CftC: Mickey’s House of Villains

Welcome, once again, to:

october

 

And today, we’re going to visit one of my favorite running topics: Disney.

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This movie is endearing in its abounding failure.

Let me explain.

Mickey Mouse’s House of Mouse ran on Toon Disney in the early 2000’s. It was, essentially, a clip show dinner theatre run by Mickey and his pals, where all of Disney’s finest came to relax and make cameos. For 30 minutes at a stretch, kids would get to see some old, classic Disney shorts; newer shorts; a little bit of connecting plot, usually relating to the inner workings of the club, (frequently) whether or not it would close down or be taken over; and shots of Dumbo, Gaston, Peter Pan, Ariel, Hades, and others clapping at the end of each cartoon. Occasionally, those characters would get to talk or do something, but it was always a small thing before they were quickly rushed offscreen again.

Also, the cursed brooms from Fantasia and the penguins from Mary Poppins were the staff. And Donald’s nephews played music from time to time, always with obvious and cheesy band name parodies.

The whole thing was cheesy and goofy, but not bad by clip show standards. The cartoons were enjoyable enough, and hey, I’m all for giving kids a taste of something old as well as something fresh and new. Where House of Mouse tended to screw up was, ironically, where it tried to stand out from the crowd; by trying to insert plots going on around the shorts that were gripping, dramatic, or even remotely interesting. Also, by trying to seem “hip with the kids of today.”

Spoiler alert: it rarely worked.

Enter the main problem with Mickey’s House of Villains!

Warning: this review will include spoilers, because there is no other way to talk about the movie and have it make sense.

So the villains of Disney were never barred from entry at the House of Mouse just because Mickey and his friends are good guys. I’m fully aware that Mickey is blissfully naive (he’s dripping with it throughout the special), or else I’d be giving kudos to the lack of elitism…in a universe where villains are unambiguously evil…

Nevermind.

But on Halloween, for whatever reason, the Disney villains all show up en masse and start complaining to each other about how the club is sappy and saccharine, and that Halloween needs to have tricks!

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So they construct a plan…

Urh…rather, Jafar hints vaguely that he has something up his sleeve, that he will enact at midnight…

On what will be officially All Saints Day…the day after Halloween.

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The special presses on with lame attempts at jokes (and this coming from a woman who loves bad puns), and some pretty good, fun Halloween or generally fear-related shorts. Among the classic cartoons are “Lonesome Ghosts” (1937), “Donald Duck and the Gorilla” (1944), and “Trick or Treat” (1952), the last one being my personal favorite.

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Of the 1999 and up shorts, “How to Haunt a House,” “Donald’s Halloween Scare,” and “Hansel and Gretel” are cute and fun enough for me to recommend. Although the middle short has a good chuck of nightmare fuel in it.

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Then, 3/4ths of the way through the special, Jafar finally gets off his @$$ and takes over the House of Mouse with the other villains. Why did he have to wait until midnight to do this? How are the villains taking over (aside from just taking the crew unawares), and couldn’t they have done this at any time, all along?

If Pete, the club’s landlord, is seen cheering in the crowd of villains during the lame song, will he have anything to say once Mickey and company inevitably reclaim the House of Mouse?

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All these questions and more will never be answered.

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Yay, cool cameos that ultimately do and say nothing! Just want we’ve always wanted to see from the unearthly force of power that is the Disney villains!

Also, Jafar is cool and all, but why is he specifically in charge? Why not Maleficent; Queen Grimhilde; or massive, monstrous Chernabog, who could crush the club with one wing?

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Meh. Doesn’t matter.

So, now that Jafar is the host, what do he and the other villains do?

Nothing.

Absolutely nothing.

They show two shorts that don’t result in any of the main characters losing in the end, and are not any different in tone from the previous shorts.

They sit around while Mickey and the gang try to reclaim the club twice and fail, getting booed and hoisted off the stage.

Then, Mickey dons his Sorcerer’s Apprentice outfit, engages in a somehow really lame magic duel with Jafar, and loses his hat.

Then, the rest of his friends open a door, Aladdin shows up, and tosses them the lamp.

The villains scatter (for some reason), and Jafar is sucked inside, giving the House of Mouse back over to its rightful owners.

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Thank you for your 70 minutes.

Television episodes, depending on the structure, have very low stakes and effects of the show’s greater world. Shows like House of Mouse, where every episode resets to 0 and mostly ignores past episodes, have the lowest of stakes because everything has to be alright in the end for the show to continue spinning it wheels. Unless the show is officially ending, it can be said that the status quo is God.

Everyone with a childhood and a working frontal lobe should know this to be especially true with Disney; the good guys won’t lose, because good must always ultimately triumph over evil.

This special has low stakes. Depressingly low. It seems like it’s trying to be interesting, but at the same time it’s not trying very hard at all. As if the writers thought that the premise was really good, but didn’t know how to go about adding spice and flair. So in the end, they just gave up and crammed the villain plot into the last 20 minutes of the special and just did what they always did with the rest.

Sure, Jafar becomes a genie in Aladdin, so I guess it makes sense that the lamp would defeat him. And maybe that was used or referenced in the show at some point; I honestly can’t remember. But within the episode, it’s never established. Nor is Mickey’s wizard hat and robes, for that matter. They just feel like deus ex machinas that didn’t need to be so.

If the writers had thrown in a little hint at them at the start, instead of, you know, teasing at a supposedly epic, evil revamping of the House of Mouse to come. That never happened.

