Mental Health Awarenss Month, Retrospective Review: Mary and Max

A two-fold coming-of-age narrative ‘Mary and Max’ (2009) charters the progression of Mary’s, a young, ‘chubby’ and socially anxious Australian into a woman, friendship with Max, a middle-aged Atheistic Jew in America. Pen pals, a support system, their friendship grows as Mary seeks an escape from her abusive, sherry-soaked mother Vera, all marvellous narrated by Australian treasure Barry Humphries. At random, fascinated by the states, Mary picks an address from a U.S phonebook and hopes to receive a reply to her letter. Gradually, as life moves on the pair grow distant, and after taking a degree in psychology, Mary uses her experiences with Max, who suffers from anxiety and lives in isolation due to his Asperger’s syndrome, as a case study for a book. Continue reading Mental Health Awarenss Month, Retrospective Review: Mary and Max

Sinister Stepmothers and Ex-Wives – Why can’t Disney give them surrogate mothers a break?

Had enough of princesses? Us too. Thing is, for just shy of a century Western animation has been littered with naïve views on female protagonists, in no small part down to the Walt Disney Company. While their heroines are far from the two-dimensional stereotypes many preach, there is one collective which dive deeper into culture, our psyche, and on occasion, history. These are of course the Disney villains.

A dynamic which stretches across the fifty-eight animated library more often than other narratives is of the wicked stepmothers or different forms of antagonistic surrogate parent. These are the films where the protagonist’s primary caregiver or secondary characters are also villains. Whether the archetypical Lady Tremaine from ’Cinderella’ (1950) or the ex-wife Ursula from ‘The Little Mermaid’ (1989) or redemptive Dr Robert Callaghan ‘Big Hero 6’ (2014). Continue reading Sinister Stepmothers and Ex-Wives – Why can’t Disney give them surrogate mothers a break?

Animated April: Spotlight on Naoko Yamada

For Animated April we are focusing on a range of women in animation both past and present. You may recall that Naoko Yamada’s animated feature “A Silent Voice” made our top 50 films of the decade last year. To those who aren’t familiar with her work, we have decided to look back at her career and the works that placed her on the map. She remains one of the few female anime directors in Japan who is working today.

Born in 1984, Yamada has always maintained an interest and passion for art. As a child, she enjoyed drawing and would copy images from the “Patlabor” and “Dragonball” anime series. After finishing High School, Yamada went on to study at Kyoto University of Art and Design, where she studied oil painting and was a member of the special effects club. Continue reading Animated April: Spotlight on Naoko Yamada

Animated April: Spotlight on Princess Anna from “Frozen”

When Disney’s “Frozen” came out in 2013, it truly seemed like a cultural reset. Disney parks were flooded with little girls in Elsa dresses and you couldn’t escape hearing Idina Menzel singing “Let It Go” even if you wanted to. While Brenda Chapman had directed “Brave” the year before, “Frozen” marked the first time that a Walt Disney Animation Studios film was directed by a woman. Jennifer Lee also wrote the script, along with co-directing, and it seems fitting that a film so focused on the love between two sisters would be the first at the studio to have a female director.

However, while the character of Elsa got all the glory, her younger sister Princess Anna has been majorly overlooked. Voiced by the talented and sunshine-y Kristen Bell, Anna has a character arc just as touching as Elsa’s throughout “Frozen” and its sequel “Frozen II” (2019).  Continue reading Animated April: Spotlight on Princess Anna from “Frozen”

Animated April, Retrospective Review: The Prince of Egypt

“The Prince of Egypt” is one of the greatest animated movies of all time. It has a captivating story, unforgettable music, and beautiful animation which appeals to all viewers, even if they don’t practice one of the religions that feature the story of Moses. This was writer and artist Brenda Chapman’s first film as a director as well as the first animated film featuring a woman director at a major studio. Chapman would later go on to be the first woman to win Best Animated Feature at the Oscars for “Brave” (2012). Continue reading Animated April, Retrospective Review: The Prince of Egypt

Animated April, Retrospective Review: The Black Cauldron

Kids entertainment was so much better back then. “The Black Cauldron” is a film which bombed supposedly due to it being deemed ‘too dark’ by audiences of its time. I must admit, I hadn’t seen Disney’s “The Black Cauldron” as a tyke–today, however, I’ve rectified that (for those of you who haven’t been following, this month’s theme is animation; I love Disney, I love darkness–so this only seemed befitting). 

Many flicks for today’s kids substitute characters with archetypes, plot with colour, and wit with doubt-entendres (I’m looking right at you with a pulsating anime vein on my forehead, Angry Birds). Why oh why has the next generation been so woefully deprived of such delicious danger? Continue reading Animated April, Retrospective Review: The Black Cauldron

Animated April: Betty Boop

The Jazz Age was a time of short skirts, high heels and wild adventures-and even the animated cartoons got into the act. Betty Boop was the embodiment of a flapper from the 1920’s complete with bobbed curls, long eyelashes and a sassy garter belt peeking from her flippy skirt. She was the creation of a now almost forgotten animator named Max Fleischer.

Max Fleischer was an innovative artist who in many ways was the successor to the creative genius of Winsor McCay. Fleischer was a poor immigrant who came to New York with his family in 1887. He studied to be an artist and got a job as a cartoonist at a small Brooklyn newspaper. But Max was soon joining an old newspaper buddy who had started his own animation studio, John Randolph Bray. Continue reading Animated April: Betty Boop

Animated April, Retrospective Review: Thumbelina

I must have been four years old when I first watched Don Bluth’s and Gary Goldman’s adaptation of “Thumbelina”, it was probably one of the first films I actually saw at the cinema (or at least one of the first ones that I can recall seeing). Although I can’t really recall whether I enjoyed the film as a child, there are certain aspects of it that I can still remember to this day.

Watching it all these years later at the age of thirty, I can safely say that “Thumbelina” is not a good movie. I’m not alone in this thought as the film has only 30% rating over at Rotten Tomatoes. In his review, Roger Ebert gave it two stars and wrote “It is difficult to imagine anyone over the age of 12 finding much to enjoy in “Thumbelina.” To be honest, I think anyone over the age of four would struggle to find much enjoyment out of this film. Continue reading Animated April, Retrospective Review: Thumbelina