Nominations for the 2017 Ursa Major Awards will open on January 11, the first day of Further Confusion 2018. The awards celebrate the best anthropomorphic literature and art first published during the previous calendar year.
Find out more details at how to participate at our webpage: http://www.ursamajorawards.org/
The awards are selected through a two-stage process of nomination and voting. Members of the public send in up to five nominations in each of the twelve categories. The top nominations in each category are then presented for a public vote.
Surely, readers don't need the rules for a simple year end top ten list explained to them, but in case someone does, you can find them in one of the older lists.
"Well, we folks of the animal kingdom have our own version."
-Roger Miller, folk singer
Organized Christian theology has never really answered the question whether or not animals can be saved, but popular Christianity, as practiced by people rather than priests, has always seemed to think that salvation is available as much to animals as to humanity. A frequent way to tell the story of the Nativity is via the use of anthropomorphic animals. As a young child, I was at one time or another a lion and a firefly in various church Christmas pageants. Lions have traditionally been used in Christian art to symbolize Christ as King, though fireflies have never been very associated with Christmas in specific or Christianity in particular. I remember singing "This Little Light of Mine", anyway.
Which brings us to the original little light of Christianity and titular object of The Star. This is yet another retelling of the Nativity through the eyes of the animal kingdom, this time updated to slick CGI animated comedy. It's the same old story, but approximately 2.2 billion Christians around the world would attest it's a pretty decent story. So, it's got that going for it.
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.
Furry fans may have noticed a seconds long clip of crystalline, possibly fox-like critters scampering around the trailer for the latest instalment of Star Wars, subtitled The Last Jedi. The upcoming movie was the subject of a cover story by the magazine Entertainment Weekly, and one of the things covered were these "crystal foxes", which are known as vulptices. The Last Jedi is scheduled to be released December 15 (which technically means it's opening Thursday, December 14 for "previews") in America, and now furry fox fans have a reason to get excited.
Guardians (English trailer) is a Russian superhero film released in February 2017. The early trailers looked promising - fights, explosions, and a bear-guy! It's the Russian Avengers! Expectations were high, and it did well on its opening weekend... and was so disappointing that by its second weekend, it only took in 10% of its previous box office revenue.
It's a very formulaic movie. This isn't necessarily bad - Sing was formulaic too. But if you're going to use a formula, you have to do it well. You have to add a couple of entertaining surprises, mix it up a little, and maybe throw in some humor that mocks the very structure you're relying on. Guardians fails on all these counts.
The main cast for the live action remake of The Lion King has been announced by Disney. Donald Glover will play the lead role of Simba, while Beyoncé has been confirmed to play the role of Nala, finally settling rumors that Disney was trying to cast the pop star in the role.
For our final foray into lycanthropic cinema, comes— a movie I saw as a Sci Fi Channel original movie. It never even had a theatrical release in America. I will point out that it is by far the greatest Sci Fi Channel original movie ever produced, but I need hardly point out that is not a big accomplishment.
But, sometimes, hidden in the terrible filler, something emerges from the shadows. Perhaps I waste my time watching bad Sci Fi movies, but they provided a baseline. It's harder to know when you've got a good werewolf movie if you've never seen a bad or even just indifferent werewolf movie. Of course, if you don't have the patience to sit through the bad (with or without the MST3K patter), you can just take my word for it.
Dog Soldiers is a gory blast.
I Am Dragon (trailer) is a Russian fantasy/drama film that came out in 2015 and yes I know it's technically a wyvern. When I showed clips of it to dragon furries, that's the first thing they said, in a tone of voice like I'd gotten their hopes up and then betrayed them.
For a live-action film, it uses a lot of computer graphics (around 85%), and looks pretty good! The setting felt very real to me. Production costs were about $18 million, and it flopped at the box office. As movies go, it's... ok. I say this with some reluctance. If you're a fan of dragons, you're not missing much.
Back-story: A line of dragons lives on a secluded island, and in a medieval town, the people perform a ceremony and song with which they offer their maidens as sacrifices. This summons the dragon who flies off with one of them, until one day a warrior decides he's going to rescue the woman he loves. He finds the island (too late to save the maiden), slays the beast, and the sacrificial rite is turned into a local wedding ritual, minus the dragon.
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.
As a kid, I was given many cheap Wal-Mart editions of the writings of children's author Thornton Burgess, including The Adventures of Old Man Coyote, which contained a back cover blurb that was given a header simply saying "The Howling".
I bring this up because the movie referenced not very appropriately by that children's novel back cover is, on one hand, overshadowed by a similar werewolf movie that came out the exact same year, but has still managed to find itself embedded into pop culture deep enough that it gets its own call outs. I'll be covering that more popular werewolf movie eventually, but of the two werewolf movies of 1981 (three if you count the sorta-werewolf movie Wolfen), The Howling is my favorite.
Of all the werewolf movies I plan on covering, it has the most obvious flaws. It, more than any other, is going to take a very forgiving attitude to dated special effects. At least The Wolf Man has its iconic status going for it. The Howling also features one really cheap jump scare early on, but, to be fair, it makes up for this with one of the most earned jump scares in horror movie history later on. And finally, one of the main reasons I really love it so much is also something people can find annoying.
It's a postmodern werewolf movie. The rules of the werewolf movie have been codified. Now it's time to start playing with them.
"I guess I just sort of ... grew up."
— Ask Jappleack
It's been seven years to the day since My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic was first aired, and the geek world changed that day.
So let's talk about the 2017 movie. As far as the story goes, it's pretty bog-standard at this point for MLP:FiM. Bad guy appears (the Storm King, voiced by Liev Schreiber), three of the four magical alicorn princesses prove themselves worthless by getting instantly captured, so it's up to the fourth princess and series protagonist, Twilight Sparkle (voiced by Tara Strong), with her six friends - Applejack (voiced by Ashleigh Ball), Fluttershy (voiced by Andrea Libman), Pinkie Pie (also voiced by Libman), Rainbow Dash (also voiced by Ball), Rarity (voiced by Tabitha St. Germain) and Spike (voiced by Cathy Weseluck) - to save the land of Equestria with the magic of friendship. Which they used to be able to straight-up shoot people with, but they lost that ability back in season four.
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".
A pair of trailers came out within hours of each other last week for future furry features; Wes Anderson's Isle of Dogs, a stop-motion animated movie featuring talking dogs, and Peter Rabbit, a live action movie featuring CGI animals who wear clothes in addition to talking.
I kept plugging it quietly in the background all throughout 2015 and early 2016 (and you guys thought I only covered Zootopia that year). I mean, what if 2016 had been a year where we had six wide release, fully anthropomorphic world movies ranging in genre from buddy cop, to martial arts, to backstage musical, to crime caper, to space opera, and also Rock Dog?
As it ended up, we got, by my count, one great movie, one good movie, one movie that was kind of meh, one movie that turned out to not exist, one terrible movie and also Rock Dog.