Category Archives: Don Bluth

The Different Eras of Animation: a Brief Overview of Each

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Gertie the Dinosaur

Animation is a medium for making movies that are either hard for live action or best told as many drawings.  Its success is a pendulum that swings back and forth.  Its history is full of trends and movies that successfully or unsuccessfully breaks them.

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The Adventures of Prince Achmed

First is the silent age of animation.  It has some shows like “Felix the Cat,” but most of the works here are lost.  Most people (even huge animation fans) have not seen the movies from this era.  The most popular movie from it is The Adventures of Prince Achmed. It is the oldest surviving animated feature (11 years before Snow White) and the third animated feature ever made.  It is a German film that is easy to find on the internet.  It used silhouettes of puppets to make animation, and it was fully animated by one woman.  There are nine features from this era and only four survived.  Achmed is the only one I have seen. It has a simple story, but beautiful animation, a woman saving the men in distress, surprisingly great action, and plenty of suspense.  Most movies were made at this time by very few people and were seen by small audiences who watched them for the art.  Everything changed when one became the highest grossing film of all time.

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The golden age began for movies in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  It is the first American animated feature.  It is not the first in sound or color) but it was the first successful one, and it is the most successful animated film ever.

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Some divide the golden age into two parts, “The Golden Age” (Snow White-1942) and “The Silver Age” (1950-1959/ 1950-1967 for Disney).  I agree with this distinction since the tones are so different.  The golden age had Disney make Snow White, Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi.  These films were known for their darkness and depressing scenes.  They are often slow paced (except Pinocchio), but they are very atmospheric, and I love these.  In the meantime the Fleischer Bros made two movies, Gulliver’s Travels and Mr. Bug Goes to Town.  These are also great and pioneered male humans in animation.  They are also slow paced but atmospheric and dark.  Compared to Disney they put more focus on the main characters and side characters and less on villains.  Unfortunately world War II was a disaster for the industry.  The European Market was gone, animators were drafted, and people are not so interested in movies during deadly wars.  All films listed above bombed at the box office except Snow White, Gulliver, and Dumbo. Fleischer Bros stopped making movies and Disney was reduced to making segment films and war propaganda to survive.

The real big winners were theatrical shorts such as Disney’s Silly Symphonies, Warner Bros’s Looney Tunes, MGM’s Tom and Jerry, and many more. These are violent, simple stories, and based on selling music.  They are also glorious.  Besides Snow White these are the biggest successes of the period.

My pick for best movie this period: Pinocchio

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Around 1950 the large European market was ready for animated films again making way for the silver age.  The Soviets got in on the game with a few movies with limited success.  The Germans and French also made more movies.  The best known of the European films made in the silver age is also the first British animated feature (another work claims the title, an instructional video), Animal Farm.  It feels like a work from the 1940s with its very dark atmosphere, cute character designs, and and adult centered moral.  It does not have a slow plot either.  In America non-Disney animated films were dead except for 1959’s 1001 Arabian Knights and The Snow Queen.  Disney then had great financial success with five films in the 1950s. Cinderella saved them from bankruptcy, and it was an enormous hit not seen since Snow White. Alice in Wonderland lost some money. Peter Pan made it back, and Lady and the Tramp made good money. Sleeping Beauty was released four years later and lost tons of money. Its failure nearly ended Disney animation and scared the other creators away from expensive animation making it responsible for the upcoming dark age. No animated fairy tale movies were made for thirty years.  Disney animation was saved by 101 Dalmatians, which found cheaper ways to make movies, and it outgrossed Snow White. It remains the second highest grosing animated film adjusted for inflation.  Three years later The Sword in the Stone was released which is more of a dark age film  and then The Jungle Book 3 years later was a huge hit.

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The Disney films here are way different. As adaptations they are notably terrible (except for Dalmatians), and they are considerably lighter in tone.  A major change is many are not focused on the actual main character. Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan, and Sleeping Beauty all have supporting protagonists, as the side characters and villains get way more screen time in comparison.  Many modern viewers consider this to be Disney’s peak and others find them forgettable.  I am not a fan of the Silver Age Disney.  I find they are too slow and dull in tone.  They have many lackluster protagonists and morals.  Shortly after Walt Disney died and the studio was reduced to trying putting him o a pedestal and trying to copy his ideas.

My pick for best movie this period: Animal Farm

Afterwards came the dark age of animation.  This lasted until 1986 making it the longest period.  I will divide it as pre and post 1977. The first part was marked by tight budgets, scratchy animation, and few films being made.

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The biggest winners this period were not Disney but works that were never made for theaters.  Hanna-Barbera, the creators of “Tom and Jerry” made the first TV cartoons which were huge hits. Rankin-Bass made their own success with made for TV holiday specials.  Hanna-Barbera made Hey there its yogi Bear and A Man Called Flintstone.  Their biggest success came in 1969 with “Scooby-Doo.”  Like the movies the shows were clearly on a tight budget, yet they were huge successes showing how big animation could be even without much money involved. The 1960s are best remembered for their animated shows, not movies.

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Early on Disney did fine, but little money was actually earned. In this period they made The Aristocats, Robin Hood, and The Many Adventures of Winnie the PoohThe Sword in the Stone fits this era perfectly despite being made earlier.  It kept taking three or even four years to make a movie and all their films from Sleeping Beauty to The Rescuers were directed by Wolfgang Reitherman.  These normally have very simple stories and are very episodic.  The animation is way more crude and the new focus audience was no longer everyone (with a focus on adults) but young children. None have much of an overarching plot until The Rescuers in 1977.  The Rescuers was praised by critics being called the best Disney film since Mary Poppins and hope for animated films.  It was also the highest grossing animated film for nine years despite coming out the same year as Star Wars and having to compete with it.  Notable parts of Rescuers include that the characters do not sing musical numbers, a dark tone created by the art, and focusing on the heroes acting to save the day instead of reacting to the villain.  Much of the success was given to Don Bluth, the man in charge of the art.  Unfortunately for Disney Pete’s Dragon made him angry at the company due to the lack of respect given to the animators. He and eighteen others left Disney to form their own company.

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In the 1970s the creators again tried films, and 1977 again was when it was proven their was money to be made. Anime films became way more common, as Japan became a major source of animation.  MGM’s The Phantom Tolbooth bombed and they left the industry.  TV specials of Dr. Seuss’s works became popular and Rankin-Bass had more success with holiday specials, but something different emerged.  Ralph Bakshi made Fritz the Cat, the first animated feature purely made for adults, and it was rated X.  It was a huge success mostly due to how odd it was. In the meantime “Peanuts” lost steam, while Hanna- Barbera got into animated features not based on their TV shows. For theaters they made Charlotte’s Web which is very disneyfied.  Still it had a much more coherent story structure than their films did at the time.  It went on without much ambition until Rankin-Bass made a traditionally animated film with big ambition, The Hobbit.  It was a huge hit with viewers.

My pick for best movie this period: “Scooby-Doo” is best work, while The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh is the best film.

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After 1977 with Star Wars making bigger films the profitable ones the push was one to make animated features the same way.  Disney’s next film is The Fox and the Hound.  It initially made over three times its budget despite being the most expensive animated film ever at the time (12 million).  Its real problems were the inconsistent tone. I do not mean like the forties I mean how it has two differing stories. The Disneyfied version of the original novel and the novel’s bleakness and realism.  It then took four years to make what was supposed to be the new Snow White, The Black Cauldron.  Instead The Black Cauldron cost over 40 million dollars and made half of it back. It nearly killed Disney animation, and it lost to The Care Bears Movie.  Cauldron has two conflicting tones, one wanting to be child friendly, and the other one wanting to prove animation can be inappropriate for children.  Thankfully Disney made an animated film just next year in 1986 with was a modest hit (The Great Mouse Detective with less than one third the budget of Cauldron).  The animation department was still on the verge of death.

