Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Yet another off-topic post - New Short Story Published - NIGHT FAMILY

I published another new short story, this one called NIGHT FAMILY.  It is a prequel to my last short story, DEAD OR ALIVE.  It is available for Amazon Kindle through Amazon for $0.99.

NIGHT FAMILY is an 8400 word short story that chronicles the events surrounding spoiled rich girl Lisa Warwick, the missing person from DEAD OR ALIVE. When I expanded DEAD OR ALIVE from its original 2500 word length to its current length of 7800 words, I realized that there was even more story to tell, and so I wrote this story and another story that describes Rick Striker's actions after DEAD OR ALIVE. That story should be out in less than a month. It currently clocks in at about 9000 words.

You can buy this story here: NIGHT FAMILY. Or download a sample and try it out before buying. Thanks!


Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Pixar Theory - blog on Pixar Universe

Blogger Jon Negroni has a theory - all Pixar films exist in the same Pixar universe.  He has written a pretty cool piece detailing how every film is connected to the other films.  There are some stretches in there, but it still makes for some interesting reading.

Here's the link to his piece: The Pixar Theory

There's also this piece that shows that FROZEN and TANGLED take place in the same universe, but you probably already knew that.  

And this one that suggests who Andy's mom (from TOY STORY) is.

It is a fun blog, pointed out to me by my sons and it has already given me a bunch of entertainment reading over his posts.

Please take a look at my book DOING DISNEY, available for Amazon Kindle at $2.99.  Thanks!


Monday, March 10, 2014

Old WALL-E review/commentary

I don't usually do this, but I was scanning back-posts at my Journalscape blog and found this long-ish review of the Pixar movie WALL-E that I wrote on July 9, 2008 and thought I'd repost it here in its entirety.  So go ahead and read on if you're interested in my take on that movie back when it came out...

I took my two boys to see the newest Disney-Pixar movie, WALL-E, yesterday afternoon. I was expecting to be as charmed by it as I have been by most of the previous Pixar films, including such offerings as CARS, FINDING NEMO, TOY STORY (1 and 2), and RATATOUILLE.

And I think WALL-E was as good as those movies (and maybe better in a lot of ways), but not nearly as charming. I don't know how to explain it...I think those other stories all take the Disney formula (if you don't know that formula, no sense in trying to explain it) and used it with their own unique twists. And they've worked, so much so that they are really the class of Disney animation currently, and have been for a long time, since the days of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST and ALADDIN.

But - it's a much more complicated story than any of those. It's FAR less happy than any of them, far less funny, and more touching in a lot of ways. It's also more of a dystopian SF adventure than anything I've seen previously done by Disney. (I wonder what that will mean to repeat business for this film - while I liked it, I can't see going back to the theater to see it with the kids like we have done for other Pixar films...)


In case you don't know, Wall-E is a little robot whose name is an acronym (exactly for what, I can't remember-waste allocation something something - Earth). He's the last one of his kind to still be operational, to still be functioning in his task to clean up the waste and garbage left on the planet by humans as they've abandoned their planet for a life in space. He's a fairly low-tech looking thing, yet he has intelligence and self-awareness. He is lonely, as you might expect, with only a cockroach as company for who knows how many of the last 700 years. Yet he goes about his tasks diligently, compacting and stacking trash into skyscraper sized piles all around the city.

Into this world comes EVE, a sleek "female" robot whose "directive" is classified. Fortunately for Wall-E, she doesn't vaporize him immediately (I wondered about her defensive responses - was she programmed to find monsters on Earth? Why is she so quick to shoot first at anything that moves?) and after he follows her around for a long time, the pair of robots fall in "love", or something like love at least.

When Wall-E is showing her his treasures, artifacts from humanity's past that he's collected in his day to day toils, he presents her with something different - something he hasn't come across in a long time. A small living plant. EVE's response is dramatic. She seizes the small plant, places it inside of her metallic body, and goes into a sort of catatonia. On her body a green leaf flashes over and over. And sure enough, soon the ship that left her comes to collect her, and she is being delivered to wherever she came from originally. And of course, Wall-E can't let her go like that; he chases her down and ends up going on a trip through outer space to her final destination: the star cruiser Axiom with its cargo of humanity.

