What Disney Can Learn from Cinderella

What Disney Can Learn from Cinderella
Posted by on Apr 2, 2015

I finally got the chance to see Cinderella. First and foremost, it was thoroughly enjoyable. It didn’t blow my socks off, but it was well worth the cost of my ticket. Particularly the visuals and the overall aesthetic of the film. The best way to describe it is that it felt like the animated classic had been brought to life. Especially the bibbidi bobbidi boo dress transformation. Every actor was perfectly cast and all around this was a solid film.

However, everything about this film was totally expected. At no point was I on the edge of my seat nor was I curious about how it might end. Going into the film I knew this. I knew that it was going to be a pretty straight retelling, but that is exactly why it shouldn’t have been. Disney had a story that everybody knew and could probably recite from memory. So why give the audience what they expected?

Not that they needed to change any of the major plot points, they could have simply given the audience a twist. Think about the true love twist in Frozen or the true love’s kiss twist in Maleficent. They were small things that completely changed the meaning of the film. Especially when they turned Maleficent into the hero of the story and the king into the villain. The story largely stays the same and yet the meaning changes on a fundamental level.

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The easiest way that Disney could have done this is answer some of the questions that are left unanswered by the original film. The biggest of which is why Lady Tremaine is so mean to Cinderella. The movie plays it off as if she is hurt by the fact that Cinderella’s father didn’t marry Tremaine for love and that it appears he has a closer relationship with Cinderella than Tremaine or her daughters. Yet, it appears to be the exact opposite. Cinderella’s father marries Tremaine because he feels that he can be truly happy with her like he was with his wife. Not too mention that initially it will take time to build up the relationship with his new step-daughters. If anything she married just that she wouldn’t be out on the street. That gives a basis for why she is so grumpy but not why she essentially turns Cinderella into a slave.

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I assume Disney expects us to chalk this up to the old fairy tale trope that evil is evil and that’s that. Except for the fact that so far, these live action adaptations have been giving the villains reasons. We already talked about Maleficent but even The Great and Powerful Oz, not live-action animation adaptation I know, gave us reasons why the witches were wicked. Why does Lady Tremaine not get a tragic back story? The film itself was nearly two hours and with an extra 8-10 minutes we could have gotten what we needed. Heck you cut it down to even more if you just change her monologue a little bit.

What if instead of Lady Tremaine marrying the one she loves and then losing him, she never got her happy ending. It would explain Tremaine would be so set on ruining Cinderella’s positive outlook and it gives her a little more motivation for ruining her chances with the Prince. After all, if Tremaine couldn’t get her happy ending why should Cinderella? Going forward, I hope Disney has tries to answer those unanswered questions from their animated classics.

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Looking forward at Beauty and the Beast they could add some more depth to their characters all around. While Gaston could still be presented largely as just an atypical jerk, Disney could explain why the townsfolk are still so supportive of him. Maybe he is just a bully and at one point the townsfolk kind of realize. So to regain some of his popularity, he leads the town against the Beast. As for Beast, they could explain what happened to his parents and most importantly, they could fix the inherent timeline problems. Beast has to find true love by his 21st birthday. At one point is he turned into a Beast where he wouldn’t have learned how to read? Was he like 8 or something? Not too mention that it seems like it takes about a day to get to this castle and yet the townsfolk are completely unaware of a giant beast living their? All I am saying, is that Disney has the potential to improve upon their animated classic.

So far their casting is on point. With Emma Watson (Belle), Luke Evans (Gaston), Dan Stevens (Beast), Emma Thompson (Mrs. Potts), Josh Gad (Le Fou), and Kevin Kline (Maurice) as just the beginning, the cast is shaping up really well. Lets just hope they do the same with the story.

Why The Question is Important

Why The Question is Important
Posted by on Mar 26, 2015

In the past few weeks, DC has been releasing major reveals from the small and big screen ventures. The Flash introduced time travel and it’s potential to wreak havoc. Arrow has established yet another hero in Atom and fleshing out the Suicide Squad. Not too mention continuous details on the Suicide Squad movie as well as character first looks from Dawn of Justice. There are also numerous DC TV shows in development set to roll out next year.

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Vic Sage as The Question

 

While this is all exciting, there is one character that has not been mentioned that I believe is crucial. That is the Question. The original Question was Vic Sage who after being beaten to the edge of his life, was taken to a Richard Dragon for healing and training. He learned philosophy and martial arts from Dragon and more or less returned to his city to fight the corruption as an investigative journalist. While other vigilantes went after the petty criminals, The Question went after the politicians and corrupt heads of the city.

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Renee Montoya as The Question

 

What made The Question so great is that he was simple. He didn’t have a fortune to buy gadgets or superpowers to bust through walls. All he had was his natural innate skills. Eventually, since he is human after all, he develop lung cancer and sought to pass on his legacy. Enter Renee Montoya, who you might recognize as the Internal Affairs detective from Gotham. Question passes on his teachings and also helps Montoya reconcile her past. They travel to Nanda Parbat, you might recognize that from Arrow, where she trains and eventually buries Vic Sage. She then carries on the Question legacy.

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Darkseid also known as Mr. Crazy Eyes

 

Hopefully you can start to see how Question could fit into DC TV universe. Before we get into that, we have to go over one more bit of the story. During Montoya’s training, Question is trying to prevent Intergang from invading Gotham. Intergang is a global crime organization supported by the New Gods of Apokolips. Whose leader is Darkseid, the DC equivalent of Marvel’s Thanos. To put it simply, Intergang is an organization who dabbles in science, magic, and everything in between whose core beliefs are based upon the Crime Bible. Where the Bible says thou shalt not kill, the Crime Bible says thou shalt kill.

I hate when I stab my books

I hate when I stab my books

Intergang is big and powerful enough to affect the entire DC universe, and the Question takes them on. So here you have a criminal organization so big that it can stretch between both DC’s TV and movie universe. You also have yourself a hero that can introduce our heroes to this threat. Whether or not they introduce Vic Sage first or go straight with Renee Montoya, I really don’t care. Starting with Montoya would definitely add a bit of diversity to DC. As long as you keep Question’s background largely the same, regardless who wears the mask, they can easily fit into the universe DC is building.

One last side note, I haven’t included the new retconned comics history of Question. However, it could still be included.

Fun Fact: Rorschach from Watchmen was based on the Question!

