A laugh can be a very powerful thing…

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WHO FRAMED ROGER RABBIT


Directed By:
Robert Zemeckis
Screenplay By:
Jeffrey Price & Peter S. Seaman
Based On: Gary K. Wolf’s Who Censored Roger Rabbit?
Production Company:
Touchstone Pictures & Amblin Entertainment
Distributed By: Buena Vista Pictures Distribution, Inc.

Is it any wonder that this film holds a slot amongst my personal top three and, through chance, earned the rank of number one this time around? Who Framed Roger Rabbit is a film of unbelievable success in so many variety of ways that I can’t even begin to count them all, though for the sake of this review I will do my best.

The basic summary of the film goes that an A-List cartoon star of the 1940’s, the titular Roger Rabbit, is framed for murder and it is up to him and private detective Eddie Valiant to find out the truth of the crime before the black-hearted Judge Doom and his Toon Patrol carries out the execution by way of the Dip.

What makes this film such a success however is not just the story itself, which I must say is a very original take on the classic detective stories of its era done up with a bit of the 1980’s flair. No, what makes this film truly stand out is the near unbelievable cooperation that occurred between rival companies Walt Disney Pictures and Warner Bros. Studios in using their characters and having them share the silver screen for the first, and likely the last, time.

Of course, this is in no small thanks to Steven Spielberg, who managed to not only convince Warner Bros., but Fleischer Studios, King Features Syndicate, Felix the Cat Productions, Turner Entertainment, and even Universal Studios to get in on the act, though many a stipulation had been made to guarantee the accurate, and fair, portrayal of the characters involved.

The most obvious of this stipulation is seen predominately in the main duos of Donal Duck with Daffy Duck playing the piano as well as Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny skydiving. Though most don’t catch this at first, both pairs of characters share not only the exact same amount of screen time to the other but are both equal at whatever it is that they’re doing.

Something similar had been done for the more recent film of Wreck-It Ralph, specifically the villains support group with characters like Doctor Eggman, Bowser, and M. Bison. The respected game studios for those characters were more than heavily involved in that scene and, for a time, got caught up in something of a fight with each other as to how big their respected characters should be in comparison to the others. In the end, it took Disney animators stating that if the studios kept adding height to their characters, Ralph and the “original” villains would be gnats in a room full of giants.

But I digress.

The biggest success for Who Framed Roger Rabbit I feel was not just the stunning amount of work involved in integrating traditionally animated characters in a real world setting, something that had been done before but never to this detailed degree, but rather the sudden spark it brought in the people. This film is credited at not only renewing interest in the Golden Age of Animation, with classic cartoons like Tom & Jerry or The Looney Tunes, but in helping spearhead the modern era of American animation, particularly the Disney Renaissance!

Who Framed Roger Rabbit is also the first live-action/animation film to win not one but FOUR Academy Awards, the first to do so since the likes of Mary Poppins back in 1964. Though nominated for more, Who Framed Roger Rabbit went on to win the Academy Awards for Best Sound Editing, Best Visual Effects, Best Film Editing, and a Special Achievement Award for, quote, “animation direction and creation of the cartoon characters.”

As to the music of the film, like any cartoon film it does have a two “musical” moments though that’s quite a stretch at the definition as all three are not only short, they’re sensible. Well, as sensible as any musical moment can be with cartoon characters involved but my point still stands that they don’t come straight out of nowhere and make at least a bit of sense in the overall scheme of things! This is also one of, if not the only, film of its kind that have a wide range of music from the zippy fun times of a cartoon jingle to the dark, somber tunes of a murder-mystery and still somehow work.

As to whether or not this is a movie for kids… Really, it’s up to the parents’ discretion. Personally, I watched this movie when I was all of a toddler if even that old and all of the mature stuff flew so far over my head I’m sure the Moon gave a hearty wave at it passing by. Even without that understanding I still greatly enjoyed the movie then and love it even more now as an adult. I sincerely recommend this movie to anyone who enjoys the golden age of cartoons and to those who enjoy a good murder mystery because really, where else are you ever going to find both?

To wrap up this review… I’ll share two interesting facts about the character of Roger Rabbit as, unfortunately, he is not my favorite character in the film and while I may discuss him in further detail, I found these two tidbits to be too interesting to keep to myself. Firstly, Roger Rabbit is a cartoon amalgamation of many popular cartoon characters. He has the atypical Tex Avery cashew nut-shaped head, the tuft of red hair much like Droopy Dog, Goofy’s overalls, Porky Pig’s bow tie, Mickey Mouse’s gloves, and the ears and cheeks of Bugs Bunny.

The second fact… Well… I believe the saying goes that a picture is worth a thousand words so I can’t help but wonder just how much this one is worth….

Here’s where lost wishes are granted…

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CAMILLE

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Domain:
Slumberland
Premiered in: Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland (1989)
Voiced By: Laura Mooney

Just as I had done for the Disney Princesses, I will follow a similar format for the case of Princess Camille of Slumberland by speaking of her domain, her “sidekicks,” and her love interest following my take on her character.

Princess Camille was the first true princess character to break the common mold that I had made of royalty and of girls as a whole. At least for back when I was a naïve little boy that thought most girls were bereft with such things as cooties. During a time where I believed that princesses were made for saving and couldn’t offer much more than a kiss to their savior, that is of course if they weren’t being a general pain in the butt. Camille broke a lot of those expectations that I had of her though she did try her best to stand true to them.

Upon first being introduced to Nemo she is understandably less than impressed by his appearance given the fact that he is, after all, dressed in his pajamas, which she mistakes for being underwear. She goes on further to comment on Icarus, Nemo’s flying squirrel pet, to not being invited by her, and her father, and his being a rat to which neither boy nor squirrel take to kindly. Nemo, unsurprisingly, gives her a proper chewing out for it to which she responds in a way that neither he nor I could have expected.

She giggled. Honestly, giggles at him and even calls him cute before apologizing to him, saying that she did in fact not specify that he be dressed in formal attire. Of course, she unfortunately keeps calling Icarus a rat to which Nemo does demand an apology for, which she does deliver but to Nemo himself who responds that she should be apologizing to his rat and not him. Icarus, fed up with the both of them, climbs up atop a fountain to get away from them both despite the two apologizing for the unfortunate name-calling. Nemo climbs up after him but ends up slipping and falling to another unexpected action from Camille. As he falls, Camille runs to and successfully manages to catch him and Icarus though the three of them land in a bed of flowers as a result.

