Ivan Tsarevich and the Gray Wolf (Иван Царевич и Серый волк / Ivan Tsarevich i Seriy volk / trailer) is a Russian 2D animated children's film that came out in 2011. It's the 7th film produced by Melnitsa Animation Studio, and although it took 12th place that year in Russia's box office, 9 of the top 11 films were all foreign imports, so for a domestic film it did really well! It made back 8 times what it cost to produce, enough to get sequels in 2013 and 2016. I've not watched the studio's other films, but they've definitely got an in-house animation style down to something that works well for them.
A lot of foreign animation companies don't bother exporting their films into the North American market because it's expensive, although Netflix and other streaming services are rapidly changing that. Sometimes it's a case of whether foreign audiences will be able to relate to the content. Ivan Tsarevich and the Gray Wolf feels very Russian, culturally. I get the impression it's poking fun at a lot of fairy tales, and I have no idea what they are. Still, it was an ok watch.
Sheep & Wolves (trailer) is an 85-minute Russian CG-animated movie that came out in 2016, also known as Волки и овцы (Volki i ovtsy). The writing and production took five years by Wizart Animation, whose earlier film had been The Snow Queen (2012).
Sheep & Wolves didn't quite break even at the box office, and received mixed reviews. After I watched it, I have to agree it's a middle-of-the-road film. It's not bad, it's not great - it's thoroughly so-so. On the positive side, the animation is good and very furry! But the writing... it's for kids aged six and above. There's not much in it to appeal to adults; it's what I call a "babysitting film". Plunk your tykes down in front of it and keep them distracted for a while. Still, I'd rank it a notch or two above Alpha & Omega.
Occasionally, there comes a pair of movies that share remarkably similar themes that come out together. Sometimes, as in Antz versus A Bug's Life, there's evidence that one of the movies was designed as a direct competitor to the other. More often than not, however, there's just something in the water. Just last year, Disney went out of its way to advertise how unique a movie Zootopia was for featuring a fully anthropomorphic animal world in the one year in the history of American feature animation where that was not a unique quality. These things just happen.
1981 was one of those years, featuring not one, but two werewolf movies utilizing cutting edge (for the time) makeup effects that also happened to be horror comedies as opposed to straight horror movies. The Howling came out first, but it was the scrappy underdog that went up against the real Hollywood juggernaut, An American Werewolf in London, written and directed by John Landis, an up and coming director who hung out with the likes of Steven Spielberg.
Though An American Werewolf in London is an acknowledged classic of the horror genre and features a ghoulish sense of humor (Landis was, and still is, best known for Animal House, early poster taglines noted this movie featured "a different kind of animal"), it is, like The Wolf Man, very much a tragedy. And not all the tragedy is on screen.
It's October, and that means Halloween.
To celebrate that fact, I'd like to offer a series of reviews on various werewolf movies.
Werewolves are the closest the worlds of furry and horror brush the closest to each other, though they may have more in common than they seem.
Both furry and horror deal with things of dual natures. Furry explores the line between what we mean when we say "human", and what we mean when we say "animal". The werewolf movie, more than any other sub-type of horror movie (or horror story), explores this same trope, and not just the difference between "wolf" and "man".
Monster, monster… no-one knows this thrilling feeling. Dizzy how, dizzy how - it's TeleMonster time!
Here is another new animated feature that we aren’t getting in America, at least right now. The Cartoon Brew website has just posted this article about Savva: Heart of the Warrior, a new Russian animated feature that opened in second place in that country, and has since been released in Poland and is coming to other countries in 2016. An American voice dub has been prepared, but no American release has been scheduled yet.
The CB article includes the trailer and a half-dozen stills. Savva and many characters are human, but there are plenty of talking animals including Angee, a white wolf or werewolf.
The Hollywood Reporter announced on May 13 that Wizart Animation in Moscow (business office) and Voronezh (animation studio) is producing The Snow Queen 3 for release in late 2016. Presumably this is in Russia, and it’ll come to the U.S. in 2017. Also presumably the cast will include Orm the troll and Gerda’s pet ermine Luta, since they were so popular in The Snow Queen and The Snow Queen 2: The Snow King.
The same Hollywood Reporter article announces that Wizart is pre-selling its own Sheep and Wolves featuring anthro wolves and sheep – it’s titled Volkii I Ovtsi (wolves and sheep), in Russian. Here’s the the English language for Sheep and Wolves.
