Tag Archives: Disney

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!”

Anthony’s miscellaneous comics picks for July 2014

Super Secret Crisis War #2Here’s what’s of interest from various comic companies for July.

IDW

Full solicitations are available here.

  • Cartoon Network: Super Secret Crisis War! #2 (of 6), $4

Comic strip compilations

  • Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse: “Outwits the Phantom Blot,” vol. 5, on sale July 5, $35
  • Charlie Brown: POW! A Peanuts collection, on sale July 1, $10

Comments

A bit sparse this month, I know…

The Mickey Mouse comic strip volume this month includes what’s probably its most famous storyline, the debut of longtime Mickey foe the Phantom Blot.

The “Peanuts” collection compiles various baseball-related stories.

 

Chip ‘n Dale are getting a live action/CGI feature film

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.

Star Wars comics (still) coming to Marvel in 2015

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.

Minorities in cartoons: “Handy Manny”

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.

Minorities in cartoons: “Teamo Supremo”

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”).

“Finding Nemo” sequel “Finding Dory” to be released in November 2015

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.”

Minorities in cartoons: “Doc McStuffins”

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.

“Brave,” “Paperman” win the 2013 animation Oscars

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.