This is something I forgot to post about two months ago.  Just some thoughts and initial reactions I had on Ice Age 5.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going entirely against the grain of critics and a $21 million opening, but, hey, Ice Age: Continental Drift, in animation terms, was not entirely atrocious.  Sure, it’s easy to rip this family film for its weak disjointed story, honest-to-God annoying characters, horrific dialogue, and generally frustrating resolutions.  However, let’s use our heads here: this isn’t a film being made by filmmakers.  It’s a sequel designed to fuel the fire of a franchise that has been overextended in the United States — but apparently not abroad.  The guys who wanted this film read textbooks for fun when they were kids.  The guys who ended up making had to do the best they could with a property they honestly probably don’t want anymore and regret ever putting on paper.  So as easy as it might be for me to rip on this, I want to highlight what bits of brilliance I feel the production team snuck into this film.

Blue Sky Studios is making a pretty strong case for me to hope on their bandwagon.  Charlie Brown last fall, and just today I got around to Ice Age: Collision Course.  Ferdinand and Mutts further down the pipeline, the future is solid for this group.

Collision Course issues:

– Absolutely hate voice casting on Crash and Eddie.

– Throwaway lines for way too many characters, too crowded, consequence of this franchise’s history.  75% of characters were entirely unnecessary.

– Dino birds complication felt very forced, too many conflicts spread the film thin

It’s easy to nitpick at a family film, though.  These were the major flaws that I felt could have at least somewhat easily resolved.

Why it was great though:

– Such fantastic energy to the animation.  Unfortunately, older characters seemed to be stuck on those older models.  You had almost a conflict between the zany, pure animation characters and the straight-man, grounded characters.

– Sid is an incarnation of Roger Rabbit, all the way.

– Really highlighted the key poses. Reminiscent of Bugs being scared in Hare-um Scare-um or the one where he ends up sleeping through a flood and ends up in the doctor’s evil lair  Buck, Sid, crash and eddie, Scrat.  Great energy reminiscent of Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry.  (Scrat obviously exists in the vein of those shorts, but it was nice to see this extended to Buck).

It’s refreshing to see these guys pushing their character animation to wider fringes within computer generated animation.  This entry in the franchise has its moments of animated achievement, you just have to work around the agonizing story and predictability.

On one hand, I loved the film.  I was thoroughly entertained throughout the picture, the way the story unfolded was fantastic — so glad they followed through post-solution of the mystery.  Oh yeah, and it was distinctly  not a Disney film.

It was, yet it wasn’t.  Animation: top notch.  As always with Disney or Pixar, I’m seeing plenty of articles flooding my screen about how “Disney went the extra mile to achieve realistic fur” or “such and such was inserted here for authenticity purposes.”  Cool, great, that’s what Disney does: push boundaries, animate in technologically innovative and fascinating ways.  They’re so good at it, I’d be a little let down if that hadn’t happened.

On top of that, what we have here is some of the greatest character animation of the Second Disney Renaissance.  The life in these characters sits up there with those from DumboPinocchio,  and the package films like Saludos Amigos and The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad, though let me be clear, I’m not drawing analogies between the two eras (We’ll get into why I don’t like the Robin Hood comparison later).  The Disney animators did a fabulous job getting back to expressive motion in this film, something that subtly elevated Tangled over Frozen in my mind.  So with respect to animation (and on a blog titled “animation connection,” why would we care about much else?), Disney film. All. The. Way.

Now the subject: Disney-ish?  And that’s not entirely a bad thing.  This is very much a product of Lasseter, Catmull, and the Pixar team overhauling Disney animation.  Of course, that’s not to say this is a Pixar film either — it plays by too many conventional genre and cinematic expectations to fit that auteur style that has been stamped on the Pixar product since the late 2000’s (and dwindling away fast).  As a follow up to Frozen, it contrasts heavily with that picture’s princess territory.  It’s a different contrast, though, than Wreck-it Ralph had with TangledRalphthough ambitious and different, follows a traditional storyline that has been played out in a number of other Disney films where the protagonist re-evaluates his goals in his journey — think Emperor’s New Groove.   The film achieved a fresh spin on this by simply reversing roles where the “bad guy” became the “good guy.”  I don’t at all mean to take away from Ralph, it was a fantastic film, but I want to show there was more to Zootopia‘s deviation from the formula than there has been before at Disney.

Zootopia may be a little on the nose for some, but perhaps that’s because of the current tensions in our culture’s racial climate.  The film actually does a fantastic job of sliding applicable lessons into its story for both adults and children, teaching each audience about stereotyping and bullying at the same time.  It’s an extremely difficult task to accomplish, and the film does this well.  The messages of acceptance and positivity stand distinctly apart from the more generic themes present in Disney’s more recent efforts, because these apply so directly to our society today.

It aligns with Looney Tunes, however, in its cultural references.  This film will be practically a time capsule in the future, which will unfortunately quickly date it.  That’s not to say it can’t be timeless, for many of us today enjoy watching 80’s movies, even if the girls are wearing leg warmers.  Let’s note though, that jokes referencing “Breaking Bad” and other current pop culture touchstones will be lost on later audiences much like they are in Looney Tunes (imagine how much is detracted from “The Scarlet Pumpernickel” when audiences don’t get Daffy’s direct and indirect references to Errol Flynn).

As for Disney’s own view on it, I really dislike their effort to characterize it as a return to the style of their classic pictures.  This a) defeats the respect we can give it for being so different thematically from everything else in the Disney canon, and b) really isn’t a return to anything they’ve done.  Sure, Reitherman’s Robin Hood might have been a jumping off point, but don’t publicize that.  Your animation style does not even remotely follow that 1960’s-70’s era.  As much as I’d like to see at least one hand drawn picture to accompany every 5-7 CG films (I know it isn’t cost efficient, but Pooh was so refreshing in 2011), accept your style and promote it.  The rough, unkempt lines of Robin Hood is that generation’s thing, make jaw-dropping world building and unprecedentedly fluid character movement your thing.

Zootopia was an impressive deviation from Disney’s norm, and their previous recent films have been preparing audiences for this.  It blends a traditional dedication to character animation with the current demand for world-building and messages of diversity.  It will probably get weighed down in the future by it’s reliance upon culture in 2016, but let’s hope Judy Hopps can stay as entertaining as Bugs Bunny 75 years down the line.

