Tag Archives: cartoon

May Bonus Review: Song of the South

It’s a well known fact that old Disney films have a casual racism problem. Whether it’s the crows in Dumbo, the portrayal of native peoples in Peter Pan or the notorious centaur scene in Fantasia. One film that gets mentioned a lot in this context is 1946’s Song of the South. So, why am I reviewing it? Because it’s one of the common choices for their worst films. So, let’s see if it’s as bad or worse than The Little Mermaid.

Song-Of-The-South

Story:

Our tale takes place on a Plantation during the American Reconstruction. A family takes their young son there due to some kind of issue the father’s involved in. He leaves his wife and son behind while he goes to sort the situation. His son meets a friendly story teller named Uncle Remus who helps him come to terms with the problems he’s encountering by telling him stories of the Brer Rabbit.

So, the film has some stereotyping but it’s honestly nowhere near as racist as I expected from hearing people talk about it. Certainly not as bad as two of the films I mentioned in the opening. Honestly, I suspect its reputation comes not from the actual content of the film, but from the fact that it’s banal. All the characters are living very mundane, mostly happy lives. The whole plot is basically this boring ass kid getting attached to a kindly old man and his mother not approving. Not because Remus is black, but because she thinks his stories are a bad influence. The whole thing is very safe and not compelling. In contrast, Peter Pan and Dumbo both have a lot of elements people really like. Which means that most people are going to excuse their casual racism more.

The best part of this film is the animated segments. And those come across as cheap, knock offs of Warner Brothers cartoons. With Brer Rabbit being a significantly less entertaining and endearing version of Bugs Bunny. And yes, I know that the folk tale version of the Brer Rabbit is much older than Bugs. I’m just making a statement on the quality of the animated shorts.

Characters:

The characters in this are dull as dirt. Uncle Remus is the cloying, kindly old man. Cloying to the point where he gets unreasonably upset at the prospect that he could be causing problems with his stories. The kids are just slightly obnoxious kids. The parents and grandmother are basically nothing characters who just advance the plot by doing parent/ grandparent things.

Art, Cinematography, Visuals & Effects:

The artwork in the animated segments is certainly dated by today’s standards. For 1946, however, it’s pretty well done. And the blending of cartoons and live action, while very awkward by today’s standards, was impressive for that time period.

Acting & Music:

The best actor in this film, by far, is James Baskett. He just has a strong delivery and seems to be having a grand old time during the happy segments. Most of the adult actors just don’t seem to give a shit. You’d swear they were only in this film because they really needed the money or possibly because Disney kidnapped them and forced them to do it. The child actors are pretty bad. Their performances are just awkward. Harve Foster directed the live action segments, but doesn’t seem to have done a good job. The music is just mediocre. The most memorable song is Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah, which isn’t a particularly good song. It’s just kind of catchy.

Final Thoughts:

Honestly, I was going to do my usual “Areas of Improvement” segment, but a lot of this film’s biggest problems are it showing its age and it seems a bit fruitless to point them out especially given how obvious they are. So, is this film really all that bad? Not really. It’s banal. It’s trying very hard to be as safe as possible. And that makes it boring. If not for the old-fashioned, casual Disney racism, I’d call this a 5/10. As is, I’ll give it a 4/10. It’s probably not an old Disney film you’d want to track down, but they’ve definitely made worse.

How I’d have Handled Evolution AKA Why Disney Should hire my ass

Let me start by saying that the purpose of this is not to bash X-men Evolution again. I did that enough not long ago. This also is not replacing the bonus review for this month. That’ll probably go up next week. Nor do I actually think anyone high up within either Disney or Marvel is going to actually see this. No, this is about the core concept of Evolution. Because I do think the idea of a more light-hearted X-men show about the younger characters coming into their own could have been fantastic. So, here is how I would have handled the concept had I been in charge.

Let’s start with the basic world building elements. First off, I would not have the existence of mutants be a secret. With mutants who have obvious physical symptoms like Nightcrawler or Toad as well as those who would definitely abuse their powers, or those mutants like Cyclops who can’t control theirs, it just doesn’t make sense for ordinary citizens to just be ignorant of them.

In terms of Xavier’s school, I would have it be set up as a dorm for scholarship students at a prestigious private school. The private school would be run by someone familiar to comic fans and close to Xavier, probably Moira MacTaggert since she has shown the inclination for that sort of work in the comics and she’s a well known figure to any X-men fans. There would be rumours that the scholarship students at his dorm were all mutants, but there would be no proof.

Xavier’s dorms would also be the secret home of the adult X-men who would act as trainers and support for the main characters. These characters would not get episodes dedicated to them since the premise does favour the teen characters. The four characters I’d use in this capacity would be Cyclops (Scott Summers), Marvel Girl (Jean Grey), Wolverine (Logan) & Banshee (Sean Cassidy.)

I would portray Scott and Jean as Xavier’s first students and use them as the sort of ideal figures his current students can look up to. Logan would be their toughest trainer who also acts as a father figure when one of them is feeling more vulnerable. Like he did in the comics with Shadowcat, Rogue & Jubilee. There are a couple reasons I’d use Banshee. The first is his connection with Moira & Xavier. The second is that his background as a detective could lead to him having some nice insights for the students. The third I’ll go into when I talk about my main cast. I’ll stick to eight characters since that’s enough to have a good array of abilities and a strong ensemble cast without having so many it’s unwieldy.

As for the main figures, the students, I’d start with Storm (Ororo Munroe). She’d make a strong leader for the group and she was close to the right age when she started in the comics. You could play her up as both a big sister figure and as a bit of a punk since the comics have strong support for both. Hell, there was a point where she actually was acting as team leader, being a “big sister figure” and sporting a mohawk and leather. I wouldn’t actually give her that look since it’s way too 80s, but the mentality could work.

I would put in Shadowcat (Kitty Pryde) as one of the younger members of the main group. Not only does she have a close connection with Storm in the comics that you could adapt but her being a somewhat awkward genius could be used for quite a bit of material.

Next would be Nightcrawler (Kurt Wagner). I probably would do the Evolution thing and give him an image inducer. I wouldn’t act like his wearing gloves could disguise the fact that he only has three fingers on each hand, but him having the inducer isn’t a bad idea. Not only does he have a long history with both Ororo & Kitty to draw material from, but you could play up his more swashbuckling side and have a lot of fun with it. It would be a fun element for children and a nice nod to the comics.

My next pick would be Colossus (Piotr Rasputin.) Partly, this is because of his history with the other three. But I also think it would be interesting to have a major character who’s large, powerfully built and also incredibly gentle and artistically inclined.

