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The Miscweant


Interview with 'Up' Director Pete Docter

By Joe Strike | Friday, November 20, 2009 at 7:06pm

Pete Docter remembered me – or at least my Route 66 pin. I have a whole collection of them, shiny metal lapel pins I’ve gathered over the years. Pete arrived and our chat began. I started by mentioning I’d last seen him way early in the year at Disney’s New York screening room. “And you were wearing the Route 66 pin,” Pete said without a pause. “A different jacket, but I remember the pin.” When you’re in charge of a $175 million film, you develop an eye for details.


TV Review: SpongeBob SquarePants: Truth or Square

By Joe Strike | Friday, November 6, 2009 at 6:43pm

SpongeBob SquarePants’s been around for either a decade or ‘eleventy-seven’ years. Scooby Doo aside, I can’t think of another TV cartoon character who’s broken into the mainstream with the same staying power as the classic Warner and Disney characters. The Flintstones and Scoob may be fondly remembered by many, but when was the last time you completely cracked up watching them? (For me frankly, never.)


A cartoon shows in Brooklyn…

If you take the J train over the Williamsburg Bridge, get off at Kosciusko Street and walk a few blocks west, you’ll come to a storefront that looks like it’s home to a going out of business sale. Inside is a bar and club called “Goodbye Blue Monday”: the place is decorated not unlike Pee-wee’s playhouse or the home of some mad collector of antique TV sets, mountains of action figures and bizarro furniture. I’m there because way in the back Tom Stathes is holding his first Cartoon Carnival.


Miyazaki tops himself again...

It's Friday, 4:21 in the afternoon here on the east coast - but as I write (okay, keyboard), Hayao Miyazaki is onstage at the Disney animation panel at the San Diego Comic-con. Perhaps someone in the audience dressed as Astroboy is asking about his new film Ponyo; perhaps he's answering the question, or perhaps everyone is watching a Ponyo excerpt at this very moment. If they are, they're probably getting the tingles...
You know the tingles, that feeling running up and down your spine when you experience something awesome. Last month the Disney folks were kind enough to invite me to a preview of Ponyo – and I swear a day and half later the tingles were still with me.


A cartoon shows in Brooklyn...

If you take the J train over the Williamsburg Bridge, get off at Kosciusko Street and walk a few blocks west, you’ll come to a storefront that looks like it’s home to a going out of business sale, with benches and various other effluvia out on the sidewalk. Inside is a bar and club called “Goodbye Blue Monday” that’s most definitely in business: the place is decorated not unlike Pee-wee’s playhouse or the home of some mad collector of antique TV sets, mountains of action figures and bizarro furniture. (The rocking chair made out of two motorcycle gas tanks was pretty impressive.)

I’m there because way in the back – as a matter of fact out the back door and through a tiny backyard into a huge, high-ceiling shed – Tom Stathes is holding his first Cartoon Carnival


Jonesin' for a fix...

Hey kids! Play the Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull Drinking Game!

It’s easy! It’s fun! You’ll get boozed out of your mind! Here’s how to play…

1) Every time someone refers to how old Indy looks, have a drink;

This alone will get you off to a smashing – and smashed – start. Shia LaBeouf delivers the best line here: “what are you, 80 or something?” Interestingly, Ford looks in pretty good shape in the action sequences, but noticeably older – wrinkled and white-haired – when he’s teaching his classes.

2) Every time Spielberg references a movie, have a drink;

Shia as Marlon Brando in The Wild Ones is a total gimme, The Atomic Café a bit harder to pick up on, but the bad guys’ car not quite outracing an A-bomb blast comes from an obscure favorite of mine: 1953’s Split Second, directed by Dick Powell.

3) Every time Spielberg references one of his own movies, have two drinks;


BULLETIN: Osamu Tezuka spinning in his grave!

