TV Review: Silver Surfer (1998)

Original Run: February 7th, 1998 – May 16th, 1998
Created by: Larry Brody
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Silver Surfer by Jack Kirby
Music by: Shuki Levy
Cast: Paul Essiembre, Camilla Scott, Colin Fox

Marvel Entertainment, Saban Entertainment, Fox, 13 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

This show came out in a time when I was way more interested in chasing girls than watching Saturday morning cartoons. Also, I was probably really hung over on Saturday mornings in 1998. Plus, this series was really short-lived that I didn’t even know it existed until years later.

I binged watched it online in an afternoon, though, as I wanted to see if it was as good as some of the other ’90s Marvel cartoons that were on Fox and existed as part of that X-Men ’92 animated Marvel canon.

I think that this is pretty decent but it didn’t pull me in like the X-Men or Spider-Man cartoons of the same era. Also, it relied heavily on CGI and with that, gave us a weird mix of traditional hand-drawn 2D animation with 3D CGI graphics. It’s not terrible, visually, but it’s a bit jarring at times and the two styles have never really worked together for me. Also, the CGI stuff looks really cheap, which is probably just because of the time when this was made, as CGI animation wasn’t as refined as it would become.

This is similar to the other shows it shares a universe with, as it adapts the comic book stories but takes tremendous liberties with the material due to the length of the episodes and trying to get the franchise off of the ground with lots of characters as quickly as possible. Considering that everything is condensed down to just 13 episodes, I’m okay with it.

I really liked the three-part origin episodes more than the rest of the series but it was cool seeing what characters they started to sprinkle in and a second season, had it been made, could’ve been an improvement with a much larger universe to explore and a richer mythos.

All in all, this was a fun way to waste a Sunday afternoon. It’s hard to tell what this could’ve been due to it not surviving a short, first season.

Rating: 6.25/10
Pairs well with: other Marvel animated shows from the ’90s.

TV Review: Galaxy Express 999 (1978–1981)

Original Run: September 14th, 1978 – March 26th, 1981
Created by: Leiji Matsumoto
Directed by: Nobutaka Nishizawa
Written by: Hiroyasu Yamaura, Keisuke Fujikawa, Yoshiaki Yoshida
Based on: Galaxy Express 999 by Leiji Matsumoto
Music by: Nozomi Aoki
Cast: Masako Nozawa, Masako Ikeda, Kaneta Kimotsuki

Toei Animation, Fuji TV, 113 Episodes, 24 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

Out of Leiji Matsumoto’s big three series, this is my least favorite. One of them has to be the odd one out, I guess, but it never appealed to me in the same way as the Captain Harlock stuff or Star Blazers a.k.a. Space Battleship Yamato.

This is a much smaller story and even though it has some action and adventure, it isn’t on the same epic scale as the other two franchises. But they all do exist in the same universe and crossover and because of that, I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for this series, as well.

I also hadn’t seen anything Galaxy Express 999 related in decades, so it was kind of cool revisiting it. A lot of Matsumoto’s stuff is actually free to watch on Tubi for those interested.

Overall, I’d say that I actually like this even less now. I’d check it out when I had access to it in my younger days because it was pretty imaginative and was full of a lot of cool visuals and ideas.

However, the animation doesn’t hold up very well. I guess it’s fine for the time but it just doesn’t feel like it is in the same ballpark as Star Blazers or Harlock. I recently revisited both of those series too and I didn’t seem to really notice any glaring problems with the animation like I do with this. Mostly, it just feels kind of choppy and not as fluid.

The story is interesting enough but I was only able to watch about a dozen episodes and couldn’t commit to the entire run, which I did with the other series. Still, I will probably review the film versions that came out in the same era and see how I feel about those.

Rating: 6.5/10
Pairs well with: other Galaxy Express 999 films and shows, as well as Leiji Matsumoto’s other work: Captain Harlock and Space Battleship Yamato a.k.a. Star Blazers.

 

TV Review: The Transformers – Seasons 3 & 4 (1986-1987)

Also known as: Transformers: Generation 1, Transformers G1 (informal titles)
Release Date: September 15th, 1986 – November 11th, 1987
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Transformers by Hasbro and Takara Tomy
Music by: Johnny Douglas, Robert J. Walsh
Cast (voices): Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Chris Latta, Michael Bell, Corey Burton, John Stephenson, Jack Angel, Casey Kasem, Scatman Crothers, Charlie Adler

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, AKOM, Claster Television, 33 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

I wanted to review this portion of the classic Transformers television show separate from the first half of the series, simply because these two seasons take place after the cinematic film, which completely changed the landscape, characters and settings of the franchise.

In this era, Optimus Prime is dead and the Autobots are led by Rodimus Prime, formerly Hot Rod. Many other Autobots died, as well. And the same can be said about the Decepticons, who are now led by a suped up Megatron renamed Galvatron, as well as Cyclonus, Scourge and the Sweeps, as opposed to Starscream and the Seekers.