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The other companies made their own attempts to end the dark age.  Ralph Bakshi and the Hobbit teamed up in 1978 (too short of a production time) to make The Lord of the Rings; the first in a two part series. It only cost four million, due to its huge use of rotoscoping to allow large animated battles.  In other words they filmed a cheap live-action movie and then used photrealism to make it animated.  It is the only completely rotoscoped movie.  The production is fascinating with executive meddling great decisions by Bakshi and bad decisions by Bakshi.  It is a fascinating movie that alternates like crazy on being legitimately good and hilariously bad.  I recommend to all readers who have not seen it to watch it for the crazy spectacle.  It made hordes of money, yet the sequel was never made.   It received mixed reviews (partly due to the obvious issues of being rushed).  It  was too faithful for only having 133 minutes to adapt around 700 pages.  It did not restore faith in animation despite the money. Anime dominated the next few years along with Hanna-Barbera shows and more Direct to TV fantasy adaptations by holiday special directors like Chronicles of Narnia and Rankin-Bass’s The Return of the King (little style wise with Bakshi’s film).  A few darker films then emerged that resembled the 1940s style only darker.  Watership Down was released in 1978, and was known for terrifying adults. Just four years later this got far more extreme.  The Plague Dogs came from the same creators.  This film depressed and made cry even the hardest hearted of viewers.  It showed real power in animation, and the famed The Secret of NIMH came out the same year.  Don Bluth directed his first film.  It was dark and mysterious, and many animation buffs call it the greatest animated film ever.  Unlike Plague Dogs with its fast pace this film had a slower pace that gave plenty of time to establish an atmosphere, and it had a happy ending.  These three films were not the huge successes of past films, but they showed animation as a medium for adults as well as children.  Unfortunately NIMH was the biggest hit by merely doubling its budget. 1985 was different.

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In the 1980s many animated TV shows emerged competing with Hanna- Barbera and many were big enough to get movie versions.  In 1985 Here Come the Littles made good money.  A He-Man film made over triple its budget but one film made seventeen times its budget and crushed The Black Cauldron.  This was The Care Bears Movie.  Now animation found footing as lighthearted films were making good money and killing Disney. It looked like something like it would end the dark age until something else happened.

In 1986 the TV show movies collapsed.  The Adventures of the American Rabbit was a huge failure and calls came for the governor to declare theaters playing it disaster areas.  A movie based on “Robotech” quickly failed, Tranformers the Movie failed and alienated its audience for being dark for the sake of selling different toys. Care Bears Movie II was a mild disappointment. Part of this was Disney would re-release its old features when it worried about competition to harm their momentum.  Then Bluth and Steven Spielberg happened. They collaborated to bring the audiences An American Tail.  At the cost of only nine million it made over eighty-four million dollars in its initial release. This huge success lead to the Renaissance age of animation.

My pick for best movie this period: (this counts An American Tail as Renaissance).  Best is The Plague Dogs.

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How did this film by a new studio crush the records being the highest grossing animated film? The plot has plenty of dark moments for adults, a focus on family for family audiences, plenty of great songs about the plights of the characters. The songs are different, as it has a crowd song, a hope song, a sad award wining song, and a friendship up-beat song.  The pacing is dramatic, and the animation is adorable in spite of how dark this film gets.  This become the gold standard of the upcoming Renaissance age of animation.

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After the success of An American Tail came bigger and even more successful films in 1988 like Spielberg and Bluth’s The Land Before Time, Disney’s Oliver and Company, and Spielberg and Disney’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit.  All three were huge hits.  In Japan Akira was made to huge financial success.  This made for a great year despite some failures like Felix the Cat. Even better was the diversity. Oliver and Company was a big Broadway style musical, Framed was a murder-mystery, and Time was a survival film.  1989 has less success with Bluth’s new film away from Spielberg (they parted ways) only being a mild success, but Disney’s The Little Mermaid was a huge hit.  This set up Disney to dominate all animated movies for years.

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As anyone reading this almost certainly knows Disney had hit after hit.  The Rescuers Down Under bombed, but then Beauty and the Beast made over 100 million domestically. The next year Aladdin got over 200 million. The next release, The Lion King cost a whopping forty-five million, but it got over 300 million.  Even better Disney’s non-canon film, The Nightmare Before Christmas won 1993’s box office.  Disney was on a roll and their budgets almost always became over 100 million, but then everything greatly slowed down for them.  Their successful Renaissance films had many similarities. They were big Broadway style musicals with many crowd songs, inept fathers (except Mufassa), evil villains for the sake of being evil, characters made purely to sell toys, and a focus on a love story.  Part of Lion King’s success was it avoided some of these for a more unique feeling.  Pocahontas did these, and in was supposed to win the award for best picture.  Instead in greatly under performed and greatly harmed the Disney brand.  The same year Toy Story came out making CGI the new big thing over traditional animation. Pixar had Disney distribute all their films, and they often beat the Disney films. Together they still dominated  despite coming nowhere near the success of their films from 1989-1994 until around 2000 where Disney studios had their own dark age. Viewers got tired of the formula and finally the other studios found their footing in the next age.

The early Renaissance was disastrous for most non-Disney canon films.  Disney’s smaller budgets like the Ducktales movie were also typically disappointments.

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Don Bluth created the film that started the Renaissance. After two huge hits All Dogs go to Heaven seemed like a disappointment, but it did better than many non-Disney films at the time.  With MGM he went on to have four big bombs in a row killing his studio.  Without a good producer he suffered from executive meddling, and his films could not stick out with all the creators copying the success of An American Tail. He then moved to 20th Century Fox.  Without him MGM made a box office bomb in All Dogs go to Heaven 2.

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Fox had a mild success with Ferngully but then some failures.  They brought in Bluth who made a hit in Anastasia at the end of the Renaissance. It copied the Disney style in many areas, yet it also has many of Bluth’s signature story elements and characterization methods.  It made less than Disney’s Hercules but on a much smaller budget they looked to be a competitor.  Then three years later that style was out and their studio collapsed in the next age.

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Without Bluth Spielberg’s Amblination was reduced to trying to find a style.  Their new director was Simon Wells.  They first made An American Tail II.  It was a small success. Despite a bigger budget it only made less than half of the original both domestically and internationally.  It opened the same day as Beauty and the Beast and got dominated.  After this We’re Back: A Dinosaur’s Story failed as a crowd pleaser and financially. Their last film was Balto.  It failed at the box office, but it has a large following today and it made plenty of money on home media.  Besides Balto their films were very light hearted and made for young audiences. They were full of crowd songs and resembled the Disney films at the time.  Balto was different. It was not a musical and it was danger filled and driven by one main character who is mostly battling society and nature instead of a villain. After only three films they shut down and their remnants helped make Dreamworks.

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Jeffrey Katzenberg

Dreamworks was founded by Spielberg and Former Disney executive, Jeffrey Katzenberg.  He was very important from around 1984-1994.  In this era they made two films, Antz and The Prince of Egypt. Both were successes.  Prince of Egypt is often mistaken for a Disney film, and that is understandable.

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Cats Don’t Dance

Ted Turner, the founder of Cartoon Network made his own studio.  All three of his films flopped.  They were Tom and Jerry the Movie (very Disney like), The Pagemaster (more like Don Bluth meets “Reading Rainbow), and Cats Don’t Dance.  There are very few similarities between them other than being musicals.  Pagemaster is as educational movie. Cats don’t Dance actually took the Disney style and made it far more extreme. This made a glorious parody of Disney, allegory of racial tension, and lighthearted fun story all in one. They merged with Warner Bros later.

