Disney Animated Canon: ‘Big Hero 6’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Big Hero 6’

The follow up to 2013’s Frozen was a Disney film that was decidedly different than its predecessors, but still retained a bit of that classic Disney charm, and that film was an adaptation of Marvel’s Big Hero 6 comic book. After their acquisition of Marvel in 2009, Disney began researching a number of Marvel storylines for an animated film.

The studio would eventually land on Big Hero 6, and this comic was purposely chosen because of its obscurity. Disney’s version of Big Hero 6 borrows a handful of ideas from the source material, but is largely its own film with its own unique characters and story beats.

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As always with Disney films, the team dedicated a lot of man hours to realizing the look of the film. They created unique rendering systems to convincingly represent foliage, city skylines, cars and buildings. Most notably, Disney created the Hyperion system, which allowed them to create realistic lighting effects across the entire film.

With the character of Baymax, Disney wanted to avoid creating a typical robot. Director Don Hall was inspired by a burgeoning technology known as “soft robotics”, which aimed to give safer and more flexible components to machinery. This tech would serve as the inspiration for Baymax’s non-intimidating “marshmallow” body.

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As far as superhero film narratives are concerned, Big Hero 6 is pretty standard. Protagonist Hiro’s character arc is a simple, “great power, great responsibility” story, with some personal maturity thrown in for good measure, while the villain is just flat out seeking revenge.

Hiro is a 14 year old prodigy who graduated high school at 13, and spends his time participating in illegal bot fights. After some sly coercing from his older brother, Tadashi, Hiro decides to enroll in the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology.

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Hiro and Tadashi’s relationship is the emotional throughline that carries Big Hero 6. Tadashi meets a tragic end pretty early on in the film, and Hiro’s journey with coming to terms with this loss is the motivation for every single one of his actions.

Big Hero 6 did a great job of making me care about Tadashi before he was killed. He served as a responsible mentor figure for Hiro, and did his best to keep him on the right path. Even after his death, he still provides support to Hiro when he needs it the most.

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Hiro starts out a bit rough around the edges, but he eventually matures into a young man reminiscent of the older brother that he looks up to. He went from being fully prepared to have Baymax kill the villain, to simply apprehending him like a model superhero, and I can really get behind character growth like this.

Aside from Hiro, Tadashi and Baymax, there are a few other characters that round out the film’s principal cast, namely, GoGo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred. These four characters, along with Hiro and Baymax, make up the titular Big Hero 6.

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These characters are charming, but also a bit on the generic side. Taking a look at just about any still image of them will tell you most of what you need to know about their personality, Wasabi being the major exception. GoGo is the tough and edgy girl, Honey Lemon is the hyperactive and enthusiastic one, and Fred is the laid back, comic relief guy.

Although I found myself really liking these guys, they definitely needed more screentime. Hiro meets each of them when Tadashi shows him around the school’s lab, and this scene was a great introduction for them.

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But one of the more jarring plot elements of the film is how quickly Hiro and the group become best friends. Aside from their introduction, the group doesn’t have a proper scene with Hiro for some time after Tadashi’s death.

In that time gap, there is one really bad montage that shows snippets of the group helping Hiro with his entrance exam project. Fast forward, and the gang behave as if they have been friends for years.

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We also don’t really get to see the team as actual superheroes for very much of the film. I don’t have any real issue with this narratively speaking, as I felt it showed just how inexperienced they are when they take on their first mission, and it was nice getting to know them just a bit before they suit up.

The one plot element that I actively dislike is the villain’s daughter. Up until the reveal that she is alive, Big Hero 6 did an excellent job of subtly highlighting a parallel between Hiro and the villain, and I felt that bringing her back really cheapened the arc of an already simple villain story.

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Big Hero 6 has some truly beautiful scenery. The film doesn’t do very much with the setting of San Fransokyo with it comes to narrative, but it does provide a backdrop for a few really well done scenes, the best of which is Hiro and Baymax’s flight through the city (though special mention goes to the trip through the portal).

Seeing the pair soar through the sky is reminiscent of many classic Disney films, and I really appreciate that the team let this scene breathe and just be visually impressive. It was also really cool how this scene fed into the story, as the whole purpose of them flying was to gain a higher vantage point for Baymax’s scanner.

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Though a bit generic at times, Big Hero 6 still displays that Disney magic. The brotherly bond between Hiro and Tadashi, and by extension, Hiro and Baymax, is genuinely touching. The film has a lot of heart, with gorgeous visuals and cool action scenes to boot, and has a very unique spot in Disney’s line of animated classics.

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Disney Animated Canon: ‘Alice In Wonderland’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Alice In Wonderland’

Walt Disney was a man who never truly gave up on an idea once it came to him. He would simply shelve the thought until he could give it life in a meaningful way. Such is the case with 1951’s Alice in Wonderland.

Walt, like many other children, adored the original Lewis Carroll Alice novels during his early years, and the story was one of the first ones that spoke to him when he originally conceived the idea of a feature length animated film, even before Snow White.

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Funnily enough however, Walt’s original vision for the film was a hybrid of live action and animation. But by 1946, production on the film moved forward as a fully animated feature, with the most commonly cited reason being Walt’s dissatisfaction with Paramount’s 1933 Alice adaptation.

A rough version of the film was completed by 1939, but Walt had a number of issues with both the art direction and the tone of the script. Due to a combination of economic factors such as World War II, and the production of other Disney projects like Bambi and Pinocchio, Alice In Wonderland was once again put on the backburner.

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In spite of its on again, off again development cycle, Alice in Wonderland did eventually see completion. Out of all the classic films in Disney’s canon, this film is one of the more interesting ones to study from a story structure perspective.

The film opens with Alice casually ignoring lessons from her teacher, followed by her singing the wonderful song, In A World Of My Own. A hop, skip and a white rabbit later, and Alice is floating down a hole into the titular Wonderland.

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Wonderland is a place where anything can happen. Everything that shouldn’t be, is, and nothing is impossible (though some things are certainly impassable). This gives the film the perfect excuse to just go absolutely crazy with its scenes and set pieces.

Alice in Wonderland has scenes that are so distinct and drawn out that you could blink, and almost think you’re watching an entirely different Disney film. One scene in particular, the story that Tweedledee and Tweedledum recount to Alice, goes on for minutes without showing our cheeky, blonde heroine.

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Speaking of characters, Alice in Wonderland has an almost staggering amount of them, but the film handles such a large cast in a masterful way. With the exception of the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat and Alice herself, no one character sticks around past their unique scene.

But each and every one of them manages to be memorable because of how interesting their segments are. One of the Wonderland denizens that Alice encounters is a hookah loving caterpillar with a strange habit of emphasizing his vowels, but she also comes across a doorknob who never really gives straight answers.

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The most notable characters are the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter, but even they pale in comparison to the infamous Cheshire Cat. Not only is he perhaps the most quotable (and cryptic) Disney character of all time, but he occasionally appears to chat with Alice, sometimes even giving her a bit of helpful advice.

Alice in Wonderland isn’t about some grand journey. Rather, it is the story of a curious little girl. With the nature of the story being simple curiosity, Alice doesn’t need to change or grow very much over the course of the story. Instead, she is the perfect vehicle for the audience to enjoy Wonderland.

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The story aspect that fascinates me the most about Alice in Wonderland is her pursuit of the White Rabbit. This is what sets Alice on her journey to begin with, and also what convinces her to plunge deeper and deeper into Wonderland.

And what intrigues me so much is the fact that she never catches the rabbit. She goes through multiple tumultuous situations, but never claims the prize she was after in the first place. I’m sure there’s some really deep meaning behind that, but I’m not quite smart enough to figure it out.

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My only major problem with the film as a whole is Alice’s breakdown scene near the story’s end. She tearfully laments the fact that she is trapped in such an unsettling place, and desperately wishes to return home.

