A different cartoon | Film reviews | Salt Lake City


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You’ll learn a lot about the different ways feature animation can be viewed if you’re willing to watch outside of the US borders. Here, “animation” is treated as a genre, with the implied meaning of “stuff made to appeal to children”. There’s a reason our Oscars include a separate category for Best Animated Feature: We treat it as sort of separate from real implementation. If you look on the small screen, it’s easy to find examples—of The simpsons for South Park for BoJack Rider— that show how animation can be used as a storytelling technique for adults; if the big screen is involved, on the other hand, it is better to talk to young people.

It’s a very different proposition, however, in Japan, where the long history of anime and creators like Studio Ghibli mean that animating feature films isn’t presumed to be child’s play. And two new features this week: the CGI studio sequel Hotel Transylvania: Transformaniaand the Japanese animated feature film Beautiful– offer radically different perspectives on the kind of storytelling that animation can provide.

The fourth installment of the ten year old Hotel Transylvania the franchise continues to hemorrhage members of its original voice cast, with Adam Sandler’s Dracula now replaced by Brian Hull in a tale about Dracula considering retiring from the hospitality business and passing it on to his daughter Mavis (Selena Gomez) and his human son-in-law Johnny (Andy Samberg). When he believes that only his humanity is keeping him from being welcomed into the family business, Johnny tries an experimental ray gun to transform into a monster, inadvertently causing Dracula and several of his pals to transform at the same time. monsters into humans. .

Series creator Genndy Tartakovsky (who gets story and co-writer credit here) has had a wonderful history with inventive animated TV shows like Powerpuff Girls and samurai jackbut only its visual imagination ever made the transition, with wacky, loose character animation serving up bland, cookie-cutter narratives about acceptance and being yourself and the like. Transformanie is generally fun to watch, but it’s also borderline exhausting, even about 80 minutes into the long credits. The filmmakers here are never willing to stop long enough to drop either of the potential jokes about Dracula now being a normal guy with a daddy-body and receding hairline, or the enthusiastic pup Johnny now exploding from a dinosaur-esque Frame. The pace must remain relentless, lest anyone under the age of 12 find themselves even momentarily distracted. He doesn’t feel like all the others Hotel Transylvania movies, but like a hundred other studio-funded animated features of the past 20 years.



Kaho Nakamura
Ryo Narita
PG rated
Available January 14 in theaters

It’s not at all true Beautifuldespite its roots tied to one of the greatest studio-funded animated features of the past 30 years. Writer/director Mamoru Hosoda tells the story of Suzu (Kaho Nakamura), a shy, motherless girl from contemporary Japan who enrolls in a virtual world called the U where people create anonymous avatars. There, Suzu unexpectedly finds her voice as a superstar singer called Belle, becoming a global phenomenon while keeping her online identity hidden from the real world.

Suzu’s virtual identity also connects to this story as a spin on the classic Disney version of The beauty and the Beast, with some familiar visual touchstones in a creepy, monstrous figure living in a dark castle, and a ballroom dance. Yet Hosoda uses that familiarity simply as a foundation, branching off in fascinating directions as he explores the allure of not only becoming a different person in virtual worlds, but also finding connections harder to find in the real world. It’s a complex take on social media that recognizes both the damage of cyberbullying and the allure of feeling less alone, while having the confidence to include moments where emotions are conveyed by characters who remain completely motionless.

It’s another telling factor to note that, while COVID is still raging and family movies are struggling at the box office, Hotel Transylvania moved to an online-only premiere, while Beautiful opens in theaters, though both are PG-rated films perfectly suited to audiences of most ages. One of these films puts on a spectacle to amuse the kids, while the other is actually interested in telling a thorny and even a little unsettling story. Feature animation can do both of these things, but it looks more unusual and remarkable when it tries to do the latter.


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