Feb 022014
 

RescueRangers_01_CVR_BInteresting news, Disney fans. Disney characters Chip and Dale are getting their own live action/CGI feature film. The film will apparently be based on the late 1980s animated series “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers,” which saw the two chipmunks join forces with several others to form an animal detective/rescue agency.

More details on this news may be seen at Cartoon Brew and The Mary Sue.

Chip and Dale have been Disney mainstays since their debut in 1943. Their classic theatrical shorts saw them mostly fighting Pluto or Donald Duck over some reason or other (usually nut- or tree-related, or being harassed by Pluto/Donald). Since the end of “Rescue Rangers,” Disney’s usage of the chipmunk pair have usually either been the classic versions (in “House of Mouse” and in merchandise) or their “Rescue Rangers” versions (the recent Boom Studios comic book, plus merchandise with the characters lingered well into the 90s).

While there’s plenty of people who grew up with and fondly recall “Rescue Rangers,” I’m a bit surprised to see Disney plans to revive them, and on the big screen no less. Given the track record of live-action/CGI films (“The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle,” “The Smurfs,” etc.), I worry we’ll see something along the lines of the “Alvin and the Chipmunks” movie (that other famous set of cartoon chipmunks). Still, Disney’s track record recently has been pretty strong, and it does involve their classic theatrical characters, so we’ll see how they do with this film. At the very least, “Rescue Rangers” characters like Gadget, Zipper and Monterey Jack will see the light of day in animation for the first time in years.

Jan 032014
 
Rat's Wars

Not one of the new “Star Wars” titles, I assume.

I don’t know why this is being treated as “surprising” news, since it was announced a year ago, but since it’s in the news again, here’s the article about it:

Star Wars comics going to Marvel in 2015 – Newsarama

I’m still wondering what if anything Marvel/Disney plans to do about the current (non-existent) state of Disney humor comics in the United States, given they went out of their way to kill Boom Studios’ Disney titles. Seems pointless to cancel said books off just so they can do absolutely nothing with them.

Sep 262013
 

Handy MannyThis week’s minorities in cartoons entry is “Handy Manny.”Manny” is a CGI animated series that debuted in 2006, and airs (in the United States) on Disney Junior. It previously was seen on Disney Channel’s former preschool block, Playhouse Disney.

The series revolves around Manny Garcia, a handyman who lives in the town of Sheetrock Hills. As a handyman, Manny’s seen in each episode repairing or building various items for the town’s populace. Unlike the Maytag Repairman, Manny’s services are in high demand. Also unlike the Maytag Repairman, Manny owns a set of talking anthropomorphic tools, complete with names: Felipe, a Phillips-head screwdriver (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui); Turner, a flat-head screwdriver (voiced by Dee Bradley Baker); Pat, a hammer (voiced by Tom Kenny); Dusty, a hand saw (voiced by Kath Soucie); Squeeze, a pair of pliers (voiced by Nika Futterman; Julianna Rose Mauriello in the earliest episodes); Stretch, a tape measure (also voiced by Futterman); Rusty, a monkey wrench (voiced by Fred Stoller); and Flicker, a flashlight (voiced by Greg DeLisle).

Other recurring characters include Kelly, a woman who owns a hardware store, and Mr. Lopart, a balding middle-aged man who owns a candy store. A recurring gag is Mr. Lopart insisting that he doesn’t need Manny’s help, then attempts his own handiwork…which usually goes awry, requiring Manny’s help.

Unlike most other young-children-oriented shows such as “Dora the Explorer,” “Manny” doesn’t pause the action to pretend to “ask” the viewer what’s going on. The educational facets of “Manny” are usually either life lessons learned (usually by the tools), or Manny/Felipe explaining the meanings of various Spanish words. (Flicker is a tool that mainly speaks Spanish.) The Spanish elements are one trait that distinguish “Handy Manny” from “Bob the Builder,” a show with a similar premise (a handyman with talking equipment).

The show saw one brief spinoff, “Handy Manny’s School For Tools,” a series of several-minute-long shorts.

The series sees plenty of guest voices by various celebrities, ranging from Lance Bass to Henry Winkler. Manny himself is voiced by Wilmer Valderrama, who appeared on the Fox sitcom “That 70s Show.”  Kelly is voiced by Florence Henderson (of “The Brady Bunch”), while Mr. Lopart is voiced by Tom Kenny (the voice of SpongeBob SquarePants). The show’s theme song is by the music group Los Lobos.