Less than five minutes and Camille broke what once were cardinal rules for princesses in my young little mind but the one that shattered the very foundation occurs much later in the film. The scene in question involves the infamous Flip the Clown who, upon being revealed that he possesses a map to Nightmare Land and is written in a code only he can read, teases the princess by asking if she’s going to come along with him, Nemo, and the Professor to Nightmare Land as well. He even offers her the chance to carry his cigars before blowing a cloud of smoke up into her hair and says that she’s rather cute when she’s angry.

I believe this little snippet below sums up her reaction rather nicely.

BOOM! Right hook to the face! My reaction was virtually a carbon copy to that of Nemo, Icarus, the Professor, and even the royal guards, a gasp of pure surprise. Back then, my little toddler self was under the impression that no girl, a princess especially, could hold her own in a fight and then here comes Camille who delivers a swift right hook to the clown that nearly sends him straight to unconsciousness though her royal decree forbidding him from smoking manages it just fine.

As to Camille’s domain of Slumberland, it is a world of dreams and exotic fantasies where such things as friendly crocogators, music enjoying dinosaurs, and flying ostriches exist. What’s really peculiar though is the fact that most if not all of the denizens are either dressed like they’d come straight from the circus or the highest of nobility and are all quite eccentric in their ways. I say this in the sense that those attending the party declaring Nemo as King Morpheus’ heir arrive by way of animal drawn carriages that include such creatures as lions, camels, flying peacocks, ginormous bunnies, and elephants.

The kingdom itself is rather… interpretive as to what is actually the palace itself of the royal family and what is the kingdom as a whole as the majority of the buildings look close to being the same. The fact that there seems to be no distinction of class, that everyone and anyone is treated equally and fairly save for the troublemaking Flip, who more than deserves the ire of the people, certainly doesn’t help matters.

As far as Slumberland’s connection to the waking world, it is never truly stated outright how deeply it is connected to our world but its connection to its polar opposite, Nightmare Land, is painfully evident. Upon the Nightmare’s release and the loss of King Morpheus, Slumberland is swiftly turned into a wasteland of crumbling towers sinking into the encroaching waves of a hungry ocean.

Contrary to most princesses of her era, Camille does and does not have a sidekick in the sense that while she has something of a favored companion in the form of BonBon, the candy girl in question is only seen in a few select scenes. Oh, and by candy girl, I mean that literally. BonBon, like most of her kind, is made up entirely of candy. If you feel the need to question this, please remember we are talking about a world that is made up entirely of dreams and nightmares alike so sensibility/actuality takes a flying nosedive out the window here.

As to Camille’s love interest, the titular Nemo… I think I will save a more in-depth review of his character for a later date but I will delve a bit into their relationship. Initially, Camille and Nemo do not get along but upon making up and making friends the two become quite close to the point that it is the mere sight of Nightmare attempting to do her harm that breaks Nemo’s silence and reveals his hiding place in the heart of Nightmare’s Castle.

At the end of their adventures, and Nemo’s dream, Camille joins Nemo on his journey back home and marvels at the sights of New York City (of the early 1900’s) before she tells Nemo that she did have fun with him during the little time they had together and with tears falling from her eyes, leans forward with puckered lips. Though initially surprised, Nemo reciprocates the kiss and that’s precisely the moment that he wakes up.

Awakened by true love’s kiss indeed…

little.nemo.adventures.in.slumberland_Jun 26, 2015, 5.03.43 PM

Floating on a cloud of happy dreams…

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LITTLE NEMO: ADVENTURES IN SLUMBERLAND


Directed By:
Masami Hata & William Hurtz
Screenplay By:
Chris Columbus & Richard Outten
Based On: Winsor McCay’s “Little Nemo in Slumberland
Production Company:
Tokyo Movie Shinsha
Distributed By: Hemdale Pictures

When it comes to my personal top three favorite films, it’s really a matter of chance on where they fall for really I can’t honestly pick one over the other as far as being my “number one” favorite film. As such this film as well the film Alice in Wonderland are virtually tied with the film that has currently earned the right to first place.

Seeing as I’ve already done a brief interlude on the background behind Little Nemo in Slumberland with my review of my favorite villain of the film The Nightmare, I’ll simply leave the aforementioned link for those whom are interested in reading the history before going on to the film proper.

As stated in The Nightmare’s review, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland was a joint project between Japan and America that was, rather unfortunately, a box office flop despite great reception from movie goers and having something of a cult following in the years since. A lot of people were involved in the creation of the film and their contributions are almost blindingly obvious in some cases.

Specifically, in the case of the artist known famously by the name of Moebius whose works are cited as being the inspiration to the likes of Hayao Miyazaki. The same Hayao Miyazaki whose many films contain enough gorgeous backgrounds that one almost wants to shove aside the characters that are standing in the way of such glorious scenery. This is so unbelievably the case for this film I cannot even begin to try and explain it. Instead, here are a few sample shots of some major scenery in the film.

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See what I mean? This movie is the only one I have ever seen where I actually want to see more of the scenery than the actual characters involved. Slumberland, and its polar opposite Nightmareland, are the stuff of dreams and as such, are places that no amount of computer rending or real life modeling could hope to duplicate. Even traditional animation is but a small imitation of the splendor that is the realms of dreams and nightmares but even so, I believe that it is the best imitation by far. For after all, what is art but dreams and nightmares put to paper?

Like most animated films of its decade, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland has its fair share of musical moments. As far as the background instrumental music, man is it perfect, particularly during the segments in the film where Nemo’s once wonderful dreams take a severe nosedive towards and frightening nightmares. As to actual songs though there are, technically, three that are sung as musical numbers while a fourth is done in the background and varies itself with different renditions that go from cheerfully whimsical to slow and heartwarming.

As to the musical numbers though… meh… One of them, aptly named “Etiquette,” pertains to Nemo learning lessons on how to be a proper prince from a variety of instructors who seem to be under the impression that teaching him all this in the span of an afternoon and nearly all at once will actually stick. This one was more fun to watch than it was to listen to.

The other two songs are, unfortunately, short and sweet moments pertaining to the introduction of their respected characters. There is the “Boomps Song & March” that introduces the background and story of the good goblins known as the Boomps, shape-shifters who are trying to escape Nightmareland and The Nightmare’s tyranny. The last song, “Slumberland Princess” is the same theme song that is sung in the background but sung by Princess Camille of Slumberland.

As to the story of the film itself… It is a story of dreams within dreams the likes of which I wouldn’t at all be surprised to learn inspired the creation of the film Inception. Seriously, there are so many moments wherein Nemo wakes up from the dream only to rediscover that he is not only still sleeping but that he must continue on to face the consequences of his own actions.

