Holiday Animated Movie Reviews,..Avatar vs. Princess and Frog

April 1, 2010

Here begins our review of the two most anticipated animated movies of the 2009 holiday season. Let me say that I am partial to traditional animation firstly as I am an animator who knows the value of the traditionally hand drawn animation medium. On the other hand, I was pleased to see that James Cameron’s directorial style came through despite the fact that CG tends to be generic in terms of style in most cases, or look like video game trailers. A lot of people I spoke with also say that they could empathize with the characters in Avatar which I guess might be the point of the movie itself. I agree that a lot of emotional ground was covered, but in general JC’s movies don’t usually grab you by the heartstrings like a Spielberg.

(Pandora World from Avatar lights up as the characters walk through an alien forest)

Nevertheless, in drastic contrast to the Aliens film; which featured Star Marines landing on the planet to basically blow the crap out of vicous terminator-like aliens with improved design from the first film’s designs(by H.R.Giger),whew!, This movie opens up the other side of the equation with CG generated humanoid aliens on a world where everything lights up with neon and all the animals seem to have six legs. Basically, there is a lot to look at in this film, it is definetely a leap forward as far as CG inclusion in film from a matter of FX to an all out assault on the eye. I think that perhaps to it’s credit, the film fails to make proper use of the full capability of the IMAX 3D theater system. It’s use is very general, not a lot of things popping out and is used basically as an tool for immersion into the world rather than as gimmic to get you reaching out to the screen.

The one thing that was sort of dissapointing for me was the justaposition between the opening up of such a visual dimension in contrast with the limited advancement of the Cameronesqe cast of characters. They seemed even more one dimensional than those in the Aliens film and lacked motive beyond simple iteration of general dispositions to destroy, save, love, ect. I think I enjoyed myself, I’m not sure if I saw everything, and I do like to see and appreciate everything that is in a film, especially CG! In the end, basically what I saw was a James Cameron film, with a lot of goodies added into the mix, despite the price tag or any direct dollars dissapearing from my wallet inside of the IMAX.

There are a few things which are immediately relevant concerning Disney’s release of Princess and the Frog, such at the fact that it is their first return to traditional since Home on the Range, about a group of animals on a farm. Also this will be the first time that African Americans have been the major subject of a Disney film, so what does that tell you! This movie will also be the test to see if traditional animation can make it’s so-called come back into the theaters, but that is another issue entirely. Compared to a Chrismas Carol released some weeks prior; Princess and Frog has done extremely well. They spent twice as much on the Chrismas Carol CG film and threw them both into the pit to do battle with Avatar this holiday season. This brings me to my point. Where Princess and Frog triumphs in story and character dimensionality, it is lacking in luster, seen in such films as the Beauty and the Beast. You can tell the animators worked hard to make up for this using sheer force of animation artistry. The characters seem to be drawn in very elastic comedic style. This is usually the case with Disney, but I felt a bit rushed, and made the film seem short in minutes.

(“princess” tianna is turned into a frog by accident of mistaken identity)

Despite, that fact, I like what was said, even though aspects of New Orleans culture seemed to have been watered down. The premise of two misanthropic colored or black people being suddenly turned into two naked squashy green frogs trapped in a swamp made me only slightly uncomfortable. The whole film had a lot of spunk to it, with rich characters who’s hearts and dreams seemed believable in any dimension. The pacing of the film was well planned, allowing for introspection rather than distraction into small details. Even so, this film, long or short, could use a few more details/dollars. I recommend going to see it on the basis of fun factor and visual quality too! Despite the hype, blood and/or brainwashing; one way or the other Avatar and The Princess and the Frog, are about the same bang!


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