And herein lies more dystopian elements. Humanity has changed - low gravity and a life of leisure has turned them into a bunch of lazy blobs who are content to be waited on hand and foot by their robot tenders and don't even think about life or interaction with each other. Their captain is a pleasant but seemingly not too "bright" blob voiced by John Goodman. (John Ratzenberger makes his usual appearance as a passenger who is forced to interact with others by Wall-E's intrusion into their daily existence.) The Buy-N-Large Corporation is the benefactor in all of this - the corporation is the entity that built the robots, that sent humans into space to live while Earth is supposedly being cleaned up, and that promoted this lifestyle in the first place - a sort of bad guy who isn't really even there anymore.

Of course, Wall-E and EVE save the day, getting the plant to the proper place which results in the ship returning to Earth, against heavy resistance from the robots who now seem to embody the Corporation. It's a touching conclusion at times, watching the humans get back on their feet, literally and figuratively, and relearn the joys of living, as the captain watches Wall-E and EVE dance through the space around the ship, and as the passengers are forced to interact with each other and simply act to save themselves. The captain outwits his robot overseer in the end, and humans return to Earth, which is not really "ready" to receive them but which needs their attention to be reborn. All very optimistic, at the end, and positive.

It's a cautionary tale, however, warning against a lot of things - not the least of which is excessive consumption, corporate greed and a trend toward indoor (computers, video games, big screen tvs, etc.) entertainment vs outdoor activity. It seems to warn against technological achievement just for the sake of achievement, with no attention to the good or bad results of such achievement. Maybe most of all it warns against the current trend of not looking beyond tomorrow. I think there are some heavy social and political themes buried in the cartoon medium within which director Andrew Stanton and Pixar work best. Probably a lot more of them than I'm getting to here...I think someone could expand on a lot of these things and dig far deeper into this story than I've done.

And that, by itself, is very unusual for a Disney or a Pixar type story. So, while WALL-E is not nearly as charming or uplifting as other Disney fare, it is certainly deeper and more socially aware than almost anything they've done in this medium to date.

I probably won't see it again in the theater, but will likely buy it when it finally comes out on DVD, and I'm thinking I'll enjoy it then, too. Meanwhile...I'll just have to content myself with playing the Wall-E video game with my sons...;-)

Please take a look at my book DOING DISNEY, available for Amazon Kindle at $2.99.  Thanks!


Monday, March 3, 2014

Disney Film: FROZEN

Finally, a couple months after its theatrical release, we made our way to go see the Disney animated feature, FROZEN.  The impetus behind getting to see it this past weekend was that both of my sons will be playing selections from the film in their respective school bands.  Both wanted to see the movie, hear the songs, and get a feel for what was coming. 

I expected to like it.  And I did.  I have to say that I liked it a lot, more than TANGLED, or WRECK-IT RALPH, or any other recent Disney animated film.  I liked it more than I liked BRAVE, actually, and that's saying a lot.  More than MONSTERS U, also.  Disney Animation has finally outdone Pixar, or at least outdone some of Pixar's efforts. 

The film had a lot of heart.  But then again, Disney's never been bad at tugging at the heartstrings.  They know how to do this movie.  They know how to do the humor, the sympathetic characters, the villains, the plot twists...

This movie has all of those things along with a plot that isn't one hundred percent about having the girl end up with the prince.  Deservingly, it took home the Oscar for best Animated Feature last night. 

The short, featuring a vintage Mickey Mouse, was fun, if a bit repetitive by the end.  (It didn't win in the animated short category, I noted.)

I'll be buying it on DVD/BluRay, and I may even download some of the music.  A couple of the songs were among the best from Disney animation.


Please take a look at my book DOING DISNEY, available for Amazon Kindle at $2.99.  Thanks!