By Joe Strike | Friday, February 15, 2008 at 6:00pm

Just got this press release in the Email:

"Los Angeles (February 14, 2008) – Timothy Harris is writing the screenplay for Imagi Studios’ upcoming CG-animated feature film Astro Boy, it was jointly announced by Cecil Kramer, Executive VP of Production, and Maryann Garger, producer of Astro Boy. Writer of such box office [s]hits as Space Jam, Kindergarten Cop, Twins and Trading Places, Timothy Harris has been authoring screenplays for almost 30 years..."

Damn. And I was looking forward to this one. Well, it's being directed by David Bowers, co-director of Flushed Away, so maybe not all hope is lost.


Panda doesn’t pander

By Joe Strike | Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 7:01pm

My first reaction to Kung Fu Panda was, (bored, Droopy voice), whoopee, here we go again: hopeless slob (Jack Black, who else?) makes good in spite of himself, done with that trademark DreamWorks unattractive angular character design.

Mea culpa, friends. I just saw a lengthy promo reel for the film hosted by Ol’ Bullet-head himself, Jeff (nyah-nyah Michael, I’m still a player, what are you doing these days?) Katzenberg – and I am blown away. This is going to turn into an Anton Ego review (end of Ratatouille Anton that is), but here we go.


Panda doesn't pander

By Joe Strike | Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 6:23am

My first reaction to Kung Fu Panda was, (bored, Droopy voice), whoopee, here we go again: hopeless slob (Jack Black, who else?) makes good in spite of himself, done with that trademark DreamWorks unattractive angular character design.

Mea culpa, friends. I just saw a lengthy promo reel for the film hosted by Ol’ Bullet-head himself, Jeff (nyah-nyah Michael, I’m still a player, what are you doing these days?) Katzenberg – and I am blown away. This is going to turn into an Anton Ego review (end of Ratatouille Anton that is), but here we go.

This is the most gorgeous cgi film I’ve seen to date, in terms of the world it’s created for itself, surpassing Pixar’s best. There are some backgrounds so otherworldly they look as if they came out of a sci-fi film, while at the same time obviously inspired by Chinese landscape art.


Well duck my dogs...

By Joe Strike | Friday, December 28, 2007 at 5:20pm

Word on the London Street is that “Howard the Duck” and “The Plague Dogs” are due for a UK DVD release:

It just so happens I was in London during its original release there in December 86. The movie's posters in the tube stations showed him from the back with only the tip of his bill visible, with the slogan "Howard, A new kind of hero." I guess they didn't want people figuring out they’d paid to see a duck movie until it was too late.


Enchanted 'House'?

By Joe Strike | Saturday, December 22, 2007 at 5:26pm

Disney is deservedly getting good notices and making some nice money (it will probably crack the $100mm mark this weekend) off ‘Enchanted.’ Everyone agrees that part of the film’s charm – beyond its winning performances and the half 2D/half CGI chipmunk Pip – is how it tweaks the Disney canon, but in the most affectionate manner.

But I have news, people – it’s not like it’s never been done before. In fact, it’s not even like Disney has never done it before.

House of Mouse ran Saturday mornings on ABC from 2001 through ’04. The show’s premise was not unlike the early 1960’s primetime Bugs Bunny Show. For those of you younger than myself and Jerry Beck, in BBS the Oscar®-winning rabbit hosted a stage show featuring the Warner Brothers characters. New wraparound footage wrapped around shorts from the WB vaults (with an occasional newbie created for the show), often bridging directly into them (in far-from-seamless transitions), while providing a narrative to tie the half-hour together.


Lordy save us from true believers

By Joe Strike | Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 5:28am

At this moment TCM is blessing Saturday morning viewers who don't care for cartoons or warmed-over news, with Byron Haskin's From the Earth to the Moon (1958). Last time I'd seen this I was a kid on The Late Show (back when the Late Show meant local movies & not David Letterman cracking wise).

I'd forgotten what a turkey this sucker was, as Joe Cotten invents 'Power X' just after the Civil War and uses it to power a moon rocket. (Its design looks swiped from Melies). Haskin did far better work for George Pal (War of the Worlds, anyone? The Power?) not to mention a half dozen episodes of the 1960's Outer Limits, but it's stiff city here, with head-on camera set-ups, cheez-o-rama spfx & dialog that sounds like it was cut 'n pasted straight out of Jules Verne's century+ old novel.