The short of it, or as short as I can make it anyway, is that Nemo is invited to Slumberland to be the royal playmate to the princess and, by extension, to become the heir to the throne and wielder of the Royal Scepter of Slumberland. Now, admittedly, this does sound like an arranged marriage of sorts but it’ll be explained in better detail in my favorite character’s review so sit tight, readers. Anyway, to go alongside this responsibility/privilege, King Morpheus bestows to Nemo a golden key that can open any door in Slumberland under the condition that Nemo promises not to use it to open the door that bares the key’s symbol, a curling dragon, upon its door.

Y’all can guess where this is going can’t you?

Overall, Little Nemo: Adventures in Slumberland is a film that tells the story of dreams and nightmares together. It is a film wherein the story, while not one wholly unique, is shown in such a way that makes it so. Stunning backdrops, interesting characters, and music that just enhances the mood rather than derailing it, it’s a movie that I recommend anyone, adult or child, should see. However, if a demonstration of just what kind of movie this is, is needed, than allow me to present one of the two pilot films made prior to the full film being made.

That’s no dinosaur…

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INDOMINUS REX


Name Meaning:
Fierce/Untamable King
Creation of:
Doctor Henry Wu
Film Premiere:
Jurassic Park (1993)

I’m going to be honest here, I was mere millimeters between picking Blue of the Velociraptor pack in Jurassic World and the hybrid monstrosity known simply as the Indominus Rex. In point of fact, I was about halfway through with my review on Blue when I realized too late that the majority of what I had written was all major spoilers to several of the best moments in the film. So rather than ruin it for any of my readers, I’ll instead focus on the Indominus Rex.

Now, while there will be some spoilers here they won’t be even a fraction as bad as those that I had written for Blue as they’ll pertain strictly to the Indominus and her abilities, nothing else. Take this as your last warning readers.

“More teeth.” These two simple words are repeated throughout Jurassic World and are, quite literally, the first words to describe what would eventually become the Indominus Rex to one Henry Wu by way of a memo from the park’s owner and CEO of the Masrani Corporation, Simon Masrani. Having likely reached the limit of dinosaurs that could be recreated by the methods found and utilized by Hammond and his company InGen, Masrani commissioned the creation of a new species of dinosaur, bigger, stronger, and far more ferocious than even the titular king of dinosaurs, the Tyrannosaurus Rex. What he could not have known though was the major opportunity that Masrani had unwittingly presented to Doctor Henry Wu.

For you see, the Indominus Rex wasn’t strictly created to be an attraction at the park. She was created to be the first of a line of possible living killing machines, bred specifically for militarized purposes. As I’ve said, that plot from the first draft had to survive somehow and while I can’t realistically imagine how such an idea could even be considered let alone executed… it bore a frightening result in the Indominus Rex.

Whether by her own unique genetic make-up or because of how she had been raised, the Indominus is, for lack of a better word, insane. This is made obvious in several instances throughout the movie with the first and most telling being that she not only killed her sibling but also ate it too. Now, I’m no biologist but given that this event had been insinuated to have occurred when the two were still infants that’s… that’s pretty damning considering parts of the Indominus comes the pack hunting velociraptors and the young-raising Tyrannosaurus Rex…

Speaking of her genetic make-up, the Indominus has been confirmed to have not only Tyrannosaurus and Velociraptor DNA but also the genes of a cuttlefish, some species of tree frog, and, though unstated but still quite likely, some snake DNA as well. This DNA hodgepodge was done purposefully to better enhance the Indominus as a bio-weapon with the cuttlefish DNA allowing it to camouflage its skin into the trees and the frog DNA allowing it to lower its body temperature down so that it doesn’t appear on thermal cameras. Of course, the former requires an adequate amount of cover such as a canopy of trees and the latter requires the Indominus to be all but still as a rock but she is nothing if not patient.

She did, after all, lay out her escape by fooling the humans into believing that she had climbed out of her containment and tricked them into opening the door of her paddock just enough for her to force her way through before going on a murderous rampage throughout Jurassic World. That’s not an exaggeration either, Owen Grady, the trainer/alpha of the Velociraptors at Jurassic World, outright states that she’s killing for sport and not for food. In a way, she is learning about herself and her limitations by doing this and demonstrating her own innate intelligence that is frighteningly close to actual sapience.

One example of this was her laying a trap by way of ripping out her tracking beacon which, admittedly, she likely didn’t know what that was but considering that it likely started shocking her the moment she got close to another paddock, she likely figured that out its purpose rather quickly.

Another, more subtle example though was when she was being chased by the helicopter that was firing actual ammunition at her and she broke into the pterosaur aviary. Within seconds, she realized just what she had stumbled upon and purposefully drove a few pterosaurs through the opening she had made and up into the air towards the helicopter, causing it to come crashing down into the aviary.

One scene in particular though really stuck out to me with how frighteningly intelligent the Indominus Rex is. When Zach and his younger brother Gray jumped off a waterfall and into the river below, she purposefully waited for them to resurface. It was only through a random burst of insight by Zach that she assumed them drowned and continued on her way but that she even bothered at all, that she was actually willing to continue the chase over the falls herself…

She’s a monster, well and truly.

Well that depends on where you want to get to…

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THE CHESHIRE CAT


Otherwise Known As:
Puss (The Duchess)
Film Premiere:
Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Voiced By: Sterling Holloway

Having already spoken of Alice, my favorite character in the film Alice in Wonderland as well as the book from which it is based, I shall instead speak of my second favorite character in both film and book known simply and oh so eloquently as the Cheshire Cat.

Before I go onto the character let me speak briefly as to the origin of the Cheshire Cat as far as name and the convention of his iconic disappearing trick via grinning. In the county of Cheshire, located in England, there are numerous dairy farms and it is popularly believed that the phrase “grinning like a Cheshire cat” originates from this as milk and cream are in heavy abundance and thus cats in the county have plenty reason to grin.

Another theory, though sadly one that cannot be fully confirmed, is that a type of cheese was also sold in Cheshire that was molded specifically in the shape of a smiling cat and that it was eaten from the tail to the grin, hence the disappearing trick to the grinning Cheshire Cat.

That bit of trivia out of the way, let’s move on to the character of the Cheshire Cat shall we?

Make no mistake, like most denizens of Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat is as mad as they come though it is arguable as to whether or not he is truly the most insane out of them all. He has on more than one occasion in film and separately connected works shown a remarkable ingenuity in achieving what he wants no matter, or perhaps even for, the consequences that result. In the film and book, the Cheshire Cat is often considered as something of a… guide… for Alice, though admittedly more so in the book.

