Archive for the ‘Animation’ Category

The Vinyl Scratch Tapes Audio Adaptation

December 30, 2011 1 comment

Hello everyone. Sorry about the long gap in posting, but life has been kind crazy these past few months.

Anyway, you may recall earlier in the year where I talked about the fanfiction I wrote for My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, The Vinyl Scratch Tapes.

I am pleased to announce that some very talented individuals have made an audio adaptation of my fanfic. So far only the first two chapters are complete, but the quality of them is superb. They even approached me to write some original content for the adaptation, which I was happy to do. I even wrote a short Christmas special for them.

The voice acting in them is superb and far greater than I could have ever imagined. I’m very flattered to have such talented people working on a project adapting something I wrote.

Check them out:


Pony Fanfiction: An Ongoing Saga

Watch the show. Ponies are f***ing metal

I’m going to set a record for weird blog post titles.

You may remember last month I admitted to writing fanfiction based on the enormously popular reboot of My Little Pony and questioned whether it was worth doing or if I was less of a writer for doing so. Well, it’s been a month since I started and I do have to say that, despite what I may have originally thought, I think this experience has helped me grow as a writer. And yes, I’m being serious. It’s actually a pretty good story that I wanted to take the time to share. Allow me to explain.

My first crack at My Little Pony fanfiction was a crack crossover between the show and the Cthulhu Mythos. I wrote three chapters and eventually sent it to popular fansite Equestria Daily. For those of you who don’t know, Equestria Daily is pretty much the main gathering place for teenagers and adults that surprisingly enjoy the show. They also showcase fanfiction, but have pre-readers who approve everything first to make sure everything is high quality. As a result of this, most of the fanfics on the site are actually worth reading, like Progress (a very well-done comedic work). I wrote three chapters over the course of like a week (much faster than I usually write) and submitted it, certain it would get accepted instantly.

It wasn’t.

I was surprised, but it was a well-needed boot to my ego. I know I’m a fairly decent writer, but I hadn’t even considered the possibility of having to edit what I had written before I submitted. I am actually a relatively through editor for other stuff I’ve written, but I didn’t edit this fanfic at all at first. The reason for this? Well … to be honest, it was a fanfic and I was lazy.  The response I got was really helpful, telling me what I needed to work on and fix before it could be posted. Oddly enough, it was actually the most helpful critique I’ve ever gotten for anything I’ve written period. I wasn’t discouraged at all. I was thankful that it actually helped my craft, not to mention teaching me that any writer should always take what they do seriously. Thinking I could just write anything and people would like it anyway was rather arrogant and untrue.

I spent the next several days thoroughly editing it and submitted again, and this time it was accepted. I was very excited, having learned a lot about writing in such a short span of time (from writing fanfiction no less). Since Equestria Daily was a popular site and I thought my story was fairly good, I was certain it would become crazy popular.

It didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong, it was rated very well and the people who read it did like it, but it wasn’t exactly an earth-shattering response. But still, it was fun to write … up until about chapter four when I got writers block on it. The story was relatively serious, and the only ideas for it I could think of involved throwing a DJ pony (based on a non-speaking background character from the show) in there to give exposition over the radio, but that had nothing to do with the rest of the story.

Still, I liked that idea and I ended up writing a different story that was just about that DJ pony hosting a radio show. Since I’m relatively good with dialogue, but not so great with prose, I thought it might be fun to write a story that was only dialogue, so each chapter of this story was done in the style of a transcript of the “actual” broadcast of the radio show. Also, since I had never written a straight comedy before, I thought it might be fun to give that a shot too (part of the reason I liked the idea so much). At the last minute, I got the idea to pair her with another pony who would act as the straight man.

What ended up coming from this was a story I called The Vinyl Scratch Tapes. Like I said, I had never done a straight comedy before, but I was surprised to find I had a lot of fun with it and I managed to turn out a pretty good product. After last time, I wasn’t expecting a huge response, but I had a hunch this might turn out a little more popular than before, especially since I enjoyed writing this even more than anything I had written in the past year (including the first draft of an original novel and several short stories). So I sent it to Equestria Daily and, unlike last time, it was accepted right away.

