AniB’s 2019 Oscars Preview for Best Animated Film

As many of you may know, I do this annual piece on the Best Animated Film category for the Oscars every year. Shockingly, this is already the 3rd time I’m doing it (where does the time go?) and as usual, I’ll delve into a bit of the history behind this particular category and of course, my own prediction.

This year’s field is a far more interesting bunch, with last year’s category being dominated by the truly incredible Coco. While that film would be a favorite in pretty much any year, this crop is headlined by a truly excellent Spider-Man adaptation (Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse), two highly anticipated sequels (Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet), the seemingly annual stop-motion original flick (Isle of Dogs) and this year’s foreign film, Mirai, from Studio Chizu of Japan. A well-rounded field with 5 strong movies is never a bad thing for the category, though predicting a winner will likely comes down to some historical trends and perhaps more realistically, how many eyeballs just happened to watch each movie.

Here’s my annual preamble on the Oscars, which prefaces the next part:

Generally, I only care about results when it comes to award shows, much the same way as when I watch shows. I don’t follow the Oscars for their over-bloated pageantry, self-aggrandizing celebrities who pat each other on the back and give meaningless compliments to other influential people they know, or to watch people on the Internet have meltdowns over “x amount” of diversity or lack thereof. I’m just interested in the movies themselves, the people who put the work into said films, and the statistics behind it. So, here’s a list of the past 10 winners, with studios, to give a recent historical representation of this category (and note, the year is when the movies came out, not the award ceremony date, which is always the following year.)”:

And true to form, here’s the latest list of the past 10 winners:

2018: ?

2017: Coco (Pixar)

2016: Zootopia (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2015: Inside Out (Pixar)

2014: Big Hero 6 (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2013: Frozen (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

2012: Brave (Pixar)

2011: Rango (Paramount Pictures)

2010: Toy Story 3 (Pixar)

2009: Up (Pixar)

2008: WALL-E (Pixar)


It’s weird to think WALL-E came out 11 years ago, but it really hits you a bit more as you continue down the list of winners even past the 10 listed here. Incredibles 2, which is in the race this year, had its Oscar-winning predecessor debut back in 2004, and while the category is still young by Oscars standards, it’s rapidly approaching 20 years old. As has been the case throughout this decade, Disney and Pixar have continued to dominate the category, which historically bodes well for the the aformentioned Incredibles sequel and Ralph Breaks the Internet– but counteracting that point is all but one of these films were original franchises, the lone exception being the peerless Toy Story 3 back in 2010.

Historically, these trends continue to bode poorly for Isle of Dogs and Mirai. While both films are actually legitimate competition in this year’s field (unlike last year’s laughable nominations of Ferdinand and The Boss Baby), the last time a foreign film or a stop-motion film won was one and the same year: 2005, where as I’ve mentioned before in these Oscar pieces, was when Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit was the victor. While I’d like to see a bucking of convention, in a strong field this feels unlikely to be the year that bucks the trend, though it would be less of an upset that the theoretical ones that were proposed last year, given 2017 winner Coco’s mortal lock on the prize.

The really interesting case of the bunch is of course, Spiderverse. It’s truly an excellent film (yes, I do hope to release a review sometime) and easily the strongest and most surprising thing to ever come from Sony Animation, a studio best known for stuff like Cloudy with A Chance of Meatballs way back when (and unfortunately, The Emoiji Movie from a few years back. Bleh.) This film has done well on the awards circuit, winning the Golden Globe for this category, and in tackling the Oscars, it’s a good bet to try and break a couple of trends working against it: a general lack of superhero films winning big here, the Disney-Pixar hegemony at the top, and Sony’s frankly surprising performance to deliver an incredible adaptation that is frankly unexpected given the genuinely unremarkable track record of films they’ve produced prior to this flick.

So who is my pick? I think in a strong field, originality will win out and Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse is your likely winner, though not a complete lock at the time of writing. Incredibles 2 is my dark horse based on historical trends, and while I’m fond of Ralph, I can’t see it winning against a stacked field, as charming as it is. Even Isle of Dogs and Mirai have a shot, albeit a narrow one- and this should be a fun race to look back on. I can only hope 2019’s crop of animated films proves as entertaining for a race.


Like what you see? Have thoughts on the Oscars? Leave a comment!

Also, check out the movie reviews tab at the top for more in-depth looks at Incredibles 2 and Ralph Breaks the Internet!

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Happy New Year! 5 Characters I liked from things I watched in 2018

A quick pick of some good characters .

Alright, so today’s a more informal post for the first time in a while. I’ve been banging out a lot of reviews, so with the year coming to a close and 2019 starting, it seemed like a fun idea to look back on 5 characters I really liked from things I watched this year. That could be movies or shows, East or West- but animated, as always. (Before anyone asks: Killua is an all-time favorite. There’s also a character piece I did. Check it out if you haven’t!) There was plenty to choose from, as it’s been an action-packed year of viewing, so here we go!


Vanellope von Schweetz (Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph Breaks the Internet):

Honestly, I could (and probably will) give the sweet little racer from Disney’s Wreck-It Ralph films the full “What’s in a Character” treatment at some point, especially with 2 full movies’ worth of excellent character development, but Vanellope re-entered the scope of my mind with the sequel. A superbly fun character (voiced by Sarah Silverman, of all people) with a terrific dynamic that she has with Ralph, the regent of Sugar Rush is a surprisingly complex character, bundled into an adorable bundle of messy hair, a signature green hoodie, and boundless energy.

