If we’re being honest, that great superstar of Chinese myth and legend known as the Monkey King is basically a superhero. Well now, none other than DC Comics have taken that thought quite literally and given us The Monkey Prince — a new continuing series, which is part of their celebration of Asian-American creators. “Introducing the newest hero in the DCU, the great sage, equal to the heavens, better than his predecessor the legendary Monkey King, even better than the Justice League — and definitely the Teen Titans — (actually, all the heroes combined), everyone put your hands together for…the Monkey Prince! Marcus Sun moves around a lot because his adoptive parents are freelance henchpeople, so this month he finds himself as the new kid at Gotham City High School, where a mysterious man with pig features asks Marcus to walk through a water curtain to reveal himself as who Marcus really is…someone who has adventured through The Journey to the West, can transform into 72 different formations, can clone himself using his hairs, and is called… the Monkey Prince!” Written by Gene Luen Yang and illustrated by Bernard Chang, it’s out now.
I kept plugging it quietly in the background all throughout 2015 and early 2016 (and you guys thought I only covered Zootopia that year). I mean, what if 2016 had been a year where we had six wide release, fully anthropomorphic world movies ranging in genre from buddy cop, to martial arts, to backstage musical, to crime caper, to space opera, and also Rock Dog?
As it ended up, we got, by my count, one great movie, one good movie, one movie that was kind of meh, one movie that turned out to not exist, one terrible movie and also Rock Dog.
If you were around in 1961, you may have seen an obscure animated feature titled Alakazam the Great, about three friendly monsters – Son Goku (monkey), Sir Quigley Brokenbottom (Pigsy), and Sandy – escorting Prince Amat from China to India.
This was part of the first wave of Japanese animated films, known as anime, to enter the United States. The other two features in that wave were Panda and the Magic Serpent and Magic Boy. They were box-office failures at the time, and because of this the anime film genre is still fighting to enter the American theatrical market.
Alakazam the Great was also America’s first cinematic introduction to the ancient Chinese story Journey to the West or Monkey King, as it is better know in America. This legend is over a thousand years old in the oral form. It was written into a novel, probably by the scholar Wu Cheng’en in the 16th century. The first Oriental animated feature, the Chinese Princess Iron Fan (1940), is an adaptation of part of Journey to the West. Alakazam the Great, more specifically, is a movie adaptation of Osamu Tezuka’s 1952-59 My Son Goku manga version of Journey to the West.
Kubo and the Two Strings is a movie that managed to keep its furry aspects under Flayrah's radar until its first trailer began appearing before more obviously furry movies like Kung Fu Panda 3 and Zootopia. Turns out the movie from stop motion specialists LAIKA was keeping a samurai sword-wielding snow monkey voiced by Charlize Theron hidden from us. A second trailer has just been released, showing off the aforementioned monkey, as well as LAIKA's trademark virtuoso use of stop motion.
It was filmed at the Imaginarium, the digital motion capture studio set up by Andy Serkis and Jonathan Cavendish in London. Is this the first of many realistic anthropomorphic mo-cap music videos that we can see in the future?
Whee! We’re bringing you announcements from Cartoon Brew of lots of international animated theatrical features that will probably never come to the U.S. This time it’s a French movie, variously Evolution Man, or, How I Ate My Father or Animal Kingdom: Let’s Go Ape, that is being released theatrically in Britain this month.
Is it anthropomorphic? Surely, if you consider pre-homo sapiens primates to be animals. Otherwise? Hard to say from this trailer (which is one of two), but there are at least lots of animals presented in a manner that furry fans should enjoy.
Toonbox Entertainment (the folks who last year brought us The Nut Job) are starting to look as if they have a particular interest in furry characters. They’re hard at work on The Nut Job 2, but in the interim comes the announcement of Spark, a space adventure film currently in production and scheduled for release in 2016. Here’s what we got from ComingSoon.net: “Spark follows a teenage monkey Spark, voiced by Jace Norman (Nickelodeon’s Henry Danger), and his friends Vix, a battle-ready fox voiced by Jessica Biel, and Chunk, a tech-savvy warthog, as they embark on a mission to take back the besieged planet Bana from the power-mad General Zhong. Spark’s dangerous odyssey leads him to the farthest reaches of the universe, and to the secret of his true identity, with characters like the comically forgetful nanny robot Bananny, voiced by Susan Sarandon, and the noble, self-sacrificing Queen, voiced by Hilary Swank by his side.” Spark is being directed by Aaron Woodley. The film already has an official web site and also its own Facebook page.
