Archive | January 2017

An Animated Dissection: Thoughts on Marco Diaz and Jackie Lynn Thomas, from “Star vs the Forces of Evil”

The month of November for the year 2016, brought a bloody mess on social media. People cursing, ripping at their hair, threatening death on any that would impugn on what in their eyes, was “perfection.”

No, it’s not our current political climate. It’s overreacting fanshippers who have taken up arms at what has currently happened on the DisneyXD series, Star vs the Forces of Evil.

In episode 14 of Season 2, titled Bon Bon the Birthday Clown, Marco Diaz finally got to go on a date with his childhood crush, Jackie Lynn Thomas. However, one who seemed a little caught off-guard by this, was Marco’s friend (and inter-dimensional Princess), Star Butterfly.

Since Season 1, Marco Diaz has made note of his crush on schoolmate Jackie, and with a few episodes this season, we’ve seen that subplot rise to the surface, and quickly become a major story point in Season 2.

With the series now on hiatus through the winter months, and with many still wailing and gnashing their teeth about this, I decided to devote an Animated Dissection to this.

*Note: This Animated Dissection is written with the knowledge that the reader either knows about the storyline to “Star vs the Forces of Evil,” or is in no way afraid of being spoiled by certain revelations. Just saying…you’ve been warned.

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Marco Diaz, and Jackie Lynn Thomas

Though appearing for a split-second in the opening credits, Jackie gained our attention in the season 1 segment titled Match Maker. Star considers trying to hook some of the students up at Echo Creek Academy, but upon seeing Marco become tongue-tied as Jackie skateboards by, she thinks she needs to help him out.

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Near the end of the segment, Star’s supposedly getting rid of their teacher, has the entire class crowding around her, including Jackie. In that moment, Star takes the opportunity to push Marco into the limelight, claiming that he deserves “all the credit.” Jackie happily exchanges a few words to a tongue-tied Marco, making it the first time she’s ever talked to him.

The next time Marco had a major encounter with Jackie, was on a party bus for Brittney Wong’s birthday party. However, it was the worst place to try and socialize with Jackie, given Marco was suffering from a severe case of carsickness. In the end, Jackie ended up somewhat impressed by Marco, as he and Star helped save the bus from being overtaken by Ludo and his monsters (even if the end result was Marco projectile-vomiting into a trash-can, alongside Ludo).

A few episodes later, in the segment titled Freeze Day, further information about Marco’s crush came to light. As Freeze Day starts, Marco tells how at 7:56am every schoolday, he’s by his locker as Jackie skateboards by. He nods at her, and she nods back. During the segment, Marco and Star go to the Plains of Time, where an apparatus shows Marco his past. It is here that we see that since grade school, Marco has been doing the same thing: just smiling-and-nodding at Jackie as she passed by him

“Wow…I’ve been nodding for a long time,” notes Marco.

Upon returning to their plane of time, Marco takes his place by his locker, and does his daily nod as Jackie goes by. However, remembering how long he’s been doing this, he suddenly blurts out: “Hey, Jackie!”

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This causes her to stop for a moment and verbally address him, before skating off. It’s a small moment, but it shows another step in Marco’s character development. After having seen how much time he had spent not talking to her over the years, he managed to break the chain.

Episode 11 of Season 1 also had Marco sending Jackie cute kitten pics, and even getting her to sit next to him on the school bus during a field trip, after a rather hair-raising alien encounter in the Dimension of Wonders and Amazement.

As Season 2 began, Jackie seemed to disappear from the show, and it made me wonder if all that work to build up Marco’s feelings about her, were going to be thrown aside.

It turned out this wasn’t the case, when Jackie showed up in the segment titled Sleepover, where she attended an overnight party at the Diaz’s, with Star and some of her girl friends. Marco ended up being roped in by Flying Princess Pony Head, who noticed him trying to impress Jackie.

This then led to Pony Head setting up a game called “Truth or Punishment,” which soon asked that age-old question: “Who do you have a crush on?”

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When it came to Marco, he finally admitted to Jackie, about his crush on her. However, Jackie took the admittance well, and after the sleepover, remarked to Marco that she’d see him in school, leaving him in a half-eyed daze.

Having admitted his crush to Jackie and her not rejecting him, Marco then attempted to ask her to hang out, in the segment titled Naysaya. However, a curse put on Marco by Star’s ex-boyfriend Tom, caused a small head to grow out of his neck, spouting off all of his most embarrassing secrets (many of them involving  Jackie!).

Realizing he was unable to control Naysaya, Marco soon found himself confessing almost all of his secrets directly to Jackie, and finally, was able to ask her out. This then led to them going to a movie with some of Jackie’s friends, and leading to Jackie clutching Marco’s arm during a scary sequence!