The Peanuts Movie.  They’re right, everything in the animation is amazing.  I honestly loved looking at it, and I think it would be just as fun to watch without dialogue and instead accompanied solely by Vince Guaraldi.

Charlie Brown’s main story was cute.  It’s simple – a boy wants to win a girl – and it doesn’t try to overcomplicate anything.  The structure is very obvious, you can entirely tell when you’re moving out of one part of the story and into the next.  The major fault is in Snoopy’s red baron pursuit.  Issue: these Red Baron chase scenes have never been meant to be more than a 3-4 minute diversion.  As far as I can think, the most prominent animated Red Baron chase comes from It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!.  It makes sense there: costumes, halloween, pretending to be characters.  I give Blue Sky props in managing to end that sequence without allowing Snoopy to actually shoot down the Red Baron, and also to have it at some points loosely reflect what’s going on in Charlie Brown’s life.   Though these Red Baron scenes could be entirely deleted without any interruption in the overall picture, it’s not something I want to dwell on because it didn’t truly take away much from my experience (it didn’t really add anything either anyway).

What they really accomplished though was creating a meaningful interpretation of Childhood without cellphones, computers, the internet, etc.  I admittedly am biased, because I’ve been a fan of Charlie Brown longer than I have Disney, or even animation itself.  I root for Charlie Brown, and I’m still heartbroken when he fails.  It’s devastating to watch him lose his book report on War and Peace, because it’s at this point that, whether you’re a fan or not, you really understand that Charlie Brown is a born loser, and even if he hits a high streak for a little bit, it’ll end.  Knowing this, watching him truly succeed with the Little Red Haired Girl neither compromises Charlie Brown’s “born loser” status, nor does it leave us unsatisfied at having watched this movie. And yeah, I know, this breaks a lot of the “rules” from the comics.  Even I was skeptical throughout most of the movie, but to adapt to modern audience expectations, it had to be done   Be honest, would you prefer to watch this movie and see no character arc while it stays 100% true to the comic strip, or would you rather see carefully made, slight compromises, and watch Charlie Brown change from a despondent, hopeless loser, to a cheerful, reassured loser.  More or less, it’s an extended Charlie Brown Christmas special.

Now for the fun stuff.  I love the references to the comics.  Snoopy’s vulture face, definite lines drawn straight from the panels, Woodstock’s zamboni/snow machine, typewriter, Snoopy’s Van Gogh, Mrs. Othmar, Joe Cool, and references to the specials — A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving reference with”I only know how to cook toast,” and the obvious “Christmastime Is Here” bit.  I’m sure in future viewings there will still be plenty to catch.

Is The Peanuts Movie stellar?  No.  We could nitpick all day (Peppermint Patty and Franklin live across town, and Linus, Sally, and Schroeder are all younger than Charlie Brown).  The issue with Charlie Brown and the gang is there was so much genius in the original strip, that all efforts to adapt the property come up short.  Is the effort pointless?  Well, depends on the way you see things.  Was Blue Sky going for easy cash with this film, or where they really giving it a good faith effort to celebrate Peanuts and the genius of Chuck Schulz?  Realistically, it’s probably both; however, I’ve had the chance to reconnect with my favorite characters because of this movie.  You’d better believe that I was thumbing through my old Peanuts treasuries for days after seeing that movie.  Not many animated films so well capture the essence of a comic strip artist’s pen-strokes that they inspire you to dive back into that original source material (admittedly, I don’t think any have ever tried).  To sum it up, Peanuts Movie is by no means the perfect Charlie Brown package, but it is perhaps the best picture in the Peanuts canon of specials and films to capture the static vibrancy of Charles Schulz in animated form.  I hope it works as a great introduction for younger generations of the pinnacle strip of the American funnies.

A bit late to the table, maybe, but this movie was delayed several times, so it’s only fitting my response is as well.  My initial take on The Good Dinosaur, and I mean my take on it going into the theater, was that it was about to be a damn good movie.  It had to be!  This was Pixar’s last chance to be brilliantly original for the next few years, and despite the bad reviews I read in the days before the movie was released, I really was hoping that it would be a misunderstood winner.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t.

I think one unsettling qualm I had with this film was that it lacked any compelling antagonist.  There’s nobody in this film that you can point to immediately and say, “That guy (or gal [or thing]).”  You might argue that it was the scavengers, and I would agree with you if I they appeared onscreen for more than 12 minutes total.  Outside of those 12 minutes, the birds hardly influenced Arlo’s journey.

Don’t worry, I also haven’t missed the fact that this film is a coming-of-age story either.  I get it, Arlo is learning to fend for himself as he finds his way back home, but that is not at all original.  Keep in mind, the studio that gave us UpWall-E, Monsters Inc., and Finding Nemo is falling back on this extremely patterned, typical, trite story.  True, all of these films have elements of self-discovery, but Pixar was more careful in toeing the line between self-discovery and coming-of-age, and in this case they simply fell on the wrong side of that line.  In past films, Pixar has presented simple stories in new forms.  The Good Dinosaur painfully reeked of The Lion King, and there wasn’t a moment in the film where I felt genuinely surprised or unsure of the next development in the story.  The scene that absolutely boggled my mind was when Arlo and his dad run through the field together at night and wake up the lightning bugs.  It so clearly harkened back to Lion King that I was entirely removed from the film at hand.  If there was any other goal to this scene’s extremely direct extra-filmic reference, it was entirely lost on me.

I don’t want to fully bog down on Pixar, though.  From what I understand, this film had deep troubles, and after passing through the hands of several different directors, as well as seeing its release date pushed back a few times, one might see how Pixar would fall back on a recycled, simplistic storyline.  I also loved the artistic decision to blend ultra-realistic settings with caricatured dinosaurs.  While I can see it would be unsettling for some, I found it visually fascinating, like when Eddie Valiant enters Toontown in Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988).  It almost seems to signal that the film is not taking itself too seriously with such a visual contrast.

Overall, I was really excited to see a new, original story from Pixar, but was disappointed that by and large it presented us with nothing all that new.  An entirely predictable story, and any reasonable familiarity with Lion King will automatically cue all viewers back to that film.  Bad move.  I was impressed, however, with “Sanjay’s Super Team”.  While I believe that it would have received a lot more fire had Christianity been featured as prominently in the short as Hinduism was, I really respect Pixar’s effort to present a culture and story that is most likely unfamiliar to many of its audiences.  Especially with their coming line up of sequels, it’s awesome Pixar is able to retain some autonomy in their short subjects.  

