I truly hope you’re doing well in the current social climate and are celebrating Friday the best way you can. This week, I’m reviewing two brilliant animated series that’s female oriented, but fit for every audience imaginable. They’re two very complex and amazing animated series you can sit down and watch with the whole family, that promote strong female heroes, complex ideas about youth and discovery, and confronts very real overtones about loss of innocence and growing up way too fast.
Owen Dennis who was a former write and storyboard artist for one of my all time favorite animated series “Regular Show,” returns to bring us the acclaimed “Infinity Train: Book One,” available very soon on DVD and Digital! This is an entirely different kind of animal from “Regular Show” launching us in to a bizarre, scary, and exciting adventure with heroine Tulip (Ashley Johnson). The red haired bespectacled teenager spends her days in front of her computer escaping the tension between her parents, both of whom have divorced. When she learns she can’t go to computer camp, she’s so heartbroken that she runs away.
She happens upon a massive train she boards hoping to go on a journey and it doesn’t take too long to realize she’s on a unique train that works as its own land. It’s the infinity train, a massive world within a locomotive. Visiting various worlds outside the train, and confronting herself from within, she teams up with her companions Atticus (Ernie Hudson), the brave canine king of Corginia, and One-One, a robot with dueling personalities who is tends to be both her friend and her adversary quite often.
Owen Dennis’ series is so brilliantly realized and unique and although he does center his series on Tulip, the show is never afraid to become absolutely spooky. This becomes especially true when we learn about the horrific Amelia, and the robotic Steward, two conniving and sinister technological beings that oversee the Infinity Train that have plans for Tulip. Like much of “Regular Show,” Owen Dennis has a fun ability to take the smallest nuances of life and the environment and transform it in to something fantastic and bold.
“Infinity Train” steers away from comedy and satire and dives head first in to the more menacing and creepy elements of Tulip’s seemingly mundane world, all the while using much of her adventures as overtones for her struggles with adolescence, as well as her unresolved feelings about her parents’ very traumatic divorce. It’s a marvelous often mind blowing adventure from the Cartoon Network (in the league of the equally under appreciated “Over the Garden Wall”) that deserves so much more attention, and now you can and should seek it out.
“Infinity Train: Book One” is on DVD and Digital on April 21st and I strongly, highly recommend buying it (digital or physical). Among some of the best special features, there are looks at the animatics that helped storyboard so much of the beautiful world, there’s a gallery for the “Infinity Train,” there’s commentary for various select episodes, the mix of the final episode, and finally small documentaries about the various train carts Tulip visits through the duration of “Book One.”
As a special memento, Warner Bros. is offering fans a FREE “Infinity Train” coloring sheet to download and color at their leisure! Be sure to tag @cinemacrazed and @wbpictures and let us see what marvelous works of art you’ve created!
From Gorō Miyazaki, Polygon Pictures, and co-produced by Studio Ghibli, comes “Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter: The Complete Series” from Shout! Factory and GKIDS. One of the most underrated fantasy series to come along in a while, “Ronja” is a cel shaded animated period series set in a far off land where the rich get richer and thieves thrive by taking what they need to survive. In the vein of “Robin Hood,” Ronja is born from a mother and her father Mattis.
Mattis is the leader of a clan of thieves that dwell deep in the forest and survive by stealing from the wealthy. They’re at war with a rival clan of thieves, all of whom are also trying to find treasures. Mattis must come to terms with being a parent and surviving with his dangerous lifestyle, especially as Ronja matures from a precocious baby to a curious and adventurous preteen. As Mattis and his wife Lovis allow Ronja more freedom, she learns that the world is filled with perils and dangers that keep her on her feet.
Much in the realm of other Miyazaki and Ghibli projects, “Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter” is centered on a strong and powerful young woman who comes of age amidst extraordinary circumstances and conflict. Miyazaki also opens up his world, making Ronja’s landscape so vast and nigh endless. The more she learns about the world and her surroundings, the more she comes to the realization that her world is very small, and she has to pick allegiances very soon.
“Ronja” is filled with rich characterization and excellent drama that paces itself balances unique themes about aging alongside some fun adventure you can only find with Studio Ghibli. If you’re a fan of Studio Ghibli, you know exactly what you’re getting in to with “Ronja,” and this series unfolds with an epic pacing and unique characters.
The Blu-Ray includes all twenty six episodes of the series on four Blu-Ray discs from GKIDS and Shout! Factory. The set includes an eleven minutes Interview with Gorō Miyazaki who gives us a sense of his intentions toward the series. He discusses how they made the third episode first and then did the first two, the large number of women that were part of the production in various roles, and his work on previous Ghibli films before working on this series.
There’s the six minutes Press Conference including the director, voice actors, and producers alike. Gorō talks working with CG even though the studio wasn’t a place for it. Finally there’s the thirty eight minutes The Making of Ronja which delves in to the production process with footage of meetings during various stages of development.
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