Archive for the ‘Animation’ Category

Joe (Jamie Foxx) is a disgruntled music teacher, who just got a full-time job as a music teacher.  He should be happy, but he dreams of getting an audition with a jazz musician.  Joe gets his shot when an ex-student of his named Curley (Questlove) gets Joe a chance to sit in on piano a saxophonist named Cassandra, (Angela Bassett) This is Joe’s dream gig.  But Joe falls down a manhole, and dies.  Joe ends up on a conveyer belt, and his way to the afterlife, but escapes, and becomes a mentor to Soul 22, (Tina Fey) a soul in the Great Before who hasn’t gotten her spark, despite the attempts of many famous mentors.  Does Joe help 22 find her spark?  Does Joe get another chance at life? 

Animation is a great palette to discuss metaphysical issues.  An animator can draw anything a writer imagines, so the sky is literally the limit.  So, what do Disney’s writers give the audience? A rehash of Heaven Can Wait, a plot twist out of Freaky Friday, and the ultimate insult, the viewer is made to think that the story is about one character, when it’s about another.  The ending doesn’t even let the supposed focus of the film make the most important decision of his life.  There are two or three endings that are better than the one the writers decided on, it was a cop-out and it was incomplete, and that’s the worst of both worlds.  Inside Out was a much better look inside a person’s emotional makeup, and a much better film overall.  There are some laugh out loud lines, but overused premises and an all too conventional ending ruin what could have been an extraordinary film. 

The acting is very good.  Jamie Foxx did a very good job a playing a man who tries to please everyone but himself.  He is believable as a musician, maybe because he’s played one before in Ray.  He conveys Joe’s love of music well. Tina Fey transfers her annoying character from 30 Rock to this movie pretty effortlessly, the character is a bit edgy, Fey seems to want to indulge the edginess, but the writers don’t.  Phylicia Rashad is very good as Joe’s mom, she should have had a bigger role. Angela Bassett is good in a small role.  And New Zealand actress Rachel House stands out as irritating human calculator, Terry. 

The direction is not that good.  The animation of the afterlife is gorgeous, even though the features of the black characters seem a bit exaggerated.  The music by Jon Baptiste and Trent Reznor is very good and differentiates the movie from other Disney Pixar films. However, the plot device is old and hackneyed.  The ending is the real problem, the writers and director played it too safe, instead of going for the meaningful ending, and director Pete Doctor doesn’t let the movie play out, he cuts off the movie before revealing an integral part of the film, leaving the audience hanging. 

Soul:  Fails at its sole purpose. 

Ariel (Jodi Benson) is a strong-willed mermaid, the 16-year-old daughter of King Triton. (Kenneth Mars) Ariel collects human nick knacks from the surface, even though neither she or her seagull friend Scuttle (Buddy Hackett) knows what they are. King Triton is annoyed that Ariel missed a musical performance, because she was on the surface. Triton asks the royal composer, Sebastian (Samuel E. Wright) to keep an eye on Ariel, but she goes up to the surface again, and sees Eric, (Christopher Daniel Barnes) strapping, young seafaring lad, and Ariel subsequently saves Eric’s life.

When Triton finds out that Ariel has been to the surface multiple times, he gets angry and uses his Trident to destroy Ariel’s collection of human paraphernalia. This rash judgement plays right into the hands of the Sea Witch Ursala, (Pat Carroll) who has been plotting to extract King Triton’s power, and usurp his throne. Ursala approaches Ariel and asks her to make a deal. Ursula will give Ariel human legs in exchange for her voice. Ariel impulsively takes the deal, can she attract Eric without her greatest gift, her voice?

The Little Mermaid is a classic movie for two major reasons, animation, and the music, The animation is beautiful, bright and colorful and makes the underwater look very inviting. After such animated and semi-animated flops in the 70’s like Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Robin Hood, and Pete’s Dragon, the animation was refreshing and looked like Disney’s classic animation. The characters were interesting and had their own personalities. King Triton was regal and strong, Scuttle seemed confused, Sebastian was only interested in his position in the royal court, and Ursala was scheming and manipulative, much like Cruella De Vil, she even bears a passing resemblance to Cruella, as well as Pat Carrol, the actress who portrayed her The music takes this movie to another level, “Under the Sea” “Part of Your World” “Kiss The Girl” among others, are not only very entertaining, but they move the story along as well.

There are flaws, Ariel is only 16, she shouldn’t plan to be marrying anyone. Ariel and Eric don’t really get to know each other, Ariel literally can’t speak when they are dating, not a basis for a good relationship, and a lyrical reference to a blackfish in the Under the Sea song, is accompanied by an unflattering caricature of a black female fish. Even with some flaws, this movie became a template for many other Disney classics, a little romance, a little comedy, lots of songs, that’s the current Disney formula, and it’s working. Beauty and The Beast, The Lion King, and Aladdin, to name a few, have all followed a similar formula, without seeming formulaic. There was a sequel to The Little Mermaid, not nearly as good, and there will be a remake, because Hollywood has no new ideas.

The acting is good, especially by the character actors. Jodi Benson gives Ariel that teenage rebellion and stubbornness that Ariel needs and she has a great singing voice. Christopher Daniel Barnes gives Eric a happy go-lucky attitude, and there’s not much else to the character. Samuel E Wright gives Sebastian a Trinidadian accent and a haughty air about him. Buddy Hackett makes Scuttle funny and endearing all at once. Pat Carroll oozes evil just as much as her character oozes black ink, and Carroll seems to enjoy playing the scheming, vindictive Ursula, maybe a little too much. Ursula even gets her own song. Rene Auberjonois almost steals the film in his one major scene as a psycho French chef.

The direction is good, the pacing is fast, the musical numbers are staged well, the animation is stunning. The set piece is set in a storm, which makes the scene much more dramatic, and the directors get very good performances, both directors are veterans of the newer Disney animated films, Hercules, Aladdin, The Princess and The Frog and Moana. A flashback and a small backstory involving Triton and Ursula would have added a lot to the story, but the Little Mermaid made over 200 million, and probably saved Disney as a studio.

The Little Mermaid: Get hooked on it.

Hare Um Scare Um (1939)
Hunter John Sourpuss, sick of the high price of meat goes rabbit hunting, and Happy Rabbit is the target.

The prototype to Emer Fudd is not great, his voice is too whiny, and he is too angry. Happy Rabbit, the precursor to Bugs, is not anything to write home about either, his voice is a cross between Woody Woodpecker and Daffy Duck. Mel Blanc used to do Woody’s voice for about a year. The gags are the same, Bugs dressing up as a doctor, Bugs dressing in drag as a female dog, but it’s just not the same. The uncut ending is the best part of the whole cartoon, but Elmer Fudd is a much better commentary on hunters, and Bugs is much funnier in his 1941 incarnation.

Tortoise Beats Hare (1941)
Cecil Turtle (Mel Blanc) bets Bugs Bunny (Mel Blanc) ten dollars that he can beat Bugs in a race. Does Cecil win?

The jokes start right away with Bugs misreading the credits on the title card, there are a few good puns, but the writers give away the ending near the beginning of the cartoon, and that makes the ending less funny than it could have been. Bugs is kind of a jerk, and a bully in this early episode, later he becomes more of a champion of the little guy, but this Bugs needed refinement. He’s a little rough around the edges. The animation is good.

The Heckling Hare (1941)
Bugs (Mel Blanc) faces off with a dog named Willoughby (Kent Rogers) chasing him.