Turns out my expectations were a little low, since this story got ridiculously popular. I mean, it wasn’t the most popular fanfic on the site or anything, but it did get a huge response. People loved the comedy in it, so I kept writing more (throwing in a bit of dramedy in there as well). Each chapter I wrote of it seemed more well received than the previous one. Not too shabby for someone who didn’t think they could do comedy well. While my first story sort of drifted into obscurity, this one gets responses all the time. Heck, it even has some good fan art to boot.

This is the first piece of fanart I remember recieving for anything ever, so it's pretty special to me.

I’m in the middle of writing the last chapter of this story arc (though I think I’ll end up doing more in the future when I have time). I ended up learning a lot from this, namely that sometimes its important to do what feels fun rather than worry about what other people will think of it. I learned I’m way better at writing funny things than I thought and I enjoy it much more. Before writing these stories, I was trying to write horror short stories which died on the page. I was actually pretty depressed about it, but working on these stories picked my spirits up a bit. It did show me I am a good writer at a time when I wasn’t certain of that. I have a few ideas for original works that I want to work on, stories that will take advantage of the skills I learned from these fanfics.

Overall, I think it turned out pretty good and was very worth my time. And all this came about from watching a kid’s show. Sometimes it’s the little things that end up snowballing into moments that define us.

I’m sure some of the people reading this might find it funny I enjoy this show and even sillier that I wrote fanfiction of it, but I found it a very heartwarming experience. I found a lot of people who enjoyed what I wrote and showed me my strengths and weaknesses. I felt more rewarding writing this than I have anything else in recent memory. I just thought it was a neat enough story to share with you all.

Good Shows: Daria

I saw a lot of animated shows growing. I loved to watch cartoons. I like to think that I was able to catch most of the good ones while they were still running like, say, Hey Arnold and Clone High. However, they have been many times where I completely miss the boat on a good show and don’t watch it until long after it has gone off the air. Most people (myself included) had this experience with Firefly, but there is another show I absolutely loved that I didn’t even watch for the first time until it was long off the air and that I didn’t watch in its entirety until this past year. That show is Daria.

For those unaware, Daria was a spinoff of Beavis and Butthead, a classic MTV cartoon show that many people love. I… think parts of it were okay, but I never really got into it. Daria was a very minor character who was occasionally the soul voice of reason in whatever dumb adventure the titular characters involved themselves in. Eventually, she got her own show.

It aired on MTV and the basic plot of the show sounds like standard MTV fare. It’s about a girl going to high school. Now, I personally don’t like teen dramas. Luckily, like Clone High, Daria is more like an anti-teen drama more than anything else. Daria is a very smart girl with strong beliefs, but she is also mercilessly sarcastic and holds nothing but contempt for the idiots around her and the tedious bullcrap she deals with as a result of being a teenager in high school. Its very relatable, especially if you didn’t really fit in while you were in high school.

A strong point of Daria are the characters. There’s Daria, her equally sarcastic artistic best friend Jane, Daria’s sister Quinn who is a popular ditzy girl who initially seemed like a polar opposite of Daria, the school quarterback Kevin who is super friendly and dumb as a sack of rocks, his cheerleader girlfriend Brittney who isn’t that bright either but is a genius compared to Kevin, and hosts of others. Even though the show is predominately a comedy, the characters are consist and most of them develop over the course of the series (especially Daria, but we’ll come back to that). Quinn, who initially seems like a pretty archetypical character, has a lot of hidden depth in that she is rather intelligent in her own right but feels like she has to keep it repressed in order to be popular. Jane starts out as someone Daria can make sarcastic comments with, but later fleshes out, showing both good elements of her personality (creativity and more sociability than Daria) as well as her weaknesses (mostly jealousy). No character is strictly two dimensional and has a little more going on with them than initially shown. The best thing is that, since this is mostly a comedic show, none of this development is overdramatic or forced like in bad teen dramas. Don’t get me wrong, there are dramatic moments (quite a few actually in the last two seasons), but it is always consistent with the characters and usually funny in some way.

