Archive for March, 2014

Tumblr Tuesday – 03/18/14

Tumblr Tuesday’s back! Full blog posts are still on hiatus, so lets read what other (crazy) people wrote!

— A bit on how strangely gross TMNT got:

— A Super Mario Kart metaphor to explain White Privilege:

— Pretty great trivia on Bugs Bunny being based on It Happened One Night:

— 900% of Young Adult Lit:

— Real life look at the practicality of female armor:

— Buster Bunny poses for various animation studios:

— And a stupidly accurate breakdown of laughter text abbreviations:


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Gargoyles “Avalon”

Gargoyles Avalon screenshot


Wow wow wow wow wowsers.

After a couple of straightforward, semi-exciting, semi-bland episodes, the three-part “Avalon” is a smack in the face of totality, of aggressive forward momentum that I somewhat complained was lacking since “City of Stone,” really. “Avalon” is a multi-layered, densely-packed saga that is intensely complicated, lying somewhere between a Moffat season of Doctor Who and the sheer audacity of Primer. I actually wondered what it would have been like watching this live as a kid, without the ability to rewatch, rewind, or record. It must have been mind-blowing and frustrating.

I quite enjoyed “Avalon” in the broadest sense, and I certainly will never fault any show for being ambitious and daring. I think it works much better to look at “Avalon” as on full unit instead of each episode separately, mainly because the first two function primarily on flashbacks, and there’s no reason to re-hash past episodes. Needless to say, “Awakenings,” “Long Way to Morning,” “A Lighthouse in the Sea of Time,” “Eye of the Beholder,” “Vows,” “City of Stone,” “The Price,” and other episodes all have a part in what occurs in “Avalon,” and I’m much less interested in how it all fits together (since time travel, like a tower of cards, falls apart the second you start to poke at it) and more interested in how it develops its plot, characters, and themes.  “Avalon” works as three episodes of incredible mind-fuckery; at a narrative, personal, or thematic level, it’s a tad bit more hit or miss.

Thinking about these episodes more, I realize that “Avalon” is really about Magus. I mean, of course it’s about Goliath and his eggs, the mysterious Avalon and the Weird Sisters, the Archmage and the Tom the Guardian. Yet Magus’ role in all this feels the most complete, the most substantial. It is his story of regret and redemption, of pride and unrequited love, and how he went from a slightly insecure, bratty mage-in-training to a powerful, tragic sorcerer. Part of me wish we really got more on Magus’ role in all this, but part of me absolutely loves the restraint put on his story, revealing everything we need to know, and ending his life in perfect tragic fashion. But I digress.

“Avalon” begins with Tom, the little blond boy from “Awakenings,” arriving in New York all grown up and all clad in armor, convincing Goliath, Bronx, and Elisa to return with him to the mystical Avalon. While traveling he recounts the entire tale of how things played out after “Awakenings.” It’s pointless to go over EVERYTHING, but the broad strokes are that Princess Katherine, Magus, and, uh, Tom and his mother (who kinda seem randomly as chosen guardians to bring along) take the eggs to Katherine’s uncle, King Kenneth. Here we get some more DELICIOUS Shakespearean drama, what with the king’s lover, Finella, actually in love with a Lord Constantine who only cares about himself and power, and then he incites a riot, kills the king, and takes control of the kingdom. He then demands Katherine as his wife, but SHE AIN’T HAVING IT, so she and her crew (along with the king’s lover, who finally got over her jealousy and own sense of betrayal), sneak out of the castle with the eggs on their way to Avalon. As soapy as all this is, the episode definitely works through those plot points really fast, which honestly is probably for the best. I mean, half the lover’s quarrel plot is exposited by Tom’s mother randomly, Lord Constantine kills the king rather easily, the king’s son is barely involved, etc. The whole thing was basically “City in Stone” condensed to one-third of an episode, just so we can get the hell out of there.

Before I continue, I feel like I have to mention that Gargoyles has a particularly negative view of not just New York, but the overall world. It’s seems to always be on the verge of danger or violence, which is a bit odd during a time period when New York was specifically fighting its way out of the drudgery and chaos of the 70s and 80s and building itself up into the commercialized, sell-out vision of early 2000 (the city that never sleeps is the city that never wins). The gargoyles seem to fight crimes every night. Tom’s arrival is immediately met with a violent encounter with three thugs seemingly out of nowhere. I know that there are some vicious thugs out there, but even the violent 80s criminals would steer clear of armor-wearing, Scottish-accented, sword-wielding characters. I bring this up to point out that the fight here seems forced, but also to note that, for a series of episodes that should have been produced by Disney’s signature animation studios, we instead are given their third best, Koko (their second best being Jade). Koko does great backgrounds and handles wide shots fine; close-ups they seem to struggle with, especially with spacing out the pacing. The battle here goes from intense to joking, really jarring the viewing on how to interpret the tone of the moment.

