November 10, 2012

Ur Doin It Rite Disney

My two favourite current cartoons are both Disney productions. This is pretty unusual for me.

I think Wreck-It Ralph is their strongest movie in a long time (some might prefer Tangled, but it didn't do much for me apart from the visuals). I was initially eager to see Ralph because classic Simpsons vets Rich Moore and Jim Reardon worked on the story, with Moore also directing. The cast was another reason I wanted to see it-- It's rare that the celebrity-casting shtick in big-deal animated movies actually pays off, but John C. Reilly, Sarah Silverman, Jack McBrayer and Jane Lynch all have distinctive voices that fit their roles perfectly, especially Reilly. Mainly because they're all character actors rather than the kind of generic "whoever's big right now" teen stars or A-listers with dull voices that are often chosen.

I was also surprised to see some very nice snappy animation on the King Candy character, and lots of subtle details in Vanellope's acting; things like her playing with the strings on her hoodie while Ralph is talking to her. I thought the emotional parts of the story worked well, such as the scene where (SPOILER) Ralph is forced to destroy Vanellope's car.

I loved how they incorporated ideas like lost levels, hacks and glitch characters into the original games they created for the story. I wasn't expecting them to go so deep into those kinds of video game "secrets" and it took me back to the days of poring over "Secrets of Sonic the Hedgehog" websites, and trying to learn out about the hidden glitches in Pokemon Red and Blue. I know some people were hoping for more jumping through different game genre parodies rather than the characters staying in one game for the second half of the movie, but I didn't mind. It wasn't a road movie, and the point wasn't just to make video game jokes-- it was to tell an actual story too, and I think they did a good job doing both.

The other new Disney production I really like is Gravity Falls. I can't remember liking any American cartoon this much since Clone High (has it really been a decade since that aired?!) The humour on the show has a similar sensibility to the latter, as well as the Simpsons during its peak years. This is even more impressive when you realize that it's allegedly aimed at kids. The direction is tight, the backgrounds are nicely colored and full of hidden jokes, and the voices are all excellent. Kristen Schall is obviously the standout as Mabel, who often comes off as a little-girl version of classic Homer Simpson. Series creator Alex Hirsch also does a great job as Grunkle Stan and Soos. And Neil Hamburger plays a recurring character!
The show also features my favourite kind of plotting -- the episodes each tell a self-contained story, but they're gradually building a larger narrative through minor events in each episode and background details. In short, it's amazing. If you're not already watching it, you should be!


Alex Printz said...

I loved wreck it ralph... we got our school to pay for midnight tickets to go see it (our excuse was that an alumni was on the production team.) Being a classic gamer the attention to the detail of the video games was really thrilling, but not overbearing in telling the story. I really liked how the story seemed to weave in and out of itself, and some points it became questionable if the movie actually knew where it was going. The peak of the movie was slightly disappointing and really cliche disney feeling, but other than that it was great.

I'll have to check out an episode of gravity falls. I've been hearing good stuff about it, but I've never taken a look.

Aaron Long said...

Hi Alex,

I agree that the many story threads were handled well, and that some parts of the climax and ending felt kind of contrived. I did like the way they subverted the final reveal of Vanellope by having her reject it.