Posts Tagged ‘Cartoon Network’

Sam is joined by her friends Sean and Cara to talk with Phil LaMarr and boy does it get nerdy! Phil is the nerd’s nerd, the geek’s geek and the group get into animation, Star Wars, comic books, Lord of the Rings, and other topics!

Phil LaMarr

Website: http://www.phillamarr.com
Twitter: @phillamarr

Intro music: “French Kiss” by Mrs. Howl
http://mrshowl.bandcamp.com/
http://www.reverbnation.com/mrshowl

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The path of a fairy tale, like those of myths and legends, rarely runs smooth. Though a happy ending is the goal, it’s only achieved by braving the challenges that lay ahead and finding your way through the darkness. In the end, something has changed and you’re never the same. Depending on the fairy tale, this is either good or…bittersweet. Fairy tales in the times of the Brothers Grimm or Hans Christian Andersen were morality tales, teaching tools mostly designed to scare the ever-loving bejeezus out of children and ensure obedience. They weren’t without their moments of whimsy, though, spinning stories of far away lands, princes and princesses, and mysterious creatures in need of slaying. Or, should a more realistic setting be required, adventure could be found (and lessons be taught) by simply journeying outside the safety and security of home. Over the Garden Wall, the first mini-series produced by Cartoon Network, is the modern kin to the fairy tales we grew up with as children. Channeled through the medium of animation, Over the Garden Wall throws us into a world of imaginative whimsy but isn’t afraid to tackle the darker aspects of venturing into the unknown.

Airing two chapters over five consecutive days, Over the Garden Wall, adapted from creator/writer Patrick McHale’s short, Tome of the Unknown, follows brothers Wirt (Elijah Wood) and Gregory (Collin Dean), with the aid of a cursed bluebird named Beatrice (Melanie Lynskey), as they try to find their way home. Heeding the words of an old Woodsman (Christopher Lloyd), the boys try their best to avoid the Beast (Samuel Ramey) that stalks the forest, though his influence is never far from them as they meet all manner of folk along the way. It’s only in facing the darkness do Wirt and Gregory discover how far they’re willing to go for each other before they can return to the world they know.

Wirt and GregLike the fairy tales and folklore from which it draws inspiration, Over the Garden Wall is more about the journey than it is the destination. Wirt and Gregory are as different as two brothers can be: Wirt is a fretful, bumbling teenager unsure of himself in almost every way while Greg is an unabashedly gleeful child who questions very little about the absurdity surrounding them. The strength of their bond as brothers, however, is where the heart of the mini-series lies. Wirt assumes the more traditional hero’s journey – the denizens of a tavern go so far as to label him a Pilgrim. Along the way, as he tries to get himself and Greg home, he gains the confidence needed to match his cleverness, becomes slightly more assertive, but ultimately accepts his role as an older brother with all the maturity and responsibility that goes with it; laying aside blame, resentment, and embarrassment in order to protect Greg – unless it’s comedically suitable for him to runaway in fear, abandoning his brother to a feral dog. Greg doesn’t necessarily go through the same journey as his brother, but his time in the woods still imparts a measure of maturity into a carefree child who would follow the wind if he thought it would lead him to something fun.

Described as a “comedy-fantasy”, Over the Garden Wall maintains a level of absurdity and the fantastical reminiscent of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. Animals act like humans, attending school or riding a riverboat like the well-to-do, and humans sing ridiculously long songs about lost loves to teach the alphabet or build enormous mansions that end up running into each other. There’s also a darker underlying tone to the mini-series that invokes classic Americana and folk tales. Skeletons dressing up in pumpkins, the woodsman grinding trees for oil to keep his frogslantern lit and his daughter’s soul alive, and an old woman in possession of a pair of scissors capable of turning birds into humans by cutting off their wings are unsettling and frightening images. Which is kind of the point. Neither comedy nor fantasy implies everything will be sunshine and rainbows. There’s plenty of humor to be had, a lot actually, but it’s needed to balance out the darker moments of the story. Over the Garden Wall doesn’t go so far as to have limbs cut off or use gore to frighten the audience, but the imagery of the Beast with his antlers and glowing eyes in the darkness is what sticks with you long after the credits roll. And once you find out which garden wall the title is talking about…well, some things are better left unsaid.

