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The Trailers Before Zootopia - Elf M. Sternberg
The Trailers Before Zootopia
Omaha and the kid and I went out to see Zootopia. No spoilers for the movie; let's just say that it's a rather astonishing piece of animated art which tells a story, has a plot, has a theme, has a meaning, and manages not to be preachy at all about it. It opens with a friggin' children's pageant (which is just about the preachiest thing you can imagine outside of a church), states two different themes before the main plot begins, takes a left turn and delivers a third theme, all the while being entertaining and touching as hell, with wonderful, quirky characters and a rather interesting plotline all the same. At the end of the movie, one of the main characters delivers a short exegesis of second theme, the one fit for kids, which fits perfectly with her character arc, leaving adults to ponder the third theme.

It's almost like the writers were working at four different things at once: a plot for kids, a plot for adults, a theme for kids, and a theme for adults. Oh, that first theme? Not relevant: if anything, the movie is an argument about civilization doesn't make for miracles.

What did we get before Zootopia? Four trailers for four different animated films: Ratchet & Clank, The Secret Life of Pets, Angry Birds: The Movie, and Ice Age 5.

Ratchet & Clank was unimaginably dull and uninspired; if that's the best they can put into the trailer, they have a problem. Ice Age 5 was stupid and unempathetic, focusing on body humor and embarrassment. The Secret Life of Pets had some potential, but still left me doubtful. Angry Birds: The Movie was a befouled hideous exercise in milking a franchise: bathroom humor of the worst sort combined with a thin tissue of unreasonable plot, combined with humiliation for the characters that encourages you to laugh at them, not with them.

Every couple of years, John Lasseter gets a couple of writers into a room with pens and notepads and a whiteboard and a set of rules and says, "Here's the idea. Make me a story." And he wrings everything out of them. They don't go by the beatsheet, they go by The 22 Pixar Rules of Storytelling.

But here's the thing: I don't think this is that hard. It takes discipline, time, and effort. All things I like to think writers pride themselves on. The evidence that any of the other films tried even remotely to do what Lasseter does shows that other animation franchises, when it comes to writing, just don't care all that much. They don't have any respect for their audiences (see rule number 2), and it shows.

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Current Mood: discontent discontent
Current Music: TISM, Everyone Else Has Had More Sex Than Me

5 comments or Leave a comment
ungulata From: ungulata Date: March 21st, 2016 07:54 pm (UTC) (Link)
I believe that the majority of big-budget films (that includes animated features) suffer from defective storytelling. All the money seems to be spent on popular actors, visual effects, cinematography and sound. It's like the story, plausibility and dialog is an afterthought, an excuse for what we're expected to really want: explosions, fights, car chases and roller coaster rides through the air.
omahas From: omahas Date: March 23rd, 2016 06:14 pm (UTC) (Link)
And it's getting worse. JJ Abrams destroyed the concept of Star Trek in the reboot. Large starships, big explosions, fun action...no real story, no depth at all. All of Star Trek, from TOS through Enterprise tried to focus on story and depth for the majority of their episodes...even their movies. But Abrams just doesn't know how to do real story (unless someone puts a leash on him).

Zootopia was superb...the best animated I've seen in a while. The trailers before hand were pathetic in comparison (although What Pets Do has some promise).

Interestingly enough, games for years focused on the characters, the video, the special effects, the story...sound was an after-thought that was "stapled on" at the end. It took a long time for the game publishers and developers to realize just how important sound really was, and to start planning it in at the beginning with everything else.
ungulata From: ungulata Date: March 25th, 2016 01:53 am (UTC) (Link)
I just got back from watching a movie called Divergent. Wow, was it bad. It's 200 years after a war has turned the planet into a chemical hot-springs, except for an oasis or two, such as bombed-out Chicago. And it's not worth the bandwidth to rabbit on about everything that didn't work or make sense in this movie. The special effects were real nice, of course.

So it's not just JJ Abrams. I should have stayed home.
resonant From: resonant Date: March 22nd, 2016 03:07 am (UTC) (Link)
I must go listen to TISM now.
elfs From: elfs Date: March 22nd, 2016 03:16 am (UTC) (Link)
... should I apologize? Or should we just move on to Somebody Start A Fight Or Something?
5 comments or Leave a comment