Frame Thing

Frame Thing

Earlier this year, I paused while watching the Simpsons episode Itchy & Scratchy Land and caught, entirely by chance, that amazing frame above.

That it’s a great frame is obvious. Bart’s expression and body language, his revelry is such a great reason for Lisa to look so ashamed, while poor old Itchy just screams with his eyes.

I love this frame so much I wanted to capture it again, only this time directly from the episode and not with my camera from the television. In doing so, I discovered something pretty interesting.

The frame, isolated thus, lies.

Continue reading “Frame Thing”

What The Fuck Is Crash Canyon?

Looks a lot like I’m not the only one wondering the above as this post’s getting a lot of hits from people wondering the same thing I was. Welcome, Internet traveler. I’m sorry if you sat through 22 minutes of that shit as well.

How’d this come about?

The Freeview channel Viva gets left on a lot in the flat (also called the Rambleast Omnidrome) at night thanks to the abundance of South Park and Fresh Prince reruns (and these are shows that are best watched when caught on TV – DVD doesn’t best suit them), and as a direct result of this I’ve come into accidental contact with a Canadian cartoon called Crash Canyon which has, erm, “earned” a slot ‘twixt the two most nights. Firstly I thought this was another show from Seth McFarlane and it seemed weird that I hadn’t seen any promotion for it. After all, this guy is the biggest name in TV comedy right now, so how did I miss the debut of another one of his identical products where all characters look the same with absolutely no attention paid to the animation process at all? Take a look at this and tell me you wouldn’t have thought the same –

Can you number the counts of plagiarism? CAN YOU?

Right? That’s a new McFarlane excretion, right? Wrong. And I couldn’t believe it at first either, but this show which looks possibly illegally similar to the Family Guy family of shows has absolutely nothing to do with Fuzzy Door Productions. I didn’t know you could get away with this. Can you get away with this? I’m not sure the program even exists any more. For one thing, (as of writing this article in March 2012) it hasn’t got a Wikipedia page (which in today’s society really says a lot – even I had a Wikipedia page once, though as I am apparently not an existing human and bear the unfortunate burden of sharing my name with an Australian tennis player, it was removed on what I consider fair grounds). It’s bad enough that it’s trading so completely on another show’s design (I mean can you imagine if another cartoon emerged that looked just like South Park or The Simpsons?), but the humour is so, so flat. Empty, dreadful humour. Characters defined each by a single characteristic.

It’s since been canceled, but how can it be so easy to get a TV show made in the first place? Can you really waltz into a pitch with such brittle gags and pilfered cels from another cartoon and get paid for a season’s worth of garbage that maybe hundred of people will work on? This thing is a waste of time and money in an economy where both are precious. How is this still happening? I could honestly write a funnier script than that for the episode of Crash Canyon I just watched, and I don’t mean that in a boastful sense, I mean only to tell the truth. The gags and interactions were so bad and I think I could do better. The last thing you want your audience to feel is a sense this strongly of conviction that they could do a better job than you.

You don’t even deserve a Wikipedia page, Crash Canyon, you cur.

Out.

The Videogame Cartoon Give A Go Meltdown

Inspired by a discussion (or at least the world’s most respectful argument) with ex-pat Tom Parry about the various pre-X animated endeavours of Sonic The Hedgehog, I decided there was no better course of action than to investigate the matter with a thorough analysis of each of the three programs’, erm, qualities. As I began my search, though, I felt I’d be doing the myriad adaptations of videogames for the Saturday morning crowd a disservice if I didn’t run the gamut and cover the lot. So I ran the gamut and covered the lot. As it happens, there’s not a show in this article that I’d not seen before in some form or another (from the tube to Youtube) and as such I was only surprised by how extensively my selective (at the best of times) memory had embellished their successes and glazed desperately over their more glaring faults. Essentially, the conclusion I came to (after several draining hours of what you could call live-blogging) is that these 22 minute excursions into mediocrity are most often nothing BUT faults, but I’ll let you discover that at your own sweet tempo as you commence… THE RAMBLEAST VIDEOGAME CARTOON REDISCOVERY TO SETTLE A DISPUTE WITH TOM PARRY ODYSSEY!