 

Warner Bros mostly focused on animated shows during this time. Their few ventures into it included Quest for Camelot. The film bombed with critics and at the box office.  It was supposed to be an R rated film, but it was turned into a Disney knock off.

A major part of the era was the introduction of direct-to-video films.  the home media exploded in popularity and this is how most studios made money (if any).  In 1994 Disney and Universal got into the game. Warner Bros was going to a year earlier with Batman Mask of the Phantasm but that hit theaters and they got into it in 1998.  They eventually got a negative reputation in spite of the good ones, but they made important money for the studios.

The age is known for being a golden age however, it was only for the rich.  The top movies made terrific money, and most everything else bombed.  Home media, not theatrical runs kept the others alive. Repetition was a problem as the previous age had much more variety.  Still hordes of films were made and many with huge budgets result in this being a fan favorite period.  Most viewers will say their favorite (animated) film is from this period and call it the best period of animation, but I prefer the second part of The Dark Age.

In 1999 the Renaissance was over and replaced with a new era.  CGI was dominating and the focus was on parodying the animated Disney films from a decade ago. Traditional animation was struggling to find new ways to get audiences back, and it was a losing battle.

My pick for best movie this period: The Land Before Time. It has more in common with an early 1980s film.

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I think the Renaissance era ends with Tarzan in June of 1999.  Then begins the Pixar era.  The kings of it are of course Pixar.  Everyone knew the best animated film would come from them.  Pixar found a new format.  They would use two protagonists who were birth family or friends (never romantic). The plot would put big emphasis on the emotional and internal conflicts they had with each other.  They made big critical and financial success over and over again.  Few animation fans will say they are not the best animation creators ever.  Their first five films were the highest grossing of the year.  The era showed the failure of traditional animation and its replacement by CGI, the death of G rated films, and constant adult humor forced in.  The last two came in spite of Pixar, as everyone else was trying to stick out in other areas knowing they could not beat Pixar by with Pixar like movies.

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Disney Animation studios entered their dark age this period.  They were trying new ideas and hoping to find something that worked after their last several films made way less money.  To make matters worse CGI was all the rage and traditional animation was frowned upon by audiences.  Fantasia 2000 lost money, and I never hear anyone mention it.  Dinosaur was a success but criticized for its story (like ripping of The Land Before Time).  The Kingdom Under the Sun was supposed to be another Renaissance film from the director of The Lion King. Instead test audiences hated it and it got scrapped, and turned into The Emperor’s New Groove. It was actually an amazing comedy showing Disney had some variety.  Then Atlantis was a minor bomb trying to be an adventure film.  Lilo and Stitch was a hit as a sci-fi and family film. But afterwards came pirate themed bomb, Treasure Planet. It cost almost twice as much as Lilo and Stitch and made less than half.  It was a huge bomb.  It has plenty of fans today, but Disney needed money, not a cult following. Then came very low budget Brother Bear. It made good money for its tiny budget, but it was heavily disliked. Disney made the decision then to switch to CGI.  They failed with Chicken Little and bought Pixar realizing they were desperate for them.  Disney during this period was trying everything to see what stuck. They had bad marketing for their  movies, and discovered the upcoming death of traditional animation in theatrical films.

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Bluth and 20th Century Fox blew their momentum with Titan A.E. I really enjoyed it and it has a big cult flowing like Treasure Planet. Unfortunately, like Treasure Planet it lost a fortune.  Bluth never directed another film.

Warner Bros made another animated bomb in The Iron Giant. However this film was adored by all who saw it an became a huge TV hit. Titan and Giant are both not musicals, focus on a small group of characters, and have apocalypse themes (likely due to the milenium bug fears).  Giant’s director, Brad Bird, later went to Pixar for The Incredibles and Ratatouille.  Unfortunately the same year Warner Bros released The King and I. It failed commercially, critically, and with audiences.  It killed Rankin-Bass productions. Their next film Osmosis Jones also bombed, and it was a case of forcing in adult humor and fart jokes into a movie with no clear tone. They got into CGI in 2006 with the successful Happy Feet.  Warner Bros became more interested in live-action franchises, as new and successful studios emerged to use CG.

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Dreamworks emerged as the main competitor of Pixar.  They started with traditional animation but the bombing of Sinibad, The Road to El Dorado, and possibly Spirit, ended that. Then Shrek was an enormous hit.  Shrek started a huge trend of parodying Disney and focusing on comedy.  Instead of forcing jabs at Disney and potty humor into a story they made a story around it. The villain was based off the Disney CEO, and the protagonist is an ogre batling evil version’s of past Disney heroes from the Renaissance.  It was a huge hit and later Shrek 2 was even bigger hit and beat Pixar’s The Incredibles.  Dreamworks made hit after hit with a focus on gaining franchises and regularly making jabs at Disney. Unfortunately for them Shrek the Third happened.  It opened terrifically and made good money, but it was hated and greatly harmed their brand. For the rest of the decade their numbers went way own except for a few sequels and kung Fu Panda.  Their focus switched to imitating Panda‘s success as a character based story focusing on development and family issues.

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Blue Sky emerged as a major studio almost single handedly thanks to Ice Age. Worldwide all three Ice Age movies before 2010 were the highest grossing animated film of the year.  In this era they had no flops with all five films at least tripling their budget.  They were never too popular in North America, but their international grosses are consistently huge. They are also franchise based, an they mostly focus on entertaining young boys.  They are a big case of unpopular, yet successful.  Their success and Oscar winning Ice Age made it clear that CG was incredibly dominant over traditional animation.

This period is hated by fans of the Renaissance, but it had diversity and showed animation did not have to mean musical.  Pixar made plenty of great films, Ice Age and other serious films were made and prospered with audiences, and many great comedies were made.  In my opinion the best movies of the Renaissance are better than the best movies this period, but the average movie is much better this period.

My pick for best movie this period: Ratatouille, a perfect example of Pixar’s strengths.

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Sometime around 2010 begins the modern era of animation.  It has no clear name, but this is another golden age.  Unlike the Renaissance this period sees huge success by many animation studios.  Sony Pictures Animation, Disney, Pixar, Blue Sky, Warner Animation Group, and the new Illumination all are doing very well this era. Most successful films started using pieces of Pixar’s format like two protagonists conflicting with each other.

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The huge risers of the era are Illumination. Since 2010 (their first film, Despicable Me) they have released nine films and an average of one per year. All nine have been successful.  They almost always make at least five times the budget and sometimes way more.  Their budgets are cheap, yet they regularly compete for highest animated film of the year both worldwide and domestically.  Their films focus on humor, yet they are normally down to Earth in their settings.  Their signatures are a direct yet minor villain, as internal conflict dominates and of course comic relief with a weird dialect.

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The Minions and Despicable Me are their signature and all four films were incredibly big hits. Minions is the third highest grossing animated film (as of early 2019), Despicable Me 3 is five and Despicable Me 2 is eight.  They are also huge, mammoth, and colossal with merchandise.  All were in the top four at their peak.  Many critics and viewers hate their films, yet all elementary aged children I know adore theme, and parents happily use them as babysitters.

