Tuesday, January 27, 2015


Stay warm, Donald!

And that goes for you guys, too!

-- Ryan

[Screen caps from the 1947 short "Chip an' Dale", which introduced...um, Gus and Jacques.] :P [Kidding!]

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

At last!!!

Look what popped up in my Facebook feed and that someone had found at Previews:

While I'm sad that they've chosen to not resume the series' longstanding numbering, the return of an ongoing duck title hopefully, with a couple more to follow, and at least one "mouse" title) to the U.S. comic book market is cause to celebrate.Can't wait 'til April!

-- Ryan

Monday, January 19, 2015

Aladdin (the TV series) 20th anniversary (...well, now 21st...) -- Episode 16: "Web of Fear" (9/20/94)

With Jasmine's illogical sympathy and standing up for Arbutus, "Garden of Evil" would have been a near-flop of an episode had it not been so elaborately, beautifully produced. "Web of Fear" actually reiterates some of "Garden"'s themes and plot elements, but in this case, Jasmine's behavior actually makes sense and is justified by the rest of the scenario.

Arbutus actually had abducted Jasmine and intended to hold her against her will, while in the case of Jasmine being taken off into the company of the Unkbuuts, all of her friends -- and for a time, the audience, as all that transpires between her and the Unkbuut before Al and the boys catch up with her occurs off-screen -- mistakenly believe that Jasmine is being held captive and is endangered by the Unkbuut. As it turns out that they've actually received her as a welcomed guest and she's found that they pose no threats to the humans of Agrabah on the surface, then when Aladdin first sees her palling around with the Unkbuut queen and urges her to "get away", and Jasmine protests, "No, we've had the wrong idea about them! They don't mean us any harm! They're nice! They're gentle! We need to have open minds and embrace them! Stop being a bigot, Aladdin!", this time, she's actually right. (For the record, that wasn't an actual quote -- I was mocking the disparity in "Garden of Evil" between its message and its actual content.)

 While "Web" isn't on the order of "Garden" as far as its cinematic, sweeping, completely engrossing production values, and so doesn't have its (irrational) emotional impact, it's also not the sloppiest episode. The heavy use of textured purples and (for the "atmospheric" nighttime setting) blues gives the episode that mysterious, "whimsical" fantasy-adventure flavor that the series has a tendency for. Although the wide shots of the giant crater in the middle of Agrabah and the underground realms (ancient layers of the city that have been built on top of each other, per the Sultan) where the Unkbuut dwell use these textural techniques to cover the lack of actual detail in the backgrounds, this visual motif gives the episode a solid, unified feel.

The uniform appearance of the Unkbuut helps in this regard, as well -- in some episodes, it seems that the design artists went out of their way (whether it was due to pressure from executives or self-regulation, I don't know) to make some monsters look not too scary, and while the Unkbuut aren't particularly hideous, they're not particularly goofy-looking, either. In the end, that works well, considering their nature -- they don't look so cuddly so as to make it unbelievable that anyone was scared at the sight of them.

 Of course, even though its reiteration of "the moral of the story" explicitly (and confoundingly) stressed at the end of "Garden of Evil" is justified by the events of the episode (second time's the charm!), the narrative is still exceedingly predictable and as a whole a glaring cliché -- they actually have the pitchfork-wielding (er, figuratively) mob attempting to burn the Unkbuut alive (never let it be said that this series shied away from showing kids the ugly side of human nature, eh?) swayed to "the other side" by having them witness, in a completely contrived scenario, the Unkbuut queen rescue an endangered cute little boy and cute little dog. They didn't even try to avoid this cliché -- in fact, they went all-out with it! But in using this generic plot, they didn't mess it up, either. Thus, like the visuals, the story is "solid" -- not as impressive and memorable as its "soulmate" "Garden of Evil", but it got the job done.

Genie Watch: In the opening rescue scene (which was an unconventional way to open the episode, in the wake of a major calamity, so I have to give them that -- and plus, I liked the portrayal of Aladdin and the gang as a ready-to-go, vigilante, dilligent "rescue squad" ... with Iago's obligatory reluctance and griping, of course), on several occasions, Genie does some sort of impression or elaborate "simulation" to rescue people, and in so doing, is completely effective, with almost no bungling! Woo hoo! Unfortunately, in the flight from the Unkbuut's realm to the surface to put out the angry mob's (literal) flames, Genie botches turning himself into a flying contraption, and Carpet picks up the slack. Well, don't want to put Carpet out of a job, after all, but couldn't he and Genie split the load more often?

 -- Ryan