17 December 2009: Holiday rush and animation

Disney's Princess and the Frog

Although I’ve recently posted my roundups of genre entertainment, I had intended to write “Best of 2009” blog posts before year’s end. As usual, however, I’ve fallen behind with holiday correspondence, so I may have to combine them with my looks at the year ahead.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been busy with work, attending local industry events, tackling budgeting, and trying to get ahead with editing assignments. I’ve also been dealing with conflicts in local and remote social/gaming groups. Janice and I easily completed our Christmas shopping and decorating, and we look forward to seeing her folks in Upstate New York next week.

We’ve also been watching various animated specials on television, including old favorites such as A Charlie Brown Christmas and A Claymation Christmas Celebration. Although some recent computer-animated shows such as Shrek the Halls and Flight Before Christmas were mediocre, I was favorably impressed with a few newer specials, like the whimsical Yes, Virginia, the clever Prep and Landing, and the quirky Olive, the Other Reindeer.

The Muppet Christmas: Letters to Santa successfully recaptured some of the humane spirit of the late, great Jim Henson. I have yet to catch Gotta Catch Santa Claus or How the Toys Saved Christmas, but even with ABC Family’s help, there are more specials to watch than time to see them.

Speaking of animation, last weekend, I screened The Princess and the Frog, Disney’s first hand-drawn feature in several years. I liked the New Orleans setting and gender reversals, even as many other reviewers have focused on the fact that this is Disney’s first movie featuring an African-American heroine.

Although the plot, soundtrack, and characters weren’t particularly original (female lead, singing animals, romantic plot), I’m glad that John Lassiter recognizes the value of preserving multiple types of animation in addition to the currently popular CGI. (On a related note, I may try to catch James Cameron’s derivative but apparently spectacular Avatar.)

For example, stop-motion had a bit of a resurgence this year, with the well-received Coraline, 9, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. I’d give the all-ages Princess and the Frog three out of five stars, 8/10, or a “B” grade, and I hope it’s successful in reviving interest in 2-D
animation in the U.S.