Zootopia Roars Powerful Message on Inclusion

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Officer Judy Hopps and Nick Wilde talk to Flash the Sloth at the Zootopia DMV.

Disney, you have proved once again that the storytelling in your animated films can worm their way into an Aspie girl’s heart and mind, especially with your recent story Zootopia.

Zootopia (or Zootropolis for most of Europe) tells the story of Judy Hopps (voice of Ginnifer Goodwin), a small-town rabbit who dreams of becoming the first rabbit police officer in the big titular city where prey and predator animals of every breed and species live together in peace and harmony. Judy trains very hard to achieve this goal, and thanks to the Mammal Inclusion Initiative, she is awarded her badge and enlisted in the police force. Unfortunately, Judy’s small-minded boss, the cape buffalo Chief Bogo (Idris Elba), assigns her the task of writing up parking tickets as he does not believe that the small rabbit could catch up with the big guys in the missing animals case. During her first time out on the job, Judy encounters con artist fox Nick Wilde (the lovable and incomparable Jason Bateman), and they find themselves on a wild goose chase to crack a missing animals case and, in the process, uncover a conspiracy that could upset the social balance of Zootopia.

Just as Frozen promoted feminism in the most unorthodox way possible, Zootopia promotes, through the allegorical use of the new anthropomorphic animal characters they have created, the acceptance of diversity and the avoidance of prejudice–a topical message that the entire world needs to hear and take to heart right now, especially in the United States. We all need to learn that the minority groups we’ve been taught to fear from early on mean absolutely no harm to anyone and that they deserve just as much human rights as everyone else.

Especially people in the autism community.

Even before the word “autism” was coined by psychiatrists in the early 20th century, people were afraid of us, our neurology, and our way of viewing the world. I mean, just because we autistic people have a little bit of trouble with verbal communication doesn’t mean we don’t have a voice at all. While some of us on the spectrum are verbal, such as myself, there are others who find other ways to get their messages across to people. We may use an iPad, a computer, or even sign language to communicate our wants and needs to others, and that shouldn’t prevent us from getting the jobs of our interests.

Just because we see and think about the world–or some aspects of it–differently, don’t punish us for sharing such views with you. While you may say that a college degree is the key to lifelong success on the financial front, I may say that there are people in this world who are successful even without a college degree, proving that there are others to make achievements that doesn’t have to include college because it’s not for everybody anyway. Should I be punished in any way, shape or form for saying that? No. I will respect your opinion and way of life as long as you respect mine.

Just because we’re exhibit obsessive interests in areas of art, literature, science and technology, don’t punish us for that either. I have a great taste for anime and video games, and would like to write about my experiences in the anime/video game community someday. I also wear shirts that display my favorite anime/video game characters sometimes. Should I be punished in any way, shape or form for exhibiting my inner child and my interests in those art fields by wearing such attire? Absolutely not. If I want to wear a T-shirt with Sonic or Hello Kitty printed on it, don’t tell me that I’m a woman-child for doing so.

And just because we’re introverts doesn’t mean we’re incapable of making friends and maintaining friendships. We may like to spend time by ourselves or with our families, but we still have the desire to spend time with people we played and went to school with. I know I do, and I’m trying my best to be with them every chance I get. [Thanks to Facebook,] I recently made four new friends from my high school, two of whom I went to see Zootopia with last Friday night. They’re all really nice, and I’m happy to be a part of their group.

Zootopia has done a fantastic job advocating for diversity and the inclusion of people from different walks of life, and I applaud them for shining a spotlight on the issue. I hope this movie put Autism Speaks in their place.

And may I just say that Shakira’s new song “Try Everything” is sublime? It’s my new anthem.

 

P.S. You may have noticed that there were no birds flying or walking around the city of Zootopia. The producers did talk about placing avian species in the movie, but cut them out completely due to time constraints.

 

 

 

 

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Leonardo DiCaprio’s Big Oscar Win and Other Moments from the 88th Academy Awards

Leonardo DiCaprio’s Big Oscar Win and Other Moments from the 88th Academy Awards

Every year towards the end of winter and the beginning of spring, I like to cuddle up on my couch and watch the flurry of glitz and glamour at the Academy Awards. Last night was no exception, especially with this list of my favorite headline-grabbing moments.