Yukko Aioi (Nichijou):

Nichijou, while a 2011 release in real-time, came into my life in a big way in 2018. While the many charming, quirky characters on the cast might all warrant some kind of mention, Yukko’s brand of terrible luck, persistent attempts at humor and futile battle against schoolwork all while never giving up is something to behold. Silly as Nichijou can be, it has smart moments of some pretty deep and touching stuff, and while Yukko isn’t a genius, she is someone who can be a great friend- and it’s through her actions that the robot girl Nano Shinonome is able to find comfort in the transition to being a schoolgirl, and her surprisingly up and down relationship with Mio Naganohara is a great joy of humor to watch unfold.

Anti (SSSS.Gridman):

Beyond the anime public’s adoring gaze upon Rikka Takarada and Akane Shinjo, the breakout character of this cast was none other than this man- a one-time kaiju whose initial casting drew a strong resemblance to Viral from Gurren Lagann. As time went on though, Anti’s varying hardships, coupled with his persistence in his goals (which originally was a single-minded, and I do mean single-minded obsession to destroy Gridman) found him both a strangely sympathetic character and a likable one who also delivered some major hype in a show you’d expect to have plenty of it. By the end of Gridman, Viral has undergone a complete character arc and transformation- and that, perhaps more than anything else in the show, is why he’s on this list.

Jack-Jack Parr (The Incredibles, Incredibles 2):

The youngest member of the Parr family had his big-screen coming out party this past year, where he transformed from a bit part in the original Incredibles film to a more active role, with a great deal of comedy and humor. From his backyard brawl with a raccoon to his unlikely heroics at the climax of Incredibles 2, Jack-Jack was about as humanly entertaining as you can make a baby character without him becoming annoying. No small feat there.

Kōhei Inuzuka (Sweetness and Lightning)

Father to the adorable Tsumugi in this sweet little slice of life anime, Kōhei struck me as interesting precisely because of his balancing act between being a good father (in the stead of his recently deceased wife) and his career as a teacher, which was handled with a lot of tact and care. While this show released back in 2016, it’s still worth going back to take a look (and here was my review of it.) This man’s selfless care, despite all the challenges he faces regularly, is a treat to watch, and a character archetype that seems far too scarce at time. Good dads (and parents) are never out of style!


So there’s my pick-5 for the past year. I hope everyone had a great 2018, and here’s a happy New Year as we get into 2019! I’m looking forward to another fantastic year here on AniB Productions, and to the excitement of my readers as they continue to grow. Feel free to leave a comment!

10 Thoughts: Week of June 25th

AniB goes to the movies, watches some anime, and stumps for the hometown hockey team. (Beware of T-Rexes!)

In this week’s 10 Thoughts, AniB takes a look at the movies, the usual look at this past week’s My Hero Academia episode, and as usual, a few other musings.

 

1.One of the issues with going to see animated films at the cinema is that you never know what kind of previews you’ll be forced to sit through. As the general audience is expected to be younger, you usually get a grab-bag of animated fare with promise, some ghastly looking premises, and the occasionally amazing-looking film. In the end though, it’s mostly exciting just to get to the movie you came to see…

2. …so in that vein, The Teen Titans Go! preview looks every bit as awful as I suspected it would. Memo to Cartoon Network: it’s your #1 show because you guys pushed into roughly 95% of your available time-slots. It’s not hard to make something the de-facto top show when it’s the only game in town, and if I had access, I’d like to see the numbers of their rarely other-aired shows extrapolated over the same time, or rather, TTG’s number’s averaged together for every viewing at the same rate of something else. I bet things don’t add up, and this film isn’t going to move a lot of people at all outside the 7-12 boys demographic (and their parents.) Mark my words on that.

3. Since this is a movie-centric 10 Thoughts so far, Incredibles 2 is definitely the clubhouse leader when it comes to to the animation award at the Academies so far. Going back to what I said a week ago (at the time of this writing) in a prior column, I’d be willing to bet even now it’s the odds-on favorite regardless of what Wreck-It Ralph 2 does as a sequel later this year, unless it’s absolutely stunning in a way no one saw coming. (Before anyone references Spirited Away or Wallace and Gromit, a friendly reminder that those awards were in 2002 and 2005 respectively- and the rules got worse for foreign films aside from the long drought. So I’m not holding my breath.)

4. One last movie thought, non-animated: Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom is definitely a popcorn-munching film, but from a purely critical standpoint, something about it doesn’t quite pack the same punch as the franchise’s revival song in Jurassic World. Maybe (spoilers!) it’s because weaponized dinos is such a silly premise with a fancy coat of paint over it that I can’t take it seriously. But then again, anything Jurassic Park or World related requires a suspension of disbelief, and from my experience, an IMAX screen if you’re actually living near a theater that has one. Something about dinosaurs on the biggest screen makes it that much better.

5. Alright, I’m sure you want some anime thoughts now to balance things out, and that begins with this past week’s My Hero Academia, which more or less capped off a big turning point for the series, without spoiling too much of anything. I’ll say this: Izuku’s mom is a really loving person who truly has her son’s best interests at heart, and that should be lauded.

 

6. Continuing on with Hero Academia , it was killing me not to include manga spoilers about Izuku Midoriya in this past week’s character piece.That said, he’s a really good example of a shonen protagonist done right, and has definitely become a favorite character of mine since I first picked up the series.

