Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight

Posted in Uncategorized on May 12, 2014 by dpallee

A draconian (left) battles against Goldmoon the Barbarian (voice of Lucy Lawless) in the 2008 production of “Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight”

As much as I enjoy suggesting great animated films to readers of this blog, I also feel the need to warn them of true disasters as well. Such is the case with Paramount Pictures 2008 direct to video release  Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight. This animated film was adapted from the highly successful Dragonlance novels from authors Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman. This movie failed on so many different levels that I felt the need to point it out to those fans of the Dragonlance series – or anyone who enjoys a good sword and sorcery tale – to not waste your time on this one.

The story takes place in the fantasy land called Krynn where six friends reunite after years apart, only to fall headlong into danger from a rising plague of dragons. The story ventures into a variety of situations that include gulley dwarves, draconians, epic battles and more…yet the production fell well short of what this should have (or could have) been. In spite hiring top names to voice the project, such as Keifer Sutherland and Lucy Lawless, the movie lacked good voice direction which leaves the viewer confused or disappointed in the presentation. The character Raistlin (voice of Sutherland) is a mystical, enigmatic mage one would expect to have that echoing, ethereal voice when casting a spell but they decided to have him bellow out his spells like some growling barbarian. Practically every character in the story gave a flat performance that sounded more spoken than acted.The cadence and flow of dialogue was hard to follow – it would be too fast paced, then it would slow down to a crawl leaving you waiting to see if the next scene got any better. The biggest failure in the movie, which I consider the downfall from almost any movie that has attempted this, is the mixture of 2d and 3d animation. All dragon characters (draconians included) were rendered in 3d and then mixed in poorly with the rest of the traditional, flat 2d action from characters that fought them. Shading and contrast fought one another during these battle scenes making it too difficult to watch the fight that was supposed to be taking place. Another failure came from the poor editing; all films suffer some minor glitches in editing yet Dragonlance seemed to have an abundance of scenes where in one instance, the ground would be covered in blood,only to magically disappear the next time that frame showed up.

I held high hopes for this movie as I am an avid fan of the Dragonlance novels but this fell well short of any expectations I might have had. The lesson learned from this screenplay is, just because you have a great written story doesn’t guarantee you will have a good animated film. There are a lot of good sword and sorcery animated movies out there so pass this one by and find another one to watch.


Astonishing Xmen: Gifted (2009)

Posted in Uncategorized on April 10, 2014 by dpallee

from the Marvel motion comic series “Xmen:Gifted”

A growing trend in animated series made for online viewers is the motion comic. Motion comics might be considered the missing link between full motion animation and static images. Traditionally, the motion comic is created by taking panels from conventional print comics and expanding their appearance by taking out word balloons, adding sound effects and some movement. The quality of art and detailed motion vary from the somewhat archaic to the more artistic, depending on the creators. There have been a variety of motion comics created and the quality is becoming increasingly more fun to view; an excellent example of a motion comic can be seen in the Marvel motion comic series, Astonishing XMen: Gifted.

Gifted is a direct adaptation of the storyline from Marvel comics The Astonishing X-Men #1-6. The story introduces a number of new characters into the X-Men realm and revolves around the teams involvement surrounding a “mutant cure”. I don’t want to give too much away from the surprises in the plot so I will leave the synopsis of the story a mystery for you to discover by watching this great series of motion comics.

The true finesse in creating limited animation in characters and scenes brings a new sense of study to the artform of comics and animation that I find myself watching over and over again. A 3d feel to the foreground characters and background scenery is achieved by having elements rendered along varying focal planes to give it that simulated depth of field. The story holds well without the need for full animation and the vivid use of colors give characters and props a wide berth. This Marvel ani-comic is a perfect example of what a motion comic should look like. You can see the Gifted motion adventure from a variety of online media providers and if you become as big a fan as I am of this resurgence to a unique artform, you’ll start hunting the internet for more and more of these great stories.

