Month: September 2013

The Unshaved Mouse’s Top 10 Non-Disney Animated Movies

So a few months back I let slip that Hunchback of Notre Dame is my personal favourite Disney movie. But did you know that there are animated movies out there that weren’t created by Disney? My hand to God, it’s true. In fact, there are so many that I was actually able to throw together a list of my favourite non-Disney animated movies. Understand, I make no claim that these are the best non-Disney animated movies, just that they are the ones that have wormed their way into my tiny, blackened little mouse heart.
 
Gay Purr-ee
Gay Pur-ee
 
# 10 Gay Purr-ee, 1962, UPA
 
UPA are very much an also-ran in the history of American animation. They had the misfortune of trying to compete in the realm of feature length animation against Disney, and in the realm of theatrical shorts against Warner Bros. Also their most successful character was Mr Magoo.
Ha! He's BLIND! Oh that is too fucking funny!

Ha! He’s BLIND! Oh that is too fucking funny!

UPA, never able to compete with Disney in terms of money and animation quality, pioneered the technique of limited animation. But whereas later studios (cough, cough Hanna Barbera cough cough) would use this technique to flood the airwaves with cheap, awful, awful, lousy, just the worst cartoons, UPA deserve respect for turning limitation into a virtue. UPA took a minimalist and very visually striking approach to their animation, and that’s probably exemplified best here in this movie, one of only two full length theatrical animations the studio produced. The story is pretty simple. Mewsette, a naïve white farm cat, grows bored of her life on an idyllic Provencal farm and leaves for the glamour of 1890s Paris. There she falls into the clutches of the diabolical Meowrice who pretends to school her for high society whilst secretly grooming her as a mail-order bride (really). Fortunately she’s rescued by her loyal, spurned boyfriend Jean-Tom, and they all live happily ever after. Yeah, not exactly Tolstoy. So, why do I love this movie? Well, as I said, UPA were very good at compensating for their less than stellar animation by being visually striking. Take a look at this scene, where the animators depict Mewestte in the style of the great painters of the period.
 
Another point in its favour is some really strong musical talent. Judy Garland voices Mewsette and was able to rope Harold Arlen and Yip Harburg into the project as songwriters. You probably haven’t heard of them. They just wrote the songs for some obscure little thing called The Wizard of Oz. Real nobodies. I don’t want to oversell it, it’s not really a great movie. But there are moments where it rises to greatness.
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220px-Twice_upon_a_time_6604
#9 Twice Upon a Time, 1983, Korty Films, Lucasfilm
 
Where to start with this one? TUAT is probably the most “cult” film on this list. It looks like nothing else ever made. The dialogue is mostly off the cuff jibber-jabber by a cast of improvisational comedians. There are around three different versions, and if you try to show the original theatrical version then producer John Korty will most likely sue you. The plot is…there’s a dog who’s actually every animal and a Charlie Chaplin lookalike and they have to go into the real world to stop the king of nightmares from freezing time…or something…it’s really, really weird but also hilarious and kinda has to be seen for yourself.
***
Howls-moving-castleposter
 
#8 Howl’s Moving Castle, 2004, Studio Ghibli
 
Ohhh…I’m going to catch hell for this one. Yes, there is only one Studio Ghibli film on this list and it’s this one. And I know what you’re wondering; Why this and not Spirited Away, Princess Mononoke, Grave of the Fireflies or Tales from Earthsea? (Okay, you’re not wondering that last one). Honestly, I can’t really say. Most of Miyazaki’s films are like a gorgeous toyshop that everyone is allowed into except me. I’m like the starving urchin with his nose pressed up against the window, able to appreciate the beauty of what he’s seeing but just not able to get that incredible emotional high that his movies seem to instill in other people. Moving Castle was the first Miyazaki movie to make me feel like a Miyazaki movie is supposed to make everyone feel, where I was finally allowed into the toy shop to play. Also it has Christian Bale doing the Batman voice and that never gets old.
***
The_Secret_Of_Kells_Promo_Poster
 
#7
 
The Secret of Kells, 2009, Cartoon Saloon
 
A little national bias here, maybe, but I like to think that even if this wasn’t a hometown success story I’d still love this movie. Tom Moore and his Cartoon Saloon studio set out to make a “European Miyazaki”, drawing on Irish history, Celtic mythology and monastic art to create something that looks and feels unlike anything being made either in the States or Japan. Its also benefits from some A-grade Irish acting talent (Brendan Gleeson and Saoirse Ronan to name a few) and a surprisingly nuanced examination on the nature of faith, as both something limiting and isolating and as something joyous and inspiring. And it’s final scene, where the ancient artwork of the book of Kells is fully rendered in animation has to be seen to be believed.
***
 
