Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (2017): A Crappy Christmas Special With Good Music


   They played this crap before “Coco.” I think one reason I wasn’t prone to like it going in is Pixar has amazing shorts, and this was around 20 minutes. Seriously, the best thing that is happening in regards to this film is Disney pulling it from theaters. This is a thing that should have existed as an extra on “Frozen’s” Blue Ray. I enjoyed “Frozen,” I think it beats “Tangled” and is up there with the rest of the modern greats of this new 3D Disney renaissance…I did not enjoy this though.

When it comes to Christmas or really any holiday specials I am pretty picky. The only one that I could stay is great are the different retelling of “A Christmas Carol,” and that is largely because they are about more than just trees, myths and gifts…they have a larger purpose and it is a man forced to grow and see the world beyond himself. This film has none of that depth, with the exception of only one scene that could have been 2 minute sequence in “Frozen 2,” when it eventually comes out.

That scene is where we see that Elsa and Anna shared pictures of of Olaf as “Do you want a Build a Snowman?” Was the only connection they had growing up since Elsa was under room arrest after those events. It is touching and if the movie had just been that it would have been great, instead we get Marketing^TM! Got to sell those Olaf dolls. Also the cast is all back so their voices sound lovely, even though the lyrics are awful and on the nose. (Holiday Tradition is repeated in every scene in what felt like at least 3 times).

Olaf isn’t bad but what he is used for is. He goes around the village collecting traditions so he can do jokes with Sven and so there will be more Olaf toys to market. Olaf appeals to everyone and the most important thing is stuff! God, I can understand if people hate the holidays after this short…Olaf is in everyone’s business and in the end has to be found because of his own mess up and in the end he was the tradition all along! This is a story with no consequences that is just there to remind you these characters exist and “Frozen 2” is coming!

After that they have a big feast on the lake and you know what, the fruit cake that was given in his search is dropped on him from the hawk who took it. Oh joy, more stupid humor! Buy that “Frozen” gear! They all have new costumes in this! Get Olaf with a bow tie! Look at Elsa and Anna’s new dress! Christmas is coming, better buy those new toys!

This should have been an extra in a DVD, ideally in “Frozen 2” or the “Frozen” re-release. This film crapped all over the beautiful shots Pixar usually makes and even took time away from developing characters in “Coco,” which is the best Pixar film since “Inside Out.” This film purely exists for marketing and my guess is it will sell a lot of Olaf dolls, because of course it will. If your theatre is showing it, skip it if you can and find out when “Coco” actually starts. If this is the new normal for “Pixar” openings Disney is on the way to ruining one of the best artistic companies they own.

Final Score: 5 / 10. 5 only because the voice actors and animation are good even if the writing and story are garbage.

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Moana (2016): Honoring Polynesian Mythology and Culture in Disney’s “Princess Model” to Create a Classic

moana

  I really liked “Moana.” It was no “Kubo and the Two Strings” but besides “Up” and “Inside Out” not many can compare to that…but this is classic Disney as it’s best. This is Disney taking the “Princess Model” (Princess goes against status quo for family, tribe, etc. for greater good) and achieves final great ends while being helped along by animal and magical companions. This is the base of Moana that the director, writer and Lin-Manuel build upon. Suffice to say I have nothing but affection for this film as it captures both my love of history (paying tribute to the Polynesian tribes and their history of exploration) and culture (how they related to one another and others).

    The film was directed by Ron Clements and John Musker, written by Jared Bush and produced by Osnat Shurer.

     The film involves Princess Moana (Auli’i Cravalho) dealing with the after affects of Maoi stealing the heart of Te Fiti as her Island slowly dies and her people become more isolated. Prompted by her Grandmother and her own desire for adventure seeks out Maoi (Dwayne Johnson) and the heart to restore peace in the world once more.

SPOILERS ahead

The Pros: The World – The world is awesome! Welcome to a world inspired by Polynesian mythology, with gods, demons  and islands connected by travel. This is a world that I only wanted to spend more time in and you should experience for yourself.

The History – The history is rich and tells a story that needs to be told. The early explorers and traders in the Americas were Polynesians but that is often ignored to history as horrible folks like Columbus get credit instead. This world recognizes what was long before Europeans came and congresses the thriving cultures that colonialism and in many ways destroyed, even though many histories and cultures still live on, as shown by this film.

The Animation – This it the best of Disney Animation and shows us a variety of animation types…from 3-D over 2-D and some fantastic visuals. The islands feel alive and real and honestly, besides “Wreck-It Ralph” this is the best animation so far.

