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Showing posts with the label CG

The Star (2017)

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At this point, I'm fairly certain the entertainment industry has invested more time in trying to tell the story of the donkey who attended the birth of Christ than the story of Joseph and Mary.

While this attempts to wedge in a bastardized version of the nativity, The Star continues this tradition by focusing its attention on Bo, a donkey with big dreams of one day joining the royal caravan and doing something important. His friend, Dave (a dove), also plays a role, as does Ruth, a sheep obsessed with following the star of Bethlehem.

Opposing them are an assassin sent by Herod and his two hunting dogs.

I'll admit I kind of like the idea that a bunch of kids are going to be devastated when they learn there's no canonical justification for a bulky cave-troll getting pushed off a cliff by a flock of sheep. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Or am I? There's really not a lot to say about this in terms of plot, because - spoiler alert - it's mostly just the goddamn n…

Care Bears: Welcome to Care-a-Lot: Holiday Hics and Holi-Stage (2012)

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As a CG show aimed at children, this was not even close to the best of the crop. However, it's not completely egregiously offensive to the eyes, ears, or brain, either. Pablum is a good word.

These two episodes didn’t air anywhere close to each other, but the second literally takes place the next day.

Holiday Hics


For a 22-minute episode in which very little happened, this dragged a surprisingly small number of times.

As a Christmas episode, this was actually quite interesting, as it’s a fairly significant outlier. It’s a fantasy version of Christmas that isn’t explicitly set in the winter. I don’t know whether there are seasons in Care-a-Lot in this series, but this episode was not wintry in any way.

However, “Great Giving Day” is still clearly Christmas. Not just because it’s a holiday with an “Eve” that involves caring and giving gifts. Nope, we have a genuine magical gift-giver.

The Great Giving Bear has red fur, a kindly-sounding, older voice actor, a present symbol on his tum…

Trolls (2016) and the Trolls Holiday Special (2017)

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We watched the Trolls Holiday Special and walked away with one big question: Is Trolls a Christmas Movie? After we got around to watching the movie itself, we decided the answer is ehhh... not really? Probably not?

However, its one holiday element is unique enough that we wanted to catalog it.

The movie Trolls (based somehow on the plastic dolls from back in the day) is a surreal confabulation of light, color, and pop music. The trolls are small and brightly colored, and the favorite snack of a larger creature that looks much more like your stereotypical common troll. These "Bergens" believe that the only way to be happy is to essentially steal the trolls' happiness (by eating them).

However, (and this is where the holidays come in) they only eat trolls once a year, on a holiday called Trollstice. Other than being a pun on solstice, Trollstice has very little in common with Christmas though. There is one very early scene in which the bergen prince wakes his father on Tr…

The Garfield Show: Caroling Capers (2009) and Home for the Holidays, Parts 1 and 2 (2010)

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I put this on mostly out of curiosity. I actually do have some nostalgic connection to the lasagna-loving cat (I was just the right age to be suckered into finding the character's antics amusing during his heyday), but I've long since come to terms with the fact that - with the exception of a few decent specials - no version of Garfield holds up all that well.

I wasn't expecting this to be any different, but it turns out I was mistaken. This computer-generated Garfield series was far, far worse.

The writing's bad, but honestly that barely even registers. You could put Aaron Sorkin on this, and it wouldn't improve. The real issue is the animation - I sincerely doubt words can convey just how abysmal this looks. Imagine an uncanny valley trying to mirror a comic strip instead of a photograph. They lifted the character designs directly from the page but didn't adjust for the added dimension. Mouths aren't shaped - as a result, they just kind of warp like rubb…

The Grinch (2018)

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All the kids in the theater liked the Grinch film that day, but Erin found the experience rather blasé.

I know, I know - we've already released a podcast reviewing The Grinch, but I wanted to cover a few details we glossed over, like the plot.

It's worth noting the story is a little different this time. Or rather, it's almost entirely the same, but the reasons things occur, along with what that implies, is completely different.

Like the original, this revolves around the Grinch, a green-furred individual living on a mountain overlooking Whoville, a town of elfin creatures who live for Christmas. Unlike the original, the Grinch isn't a monster in any sense of the term. He lives apart from the Whos, though he regularly goes into town for groceries. While there, he's somewhat misanthropic, but not to the degree he's shunned or even disliked. One of the Whos even considers him a close friend (though the Grinch doesn't share the sentiment).