Layout 1
#6
 
Kung Fu Panda, 2008, Dreamworks
 
My natural Disney-snob instincts notwithstanding, I will give Dreamworks their props when I feel props are due. And this one is definitely prop-worthy. It’s really no great mystery as to why this movie works; it’s a Kung Fu animated comedy with amazing Kung Fu, great animation (seriously, Dreamworks upped their game so hard with this one) and it’s funny as hell. It succeeds at everything it sets out to do. Just, a great, fun flick. Also, saying “skidoosh” will cure whatever ails ya.
***
Akira_movie_poster
 
#5
 
Akira, 1988, TMS Entertainment
 
Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda! Tetsuo! Kaneda!
***
Toy_Story_3_poster
 
#4
 
Toy Story 3, 2010, Pixar Animation Studios
 
Toy Story 3 is the worst reviewed of the trilogy, only garnering a miserable 99% on Rotten Tomatoes. But I respect this movie more than any other in the Pixar canon because I know as a writer the absolute hardest part of the trade is endings. Finding a way to cap a story in a way that is satisfying unexpected and earned is the greatest challenge any writer has to face and more often than not we fail. Toy Story 3 manages the almost unprecedented feat of being a satisfying conclusion to a trilogy (seriously, think about it. Sequels that are better than the original are fairly common but how often does a threequel manage to be as good as the first two?). But more impressively, this movie takes its characters and the audience about as low and as dark a place as you can conceive, to the very lip of the inferno itself. Towards the end, I was so swept up and invested in these characters and so convinced of their peril that I actually thought Pixar was going to do it. I thought the movie would end with the toys holding hands, one last gesture of love and solidarity in the face of pitiless oblivion, and then they’d be gone.
 
Now.
 
Considering that we actually go from that to one of the happiest most, satisfying endings I can remember seeing and that it in no way feels like a cheat or a cop out? That, my friends, is truly masterful filmmaking.
***
Batman_under_the_red_hood_poster
 
#3
 
Batman: Under the Red Hood, 2010, Warner Bros Animation
 
Ooookay. So, this will take some explaining. Alright, keep in mind this is a list of my personal favourites, I’m not going to make the case that this movie is better than Toy Story 3. And yes, I am aware that I have nominated a Batman animated film as one of my favourite movies and it doesn’t even have Kevin Conroy as Batman and Mark Hamill as the Joker. Yes. I chose this over Mask of the Phantasm. Mock me all you want but I shall be heard. I have chosen this movie not simply because I think it’s a great Batman story, but because right after endings, twists are the next hardest thing to do well as a writer and this movie has one of the best twists I have ever seen. Seriously, if I ever teach a writing course, I will use this movie as a text on how you do a twist right. So let me set the table, and it goes without saying after here be spoilers. 
The movie  begins several years in the past, with Batman racing to save Robin (Jason Todd) who’s been caputred by the Joker. So far, so predictable. The trick is, this time he fails. Joker beats Robin to death with a crowbar and then blows him up because Mr. J is not known for understatement. Years later, a new criminal appears on the scene called the Red Hood, who starts systematically wiping out the Gotham criminal underworld. Batman methodically puts the pieces together and realises that the Red Hood is none other Jason himself, back from the dead (superhero heaven has no pearly gates, only revolving doors). Batman becomes consumed with guilt, convinced that Jason has come to enact vengence on him for letting him die. He finally confronts him in an abandoned warehouse and tells Jason that he’s sorry…and then this happens.
Okay, so if  you couldn’t watch the video let me sum up.  Jason tells Batman that he forgave him a long time ago and that he knows he did everything he could to save him. What he’s pissed about, however, is that Batman didn’t kill the Joker because of it. The Batman comics have a very set routine. Every so often the Joker escapes from Arkham asylum, hatches a new scheme, kills a bunch of people, gets stopped by Batman, gets locked up, rinse lather repeat pretty much every few years since the forties. And of course after reading enough Batman comics you’ll find yourself screaming “For the love of God JUST KILL THE BASTARD!”. Jason essentially becomes the personification of the frustration here. Why don’t you just kill him. And finally, we get an answer that actually makes sense. Because Batman knows that if he were ever to lost control like that, he wouldn’t be able to stop. Which…kind of implies that he’s one bad day away from a killing spree and probably not the best person to be engaging in a life of vigilantism but, fuck it, it makes sense.
So why does this twist work? Well, on a technical level it’s nearly flawless, it makes sense given everything we’ve seen up until now, and doesn’t require any of the players to act out of character. It doesn’t contradict the facts as we know them. But at the same time, it’s completely unexpected because at no point are we led to believe that there is a twist (unless it’s that the Red Hood is Jason and we find that out fairly early on). Because Batman assumes that Jason’s motive is revenge, because he views everything through the prism of his own guilt, we do too. Batman is such a a hyper-competent, all knowing hero that we never stop to consider that maybe he’s wrong. And lastly, it works because it’s hugely emotionally satisfying. The desire for forgiveness is one of the most powerful emotions there is. When Jason tells Batman that he’s forgiven him….my feels, as the say on Tumblr.
***
Movie_poster_who_framed_roger_rabbit
#2 
Who Framed Roger Rabbit? 1988 , Toucstone Pictures/Amblin Entertainment
I trust I don’t have to justify this one? Great casting, gorgeous animation and a hilarious whip-smart script from an age when movies could be entertaining and still be about something (and you could ride the trolley for a nickel and young people showed you respect dagnabbit). Twenty five years later and the live-action-animation integration in this film has still to be bettered. And of course, the scariest villain that was ever snuck into a PG movie. Do you remember Judge Doom? When he killed all hope you ever had of a good night’s sleep? And he used to TALK! LIKE!!! THIIIIIIIIISSSSSSSS?????!
BAHIA!

