Tag Archives: animation

My Thoughts on: Avatar-The Last Airbender (2005-2008)

As a lifelong fan of animation, I’ve seen a lot of cartoons and animated series. And trust me when I say that after all this time Avatar: The Last Airbender remains one of the greatest animated series I have ever seen. Even though the series concluded 11 years ago, it still holds up today as one of the all-time greats.

Avatar: The Last Airbender is set in a world where people known as “benders” can be born. A bender is someone who can manipulate one of the four classical elements: Water, Air, Earth, and Fire. The only being who can manipulate all of the elements at once is the Avatar, a figure that is endlessly reincarnated throughout time, though each incarnation comes from a different background (for example, the last three Avatars before Korra went Earth-Fire-Air). The world is loosely organized into nations/tribal areas according to these elements as well. There are the Northern and Southern Water Tribes, the Air Nomads, the Earth Kingdom, and the Fire Nation. However, everything changes when the Fire Nation sets out to conquer the world.


100 years after the Fire Nation begins its conquest, the main story follows Katara (a water-bender) and her brother Sokka as they discover the long-lost Avatar Aang, the last airbender in the world. To fulfill his destiny, Aang must master all of the elements and put the world back into balance. But it won’t be easy, since Aang and his friends are closely pursued first by Prince Zuko, an exiled Fire Nation prince, and then a host of other villains, including the psychotic Azula (Zuko’s sister).

Considering it’s an animated series, and meant for children, Avatar: The Last Airbender contains some very adult themes. There’s references to genocide (the Air Nomads are annihilated), murder, torture, abuse, just to name a few of the darker examples. That being said, the story Avatar tells is a beautiful one, and you’ll quickly find yourself immersed in Aang’s adventures as he seeks to fulfill his destiny as the Avatar. I really found myself identifying with Toph along the way, particularly when she breaks away from her stifling family in order to make her own life.


One of the things I like best about the world of Avatar is how real it feels. The way bending is presented in every day life, it feels like something that does and could exist. I freely admit, during the show’s original run, I wished I could be a bender (preferably a Water bender but knowing my luck I’d be an Earth bender like Toph).

If you haven’t seen Avatar: The Last Airbender, I highly recommend going out and picking up the complete series on Blu-Ray. I emphasize blu-ray because the regular DVD version of the box set has some….issues…that tend to ruin the viewing experience. Take my word for it, the Blu-Ray version of the set is worth it.

Let me know what you think about Avatar: The Last Airbender in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

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My Thoughts on: Tiny Toon Adventures (1990-1992)


Tiny Toon Adventures Intro

If you grew up in the 90s (like me), then you know it was a great time to be alive in terms of animation. The Disney Renaissance was in full swing and the airwaves were full of amazing cartoons! In this decade television animation experienced a surge of quality and created a host of memorable shows (like Batman: The Animated Series). One of my favorites growing up was Tiny Toon Adventures, a sort-of next generation take on Looney Tunes, just updated to the 90s. Contrary to popular belief, the Tiny Toons characters are NOT the children of the classic stars (except for Gogo Dodo). Rather, they’re young toons who take after particular characters. For example:

Buster Bunny/Babs Bunny: These rabbits are both inspired by Bugs Bunny. Buster represents Bugs playing the “straight man” during the 1950s while Babs represents Bugs’ more wacky side as seen in the 1940s.

Plucky Duck: Plucky is almost a carbon copy of Daffy Duck (except that he’s green), right down to his greed and resentment of Buster and Babs.


Hamton Pig: Supposed to be inspired by Porky, but honestly I don’t see it.

Elmyra: It might not be clear, but Elmyra (feminine of Elmer) is a take-off on Elmer Fudd. Except instead of hunting animals with a gun, Elmyra “hunts” animals to be her unwilling pets. She LOVES animals, any kind of animal, in fact she’s been known to chase after several of the characters. A running gag is everyone being terrified by the mere mention of her name.

Montana Max: a spoiled millionaire brat inspired by Yosemite Sam (he gets his comeuppance frequently throughout the series).

Sweetie Pie: Picture Tweetie Pie as a girl and the instigator of conflict instead of the victim. That’s Sweetie in a nutshell.

Fifi: If Pepe le Pew were a girl and could control his scent at will, that’s Fifi.

Calamity Coyote/Little Beeper: The younger versions of Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner. Sadly you don’t see these two very often (from what I read, Chuck Jones, who created Coyote and Road Runner in the first place, was not amused by their appearance and made his displeasure known).

Gogo Dodo: The only character confirmed to be the son of an original character, Gogo lives in Wackyland and acts just like the original Dodo.


