Monday, May 8, 2017

Storks and The Dove Foundation

The Dove Foundation is a Christian based review site. It is a non-profit, that's mission is to: "promote the creation, production, distribution and consumption of wholesome family entertainment."

And yet what constitutes wholesome entertainment isn't clearly defined anywhere on their website. Their seals of approval include: family approved (all ages), family approved (for 12 and older), faith friendly, and faith based.

While it seems that The Dove Foundation aspires to something of the Hayes code values, it's hard to know. The lack of clearly defined requirements for what is considered "wholesome" gives some freedom for the site to be vague about their own values. For instant in their review of Love Free or Die (2013):

"This is a controversial DVD for sure. There are not many people who take middle ground when it comes to the debate on homosexuality and its place in the church. Although conservative voices speak up in this documentary, it is slanted toward the acceptance of gay leaders in the church, a stand which many of our Dove conservative viewers will have a hard time swallowing."

This film did not receive a family approved rating, but the foundation also never specifies whether homosexuality in of itself is a reason a film could not receive an approval. They also specify the feeling of the Dove conservative viewers, but not whether or not The Dove Foundations own values align with a conservative perspective (one assumes that they do). In their review of ParaNorman they say:

"The use of “Sweet baby J” is one line which, with other factors included in the content, doom the picture from receiving our Dove Seal. It is certain the term is not used in respect. In addition, the ghost of a hippie is clearly seen holding a lit marijuana cigarette and, along with the strong occult themes, a young male character named Mitch tells a girl that is interested in him that she would like his “boyfriend”."

Recently Storks was granted a Family Approved seal.

Tangent for a moment, because Storks is a new favorite of mine. This movie is wonderful. It is about a world where Storks used to deliver babies, but now deliver packages. When a soon to be promoted Stork  gets mixed up with a human orphan (that his company has raised), they must team up to try and deliver a mistakenly created baby from the old abandoned baby factory... If that plot summary sounds odd, it is.  I don't have the words do this movie justice. Full of slapstick visual humor it is an increasingly chaotic adventure where every situation escalates to a humorous extreme. Just as I thought I would know where the plot was going, it would pivot slightly. I have, as of this blog, now seen this movie on six occasions, because I'm obsessive, and it's lovely.

And the Dove Foundation highly recommended it also.

So, here is where things get interesting, (and a bit spoilery). At the end of this film the storks deliver bunches of babies all across the world. All different types of families are shown receiving children, including: single parents, interracial parents, and gay parents. While some other Christian-targeting review sites list this scene with gay couples as a reason for concern, the Dove Foundation does not. Which brings up the question of whether the reviewers did not notice this scene, or if there is a shift within the organization over what is considered appropriate.

I want to be optimistic. Perhaps The Dove Foundation has changed there opinion on what they find appropriate, perhaps they are testing the waters to see how their more conservative viewers feel. But it's probably that Storks has simple done what children's cartoons have a long history of doing: sneaking things passed the censor. Recently on The Dove Foundation's Facebook page, an angry fan (whose name I've redacted) pointed out this scene.

There has been no reply, and no changes made to the Storks review. Take that as you will. And take the time to watch Storks, it is great fun and well worth it.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Comic Book Violence Translated to Film

This post was originally published on the 3twins blog. Lightly rewritten.

I decided to post it here because of my personal reaction to the season premiere of Walking Dead (maybe I should do a whole post on that, ha). One of the things I have found interesting on forums discussing the episode is that there seems to be a comic book loyalist camp who defend aspects of Season 7, Episode 1, that other viewers might have an issue with (particularly when it comes to violence, tone and pacing) by loudly yelling: BUT IT'S CANON. Fair enough. But I have yet to see anyone actually discuss how readers of comics can interact with still imagery differently then film, and how when translating a comic book (or graphic novel) to film the writers, directors, editors, etc. are making decisions for the viewer that effect how they interact with the narrative. A comic can be translated in a number of different ways and still be canon and true to its source material. And without further ado:

Comic Book Violence
Art can paint a striking picture of a very ugly scene in the same way that a violent novel can use words to shape the way a reader interacts with the scene described. I have found that when violent comics are translated into film, even stylistically, there is the idea that in order to be true to the comic, the film must display graphic violence in minute detail. I think it’s interesting to look at the way we interact with horror and violence in drawings versus live action. Or how the art itself affects the impact of the scene.
Pretty Deadly often uses stylist violence as a visual metaphor. Would the intent of the artwork be captured in directly translating the scene to live action?

Chew is a black comedy comic book about a detective who must literally eat parts of the bodies of evidence in order to have visions of the deceased’s lives to help him solve cases. Drawn in a cartoonish style of bright pastels, the story is able to deal with violence in a comedic way that relies on the art for its punchline.

If translated into live action, would these scenes be funny? A graphic scene of the main character being vomited on would technically be canon.
In a critical look at the translation from comic to film of WatchmenJason Haggstrom discusses the use of over-the-top violence. Haggstrom points out how in the source material the readers are shamed for enjoying violence in comics, even as they read a violent scene.
According to Haggstrom, “But Snyder’s film never allows for a moment of such self-reflexivity. The audience is never asked how they feel about graphic violence; instead, they are simply forced to participate in the director’s own personal cinematic fetish for showing it. Snyder’s overemphasis on graphic violence only serves to appease the gore-seeking audience—those who enjoyed the same tactics in Snyder’s previous, gore-heavy films, Dawn of the Dead and 300—while turning off the average viewer and alienating the book’s thematic use of violence as a method of superhero deconstruction. Instead, Zach Snyder’s adaptation of Watchmen simply revels in violent images for their own sake.”

