Human relationships are always evolving, as are the ways that humankind itself evolves. Throughout human history, technology has evolved in a way to help grow every medium of communication. The term ‘Hyper-personal’ has been used to describe the farthest extent that people take social media communication. Nowadays, we see this happen with people over-sharing information on social media. Whether this is a good or bad thing is up to interpretation. The 2009 Stop-motion animated feature Mary and Max explored a Hyper-personal relationship that started, and flourished, using letter writing. Despite being an older platform for communication, the ways that letters were used in the film exhibit many traits of a slightly-anonymous hyper-personal relationship.
The term ‘Hyper-personal’ comes from Joseph Walther, a communication professor from Singapore. It helps describe behavior seen over communicative technologies. It comes out of a greater sense of connection exhibited from communicative technology. It’s common to see people become really personal, really quickly after using such mediums as the internet or print sources. There are multiple reasons this happens. It starts with senders that can edit their perceptions of themselves to fit a specific persona that may not necessarily be true of their real selves. Specifically, it gives leeway to only portray positive images about themselves for another party to receive.
A receiver of this kind of information generally overestimates their similarities with a sender, which in itself can only come from very limited cues. It’s important to remember that all of these messages and conversations are traditionally sent from messages which can be edited, planned, and changed before sending. This channel of communication also runs without inherent limits on time, even if everyone is communicating on different times. This helps people change their feedback, and overall opinions on any given situation. Not only do people have different perceptions on other people, but can now create a new perception for themselves. Generally the interactions defined by hyper-personal relationships come from online sources in general, however it’s not internet exclusive. A story like Mary and Max showcases hyper-personal communication through letter-writing.
Mary and Max is a film made by Australian animator Adam Elliot, and focuses on the lives of the 2 titular characters. Mary is a young Australian girl who just wanted a pen pal, and randomly chose a name out of a phonebook to find the name of Max. She starts writing him one day, out of a general curiosity and a desire for a friend in her life. Max is a 40 year old man living in New York with Asperger’s Syndrome as well as other emotional problems. We see their lives grow for a span of about 20 years, where Mary and Max spend all that time exchanging letters about a wide range of topics that over unimportant topics to extremely personal details. What really gives the film its power is from the many personal issues both protagonists face. Mary starts off as a lonely child with uncaring parents but faces issues such as alcoholism and suicidal tendencies as she grows up, and Max is a man who deals with a mostly parentless past filled by many traumatic bullying experiences that sometimes cause mental breakdowns and high class anxiety attacks. Yet throughout every issue they have, they manage to stay happiest when writing to each other and telling each other their lives. A lot of this is because they become very interpersonal very quickly.
The relationship becomes hyper-personal almost immediately in the film. When Mary sends her first letter to Max she includes a lot of very personal information. She quickly talks about her parents and pets, and the relationship she has with them. Being an eight-year-old, she had little trouble asking him if he knew where babies came from. When Max responds, he also gets really personal with her. Every time he refers to his therapist, he writes his full name down. Max also details his Overeaters Anonymous meetings, as well as why his parents were never in his life. On the 2nd letter we heard a lot more personal details from each side, where Mary talks about her loneliness, and her neighbors history in the military, and Max talks about his detailed eating schedule and favorite lottery numbers. Throughout the film they share a lot of raw information about each other, which is filled with dark backstory and deep issues that are in desperate need of fixing. While many traits of hyper-personal communication are shown, it still doesn’t portray the full scope of the theory.
While Mary and Max shows the two protagonists grow very close very quickly, it generally doesn’t follow every detail of the theory as written. They write each other letters, and this gave them a lot of room to exhibit the many traits and ideas presented by hyper-personal theories. The theory describes falsified or exaggerated persona’s exchanging information to each other. In the film, Mary and Max sent each other unedited pictures of their daily normal selves and tell each other a lot of raw, truthful information. They don’t even have a lot in common either, and they never thought they had a lot in common. Despite this, they still communicate and maintain a pretty personal relationship. Their friendship rides a lot on simple kindness and the willingness to respond to each other. It also helps that most other relationships they have in their lives are incredibly unstable, (at least the one’s that actually lasted). Them keeping in contact likely helped keep them grounded when their worlds around them would collapse. Even though their communication and feedback follows the same pace as Hyper-personal relationships, it doesn’t generally follow the other substantial criteria. The lack of a falsified or exaggerated persona on both ends disagrees with how Hyper-personal relationships are thought to function. This isn’t necessarily an issue on the end of hyper-personal communication as a theory, but is more of Mary and Max being an odd case study in general.
