Dangerous Fandemonium in Sonic Boom’s “The Biggest Fan”

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Sonic’s awkward encounter with Mark the Tapir at Meh Burger in the latest Sonic Boom episode “The Biggest Fan.” Courtesy: Boomerang

In my 13 years of being a Sonic fan, I have always admired Sonic’s way of being–his speed, his charm, his devilishly good looks, and his even his smile. Yes, I was obsessed with Sonic–and his dark, anti-hero counterpart Shadow–but my obsession wasn’t as clinically serious as that of Mark the Tapir in Sonic Boom‘s latest episode, “The Biggest Fan” (a title reference to a long-forgotten boy band film of the same name, starring Dream Street lead Chris Trousdale).

In this episode, Sonic meets a socially awkward tapir named Mark, a self-proclaimed number one fan whom Sonic allows to be his personal assistant. Mark’s gestures to Sonic were admirable at first–picking out his bandana, grilling his hot dogs, painting a portrait of him holding a chili dog, and advising him on the best strategy to defeat one of his enemies. But he soon takes his friendship with Sonic to a dangerous level by getting into a bicycle accident and imprisoning Sonic at his cabin, where the walls of his room are filled with numerous Sonic memorabilia.

“The Biggest Fan” doesn’t preach about the Sonic fanbase as a whole, but rather about the dark side of fanaticism–creative stupidity and overt criticism. For example, there’s good Sonic fan art, but then there’s fan art that makes your eyes want to bleed into permanent blindness. I drew a few pieces of Sonic fan art, but they weren’t as professional as the ones I saw on deviantART, yet I’m still proud of them. I also saw pieces of Sonic fan art that have been amateurishly drawn on MS Paint, involved female characters being unrealistically pregnant, and–even worse–recolored on screenshots from Sonic X. Overt criticism of the Sonic games has been running rampant in the decade after the release of Sonic ’06. SEGA didn’t make Sonic ’06 terrible on purpose. The development team was downsized in half after Yuji Naka’s departure from Sonic Team, and they were rushed to complete the game in time for the release of both the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, placing them under insurmountable stress. Elise’s kiss of life was indicative of that, but big whoop! Sonic and the Secret Rings may have made under the same stress despite that it didn’t come out until three months after the Wii’s release. One bad game shouldn’t have to release a chain of negative criticism for successive games like Sonic Generations and Sonic Lost World. Also, please keep in mind that Sonic Boom is a spin-off franchise, not a part of the main canon despite Boom Sonic appearing alongside Classic Sonic and Modern Sonic in the 25th anniversary banners.

I’ll always love Sonic, but the actions of Mark the Tapir don’t represent me in any way, shape or form.

Sybil of Voices: An Ode to Tara Strong

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A caricature of Tara Strong with Timmy Turner, Bubbles, Raven, Twilight Sparkle, Truffles, Plum, Daizy, and Ilana patterned in the background. Courtesy: Unknown Artist

Jewish blonde vixen.
A scintillating woman of a thousand voices–
Male and female,
Young and old–
All ready to play at her command.

Bubbles, age five–
Sweet and innocent by day,
A hardcore superheroine by night.
Friendly to all of Earth’s creatures,
From the biggest elephant to the smallest newt.

Timmy, age ten–
His wishes are always
At his fairies’ command.
But when they go awry,
He reverses them back to normal.

Raven, age sixteen–
Dark by nature,
Psychic by power.
She keeps her emotions in check,
Lest she incur her father’s demonic influence on herself.

Harley, age twenty-seven–
Beautifully collected once upon a time,
Driven to insanity by the Joker.
Yet, she’s madly in love with the clown
And his dirty tricks.

Truffles, age unknown–
Named after the sweetest of all chocolates,
She actually possesses a sour attitude.
Pretty ironic for a fairy,
Married to a non-fairy chef.

Sweet and sour,
Childish and mature,
Calm and insane–
Tara Strong is the master of all these voices.
She and her personalities speak for all of my life.

Sonic Boom Off the Air for One Month

Sonic Boom Off the Air for One Month

I didn’t expect Sonic Boom to not be on the air today. I certainly didn’t expect to hear that the show will be on hiatus for a month one week after the premiere of its second season.