My next choices would be Wolfsbane (Rahne Sinclair) & Mirage (Danielle Moonstar.) The reason I bring these two up together is that so much of why I would include them, ties into their dynamic. One of the best parts of the New Mutants was Dani & Rahne’s relationship. They had such a close, touching bond. And a very, very gay one. Cause Claremont wanted to make them a couple, but Marvel editorial wouldn’t allow it. And I think it would be interesting to explore their relationship from the start in a more modern era where very few people are going to complain about them being an official couple.

Pick number seven would be Siryn (Theresa Rourke Cassidy.) This is the last reason I’d have Banshee in a supporting role. Because there haven’t been a lot of really good comics that have explored this father/daughter relationship. Any time they get started, Banshee seems to die. Plus, I think it would be interesting to show a teenage Theresa react to her father starting a romance with Moira.

My final choice would be Angel (Warren Worthington III.) First off, his character hasn’t gotten much of a spotlight in cartoons. Secondly, he is an interesting character. He has some of the hallmarks of a rich, play boy but he also has a strong sense of responsibility & justice. Plus, I think it would be interesting to see a religious boy like Kurt to respond to an angelic figure like Warren. Especially when they’ve both got their mischievous sides. I would probably have the two of them become close friends and cause some light mischief.

I’d add in characters like Illyana Rasputin, Gambit & Yukio as occasional supporting figures. Since Illyana is close to both her elder brother and Kitty. Gambit could be played up as a good-hearted scoundrel figure who manages to better himself through encounters with the group. Yukio has a history of bringing out the wildness in Storm in the comics, so I think bringing her in as Ororo’s best friend could be quite interesting.

For some reoccurring antagonists, I would give Mystique her own Brotherhood. I’d basically set it up so that she & Destiny were training some older mutant teenagers for mercenary work. And it would be based on the assumption that they’d be more loyal if she taught them at that age. This would include Pyro, Blob, Avalanche & Phantazia. Rogue would also be seen with this group since her adoptive mothers would be running it. Although Mystique would try to keep her out of harm’s way, considering her too young.

I’d bring Rogue in as a supporting figure for the X-men by having her discover that Nightcrawler is Mystique’s son and decide to get close to her brother. But she wouldn’t tell him that and he’d have no idea why she was so keen on spending time with him. I think you could get a lot of story mileage out of that.

Magneto and his acolytes would be shown as foes the X-men have faced. But the characters you’d mostly see from that group would be his children, Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch. I’d keep the Maximov surname for them and basically have it be their mother’s maiden name. There would be at least one scene where he’d talk to them about why they can’t use his name and he’d say something like: “Ever since I lost your mother, I learned how dangerous my work can be for those around me. You two are my greatest treasures. If things go wrong and something happens to me, I want you to have long, fulfilling lives. Not be immediate targets for anyone who has a vendetta against me. That’s why you must keep your mother’s name. It’s safer… cleaner for you.”

You would see Exodus being left in charge of watching the twins but there would be a running thing where they ditch him and end up coming into contact with the X-men group.

In terms of how I’d handle their adventures, I’d take a page out of the writing for the New Mutants, since they were also a younger group of mutants who weren’t supposed to fight. The main group would either be going about their business and get caught up in something or they’d catch wind of something and decide that the adult team was too busy or that they could handle it themselves.

I’d avoid threats that were too severe like Apocalypse since it is supposed to be more light-hearted and I’d just have fun with it. Because I think those eight major characters combined with their various supports could provide a lot of potential stories. And some very strong ones. You could also do some that were just a bit silly and fun but made sense for the characters. Like, you could have Quicksilver decide that he needs to find a nice Jewish girl to date in honour of his nationality and try to romance Kitty even though he’s not actually that interested in her. That could be really funny depending on execution.

But that’s the basic outline of how I’d handle a series with that premise. Hell, if there were an X-men cartoon like that on Disney+, I’d watch it. I’d even get a subscription if it was available here. Although I’m sure that’s coming.

January Bonus Review: X-men/Evolution

I don’t normally do comparison reviews. But, in this case, I’m going to as showcasing the severe flaws with Evolution works so much better when you compare it to a good cartoon. Let’s dive right into it because this is going to be a long one.

X-men1

Stories:

The two cartoons take very different approaches. The good cartoon is a more child friendly version of various X-men stories including Days of The Future Past, The Dark Phoenix Saga, The Phalanx & Proteus. It also throws in some original stories in the same vein as the Claremont run of the books. Which is very blatantly the inspiration behind the cartoon.

Evolution decides to take things in a different direction by having a world where mutants are unknown to the general populace and having a young team of characters just coming into their own. Thereby combining super hero elements with more light-hearted school antics.

Now, to be fair to Evolution, the concept isn’t bad. Most of the X-men characters did join at a young age and showing the team in more of a fun, less action-oriented light could be a strong take.  Unfortunately, it’s completely let down by horrendous execution.

With the good cartoon, there are two types of changes made to established stories. The first are changes to make them child friendly. So, Proteus won’t be leaving shrivelled up corpses in his wake and we won’t see Storm stab Callisto through the heart with a knife. The second changes are designed to simplify things. Because the comic story behind Archangel is very complicated and only works if you have Angel as a major character and nobody wants to see a cartoon that goes super in depth into Cable’s back story with all the Madelyne Pryor stuff.

What we get from it are simplified, family friendly X-men stories where the various seasons give us different big story arcs that are skilfully built up throughout and lead to some truly epic climactic pay offs. The series is also very good at balancing its cast so that every character in the main team gets their own moments of focus and glory.

But let’s stop with the praise and move on to exactly what’s wrong with Evolution’s execution. The first problem is the two season plot point of normal humans not knowing mutants exist. First of all, they do basically nothing with this. So, it’s pretty pointless. Secondly, this plot point doesn’t remotely work the moment they bring in Apocalypse as a character. You’re expecting us as the audience to believe that mutants have been a thing since Ancient Egyptian society, but not a single one has ever done anything to reveal their existence to the general populace. It’s hard enough to swallow when you have mutants running around who look like Nightcrawler and Beast but when you add in that long history, the humans in this world must be unbelievably stupid. Mutants probably have to remind them how to breathe regularly.

Another issue is with Xavier’s school. This series has his students going to classes and field trips at his school and also going to a public high school. How the hell is that supposed to work? Look, I get that private schools like Xavier’s are not really a thing in most places any more, but you could at least camouflage it as a boarding house for a proper private school. It would make a lot more sense.

Evolution also has a lot of problems with staying true to its premise. With the good cartoon, they absolutely nail what they’re going for. In contrast, Evolution can’t stick to its aesthetic. Instead of focusing on its young characters, it spends far too much time on the adults. Instead of keeping things light-hearted, it awkwardly shifts into more serious territory leading to a lot of tonal clash. And for students who aren’t generally supposed to be using their powers to fight menaces, the Evolution team ends up with a lot of encounters far outside of their pay grade. Especially Apocalypse.