Hyper-personal communication is simple, has predictive power, and can easily explain behavior over the internet. It’s unfortunate that an idea like this can’t be fully explored since it is so hard to control enough to test via social experiments. This still takes into account how easy it is to get in a hyper-personal relationship over the internet, which likely happens everywhere in these technological days. It seems like anyone gathered in like-minded communities can easily find people to communicate with, giving this idea so much practical utility across the world. We may be used to it on our Facebook or Twitter pages, but Mary and Max applied this to a completely different platform. The relationship that Mary and Max had is one of the most well-written in animation, and rightfully carries the enjoyment of the film.
This has been AniMo on Animated Monologues, thanks for reading and have an animated day!
This was the single most inevitable post I could ever make. If you’ve never talked to me in real life you may not know this, but I am a Don Hertzfeldt fanatic. He is my favorite animator currently working, and in film in general. His art and writing style combined with his outlook on art and animation make him someone I will always keep my eye on. This post is a compliment to his work, and my related posts of me specifically reviewing every one of his shorts, (if I ever do that).
Keep in mind that I love everything he has done, and me ranking any of his films on a lower scale really isn’t a big deal because I even enjoy those. As this list goes on, I understand that not everyone will agree and I’m okay with that. I don’t want anyone to think for a second that I’m trying to degrade anything he’s done by saying he’s done better. This entire list is me openly admitting my love for everything he has done. As an animation fanatic, there isn’t anyone I enjoy more than Hertzfeldt. I am only counting his true short films, and won’t include his Simpsons short or toons he did in the Animation Show. To prove that there is value in even my least loved of his work and that my favorite of his stuff rivals the best animation I’ve seen, the list will start now. Starting with my least favorite, and the later parts ending with my favorites.
11. Lily and Jim:
Even though I just explained that I don’t technically hate or even slightly dislike this film, I acknowledge that I have more problems with this film than his other shorts. It’s a 12 minute short about an awkward couple on their first blind dates. We hear from each of them in documentary/Modern Family style interview segments outside of the date. The big problem with Lily and Jim is its pace does not benefit it. I understand that the film is written to be slow and the dialogue and performance is supposed to be awkward, (which is why it’s good in its execution) but when the film is as long as it is without enough development of the main characters, it gets hard to watch.
Even with that said, there are good things about the film. The dramatic irony is good, as we see what they truly feel and think. Hertzfeldt’s still evolving but ever present dark humor works wonders in moments that could have droned on without them. The animation is more polished than his previous student films, so it’s visibly watchable and the style fits. I think it’s worth noting that this is the first time Brian Hamblin sat in the chair as the editor, who did a good job cutting together the film. The end product is still worth watching for any Hertzfeldt fan to understand how he and Hamblin’s production skills have evolved, and that the rest of his work does get better. I still think Lily and Jim is a great film, but it has a few noticeable problems. The biggest reason it’s at the bottom of the list is because I think it’s just outclassed.
10. Ah L’amour:
Lily and Jim had too much in terms of faulty writing, and this film didn’t have enough. Ah L’amour is essentially a clip show, where a guy tries talking to girls and they all reject and brutally injure him. It just doesn’t feel like a story, (even if that was the point, it creates an empty feeling). Being his first film, it’s understandable that it could be improved on. It’s also visible since the camera quality is the lowest of any of his work, even his later 16mm films he made as a student had a better visual quality. Again, I can give it a bit of a pass because it’s a first film. Anyway, the real beauty in this film lies in the dark humor execution. Every scene ends in an over-the-top death. From getting his skin peeled off, (and literally having salt poured on it), to being stabbed, and electrocuted. Even the main character changes his demeanor, but the girls just keep rejecting him worse and worse. It ends after he says he has money, which fits because even a simple hello got him killed a couple shots prior.
