I think I watched the original Jim Henson production a couple of years ago, a double bill with Labyrinth which – to be entirely honest – I never remember watching as a child. But Dark Crystal, the original Dark Crystal, I most certainly saw many years before. One of my earliest experiences of pure fantasy, and it is pure fantasy, free of human protagonists, devoid of anything familiar upon which to hang a sense of reality, comprised only of the complex and wondrous puppetry with which the Henson name is synonymous.
It remains firmly in the cult classic category, a lesser known kids film that connects and resonates with adults who loved it then and revere it now, and – like many a resurrected passion project – the prequel series saw a lot of fans emerging from the woodwork to support it. (more…)
Is it geeky to review a musical?
Well we’ve established a few things about being a geek over the last few years, come to a few conclusions, and had plenty of arguments over the subject, but when we put this concept to the test we made some interesting observations. I’ll come back to that in a short while…
Controversial Subject Warning
Because this is not a family friendly musical to talk about. Click links to songs if you enjoy being offended. (more…)
A life of freedom upon the open sea is a dream for some, but it is not a vocation without perils. Out there where men are free, they can be free of oppression, taxation, and the rule of land, to pursue whatever desires of conquest and greed they please, so long as they’re happy to also be at the mercy of others who want to do much the same thing.
Here we have assembled a gathering of the most terrible captains, wicked crews and vicious looters, pillagers and ravagers known to these seas or any others. Mutinous scoundrels of history and fantasy, gathered one and all in this week’s Top 10. (more…)
We all know the basics of Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1883 novel Treasure Island, a lonesome kid with an absentee father and who craves adventure gets his opportunity when a stranger blows through town and hands him a map. There begins a treasure hunt destined to go down in history, hampered by the betrayal of a father figure driven by greed, all coming to a climactic moment when the treasure is eventually found and the traitorous father figure shows he’s not all that bad in the end.
Welcome back to our weekly Top 10 list and this week it’s alternative animated films!
There’ll be no Disney- Oh no wait, there’s some… Well there’s no big CGI produ- oh no, there it is…
Still, not one entry on this list could be considered your everyday cartoon, but they’re brilliant to watch. Cult classics and family favourites, puppets and stop motion! Enjoy our weird and wonderful Top 10!
10) Space Jam – 1996
Looney Tunes fans were beyond happy with this film and I too sort of live nostalgically about it.
Michael Jordan plays intergalactic basketball with some cartoon characters. So to put this into perspective, this is a movie where a lot of cartoon animation being animated alongside live-action stories and elements. Whilst it’s not the greatest of films, it’s certainly quite unique and worth a watch at the very least. Plus it was quite amusing which is always a bonus.
9) Small Soldiers – 1998
Small Soldiers will never go down in the history books as one of the greatest films of all time. Heck, online critic Doug Walker, AKA the Nostalgia Critic basically pans this movie. But actually, I think it was rather clever for its use of animation.
It’s not a film that’ll captivate you emotionally, nor mentally. It’s also going to make you cringe often. However, it used these little CGI puppets in a film that was almost entirely live-action. A good proportion of the major cast however was CGI and these live-actors including some young actors had to get used to the idea: They’re talking to an inanimate object for real, but in the movie it’ll be a living, moving creation. Strange!
8) A Scanner Darkly – 2006
So here’s one that passed many people by. In spite of a star-studded cast and highly original style, A Scanner Darkly was based on a Phillip K. Dick book and filmed in live action before being converted to animation later. Following the tale of an undercover cop trying to trace the source of a drug called Substance D, the film’s style allows it to slip into hallucination sequences seamlessly.
Worth a watch for its’ style alone, A Scanner Darkly is a fantastically weird animated film. Not for the easily creeped-out however, it features a lot of messed up imagery and Robert Downey-Junior as a giant cockroach.
7) Muppets Treasure Island – 1996
Ahh, Muppets. Jim Henson created a cast of amazing characters who have entertained families for decades, and retell some classic tales with their classic word-play, slapstick and big musical numbers in some infamous feature-length productions. We had a lot to choose from, but Treasure Island was by far our favourite for its’ raucous songs, brilliant performances, and brilliant Muppet moments.
Tim Curry and Billy Connelly feature in the cast, but the real stars of the show have always been Rizzo, Gonzo, Kermit, Miss Piggy and Mister Bimble the man who lives in Fozzy’s finger.
6) The Lego Movie – 2014
It came as something of a dissapointment to me to discover that the Lego Movie had been made entirely in CGI, but looking back I actually understand. Though the characters only have a limited range of movement because they are kept as true as possible to the Lego minifigures, animating all of that Lego water and all of the Lego explosions? My gods, we’d still be waiting for a full-length Lego feature for another century.
And what a movie it was. In every way it captured what Lego is all about, bringing the toy to life in a way that saw the imagination of generations explode onto the big screen. In short: Everything (about the film) Is AWESOME!