There are a lot of more episode-based issues that pop up in Evolution too. I could write a novella with a couple pages for each episode, but I’ll just give three examples of varying degrees of egregious. There’s an episode where the “struggling” students are taken for a field trip and this includes Sunspot, who’s portrayed as a massive over-achiever. So, how is the massive over-achiever struggling? There’s also the way the X-men add Rogue to their roster. Basically, instead of sitting down with her own daughter and talking to her about her powers, Mystique decides to try tricking her into thinking the X-men are mutant hunters for no adequately explored reason. For that matter, why didn’t Mystique and Destiny just explain to Rogue that she’s a mutant?  It’s not like they need to keep the existence of mutants safe from mutants. It’s also not like they didn’t know. It’s clearly shown that they did. Then we have Magneto’s big plan for the finale of the first season. He basically decides that he’s going to have his sanctuary aboard asteroid M but he’s going to decide who gets in, not by taking people who are willing to follow him, but by forcing the brotherhood to fight the X-men to earn their spot. And then he’s going to power them up and basically destroy the world. First off, this is an asinine plan. Secondly, this isn’t a Magneto plan. This is more like Apocalypse with his survival of the fittest shtick. Even then it would be a bad Apocalypse story.

Let’s talk about the way each series ends. So, if you don’t want spoilers for that, skip this paragraph. With the good X-men cartoon, we see Xavier injured, Magneto is persuaded to come help save him. He says his final goodbyes to both Magneto and his X-men. It’s all very touching and really delves into the dynamics you’ve seen throughout the whole series. He survives, but is forced to leave Earth and stay with the Shi’ar. We end with the X-men standing alongside Magneto to see him off and what happens afterwards being open to interpretation. It’s a fantastic way to end the series. With Evolution, we get a long, boring exposition dump from Xavier about how he’s seen the future and he knows Magneto is going to join the X-men, the Dark Phoenix saga is going to happen and blah blah. First off, it’s a rubbish, dull ending. Secondly, don’t bring up the Dark Phoenix saga in a show that’s supposed to be more light-hearted. It does not mesh. Third, this version of Magneto joining the X-men doesn’t work. In the good cartoon, Magneto is highly sympathetic and works with the heroes on multiple occasions. In Evolution, he’s basically a one-note, Silver age villain. He’s Hugo, here he comes with wicked intentions. And you can’t make a villain like that go good without a huge amount of work and character development.

Characters:

The good X-men cartoon does an excellent job of offering character complexity. Every major character has a fairly well fleshed out back story. Even the minor characters tend to come across as fleshed out and very human. I also appreciate that the villains are very dynamically written with motivations that may or may not be evil, depending on the character. If I were to criticise anything, it would be that I don’t particularly care for what they did with Nightcrawler. He’s a complex character but they also really emphasise the religious aspect of his character which causes him to come across as overly preachy and just in general the type of person who’s a bit obnoxious to be around.

Evolution has an entire cast of highly annoying high school stereotypes. I’m not kidding when I say Nightcrawler is far more complex in the other cartoon where he appears twice than he is in this one where he’s part of the main cast and just an obnoxious class clown character. Same with Quicksilver who’s just an arrogant jerk character in Evolution. Evolution can’t even stay fully consistent with its stereotypes when it comes to Shadowcat. They can’t decide whether she’s smart, but a bit ditzy or the full air-headed ditz stereotype. And the villains in this are just evil for the evils. To the extent where both Magneto and Mystique are portrayed as egregiously terrible parents with no adequately explored reasons for them to be dreadful to their kids.

That’s another real failure in Evolution. It had the opportunity to explore what would have happened had Magneto raised his children and, instead of doing that in any meaningful way, they decided he would just be a negligent asshole. The good cartoon had two episodes where he interacts with his children and it handled it infinitely better. Providing them with a much more complex, interesting dynamic.

Some of the shit they do doesn’t even make sense. Why is Mystique working with Magneto? No one knows, there’s no reason for it. Why does she collect a bunch of super-powered teenage boys and then spend most of the series ignoring them? No reason. It’s all just aimless “they’re the bad guys, so they do evil things.”

Speaking of things that make no sense, Storm has a nephew, but the series also wants to preserve her back story as an orphan who wandered around Africa before becoming a Goddess figure to a small village. Even if Spyke weren’t a rubbish character, this would just be bad.

Seriously though, Spyke is such a terrible OC he doesn’t even get his own power set. They just gave him Marrow’s. And after they put him in the actual comics, he never had an appearance in anything good. Least, not as far as I know.

The romantic dynamics in Evolution are pretty dreadful as well. Both Cyclops and Jean are given ordinary human love interests just so they can have a long, drawn out “they like each other but what will happen with these other people?” thing. And it’s so goddamn annoying. The whole Shadowcat/Avalanche thing is terrible too. It’s basically every high school thing with the “sweet” girl who falls for a bad boy, but worse than most. And it’s creepy in Evolution when Wolverine starts responding semi-amorously towards Jean. Since she’s still a high school kid and he’s well over a hundred.

Art:

As a rule, the good cartoon does look better than Evolution. It just has higher quality character art, better set up action sequences and I honestly think the art style looks better for the characters and such.

That being said, Evolution doesn’t look bad. And I do actually prefer Wolverine’s orange and brown costume to his yellow and blue. Evolution’s art style is also more consistent. The last season of the good cartoon very noticeably changes studios.

Sound:

This is one element where both cartoons have one problem in common. Namely, the accent work isn’t good in either. Neither Nightcrawler has a proper accent. The Russian accents in the good cartoon do not sound like actual Russian accents. Evolution’s version of Rogue has a horrible attempt at a Southern accent. As a rule, if any character in either of these cartoons is supposed to have an accent, it’s going to be off with only a few exceptions.

That aside, the good cartoon does have very strong voice work. Yeah, the accents aren’t there but the actors still do a fantastic job. Cathal Dodd, Lenore Zann, Chris Potter, Alyson Court, David Hemblen, Jennifer Dale, Alison Sealy-Smith and so many others just do great work.

Most of Evolution’s performances are fine, when you account for no one having even a modicum of personality. There are a few exceptions. Brad Swaile, Maggie Blue O’Hara, Meghan Black & Neil Denis are horrible in this.

Both series also have pretty great theme tunes. Evolution’s isn’t as good, but it’s still a nice, catchy tune.

Lessons:

Instead of the usual “Areas of Improvement” I’m going to list some lessons that Evolution should have learned from the good cartoon.

  1. Commitment to the premise. Evolution could have avoided a lot of tonal problems, major plot inconsistencies and plot lines that just didn’t work if it had just stayed consistent with its premise.
  2. How to handle long plot lines. The good cartoon plans these out very well and has very consistent writing for them. Evolution seems to be making shit up as it goes.
  3. Character complexity. The good cartoon is very good at giving its characters depth. As opposed to Evolution, where they just use high school character stereotypes without any degree of complexity.