Ah L’amour just doesn’t have enough to offer outside the dark humor because it’s short and the substance kind of lacks. As a first film, I can let some stuff slide, but not everything. What is most noticeable over the years is the way Hertzfeldt’s writing style has improved more than everything else he does for his films. From here on out, the amount of issues with the films start drastically decreasing.
9. Wisdom Teeth:
VISDUM TOOTEN actually was a little lower on this list until I heard Hertzfeldt’s explanation about it. In a reddit AMA, Hertzfeldt explained that he created a fake language for the film for the sole purpose of making us have to read subtitles. He literally thought it’d be funny to sort of troll us like that, and luckily it is. If you watch the film with this in mind, it becomes more funny. It was a film made to troll us that he worked on in-between animating everything for the It’s Such A Beautiful Day trilogy, and thus isn’t the most serious of his films. However it is highly entertaining because we wait for most of the film to pull off one joke, all the while being trolled into reading subtitles.
I think Hertzfeldt’s best jokes take their time and don’t drag for too long. But his jump-cut and rapid-fire jokes are good too. Genre is where his rapid-fire style really started to take off. Genre features a rabbit character but in many different genre’s of film and having to act out a scene or make a joke out of it. It could have been a showreel of jokes, but adds a little extra here and there.
7. Billy’s Balloon:
Rejected may have grown, (and since developed) Hertzfeldt’s fan-base once it went viral, but Billy’s Balloon put his name of the map and gave him the capabilities to continue as a professional animator. Getting screened at Cannés Film Festival during his last year in college, Hertzfeldt was the youngest director showcased that year. Billy’s Balloon was made after having to deal with synchronizing Lily and Jim’s dialogue. Hertzfeldt didn’t want to deal with all that so he decided to make a 5 minute film without dialogue and still retain his humor style. It strikes a good balance with the merciless balloon beatings. It starts with Billy sitting and shaking a rattle, and evolves into his balloon trying to actively murder him. The lack of physical and visible pain we see gives the animation full control to do whatever the hell it wants to Billy. Such a short but sweet film became a huge jumpstart to one of the career to one of my favorite animators, since the film’s critical reception secured Hertzfeldt as an animator. There is a good reason this was the first Hertzfeldt short he put into The Animation Show.
6. Meaning of Life:
The placing of these next 3 are the hardest decisions to make for this list. As of publishing this, I’m still unsure if I like the positioning of these films. So if they ever change in the future, remember that I declare here that it’s possible to change. But forget that, we have Meaning of Life to talk about.
I would have expected a film called The Meaning of Life to think up a theory or an explanation as to what it is, however it is not the case with this film. It asks the question in a much broader way than most people would. Hertzfeldt and crew showcase so many different ways people or creatures live, as well as editing in many different shots of the Milky Way Galaxy and the universe in general. The space shots are very well drawn, they make for nice visuals, as well as representations of how big and vast the universe is. There are also many forms of life we are shown in the film. We see walking crowds of people saying the same words, mindless looking creatures running around doing (whatever it is they do), and one creature that seems to either transform or evolve right before our eyes. This plays into what I believe the film is about, not what is the meaning of life, but how does life happen, where and how? It is so open ended, yet so clear in what it tries to communicate.
There is even a scene where 2 life forms (an assumed parent and child respectively) are talking in gibberish. The child seems to ask the parent about the meaning of life and the universe, in the way we as consumers would ask an artist what the meaning of life is. The parent kind of brushes him off, seeming to disregard and actively/maliciously ignore it as if Hertzfeldt as the artist is saying we should come up with our own idea, and trying to accept one “whole true” meaning is useless. It’s a perspective I never thought I’d see about a topic everyone wonders about at some point. I may not have an answer, but I can now imagine how differently everyone, and everything, lives its “life”.
