Two Years Later

2009 just flew by, didn’t it? Did I accomplish much starting from my first post at the beginning of last year? Nope, not as much as I’d like. 2008 was like 2009, except I was even more preoccupied with other things in 2009 and made hardly any posts. I hate myself that I can’t get to this place more often. As I have stated before, there are always so many things on my mind to write about, but no time to focus. I’m nowhere near where I want to be in this project, and I really thought I’d be farther ahead by now when I started two years ago. Not a blogging superstar mind you, but I’m not getting the traffic I hoped for. I know I have no one else to blame but myself.

I have thought several times just to give up and shut down, but I still think I have a lot of valid points about a lot of things, subjects that other animation related blogs aren’t covering. I wouldn’t want to throw away all that effort, but me being extra slow with my postings doesn’t help any. 2010 already isn’t looking much different with the amount of free time I have to spare.

I’m ticked I haven’t gotten more done, because at this rate I’ll still have material to cover ten years from now, and I’d like to keep up more on current news. I really need to get back to reviewing Disney cartoons as well (on hiatus now for a year). I’m not the same person as when I started this endeavor, so I sincerely hope that part of me that still wanted to write about cartoons is alive because it is going to be harder to write like I wanted to write many years ago, when I had several ideas. I just get so depressed that I can’t get them out, and the traffic isn’t great, so why bother? Is anyone listening? Well if you read this post, I know you are. Hopefully 2010 will be a better year. Third time is the charm, after all.


Damn Format Wars

Fuck Blu-ray. There, I said it; I said what some people think.

Format wars are nothing new in the world of entertainment and electronics. Beta vs. VHS, VHS vs. DVD, DVD vs. HD DVD, and so forth. So in actuality, I shouldn’t be angry at all about Blu-ray, but I am.

Every format improves on the one before it. The biggest change in this decade was the move from VHS and VCR’s to DVD’s and their players. Not even the best VHS or S-VHS tapes and machines could playback as clear and as vividly as the cheapest DVD and the most economic model of players. The 2000’s can be looked at as the DVD collector’s generation. Before this, yes you could buy VHS box-sets of your favourite shows, but DVD’s were so much better not only in picture and sound, but in storage capabilities as well – more room to fit more media, smaller in size than a VHS tape and easier to store. This decade saw a great deal of people turn the cable television off, and load up on season after season of their favourite shows to watch what they want when they want. During this time, thousands of animated movies and television shows were released. And of course because it’s on DVD, it has great clear picture and sound over your old VHS tapes, plus some may even stack bonus features and such. So like a consumer sucker, I bet you re-bought all of your old Disney and other movies on DVD, right? Thinking it would be the last time you’d have to replace all your favourite titles. And perhaps you bought a lot of television cartoons available for the first time on DVD, never thinking something else would come along and replace the format. Because DVD’s were so good, right?

Wrong. Blu-ray and the entire flat screen TV movement burst down the door, putting your DVD’s to shame and giving you even better picture and stronger more cleaner sound and even more storage capacity. This is where I have a problem. It seems like DVD’s weren’t even out that long before this new disc came to retail. When you go shopping, either for Christmas or on Boxing Day/Black Friday, it’s impossible not to notice the mass amounts of DVD product out there at stores like Best Buy, Future Shop, Wal-Mart, HMV, etc. So many titles…how is every single one going to get re-released on Blu-ray in the coming years? The answer is, some will not. Much like how there are still lone VHS movies and such that never got a DVD treatment, the same will be for DVD’s many years down the road that won’t see a Blu-ray release.

For those titles that do get re-released on Blu-ray, you’re getting boned if you want to re-purchase everything. Remember that the seller of a product, at the end of the day, only wants your money. Your hard earned dollars you slaved away for. As a “re-buyer”, you will pay out of your butt to get all of those old DVD titles on Blu-ray again, because they look 1000 times better on your new big flat screen television that will also be outdated in a couple years. You now look back on how much you paid for your DVD’s brand new, and how you lost money. This format change could be good for people content with their DVD’s. As titles that have been out for several years get older, and warehouses are stacked with crates of unsold and aging product, you can see prices finally drop. I recently discovered the Animaniacs collection of full season DVD’s released from 2006-2007 finally drop in price from an average of $45-55 CDN to $18-28 CDN. Why? It’s an aging title, everyone who wanted it owns it already, and corporations want to sell off their stock to make way for new products.

