Welcome to the first Digging Up Positivity of 2023! Of course we start off with a bunch of charities, animation news, and our guest of this month is a staple from the virtual furry scene: BioGodz, we will discuss his new projects and how he got into the wonderful world of virtual reality!
But first things first, lets hop into the charities:
Right on time! A couple of years ago we told you about a new animated TV series headed to the Disney Channel in 2023 — and now here we are. Animation World Network has this news: “Disney-Branded Television announced that Kiff, their nutty new animated buddy-comedy about optimistic squirrel Kiff and her chill bunny bestie Barry, will premiere Friday, March 10, on Disney Channel and Wednesday, March 15, on Disney+. Kimiko Glenn (Orange Is the New Black) stars in the titular role of Kiff, whose thirst for life takes her on countless adventures through their city alongside Barry, voiced by H. Michael Croner (Craig of the Creek). From creators and executive producers Lucy Heavens and Nic Smal, the series follows Kiff and Barry as they navigate school, relationships and their often-eccentric community in Table Town, a world where animals and magical oddballs tackle day-to-day life together.” We’ll see it all this spring!
Cartoon Brew recently pointed us at a new upcoming animated film called Leo, being created for Netflix by Adam Sandler and his production company. “Netflix describes the film as ‘a coming-of-age animated musical comedy about the last year of elementary school – as seen through the eyes of a class pet. Jaded 74-year-old lizard Leo has been stuck in the same Florida classroom for decades with his terrarium-mate turtle. When he learns he only has one year left to live, he plans to escape to experience life on the outside, but instead gets caught up in the problems of his anxious students – including an impossibly mean substitute teacher. It ends up being the strangest but most rewarding bucket list ever…’ Leo’s animation is being produced by Netflix Animation and Animal Logic (The Lego Movie, DC League of Super-Pets)”. Look for it streaming on November 22nd.
The results of the eighth once in a decade Sight and Sound "Greatest Films of All Time" poll were released last year, which kind of puts my list in its place. The number one movie there was Jeanne Dielman, 23, quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles; haven't seen that one yet. Catchy title, though! Hey, my top pick for 2017 did make top 100 (in a five way tie for last)! Well, let's see how influential my picks for this year are in 10 years for the next poll.
So, this is a year end top ten list of my picks for favorite movies of the year. Pretty simple premise, and I've written what counts and what doesn't before, and this is the internet, so I can just link to older lists if you want the nitty gritty details. I don't need to rehash them. Though Flayrah is a furry site, this is not a furry list. However, I will pick out my favorite furry movie of the year, which was Turning Red this year, as well as a Cutest Vixen Award, just for fun. This year's prestigious CVA goes to Diane Foxington, a.k.a. the Crimson Paw, in The Bad Guys. It was an overall pretty good year for movies, so much that I actually feel like giving away a few honorable mentions, listed here in no particular order other than alphabetical; Beast, Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, Everything Everywhere All at Once, Three Thousand Years of Longing and The Woman King. Also, shoutout to Prey, which was streaming exclusive, and which I didn't consider for the list, but was worth a shoutout anyway.
Well, let's get to the list proper. The film's title and posters link to IMDB or a Flayrah review for more information than the short blurb here could give you. Enjoy!
2023 has started off, but before we get too far in I wanted to take a look back on the short animations that I think are worth your time to look at from 2022. As there are quite a bit of items in the recommended list on the Ursa Major site, I decided to go through and watch them and curate them into 11 items I think do what they do really well and are well worth consideration for nomination.
The videos here are all short, only one of them breaks the 20 minute mark. The reviews will contain spoilers so be sure to watch the embedded feature prior to reading my thoughts on them if you would like to experience them for yourself.
Be sure to take some time and enjoy the hard work these artists put into these works. Also check out the other items in the recommended list if you have time as there are some interesting items that I thought were good, but there are too many to write about extensively.
Before Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, even. How about DreamWorks Animation's new studio bumper? It's a bit ostentatious, even a bit overly pleased with itself. Maybe goes on a little long. But, then again, what studio bumper doesn't, nowadays? But, being a celebration of DreamWorks past triumphs, it's interesting to note what franchises were chosen to be spotlighted.