Below is a paper I wrote for a class titled History of the International Cinema: Part One.   Kind of a pretentious class title, right?  It was a wonder that I thought it was a good idea to turn in this paper on the trivial subject of animation, but thanks to this Leonard Maltin article, I was able to very quickly nail down a solid assertion, and simultaneously learn a whole lot about this period of animation that I hadn’t previously fully understood!  It was a real pleasure to write, and I hope it’s enjoyable to read as well!

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

     The history of animation, especially its early days in the 1910’s and 1920’s, is comparable to one major “near miss.”   Animation, had it remained grounded in the style of Émile Cohl and other contemporary European artists, and the grand artistic visions of Winsor McCay in America, could have found itself uniquely positioned as a leading form of high art over the next century, but profitability conquered auteur artistry. Walt Disney made a major effort to counteract this sacrifice of artistic achievement, but his failure ultimately led to the often marginalized genre as it is known today. In 1940, at a budget exceeding two and a quarter million dollars Disney released Fantasia (1940), which shall be shown to be the pinnacle of “animated high art.”  Compare this with the production budget of Casablanca (1943) which stood at just over one million dollars, and it is clear that animation was an industry that sought great heights just the same as live film during these early years.  Just as Casablanca was the culmination of film technique up to that point in time, Fantasia also was the culmination of the animated genre and its development up through that point in time.  Had animation and live film been compared side by side in the 1910’s and early 1920’s, viewers would be hard pressed to argue that either type of film was trivial in comparison to the other.  Arguably, prior to animation’s industrialization in the United States between 1915 and 1925, it was a medium of high art, and could have remained that way had profitability and consumer demand not effectively destroyed its prospects for anything other than character-focused narrative after the failure of Fantasia in 1940.

     To begin, animation origins are not quite as well defined as the origins of live motion pictures.  It is also hard to pinpoint what exactly qualifies as animation.  The trick films of Georges Méliés, G.A Smith, and others employed old theatrical wire tricks to make things move independently, but in 1907 James Stuart Blackton released L’Hôtel Hanté through Vitagraph in Paris, and audiences were astonished when close ups of a table setting itself revealed no wires or traditional tricks, thanks to the technique of animation (Crafton, Before Mickey 13-14).  On the other hand, animation as it is traditionally thought of was being explored by Émile Cohl in France in 1908.  Cohl was one of the pioneers of animation, and though animation’s origins are ambiguous, he can be credited with a fairly large hand in the development of the medium.  The style most attributable to Émile Cohl was the “Incoherent Cinema,” an aesthetic he originated in his 1908 short film Fantasmagorie, his first animated cartoon, and the first step forward in animation as its own art form.  He created this while simultaneously writing scenarios for the Gaumont studio, working alongside Louis Feuillade and Etienne Arnaud (Crafton, Before Mickey 65-66).  The picture was released under the Gaumont name, and with its nearly 2 minute running time, “most viewers were undoubtedly left puzzled by this curious apparition” (Crafton, Émile Cohl 121).  This incoherent cinema style is incredibly fluid and unpredictable.  At one point in the film, a man is swallowed by a cannon, which tilts upward to change into a bottle, but then suddenly peels to reveal the man standing in the center of a flower (Fantasmagorie).   Earlier experiments in animation allowed the artists to be present with their on-  screen creations, and Cohl does not entirely ditch this concept with Fantasmagorie.  What differentiated Cohl from more primitive animators was his prior experience as an artist.  Cohl’s interests actually heavily concentrated in painting and poetry, and as a member of the Société des Dessinateurs Humoristes, “Émile Cohl was the first artist with an established reputation to become a full time filmmaker” (Crafton, Before Mickey 65). 

     Émile Cohl was not the only artist to transfer into the medium of animation.  Take for example Hans Richter or Viking Eggeling and their work between 1915 and 1923.  Both were fine artists seeking to translate their still art into motion through animation.  Their inspiration coincided with the avant-garde movement taking place in cinema at the time, and some films were just as much about exploring cinematic potential as they were about artistic expression. For Eggeling, Symphonie Diagnole was, on top of being an experiment in kinetic art, an exploration in spatial relationship in a camera frame.  Hans Richter’s Rhythmus 21 was based on similar ideas.  In the same vein of experimentation, Walter Ruttmann in Berlin was creating new animated forms for his Opus series of films.  He presented a contrasting body of work for his time, for while “Richter and Eggeling used music as a structural model to analyze the movement through time and space, Ruttmann was more interested in translating the emotional overtones of music into moving colored images” (Lawder 62).  Ruttmann’s experience in creating his Opus films actually led to his contribution to live film work in his “city symphony” Berlin, Symphonie diner Grossstadt (1927).  His practice with the patterned rhythms and abstract forms of Opus allowed him to craft his choices of objects and shots in this film.  On top of all this, Opus I (1921) was created in color, showing that animation was able to keep pace with the technological advancements in live film.

      As this all began, Bernhard Diebold, a German film critic of the time, wrote in 1916 of a new medium of art that would combine movement with music through film.  Diebold expressed a desire for “film-as-painted-music…based on the theory of synaesthetic correspondences, which presumed the existence of specific auditory and visual stimuli to elicit identical inner emotional states” (Lawder 56).  This relates back to the earlier assertion that Disney’s Fantasia was a culmination of everything the animation industry had pushed to achieve in its early days.  It was both the peak of Diebold’s desire for “film-as-painted-music” and the end of this notion, as neither Disney nor any other animation studio would pursue such a film again. Esther Leslie, a professor at Birkbeck College in London, echoes Diebold’s sentiment in her essay “Animation and History.”  She invokes Diebold, paraphrasing his assertion that “if cinema was to be an art form…it needed animation, because that made possible a cinema that had broken free of a naturalistic template and conventional story lines” (Leslie 33). Clearly, animation had both its own evolving development as an art form for abstract, modern artists in Europe, but it also acted as a testing ground for filmmakers and artists to better understand the intangible elements of film like rhythm, form, and composition.

Colorful forms from Ruttman's "Opus" series.

