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animation

Animation: 'Thunder and the House of Magic'

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Jerry Beck has just announced on his Animation Scoop website that Shout! Factory will release the December 2013 Belgian-made (for Christmas 2013 release in French-speaking parts of Europe) 85-minute animated feature The House of Magic, retitled Thunder and the House of Magic and dubbed into English, in theaters in U.S. “selected cities” on September 5. The selected cities include New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, Boston, Houston, Miami/Ft. Lauderdale, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. Shout! Factory is primarily a DVD releaser, so presumably this will become a generally-available DVD release shortly after that.

Under either title, this looks like a kids’ CGI animated feature that furry fans will enjoy, with an anthropomorphized kitten, rabbit, mouse, dog, doves, and lots of Toy Story-type toys saving an elderly stage magician’s house from being sold out from under him by a greedy nephew. The movie is made by Brussels’ nWave Pictures, which made the 2010 A Turtle's Tale: Sammy's Adventures and the 2012 A Turtle's Tale 2: Sammy's Escape from Paradise features that have already become children’s DVDs in America.

Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Ultimate Showdown DVD, Disc 2

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TMNT Ultimate Showdown DVD back coverHere we come to the finale of the two disc “Ultimate Showdown” set of episodes from the Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. It also contains the final six (or seven, depending on how you count the finale) episodes of the first season, so it’s a finale there as well.

The first disc was reviewed here, and the rest of the first season can be found starting here, continuing here and here. So, let’s get to the episodes!

The Episodes

“Enemy of my Enemy”

Karai is messing with the turtles when it turns out that “alien invasion” thing they’re always talking about is going down right now (though, seriously, she’s already met Justin; how is one Kraang UFO that much more surprising?). She decides to temporarily team up with the turtles; or does she? The turtles aren’t sure, so they decide to betray her before she can betray them. Except she was totally serious about that team-up thing. Whoops.

Also, the Kraang flying saucer pilot is the best Kraang in the series; good thing he survives the saucer’s crash. Maybe.

'Watership Down' may be joining Criterion Collection

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Watership Down Criterion CollectionEarlier this month, Criterion released Watership Down to iTunes; a full Blu-Ray/DVD release has not been announced at this time, and Criterion's own site doesn't list it as yet part of the collection, even as "coming soon". [Tip: InkyCrow via Newsbyte]

If this does make Watership Down part of the Criterion Collection, it would be only the third animated feature in the collection, after Fantastic Mr. Fox and the no longer available Akira.

The movie is an adaptation of Richard Adams' bestselling novel; it's main competition was in the bestsellers list was Peter Benchley's Jaws, which it beat, despite being about rabbits. Though both novels were later adapted to movies, they didn't directly compete at the box office, which is probably a good thing for Watership Down.

It was directed by Martin Rosen, who went on to direct a second Adams adaptation, The Plague Dogs. It features the voice of John Hurt as Hazel. Hurt is probably best known for his memorable role in Alien as the ill-fated Kane, though he recently played the 8 1/2 incarnation of the titular character in the long running BBC series Doctor Who as the "War Doctor."

The rabbits of Watership Down speak their own language, words of which have been known to be repurposed by furries.

Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Ultimate Showdown DVD, Disc 1

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TMNT Ultimate Showdown DVD front coverThis is actually a two disc collection of the back half of season 1 of the Nickelodeon Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. I’m breaking them up into to two reviews, one for each disc, so that it doesn’t break the around six-ish episode streak of each review.

If you’d like to check out reviews of the rest of the first season, you can read the first seven episodes reviewed here, and the second six reviewed here, plus an extended review of the first two episodes (or one long episode, the series still isn’t clear on that) here. In fact, you should probably read that last linked article first, seeing as how it’s both the first chronologically and it also has breakdown of what this series is about.

You know, just in case the series title Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles didn’t clue you in that it’s about turtles, who are also ninjas, mutants and teenagers.

The Episodes

“I, Monster”

And we start off with one of the best episodes of the series, with the weird penchant for horror tropes and allusions finally given an episode where they fit like a glove. Dr. Falco (Jeffrey Combs) continues his experiments with the mutagen, but a lab accident turns him into the Rat King, with the ability to control all rats, and the turtles come to a horrifying realization; Splinter’s been taking it easy on them in training.

Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Ultimate Visual History', by Andrew Farago.

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TMNT: The Ultimate Visual HistoryThis large, full-color book is published both for the 30th anniversary of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles comic book, which was first published by two comic-book fans at a comics convention in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in May 1984, and for the release of the fifth Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles theatrical feature opening this Friday.

This is one of those “all you want to know about” books. It is not so much about the characters themselves as it is the official history of the TMNT phenomenon, or franchise, or whatever you want to call it. Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, the TMNT’s creators, are collectors as much as anything else, and this book is full of original sketches, the flyer for that 1984 comics convention, comic book covers, storyboards and cels from the TV animated series, posters and stills from the theatrical features, photos of all the TMNT merchandising items and so on.