The animation is lush and green, a typical forest backdrop. There’s no specific reason why this dog is hunting a rabbit, but Willoughby is a gentle soul, who Bugs puts through the paces, because bugs does that to everyone. There are a couple of funny gags, like Bugs and the dog making faces at each other, which Bugs stops doing, and Bugs holds a card saying “Silly isn’t he?” Good voice work by Kent Rogers who gives Willoughby a head cold to make his voice distinctive. The ending actually caused a dispute between producer Leon Schlessinger and director Tex Avery, Avery left Warner Brothers because of the dispute. For what it’s worth, Schlessinger was right, the Avery ending was redundant and violent. Avery went on to make violent Tom & Jerry cartoons for MGM.

Wabbit Twouble: (1941)

Elmer Fudd (Arthur Q. Bryan) goes to Jellostone National Park for some rest and relaxation. Do Bugs and a grizzly bear let Elmer relax?

This one is funny right off the bat, Elmer’s driving an old jalopy to a Conga beat. How can anyone not laugh at that? Bugs breaks the fourth wall several times, and there’s a funny scene involving Elmer, the Bear and the William Tell Overture. Music is key to adding humor to these cartoons, Elmer getting ready for bed is funny too. It’s man vs nature presented in a humorous way. The ending is also ironic.

The Wabbit Who Came to Supper (1942)

Bugs Bunny (Mel Blanc) becomes the houseguest from hell after Elmer (Arthur Q Bryan) inherits 3 million dollars from his Uncle Louie, with the promise that Elmer harms no animals, especially rabbits.

This is a funny setup, ad Bugs does things to drive Elmer crazy, like showering, shaving, using Elmers pink powderpuff. Why does a single man like Elmer Fudd have a pink powderpuff? It just adds to the humor. The first reveal is actually very funny, the second big joke that ends the cartoon, doesn’t make any sense, because the cartoon makes a point of taking place in July. Michael Maltese went for one too many jokes and lost. But it’s still a funny cartoon with good animation.

The Wacky Wabbit (1942)

Elmer (Arthur Q Bryan) is in the desert prospecting for gold when Bugs Bunny (Mel Blanc) shows up to distract from his efforts.

Here’s an interesting tidbit from this cartoon Elmer was prospecting for gold to help the war effort in WWII. This puts a whole new perspective on this cartoon, Buga in retrospect, comes off as kind of a jerk, and it makes Elmer more sympathetic than he already was. There is one funny scene where Bugs cuts off Elmer’s pants, and Elmer’s line is laugh out loud funny.

Bugs Bunny Gets The Boid (1942)

Mama Buzzard (Sara Berner) implores her shy, easily embarrassed son, Beaky (Kent Rogers) whom she calls “Killer” to bring home a rabbit or something. So Beaky goes after Bugs Bunny. (Mel Blanc) Does he catch him.

There’s a negative stereotype of the Italian mother in this cartoon, pushy domineering, it was common to make fun of Italians in the 40’s and 50’s, because they were the new immigrants at the time. Look at Mrs. Manicotti on the Honeymooners, she was an object of jokes and derision, it was a sad reflection of the time. But this cartoon is mostly a happy reflection of the time.There are classic scenes in this cartoon, Bugs as air traffic controller, Bugs and Beaky dancing to a Glen Miller type version of “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree”. This cartoon has a sweet ending, which is unusual for these Warner Bros cartoons, but appropriate for this one. The animation is good, and Kent Rogers again provides good voice work, and Sara Berner does the Italian accent.

Case of The Missing Hare: (1942)

Bugs is antagonized by a magician named Ala Bahma, who papers over his hole in a tree, with ads for his magic show, and then hits Bugs with a blackberry pie.

Interesting that Bugs’ hole is in a tree in this cartoon. Bugs also has the iconic line “Of course you realize this means war!” A line he uses again and again in other cartoons. The real joke here is Ala Bahma, a third-rate magician, first rate self-promoter, who picked a fight with the wrong rabbit. Bugs says “I’m here to help you ” which really means he’s here to sabotage Ala Bahma’s act, which he does in many ways. Neither of them can say prestidigitate. Bugs ends the proceedings by quoting a Red Skelton character, “If I dood it, I ‘ll get a whippin’ “I dood it!” Another Tedd Pierce written gem.

Hold That Lion, Please (1942)

Leo (Tedd Pierce) a bashful lion is out to prove he’s king of the jungle after some taunting by some fellow jungle creatures. Will Bugs Bunny (Mel Blanc) teach Leo a lesson or be an early dinner for Leo?

The lion is such a simpleton and such a good-natured type that the viewer almost wants him to catch Bugs. He’s like the Cowardly Lion in The Wizzard of Oz, not able to instill fear in anyone, but Bugs finally makes him angry, and just as he is about to sink his paws into Bugs, he gets a call from Hortense, who is Hortense? Watch and see. This is one of the best early Bugs episodes, because of the ironic ending. Leo’s a good character too. Leo is played by one of the best Looney Toons writers Tedd Pierce. He wrote this short. His name will pop up a lot.

The Hare-Brained Hypnotist (1942)

Elmer Fudd (Arthur Q Bryan) discovers another tool to hunt Bugs Bunny. (Mel Blanc) Bugs thinks that learning hypnotism will work in his favor, will it?

This is a really smart cartoon written by Michael Maltese. He introduces a new tool in Elmer’s hunting arsenal, hypnosis, and Bugs of course learns how to use hypnosis, but the humor comes with what comes after Bugs learns how to use hypnosis. It really is funny under the heading of Be Careful What You Wish For. The last line is another WWII reference, in 1942, the US was a year into WWII.

Tortoise Wins By A Hare (1943)

Bugs Bunny wants a rematch, and Cecil Turtle is more than happy to oblige.

This is an actual sequel to a cartoon, 1941’s Tortoise Beats Hare, and the results are funnier than the original. Bugs dressing up as an old man and calling Cecil Johnny, just utter genius. Bugs thinks he’s got the inside dope on Cecil this time, but does he? This toon has a lot of WWII references, Bugs is carrying gas rationing cards, and one newspaper headline says Hitler Commits Suicide, which hadn’t happened yet in 1943. The ending is pretty violent, which makes e wonder how HBO Max chose the cartoons. Kent Rogers, Tedd Pierce, and Michael Maltese all join Mel Blanc for voice characterizations. The animation is good on this toon as well.

Super Rabbit (1943)

Professor Cannifraz (Kent Rogers) experiments with Bugs Bunny (Mel Blanc) by giving him super carrots. Can Bugs stop rabbit hater Cottontail Smith before he drives all the rabbits out of the West?

This is another hilarious Bugs Bunny short. Of course, it’s a satire on Superman with Bugs coming out of the phone booth several times, once not in the costume he planned. Bugs leads a laugh out loud cheer for himself, and there’s just wacky humor when Bugs sees another animal while flying, and the other animal is shocked to see Bugs flying. There’s also a reference to the movie Ball of Fire, for movie buffs, and a tip of the cap to the Marines, in the middle of WWII.

Jack Wabbit and The Beanstalk (1943)

Bugs Bunny hears about the giant’s victory garden full of huge carrots. What will the giant think when he finds Bugs chopping down his carrots?

This is another classic take on a fairy tale. The giant is no match for the quick-witted Bugs. It’s kind of a disappointment that the giant is slow of foot as well as mind. But there are good jokes in here, the giant wears a grandfather clock like a wristwatch. There’s the WWII reference “Put out those lights!” And the classic line, “Look out for that first step, it’s a lulu.” Good animation, like all the early Bugs cartoons. Written by Michael Maltese, also a very funny writer.

