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Strangers and Aliens: Science Fiction & Fantasy from a Christian Perspective » Podcast » Dreamworks Animation Retrospective – SA221

Dreamworks Animation Retrospective – SA221

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Taking a trip down memory lane, the S&A gang walk through the catalogue of Dreamworks’ animated films, from Prince of Egypt to today!

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Ben Avery is a storyteller. He uses comic books, podcasts, puppets or whatever else he can get his hands on to tell those stories.

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One Response to "Dreamworks Animation Retrospective – SA221"

  1. avatar Allan Reini says:

    Excellent retrospective on a somewhat mediocre studio filmography. It is apparent, from my opening statement, that I agree mostly with Ben. (Although I am completely in Camp Evan regarding Prince of Egypt–C’mon Ben, dust it off and watch it again! It will be worth your time. Interesting note: To avoid the very “God Problem” in the burning bush scene that Ben was referring to, they actually recorded a mix of ALL the actors voices to portray God, but then realized they had to bring one to the front, and chose Kilmer’s. That explains why it sounds so wispy and effect driven. Truth be told, just like Evan, I kinda like the final product.)

    But on to Dreamworks, in General.
    This is going to get long, but as you guys were talking, I was reminded of a Blog post I wrote way back in 2006.
    So I looked it up, and I feel like it still sums up my thoughts on the “Dreamworks Dilemma.” pretty well.
    Here is the pasted text:

    In Praise of all things Pixar
    One of the frightening aspects of Netflix is that it allows us to rent a film we will probably hate, just to prove our deepest fears and give us something to Blog about.

    This week, we rented “Madagascar”.

    What is it about DreamWorks that makes their animated features seem so…smarmy?

    Whenever my family catches the latest Pixar release, we usually leave the theater feeling upbeat, entertained, and even a little thoughtful.

    If we subject ourselves to fare from DreamWorks, we end up feeling let down, worn-out, and just a little bit used.

    Why is this? How can two studios working with similar technology, with access to the same talent pool, come out with such completely different levels of quality?

    I think it comes down to a question of Attitude.

    With Pixar, it’s always about the story.
    With Dreamworks, it’s always about the stars.

    Compare the cast list of, say, “Finding Nemo” (Not Pixar’s Best Film, but a good example of why my son calls them the “No-Losers” Studio…) with the list from “Shark Tale” (One of the worst pieces of self-indulgent tripe I have ever vomited through.)

    Finding Nemo: (Pixar)

    MARLIN – Albert Brooks
    DORY – Ellen DeGeneres
    GILL – Willem Dafoe
    NEMO – Alexander Gould
    BRUCE – Barry Humphries
    BLOAT – Brad Garrett
    CRUSH – Andrew Stanton
    SHELDON – Erik Per Sullivan
    FISH SCHOOL – John Ratzenberger

    Not exactly no-names…But we don’t jump out of our seat and say, “Hey! That’s Willem Dafoe doing that voice!” In the movie, he’s just, “Gill.”

    Shark Tale: (DreamWorks)

    OSCAR – Will Smith
    LOLA – Angelina Jolie (Aaaaaargh!)
    ANGIE – Renee Zellweger
    LENNY – Jack Black
    DON LINO – Robert De Nir0
    LUCA – Martin Scorsese
    Katie “Current” – Katie Couric (PLEASE! Just kill me now.)

    See the difference? Pixar spends about three years, writing, boarding, & even pre-editing. Then, finally, they cast the voice actors to match the roles, famous or not.

    Dreamworks grabs a bunch of snobbish, Hollywood elite and spends about a week throwing together a two-bit story line around whatever animal-manifestation of the stars’ personae they can come up with. (“I know! I know! Let’s make Robert De Niro a Mafia Shark!”)

    Then, to make it worse, they all appear with Katie Nut-Job on the Today show to say,”Hee-hee…look at us! We made a CARTOON! Isn’t that just SOooooo Cute?”

    Here’s more evidence:

    The Incredibles: (Best Pixar film…EVER.)

    BOB PARR/MR. INCREDIBLE – Craig T. Nelson
    HELEN PARR/ELASTIGIRL – Holly Hunter
    LUCIUS BEST/FROZONE – Samuel L. Jackson
    BUDDY PINE/SYNDROME – Jason Lee
    DASHIELL PARR (DASH) – Spencer Fox
    VIOLET PARR – Sarah Vowell
    EDNA MODE – Brad Bird
    UNDERMINER – John Ratzenberger

    Until last night, my son didn’t even know that Samuel L. Jackson played Frozone. That’s how good the movie was.

    Madagascar: (Uhhhh….DreamWorks)

    ALEX THE LION – Ben Stiller
    MARTY THE ZEBRA – Chris Rock
    GLORIA THE HIPPO – Jada Pinkett-Smith
    MELMAN THE GIRAFFE – David Schwimmer (…as Ross Gellar)
    MORT – Andy Richter
    KING JULIEN – Sacha Baron Cohen
    MAURICE – Cedric the Entertainer

    Once again, the film just seems thrown together to give the actors, (not even the characters) something to do.

    Oops, and there’s Pinkett-Smith this time, again on the Today Show, with Katie slobbering all over her…
    “Oh, Jada, (Tee-hee) You’re just SO thin and beautiful…Was is Hard for you to play…(Chuckle, snort) a…a… a HIPPO?”

    (The entire today crew breaks down in an orgiastic display of in-group back slapping.)

    Which brings us around to the issue of promotion.

    Pixar: Cute, clever set-up shorts of the Characters in the MOVIE.

    Dreamworks: Shots of the STARS with Headphones on.

    Yes. I GET it already, Will. You’re in the studio, doing voice-over for a freakish looking fish, that they had to make look JUST LIKE YOU so I wouldn’t miss the fact that you made a STINKIN” CARTOON!

    OK, catch my breath. This was supposed to be about “Madagascar”

    The Penguins were good. There. I said it…

    …and I didn’t even recognize the voices who played them.

    Bottom line…
    Pixar sets out above all to make Great Stories into Great Films.
    Their goal is to entertain us.
    DreamWorks sets out to give Will Smith and company a cute, new toy to play with.
    Their goal is to entertain themselves.

    Take note, Bob Iger.

    Please don’t mess up the franchise.

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