Colorful forms from Ruttman’s Opus series.

vlcsnap-2015-12-22-18h39m12s803

     Moving from Europe to the United States, Winsor McCay, an American cartoonist, was busy developing his own animation process with slightly different intentions than Émile Cohl.  In fact, McCay’s attitude towards animation very much resembled the “cinema of attraction” displayed by early filmmakers like the Lumiére Brothers and Mélies trick films, and in his first film, “the four-minute sequence exploits movement for its own sake in a highly exploratory way” (Crafton, Before Mickey 103).  While McCay was able to work in to his early projects some semblance of narrative (something entirely lacking from Cohl’s Fantasmagorie), his first three and most famous productions were far more concentrated in spectacle than narrative.  As a cartoonist and vaudeville performer, McCay was an already established figure.  He wrote a newspaper comic strip at the time called Little Nemo in Slumberland.  Thus, when McCay translated this highly popular cartoon into the animated medium in 1911, it became a wildly popular piece of the exhibitionist cinema.  His first three cartoons, Little Nemo, followed by The Story of a Mosquito (1912) and Gertie the Dinosaur (1914), all featured between 3000 and 5000 drawings each, and they were all produced with the purpose of accompanying McCay in a traveling live stage act.  The most famous of these was Gertie, which featured McCay physically climbing up a ladder behind the screen and timing it so that he would then appear on screen with the dinosaur.  As an American, McCay’s vision for animation somewhat differed from what would come to be.  In an article published in a 1911 issue of The Atlanta Constitution, McCay was discussing his work on Little Nemo, and predicted “ a day when finished paintings will possess life and action” (Ormond 16). 

      The American animation industry would not concentrate on this path, however.  Instead, there was John R. Bray, “animation’s greatest proponent of the mass-production…[and] at once the Henry Ford, Harold Lloyd and Thomas Edison of the cartoon business” (Adamson 48).  John Bray can be thought of as the man who brought animation out of experimentation and capitalized on its potential for business.  When he got a chance to experiment with animation around 1915, Bray patented one of the vital pieces of the standardized animation process, the cel.  This allowed a translucent sheet to separate the body of the character or animated element from the stationary background.  A Bray studio advertisement from Moving Picture World in 1919 asserts, “The Bray Studios has always led in the development of improved processes for superior animation,” and considering the cel was continually used through the 1990’s, this arrogant advertisement is more or less justified (Bray).  For a while, Bray was contracted with Paramount, creating short educational segments, newsreels, and the first military training films.  His artists included Paul Terry, Max Fleischer, Walter Lantz, and several other influential men that went on to Disney and Warner Bros. in the 1930’s.  Though Bray never created any lasting property, he did establish the business model of mass production in animation which would be adopted by the most influential animators of the next two decades .

     After Bray’s withdrawal from animation, the medium declined.  European artists were no longer using animation as an artistic medium in the 1920’s, and thanks to Bray, animation had become industrialized in the pattern of Hollywood films, effectively stifling the expensive, labor-intensive productions McCay had been exploring a decade earlier.  It was only with Walt Disney’s bet on sound in 1928 with Mickey Mouse in Steamboat Willie that animation continued to stay technologically relevant with film.  Disney’s competitors would follow suit, transferring to sound in the 1930’s, until he took another major leap forward in 1932 with Flowers and Trees, the first film to ever use Technicolor’s three-strip full-color process.  Five years later, Disney would step forward again with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), the first feature length animated picture.  Again, the industry followed, and the Fleischer brothers would release their own picture in 1941, Mr. Bug Goes to Town. 

The pinnacle of animation as high art, "Fantasia" was able to incorporate abstract form alongside music driven and character driven story lines.

The pinnacle of animation as high art, Fantasia was able to incorporate abstract form alongside music driven and character driven story lines.

Throughout the 1930’s, Disney continually pushed for more cohesive stories when other studios were satisfied with cartoons that relied solely on gags.  All of this culminated with Fantasia in 1940, a full color film that was broken into eight segments and featured strictly no-dialogue in the story segments.  The only sound accompaniment — which was provided in the debut of stereophonic sound — was the symphonic orchestration.  The narrative, character, tone, and overall theme of each segment was wholly informed by the music, fulfilling Diebold’s prediction.  It was an effort to reverse the pattern of animation as a trivial accompaniment to major features and instead return to animation as a high art form.  It was, in fact, recognized as such at the Academy Awards where it received two special recognition awards for its advancement in technology and in the motion picture as an art form.  The goals of Richter, Eggeling, and Ruttmann’s experiments almost seem to directly inform this production, but box office returns turned out to be more influential in the future.

Animated form timed to music in "Fantasia," something reflected in the "Opus" series.

Animated form timed to music in Fantasia, something reflected in the Opus series.

Disney’s grand vision was shattered when the film saw abysmal box office returns, and it was only due to the major success of Snow White and relative success of Dumbo (1941) that the studio stayed alive.  Disney would not be able to produce another major motion picture until the 1950’s, and though he continued to push forward innovative filmmaking techniques — Lady and the Tramp being the first animated feature to be released in CinemaScope — Disney did not have the capital to innovate on such a grand scale, especially with his other ventures in theme parks and television.  According to film critic Leonard Maltin, “Creativity remained a hallmark of the animated features and shorts that came from his studio, but the bold era of experimentation was over.  The failure of Fantasia would remain a sore spot with Disney for the rest of his life” (Maltin).

     In spite of its best efforts, animation eventually tumbled into the mass-production form it is known for today, and Bray’s introduction of a business mindset won out.  Walt Disney, in his early years, made concerted efforts to reverse the pattern of lazy comic adaption and character inconsistency in animation with his elaborate shorts and innovative technologies, but his failure with Fantasia, followed by limitations brought on by World War II, resulted in the culmination and effective end of popular animation as fine art.  It was a hybridization years in the making and anticipated from nearly the beginning of the medium, but American industry more or less refused to let the two coexist. Nevertheless, the simple fact that in Fantasia Mickey Mouse can and does exist within a German poem and move in rhythm with a French symphony proves there is yet a potential for animation that will hopefully be further explored in the future.

Works Cited

Adamson, Joe. The Walter Lantz Story: With Woody Woodpecker and Friends. New York: Putnam, 1985. Print.

Bray, John R. “Bray Studios Pictograph.” Internet Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 15.

Crafton, Donald. Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898-1928. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1982. Print.

Crafton, Donald. Emile Cohl, Caricature, and Film. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1990. Print.

Fantasmagorie. Dir. Émile Cohl. Gaumont, 1908. Web.

Lawder, Standish D. The Cubist Cinema. New York: New York UP, 1975. Print. Anthology Film  Archives.