5. I am So Proud of You:
It should come as no surprise to any Hertzfeldt fans that all 3 of the It’s Such A Beautiful Day shorts are in the Top 5. The way this short dives into Bill’s backstory works surprisingly well. We get a glimpse into the importance of his ex-girlfriend who shows up throughout the whole series. We also learn his family history. His family seems to have a history of being batshit crazy, tracing back to old times. We may question how anyone could know this information, since some of it concerns people who aren’t even noticed in society. I’ve realized over my many viewings that the narration serves as an omnipitent voice to tell us everything we need to know, and not actually coming from any characters perspectives. I Am So Proud Of You continues the style of the It’s Such A Beautiful Day trilogy and gives us insightful perspectives and knowledge that help strengthen the rest of the series. It’s wrong to call it the worst of the trilogy because the film is still really good, but I think the others are a little better.
It’s the big one. Quite a lot of people got introduced to Don Hertzfeldt’s films through Rejected, and continue to do so. The same goes for me. This short showcases how good Hertzfeldt is at comedic timing. Every joke is drawn out, built up, and executed to get the best effect from it. The pauses in between every uttering of “My spoon is too big” were just as long as they should have been. The Silly Hats segment was broken up perfectly to execute the punchline. Each joke gets the treatment it needs to really entertain the
viewers. It’s a great way to introduce people to Hertzfeldt’s writing style. We see the surrealist darkness in every drawn frame, but it works so well as humor. Even if I get numb to the jokes in this film, I still know and respect their execution. So even if I’m not laughing at the jokes, I am still extremely entertained.
3. Everything Will Be Okay:
Everything Will Be Okay was, (and still is for some critics) considered Hertzfeldt’s magnum opus. It won him his first Sundance Short Film Award, and was snubbed for the Oscars, (it was shortlisted, but barely missed out on the nomination). This is were we get introduced to Bill, my favorite animated film character ever. This film gives us the perfect snapshot into his life, by showing us his daily adventures. We get a sense into what his life is like, and how his mind works. As a short, it easily could have stood on it’s own.
2. World of Tomorrow:
Either I don’t read up enough on the yearly short film circuit in world animation, or World of Tomorrow legitimately was the most highly praised animated short of the year. I saw a lot of hype for this film everywhere I could find. Granted I follow Hertzfeldt on social media and his website semi-religiously. I waited very patiently for this to come out, and was right there when it premiered on Vimeo-on-Demand which I literally created by Vimeo account to watch.
It was so worth it.
World of Tomorrow is Hertzfeldt’s first time animating digitally. Still with his signature character drawing style, the only difference is that backgrounds and other atmospheric imagery was digitally produced. It looks wonderful. The story takes us to the Outernet, and we see people essentially storing themselves in cloud-like storage devices to keep their memories alive. Emily’s future self also tells us that people can extend their literal lineage. As a vision of the future, it is fascinating to think that technological advances could make this happen. It’s scary to think about, the idea of living forever through technology and technological breeding.
What really interested me most on my many rewatchings of this short is the idea of Emily prime’s perspective versus the 3rd Gen Emily. Emily prime is a kid, and therefore the world is bright. She is so dazzled by this crazy new outernet, because she is naturally optimistic. This directly clashes with 3rd Gen Emily, who is left near-emotionless after such a large exposure to the darkness of the new world. This perspective clash makes works with Hertzfeldt’s writing style very well because it isn’t a focus but we see it as an impact that the new world has on people. I love just how everything was handled, and that the stylistic choices Hertzfeldt always makes worked digitally. I was so impressed upon my first viewing that I had this labeled as my number one for a while. But as I kept rewatching all of Hertzfeldt’s shorts, I realized that the number one spot was locked by another short.
1. It’s Such A Beautiful Day:
This is were everything comes together. All of Bill’s backstory and development culminate. There are so many touches in this that help make the previous segments come together and push the film’s greatness to it’s limits. We learn just how bad Bill’s brain has become, as we see more of his breakdowns and disjointed/false memories overlap with what was his reality. This becomes especially important when we realize a lot of his memories from the past two films (especially I am So Proud of You) may be a demented view his broken brain gave off. We learn about what would happen to his soul, and how his life effected it. It’s hard to state exactly how powerful the ending is after learning so much about Bill’s brain and lifestyle. There are not a lot of others films or stories that don’t have such an impact, pulled off in such an interesting way. It’s Such A Beautiful Day’s execution and uniqueness help make it my favorite Don Hertzfeldt short film.
Unless the next one that comes out is better somehow…
This has been Animated Monologues, slicing into cinema in every post. Thanks for reading, have an animated day.
