Rick and Morty Something Ricked This Way Comes

5 Best Current Animated Series That Pass the Mako Mori Test

This article first appeared in Luna Station Quarterly’s Chick on the Draw column on August 1, 2014.

Maybe you’re out of the cartoon loop. Maybe you don’t have cable TV. Maybe you’re a former fan who got super distracted by Breaking Bad. Well, there’s been no better time to reconnect. We live in a golden age of television, and animation is no exception–plus shows are passing the Mako Mori Test left and right (in most episodes, at least one female character has her own narrative arc distinct from any male characters’ arcs.)

If you have the time, these shows are ready to tickle your nucleus accumbens.

Here we go, in no particular order:

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Rick and Morty Something Ricked This Way Comes

4 Reasons Why Cartoons Matter

This article first appeared in Luna Station Quarterly’s Chick on the Draw column on July 4, 2014.

It’s a pleasure to join Luna Station Quarterly’s new content lineup. I’ll be your friendly neighborhood animation commentator and theorist. Why? I’m so glad you asked. Of all popular media, animation is the truest mirror of our culture. Hold on to your caboose, because I brought the proof.

1. Cartoons gain amplification through simplification

As described by cartoonist and theorist Scott McCloud, this principle applies to every element of moving art, from character design to backgrounds to lighting to animation to the beats of the story being told. There is room for Miyazaki’s lack of baddies and Richard Williams’s compulsive detail, but generally speaking, the broader the strokes, the broader the appeal. Speaking of…

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Hiccup Toothless How To Train Your Dragon 2

5 Beefs with How to Train Your Dragon 2

What oh my God what.

Hiccup Toothless How To Train Your Dragon 2

There will be beefs

Let’s be clear. The original How to Train Your Dragon (2010) is excellent, structurally and emotionally. Both it and its sequel are gorgeous, imaginative, and animated by some of the greatest hands in the business. Each individual frame of How to Train Your Dragon 2 deserves nothing but high-fives down every cubicle row in Glendale.

But the story is a head-scratching mess.

Since 2010, the franchise has kept in fighting form with holiday specials and Riders of Berk on Cartoon Network. Though I’m not familiar with this series, I wonder if some of the best sequel ideas got spent there (a local studies dragon-training for his own nefarious purposes!), or whether an episodic story approach infected this script, because this story doesn’t have just a woman problem. This story has all kinds of problems.

Spoilers abounding.

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Frozen kristoff fixer upper

Another Defense of Frozen: The Subversive Appeal of Disney’s New Breed of Fairy Tale

I dug Frozen. I laughed. I cried. I gasped at the third act reveal. In the wake of Dani Colman’s essay for Medium asserting the film has a problem with false feminism, I feel the need to tell you why. I hope you can stand another defense of Frozen.

(You may also enjoy the original Defense of Frozen.)

Elsa Frozen strut triumph

Because here it comes

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American BESM Frozen Tangled

In Defense of Frozen

Frozen

Hero character design, homogeneity, and the BESM-ing of American big-studio computer animation.

(You may also enjoy Another Defense of Frozen: The Subversive Appeal of Disney’s New Breed of Fairy Tale.)

Disney’s animated feature Frozen, which opens Thanksgiving, has received some attention for 1) its nearly indistinguishable female leads and 2) the interview in which its head of animation, Lino DiSalvo, dared to mention the difficulties of animating two characters who look so much alike:

“Historically speaking, animating female characters are really, really difficult, ’cause they have to go through these range of emotions, but they’re very, very — you have to keep them pretty and they’re very sensitive to — you can get them off a model very quickly. So, having a film with two hero female characters was really tough, and having them both in the scene and look very different if they’re echoing the same expression; that Elsa (Idina Menzel) looking angry looks different from Anna (Kristen Bell) being angry.”

Let’s remind ourselves that Lino DiSalvo is not credited with the designs of these characters.

Let’s set aside that a studio’s characters have a certain overall look to help brand the studio’s films–for example, the longer middle-third of DreamWorks faces:

DreamWorks face middle third

DreamWorks middle third face

Behold the DreamWorks middle third

Let’s set aside that the difficulty Lino DiSalvo describes–keeping a human hero character appealing, on-model and expressive–has applied since Milt Kahl sketched his first Prince (and got stuck with princes the rest of his life.)

Madam Mim

Among other gigs, of course

Let’s save for another day how hero characters remain the same color and physical type. These choices are driven by studio biases with such deep roots that they heave up the sidewalk of good sense.

Turbo DreamWorks diverse cast

It will be 2030 before a cast this diverse plays cartoon humans. Then that movie will be studio-meddled into a mud pie, under-marketed, overlooked in theaters and used as reason not to feature such diversity again until 2055.

I expect the animators are as stumped by the parade of light-eyed, fair-skinned characters as anyone, which is sort of exactly the point DiSalvo is making.

The question that remains is, why do human female leads in American big studio computer-animated features look so dang much alike?

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Walter White Wile E. Coyote

8 Reasons Walter White is Wile E. Coyote

Walter White Breaking Bad Wile E Coyote

In the American Southwest, a hirsute genius uses science to pursue an impossible blue dream. Holy cats, Walter White is Wile E. Coyote.

I still have a lot of emotions from the finale, and this analysis is helping me work through them.

