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Entries in Animation (19)

Wednesday
Aug112010

The Makings of a Good Sequel

Article by Lilly


When I was a younger I was very opinionated how much I hated sequels. Period. All sequels were bad, everything that needed to be said was already said in the first movie. A trilogy was okay, sequels, not so much.

Then my grandmother bought me “Rescuers Down Under” on VHS. I figured I might as well watch it since I owned it and well....it was great. I loved it. I loved the plot and the characters and I fell in love with Bernard, Bianca and the Rescue Aid Society all over again. I couldn’t deny that this sequel was well written, fun, and frankly, just as good as the first one. It was on that day that my opinions of sequels began to evolve.

 I’m still as opinionated about sequels as I ever was, but I’ve decided there are a few things that have to be taken into consideration for a sequel to be any good.

 

1. The first one seems obvious, and yet sequel makers seem to do this more often than not, which never ceases to amaze me. You can’t just recreate the first movie as in “Lady and the Tramp II.” You can’t even do the “opposite” of the first movie like “The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea.” You have to actually think of a new plot.

2. You can’t use the same villain if resolution was made with the villain in the first movie. You have to create a new one. It’s different if the first movie set itself up for a sequel by having the villain storm away saying something like “I’ll get you next time!” But if the villain learns their lesson, they can’t come back and act like they didn’t. For instance if “Toy Story 2” had Sid show up because he decided that he really wasn’t that freaked out when all the toys came to life, that would have been lousy.

3. You must be incredibly conscious not to contradict facts defined from the original. Example: In “Peter Pan” you can only fly with pixie dust and a happy thought. However, in “Peter Pan: Return to Neverland,” we see an octopus fly right after it’s food gets away because it had pixie dust, but it didn’t look very happy to me, and I didn’t know Tinkerbell could take away pixie dust after she had given it.

4. You have to be even more conscious not to contradict the character’s integrity. Seeing the character we know and love do something we know they would never do, kills the movie right there. For instance Belle in “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” wouldn’t break her promise to the beast and go into the forest after she already broke her promise once and the beast was almost killed saving her. Not only would she not do that morally, but she isn’t an idiot. It would take more than a sinister organ and the need for a tree to make her put her and Chip’s lives in danger when she already knew what was out there. Another example: Sebastian in “The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning” wouldn’t have disobeyed King Triton’s orders to ban music. His whole character development in the original consisted of him being Mr. Discipline and straight down the line with the rules. He also always sides with Triton. Then he goes on this journey with Ariel and learns a whole new way of looking at things and ultimately helps in changing Triton’s mind. Now you’re trying to tell us that before all that he was a total rebel who totally bonds with Ariel and makes a secret oath with her and all that? Sorry we’re not buying it.

5. Nobody can come back to life. Period. The only time I have ever been on the fence about this is Captain Barbosa, but honestly if it were me I wouldn’t have done it.

6. People in love stay in love. It’s such a weak choice to make one of the major plot lines of a sequel be two characters, who were finally united in the end of the first movie, have some stupid misunderstanding and question their love for another. A choice like that would go something like this: Princess Aurora and Prince Phillip are now planning their wedding when one of Maleficent's Goons (who now suddenly has a name) decides he want’s to avenge Maleficent’s death. So he pretends to be Prince Phillip’s friend and tells prince Phillip that Aurora really doesn’t love him anymore. He tells the prince to see for himself and the prince overhears Aurora say “I just don’t think I can go through with this.” Of coarse what she was really talking about was a princess obstacle course that Flora, Fauna, and Merryweather made for her. Prince Phillip flees the castle distraught which was really just a trap so the goons could capture him....and well...you get the idea. That will be on direct to DVD next month, just wait and see.

7. Fairytales that end in happily ever after really can’t have a sequel. If you come back around and say, “just kidding, it was happily ever after except for this movie,” it doesn’t just make a bad movie, you also leak your horrid choices onto the first movie by invalidating the end. When I heard the line “What if the magic was taken away?” on the teaser of “Cinderella III,” my heart sank deeply. When a fairytale is over its over, it doesn’t go back it time, sorry.

8. Original voices are a must. We can tell when the voices are different, we really can. If the people are not around, it is possible to find people who can do the voice exactly, but they have to be exact. I think the current voices of Mickey, Donald, and Goofy do a great job. I don’t know why Disney struggles so much trying to find voice talent for every other character. People tried to tell me that the voices on “Peter Pan: Return to Neverland” wear dead on, but honestly I felt like they didn’t even try that hard. Smee came the closest, but no cigar. The character loses integrity and previous character development when the voice is obviously different, or worse they use a different actor in the case of a live action movie.

