We’re mostly about anthropomorphic animals around here, obviously, but now and then it’s interesting to find a project about real-life non-humans and their adventures. Such is the case with Four-Fisted Tales: Animals In Combat, a new non-fiction graphic novel by Ben Towle. “In virtually every military conflict in recorded history animals have fought — and often died — alongside their human counterparts. While countless stories of the men and women who’ve served in the trenches, jungles, and deserts of the world’s battlefields have been told, Four-Fisted Tales: Animals in Combat shares the stories of the animals who fought alongside them. From Hannibal’s elephants in ancient Rome to mine-sniffing rats in Vietnam and everything in between, Four-Fisted Tales highlights the real-life contributions of these underappreciated animal warriors. Whether in active combat or simply as companions, these animals served and made their mark on history.” It’s available now from Dead Reckoning.
Fairly early on while watching this movie, I came to an epiphany: I really don't like Jerry.
Seriously, he's a jerk. I mean, it'd be one thing if he violently thrashed his onscreen partner, Tom, because, after all, Tom is a cat, and cats eat mice. It'd be self-defense. I don't hate the Road Runner when Wile E. Coyote gets squished yet again, even if do feel sorry for Wile. But Tom rarely seems to have any interest in eating Jerry. Neither is Jerry like Bugs Bunny, who doesn't go looking for trouble. In the old shorts, Jerry frequently attacks Tom first, without provocation.
Take, as an example, how Tom and Jerry meet in their latest movie, released this weekend. Tom is busking in New York City's Central Park, when Jerry rudely interrupts him. Now, Tom is not without his own flaws; he's pretending to be blind to attract more customers, which is not cool. But Jerry doesn't seem to be bothered by this; his beef with Tom is clearly that Tom is making money, and he's not. So, he tries to steal his crowd, and then, in a bout of inevitable slapstick violence, breaks Tom's keyboard, which is clearly important to Tom beyond just a means of money. I'm on Tom's side, here.
Well, anyway, Tom & Jerry is a movie about Tom and Jerry. Tom is a cat. Jerry is a mouse. They starred in a bunch of cartoon shorts together starting in 1940, meaning that 2020 was their 80th anniversary. This movie was supposed to commemorate that milestone, but, well, COVID-19. It's mostly a live-action film; only the animals are animated (it wasn't submitted for consideration in the Academy Awards' 2020 Best Animated Feature category, which it would've qualified for under the extended "awards year", which implies the filmmakers consider it live-action). Besides Tom and Jerry (who are basically mute, and charmingly credited as "Themselves"), the movie stars Chloë Grace Moretz and Michael Peña.
Mosley (trailer) is a 2019 computer-animated children's film that showed up on furry fandom's radar about six years ago as Beast of Burden. Written and directed by American animator Kirby Atkins, it was a labor of love that had been in various stages of development for over 15 years. The movie was finally brought to life thanks to a collaboration between animation studios in New Zealand and China. I enjoyed it!
The story takes place in an alternative, pre-industrialized Earth, that includes "thoriphants", an intelligent, quadrupedal, elephant-like species forced into servitude by mankind to do labor like horses and donkeys. Fully sentient and able to talk, Mosley, along with his pregnant mate Bera and his young son Rue, are the property of a disgruntled farmer. When Rue discovers a cave with drawings of bipedal, anthropomorphic thoriphants, Mosley must confront the possibility that the legendary tales of the "Uprights" might be true. Soon he'll be on a quest to find out.
World Environment Day was established by the United Nations General Assembly in 1972. It is on Sunday, June 5 in 2016. This year’s theme is: “fight against the illegal trade in wildlife”, with the slogan "Go Wild for Life”, and some search engines are getting on board:
Baidu’s India office will launch a new social campaign named “The Last Conversation” to raise awareness of wildlife depletion. The campaign will feature Baidu’s mascot, the “DU bear”, having a final conversation with different endangered animals through a series of posts on Facebook and Twitter, with the goal of urging people to avoid products that cause harm to wildlife. (Baidu India’s 31 May press release)
Baidu's campaign, which started June 1st on Facebook and Twitter, shows the ultra-cute DU bear interviewing critically-endangered species living in India, such as the Himalayan brown bear, as well as other popular species of lesser concern, such as the Bengal fox.