The article continues, "Wizart will also be […] offering pre-sales for Urfin and His Wooden Soldiers (by Melnitsa Animation)."
So, Disney goes out of there way to advertise the very anthropomorphic nature of next animated movie (you couldn't resist the awful fur pun, could you, Disney? It's okay, we know how it is.), and it turns out everyone and their Rock Dog has chosen to come out with similar movies within months of each other. Rock Dog, though a Chinese production with no American release date (it does have an October 1 Chinese release date), is meant to be the movie that breaks Chinese animation into America.
And it's every bit as anthropomorphic an animal world as Zootopia or Kung Fu Panda 3, and, at the very least, it looks much more promising than Legend of a Rabbit.
In the came-from-out-of-nowhere division: Animation Scoop has a review of a new DVD release, Wolfy, The Incredible Secret from France. Random Media (in partnership with Cinedigm) have now released it with an English soundtrack. “A story of political machinations, anamorphic animal hierarchy and gypsy fantasy – traditionally hand-drawn with a look that leans far away from photorealism. The convoluted English title (French title: Loulou, l’incroyable secret) actually refers to quite a few secrets, which unravel as Wolfy, an easygoing wolf, and Tom, his neurotic bunny pal, travel to Wolfenberg to find Wolfy’s mother. A gypsy has told them that she is the true princess as well as the leader of a rebellion against an evil usurper—a manipulative wolf named Lou Andréa.” Take a look at the trailer linked to the article. It won’t make much more sense, but it’ll give you an overall idea of the movie’s look and feel.
In 2012 John Claude Bemis (author of the Americana-Fantasy series The Clockwork Dark) brought us a new post-apocalypse novel for young readers called The Prince Who Fell From The Sky. “In Casseomae’s world, the wolves rule the Forest, and the Forest is everywhere. The animals tell stories of the Skinless Ones, whose cities and roads once covered the earth, but the Skinless disappeared long ago. Casseomae is content to live alone, apart from the other bears in her tribe, until one of the ancients’ sky vehicles crashes to the ground, and from it emerges a Skinless One, a child. Rather than turn him over to the wolves, Casseomae chooses to protect this human cub, to find someplace safe for him to live. But where among the animals will a human child be safe? And is Casseomae threatening the safety of the Forest and all its tribes by protecting him?” Published by Random House, check this out over at the author’s web site.
Another discovery from the CTN Animation Expo (in Burbank, California): Cale Atkinson is an artist and animator who recently created a short called Li’l Red (as seen on Furry.Today). The little girl’s reaction to meeting the Big Bad Wolf is… not what you’d think. His web site has links to that short and several others, as well as examples of his art and illustration.
I reviewed volumes 8-10 here in May 2013. My review was so favorable that part of it is quoted in the back-cover blurb on volume 12. Here are volumes 11 and 12, equally enjoyable and not-to-be-missed.
These two pocket-sized books contain the Doc Rat daily Internet comic strips from #1427 to #1558 (December 13, 2011 to June 13, 2012), and #1559 to #1758 (June 14, 2012 to March 20, 2013). Volume 11 is a normal one, collecting six months of the comic strip. Volume 12 is a giant-sized one, collecting more pages to take the story to the conclusion of a long story-arc.
Dr. Craig "Jenner" Hilton has been simultaneously an active furry fan and an Australian doctor since the early 1980s. His anthropomorphic cartoons were published in the progress reports and program book of the 1985 World Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne.
For about twenty years after graduating from medical college, Hilton was assigned to provide medical services for a series of small towns around western Australia, from which he sent his furry cartoons to America. During a stay as the doctor for the coal-mining town of Collie, he drew an anthropomorphic comic strip, DownUnderGround, for the local newspaper. He finally settled in permanently as a GP in a suburb of Melbourne. His character of Doc Rat began appearing in individual cartoons in medical and non-medical publications during the 1990s. On June 26, 2006 he launched Doc Rat as a Monday through Friday comic strip on the Internet. Since then Doc Rat has picked up an international following, including placing as one of the five finalists in the Best Comic Strip category for the Ursa Major Awards for 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013 voted upon this year.