The Soundtrack – It’s Lin-Manuel Miranda overseeing it and it shows! You’ve got musical, rap and power as just as he gave power to “Hamilton” and “In the Heights” each culture and history he touches is given his own take and with it passion and life.

The Characters – The characters drive the film and are really what make it stand out and put it above “Kung Fu Panda 3” and most Dreamworks films.

Grandma Tala – Grandma is the heart of the film. She motivates Moana’s desire to travel beyond the island her death incites Moana finally doing it. She is there for Moana through the best and worst times and her loss is felt once it happens.

Chief Tui – Chief Tui is traditional Disney Dad afraid of Daughter being free. This time it is given reason though as he lost a friend when he went beyond the reef. Sadly we don’t get more exploration though, everything he does is a reaction to Moana and it hurts his character development.

Maui – Dwayne Johnson is awesome! Maui hurts the Goddess by sealing her heart (Disney is clearly okay going there post “Maleficent”) and his arc is restoring the heart and apologizing for his wrong which was for his ego and for humanity, the people who abandoned him leaving the ocean and Gods to give him his power and turn him into a Demi-God. He is funny but can do drama too…seriously, “The Rock” is underrated as an actor.

Moana – Is the princess who drives the story as she and her animal sidekick try to save the world and find Maui in order to restore peace. She is awesome and I wish she’d found her power sooner as we see her being a fantastic Chief before her voyage beyond the reef. I felt for her, she lost and she gained and she discovered her own power.

A Story Not Told in the West – Polynesian culture has usually always been exoctized in the west and this was finally breaking free of that. Rather than being treated as a vacation spot where the people are a reward rather than a people. This film changes that which is a needed reaction to Disney’s past exocization of Hawaii and Polynesia. This can’t be stated enough and I hope those involved are aware of Disney’s own dark history.

Okay: The Disney Princess Model – Princess teams up with magical being (The Genie, Stich, Mushu, etc.) and an animal companion (s) (The Mice, The Horse in “Mulan” and “Tangled,” etc.) to defeat her family’s prejudice’s (“Frozen,” “Mulan,” etc.) and restore balance and peace. Disney has done this so many times and that is why I say it is okay. “Moana” doesn’t subvert anything like “Zootopia” or “Frozen” did.

The Cons: Tamatoa and Codedness – A villian coded as gay who is vain wants to eat the heroes! This isn’t new! (Prince John, Radcliff, Jafar, etc.) DIsney you are better than this. Though to be fair, even “Wreck-It Ralph” Sadly had this problem too. Feminine men need to stop being coded as bad.

The Mother as Plot Device – The mother helps Moana and tells the story of why her husband fears the sea…she is basically a plot device to motivate Moana to stay or leave, which is a shame as her helping Moana leave hinted at so much more.

Why Afraid to Take a Chance? – This movie took the safe route, Moana with her magic friend and animal side kick saves the world. Nothing is subverted when so much more could of. I like that he demon was the goddess  who needed balance again, which was Miyazi-esque but so much more could have been done. Why did she assume Maui could only save the day? She was the Chief to be, she was empowered, there was no reason to hand him the direction for the first half of the film.

   This is a film that I really liked and I consider a favorite. Now it probably won’t make my Top 5 of 2016 but that doesn’t change the fact that Polynesian culture and mythology have not been explored in the west beyond being exotcized. This changed that and gained so much power because of it. Yes it followed the “Princess Model” which is Disney’s take on the “Hero’s Journey” but it did it in such a powerful. This was Miyazaki levels of storytelling and “Hamilton” inspired music (Thanks Lin-Manuel Miranda). I can only recommend this film.

Final Score: 9.4 / 10

“Gravity Falls” Season 1 – Mystery, Relationships and one of the Best Animated Show Introductions

Gravity Falls Season 1

Disney X.D. has really done a great job in putting out quality shows. Whether it is “Star Wars Rebels” or “Gravity Falls” Disney like Marvel is telling stories that are powerful, fun and manage to capture what it means to be human so well. “Gravity Falls” is one of the best executions of this.

The series was created by Alex Hirsch and inspired by summer vacations spent with his twin sister.

The story involves the Mabel and Dipper Pines being sent to Gravity Falls to spend the summer with their Grunkle Stan. All is not as it appears to be though as Dipper discovers a mysterious journal as together they experience and seek out the mysteries of Gravity Falls.

The Pros: Gravity Falls – Gravity Falls is a fun town with colorful characters. Everyone there is a bit strange in different ways and it makes the town a lot of fun. Hell, this would be a fun town even if there were no supernatural elements in it. It is this location that gives us all our stories and it’s importance cannot be stated enough.

