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'Spark: A Space Tail': No future

Your rating: None Average: 4 (4 votes)

Spark, A Space Tail"Ever get the feeling you've been cheated?"
- John Lydon, singer/songwriter

"God Save the Queen is the actual worst song, let's not argue."
- Guy Lodge, again

To be perfectly honest, I was a bit excited for this movie, when I first heard of it, if only because furries in space is a concept that has worked in the past; and, hey, vixen right there.

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.

'Sing' will have anthro animals singing 85 songs

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

SingCan Illumination Entertainment produce anything besides more Despicable Me and Minions movies? The animation studio is aggressively proving that it can – with anthropomorphic animals. It has already announced The Secret Life of Pets for a July 8th, 2016 release. Now The Cartoon Brew website has announced that Illumination Entertainment will also release Sing on December 21st, just in time for Christmas.

Sing sounds roughly like a Muppet movie, or a cleaned-up Meet the Feebles, with an all-anthro animal cast. Buster Moon, a koala theatrical producer, is producing a vaudeville-style live show. The hopefuls trying to get a part include a mouse crooner, a timid elephant, a pig mother with too many piglet youngsters, a young gorilla trying to break free from his mob family, a punk-rock porcupine and more. The voice cast includes Matthew McConaughey, Seth MacFarlane, Tori Kelly, Reese Witherspoon, Taron Egerton, Scarlett Johanssen and John C. Reilly, among others.

Illumination promises that Sing will have 85 songs! Is that a record for any musical, much less a funny-animal one?

'The Angry Birds Movie' takes flight

Your rating: None Average: 2.4 (5 votes)

The trailers for anthropomorphic animated movies are coming thick and fast. Here is the teaser trailer for The Angry Birds Movie, due out (unless the date is changed) May 20, 2016. The concept is by Finnish video game company Rovio Entertainment, of course, but the CGI movie is by Sony Pictures Imageworks’ new animation studio in Vancouver (where Sony Pictures Animation moved it from Hollywood for British Columbia’s tax breaks). It’s what Sony Imageworks will be working on now that Hotel Transylvania 2 is finished.

The feature is directed by Clay Kaytis and Fergal Reilly, from a screenplay by Jon Vitti. Voices include Jason Sudeikis as Red, Josh Gad as Chuck, Maya Rudolph as Matilda, Danny McBride as Bomb and Peter Dinklage as Mighty Eagle, with Bill Hader as Leonard, a Minion Pig.

Review: 'Angry Birds' - a 2016 attempt at a 2010 property

Fight The Pigs!

No matter what it is, you can always take it to a new, higher, weirder level folks. Super Angry Birds is a new full-color on-line comic series from IDW and Rovio Studios, giving us a whole new take on (what else?) the Angry Birds universe. “It’s everyone’s favorite furious fowl as you’ve never seen them before! New Yolk City is your typical bustling metropolis and like every big city it has a dark side. Through lies, deceit and corruption, King Pig and his henchmen have taken over the town and have made life miserable for its citizens. This makes one group of birds angry…Super Angry! This new group of would-be heroes, with powers beyond mortal birds, fight a covert war against King Pig and his minions. They are the Super Angry Birds!” Told you. Two issues are out so far, so check it out over at Comixology.

image c. 2015 IDW Publishing

image c. 2015 IDW Publishing

The Return of Pig and Fox

Besides the Oscar-winning animated short film Feast, one of the animated shorts that was making a whole lot of buzz during awards season was called The Dam Keeper. Here’s the description from Wikipedia: ” It tells the story of Pig, an introverted youth who lives in a windmill and keeps a dark fog from engulfing his town. Although socially rejected by his peers, he is befriended by the artistic Fox.” The Dam Keeper was directed by Robert Kondo and Daisuke Tsutsumi, both art directors at Pixar (they worked together on Monsters University). Now comes this bit of news from Cartoon Brew: “Tonko House, the studio founded by former Pixar art directors Robert Kondo and Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi, is developing a feature film based on their Academy Award-nominated short The Dam Keeper. The announcement was made along with the news that Tonko House is partnering with First Second Books, an imprint of Macmillan, to expand their short into a graphic novel series. The first book in The Dam Keeper graphic novel series will be released in 2016, picking up the narrative some years after the original story of the orphaned Pig and his quest to maintain the town dam. It will address two questions unanswered in the film: what happened to Pig’s parents, and how did his world come to be at the mercy of a dark cloud?