The most satisfying thing about Daria, by far, is the main character herself and how it shows her growth. Daria is a fun character, if only because she cuts down almost everyone around her in amusing ways, but she can be quite a jerk. After she becomes friends with Jane, someone like her, she slowly starts to open up more. She is always sarcastic and often apathetic about everything around her, but she starts to interact more socially with others and grows as a person. The entire series basically ends up being a coming of age tale, without really beating you over the head with it. The last two seasons are where the coming of age aspect is the most obvious, but I won’t spoil exactly what happens in those two seasons if you haven’t seen it since I want people to enjoy the series themselves. The series shows her through her last two years of high school and by the end of the series, her growth as a person is very obvious. The Daria at the end of the series is not the same one in the first episode. It is a funny series that also manages to show gradual, clear character growth.

If you’ve never seen Daria, do yourself a favor and pick up the series on DVD. I cannot recommend it enough. If you like animation or you just want to see a good comedic series with a sarcastic tone, pick it up. You will not be disappointed.

Concerning A Troll in Central Park (and Why It’s Bad)

Like many people on the internet for any extended period of time, I’m familiar with the Nostalgia Critic. He’s a very funny reviewer and his site is filled with very talented people (even if some of them are criminally under-appreciated, which is another topic I’m mulling over). This past week he happened to review a movie that I was very familiar with: A Troll in Central Park, a movie made by Don Bluth, creator of A Land Before Time and Secret of NIHM, among other things. This review is probably my all-time favorite episode of the Nostalgia Critic, although that’s mostly because this is a movie I saw when I was about six or seven years old. Even though it was long ago and I forgot some big chunks of it, most of the movie stuck in my mind.

It stuck in my mind because it is, without a doubt, the worst movie I had ever seen. Too this day, I have not seen a movie that I thought was worse than A Troll in Central Park. Understand, that when I was that age, up until that point I don’t think I had ever seen a movie that I could have outright said was “bad.” Not sure why, I guess it was mostly because I was a positive kid and didn’t know any better. But this movie was so bad, so poorly written, ugly to look at, and just plain dumb, that even I could tell as a kid it was bad. I saw it once and never watched it again. In fact I hid in in the back of my family’s movie cabinet to try to forget it existed.

Come on, does it even look like the movie is going to ATTEMPT to be good?

So I watched this review, wondering if the movie really would be as bad as I remember. After all, I had forgotten a few parts of it and I had only seen it once. I knew it still wasn’t a good movie, but I thought that maybe it wouldn’t be that bad looking back. So I watched the review and a bunch of memories came rushing back. And you know what? It wasn’t as bad as I remembered.

It was worse. So… so much worse.

This movie is so bad that it makes other horrible films look great by comparison. It makes Plan 9 from Outer Space look like Goodfellas. I’ve seen my share of really bad movies (mostly B-movies due to my love of MST3K and cheesy horror movies due to my current love of Rifftrax). The thing about a lot of bad movies is that they usually have some value. Most movies that are mediocre usually have one or two redeeming qualities, and most of the movies that are so bad they don’t are usually so ridiculously bad it makes you laugh (in fact, some movies are so unintentionally funny it SOMEHOW comes back around to making them good again, like how I feel about the Happening. Speaking of which, the Rifftrax for the Happening is extremely well done and I highly recommend it). A Troll in Central Park isn’t so bad it makes you laugh. It might make you cry, especially if you know Don Bluth is capable of better stuff than this since the man made All Dogs Go to Heaven, for gods sakes, but it won’t make you laugh.

The Nostalgia Critic’s review goes in-depth as to why the movie is bad, so I won’t repeat him, but I will say the worst part about the movie is that there is essentially no real theme to it. It says you should follow your dream, but it feels tacked on. Not that all stories necessarily need a theme that’s blatently obvious, but even escapist stories try to have a good plot. This movie has no plot. It’s just shit you don’t care about happening for about an hour while the main character makes you wish you could telekinetically punch the people responsible for this movie. The characters are annoying and two dimensional and, worst of all, it talks down to the audience. Basically its like “You’ll like this because you’re a kid and you won’t know better. It’s bright and there’s a lot of movement, so you won’t tell if its good or bad.” Well, considering I realized this was the worst anything done by anyone when I was six, I can tell you that’s wrong.

The best movies and stories for children are the ones that don’t talk down to them, the ones that have interesting ideas to offer and things that even adults could appreciate. Look at Up or Coraline. Those are two of my current favorite animated movies, even though they were for children. I enjoyed them both and I’m twenty years old. If a story is written well enough, adults will appreciate it even if it is intended for children. Children will appreciate stories even if they don’t notice all the depth consciously, but children know something good when they see it and most are smart enough to tell when something is just plain awful. You can’t just cover a turd in brightly colored frosting and tell them its a cake. No kid would buy that.

