Tag Archives: African-Americans

Clay Walker and Kevin Keller's wedding

Minorities in cartoons: Clay Walker

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Clay Walker, a character in Archie Comics.

(SPOILERS aplenty about the “Life With Archie” series below…)

Clay exists in Archie’s “Life With Archie” series, which has just concluded as of this writing. The series presented the Archie gang as twentysomethings. Each issue featured two different alternate futures: one in which Archie married Betty, another where Archie married Veronica. Both futures had similar events. For instance, both futures saw Moose finally dumped by Midge due to his violent temper, which was apparently part of what it took for him to finally clean up his act. Jughead also ended up owning the Chocklit Shoppe in both futures. Differences included the aforementioned Moose becoming Mayor of Riverdale in the “Veronica” future, and Jughead marrying Midge in the “Betty” future. (If curious, the “Veronica” future sees Jughead marry his longtime admirer, “Big” Ethel Muggs.)

Fortunately, Clay exists in both futures, and leads the same life in both. Clay is a physical therapist and native of Baltimore who helps the adult Kevin Keller recover from injuries sustained during an unnamed Asian/middle eastern war (no, probably not the same “generic Asian conflict” Rhodey was in). During the recovery, the two grew close and eventually fell in love. After Kevin recovered, the two decided to get married, with the wedding held at the Chocklit Shoppe and officiated by Riverdale’s mayor. (Yes, Riverdale’s in a state with legalized same-sex marriage… probably out on the east coast, per various references dropped in recent Archie comics stories.) Clay was also supportive of Kevin’s run for the US Senate, while making his own career change—replacing a retiring doctor (and taking over his clinic) in Riverdale.

Clay also fell victim to violence himself, as he was shot while trying to intervene in a convenience store robbery. Fortunately, he managed to recover. Later, Clay found a new client at his clinic (and worker at the Chocklit Shoppe) that started to follow him around for some reason…which turned out to be the shooter at a recent mall shooting in a neighboring town. Unfortunately, while Clay and Kevin were saved from further gun violence (when the shooter emerged at fundraiser for Kevin), Archie wasn’t so lucky.

With the ending of “Life With Archie,” this might be the last we’ll see of Clay. Unlike the Archie gang, Clay doesn’t have a teenage counterpart in present-day stories, especially given Kevin doesn’t meet him until he’s an adult. Of course, this being comics (and Archie continuity never as strong as that of their DC/Marvel cohorts), a teenaged Clay could show up someday…

War Machine

Minorities in cartoons: War Machine

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is James “Rhodey” Rhodes, an Iron Man supporting character who’s best known as the superhero “War Machine.” Rhodey first appeared in “Iron Man” #118 (January 1979), and was created by David Michelinie and Bob Layton. His debut as War Machine came in “Iron Man” #284 (September 1992).

Rhodey’s backstory states he served in the military as a Marine on tours of duty in southeast Asia. While he was originally involved in the Vietnam War, comic book time’s retconned the war involved in Iron Man’s origin into a “generic Asia-based conflict” (as shown in the movies). Anyway, Rhodey’s helicopter was shot down by Viet Cong (or “generic Asian conflict enemies,” I suppose); while grounded, Rhodey encountered Tony Stark (fleeing in his prototype armor from his captors). Rhodey and Tony teamed up to fight their way through the various war threats and got back to safe territory. Afterwards, Tony offered Rhodey a job as his own personal pilot, which (after several other post-war jobs), Rhodey accepted.

During an early 80s storyline that saw Tony temporarily incapacitated (due to alcoholism) from both running his own company (due to a hostile takeover) and functioning as Iron Man, Rhodey assumed the role. Rhodey fought against various Iron Man foes, and took part in the classic crossover “Secret Wars.” Eventually, Tony regained control over his personal life and business career and resumed functioning as Iron Man, though Rhodey would substitute for him on several other occasions.

In the early 90s, Tony was suffering from a nervous system failure, and turned over control of the company to Rhodey, along with a new experimental suit of armor nicknamed “the War Machine.” Rhodey took over Stark’s company and became Iron Man again, but discovered that Tony was alive and secretly undergoing an experimental life-saving procedure. Insulted that he was lead to believe Tony was dead, the two’s friendship became strained, with Rhodey quitting, but keeping the War Machine armor. The two eventually made amends, and Rhodey continued to have various adventures on his own (and in his own ongoing comic series) as War Machine. A 2013 storyline found Rhodey leaving the War Machine identity to take on a new armored identity, “Iron Patriot.”