"How To" succeed in cartooning

By Joe Strike | Wednesday, October 24, 2007 at 10:40am

Snuck into Ron Diamond's 'Animation Show of Shows' at HBO's NY screening room the other night. (I told security I was Paulie Walnuts, or maybe Paulie's walnuts, I forget which. Oh, and I understand this blogateria I'm part of is part of Ron's entertainment empire - love ya', Mister D!)

A most intriguing assortment of short toons were screened. Some were horribly arty, others artfully heartfelt, but being an old-time Hollywood studio cartoon junkie (if you remember "Meeska, mooska, mouseketeer / mousecartoon time now is here," welcome to my decrepit demographic), I went completely bonkers over a nouveau/retro Goofy 'How To' short from Lassetter's Burbank boys - 'How to Hook Up Your Home Theater.'


I'm not the only one with a dirty mind...

By Joe Strike | Monday, October 22, 2007 at 8:22am

Seems like someone outside the animation world finally picked up on Nala's "f*** me' look in "The Lion King:"

Even a friend of mine who's only a casual animation fan pointed the shot out to me long ago. I've been told that on the DVD (which I don't own myself) commentary track, one of the animators announces 'I can't believe they let us get away with that shot.'

The Guardian's columnist ends his piece with "I've got to check through Bambi for subliminal porn." He won't have to look very hard: the scene where Bambi, Flower and Thumper meet their girlfriends is pretty hot: Thumper starts thumpin' a mile a minute until he keels over in exhaustion (all she has to do is stroke his ear a bit to start him up again), Flower blushes bright red and stiffens like a board while Faline gives Bambi an unmistakable 'come hither' look of her own.
And let's not even go near the various Disney shorts that focus lovingly on punishment administered to various characters' backsides - like for instance the spanking machine put to liberal use in one of the 3 Little Pigs're a naughty boy, Walt; naughty, naughty, naughty...


Nickelodeon's big time Saturday night screw-up

By Joe Strike | Friday, September 28, 2007 at 7:16pm

Boy, I haven't seen an on-air boner like this one in a loooong time. For some reason Nick tried to squeeze 3 11-minute SpongeBob episodes into a half hour time slot just now. (Just now being Friday 28 Sept, 9:30pm eastern time.) Interesting how the third episode's top credits started rolling the same exact time the show's closing credits began rolling - with  that third episode sitting inside that box where they usually run a promo next to the credits. Not squeezed into the box mind you, but cropped off by it, with just a peekaboo portion visible inside.

It gets better. The closing credits end with the full screen Nickelodeon splat logo/copyright page - which sat there for a verrrry long time while the episode's audio continued in the background. THEN the episode came back for a minute or so - THEN cut to another closing credits roll, this time with just silence and empty space where that promo usually runs.



By Joe Strike | Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 5:52am

Just saw a teaser trailer for the upcoming live-action/cgi Chipmunks feature. Excuse me while I blow my brains out in car...

Is there some way we can get the Geneva Convention to outlaw these god-awful, gag-(not the funny kind)-inducing grotesqueries? Garfield, Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed...

They were all Oscar contenders (for Best Pic period, not just Best Animated) compared to this, this - eugggghhhhh, is the best I can describe it. It's not just that the sole gag in the trailer (an homage to Pink Flamingos?) revolves around Alvin eating one of Theodore's turds to convince Dave Seville (Jason 'uh-oh I picked a stinker this time' Lee) it was only a raisin; (I guess kid movie farts were just a gateway drug to flat-out coprophilia) it's not just that the 'munks are life-size in the sense of REAL LIFE-sized chipmunks, thus losing the characters' kid/adult size relationships and turning them into pettable pets; no, it's that....


Hark, hark, this film's a lark...

Just had the pleasure of watching Tsui Hark's Black Mask 2: City of Masks, a loony, loopy movie that made me feel (in the best sense of the words) ten years old.