As a result, the whole thing is lame and limp. Sugary junk food without even the most basic substance or value.

I like the special despite its faults, mostly because the shorts are good, and it’s nice and convenient to have cartoons of a similar theme (Halloween, in this case) grouped together for your viewing pleasure. Otherwise, it’s a dud that, from the point of view of another writer, is frustrating in how needlessly flawed it is. It was big enough to be the stuff of season finales, but not an actual movie, stand alone or otherwise.

Final thoughts, ranked in order of most crucial to least:

  1. The climax needed serious work (stronger setup and payoff)
  2. The villains’ schemes needed to happen sooner and quicker
  3. The villains either needed to do something that the main characters didn’t, or at least do it differently
  4. The movie could have worked as a regular half-hour episode or t.v. movie and would’ve lost almost nothing
  5. Why isn’t Chernabog back at Bald Mountain throwing his annual party?

6. Maleficent is not a queen. She’s the “Mistress of All Evil.”

There’s nothing really objectionable about this movie, and I find it nostalgic and enjoyable despite myself, but sadly, 4/10.

If you want a more epic and fun, non-canon gathering, and plotting, of villains, play the first Kingdom Hearts. 

*As per usual, most of the pics don’t belong to me. The title card does, though. Twas done by the gracious and talented Zero, who can be found here. Check her out! 🙂

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CftC: Ed, Edd n Eddy’s Boo Haw Haw

Welcome back to:

october

 

Ed, Edd n Eddy was one of those “love it or hate it” kind of shows. The whole premise – three kids try to scam the rest of the cul de sac out of their money – is kind of mean-spirited, although the show was pretty good about giving consequences to the right characters. All of the characters had their mean moments, but it also felt very innocent; reminiscent of how kids can just be cruel, sometimes with seemingly no reason.

And intense gross-out gags usually appeal to boys, anyway.

Still, I loved it.

Ed, Edd n Eddy was definitely one of my favorite shows. It was colorful, and the art style really bloomed in season 2 and up, managing to look both pleasant and colorful, and silly and grotesque when it needed to. It had its silly and gross-out moments, but by the standards of most modern cartoons (modern Spongebob, Sanjay and Craig, etc.), I’d say the latter was fairly restrained. The characters were funny, and the zany schemes were over-the-top and fun; fake enough that you knew not to try them at home, but real and kid-ish enough to be put together with odds and ends, boxes, and duct tape.

40% of it was stuff I didn’t mind much, an 60% of the show was honest fun and heart.

The show began running on Cartoon Network in 1999 and ran for 10 years and 6 seasons in total. While designing a commercial, Italian-Canadian cartoonist Danny Antonucci conceived Ed, Edd n Eddy. He approached Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon with the series, but both channels demanded creative control, to which Antonucci did not agree. Finally, a deal was ultimately made for Cartoon Network to commission Ed, Edd n Eddy, after they agreed to let Antonucci have control of the show. The series’ TV movie finale, Ed Edd n Eddy’s Big Picture Show, aired on November 8, 2009.

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Of the main trio, there is Eddy, the short one in yellow. He gets a few redeeming moments, but otherwise, his character is pretty static: he is the Scrooge and head con artist of the group. Edd, the tallest kid in the Where’s Waldo shirt, is the muscle and lovable moron with the most creative imagination…and the poorest hygiene. Edd, more commonly referred to as “Double Dee,” is the smartest, most mature and finicky of the group. He is a good-natured but beleaguered nerd who cleans and straightens obsessive compulsively, and tries to keep a handle on his two crazy friends. Eddy uses him frequently for his own ends, but typically includes Double Dee on the rewards (and punishments) he receives from the other kids in their neighborhood.

Also, Double Dee wears a sock on his head, and I don’t think we ever learned what he’s hiding beneath it. The show’s writers sure loved to tease it, though.

While the friends could fight and be shallow or selfish to one another, their bond felt natural and as true as any friendship in kiddom. It helped some that the trio were all pretty equally low on the cul de sac social hierarchy, but they almost never ditched each other when a rare opportunity for popularity presented itself anyways. The social politics were nowhere as mean and unpleasant as that with Penny’s friends on The Proud Family, although I liked that show a lot too.

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Other notable characters include Kevin, the aloof and irritable “cool kid” jock; Nazz, the cool girl and practically the entire cul de sac’s love interest; Jonny “2×4,” (so named for his large cranium and imaginary friend, a fence board with a face drawn on it named “Plank”) who sometimes rivals Ed’s lack of self-awareness and intelligence; Sarah, Ed’s bossy, violent little sister; Jimmy, Sarah’s overly effeminate friend with dental work; Rolf, an out-of-touch immigrant farm boy with strange customs and behaviors; and the essentially trailer-trash Kanker sisters, May, Marie, and Lee, who torment the other kids and occasionally stalk the Eds to try to force them to be their boyfriends.

It toed that fine line between cartoony, matching its art style, and semi-realistic, with very little honest to goodness supernatural stuff. There was plenty of violence, too, but it had a bit less cringe content to it than something like Tom and Jerry. The kids represented various age groups and cliques, and were all redeeming in some way. Yes, even the loathed Kanker sisters.

And, similar to Peanuts (perhaps inspired by it), adults never speak coherent words or appear onscreen at any point.

The official Halloween Special came out in Season 5, on October 28th, 2005.

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Though certainly not as great as The Great Pumpkin, Ed, Edd n Eddy’s Boo Haw Haw has some of that same fun, imaginative spirit, while still taking place on a regular old night of trick or treating.

