A passionate speech to DreamWorks Animation that no one asked for

DreamWorks Animation is apparently in financial trouble partly because of the highly competitive animated-film market. Well, you know what, DreamWorks? Other people exist on this planet other than than young children and their parents. No one said you had to target them. There’s an entire market of teenagers and young adults that you and near every other animation studio have ignored for the past twenty years. Return to your roots! The first CGI film you ever made was Antz, a film that in retrospect should not have even tried to target children at all, a strangely philosophical and gritty film full of death, political satire, and dark comedy. Absolutely no one is making films like that regularly using CGI. There’s no competition! You could show what else CGI could be for, what it could do, what it could show when it doesn’t have to first and foremost entertain children.

I don’t need a photorealistic recreation of golden Angelina Jolie. I don’t need 60,000 strands of hair. Just because I’m over 12 years old doesn’t mean that the only way 3D animation will entertain me is if it features guns, stupid headstrong women, zombies, the police, a military, or a creepy, muscular man cutting his own arm off. I want to know what the space race in a binary planet system or on several inhabited moons, orbiting a gas giant is like. I want to see an unlikely hero, who looks very different from us but acts much the same, liberate his enslaved and ignorant species from an oppressive corporation. I want to see how a person’s acceptance of their differences and strengths that derive from them can save themselves and the people close to them. I miss the story about that ant who was disgusted with the oppressive world he lived in and succeeded in changing it.

There’s millions of teenagers and young adults out there playing video games composed of 3D graphics and dark stories or watching anime about psychopaths, depression, equivalency and fairness, the existence of god, notebooks that can kill people, pornography, and a multitude of other adult and challenging topics. CGI can tell stories as complex and dark as those found in video games and anime, too! DreamWorks Animation, step forth and embrace a brave new target audience! Nobody asked you for Shrek the Third or Penguins of Madagascar! I’m asking you for Antz! Millions of people don’t know it yet, but it’s what they want, too!

…Yup. That’s the story of what I do at 3:30 in the morning: write a passionate speech about stuff that will probably never happen. And I’ve been watching Antz… a lot.

Speech Therapy: Magic is Everything


I recently heard that magic is madness. According to one of the supporters of this literary theory, Freedomain Radio host Stefan Molyneux, the manifestation of magic whether it be in fiction or in reality exists only in the mind. Because “magic” in reality is described by mentally unstable people, “Magic in stories is always and forever a metaphor for madness.” Magic in fiction is the delusion of some character and “visible” to us because we are told the story from her perspective, but we, like other non-magical characters that may appear in the story, can distinguish it for what it is, insanity. The character is deluding herself into thinking that magic is occurring when in reality, she is screaming verbal abuse, babbling to herself, or performing some other destructive or crazy behavior as a result of trauma or boredom.

Stefan’s review of Frozen is what introduced me to this theory. Interpreted using the “magic is madness” theory, Frozen tells the story of Elsa, who out of boredom developed the insane belief that she could do ice magic. One day, in a fit of madness, Elsa hurts her sister Anna. Her parents hide her away and tell her to hide her insanity. Then, she kills them. Years later, Elsa finally gives in to her madness, screaming about ice magic and running into the mountains with her entire kingdom as witness. Because she is the queen and the town is hopelessly in love with her, they also believe in her ice magic powers and so must retrieve her before life can go on.

This theory is thought provoking and points out problems and ideas that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, but the profoundness of it is overstated and even distracting. Yes, you can interpret any work of fiction that contains magic as being about insanity, but that doesn’t mean that everyone is going to or should interpret the story in that way and doesn’t necessarily mean anything at all.

There are two ways to find meaning in a story. First, we can draw upon the story’s elements and themes and our own personal experience and knowledge to piece together a theory of what the story means. Our brains are very good at finding patterns in random data and images. Matrixing is the phenomenon where we see human faces where there shouldn’t be any, in complex patterns such as wood grain or carpeting. A collection of government documents, movies, and news articles has no meaning as a whole until someone concocts a conspiracy theory with them.