I thought, as an erstwhile devotee of the touted-in-high-school practice of sketching a plan for your exam essays, that it would be best to structure this effort in some way, so in addition to sketching down the assorted animated ignominies I planned also to devote a little section to each’s adherence to a set of qualifiers, including presence of catchphrases, target of appeal to gamers, introduction of characters and more. That fell by the wayside pretty quickly as encroaching zombification saw to it that my endurance was guaranteed only by a Herculean dedication to self torment. While I may have the time to write this mother, I have not the time to consume each of the glanced-at series in their respective entirety and as such have, in the interest of fairness, watched the first episode only of each, except in the case of Mortal Kombat: Defenders Of The Realm, with which I have, for awkwardness’ sake, watched the last. As I figger, time spent watching 30+ episodes of the absurdly titled The Adventures Of Super Mario Bros. 3 is time as could be better spent sifting through my paradoxically ever-growing backlog of Chris Claremont X-Men comics, discussing the merits of upgrading Mortal Kombat to blu-ray (conclusion: 100% MERIT) or finding more excuses not to start playing Skyrim, of which I am truly frightened at the prospect of committing to. So yeah, one apiece oughtta do it, even though I’m tempted to watch those Mario shows from start to aching finish, my mind and health be damned.

I’m a fair man, too, so I’m thinking of following up with a look at films based on games too, which presumably would take longer to compile but wouldn’t be as exhaustive as I’m not watching anything directed by Uwe Boll or starring Milla-Jovovich-post-Dazed-And-Confused ever again (and that INCLUDES The Fifth Element, sunshine!)

Enough! Let’s GO! Note that what follows is as-it-occurs-to-me waffle without the due benefit of hindsight with which some meaning may be extracted, wincing, from the meaningless.

Kirby, “a perfect pink circle” according to his opening credits, seems like the best way to kick off my exercise in mental stamina, not least because the show is in Japanese and the Engrish translation is typically bonkers. Not content with subject matter as baffling as political turmoil and cross-species theft, even the theme tune casts aspersions about Kirb’s abilities (“But he’s actually strong/ Is he really?”, But he can become anything/ Can he really?” ). Like Shawn Michaels, the unseen narrator is determined to reclaim her “lost smile”, possibly by inhaling “the power of the stars falling from the sky”. And so, my mind is fried already, and I’ve not yet begun to dissect the wonders of the Sonic Triumvirate (a succulent word, no?) that ignited this inferno in the first place. Kirby awakes in a spaceship but it’s not immediately clear whether he’s fallen asleep on the job or been kidnapped, drugged and shot to the stars. Come to think of it, Kirby’s Adventure is so distractingly colourful and saccharinely scored that I can’t remember a thing about it, so that earlier promise of addressing the series’ appeal to their established fanbases won’t count for much here. I’ll let you know if Meta-Knight shows up, but other than that I’m as clued in as you, cherished reader. A minute in and I am reeling a little from the gorgeousity of the animation and design and Kirby’s own appeal. The show is HIGH quality, and more than makes up for the abandoned paragraph I wrote about Genndy Tartatovsky being so talented he ruined kids’ TV forever. Another minute in and a giant landborne squid has begun terrorizing some sheep. Why is nothing simple?  AH! One of the little ghostly enemies from Dream Land has appeared in a hat (you know the guys with the same face as Shy Guy from SMB2/ Doki Doki Panic?). So there’s a bone for the fans. I’ll be pissed if he’s not ingested and spat at a weeping tree, mind. This King Dedede has a good line in manic laughter. Seems the proper bastard and all. He drives a tank. That said, there’s also a mention of a ‘Holy Nightmare Corporation’ which is perhaps more troubling. “Hurry out of here before we punish you without trial” takes the award for best line of spoken dialogue in this episode, and possibly across all episodes in ever. I’ve also spotted that curious little d-pad-on-the-forehead, a universal signifier of anger across all Japanese exports, it seems. A poor excuse for the Deku Tree serves up some exposition before Kirby confounds expectations by not appearing quite as heroic as prophesied, like that Jesus they have. King Dedede promptly hammers him into a ravine as a sort of trial by fire. He’s a real piece of work. It’s a miracle the kids (Fumu, Bun, Lololo and Lalala) work out Kirby’s male at all, though his convenient invulnerability seems at least passively macho. I’ve always championed Kirby’s badassery, but Kirby Of The Stars (occasionally called Kirby: Right Back At Ya! for reasons unknown to man) seems determined to paint him as a figurehead for an extensive merchandising campaign aimed squarely at girls. The girliest of girls. Girly girly girls. You know, with double-x chromosomes and ovaries. But not bras. Not yet.