The premise is this: Eddy’s offscreen prankster of an older brother (Eddy looks up to him immensely, but is constantly abused by him) leaves him the map to a place called “Spook-E-Ville,” where the candy abounds. He convinces the other two Eds to join him, and all the while Ed is suffering from massive, graphic hallucinations as a result of binge watching horror movies. The colors were very pronounced in this special, and always in dark contrast with one another. The animators got to have fun with the designs of monsters in Ed’s Horror-vision, and the characters all wear costumers that either mirror or just speak volumes about their personalities. Eddy is Elvis, Ed is a viking warrior, Double Dee is the bubonic plague (dubbed throw up by Eddy), Sarah is a princess, etc.

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It reminds me of Lucy from The Great Pumpkin, particularly her insistence that the witch costume didn’t represent her at all. And poor Double D is like the smart Charlie Brown of the group, trying his best but ultimately getting handed with a bunch of rocks.

At least the Eds never let life get them down.

The ending is pretty predictable, even by the show’s standards, but I won’t spoil it for people who haven’t seen it. It’s still a fun ride to get there, and sometimes, that’s the most important thing.

7/10, so check it out! But beware if you’re not a gross-out fan.

*As per usual, most of the pics don’t belong to me. The title card does, though. Twas done by the gracious and talented Zero, who can be found here. Check her out! 🙂

 

 

CftC: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

October is here, and this month, we’re going to do something a little different.

If Christmas weren’t around, Halloween would be my favorite holiday, hands down. It’s a night full of fun, possibility, and yes, even a bit of horror. Whether it’s the kid-friendly, cheesy, Hallmark side, the actually frightening “dark” side of Halloween that I get to see, or some unholy, scrambled combination of the two, I reeeeeaally look forward to October 31st every year.

And if there’s one thing I thank marketing for, it’s turning the holiday into its own season, with holiday specials and events you can do all month. Costumes, kids, candy, scary movies, haunted houses, corn mazes, and more, if you know where to look.

So I’m commemorating this glorious month with nostalgic movies and tv specials. Welcome to:

october

 

And we’re starting off right with perhaps the most famous and nostalgic special of all: It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.

 

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It’s one of the most memorable of the Peanuts’ segments (and, in my opinion, the best of the bunch). A fluid story that doesn’t feel too padded, with sketchy and watercolored skies, and the characters we know and love talking going on their own various suburban adventures. Specials like A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving and It’s the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown owe their sorry excuses for plot to Great Pumpkin, and while I love A Charlie Brown Christmas, it has less plot, more muted colors, and just isn’t quite as interesting as the Halloween romp. It’s still a classic, though.

Great Pumpkin came out in 1966 (16 years after the comics first began to run in weekly newspapers), and for a time, it played once a year. “You either caught it, or you missed it,” my dad has said to me, because back then there was maybe one t.v. per house and only so many channels. Crazy, right?

This was the first special to use “, Charlie Brown” to finish off the title, the second of the holiday Peanuts specials, and the third of their specials to air on television, right behind Charlie Brown’s All Stars (in June of that same year) and A Charlie Brown Christmas (the year prior).

The style is, of course, hand drawn animation with lots of vibrant colors. The voice acting is typical for Peanuts; lots of child actors stumbling about trying to talk like adults, clearly not knowing what the words mean. But that lends the special, and the characters, a lot of charm and humor. The music was performed by jazz genius and early Peanuts composer Vince Guaraldi, with the song Linus and Lucy, the iconic Peanuts theme made popular in the Christmas special, frequently played throughout. New songs for Great Pumpkin include The Great Pumpkin Waltz, Breathless, Graveyard Theme, Trick Or Treat, The Red Baron, and Fanfare, and the World War 1 era songs used (it makes sense if you’ve seen the special all the way through, with no cuts) are “Pack Up Your Troubles in Your Old Kit-Bag, Roses of Picardy, There’s a Long, Long Trail, and It’s a Long Way to Tipperary.

For as great as Halloween is, I’ve noticed that it lacks one officially appointed mascot. The closest (and most  notable contenders) I have found are Stingy Jack, Jack Skellington, and any of the classic movie monsters. You could point to any one of them and think Halloween, though, so I guess that works just as well.

But to get back on track, Great Pumpkin attempts to add a new potential mascot to the line up. The Great Pumpkin!…even though we’re not quite sure what he looks like.

It’s Halloween (of course), and Charlie and the gang get their costumes ready. It’s Sally’s first time, so she naively follows people around and asks questions.

Meanwhile, Linus writes a note to the one he calls “The Great Pumpkin:”

As you can see, everyone else reacts like this:

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But Linus doesn’t care. He keeps his faith in the Great Pumpkin strong, no matter what.

Hijinx ensue. And poor old Charlie gets a lot of rocks.

Incidentally, kids across the country sent candy to Charlie Brown after this special aired. Because they pitied him.

I won’t spoil the rest for all two of you that were just born or just now crawled out from under your rock, but suffice it to say, Halloween costumes have become a lot more…intricate in the last 60 years. And I’m not convinced that’s a good thing.

Another fun piece of trivia: the voice actress for Sally was about to lose a tooth at the time, so the producers rushed her to finish up her lines. The tooth popped out just as she finished the line, “You owe me restitution!”

The story is fun and cute; the obligatory Charlie Brown bashing comes off as funny rather than just sad; the lines and artwork are primitive (by today’s standards) at times, but classic and fun. Some character expressions can look a bit dead-eyed, but most of the time, they are so funny and familiar that it’s uncanny.