ULTIMATE BAHIA!

***
A_Scanner_Darkly_Poster
#1
A Scanner Darkly, 2006, Thousand Words
Keanu Reeves plays “Fred”, a narcotics agent who’s been observing a drug dealer named Bob Arctor and his circle of friends to trace where they’re getting their supply of Substance D, an insanely potent drug that’s going through the American population like a dose of the salts. Trouble is, Fred has become so messed up from using D that he doesn’t realise that he actually is Bob Arctor. This was Robert Linklater’s second rotoscoped film after Waking Life and it’s probably the greatest adaptation of a Philip K. Dick novel ever filmed, and yes, I’m including Blade Runner in that. The rotoscoping is a trippy, alienating effect that really puts you into Fred’s queasy, shifting worldview. But it’s not just a head trip, this is a beautiful, deeply compassionate film that gives a sympathetic and very credible portrayal of the horrors of drug abuse, no mean feat considering the drug in question is fictional. It also helps that many of the cast like Robert Downey Jnr and Winona Ryder know whereof they speak. And it’s not all misery either. The movie isn’t afraid to wring some very, very funny comedic mileage out of the paranoia that starts to affect Bob and his friends.
But the laughs don’t last long. From the moment the movie begins we know this won’t end well. A Scanner Darkly is a movie that takes place after the last battle has been lost. There is no more freedom, no more choice. There are only the corporations that will get you hooked. If not on D, it’ll be something else. At one point Bob asks his girlfriend “are you an addict?” and she just replies “We all are”. And yet, even in hopelessness, this movie finds beauty. And maybe that’s enough to get by.
“This has been a story about people who were punished entirely too much for what they did. I loved them all. Here is a list, to whom I dedicate my love:
To Gaylene, deceased
To Ray, deceased
To Francy, permanent psychosis
To Kathy, permanent brain damage
To Jim, deceased
To Val, massive permanent brain damage
To Nancy, permanent psychosis
To Joanne, permanent brain damage
To Maren, deceased
To Nick, deceased
To Terry, deceased
To Dennis, deceased
To Phil, permanent pancreatic damage
To Sue, permanent vascular damage
To Jerri, permanent psychosis and vascular damage …and so forth In memoriam. These were comrades whom I had; There are no better. They remain in my mind, and the enemy will never be forgiven. The “enemy” was their mistake in playing. Let them play again, in some other way, and let them be happy.”
Philip K. Dick
Tarzan_(1999_film)_-_theatrical_poster

