Living off the Wall

Oh right…I have a blog. I should probably use it every now and again, huh? Welp, no time like the present!

First off, Jordan and I are alive and well, which is always a plus.

Secondly, I did a thing!

Tldr: I made a video combining two things I love. Hope you guys enjoy watching it as much as I had fun making it.

Not-tldr: Let me give you a brief history lesson, to give a little (unnecessary) context for this video.

It’s the 1930s/40s. Theatrical cartoons were becoming a thing, a really big thing. There were plenty of animation studios seeking to capture hearts and minds with their colorful cartoon characters, but Disney, of course, was one of the studios that did it best, and for good reason. Disney set the standard with its imaginative settings, adorably expressive characters, and (surprisingly) dramatic but hopeful stories.

It inevitably got to the point that many other studios tried to imitate disney in some ways in order to cash in on that success: designing characters similar to disney characters, borrowing very similar plot beats, or even hiring Disney staff. Of course, diehard imitators of the “Disney Style” never quite achieved the same success as Disney and ultimately wound up fading into obscurity after sacrificing their originality and identities. I mean, how many people nowadays actually know about Walter Lantz Productions or Charles Mintz’s Screen Gems?

The only studios that wound up thriving alongside Disney during that era and beyond were the ones that stuck to their own style, and the animation department of Warner Bros Studios was the best example of this. Sure, it started out as a pale paraphrasing of Disney’s work (It’s no coincidence that WB’s “Merrie Melodies” and “Looney Tunes” sound so much like Disney’s “Silly Symphonies”). And even WB as a whole didn’t think much could come from it’s own animation studio, originally seeing it as a tool to self-promote it’s own work in other departments (i.e music and film) rather than something that could become its own thing. But somewhere along the way, there came a team of creators who weren’t concerned about copy-and-pasting what their competitors and predecessors did. They were enthusiastic about making something new and wild, something that they found funny, even if no one else did (fortunately, a lot of people did).

Unlike those at Team Disney, the boys over at “Termite Terrace” were much less concerned with creating true to life characters and stories and more concerned with getting to the punch line in their animated shorts and in the craziest way possible. WB made cartoons rife with gags, satire, and screwball characters, reaching a level of pure wackiness you’d hardly ever see in a Disney cartoon.

WB cartoons were, well, off the wall, and the animators owned that in every way they could, causing their work to stand out and uniquely reach audiences for years to come. The looney nature of their cartoons evoked a desire to not take things at face value. They valued quirkiness, teaching audiences that, if you tie up life by its shoe strings, things might go alright for you. And that’s arguably the most important thing you can learn from them.

It’s not that we need to go around acting like “scwewy wabbits” all the time, but a key part of life is accepting yourself, even when circumstances dictate otherwise. And don’t just accept yourself, enjoy yourself. Have fun with the way you do things. Play the fool sometimes, but don’t ever be so foolish to believe that you need to stick to the “status quo” in order to do something worthwhile. If a handful of animated characters made by a bunch of dorky animators can do it, then why can’t we?

In other words: “Life ain’t so bad at all if you live it off the wall.”

So yeah, with all that in mind, and then some, I made a humble tribute video that mashes up classic WB animation with my all-time favorite song by Michael Jackson (someone else who’s beloved for sticking to his own style). It’s my heartfelt expression of why I love both so much, and I hope it came across as such.

Thanks for watching!


Kids Next Door and the Philosophies of Childhood Pt. 4

Continuing Transmission…

(This is part 4 of a mini-series/long essay I’m doing on Codename Kids Next Door. You can find the 3rd part here.)

In case you’re just tuning in, I’ve been writing about how a goofy cartoon show about kid spies has some pretty profound things to say about life, and this time I’ll be talking about how it, in its own unique way, reminds me of a lesson I so easily forget: the importance of keeping others in my life, as expressed by the two following virtues. Continue reading

Kids Next Door and the Philosophies of Childhood Pt.2

Continuing Transmission…

There are plenty of things a kid could value. Getting a puppy for Christmas. Scoring the winning run in Kickball. Hanging out with friends after school. Formative experiences like those are treasured because they expose kids to the thrill and beauty of life, showing them what it means to live. Kids Next Door evokes that same sentiment, encapsulating the important feelings and lessons we first learn as children into core values that must be held on to as we grow.  Breaking them down, we see that these virtues guide the actions of KND’s main characters.
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Hurt and Hope in ‘Short Term 12’

I avoided Short Term 12 for a long time because I thought it was going to be really hard to watch. It’s a 2013 indie film set in a group home for at-risk teens, and with a topic like that, I was expecting a tragic film about the pain, loneliness, and despair of being human. I had heard it was good though, so I finally psyched myself up and watched it.

[Warning: Spoilers for a 3-year-old movie within]

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Either You’re In or You’re Old: Kids Next Door and the Philosophies of Childhood Pt.1

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I’ve had an epiphany: childhood is important, like really important!…Ok, so maybe it’s not that deep of an epiphany, probably pretty obvious in retrospect…Regardless, the thought occurred to me while re-watching Codename: Kids Next Door, a gem from my own childhood, making me think about the concept in general.

We’ve all had childhoods, that foundational time when we were young, inexperienced, and naïve, eager to experience the world around us in unique ways. Like it or not, our childhood experiences forged us into who we are today. My childhood may not have been the best, but I’m still thankful for it and all the fun times I had during it. I’m especially grateful for the cartoons I got to watch, like Kids Next Door, providing me joy through humor when I needed it most.

KND does a fantastic job of portraying the merits and virtues of childhood (and in a much more entertaining way than a long, preachy blog post, mind you). Ironically, it’s only when I’m verging on adulthood that I begin to realize the show’s deeper value, teaching me some profound things about what it means to be a kid as well as an adult. Gear up and prep for debriefing, agent. For the good of our missions, it’s time we discuss Codename: Kids Next Door.
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It’s the White Whale, Charlie Brown!

A daydreaming introvert, I sometimes catch myself thinking about how strange and esoteric human connection seems to be sometimes (at least to me), like ancient arcane rituals that our mortal minds cannot comprehend. What makes connections happen? What exactly do they feel like? How do they function? What makes them last? I’m overthinking things, I know, but, I can’t help it! We live in a scary, fascinating world filled with unique people that I doubt can ever be fully understood, and yet we’re practically expected to—somehow—know and get along with each other.

I’m not sure if I can ever fully grasp the concept, but there are two beautiful movies, The Peanuts Movie and The Boy and The Beast, that explore why it’s worth accepting anyways. One is a playful, nostalgic tribute to the comics and animated specials preceding it, while the other is a Miyazaki-esque fairy tale filled with gorgeous animation and introspective themes. Together they show how easily one can connect to others and why it’s important to do so in the first place. Continue reading

Dream vs Reality

There’s a tension inherent in artistic pursuits. On the one hand, you have to be indomitable in the face of rejection and failure. After all, most great artists have faced major setbacks and discouragement. There are lots of stories of writers and actors who were one rejection away from quitting altogether, only to land the starring role on Mad Men and transform their entire careers (metaphorically, except for Jon Hamm).

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