The Grinch still disl…

A StoryBots Christmas (2017)

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When we finished watching this new special from Netflix, we were left with a conundrum. Had we just experienced a kids show with a surprising scattering of subversive humor and references? Or a hit-and-miss parody of children's entertainment? Or a piece of tedious moralizing aimed at the very very young?

If it sounds like all those things couldn't possibly be contained in one 25-minute special, you understand why we were perplexed. We didn't hate it, but we didn't enjoy it either. We spent most of it staring at the television, heads slightly cocked to one side, saying, "Huh?"

The best I can put together without doing any research is the Storybots are animated characters from a children's series of the same name, and they answer questions from videos of young kids. They live in a place that is either another dimension or a hollow-earth world, which is connected to Earth via a series of vacuum tubes. In their own world, they're two-dimensional animatio…

Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas (2011)

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There's something I find especially frustrating about specials like this. The production values are high, the design and animation and voice acting all well done. But the writing is idiotic, so it's still a boring, tedious slog.

Unlike the specials affiliated with the Dreamworks movies Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon, and Kung Fu Panda, I went into this one never having seen any of the movies in the franchise.

Although I hesitate to admit it, the only things I didn't find dull as a dead tree discarded for trash pickup were some of the Scrat sections (you've seen the prehistoric squirrel obsessed with acorns if you've ever seen a trailer for one of these films). The silent animation was decently paired with Christmas music. Of course, I also hated those sections because a character being beat up constantly through no fault of their own is a form of animated "comedy" that I particularly despise.

The story opens with Manny (the mammoth. Get it?) hauling ou…

PJ Masks: Gekko Saves Christmas/Gekko's Nice Ice Plan (2015)

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The only thing we knew about the animated show PJ Masks before turning on this episode was that it has a lot of toys targeted at the preschool set.

The premise is that three kids turn into animal-themed superheroes at night (once they don the pajamas of the title) and defeat super-villain kids while learning simplistic morals. It's based on a series of French picture books, and the show is a collaboration between Canadian and French animation companies and is distributed in the U.S. by Disney.

It's visually and structurally somewhat reminiscent of Super Why. Each 15-minute story has a clear moral from the beginning and a repetitive structure that will have some kids yelling at the characters in frustration.

In Gekko Saves Christmas, the villain Luna Girl is stealing all the Christmas decorations and presents. Catboy and Owlette easily stall the villain several times, but they need Gekko to take her hoverboard. He's too frightened of failing to really try to stay on the bo…

Saving Santa (2013)

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Saving Santa is a 2013 direct-to-DVD computer animated movie that's something of a paradox. I suppose that's appropriate, since the movie is about "a time-traveling elf," but that's not the kind of paradox I'm referring to - I'm talking about the writing, which is at once utter crap and impressively nuanced.

More on that in a moment. First, the plot.
Bernard D. Elf, astonishingly only the second-worst-named character in this movie, wakes up late for an appointment showing off his new invention to the North Pole's tech company. He races across town and gets them to watch, but in the process momentarily blacks out the elf city's power.
The time the grid's down is just enough for Neville Baddington (and that'd be #1) and his evil package delivery company to determine the cloaked location of Santa's operation. Unaware they're on their way, Bernard heads to his day job, shoveling reindeer dung out of Santa's stables.
No, really.
Wh…

Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures: Santa Pac's Merry Berry Day (2014, 2015)

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I've long championed the theory that any premise, regardless of how seemingly juvenile or misguided, can be elevated to greatness if the core concept is simply taken seriously and complex emotion is added. Movies like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and shows such as My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic lend credence to this idea.

It is a good theory, or - more accurately - it was a good theory. In the space of 44 minutes, this idea was tested and soundly, undeniably refuted by a corporate cash grab so cloying, the very core is beyond salvation.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me tell you about the show, Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures.

This is a CG science-fiction/superhero adventure based on the characters from the 1980 arcade game. This isn't the first time someone's attempted to adapt Pac-Man into a television series, but it might be the first time someone tried giving it a relatively serious tone.

Note I said relatively serious - this is still supposed t…

Sid the Science Kid: Sid's Holiday Adventure (2009)

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Sid the Science Kid is an animated show for preschoolers, so there are specific questions you might need to ask before judging it.

Question 1: Is it at all interesting for adults without kids?