rsz_the_beast_-_2_4613The humor of the mini-series is multi-layered, containing slapstick, quick asides, and straight up nonsense. Beatrice and Wirt exchange quick-witted barbs while Greg goes about his business renaming his pet frog, throwing out candy from his pants, and trumpeting his presence as he marches through the woods with a teapot on his head. My favorite bit, though, belongs to Fred the Horse (voiced by Fred Stoller). In need of money to take the ferry to Adelaide, the Good Woman of the Woods’ house, Beatrice and Fred insist that stealing money from the possibly mad, but very wealthy Quincy Endicott (voiced by John Cleese) is the only option available. When Wirt believes Fred should do as he pleases, he’s free to do as he wants, Fred reiterates this fact. He is free. Free to steal.

Tying everything together is the animation and the music. Based on the designs of Mikkel Sommer, the characters all dress in a manner that has an Old World feel ranging from 19th century European to early 20th century American styles. Until we jump back to see how Wirt and Gregory actually got lost in the first place, any indication that they come from the modern world is moderately doled out over the course of the series. For all intents and purposes, Wirt’s young David the Gnome outfit and Greg’s “elephant” costume fit right in. The art direction from Nick Cross and the animation borrow from multiple styles as well. Though the initial inspiration was Gustave Doré and the “Alice Comedies”, there are deliberate allusions to Hayao Miyazaki in the form of Auntie Whispers (voiced by Tim Curry) and an entire dream sequence in the style of Golden Age cartoons like Merrie Melodies and Silly Symphonies. Like the animation, the music jumps around from the operatic singing of Samuel Ramey to ragtime and folk music with the occasional earworm jingle like “Potatoes and Molasses” and “To Adelaide”.

For their first foray into animated miniseries, Cartoon Network picked a good one to start with. Over the Garden Wall is well paced, funny, and contains a world full of likable and fearsome characters that should delight children of all ages. The show doesn’t talk down to its audience, trusting young ones and adults alike to see the nuances or just enjoy themselves. It’s definitely a fairy tale worth watching over and over again.

Sam goes one-on-one with Andy Suriano, artist and sometimes writer for the Samurai Jack comic book. Andy was also the concept and storyboard artist for Samurai Jack the cartoon and has worked on a number of other animated programs like Sym-Bionic Titan and the current TMNT cartoon for Nickelodeon.

SamJack_03-pr-2This was originally posted at Word of the Nerd on December 20th.

You know you’re in good hands when the opening of every comic includes the insanely awesome and informative opening sequence from the cartoon! Yes, the fan favorite/cult classic/just plain classic cartoon, Samurai Jack, has returned to us in comic book form.

Written by Jim Zub (Skullkickers) and drawn by Andy Suriano, the new Samurai Jack comic stays true to the episodic nature of the cartoon while giving Jack a specific goal in his quest to return to his home and proper time period so he can vanquish the demonic Aku. The “Threads of Time” arc sees Jack gathering threads from the broken Rope of Eons, which Aku frayed when he mastered time travel. Once Jack has recovered the threads, he’ll be able to rewind the rope and rewind time. In the first issue, Jack faced a group of gladiators fighting in an underground arena overseen by a malicious spider. While in the second, he went up against twin cats named Dis and Dat who used their thread to synchronize their attacks. Besting all of them, Jack prevails, but he’s not without his setbacks as each new foe challenges and pushes him further. No matter what, Jack is still a warrior possessed with determination to complete his quest.

Samurai JackIssue three finds Jack in the village of Grantus, a peaceful place under the protection of the affable Gloer the Great who grants Jack shelter, food and a little sparring practice. All in good fun though. The only downside seems to be that the people of Grantus ignore Jack, but Gloer assures him that they’ve been encouraged to ignore strangers until they’ve been around long enough to not be strangers. Everything changes, however, when Aku’s robotic forces attack Grantus and Jack learns the shocking truth about Gloer.