I told you I’d let you know if Meta-Knight showed up. I’ll do you one better by detailing his attempts to stab Kirby (he attempts to stab Kirby) and mentioning his assistants Sword and Blade (he has assistants named Sword and Blade). The presence of the internet seems in itself defiant of the character’s Game Boy origins. Why is it that in programmes governed by their own sets of rules and populated by wild, fantastic characters that the internet is still a force for global evil? Meta-Knight and his buddies do battle with the big squid of earlier, and also some smaller squids. It also jars a little how noticeably different the animation process for Kirby is. Meta takes the time to explain that Kirby is fond of inhaling things, so those new to the character aren’t left out. Considerate. Well, not considerate enough to make a lick of sense, but thoughtful. There’s also a character with a floppy fringe and glasses named Oktacon, but sadly he isn’t Solid Snake’s similarly monikered buddy. The closing theme posits that Kirby can be sketched using only 9 circles and a triangle but the definition of circle is a little abusive to the fundamentals of circles (that they’re round) so I’d not put to much stock in it. It concludes with the headsploding “Oh good morning, Kirby is hungry”, which is neither developed or explained. I love watching Japanese cartoons this late.

I’ve barely recovered before soldiering onto The Adventures Of Super Mario Bros. 3, which instantly bombards with music AND visuals from the game and manages to feel a bit like a half-remembered playthrough or a tepid nightmare unworthy of recollection. It also features sound effects from the games and Bowser’s kids, but worryingly the Goombas have torsos and sport Japanese headdress. WHY? I have a bit of a problem with things referring to other things that they shouldn’t be able to (like the priest in the first episode of The Sopranos asking Carmella Soprano if her husband likes Goodfellas, despite no fewer than four ‘Fellas starring IN The Sopranos, aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAArgh). I don’t handle it well. Anyway, this cartoon is distinctly 80s, all wacky voices and lamentable colour palettes. The background music is based on Koji Kondo’s game scores so it feels at least a little faithful to the game, though the floating blocks in the atmosphere feel wrong (as all get out) in animation and Toad (clearly a cipher for Benny The Ball off Top Cat) and Princess DAISY feel strangely out of place. Interestingly, Mario is a New Yorker in this series, years before Bob Hoskins’ attempts to immortalize him as a Brooklyner trickled all over out screens and into our socks not long before Charles Martinet made him an boot-native for all time. “Let’s find us a couple of super leaves”, suggests Mario in a strange, recursive manner that made my mind lose its footing. More confusion ensues when the sun from World 2 of SMB3 attacks the brothers (who travel exclusively in leaps and bounds) after Mario claims it/he was in his eyes. I should admit that, unequivocally, I adore this brainrape of a cartoon. Its 10-minute episodes and total disregard for its audience’s sanity is particularly charming. A plant bites Mario and he loses his raccoon suit, exclaiming “I’m Super no more. Just plain old Mario”. It’s like he’s PLAYED HIS OWN GAMES. I have a hard time accepting this but advance regardless. Bowser turns, erm, ‘Prince Hugo’ into a poodle, and again, I’m not certain why, but I’ll be a monkey’s heir apparent if I’m not determined to see him returned to the weird mushroom-giant-thing he was beforehand. In their discussion of where next to conquer, the kids suggest “Water Land” and “Desert Land” before Mario calls his scaly nemesis “Bowser Koopa” and my eyes slide slickly down to my cheeks and my brain takes a well-earned holiday. I was reliably informed later that in the coming chaos, Mario transformed into a giant kung-fu master while an inexplicable music number proclaimed that Bowser was a ‘sweat bandit’.

