Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Some Words with a Mummy

All right.


To recap: I wasn’t a fan of the original ThunderCats anymore, but the remake series showed promise. It suggested it would radically rewrite the premise and tone, in order to produce a work of some quality, with world-building and shades of grey and all that good stuff.

The truth is, not so much.

I saw the most recent episode “Journey to the Tower of Omens” and decided to give up. All the interesting plot points from the pilot have been discarded, and the story is proceeding with some very ill-advised pacing and replacement plot points.

Some might say these dropped threads are excused by the entire game change--the city was destroyed, the heroes are now fugitives, etc. But you know, why introduce plot points at all, if they must disappear so soon? The plot points should certainly have changed, based on the new circumstances, but not disappeared entirely.

It’s all running like a well-oiled machine, and that’s the problem. Things happen for the characters when they want them to, and interpersonal conflict or moral ambiguity is nowhere to be found unless one starts looking at obviously unintended subtext.

Look at the latest episode: they find the legendary long-lost ancient temple of unknown location only a handful of episodes after they set out to, and it happens when Snarf accidentally starts a fruit avalanche. So much for making characters struggle for what they want.

Furthermore, we are asked to accept via flashback that it was perfectly okay for the cat race to hide the information about the past and future from the other animal races, depicted as rapacious, red-eyed shadows. There is no sense that this is meant to be ironic, or retain that darker side of the cat empire through Cheetara’s blind loyalty…it’s straight-up fantasy racism, and it’s kind of creepy.

While I’m not a kooky furry otherkin about it, I do like just about anything reptilian, and I was happy at the idea that the lizard race now had legitimate grievances against the cat race, a slight step up from the usual treatment of “ugly” animals as unambiguous villains. And as someone who likes to see intelligent antagonists, I was anticipating the enemy animal races to be smart by ordinary standards, not only in comparison to the stupidity of the original mutants.

However, for several episodes, we’ve only seen lizards as generic soldiers, and the final straw came in depicting General Slithe as the typical Dumbass Minion. He trusts the captive hero when he tells him he doesn’t know where the MacGuffin is, and tries to smash an important artifact out of simple frustration. Mumm-Ra then berates him for his troops’ apparent incompetence, but does nothing about it, doing his own threat level no favours. It’s pure antiquated cheese, just with better voice-acting--almost exactly what Megatron kept doing in the original Transformers TV show.

Basically, I say, with tongue slightly in cheek, I wanted Slithe to be Londo Mollari: a patriot who made a deal with the devil to lift up his people. But there are worse things to want, aren’t there?

This kind of thing isn’t hard to do. Even with better motivations and better brains the lizards would still be enemies, and even hailing from an imperialistic regime, the cats would still be the heroes--kids would still get it, because cats would be the viewpoint characters. And yet, some depth would increase suspense, keep the audience guessing, and lead to a more intense conflict. There was no reason to ignore the things that lead to this war breaking out. Even with a city burned, characters would still remember.

In a world like this, is there even any room or need for other enemy animal races? What could races of jackal/monkey/rat/vulture-people bring to the world that the lizards already haven’t? I don’t care if the writers plan to give the former mutants names and working brains--what matters even more is if they have a reason to be there, one besides existing in the eighties cartoon. Will they?

Grune, the villainous ThunderCat, is another failure. He is motivated only by simple lust for power, in a way that doesn’t feel unique to his character, but just as an evocation of that lazy kind of children’s cartoon villain. He had no deeper reasons for betraying the kingdom, nothing intrinsic to his personality. By all appearances, he had a great life, and what the heck does he actually get from Mumm-Ra, besides more ill-defined “power” than he could get as a celebrated general of an empire?

There was no sense Mumm-Ra would be a deeper character, so I was prepared to consider him the devil the lizards made their deal with. However, the series still manages to muck things up. There’s the aforementioned lack of action if his servants are indeed incompetent, and that he himself is hastily jumping into combat. Mumm-Ra feels like he should be that kind of villain who only makes an appearance when things are about to get dire, and who otherwise remains hidden in the shadows, building up his aura of mystery and fear.

Furthermore, now Mumm-Ra is furnished with his own car, a giant pharaonic face on treads that looks pretty silly. He also adopts his super-powered form, and as others have pointed out, while he was strong enough to take out several clerics in his mummy form, in his super form he is beaten by the five heroes instead. I don’t have too big of a problem with that particular storytelling convention; everything else I mentioned is worse.

