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As an artist, there’s a good chance you’ve been called “lazy.” You’ve probably also felt like you’re not as productive or prolific as you could be. Let these two factors mingle around in your brain long enough and you’ll start believing that you’re the exact type of stereotypical “lazy artist” that people might sayyou are. There’s a lot of ups-and-downs in the life of an artist – some of this is due to the nature of being a creative and some of it is just life.
I’ve had years of experience working as an animator, working from home, making my own hours and setting my own deadlines to learn what it actually means to be productive when your career is being an artist. Outside of the full-time freelance work that pays the bills, I’ve created animated shorts, behind-the-scenes videos, tutorials, have a weekly podcast, and wrote a book on animating “tradigitally” in Adobe Flash called (obviously) Tradigital Flash.
Let me show you some of the things I’ve learned.
You can also listen to us on SoundCloud
PREAMBLE: “Being lazy is OK – Burnout is not”
Lazy is a four-letter-word. Apart from actually having four letters, the thought is that anything lazy should be purged from a productive life. It brings up images of wasting time, money and talent on vapid activities like watching TV, sports, and playing games. But really, it’s an image problem. The activities themselves are just low-impact recreation. Overdoing anything is bad, so yes… if you’re lazy all the time that’s problematic. But if all you do is work, you can burn yourself out, which is a worse fate.
adjective – “unwilling to work or use energy.”
There could be a lot of reasons why someone would be hesitant to use energy:
resting the body for an upcoming endurance-testing project
clearing the mind for creativity
recuperating from a marathon session of work just finished
preparing for actual physical mortal kombat
The bottom line is being lazy conserves energy. That’s a good thing. It is difficult to simply get more energy (although there’s some tips for that at the bottom of this post) so conserving and managing your reserves is a skill you need to have/develop.
Do you know how much good can come from being lazy? There’s a thing called the Default Mode Network (DMN) which basically is like your brain idling while you’re awake. This is where you daydream, have introspective thought, and retrospective analysis (like replaying something that happened earlier).
People need rest. By placing a stigma on an unwillingness to work or use energy, a stigma gets placed on the entire concept of down-time. Spending your free time relaxing or having unfinished projects doesn’t make you a good-for-nothing. A distinction needs to be made about avoiding responsibility and taking command over how and why you use your time and energy.
FROM PERSONAL EXPERIENCE...
I’ve said it before that the moment I knew animation was the career for me is when I worked for 52 hours straight, without sleep, to turn in a paid freelance project only to take a four-hour nap and then wake up to work on my own personal project which offered me no money. I was in my 20s. Even just writing that sentence stresses me out today.
It’s not that I don’t still love my work – I do – but that kind of intensity can only last for so long. For me, it was just long enough to get hooked… now I need my rest to work. It’s all about the long game because burnout is a very real thing. The real threat to long-term productivity is not being lazy, it’s being overwhelmed… it’s burnout.
Laziness is not a lifestyle, but neither is productivity. If all you have is productivity, you most likely have a ton of stuff with little-to-no substance. If all you have is laziness, you probably have an overload of inspiration and nothing to show for it. A balance needs to be struck.
"Write down everything so you don’t have to remember”
I have a good memory and I use it. But no matter how great your recall is you’ll eventually forget something.. Knowing that you could forget something important puts extra pressure on you to make sure you remember everything.
Do a core dump of information you’re keeping in your head. This includes:
By writing everything down on paper you don’t have to worry about a thought, schedule or task getting lost in the shuffle throughout your day.
“the master list” (weekly)
On a large piece of paper, write everything down (see above). Then take out another paper and organize that information into categories. Add to this throughout the week as needed and cross off items you finish.
“the agenda” (daily)
Remember having an agenda in school? You would write down things like the homework you were assigned and when it was due… like a combination of a calendar and a to-do list. Yea, you might’ve forgotten how incredibly helpful that is! At the end of each day I’ll write a couple tasks down for the next day to do. This mostly includes scenes I need to animate, emails to send and errands to run.
“micro-goals” (during every project)
When I’m working on something like an animation, I will take what I need to do and write it down on sticky (“post-it”) notes. So for instance if I’m working on scenes 1-5 on a project, I’ll number them and write things like “lipsync,” “rough animation” and “fx” after them (whatever’s needed).
As I work through the project, I get to cross each of those steps off the list. Feels so good! Here’s a photo of the one I used to finish up my “Saving Christmas” animated short.
“calendar” (whenever needed)
Personally, I use google calendar but you can use anything really (ical, outlook, etc). I have different calendars for different tasks like work, animation, podcast, blog, collab, etc. and each has a different color. Having separate calendars means that I can view only one topic at a time for a clean look and seeing all the different calendar colors at once also doubles as a visual representation of how overwhelmed I am! If there’s too much on the calendar, it’s time to shift some things around.
**optional “productivity apps”
Evernote, Any.do, Wunderlist
“Audit your day to know what you actually do”
We’re not talking finances. I say “audit” because “time is money” and we need to know how much time you actually spend doing what you do (whatever that is). You may feel like you don’t have enough hours in the day to get things done but don’t know where the time you do have is actually going. This clears that up. It’s about amassing information.
Honestly, you don’t even necessarily need to make any actionable changes to your day… simply knowing where your time goes is incredibly valuable to your state of mind and you might find yourself making changes without even planning it just because you’re more aware of time spent.
Carry a notebook and every time you change tasks, write down what you just did and what time it is. If you start by writing down what time you wake up, you’ll have a list of things you’ve done that day in order with a start and stop time so you know exactly how long you spent on it.
Don’t be too precious about getting everything right on the first day, so you can group things like “woke up, showered, made/ate breakfast” into one item. If you want to get more itemized later on you can. You’re not changing anything yet, you’re just taking notes on what you do… so keep it easy.
ANALYZE YOUR DAY
How you use your day is based on three things:
- the things you do
- the time you spend on them
- the energy you have for all of it
If you find that you just have too much stuff on your plate during the day, you may have unrealistic expectations… you’ll need to turn your focus on a couple things and drop the rest.
If you are spending too much time on small tasks or too little time on big ones, you may have a self-discipline problem… you’ll need to remove distractions and keep your self on task by working in short, intensely focused spurts (~30min increments)
If you find that you just have too little energy there is most likely a motivational issue there… you’ll need to be more introspective on what’s going on in your life right now and what it is that you actuallywant/need.
THINGS TO LOOK FOR...
- What starts your “lazy time?” Try shifting those trigger-moments to different parts of your day (for instance: checking twitter or youtube stats)
- How much “billable” time is actually in your day?
- What percentage of personal time makes up your day?
- Does the time spent “working” and that spent “relaxing” make sense given how much energy you have at the end of the day?
“Make your usual distractions more inconvenient”
You learned by auditing your day in step 2 what your distractions are. I bet it has something to do with a game or a social network… those are the odd-on favorites. I deleted the facebook app from my phone because I’m on the website making posts throughout the day anyway, having the additional distraction on my phone was unnecessary. If I want to visit the site on my phone I use the browser. It’s not as convenient, but that’s the point.
During the day, I keep the TV unplugged and have a nice sheet over it for the same reason. First of all, it actually looks kind of nice but it also just creates more of a barrier between me doing work and me sitting on the couch watching TV “taking a break” (since I found out that “taking a break” like that was more of a major event in my day than I wanted).
When I really need to get work done, I shut off the internet and silence my phone for a set time period (usually 1 hour).
The thing about social media (and even email) is that we tend to use it as a “productive distraction” where it feels like we’re getting things done but really we’re just responding to notifications or scrolling a feed to see if there’s anything we could like, comment on, or repost. It’s definitely beneficial to be on social media, and if you work “on” the internet it’s a must, but it’s a part of your day and not the crux of it. I check my email in the morning and in the evening. In the morning, I respond to only the most important, time-sensitive emails. In the evening I respond to everything else.
Take control over your time by limiting the temptation the distractions have over you.