My Marvel Super-Cut

My Marvel Super-Cut
Posted by on Mar 20, 2015

Back around Christmas, Marvel fans were given the greatest gift of all. One fan compiled the necessary information to create a Marvel Super-Cut. This all came about when people realized that the phase one films (Iron Man through The Avengers) were all happening around each other and at the same time. Enter the folks over at The Comic Archive who posted two videos to showcase the actual time stamps in each film and how they fit together.

Of course, being the Marvel fan that I am I set out to make one. Luckily I had started my own phase 1 cut at about the same time this came out so I really just had to double check my own cuts. This last weekend, I finished the phase 2 super-cut (Iron Man 3 through Guardians of the Galaxy). After finishing both I realized something, Marvel has created a cohesive universe beyond just sharing characters.

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When I was splicing these films together, my main worry was that the scene transitions wouldn’t work out. They were all made by different directors after all and could easily have their own distinct visual style. However, the only one that had any odd or difficult scene transitions was Iron Man 3. Even then, it was just a few slide transitions.

Basically, if you watch any Marvel movie it will have the same distinct style. Scene transitions, camera angles, shots, the whole shebang. Consciously, it doesn’t really mean much. However, on a subconscious level it makes a much bigger difference.

Let me put it this way. If you showed someone all of Quentin Tarantino’s films, who didn’t know who he was, what do think they would say? They would probably pick out all of the classic tropes in a Tarantino film. Long tracking shots, almost theater-like monologues, explosive violence, and Samuel L. Jackson. When you watch a Tarantino film, you recognize that it is a Tarantino film.

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Tarantino would fall under the category of Auteur directors. Directors who have such a distinct style that they are seen as the chief author of a film. That the film itself is a direct representation of their creative vision. Other directors that would be included in this category are Akira Kurasawa, Wes Anderson, The Coen Brothers, and many more.

What Marvel has done has made themselves the Auteur director. By making sure each film is in line with their vision, they can differentiate themselves more distinctly from other super hero films. Plus, since they have a recognizable style I postulate that the audience can more easily be sucked into the film. The audience isn’t having to adjust to a new style.

This really just goes to show just how far Marvel is willing to go to keep and control their brand. It also may shed some light onto why Edgar Wright left Ant-man, a film he had been working on for at least a decade. As the article states, many directors have expressed criticisms on the way that Marvel deals with scripts. However, if they are keeping such a tight hold on the look of their films, it makes sense they would also hold onto the scripts just as fiercely.

As a fan of both of these groups, I was extremely bummed out to find out that Edgar Wright had dropped out. Particularly because his particular style would I believe be aptly suited for an Ant-man movie. Now that I have done these super-cuts however, I think I would side with Marvel. Edgar Wright’s style is very distinct. Utilizing lots of jump shots and other techniques to make full comedic use of the camera. Not just in a script but how he shoots the film.

Edgar Wright – How to Do Visual Comedy from Tony Zhou on Vimeo

That video above does a great job explaining it. Basically, Wright’s style allows him to inject visual comedy in any genre of film regardless of the script. Using these techniques, he could have brought the perfect platform for a comedian like Paul Rudd in a more serious setting like Marvel. However, his style would clash with the rest of Marvel. Now if from the beginning Marvel just gave directors a script and allowed them to express their style, I would side with Wright. Since Marvel hasn’t done this, it makes more sense to go with a director who can help shape the story while adopting Marvel’s style.

There is no right or wrong in this. There is just a difference of opinions. While a part of me still wants to see Edgar Wright’s Ant-man, after these super-cuts I would rather have a film that fits in the large universe. Only time will tell and July 17th is fast approaching.

Tomorrowland and Disney’s Other IP

Tomorrowland and Disney’s Other IP
Posted by on Mar 12, 2015

Disney is doing something very interesting with their intellectual properties (IP). I don’t know if there is a strict plan in place nor do I know if this is an actual thing. However, it’s a pretty smart move if Disney is basing movies off their past films and attractions..

What it comes down to is mining their already pre-established IP’s. This idea comes in two parts. First, is their return to their classics, mostly their animated classics, to make live-action adaptations. Second is their exploration of their Disneyland attractions.

To start off with their live-action adaptations, the least interesting of the two, is actually a very smart business move. Hollywood seems to run on remakes and reboots these days. I mean, wouldn’t you want a piece of a potential $12 billion dollar pie? When you go looking into this subject you begin to find numerous articles explaining why it seems there is nothing new in Hollywood. That’s because a) it is a safe investment and b) we as an audience want more of the same.

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This is why actors who do well get payed more, because studio execs know that we want to see them. Nothing wrong with that but it is the reason why we suddenly have 3-4 Chris Pratt movies to look forward to in the coming years. Movies and IP’s work the same way. When there is a character or story that is largely liked by the majority, why would someone make a movie starting from scratch. To be honest, I am okay with this. You want to do a new interesting take on Winnie the Pooh, then go for it! As long as it is it brings something new, like make Christopher Robin an evil genius who goes up against Calvin and Hobbes. Never gonna happen but this has actually made the rounds on the internet.

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While we don’t get that movie, which is a crime, we instead get the Transformers. It makes all the money, but for the wrong reasons. It’s colorfulness and explodieness (totally a word, you don’t even have to look it up) combined with its goldmine level nostalgia is a deadly combination. However, they are all literally the same movie. You could randomly mix and match scenes from all three (oh right there was a fourth) and still come out with a movie that made just as much sense. A lot of this also has to do with international markets but that’s no what where here to discuss.

The point is, Paramount has an IP whose last two movies each made over a billion dollars. Why would they say “well I guess we made all the money and should move on to that Winnie the Pooh bounty hunter movie”. That’s just a bad business move. They will keep making those movies until they stop making money and they will simply keep repeating the formula. That right there is where the problem is.

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Instead of each movie expanding on the universe, we instead keep getting the same plot over and over again. The bad robots go after a robot artifact, the good robots partner with the humans to stop them, explosions happen, the good robots win. Instead of maybe making the bad robots win, killing off characters in a meaningful way, or anything inventive they just add more explosions and fight scenes.

On the flip side we have the Spider-Man franchise. Now before all 2 of you read this, hi mom, and begin to shun me just hold on. Each franchise has brought a new look at the character. While each entry has not been the best, each franchise has taken a different approach. We saw with Tobey Maguire a Spider-Man who was painfully socially awkward who transitions into adulthood. We saw him struggle with being a hero while still trying to be normal. That idea of trying to embrace our gifts to become something extraordinary.