Tonal shifts hurt Avalon than it believes. When Princess Katherine head over to Avalon with her team, they face the Weird Sisters, who are apparently just the guardians of Avalon. The reveal that these powerful beings are simply guardians is somewhat disappointing, especially when “the sleeping king” of Avalon fights like a regular guy. These powerful beings lose to Magus, and there’s something off here, what with the sisters being transformed into owls after Magus reflects their spell. I don’t know. It seems like the sisters lose too easily. I guess it’s because the Grimorum is really powerful, but “Avalon” kind of implies that its nothing compared to the magic of Avalon, a place where one hour equals one day. I think its because there’s no rules or scale to the magicks in this show, no clarity of power. Like, no outside magic is allowed on Avalon, but it’s never explained why.  Does Magus read spells from the Grimorum or can he just cast them? Later in the saga, the Eye of Odin, which caused Fox’s physical transformations in “Eye of the Beholder,” allows the Archmage to control the power of the Grimorum when he eats it (I’m going to get to that in a second). Since when does the Eye have that ability? It was created on Avalon, so now we’re back to Avalon’s magic being stronger than human magic?

This becomes more convoluted when present-Archmage, who is a magical badass, travels back in time to teach his wussy past self how to be awesome. This is really where all those episodes I mention above come in, as the Archmage works a Xanatos-like scheme in gathering the magic items, as well as pulling the Weird Sisters, Demona, and Macbeth to their side. Seeing if all this works out at a narrative level is beside the point; the important thing is how the show pulls this off, which it does with a bit of skill, comedy, and oddness. Watching the pieces come together is definitely fun, and present-Archmage shitting on past -Archmage is humorous. “Bending the rules without breaking them,” however, doesn’t work really, because it isn’t as if they found loopholes so much as the show reached way out there to make things work. I mean, the Archmage gets the Grimorum onto Avalon by eating it, which is the kind of logic that allows dogs to play basketball (the rules didn’t say you couldn’t DIGEST the book!).

Disappointingly, the entire Archmage character is simply a mustache-twirling villain. He just wants power and revenge, which is surprisingly shallow from a show known for complex, fully-realized bad guys. Gargoyles, as always, is a show about finding a purpose for moving on, for living and powering through even the roughest of circumstances. The Archmage’s purpose is certainly driven, but it’s buffoonery at the most simplistic levels. I mean, the guy, who is basically a god now, keeps toying with his victims on Avalon, which includes a half-assed invasion of the castle and a ridiculous (and poorly animated, even for Koko) sand/beach fight. I think the Archmage is supposed to be laughable though, since see says stuff like, “At dawn, you will die. Get used to it.” How was that not followed by a maniacal laugh?

The Archmage’s lack of character is tragic because it crushes an angle to Magus’ story, a man who secretly loved Katherine and cursed the gargoyles for a thousand years in a fit of emotional rage. He was torn by this act, as well as his feelings for Katherine, which greatly affect his confidence in magic. He struggles with spell casting and age, reflecting his battled feelings, watching his love fall for Tom over the years on Avalon. He doesn’t believe his magic is strong enough to go up against the Archmage or the Weird Sisters. The guy is in a tailspin, keeping up his facade for the eggs and the hatched gargoyles running around, and it’s wonderful stuff to watch. He was a student of the Archmage, and it sucks that this part of his story wasn’t explored further – how would he feel about his teacher becoming a monster? He should’ve been the one finally going up against him. Instead, he fights off the Weird Sisters, who come quite close to besting him, but he draws power from the sleeping king’s parlor, sacrificing his life to save everyone on Avalon. Watching him fade away with Katherine and everyone by his side was a truly powerful moment, ending one of the better character arcs on the show’s run.