All around, this is a great special. You watch a fun, imaginative night of trick or treating that’s a part of animated (and comic) history, and it feels timeless despite the simplistic, homemade costumes and lack of cell phones or computers. Those aren’t really the focus, anyway.

Also, Snoopy is a boss.

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It’s a tradition in my family to watch it every year. If you haven’t seen it, or want to relive the heyday of Peanuts, stream it, buy it, rent it, or catch it (soonest) on ABC Thursday, October 15th at 8:30 EST.

Without my nostalgia glasses, I’d give it a solid 8/10.

*As per usual, most of the pics and clips don’t belong to me. The title card does, though. Twas done by the gracious and talented Zero, who can be found here. Check her out! 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

The Boxtrolls

I will try not to give too much away, because The Boxtrolls is odd.

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Very, very odd, but enjoyable, and definitely worth seeing.

The story is based-ish on “Here Be Monsters!” by Alan Snow, and is essentially Beauty and the Beast meets Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit meets Tarzan, in a world visually and socially reminiscent of Coraline. The Boxtrolls feels more populated than Coraline did, but in terms of interesting characters, they’re about equal.

And there is cheese…and trolls…and a lot of bad puns…and Sir Ben Kingsley playing the obvious villain.

I tried to describe it to other friends after getting back from the film, and they gave me this look:

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From the first few frames, I felt like I was entering a strange, almost Dr. Seuss-esque world. It’s creative and engaging, with the animation playing hop-scotch across the gap between beautiful and just plain grotesque. The characters are modeled off of what real people look like, of course, but as with Coraline and even Mary and Max, they are constructed with exaggerated shapes and possess extremely caricatured features. And, as you might have guessed, the film is stop motion.

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Puppets!

The trolls themselves are cute and, thankfully, not irritating, even when they are shown to cower, run, and shriek. The town of Cheesebridge and its sewer system are the settings, and they are gritty for most of the film, but nicely detailed as well.

The people outside of the main characters come across as very cold, stupid, and selfish, which is, along with a few cliches that don’t bring anything new to the table, but are handled well enough for what they are, the weakest thing about this film. The views of the world as a harsh, judging, unsafe place remind me a bit of Roald Dahl’s works, but we’re never given a really good reason for why people are the way they are, besides that it’s Victorian era (?) and the politicians are selfish and ineffectual.

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At least in Coraline, the main adults were tired and over-worked. Here, it feels like mean-spiritedness for the sake of itself, and kind of made me laugh with the audaciousness.

If the people are just misunderstanding the situations they come across, I could sympathize with them and their desires to protect their homes and families. Fear does weird things to people, after all. But the people, not the designated antagonists, seem genuinely awful, and weirder still, intentional so. I’m not entirely sure what that’s trying to say, if anything. And the third act is set in motion by an event that borders on the misunderstandings I’ve mentioned before, but somehow it feels set up and contrived at the same time.

My friend and I laughed out loud at one joke in particular, and the rest of the humor runs from average to pretty funny. The main characters are endearing enough; the trolls, who don’t speak English, and even the henchmen to an extent as well (although I hinge between finding their dialogue cute and trying too hard to make a point at times). They do keep one guy as the straight up evil, completely stupid lackey though, so the variety is nice.

That’s about all I can comfortably say without spoiling things. I’d recommend it for the visual style alone. It’s weird, but also cute, harmless fun, and it branches towards something greater, but doesn’t ever completely reach it.

So (and I should have put this in practice awhile ago)… 8/10

*As usual, no pics belong to me 

 

Hardcore Fans: The Craziness in All of Us

Comedy, as a whole, has some sacred cows that should not be touched lightly.

Movies, books, and games on the other hand…

I like to maintain that, if you’re a true fan of something, you know the strong points and weak points of the work and love it regardless of the latter. After all, things made by human hands are inherently flawed, but if the flaws are funny or endearing (or at least small when compared to the good qualities of the work), then it might be said that that particular work did achieve a sort of perfection.

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But sadly, a lot of fans out there turn into frothing, rabid dogs when a work they like is questioned or criticized, and even sometimes when that work is adapted to a new medium. In their eyes, the work is God, come again to save them from their meager, bored existence and enlighten the word with Its words of wisdom. To insult It is to set fire to the American flag, after having used it as toilet paper. Or, perhaps more relevantly, spanking yourself with the Mexican flag.

The ensuing “discussion” (read: bile) involved inevitably invokes Godwin’s Law, but the bitterness and resentment rage on, and the “discussion” is never truly forgotten nor closed.

Why is this? Why are these works, fiction and non  fiction, not only taken so seriously (fans and anti-fans have, in some cases, literally tried to kill over them), but bitterly argued and put up on pedestals?

The answer: ego and entitlement.

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There’s no question that people love their works. Some buy movies and books for a casual look, while others go on to buy merchandise, follow the key players (authors/creators/actors) on social media, write whole blogs and papers worth of analysis, and attend clubs and conventions. And just because one person is more fascinated and invested in a work doesn’t mean that they are always automatically the nutjobs (or serial killers). They appreciate how the work speaks to them; how it reflects society or some aspect of the human condition and experience.

There are reasonable people all over the spectrum, just as there are crazies.

While I can now appreciate both works that challenge and conform to my views of the world, I didn’t always feel that way. And some stuff still irritates me from time to time, when it doesn’t line up with how it played out in my mind. My example of this, though it’s a bit dated now, is the portrayal of Daenerys Targaryen first night with her husband in Game of Thrones. I read the book before I saw the episode, and while the book did have some rapey-ness to the scene, at least at first, it was not to the same extent as it appeared in the show. And my first reaction to this change was confused irritation.