Two years ago, I shied away from Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric and Shattered Crystal following their horrendous display of glitches and deafening dialogue on top of a shoddy storyline, but I couldn’t resist watching the TV show on Cartoon Network. I believed that Sonic Boom, along with Adventure Time, Regular Show and Steven Universe, was going to drag Cartoon Network out of its creative hell. Actually, the show would’ve made twice the positive impact on the network’s quality as the other ones mentioned here were not for the 7:30am time slot it was given for Saturday mornings. I used to get of bed that early on the weekends for Sonic X because a decade ago, there weren’t any DVRs to help viewers record programs of their choosing except for TiVO, which I didn’t have at the time. Because 4KidsTV would change the time slot for Sonic X at any time, be it at 8:30am or 10:30am, I got out of bed at 6:30 in the morning to watch the other shows first. Nowadays, kids don’t wake up that early on a Saturday morning anymore because of the high academic and extracurricular demands disrupting their sleep schedules, not to mention their circadian rhythms, making them sleep in until 9:00 or 10:00 on the weekends. Thankfully, their DVRs can record their favorite cartoons if they set it to “Series Recording.”

Then there’s lack of advertising. Cartoon Network promoted Sonic Boom at least a week before it first aired. The second time they advertised the show was in July 2015, when they announced that they would air two weeks worth of new episodes from July 13th to the 24th. They haven’t advertised anything for the current season, which resulted in the 560,000 viewer rating for the season premiere episode “Tommy Thunder: Method Actor.”

I was expecting Sonic Boom to be just as serious as Sonic X, but the humor it took after popular comedy shows like Friends and The Big Bang Theory drew me to the show like a honeybee flying to the most beautiful rose in the park. I hope Cartoon Network places Sonic Boom on to later time slot come December. Until then, I’ll find other comedy shows to release the dopamine I need to survive the rest of the semester.

The Truth about the Powerpuff Girls Reboot

A week after Cartoon Network aired five days’ worth of new episodes of The Powerpuff Girls reboot, I wrote a post stating that despite the changes made from the original, the dynamics of the show remained the same. Here’s how I really feel about reboot now, over a month later.

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Courtesy: Cartoon Network

I take back anything I said about the PPG reboot, because guess what. Nothing in there is the same as the original. NOT ONE FUCKING THING! It’s like the producers who made the reboot took the most glorious, beloved work of art out of the vault, placed it underneath an outhouse in the lowest slums of India, and dumped the biggest shit on it in diarrhea form. That’s how bad it is.

Before you judge me for cussing Cartoon Network out, here’s how they gave The Powerpuff Girls the world’s ugliest makeover.

 

1. Animation inconsistencies

The animation in the PPG reboot is poorly executed in terms of speed and other technical issues that should’ve been addressed before the show reached our television and computer screens. To wit, the episode “The Wringlegruff Gals.” In a scene where Mojo Jojo berates the girls for looking old as hell while walking his dog–they implored Professor Utonium to concoct a potion that, when consumed, will render them as old as their middle school-aged classmates because they got teased for looking like babies–the dog leash disappears from view. Seriously? In the online short “Air Buttercup”, a title reference to Air Bud, Buttercup tries to throw a paper ball into a netted garbage can from as far a distance as the school cafeteria allowed. As the mean, green tough girl attempts to score more than three points, the paper ball flies through the air over the students’ heads as slow as a turtle. It should’ve flown at a higher frame rate than that.

2. Frequent usage of Internet memes

A network animated episode takes about 6 to 12 months to animate, and popular memes die out three weeks after they’ve made the rounds on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Vine. The Simpsons, Family Guy, and other adult animated shows that have been airing since before the advent of social media can get away with employing Internet pop culture because they know when it’s appropriate to feature a meme and when it’s not. On a cartoon show intended for elementary-aged children, especially a reboot, not so much. There are a million memes thrown around in one single episode of the PPG reboot. Bubbles scrunched her face into the pointy-nosed “NO ME GUSTA” face in one episode, and shouted “YAAASSS!!” with the gusto of a 12-year-old girl who’s one year away from being legally able to use Facebook and other social media sites (if she hasn’t lied about her age to create accounts for them, that is) in another episode. The producers even had the audacity to paste in a Windows 7-style wallpaper of a desert as a backdrop for Buttercup’s meditation session in “Man Up” and leave it at that. No good taste whatsoever.

Oh, and they made the girls twerk with a panda who was high on something funky.

Thanks a lot, Miley Cyrus.

3. Balance of old and new villains, or lack thereof

The notorious villains from the original series, like fan favorite Mojo Jojo, doled out the greatest evil schemes that even the Joker and Lex Luthor would be proud of. In the reboot, they’re still there, but they don’t even do shit! We were lucky enough to see Princess Morbucks go at her attempts to include herself as a Powerpuff Girl on one occasion. Other than that, their villainous plots have been greatly reduced to real world humdrums, like Mojo delivering pizza to the PPG’s house. The new villains are… [disgusted groan] SO. FRICKIN’. STUPID! Packrat collects jewels and metal (?) for a solar-dancing doll, Man-Boy is as misogynistic as Gaston from Beauty and the Beast, and don’t even get me started on the pink-skinned fashionista wannabe duo.