And then, came Bon Bon the Birthday Clown. Jackie actually ended up asking Marco to a school dance, leading to an unforgettable night.

After finding the dance to be a little boring, Jackie suggested they go out on a date instead. This led to the two hanging out in a nearby park, where Jackie admitted how she admired Marco’s willingness to not give up. This led to them skateboarding on Jackie’s board, before the unthinkable happened: Marco Diaz, received his first kiss!

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However, the moment was broken, when it seemed that Star was in trouble. Both Marco and Jackie rushed to the cemetery where Star and Janna were, and the end, the two helped Janna from being attacked by large rats, and Star from being sucked into a black hole.

When it seemed Star was okay, Marco turned his attention back to Jackie, leading to Star showing a very sad look on her face…

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Why did the writers have to do this?

That’s the question a number of fan-shippers have been wailing about for awhile now. To me, it’s all very simple: character-building!

It Would have been so easy for Daron Nefcy and the show’s writers to say: Marco’s a boy, Star is a girl…put them together now! However, the show’s writers appear to have some ‘stronger’ ideas on how they intend to build the series.

This second season has seen plenty of changes to the format of episodes. We’ve had whole segments that have nothing to do with Star or Marco, and some that have taken the time to slow down, rather than be off-the-wall with craziness, like we saw in Season 1.

There also is one item in the series so far, that seems to be far from the minds of some of the most die-hard fanshippers: Star Butterfly and Marco Diaz, largely see each other as ‘just friends.’

In the segment Mr Candle Cares, Star even tells the school guidance counselor when he asks about Marco, that she just considers him a ‘roommate,’ and a ‘friend.’

Even when it comes to Marco thinking about Star, it seems he still sees her as a friend as well. Though Star was originally going to go with him to the dance in the Bon Bon episode, it was just ‘as friends,’ as Marco didn’t want to go by himself.

Some may find that rather strange, but trust me: I’ve been to several dances where the ‘just as friends’ card was played.

Some even threw a hissy fit when in the segment titled Naysaya, Marco mentioned how he “never held hands with a girl,” leading to numerous pictures showing Marco holding Star’s hand on quite a few occasions. I actually believe this is Marco considering holding hands in a more ‘romantic’ way, not as in the manner of casual friends.

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This all seems…very familiar to me…

In going over the Marco and Jackie bits from the show, I was reminded of some relationship developments in the show Freaks and Geeks, and the Harry Potter series.

jarco6In the show Freaks and Geeks, the character of Sam Weir (John Francis Daley), developed a crush on classmate, Cindy Sanders (Natasha Melnick).

Cindy was a cheerleader and seemed like a really nice girl, though originally, she only saw Sam as a friend. After she broke up with her boyfriend Todd, she dated Sam, only for him to find out she wasn’t as perfect as he thought she was. Eventually, it got to be too much for Sam, and he decided to break up with her.

I often feel that this story resolution came about, after it seemed apparent that Freaks and Geeks was going to be cancelled after its first season. The writers may have worried about not getting Sam hooked up with Cindy, and then dropped these character revelations to take care of Sam’s high school crushing permanently.

Maybe if Freaks had been able to get the go-ahead for another season, they would have continued with Sam still crushing on Cindy. Instead, they allowed that subplot to surface, and then fizzle in the span of two episodes.

jarco7In the case of Harry Potter, I found Marco’s infatuation with Jackie, a bit like Harry’s with fellow student, Cho Chang.

Harry developed a crush on Cho in his 4th year at Hogwart’s School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. She was on the Ravenclaw Quidditch team, and Harry first attempted to ask her to the Yule Ball, only to find she was already going with Cedric Diggory.

After Diggory’s death, Cho had a hard time getting over it, and Harry attempted to comfort her. This led to his first kiss with her, as well as a short period of dating, before it seemed that Cho felt that Harry might have feelings for Hermione Granger. Eventually, they broke up.

Of the two relationships I described, I couldn’t help but feel that Marco and Jackie’s so far, reminded me very much of Harry Potter and Cho Chang. This is mainly due to the amount of negativity from the fanbase.

At the time I was really into the Potter books and series, I found very few who seemed at all to like Cho, or even give props to actress Katie Leung for portraying her on-screen. I found it to be rather ridiculous, because it seemed that the reason most hated Cho, was simply because Harry liked her. Of course, they had no problems shipping Harry with Hermione Granger, or Ginny Weasley (whom he eventually ended up with), but Cho was just the ultimate’ship-wrecker’ to most.

