Do you ever get tired of seeing people claim something, and you know it to be wrong?
Along with the numerous rumors about Walt Disney over the years (the tamest being that his head is frozen, and hidden deep beneath the Walt Disney World theme park), there are plenty of others revolving around items related to his legacy.
One I have heard a lot in the last few decades, was how Cinderella in his studio’s animated feature, was a pushover who was just waiting around to marry a prince.
Much like how some assume that Belle from 1991’s Beauty and the Beast developed Stockholm Syndrome, I felt this was a pretty ridiculous notion. For this post, I thought I would lay out some observations about Disney’s 1950 animated feature, that some may not have considered.
Why did Cinderella really want to go to the ball?
The short answer: because she was invited.
The palace sent out royal invitations to all the households in the kingdom, requesting that “every eligible maiden” attend.
It should be noted that it is the Stepsisters that jump at the mention of the prince being in attendance, and it is also the Stepmother who seems eager for one of her daughters to catch his eye. Cinderella’s main joy at the news is not related to any of their conclusions, but is simply the joy of knowing that she can attend, making it one of the first opportunities since before her father’s passing, that she can leave the grounds of the family chateau.
Did the Fairy Godmother intend to help Cinderella marry the Prince?
My two cents: I don’t believe so.
At the very least, she came to help the poor girl fulfill her greatest wish. I personally feel that if allowed to go to the ball, Cinderella could have endured for the rest of her life under her step-family, being given this one request…but as we see, her step-family are unwilling to show her even the smallest of kindnesses.
I imagine some assume the slippers were a way to lead the prince to Cinderella, but I also think this is simplifying things.
Though the Fairy Godmother claimed that “everything would be as it was before” once the spell was broken at midnight, Cinderella’s shoes still remained as glass slippers (with one still on her foot, and the other in the possession of the Grand Duke, after she fled from the palace).
I feel keeping the slippers as she transformed them, was the equivalent of the Godmother letting Cinderella have something she could keep to remember this magical night.
Did Cinderella realize she had met the Prince?
In writing this post, this question suddenly crossed my mind for the first time!
Watching the film, we as the audience have already identified who the prince is, but it’s not like every household in the kingdom has a picture of the royal family. It is very likely that most do not know who he is until they are announced to him at the ball.
It is notable that when Cinderella arrives at the palace, she doesn’t immediately make for the main reception area. Instead, she slowly wanders around, taking in the towering columns and architecture of the place she’s only seen from her bedroom window. When the prince notices her, she isn’t even looking at him, but is still just taking in the entire palace.
Some could wonder why he doesn’t ask her name, but it’s been a long, long evening of dozens and dozens of girls being announced to him. Maybe he sees her as a way to get out of this ‘royal rut,’ and do something besides just stand around ‘receiving’ guest after guest.
His interaction with Cinderella is all done in silence, though I think it’s assumed that he just quietly asks her for a dance. In Cinderella’s case, this is probably the first time she’s ever been asked by anybody to dance, and thinking that this is just what you do at a royal ball, she accepted without knowing who this man is. In her mind, it was just a magical evening getting to go to the ball, and dancing with someone from the palace.
I originally didn’t realize that her reaction the next day (when she accidentally drops some breakfast dishes), was the full realization of who she had danced with.
Plus, the fact that she reveals the other slipper to the Grand Duke, ends up being a triumphant moment for her, that not even her stepmother could prevent.
Kindness can Help You
This doesn’t quite tie into the main theme of this post, but I felt it had to be said.
Though abused and humiliated by her step-family, Cinderella doesn’t try to take out her mistreatment on those around her like a bully. She still tries to keep a positive demeanor whenever she can, though she does get a little ‘snippy’ on a few occasions.
She definitely isn’t a robot, as we see her get upset at the house cat Lucifer several times, and after she receives the invitation from the royal doorman, she has a mischievous grin thinking of interrupting her stepsisters’ off-key ‘music lesson.’
In a number of Disney films, there have been examples of how kindness can be reciprocal.
We see this on several occasions in this film, with the mice and birds Cinderella has befriended. They help her get ready to start the day, and when it seems she won’t have the time to alter her mother’s dress to go to the ball, they take it upon themselves to help her.
We also get a little guide to the household and her kindness, in the form of the little mouse she names Gus. At first caught in a trap, naked and afraid, Cinderella helps to free him, and provides him with his name and a new set of clothes. Cinderella even helps him out when he is unable to procure some corn for breakfast.
Gus isn’t the brightest of the mice, but he quickly becomes the sidekick to the main leader of the household’s mice, named Jacques. When the Stepmother locks Cinderella in her bedroom, the two mice struggle to overcome impossible odds to get the key to her, and help her persevere.
This leads to an interesting, reciprocal notation.
In the beginning of the film, it is Cinderella who helps free Gus from being trapped, and at the end of the film, with the help of Jacques and the other mice, Gus helps free Cinderella from being trapped.
In the end, it seems Cinderella’s attempts to stay kind-hearted and persevere under the worst of circumstances, were rewarded. This is reinforced in several places by the main theme song, A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes. It’s a song that sounds bubbly and positive, but also includes talk of “heartache,” and “grieving.” But under it all, is the hope that things will turn out alright in the end.
It definitely isn’t the kind of film that would be made in today’s world (as can be attested to the changes made to the 2015 live-action rendition the studio produced), but one has to remember that the 1950’s film was a stepping stone in getting the studio back to producing animated features, following the end of World War II. Plus, the film helped cement the studio’s reputation for fairy tale stories revolving around princesses, that would become a staple of the Disney legacy as the years rolled by.
When it came to films released in the early 1990’s from Walt Disney Pictures, the studio really seemed to look at their 1992 feature film Aladdin as a major cash-cow.
Following it’s release in the winter of 1992, the film became the first animated feature to gross over $200 million at the domestic box-office (largely buoyed on by Robin Williams’ supporting role as the Genie of the lamp).
The studio had had some success expanding on The Little Mermaid in television form (albeit set before the events of the film), and seemed to think they could have similar luck with Aladdin. And so, in the fall of 1994, the film’s characters found themselves appearing in the company’s new television series!
New locales were introduced, as well as a host of new characters. In terms of villains for the series, most seemed pretty set in their ways, except one: a young woman named Sadira.
Much like Aladdin’s introduction in the 1992 film, the character of Sadira is first seen evading Razoul and the Palace Guards in her introductory episode, Strike up the Sand.
Seeing her leaping and jumping to evade the guards, Aladdin sees a kindred spirit in the girl, and steps forward to cover for her. Unluckily for Al, his kindness and good looks instantly cause Sadira to develop a crush on him. However, she is soon saddened to hear that she has just been saved by Princess Jasmine’s future husband.
Sometime later, Sadira accidentally stumbles onto a hidden chamber under the city. The abandoned locale turns out to be the inner sanctum, of the long-forgotten Witches of the Sand. After going through a number of magic scrolls in the sanctum, Sadira soon gets to work learning the ancient magic, and thinks it can get her what she desires most.
Using a magical amulet, she conjures up a sand creature and commands it to bring Jasmine to her. it is notable that the sand creature tells Sadira that he could easily ‘smash’ Jasmine (destroying things brings him much joy!), but Sadira refuses to allow this, showing she is not as vengeful as her creation.
We soon see Sadira hasn’t fully thought through her magical actions. Once she has Jasmine kidnapped, Aladdin and the others show up, and the sand creature wants to smash them as well. Sadira isn’t sure what to do, leading to the creature getting angry at her indecisiveness, and taking the amulet away from her. Without Sadira’s control, it sets out to finish them all off.
Needless to say, Sadira feels remorse for getting everyone caught up in this mess, but Aladdin helps them formulate a plan to get back the amulet. Once it is destroyed and the sand creature disintegrates, Sadira apologizes for her actions.
Aladdin claims that while he likes her, his real love is for Jasmine. Jasmine even shows a willingness to forgive Sadira, and invites her to come to the Palace. However, the young woman declines, claiming she wants some time to be alone.
After they leave, she looks through some more sand-magic scrolls, and finds one about ‘shifting the sands of time,’ proving that she still harbors thoughts to try and snare Aladdin.
Shortly after her introductory episode, Sadira attempted to get Aladdin again…this time, with a more intriguing sand spell.
In the episode Sandswitch, she uses a special “memory sand,” allowing her to switch places with Jasmine, making everyone believe Sadira to be the Princess of Agrabah, and Jasmine a lowly ‘street rat.’ However, the spell only works on Genie and the humans of the city, leaving Iago, Abu, and Rajah as the only ones who realize what’s happened.
It is notable that even though she is again trying to fulfill her own wants and desires, Sadira continues to not be totally vindictive towards others. When she realizes Rajah did not fall under the sand spell, she decides to use some magic on him, but apologizes for what she is trying to do. Fortunately for Jasmine’s pet tiger, Abu and Iago help him to escape.
There’s even a little ‘continuity payback’ Sadira gets, when it comes to the head of the Royal Guards, named Razoul. In Strike up the Sand, Razoul was leading the guards in trying to capture her. Here, he is made to bow and give in to her demands. They also make a joke about his name, as Sadira keeps confusing it with other things that sound familiar to it.
In the end, Aladdin and Jasmine’s love is strong enough to break Sadira’s spell. However, even though she’d been thwarted a second time, she wasn’t ready to give up just yet.