 

4. Personality changes and character disappearances

The PPGs no longer seem to care much about the responsibilities accompanied with being superheroes, except on some occasions. They’re more focused on the normal side of girlhood–or, at the very least, girlhood in the 2010s–just as the Teen Titans in Teen Titans GO! are more focused on the daily life of normal adolescence than on crime-fighting. The narrator, an omniscient character, no longer interjects in the stories like any superhero TV show announcer–then again, no narrator was heard in Justice League. Ms. Keane’s breasts have somehow been sliced off. And Miss Bellum, whose face still leaves plenty to our imagination, has left her secretarial post at the Mayor’s office because the producers deemed her offensive. I’m sorry, but at what point in the original series did Miss Bellum offend the young viewers of the late-1990s and early-2000s like myself–or parents of said viewers for that matter? All she did was give reasonable advice to both the dim-witted Mayor and the Powerpuff Girls–and kicked Sedusa’s ass with flair! Whatever the reason may be, writing Miss Bellum out of the show was the stupidest decision the producers made.

 

And last, but certainly not least because this isn’t the top five list of reasons why the PPG reboot isn’t as good as I originally thought…

 

5. Poor handling of today’s social issues

Most specifically, issues concerning the transgender (or LGBT) community. The producers of the PPG proved that much in the subliminally controversial episode “Horn, Sweet Horn.” It centers around a white pony named Donny, who believes in his heart of hearts that he is a unicorn. Bubbles, a firm believer in the existence of unicorns, pressures Donny to undergo a transformation procedure so that she’ll prove to her classmates that unicorns do exist. The girls ask the Professor if he can change Donny into a unicorn. After giving a lot of thought and writing an exhaustive list of negative side effects that can come after the transition procedure for Donny to read and sign, he goes through with it. But instead of turning into a unicorn, Donny transforms into a scarlet bogeyman and terrorizes Townsville. The LGBT community took great offense with how the episode was written, calling it out as a great bias towards children and teens who have already come to terms with their gender identity or are still struggling to figure it out. I agree. Take a look at trans advocate Delia Melody’s “Trans People React to The Powerpuff Girls ‘Horn, Sweet Horn.'”

 

From animation errors to change in cast of characters to the producers’ audacity to offend a marginalized community with a single episode in a time when they’re suffering interminable discrimination by the government–especially with the passing of House Bill 2 (HB2) in North Carolina–I have decided that I can no longer stomach any more episodes of the PPG reboot.

This is just the trouble with animated reboots. The people who create them wish to maintain the legacy of the original series and its creators, whether they’re alive or dead. Craig McCracken is still alive and well, but wasn’t involved with the PPG reboot because he’s invested his time in producing other shows for other networks. Nick Jennings and Bob Boyle should’ve watched the original PPG in its entirety to make the reboot exactly like that, but they watered it down in favor of the animation standards Cartoon Network has set today. It is, unfortunately, the price we pay for harboring nostalgia over the greatest cartoons of our generation.

Now, if you can grant me permission to recite this meme in two words: CHILDHOOD. RUINED.

Rumour Has It: Space Jam 2 Finally in Production

Space Jam was an all-time favorite flick for me and my brother growing up in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Over and over again, we would watch NBA legend Michael Jordan shoot hoops alongside the Looney Tunes in a cosmic basketball game against the Monstars, the ginormous forms of the Nerdlucks, who steal and absorb talents from Jordan’s NBA peers and transform into the likeness of the respective players–Pound, the orange alien leader, tranforms into Charles Barkley; Nawt (red) into Muggsy Bogues; Bang (green) into Patrick Ewing; Blanko (blue) into Shawn Bradley; and Bupkus (purple) into Larry Johnson–to take the Looney Tunes and enslave them in their failing amusement park by order of their greedy boss, Mr. Swackhammer (voiced by the incomparable Danny DeVito). At one point, my brother and I, as well as some of our friends and relatives, may have secretly wished for a sequel simply because of how good Space Jam was, especially since it brilliantly executed the live-action/animation hybrid filming style just like Who Framed Roger Rabbit? before it. Now, nearly 20 years later and entering the second round of this year’s NBA Playoffs, that wish is about to come true. But not in a way we imagined it at first.