I guess I shouldn’t be cross at Blu-ray because unlike VHS vs. DVD, we are just dealing with plastic disc vs. plastic disc, not a bulky old cartridge more prone to wear vs. plastic disc. There is hope for backwards compatibility for DVD and Blu-ray. Where I do get ticked, however, is that a lot of animated titles don’t really benefit from the advancements Blu-ray offers. For your big budget 3-D CGI animated features released in the last ten years, yes I’m sure it makes a difference. But for older 2-D movies that were already put through the remastering ringer for a DVD release, how much more can you possibly squeeze out of an older film before you start to make it look like something it was never supposed to look like? Older television cartoons have nothing to gain by getting released on Blu-ray – the DVD medium is good enough for them. DVD provides what VHS lacked, and that should be good enough…we hope.

In the end we all seem to be victims of the fast movement of technology, and companies that want us to buy their products. They could re-package some old television cartoons on Blu-ray to make them look cooler, when in fact they looked fine on the DVD release. If they don’t re-release them, you are left with a DVD copy. And depending on the life span of the DVD market, you could very well find yourself without a DVD player many years down the road. Unlikely, sure, but you have to adapt or die in this environment. You have to keep re-buying what you bought so you can always have a fresh product and player to play it on. One reason why some people, like myself, have started stacking up on VCR’s – they are dead technology but still have a dedicated following. The key to “winning” this fight is to wait many years until a title you want becomes old, and buy it on sale/clearance, but buy before the format is at the end of its life cycle. Sure all your friends bought and enjoyed it years ago, but they paid a lot more money. Being patient will save you precious dollars in the end, moreover if you buy a lot of DVD’s. Heh, and if you’re not happy with that, go online and download a torrent and burn your own format! For only the cost of blank discs!

Blu-ray thinks it is king of the block for now, but you and I know someone else is coming to knock him off the boulevard soon enough. It’s happened before, it will happen again.


Avenue Q

Grow up on Sesame Street reruns? Ever wonder what it would be like to put puppets from a show like that in adult situations? Then I’ve got a ticket to a Broadway show that you, my friend, should be seeing…spoilers may follow.

I just came back from seeing a local production of Avenue Q that was presented at The Center In The Square. This musical is friggin’ awesome, I loved the numbers. I was completely satisfied with it and the ending was perfect, in my opinion. No happy ending, just a “for now” ending…it’s a grown up Sesame Street, and to be linked to that and make it for older audiences is a great combo. This is my first time seeing a musical live, and I don’t partake in theatre often – I may just watch more stage productions if they were done by puppets/muppets. It would make it much more appealing for me after seeing Avenue Q.

The cast for this version all sang and acted well, and I really have to give them props for their double acting. Not only do they have to “act” themselves, the people hosting puppets with their arms also have to “act” for the puppet. It’s a weird mix because as the viewer you’re sometimes not sure who to watch, however it’s a joy to watch how they move around the stage with their puppet so flawlessly as if they were on set recording an episode of a kids show. The person who played the character of Christmas Eve was over the top in this production, making good on the “rrrrrr”’s, and the person playing Kate Monster (as well as Eve) had excellent singing voices, moreover at high pitches. I have to say what really impressed me though overall about Avenue Q was the production. The set was well built and efficient as all scenes worked perfectly with changes, and the nightmare “propose” scene was nuts! The use of televisions to display other visuals was a creative move. I could not believe at one point the cast ran off the stage to ask for money, some guy in the audience threw in five bucks. And that one scene…well, it put Team America’s version of “puppet love” to shame!

I’d say the only distraction is the whole humans talking to “human puppets” who also talk to “monster puppets”. I tried to focus on the puppets alone but the actors are doing their part as well. I recommend going to see Avenue Q if it’s playing near you, and hopefully your cast does as good as a job as ours did. I think I’ll pick up the cast recording.