Sadira next appeared in the episode, Dune Quixote.
Running into Aladdin in the marketplace again, she invites him back to her place for some pomegranate juice. Aladdin tries to politely decline, but when Sadira claims that Jasmine “has him on a short leash,” Aladdin won’t let this slap against his masculinity stand!
Once at her place, Sadira quickly puts Aladdin under a sand-spell, wherein she makes him believe he is a Dragon Slayer, who must ride forth to vanquish a dragon, rescue his beloved Princess, and give her a kiss.
However, before Sadira can finish her spell (with her as the beautiful princess in the story), Jasmine and the others show up to stop her. Despite Genie’s protests, Jasmine has him use his ‘genie-magic’ to stop Sadira’s ‘sand-magic.’ This altercation messes up the spell, leaving Abu trapped as a monkey-type horse, and Aladdin still believing he has to slay a dragon.
Sadira claims that because of the spell, the final parts of the story have to play out, which means Aladdin has to slay a dragon and kiss her. Jasmine doesn’t believe her, but thanks to his magical knowledge, Genie confirms that Sadira is correct.
As the story goes on, we see Sadira and Jasmine put aside their animosity towards each other, and try to get Aladdin and Abu back to normal. With Genie’s help, they manage to whip up a false dragon, and upon ‘defeating it,’ Aladdin kisses Sadira (much to Jasmine’s ire).
Once everything is fixed, Sadira apologizes to Jasmine for how she has acted, and it seems she is willing to give up on her obsession over Aladdin.
The episode ends with the two girls going off to peruse the marketplace, leaving Aladdin confused as to why he kissed Sadira (with Iago eager to spill the beans!).
Now that it seemed that Sadira had given up her obsession with Aladdin, the show’s main cast (almost) seemed willing to hang out with her.
This is revealed in the episode, Witch Way Did She Go. However, while Jasmine seems to believe Sadira has changed, Iago and Aladdin still have some doubts about her. Things don’t get better when Sadira serves her friends some soup, and her sub-par cooking skills accidentally turn Iago into an hourglass.
The spell eventually wears off, but the group grows more suspicious when a large sand snake menaces Iago and Abu!
Sadira is immediately the prime suspect, but Jasmine rushes to her defense. Unfortunately, her attempts to explain why the others suspect Sadira, ends up sounding like she’s accusing Sadira.
Angered at being accused, Sadira storms out of the palace and returns to her sanctum, only to find three ancient sand witches there (the ones who conjured the snake). The trio (Shakata, Razili, and Farida) have returned to their former home from The Realm of Mists, and are intent on taking control of Agrabah, and the Seven Deserts!
They attempt to get her to help them, but Sadira rushes back to the palace, to warn the others. Unfortunately, she overhears them once again claiming she’s bad, and returns to the witches, seemingly willing to help them take over the kingdom.
The others return to Sadira’s place (intending to apologize), but find the witches at work! Surprisingly, Sadira stops them from attacking the trio. After a scuffle that almost stops the witches, Sadira recommends that Aladdin and his friends be banished to the Realm of Mists.
The three witches open a portal to the ancient realm, but Sadira attempts to double-cross them! Razili and Farida end up being shoved in easily, but Shakata grabs hold of Sadira, attempting to drag her down with them!
Aladdin and the others rush to her aid, but Sadira falls into the mists below, and the pit disappears!
Everyone feels remorse for ever doubting Sadira…but a few moments later, she manages to escape, sealing off the witches for good! The others quickly embrace her, and it seems all traces of doubt about her character are gone.
After Witch Way Did She Go, Sadira never appeared again on the series. However, like many characters in the show, she was given a small ‘curtain call’ appearance in 1996’s direct-to-video film, Aladdin and the King of Thieves.
During the scene where Aladdin and Jasmine walk past a number of guests, one can see Sadira dressed in pink (see screenshot above).
While her character was not as memorable as the show’s more villainous characters like Mozenrath or Mirage, Sadira was definitely noticeable for being a very “gray-area” character.
Most of the time, she did things out of selfish desire, but it was interesting to see that she still held some moral principles. A good example is that she could have had Jasmine offed in one episode, but she was never that vindictive.
My guess is that after four episodes, the showrunners felt there was little more they could do with her, story-wise. It did feel like three episodes was enough for them to play out the “magical stalker” characterization (I’ve seen some anime series that would gladly stretch that type of character arc out over multiple seasons).
Over the years, I have questioned the scene where she falls into the Realm of Mists, wondering if they had originally meant for her to “disappear” from the series forever in this manner. It would have been a very dramatic end, given the others realizing how wrong they were to judge her as they did. Plus, in several episodes, the showrunners actually did have a few characters die!
Sadira’s storylines also expanded on the series’ ‘lore,’ by introducing ‘sand-magic.’ What Genie can do was soon classified as ‘genie-magic,’ and it was soon established that to mix the two magic-types, was very dangerous (as demonstrated in Dune Quixote).
Unlike Linda Larkin’s more ‘regal’ vocal tones as Jasmine, Sadira’s voice had a more bubbly, all-American girl vibe, courtesy of actress Kellie Martin (see right).
Most probably know Martin’s voice work from A Goofy Movie, where she voiced Max’s crush, Roxanne. She brings a bit of that tone to Sadira, but she gets to play a wider range of emotions as Sadira.
Of course, Sadira wasn’t the first reluctant villain the studio created. There was also the character of Bushroot in the Darkwing Duck TV series. After being turned into a plant-duck hybrid, Bushroot would sometimes be involved in evil schemes, but most of the time, he just wanted a friend, or to be accepted.
By the end of Aladdin, it seemed being accepted was all Sadira wanted as well. It is a shame that they never found a way to bring her back and assist the group with her sand-magic on another adventure.
In this day and age, we have access to a number of films. Some are great, others good…and a lot of them that are just plain bad!
Over the years, small ‘cults’ of fandom have grown around such titles as Manos: The Hands of Fate, Troll 2, and The Room. They’re poorly-made films, with horrendous acting and absurd stories, and yet many cannot turn away from the pull of their abysmal production values.
In recent years, there’s been a few animated films that have gained prominence due to their ‘bad-ness’ as well. These range from films like the $60 million animated production Foodfight, to the Rob Schneider-voiced Norm of the North. However, I submit for your consideration, an animated film that premiered 25 years ago, in the United Kingdom: Freddie as F.R.O.7.
Freddie started out his life as the young Prince, of an unnamed Kingdom in France. Unlike an ordinary family, his was imbued with magical powers. However, Freddie’s Father ended up being killed by his shape-shifting Aunt, Messina. Once she had taken over the kingdom, she then turned him into a frog, and attempted to kill him!
However, Freddie escaped, with some help from Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. After fleeing the kingdom, Freddie ended up hiding out with a group of frogs, far away from his home. He soon grew to human-size, and went off into the world, eventually becoming a secret-agent for the French government.
After an indeterminate number of years working for them as a spy (though how/why they decided to hire a man-sized frog, we’ll never know!), he is called to England. At the request of a man known as Brigadier G, Freddie is tasked with finding out what is causing a number of the country’s famous monuments, to disappear. For the mission, Freddie is teamed up with a martial arts expert named Daffers, and a Scottish weapons-expert, named Scotty.
It soon turns out the monuments are being stolen by a bombastic figure named El Supremo, and, he’s in cahoots with Messina as well (who largely stays in her snake form during their time together).
-What kind of story is this!?-
Ok, that was a pretty ‘basic’ summary of this film..and reading over what I just typed, even I have to wonder just how this film got made!
It would be enough if maybe this had been a new take on The Frog Prince (like what Disney did in 2009), but this story decides to create a veritable train-wreck of ideas, as if it was an Italian rip-off film, or a Golan-Globus production.
Over the years, many of us have seen stories that can take a bunch of strange items, and actually make you accept them. Both the Star Wars and Lord of the Rings series are prime examples of this done right. They ground you with enough information in their worlds, to feel acclimated to them.
With FRO7, the storytelling bounces around so much, that you’d swear you’ve gotten whiplash!
The fault for this may actually lie, with writer/producer/director, Jon Acevski. Word was Acevski’s son had a toy frog as a child, and Jon would avail him with numerous tales about it.
Once you think about that, the plot for FRO7 seems as obvious as a through-line bedtime story. Freddie’s tale dips and dodges around, like an adult trying to keep their child entertained. Stuff just feels like it was added in, as if to enthrall a young kid to keep interest in a tale, that should have ended several bedtimes ago.
Even the reasoning behind El Supremo stealing the monuments is rather ‘boring.’ Basically, he has a machine that can shrink them down, and using a special crystal, plans to drain the essence of the country’s history from them, putting it’s people to sleep, allowing for him to invade the country (once again, I am not making that up).
Thinking about all of these strange twists and turns, reminded me of The Nostalgia Critic’s words about another train-wreck of a film, 1988’s Felix the Cat: The Movie. The Critic claimed that Felix felt like a film that had “way-too-much story,” and that’s what it feels like we have here with FRO7.
In looking up more information on Acevski for this blog post, I found relatively nothing (even his IMDB bio only lists credits for FRO7). Word was this had been a dream-project that he’d wanted to have made since the 70’s, though the story as to just how he got production capital and created a studio to make the film, seems to have been lost to time.
