Disney/Pixar 2016

With 20 ‘worst fucking year ever’ 16 drawing to a close and 20′ Nostradamus prophecised Donald Trump as the third antichrist who would bring about the end of the world’ 17 looming ahead, I spent the first weeks of the new year regressing into a Disney/Pixar themed joy hole.

Despite hearing so many good things about each of Disney’s animated releases this year, I unlawfully neglected all but one when they were released at the cinema. I’m all up to speed now though so without further ado let me tell you how good they are actually without all that twitter hyperbole blinding you in the eyes.

Zootropolis

zootropolis poster

Zootropolis or Zootopia, as it was named in the US (because Europeans can’t handle utopias as the EU crumbles around us and Americans presumably don’t know what a metropolis) was released earlier in the year to rave reviews and plenty of good things being said about it. Recently it won a Golden Globe for best animation, beating Disney’s other animated feature Moana and Kubo and the two strings, which I’m informed is an actual crime, based on all the good things I’ve heard about that movie.

Zootropolis takes place in a world of anthropomorphic talking animals, where carnivore and herbivore live together in harmony living their lives like regular people. Probably for the best, you don’t ask where all the humans have gone, as we probably got wiped out thanks to the actions of the aforementioned third antichrist some 300 years ago. The capital of this world is Zootropolis where all the different species live together in perfect harmony, or so it would initially seem from the outside to idealistic bunny Judy Hopps, who wishes to leave her small town and her carrot farming family and become the first bunny cop of Zootropolis. When she gets to the big city, she learns pretty fast that Zootropolis is far from the tolerant utopia she imagined. She lives in a crummy apartment, confined to the dull thankless role of parking enforcement, although she may be the city’s first bunny cop, her position was all arranged as a political stunt by the city’s mayor to further embolden the idea of a fair and tolerant city in the minds of its people. Slowly she realises the crushing reality of life that all must make as we transition into adulthood. You are not special, you’re not important, and you will definitely never be able to change the world in any positive or meaningful way.

Well, not with that attitude…

Teaming up with Jason Bateman’s con man Fox – Nick Wilde. Hopps (Oh yeah she’s a rabbit, I just got that) sets about solving a mystery involving missing animals, a mystery that will take her through the various districts of Zootropolis, from the shady underbelly of organised crime right to the top with corrupt politicians trying to hide a frightening truth. Yes, this movie is basically Disney/Pixar doing Chinatown and it’s great.

You always expect something more from Pixar movies. The studio has had an incredible run over the last 20 years, but the studio’s greatest work have always been grounded upon a strong thematic core over which the story, the characters, settings, the colours and imagination are all developed in service to.

Zootropolis is one of those great movies, a parable about the dangers of racial profiling and assuming another’s behaviour based on stereotypes. It’s a movie that tackle the necessity of political correctness as well as the threat posed by political correctness gone wrong. No character is safe from these complex questions, where everybody is a different species and assumes the worst of the other. Hopps for example, develops a deep seated distrust for foxes after being bullied as a child, a distrust that grows into her adult life. Wilde the fox is the cynical foil to Hopps Lesley Knope styled optimism, the reason of which is down to his own sad history which plays out on a scene which I want spoil – but it’s fucking devastating.

Things do end happily however, this is a family movie afterall, but one with more smarts and wit that goes well beyond all the animal puns. You will believe that a shared love for Shakira will save us all.

I wonder has the Donald Trump seen Zootopia yet? He should. Probably not. What kind of movies does a man like that watch?

Well I’m on the internet aren’t I? it should be quite easy to find out.

Citizen Kane, Gone with the Wind, Goodfellas, Godfather and Bloodsport.

Huh… the more you know.

 

Finding Dory

Look at all these happy smiley faces. How could you not be won over by this movie?

It’s hard to believe it’s been 13 long years since Finding Nemo. A sequel was always been on the cards, but Pixar always take their time with sequels. The underwater world is literally teaming with possibilities for more stories to tell and more characters to bring to life. At the same time, Finding Nemo was a rambling odyssey befitting of the great blue, and by it’s genre’s very tropes it is difficult to follow up on an odyssey with another odysey. For this reason Finding Dory ultimately has to be less epic in scope than Finding Nemo. Arguably, the movie is more interesting because it is more inward looking and focusing on Dory as she attempts to find her own self.