HAHahah, snort

HAHahah, snort

Andrew Garfield gave us a Spider-Man who was always a hero, but who never had the tools to do something more. With his powers gave him the motivation to do more and be more. Not only that but he had to deal with the very real consequences of fighting deranged villains. The people he loves get put into danger and often die. Each iteration had its clear differences in style, metaphor, and plot points. I think where it all went wrong is they tried to go bigger than deeper. It happened at different points but they just tried to copy to a formula.

This is where Disney can succeed with its live-action adaptations. It is their own personal nostalgia gold-mine that they can now introduce twists on the very tropes they created. The best example is Maleficent. Instead of the prince bestowing love’s true kiss on Aurora, it is Maleficent herself bestowing a mothers true love to wake her up. It’s these kinds of things that Disney can do that other studios can’t, simply because they have been establishing their own tropes since Snow White. Now we just need a live-action Dumbo. (I am aware that this is now a thing but at the time this was a novel idea I swear)

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Now the other side to this is the fact that they have more than just their animated films to draw from. They have Disneyland and Disney World attractions to also use. This is where the true brilliance comes in. Essentially, they have pre-made worlds to create stories for. Pirates of the Caribbean is the obvious one to point out. A simple ride that has spawned a series worth over $4 billion dollars. That’s a pretty penny for a ride that lasts about 15 minutes.

They have all of these rides and attractions that are nostalgic across a larger demographic that they are pretty much a blank slate. This is why Tomorrowland is particularly exciting. Sci-fi has been on the rise these past few years and has been turning very dark and gritty. Tomorrowland can bring us back to when sci-fi was about looking towards a bright future. A refreshing return to a more light hearted sci-fi. This would also compliment the original intention behind Tomorrowland‘s creation.

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While it may have taken a moment for Disney to get their feet on the ground, we’re looking at you Haunted Mansion, they may have found their stride. The key I believe with these attraction based movies, is to keep exploring the world. In my mind, that was the big problem with At World’s End. It was merely a continuation of the last film using similar elements rather than bringing anything new in. Sure we got Calypso, but her presence felt largely shoe horned in at the last minute. With Stranger Tides, we got Black Beard, Mermaids, and ships in a bottle. Way more interesting stuff that left us wanting to know more.

This is what Disney needs to do with their attraction movies. Have some overarching plot but instead of just escalating each movie with established concepts, introduce new one to explore the world. The one that could have huge potential is the upcoming Big Thunder Mountain Railroad TV show. With a comic coming out this month based on the idea, they could go in a lot of different directions. The old west is usually presented as a place that has a lot of mysteries. Inherent mysticism that seems to infest the open plains. Only time will tell how it will turn out though.

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What I am trying to get across is that Disney finds itself in fairly unique position. When remakes and reboots are the bread and butter of Hollywood, Disney has it’s own IP’s to pull from. As long as they update them with modern themes and keep things fresh with each installment, Disney can’t really fail.

Final Age Of Ultron Trailer

Final Age Of Ultron Trailer
Posted by on Mar 5, 2015

Alright, in case you missed it yesterday Marvel dropped their final trailer for Age Of Ultron. It was kind of big deal. Now to be honest, the majority of the new footage was, while different, a lot more of the same. We saw Hulk and Iron Man going at it. Everybody looking very disconcerted about things. Generally, more of the same. However, there were a few things that were new and kind of a big deal.

The highlight of this trailer was definitely Ultron’s speech throughout. The more we see and hear James Spader as Ultron the more awesome it gets. It seems pretty obvious that his performance is going to be the highlight of Age Of Ultron. What was also confirmed is that it is indeed Tony Stark who creates Ultron. Until now, it had been only rumored that this would be the case. There was a leak a few months back that revealed this little tidbit. Now it has been confirmed.

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The second highlight is at the very end. We finally get our first look at Vision. In the comics, he was created by Ultron to show that by creating life, he now surpassed humanity. That same leak from earlier also shed some light on Vision. It seems, he will be a creation of Tony Stark and Bruce Banner. Frankly this doesn’t change a whole lot. However, I do hope there is still a connection between Ultron and his original comic creator Hank Pym.

Literally, just a passing mention would be enough. Something along the lines of him being a consultant. Like how Dr. Strange was mentioned in Captain America: Winter Soldier. This also wouldn’t be just to make the fans happy. It would help to give Ant-Man, coming out in July, a little more relevancy.

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What I also found interesting in the new trailer is a scene where Tony Stark picks up Loki’s staff which contains the Mind Infinity Stone. Now, it has been said numerous times that Age of Ultron will lay the ground work for Civil War. A quick refresh, the basic conflict of Civil War in the comics is a push to get the superhuman community in check by registering everyone. The movie version will most likely be a little different. Now, this is pure speculation based off just a few seconds of film. What if when playing around with Loki’s Staff, Tony sees Thanos. He sees it and recognizes the threat which ultimately pushes him towards trying to unify the worlds heroes.

Again, pure speculation but maybe because of this intense fear of what’s coming he pushes to hard. Captain America will not like this and he will, well, push back. It would make the whole situation much more complex. Not only that but it also supports another theory that popped in the wake of this trailer. The yellow spot on Vision’s forehead is another Infinity stone, the soul stone. This isn’t how it is in the comics and is again a theory based on just a few seconds of footage. However, if Tony gets some insight from the Mind stone, he could get a glimpse at the Soul stone. He then uses the stone to create Vision as an AI with more of a conscience. The yellow spot could also just be his solar charging spot like in the comics. It being a Infinity stone is unlikely but makes for a pretty interesting theory nonetheless.

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Now let’s take a second and gossip about Bruce and Natasha. Their budding romance has been rumored/hinted at throughout the build up of the film. The actual nature of it was largely up in the air. It does seem pretty clear at this point. Something is going on and it makes me feel the feels. It also feels very natural when you think about it. Going back to The Avengers, these two do share more than a few very intense moments. I could see how this could work. What we are seeing could also be just a mind trick by Scarlet Witch. Which brings me to my next point.

We finally see the twins actually doing things. Quicksilver punches Captain America right in the face and I’m sure we can expect many, many more punches to the face. We also saw Scarlet Witch using her mind tricks on Natasha. The budding romance we see between Bruce and Natasha could be a result of this. After all, Ultron says that they can tear them apart from the inside out. Messing not only with their minds but feelings as well is a pretty powerful combination.