I get that same vibe from people who are just incensed with Jackie Lynn Thomas. In truth, Jackie isn’t a bad person. She’s been relatively nice, somewhat laid-back, and, we’ve seen how she’s willing to accept Marco for being a bit of a dork.

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Star reveals something she doesn’t realize

The writers actually inserted something rather interesting into the segment Sleepover, that not many picked up on (most notably, Star!).

When the “Truth or Punishment” game attempts to ‘punish’ them, Star claims that sometimes, things are not always black-and-white.

Some of the earlier things that the group claimed as ‘truth’ earlier, had changed given the predicament they were now in.

“You think of everything as black-and-white,” she tells the game, “but you can’t! It’s a bunch of different colors. A rainbow of feelings that’s always changing.”

Of course, the kicker came at the end, when the game (in an unheard moment) revealed that it wasn’t actually Oskar Greason whom Star has a crush on, but Marco!

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So, what happens next?

That seems to be on the minds of many.

My prediction right now, is that when we come back to the series (which as of this blog post, starts back up in a week!), Marco and Jackie are going to take the next step, and officially become a couple…which might not sit well with Star (or a number of fanshippers).

Personally, I could see this becoming a further study of her emotions. We’ve already had several examples of how they can affect the spells she casts, and that could be a real problem for her going forward.

It is also possible she could use the All-Seeing Eye spell she used in the Bon Bon episode, to ‘spy’ on Marco and Jackie more. Maybe her jealousy could also cause some future dates of theirs to go bad, and Marco soon finds out, and is upset that his best friend would do something like that.

This could lead to a very dramatic row between the two. The writers could really up the emotion, if Star and Marco get into a very serious kind of shouting match, where maybe Star just decides to go back to Mewni, distraught over what has happened. She’s already lost her wand’s spellbook and mentor figure Glossaryck, which may also affect her spell-casting on another emotional level.

I will admit that as much as I love where the show has taken Marco and Jackie, I can’t totally say that it is the ’emotional endgame’ many are calling now. Most are wailing and throwing tantrums online like overly-emotional teenagers (I also speak from experience), but as some of the more cool-headed have noted, there’s been no indication that what we are witnessing, is ‘concrete.’ Heck. so much of the series relies on things not totally being set in stone.

Some have even called out that Marco and Star are ‘joined for eternity,’ given the dance they shared in the Blood Moon Ball segment in season 1 (and that segment was even called back to in the Bon Bon episode). But, it might not be so simple.

In the Naysaya segment, when the miniature head sprouts out of Marco’s neck, Janna pulls out one of her occult books, and reads about the history of the demon curse. According to the texts, “it reveals itself, when the afflicted attempts to woo their true love.”

So, it might not be as simple as black-and-white, night-and-day. On one hand, we got the words of the demons and monsters at the Blood Moon Ball, and on the other hand, the Naysaya appeared when Marco attempted to ask out Jackie.

For me, I’m planning to take the ticket, and ride this ride out, as far as it can go. My one hope, is that the show doesn’t do what some Soap Operas do, and turn a perfectly nice character, into a two-timing, lying, backstabbing little-oops, got off on a tangent there.

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Comic Review: Star vs the Forces of Evil – Deep Trouble (Issue #4)

Wow! It seems like just the other day I purchased issue #3, and now a few weeks later, we get issue #4 of the Star vs the Forces of Evil comic series!? Maybe this release is due to the delay getting the second issue out?

Needless to say, torrential rain couldn’t keep me from picking up the latest issue at my local comic store, as we near the half-way mark of the 8-part comic mini-series, under the main story title of Deep Trouble.

Now, let’s dive into our review of issue #4’s story, Cat’s Pajamas.

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Following the run-around that Glossaryck of Terms took us on last issue, Star Butterfly and Marco Diaz visit Flying Princess Pony Head in her jail cell, and explain that they need her phone/compact. As suggested by Glossaryck, it may contain clues as to why Pony Head has been imprisoned in The Waterfolk Domain.

Pony Head tells the two that she last saw it in The Dimension of Cats with Human Faces. Star sets off with Marco in tow, and ends up bringing along his two school friends, Alfonso and Ferguson (along with a few, cute surprises!).

Pretty soon, the group is knee-deep in cats (which isn’t good for Marco, who has a severe cat allergy!).

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Wow…now this was a very entertaining story!

starcomic4-1After issue #1, I was a little let down at the structure of issues 2 and 3. Fortunately, it seems this issue returns us to the main task at hand, in trying to find out who framed Pony Head.

Plus, the writing and pacing of this issue is fast and entertaining, making me happy to go back and read it several times over!