Leslie, Esther. “Animation and History.” Animating Film Theory. Ed. Karen Beckman. London: Duke UP, 2014. 25-36. Print.

Maltin, Leonard. “When Disney Got Adult and Trippy.” BBC. BBC, 12 Nov. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Ormond, Sidney. “Pictorial Art of the Future Will Move; Pity the Poor Newspaper Cartoonist.” The Atlanta Constitution 1 June 1911: 1+. ProQuest. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Bibliography

Adamson, Joe. The Walter Lantz Story: With Woody Woodpecker and Friends. New York: Putnam, 1985. Print.

Barrier, J. Michael. Hollywood Cartoons: American Animation in Its Golden Age. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. Print.

Berlin: Symphony of a Great City. Dir. Walter Ruttman. 1927. Web.

Bray, John R. “Bray Studios Pictograph.” Internet Archive. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 Nov. 15.

Bruckner, René, Dr. History of the International Cinema. Norris Cinema Theater, Los Angeles. 24 Aug. 2015. Lecture.

Crafton, Donald. Before Mickey: The Animated Film, 1898-1928. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 1982. Print.

Crafton, Donald. Émile Cohl, Caricature, and Film. Princeton: Princeton UP, 1990. Print.

Fantasia. Prod. Walt Disney and Ben Sharpsteen. Perf. Leopold Stokowski and Deems Taylor. Walt Disney Productions, 1940. DVD.

Fantasmagorie. Dir. Émile Cohl. Gaumont, 1908. Web.

The Haunted Hotel. Dir. Stuart Blackton. Vitagraph, 1907. Web.

Heraldson, Donald. Creators of Life: A History of Animation. New York: Drake, 1975. Print.

Korkis, Jim. The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse. N.p.: Theme Park, 2013. Print.

Lawder, Standish D. The Cubist Cinema. New York: New York UP, 1975. Print. Anthology Film Archives.

Leslie, Esther. “Animation and History.” Animating Film Theory. Ed. Karen Beckman. London: Duke UP, 2014. 25-36. Print.

Malevich, Kazimir Severinovich, and Oksana Bulgakowa. The White Rectangle: Writings on Film. Berlin: Potemkin, 2002. Print.

Maltin, Leonard. “When Disney Got Adult and Trippy.” BBC. BBC, 12 Nov. 2015. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Opus I. Dir. Walter Ruttman. 1921. Web.

Ormond, Sidney. “Pictorial Art of the Future Will Move; Pity the Poor Newspaper Cartoonist.” The Atlanta Constitution 1 June 1911: 1+. ProQuest. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Peary, Danny, and Gerald Peary. The American Animated Cartoon: A Critical Anthology. New York: Dutton, 1980. Print.

Schwarz, Arturo. Man Ray: The Rigour of Imagination. London: Thames and Hudson, 1977. Print.

Symphonie Diagonale. Dir. Viking Eggeling. 1924. Web.

This will be my first post in a series of posts to follow featuring work I did in my film classes this year at USC’s School of Cinematic Arts.  Unfortunately, they will not cover animation, however, this first post features one of my favorite pieces I’ve ever written (And I’d also like to work in some animation posts this summer, especially with Inside Out coming up soon).  It is a paper in which I discussed the similarities and differences between Walt Disney’s EPCOT project and modern day urban developments.  This is the first academic paper I have been able to write that tackles a specifically Disney subject.  I understand that lots has been said about EPCOT by many people far more knowledgeable than I am, but I haven’t found anything that attempts to draw modern day parallels and contrasts between Disney’s plans and how our communities look today.  Thanks to Jaime Maas and The Original Epcot for their advice and resources.  If you have feedback, criticisms, or points of discussion, I’d love to hear them here or on Twitter.

Progress City: Walt Disney’s Prologue to Modern Urban Development

     In the mid 1960’s, Walt Disney was a master American showman running a diversely successful entertainment production company.  Walt Disney Productions saw success in areas such as animation, live-action films, television, consumer products, and of course in tourism through the revolutionary Disneyland park in Southern California.  At this point, however, Disney was willing to wage everything under his name for a project so immense that it required 28,000 acres of land in central Florida.  In a 25 minute short film, Walt Disney presented his plans for E.P.C.O.T., the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow.  This film roughly detailed a utopia of neighborhoods, businesses, parks, and residences interconnected by a system of monorails and rapid, clean transportation.  True, Disney’s vision was never built, but today there is a resurgence in this type of community planning in both positive and negative forms.  Although Disney’s EPCOT was a hopeful experiment that sought complete control over social spaces and dynamics, it did so with an optimistic spirit.  Future cities will need such forethought and planning, but the residential community of the future is only as progressive as the integrity of those that design them.  Valuable lessons can be learned from how people perceived the future in the past, specifically as seen in this short film, and how those lessons can help direct future societies.

     First, Disney sought to exercise a strong amount of power and influence over the lives of the citizens of EPCOT.  This was a habit he had obtained from tinkering with his Disneyland theme park over the decade it had existed before he and his team of designers set to work on EPCOT.  The property was divided into roughly four sections, including an airport, an industrial park, a theme park five times the size of Disneyland, and, at the heart of it all, the urban downtown center EPCOT.  In the film, EPCOT is discussed in the greatest detail.  To put the city design in simplest terms, it would include four rings.  At the edge were residential communities and neighborhoods.  The next ring inward was a green belt dedicated to public parks, schools, and churches.  Inside this was the “high density apartment housing,” and then finally at the center was a district for business (EPCOT).  This layout followed a radial design that Disney had popularized in his theme park, where guests could move outward from a central hub, and in EPCOT this hub was marked by a single high rise about thirty stories tall.  Above the pedestrians were the rapid transit monorails and people movers, and below the city were the parking lots and roads that allowed vehicles to pass through without disrupting pedestrian traffic.  The visual center of EPCOT would be marked by a single high rise cosmopolitan hotel, standing approximately some thirty stories tall.  One notable aspect about the design of the EPCOT center was that from the high density apartments inward, fifty acres of pedestrian streets and buildings were to be entirely enclosed.  Above this enclosure, seven acres would be dedicated as a recreation deck for guests at the hotel (EPCOT).  In the middle of this central district was to be the transportation center, surrounded by streets of shops, restaurants, and theaters that sought to invoke the stylized designs and cultures of places around the world.

