Dec 28, 2005

What A Welcome (and Yet Exhausting) Surprise

Christmas has come and gone for most of us (traditional Christmas is a little over a week away), but I did get a surprise from one of my relatives.

I received a newish computer. Not totally new, but new enough for me. It runs on Windows 98 with a 25 GB hard drive and a 1.7 GHz processor with space to expand and a 56K modem. A little prehistoric to some, but considering the fact that my last computer ran on Windows 95 with a 1 GB hard drive, a 120 MHz processor and a 28K modem, it's tantamount to me upgrading from a Model T to a '65 Mustang. The only problem I have is, well, all my old stuff is on the old gal, mostly my TXB stuff, a lot of great fonts, and a few major files. I had a problem with my floppy drive, and it corrupted every disc I had, which is why I rarely used it in the first place. So, I'm in an endless search for a way to bring to old familiar things in life to my newish funtastic machine. As a result, TXB won't be completely updated for another two or three weeks at minimum, but when it does, oh, what fun that'll be. If I don't get back online in the next couple of days, I hope you all have a safe and happy new year, and if the fates allow, we'll do it all again in '06.

Later, all.

Dec 14, 2005

Family Guy Is Not A Copy Of The Simpsons

There are a lot of people who are foolishly under the impression that Seth MacFarlane's immensely popular series Family Guy is a carbon copy of The Simpsons. I'm not talking about the people who just hate Family Guy like John Krisfalusi, many former Spumco employees like animation journalist Amid Amidi, or the South Park creators. The folks behind The Simpsons have countlessly thrashed Family Guy on numerous occasions, even going as far as calling Peter Griffin a Homer Simpson clone in a segment of the once-funny Treehouse of Terror specials. A recent issue of the once-funny Mad Magazine called Family Guy "the most original show on television" while portraying the core cast dressed as The Simpsons. Heck, this past weekend, they even called American Dad a copy of the copy of the Simpsons.

But that's not really fair of The Simpsons nor people who believe that Family Guy is a copy of The Simpsons. I mean, I could easily go as far as to say The Simpsons isn't all that original either, which is essentially a copy of a copy itself. Despite what Time Warner may do, there are millions that still remember The Flintstones, which was in itself a copy of The Honeymooners (the good one, not that recent movie revamp).

You know, let's just compare the core casts of both shows:

Homer Simpson: A scheming, egotistical, lazy, oafish, loud idiot.
Peter Griffin: An idiotic, vain, hard-working jackass stuck on pop-culture references, not unlike Martin on the late great HBO series Dream On.

Marge Simpson: A loving, religious, common-sense, hard-working mother.
Lois Griffin: A caring, slightly perverted, reasonable, restless MILF.

Bart Simpson: An underachieving, troublemaking, popular brat.
Chris Griffin: A despondent, creative, quiet, shy kid.

Lisa Simpson: A musically-inclined, sad, moralistic voice of reason.
Meg Griffin: A socially-inept, slightly vain, annoying vain.

Maggie Simpson: A quiet baby.
Stewie Griffin: A brilliant, tyrannical, matricidal, slightly effeminine baby.

Santa's Little Helper: A stupid dog.
Brian Griffin: An educated, culutured, creative voice of reason.

Seriously, why do people want to make themselves think that Family Guy is a Simpsons clone? The only thing that are similar in both show is that they're both shows centered on a nuclear family. That's it. People don't call King of the Hill a Simpsons clone, probably because KOTH is a live-action series that just happened to be animated. Now I've heard people like Amid complain about Tokyo Godfathers (one of my favorite animated films ever) "not fully utilizing animation," yet giving this show so much of a pass. It's frustrating.

But in conclusion, Family Guy is not a copy of The Simpsons. Family Guy is just an animated edition of "I Love The/Best Week Ever."

Nov 24, 2005

Call Me Crazy . . .

, , , but if a show's the most watched show on a network, winning in nearly every timeslot it's in, and one of the most popular shows on cable television, you wouldn't cancel it, would you?

You don't know Cartoon Network very well, do you? Obviously neither you nor I don't, and I don't really understand why they cancelled Teen Titans. Seriously, why in the HELL did Cartoon Network cancel their highest-rated, most commercial-ready, all-ages-reaching series. Oh . . . right, the whole all-ages reaching thing. I forget that if you have breasts or a dropped testicle or two, Cartoon Network doesn't want you watching them.


Nov 15, 2005

You Can Be A Network Executive!

You know how you always say you can make a better network? Well, if you have the right tools, maybe you can thanks to Broadband.

After yesterday's announcement that Time Warner is planning a free Broadband-exclusive network In2TV next year in addition to the Adult Swim block introduced a little over a month ago as well as Viacom's recent forays into Broadband entertainment courtesy of Comedy Central and MTV, it's not a question of how can one create their own network, it's a question of when.

I believe that the current broadcast television model is outmoded and ineffectual. There are only five major conglomerates with their hands in the cookie jar of entertainment in the US (Time Warner owns The WB, HBO, and the Turner networks, Disney owns ABC, ESPN, and ABC Cable, Viacom owns MTV Networks while their CBS Entertainment owns Showtime, CBS, and UPN, News Corp owns Fox, Fox Cable Networks, and a bulk of the UPN affiliates, and NBC Universal owns USA Networks, Bravo, Telemundo, a majority share in i, and a network who name escapes me). There's no competition, no variety, no choice. And what's worse, they're even syphoning off shows from the cable outlets they own, and vice-versa. True independent voices are being quieted before they can even speak. Quality shows produced by others are being cancelled in favor of cheaply-made knockoffs of knockoffs. In fact, broadcast television could be a thing of the past two decades from now in the age of HDTV.

We have (or will have) the power to create our own networks via the Internet. Believe it or not, the Internet is taking the same path that was taken when radio migrated to television. We've gone from streaming internet radio to podcasts to bit torrent to broadband cable in a little under a decade. More original, creator-owned programming is becoming available to the masses. And believe it or not, some of it is actually good. It wouldn't be out of the question if there are more original programming made exclusively for Broadband within a decade. Studios are already attempting to make Broadband networks (Viacom has three, while Sony and Time Warner are launching their own next year), so there's no excuse not to make one of your own if you have the right skills and tools.

The power to make our own network is in our hands. Now, who would be brave enough to try?

Nov 14, 2005

And Another One Bites The Dust

Science fiction programming doesn't last on the traditional networks and rarely stays on the non-traditional broadcast outlets. So, when I heard about the resurrection of Kolchak: The Night Stalker airing on Thursday nights on ABC for the 2005-06 season, the following thought entered my brain:

"This show won't see 2006."

Not that it wasn't good but because in this day and age where scripted programming is being shown the door in favor of "reality" shows, competition shows that aren't game shows, and makeover shows, shows like Night Stalker really won't last. And I have history to prove it.


John Doe.

Dark Angel.

The Watcher.

Twilight Zone (the recent version).


Space: Above and Beyond.