The Girl, and Her Pig

We simply can’t describe Amity Blamity any better than the publishers do: “Meet Gretchen & Chester. Gretchen is a shy 4 year old and Chester is a potbellied pig. They live with Gretchen’s Grandma and listless Uncle Downey in rural America.  Mistaking their afternoon activity of playing office for entrepreneurial gusto, Downey recruits the duo to assist in his deluded aspirations of running moonshine (echoing his boyhood heroes Bo & Luke Duke). Unbeknownst to the outlandish family and their activities, strange forest critters begin to lurk in the woods nearby, disrupting their quirky daily life and sending them on an adventure to save their degenerate Uncle from a strange genetic mutation!” Got that? Now Slave Labor Graphics have published Mike White’s black & white on-line comic strip story (so far) as a single soft-cover trade paperback. Check it out (including a YouTube trailer) at SLG’s web site, and see the comic itself (including more full-color “Sundays”) at the official Blogspot.

image c. 2015 by Mike White

image c. 2015 by Mike White

Captain Carrot 1982 series being digitally released by DC on ComiXology

Your rating: None Average: 4.5 (4 votes)

Zoo_Crew_1_cover_0.jpgDC is doing a digital release of Captain Carrot And His Amazing Zoo Crew! this year. First issue was released in 1982... now rereleased August 19th, 2014!

From Wikipedia:

Captain Carrot and His Amazing Zoo Crew! is a DC Comics comic book about a team of funny animal superheroes called the Zoo Crew. The characters first appeared in a special insert in The New Teen Titans #16 (February 1982),[1] followed by a series published from 1982 to 1983. The Zoo Crew characters were created by Roy Thomas and Scott Shaw!. Although the series, which was the last original funny animal property created by DC Comics, proved short-lived, it is still fondly remembered by many comic fans of its generation, and the characters appear occasionally in cameos in the mainstream DC Universe (this is made possible due to the existence of a "multiverse" in the DCU, which allows the Zoo Crew characters to exist on a parallel Earth).

Review: 'The Awareness', by Gene Stone and Jon Doyle

Your rating: None Average: 4 (3 votes)

The Awareness"Every now and again I sit back and wonder what it would be like if other animals could really fight back against the egregious violence to which we subject them in a wide variety of venues ranging from research laboratories and classrooms to zoos, circuses, rodeos, factory farms, and in their own homes in ours and in the wild. This thought experiment takes life in The Awareness and reflects their points of view, and it's clear they do not like what routinely and thoughtlessly happens to themselves, their families and their friends. By changing the playing field Gene Stone and Jon Doyle force us to reflect how we wantonly and selfishly abuse other animals and the price we would pay if they could truly fight back. This challenging book also asks us to reflect on the well-supported fact that we need other animals as much as they need us. It should help us rewild our hearts, expand our compassion footprint, and stop the reprehensible treatment that we mindlessly dole out." - Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado (quoted blurb)

Suspense/terror/horror stories in which all animals, or all of certain species, turn against mankind go back at least to Arthur Machen’s unreadable “The Terror” (1917). Probably the best-known is Daphne du Maurier’s “The Birds” (1952). I recently reviewed Steven Hammond's Rise of the Penguins (2012). In movies, the terror-animals have ranged from rats to all of the giant mutations like Them and Night of the Lepus.

How successful any of these are usually depends on two factors. The skill of the author (or the director) in building a mood of terror, and the plausibility of the reason given for the animals to turn against humanity. In The Awareness, both of these fail.

NYC, The Stone Press, March 2014, paperback $14.95 (ix + 221 [+3] pages), Kindle free.

