racism

Mouse Goes To War!: The Ducktators (1942)

Hey guys, sorry for the missed update. Still up to my furry little armpits in other writing at the moment so I’m afraid the Snow White review is gonna have to be pushed back until next Thursday. By recompense, here is the next of the WW2 propaganda short reviews. Enjoy!

***

Studio: Warner Bros

Country of Origin: United States

First Screened: August 1, 1942

As I mentioned in my last series of short reviews, you can break down the history of the Looney Tunes/Merrie Melodies shorts into four eras roughly corresponding to the nineteen thirties, forties, fifties and sixties. Call them the Poor Man’s Disney, Wiseass Disney, Apex and Nadir eras, respectively. WW2 broke out in the middle of the Wiseass Disney era, where the studio had successfully reinvented itself as the sarcastic, irreverent joker to those squares in Burbank with their high falutin’ ideals of animation being art. While Disney were getting Deems Taylor to introduce abstract animation to the strains of Bach, Warner Bros were slouched in the corner smokin’ ceegars and yellin’ “Ah, yer muddah wears lederhosen!”. The Warner Bros shorts of this era are acclaimed by many fans as the greatest of the series but, with respect, those fans are liars and fools and once grown, their children shall change their names out of shame.

“Mouse, what did we agree?”

“Sigh. No telling people that their children will change their names out of shame just because they disagree with me on the respective merits of different eras of animated shorts in the Warner Bros filmography.”

“You lasted ONE DAY.”

Okay, that’s harsh. There are many fantastic cartoons from this era but, honestly, the shorts from the fifties (including but not limited to What’s Opera Doc, One Froggy Evening and the Hunter Trilogy) leave them in the dirt.

The shorts of the forties had a lot going for them, namely some of the finest animators, directors and voice talent to ever work in the medium, but compared to the later fifties shorts they’re sorely lacking in one thing.

Class.

To be blunt, there’s a nastiness to a lot of the Warner Bros shorts of this era, and not just because of the racism (although, jeez louise, it’s like they thought there was an Olympics for racism and they had their heart set on winning gold for their country). Propaganda is dirty business, but some cartoon studios came out a lot cleaner than others, if you catch my drift.

Of all the major American cartoon studios, Warners seemed to succumb to their worst instincts the easiest. Disney, Fleischer et al certainly produced cartoons in this era that make for uncomfortable viewing but Warner’s took it to another level.  For a good example, let’s take a look at the Ducktators.

(more…)

There is an easy solution to this…

If you ever visit Ireland and you are even slightly interested in sport, you need to see a hurling match played in Croke Park. The fastest field game in the world, whose origins stretch thousands of years, played in front of over 70,000 screaming fans. You will never experience anything else like it.

Hurling and Gaelic football are the glue that hold this country together. Every county, from tiny Louth to mighty Dublin have their teams and the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) has a presence in every village and town in the country. It’s something we all do together. We have players whose families have been in Ireland since the Ice Age, and players who just got off the boat from Nigeria or China or Poland. It’s a beautiful thing, and I say this as someone who doesn’t even sport. But if you were to see a game played in Croke Park and you were able to tear your eyes away from the field and scan the crowd, you might notice something a little weird.

“What the…”

So, a controversy that has been quietly bubbling in Ireland for the last few decades is the…tradition…of some County Cork fans to fly the Confederate Battle Flag during their matches. Why do they do this? Well…it’s sort of a…joke.

So here’s the background. County Cork is the largest county in Ireland by area and has the second largest city in the republic, Cork City. And it’s a lovely place. Gorgeous scenery, tons of history and the people are really, really lovely despite having an accent that could shatter glass. Now Cork has always had a bit of a rivalry with Dublin because we’re deadly and it’s not unusual for Corkonians to refer to their city as “The Real Capital”. Cork is also known as “The Rebel County” because, during the Civil War (the Irish Civil War, I mean) they were a centre of Anti-Treaty resistance whereas Dublin was the seat of the Pro-Treaty government. And also, the Cork county colours are Red and White.

So.

Red and White. Rebel County.

See what they did there?

Like I said, it’s a gag. Not a very funny one. But it’s not like Cork fans who fly the flag are advocating slavery or white supremacy, they’re just implying that Cork is going to rise up and overthrow Dublin (as if, we would crush the rebellious dogs). But, as many people both inside and outside of Cork have gained a greater understanding over the years as to just what that flag represents, the rising chorus of “NOT FUNNY!” has started to become deafening.

And I have a solution. I’m not here to lecture anyone. I’m not here to soapbox. I would just like to point out that there is a perfect alternative to the Confederate Flag for Cork fans to use.

(more…)

Injun Trouble (1969)

My friends, the time has come for me to tell you the tale of the last Looney Tune, and I feel less like an animation blogger and more like Red from the Shawshank Redemption. I wish I could tell you that the Looney Tunes fought the good fight. That they brought Chuck Jones and Mel Blanc and Michael Maltese back for one last time and went out with a short that could stand up with the very best of them. That when that really was all folks, those folks knew that something wonderful had gone out on a high. But animation is no fairy tale.

Well, except when it is. Look, we're getting off track.

Well, except when it is. Look, we’re getting off track.

What animation buffs call “The Dark Age of Animation” lasted from around the late fifties to the early to mid eighties (meaning the next few reviews will most likely just be me making sounds of pain and distress) and I don’t want to exaggerate it so I’ll just say that this was the worst period in human history where everything good and pure in the world was killed and hung from a gibbet. It was around this time that TV finally came into its own and starting muscling onto cinema’s turf in a big way. Facing increasing financial pressure, cinemas had to cut back on luxuries like lavishly animated cartoon shorts of pure loveliness. Cartoons in this period had to find a new home on television, where the appetite was there (boy, was it ever) but the budgets simply weren’t. The animation studios that survived in this era did so by being cheap, lean and mean. This was the age of Hanna Barbera and Filmation. A wolf age. An axe age. Hell, even the Disney movies in this era looked dog rough.