Teletoon At Night

What the hell, Teletoon? I mean no disrespect, but seriously – why change the long standing name of your adult block from The Detour to this horribly lame title? Teletoon…at night? It’s bland, and so are the shows airing in the block. Remember when Teletoon showed satisfying “adult” cartoons several years ago, and not just the same stuff everyone else aired? The set of shows they consider “adult” these days is dismal, they are too tame to really be considered anything more than the average “cartoon for an older audience” stuff you’d see in usual primetime hours on Fox or Global. This line-up runs Monday to Friday:

9pm – Futurama
9:30pm – King Of The Hill
10pm – American Dad
10:30pm – Futurama
11pm – Robot Chicken
11:30pm – King Of The Hill
12am – American Dad
12:30am – Futurama
1am – King Of The Hill
1:30am – American Dad
2am – The Critic
2:30am – Tripping The Rift
3am – Sons Of Butcher

Several things are wrong with this line-up. First off, the shows. Futurama: already aired on YTV (recently no longer does). King Of The Hill: already aired on The Comedy Network (recently no longer does), and still airs on Omni2. American Dad: still gets a fair bit of airplay on Fox. All three of these shows have been seen a million times over by the public, and all have widespread DVD releases by seasons, and lots of downloads floating around the Internet. These shows are popular and will be in rotation in some form or another for years on television and in your DVD player. Why not air something that’s unique alongside Robot Chicken? Something that has a hard to find, or no, DVD release perhaps? Your best offerings here get airplay nowhere else but on your network these days: The Critic, Tripping The Rift, Sons Of Butcher…are in a timeslot where most are sleeping the night away.

Secondly is the repetitiveness. It would be passable if each triple serving of the shows mentioned above were different episodes each time (lord knows each have enough episodes), but they aren’t! Watch the King Of The Hill episode in the 11:30pm timeslot, and it will be the same episode airing at 9pm the next day. I hate it when networks do this, because I have to pick and choose when the best time is to watch the show, so I don’t run into repeats the next day. If you watch a lot of Teletoon and are a teen/adult, chances are you’ll be watching at 9pm till maybe just after midnight – which means you get a double shot of three already overplayed shows. I don’t understand the reasoning behind this – this isn’t an “adult” block by any stretch. It’s a pitiful primetime party, leaving people that want to watch something a little more entertaining to stay up at least to watch The Critic. And that is the third thing I cannot stress enough – an “adult” block on an “all animation” network should offer things I can’t view anywhere else, and the content should be up for people over 18 years of age. Is that really asking too much, Teletoon? Believe or not, Canada is full of teens, 20somethings and 30somethings and beyond that are craving for something more, and are currently starving on the scraps you offer – what you consider to be adult animation.

And after all is said and done…The Detour itself…still exists. On weekends at least. It’s puzzling to have two adult blocks on one network. A topic I’ll cover another time.


He’s Dead…Chowder’s Dead

And so goes the lifespan of an animated series.

It seems just like yesterday I ranted about Chowder, which was getting glowing reviews from the cartoon viewing populace when it premiered in 2007. A fresh, upbeat show for Cartoon Network. It was a hit among viewers in the US, despite getting a good shaft on Canadian television airwaves. When it did finally land on Teletoon a year later in the fall of 2008, it was only airing Saturday mornings at 11am and Sunday mornings at 5:30 in the morning. It never had a chance to gain a fanbase here at all with a weekly timeslot, and currently only airs here Saturdays at 6:30am. That’s pathetic, to say the least – Teletoon has garbage cartoons scattered in their line-up, and they take a show as creative as this and shove it where no one is looking.

From what I can tell, Chowder is a victim of two things – starting strong and bad timing. When the show premiered, it premiered with a lot of buzz and started off strong, and did very well for Cartoon Network initially. The problem with starting off with such a perfect formula, is where do you go if you start at the top of your game? I haven’t had the chance to watch much Chowder due to when it airs here, and my lack of time to find new episode downloads online, but from what I can gather the show seemed to suffer from repetitiveness and characters personalities straying farther away from their original traits as episodes progressed. If I ever get a chance to sit through the series I could be wrong, but sometimes writers can run dry on good ideas quickly if they use their entire arsenal early on to fire shot after shot of good episodes in a short time.