Additionally, Spike is older, married and has a son named Daniel, who is a big character on the show.

We also see just about every episode taking place in outer space, as opposed to Earth. The overall landscape and scope of the series has grown much larger and there is a new villain group that often times plays the Autobots and Decepticons against each other like chess pieces.

When I was a kid, this was my favorite era of the series and aesthetically, it still is. I do really enjoy the better episodes but unfortunately, there are some really bad ones too. The one with the musical aliens is nearly unwatchable. But the good things still greatly outweigh the bad.

I like the altered mythos, the newer character designs and the show just feels darker and more bleak. Granted, by the end, Optimus Prime does come back and there is even a moment of peace between him and Galvatron.

This stretch of the show also has some cool Easter eggs that officially connect it to G.I. Joe in the animated series canon. One major human character is the daughter of Flint and Lady Jaye. We even get a cameo from Cobra Commander, as an aged weapons dealer, no longer with an army to rule over.

The end of this era also debuts the Headmasters and Trigger Masters concepts. While the show didn’t continue on beyond their debut, it was a cool way to end the show. Especially, for those of us that were still buying the toys at that point. 

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: The other Marvel/Sunbow Transformers and G.I. Joe stuff.

Film Review: Sleeping Beauty (1959)

Release Date: January 29th, 1959 (Los Angeles premiere)
Directed by: Clyde Geronimi (supervising director), Eric Larson, Wolfgang Reitherman, Les Clark
Written by: Erdman Penner, Milt Banta, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, Ralph Wright
Based on: Sleeping Beauty by Charles Perrault
Music by: George Burns (adapted from Tchaikovsky)
Cast: Mary Costa, Bill Shirley, Eleanor Audley, Verna Felton, Barbara Luddy, Barbara Jo Allen, Taylor Holmes, Bill Thompson, Marvin Miller (narrator)

Buena Vista Film Distribution, Walt Disney Productions, 75 Minutes

Review:

“A forest of thorns shall be his tomb! Borne through the skies on a fog of doom! Now go with the curse, and serve me well! ‘Round Stefan’s castle, cast my spell!” – Maleficent

This is my favorite classic animated Disney film of all-time. While I also love Alice In Wonderland immensely and have (in my own mind) debated which one takes the cake for me, it’s always Sleeping Beauty that wins out, especially when I see them both pretty close together.

As far as the classic Disney style and patented tropes go, this is a perfect motion picture but then it’s also more than that.

This, at face value, looks like a standard Disney princess story but it also features the greatest villain that Disney has ever had in Maleficent. A villain so badass and cool that she’s been featured in the great Kingdom Hearts video games and gone on to have her own series of live-action films featuring her as the main character over Aurora a.k.a. Sleeping Beauty.

On top of that, this is a visual triumph for the Disney company, as it has a very unique animation style with incredible character design, a delectable, vivid color palate and a sort of looming darkness that their other films don’t have. There’s a real beauty with this picture that holds it above Disney’s other masterfully crafted and visually impressive films.

The animation is also so smooth, especially in regards to the great action sequences. The big action-packed climax that sees Prince Philip take on Maleficent in her massive dragon form is stunning to behold. Sixty-plus years later, it has held up incredibly well and is, hands down, one of the absolute best and most memorable animated action sequences in film history.

For me and what I like in Disney films, as well as fairytale stories, this is just a perfect storm, which is greatly enhanced by the unique and alluring visuals and one of the greatest silver screen villains ever created.

Rating: 10/10
Pairs well with: other classic animated Disney films of the classic era.

Film Review: Lady and the Tramp (1955)

Release Date: June 16th, 1955 (Chicago premiere)
Directed by: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Written by: Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Ralph Wright, Don DaGradi
Based on: Happy Dan, The Cynical Dog by Ward Greene
Music by: Oliver Wallace
Cast: Barbara Luddy, Larry Roberts, Bill Thompson, Dallas McKennon, Bill Baucom, Verna Felton, Peggy Lee

Buena Vista Film Distribution, Walt Disney Productions, 76 Minutes

Review:

“(repeated line) As my grandpappy, Ol’ Reliable, used to say… I don’t recollect if I ever mentioned Ol’ Reliable before?” – Trusty

As I started reviewing Disney’s classic animated features from the beginning, I wondered where their distribution partnership with RKO Radio Pictures would end. I guess it’s here, as this is the first film distributed by Buena Vista, which was created to be the distribution arm of the Disney company.

While that might not seem as if it is important to the final film, it could possibly be a reason as to why this one feels like a slight step down in quality for what Disney had been putting out, at the time. However, following up Cinderella, Alice In Wonderland and Peter Pan couldn’t have been easy.

Also, that’s not to say that this is bad or unworthy of the Disney brand. Lady and the Tramp is still one of the best animated films of its time and deservedly considered a classic.

In fact, this is one of the classic Disney films that I watched the most, as a kid. I always liked the characters, the story and yes, even the romance. Honestly, this may have been my first experience seeing romance play out in a film. Well, it was at least the first romantic movie I probably paid attention to.