Final Thoughts:

Clearly, the early to mid 90s cartoon is just vastly superior. Are there minor problems with it? Certainly. Anything that really impacts the enjoyment? Not really. It’s easily a 9/10 cartoon. Fantastic, can not recommend it enough for comic fans or just people who like super hero media. Evolution, in contrast is a mess with a huge number of serious problems. I have to give it a 1/10. The only thing redeemable about it was the premise. But a premise is only as good as the execution behind it and, in this case, the execution is atrocious. Hence why X-men Evolution is the worst late 90s, early 00s Marvel cartoon. It might’ve run longer than Silver Surfer, Avengers or Spider-man Unlimited but all of them are less shit that it.

December Bonus Review #1: Big Hero Six- The Series 1

It’s no secret that I don’t care for the vast majority of Hollywood’s super hero films. And why should I? They take unique characters with long histories and unique characteristics, when well written, and reduce them to Hollywood’s usual action archetypes. It’s also no secret that one hero film I actually liked a lot was Disney’s Big Hero 6. Someday, I’ll do a full review of it and go in depth as to why. Now, when I heard there was going to be a cartoon based around the film, I was sceptical. Not because the film makes it an odd fit for a children’s cartoon like The Police Academy, Rambo, Mortal Kombat or The Toxic Avenger. But because I’ve learned that adaptations of good media frequently don’t go so well. Obviously, I was still going to watch it. So, let’s have a look at the first series of Big Hero 6, the cartoon.

Big Hero 6.png

Story:

The narrative picks up at the end of the film. Most of our heroes are ready to return to their normal lives, but they’re persuaded to continue as Big Hero 6 since there are plenty of people out there who still need help especially with a mysterious new villain, Obake,  on the loose. A lot of the episodes are of the “connected but stand alone enough that it can be picked up at most points” variety. We see Obake’s machinations progress as things go on. We also see the team face a variety of threats. Some connected to him, others not.

Honestly, the stories we get throughout do suit the film fairly well. They’re well constructed, fun and just solid super hero stories.

The one exception, at least in the first series, is the episode Fan Friction. In this episode, we find out that one of the supporting cast, Karmi, is writing self-insert fan fiction about the team. Hiro correctly points out that it’s creepy and weird to write fiction about real people you don’t even know but the episode paints him as taking it too personally. Yeah, the stories quite literally have him as her love interest but he shouldn’t be creeped out by it because… Yeah, it’s just a lousy episode. The only good bit is seeing Fred get into it and come up with ship names for all of them. Which is pretty funny.

Characters:

The cast is great. We see the characters develop a bit from their states in the film. The series does an excellent job of building their interactions and dynamics. We also get some new characters. Professor Granville is a very strong character. Mini Max is very enjoyable. Felony Carl may be one of my favourite incidental characters in anything. And you can’t leave out Fred’s father, Boss Awesome. He doesn’t appear all that much, but it’s great when he does.

The villains are really strong as well. Obake, Momakase, Globby, Baron Von Steamer even Noodle Burger Boy. They’re all great villains in their own ways. And one thing I appreciate is the way they can have villains, like Steamer, who are nods to the silver age of comics while maintaining a writing aesthetic that’s more like the bronze age in the way it can be more serious but also embrace the sillier, more light-hearted aspects of comics when it works.

The only character I actually don’t like is Karmi. At first, I just thought she was mildly annoying with her obsession with Hiro’s hero persona, but after she got an actual episode, and it was by far the worst episode in the series, I kind of got to the point where I found her pretty intolerable.

Art:

Clearly, the cartoon does not have the budget that the film did. And, as such, it uses a much more simplistic style. I don’t mind that and I think the animators did a great job on the artwork and animations. The one criticism I do have is that the style has a very toothy way of making the characters talk and it can be a bit off-putting.

Sound:

Most of the film’s actors reprise their roles in the series and do a stellar job. The exceptions are Damon Wayans Jr as Wasabi and TJ Miller as Fred. The two of them are replaced by Khary Payton & Brooks Wheelan. Maybe Wayans & Miller didn’t want to do the cartoon, maybe they had other obligations at the time, maybe they wanted more money, maybe the controversies Miller got involved in had Disney decide to replace him. I honestly don’t know. But I do have to give both Payton & Wheelen credit, they did an excellent job of sounding enough like the film versions to fit the roles and they deliver their lines really well.

This series also gets some amazing performances in the side roles. The late Stan Lee voiced Boss Awesome. Gordon Ramsay voices a celebrity chef who challenges Aunt Cass in an underground cooking competition. Jennifer Lewis, John Michael Higgins, Andrew Scott, Naoko Mori & Diedrich Bader are all excellent as well. It’s just a very immaculately directed and performed series.

The music is well composed too. Adam Berry did an amazing job of capturing the aesthetic of the series in his compositions.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Show fewer teeth when the characters talk.
  2. Outright lose the Fan Friction episode. You can find another way to introduce the new techniques from that episode without the cringe. It also makes Karmi a much worse character than she would be otherwise.
  3. A bit more Felony Carl. I would actually watch an entire spin off about this dude in spite of him having rare and short appearances. Because those appearances are so compelling and memorable.

Final Thoughts:

This cartoon is pretty damn excellent. It features strong characterisation, a compelling narrative and solid fundamentals. The only major flaw is the Fan Friction episode. Aside from that, everything comes together very strongly. As such, I’m going with a 9/10 on this one.

July Bonus Review: Avatar The Last Airbender

Avatar.png

Avatar is one of those cartoons that was hugely successful in its time. It’s spawned a sequel, a bunch of merchandise and a Hollywood film that quite literally no one on the planet thought was good. It was also a cartoon I never really got into. I was aware of it. I knew people who liked it. I just never watched all that much of it.

Story:

The opening blur pretty much gives us the gist of it. The four traditional elements are in play. There’s a nation for each one. Everything changed when the fire nation attacked. Only the Avatar, who can use all four elements, could have stopped them but he vanished. A hundred years passed and the water tribe siblings, Sokka & Katara, discover the Avatar, Aang, in a block of ice like he’s Steve Rogers. That’s how their journey to defeat the fire lord and save the world begins.

I have two narrative issues with the series. The first has to deal with the ending. Everything wraps up far too neatly. To a degree, I get it. This is a series for kids and it’s on the light-hearted side aesthetically. It still comes across as more than a little absurd that they just have to beat two people and stop some airships to collapse a nation’s entire government and its military. There are no ambitious ministers or generals to contend with? No loyal soldiers who will fight to free their lord?

