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Category Archives: Animation

Mostly I Want to Play ‘Baby Bash’

Simpsons Movie film still

As a special treat for Christopher’s birthday, the two of us caught an opening day screening of The Simpsons Movie. I was excited, and a bit leery. The Simpsons is a classic, one of the best shows on TV, but the creators have gone into autopilot over the last decade. I cherish the first 8 or so seasons, but the current episodes are only mildly amusing in a “better than Family Guy” sorta way. Could they possibly deliver the goods for their first motion picture?

Well, I’m happy to say the answer to that question is a resounding “yes” — for the movie’s first half, anyway. Honestly, I was surprised at how funny it was, but it also had a lot of the sort of heartfelt moments long missing from the Simpsons universe. It’s easily funnier than any TV episode from the past five seasons. My only quibbles would be that it’s a little long by about 15 minutes, and the storyline is so heavily centered around the Simpsons themselves that beloved side characters like Apu, Smithers, and (fill in the blank) get short shrifted. The expanded, subtly shaded look of the film also seemed odd to me in ways I couldn’t pinpoint. Maybe it’s because (as the San Francisco Chronicle review touched upon) the TV show depends on a simplified aesthetic to successfully pull off its style of humor. Comic Book Guy would certainly not approve, but the less discerning among you would find a grand time. Hopefully it won’t take another 18 years for the creators to scrounge up a sequel (The Great Simpsons Caper?).

On another note, we also caught a neat exhibit at the Phoenix Art Museum. UnInked: Paintings, Sculpture, and Graphic Work by Five Cartoonists was guest curated by Chris Ware and features paintings, sketches and sculpture by a variety of current graphic artists. The biggest thrill, for me, was seeing a couple of wild color canvases by Gary Panter. I also loved the original pen and ink artwork from Kim Deitch’s Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Christopher thought the art didn’t do much for him, but I wholeheartedly enjoyed it. Also at the museum we saw a beautiful display of 1930s gowns inspired by streamlined automotive design. So overall it was an excellent weekend.

Who Needs the Kwik-E-Mart

X-Entertainment visits one of the 7-11 outlets restyled as The Simpsons‘ Kwik-E-Mart. The makeover looks like a fun idea, and an insanely popular one at that, but they did it to only eleven outlets across the country. What kind of Mr. Burns-style exec approved that one? D’Oh! Via Gael at PCJM, who also got to try the admittedly pukey sounding blue vanilla Squishie.

Furry Gourmet

Ratatouille Golden Book

We had a relatively exciting Saturday today. Out of the house by 10:00 a.m. (because no Phoenician does anything after noon in July), we journeyed to the local multiplex to catch an early showing of Ratatouille. It was sweet fun, filled with wonderful characters and a tangible sense of the aromas and tastes that fine food provide. I loved the Parisian atmosphere, the muted colors and the hazy look to the photography (how’d they do that?). Seeing it makes me appreciate the sheer heart Pixar puts into everything they do. Unlike the lowbrow pop culture gags and obnoxious celebrity voices which characterize a typical DreamWorks feature, Pixar has a fundamental understanding that story is the most important element in any film. That said, I didn’t fall head over heels in love with Ratatouille in the same way many of the critics have. It was enjoyable, had a great message, and handily beats most everything else currently in theaters, but it was also a little too long and a few of the talkier scenes could’ve been further snipped. On the Pixar scale I would place it on a level above Monsters, Inc. and A Bug’s Life (and way, way above Cars), but below Toy Story and The Incredibles. (image swiped off Cartoon Brew).

P.S. Although I kept my eyes peeled, I couldn’t find the Pizza Planet truck cameo or any of the other Pixar Easter Eggs. Oh well, something to look forward to on the DVD.

P.P.S. We also got to spend a few minutes playing around with the iPhones at our local Cingular outlet. Are those babies cool or what?

God Hates Reckless Drivers

You gotta love the internet these days, when you can read about something in a book and then turn around and check it out online. The book: Amid Amidi’s Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation. The film: Stop Driving Us Crazy from 1959. This jazzy short occupies the weird intersection where Christian values overlap with swank-ola ’50s aesthetics. Wild, man, wild.

Clay Pigeons (And Other Critters)

Did anybody see the Americanized Creature Comforts on CBS? Did anything in that preceding sentence make sense? I’m a huge fan of the UK edition of this program, along with pretty much anything Nick Park/Aardman does, so personally this was a genuine treat. For those unfamiliar with C.C., they take the recordings of real people talking about a variety of subjects and animate them with funny looking animals mouthing the words. A lot of the reviews I’ve seen for this American version were surprisingly negative. I guess people looking for broad, slapsticky comedy and dumb one-liners are bound to be disappointed, but for the rest of us it’s a subtly funny comment on what makes us human. All that and poo-poo jokes, too.

Military Style Hare Cut

Happy Memorial Day. In honor of our fighting men and women, let’s watch Bugs Bunny, fat Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig shilling war bonds to the tune of Any Bonds Today? Because nothing says “patriotism” like Bugs doing an Al Jolson impersonation: