It’s finally here. That most special of special treats bestowed upon the fandom of Star vs the Forces of Evil: a full, 22-minute episode!
Of course, the title Bon Bon the Birthday Clown doesn’t sound quite as exciting as Season 1’s 22-minute episodes, but if we’ve learned anything from Season 2 so far, it’s to not judge an episode or segment by it’s title.
So, let’s see what this episode has in store for us!
Star is eager to attend a seance with Janna, to resurrect Bon Bon the Birthday Clown, on his 100th ‘death day.’ However, she panics when she realizes the seance is the same night as the school dance, which she was planning to attend with Marco.
Things seem to work out, when Jackie Lynn Thomas asks Marco out to the dance, and he eagerly accepts! While Marco goes to the dance with Jackie, Star and Janna head to the cemetery, but as the night goes on, Star begins to have second thoughts about not going to the dance…
From the start of the episode, it becomes pretty apparent that Bon Bon is doing things a bit differently from what we’ve seen before. The introduction to the episode, almost feels like how The Simpsons usually start off their episodes: Sending you down a side path, and then eventually directing you onto the main one.
Director Giancarlo Volpe has directed some of my favorite segments this season (such as Mr Candle Cares, and Naysaya), and like those favorites, he definitely cranks up the emotions in this episode.
Front-and-center, is Star becoming a little more quiet than usual, upon seeing Marco and Jackie together. It’s definitely a different reaction for Star, who since Season 1, has kept championing Marco to hook up with his crush.
Star’s inner turmoil can be seen throughout of the episode as well. She tries to keep herself preoccupied with the seance, but in little moments here-and-there, we see her mind drifting. To watch the scenes is both intriguing and emotional, especially when it seems Star might be developing a small streak of…jealousy?
Speaking of Marco and Jackie, seeing them together brought a big smile to my face. I have to commend the writers for not just sweeping their story arc under the rug after the last episode. Season 2 feels like it’s been a major champion of character development, and we get plenty of that here.
The writers get down so many of the nervous nuances about going to dances, as well as the awkwardness of first dates (Marco trying to make small-talk with Jackie? Yup, been there, done that). Plus, Jackie proves to be full of surprises in this episode.
On the lower end of the character-development spectrum in this episode, is Janna. Given the way we see her act around Marco, I can’t help but wonder if her obsession with invading his personal (and private!) space, is somehow tied to a previous crush she may have had on him when they were younger. Maybe something happened, and she turned that disappointment into just being weird and anarchic most of the time?
This is one of those episodes that will probably leave some of the show’s fans feeling confused, and a little frustrated. There’s some pretty heavy stuff that happens in Bon Bon, but we don’t get any solid resolutions. It’s like the episode has set in motion several new pieces of machinery, but what they’ll produce, is still up in the air.
There are definitely a few things in the narrative that have left me pondering as well. One of them, is a sub-theme about rats, that weaves its way throughout. It feels like there’s meant to be some inter-linking connection about them, but after viewing the episode several times, I still haven’t been able to figure it out.
Ending the review on a positive note, it almost feels like the writers try to balance out the changes we experience, with some references and callbacks to previous episodes. Some past segments have just given us one or two, but Bon Bon really goes to town! We get everything from visual references, to reused lines, and even a return of several spells Star used in the first season (I never thought I’d hear “syrup tsunami shockwave” again).
Final Grade: A-
In the end, I struggled with trying to come up with my final grade for this episode. When comparing it to longer episodes like St Olga’s Reform School for Wayward Princesses, and Storm the Castle, I found that Bon Bon the Birthday Clown blew past them, with a more solid structure, and the way it dabbled a bit more in emotions, than action.
I’m always up for episodes that give us an emotional resonance, and this may be one of the first that really pushes hard in that area. Plus, the final moments, leave us even more eager to know what the final end-game will be for this season.