And what of the Looney Tunes? Bugs Bunny very wisely sat the sixties out after False Hare in 1964. I don’t actually know why Warners decided to retire the character after that, but in my mind he went to Italy to pursue a celebrated career as a director of independent film. It’s what he deserved.

The Looney Tunes/Merry Melodies in this decade, at least after Chuck Jones was fired in 1963 for moonlighting on UPA’s Gay-Puree, focused more on Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote as well as Speedy Gonzales, who was now paired with Daffy Duck, thereby capitalising on the well known and established hatred between mice and…

"..."

“…”

"..."

“…”

"..."

“…”

"..."

“…”

"Begone, pond-fiend. My kind have protected the internet from your filth for generations."

“Begone, pond-fiend. My kind have protected this land from you feathered scum for generations.”

"Your numbers grow few, furred one. One day you shall let your guard down, and the webbed ones shall rule over as was foretold in the prophecy!"

“Your numbers grow few, furred one. One day you shall let your guard down, and the webbed ones shall rule over all as was foretold in the prophecy!”

"Some day, mayhap. BUT NOT THIS DAY!"

“Some day, mayhap. BUT NOT THIS DAY!”

Sorry, where was I? Oh yeah. So Warners were still using a lot of the classic Looney Tunes characters but they weren’t resting on their laurels (they were doing something else on their laurels but certainly not resting). As well as featuring older established characters, the new shorts studio  under the management of Alex Lovy* introduced such timeless household names to the Looney Tunes Pantheon as Merlin Mouse, Bunny and Claude and Cool Cat. Truly a who’s who of “Huh? Who?” It was like the Itchy and Scratchy and Friends Hour except that Disgruntled Goat did not have his moments. I don’t want to rip on Lovy or Robert McKimson (who directed this short) because they were both seasoned professionals who worked on some great cartoons over the years. But at the same time, COOL CAT IS THE GODDAMNED DEVIL AND SHOULD BE ON FIRE ALWAYS.

cool_cat

The enemy. I shall teach you to hate him.

Now, my problem is not that Cool Cat is utterly, completely, instantly dated as a concept and a character. The fact that he is a sixties pop culture creation to his very bones does not mean that he could not be a good character in his own right. Know who else is utterly a product of his time?

He’s literally a parody of a Clark Gable character from a thirties movie called It Happened One Night mixed with Groucho Marx.

He’s literally a parody of a Clark Gable character from a thirties movie called It Happened One Night mixed with Groucho Marx.

But there’s a key difference.  Bugs comes by it honestly, he is a product of thirties pop culture created by young men who consumed, enjoyed and understood that pop culture. And Cool Cat was created by a bunch of old men desperately trying to relate to the youth of the time in the most cynical and pandering way possible.

Also, his cartoons suck and are not funny.

So let’s take a look at Injun Trouble.

(more…)

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #55: Zootopia/Zootropolis

 

"Mr Disney? There's a Mr Chernabog here to see you?"

“Mr Disney? There’s someone here to see you?”

"What? But the world thinks I've been dead since the sixties, who even knows I still work here?"

“What? But the world thinks I’ve been dead since the sixties, who even knows I still work here?”

"He said his name was Mr Chernabog?"

“He said his name was Mr Chernabog?”

"CRAP. Tell him I can't see him."

“CRAP. Tell him I can’t see him.”

"I would sir, but I'm not really here. I'm just a hallucination caused by your black-magic addled mind."

“I would sir, but I’m not really here. I’m just a hallucination caused by your black-magic addled mind.”

"DISSSSSSSNEY I WOULD HAVE WORDSSSS WITH THEE."

“DISSSSSSSNEY I WOULD HAVE WORDSSSS WITH THEE.”

"Cherny! C-Train! As the world Cherns! How the fuck are you?"

“Cherny! C-Train! As the world Cherns! How the fuck are you?”

"YOU HAVE BETRAYED ME, SSSSSORCEROR. AND THE LORD OF BALD MOUNTAIN KNOWSSS NOT OF MERCY."

“YOU HAVE BETRAYED ME, SSSSSORCEROR. AND THE LORD OF BALD MOUNTAIN KNOWSSS NOT OF MERCY.”

"Whoah! Hey! Walter Elias Disney is a man of his word, so how bout you settle down and tell me what this is all about?"

“Whoah! Hey! Walter Elias Disney is a man of his word, so how ’bout you settle down and tell me what this is all about?”

"WE HAD A PACT, YOU AND I. I GAVE YOU IMMORTALITY AND IN RETURN YOU AGREED TO CREATE FOR ME AN ARMY OF THE MOST DEPRAVED, HELLISH CREATURES EVER TO WALK THE EARTH."

“WE HAD A PACT, YOU AND I. I GAVE YOU IMMORTALITY AND IN RETURN YOU AGREED TO CREATE FOR ME AN ARMY OF THE MOSSSSSST DEPRAVED, HELLISSSSSH CREATURESSSS EVER TO WALK THE EARTH.”

"What? Furries?"

“What? Furries?”

"I MUSSST HAVE MORE FURRRIESSS! MORE! THE CROP GROWSSS THIN! THE CROPS GROWSSSS THIN!"

“I MUSSST HAVE MORE FURRIESSS! MORE! THE CROP GROWSSS THIN! THE CROPS GROWSSSS THIN!”

"What are you talking about? We made Robin Hood!"

“What are you talking about? I made Robin Hood! That should have kept you balls deep in furries for years!”

"THAT WASSSS OVER FORTY YEARSSSSS AGO!"

“THAT WASSSS OVER FORTY YEARSSSSS AGO!”

"Fuck. My. Ass. Yikes, sorry. My bad. I'll get right on that."

“Fuck. My. Ass. Yikes, sorry. My bad. I’ll get right on that.”

"BE WARNED! IF I DO NOT RECEIVE AN ARMY OF FURRIESSSS BEYOND RECKONING I SHALL EAT..."

“BE WARNED! IF I DO NOT RECEIVE AN ARMY OF FURRIESSSS BEYOND RECKONING I SHALL EAT…”

"Eat my soul, yeah, got it. Laurie? Get on the phone to the boys in animation and tell them we need a movie so chock full of furry bait that half the country will be yiffing by Christmas."