 

7. I’ve been reading the One Piece manga for a little while, on and off, which is absolutely terrific. However, it is somewhat of a daunting proposition even just covering the Shonen Jump publication from the start, so don’t expect me to talk about the anime (or it various filler arcs) on here, since it’s simply too darn long to actually pick up and watch to the current point. That said… the manga is truly wonderful. I recommend it if you haven’t touched the series.

 

8. On a non-shonen note, picked up the first five episodes of Welcome to the NHK. What a weird, darkly humorous show so far, which is just odd enough to be intriguing without being a total turn-off. Hard balance to achieve, definitely…and this is one I’d like to see through to the end in due time.

 

9.   I’m planning to review a show again this week, but what that is yet isn’t even clear to me at this point. I’ve got a few pretty good ideas of what to go over though, and it might just be a Western show. Also, did anyone notice I finally added a “Movie Reviews” tab to the main site’s page? I’ve got three of ’em now, so the time seemed right…and while the focus here is still going to be primarily on shows, I’m open to animated film suggestions as well.

10. Finally, in one other non-animated thought, the Buffalo Sabres (my hockey team!) finally drafted Rasmus Dahlin, the Swedish wunderkind defensemen, this past Friday with the top overall pick. While I doubt most, if any of my readers, have a vested interest heavily in sports, it’s a big thing for the city and the hopeful continued resurgence of a massive turnaround in the pro franchises’ fortune of Buffalo, coming on the heels of a Bills playoff berth this past January. So coming back around, I suppose my question for the week is “what sports team do you root for, if any; and if not, could you recommend a sports show or movie you might have liked?” (I suspect I might get some Draft Day and Hoosiers comments if I say nothing…or just sports anime. Either way, fine by me!)


Like what you see? Any thoughts on the question of the week, or any other suggestions about things you’d like me to write about? Leave a comment!

10 Thoughts: Week of June 18th

Now presenting live: a week of heroes and villains, plus some other animation musings.

It’s Hero Week unofficially here at AniB Productions- between the highly anticipated debut of Incredibles 2 this past Friday and the current arc in My Hero Academia, it’s hard for it to be anything else.

 

1.This week’s thoughts came a week late, thanks to the comprehensive Incredibles review that was posted last Monday instead. Before jumping into the highly anticipated sequel  this past weekend, it was worth a look back into its predecessor, which was an absolutely terrific film. Check out the review here if you haven’t!

 

2. Naturally, Incredibles 2 was a Day 1 viewing for me, and it lived up to the hype, which was impressive considering how good the original film actually is. While I don’t intend for this week’s 10 Thoughts to turn into a shilling column for The Incredibles franchise, here’s a link to that review as well.

 

3. One more Incredibles thought: It was an almost surreal experience to finally revisit that universe after all that time and anticipation, and while the true measuring stick for the sequel will be against its illustrious predecessor, this film will be the clubhouse leader for Best Animated Film of the Year, particularly at the Academy, where the revised rules as of last year made it far harder for foreign films to win at the expense of critics who often don’t take animated fare that seriously unless they specialize in the field. Much as I enjoy Pixar films and The Incredibles in any capacity, this is a change that feels for the worst- and in its first year of implementation resulted in The Boss Baby and Ferdinand getting nominations, which simply felt off.

 

4. Alright, I suppose it’s time to talk about My Hero Academia again, isn’t it? The series’ biggest fight to date in the anime finally occurred, and for those of you keeping up with the series, you’ll be well aware of the stakes that were involved in this one…which was translated pretty nicely from the manga.

 

5. I’m sure the followers of My Hero Academia also want more details on my thoughts of the fight that are spoilery for everyone else, so skip down to #7 if you haven’t seen or followed the series.

 

6. All For One is one scary dude with a terrifying Quirk that makes his options virtually limitless in a fight. Chances are that his abilities to augment Quirks was the inspiration for the Noumu program he’d spawned, given that the creatures are known for being essentially organic meatheads of stacked combat Quirks with enhanced physicals acrost the board.

What you really came to ask about though, was my thoughts on All Might’s final battle against his archenemy. It is in a word, symbolic. It’s not just that All Might throws the final embers of One For All in his body into defeating All For One, but it’s also the proverbial passing of the torch to Midoriya at last. Izuku is now truly the wielder of One For All, and the weight of that finally hits him as he gets All Might’s victory message… More importantly, it is a total changing of the guard. All For One is probably headed to a max-security outfit where he’ll no longer be in the picture, while All Might is no more as a hero, meaning Izuku and Shigaraki- who was teleported out of the battlefield against his will- now represent the new generation. (For the sake of knowing the manga, I’m just going to keep it to anime spoilers that I discuss here, but I’ll say this much: don’t expect things to slow down.)

 

 

7. Don’t look up if you want to avoid spoilers! It was definitely a fitting arrangement to have events go down the way they did in My Hero Academia and Incredibles 2 releasing in back to back days, which made for a vividly entertaining weekend in animation.

 

8. In non-hero week related stuff, the request to write a piece on “a anime harem of my choice” was quite entertaining, partially because it was so unexpected, but I do thank The Luminous Mongoose again for the nomination to do so. I think it embodied something important about life though: sometimes, when you write something outside of your usual routine, you grow from it, and even get rejuvenated to some extent as well. So it was a fun exercise!

