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Toy Butt Meet Panda Foot

September 6, 2009

Kung Fu Panda is one of the most impressive animated films to ever come from Dreamworks and when memories of their other films like Antz, Madagascar, and Over the Hedge come to mind, Kung Fu Panda is definitely one of the best. It’s so good you’d think Pixar dipped their hand into the creative pot. Jack Black plays his most likable and adorable character Po, an out of shape Panda working at his father’s noodle shop. Po however has bigger dreams than noodles, he longs to become a Kung Fu master despite lacking the ability to fight, walk gracefully, or see his own toes. He does have a few things however, an extensive knowledge of Kung Fu, a heart of gold, and a large pair of gonads. When the Yoda of anthropomorphic China, Master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim), has a vision of a former student turned violent psychopathic murderer Tau Lung’s return from a high security prison, he and Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman) decide it’s time to find the Dragon Warrior, the only being entitled to the Dragon Scroll which holds infinite power to defeat Tau Lung (Ian McShane). Through a series of animated mishaps Po is revealed to be the Dragon Warrior to the disappointment of Shifu and other trained warriors as they see Po as nothing more than a fat fanboy who giggles with pleasure after being beaten to pulp during training.

 Can Shifu train Po in time? Of course he does! But it’s not the predictable plot that makes the film so great, it’s the amazing visuals that take place on screen. Intended for theaters in widescreen, I watched this movie on a laptop and was still shocked and awed by the depth of visual action that unfolded. I’ve always had a gripe with CGI due to the fact that any 14-year old with a terabyte of memory and enough time on his hands can crap out a Delgo. However Kung Fu Panda uses CGI as a tool to film a movie without limitation by using techniques used in live-action film instead of using CGI as a crutch like most filmmakers today. The camera moves in tracking shots and long shots many times leading the action instead of merely following it. Close ups and zooms are all used fluidly and effectively with quick paced edits that make the film appear more real than it should. The emphases on facial expressions are also extremely impressive reminiscent of why Jim Carrey initially found fame and became known as “rubberface.” There’s a crap ton of star power in this film from Jackie Chan to Angelina Jolie to Seth Rogen, however that doesn’t take away from its glory as they only play minor characters leaving the main characters more memorable and recognizable.

  After being amazing by Kung Fu Panda I found myself on a animation kick and sought to watch another well liked animated film, Toy Story 2. After years of hearing that it was a great sequel filled with emotion, wonderful animation, and all that jazz I decided to watch it and was instead greeted with utter disappointment and boredom throughout. The only thing I kept thinking was “Simpsons did it” except replace ‘Simpsons’ with ‘Toy Story’. The whole film was a pathetic and diluted rehash of everything the first film did even going as far to do a bait and switch of another Buzz Lightyear just to go through the delusional toy plot again.

 So the run down for anyone who’s never seen either: Toy Story was about Woody (Tom Hanks) a cowboy doll and favorite of his owner Andy. Woody is the big man on campus adored by all until action figure Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen –#6) comes along quickly knocking Woody off his pedestal and replacing him as Andy’s favorite. Buzz however has his own personal demons as he believes he is an actual space cadet and not a doll. A lot of stuff happens and it appears that Woody attempted to kill the well liked Buzz, causing the other toys to run him out; Thus beginning a long adventure of the two dolls trying to find themselves and their way back to Andy while avoiding being tortured to death by Andy’s psychopathic neighbor Sid. The first Toy Story was hilarious, touching, and visually stunning as many of the scenes exaggerate how huge and inaccessible the world is for a toy.

 Toy Story 2 starts with Woody having nightmares and dealing with the inevitable thought of being discarded when Andy gets older. In an attempt to rescue Wheezy, another toy that becomes damaged and forgotten, from a yard sale Woody gets stolen by a toy collector. Woody discovers that he is part of an entire collection of Woody’s Round Up dolls along with an over enthusiastic, loud, and at times pretty annoying Jessie (Joan Cusack) . The story blandly unfolds with the other toys attempting to rescue Woody while he has to make the decision of wanting to live his life being oogled as a collectable or being a beloved doll for a short time more with Andy.

 What’s missing from Toy Story 2 besides an awesome soundtrack by Randy Newman, is the smart witty humor perfected in the original. The second is filled with cheap humor that consists of no wit, seen when Woody jumps on the back of his horse Bullseye while shouting his catchphrase “ride like the wind Bullseye” as Bullseye jumps up exposing his stomach and none formed genitalia. Bullseye embarrassingly covers himself while staring at the audience and quickly runs off camera. Compare that to Toy Story’s scene of Buzz getting drunk off imaginary tea when he realizes that he’s a doll or when Buzz first meets the aliens in the claw machine, the Bullseye scene leaves much to be desired. The original also made sure to constantly frame Buzz and Woody in the city next to enormous objects to remind viewers of the limitations that dolls have however Toy Story 2 didn’t have this same reminder, instead relying on close ups of the dolls many times ignoring their surroundings.

(Would have been so much better if it were like the trailer)

 Many other critics have hailed the film for its “remarkable visual style” however I don’t understand where this idea comes from as Toy Story not only did it first but 1000 times better. Had I not seen Toy Story, I’d probably be amazed with Toy Story 2. I would have thought the visuals were stunning, bright, and realistic. But I did see Toy Story a million times as a kid and I remember having the feeling that I knew exactly what the world looked like in the mind of a toy. This time around I knew exactly what the world looked like in the mind of a CGI animator who could only imagine what it’s like in the mind of a toy. Toy Story 2 was mediocre for the same reason Family Guy post 3rd season sucks along with most sequels. They are all carbon copies of the original and lack true humor and originality. Instead they are created mostly for money and lack the same charm of their predecessors.

SEE IT. Kung Fu Panda
AVOID IT. Toy Story 2

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. September 13, 2009 3:54 AM

    >I don't have issues with Toy Story or its sequel like you do…but I find this incredibly funny.I don't watch so many animated films…but a 1 for me would be Shark Tale [I am not sorry Shark Tale] and a 10 would be Corpse Bride:D

  2. September 13, 2009 9:21 PM

    >Thank you for the comment and glad you found it amusing! I've never seen Shark Tale but I've heard its pretty horrible… I may have to give it a shot just to vent about it here.

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