“Eat my soul, yeah, got it. Laurie? Get on the phone to the boys in animation and tell them we need a movie so chock full of furry bait that half the country will be yiffing by Christmas.”

"I already told you, I'm not really here!"

“I already told you, I’m not really here!”

"Just do it woman!"

“Just do it woman!”

***

Some blogs might tell you that Zootopia/Zootropolis came about as part of an ongoing effort by Disney to address the more troubling and regressive aspects of their legacy and take on a pressing real world issue. But only I will tell you the truth, namely that it was part of a desperate ploy to pay off a faustian bargain made by immortal warlock Walt Disney by creating an army of furries for a demonic lord of evil. That is why, after all, the people come to Unshaved Mouse.

But first of all, let’s talk about the elephant in the room.

Not that one.

Sit down, Francine.

Namely, why the hell is this called “Zootropolis” on my side of the pond? Well, Disney haven’t actually given a reason for the name change. One possibility of course is that, as sophisticated Europeans, we would know that any utopia, even a zootopia, is impossible in an imperfect world and refuse to see the movie purely on the grounds of philosophical consistency. Also, there’s the fact that a zoo called “Zootopia” is opening in Denmark soon and maybe Disney’s lawyers didn’t want the hassle. Who can say?

Anyway, if you read this blog you’re probably aware that Disney have been on one hell of a hot streak for the last few years, producing movies that are both critically lauded and hugely successful. That in and of itself is nothing new, the Disney canon goes through peaks and troughs and this is just one peak of many. But one thing that is different this time around is that Disney is more and more comfortable making movies that actually have something relevant to say about the world. I once called Walt Disney the most apolitical American artist of the twentieth century. His movies were beautiful, funny and charming but they almost never had any kind of political message or agenda beyond the most broad “be nice, everybody” kind of sentiment. They were meant to appeal to the broadest audience possible in their own time which in practice meant that they were very conservative and very, very white.

Fast forward to today. In my review of Princess and the Frog I called the current era of the Disney canon “The Redemption Era”. Unlike the Lost Era that preceded it, where Disney was trying to definitively break with the past, new types of story, new styles, new animation techniques, the Redemption Era wears its classic influences with pride. It loves and respects the canon. But it is not blind to its flaws, either. The Redemption Era is a Beatles fan who has every album but never forgets that John Lennon beat his wife. It doesn’t simply ignore the more troubling aspects of the Disney canon but makes challenging them a core part of its identity, whether that’s doing a Restoration Era fairy tale with an all-minority main cast or a Renaissance Era musical where the princess doesn’t marry a prince at the end.  Zootopia takes this to a new level. Regular commenter Kahnamanko called it the most topical and socially relevant movie Disney has made since their World War 2 propaganda shorts and I think that’s probably true. But does that make it a good movie? Does the simple fact that it’s willing to tackle such a pressing and hot-button issue as racism make it a classic that will stand the test of time? Let me answer that question with a question, do you feel a burning desire to watch any of the following movies; Brokeback Mountain, Philadelphia, Crash or Lions for Lambs? Yeah, didn’t think so. Movies that directly address the great issues of the day are often very worthy endeavours but they rarely end up being particularly beloved movies. Does Zootopia defy the odds? Let’s take a look.

***
(more…)

Fritz the Cat (1972)

“Heeey everyone.”

“Heeey everyone.”

“Oh look guys, it’s Spouse of Mouse!”

“Oh look guys, it’s Spouse of Mouse!”

250px-Operation_Upshot-Knothole_-_Badger_001

“Heeey everyone. I was just hoping we could have a little chat before Mouse starts the review. Just us.”

“Heeey everyone. I was just hoping we could have a little chat before Mouse starts the review. Just us.”

“I know you all think it’s really funny that you got Mouse to review Fritz the Cat. I’m sure you’re all having a big laugh. “Ha” you might say, and also “Ha.”

“I know you all think it’s really funny that you got Mouse to review Fritz the Cat. I’m sure you’re all having a big laugh. “Ha” you might say, and also “Ha.”

“But here’s the thing. This movie messed him up so badly that I don’t know if he’ll ever recover. And I’m a simple mouse who lives by a simple rule. You hurt the ones I love?”

“But here’s the thing. This movie messed him up so badly that I don’t know if he’ll ever recover. And I’m a simple mouse who lives by a simple rule: You hurt the ones I love?”

"I WILL FUCK YOUR FUCKING SHIT RIGHT THE FUCK UP."

“I WILL FUCK YOUR FUCKING SHIT RIGHT THE FUCK UP. IF YOU EVER PULL ANYTHING LIKE THAT AGAIN I WILL TRACK YOU DOWN THERE IS NOWHERE YOU CAN HIDE. PAIN? I WILL MAKE YOU LONG FOR SOMETHING AS SWEET AS PAIN.”

“’Kay? Enjoy the review.”

“’Kay? Enjoy the review.”

***

 Do you know what it’s like to review Fritz the Cat? To sit in the dark watching that cat fuck everything that moves, to feel your brain slowly coming apart from the constant assault of surreal, messed up, toked out, crazy shit? No. You don’t. Because you’ve never been out there, man. Out in the real deep shit. This movie man. You don’t know, man. It’s like, you think you have a handle on things, man, like life and art and truth and beauty man like they’re all just packaged and sold in these neat little Styrofoam boxes, man, and then this movie comes along and it’s like, you know man? Like, what does it all mean, man? I…I…I shouldn’t be doing this man, I should be a pair of ragged claws scuttling across floors of silent seas, man…
“Mouse, relax. You’re going crazy over there, man.”

“Mouse, relax. You’re going crazy over there, man.”

"YOU WERENT THERE MAN!"

“YOU WEREN’T THERE, MAN!”