My issue with this scene is that it had no build up. Up to this point, Alice was an energetic young girl who longed for a place beyond the boredom of the real world, making her tears and sorrow feel forced. This scene was probably necessary to provide context for when she does eventually go home, but there still needed to be a more gradual emotional escalation.

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Alice in Wonderland was far from a critical darling upon its initial release. It was panned by fans of the original Alice stories, and Disney was accused of  “Americanizing” the source material. The film wouldn’t be celebrated for years after its release, and eventually gained quite the following with youth culture due to its association with psychedelic drugs (something Walt himself was unhappy about).

Beyond this fact, Alice in Wonderland was looked upon more kindly by general viewers in the years after its release, and I personally appreciate how bold the film was for how it handled set pieces, as well as the wonderful animation that accompanied them.

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Alice in Wonderland manages to be both whimsical, and stylistically different from its sibling films in a way that makes it almost unsettling at times. Wonderland is such a great setting to explore, and it amazes me that Disney’s team created a place where anything can happen, but nothing ever feels disjointed or out of place.

Alice in Wonderland is a great watch, even if just to see how insane a place like Wonderland can be. Mystery is around every corner, and you never know who or what you’ll run into next. If you ever decide to go, I’d recommend avoiding any cats with big smiles and wide eyes.

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Bambi’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Bambi’

Historical facts for this essay were drawn from the bonus features of the Walt Disney Signature Collection release of the film, as well as this fantastic article written by Johnathan North of the Rotoscopers.

The final film in Walt Disney Animation’s Golden Age lineup is none other than Bambi. Bambi was originally released in 1942, but Walt Disney had actually planned for the film to be the follow up to Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Bambi turned out to have quite the arduous production however, so the project was put on the backburner so that the team could focus on Pinocchio and Fantasia.

Unlike the other Disney films of this era, the original story of Bambi was not a children’s book. Written by Austrian author Felix Salten, Bambi, A Life in the Woods was a distinctly adult novel, making it much harder to adapt into a story that is more in line with the rest of Disney’s catalogue.

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Bambi also presented Walt and his team of animators the challenge of accurately representing realistic animal movement patterns. Up to this point, Disney was known primarily for their cuddly and cartoony animals, and not so much for realism. As such, Bambi became the first film to utilize a practice that is still employed at the company to this day, and that is detailed research.

The animation team was given the opportunity to get up close and personal with many of the woodland creatures that are featured in the film. Walt had them study various elements of animal anatomy so that they could better understand their movements. Disney is quite famous for this level of authenticity, as they did the exact same thing with animal walk cycles and fur patterns for The Lion King, as well as the Swedish structures featured in Frozen.

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Watching Bambi’s movements in the film really drives home just how dedicated they were to being as realistic as possible. Bambi is just as lanky as any other newly born fawn, and way that the deer leap and bound across the meadows is very impressive.

Bambi was one of Disney’s greatest breakthroughs in what is known as effects animation. Elements like raindrops and lightning were of great importance to the film’s aesthetic. The animation team would spend hours watching water drip and breaking glass, all in an effort to better render these moments in animation.

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Another challenging task for the film were the backgrounds. Forests in real life are thick and obtrusive, making them a poor match for Bambi’s more cheerful moments. As such, the team opted for softer, painterly style backgrounds.

Walt himself wanted to the film to have a greater sense of depth than Disney’s previous efforts, and he used the 1937 short film, The Old Mill, as a test bed of sorts for new camera techniques (not unlike what was done during the Silly Symphonies),  giving the film a much more realistic framework.

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The story begins with the birth of a young fawn named Bambi. Almost the entire forest shows up to witness the first moments of the soon to be prince of the forest, and Bambi quickly makes friends with a young bunny named Thumper (and later, an absolutely adorable skunk named Flower).

The major narrative themes of Bambi are growth and discovery. Bambi doesn’t embark on some grand quest across the land, he is simply a young fawn learning his place in the world, and of the responsibilities that will one day be his.

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Eventually, Bambi is forced to learn the harsh realities of the world beyond his comfy little thicket. Humans are the primary antagonist in Bambi, and hunting season is an especially harrowing time for the residents of the forest. The hunting element is an important footnote in this film’s history, as it was actually disparaged by real world hunting organizations for its portrayal of the sport.