“Take your work to a different environment”
Have you ever rearranged your bedroom and noticed that the next morning you work up early and refreshed for some reason? Changing up your surroundings can really do a lot to reinvigorate your day. If you have a laptop or drawing pad (depending on the kind of work you’re doing) you can take your work on the road to a:
- coffee shop
… you could even make smaller changes like:
- moving from the table to the couch
- working downstairs instead of upstairs
- standing vs sitting
Changing your environment doesn’t necessarily mean venue, you could change the lighting, background media, smells, whatever! When I’m trying to focus, I like to play a speed run of an old 8-bit game (without narration, very important) like Legend of Zelda or Metroid.
“Turn procrastination into an advantage”
There are two different types of procrastination: passive and active. Essentially they’re broken up like this:
- Passive Procrastination is running away from work… it’s bad
- Active Procrastination is choosing to not work even though you know what you have to do
Let’s say you find that you work more efficiently under pressure (like cramming for a test), procrastination is the lever you need to create that pressure.
But let’s also say that you find you can’t work under pressure and need to know exactly what you’re doing to perform. Procrastinating works well here too as long as you do it just enough to give yourself some breathing room to think about the project and prepare mentally so you can hit the ground running… and don’t over do it so you don’t have enough time to complete it.
This one goes last, obviously, because it’s all about knowing yourself. You need the data… you need the information… you need to know yourself in order to know how to motivate yourself because who’s better a circumventing limits you set for youself than YOU?!
After writing down everything it is I want to do and I’ve made my calendar of due dates (step 1), if it’s something that requires a bit more creativity than I can muster at the time I will do something else. I’ve already written it down, put it on my to-do list… it’s in the front of my mind. But by putting my focus elsewhere my brain is open to free-associate thoughts around that project and then *BANG* inspiration. I run to a notepad and write down whatever idea it is. The next time I sit down to work on that project I already have an idea of what I want to do which lowers the pressure and decreases the inertia I would’ve had to overcome otherwise.
It’s important to note that inspiration doesn’t NEED to come from a blank page... that’s a lazy self-trick. Saying that you can’t work on something because you’re not inspired to is a way to validate why you don’t want to put in the effort right now. If work absolutely needs to get done (as it often does), you can develop inspiration during the project after you’ve already put a bunch of nonsense down on that blank page. It’s all about opening doors.
And believe me when I tell you that I know all about procrastination and inspiration because after a 4 year hiatus I’m getting back to the VLOGs and my work on the Easter Bunny short and my inspiration couldn’t be higher!
NEED ENERGY? You can reinvigorate yourself with a “caffeine cat nap.” Drink a cup of coffee, set a timer for 15-20 min, lay down and rest your eyes/brain until the timer goes off. You will not fall asleep, but you’ll rest the muscles in your eyes and quiet your brain for a few moments while the caffeine works its way into your system (that sounds really druggy). When you get up, you’ll be more refreshed to finish your day. I usually do this around 2pm.
WHAT ARE YOUR PRODUCTIVITY TIPS? POST THEM IN THE COMMENTS BELOW
TL;DR Write down everything so you don’t have to remember everything, keep track of the time you spend during the day, remove distractions, change environments to kickstart your work, and procrastinate when necessary.
No good blog is complete without an "underrated" list, but that's not why I wrote this. Actually, there is a fascinating type of market forensics that comes into play after a film that was expected to perform well... doesn't.
Some movies that didn't perform well in theaters are considered classics today (Wizard of Oz, Willie Wonka, etc). SO many more movies performed well in theaters that are considered crap today (do I really need to list them?).
For a select few, there is a sad limbo designated for films that are great movies but are being held back by the metrics by which they're judged: critical rating or profit. And that’s the setup for this list…
You can also listen to just this 30 minute segment on SoundCloud
Disclaimer: I have to clarify something, because I know as well as anyone the nerd-rage this post could garner... I'm talking about the top five quality animated films that are also underrated. This is not a worst to best list or a "most overlooked" list because those are different. All of the movies below are outstanding and some are more underrated than others. But feel free to tell me what you think in the comments regardless!
To the list! Starting with...
"The Iron Giant" (1999)
Rotten Tomato Rating: 96%
Production Budget: $70 million
Domestic Total Gross: ~$23.2 million
This could’ve easily been number one on this list if it wasn’t for the recent re-release in theaters. Yes, the film has enjoyed cult status up to this point but I think it’s mainly the breakout success of Brad Bird as a “name” director that was the ultimate seal of financial approval this movie needed to even get that opportunity. It went underrated for a long time, and relative to its greatness it deserves to be on this list… if at least the end.
The story is a fantastic “boy and his dog” type mixed with a bit of “lovable/misunderstood alien” (think E.T, Batteries Not Included, even ALF). The screengrabs of the film really don’t sell what a masterpiece this is. The themes are mature but accessible, the humor is cute but layered and the animated acting is top-notch!
But it’s really the heart that gets you in this one. Everyone knows “that one part where he says Superman, OMG all the feels!” But seriously… it’s a very touching moment. This isn’t a review, however, I’m saving that for a RubberOnion Viewing Party (#ROVP) episode of the podcast down the line.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
First let me address what wasn’t the problem.
“2D” a dead/dying artform? False.
The Iron Giant opened in August 1999. Let’s rewind two months prior to that when Disney’s Tarzan opened to over $34mil and went on to rake in +$170mil. As a matter of fact, Mulan, Prince of Egypt and even Rugrats each made more that $100mil that same year!
Critics loved it, but people didn’t. False.
The audience exit polls held fantastic results, showing that 96-97% of the people would recommend.
Warner Brothers didn’t promote it. Maybe
At least it wasn’t for lack of trying. The studio spent around $30mil on marketing for the movie (tally that into the “production budget” above) and even arranged sneak previews on the Sunday before it opened. Although there is a case to be made about its effectiveness (or lack thereof).
Bad timing for the film’s release. Probably.
When 20th Century Fox set mid-May for the release of Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace(remember when that was anticipated?) every major studio except for Universal got out of the way and pushed their released back to July and August.
The Blair Witch Project was a runaway success in July that nobody could’ve predicted… fair enough. But the weekend that The Iron Giant opened it was competing against six movies that pulled in over $10mil. It opened against The Sixth Sense, The Thomas Crown Affair and Mystery Men, the previous weekend saw the opening of Deep Blue Sea and Runaway Bride and The Blair Witch Project was still in expanded run. That weekend was the second-highest Box Office ever at the time with ~$153.5 million… The Iron Giant had less than 4% of that. It got buried under all those movie releases like a young calf getting trampled by the wildebeests running away from the crocodile (Phantom Menace in this particular metaphor).
Also, let’s reflect a little on the fact that they were still ruining huge surprise moments in trailers in 1999 (the end of the trailer below)
“The Secret of NIMH” (1982)
Rotten Tomato Rating: 96%
Production Budget: ~$6.4 million
Domestic Total Gross: ~$14.7 million
The rights to the book Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH was offered to Disney in 1972… but they passed. In September 1979, Don Bluth and 10 other animators left Disney to start Don Bluth Productions (two of those 10 animators were co-founders Gary Goldman and John Pomeroy). It quickly formed a partnership with other Disney “Ex-Pats” (former executives) in Aurora Productions and Don Bluth and Goldman, Pomeroy and Bluth urged Aurora to snatch up the film rights to the NIMH book that Disney slept on seven years earlier. They did, and gave Don Bluth Productions $5.7mil to make the movie in only 30 months! For reference to what Disney was doing then, that’s a movie with less than 1/4 the budget in about 1/2 the time.
The animators wanted to use the more traditional methods that were going away in favor of faster, cost-cutting techniques that were becoming the norm at Disney (remember, this was the early ’80s). Among these was the insistence on using varying color palettes to achieve different lighting conditions instead of overlaying a tinted sheet on the characters representing the new light (i.e. blue for nighttime and yellow for bright sunlight). Mrs. Brisby (I encourage you to read about why the name was changed) had 46 different color palettes to her design to accommodate all the lighting environment changes she encounters in the film!
By avoiding these time-savers in favor of chasing quality, it meant that they had to work even harder on a production that was already under funded and had a very small window. To hopefully compensate for this extra effort and increased risk, they were offered a piece of the film’s profits – that was common for producers, directors and actors in live-action films but was never before offered to artists on an animated feature.