…I may have trailed a bit of topic here, but I do firmly believe that stories for kids and young adults should not talk down to them or treat them like idiots. There’s a very big difference between knowing your audience and just plain insulting them.

Anyway, I advise you all to check out that review. Trust me when I say that the movie really really is that bad.

Adventure Time!

Hey guys. Sorry for the lack of updates as of late. Unfortunately I’ve been quite preoccupied with work for a while, as well as a few other distractions. However, I am going to rectify the lack the updates and try to begin updating regularly once more.

Also, I realize most of my posts in this blog have been reviews and, while reviews will still be a focus of this blog, I am going to branch out and discuss more things that peak my interest. Mostly this is because I have other topics I wish to talk about and, to be honest, I’m starting to run out of things I wanted to review since I started the blog. I’ll still review things, but you’ll also notice more posts about…well, whatever I happen to feel like talking about.

So as some of you may have realized, I really enjoy animated programming (one look at my reviews could have told you that). However, it’s hard to find good animated programming these days aside from Family Guy, South Park, or a few decent shows on Cartoon Network. However, in recent times I’ve lost a bit of faith in Cartoon Network once they stopped showing shows like Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and started doing stupid things, like putting a block of LIVE ACTION REALITY SHOWS staring kids (which are themselves ripoffs of reality shows that weren’t good to begin with) on their network. This specific block was called CNReal or, as I prefer to call it, “the DUMBEST idea for anything that has ever happened!” But they’ve started to get better lately, showing more Chowder and Flapjack, which I think are pretty much the best shows on the network at the moment mostly because of how deranged they are. They still have a few shows that I think are dumb (seriously, does anyone like Johnny Test? I mean, really? I’m just saying…).

Recently though, Cartoon Network put a new show on the air. It premered on April 5th and only has one episode out already, but I already think its going to become my favorite show on the network. The show I’m referring to is called “Adventure Time With Finn And Jake.”

This show actually started out as a one-time short on Nickelodeon that one perhaps one of the most bizarre 7-minute shorts ever. It’s basically about an adventure had by a young boy who looks like the main character from Scribblenauts for some reason and his talking dog in a world that looks like it was created by a child on a sugar high. It was also hilarious and became fairly popular on some areas of the internet. You can still find the short on Youtube here:

It was random, creative, and had awesome music. It even had John Dimaggio (the voice of Bender from Futurama, among other things) voicing Jake the Dog. It was recently picked up by Cartoon Network and, seeing how popular the short was, ordered the two full seasons of the show right off the bat.

I saw the first episode of the series last night and its even better than the short. It’s still pretty random, but in a good way, much like Chowder and Flapjack (speaking of which, the creator of the show is an artist who works on Flapjack and boy, does that show). John Dimaggio still voices the dog (which is still awesome). The art style is pretty simple, but the methed-out world it takes place in is very original and every concept it introduces is creative and entertaining. It was very funny and there were quite a few jokes that I was surprised to see on a kids show. Hell, one of the funniest jokes in the whole episode was a joke that implied mercy killing, which was probably the point when I figured out this was a show for me.

It’s a really good show that’s very original. It really defies explanation. If you enjoy animation, see if you can catch the first episode of Adventure Time on DVR and check it out. If you like deranged animated programming or are just looking for a creative show that would be a refreshing change from the crap most networks are shoveling at the moment, you’ll love this. Check it out. I personally can’t wait for the next episode and I do think its kind of cool to have something to look forward to seeing on Cartoon Network for once.

Good Shows: Hey Arnold

January 4, 2010 5 comments

Now I said before I was gonna do another post about Animorphs to compliment the last one, but I think I’ll save that for next time (which looks like it will be centered around the TV show and comparing it to the book series. I just need to find some videos of the old episodes so I can see if they were as mediocre as I remember).

Anyway, we’re gonna be talking about a tv show this time and one that was somewhat popular at the time, but is a bit underrated now. That show is the Nickelodeon cartoon, Hey Arnold!