While this is aging news, and a topic I still plan to cover, Cartoon Network changed their branding to include live-action programming earlier this year, a move that has baffled most viewers and long time fans of the network. Chowder is just coming up on being two years old, however it was already stated on creator C. H. Greenblatt’s blog in May 2009 that they were working on the final Chowder episode. It was stated here that the voice cast recorded their lines for the final episode. While people were hoping the series would get picked up again, things of this nature rarely happen in the animation industry, save for Family Guy. It was pretty much confirmed a month later on Greenblatt’s blog that Chowder had no place in the network’s future. I don’t get Cartoon Network here in Canada, but I hope at least the series is getting promoted well enough there, that the second season gets some positive ratings. I always thought a crossover episode with Chowder and the characters from The Marvelous Misadventures Of Flapjack would have been great, but that will never come to be.

Yes, fans can be angry at Cartoon Network for canning such a good show, only to promote live-action crap no one wants. But in a way, perhaps Chowder ending now is all for the best (?). Most cartoons air for many years to achieve the laughs Chowder got in its short run – isn’t it better for it to end now instead of being dragged out for years and years? Hopefully Cartoon Network doesn’t take forever in airing new episodes. It should also be noted that it’s a rarity when an animated series has a proper ending episode. From what I can tell from Greenblatt’s notes on what the last episode is about, I’m sure the last serving of Chowder will provide you a warming impression that will leave you with a satisfied feeling of a belly that is full.


I Wish I Could Stop Time

Forgive me, readers of this blog, for I know there are a few out there. I’ve been in a real funk lately about many things, and no surprise, have been kept busy and away from posting here as much as I’d like to. I can barley make a post each month, which is horrible as I just can’t collect my thoughts properly to make a good entry – no time. As I sit back and watch 2009 roll on, all I see is change (online and in real life) and many things never being the same again as they were as we enter a fresh decade.

Firstly, is the progression of Flash in websites and the constant revamping of many websites that didn’t need revamping at all; I wish things could be kept simpler, but some douche always thinks they can make something better even though the original concept is fine. I won’t go into details about each, but I hate how Hotmail changed its interface last year. AutoTrader.ca is worse to navigate and pictures don’t always load now as they use a Flash system to display them. Ebay has updated their viewer for pictures too, along with their layout, and I don’t like it. Flickr had a great browsing layout before, where I would see usernames and dates of pictures posted foremost. Now they have a newer Flash based way of going through search results with tiny thumbnails. The worst of all is the new YouTube channel layout – keep it simple, stupid! The older one was far easier to get through, and the newer one is just unnecessary and in my opinion, a real pain in the ass.

Secondly, is the deterioration of television animation and its networks over the past couple years; 2009 proving to be the worst year yet thus far in North America. This is a subject I’ve been meaning to get to for a long time, but its going to be an extensive rant. Saturday morning cartoons are non-existent now, long standing networks like Cartoon Network recently changed their format to include live-action programming, Flash cartoons domineer the landscape and offer cheap entertainment on a small budget. We have lost the art of character design, proper looking backgrounds, and even good sounding opening themes and scores. I have a strong feeling television animation is headed for the dark and dismal place it once crept from during the 1970s on through till the mid 1980s. Of course, I’m not a kid anymore, and it could just be me on the old “things were better back in my day” kick. But when you really sit back and take a look at the picture as a whole…things were better back in the day. Things, at least in Canada, were better even five years ago. Even animation here has sloped down a slippery path of disappointment, manufacturing shows that are instantly forgettable. The networks that air these cartoons have followed suit – if I had the power to make a new 24-hour channel dedicated to animation here, I would. Because Teletoon sure isn’t what it used to be, and that is a sad fact.


GeoCities Is No More

Well not quite yet, but almost.