 Sorry. Sorry. I’m alright. Okay. Let’s do this.
For as long as there have been comics there have been “underground” comics, the kind of comics that aren’t read in a newspaper at the breakfast table on a lazy Sunday morning but are more usually read at night. Under the covers. With a flashlight.
Jerkin’ it.
Pornographic comic books or “Tijuana Bibles” were especially popular in the Great Depression and usually featured well known comic book characters or public figures engaging in what scripture calls “the hard fuckin’”. No one was safe. Popeye, Betty Boop, Superman you name it, someone drew them doin’ it.
Trust me, just be glad it’s Minnie and not Pluto.

Trust me, just be glad it’s Minnie and not Pluto.

By the 1960s the underground comics (or “comix”) scene had merged with the broader counter culture movement. In contrast to mainstream comics which had to abide by the Comics Code Authority, comix were uncensored and didn’t abide by jack shit. These books were absolutely steeped in sixties drug and music culture, often politically radical and transgressive and extreme in their depictions of sex and violence. They also, it must be said, frequently had a streak of misogyny a mile wide. But at its best, the comix scene produced some of the finest American sequential art of the twentieth century (Art Spiegelman, for example, honed his craft in indie magazines in the seventies).
The one creator who is probably more associated with the comix scene than any other is Robert Crumb and his most famous creation is almost certainly Fritz the Cat, an anthropomorphised cat who’s kinda like Felix crossed with Roosh V. The Fritz strips first appeared in the magazine Help! where the editors famously responded to his submission with a letter saying; “Dear R. Crumb, we think the little pussycat drawings you sent us were just great. Question is, how do we print them without going to jail?” The comic became a genuine breakout hit and was read by many a long-haired hippie degenerate, one of whom was our old friend Ralph Bakshi.
Bakshi had set up his own animation studio and was looking to create animation for adults. He came across one of Crumb’s books and bought the rights to the strip. Warner Bros originally were going to fund it but then they saw Bakshi’s early shoots.
Vapors
Instead, the movie ended up being funded by Cinemation Industries, purveyor of such highbrow classics as The Black Godfather, Sweet Sweetback’s Badasssss Song and The Eighteen Year Old Cheerleaders.
It’s important to remember that there was a weird period from the late sixties to around the mid-eighties where porn was pretty much mainstream, and you could just go to the cinema and watch a big budget porno made and financed by a large studio as opposed to some dude with a camera and a couch. Fritz the Cat is very much a part of that. It’s not solely a porno but it’s got relatives who are pornos if you catch me. So before we get into this review please take note that this is a movie with sex and nudity, pretty grotesque ethnic caricatures, frequent homophobic and racial slurs and some generally fucked up shit.
What I’m trying to say is…
“This review ain’t NSFW for nothin’ baby.”

“This review ain’t NSFW for nothin’ baby.”

(more…)

Captain Planet and the Planeteers: If it’s Doomsday, this must be Belfast

(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.)

Reality, as Stephen Colbert once patiently explained to George W. Bush, has a well-known liberal bias. The flipside of that is that fiction tends to be conservative. In a typical narrative there are good guys, there are bad guys, and there are few problems caused by the latter that can’t be solved by the former punching them repeatedly in the goolies. In the real world the big problems that bedevil mankind tend to be big, messy and complex and fixing them is an absolute slog with no clear-cut right or wrong and often very little visible sign of victory or even progress.
Take, for example, the question of how to best leverage the advances of industrialisation to improve the standard of life for the maximum number of human beings without causing irreparable damage to the bio-sphere and rendering the entire planet and uninhabitable hellscape? That’s a bit of a poser. And how would you dramatise that question, particularly for a young audience? Say, for example, in a thirty minute animated series running for over a hundred episodes?
 To create a cartoon show that deals with this problem maturely and intelligently while still working as a compelling and dramatic piece of entertainment would take something close to genius.
Ted-Turner-9512255-1-402

Yes. That is what it would take.

So around 1990 millionaire Ted Turner decided to create a cartoon show about heroes who took on the issues of environmental devastation and social injustice instead of doing stuff that was fun. It was called Captain Planet and the Planeteers and the premise was this: Gaia (Whoopi Goldberg), the spirit of the Earth, wakes up from a long nap and sees that human beings have been trashing the place for the last thousand years or so (well, maybe if you had actually been around to tell us to knock it off we would have known better, lady). Despite the fact that she was asleep at the switch and this is kinda her mess to clean up as much as anyone’s, she enlists five teenagers with attitude respect for nature and all its living things. They are Kwame (Levar Burton) from Africa, Wheeler (Joey DeDedio) from North America, Linka (Kath Soucie) from the Sovie…I’m sorry, EASTERN EUROPE, Gi (Janice Kawaye) from Asia and Ma-Ti (Scott Menville) from Latin America. She gives them five elemental rings with Kwame, Wheeler, Linka and Gi getting the powers of Earth, Fire, Wind and Water and Ma-Ti getting stuck with the power of Heart because poor Latin America is always the pathetic butt monkey.
“It’s true.”

“It’s true.”

Whenever they’re faced with a threat they can’t defeat alone they summon the Zords combine their power to summon Captain Planet. Who has a green mullet.
Now, as a premise it’s not…terrible. And on paper the show had a lot going for it. The animation was better than a lot of Saturday morning fare of the time and the cast was RIDICULOUSLY high-powered thanks to Turner roping in his Hollywood friends to voice the various villains including Martin Sheen and Meg Ryan back when she was probably the most successful Hollywood actress on the planet. But it also had problems, not least of which was the fact that Captain Planet is, no question, the worst superhero ever to achieve mainstream success.
Why was he so terrible? Was it the puns? The awful puns? The terrible, excruciating, abominable puns? The puns that made you want to curse God for giving you ears? The puns that made you smell colours, taste sounds and gibber in unknown tongues? The puns that made you want to tear off your skin and fold it into a little swan? The puns that made you head to the nearest clock tower with a high-powered rifle and start picking off the fleeing figures below while muttering “There’s Captain Planet. There’s Captain Planet…”?
No, it wasn’t the puns.
I first realised the utter crapitude of Captain Planet  as a child, when I watched the episode “A Good Bomb is Hard to Find” where the Planeteers travel back in time to prevent Doctor Blight from selling a nuclear bomb to Hitler.
Adolf_Hitler_(Captain_Planet)

“Hey boss, how can we make sure people know it’s supposed to be Hitler?” “Hitler had a moustache, didn’t he?” “Yeah.” “Give him a moustache. That way they’ll know.”