One of the most famous scenes in the film is the death of Bambi’s mother. As she is enjoying spending time in the meadows with her son, she notices the presence of humans. Without hesitation, she instructs Bambi to race towards their thicket, but she is unable to join him.

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Disney’s history has no shortage of tragic moments, and this was perhaps the start of them. What I find really interesting about her death is the way in which Bambi reacts to it. As humans, we typically go through a period of mourning for our loved ones. But as an animal, and one with great responsibility, Bambi is forced to continue his growth without the aid of his mother.

Bambi is somewhat of an oddball in Disney’s Golden Age, as it was not as critically lauded as its predecessors. Disney’s audience was conditioned to expect whimsical fantasy stories from the company, but Bambi, although still upbeat at times, was much more grounded than say, Pinocchio or Dumbo.

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Bambi was also not financially successful. World War II prevented the film from being released in European territories, cutting off a significant area of profit for the company. And again, many critics did not like that the film was not a fantasy, even Walt’s own daughter!

But Bambi has proved itself to be a film that earned the respect it rightfully deserved. Subsequent re-releases of the film allowed it to become profitable, and in 2011 it was inducted into the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress for its resonant message of nature conservation.

I feel that Bambi was a great film to cap off Disney’s Golden Age. As a fan of animation and Disney history, I really appreciate just how different it was compared to its sibling films, with its greater emphasis on realism. Bambi is a great film, and I’m certain that it paved the way for more mature storytelling and theming in animated films.

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Disney Animated Canon: ‘Pinocchio’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Pinocchio’

The Walt Disney Animation company was on top of the world after the success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The film was a technical marvel and a critical darling, and Walt Disney and his team truly showed what animation was capable of. Looking to further innovate in the field of animation, Walt used the profits from Snow White to build a new studio, and upgrade most of his crew’s equipment.

Walt Disney was a man who was simultaneously able to live in the moment, and look forward to the future, so while Snow White was in production, he already had his eyes set on the company’s next feature length film, 1940’s Pinocchio.

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was the result of years of experimentation in animation techniques, musical sequences and narrative, all culminating in the first ever feature length piece of animation. It is a historically ambitious film, but the studio sought to achieve even greater heights with their follow up film.

Pinocchio really demonstrates just how much Disney learned about feature length production. Walt specifically encouraged his team to come up with as many ideas as possible, hoping to foster an attitude of unbridled creativity. As such, Pinocchio takes the audience to numerous fresh and exciting locales.

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In the opening scene, Geppetto the craftsman is dancing through an intricately detailed workshop with his latest puppet creation, all while being accompanied by his little black cat, Figaro, as well as Cleo the goldfish. Later scenes will show Pinocchio as a member of a traveling stage show, on a whimsical, yet haunting island and even in the belly of a whale.

Pinocchio’s structure is borderline episodic at times, almost as if you could divide the film up into a mini television series. This is largely because the original story of Pinocchio, written by Italian artist Carlo Collodi, was told in individual trades, until they were later compiled into a single book.

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This is also shown in the number of one off characters that are featured in Pinocchio. The silver tongued Honest John, the ill-tempered and greedy Stromboli, and even Pinocchio’s naughty friend Lampwick, it’s commendable just how well Disney was able to fit such memorable characters into a rather tight story.

Disney’s adaptations are quite famous for hitting many of the high points and key characters from the source material, but softening them up a bit to make them more appealing (though many Disney films do retain the darker elements of the original stories). Pinocchio is the first major example of this.

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Collodi’s Pinocchio was a cocky and brash mischief maker, while the Disney rendition is a sweet but naive little boy. As I said before, this was done to make Pinocchio, the character who was the crux of the entire story, more endearing to the audience. This was so imperative that at one point, Walt halted production on the film in order to perfectly capture the look of Pinocchio.

Many of the original characters sketches of Pinocchio were much more rigid, wooden and, well… puppet-like. The character would eventually be given more rounded, human like edges, while still retaining the look of something made from wood.

