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!

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.

Pixar Movies: Toy Story

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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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And the Best Mexican Movie Ever Is…

In honor of Cinco De Mayo (my third favorite holiday), and as a huge fan of Steve Martin and Martin Short, I’d like to pay homage to a Mexican/American classic, The Three Amigos. Enjoy and celebrate with all the burritos, tacos, and queso you can stuff your cara with! De nada.

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Big Hero Six Review

BIG HERO 6Finally got to watch Disney’s newest animated movie Big Hero 6.

Not surprisingly, I loved it. And yes, that could be due to the fact that I’m biased toward Disney movies once again (I mean, who hasn’t been the last ten years?).

I think it’s great that Disney is expanding its universe into unfamiliar (to me, anyway) territories such as anime comics, which is what Big Hero 6 is based off of.

Who’d have known Anime could be so much fun and original? Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure Disney took some major creative liberties to get it up on screen, but the fact that they’re reaching out and making unknown stories known, I think is a good thing.

Now about the movie itself. While it doesn’t linger long in your mind like Frozen did, and it’s not as emotionally gut-wrenching as Meet the RobinsonsBig Hero 6 delivers in all the ways a Disney movie should – with some new twists and extremely poignant scenes.

You’ll no doubt fall in love with Baymax and Hiro the moment they’re introduced, and the lesson about letting go is a really tough one to teach kids and teenagers, and I think Disney does a superb job of getting the point across and creative an avenue for parents to talk to their kids about death.

Lots of fun. Great visuals, tons of humor, and dark action make this an awesome film for your next family movie night. Keep ’em coming, Disney. Share your thoughts of Big Hero 6 below.

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What I Learned From Michael Scott

With Christmas being over and taxes coming up, I figured it was time for a laugh. Sarabeth and I are currently watching The Office literally for the 4th or 5th time. Saturdays are our most stressful day of the week, so that’s the night we turn on the next episode and let go of all our worries and every time we have a really good laugh (it’s good therapy).

So below I have listed some things that we’ve learned from Michael Scott over the years, and perhaps you can list a few more…

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Don’t promise an entire class of kids that you’ll pay their college tuition until you have the funds to do so.

Don’t write an age-sensitive joke in a woman’s “bird-day” card.

Don’t conduct a meeting on obesity dressed in a fat suit.

If you’re going to fake-fire someone, make sure you have the punch-line right. (“You’ve been X’d, punk!”)

You can’t declare bankruptcy by yelling it.

Giving mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to a dead bird does nothing.

Clear it with your boss before you announce in front of the whole company what branch is closing down.

If you’re trying to catch the ice cream man, make sure you open the screen door first.

Don’t hold a roast in honor of yourself. It actually might hurt your feelings.

It is, in fact, a “dog-eat-dog world,” not a “doggie-dog world.”

Abraham Lincoln never said, “I will attack you with the north.” (Though it has long been our favorite Lincolnian saying in our house.)

If you’re going to a job fair to represent a paper company, you might want to have some paper with you.

Don’t hold the pizza delivery guy hostage just so you can get your discount.

Watch out for indoor ponds.

Just because someone says, “What’s up-dog?” doesn’t mean the joke’s over.

Feel free to add your own favorite Office moments.

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2015 Movies That Will Likely Kick Butt

A friend of mine mentioned that we need to take advantage of $5 movie nights more often, so that got me wondering what all’s coming out next year. Here’s a list of 2015 movies I’m super excited about and will gladly spend $5 or more to see in theaters. These are listed in order of release. (Click on the titles to be taken to the trailer.)

heart of sea

 

In the Heart of the Sea

Ron Howard, one of the greatest directors of all time in my opinion, returns to what he’s best at doing in this story about a crew of whale hunters who set out to find the real Moby Dick.

 

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Tomorrowland

Brad Bird, a Toy family favorite (Iron Giant, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, M:I – Ghost Protocol) returns to Disney and directs a movie that is sure to garner reinterst in Disneyland’s Tomorrowland.

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Jurassic World

I have to be honest. I don’t care if this turns out to be as bad as the second Jurassic movie. The point is, it’s dinosaurs. And they’re chasing people. It comes out on Father’s Day and I told my wife that’s what I’d like to do that Sunday. She didn’t like that idea. I mean, I’ve been waiting 65 million years for this, amiright?

inside out

Inside Out

It will have been two years with no new Pixar movie. I’m going to need this. As, I’m sure, every other Pixar fan in the world will as well.

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Pan

There have been some great Peter Pan movies in the past (Hook, Finding Neverland) and others that have fallen flat. But when I stumbled across this trailer, I’ve got to say, I can see this as being added to our growing Peter Pan collection.

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The Cobbler

With the exception of Reign Over Me, I have not been a fan of Adam Sandler since I became a grown-up (pun semi-intended). But this one actually looks promising with a pretty heavy strong emotional pull. To be honest, as a writer, I was pretty frustrated that I didn’t come up with this idea myself.

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The Walk

Good news!! Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, The Polar Express) is actually filming another live-action movie!! Hopefully he’s done with those ugly motion-sencored animated movies for good and sticks with what he’s actually good at.

Untitled Cold War Spy Thriller

They had me at Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.

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Peanuts

I can get on board with this as long as they don’t try to make it all hip and modern.

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The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part II

Good news about having to wait until Part I comes on video next year is that my wife and I won’t have to wait too terribly long to see this one. We just have to find a babysitter by then.

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The Good Dinosaur

What’s the only thing that can possibly be better than two Pixar movies in one year? A Pixar movie about dinosaurs, of course! (I’m gonna need a little boy in the family so I can have someone to share my dinosaur enthusiasm with.)

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Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens

I’m not a huge Star Wars fan, per say, but I don’t hate the franchise, either (okay, the acting is consistently bad throughout). But with Disney and J.J. Abrams pairing up, I am 100% excited about this movie. I can’t see how it can possibly be bad.

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Mission: Impossible – 5

Hated the first two Mission:Impossible movies, but 3 and 4 rocked my world (this coming from a guy who doesn’t like action movies). Bring it.

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