“Dogs are naturally good and loyal and kind.”

Dogs! Everyone loves them, or almost everyone, at least, so it makes sense that Don Bluth would make them the subject of yet another of his animated films. These cute, furry animals are all noble and loyal and lovable, right? WRONG! If you’re looking for a movie that revolves around innocent house-pets living innocent house-pet lives, this isn’t the movie for you.

This movie follows the events that unfold after a gangster Pit Bull/Bulldog mix named Carface (play on the name Scarface, of course) gets his partner, Charlie B. Barkin (a German Shepherd and the main character of the film) thrown in the pound so that he won’t have to share the profits of their joint-venture casino. When Charlie escapes, Carface takes immediate action and has his drunk, unsuspecting partner run over with a car. Charlie dies, goes to Heaven, and then returns to earth to get revenge on Carface – all within the first twenty minutes of the film! As if this weren’t enough, we have orphan Anne-Marie who is pining away for loving parents, thrown into the mix… Remind me again how this is a children’s movie?

Gangster Carface Carruthers with his ever-present cigar…

I can still remember watching this as a child. I was maybe six or seven, and most of this movie went completely over my head. I didn’t understand the dark references to ‘Death row’ and to the gambling that was going on at the rat races. All I knew was that I wanted a dog like Charlie – despite the fact that he steals from people and uses an orphan girl to get an unfair edge at races – and that I was thoroughly scared ****less with his imagined trip to Hell.

See Charlie’s face? That’s what I looked like when I watched this as a kid…

Now, as an older viewer, I find that the thing that sets Bluth’s movies apart from Disney movies is their overall dark nature. In two of his other movies of the 80s – The Land Before Time (88) and An American Tail (86) – which are also childhood favorites of mine, he deals with other heavy issues, such as the death of a parent and the plight of immigrants. To go along with these somber plots, Bluth employs a somber color-palette. In All Dogs Go to Heaven, this actually works exceedingly well, given that many of the settings are foggy piers, rust-filled junkyards, and even an abandoned church – I cannot imagine this movie having the happy-go-lucky hues of a Disney flick.

As with any children’s movie, however, there is always some positive message to derive from it. In All Dogs go to Heaven, we see that Charlie does eventually redeem himself, and we learn a little something about loyalty, friendship, and change along the way.

The Last Unicorn

 

Yes, I did decide to write a blog on a movie called The Last Unicorn. And in my opinion, if you haven’t seen this lost gem of a children’s movie, you probably should. It has fallen prey to the classic disease that seems to kill many an animated, kid-friendly movie:  it wasn’t made by Disney.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t worth watching, however. In fact, I found this movie to be surprisingly enjoyable due to its striking animation and engaging story. The film is based on a novel by Peter Beagle, and centers around a unicorn, supposedly the last of her kind, and her quest to find others like her. She is transformed into a human by a fumbling magician and falls for a young prince. Seems like your average fairy-tale movie, right? WRONG.

The animation of the movie enhances its fairy-tale plot-line. The colors vary depending on the mood of the scene—they are vibrant and rich during scenes in the forest and dark and ominous during scenes involving the host of evil that plagues the unicorn protagonist.

The level of dark imagery and mentioning of black magic was surprising for a children’s movie, especially considering its marginal popularity—it supposedly grossed around six million in theatres.  Similar to the problem which plagued the Disney miss The Black Cauldron—which terrified children and made parents uncomfortable—the dark imagery in the Last Unicorn tended to go over the heads of young children. The scene which takes place in the dilapidated gypsy fair perfectly depicts this age-inappropriate grimness. The images of abused animals in small cages, being manipulated and used to trick passersby and make money seems a bit mature for your average Disney baby.

Other somewhat mature themes prevail in the movie. Nudity during the transformation scene—I’m talking bare butt here too, not just conveniently placed hair strands—as well as the non-traditional ending of the film likely contributed to its overall lack of renown.  Instead of the average, “let’s run off together into the sunset in a cloud of happiness,” shenanigans, Amalthea (the unicorn) and Prince Lir must go their separate ways.

The film also contains a surprising message of feminism. Not only does Amalthea single-handedly battle the fearsome and evil Red Bull and free thousands of captive unicorns, but she also leaves the man she loves in order to establish a home for the other unicorns.

“I’m not bad… I’m just drawn that way.”

Today I watched Who Framed Roger Rabbit? for the first time ever, and I have to say, I’m glad I did so!

Growing up, I had often heard people mention this film, so I had a general idea of what to expect… I knew that the movie revolves around a murder that occurs in a world in which cartoons and people coexist, and I imagined that the effects would look something like those in Mary Poppins – great for the time period, yet outdated for me. Boy, was I wrong! The special effects in this film were great! So great, in fact, that at first I thought that the film wasn’t made in the 80s at all and that I had made a mistake. From start to finish, the interaction among the toons and the “real” actors was seamless! What’s more, the toons interact with their environment, as well, which also served to heighten the sense of reality – Roger Rabbit picked up real plates, the weasels held real guns, Jessica tugged on Ed Valiant’s tie… This list goes on and on.