Let’s take a look back, far back, a million years ago…in the Nineties. It was a simpler time, when gas cost less than two dollars a gallon, when a new fad toy like Tamagotchi and Furby came out every year driving kids to near-Lovecraftian madness if they could not obtain them, and when Nickelodeon was still good. Which isn’t to say Nickelodeon didn’t put out good stuff after the Nineties (Avatar and Fairly Oddparents being good examples and Invader Zim being the most triumphant one, even though they cancelled it), but around the mid-Nineties was where Nick was king. They were still running successful Nicktoons like Doug, Rocko’s Modern Life, Angry Beavers (speaking of which, Rocko and Angry Beavers might end up in some future posts as well), and of course, Hey Arnold.

Hey Arnold was the second longest running cartoon on Nickelodeon, right after the cartoon that just does not die, Rugrats (I liked Rugrats as a kid, but it got worse in the later seasons. And the All Grown Up spinoff is just…just not good. At all). In case you’ve never seen the show, Hey Arnold was about a nine year old kid named Arnold who goes to school in a city. He lives with his grandparents in a boarding house filled with other odd people and goes to school with classmates just as odd. These friends of his include his best friend Gerald, a country bumpkin named Stinky, a loudmouth somewhat-paranoid and obsessive kid named Sid, a polite, perfect Canon Sue named Lila (who Arnold has a crush on most of the second half of the series) and many others.

The most prominent figure besides Arnold however is Helga Pataki. Helga Pataki is a tough tomboyish girl who is angry, bitter, and snarky most of the time. She especially likes to pick on Arnold, calling him Football Head. But, in reality, Helga is in love with Arnold. Like… really obsessed over him. But she’s afraid to tell him and instead lashes out at him, which I guess would make her a textbook Tsundere. Nobody knows her secret aside from her best friend, a smart nice girl named Phoebe, and the few people she does tell over the course of the series. Aside from Arnold, she was the most focused upon character on the show and as a result seemed to have the most depth, but we’ll come back to that.

This show had a lot of things going for it. For one thing, it was funny for both kids and adults like 90% of the most successful Nick shows. This was in no small part to the fact that there were many, many, many jokes that seemed to creep back the censor (Helga’s poetry had a lot of this in it, I think more than once making a line in them about her “girlhood” trembling, which…I REALLY have no idea how that got past the censor, but it went over most kids heads. That’s just one example I can think of now, but seriously, this show had enough mature jokes slipped in that rivaled Rocko’s Modern Life in dirty joke stealth). It also had a good cast of voice actors. All the kids in the show were voiced by actual kids (which is a rare occurrence in voice acting) and all the kids were talented and seemed genuine in their performances. Not only that, but it also had Simpson alumni Dan Castellaneta and Tress MacNeille doing the voices for Arnold’s Grandpa and Grandma, who are two of the funniest characters on the show.

The shows were episodic in nature, with the only real story arc running through the whole series being that Helga is in love with Arnold and masks it by picking on him. The plots involved a lot of stuff you would typically in a show about kids in school (there’s one about a teacher’s strike, one about getting a new teacher, one VERY funny one about Phoebe making a fool of herself in front of the entire student body and getting humiliated for it to the point she never wants to go to school again, which rings very true to anyone whose ever been picked on by a large group of people in school), but it also had a lot of episodes that dealt with weirder stuff, mostly involving urban legends which the kids either encountered or actively investigated (for example, there’s one episode where there’s a legend about a dead mobster hiding his money on a cave in an island near the city and the kids go on a Goonies style search for it). There’s also another episode where Arnold encounters a deranged man who acts like a superhero named Monkeyman whose voiced by Andy Dick, and yes, its as weird and funny as it sounds). Most of the episodes were good, although there were quite a few that were hit or miss at times (one complaint I personally have is that there’s one overused plot where somehow Helga’s feelings about Arnold are going to be revealed because of a crucial piece of evidence that somehow came in Arnold’s possession and she has to get it back. It’s used like ten times over the course of the series and, although a few of them are quite good and funny, most are just the same plot each time).