Captain Planet comes face to face with Hitler and immediately curls up in a little ball because the hatred coming off him is so strong that it’s a form of pollution. It was at this point that I stood up, pointed an accusing paw at the TV and loudly declared:
“NO! NO! A superhero who comes face to face with Adolf Hitler and does not punch him right in his stupid face is not a superhero! Good day sir!”

“NO! NO! A superhero who comes face to face with Adolf Hitler and does not punch him right in his stupid face is not a superhero! Good day sir!”

“But what we’re trying to show is that prejudice can…”

“But what we’re trying to show is that prejudice can…”

“I SAID “GOOD DAY” SIR!”

“I SAID “GOOD DAY” SIR!”

Think about that for a minute. They created a superhero whose kryptonite is evil. Captain America is one of the greatest superheroes ever because in his very first appearance he punched Hitler right in the face. He didn’t collapse weeping in a puddle because HITLER DIDN’T COME WITH A GODDAMN TRIGGER WARNING!
Warning for: Hatred. Genocide. Inaccurate moustache.

Warning for: Hatred. Genocide. Inaccurate moustache.

As notorious as that episode is, there’s one that (in my  neck of the woods at least) is even more infamous; “If it’s Doomsday, this must be Belfast”, better known here as “The one where the IRA got a nuclear bomb.”
I have never actually seen this one but this thing is legendary in Ireland. I have, no lie, been waiting to do this review all year. I have a feeling this is going to be the greatest experience of my life.
Let’s take a look.

(more…)

The Unshaved Mouse’s Top 5 Guilty Pleasures

 

Irish comedian Dara O’Brian has a great bit where he rants about the term “guilty pleasure”. Liking a certain band or movie, he argues, should not make you feel guilty and the term “guilty pleasure” should be reserved for things that should actually make you feel guilty, like smelling women on public transport. He’s probably right, and part of me thinks that if you’ve found something in this often scary and uncaring world that makes you happy and doesn’t hurt anyone else, more power to you. I, however, was raised Catholic, which means that pretty much all pleasures are guilty pleasures. These ones though? These are the things that I love that just make me feel dirty.
 
5) Family Guy
family-guy
 
Why I love it.
 
Alright, I know that this is a terrible show. It commits basically every writing sin there is, there’s no structure, zero consistent characterisation and it leans way, way, waaaaay too hard on shock value to try and get its laughs. And, just so we can put this to bed, racist humour is not edgy.
It's not "cutting edge" if it predates the frickin' talkies.

It’s not “cutting edge” if it predates the frickin’ talkies.

And yet, and yet…in any given episode of this show there will be at least one joke, one gag, one little bit of surrealist humour that will make me laugh out loud. Law of averages I guess. This show’s modus operandi is flinging gags at the wall at a rate of knots and hoping that they stick. And, as much as the scripting is bad in a kind of big-picture, overall sense, there are often little scenes and vignettes that contain some frankly beautiful writing. There’s a scene (incidentally from one of my least favourite episodes) where Stewie takes the entire cast of Next Generation to the drive though and it just captures perfectly the frustrations of trying to order for a large group of people and that is something I think that Family Guy can do very, very well. Just capturing the truth of little day to day moments. Also, whatever you may think of his comedy, Set McFarlane is an absolutely phenomenal voice actor.
 
Guilt Level: Parking in the disabled zone.
So why do I feel guilty? 
smartermaid
Yeah.
 
4) “Ill Mind 5” by Hopsin
 
WARNING: SO, SO, SO FUCKING NSFW
Why I love it
 
I first came across this song on That Guy With the Glasses when RapCritic named it his best song of the year. After one listen it was already my favourite rap song of all time. Over the course of three verses addressed to, in turn, a white high school dropout, a white teenage girl and a black wannabe gangsta Hopsin takes his entire benighted generation and goes through it for a shortcut, lambasting his contemporaries as shallow, driftless, lazy, celebrity-obsessed jackasses. With impeccable flow and timing, pitch black wordplay and white-hot rage Hopsin makes a lecture essentially telling kids to stay in school, study and eat their greens sound like the most hardcore, revolutionary thing you’ve ever heard.
 
Guilt Level: Shouting “bollocks” in a crowded church. 
 
Yeah, as Rap Critic himself pointed out, it’s that second verse that really raises the alarm bells. It’s not even that I particularly disagree with Hop’s central premise viz; that if you’re a young woman who’s primary method of meeting guys is to go down to a skeezy nightclub and essentially give the patrons a strip show gratis then it’s maybe slightly disingenuous to then complain that the men you’re attracting aren’t exactly the gender’s A-team. But let’s be honest, am I going to sit here and pretend that lines like “You want Romeo, you’re not worthy/You’re cock-thirsty, nasty and probably got herpes” aren’t horribly misogynistic? No. Because I speak English as a first language and know what all those words mean. Does that mean it’s a bad song? Um…no. Great art does not have to be nice, and great artists often aren’t nice people (for example: pretty much every great artist who has ever lived).
 
3) Hannibal
 
hannibal1_2553735b1
Why I love it
 
Bryan Fuller’s retelling of the pre-incarceration years of Hannibal Lecter may be one of the most beautifully shot and scored series ever made for American TV. The cast (Mads Mikkelsen, Hugh Dancy, Laurence Fishbourne, Gillian Anderson) is A list, the performances are magnetic and the whole thing just drips with atmosphere.
 
Guilt level: Realising you’ve shot the wrong Captain Kirk.
 