Any time there's a hint of science-fiction element on a series (including horror, superheroics, paranoia, and supernaturalism), there's already an imprinted code to cancel the series, and Night Stalker had all these elements. Carl Kolchak, a crime reporter, is reluctantly joined by a pair of crime reporters and investigates strange crimes often involving paranormal, supernatural, and horror-filled scenarios. It's like All The President's Men meets The X Files (a series many of the creators behind the revamp worked on). It's a shame ABC cancelled it, and they'll probably replace the show with either a "news" program or a "reality" show. And, in tandem with Smallville, Thursday nights were worth watching again.

Farewell Night Stalker. Hope you get a new home soon.

Nov 2, 2005

Where The Hell Is the Outrage?

Cartoon Network is planning an MTV-level disaster at their network starting a week from Sunday by airing a series of live-action films, including Small Soldiers, The Goonies, and Honey, I Shrunk The Kids and a bigtime movie coming to Toonami very soon.

But wait, there's more.

Cartoon Network, in a move that should surprise everyone, is planning on creating new live-action series plots like sitcoms and action projects networkwide, not just the Krofft Brothers homage being worked on at Adult Swim. They're doing this because they claim that kids aren't interested in cartoons anymore and drawn towards Disney Channel and Nickelodeon live-action fare.

According to some higher ups at the network, the word "cartoon" is not limited to cel, stop-motion, or computer-animated productions, but is rather a state of mind.

Now, my question is not aimed towards the executive minds of Cartoon Network but rather the animation media writers who cover the industry from all angles and animation historians who watch the network.


Seriously, I'm pissed that Cartoon Network has basically given up their original mission so easily. The powers that be that wanted to make Cartoon Network to be more like Nickelodeon and less like Cartoon Network has won. Mission A-fricking-ccomplished. Great job. They destroyed and killed in four years what it took Ted, Betty, Linda, Dea, Fred, Genndy, and Craig nine years to build.

And for what? Because you're upset that Nickelodeon's live-action programs are doing better than Cartoon Network? Well, technically, that's not true. The live-action programming is doing alright, but Cartoon Network cartoons are getting their asses kicked by . . .

Nickelodeon's popular Nicktoons. Particularly Nicktoons reruns. Seriously, after Monday Night Raw and NFL Sunday Night, the bulk of the highest-rated shows on cable are reruns of Spongebob Squarepants and The Fairly Oddparents. And Nickelodeon, who are obviously laughing at this submission by Cartoon Network, are proud that their Nicktoons Network digital channel is on four times as many homes as Boomerang (Nicktoons has 32 million subscribers while Boomerang is in only eight million homes). And they're actually growing in popularity while Cartoon Network still has no frelling idea what to do with Boomerang (My suggestion? Give total control of Boomerang to Turner Classic Movies since they actually know how to treat classic entertainment).

Seriously, where's the outrage on all of this?

Oct 21, 2005

Cable Operators: Drop G4

To every cable and satelite operator in the United States with the exception of Comcast who owns G4:

Hello. My name is, well, not important for the duration of this article. The reason why I'm writing this is because the cable industry has been duped and scammed. The network you originally signed to air on your cable lineups many years ago is no longer on the air. Neither TechTV, a technology-driven network with people who were experienced with the world of computers, technology, and all things tech-oriented, nor G4, a lesser-known but popular outlet that celebrated the gamer lifestyle, are on the air. After the supposed merger that developed after Comcast's G4 Media purchased TechTV for its extensive cable and satelite slots systemwide as well as for TechTV's popular X-Play series, something emerged, but not what was promised.

Instead of a technology/video game/geek culture-themed network, the industry got something different. Even the video game network rebranding of G4 isn't permanent. Now, the network currently known as G4 is changing into a network akin to SpikeTV, OLN, and MEN-TV. Another male-oriented network for immature men. The tech part of the network is all but gone from the network, largely limited to Call For Help in the morning, Brainiac, and a few segments on Attack of the Show. Now, it seems that the video-game aspect of the self-proclaimed Video Game Television is being pushed aside in favor of recent acquisitions like Formula D, Street Fury, Fastlane, and The Man Show.

In short, cable and satelite operators, G4, the network you spent millions of dollars to place on your lineup (whether you got it when it was called TechTV or before the merger), no longer exists. Instead of being an information outlet, it's becoming another testosterone-driven bacchinal. The nerds and geeks are being pushed aside for horny jocks. You've been duped by G4 Media and Comcast into thinking you're getting one kind of network when instead, you're getting another you didn't want.

So, as a favor to yourself as well as your subscribers, please drop G4 from your lineups. A number of cable operators are doing so at this time, so, please, do likewise. There are many other networks that are in the works that would serve the current and former audience of G4, so G4's deletion from your lineups won't be missed.

Drop G4. Now.

Oct 20, 2005

I Have To Apologize

I've been wrong many times in the past, and I'll be wrong many more times in the present. I have to apologize to readers of TXB for doing something I knew in hindsight that I shouldn't have done, but did anyway.

I'm sorry for speaking positively about Loonatics.

A couple of weeks ago, instead of looking at the awesome as hell Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles revamp on Fox, I looked at Loonatics: Unleashed. I had defended it earlier on my site because, well, there were so many people thrashing it even before it came on. They basically said that Loonatics were actually the classic Looney Tunes which have been treated rather shabbily by Warner Bros. and Cartoon Network, who put the classics on the little-received Boomerang (fun fact cats and kittens: Boomerang is seen in a little over 8 million households while Nicktoons Network, Nickelodeon's animation outlet which hasn't been around as long as Boomerang, is seen in 32 million households; maybe Nick does know how to treat their library of cartoons afterall). They're not of course.

Then, all of a sudden, this tween's campaign to stop Loonatics gained a lot of publicity from classic Looney Tunes fans and even got the attention of Warner Bros. Warner Bros. made an announcement to defang and declaw the awesome Trembley brothers original designs in favor of a softer design. I was probably the only person at the time that felt that, like the whole Save Disney campaign, the Stop Loonatics campaign really didn't accomplish anything. The show was still on, and the people still didn't want to give the show a chance. I kept an open mind hoping that they wouldn't really create a show that would purposely be universally panned by ALL audiences.

When the show premiered, my mind was closed, and I realized one simple, universal fact:

Loonatics is the worst Warner Bros. animated project I've ever seen.

I don't count The Groovie Ghoulies meets Daffy and Porky because that was more or less a Filmation piece of tripe (for more on this piece de crappulence, I suggest you check out Cartoon Research for all the gory details). And in hindsight, even shows like Detention wasn't as bad as this. I even wanted to hate one of the other new WBA shows, Coconut Fred's Fruit Salad Island, but that Spongebob ripoff is actually pretty funny.

Loonatics is pretty much what you'd have if you gave the Looney Tunes superstars the powers of the Road Rovers, gave them generic names, and dressed them up in a two-toned outfit. The show just brimming with lame action sequences and even lamer versions of the classic Looney Tunes jokes. The show is just abysmal, a lame attempt to capitalize on the Asian action craze that has infected the American children's television industry as well as the animation industry. And I'm sorry I felt it was going to be a good show to watch.

I apologized, Warner Bros. Animation. Now it's your turn.

Oct 17, 2005

Whatever Happened To The X Bridge?