-Explain, Movie! Explain!!-
Going over the film’s story several times, I can only assume that FRO7 was either put together by a committee who had no idea how to tell a good story, or they were simply given Jon Acevski’s rough outline, and told to just work straight off of it!
So much of the film feels like a patchwork quilt of ideas/scenarios/etc, that makes very little sense if you start questioning it’s logic.
Here are “a few” logic gaps that I’ve catalogued while watching the film:
- Freddie grows into a human-sized frog, yet seems to have totally thrown away the thought of taking care of his evil Aunt, or maybe helping out the Kingdom that he is entitled to inherit the throne to! He also makes no allusions to ever having been human, to any of his cohorts.
- When a number of large monuments are stolen from Britain, NOONE sees where these things go…and there are even people standing in front of them, AND snapping pictures! Also, once it is found out that this is not an isolated incident of just one monument being stolen, it is never considered to send troops/planes/tanks/etc to guard the other remaining monuments after the first few go missing!? Plus, even though the buildings are taken from high-traffic areas, noone notices them being taken (not even with the giant shadow looming in the pic above, when the Tower of London is taken!!).
- Freddie lies to Daffers and Scotty at one point, and pretty much gets them all captured by El Supremo, during a stake-out (he also takes the batteries out of their walkie-talkies so they can’t contact the Brigadier!). At first they are angry with him, but a few scenes later, they’re casually talking to Freddie, as if they’ve forgotten what he just did!
- Why is almost anything with two X chromosomes attracted to Freddie!? (seriously, aside from Messina, it seems every female character/creature makes ‘goo-goo eyes’ at him!).
- Freddie drives around in an anthropomorphic green car (see right), that has a face, makes croaking sounds, and spouts little hearts from it’s exhaust pipe. We never know just where Freddie got it from, or how it came to life (and it also seems to have a crush on him too!). Maybe she’s the girl-frog he was impressing in an earlier scene, and he just magically turned her into a car?
- Freddie claims he uses his ‘mind powers’ to combat evil, but we only ever see him use these for a few seconds near the end, while the other times, he engages in hand-to-hand combat.
- In one scene, our ‘heroes’ are face-to-face with some enemy soldiers with guns. The soldiers fire off the guns from a distance, but when our ‘heroes’ are right in their face, they forget how to use them!
- Though the Brigadier is surprised to find Freddie is actually a frog, noone else freaks out upon encountering a 6-foot-tall, walking-and-talking frog!
- In the modern-day(?), Messina has teamed up with El Supremo, but we’re never told exactly when they formed their alliance, or even if Supremo knows that his partner-in-crime/possible-love-interest(?!?), is even human (note: she sings in English around him, but the rest of the time, just makes hissing/squeaking sounds).
- Though we see Freddie can talk to other humans (I assume this is because he was originally human), we are never made to be aware if a number of non-magical creatures we see (such as these punk-crows(?!?) on the right), are even able to be understood (even though we can hear them babbling in English).
I had to stop myself there, lest I just rattle off an Everything that’s Wrong with FRO7 list that could stretch on further (maybe one of these days, I’ll make a video of it!).
-A Glimmer of Hope, that quickly dies out-
Sometimes, I curse my ability to find little pockets of ‘good’ in things (one reason why I can never fully hate the Star Wars prequels). Going over the story, it feels like there could have been a decent story buried in this train-wreck of a film.
The opening scenes where Freddie is turned into a frog and Messina attempts to kill him, are pretty intense. The music and visuals are rather dark, and the wailing chorus we hear, makes it seem as if we’re watching something out of a Don Bluth film. However, that scene is about the most intense thing the filmmakers could put together, when it came to this film.
It feels like they also could have just had Freddie escape into the nearby countryside after the encounter, and team up with other witches and wizards to take back his kingdom. He could also encounter some other animal friends along the way, but I’m thinking in a far simpler way than the writer/producer/director could have envisioned.
-Flimsier than Cardboard Characterization-
One would assume that there might be some decent characters to like here, but overall, they all feel like stock characters, put on an assembly line, and spat out onto celluloid.
Having been a young Prince traumatized by his evil Aunt, one would assume maybe Freddie would have an interesting character arc. Instead, he seems to have been hit with the amnesia ray, let alone the ‘blase bazooka.’ He never makes mention to his cohorts about his royal heritage, let alone mention that he is related to Messina, when they are face-to-face with her the first time (and when he calls her his ‘dear Aunt’ later on, neither of his cohorts question how a snake could be related to a frog!).
Freddie approaches almost every situation with a smug smile on his froggy face, as if he knows he’s bulletproof in surviving his own story. For being one of France’s top agents (and why would they publicize that, by the way!?), Freddie seems pretty incompetent. My guess is that he simply got all his more competent partners killed in the field, and smilingly took the credit for their exploits, elevating him to a position of prominence, simply by being the ‘last frog standing.’ It’s possible they may have also been trying to make him a bit like Inspector Clouseau from the Pink Panther series (given how he seems to solve or get out of most situations by sheer dumb luck!).
Ben Kingsley voices the adult Freddie, who spends most of his time sounding like he’s trying to do his best impression of Mel Blanc’s Pepe le Pew. This is definitely not one of Kingsley’s better voice roles, with some areas sounding like he’s rambling, just to put words in pre-animated scenes (btw, if you want to hear him at his best, check out his role as Archibald Snatcher in the Laika production, The Boxtrolls!).
Daffers as the ‘female spy/love interest,’ is just as bland. She’s basically there just to take one look at Freddie, and fall in love…as well as provide one of the most shocking ‘non-kid’ joke-shots in the film (“Well, I don’t have any concealed weapons,” she tells Freddie, leading to this scene on the right…and yes, that is in the actual UK release!)
The third member of their group, Scotty, is pretty much the third-wheel ‘gadget-master’ of the group, and that’s about all I have to say about him.
The modern-day villain of the piece is El Supremo, voiced by Brian Blessed. His character just hisses, bellows, and yells throughout his entire role, supposedly making the kids in the audience know that he wants to TAKE OVER THE WORLD (or Britain, at least)!! There are even some points where Supremo could very well kill Freddie, but he instead just stands around, monologuing and laughing in front of Freddie, to the point where I was yelling, “he’s right in front of you, just kill him already!!”
And then there’s Messina, Freddie’s evil Aunt. While she does get the story going, she serves little purpose going forward, but to be threatening only a few times, and the rest of the time, just be as incompetent as Supremo.
However, as much as she claims she needs to get rid of Freddie to be all-powerful, it seems she has enough powers to actually get the job done (plus, it doesn’t seem like he’s devoted any of his time to trying to track her down or stop her up to this point!). The filmmakers show that she has a poisonous bite, can strangle others, hypnotize them, change people into things, let alone conjure up gale-force winds that can destroy a wooden ship!…and yet she’s as competent as Skynet in a non-James-Cameron directed Terminator film.
There are so many scenes, just like the ones with Supremo, where she could easily take out Freddie, and yet shows total incompetency to do so. While she can turn herself into other dangerous creatures, it seems the only one that does her any good (if ever), is her ‘default’ snake form.
Freddie even lets her get away in the end, and when the Brigadier in the film sees the Aunt, flying away as a strange bird, Freddie claims it was “noone of importance.”
…really, Freddie? You have an evil, shape-changing, poison-fanged, hypnotizing, world-domination-planning Aunt you just let get away…AND THAT WAS ‘NOONE OF IMPORTANCE!!?’
(btw, Daffers and Scotty just laugh at this, so if people did end up getting killed by Messina, I hold those two just as responsible for not telling anyone, as Freddie!!)
The film’s Brigadier who hires Freddie and is in charge of keeping Britain safe, is portrayed as worried-yet-bumbling old man. The filmmaker even try to make him our ‘comic relief,’ by making him so befuddled about the loss of Britain’s landmarks, that he ends up being constantly tangled in phone cords. However, the timing just never works to make us laugh at his predicaments.
In truth, the Brigadier actually gets in probably the only funny line in the entire film.
It comes when he makes mention that a number of his best agents have been lost in the field, leaving him noone to call upon from Britain, to investigate the disappearing monuments.
“003 in China,” he moans, looking at a globe. “005 in Russia, 007 in Hollywood.”
There’s even a very small subplot about a spy for El Supremo, within the Brigadier’s group of assistants, but the film doesn’t give us enough evidence to really even suspect him (well, there’s one split-second shot, but, it makes little sense when you see it). Sure, they give the spy shifty eyes, a placid face and a snide voice, but he looks just as strange as the other men assisting the Brigadier.
They even try to throw the spy (voiced by Jonathan Pryce) into some scenes just chuckling and smiling to himself, but I felt his actions, were just him laughing at how much of a wreck the Brigadier was, or maybe this man in question, was hoping the Queen of England would eventually replace the Brigadier with him instead.
-A Soundtrack of Silliness-
I don’t know what it is, but it seems that when it comes to animated films, studios like to entice singers or musicians, to showcase their talents in a ‘kids film.’ I’ve seen that with films in the past, suck as Rock and Rule, Jetsons the Movie, and a number of others. My guess is before every studio decided to spend that money on hiring big-name actors to voice everything, they just felt that movie soundtracks were how they’d keep the extra royalty money rolling in.
Of course, the musical choices for much of this film, make one wonder what they were thinking.