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
To start with, United Artists (UA) was the original distributor and was very happy with what the animators were putting together. They started press releases and tried to leverage the artistic skill:
“18 distinctive characters, over one million drawings (full animation, not limited), 2,000 lush backgrounds, [and] multi-plane animation cameras, producing depth and realism.” (link)
But then MGM bought UA and became MGM/UA… the new distributor. And these new MGM guys (pre-Turner days, mind you) wasn’t entirely confidend in NIMH. They basically didn’t do any promotion for the film and Aurora had to finance it themselves… you know, the company that was barely able to put up $6mil for the production of the entire movie. Not to rail on MGM but… lets. They started with a limited release on opening weekend in only 100 theaters and even its widest release was in only 700.
It also had some seriously stiff competition! It opened against E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Poltergeist,Rocky III, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Diner and Disney’s own Tron! Rough break.
But even with the limited release and a gauntlet of movies we look at as classics today, the only two movies to beat it (in the theaters it actually showed in) were E.T. and Diner. It would ultimately find some success on home video but it’s the “cult” status following that kept this film alive – but there are still those who forget of its existence and profound impact on our art-form and even the business surrounding it.
“The Black Cauldron” (1985)
Rotten Tomato Rating: 55%
Production Budget: N/A
Domestic Total Gross: ~$21.3 million
When’s the last time you saw a Disney animated feature aimed at teens… like legitimately aimed at actual teenagers, none of this “tweens” stuff. The Black Cauldron was the first Disney animated theatrical feature to get a PG rating. As a matter of fact, it’s actually the first animated film to use CGI!
The plot is about a boy who is tasked with a mission to destroy an object of terrible power, forged in darkness, that a dark lord wants for himself. Sound familiar? It’s basically Lord of the Rings. But in this story, the group who accompanies him on the quest are all completely unprepared and that vulnerability adds more to the threat. I have to mention that there is a princess in this movie as well making Eilonwy the only forgotten Disney princess. There’s also a pig who can induce hallucinogenic visions, so there’s that. But let’s talk villains!
The villain in this movie is actually never directly named but people call him The Horned King. He’s basically Skelator without the sense of humor. There’s nothing really relatable about him – no vulnerable moments like Jafar or Scar – he’s just an evil, undead king with no soul. And who voices the villain? John Hurt!
This was also the first Disney animated feature to not have any song numbers in it… that’s good or bad depending on who you are. But ultimately this movie is aimed at teenagers, has a bad-ass villain voiced by an excellent actor, is set in a world of sword & sorcery with a zombie army, dragons and the sets are all swamps and bogs and dungeons… and being the first PG animated film from Disney must’ve counted for something right?!
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
In short? Editing. Specifically Jeffery Katzenberg’s editing. During production of the film, there were some changes in Disney management. Katzenberg got a screening of the film and… yea he didn’t like it. It was too dark and he wanted at least 10 minutes taken out – the parts that were thought of as too scary. Joe and Roy Disney managed to cut 6 minutes, which they thought would eliminate the darker parts while still maintaining some continuity in the story. Katzenberg didn’t like that either.
Jeffery Katzenberg reportedly took the movie into an editing bay and started cutting it up, himself, ultimately taking out 12 minutes of film. What was left was kind of a mess. The villain’s grand finale was making a zombie army… take that out… and he’s basically just a guy with a horned helmet. Not the threat they were going for. What resulted from the cut was a movie that wasn’t quite suitable for kids and wasn’t cool enough for teens… and ultimately was a little sloppy (because of the harsh editing). It completely bombed at the Box Office, critics’ reviews were mixed, and supposedly parents walked out from the theaters who had brought there little ones to the movie… who were also crying. So… fail.
Now I don’t know this for sure, but maybe part of the reason that Disney decided to greenlight the film in the first place (which took 5 years to make) was because of Don Bluth’s walkout to produce his own animated feature aimed at a more mature audience (#4, above). Again, this is just speculation, but whether they wanted to compete directly with Bluth’s first film in order to crush the uprising, as they say, or just to get ahead of a potential market that might be created by Bluth’s NIMH, the decision was made somewhere and backtracked too far into production to make a positive difference on the outcome. It was a massive stutter-step that backfired and nearly shut Disney animation down for good.
“Treasure Planet” (2002)
Rotten Tomato Rating: 68%
Production Budget: $140 million
Domestic Total Gross: ~$109.6 million
Every once in a while there’s a movie that comes up in conversation where everyone involved is eithercultishly for or completely ambivalent about its existence: enter Treasure Planet. It’s a Sci-Fi adaptation of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island. It was directed, developed, and basically a passion project for Ron Clements & John Musker (Ron & John) who gave us The Little Mermaid and Aladdin. Ron actually pitched the idea in the same meeting in 1985 when he and John also pitched The Little Mermaid. Jeffery Katzenberg (there’s that name again) didn’t like the idea so it was scrapped.
The animation is beautiful. I’ve said many times that the first time I saw 3D animation that had the vibrancy and fluidity of expressions that I thought would bring in the next wave of excellence in “computer animation” was in 2010’s Tangled. But that’s because I hadn’t seen Treasure Planet’s B.E.N. yet.
It’s not like computer-modeled and hand-drawn animation hadn’t coexisted before (see #5, obviously), but this was a very successful merging in that B.E.N. had vibrant character animation, John Silver had his robotic harm (which was computer-modeled and “placed on” a hand-drawn character), and Disney used its Deep Canvas program which was created for Tarzan to let Ron & John work relatively traditionally with hand-drawn characters but have a free-flowing camera like Steven Spielberg or James Cameron.
The character designs are fantastic, the action is well staged, the music is top notch… you’ve got a recognizable story, a teenage protagonist, surfing in space, all perfectly blending the old and the new whether it be story, look, or animation techniques!
SO WHAT HAPPENED?
This one is a little harder to pin down.
- Pirates? No, I don’t think it’s because people didn’t like Pirate stories because the hugely successful Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out the very next year, and the writers even have credits on this movie. That could just be a special case of Johnny Depp + “zombie pirates” + theme park ride = OK I’ll buy a ticket and woah this is actually fun! So OK, pirates… maybe.
- Hand-Drawn Animation? No! There it is again – traditionalists on the internet won’t let the conspiracy theory die that Disney actually tanked the movie on purpose to kill the hand-drawn animation department in favor of the growing CG trend. This is ridiculous but I had to say that, yes, it’s a thing that people think and, no, I’m confident that didn’t happen. Well what about the audience, maybe they were just done with hand-drawn stuff in 2002. Mmmmaybe, but Lilo & Stitch was a hit and it came out the same year. Spirited Away won the Oscar. I’m going with no… it doesn’t add up.
- Stiff B.O. Competition: Maybe. This came out Thanksgiving weekend in the U.S. while Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and Disney’s own Santa Clause II were still in theaters. Even though it was in its 3rd week, the target audience of kids/teens knew what Harry Potter was… their parents knew what Treasure Island (the source material) was. But still, that couldn’t have been the only thing. Something else had to keep kids from getting their parents to buy tickets for a brand new movie in favor of ones that had been out for a bit or just not going at all… on a holiday weekend, no less.
- Animated Sci-Fi Epic: Yes, I think this is the problem. A lot of people today mistake this movie for one that came out two years earlier from Bluth Productions, Titan A.E. Now that movie could’ve also been on this list but I already had a Bluth movie (I know Black Cauldron andTreasure Planet are both Disney but what do you want from me, move on). Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within came out the next year and tanked as well… the one thing they all have in common is that they’re all animated Sci-Fi epic, Adventure movies. That is a very risky premise. Wall-E did it, but it also was more comedic and “human” than the three I just mentioned.