But I’d like to point out that the director of the show is different than the writer of the book, as well as me, and three people will seldom see the same thing. Creators also have choices to make that the viewing audience doesn’t have to.

What I’m saying is that the works get caught up in people’s egos. The closer that they identify with something, the quicker and more intensely they are likely to come to its defense when criticized, I think, particularly if it is a thing that panders more than questions. And pandering doesn’t immediately equate simple or “no-greater-message;” usually, it’s just more visibly biased.

When someone attacks a work that you love, whether they mean to attack you, personally or not, you’ll be more likely to take it personally. At best, you’ll get defensive, but at worst, you’ll get angry. Hopefully not violent.

To the average Joe, or “you” in this scenario, the person might as well be saying, “It is stupid, therefore YOU are stupid.”

It’s a common misconception, and an easy trap to fall into.

The second part of the problem comes from an entitlement mindset.

Here we return to the “you.”

Perhaps you think you “saw it first,” whatever “it” is. Or perhaps you connected with the work so much that it brought you to tears, and you just can’t understand why everyone else isn’t bawling or acknowledging the work as a golden masterpiece.

You picture the characters, the story, the drama, and relationships a certain way, but that isn’t where it ends. For whatever the reason, the work has become “yours,” and you defend it like a grizzly bear defends her cubs.

To be fair, once a work has been published, it doesn’t just belong to the original creator anymore. They have shared it with the world, and, barring a few copyright laws and requirements, people can interpret and make of it whatever they want.

Also, adapting something that already exists in one medium to another is hard to do. You NEVER see an adaptation that is unanimously beloved by critics, general audience members, and fans of the original work, and anyone can successfully argue that the new thing works or doesn’t work and be right in at least one way.

Sometimes you get the guy who penned the original work to push it into a new medium, to various levels of success.

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But yes. Consciously or unconsciously, people attach their treasured works to their sense of self; their personality, and even, ironically, their personhood. These fans then use these works to measure the quality of other people. They make friends (or determine who to avoid), and subjectively judge just how smart (or worthy) those friends, enemies, and average Joes are.

A critic becomes “the other” as quickly as a regular non-fan. Sometimes even a “bully;” not there to think about something popular or interesting, but a personal assassin to your self-esteem. Any concession of merit means that you are letting them win, or agreeing with them completely, and that just cannot be!

And then some of these same “victims” take their voices to the web, or the streets, waging holy wars and viciously attacking those who don’t agree with them. Even if those people happen to be fans as well.

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Fans against fans, non fans against non fans, and everyone in between. Thanks to the internet, we have even more widespread, stupid chaos.

Silly? Sure. Potentially harmful to people? Hell yes.

The need to hyper focus on the good old “No True Scotsmen,” to constantly compete with and compare yourselves to others, even with works of escapism and fiction that don’t belong solely to you…This is a big reason why I argue that we should acknowledge faults with the work and, by extension, ourselves.

That’s not to say that I myself am perfect at it, but just that it is what I ultimately strive for. I gush and rant about plenty of things, but at the very least, I try to be receptive and respectful.

It’s much easier when people give you the same courtesy.

Disagreement is bound to happen to everyone, but how often it does and how much you let it affect you is up to you. Keep supporting your canons, fandoms, and hatedoms, but don’t push them onto others like a religion.

That goes the same, if not double, for you, hardcore sports fans.

Not everything is a battle that must be won.

*No photos or video clips belong to me. 

 

 

 

Top 10 Favorite Zelda Sidequests

 

I am not a completionist. At all.

When I play, unless it’s something I’ve done before, I’m mostly interested in character and plot. I see video games like movies, but better, because you can be an active participant.

As long as I can move, and the camera isn’t conspiring to assassinate me, I’m a happy camper.

When I game, I am the type of person who often rushes into a battle unprepared (not sufficiently leveled up or stocked up) because I just want to advance the main story. I level up when forced to, or happily during a second playthrough, but usually, whether I’m going in as the tank or the strategist, I’m praying I can just move on. Sidequests can be the bane of my existence; sometimes feeling more like chores than anything else.

That said, Zelda games are my big exception.

I still don’t typically strive to get everything you could possibly get in the game, but there are a ton of different quests you can choose to do, and a lot of them are really fun. I complete them as soon as I can, or later, when I’m trying to stall the inevitable ending of the game.

For the purpose of this list, I am classifying a side/subquest as: any quest that either a) has no or little effect on the end’s result, and/or b) does not need to be done to finish the game. More items will probably lean to the latter, but there you have it.

Let’s begin!

 

10) Poe Soul Hunting

This spot was a toss up between bug hunting and poe hunting from The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess, but the poes win because:

poe

Come on.

Sure, Agitha is a disturbing but intriguing character, and the bugs get to go to a tea party at her place once you collect them all. And yeah, catching bugs is extra fun in Skyward Sword, once you figure out the net. And you can use them to spice up potions, strengthening status effects. This is fun and useful stuff here.

But screw that! Ghost hunting!

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And the ghosts look like this:

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And this:

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Hell, I thought they were fun to hunt back when they looked like this:

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Along the course of the plot, you will meet a man named Jovani. He has quite the sparkling personality.

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His story is that he got greedy and sold his soul to the poes for abundant wealth. They granted his wish, but also turned him into a living jewel, so he can’t even spend his money, or swim around in it Scrooge McDuck style!