As a major Iron Man supporting character, War Machine’s appeared both in his own comic series and in pretty much all Iron Man-related media to date. War Machine’s most high profile media appearances would be in the “Iron Man” trilogy of films. There, Rhodey was played by Terrence Howard in the first film and by Don Cheadle in the next two films. Despite a lot of online speculation as to the change (which became a running gag in the “I’m a Marvel, I’m a DC” series of YouTube parody videos), it turned out Howard was replaced by Cheadle merely due to a contract dispute.

The Princess and the Frog

Minorities in cartoons: “The Princess and the Frog”

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog.” Released in 2009, “Princess” was Disney’s first feature-length theatrical animated film (and first “Princess” film) with an African-American star.

Based on the old fairy tale “The Frog Prince,” the film’s plot centers around Tiana, a young woman living in 1920s New Orleans whose dream is opening her own restaurant. Not being wealthy (far from it), she’s working hard at a restaurant to try to raise funds to open her own eatery. Meanwhile, Prince Naveen, a fiscally-cut-off prince, is in town, looking to marry someone wealthy so he won’t have to actually do something useful (like work). Unfortunately for Naveen and his valet Lawrence, they have a run-in with Dr. Facilier, a witch doctor who promises he can fulfill their desires. Even more unfortunately, Facilier turns Naveen into a frog (and his valet into resembling Naveen) as part of a scheme to get his royal father’s wealth. Naveen escapes and runs into Tiana, who’s working at a wealthy friend’s ball. Convincing Tiana to kiss him (to try to break the spell), Tiana does—and gets turned into a frog herself. The two end up in the nearby swamp, where they meet various swamp creatures while trying to find a way to return to normal.

The film met with some praise at its release. Some appreciated that Disney finally made an animated film starring an African-American character, while others liked this was Disney’s first traditionally 2D animated film since the 2004 flop “Home on the Range.” Unfortunately, while it was financially successful, it wasn’t as successful as 90s megahits like “Beauty and the Beast” or “The Lion King,” or Disney’s Pixar films. It probably didn’t help that “Princess” was competing with the second “Alvin and the Chipmunks” film (which earned more money) and the massive hit film “Avatar.” That “Princess” did as well as it did against such competition is probably a good thing, but apparently not from the bean-counter perspective. Disney seemed to shy away from further 2D animated fare after “Princess,” aside from a 2011 “Winnie-the-Pooh” feature film. The fact that “Frozen” has raked in an “Avatar”-sized billion-dollar box office probably ensures Disney won’t consider 2D theatrical feature films again anytime soon.

Still, “Princess” has done well from a merchandising and longevity perspective, with Tiana being integrated into the “Disney Princess” line, as well as Disney’s various theme park attractions, etc.; I bought my niece a Tiana doll for Christmas a few years ago.

Fillmore

Minorities in cartoons: “Fillmore!”

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is the Saturday morning series “Fillmore!” Airing on ABC from 2002 to 2004, the series was produced by Disney.

Fillmore!” focused on its titular character Cornelius Fillmore, a bald 12-year-old African-American kid who was once a juvenile delinquent. Caught planning to steal a shipment of chalk from his school (“X Middle School,” supposedly located in the Twin Cities per Wikipedia), the school’s safety patrol gave him a choice: help solve a case or spend the rest of middle school in detention. Fillmore opted to help, and did such a good job that he was given a permanent position as a safety patrol officer. Later, Fillmore gained (after a few other short-lived partners) Ingrid Third, a goth-like girl who also was a former delinquent. Besides a reserved personality, Ingrid also possesses a photographic memory.

As suggested above, the entire series is a parody of 70s cop TV shows, down to the opening theme song. X Middle School is treated like a “city,” the safety patrol like the police, and the school’s principal like the mayor. As such, the cases all resemble kid-friendly versions of cop shows’ cases: stolen standardized tests; gambling and smuggling involving tokens from snack products (that one redeems for prizes); Fillmore clearing his name; and the obligatory tracking down of fugitives. Fillmore and Ingrid even answer to the safety patrol’s “junior commissioner” Horatio Vallejo, a Latino fellow middle-school student who behaves like the agitated chiefs of police one sees on cop shows and films. Part of Vallejo’s agitation might stem from Fillmore tending to do whatever it takes to solve a case—even at the occasional accidental expense of school property.