A lot of Tiny Toon episodes were parodies of famous TV show or movies, or whatever happened to be popular at the time. For instance, the 2nd episode “A Quack in the Quarks” is a shameless parody of Star Wars (Duck Vader anyone?). There’s also “The Acme Acre Zone” (The Twilight Zone, where Charlie Adler (voice of Buster) does a pretty good impression of Rod Serling), “Citizen Max” (Citizen Kane) and “Duck Trek” (Star Trek), just to name a few. There are also too many Disney parodies to count, but my particular favorite is the rip-off of Night on Bald Mountain (from Fantasia) in “Stuff That Goes Bump in the Night.” Many episodes also center around Acme Looniversity where the toons learn how to be proper cartoon characters.

The series is understandably a little dated especially when technology comes up (some of the characters brag about owning a VCR) but most of the humor still works (though there are some quips about Donald Trump (not many but they are in there) that might rub you the wrong way).

Tiny Toon Adventures paved the way for several spin-off series, including Animaniacs, Pinky and the Brain, and the very short-lived Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain. Currently the entire series is available to stream on Hulu (and is also available on DVD if Hulu isn’t an option). I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about this cartoon series. Thanks for stopping by and have a great day!

See also:

Animated Film Reviews

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The Great Mouse Detective “Let me be good to you” (1986)

One of my favorite Disney animated films is the underrated The Great Mouse Detective (1986) which should be held in high esteem because it paved the way for the Disney Renaissance to begin with The Little Mermaid. The story features several memorable songs, my childhood favorite being “Let Me Be Good to You.”


The Great Mouse Detective “Let Me Be Good to You” (1986)

To recap: Basil and Dawson are searching for the hideout of the notorious Ratigan, who has taken little Olivia captive to ensure her father finishes a mysterious invention. Using his eccentric methods, Basil deduces that the entrance to Ratigan’s lair can be found at a seedy pub on the waterfront. Inside, a number of musicians are performing for the rowdy crowd with very little success, that is until a certain female mouse named Miss Kitty (Melissa Manchester) takes the stage.

“Let Me Be Good to You” starts off as a simple ballad with no hint as to what’s coming:

Dearest friends, dear gentlemen
Listen to my song
Life down here’s been hard for you
Life has made you strong
Let me lift the mood
With my attitude

Hey, fellas
The time is right
Get ready
Tonight’s the night
Boys, what you’re hopin’ for will come true
Let me be good to you

You tough guys
You’re feelin’ all alone
You rough guys
The best o’ you sailors and bums
All o’ my chums

So dream on
And drink your beer
Get cozy
Your baby’s here
You won’t be misunderstood
Let me be good to you

The audience is clearly moved, but things are just getting started! After disappearing behind the curtain, Miss Kitty returns to reveal a burlesque outfit (to the extreme delight of the audience) along with a pair of backup dancers. The song transitions to a big-band style number (the piano is completely drowned out by the brass) and features a long instrumental break while a drugged Dawson finds himself onstage dancing with the girls.


Hey, fellas
I’ll take off all my blues
Hey, fellas
There’s nothin’ I won’t do
Just for you

So dream on
And drink your beer
Get cozy
Your baby’s here
Hey boys, I’m talkin’ to you

Your baby’s gonna come through
Let me be good to you

The craziest thing about this song is it nearly got cut from the film on the grounds that it was too ‘adult’ to be in a children’s film (to which I say “Seriously? And the messed up things in The Black Cauldron, Pinocchio and Dumbo weren’t??”). They managed to keep the sequence in by arguing that since the characters in question were mice and not human, young viewers wouldn’t make the connection to anything inappropriate. And that’s true from my experience: it wasn’t until I was a lot older that I realized what I was really seeing in this scene.

The animation on Miss Kitty is really well done, especially when she’s wearing her ‘sexy’ outfit. It’s drawn in such a way that it looks revealing but it doesn’t really show anything inappropriate (although one should remember this film is set in the Victorian era and showing this much skin in public was considered scandalous in polite society).

In my opinion, over thirty years later, “Let Me Be Good to You” remains one of the best sequences of the pre-Disney Renaissance era and I hope you enjoyed reading about it. Let me know what you think about this song in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Disney/Dreamworks/Pixar/etc. Soundtracks A-Z

The Great Mouse Detective “The World’s Greatest Criminal Mind” (1986)

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Fantasia: Disney’s strange experiment with music and animation

January 6th, 1942: Disney’s Fantasia opens in theaters (not to be confused with its official New York premiere in 1940)

Seventy-four years ago, a strange movie opened in American cinemas. Fantasia was far from the typical feature film, beacause rather than telling a unified story, it was separated into a series of musical segments, some told stories, others consisted of abstract images. Disney originally intended for Fantasia to be the first in a recurring series of films that would continuously update itself by including old segments and adding in new portions as time went on. Although Fantasia 2000 attempted to follow this model, the plan ultimately fell through. Nonetheless, Fantasia is nowadays considered a masterpiece of animation and of musical talent.

