The Podcast: Episode 2 With J.K. Riki

After a break for the holidays, the podcast returns! This month I chat with animator J.K. Riki who also runs Animator Island.

We touch on a wide range of topics including but not limited to, why people become passionate about animation, is CGI quality an issue in features, and did the Lion King ruin 2D theatrical animation.

As ever, leave a comment below or send me an email to offer any feedback you have. Apologies for the muffled sound; Verizon DSL does not tolerate cold weather very well.

[soundcloud url=”″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /]

Shea Fontana On Death in Cartoons


Yesterday, Shea Fontana (talented animation writer) posted over on Tumblr about how she’s finally getting around to reading the final Harry Potter book. She mentions that having gotten this far, she’s noticed that a fair amount of characters are either killed off or die throughout the series, and that got her thinking about how things are quite different in cartoons.

 One S&P [standards & practices] note that has become so common that seasoned kid’s writers usually know to avoid it is that no one can die.  Okay, maybe at the end of the series, the main super bad guy can die.  But everyone else needs to give a good <MOAN> after they fall off a cliff to their (un)certain death so our young, impressionable viewers won’t be too sad.

This is a great observation. Death is a completely natural occurrence, we’ll all go through it without exception. Why then, do networks feel it is necessary to seclude this aspect of life from younger viewers?

Oh sure, it’s scary in some ways, and the oftentimes violent end that awaits a character is perhaps a bit too influential for younger viewers. Disney famously avoided an on-screen death for decades until The Lion King but never shied away from giving the audience a heavy hint about the character’s demise. The kids still knew what happened, they just didn’t get to see the gory details.

Why can’t we see more death in cartoons? Heck, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy managed to feature the grim reaper himself, and he still didn’t kill anyone! Would it really have made a difference to have Grim do his job on-screen instead of off? I don’t think so, and I thought it would have made the show even funnier than it already is.

Kids are spectacularly observant in many ways. They can tell the difference between characters and how and why they die. There’s no reason to hide it from them so blatantly.

Shea is spot on in her assessment:

It’s sad and tragic!  There’s real emotion because real people really die and real kids get that.

Lastly, Shea makes the excellent point that this kind of censorship only exists within the realm of the large corporation. Independent productions and novels are generally free from these kinds of restrictions, and with the advent of the internet, there’s an even greater ability for kids to see content that perhaps doesn’t attempt to hide the realities of life.

Go read the entire post, it’s well worth thinking about and there’s a cool drawing of Harry by the awesome Mike Maihack.

It Wasn’t The 3-D That Pushed The Lion King To The Top

Yes indeedy, hot on the heels of it’s fortnight at the top of the US box office (which doesn’t mean much by the way), Disney announced that they would be re-releasing a host of (randomly chosen?) films from the past 20 or so years in 3-D.

Filmophilia has a decent post that breaks down why it wasn’t the 3-D that helped it get there. I’ve already discussed the topic so there’s not much point rehashing it now.

Just go and read the Filmophilia link, it’s worth it.

So The Lion King Topped the Box Office Again

What does this prove? That a 17 year old movie is better than the current offerings? That it’s actually better in 3-D than we ever thought possible? Or is it that because it’s aimed at families, you know they’re selling more than two tickets at a time?

It’s hard to say. It would be nice to think that The Lion King succeeded because it is a really good movie that outshines whatever was offered this past weekend. However, the truth is probably not near as exciting.

First of all, at 17 years, The Lion King is bordering on nostalgia at this point. I was 10 when it came out and I’m 26 now (thanks to the ever-present international delay, the numbers don’t quite add up). So it is surely ripe for claiming a whole new generation of kids and re-capturing their parents.

Secondly, the box office really does mean squat in the grand scheme of things. Saying that such and such a film is top of the box office is really only saying that it sold more tickets than the others. It is not a reliable indicator of tastes or indeed quality as The Smurfs so perfectly illustrated.

Naturally this will be trumpeted by various marketing departments as a sign of the Lion King’s strength and quality as a film. Yes, this might be true, however it is alarming that we are not seeing a re-issue of other films from the same period. While they obviously do not meet the same lofty status of The Lion King, they were certainly just as popular at the time and have not dated as badly as other films the same age.

Couldn’t all the effort that was put into 3-D-izing The Lion King have been better used to clean up and re-issue some other films?

The point is that the Disney Renaissance films were all spectacular when they were released and they are still spectacular now. Making them 3-D is not going to increase their appeal. I’m willing to hazard a guess a that most people simply wanted to see it on the big screen again and nothing more.