“Fillmore!” ran for two seasons on ABC, as one of the final Disney animated shows (along with “Teamo Supremo“) produced originally for broadcast television, before Disney shifted exclusively to producing animated programs for the Disney Channel. Since then, “Fillmore!” turned up very sporadically on cable (Toon Disney ran the series for awhile), but otherwise hasn’t been seen on TV in years. It’s not on VHS or DVD either, keeping with Disney’s poor handling of home video releases for its made-for-TV cartoons. The only home video release it’s received is on Germany’s version of iTunes (dubbed in German).

Finally, here’s the opening credits for “Fillmore!”

Not Invented Here: Runtime Error

Minorities in cartoons: “Not Invented Here”

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is “Not Invented Here,” a webcomic about the staff of a software development company. The webcomic started in 2009, and is created by Bill Barnes, Paul Southworth, and Jeff Zugale.

The strip’s lead characters consist of Owen and Desmond, a program manager and a developer respectively. Owen, a thin Caucasian man with a goatee, is the goofier of the two. However, that’s not by much, seeing as his best friend Desmond (a heavy-set bald African-American man) is also prone to odd behavior, though is the much better programmer. Typical examples of their antics: Desmond once insisted on using only American-made products, and pressured his coworkers into doing the same, which didn’t go well. Another storyline had Owen somehow get a patent on parentheses.

Similar to “Dilbert” (but more ethnically diverse), the company Owen and Desmond work for is fairly dysfunctional. One of the higher-ups is “Marketroid,” a robot Desmond built in college that was programmed with a marketing executive’s personality and skills. There’s also Umesh, a coworker who seems to hold most of his coworkers with contempt, complete with condescending remarks. There’s also the occasional clash with Eliza, a woman who was once a rival coworker of Owen, but now is the company’s vice president of technology. Eliza also has little patience for the more bizarre aspects of her staff.

Besides its webcomic format, “Not Invented Here” has also been collected into a few book (and ebook) collections. It’s also managed to earn its own TV Tropes page.

Keith White

Minorities in cartoons: Keith White

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is Keith White, a minor supporting character in the Superman comics. Keith first appeared in “Superman: Man of Steel” #1 in 1991, and was created by Louise Simonson.

Keith was introduced as a young boy sent to live in a Metropolis orphanage after his mother, suffering from AIDS-related complications, was unable to continue caring for him. One day, while wandering underground, Keith was caught and kidnapped by “Underworlders,” genetic experiments-gone-wrong (long story) who were living underneath Metropolis. Telling Keith they were holding his mother hostage and would kill her if he revealed their plans, Keith kept mum even after being rescued by Superman. Keith shortly returned to try to rescue his mother, but learned that the Underworlders weren’t holding her hostage at all. Keith then managed to signal Superman (using glow-in-the-dark spray paint to mark a large “S”-shield), and told the Man of Steel what was going on. Superman, of course, promptly put a stop to the Underworlders’ plans.

Several years later, during the “Fall of Metropolis” storyline, Keith’s caretaker at the orphanage was killed (in “Man of Steel” #35) while protecting the children from a rampaging killer robot. Soon after, Keith met Alice White, the wife of “Daily Planet” editor Perry White. Alice took a liking to Keith, and soon managed to convince Perry that they should adopt the boy. Keith was reluctant at first, but soon afterwards, his mother passed away. After her funeral, Keith agreed to live with the Whites.

Like every other supporting character at the time in the Super-books, Keith was in attendance at the wedding of Lois Lane and Clark Kent in 1996′s “Superman: The Wedding Album.” Keith served as the happy couple’s ring-bearer.

At some point afterwards, Keith seemed to be ignored or forgotten by the Superman book writers, and failed to appear for a number of years. However, Keith put in one more appearance in 2011′s “Superman 80-Page Giant 2011″ #1. There, Keith is shown as old enough to leave Metropolis to strike out on his own, which depresses Perry. Presumably, Keith, like Charlie Brown’s younger sister Sally and various soap opera characters, fell victim to the selective rapid aging of certain characters.