 

9. Heard from a friend that Disney’s DuckTales reboot has had some more character developments, including a Gyro Gearloose that in their words, “is much meaner.” I’ve yet to sit down and really dig into the series, but I am intrigued, and last year even wrote an initial impressions piece based on the very entertaining pilot.

 

10. Since the success of the past character piece featuring Nagisa Shiota from Assassination Classroom, I’ve been hard at work on a new one, which hopefully I’ll release sometime this week. There’s also a few other ideas in the works going forward, so every day and week will continue to bring surprises!


I hope everyone has a great week, and feedback is always appreciated! If there’s any animation show, character, movie, or even episode you might want me to take a look at, let me know!

Movie Review: Incredibles 2

The long awaited sequel is here at last. Does it live up to its name?

As promised, here is AniB Productions’ review of Incredibles 2! In a first, there’s going to be a spoiler-free section…and some spoiler thoughts as well, along with the usual grading format.

The Lowdown:

Film: Incredibles 2

Studio/year released: Pixar, 2018

AniB’s thoughts:

The 13 and a half year wait is finally over. Yes, today (at the time of this writing) was the day Incredibles 2 finally turned from fiction into reality and audiences jumped back into the world of heroes right where they left off back in 2004, with John Ratzenberger’s Underminer announcing his “war on peace and happiness!” In a twist though, the movie is opened up with government agent Rick Dicker in the same questioning room from Jack-Jack Attack with Tony Ryndinger, Violet’s new boyfriend as he describes the beginning of the attack and the shock of finding out Violet was in fact, a superhero…and off we went.

Since this is the non-spoiler section, it won’t be entirely easy to dish out the juicer details of the film, but there are some things that can be confirmed without doing so, such as the return of the jazzy Incredibles motif courtesy of Michael Giancchino, or that Jack-Jack inevitably plays a bigger role in this film, hardly a surprise given his relatively minor casting in the original film. However, the more pressing question that anyone’s dying to ask is “was it worth the wait?” To that, the answer is a pretty clear “yes,” with a lively action plot, more than a little influence from classic Bond adventures, fluid fight sequences with all the beauty you’d expect a Pixar film to have, and a rousing climax. It is in a word, “super”- and worth the investment into a theater trip when the rest of the cinema is (or was, if you read this weeks or years after the fact) lacking at the time of its release any sort of rousing alternative….until Jurassic World’s sequel hits theaters next weekend, but that’s another story entirely.

(Skip ahead to grading if you don’t want spoilers.)


Okay, so now it’s time to discuss the little nuances and details of a long-awaited film that exceeded expectations.

First off, picking up where they left off was probably a good decision now that I’ve seen the film, though I would have liked to see more of the Underminer after the frenetic opening sequence. He’s still digging his tunnels underneath Municiberg for all we know (and he’s one ugly mole for sure.) This part of the movie was as action packed as you’d expect (and hope), and a useful framing for introducing the wealthy businessman who’d push to revive the supers via a comprehensive plan- which he wanted Elastigirl to spearhead, much to the chagrin of Mr. Incredible.

I’m sure you all want to hear about Dash, Violet and Jack-Jack, the Parr children. I’m happy to report that the expanded roles they get in this film are in equal parts charming, funny, and serious. Violet receives an interesting subplot after Tony’s mind is wiped by Dicker at the beginning of the film, and true to her development from the prior film, she’s a lot more outgoing from the get-go, and isn’t afraid to voice her displeasure when things go south. She also has much better command over her powers, and definitely gets to do some cool things with her force fields in particular. Dash is the only one of the original VA cast that was replaced between the first two films (Huck Milner stepped in for Spencer Fox, who simply got much older in that time frame), but you’d never be able to tell the difference as on screen, he’s still the same confident, slightly cocky kid you’d come to expect. In this film, he gets a running gag of pressing the wrong buttons on control panels of very high-tech things…which actually pans out with the unexpected and fun return of the Incredimobile after the discovery that Bob still had the remote to the car.

The single biggest change in this film though, had to be the emergence of Jack-Jack as a major factor in the film. As you might expect, the youngest Parr’s role often was fairly comedic, but the humor visually worked, particularly the fight with the raccoon as a good example. Jack-Jack also wound up being a major source of Bob’s headaches in parenting while Helen was away- but also a source of joy as he was the first to discover the baby had powers (as no one actually realized in the first film that Syndrome’s defeat was directly caused by Jack-Jack’s manifestation of abilities, or anything about the events of Jack-Jack Attack. In another clever nod, when Edna Mode is later tasked with babysitting him from a weary, sleepless Bob, she finds that Mozart stimulates his powers, indeed confirming that the Mozart that the babysitter Kari talked about over the phone to Helen in The Incredibles was in fact the initial trigger for Jack-Jack, and a sneaky reference for those who knew the film assiduously.

 

The single biggest aspect that set apart The Incredibles from its sequel was the villain. I detailed a bit in The Incredibles review about why Syndrome was exactly an amazing villain that lifted the whole movie, and I’m not sure I can say entirely the same about Screenslaver. In context, she was a pretty neat villain idea- a hypnotist puppetmaster who was also a communications genius that decided to hijack monitors and use special goggles as mind-control devices, and one embittered by personal tragedy and blame- but there was never quite the same emotional heft to her character that Syndrome built in relation to Mr. Incredible-the spurned fanboy turned supervillain with an island base of his own creation to boot. I also will add I had zero problems with the woman being the villain here, or in any movie that actually does it, and I was also happy with Elastigirl’s expanded role in this film doing “hero work” as we actually got only some tantalizing glimpses of her in action during the original film (and not much at all solo.) Likewise, in building on the first film’s “your family is your greatest adventure” lesson for Mr. Incredible, he takes much more of a front and center role in learning to be a better dad, although this fails miserably for a while as he winds up getting a total lack of sleep as well…

 

Overall, this was a very good film, in fact, even excellent. Is it as good as the first? Not quite, but it’s close, and after years of waiting, it proved to be a worthy followup. It’s a funnier film than the original, but in return sacrificed some of its heavier emotional weight, but the end product remained the same in the most basic sense: a seriously entertaining film.