The animation is great and I also like the few songs in the film. However, the movie plays more like a sequence of events without much tying them together. At least, there doesn’t seem to be much of a point to the larger arc of the story and it almost feels like there isn’t one. Things happen, dogs fall in love and eventually, they live together and have babies. All of this, however, just felt like things that happened around random scenes.

I guess it didn’t need to have a clear objective and can be brushed off as just peaking into these two dogs’ lives for a bit but its lack of real structure and narrative progression does effect the quality.

Rating: 7.5/10
Pairs well with: other Disney animated films of the 1950s.

Film Review: Peter Pan (1953)

Release Date: February 5th, 1953
Directed by: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Written by: Milt Banta, Bill Cottrell, Winston Hibler, Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, Ralph Wright
Based on: Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie
Music by: Oliver Wallace
Cast: Bobby Driscoll, Kathryn Beaumont, Hans Conried, Paul Collins, Tommy Luske

RKO Radio Pictures, Walt Disney Productions, 77 Minutes

Review:

“All this has happened before, and it will all happen again. But this time it happened in London. It happened on a quiet street in Bloomsbury. That corner house over there is the home of the Darling family. And Peter Pan chose this particular house because there were people here who believed in him.” – Narrator

This used to be one of my favorite Disney animated features when I was young. It’s still damn good and I’d consider it one of the best but it doesn’t quite hit me in the same way, now that I’m an adult. Although, I still appreciate it and its message about embracing the youthful parts of your spirit, especially for those of us who are much older than the kids in the story.

Overall, this is a good, fantastical, swashbuckling adventure. It features pirates, Native Americans and a group of kids that are trying to be a force for good in the fantasy land that they inhabit. Most importantly, it’s just a feel good movie that is fun to escape into for 77 minutes.

The thing I really like about it, as a fan of this style of animation, is the overall look and vibe of the movie.

I love the character design, the design of the locations and the animation, itself, is really damn good, propelling the Disney standard to new heights, once again.

At this point, Disney had mastered fluidity in its use of motion. It makes me further appreciate how great the company and its animators were, almost seventy years ago and more than thirty years before the PIXAR computer animated style became the norm. This is also why 2-D animation of this style is still and will always be my favorite.

Peter Pan is just amusing and entertaining from top-to-bottom. It’s stood the test of time, greatly, and it has spawned an eternal interest in the characters and its world that movies based off of it are still made today. While this is based off of the J.M. Barrie book, I truly believe that it is this film that kept Barrie’s creation alive for future generations.

Rating: 8.5/10
Pairs well with: other Disney animated films of the 1950s.

Film Review: Alice in Wonderland (1951)

Release Date: July 26th, 1951 (London premiere)
Directed by: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, Hamilton Luske
Written by: Milt Banta, Del Connell, Bill Cottrell, Joe Grant, Winston Hibler, Dick Huemer, Dick Kelsey, Tom Oreb, Bill Peet, Erdman Penner, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, John Walbridge
Based on: Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll
Music by: Oliver Wallace
Cast: Kathryn Beaumont, Ed Wynn, Richard Haydn, Sterling Holloway, Jerry Colonna, Verna Felton, J. Pat O’Malley, Bill Thompson, Joseph Kearns, Dink Trout, James MacDonald

RKO Radio Pictures, Walt Disney Productions, 75 Minutes

Review:

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” – Alice

Growing up, Alice In Wonderland was my favorite animated Disney film after Sleeping Beauty. I’ll get into that other film’s greatness when I review it in the near future.

Getting back to Alice, I always saw it as the most bizarre and fun film in Disney’s massive catalog. Always being an artist, I also loved it’s surrealist approach to storytelling and its unique art style and clever design.

It’s still a solid film and one of the best of its era. I don’t know if I still hold it as high in the Disney oeuvre, as I once did, but it’s still really high up on my list because out of all the Disney animated features, it offers up the best type of escapism. In fact, that’s really what the movie is about, as a young girl escapes into her mind (or does she?) to help pass the time on a fairly mundane day.

I think that escapism is important and it seems lost in the modern world where entertainment is almost always injected with political and social messages to the point where escapism seems impossible, even in the realm of entertainment. Essentially, entertainment has stopped being entertainment but I’m also not here to harp on that, as I’m now doing the same thing that I’m criticizing.

Alice In Wonderland is a beautiful and energetic film that moves at a quick pace and actually does a lot with a short running time.

It’s just amusing from start to finish and full of bonkers characters, crazy situations and it captivates the imagination in a great way. You don’t have to think too hard or really at all. You can just get lost in the absurdity of this vivid and visually pleasing tale. It’s almost impossible to watch this film, even repeatedly, and not end with a smile on your face.

This film, for what it is, is near perfect. It absolutely accomplished what it set out to do and that’s probably why it has stood the test of time and is one of the most beloved Disney animated classics that typically finds itself near the top of most people’s list.

Rating: 9.5/10
Pairs well with: other Disney animated films of the 1950s.