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Another thing that separates the two Pinocchios is the character of Jiminy Cricket. In Collodi’s story, Jiminy was an almost insignificant character, one that Pinocchio actually killed with a brick (he would later return as a ghost). But Disney decided to depict Jiminy as Pinocchio’s conscience, a guiding voice on his shoulder to show him the right way of doing things.

Jiminy doesn’t actually give Pinocchio too much advice, and Pinocchio is usually easily convinced by people like Honest John to do the exact opposite of what he was told. This may seem at odds with Jiminy’s role in the story, but I feel that Disney was aiming not for Jiminy to hold Pinocchio’s hand the entire way, but to represent what it means to be good and virtuous, and I found this to be very effective.

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On the surface, the Collodi and Disney takes on the character seem worlds apart, and in many ways, they are. But in actuality, both characters share the theme of temptation. Thematic elements such as fame, fortune, cigars and alcohol are prevalent all throughout Pinocchio, with the pinnacle example being the Pleasure Island segment, (formerly known as Boobyland).

Pinocchio eventually gets swept up with a horde of other little boys, and sent to a seemingly wonderful place known as Pleasure Island. Here, the boys are given unlimited freedom. Cigars and pitchers of beer are easy to find, there are houses that exist exclusively to be torn apart and pool halls are a common sight. However, Pleasure Island isn’t all fun and games. The island’s true purpose is to turn delinquent boys into donkeys to be captured and sold.

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The scenes depicting the boys transforming into donkeys are genuinely unsettling. As a child, this was one of the few things that I was frightened of, and as an adult, the animation still manages to elicit chills and beads of sweat out of me.

The look on Pinocchio’s face as he witnesses his friend Lampwick sprout ears really shows the power of an animator’s hands, and I especially love the way Pinocchio discards his cigar and alcohol with utter disgust. As a whole, Pinocchio’s animation is positively breathtaking, so much so that it’s almost hard to believe that only a handful of years separate it and Snow White.

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Most of the film’s characters are cartoony and exaggerated, and this gave the team quite a bit more creative freedom. But even the film’s one realistic character, the benevolent Blue Fairy, shows the fruits of Disney’s efforts when it came to animating the character of Snow White.

Pinocchio also has an extremely cool set piece in the form of Monstro the whale. This sequence involved some rather arduous technical skill, as animating water is notoriously difficult. But the team didn’t cut any corners in this regard, as watching this gargantuan whale dive in and out of the ocean, and knocking Pinocchio and Geppetto all over the place was very impressive.

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Pinocchio did wonderful with critics, and was even the first Disney film to be nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Score and Best Song with “When You Wish Upon A Star”. But the film’s critical success did not reflect its box office numbers. Pinocchio was not nearly as profitable as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and it cost about twice as much to produce.

But in spite of its financial failings, Pinocchio is still regarded as one of the best Disney films of all time. The film has no shortage of iconic moments. Pinocchio’s nose growing when he tells a lie, the Blue Fairy, Jiminy Cricket,and especially Pleasure Island *shudders*, all of these moments have managed to stick with audiences decades after Pinocchio was released.

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Pinocchio may not have been the follow up to Snow White that it needed to be in terms of financial success, but it more than made up for it by just how lovingly crafted the entire project is. The film perfectly encapsulates the idea of Disney magic, right down to it’s famous song about wishing upon stars. Anything your heart desires is sure to come to you, so long as you believe with all of your heart.

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Tangled’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Tangled’

The Walt Disney Animation company is currently enjoying a second renaissance of sorts that is known as the Disney Revival era, and the film that started it all is 2010’s Tangled, the 50th film in Disney’s Animated Canon. Tangled had somewhat of a tumultuous production cycle, and was even officially cancelled until John Lasseter decided to revive the project shortly after its cancellation.

Tangled is estimated to have spent about six years in production, and its roughly $260 million budget makes it the most expensive animated movie of all time. But the time, money and effort that went into Tangled was all worth it. Not only was the film a huge success at the box office, but it was Disney’s most critically acclaimed film in years.