Doc Rat is a combination of stand-alone comedy strips, usually emphasizing medical humour of the groaner-pun variety, and urban drama in an anthropomorphic world where carnivores are allowed to hunt and eat the herbivores, although they have to do it legally. This involves a lot of red tape and filling-out of forms. Often the carnivores are too impatient to do this, and they hunt illegally, which provides much of the drama of the strip. The herbivores are working politically to make all predation of intelligent citizens illegal, which is also a plot point.
Doc Rat. Vol. 11, "I’m Fair Off Me Tucker, Doc", by Jenner, June 2013, Platinum Rat Productions, Melbourne, Vic., Australia, trade paperback AUS $16.00 or US$12.95 ([76 pgs.])
Doc Rat. Vol. 12, "It Hurts To Swallow, Doc", by Jenner, December 2013, Platinum Rat Productions, Melbourne, Vic., Australia, trade paperback AUS$18.00 or US$14.95 ([110 pgs.])
Red Devil, a sequel to Kyell Gold's Green Fairy, is both the second volume of his Dangerous Spirits series, and part of his Forester series (Out of Position, Isolation Play, Waterways, Bridges and others), set in an alternate contemporary America inhabited by anthropomorphic animals. Solomon Wrightson, the homosexual teenage wolf who was the protagonist of Green Fairy, is the best friend of Alexei Tsarev, the fox protagonist here.
Alexei, a young Siberian in the States on a student visa that expires in two months, hopes to impress the Vidalia Peaches semi-professional soccer team enough to become a member.
If they sponsored Alexei, he could apply for a visa that would allow him to stay in this country indefinitely. (p. 3)
Besides being good athletes, everyone on the Peaches is gay. Alexei has only recently come to the States from his hometown of Samorodka, Siberia, partially to play soccer but really to escape the brutal anti-gay attitude prevalent in Siberia. (Gold is clearly using Siberia to refer to all Russia in this anthropomorphic world.) Alexei misses his sister Caterina, with whom he was especially close. They were exchanging letters, but she has not answered his last few missives. Alexei is sure that their abusive parents are preventing her from writing.
Alexei is rooming with Sol at the house that Sol shares with Meg, the mannish teenage otter from Green Fairy, in Sol’s room where his portrait of Niki, the murdered 19th-century fox transvestite is hanging. Alexei, who semi-believes in ghosts, already is influenced by the spirit of his great-grandmother “Prababushka”, whom he feels may have followed him to the States to protect him. In addition to worrying about Cat back in Samorodka, and getting onto the Peaches soccer team to stay in the States, Alexei has developed a crush on one of the Vidalia amateur players, Mike, a friendly Dall sheep; but the insecure, withdrawn Siberian fox is always being shoved aside by Kendall, a more brash and self-assertive pine marten also on the local amateur team. Alexei is unsure whether Mike is just being polite to Kendall, or if he really prefers the more outgoing marten. Or whether Alexei should continue to concentrate on his feelings for Mike, rather than looking for another boyfriend in Vidalia and the States’ more open and relaxed straight and gay sexual atmosphere.
Illustrations by Rukis, St. Paul, MN, Sofawolf Press, January 2014, trade paperback $19.95 ([iii +] 269 [+ 2] pages), Kindle $9.99.
This is book 4 of The Fall of Eldvar by Jim Galford. I reviewed book 1, In Wilder Lands, here in March 2012; book 2, Into the Desert Wilds, in November 2012, and book 3, Sunset of Lantonne, in February 2014.
The first two are a two-part subseries, “the wilding story arc”, within the larger saga of The Fall of Eldvar. Sunset of Lantonne is a standalone adventure. The Northern Approach, which debuts at Rocky Mountain Fur Con 2014 this month, continues roughly where both Sunset of Lantonne and Into the Desert Wilds end. The planned book 5, Bones of the Empire, will wrap up and complete the series.
What this means is that it is assumed the reader is familiar with the events in at least Sunset of Lantonne. The Northern Approach begins almost a year after the fall of Lantonne at its climax; but in terms of the action it follows immediately, without any synopsis.
Eldvar is a world of humans, elves, dwarfs, talking dragons and more, including wildings which are anthropomorphic animals. The story’s focus on the wildings is why the novels of The Fall of Eldvar qualify for review on Flayrah.
Seattle, WA, CreateSpace, August 2014, trade paperback $13.99 (432 pages), Kindle $2.99.