Starlight Angel, an Anime in Disney’s Tomorrowland

Robot Carnival is a 1987 anime anthology film in which every segment features a robot central to each short’s plot in some way. A fine collection of short films featuring narrative and visual experimentations (or both), my personal favorite is “Starlight Angel,” (link to video) a nine minute Disney-esque tale of magic and memories. Full spoilers of the short follow.

“Star Light Angel” centers around two friends enjoying each others company and forgetting some of life’s troubles at an amusement park that strongly resembles Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, though this is never stated,but instead called Robot Wanderland. The short contains no dialogue and features an unapologetically sentimental score by frequent Studio Ghibli film composer, Jo Hisaishi. The protagonist is a pensive brunette girl (who for the sake of making this piece less confusing, will be referred to as Jane), and her friend is a blonde girl who is the more extroverted of the pair (who will be referred to as Amy).

Amy (left) and Jane (right) discussing which attraction to ride next in Robot Wanderland, an amusement park very similar to DIsney World’s Tomorrowland.

What’s so clever is that the theme park featured in “Starlight Angel” is Walt Disney’s perfected vision of Tomorrowland: it features functioning android performers, a ride in which a mechanical hand lifts guests from a ride’s queue into its vehicle, and even a sentient animatronic attraction attendant. The film’s atmosphere captures the feelings of innocence, nostalgia, and wonder associated with Magic Kingdom (or theme parks in general) through both fantasy and highly-detailed realism. Ever wonder what riding Space Mountain would look like if life were an animated film? “Starlight Angel” has the answer for you.

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Un-Whimsical Disney Adventures

A little over 15 years ago, Disney Animation Studios found inspiration for a new film from their most forgotten work. The new movie was Atlantis: The Lost Empire, a steampunk adventure led by Milo Thatch, a man anxious to find the fabled city his grandfather swore existed. The forgotten film that inspired it was The Black Cauldron, a dark fantasy known for its often un-Disney tone. Unlike many Disney films, Atlantis and The Black Cauldron are not afraid to expose the bleaker side of adventure.

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The most important animated films (part 2)

Welcome back to my most important animated films list! As mentioned in Part 1, this is not a list of the greatest animated films ever. All here would qualify for that, but these films are here to illustrate their innovative nature and major impact still felt in the industry today.

Who Framed Roger Rabbit? (1988)

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Eddie (left) and Roger Rabbit (right) catch in a disagreement. “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” helped restore studios and audiences faith in the medium of animation after years of disappointments.

In the mid-1980s, animation was struggling. The industry craved for its impressive past era after reaching a critical and commercial blow with Disney’s The Black Cauldron in 1985. Something needed to be done. 1988’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit? showed that if done right, animation could return to its glory days. The wide variety of classic cartoon characters in the film must have led people to strive for the days of classic animation, and they succeeded. What followed was The Disney Renaissance, a return to form that greatly impacted the entire animation industry. Other studios followed suit, creating great works for theaters and television alike. Thanks, Roger Rabbit!

Akira (1988)

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The most important animated films (part 1)

In the history of animated films, there have been many milestones, benchmarks, and undeniably important films. By important I don’t necessarily mean best, I mean films that have paved the way for others to come; the pioneers, the giants, and the challenging. This list features the innovations that shocked the world and the films that gave birth to new eras of success. They are in chronological order only, because each one is arguably as important as the next.

Pinocchio (1940)

With “Pinocchio,” Disney showed the world that he was no one-hit wonder.

Walt Disney’s second feature showed the world that his success in feature-length animation was no fluke. Disney didn’t have to make an excellent movie after the success of Snow White and The Seven Dwarves, but the studio did more than expected, making one of the greatest and most-beloved animated films of all time. Almost everything about this piece was an improvement over Snow White: the music, the animation quality, the characters, the themes and the story line. A legacy was born, and we’re all still wishing upon that star.

Fantasia (1940)

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Traditional animation vs CG (part 2)

As promised, here is part two of Traditional animation vs. CG. Each form has its pros and cons, so let’s review them, shall we?