From what I can tell, this is Keith’s final appearance to date, as soon after came DC’s New 52 reboot, which wiped out previous Superman storylines (save somehow “The Death of Superman”). Between the New 52′s emphasis on youth, sidelining or altering of older characters (the Kents, Alan Scott and other Earth-2/Justice Society members, etc.), and that Perry’s children have usually been tertiary characters in the Superman mythos at best (the number of kids, their names, etc. having varied over the years), it’s hard to say if or when Keith will return.

Minorities in cartoons: Dave Stevens and Tina Ames

Dave Stevens and Tina AmesThis week’s minorities in cartoons entry is another two-fer: Dave Stevens and Tina Ames, who (as far as I can tell) hold the distinction of being the first recurring African-American characters in Superman comics. Dave first appeared in “Superman’s Girl Friend, Lois Lane” #106 (November 1970), while Tina first appeared in “Lois Lane” #114 (September 1971); both were created by writer Robert Kanigher and artist Werner Roth.

Astute readers may recall that “Lois Lane” #106 is one of the most (in)famous issues in Lois’ Silver/Bronze Age series: it’s the story “I Am Curious (Black)!,” which features Lois becoming African-American for a day. To summarize the issue’s events: to write a story about the status of African-Americans in Metropolis, Lois ventures to “Little Africa,” an inner-city African-American neighborhood. (Most stories from the 70s to the present suggest “Suicide Slum” is the main inner-city/impoverished neighborhood of Metropolis.) There, she finds nobody is willing to speak with her due to her race, including Dave Stevens, who’s leading a Black pride rally; at one point, he points to the passing Lois as an example: “look at her, brothers and sisters! She’s young and sweet and pretty! But never forget…she’s whitey!” Going on about how Lois’ “kind” won’t let Blacks enjoy the privileges she does (including living in integrated neighborhoods, etc.), Lois walks off, distraught.

Lois Lane as a Black woman
The cover of “Lois Lane” #106, with Lois as a Black woman. Art by Curt Swan.

Running into Superman, Lois has an idea, and convinces Kal-El to use on her a Kryptonian device (used in an earlier “Lois Lane” story) that can perform temporary full-body plastic surgery; in this case, to give Lois African-American features. Heading back to “Little Africa,” Lois tries to do more research for her story; at one point, she’s appalled at the conditions she finds in a slum. Running across Dave Stevens (who doesn’t know of Lois’ transformation), the two befriend each other, with Dave later shot while trying to stop a group of drug dealers. Being rushed to a poorly equipped hospital, the only compatible blood available for Dave is Lois’, who transformed back to normal after the transfusion. (If curious, Lois’ blood type is O Negative.) Dave comes to, sees the now-Caucasian-again Lois, and decides to stay friends with her.

Surprisingly, this isn’t a one-off story; it turns out there’s a sequel. Lois doesn’t become Black again, but in the follow-up issue, “Lois Lane” #114 (September 1971), we’re introduced to Tina Ames. Tina’s a co-worker at the African-American newspaper Dave also works for; similar to Archie’s Chuck Clayton and Nancy Woods, Dave and Tina are also seen dating. This story sees Lois being sent by Perry White to convince Dave to join the “Daily Planet” staff (becoming its first Black columnist). After an adventure involving Lois, Superman, Dave, Tina, and the superheroine the Thorn fighting The 100 (an organized crime gang that made frequent appearances in Bronze Age Superman and Black Lightning stories), Dave agreed to join the “Planet,” with Tina being hired on as well. “Lois Lane” #116 sees another fight with Lois, Dave, and Tina (and Superman) against The 100; Lois’ short-lived public affairs TV show is seen in this story, “People USA.”

After this story (and a few others), Dave and Tina didn’t make many appearances until a storyline in the late 70s run of “Superman Family,” involving a shooting attempt on Dave over his muckraking efforts. The storyline also involved Tina gaining energy powers due to a defective healing device of Professor Potter, which Potter had brought from Earth-2 (where it’d been created by the Justice Society’s Dr. Mid-Nite).

Dave and Tina didn’t appear much past the early 80s, and don’t seem to exist post-Crisis, where the most prominent African-American characters in Superman stories were probably Franklin Stern (the “Planet”‘s publisher) and Ron Troupe, a “Planet” writer. Of course, since it’s comics, it’s always possible for Dave and Tina to make a comeback if some nostalgic writer felt compelled.