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #37: Tarzan

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

So as I sit here in my small, dank COMFORTABLY APPOINTED DISSIDENT CONTAINMENT RECEPTACLE, forced to eat NOURISHING RATIONS FOR WHICH I AM GRATEFUL and being brutally beaten about the head with THE BRILLIANT INTELLECTUAL REVELATIONS OF MARXIST THOUGHT I’ve had time to think. Mostly, or course, I’ve been darkly plotting what I’m going to do to that BENEVOLENT FATHER OF THE PEOPLE COMRADE CROW, ALL HAIL CROW! once I NEVER ESCAPE. But I’ve also been thinking about Tarzan. What happened to Tarzan? Why is it that no one seems to remember this movie? If I walk into a room and randomly sing the first few lines of “Hakuna Matata” or “Part of Your World” chances are that the whole room will join me for the chorus. “Two Worlds”? Crickets.
Why did this movie leave so little trace on pop culture? Well, it wasn’t really that popular when it came out, right? Wrong. This thing opened at Number 1 and outgrossed Mulan, which had already been seen as a major return to form for Disney. And it’s not like the critics were leery of it either, this thing got crazy good reviews: 88% on Rotten Tomatoes.  So why has this movie, like me, been largely forgotten? Part of the problem, I think, is that by the turn of the millennium Disney had become a victim of its own success. In America, from the late nineteen thirties to the mid nineties Disney was pretty much the only studio making top-tier feature length animations. Sure, challengers would occasionally arise (the Fleischers in the thirties and forties, UPA and Hanna-Barbera in the sixties) but for most of that half century the only studio willing to risk the massive investment of time and money that is involved in making a feature length cartoon was the mo’fuckin House of Mouse. And don’t forget, most of the movies that we’ve covered on this blog were not all that successful financially. Even the really big hits like Sleeping Beauty cost so much that their massive box office takes were a Pyrrhic victory. Disney made most of their money in merchandising and the theme parks, which meant that smaller studios that didn’t have the luxury of owning theme park were content to leave the feature length animation pastures to Disney. But then, something happened. With the advent of new computer technologies, producing a full length animated feature went from being impossibly expensive and prohibitively time consuming to merely hugely expensive and massively time consuming. Disney capitalised on this, and in one the whitest hot streaks in movie studio history, ushered in the Renaissance. These movies were huge, some of the most successful of all time. Suddenly what had previously been seen as a white elephant was now one of the most profitable genres in the business. And why was that?
pixar
Okay fine, yes. Pixar’s success was the main factor, but the way was prepared by Disney’s earlier success with the Fearsome Four of Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Lion King.
"AW C'MON!"

“AW C’MON!”

Disney created a market where animated features could be hugely successful and now they had to contend with a host of rivals, some of them mighty intimidating. There was Pixar of course, who released Toy Story 2 the same year as Tarzan, and were now well on their way to being one of the most critically lauded studios in cinema history. And then there was Dreamworks, run by former Disney boss Jeffrey Katzenberg, whose ruthlessly commercial movie making would produce three of the biggest grossing films of all time. And that’s not to mention the dozens of smaller rivals that sprang up in the wake of Disney’s early nineties successes. Heck, it’s gotten to the stage where it seems like anyone can release a full length animation. Even these idiots!
And I this is why I think Tarzan doesn’t stick in people’s memory. Not because it isn’t an awesome movie (it is) but because it was released in a time when Disney were no longer kings in their field. Pixar had taken the crown of critical darling, DreamWorks the crown of commercial money-making animation powerhouse (or they would with the release of Shrek a few years later). Tarzan came at the tail end of the Renaissance, overlapping with the beginning of Pixar’s reign and it just got lost in the folds. So let’s take a look at this thing, before the guards come and shackle me GENTLY to the wall and begin PLAYTIME WITH FRIENDLY DOGS who will brutally LICK my FACE while a DEDICATED SERVANT OF THE GLORIOUS REGIME OF COMRADE CROW, HAIL CROW! shoves THE GLORIOUS TRUTH OF THE ETERNAL REVOLUTION up my OUTDATED BOURGEOIS WORLDVIEW. This will probably be my last review. And God help me, I’m writing it on toilet paper.
mickeyminieee

Everybody dance now!

Unshaved Mouse has made the shortlist for best Pop Culture Blog!!!!

Purple? Niiiiice.

Thanks to everyone who’s supported, read, linked, shared and commented over the last year. I honestly don’t know what to say other than that. You’re all amazing and breathtakingly attractive. Thanks guys.

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And yes, voting is still ongoing for Best Blog Post, yes, I still need your votes, yes, I’m aware that this is getting old, no, I’m not going to stop I’ve got a taste for blood now. Please vote Disney Reviews with The Unshaved Mouse: Song of the South for Best Blog Post by clicking the link below. Thanks guys. See you on the Nineteenth for the Tarzan review.

blog awards ireland

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The Unshaved Mouse’s Top 10 One Shot Simpsons Characters

I may possibly have tipped off the more observant of you that I am a massive Simpsons fan (fortunately, my love of Batman remains known to no one but me and my life sized Adam West cardboard cut up).  So I decided to take a break from the Disney canon and look at the other towering achievement of American animation. So here is a list of my top ten favourite One Shot Simpsons Characters. What’s a One Shot? Well, here are the rules. A One Shot character:

a) Appears in only one episode.

b) May only appear in one scene for the purpose of one joke (with possibly a second for a call back).

c) Is not integral to the plot.

d) Is not voiced by a celebrity (or at least, not a celebrity who is a regular cast member.)