Traditional Animation Pros

Each frame is physically touched by a human hand. I see this as more of an artistic achievement, whereas I see the actual animation of CG films as a technical achievement. Traditional animation has many styles, where CG is limited in its unique look. For traditional, there is anime, cartoony Tex Avery style, rotoscoping (hand drawing over frames of live-action film), bright, dull, lush, etc. CG animation has yet to prove its diversity in styles (although The Book of Life looks a little different visually). This is mainly do to the fact that CG films are almost exclusively created for a childhood audience, and since since these films are marketed to that demographic, brighter colors are usually used.

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Traditional animation vs CG (part 1)

The debate is relatively new, but it will continue for ages: traditional animation vs. computer generated (CG) animation. Traditional animation is created using hand drawn techniques: pen, pencil, ink and paint. This originates to the very early 1900’s. CG animation involves creating works on computers, using software to animate. This was first used in early 1980s films such as Tron, and became more popular in the mid-1990s and early 2000s after Toy Story‘s and other Pixar films’ successes.

Both techniques have their pros and cons, but the inevitable question remains: which is better? The answer: it depends on the situation.

For example, if a work or franchise was originally traditionally animated, its future works should be as well.

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“Guardians of the Galaxy” cartoon has release date

Once again, the channel Disney X D has picked up a great show. The “Guardians of the Galaxy” cartoon will air on September 5 on this year. It looks like it follows the same vein as the film, which is a very good thing. Check out the short promo:

According to the Marvel Animated Wiki, the series was first announced at the 2014 San Diego Comic Con. Since then, there has not been much news, but it is great to now have a release date.

Although the promo is not very long, it does show enough.

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Disney Live-Action: the epidemic

No animated Disney film will be left untouched by the live-action adaptation epidemic. Within the next year, people will have a difficult time trying to think of an animated Disney film that has not been adapted. The most recent victim has been The Sword in the Stone, based on the 1963 film.

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The live-action adaptation epidemic is quickly spreading through the kingdom. What to do?

In the early days of the epidemic, (circa March 2015) it seemed the majority of victims were Disney Renaissance films such as Beauty and the Beast and Mulan. Then it seemed no one was safe: Dumbo, The Jungle Book, Night on Bald Mountain, Winnie the Pooh, and Pinocchio soon followed. It’s just too much.

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Tuesday Shorts Talk: “Runaway Brain”

Tuesday Shorts Talk is a weekly discussion of an animated short film, featuring classics and lesser known works.

Only one of five theatrically released animated Mickey Mouse shorts over a period of 60 years, “Runaway Brain” is something of an anomaly in the Disney shorts cannon. After the theatrically animated short basically died away in the mid-1960’s in favor of animated television, any animated short was a rarity. Shown in 1995 before A Goofy Movie, viewers were treated to this:

From the opening scenes of the short, what immediately stands out is the high animation quality. Very rarely does traditionally hand-drawn animation look this good.

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Aladdin prequel announced (The Stuart Little 3 Syndrome)

It happened: there will be a Disney live-action prequel to an animated film. The Hollywood Reporter announced that a prequel to the 1992 animated classic, Aladdin, is in the works. The film will be about the origin of genies, and is simply titled Genies. There is no set release date.

stewart little 3
An image from “Stuart Little 3,” which was inexplicably animated after the first two films in the series were live-action. No, Stuart, I will not give you a thumbs up back. If “Stuart Little 3” never should have been animated, then the “Aladdin” prequel should not be live-action. Simple as that.

Earlier this year, Disney shocked the world, announcing a string of live-action films adapted from Disney animated classics, such as Mulan, Beauty and the Beast, Winnie the Pooh and others. (Read about my case against the “Night on Bald Mountain” live-action adaptation, another announced film). However, Genies is the first announced live-action prequel.

Which honestly does not make any sense at all. If a prequel or sequel to a film is made, it makes sense to keep it in the same medium, meaning– if the first one was animated, the prequel should be too! There are some great movie prequels out there. For example, The Godfather Part II. What if Francis Ford Coppola decided to animate that? That would not be cool.

The same goes for sequels: if the first one is live-action, keep the second one that way! (same goes for animation). Only one example that defies this rule comes to mind: Stuart Little 3.

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