Life is a scary adventure on board Space Base 8. At least from the point of view of Cargo, the base’s resident Rocketship Crash Test Monkey. Cargo, along with a menagerie of aliens and robots, are the “stars” (that’s a joke) of Space Base 8, an on-line comic strip created and illustrated by David Scott Smith. Check out the Space Base 8 web site to see the latest comic and find out about picking up the first compilation book, Blast Off! It’s available as an e-book, in print, and as a special “artist’s edition” which includes a free personalized sketch.
This is direct from an article on Cartoon Brew: “Mexican animation firm Ánima Estudios, producer of the hit 2011 Mexican film Top Cat: The Movie, has released a trailer for its next feature Guardianes de Oz ([Guardians of Oz] retitled Wicked Flying Monkeys for English audiences). The film is set to premiere in Mexico on April 10, 2015. Directed by Alberto Mar (Top Cat: The Movie), the film has an original story by Mexico-born director Jorge Gutierrez, who helmed the recent Reel FX feature The Book of Life. Veteran American television writers Doug Langdale and Evan Gore are credited for the final script along with Gutierrez. Taking place in L. Frank Baum’s Oz universe, the film follows Ozzy, a young flying monkey who rebels against his boss, the wicked witch Evilene, and reaches out to the “Guardians of Oz”—the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man—who have been put under a spell by the witch.” The article also has a link to the trailer itself. It’s easy to see the connection between this and The Book of Life when you look at the character designs!
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.
“Jerome Lu was born in Mountain View and raised in the Bay Area by a family of wild monkeys. Even when he was a small chimp, they could see that he believed every crayon in the box had magical powers, and he would transform blank pages into colorful, fantastic worlds filled with monkeys, ninjas, robots and all his craziest dreams. His wild monkey relations soon recognized his artistic talent and nurtured it with a diet of Skittles and Corn Nuts. They made sure his art education included Saturday morning cartoons and ABC After School Specials. Now that Jerome has grown up to be a big monkey, they are quite proud that his childhood creativity has never diminished. In fact, it has grown, and he is working on his biggest art project to date: Constructing a 20-story ultimate monkey ninja robot.” Got all that? It’s all come together at Hyperactive Monkey, Jerome Lu’s web site of crazy colorful artwork, books, t-shirts, animation, and a whole lot more.
One of the lesser-known but much-beloved series by comic book great Jack Kirby returns as Marvel Comics collects Devil Dinosaur in a new trade paperback this May. “The adventures of a boy and his dinosaur! At the dawn of human evolution, during a time when primitive man co-existed with the dinosaurs that dominated the Earth, a unique friendship is born – a friendship that may be the only thing that can save mankind! Meet Moon Boy and his Tyrannosaurus pal – the red-skinned Devil Dinosaur – as they face off against giant spiders, enormous ants, and rampaging dinosaurs of all shapes and sizes!” Find out more at the Previews page. Devil Dinosaur: The Complete Collection brings together issues #1 – 9 of the original series.
On January 18, the 130-minute Indian animated feature Chhota Bheem and the Throne of Bali came to five Big Cinemas theaters in the U.S.:
- Peachtree Theatre, 6135 Peachtree Parkway, Norcross, Georgia 30092 (Atlanta)
- Golf Glen Stadium, 9180 West Niles Road, Niles, Illinois 60714 (Chicago)
- Dos Lagos Stadium, 2710 Lakeshore Drive, Corona, California 92883 (Los Angeles-San Diego)
- Movie City 8, 1655 Oak Tree Road, Edison, New Jersey 08820 (NYC)
- Big Cinemas Fremont 7, 39160 Paseo Padre Parkway, Fremont, California 94538 (San Francisco)
The notice does not say how long it is playing at each, but probably for one week, so you should have time to see it if you hurry. The news also does not say whether it is dubbed or subtitled in English; it was dubbed in Hindi for its Indian theatrical release last year.
Jed Henry of Provo, Utah is a big fan of Japanese wood block artwork — so much so that he’s joined up with on-line efforts to preserve and encourage the craft, which has suffered in Japan of late. Now he’s taken things up a notch or two and created Edo Superstar, a new animated game that incorporates the wood block style. In it we meet Masaru, a headstrong young Japanese monkey who quits the shadowy world of ninja warriors to become a fighting hero in the light of day, working his way toward the capital city in his quest for glory. Edo Superstar is being developed both as a computer game and as a smart phone app. Jed Henry and artist Dave Bull have set up a Kickstarter campaign to finance the project, and the perks for various levels of contribution include various t-shirts and art print sets. The Kickstarter page also includes several animated video previews of the game.