Animation Quality: The latest offering from Pixar is always eye candy, and Incredibles 2 was no exception. The action sequences in particular stood out as fluid and lively, and the colors popped off the screen with a vividness that was wonderful. 5/5 points.

Characterization:
You probably already know and love the Incredibles family, but the major difference this time around is that Helen takes center stage, while Bob plays more of the deuteragonist role this time, but in a way that both supports their characters well instead of awkwardly.

Mrs. Incredible, real name Helen Parr, is Bob’s wife and the former pro hero Elastagirl, noted for her incredible stretching powers and elastic limbs that allowed her to contort her body into almost any shape and develop a unique melee style of combat. In retirement though, she’s a devoted mother and wife who wants the best for Bob and for her kids, who can be a handful between teenage Violet, Dash, and the youngest Parr, baby Jack-Jack. She secretly misses being a hero, but she’s equally as willing to live in the role of a stay at home mother as she is Elastigirl. In her words, “she’s flexible.” That mantra is put to the test when a wealthy telecommunications tycoon pegs her ahead of her husband and Frozone to lead a comeback of the supers- meaning that while she gets to revive the Elastagirl mantle, she’s forced to leave the kids with Bob, who between his glory days dreams and usual status as breadwinner until recently, wasn’t cast into that role.

 

Mr. Incredible, real name Bob Parr, is a man who still pines for the glory days of his youthful prime as a hero before the government decided to push the idea of a hero society underground. Reinvigorated by the defeat of Syndrome, things go awry when the attempt to stop the Underminer turns sour and Rick Dicker shuts down the experimental program to bring supers back, deflating him until a new offer comes in…and Elastigirl takes center stage. And so, instead of being “the man” this time around, Bob’s challenge is to be a good dad while also dealing with the general jealousy of not being “Mr. Incredible” all the time. Bob, despite his shortcomings, is a good family man, husband and father, and his best interests at heart intersect in his mind with what’s good for his family. When he actually takes to the fight though, he’s blessed with the power of super strength and enhanced agility/reflexes, his power on the battlefield is no joke.

This go-around, Violet and Jack-Jack play a much larger role, while Dash plays more of an important supporting role. There’s a subplot with Violet in her role that unfolds as a clever mix of the age-old angsty teen and the issues of being a super that conflicts with having a normal social life. These issues Violet works through in the film, along with showing off some pretty impressive uses of her force field abilities this time around, along with invisibility.

Jack-Jack’s role I talked about at length in the spoiler section, but for the non-spoiler people, he does in fact get a much larger role in this film. You won’t have to wait until end of the movie this time to get some significant action for the baby of the family.

Dash mostly plays a supporting role, but still has some genuinely funny moments and things he’d only do that sometimes work…and sometimes don’t work at all. The change in voice actors also went off seamlessly. Sadly, he doesn’t get quite as cool a sequence as “100-Mile Dash” from the first film, but he’s still a fun character.

Frozone and Edna reprise their roles as well. I’m happy to report Frozone gets a larger role in this film, particularly when it comes to actively battling, and Edna still gets her moments, so don’t worry about it.

I’m not going to mention much about the new characters here for spoiler reasons, but they definitely give a much different feel to this film than the first. They also work well within the context of the story. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know who I’m referring to. 4.5/5 points.

Story:
The plot from the first film about super being illegal rears its ugly head again as the main issue at the center of the film, and it’s within that context that a comeback attempt for heroes is spearheaded by a certain new character and his influence. In the mix of that is another family tale that unfolds. There’s a clever inspiration from Bond films that you can feel in this movie, along with the obvious silver-age superhero influence, and a touch of modernity that creates a clash of the cutting edge against the old-school, and like the first movie, technology plays a big role, though it’s not via giant hero-killing robots this time. 4.5/5 points.

Themes: The family aspect of the Incredibles remains intact, along with the fine balance of superhero work that created issues for Mr. Incredible in the first film and now Elastagirl. It’s still really well done, though perhaps not with the same level of depth as the first film, and while the main villain is good, that individual might lack some of the extra personal depth of a “Syndrome” though the conviction is certainly there. 4/5 points.

Don’t Insult the Viewer: Michael Giancchino’s score once again is wonderful, reprising the jazzy themes that helped carry the original film, albeit with new flairs and leimotifs. This film is a fun ride throughout, and is briskly paced, balancing storytelling with action in a way that makes for an entertaining end product. 5/5 points.

Overall: 23/25 (92%): It was always going to be a daunting task to live up to the original Incredibles film, which is no doubt a modern animated classic at this point. However, this film managed enormous expectations with flying colors, and viewed purely on its own merits, it’s an excellent adventure that preserves the family-flavored brand of superhero-ing that The Incredibles is known for, creating another worthy adventure for all ages to enjoy.