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The financial issues of Dreamworks is a huge problem here. They made Rise of the Guardians, which most people who saw it loved.  It had a great hero, villain, and world building.  Unfortunately few people saw it, and it lost around 80 million forcing Dreamworks to lay off 350 people.  They then had a small hit with The Croods, but they again lost money with Turbo. It made less than Guardians and really hurt Dreamworks’s reputation. The characters were terrible and this was a blatant attempt to get a piece of the pie from Pixar’s CarsMr. Peabody and Sherman lost even more money. How to train your Dragon 2 made money, but way less than expected. It barely made more than 600 million worldwide, while many thought it would pass one billion.  Penguins of Madagascar then unexpectedly bombed.  These failures contributed to them being bought by Universal.  What made these films fail?  I think most of it was Illumination taking over as the must see animation that is not Disney. These films no longer had the edginess Dreamworks was known for, and they got lost in the storm.  Their budgets were also too high, and they then focused on budget control as Home came out. Many professionals started writing obituaries for Dreamworks before the guaranteed flop came out, but they were wrong.

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Critics hated Home, but it made a small profit of around 30 million needed dollars.  The commercials pleased the audiences and they went to see it mostly for Jim Parsons.  Like Pixar films it used two protagonists who conflict with each other heavily.  Since Penguins no Dreamworks film has been a failure.

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Disney left their dark age and became a huge source of money again. Starting with Meet the Robinsons Disney starting using parts of the Pixar format. Their films now had dual protagonists with a heavy focus on their conflict with each other.  Unlike Pixar they sometimes used romance.  Sure Robinsons bombed and Bolt barely broke even, but this did show their new style and mastering CG animation. Bolt was loved by critics and audiences helping to restore Disney’s reputation.  John Lassetter, the head of Pixar, was now in charge and became the modern day Walt Disney.  His contributions were huge. New directors also emerged for Disney such as Chris Williams, Byron Howard, Jennifer Lee, and Richard Moore. Disney then got back into traditional animation, but it was not the expected success. The Princes and the Frog was a call back to the nineties. It was loved at first but it is now mostly ignored.  It was successful at the box office, but not by much. Ice Age 3 made more than three times it the same year.  Later Winnie the Pooh was adored by critics, but it bombed hard killing Disney’s traditional animation especially with Tangled. Tangled is the most expensive animated film ever at 260 million, but it made over 200 million domestically and was the third highest animated film of the year worldwide.  The good will from it resulted in a string of hits like Wreck it Ralph, Big Hero 6 and Moana.  The real huge hits were Zootopia and Frozen.  Both cost 150 million, yet made over one billion dollars worldwide.  All of the CG films had dual protagonists in a Pixar like relationship.  Bolt and Mittens, Flynn and Rapunzel (the most different as it was romantic), Ralph and Vanellope, Hiro and Baymax, Judy and Nick, Elsa and Anna, and Moana and Maui.

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Pixar has had their weakest period simply by being less than perfect.  After Toy Story 3 became the highest grossing animated film of all time (now third) Pixar had eleven films. All but Cars had at least 92% on Rotten Tomatoes (it still had a 74).  Al were huge hits and loved by audiences.  Cars 2 was then made which only got 38%. It was the second highest grossing animated film of the year, but audiences everywhere hated it.  Brave and Monsters University then got 79% and 80% respectively.  Terrible for Pixar, yet great for everyone else, especially as University made over 700 milion making it the third highest grossing Pixar film at the time. The problem was Despicable Me 2 came out shortly later and made over 970 million.  Since there is nothing wrong with these movies it is hard to find what harmed them with critics.  Inside Out ended Pixar’s brief issues, as it got 98% huge love from audiences, and made hordes of money.  The problem was the same year The Good Dinosaur bombed and got a 76%. This was overshadowed by Inside Out doubling its budget domestically alone. After this Finding Dory and Coco were bigger hits and Coco was loved for its very dark story, yet happy and uplifting tone.  It even got released in China despite breaking their film rules and was a huge hit there.  Afterwards Cars 3 bombed and Incredibles 2 was their new biggest hit in animation history, yet it polarized fans.  It and Finding Dory are domestically the highest grossing animated films at the time.

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In spite of this success Pixar has lost many of its creators.  Lasseter, Lee Unkrick, and Darla Anderson have all left.  In spite of their recent success Pixar has reason to worry about the future. They are also making many sequels, which many fans find inferior to their original films. Many audience members think Pixar is no longer invincible, and part of this is they no longer stick out.  So many studios are copying their methods, and their own films can get lost in the storm.

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Warner Bros made their own small studio with Warner Animation Group. Their first film was a huge hit in The Lego Movie despite being a toy commercial. It was universally loved for its pop culture references, lovable characters, twists, complex plot, and nostalgia rush. It was the biggest animated film domestically that year.  None of their other films have done much in terms of money, but they are getting great reviews.  Their typical film has plenty of humor from pop culture references, yet they remind me of Don Bluth’s stories. They focus on one character dominantly, make sure plenty of bad things happen making them earn their happy ending, they are brought to a very low point before the ending, and then it ends happily for them bringing the audience a roller coaster of emotions.  Their problem is they normally only do well in America. To survive they need a better international audience.

Paramount Animation currently only has four films and is on life support. First they had The Spongebob Movie: Sponge out of Water. It got 80% on Rotten Tomatoes and made more than four times its budget. Their remaining films all got around 30% on Rotten Tomatoes. Monster Trucks was a huge bomb and lost over 120 million. Sherlock Gnomes seems to have broken even and Wonder Park has lost money.

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Blue Sky is starting to collapse.  Rio made good money, but then came Ice Age 4. It made more than any animated film of the year, which made animation buffs mad. It did great overseas, but I never heard anyone say they liked it.  The Ice Age series was out of ideas, and many Blue Sky workers said they were forced to keep making them by Fox. They made Epic, which was supposed to show they can make serious movies. The problem was they already made a serious movie. The first Ice Age was very serious and somber with good comic relief, while they then became more and more comedic making viewers think they were always comedies.  Epic‘s problem is bland heroes, and the saving grace is the villain. This made a big problem, as I rooted for the villain the whole time.  Rio 2 made great international numbers (not Ice Age level though) and poor domestic numbers. Critics were fine but general audiences hated it. Again the villain (minor ones with no connections to the plot) were the saving graces, while audiences hated everything else especially the side characters.  Blu Sky’s box office numbers then went way down. The Peanuts Movie is almost always called their best, but it just broke even at the box office. Ice Age 5 bombed in America and made no where near the grosses of the other sequels worldwide.  Their latest film, Ferdinand is liked by general audiences but nothing special. With Disney buying their parent company their future is on life support.

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Sony Pictures animation is the most hated of all studios right now. The descriptions I hear of them are they are just long TV show episodes, not funny, too much focus on comedy, revolting, unimaginative, and they need to go out of business.  However they have eighteen movies out with many more coming indicating they actually have a good business model.  From what I have seen their films are mostly about parenthood and humor.  They typically use low fantasy to put attempts at realistic people in with fantasies.  Like Dreamworks they heavily believe in franchises and most of their successes are sequels or get sequels.  Their films typically have low budgets, and their executives are masters at keeping budgets under control and the budget numbers fluctuate wildly.  The Smurfs is their biggest success, but at only around 565 million worldwide.  It is also infamous now.  Their biggest shame is The Emoji Movie. It was panned by critics (7% on rotten tomatoes) and audiences hated it more, but it over quadrupled its budget.  The big hope is their last film, Spider-Man into the Spiderverse.  It is generally called the best film of 2018, and I have never heard anything bad about it.  Maybe audiences will come to love them, if it is an indication of better execution in their stories.

My pick for best movie this period: Wreck-It-Ralph.  There are many I have not seen, and maybe something will change my mind in the future.

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It is hard to judge the current era, as it is not finished or replaced yet, but the films have some similarities. Most of them are either comedies or using the Pixar format.  Despite some flops many companies are doing well right now, and as a result more animated movies are being made than ever, and this is another golden age of animation, and it is probably bigger than ever right now.