Right out the gate, the Bad Guys are getting quite a vote of confidence, despite being the new guys with one movie under their belts. So I think it's safe to say we're getting a sequel. Also for furries, the Kung Fu Panda series is featured, and we already know that's got a fourth movie coming. The How To Train Your Dragon series is also represented by Toothless, despite the fact that the last movie came to a very decisive story end. It's one of the more acclaimed franchises of DreamWorks, so it has to show up, and even if there are no more movies, smaller screen spinoffs are still happening. There are also appearances by the Trolls and Boss Baby franchises, but they aren't furry, so who cares?
There are some notable absences, however. Despite featuring four movies, the Madagascar franchise is ignored. Spirit, you know, the one with the horse? That somehow managed two movies, but is apparently not an ongoing concern. And obviously, the Shrek franchise is prominently featured, but the star of the movie we're about to actually start reviewing is not. Maybe he'll show up in the bumper for movies he's not the star of?
This is a bit complex, so we’ll let Animation World Network explain it: “Nickelodeon has released a handful of first look images for Bossy Bear, the new animated preschool series from husband-and-wife team David Horvath and Sun-Min Kim (UglyDolls, Tea Time Cats), based on the Korean / U.S. pop culture blend book series by Horvath. The series follows the misadventures of unlikely besties Bossy Bear (an overly enthusiastic extrovert) and Turtle (a thoughtful introvert) in their Koreatown-inspired city of Pleasantburg.” Look for the show on Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. in 2023. [And have a happy and safe New Year’s Eve!]
This episode of Digging Up Positivity: Furry conventions with charities and fundraisers from all around the world, animal news and a lovely interview with Piti Yindee; an amazing animator form Thailand who worked on the Cuphead DLC, the award winning animated short Fossils and much more.
My Father's Dragon is a 2D animated children's fantasy film, the latest from Cartoon Saloon, directed by Nora Twomey. The studio kept an amazingly tight lid on this 99-minute production, with its trailer only becoming available five weeks before the film was released on Netflix. I'm very glad this project didn't get cancelled, what with partially being made during the Covid pandemic.
The main character is a quick-thinking boy named Elmer. After he shows kindness to Whoopi Goldberg-- I mean, to a talking cat, the magical neko tells him there's an island where he can find a dragon. And if Elmer can bring the dragon back, its novelty will save him and his single mom from financial ruin! So off Elmer goes, equipped only with a bunch of random stuff he happens to have in his bag. The situation on the island is difficult, and Elmer isn't the only one who needs the dragon.
How furry is it? Sssort of. Only in the sense of having animals that can talk; none of them are physically anthropomorphic, aside from a few primate species. A diplomatic gorilla is the closest this film gets to having an antagonist. As for the dragon, he has a very... unique design, because he's based on illustrations from a 1948 children's book that inspired this film. Despite getting top billing, the dragon is not especially interesting.
What this film does well is provide a sense of adventure and danger. Drawn in Cartoon Saloon's signature geometric artstyle with excellent use of color, it continues the common theme of their other films, a child protagonist trying to persevere against a situation that looms over them. Story-wise, it's a little uneven. It's primarily for younger children.
I wouldn't call it a must-see, unless you're a fan of Cartoon Saloon's work; personally I would much more highly recommend Wolfwalkers (exclusively on Apple TV+). My Father's Dragon scores 87% with critics and 77% from audiences on Rotten Tomatoes. I'm with the audience, although I'd give it a 68% "Enh, maybe". Check it out if you're interested though!
As for being a book adaptation... That's something to rant about. Major spoilers ahead.
It's been six years since Zootopia was released to theaters. In that time, a lot has happened. America has managed the change to two different presidents. Across the pond in the UK, where the movie was known as Zootropolis, they've managed to beat that turnover rate for heads of state with four new prime ministers, plus a new monarch. That's kind of prescient for a movie where the titular city burns through two mayors over the course of its plot.
In all that time, Zootopia has managed to remain popular with furries. It also, perhaps a bit surprisingly, has managed to remain popular with non-furries. It is one of only three Disney Animated Studio movies to break into the billion dollar club (the other two are both Frozen). It also managed critical and industry awards accolades to go along with the commercial success, giving it the hat trick of movie success criteria. So, a lot of people would probably not be averse to a sequel, right?
Well, how about a series of animated shorts released over half a decade later with little fanfare to a streaming service, instead?
In honor of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, Netflix recently premiered an interesting new animated TV series for young viewers. “Spirit Rangers explores the beauty of nature through the eyes and adventures of half-Chumash, half-Cowlitz siblings Kodi, Summer, and Eddy Skycedar, who all share a secret: They are ‘Spirit Rangers’ who help protect the land and spirits of the national park they call home in California. Taking on new perspectives as a grizzly bear cub, red-tailed hawk, and spunky turtle, the Skycedar kids face every challenge — from helping a lost thunderbird to waking a sleepy sun — with courage and compassion.” The series is created by Karissa Valencia, herself a member of the Samala Chumash tribe. Animation World Network has an extensive article.