Though highly cryptic and more than a little creepy on deliver of his words, it cannot be denied that it was the Cheshire Cat who purposefully pointed poor Alice to the house of the March Hare and told her that he, the Hare, the Hatter, and perhaps even Alice herself are all quite mad. Of course, all this was said and done after he spent a moment trolling Alice for a bit by telling her he saw the White Rabbit go by and then answer her questions with questions of his own that hinted to the fact that he had no idea what she was talking about and was more interested in finding out if she could stand on her head.

Literally.

The Cheshire Cat is also responsible for leading Alice straight to the Queen of Hearts and, in a fashion, brought an end to her despair of realizing she had no idea as to how to get out of Wonderland and back home. Of course, he is also the one responsible for putting Alice under the Queen of Hearts’ ire with a delightfully well delivered prank but here’s where things get a wee bit interesting.

Though painted as strictly a neutral character in the film proper, the Cheshire Cat is oftentimes group with the Villains simply for the afore-mentioned facts save for two particular incidents that occur outside the movie itself. The first incident, or rather series of incidents, occurs in the game Kingdom Hearts.

Despite having been offered a place amongst the Disney Villains controlling the Heartless and even summoning a boss Heartless to do battle with Sora, Donald, and Goofy, the Cheshire Cat refused them and even tries, in his own mad way, to ensure Alice’s safety by way of inspiring Sora to pursue after her kidnappers and restore the worlds to normal. Heck, in the manga adaptation to the game it is the Cheshire Cat who unlocks Sora’s ability to wield magic through the Keyblade!

If you need further proof then know that when Maleficent, freaking Queen of Evil herself, curses your name, you know you’re on the right side and such is the case for the Cheshire Cat.

Yet there is no denying that the Cheshire Cat is a selfish creature, looking out for himself first and others second as was demonstrated in the sequel comic book miniseries Wonderland that featured the adventures of the maid Mary Ann. An interesting read with an equally interesting art style to it, it is here where we get to see the Cheshire Cat’s true motivations lie as we see him try time and time again to try and dethrone the Queen of Hearts in any way he could, even going so far as to lure Jabberwock right into her garden.

Upon the… huh… end I suppose is the right word for what occurs to the Queen of Hearts and her fellow Royal Cards, the throne to Wonderland is made vacant and though Mary Ann is presented with the prime opportunity to ascend to a higher station, she declines it for favor of the life she loves to live and in so doing allows for the Cheshire Cat to seize both the throne and the newly realized scepter of Wonderland.

He, quite literally, goes power mad and starts making decrees up, down, and slightly over to the right including such gems as “Up will be down and down will be up!” or “the seas will rise with tidal waves of cream!” or my personal favorite just for how utterly nonsensical it is, “a fish feast on Fridays for all felines!”

To this day, I can’t help but wonder just why he chose Friday of all days. Was it for the alliteration or… and I’m overthinking things again and for a character who became a self-entitled mad king of nonsense.

Anyway, the Cheshire Cat’s reign comes to as an abrupt and end as it was a thoroughly mad beginning in that the Duchess arrives and promptly informs him that he’s been a naughty, naughty cat and that she’s told him a thousand times to stay off the furniture. The Cheshire Cat tries to argue with her by stating that it’s his throne and his claimed it all right and proper before she interrupts him with a slap to the face. A catfight ensues for a moment before it ends with the Duchess holding up the Cheshire Cat by the scruff of his neck and promising that she’ll reveal all of his secrets if he doesn’t behave.

The Cheshire Cat relents and both the throne and the castle of the Royal Cards are vanished away into a fishbowl that the Duchess allows him to keep as a souvenir for, after all, a cat may look at a kingdom though he may not rule it as his own.

The park is open…

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JURASSIC WORLD


Directed By:
Colin Trevorrow
Story By:
Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver
Production Company: Amblin Entertainment & Legendary Pictures
Distributed By: Universal Pictures

Seeing as this review will contain spoilers (as marked below), rather than risk spoiling anything to those who generally skip down towards the end of the review allow me to share my opinions on the film and taking into account what is already seen/known through the trailers.

This movie is awesome and well deserving four-and-a-half out of five stars from me. If you have any hesitation in seeing it for fear of a repeat of the third film, be assured that no such thing exists here and go see it posthaste! Jurassic World is better than The Lost World and a thousand and one times better than the third but is it better than the first? I do and yet, I can’t bring myself to say it is a fair comparison between them. There is not only a significant age gap between the two films, and thus an entirely different level of technology used to make them and utilized in the films proper, but the stories are virtually polar opposites of each other.

Jurassic Park was a tale of a park losing control before it even had a chance to truly shine, a park that was literally still under construction when the film’s events occur and how we, in our arrogance of control, realize too late that we never had it to begin with. Jurassic World showcases a completed park and has a similar, if not slightly altered message in that it is not arrogance of control but the result of having too much of it. The park is so controlled, so exact, that those in control have grown lenient, stagnating in their common sense that warns of the worst case scenarios until they go from impossible to improbable to RUN.

Going strictly from the trailers, one of the chief complaints that I’ve heard from people is the inaccuracy of the dinosaurs showcased in the film. Many have spoken ill of this primarily because the first film revolutionized how dinosaurs are perceived by the general public and put an end to many of the common tropes at the time such as them walking somewhat upright or their slow and gangly ways of walking.

I myself was admittedly disappointed at first but at the same time, I didn’t see a reason to object to it either. It has long since been established even in the first film that none of this dinosaurs are purebreds of their respected species with the geneticists having to toss in different samples of frog DNA to put in the gaps that were missing, leading to that whole “breeding in the wild” thing. Heck, small spoiler here but I feel worth noting, the chief geneticist himself admits that the dinosaurs at the park look vastly different than what they should look like thanks to them having had to substitute gene sequences in their DNA.

Aside from the in-story reasoning one has to remember that we’re talking about a film series that is so deeply ingrained into people across the entirety of the world that making a sudden and drastic change to the appearance of the dinosaurs would result in many being confused and even more ornery because the differences wouldn’t match up with how they looked in previous films. It’s one of the reasons the raptors were lambasted in The Lost World and the third film; they looked far too ridiculously different between films.

That and the stupid plane scene but that’s neither here nor there for now we’re going into the film proper here, ladies and gentlemen!

SPOILERS AHEAD!!! HOLD ONTO YOUR BUTTS!!!