The film is divided into eight musical segments and they are as follows:

Of all the segments in Fantasia, the Toccata and Fugue is by far the most abstract segment of them all. The Toccata consists of the camera panning through the orchestra, with occasional shots of conductor Leopold Stokowski’s back (seen in the picture above). The Fugue section is when things get interesting (or weird, depending upon how you feel about classical music). The viewer is taken through a medley of rolling red and purple hills, endless staircases and fantastical landscapes, all before plummeting back to earth and the orchestra as the piece finally comes to an end.

Despite it’s name (and the host informs the audience as well), the titular Nutcracker does not appear in this segment. What does appear are a number of dances from the ballet, namely: “The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy”; “Chinese Dance”; “Dance of the Flutes”; “Arabian Dance”; “Russian Dance”; and “Waltz of the Flowers.”

This is the only segment to be brought back in Fantasia 2000 and one of the most famous, mostly because of its famous star: Mickey Mouse is the titular apprentice, who works tirelessly for the wizard Yen Sid (Disney spelled backwards). Once the wizard departs for bed, Mickey decides to create some “help” to get his chores done quicker, but things quickly get out of hand…

  • The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky

This segment is usually the one kids remember because this is “the dinosaur segment” (at least that’s how I always remembered it when I was growing up). Disney took Stravinsky’s ballet about a group of primitives performing ritual sacrifice (not kidding about this) and transformed it into a story about evolution, starting with the primitive Earth boiling in lava, through the creation of microbes up until the mighty dinosaurs themselves. The climax of the segment (before the extinction anyway), is a terrifying segment where a T-Rex attacks a group of peaceful dinosaurs and the T-Rex squares off against the Stegosaurus (keep in mind that T-Rex was viewed primarily as a hunter in those days, and not believed to be the scavenger we now suspect he might have been).

The two square off, but you just know Stegosaurus doesn’t stand a chance
  • Intermission/Meet the Soundtrack

Now comes an interlude where first, we see the musicians having an impromptu jam session and then our host introduces us to the soundtrack, personified as an animated string standing in the center of the stage. This animated string is used to demonstrate the different sounds the orchestra makes. Below is just one example (it’s really funny to watch):

  • The Pastoral Symphony (Symphony No. 6) by Ludwig van Beethoven

Now into the second half of the program, we see Beethoven’s Symphony No. 6 (also called the Pastoral Symphony). Beethoven wrote this symphony as his deafness was progressively getting worse and so he deliberately evoked the landscape of the country in his musical writing and the Disney animators took these sounds and created a fantastical Greek world where all the creatures of mythology live. For instance you have (in no particular order):

The whole program revolves around a day in the life in this little paradise. We see the life of a Pegasus family, courtship among the centaurs, a huge wine party hosted by Dionysus, a gigantic thunderstorm created by Zeus (apparently because he can), the aftermath and a spectacular sunset (with a brief cameo by Apollo no less!)
Apollo waving goodbye
  • Dance of the Hours by Amilcare Ponchielli

Next comes the ever hilarious Dance of the Hours, an allegory of the progression from Day to Night. The segment starts with Madame Upanova waking up her ostrich dancers (they represent the Morning)


Truthfully? I did NOT know these characters had names
The ostriches are frightened away by Hyacinth Hippo and her servants (and they represent the Afternoon)
While Hyacinth takes a nap, several elephants (led by Elephanchine) come in and do a bubble dance (and they represent the Evening)
Finally, the Elephants are (literally) blown away by the evening wind and Hyacinth remains asleep, unaware that Night has now fallen and she is being observed by Ben Ali Gator (get it?) and his troop of gators. Somehow, Ali Gator falls hopelessly in love with Hyacinth and she seems to reciprocate (an alligator and a hippo?!?!) and they share a brief dance together before Hyacinth gives a brief glance of “come and get me if you want me” and Ali Gator gladly gives chase, leading to the wild finale where the other alligators chase throughout the palace, pulling out ostriches, Hippos and Elephants, all while Hyacinth and Ali Gator dance oblivious. The finale is SO tremendous in fact, that it literally brings the palace crashing down at the very end.
  • Night on Bald Mountain/Ave Maria by Modest Mussorgsky and Franz Schubert respectively
The climax of the program now comes with Night on Bald Mountain. On a distant mountain in the Eastern European countryside, the black demon Chernabog awakens at midnight and begins his devilish plan of wreaking havoc upon the world below.
This scared me so much when i was a kid!!
Chernabog summons ghosts, witches, lesser demons and who knows what else and all converge in a riotous dance of death on the mountain top.
But just as Chernabog has gathered his full power and is about to attack, a bell rings and the demon stops. The bell continues to ring, and each time a white flash appears to blind him. It is the early hour and a nearby church is calling the monks to prayer. It is the holy power of prayer that stops Chernabog and forces him to go back to sleep for another night. Meanwhile, the monks continue to pray, and the segment gives way to Schubert’s Ave Maria
And that is how Fantasia ends. After the segment ends, we see the musicians departing the same way we came in, but there’s no more narration, no more music.
*all images are the property and copyright of Walt Disney Studios
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