Monthly Archives: May 2013

Island Themes: Lanfuest Quest vs Jak and Daxter

DACAPO and Gaumont Animation just released the first animation test from India of their new children’s show Lanfuest Quest. I covered a little bit about the production on my old blog, where I communicated my shattered dream of voicing an animated skank. My rejection as a voice actor on the show not only robbed me of the opportunity to voice a cartoon skank, but a cartoon skank that COUNTS AS CANADIAN CONTENT!  I know, obviously this dream is beyond the deluded grasp of a regular live-action skank like me.

Still excited to see the screen test though! Obviously I would have preferred the show in good old 2D, but such is my excitement to see animated productions in Winnipeg that I’m more than willing to let this one slide.

Here’s the screen test:

Lanfeust Quest (26 x 26′) Animation Test from Gaumont Animation on Vimeo.

The first thing that struck me (and only thing afterward, because I became instantly obsessed) is how much the look and feel is EXACTLY like Naughty Dog’s Jack and Daxter the Precursor Legacy, which is the first installment of their Jak game franchise.

jak hanging

Wow check out that similar landscape.
The rope bridges, the little islandy things.

Why the Jak Franchise is the Greatest

This will probably need some explanation, since although all three of the games in the Playstation trilogy, Jak and Daxter, Jak 2 and Jak 3 (also some shitty racing game, and a weird bug killing game on the PSP- but we’ll just ignore those) made it to the Playstation greatest hits collection, yet in my travels, none of them seem to have been played by or heard of from anyone.

jak on zoomer

These games were awesome. They had everything I like: characters with pointy ears, tons of vehicles, third person platforming, magic and melee, guns that are nowhere near realistic and therefore actually fun. Goggles, so many goggles- and actually reasons for wearing them sometimes (the third game is mostly set in the desert). AND SO MANY ANIMATED SKANKS to dream about voicing.

jak - kiera ashlen tess

Keira, Ashelin and Tess
(Tess and Ashelin aren’t introduced until the second game. Ashelin is some kind of fighter and Tess is a gun manufacturer)

The trilogy started with lighter themes, but eventually grew to be pretty dark as the main character (Jak) grew to be more angsty and muscular through experimentation with dark eco. The plot becomes a long saga to find the lost creators of the world by relating to the magical units of creation, eco, with the characters falling upon tons of political-type themes and obstacles. \

Additional game-darkening bonus: the annoying Ottsel character (Daxter) eventually stops ranting about bedtimes and switches to discussions about the mystical way bikini-clad girls jiggle.(Sexist, which I hate, yet still somehow less annoying than insipid child-Aaron-Carter-Type problems) ie:” I spilled juice on the couch :O .”

What is an Ottsel?

For all those who don’t know what an Ottsel is, it’s a Cheetos looking orange thing that is a mixture between an Otter and a Weasel. Remember friends, this is Naughty Dog we’re talking about, annoying creature combos is their calling card.

Or have we already forgotten about (ignore the watermarks. Being an artist, I try to use screencaptures and official concept art instead of fan art):

dingodile

Dingodile

rilla roo

Rilla Roo
(You can’t see the tail, but this “rilla” is also part kangaroo, as the name would suggest.)

Zam the not instantly obviously dog-lizard

crash bandicoot

and Crash Bandicoot (just kidding, bandicoots are reaaaaaal)

Probably, but that’s beside the point.

Here’s some of the characters you can enjoy if you go out and get the Jak series.

Jak and Daxter Characters

jak transformation

Jak
Plucky mute child who becomes an angsty magical adult.
Evidently good at fighting
P.S. Look at that “shoe” original Jak is wearing. I’m sure that toe-separating fabric comes in really handy tackling the mountainous island terrain

daxter

Daxter
Whiny buck-toothed human, transformed into an ottsel through the magic of “daarrrrk eco”.
Can be found hanging off of Jak’s shoulder

kiera

Keira
Mechanic, inventor and Jak’s original love interest.

samos the sage

Samos the Sage
Master of green eco (which apparently has something to do with the environment)

Are these characters starting to look  A LOT like the ones in the first video yet?
Also, check out the inside of that cabin: porthole windows, slanty shelves the works.