9. The animation style has to be the same. Obviously the characters need to look and move the same, but also, the feeling has to be the same. For instance, in “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” they threw a little CGI in there for Forte and then to make it worse, they gave him some neon green glowing powers that shoot out and can actually knock the beast of his feet. It just doesn’t fit with the first one.

10. Music is the last one. The musical score has to be a continuation from the original, you can’t do all new music. If there is singing, the vocal style has to match the original as well; you can’t have Cinderella sing with a nasal musical theater voice, when she originally sang with a full and smooth classic 1940’s voice in the original.

 

The point of this post is not to rag on Disney sequels, there are plenty of blogs to share our woes in that regard. The point is that it really isn’t that hard to make good sequels. Look at Toy Story 2 and 3. Now whether you like sequels or not, you have to admit as far as sequels go, these were well done. They followed all the rules. The didn’t try to recreate the first one. They had a new villain for each sequel. They were very true to the facts and characters they established in the first movie. They didn’t resurrect anybody. Jesse and Buzz still liked each other and Woody still liked Bo Peep even though she wasn’t around in the last one. It wasn’t a fairytale, so there was no definitive ending to the first one. They had the same voices and animation style, and they based all the music off the music in the first film. Well done.

I’d prefer no sequels myself, but sequels are guaranteed to make 40% of the first film, no matter what the quality looks like. That’s just a known fact among filmmakers. So, Disney figures they can make a few quick bucks on some sequels with really no effort nor cost to them. However, I feel if they just put a little more effort into their sequels, by taking the money and resources they are using to make crappy sequels and using them to make fewer better sequels, those sequels will actually make more money then all their crappy sequels combined. Heck, Toy Story 2 made more money than the first one. If Disney made less, better sequels we could let rest a few movies that really shouldn’t have sequels (Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and Pinocchio could be spared) and focus on movies where sequels would be more appropriate.

 

Wednesday
Apr072010

Magic Highway U.S.A... It doesn't get much better than this.

You've gotta see this.  1950s and 60s views of future transportation systems were so optimistic and wonderful.  Sadly, few of these predictions have come true.  However,  I am hopeful that soon my family car will be able to separate into two pieces, allowing my wife to head to a high-rise shopping center in one direction while I head to work in another direction.  Of course I'll be following color-coded highway lanes to glass tubes under the ocean on my way to my office-in-the-sky.

I love when I happen upon something on YouTube that I was not entirely aware of previously.  This was part of a 1958 "Disneyland" TV episode narrated by the great Marvin Miller and directed by the legendary animator, Ward Kimball.

 

Tuesday
Mar022010

After All It's a Step in the Right Direction

Thoughts on "The Princess and the Frog", "Tangled", and the future of Disney Feature Animation.

By Lilly

After letting it sink in for a few weeks, I went and saw Disneyʼs The Princess and the Frog for the second time. This time I tried my darnedest to watch with less critical eyes.  After all, it is in 2D. After 5 years, I think I join many Disney fans in saying thank you (itʼs about time).

Now I have to admit, even after the second viewing, Disneyʼs The Princess and the Frog isnʼt my favorite movie of all time, it seemed a bit formulated to me (African American + Princess + a Prince with a personality + songs by Randy Newman = demographics and ratings–and was it just me or was Tiana a black version of Belle?), but Iʼll take it. The animation looked great and I thought the talent was excellent particularly Anika Noni Rose and Keith David–they sound great. And despite my petty thoughts on the plot, Iʼve read reviews, reviews and more reviews that rave about the plot, the characters and the whole experience. Well, I donʼt think weʼre quite there yet, but I guess I wonʼt complain too much.

I hope Disney also wonʼt complain too much. A $25 million opening weekend  may not have been a complete blow out, but it wasnʼt a crash either and I suspect so many positive reviews (itʼs rated 84% on Rotten Tomatoes) will give Disney plenty of continuing revenue, proving 2D animation still has its place in the world. I just wish this news would have reached them before they decided these beautiful concept drawings of Rapunzel, or should I say Tangled as it is now called, should be taken to the computer instead of the drawing board.

However, the filmʼs previous director, Glen Keane, has said although Rapunzel/Tangled will be in 3D, it is being designed to feel more like a traditional hand-drawn Disney Classic. Animators for this film will use a non-photorealistic rendering technique which will make the surface look like it is painted but still contain depth and dimensions. Well, I guess weʼll see. I can only hope the reason the filmʼs release date continues to be delayed is because they are making marvelous changes. Iʼll wish a star tonight that that is the case. At least theyʼve bagged the idea of intermingling it with the modern world back when it was entitled Rapunzel Unbraided. Whew, that would have been a catastrophe.

Overall, my greatest desire is that Disney will continue to take steps in the right direction. Hopefully we can put the days of The Wild, Chicken Little, Home on the Range, Brother Bear and Treasure Planet behind us. As Princess Tiana said, “Weʼre Almost There!”