Sunday, May 30, 2010

OK, this actually creeps ME out. In a good way.

Kawaii Kitteny used a piece of software called "Crazy Talk" (unfortunately only out on Windows) to imitate the Clutch Cargo "SynchroVox" technique on a video featuring her Asian ball joint dolls. This is eerie and spooky, altogether ookie, and just totally awesome. Don't watch if you have nightmares about Chucky, though. You have been warned.

More info on Crazy Talk here:

Labels: , , , , , , , ,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Big, Green Goodbye.

Disclaimer: I work at Universal Studios Florida, at the Shrek 4-D attraction. The opinions expressed here are my own, and are not those of my employer Universal Studios/NBC Universal, or their licensee DreamWorks Animation SKG. Okay?

The original movie Shrek was a lot of fun. Most fun of all was the amount of fun poked at Disney. It was inevitable; one of the DreamWorks partners, Jeffrey Katzenberg, was treated badly by Disney's CEO at the time, Michael Eisner. Katzenberg could have made the film a lot nastier, and a lot less funny, but the satire was restrained enough to remain funny.

Shrek 2 and Shrek the Third were...well, sequels. They coasted on the goodwill and good times of the first movie. They also established some cliches for DreamWorks animated features which are troubling. Many animated productions from DreamWorks and other studios were full of pop music to appeal to parents, pop-culture references to other movies, and famous actors performing animated voices. Many DreamWorks movies became as formulaic and cliched as the Disney tradition of the Disney Princess and the "I Want" song.

And perhaps that was the reason that Shrek Forever After was announced as the final chapter; for a while it was promoted under that title. Rather than string out the characters and the story forever, eventually with other voice actors taking the place of the originals, they decided to put an end to it.

If it is the end, it is very satisfactory. As mentioned elsewhere, it is based on It's a Wonderful Life. Shrek (Mike Meyers) is feeling domesticated and ineffectual and bored. He is no longer feared; he is a celebrity fawned over by adults and children alike. This makes him blow up at his babies' first birthday party, and makes him bitter at his wife Fiona (Cameron Diaz).

Which opens the door for Rumplestilskin (Walt Dohm), a magical deal-maker who is detested by everyone in Far Far Away. The result of the deal he works: Shrek was never born. He never saved Fiona. He never became friends with Donkey (Eddie Murphy). He has only one day to turn about his deal by getting Fiona to fall in love with him.

What makes this movie for me is the treatment of Fiona. Throughout the films, she has been far too much the Disney Princess that she originally satirized. Even when in her natural, hefty and green state, she was always wise, sweet and supportive. (I liked the ogress Fiona far better than the human Fiona.) She was, like so many women in tepid fantasies, an accessory to the male lead.

In this film, in the "Potterstown" version of Shrek's world, Fiona did not get rescued. She rescued herself. Her curse of a half-human, half-ogre existence made her tough and dedicated. She becomes the leader of an ogre army, fighting for survival against Rumplestilskin and his army of witches. Perhaps it's personal, but to me, Warrior Princess Fiona is hot.

The end of the film is as predictable as a fairy tale, of course. There is the suggestion that things have changed for Shrek and everyone, that the universe of Far Far Away has been changed for the better by this experience. And one thing has. For the first time, I actually accept the tenderness and sweetness of Shrek under his grouchy exterior. In the first movie, Shrek said that "ogres are like onions; we have layers." It took four movies for the filmmakers to reach that layer.

But I still miss Warrior Fiona. I hate seeing her as a housewife only. She can be much more, and in defense of her children, her man and her species, I wish I could see her become something more.

The elaborate end credits feature scenes and characters re-imagined from throughout the Shrek films. They remind us of the good times and fun from those movies. (Note that scenes from Shrek the Third are barely glimpsed; it's admittedly the weakest of the four.) The credits also offer thanks to the creative people who worked on the Shrek films for the last decade. If that isn't closing the door, I don't know what is.

In one of the last scenes, the book "Shrek Forever After" is put on a bookshelf. Up there, I glimpsed other titles like "Shrek and the Beanstalk" and "Princess Fiona and the Pea." With the good box office this movie achieved, there will be the strong temptation to make those movies.

I hope DreamWorks resists. The Shrek Saga was good, but it's time to move on. The trailers for two new DreamWorks productions that accompanied Shrek Forever After are entirely different, although they rely on previous movies. Despicable Me takes the premise of the evil mastermind who is saddled with three mischevious kids. And MegaMind clashes two cliches, the superhero and the supervillain (although MegaMind looks a little too much like Galaxar of Monsters vs. Aliens).

Let Shrek stand on his swampy laurels, guys. Make him your corporate mascot if you want. But do other, newer, more original animated stories.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Screwing up the brand, take 2,000...

Time-Warner is STILL trying to monetize the Looney Tunes. The next steps in the total Lucas-like immolation of the greatest American cartoon legacy are being readied. Ph33r.

Labels: , , , ,

Friday, May 14, 2010

I am soothed, finally: Daria finally out on DVD.

This DVD is Yumiko-approved

Here it is. The whole thing. From "Sealed With A Kick" to "Is It College Yet?"

It's a beautiful package, all things considered. Including the omitted songs and the fact that "Is It Fall Yet?" is still the shortened version and not the original version that aired. In the latter case, I wouldn't be surprised if the only version of the TV movie that MTV had still hung onto was the short version. In the case of the DVD of the original Spumco Ren & Stimpy episodes (Season 1 plus the first half of Season 2) Paramount Home Video actually had to use archival material kept by John Kricfalusi to get the best possible release. MTV Networks is notorious for these sort of things.

One other nit to pick: they didn't release all the goodies in the vault. There was a 30 minute "the making of" special, plus Garbage premiered a video during the initial "Is It College Yet?" airing, "Breaking Up The Girl." Later, Garbage released a "movie clips" version of the video...I've got it for you right here:

Thing was, there was a whole animated intro for the song that only aired once. I remember that they did an "anything can happen in a cartoon" gag where the band's animated counterparts took off into the air. Of course, that all could be buried in a filing cabinet in a locked room at 1515 Broadway, with a sign reading "Beware of the Leopard" on the door.

At least the "Freakin' Friends" Mystik Spiral video is a .PDF of a spec script for a Mystik Spiral spinoff series that never made it even to the animatic stage.

Again, all this is nits picked by an unashamed Daria fangirl. I'm delighted it's finally out, I'm doubly delighted it's out at a more-than-fair price: it's "streeting" for less than $50. Well done.

Labels: , , , , ,