One of the films I anticipated more than anything within the past year or two was Mark Osborne’s The Little Prince. It wasn’t because it was directed by him, or even that it was about The Little Prince. It was the beautiful artwork, and the acclaim it was reaching. After seeing Paramount drop it, I was deeply saddened, but then Netflix picked it up and everything was better.
It is finally streamable, and I really want to talk about it before I go any further.
The reason that I am talking about this now is because I haven’t read the original novel, nor have I seen any other interpretations of the story. This gives me a very unique perspective because the only thing clouding my mind is hype. I don’t get to compare it to another adaption or source, which otherwise would change my expectations. I think that a clearer perspective like this can be very helpful to someone experiencing it for the first time, and for me it absolutely worked.
Now I also knew going in that it wasn’t going to be a direct adaptation, instead using it as a framework to watch a different character in her growth. What I like about this perspective is that it allows us to see 2 stories, but also a first hand study in seeing how people are effected by art. As someone who spends his free time watching and participating in art debates, as well watching how people interact, this is a cool way to tell a story that is otherwise well known. The thing is, that this doesn’t make it good. The Book of Life was a movie almost ruined by the fact that it was being read to children in an outside perspective, since it ruined the pacing and literally took us out of the story by destroying our suspension of disbelief. The Little Prince makes this work using focus. The story isn’t focused on one of these things over another, instead focusing on how they bounce off of each other. We watch characters grow because of it, and we see how art can change people.
But more important than that, it’s the context we see this growth for this film.
Our main character starts off as a child who is definitely growing up too fast. She is in a society that doesn’t let kids be kids, because it doesn’t have room for anything but to grow up fast. Through the Little Prince, we watch this girl learn about the grown up world, but also spend her time as a kid. Her creativity and imagination is ignited by this story, and this sort of enchantment is necessary for kids to just be themselves with. As the story progresses and we see more of society and it’s kid-unfriendly nature, the impact of the theme becomes more important. The film is not subtle about this, using small visual cues to support this as well as lines of dialogue that scream “THESE PEOPLE AREN’T GOOD WITH KIDS OR IMAGINATION”.
The plain art style in the real world shows this as well. Since the whole neighborhood is a colorless grid of houses, with the exception of the neighbor who introduces the girl to the story. The story itself is filled with color, and a vastly different art style that doesn’t just differ from the real world in this film, but is different from most other stop motion we see today. A lot of visual subtleties and design perspectives support the themes and story very well, in ways not enough films do.
So, as much as I’d love to go on and get really deep into what makes this film so good, but I want to try something.
I have this titled as a “First Thoughts” for a good reason. I want to record my initial impressions without any prior knowledge of the source or it’s adaptations. So now I plan on reading the original story and then maybe seeing some of the other interpretations in film to see what the Little Prince is. Then I want to watch the film again, and sink my teeth into everything the film has to offer, and make a final judgment on it. So until, then I give the film a STRONG seal of approval.
This has been Animated Monologues, slicing into animation in every post. Thanks for reading and have an animated day.