Yes the story isn’t as tight as it could be, and sure B.E.N. can get a little annoying at times – but I could say that about a lot of movies. It had some competition in theaters but it wasn’t anything that should’ve killed it so swiftly. Hand-drawn animation, while in the popular decline, still had weight to throw around as Lilo & Stitch and the previous year’s Spirited Away showed. It may have just been a time that kids didn’t want to see a more serious (as the trailers made it look, see below) animated Sci-Fi, Adventure film and instead preferred the likes of straight up comedy or fantasy (Harry Potter). Genres are a weird thing to play with and for the kids + marketing combo, comedy is almost always the key. If it’s not, you’ve got to be riding a wave of current fascination (like magic). Space pirates just happened to not be that wave.
Rotten Tomato Rating: 34%
Production Budget: $34 million
Domestic Total Gross: ~$54 million
Maaaaaaaaaaan you knew it was going to be something Turtle related but seriously, this movie has a lot going for it. For having a modest budget and not being one of the big CGI players in the industry, Imagi put together a great looking animated feature! The dynamic between the Turtles themselves are all great. Sure, Mikey and Donny take a back seat a bit, but everyone does have their moment… including Splinter, April and Casey.
The real stars though are Leonardo and Raphael. Their perspectives on life, family, the team, the city, and their forms of problem solving are all fully fleshed out. As far as character development, these two have fantastic arcs that really hit a high point with a showdown on a rooftop during a storm… what’s more comic book than that?! This isn’t just the most memorable moment of the film, it’s one of the most memorable moments in the franchise!
The voice cast was a nerds dream:
- Chris Evans (future Captain America) was Casey Jones
- Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy, herself) was April O’Neil
- Legendary actor Mako played Splinter
- Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus from The Matrix) was the narrator
- Patrick Stewart (Capt Picard, Professor X) played the villain (kinda… I’ll get to that in a bit)
- Veteran voice actors John DiMaggio (Bender) and Kevin Michael Richardson (current Shredder in Nickeleon’s Turtles series) played bad guys
- … even writer/director Kevin Smith played a bit part!
And can I just take a moment to praise the fact that the four Turtles, the stars of the film, are all voiced by legit voice-over artists and that so rarely happens (also, Mikey’s voiced by Mikey)!
- Leonardo – James Arnold Taylor
- Michelangelo – Mikey Kelley
- Donatello – Mitchell Whitfield
- Raphael – Nolan North
The makers of the film clearly tried to please everyone. They kept the humor without making it too kid like. The action scenes were more intense than any previous movie. Even the world is in a direct continuation from the live-action films which came before it… even the ooze canister has a crack in a strategic spot so you can’t see if it reads TGRI or TCRI – that is a level of fanboy dedication I can respect!
SO WHAT HAPPENED?!
In a word? Threat. More specifically, there wasn’t any.
Director Kevin Monroe wanted to go darker for the movie, closer to the source comic books. He pushed for a PG-13 but was granted PG. So what happens in that case is that you end up taking out too much “dark” to get that general rating that the more serious tone you’re going for gets diluted.
Everything with the Turtles is great! The family dynamic is fantastic. The story is well fleshed out and all the motivations are clearly understood. There’s humor and heart there. The villains just kind of… happen. And even at that, the main bad guy (voiced by Patrick Stewart, see I told you I’d get back to this) makes a good guy turn at the end. Karai is also an interesting character, in principle, but she doesn’t get much time to develop either so the tenuous allegiance that the Turtles strike up with her and the Foot clan is confusing (to anyone who didn’t read the comics or see the amazing 2003 cartoon).
Honestly, the plot is the part that confused people the most. The most common complaint I still hear is…
“Why’d they have to go all magic? Why were there monsters running around? Why did they have to collect them like Pokemon?”
Those are all completely valid questions. If I had to venture a guess, it’d be that after taking out anything sufficiently dark to act as an intriguing antagonist the gamble was that their family in-fighting and then make-up dynamic would be enough to carry the plot forward in an interesting way. To be fair, every Turtles film except for the first one (and arguably the second) suffers from the villain problem.
And lets be honest, this was pre-Nickelodeon buyout. This movie didn’t have the type of exposure needed to get people there in a big enough way… although it did open up #1 on opening weekend. But ultimately, it’s one of the best Turtles movies to grace the screen and if you watch it for anything, watch it for the Turtles themselves… they’re in top form!
WHAT WOULD YOUR TOP 5 UNDERRATED ANIMATED FILMS BE??
TL;DR The 2007 “TMNT” movie was loved by fans, looked great, and stayed true to the spirit andcanon of almost every Turtles incarnation, but it suffered from the “villain problem” and didn’t yet have the promotional might of Nickelodeon and Michael Bay behind the property to make it mainstream-relevant at the time.
2015-10-26 05:10:51 by rubberonion
You can listen to this entire blog post as a podcast right here on Newgrounds!
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#1 – What is “Copyright?”
The actual official definition goes like this…
Copyright is the exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material.
A simpler way to think about it is that Copyright gives the creator a monopoly on his/her creation for a certain amount of years, after which it enters the public domain where anyone is free to use it (or copy it) however they want.
Copyright law is even in the U.S. Constitution. Cool.
Right up front, I want to make sure we distinguish between copyright and plagiarism. Plagiarism is when someone steals an idea or expression, and passes it off as their own. You can’t copyright an idea because copyright only applies to “original works of authorship fixed in any tangible medium of expression, now known or later developed, from which they can be perceived, reproduced, or otherwise communicated, either directly or with the aid of a machine or device.”
Plagiarism is a matter of ethics. Copyright infringement is law.
The idea of copyright is this…
An original creative work is difficult to make (uh huh)
It’s difficult to make a living from (with you so far)
Creativity is relatively easy steal as most time’s it’s a simple as copying it (ooohhh “copy-right”… I get it now)
So by giving an artist a legal protection from their work being copied, the artist now has a certain amount of time to try and make as much money as (s)he can before it becomes legal for anyone to use/copy/distribute/perform it… because after that time limit, it enters the public domain.
#2 – What is the “Public Domain?”
The public domain is basically any art that isn’t owned. That stuff is free to use for any purpose: reimaginings, remixing or just straight up copying the whole thing. Most of it is just so old they seem like they’ve just always been there – like in the case of some books and music. Film is a different story and I’ll get to that after the bullets but here are some examples of works currently in the public domain.
- Books: The works of Shakespeare, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley and all the Brothers Grimm fairy tales.
- Music: Mozart, Brahms, Bach, Chopin, Mendelssohn (which is why nobody pays for the wedding march song) and Beethoven.
- Film: Wikipedia has a great tally of public domain films like Roger Corman’s Little Shop of Horrors and the Fleisher Superman cartoon serials. There are favorite examples like It’s a Wonderful Life which is actually partially under copyright (the script and the music) which became a Christmas classic almost exclusively because it got a lot of air time on TV since there were no rights to pay. There’s also a particular comedic irony that “Reefer Madness”lapsed into the public domain because of an “improper copyright notice.” Fun.
Public domain is public property and Copyright is private property.
The entire idea behind the public domain is that after a reasonable time where the artist can make money, his/her art should then be free for others to use, copy, alter, and/or build upon it. All creativity is built on something before it so a robust public domain is essential to the progression of creative public expression.
Let’s take, for example, Disney’s first feature length film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. That story by the Brothers Grimm was already in the public domain at the time so Walt Disney was free to use it… and alter it. Let’s not overlook the fact that the story had many alterations to make it more family friendly for the times (and even then, some thought it was too scary for children). The original story was just a jumping off point for Disney. The team still had to build a world, create an entire method for feature length animation production, and get people in the theater to actually see it (Grimm fairy tales had the benefit of having brand recognition before that was probably even a term).
#3 – And then came the United States Copyright Act of 1976
Remember when I said that copyright was protected for a “certain amount of years?” I was being vague up there on purpose. In the United States, that period of time used to be 14 years (which could be renewed for another 14, one time). It is now extended to 70 years after the author’s death. That’s due to many revisions to U.S. Copyright Law. One time in particular, a bunch of revisions happened all at once: that was in 1976. There’s a lot of heat around this Act and I’ll get to that a couple paragraphs down but I want to give a quick example of the types of problems that did actually need fixing.