Mumm-Ra is also just plain cooler in his mummy form. There it’s just slightly more of a surprise that he is capable of fighting, and there’s an eeriness to him that’s one of the more effective things about this show. That, and his powered form looks kind of dorky, with a mish-mash of armour and a loincloth made of carpet samples, wings looking cool but making his design even more cluttered. I also prefer his whispery voice to the original cartoon’s gravelly bombast. Of course, when he’s riding around in a giant metal face, these things tend to get lost somewhere.

“Journey to the Tower of Omens” tosses in a flashback of Mumm-Ra leading the cat people when they were a technologically-advanced race. It throws images at viewers without any time to digest them, leaving the audience confused rather than wanting more. Depicting super-Mumm-Ra standing at the bridge of a spaceship is also too jarring a contrast. I’m all for genre-bending, but this is just doing what the older series did: throwing together blatant science fiction and fantasy elements without any structure or logic to them. Mumm-Ra was an alien warlord, yet covers himself in bandages and calls on evil spirits?

All this, and I haven’t even discussed the heroes yet. There’s just too much cohesion going on here.  Sure, it would seem petty for Lion-O and Tygra to retain the same rivalry after their people were just exterminated, but their relationship should have transformed into something were conflict still remained. All Tygra does now is quip occasionally, while accepting Lion-O as the head. Are they going to be fighting over Cheetara? I’d hope they could come up with something better.

What happened to pointing out that the cat race ran on imperialism and Lion-O could be a more peaceful king than before? Now he’s just doing generic hero stuff without any individual personality, and we are obviously expected to feel sadness over the fall of the old king, despite his conquering ways.

Cheetara…Cheetara. She’s loyal to the king, and that might be enough of a motivation, but she doesn’t feel that defined as a character. The adult males are all connected somehow, leaving Cheetara feeling like the odd one out. Panthro is pretty cool, but he grows to defer to Lion-O far too easily; by the end of his first appearance, Panthro is ready to worship the neophyte king he was snapping at before. Furthermore, Panthro’s past with Grune is brushed over far too fast, leading to a greater lack of satisfaction for not explaining the characters’ motivations better.

The kids and the pet are pretty much just the kids and the pet. I expect Wilykit and Wilykat’s treasure quest to make a return, but right now they’re not doing anything interesting. Snaf is still cute as a button, but his cartoony antics are a little grating.

Overall, ThunderCats has answered with a resounding “No.” to the question of “Should we care about these people?” I’m just not interested in any story this series has to tell. If the material in between was at all exciting, I would be willing to have faith and wait until the earlier plot points were resolved, but it’s not. In the same way, sometimes I can sit through bad stories if I care enough about something or some character, but here I just can’t get emotionally invested in anything. I automatically default to believing the worst about this show.

(I did enjoy episode four, though).

The production values are top-notch, but the stories are so bland and full of wasted potential. It’s saddening, because I really was looking forward to this series. I didn’t expect anything perfect, but something close to the of the better action series of the last two decades. This show has the look, but not the moves.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Meet My Friend, Calamity Jane

I love anime; I can name off several series I have on DVD, and about as many manga. Yet I’ve moved beyond the stage where I believed that all anime could be defined by a single set of positive (or negative) traits. Instead, I view anime more as a body of entertainment that can produce some wonderful works, but also things that are horrible, boring, or trite.

Which means that I was in no mood to agree with ….this. I like many of the videos on this site, just like I like many anime, but this is….wrong. This is allegedly the Top 11 American Anime video, and it’s an absolute mess.

Starting with the term “American Anime” itself.  No matter how you would try to define “anime”, slapping “American” onto it would be either an oxymoron or redundant. If you define “anime” as cartoons from Japan, it’s an oxymoron. If you want to be super-snobby and remind us that the Japanese use “anime” to refer to all cartoons, then there’s no reason to assign special traits to “anime”, hence making it redundant to refer to “American anime”.

Now, I have seen other nerds who want to use the term “anime” to refer to all animation that attempts to have depth, regardless of country of origin, which is just what Suede is doing. However, the term “anime” has never, on any large scale, been defined purely by its content. This simply would not stick, as one would have to ignore the dozens of anime who do not fit this narrow description. To narrow “anime” down to only being cool and action-oriented sf and fantasy with drama is completely disingenuous. It’s exactly the same as considering all anime to be tentacle porn.

