Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Tale of two Cartoons


In sort of an odd coincidence, two new animated movies that I was interested in popped up on the same week. I picked up Turok: Son of Stone on Wednesday and Dragonlance: Dragons of Autumn Twilight on Friday. Watched the former last night and the latter this morning and enjoyed both.
Of the two I likedTurok best. Its story was more linear and action filled and the animation was better. And of course I was a fan of the Turok comic book when I was a kid. Still am, in fact. The new movie hews pretty closely to the original Gold key/Dell comic of the 50s rather than the updated Valiant version from the 90s, following the Native American Turok into the 'lost land' where dinosaurs still roam and cavemen with nasty tempers still lurk. There are a few differences, but for the most part the new Turok won't be unfamiliar to readers of the original series. Turok is the more bloody of the two cartoons, so I'd be wary watching it around smaller children.
Dragonlance is a pretty decent adaptation of the first novel in the long running D&D series. The plot hits all the major high points of the book, though obviously a lot of subplots and incidents had to be dropped in order to get the story into a movie of less than two hours. The character designs are very true to the original Larry Elmore conceptions of the various characters. The film unfortunately has the same weaknesses I remember from the novel, A: Too many protagonists, and B: too much stuff just thrown in. Within the first twenty minutes we see not only elves, dwarves, goblins, sorcerers, gods, and demi gods, but also centaurs, a unicorn, Pegasuses (Pegusi?) dragons and draconians. It was almost as if the writers had tried to cram in every D&D creature they could just to hedge their bets in a plot that already included an adventuring party of a ranger, a dwarf, a knight, a priestess, two wizards, a halfling thief, and a couple of extra fighters. Jeez. Didn't want to leave anyone out, did we?
The animation in Dragonlance isn't as stylish as that of Turok and it has the somewhat disconcerting effect of all the dragons and draconians being CGI while all the rest of the characters are traditional cell animation, It works okay for the dragons but the draconian soldiers just look weird. The rest of the animation is about on a level with the Marvel X-Men cartoon of a few years back. Not bad, but nothing to write home about. Still, as Wizards of the Coast projects go, this one looks pretty good.
All and all, these were both fun cartoon movies. I'm glad to see animation being used to tell some fantasy stories, since it seems a natural medium for that sort of thing. Hopefully the new Conan: Red Nails animated feature will actually get finished. If not, the guys who did Turok could make a pretty mean Conan cartoon as well.

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