 

 

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Why An American Tail is Great

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Over a year ago I praised this film.  I recently have been having trouble really enjoying movies, but then I rewatched this as I do every late Winter, and I had the best movie watching experience since at least October when I watched Wreck It Ralph.  I have known for years this film has multiple flaws on paper such as no clear climax, potentially too much focus on the main character, and being very miserable at times.  I still love this movie partly for these reasons.

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I have heard about this film having ending fatigue, due to having a climax with the Mouse of Minsk and Fievel’s family finding him.  Partly because this feels really rare for my favorite films I give it a pass due to it feeling different, but I also love a film’s climax.  I tend to support making sure the greatest tension is at the end, and that is how this film still works.  While the most lives are at stake in the villain defeat, it is really Fievel dealing with a danger made greater by the separation instead of  hi family.  It also shows makes the later events more sad that they follow such a victorious scene, as that does not solve the main character’s main problem.

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One thing that is a matter of opinion is how many main characters are needed.  Traditionally Disney has mostly used the main character very little and instead focused on the villain and side characters, a system its fans love, and people like me hate.  Illumination does it as well.  Pixar puts its focus on two main characters, and Don Bluth puts the main focus on one character (this film, Secret of Nimh, and Bartok the Magnificent are probably the best examples).  This means that viewers who dislike Fievel will have a hard time enjoying this.  I think he carried the movie brilliantly.  He always fun to watch and listen.   While I have no nostalgia for this film having not seen it until I was sixteen I certainly found his issue (at the film’s end) of whether his family really cared about him very relatable, and like my own troubles very sad.  His main heroic qualities are creativity and  determination (common for Bluth’s heroes).  He finds plans where everyone else has given up and regularly deals with the side characters failing him.

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One part I really enjoy that is rarely mentioned is the wake.  It is for a dead mouse named “Mickey.”  I consider a funny take that at Disney who was going through a big dark age at the time.

 

 

 

Contested Sequels: All Dogs go to Heaven

Vs.

Here it is, another Don Bluth vs. non-Bluth film.  1 was made in 1989, while 2 was made in 1996.  They were both released in theaters.  Unlike all my other Contested Sequel reviews I have equal nostalgia for both films and plenty of it.  For history I think both have problems.  2 did spawn a TV series, but it did not do nearly as well at the box office.

I think more people like Charlie in 1 than in 2 considering a Google image search is dominated by pictures of him in 1.  In 1 he is extremely ambiguous with his motivations.  Almost everything he does can be interpreted as either good or bad once he comes back from the dead.  He clearly has a very vengeful and greedy side, but he did in Heaven talk about hating to steal, he does make the most sacrificial move I have ever seen in a movie not about Jesus.  In 2 his motivations still make sense considering their interpretation of Heaven is incredibly dull.  He does have a good heart, but too many problems are caused by him, and if only Annabelle appointed anyone but him the plot would have been over really quick.  I did see a good heart in him still, so other than still making a deal with an obvious devil I think Charlie is clearly the best part of both films.

In the first film Ann-Marie is the main side character followed by Itchy.  I really like the idea of an animal with a human sidekick, and she is my favorite morality pet.  Itchy is the hyper competent sidekick, and actually comes to represent Charlie’s negative side, while in 2 he is more moral.  In 1 he is actually less compassionate than Charlie.  I always found David to be boring.  I never got anyone liking Sasha. She is vain, annoying, hates Charlie, then randomly loves him.  The Whippet Angel/Annabelle is way more interesting in 1.  The side characters is another win for 1.

In 1 Carface is the main villain.  He is not subtle at all, but that is because he is so scary he does to need to be. Red is the main villain in 2.  He is also aggressive but not nearly as scary.  He has a strange villain song with bad and confusing animated segments but great lyrics.  It gets much better in the reprise because his minion, Carface, join in.  Carface is now a way less threatening minion, but he still is more intimidating than Red due to being a very good minion who does all the actual work.   I think the villains, especially Carface ,are major strengths in both films.

For songs 1 has way better ones.  Thy are sadder, the singing voices are not obviously different from the talking voices, and they reveal stuff about the characters.  From 2 the reprise to “It Feels so Good to be Bad” and “It’s too Heavenly Here” are good, but that is it, and there are so many of them.  I at least really enjoy all the songs in 1.  2 does have the better score.

                    The real big thing in 1’s favor is its influence.  There are two basic qualities of a good film, how much enjoyment form watching, and morally changing the viewer.  The first film is why I became a Christian.  The Hell scene scared me into it.  It presents Hell as something seemingly escapable but not and full of torture.  It is the first time I thought of it as something other than school, and the whole time I realized everything shown is almost real.  Almost because the real thing is far worse.  This film still makes me closer to God whenever I watch it.  2 has nothing to compete with that.

When re-watching 2 I kept thinking of things it could have done.  1 heavily implied that Carface would get his redemption (which happened in the third film).  I think that would have been a good plot for the second one as he fights a demonic force.  Another possibility is Charlie facing a fallen angel instead of a demon as the primary threat.  As a child I watched 1 for the wonderful movie and the horror.  I watched the sequel to remind myself of it without being so scared.  As a young teenager I had no interest in 2, and I was too scared to watch 1 despite really wanting to.  As an adult and late teenager  consider 1 to be the third greatest animated film ever.  I occasionally watch 2 for some nostalgia.

 

 

The Land Before time Part 2

T8.png           At nighttime Cera wakes up to hear Sharptooth.  Eventually everyone is up but Littlefoot, but he comes around later while insisting there is no sharptooth.

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The shot of a crushed tree star is surprisingly long.  I think that it symbolizes the need to go on without material possessions.  Ironically it is just a symbol  if not eaten.  As a symbol of Littlefoot’s mother it also is a call back to Sharptooth killing her.  I heard that in the deleted scenes he ate her body.  Littlefoot makes up for his past mistake by getting Spike through a hole and directing theme in that direction in the first place, which Sharptooth got stuck on.  That does not stop Cera from calling it his fault, but Littlefoot sees a rock that looks like a longneck (referenced in 5 and 13), which he knows is part of the way.  They then continue on with triumphant music playing, and the animation makes it obvious this is a very physically tough journey through tough terrain.  In one notable shot Littlefoot makes himself a dinosaur bridge, which Spike, Ducky, and Petrie take, but Cera goes around through a tougher path.  Music is played at the top as if they are there only to find a little wasteland.  Not knowing that The Great Valley is literally on top of the other group of rocks Cera leaves.  “I am taking the easy way for once.”  Ironically she just took an unnecessarily tough path, and she did it at the gorge to not follow Littlefoot.  She is going out of her way to not take the best path, but she normally does go with Littlefoot.  The problem is she now wants to go the wrong way due to its ease.  Based on later evidence she probably does think it goes to The Great Valley.  She eventually insults Littlefoot (not new, and he does not care) and his mother.  That sets up a fight, where Spike humorously tries to hide (comic relief is appreciated here).  Littlefoot and Cera’s fight goes back and forth until Littlefoot tries to leave, and Cera sucker slams him.  Ducky, Spike, and Petrie also decide to go the easy way.  Petrie tries to get Littlefoot to go with them, but Littlefoot stays with the path.

According to the lost footage after this Littlefoot went over the rocks and found The Great Valley.  After playing in a water fall he goes back to save his friends.  I heard he goes back due to hearing his mother’s voice (knowing it is what she would want).  I preferred the idea that when he got there he realized he had to go back.  It makes slightly more sense in the narration, but the change of order keeps a clear finish.  It does cost a villainous motivation (more on that later), but that is overall not needed.  What it does cost is a very happy scene amidst a very low point, but I could certainly handle all this darkness until the more funny parts later.

