I'm a student involved in the research and production of both 2D and 3D animation. My primary interest is in combining the best of computer animation and traditional styles in order to find a cleaner, more visually appealing style of animation.
music, drawing, writing, science, sci-fi / fantasy, the utter destruction of Comcast and AOL
Animation that I love:
1) I actually found this movie on TV while channel-surfing.
2) I actually sat down and watched most of it.
3) I actually... kinda... liked it.
Few times in my life have I ever tried to sit through any kind of Pokémon episode or movie, and fewer times have I been rewarded for doing so. But while the story on this one was fairly formulaic anime sci-fi material, it was still kinda interesting. While the characters were as cute as ever, they still had depth and expression. And a lot of the background art was actually pretty impressive. I can't say these things for any other Pokémon stuff that I've seen, but by some fluke of trans-dimensional physics, this one seems to be an exception.
The characters enter a foreign city, presumably as part of whatever Pokémon training program they are eternally a part of. It was the beginning of the movie that I missed, so I'm just filling in gaps. But when Team Rocket (ugh) comes around to cause trouble, an elderly fellow and his mysterious girl companion help them out... I know, it sounds pretty bad, right?
Well, there was a pretty cool scene in which the mysterious girl character gains Ash's attention (for those who know even less about Pokémon than I do, Ash is the boy protagonist), then runs off without an explanation. What follows is a surprisingly artistic sequence in which Ash chases her through various parts of the city, trying to find out what the girl is trying to show him. The chase takes them through streets and over bridges that are bustling with people, as well as through rickety old alleyways and beautiful hidden gardens that seem to have been long abandoned.
Anyway, the story develops to reveal things like an ancient and hidden superweapon, secrets about the characters involved, and some decently interesting new Pokémon (or at least new in 2003). While this movie had little that was really appealing to me on a personal level, if I had kids I would have no problem letting them watch this one.
Every character in "Fairly Odd Parents" has exactly two positions: three-quarters to the left, and three-quarters to the right. At virtually no point do any of the characters face toward or away from the "camera," face directly left or right, look up, down, around, or do ANYTHING except stand or float about in one of those two positions. You'd almost wonder if maybe there were such a thing as "expressive animation." Clearly these animators would disagree.
I suspect that this is an example of an age of American "economy cartoons," in which sophisticated animation programs (which admittedly can do wonders for an animator's workload) and minimalist artwork are in fact relied upon to the exclusion of things such as, oh I don't know, "originality," and "quality." As long as colors move about on the screen, and the production time is lightning-fast, it MUST be a prime choice for prime time, right? Bleh.
"Danny Phantom" took the style of "Fairly Odd Parents" almost line-for-line, although at least that one had SOME character body motion. But enough ranting... I will admit that once in a while, "Fairly Odd Parents" can drag a chuckle, albeit kicking and screaming, from the depths of my torso. Also, I will gladly give props to the voice actors, whose dynamic voices are nothing short of a saving grace.
But even the voices are only good in small doses. They're so scratchy and overblown that I would sooner snort broken glass than watch more than two episodes in close succession. The fact that this show won an Emmy, for character design of all things, is either totally surprising or not surprising at all; I can't decide which. And none of the writing seems to have any wit, edge, or depth.
I reserve my one-star ratings for the truly despicable alone, and I do not despise this show. But I have absolutely no reason to recommend that you watch it.
"The Triplets of Belleville" is eerily mesmerizing, and nowhere is it more so than in the beginning. The first scene, a scratchy black-and-white cartoon, harkens back to the age of Felix the Cat and Olive Oyle, but has a kind of disturbed and panicked feel more akin to a Halloween episode of "The Adams Family." The rest of the movie adopts a similar, yet cleaner and far more beautiful style. But there's something about that first scene -- and its incredibly catchy music -- that stays under your skin throughout the film.
However, the scene that really struck me -- and I don't think this is too much of a spoiler -- was one in which the characters were out at sea during a terrible storm. Now, if Hollywood had made this, you would expect this scene to have loud, pounding, crashing music, courtesy of a small studio orchestra or some guy on a keyboard, intended more to build atmosphere than to add anything in the way of mood or melody. What I wasn't expecting to hear was Mozart, and it finished the desperation of the scene so perfectly (and so unexpectedly) that I was literally trying to fumble for my remote without taking my eyes off the screen, in order to turn up the volume.
There is little else for me to say in favor of "The Triplets of Belleville," except to point out the qualities that many other reviews have already mentioned, such as the fresh and fully descriptive character designs, and the dog's enjoyable dreams and behavior (Including a perfect visualization of a dog's mind: "Train! Person on train who looks like he might be a dog! Must bark!").
But having said all that, while most of the movie was fresh and unexpected, I felt that the story's climax (the car chase) was rather ordinary, old-fashioned, and, well... expected. To me this part was somewhat disappointing, and also, an ending which was intended to be "artsy" and "thought-provoking," for me fell more along the lines of "ho-hum" and "mildly confusing." This movie relied so heavily on visual symbolism that I fear it occasionally forgot how to put one foot in front of the other, when it came to keeping the story's momentum.