The issues thus far have been worthy successors to Genndy Tartakovsky’s cartoon. Jim Zub has crafted an arc that stays true to the character and his motivations while also giving Jack ample reason to show off his impressive fighting techniques. The shift in medium obviously makes the storytelling process a bit different, requiring more narration and dialogue in cases where the cartoon would have relied on atmosphere and silence. Not that this can’t be accomplished in a comic, but Zub has to work a bit harder to retain the spirit of Jack’s character and the world he inhabits. Thankfully, Zub keeps Jack’s dialogue to a minimum when he can, relying on the dialogue of other characters to fill in the blanks or letting the art of Andy Suriano speak for the comic. Suriano, by the way, knocks it out of the park with his work, which makes sense since he worked on the Samurai Jack cartoon as a character designer. But in the pages of the comic he gets to bring the epicness of Jack’s quest to life. You never doubt this is Samurai Jack and if I can’t have the cartoon, then at least I can have the comic.

Final Thoughts: If you love Samurai Jack, then you should be reading this comic. Try and read the opening segment without hearing the voice of the late Mako as Aku. I dare you!

Fatman on Batman

If you’re a fan of DC Comics and all things Batman (which I am), then you’re probably aware of Kevin Smith’s podcast Fatman on Batman where Silent Bob himself talks to pretty much anyone who’s been involved with the Dark Knight in some capacity. It’s a celebration of the Bat and it gives Smith a reason to fanboy out much to all of our delight.

Recently, Smith brought back Paul Dini (Batman: The Animated Series, Mad Love, Batman Beyond, Justice League, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H.) to the Fat-cave for a two-part discussion of what were supposed to be minor bits and ephemera concerning Batman and the various properties with which Dini has been involved. In the second part, however, during a discussion of the probable cancellation of Beware the Batman on Cartoon Network (CN), Dini spilled the beans on how executives at Cartoon Network regard their female viewers. The short answer is: They don’t want them.

Apologies for how long this transcript is, made possible by Vi at A Bird’s Word on tumblr, but it’s worth reading the entire conversation as well as Smith’s response. Or, you can download the podcast and just listen to it because it gets very real when the two start talking about the harsh reality of why girls are marginalized.

First he talks about the cancellation of Young Justice and Dini’s own show Tower Prep for CN:

“But then, there’s been this weird—there’s been a, a sudden trend in animation, with super-heroes. Like, ‘it’s too old. It’s too old for our audience, and it has to be younger. It has to be funnier.‘ And that’s when I watch the first couple of episodes of Teen Titans Go!, it’s like those are the wacky moments in the Teen Titans cartoon, without any of the more serious moments. ‘Let’s just do them all fighting over pizza, or running around crazy and everything, ’cause our audience—the audience we wanna go after, is not the Young Justice audience any more. We wanna go after little kids, who are into—boys who are into goofy humor, goofy random humor, like on Adventure Time or Regular Show. We wanna do that goofy, that sense of humor, that’s where we’re going for.’

Then Dini hits us where we hurt:

DINI: “They’re all for boys ’we do not want the girls’, I mean, I’ve heard executives say this, you know, not Ryan(?) but at other places, saying like, ‘We do not want girls watching this show.”

SMITH: “WHY? That’s 51% of the population.”

DINI: “They. Do. Not. Buy. Toys. The girls buy different toys. The girls may watch the show—”

SMITH: “So you can sell them T-shirts if they don’t—A: I disagree, I think girls buy toys as well, I mean not as many as f***ing boys do, but, B: sell them something else, man! Don’t be lazy and be like, ‘well I can’t sell a girl a toy.’ Sell ‘em a T-shirt, man, sell them f***ing umbrella with the f***ing character on it, something like that. But if it’s not a toy, there’s something else you could sell ‘em! Like, just because you can’t figure out your job, don’t kill chances of, like, something that’s gonna reach an audi—that’s just so self-defeating, when people go, like… these are the same fuckers who go, like, ‘Oh, girls don’t read comics, girls aren’t into comics.’ It’s all self-fulfilling prophecies. They just make it that way, by going like, ‘I can’t sell ‘em a toy, what’s the point?’

