Animated Distractions: Peridot, “An Effort to Understand”

The majority of Steven Universe spends time with only three gems — Garnet, Amethyst, and Pearl. As Steven’s trio of moms, they’ve taught Steven not just about being a Gem, but also about love, bravery, and loyalty. And Steven, in turn, has helped them understand friendship, persistence, and heartache — basically, helping them to be a little more human.

Because, despite their vibrant emotions (and tendency to break into song) the Crystal Gems are aliens, and they had to learn, and understand, and change things about themselves in order to exist on Earth.

Peridot RainEnter Peridot, the newest “Crystal Gem,” as she says with a kind of manic sarcasm. She’s been stranded on a planet she didn’t even want to come to, amongst people she’s been told are traitors to their kind. She has faith in her superiors and a deep belief in the system she was born and raised in, a system that denounces everything the Crystal Gems have ever done.

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Animated Distractions: Disney’s Zootopia

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I decided to totally forget how many children really do go to opening weekend Disney movies (all of them, every child) and popped into the newest flick, Zootopia. Once I managed to fine-tune my attention so I no longer noticed the loud mom over-explaining every single theme in the movie to her toddler, I became suddenly thrilled to realize I was watching a movie about prejudice and biases.

A couple of these biases are obvious before you even go into the movie. Judy Hops is a little bunny who’s told her whole life she can never be a cop, and even after she aces the academy she’s given no respect from her lion and elephant coworkers and her water buffalo boss. Then there’s Nick Wilde, a hustling fox who’s not really as shifty or untrustworthy as he seems.

Then, Zootopia gets a little more complicated.

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Animated Distractions: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Ah, Christmas season. That wonderful time of year where we gather together to watch TV holiday specials.

I have a lot of holiday favorites. Rudolph, forever and always — I still remember a year when a snow storm cut out the cable partway through, and my brother and I started losing our minds. Elf is a newer one that I feel the need to watch every year, and I’ll always get a little emotional when the Grinch’s heart grows two sizes.

One I know I always watched as a kid was the Peanuts special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, mostly because it was on every year, and like Rudolph, it was just something that you watched. I read the comics and watched the other cartoons as a kid, so I always liked this special, with the soft, iconic music, the sarcastic jokes, and the absurd seriousness of little kids. (“I never eat December snowflakes. I always wait until January.”)

Now as I get older and become less enamored of the Rudolph special (apparently the North Pole is just a collection of intolerant jerks) I appreciate A Charlie Brown Christmas even more. Compared to others, this show is soothing, again with the music, but also because it doesn’t fall into some of the trappings of a lot of other specials, like a big cheesy musical number, and other things that would ring too false today. (I recently found out that Charles Schultz prevented the network from adding a laugh track. Ugh.) But even more, I find I can really relate to the sentiment of the show, and with Charlie Brown’s attitude about Christmas.

Christmas is coming, but I’m not happy. I don’t feel the way I’m supposed to feel.

I just don’t understand Christmas, I guess. I like getting presents and sending Christmas cards and decorating trees and all that, but I’m still not happy. I always end up feeling depressed.

I’ve mentioned before some of my ongoing issues with anxiety, and the holidays, despite my love for the food and the atmosphere and the people I get to see, do a lot more to exacerbate my emotional problems than help them. Trying to fit in time with multiple friends, two different families, spending money, not getting nearly as much work done as I’d like (Anne Lamott says that “December is a month of Mondays,” and she is not joking around) all adds up to me feeling as if someone is lightly choking me for a few weeks. I’m anxious, a little depressed, and sometimes, like Charlie Brown, I struggle to feel the way I know I’m supposed to feel.

Recently I’ve learned how to better cope with my anxiety; I knit, or I exercise, or I separate myself so my brain can slow down. And I manage to enjoy loads of things about the holidays, like all of these annual specials. But, sometimes, those feelings that aren’t supposed to be associated with this time of year crop up, and that’s when, like Charlie Brown, I have to find something little and sweet to remind myself what this time of year is all about.

Animated Distractions: Disney’s Bambi

Before heading out on a Disney trip, I like to take tie to rewatch some Disney animated films. This gets me in the mood for the parks, and also reminds me of the characters I’ll see and the songs I’ll hear. One of the films I just watched is Bambi, an endeavor partly inspired by the recent PBS biography of Walt Disney. It’s one of the classic films, something he had a hand in, and, because of that, special.

I didn’t have a huge connection with this film as a kid. In part I’m sure this is because I was too obsessed with the films of my time: Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast, and, oh goodness, The Lion King. But also I think Bambi was almost too ingrained in popular culture by that point. I knew his mother died before I ever sat down to watch it, and the shock and sadness I felt at the moment came more from intention (I’m supposed to be sad here, right? Okay. Okay, got it. I am sad.) than from any real feeling. I certainly wasn’t sitting at the edge of the couch, gripping my knee caps, and suppressing a strangled cry like I was during a different animal-based Disney movie…

Watching it now, there are definitely things I appreciated about it. The animation is lovely, and I got the same delight out of young Bambi tangling up his gangly limbs when Thumper teaches him to hop as I did when I was little, and I didn’t remember the scene of Bambi running through the snowy woods looking for his mother being quite so eerie. There are some classic quotes from that are just associated with the Disney brand (“Man is in the forest.”), and the owl gave us the word twitterpated! And of course, there’s Flower. How can you not love flower?