The romantic sub-plots are also a bit absurd at times. Our main characters range in age from 12 to 16. With Aang and Toph both being twelve, Zuko 16 and Sokka & Katara being between. We’re basically watching their barely pubescent romantic drama. The type that kids get heated over for a week and then get over after a day. Except we’re supposed to take it more seriously here.

To its credit, I appreciate the pacing as a whole. The series may take some detours but it is good at making steady progress without rushing or going far too slowly. I also do like the general writing aesthetic. I can appreciate a series that’s mostly more light-hearted but can have some slightly more serious moments and handle both competently. And Avatar does have some strong, funny moments.

Characters:

The cast of this is a step above the archetypes. Aang is the reluctant protagonist. Katara is the nurturing big sister type. Sokka is the wisecracking one. They aren’t bad characters and it does help that they all have some aspect that elevates them beyond the archetype. But the point where the cartoon really starts to shine is when Toph joins the group. To an extent, she follows the cocky youngster archetype including making wisecracks. But she’s also capable of acting the role of a proper lady and there are points where it’s clear that she’s putting on a cheerful facade in spite of not feeling it. Plus, her wisecracks give us some of the best scenes in the series.

Zuko’s whole redemption arc is also quite good. It helps that they give us quite a few scenes of him with his uncle ahead of time and demonstrate various positive qualities in him. I also appreciate that his turn isn’t instantaneous. There are a good number of scenes that show him going through confusion on what he should do before the actual change. I also do like Iroh as a supporting character.

Art:

Avatar very clearly draws influence from the more action-oriented shounen anime in its art style. The most unique aspect of it is the bending. There’s a lot of effort into making the bending movements very fluid and matching them to the elemental attacks. Which does make for some very strong action sequences. There are also some nice details in the backgrounds and for the various fauna like Momo or Appa.

I will also credit them for doing some nice story telling through artwork. There’s a particular moment where they have Azula cornered and you can tell what Iroh is thinking just by the way he glances around.

Sound:

The acting is pretty well done. With people like Mako, Jessie Flower, & Dante Basco. The worst I can say about it is that there is some awkward screaming, usually from Jack De Sena. The music is pretty nicely done. Jeremy Zuckerman & Benjamin Wynn did a good job.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Give us a little montage that shows our heroes mopping up the fire nation army. That would give us a sense that it takes more effort than just taking out the big two.
  2. Either age up the characters or ditch the romance. The level of romantic sub-plots they have could work if their youngest characters were in the neighbourhood of 15, 16 instead of 12. It would still be a weaker element, but it would be a lot more passable.
  3. Give us some closure about Zuko’s mum. We find out she’s alive and, in the end, see Zuko ask his father about her. And that’s the end of that sub-plot. Do they get reunited? I don’t fucking know. It’s probably answered in some expanded universe shit.

Final Thoughts:

So, that was Avatar. At first, I was thinking of giving it around a 5. But after Toph and Zuko’s well handled redemption arc, I’m up to a 7/10 on it. I’m not going to be one of the major fans who considers it to be among the best cartoons ever made, but I quite liked it.

December Bonus Review #5: Silver Surfer

We’ve discussed Marvel cartoons of the late 90s, early 00s twice before with looks at Spider-man Unlimited & Avengers: United They Stand. There are two other cartoons I want to discuss of that era. So, this week, we’ll be looking at the best cartoon of the lot. Not that that’s much of an accomplishment.

Silver Surfer.png

Story:

For those of you unfamiliar with the character, The Surfer, also known as Norrin Radd, has simple beginnings. He lives on an alien world dedicated to peace and philosophy called Zenn-la. In spite of that, he’s always wanted to explore other worlds. One day, his relatively idyllic life is interrupted by the greatest menace to worlds with intelligent life, proselytizers. Actually, it’s Galactus. A being who feeds off of planets. Norrin uses an old ship to meet up with Galactus. He offers the devourer a deal, he’ll find planets for Galactus if Galactus spares his home. Galactus takes the offer, transforming Radd into the Silver Surfer.

There are some pretty significant issues with this cartoon. The first is that, like the other two we’ve discussed, it ends its only series on a cliffhanger. The second is the execution. The Surfer is a character who’s worked best in comics that can largely stand alone so that he can have his science fiction themed adventures, give us some excitement and proceed to the next thing. The cartoon, in contrast, tries to do more the X-men thing and have a bunch of inter-connected stories where the promise of a pay off is always lingering until that amazing moment where all the build up comes to fruition. The consequence of trying to do too much of that when you have all of thirteen episodes is that everything jumbles together in a bit of a mess. It doesn’t help that most of the episodes aren’t all that interesting.

I will give the cartoon some credit. The writers may not be the best, but they do demonstrate some understanding of the character. They try to copy his reflective, inner monologue and they do give him some decent scenarios. The episode with the royal skrull egg is definitely the best in the show. I also appreciate that they do actually address the Surfer’s wicked deeds that he performed as a herald of Galactus.

Characters:

The Surfer himself is a well done character. Thanos is pretty true to his comic roots, although he’s obsessed with Lady Chaos instead of Death since standards and practices of the time didn’t allow the word “death” in a children’s cartoon. Galactus is pretty accurate as well. Nova is drastically different, mainly because they want to make her sympathetic and her murderous tendencies in the comic aren’t good for that.

One issue I do have is with all the one-shot guest characters and the way they give the Surfer a temporary sidekick with the troll Pip. Pip is really pointless. I also don’t like the way they waste Nebula & Mentor as characters. It’s also worth noting they make Mentor Thanos’ brother instead of his father. Probably because Thanos’ actual brother has exceedingly rapey powers and was deemed inappropriate for a kid’s cartoon. They kind of waste Adam Warlock, Drax, Gamora and Beta Ray Bill too. Just because they don’t do anything interesting with them.

Art:

Here’s one area I’ll give the cartoon a lot of credit. It looks really good. The CG doesn’t always blend well, especially with Galactus, but the alien environments, space phenomena and action sequences all look great.

Sound:

As a whole, the acting is really good. And I’m not just saying that because a bunch of actors from X-men make appearances as minor characters. Although that is true, we hear Cyclops, Xavier, Forge, Mystique, Storm, Magneto & Jubilee and those are just the ones I noticed. But I digress. Paul Essiembre, Tara Rosling, & Gary Krawford are all really good. The musical score is quite well done as well.

Areas of Improvement:

  1. Instead of trying to connect most things, let the episodes stand alone. Like I said, these are the types of stories that the Surfer works best in.
  2. The Surfer does not need a useless travelling companion. Pip is just a waste. If you really want the Surfer to be journeying with someone, use a character like Quasar, Captain Marvel, or a well written Beta Ray Bill. In other words, a capable companion who can fight alongside him.
  3. Don’t end on a cliffhanger. I get that they thought they’d get a second series, but it’s just poor form to end a series like that when you don’t have another series definitively lined up. Because this could happen and the audience you did manage to grab will be stuck without closure.