The other battles are fairly uninteresting. For one thing, I’m still unclear why Demona and Macbeth are so hard to beat. Yes, they have weapons. Yes, they’re trained in battle. Yes, the gargoyles are not fighters. But they have sheer numbers and know the layout of the land and magic of their own. The fights feel strangely isolated, with scenes of Demona going up against Elisa and Macbeth going up against the sleeping king, which everyone else standing around and, uh, watching? Oh, the sleeping king is King Arthur, who is awoken by Elisa and Magus after a bunch of trials and tribulations. Yet he’s useless (without Excalibur) and doesn’t seem particularly powerful, but he does beat Macbeth, so that happens. Demona is beaten when Katherine fires a laser gun so a shitload of debris falls on the gargoyle, which I guess was supposed to be an AWESOME FEMALE MOMENT, but, I mean, Katherine doesn’t know how to use a laser gun, and why not shoot Demona instead of wall above her (yes, I know, S&P, but the whole point of laser guns is to get away with shooing other characters without repercussions). Also, Goliath beats the Archmage with ease, which of course he would, and it’s also uninteresting because the Archmage does all the stupid-villain stuff you see in lamer TV shows, like talk too much and be arrogant and make terrible decisions in battle. (Goliath rips the Eye of Odin off the Archmage’s head, and he can’t control the power of the Grimorum he ATE, and I guess this goes against the rules of Avalon so Avalon kills him. Again, the rules of magic are rather unclear and arbitrary.)

I feel like “Avalon” also missed out on re-acclimating Goliath to the gargoyles on Avalon. The gargoyle seeing his clan’s eggs hatched and all grown up should’ve been something significant, but it kinda feels glossed over for that silly sand/beach fight. It’s especially odd, considering Goliath has met his daughter for the first time. I’m not too worried about this, since I imagine he’ll be learning more about her later. Still, I feel like the show kind of did a disservice here, especially in keeping Demona under a spell and unable to react to seeing her old clan’s descendents. They kinda have a moment where Goliath snaps Demona out of her trance, but the Archmage immediately resumes control. The ending simply flops Macbeth and Demona onto a boat and ships them off, which finalizes what seems like a missed dramatic opportunity .

Despite my criticisms, though, “Avalon” handles it all fairly well, via great pacing and fun characters with excellent VO work, selling every moment with A+ appeal. It’s really just a lot of fun, which is the most important thing, animation and plot points aside. At this point, Gargoyles begins what is known by the fanbase as the “World Tour,” where Elisa, Goliath, Bronx, and Angela (who is his daughter) travel to random locals and deal with stuff. It’s CRAZY that the show completely decides to shift gears to more randomized episodes; I guess they too found “Protection” a lot of fun and wanted to do more of that. I’m sure that the will be more serialized aspects in the upcoming episodes, but the emphasis will be more on being episodic, and hopefully this will allow things to be looser and freer, in a way. Unfortunately I will have to get to those episodes at another time, as I will be taking another break due to work, vacation, and the upcoming episodes of the remaining television season. I’ll be back to you this summer, Gargoyles!

“Avalon” A-


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Goof Troop’s energetic sensibility can’t mask its woefully apparent limitations, marking the first real crack in the Disney Afternoon’s armor.

Ducktales, Darkwing Duck, Talespin, and Rescue Rangers mark the highest points in the Disney Afternoon’s repertoire, although Gummi Bears should be exulted as the glorious progenitor among them. Disney’s foray into TV animation was flying high, mainly due to those show’s unilateral focus on their premises. Simply put, they knew what they were doing, even though it took a few episodes to get there. So it would seem like gangbusters that their next show, one focused on Disney’s most iconic “comedic” figure, Goofy, would be an easy no-brainer. Goofy himself is wacky and inept enough to be put in any situation, creating an endless amount of hilarious gold.

There were problems though.

Goofy and Max

First, though, we should talk about the pitch. At Comic-Con 2013, during the Disney Afternoon Appreciation Panel, they showed a video, of all things, of the pitch for Goof Troop. In it, they show various visuals of Goofy and his son Max getting into crazy situations. The speaker talks, specifically, of the show being primarily about Max dealing with and adjusting to his father’s inherent goofiness. It’s a trait that he’s embarrassed by but ultimately overcomes, because in the end, family is important, and love conquers all.

There’s a few things here I need to point out. This pitch doesn’t describe the show at all, except maybe for one episode. This pitch is more in line with A Goofy Movie. In fact, Max, in the show, is quite used to and accepting of his father’s clumsiness, adjusting and expecting it (kinda like a child expecting his or her alcoholic parent to be unconscious on the floor when they get home from school – which is a dark metaphor but stick with me here), even using it to his advantage. Also, if the behind the scenes talk is to be believed, then Goof Troop with through a number of iterations before finally ending up being a crazy, cartoony take on The Honeymooners in suburbia. The name of the show actually came from the original iteration, which had Goofy in charge of a Boy Scouts group.

