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KF Managing Editor
Location: UK
Birthday: November 6
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About me:

Real name: Carl Padgham

Review Star Average: 2.25/4

Keyframe's Managing Editor, animation critic and researcher (and former videogame critic). I'm stingy with my stars, so don’t expect a lot of high scores from me, a profile has to really work to earn its balls of fire facsimiles.

Presently, I review animation based on how they bear up to the peers in their respective categories - features-to-features, DTVs-to-DTVs, etc - rather than try to unfairly compare a high budget feature film with a low budget direct-to-video. Call it a category concession if you will.

I hope to never let nostalgia affect my reviews, but then nobody’s perfect. My favourite animated cartoons tend to fall between the original "Golden Era" and the late 80s to early 90s. My interest in animation goes back years. I enjoy playing video games but tend to find their animated adaptations range from awful to okay - I could say a similar thing to game adaptations of many animation licences.

While I may prefer traditional animation to CGI, I can watch almost anything and think that the story and characters are more important to a film, etc, than the medium of animation used in it.

For what it's worth, I have Asperger's Syndrome, a form of high functioning autism.

My Star to 10 scale ratio:

4.0 stars = 9-10 - Superb: One of the best films you could hope to see in your lifetime - insofar as I'm concerned, a rare gem in animation achievement.

3.5 stars = 8-9 - Great: That film that entertains all the way through, and never truly flounders, but is still missing the spark that seperates the great from the epic.

3.0 stars = 7-8 - Good: A film, etc, that is good, but not great, something you'd watch again, but might not go hunting down the Blu-ray or DVD - at full price - for.

2.5 stars = 5-6 - Mediocre: Straight down the middle, while it's watchable, you won't call it actually good per sé. On the flip side, neither is it actually bad.

2.0 stars = 3-4 - Poor: Not so bad as you cannot get through it, but you might not care to watch it again anytime soon, or remember anything about it immediately after it finishes.

1.5 stars = 2-3 - Terrible: Maybe there some redeeming factors, but they are few and far in a overwise horrid production.

1.0 stars = 1-2 - Abysmal: Practically unwatchable sludge. or as close to it as makes no odds.


Animation, Drawing, writing, reading (animal novels, fantasy, sci-fi, animation history), videogames, and radio comedies. Not necessarily in that exact order.

Animation that I love:

Theatrical Shorts, Animaniacs, Astro Boy (all versions), Count Duckula, Lilo & Stitch, WALL•E...


starlacs galactic musings - Blog

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animated cartoon Bad Ol' Putty Tat © Warner Bros.
Bad Ol' Putty Tat
Rated it: 1.5
posted: Aug 03, 2011
There’s not really much I can say about this short, even writing a synopsis for this cartoon gives up most of it, this is about as generic and dull as Sylvester and Tweety cartoons can get. Sylvester tries various ways to catch Tweety, none of which are that imaginative, partly due to the short’s focus on Tweety, who spends the cartoon, talking to the audience about, well the cat chasing him.

Okay there's one or two okay gags, Tweety being used a shuttlecock is cute, and the ending has probably the best gag in the cartoon (not saying much though). One bit is notably more as being a guide to Tweety’s male gender for those who think he's female, but it doesn’t last long. There’s a blink and you’re miss it reference to W.C. Fields, and the foreground badminton player looks like a caricature of Ted Pierce, the short’s writer.

This short is just bland filler, too focused on Tweety than Sylvester, no gags to speak of and really not that worthy of viewing. There's just seven minutes of nothing here to write about and writing about nothing is difficult.

holiday animation The Snow Queen © Martin Gates Productions / Carrington Productions International
The Snow Queen
Rated it: 1.5
posted: Dec 23, 2010
A simple comparison between this "film's" screenshot of the titular Queen, and the one from the Soyuzmultfilm Studio feature made in 1957 will pretty much give you everything you need to know as to why this version of Han Christian Anderson’s beloved winter tale is not worth the hassle; still, if we must.

It’s winter and the Snow Queen, up in her Mountain is putting the final stages of her freeze the world plan into operation with the help of her three incompetent, and rather chatty trolls, lead by David Jason. The three trolls bungling cause the mirror to smash and thus fall into the eyes and heart of Tom (apparently the original Kai not good enough), a boy whose talent for jigsaws is about all we ever know of him through the entire cartoon due to the fact that throughout the majority of the special he robotically fixes the broken mirror like its some kind of elaborate puzzle.

Tom and Ellie -this version’s Gerda - hitch up on the Snow Queen’s sleigh, who promptly cut Ellie off, who gives chase after being told what on Earth happened by a passing sparrow voiced by Hugh Laurie. They meet various characters who just about approximate characters in the original story, all the while singing and enduring some terrible songs.