The process of finding meaning in a work of fiction can be similar to finding meaning in random patterns, data, and personal experiences. When we realize this, it isn’t surprising that Stefan should find that Frozen is about exactly the things he frequently talks about on his show: female privilege, PTSD, and child abuse. Frozen takes place in a non-sense world featuring a snowman who dreams of summer, a princess who pines after a man she just met, and a city that easily accepts that their queen has horrible ice magic. “Magic is madness” is only one of thousands of ways to interpret this chaos. A person who has experienced depression or anxiety is more likely to interpret Frozen as being about Elsa’s metaphorical battle with these problems and the affects they have on those around her.

Just because a work of fiction means something in particular to someone doesn’t mean that it will mean the same thing to everyone else automatically. If I am unaware of the “magic is madness” theory or that female privilege exists, then why would I consciously or unconsciously interpret Frozen as being about these things? Okay… The first time I saw Frozen was long before I was aware of the “magic is madness” theory, but I can’t prove I wasn’t unconsciously thinking about how insane Elsa was for believing that she had magical powers, how the stereotypical Jewish trolls signified the Jews who invented psychoanalysis, or what a self-centered bitch Anna was. …What a bitch.

The second way that meaning can be found in a story is to interpret it using a theory such as magic is madness. In doing this, however, the theorist risks ignoring whatever the author intended the story to mean and the artistic choices that were consequently made while advancing his own theory or agenda. A feminist can take popular video games and argue that they are sexist. A conspiracy theorist can take popular films and argue that they are propaganda. Anyone can take a film that has magic in it and interpret it as madness.

“Now that I know Orson Scott Card is anti-gay, I’m going to interpret all of his books as if they were anti-gay propaganda!”

If you try hard enough, any work of fiction can be about anything. Stefan argues that Frozen teaches young girls that they don’t have to work hard to be skilled in something. Elsa was born magical. Anna left her castle with little knowledge of the outdoors and survived. Both of them were born into royalty.

There are no guarantees that a child, or even an adult, watching Frozen would pick up on any of this though. From a completely different perspective, Frozen is about the importance of being open about who you are and of talking to those close to you about your problems. Elsa’s magic symbolizes absolutely anything anyone would want to hide about themselves out of fear of rejection or of hurting someone. This could include being gay or transgendered; feeling depressed, anxious, angry, or suicidal for any number of reasons; or admitting a lie or wrong doing. The filmmaker’s choices may have been to emphasize this message. For example, it isn’t important that we know whether Elsa or Anna know how to rule a kingdom because the focus of the story is Elsa opening up to her sister. From a writer’s perspective, Anna being able to perfectly throw a pickaxe, or neither of the sisters showing any interest in politics, could be seen as lazy writing, not a meaningful plot point.

The argument that all fiction that contains magic is about insanity is distracting at least in terms of Stefan’s goals. I think that the “magic is madness” theory is a valuable way to interpret fiction, but it doesn’t describe what Frozen is about to me. The most impressive interpretation I’ve heard using this theory was of Harry Potter because it was so well supported by both evidence in the books and in J. K. Rowling’s life. Stefan’s interpretation of Frozen pleads for stronger, more thoughtful writing more than anything. Because his interpretation was so distant from the surface story the film told, I wasn’t as convinced that the movie was about insanity. Stefan’s effort to argue that all fiction in this category can be interpreted in this way distracts from what I think he’s really trying to say. If indeed we are subconsciously being affected by these works of fiction, the authors who are creating these thoughtlessly written and clichéd stories are enforcing the illogical idea that irrational thoughts and actions will somehow make the world a better place.

[“What rules over us is bad ideas. That’s it. Nothing more, nothing less. Bad, irrational, illogical, subjective objectivity…. The idea that we must learn kung fu to fight killer robots is a great way of distracting people with delusions of violence rather than getting them to think critically and oppose the bad ideas…. If you can get people to think that it’s a physical fight, then they go in unarmed to the real fight which is intellectual.”]

“Magic is madness” has its place among other theories and tools used for interpreting works of fiction. It can be valuable for finding hidden messages in a work of fiction and identifying illogical and lazy ideas both in the work and in life. What a work of fiction ultimately means, however, is unique to each individual as it is subjective and often determined by personal experiences. Pokemon can be a story about a boy with an absent father who was kicked out of his house when he was ten and consequently went insane. Or it can be a story about the comatose hallucinations of a boy who went adventuring into the cruel world of Pokemon training, fell off a bike, and hit his head. Or it can be a simple story about a boy growing up… and selling merchandise. It and other works of fantastical fiction are all of these things and more.