Wackiki Wabbit (1943)

Two men lost at sea on a makeshift boat are starving and hallucinating about food, when they see an island. The island is inhabited by Bugs Bunny. (Mel Blanc) Then men try to make Bugs into dinner, but fail, chasing him all over the island, only to come up empty. At the height of their frustration, the men see a ship, are they going to be saved?
The animation is rich and colorful in this one. There are lots of funny gags, Bugs doing a native dance, speaking Hawaiian, and finally the scene with the ship the cruelest irony of them all. This cartoon was drawn long before Hawaii was made a state, so there was a good bit of imagination involved in creating a Polynesian island.

Falling Hare (1943)

Bugs tangles with a gremlin trying to damage an American airfield and American plane during WWII.

The Gremlin annoyed me as a kid because he got the best of Bugs, and Bugs was always at his best when he got the better of someone else, but this cartoon holds up well, with all its political and military references, and Musical Director Carl Stalling playing “Dark Eyes” in the middle of this cartoon, the short even ends with a WWII rationing joke. The Gremlin became iconic because of a Steven Spielberg movie, but Gremlins started as WWII folklore fore creatures destroying airplanes. Good animation, good voice characterizations, even though the Gremlin’s laugh sounds like Woody Woodpecker.

Little Red Riding Rabbit (1944)

Bugs (Mel Blanc) is a present for Little Red Riding Hood’s (Bea Benederet) grandma to have, see. Her Grandma’s away, working the swing shift at Lockheed, but the Wolf is more interested in eating Bugs and kicking Red to the curb. What happens to the Lonney Toons version of this fractured fairy tale?

Bea Bernaderet as Red Riding Hood steals the laughs from Bugs in this one, from her rendition of “Five O’clock Whistle”, to her grating voice saying “I got a little bunny rabbit for you ta have.” Billy Bletcher as The wolf is pretty funny too joining Bugs in an impromptu version of “Put On Your Old Gray Bonnet”. Just when the viewer thinks Bugs has the wolf where he wants him, Bugs has second thoughts, with the admonition, “If I do it, I’ll probably hate myself in the morning.” The twist ending makes a funny cartoon one of my all-time favorites. Michael Maltese wrote this one. Bea went on to voice Betty Rubble in the Flintstones.

Bugs Bunny And the Three Bears (1944)

A hungry Poppa Bear (Mel Blanc) concocts a plan to attract Goldilocks to their house, but all Momma Bear (Bea Benederet) can make is carrot soup. Guess who that attracts?

After much consideration, this is my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon. It came down to this cartoon, and Little Red Riding Rabbit. Bugs Bunny and The Three Bears has three very funny characters, and angry Poppa Bear, a hungry dim-witted Baby Bear, and a love-starved Momma Bear. Into this mix enters Bugs, who just wants a meal, but his oft used charm backfires in a hilarious way. Bugs also sings a very funny version of “King For A Day.” The interplay between Poppa and Junyer is classic, as is the way the family keeps running into each other. And the most classic of all Bugs Bunny lines “Tell me more about my eyes.” Little Red Riding Rabbit and Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears were released one month apart in 1944. Sadly Kent Rogers voice of Junyer Bear, died shortly after this short was released.

Hare Force (1944)

An old lady (Bea Benederet) invites Bugs (Mel Blanc) to stay with her dog Sylvester (Tedd Pierce) on a cold winter’s night.

That’s right, the dog is named Sylvester, although he sounds and looks like Willoughby from “Heckling Hare, it’s not. And it’s definitely not Sylvester the Cat. Even though it’s the same gag again and again, Tedd Pierce the writer finds a way to make the joke funny each time. And there’s a classic line “Sylvester, don’t forget your rubbers.” Which has a much different connotation today. The surprise ending makes this cartoon funnier.

Buckaroo Bugs (1944)

Bugs as the Masked Marauder takes on Red Hot Rider in this Western satire.


The Red-Hot Rider is one of those slow-witted characters, and Bugs plays a bad guy which works against his usually likeable character, There are some funny gags however, Bugs delivering a censored telegram, which is laughable by today’s standards of censorship. Red Hot Rider’s horse getting sick of how feeble minded the cowboy is. Carl Stalling punching up the comedy by playing “In The Stirrups at a frantic pace. And the cartoon is narrated by Robert C. Bruce, who narrated many early Warner Brothers cartoons.

The Old Grey Hare (1944)
Elmer (Arthur Q. Bryan) laments the fact that he never catches Bugs. will it end differently in the year 2000?

This is a great short. The viewer gets to see Bugs and Elmer as elderly, and as babies. It has some great predictions for the future (Smellavision replaces Television) and a dated reference to Bing Crosby. In the end, old Bugs turns the tables on old Elmer and everything ends with a bang.

The Unruly Hare (1945)

Elmer Fudd is a railroad surveyor whose railroad runs into Bugs Bunny’s (Mel Blanc) natural habitat.
Once again, it’s nice to see Elmer in a profession, other than his hunter persona. He still has a gun, and he’s still a lousy shot. But the jokes come fast and furious in this one. One minute, Bugs is wearing lipstick, the next he’s a fireman. One minute Mel Blanc is doing a Joe Besser impression, the next it’s Jerry Colonna. There’s a war reference at the end. This very funny toon was written by Melvin Millar, who wrote mostly early Porky Pig cartoons and a few Bugs Bunny shorts, but none as funny as this one.

Hare Conditioned (1945)

Bugs (Mel Blanc) working in the sporting goods department of a department store, gets transferred to a new department, by the store manager, (Dave Barry)

This is a funny cartoon, because Bugs makes reference to an old radio show called the Great Gildersleeve. Well, I thought I knew what that was, because in the 70’s there was a guy who played a store clerk, and he greeted the customers with a big loud YEEESSS! Well, that was Frank Nelson, not Harold Peary, but I conflated the two, and thought the Gildersleeve reference was hilarious. There’s also Bugs in drag, putting up with unwanted advances, and Bugs catcalling the store manager, who is wearing women’s lingerie. It’s amazing what these writers and animators got away with, this was during the Hays code! Despite a pretty gruesome ending, it’s still one of the funnier episodes. Written by Tedd Pierce. Good animation, as with all the 1940’s Looney tunes.


Baseball Bugs (1946)

Bugs takes on the Gashouse Gorillas, who were beating the daylights out of the Teetotalers before Bugs intervenes.

This cartoon combines two of my favorite things, baseball and Bugs Bunny. The cartoon says it takes place at the Polo Grounds, but the animation looks like Yankee Stadium. There’s a lot of visual humor in this one. A bat boy with bat wings, Bugs hitting a line drive off the face of a cigar smoking outfielder, who crashes into a sign saying “Does your tobacco taste different lately?” Bugs hitting another line drive off an outfielder yelling “I got it” resulting in the outfielder being buried with a gravestone reading, he got it. A conga line full of Gashouse Gorillas, and a talking Statue of Liberty. There’s even a reference to a WWII slogan after Bugs tags a runner out at home. Bugs again takes the role of underdog, which is when he’s at his best.

Hair Raising Hare (1946)

A mad scientist lures Bugs to his laboratory with a wind-up female rabbit and keeps him there with his “friend” named Gossamer. How will Bugs get out of this mess?

This is the first appearance of the big orange “friend” with white sneakers who didn’t have a name yet, later to be known as Gossamer. There are memorable lines in this one too, “Did you ever have the feeling you were being watched?” “Don’t think it hasn’t been a little slice of heaven, because it hasn’t.” “I’ll bet you monsters lead interesting lives!” Bugs panics for a few seconds in this one which is unusual, but then he gets his wits and wit back, and takes control of the situation. The scientist looks and sounds like Peter Lorre, another name for movie buffs, a spot-on impression by Blanc, and the animation is still good.

Rabbit Transit (1947)

Bugs and Cecil Turtle (both voiced by Mel Blanc) meet again to see who’s faster.