Review: 'Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 30th Anniversay Special'

Your rating: None Average: 2 (1 vote)

TMNT 30th Anniversary SpecialIDW has put out this comic to celebrate the fact that the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles have turned 30 this year, an age which is not only well beyond teenaged, but also past the point where pointing that out can be considered witty, but that’s not going to stop me.

The book contains a brief history of the ninja turtles, starting with their beginnings as a self-published comic in May of 1984, with various pieces of turtle nostalgia, including the sketch of what is now considered the “first turtle,” ads, posters and press releases for the first ever issue, as well as full page tribute art by Steve Lavigne, Michael Dooney, Ken Mitchroney, Ben Bates, T-Rex, Ross Campbell, Mark Torres, David Petersen and Daniel “Pez” Lopez, with a cover by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird with a back cover by Mateus Santolouco, not to mention a variety of alternate covers.

The book covers the history of the TMNT in the comics exclusively; it features brand new stories taking place in five comic book continuities: the early Mirage years, the Archie TMNT Adventures, the Image “third volume”, the later Mirage years and the newest IDW series, with a limited cover gallery showing the first issue of each of these eras.

May 2014, IDW Publishing, San Diego, CA, trade paperback $7.99, Kindle $1.99.

Review: It’s the Muppets again in 'Muppets Most Wanted'

Your rating: None Average: 2 (1 vote)

Muppets Most WantedThe latest Muppet movie begins at the end. Not like in media res, I mean like the first thing you see in this movie are the giant words “THE END.” We’re back at the end of the last Muppet movie, and it slowly dawns on the Muppets that the cameras are still rolling. This could mean only one thing!
Obviously, James Bobin forgot to shout cut.

No, wait, the Muppets are doing a sequel! So, the movie begins with a meta moment when the Muppets realize they’re now in a sequel, and they sing an absolutely hilarious song about this fact entitled “We’re Doing a Sequel.” So now they’re puppets, who are actors, who are playing themselves in a movie. It’s kind of like This is The End, except I don’t think James Franco is a puppet. At least I’m pretty sure he’s not.

Anyway, the best part? This movie was going to be called The Muppets Again! Because it’s about the Muppets, again! It’s so absurdly stupid it’s kind of brilliant, which is why it was changed at the last moment to Muppets Most Wanted. They went with a more descriptive, less generic title that somehow managed to be less descriptive and more generic.

Everybody got that?

Good, now explain it to me.

Power Pig!

Brand new from Previews: “Tom Arvis’ legendary hero and indie favorite Mercenary Pig is now presented in one complete, full color volume! A walking, talking, thinking, humanoid pig takes on animal cruelty, genetically modified pigs, and, ultimately, an evil food conglomerate, in this pork-humor filled, action packed origin story! New material wraps up the entire Meatcutter story arc in these 48 pages, as Percy the pig begins his guerrilla fight for animal rights – with his fists!” We don’t make this stuff up folks — if we did, we’d get paid more! Mercenary Pig #1 is available this April from Aazurn Publishing. Check out the preview video on YouTube, too.

image c. 2014 Aazurn Publishing

image c. 2014 Aazurn Publishing

A Rat, a Pig, and a Lawyer Walk Into a Space Bar…

Pearls Before Swine is a full-color on-line comic strip written and illustrated by Stephan Pastis — who was formerly a lawyer in California.  “At its heart, Pearls Before Swine is the comic strip tale of two friends: An arrogant Rat who thinks he knows it all and a slow-witted Pig who doesn’t know any better. Together, this pair offers caustic commentary on humanity’s quest for the unattainable. Dilbert cartoonist Scott Adams says that Pearls is ‘one of the few comics that makes me laugh out loud.’” Well there you have it. There have been several paperback book collections of Pearls Before Swine comic strips; the latest one, Rat’s Wars, is coming from Andrews McMeel Publishing this October. Check it out over at Amazon. And check out the comic itself over at GoComics.


image c. 2013 by Stephan Pastis

Review: 'Angry Birds: Hatching a Universe; Behind the Scenes of a Phenomenon', by Danny Graydon