I think 2015 was an astounding year for animation everything considered. This idea will be explained in another post. In terms of films, it’s been good overall but not as wonderful. Home and Strange Magic may not have hooked anyone, but we also got Inside Out, The Prophet, When Marnie Was There, while Boy and The World got released in America plus King and The Mockingbird got remastered, (even if the English dub is inferior to the French dub). I was looking forward to Inside Out, The Little Prince, and The Prophet at this point looking towards 2015, but had so much more that I enjoyed. Now that I am more well-read and have spent a lot of time with animation this year, my anticipation for next year is a bit different. While I am very excited to see a multitude of films, there are also films whose success I want to see, and therefore anticipate them for more than a good story. Both of these have come together to make this monologue. These are what I can’t wait to see in 2016 for many different reasons. Honorable Mentions go to; Revengeance because Bill Plympton, Zootopia since Disney has been doing very well this decade, Mune if it gets released worldwide next year, Phantom Boy since GKIDS typically distributes good films, and Coco because Pixar originality should be rewar…ohh that’s 2017 shit. I’m not the most optimistic about 2016 as I was about 2015. But I still believe 2016 will be good overall, but for now I’m just looking forward to…
5. Moana, (Walt Disney Animation Studios):
I cannot remember where, but an animation website talking about these films said that Moana is supposed to have a new painterly style of CG. If this is true, Moana will stay on this list, if not, then I won’t be as excited. Since Disney is cutting their ties to traditional animation, they don’t have any real different animation style. Since CGI looks so good with every studio that uses it, even the old animation juggernaut can only offer classic formula feel with the in-style of CG. When I heard Moana was going to have a different visual style, I felt relieved. I just want to see more visual variety in animation, which doesn’t always happen with blockbuster films. Even on top of that, this movie is featuring a Polynesian princess, (the first non-American princess and the second to be not-white) whose voice actress is local to Hawai’i. The concept art is also very beautiful, with a more natural environment. Lilo and Stitch, one of my childhood favorites, did justice to Hawaiian culture but the setting focused more on the town environment, while Moana looks to be more nature/Ocean based. This decade has been amazing for Disney, with Tangled kickstarting a new-era of the original animation studio producing animated features, and every following film being welcomed to positive reception. While Zootopia also looks enjoyable, I am much more excited for Moana.
4. The Little Prince, (Onyx Films, distribution by Paramount Animation)
I was looking forward to this so much last year. It screened at Cannes, and my excitement only grew. I knew it’d be released October 2015 in France, but had no idea about North America. Now it’s confirmed March 2016, and I am still as stoked as ever. I may not know the original story of The Little Prince, but this title excites me for many reasons. One of them is because French animation has a certain artistic element to it that I miss from other nations. Artistry in storytelling and design/vision, and being a well-known tale being adapted with stop-motion and CGI tells me that there will be beauty. It’s also not a direct retelling, it’s about a character interacting with the story which gives the film a different perspective on the story and more creative freedom. Onyx Production is a studio that has had other successful films that I want to see, (such as Mune: Guardian of the Moon which I brought up in honorable mentions). The Little Prince has ground in North America because people know the story and it’s directed by Mark Osborne, (director of The Spongebob Movie and Kung Fu Panda 1). It looks very good, and has a classic near fairy tail feel that looks very promising. I wanted it last year, and I want it more this year.
3. April and The Extraordinary World, (StudioCanal/Cine+ and other collaborators, distributed by GKIDS)
The movie took the Annecy Cristal in 2015, and is being distributed by GKIDS. Granted, they usually do, but here’s why it’s important, (for those who may not know). The Annecy Animation Festival is to animation what Sundance is to independent cinema, the Annecy festival is very important, very competitive, and important in animation. The biggest announcements happen here first, plus the most special of events, (Thief and The Cobbler: Director’s Cut was screened this year as was Pinnochio 75th Anniversary first). The films that screen in competition try to win the main award, The Cristal. GKIDS usually distributes the winners. Some of the best films they’ve distributed result from this, (Boy and The World, Sita Sings The Blues). Plus The Cristal has been given to very amazing names in animation, (Mary and Max’s Adam Elliot, Henry Selick twice, Bill Plympton twice, When The Wind Blows). The most recent winner is April and The Extraordinary World. This films is on the list because of the reputation of the Cristal and GKIDS, because I believe they hold value in the films they honor. In terms of the production company behind it, I recognize a lot of the collaborators for the help they’ve given foreign films like Nocturna and Tomm Moore’s features, (who also competed at Annecy and were distributed by GKIDS). It’s true that these credits behind it don’t always mean golden, (since Renaissance won in 2005) but it creates a level of anticipation that secures a spot on this list.