This issue is more like an undercover mission, so there isn’t a whole lot of funny scenarios with Star and Marco, though their characters seem right on the money (even if Marco is largely not enjoying the events of the story). Much like Marco’s negativity towards wet socks in one segment of the TV series, I can totally get behind his exasperation with cat allergies here.

Much like issue #2, we visit a domain that was mentioned in the TV series, but not fully-explored. In the season 1 segment titled Freeze Day, we got the vaguest of hints at what (horrors) lay in The Dimension of Cats with Human Faces. However, the one cat we saw on the show, may have been an exception, as most of the ones depicted here, seem pretty normal in their appearance (well, as normal as a cat with a human face can look).starcomic4-2

According to illustrator Devin Taylor on his Twitter feed, almost all the cats we see in this other dimension, are caricatures of some of the crew that work on the television series! Unfortunately, I’m not good with faces, so I’ll leave it up to the more Twitter-obsessed Star fans to figure that stuff out.

One fun cameo I do want to point out, is the brief appearance of the Ruler of Purrkistan, Cashew (as seen on the right).

This is a fun joke/reference, as Cashew’s human face is a caricature of the series’ creator, Daron Nefcy. Plus, the name Cashew, derives from Nefcy’s own pet cat, AND a pet cat that appeared in her early comics of Star Butterfly, before she developed the DisneyXD series!

As Season 2 of the show has gone on, many of the fans who watched Season 1, have been perplexed at the absence of Marco’s two friends, who went on a few inter-dimensional adventures with our two leads, way-back-when (they also make a fun reference to one of them!).

starcomic4-3Ferguson and Alfonso don’t play a big role, but they do lend a hand here or there, as the story goes on. In a sense, the madcap romp through this dimension (with them along for the ride), almost reminded me of the Season 1 segment, Pixtopia. In this case however, Cat’s Pajamas is much ‘tighter’ with the story it’s telling, and it feels for all intents and purposes, like a TV segment treatment, re-purposed for the comic series. Plus, there’s a pretty entertaining deus ex machina, despite my usual dislike of such things.

Overall, I can’t find much wrong with Cat’s Pajamas. It doesn’t hit you hard with the comedy, but the story is one of the most solid so far, and, there is the fun factor of hidden easter eggs, as well as references to things you’ve seen, if you’re an avid fan of the TV series.

Also surprising, is that it doesn’t feel like there’s a wasted frame or word balloon in the piece. Out of all the wacky adventures chronicled so far in the comic series, this is one that I highly recommend picking up!

Final Rating for Issue #4: A

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Though cover art for issue #4 has been out already, there has been no information released regarding issue’s 5-8. So far, the only word about comics-related future releases, is an ad in the back of issue #4, telling of a comics collection coming next month. My guess is this will collect the first four issues.

Plus, at the end of this issue, there’s a small glimpse of a familiar food truck from Season 2, selling a rare and very tasty inter-dimensional treat. Looks like we may be seeing the return of a questionable little goblin in the near future.

Hope to be back soon, to see where this story will take us next time!

Book Review: George Lucas, A Life (by Brian Jay Jones)

To many of us, there is a name. A name that can cause a person to respond in a number of ways. From a smile, all the way to an eyeball-rolling groan.

That name, is George Lucas.

Following his 2013 biography on Jim Henson, author Brian Jay Jones has tapped into another name many of us recall from our childhoods, but (probably) never fully comprehended.

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A Modesto Bee clipping showing the car crash, that changed (and almost ended) Lucas’ life, in 1962.

George Lucas: A Life seeks to educate the masses, giving us a tome that hits a number of Lucas’ life highlights, from his near-death accident as a teenager, to meeting director Francis Ford Coppola, and much more…but sadly, not as much as I had expected.

Without appendices and the bibliography at the end, Jones’ biography on Lucas clocks in around the same page-count as his Henson bio did. However, upon reading through his latest tome, it feels like Jones was forced to shore up a number of items regarding Lucas’ history.

Unlike his previous book, the doors were not thrown open to Jones, regarding in-depth research on his subject. A few of Lucas’ past acquaintances (such as Randall Kleiser and Gary Kurtz) contribute a few words to the book, but most of their inclusions feel like a small footnote, as the vast majority of information, is culled from other sources.

One habit Jones had in his Henson biography, was a certain ‘geeky giddiness’ when he’d mention Henson working on things in his early days, that he’d accomplish later on in life. Jones manages to tone down some of that geekiness here, but it manifests itself in other ways.

Most notable is in the book’s focus. Overall, it feels like analyzing the Star Wars films is his first priority, and the building of the Lucasfilm ’empire,’ is the second priority.