Movie Review: The Incredibles

Pixar’s superhero family gets revisited in their classic first adventure.

In an unusual break from AniB Productions’ usual schedule of shows and characters, we’re actually doing an animated film review! Yes, the timing to do The Incredibles is right. Not only is it my personal favorite film, it comes entering the final stretch before Incredibles 2 finally debuts, and I couldn’t be more excited. Truthfully, this review is also going to be a bit more contemplative on the context and details of the film, especially as The Incredibles is by now a very well-known quantity. I don’t doubt some people might still not have seen it all these year later, but this review’s going to have spoilers- and I don’t regret that one bit. So here’s a look one last time at Pixar’s first family of supers before they return for their long-awaited debut, with a special review of The Incredibles!

The Lowdown:

Film: The Incredibles

Studio/year released: Pixar, 2004

AniB’s Thoughts:

 

“It’s showtime.”- Mr. Incredible

 

From the first moment Michael Giacchino’s first notes of a wonderfully jazzy score hits your ears to the final note of “The Incredits”, this was a film that created an enrapturing world into the age of the silver age superhero…and the challenges of suburban life as a normal family, albeit with superpowers. The film came in the footsteps of Pixar’s previous successful endeavors, including the prior year’s Finding Nemo (2003) and Monsters Inc. (2001), and would go on to be an important part of the studio’s absolutely dominant decade in the animation medium- a period that saw the modern animation giant grab an unprecedented 6 out of the first 10 Best Academy Awards in Animation, including this film.

Before we delve into The Incredibles as a film though, consider the circumstances in which it emerged, which were wonderfully unique. First off, the movie released in a time before the superhero deluge of the last decade or so emerged, which in turn allowed these brand-new characters to thrive in that niche. Then there was the year itself: 2004 proved to be an unremarkable year in animated film fare aside from this wonderfully complex tale of a hero family, featuring competition like Disney’s Home on the Range (which actually can tie into a greater story about how that point was around that studio’s nadir, but we’ll save it for another time), The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie, billed as the “finale” to the flagship show of Nicklelodeon’s, except that it wasn’t, Shrek 2, which while arguably the second best film of that franchise, didn’t exactly have a high bar to clear in retrospect as that series began a prolonged decline for DreamWorks, and Shark Tale, the studio’s other film from that year which a) featured Will Smith as a talking fish and b) was utterly inadequate compared to the aformentioned Finding Nemo that had proceeded it as an “animated fish film.” When looking back on these other films, it may become easier to begin seeing why Pixar was so dominant at that time, and the massive chasm other animation units had to overcome in improving their films up to a certain standard, which in reality was a good thing- as animation can be a wonderfully deep and complex medium through which a story can be conveyed, not merely fodderized to the tune of “kid’s movie.” Such a mere descriptor did not do The Incredibles justice.

 

Indeed, The Incredibles was uniquely layered to tell a different story to any member of its audience at that given moment in time- from Mr. Incredible’s mid-life crisis, to Mrs. Incredible’s pressure at being a good mother and faithful wife; Violet’s teenage shyness and very apt name as she grew from a “shrinking violet” into a blooming flower with her confidence and self-assertiveness through the film, and Dash, who yours truly at the age of 10 related perfectly at the time to a kid frustrated at not being able to show off his true talents, but also with a side of mischievousness that added levity to high-pressure situations. While the family is definitely compelling with a wholesome dynamic often absent in films that makes it all the more refreshing that it exists here, I actually wanted to devote some time to the one major character who won’t jump from the original film to the new iteration, and that of course is Syndrome.

 

Syndrome was a pretty well-constructed big bad for the film with a compelling, if straightforward origin story inflated to the extreme. The one-time Mr. Incredible fanboy as “Incrediboy,” a massive childhood obsession for Buddy Pine turned sour after a fateful night for all parties involved, and feeling rejected by his hero, he turned it into an insatiable and clearly unhinged plan for revenge over many years. While the film leaves a lot to the imagination, Pine clearly continued to develop his prodigious talent as an inventor in the intervening years, and was also successful enough in developing weapons technology that he became incredibly wealthy, buying and transforming Nomanisan Island into his own personal base and testing ground equipped with state of the art facilities and technology to carry out his “Operation KRONOS” plan. The dark truth behind Syndrome’s identity isn’t too hard to figure out once his adult self makes his explicit debut on screen with his perfected Omnidroid prototype, but it does make for an impactful moment when Mr. I discovers the secret computer storing the data of the villain’s diabolical scheme- and confirms the sinking suspicion that old heroes forced into retirement by the government were in fact test sacrifices to build the perfect super-proofed robot of doom. Vindictive, smart and with more than a healthy dose of deep-seeded, misguided hatred at the figure he once idolized, Syndrome’s dreams come crashing down ironically at the hand of his own perfected doomsday machine, and then perhaps even more profoundly, by Jack-Jack Parr, who represented the youngest of the new generation of heroes the man worked so hard to destroy once and for all.

As The Incredibles gets set to debut to a whole new generation of viewers, the original film has and will remain a timeless classic in the art of animation and filmmaking, and continue to be one of Pixar’s brightest films as time continues to move on. It’s exciting to see a revival of the franchise, but it’s also great to know why a sequel was so highly anticipated, and more than anything, that it was an incredible movie.