Justice League: War (2014)

Posted in Uncategorized on March 10, 2014 by dpallee

(left to right) Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, Flash, Cyborg and Shazam from “Justice League: War”

 DC Universe Animated Original Movies continues to deliver breathtaking action with their Justice League animated direct-to-video production series. Their 2014 release, Justice League: War, is no exception. This edge of your seat heroic adventure is as big as the list of super heroes they packed into this great story adapted from Geoff Johns and Jim Lee Justice League: Origin storyline. The collaborative efforts of director Jay Oliva and scriptwriter Heath Corson bring a fantastic tale to viewers with some of the best fight action sequences I have seen on video yet. The backgrounds swell with emotion and color while the sound editing accentuates the feeling of peril – a great production effort all around.

 The story takes a new twist to the old origins of the Justice League in presenting the relationship between the core list of super heroes most DC comics fans are familiar with. The more recent hero added to a familiar cast is the character Cyborg ( voice of Shemar Moore) whose origin story is worked into the plot of War. The citizens of the United States are not in favor with our familiar super friends and it takes a threat from another dimension to bring the group of DC warriors together. One of the most heinous of all super villains, Darkseid (voice of Steven Blum) battle Superman, Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, Flash, Cyborg and Shazam (aka Captain Marvel) in a plot to overthrow our world and assimilate humans into his personal minions. You can make a lot of comparative analysis to this updated redux of the DC world; the bickering among the superheroes which is reminiscent of the relationship seen in the cast of Marvel’s Avengers movie – but I leave the analysis of those nuances to you. I just sat back and enjoyed the movie and give DC a huge bucket of praise for breaking the age old mold they had pinned their characters into years ago. All of the Justice League have a bit more adult vocabulary so parents, be forewarned – this is not your Saturday morning Super Friends group of heroes. This crew cusses and get into some real white knuckle fights – Superman even breaks his code and actually kills someone (although his alibi rests in the fact that he was possessed by evil technology invading his body at the time and the guy he kills was really really bad so…). The battles are superb and even though you know the outcome will be that the good guys win in the end, you will find yourself wondering if they will actually win this fight.

 The cast and crew of voices for Justice League: War are not the familiar group I expected – Kevin Conroy is not voicing Batman – but under the voice direction of veteran Andrea Romano (a true genius in the voice direction world of animation) this cast and crew make a wonderful presentation. Justice League: War is available for viewing through Amazon Instant Video and the movie runs 79 minutes which is typical run time for a feature length animated video. I highly recommend it for you as a classic example of what the new and improved DC Universe has to offer viewers.

Black Soul (2002)

Posted in Uncategorized on December 11, 2013 by dpallee


Black Soul is a powerful, expressive animated short film by Haitian Canadian artist Martine Chartrand that I applaud for both content and presentation. The piece is just over nine minutes in length and manages to brilliantly depict Black history from various viewpoints of African men, women and children. The art is constructed and animated using the paint on glass technique and enhanced with a rich soundtrack that includes traditional African rhythms, gospel and jazz music. This short movie was produced by the National Film Board of Canada and won several awards, including best short film at the Berlin International Film Festival. Take a moment and visit this link to watch the short film and I think you will be pleased with this wonderful short film.

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 24, 2013 by dpallee

Kiki and her cat Jiji from the movie “Kiki’s Delivery Service”.

 One of (what I consider) the five great classics from Studio Ghibli was actually the first to be released in the U.S. under a partnership with Walt Disney Studios. Kiki’s Delivery Service is a must see introductory movie for people of all ages to watch so if you haven’t yet seen this, go out and grab it today.

 What I find so appealing about the Ghibli approach to movies is the way they weave a good story around exceptional artwork and animation to create a world filled with vivid color and wondrous visual entertainment in even the most normal of circumstances. A brief conversation between two characters my be little more than simple dialogue but the added movement and attention paid to perspective and color bring scenes alive to the eye, a true living picture experience. This shows that you can take an average story and make it a great adaptation with professionals devoting themselves to a polished production.

