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Monthly Archives: February 2013

These days, everything is eventually put into animation, or at least everything has the potential to be animated.  And obviously, if done well and released to the right audience at the right time, any animated piece can become a wildly popular series.  Take, for example, the Annoying Orange videos on YouTube.  On paper, there isn’t anything seemingly attractive of an obnoxious orange with a face photoshopped over, however for some reason millions buy into it.  If something so simple and general can be turned into an animated phenomenon, think of the possibilities the established characters of comic strips in the daily newspaper have to make it big, specifically Stephan Pastis’ Pearls Before Swine.

Pastis is a new breed of comic strip author that I hope will soon rise in number and take the daily comics page in a bloodless revolution for industry dominance, standard, and control (that’s how I would picture him phrasing it).  In other words, Pastis has a style that is unique and, for the most part, rare in the comics page.  Since December 31, 2001, Pastis’ main characters Rat, Pig, Goat, Zebra, Guard Duck, and the Crocs have been adding a new, more realistic zest to the newspaper comics.  In the commentaries of his treasury books, the unconventional comic author relates many stories of angry readers accusing him of destroying the comics or ruining the integrity of the comics page.  This is because his strip is not Hi and Lois by any stretch of the imagination, rather it is more like a censored comic strip version of The Simpsons, providing controversial, witty, and occasionally darker humor.  Drugs, violence, alcohol, and cigarettes have all appeared in the strip, which is certainly a deviance from the generally innocent comics of yesteryear.  However this rejuvenating modernization is what the comics page, a dying part of the overall sinking ship of print newspapers, desperately needs.  I for one applaud Pastis for bringing his exciting strips to the otherwise boring, sold out comics page.

It is true, Pearls is like no other comic.  What needs to be recognized next is how much potential this strip has for extension into a new medium such as animation.  Pastis often will write his strips with drawn out story lines that can run for up to two weeks at a time.  For example, for two weeks the character Rat might work as a hotel concierge, insulting and rebuking guests each day in a different way.  This type of writing, which Pastis has a knack for, naturally gives way to more developed story lines that could be used to create an animated series.  Currently, RingTales, an animation production company, produces short, two minute clips on YouTube of the strip which are directly based off of the comics that Pastis has already published.  The problem with this is that the animation and dialogue are just too boring, especially if an eight minute short were to be created out of published strips.  This is best exemplified in The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, which would take strips that Chales Schulz had published and mash them together to create a semi-fluent story that was not all that entertaining.  What I propose is for Stephan Pastis to write out scripts specifically for seven to eight minute shorts based on the Pearls characters.  In this way, he could adapt his characters into animation, a natural transition for them based on the situations and structure they currently have established in the three paneled strips.  Who knows, before long it could turn into a television show, as I see it has the potential to become, and wouldn’t we all then have some fun watching Rat smack around Pig in both print and animation!

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To put it simply, lately animated reboots and I have a weird relationship.  In fact, I feel that this is actually true for most people who have been paying attention to what Warner Bros., Illumination Entertainment, and Sony have been regurgitating lately.  While many justly gripe and moan about productions such as The SmurfsYogi Bear, and Alvin and the Chipmunks, there have been a few bright spots as well.  For example, while I wouldn’t say they deserve any sort of fanfare, The Lorax and, of course, Space Jam, deserve some credit to their names as they do not completely tarnish the name of their original brand.  Heck, The Lorax kept me locked in and engaged throughout the duration, whereas I don’t anticipate The Smurfs 2 will have the ability to even hold down my lunch.

So this puts us in a very unstable relationship in terms of these reboots featuring the characters of bygone eras once again on the big screen, trying sometimes helplessly, sometimes with mild success, to entertain today’s restless, demanding audiences.  However there is something that all of these reboots lack: a story that has been defined as a classic in books, on television, and in theaters.  The one series that does meet this description is Dr. Seuss’ Christmas classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas which will be released by Illumination in the coming years, according to variety.com  In the article, published Thursday, February 7th, 2013, the reboot will be helmed by new director Pete Candeland (animator on Balto, “Aladdin: The Animated Series”).  Though much is uncertain (writers have yet to be named, and a release date is yet to be confirmed), it seems that the studio will stay true to the book’s three-act structure, which it had to partially create for The Lorax.  What I find most interesting however is that the film will focus on “underlying tones of the book” and also the extreme attitudes of Cindy Lou Who’s optimism and the Grinch’s pessimism.

These statements give me hope.  From them we know that, if the production is actually carried out focusing on these aspects, we won’t be seeing Chuck Jones’ cartoon remade with modern technology.  And this isn’t to say I dislike the Jones version, rather I find it to be the baseline from of which we can judge the reboot.  While Jim Carrey’s 2000 How the Grinch Stole Christmas provides a few laughs during the holiday season, I see the film as being merely a surface adaption of the original book.  What could potentially happen with Illumination’s reboot is an exploration of relationships.  If Illumination explores Seuss’ symbols rooted in the characters and leaves most of its gags at the door, the studio could ultimately find that they have the ability to create a modern adaption of a classic without embarrassing the originals, those being the Chuck Jones television special and the original storybook.  I for one am excited for this.  You can see glimpses of high-caliber storytelling in The Lorax and Despicable Me, but it just ends up being clouded over too quickly by cheesy jokes or gags.  If they hone in on their story and the relationships they display, we will see an animated film that has the ability to rival Pixar’s productions, causing everybody in the industry to step up their game, which right now is gradually becoming needed.