After nearly a year of Internet speculation regarding Space Jam 2, The Hollywood Reporter journalist Rebecca Ford released a statement that Justin Lin, director of four Fast & Furious films since 2006’s Tokyo Drift and upcoming Star Trek Beyond, and co-writers Andrew Dodge and Alfredo Botello are working on a script for the long-awaited sequel to the film starring Warner Bros.’s celebrated cartoon gang, the Looney Tunes. Space Jam 2 will also star not Michael Jordan, but his youngest successor LeBron James.

As a cinemaniac, I’m happy to hear that production of Space Jam 2 is actually underway. However, as an animaniac, I’m very skeptical about how the animation of the Looney Tunes will turn out in the film given the current trends seen on Cartoon Network. Although reruns of the original Looney Tunes cartoons are still being aired at from 10 to 11am on the weekdays, the animation standards for the recent shows have been driven to the ground. The voice-acting’s great, sure. But the problem lies in character design. Yes, I understand the character designs in the original Looney Tunes have been remodified through the decades ’til the death of the original and sole voice actor Mel Blanc, but the designs of Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tweety Bird et al were just fine in Space Jam and Looney Tunes: Back in Action, as well as some animated series that aired some time after, like Duck Dodgers. I know that in Space Jam, the cartoon characters were CGI-animated to a minimal extent because CGI-animation in the 90s was not as advanced as it is in today’s animated films, but I’m afraid that the designs of the characters, not to mention their personalities, are gonna be as distasteful and unappealing as they are in The Looney Tunes Show and Wabbit.

For the athlete in question. I was expecting a plot involving Bugs and the gang summoning Michael Jordan back to their world to play against another team that’s twice as intimidating as the Monstars with a different motive. But since Jordan has retired from basketball for good, save for owning the Charlotte Hornets, Warner Bros. has LeBron James in his place. I believe they made the right choice to pick James to help out the Looney Tunes this time around. He gave a stellar performance in Trainwreck, so I’ll give him a chance with Space Jam 2. I still have his Miami Heat jersey (#6) hanging in my closet, and I will happily wear it the day the movie is released, whenever that will be.

The only question I have now is, how come LeBron James didn’t tweet anything about Space Jam 2?

 

The Powerpuff Girls: Past vs. Present

Sugar, spice, and everything nice–plus an accidental large dose of Chemical X–are still the main ingredients chosen to create my generation’s favorite female superhero trio, the Powerpuff Girls. However, a lot has changed for the girls in the new reboot of the Cartoon Network series.

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Courtesy: Cartoon Network

The Powerpuff Girls originally aired on Cartoon Network for six glorious seasons–78 episodes, 136 segments–between 1998 and 2005, spawning two Emmy awards and an animated film serving as a prequel to the series. The show centered on three kindergarten-aged superhuman girls–Blossom, the pink-clad brains of the group; Bubbles, the cute and sensitive blondie in blue; and Buttercup, the feisty tomboy in green–as they protect their beloved city of Townsville from evil forces while also working out problems children their age and older face, including school, family squabbles, sibling rivalries, and even nutritional health. The reboot premiered Monday night, and it squashed some doubts of its commercial success I, as well as everybody else who watched the original show in awe, nostalgically harbored.

Here are some elemental changes the PPG reboot presented and how they differ from the original series.

1. Graphic design (including character design)

The original Powerpuff Girls employed hand-drawn animation techniques executed by Korea’s division Rough Draft Studios, with the characters designed by series creator Craig McCracken. Every character had thick outlines and the colors were dull for the first four seasons. The theatrical release of the full-length prequel in 2002 exhibited brighter colors, popping eyes, and the animation frames flipped twice as fast. This trend continued for the remainder of the show’s run. As for the girls’ design–Blossom’s hair bow was pointed, Bubbles’s pigtails dangled from her ears, and Buttercup’s ‘do is thin. In the reboot, not much has changed in the girls’ physical appearance except…Blossom’s bow is now rounded, Bubbles’s pigtails have been raised at least three inches above her ears and are tied in bulby hair ties I haven’t seen since 1st Grade, and Buttercup’s hair is thicker and now sports a cowlick just like Alfalfa. The outlines have waned thin, and the colors are now softer, although Bubbles’s blonde color has toned down a couple shades.