Final Thoughts: 

The Silver Surfer, is not a bad cartoon. I don’t have nearly the same issues with it that I did with either of the others we’ve covered and there are actually some things it does pretty well. But, ultimately, the clumsy execution and the mistakes it does make leads to a mediocre product. I’ll give it a 5/10. A happy new year to all of you. This Wednesday we’ll be getting into January and you all know what that means. I pick some random theme for the reviews. We’re going to be doing super heroes this year.

August Bonus Review: The Rescuers

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The Rescuers was a Disney film from the late 70s. Although they started development in the early 60s but it was considered too politically charged which led to it being canned and then picked up again later. I’m not sure what’s so political about it. Maybe the idea of a woman doing what was traditionally “men’s work.” Maybe the scene where Miss Bianca explains the merits of income redistribution due to a massive income disparity being unsustainable for a healthy nation. (Okay, I made that one up) or maybe it’s because the original script was completely different.

Story:

We open with a young girl throwing a bottle into the water. We follow the bottle through a series of really nice watercolour looking stills until it lands and gets found by a bunch of mice. Fortunately for the young girl, these are the helpful, nice variety of mice who chew through ropes to free lions among other things. We cut to a meeting of the Rescue Aid Society, a group of mice that take it upon themselves to help those in trouble. And they’ve called this meeting of global mice solely to assign one or two to save the girl. This organisation may have had some problems with efficiency before they formed their mobile Rescue Ranger units.

The Hungarian mouse, Miss Bianca, asks for the assignment. The chairman hesitates, since this is apparently the first time a female mouse has actually been given a rescue assignment, in spite of their being several female mice in the group. She’s given the assignment but told to take a partner. Naturally, all the male mice volunteer because Hungarian ladies, and lady mice apparently, are smexy. She picks Bernard, the janitor. Probably because he’s the only one who isn’t in a position to claim all the credit. And the two set off to find the girl who needs help and come to her rescue.

Narratively, the film does basically everything right. The pacing is well crafted. It knows when to have calmer, slower moments and when to go into more intense sequences involving cars, swamp mobiles alligators and other perils. Even the song placement is very nice. The writers do a great job of conveying just how difficult it is for two little mice to try and be heroes. The climax is superb.

About the only thing I can criticise is that the Rescue Aid Society has a bunch of representatives from various countries and then one from the entire continent of Africa. Maybe Africa’s continental branch was busy with rescue work and they thought the meeting was just to touch base so they picked one agent to represent them. And then she found out that they’d called everyone for one rescue operation and she went back to report that the other continental branches had way to much time on their hands before returning to Wakanda.

Characters:

Miss Bianca is a great character. She clearly cares about helping others and doing her assignment, but she also gets as much joy out of things as she can. She’s taking the adventure seriously but also enjoying everything it has to offer. Which makes her a delight to watch. Bernard is kind of the opposite. He’s always worrying and scared but does what needs to be done any way. Which makes him a very courageous character but he’s also just a bit annoying. I also like Penny quite a bit. Her first response upon meeting the mice is just “did you bring the police?” which is very sensible. But then she wants to swipe Madame Medusa’s swamp mobile because she wants to drive it. And she taunts the cloying crony because he’s scared of the alligators. Which is great. The villains are pretty much your typical Disney antagonists. Nasty, trashy people who just want wealth even if it means sending a child into a hole to search for treasure. Although they do take it to another level by giving Medusa a shotgun to fire off indiscriminately. I actually love that scene, not gonna lie.

The side characters are a lot of fun. Whether it’s Zipper… I mean Evinrude or the muskrat couple. He gives people moonshine to perk them up and she goes to town with the rolling pin in the climax. Actually, the little swamp critters charging into action is one of the best parts in the film. Rufus & Orville are fun supporting characters too.

Art:

The film clearly didn’t have the most robust budget in the world. They take some short cuts in order to save on animation, including the stills at the opening and some slow scenes but it still looks quite nice and it is well animated.

Sound:

For the sake of this review, I watched the English version for the first time. I have to say, the acting is really good. Bob Newhart and Eva Gabor make for strong leads. Michelle Stacy makes for a strong Penny. Geraldine Page, Joe Flynn, Jim Jordan and the others are all good. In terms of music, the Rescue Aid Society anthem is a great, upbeat tune. Tomorrow is Another Day is an excellent song to aid in the atmosphere during a calmer moment & Someone’s waiting for You is a beautiful but also sad melody. I will say, I liked Wenche Myhre’s versions better than Shelby Flint’s but Flint’s are great too.

Final Thoughts:

The Rescuers may just be one of the five best Disney animated films of all time. And I’m not even joking. It’s a great adventure with a strong cast, strong characters, perfectly placed, well written songs a strong visual aesthetic and a lot of scenes that are memorable for all the right reasons. Its flaws, by comparison, are pretty minor. Ultimately, I give it a 9/10.

June Bonus review- Avengers: United They Stand

About a year ago, I did a bonus review over Spider-man: Unlimited. It was not the wall crawler’s best moment, but at least it wasn’t One More Day or that comic where he gave birth to himself or Civil War. Why do terrible writers like to muck about with Spidey? Why can’t they just stick to writing Squirrel Girl & Bendis’ Mary Sue? In any case, I made the point that the late 90s were a bad time for Marvel cartoons in general and this was one of the ones I brought up that flopped hard. So, where exactly did they go wrong with Earth’s mightiest heroes? Let’s take a look, True Believers.

The_Avengers-_United_They_Stand.jpg

Story: 

We open with the Avengers preparing to meet the President, who stands poised to recognise their great achievements, and probably take credit for them. Unfortunately for them, a  ne-er do well named Ultron is afoot and plotting the demises of both the President & Ant Man. In typical Marvel fashion, this results in a public outcry against the team with the President tweeting that “they’re possibly the biggest mess of a team. Gone downhill so much thanks to the last administration letting that immigrant mutant on the team. Sad.” Actually, it’s a totally different President and he blames Hawkeye because… Hawkeye had him duck and then shot arrows at the attacking robots and… he should have picked him up and run thereby leaving them both open to attack from behind? Seriously, you see none of the other Avengers around during this sequence. It’s not like they had Wonder Man paired with Hawkeye to draw the hostile fire or something. This is immediately stupid. And that’s our introduction to the team in action.