The opening song (sounding like a leftover tune from the 80′), is called Keep Your Dreams Alive. Sung by George Benton and Patti Austin, this almost sounds like it would be the love ballad to play over the end credits, but maybe the filmmakers felt that it would somehow make the audience believe that Freddie was a competent hero…though the song plays over a rather strange opening scene.
Some may be wondering why a human-sized frog is driving around Paris in an anthropomorphic car, but there also is the strangeness, that he’s doing so, in a deserted major city (most likely, there wasn’t enough time or money to animate crowds for these scenes?).
Over the years, I think some would agree that the most memorable song, is the one sung by Messina (with singer Grace Jones providing these vocals). She gets a villain’s song titled Evilmania, though strangely enough, even though we’ve seen her take human form, she performs the entire song in her snake-form…and for much of this piece, she’s slinking around, swaying her ‘snake-hips'(!!?) to the piece.
Messina sings about all the ways she can control or kill a person, yet one has to wonder if it’s all just for show. What she does to several people during this song, could have come in handy at the end of the film, when she dawdles and is just plain incompetent in taking down her nephew and his friends.
The song is also memorable for a number of ‘evil figures’ that are bopping along to the song…including a few that would be considered ‘questionable’ in this day and age!
Sometimes, the worst thing a film can do, is just stop, and have a song moment for no real reason.
That happens when Freddie encounters Nessie again after all these years(!?!), and with the fate of the world hanging in the balance…she takes him underwater to meet her family, and sing a song ‘in his honor’!!? And what does Freddie do? Remind Nessie that the fate of Britain and his comrades are at stake? Nope, he just goes along with it (and changes outfits at least 2 times during the song!!).
Nessie gets a song to sing called Shy Girl, with vocals by Barbara Dickson. When watching the scene, it feels like the film’s blatant attempts to rip off Under the Sea from Disney’s The Little Mermaid. However, THAT song actually had a purpose to it’s story.
There are even songs contributed by Boy George, and Asia, though they’re little more than clips used in the film.
There’s even a dance-mix style end-track about Freddie, sung by Holly Johnson (aka the lead singer for Frankie Goes to Hollywood). The song reminds me of some hero songs, that make the lead character sound even cooler than he actually is. I will admit, it is strange that after all these years, this song hasn’t found it’s way into any club remixes.
Though the film is rather obscure, I am surprised that even Lucasfilm never came down on the production. Why? Well in a few scenes, the film actually uses John Williams’ music from Star Wars: Episode IV!! I kid you not, as soon as I heard that music I had heard probably a thousand times before, I could not believe George Lucas had not sued the production company!
-Big Plans Die Hard-
Believe it or not, the studio making Freddie, actually thought they had a viable franchise on their hands!
At the end of the film, it’s hinted at that the Americans need Freddie’s help with something, and the Brigadier seems eager to send him across the pond (however, if that heart-shaped closing image is any indication, Freddie and Daffers are gonna partake in a little…what do you call it…beastiality?).
My guess is there’d be plenty of expendable FBI agents for Freddie to use as cannon-fodder, but the already-titled Freddie Goes to Washington never got off the lily pad, as FRO7 floundered at the box-office in Britain, and fared even worse when released in the US, 2 weeks later (courtesy of Miramax Pictures).
With the death of the sequel, so too went Hollywood Road Film Productions Studios (dang that’s a mouthful!) as well as any word on just what the sequel would have been about. However, given that Freddie nonchalantly let his power-hungry Aunt get away(!!!), it is most likely she would be behind the troubles across the pond.
A few years after it’s dismal theatrical release, FRO7 was released on video in the US (see cover on the left), this time as just Freddie the Frog. Unlike it’s theatrical release, this one would be a little different. James Earl Jones was now voicing several narrative bits, and the film had been edited down in some places (such as the Evilmania song routine, that was now nowhere to be found!).
Since then, there hasn’t been an official release on DVD or Blu-Ray for Freddie (in regards to it’s original release), and most viewers have had to make due with versions floating around in cyberspace, or on Youtube. However, if you are feeling curious, seek out the original British release, but be warned…I recommended it to a friend, and this film ‘broke him!’ And no, I am not making that up.
Overall, FRO7 is a mess of an animated film. It doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, and I can’t help but wonder how it got all the way through it’s production, with noone actually questioning how all-over-the-place the plot is. Then again, maybe the studio producing it, felt that the kids would just be so enthralled, and drag their parents back to it multiple times (like with those Minions movies).
Personally, I’d love to see the film skewered by the guys at Mystery Science Theater 3000. With the show having come back on Netflix, they’ve shown in their most recent season, that there’s still plenty of bad movies out there to roast, and this would make a fine introduction to the world of animated features, if they so wished!
However, for now, Freddie will just exist out here in cyberspace, where adults will think of it fondly, and others of us, will just shake our fist at the smug frog, mocking us as we strive to make sense out of the illogical mess that is his ‘perfect little world.’
Oh, one more thing. Ever wonder why Freddie is called F.R.O.7.? Well, apparently the letter ‘G,’ is also, the 7th letter in the alphabet, so…it kinda makes sense?…
In my Animated Dissection columns, I often strive to remember or make note of several films, that I often feel are worth discussing. Some can be well-known films, and some are those that have fallen by the wayside in favor of more popular pieces of work. There will also be some animated films that I just can’t stand…but fortunately, this one isn’t one of them!
Director Hayao Miyazaki may be known for some of his more popular films like My Neighbor Totoro and Princess Mononoke, but I have found that one of his more ‘subdued’ films, is one I have often found myself thinking about on several occasions.
In the years following World War I, pilot Marco Pagot shied away from humanity, and became an anthropomorphic pig, assuming the moniker of Porco Rosso (aka “The Crimson Pig”).
Since then, he has used his piloting skills to become a freelance bounty hunter, flying across the Adriatic Sea, often encountering a number of colorful air pirates.
When not bounty hunting, Porco usually heads off to partake in fine wine and good women. Sometimes, he can also be found at the Hotel Adriano, owned by his childhood friend Gina, one of the last connections he has to ‘the old days.’
Things change for Porco, when his plane is badly shot-up by an American pilot named Donald Curtis. With the last of his funds, Porco heads to Milan, and makes contact with a mechanic he knows named Piccolo. For rebuilding the plane, Piccolo assigns his granddaughter Fio to the duties.
Porco is at first against this, but with all the men Piccolo employs away, he is out of options. Porco gives in, with the hopes that the young girl’s work can help him best Curtis, when they meet again.
Hayao Adapts Himself
Sometimes, some of Studio Ghibli’s films directed by Miyazaki, tend to be ‘happy accidents.’ That was the case with Porco.
Originally meant to be a 45-minute feature that would run on Japanese Airlines flights, it was to be an adaptation of Miyazaki’s 15-page watercolor manga, titled The Age of the Flying Boat.
The story is pretty simple, and one can see why it’s 3-part structure, may have been considered an easy piece to become a short feature for an in-flight movie.
Flying Boat serves as the underlying skeleton of the film, though one can definitely see differences in the pieces.
Notable is in the opening fight Porco has against some air pirates. In the manga, they kidnap a young woman, whereas in the film, the pirates kidnap a group of young schoolgirls, leading to a crazy romp as the pirates try to battle Porco in the air, and keep the rambunctious toddlers under control.
There also is the absence of Porco having a storied past, and Donald Curtis is known as Donald Chuck.
The end dogfight between Porco and Donald, also had to adhere to the limits of the printed page. Regarding the big battle, Miyazaki wrote: “If this were animation, I might be able to convey the grandeur of this life-or-death battle. But this is a comic. I have no choice but to rely on the imagination of you, good readers.”
It is notable that when pitching the film to the airlines, they were worried the aerial dogfights might get their proposal denied, but were surprised when the company said had no problems saying ‘yes’ to the material!
As production carried on, the animation and costs proved to be a bit more cumbersome than originally thought. That was when producer Toshio Suzuki, felt they should actually turn Porco into a theatrically released film.
Even though the deal for the film had been changed from it’s original intent, the airline still would be named as an investor in the film, and would still get to run Porco on their flights. Word is, the deal is the reason for the film’s unusual opening, where a number of little green pig-creatures (a design created by Hayao himself!), ‘type’ out a summary of the film, in several different languages.
One could also assume that Miyazaki made up Porco’s human identity, but the name Marco Pagot is actually an homage to a real person Hayao knows (see picture on right)!
The two crossed paths when working on the anime series, Sherlock Hound, of which Pagot (an Italian animator) wrote a number of the episode’s scripts, and Miyazaki directed several of the episodes. Word is that Marco’s wife Gi, may have also inspired the naming of Porco’s friend, Gina.
A Different Kind of Anime
Compared to the other films Miyazaki has directed, Porco is the only film of his where it’s lead is not a young individual. Instead, Porco is a person who was once an optimist, until war and the world disillusioned him, turning him into the ‘creature’ we see.
Some could almost see the film as being in the same vein as Herge’s Tintin comics, or even Steven Spielberg and George Lucas’ Raiders of the Lost Ark, in how it intermingles action, drama, and at times, comedy.
Porco at times, sounds a bit like how George Lucas originally envisioned Indiana Jones, where the professor of archaeology would be a dashing playboy when he wasn’t off searching for lost relics. Though much like how we saw Indy portrayed in his series of films, we are never privy to Porco’s ‘flings,’ and simply follow him through his sea-based adventures.