It’s the same premise, but each of the cartoons are just different enough, for example, even though this is the third in the series, Bugs and Cecil act like they’ve never met. Cecil has a different mode of rapid transit, Bugs thinks he has the answers, but in the end, as in the other two, Cecil gets the last laugh. And the payoff is slightly different as well

Slick Hare (1947)

Elmer (Arthur Q Bryan) is working as a waiter at the Mocrumbo Club in Hollywood, when Humphrey Bogart (Dave Barry) comes in and asks for fried rabbit. Elmer finds Bugs (Mel Blanc) in a bunch of carrots, but Bugs does not want to end up on the menu, or does he?

This is a great cartoon. For one thing, the viewer sees Elmer in a role other than as a hunter, and that is refreshing to see. Second a lot of stars are drawn as cartoons, with allusions to some of their iconic roles. One of the stars even lends her voice to the cartoon, which was nice to see. The jokes come fast and furious, and are either movie references or inside jokes about Hollywood. The Lemon Meringue pie routine is a classic. Dave Barry does a fantastic Humphrey Bogart impression and the background animator gets in on the fun. He was so sickened by his trip to the Mocumbo club kitchen, that he drew the kitchen to be filthy in revenge. The ending is a bit disappointing, but it is a reflection of the times. It’s also sad that the star that lent her voice to this cartoon was reduced to being an animated character in a Warner Brothers cartoon, but that’s how Hollywood works, they use people, and dispose of them.

Hare Splitter (1948)


Bugs and fellow rabbit Casbah (both Mel Blanc) are both dating Daisy Lou rabbit. (June Foray) While Daisy is away shopping,

Bugs sees an opportunity to break up Daisy and Casbah. Does it work?
It’s pretty telling that in 1948, all Casbah wants to do is make out with Daisy, and after fending him off for several minutes, Bugs breaks the 4th wall and says “Do all you girls have to go through this?” The short also quite correctly points out how competitive men are when dating. Pretty astute observations for a 7-minute cartoon. The animation is good, but writer Tedd Pierce seems to forget Bugs’ history, because Pierce had Bugs married in 1942’s Hold That Lion Please. You’d think he would remember that. Unfortunately, June Foray doesn’t have any funny lines unlike her Witch Hazel role in Broomstick Bunny

Hare Devil Hare (1948)


Bugs gets bribed with carrots to fly to the moon, where he meets Marvin The Martian.


This is the first appearance of Marvin the Martian. There are some classic lines. “I usually take a size 36.” Bugs says as he slips into the rocket. “You make me very angry.” Marvin says to this dog. There are some good gags, Bugs gets a cereal commercial when trying to communicate with Earth, the sound of Marvin’s horn. The animation is good. Why do all the newer characters, Marvin, his dog, Gossamer.

My Bunny Lies Over The Sea (1948)

Bugs takes a wrong turn in Albuquerque and ends up in Scotland. He meets a Scotsman named Angus MacRory, who challenges Bugs to a game of golf.


There are many things to like in this cartoon, the classic “Wrong turn at Albuquerque” line there are bagpipe jokes, golf jokes, golf cheating jokes, kilt jokes, and cheap Scotsmen jokes. Very funny writing by Michael Maltese, and good animation of a Scottish golf course.Bugs takes a wrong turn in Albuquerque and ends up in Scotland. He meets a Scotsman named Angus MacRory, who challenges Bugs to a game of golf.

There are many things to like in this cartoon, the classic “Wrong turn at Albuquerque” line there are bagpipe jokes, golf jokes, golf cheating jokes, kilt jokes, and cheap Scotsmen jokes. Very funny writing by Michael Maltese, and good animation of a Scottish golf course.
Hare Splitter (1948)


Bugs and fellow rabbit Casbah (both Mel Blanc) are both dating Daisy Lou rabbit. (June Foray) While Daisy is away shopping, Bugs sees an opportunity to break up Daisy and Casbah. Does it work?


It’s pretty telling that in 1948, all Casbah wants to do is make out with Daisy, and after fending him off for several minutes, Bugs breaks the 4th wall and says “Do all you girls have to go through this?” The short also quite correctly points out how competitive men are when dating. Pretty astute observations for a 7-minute cartoon. The animation is good, but writer Tedd Pierce seems to forget Bugs’ history, because Pierce had Bugs married in 1942’s Hold That Lion Please. You’d think he would remember that. Unfortunately, June Foray doesn’t have any funny lines unlike her Witch Hazel role in Broomstick Bunny.

Hare Do (1949)

Elmer Fudd (Arthur Q Bryan) starts out hunting Bugs (Mel Blanc) with an army surplus rabbit detector, and ends up chasing Bugs through a crowded theater. Who gets the better of this adventure?

There are some classic routines in this one the “Excuse me, pardon me” routine. The exact change at a vending machine routine. The intermission/curtain routine, set to the William Tell Overture. Look closely at the posters for upcoming films in the theater, there are a few more laughs there. Good animation, good writing by Tedd Pierce.

Long Haired Hare (1949)
Bugs Bunny (Mel Blanc) annoys opera singer Giovanni Jones (Nikolai Shutorov) who tries to muzzle Bugs’ various musical stylings.

This is once again Bugs as everyman fighting against the snobbery of the opera crowd. When Bugs says his classic line “Of course you know this means war!” the audience knows what’s coming next. When Bugs enters as Leopold Stokowski and conducts Giovanni Jones, that is comedy gold. Excellent writing by Michal Maltese. Also, good animation of the Hollywood Bowl.

Rabbit Hood (1949)


Bugs (Mel Blanc) has a date with the rack after the Sheriff of Nottingham catches him taking carrots from the royal garden. Little John says Robin Hood is coming to save Bugs from his fate, is he?


The animation is still very good at this point. There are many classic lines and scenes in this cartoon. Little John saying “Don’t you worry, never fear Robin Hood will soon be here.” That’s a recurring line. The introductions between Little John and the Sheriff, the Sheriff building on “Royal Ground” Bugs knighting the Sheriff, giving him titles like Sir Loin of Beef. A very funny cartoon, with a live appearance from none other than a big Hollywood star at the time.
Rabbit Fire (1951)
Daffy Duck (Mel Blanc) tries to get Elmer Fudd (Arthur Q. Brian) to shoot Bugs Bunny instead of him. But what season is it really?
There are so many iconic lines in this cartoon. “Be very very quiet, I’m hunting rabbits.” Rabbit Season Duck Season.” An elephant saying “You do and I’ll give you such a pinch!” The ending is a nice twist when the viewer finds out what season it is. This is my favorite Bugs/Daffy rivalry episode, besides Show Biz Bugs which really highlighted Daffy’s professional rivalry with Bugs in show business.

His Hare Raising Tale (1951)


Bugs regales his nephew Clyde (both voiced by Mel Blanc) with stories of his greatest adventures.

This is nothing more than a cartoon filled with clips from older and better cartoons. Watch the older ones if you can find them HBO Max doesn’t have some of the toons featured in this “best of Bugs” cartoon. The writers must have run out of imagination for this one

Operation Rabbitt (1952)

Wile E. Coyote (Mel Blanc takes on Bugs Bunny. Will Wile E’s plans work better on a rabbit than they do on a roadrunner?

This cartoon is funny because the viewer finally hears wile E. Coyote speak. And he speaks with all the erudite polish of an Ivy Leaguer. Too bad the coyote is a pompous windbag, whose plans have all the complexity of a two-year old, drawing with crayons. But it’s exactly hearing his words and comparing them to the results that makes this short so damn funny. There should have been many more than just 5 or 6 cartons where Wile E. spoke.