The distributor of Night of the Living Dead changed the film’s title at the last minute before releasing it in 1968. They failed to include a proper copyright notice in the new titles and in accordance to the law at the time it went immediately into the public domain. File that under “whoops.” That law was revised with the United States Copyright Act of 1976, which allowed a mistake like that to be fixed within five years of publication. If you’re playing along, that’s about 3 years too late for Night of the Living Dead and its fate had been sealed. Which is why I can link the entire movie for you to watch while you read the rest of this article.
It’s more of an excuse to link one of the greatest horror movies ever made in an article on copyright which just happens to have been published in October than an actual cautionary tale, but whatever. I do have a point…
That revision to the law was helpful because it eliminated a silly loophole where the spirit of copyright law was being lost. Not only did is make sure that a mishandled filing could be corrected within 5 years,it also made Copyright automatic when a work is created!
A work is created when it is “fixed” in a copy or phonorecord for the first time.
That’s great! I mean, the last time the law had been addressed before that was in 1909 and there were so many technological advancements which had taken place (radio, TV, movies) that these had to be addressed.
Remember that extension to the “certain amount of time” I mentioned above? To refresh your memory, when copyright was first fixed in the United States the time limit for copyright holders was 28 years (14 year initial term, renewable once). As of 1975, the maximum copyright term was up to 56 years (28 initial, renewable once). Just to bring it down to Earth, pre-“Copyright Act of 1976,” works published in 1958 would have already entered the public domain as of January 1st, 2015. That means films likeVertigo, The Blob (1958), Attack of the 50 Foot Woman, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and books like The Once and Future King, Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s and a bunch more would’ve already been in the public domain! That link is from a page on Duke Law and this quote from it explains the situation of a restricted public domain perfectly:
“Imagine a digital Library of Alexandria containing all of the world’s books from 1958 and earlier, where, thanks to technology, you can search, link, annotate, copy and paste. (Google Books has brought us closer to this reality, but for copyrighted books where there is no separate agreement with the copyright holder, it only shows three short snippets, not the whole book.) You could use these books in your own stories—The Once and Future King was free to draw upon Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur (a compilation of King Arthur legends) because Malory’s work was in the public domain. One tale inspires another. That is how the public domain feeds creativity.”
“Consider the variety of films from 1958 that would have become available this year. Fans could share clips with friends or incorporate them into homages… Community theaters could show the full features. Libraries and archivists would be free to digitize and preserve them.”
The Copyright Act of 1976 also defined “work for hire” (see #4) and fair use (see #5). This is where we get into the good stuff.
#4 – “Work for Hire” and the Freelancer
“Work for hire” is mostly talking about employees. If you work at an animation studio and your boss tells you to animate a dancing Hippo, that’s “work for hire” and the boss or the company owns the copyright to the work you produce.
Freelancing is different. As a freelancer, the work done may be considered a work for hire only if all of the following conditions are met:
- the work must be either “a contribution to a collective work, a part of a motion picture or other audiovisual work, a translation, a supplementary work, a compilation, an instructional text, a test, answer material for a test, or an atlas”
- the work must be specially ordered or commissioned
- there must be a written agreement between the parties specifying that the work is a work made for hire by use of the phrase “work for hire” or “work made for hire.”
So if you have an email or a contract with the words “work for hire” in it… that’s not enough to define it as a legal work for hire and all rights to the work will remain with the creator (you, the freelance artist). Also, the agreement must be negotiated, though not necessarily signed, before the work begins. Retroactive work for hire isn’t allowed.
So what is the client buying then?
The copyright! But not always all of it. I know, it’s circular but stay with me. This get’s a little complicated so I’m going to list out a couple factors below.
An original creative work and the copyright to it are separate things.
This means that someone can commission a painting and own the original, but they haven’t bought the copyright. For freelance animators, the agreement is usually to purchase the copyright while you keep the originals.
Copyright can be itemized
Copyright to an animated short you create, for instance, can be split up by region, time, media, and even market. That means that you can strike a deal with a client that they get all rights to the HD MOV file you deliver to them for one year and are only to use it for advertising in New York (that’s a media, time, market and regional limit, respectively).
As a freelance animator, you are taking on significant risk going it alone with no guarantee of a stable income or benefits. The reason this works is that you have little to no overhead (that would include the “benefits” mentioned earlier that you don’t have) so your costs of production are lower. Because of that, you can provide more reasonable costs to clients. By itemizing the copyright you are lowering the cost to the client.
For instance, if the client can only pay for a commercial in their local area, they only have to pay you for the copyright to use the animation you created for them as a freelancer in that area (if their budget is super-low, then there are more restrictions like the amount of time they can use it). If their business takes off and they’re ready to expand to other areas, they now need to buy the copyright to use in other regions. By only selling the copyright that is needed for the project, a freelancer can work on much lower budgets while still retaining the opportunity of a more supportive pay-day down the line. And if that pay-day doesn’t come, they still own the rights to use it to promote themselves in the hopes of securing other work. That’s how freelancing works!
#5 – Fair Use
The common battle cry of the YouTuber: “It’s Fair Use!” Most of the time they probably have no idea what it means so let’s get through some bullet points right away.
It’s a doctrine that allows for limited use of copyrighted material without getting permission from the owner
This includes (but isn’t limited to) commentary, criticism, parody, news reporting, research, teaching
Even if the use of a copyrighted work is covered under fair use, that doesn’t prevent the copyright holder from raising a complaint or suing you
Fair use can only be proved in a court, meaning you have to be sued first
Those are the main things to keep in mind. The other thing I want to get out of the way right now is why fair use should even be a thing?
“Much of the unprecedented economic growth of the past ten years can actually be credited to the doctrine of fair use, as the Internet itself depends on the ability to use content in a limited and unlicenced manner.”
~Ed Black, President and CEO of CCIA
So it’s a good thing, in practice… but legally, what constitutes fair use can be tricky. First of all, fair use is a defense you use after you’ve already been taken to court… it doesn’t protect you from that happening in the first place. A judge will determine if fair use is a valid defense on a case by case basis so let’s look at what that decision takes into account.
A judge will determine if it’s fair use by deciding:
If you created something new vs just making a copy
The amount of the copyrighted material you’re using
If your work competes with the original – meaning that it affects the copyright holder’s ability to make money
If the resulting work is a criticism, parody or satire
FIRST: Let’s talk about creating vs copying. This is pretty clear but if you’re using the original work as a canvas or building material to make something which stands on its own, that would be creating: like using TMNT toy heads in the creation of a sculpture of Neptune. If you’re using the copyrighted work without any original artistic alterations: like using a YES album cover as the background in a space cartoon you’re making (unless it’s a parody, which I’ll get to in a bit)
SECOND: The amount of the original you use matters. It’s more about quality than quantity meaning that the amount is relative. For example, copying an entire 3 line haiku might be illegal while taking a paragraph from a book might not. There’s also something called de minimis (latin for “minimal things”) which came about in the sampling age of hip hop which is a doctrine (like fair use is a doctrine) which basically says if nobody could tell what the original was, then the use is so small it couldn’t possibly be copyright infringement. Basically it’s just a calculated risk, the more you use of the original the more likely it is to be copyright infringement.
THIRD: The whole point of copyright is to protect the original creator from people taking that work and competing with him/her. It’s all about the money – protecting a creator for a period of time where they can get that cash. If something you do, using any part of their original work, prevents them from making money off the original… that’s copyright infringement. For instance, if a trailer already exists for a film, cutting a new one yourself would basically act as a substitute for the original. However, certain kinds of market harm are OK… which perfectly dovetails intoooooo…
FORTH: A parody or negative review can affect the market value of the original work, and that’s allowed. Copyright alone doesn’t protect an original work against negative criticism. That is to say, if you make a bad movie… people are allowed to say exactly why it’s so bad and that criticism is considered, in itself, an original work. Take Honest Movie Trailers, for example. The resulting work is new and, in this case, a parody of the original… so it would be covered under a fair use defense. For honest criticism to exist, some copyrighted works need to be used it the presentation of that criticism. But what about parody? What about satire? As animators who create cartoon parodies and upload them to YouTube, that’s what you’re really here for right? I know my audience. Well that’s a delicate topic so I’m going to separate it from this section a bit.