(And, just as we jump back into Season 2, we’re pulled away! Word is this episode is considered a “winter finale,” which means we’ve most likely had our last taste of new “Star vs the Forces of Evil” episodes for the year 2016.
At this time, rumor is that maybe we’ll get our next episode in February of 2017, but until then, I plan to try and do some little “Animated Dissections” in regards to the series. I’m already working on one exploring Marco and Jackie’s relationship, and how it may be “a necessary evil” in the course of developing the show’s storyline.
Plus, the “Star vs the Forces of Evil” comic series is still being produced, and I intend to continue reviewing upcoming issues too. So, stick around. I don’t plan to have the winter hinder my thinking and analyzing this weird-and-wild series.)
(Rated PG for peril, some scary images and brief thematic elements)
Earlier this year, Walt Disney Feature Animation surprised many of us, with its Spring release of Zootopia. The story and visuals, showed that the company’s animation division was continuing to “keep moving forward,” honoring the studio’s artistic legacy.
This year is also the first since 2002, that the studio has released two animated features from its Feature Animation division in the same year.
My anticipation for the fall release of Moana was high, given its main directors are John Musker, and Ron Clements. The two have directed over 7 animated features together over the last 30 years, including The Little Mermaid, and Aladdin. And now, 7 years after The Princess and the Frog, they have returned, with Moana.
On the island of Motunui, resides Moana (Auli’i Cravalho), the daughter of the village Chief Tui (Temuera Morrison), and his wife Sina (Nicole Scherzinger). Though her parents try to make her see that their island has plenty to offer, the young girl can’t help but wonder what lies beyond it’s familiar shores.
As Moana grows up, hardships begin to affect the island’s people , and she decides to make a daring attempt to save them. Leaving home, she sets out to find the ancient demigod named Maui, who may be their only hope.
From the very start, Moana quickly reminded me of several other Disney animated films, but soon began to head down its own path.
Though many media and marketing materials claim Moana to be a Princess, she’s simply just the daughter of the island’s chief, and as such, certain royal titles are never brought up (well, only in a few jokes in the film). Not actually having a ‘title,’ actually helped make Moana more of an ordinary girl to me, though one who has a secret or two that makes her a little…extraordinary.
Moana has a spunkiness about her that may remind some of Rapunzel, or Anna (from Frozen). Of course, where she shines most, is in her determination as she takes on a journey that most would probably caution against.
We do get a bit of animosity between her and her father, Chief Tui, who keeps trying to keep his daughter focused on leading the islanders. Tui also shows a stubborness to break free of the old ways, which leads to a small bit of friction with his daughter.
The film may also be one of the first, in which we really see less of a connection with the lead’s parents, and moreso with a grandparent. Moana seems to get along well with Gramma Tala (Rachel House), who for being considered the village’s ‘crazy lady,’ still has a few life lessons to instill, and a few secrets to be told (to those who will listen).
Of course, one of the biggest selling points for the film, has been Dwayne Johnson (aka ‘The Rock’), playing the demigod, Maui. The way he’s portrayed, Maui comes across almost like a former rockstar, with a bit of an ego problem.
A small staff of hand-drawn animators also inject some humor into Maui, as they bring several of his many tattoos to life (with one acting almost like Maui’s conscience at times).
And then, there’s the music.
Broadway sensation Lin-Manuel Miranda has teamed up with Opetaia Foa’i and Mark Mancina, to produce a a soundtrack that manages to keep one foot in the Polynesian world, and the other foot amid the likes of Broadway musicians Howard Ashman, and Alan Menken.
Tracks like We Know the Way, give us a taste of the culture the film hails from, while Maui’s song You’re Welcome, almost sounds like a combination of the songs Friend Like Me, and Gaston.
For me, one of the most enjoyable songs, is sung by Jermaine Clement, who sounds like he’s channeling David Bowie, and Ursula from The Little Mermaid (trust me, it works!).