Minorities in cartoons: “Turbo”

TurboThis week’s minorities in cartoons entry is “Turbo,” a DreamWorks movie released in 2013.

The film’s plot is about a snail named Turbo (voiced by Ryan Reynolds in the movie and Reid Scott in the spinoff animated series) who’s obsessed with speed and auto racing, particularly the Indianapolis 500. This irritates his fellow garden snails, including his older, heavily cautious brother Chet (voiced by Paul Giamatti in the movie, Eric Bauza in the animated series). Feeling dejected one day, Turbo wanders out near the freeway, where he’s accidentally sucked into the engine of a hot rod. In the spirit of bizarre superhero origin stories, the hot rod’s nitrous oxide somehow fuses with Turbo’s DNA, giving him superspeed, as well as a few car-like abilities (using his eyes like headlights, tuning into radio stations). After a few antics back at his garden, Turbo and Chet get fired from their tomato-gathering job, and eventually end up captured by a human (Tito, the co-owner of “Dos Bros Tacos,” a taco restaurant in a run-down strip mall) to be entered in snail races. Discovering Turbo’s speed, Tito gets the idea of entering Turbo in the Indianapolis 500, where Turbo meets his racing idol. Ultimately, Turbo becomes world famous for being, well, a super-fast snail, bringing prosperity to the strip mall and acceptance by Chet.

“Turbo” did fairly poorly at the box office (for DreamWorks’ standards), but that didn’t prevent a made-for-Netflix series from being made. “Turbo FAST” is the continuing adventures of the cast of the film, as the film’s snails (now outfitted with specialized shells that let them move as fast as Turbo does) have formed a racing team, the “Fast Action Stunt Team,” or FAST. The team now participate in races both around the world and in/near their snail home town; Tito built a snail-sized city plus racing track as a place for the team and their fellow snails to live. Also in the spirit of superhero stories (such as Flash foe Prof. Zoom, the Reverse-Flash), various other insects/creatures as fast as Turbo also appear, usually to challenge him to a race or to try to cause problems in their snail city or the strip mall. The animated series seems to be fairly well received so far, and touted as an example of a decent, made-for-Netflix animated series.

The snail characters besides Turbo and Chet include:

  • Whiplash: the no-nonsense leader of the snail racing team, who becomes a mentor to Turbo in the film/animated series. Voiced by Samuel L. Jackson in the movie and John Eric Bentley in the animated series.
  • Skidmark: the movie doesn’t seem to delve much into his character, but the animated series shows he’s extremely adept at technology (building custom shells, etc.) and a paranoid conspiracy theorist. Voiced by Ben Schwartz in the movie and Amir Talai in the animated series.
  • Smoove Move: a smooth-talking, music-loving, laid-back snail. Voiced by rapper Snoop Dogg in the movie, and by Phil LaMarr in the animated series.
  • White Shadow: a large-sized, dopey but earnest snail. Voiced by Mike Bell in the movie and animated series.
  • Burn: the one female snail on the team, who ends up dating Chet. Voiced by Maya Rudolph in the movie and Gray DeLisle in the animated series.

The human characters include:

  • Tito Lopez: the main human character of the film, and co-owner of Dos Bros. Tacos. Like Turbo, he aspires to greater things, to the consternation of his own more conservative brother. As a running gag, he thinks Chet’s a female/Turbo’s “girlfriend.” Voiced by Michael Peña in the movie and by Amir Talai in the animated series.
  • Angelo Lopez: Tito’s brother, who’s initially skeptical of Tito’s plans. Voiced by Luis Guzmán.
  • Paz: an auto mechanic at the strip mall. Voiced by Michelle Rodriguez.
  • Bobby: a hobby shop owner at the strip mall, who also makes custom snail racing shells. Voiced by Richard Jenkins.
  • Kim-Ly: an elderly Asian woman who owns a nail salon at the strip mall. Voiced by Ken Jeong in both the movie and animated series.

Out of the human characters, so far only Tito and Kim-Ly have appeared in the animated series.