(But first an example of parody that we did ourselves!)
#6 – Parody & Satire
What’s the difference between “parody” and “satire”… and does it matter? First, let’s look at the definitions
- Parodies are using a work in order to poke fun at or comment on the work itself.
- Satires are using a work to poke fun at or comment on something else.
The distinction is pretty necessary because while parodies need to use more of a copyrighted work to comment on the work it’s representing, satire is more broad. In the eyes of a court, a “satirist’s ideas are capable of expression without the use of the other particular work.” So here’s the weird thing… many people are worried about using or even referencing copyrighted work in a parody, but parodies are actually more protected by fair use than broad satire is! For instance
Parody: You might be able to show Miley Cyrus riding the wrecking ball from Bob the Builder if you’re parodying the seriousness of her song/video with the marketing to young children.
Satire: You probably wouldn’t be able to use the song and imagery in a wider satirical visual statement on the music industry as a whole.
Here’s a perfect example from real life. “An author mimicked the style of a Dr. Seuss book while retelling the facts of the O.J. Simpson murder trial in The Cat NOT in the Hat! A Parody by Dr. Juice.The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals determined that the book was a satire, not a parody, because the book did not poke fun at or ridicule Dr. Seuss. Instead, it merely used the Dr. Seuss characters and style to tell the story of the murder. (Dr. Seuss Enterprises, L.P. v. Penguin Books USA, Inc., 109 F.3d 1394 (9th Cir. 1997).)” –via nolo.com
The thing is, sometimes they overlap. Harry Partridges’ “Saturday Morning Watchmen” is a perfect example of a specific parody which also manages to be a satire on the concept of turning violent source material into kid’s cartoons. Weird Al Yankovic, Mad Magazine, and just about everything Robot Chicken does… they’re mostly parody with some satire thrown in for good measure. Let’s talk about Weird Al actually…
Weird Al Yankovic is known to “get permission” from the original artist before he puts out a parody song. Here’s the thing though, he doesn’t need to do that. What he does is covered under fair use by way of parody. He creates a new song which doesn’t infringe on the copyright holder’s ability to make money on the original… even though Weird Al is selling his parody. Making money on a parody you made of a copyrighted work is completely legal if your use of the original material is covered under fair use.
Which brings me to my last section…
#7 – Fan Art
You want the quick and dirty? Fan art is a copyright violation.
Weirdly, it’s the lack of parody that seems to make most fan art more vulnerable from a legal standpoint. But first let’s clarify what type of stuff we’re talking about. Fan art is a creative work using characters or settings whose copyright is owned by someone else.
Let’s talk about the words derivative and transformative.
A derivative work is an “expressive creation that includes major copyright-protected elements of an original, previously created first work.” The original copyright holder generally has the sole right to make derivative works, like translations, cinematic adaptations and musical arrangements.
Examples would be an English language version of Le Petit Prince or a movie version of a book (like Lord of the Rings)
A transformative work is not really a “thing” in that the term is used, but legally it’s just a derivative work which has been changed enough to be considered separate from the copyrighted original
Examples range everything from collages, paint-overs, chronologically arranged Grateful Dead posters and even thumbnails in a search engine… so it’s really up to the discretion of whichever judge is deciding.
- Comic Con “artist ally” commissions or prints of The Incredible Hulk
- Animated short showing a moving version of a Calvin & Hobbes comic strip
- Fan fiction describing what you think happened between the season 6 final and season 7 premiere of Parks & Recreation
Those would all be derivative works that aren’t transformative enough to be considered creatively new from the original and would fall under copyright infringement. Basically, if someone who didn’t know any better could look at a piece fan art and not know that it wasn’t “official” or “canon,” it’s probably illegal. Fan art can be protected under fair use (refer to the 4 criteria in the “fair use” section to refresh your memory), it just often isn’t.
So why is fan art allowed, then?
The word should probably be “tolerated” because the bottom line is that if a copyright holder isn’t threatened they usually won’t go out of their way to stop something. It’s not in the best interest of that person or company to get litigious over something that many times boils down to free marketing or a continued support of brand recognition.
Here’s a personal example: the fan art that fans of the RubberOnion Animation Podcast do would technically be copyright infringement… but I love it! It strengthens the bond I have with the audience, increases awareness of the show and my business name, and just straight-up looks cool (because you all are fantastic artists with a real sense of personal style). All that benefits me. But what happens when someone starts selling the art? How about if someone makes a fan animation off an audio clip from the podcast like Rob and I do? That becomes an entirely different matter because now that art is competing with my own in the same market (#3 in the considerations list in the “fair use” section above). I might be fine with it. I might not be. How would you feel?
That’s why this issue is so complicated because it’s always a case by case basis. A copyright holder may be totally fine with derivative fan art (like the Harry Potter Lexicon) until it starts to get sold and compete in the same market with the original (like the Harry Potter Lexicon bounded book).
To parody or not to parody? So like I said, a parody of a copyrighted work is more protected under fair use than a faithful and loving homage because it often covers 3 if not 4 of the fair use criteria. And the more you parody and comment on the original work, the more it’s protected with fair use under those terms. But the things which make a parody more likely to be protected under fair use are the same things which will usually upset the copyright holder. That’s the kind of thing that will inspire a copyright holder to order a Cease and Desist (C&D). So you have two choices…
Less Protection, Less Likely to Get C&D: Make fan art faithful to the original (which is less protected under fair use) in a loving way and hope that the copyright holder doesn’t get upset
More Protection, More Likely to Get C&D: Make a parody which directly comments on the original copyrighted material and be prepared to get a cease & desist order.
And let’s be clear about cease and desist notices… they’re an “and I really mean it” with official letterhead. It’s not a court order. What that letter is saying is that the copyright holder really doesn’t like what you did or how you’re promoting it and wants you to take it down. And if you think what you did is protected under fair use and you don’t comply with their request for you to take it down, they’re willing to let a court decide. That’s what a C&D is. Fight your battles carefully.
“Too long; Didn’t Read”
- All creative work is copyrighted by default.
- “Fair use” is allowed but often hard to prove in court so use at your own risk.
- Risk is usually proportional to the impact your content has on copyright holder (which is why fan art is usually unenforced).
- Parody is well protected under fair use, but again… court.
- Copyright holders cannot order a deletion of an online file without determining whether that posting reflected “fair use” of the copyrighted material.
- A Cease and Desist (C&D) notice is more like an official request. It says “take that down or else” – where the “or else” is suing you.
- If a lawyer responds to a C&D letter, the sender will usually drop the matter… but if they don’t, get ready for court.
Don't forget to check out my new animation made with Rob Yulfo, "What Was Wrong with MAN OF STEEL?" based of a discussion on the podcast right here on Newgrounds!
The 1980s were a time of excessive everything: excessive clothing patterns, colors, money (wealth or lack thereof), hair volume, glitter for some reason...
One particular excess was the "toy cartoon" (or "30 minute commercial" if you prefer). All "your" favorites fall into this category: He-Man, GI Joe, My Little Pony, Care Bears, Transformers, and even my beloved Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
By the time you get to the end of the '80s, companies had turned to video games for "cartoon worthy content." Shows like Captain N: The Game Master and Legend of Zelda (obligatory "well excuuussssee me, Princess!") fall into this category.
For some reason, when the 1990s roll around that content search had extended to turning '80s movies into kids cartoons - and many times those movies were rated R! And that's the setup for this list...
You can also listen to just this 20 minute segment on SoundCloud
To the list! Starting with...
"Conan: The Adventurer" (1992)
Ran for: 65 episodes
Source R-Rated Movie: "Conan the Barbarian" (1982)
You know what was popular? He-Man and the Master of the Universe. Kids loved that cartoon. It had monsters, sorcery, an annoying sidekick, a prince who turned into an unbeatable superhero who rode a freaking tiger for crying out loud! At the time, the toyline was a must-have. If you had “Castle Grayskull” with its inexplicable array of stickers, you were king of the block!