Good question.

Very good question.

What TXB is supposed to be and what TXB is are two different things. I wanted to create a site that represented the people. I wanted to create a site that I could express my opinions in an unbiased atmosphere. Truth be told, I don't think I've accomplished any of those. For most of my site's seven years online, it's been pretty much slanted towards one direction. I've showed much love for a network that, truth be told, hasn't really shown me nor its viewers much love. I've only seen one side of the argument and fiercely defended it. But I want to give people a site that's more than that.

I want to create a site that is pretty much a voice for the voiceless. I want to create a site that celebrates ALL of animation, not just action-animation. I want to create an access point that bridges all worlds of animation without prejudice or disdain, where one form of animation isn't better than another. I want to create a site that can criticize all animation both positively and negatively, a duality in which we call life.

That's what I want to do with The X Bridge, and this weekend (October 21-23), I want to begin this reinvention. I hope you all can check it out, and if not, I hope you'll check it out someday in the future.

Sep 8, 2005

Lifetime - Television For Former Cartoon Network Execs

The last place I'd expect the chief architect of the reinvention of Nickelodeon (which occurred 20 years ago this month) and the creator of Cartoon Network to be is the women's network Lifetime, but that's exactly where Betty Cohen is resting her head. She became the new head of the network a couple of months ago, and she's bringing in Suzette Daniels, the woman who helped organize the Kids' WB block and brought in numerous shows that became synonymous with The WB like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, and Smallville, is joining Ms. Cohen, who was sanctimoniously fired from the network she created to the current regime which has seen primetime viewership plunge over a period of four years straight (wonder if that has to do with Saturday morning reruns like Yu-Gi-Oh, Pokemon, One Piece, Mucha Lucha, and others stagnating the nights).

Considering that Oxygen (a network co-owned by the former Nickelodeon exec that matters Geraldine Laybourne, Oprah Winfrey, and, ironically, Lifetime Television) has been chewing at Lifetime's heels by airing shows that guys would want to watch, it's no wonder Lifetime hired a programming genius like Ms. Cohen hoping she'll work the same magic for them that she has for her previous two networks.


Sadness. Anger.

For a little over a week, these are the feelings I have experienced watching news about the events of August 29. Hurricane Katrina has left an indelicable mark on the United States showing the best and the worst in humanity. I'm sad because there are so many people who already didn't have much and considered "the working poor" now struggling to stay alive. Hundreds of thousands are now homeless and jobless, and tens of thousands have died. The city of New Orleans is mostly underwater and in utter ruins.

And people are angry. There was so much that could have been done prior to and after the hurricane but wasn't (and I hope to God somebody finds out why). And a lot of this anger is very well justified.

I'm just sick of opportunists taking advantage of the events of 8/29. I'm not just talking about the looters who are stealing things other than food and water. I'm talking about these gas companies who are gouging prices on gas (including heating gas for THIS WINTER), scam artists claiming to be charities who are stealing credit card information, and the city of San Antonio, TX who is using Hurricane Katrina as an excuse to permanently lure the New Orleans Saints to the city (I'm not mad at Nashville for temporarily wanting to house the New Orleans Hornets, but I would be mad if George "Snake Oil" Shinn decides to move the team there permanently after just moving it to the area from Charlotte [and not moving it to Norfolk, a city he just used because the area's gullible]). I'm sick of people using Hurricane Katrina as an excuse to justify their bigotry and hatred, improperly calling those left behind "refugees" (a refugee is someone who is escaping war and persecution, not someone who is escaping a national fricking disaster) and that New Orleans "deserved" this (I'm sick of these bigoted so-called Christians making the world think that ALL Christians think this way, and as a Christian myself, I'll tell you we don't).

I didn't want to write this out of the fact that I'm still angry, and there's a rule that you never do work when you're angry. I've seen the events of 9/11 almost four years ago, and the events of 8/29 is just as bad, if not worse. Like New York, New Orleans will rebuild and be back. It'll take time and it won't be exactly back to the way it was (numerous buildings and institutions that have been around for centuries have been lost forever), but New Orleans will be stronger. What should you do?

Give, if you can.

Pray, if you're religious.

Help, if you're strong enough.

Hope, if you believe in the human condition.

Love. We all have that in droves.

Aug 3, 2005

Bugs Is Dead: The Article Before "The Rules"

You've read that article I posted at Toon Zone? You know, the evil, sardonic one informing networks how to ruin your cartoon lineups in seven easy steps?

Well, that was the cut-down, edited, sanitized version. It's cool, it's essentially the same article but a little more sarcastic and snide. It's good, and it's created conversation all over the place.

Here's the thing . . . I tend to talk. A lot. I tend to get a little too wordy and too verbose. As a result, I tend to ramble on. What you're about to see is the article in its original, unsanitized form. Enjoy it, or not:

Bugs Is Dead: The Seven Beliefs of the Modern Television Animation Industry

Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse, a pair of classic animation stars that entertained generations of film and television fans and sharing screentime in the milestone film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?," are dead.

Okay, that's not true because they're just fictional characters that never lived. But in the hearts and minds of animation fans, Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse are very real. However, the spirit that helped create an entire industry, personifed by the likes of Tom and Jerry, Donald Duck, Huckleberry Hound, Popeye, The Flintstones, Goofy, Woody Woodpecker, and, of course, Bugs and Mickey, is fading away in this country. These characters are not widely known by a generation of animation fans that were born after 1995. Bugs Bunny, in his original incarnation, is only seen on one outlet in the US, Boomerang (a channel that isn't as widely distributed as sibling channel Cartoon Network). Original Walt Disney-guided Mickey Mouse shorts are not on the air in the US at all. Animation isn't completely off the air in America. If it wasn't for just a handful of shows, animation in the United States would be totally unwatchable.

The whole North American animation industry has made two steps forward and eight leaps back in the past seven years. As much progress and innovation that has been made, the industry is more or less controlled by people who would rather be elsewhere.

Laurie Goldberg, for example, was one of these individuals.

Now, Laurie may not be known to the general public, but to many in the animation fandom circle, she is universally loathed. Ms. Goldberg clashed with fans of classic Looney Tunes fans for not showing shorts featuring Speedy Gonzales, a character she felt was stereotypical towards Latinos, while most Latinos viewed the heroic rodent in a positive light. In fact, her actions may have contributed to the migration of all Looney Tunes cartoons from the widely-available Cartoon Network to limited accessed Boomerang. Ms. Goldberg also tried to stymie and quash articles and newsworthy information posted by animation news sites, including Toon Zone. Recently, Ms. Goldberg was promoted to the same job she had at Cartoon Network for CNN. You know, for somebody that actually dealt with animation and actually worked in public relations (that is, someone whose job is to be friendly and amicable to people who watch and support Cartoon Network, including media types), her people skills were abhorable from what I've heard and very unbecoming for a professional.