There’s an episode in season 2 where Jack Crawford (Laurence Fishbourne) recalls how Will Graham (Hugh Dancy) objected to the name of the FBI’s “Evil Minds Research Museum”. Graham’s objection being that the name glamourizes and mythologises serial killers, making merely mentally ill criminals seem like mystical creatures. No word of a lie, when I heard that line I laughed milk out my nose at the show’s chutzpah, because glamourizing serial killers is Hannibal’s whole raison d’etre. Whether it’s the title character or any one of this universe’s seemingly inexhaustible stable of gimmick based recreational homicide enthusiasts, the series constantly presents serial murderers as terrifyingly brilliant, tortured, beautiful, otherworldly monsters. But, hey, it’s TV. I can look past that. I can also look past the show’s depiction of the seriously suspect practice of criminal profiling as essentially magic, allowing the writers to skip to the next phase of the investigation whenever they feel like it. No, it was around the end of season one when the murders became less “lurid crime scenes” and more “fucking art installation pieces”that I finally realised that this ostensibly VERY SERIOUS show was running on pixie dust and dream logic.
"Our killer just arrived, spent two weeks assembling this and the POOF! He was gone..."

“Our killer just arrived, spent two weeks assembling this and then POOF! He was gone…”

2) Warhammer 40k
W40K
 
Why I love it
 
Weirdly, I consider myself a fan of Warhammer 40k despite never actually having played the tabletop game. I’m just a fan of the setting (and I’m also an addict of the tie-in PC game Dawn of War). In the 41st Millennium, the Imperium of Man, a vast despotic empire spanning thousands of worlds, battles enemies on all sides while crumbling under the weight of its own corruption and the malicious influence of the dark gods of Chaos. The Warhammer 40k universe may actually be the grimmest in all of fiction. Take the Tau. They’re an expansionist alien empire base on Imperial Japan, forcibly conquering other alien races and annexing them in service of “The Greater Good”. In any other science fiction setting these would be the bad guys. In 40k, they’re the closest thing to heroes. Then there’s the Eldar, an ancient species so spectacularly racist that they would happily let an entire alien civilization die to save one member of their own, the Orks, who wage massive intergalactic rampages for fun, the Imperium, a ruthlessly xenophovic theocracy that want to murder anyone who’s not human, the Necrons, who want to murder everyone, period, and the Tyranids who want to murder everyone and then eat them. Oh, and then there’s the forces of Chaos. Who are the bad guys. 
Guilt level: Recounting your time in the Khmer Rouge to an international tribunal
 
Because it makes me a massive hypocrite. I’m the guy who’s got a quote on TVTropes “Silly Rabbit, Cynicism is for Kids” page about how the most important and worthwhile thing in fiction is to write something uplifting that doesn’t give in to cynicism and nihilism. And yet, here I am, a fan of probably one of the most nihilistic fictional universes there is. But I can’t help it, it’s just so sumptuously gothic, so meticulously detailed in its awfulness that I can’t help but love it. There’s something about the Imperium especially, basically Gormenghast crossed with the Galactic Empire, that I find incredibly compelling. Lemme tell you, if they ever make a movie based on this, they need to get Terry Gilliam to direct it.
 

1) Reading bad reviews.

 Critic
Why I love it
 
Probably my favourite piece of internet movie criticism, and probably the one that inspired me to begin reviewing movies myself, is Doug Walker’s evisceration of The Legend of the Titanic. I remember thinking that what Doug was doing was almost artistic reclamation, taking a movie that had almost no redeeming features and using it as material to create something hilarious and quite brilliant. I like the idea that any movie, no matter how bad, can be put to good use and made into something entertaining. And let’s be honest, there is just something so satisfying about seeing some piece of hackwork torn apart with a single, withering put down. I don’t really write that many negative reviews myself (of the 65 movies I’ve reviewed only 13 have scored over 50% or lower) but whenever I see a one star review or an F-Grade on the AV Club I am all over that like white on rice.
 
Guilt level: Hearing that damn heart beat under the floorboards.
 
‘Cos it’s schadenfreude, pure and simple. Because, at least it part, it’s an act of mockery. And because as a writer I know that getting bad reviews is part and parcel of being a writer, actor, director, successful hotel chain, whatever, and I have no right to be smug. Am I going to stop reading bad reviews? Absolutely not. But as it happens, I’m going to be reviewing several plays in the upcoming Dublin Tiger Fringe and Dublin Theatre Festivals for Meg.ie. And some of those shows I may have to pan. But in the back of my mind I will always be thinking that that could be me. And really, in the interest of fairness, if I’m going to read other people’s bad reviews, they should be able to read mine.
 
***
Neil Sharpson aka The Unshaved Mouse is a playwright, blogger and comic book writer living in Dublin. The blog updates with a new animated movie review every second Thursday. He’s also serialising his novel The Hangman’s Daughter with a new chapter every Saturday. Like Unshaved Mouse? Let the good people at the Blog Awards Ireland know what’s what by voting for me HERE.

Walt Disney Reviews Foodfight!

 

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is the property of the Walt Disney Corporation.  The Walt Disney Corporation reserves the right to protect its copyrighted material from any and all infringement. Violators will be shot and fed to the shareholders. New to the blog? Start at the start with Snow White.)

"Mouse! Mouse! Where are you!"

“Mouse! Mouse! Where are you!”

"Walt!? What are you doing?! Get out of here while you still can!"

“Walt!? What are you doing?! Get out of here while you still can!”

 Awful
"My God, it’s even worse than I imagined. The animation…so awful…the characters…so…ugly…"

“My God, it’s even worse than I imagined. The animation…so awful…the characters…so…ugly…”

"Disney. You came."

“Disney. You came.”

"Huh. I had a feeling the Horned King wasn’t smart enough to pull something like this off. You must be the man behind the man."

“Huh. I had a feeling the Horned King wasn’t smart enough to pull something like this off. You must be the man behind the man.”

"Indeed."

“Indeed.”

"Well played."

“Well played.”

"Thank you."

“Thank you.”

"It was you…"

“It was you…”

"Obviously."

“Obviously.”

"But then how?"

“But then how?”

"Don’t you see?"

“Don’t you see?”

"Ah. Brilliant."

“Ah. Brilliant.”

"So you understand?"

“So you understand?”

"Of course."

“Of course.”

"Good. Then there’s no reason for me to explain."

“Good. Then there’s no reason for me to explain.”