May 022013
 

Teamo SupremoThis week’s minorities in cartoons entry is the 2002 Disney-produced cartoon “Teamo Supremo.”

Teamo Supremo” features the adventures of three kids who fight crime as superheroes. The series came out during the height of popularity of Cartoon Network’s “The PowerPuff Girls,” and thus came off to some as an attempt to cash in on the PowerPuff Girls’ popularity. (A similar simplified animation style might not’ve helped that impression). Unlike Townsville’s heroes, however, Teamo consists of three non-superpowered crime fighters, using various gadgets:

  • Captain Crandall: Real name Crandall. Cap’s the team’s leader. Crandall for some reason believes he’s really an alien from another planet, whose super-powers haven’t fully kicked in yet; he’s also generally obsessed with superheroes. The series reveals both of his grandfathers were also former superheroes—one resembling Batman (“The Dark Talon”), the other Captain America (“The Silver Shield”). Crandall’s gear includes a utility belt containing a portable shield, specialized yo-yo, and other equipment.
  • Rope Girl: Real name Brenda. Rope Girl speaks with a bit of a Southern accent, and fights crime using a high-tech jump rope, in a fashion akin to Wonder Girl/Wonder Woman’s lassos.
  • Skate Lad: Real name Hector Felipe Corrio (the only team member whose full name’s given). Skate Lad’s talent is being the state’s champion skateboarder. Hector uses a specialized high-tech rocket-powered skateboard, which also serves as Teamo’s means of transit. An episode centered around Cinco de Mayo suggests Skate Lad’s of Mexican heritage.

The trio’s crime fighting equipment was given to them by Governor Kevin, the governor of their (unnamed) state, and the state’s top-secret high-tech laboratory known as “Level 7.” Governor Kevin summons the kids whenever their talents are needed to fight the latest villain threatening their state. Said villains range from ones that wouldn’t be out of place in a “straight” superhero story (such as “The Gauntlet,” a guy using energy-blasting “power gauntlets” stolen from Level 7, or a M.O.D.O.K-like robotic villain named “Technor”) to unimpressive ones like the “Put-Down Artist,” whose shtick was…insulting others.

The members of “Teamo” also have battle cries. Captain Crandall’s is “Buh-Za!,” Rope Girl’s is “Wuh-Pa!,” and Skate Lad’s is “Chi-Ka!” Yes, their battle cries sound more like babies learning to speak; “Avengers Assemble!,” they’re not. Though it’s interesting that Skate Lad’s cry (when spoken) is the Spanish word for “girl” (chica).

Another trait of the show was its use of (via stock footage) a somewhat-drawn-out transformation sequence for when Teamo assumed their superhero identities: Crandall stating “Rope me, Brenda!,” then the group jumping Brenda’s jump rope at high speeds until their costumes came on from out of nowhere, with flashy effects in the background. (I’d presume this ability’s another high-tech feature of their Level 7-granted equipment.)

The show ran for two seasons on ABC, then went to Toon Disney for part of the 2000s, before vanishing from the air entirely. Since Disney’s (unfortunately) reluctant about releasing its older animated TV programs to DVD/Netflix/etc., there’s currently no (legal) way to view the show. Still, the show’s website (in all its Flash-based, 2002-era glory) is still up, which has some brief episode clips. There’s also the opening available on YouTube:

Crandall’s voice actor is Spencer Breslin. Rope Lad and Skate Girl both share the same voice actress, Alanna Ubacha, a Latino actress who’s done some other voice work, as well as star in “Meet the Fockers.” The Governor’s actor is comedian Martin Mull (the principal on “Sabrina the Teenage Witch”).

Apr 022013
 

Finding NemoIt was announced earlier today that we’ll be getting yet another Pixar movie sequel, this one to their 2003 hit “Finding Nemo.” Titled “Finding Dory,” the film will focus on Dory, the absent-minded blue fish voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. The sequel’s expected to be released at Thanksgiving in 2015. More details here:

The Mary Sue on “Finding Dory”

While I enjoyed “Finding Nemo,” I wondered (as did Ellen, with her amusing “Toy Story 16″ crack) why a sequel to “Nemo” didn’t come sooner. “Nemo” is one of the most popular Pixar films, and until “Cars,” was Pixar’s main go-to for merchandising (after “Toy Story”). That said, the large spate of sequels Pixar’s putting out is of some concern, especially after the mediocre effort that was “Cars 2.” However, I’d expect “Finding Dory” to be well above “Cars 2″ quality-wise.