I enjoy a lot of children's television, but this is not a show that holds any value for adults who don't deal with children, except on a technical artistry level. The show is produced by the Jim Henson Company, and the animation is actually generated in real time from motion capture and digital "puppeteering."

This allows them to film fast and give the characters a lot of physicality. On the other hand, it doesn't always translate to fine control. for example, I noticed one secondary character manipulating a prop in a particularly clunky way.

Question 2: Is it interesting for the target group?

I haven't polled anyone, but it's won some awards. I was rather struck with how real the kid characters' dialogue seems: the kids respond too literally or somewhat vague…

Spirit - Riding Free: Lucky and the Christmas Spirit (2017)

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I have never seen the Dreamworks animated movie Spirit - Stallion of the Cimarron, but Wikipedia tells me that the point was that it was about a horse whose rightful place was running free, untamed by man. So I'm not sure why the Netflix spin-off series follows a girl who befriends a wild horse (also named Spirit) such that he follows her around and hangs out in town all the time. Seems... wrong.

But hey, there's money in dolls that ride horses.

We also couldn't figure out when this takes place. The lack of cars, one-room schoolhouse, and prevalence of farming seems to imply a vague "frontier" time, but the clothing and the writing seemed plausibly modern. Based on this episode, we decided that it could take place anytime between the 1880s and the 1980s, but if someone pulled out a cell phone, we wouldn't be that surprised.

The episodes seems to follow the lead girl, her friends, Spirit, and the friends' horses as they go on inoffensive Babysitters-Club…

Olaf's Frozen Adventure (2017)

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We covered Frozen back when it came out, despite some disagreement on whether it should count as a Christmas movie. (We've since decided it should be classified as Christmas in July.)

But with this new special there's no room for disagreement or confusion. It's Christmas in Arendelle.

The premise is that it's the first holiday season since the events of the movie, and so it's the first opportunity that royal sisters Anna and Elsa have for a holiday celebration both in public and together.

They decide to throw a party, but after a public ceremony, the local folks all have their family traditions to get back to. The sisters realize that their lives have been so circumscribed by hiding Elsa's powers that they don't really have any traditions of their own. Olaf sets out to save the day by collecting traditions from the townspeople. Naturally, complications ensue.

I loved this. I sat through it with a big stupid grin on my face the whole time. I liked the story…

The Amazing World of Gumball: Christmas (2012)

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Well, that was odd.

We’d never seen an episode of The Amazing World of Gumball before, and it seems unlikely that we ever will again. Not that this was bad or anything, it just seems like the kind of thing you might watch if A) you had cable and B) you had a lot of time on your hands and were prone to watching whatever came on next.

I mean, it’s on Hulu, but so are a lot of other things.

This show seems to follow a family of animals - the mom’s a cat, the dad’s a rabbit, and there are three kids: a cat, a rabbit, and what Wikipedia tells me is an adopted goldfish. Eh, all the character designs are round enough that the distinctions don’t seem to matter.

The animation style is the most striking thing about this show - highly stylized cartoony characters are layered over real-world backgrounds and combined with occasional CG and stop-motion.

This episode opens with a little Christmas singing, abruptly cut short when the dad hits a man with his car who’s dressed a little like Santa. The…

Miraculous: Tales of Ladybug & Cat Noir: Pire Noël (2016)

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If you like crazy Christmas stuff the way we do, or if you like zany superhero/magical girl hijinks, you should probably go ahead and see if you can find a copy of this on YouTube. This was a ton of fun.

Miraculous (for short) is a CG show from France about two superhero teenagers. Marinette is an aspiring fashion designer, and she transforms into Ladybug. Adrien is a young fashion model, and his superhero identity is Cat Noir. They don’t know each other’s secret, which leads to a classic secret identity plotline where Marinette has a crush on Adrien, but Cat Noir has a crush on Ladybug.

Their powers come from little (alien?) creatures and are channeled through items known as the Miraculouses: Marinette’s earrings and Adrien’s ring. There is a villain (Le Papillon in the original French) who wants to steal these items. In each episode, the villain senses someone feeling a strong negative emotion (anger, fear, jealousy, etc.) and sends an evil butterfly to possess them.

That’s what yo…

Super Why!: 'Twas the Night Before Christmas (2008)

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At one point while we were watching this, Erin turned to me and asked in disbelief, “You’ve watched this before?” What can I say, I used to work a lot of nights before we had Netflix; on many afternoons PBS was my background-noise companion.