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Now the last thing that I want to talk about is death. Since the first few details have emerged, Joss Whedon has teased death. Age of Ultron is continually paraded as a dark film. The Avengers brought us to an unprecedented high, Age of Ultron will take us to an unprecedented low. My guess for who is going to die, is Captain America. Now I know what you’re thinking, what about Civil War? Well, you see in the comics Tony Stark and Reed Richards cloned Thor at one point. This was a huge turning point which showcased their hubris. What if the film sees the death of Captain America and in Civil War we see Tony Stark clone Cap for his own cause.

This seems like a pretty far flung theory but if you take into account Tony getting a glimpse from the Mind stone, it could make sense. Cap dies and seeing an opportunity, Tony tries cloning him. It results in some messed up version of Cap. We would see Natasha, Coulson, Winter Soldier, and Falcon leading the charge against this injustice. Tony could also openly admit that it is a clone but sells it as his new idea for a unified earth force. After all, a lot of problems can be solved with an army of super soldiers.

Beyond Cap dying, I would have to place my money on Bruce Banner/Hulk. Yes very hard to kill, but he is a fan favorite. Killing him off would have a powerful affect on the audience. It could also be used as a sign of just how powerful Ultron is. I still like Cap for the death but its still really anyone’s guess if anybody is going to die.

Well there you have it. With a little under two months, all our questions will be replaced by new ones and we will see just where Kevin Feige is taking us on this wild ride.

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How to Build a World

How to Build a World
Posted by on Feb 26, 2015

In the past I have talked about world building and it’s benefits for creating a compelling story. Recently, this idea has come back into my mind for a number of reasons. Marvel’s announcement about adding Spider-Man to the MCU is chief among them. However, my new year’s resolution this year was to re-watch all of Walt Disney’s theatrically released animated films. I’ll detail the experience more when I have actually finished watching all of the 50+ films. As I watch these films, I get to thinking about world building and it’s use in film. Particularly with how Disney has handled it so far. Before that, let me tell you what I think is needed to build a truly wonderful world.

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Most recently, one of the best worlds built from scratch has got to be John Wick. Originally seen as your basic B-level action flick, its masterful world building helped elevate the narrative to another level. What worked so well is that the directors didn’t bother spelling everything out. I’ll do my best not to spoil anything but they essentially introduced elements that obviously had a history but they didn’t tell the audience. They just introduced it as it should be and left it at that. How this helped them is it let the audience to fill-in the gaps.

They introduce a concept such as a currency only mean’t for hitmen and assassins. Instead of giving us some sort of explanation as to how this currency works and its worth, they simply just use it. This currency then becomes this cool gimmick throughout the film that continually piques the audiences interest. It also allows the audience to speculate how these characters gained their varying levels of wealth with this currency. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. We are left to wonder how widely this currency can be used. Is it global? Can it be used as bribery for politicians? We are literally left with endless possibilities. To create a successful world, leaving a little mystery to allow your audience to explore is key.

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What’s also important is having a distinct visual style. Take Big Hero 6. It’s a world where San Francisco and Tokyo have been merged. Here you get distinct combinations of iconic examples of American and Japanese culture. The visual style, as with just about any animated film, is also very distinct. Characters are more caricatures than realistic with features that support or clash with their personalities.

Go Go Tomago looks like a bicyclist or a sprinter. She has the legs of someone who was always pushing to go faster. I mean seriously, just take a look at what Olympic sprinters look like. Her mentality of a tough, fearless, speed demon is only supported by the way she looks. Wasabi on the other hand has an opposite relationship. He looks like your typical strongman, hulk, bruiser type. Broad shoulders, barrel chested, and just big all around. He looks like someone who is called in when someone needs a buddy to help them out in a fight. However, his personality clashes with this perception. Out of the entire group, he is by far the most neurotic and least likely to want to jump into a fight.

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These visual cues, whether directed at characters or scenery, are key to develop a world that the audience can get lost in. It allows the audience to fill in the gaps of what else could be going on in the world.

While having a sense of mystery and a clear visual style is important, nothing can be more important than your question. Every successful world can be boiled down to one question that the world gets shaped around. How would an underground assassin network operate? What would it look if the most advance technologies we have, were accessible and affordable to the entire public? What would the world look like if dragons were real? I bet you can figure out which movies I’m talking about here. This question may not be your starting point, but I believe it is a sign of a well crafted world.

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After Earth, while terrible, had a single nugget that piqued my interest. What would the world look like if humans were suddenly at the bottom of the food chain? Starting there I can see a story forming. What if one day we found that the various species on Earth suddenly seemed to turn on humanity. Where not only animals are no longer afraid to actively defend against humans and their machines, but hunt them down. Amazon forest crews would find themselves fighting off hordes of monkeys who have developed poisonous saliva. Cities would find themselves overrun by the natural wildlife as they refused to be scared away. Throw in plants growing more aggressively and you have yourself a situation that would cause humans to want to flee earth. That right there seems to be a start of a more compelling story than what we got in After Earth.

My observations are not an official, peer reviewed basis for a theory that required months of research. I have simply watched a lot of movies and started to to piece these things together. Most films can be observed this, especially that of the animated genre, and I find two ways to break them down. They either have a strong narrative or a well-built world. Not to say they can’t be both, it’s just that they tend to favor one or the other. For instance, most of the Pixar films would land in the narrative category. This makes sense since they have essentially built their company around how to tell a story. On the other hand, the better Dreamworks films tend to have stronger worlds.

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Why I bring this up is because Disney tends to ride the line. Sometimes it works out well, other times it doesn’t. It seems they have tried both and mostly have had average success on either side. However, those that do the best are usually those that have a stronger narrative base (Frozen, Lion King). What I find interesting though, is that they have created many worlds that are truly unique. Big Hero 6 is the most recent while Treasure Planet is a place I eagerly want them to revisit.

So in conclusion, before this piece gets out of my hands, Disney has tried many different story-telling styles. From world building to strong narratives they, more than most, have tried both. Recently, they are getting their groove back with John Lasseter at the helm. I can only wait in anticipation to see which side of the line Moana and Zootopia fall on.