Water Water Every Hare (1952)
During a flood Bugs almost gets washed away in a flood, but that’s just the beginning of his troubles as an evil scientist, (John T Smith) has designs on Bugs’ brain.


This is is the second short where Bugs meets his large orange friend. This one is not nearly as good as Hair Raising Hare, and even copies one of the routines word for word from Hare Raising Hare. The rest is just gimmicky plot devices from Roadrunner cartoons, like vanishing fluid. The voice of the scientist sounds like Vincent Price to me, Wikipedia says Boris Karloff, but Wikipedia is wrong!


Oily Hare (1952)
Texas Oil Magnate Orvil Rich and his sidekick Maverick find a hole on their property without oil. The hole belongs to Bugs Bunny.

This is a mildly funny cartoon, there are some puns about Dallas and Texas, I thought the sidekick’s name was a reference to the tv Western, but this toon predated the Western by 5 years. Orvil Rich’s voice sounds a lot like Yosemite Sam, who became an official character two years later. Bea Benederet makes a cameo as a Southern telephone operator, in the funniest joke of the cartoon. The animation is still good.

Rabbit Seasoning (1952)
Elmer (Arthur Q. Bryan) must once again decide who to shoot, Bugs or Daffy (both voiced by Mel Blanc)

This toon has a different tag line than Rabbit Fire, but it still manages to be funny. It’s not as funny as Rabbit Fire, but still has solid laughs. Bugs in drag and Daffy’s reaction makes this cartoon worth the watch. The animation is still good.

Rabbit’s Kin (1952)
Shorty Rabbit (Mel Blanc) is in fear of his life. Pete Puma (Stan Friburg) is on the prowl. Luckily, Shorty runs into Bugs Bunny, who know just how to handle Pete.

Rabbit’s Kin is a classic cartoon because it features the only appearance of Pete Puma in all of the classic Warner Bros cartoons. Pete has a wildly exaggerated Southern accent. When Bugs tries the lumps in your coffee gag once too often, Pete says he doesn’t want no tea, it gives him a headache. When asked what he wants, he triumphantly says “Coffee!” and lets out a big squeal of a laugh. That routine and that laugh is burned into my memory. There should have been more Pete Puma and Bugs cartoons. Definitely more than one.

Upswept Hare (1953)


Elmer (Arthur Q. Bryan) digs up a desert blooming Hatycolius, and Bugs (Mel Blanc) comes along for the ride.

This is a different Elmer than the viewer is used to seeing. This is bourgeois Elmer, living in a penthouse, wearing a beret, digging up rare flowers. But his go-to is still his shotgun, and for all that shooting, he still seems like a lousy shot, except for one exception in this toon. Elmer seems to be a human chauvinist in this short. Does Bugs cure him of this malady? The desert blooming hatycolyius is NOY a real flower. Good writing by Tedd Pierce, but the cartoon seems too short.

Bugs and Thugs (1954)

Bugs Bunny is withdrawing a carrot from a city bank, while a gangster named Rocky is robbing the bank, and Mugsy is driving the getaway car. Bugs is taken hostage. Does he get out of this cartoon alive?
This is a remake of Racketeer Rabbit (1946) which was a better cartoon with better animation, and impressions of Peter Lorre and Edward G. Robinson. There are more iconic lines in Racketeer Rabbit too. But, despite the bad animation and generic gangsters, the short is still funny, with classic lines like, “Shaddap shuttin’ up” and “Button your lip!” which Mugsy takes literally. Funnier still, is the way Bugs tries to get out of this mess.

Devil May Hare (1954)

The Tasmanian Devil is on the loose and Bugs has to placate him. (Both voiced by Mel Blanc)

This is the first Tazmanian Devil cartoon. Similar to a later effort, Bedevilled Rabbit, (1957) similar opening, similar closing, they should have thought up better jokes. And the animation is very sloppy in this one. I like Taz, but he may be a one or two joke character.

Baby Buggy Bunny (1954)

A distraught mother leaves a baby near Bugs’ hole. At least that’s what Bugs thinks.

Bugs is taken in by the baby face for a while, but when Bugs realizes who he’s dealing with the “baby” gets his comeuppance. And that’s what makes this cartoon so funny, Bugs realizes who the “baby” is, but the “baby” doesn’t know Bugs knows. Which leads to the very funny and classic line, “Oh dear, I do believe I’ve forgotten my fudge.” The animation is on the verge of looking cheap and sloppy.

Hyde & Hare (1955)

Bugs gets adopted by a timid doctor, and has no idea what’s in store for him.

There’s one memorable routine where Bugs plays the Minute Waltz by Chopin, there’s a Liberace reference in this routine and a Ralph Kramden reference. The animation is starting to get sloppy, and Bugs never catches in about the duel identity of the doctor. He’s usually two or 3 steps ahead of his antagonists. The final payoff joke is not worth the setup of the rest of the cartoon.

Broomstick Bunny (1956)
Witch Hazel (June Foray) is noticeably jealous when Bugs (Mel Blanc) in a Halloween costume is declared far uglier than Hazel, by Hazel’s magic mirror.

The animation is far worse than the 40’s cartoons, but Foray still delivers the laughs with a few classic lines like “Who undoes your hair?” “You remind me of Paul, my pet tarantula.” And “Sharp enough to split a hair.” The ending is another version of the Hollywood wolf, which Looney toons satirizes many times. June Foray was also the voice of Jerry in Tom & Jerry.

Rabbitson Crusoe (1956)

Yosemite Sam is shipwrecked on a deserted island with a hungry shark named Dopey Dick, when he sees Bugs Bunny drifting in a crate of carrots. After eating nothing but coconuts, Sam would welcome a change of diet.

This is one of the few Yosemite Sam cartoons I like, because he’s not an outlaw, he’s not chasing after Bugs, which I never understood in the other cartoons, so making him the Robinson Crusoe character was a stroke of genius by writer Warren Foster. Bugs singing “Secret Love” while Sam is plotting how to catch him is also very funny, I thought so as a kid, I think so now. Also, there’s the classic line, said by Sam, “20 years of coconuts, I can’t STAND coconuts.” I love that line. The animation is not great, but the laughs overcome that flaw.

Bedeviled Rabbit (1957)

Bugs gets trapped in a carrot shipment to Tasmania, and runs into the Tasmanian Devil. (Both voiced by Mel Blanc)
The beginning of this short is similar to Devil May Hare, the ending is the same as the earlier cartoon, with an Italian stereotype in the middle. At least writer Tedd Pierce remembered that writers married off Taz in his first cartoon. The animation is strangely good considering it’s done in 1957. According to Wikipedia, the animation is re-used, draw whatever conclusion from that.

Hareway To The Stars (1958)

Bugs ends up on Mars, and meets Marvin the Martian.

It’s a little different beginning, but similar premise, becomes like a road-runner cartoon at times, the first Marvin cartoon was funnier, even though this one was written by Michael Maltese. The animation is quite good for the late 50’s.

Rabbit’s Feat (1960)
Wile E. Coyote takes another crack at capturing Bugs Bunny. (Both voiced by Mel Blanc)

Both Wile E. and Bugs break the fourth wall and talk directly to the audience. Bugs incongruously calls Wile E. Daddy and says “You’re back from Peru.” which is only funny because it’s a non-sequitur. The rest of the toon is just leftover Road Runner gags. Written by Michael Maltese, shortly before he left for Hanna Barbera. The animation is sloppy, especially the background animation.

From Hare to Heir (1960)
Bugs promises Sam, Duke of Yosemite (both voiced by Mel Blanc) a million pounds, if Sam can control his temper.