Talk at you next time.

Assorted CG Movie Trivia and Quotes

Do you want an infinite loop of this random CG movie trivia? Download the slideshow here.

Tekken Refridgerator
-Tekken: Blood Vengeance
Source: IMDB
Citizen Siege Producer
Source: Oddworld Creators and Vanguard Animation Partner on Citizen Siege. (Oct 28, 2006).
Retrieved from http://oddworldlibrary.net
Citizen Siege Crash
Source: Oddworld Creators and Vanguard Animation Partner on Citizen Siege. (Oct 28, 2006). Retrieved from http://oddworldlibrary.net
Source: IMDB
Final Fantasy Dilly Dally
-Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children
Source: IMDB
Polar Express
Source: IMDB
Guinness Book of World Records Website
The Incredibles
Source: ComputerHistory. (Dec 7, 2007). Pixar – A Human Story of Computer Animation. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com
Kaena Memento
Source: IMDB
Kaena Development
Source: EdDouglas. (June 18, 2004). An Interview with “Kaena” Director Chris Delaporte. Retrieved from http://www.filmjerk.com
Peszko, J. P. (2004, July). Kaena: The Prophecy – First 3D CGI Feature-Length Film from Europe. Animation World Magazine, 32-35.
Elysium Quote
Spirits Within Thriller
Source: IMDB
Spirits Within Expensive
Source: Guinness Book of World Records Website
Spirits Within Hair
Source: IMDB
Shrek Locations
Source: IMDB
Toy Story 2 Distaster
Source: Panzarino, M. (May 21, 2012). How Pixar’s Toy Story 2 was deleted twice, once by technology and again for its own good.
Retrieved from http://thenextweb.com
Toy Story Airport
Source: IMDB
Toy Story 2 Dust
Source: IMDB
A Bugs Life
-A Bug’s Life
Antz Vs Bugs
Source: Fleeman, M. (Oct 2, 1998). Of Ants, Bugs, and Rug Rats: The Story of Dueling Bug Movies.
Retrieved from http://laprensa-sandiego.org
Antz Quote
Antz Rating
Source: IMDB
-Oddworld: Abe’s Exoddus
Oddworld Movies
Source: Katzenjammer Records. (May 2013). Interview with Lorne Lanning Creator of Oddworld Inc.
Retrieved from http://www.katzenjammerrecords.com
Exoddus Movie
Source: Katzenjammer Records. (May 2013). Interview with Lorne Lanning Creator of Oddworld Inc.
Retrieved from http://www.katzenjammerrecords.com
Toy Story
Source: IMDB
Brave Toaster
Source: Schlender, B. (May 17, 2006). Pixar’s magic man. Retrieved from http://archive.fortune.com
ReBoot record
Source: Bernstein, S. (Nov 10, 1994). Techno-Artists ‘Tooning Up: ‘Reboot’ Is First Series to Be Fully Computerized. Retrieved from
ReBoot dark
Source: IMDB
Beast Wars Quote
-Beast Wars: Transformers
Starshipp Troopers trouble
Source: Oliver, G. (Sept 21, 1999). “Roughnecks: The Starship Troopers Chronicles” debacle !!!. Retrieved from

Elysium (2003) was made in South Korea. (Source: IMDB)

Appleseed (2004), Appleseed: Ex Machina (2007), Tekken: Blood Vengeance (2011), Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008), and Resident Evil: Damnation (2012) were made by the Japanese company Digital Frontier. (Source: Digital Frontier Website)

Have some CG movie trivia you think would fit here? Leave a comment below or send an email. Include a source!

Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete Review

Advent Children Complete has taught me that I either have extremely bad taste in movies… or Complete was so excessive that even I thought it was ridiculous. I’d have to watch it again to be sure. XD

Cuz, alright, I’ll believe that guys with superpowers can swing giant swords and jump really high and shit, but I can’t believe that a motorcycle can be catapulted THROUGH a helicopter immediately followed by a superhighway collapsing, destroying Midgar even more; the helicopter crashing in completely unrelated and ridiculous circumstances, nearly crushing everyone for the fiftieth time; and another helicopter magically appearing. (If that sentence made no sense, good. That’s my exact experience of this scene in the movie.) Sure, punching the highway while going 70 mph and then throwing your motorcycle with your feet is excessive, but at least then the excessiveness was kept between three characters with well-established flying/high jumping powers and super strength. The action wasn’t thrown between those three characters, a ridiculous comic relief battle in a helicopter, and mass destruction for no memorable reason.

I did appreciate the movie’s attempt to better explain and take more time with the original’s plot and characters. Who the fuck is Denzel and how was he dragged into Kadaj’s evil plans? How did ALL THE ORPHANS (and the whole city apparently) know to go to the church at the end of the movie? Why did we need to spend two minutes watching Cloud’s phone sink to the bottom of a lake? All of these details and more are revealed in this movie!

I don’t agree with all the choices made, but some of them I quite liked. First, I liked seeing Denzel’s backstory. In the original cut, the viewer simply accepts that Denzel is a new character, a sickly orphan that Cloud and Tifa are taking care of. It was nice seeing that there was backing to him. Second, in the original cut, we often see short sequences representing ideas and past events that only the most hardcore FFVII fan or the most studious viewer could take meaning from. Complete extends some of these cuts rather nicely into more coherent images. For example, Cloud’s brief flashback of Zack originally contained a couple shots of Zack encouraging Cloud to work hard as a SOLDIER followed by a very short image of Zack in a panic and yelling “Cloud, run!” Complete extends this to show Zack as Cloud’s mentor, his ultimate sacrifice, and the promise Cloud made to him. While it might leave the viewer with more questions as to who Zack is, it’s certainly less cryptic than Cloud referencing some promise he made to someone followed by a flashback ending with “Cloud, run!”

Overall though, all of these expanded details not only add nothing to the plot but also take away from what the movie does have in story and in action. Problems begin at the beginning. Like the original, Complete starts with the last scene of the game, an event that takes place 498 years in the future. This is followed by a title screen that states “498 years earlier” and a brand new scene. This emotionless, dialog-heavy scene features Rufus and someone else talking about what they’re about to do in the next scene. If that weren’t bad enough, it’s followed by a title screen that says “Two weeks earlier.” The audience is now aware that they have gone back exactly 498 years and two weeks and have no investment in any of the characters and can no longer take the movie seriously.

This tedious expansion on what the characters are doing and what they are about to do continues throughout the movie. Dialog scenes are extended. The scene between Rufus and Cloud, for example, goes into laborious detail about how much they didn’t find Sephiroth and how much they did find Kadaj and his minions in the crater. I actually liked this dialog scene in the original movie. It does perhaps take a couple viewings to pick up all the details, but the dialog is quite delightful and exact. The scene was written to be quick and precise. Cloud doesn’t want to be there, but Rufus wants him to stay, and Reno gets in both of their ways. Cloud talks over Rufus. Rufus talks over Cloud. Reno cuts in between both of them. Extending the dialog in this scene kills the relationships between all three characters and the humor that results from this language use.

New dialog scenes are added. Ever wanted to know who that girl, who drug Denzel to a shady-looking truck owned by effeminate men in black leather, is? She will tell you her life story! Want to know how all the orphans knew to go to the church at the end? You will see a scene filled with ringing cellphones followed by a crowd of people journeying to the Holy Grail—I mean the church. Just how horrible is geostigma? Horrible. What do any of these scenes have to do with the movie’s miniscule plot? Nothing!

Just because you detail the life-story of a random character doesn’t mean you add any depth to the story. In video games, it’s fine to go exploring, take a break from the main plot, find side quests, and learn about less important characters. In a movie, it completely destroys continuity and slows it way the hell down. This is a particularly serious problem considering that Advent Children is primarily a fast-paced action movie.