Though Porco makes an okay living, it should be noted that a number of air pirates we see, are just as hard-up for funds as he is. When the Mamma Aiuto gang loses the tail on their plane due to a dogfight with Porco, their finances are only able to get them a replacement tail (see picture on right), but not enough money to even paint it, making it’s silvery form stick out like a sore thumb.
Porco himself is also one of the quieter leads that Miyazaki had written up to that point. Often observant and contemplative, he probably speaks the least of all the main characters the director has had. However, it is rather interesting to see how much expression Miyazaki’s animators get out of the minimal movements he has. Plus, for the majority of the film, his eyes are hidden behind the dark shades of his glasses.
Much like how real-world events shaped the work being done on Howl’s Moving Castle’ almost a decade later, events in the area during the 90’s, where the film was taking place, influenced it’s storyline.
When Yugoslavia broke up in the early 90’s, this added an extra tinge of ‘reality’ to the film. Whereas the rise of fascism across the Adriatic in Flying Boat was only hinted at in the adapted manga, we get a small taste of what’s going on in the film, when Porco comes ashore to Dubrovnik.
Paying off the loan on his plane, the bank employee tries to get him to purchase war bonds, but he simply responds that that is something the “humans” can do.
After this, he visits a small shop to pick up some more weaponry and ammunition. Word of a governmental change is on the mouths of several of the shop’s workers, but Porco claims he has no intention to fight in another war.
Also of great interest, is the ‘curse’ surrounding his transformation into a pig-headed man. After all these years, Miyazaki has never given an explanation for the ‘curse,’ often leaving the mystery to the audience, to unravel in their own minds.
Even the face of Porco with his dark glasses, is an image that Miyazaki likes to ‘doodle,’ just as much as his imagery of Totoro. Porco even shows up at the Ghibli Museum’s cafe in Mitaka, Japan. Known as the Straw Hat Cafe, Porco’s head appears over the cafe’s chalkboard menu, but instead of his aviation goggles, he wears a straw hat.
Women in Control
With his previous features, Miyazaki largely focused on female leads. From Nausicaa to Kiki, his girls and women often found their optimism tested in the face of adversity, or events that were oftentimes foreign to them.
Though Porco is our lead for this film, Miyazaki makes sure that the girls and women that we see around him, are often some of the more level-headed characters.
Of those we see, the characters of Gina and Fio act as a sort of yin-yang
Gina was a former childhood friend of Porco’s, and was married to one of their friends. However, when we see Gina, she is a widow, entertaining and running her hotel in the Adriatic Sea. She is self-sufficient, and though it seems she may pine for Porco at times, she is not one to just run off with any man.
This is notable when Donald Curtis finds her in her garden, and in a rather extravagant, “American” way, proposes to her…which leads to Gina laughing heartily, as she hears him claim that he intends to become President one day!
While Gina is the older woman who has lived life and matured, Fio is the young girl, the optimist with unending energy, that often overpowers some of Porco’s own misgivings.
Notable is when Piccolo declares that she will be doing the new design work on Porco’s plane. Porco is at first against this, but she manages to convince him with her enthusiasm, as well as her ‘plussing’ Porco’s plane. Much like the disconnect between some generations, Porco doesn’t wholly understand a lot of what Fio is doing to his plane, but he trusts her enough to figure that the alterations she pushes him to approve, are going to help him out in the long run.
Another notable scene comes later on, when Fio and Porco encounter the air pirates, who first intend to destroy Porco’s rebuilt plane, until Fio reminds them of the honor of being ‘flying boat pilots.’
Women also become the only workforce available to Porco and Piccolo, as a number of men have left Milan because of the Great Depression, leaving Piccolo’s relations to carry on the rebuilding effort.
Several of Miyazaki’s works reference Europe, and the locales of this film, play out in such a way, that a few of it’s panoramic landscapes may get stuck in your head.
Most notable to me, is one where Porco decides to head off to Milan. as a Mandolin strums a melody, we see the red plane, but far away, as an enormous mass of clouds seems to dwarf it!
The film at times seems to act as an eye-opening travelogue to the Adriatic, given all the scenery we visit. Even Porco’s island hideaway looks like the perfect place to get some peace and quiet.
One of the film’s more ethereal moments, comes when Porco tells of a near-death experience he had, near the end of the first World War.
Seeing a streak of white high in the air, it soon turned out that it was a ‘stream’ of planes, (thousands of them!), and of which Porco soon saw his comrades who had perished in a recent aerial battle, rise to become a part of!
The scene is one of those that seems to ‘haunt’ my memories. It is a vision I have never seen committed to film before: the sight of numerous vintage aircraft, flying in a neverending stream. Are they going somewhere? Are they cursed to forever circle above us, never to be seen? We’ll never know.
An Ode to older animation
While the Ghibli style is present in this film. it should be noted that it seems the animation stylings of the time, can be glimpsed in a few places.
Most noticeable is in a black-and-white cartoon Porco sees, under cover of talking with a former Italian Air Force comrade.
The short seems to combine a number of different animation stylings, with it’s characters first seen flying in planes, which may be a reference to the first Mickey Mouse short, Plane Crazy. It’s lead characters seem to be a sort of loose-limbed rabbit character, and a large pig who attempts to abduct the heroine. This could also be some form of homage to Mickey Mouse, and his first nemesis, Peg-Leg Pete.
The heroine of the short, appears to be an amalgamation of Fleischer Studios’ depictions of Olive Oyl from their Popeye shorts, as well as with her ‘glamorous’ facial features, a mix of Betty Boop.
The leader of the Mamma Aiuto gang also may be influenced by Popeye, with his buff physique and spiky beard, he bears a passing resemblance to Popeye’s nemesis, Bluto.
It could also be said that the final fight between Curtis and Porco, may also be a small homage to the rock-em/sock-em fights that took place between Popeye and Bluto.
Music of a Bygone Era
When it comes to music, Jo Hisaishi’s score for Porco, is one of the more journey-filled pieces he’s done for his friend’s films.
For the Mamma Aiuto gang and some of the other air pirates, Hisaishi breaks out the brass instruments, making it sound like most of what they are doing, is little more than an ‘aerial circus.’
When the action ramps up, so do the strings, and even at times, the woodwinds. A notable piece is when Porco and Fio escape Milan, as the Italian authorities attempt to apprehend him. It’s a tense scene of escaping through the city’s waterways, with a Shostakovich-like piano melody that plays over the scene.
Throughout the film, a mixture of piano and strings often punctuates Porco’s quieter moments, a trace of wistful melancholy flowing through some scenes. A piece dealing with Porco and Gina sharing time at her hotel, also has the faintest hints of the song “As Time Goes By” to it, as if the composer tried to throw in a little homage to Casablanca.
Fio also gets a theme, with woodwinds being the major motif. Her piece is a bit more ‘playful,’ and often enhances a number of scenes where the focus shifts to her.
Notable to me, is the closing song for the film, titled Once in Awhile, Talk of the Old Days. The track has a wistful melody, starting and ending with piano, before eventually building to a plateau with a number of strings, sounding like wind skimming across the mists of time.
I recall going back to my hometown in Iowa 9 years ago for my high school reunion, and the song seemed to sum up my feelings, seeing people I last remembered as teenagers, back when the world seemed more optimistic. The track played in my ears, as the bus took me out of a place I could recall more wistfully from youth, but had changed over time.
That seems to largely be the theme of Hisaishi’s overall score: music that feels like you’re looking back on a time and place. The memories are there, but it’s all a bit hazy from the decades that have passed.
When one compares Porco Rosso to some of Miyazaki’s more ‘popular’ works, it often seems to easily get lost in the shuffle. Personally, I often feel that I and a select few people, are the only ones who have some love for the film.
One of the things that is most notable, is that it is one of Miyazaki’s shortest films, but the pacing of the film is so good, that it often feels like it is over too soon! I can’t recall ever being bored once during the entire film.
In researching this blog post, I was looking for further information in regards to Miyazaki’s remembrances, or comments following the release of the film.
Unlike some directors who seem to have fond memories of previous films, Miyazaki rarely seems to gush or hold any of his past works in high praise. This is notable in watching the documentary, In the Kingdoms of Dreams and Madness. One of the women in the documentary makes references to Kiki’s Delivery Service, as well as Porco Rosso. Porco is brought up, given that the film that was being worked on at the time (titled, The Wind Rises), also deals with flying machines.
However, when he remembers his older work, Miyazaki merely calls it “a foolish film.”
An interview for Animerica Magazine in 1993, also had him feeling that the film flew in the face of his feelings, that (in his own words), “animation is for children.”
It should be noted that a few years ago, rumor surfaced of a possible sequel to the film. Studio Ghibli is not a studio known for sequelizing, so this news was met with some caution.
A rumored title was Porco Rosso: The Last Sortie, and would have featured Porco taking to the air once again, this time as an aged pilot, during the Spanish Civil War.
No concept art or anything more was ever shown of this, and with the current status of Studio Ghibli seemingly closed off from doing anything other than an upcoming film project with Miyazaki, it is possible that The Last Sortie may join the ranks of many other projects the famed animation director considered, but never worked on.
