Dr. Toon: Two-and-a-Half Peeves
As much as I adore animation and its talented creators, I occasionally run across things that I find rather irritating: Nothing that I hate, mind you; simply something that degrades my enjoyment of the animated medium. This month I wish to take a break from cultural commentary to share a couple of recent peeves. You may or may not share them, as no one ever reaches critical consensus on any given issue. Fortunately, my peeves are few, and number no more than two-and-a-half (not bad considering that I watch more animation than any sane adult should be allowed to).
Peeve Number One: Martial Arts Animals
A disclaimer: I did enjoy Kung-Fu Panda. What I'm talking about is the proliferation of series, projects and pitches involving animated animals as masters of oriental martial arts. It's getting to the point where an illustration of a confident-looking raccoon, pig, mouse or rabbit clad in a Shaolin warrior robe makes me want to commit seppuku. I decline to mention these projects, pitches and works-in-progress by name; they represent somebody's work and future hopes, and no potshots should be allowed until these works become actual shows in the public arena.
The novelty of this presentation has long worn off. If there's one thing that strikes me about such shows, it's their inherent derivativeness. If there's one other thing that strikes me, it's that martial arts animals are not funny. They simply aren't. When I read the trade journals, I wonder how it is that these prospective shows plan to differ from one another. Then I wonder how it is they're supposed to be funny or entertaining. Are martial arts fights funny? I grant that artists such as Jackie Chan can make martial arts comical, and it can be hilarious to watch the drunken practitioners, Still, I ask you: When was the last time you attended or watched an MMA event in which the audience was convulsed with laughter?
Leonardo, Raphael, Donatello and Michelangelo broke the mold. After them, any chicken poised with his wings in overhead strike position or giving a kick thrust is, well, a silly-looking chicken in a robe. The incongruity of a raccoon delivering devastating strikes out of a Horse Stance, OK, I get it, now let's move on. A clever idea that's overused soon becomes a gimmick and ends its life as a cliché. Martial arts animals? 十分、既に! (Enough already!)
I recall a routine by a popular comedienne who noted that she replaced her vinyl recording of Dark Side of the Moon with an eight-track copy, which was then replaced by a cassette tape, which gave way to a CD that was later replaced by a re-mastered CD with bonus cuts. She vowed from the stage that she wasn't buying any more copies of Pink Floyd's magnum opus until technology produced a final version of it for good and all.