Also of note is this makes the second Pixar film to star a female character, after last year’s “Brave.”

Mar 072013
 

Doc McStuffinsThis week’s minorities in cartoons entry is “Doc McStuffins,” the lead character of an eponymously named series on Disney Junior (in the US). Disney Junior is a recently-started cable channel aimed at preschoolers, with both original shows and the former “Playhouse Disney” block from the Disney Channel’s morning lineup.

The show centers around a six-year-old girl named Dottie McStuffins (nicknamed “Doc” by everyone), who like other little kids likes to play doctor to her stuffed animals. Unlike other kids, Doc has a magic stethoscope that (when others aren’t around) brings toys to life, akin to “Toy Story.” Episodes usually involve Doc and the toys learning simple life lessons and/or Doc diagnosing various toys’ “medical” problems (such as a lack of Velcro on a toy opossum). The latter, of course, is meant to help kids in real life learn to deal with doctor’s visits.

Doc is voiced by teenaged actress Kiara Muhammad. Another voice on the series (a stuffed snowman) is by Jess Harnell, familiar to older viewers as Wakko Warner on 90s series “Animaniacs.”

The show is one of Disney Junior’s biggest hits, and has gotten much praise for featuring an African-American female lead character. It’s also one of the few preschool shows these days that doesn’t talk down to its target audience via obnoxious “Dora the Explorer”-style “questioning” of the viewer.

Here’s an interview with the show’s creator.

Feb 262013
 

BraveA bit late, but thought I’d note that this year’s Academy Award animation winners are:

  • Animated Feature Film: “Brave” by Pixar.
  • Animated Short Film: “Paperman” by Disney.

Looks like I guessed right (as vague as my guesses were), and it’s a sweep for Disney this year. This year also marks a strong showing for women in animation, between “Brave” being Pixar’s first film with a female lead and “Paperman” produced by a woman named Kristina Reed.

The low point of the evening, of course, was Seth MacFarlane hosting the ceremonies. While I opted to watch “The Amazing Race” instead of the Oscars, I did keep up on goings-on via Twitter, and wasn’t pleased with what I read. Between MacFarlane’s usual bottom-feeding humor and “The Onion”‘s inappropriate tweet about one of the child actresses, this must easily be one of the worst Oscar ceremonies I can recall. Maybe next year the Academy should offer this year’s Golden Globes hosts (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who I heard were quite popular) twice whatever the Globes-folks paid them to host. That, or just stick with Billy Crystal.

Feb 102013
 

Winnie the PoohWinnie the Pooh” is a 2011 animated film by Disney. Unusually for an animated film these days, it’s not an all-CGI film, but done in traditional 2D style.

The film’s based on several of the classic A.A. Milne “Pooh” books, and focuses on two main stories: finding a replacement tail for Eeyore, and trying to save Christopher Robin from a “backson” (after misinterpreting a note Christopher Robin left). The plot holds up to the previous classic Disney Pooh films, and ignores the various latter-day Pooh TV shows/films (replacing Christopher Robin with a girl, etc.). It also doesn’t include Gopher (an early Disney addition to the Pooh stories), and remembers to give Christopher Robin a British accent.

The characters are also their usual familiar selves. Kanga (voiced by Kristen Anderson-Lopez) plays more of a part in the plot than usual for Disney’s Pooh films, as does Owl, whose pompous behavior is well executed by voice artist Craig Ferguson. Pooh also as usual displays his being a “bear of very little brain,” while Tigger is still Tigger. (Both are voiced by Jim Cummings.)

Similar to the earlier Pooh films, the narrator and “characters in a book” nature are taken advantage of, including as the resolution to one plot point.

The film did OK at the box office, especially given it was up against extremely stiff competition (the final “Harry Potter” movie). It’s currently available on DVD.