Perlimps (trailer) is a Brazilian 2D animated film, the second from animator and director Alê Abreu. After seeing his earlier film, Boy and the World (O Menino e o Mundo, 2013), I really wanted to see what his next project would be like. I wasn't expecting to wait nine years!
Abreu's films definitely do not adhere to typical Hollywood narrative structures, veering towards the artsy without being self-indulgent. Boy and the World, for example, has no dialog at all, and conveys things entirely with sounds and visuals. (As well as being an abstract statement about growing up and the poverty that comes from the exploitation of labor.)
Perlimps is way more approachable in comparison. On the surface, judging by its trailer, I thought it was going to be another film about the devastation of the environment by humans. It does some of that, sure, but that's just surface stuff.
The rest of the film's surface is all in the trailer. Claé (an orange wolf) and Bruô (a blue bear) are secret agents from the opposing kingdoms of the Sun and the Moon, trying to find the Perlimps, mysterious entities who can help save the forest from the encroachment of man.
Between the time I went to see DC League of Super-Pets and writing this, things got weird at Warner Bros. Two movies that were reportedly near completion were suddenly shelved. Most mainstream movie press outlets covered this as "What does this mean for this group of comic book superhero movies?". Even Flayrah's Newsbyte on the subject only mentioned Batgirl, despite the fact that Scoob! Holiday Haunt, an actual movie featuring anthropomorphic animals, rather than just one superhero in a pseudo-fursuit, was also cancelled.
And that has some bearing on my thoughts on this movie. Warner Animation Group is looking like it could be in trouble. Even though it appears that the studio will survive in some capacity, people are going to lose jobs in this area. So, it doesn't feel like a good time to take a look at their latest output, shrug, and say, "It was okay, I guess?"
DC League of Super-Pets was directed by Jared Stern and Sam Levine, and stars Dwayne Johnson as Krypto, Superman's superpowered pet dog. When the evil guinea pig Lulu (voiced by Kate McKinnon) manages to depower Krypto, he must lead a team of newly-empowered shelter pets in order to rescue his kidnapped master.
It was okay, I guess?
The story follows Sam, an extremely unlucky 18-year-old. After years in an orphanage and never being adopted, she moves into her first apartment. When she encounters a black cat, her luck suddenly changes, becoming good - and when it reverts to her previous bad luck, she follows the cat into the magical Land of Luck, the source of all luck in our world (both good and bad).
Most of the film revolves around Sam trying to regain luck - not for herself, but to help a younger girl at the orphanage - while a series of evasions and accidents escalate into circumstances that threaten the Land of Luck itself.
It's an ok film, with a really nice magical world, although the story has tons of holes if you think about it too much. Furry-wise, besides the cat, most of the characters are leprechauns. Here and there are some cartoony bunnies and pigs, plus a couple of other background creatures that you don't often see anthropomorphized (goats and root vegetables). And a large, pink, six-limbed dragoness, in charge of good luck. She's not in too many scenes, but she's definitely one of the highlights!
Interestingly, this film lacks a clear antagonist; most of the conflict is situational in nature. I wouldn't say this movie is a must-see, but it's fine to pass the time with, and I think it shows a lot of potential for what Skydance could make in the future, if they polish up their writing a bit.
(Spoilers and griping under this cut.)
Just today we learned of a new urban-fantasy miniseries streaming later this month: “Netflix has shared an official trailer and key art for the upcoming four-part animation/live-action hybrid series Lost Ollie, inspired by the book Ollie’s Odyssey by prolific author, illustrator, and Oscar-winning filmmaker William Joyce (The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore). All four parts of the limited series hit the streamer on August 24… The series is an epic adventure about a lost toy who braves the many dangers of childhood as he searches the countryside to reunite with the boy who lost him; and the story of the boy who lost more than a best friend… Shannon Tindle (Kubo and the Two Strings, Coraline) serves as creator, writer, and executive producer. The series was directed by Academy Award winner Peter Ramsey (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), who also serves as executive producer.” Animation World Network has more information and the official trailer. Interestingly, the last time Mr. Ramsey directed a William Joyce story, it was Rise of the Guardians.