Instead of entertaining cartoons, more often then not, we are forced to watch, to use a phrase coined by Matt Wilson, "cartoons by committee," corporate-guided animation with very limited feedback and contributions from individuals who actually work on and create cartoons. We have folks that are in positions of power with no real creative skills creating shows. I mean, who in their right mind would greenlight a series based on a foreign group as a marquee part of a premier programming block? We didn't do it for Spice Girls, ABBA, or t.A.t.u. (well, the Japanese did do a t.a.T.u. OVA, but this is America, we give extreme athletes and pseudopop and rap stars shows), so how did Puffy AmiYumi end up getting a show? Because they sang a theme song for Teen Titans? That can't be it, can it?

The fact is the animation industry is stuck on seven different beliefs, not necessarily of their own machinations, but rather because of the corporate entities entities that own them and control their destinies. And yet, these same corporate entities wonder why the shows they're creating are not connecting with viewers. And you may ask, "Why seven?"

Because seven sounds official. These seven beliefs are:

- No show, no matter how popular it is, shall go beyond 13-26 episodes per season or 52 episodes in its lifetime.

Once upon a time, back in the syndication era, the magic number used to be 65 episodes for weekdays and 13 episodes for weekend-only shows per season. Now, 13 episodes is the standard order for nearly all North American productions per season, with a strict limit of 52 episodes in its lifetime, or roughly four seasons. Weekday lineups, as a result, are cluttered with reruns of what was seen on weekends. However, more viewers are watching foreign-made animated productions from France, Italy, and Japan. A good majority of the "marketable" shows have exceeded 13 weekly episodes per season. In fact, some air new episodes 52 weeks out of a year, especially if they have a large number of episodes already finished.

Now I'm not saying that the industry shouldn't put a limit on episode orders, especially if a series is working, bringing in audiences and advertisers, but it would be very nice. Part of the problem is that 13 episodes of a North American-made show per season with LONG breaks inbetween new cycles of episodes aren't going to be judged fairly against a foreign-made series that has at least 26 episodes already made with more in production.

- Cartoons are just for kids.

Despite shows like Family Guy and American Guy and the "success" of Adult Swim, animation is still seen as a kids' medium, which is a shame. Animation is the best storytelling forum out there and would be suitable for any kind of story to be told, including stories that would attract older audiences. The Japanese have been doing it for half a century in anination. The corporate culture realizes that they could only entertain children for a small period of time, but they're slowly realizing that most children who enjoy cartoons grow up to be adults who enjoy cartoons. And they don't always have to go down to the lowest common denominator to create a successful show.

Have you ever noticed that most cartoons aimed at "mature" audiences often goes for the fratboy mentality? There's nothing wrong with immaturity in cartoons, but that can be found in kid-oriented cartoons and does continue to perpetrate the belief that cartoons are just for kids. Cartoons can be smartly written (yes, there's nothing wrong with scripts being used in animation) and well-animated without dumbing it down for immature, childish sould.

- Nobody cares about the past.

No. No, no, no, no, NO! The modern belief has frustrated me for years now, ever since Cartoon Network became more focused on newer shows than the library titles that helped build their network. The past also helped build the animation industry and took it beyond pre-movie entertainment and cheap commercials. Today's animation industry sees the shows of the past either as something that could serve in a mascot role or something "that could be improved." And by improved, they mean either shrunk down to babies, placed in unfamiliar stock roles, or totally revamped to the point of unrecognizableness.

As for the fate of the original shows and shorts? Well, either they move to a network barely available to audiences or completely disappear from the airwaves. I haven't seen a Tex Avery MGM cartoon since . . . (you know, if I have to use an ellipse, it's been too damned long ago). Warner Bros. has digitally remastered many of their titles, giving them a crisper look, making them look even better than they did in the theatrical years. Instead of showing these remastered shorts, we're forced to watch shows like Baby Looney Tunes. And yet, they can't really recapture the spirit the original cartoons once had. I'm sorry, let me scratch that. It's not that they can't, it's that they won't.

- Screw the past and modernize everything.

What's New, Scooby-Doo is a pretty decent show, but it mixes The New Scooby-Doo Mysteries (a lackluster, but popular retread of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?) with The New Scooby-Doo Movies (featuring guest stars you only know if you were born before 1976). The movies are closer to the original series than the current series is, and that's strange. Even though only a handful of people have seen them, most folks agree that Larry Doyle's recent cycle of Looney Tunes shorts were abysmal and completely unfathful to the original classics. Same for Disney's Mickey MouseWorks shorts and the 90's Woody Woodpecker Show. In fact, you can modernize something and keep it consistant to the vision of the original incarnation.

Case in point: Flintstones on the Rocks.

I could argue that it was the best original Flintstones production since before The Flintstones became kid-friendly with babies, kangaroo-like dinosaurs, and aliens. It was nostalgic and could entertain both kids and parents without being dumb, insane, loud, and innocious. I wouldn't have minded seeing a new Flintstones series done this way as an adult-oriented, yet family-friendly weekly half-hour animated series. Afterall, The Simpsons doesn't have a true competitor in this country. Instead, we get shows kid-friendly shows and adult-oriented shows. Nothing truly family-oriented.

- The artists don't matter.

It is kind of strange that the creative forces behind a lot of cartoons don't have much sayso in what comes out in the end. Hell, that's why Tex Avery left Warner Bros. for MGM many years ago after he was told he couldn't end a cartoon the way he wanted to (so, you see, this isn't just a modern thing about companies interfering in creative freedom). Once he left, he created the funniest cartoons ever made.

Today's modern animation artists are, in a way, the spiritual children of Tex Avery. They know what cartoons can do. They know how funny they could be made. And yet, they are handcuffed by the archaic studio system that limits creativity. Sure, having a series based on your creation on a major cable outlet is nice, but being told what to do and what you have to cut out to fit someone else's idea of comedy (which usually comprises a visual of a caricature in the Wall Street Journal followed by a lame New Yorker joke circling in their heads to most) isn't cool. They only think about what's trendy in their neighborhoods and funny to that segment, not anything that's universally funny.

Fortunately, the internet has provided outlets and technology has given artists tools to create their own products outside of the system. Many of them have become independent studios, free from the studio system and able to create their own visions. Unfortunately, for 85-95% of all animation artists, the current studio system is the only way they could make a living and a name for themselves. And sometimes, even independent studios may have to compromise their own visions to satisfy the corporate culture.

- When all else fails, go foreign . . .

Foreign animation (animation outside of North America) makes up 45% of all shows on the air. That number is growing as domestic distributors could pick up any show and try to make a market for it. Hell, that's how 4Kids got rich and influential. Foreign animation is choking the lifeforce of the domestic animation industry. Networks and distributors drool over what foreign outlets have availiable, looking for the next Dragon Ball Z, the next Pokemon, the next Cowboy Bebop, and/or the next Totally Spies.

One out of 25 shows that come from foreign markets are really good. For every Samurai Champloo, there are 24 junk shows that shouldn't have been made, let alone brought to North America. As a reviewer at my own site, I've seen plenty of titles and was left wondering "Why did they bring THIS here?"

It's a little-known secret that the anime industry is at a crossroads financially. Most distributors are only looking for titles they feel could be marketable to television, but they realize that networks are very fickle about what they want. So, despite looking for quality titles, they try to acquire every title they could get just so other companies won't "scoop" them. And that's the problem. Many anime distributors are going broke trying to find THE show, and are forced to forge alliances with other distributors or merge with other companies.