Why You Should be Watching The Flash

Why You Should be Watching The Flash
Posted by on Feb 12, 2015

I need to have a little disclaimer before I get started. The Flash is hands down my favorite superhero ever. This means two things. One, no matter how good or bad the show is, I would watch it anyway. Second, it makes me hyper critical of the show. So even though I would watch the show no matter the quality, I am not afraid to point out what they do wrong. Fair warning, there are a few mild spoilers below.

With that out of the way lets get into. The Flash premiered this last fall after a pilot style intro in Arrow. This was possibly the perfect way to start the show. Simply because he wasn’t introduced to us a as a superhero. He was the nerdy CSI who had a sweet spot for Felicity. This way, by the time he puts on the suit we already liked the character. Unlike Oliver Queen in Arrow who was pretty much introduced to us as a vigilante. That became his whole identity. It created this one-dimensional character that took about a whole season to gain some depth. With Barry Allen, we already knew him. He was a character before he was a hero, which just became another dimension to the character.

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We’ll get back to the fastest man alive in a second. Because the other factor that helped this show hit the ground running is its supporting cast. The three additional members of Team Flash, Cisco, Caitlyn Snow, and Harrison Wells help to expand the perspectives we get. Something that again was done later in Arrow that helped the show increase in quality. Cisco resonates with the geeky/nerdy side of  Barry Allen and acts as the audiences surrogate. Every time he “creates” the names of the villains is just another little nod to the fans. Caitlyn on the other hand helps to show Barry’s age. Being a young professional and what that looks like in today’s world. Basically, these two characters help show the two major aspects of Barry in a none super hero role. Not too mention when all three of these characters actually get together, we get a pretty unique look at what actually being a superhero could be like. Not too mention Iris West and her father. They both are iconic from the comics and are Barry’s family. They serve as a reminder not only of the tragic death of his mother but that family goes beyond blood.

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Now Harrison Wells does something else for our Scarlet Speedster. He provides a look at what Barry could be. It is still unclear whether Wells falls on the side of the angels or not. However, it is pretty clear that Wells is in it for himself and using his powers for his benefit only. Barry on the other hand views his powers a gift for others. Sure he’ll use it to unpack or change a little faster than normal, but relatively these things are pretty harmless.

Hold on, we’re going to switch gears and do some good ol’fashioned speculation. We know that Wells is a Reverse Flash. Historically, there have been two. The first was Eobard Thawne, a man from the future who gained access to the Speed Force. The other is Hunter Zolomon who gained time manipulation powers that simulated super speed. Without getting too much into, there is enough evidence to support Wells as either evil speedster.

My bet is that he is Eobard Thawne. Whether the other RF is Zolomon or Wells pulling off some kind of time travel trickery is anybodies guess. Honestly it doesn’t matter because Wells has information about the future. Not only that but information that seems to point to pretty significant point in Flash’s history. There is a lot more to speculate on but that’s not the point of this piece.

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That brings us to our next point. Flash has a very colorful rogues gallery one that I would argue is stranger than most. Instead of trying to update these characters or make them more grim, they fully embrace them. Particularly Captain Cold and Heatwave. The show fully embraces the corniness of these characters while still making them believably sinister. This however is nothing compared to when they will introduce Grodd. Grodd is one of Flash’s arch-nemesis and one of his more….weird characters. Simply put, Grodd is also known as Gorilla Grodd. He is a hyper-intelligent, talking, psychic gorilla bent on world domination. The fact that the show runners went with him in the first season is incredible. I mean, once Grodd comes into the picture there isn’t a villain that you couldn’t pull off.

Before we get to our final point, lets get back to Barry Allen. Grant Gustin is possibly just about as perfect for the role as you can get. He easily brings this authenticity that you would expect from someone who loves the Flash. Now, I don’t know if he was a fan before hand but it seems that he was. The Flash, the character, at his heart just want’s to help people. Whether its a villain or not, he wants to use his powers to help others. He’s not on some mission to better the world or exact vengeance, he simply wants to use his powers to the benefit of others. Grant Gustin is able to represent this in spades. Again, as I said earlier I believe this is partly due to how we were introduced to Barry Allen. We saw him as a character first. Someone that we liked. Those feelings get transferred to his time as a The Flash. All I am trying to say is that Grant Gustin does an excellent job of representing at least what I believe to be truest version of the Flash.

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Which brings us to our final point. The Flash show-runners have flung themselves into the Flash history in order to bring us the show that we need. They could of tried to go dark and gritty like Arrow but they didn’t. The Flash, for me, has always been a versatile hero. A hero that one minute will tie robbers shoelaces together to stop them to sacrificing himself to save the multiverse (that’s a whole other can of worms).  He is equal parts fun and serious. His show encapsulates that to a tee. One moment he will be riding high and the next minute he will be brought crashing down. Those extremes can’t really be brought into other superhero shows. Mostly because they are too focused on being serious and dark. The Flash embraces the absurdity of the heroes world so that we can experience new moments of humanity.

What Marvel Could Do With Spider-Man

What Marvel Could Do With Spider-Man
Posted by on Feb 5, 2015

UPDATE: Late last night Marvel released a press release stating that they had come to an agreement with Sony. Spider-man will be joining the MCU in an upcoming film with his own franchise starting July 28, 2017. It seems the arrangement allows for Marvel to handle the brunt of planning and production. However, Sony will retain the distribution, financial, ownership, and final creative rights. Basically they have the power to say yes or no to story ideas. With Spider-man taking Thor: Ragnarok’s release date, there has been a slight shift in release dates. Thor: Ragnarok will release November 3rd, 2017. Black Panther has moved to July 6th, 2018. Captain Marvel is now November 2nd 2018. Rounding it out, Inhumans will now release July 12th, 2019.

What is most interesting is that Infinity War has not changed release dates for part 1 or part 2. Part 1 will release May 4, 2018 and Part 2 will release May 3rd, 2019. The only thing that I can glean from this, is that Black Panther, Captain Marvel, and Inhumans might not be as important to Infinity War as originally thought. My guess, they will be used to start setting up Phase 4. I still believe the Spider-Man franchise should wait till Phase 4, but you can read on to learn more.

 

Ever since the Sony Hack last year, the rumors concerning Spider-Man have been many and varied. To this day there still hasn’t been any official announcement. Even after a supposed Spidey summit in January that involved Sony’s Japan headquarters, no new news. Absolutely nothing. What we do have is a report from Latino-Review that seems to shed some light on not only the fate of Spidey but Marvel Phase 3 in general. You can read a shorter summary over at Comicbook.com that has fewer potential spoilers. Basically, Sony and Marvel came to a compromise that would allow Spidey to appear in Infinity War.