And as we’ve come to expect, the talented artisans at the studios in Burbank, craft a world so believable, you’ll want to get your feet wet on the shores of Montunui, or explore more of the eerie Realm of Monsters. The film also manages to do for water, what Frozen did for ice. One can only imagine how many sleepless nights were had, to make the ocean waters appear as believable (and unbelievable!) as they do.
One of the biggest hurdles I had while watching the film, was that some of the action sequences felt like a massive blur of color and motion. One scene I was really looking forward to, sadly seemed to barely give me much of a chance to really get a handle on what was going on.
There’s also a few modern-day references that didn’t work for me (and for most of the audience, judging by the silence), but overall, Moana proved to be one of the first Walt Disney Feature Animation releases since Wreck-it-Ralph, that seemed to really engage me on an emotional level. I feel that if it could entrance me as well as it did, it will surely do the same for you.
Animated Short Review: Inner Workings (Rated G)
After Zootopia was released earlier this year without an animated short in front of it, I was afraid that Disney had abandoned the idea completely. Fortunately, Inner Workings proves that the tradition is still alive.
Taking its cue from textbooks that diagram the inner parts of the human body, the short functions almost like Inside Out, except with internal organs. The two main ones, are a man’s brain, and his heart. One wants to be sensible, while the other wants to be more spontaneous.
Director Leonardo Matsuda has some fun with the concept, giving identities to the organs, let alone exaggerating the world around our main character. The world outside of the man’s workplace, is full of curves, while he and his co-workers, are in a confined ‘square space.’
It’s a fun concept that Matsuda plays with, though I couldn’t help but feel that the short Paperman from a few years ago, really did a more entertaining job with its message of ‘follow your heart.’ Then again, maybe the short could just be telling us introverts, that sometimes, it can be okay to break out of our shells, and throw caution to the wind.
Final Grade for “Moana”: B+ (Final Thoughts: This “Princess” film that isn’t, proves to be a pleasant and entertaining surprise. Moana’s journey leads her on a tale of self-discovery, in which the past and present collide, as she looks towards the future. Dwayne Johnson as Maui, adds some fun with his supporting role, and the music helps bring something new to the studio’s filmography. Some jokes don’t work so well, and a few action scenes come off as muddled, but the emotional resonance of the film helps keep it on course.)
Final Grade for “Inner Workings”: B (Final Thoughts: This animated short from the “Walt Disney Studios” shows that the studio is willing to experiment with new shorts and ideas. However, even with some wonderfully stylized characters and settings, the story feels rather average, as it attempts to encourage us to try something new.)
Hello, yeah, it’s been awhile.
After the sudden arrival of the first issue of the Star vs The Forces of Evil comic at the end of September, many like myself were hoping for the second issue to appear a month later. However, it quietly kept getting pushed back in the comic release listings, until finally hitting comic store shelves, on November 16th.
Unlike our introductory story, the second issue’s storyline (titled Ole Moon River), quickly leads us down a much different path than where we left off.
Star Butterfly is still determined to clear Flying Princess Pony Head’s name, and decides to use time-travel to do so.
Figuring she and Marco Diaz can go back in time to catch the real culprit in the act, they borrow the Wheel of Progress from Father Time, in order to put this plan into action.
Unfortunately, Star ends up going back further than expected, and the two end up in the past on the planet Mewni, where Star’s parents are in their teenage years!
Reading comics over the years, I’ve noted how some multi-part stories often have the thankless task, of spending their opening pages, summarizing the past issue(s). In this issue, writer Zach Marcus quickly gets this formality taken care of, in probably the fastest way I’ve ever seen!
Most surprising to me, was the appearance of Father Time, from the Season 1 segment, Freeze Day. Just like Star and Marco, the writer has managed to channel the character’s strange bi-polar tone, and the artists have made the Plains of Time just as many of us remember them from the show! For those readers who are familiar with this character, I’m sure you’ll be able to imagine Jim Gaffigan’s voice coming out of his mouth, just like I did.