Aside from being already made, foreign animation is cheaper to big companies. Warner Bros. entered the anime market by co-producing at least four anime series over the next five years. Disney has become reliant on Italian and French animation houses for their television shows. Moonscoop, the international distribution wing of three French-based animation houses, is producing numerous shows, including The Fantastic Four via their AnteFilms unit. Because of the influx of foreign cartoons, American artists are adapting foreign-influenced designs, primarily anime-influenced looks. Of course, other foreign artists utilized anime-influenced designs and they're getting more shows brought over to America.

- . . . or go cheap.

Animation is considered as a lower rung of many corporate entities. They often consolidate individual units into one unit just to save a buck or two. By not investing in the industry, it shows lack of confidence of the skills of artists. It's bad enough animation is assembled by cheap labor houses. It's bad enough when it's actually drawn and animated by cheap, bad foreign studios. There are even studios that completely develop animation from cheap resources, from storyboard to completion (and distribution). That's why IDT Entertainment's Digital Production Services (DPS) was born. DPS in comprised of numerous worldwide studios, including the US-based Film Roman, the animators behind The Simpsons and King of the Hill. DPS's core mission is to provide inexpensive animation entertainment for all companies.

They claim this is the future of animation.

Be afraid.

Or be aware. It's your call.

Jul 26, 2005

I Love Popnost

popnost - (derived from the phrase "pop-culture nostalgia") n. A type of retrospective programming that humorously and nostalgically talk about things from pop-culture past and present. Also adj. (~ program)

A couple of articles down, I talked about how networks tend to have lost their primary focus as they continued to evolve. VH1, which began life as a music video network, has more or less become a pop culture network, rarely airing music videos. Some shows I don't really care for. Kept? The Surreal Life? Celebrity Fit Club? The Fabulous Life of . . . ? Feh. Give me more popnost anytime.

Pop culture nostalgia has become a part of our pop culture. It's nothing new, people always had fond memories for cultural events of the past. However, I blame the British for this modern era of popnost, of course. BBC introduced the "I Love The . . . " format to the world in 2000. VH1 introduced it a year or so later with their version of "I Love the 80s" followed in the months ahead with a quartet of related specials, "I Love the 70s," "I Love the 80s Strikes Back," "I Love the 90s," and "I Love the 90s Part Deux" (the Brits wven went as far as to make "I Love The 60s" and "I Love The 50s," but for some reason, I don't think VH1 would make those in this country.

With the success of the "I Love The . . ." series of specials, VH1 tried their damnedest to imitate its success with random popnost shows celebrating celebrity moments, television stars, musical moments, and reality moments. Rival network E! Entertainment Television revamped their network in 2002 to focus more on reality, celebrity/pop culture documentaries/biographies, and popnost programming. E! developed their own popnost franchise, "The 101 Moments," which combines a countdown format with the popnost interview elements made famous by VH1's "I Love The . . . " series. Hell, both franchises usually have the same talking heads.

Perhaps the biggest thing VH1 has done for its popnost programming is the creation of "Best Week Ever." Think "I Love This Week." The best and oddest events of the week combined with a bunch of comedic minds make up this show. Meanwhile, E! created their own popnost weekly show, "The Soup," a show that mocks reality shows and celebrity news in the tradition of the late "Talk Soup."

They're all pretty damned good. Other networks have aired popnost programming in recent months. TV Land has "Top 10," CNN had numerous CNN 25 specials which chronicled 25 different highlights in their 25-year existance. You know, if Cartoon Network was a legitimately-ran network, they could create their own popnost programming. But that would actually means they have to show reverance to the past, which they clearly don't. Pity. It could have been fun.

Why Most Cable Operators Don't Carry Boomerang

Every now and then, I hear this question:
Why don't my cable operator pick up Boomerang?

The network's been around for five years, and yet, it's mostly on satellite and a few cable operators (nearly all Time Warner Cable). I just happen to live in a Cox Cable service area set up in Pat Robertson's backyard, so we're more likely to pick up the NFL Network or iLifeTV than Boomerang (by the way, these are some of the most recent additions to our lineup). So, why won't my cable operator pick up Boomerang?

The short answer:
Cartoon Network has done a piss-poor job of managing the network and marketing "retro" and cable operators aren't convinced there's an audience for "classic cartoons."

The long answer:
When Cartoon Network announced the creation of Boomerang, a retro animation network aimed towards baby-boomers and family audiences, in 1999, fans of these classic cartoons were thrilled. However, on April 1, 2000, when viewers (and cable operators) got their first look at the network, they were less than pleased. The lineup wasn't a linear 24-hour network but rather a rigid eight-hour rotation that repeated thrice a day. Not exactly something worth watching, let alone something worth carrying on cable lineups.

In 2001 and for a period of two years afterwards, the powers that be at Cartoon Network implimented a phase-out of classic animation (not unlike what TBS and TNT did when they got rid of all animation in the mid-90s) to convince cable operators to pick up their new Boomerang network, which, unfortunately, led to Cartoon Network dropping all Warner Bros., Hanna-Barbera, Paramount, and non-Tom and Jerry MGM shorts and shows. The strategy backfired, as most cable operators ignored Boomerang, largely because of its non-traditional network lineup grid.

In late 2004, Cartoon Network publicly stated that they [i]might[/i] want to change Boomerang into a preschool-oriented network. Also around this period, Boomerang created a more linear network with a 24-hour lineup. Cable operators remain skeptical about the future of Boomerang and whether or not they want to actively pursue it. Some operators still believe that Boomerang has the eight-hour
"boomeranging" lineup, which is why they often tell customers that if they carry the network, it could only be on a VOD service.

But the lack of cable operator confidence is only half of the story. Cartoon Network has NO idea how to market nor operate a retro television outlet. Turner Broadcasting knows how to operate a classic movie network because, gasp, they actually have people who give a damn about classic movies. The people who currently run Cartoon Network have little reverence for classic animation. It's not even funny. Boomerang is often seen as an afterthought throughout Techwood Drive.

When was the last time you've seen an Boomerang ad on Cartoon Network for something ON Boomerang rather than the network itself? Seriously, Boomerang has had numerous events and premieres, and most of the general public is oblivious from it because THEY DON'T HAVE BOOMERANG! June Bugs, the Pink Panther event, the Fantastic Four event, Battle of the Planets, the recent premieres of Batman: The Animated Series and Superman: The Animated Series, if you don't have Time Warner Cable, DirecTV, or Dish, and didn't have access to the internet, you wouldn't have known a damned thing about them since Cartoon Network has done a piss-poor job of managing Boomerang.

Cartoon Network should look at how MTV Networks manage TV Land for an example of how to manage Boomerang. TV Land has a very diverse lineup of classics, near classics, and retrospective/historical programming every day and night with a strong variety of choices. Boomerang could be an animated equivalent of TV Land, but neither Cartoon Network nor Time Warner would want to commit that much energy to something like that. It'd be so much easier to turn Boomerang into a preschool-oriented network than to, I don't know, make Boomerang something worth watching. Seriously, why aren't the remastered Looney Tunes and Tom and Jerry shorts on Boomerang right now? Why hasn't Boomerang aired more classic shows from the Warner Bros library nor acquired more shows and shorts from Classic Media, Sony, and Entertainment Rights?