This is a funny cartoon, it’s basically the same joke repeated over and over, but it makes me laugh, as a child and as an adult. This short gets to the heart of Yosemite Sam, he is essentially an angry guy, and he needs anger management in the worst way, and the payoff is funny too. Sam is still animated with a mask, which may be a sly commentary on royalty or maybe Sam always wore a mask over his eyes. It was written and directed by Friz Freling, and he gets Sam in a way that other writers and directors did not.

My impression of 1940’s through 1960’s Bugs Bunny Cartoons

There was a look that Bugs Bunny had as he lay on the Warner Brother’s crest in the opening credits of the early Bugs Bunny cartoons. A slightly annoyed, “Don’t bother me” look. Something about that look spoke to my 5-yeat old shy self, and brought me out of my shell. I knew that humor was the way I was going to make friends and Bugs Bunny showed me how.
The cultural references were important also, from skinny Frank Sinatra, to numerous World War Two references to Little Red Riding Hood as an irritating Bobby soxer. I didn’t understand any of the WWII references at 5 years of age, but it made me curious about the history of the era, and eventually I understood all the references, and that made the lines even funnier
All the songs from those cartoons made the tapestry even richer, Carl W. Stalling and the way he played those songs, either subtly in the background, or loudly to be noticed, all of which enhanced the comedy, and when Bugs did classic music, it helped me appreciate some classical music.

Of course, with the era that these cartoons were set, there was lots of baggage. Racism, like Bugs in Blackface, was very upsetting to me, even as a child. I can see why those cartoons were banned, I saw Bugs in blackface once and it bothered me, it still bothers me, but unfortunately, racism, sexism, and ethnic stereotyping was not only a relic of its time, but still exists today in Hollywood, and in America. Some of these cartoons, with Bugs in drag, were smart enough to satirize sexism, most of the time, the howling wolves of the 40’s and 50’s were simply tolerated.

There was lots of care taken in the early animation, but as the cartoons got closer to the 1960’s, the animation got worse, culminating in the end of the studio underwritten cartoons, and resulting in the very poorly animated Hanna Barbera cartoons. Animation was not the primary reason to watch Warner Brothers cartoons, animation was more of a Disney trademark, but it was easy to tell good animation from bad, and poor animation detracted from an otherwise funny cartoon.
he voice work was of course key, and the legendary Mel Blanc did most of the heavy lifting with his incredible ability to do different voices, even celebrities like Peter Lorre, or lesser-known celebrities like Joe Besser or Jerry Colonna. It’s a good thing that Mel Blanc moved away from the Woody Woodpecker voice for Bugs. But it was a much collaborative effort than the credits let on. Arthur Q. Bryan did the iconic Elmer Fudd voice, and never got credit for helping to create one of the most iconic characters in animation history. Bea Benederet and June Foray did most of the female voices, and Benederet especially enhanced the comedy with her voice work. Kent Rogers did some of the voice work before his untimely passing, and some of the writers like Tedd Pierce and Michael Maltese did voice work as well, all uncredited. Even Mel Blanc was uncredited in some of the early cartoons. Hope they all got paid for thier work.

The bust supporting character was undoubtedly Elmer Fudd. He was the perfect satire of the hunting culture, and as hard as he tried, even into his elderly years, he never got Bugs or Daffy, and that made him a character worthy of derision, but also made him a sympathetic character, and that was the magic of Arthur Q. Bryan’s performance, the viewer could sympathize with Elmer’s frustrations, but still root for Bugs. There were a few cartoons where Elmer was overweight, and Bugs would probably be accused of fat-shaming in these days of social media, but the heavy Fudd seemed to make the character more sympathetic. Yosemite Sam was a puzzling character, why was he after Bugs anyway, and out of his old West backdrop, his character made even less sense. There were some creative uses of Sam, as Robinson Crusoe for example. There should have been more episodes with Gossamer and Marvin Martian, but I guess there weren’t enough jokes about Mars back then. For example, now Marvin’s dog could have been called Rover, after the Martian rover. There should have been more Bugs ad Wile E. Coyote shorts, more Bugs and Daffy cartoons, to explore the rivalry, and more than one Pete Puma cartoon, he was incredibly funny.

It’s good of HBO Max to put these cartoons on their streaming service, but it’s odd that the left out some cartoons, The Big Snooze being the most puzzling example of the unshown ones. The argument that violence on tv and in the movies leads to violence in society is a particularly weak argument. Millions of kids watched Warner Brothers cartoons over the years, including me and never had a violent thought, never mind a violent action. Tom and Jerry was much more violent than Bugs was, to the point that Tom and Jerry was even satirized by the Simpsons’ Itchy and Scratchy cartoons. Warner Brothers cartoons were edited in the 70’s but that was only to shove in more sugary cereal commercials, which had its own consequences. Elmer Fudd is the best satire of the gun culture there is, he’s not very bright, he’s a lousy shot, and he’s consistently outsmarted by a rabbit and a duck. But HBO in their corporate wisdom is taking the guns away from Bugs’ sidekicks in their new cartoons to avoid being sued, that’s what it boils down to.

If these mini reviews were enjoyable, kudos for having a sense of humor.

Classic Bugs Bunny cartoons Hare Today, Hopefully Hare Tomorrow.

onward

Teenage elves Ian Lightfoot (Tom Holland) and his brother Barley (Chris Pratt) are growing up with their mother, Laurel.  Julia Louis Dreyfus) The boys’ father passed away when they were both young, and Ian especially is dealing with a crisis of confidence, he is afraid to drive a car, ask his friends to his birthday party.  Centaur Colt Bronco (Mel Sanchez) is hardly a substitute for their real father.  On Ian’s 16th birthday, Laurel gives Ian a present from their father, it contains a spell to bring their dad, Wilden Lightfoot back for a day.  After Barley tries and fails to cast the spell, Ian succeeds, but he only brings back his father’s legs, and the Phoenix Gem disintegrates during the spell.

Barley thinks he knows where he can find a map to another Phoenix Gem, the Manticore’s Tavern, which is now a kids’ theme restaurant.  Corey the Manticore, (Octavia Spencer) who owns the restaurant, tells the boys they can’t have the original map, but gives them a kids menu with a map to the Phoenix Gem , and the boys and half their father set off on a quest to find the Phoenix Stone , but what Corey forgets to tell the boys is that there is a curse attached to the gem stone.  When Laurel discovers her sons missing, she hunts down Corey, and try to track down Ian and Barley.  Do Ian and Barley find the Phoenix stone, do they get to spend any of the day with their dad?  Do Laurel and Corey find the boys before the curse of the Phoenix stone befalls them?

Onward is a good but flawed movie.  Part of the flaw is that Onward treading on well-worn ground.   Young boys go on a quest to find a magical stone.  This is reminiscent of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings and also borrows from Dungeons and Dragons If the viewer doesn’t like medieval settings or themes, this movie won’t appeal to him or her.  One scene even borrows from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure, another story about a ‘boy’ on a quest.  Another issue with this movie is that it appears to be a male centric movie, two brothers are going on a quest to find a stone that will allow them to spend time with their father.  True, there are women in the film, but they seem like an afterthought and are not fully integrated into the film.  Pixar movies are known more for their universal themes, and this movie may seem too specific to be universally felt.  When the movie does come together the themes that are illustrated are important, and even touching, but just not as well done or universal as Pixar movies of the past.

The acting is very good, Tom Holland has made a living on playing an insecure teen.  In Spider-Man and Onward, he is not confident of his powers yet, and as Onward goes forward, Ian gains confidence in his skills, and Holland’s voice has less doubt in it.  If Holland’s role is about gaining confidence, Chris Pratt’s Barley is overconfident.  Pratt has made a nice living playing overconfident people, from the Star Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy to raptor wrangler Owen Grady in Jurassic World, his overconfidence overcomes his lack of skill and training.  In Onward, Pratt’s voice exudes confidence and Holland just has to follow.  Octavia Spencer adopts a Midwestern accent and handles the comedy well.  Julia Louis Dreyfus has a similar accent, and sounds nothing like her Elaine Benes character from Seinfeld, both ladies needed bigger roles.