Furthermore, the tone of even series like Avatar: The Last Airbender are more reminiscent of local cartoons than of anime. There are some indefinable qualities of tone and artwork that ensure even the best “anime style” cartoons do not feel like a Japanese work dubbed into English. There are many cross-cultural plot conventions and character types, but many others that are distinct to Japan, either in terms of content or presentation. This is another reason why “American anime” does not exist.

These examples of “American anime” are thus defined as much by this new narrowed definition of “anime” as by any direct Japanese influence. Just as the arguments hinge on taking a narrow definition of anime, they also rely on taking a very narrow definition of American cartoons and attributing every deviation from that format to anime influences and nothing else. Anime apparently created character arcs, character death, emotional intensity, dramatic atmosphere, ongoing plot threads, heroic robots, dark endings for the heroes, slick and kinetic sci-fi style, and...split-screen animation. No other possibilities are introduced, even though entertainment is never created in a vacuum of its own medium.

In this case, animation doesn’t just feed off other animation, foreign or otherwise, to create new works, and cartoons can’t Gargoyles was influenced by cop dramas such as Hill Street Blues, and Samurai Jack draws from live-action film as well. One can’t look at something that you don’t see often in American cartoons and immediately conclude it must have come from solely from exposure to anime. And even if anime were the sole guiding hand in creating these series, they still would not be “American anime”, because the term just does not work.

Yes, there are still problems with the American animation industry. There is the Disney Monopoly, and some anime for which it will be a long time before something similar exists on American television or direct-to-video. Yet these issues will not be helped by treating anime as a thing that American cartoons must inevitably leech off to be interesting. If anime was to contribute anything to expanding the complexities of American cartoons, it was to be just as one of many possible sources of inspiration, and to prove that certain types of series could be marketable...not that they could even exist in the first place.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The Peculiar Olympians: Shinji Ikari

“The Peculiar Olympians” is a series of blog posts about my most favourite fictional characters. They are each here for some combination of sympathy, empathy, inspiration, humour, quality, staying power, and/or significance to my relationship with fandom. These are not all the characters that I like, but they are the ones that have stood out to me the most. The list is also alphabetical and nothing more.

Though I never rank my favourite things, for a while I considered making Shinji at least the number one character on the list, because his appeal was so different from that of the other characters’, though not entirely foreign, either.

In the year 2015, Earth was devastated by a global catastrophe known as Second Impact. Life has resumed a semblance of normalcy after the 2000 incident, but now the Angels have reappeared: strange creatures with bizarre and multifarious shapes, who cannot be successfully combated by ordinary human forces. Fourteen-year-old Shinji Ikari is summoned by his distant father, Gendo, to be the pilot of Evangelion-01, one of a series of humanoid fighting machines designed to combat the Angels. As each Angel comes, Shinji and other characters must deal with the pain of their own psyches in addition to the stresses of combat, while some try to understand exactly what circumstances created the world they find themselves in now.

Shinji Ikari has been a favourite of mine for a long time, and I’ve grown to find the widespread nerd hatred of Shinji to be stupid and overblown, instead of staying offended by it. Strangely enough, this came right on the heels of my urge actively ensure that my own writing contains stronger and active characters. Writers may not have to write just what they feel like doing, but diligently watch their characters’ movements to make sure the potential audience remains interested. It’s a sobering lesson to learn.

However, this is what makes Shinji so interesting—he manages to be compelling in spite of breaking the rule that a character in popular fiction, no matter their personality, must always be ready to act. In allowing his angst to sometimes paralyze him or fuel bad judgements, Shinji is sometimes misread as exaggerated and theatrical, when the opposite is true. His is a portrayal that shows exactly what happens to people in the depths of despair; such realism is often avoided because it doesn’t make for good storytelling, but there are always exceptions. There is a strange beauty to the raw portrayal of a mind trapped in its own pain, an aspect to life that popular fiction usually avoids.

Shinji is not entirely detached from the streamlining effect of fiction, however, which is fine with me. There is still a plot, after all, and there are times when Shinji proves himself able to take action for moral reasons, and to be humorous or endearing. He’s a character with multiple facets. There are times when he also takes highly immoral actions, including one that should have put him off my radar for good, yet it didn’t. In the end, Shinji does choose what may be right, although the series leaves viewers to decide if the abstract principle was as fulfilling as the actual outcome.