Personally, I found the end of Porco Rosso had a decent closure to it’s story. Some loose ends were tied up, but other mysteries remained, for one of Hayao Miyazaki’s pieces, that feels like a good memory, I often enjoy coming back to.
Pretty good work for a film that was originally meant to play to weary businessmen.
“Porco Rosso is a product of the early ’90s, of my world views being challenged by real-world events. It’s also the product of my resolve to overcome the challenge and build a stronger way of life, a stronger way of looking at things.” – Hayao Miyazaki, from an interview conducted by Takashi Oshiguchi in 1993, for Animerica Magazine)
A few weeks ago, I gave my verdict on my 5 least-favorite segments, from the second season of Star vs the Forces of Evil.
Now, a few weeks later, I think I’m ready to reveal the 10 story segments that I enjoyed the most out of the second season of the show.
This year’s list is a bit more extensive, given there were over 38 10-12 minute segments this season to choose from. So, let’s dive in and see what I thought!
Note: This Top 10 list only covers the stories that spanned 10-12 minutes. 22-minute episodes like “Bon Bon the Birthday Clown,” “Face the Music,” and “Starcrushed,” are excluded, given the extra time and storytelling makeup.
I won’t lie: trying to come up with the segment to go into the ’10’ slot on these lists, is usually the hardest thing to do. I bounced around segments such as Just Friends, The Hard Way, and Gift of the Card, but in the end, settled on Game of Flags.
This story gives us a little more background into Star’s family (with both the Butterfly and Johansen clans), as well as their yearly game of ‘flags,’ which Star is eager to take part in.
We get some background and insight into how both sides of Star’s family seem to revel in a game that is pretty ridiculous. In the end, Star realizes this, and attempts to make a change to the family tradition.
Most notable in regards to this segment, is how we get to see some more of Moon Butterfly (aka Star’s Mom), being a little more attentive towards her daughter. Some additional information is revealed about Moon, AND, a positive reinforcement from mother to daughter, regarding some things that Star believes in.
When it came to seeing a full return of Star’s ex-boyfriend Tom, I don’t think anyone could have comprehended what this episode would be (well, aside from hundreds who assumed from the promo art, that the two were possibly going to embark on a love odyssey of fan-gasmic proportions!).
Instead, we get the two finding out that despite their dislike of certain things (and each other), they do find common ground on some things, such as their enjoyment of music by the group, Love Sentence.
We get some great music by Brian H Kim, as well as Nick Lachey doing vocals for the song, Awesome Feeling. And, we get Tom and Marco doing a duet, which I think elevated the story in some people’s eyes (and probably won voice actors Adam McArthur and Rider Strong some additional followers on Twitter!).
There’s also a sub-story in regards to a karate master Marco and Tom both like, and while it isn’t the strongest sub-story, where Friend-Enemies took it, was pretty satisfying (and humorous)!
While Ludo has been a major fixture in Season 2, this story stands out, as an example that Season 2 was not going to be like the first season. Most notable, is that Star Butterfly is not actually part of the overall storyline!
The tone of the piece is almost like a nature documentary, as we see Ludo struggling in the aftermath of the end of Season 1, and how a discovery of his, will lead to even more dangerous things later on.
Despite being a pivotal story, Wild ranks lower in the Top 10, due to the somewhat repetitive nature, and Wile E Coyote style humor of the world just treating Ludo like a punching bag. However, as the story goes on, we see him fight back, and re-evaluate his direction in life.
I will admit, my first viewings of this story didn’t really do much for me. But as the season has gone on, it’s grown on me.
It’s a great character study, seeing how Star deals with a dog that won’t let go of her wand. We’ve seen her often being off-the-wall, but in this story, she tries to be logical with a few sub-characters, who get to be the weirdos in the story.
Marco also is pretty much the straight-man of the story, telling Star that she needs to resolve this problem on her own. There’s also an ‘Earth-world problems’ subplot for Marco, showing him trying to drink from a juice pouch.
Most notable in the segment, is a wonderful little piano bit near the end by Brian H Kim, that sounds eerily reminiscent of some Japanese dramas or emotional anime, as the story attempts to cross it’s final hurdle.
Marco Diaz trying to get together with his crush Jackie Lynn Thomas, was like ‘catnip’ to me throughout the first season. When I found out this subplot would be continuing on in Season 2, I was eager for more stories of Marco working through his feelings.
Marco having to deal with the little Naysaya head that tells his most embarrassing secrets, is one story I couldn’t keep off here. The plot-point helps prove that once again, Marco Diaz is the kind of guy who can try to power through the worst of things, if he puts his mind to it.
Plus, we get Star being a caring friend and enthusiastic cheerleader, as she keeps trying to get her ‘bestie’ to ask out Jackie. Pretty much everytime Star was on-screen, I had a smile on my face.
Just like the story in Sleepover, we get a little more information on Jackie, though she’s still somewhat of a character enigma by the end of the piece. However, the final moment was one of my favorites, and is currently my iPhone’s lock-screen image.
In some cases, this story could be seen as somewhat of a throwaway segment, but it has some nice bits buried deep within it’s structure.
The sleepover aspect, as well as dragging Marco into the festivities is rather fun. The typical ‘truth-or-dare’ game ramped up to the inter-dimensional game of “Truth or Punishment,” proves to be quite entertaining, even if at the end, it gets a bit weird.
However, what saves the storyline, is Marco finally admitting his feelings for Jackie, and, we get some further insight into Star’s feelings, as well as a rather interesting analysis of people’s emotions, and how they can change over time.
After her rather lackluster appearance in the season 2 segment Gift of the Card, I wondered if we’d get a proper episode with the former headmistress of St Olga’s Reform School for Wayward Princesses, and lo and behold, we got this!
This wasn’t quite what I was expecting for a full-return of Heinous (as well as her sidekick Gemini, who finally has his name revealed here!), but the storyline was one I was rather intrigued by.
Instead of an all-out brawl, Marco’s parents want him and Star, to find a compromise with Heinous, who has fallen on hard times after being cast out of St Olga’s. Rarely does one get a story where a non-violent compromise is attempted, and it’s resolution proves to be a well-done little surprise, with the return of “Princess Marco.”
There’s also a fun resolution to a money-based gag that has been heard throughout the season.
I have a feeling many will discount this story, but to me, it was one of the first this season, that seemed to get a bit deep, in regards to relationships, and what the future could hold for the characters.
Most notable, was seeing Star get very quiet about realizing that no matter what she wants to do, she still has the duties of becoming a Queen hanging over her head.
There also is the reunion of Marco Diaz, and Tom, Star’s ex-boyfriend. Their small scene seems to play off as rather ‘boring,’ but I feel there’s some interesting revelations about the characters. Tom reveals his thoughts on Star, and Marco reveals his feelings about relationships and couplings (“You can’t make Star be your girlfriend, unless she wants to.”).
Humor isn’t very prevalent in this storyline, but the few moments that it does appear, are still some that are stuck in my head, months later.
Much like Ludo in the Wild, this segment also attempted to do something out of the ordinary.
We get to see where Star Butterfly’s myriad spells ‘live,’ and get the chance to shine a light on a character that seemed pretty insignificant.
This story may not be as entertaining for younger audiences, given how we see Spider and his cohorts dealing with their daily life of helping Star, as well as the question of, “what is my purpose in life?” That storytelling angle of playing to some of the ‘older’ viewers, was definitely noteworthy in my eyes, and made me feel that some of the writers may have brought some of their own life experiences to the table when storyboarding this one.
The ending has a pretty great payoff, though I find it’s smaller, character-driven moments with Spider with a Top Hat being emotional, helped propel this story up the chain.
Yes yes, I know: my favorite 11-minute segment, and Star Butterfly isn’t the main character in it!
When Marco Diaz uses Star’s dimensional scissors, he meets up with Magic High Commission member Hekapoo, who gives him a task to get them back.
This was not just a fun and emotional storyline, but one that got incredibly mind-bending after awhile, managing to put weird and wild together, and come to a place I and many others, could probably never have fathomed!
As the story winds down, it ends up leaving us with plenty of questions, as well as some pretty heavy emotional scenes, underscored by some great music by Brian H Kim, which might be his most emotional piece so far for the series!
Sadly, it feels like the ending was quickly forgotten in stories going forward, but for a brief moment, Star vs the Forces of Evil, made me deeply ponder the ramifications and journey that Marco Diaz had just been on…one that the fans could surely speculate and build upon in fanfiction or discussions outside of the series!
And there you have it: the 10 segments from season 2, that just really impressed me a great deal!
Keep in mind that this list is based on my tastes, and I’m sure there are some who didn’t see some of their faves make the list.
As always, would love to read in the comments what you Star fans think. Did anything match up? Was there a segment that you really enjoyed? Always up for a discussion on the series, as we wait impatiently for what season 3 has in store for Mewni, and possibly, Earth.
As stated in my previous Star-related article, I got a few other things I want to discuss about the season, and hopefully, I’ll have another article soon for you fans out there.
Ok fans of Star vs the Forces of Evil, it’s time I delivered some good news, and bad news. After a show’s season concludes, most reviewers decide to make…some lists.
Given that we had 22 episodes for Season 2 (comprised of three 22-minute segments, and thirty-eight 11-minute segments), I thought I would do like last season, and do some lists regarding the 11-minute story segments.