Minorities in cartoons: “Hammerman”

"Hammerman"This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is the short-lived TV series “Hammerman.” Airing on ABC during the 1991-92 TV season, the show was produced by DIC, and designed to cash in on the then-popularity of hip-hop star M.C. Hammer, similar to the Beatles and Jackson Five cartoons of the 60s/70s respectively.

The show’s premise was about a youth center worker named Stanley Burrell (MC Hammer’s real name), who inherited a pair of magical, talking shoes that, when worn, turned him into the singing, dancing superhero “Hammerman.” Stanley had inherited the shoes from “Gramps,” an elderly man who was the now-retired superhero “Soulman.” Hammerman’s adventures saw him engaged in fighting various threats to his hometown, such as the short-in-height French-accented rapping villain “Rapoleon.” The series had a “Fat Albert”-like pro-social theme, with the end of each episode featuring a live-action MC Hammer discussing the story’s lesson.

One episode I recall seeing (no episode title, sorry; info on the show’s hard to come by online) had Hammerman time-travel into the future…which happened to be the 2010s. Since the episode was about a kid wanting to drop out of high school, we saw his future self was ill-equipped to find work in his “Jetsons”-like future. Another episode saw Gramps briefly come out of retirement. Gramps/Soulman’s character and image was based on that of the late R&B legend James Brown.

The show ended up being poorly received, between the moralistic tone, being based on a music star whose fame was already starting to wane, and the extremely poor animation. It also didn’t help that it had stiff competition:

  • NBC: “Wish Kid“. Another show about a celebrity of the era, Macaulay Culkin (of the “Home Alone” movies fame) voiced a kid whose baseball glove could grant him a wish once a week.
  • Fox: “Little Shop.” A cartoon loosely based on the 1980s “Little Shop of Horrors” movie.
  • CBS: “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.” The still-highly-popular cartoon, and the opposing show most likely for “Hammerman”‘s quick demise.

By the spring, “Hammerman” was moved to the end of the Saturday morning schedule, where it probably got frequently pre-empted by ABC or local stations’ sports broadcasts, and/or saw viewers flip over to “Soul Train” (at least in my town). After this season, “Hammerman” was axed, and that was that. To date, it’s had a few VHS releases, but so far, no DVD releases. Even the equally short-lived “Wish Kid” got that.

Finally, here’s the opening theme.

Upcoming DreamWorks film “Home” to star an African-American girl

HomeNews has broken this week about an upcoming DreamWorks Animation film, “Home.” Scheduled to be released this fall (on Thanksgiving weekend), the film’s plot, according to Indiewire:

When Earth is taken over by the overly-confident Boov, an alien race in search of a new place to call home, all humans are promptly relocated, while the Boov get busy efficiently reorganizing the planet. But when one resourceful girl, Tip, (Rihanna) manages to avoid capture, she finds herself the accidental accomplice of a banished Boov by the name of Oh (Jim Parsons). Equally stubborn and set in their ways, these two fugitives realize there’s a lot more at stake than intergalactic relations as they embark on the road trip of a lifetime. Good thing they have a flying car.

As noted, the film’s human star, Tip, is an African-American girl voiced by singer Rihanna. While other CGI animated films have had African-American supporting characters, such as Frozone in “The Incredibles,” as well as other minorities as stars (such as Russell in Pixar’s “Up”), this marks the first time I can recall that a major theatrical CGI animated film’s had an African-American star.

Of course, there’s various detractors online (and the usual trolls, etc.) trying to dismiss this casting relevance, most of them claiming along the lines of: “there was already a Black character starring in an animated film, ‘The Princess and the Frog’!” While true that film featured an African-American cast, the comments:

  • Assume that there’s not room for more than one film starring African-Americans. Which basically sounds like: “you already had your race star in a cartoon film five years ago, so quit complaining!”
  • Ignore that “Princess” was a 2D animated film, not a CGI one, which is what dominates theatrical animation these days. As much as I want to see more 2D films return to theaters, if CGI’s going to be dominant, then seeing more diverse characters in such films as stars (not just supporting cast) is important, too.
  • Assume the “default” stars should be Caucasian characters.

Either way, seeing more diversity in casting for animated films is important and relevant.

As for the film’s chances at the box office, being released stateside at Thanksgiving should help. In terms of quality, so far all we have to go on is the preview animated short released recently, “Almost Home,” starring the film’s aliens.