Jan 112013
 

Bugs Bunny with his OscarThis year’s Academy Award nominations were announced yesterday. For animation, the nominees (and my guesses who’ll win) are below:

Animated Feature Film

  • Brave
  • Frankenweenie
  • ParaNorman
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits
  • Wreck-It Ralph

Will win: A tough one. I’ll go with “Brave” (it’s Pixar), “Ralph” (it’s Pixar-like), or “Frankenweenie” (by a well-known-to-Hollywood-types live-action director). Going against my choices: “Brave” stars female protagonists (Hollywood sexism), “Ralph” is about video games (too low brow and/or the “competition” media-wise to movies), and “Frankenweenie” might be too odd for Hollywood, though per “The Artist,” they’re OK with black-and-white.

Should win: “Brave” or “Ralph.”

Animated Short Film

  • Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”
  • Paperman
  • Adam and Dog
  • Fresh Guacamole
  • Head Over Heels

Will win: Not sure, only having seen “Paperman.” It won’t be Maggie’s short—it’s A) based on a TV property, and B) it’s actually comedic; unlike Bugs Bunny’s day when “Knighty Knight Bugs” won, the Oscar folk nowadays seem allergic to comedies for animated shorts, instead favoring arthouse-type fare. Thus I’ll assume it’ll be one of the other four nominees, though given “Paperman” is from Disney, it might be too mainstream.

Should win: Again, can’t really say, though I did enjoy “Paperman.”

This year’s awards are being hosted by Seth MacFarlane of “Family Guy” fame, which removes any interest in my watching this year. Well, even moreso than usual. Of late, I’ve only flipped to the Oscars to see the animation and best picture categories before changing channel back to something else, so I suppose it doesn’t matter. Besides, I have Twitter and YouTube in case something goofy or interesting happens…

Jan 102013
 
Lilo and Stitch

From left to right, Lilo, Nani, and Stitch.

This week’s minorities in cartoons entry is the 2002 Disney animated movie “Lilo and Stitch.”

The movie centers around the titular characters: Lilo, a young, eccentric Hawaiian girl (voiced by Daveigh Chase), and Stitch, also known as “Experiment 626,” the product of an unauthorized experiment by Russian-accented alien mad scientist Jumba. (Stitch is voiced by his real-life creator, Chris Sanders; Jumba is voiced by David Ogden Stiers). Lilo lives with her older sister Nani (voiced by Tia Carrere); both of their parents are deceased. Lilo spends her time listening to Elvis Presley records (and I do mean records, per the retro feel of the movie despite its modern setting), going to hula practice, and believing in the most bizarre things (to the point she’s teased by a snobby local girl, Mertle, and Mertle’s yes-men-like group of friends). Stitch, meanwhile, escapes from confinement, and travels to Earth to attempt to carry out his purpose in life, destroying major cities. However, Stitch crash-lands on the Hawaiian island Lilo lives, which lacks any cities to destroy. Stitch is taken in by Lilo (mistaking him for a dog at the pound), and eventually learns to overcome (somewhat) his more destructive tendencies. Jumba and Pleakley, an easily-excitable representative of the “Galactic Federation,” are sent to Earth to try to capture Stitch, as does Captain Gantu (voiced by Kevin Michael Richardson), a stoic Federation armada captain. Eventually, Stitch gets to stay with his new family on Earth, as does a now-reformed Jumba and Pleakley.

“Lilo and Stitch” was the last major successful non-CGI animated film for Disney until until 2009′s “The Princess and the Frog.” Its success spawned several direct-to-video sequels, a Japanese anime adaption (Stitch became quite popular in Japan), and a Western animated TV series. The TV series, similar in some ways to “Pokemon,” presented many of the 625 experiments Jumba created before Stitch being unleashed on Hawaii. Lilo, Stitch, Jumba, and Pleakley attempted to capture them all and reform them, like Lilo did for Stitch. Also in the TV series was Gantu, working for a hamster-like alien mad scientist trying to capture the experiments for his own ends. The final direct-to-video movie, “Leroy and Stitch,” wraps up the TV series’ run.

Elements of traditional Hawaiian culture are shown in the movies/TV series, mostly in the context of Lilo’s hometown relying heavily on tourism. As such, Nani and her boyfriend David (a fire dancer, voiced by Jason Scott Lee) are often shown working at various tourist traps. Some Elvis Presley songs are also present in the soundtrack, along with more traditional Hawaiian music.