Cera has lead them to a place resembling Hell.  She does not notice Spike and Ducky falling behind.  Then she does not notice Petrie falling in a tar pit.  After crying for help Littlefoot rushes over and saves Ducky and Spike they then try to save Petrie with a dinosaur ladder.  They get him out, but Ducky falls in.  While trying to save her they all fall in leaving it up to Cera.  Except Cera is being chased by the boneheads.  Without an introduction they seem to be demons from Hell that torture their victims.  They corner Cera quickly until…

Augh!  A strange creature scares them away.  Cera screams for help until Ducky reveals it is them.  Apparently the tar spit them out,,\ like I heard it does in real life (I never tested it).  The rest get a huge laugh at Cera, especially as she tries to look brave but keeps tripping.  She is too proud to admit her error and leaves.  The rest find Sharptooth and decide to finish him off.  In the deleted scenes Sharptooth is blocking The Great Valley’s entrance.  Here the group just decides to kill him, but he is clearly blocking their path and has been a huge obstacle.  Time to eliminate the obstacle.  We are told Littlefoot’s plan meaning it will fail.  Littlefoot and Spike will push a huge rock on his head and into the deep pond.  Petrie gives a signal (as he is light enough presumably).  That leaves Ducky as bait, which some viewers have criticized Littlefoot for.  I always felt she was the logical choice due to her role involving swimming.  Sharptooth sees her coming and gets behind her, but she slips underneath him.

T11.png             Sharptooth quickly notices them and hits the rocks hard knocking Petrie off, but his breath lets him finally fly (referenced in 12).  For some people their iconic moment seeing someone learn to fly is Superman.  For others it is Peter Pan.  For me it has always been Petrie.  Petrie then gets Sharptooth’s attention off Ducky by pecking him, but he again jumps four times his own height by jumping right on the boulder trying to bite Littefoot and Spike.

T12.png       Petrie stops him by going for his good eye.

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This puts Sharptooth on the defense long ugh for Cera to show up and help push the rock with Sharptooth on it into the hole.  Some have complained that all reptiles can swim meaning Sharptooth should be fine.  My defense for the film is that a huge rock fell and hit him on the head knocking him unconscious.  The rock stayed on top of him to drown him.  It is also possible that he would have floated back to the top, but he would be unconscious long enough for  the gang to get to The Great Valley.

After a fake death with Petrie that still makes me cry Littlefoot is still despairing presumably due to thinking The Great Valley is still far away until he follows a cloud like how the Israelites followed a cloud through the desert that lead to a land flowing with milk and honey.  It leads to The Great Valley.  After one movie of build up and thirteen of results I am always filled with tears of joy when watching this scene.  The gang goes in, as the narrator tells of how wondrous it is.  They reunite with their families.  Ducky’s family adopts Spike.  Cera’s dad is being affectionate.  Petrie literally makes enough wind to blow his siblings away and lift his mom.  It has earlier been implied that they were near the extinction, but the narrator then squashes the last of the fridge horror by revealing that for many generations their descendants told the story meaning it is nowhere near the extinction.  We then get a 40 second clip show that gives just the right closure by reminding of the good moments in this past hour instead of disappointment that it is over.  It ends with “If We Hold on Together.”  The song is a tear jerker before it even gives a single lyric, and it emphasizes continuing on amidst adversity.  I love it.

This is the greatest animated film of all time.  Littlefoot is a terrific protagonist.  He is a not-so-stoic who leads out of necessity of being the only one determined enough to make it.  Cera is an anti-hero I really root for when she does good and root against when she does evil.  Petrie has an incredible arc finding his bravery.  Spike does not have much hidden intelligence except the part about being of the bottom of the tar monster.  Ducky is the most moral character except, she is not good at thinking for herself.

Arguably the speciesism part got dropped in mention, but that is because it shows how it ends, with no one mentioning or thinking about it because they no longer see their differences as bad. Ducks the only one who was not taught it, and she lead actually forming the herd.  It is also why they are happy to adopt Spike.

Some have said The Great Valley is Heaven instead of salvation in symbolism.  That is false due to a simple detail, Littlefoot’s mom is not there.

After the song some more music is playing that is used in the sequels and the series trailer.  We then get to a logo for the man, the myth, the legend.

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The other legend

 

Don Bluth.  Then it is the Amblin logo ending another wonderful film, as it usually does.

The new running time order is 10 (85 minutes), 14 (82 minutes) 12/11 (81 minutes each), 6 (77 minutes) 13 (76 minutes), 9/8/7 (75 minutes each), 5/4/2 (74 minutes each), 3 (71 minutes), and finally 1 (69 minutes).

The new film rankings are 1, 5, 7, 3, 2, 6, 10, 8, 14, 4, 12, 11, 9, 13.

The Land Before Time Part 1

Sometimes it says “The Adventure that Started it all.”  Other ones still say “From the Creators of An American Tail.”  The box itself shows the dark backgrounds and Sharptooth watching the main characters.  It is hard to pinpoint the trailers due to the different rereleases, and my copy is from 1997 instead of 1988.  My copy has the series commercial used in 6.  It helped make me view this as a very good dark prequel when I was the target audience for the sequels.  Now I view it as the greatest animated film of all time, and I need to capture both views.

It has a different Universal Logo, and it seems to be of a galaxy.

T6.png     Unlike the others where I could barely find any behind the scenes details I could find plenty here.  If I do not say where I got something assume it came from http://www.cataroo.com/DBland.html.  According to Ani Mat they  made the opening while still finishing the story, so they animated a generic opening for a dinosaur film.  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mIVcL9KPCvQ around the 2:50 mark).  He implied it was the part with the narration and the dinosaurs moving, but that has plenty to do with the movie.  I suspect it was the underwater scene.

T9.png   The underwater opening is incredibly beautiful.  It even foreshadows four with the sea turtles.  It waits a while to show the title, and the bubbles keep revealing the credits.  It is directed by Don Bluth himself with Spielberg and George Lucas as producers.  James Horner is the composer.  The writers of An American Tail are back.  I think this opening can be accused of not being useful to the film, but even if it is the 69 minute running time does not need to be shortened.  It also shows a little swimming creature in constant danger foreshadowing how dark this film will get, thus it helps the mood.

After the great opening it continues with our narrator, Pat Hingle.  He gives us our narration to some more beautiful and ironically dead scenery.  The plants are dying off (It is implied to be near the dinosaurs’ extinction, but that is revealed to be false at the end).  The dinosaurs appear to rule the Earth, but in truth they are ruled by the leaf.  They are following the setting sun (I am in the group that thinks the movie is filled with religious symbolism).  I do consider this to be a one true, hard path to life, while a broad road leads to death.  The Great Valley does not represent Heaven, but salvation.  Even the original does not consider it to be Heaven.  As a kid I knew it was made first but I did love that the original was about accomplishing a goal, and the sequels never did anything to reduce the happiness of the ending except make it more happy while still having plenty of plot.

T10.png          The leaf eaters only stopped to hatch.  Ducky I the first one shown being born.  I noticed at a young age along with many fans that Cera claimed to be the oldest in 5, but I always assumed they were just guessing their exact ages and Cera would arrogantly claim to be the oldest.  Ducky has a birth that highlights her being overly trusting by putting her head in a snapping turtle like thing’s mouth.  It highlights her innocence.  Cera’s birth (referenced in 12) highlights her recklessness and fear that she seemingly has fear until a thunderbolt horrifies her (referenced in 2).  Throughout the series Cera is actually very scared, and it is part of her character as a not so fearless character.  As an egg Littlefoot is nearly taken by an egg stealer and he rolls everywhere.