Of course, the highlight of the issue, is seeing Star’s parents in their younger days. Up until now, there’s been scant information about the early years of Moon Butterfly and River Johansen, and it’s not clear if the story we see here, will be considered canon with the DisneyXD show.
Time-travel stories have usually held me in their sway since I first saw Back to the Future, and like that film’s story, Star runs a major risk of creating a time paradox here (though fortunately, we are spared Moon Butterfly having ‘the hots’ for Marco).
Much of the action in this issue, feels more visual than verbal, as we follow River’s attempts to impress Moon, who seems more at ease with a handsome and clean-cut young man named Dirt (yes, you read right).
While the story is a valiant attempt to plunge us into an unexplored realm, it feels like it doesn’t flow quite as smoothly as the first issue. In a few areas, I found myself getting a little confused regarding several bits of wordplay, and who they were being directed at.
One of the more curious things about the story, is seeing Star refer to her parents as ‘preteens.’ However, we see Moon has her wand, and as Star mentioned in the first episode of the show, a Princess is only able to claim the wand on her 14th Birthday. So, is labeling Moon and River preteens, an error on the writer’s (and Star’s) part…or is it possible Moon obtained her wand early, because of unseen circumstances in her past?
Also of note, is the additional use for dimensional scissors. In the show, we’ve seen they can be used to traverse across space, but in this story, Star shows they also have the ability to cut into the flow of time! Of course, the big question is, will this just be something isolated to the comics, or could it be used in one of the show’s stories? Given what we’ve seen in the last few episodes during Season 2, cutting into time could probably solve a few questions some of us have.
Much like in the first issue, I was rather surprised by the artwork. In a number of panels, illustrators Devin Taylor and Cindy Plourde break up the rather ‘flat’ imagery we’ve come to know from the show, and really push angles and perspective, for a more dramatic effect. It also feels like the art style is ‘loosening’ up a bit more from the first issue, as if the comic is trying to find a mid-ground between the show’s visuals, and it’s own particular style.
With issue #2, very little of it had anything to do with Pony Head, making the story feel like a major deviation from where we came from in issue #1. This storytelling method used here, does make me question where the story is going. Will the next few issues follow this deviating adventure style, or will we soon fall back into Star attempting to clear her bestie’s name?
Final Rating for Issue #2: B-
With time-travel having proved a sticky road to go down, Star is going to be trying something a little different next issue.
As one can see from the cover image for issue #3, it looks like the enigmatic Glossaryck of Terms will be showing up to help (or hinder)the investigation to clear Pony Head’s name.
Will Glossaryck prove to be the key to helping solve the mystery? See you back here (hopefully soon), when we review the next issue!
Last week saw the return of Star vs the Forces of Evil from a short hiatus, bringing forth further revelations, both with characters, and the history of the world of Mewni.
This week somewhat continues that same trend, but episode 13 has some of its own twists and turns to maneuver through.
When Glossaryck of Terms suggests Star choose what to study next in her wand’s instruction manual, she zeroes in on some forbidden texts about one of her ancestors.
Glossaryck is all set to make sure things don’t get too out-of-hand…until he’s summoned to a special meeting by the Magic High Commission. Unfortunately, trying to get to said meeting, is not as easy as it sounds.
You know those commercials, that make you think something big is going to happen to the show you’re watching? Well, Page Turner is like one of those commercials: they tease you, and then, instead of going down the expected path, they veer hard-right! Personally, I feel we got more meaningful revelations in last episode’s segment, Into the Wand!
This segment mainly belongs to Glossaryck, as we see him dealing with the rigors of magical bureaucracy, which is like dealing with the incompetency of Quest Buy’s sloths, and Roy from the Goblin Dogs segment.
