bad either, despite all the behind-the-scenes turmoil it had.

So why has this year been so weird for me? You're probably expecting me to say that I hated most or all of the animated films I saw, but that's definitely not the case. Or you're expecting me to say that this was an absolutely stellar year for them, like many people are saying. That's not the case either.

Here's my weird thing: I've seen seven animated films this year (Probably a personal record), and I've had the same opinion about every one: Good. Not great. Not bad. Not mediocre. Good.

Let's take a look at my reasoning behind this:

Pixar's Up was easily the most critically successful animated movie of the year. People praised its heart and originality, citing the extremely emotional and touching first 10 minutes. So why is it that this emotion- Hell, this series of events that drives Carl's character- is thrown to the wayside for most of this movie in favor of wacky birds and talking dogs? Not to say that it isn't funny or entertaining (It's both), but really, this had so much more potential than what it ended up with. It's easily one of the "least good" Pixar films in my book- but that's still saying a lot with their standards. It's still a fun film.
Dreamwork's annual entry, Monsters VS Aliens, made a killing at the box office but didn't do so hot critically. I actually wasn't planning to see the film at all, feeling that aside from one funny bit, the trailer looked like crap. But my brother ventured to see it, enjoyed it, and convinced me to go see it. And you know what? It was actually pretty good. There are definitely some problems, such as some lame pop-culture jokes that fall flat and little character development outside of Susan/Ginormica, but it's a funny movie with some great action scenes. This is actually one that I would LIKE to see a sequel to, both because the movie itself hints at further adventures at the end and I feel like it would be a good opportunity to flesh out the other monsters, but it's not going to happen- Katzenberg said some crap about it disappointing overseas, even though it made like $300 million over here.

Along with a movie I'll get to later, Coraline was praised for fantastic visuals, a surprisingly dark plot, and keeping theatrical stop-motion movies alive. So why did I walk away from it just thinking, "Well, that was decent"? I can't really place what I did and didn't like about this movie, but I can't even call it forgettable because of some of the more memorable visuals (The disintegrating world at the end looked PHENOMONAL in 3D). It's good, and that's all there is to it.

Shane Acker's 9 was being praised before it even came out for its surprisingly dark atmosphere and story, but didn't do so well with critics or audiences when it finally got released. Some called it too bleak for its own good. Others felt there was too little character development. Others hated the ending. And yet I enjoyed it even with these faults. True, the characters weren't developed, but I felt like most of them (Outside of the mute 3 & 4) had some amount of personality. As for the ending, how else can you end a movie where mankind is already gone and the world has been destroyed? Again, I chalked this one up as decent.

Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs wasn't a critical success on the same level as, say, Up, but many people did indeed praise it- My favorite online movie reviewers,, even gave it their coveted "Better Than Sex" rating, so I went in expecting something great. And yet, while I laughed, loved the visual style, and had a good time, I failed to see what makes this so phenomenal. Once again, good but not great. Seeing a pattern here?

I saw Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox opening weekend, and was apparently one of a select few, since it pretty much bombed. And it's a shame, because this is a fun and unique film- and yet again, not a great one. Much like its stop-motion sibling Coraline, I can say I certainly enjoyed it and can call it a good movie, but I can't quite place what held it back from greatness for me personally.

And finally, we have The Princess & The Frog, which I literally saw a few hours ago. Going in, I was realizing this was my last shot. Even if I hated this movie, it would at least differentiate from my opinions of everything else I've seen this year. Guess what I thought? It was good. I will say that I thought the first half-hour was great- The songs are awesome, the visuals are awesome, the pacing, the jokes, etc. But once Tiana and Naveen are both frogs and end up in the bayou, things slow down a little. The songs aren't as good, the visuals aren't as inventive, and the jokes aren't as frequent. The romance angle also felt underdeveloped- There were some very good scenes of the two coming to respect each other, including one with a cute payoff later in the film ("You minced!"), but I didn't buy Naveen falling for Tiana by the climax. And yet after all of this, I sound like I didn't like the film. Turns out I did- it just seemed like at the beginning it might be the standout animated movie this year instead of just being a good one.

My three favorite films this year are all live-action- Star Trek, District 9, and Where the Wild Things Are were all great. I don't know what all this says about me. I don't feel like my feeling on animation have changed at all- I still feel that there are an infinite amount of different ideas and concepts that can be done with it, and I feel confident that I'll see more films I love in the future. Yet why was I so middle-of-the-road this year? Many critics and filmgoers alike feel that this has been possibly one of the best years for animation ever, yet why can't I feel any emotion other than "That was pretty good" for these films? I might actually feel better if I had bashed 9 or Monsters VS Aliens like so many, but I felt much the same way about them as I did the other films. Here's to better luck next year.

P.S. Yeah, I didn't see Astro Boy, Planet 51, or Ice Age 3, but it sounds like I didn't miss much.


Adam said...

I agree with your comment on Princess and the Frog. I really enjoyed the songs Almost There, and Friends from the other side. I do feel that it is a problem when the villain's song is the best song in the movie.

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