1. Leonardo DiCaprio’s first Oscar win

Leo may have won awards at other ceremonies such as the Teen Choice Awards and People’s Choice Awards, but when it comes to the Oscars, every girl and their mother has been waiting for this gorgeous actor to win the Academy Award for Best Actor for nearly 20 years since Titanic catapulted him to global stardom. This year, after earning six Oscar nominations, he finally earned the Best Actor award for his leading role of a 1820s frontiersman in Alejandro G. Iñárritu’s epic environmental period picture The Revenant. All the women, both in the film industry–Kate Winslet shed tears of joy for her dearest friend–and the common world, cheered for his first Oscar victory. DiCaprio accepted his long sought-after award not in vanity but in gratitude as he thanked his wonderful parents for allowing him to chase his acting dream, his mentors, and the production crew for The Revenant in his speech. He also addressed the need for us to combat climate change, as his recent film touched on the issue of the human race’s relationship with the natural environment, ending his speech with, “Let us not take this planet for granted.”

2. Chris Rock taking on the #OscarsSoWhite controversy

For the second year in a row, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hasn’t nominated a single African-American actor, director, or producer for an award in any category, yet they have chosen stand-up comedian and actor Chris Rock to host this year’s Oscars ceremony. And boy, they made the right choice. In his opening monologue, Rock cleverly joked that the Academy Awards is “otherwise known as the White People’s Choice Awards,” immediately jumping into the subject of racism in Hollywood–otherwise known as #OscarsSoWhite. He humorously points out that Hollywood is racist not to the level of the police force but rather to the extent in which college sororities are selective about their potential pledges. Some of Rock’s fellow peers in the audience either gasped at his jokes or sat in their leather seats in shocked silence. Rock also pointed out that since it’s the 88th annual Academy Awards, “this whole ‘no black nominees’ thing happened at least 71 other times” since its debut in 1929, but African-Americans didn’t make a big deal over it in decades past due to other racial issues, such as lynchings, rapes, and the Civil Rights Movement to even pay any attention to who was nominated for Best Cinematography or Best Foreign Short Picture. He made some references to recent events in Ferguson, but overall Rock did an excellent job as host.

 

3. Lady Gaga’s performance of “Till It Happens to You”

Although Lady Gaga’s song about sexual assault from CNN Films’s The Hunting Ground lost the Best Original Song bid to Sam Smith’s 007 theme “Writing’s on the Wall”, she was still able to belt out a solid, emotional performance of the anthem with introduction from Vice President Joe Biden, who urged viewers to combat campus sexual assault (the subject of the film from which the Oscar-nominated song was featured) and directed them to the website ItsOnUs.org for more information. Towards the end of the song, a group of campus rape survivors–both young men and women–who had such encouraging words and phrases as “SURVIVOR,” “YOU ARE LOVE,” and “NOT YOUR FAULT” written on their forearms in black Sharpie ink, stepped to the front of the stage and raised their arms in solidarity. Everyone gave Lady Gaga, who is a survivor of campus sexual assault as she suffered it at the age of 19, a riveting standing ovation. (Everyone except my brother, who has shunned Gaga for disrespecting the Catholic religion in her 2010 music video for the single “Alejandro.” GET. OVER. IT.)

 

4. Mad Max: Fury Road winning six production-related Oscars

This one pissed my Mom off. She was expecting the live-action Cinderella remake to win Best Costume Design, Best Makeup and Hairstyling, and Best Production Design for the characters’ frilly dresses and sophisticated suits, regal couture and Victorian-esque setting, respectively. No, those three categories went to Mad Max: Fury Road for its edgy post-apocalyptic designs for the characters and the set. Mad Max: Fury Road  won three other Oscars for technical categories my mom could care less about and should’ve been awarded to Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing, and Best Film Editing.

 

5. Spotlight robbing Best Picture from The Revenant

In the past few years, the Best Picture Oscar seems to be awarded to films who have touched on a vital, relevant social issue. Everybody was expecting The Revenant to win this category because not only did the film give a message on the ethical ramifications of revenge, it also gave the viewers a glimpse of how majestic the native environment was in the early 1800s compared to today, where we are abusing natural resources and evicting modern Native Americans from their homes for the sake of corporate industry. Spotlight, on the other hand, spoke about the efforts of the Boston Globe‘s investigative journalists to expose a rash of sexual abuse cases by Roman Catholic preists in the archdiocese of Boston, which aroused major controversy in the Catholic Church in the early 2000s. Environmentalism is just as relevant as sexual abuse in the world’s most religious institution, yet the Best Picture award went to Spotlight.  What irony.

Kingdom Hearts III at E3 2015

Kingdom Hearts III at E3 2015

At the E3 2013 conference, Square Enix and Disney Interactive announced the development of the long-awaited title Kingdom Hearts III in the form of a teaser trailer, which showed a compilation of CGI cutscenes from the previous Kingdom Hearts games in the beginning and then faded to Sora grabbing a Keyblade different from his own and fighting a horde of Heartless in Twilight Town. The graphics have drastically improved since Dream Drop Distance, thanks to a new animation program called the Kingdom Shader. My Alaskan cruise had just stopped in Ketchikan when I saw the trailer on YouTube, and I was completely surprised that Square Enix actually got around to producing Kingdom Hearts III at all.