"Of course not. It’s simplicity itself. You’d have to be an idiot not to understand."

“Of course not. It’s simplicity itself. You’d have to be an idiot not to understand.”

"What are you talking about?"

“What are you talking about?”

"Your witness."

“Your witness.”

"It was I who resurrected the Horned King, you furry fool. I who suggested to him that he trap you in this movie."

“It was I who resurrected the Horned King, you furry fool. I who suggested to him that he trap you in this movie.”

"Why? What did I ever do to you?"

“Why? What did I ever do to you?”

"You? My poor deluded Mouse. This was never about YOU. I did all this to get HIM here."

“You? My poor deluded Mouse. This was never about YOU. I did all this to get HIM here.”

"Why? Who are you?"

“Why? Who are you?”

"Someone who owes you a lifetime of torment. Someone who has suffered at your hands like no other. Someone whose desire for revenge burns like the fire of a thousand white hot suns."

“Someone who owes you a lifetime of torment. Someone who has suffered at your hands like no other. Someone whose desire for revenge burns like the fire of a thousand white hot suns.”

"That could literally be anyone. Care to narrow it down for me?"

“That could literally be anyone. Care to narrow it down for me?”

"P.L. Travers maybe?"

“P.L. Travers maybe?”

"Ooh! Good guess! Pamela, is that you?"

“Ooh! Good guess! Pamela, is that you?”

"NO I AM NOT PAMELA TRAVERS! NOW REVIEW THE MOVIE! REVIEW…AND DIE!"

“NO I AM NOT PAMELA TRAVERS! NOW REVIEW THE MOVIE! REVIEW…AND DIE!”

The origins of Foodfight are shrouded in mystery and occultation. It is said to have been the creation of “Larry Kasanoff”, a figure who appears in Arab folklore as a wandering trickster and teller of evil tales. Legend has it that Kasanoff was entranced by Pixar’s Toy Story, and tried to make his own version set in a supermarket, with corporate mascots instead of beloved toys. He approached the masters and lords of coproate America and with honeyed words filled their hearts with greed. “My Lords” he said “Think of it, a film that was an advertisement. Two hours of product placement made for little, impressionable children. Is it not glorious?” And, so, the story goes, they agreed to let Kasanoff use their mascots for his diabolical scheme. For many long years he toiled at his black work, suffering many setbacks. Indeed, his early work was stolen in what Kasanoff called “industrial espionage” but what we can only call “true heroism”. This forced Kasanoff to start again from scratch. Whoever that nameless thief was, we must thank him for seeking to spare us this monstrosity, even if ultimately his work was for nothing.
"Many Bothans died trying to stop this movie."

Many Bothans died trying to stop this movie.

Then again, this is all supposition. Perhaps there never was a “Larry Kasanoff”. We may never know who created Foodfight! Maybe it doesn’t matter.  All that matters is that it exists. I am Walter Elias Disney, The Doom of Bahia, Master of the Black Mouse and defender of this world. And today, at last, I know fear. Today, I review Foodfight!

(more…)

Disney Reviews with the Unshaved Mouse #33: Pocahontas

 

(DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images 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.)

***

We’d been working it on it for a couple of months and then Jeffrey calls a “breakfast meeting”. And in the meeting, we have the whole crew from Pocahontas and Lion King. And Jeffrey said “Pocahontas is a home run! It’s West Side Story/Romeo and Juliet with American Indians! It’s a smash hit!  Lion King on the other hand, it’s kind of an experiment, we don’t really know if people are going to want to see it.””

Rob Minkoff, Co-director of The Lion King.

Guys. You know me. I’m not a hatchet artist. I don’t enjoy tearing movies to pieces. I didn’t start this blog because I wanted to take cheap shots, I did it as a cynical promotional tool to advance my writing career because I love this gorgeous, hilarious, deeply weird gaggle of animated films we call the Disney canon. And I know a lot of you have been looking forward to seeing me feast on this thing’s entrails like a rabid boar but I honestly cannot think of anything more dispiriting to write and unpleasant to read than one long, unending rant.
So…
I’m laying down a few ground rules right from the start. Think of these as handicaps to give this movie a fighting chance so that it doesn’t just turn into a complete bloodbath.
  1. I’m not going to mark this movie down for its inaccurate portrayal of Indians, Native Americans, American Indians, Amerindians, Native Peoples
These guys.

These guys.

Not that the movie doesn’t get a lot of things wrong (I have it on good account that it does) but it’s not like I’m an expert so I don’t really feel qualified to call the movie out on its failures in that regard. See, the thing is…it is damn hard to write a portrayal of Those Guys in any medium that doesn’t end up annoying somebody. There are just so many stereotypes and tired tropes floating around that it is almost impossible to write a character that doesn’t fall into at least some of them. (Actually, if there are any Native Americans or people of Native American ancestry reading this I would be very interested to know if there are any portrayals in TV or movies that you feel actually got it right. Let me know in the comments.)  I am under no illusions that by deciding to make this movie Disney wasn’t setting itself up for a lose/lose situation.
Having said that, let’s be clear: They FUCKING LOST.
  1. I’m not going to mark this movie down for its historical inaccuracy.
It’s a cartoon. Not a historical document. So I don’t particularly care that Pocahontas is not twelve and John Smith is not a forty year old ginger. I will still mock this movie like the dickens for comedic effect, but it’s not going to have an impact on the final score.
  1. I’m not going to mark this down for failing to address the issues of genocide, forced relocations, slavery et al.
It’s a movie set in 1607. Short of one of the characters getting their hands on a time machine, how can the movie address events that wouldn’t happen decades or even centuries into the future? Granted, it hangs like a big black hanging thing over the entire movie, but that’s more history’s fault than the film’s. Besides. Do you really want to see a Disney movie that gave a realistic depiction of the Jamestown settlement? (Answer: No, no. Not even a little. No.)
I’m laying down these rules because, honestly, if this movie was good? If I cared deeply about the characters? If I was entranced by the story and thought the script was witty and emotionally satisfying? If I loved the art style and didn’t find the songs insufferably smug? None of the above would matter. You think I care that Mulan is set in the wrong dynasty or that Jungle Book makes no reference to India’s struggle for independence from British rule? Not a bit. So if it doesn’t matter to me when the movie’s good, why should it matter when the movie’s bad?
Oh yeah. The movie’s bad. Really bad. Like, a failure on all but the most technical level. Technically, it’s fine. The story structure is pretty much text-book. The animation is largely excellent if joyless and devoid of any real inspiration. But this thing is dead inside. It’s like someone killed a Disney movie and staged a macabre puppet show with the body. It’s the worst kind of formula driven, corporate movie making trying to hide its soullessness behind  a vague veneer of empty New Agey spirituality. And it’s dumb. It’s really dumb. There are dumb movies, and there are smart movies and the great earth is big and rich enough for both but one thing I cannot stand is a dumb movie that thinks it’s smart.
So. How came we by this travesty?
Being Irish, I know a thing or two about booms and busts and when I read about the giddy optimism that was bubbling through Disney by the mid-nineties I can’t help but feel a little twinge of Celtic Tiger PTSD.
True story. Where I live was right in that thing's crotch.