Seriously, there's a classic sports network (ESPN Classic), a classic movie network (it used to be AMC, but Turner Classic Movies has seriously outclassed it), a nostalgia network (American Life [we ain't got that either]), and a classic television network (TV Land), and Boomerang, a classic animation channel, would fit in nicely, but alas, cable operators are oblivious to it.

Boomerang has so much potential and yet lack the bodies to actually see it through, which is a damned shame.

Jul 12, 2005

An Open Letter To Reginald Hudlin

Mr. Hudlin,

This has been a very good year for you, Mr. Hudlin. You have an animated series greenlighted for Cartoon Network this fall, a pair of very well-written comics courtesy of Marvel Comics, and now, you're the president of entertainment of BET.

Now, bring some entertainment to the network.

Okay, okay, that was a little harsh of me. But, you see, I've been watching BET off and on for a good portion of the 25 years the network has been on the air (little known fact: 25 years ago, both USA and BET shared channel space before becoming their own individual networks, not unlike Nickelodeon and the Arts Channel [now A&E Network]). Over the past decade, BET has gotten a bad rap (no pun intended) of being nothing more than an outlet that showcases the negative, materialistic side of "urban" culture, and they wouldn't be wrong. BET has minimized its news/forum programming and still remains hip-hop music central.

I don't hate hip-hop, but I can guess that Black Entertainment isn't just limited to a lineup comprised mostly of music videos.

Look at TV One. Great network with off-network sitcoms, variety shows, and dramas not owned by the parent company as well as original programming. Black Family Channel does offer a lot of college sports, forum programming, and a few reality shows, but their lineup is mostly religious programming and a few foreign general entertainment acquisitions like Cybernet. These two channels, in their short lifetime, has, in essence, proved that black entertainment is not a code word for 2/3 music videos.

Unless BET intends on renaming itself MTV Black, you are the network's last hope. I can offer advice, and I know where the network's weaknesses are and how to repair them.

For example:

- Target younger viewers in some timeslots: Cable networks once dedicated progamming to younger audiences back in the day. Even BET aired fare like The Jackson 5ive in the mornings. But in the era of the big three (that's Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and Disney), cable networks have conceded children's entertainment to those networks. I'm not saying they should air thematic blocks ala Miguzi, SNICK, or Jetix, but they could at least provide an alternative to Kids Next Door, All Grown Up, or Proud Family reruns on a Saturday morning. Heck, pick up reruns of C-Bear and Jamal, Kid 'N Play, Fat Albert, or something just to get started.

- STOP AIRING VIDEOS IN ALL OPEN SLOTS: Sixteen hours of music videos is twelve hours too many. Seriously, 106th and Park is another Viacom-guided TRL clone. I never understood why a daily top-10 video countdown show is worth watching. That's three hours gone. Music videos shouldn't be a backbone of a network that wasn't solely dedicated to music videos (unlike MTV, whose first name is Music, and VH1, whose first and middle name is Video Hits), and Black Entertainment shouldn't just be limited to sixteen hours of music videos a day.

- Add more non-Viacom-owned sitcoms and dramas: Sony Pictures Television has plenty of modern and classic shows by themselves. Benson, Julia, Sanford and Son, Temperatures Rising, Diff'rent Strokes, The Jeffersons, What's Happening!, What's Happening Now!!, I Spy, 227, and Good Times are just a few that could fit in at BET. Seriously, they need to get in on that.

- Develop more original sitcoms and dramas: No, this doesn't translate to more reality shows. I'd like to see more original scripted programming, not another retread of an MTV show. Blowin' Up Fatty Koo?!? College Hill? The hell?! Mr. Hudlin, you're one of the most talented producers out there. Prove it!

- Bring back news/public affairs programming: No, this doesn't translate to more documentaries surrounding the Rap It Up initituative. I'd like to see more forums dedicated to current affairs, non-entertainers making a difference, and real documentaries and newsworthy specials.

BET could be the best urban channel out there, and I have a lot of confidence you could make it happen, Mr. Hudlin. You're the network's last hope.

Jul 1, 2005

O Canada

Once again, those on the northern border of the States are celebrating Canada Day, a day of celebrating all that is Canadian. I have nothing but kind words for the country that has given us Redwall (a fine book series and animated trilogy of shows), Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, You Can't Do That On Television, Degrassi, ReBoot, Red Green, Eek! The Cat, Deep Water Black, Ocean Studios, the "Jack" radio format (although some New Yorkers will disagree), singers with the names Alanis and Avril, Stu Hart's Dungeon and its graduates, and other contributions (today, only today, will I forgive Canada for Celine Dion).

Happy Canada Day!

Jun 28, 2005

Remember When Network Programming Made Sense?

The 4400, the best science-fiction series since Firefly, is not on Sci-Fi. When USA Networks announced plans to create the original miniseries about these 4,400 individuals who were abducted for decades returning to a modern-day post-9/11 untrusting world (for those that have never seen this great show, shame on you! I won't tell you who really abducted The 4400, because it's not what you initially think), it seemed like a show that was destined to be on a network dedicated to science-fiction like, um, Sci-Fi. However, the original miniseries and regular series is a part of USA's highly-acclaimed lineup, giving that network its highest ratings ever and a growing fanbase.

Though it would have been nice if it was a part of Sci-Fi's weekly lineup. Instead, Saturday nights are cluttered with cheesy horror flicks, and the rest of the prime time lineup aside from Friday nights (which actually looks like it has some thought to its creation) isn't much better. Sci-Fi, for lack of a better word, is a mess. And the funny thing is they're not alone.

The original visions of the networks we have grown to love have changed over time. The Arts and Entertainment Network (A&E) was originally an outlet for cultural programming, as was Bravo. The Learning Channel (TLC) was primarily a scientific-oriented network in the tradition of the nature-oriented Discovery Channel. The Travel Channel was once dedicated to all things travel. Music Television (MTV) and Video Hits One (VH1) were devoted to 24-hour coverage of music videos and music programming. Entertainment Television (E!) was dedicated to entertainment news.

Nowadays, A&E only sporadically airs anything cultural, barely airing their marquee Biography series, and airing more reality crud like Dog the Bounty Hunter, Kinevel's Wild Ride, Family Plots, and Growing Up Gotti. Bravo, it seems, has come out of the closet, airing a whole lot of gay-related programming and a marquee home for glorified gambling. The Travel Channel spends a chunk of their time airing poker tournaments as well. TLC might as well call themselved The Life Channel since they've given up on educational programming and dedicated their entire programming lineup to reality/lifestyle shows. Discovery has also gone the reality route, making shows like American Chopper and Monster Garage marquee shows. E! does still show entertainment news, but most of the lineup is filled with biographies, tabloid programming, reality shows, and countdowns.

And then there's MTV and VH1.