Now, two years later, my cousin from my father’s side of the family was there to witness the new trailer for Kingdom Hearts III at Square Enix’s conference. I called him and asked if they posted a release date at the end of the trailer, and he said that it still reads “Now in Development.” I groaned. Two years after the initial announcement, I thought Square Enix would be towards the finish line in cooking up Kingdom Hearts III, releasing it to the gaming market by next year the latest, but some people (my cousin included) believe that it will be done later than that.

The recent trailer for Kingdom Hearts III–dubbed in English, and showed teenaged Eraqus and Xehanort playing chess–revealed a few things. First, Sora’s new outfit, which is a combination of his KH2 outfit and the one in Dream Drop Distance sans the “X” sigil. Tetsuya Nomura, the creator of the Kingdom Hearts series, was pressured by his staff to design that outfit for Sora to accommodate for his Flowmotion moves. I’m not exactly sure–nor is anyone else entirely sure–if Sora is gonna wear that outfit the entire time, or if he’s gonna magically change from his KH2 outfit to his new one when the need requires just like his Form outfits. Second, some of the new Disney film worlds that Sora, Donald Duck, and Goofy are going to travel to, and the only one added to the World Map so far is the world based on 2010’s Tangled. And finally, the Keyblade’s transformations. It can turn into dual bazooka-lasers at will, and change into some Disneyland rides, including the Mad Tea Party teacups and the Thunder Mountain train. Not to mention, a pegasus drawing a chariot. Everyone was hyped to see all of that.

The new teaser trailer for Kingdom Hearts III also made me ponder about some challenges that Square Enix and Disney Interactive will face. The first of these is who will voice Ansem the Wise (if he’ll appear in the game at all) and Master Xehanort now that Christopher Lee and Leonard Nimoy, respectively, have recently passed away. Actually, Lee was replaced by Corey Burton in Re:Chain of Memories, Birth by Sleep, and Dream Drop Distance, so that part of the problem solved itself. The real problem is who will take Nimoy’s place as the voice behind Master Xehanort. When Nimoy died earlier this year, I didn’t know that he voiced the main antagonist in Birth by Sleep and Dream Drop Distance, but I do know that his voice-acting in the games was incomparably legendary. I do hope they find someone whose voice is equal to that of the late Nimoy. Honestly, I wish any Star Trek fan would’ve told me that Nimoy voiced Xehanort before I read his filmography on Wikipedia. Another challenge is asking Utada Hikaru if she will write a new opening theme song for Kingdom Hearts III. I understand that in most anime a new opening theme by a different artist will play at some point, but I think Square Enix is crazy if they’re thinking about replacing Utada with someone else as the main singer of the series. I know Utada is still on hiatus from music and has gone through some trials and tribulations, including the tragic death of her mother, Keiko Fuji, and her marriage to Francesco Calliano, but had she not sang for the Kingdom Hearts series I wouldn’t be listening to her music today.

As for the release date…well, I just hope that Kingdom Hearts III comes out next spring or next summer. If Square Enix decides to release it by the time I earn my Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communications, I will be seriously pissed. After all, Nomura stepped down from Final Fantasy XV so he could finish producing Kingdom Hearts III as quickly as humanly possible.

Harry Shearer Leaves “The Simpsons”? Not Excellent!

Harry Shearer Leaves “The Simpsons”? Not Excellent!

I’ve been watching The Simpsons since its 24th season, and I’m very amazed by the jokes the producers cracked at mainstream society through the characters and by the fact that the voice actors have the ability to portray a plethora of characters at once (except for Yeardley Smith, who voices Lisa Simpson alone). So when I heard that Harry Shearer, the voice behind Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, etc., was leaving the show after a Guinness world record-breaking 26 seasons, two words came to mind: “HOLY SHIT.”

According to several news outlets such as IGN and Daily Mail, Shearer left The Simpsons following a dispute regarding a $14 million contract–the same contract all the other voice actors signed. He declined the offer in pursuit of other entertainment ventures, such as stage production and radio shows.

While I respect Harry Shearer retiring from The Simpsons, I don’t really know how Mr. Burns, Ned Flanders, Principal Skinner, and some of the other characters he voiced will sound with someone else–or with new voice actors, for that matter. Some people have already declared the show deceased due to the departure of the incredible talent of Shearer. I, on the other hand, have faith that The Simpsons will still be good regardless of these circumstances. The producers just need to find someone or some people who know Harry Shearer’s vocal patterns better than anyone else and they’ll be fine.