So, here we go.

# 10

Name: Homer Glumplich

Appeared: “Homer the Great” Episode 12, Season 6
homer glumplich
Homer Simpson has lived his whole life on the outside looking in. It seems like wherever he goes there’s a big sign saying NO HOMERS. The final insult? It’s always NO HOMERS. Plural. Homer Glumplich is Homer Simpson’s Dostoyevskian double, always just one step ahead and taunting him with a single, dastardly “hyuck!”
#09
Name: Joey Jo Jo Jnr Shabadoo
Appeared: “The Last Temptation of Homer” Episode 9, Season 5
Joey-Joe-Joe-Jr-Shabadoo
So many questions are raised by this character. What were his parents thinking? What’s with the bow tie? Why hasn’t he made peace with his name after thirty plus year or just changed it by deed poll?  What makes the gag though is Barney’s anguished pleading “Wait! Joey Jo Jo!” as he runs weeping from Moe’s. Hey, lighten up JJJJS. You may have the worst name in the world. But you have people who care about you.
#08
Name: Doctor Colossus
Appeared: “Who Shot Mr Burns? Part 2” Episode 1, Season 7
Doctor_Colossus
Man, fuck the posers. Just because you’re rich and evil enough to buy a sun blocking machine to cast the entire city into perpetual night does not make you a super villain. My boy Doctor Colossus here is the real deal. Mr Burns and his ilk? Bah! Rank amateurs!
#07
Name: Unnamed Mob Member
Appeared: “Marge In Chains” Episode 21 Season 4
Number 7 on this list doesn’t have a name. We don’t even see the guy. But he’s on here because only he had the courage to say what we’ve all been thinking: That 39th US president Jimmy Carter is indeed, History’s Greatest Monster.
Look at him. Bastard.

Look at him. Bastard.

#6

Name: Señor Spielbergo

Appeared: “A Star is Burns” Episode 18, Season 6

Spielbergo
Everyone has a double in the Simpsons universe (Homer has, like, six).  Stephen Spielberg’s is apparently the polite, softly spoken, Señor Spielbergo, his non-union Latin American equivalent.  I like the idea that everyone has a non-union Latin American equivalent somewhere. It makes me feel…I dunno…less alone.
¿Has estado en Bahia, mi amigo?

¿Has estado en Bahia, mi amigo?

#5
Name: Handsome Pete
Appeared: “Bart the Fink” Episode 15, Season 7
 Handsome_Pete
That’s Handsome Pete. He dances for nickels. In your nightmares. For all eternity.
#4
Name: Joey
Appeared: “And Maggie Makes Three” Episode 13, Season 6 
Joey
Homer’s finally gotten his dream job, minimum-wage slavery in the local bowling alley. Eh. To each their own. But when Marge gets pregnant again, Homer has no choice but to return to the hell of the nuclear power plant, toiling for the rest of his days beneath the haggard glare of C. Montgomery Burns. Homer says goodbye to his friends at the bowling alley, including Joey. Why does a bowling alley employ a Depression era shoe-shine boy with an indomitable gleam of hope in his eye and two lungs packed with TB? What were he and Homer going to do when they got to California?  We’ll never know. He’s almost certainly dead now.
#3
Name: Guy Incognito
 
Appeared: “Fear of Flying” Episode 11, Season 6
250px-GuyIncognito
As I’ve already mentioned, Homer’s got a lot of doubles. Like a lot. There’s German Homer, Japanese Corporate Mascot Homer, Shelbyville Homer, Lady Homer, Tartar Control Homer…but the greatest of all is Guy Incognito. What’s with the top hat? Why does he talk like an American doing a bad British accent? We shall never know. But the greatest mystery of all, why would a man with such an impeccably groomed moustache still have Homer’s trademark stubble?
#2
Name: Hugh Jass
Appeared: “Flaming Moe’s” Episode 10, Season 3
250px-Hughjass
For one brief, shining moment, Moe Szyslak had it all. After he steals Homer’s recipe  for a new drink, his business takes off and suddenly he’s got a hot girlfriend and is hanging out with Aerosmith in a period of history where that’s actually something to brag about.  Even his arch-enemy, Bart Simpson, can’t touch him. When Bart calls to make one of his trademark crack calls, he makes Moe ask for a “Hugh Jass”. But for once, the universe has Moe’s back. There really is a Hugh Jass. And he is wonderful. Seriously, he only appears for less than a minute and he is probably the most fundamentally decent human being ever depicted in fiction. Hugh Jass makes me want to be a better person. Where someone like Joey Jo Jo Jnr Shabadoo lets the pain of having a ridiculous name crush him into emotional wreckage, Hugh Jass is a center of warm benevolence radiating out into the universe. What does he do when he finds out that Bart has been using his name for crude buttock-themed japery? He wishes him better look next time, hangs up and says “What a nice young man.”
I love Hugh Jass. And I cannot lie.
#1