Earlier this year I had talked about the death of the fansite and free web hosting in a world full of up and coming “Web 2.0” technology and applications. While it’s to be expected that another free web hosting service would close due to the popularity of such things like blogs, I was very surprised when I heard Yahoo GeoCities would be shutting down in October 2009.

Yes, it’s a super old service. But it was long standing and popular for many years and triumphed over other free web hosting companies that died out years ago, due to being easy to set up and maintain. I never thought Yahoo would close GeoCities; but it again goes to show that in an ever progressing online environment that things never stay the same forever, and “Web 1.0” as we used to know it years ago is gone forever as this decade comes to a close. Websites are a dying breed, and if you want to express yourself you can use Blogger or one of the many social networking sites out there.

The thing I liked about GeoCities was even after a site died and the webmaster abandoned it, it still remained online many years after or never went offline at all. There are still websites ten years old on GeoCities that will now be gone. Better start saving old URL’s if you ever want to visit sites via The Wayback Machine, or copy and paste important information to your computer. My gripe with Yahoo doing this is because they are wiping out an entire catalogue of older information and media that people will no longer have access to. When you stop and really think about it, there are millions of old GeoCities sites still online. When I Google for certain things a fair bit of the results come from old sites on GeoCities. It was because the service was so popular and that several of their sites stayed online many years after they had died – it was one of the reasons people made them there in the first place.

Websites almost and above a decade old, dead, but still fun to look at and gain information and media from, will vanish. Once GeoCities goes a huge chunk of Internet will disappear forever. Now what will Google hit if I’m searching for something? A blog post and a Wikipedia entry? That sucks. GeoCities sites always got picked up well on Google search results. They were key to looking up older information Wikipedia articles may or may not have. Too bad Yahoo just can’t keep the service online as a library of sorts to reference things. It’s a shame we have to say goodbye to GeoCities, but it did last the public a great 15 years.


Michael Jackson: 1958-2009

There I was, ready to work on another blog post for this place, and Michael Jackson suddenly passes away. I’ll never forget where I was when I found out. I could say a lot of things many others have said before, but I’ll try and keep it brief. While the events were unfolding and I kept seeing “Michael Jackson Dead” on various television channels, I just could not wrap my head around it. It was like a bad dream. But it was happening, and there was nothing I or anyone else could do to stop it. It still seems unreal to me now. How we lost this epic performer so suddenly. He was truly gifted. All I can think of now is that brain of his – that one vessel of knowledge, that brain that housed the skills of a superstar and allowed him to sing and dance like no other…is gone, forever. He is no longer a living, breathing, human being. That brain is dead, taking with it his fantastic abilities. We have lost something great.

We live in the age of media frenzy. The word of his death was so incredibly rapid spread online and in the television news, that if you didn’t know by at least noon the next day you were looked at as a fool. It was massive, it already felt like old news by Saturday and the world had almost gone back to normal. Its horrible how he was so close to making a comeback, its criminal he be taken away from us now at such a pivotal moment in his career. I wanted to see if he could still sing and move like he used too. Only a month away, this would have been his first tour in the age of Youtube; surely many fans would have snuck recording devices into his concerts to catch a shot of the pop star doing his thing. It would have been great. Now that he’s gone, you suddenly realize his last album was released eight long years ago. So much has changed in the music world in that time and a new MJ record would have been an interesting thing to listen to, as he always tried to make something new and exciting. Now, all we have is his back catalogue. Who knew when that last record was released, Michael Jackson wouldn’t even make it out of this decade alive.

All of a sudden, his music is everywhere again. His merchandise is selling out. Fans all over the world are celebrating his numerous achievements. Please just don’t focus on Thriller and “Billie Jean” like the news tells you to, he had many other great albums and songs. Admittedly, it’s hard to listen to songs like “Gone Too Soon” and “You Are Not Alone” now without getting an awfully eerie and depressing feeling as if Jackson is singing about his own passing.

It’s hard to think a mere week ago he was still alive. Now he’s gone and more and more things get revealed from his past and present, good and bad, everyday. Now the media is saying he could have been saved. A little late for that now, don’t you think? I don’t think the world will ever fully know what killed Michael Jackson, much like how the world will never fully understand him and his odd, at times child-like, personality. Only Jackson knows Jackson. He will forever be a mystery to his legion of fans and the press that perused him. He was an influential legend in his own time. The king is dead; long live the king…of pop.