I never saw the original BM which starred Jet Li, but in this one some guy named Andy On (drugs?) takes over as the genetically messed-over superhero. He's fighting a bunch of grunting wrestlers whose DNA has likewise been altered, giving them bestial powers & uncontrollable metamorphoses into nasty animal hybrids.

For a while back in the 90's, it looked like cgi effects were going to wipe out modest little B-movie genre pix, with sci-fi/fantasy films given A-budgets & big name directors. Then PC's & Macs started making lower-end, lower-priced cgi efx possible. Combine that with Hong Kong style wire work, martial-arts mishegas (choreographed by Woo-ping Yuen, who did the same on Kung-Fu Hustle), cleverly chosen ultra-modern architectural backgrounds and snappy, vivid direction (from Hark, helmer of Iron Monkey, a Tarantino fave) and you have a high-energy nutsoid action flick that's a pleasure top to bottom. The opening credits of multiple silhouetted martial artists going through their paces on a computer screen background get you in the mood right off the bat.


Find your fantasy

Very interesting contrast last week when I caught back-to-back screenings of a pair of fantasy flicks: Stardust and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

For one, the Stardust screening was deserted - just me, one other person and a friend I brought along. (A tumbling tumbleweed blocked my view of the screen for a while). The Phoenix screening was packed - they had to bring in folding chairs for the overflow, and held the start until some bigshot could make it.

And the movies deserved their respective audiences. Want to see an uninspired, you'll-leave-the-theater-humming-the(adequate)-special-effects fantasy? Stardust (directed by Matthew Vaughn of Layer Cake) is your film. Everything's pro-forma, out of the twinkly, twee, Edwardian-British faerie school of literary fantasy, without an ounce of conviction showing anywhere; I've had more believable experiences at your average Renaissance Festival.


Separated at Birth 3: Asian-American Adolescent Magic Menace Fighters

The contenders:

American Dragon: Jake Long

Disney Channel, premiered January 21, 2005

Main Character: Jake Long, pre-teen descendant of long line of shape-shifting dragons

Supernatural responsibility: Protect New York City from supernatural menaces

Supernatural power: Can turn into a flying dragon

Mentor: Grandfather Luong Lao Shi; can also turn into a dragon

Sibling: annoying 8 year-old sister Haley; can also turn into a dragon

Pet: 600 year-old talking Shar Pei ‘Fu Dog’

and in this corner:

The Life and Times of Juniper Lee

Cartoon Network, premiered May 30, 2005


Waltzing Matilda (right out the Disney door...)

A former Down Under Disney employee and Friend of the Site relays this bit of gossip:

“... a friend was at a recent studio meeting in Burbank and Ed Catmull was lamenting the closure of the Sydney studio - which is bizarre considering there were no Australians there to hear it and it was nearly 9 months after the fact. Word is the Pixar guys really regret it shutting down - had they come in a little earlier I am sure the studio would still be there now, which is such a shame. It was real waste of exceptional talent. It's not easy to have a place with over 250 people combining to work at that rate (10 feet per week) and producing such quality - it took 20 years to get to such a position…”


Oscar says 'goodnight' to "Waking Life," etc.

Interpolate this, asshole (from yesterday's AWN Headline News):

“… The significance of the change emphasizes the importance of frame-by-frame character animation, and now rules out such films as A SCANNER DARKLY and WAKING LIFE for qualification. According to Jon Bloom, chairman of the Short Films and Feature Animation branch as well as a governor, the branch was concerned that the digital rotoscoping technique utilized in these two features was not crucial enough in shaping the animated performances."


Translation: 'Best Animated Feature' is, now and forever, the official Akademy of Kinema Kiddie Kategory; no druggies or existential misfits need apply...


Wet Rats

By Joe Strike | Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 8:28am

Why can't they make a feature cartoon about rodents without sending them into the sewers via the kind of ride you'd pay money for at a water park (without the turds, of course), i.e. Stuart Little - Flushed Away and now Ratatouille? (Oops, it hasn't opened yet, gave that one away. I better not tell you he meets Harry Lime down there and becomes his partner in an animated sequel to The Third Man entitled Harry and Me.)