Can Illumination Entertainment produce anything besides more Despicable Me and Minions movies? The animation studio is aggressively proving that it can – with anthropomorphic animals. It has already announced The Secret Life of Pets for a July 8th, 2016 release. Now The Cartoon Brew website has announced that Illumination Entertainment will also release Sing on December 21st, just in time for Christmas.
Sing sounds roughly like a Muppet movie, or a cleaned-up Meet the Feebles, with an all-anthro animal cast. Buster Moon, a koala theatrical producer, is producing a vaudeville-style live show. The hopefuls trying to get a part include a mouse crooner, a timid elephant, a pig mother with too many piglet youngsters, a young gorilla trying to break free from his mob family, a punk-rock porcupine and more. The voice cast includes Matthew McConaughey, Seth MacFarlane, Tori Kelly, Reese Witherspoon, Taron Egerton, Scarlett Johanssen and John C. Reilly, among others.
Illumination promises that Sing will have 85 songs! Is that a record for any musical, much less a funny-animal one?
MIPCON is taking place in Europe, and that means there are several new animated TV series looking for distribution in, among many other places, North America. And of course many of them are more than a little bit anthropomorphic. One of the ones that is generating a lot of buzz is called Zafari, from Ink Global. This is from Animation World Network: “Zafari is the brainchild of David Dozoretz – an animation visionary who worked alongside George Lucas on the Star Wars prequels and also contributed to major movies such as Jurassic Park, Forrest Gump, Moulin Rouge, X-Men 3, J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek and Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. With a multi-million euro budget in place, this sumptuous animation tells the story of a group of animal friends who live together in Zafari – a land that’s home to a collection of unique inhabitants who have all been magically born with the skin of other animals. The series follows the adventures of Zoomba – a little elephant with zebra stripes – as he explores and makes sense of the world. Zafari concentrates on the themes of inclusivity and friendship, inspiring kids that everybody is unique in some way and that our differences should be celebrated.” Currently there isn’t a lot on the Zafari home page, but still if you go there you can see the proposed opening credits.
"Every now and again I sit back and wonder what it would be like if other animals could really fight back against the egregious violence to which we subject them in a wide variety of venues ranging from research laboratories and classrooms to zoos, circuses, rodeos, factory farms, and in their own homes in ours and in the wild. This thought experiment takes life in The Awareness and reflects their points of view, and it's clear they do not like what routinely and thoughtlessly happens to themselves, their families and their friends. By changing the playing field Gene Stone and Jon Doyle force us to reflect how we wantonly and selfishly abuse other animals and the price we would pay if they could truly fight back. This challenging book also asks us to reflect on the well-supported fact that we need other animals as much as they need us. It should help us rewild our hearts, expand our compassion footprint, and stop the reprehensible treatment that we mindlessly dole out." - Marc Bekoff, Professor Emeritus of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Colorado (quoted blurb)
Suspense/terror/horror stories in which all animals, or all of certain species, turn against mankind go back at least to Arthur Machen’s unreadable “The Terror” (1917). Probably the best-known is Daphne du Maurier’s “The Birds” (1952). I recently reviewed Steven Hammond's Rise of the Penguins (2012). In movies, the terror-animals have ranged from rats to all of the giant mutations like Them and Night of the Lepus.
How successful any of these are usually depends on two factors. The skill of the author (or the director) in building a mood of terror, and the plausibility of the reason given for the animals to turn against humanity. In The Awareness, both of these fail.
NYC, The Stone Press, March 2014, paperback $14.95 (ix + 221 [+3] pages), Kindle free.
I don’t know what’s going on, but wow!
Three years have passed since Season 1. As before, the main character is the mysterious Babar-esque elephant immigrant known as Michael Elizondo, with his recently made best friend, the reckless investigative reporter Hector McKeagh the beaver.
Season 2 continues the elaborate comic-art “crime noir” mystery set in an early 20th-century steampunk version of New York City populated with humans, anthropomorphic animals and flying-saucer aliens.
Translation by Anna Provitola, Los Angeles, Humanoids, Inc., January 2014, hardcover $39.95 (358 [+ 1] pages).