The continuity problems that seemingly random detail expansion creates were particularly noticeable in the scene of ringing cellphones. This scene takes place immediately after we see the building Cloud is on explode. We cut to a horrified Tifa yelling “Cloud!” We see Denzel and Marlene, holding hands and wondering if Cloud is alright… Then, we hear a phone ring. Tension destroyed. This ridiculous sound is followed by a sequence of shots featuring Denzel and everyone else in town answering their phones to a mysterious caller (assumedly Aeris) and then going on an epic journey to the church. Sure, no one knows Cloud exploded. They can answer their phones and go on an epic journey if they want to (except Tifa, who’s probably flipping her shit). The audience ultimately decides if they’re going to let this ridiculous display destroy their experience or not. Even then, there’s still a problem. If this is really how Aeris communicates with people as a ghost, then it’s probably better to keep it out of the movie because it’s ridiculous! Leave it to the audience’s imagination! I can think of a better explanation already like, I don’t know, Aeris speaks telepathically to Cloud throughout the entire movie. Why can’t she do that with all the… orphans? Wait. Why does this new scene feature townspeople? We only actually see orphans surrounding Cloud inside the church. Do we need to know what the adults of Midgar are doing as well? Do orphans have cell phones? So many questions!

New and expanded scenes that focus on the horrors of geostigma also add nothing to this seemingly crucial element of the plot. The original movie showed that people with geostigma had gray wounds on parts of their bodies. It also hinted that occasionally these wounds caused people to hallucinate, blackout, ooze blue goo, or even die. Advent Children Complete features multiple characters that are discriminated against for having geostigma, ooze black goo, suffer horribly, and die. Perhaps these graphic depictions of geostigma were to make Cloud seem more vulnerable and affected by the disease. Cloud is on such a different level from the defenseless, nameless characters scrabbling on the ground though that he seems as invincible as ever. The disease is more associated with the desire to atone for past sins or bring back figures from the past like Jenova and Sephiroth than it is with actual horrible disease. That is, it’s more as a symbol that the planet, its people, and Cloud haven’t healed from the events of the past, not as a literal disease that kills billions horribly.

As I hinted at before, there is also more action but not the good kind. New shots and scenes are oddly cut between shots and scenes from the original movie and are excessive to the point where even giant Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children nerds like me are offended. For another example, one new scene features Denzel fighting a summoned monster with a pipe and a fire hydrant (yup). Why do we need to know that Denzel is also helping Cloud and the others fight? Perhaps so his stupidity can lead to Cloud having to save him and Tifa by throwing his sword like a boomerang? Holy shit! What!? These scenes also ruin what little coherence the original action scenes have. It’s already difficult in the original to understand what exactly is happening. The action scenes in Complete add parallel fight scenes to fight scenes, making them even harder to follow and often more ridiculous.

Random spots of dirt, mud, and blood were added to clothing, skin, and shoes. The final fight scene was changed so that Cloud was stabbed ten times by Sephiroth and then hallucinated a little. Tifa still doesn’t get any boobs. I could go on and on, but I believe I’ve nerded out enough. Perhaps my love and near memorization of the original movie has affected my ability to accept any modifications to it. Perhaps if I continue to watch Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete (and believe me I will!), it will grow on me and become my favorite CGI movie since the original… but probably not.

I knew Complete would probably be bloated with additions, but I expected to get at least some enjoyment out of the extended fight scenes and the prettiness of the new CGI. Perhaps it’s good that I didn’t enjoy it as I thought I would. Sure, longer dialog scenes give me more time to drool at the beautifully crafted animation, but the lifeless, bloated dialog and the series of ridiculous events really affected my experience. That says there may be something more to the original movie for me than pretty CGI and giant sword battles. The original movie had its moments of slowness, excessiveness, and mindlessness, but it didn’t try to be anything more than what it set out to be, an action movie for a very specific audience. Its dialog said what needed to be said and nothing more. Sometimes characters only spoke through looks or subtle movements. Its quick cuts showed the minimal amount of what needed to be shown, and it left everything else to its audience’s imagination. This minimalist storytelling may have been lost to its viewers because of its subtleties and because of its focus on getting to the next action scene, but it’s also what made the original story better than the complete one.

P.S. Cloud’s phone had to sink to the bottom of the lake, the same lake he dropped Aeris in, so that her ghost had a phone to call everyone and tell them to go to the church at the end of the movie. NOW THE WHOLE MOVIE MAKES SENSE! XD

CG Movies for Mature Audiences and of Note

This post is defunct. See here for the new location of the Atypical CGI Movie List.