OK

Obviously this is a super coincidence resulting from the fact that all island-themed 3D animation, draws on the same design ideas. (It’s not like Donkey Kong Country the TV show didn’t look like this too) But I enjoyed these games so much as a kid that any excuse to talk about them is definitely good enough for me.

Haha look- same characters again! Old Sage Buff Adventure Type Whiny Short Sidekick Hot Chick in a crop top Bonus here for the addition of the mustache character

Haha look- same characters again!
Old Sage
Buff Adventure Type
Whiny Short Sidekick
Hot Chick in a crop top
Bonus here for the addition of the mustache character

Anyway, here is the intro for the first game. It starts at about 29 seconds in.
Also don’t worry, that hideous red-haired child turns into a much less (but still very) annoying ottsel within seconds, so you don’t have to put up with him for long.

Don’t forget to listen for that similar island music!

Anyway, high hopes for the show. High hopes that somebody will FINALLY talk to me about the Jak trilogy.

P.S.: I just discovered that there is actually another non-racing game in the Jak series that came out in 2009. I didn’t find out about it because it’s not promoted by Naughty Dog. They only served as co-developers, with High Impact Games as the main developer.

  

Liking ponies before it was cool isn’t hipster? Friendship is Magic Review: Seasons 1 & 2

When I was a child, my two favorite things were cartoons and horses. Therefore, the My Little Pony franchise was a magical godsend that absorbed nearly all of my free time. When I was eight, my manic-encyclopedic knowledge of pony-marking conventions even helped me win a My Little Pony colouring contest – landing me in an additional $200 worth of merchandise (not that I didn’t already have hundreds of dollars of merchandise).

When I was a child, it was anything thing I could do to trick somebody, ANYBODY, into watching My Little Pony with me. And now I find out adults everywhere are watching it bribe-free?

Sign me up.

I think that My Little Pony might be the only thing that it not hipster to have liked before it was cool. Telling my friends that I had watched it years before it was this popular offered me no additional street cred. No surprise there.

I was a little hesitant to get back into it though-since it got it’s cult start on 4chan, it has seemed like a pretty elaborate ruse. There has been hundreds of animations that secretly cater to a more adult audience, but none that are aimed at such a young crowd, and none with such overwhelmingly stereotypical feminine themes.  A bedridden week with a violent stomach bug put these fears to rest though, as I resorted to turn on, what I hypothesized might be, the only show with plot lines comprehensible to me in my nauseated state.

These are my findings:

Animation

The animation is a masterpiece! simplistic and adorable, with proportions just exaggerated enough to make for good stylization. They even animate their manes as one little blob, pulling and tweaking it to give it movement when the characters run. This is a stark contrast to the horrible stubbly cow-ponies of yore, with their gaping bovine-lashed eyes and their horrible mixture of too much realism and too much fantasy all rolled into one.

rainbow dash

Wow- could this be any more of an improvement?
I love flash-style animation

old ponies

Ew look at these stumply little buggers-DATED

Using a Barbie comb I used to brush their stringly strands of plastic hair and wonder why the figurines legs were so short, color combinations so jarring, and cutie-mark symbols so indecipherable. ( I would often receive ponies with shit that looked like bowtie pasta stamped on their rump- the boxes offering me no explanation).

Here's one I actually had. The blossoms indicate skill in....gardening maybe?

Here’s one I actually had. The blossoms indicate skill in….gardening maybe?

Yeah- there's the brush. Pretty hideous right?

Yeah- there’s the brush. Pretty hideous right?

These characters are an 10000% improvement. My only animation complaint is that the boy-ponies seem to suffer from Winx Club Syndrome. An animation symptom that results from when a severely girly franchise attempts to include boy characters and severely botches the attempt to translate masculine features into their animation template.

Here have a look.

The Winx Girls- Note the excessive levels of girly-ness

The Winx Girls- Note the excessive levels of girly-ness

These guys look terrible- what a mess. (except Timmy, the nerd, who is moderately ok)

These guys look terrible- what a mess. (except Timmy, the nerd, who is moderately ok)

Now take a look at some of the terrible looking boy characters in My Little Pony. WARNING: Searching ANY of the pony boy characters will immediately result in TONS OF FAN PORN

This thing is named Fancy Pants – really? Fan porn involving this guy? Yes. If this thing had a sound assigned to it, it would be *nyahem,*

 

Big Macintosh- Apple Jack's older brother

Big Macintosh- Apple Jack’s older brother- apparently a stud.