There is a fair amount of the film that showcases the concept of Jurassic World the theme park. Though a majority of these scenes were shown in the trailers, there are a few delightful surprises in the film including, and I kid you not, an actual petting zoo and riding for little kids. Of course, the dinosaurs in this little exhibit are all adorably cute babies that just had to include a strangely appropriately sized Apatosaurus being hugged by a little girl and giving me all kinds of feels for The Land Before Time and—

Sorry. Just… There is a surprising number of heart wrenching scenes in this movie but more on that later.

On the human side of things… Going in, I honestly expected the humans to be… not quite carbon copies of those we’ve already seen and come to know but rather predictable character tropes that can be identified within minutes. I am proud to say that every prediction I made failed to come true both as far as my expectations of their characters and their developments are concerned. As to the deaths of certain characters, I’m sorry to say that I did predict two but, to be fair, one was the bad guy and the other was the “shock” death, at least for me.

Y’all recall that scene wherein the Mosasaur comes leaping out of the water biting down upon a Pteranodon? Yeah, there was a person being clutched in the claws of the Pteranodon before the Mosasaur decided to have a two-for-one special there and let me tell you, I saw that person’s death coming but I did not expect it like that! It was like, the filmmakers had something against the kind of person whom the person represented and took a little too much vindictive pleasure out of killing them off but I digress.

This movie has just the right amount of scenes with dinosaurs throughout. Contrary to the first film where they kept you waiting until the right moment, we know the dinosaurs are here and ready for viewing by the general public and they are everywhere and I loved it. There weren’t so many that one was practically tripping over them but I’d say the longest time spent without some manner of ancient beast being on the screen was… five to ten minutes give or take?

On the note of dinosaurs, let me speak of one of my favorite dinosaurs in the franchise aside from the T-Rex because, let’s be fair here, it’s a mother f-ing T-Rex and nothing can compare to the awesomeness that is the Tyrant Lizard King. The Velociraptors are outright amazing in this film, which, to be fair, they have been so since the first movie but this is the one where they truly shine as hunters and as actual animals.

In the first two films they were… not necessarily evil but one has to admit that they were rather obsessed with killing off the humans and the third film… Aside from that whole affair of communication, they had a legitimate excuse for hunting the humans down but were far too… odd looking for my taste. This one they do, however briefly, turn on the humans but the beta of the pack, appropriately named Blue, reaffirms the pack’s loyalty to Owen, their trainer, before they turn on the one who bade them to turn on him in the first place, the Indominus Rex.

Now, to those who are unawares, there was a script way back in the early 2000’s wherein there was a plot that involved, and I swear to God I’m not making this up, dinosaur-human hybrid super soldiers. Who the heck thought that was a good idea for a movie based on Jurassic Park deserves a good smack upside the head. It’s not a bad idea for a film, because let’s be honest here, if the possibility was there, y’all know there’d be a list of volunteers across the entirety of the United States, but for Jurassic Park? That’s like having a Godzilla movie without anything remotely Godzilla in it but the name!

… I’m looking at you Devlin and Emmerich!

Anyway, despite some massive changes throughout, there are some elements to this concept in the film primarily seen in the taming/training of the Velociraptors but more heavily on the Indominus Rex whose creation was a massive opportunity for a militarily minded character to showcase the idea of utilizing dinosaurs as creatures of war. Basically, replacing attack dogs and such but on a larger scale. See, the Indominus was created purposefully to be terrifying but was genetically created to be the top alpha predator it could be, containing elements of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, Velociraptor, and certain species of poisonous frogs, snakes, and cephalopods. It can see thermal radiation like a snake, is easily bigger than a Tyrannosaurus Rex, more intelligent than a Velociraptor, and it can camouflage itself like a freaking squid!

Unfortunately, whether by way of its genetic make-up or how it was kept in a cage with no social contact whatsoever, the Indominus is mentally unstable. It not only killed its own sibling, something that can generally occur in the wild but not commonly so amongst most species of reptiles or birds, but actually ate it. Upon breaking loose of its containment area by way of a plan that would make any Velociraptor bow its head in shame, the Indominus then proceeded to hunt and kill everything in its path not for food but for the pleasure it took in killing for sport.

That’s… that’s just frightening on so many levels I don’t even know where to begin…

Ultimately, the Indominus Rex meets her end… Y’know what? No, I shan’t spoil this scene because this scene was the movie. This scene stole the show and made it go from amazingly excellent to utterly fantastic in my mind! Seriously, I am replacing Pacific Rim on my top ten favorite films list with this movie, that’s how freaking amazing that scene was for me as to make the film one of my personal favorites of all time!

Really, the only reason that this film is down by half a star is because I just couldn’t connect with either of the two kids in the film. They’re no Alex or Timmy to me and though they do their best with what’s happening around them, and they have plenty of hilariously good lines, I just… I couldn’t understand their mood/attitude for most of the time they were on screen. Aside from that, this is an excellent movie and I can only hope that certain theme parks will be receiving a few upgrades in conjunction with this movie.

Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t…

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ALICE IN WONDERLAND


Directed By:
Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson, & Hamilton Luske
Produced By:
Walt Disney
Based On: Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through The Looking Glass
Production Company:
Walt Disney Productions
Distributed By: RKO Radio Pictures

Contrary to past film reviews this “review” alongside any and all future reviews about classic Disney films made before the end of the Renaissance will be more about the history of the films themselves rather than the film itself because really, if any one of you haven’t seen these movies yet then nothing I can say about them will change your mind. History on the other hand might just open your minds to new possibilities… That being said, let’s get this started shall we?

Hands down, Alice in Wonderland is my favorite Disney animated film of all time bar none. Oh yes, there are some that ride close on its coattails but none can truly compare to the first Disney film I had seen as a child and had re-watched to such a degree that I can quote, word-for-word, a majority of the film. I say a majority only because I’m not one to sing and remember the lyrics to most songs but still, my point stands!

Alice in Wonderland, out of the majority of Disney films, has one of the most interesting of history to it strictly because this film had been on Walt Disney’s mind since he was but a boy. In point of fact, the story of Alice and her adventures in Wonderland was actually the inspiration and reason for one of Walt Disney’s earliest successes prior to the creation of Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and Mickey Mouse. Known simply as the Alice Comedies, this series of short films featured a live action girl having adventures in an animated world with cartoon critters of all shapes and sizes.

Think about that for a moment ladies and gentlemen.

Live action characters in an animated world in 1924. The first, truly successful, animated cartoon anything was Gertie the Dinosaur by Winsor McCay in 1914! What makes this is even more amazing is that a total of fifty-seven shorts were made within three years!

Of course, only the initial short, aptly titled Alice’s Wonderland, was the source of this series’ creation and even then it was only very loosely based on the original story insomuch that the girl was named Alice and she happens upon a world quite contrary to our own.