First up: let’s just get those least-favorite segments out of the way, with this Top 5 list.
*Note: Keep in mind this list only covers the segments that run 11 minutes, not full-length episodes. Given how much extra time is given in full-length episodes to tell a story, this list judges the shorter segments on their merits, and faults.*
This season, saw the introduction of many new characters to the show, several of which seemed to be connected to some very important roles, within the show’s multiverse.
Crystal Clear attempts to give us a little backstory on Rhombulus, and Chancellor Lekmet, who are members of the Magic High Commission.
Rhombulus ends up bringing Star and Marco before Lekmet, claiming that Star is somehow responsible for the draining of magic in the universe. However, as the segment goes on, it just feels like a loud, noisy, and meandering romp.
Each member of the Magic High Commission was given a segment, to show a bit more about themselves, and who they are. However, out of all of them, Rhombulus’ storyline feels the weakest for all members of the MHC.
Rhombulus himself seems to be the ‘muscle’ of the group, acting on his gut first, and asking questions later. In small doses this works fine, but with this story, it feels like director Giancarlo Volpe, was asked to stretch out a concept, that just didn’t feel like it could hold together entertainingly, for 11 minutes.
Star Butterfly shines a bit here, given that she becomes the voice-of-reason to Rhombulus’ little tirades, but even that isn’t enough to make this story appealing. We even get some hints of things that I assume will be paid off in the future…but as some stories have shown, there aren’t any guarantees if that will happen or not.
Maybe Season 3 will redeem this story, but for now, it made my list.
This story plays out as a tag-team storyline of sorts.
We see Ludo running across some rats on Mewni, along with him finding out that he can coax power from his newly-acquired wand, usually when he finds himself getting upset.
On Earth, Star attempts to get out of doing chores, and summons a creature named Cloudy to do her work. However, he ends up making a mess, and Star’s attempts to fix his attitude, don’t go over so well.
After watching more of Season 2, it feels like this story was not meant to give us any easy answers, and to maybe draw our own conclusions about what is happening, let alone how emotions affect the power of the wand.
Ludo’s storyline is the more interesting of the two, but when put together, it feels like a slog as each storyline, goes from one incident to the next. It’s one of the first examples we get of Star’s magic going green instead of pink, showing how her emotions can affect her wand’s magic, but I almost wish it could have been done a bit better.
I like a good puzzle, but this storyline just felt like things got a bit too vague at times.
This is one of those stories that feels like they had a decent concept, but then when it came to building it up…it just ended up becoming ‘filler’ for the season.
After freeing her classroom’s pet hamster Marisol out of sheer boredom, Star is put in detention, and Marco is tasked with getting Marisol back.
Star being thrown into detention, and then working with Janna to help their fellow classmates endure their time, feels like it just attempts to be a wacky adventure, with very little substance. I couldn’t help but imagine a story where Star and Janna go on an inter-dimensional adventure might have been more entertaining, or if the story became a more group-oriented piece, where Star and the detention gang all make it out and run amuck (the story at one point seems to make it like this could be an option, but then just sidesteps it).
Marco’s subplot feels pretty unnecessary, almost like it was a last-ditch effort to somehow include him in Star’s story.
Personally, the title made it sound like a weekend adventure was in store for Star and a couple of her girl friends (like the more entertaining segment, Sleepover). I also feel the story should have had a different title: Coup D’etention.
For Season 2, very little has been mentioned in regards to Marco’s karate training, with just two stories (Red Belt, and All Belts Are Off), focusing on the relationship between Marco Diaz, and his strip mall dojo’s Sensei. While both seemed to meander, All Belts felt like the weaker of the two.
We get a much larger role for Marco’s arch-enemy, the rich little punk named Jeremy Birnbaum, who is chosen by Sensei to represent the dojo.
The underlying message of “you don’t need to be awarded to be considered a good person,” just feels shuffled away til’ the last few minutes, along with a heart-to-heart between Sensei and Marco, that I wish could have been better expanded upon.
Trying to get us to focus on how much of a jerk Jeremy is, and trying to make it funny, is where the story just falls off a cliff for me. Some of the season’s stories can really push my buttons when it comes to humor, but the attempts to make Jeremy’s escapades seem funny, just felt like a lost cause.
I think any fan of the series will have to admit: this segment just felt like a huge letdown!
Following early imagery of warrior-girl Mina Loveberry, many of us were expecting big things from this woman whom Star seemed to look up to. Unfortunately Mina just came across as another ‘looney from Mewni.’
The story is meant to show how sometimes you should follow your own judgement, but it just gets bogged down in Mina doing something weird or strange, every other time she’s on screen.
Marco largely is on the sidelines, making this a story where Star is forced to draw her own conclusions, but sadly, it just feels like a lesser variation on that ‘good girl gets drawn in by the wrong crowd’ afternoon special like I’d see on TV when I was younger.
There’s also some minor stuff about government, that feels shoehorned in in a rather throwaway moment in the last few minutes, and Mina’s reaction to Star’s resistance, feels like a shoehorned concept that could have been better handled with more time.
What’s weird is in the last 5 seconds, there’s a strange little emotional moment, that almost attempts to make us forget Mina’s crazy shenanigans. Sadly, by this point, the damage has been done, and those 5 seconds cannot salvage the story.
Keep in mind that these are just my opinions, and I’m not saying you have to go along with them.
There were a few other 11-minute segments in this season that I did consider putting on this list, but in the end, each of the ones listed here, were stories that I just kept having issues with, when I would go over them after they premiered.
If you liked what you read, leave a comment, and tell me if you have any agreements or disagreements. Or, maybe there’s an 11-minute segment that you felt was deserving of being in this list. Always up to hear what others in the fandom think (other than the constant fanship wars that never seem to end!).
Next time we discuss “Star vs the Forces of Evil,” we’ll talk about something a bit more positive: My Top 10 favorite 11-minute segments, from Season 2! Hope to see you soon in a few weeks for that post!
An Animated Dissection: Is Glossaryck of Terms the ‘Dr Manhattan’ of “Star vs the Forces of Evil,” and other observations about the little blue man
Oh good! You survived that freaky image of Glossaryck of Terms’ diamond-shaped eyes, staring into your soul.
Now that the second season of the animated series Star vs the Forces of Evil has come to an end, it’s time to let loose with some thoughts of my own, regarding what I’ve observed.
I often find my animation-addled brain, teeming with thoughts and anecdotes, that most of the time, tend to fly over the heads of most of the show’s fans (who, if social media is any indication, are addicted to ranting and raving over which of their fanships will win out in the end).
I rather enjoy being one of the more mature viewers in the fandom: watching the series, and searching for story/plot/character threads, that most of the young’uns, may not quite comprehend.
I got a whole mess of stuff to discuss about what the last 22 episodes have wrought, but first, I thought I’d compare one little blue man from the show, and how he reminded me of a (rather) big blue man, from a graphic novel I once read.
*Note: This article is written with the knowledge that the reader, is familiar with the first two seasons of the show, “Star vs the Forces of Evil.” If you do not wish to be spoiled, please turn back now.*
In the first few episodes of season 1 of Star vs the Forces of Evil, viewers were treated to the image of a strange, floating little blue man, who appeared without acknowledgement.
It wasn’t until the 6th episode’s segment, titled Mewberty, that we were formally introduced to Glossaryck of Terms (voiced by Jeffrey Tambor), whom Marco Diaz attempted to seek advice from, as Star Butterfly began to go through…mewberty!
Glossaryck revealed that he was a fixture of Star’s magic instruction book, which contained spells that she could use with her family’s wand. At first refusing to help, Glossaryck changed his tune, when Marco fulfilled his request to get him some pudding.
This led to Marco feeding the little man, who seemed to just give out riddles about how to help Star, with no concrete answers…or so it seemed.
Many things that Glossaryck has done over the course of the last two seasons, seem incredibly ridiculous, and oftentimes, make no sense whatsoever.
Most of the time, despite the way he acts, Glossaryck seems to know what to do, but the big question is…how?
And then, in remembering a scene from the graphic novel Watchmen, I came upon my theory: What if Glossaryck is like Jon Osterman, aka Dr Manhattan, in Watchmen?
In the Alan Moore-written graphic novel, Osterman is a scientist, who is seemingly disintegrated, when he ends up locked in a test chamber, and has his “intrinsic field” removed.
However, Jon is far from dead.
A number of strange things are seen around the labs over the next few months as Jon’s consciousness attempts to re-form him., One day, Jon is successful, and materializes before a stunned crowd of his peers. However, his appearance is different from his original form.
Though taking on a humanoid form, Osterman’s skin is blue, and more attuned to that of a perfect male physique.
As time goes on, Jon becomes less and less human, and soon takes up the moniker of Dr Manhattan. He is able to manipulate matter, and seems to be able to see through time and space.
This ability to see and know all however, leaves him incredibly disconnected from humanity, frustrating several persons he attempted to have relationships with. His pupil-less eyes, often seem encased in a face, whose expressions seem placidly calm most of the time.
One could almost see the same in regards to Glossaryck at times.
Of course, there’s been no proof that Glossaryck of Terms was once a normal ‘Mewman’ who became a magically-enhanced little blue man, but several of the things I recalled from the Watchmen graphic novel, popped into my head when thinking of him.