     In case it isn’t clear, every aspect of EPCOT would exist under the full control and supervision of Walt Disney.  According to Alan Byrman, a professor of social research at Loughborough University, Disney was unhappy with the tasteless designs and establishments that had sprung up around his Disneyland park, and often expressed his desire to control the surrounding land should he ever build another park (Byrman 13).  Byrman explains that there is a certain predictability inherent in the Disney product that signals an overall control in the situation.  He asserts that predictability and control are quite similar because control over the situation creates predictable outcomes, resulting in the robotic actors in rides, and themes across the park that play into guests’ sentimental memories or perceived notions of the past, future, and fantasy (Byrman 117-118).  Of course, EPCOT was not just another theme park, but a functioning city that would change the course of its own story every day based on the people who lived and worked there.  Disney needed more than predictability to control the scene; instead, he needed absolute authority over the environment.  As John M. Findlay, an endowed professor at the University of Washington, writes, EPCOT’s success hinged on a type of “dictatorial power” that was unparalleled in United States city planning at the time (Findlay 111).  In other words, Disney’s EPCOT project was deviating into unprecedented levels of control over human populations.  It did so in the effort to reform the problems of then-current cities.  As Walt Disney himself states in his presentation, the public need was not “curing the old ills of old cities,” but to start fresh with a new design that could tackle the problems facing the nation at the time (EPCOT).  Findlay lays out a few of these problems, which included the “fate of the family,” as well as the concern of creating environments in which young people could grow up creatively and safely (Findlay 106).  Disney’s concept of EPCOT was ahead of its time in terms of understanding that technologies could influence the social future of the city itself, but his city may have been ill-suited to address many other issues such as gang activity and urban ghettos, leaving many to wonder what a modern day incarnation of Disney’s planned urban community might look like.

      To address the modern day iteration of EPCOT, first note that the film itself dedicates a great deal of time to discussing transportation in EPCOT.  Walt was fascinated with transportation, as evidenced by the constant kinetics and motion that prevailed in Disneyland during his lifetime.  Even in the introduction of the EPCOT film, the narrator points out that in Disneyland, “people travel aboard almost every method of transportation that man has ever designed,” including steamships, clipper ships, rafts, steam engine trains, monorails, submarines, automobiles, and various other ride vehicles exclusively designed by the WED Imagineering team themselves (EPCOT).  Disney sought to create his EPCOT community with a heavy reliance on mass transportation.  EPCOT, as mentioned before, would feature a transportation hub at the center of the city underneath the lobby of the high rise hotel.  It would be the crossroads of the high speed monorails that traveled the length of the property, and the perpetually moving WEDway PeopleMovers, a then-new form of transportation developed by Disney’s WED team.  The PeopleMovers were designed to transport people radially into the different rings of EPCOT.  Both the Monorails and PeopleMovers would run on electricity.  The PeopleMovers could carry residents out past the green belt, high above all foot traffic, and into the suburban neighborhoods where stations would be just steps away from the residences, connected by footpaths.  Of course, cars were permitted in the community, but they were designated to roads that were apart from pedestrians and efficiently routed away from the communities.  In every sense of the word, Disney’s EPCOT was a transit village, “ a compact, mixed-use community, centered around the transit station that, by design, invites residents, workers, and shoppers to drive their cars less and ride mass transit more” (Bernick 5). Even today, the benefits of a transit village are indisputably positive.  Such communities are conducive to a more socially equitable lifestyle, the argument being that “those who are too poor, disabled, young, or old to own a car are effectively left out of many of society’s offerings” (Bernick 46).  In fact, many issues that automotive traffic creates are eliminated in the use of major transportation systems, especially these electric systems proposed for Disney World.  Eliminating automobiles also eliminates the social cost of wasted time, air pollution, unsightly urban sprawl, noise pollution (which destroys nearby property values), water pollution from road drainage, and promotes general energy conservation (Bernick 43-48). 

     Today, the theory of New Urbanism is taking hold of current residential developments.  Celebration, a community that Disney was able to create on its Florida property, began development in the early 1990s and welcomed its first residents in 1996.  According to Aaron Passell, an assistant professor of sociology at Furman University and author of Building the New Urbanism, what is striking about Celebration, Florida is that it is a very walkable town.  It also tends to follow more or less the New Urbanism design theory, which departs “from automobile-dependent, residential subdivisions toward walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods” (Passell 15).  Though Passell argues that Celebration’s strict regulation of building styles “violates the New Urban emphasis on creativity within guidelines,” Celebration still follows the ideals that govern modern day community development (Passell 7). 

     Currently, an Austin, Texas suburb, Mueller, has embraced such New Urbanist ideals, but simultaneously reflects Disney’s plans for EPCOT.  Built on land reclaimed from a demolished airport, Mueller is still being developed today on 711 acres of land.  It differs from EPCOT in that it is solely a small suburb of Austin, Texas — instead of the larger city Disney aspired to — but it does incorporate many of the ideals that EPCOT sought to achieve, such as green spaces, reduced traffic, and safe pedestrian walkways.  However, it further expands upon the EPCOT ideal, seeking to promote fiscal responsibility in the community, as well as a greater contribution to the Austin area at large (Catellus Development Corporation 2-3).  Though EPCOT was not an isolated, gated community — it was meant to also function as a viewable showcase to the world — it did not have any primary goals to contribute back to the surrounding areas at the time.  Being a suburb, Mueller is a community with a heavy emphasis on open space, and the designs detail that nearly 140 acres, or about 20 percent of the property, have been designated for parks, fields, and open plazas in the downtown areas.  These are designed with the structure of roads in mind, with the hope that the streets of Mueller can work efficiently and seamlessly with the bicycle paths and open green spaces to create ideal “movement corridors.”  Complementing the vehicular paths are various transportation systems, implemented with the goal of creating “a compact pedestrian-oriented community that fulfills the development potential of this property” (Catellus Development Corporation 8-10).  The infrastructure of Mueller beautifully embodies a modern day incarnation of the EPCOT ideas of reduced automobile traffic and walkable open spaces complemented by public transportation and a local economy.  With the modern added benefits of a commuter rail planned to connect it to the city of Austin, as well the green initiatives and sustainable development that Mueller prioritizes — over 15,000 trees are planned to be added to the site to naturally filter storm water runoff — the project adds its own modern sensibilities to the EPCOT ideals (Catellus Development Corporation 15).  Though they use reclaimed land instead of the fresh land Disney had talked about, it seems that in the modern vein of recycling and reusing, Mueller does indeed prove to be a modern day incarnation of Walt Disney’s EPCOT.

