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.

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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.

 

 

Sonic the Hedgehog: Running to the Big Screen

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Sonic’s promotional picture for the 2012 Disney animated film “Wreck-It Ralph.” No concept artwork for the new Sonic film is being produced at the moment, but this a close second. Courtesy: Wikia

If you saw Sonic among other video game characters in Disney 2012 animated film Wreck-It Ralph, you probably thought that will be the first and last time the Blue Blur would appear on the big screen, right? Wrong!

Sega Sammy has announced Wednesday, Feb. 10 that they are indeed working with Sony Pictures to produce a live-action/CGI-animated hybrid Sonic the Hedgehog movie to be released in…2018.

There were some Internet whispers about a Sonic film being produced by Sony a couple years ago, with some speculating that if the movie is being made at all, it would be released either this year or in 2017. Some fans, like myself, were elated to hear the news of Sonic scoring his own big-screen gig, and some got impatient when Sega Sammy said it would be completed by 2018. I consider myself to be on the border of excited and impatient. Excited because, like the majority of the Sonic fanbase (which I’ve been a part for 12 years and counting), I have been waiting for a Sonic film, or movie industry chatter of it, to see the light of day; and impatient because two years is too long for us to see the final cut in theaters. Then again, the original Sonic Adventure took 18 months to develop.

I’m also skeptical about the quality of the new Sonic film for two reasons. First, one of the laws of the gaming community dictates that films based on video games do not adhere to source material, therefore we shouldn’t waste our money on film adaptations of such games. To wit, the live-action Super Mario Bros. movie (1993). In this film, Mario and Luigi’s (Bob Hoskins and John Leguizamo, respectively) plumbing business is being financially ousted by a major construction company in Brooklyn, Princess Daisy studies archaeology at NYU, and Bowser (or King Koopa) attempts to merge the dinosaur-civilized dimension with the human world 65 million years after a meteorite split the universe in two–a story that is the polar opposite of the canon’s plot. I saw some parts of the movie as a kid but not the whole thing, so I saved myself from an incessant head-banging session after hearing from the core Mario fans themselves how badly the movie performed. In 2007, both the late Hoskins and Leguizamo stated in an interview with The Guardian and the autobiography Pimps, Hos, Playas and the Rest of my Hollywood Friends, respectively, that the Super Mario Bros. movie was the worst film they ventured into as actors.
Secondly, live-action/CGI hybrid films suffered a 20-year history of harsh panning from film critics, who deemed Space Jam, Osmosis Jones, Looney Tunes: Back in Action, Alvin and the Chipmunks, and The Smurfs as extremely pale compared to the first live-action/CGI hybrid Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Space Jam was stellar because Michael Jordan was cast to play alongside the Looney Tunes in a intergalactic basketball game against aliens who usurped the talents of Jordan’s NBA peers, but I guess the critics attacked the other films mentioned above for implementing the same formula the 1996 Warner Bros. classic created: cast famous celebrities as either the voices of the cartoon characters or as co-stars with their favorite characters. You can guess which film did either-or.

I hope that whoever is directing the new Sonic movie is so loyal to the franchise he’ll follow the source material and keep the personalities of the Sonic characters intact. Whether the director will base the movie on the games, the comics, or even both remains to be seen. As for which actors will co-star with Sonic and Company…well, I’m expecting they will celebrities who have been Sonic fans since either ’91 or ’98. The game series’s voice-acting cast should remain as they are unless either Jaleel White or Ryan Drummond are called upon to reprise their role of Sonic.

For the next two years, let’s give Sega Sammy and Sony Pictures our best wishes on Sonic’s cinematic endeavor.

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.