A Comparison of Merida and Rapunzel

Guess which one scares me more?

It struck me there just last week that we’ve seen two major princess movies from the Disney umbrella in the last few years, although despite claims that we’ll see no more, one is already well under way. So I thought it would be a good idea to take a look at the two already released to see just how different, or similar they are. The two in question are of course Merida from Pixar’s Brave and Rapunzel from Walt Disney’s Tangled.

For starters, they’re both teenagers. Yes, every adults favourite people to hate and for good reason. Teenagers tend to be obnoxious, whiny, annoying, conniving, rude, clumsy and above all, rebellious. Both Rapunzel and Merida imbue all these qualities ans more in their respective films. Merida directly disobeys her mother as does Rapunzel.

Both seem to have issues with issues with the life that is set out for them. Merida as a wife to an eejit and Rapunzel as an everlasting source of life for Mother Goethal. Neither is satisfied and both disobey the requisite adult. However, that is where the similarity ends, as Merida dashes off into the woods, her mother is fully aware that she has left. Rapunzel, in contrast, sneakily knows that her mother is gone and is more than willing to head off without her knowledge. Rapunzel is clearly the fuller character in this case.

Both characters coincidentally have wild hair, but whereas Rapunzel’s is a plot device, Merida’s is more of a set piece that is played up multiple times throughout the film. It’s fair to say that while Rapunzel’s hair adds to her character, Merida’s can’t help but distract the viewer, as was the case when it was highlighted in just about every single review of the film.

Both princesses are strong female characters 9the kind we all know and love) but Merida is undoubtedly the lesser of the two. The reasons here are complicated, but the long and winding gestation and execution of Brave are probably the root cause. In Tangled, Rapunzel’s character evolves throughout the film. She has to learn to trust Flynn Rider Eugene Fitzherbet (a good ol’ Irish surname there) and only by going through her experiences does she learn the truth about her past.

Merida on the other hand is very much presented as is. Yes, she does learn a lesson in the course of the film, but that doesn’t change her character. She’s still fundamentally the same person at the beginning as she is at the end. We learn (comparatively) little about her. A rather disappointing state of affairs given the wonderful setup we’re given (ancient Scotland and all that).

The princesses approach to love is also drastically different. Rapunzel is more than happy to comply with the established Disney norms; Merida, not so much. It should be noted that neither approach is right or wrong but in Tangled, love is clearly meant to imply marriage whereas in Brave, marriage does not necessarily imply love; an important distinction but one that tends to go against the formula for princess movies.

Overall, both are likeable character that despite their teenage label have mass appeal beyond the kids. It’s curious how different the two characters are despite Pixar’s attempt to make Brave a different kind of film. In the end though, we should be grateful that both films give the characters enough room for them to come into their own.


American 3D Audiences Have It Lucky

Not animation-related per se, but relevant to movie-going nonethless. While over beyond, we went to see the last installment of the Harry Potter series. While the film was awesome, the presentation was not. The reason? It’s all about the goggles.

Below are the Dolby goggles we were handed for the presentation.

Via: Ubergizmo

Below is the warning printed on the side. Yes, you’re 3D surcharge doesn’t seem to cover the goggles and there are shoplifter-like security gates at the cinema to ensure that you don’t “accidentally” take them home with you.

Via: Video Technology

My real beef though, is how they sat on my face (not very well and after half an hour, my ears were killing me) and the fact that they are not nearly as large as the ones offered by RealD, which at least have lenses large enough to cover most prescription glasses.

Via: Celluloid Junkie

So all in all, it was by far my worst 3D experience to date. It just proves how poorly managed the  gimmick is but as bad as it is here in the US, there are those that have it much worse.

Anastasia and The Swan Princess: Two Decent Films Worth A Look

All I can say is that this was a damned tricky post to write!

I watched both Anastasia and The Swan Princess last week as I had never seen them before and while one left me pleasantly surprised, the other made me feel like I had watched an hour and a half of my life disappear without any chance of getting it back.