Following the rise, fall, and rise again that was his cartoon shorts, Walt Disney pondered the idea of a motion picture film of Alice and her adventures to the same style as his Alice Comedies. Basically, a real life girl in a world of cartoons set to theatrical length. That’s right, ladies and gents, he actually toyed with the idea of doing Alice in Wonderland first before Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and was all set to go with it too! He had managed to procure the rights to the original illustrations by Sir John Tenniel, which was under copyright at the time, and had even gotten Mary Pickford for the role of Alice.

A little side note here but I thought this an interesting piece of history here. Mary Pickford is one of the thirty-six original founders to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (otherwise known as the people responsible for the freaking OSCARS!) and was coined as “America’s Sweetheart.” She was also a popular and incredibly well known actress for her time such as the year 1909 where she starred in 51 films. That’s close to having one film out and ready for theaters a week people!

Unfortunately, Walt Disney’s initial idea for a theatrical Alice would not be made quite yet as Paramount Pictures released their own film in 1933 and he didn’t want to risk comparisons between the two. That and he was rather put off by the film too but then who hadn’t… Seriously, check out this trailer if you don’t believe me. Walt didn’t let the idea of an Alice cartoon go away entirely though as he later released a Mickey Mouse short entitled Thru the Mirror in 1936.

Following the smash success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1938, Walt tried again for fully animated film of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and had gotten storyboard artist Al Perkins to write out the story and David S. Hall, an art director, to storyboard it. Misfortune struck again as Walt felt that Hall’s drawings resembled Tenniel’s to a frightening degree and would make duplicating in animation incredibly difficult never mind that Perkins’ script was rather… grotesque and dark.

How dark and grotesque? Here are a few samples of David S. Hall’s storyboard, specifically the scene where Alice tumbles down the rabbit hole…

dhss 11

dhss 12dhss 13 dhss 14 dhss 15 dhss 16 dhss 17 dhss 20 dhss 21 dhss 22 dhss 25

With the economic hardships that was World War II, Walt Disney shelved the idea of an Alice film until 1945 where he assigned a British author by name of Aldous Huxley but found the man’s attempt to be too much of a mirror copy to the original book. It wasn’t until background artist Mary Blair showed Walt some of her concept pieces that he was inspired to take a more whimsical approach to Carroll’s book and Walt decided that only a fully animated film could do it justice and began work on it in 1946.

During production, a few scenes came and went for reasons of pacing or because some songs just didn’t feel right but would later on be rewritten and readapted to other films. In the case of songs, some examples include a song entitled “Beyond the Laughing Sky” whose melody would later be used for “The Second Star to the Right” whereas another song, aptly named “I’m Odd” was replaced by a musical rendition of “Twas Brillig” for the Cheshire Cat. There were even some songs devoted to characters that didn’t make the final cut of the film such as “If You Believe in Me” for the Lion and the Unicorn or “Beware the Jabberwock” for… well, the Jabberwock.

On that note of deleted characters and scenes, one of the three major scenes that came close to making into the film did include the Jabberwock in it. However, going in proper order here, the first scene that nearly made it to film was the scene of the Duchess and her pepper obsessed cook but was scrapped for pacing reasons though I think it was more because of the scene itself being quite… violent… in a way.

The second scene was to actually include the White Knight who would have a conversation/song with Alice and would impart some words of wisdom to Alice. The White Knight was even purposefully designed to be a caricature of Walt Disney himself who, despite liking the scene, had it scrapped because he felt it would be better for Alice to learn her lesson on her own via the song “Very Good Advice.” Finally, the scene with the Jabberwock…

Oh boy this scene… For those who’ve seen Walt Disney’s Alice in Wonderland, recall if you will the scene where Alice traverses through Tulgey Wood and having enough of the nonsense that Wonderland has in abundance. Now add in a creature of shadow and immense size, with eyes of flame, and a burbling cry following after Alice and attempting to scare her out of her wits only to reveal a monster that is slightly more comical in appearance than one would expect but Alice is neither surprised nor amused and continues on her way. The Jabberwock, like many other denizens of the forest, would then vanish away in tears at his failure.

One more note on the production of the film before moving on towards its reception. Like all Disney films past, and future, the animators employed the use of live action references to help inspire the animators to making scenes as true to life as possible. Back in the day, they used the actual voice actors themselves to act out their respected characters, as many of them would actually be caricaturized into the film proper. Such was the case for Alice via her voice actress Kathryn Beaumont and especially so in the case of Ed Wynn for the Mad Hatter who did such a marvelous job at it during his live action reference versus his reading of the lines they actually took the audio from that and put into the film!

Finally, in 1951, Alice in Wonderland premiered.

It was a flop.

Yep, you read correctly, a flop, despite being nominated for an Academy Award for Best Scoring of a Musical Picture, it was given major criticism by fans of Lewis Carroll alongside many a British film and literary critic who thought that it was too “Americanized.” The film was given a lukewarm response at best and only earned $2.4 million at its U.S. box office release back in 1951.

It wasn’t until nearly two decades later that another film’s success inspired a resurgence of Disney’s animated film. The film Yellow Submarine alongside the… ah… drug culture phenomenon that was occurring during the 70’s made such films as Alice in Wonderland, Fantasia, and even The Three Cabelleros as a “psychedelic film.” Of course, the Disney Company tried to resist this association and even went so far as to remove several prints of the films from most universities until they finally gave in to the hype in 1974 and re-released Alice in Wonderland to theaters.

The re-release was so successful that it actually earned a second re-release (or is that re-re-release?) in 1981 that proved that whatever consensus the film had in its initial release, was far too outdated. Alice in Wonderland gained critical acclaim and has since become one of the most popular Disney animated classics of all time and is even considered as one of the best film adaptations to the original novel as well though many a fan of film and book do take the time to nitpick over the other.

For some reason I remember…

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HAKU


Full Name:
Nigihayami Kohaku Nushi
Name Translation:
God of the Swift Amber River
Species:
River Spirit
Film Premiere: Spirited Away (2001)
Voiced By: Miyu Irino (Japanese) Jason Marsden (English)

It should come as no surprise that Haku is my top favorite character from the film Spirited Away. In point of fact, were it not for his shape-shifting nature as a River Spirit, I would have included him amongst my top ten favorite dragons.

In a roundabout way, Haku is akin to the “white rabbit” insomuch that while he is not strictly the one to lead Chihiro, and her parents, to the spirit world it was because of him that she knew to approach Yubaba and ask for a job so that she could find a means of returning her parents to normal. Like all who are under Yubaba’s employ, Haku had part of his name taken and thus was renamed as “Haku” and with the loss of his name came the loss of his identity and true power as a River Spirit.