The real strength of the show, however, was the well-defined characters and the development of them over the course of the series, which resulted in the best episodes. Pretty much every character in the show gets several episodes devoted to them over the course of the series and all the characters get subtle development. There’s one character named Harold who is one part “bully” and one part “momma’s boy who isn’t that bright”. He doesn’t get that many episodes devoted to him, but they do flesh him out a surprising amount. They show he’s an orthodox Jew and portray his rabbi and his families practices accurately. He teases people a lot, but all the kids recognize he’s a good person. He even gets a girlfriend named Big Patty, who is assumed to be a bully when she’s really just misunderstood. Again, this isn’t a main focus of the series, but he gets enough episodes that you can see the progression. Most kids get this. Other good examples are Eugene (a kid who has the worst luck ever, who eventually humorously accuses Arnold of being the jinx instead of him since every bad thing that’s happen to Eugene involved Arnold in some way) and Phoebe (who is Helga’s loyal friend who is smart and nice, but allows herself to be walked on sometimes. It is shown later in the series that she can be quite the badass when she’s pushed hard enough though).

However, the characters that get the most development and best episodes are Arnold and Helga. Arnold is involved in pretty much every episode anyway, but the best ones involving him are the ones that explore his emotional baggage about his mysteriously-absent parents. And I have to say, it’s refreshing that this baggage only gets to him in several specific episodes instead of having him angst about it the whole series. It’s more realistic and makes him a stronger character showing he has some issues, but he deals with them well enough and doesn’t let it control his life. However, the episodes when he shows his more vulnerable side give him the most character development and show he’s a more three-dimensional character than people might have originally thought (since he does at first glance seem to just fit in the generic nice guy protagonist who helps people archetype). He also has some good episodes which explore his relationship with Helga, and any time when they have a moment is always sweet.

Helga has a ton of episodes as well, but the best ones are the ones that explore her family, which is dysfunctional. Her adult sister is an obsessive-compulsive perfectionist who is idolized by her parents, while Helga herself is neglected. Her dad is a blowhard and her mom is heavily, HEAVILY implied to be an alcoholic even though they never come right out and say it. A lot of episodes involve this but one of the best ones and my favorite episode in the whole series is one called Helga on the Couch. The whole episode consists of Helga seeing a child psychologist and talking about her early childhood, where we get a more in-depth analysis of her family problems, how she met Arnold, why she’s so obsessed with him, and why she acts the way she does. It does a very good job of explaining why Helga is the way she is and her interaction with the psychologist is kind of heartwarming, probably since she’s the first adult who actually listened to her. Lot of good character stuff in that episode.

It’s a very good series that I recommend very much. It’s one of my favorite cartoons of all time. I liked it so much I even wrote a fanfiction of it. Now, I’ve written fanfiction before that I was not that happy with and am sort of ashamed to even bring up, but I still like that specific fanfic. I learned a lot while writing that one and really helped me develop.

Now, like I said, some episodes of this series are hit or miss, so I want to leave you with links to some of my favorites.

Like I said, this one is my favorite episode in the series. Very good character development and good writing. This is a link to the first part of it, but all three parts can be found linked to the first part.

This one is just a funny episode that has a few good Arnold/Helga moments. Helga wins a dinner for four at a French restaurant and tries to use it as an opportunity to impress/actively put the moves on Arnold. Of course, things don’t go over smoothly, but it has kind of a sweet ending.

This is Parent’s Day, which is the first episode to address where Arnold’s parents are and the first to reveal he has some baggage about it. Lots of character development for Arnold and his grandparents. It’s also probably the saddest Hey Arnold episode, mostly because of the ending. This is another long one, so this is a link to the first part and the other parts can be found in the related videos to it.

Aaaand this would probably be the dirtiest episode of the series. This is a weird episode where Arnold visits his bland-doppleganger cousin Arnie only to find that Arnie’s town is apparently Mirror Universe (except no goatees and no Evil Spock) since it’s populated by Bizarro versions of his friends. I don’t want to spoil exactly what happens, but its one of the weirder episodes and it is really funny especially if you’re older because there are some dirty overtones in this episode. And undertones. Dirty over-undertones. Just watch it.

Starring Andy Dick as Monkeyman. Really, do you need another reason to see this episode?

Anyway, those were my thoughts on Hey Arnold. If you’ve never seen the show, check it out. You won’t regret it.

Edit: Since I originally posted this, pretty much all of the clips I linked were taken off youtube. HOWEVER, you can now get Hey Arnold DVDs off Amazon as part of their burn-on-demand DVDs they’re putting out now. All seasons of the show are currently available. Check them out

Categories: Animation, tv Tags: ,