Anyway, on quality alone I would give it no worse than three stars. But I hold strong value in an animation's originality, and "The Triplets of Belleville" is nothing short of profound in that arena, so... three-and-a-half out of four.
You may be wondering how it is that I have anything good to say about an animation to which I have given the lowest possible rating. Well, "Wizards" is absolutely unlike anything I've seen before, in that it has a few brilliantly shining, microscopic qualities, and the rest of it is unimaginably, incomprehensibly, unfathomably, horrendously, excruciatingly bad. So let's get to that part.
The story is just an excuse to show a World War II, "Nazi's-vs.-goodguys" scenario, with fantasy creatures. I'm not making a comparison. I mean it is ACTUALLY about a battle between Nazi goblins and ghouls, who watch actual Hitler footage from their evil wizard's projector, and the "Allies" of elves, dwarves, and faeries. I don't know why there are no humans, or for that matter, why this movie was ever made. Bakshi even had the nerve to rotoscope broken, shadowy footage of WWII and cheesy, live-action actors dressed in costumes into the battle scenes, complete with swirling, nonsensical rainbow backgrounds, apparently thinking they would somehow fit into his otherwise animated feature. I almost felt insulted by this...my eyes, at least, were.
Did I say "otherwise animated?" I almost forgot to mention that about half of the movie consists of black and white still frames, with a voice-over narrator describing to you what is happening. Now...I've always had a pet peeve for movies that tell you - rather than show you - the setting in the beginning, as well as movies that say things like, "3,000 years later." Not only does "Wizards" do both of these things, but continues to do them throughout the film!
Then you have the character Elinore, who was undoubtedly created so that Bakshi could sit next to another male viewer in the audience, nudge him in the side, and say, "Ehh? That one's pretty hot, isn't she?" You've also got a nice little scene of awful and shameless anti-semitism, which seems ironic in a movie that is meant to portray the Nazis in a bad light. The only remotely interesting characters are the two wizards and a magical robot named "Peace" who walks around with a gun and a sword. By "remotely interesting" I mean, "still bad."
No, wait, I'm not finished ranting. Several animated scenes, including the rotoscoped ones, were recycled later in the film. Guys with swords were somehow managing to kill guys with guns. The bad guys were driving tanks. Tanks??!! Every female in the movie was scantily clad. The voice acting was amateur at best. Why did the characters get randomly teleported into the mountains? How did Weehawk and Peace get out of the caves? Why do some people consider this a "family film??"
Let me end this obscenely long review by saying that, at least, Bakshi was essentially forced to use rotoscoping when Fox refused to give him adequate budget to animate the battle scenes. But of course you can only blame Fox so much, considering that Bakshi is quoted as saying, "Why bother animating all of this?" and, "It also was the way that showed me how to do Lord of the Rings, so it worked two ways." (ref. Wikipedia) The reader may note that Bakshi's "The Lord of the Rings" has long held the title of being Keyframe's vote for the worst animated film of all time.
And it was inspired...inspired...by "Wizards."
Then you have to remember that the "Appleseed" and the "D-Tank" are the two crucial items for the fate of the city. What each of them does, specifically, is a detail I won't describe here, both because I don't want to spoil anything, and also because I'm not entirely sure I know myself. Then you need to distinguish between the ES.W.A.T., which seems to be some kind of third-party force, the O.R.A., which is the Olympus Regular Army and which is composed entirely of malintentioned humans, the Elders who supposedly interact with Gaia, and a woman named Athena who is apparently the Prime Minister of Olympus, although I didn't even know that until I read it in an online description.
If that's not enough, you'll have to distinguish between the robot soldiers, the android soldiers, the partially robotic cyborg soldiers, and the human soldiers wearing robot armor...and of course the human soldiers in regular clothes, and the Bioroid soldiers in regular clothes. But once you've got that down, you should be ready to go.
Anyway I'll admit that it wasn't as bad as I make it sound...somehow I managed to at least know the gist of what was going on. Also, if "hardcore" scores points with you, you may want to check this out, because there are some pretty cool battle scenes. However, the creators took a big risk by animating this the way they did: that is, using flat-shaded 3D animation. Animators have long sought to achieve the style of 2D with the fluidity and freedom of 3D, but this technique of flat-shading was, in 2004 (and still today), in its infancy, and it shows. The characters in Appleseed will have brief moments of beauty, but spend the rest of the film looking like plastic dolls with terrible lip-synching. The music was pretty bad too, in my humble opinion.
In conclusion I'd say this one is for animation buffs only, simply because there aren't too many films made in this kind of 3D-anime style, and it almost manages to pull it off (although ultimately it fails). Also, like I said, it might be worth it if you get a special kick out of robot fight scenes. But all things considered, I'd say "Appleseed" is nothing special.