Personally, I would have preferred more profiles of the anthropomorphic supporting characters besides Splinter the rat sensei, such as Bebop the warthog, Ninjara the vixen, or Dogpound and Fishface, who are not described because, with names like that, who needs to? Or plot synopses of the stories in the comic books, the TV series (or selected episodes; I suppose that asking for a synopsis of every TV episode would be too much), and the theatrical features.

Foreword by Peter Laird, San Rafael CA, Insight Editions, June 2014, hardcover $50.00 (192 pages).

Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Enter Shredder DVD

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TMNT Enter Shredder DVDUnlike some other animated television series that will remain unnamed in this review, the newest animated incarnation of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is releasing DVDs that feature the episodes in order at regular intervals, approximately six at a time.

The upshot is that I can review each episode in order by nominally reviewing the DVDs; at this point, I can review all the way through the approximate first quarter of the second season from Nickelodeon. So I’m going to do that. Starting right now.

The Episodes

“Monkey Brains”

It probably says something that, despite introducing a new mutant in this episode, said mutant didn’t manage to even gain his own action figure. And this is TMNT we’re talking about; in the original animated series, the action figure came first half the time, then the episode (if at all). He doesn’t even have a mutant name; he’s just his old human name, Dr. Rockwell, or “the monkey” (despite technically being an ape). Monkeys and apes just aren’t very charismatic as anthros, especially when they can’t even talk.

However, it does introduce a recurring villain, Dr. Falco (who will eventually get an action figure under a different name, and is voiced by Jeffrey The Reanimator Combs) and the idea that April will begin training as a kunoichi under Splinter. And the main “lesson” of the episode, in which overthinking Donatello must learn to fight more instinctively against a villain who can read his thoughts, is a good character-based plot engine; his flowchart for hanging out with April is an amusing subplot.

Review: 'My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic' Keys of Friendship DVD (with bonus 'Rainbow Rocks' trailer)

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My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic Keys of Friendship DVDThe smell of acrid smoke and horses’ breath …
- Iron Maiden, “The Trooper

The good folks behind My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic decided that what this show needs is season long story arcs. All the cool shows are doing it now. This DVD tries to collect the first real season long story arc, from season 4 of the show, and pretty much fails spectacularly to do that.

Technically, this story arc contains the two part opener for the fourth season, “Princess Twilight Sparkle” parts one and two, in which the ponies realize they need to be looking for six keys to unlock a magic box that a tree just grew. Wow, that sentence doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, but I swear, it’s what happened. Those two episodes are not featured here.

Then, five of the ponies have individual adventures, where they help someone out in a way that relates to their special Element of Harmony, beginning with Rarity and ending with Applejack, because Applejack always goes last. Two of those episodes are collected here, featuring Rarity and Fluttershy. Rainbow Dash’s episode is featured on another DVD I haven’t reviewed yet, and Applejack and Pinkie Pie are waiting for future DVD releases, despite the fact that Pinkie has the best by a long shot.

Finally, we have the season four finale, where the box is opened when Twilight Sparkle finally figures out how to get her key, amongst other things, and, I guess, “Castle-Mania” technically features Twilight trying and failing to research the box, so 10 out of 26 episodes. I don’t think we can call the other 16 episodes filler when they so outnumber the “arc” episodes, and they’re usually better anyway.

Review: 'Felix the Cat Paintings', by Don Oriolo

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Felix the Cat Paintins by Don OrioloThis is a beautiful but chaotic collection of full-color paintings of Felix the Cat, by Don Oriolo.

There are at least five title pages and subtitles, all different, plus a foreword by Craig Yoe and short essays or tributes by comic book and animation experts, historians and, in the book’s term, aficionados Mark Evanier, Jerry Beck, David Gerstein and Paul Castiglia. The most important subtitles are A collection of paintings from the prolific imagination of the Felix the Cat guy and Curated, designed and edited by Rod Ollerenshaw. Another is The Felix the Cat Paintings of Don Oriolo.

To add to the confusion, there are websites and copyright statements for donoriolocollection.com, ollerenshawworkshop.com, © 2014 Felix the Cat Productions, Inc. and © 2014 Gussoni-Yoe Studio. Inc.

Included are full-page photographs of Don Oriolo with Craig Yoe, two of the essayists, actor-artist Tony Curtis and some of his paintings.

Foreword by Craig Yoe, San Diego, CA, IDW Publishing, February 2014, hardcover $34.99 (unpaged [168 pages]).

'Beyond Beyond' takes rabbits to the Feather King's realm

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'Beyond Beyond' poster It looks like 2014 is not only the year for animated features, it is the year for animated features featuring anthropomorphic animals – and fruits – and rolls of toilet paper.