SPOILERS ABOUNDING FOR ONE OF THE BEST SHOWS OF ALL TIME.

Seriously. Spoilers.

Serious.

Okay.

Here it is.

1) Likeness

The more wiley Walt gets, the hairier he becomes. The closer Wiley gets to catching Roadrunner, the more he looks and acts like Walt.

Walter White Breaking Bad Wile E Coyote
[tumblr]
Breaking Bad Walter White Wile E Coyote

2) Location

Breaking Bad takes place primarily in New Mexico. Wile E. Coyote’s turf is thought to be anywhere from Texas to Monument Valley.

Breaking Bad Walter White Wile E Coyote
[geeksofdoom]
Walter White Wile E Coyote Breaking Bad
[vegaschatter]

Note both series are fans of yellow-sky cinematography.

Breaking Bad Walter White Wile E Coyote
[wired]
Breaking Bad Walter White Wile E Coyote
[wikipedia]

3) Science

Walt is to chemistry what Wile E. is to physics.

Walter White Wile E Coyote breaking bad
[thenosebleeds]
Walter White Wile E Coyote Breaking Bad
[ku.edu]

4) The Unattainable

A man’s reach must always exceed his grasp. It’s blue as the sky for a reason.

Walter White Wile E Coyote Breaking Bad
[heisenbergschemistry]
walter white breaking bad wile E coyote

5) Playing With Fire

Rapid escalation. externalized costs and impending doom–a metaphor for the Cold War and the Drug War.

Walter White Wile E Coyote Breaking Bad
[breakingbad.wikia]
Walter White Wile E Coyote Breaking Bad

6) Futility

Some things can’t be stopped. Other things can’t be started.

Walter White Breaking Bad Wile E Coyote
[uproxx]

Breaking Bad Walter White Wile E Coyote
Breaking Bad Walter White Wile E Coyote
[YouTube]

7) Regret

Tragedy is making a mistake. Horror is realizing it a moment too late.

Breaking Bad Walter White Wile E Coyote
[jeremythecritic]
Walter White Wile E Coyote Breaking Bad
[thepinksmoke]

8) Defeat

It’s as inescapable as gravity.

Walter White Breaking Bad Wile E Coyote
[uproxx]
Walter White Wile E Coyote Breaking Bad
[YouTube]

BONUS REASONS

Birth date

Wile E. Coyote first appeared on September 17, 1949.
Walter White was born September 7, 1959.

breaking bad bacon birthday walter white

Tenacity

You don’t have to like him, but you have to respect him.

walter white wile e coyote breaking bad
[ibtimes]
walter white wile e coyote breaking bad

Rad creator facial hair

It keeps in the mystery.

vince gilligan chuck jones walter white wile e coyote

A-a-a-a-and spent.

If you like thoughtful heckling, you might also enjoy:

Thor 2 Understands Necks

Put your hand on my chest and look over there

Put your hand on my chest and look over there

Yes, Thor 2 subscribes to the same messy, silly, Drew-Struzan-starved poster approach as Iron Man 3. But it wins points for most improved anatomy.

Offensive neck creases lovingly removed

Missing neck creases notwithstanding

Sure, it’s the same poster as Iron Man 3, just blue-ier, but they fixed the Pepper decapitation situation:

More yoga needed

More yoga needed

Take a good look at this poster. Don’t even worry about Pepper’s wonky hand. Note hair is silly and clearly there to cover up the complete inability to make a plausible neck. But the head… oh the head… TRY to get your nose to point over your shoulder. I can’t even get them parallel. Then again, I am old.

Still think this is an OK ‘Shop? Check it out in the thumbnail:

What.

What.

What? No. What? No.

What? No.

No.

See This is The End if you like things that are good

This is the End Movie

You should see This is The End. It’s an instant comedy classic. As fleet as Pineapple Express. As raunchy as Tropic Thunder. As comfy as Undeclared, with heart, just for funsies.

It won’t warrant the nerd rage or script criticism (thanks, J) of Man of Steel, but it deserves your eyeballs ten times more.

No spoilers ahead.

  • Does this movie break the record for TTAL (Time to Audible Laughter)? The theater I saw it in was laughing pretty steady in the very second scene. The comedy sciences were in full effect: many jokes on many levels, dumb and smart and self-deprecating, derived from the characters, delivered at top speed.

    Female character behaving plausibly is surely a sign of end times

    Female character behaving plausibly is surely a sign of end times

  • How are the VFX and practical FX (so much fire!) so Grade A and plentiful on a $32 million budget? Did the cast all work for sandwiches? Is Montreal’s Modus FX bruised from all the back-slaps, or do they need twenty naps?

    I'm not going to spoil the FX or what this shot is about

    I’m not going to spoil the FX or what this shot is about

  • Why haven’t you seen “Your Highness”? Because it is pretty worthy.

    It is pretty much exactly the movie you'd want it to be

    It is pretty much exactly the movie you’d want it to be

  • Why do I feel hometown affinity for Danny McBride? He graduated from [U]NCSA long before I did, and if I tried to holler “Fighting Pickles” at him across a bar, I would surely be indulging in the flimsiest granfalloon. Yet I persist in mentioning the association despite the fact I know nobody cares. Case in point.
  • Can we have more movies like this? Please go see it so we can.

    I will personally apologize if you do not dig it

    I will personally apologize if you do not dig it

A-a-a-and spent.