The animation was good, not outstanding like WALL-E, Up, Inside Out or Coco.  The pacing lags when it shouldn’t, during the road trip, and despite great voice performances, this movie doesn’t rank in the upper echelons of Pixar films.

Onward: A questionable quest.

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Miguel ( Anthony Gonzalez)is tired of hearing about his family’s origin story, how his great great grandfather, a musician left his great great grandmother, Imelda  (Alanna Ubach) to become a famous singer.  Everyone in the family hates music and musicians, except Miguel, who want to become a singer, and not make shoes like the rest of his family.  He also does not want to get ready for the Dia De Los Muertos celebration with his family.

Miguel becomes convinced that his great great grandfather is world famous Mexican singer Ernesto de la Cruz. (Benjamin Bratt) Miguel is so convinced, that he breaks into Ernesto’s mausoleum and borrows his guitar to compete in a local talent show, but when he strums the guitar, something strange and magical happens, Miguel is transported to the Land of the Dead, where he meets all his relatives, including great great grandmother Imelda.

Miguel needs a blessing from a family member to get back to the land of the living. Imelda  promises to provide a blessing send him back to the land of the living, provided Miguel gives up music.  Now that he’s in the Land of the Dead, Miguel only wants to meet his idol Ernesto.  While he’s trying to meet Ernesto, Miguel runs into Hector, (Gael Garcia Bernal) a lonely traveler between worlds, who is afraid that he will be forgotten, and disappear from the Land of The Dead.

Hector promises Miguel that he will take Miguel to see Ernesto, if Miguel carries Hector’s picture back with him to the land of the living.  Miguel wants Ernesto to give him a blessing, so that when he returns to the land of the living, Miguel can be a world famous singer too.  Does Hector take Miguel to meet Ernesto?  Does Ernesto pledge to send Miguel back, or does Miguel go back under Imelda’s conditions?

This is a very complex movie.  Was Pixar really showing young audiences a boy breaking into someone’s gravesite to take his guitar?  Was Pixar really suggesting that little kids rebel against their parents’ wishes to pursue their dreams at all costs?  These are some of the darker themes wrestled with in a movie with a pre-teen boy as its lead character.  Coco is a continuation of movies marketed for kids, but really made for adults.  Wall E, Up, Toy Story 3, and Inside Out all deal with serious themes on the way to resolution. The writers of Coco seemed to have boxed themselves into a corner, either choice would leave someone unhappy, but then came the reveal, and somehow that ingenious reveal was the perfect denouement to the building conflicts in the film.  The reveal is why this movie is a classic, and a tearjerker at that.

The acting is also very good.  Anthony Gonzalez conveys the joy and excitement of a young boy discovering his true talent, and learning about his family’s true history.  Gael Garcia Bernal brings a real underdog spirit to Hector, who seems like nothing more than a lovable loser, but then…  Bernal understands the complexity of the role and plays it well.  Benjamin Bratt also plays his role well, he also has duality in his role that he has to play and he really conveys that duality well.  Alanna Ubach plays perhaps the most difficult role.  Imelda must be angry and bitter toward her singer husband, but tender towards her great great grandson, and she manages that precarious balance well.  These are mostly character actors, and they interact well in an ensemble cast.  The casting is where Guillermo Del Toro’s Dia De Los Muertos film, The Book of Life missed the mark, casting Channing Tatum as a male lead in a Mexican fable is a MAJOR mistake, Tatum didn’t even try to do a Latino accent.  The cast of Coco is mostly Latino, and that makes the film feel more authentic.

The direction is also great.  The animation is colorful and vivid, the pacing is quick, the music is a constant throughout, and the songs are well-placed and impactful.  The acting is great considering only voices are used.  The pacing is good, and moves the story along well.

Coco:  A move to die for!

spiderman spiderverse

Miles Morales (Shameik Moore) is a typical teen from Brooklyn, he likes his tunes, he hates the magnet school he goes to, and he has an artistic streak, which he likes to express by painting murals in the subway. One day, while finding a spot for his latest mural with his Uncle Aaron, (Mahershala Ali) Miles is bitten by a radioactive spider, but he convinces himself that it’s a regular spider, after all Peter Parker (Chris Pine) is  patrolling the city, so why would there be a need for another Spiderman?  But then, Miles feels his hands getting sticky and all of a sudden, he can climb walls, but he’s clumsy, which ruins any chance he thought he had with the new girl at the magnet school, Gwen. (Hailee Steinfeld)

Just as suddenly as he got his powers, Miles finds himself in a warehouse fighting Kingpin (Liev Schreiber) with Spiderman.  Peter/Spdey tells Miles that Kingpin has a supercollider, and he is trying to open up different dimensions to bring back Kingpin’s wife and kid.  Peter gives Miles a key and tells him to use it to destroy the supercollider if he doesn’t make it out of this battle alive.  Kingpin has already succeeded in opening up five dimensions.  What else has Kingpin succeeded in doing?  Does Miles get to use the key to blow up the collider?

Spiderman Into The Spiderverse is an interesting take on Spiderman, but as hard as the writers try to make Miles a laid-back cool guy, they fail.  Miles uses spray paint to create art, lives in the cool borough, Brooklyn, wearing  the ever-present ear buds, leaves his shoes untied , it’s all meant to make him relatable to teens everywhere.  Having said that, it’s important to have an Afro-Latino superhero on screen, just for the message that it sends to all kids, that they could be heroes regardless of their race, ethnicity, or the neighborhood they grow up in.

Undoubtedly, the really cool character is Gwen Stacy, but she takes a backseat to Miles, despite having the vastly more interesting backstory.  And the other character like Penni Parker, are woefully underdeveloped, and are only in the movie to bring in a certain demographic, in the cynical way movies are made these days.  There’s a twist to the story, but the ending is as expected, and I suspect there will be sequels aplenty.

The acting is good, voice acting is difficult.  Shameik Moore does  a good job as the gangly clumsy Miles, trying to fit in and find a way to use his new powers.  Mehershala Ali does his usual fine job, as Uncle Aaron, the cool uncle, he really does bring all his skills to any role he plays.  Hailee Steinfeld does a good job as Gwe, she does a good job of keeping her mysterious and distant, the unattainable girl.  Brian Tyree Henry does a good job as a supporting actor, playing Miles’ supportive overprotective dad.  The father son bond is evident in Henry’s performance.

There are three directors in this movie.  The animation is great, eye-popping comic book animation, which is probably why it won an Oscar, but the pacing is awfully slow for an action flick.  The performances are good, but the actors deserve more credit than the directors for that.

Spiderman Into The Spiderverse:  A web of intertwined characters.

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Mr. Incredible (Craig T. Nelson) and his wife Elastigirl (Holly Hunter) and their family Violet (Sarah Vowell) Dash (Huck Miller) and Jack Jack (Eli Fucile)  are arrested after stopping The Underminer (John Ratzenberger) because superheroes are now illegal.  But a wealthy family now headed by Winston Deavor (Bob Odenkirk)and his sister Evelyn  (Catherine Keener) want to start a campaign to bring back superheroes and make them legal again.  Winston wants Elastigirl to lead the campaign, Mr. Incredible reluctantly agrees to stay home and mind the kids. During Elastigirl’s first tv appearence, a new villain appears, Screenslaver (Bill Wise)  tries to hypnotize the television audience, and carries a troubling message.  Elastigirl tracks Screenslaver down almost immediately, and is surprised to find out that he is only a pizza boy.  She can’t shake the feeling that the capture of The Screenslaver  was too easy, that there was something deeper to Screenslaver.  Is she right?  Do the Supers become legal once again?

