AN EMPIRE OF ONE

If you don't think the world's weird, you're not paying attention.

Animated Contradictions

In 1999 I wrote a revised edition of my book, The Animated Film Collector’s Guide. (Read more about it here.) One of the new features added to that revised edition were short observations about some animated features. Here are a few of those observations in revised form:

1. Toy Story. The toys go into “just a toy” mode whenever a human enters the room. But Buzz thinks he is real, not a toy, so why does he act like the other toys? Why does Buzz pretend to be inanimate when a human enters the room if he does not think he is a toy? Shouldn’t the other toys have to restrain him?

2. Antz. This is based on the 1925 German film Metropolis directed by Fritz Lang. In that film, the higher ups plot to replace the workers with robots, the idea being that robots will be more docile than humans. To do this they use a robot who attempts to foment a rebellion which would provide an excuse to wipe out the workers. In Antz, the plot is simply to wipe out the workers. Who is going to do the work when the workers are gone? Did I miss something? Or did whoever thought this up completely misunderstand Lang’s film? (According to Wikipedia, in the US Metropolis had entered the public domain in 1953, but was restored to copyright in 1998, the year Antz was released, where it will remain until January 1, 2023, unless, of course, they change the copyright law again.)

3. A Bug’s Life. This film is based on The Magnificent Seven (which, of course, was based on Seven Samurai). Are we supposed to recognize the similarity to that film? Is it a parody like Rango, or simply a ripoff in the vein of a Tarantino film? This question applies to many Pixar films. Are we supposed to recognize Finding Nemo as Pinocchio told from the point of view of Geppetto? Is Cars a parody of Doc Hollywood? Is The Incredibles a Fantastic Four parody? Is this sequence from Monsters Inc. an homage to or a ripoff of Feed the Kitty?:

Sulley, in Monsters Inc., is afraid to look because he thinks the little girl is in the trash compactor

Marc Anthony, in Feed the Kitty, is afraid to look because he thinks his kitty is being turned into a cookie

Jack Skellington, as Santa, is shot from the sky and lands on a cemetery sculpture

Of course, Pixar is not the only one. For example, is Disney’s The Lion King a ripoff of or homage to Osamu Tezuka’s Kimba, the White Lion? (With Hamlet and Henry IV Part 1 added to the mix.) Is Dreamwork’s The Road to El Dorado a ripoff or homage to the Hope/Crosby Road to… series, and its plot a ripoff/homage of The Man Who Would be King?

4. The Nightmare Before Christmas. The plot has Jack Skellington attempting to be Santa Claus and failing miserably. Moral? Be yourself. But doesn’t this contradict the spirit of Halloween? Isn’t Halloween about putting on a costume and pretending that you are someone else? Isn’t Halloween Town all about Halloween? Of course. But what kind of Halloween Town is it that puts the kibosh on cosplay?

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Written by David Kilmer

May 22, 2011 at 12:14 pm