Apparently after the original Live Aid concert, MTV felt a need to change the world. But first, they needed to get expand programming beyond videos. Game shows, animation anthologies, and stand-up shows were the beginning. Then came The Real World, which was anything but real, but it was responsible for the idea of what we know as reality television. It grew successful and had critical success. It was the beginning of the end of MTV. After the third season of The Real World, MTV fully embraced the idea that they wanted to change the world. The commericalization of music really grew in the 90s with introduction of newer music types and led to the elimination of the old weekly Top 20 Countdown in favor of a daily Top 10 countdown, as determined by the viewers rather than the network. Then MORE reality shows came on. World-changing pap like True Life, ridiculous frat humor shows like Jackass and Wildboyz, and self-gratifying junk like Cribs, in addition to yearly "competitions" between Road Rulss and Real World casts. Yes, the real reason behind Real World and Road Rules is to find younger casts for future challenge competitions. Even MTV2, the network they made JUST TO SHOW NOTHING BUT MUSIC, has become a literal MTV2, airing reruns and new versions of old MTV non-music shows and debuting new non-music properties.

VH1, the original MTV2 in theory, has all but abandoned music videos. Aside from early morning video blocks, VH1 is nothing but "celebreality" shows, music-oriented documentaries and specials, and cultural history shows. It's a strange mishmash of everything that isn't video hits.

Now, the thing about digital cable multicasting is that the original visions of the networks can be placed on an new network. MTV Hits is essentially what MTV would have been if it was launched today. The Science Channel is essentially what TLC once was. Discovery's diverse programming was split off into different channels, including Animal Planet, Discovery Home, Discovery Health, Discovery/Times, and The Military Channel. Strangely, NBC Universal, owners of USA and Sci-Fi, haven't fully embraced the concept of multicasting, although they are flirting with launching themed channels for horror and mysteries.

I'm just glad Cartoon Network hasn't forgotten its mission of providing the best cartoons from every era or become so stupid to get rid of classic animation putting them on an outlet that hardly anybody gets.

Oh, wait . . .

Jun 10, 2005

Something THEY Don't Want You To Know #1: Sports Fans Are BIG Nerds

This is hopefully the first of many articles I want to publish here at Thoughtnami. It's just sporadic thoughts about things people rarely know about. Or at least things people don't really want to admit. It's basically a fun discussion, at least for me. I'm not an old man, but I have realized many things in this thing called reality. So, at least for the next couple of minutes, delve into a little bit of madness I'm calling Things THEY Don't Want You To Know.

I'm not a sports fan. Maybe that's because I live in the nation's largest metropolitan area without a major league franchise. Maybe it's because the players on the minor league teams in the area really don't want to be here, and it is kind of hard to root for a group of players that would rather be in Chicago or New York. Or maybe it's because a lot of people fully embrace the fandom of a team memorizing every little insignificant thing about every player, every game, and every other team out there.

Or maybe it's because sports fans and the general public at large laugh at science fiction and animation fans. When they see a bunch of Star Wars fans in full costume wait outside for a movie ticket, those fans are generally mocked. When you have diehard fans compiling what they know about a certain item, like an alien language, and publish books based on them, the public will basically call them freaks. When otaku and comic fans dress up like their favorite characters, they're often called geeks. The general public sees diehard fans of movies, comics, and anime as nerds.

Sports fans are nerds too. The general public just doesn't want to admit it. Afterall, nerdom is generally seen as a weakness, a lack of stability, and overexcitement and a bit of insanity over a particular subject. But, in essence, this also describes the average sports fan.

Every other month, sports fans have their own version of Otakon, E3, or Comic Con. Whether it's opening day of a certain franchise, a sports tournament, a big race, the playoffs, or the championship. For the extremely diehard sports fan, it could be a game against a rival team. These fans complain when their favorite team loses, celebrate when they win, and often discuss strategies their favorite team could and should have made for days after the games, not unlike fans of certain genres who congregate on fanboards, blogs, and websites. Sometimes, sports fans gather together, either at their homes or at the stadiums, arenas, or raceways, to cheer for their team or favorite player. Often, they even wear jerseys or outfits with either the team logo or a player for a team embrazoned on them (it's funny that people don't see the difference between a sci-fi costume and a team uniform).

Sports fans are more mainstream than genre fans, unfortunately. Sports talk radio is all over the AM dial, though not as frequent as shout radio. ESPN and Fox Sports Net are the two dominant sports culture channels in the US, giving former jocks and sportswriters outlets to complain, strategize, and talk about sports. Genre fans mostly have the internet, though sports fans are there as well courtesy of Sportsline, ESPN, Fox Sports, and CNN/SI. If there actually was a genre-specific television outlet in this country like Sci-Fi Channel was before the hammer shattered it to bits eliminating shows like Sci-Fi Buzz and Anti Gravity Room, that would be cool (G4 doesn't count because G4 still doesn't know what it wants to be [this week, they want to be Spike TV with shows that are mostly catered to viewers with a Y chromosome]).

The mainstream sees sports as the ultimate escape. Sports leagues and outlets eat it up as well. That's why they charge billions for broadcast rights. Seriously, did you know you could finance six seasons of three genre-based hour-long shows and a blockbuster film for what the NFL charged for four seasons of its programming? But sports fans are nerds. They care about things like statistics, just like nerds. Seriously, who needs to know how many yards a running back ran throughout their career or how many home runs a slugger hit in a single month for the entire decade? It's just as crazy as somebody knowing how many levels there are for a Super Saiyan or the model number of the Gundam piloted by Amaro Ray (or those who curse me out for mispronouncing them), but the public doesn't acknowledge that.

Genre fans don't blame failures on silly things like curses of dead players, clumsy fans in the stand, or a goat that couldn't go in a bar. Just bad writing, directing, or actors. Sports fans have it easy, and it is kind of unfair if you think about it. You don't really see fake people committing crimes or using drugs (unless it's in the script). Reality bites.

And sports fans are nerds. Tell it to the world.

Jun 9, 2005

BOB: A Short Subject Renaissance

In my neck of the woods around the Norfolk, VA area, we have a radio station that plays nearly everything. WPYA-FM is known around these parts as BOB-FM, one of the first "BOB" stations in the country, named after Bob Sinclair, owner of a chain of radio stations around these parts. The BOB phenomenon has spread throughout the country with two different names. Some call their station BOB. Others call their station JACK. New Yorkers are pretty ticked that WCBS-FM has changed its format from an "oldies" format to a JACK format. There's another BOB I'm interested in, and it's this new network currently in the planning stages.

It's name is BOB.

BOB stands for Brief Original Broadcasts. Apparently taking a cue from Cartoon Network's Adult Swim franchise, BOB will populate its network with short-subject programming. BOB will air comedy, drama, action, animation, and everything inbetween. Nothing's longer than eight minutes, and the lineup isn't quite so linear. One minute, you'll see a comedy piece (probably within a minute's time). The next couple of minutes, you'll be seeing a action segment, ala a classic movie serial. There won't be an hour of comedy followed by an hour of drama with about 30 minutes of cartoons to go. In short, BOB may actually inspire a renaissance in short-subject programming not unlike the golden age of cinema. And you'll never know what you're going to get. So, they're just like the BOB radio format - - -they'll play anything.