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To clarify, these are mostly unfounded claims and the credibility these claims have is the Latino-Review’s supposed inside source. They haven’t been too far off in the past but I would file these reports under speculation. However, this got me thinking. If Spidey wasn’t going to appear before Infinity War what do you do with him in the mean time? Spidey has to be reintroduced into the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This would probably mean a new actor and a new take on the character. However, I personally feel that if we get another Spidey origin story I might just explode. So I came up with my own way to reintroduce the character.

It involves a slow reintroduction. Without any particular order of importance, I’ll outline how Spidey could be introduced into the MCU. First, he would need a Marvel One-Shot. Marvel One-Shots if you are unaware are short-films that were based on characters or events in the MCU. These were usually attached to the home release of Marvel films. Their focus ranged from Agent Coulson to Trevor’s (The Mandarin) adventures in prison to essentially an Agent Carter pilot. While not very long, these films did a great job of filling in the gaps of what happened after our favorite films.

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For Spidey, I imagine two ways for this to go down. First, we would get a glimpse from Spidey’s life as an established hero. Where he stands in the grand scheme of things and even where he was when New York was under attack. I imagine Spidey being a little older. He has been around working at the Daily Bugle and hanging out with MJ. Most of his heroics would be pretty minor. Muggers, robbers, and general thugs would be his main villains. He was mostly an urban myth until the battle of New York where he is seen actively helping people and fighting off the aliens.

Then we would see where he is at now. With most heroes untouchable by the press. I mean how are you going to paint a guy who wears the American flag as a menace. Since Spidey is an “unofficial” hero, J. Jonah Jameson targets him for his rants. We then see how Spidey has been struggling to fight the press and his regular villains, something we have seen before. We would then at the very end see Tony Stark, or somebody representing him, approach Spidey. Not only to join the Avengers but to start working at Stark Industries.

The only two things that need to happen in this one-shot is Spidey’s recruitment and J. Jonah Jameson. This is mostly so that we can see J. K. Simmons become JJJ once again so that all is right with the world.

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Beyond the one-shot we would also need Spidey to do some crossovers. Particularly, I think Spidey should crossover in the upcoming Marvel Netflix series. Since these series will focus around street level heroes, it’s not hard to imagine these heroes crossing paths. Spidey is first and foremost a street hero. Stopping muggings and what not since isn’t quite cut out for the big cosmic stuff.

Spidey wouldn’t even have to physically appear. They could just dot references here and there about him. Ideally, we would actually see Spidey but I wouldn’t be heart broken. If he was a regular on the series he could act as a branch between the street level heroes and the rest of the MCU.

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The last thing that I think would need to happen is for an appearance in a major MCU film. Ideally this would have been Civil War. However, it has been confirmed that isn’t an option anymore. What could still work is to have Spidey appear in Black Panther. At this stage, Spidey would have to be an established hero who was either working at Stark Industries or has founded Parker Industries from the comics. What I imagine, is Spidey is invited by T’Challa to Wakanda to consult on something. Depending on how the events of Civil War leave the state of the Avengers, Spidey could be representing Tony Stark in some way. Or after Spidey is invited to Wakanda, whoever is acting as the current spymaster could approach Spidey to observe the state of the country. Whatever happens largely depends on what the state of the MCU is in at the time.

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Now one other decision that would need to be made is who would actually play Spidey. I have two things to say about this. First, if they stick with Peter Parker they should keep Andrew Garfield on. I would rather them pretend the first two Amazing Spider-Man films didn’t happen but they could still fit them in. We know that other than Tony Stark and Bruce Banner the other Avengers went to do their own thing away from New York. Spidey’s two films could potentially fit into Phase 2 of the MCU. Cap was dealing with Hydra, Tony was dealing with the Mandarin, and Thor was dealing with Malekith. All of these distractions would have pulled them away from New York. This isn’t a perfect solution but if they had to, this is the only way I see them adding them to the continuity.

Now if they were to recast Spidey, I think they should go with the Miles Morales Ultimate version. Miles would bring some much needed diversity to the MCU and you could distance yourself from the Amazing Spider-Man films. You have two options with Miles. Either you establish Miles as the only Spider-Man that has ever happened. It would totally work and would mainly be simple substitution. Or you could still retain a connection with Peter Parker. In the Ultimate comics, an alternate updated version of the Marvel Universe, Miles received his powers from another spider from Oscorp. He gained similar abilities to Spider-Man but kept them secret because there was already one Spider-Man and Miles just wanted a normal life. However, Peter dies and Miles picks up the mantle soon after.

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That right there does two things for the MCU. Gives us a new Spider-Man with the potential to still acknowledge the original incarnation of the character and establishes an important precedent. The precedent of passing on the mantle. Eventually, the actors playing our favorite characters have to retire from the MCU. Heck even Robert Downey Jr. came close after Iron Man 3 from leaving the studio. By introducing Miles Morales, you can show that these heroes are interested in establishing legacies. Recognizing folks that come their way that could carry-on what they started. Very important if Marvel wants to continue their brand.

All of this to say that nothing can really happen until we know the fate of Spider-Man. I do not think we need a new Spider-Man film yet. I would rather see the first Phase 4 film be a new Spider-Man film and set him up as the new driving force of the MCU. However, as long as we don’t get another origin story I’m pretty much happy.

Kang the Conqueror and the Realm of Kings

Kang the Conqueror and the Realm of Kings
Posted by on Jan 29, 2015

20th Century Fox has finally given us our first look at Fantastic Four. In the wake of the first trailer release, there have been many breakdowns that pull the trailer apart. While normally this is my first step, I decided to take a different route. I had this idea while watching the trailer that would bring the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) and Fox’s Universe (FU, yep that’s what I’m gonna call it) together. It dives pretty deep into comic lore so grab that red pill and lets see how far the rabbit hole goes.

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It all starts with the new Fantastic Four (FF) movie. The reboot will draw more of its inspiration from the Ultimate Universe. The cliff notes, the Ultimate Universe is a modern retelling of the Marvel Universe. Most heroes are younger and the whole superhero phenomenon started in the 2000’s. Origins largely stayed the same with a few tweaks here and there. For instance, the original FF gained their powers after being exposed to radiation in space. The Ultimate FF gained their powers after exposure to the N-Zone or Negative Zone. The N-Zone is another dimension where physics are fundamentally different. This is the route that the new FF movie will take. This is the tipping point so you better hold on.