2. Little Door Gods, (Light Chaser Animation Studios):
Was called The Door Guardians, but the name was changed for some reason, (I think the original name is better). Blockbuster animation is dominated by many different American Studios, (Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Blue Sky, Reel FX, and the shit-vortex that is Illumination) producing all of these beautiful 3D films, since they have the budgets and resources and etcetera blah blah blah. Most foreign animation is produced with collaborative funding using 2D animation or the occasional stop-motion, and when they do 3D animation it’s never of this studio quality on a visual level. This could start to change with Light Chaser animation, a Chinese animation studio that aims to produce 3D animated films that at least rival the beauty of American CGI. Little Door Gods is going to be their debut feature film. Like their first ever short, The Little Yeyo’s, it is going to be more focused on Chinese culture than marketing to worldwide audiences. I don’t care if it’s the smartest move or not, because I’m just happy that they have some cultural integrity. They seem to be more focused on proving they can make a good film before they make a super huge money maker. It’s not that they’re trying more than anything to compete with Pixar quality, it’s more that they’re trying to become a respected name in animation with the perk of having western studio quality animation. I want to see this because this means a lot to foreign animation’s stance in American film culture, if only to compare the capabilities of foreign animators. Anyone that focuses on foreign animation knows that overseas producers are more than capable of making beautiful looking movies, (Tomm Moore’s films, Ghibli films) and very entertaining movies, (Mary and Max, Boy and The World, When The Wind Blows, and Ghibli films). These films always use traditional animation because it’s easier, but Light Chaser is trying to break into 3D animation. I believe they can do it, but I’ll have to see Little Door Gods to make sure of it.
1. Kubo And The Two Strings, (Laika Productions)
Admittedly this isn’t the film I think is going to be the best of the year, nor is it the film I’m most looking forward to watching, (That’s between Little Prince and Little Door Gods). The reason this is number one is because this film has many standards to live up to and even more to prove, at least to me. The first reason is that Travis Knight is the director of this picture. Travis Knight has produced Laika’s past 3 films, proving that he can effectively help someone else’s vision come to life. We don’t know yet if he has a good enough vision to make a film out of, and that really peaks my curiosity. I want Knight to succeed, but we have to wait to see if it’s good or not. The other reason I’m very curious to see if this film succeeds is because it’s following up a movie I thought failed. I really don’t like The Boxtrolls, to say it squarely. I love Coraline, which I think is one of the best stop-motion films ever, that said I also believe ParaNorman was a better film. This leaves me with the opinion that Laika has 2 wonderful films, and one not-so-wonderful film under their belt. If there is an implication to state, it’s that Kubo also may have to represent Laika’s downfall. If Kubo is as good as I hope it is, then I can say Laika is a fantastic animation studio with one poor film in their reputation because no animation studio is perfect. However, if Kubo sucks ass, then I’m forced to question Laika’s ability to compete in an increasingly CG’d world. I believe they are the perfect studio to keep stop-motion viable in blockbuster animation, but if they have 2 bad films in a row, what happens to blockbuster stop motion? It’s very important to have diversity in animation, so people’s image of animation is fair and uncluttered by the CG-washing of the industry. I want Kubo to be good so stop-motion can stand a chance against every other studio in America producing CGI. Disney is giving less of a shit about 2D animation since Princess and The Frog failed and almost destroyed hand-drawn animation in cinema’s, (here’s hoping Hullabaloo and Klaus can turn this around), and they used to be the only people producing 2D animation in blockbuster cinema. Laika is the last remaining diverse animation studio that is actually succeeding and proving they care about their beloved art form. People already think animation is purely a kids genre, and if Laika can’t be around to prove them wrong, then animation’s future as an artistic medium is at stake. No matter how much I may be excited to see other films compared to this one, the importance of keeping stop-motion available in wide release is too important. Since I have no love for the Boxtrolls, I need to make sure my love for Laika will continue with the success of Kubo and The Two Strings. This means to much to me to have anything else at the top of this list.
2016 has a lot in store besides everything I’ve told. Various other features from around the world are getting wider distributions that look promising. There is other news that will inevitably pop up that I don’t know yet, so who knows what else we’ll get. In terms of animated series or other anime, I don’t know yet since I’m far from caught up on what is available so far, and so I don’t have specialized expectations from that. So let’s ring in the new year and here’s to another great year of animation.
This is the Silver Swordsman on Animation Monologues: Reviewing my slice of Cinema in every article, have an animated day.
If you’re an animation fan with no knowledge about the Thief and The Cobbler’s story, you need to fix that. It’s your homework, you’re not getting graded but you will be judged. If you do know anything or everything I could say about Thief and The Cobbler, then you may understand what Paul Grimault’s The King and The Mockingbird went through. If you know the history of this movie, don’t worry, I’m not detailing it here, (also you’re probably an expert and could easily run this blog).