It’s telling that, despite the number of people at the panel (and with all due respect to Rob Paulson and Jim Cummings), that no one in the audience seems particularly keen on discussing Goof Troop. Here over at Mike Peraza’s blog (who is a great guy personally), he discusses working on various pitch and concept work for a new creative director, who struggled mightily with coming up with a firm direction for the show. There’s nothing wrong with a show going through multiple passes or directions during the pre-production stage, but Peraza, an industry vet, clearly implies this creative was somewhat out of his league, bouncing around idea after idea. Of all the creative decisions, Goof Troop lands with the blandest set up possible – middle-class America – made even more blander by design.

Goof Troop tries to function on two sole concepts: six unique characters, and absurd, cartoon action. And to be fair, the show tries their best to making those two concepts work. Beyond Goofy, there’s his son Max, and the neighboring family – Pete, his wife Peg, and their children PJ and Pistol. Each character has a strong comic voice and a comic personality to drive them. That drive allows each character to get so caught up in their personal endeavors that it more often than not results in a wacky, insane bout of comic activity. For a chunk of the episodes, Disney itself took over the animation, outsourcing the work to its Japan, France, and Australian animation companies. This, in all honesty, results in some beautiful visuals, especially with the facial expressions, which must have been hard due to the elongated muzzles of characters like Goofy. Whatever one says about the show itself, you can be sure that two-thirds of the animation will be top-notch (the other one-third was completed by an animation studio called Kennedy. Now, I don’t want to harp too much on this, but Kennedy Animation is AWFUL. They somehow had their hand in Tiny Toons, Darkwing Duck, Bonkers, and other shows, and their rubbery, squishy, off-model style just ruins everything.)

It isn’t as if the characters are lacking. Pete, voiced by Jim Cummings, who pretty much owns the Disney Afternoon VO circuit, is great, with his constant scheming and aggressive malapropisms. Pistol, with her limited role, is actually the star of the show. It seems like writers can mine a lot of great comedy out of innocent, young girls, letting them rant excessively and spout random, on-point commentary on whatever’s going on. Max and PJ have a nice, tight bond of friendship that feels real, even as the show gets over-the-top. Then there’s Goofy himself. I mean, you can’t go wrong with him. The epitome of wackiness, Goofy goes along with pretty much every plot thrown at him, and of course things go wrong fast to toss him into the air or over a cliff, and Bill Farmer throws his all into every scream, laugh, chuckle, and howl. There’s also Waffles and Chainsaw, the pets, who mostly react to all the crazy antics. (You might notice I didn’t mention Peg. I’ll get to her in a second.)

Yet beyond that – beyond the characters and the animation of varying quality – there’s really nothing else there. If you’re going to do a show with limited characters, you have to really make the “world” of the show shine, like Wonder Over Yonder is currently doing. You need villains (more accurately, antagonists) and a setting that seems to grow as the characters do. Goof Troop fails at that. Spoonerville is a town hardly worth mentioning.  There’s really no development – not even the cartoon kind. And even though the show really tries its best, it can’t help but feel hollow.

A lot of that has to do with the plotting. About sixty percent of the episodes involve a contest of some kind that Pete wants to win, so much so that he’ll exploit Max, PJ, and in particular Goofy to make it happen. That’s really it. Sometimes, Pete and Goofy will get caught up in something, creating an Odd Couple-type bout of wackiness. On occasion, Goofy will regale Max with “family history” stories, which simply ends up putting the characters in a fantasy or historical setting. All of this feels so forced. I don’t think the show is lazy so much as I believe they really thought they could mind some long-term comedy from a singular location based on the characters. Hell, they managed 78 episodes. Yet with no willingness to adhere to any kind of overall consistency, with characters changing and acting solely based on the kind of an episode they want to produce, Goof Troop only grows blander with time.

Take “Axed By Addition,” above. Max tries to help PJ cram for a math test, after his father threatens to destroy his life if he fails (I’ll get into this questionable family dynamic in a second as well). This escalates more and more, as PJ starts to freak out about eggs, which leads to more Max scheming, which leads to a bucket-list like scenario where PJ thinks his father is literally going to kill him and Pete mistakenly thinks PJ is dying of a sickness. It’s a lot of stuff, and Goof Troop thrives on “stuff,” for better or worse. Yet all of this deflates when PJ’s report card comes in and he gets an A. There’s a big gap of development here, and all that elaborate comic momentum leads to nothing. We don’t learn about the school, or other factors adding to that A, or why Pete is suddenly so obsessed with PJ’s grades, or what Peg thinks of all this, or why Max isn’t taking the same test. I’m not saying the show needs anything extreme like continuity, but Goof Troop is too focused on the set pieces and less on the characters in relation to the set pieces. The rest of the episodes overall aren’t like this, so Goof Troop can’t even set a consistent tone.