To many out there, Star Wars is George Lucas’ ‘calling card.’ Most talk about the film series, as if Lucas had known this was what he wanted to do since he was a boy. Of course, those of us who have ‘studied’ Lucas’ career (myself included), know that there’s more to the man than just X-Wing fighters and laser-sword fights.

When it comes to films Lucas worked on that weren’t related to Star Wars, the book’s information in these areas feels so tight, one swears large swaths may have been cut editorially, to fit George’s film career into a neat little package. I was hoping more light would have been shed on some of Lucas’ lesser-known projects like Willow, or 1994’s Radioland Murders (a film he’d been helping develop for over two decades!). Unfortunately, minimal information is provided, as we are whisked on to talk about the effects Star Wars has on Lucas’ life, let alone the constant inquiries in the 80’s, regarding when the public would see more Star Wars.

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Marcia Lucas, and George Lucas

One of the highlights of the book, is how Jones attempts to allow some visibility to one of the lesser-mentioned persons in Lucas’ early life: his first wife, Marcia.

While Lucas could be soft-spoken and quiet, Marcia was said to balance out that trait, often being rather ‘direct’ with him. Both bonded over their editorial experience (women doing editorial work, was extremely rare in the 60’s and 70’s), and it is surprising to find quotes of Marcia, discussing George and the films she worked on with him.

The book tells how she could be rather blunt about some of his decisions (she tells George how THX-1138 feels like a ‘cold’ film), and also how much she contributed to his work (she was the main editor on the climactic charge on the Death Star in the 1977 Star Wars).

Most biographies have the author attempt to find a through line to define their subject’s life, and in the case of Lucas, Jones seems to zero in on one word: independence.

Lucas is painted as a person who seemed most at ease when doing things (mostly) on his own. It often feels like he would have been comfortable just sitting in the editing room, except for his compulsion to have more control over some projects. Jones mentions such a thing happening on some producing projects, here Lucas seemed to take over the story development of some features.

It is also notable how he often balked at rules or guidelines others would set.

For example: his not including cast/director credits in the opening of Star Wars, was in violation of the Director’s Guild of America. This led to him being fined, and eventually resigning from the DCA.

He also seemed to have little time for unions or trade groups, let alone the Hollywood studio system. Many may be surprised that as much as his name is bandied around Tinseltown, George actually makes his home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In some ways, Lucas seems very much like Walt Disney: a man who was burned by the studio system that sought to control him, prompting him to decide that he would do things his way, and answer only to one person: himself.

However, while Walt Disney’s Kingdom would be easily accessible to many, Lucas’s ‘Empire’ would be largely his own domain to look over. He would choose the film projects, decide where his money went (he didn’t rely on outside investors, or taking out huge loans like the studio system), and keep public access to a minimum (notable is that unlike The Walt Disney Company or Pixar, Lucasfilm never became a publicly-traded corporate entity).

Similarities could also be made regarding their love of pushing technology. Whereas Walt would revolutionize the world of animation, George would do the same in the world of post-production. While many can easily look at his visual effects company Industrial Light & Magic, most discount his push to improve picture and sound quality in theaters, let alone find a way to streamline the film-editing process.

Today’s theater system shows the fruits of that push: many theaters now house digital projectors, and often boast the latest sound systems to show first-run feature films. Plus, the majority of all editing these days, is done digitally.

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Top Image: Francis Ford Coppola, and George Lucas; Bottom Image: Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas.

The biography also shows how George could fall in and out with a number of people. Old friends like Gary Kurtz and his ex-wife Marcia, were completely excised from his mind, while his friend and mentor, Francis Ford Coppola, would be a decades-long on-again/off-again friendship.

Out of all his friendships, it seems that the one Lucas still holds in high regard, is with director, Steven Spielberg.

There is a brotherly give-and-take mentioned in the chapters telling about the Indiana Jones film productions. Even if Steven and George would not agree on something, they would usually come to a compromise, sooner or later.

Much like Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve jobs, and Jones’ previous biography on Jim Henson, George Lucas: A Life strives to inform people about someone they think they know…but maybe, don’t.

There’s plenty of information for the uninformed, to find out more about one of the most familiar names in popular culture. However, for those of us who were expecting some further revelations about ‘the maker,’ it feels like Jones shuts the door to some minor revelations, that noone ever thinks to consider about Mr Lucas.

In conclusion, George Lucas: A Life is a good read, but probably not as entertaining or informative, as some of my other favorite biographies, such as Steve Jobs, or Jim Henson: The  Biography.

Final Grade: B

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