Director Michael Mort has been working in stop motion animation for most of his cinematic career, working with studios such as Aardman Animations and his own studio Animortal Productions, and is a clear fan of old school action films and their over-the-top styles.
This year, Nickelodeon decided to add some spice to their celebration of Halloween by providing a half hour stop motion special. The folks at Bikini Bottom are celebrating Halloween this time, and rather than the iconic wacky two dimensional style, we’re given a brand new spin, with some hilarious results. The stop motion by Screen Novelties is quite excellent, lending the series a sense of whimsy that you would find in something like “A Nightmare Before Christmas.” There is even a great homage to “The Haunted Mansion” Disney Ride, which is both dazzling and screams Halloween.
Written by Crystal Perea and directed by Calley MacDonald, this short stop-motion animation film is adorably cute and funny. The story shows a lot of heart and love in a family that is rather strict and not accepting of new things. The boy at the center of it all is the black sheep of his family and is shown as a sweet, loving boy. The way the story is built, the surprise near the end is not evident or easily guessed. While there is indeed more to this story than first meets the eye, it all makes sense in a way. This story is loving and filled with just the right amount of humor to make it a comedy but without going overboard silly. The film has very little dialog, almost none really, and it shares its story and emotions through well done animation and through its music.
“XX” is yet another horror anthology, this time featuring four horror segments directed by women, all of which revolve around concepts mostly associated with women. While “XX” garners the recurring theme of motherhood, the tales themselves are based around feminine or maternal concepts that are twisted for the genre. “The Box” is a loose allegory for anorexia, “The Birthday Party” is about status, “Don’t Fall” is kind an allegory for menstruation, while “Her Only Living Son” is about a mother’s unwillingness to let go of her son and let him realize his destiny. The four very talented female filmmakers were given complete freedom and as a result we have a pretty stellar horror film, all things considering.
It just serves to prove my theory that bad animated movies can be excused since they’re “for kids” is a cheap cop out meant to let crap pass by us. Animation studios are providing amazing kids fare, including Laika who seemingly snuck out of nowhere to deliver yet another stop motion children’s masterpiece. “Kubo and the Two Strings” is probably their great animated stop motion achievement to date. It’s an immense, epic, and heartfelt ode to the art of storytelling and the power of memories. It’s teeming with fantastic Asian folklore offering a very respectful view of its characters, and creates a wonderful hero who is capable of defeating evil not with his fists or guns, but with magic and his ability to think outside the box.
In the end what will win out and be our undoing will be apathy. It’s the willingness to just sit back and allow evil, to apathetically cling to our faith without challenging those that seek to do wrong. It’s our talent for not doing anything, and allowing injustice. It doesn’t matter what we believe, what politics we subscribe to, but when the world comes literally crashing down on us, we’re all just bugs ready to be squashed. “Hive” is set in a world where its breed of insectoid people have been split and divided by beliefs, religion, and class.
I respect Tim Burton’s legacy a lot and I admire what he was going for with “The Corpse Bride.” Not a lot of mainstream directors aspire to deliver movies that are more bent toward the Gothic sensibility with homages to folks like Edward Gory. Burton is a man who clearly has a love for the style, and I love it as well. Sadly, “The Corpse Bride” is a weaker approach toward the stop motion animation that Burton was mostly known for with “The Nightmare Before Christmas” for a long time. The aforementioned film is so much more charismatic and entertaining than “The Corpse Bride” in the end. Granted it’s not an awful movie, but it just feels like Burton is trying to recapture the brilliance of “The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Dad’s Fragile Doll (Iran) (2014)
A young girl uses imagination to mentally work through her family situation. The film by Ali Zareghanatnowi has an interesting animation style that looks like moving sketches. The style is visually appealing but can become too much in scenes with more action, which is unfortunate. The film shows the horrors that humanity can do and how a young girl uses the power of imagination to help herself. This short shows that imagination liberates you, frees you of your cage, of your oppressor. The use of dolls and animation as surrogates for reality brings forth the message and the emotions.