That’s not to say that Haku is weak by any means as he is Yubaba’s chief… muscle I suppose is the best word for it. He reports directly to her and everyone in the bathhouse know better than to stand in his way or raise protest against him. Many are justifiably afraid of him as they are embittered towards him as quite a few of the employees of the bathhouse are under the assumption that Haku is able to leave Yubaba’s employ whenever he wishes but chooses not to.

Even Chihiro, innocent girl that she is, didn’t know what to make of Haku though she knows, however innately, that she can trust him more than anyone else in the entirety of the Spirit World.

Being a River Spirit, Haku can use magical spells and enchantments though not to any degree beyond what most would call simple tricks. In the film, he demonstrates mild bits of telekinesis and telepathy alongside his chief ability of shifting between the form of a young boy and that of an oriental dragon. Being a River Spirit, it is likely that the dragon body is Haku’s natural form as, in most Asian mythologies, dragons are creatures of water and the lower tier of them are in charge of rivers and waterways. This is likely so for Haku given that his magic is limited and his dragon form only bears four toes.

Random trivia fact boys and girls, dragons of the Orient are noted by the number of toes as to whether they are “common” dragons such as those in charge of rivers and lakes to those bearing five toes and rule over the celestial skies. As a dragon of a river, Haku is capable of flying at tremendous speeds and was able to unlock this potential into his human form once he regained his true name and his memories of being a River Spirit.

Given both his size and appearance as a dragon and as a human, one can surmise that Haku is quite young even by the standards of his extremely long-lived people. Though still large enough for Chihiro to ride comfortably on his back with little to no effort on his part, Haku is still lacking in many of the chief details often attributed to Oriental dragons. Namely, his horns are quite small and not yet fully pronged out like that of a deer’s though he does possess surprisingly long tendril-whiskers. His coloration is also something to note as well since white is commonly referred to as the colors of death and mourning in Asia though, as of late, it has taken a more popularized turn towards purity.

Like most of his kind, Haku is first and foremost a protector and goes well out of his way to try and protect Chihiro initially because he, for reasons he cannot recall, remembers her. As it turns out, back when she was a child, Chihiro had fallen into a river —Haku’s river— and he rescued her from drowning. Unfortunately, not long after this, the river was filled and the land turned to apartment buildings, leaving Haku as a River Spirit without a river to safeguard and so he had, essentially, lost his very identity and his home in one fell swoop.

Thus, he sought out the likes of Yubaba in the hopes that her magic could reveal what he had lost and how he might regain it. Unfortunately, as those under her employ lose a portion of their name and thus their freedom, Haku had made himself a slave to her bidding and she utilized him with extreme prejudice even if it meant costing him his life in the process. She even went so far as to put a vile slug inside his body as a means to control even further, limiting him to how much he could stand against her and her wishes.

As much as love Haku as a character, the thing that I truly adore about him is his design. While Disney did their best to make a dragon out of Mushu, Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli went above and beyond with Haku. They looked into every little detail they possibly could to make him seem as a true blooded creature brought to life.

They studied the head and jaws of a dog to the right feel for how Haku’s jaws would work, watched various species of snakes swimming to get an idea as to how a dragon might soar through the air, and even looked up how geckos cling to walls for Haku to do the same while in his pained stupor. Heck, they even go so far as to detail the scales on his hide whilst also highlighting the fact that he has fur! That’s a level of dedication I never would have expected to see in a traditionally animated movie!

Nothing that happens is ever forgotten, even if you can’t remember it…

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SPIRITED AWAY


Japanese Name:
Sen to Chihiro no Kamikakushi
Translates To: Sen & Chihiro’s Spiriting Away
Directed & Written By:
Hayao Miyazaki
Production Company:
Studio Ghibli
Distributed By: Toho (Japan) Walt Disney Pictures (America)

As I had said previously for Summer Wars, the hardest part about picking a favorite animated film from Japan is finding one that isn’t based on a manga or anime series. In the case of films made by Studio Ghibli and Hayao Miyazaki, that choice is made even more difficult. To date, of each and every film that I have seen with the Studio Ghibli logo or the name Hayao Miyazaki attached, I can call it no less than a work of art and dedication of extreme magnitude. In the spirit of that dedication, my choice for the top Studio Ghibli film, and one of my personal top five, is the film Spirited Away.

The basic summary of this film goes as follows: Chihiro Ogino, a sullen ten-year-old girl, and her parents unwittingly enter the spirit world while moving to a new neighborhood. After partaking in the enchanted food, Chihiro’s parents are transformed into pigs and so Chihiro takes a job working in the witch Yubaba’s bathhouse to find a way to free herself and her parents and return to the human world.

There’s far more to it than just that mind you but that is the basic summary of Chihiro’s adventures and her “coming-of-age” tale that is the one common theme of most Studio Ghibli films.

Though I do not believe that he calls it as such, I am firmly of the opinion that this film was Hayao Miyazaki’s magnum opus and I don’t say that lightly. The film was directed, written, and storyboarded entirely by Hayao Miyazaki himself!

Well, actually, “written” is a bit of a stretch as, by his own admittance, most if not all of his films begin firstly with illustrative storyboards so grand and artistic it’s an insult to call them mere sketches. It is during this process that a story begins to form followed shortly by the script, a reverse order of what is atypical of most films never mind those of animation. There is also a keen attention to detail towards everything in this movie, from tiny movements like Chihiro putting on her shoes and tapping the toes to make sure they fit right to how an Asian dragon might soar through the air like a serpent does through water.

Spirited Away has won a total of five awards with the most illustrious having to be the Academy Award for Best Animated Picture. It is, thus far, the only animated film from Japan to win this and might I also add that only Studio Ghibli films have frequented the nominations in recent years. Of course, this was hardly unexpected considering this film broke the record for the highest grossing film Japanese history.

EVER.

Not “animated” but film. No other has come close in Japan and they’d be hard pressed to do so as the film earned 30.4 billion yen, which converts to 330 million American dollars!

Of course, if there’s one thing in particular about this film that I should note and impress upon all of you it’s that it would never have come to American shores if it weren’t for John Lasseter all but lobbying outside the doors of Disney to get them to outbid the competing Dreamworks for the rights of the film. Then again, Disney and by extension Lasseter, did the right thing by agreeing to the only two things that Hayao Miyazaki cared about with his films.

No cuts and they would take not just Spirited Away but all films prior and after.