The Sugar Thief

Appeared: “Lisa’s Rival” Episode 2, Season 6

Sugar Thief

There is nothing, nothing I say, funnier than when Homer Simpson is right. When the universe reveals itself to be so batshit insane that Homer Simpson’s worldview is actually correct, it’s always comedy gold. Homer “acquires” a massive mound of sugar and takes to guarding it night and day, terrified that someone will steal it. Marge thinks he’s descended into paranoid lunacy…and maybe he has. But the point is, he’s right!  And to prove it he reaches into the mound of sugar and pulls out one of my personal favourite things ever: The Sugar Thief. The Sugar Thief is the Anti-Hugh Jass. Where Hugh is the exemplar of everything good in mankind, the Sugar Thief is pure, motiveless evil. When Homer angrily demands to know where he got the sugar for the tea he’s just casually toting around the Thief calmly replies: “I nicked it. In the split second when you let your guard down. And I’d do it again.”

That, my friends, is evil that cannot be reasoned with.

***

Well that’s the list. If you’re wondering why there are no characters on here from any season past Season 10, I don’t have those episodes. See, I got all my Simpsons DVD’s during my time in the Bluthiverse, where the show ended gracefully after  the creative team decided it should go out on a high. Also cancer was cured and there was no war. God I miss that place.

It was like being inside joy.

It was like being inside joy.

See you on the nineteenth for the Tarzan review.

Mouse out.

 

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Recant, Retract, Remove: My open letter to the Irish Independent (and what happened next)

So, oddly enough, this blog devoted to reviews of Disney movies had its busiest day ever when I decided to talk about something entirely unrelated to reviews of Disney movies.

Man, that was a wasted year.

Man, that was a wasted year.

If you’re just tuning in, last week I posted on the Irish Independent’s  sudden, unplanned trip to cray-cray town and a lot of you have asked to be kept abreast if anything came of it. Well, here we go.

I mentioned before that I’d written a formal letter of “What the hell bra?” to the Indo complaining about this article and earlier this week I got a phonecall from XXXXX in the paper saying that they’d read my letter and they’d checked with the journalist who wrote it and that he confirmed that the scientists he’d interviewed had made the claims printed in the article. I could see right off the bat that we’d gotten our wires crossed. I explained that my problem wasn’t that I doubted that the scientists had actually said those things, but that the things they said were…how shall I put this? A clenched fist of bollocks. We then had this exchange. It may not be word for word but it’s a faithful gist:

“Well, that’s your opinion. But these are some very serious scientists.”

“They’re cranks.”

“Why do you say that?”

“Because you can’t use radio waves to create energised water that makes giant animals.”

“How do you know?”

How do I know. Well that’s the question, isn’t it? It’s a bit of a stumper. It’s like being asked, “How do you know elephants can’t get heat-vision from eating lemons?” Technically, I suppose, I don’t know they can’t. But there is such a thing as an educated guess. Well anyway, XXXXXX very kindly offered to let me publish a letter in the paper explaining my concerns with the article. This is what I sent them:

Sirs,

Thank you for this opportunity to share my thoughts on the article “Wave Goodbye to Global Warming, GM and pesticides” by Tom Prendeville, which appeared on Independent.ie on 25 August. When I first read this article I was so flabbergasted that I ended up writing a critique of it online (entitled “Question: Has Ireland’s biggest national newspaper lost its goddamn mind?”) and within hours I was inundated with messages from people who were all wondering the same thing: “How did the Independent let this thing get published?”

The article, written in the best “breathless press release” style claims that Irish scientists have perfected a new technology, a device the size of a biscuit tin that converts 24 volts of electricity into a radio wave that can then be used to transform water into “Vi-Aqua” which is then used to treat vegetables. Then come the following claims (and I swear I am not making any of this up): Treated vegetables become 30% larger and are resistant to disease, rendering pesticides and GM foods obsolete. It converts excess CO2 into plant matter, thereby solving global warming. It makes “water wetter” (really), thereby reducing the amount of water actually needed. And in, a final display of not knowing when to quit, the author states that animals fed the energised water “turn into giants”. We can only assume that Mr Prendeville ran out of space before he was able to recount how Vi-Aqua fed a crowd of five thousand and then died on the cross for our sins.