All of my interest in Shinji Ikari is for more than the sake of clinical dissection, however: I do have a genuine liking for the character. I enjoy the way he’s written, and I also find Shinji to be likable and good-natured when not under pressure. That doesn’t excuse him from any moral condemnation viewers care to make, of course, but it goes some way to being a fan of Shinji instead of a detached observer.

I have found that only Shinji in the original TV series, and the film End of Evangelion, to have that appeal. In the manga, and so far in the series of Evangelion remake movies, Shinji’s portrayal is toned down. He can be slightly more aggressive, and his scenes of surreal introspection may be glossed over. As a result, his character is made bland, if not entirely standardized.

(However, I do believe the original Shinji would have reached into the void to rescue Rei Ayanami as he did in the second Rebuild film, because Shinji is not entirely passive, and cares about other people. That’s why Shinji came back in the original episode 19, which the movie scene roughly aligns with.)

Nor do the characters that inspired Shinji, or that Shinji was inspired by, possess that same compelling quality. I did like Tsukasa from .hack a bit, but even had I not had problems with the series, he wouldn’t have been as striking as Shinji. Nor do I find any similar character alleged to be an improvement on Shinji to be an actual improvement—it’s always silly to think a character can be “improved” on by another different one.

I also don’t ship Shinji with anyone. Any fan pairing rising out of Evangelion seems inevitably dysfunctional, and there’s no fun in speculating about those. Asuka and Shinji hate each other as much as they love each other, and not in a cutesy way. Kaworu and Shinji had no substance, which was the point—Kaworu represents the ideal world that Shinji cannot have, and so he must be killed. And so on and so forth.

Overall, while I know very few can get a character like Shinji right, it’s this very feeling of rightness that draws me to the character. He is written how writers are discouraged to write characters, yet I find him compelling in a way that no other character quite is. It’s not the point that Shinji is realistic, for characters in popular fiction don’t have to be, but that he is fascinating.

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's Silver

(Typed in a brief moment)

So, today is the 25th Anniversary of Transformers: The Movie. Before Michael Bay, before CGI was. It's the one where Optimus dies and a giant planet eat things. Where there's lots of cheesy hair metal and shiny animation. I never saw it in theatres: I was too young, being only two at the time. But it's important to me.

Beast Wars was my introduction to Transformers, and my favourite of all their series, but it was Transformers: The Movie which triggered my interest in the 1980s Transformers, through a viewing originally meant to get some idea of context for the G1 references in Beast Wars. There was something about TF:TM that sucked me right in, so that I would watch it scads of times on the old Canadian Malofilm VHS, even sitting enraptured through the credits.

As I've noted before, it was the third season of the Transformers cartoon, following the movie and featuring its new cast, that become an iconic part of fandom. The characters and their dynamics captivated me, and remain compelling in some weird immovable way, even as I recognize the weaknesses in the cartoon. The Transformers: The Movie has even more weaknesses in that area, and doesn't establish much of the quirks that made the new Autobots and Decepticons fun. Instead, it's a cliched story that doesn't establish or explain much of anything at all, being a vague Hero's Journey with lots of explosions.

But I love it. Holy hell do I love it. From beginning to end, it's had this hypnotic effect on me. Not caring for Optimus Prime at all, I wasn't impacted by his death. In fact, though the movie does a poor job of establishing his death, I'm impatient for it to happen, so we can focus on the newer characters. That's how much I love TF:TM: I ignore basic rules of storytelling in favour of enjoying it.


Saturday, August 6, 2011

‘Cause Lions Ain’t the Kind You Love Enough

Seeing the new set of Lion King plush at the Disney Store last month set off a chain reaction, in which I bought all the plush dolls of Scar and the hyenas in order to satisfy a blind nostalgic urge, and then remembered just how crazy I had been about the film when it first premiered. I had shed this obsession years ago, both because there was nothing about the source material that held the interest of the person I grew up into, and because I was embarrassed about a period where I was as loudly obsessed as only a grade school kid can be.

This nostalgic reflex didn’t lead to any new appreciation for The Lion King. As I said, there’s very little about the movie that fascinates me anymore. Looking back, I can see the roots of my tendency to focus on some secondary characters while ignoring the main characters or even the actual themes of a work, but there’s also nothing about The Lion King that appeals to my current tastes and desires for fiction. It also can’t wriggle past my defences and still be likable in spite of that. In fact, when viewed in relationship to those same tastes and desires, I really ought to hate The Lion King, but I just can’t bring myself to.