The Animation – The animation is stunning and has a charm to it. It works for the world and there is depth to the world that the animation portrays. The animation team also gets really creative too with bringing a videogame character to life at one point and all of Mabel’s 80’s colorful visions.

The Soundtrack – Brad Breeck created an amazing soundtrack with this! It’s like X-Files meets an Indie Band which captures the feel of Oregon and Gravity Falls really well. The theme song is probably my favorite for any animated show.

The Comedy – The comedy is some of the best. A lot of it comes from who are characters naturally are, like Dipper being OCD, Mabel being crazy about glitter and shiny things, Soos and his good nature but also not being very bright and Grunkle Stan and his hustling and money making schemes. The comedy flows naturally from the world and how the many members of Gravity Falls interact with one another or what they discover in regards to the Supernatural.

The Creatures – We meet the hyper-masculine Manataurs, Gnomes, living Wax figures, a vidoegame character brought to life, Mermando, the Summerween Trickster and more and each is more than what they appear to be. The creatures aren’t all that simple are given moments of depth in what drives them. It’s really cool and part of what gives the show it’s charm.

The Characters – The characters are the strongest part and they have arcs they go through over the course of the Season. I’m covering the main characters here as a lot of the other members of Gravity Falls don’t get full exploration until Season 2.

Wendy – Wendy is the apathetic teen who works at the Mystery Shack and is always down for breaking the rules. Over the course of Season 1 we see her break up with Robbie when she learns he was hypnotizing her and from there her going of her own way. She’s a fantastic character and easily the toughest character on the show.

Grunkle Stan – Grunkle Stan is a hustler who cares about his kids. Most of what he does is illegal but he’s a good manager as we see he knows what it takes to make the Mystery Shack successful. His arc is being more open with his feelings even though he is hiding a portal he is building in the basement so he isn’t honest with Mabel and Dipper yet. He’s probably my favorite character on the show in Season 1. Also he looks a lot like Wario.

Soos – Soos is a great guy who really doesn’t have an arc but is a good character. He lives with his Grandmother and is the fix it guy around the Mystery Shack. He is the glue of the show as he is always down for an adventure and is great friends with both Mabel and Dipper and helps them in their adventures from Day 1.

Mabel – Mabel is a fantastic character! She is into glitter and has so much energy. She has some of the best jokes and humor. Much of her adventures involve her many crushes, whether it is a boy band who she learns are grown in a lab, Mermando the Merman and countless others. It is these romantic misadventures and adventures that set up a lot of the humor. She takes it in stride though and learns to let and not take it personally. She is all about helping others too and helps Stan and Dipper on multiple occasions.

Dipper – Dipper is the anxious 12 year old boy who spends his time at Gravity Falls pining after Wendy and seeking to solve the mysteries of the town when he discovers a mysterious journal. He’s the closest thing the show has to a protagonist and his arc involves him being more aware of Mabel and in doing so becoming a better brother and realizing the ways he’s been a jerk and selfish and realizing that Stan really does care about him and discovering he is more than the journal and is strong on his own. He really is a good protagonist.

The Ending – The ending involves facing Lil’Gideon who was a fake psychic in a prior episode (was using a device to read people’s minds and later video) and the final fight is awesome as Dipper takes Gideon out in his robot and after we see Grunkle Stan has all the journals and activates a mysterious portal. It’s really cool and sets up Season 2 really well.

Bill Cipher – Bill Cipher is the one really threatening villain who doesn’t need motivation as he’s a chaos demon. I can’t wait to see what is done with him as he is fought in the Dreamscape at one point when our characters are protecting the numbers to the safe that hold Stan’s will to the Mystery Shack. He has a great design and does feel like an inter-dimensional being.

Okay: The Villains – In Season 1 the villains are largely played for comedy so a lot of them never get the chance to be humanized. This is a shame as the show is so good at humanizing the other characters. Having watched ahead I know this gets fixed but at least for Season 1, this was a con. I wanted to know why Gideon and Pacifica. This is the only downside though as the humor and situations make this secondary to the overarching plot of the Pines Family and their friends.

This is the best american animated tv show I have watched since “Batman: The Animated Series,” and the best thing to come out of Disney’s animated television team since “Gargoyles” it is well worth checking out has so much depth in the characters and relationships and gives some hilarious situations too. All our characters learn about themselves and we are still left with mysteries to explore in Season 2. This is a show that treats the audience and it’s characters and world with respect.

Final Score: 9.7 / 10

Gravity Falls Characters