 


Animation Quality: This film looked great for 2004 and still looks good now. Since 3-D animation has tended to take exponential leaps since it began to be used in the early 90’s, this film looks remarkably good for something nearly 14 years old at the time of this writing. As you’d expect, Pixar’s films are eye candy, and this brings your convincingly into this compelling world, from the classic cityscape of comic books, to the middling feeling of 50’s-esque suburban planning, and even to the lush backdrop of a tropical island containing a diverse self-contained biome interwoven with the underbelly of Syndrome’s operation. 4.75/5 points.

Characterization: If it wasn’t obvious from the title, watching the film, or my thoughts above, this film is about the Incredibles family and the various personal challenges they work through during the film in order to come together and thwart Syndrome’s master plan.

Mr. Incredible, real name Bob Parr, is a man who pines for the glory days of his youthful prime as a hero before the government decided to push the idea of a hero society underground. (Ironically, this is essentially the opposite of the world established in the current anime My Hero Academia, but that’s another discussion entirely.) Stuck in a desk job at a big corporate insurance agency, he’d become an overweight, unhappy man who despite having a still intact sense of justice and heroism, is repressed from doing the one thing in his life that gave him meaning…while not always noticing the family who has grown with his waistline over the years. Still, Bob is a good family man, husband and father, and his best interests at heart intersect in his mind with what’s good for his family. That vision is challenged through the film though…Blessed with the power of super strength and enhanced agility/reflexes, his power on the battlefield is no joke.

Mrs. Incredible, real name Helen Parr, is Bob’s wife and the former pro hero Elastagirl, noted for her incredible stretching powers and elastic limbs that allowed her to contort her body into almost any shape and develop a unique melee style of combat. In retirement though, she’s a devoted mother and wife who wants the best for Bob, knowing the stress he’s enduring, and for her kids, who can be a handful between teenage Violet, Dash, and the youngest Parr, baby Jack-Jack. She too secretly misses being a hero, but she’s equally as willing to live in the role of a stay at home mother as she is Elastigirl. In her words, “she’s flexible.”

The kids don’t actually play huge roles compared to their mom and dad, but they do have significant moments and character growth that is all their own worth mentioning. Violet of course comes into her own as a young woman; while her invisibility power tends to be the one she favors, especially when timid, the confident Violet gains control over using her force fields properly, which prove even strong enough to (temporarily) hold off the full weight of the perfected Omnidroid in the final battle. Along with a change in personality comes the subtle but age-old symbolism of a change in how she wears her hair; formerly hanging in her face, it becomes pulled back, figuratively “opening” Violet up.

Dash is a little spitfire: a 10 year old with excess energy and the speed to match. He is proud of his speed superpower and wants to show it off, which causes him a lot of trouble from his mother, who simply wants the family to keep a low profile. Dash is finally unleashed upon Nomanisan Island, where he finally gets to run to his heart’s content…in life and death battles.

Jack-Jack is just the baby, but gets one uber-important role which was already mentioned. His major side plot is actually explored in the Pixar short film Jack-Jack Attack, which chronicles his time with Kari, a teenage babysitter Dash and Violet left their youngest brother with when they stowed away on the island mission. (If you’ve never seen it, it’s a hilarious little film.)

The other two major allies of the Incredibles are Frozone, real name Lucius Best, and Edna Mode, a top-flight fashion designer who specializes in hero suits (“No capes!”). Both are known for being quip machines in relation to how they are referenced in pop culture, but Frozone is Bob’s best friend and an important ally (as a hero who generates ice by freezing water particles in the air) and Edna literally creates the now- iconic hero outfits for the family. Add in that they’re voiced by Samuel L. Jackson and director Brad Bird himself, and both characters are a lot of fun.

 

Syndrome I spoke about at length already, but to reiterate: he’s an excellent memorable villain who has just the right motivation, infrastructure and smarts to feel like a properly viable threat, along with a cutthroat ruthlessness that is territory animated films don’t normally deal with. (I mean, the man wanted Mirage, his personal assistant, to shoot down a plane with a mom and her kids aboard because they entered his airspace…and then used it to crush Mr. I’s hope. Great writing stuff there.)  5/5 points.

 

 

Story Quality: The tale of Mr. Incredible’s heyday, fall, comeback attempt and redemption forms the main arc of the story, but this is a tale actually about the whole family and so it asks the question “what happens if I put the family dynamic into this repressed world of superheros and suburbia?” What’s even more innovative is that the family actually saving the day at the end is in reality a series of misadventures and improvising, from Mr. I’s misguided foray into thinking he needed redemption as a hero and a man while forgetting his family idolized him; Mrs. Incredible’s solid attempt to be the glue that binds the family together leading to an unlikely island rescue that involves the whole family unintentionally (save Jack-Jack); and Syndrome’s own hubris being his downfall in the midst of a clearly well-developed and complicated plot years in the making. There’s a lot more aspects to this film’s story than that, and darker elements as well too (hero test subjects, for one), which makes for a richly compelling film that insists you get something new out of it with each viewing. 5/5 points.

 

 

Themes: If it wasn’t obvious before, family, family, FAMILY! The Incredibles was able to actually turn this important, if rote topic, into something innovative and original; the classic American family re-imagined in a story of heroes and villainy that makes for high drama and great adventure, along with the wholesome message that can be imparted to younger viewers. Inside that basic overarching idea though, there was riffs on mid-life crises, the pressures of adolescent socialization, the idea of revenge gone too far and the mistakes of the past not being recognized until far later. Each time you watch the film, something new can spring into your mind (take the jab at corporate bureaucracy and the pressure of results over helping customers when Bob encounters his boss as one of those thoughts.) Not many films do that- and I’m not just talking about animated fare. 5/5 points.