5) Coraline – 2009
From the team that brought us The Nightmare Before Christmas (sans Tim Burton) comes a dark tale about appreciating what you have. A stop motion film about a young girl who is moved begrudgingly to a new house in the country and discovers a seemingly blissful version of her own world on the other side of a hidden door.
Heavily stylized and nightmarish, Coraline captured our imaginations and filled the dark corners of our minds with the terrifying, button-eyed spectre of “The Other Mother.”
4) Who Framed Rodger Rabbit? – 1988
Bob Hoskins starred in the infamous cartoon-noir drama, mixing compelling live action performances with a vast cast of legendary cartoon characters including the only appearance of Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse on screen together. I think what really brings the film together though (in spite of the incredible collaborative effort) must be the character of Judge Doom, played by Christopher Lloyd, the terrifying cartoon disguised as a real human, enacting a twisted vendetta against the populace of Toontown.
Rodger Rabbit’s most famous appearance is a terrifying film for something that’s supposed to be family friendly. Cartoon death, torture and sex symbols? The hideous monster beneath Judge Doom’s face? Why is this list so full of scary films for kids? Why are we writing this?
3)Wallace and Gromit: The Wrong Trousers – 1993
Yes the inventor and his pet pooch are back once again with the 1993 hit film The Wrong Trousers. Why does this get as far as number 3 in our top 10 spot?
Claymation. This film is done out of clay. If you don’t know much about claymation, there’s not many films made entirely out of clay because it’s such a long, tedious process. It’s painful to imagine how many hundreds of hours were spent making each and every character, then adding in their emotion, by stopping their recording and restarting their recording. Each move needed to be precise and each expression was captured crystal-clear. That’s right, this film as well as being made out of clay was also stop-motion.
Just look at Gromit if you don’t believe how awesome the quality of this film was.
2) Team America: World Police – 2004
South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker bring their intelligently dumb comedy to the big screen in Gerry Anderson style marionation complete with real explosions and over the top action (although the sex scene was all Parker/Stone, unless there’s a Thunderbirds episode I’ve yet to see). Team America is universally offensive, totally unnecessary, and absolutely ingenious.
Gerry Anderson (who’s Kickstarter campaign starts TODAY) inspired generations before his passing in 2012, and Team America is a fantastic big-screen adaption and homage to his style. Let’s hope Firestorm can honour his memory in a slightly more family-friendly way though…
1) Labyrinth – 1986
Here it is, Labyrinth which might be one of the most iconic films of the 80s. The reason this comes in at number 1 was its stunning use of puppets and CGI combined.
Also, this film features some of the cheesiest 80’s songs imaginable. We didn’t need to say too much about Labyrinth that probably hasn’t been covered in a major thesis, only that the technology that they were using for the time was relatively experimental. Alongside labyrinth, we could have mentioned Gremlins, but we felt out of the films from around this period of time, Labyrinth stands out the most. Hoggle and the gang being actual muppets which are now displayed in a museum is quite exciting. To think the actors and actresses in this film would have had to get used to the idea that these puppets were “real”.
It’s all made weirder when you listen to David Bowie throughout this film, as clearly he’s still debating what kind of magic spell to use.
Animation is big business, and pinning down what makes it alternative these days is a little difficult. But with our list assembled we were still left with a few brilliant examples left over that still warrant mention. This keeps happening to us, but Top 12 isn’t so catchy…
Mature Content Warning because Junk Head, an independently made stop-motion animation available to view on youtube, is set in a world so heavily industrialized that biological reproduction has become impossible, and follows an cyborg agent sent into the deep city to find a “sample” that has, rather clearly gained something necessary to biological reproduction.
Intended to be the first of a series, I watched the film and found myself really hoping that a series materializes, as the bizarre urban-wilderness and strange people who occupy it are amazingly realized and entirely created by one man. It’s made it into our honourary section because it deserves some honour.
Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within
This was the first Final Fantasy film and it was a full blown feature-length film entirely out of CGI and awesome effects. With a fun and relatively complex plot which was played through with a beautiful soundtrack and some of the best visuals of its time.
Whilst it’s true to Final Fantasy style, this film is basically all CGI, even if it was impressive. As such, it wasn’t really fitting for our alternative animation theme, but we thought it deserved a mention at the very least.
Animation is a brilliant way to present a story in a unique world with style, but to really make it stand apart the animation itself must be unique. We did our best to choose the best, but do you have an alternative (harr harr) for us? Give us some more suggestions in the comments, or on our Facebook or Twitter!
This week’s Top 10 rather elegantly sets up tomorrow’s Kickstarter Highlight, Gerry Anderson’s all-new ultramarionation Firestorm! We mentioned it last week, but the campaign begins today. Be sure to come back to us for all the information. And come back to us next week for another Top 10!