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Ultimate Fantastic Four

 

The N-Zone is parallel to the normal universe. It is often used as a bridge for cosmic villains to try and conquer the Earth or as a base of operations. Heck, even Reed Richards (Mr. Fantastic, leader of the FF) and Tony Stark built a prison their to hold super powered humans during Civil War. This is where my whole idea/plan/theory/geek delusion begins. What if Fox and Marvel used the N-Zone as a bridge between their universes. This discovery would eventually lead to a massive crossover. From the FU, the FF would make the discovery of other dimensions. On the MCU side of things, we would have Dr. Strange. Kevin Feige has already gone on record that Dr. Strange will deal with alternate dimensions. A little reference to the FU universe would be all that it would take to get the ball rolling.

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Dr. Strange

 

While we need a bridge to physically connect the universes, we also need a villain. In comes Kang the Conqueror, a time traveler who seems perfectly poised to interact with both. You see, Kang is from the 30th century where he is obsessed with history. In this pursuit he discovers the time travel technology created by Dr. Doom, we’ll come back to him in a sec. Kang then travels back in time in a Sphinx shaped ship to ancient Egypt. His goal is to claim En Sabah Nur, also known as Apocalypse. If Apocalypse sounds familiar, that’s because he will be the next villain that the X-Men face in their next movie. After he travels back in time he is confronted by the FF and eventually defeated.

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Kang the Conqueror

Now back to Dr. Doom. Doom is the arch nemesis of the FF and more intimately Reed Richards. In the comics, Doom is practically an unparalleled genius and is a larger villain for the entire Marvel Universe. He is the ruler of the fictional Eastern European country Latveria. The new movie is changing up his origin by turning him into a hacker whose handle is Doom. This has caused some major backlash from the geek community since it seemed to turn Doom into an anti-social hacker with very little bravado. This interpretation is very different from the Doom we know and love. His manner can best be compared to a combination of Khan (Star Trek: Into Darkness) and Loki. Some might disagree but Doom has literally stood up to gods and declared his sovereignty which he then actually enforces. Awesome, right?

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Dr. Doom

 

Why he is important to us is for his time travel tech and his connection to Kang. You see at one point, it was thought that Kang was a descendant of Doom. The comics have since made this unclear but it is still there nonetheless. So here we have a villain who is pretty intimately tied to both franchises owned by Fox. What about the MCU’s heroes? I’m so glad you asked!

Fairly recently, back in a 2010 there was a Marvel comics event called Realm of Kings. Essentially you had the Inhumans locked in galactic combat with another empire. They detonated a bomb that created a tear in space-time and gave entry to another universe. A universe where “Life has won, Death has lost” and is subsequently infested with creatures that have infested the universe. Labeled the Cancerverse, the Guardians of the Galaxy, who had been dealing with similar tears, along with other cosmic heroes set out to close the tear. Welcome to comics ladies and gentleman. At one the Guardians of the Galaxy are sent spiraling through time where they meet Kang. This is a future version of the character is interested in helping the Guardians. We’ll come back to this, just know that Kang has very recently been involved with some of movie heroes.

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So what would this look like in film? Well since Fox’s plans for X-men and FF are a little less known, let’s start on their side. What I would like to see is to have their universe first take on Annihilus. To put it simply, Annihilus is the big bad ruler of the N-Zone. Incredibly powerful, he would be a very good threat for the FF to take on for their first story arc. There could even be a little crossover with X-men. Some of the X-men could help the FF in battling Annihilus.  During however many films this arc would encompass, we would get little tidbits of Doom. Think of it this way, Doom would be gathering power and tech for his time travel machine. Through his conquests he naturally comes into conflict with the FF. He wouldn’t be the main villain and he would often manipulate the FF to aid in his conquests. Whether this was directly or indirectly doesn’t really matter.

The second story arc would place Doom front and center. Using his power and tech that he has been gathering to essentially wage war against the world. The FF would lead the charge and things could crossover with the X-men. For instance, Doom could team up with someone like the High Evolutionary or some other baddie of the X-Men. What would be a cool twist on a character is to have Doom team up with Forge. Forge is a mutant whose power is literally to invent. In the Ultimate universe, Forge is described as being able to create whatever he can think of. In either universe, Forge has always been a little less than a hero. Having Forge be villain wouldn’t be too far of a stretch in my opinion.

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Forge

While the FF are doing their thing, we would get a host of X-men movies while set in the same universe, aren’t explicitly connected. Instead we would get films that explore more and more X-men. In a perfect world, we would see Forge as a manipulator of the X-men. Then in the final film we would see a crossover where the FF and X-men would fight both Doom and Forge. At this point it is also revealed that they have developed a time machine. At the end of the final film we would get a little teaser of Kang in the future discovering the tech.

Now that we have tackled Fox’s side of things, lets look at the MCU. Obviously, the Kang stuff would have to start after Infinity War in 2019 or 2020. My thought is that after this war, we see these tears appear. The earth heroes would go home and they would face their own villains, possibly the Masters of Evil. Basically, the Masters of Evil are the anti-Avengers. Put together by Baron Zemo, set to appear in Captain America: Civil War, to fight the Avengers. On the cosmic side of things, we would see the Guardians of the Galaxy taking care of these tears in space-time. We would also get introduced to Adam Warlock. Regardless of all this speculation, I think we will see Adam on the big screen. To put it simply, he is space Gandalf who has historically been tied to the Infinity Gauntlet and the Guardians of the Galaxy.

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Most recently, Adam was helping the Guardians of the Galaxy seal these tears in the comics. This all happened during the Realm of Kings arc which I mentioned earlier. Things are about to get real confusing so hold on. In an attempt to seal the last tear, Adam becomes his evil alter ego, the Magus. Magus is an evil version of Adam who rules a religious empire known as the Universal Church of Truth. In all this madness some of the Guardians are sent sailing through various timelines, until they meet Kang. Now this is a future Kang who wishes to stop The Magus. Kang’s motivation is to stop The Magus from becoming the evil in all timelines. He helps the Guardians by giving them a weapon to help defeat Magus and stop the current future from happening.