Relentless as the tide, I move on to The Super Mario Bros Super Show, in which a differently-throated Mario calls me a paisano before two human men appear and dance to that awkward white faux rapping from the days of its very infancy. It all plays out over a pleasant version of the original SMB theme, but again it feels vaguely nightmarish. There’s a live action segment I’ll not address as it seems counter-intuitive (its EXISTENCE seems counter-intuitive) before the cartoon stuff starts. The actors are different but the animation style’s the same, though this time it seems to be based on Super Mario Bros 2, with a distressed, blind Birdo accidentally flying off with Toad. Luigi says he’s “allergic to mountains” and I worry that someone actually worked on a script for this episode as I chuckle, a glaze ‘cross my eyes and sleep a foreign, forgotten concept. When Birdo answers the phone I worry that I’ve actually imagined this whole thing. Am I awake? Really. AM I? AM I AWAKE?

Mario makes copious reference to “Pasta Power” and his fondness for spaghetti, and you begin to wonder if the glorification of a such a ferociously high-carb diet is conducive to the positive development of susceptible young minds.

Benny…I mean, Toad… protests at Birdo’s persistent mothering and I thank God she’s not breastfeeding him. That bloody albatross from the later SMB2 levels drops a Bob-Omb on the gang and Mario quips that he was hoping for “a nice salami sandwich” and I can’t help but cynically think the last thing he was hoping for his hated airborne enemy to drop on him was a lovingly prepared delicacy. M’only sayin’. Luigi says “squadroon” instead of squadron and I laugh again. I’ve lost it. Then they throw onions from a bag at their enemies and everyone’s happy. Even I’m happy, and I’m SCREAMING INSIDE.

A certifiable lack of self-regard spurs me onto The Legend Of Zelda, though I’ve promised myself a bowl of Frosted Wheat if I make it through this one alive. I have another episode of Super Mario World to watch later but I figure I best take a break from that whole scene as despite my blossoming love for that family of cartoons, they are making me hate my eyes a little. The Legend Of Zelda appears to be another leg of the Super Mario Bros Super Show. Its opening titles present me with a Ganon whose face is a pig’s. I’ve not played the original Zelda games so I’ll roll with it…for now. Zelda makes reference to ‘both Triforces’ when she clearly means ‘all three Triforces’, but again I’ll roll with it ‘cause it’s not like I’m fit to hop inside my Toshiba Regza and slap some knowledge about her OWN SERIES OF GAMES THAT’S NAMED AFTER HER round her chops. The Legendary (ahahahahaha grantmesleeplord) theme appears as the show’s own, and Link’s incorrigible “Excuuuuuse ME, princess” catchphrase makes an appearance, setting it up for future use (and abuse) before the first episode’s even begun. WHOA! Link has some serious class issues. He laments living in Hyrule Castle and pines for the days of yore when he slept in mud and didn’t have a front-window seat for Zelda’s early-morning pricktease exhibitions, only to be attacked by a triumvirate (see? Succulent) of Ganon’s Moblins. He uses a pillow as a shield as I wonder how he’s actually survived through puberty in the sort of hostile environment in which daily attacks from monsters are met with Spider-Manesque quips and an unhealthy regard for personal wellbeing. Worse yet, he doesn’t bother to brush his teeth before shooting them out of existence with his newly-glowing purple sword (snigger). “Excuuuuse ME, princess” count: two. Ganon’s minions apologise for their failure and he promises they’ll be sorrier, which is a flagrant assault on the English language right there. He declares an intent to travel to Hyrule in style, and spends a silly amount of time conjuring up a quartet of skellingtons (best spelling) to carry his doom-laden rickshaw to the castle, ONLY TO TELEPORT THERE MOMENTS LATER. A 3-inch tall fairy puts the moves on Link despite being less than half the size of how his purely hypothetical reciprocation of lust would manifest anyway, before he leaps out a window, a hearty “ya-hoooooooooooo” reminding us that despite the archaic fairykingdom setting we are watching a cartoon made in the 1980s. Maybe Link’s character feels like such a misfire because in the games he’s never afforded a single line of dialogue beyond his adorable grunting, shivering and screaming, but it’s more likely to do with the wiseguy-in-green Zeitgeist the Teenage Mutant Ninja/ Hero Turtles ushered in a few years before. Catchphrase count: three. Link just about snares himself a kiss at the end as Zelda tells him “don’t try to make a habit of this”, though as he makes his promise his fingers are crossed behind his back and you just KNOW he’s going to make all kindsa habits over the next 13 wackadoo adventures. He’ll make habits for his habits, while WEARING a habit. The episode ends with Ganon in a sort of celestial prison, though I imagine had I the werewithall to watch another episode I’d enjoy seeing his escape, or something.