Essentially, The Lion King is a film about the ways that altering preordained roles and causes destruction and doom. There is no room for individualism, subversion, or rebellion on a large scale. Even if the goofy comic relief are self-made exiles and happy hedonists, they’re a second branch to the main narrative, and we’re not supposed to take Timon and Pumbaa that seriously anyway.

The first subversion of the natural order is above reproach in terms of the villainy it represents. Scar messes with the secession rights by taking kingship through blatant fraud and fratricide; not much Unfortunate Implications there. However, one of the blackest marks against his reign is that he brings the forbidden hyenas into the lion lands. Scar even phrases this new integration as a “glorious future”, but it is presented as nothing but a bad idea. The Pride Lands become a waste, leaving everyone starving. It’s obviously intended that keeping the two species apart was a good thing, and only the bad guy would try changing this, because look-what-happens.

Because I was just a fourth-grader, I chalk my past up to being fond of hyenas, and that Scar has a wonderfully dark and expressive character design. Today, there’s not much interesting about their individual personalities. Scar looks cool and refined, but turns out to be a dumb coward when the chips are down, perhaps to reassure us that villains can’t really be that big a threat. Shenzi and Banzai are almost the same kind of “greedy thug/stupid minion” character, except for her being the leader and a little bit smarter, and Ed is just deranged.

(However, I still cared enough to be slightly dismayed at seeing the hyenas become even more anachronistic and anthropomorphic for the sake of comedy in the Timon and Pumbaa cartoon)

I’m also not about to re-interpret these characters as anything more palatable to my tastes, the hyenas as wrongfully persecuted, or Scar as the unjustly overshadowed sibling who hangs out with fellow exiles and altruistically helps them. The Lion King is so obviously stating that the hyenas live in rock and ruin because they somehow deserve to, and that Scar fucked up big time by bringing them into more prosperous areas, that it’s impossible to re-interpret the villains as victims.

There’s nothing in The Lion King that’s as unsettling as all this, but a few things come close. It bothers me that none of the lionesses seemed to be able to do jack until the adult Simba arrived, despite clearly being unhappy. Sure, it might be analogous to the way that real lionesses can do little when new males take over, but since lions in the movie do a billion other things that are contradictory to real lion behaviour, it’s hard to let that bit slide. The only apparent justification was that the lionesses apparently needed The King to bring them to action, since they easily subdue the hyenas in the final battle.

In terms of how the rest of the film demonstrates that pre-ordained order is above reproach, Adult Simba’s initial refusal to re-take the throne is of course set up as something that would make him look like a total dick if he followed through with it, but that’s the point, isn’t it? It’s a world where only the bad guys and the comic relief try to change their roles, and to reinforce the message, the hero is put into a position where to try to change his role means doom for everyone. Simba’s justifications for staying in the jungle, sprung from denial though they are, sound uncomfortably like the words of someone who actually has found a life that he, as an individual, desires. Of course it’s all a ruse to himself, and he really has to go back—no harm done.

In theory, I do like the idea of Simba being so psychologically traumatized that he runs away for years and tries to hide from his problems, still believing that it’s all his fault just for existing. However, he doesn’t feel so much like a flawed, crippled hero so much as one doing something for the plot’s sake. Before and after his self-imposed exile he functions perfectly as the standard male lead, and, though he has a character arc of sorts, it doesn’t feel like a very strong one. Li’l Simba leaves his post only because he is traumatized, and only re-learns his responsibility, not through his own initiative, but because Sky Dad and the others tell him to.

In addition, even if it’s breezed over by the “Hakuna Matata” number, we’re still dealing with a story where there’s a huge gap of nothing in its middle, a timeskip where Simba grows to an adult and nothing else happens. You can even play the Morality Card and get angry at the protagonist for living it up in the jungle while his home dies. Thus, I don’t quite accept the way that the plot moved Simba aside for enough time to grow into an adult, with little consequence after Simba decides to take his place in things.

It’s possible for something to be well-made but that I disagree with, yet even disregarding the subtext, The Lion King just feels like a film in which so much effort was put into animation, music, and art, but so little into story, trusting to archetypes and formulas to win the day, with that huge gap in the middle.