But, to return to the plot, the movie follows Detective Eddie Valiant, an (at first glance) unsuccessful private investigator who makes his living spying for others. He hates toons with a passion, yet as the film advances, he finds himself trying to prove Roger Rabbit innocent in a murder he was framed for. Fighting him is the evil Judge Doom, who delights in subjecting toons to ‘the Dip’ and who tries everything in his power to capture Roger.

However, the character that attracted my attention the most was Jessica Rabbit, Roger’s cartoon human wife. No, it was not her glamorous red dress or her insanely impossible curves that fascinated me. It was simply the fact that her character is the only one that I had trouble defining as either good or evil. She kept me guessing the entire time! At some points, I was 100% sure that she was in cahoots with Judge Doom and that she had framed her husband. At others, I was convinced that she was a loving wife and she wanted to protect Roger. While I puzzled over her morality, she delivered my favorite line of the movie: “I’m not bad. I’m just drawn that way.” This quote was loaded with significance for me. It made me realize just how much influence movie directors and/or animators have over our perceptions. They are ultimately the ones who steer our opinions of characters. In this particular case, they wanted us to think that Mrs. Rabbit was evil, only to shatter that same illusion in the end!

Overall, I found that this original combination of animated comedy and film noir worked incredibly well! The animation brought humor to what would otherwise have been another dark mystery film; I would definitely recommend it – if not for the plot, for the wonderful special effects displayed.

Detective Eddie Valiant and the mysterious Jessica Rabbit

A Lamp. A Vacuum. An Electric Blanket. A Radio. And A Toaster That Happens To Be Brave.

I’ll admit it. I didn’t know. I had no idea. In my entire life, I never even bothered to watch this movie… even though it apparently is Disney. WHAT IN THE WORLD.

The cast.

I’ve heard a lot about this film and that it fits in line with the classic 90’s kids films like The Land Before Time and Fergully. If you’re unfamiliar with the plot, here’s a quick recap from Wiki:

Five appliances — a radioRadio (Jon Lovitz); a lampLampy (Tim Stack); an electric blanketBlanky (Timothy E. Day); a vacuum cleanerKirby (Thurl Ravenscroft); and a toasterToaster (Deanna Oliver) — live in an vacant cabin located in the countryside. Each day they await their “Master”, a child whom they have not seen for many years, with a growing sense of abandonment. The Master, whose name is revealed to be Rob (Wayne Kaatz), lives in an apartment as a young adult and is about to depart for college. The Master leaves with his girlfriend Chris (Colette Savage) to head back to the cabin to pick up the appliances to take with him. The modern electronics in the apartment become disappointed and jealous. When the appliances arrive at Rob’s apartment, the modern appliances convince them that they are outdated and unusable, tossing them into the garbage, where they are shortly transported to Ernie’s Disposal, a junkyard.At the junkyard, the appliances lose hope and put themselves at the mercy of a giant magnetic crane that picks up junk and places it on a conveyor belt that leads into a car crusher.After being thwarted several times, the evil magnetic crane picks up Rob himself as well as the appliances, except for Toaster, and drops them on the compactor’s conveyor belt. In a climactic act of self-sacrifice, Toaster leaps into the compactor’s drive gears and stops the machine from destroying all of the appliances and Rob. Rob returns to the apartment with all of the appliances in tow, including a now mangled Toaster. Rob repairs the Toaster and takes all of them to college with him.

 

If you looked at that and said, “No way I’m reading that.” Here’s what you should take away from it: Treat your appliances nicely. They may just end up saving you.

While this movie is definitely catered towards a younger audience, in terms of film making it’s definitely really nice animation. With a fairly lackluster cast and an incredibly short theatrical lease, it’s surprising that so many people know this film.

One element that is interesting about the film is the character of the Toaster. Toaster, is never given a gender and it’s voice could slide either way. I think this is a wise choice because it doesn’t create an “audience” for the film. For example, the audience for The Little Mermaid is primarily young girls and for young boys Transformers. In both instances, the title characters are gendered toward their respective audiences. In this case though, there’s no audience pre-determined. It’s almost as if the film makers were trying to say, “this film is for everyone.” And really it could be. Like many children’s films,  it teaches the value of working together and respecting each other’s differences. It’s not particularly funny or filled with things only adults would get, in fact, it’s pretty pure.

According to a post last month, Toaster’s endearing qualities may just be leading it to a CGI reboot. Check out the link and find out how soon you may be watching a 3d Toaster and friends on the silver screen thanks to John Lasseter and the people at Pixar.

“Brave Little Toaster” To Get CGI Reboot