The Dreamstone series featured often great animation for a TV series and at least always a good imagery along with it inventive premise, even the relatively decent animation in Bimble’s Bucket was better than this poor effort. It seems that the studio had a great deal to thank FilmFair for other the years. In The Snow Queen character models are not always consistent, jerks and sudden movements are prevalent, animation has a tendency toward movement for its own sake at times and there’s just a rushed feel to proceedings.

On the plus side, the voice work is largely composed of some great actors and actresses who do the best with what they given – and that isn’t much. Weak dialogue is the order of the day and an enthusiastic performance by Laurie, McKenzie and Mayall isn’t going to change the fact that what they’re saying is completely pointless and arbitrary.

The songs are terrible but not actually poorly sung (with the exception of the backing vocals). The lacking nature of the songs is the deal breaker more than anything, what can be forgiven when say Rik Mayall fairly comic character plays it up for the ludicrousness, doesn’t work when we’re suppose to take things more seriously.

The journey is clumsily handled and at the end of things there’s little pay-off and none in the way of character development, it straightforward to a fault. On the flip side, the film is completely inoffensive and banal that it fails to much make a negative impression either, leaving this viewer with a not hugely unfamiliar indifference, which in this writer’s view is an even worse thing to happen.

This isn’t a film I would recommend, either as a good “special”, or indeed as an example of Martin Gates body of work, it shallow and pointless in the grand scheme of things that only really recommends itself as a fairly easy way to waste one-and-a-half hours of your time.

And there’s so much better things that you can waste that sort of time with.


animated series 2DTV © ITV
Rated it: 1.5
posted: Aug 07, 2009
Generally 2DTV suffers from the same problem that all broadcast satire suffers from eventually; it dates quickly, and is so precise a lot of the time, to the point where in a decade or two people will wonder what all the fuss was about.

I can’t remember as much about 2DTV as I probably should, but I do remember that for every gag that worked they were two or more that didn’t, the animation was done in flash back when such a thing was more a novelty, rather than the norm it is these days, it was mostly competent if lacking. Many of the production crew and some of the voices were done by the same group of people who did them way back on Splitting Image and are still doing the same thing today, let’s just say that they do a good job of it pretty much all of the time.

Ultimately trying to describe the appeal of this show – such as it has some – to anyone outside the U.K. might be like Americans trying to describe the appeal of The Daily Show to Brits (well to me at any rate), it’s probably going to be difficult.

I remember the ruckus that happened when they tried to adapt Spitting Image for the U.S. market, it didn’t work. America apparently just wasn’t ready for that kind of all-out attack on its own country or its leaders, after all it’s unpatriotic and America’s a very patriotic country it would seem.

Ultimately, I suppose it has to do with a Country's collective sense of humour when it comes down to political satire and suchlike.

As you might guess by the image of ex-President George Bush being given advice by a sock-puppet*, or the image above this review of Prince Harry, heir to the throne dressed up as Ali G, that blatant attacks on public figures are doable in the UK, although it pretty much generally has to be a satire and generally the persona’s of the mocked are so outrageously ridiculous as to be basically inoffensive by most people.

It was once said of Spitting Image that celebrities and politicians mostly loathed having a puppet of themselves on the show, but worst still was if you wasn’t depicted, effectively meaning that you weren’t important enough to even warrant mocking.

If I’m mentioning Spitting Image a lot in this review it’s because that in essence 2DTV is the spiritual successor to it in terms of content if not format. The problem was that Spitting Image’s bite was fierce and unrelenting in just how far it sometimes went and broke a few boundaries in what could work on British TV in the process. Five years after it finished airing, 2DTV just felt weak and mild in comparison.

Looking back at it, it also hasn't aged as well as its predecessor either.


*Actually it’s just a sock.

holiday animation Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue © Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (ATAS)
Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue
Rated it: 1.5
posted: Jun 17, 2009
Watching Cartoon All-Stars to the Rescue is an experience it has to be said, whether it’s a worthwhile one is up to debate.

While the idea of seeing a multitude of characters from various studios together is nothing new, Roger Rabbit did it prior remember, it is still one of the stranger things you can have actually produced by studios, not least because of the legalities that must be involved.

Somehow though, almost all these companies – minus Paws Inc., who owns Garfield – where talked into making this special, or at least contributing a character or two. If you thought the cameo match-ups in Roger Rabbit where implausible then this cartoon is likely to really give you a migraine (it will probably do so anyway, but that’s beside the point).

I’ll give it this, Cartoon-All-Stars does has quite a few different characters in it at least, and you’re liable to find one or more characters here that you know. Alvin and the Chipmunks are probably a given, even though their inclusion leads to one of the more bizarre lines in the special, I know Simon’s the smart one of the group, but really, should he really know that much about marijuana. Though the fact that he goes of on an, frankly artificially delivered speech thereafter about how it is an illegal substance that’s use to get high is more a tad more grating; it sounds completely out of character.