True story: Where I live was right in that thing’s crotch.

Under the guidance of the Katzenberg/Eisner/Disney triumvirate the Disney animation studio had gone from being a financial liability to a money making machine. Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Lion King. One after the other.

"HEY! WHAT ARE WE, INVISIBLE?!"

“HEY! WHAT ARE WE, INVISIBLE?!”

Four of the biggest animated movies, hell, four of the biggest movies of all time in a six year span. Couple that record box office take with equally record breaking VHS sales and merchandising and you are talking about a billion dollar enterprise. I wouldn’t be surprised if years later it turned out that the real reason Katzenberg left was that Eisner kept cheating during their daily money fights. And, to their credit, Katzenberg and Eisner made sure plenty of that money got to the people who made it all possible. Suddenly, the animators’ parking lot was filling up each day with Bentleys and Jaguars. Generous bonuses were being lavished all around and the animation wing had a brand new state-of-the-art office building built just for them. But there was a cost to all this. Whereas the animation studio that Walt Disney had founded would slowly and methodically work on one film, release it, and then start on the next, Roy Disney had decreed that a new full length animated film would be released every year. As well as working on Pocahontas, the animation studio was finishing off Lion King, prepping for Hunchback of Notre Dame and working on A Goofy Movie and Nightmare Before Christmas. This massive workload resulted in long hours, stress and more than a few ruined marriages. And the toll wasn’t merely psychological either. Watch interviews and footage of the Disney animators of this period and you’ll see a lot of people rubbing their wrists, flexing and unflexing their fingers, squinting…we don’t normally think of artistic fields of endeavour as being physically gruelling but animation can put an absolutely brutal toll on the human body. Then of course there was the tragic death of Frank Wells, a huge psychic shock to the company made worse by the ugly fallout and Katzenberg’s departure from Disney.

It’s not possible to recount why Katzenberg left without getting into a lot of “he said she said” bullshit. From what I can gather Katzenberg’s version of events was that Eisner promised Katzenberg the  position vacated by Wells but then withdrew the offer because he was jealous of how Katzenberg was getting all these press accolades for having turned things around at Disney. Eisner, for his part, says that the position was Katzenberg’s for the taking if he’d just waited a while and not been lobbying for it so soon after Wells’ death. Did Katzenberg resign? Was he fired? Don’t know, honestly don’t really care. The point is, halfway through production of Pocahontas Katzenberg had left Disney vowing revenge.
"Fools! I shall destroy them all!"

“Fools! I shall destroy them all!”

I think all these factors, the over-work, the shock of Wells’ death, the sheer weight of expectation to keep the gravy train on the tracks and the bad blood caused by Katzenberg’s departure all combined to make Pocahontas a thoroughly miserable experience for the animators to work on. I have no proof of that, maybe it was an endless merry go round of delight, but it sure as hell doesn’t feel that way. There is a sense of joylessness that pervades this thing, like everyone was just gritting their teeth and thinking of the paycheck.

Kind of like me, except I don’t get paid.
Sigh. Let’s just get this over with.

Disney Review with the Unshaved Mouse #19: The Jungle Book

DISCLAIMER: This blog is not for profit. All images used below are property of their respective companies unless stated otherwise. I do not claim ownership of this material.

***

Oh. It’s you. Fuck do you want?

Yeah I’m drunk. So what? I can review just fine…don’t…just back off. I’m fine. Just, you’re crowding me right now and I feel like I’m losing my balance like you’re giving me vertigo OH FUCK…

Everyday Bar Stool 28inch

Curse you stool…you’ve always been jealous of me! Ever since school! ‘Cos I was a person with dreams and hopes and you WERE JUST FURNITURE! YEAH! I SAID IT!

Okay…I’m fine. Sorry. I’m sorry everyone. I’m so sorry.

Stool…Stool can you ever forgive me?

You promised me that last time would be the last time. We're done Mouse. Never call me again.

You and I? We’re done.

Ohhhh Christ I’m a mess. Yeah, so I needed a stiff drink or twelve after seeing this week’s movie again. See, The Jungle Book is a very important movie for me. This is the first movie I ever saw in a cinema. One day in the eighties my mother brought me to a tiny little one screener called the Regal Cinema in Youghal, Co Cork. Amazingly, I mentioned this to my mother when I was getting ready to write this review and it turns out it was also the first film she ever saw in the cinema too, and that she was brought to that exact same cinema when it first came out in 1967.

Youghal has been absolutely hollowed out by the recession and the Regal closed in 2011 after seventy four years in business but I still have that memory. Watching The Jungle Book with my mother, maybe around three or four years of age, laughing at Baloo and Louie, and being a little scared but not too scared of Shere Khan and Kaa. First Disney movie I ever saw and it was just pure joy. That was the day I learned how much a piece of art could mean to you. And then I watch it again and…ugh I need a drink.

No, I don't need a glass. Why would you ask that?

No, I don’t need a glass. Why would you ask that?

(more…)