For the movie side of things, I hope they have The Magus as the big baddie for the second story arc regardless of what I say here. He could have a hand in forming the Masters of Evil and could be the next big cosmic threat. In my plan, the final confrontation with The Magus would be after our heroes run-in with Kang. He first gives them the power to fight Magus and also gives them a warning. A warning that his younger self is coming and to prepare. To make sure that this wouldn’t be completely unexpected, we would have him be a villain for a solo film. I would make it Dr. Strange. While Kang is a time traveler, he is also a dimension hopper. He could masquerade as a sorcerer until the end of the film when Dr. Strange discovers Kang’s “magic” is simply future tech.

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Kang the Conqueror

 

All through both universes we would get little hints that there are other dimensions out there. Whether they be similar or vastly different. It wouldn’t take much across all these films. The key being subtle enough where it doesn’t overtake each movies plot. These hints and easter eggs would culminate in a final button scene. Here we see the FF finally crossover into the MCU. Or Dr. Strange appears to the FF. Either way doesn’t matter much to me. We would then get a trilogy of films called the Kang Dynasty. First film we see the Fox’s heroes take on Kang. The second would have Marvel heroes battling Kang. The third and final film would give us a massive crossover that would be on a completely different scale then we have ever seen.

Two final notes. First, superhero films will eventually hit critical mass. It’s the inherent problem with sequels and franchises. You always have to up the ante from the previous film. My plan would lead to that escalation. Plus, with all the time travel hijinks you could feasibly reset everything and start over. Not only that, but this whole thing would take awhile and studio cooperation unseen in this genre of films. I do fully expect that my dreams will not be realized but oh well. I do hope, that we will at least see some of my ideas on the big screen.

Second, there is still Sony to consider. They have Spider-Man who in comics just went through a dimension hopping extravaganza himself. Spidey’s fate is still up in the air, but what if he were to come back to Marvel? That’s a conversation for another time. Maybe next week.

 

The Next Animation Renaissance

The Next Animation Renaissance
Posted by on Jan 22, 2015

Animation is my favorite genre of film. For a multitude of reasons that I will get into, it simply has always captured my attention and imagination. I might be a little biased growing up in the Disney renaissance of the 90’s. Nonetheless, animation has changed in the past decade on both the small and large screen. It has been elevated to include more then just childish humor and is far better for it.

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First off let’s talk about the technology. As just about everything, animation has seen a huge benefit from the rapid advancement in technology. Even if you are comparing animation from only a few years ago. An excellent example is the Toy Story Trilogy. Going from the first to the last, you see a very clear advancement in detail and overall richness in the animation. Taking movies such as Big Hero 6, the progress of animation is even clearer. Why is this important? Simple, it allows animators to fit more into a single scene. Whether that’s something as ordinary as more blades of grass or as entertaining as including some hidden easter eggs.

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With more detailed animation comes the risk of the uncanny valley. The uncanny valley is essentially a point in animation where it is one step below photo realistic. It quite frankly creeps out the audience. This reaction is so negative that it actually turns people off of the content. This is where animation style is key. Animation is not hindered by realism. It’s part of the reason why it’s one of my favorite genres. Their characters can be as human as you want. Lets take Big Hero 6. It has people but they aren’t hyper realistic. They are more caricatures whose features help to accentuate the characters personalities. So, while animation continues to be more detailed, it has built in methods to circumvent the uncanny valley

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Second is the level of the story telling. I would cite Pixar as the first sign of this idea. Pixar has made story paramount. They use story as the base and build off of it. They rarely make cash grabs and they are always using their stories to push the limits of technology. In the recent book Creativity, Inc., we get a unique inside look into the development of Pixar and their feature films. Putting the story first is something that I believe to be unique to animation. I’m not saying it can’t happen in other genres of film, it’s just more important to have a good story in animation. What it comes down to is the cost of an animated film.

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For example, lets compare The Avengers to Toy Story 3The Avengers cost 220 million dollars to produce. That is not a cheap movie and had more than a few incredible scenes that were the definition of blockbuster spectacle. On the other side, you have Toy Story 3. It required no traveling to shoot at other locations, costume pieces, or just about anything else a live action film would need. It cost 200 million dollars to produce. Now, money is not the only cost in making a film. Time is also incredibly crucial. Toy Story 3 took  approximately 4 years to completeThe Avengers took about half that time. You can see how animated films can require a similar amount of money to produce and can take even longer to actually finish. This all means that animated films have a smaller margin for error. This is where a strong story comes in. No matter what the medium, a strong story is easy to sell and will always succeed. Animated films don’t have the luxury of doing reshoot’s on the fly. Animators have to go in having a nearly crystal clear picture of what they want so that they don’t waste anytime creating their film.

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The last sign of a new animation renaissance is the infused messages. For a long while, animated films were seen as children films. Things are changing. With the advancements in technology and story telling it allows these films to transcend their assigned genres. To clarify, the animated films I am talking about are those that are still targeted at children and families. We are starting to get films that aren’t afraid to tackle truly adult or grown-up subject matter. Whether you look at Up or Frozen, animated films aren’t shy about infusing complex messages. The clearest example of a studio that does this is LAIKA. Their first two films Coraline and Paranorman are truly mind blowing in the themes they chose to include. I don’t want to spoil the films for you but to put it simply, these films perfectly cover themes ranging from homosexuality, fear mongering, mob mentality, fitting in, parent child relationship, and more.

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You are even seeing this on the small screen. Most recently, the example that comes to mind is The Legend of Korra. In its series finale, we saw the first openly homosexual couple with Korra and Asami. This is huge as this is often seen as taboo in the genre. It has never really been explicitly included. Yet here we are. A more general example is Adventure Time. A show that on the surface looks like some collection of drug fueled animations, but actually has a lot of heart. It does a great job of combining ridiculous adventures with pretty complex and heart felt messages.

The fact that studios are willing to tackle such complex themes is the surest sign that we are entering a new renaissance. The first animated renaissance gave us the music that captured a generation. I myself am listening to the Disney Pandora station while writing. This time around, we are going to get an age of animated films that will truly transcend the children’s genre. Films that tackle issues and themes that resonate regardless of age. The kind of film that will emotionally impact a 22 year old just as much as a 10 year old.

With technology that is allowing for more complex worlds to be created, stories that drive the production, and themes that capture our emotional attention. This is what the next animated renaissance will look like, so buckle up. It’s going to be a fantastic ride.