The last one might have been added to sweeten the pot as it were but the first one I’m sure was what sold it to Hayao Miyazaki. We are talking about the same man who, upon hearing that Miramax Films wanted to make cuts to Princess Mononoke, sent the chairman a katana with two words attached.

“No Cuts.”

Moving on to the film itself… What can I say about it when my opinion is already more than obvious at this point? Was there anything that I disliked about it? Honestly, I wish that there were a guidebook of some sort that came with every copy of the film that explains some of the more subtle Japanese customs and themes that we Westerners are obviously missing. Lasseter and all those involved in translating this movie did their best with what they could, and even went so far as to try their best to get lip movements matching to the words, but it’s hard to explain what is common to one person and unheard of to another without breaking the flow of the story.

Not to say that there’s a lot of that in Spirited Away but… well, one scene in particular has the foreman of the bathhouse dancing a little jig to words that… Frankly could not be translated into English and fit with what his mouth was moving to let alone in a way that we could comprehend. Another scene of similar cultural differences occurs when Chihiro happens to crush a slug that was making her draconic friend Haku ill and fearing that she would too be infected with a similar curse, the boiler man Kamaji did a “evil begone” swipe of the hands that is obvious to Easterners but not so much so in the West.

As to what I loved about this movie… Good God Almighty, the backgrounds… There are moments all across the entirety of the movie where I almost wished that some of the characters would kindly move themselves aside so I can take in more of the scenery! Especially in the case of… Actually, I’ll save that one for when I review my favorite character from this film though I will give the hint that it is just one of many common themes that occur in a Studio Ghibli film in one way or another.

Overall, this is a must watch movie and one that I can sincerely promise to be one to watch again and again. After all, how often can one see what is well and truly a story about growing up, and featuring a girl, a heroine, without any of that romantic nonsense? Which is rather hypocritical coming from me but my point still stands!

Goodbye…

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LUDO

Labyrinth_May 29, 2015, 3.56.56 PM
Race:
Night-Troll
Knight Brother to: Sir Didymus
Friend of:
Rocks
Film Premiere: Labyrinth (1986)
Lead Puppeteer & Voice Actor: Ron Mueck

Though I did compare the story of the film Labyrinth to be more akin to the likes of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland there are also many comparisons to be had in the likes of The Wizard of Oz as well. Most notably in the companions that Sarah gains in her quest to rescue her baby brother Toby from Jareth the Goblin King. In the case of Ludo, and in fact many of the creatures and denizens of the Labyrinth, his in-story origins are something unique whence compared to the likes of the original Wizard of Oz film.

In that film, there are no if ands or buts as to which character in Oz is based on someone that Dorothy knows back in Kansas. They even make a blatant example of this in Elphaba—er, I mean, the Wicked Witch of the West as Dorothy is being carried off by the tornado. For Sarah and her adventures in the Labyrinth however, there’s actually a false clue given as to how Sarah “dreams him up” in the form of the book Where the Wild Things Are that the camera goes past on a brief tour through her room.

The real clue however sits on a shelf next to her door that we only briefly see, a little hand-stitched doll that is exactly like Ludo. There is also another, far more subtler clue towards the origins of his name that frankly, I’m surprised that anyone actually managed to notice let alone take note of. On the shelf above the doll there are a few board games, one bearing the name of Ludo, a game that is more popularly recognized in America as Sorry or Trouble.

Not going to go into any psychological examinations about that as it’s been several years since last I played either game and beyond merely a name, I doubt there was further thought beyond that towards the creation of Ludo.

In the world of the Labyrinth, or the Underground as it is often sung in many a song by the Goblin King himself, Ludo is one of the rarest of exceptions in his species known as a Night-Troll. Though not explicitly stated in the film itself, one can rightfully assume that is the name of Ludo’s race as there is another Night-Troll, named Septimus, which is featured in the book The Goblins of Labyrinth by Brian Froud and Terry Jones. Of course, far from the cuddly beast that is Ludo, Septimus is well and truly deserving of the name Night-Troll but that’s neither here nor there…

Ludo is the dictionary definition of not judging a book by its cover for though he does appear as quite the beast, he has a heart of gold and is actually quite tame, resorting to violence only when there is no other choice. In point of fact, that is precisely how Sarah comes across him, finding him hogtied and dangling in the air and being tormented by a group of goblin guards. Though initially afraid by Ludo’s enraged and pained howls, Sarah actually came to his aid rather than run away in fear as the dwarf Hoggle had done even going so far as to say that nothing is as it appears, especially in the Labyrinth.

Quite obviously, Ludo is very strong and has shown this quite easily in his ability to literally tear a rock wall of a goblin house open like a door and shut it behind him. He is also… not terribly smart insomuch that, like many beasts in many a tale of fantasy and wonder, he is intelligent enough to speak in simple terms and can come up with some surprisingly well thought out plans but conversations between him and his friends are somewhat limited.

Then again, considering that his best friends are rocks, that’s not all that surprising. I don’t mean that as an insult either, Ludo is well and truly a friend to rocks and they will come rolling to his aid should he call for him. At first glance, this doesn’t seem like too much of a big threat considering the first time he demonstrated this, it was to call some small stones for Sarah to throw at his tormentors when they first met. The second time was to call up rocks and get them to float—yes freaking float—in the Bog of Eternal Stench to save Sarah from falling in and to create a new, and far more stable, bridge.

The last and most epic time however was when Ludo summoned the rocks once more to aid him and his friends as they traversed through the Goblin City whilst the entire population of goblins was out in arms after them. Boulders of all shapes and size laid siege to the city and more than one small group of goblins could say what it is like to be a bowling pin.

If Ludo represents anything in Sarah I would say that he represents her kindness, her wanting to have friends and to be close to people but unknowingly pushing them away by how she acts and behaves towards them. Sarah’s adventure through the Labyrinth was not just for the reclamation of her brother but her stepping away from the line dividing children and adults. She had to learn to grow up and to put away childish things but as she did so, she first sees Ludo in her mirror wishing her a fond goodbye followed shortly by the rest of her friends. They tell her that, should she need them that they’ll be there for her.

Sarah then said something that I would never have expected given the adventure she had undergone and the revelation that she had. That she did need them. Every now and again, she would need them and with a cheer they and a few others of the Labyrinth arrived in celebration in her room. That… is a lesson that really got to me as a kid, knowing that I would grow up and fearing that I would eventually have to leave behind childish things.

Labyrinth was the first, and thus far, only film I have ever seen about growing up that shows that while a child may grow up and put away that which is precious to them from their days of youth, even an adult may revisit those halcyon days once more and remember just what it is like to be a kid once more.

Labyrinth_May 29, 2015, 3.50.48 PM

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