So he’s turned over a new leaf, and he needs you to murder 60 poes before he can be returned to normal.

This quest is a spiritual sister to both the poe and skulltula quests from Ocarina of Time. The difference here is that the hunt employs Link’s other form, rather than a bow or other standard weapons. You can only see poes using wolf senses, and once you’ve spotted one (usually at night, indicated with a floating ball of light and creaking sounds), you jump and bite it repeatedly until it falls to the ground, then dig the soul right out of its chest.

You get the picture by about 0:06, but still. Hardcore, and pretty damn brutal. It’s not the darkest thing that Nintendo has ever given us in these E rated games, either.

But it’s a fun collection quest with some freaky adversaries.

Who you gonna call?…Yourself!

 

9) Gerudo Training Ground

After you obtain the Gerudo’s membership card (which is hilarious) from the desert tribe of Amazonian/Spartan women, you have access to several things. The Haunted Wasteland (needed for plot), the horseback archery game, and the Gerudo Training Ground.

gerudo 2

Inside await various puzzles (many of which are timed), to test your stamina, ingenuity, and whether or not you’ve got all the right items. Or, in some cases, whether you’ve brought enough of the right items. Like bombs and arrows.

You’ll need those.

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Water puzzles, fire puzzles, monster puzzles, and more. All for the relatively useless, but nice and item-collection-completing Ice Arrows.

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And when I say useless, I mean that there aren’t many or any boss battles left where you could use them by this point.

There really isn’t too much to say about this one. It’s pretty low on this list, but still a fun mini-dungeon with elements from most of the other dungeons you’ve faced, combined in an atmospherically-acclectic moosh. Just beware misusing your keys, because you only win so many.

 

8) Magic Armor 

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Yeah, the sailing in The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker did get a bit tedious after a while, but thankfully, the HD remake keeps the ability to teleport while upgrading you (via the auction) to the swift sail, making traversing the Great Sea more fun and fluid. Now, if only they gave you the option to bypass the fish man’s dialogue every time you want to fill in your chart…

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He’s a contender with this owl, Navi, and Fi as most annoying, “helpful” character.

He's a contender with this guy, Navi, and Fi as most annoying, "helpful" character.

But in defense of the sailing, the game is very big on color and atmosphere; the weather and lighting changing frequently, as well as a multitude of interesting islands to explore. So suck it up, whiners!

This is a big fetch quest and you will probably need a guide to avoid backtracking and unnecessary purchases. There are several people scattered across several islands on far sides of the map, and they will give you things in exchange for other things. And money. You will need lots of money.

Zunari

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The nice thing about these various trading items (flowers, flags, statues, etc) is that later, you can buy them on Windfall Island and use them to decorate the place or your own personal cabana, if that’s your thing. It’s not really mine that much, but few other fetch quests can say that they allow you to use and reuse items you traded away for your own purposes.

So, while I haven’t been upselling it very much and it can be frustrating occasionally, this quest is mostly fun, and in the end, you get a nice shielding device that makes you invulnerable for as long as your magic meter holds out.

Nifty!

 

7) Fetch Quests/Gratitude Crystals

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Gratitude crystals can either be found lying around Skyloft in hard to reach places, or by doing favors and quests for characters along the course of your adventure. I like the latter more, particularly those that involve going down to the surface and dowsing to locate lost items, like the fortune teller’s (replacement) crystal ball and the Fun Fun Island clown’s party wheel. Dowsing in general was pretty fun for me throughout this game.

Anyway, you collect crystals to get things like pieces of heart and wallet expansions. You get those by giving the crystals to a demon who longs to become human.

I’m not kidding, either. He looks like this:

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Friendly-looking, right?

Despite the mildly sketchy way that Batreaux is introduced (you go looking for a lost child only to find her having “screaming contests” with this guy in a hidden bungalow beneath the graveyard), he gives good rewards in exchange for the crystals, and you can have oodles of fun tracking stuff down. Sometimes, the solution to someone’s problem is interesting and complicated, while other times it just the standard point a to point b delivery.

It’s more fun finding things in a game when you know where the item should be and can scope for it. In real life, your car keys go missing, and you’re in trouble. All you can do is retrace steps and blindly fumble and hope. 😦

But on the other hand, video games make people look really morally horrible. They will only help you if you help them first…

Moving on!

 

6) Circus Leader’s Mask

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This mask is ugly as sin and virtually useless, but the jam session you go through to get it is fun. Fun, and short, but it takes a lot of elements and items to even get to this subquest, so it does feel like an accomplishment.

 

5) Skulltula Houses

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask will take up a lot of this list. It’s the game with the most sidequests and, in my opinion, some of the most fun ones. Especially because of the useful items you typically receive for your troubles.

Swamp_Spider_House

Oceanside_Spider_House

There are two spider houses: one in Woodfall, and the other at Great Bay. I like both pretty evenly, but if I had to pick my favorite, it’d be the Oceanside Spider House. It’s dark and haunted-looking, with Stalchildren hanging around to add to the ambience.

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Creepy, grinning, giant masks; minimalist, isolating music; a hunt through several dark and dusty puzzle rooms; and a giant wallet as a reward, with a new mask waiting around the corner. Also, you’re genociding these pleasant things:

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Enjoy!

 

4) The Romani Mask

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The first step in this quest involves aliens.

No joke.

Romani Aliens

It is one of the most bizarre things in all of Zelda. But that is what makes it so fun and interesting.