Straight from the folks at Animation Scoop: “Gnosis Moving Pictures CEO Darius A. Kamali and Whisper Pictures CEO George Merkert announced today that the companies are partnering on the animated feature film Tusk: Hannibal’s Favorite Elephant. The project, which was co-written and will be directed by Whisper Pictures’ Oscar-winning Chief Creative Officer Tim McGovern (Tron, Total Recall, As Good as it Gets and currently, Sin City 2), is a family-friendly epic adventure that tells the story of legendary military strategist Hannibal and his favorite elephant Surus, as they seek justice from the Romans. The project, set in 218 B.C., follows Surus and Hannibal as they lead an army of men and 37 African elephants over the Alps, and the deep connection that develops between a man and animal bound by shared hope and common loss. ” Really now. No word yet on a projected release date, but keep your ears spread.
Image Comics have announced that the popular first hardcover volume of Richard Starkings’ popular Elephantmen comic book collection will soon be back in print — now in a new Revised and Expanded edition called Wounded Animals. It includes the original “Issue Zero” (with art by Ladronn), a sketch section, a new introduction, and more. Extreme noir science fiction with uplifted animals fighting against and alongside humans for world domination. Hey, the creators insist that it’s not Furry. Check it out and decide for yourself. The new edition (collecting issues 0 – 7) comes back to shelves on May 1st.
Have you ever heard of The Legend of Tembo? It was a new animation feature, the first from a new CGI studio in Port St. Lucie, Florida, Tradition Studios, created by another new company, Digital Domain, to be finished and released during 2014.
In 2009, Digital Domain Media Group received incentive grants worth nearly $70 million from the state and Port St. Lucie to build an approximately 120,000-square-foot, $40 million digital production studio in Tradition. The studio is expected to be complete in December. (2011 press release)
I mean …
Jeff “Bone” Smith, in his Foreword, expresses it more elegantly, but I don’t think that he has any more idea than I do of what’s going on in these 300 awesome pages.
District 14 is an intoxicating brew of early twentieth century Americana, a world filled with immigrants, gangsters, and heroes. It’s like a dream mash-up of Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, noir and gangster films, as well as 10 cent comic books from the ‘40s … oh, and toss in Babar the Elephant for good measure (the authors are French, after all). (p. 4)
Um, yeah. And with aliens in flying saucers, a phony human superhero, gun-toting tadpoles and their frog crime boss, several anthro-animal underworld gangs at cross purposes, a crime-fighting goose newspaper editor and his fearless beaver reporter, various characters with unexplained psychic powers, some extortionists who are dubious good guys (after they beat the s--- out of you and you pay for their protection, they genuinely protect you), the Babaresque main character who has deep, dark secrets, and … lots more. Definitely noir. VERY noir!
Foreword by Jeff Smith. [Translation by Natacha Ruck & Ken Grobe]
Los Angeles, Humanoids, Inc., February 2013, hardcover $39.95 (300 [+ 4] pgs.)
There’s no way we could describe the new graphic novel District 14 any better than the publisher, Humanoids Inc., did in Previews magalog: “Follow Michael the elephant as he arrives to the city known as District 14, a labyrinthine metropolis where humans, animals and aliens all co-exist. A unique anthropomorphic mystery with an intricate plot and a fantastic cast of characters, this incredible French series is finally making its way across the Atlantic.” It’s written by Pierre Gabus and illustrated in black & white by Romuald Reutimann, and it’s coming out in hardcover this January.
The Cartoon Brew has posted Melbourne & Sydney animation studio Rubber House’s music video of musician Gotye’s (Wouter De Backer) piece “Seven Hours with a Backseat Driver”, directed by Rubber House’s Ivan Dixon and Greg Sharp, with character design by Dixon, Sharp, and Marlo Meekins, and additional animation by staffers Neil Sanders, Gavin Mouldey, Alex Grigg, Peter Lowey and Jérémy Pires.
Rubber House’s description of the video reveals that the elephant is a girl. Who would know? Lotsa more anthropomorphic animals, too.
Word has come out of Florida a few days ago that Digital Domain are closing down their new animation studio, Tradition, effective immediately, and will instead focus their California and Vancouver, Canada studios on movie special effects. Tradition was an attempt by Digital Domain (a well-known special effects house created by Stan Winston, Scott Ross, and director James Cameron) to follow in the steps of another FX house, Sony Pictureworks, into the realm of animated features (as Sony did successfully with Open Season, Surf’s Up, and other films). Now, 300 people have been let go in Florida, and — from a furry fan perspective, perhaps another sad thing — work has stopped on The Legend of Tembo, Tradition’s first film, which would have followed the adventures of a young elephant. Cartoon Brew have been following this story closely, so check it out — but be prepared for some harsh words.