Alf is an interesting inclusion, though to those who don’t know, yes he did actually have a cartoon series, which centred around his life when he was on his homeworld of Melmac.

I’m expecting that most people here though, will know who all these characters are, so I won’t go on with this line-up further…

The story involves Michael, who steals his sister Corey’s piggy bank to pay for marijuana; Corey has a plenitude of merchandise about her room who spring to live and start to investigate. This includes the aforementioned Alf, who pairs up with Garfield, which given his tendency to try and eat the house cat in his original show possibly makes this the most unlikely pair-up to happen anywhere in animation.*

Where the whole thing falls down is in the actual story, which is wholly centric in its nature, concentrating beyond a fault to and pandering to its anti-drug message. This may have been the eighties, the most prolific time for morals in cartoons being rammed down viewers throats, but this one in particular makes most of the other cartoons at the time almost conservative and quaint by comparison.

The cartoon is very disjointed, wafer thin and simple as a result; we get the same basic formula or characters taking Michael for a ride, in some case literally, lecturing him on the dangers of drug misuse, it’s fairly monotonous by the second run-through. While the majority of characters are engaged with Michael, his sister Corey is progressively getting closer to the root of his problems and you can more or less figure out where the plot is going with this.

The animation is decent enough, though at the low-end of TV specials, which mean that it’s better than some of these characters normally appeared in. Think along the lines of a Disney afternoon cartoon’s standard, then take a step back. For some characters this means that this is the best animation that they’ve ever been in; although for two – Bugs and Daffy – it a large step back from where they’ve come from.

The voices of the guest characters are provided by the official portrayers of the time, so it will mostly depend on your opinion of the characters as they stood in their original shows, if you felt like Alvin and the chipmunks were grating with their high pitched voices, this special isn’t going to change your mind. The dialogue generally comes of as artificial, as it hard to take these characters talking about this subject matter seriously, especially characters like Michelangelo from the turtles. The voices of the other, non-famous characters are little better and don’t offer a sense of nostalgia that many of the other characters would benefit from if they had better material to work with.

There’s also a, frankly, mind numbing, make-your-ears bleed musical number here.

The special is introduced by George Bush Sr., which can summed up with one word, redundant, kids at the time would have hardly have cared and in the here and now its even less easy to care that an ex-president is introducing this by talking about drugs. Still it sets the tone of the special, this is indeed one long lecture disguised as entertainment.

In the end the cause is noble, but the execution is numbingly flawed.


* Even moreso when you realise/remember that Alf called a balloon of the feline “Garfield the delicious” when he was a co-host on the televised Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1989.

animated series Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z © Toei Animation / Cartoon Network / Aniplex
Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z
Rated it: 1.5
posted: May 28, 2009
When I first heard of Demashita! Powerpuff Girls Z, it was April 1st, 2005 and so I thought it was an elaborate April fool’s joke, now having spent time with the series, it would have been better actually being one. Toei and Aniplex have turned a show that thrived on wordplay and clever writing into what could only be described as the world’s most generic magical girl anime.

Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup have been turned into three unrelated – in the family sense - characters – complete with new names – that get their superpowers via the white lights from the iceberg incident described in the synopsis. Surely there is no reason not having these characters still be sisters and it feels a tad insulting to the source material. The characters are essentially the same as their USA counterparts: right down to tomboy Buttercup complaining about her girly costume, at least until she finds that it comes with superhuman abilities.

And then we get Ken, who does little to add to proceedings that couldn’t have been filled by actually using Prof. Utonium as the father figure, who hardly gets any screen-time of note. We also get a cute, sidekick that assists the girls and senses evil, playing a similar role to characters like Keroberos in Cardcaptors or that pink fluffy thing from Tokyo Mew Mew – I forget its name.

Then we have the treatment of the villains, Mojo Jojo has been turned from his brilliant synonym abusing, genius simian self, into a food junkie with hardly a shred of wit. Most of the villains have been turned from career super-villains to innocent victims of the black lights turned into demons based on their darkest desires. The lone exception – from what I watched - to this is Him, who is some dark demon who was sealed away sometime in the past.

We get the long transformation sequences, which are, of course, the magical girl anime’s way to waste screen time; so to avoid bothering with having to write as much plot. It just as annoying as ever to see the same bunch of animation as it was in other shows that have such things. The writing shows none of the spark or wit that made McCracken’s series worth watching, it’s pretty much shallow and by the numbers.

Toei Animation is a company with a decent, if sometimes rocky track record, but this is just a clichéd mess-up. If you like magical girl anime I’m sure that something like Sailor Moon or Tokyo Mew Mew has you covered much more competently then this. If you're a fan of the original Powerpuff Girls series from Cartoon Network, then this is barely recognisable and you’ll probably be happier not seeing it.

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