Monday, December 30, 2013

Frozen (2013)

"Why do you shut the world out? What are you so afraid of?"

Since I feel completely out of steam right now due to the holiday season, I'm just gonna cut to the chase and say that not only is Frozen possibly the best musical to come from Disney in the last decade, it's also easily my second favorite movie of the year! (Although, comparing any movie to Pacific Rim just wouldn't be fair) The writing is solid, the characters are memorable, it has a strong message, and overall it's just a lot of fun.

In the kingdom of Arendelle lived two princesses, eight year-old Elsa and five year-old Anna, who were as close as sisters could be, until Elsa accidentally hits Anna in the head with her magical ice powers. Their parents, the king and queen, take Anna to a wise troll to try and save her, who tells them that the only way he can save Anna is if he erases any knowledge she has of Elsa's magic. It is from then that not only were the sisters forbidden to leave the castle, but Elsa was locked away, alone in her room, as she was being taught how to control her powers. As time went by, the two of them drifted further apart and became less attached to reality outside the castle walls. That is, until the day of Elsa's coronation...

Something that caught me off-guard with Frozen was that it had a very different feel from most other animated Disney musicals. Whereas a lot of the more modern ones that come to mind (Aladdin, Mulan, etc.) maintain a good focus on the scale of the main characters' actions, Frozen doesn't seem too concerned with that. The strict focus on character made it feel more like an adaptation of a stage musical than anything else I've seen come from Disney. Whether or not that was intentional (individual CG models can be very difficult to make, after all), I thought it worked in that regard.

What I took away from the movie was that it was a cautionary tale about what happens when children are sheltered from the rest of the world. As a result of how overprotective the king and queen were towards their daughters, Elsa never learned how to be confident using her powers around others while Anna becomes so desperate for company that she falls for the very for man she meets. Naturally, nothing good comes from this, and the rest of the movie shows the two sisters learning how to live their own lives.

What I liked most about it was the soundtrack. In fact, I felt compelled to pick up a copy on the way home from the theater! Two songs in particular, "Do You Want to Build a Snowman?" and "Let It Go", are really well-written and evoke so much raw emotion that it wouldn't surprise me if, over the next decade, they become as fondly remembered as "A Whole New World". I'm also going to add that it is not easy to convey emotion convincingly in CG animation. The only songs that I felt didn't add quite as much to the plot were "In Summer" and "Fixer Upper", which were still good songs in their own right.

If you can still catch Frozen in theaters, then do it. In 3D, too, if possible. It may not be like any of Disney's past musicals, but if this is the new direction that they're headed, then I'm behind it completely.

Frozen was directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, and was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

CLIP SHOW: "Star Fleet" by Brian May + Friends

By the early '80s, Japanese comic book legend Go Nagai had become a household name. He had written many famous comic stories across virtually every genre, including horror (Devilman), superhero (Cutie Honey), and erotic comedy (Shameless School); many of which he adapted into highly successful TV cartoons. However, he is probably best known for being one of the most influential figures in shaping giant robot fiction, with his creation of the very first piloted robot, Mazinger Z. It was from there that Nagai tried venturing into more uncharted territory when he created a marionette-animated TV show called X-Bomber. The story focuses on the adventures of a small crew of Earth Defense Force pilots as they fight to protect the Solar System against the evil legions of Commander Makara using the power of their transforming robot, the massive Dai X.

Shortly after X-Bomber's run on Japanese TV, it was imported to the U.K. as Star Fleet, where it was dubbed into English and got an entirely new score. In 1983, Brian May of Queen became inspired to record an EP based on the English language theme song after he was introduced to the show by his son. Star Fleet Project was May's first solo outing, and included several of his peers such as Eddie Van Halen on lead guitar and fellow Queen member Roger Taylor on backing vocals. A music video was made of the "single version" of the title track, which consisted of Star Fleet show footage and clips of May's disembodied head singing and floating through space.

Star Fleet Project was originally not intended to be released, but May gave in when everybody he played it for encouraged him to. Unfortunately, it was only officially released on vinyl, largely forgotten by a world in need of unfaltering heroism. Let's all send that message back to Earth Control!