Japanese trailer for Pixar’s Brave has a Mononoke vibe

ok, this is just stunning, and completely changes my assessment of Pixar’s new film Brave, in both plot and in tone:

My earlier complaint that Brave was going to be just another Princess movie was taken up by Erik over at Forbes, who rightly pointed out that there doesn’t seem to be any love interest in the movie, and the trailer above confirms that the plot is definitely not a standard Disney formula.

In fact, as Nordling at AICN remarks, it’s actually got a much more Miyazaki vibe. Maybe it’s all a matter of the trailer editing process, the different emphasis for Japanese vs American audiences, and choice of music. But the movie looks more like Princess Mononoke or the (non-Miyakazi, but Miyazaki-esque) Secret of Kells.

There was never a chance i wouldn’t faithfully see Brave just like I see everything by Pixar, but the trailer above has me substantially mollified. Maybe the earlier trailer was just aimed at the Disney demographic that expects the formulaic plot, as a kind of lure. There’s a reason that appreciation of anime hasn’t gone mainstream in the US and why Ponyo didn’t garner the respect it should have.

To return to Erik’s response to my earlier post though, he’s right that Brave is a Pixar film more than a Disney one. This is a 3D animation film with Lasseter et al running the show, not something out of the old animation studios (though I was quite impressed with Princess and the Frog). My complaints centered on the Disney Princess franchise, of which Rapunzel from Tangled is the sole 3D member – the rest are all pure animation. Thematically, Rapunzel fits – her old dream of seeing the lantern lights fulfilled, her new dream is her man, as per her own literal confession. And the theme of escape is there, which the first trailer from Brave certainly overplayed.

The key complaint I have though remains, and Erik’s post doesn’t really address it. Where are the male role models for young boys? In UP, the main characters are an old man desperate for sentiment and loss, and a young kid who’s basically a round goofball. The animal sidekicks have more personality than the boy does. Moving, yes. Beautiful, yes. But it doesn’t address the void I perceive (though still, a masterpiece on its own merits, in its own category).

Erik goes on to list other counter-examples:

Toy Story was about friendship rather than romantic love; Finding Nemo explored the relationship between father and son; The Incredibles dealt with the sometimes-rocky travails of having a family, and of finding great things even in the mundane; Monsters Inc. was about friendship in the workplace and the fear of the other

All true, but again, none of these provided a role model for a young boy dreaming of adventure and finding his place in the world. These are all movies about adult relationships and family, they look inward rather than interact with the outer world.

Maybe I’m not articulating what I am looking for properly.. I certainly am NOT asking for more testosterone or railing against a proliferation of wimposity or anything like that. What I want in a nutshell is to see characters in Disney animation that a boy can relate to with the same part of the brain that I as an adult relate to when I see a character like John Crighton, or Han Solo, or Samwise Gamgee. These archetypes appear in other media, there’s no shortage in our culture of them, but they don’t seem to have penetrated children’s animation yet.

Puella Magi Madoka Magica

This from Darkmirage caught my eye – a typical mahou shoujo tale at first glance, but with some very unique choices for artwork. But DM sells it well, just short of overselling:

Beneath the cutesy surface, there is an unspoken air of uncertainty, paranoia and even fear. There is a subtle hint that something dark and horrible lies just out of sight and things are not as simple as they appear to be. Refuge from the unknown is only temporary and peace can at any moment be replaced by chaos. The music and the otherworldly art style bring that message home perfectly.

Adding this to my Watch Eventually list… anyone else seen it?

Kells

I found Secret of Kells on Netflix. It was only 90 minutes, so low-hanging fruit indeed. A really wonderful, enchanting story. The plot summary from Wikipedia lays out the plot:

The story is set in the ninth century and gives a fictionalized account of the creation of the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript and known today as one of Ireland’s greatest national treasures. Obsessed with building a mighty wall to keep marauding Viking raiders from destroying the Abbey of Kells, Abbot Cellach expects his young nephew Brendan to follow in his footsteps. Brendan has apprenticed in the scriptorium of the monastery and has heard the story of Aidan of Iona, a master illuminator who is working on the Book of Iona. Later, Aidan himself comes to the monastery, accompanied by his cat Pangur Bán. Brother Aidan has escaped from the Vikings who have destroyed his own monastery, and had brought the unfinished Book of Iona with him. Taking Brendan under his wing, Aidan asks Brendan to venture into the forest to look for gall nuts to make ink, though the boy is fearful as he was forbidden to go into the forest by his uncle. Brendan eventually decides to venture into the forest, where he meets a forest spirit named Aisling. She is suspicious of Brendan at first, but soon befriends him after helping him find the gall nuts. Though Cellach learns of his adventure and forbids him from leaving the abbey’s confines, Brendan secretly defies it as Aidan teaches him illumination while Aisling introduces him to a wider world.

of course Wikipedia goes on from there to summarize the entire story, which is spoilertastic, so don’t read the rest until you’ve seen it. Hopefully the excerpt above is sufficient to motivate you to seeking this one out, though.

I particularly liked the Harold and the Purple Crayon sequence! 🙂

Explaining Fukushima: Nuclear Boy and his toxic poo

So, how do you explain the nuclear disaster to children, without overly alarming them but still trying to convey some sense of the seriousness of the event? Naturally, you make anime – and replace radiation with “poo”.

I am reminded of this video I shot on a television screen in a department store in Shinjuku five years ago:

I was politely, but firmly, discouraged from taling more video than this, thankfully. Like Cthulhu, seeing more might have destroyed my soul. I can only shudder at the thought of what horrific disaster that video was trying to explain.

(BTW, excellent overview of the nuclear plant disaster at Ars Technica.)

Fractale and Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo

Steven looks at Fractale, and … wow. Miyazaki-esque indeed. I am just as intrigued by the fact that the main character engages in routine prayer, as I am by the Dennou Coil-esque augmented reality.

Also, Nick has screenshots and links to the trailer for Shinkai’s next film opening in May – Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo, or Children who Chase Lost Voices from Deep Below.

In a lot of ways, Shinkai is essential viewing for a Miyazaki fan. He has a way of recapturing that magic that I frankly felt was missing in Ponyo. Looks like Fractale is also an attempt to pick up that standard. Of course, Shinkai’s visual style is not a copy of Miyazaki’s at all, but something wholly new, that manages to evoke the same emotional response. The way Shinkai plays with light, in particular… wow.

UPDATE: Fractale episode 1 is here. Hopefully new ones will appear there also.