Moments of sheer stupidity like that aren’t even the biggest narrative problem in this series. They divide their main focus between Ultron & the Zodiac, thereby not giving them time to resolve anything with either big bad and ending on a cliff hanger because no one was watching this. They also love to introduce the idea of back story for them without actually showing anything substantial. Like Ultron being a creation of Pym’s who was destroyed, but they’ll never show what the deal with that is or the Zodiac having been foiled by the Avengers in scenes we’ll never see. And there’s a big focus on Wonder Man being kidnapped… after he’s been missing for, like, six episodes. Yeah, they pretty much bring it up in passing like it’s not that big of a deal and then they start acting like it’s the most important thing ever for no apparent reason. There’s also the bloody stupid love triangle. Frankly, all the romances in this are really bad. You just start out with characters in a relationship and they never give you any reason to care. Remember when the mid 90s X-men cartoon had Scott & Jean in a relationship at the start and then they had the Captive Hearts episode to give you, the viewer, cause to be invested in that? This one can’t be bothered. Let’s also bring up “holy fucking shit he’s a ‘perfect’ machine”  Ultron. We’re supposed to buy this dude as a credible threat for our team but he’s a freaking moron, even for a cartoon villain. Take one of his early plans. He sends his robots to draw out the Avengers, except Ant Man, so that he can mount a full assault against Pym because Ultron is actually very anti- domestic violence and he wants to see Pym stopped. But then the robots immediately shut down when the Avengers arrive instead of putting up any kind of fight that could  have, I don’t know, delayed them without rousing their suspicions. Why not just have them beat the bots aster than anticipated? You could still have them arrive in time and it would be a lot less stupid.

Characters:

This is a big issue with this cartoon. The cast they chose. Let’s pretend, just for a second, that Pym being a bride battering brute doesn’t matter because they don’t want any of the kids who watch this to ever read the comics. And I know that’s a stretch, but for the sake of argument, let’s pretend the comics don’t matter. He’s still a  terrible choice to lead the team. Why? Because there are a lot of options with better costumes, more interesting powers and who are just better liked. The show itself brings it up talking about Thor, Iron Man & Captain America but it argues that he helped found the Avengers and, therefore, he’s just as qualified. But this is a show for kids and you know kids are going to want to see the “cool” characters. No kid cares about freaking Ant Man. Wonder Man is a pretty bad choice too, since he’s basically just a Mary Sue in this. Hell, why not take out the Falcon too and bring in the Black Panther? Even before the films, the Panther was a better known character and his costume is definitely superior. And it doesn’t help that they do nothing with this cast to make them interesting. They’re just a bland group.

Art:

There are three big problems with the artwork. The first is the costumes. A lot of the films screw up the costumes by trying to tone them down and making them just boring. This series goes the opposite route & tries to make things more “extreme” by giving most of the Avengers special armour that they put on through transformation sequences and it just ends up looking terrible. Especially with Hawkeye, the Wasp & the Falcon who take the brunt of it. It’s just ostentatious is what it is. The second issue is the transformation sequences themselves. It feels like they’re trying to capture a sentai or magical girl vibe with them but without any finesse and with an end result that looks awful. The third is that the animation is frequently slow and choppy.

Sound: 

The acting isn’t the worst ever, but it’s pretty bad. You get some performances that are all right like Stavroula Logothetttis or Tony Daniels but the majority of them seem like the actors can’t be bothered to put in any effort. Not that I would either if I was handed this script. The theme tune is similar to the one from the COPS cartoon, in that it has a good beat but is weakened by the repetition of the title.

Final Thoughts:

There are, certainly, worse comic adaptations than this. There are also worse things that the Avengers have been in. This is still a bad cartoon. With a team that has some of the best characters in the Marvel universe as potential members, they chose their core cast poorly. Why would you ever have Hank Pym as the leader in a work for children? With the story, they couldn’t just focus on one villain arc and ended up making a right mess of things. They couldn’t even get a lot of the basics right. In the end, I have to give this the same score as Spider-man Unlimited. United They Stand earns a disappointing 3/10.

Oh, and let’s take a quick peek at our big hero we’re all supposed to love.

pym

April Bonus Review: C.O.P.S

Last month I said that I was going to look at a cartoon based off of one of Hasbro’s properties. Naturally, I had to pick their most famous toon, C.O.P.S. For the very few of you who haven’t heard of it, COPS was a late 80s cartoons based off of Hasbro’s toy figure line of COPS & Crooks. So, let’s delve into it and see how it holds up, before Michael Bay directs a shit film based off of it. 

Cops.png

Story:

The show is set in the futuristic Empire city where the Big Boss and his gang of crooks are always up to some untoward activities. Fortunately, the city has COPS (the Central Organisation of Police Specialists) to fight against these nefarious schemes. Each episode basically deals to the Big Boss or one of his cronies coming up with some scheme to steal loot and the COPS having to foil them. 

The biggest issue with the series is just that it’s satisfied with being a generic children’s show. It never tries to do anything unique or interesting and it easily could have. And this was a premise that could easily have gone above and beyond.  Cops and Robbers with a sci-fi twist could make for an amazing kid’s show. All they needed were some ongoing story lines with character development. You know, like those 90s super hero cartoons that were coming out three years later. Instead, what we get is a bog-standard show where they foil the plot of the week and move on to the next one. I think the only time we even get a multi-part episode is the Case of COPS File One.

And you can tell the writers don’t care that much because there are pretty consistently things they don’t bother thinking through because they either can’t be asked or they want to just get the next episode out and they figure children won’t notice. So, you’ll have an episode where Bullseye has his helicopter stolen because he just leaves the cockpit open. Goofus leaves his expensive work helicopter out in the open while he buys doughnuts. Gallant locks it up and keeps the keys safely with him. In the aforementioned COPS File One there are characters who are called by their code names before they actually have Code Names. Because it’s hard to remember that Bulletproof’s real name is Baldwin Peabody Vess or that Mainframe’s is Tina Cassidy. There’s also one where they have invisible crooks and no one thinks to let the cyborg puppy loose to nibble on their bums. And I fucking know kids spotted that one because kids aren’t that stupid. They know dogs have great senses of smell. 

That being said, I can’t say anything about the show’s writing is truly bad. Yes, it would have worked a lot better if they’d taken more time to develop their scenarios and thought through them properly,  but  they’re kind of entertaining as they are. Honestly, if I was watching this as a kid I’d probably find it diverting enough. And it does have some awesome ideas like the cyborg pup or the crook with a sub-machine gun in his chest. Yes, this cartoon from the late 80s has actual guns. I wasn’t just talking shit when I said that 4kids is made up of overly sensitive cock munchers. 

Characters:

The big issue with the characters is just that they’re bland. the series could have really benefited from taking more time to give the characters real senses of personality and from having some crooks who could put on the façade of being respectable at times when they weren’t just trying to look good in front of their mothers. 