 

2. Voice-acting (especially for the girls)

Throughout the show’s original run, Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup were voiced by Cathy Cavadini, Tara Strong (Charendoff at the time the series premiered), and E.G. Daily, respectively. Cavadini provided Blossom with the voice of a young scholar, giving her an academically-inclined personality. Strong, the Sybil of Voices (my official nickname for her), breathed into Bubbles the cutesy and innocent squeal every time she spoke, making the character a joy and delight for fans. Daily supplied Buttercup with the voice of a tough tomboy.

Fans were expecting Cavadini, Strong and Daily to reprise their roles of the titular girls for the reboot, given their hyperactive nostalgia. But on June 8, 2015, everyone was shocked to learn that Cartoon Network hired three younger voice actresses, Amanda Leighton, Kristen Li and Natalie Palamides to voice Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup, respectively, much to the dismay of the original VA’s. The news of the recast hit Strong especially hard, who tweeted, “I don’t remember ordering a stab in the heart today,” along with a Vine of Li announcing her voice role of Bubbles. She expressed no ill will towards the younger counterparts of herself and co-stars Daily and Cavadini, but rather sadness over the fact that Cartoon Network didn’t have the decency to call them back, even after the they announced they weren’t returning for the reboot to begin with.

The only characters who had their original actors reprise them were Mojo Jojo (Roger L. Jackson), Professor Utonium (Tom Kane), the Mayor and the narrator (Tom Kenny), and Ms. Keane (Jennifer Hale), but Kenny’s voice-acting on the Mayor is slightly off. (I love you, Kenny, but what happened?)

 

3. The universe

Cartoons may be timeless, but that doesn’t mean their universes aren’t allowed to age along with the current events in the real world. The universe of The Powerpuff Girls is no exception. To wit, the iconic clown nosed landline phone has been chopped and upgraded to one smartphone for each of the girls. Instead of a classroom kindergarten building, the girls now attend a regular elementary school, where they are mingling with older students. (While I do appreciate the producers’ thought of putting the kindergarten-aged superheroines together with students in grades 1 through 5 or 8, depending on the type of public school they’re actually placed in, I bet Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was either behind this idea, or simply inspired it.) And, to the shock of absolutely no one, the girls are fawning over boy bands. Who doesn’t? Also, the Professor is minimally involved in the lives of his creations, leaving them to solve problems on their own. He does give them advice when given the opportunity to appear onscreen, though.

 

Despite the many changes to the animation style and voice staff, the elements of the show that haven’t changed are the personalities that each of the characters have and the female empowerment theme that girls can achieve in anything boys can. The Powerpuff Girls has been revamped for a whole new generation of kids, and as long as the reboot it imparts the same values and humor as the original, then I have as much faith as McCracken does that it will succeed.

 

 

Sausage Party Trailer Reaction

Once upon time, I objected every single adult-animated show that everyone my age and over went a little crazy about. As I grew older, I’ve learned to accept Family Guy, The Simpsons, and even Futurama (now cancelled but available on Netflix) for gracing the small screens to offer their satirical views about the world as we know it. And it’s not just the satire I’ve come to embrace, it’s their animation styles as well. Sure, the producers of those shows throw in some sexual references every now and then, but they proved to be of good taste.

Then there’s this trailer of an adult-animated film that appears to be of poor taste in artery-clogging proportions.

 

The only screenshot I could find that best describes how appalled I am by the Sausage Party trailer is this:

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An overrated SpongeBob meme, I know.

Granted, the potato dropping F-bombs while his skin was being sliced off took me by surprise. But the design that shocked me the most was the hot dog bun named Brenda. Her mouth bears a striking resemblance to the flap of…well, some of you may have taken anatomy classes, so you should know what female part Brenda’s mouth resembles without me having to tell you. (Brenda is voiced by Kristen Wiig, but Miley Cyrus should’ve been cast for the role.)

I initially thought that, because Sausage Party is an animated film, it’s gonna be for both kids and adults. But the whole two minutes of all the anthropomorphic food shouting obscenities every five seconds tells me that it’s 100% intended for the latter group, courtesy of Seth Rogen, who produced and voices the main sausage character Frank (obviously derived from the hot dog’s original name “frankfurter”) in the movie.

My stance on this upcoming animated film is…neutral. Sausage Party looks like it was created out of poor taste, but it does have some potential to be the best R-rated animated comedy of the year. It doesn’t come out until August 11, so even though the MPAA hasn’t given the movie the R-rated stamp, Rogen is aiming for that goal.

The last thing I can say is, Sausage Party might make some of us go totally vegetarian or vegan after the end credits. After all, it is a spoof of the Disney-Pixar film Toy Story. Rogen, you’ve taken adult animation to the next level for the first time in years. My mind is already blown away.