On the first day, you go to Milk Road and blow up the bolder blocking Romani Ranch. Inside, you will find several people (and activities), but the most important are Romani and her older sister, Cremia.

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Romani will be outside, running around with her dog and shooting at a balloon with her bow. You talk to her and get your horse after a brief mini game, with the promise to help her ward off an alien invasion early the next morning. Cremia doesn’t believe that such a thing will happen, but she is delighted to hear that the road is open to travel. Now she can deliver her alcoholic milk to town!

…I’m not really kidding about that, either. It’s tied into a really dark scene later, and the game makes no bones about it being hard stuff.

So you fight off these…alien…ghost…looking things:

Majoras-Mask-Them-Aliens

for a couple of hours, keeping them away from the barn with arrows, until they all go away. When you talk to Cremia, she will offer to give you a ride back into town on the second night, which you should accept.

The two of you chat (as much as Placeholder Link is capable to), and a series of road blocks lead you into “ugly country.” Some local farmers in masks come riding up to your wagon like bandits and try to destroy the milk bottles. It is your job to fight them off with arrows to the face.

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Once you’re done: congratulations! You get a cow mask/hood/thingy! It gets you into the 21 and over milk bar in town after dark!

Paaaaaaarty!
Paaaaaaarty!

 

See what I mean? Bizzzzzzzzaaaaaaarrrrrrrreeeeeeee.

What’s even more bizarre (and dark and twisted) is what happens when you fail to protect the ranch from aliens…

 

3) The Couple’s Mask

CouplesMask

Outside of making one guy happy and giving you a heart piece, this mask does nothing. Even less than the Circus Leader’s Mask, which can at least cry rivers. But the quest to get it is the longest in the game, and the resolution for the people involved is both sad and heartwarming. It’s very satisfying that way, somehow; one of the most in-depth and satisfying quests ever in the series, I would argue.

The Skull Kid (the main antagonist of the game) cursed a man named Kafei and gave him the body of a child, but still the mind of an adult, three days before he is supposed to marry his love, Anju. The customs of Termina (the land you are in, as opposed to the usual, Hyrule) dictate that two people commemorating their joining as husband and wife, as a symbolic gesture and simultaneous praise of the guardian giants, must each make a mask and exchange them with one another on the day of the ceremony. To add insult to injury, before Kafei could inform Anju of his misfortune, his wedding mask was stolen by a thief named Sakon, a “prancing man with a grinning face.”

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Now Kafei, ashamed and desperate to find his mask before he confronts Anju, hides behind another mask that looks suspiciously like Pikachu (but is really more of a general Japanese fox mask) and lives on the far side of town. Anju, unaware of these events and having lost almost all contact with her fiancé, is distraught, and hesitant to evacuate town along with her family (due to the rumor of the falling moon).

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Not even Kafei’s mother knows where he’s gone, and it’s up to detective Link to sort this mess out!

In-the-Kitchen

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Haha!
Haha!

You get a lot of masks from this quest; the most out of all of the quests you could choose to undertake. It’s definitely not one of the flashier and funner masks, but in the end, the couple’s mask is a nice trophy to remind you how hard you worked to make all of these characters happy.

…Before you reset the time to the first day, and everything goes back to the way it was. Doomed.

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2) Nintendo Gallery

Picto-Box

I love Pokemon Snap. Always have, always will. And my Facebook is crammed with pictures. Not club pics and selfies (some of the latter, to be fair), but a lot of landscapes and nature shots. And deer.

I love taking photos. I love getting the perfect shot and focusing on every little minute detail to do so. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker foresaw this, and acted accordingly.

So you take pictures (once you upgrade to a color camera) and then take them to a small pillar of land near The Forest Haven. Here you will find the Nintendo Gallery, where you can turn in good photos for shiny figurines, lovingly sculpted by this fellow:

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You track down every person, monster, and animal (almost) that you can find, no doubt freaking them out with numerous, obsessive pictures, and you fill the rooms in this place with colorful figurines. Not only will they look pretty, but they also have little blurbs about the characters they represent.

ChuChus_(The_Wind_Waker)

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This quest is utterly useless in the grand scheme of things, even by other useless quest standards, but it feels great to the completionist, and even to those who just want to say, “I stopped to take a picture of this boss during the middle of the battle! I have horrendous battle scars now, but look! A trophy!” 🙂

Hooray for catering to youth culture who are increasingly self and phone/camera obsessed!

The HD remake is worse in this regard because (while you get the colored camera much more easily, have more open slots for photos, and can use other players’ photos to complete your quest) you have the ability to take selfies. Literally, selfies. And you can stick them in bottles and send them to other people, receiving their selfies as well.

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Kill me.

 

1) Item Upgrading

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Hands down. This is. The greatest thing. Zelda has given me. Ever.

The fact that Skyward Sword shields can now take varying degrees of damage (rather than, say, the Deku shield just being obliterated by lava or fire) is an interesting, if occasionally irritating dynamic Nintendo recently added. But I barely used mine outside of certain battles anyway. Ironically, this game made shields feel more like decorations than anything else. Some people would argue you don’t need them to get through, although with hero mode I would definitely say, “pick one up for insurance.”

But the chance to upgrade my bow for better sniping capabilities?

Bows

Awesome!

The beetle can fly farther and faster now?

Beetles

Awesome!

You can use items you get from monster murder/drops, bugs, and just random things that you find around the overworld. That idea is so simple, but so brilliant, it moves me to tears.

…Well, not really. But still.

