Thursday, 9 June 2011

The Less Popular Animation

I recently bought Dreamworks' The Road to El Dorado on dvd because it was cheap and I remember liking it when it was young and naturally I rewatched it quickly after and it's brilliant. Really the duo of Miguel and Tulio are fantastic and wonderfully voiced by Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline who apparently defied the norm by doing the voicework together instead of seperately. It's funny, the music is good (mostly Elton John numbers apart from one song by the leads who are actually pretty good and deserved more songs) and the plot is decent. The villain Cort├ęs isn't seen much, there is a substitute villain if you like in the form of priest Tzekel-Kan voiced by the highly underrated Armand Assante.

It's a great buddy movie that apparently was the victim of scripting problems and the fact that Dreamworks had thrown its creative efforts into its first animation- The Prince of Egypt. According to one blog they couldn't decide whether to aim the movie at adults or make it a complete kiddy movie, personally I find the kids movies that have stuff for the adults are the best because when you grow up you can appreciate what you were naive to as a kid.

The Road to El Dorado is predictable but most kids' movies are let's be honest, particularly the Disney ones which are mostly based on fairy tales that were well known even when they came out. It's still a funny movie with loveable, adorable characters, admittedly I don't think there's much to female lead Chel, she just seems to be there for the sake of having a female, given the way she was drawn it's obvious at least one of the guys is going to go with her but there just seems to be no real purpose to her. I did like Rosie Prez's voice work however.

I've learned that sequels and spinoffs were planned but they never saw fruitation because this movie did not do well enough, which is a disappointment in a way because a cartoon series would have been great but in another way sequels are so rarely good maybe it's for the best.

Next is The Swan Princess, a 1994 animated film based on Swan Lake. It's a light hearted film with great voice talent, memorable songs and great one liners, particularly from the French frog who thinks he's really a prince, Jean-Bob. This movie did spawn two sequels, both of which aren't that good or memorable but they are watchable. The original is brilliant, Rothbart is a sufficently scary villain and Odette must be the first princess ever to be annoyed that her prince (Derek) can only say he likes her beauty and nothing else. Of course Odette quickly forgets Derek's shallow behaviour when she becomes Rothbart's captive swan.

The sidekicks of Speed the turtle, Jean-Bob the frog and Puffin the er Puffin really do add to this movie, they along with Derek's friend Bromley make for great comic relief and Derek and Odette do get some personality development, it's particularly wonderful seeing them forced together as children by their pushy parents and loathing each other.

The Pagemaster, a little live action with a lot of animation starring Macaulay Culkin and Christopher Lloyd with the voice talents of Patrick Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, Frank Welker, Leonard Nimoy and Jim Cummings. I guess I love this because it's about books and has a dragon (two of my favourite things) and it references so many of my favourite novels (Alice in Wonderland, Moby Dick, Sherlock Holmes, to name a few) and I wanted my own Horror.

It follows a young boy called Richard who is afraid of everything until one stormy night when he is forced to take shelter in a library where he meets Mr. Dewey who gives him a library card. When he goes to use the phone however, Richard slips on water and is knocked out, when he comes to the painting above him is melting and turns him in an illustration. Over the course of the movie he is joined by the books Adventure, Fantasy and Horror who try to aid him on his adventure, ultimately trying to find the Exit to the library.

It's a cute movie, a little dated by today's standards, the few songs are forgettable but it's still a good movie making a creative use of books, it could have done more and been more, there are flaws but it still deserves a lot more love than it gets.

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