Monday, June 30, 2008

One for the history books...

I've put off writing this post because, frankly, I wasn't sure how to put my reaction to Wall-E into words. Especially since anybody who reads this is most likely an animator and probably loves the movie too. Regardless, if you haven't gotten to see it yet, shame! Make time for it, and buy your tickets now, because you have the chance to witness something truly special.

**SPOILERS** (best not read more if you haven't seen it yet)
I've been thinking about the themes in this movie over and over, and I saw it twice this weekend already. Obviously to say the ecological themes are strong is an understatment. At first, I was a little put off by the slightly cynical and satirical view of the future, as for some reason I always seem to be pretty optimistic about the future. I don't think people are stupid, and while I see people as flawed individuals I usually don't think of them as defined soley by their flawed characteristics. I think many judgements on other people can be avoided if there's merely an effort for sincere understanding. So seeing a movie where humanity has utterly failed and has become an entire race of fat babies just comes off as a little unbelievable and cynical to me. At the same time, that I definitely feel we have a responsibility to take care of the planet, and that there are many things we need to do better.

I think some people will love and some people will hate this movie for its anti-consumerism "agenda". But regardless of if you praise or scold that message, to leave an analysis of this movie at that point would be superficial, and would ignore the complexities and truths that are revealed throughout the story. At first I saw the movie portray humanity in a negative view, but what I didn't see was that the story actually is oddly one of hope. It says, that even *if* worse came to worse, to a satirical level, there's hope for recovery. In this movie, that hope is Wall-E. And what's more, even according to Andrew Stanton's comments in "The Art of Wall-E", love is what has the power to make that change.

Wall-E changes everyone he comes in contact with. Eve, the two humans on the ship, the captain, even the typing robot by the elevator. And he does it through his sincerity, his innocence, and by being "the most human thing left in the universe" (As Stanton has put it). The only character he can't change is Auto, the robot auto-pilot who can't overcome his programming, a character with no love. Wall-E's yearn for love, and his genuine nature is felt by everyone who meets him. And what's more, he's gained that personality, that yearn for love, by collecting "junk" on Earth. See the paradox? Consumerism ruined the Earth, but also was the instigator of its salvation? No no no, it must go deeper than that. What ruined Earth was people's loss of humanity on the Axiom (ship). That was what caused Earth to never be re-settled, even though it could have been earlier. It's only when people start relating to each other again, when the captain sees what was lost on Earth, that things start going back to the way they should be. Did consumerism cause the loss of humanity? Did the loss of humanity cause consumerism? The interesting thing about Wall-E is that it doesn't damn everything consumerism produces, if you look closely. There's beauty in the rubik's cube, in "Hello Dolly!", in everything that Wall-E collects. I'm not defending consumerism here, I'm not saying that there isn't a lesson to be learned from the movie. What I am saying is that this is a complex movie that reveals a lot of lifes truths, and as we all know, life is not simple. We want it to be. We want to divide everything and everyone into "left" and "right". But life's just not like that.

I don't think Wall-E can fully be defined as a movie with an agenda. We're not talking Michael Moore here, what Andrew Stanton has done is take his views on the good and bad aspects of humanity, things he sees as truths of life, and created a masterpiece that makes you think, cry, laugh, and dare I say love, instead of creating a platform of division, all the while making you think about how we can improve. I know, I'm sure someone disagrees with me right now...that's fine! This is the type of movie that will be interpreted in various ways. There's no way I could ever sum up this movie in a single blog post, and maybe even my interpretations will change with time. It's complex, and though this is what I think now, I don't have life figured out ;)

I could go on and on about the artistic accomplishments of the movie as well, but that's best left for another post...if I get around to it ;) Wall-E is simply amazing, and what an incredible accomplishment. Critics are comparing it to Chaplin, and other things that usually only animators talk about. Flip through the "Art of" book after you see the movie, and don't just look at the cool designs, read what people have to say about the movie.

Oh yeah, and go see Wall-E, err, again...cause if you haven't yet I hope you didn't read all of my spoilers! Don't forget about Kung Fu Panda too!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Batman: The Animated Series

It's always great when I revisit my favorite animated shows as a kid, and find out they're just as good as I remember them--sometimes even better! Unfortunately many times that isn't the case. Thankfully Batman: The Animated Series is in the former group. I grew up watching this show after school, and even years later I find the stories very compelling, and extremely well written. Just check out the intro:

The poses and silouettes are amazing in this intro. I love when Batman jumps and flips over the "bad guy"! It's so dynamic and moody! The art direction is something that the show was known for, and the phrase "Dark Deco" was used to describe it. I love how the Gotham Police ride around in blimps--I mean really, is that the best mode of transportation for police? But it fits completely in the world they created, and makes it unique.

The tone of the series is so incredibly dark, with some very dramatic scenes that usually aren't played in kids entertainment, even today. While the episodes need to move fast for the half hour length, it doesn't talk down to kids, or explain everything through cliche dialogue. I don't understand the perceived need to dumb down stories for kids to "understand", and while I can understand Batman on a different level now, I would say I understood it when I was a kid too. Kids understand much more than we give them credit for, and just because they usually aren't burdened with the cynicism that adult life can bring, doesn't mean they don't understand certain truths of the world.

If you want to hear some behind the scenes comments on Batman The Animated Series, there's a good commentary on YouTube. Here's Part 1:

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wednesday, June 04, 2008


Thanks to my friend Jon, I got to check out an ASIFA-Hollywood preview of Kung Fu Panda last night! My buddy Ben Willis has been animating on this film for the past 2 years, so I've been waiting to see it for a while. Congrats to the folks at DreamWorks, great job! The action sequences in particular really blew me away, and the movie itself was thoroughly entertaining.

Go check out Kung Fu Panda when it opens this week!