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Tangled is the first film that sprang from Disney’s decision to focus strictly on computer animation, and it is their first film that I believe matched their sister studio, Pixar, in terms of sheer visual fidelity. I never felt that Disney’s previous attempts at computer animation stood up very well against the company’s contemporaries, with 2008’s Bolt being a notable exception (and a film I find to be a bit underappreciated).

One need only look at Rapunzel’s hair to realize that Tangled is pushing the boundaries for what can be done with animation. One of my favorite things about Disney and Pixar is the fact that they aren’t just interested in telling cool stories, but also challenging themselves with various feats of animation.

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Rapunzel’s hair is 70 feet long, and animating all of that blonde was one of the most arduous parts of the film. To better learn how to manage so much hair, Disney actually brought in a woman named Kelly Ward. Ward has a PhD in hair, and instructed the team on the different ways that hair reacts to things like light. Disney is quite famous for this type of authenticity, as they did similar studies for the animal walk cycles in The Lion King, and the snow effects found in Frozen.

Rapunzel’s hair is gorgeous, but it isn’t just for show. Her hair’s length and color are an important part of the film’s narrative, and actually contain special rejuvenative properties. Rapunzel is also capable of manipulating her hair in a variety of ways, the most notable being her ability to use it as a rope, which makes for a deadly attack when paired with her patented frying pan.

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Tangled’s narrative carries a tone that would not feel out of place amongst the films from the Disney Renaissance. It’s a modern, comedy styled rendition of a classic fairy tale, and it still packs the emotional punch that is to be expected from Disney. I really loved how well paced the story was, as the film spends just the right amount of time on pretty much every scene.

Tangled also has a fantastic cast. I’ll go more into detail on Rapunzel in a bit, but her companion, Flynn Rider, is one of the standout characters of the film. He’s a twist on the conventional Disney Prince archetype, as he’s somewhat of a mix between the brash and arrogance of Gaston, and the better qualities of someone like Prince Eric.

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Tangled also gave us not only the best villain of the Revival era, but one of the best villains in the company’s history. Mother Gothel is deliciously evil, and she reminds me quite a bit of other Disney greats like Scar and Cruella De Vil. Her evil smirk alone is enough to qualify her for best Disney villain.

Before Moana came along, I always struggled to decide on a favorite Disney Princess. But whenever I would attempt to finally pick one, I always found myself to be more drawn to the ones that were full of life, and embodied personal dreams. I’ve always loved Ariel from The Little Mermaid. I greatly admired her dream of seeing the world beyond her home, and the way that Disney was able to capture this passion through animation.

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I find Rapunzel to be the modern version of everything that made Ariel great. She has always longed to see what lies beyond the walls of her tower, and to get an up close view of the lanterns that fly every year on her birthday. Her eyes always have a certain shimmer to them, and this, in conjunction with her youthful appearance, makes her one of the more adorable Disney Princesses.

One of my favorite moments in the film is when Rapunzel takes her first steps outside her tower. She’s initially reluctant to let her feet touch the grass, but her pure delight at the new sensation, as well as the look on her face, made me feel genuinely happy.

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Seeing her dash through the fields and splash in the ponds (to the obvious delight of Mr. Rider) was a really special moment, and this excitement, and sometimes fear, is a constant throughout the entire film. All of this culminates in her boat ride with Flynn, in which she finally gets so see her birthday lanterns take flight.

Tangled is one of the most important films in Disney’s catalogue. It took the essence of what made Disney films special in the first place, and brought it back in a new and exciting way. This film paved the way for others such as Frozen, Moana and even Pixar’s Brave, and it absolutely earned all of the recognition that it received. (Side note: I’m really excited to see Tangled featured in Kingdom Hearts III!)

 

Game Review: ‘Steven Universe: Attack The Light’, A Bubble For Your Trouble?

Game Review: ‘Steven Universe: Attack The Light’, A Bubble For Your Trouble?