I’m taking a break until tomorrow as I’m quite completely without energy. I’m going to tidy this up and embellish it with pictures and videos but for the time being feel free to gander at its incomplete state while I quaff Kellogg’s and fumble for sleep.

Cartoon Crapola – The Golden Rhino

Finally, a second installment in the Cartoon Shittery series. Frankly, I’m not sure there’s any topping this. This 10-minute cartoon is one of the best things I’ve ever experienced, to be perfectly hyperbolic. Rhino made two experiences in the 1967 Spider-Man series (“Horn Of The Rhino” and this, respectively) and a third in an episode which was nothing more than an amalgamation of the two, in which I’m not sure he spoke. In “Horn Of The Rhino” (a rare full-length 22-minute episode) he gathers several components of a vaguely dangerous cube that apparently makes him the most powerful man in the world. As I recall, he’s successful, but Spider-Man smacks him one and arrests him… in webs! AHAHAHA. “The Golden Rhino” sees him far less ambitious- he’s collecting gold, smelting it into a life size statue of himself, which he justifies in the episode’s course.

Things to note about the episode and SM’67:

First off, as Spider-Man, Paul Soles sounds like he’s about 50. Peter Parker is a fucking teenager.

The guy playing Rhino has such a great voice they used him for several other villains. Of note are his laugh and any line he has about gold.

Look out for any animation of The Rhino’s face for amusement, and moreso any shot of him running. Absolutely priceless.

Rhino’s glee at Spider-Man’s apparent death is so incredibly childish, with this hands on his chest and that quite adorable chuckle.

I love how during the second fight, plowing into the fish shop doesn’t slow Rhino down one bit.

Spider-Man’s line ‘sorry, but I’ve got a date with a rhino” is a dig at the cop on the left, who at the time was dating Kirstie Alley.

The angle of his hands at 6:36 is super camp.

Absorb the score- SM’67 is often remembered (sometimes solely) for its iconic theme music, but the swingin’ scores that filled the episodes are worthy of much praise. It’s long been a wish of mine to have these isolated, cleaned up and released for my aural savour.

Cartoon mistakes  (or sheer ignorance) are the main reason for watching old shows, and they’re something of an abundance here, from the crate that makes its own way into the truck at the beginning to the exterior shot of the warehouse at 2:25 with a beam of light piercing the night sky like it never actually would.  Ten seconds later, Rhino’s left foot can be seen overlapping something that, perspective-wise, should be behind him, and Spider-Man’s web stops dead in mid-swing when he’s alerted to Rhino’s break-in. Each episode is filled with this sort of junk, so seek ’em out if you’re a crap animation fan.

Spider-Man webbing the lassoo is about the stupidest thing you’ll ever see. He does it all the time.

Given that his head barely fits through that manhole cover, it’s implausible that Rhino’s ever getting out that way.

Perhaps best of all, physics and gravity take a holiday at 8:15. Enjoy:

If you enjoy it, might I recommend “Return Of The Flying Dutchman”, “Diet Of Destruction” and particularly “Farewell Performance”