Want to learn more about BOB? Head over to and learn more about this interesting network, and tell them that you want it to become a reality. And I swear I'm not an employee of BOB. Just a fan who knows a revolution when he sees one.

Jun 8, 2005

Reason #187 Why Time Warner Doesn't Like The Turner Networks

Starting at 6 AM EST on Saturday, TV Land is presenting a 50-hour marathon celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Warner Bros. Television. Shows from the 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and even today are going to air throughout this weekend's marathon. Some you might expect to see such as dramas like The Waltons, Dallas, Life Goes On, Eight Is Enough, and Jack and Bobby, crime-dramas like The FBI, 77 Sunset Strip, Surfside Six, and Spencer For Hire, westerns like Maverick, action and adventure shows like Wonder Woman and La Femme Nikita, and comedies like Alice, Welcome Back Kotter, Chico and the Man, Murphy Brown, The Hogan Family, and Full House. Aside from the fact that it was distributed in syndication by Warner Bros., I'm not sure why The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, a series produced by Quincy Jones Entertainment and NBC Studios, is on the marathon.

Now, in the official press release, Warner Bros. was pleased to present this marathon on TV Land. However, couldn't they have done the marathon on either TBS and TNT? That does make a bit of sense, considering that TBS, TNT, and Warner Bros. Television are all owned by Time Warner Entertainment, and certainly Paramount would air their anniversary event on one of their networks. Heck, TBS and TNT could have used their thematic lineups to have two individual marathons. TBS could have aired a comedy-specific 50th anniversary marathon, and TNT could have aired an all-drama marathon. Hell, Warner Bros. Television could have even aired a 50-hour marathon on Boomerang (or better yet, Cartoon Network where more people could actually see it) of Warner Bros.-produced animated television products, including airings of rare programming from the 60s, 70s, 80s, 90s, and today.

And I mean Warner Bros. Television. Not Castle Rock (no Seinfeld for you). Not HBO (ditto for Sex in the City). Not even Hanna-Barbera nor its heir apparent, Cartoon Network Studios. Just Warner Bros. Television shows.

But, once again, that would mean that Time Warner would actually have to show love for the Turner networks, something they only rarely do from time to time.

May 20, 2005

Too Real To Believe?

I've been watching the riveting coverage of E3 on G4, G4TV, or whatever the hell they're calling themselves this week, and I've seen the awesomeness of the PlayStation Three. After the non-event of the Nintendo Revolution and all the thunder taken away from the XBox 360 unveiling courtesy of MTV's infomercial last week, Sony's newest 800 lb. gorilla really impressed me. The demostrations of what the new processors could do as well as the demos of actual gameplay impressed me. The fact that it's backwards compatible with the PlayStation and PS2 disc I already have as well as keeping my DVD collection relevant made me a happy fella.

Of course, there are doubters about whether or not the demos shown, particularly Killzone 2, were actually in-game demos or prerendered visuals. Could it be that people think that Sony's lying about what their PS3 can do? Or are they just doubting Thomases, refusing to believe what's there.

And if what was shown really was prerendered, I think that every animation studio should have access to the PS3 developer's kit. If what was shown was prerendered, we have witnessed the best computer animation ever made in half the time. Better than Pixar-quality (and not so ubercartoony), better than Dreamworks, even better than Square Pictures productions. It's obvious whoever's behind the scenes at the studios know what they're doing with the tools they were given, and I have no doubts that the next generation of games will be the best since the last generation, but perhaps Sony has shown the world the future of computer animation. Machimema be damned. If the PS3 has created a dev kit that makes the average critic wonder if it's live or Memorex, perhaps the animation industry may want to pay attention.

Who knows? Maybe we'll have interactive animation in our hands in the years to come, and if the demos shown by Sony are any indication, it could be a reality in about a year's time. Imagine if somebody like Spielberg, Lucas, Tarantino, or Rodriguez got their hands on this technology and the stories they could bring. Perhaps the motion picture industry may be a thing of the past. Well, maybe not, but the video game industry, which earned more money than the film industry last year, is certainly catching up. The current generation of consoles have titles that blur the line between film and game, so the next generation will oblitherate that line, and Sony may lead the pack.

Of course, this may be a little too hard to believe for some. But things change. Attitudes change. Perhaps the evolution of the animation and film industries will be ignited with the PS3's launch. Then again, maybe I'm reading too much into a real-time presentation of an awesome looking game.

Mar 7, 2005

Voice Actors Need Love Too

After looking at last week's Oscar (TM) ceremonies, I had a revelation.

There ought to be Best Voice Actor and Actress awards handed out. Seriously, animation directors and writers do get their moment in the spotlight in those overblown egotrips (I happened to like this year's ceremony, contrary to what the snooty critics may have thought of it). The thing is that in every single animated film, as much work as the animators, designers, scriptwriters, and artists do, the film really comes to life courtesy of the voice artists behind the mikes.

About a couple of years before his untimely death, Phil Hartman (a great voice artist in his own right whose final performance was in Kiki's Delivery Service) hosted a behind-the-scenes segment of How The Grinch Stole Christmas celebrating what Boris Karloff's voice did for the character. Mr. Hartman impersonated several famous celebrity voices reading the script in the role of The Grinch. He proved that the voice does matter.

Imagine if, say, Gilbert Gotfried and Robin Williams's roles in Disney's Aladdin (Iago and The Genie, respectively) were reversed. I wouldn't say it would necessarily be a bad thing (Mr. Williams' Iago would have been maniacal, ala Rainbow Randall from Death To Smoochy and Mr. Gotfried's Genie would be a lot louder, but comical nonetheless), but it wouldn't be the same, and it probably wouldn't have been successful. If Disney had casted someone like Reginald VelJohnson as The Lion King's Mustafa instead of James Earl Jones or Steve Martin as Jafar instead of Jeremy Irons, it would just be wrong (although that Jafar casting could work). If guys like Mel Blanc, Arthur Q. Bryan, June Foray, Clarence Nash, Pinto Coving, Daws Butler, and all the other animation voice artists that paved the way for today's artists (the ones in Hollywood that a lot of us grew up with and the ones in Vancouver who seem to be doing ALL the voices) weren't there, who knows what kind of cartoons would have come out?

I think that there were plenty of voice artists that did Oscar-caliber work this year, from JoAnne Lumbley (Fairy Godmother from Shrek 2) and Brad Bird (the costumemaker from The Incredibles) to Nathan Lane (Scott from Teacher's Pet) and Jim Cummings (Pooh and Tigger, The Piglet Movie). Voice artists are recognized by the television industy with both Daytime and Primetime Emmys, so why doesn't the motion picture academy do likewise with animated films? Heck, Shrek 2, one of the three films that was up for Best Animated Feature, made just as much in the box office as all five Best Picture nominees combined, and yet animated films will never be nominated for Best Picture again. The only reason why Beauty and the Beast was nominated is because they didn't have a Best Animated Picture category, and in all honesty, the film industry still sees the animation industry as a stepchild.