Your rating: None Average: 4.1 (7 votes)

Jaakko from Angry Birds I have no interest in video games. But I could not help hearing about Angry Birds, created in 2009 by Rovio Entertainment in Espoo, Finland. They seemed to be everywhere in the last couple of years; on billboards, in Coca-Cola and Cheetos advertising, in political cartoons, in news articles that UK Prime Minister David Cameron and famous author Salman Rushdie are fans, and that Angry Birds theme parks have opened or are under construction in places as far afield as Finland and Malaysia. Finally, animated Angry Birds episodes have appeared on TV and YouTube (I watched those), and theatrical features in both stop-motion and CGI animation are in development.

Insight Editions is one of the publishers specializing in lavish full-color coffee-table books about CGI features. It has published books (which I have reviewed for Animation World Network) on the art of Rango, Madagascar 3, Puss in Boots, and Rise of the Guardians, among others. It has done a similar de luxe presentation here; not only on the video games and the merchandising and so on, but on the individual characters – the Angry Birds (Red, Chuck, Terence, Matilda, Bomb, Bubbles, Jim, Jake, and Jay, Stella, etc.); their adversaries, the Bad Piggies (King Pig, Chief Pig, and their many minions); and the other supporting birds (Mighty Eagle, Freddie Bird, Hal the toucan, and others.

Insight Editions, June 2013, hardcover $50.00 (161 [+ 3] pages). Foreword by Mikael Hed.

Review: 'The Darkness', by Eddie Drueding

Your rating: None Average: 2.7 (3 votes)

Cover to 'Arraborough: The Darkness'The Darkness, a.k.a. “Arraborough, Book 2”, has a two-page “The Story So Far” synopsis of Book 1, The Unimaginable Road, but it seems more confusing than enlightening. Basically, The Darkness jumps right into the story in progress. If you have not read The Unimaginable Road, you should start there. If you have, even when Book 1 was first published over a year ago, the events will swiftly come back to you.

The Darkness is a darker story, no joke intended. In Book 1, the community of Arraborough is created with high hopes for its success. Unknown forces are clearly working against it, but there is a feeling that if the animal community will continue to trust each other and work together, they will prevail against the shadowy obstacles. In Book 2, that unity is broken. Deaths occur, some possibly natural but ominous, and others definitely murder. The Arraboroughans now wonder who is the murderer in their midst; which of their close friends is secretly working to sabotage their community. And the agencies opposed to Arraborough seem stronger.

Tust and Kelly are in earnest discussion with Slither. Fespin, Hillany, and Inkwell are playing with Taj as Arlafette looks on proudly. Albin is sharing some opinion with Mander. Breth and Barelle are setting out plates and cutlery. From the kitchen, Hylan is bringing out a large garden salad. Dhenzi and Brady are whispering to themselves, glancing covertly at Spiny, who sits off by himself. Slick’s face hardens as he realizes that one of these people is a traitor and a murderer. (p. 37)

Melange Books, June 2013, trade paperback $13.95 (203 [+ 2] pages), Kindle $5.99.

Arraborough Book Two, 'The Darkness', now available

Your rating: None Average: 4 (9 votes)

Cover to 'Arraborough: The Darkness'Eddie Drueding's Arraborough series debuted in 2012 with The Unimaginable Road, featuring a "fully anthropomorphic world bereft of a human populace". With 2013 comes the release of The Darkness, again published by Melange Books, and available in PDF and HTML formats or print-on-demand via Lulu.

Proceeds from 2013 sales will be donated to a local animal charity, The Cat Rescue Network.

Book 1, The Unimaginable Road introduced a strange animal planet and the small group of friends who decided to build a safe haven from the deep-laid intrigues of their modern society.

The Darkness finds them facing their painful pasts and confronting their hostile environment. An expedition exploring the dark, mysterious network of caves finds evidence of horrors past, present, and future; and a seemingly random accident in a nearby city sends a tragic figure on a collision course with the peaceful denizens of Arraborough.

Read more: Fred Patten reviews The Darkness