This is such an adorable scene.  It also has a few references to Bambi.  I do like how it shows Littlefoot being scared of his mother and her looking creepy to capture that babies are born scared and unaware of mother.  It then stays such an adorable scene as he falls asleep on his mother.  I am crying already.

Time to talk about the deleted scenes.  Bluth wanted a darker film, while Spielberg and Lucas wanted it to be lighter.  One debated area was keeping his mother’s death and the character in the film.  Bluth won this case, which was the most important.  He had to use a psychologist and test cases t win it.  He also won with the help that it would require too much exposition without her death.  I know an early plan was for them to journey to a wise older dinosaur instead of

The Great Valley, so I think that wise older dinosaur would have replaced Littlefoot’s mom.  Spielberg did succeed in cutting ten minutes of footage, which helped break up the duo of Don Bluth and Steven Spielberg.

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In the next scene Littlefoot is talking.  The lack of food is evident especially as Littlefoot tries to eat a stick and the lack of leaves despite the surplus of trees.  Littlefoot’s mother teaches him the path to The Great Valley.  Littlefoot questions its existence since no one they know has ever been there (a theme brought up in 7 as well).  As a seventh grader an above I always loved this symbolism about questioning salvation.  As a younger viewer I did not care about the question, but the answer that it is believed in a heart not in a head.  Littlefoot decides he will understand later.

She then finds a treestar, and she gives it to Littlefoot.  It becomes a symbol of her love at first, but it then changes to a symbol to material possessions and life.  Littlefoot then hears a Threehorn playing, and he is excited about having a potential playmate.  He sees Cera nearly eat an insect (if Hungary enough a Triceratops would eat meat).  She gets sprayed by something and Littlefoot laughs.  This draws Cera in who playfully wants to charge him, and Littlefoot seems to love the idea too.  This is mostly comedic and some children having fun until Mr. Threehorn jumps between and demands Littlefoot leaves.  He then tells is daughter “Come Cera.  Threehorns never play with Longnecks.”  Cera then repeats him.  We already had a man vs. nature plot and now a man vs. society plot, racism/ speciesism.  Cera has been taught it by her dad, and she copies him.  Littlefoot’s mom explains it and she obviously accepts it as life.  Littlefoot for a brief time does show some specieism (It does a wonderful job standing in for racisim in my opinion) later, by mixing a quote form his mom and Mr. Threehorn, but it is very brief and only shown once compared to the rest of the movie.  Some say Littlefoot’s mother taught it to him, but she merely explained it, and I think it going wrong helps make her seem like a real parent.

Contrary to what the above picture says this is not Disney.  Littlefoot follows a frog, and he runs into Cera.  They play a bit until…

Sharptooth shows up.  The original plan was for a more dramatic entrance that would be slower, while hear he only has a little build up.  I actually really like that.  I cannot compare it to the original plan, but instead of building him up like usual, he gets to be shown as menacing out of nowhere like real predators.  He chases Littlefoot and Cera through a briar patch.

Littlefoot tells Cera to go one way, but she goes a different way, and Littlefoot goes after her trying to get her to go his way.  Cera’s way is big enough for Sharptooth to follow.  Littlefoot accidently gets a thorn stuck in his eye, and I can hear Sharptooth’s pain.  He is now motivated by revenge.  This foreshadows some of Littlefoot and Cera’s future problems.  Sharptooth gets in front of them, but mother comes to face him.

Unlike most of the sequels’ fights this is very fast paced.  Off note include Sharptooth getting warmed up by destroying a large rock nearly his size, and Littlefoot’s mother using her head as bait to hit him with her tail like Grandpa Longneck often did.  I guess he taught her that.

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He then jumps four times his height to get on her back and rip off flesh.  I am already getting really sad, while really enjoying the action.  She successfully knocks him away.

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You can see the bloodless carnage that he presumably drank out of her.  It looks good then until a huge earthquake comes and Sharptooth gets Littlefoot and Cera on his foot, and they all start falling into a huge cliff.  Littlefoot’s mother saves them, while Sharptooth presumably falls to his death.  It then shows many dinosaurs and herds perishing in the earthquake.  Cera and Littlefoot are separated form their healthy parents and grandparents.

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This next scene is sad no matter how many times I watch it.  With the exception of Splinter’s death in the episode “Same as it Never was” I am never sad at off screen deaths, and to my tears’ misery she dies on screen.  We do not even know she is dead until she is no longer talking.  James Horner has done it.  His soundtrack is the greatest ever.  It can be so happy, so sad, and so exciting.  She dies trying to keep her son alive by reminding him about how to find The Great Valley.  I do hold on to the belief that this is Christian symbolism.  I will not call it an allegory since I do not think the minor characters have important symbolic roles, but mother is Jesus.  She is the sacrifice to keep everyone else alive when they wondered off the path.

Littlefoot is then shown going through grief, denial, anger, sadness, and acceptance.  I do not know about bargaining so presumably off screen.  He runs into our narrator, Rooter.  I neglected this in my review of 10, but a fan theory is Rooter told Bron about his wife’s death.  Littlefoot is doing a common Bluth trope, falling to symbolize a loss of sanity.  He is blaming himself for wandering too far from home, Sharptooth for killing her, and his mother for not taking care of herself better.  In a scene referenced in 2 and 4 Rooter explains the circle of life.  Everyone eventually dies, but it does not actually end.  As long as someone remembers what they taught and supported.  It takes a few scenes, but it does start to sink in with Littlefoot.  We then get very much needed very cute comic relief with some pterodactyls.  It also shows that life goes on amidst tragedy.  In another part he starts to hear his mother’s voice through the tree star.  Littlefoot certainly considers it to represent his mother.

T11.png       I consider the following shadow sequence to be the movie’s saddest part.  He thinks he saw his shadow as mother.  It is so obviously not, and I am crying just thinking about it.  Not even Babe or Gettysburg has a scene like that.  After Littlefoot finally accepts that his mother is dead, and he has to live by finding The Great Valley so she will not be completely gone.  This is still how I cope with loss.

Littlefoot is someone who stays devoted to Christianity in the bad times.  Some have called Cera temptation, but I consider her to be a person who makes problems, but needs to be saved.  She is not an obstacle by design but due to her flaws she must overcome.  Instead of joining Littlefoot she remembers he dad’s words about being speciesist and tries to get over the great chasm.  Littlefoot then is obviously hurt, and he does not want to join a swimmer,  until her innocent happiness wins him over.  Ducky is the overly innocent member trying to find out if Littlefoot or Cera knows the right way.  They then meet Petrie (he was most likely left behind due to not knowing how to fly).  Petrie’s actor, Will Ryan, is the only main actor to be an adult.  If the other actors could not pull it off, then his role would have been greatly increased, but Judith Barsi exceeded expectations and got many of his lines.  Petrie is a coward, but right away his sense of bravery is shown by him volunteering to be a guard and that he successfully climbed a tree, thus he at least is not consumed by fear.

Cera accidently wakes up Sharptooth and flees in huge fear into the others.  She makes up a story about fighting him off, which Cera an Petrie believe.  My one problem with this movie is Littlefoot clearly believes Sharptooth is the only one even though the narrator earlier used the plural term.  In the meantime Ducky finds Spike, a big eater who is too young to think much.