The question of whether a viewer interacts differently with stylized live-action versus a static-drawn image isn’t easily answered (as the answer, of course, depends on the person).

There have been films that try to capture the feeling of a comic through stylistic live-action, like Sin City or 300. Many people view these films as works of art in their own right.
But, readers can quickly glance over an image of violence that makes them uncomfortable in a way viewers cannot when that single panel or page becomes an extended scene in a film or TV show. A single line of text or a single image can becomes every action that panel represents. How much time does a reader spend looking at a violent image? In a film, that choice is made for you.

Would this be a brief camera shot, or a repeated online beating that lasts minutes or more. Is one more true to the comic then the other? The answer of course, is going to be entirely subjective based on the way one reads the comic.
Of course, there isn’t one right way to interact with art. And for many, violent imagery in film might elicit a more emotional abstract response as a more stylistic drawing of violence does for me. Or a viewer might see a violent live-action scene as more emotionally honest than the way a drawing can abstract an upsetting concept.
It’s not wrong to make a violent live-action flick that represents drawings of violence as it would appear in real life, but I don’t think it is always a more authentic way of translating comic books to film. 
As film renditions of comic books become increasingly popular, I hope we will see even more experimentation in how comics are translated to film. An animated Chew movie in the style of comic series is in the works, and the popularity of movies like Sin City encourage more stylistic live action films to be made.
How do you feel? Do you interact with comic imagery differently than the same story in live action?

I'm sure there are many fans who enjoyed the season premiere, and there is nothing wrong with that, but the very discussion of what canon means when translating comics to film, particularly in terms of violence is very complicated and I hope that can be a part of fans conversations.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

The Lion Guard - Timon and Pumbaa - Bunga's Uncles

Timon and Pumbaa are back in Disney Junior's newest addition to the Lion King universe: The Lion Guard. They are still a part of Simba's family, and have adopted a new kid; a honey badger named Bunga. I can't say this show is particularly... of substance, but it's nice to see the Lion King's "two uncles" are still together and going strong.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Ever After High: Lesbian Princess

For those who have yet to watch Dragon Games, this happened:

In case some of you readers are not up on your product-based animation series, Ever After High is both a fashion doll line and a web/Netflix series produced by Mattel. It is about the children of fairy tale heroes and villains attending a boarding school together. It is also a huge part of the reason Disney switched their Princess line to Hasbro. 
three dolls from the ever after high line in dragon rider outfits
Ever After High dolls
Descendants dolls similar design to Ever After High, but with more Disney style faces
Descendants dolls
According to this Bloomberg article,  at the same time Mattel was working on this princess spin-off of their Monster High doll line, Disney was developing Descendants (a Disney version of the children of fairy tale heroes and villains going to boarding school together) to be produced by Hasbro. Because of the competition with Ever After High, Disney moved all their princess dolls to Hasbro also. As Clair Suddath writes:

"Several former Mattel employees point to the 2013 release of Ever After High as the last straw for Disney. Chris Sinclair, a Mattel board member who took over as CEO in January, agrees."

Guru Studio, a leading Canadian animation studio, produced all of the Ever After High cartoons in house. It is a stylized 2D ToonBoom animation, while there might be some complaints in similarity in character's body types (since all of the character's are going to be sold as dolls), outside of this it's animation is surprisingly fun.

The primary focus of the stories are that Raven (daughter of the Evil Queen) wants to escape her destiny and thinks others shouldn't feel trapped by their destiny either. The problem with this is that heroes (like Apple White) need their villains to be evil, otherwise the heroes will never receive the just rewards their own fairy tales promise. This sets up a surprisingly fun look at villains that want to be good, and heroes who need them to be evil (with some not so fun advertisements for tie-in products smooshed into the stories).

Which brings us back to the are-they or aren't-they kiss of Dragon Games.

Apple White's curse was meant to be broken by true love's kiss. But, Daring Charming (her fated prince) was unable to wake her when he tried. It was his sister, white knight Darling Charming, who succeeded. Of course, this was not through a kiss, exactly, but CPR. Which, like most double coding, can easily be ignored by anyone who might be offended.

While, a lot has changed since I first started this blog, it seems unlikely that Mattel would make one of the main characters of this series gay, but they are letting everyone sit with the ambiguity.

In their most resent season Epic Winter, it seems that Daring Charming's failed kiss has caused a rift between him and Apple White. It has yet to be established whether or not Apple knows who it was that actually woke her, but Daring get's a new love interest. Perhaps this was simple a smart marketing decision to sell a new doll duo.

Still, I'm curious to see if Mattel simply writes this all off as "friendship is a form of true love" and never mention it again, or if they will continue to hint at a second reading of Apple and Darling's relationship.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Disney Needs More Straight Reblog

This video looks at some of the ways in which Disney has been subverting their own princess tropes.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Zootopia's Judy Hopps Reblog

An article I've been working on just went up today over at the Animation World Network. It was so wonderful working with Dan Sarto again. He really helped narrow my idea, and I'm so pleased with how it turned out. Check it out HERE. The article is about gender in animation, and looking at what makes the primary protagonist in Zootopia so unique.