Scavenging and hunting has the most appeal in this game, I think, because you can put what you find to many uses that are nice and can help you out, but won’t stall out the plot waiting for you. And it’s not just for completionists! How about those folks concerned with always having the latest models?

No one else in Skyloft will have these cool toys!

Seriously, though. Why hasn’t Link ever thought to add on to his weapons before? Polish and spit-shine them, add a few tweaks! The closest he came before this was probably Twilight Princess, with the Eagle Eye and the ability to make bomb arrows.

Psst…Nintendo! Bring those back!

 

So there you have it. My top 10 favorite sub and side quests from the Zelda series. Which ones are your favorites? Are there any ones I so unfairly missed? Let me know!

*The fan art is by Zelbunni, and that and their other work can be found at the link under the image. As always, I don’t own any of these images or videos. All hail/credit to Nintendo, Ghostbusters, and the creative minds of the web for their collages.

 

iHateRadio: Radio Rant

With the 2014 iHeart Music Festival going on soon, I decided it would be a good time to say that I hate radio…..

the-end

Nah, nah. I kid….Sorta.

As a person who spends a lot of time in the car and doesn’t have the money or the patience to pay for monthly “satellite” radio services, I spend a lot of my morning commute listening to FM radio, which I’m sure a lot of you do. I mean, I can say that I hate radio but that is not the truth. I hate MODERN commercial radio and what it has turned into. Let me give you a little anecdote.

Dawn of the First Day

I get into my car in the morning and turn on my car.

The newest song comes on. “Oh yeah! I love this song.” I say and I start jamming out to the song. Everything is fine….

Dawn of the Second Day

I get into my car in the morning and turn on my car.

“Didn’t this song come on at the same time yesterday?” I say and I start jamming out to the song. Everything is normal…..

Dawn of the Third Day

I’m worried the same song will come on again, so I turn on my car and cut of the radio. I drive down the road and I’m stuck in traffic…

It’s like my arm is possessed. I reached for the on button, and guess what comes on?

“AHHHH” I scream, and cut of the radio.

Later that night, I turn on my car.

3 minutes pass, and what song comes on?

“Hmmmmm…” Frustrated, I turn off the radio and silence fills the car as I drive the lonely dark streets.

“Maybe if I change the station, I’ll have better luck?”

I turn on the radio and change the station…”Oh…My..God…the song….it keeps coming back…Why in God’s name does it keep coming back!?”

Then the moon fell.

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the-end

Nah, nah. I kid. The moon didn’t fall.

But aside from my haunting tale of the song that follows me, this perpetual cycle of top 40 songs day in and day out is the majority of the reason why iHateRadio.

Now, I do have to recognize that radio has been around for a while and has done some great things over the years. It is a huge industry that has made 17 billion dollars in revenue, current annual growth is 1.9%, and employs 103,436 people, according to IBIS World. (1)

For decades, radio has provided programming to listeners free of charge, introducing its audiences to new types of music entertainment and new recording artists. It is widely believed that radio stations, record labels, and recording artists enjoy a
symbiotic relationship; meaning, the record industry utilizes radio to promote its artists and music to hundreds of millions of radio listeners, while radio attracts listeners and advertisers by airing recorded music. Also, radio’s music promotion is understood to stimulate the purchase of recordings, merchandise and concert tickets by the listening audience. The radio also provides royalties to the recording studios and artists.

However, because of the profitability of commercials and advertising the station owners found themselves increasingly beholden to sponsors, who began taking over complete shows, then buying radio stations from which to launch media empires. This type of sponsorship lead media cause a big problem. Station owners were no longer willing to lose ratings over spinning new records or breaking new artists because of all the money that was at stake if people didn’t tune in.

At this point, market research was the main way to decide what was safe to play. And to divide up that profitability risk, bigger radio stations send promo songs and new songs and artist to college radio stations and MTV as test marketing. The music rating from college radio was a good and safe indicator for bigger radio stations of what was now deemed “popular”. Bigger stations take these ratings and makes an arbitrary roster of “hot” songs, old or new, repeated ad nauseam in a blatant effort to “hook” the listener long enough for exposure to the ad.

And thus the reason why my morning commute is feeling a little bit like Groundhog Day.

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Some radio station can even be as impatient for the next ad as to cut entire sections of the song and/or speed up the song, making the song sound in a higher pitched key. Ever wonder after 1 month of hearing a new song on the radio you all the sudden can’t match pitch with Katy Perry. Well…

With that elephant in the room taken note of, I think I will leave you with this.

I do like music on top 40 stations and commercial radio. There can be some interesting songs and artists that make their way on there.

Recently, I have heard Be Okay by a band called Oh Honey. It was good hearing them on the radio, considering I saw them live as an opener to one of my favorite bands, The Fray, as part of their Helios tour, which by the way is an awesome album and does not disappoint. But I wish there was more of a chance taken with new artists and new songs on all radio stations.

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I’m still hearing Lights by Ellie Goulding on these “new” stations, which was released back in 2010. Even radio stations that claim they play everything only play “pop” songs from the 80s, 90s, and today.

If radio is truly made to advertise the artists and grant them exposure, this should apply to other artists and not just what the sponsors deem as “popular”.

So be ready to hear All About that Bass and Shake It Off as you use Maps while swinging on a Chandelier and hunting an Anaconda, because you will be hearing those for the next 5 months.

And as always, stay thirst my bros.

Sources:

1. http://www.ibisworld.com/industry/default.aspx?indid=1258

2. http://www.billboard.com/charts/hot-100

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