Once we started following Glossaryck on his own little adventure, I was fearful that this segment would probably fall apart. However, it just barely holds itself together, as we get a new location, and a number of new creatures to deal with (though the big question is, will they return for a more meaningful story in the future?), let alone one inconvenience after another.
There are still some revelations to be had (and a familiar face or two show up near the end), but, it feels like quite a lot of ‘nothing,’ to get to the few moments of ‘something’ the segment has been leading up to.
Final Grade: B–
Marco works up the courage to ask Jackie Lynn Thomas to hang out, but finds himself saying something totally embarrassing, every time he tries. Things don’t get much better when a small head grows out of his neck, and randomly shouts out his insecurities at inopportune moments!
As a person who has been looking forward to a segment focusing on Marco working through his feelings for Jackie, Naysaya was a ray of sunshine. Plus, several of Marco’s reactions, I could totally relate to (pounding your head on the table after a crushing emotional defeat? Yeah, I’ve been there, Marco).
Star and Janna also provide some decent support in the segment, with Star acting as a cheerleader to Marco’s wooing attempts, and Janna adding dribbling bits of snark regarding his misfortunes. What’s also fun, is that they find nothing freaky about the little Naysaya growing out of Marco’s neck.
The miniature head known as Naysaya, is almost like a combination of Stewie Griffin from Family Guy, and the overfilled zit Pustulio, from Invader Zim (luckily, with no possibility of a pus explosion!). He doesn’t get a whole lot of character development for mostly being the voice of Marco’s innermost secrets, but there is at least a small backstory showing that his growth is not an isolated incident.
Also welcome, was hearing Grey Griffin voicing more of Jackie. Following the segment Sleepover, it is nice to hear how Grey works the valley girl vibe with Jackie, regarding most of what Marco says.
There are also some past references, to tie Naysaya into other segments us die-hard fans know and love. Notable among these, is Janna’s infatuation with getting access to everything Marco has or owns (seriously, will we ever find out what is up with that!?).
Where it feels like the segment doesn’t reach high enough, is how it spends a little too much time with the multiple confessions of embarrassment from Marco and Naysaya. I understand teenagers have a lot of insecurities (been there, done that), but it feels like they could probably have used a few of those minutes for some other things. Plus, a few things Marco mentions that are meant to sound endearing, may make some go, “um, that’s a bit freaky.”
In the end, this is one segment that I enjoyed, but I could see certain fanshippers hissing at it like a scared cat. It does bring some questions into play as to what the future may bring (especially after what we see in the last 30 seconds!), and I hope some future segments will build on the character development shown here.
Final Grade: B
Like several episodes this season, this one was a bit of a mixed bag.
Page Turner‘s title seemed to promise hidden secrets, but instead, turned into a character study for Glossaryck of Terms. Though it was somewhat interesting to find out a bit more about where he’s been (and where he’s going), this segment may prove a disappointment to those who expected more secrets to be revealed, following last episode’s segment, Into the Wand.
Naysaya to me, ends up being the stronger and more entertaining of the two segments, and has some decent replay value. As someone who has longed to see more time given over to Marco working through his feelings for Jackie Lynn Thomas, I was willing to forgive the plot’s rather repetitive nature of just throwing out most of Marco’s ‘dirty laundry,’ in the form of the segment’s talking head. Star and Jackie also keep the comedy flowing in this piece, acting as both angel and devil to Marco’s conflicted emotions for his crush.
(And now, we come to that most cherished of gifts from this series. Next week, we get a full, 22-minute episode! We had two in Season 1, and this is the first for Season 2. The title of this upcoming episode? “Bon Bon the Birthday Clown.” Yeah, not as exciting as our previous full-episode release titles. Early summaries tell of Janna taking Star to a dead clown’s seance, but Star seems a little perturbed about Marco taking Jackie to a dance. Could this be an episode where my hopes and dreams for Marco and Jackie are dashed, and the younger, more rabid fanshippers will be dancing in the streets? Come back in 7 days, and we’ll find out!)