     On the other hand, individuals like Geoff Palmer are showcasing a dark alternative to the authority Disney sought over his development.  In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, Palmer, a real estate developer in Los Angeles, California, began creating communities that promoted luxurious living in enclosed spaces.  He creates his communities in Downtown Los Angeles in order to tap into the demand for urban living.  Palmer has created several various properties all lavishly themed to Italian architecture, arguably to the point of over the top gaudiness.  These properties are all a part of the Renaissance Collection, and they feature amenities often found at resorts such as tennis courts, swimming pools, fountains, parks, fitness rooms, and spas.  Sadly, however, Palmer’s communities are the dark alternative to Disney’s community of the future.  True, Palmer is able to solve the problems of ghettos, gang activity, and general urban decay within these small developments, but he does so at the price of true community.  Marc Haefele in a Los Angeles Magazine article responding to one of Palmer’s recently arson stricken construction projects beautifully describes Palmer’s developments as “inward-facing citadels that appeared to exist apart from the neighborhood they inhabited” (Haefele).  Though his communities offer control, they do not offer the openness and progressive, optimistic attitudes that help to foster innovations and new technologies of the future.  Palmer’s estates are not an exhibit to the world, as Disney would have liked his EPCOT project to be, rather they are self-serving communities that offer little in the way of optimistic futures for communal city life.  In fact, Palmer’s developments are arguably detrimental to the Los Angeles community that surrounds them.  In City Futures, Edgar Pieterse, a professor in the School of Architecture at the University of Cape Town, explains that successful redevelopment of a city requires a shared and agreed upon plan of action “that sets out how, practically, each strategic thrust will be implemented in terms of actors involved, costs and time frames” (Pieterse 72).  The problem, however, is that government will often prioritize the wealthy and middle class because they are viewed as the foundation of “local wealth and prosperity.  Instead, governments ought to tackle issues like poverty and environmental conservation (Pieterse 73).  In Palmer’s case, his upscale developments offer no actual urban renewal, rather they further a cycle of elitist preference and splintered development that give the city no real sense of direction in providing any real renewal to the downtown spaces.  Ultimately, the “urban renewal” Palmer’s estates represent is as much a facade as the faux Italian architecture he integrates in all his designs.  According to George M. Smerk, in his book Urban Mass Transportation, life can acceptably continue in a high density location if mobility and “access to economic, cultural, and social activities is relatively easy and low in time, effort, and money cost,” but when these movements are restricted, especially by traffic congestion, this is when mobility issues hurt a larger society (Smerk 8).  Unfortunately, due to his high rent charges, gated exclusivity, and nonexistent contributions toward automobile reduction and mass public transportation, Geoff Palmer’s developments offer nothing in the way of real urban renewal.

     Perhaps this has become a trend in the new millennium, one of exclusivity and closed doors.  In a 2007 Newsweek article, Emily Vencat wrote about the privatized lifestyles of the incredibly wealthy.  Disney and his team of designers probably could not have predicted that gated living and private concierges that recommend healthcare options, such as those that are described in the article, would have become social norms to a certain class of people at this point in time, but of course this is what they sought to avoid in their city (Vencat).  Instead of worrying about closed circuit cameras surveying their properties at all hours of the day, EPCOT citizens would have ideally been secure and content in their homes because the technologies they were producing in their city could alleviate crime in the neighborhood and unemployment in general.  Privacy in life would have been available in the comfort of the home, but EPCOT was meant to also function as an exhibition and a model for other cities to observe.  Neighbors wouldn’t gate off their homes, and as Disney points out in his models, yards would have opened up to one another.  Simply going outside would have provided opportunity for socializing.  The goal of life in EPCOT was not to seal off neighborhoods, but rather to promote an openness that could foster discussion which lead to innovation and positive change in urban and residential settings.

     At the heart and center of EPCOT’s potential success was, certainly, a large amount of control, but at the same time, new technologies and the drive to innovate, create, and produce new ideas was what this city of the future sought to create.  Disney’s EPCOT city was a prologue to the technological needs of the twenty-first century.  Instead of taking Disney’s approach to starting on fresh land, cities today are seeking renewal from within or in surrounding areas, but perhaps this renewal isn’t always in the best interest of all parties involved, as in Geoff Palmer’s case with his exclusive communities.  Thankfully, communities like Mueller reject the exclusivity designs and instead embrace the openness that was so heavily present in EPCOT, meanwhile expanding on those ideals to include modern day environmental and recycling sensibilities.  Many aspects of Disney’s design were sound, such as his plan for mass rapid transit to provide safe and clean transportation for his citizens, and hopefully future communities will continue to use this to create safer, cleaner, and more connected communities.  The takeaway should be that though EPCOT never came to be as a city, the ideas and theories surrounding it can still hold in today’s society.  That being said, city and suburban development must be approached with two thoughts in mind.  Yes, population control and strong authority must be handed over to some higher designer, but in doing so future cities will shine with optimism as they carry the world forward into the new millennium.   

Works Cited

Bernick, Michael.  Transit Villages in the 21st Century.  New York: McGraw-Hill, 1997.  Print.

Bryman, Alan.  Disney and His Worlds.  London: Routledge, 1995.  Print.

Catellus Development Corporation. Mueller Design Book.  Roma Design Group, 2004. Web.

EPCOT. Perf. Walt Disney. Walt Disney Productions, 1966. Web.

Findlay, John M.  Magic Lands. Berkley: University of California, 1992. Print.

Haefele, Marc. “Geoff Palmer’s Faux-Italian Renaissance Goes Up in Flames.” Los Angeles Magazine. Los Angeles Magazine, December 8, 2014. Web. March 25, 2015.

Passell, Aaron.  “Introduction.” Building the New Urbanism.  London: Routledge, 2013.  Print.

Pieterse, Edgar. “Urbanization Trends.” City Futures. London, Zed Books; Cape Town, UCT, 2008. Print.

Smerk, George M. Urban Mass Transportation: A Dozen Years of Federal Policy. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 1974. Print.

Vencat, Emily Flynn. “Private Islands for Super Rich.” Newsweek. Newsweek LLC, November 30, 2007. Web. March 26, 2015.

