Friday, December 16, 2016

Best Disney Character Designs

            I have not been posting nearly enough this year and I want to steer back from that.  To that end I have found a 30-day blog challenge and fluffed it out to 31 entries (since December has 31 days).  I have done a 30-day challenge before for movies, though that one was poorly executed (I started it in the middle of a month, at one point I posted 2 entries on one day, it is a mess).  I did another one just this year in August on Video Games, that one was better, go read it after this one, all of it.  Or don’t, no pressure.

            Today is day 16 and the topic is “Best Character Designs”.
This movie took second place in the “Favorite Setting” entry, and edges out “Inside Out” for best character designs.  The glowing embodiments of emotions found in “Inside Out” are rather hard to top, but this movie has an element of that concept—embodying something—and has the advantage of sheer numbers as a good chunk of the opening musical number is introducing the various creative nightmares that populate this little corner of the world.

This thing is an avalanche of fan artwork.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas” was not the darling of Disney when it came out, but due to having strong appeal for the two most profitable holidays on the calendar it has met with enough replay to attain an iconic status.  The unique imagery and strange designs allow it to exist on its own grading scale of style and fashion, allowing it to be the un vivisected golden goose of Hot Topic and a touchstone of modern gothic aesthetic.
Most of the rest of this blog is not about character design but related topics to “The Nightmare Before Christmas”.  Just FYI.

Compare and Contrast
I would say that what makes “Nightmare” work so much more compared to its contemporary counterpart, “James in the Giant Peach” is the mean spirited tone of “James” while “Nightmare” is idealistic and hopeful, in spite of the main character being the villain of the movie.
And before you object, Jack is definitely the villain protagonist of the movie.  Jack kidnaps Santa Claus to steal his place in the pantheon of holidays, that is an evil and selfish act, the Grinch was a villain and he didn’t even kidnap any people.  Sure, Oogie Boogie is a more transparently dangerous threat, but he is not the inciting incident and mostly serves the narrative as a final threat to overcome rather than an insidious force.
BUT, that being said, the idealism shines thru when you see that Jack doesn’t take over Christmas out of malice but because he thinks he could do well at it and wants to grow beyond his personal limitations.  Jack’s character arc is realizing that his limitations exist and that he should embrace his talents.

I also just don't really like the taste of peach in general.
Watching them eat this thing made me kind of sick to my stomach.
Meanwhile, Spiker and Sponge, the villainous aunts in “James” are so transparently vile and have no reason for abusing James beyond just being assholes that the film feels dirtier and more unpleasant for them being in it.  Which is the point, but I am saying that is why it is a less well remembered movie overall.

Another contrast that can be drawn to “Nightmare” is its younger sibling, “The Corpse Bride”.  Made by mostly the same team, both are musicals with macabre subject matter, and both use stop motion animation.  What allows “Nightmare” to stand out in this comparison is how it has a light side to juxtapose with the darkness.  Christmas Town is a bright happy place covered with snow and happy décor, by showing it after showing Halloween Town the creative division is all the more striking and interesting.

Conversely, “Corpse” is grey and dower the whole way.  The underworld presented is actually more lively than the living world which is perhaps the moodiest film location I have can recall.  That lack of contrast makes the movie, literally and figuratively duller in the mind’s eye.

Stop Motion Animation
            I have a particular soft spot for stop motion animation.  The idea of bringing toys to life via the magic of photography makes my brain light up.  Unfortunately, even though Disney has made use of the technique in the past it seems to be the forgotten tool in their shed at this point.  While they have expanded in breadth and depth their Intellectual Property stable and have kept the pokers hot in numerous techniques (CGI, hand drawn animation, live action productions, MUPPETS, and news/sports) they have not been supporting stop motion as much as I think they could.
            In comes Studio Laika, creators of “ParaNorman” (which I love), “Box Trolls” (which I love), their adaptation of “Coraline” (Which I love both as a book and movie), and “Kubo and the Two Strings” (which came out this year and I did not have an opportunity to see yet, but I will probably love it).

I love this stuff.
Laika has also produced “The Corpse Bride” which (as mentioned above) I did not care as much for, but that was in 2005, 4 years before “Coraline”, so it is fair to say they are a different company now and that project was very much emphasizing the creative vision of Tim Burton.
Laika is the big dog on the field concerning stop motion animation and THEY DO NOT GET ENOUGH ATTENTION.  Even though their movies are made relatively inexpensively, to an average of $40 million, a steal by animated feature standards, and they consistently produce strong writing and animation they do not get the commercial and critical attention they deserve.
            I actually envision a future in which Laika is bought out by Disney and turned into a stop motion Pixar, running themselves but having the advertising and merchandising empire of Disney to make them much more known and profitable.  I do not know if that will happen, but if it did, I couldn’t see it as a bad thing.

            Share your own thoughts on this in the comments.  I know I am not the only person out there who is nostalgic for Disney products, and I am sure many people disagree with my selection for today’s entry. 
I picked Disney stuff just because I knew there was so much of it to talk about and it lends itself to discussion in the comments.  So please, tell me how my opinion about cartoon movies is biased and how your opinion on cartoon movies is objectively right.

If you like or hate this please take the time to comment, +1, share on Twitter, Tumblr, or Facebook, and otherwise distribute my opinion to the world.  I would appreciate it.

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