The Swan Princess is by far the more entertaining film. OK, it’s pure fantasy, but at least its enjoyable. The characters are relatively simple, yet fun. The main characters are your typical princess, prince/hero and villain. There is  a nice character development sequence at the beginning that follows the prince and princess as they grow up. There are some humourous moments and it provides a good background to the characters mutual hatred for one another all through their childhoods. While both characters are not near as rich and developed as I would have liked, my enjoyment of the film was not hampered by it.

The animation, with plenty of nice, hand-drawn goodness, is grand. The nice thing about this film is that it doesn’t pretend to be complicated film vaulting for the critical appraisal. It was created for the family-friendly market and that is squarely where it is strongest. Adults will have a tougher time enjoying this film for the simple reason that it came out before Toy Story, when animated films generally didn’t appeal to adults as well as kids.

Anastasia, in comparison, is the juggernaut from Don Bluth and FOX. It aims high with lush, fluid animation, a high concept storyline and plenty of top-notch animation filled with complimentary CGI. On paper, it should be by far the better film however in reality, it is anything but.

I found it an OK film in that there is nothing inherently wrong with it, just that I found it less enjoyable than I was expecting. Perhaps I was hoping that it would be up to par with the Disney films of the same time and unfortunately, myself and audiences of the time agree that it is not. The animation is superb, the plot is fine, the pace is a bit erratic and there is an anti-climax at the start of the final act. However, the biggest letdown are the characters.

The God-awful voice-acting of Meg Ryan and John Cusack doesn’t help either. These two are clearly not voice-actors. Their performances are about as flat as you can imagine. There is none of the energy that you normally see and expect from an animated film and it really does show during the dramatic scenes where I found it very hard to care for the characters for the simple reason that they seemed so fake. Even the great Christopher Lloyd as Rasputin is powerless to balance the monotony of these two, who, in all honesty, end up sapping so much life from the characters of Anastasia and Dimirti that they become almost unwatchable.

Overall, both films are fine. Neither advances the animation artform any more than what came before it but that should not detract you from searching them out and giving them a shot. I was surprised by both (for different reasons) but I am glad I watched them, despite what I said in the opening paragraph.

PS. Apologies for the insular nature of this post.

Has Pixar Jumped The Shark With The Posters For Cars 2?

Via: The Animation Blog

Some say the bigger question is whether Pixar will jump the shark with Cars 2 itself, but it is still too early to tell. However, when it comes to the promotional posters, I think they’ve already done it.

The reason is simple, the posters are rather lackluster in overall design. Don’t get me wrong, they look nice, but if you’re going to ape classic Grand Prix posters, you might as well do it right.

As far as I know, Cars 2 involves a world-wide race of some sort, so it would seem like a great idea to release a few posters featuring the characters in famous cities around the world, right? Yes, of course. Pixar has been here before with the Wall-E and UP teaser posters (created by Eric Tan) that it released before those films hit the cinemas. Personally, I think they’re a great idea to drum up support from the fans and to promote the film in a slightly different and off-beat manner.

So far they has succeeded. The posters for Wall-E had a kind of quirky, Googie-like charm to them and the UP posters relied heavily on the old travel ads of the past to make light of the film’s plot.

However, when it comes to Cars 2, I think they’ve missed the mark only slightly. The main elements are certainly there. The car at the forefront, the background definitely waaay in the back. There’s no chance of mistaking where the action is or what is going on.

The main problem that I can see, though, is the character themselves. It’s just them! Sure there are a few cars in the background racing along, but for the most part, it is just a single character with a few speed lines drawn in to show that they are supposed to be moving.

How does that compare with a real Grand Prix poster? Check out the samples below.

Via: Wikipedia

Via: AllPosters.com

A race to the finish line? A duel to the death? I certainly think so. There is so much more action portrayed, so much more excitement! I want to see that Grand Prix! Just be thankful I can’t find the poster where the car literally has flames coming out the back of it!

So you see why I think the Cars 2 posters are a bit tame. They allude to the great posters of the past, but they are, at best, a timid recreation with none of the excitement and drama of the real thing. Cars 2, by the sounds of things, could certainly have benefited from a harder edge but perhaps that was vetoed by someone along the line.

So how far off are they? Check out this poster for the antique Monaco Grand Prix held last year. A thoroughly modern poster but with all the classic elements of the genuine article. It can be done.