The Great Animation Movie Debate!

Inside-Out

I texted a good friend of mine the other day bragging about the perfect reviews Pixar’s Inside Out is garnishing (an extremely rare 100% on Rotten Tomatoes). A month before its release, critics are calling it emotional, inventive, and the best Pixar film to date. It’s also clear that the animated movie deals with some pretty heady stuff, as is common with Pixar movies. The newest installment deals with the emotional struggles that an adolescent girl deals with as life upends itself on her.

My friend told me that he’s uncomfortable letting his young kids watch Pixar movies because he doesn’t think they need to be thinking about the thematic elements that Pixar surrounds their stories around. Some examples being:

* The reality of death in Up

* Breaking away from parental control as demonstrated in Finding NemoEJyZlRLgPBsl

* Shedding childhood bliss as Andy – and his toys – did in that tear-jerking scene in Bonnie’s front yard

* Coming to terms with the fact that you, in fact, cannot be anything you want to be as Mike Wazowski discovers in Monsters University

*Learning that the world may not accept you no matter how talented you are like in Ratatouille

And the list goes on.

Pixar, though fun and inventive, certainly unlocks the hard truths of life, exposing kids to life’s uncertainties and reminding grown ups of the unavoidable hardships we all encounter.

My friend certainly does have a point about Pixar movies tending to dwell on the darker side of things. He said he had an issue with Pixar trying to fit these adult themes into movies that are intended to be for kids and asserted that they actually are better for just adults.

I wonder if that would be a point of pride for the Pixar guys. I, of course, responded that that’s what I love about swastikathem! (I’ve alluded a while back that I’m working on a young reader’s novel that takes place in 1940’s Germany … so I’m all for darker subject matter.)

He went on to say that Pixar movies introduces all these issues that his kids shouldn’t have to be thinking about, which is something I can appreciate, for sure. But I think that’s what separates more protective parents like him from guys like me who, if my daughter bumps her head, I tell her to shake it off and that’s life (I’m working on being more sensitive).

But I prefer to introduce these issues to our kids at a young age so that they kind of morph into grown ups with the basics of life – the good and the bad – already tucked away so there’s no surprises. But then, there’s something to be said about nurturing childhood innocence as well…

He concluded our debate by saying, “We were just at Disneyland yesterday and I couldn’t help but think that anytime Disney teams up with Pixar they lose a little of that original magic in [an] attempt to make a film more ‘authentic’ emotionally.”

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I feel like I’m caught in the middle of my two best friends who hate each other and my loyalties are being tested. But I’ll keep trying to convince him that Pixar movies are way more effective than the Looney Tunes-like Dreamworks abominations, fit for Saturday morning television, and I’ll continue to catechize my kids in the way of Pixar and be ready to answer any tough question they might bring me (except I’m going to hold off on showing them Toy Story 3 for a long, long time).

What are your thoughts on the debate? Are Pixar films too adult for children? Is it better to let them carry on in childlike innocence and hide them away from the fears and uncertainties of the world? Share your input below and join my new Facebook author page for more fun stuff!

In Remembrance of the Many

Memorial-Day

At this time of year, when Americans kick off their summers with holiday vacations and barbecues, it is good to pause and remember our countrymen (and women) who have answered the call to serve, especially those who made the ultimate sacrifices.

Please feel free to list the names of those you know who served our country so that we may know their names.

Conflict                                                U.S. Military Deaths

Revolutionary War (1775-1783)            25,000

War of 1812 (1812-1815)                       20,000

Mexican War (1846-1848)                      13,300

Civil War (1861-1865)

Union                                                        360,000

Confederate                                              260,000

Spanish-American War (1898)                   2,500

World War I (1917-1918)                            116,500

World War II (1941-1945)                           405,400

Korean War (1964-1973)                            36,600

Vietnam War (1964-1973)                           58,200

Persian Gulf War (1990-1991)                    380

Afghanistan (2001-present)                        500+

Iraq War (2003-2011)                                  4,700

A Beautiful Mind and Death

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My last post was about ignorance being bliss and I cited A Beautiful Mind as an example of this. The next day, yesterday, it had been reported that the subjects of the film John Nash and his wife Alicia were killed in a taxi cab accident.

It’s so sad when we lose such good and admirable people such as the Nash’s. As a small tribute I am pasting my thoughts on A Beautiful Mind below, hoping it spurs on a new generation of viewers and prompts old friends to re-watch this beautiful love story.

As tragic as their deaths is, it’s still beautiful to see that they died together.

Posted on February, 2014

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A Beautiful Mind

To some, this may just be a movie about a brilliant man with a psychological disorder. To others, it’s a really fascinating biography. Either way, it’s a movie not to be missed by anyone for any reason. But when I watch this movie, I see a love story at its finest. Watch it from the wife’s point of view. By the world’s standards, she had every reason to leave him, and few would have blamed her. But for a woman to choose to stay married to a man as impulsive and potentially dangerous as John Nash, simply out of love – that speaks volumes to me that Ron Howard and the makers of this film, not to mention the real life couple this movie portrays, really understand what true love can be.