Steven Universe: Attack The Light is a fun little role playing game that pays homage to not only its famed source material, but to critically acclaimed games of the past, namely, the Paper Mario and Mario & Luigi franchises. Attack The Light is available on iOS and Android devices, and has a level of polish that is on par with that of console games.

When it comes to overall presentation and aesthetic, Attack The Light is extremely faithful to its source material. It features a colorful and simple art style that goes along nicely with its platform of choice, the original voice actors from the cartoon, and plenty of references for for fans to pick up on.

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Many of these references come in the form of humorous bits of dialogue, pieces of lore that pertain to the history of the Crystal Gems, and even famous Steven Universe items like Together Breakfast and Cookie Cats. Attack The Light also has a small, but cute story, and it was actually supervised by writers attached to the show.

Attack The Light is a turn based RPG in the vein of the early Paper Mario games. Players must be timely with their screen taps in order to maximize their damage output, while also minimizing the damage dealt to them. This makes for a much more engaging combat system, as you can’t divert your attention during enemy turns.

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Player take control of Steven and the three Crystal Gems: Garnet, Amethyst and Pearl (and Steven!). Garnet has the greatest damage output, and eventually gains access to a very potent spread move. Amethyst focuses on spread moves and single target attack debuffs, while Pearl is somewhere in between. Steven takes on a supportive role, meaning he can boost the Gems’ stats, heal them and even equip them with his special Bubble Shield.

Rather than a traditional turn based system, where each character gets on move per turn, Attack The Light gives Steven and the Gems a shared pool of Star Points to use, with every ability expending a variable amount of points.The characters’ most basic abilities use about one to three points, but many of the more powerful ones such as Garnet’s Rocket Punch and Pearl’s Fireball can cost upwards of six.

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The team starts with five Star Points, and Steven has access to various forms of Star Fruit that can increase their point total. In addition, all of your points don’t have to be spent in one turn, so any that you hold on to will carry over to your next turn, for a maximum of nine. The point system is a great way to give the player plenty of choices during battle, but it is also very easy to abuse.

Star Fruits are so common that you never really run out of them, meaning you can fire off powerful attacks while also running maintenance on your party’s stats. This makes Attack The Light a rather easy game, but players looking for a greater challenge can turn on Diamond Mode, which increases enemy damage, and limits your defensive options.

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Attack The Light lacks a proper armor and equipment system, instead allowing each Gem to equip up to two badges. These badges, which can be found in the field, give the Gems a variety of passive abilities like health recovery, increased defense and resistance to status ailments.

The game also has a structure that is totally befitting of a mobile game. Instead of having one large overworld, Attack The Light has a world map that would be right at home in a Mario platformer. There are a handful or worlds, each containing about six levels packed with enemies to fight, treasure to find and secret areas to explore. These levels take about 10-15 minutes to complete, making Attack The Light a very easy game to pick up and play.

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Steven Universe: Attack The Light is a great example of a game understanding its platform. A more standard RPG would have been a bit tiring to play on a smartphone, but Attack The Light was short and sweet enough to keep me entertained for the handful of hours I spent with it.

It was deep enough to hold my interest, but not so much that I ever felt overwhelmed. I’d recommend it to any fan of the show, or anybody looking for a more traditional gaming experience on their mobile device.

 

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs’

Disney Animated Canon: ‘Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs’

The historical facts found in this piece were pulled from personal knowledge, as well as the various bonus features that can be found in the Walt Disney Signature Collection release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

The Walt Disney Animation company is the house that was built by a mouse. The foundation for everything that the company represents today was established by the Mickey Mouse shorts from the Golden Age of animation, starting with 1928’s Steamboat Willie.

But in order for any structure to remain stable and prosperous for decade after decade, a few renovations need to be made here and there. Mickey Mouse may be the foundation, but 1937’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs forever altered the course of not only Disney, but the entirety of the animation industry.

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Walt Disney was inspired to make Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs after witnessing a silent film based on the fairy tale during his childhood. After returning home from a trip to Europe in 1935, Walt began assembling the team that would ultimately create the world’s first piece of feature length animation.