Still, while I appreciate it, I don’t love Bambi. The story jolts for me, jumping from one season to the next, and aside from the fire and the escape from the hunters at the end, there’s not much in the way of danger or drama, to keep really grab me by the ears and make me pay attention. It’s a sleepy film, and while that’s not always bad, it doesn’t have much of an effect on me here.

I’ll likely see this movie again, watching parts of it when it appears on TV, or sitting with my hypothetical future children when they watch it — because anyone who grows into a Disney fan, or more broadly an animation fan, should see it. But it’s certainly not one of my favorite films.


What other Disney films should I watch? I recently played Lilo & Stitch (maybe I’ll write a post about that) and I’ve got a rented copy of Snow White waiting to be watched. And I have to watch Lion King before I go. I have to. But what else can I squeeze into 2 and 1/2 weeks?

Animated Distractions: Pixar’s Inside Out (It’s Okay to be Sad!)

(Not too many spoilers, but maybe a couple, depending on how you look at things.)

This weekend, my husband and I went to see the new movie, Inside Out. I’ve been looking forward to seeing it: it’s a Pixar film, for one, and I was really intrigued by the topic they touched on. Emotions, and how they affect and control what we do.

There were some great themes in the film: family, growing up, and realizing that emotions are more complex than just Disgust or Fear. Wonderful — I loved all of it. But there’s one point that was clearly going to be one of the bigger, more obvious ones, and I couldn’t believe it when I figured it out. A few minutes into the film, Joy, who’s narrating, introduces the other emotions and what they do: Anger makes sure things are fair, Fear keeps Rile safe, and so on. Then she gets to Sadness. “I don’t know what she does,” Joy says. And I knew — Joy didn’t understand Sadness. Through the course of the movie, Joy was going to learn about Sadness.

This was a movie telling kids that it’s okay to be sad.

Freaking out.

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Animated Distractions: Steven Universe

When Cartoon Network started showing commercials for a cartoon featuring three lady warriors last year, I was certainly intrigued. With unique character designs and an art style not really similar to anything else on television, I thought, This could be great! Then a pudgy kid talking about a cheeseburger backpack ruined it for me. Here we go–another cartoon with a stupid main male character overshadowing the others. I should have had no hope. But then, two things sat me down for the premiere. First was the showrunner, not only an ex-Adventure Time team member (who wrote the best songs* and storyboarded some of my favorite episodes), but also the first woman to create a Cartoon Network show, Rebecca Sugar. Number two? A single line Steven and his dad said in the longer preview: “If every pork chop were perfect…” “…we wouldn’t have hot dogs!”


So I sat through the premiere episodes, “Gem Glow” and “Laser Light Cannon”, and all the things that piqued my interest before hand — female characters, goofy lines — were there in wonderful full force and the scenes were beautiful, the backgrounds with a light, pinkish hue.. Every second fixed my eyes more firmly on the screen. And then, the Cookie Cat Rap happened.

Yeah. This is my kind of show.Read More »

Animated Distractions: I Love Cartoons

If you’ve been reading this blog for any amount of time, you’ve figured out that I like comics. Possibly you’ve also used your deductive prowess to realize: I also freaking love cartoons.

Bee and PuppycatI think the only time in my life when I wasn’t watching cartoons was somewhere in that awkward 11-13 year old stage, when I thought that I wasn’t supposed to anymore. I got over that pretty quickly. Then I found anime, and after that there was no hope really that most of my television viewing would be of the non-live action variety.

So, as an adult, I constantly watch animated shows. Not just the Adult Swim variety, but the things shown on the regular Cartoon Network/Nickelodeon blocks. And while I enjoy a great deal of what gets made even today, there are some that I’m simply obsessed with, those that I find so impressive that I’m thrilled with the creativity of people and inspired in my own work. Since cartoons have and always will influenced me, I feel like even on a blog about writing and books there’s room to talk about them.

I’ll ramble on specifically about different shows and movies in the future, but for now, here are some cartoons that are currently just making my life better:

  • Adventure Time. So weird, so crazy, yet so. Emotional.

    Adenture Time Marceline and Ice King
    This episode blew my mind.
  • Bee and Puppycat. You can really tell Natasha Allegri likes Sailor Moon. In a good way.
  • Steven Universe. Adorable kid saves the world with some kick-butt ladies. Yes.
  • Avatar: The Legend of Korra. Not as fantastic as the last series, but still, fantastic.
  • …and others that I won’t pass up if I happen to catch it, like Clarence, Wander Over Yonder, My Little Pony, and Gravity Falls.

Do you watch cartoons? Is there anything that influences you creatively? What other cartoons should I watch?