This seems like a deviation, but it’s not. There was a rumor in the ’80s that He-Man was based off the Conan the Barbarian (see? it’s coming around). The rumor continued that the cartoon/toy character was altered a bit in appearance, background and name in order to avoid being associated with the very adult themed apparent source material. Roger Sweet, the designer at Mattel who created He-Man, denied the rumor since he designed the character a couple years before the movie… but Mattel was still sued over copyright infringement. They won. He-Man lived on.
The point being that a little less than 10 years later, executives in a room somewhere went (and I’m paraphrasing/making this all up) “Hey! Remember how He-Man was kind of Conan the Barbarian for kids? Let’s actually do that. Making the same thing a second time with even less originality is ALWAYS a good idea!” That was pretty glib, but you get the point. Here’s a quick list of scenes that were in the original movie taken directly from IMDB:
- A sex scene involving a witch becomes violent when she turns into a demonic creature. She is then thrown into a fire only to return as a ghostly ball of light and flies around chaotically.
- A camel is punched in the head and falls unconscious to the ground.
- In an orgy chamber, disfigured men are seen hacking human corpses and dismembering the bodies in preparation for a cannibalistic feast.
- A man is hacked numerous times in the neck until he is decapitated; blood sprays from his wounds graphically. The man’s head is thrown at a crowd of onlookers and rolls down a long flight of stairs.
If that doesn’t scream “kids cartoon” I don’t know what does. Now I’ll grant you that Conan the Barbarian was a literary character created by Robert E. Howard but even that incarnation was also an incredibly violent thief. You don’t get a title like “the Barbarian” for nothing (setting aside for the moment“Thundarr the Barbarian” which was arguably a successful second take at a Conan-like character which met some success).
The Conan the Adventurer cartoon was actually brought to us by the great Sunbow Entertainment who brought such shows as: GI Joe, Transformers, Jem, My Little Pony ‘n Friends and The Tick! As a matter of fact, out of that lineup, only The Tick and Conan the Adventurer were original productions (not original properties). At least one of them was successful.
The way they got around the violence was by having the Serpent Men (they were the main baddies, part of a cult) banished at the touch of Conan’s sword, not killed mercilessly. It should be noted that this series spawned another called “Conan and the Young Warriors” but the poor thing only ran 13 episodes.
Check out the opening theme song which has the narrator jump into to tell the plot of the show and then jump back out again almost random.
"Swamp Thing" (1991)
Ran for: Only 5 episodes
Source R-Rated Movie: "Swamp Thing" (1982) by Wes Craven (technically PG but see below)
Swamp Thing was created at DC Comics in 1971 by writer/artist team Len Wein and Berni Wrightson. It’s basically a vegetable monster defending the environment… violently. Even though it was originally a horror comic, it wasn’t until Alan Moore took over writing the character inSaga of the Swamp Thing (in 1982) that he truly earned the “horror” title. As a matter of fact, that run pushed the boundaries of the Comics Code Authority (remember when that was a thing?) so much that eventually they just left that mark off the book’s cover. Innocents would die horribly and would never be avenged; the villains got it even worse.
The same year as Alan Moore took over the horror comic duties, the movie “Swamp Thing” by horror icon Wes Craven was released. Now I have to clarify something, this is a bit of a stretch to the titular Top 5 list. It’s not technically rated R. BUT… keep in mind two things. This was at a timebefore the PG-13 rating even existed, so the line between PG and R was thinner and it actually was going to be rated R before some gratuitous nudity and sexual content (remember, vegetable monster) was removed – although it remained in the international cut. There was still violence in the movie like a guy’s head getting squeezed until blood comes out but cutting the nudie-bits was enough to get the rating to an R… leave the violence in-tact. By the time the sequel was made in 1989 it got a rating of PG-13, because that existed then.
The cartoon is an absolutely shameless plug for an unsuccessful toy line. It’s basically a miniseries. There was also a video game attempted for the NES and GameBoy by THQ. I say “attempted” because… THQ. The “Swamp Thing” cartoon was another in a long list of environmentally conscious shows like “Captain Planet” and our #2 cartoon series on this list.
Check out the “Swamp Thing” cartoon intro which is basically a butchered version of Chip Taylor’s “Wild Thing” with the inventive lyrics:
You are amazing!
You fight everything....
Ran for: 12 episodes
Source R-Rated Movie: "RoboCop" (1987)
What could I possibly say about this movie turned cartoon series that hasn’t been said already. Let’s start with this, the movie was almost slapped with an X rating! Let that sink in for a second. In 1987 an R-Rated movie came out which was almost rated X. The very next year in 1988 a kids’ cartoon premiered featuring the titular character. “What’s the big deal? He’s just a robot cop” you might say. Well firstly… he’s not a robot cop. He’s part man, part machine, all cop. Let’s run through some of the violence scenes depicted in this movie, shall we? Again, taken directly from IMDB:
- A man crashes into a tank full of toxic waste. When he comes out, his skin is melting away. A car then drives into him and he explodes.
- A swarm of men have their genitals shot off. Very graphic. It is zoomed in on.
- [A] man is shot so extensively, his body appears to be practically ripped to shreds while he screams in agony. Still he survives this attack and one of the men finishes him with a single shot to his head. The back of his skull is visibly blown out.
Let me further paint the picture for those who haven’t seen it. This movie was resubmitted to the MPAA eight times to receive an R-rating instead of an X-rating. Want another? Since the cartoon and toy line was released the year after this original wannabe X-rated movie, “RoboCop 2” came out after the cartoon and toys and it was even more violent and over-the-top!
Even after all this, the idea of a kids-friendly RoboCop franchise persisted with a new cartoon series in 1998 titled “RoboCop: Alpha Commando” which lasted 40 episodes. It was basically Inspector Gadget.
"Toxic Crusaders" (1990)
Ran for: 13 episodes
Source R-Rated Movie: "The Toxic Avenger" (1984) by Troma Entertainment (technically unrated)
Oh man. Where do I start with this one? First off… “The Toxic Avenger” is a Troma film. If you don’t know what a Troma film is, I’ll let this selection from this movie’s parental guide area of IMDB give you a hint:
- A child on a bike is hit by a car, the car then backs over his head, crushing it completely.
- [A man’s] arm is ripped off and is put in a pizza oven.
- [A man] has a milkshake blender stuck down his throat.
- [A man’s] hands are deep fried.
- The top of a drug dealer’s head is crushed with a set of weights.
Again, I don’t know what was in the boardroom air the day a cartoon based on this movie was cooked up but someone was clearly watching Captain Planet and said “we need another environmentally conscious series, but let’s not have him be an attractive, blue man… he should be an ugly, green monster who cooks people” (see earlier pizza oven, blender and deep fryer “murder gags” – there’s something up with this movie and food preparation).
There’s really not much more to say. Making a Troma film, any Troma film into a kids cartoon seems irresponsible if for no other reason than the risk of the kid going to the rental store and seeing a whole movie (wow!) on Toxie, and renting it to see that lovable scamp from the cartoon I… oh… that was me. And then I watched more Troma films. And I turned out fine. I may be rethinking the point of this list. Whatever… on to number one!
"Highlander: The Animated Series" (1994)
Ran for: 40 episodes
Source R-Rated Movie: "Highlander" (1986)
I know. The source movie here is not nearly as violent as others on this list but let me explain. I thought much longer about this topic than you might think is appropriate for content like this but I did. My reasoning here is about the plot… the driving narrative of the story chosen to continue from the source movie into the cartoon. You probably all know about the movie “Highlander.” It’s about immortals who gains another’s power by decapitating them, with the ultimate goal being the ambiguous “prize” when there’s only one left… becaaaaaause…
OK so that’s the plot of the movie. What about the plot of the cartoon? Taken directly from the “Plot” section of the Wikipedia page:
The story unfolds on post-apocalyptic Earth, after a meteorite collision nearly wipes out all human civilization after setting off nuclear weapons. Following this catastrophe, Connor MacLeod (the protagonist of the original film) and the otherImmortals forswear the Game of fighting each other until only one Immortal remains to win the Prize…
But one Immortal, Kortan, refuses to swear the oath, he still seeks the Prize and now wishes to dominate the world. Connor challenges Kortan to a duel and is defeated and killed, as any Immortal who breaks the oath is destined to die. However, with Connor’s death comes the prophecy of the rise of a new Immortal, unbound by the oath, who will defeat Kortan… [who] establishes an empire controlling most of the planet, which he rules from his fortress Mogonda.