Much like Dr Manhattan, Glossaryck at times, can be frustratingly vague, as if he knows something is going to happen, but never tells just what will happen.
A prime example is in the segment titled By the Book, wherein he refuses to come out of a box of donuts, and is almost crushed by a garbage truck! However, in the end, he does several things that end up saving the day, and getting Star to perform a specific spell.
The first time I saw this story, and ran what Glossaryck said through my brain a few times, it made zero sense. However, as Season 2 carried onward, I revisited By the Book, and was surprised how it seemed a little less ridiculous!
Another notable comparison from Watchmen, is how Dr Manhattan would wear a rather placid, almost expressionless look on his face, even when something should strike a person as emotional, or shocking. Because of his ability to see the universe as it is (pre-determined, with little chance of alteration), Manhattan often appeared apathetic.
We see Glossaryck wear such an expression, in the story, Raid the Cave.
Using the all-seeing eye spell (from Queen Eclipsa’s forbidden chapter about Dark Magic!), Star is able to find Glossaryck and the book of spells, but strangely enough, he is not at all downtrodden over being captured, nor gives her clear remarks on just where he is (“I’m in a cave. On the ground!”)
He does make a few allusions to the spying spell she’s using, and is only slightly surprised, when Star somehow, manages to alter it, and is able to reach through it! The spell is only meant to allow one to see things, but somehow, with her own magic, Star manages to break through, and reach out to Glossaryck…who shows no propensity to do the same! He even claims that he and the book, are now Ludo’s property!
“Glossaryck, don’t you want to come with me?” pleads Star. “I thought we were, friends.”
“…friends?” he quizzically asks. “Now that’s such a simple concept.”
This admission seems to ‘hurt’ Star emotionally, and the connection begins to collapse!
Star tries a few more times to get Glossaryck to come with her, but he refuses to budge.
“But, I need you!” she cries.
“Maybe, ‘this’ is what you need,” he says, as the portal closes!
The results of what happened, finally allows Star to do something she has feared to do: tell her parents that she lost the book, and Glossaryck! Thinking they are going to yell at her for messing up, Star is surprised when instead, they tell her how they will keep her secret safe, and to “sit tight.”
However, in the wake of this, Star actually does something proactive. Taking a notebook, she begins to make her own spellbook, cataloging the magic spells that she’s made up on her own.
This is a reaction that seems a bit ‘deeper’ than what we experienced in the story, By the Book. When one looks at the end result of Glossaryck not coming back with Star, it feels that he has set things in motion, that may not be comprehensible to Star and her parents at this time.
Unlike some shows that will just give a character a backstory via memory-dump, it seems the Star vs the Forces of Evil writers are wont to make information about Glossaryck so readily available. Instead, it becomes a scavenger hunt, and if one were to go back over Season 2, you can find all sorts of little story hints, sometimes buried deep within a story.
Notable is in the segment Page Turner, where Glossaryck is forcibly pulled away from Star, who is examining a forbidden chapter, on Queen Eclipsa.
This ordeal seems to be one of the few times that we really see Glossaryck being annoyed in a rather primadonna fashion. At first, it’s in regards to the ridiculous security measures he has to go through to reach the Magic High Commission, but then his irritation transfers to Star’s mother, who has called the meeting, to request Glossaryck speed up Star’s magical training.
He then explains that this seems to be common in almost every single Queen he’s trained: sooner or later, they can’t just leave him alone, and make demands on how he should train future successors to the throne.
Of all the Princesses and Queens he’s trained, Glossaryck claims that Queen Eclipsa, was the only one who just left him alone. Of course, this just builds on more questions as to what Eclipsa’s reign on Mewni was like. It seems she is the black sheep of the royal line, and there may be something associated with her past, that could come to light next season.
Of course, some beings in the show’s multiverse, are pretty irked at the little blue man. While we have had Star’s father River give his opinion (“Little guy always creeped me out!”), one who has shown some malice towards Glossaryck, is a member of the Magic High Commission, named Rhombulus.
This was followed up in discussion he had with Star Butterfly, in the segment, Crystal Clear.
Rhombulus explained that some of his frustrations, came from being unable to win an argument with Glossaryck, along with him seeming to be “an all-knowing jerk.”
Someone did point out a rather intriguing thing, in the episode, Bon Bon the Birthday Clown, which might back this up.
Glossaryck ends up going along with Star and Janna to Bon Bon’s seance. During the course of the evening, we see a number of rats scurrying about the cemetery.
As the evening gets colder, Glossaryck nonchalantly asks Star if she intends to use a spell in the book, that has a “little drawing of a rat.”
Star doesn’t care about the page, and in a rather surprising move, Glossaryck sets it aflame, and warms himself!
It is possible, that Glossaryck was anticipating Ludo taking him and the book that evening, and knowing of Ludo’s rat minions, probably felt the spell on that page, might be dangerous later on (it’s never made clear just what the spell would do).
Of course, this is largely speculation, but given the amount of rats we see, it could be possible.
One of the last segments in Season 2, to feature Glossaryck as part of a main storyline, is titled The Hard Way.
Ludo has instructed his bird and spider minions to try and break Glossaryck’s spirit, but in a surprising move, Glossaryck claims he is willing to help Ludo reach his “full potential.”
Unlike Star who possesses an imagination (the “Narwhal Blast” she uses, is a spell of her own invention), Ludo seems devoid of any creativity. This leads to Glossaryck showing him a simple levitation spell from the book, and through positive reinforcement, Ludo seemed excited that he had learned how to gain some control over his wand.
After a positive first day of learning, Glossaryck (much to his annoyance), puts Ludo to bed, but is later awakened when Ludo claims ‘his wand’ mentioned that Glossaryck had shown a certain spell to Star.
At the little bird-creature’s insistence, Glossaryck opens the forbidden chapter, and Ludo is blasted into the air, suspended in the center of a swirling vortex!
Suddenly, Ludo’s eyes go green, and from his mouth, issues forth the voice of Toffee, a lizard-creature, that was supposed to have been destroyed at the end of Season 1!
“Give it up, old man,” says Toffee. “You’ll never get him (aka Ludo) on your side.”
“But I don’t have, a side,” counters Glossaryck.
“You don’t, do you?” asks Toffee, before smiling fiendishly. “…perfect.”
That conversation, was the last we’ve seen of Glossaryck of Terms this season.
When Moon Butterfly and the Magic High Commission infiltrated Ludo’s castle and confronted him, he mentioned that Glossaryck was gone, and he had no idea where he was.
The MHC’s High Chancellor named Lekmet, also thought he had found the spellbook, only to find it was blank, leading the council to believe that what they found, was a fake.
So, that beg’s the question…where are Glossaryck and the book of spells?
My opinion is…they’re now inside the wand that Ludo/Toffee wields!
An earlier Season 2 segment titled Into the Wand, had Glossaryck explaining to Star, that things could be stored within the wand, which is an extension of the wielder’s memories.
Much like Toffee’s finger that was found hidden inside Star’s wand, I am of the persuasion, that Glossaryck and the book, have suffered the same fate, under Ludo/Toffee’s wielding of the wand, and are trapped for the time being!
Of course, there also is the question, of what happens to Ludo when Toffee takes over.
By the end of Season 2, it looks like Toffee may be in total control of Ludo’s body, leading me to assume that Ludo’s soul, is also trapped within the wand.
If that is the case, and Ludo and Glossaryck are stuck in the wand, I could see their story arcs for Season 3, maybe showing the two working through some personal issues Ludo has.
We’ve seen this season, that Ludo is actually little more than a child, the ‘runt’ son of Lord and Lady Avarius (as seen in the episode, Face the Music). The family was extra-hard on Ludo, hoping to toughen him up…which led to him taking over the family castle with a gang of monsters, and changing the locks (which explains Ludo’s castle and minions, that we saw in Season 1!).
As annoying and childish as Ludo can be, I can see Glossaryck trying to help turn him ‘good,’ or clear up his anger issues with his family. It may be a key element to Ludo regaining control of his body from Toffee, let alone possibly destroying the disembodied lizard-creature, who seems to somehow be linked to the magical energy in the universe!
Of course, if the inside of Star’s wand creates a world based around the mind of it’s user…one wonders what horrors are inside Ludo/Toffee’s wand. The big question is, will we see inside it next Season?
This was one of those blog articles, that just struck like lightning!
Oftentimes, it can be the more enigmatic characters in a show or film, that cause the wheels in my head to turn.
A prime example, is my analysis of the character No Face (aka Kaonashi), from Hayao Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. That analysis, is one of my most-viewed dissections, and is still going strong after almost 5 years!
I will confess that I have been sitting on a dissection of the character Toffee since the end of Season 1, but given how much more enigmatic Glossaryck of Terms has been this season, my brain seemed to just expel all of these thoughts in a matter of hours!
As we close out this little Animated Dissection, I thought I’d make one more reference to Watchmen.
The following quotes happen, after Laurie Juspeczyk is told by Dr Manhattan, that even though he knows what will happen, he still gives the expected responses, as they are meant to be played out. I can’t help but feel that it could very well speak to how Glossaryck fits, into the world of Star vs the Forces of Evil:
Laurie Juspeczyk: “The most powerful thing in the universe, and you’re just a puppet following a script?”
Dr Manhattan: “We’re all puppets, Laurie. I’m just the puppet who can see the strings.”