I’m not completely heartless about this movie: the film is still artistically gorgeous, with excellent animation and some great songs. It’s easy to be swept away by it all: despite what I said about Scar and the hyenas today, the “Be Prepared” number is still visually wondrous, and demonstrates much of why I once thought these characters were cool. In short, I can easily see why The Lion King received all the accolades it did, yet its hold on me can’t ever be that strong again. I can’t go for long without sighing over the various subtexts in the film, and realizing that I don’t deeply enjoy any of the characters anymore.

As time has passed, I’ve also come to admit that Disney does look to have ripped off Kimba the White Lion for this movie. I’ve never seen or read any of the various works in the Kimba pantheon, but the borrowing of imagery and certain character/animal roles is too obvious to ignore. It’s almost horrifying, to wonder how so many crew members could pull this shit off and get away with it, and to realize that even when Disney tries for a relatively original story, it still borrows from someone. However, it’s not enough to make me shake off the childhood cobwebs for good, even as, in the intervening years, I’ve become a big fan of Osamu Tezuka’s more mature manga.

The Lion King also reminds me of why I bought into the hatred of the Disney Monopoly. Today it’s easy for me to forget how much they overshadow the rest of American animation, but here they are…so many pretty films, a lot of them buying into the same type of story, yet they are still seen as the alpha and omega of our local cartoon content. I count some Disney movies as my favourites, and no formula is inherently bad, butut when one company dominates a local medium to the extent that animation dominates Disney in North America, it’s souring. I try to forget this rage and focus on the other animation North America has to offer, but it’s still true.

Years ago, I watched the sequel, The Lion King 2: Simba’s Pride, which wasn’t...horrible, but it suffered hugely from a couple of things. The first is that it’s built on a premise that had no evidence in the original film: that there were lionesses who supported Scar, and were kicked out when Simba assumed the throne. Now they are are now back for revenge, which leads to a forbidden romance between Simba’s daughter Kiara and one of the evil lionesses’ sons, Kovu.

The Outlander’s reasons for supporting  Scar are never explained, and indeed their existence is so contradictory to the “spirit” of the first film, the writers look to be scrabbling for something to base their plot on. The idea of Scar having supporters is a great idea if one were starting a story from scratch, but here it’s just tacked on, the themes of the film series contradicting themselves—why present rule from an “unnatural” king as absolutely hated, and then retcon in supporters, unless you’re really starved for content?

However, funnily enough, The Lion King 2 still has more in the way of themes that appeal to me. The exiles (fellow lions, this time, which probably helps explain it on multiple levels), are allowed to return to prosperous lands instead of their exile being part of The Way It Is. Kovu specifically decides that he does not have to live the legacy that’s been created for him. Having Zira, Kovu’s biological mother, be the main villain, in a way that pulls almost no punches, is also refreshing.

That doesn’t make this a good film, though. Besides its thinly-supported premise, The Lion King 2 also falls prey to many of the clich├ęs of works that depict former protagonists as parents: Simba and Nala’s original personalities are almost entirely subsumed into cardboard parent roles, and Simba, being the father character, gets all the focus, and is over-protective rather than free-wheeling like he once was. It’s possible to balance old and new protagonists in a character-family, and not have anyone’s personality left behind, but The Lion King 2 isn’t where one should go looking.

Secondly, though Scar’s design was wonderful in itself, the “evil” lionesses are designed around the same mentality: that the antagonist lions must look leaner and longer and nastier, so that the audience knows who to root for. It makes them stand out even more in comparison to the generic, voiceless lionesses of the rest of the original pride.

And of course there’s the main hero, Kovu, who is not supposed to be Scar’s biological son but his selected successor, despite growing up to look like Mufasa with Scar’s colouring. This is supposed to have resulted from the production staff belatedly realizing what convoluted incest would result when Scar’s son got involved in a romantic relationship with Simba’s daughter, although you think somebody would have noticed before Kovu’s design was finalized. As a result, the film looks awkward in another, entirely different way. And who the hell is Kovu’s father, then?

All in all, I’ve ended up with a film/franchise that I loved as a child, but have been finding it more and more difficult to accept into my current world, but also difficult to reject on those same terms. The Lion King is impossible to forget, but hard to love consciously for a long period. I can get swept up in the art and music of the film, but it fades. The characters that I used to love I find wanting, and the messages of the film can get unsettling, though I know this wasn’t their intention.