Episodes and Characters

I had originally assumed that this show was so popular with adult audiences because of its humor (because this is usually the case for similar shows). But this show isn’t very funny overall. It does however have an extremely watchable quality. It’s definitely not grippingly suspenseful or action packed, but it has a structure that allows you to put on ten or so episodes in succession while you hammer out some mindless work. And it leaves you positive feelings.

The episodes follow the growing friendship of a handful of girl-ponies, all of which are actually pretty well-developed characters and cover a broad range of relatable personality traits. Also the voice work is hardly grating at all for a children’s show, Ashleigh Ball and Tara Strong had a hand in this one

Here I have boiled them down to their essence

Rainbow Dash – Pegasus Athlete, arrogant and competitive. Interests include: speed.
Pinkie Pie – Party-loving ditz
Twilight Sparkle – Bookish, Type- A unicorn
Apple Jack – Tomboy farmgirl pony with apple- related skills
Rarity – Snobby, fake English accented unicorn. (Also a talented designer, and business owner)
Fluttershy – Shy-ass, kindly Pegasus who caters to the every whim of random animals
Spike: Twilight Sparkle’s dragon-slave.

my little pony cast

Usually they learn something about friendship, and report back to Twilight Sparkle’s mentor Princess Celestia, neatly packaging the episodes into didactic bows.

Occasionally you will be exposed to an episode where uncannily irritating younger-type ponies, Apple Bloom, Scootaloo (even the name is annoying) and Sweetie Bell (have you noticed that compound names are really common in the series?) try to find their one special skill and transform their embarrassing “blank flanks” into flanks plagued by vague markings indicating a highly specific and often menial skill.

For example, Pinkie Pie’s one true skill is “parties”, outside of which she is largely unskilled. Party skill allows Pinkie Pie to throw an irritating amount of social gatherings for no reason, where the festivities 100% percent of the time include cupcakes and a conga line. As far as I know, her parties don’t bring her any income, and other than Twilight Sparkle, who is still a student, she seems to be the only unemployed pony in PonyVille.

I can see how this “one true skill” idea could be really inspiring to kids though. I mean, I wish every that every time I wondered if I was really meant to make cartoons, I could look down at my ass and see a mystical tattoo of a Wacom Tablet.

However these three pony childrens’ skills are made impossibly obvious in the first episode they appear in, and from then on we watch them flounder about, actively destroying the town while managing to do everything other than the ONE THING THEY ARE EACH COMPETENT AT.

scootaloo and sweetie bell

Scootaloo and Sweetie Bell: Looks like they done f****d up again

Other Considerations

I really appreciate the care given to developing the pony universe this time around. The ponies are all properly employed (although I use the term employed loosely- the town seems to have some sort of communist setup, where most of the ponies are employed performing basic nature functions like making rain and feeding animals.) , PonyVille is just one of many other pony related cities scattered around the world and there’s a number of other magical creatures that have their own societies. They have also established the universe’s magic rules fairly comprehensively. Everybody has some sort of traceable family, and hasn’t just come out of thin air. Very well done for a children’s show. Way to go executive producer Lauren Faust!

Also, good on them for insisting on using the plural conjugation “Pegasi” for Pegasus, instead of adopting/inventing some new horrible child-friendly term, like Winglies or Flybellas or some shit.
Speaking of which- the way they animate their little wings folded against their bodies is adorable enough to warrant watching the show on its own.

Verdict

Will I watch the third season. I don’t know why, but definitely yes. I liked it then and I like it now. I will also watch the recently confirmed fourth season, coming this winterLong live ponies.

Also did I mention that Build-a-Bear Workshop has a new pony constructing line?

Here it is. It seems a little limited though- very Rainbow Dash and Pinkie Pie heavy- either way- I’ll be right back…I have some cotton stuffing related business to take care of.