DINI: “That’s the thing, you know I hate being Mr. Sour Grapes here, but I’ll just lay it on the line: that’s the thing that got us cancelled on Tower Prep, honest-to-God was, like, ‘we need boys, but we need girls right there, right one step behind the boys’—this is the network talking—’one step behind the boys, not as smart as the boys, not as interesting as the boys, but right there.’ And then we began writing stories that got into the two girls’ back stories, and they were really interesting. And suddenly we had families and girls watching, and girls really became a big part of our audience, in sort of like they picked up that Harry Potter type of serialized way, which is what The Batman and [indistinct]’s really gonna kill. But, the Cartoon Network was saying, ‘F***, no, we want the boys’ action, it’s boys’ action, this goofy boy humor we’ve gotta get that in there. And we can’t—’ and I’d say, but look at the numbers, we’ve got parents watching, with the families, and then when you break it down—’Yeah, but the—so many—we’ve got too many girls. We need more boys.’”

SMITH: “That’s heart-breaking.”

DINI: “And then that’s why they cancelled us, and they put on a show called Level Up, which is, you know, goofy nerds fighting CG monsters. It’s like, ‘We don’t want the girls because the girls won’t buy toys.’ We had a whole… we had a whole, a merchandise line for Tower Prep that they s***canned before it ever got off the launching pad, because it’s like, ‘Boys, boys, boys. Boys buy the little spinny tops, they but the action figures, girls buy princesses, we’re not selling princesses.’

paul-dini-kevin-smith-cartoon-network-gi

Not this one

There are so many things wrong with this picture.

I just wanna get this out of the way first: “goofy” humor is not a sign of quality in a show. It is an aspect of a show like drama, action, or any number of genres, but it isn’t the only reason people watch Adventure Time or why they watched the original Teen Titans. I personally don’t watch Adventure Time, but I know there’s far more to the show than surrealist imagery and random humor. Teen Titans was also a cartoon that, while it had a lot of humor and anime influences, told mature and sometimes darker stories. Young Justice and Green Lantern had the same mix of action, humor, and quality storytelling. Apparently the people at Cartoon Network really don’t understand why their shows are popular.

Secondly, toy sales should not be the determining factor in the lifespan of a children’s show. They’re not reflective of the actual viewership of the show and with families needing to cut down on spending due to the slow rise of the economy there could be people out there who would normally buy those toys for their kids but can’t afford to. And like Smith says, if merchandise is your ultimate signpost of popularity, then find a way to sell to boys and girls! Superhero_superman_supergirl_batgirl_batman_child_photoshoot_Albuquerque_Photographer_02(pp_w907_h604)

Which leads into the third issue: GIRLS WATCH CARTOONS ABOUT SUPERHEROES! GIRLS WATCH CARTOONS WITH “GOOFY HUMOR”! GIRLS WATCH CARTOONS, PERIOD! GIRLS BUY TOYS AND OTHER MERCHANDISE BASED ON SAID CARTOONS! Is it really that hard to wrap your head around this fact? Girls aren’t different and they aren’t hard to figure out when it comes to the things they pester their parents to buy. But to cordon girls off from your product based on a preconceived and ridiculously ignorant notion of gender stereotypes, you’re inevitably sealing the fate of your show. Like Smith said, girls and women are 51% of the population and they make up the same demographic percentage when it comes to the media they consume. Nothing, not cartoons, comic books, movies, television shows, games, or princesses for that matter, belongs to one gender. You can sell the same products to girls that you do to boys. The executives at Cartoon Network, and for that matter, the executives of any company that maintain this mindset, obviously do not understand how to do their job.

You know what, I’m just gonna head over to my hittin’ wall and bash my head against it a few times. Maybe then I’ll be able to better understand how these people think. Also, let us now have a moment of silence as the quality of my writing goes right down the tube.