“I’m a huge Beatles fan” is one of my least favorite phrases.  Seriously, if liking the music the Beatles made makes you a huge Beatles fan, then who isn’t a big Beatles fan?  If knowing the chronological release order of the albums makes you a huge Beatles fan, then still, who isn’t a big Beatles fan?  My point is, everybody is a big Beatles fan, and I need you, the reader, to understand that I do not fall into this category.  If a pedestrian knowledge of the Beatles makes you a huge Beatles fan, then I am (or at least used to be) of some level much higher than that.

When I was in grades 5-8, I got my hands on every book, disc, and film pertaining to the Fab Four.  I had two passionate interests: The Beatles and Disney.  I truly loved the Beatles (and I still really enjoy their music), and so when the Beatles’ edition of Rock Band was being released on 09/09/09, I built up my excitement for nearly a year and a half awaiting the release of that game.  As you may have guessed, playing the game that first day wasn’t all I had imagined it would be.  A lot of the songs I wanted to be featured were missing, it really wasn’t all that difficult, and after a few hours I just got bored with it.  Gee whiz, that day kind of sucked.

Ever since this incredible let down, I have been careful not to attach my hopes too strongly to any product.  I was careful to do this with Big Hero 6 as well.  About a month before its release, I was visiting Disneyland with a friend when I noticed an extended preview for the film featuring Baymax in the Magic Eye Theater.  Honestly, Baymax and his buddies had really been sitting on the back-burner of my mind up until that point.  Normally, about a month before a Disney release I tend to get truly excited for the upcoming film.  I remember Wreck-it Ralph had me researching video games on Wikipedia for hours in anticipation of viewing it.  However, this time as we walked by the posters, I felt a sort of dread in my stomach.  It was highly unlikely that anything could top the success of last year’s Frozen, but it wasn’t really the success of the film I was worried about, rather just me actually liking the story.

Long story short, I went in with low expectations, and I came out moderately satisfied.

Three major problems I had with this film were: 1) Disney is taking the Pixar approach now of forcing emotion through loss and death, 2) there was a grossly underdeveloped group of semi-major characters, and 3) it overall felt like a re-hashing of a Scooby-Doo episode.

First, Pixar has this strange habit of killing characters or artificially creating a sense of loss so that the audience emotionalizes with the film.  Maybe its a Lasseter thing because it’s popping up in Disney animation now too (the past three Disney animated features have all created a major sense of loss in the last ten minutes of the film).  Before those, take for example Monsters Inc. (2001).  In the final moments of the film, the audience suddenly has this big scare that Sully will never see Boo again after her door is shredded.  Never fear, though!  Mike is able to reconstruct the door and allow his buddy to re-visit his toddler pal just before the credits roll.  Heartwarming, isn’t it?  But wait, didn’t we just see this again?  Big Hero 6 closes off a portal, and poor Hiro will never be able to see his buddy Baymax again after it closes.  Once again, looks like events work out just perfectly so that he can rebuild the robot and restore his programming so that they can continue having adventures together.  This death scare ending is also seen in Finding Nemo (2003), WALLE (2008), Toy Story 3 (2010), Tangled (2010), Brave (2011), Wreck-It Ralph (2012)and Frozen (2013).  Admittedly, it’s a solid tactic to force the audience to buy into the story.  It gains sympathy and interest for what’s taking place on screen, but in reality it’s an empty sense of loss.  The loss of Tadashi — one of the few characters in the film that is actually somewhat developed before he is killed off — pales in comparison to the loss of Ellie in Up (2009) that Carl experiences very early.  However, maybe it’s not fair to compare this film to Up given that the strong emotion that opening montage provokes is rarely found to be executed so quickly and expertly in any film.  Take then Ratatouille (2007), a film that contains the death of two characters, but the difference is each take place from the outset of the film, so there is no artificial, forced sense of loss, nor is any character’s action or motivations really driven by these deaths.  A wonderful story follows without any part of the plot hinging on impending loss.  Clearly, it’s possible for Disney Animation (currently under the control of Pixar staff) to execute a story without reminding its audience of mortality, so that’s a change I’d certainly like to see in the future.

Another issue I had with this film is that several of the characters remain incredibly underdeveloped over the course of the film.  As I mentioned before, the character of Tadashi actually quickly works his way into favor with the audience before he is rubbed out.  It seems like the writers wanted so badly for us to accept and embrace Tadashi before they killed him that they forgot to develop the rest of the story after his death (which is a major 2/3 chunk of the film).  I honestly have a difficult time recalling each of the characters’ names in Hiro’s band of crimefighters, pointing to their lack of presence in the film and the origin story of this group.  Fred, Honey Lemon, Go Go, and Wasabi, the four others in this band of six, simply seem to exist so that we can follow Hiro as he struggles through coping with the loss of his brother.  The problem is that the film is a self-described “origin story,” so focusing instead consistently on struggling through loss confuses the identity of the movie: is it a film about a single character’s maturation or about how a group of characters came together to form a super team.  Clocking in at 102 minutes, it really doesn’t have time to be both.  It’s attempting to do so makes the time fly by, and ultimately leaves the audience feeling not even the satisfaction of a cliffhanger, but the disappointment of a film that never found what story it wanted to tell.

Finally, what I felt was the strangest qualm I had, and I only noticed this after the credits had rolled, was it seemed as though this was a revisitation of the Scooby-Doo concept.  A group of kids gather together with a robot replacing the canine in order to solve the mystery of who is behind the crimes being committed.  For crying out loud, they take a mask off of the villain.  If that doesn’t scream “zoinks” then I’m not sure what will.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Scooby-Doo, but would you really pay $20 to sit and watch an hour and a half of a reincarnation of those meddling kids?  Maybe its an unfounded, opinionated criticism, but once I noticed the similarities, the film lost a lot of depth for me.

All-in-all, as I said before, it’s a mediocre film in terms of story.  In terms of business, Big Hero 6 is doing nicely domestically, crossing its $165 million budget in stateside gross this past weekend.  Internationally, it’s accumulated approximately $225 million, according to Box Office Mojo.  It’s no Frozen, nor is it even hitting the numbers Maleficent put up this past summer, but with little competition ahead these next few weeks in terms of family fare, the film should do plenty of business.  It’s beautifully animated, especially the fluffy, spongy Baymax, but for what it is, the money it has earned thus far is a little more than it maybe deserved.   It was an enjoyable feature that I hope Disney has the decency to resist making a sequel to.