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Neil

KF Web Animation Editor
Location: UK
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Latest Animation Reviews

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animated series Gargoyles © Disney
Gargoyles
Rated it: 1.5
posted: Jan 20, 2012
I think this must be one of those "you had to be there" kind of things.

I didn't pay much attention to it during its original airing, since it looked much the same as the countless toy-driven cartoons that were around at the time; but a couple of years ago, after all of the positive buzz I heard about it online, I finally sat down to watch it.

The first story - which spanned five episodes - showed potential. It begins in tenth century Scotland, where a castle is guarded by a clan of gargoyle-like creatures who turn to stone by day but come to life at night. Their leader, Goliath, believes that it is their duty to defend mankind, even though so many humans fear and mistrust them; his wife, later named Demona, is not so sure that we're worth the effort.

During the course of the story most of the clan is killed, and the survivors are turned to stone for a thousand years, eventually awakening in 1994. Goliath is reunited with Demona, thought dead but actually immortal, who has grown even more disdainful of mankind in the intervening centuries.

It's a somewhat interesting premise, but one which is completely squandered by the nonsense that follows. The Gargoyles wake up in New York because their castle was airlifted there (!?) and eventually go up against the series' main villain, a millionaire named Xanatos. The five-parter concludes with the Gargoyles fighting - oh dear - a gang of robot gargoyles working for Xanatos.

In episode six the Gargoyles fight a team of TV wrestlers. At that point, I gave up hope of the series ever living up to the hype, although I somehow managed to make it part way into the second season. There were occasional glimmers of intelligent writing - there's a surprisingly well-written episode about Demona summoning Puck to do her bidding, only for him to make fools out of the entire cast - but for the most part the episodes I saw were vapid at best, embarrassing at worst.

The episode which finally convinced me to throw in the towel was an absolutely abysmal effort which saw the wrestlers return: two of them decided to become cyborgs, while another turned himself into a genetically engineered half-man, half-wolf monster. If I remember correctly, their sole reason for doing this was to make themselves better fighters. It's the kind of tosh you'd find in something like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, but at least that series didn't take itself quite as seriously as this one.

I doubt I missed much - from what I hear the story didn't even come to a reasonable conclusion. The showrunner Greg Weisman got laid off, resulting in a third and final season which was purportedly so bad that not even the fans liked it. Weisman tried to continue the story in a comic, but that got cancelled too.

The series' animation looks passable at first glance, but its inadequacies soon become apparent. The fight scenes just don't work at all - a fatal flaw when the series is so over-reliant on them - and the dodgy character animation wrecks what little character-driven drama can be found in the scripts.

What's really frustrating about Gargoyles is that its writers clearly weren't witless hacks, as evidenced the frequent and literate references to Shakespeare and world mythology. But yet, even with source material of that pedigree at their disposal, Greg Weisman and his team consistently fell back on the same old drivel about robots, mutants and evil clones. What a waste.

The series appears to have been influenced by Neil Gaiman's Sandman comics, which were getting a lot of acclaim around the time. But if Gaiman had resorted to having Morpheus fighting genetically engineered wrestlers then The Sandman wouldn't have been treated as a milestone for the medium, it would have been roundly dismissed as just another juvenile comic book fantasy - which, to be honest, I'd say would be the deserved fate of Gargoyles.

(Possibly I'm being a bit harsh on a cartoon that was clearly targeted at eight year olds, but I kept on being told by fans that it was a complex multi-layered series which would appeal to adults, and so approached it as such)

(And as an aside, I haven't read any of the other reviews of the series on this site, so my comments about fans aren't meant as a criticism of anyone specific here - just several years worth of pent-up hype I've absorbed online)

flash animation The Evil Strawberry © unknown
The Evil Strawberry
Rated it: 1.5
posted: Dec 26, 2008
To answer AkiStar's question: I uploaded this to the database because someone requested it.

...yeah, I'm not sure why, either. But even so, that individual clearly liked it enough to request its addition, so it must be doing something right. Because of that I'll break the one-star chain and throw an extra half-star onto the pile.

I'm not usually one to raise my rating because of how someone else feels about a film, but hey. At the time of writing it's the season of giving and I'm feeling generous.

And to be fair, I did kind of enjoy writing the synopsis.

flash animation Shii's Song © unknown
Shii's Song
Rated it: 2.5
posted: Jul 21, 2007
I saw this one years back and wasn't sure what to make of it; rewatching it for this review I feel the same way. It's funny, but I'm not entirely sure if this was intentional.

The short takes a pop song from a Japanese video game - sped up so that it sounds like the singer is on helium - and puts it into the mouth of a very odd-looking Flash-animated cat.

I'm not sure what to make of it.

animated movie Perfect Blue © Madhouse Productions
Perfect Blue
Rated it: 3
posted: Jan 26, 2007
There are several layers of reality in the film, and none of them are clear-cut. More than once something which would seem to be a major plot development turns out to be a dream, hallucination, scene from Mimarin's TV show, or a combination thereof. When Mimarin asks her manager "yesterday? Was that real?", it's a perfectly legitimate question.

There are no easy answers on the surface, nor is there very much to find when you dig deeper: the film revels in its own ambiguity. Even after the ending - which has been criticised for being a little too neat - chunks of the story are left totally open to interpretation. More of a roller-coaster ride than a psychological study, the film doesn't seem built for particularly close analysis.

In terms of production values, the movie's a mixed bag. There's plenty of strong thematic imagery - reflections, posters, TV screens, that kind of thing - and the hallucinations are suitably creepy, but for the most part Perfect Blue looks pretty unremarkable - especially compared to Kon's other, more visually inventive creations. The eerie musical score is a different matter: simple, but effective.

The warmth and dry humour found in most of Satoshi Kon's works (even the equally weird Paranoia Agent) aren't in evidence here. Perfect Blue seems oddly po-faced compared to his other outings; there's a sense that he was restraining himself a little too much, his characteristic sense of humour only showing through in a couple ironic moments - such as the scene where a character complains about Japanese psycho-thrillers being too boring.

Perfect Blue is an unusual film that takes a bold stab at doing something different. In some ways it misses its goal, but in many others it succeeds pefectly.

flash animation Potter Puppet Pals © unknown
Potter Puppet Pals
Rated it: 3
posted: Oct 27, 2006
Another hit from Neil Cicierega, patron saint of stupid Flash cartoons!

Some great character animation (considering that the characters are, well, just glove puppets) and inspired silliness all round. I'll have to agree with Greykitty that Bothering Snape is the best of the two - it has that spontaneity to it.

 
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