But why did Walt even want to make feature length animation? When word spread about the project, the film was infamously derided as “Disney’s Folly”, and certain critics even believed that the bright colors that accompany long form animation would cause eye strain for the viewers.

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Making matters worse was the film’s ever increasing budget. Walt initially projected the film to cost $250,000 to make, and this number quickly became $400,000. From here, the budget continue to grow until Roy Disney, Walt’s brother, told him that he would have to present the film (in an unfinished state, mind you) to the banks in order to garner further investment.

But against all odds, Walt and his team pushed through. One reason for Walt’s fervor was his belief that feature length animation was the future of the medium, and instrumental to its longevity. Before Snow White, animation came largely in the form of theatrical shorts that were focused on comedy and gags, and while there are plenty of laughs to be had in Snow White, Disney specifically aimed for a higher level of storytelling with this project.

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“With every laugh, there must be a tear”. This famous quote by Walt perfectly encapsulates the tone and theming of Snow White. The film is funny, charming and whimsical, but also has its moments of profound sadness. The ending is especially poignant, as the viewer is forced to see the normally cheerful Dwarfs in tears over the loss of their friend.

Just as memorable as the tears that followed the end of the film’s story, was the music. When discussing the film’s soundtrack, Walt stated that music would be the thing that stayed with the audience long after their initial viewing. In addition, it was crucial that each song tied into the narrative in some way, even if it’s something as simple as Snow White and her animal companions singing Whistle While You Work as they clean the Dwarf’s cottage.

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs featured a number of key animators whose efforts were a large part in crafting the film’s distinct visual style. Albert Hurter and Gustaf Tenggren inspired the team with their European artist sensibilities, while famous Disney artist Fred Moore debuted what we recognize as Disney’s aesthetic. But my favorite tidbit about the film’s animation is the fact that Arthur “Art” Babbitt, the creator of Goofy, was charged with animating the Evil Queen, a stark contrast to say the least.

Snow White is one of the best examples I’ve seen of a team that took advantage of every scene in the film. Not a single frame of animation is wasted. Snow White’s hand motions as she scrubs the cobblestones have meaning, Dopey’s hitch step that was given to him by animator Frank Thomas has meaning, even the Queen’s exaggerated arm motions have meaning. Every shot in Snow White looked like it received an equal amount of attention, and the film has aged incredibly well as a result.

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I’ve said quite a bit about this film without talking about the titular characters, but they are what actually sell the film. Snow White is the first Disney Princess, and as such, she is the standard to which all subsequent Princesses must be held to. Famous Art Director Michael Giaimo stated that it is difficult for a film to not be evocative of the time in which it was made. This means Snow White, as a female, can be a bit more reactive as opposed to proactive at times.

But having said that, I never felt that it made her any less endearing as a character. She is a great representation of some of the most basic, but important human qualities. She is kind, loving and generous, but she’s also not afraid to give Grumpy a playful ribbing every now and again. You can genuinely see bits and pieces of Snow White in every other Disney Princess.

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The Dwarfs themselves are all amazing and unique characters, and they are the source of most of the film’s gags. One would think that having seven different characters of similar physical stature (short with beards) would make each Dwarf less distinct as an individual. But somehow, the team was able to really flesh out each of their personalities.

Each Dwarf has a name that gives somewhat of a surface level idea of who they should be. These names manifest mostly in the form of adjectives, giving us Dwarfs named Sleepy, Bashful and Happy. Some people may find the Dwarfs to be rather one note as a result, but I found myself recalling specific moments focusing on each of them after the film ended.

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The legacy of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs cannot be understated. Symbols like the poisoned apple, the Magic Mirror and Snow White’s fair visage have become permanently ingrained in our culture, and the film gave us the Walt Disney company whose creations take residence in the memories of every child..

The film’s production is the most important story in all of animation history. It is impossible to predict what the future of the medium would have been had it not evolved past the animated short, and the fruits of Disney’s labor were so sweet that the film was immediately regarded as a classic. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs paved the way for all of the stories that are etched into my heart, and for animation to be as prosperous as it is to this day.