That’s just it, though. Once you “get” Goof Troop, that’s it. There’s no hidden surprises within the characters or the world. There’s nothing to marvel at, nor is there any reason to get antsy. Each episode engages with its premise and tries so hard to make it work, to its detriment. The appeal is ultimately determined by how much you can enjoy the hugely exaggerated, wildly insane physical antics, with ridiculous, wacky chase sequences and extreme bouts of animated action. If animated by Disney, in particular their Australian branch, the visuals can be strong enough to at least make it fun to watch. If the storyboarders and writers fall flat, everything pretty much becomes a slog, a repetitive, semi-forced series of stories based on misunderstandings, scheming, or competition.

Every so often, Goof Troop goes surreal, which by default makes them more interesting, but not necessarily better. Breaking even the limited logic of the show’s premise allows for some Wackyland-esque developments, like an anthropomorphic band of brass instruments that constantly play When the Saints Go Marching In (“Dr. Horatio’s Magic Orchestra”), or a talking hat that grants genuinely magical powers to Max (“Talent to the Max”). Yet because the overall world of Goof Troop is unclear, indistinct, and awkwardly malleable, both from a diegetic and non-diegetic perspective, nothing worthwhile sticks. So a potentially rich episode where Pistol gets so caught up with an imaginary friend to the point that it becomes alive and threatens to whisk her away, due to Max’s and PJ’s neglect, has no substance since the show, overall, doesn’t function with that kind of drama or character development. It just comes off random, a throwaway attempt at some kind of pathos (“Pistolgeist”).

Goof Troop E71 – Pistolgeist

Vezi mai multe video din animatie

That being said, there are some significant dynamics at play, but whether the creators were aware of them or not, it’s hard to say. There’s a distinct class distinction between Goofy and Max, who frequently struggle with maintaining finances and making ends meet, and Pete’s family, who own a boat, a pool, and a huge screen TV. Goofy’s homespun wisdom and sympathy come in direct contrast to Pete’s overzealous, scheming, conservative worldview, which includes inciting fear and confusion into his son PJ. It’s played for laughs but that is one child that is seriously going to need some therapy. And to be clear, Pete and Goofy are funny in their own ways, but because they fail to interact with anyone else, because there’s nothing to the show beyond the main cast and their two houses, it starts to get old, fast. The children tend to be the better set of entertainers, because they have potential to interact with more unique situations, but rarely does the show allow this. Pistol’s hyperactivity and passion for whatever thing she likes currently is fun but inconsistent, and far too often Max and PJ get drawn into their own low-key schemes and contests, rarely dealing with them actually growing up. (Their dated slang works because they’re frequently portrayed as losers, and really only start to spout “radical” lines when excited.)

Then there’s Peg. I’m hit or miss on Peg, who comes across as a misappropriated feminine icon. April Winchell is perfectly cast as Pete’s wife, who can go from sweet and loving to loud and vicious in an instant. Peg is a darling, always helpful to Goofy and shrill to Pete, especially during his most crazy schemes. Yet, it’s rare that her big mouth actually results in anything. Peg doesn’t really get to do much. She rarely stops Pete’s ridiculous plans, just re-routes them, and only doles out the punishment after everything goes wrong. She also tends to give into Goofy’s more stupider actions, to the point that, sometimes, Pete comes off as right. Peg is a real estate agent, so she definitely has potential, but actually see her work maybe once or twice, and Pete’s always getting in the way. We don’t learn about her job or what she thinks of it, always running back to this awful, awful man and stooping to his level. The one episode where she’s the lead has her trying to force her way into high society (“Goofin’ Up the Social Latter”). Forget for a second that, as a real estate agent, she’d probably have enough access to high society already. It’s wildly out-of-character for her to act stupid to get in touch with a “better” class of people.

But in the end, this really isn’t her fault, or some failure in female characterization. The fault lies at the show itself, hoping to bypass the lack of structure and development at the core of the show via top-notch voice work and wacky action. This only works for a few episodes, before spiraling in a rut of sameness and repetition. Even when going surreal (like a fish piloting a robot shark) or classic (with Goofy’s forays into a task narrated by a voice reminiscent of some old-school Disney shorts), it can never push past its basic setup, because there IS nothing else there. Goof Troop masks its hollowness and lack of ambition like Pete’s Used Cars – nice on the outside, but easily broken apart with the slightest prodding.


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