While 2010 certainly claimed furious active status at the box office in terms of animated fare, I wanted to take some time to focus on some of the highlights and important moments of animation as they related to animation on television. With the exception of the first section below, wherein I’ll briefly discuss my favorite animated film of the year, I’d like to look back and talk about four shows that continue to make an impact on fandom (and prospective young fans). Let’s kick it off with my rather obvious favorite animated film . . .
Toy Story 3Toy Story 3: Yes, I discussed the DVD/Blu-ray release in a recent column, but it bears repeating just how excellent this one turned out to be. Perhaps you remember the possible debacle that would have occurred had not Pixar and Disney come to their accord; that is, had Pixar and Disney split, Disney could have made a third film without the actual creators from Pixar involved. With that rather numbing prospect taken off the books a few years back, the work on the actual third film began. I was frankly a little skeptical; as good as Pixar’s track record is (and it’s stellar), it’s always risky to expand a great thing. I shouldn’t have worried in the slightest.
For my money, Toy Story 3 is one of the finest pieces of work that Disney and/or Pixar has ever produced. To my mind, the true heart of the film is the “handover” scene at the end. It’s the most touching sequence, and it really puts a question to the viewer: do you remember the last time that you played? I mean that in the total child’s sense abandon kind of play. The kind of play that you would indulge when you got off the bus, tossed your backpack onto the porch and just . . . played. We remember all of life’s other passages, from first kiss to first car to how we met our significant others to the births of our children . . . but no one ever really remembers the moment that they just stopped playing. At the film’s conclusion, when Andy gets to just honestly play with his toys one last time as he gives them to Bonnie, it’s really a lovely touch of closure for the children that we all used to be.
Now, on to TV . . .
Firebreather: Before the regular series, let’s talk about this Cartoon Network movie for a moment. Disclosure: Artist Andy Kuhn is a friend of mine. Regardless, this adaptation of his and Phil Hester’s Image comic about a teenage dragon lad turned out to be well made and a ton of fun. If you didn’t see it, a) kick yourself, and b) watch for rebroadcasts or an eventual release. It’s a good time.
Young Justice: While the series doesn’t begin for a few weeks, the pilot tipped us that this has enormous potential. YJ has an honest shot of capturing the feel of a vibrant, modern DC universe. I’m extremely curious to see where they go from the excellent start.
Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes: I know that some fans have been unhappy with the animation style, but I really enjoy the show. Actually, my two sons LOVE the show, and I’m quite happy to see the producers take the unusual tack of actually adapting issues and arcs from the Avengers comic beginnings. Hulk quits? It’s here. Cap thawed in issue four? Cap thawed in episode four. Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil? Baron motherf’n Zemo and the Masters of Evil. It can’t supplant my favorite super-hero animated series of the moment, but it’s a strong entry. I also need to commend DK Publishing for getting their “Avengers Ultimate Character Guide” book out in time for the show’s debut; it’s a big help to my wife when she asks things, “Okay, who is Baron Von Strucker?”
Scooby-Doo: Mystery Inc.: You may remember that addressed this one a few months back in terms of its alternate continuity (which I think by now should be pretty obvious). However, the show was still evolving, and it’s become brilliant at pop culture parody at a level that doesn’t overwhelm the plots (cough-Family Guy-cough). The two best examples were “Howl of the Fright Hound”, which turned into a full-blown James Cameron tribute with the robot dog sending up both The Terminator’s rage through the police station and the showdown between Ripley and the Queen from “Aliens”. The pinnacle for me was “The Shrieking Madness”; it was an H.P. Lovecraft tribute that was so complete in had Jeffrey Coombs voicing the Lovecraft analogue, a secondary character named Howard E. Roberts, and Harlan Ellison guest-voicing . . . Harlan Ellison. Man, how can you not love that?
Batman: The Brave and The Bold: Still my favorite. This year had some great episodes, including the all-Flash “Requiem for a Scarlet Speedster”, the hilarious “Cry Freedom Fighters” (an Election Day episode complete with Plastic Man’s wonderfully mangled sense of U.S. History and an Obama cameo), “Plague of the Prototypes” (Adam West as Batman’s outmoded robot! Awww), and an actual Booster Gold/Ted Kord Blue Beetle team-up in “Menace of the Madniks”. And all of those episodes ran between just October 1st and November 12th. Just incredible.How about you, readers? Favorites?