A Small Bug

Fellow readers and Bloggers, I need a question answered.

When I started this blog I used the current layout/template you see know and have used it ever since. Then one day, for no reason mid last year, I noticed the text spacing had changed, as if the entire thing got double spaced. There is too much gap between lines of text, post title and text, date and post title, pictures and text, and layout lines and text. At first I thought I had accidentally clicked something, but I never found the reason why it happened. I hate it as I don’t like the way it looks. I have another blog I use for testing that had the same layout, and it never had the issue. It looked fine – until I started switching templates one day just messing around testing styles. When I went back to this current template on my test blog, it too had the same issue with the spacing.

I’m frustrated because every single other blog I see that uses the same layout does not have this problem. Check out Animation Backgrounds, Nerd Armada, and Brad Goodchild Art to see what I mean. They have their text more closely put together, no big gaps anywhere. If anyone knows how to fix my issue, please let me now. And if it’s a change that has been made by Blogger for recent users of this template, and it cannot be fixed, please let me know that as well. Thanks in advance.


New Hotmail Sucks

Sorry for the severe lack of any new entries here, I’ve just been crazy busy over the past couple weeks, mostly with stuff not even relating to the computer. Just life in general keeping me busy, many errands, stuff with the car, and long shifts at work. As I’ve stated before, I have lots to write about, lots of notes, but no time to expand on them. I fear by the time I do actually have time to get my thoughts in order on certain subjects, my points will be dated and of no importance. Or I’ll forget what I was going to write about in the first place.

Anyway, I know this isn’t cartoon related, but I just want to let people know that since Hotmail changed over to their new interface late last year (as in forcing their new layout and wiping out the old one people were still using), I have hated every single minute of it. Even now in 2009, it’s a hassle, and I’m hoping someone discovers this post and realizes that there are still people ticked off by this horrid version of Hotmail to this very day. I have used Hotmail since October of 2000 and up till now it’s been a fantastic service. I could rant a detailed complaint about the new interface and list every single thing wrong with it, but every damn aspect of it is completely terrible. From the huge ads in the way, to not being able to see the entire title of my e-mail subject anymore (sucks for large resolution users like myself, we all don’t have wide flat screen monitors), to the way I have to load attachments now in the same window (making the area where you write your text super small), to all the annoying “clicking” it makes from loading pages and ads, how it lists and displays address’ in your address (“To:”) bar and automatically boxes them when you leave spaces, how it shows me a dialogue box warning me when I leave writing a mail that navigating away from this page without sending it will discard it (duh!), how it doesn’t highlight the last mail you viewed anymore when you backspace from reading the last one (it also just refreshes to the top of the page), to how I can’t list the mail in the order I want it to (it resets to newest first when you log in), or how its slower and none of the better things it claimed it would be.

Microsoft took a great design and really screwed it up big time. I used to feel as if my inbox was a safe and secure place. It was tight and efficient. Now its wasting space in a lot of areas and I have ads everywhere. I don’t need this crap, but its all in the name of “progress” for MSN and Microsoft to make all of their services look the exact same interface wise. I’ve even had troubles with Hotmail freezing and crashing my IE browser now! I never had that problem before until now! I had at least two years worth of e-mails I wanted to clean out before Hotmail initially switched over, but I never had time. Now with this new interface it’s impossible! I can’t highlight text anymore in e-mails?! How blatantly stupid is that? Its so handy for me to copy and paste parts or whole e-mails when I need to reference them and use them, and now I can’t even do the smallest task of highlighting an e-mail by dragging my mouse over the text. If anyone out there reads this and knows of a solution, please tell me!

As for cartoons and this blog, I know I should get back on my Disney kick but it’s harder as time passes to get back into doing it. There are so many other issues at hand, like the recent controversy over Cartoon Network airing live-action shows and totally turning its back on their cartoon heritage. It’s not much better in Canada these days either, but that’s another story.