The King and The Mockingbird, like Thief and The Cobbler, was prepped to be a work of art that was yanked out of the creators hands because producers got impatient. The biggest downside was that both of these films were cut so far into production that these same producers ended up releasing basically unfinished films, (Thief and The Cobbler got a shitty Miramax release) with so many details changed that it’d be impossible to recognize these films coming from very talented filmmakers. Specifically, the King and The Mockingbird got chopped into a release known as The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird.
And I hate this fucking cut, so forget the many things that can be said about artistic vision getting obscured and let us relax while I give one of the most negative OverReviews I could give.
Mr. Wonderbird is a mockingbird living near a misnamed kingdom with a shitty king whose name escapes me in this version. In the king’s room exists a painting of a Shepherdess, and another of a Chimneysweep. These two characters are alive and in love with each other. The King loves the shepherdess, and the painting that exists of him feels the same way. So one night, while the Shep and Sweep, (shortened names they get for the rest of the review) are in each other’s company, the King’s painting tries breaking them up and setting himself up with Shep. This racket wakes up the real King, who gets sent in a trapdoor by the painting King. Shep and Sweep escape and meet Mr. Wonderbird, who helps them escape. The King eventually catches up to them in the lower poorer city of the kingdom on a giant robot, and takes Shep away to marry. Sweep and Mr. Wonderbird organize a rally of hungry ass lions to crash the wedding. Sweep and painted King fight on top of the robot and destroy the kingdom.
Okay fine, so the issues I have with this cut aren’t the real deal breakers. The reason I hate this cut so much is more of symbolic biases, but that comes a bit later. Anyway. First the world is underdeveloped. We don’t see enough of this kingdom existing, it’s all empty shots of the kingdom or screentime given to the King’s castle. This is why the fact that the kingdom is destroyed at the end actually doesn’t matter. I don’t feel any stakes when everything falls to shit, because it’s hard to believe that a lot of people are being effected. That’s the biggest flaw in my opinion, because the ending is so grandiose without any significance behind it. The characters aren’t interesting. They have personality and character traits, but they don’t extend far at all, and it never develops. It is true that the story as it’s told doesn’t call for it, but it still leaves me with no characters I can remember fondly. The animation is fine, but the film quality is bad. Since the original production was fucked with so much, the character animation and movement isn’t very polished even though the designs are great. The shot’s are too grainy, and it takes away from the polish this film should have. The voice acting is good, but really not noteworthy. The music, where it’s easy to pay attention to is good. This is when I wasn’t focused on how much this cut dropped it’s potential. Now all this considered, it should only be considered forgettably below average. This isn’t enough to warrant my intense hatred towards this cut up film. However there is another layer that reveals it.
You see, by the time I sat down to see this cut, I’d already seen the restored and finished King and The Mockingbird as it should have been. I loved it to death. The design and sound and artistic style blew me away. When I saw this, it felt so watered down and chopped. I really didn’t like that, I saw the flaws because I knew how they could be remedied. I knew in hindsight what The Curious Adventures of Mr. Wonderbird should have been, it should have been The King and The Mockingbird. Then I made a bad realization. The problems in story and storytelling I saw from Curious seemed bad because I knew it got fucked up in production. When I watched King and The Mockingbird again, I realized some of the problems I had with Curious were still there in King. The underdevelopment of setting and lackluster cast still showed up in King. This effectively ruined of my favorite films I’d seen. I was so moved by King, and it was a strong contender in my favorite animated films of all time until I had experience this cut. The euphoric wonder and beauty in King was removed, and I had a hard time loving it like I want to. This is exactly why I hate The Curious Adventures of Mr Wonderbird, my bias against it ruining an amazing film is not something I can ever forgive it for.
Final Thoughts and Conclusion:
I still talk about King and The Mockingbird when I can, but I don’t love it as much as I would had I seen the fucked up cut. A French indie feature from the 80’s sounds like something I should love, but I got Curious about it’s story and now lost the opportunity to fall for it like I want to.
Animation Monologues: Selecting my Slice of animation in every post, thank you for watching an have an animated day.