Now this is of course flim flam, and obviously transparent flim flam*. The Independent may say “We published the article in good faith. We’re not scientists.” But you shouldn’t need to be. There is nothing here that should be able to fool even a moderately educated layman. If “making water wetter” didn’t tip you off, “giant freakin’ farm animals” should have done the trick. The science here wouldn’t pass muster on Doctor Who**. 

But even aside from this, it’s frighteningly obvious that nobody checked this before it went to print. The basic facts stated in the article don’t stand up to even the mildest investigation. Warrenstown, the facility where these miraculous experiments supposedly took place, has been closed since 2009. That took all of three minutes with a search engine to find out. I should point out something at this point: I am not a journalist. I am a guy who writes reviews of Disney movies on the internet. When you cannot match the story-proofing and journalistic rigour of a guy on the internet who writes reviews of Disney movies, that is a bad day for you.

So why am I so upset about this? If the article is as ludicrous as I make it sound then surely no one will believe it? Well firstly, if you think that, then I have an internet to introduce you to and secondly yes, they absolutely do believe it and are sharing it because source matters more than content. I believe the Holocaust occurred and man walked on the moon. Why? Because I was there? Because these events were everyday, mundane and believable on their face? No. Because sources I trust, reputable historians and news sources, tell me that it was so. 

Over the last few days I have watched this story metastasize and spread across the internet and I can tell you now with some authority that you have done the following;

1) You have opened up yourselves, the University of Limerick and the nation as a whole to ridicule and scorn, and have turned Irish scientific research and Irish scientists who do real, vital work in their fields into laughing stocks.

2) You have helped perpetuate the myth that there is some magical cure-all to the issue of global warming, the most pressing concern facing humanity in the modern age.

3) You have allowed yourselves to act as salesmen for a product whose scientific efficacy I will call (in deference to the delicate constitutions of this paper’s legal department) “a bit iffy”.

4) You have done serious and lasting damage to your own reputation as a trustworthy news source and this is by far the worst of all.

In the modern era, with the internet drowning us non-stop in a sea of never ending half truth, cons and sheer bullshit we need, more than ever, legitimate, trustworthy news sources. If I see “Asteroid Headed For Earth” on Mayanprophecy.net I won’t give it a second glance. If I see “Asteroid Headed for Earth” on the front page of The Times I’m running for my wife and daughter to hug them goodbye. We need the grownups. We need to know who we can trust, and who we cannot.

The Irish Independent has incredibly, spectacularly failed that test. With regard to this article there are now only three things you can do: 

Recant. Retract. Remove.

Mise le meas,

Neil Sharpson

***

So I sent this off to XXXX and got a response asking me to edit it down to less than five hundreds words.  I did, cutting a few “flim-flams” here and there and sent it back in. And then I got this response. I think the following email chain speaks for itself.

***

Dear Mr Pearson,

 

Thank you for your letter.

 

If you wish to write a letter challenging the merit of the piece, subject to legal and editorial constraints, we would welcome that.

 

However, this letter cannot be published due to legal reasons.

 

We are more than happy to publish a letter that challenges the content of the article, not the reputations of the scientists involved.

 

Kind Regards,

 

XXXXXX

***

Hi XXXXX,

 
Was this sent to me in error? I only ask because you seem to have gotten my surname wrong.
 
Regards
Neil Sharpson

***

Hi,

 

Apologies for that Neil – it was intended for you, but I got the surname wrong,

 

Apologies,

 

XXXXX

***

You’re kind of terrible at this.

***

So, there you have it. Nothing really left to say except that my article which mentions many concrete inaccuracies while not naming the scientists involved by name does not challenge the contents of the article and endangers the reputations of the scientists involved. My bad. Gonna try and take this up with the Press Ombudsman and see if I can get a sympathetic ear.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

All the best

Mouse

PS: I think I may have inadvertantly given the Independent a new slogan.

independent_logo

* Yes, I say “flim flam”. Yes, I AM a nineteenth century cotton baron, as a matter of fact.

** I love Doctor Who. But this is a show where DNA can be passed along by lightning strikes.

***

The third week of voting for the Blog Awards Ireland 2013 has now begun. If you have a minute, please click on the link below and cast your vote for “Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #8a: Song of the South. Thanks.

blog awards ireland

Movie_poster_mulan

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #36: Mulan

 

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images and footage used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

Hello internet! Man, I don’t know about you but I’m back, feeling well rested and ready to review some goddamn Disney movies! Who’s…

…with…

…me…?

Santa Claus, Lex Luthor and Asian Nixon? But they’re mortal enemies!

Okay, is it just me or has the blog gotten…sorta…Communisty since I’ve been gone?

Comrade Mouse, how's it hangin' dawg?

Comrade Mouse, how’s it hangin’ dawg?

