Books 25 Feb 2006 08:34 am

More Hoppity

– Here are four more pages of the Mr. Bug book. This is one those books where they don’t seem to have enough room to fit in all the words. The film’s story is not one that would’ve made it past the Hollywood execs. One can’t easily encapsulate it into a short, catchy, exciting sentence.

A colony of bugs tries to escape the vacant lot and their human enemies by searching for the “Castle In The Sky,” a penthouse garden. Hoppity leads the way until he’s outwitted by Mr. Beetle in his attempt to woo . . .

Maybe I’m getting off the track. Let’s see, a good snappy phrase:
A bug version of “The Grapes of Wrath” meets “Mr. Smith Goes To Washington” . . .
(Click either image to enlarge to a readable size.)

It really is a simple story, but the world today has gotten, in some ways, even simpler. If it doesn’t mock everything we, as adults, knew and believed in as children, it couldn’t make a good children’s film today. As producers/writers/directors/animators today, we have to satirize or tear down all we enjoyed when we were young.

The Emperor’s New Groove isn’t able to just tell the story of a fallen Ancient Peruvian king, it has to soup up the works with sarcasm and David Spade nastiness. (Is that the “groove”?)
Treasure Planet isn’t satisfied telling one of the most lasting stories of all time, it has to set it in space with flying galleons?!?
The Incredibles gives us even more vulnerable superheroes.
Shrek goes after fairy tales and Disney films.
Hoodwinked goes after Shrek.

I don’t necessarily dislike these films – particularly The Incredibles – but I do have to wonder why they are slanted the way they are. Have animators lost all ability to tell a story innocently? Do they honestly believe that children don’t deserve a good, simple, well told story? Is there no way to give the youngsters of America something we had as children? And I don’t mean the soupy sapiness of Doogal! I mean a good, quiet, intelligent story children and adults can enjoy together! (Maybe I should hope Cars will save the day, but somehow I’m not sure the Indianapolis 500 is what I’m hoping for.) Even a couple of years ago we had magnificent live-action versions of The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Fly Away Home was also brilliant. (Three enormously talented creative directors: Agnieszka Holland, Alfonso Cuaron, Carroll Ballard.)

I’m just wondering. Having seen a good, quiet children’s film in Kirikou, I wonder what’s gone wrong here. The film capital of the world searches for the edge in every story it tries to tell, and the stories end up suffering.

2 Responses to “More Hoppity”

  1. on 27 Feb 2006 at 8:16 pm 1.John Celestri said …

    Hi Michael,

    You’ve voiced exactly how I feel about the general tone of present-day cartoon/comedy humor.

    I suspect that the sarcasm and nastiness displayed in the most recent Hollywood animated features (as well as in TV shows aired on Cartoon Network, Comedy Central, etc.) is a direct reflection of what the executives green-lighting the projects enjoy themselves. Even if those executives are older than thirty years in physical age, I don’t think they’ve matured emotionally past sophomore year in high school. What else can explain the sophomoric attitudes that permeate the scripts? Somehow, those executives don’t understand the maturity it took to write those smart-alecky (but good-natured) classic Warner Brothers cartoons of the late 1930s and 1940s. I understand the concept of stretching the envelope, but —- Sorry, I guess I’m turning into Shamus Culhane.

  2. on 28 Feb 2006 at 10:46 am 2.Michael said …

    Hi John. I obviously couldn’t agree with you more. The sad part to me is that there’s such great talent going to waste on trivial films. The old free-lancer’s adage, “At least they’re working” sometimes isn’t enough in the big picture of things. Maybe good things will start to happen at Disney again. I just heard that John Musker & Ron Clements went back to work at Disney again yesterday. And then there’s the rumor that Apple may buy Disney. Who knows where it’ll all go? Hopefully the Doogals of the world will evaporate.

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