Toy Story 2 effectively took Buzz Lightyear and Woody and reversed the roles as they played out in the first movie. It is Buzz who has to save Woody from becoming a collector’s item and remind him he is a toy. In Finding Dory, it is obviously Dory who has to be saved by Nemo from the worst hell on earth for a fish – a research aquarium in landlocked Cleveland.

The dottery Dory as voiced by Ellen Degeneres was the best part of the first movie. By turning the attention towards Dory, Marlin and his son Nemo become fairly redundant to the movie’s plot. Sure it is them who must find Dory, but really it is Dory who must find Dory.

Dory instead teams up with an Octopus named Hank for most of the movie, who in turn becomes one of the best bits of the sequel. The movie is set mostly within an aquarium where most of its inhabitants have become institutionalised. Like Dory, they all have some problem or disability holding them back. Kaitlin Olsen plays a Whale Shark named Destiny (she’d be better cast as some kind of big bird obviously) and Ty Burrell plays a Beluga whale who’s sonar doesn’t quite work.

Finding Dory is perfectly acceptable as a movie, it’s entertaining, it’s funny and has gorgeous visuals as you would expect from Pixar. Does it go the extra mile and join the ranks of the Pixar elite? Not quite, but I would say it’s at least on a par with Finding Nemo.

There is no Willem Dafoe though. Unless you stay until the end of the credits…

Moana

MoanaThe absolute best movie I saw this week was Disney’s latest Moana.

A movie that has many good things being said about it, but for good reason. Moana’s a girl confined to an island in the South Seas, she’s the daughter of the village chief and is destined to assume the mantle of tribal leader, a life of responsibility contained within her small island paradise. But is this the life this Disney princess wants? Or would she rather answer the ocean’s call and go off adventuring into the Pacific sunset as her heart wills? As her ancestors did? It is a classic Disney setup, tale as old as time, but like Frozen, there are just enough smarts to subvert the usual beats and expectations of the Disney princess movie. There is no prince charming to find, Moana’s quest is to follow the whims of her own heart and decide the person she wants to become. Her animal sidekick is a scrawny absent minded rooster (voiced by Alan Tudyk) who doesn’t really do anything in a meaningful way..

The movie’s version of the loud mouth genie of the lamp is the shapeshifting demigod Maui played, by Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson. Maui obviously takes on many of the Rock’s features, most notably the eye brow and the actor’s charismatic public persona and his self aware sense of machismo. His musical number is extremely reminiscent of Aladdin’s ‘Friend Like Me’, but with with another twist, in the case lulling Moana and the audience into a false sense of security with the power of a catchy upbeat song, before he makes off with Moana’s boat stranding her on a deserted island. Your Welcome indeed. Maui is a prick to begin with. Boastful, selfish, it’s kind of implied that he raped a goddess in the film’s prologue. Not literally, but stole her heart, source of all her power thereby robbing her of all her power and causing the shadow of death to prevail across the land.

Regardless, the ocean forces them together to overcome a great evil and restore power to the islands and the seafaring will of the people.

Keeping the cast within the South Pacific, Moana’s father is played by the guy who did Jango Fett in the Star Wars prequels (‘Destroy the techno union ships’) It also has Jermaine Clement as a giant crab do his Bowie impression for a glam rock number ‘Shiny’. Unfortunately, this week I also saw the same actor provide the voice of a sentient fart cloud who sung another Bowie esque number, so it’s only the second best Jermaine Clement song I heard this week.

The animation is colourful and fantastic, I was constantly marvelling over that sick hair and water tech. The way in which Maui’s Tatoos are animated and act as his more nobler conscience is genius. Ultimately Moana has that feeling of Disney magic to it, it’s perhaps not as clever as Zootropolis in it’s tackling of difficult themes. It’s impossible not to be swept up in it all, even though we have seen this king of thing before. There’s that great bit where Moana, yearns for more, yearns for the horizon and she just breaks out into glorious song. It’s brilliant! I mean, just watch it. It’s fucking beautiful.

See how she paddles to the beat of the music. The pig is adorable. What’s not to love?

If it doesn’t put a smile on your face, you are dead inside and I wouldn’t know what to suggest to you.

 

 

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