Gangsta Asia?! What’s been going on around here?! Why does my blog look like May Day in Red Square?

I'm now Comrade Gangsta Asia. And your blog is the people's blog now thanks to the glorious socialist revolution we had in your absence. Um...for rizzle.

I’m now Comrade Gangsta Asia. And your blog is the people’s blog now thanks to the glorious socialist revolution we had in your absence. Um…for rizzle.

Alright look, you can be a communist character or a gangsta character but not both, you’re not fleshed out enough to support two defining traits.

Yeah, this is really hard.

Yeah, this is really hard.

Second, who staged a communist uprising on my…why do I even need to finish that sentence?

Hello Mouse.

Privyet, Mouse.

Oh heeey Comrade Crow. Look, I know I haven’t been featuring you much on the blog in the last…

Ten months.

Ten months. Cinderella review.

Wow! Really? No, c’mon, you had that cameo in the Beauty and the Beast review…

Silence! As a remnant of the old regime you are considered an enemy of the blog. Take him away!

Silence! As a remnant of the old regime you are considered an enemy of the blog. Take him away!

Dammit. See, this is why you have to be careful of offending communists. They tend to hold a grudge.  Disney learned this the hard way when they financed Kundun, a biopic of the current Dalai Lama that kinda portrays China in a negative light. You know, like Ike always gets the short end of the stick in movies about the life of Tina Turner. So anyway, China heard that Disney had been talkin’ smack and didn’t think that China would hear it.

Yes, Hollaback girl is about Chinese international relations. That songs has layers, man.

Yes, Hollaback Girl is about Chinese international relations. That songs has layers, man.

Suddenly, Disney found itself frozen out of what was rapidly becoming the most lucrative movie market on the planet. China only allows a limited number of Western films to be screened there each year and if you think Disney isn’t willing to bend over so far that its lips actually touch its own anus just to get a sniff of a chance of a shot of that market…well, you haven’t really been paying attention.

"Hello, Fan Bingbing? I'm just calling to let you know that China's strength and prowess fills with joy and contentment."

“Hello, Fan Bingbing? I’m just calling to let you know that China’s strength and prowess fills me with joy and contentment.”

"But of course, Mr Stark. China is well aware of its greatness. NOW DANCE!"

“But of course, Mr Stark. China is well aware of its greatness. NOW DANCE!”

iron-man-dancing

But back in 1997, Disney decided on a slightly more dignified way of  currying favour. Mulan originally was going to be a short, straight to video animation called China Doll, about a poor Chinese girl who’s rescued by an Englishman and taken to live happily every after in the West. And that, from the offensive title to the paternalistic premise, pretty much sounds like the worst fucking thing ever. It was  Robert D. San Souci, the children’s author and sometime Disney consultant, who suggested instead making a movie version of the Ballad of Hua Mulan (not to be confused with the Ode to Fa Mulan). You can read the poem here, it’s quite short and also pretty amazing. It’s a 1500 year old poem that simply and unabashedly makes the case for gender equality, depicting a young girl who goes off to fight a twelve year military campaign in place of her aged father, wins honour and prestige and returns home at last, revealing to her astounded comrades that she was a woman the whole time.  So, we have a Disney movie that not only is going to delving into depictions of a non-European culture, but also dealing with the issue of feminism. Race and gender? Well surely this can’t go wrong?

Well…no. Actually. It didn’t.

You know, I’ve been doing this a while now and if I’ve learned one thing it’s this: Every movie has its defenders. No matter how little I, or the general consensus, rate any Disney movie, there will always be someone to fight its corner. There are Pocahontas fans, Black Cauldron fans, Aristocats fans and even Three Caballeros fans. Well, maybe “fans” is not the right word for that last one.

Cultists, that's the word.

“Almighty Rooster, hear our prayer.”

Conversely, on the other end of the scale, no matter how highly a Disney movie is ranked and rated and praised, there will always be someone who doesn’t think it’s all that. I know people who don’t like Lion King, Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty, Hunchback…hell there are some sick fucks who don’t like Beauty and the Beast! But…not for this one. Honestly, I have never met or spoken to a single Disney fan who does not absolutely adore Mulan. Do I agree?

Fuck yeah I agree!

Sorry, you may have wanted me to string you along until the end of the review before revealing my opinion of this movie but…really? The fact that I composed a goddamn ode to the main character didn’t tip you off? Yeah, I love this movie, and I love Mulan herself, without a doubt the most badass character in the Disney canon. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at the story of Mulan, or, as I like to call her; The Death Who Walks.

Probably best to do it as quick as possible.

Probably best to do it as quick as possible.

(more…)