Super Why! is one of the least interesting of the PBS kids shows that I’m familiar with from this era. It’s not so annoying that I would necessarily turn it off, you know, if my hands were covered in paint or something, but I wouldn’t seek it out.

The show follows Whyatt and his fairytale friends who live in Storybrook Village (which is a CG land hidden behind a secret door on a library bookshelf). In each episode, Whyatt (his big brother climbed a beanstalk), Pig (of the Three Little), Red (Riding Hood), and Princess Pea have a question to answer. They seek the answers by becoming the Super Readers, magically flying into another storybook, and helping the characters there.

And yes, we’ve got a bit of book-within-a-book-world going on. The story…

Doc McStuffins: A Very McStuffins Christmas (2013)

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If you don't have small children or regularly shop for toys, you may be unaware of this popular show. On a moral and personal level, I think it's awesome that this show is popular. It wears its feminism and positivity on its sleeve, which is great. It's kid-friendly to a fault, though, and the songs weren't very good.

The main character, “Doc,” is a little girl who has a knack for fixing broken toys. (She is following the example of her mom, who is a doctor.)

With that premise, of course there's a Christmas episode. As someone who spent a lot of time and love fixing toys as a kid, I found this show somewhat charming, despite the simplistic writing. Erin felt less charitable toward it than I did.

The main premise of the episode is that an elf named Tobias dropped a toy he was supposed to deliver for Doc’s little brother, breaking it. He's distraught about the implications for his career, (seriously, he won’t shut up about it) and Doc and her cadre of stuffed a…

Sofia the First: Winter’s Gift (2014)

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Sweet, another fantasy holiday revisited! The first holiday episode strained our tolerance, but this one was actually adorable.

Sofia is excited that it’s Wassailia once more, and she’s made a special gift for Cedric, the court magician. It’s a wand case she made by hand. When she and her rabbit Clover approach his study to deliver the gift, however, she overhears him ranting to himself about the useless trinkets people burden him with every Wassailia. Sofia decides that her gift isn’t special enough and she’ll need to find something better.

A chance comment tips her off to a magical flower - an Ice Lily - that sounds like a great gift, so she and Clover head out. Clover calls on a friend who knows the forest, a fox named Whiskers. (I don’t know why the fox and the rabbit are friends either, but you forget about that because the fox is busy being super sassy about the rabbit’s cushy life in the castle.)

On the way to find the Ice Lilies, they hear some beautiful music and stop to in…

Strawberry Shortcake's Berry Bitty Adventures: Happy First Frost (2010)

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This is only a Christmas episode if you squint, but we think it counts. The characters specifically say that it’s the shortest day of the year, that everyone has different traditions to celebrate, and theirs involves gift-giving. One or two of those wouldn’t do it, but all three and we’ll give it a pass. This is despite the fact that the animation company didn’t bother to give any of the backgrounds or characters any sort of winter look.

The plot mostly follows the aforementioned gift-giving. Strawberry Shortcake and her candy-colored friends have a Secret-Santa-like tradition where they pick names out of a hat and give secret presents. They are preparing for this when a caterpillar (named, I kid you not, “Mr. Longface”) visits, and they invite him to join in.

Strawberry picks his name and sets out to find the perfect gift. Blueberry has Lemon’s name, and decides to give her a huge book about organizing books. Unfortunately, this is a terrible gift for Lemon, who owns only two other…

Mainlining Movie Discussion: Home (2015)

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Home is a CG science fiction comedy from last year that’s ambiguously a Christmas movie. It’s loosely based on the 2007 novel, The True Meaning of Smekday. It’s not a clear enough example to be covered in the normal season, but we felt it deserved a spot in our archives.

We’re trying something a little different on this one: instead of posting a review written by one of us, we’re presenting this as a discussion.

Let us know what you think of the format: we're thinking of adding it to our standard repertoire.


Erin: Let’s start with the story. The movie is set immediately after the events of a disappointingly bloodless alien invasion where the human race is transported to Australia. A girl’s left behind, and she befriends an outcast alien who’s inadvertently endangered the planet by sending a party evite to another alien race.

The girl’s trying to find her mom, and the alien’s trying to undo the damage he’s done. You get the idea.

Unlike me, you actually read the book. How’s the premis…