 The story is based around a year in the life of the main character, Kiki, (Japanese voice of Minami Takayama, English dubbed voice of Kirsten Dunst) who leaves her home for a year – as is tradition for a witch of 13 years – to live on her own. She ends up in the port town of Koriko where she procures a job delivery bakery goods, a feat made easier by her ability to fly on a broom. Kiki and her pet cat, Jiji (Japanese voice of Rei Sakuma, English dubbed voice of Phil Hartman) make friends and tries to adjust to life in the hustle and bustle of this new town. Her personal insecurities cause her witch powers to abandon her and somehow the young girl must find a way to get her confidence and her ability to fly, back.

 It’s easy to see how this movie won so many awards and helped to set a standard for the caliber of work Studio Ghibli would continue to give us for years to come. The attention to color and detail is what will bring yo back to watch this time and time again. There are some subtle differences between the Japanese and English release of the movie and it has undergone a number or re-releases but whatever version you are able to obtain I guarantee you satisfaction from this fine film.

Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox (2013)

Posted in Uncategorized on September 28, 2013 by dpallee

Flash (left) and Batman/Thomas Wayne (right) from the animated movie “Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox.

 DC Universe Animated Original hits another Grand Slam with their 2013 release of the the movie Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. Great animation, epic story and a huge list of talent bring to life the crossover comic Flashpoint by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert. This was a bold step by DC to take suggesting the alternate universe story to audiences but Flashpoint lived up to that challenge.

 This Justice League story cues in on the Flash (voice of Justin Chambers), who after thwarting the plans of his nemesis Professor Zoom (voice of C. Thomas Howell), experiences a shift in reality that dramatically changes his world. This new universe holds familiar faces from his world, but things aren’t quite the same. The Flash’s mother is alive in this world, Aquaman and Wonder Woman are plotting to overthrow the world and Batman is no longer Bruce Wayne, but Bruce’s father, Thomas Wayne!

 Changes to the traditional DC Silver Age storylines are not hard to follow or adapt in this feature. The familiar traits of characters are easy to pick out and entertaining to see how the writers developed them into a new action story. I hope they plan additional crossover stories in the future as this gives a fresh new line of movies to avid DC fans. The 75 minute run time almost seems to short as you want to view more of this alternate world Batman (and Joker?) or other Justice League characters. Some of the voice talents adding to Flashpoint include the iconic voice of Kevin Conroy as Batman, Sam Daly as Superman, Ron Perlman as Deathstroke. Watch this one and I’m sure you’ll be begging for more crossover ventures from DC in the future.

The Land Before Time (1988)

Posted in Uncategorized on October 10, 2012 by dpallee


Littlefoot from the 1988 Sullivan/Bluth Studio film “The Land Before Time”

 A new generation of children and grandchildren may have missed out on seeing the original classic animated dinosaur adventure, The Land Before Time. This Sullivan Bluth Studio production became so popular with young children that it spurred 12 sequels-albeit the first film (as with most movies) was the best.

 The same great studio to bring us such great titles as The Secret of NIMH, An American Tail and All Dogs Go To Heaven tell the touching story of an orphaned baby dinosaur who struggles for survival and to reunite with his grandparents. The way the storyline and simplified dialogue flows makes this movie an easy follow for young children, however be forewarned. Like the classic Disney film, Bambi, The Land Before Time has an undertone of family loss as well as a ferocious nemesis in the T. Rex Character, Sharptooth.
Early in the film the small ‘longneck’ called Littlefoot (voice of Gabriel Damon) befriends a young triceratops named Cera (voice of Candace Houston). Both young dinosaurs become pursued by a Tyrannosaurus Rex known as Sharptooh, who is thwarted by Littlefoot’s mother. His mother suffers fatal wounds in the battle and leaves Littlefoot abandoned. Following this, a huge earthquake separates Littlefoot and Cera from their respective clans, and from there the adventure begins. The pair meet good friends along the way and share in times of laughter, sorrow and terror as they make their way to meet up with migrating herds heading to the legendary Great Valley, where all will be safe.

 The cinema quality animation mixed into a great script is what made the premiere Land Before Time movie the best. Following sequels were popular as well with young audiences, who had become familiar with the main characters to the series. If you have never seen any of this series and are looking for a good movie to watch with young ones, I would suggest this.