The second installment of the Incredibles has some good ideas, but if the viewer doesn’t listen carefully, those ideas are lost.  There are ideas about the role of superheroes in society,  the role of technology, including social media in society, but those ideas are contained almost exclusively in one soliloquy, and then those interesting ideas get obscured by more mundane ideas, and the Incredibles 2 just turns into another routine Hollywood action flick.  This movie is a case study in why sequels shouldn’t be made.  Sequels shouldn’t be made unless they have something new or different to say.   This one could have had interesting things to say, but it restrains itself.

The acting is good but predictable.  The idea of a superhero as househusband seems like it’s been done before, Craig T. Nelson tries to breathe life into this character again, but there’s not enough in this character in this movie to make him fun again.  Holly Hunter tries to make Elastigirl a feminist hero, but again that aspect of the character is not fully developed.   Samuel L. Jackson brings his usual energy and fun to the role of Frozone, but again he doesn’t have enough material to make the character interesting,  Catherine Keener is given an interesting role, but the viewers are never given insight into why the character behaves the way she does.  There just seems to be too many characters in this movie, and not enough depth in any one character

The direction is ok, there’s nothing visually spectacular in this movie.  Pixar has had some really visually breathtaking movies, but this one didn’t even try to have one scene that caught the audience’s eye.   The result was underwhelming.  The pacing was slow at times, during exposition, but sometimes had the pacing of an action movie, a brisk pace.  The performances were ok, not great.

The Incredibles 2:  Incredidull.

isle of dogs

In the Japanese archipelago, 20 years from now, a vicious strain of the Dog Flu has broken out, in order to protect the humans from the flu, the Mayor  of the Prefecture, Mayor Kobayashi , (Kunichi Nomura) has deported all the dogs to Trash Island.  Atari Kobayashi (Koyu Rankin) a 12 year old distant relative of the mayor, flies a plane to Trash Island, in search of his dog, Spots. (Liev Schreiber)  The plane crash lands on the island.  The leader of the dogs on Trash Island, Chief (Bryan Cranston) doesn’t trust humans, but decides to rescue Atari.  Atari then sets out to find Spots.

At the prefecture, Professor Watanabe  (Akira Ito) thinks he has come up with a cure to the Dog Flu, but something happens to Watanabe after he eats some sushi.  At the same time, the Mayor finds out that Atari is alive on Trash Island, and he sends his men to find him.  Mayor Takashi easily wins re-election, but exchange student Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig) suspects a rigged election.  Does Atari find Spots?  Do the Mayor’s men find Atari?  What’s happened to Professor Watanabe?  Is the election on the up and up?

It’s impossible to watch this movie and not draw parallels to the political situation in America over the past two years.  A power hungry politician deports dogs to a distant place in the name of national security.  The election of the politician is called into question, as the politician faces dissension from the populace.  At the heart of it, Isle of Dogs is a story about a boy and his dog,   it’s also story of possible redemption for a jaded dog, who doesn’t like humans very much, and has become something of a recluse.  It’s interesting to see how all the different elements of the story come together in the end of the film.

The acting is very good and it has to be because all the emotions have to be conveyed through the voice.  Kunichi Namora is very good as the corrupt politician, he wants to stay in power at all costs.  Bryan Cranston is excellent as the lead dog, tough on the outside, vulnerable on the inside, yearning for someone to love him.  Koyu Rankin is also good as Atari, vulnerable but determined.  Greta Gerwig was funny as the angry exchange student.

Wes Anderson did a great job directing and co-writing this movie.  The stop motion animation was terrific, the ha;; where Mayor Kobayashi gave the speech reminded me of the scene from Citizen Kane,  where Kane gave a speech, Trash Island was suitably grungy, and the use of symbolism, Atari wearing white, his dog being a white dog, Chief becoming a white dog after Atari gives him a bath, it was all very well done.  The pacing was fast, the performances were good, I don’t know how much of a role Anderson played in that, these are all skilled veteran actors, except for the boy who played Atari. This film and Moonrise Kingdom are his best work to date.

Isle of Dogs:  Biting satire.

 

early-man-movie3

In the Pleistocene Era, Stone Age Man learned to play soccer when a comet falls from the sky.  By the Bronze Age, Stone Age men have forgotten their soccer skills and spend their time hunting rabbits.  A small band of Stone Age people are invaded by the Bronze Age men, and their valley is taken away from them and the Stone Age people are imprisoned.  One member of the Stone Age village is captured by the Bronze Age people, and so he sees what the Bronze Age Society looks like.  Dug, (Eddie Redmayne) the Stone Age captive, learns that the Bronze Age people are very good at soccer.  The Bronze Age Ruler, Lord Nooth  (Tom Hiddleston) is a greedy despot, only interested in collecting bronze coins from the overflow crowds at the soccer game.  Dug challenges Nooth’s team to a soccer game, but the Stone Agers have forgotten everything that they ever knew about  soccer, can Dug, and a female Bronze Age  named Goona  (Masie Williams) help the Stone Age team, beat the Bronze Age team?

Early Man is a tongue in cheek look at the history of soccer, going back to prehistoric man.  The story seems a little padded, there is not only one montage where the Stone Age team learns to play soccer but two .  The use of French accents for the Bronze age players is smart and funny, underscoring the Anglo French rivalry in Europe.  The reason why Dug goes back to the Bronze Age stadium is dumb, but the introduction of Goona is a welcome change from the mostly male cast.  There are lots of jokes, soccer jokes and non-soccer jokes, enough to sustain the film.  The climax is exciting and expected.  Early Man is slightly less enjoyable than Wallace and Grommit and Chicken Run, but I enjoy Claymation animation so I enjoyed this movie.

Tom Hiddleston is a very funny guy, and anyone who’s seen his film probably wouldn’t know that, but in this movie he exploits his comedic timing and voice.  He is a large reason why I like this movie.  Hiddleston should make more comedies.  Eddie Redmayne is ok, as Dug, he’s really a straight man, allowing Hiddleston to go over the top with his character.  Masie Williams is good as the soccer enthusiast who wants to be part of a team, but can’t make the Bronze Age team.  She pairs well with Redmayne.

The direction is ok.  It is difficult to animate clay, so bonus points for that, the pacing is slow and disjointed to begin with, but it gathers steam and builds to a nice climax.  The climactic soccer game is filmed well.

Early Man:  Make it a gooooooal to see it.

 

 

Classic Movie Review: Piper (2016)

Posted: October 7, 2017 in Animation

piper

A baby sandpiper wants to be fed by its mother.  Its mother refuses to feed it, insisting that the piper learn to feed itself, but the baby piper is afraid of the water, what does it do?

The challenge for any animated film is to have animation distinctive enough to make the viewer sit up and take notice.  This movie does that for sure, the animation is so true to life, that in the first few frames of the film, the sandpipers look like real birds.

The challenge for an animated short is to get the moral of the story across in as short a time as possible.  Piper does that, in an economical 6 minutes, and it does so joyfully, and not heavy-handedly.  And it gets its message across without saying a word.  This is a wonderful little film, that everyone should take the time to enjoy and appreciate, how many people can say they’ve experienced a life affirming message in only 6 minutes?  That’s what this film offers.

Piper won the Academy Award for best animated short of 2017, and I can see why.  Written and directed by Tom Barillero, who worked as an animator for many Pixar movies including Monster’s Inc  WALL-E and Finding Nemo.

Piper:  Pipe down and watch this film.