 

 

Don’t Insult the Viewer: This film has all the jam-packed action and drama of a top-notch hero film without the crassness of some, and brings its own unique family dynamic to the picture. The score of this film is also jazzy heaven; it brings to life the atmosphere and storytelling of the film and remains a welcome listen to this day even as an OST. It’s a superb family experience that will find resonance with mostly everyone. 5/5 points.

 

Overall: 24.75/25 (99%). Do I think there’s such a thing as a “perfect movie?” In theory, yes, but The Incredibles will have to settle for being just one of the better films you’ll see, especially in its genre. It’s worth a revisit before the new film drops, and will continue to be re-watchable for years to come.

10 Thoughts: Week of June 4th

 

Alright, so back again with this week’s 10 Thoughts column! It’s finally June, which means summer is truly just about here at last. While this means the season of being outdoors, swimming and every other summer pursuit is very much here to stay for a few months, there’s still plenty to talk about when it comes to animation. Here’s this week’s musings:

 


1. Rewatching Assassination Classroom’s OPs actually gave me a newfound appreciation of them. Seriously, watch them in this video back to back to back:

There’s a condensed version of the show’s narrative being told in them, and even more cool (which can’t be noted here) is the fact that as new students or teachers join the class, they actually join the OP. This was most noticeable after Irina Jelevic joined the staff in season 1, as well as two other “transfer students.”  The amount of detail as a result, is actually worth noting…as is the silly dancing of the first two iterations of the OP, which grows on you. Sometimes, the lesson to to be learned is that a refreshed look at some aspect of a show can make you learn new tidbits, and appreciate it all the more.

 

 

2. As has started to become a habit in this column, My Hero Academia isn’t far from the mind, and especially so with such a hugely pivotal episode hanging in the balance for next week. For those of you not watching the third season yet, this information should probably serve to ignite more intrigue, and for those of you who are watching, it’s going to be appointment television. (Then again, it’s really more like computer streaming these days. Seriously, I always liked the phrase, but it really made me just stop and think about my audience, and now I feel old.)

 

 

3. A big thank-you to all the new followers this week, and the continued support of those who’ve stuck around for a while here on AniB Productions. You know who you are- and it means the world to me. As for the past week’s pieces: It’s really true what they say about your favorite pieces not getting as many views, but plenty of love from the audience you care about the most, and that was certainly true with young Nagisa from Assassination Classroom. The feedback was pretty awesome on that piece, and for anyone still on the fence about the show in question, watch it! (Heck, I even talked about its OPs as point 1.)

 

4. I’m going to believe to the end of time that Coco was the best film of 2017. No, not just best animated film, but best overall film. It had everything- eyecandy animation that augmented the storytelling, an authentic cultural experience, lovable characters, a heart-rending narrative, and one of the most emotional endings I’ve seen in any film. I did write about it at Christmas, but this thought was reinforced after seeing quite a few of last year’s films since the semester ended.

 

5. Since we’re on the topic of movies, I really hope the third iteration of DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon franchise really flies next year. To put it bluntly, the first two films are the only thing in the last decade that even remotely reached the level of Pixar (or now, Walt Disney Animation’s) finest movies in the same stretch, and they were both a pleasure to watch, complete with wonderfully fluid animation that brought this intoxicating, rough world of Vikings and dragons to life, and an emotional core to match. Maybe it’ll win the Academy Award this go-round though. Who knows?

 

6. Last week, I brought up Martian Successor Nadesico. I’ll be looking to try and turn that into a review, perhaps even this week. One heck of a catchy opening in that show, as I noted in the previous 10 Thoughts.

 

7. I’ve been meaning for a while to do a deeper dive into retro Western animation. You may or may not recall a while back that I did in fact take a look at Hanna-Barbera’s The Huckleberry Hound Show, and also wrote about the classic Looney Tunes episode “Duck Amuck,” but not much else. The classics are the classics for a reason though, and I’m very fond of them, and there’s a reason for that, beyond the history: most of them are still really, really good productions.

 

8. I noted recently that in a little over a month, it will mark the ten-year anniversary of the Avatar: The Last Airbender finale of “Sozin’s Comet.” What an incredible finish to an incredible show, and one that still resonates as deeply now as it did when it debuted.

 

9. Since I asked last week, if you’ve got a favorite character, leave a comment below! I might turn it into a “What’s in a Character piece” for the future, and that could be exciting.

 

10. Now I definitely need an Incredibles 2 thought in here: We’re finally within a tangible distance away from the movie’s release and I’d be lying if this wasn’t my most hyped movie in forever. It’s not just the fact that audiences waited 13 and a half years for this sequel to come along, but it’s also the fact that The Incredibles has always been my favorite film, since I first saw it in theaters back during December of 2004. The timeless narrative, which had an appeal to people of every age, and the innovative blending of a dynamic family narrative and the silver age of superheroes combined to form one heck of a movie, and one that bias aside, can still be consider one of Pixar’s best. Who knows? Maybe I’ll have an Incredibles review in the next 10 days…and then of course I’ll cover the film. I know my M.O. is shows, but my first love was always movies and you bet I’ll be covering this one.


Like what you see? Enjoy the 10 Thoughts column? Still have a character or show you want to see done? Leave a comment!