Here is the 1’32” trailer for the Swedish 79-minute Resan Till Fjäderkungens Rike, or Beyond Beyond, directed by Esben Toft Jacobsen, released March 21 in Sweden, and expected to screen at international animation festivals throughout the year.

Judging by the publicity so far, this is a strong contender to become the Ernest et Célestine of 2014. It’s got seagoing and circus-performing rabbits, and a giant furry bird, and a frog sea-captain, and… trolls? And what are those little blue things? Anyway, it looks like a feature that furry fans will love.

Animation: 'Lisa Limone and Maroc Orange: A Rapid Love Story'

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Hah! I have always said that Estonian animation is ununderstandable! Incomprehensible, even. Here is a 4’47” trailer for a 72-minute 2013 stop-motion animated grand opera about the star-crossed love affair between an anthropomorphized rich-girl lemon and a poor refugee orange, directed by Mait Laas. Lisa Limone’s cruel father (a lemon with a comic-relief moustache) runs a slave-labor tomato plantation and ketchup factory.

Don’t worry if you don’t speak Estonian. Nobody understands the lyrics in opera, anyway. Besides, the trailer is subtitled in English.

Opinion: The top ten movies of 2013

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Both are round, orb-like fruits, while one is usually red on the outside (though green, yellow and even orange are possibilities), its smooth, thin skin usually eaten, with firm, off-white flesh that ranges from sweet to sweet with varying degrees of tartness in flavor, with small brown seeds found inside the core of the fruit, while one is orange, obviously, with dimpled, but still smooth to the touch skin that, while edible, is rarely eaten directly, with much juicier flesh that is usually tarter, but not always, and still very sweet, with small tannish seeds throughout.

What am I doing? Oh, just comparing apples to oranges. Anyway, here are ten movies from 2014 you should watch sometime.

Video: DJ Pon-E in 'Music to My Ears' (and other 'Rainbow Rocks' shorts)

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I know this sort of thing can be annoying to some Flayrah readers (or viewers, as is the case here), but it’s been around for a while, and you’ve had plenty of time to make peace with it. Besides, some people like this sort of thing.

But enough about dubstep. Here’s a short from Hasbro Studios of the Equestria Girls version of Vinyl “DJ Pon-3” Scratch listening to her music. [Read on for more shorts.]

This is in anticipation of a sequel to last year’s Ursa Major nominated My Little Pony: Equestria Girls (review), titled My Little Pony: Equestria Girls: Rainbow Rocks. It is supposed to gain a theatrical (or at least pseudo-theatrical) release in late September.

Stylish Kitties

Cynthia Petrovic is an artist and illustrator who has worked as a story-board artist at places like Warner Brothers Television Animation. Branching out on her own, she created a line of artwork and other products called Red Tango, based around her fascination for critters — especially rather slim and stylized felines. She has a very animated interactive web page that  includes not only her current products but also samples of her story-board work.

image c. 2014 by Cynthia Petrovic

image c. 2014 by Cynthia Petrovic

Join the Colony

Making its premier at WonderCon this year (in Anaheim, California, of course!) was Termites, a new animated film concept by Matthew G. Hill, Barrett Kime, Tighe Damron, Melanie Makaiwi, and Tom Wentworth. The crew have started up a Kickstarter campaign to finance their project. Simply put: What would happen if a colony of termites in a fancy home got wind (sorry, sorry…) that the house is about to be fumigated? “Through the eyes of young Termite hero, Larkin, we dive into both the fascinating narrative world (4 arms, anybody?), the exquisite landscape of artistic possibility, and the raw emotion of a tragic, yet inspiring story”. The campaign is running on Kickstarter until May 17th.

image c. 2014 The Colony

image c. 2014 The Colony

Newly published: Fred Patten's 'Funny Animals and More'

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Funny Animals and More Funny Animals and More: From Anime to Zoomorphics, based on Fred Patten’s weekly columns from Jerry Beck’s Cartoon Research animation website, was published March 26 by Theme Park Press. It is available in paperback and digital formats, and on Amazon.com.

The book is about animation and comic books rather than specifically anthropomorphic animals, but cartoon and CGI funny animals are a major theme. Topics include anime cat girls; Pokémon and Monster Rancher; Astro Boy and Atomcat; how a popular 1970s anime TV series led to the import of thousands of baby North American raccoons into Japan as pets, whose descendants are ruining thousand-year-old Buddhist and Shinto shrines today; animated Summer Olympics mascots like Misha the bear cub, Sam the eagle, Hodori the tiger, and Cobi the sheepdog, from 1972 to 2012; Patten’s favorite childhood comic-book funny animals like Amster the Hamster, Doodles Duck and his nephew Lemuel, Nutsy Squirrel, Dunbar Dodo, and SuperKatt, and how he would still like to see them animated; Crusader Rabbit; rats in animation; Reynard the Fox in animation; and Disney’s forthcoming 2016 Zootopia.

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