Looking for CG movies outside the Pixar/Disney/Dreamworks norm? The following films are Gates Media guaranteed to be atypical in art style, content, or target audience. This includes a complete list of all feature-length, fully computer-generated movies rated PG-13 and R to the best of my knowledge. Do you know of a movie that you think should be on this list? I’m always looking for new ones! Leave a comment below or send an email.

The Polar Express (2004)

Antz (1998)
Battle for Terra (2007)
Delgo (2008)
A Christmas Carol (2009)
Foodfight! (2012)

Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within (2001)
Kaena: The Prophecy (2003)
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children (2005)
Appleseed: Ex Machina (2007)
Beowulf (2007)
Vexille (2007)
9 (2009)
Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete (2009)
Appleseed Alpha (2014)
Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV (2016)

Appleseed (2004)
Resident Evil: Degeneration (2008)
Resident Evil: Damnation (2012)
Starship Troopers: Invasion (2012)
Sausage Party (2016)

Shenmue: The Movie (2001)
Elysium (2003)
Ark (2005)
.hack//G.U. Trilogy (2007)
Tekken: Blood Vengeance (2011)
.hack//Beyond the World (2012)
Dragon Age: Dawn of the Seeker (2012)
Harlock: Space Pirate (2013)
Appleseed XIII: Ouranos (2014)
Appleseed XIII: Tartaros (2014)
Heavenly Sword (2014)
Halo: The Fall of Reach (2015)

Speech Therapy: Sword Boomerang? How Do?


The first time I saw Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children Complete, there was one sequence in particular that I couldn’t get out of my head.

The more I thought about it, the more I wasn’t sure it had actually happened.

“Cloud couldn’t have thrown his sword. Yuffie must have thrown her boomerang!”

“Maybe he just rode his motorcycle by and mowed them all down.”

“Well, he can fold a couple of his swords. Maybe it was bent into the shape of a boomerang when he threw it.”

“Maybe he rode his motocycle so fast that he caught up to the swords!”

I had to watch this sequence five times before I could finally accept that it did happen. Then, I saw this. Cloud had thrown not one but two giant swords… like boomerangs… at the same time.

The result is a scene so ridiculous that I literally could not comprehend it. But wait. The original Advent Children was also full of physics defying action. I’m usually not a stickler for physics, so what’s the difference between this sequence and, say, Loz throwing his motorcycle with his feet?

Why could I accept that and not boomerang swords? So here’s my theory.

All the scenes leading up to Loz’s motorcycle toss prepare us for it. From the very first fight scene, we’re introduced to the high-speed, motorcycle chase sequences that we’ll see for the rest of the film.

We also see on several occasions the damage that Loz’s attacking arm can do, his super-human abilities, and the forces that he can withstand.

Finally, we have plenty of chances to see that gravity doesn’t work quite as we expect it to.

Combine these elements together, and you have a believable motorcycle toss.

Advent Children doesn’t remove all the physical limits that we’re used to though. For example, the film gives us no reason to believe that thrown swords will do anything but lodge themselves into whatever they’re thrown at. Further, we never see a character willingly throw their sword. The separation between fighter and sword during a fight is always shown as being a bad thing.

So, Cloud throwing his swords like boomerangs breaks the film’s loose but nonetheless existent physics and the world’s established rules of battle, creating a scene that comes off as random and completely ridiculous.

What I liked about the original Advent Children was that unlike most other full CGI action films, it never broke its established rules as soon as the opportunity arose. Granted, Advent Children created a world so action packed and boundless that near anything was believable, but it still had lines that it could not and didn’t cross. I wouldn’t believe that Cloud can throw his swords like boomerangs, that a child can defeat a monster with a fire hydrant, that a dead girl no one knows would call everyone in Midgar, or any of this for reasons that I’ve already explained.

Perhaps if this were a film about sword throwing children, who frequently receive phone calls from dead people they don’t know and destroy poorly designed super highways with an infinite number of helicopters, maybe I would believe it. Because Advent Children Complete only uses these elements randomly though… no.

Like I said, Complete isn’t the only CGI action film that has this problem of breaking its own rules for the sake of awesome action. It’s quite common actually… for reasons… but that’s a subject for another video. Talk at you next time!