Dr. Toon: Summer 2010
Would I kick a man while he was down? Get me my Doc Martens. Would I beat a dead horse? Get me my sledgehammer. Would I really? Sure, especially when the man and horse are metaphors for a movie studio and a once-hot director coasting on his one-shot rep. By now you all know that Paramount Pictures, Nickelodeon and M. Night Shyamalan's The Last Airbender is one of the most spectacular critical failures of this or any summer.
In the graveyard of disasters that are live-action animated features, the tombstone for this monument would be taller than Dubai's Burj Khalifa skyscraper. Reading the reviews for this film is an exercise in horror surpassed only by actually sitting through this abomination. Better yet, don't. Just read my March 2009 AWN column; it's all you'll need to know.
Readers, I'm no genius, far from it. I can't foretell the future, and I can't channel your dear deceased aunt, either. However, The Last Airbender was a not-so-fastball down the middle of the plate that even Stewie Griffin could have put over the wall. As long as movie studios make these live-action adaptations of animated series, they shall cry, bleed and stone themselves after the fact until the streets of Hollywood run red.
At the time of this writing, this wretched feature has failed to earn back its production costs. As for M. Night Shyamalan, he gets no pass from me, either. He has never worked in animation, doesn't understand the medium or its unique form of narrative and is less knowledgeable about cartoons than anyone -- anyone -- reading this column. That being said, he should have turned this project down. Hey Paramount, Nick -- you want a profitable movie out of your Airbender property? Draw it.
Is there a more successful branding machine in America than the National Football League? Ever since Pete Rozelle took the commissioner's seat after the death of Bert Bell, the NFL has become an expanding cultural phenomenon that now claims top spot in professional sports. Through use of variant merchandise emblazoned with the colorful logos of NFL teams the league makes fashion statements as well as producing an exciting sport that has a rabid fan base. The present commissioner, Roger Goodell, has seemingly made it his goal to globalize and expand the league into universal consciousness. Now, it appears, the NFL has finally spread its ubiquitous marketing arm into animation and we have another one of those beloved intersections between animation and American culture.
Nickelodeon and the NFL have teamed up to produce a new series of animation ultra-shorts (three to five minutes apiece) that will air in 22 episodes from September to February during the 2010 NFL season. An hour-long special tying up the storyline will air the day before the season's penultimate event, Super Bowl XLV. Get ready for Rush Zone: Guardians of the Core. The hero is 10-year old Ishmael (Ish) who discovers that the 32 NFL stadiums house the legacy of an advanced alien planet; pieces of the planet's core. These pieces can enrich or destroy humanity. Also after the shards are Sudden Death and his evil legion of Blitz Botz. Ish has friends in high places, though: Real NFL players and coaches and a sage named O.T. Can Ish handle the job?