How Ignorance Can Be Your Best Tool

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When I was young I used to think I would make it big in this would and it would be a piece of cake. I used to think that if you wanted something done, you just called someone up or wrote a letter, snapped your fingers, and you got what you wanted.

And then I grew up.

And every. Single. Thing. Is. Difficult.

Raising kids is difficult. Marriage is difficult. Work is difficult. Solving the world’s problems is difficult. Every single thing is difficult.

True as that may be, I think it’s time to go back to the mindset of an ignorant child. Because at least then, everything was possible. Nothing was impossible. And few things were difficult.

In one of my favorite movies, A Beautiful Mind, John Nash is plagued with Schizophrenia and he sees people that others don’t see – they’re imaginary. By the film’s end he isn’t cured of his disease, but he functions like the rest of us because, even though his imaginary people keep showing up and talking to him, he chooses to ignore them.

I like to think that the doubts instilled in us as we grow older are like those imaginary people. We can choose to ignore them – they’ll still be there, but we choose to press on with our goals, our tasks, our dreams.

Your doubts will never leave you, but you don’t have to pay them any attention. You owe them nothing.

And who knows. Maybe ignorance can be bliss.

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Pixar Movies: Toy Story

toy-story1

As you know, I’m really really looking forward to Pixar’s newest movie Inside Out which comes out in one month. MV5BOTgxMDQwMDk0OF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNjU5OTg2NDE@._V1_SX214_AL_Sadly though, this will be my first Pixar movie since A Bug’s Life that I will not be able to see in theaters. Our daughter’s not old enough and I’m not going without my wife and trying to convince my work buddies to go see an animated movie with me would be kinda awkward (at least there’s Jurassic World which we plan on seeing).

So I’m gonna have to wait until it comes on DVD sometime in November.

It’ll be a hard wait, but I’ve got a little countdown going on: I get to watch two Pixar movies a month. By the time I reach the last one, I’ll finally get to watch Inside Out.

So I watched Toy Story last night. What made the movie so popular? What’s the genius behind it? What’s the allure that still holds up today, twenty years later? To be blunt, what makes it so flawless?

Uncle Walt’s nephew, Roy Disney said that every single frame in the movie pushes the story forward.

And I think that’s it. Not a single frame is wasted. The movie makers really did a magnificent job of getting inside a toy’s psych: What makes a toy happy? (To have his purpose fulfilled and be played with.) What is his greatest fear? (To be replaced or lost.) And the movie answers those questions, and not only that, every single person on the planet can relate with these characters.

And the movie broke three rules in the animation genre at the time (I’m shameless enough to admit that I pointed them out when I saw it in the theaters at twelve years old):

screenshot-med-011) It was the first animated movie that was also a buddy movie, where the protagonists had to overcome their stubborn differences to meet a common goal. (Disney was against this, not wanting to break the rule, but the Pixar guys held firm.)

2) The songs were voiced over, not sung by the characters. (The Rescuers did this, too, but not to enhance the story.)

3) It’s the first time the opening credits appeared on screen after the start of the movie, which gave it (and still gives it) a more mature feel, like, this movie isn’t just for kids.

Toy Stoy is one of my desert island movies for sure. I can watch it over and over and not get bored with it, always finding something new (I can’t wait till my kids can start watching it!). And indeed, when I write, I go to movies like Toy Story, and I ask myself continually, What did these guys do so right? 

They told a clear story without wasting time and they dared to break the rules.

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Music: She and Him

she_and_himYou remember the movie Elf, right? Or one of my favorites, 500 Days of Summer? That girl in those movies, Zooey Deschanel, is a singer as she shows a little in those movies. It’s her and another guy (M. Ward) in a band called She and Him. I wanted to share this band, as I’ll be doing more of, because it’s one of my favorite genres where the genre is alternative, the music is new, but it evokes the retro sound of pop 50’s music.

Very classical, very smooth, and very cool.

I love dancing around the house with our foster daughter – it’s a good pacifier for her when she’s throwing a tantrum. That’s how happy and upbeat this music is.

The duo has three albums out, plus a Christmas CD. Head on over to iTunes and grab some songs for your listening pleasure. Your day is about to get better!

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Favorite songs:

Don’t Look Back

Somebody Sweet To Talk To

Sweet Darlin’

Over and Over Again

I Could’ve Been Your Girl

I’ve Got Your Number Son

I Was Made For You

In The Sun

Sugar Town

Enjoy This Mother’s Day Treat

Happy Mother’s Day. Enjoy a hilarious Youtube video by my favorite video guys.

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