Art:

Honestly, this is not a good looking cartoon. There are things that definitely could have worked. The character designs, overall could’ve worked. The futuristic technology could have been great as well. Unfortunately, the animation itself seems to have had a very limited budget resulting in awkward movements and expressions. As well as stuff that’s just heavily recycled. Then we have the villainous bloke with dwarfism, Small Guy. He and his gang appear in two episodes and their designs change pretty noticeably from one to the other. It’s like they couldn’t even be bothered to go back and look at what they’d done before so they could keep it consistent. And the combination of crap animation and inconsistent art just doesn’t look good. That’s another thing this show needed, a budget that wasn’t being heavily embezzled for cocaine. 

Sound:

Honestly, the voice acting isn’t bad. It’s pretty “meh” but it’s far from the worst I’ve ever heard in a kid’s cartoon. It’s definitely better than Defenders of the Realm or Spectacular Spider-man. One issue with it is the budget. There are episodes where characters will appear and be featured quite prominently in scenes, but won’t say a bloody thing. Presumably because they didn’t want to pay for more voice actors. The music is pretty good, actually. The theme tune has a good beat and would’ve been pretty amazing without the lyrics, which consist of saying the word “Cops” periodically. In case you aren’t sure what you’re watching and need reminded twenty seconds before they show the logo. 

Final Thoughts:

COPS was a show that could have been amazing. I’d honestly like to see Hasbro get a studio that gives a shit with competent writers and revive it. Just to see the concept done justice. In fact, I’ll do it. I’ll even promise to not heavily imply that every single character isn’t straight. Which would be unusual for my writing. Still, the sixty five episodes are passable enough. If you’ve got a wee one at home, they’ll probably be entertained by it. My final rating is a 5/10. It’s mediocre. 

March Bonus Review: Pryde of the X-men

The X-men are, without any doubt, one of my favourite super hero teams. At least, they were back when Chris Claremont was doing his nearly two decade long run on the team. When he was still a couple years away from the end of his run, there was an attempt at making a television series based on the mutant team. It was 1989 and Marvel wanted to follow in Hasbro’s footsteps of making successful cartoons based off of their licenses to sell toys. So, why did Pryde of the X-men ultimately fail, thereby forcing us to wait for three years before the team would actually get their cartoon? Let’s take a look.

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Story:

We open with Magneto being transferred, presumably to some prison, by a military convoy. Fortunately for him, the White Queen comes to his rescue. Weren’t his ties to the Hellfire club something he had for pragmatic purposes while he was the headmaster over the New Mutants and a member of the X-men? I guess the cartoon universe is just different. Cut to young Kitty Pryde driving to the X-mansion clutching a letter. Turns out, Xavier found out about her powers and, instead of wasting his time visiting with her parents to get her enrolled in his school (like what he did in the comics) he just decided to send her an ominous letter about how he knows her secret. The X-men run off to answer an alarm while Magneto leads the Juggernaut, who doesn’t even like mutants save for Black Tom, on an attack to steal a Cerebro circuit while Xavier is home with just the young Kitty Pryde. Now, it’s up to the X-men to foil his machinations and save the world.

The first issue with this as a pilot is just that they introduce far too many characters at once. Not only do we have the X-men, with Xavier, Kitty, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Storm, Cyclops, Dazzler and Wolverine but we also have a huge number of villains with Magneto, the White Queen, Juggernaut, the Blob, Pyro, Toad and little Lockheed hanging around their base for some reason. The next issue is with the action. We don’t actually see our heroes fight as a team or accomplish that much. Rather, the villains come at them one at a time and the X-men have one member bugger off to face the villain who shows up one on one. Save Storm who gets left behind to mind the atmosphere. And that doesn’t make for particularly compelling action. Seriously, compare it to the two part Night of the Sentinels from the good cartoon where we see the X-men fight as a team. We see every member contribute and we see robots getting torn to pieces in the final action sequence, which is about the same length as the big action scene here. Trying to connect all your major villains also really doesn’t work when you’re using a team like the X-men.

About the only bit of praise I can give this one is that the very basic premise could have worked. Having a seasoned team with a young mutant being added in who has to prove herself and learn to cope with her own abilities could have been used in a much better cartoon. You know, like the early 90s one where a team of seasoned mutants is joined by you Jubilee who has to learn to cope with her own abilities and prove herself. In all fairness, though, it could have also worked with the X-men team they used in this.

Characters:

So, fifteen characters was clearly too ambitious for a pilot introducing the whole premise and the natural consequence is that the cast is really under-developed. There are some more specific issues, though. The first is that Colossus awkwardly refers to himself in the third person. Then there’s Nightcrawler. Poor Nightcrawler. Every time he appears in a cartoon they seem to really screw him up. Even the good cartoon. In this one, he comes across as kind of pervy and as someone you really don’t want near children. Remember when his appearance made Kitty uncomfortable in the comics so he was nice to her but generally kept a respectful distance until she was able to get comfortable with him? In this he gets kind of aggressive about forcing the issue and Neil Ross’s unintentionally creepy voice acting just makes it so much worse.

Speaking of characters who seem to be written perpetually badly in adaptations, let’s talk about Shadowcat. In the comics, she’s a young genius who comes across as a very bright youngster but is still believable as a youngster. This suffers the same problem as certain other adaptations where they decide to make her far less intelligent and more of a generic good girl. Magneto also suffers from losing his complexity and being made a more generic villain, like he was in the silver age. I guess Larry Parr just didn’t want complex Jewish characters. Or he just isn’t good with complexity period. That’s also a distinct possibility.

Art:

This is one area where I can, as a whole, give the cartoon credit. Toei did a lot of the animation work on this and it does look pretty good. I also do like the costumes it uses. Even if they did forget Magneto’s gloves and just left his hands bare and they made Wolverine too tall.

Sound:

Any good will I might have from that is quickly cancelled by the sound. The acting in this is horrendously bad. Patrick Pinney gives Wolverine an Australian accent which is just stupid. He’s Canadian. What’s next, an X-men adaptation that has him voiced by an Australian doing a really poor fake American accent? No, I’m sure no production studio could possibly be that idiotic. The accents in this are just awful in general. Neil Ross’s Deutsch accent is bad. Dan Gilvezan’s Russian accent is terrible. The voice acting just comes across as low effort, no skill and they did get some people who can voice act. They got Frank Welker, for instance. The music is okay. Not anything good but decent enough.

Final Thoughts:

Ultimately, it’s not surprising that Pryde of the X-men failed to transition into a full series. It’s not the worst X-men adaptation I’ve ever seen but it is pretty bad. The writing’s a mess, the characters are completely uninteresting and some of them are handled in off-putting ways, the acting is atrocious and it just fails to do the team any justice. Which is a pity because, like I said, this team composition could have worked if they’d put some effort in. My final rating is going to be a 3/10. Still better than what Madhouse did with the group. I guess Marvel tried too hard to copy Hasbro without understanding why they were a success. In fact, next month I’ll look at one of Hasbro’s toy-based cartoons and let’s see why it worked for them.