700 years later, a Highland youth named Quentin is killed trying to defend his clan, the Dundee, from Kortan’s slavers. He is the prophesied Immortal and returns to life. His dying mother reveals his true identity to be Quentin MacLeod from clan MacLeod, “The Last of the MacLeods”.
…it wasn’t uncommon for minor characters to die, and while Quentin took other Immortals’ power and knowledge without also taking their lives, Kortan still did it the old way, by beheading them.
That. Is the plot. For a children’s cartoon show. Quick recap:
- Post-apocalyptic Earth following meteorite and nuclear annihilation (a bit overkill, don’t you think?)
- Bad guy takes over the world for 700 years by beheading his enemies, who won’t fight back because of an oath they took… to protect humanity
- Good guy finds out he’s the prophesied one by dying and reviving only to have his mother immediately die in his arms
- Beheadings are the driving force behind the antagonists’ power, and therefore the source of the main conflict of the show
Let’s go back through the others on this list and what their driving plot points were. We had…
#5 “Conan: The Adventurer” searched the land for a way to cure his family of a sickness and battled a cult of serpent men by banishing them to another dimension
#4 “Swamp Thing” is a man turned into a vegetable creature who protects the swamp land and other natural areas
#3 “RoboCop” is a Cyborg cop with cool gadgets who fights crime
#2 “Toxic Crusaders” are a group of mutant superheroes who fight crime and those who do harm to the environment
Nowhere in any of those does the plot demand a certain level of beheaditude in order to progress the narrative. And that is why “Highlander: The Animated Series” is the number one choice on RubberOnion’s Top 5 Cartoons Based on R-Rated Movies.
Don't forget to check out my new animation made with Rob Yulfo, "What Was Wrong with MAN OF STEEL?" based of a discussion on the podcast right here on Newgrounds!
What would YOUR top 5 cartoons based on R-Rated movies be?
TL;DR If you can't have the plot without referring to decapitation, you might not be making a kids' show.
In October 2013 I started a weekly podcast and asked my friends Rob Yulfo and Pat Ryan to be co-hosts. It's an animation podcast, usually about 1.5hrs made up of discussions around stories from that week, but sometimes we tell stories, give tips and advice, do interviews and give reviews, and interact with the listeners.
I'm a professional freelance animator. Rob's a hobbyist animator who freelances on the side. Pat is not in animation, so he gives his perspective outisde "the bubble" we can all get too wrapped up in. When Rob and I would hang out in NYC with other animators, it wasn't exactly polite... but it was always entertaining! We joke, make fun, swear, argue, tell stories... that's what I wanted the podcast to be. And that's what it is.
Episode 75 is the first one to go up on the Audio Portal thanks to the heads-up from a few of you fans out there (and I really appreciate it... reminds me how great Newgrounds has been to me) and they will continue to go up weekly.
We hope you enjoy it, interact, and support in any way you want. I'm very active on my FACEBOOK page where I ask for stories to the Rapid Fire segment (usually on fridays). You can also find us on twitter.
Stephen Brooks (me) @RubberOnion
Rob Yulfo @RobYulfo
Pat Ryan @thebadpatryan
Rob and I also take clips from the podcast an animate them from time to time. I've put the ones we have up on Newgrounds as well and both went front page and got daily 3rd and feature respectively so thanks for all the support!! The links are below. See you on the Audio Portal!
I made a new animation! And thanks so much for the Daily 1st!! **EDIT**... and thanks for the FRONT PAGE! I haven't been Front Paged since my first video "Three's Horrible" back in 2008... makes me happy (=
It's been a long road to getting back to Indie animation. Those of you who know (or will soon) I freelance full-time and it's been a very... interesting year. Ultimately, the frustration just pushed me to a breaking point. I had been spending so long doing work for everyone but myself I almost forgot why I started animating in the first place. This latest short may not be my greatest work, but it was fun as hell to work on.
A joke my wife and I were laughing about. A soundtrack that was fun to put together. Art that was beyond nostalgic for me. Including my best friends as voice actors. and finally getting to include one of the many many voicemails my best friend leaves me all the time. Seriously, that voicemail song was not planned at all... he leaves them all the time.
This is the season of Thanksgiving and I couldn't be more thankful for how things have turned out recently. Having this short make it to Daily 1st was a great surprise and all your comments have really picked up my mood. Not to get all sappy over making a stupid nostalgic cartoon parody with a cartoon sex joke... but I feel good. I'm going on vacation now. I'll be back in a week. And then it's back to animating!!
Ok so I've been away for a while... a long-ass while. 2009 was a pretty crazy year trying to come back after it seemed like every single artistic project I was being commissioned for lost all balls and went into lock-down for fear of the global economy collapsing into a brilliant, but deadly, black hole of poor.
But you know what?! 2010 has been great! My freelance projects have been the best kind, the ones you can't talk about (them's the highest payin's ones's). While that's great for me professionally and economically, my personal projects have been taking longer to complete since most of my days are locked up and when I DO find time to work on something, it can't be too long or momentum will run out before I get a chance to really get anywhere. That's where these "microshorts" are coming from...
I've been noticing that people are not so happy with how short they are. That's a fair criticism and it's really not my place to say if it is or isn't anyway... I create content and happily put it out there for people to consume and I welcome critiques and comments; I don't, however, want people to feel cheated when they click on a link with my artist title to it and only see a 10-20 second one-joke clip.
The original idea was that after I released "Three's Horrible: Part I" in 2008 in the Halloween Collection and I got some great comments, I was completely gone in 2009. 2010, for all the work I was getting, was starting to look the same way and I came up with the idea of WHILE I was working on a larger personal project I would do 2 things:
1 -- I would produce a Video Blog series to show people what I actually go through when I'm creating an animated short from start to finish... concept, dialog, sound fx and music, right through the final animation
2 -- I would produce so called "microshorts" which would be at a length I could reasonably start and finish in between freelance projects (this happened to be about 10-20 seconds long) that would give people a little joke, a little something to smile at, and at the end of which I would merge together into a longer short which I could release with my "real" animated short that I will have been working on in tandem (the one with the Video Blogs).
This, I thought, would put enough varied content out there while I was doing freelance projects I couldn't talk about and working one a personal project that wouldn't be done for months that people who cared would be happy to see what I was doing.
I'm now thinking that this plan might be backfiring if my name is starting to become synonymous with "microcontent." Maybe it would help if I could show my VLOGs on here but they're 10 minutes each and... well... videos. But check them out if your interested anyway: http://rubberonion.blogspot.com/search /label/VLOG
So here's where you come in: I would really like to hear what YOU think about what I'm doing. Are the microshorts too short to be enjoyable? Are they not worth producing at all? I'm always trying to grow as a creator and I think Newgrounds, for all the things I hear from other people about getting "bad criticism", is a great place to find out what people REALLY think about your work.
Thanks in advance, and no matter what my next content piece turns out to be from this learning experience... I hope I'll see you there!
As my first news post on Newgrounds I'm not entirely sure what to write because if you're reading this you already know my history on this site... it just started.
I posted "Three's Horrible" as my first submission here for Halloween 08 and it's been doing pretty well so far so all that have supported it and me by proxy -- thank you! My love of the great early horror movie monsters, movies, and their lore... as well as all the myths and legends behind not just the creatures but also the people who played them gave me the idea to create "Three's Horrible".
A lot of thought went into it before I ever put pencil to paper and the over all plot for the next few episodes is already fleshed out. There was some hesitation as to whether or not it would strike a chord with enough people to justify continuing with the series but decided to put my faith in it and tack on the "part I" after "the end" for my first submission here. I'm happy to say that because of the great reception it's been given I can completely justify continuing the series. I look forward to showing you more with these characters and why I decided to start this series in the first place.