T12.png         In a deleted scene Cera wants them to leave Spike for slowing them down, but Ducky uses berries to keep him going.  Unlike the herds in the opening they have multiple species.  The next scene has simple parts like Littlefoot using water to find food, and Ducky and Petrie becoming friends.  Confusingly Cera claims finding the food.  Littlefoot is mad, and then some longnecks come in and eat it all.  I eventually realized that Cera’s bragging got the attention of them, and they rushed in to eat everything.  I am pretty sure that it was before the deleted scene with other herds.  In another part of the deleted scene they met two types of dinosaurs.  One had water, and one had food.  They refused to share due to their differences, and it is presumed they will both die.  Back in the trees the group minus Cera make a dinosaur ladder, and they get Petrie high enough to get a lo of food down and fall with style down.  He hoped he flew down, but no one can honestly say yes.  Cera refuses to join until Littlefoot tricks her into thinking she got some down herself, but it mostly increases her ego (brag bone).

Cera and Littlefoot sleep in different areas, and the others pick who o join.  Eventually even Cera goes to Littlefoot.

 

Contested Sequels: An American Tail vs Fievel Goes West

An American Tail

Vs

This a really contested sequel.  It seems all animation fans love one more…

An American Tail
Not necessarily “one” as in first film.

Since many enjoy one or two based on nostalgia I want to start by saying I have no nostalgia for either film.  I first saw two, while fifteen and one while sixteen.  My only nostalgia for the An American Tail franchise is three episodes of Fievel’s American Tails and may trailers.  When I was thirteen I became a huge animation fan with Don Bluth as my favorite animator.  An American Tail is probably his second most well-known film and  I really wanted to see it.  I looked for it for years in thrift stores and online.  I found the sequel and I thought it was a poor film.  I finally found the first one on a website that only allowed me to watch fifteen minutes a day and I still loved it.  I later got the movie and it remains a favorite that I watch every February, while “Fievel Goes West” barely gets watched.  Despite being in my opinion the inferior film it may very well have qualities superior to the original, but they just do not work for me.  The first one is Don Bluth, but the second one is more like a Disney film.

There is the history argument of how ground breaking each film was and without a doubt the first film easily wins here.  Before “An American Tail” animation was in the dark ages.  Very little care went into them and very few made money.  The producer of both films, Steven Spielberg, was having recent troubles, and “An American Tail” ended both problems.  It brought Spielberg back on top and started the renaissance age of animation.  “Fievel Goes West” was the first film made by Amblination.  Only three were made, but the remnants helped form Dreamworks.  Of course Amblination was made from the remnants of Bluth leaving Spielberg, which would mean the original is almost as responsible for Dreamworks as the sequel.

The opening to one makes the crucial credits mistake of misspelling Fievel as “Feivel.”  Still, it has a much better score in the beginning.  It gives really nice animation.  It then begins the action by both describing the American dream and showing the horrors the Mouskowitz are trying to escape.  The beginning of II is more about just showing the West.  The main theme is the same as “Bartok, the Magnificent” that there is a hero in you.  I really do not see that developed.  In one I very much see the theme that despite its flaws America offers the potential to change your life.

Both films offer an early battle and here II is superior with the music.  They use a modified version of the main theme that goes wonderful with an action scene.  One has a mood breaking train sound effect, but one still has the better opening action scene due to superior designs.

An American Tail

is much more intimidating than An American Tail

Granted, the difference is not by much.  One mostly has a better scene due to a much bigger sense of fear and a better Fievel.

Fievel was redesigned and it really hurt the second one.

 

An American Tail

Image result for fievel

In II he was made to appear less vulnerable and older.  Since the first one shows Fievel being very heroic it is reasonable to think he would be like that later.  The problem is he gets himself into trouble more often in the second one and is far less successful in being a hero, which hurt the moral of the hero inside you.  Even worse is Philip Glasser’s changing voice could not imitate its previous great performance.  In the first one he comes off as heroic and capable of getting out of trouble.  In II he comes off as an action survivor thanks to others saving him.  From one he is one of my favorite protagonists, but it did not carry over.

One reason for Fievel’s decreased role is the film was disneyfied.  Don Bluth puts the main focus on the hero.  Disney puts the main focus on the villain and side characters.  It comes down to opinion and type of story which one is better, but I almost always prefer focusing on a wonderful protagonist.  II is more of a Disney film than a Bluth film (Bluth did not direct it), which I am sure is a major reason for the broken base.  Tiger is way more of the main hero than Feivel here.  Dom DeLuise gives the best performance of the sequel. The problem is his lines are really bad filler mostly.  The chases he gets in get really old before they even begin.  At least he offers some good jokes and scenes.  Wiley Burp is a horrible name.  It sounds like something a Junior high student will make up.  His whole fandom is based on being voiced by Jimmy Stewart and nothing else.  Shouldn’t he have had a planned replacement already?  Tanya gets a bigger role, which seems to be furry fan service.  Mama and Papa are so much dumber, less caring, and less funny i the sequel.  Mama went from a dead pan snarker to the miserable stereotypical mother.  Papa was an optimistic but grief stricken dad to a straw optimist.  In the first one I loved or really enjoyed every side character and they all had completely different roles.  In II I liked Tiger and found everyone else to be bland.

With their increased focus on the villain II should have an advantage there.  On paper Cat R. Waul is better than Warren T. Rat.  He is smarter, has a more complex plan, he has a better voice actor, better actor gave a great performance, he has a more menacing sidekick.  His sidekick, the tarantula is actually a better villain.  On screen Warre is better.  He is far more threatening.  With Cat R. Waul I doubt he would hurt a fly, mostly because he prefers to not kill anyone personally.  Warren is also more interested in money than killing, but he always comes off as more murderous and optimistic about future success.  He also has a much better plan.

Cat R. Waul wants to use mice for their labor.  The way to do that is to clean the big machines or something.  Instead they are shown struggling with a job that a cat solves in literally three seconds.  I was actually fine with the mouse burgers plot since badly worded plans happen, but it is still a minor problem.  Warren is better at making a believable plan and being a more relatable villain, the oppressive upper class who only want to make money.  Cat R. Waul is still the third best part of II.

The best part of II is its climax.  It is fun and even Miss Kitty works in it.  I liked the slingshots.  Fievel also finally got to do something notably important.  Still the climax in one is leaps and bounds better.  The part with the Great Mouse of Minsk is wonderfully animated.

The songs in An American Tail are my favorite in any musical.  Each one is better than the last, and they add to the story and characters.  “No Cats n America” further adds to why the mice are so scared of cats by focusing on the sadness (earlier scenes focused on the horror).  “Never Say Never” (besides being ripped off by Justin Bieber) is very important to letting the characters get over a sad time and doing the same with the audience.  It also stays in the head and ads hope later.  Why is “Somewhere out There” so great?  It does not try to sound pretty, but true.  The characters do not change their voices.  Besides that it is wonderfully written and fits untrained singers.  “We’re a Duo” is just wonderful.  It really helps with the symbolic message of the cats being the oppressive upper-class to the mice’s immigrants showing how both are needed.  Also to help is by then it is so great to see Fievel finally find a friend who does not get distracted from helping him (Tony was mostly useful later). The final ingredient was Tiger.  He was instantly likable. It is also made even better by the sequel, which is to Fievel Goes West‘s credit.

I never understood the love of “Dreams to Dreams.”  Of the flagship songs from all four movies it is the worst.  It sounds like it was made to sell rather than add to a story that sells, like Disney films typically make.  Her voice is way too focused on sounding pretty rather than getting emotion out.  Miss Kitty’s song is something I always want to fast-forward through.  “At Least way out West” is a really good song, but overly loud for my tastes even for a crowd song.

I see why some people love the second one.  It offers several things to like for Disney fans and nothing is notably bad to distract from it.  It still cannot compete with the first film.  The first films a wonderful protagonist, my favorite songs from a musical, wonderful animation, a threatening villain, and a wonderful moral both literally and symbolically.