Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Making a Hash of things... Again

Oh, the things I do for my fans.

Some of you might recall the computer animated adaptation of The Tin Woodman of Oz that I reviewed a while back. Well, that team reunited and decided to adapt another Oz story. This time, it's The Scarecrow of Oz.

I'll start with what I did like about the movie: It did a decent job of tying the pieces of the story together. The Oz books have generally leaned toward the picaresque, with even the more plot oriented stories having some side adventure or unusual encounter along the way. So rather than winding up in Jinxland after some other adventures, Trot and Cap'n Bill find adventure while traveling to Jinxland.

I want to give this movie a lot of credit because it was made on a completely volunteer basis. Volunteer voice actors, volunteer animators and donated rendering time. From that viewpoint, it's kind of astonishing what amateurs can accomplish these days. But it never really lends itself to comparison with professional productions.

Particularly when it comes to Trot. Her eyes are often shadowed in a way that make her look partly like a creepy doll and partly like a creepy old lady. And the Jinxland guards look like they came from a video game, animated suits of armor with no evidence of a person underneath. I'm sure it was easier make one model and copy & paste it where needed, but it was one more thing that pulled me out of the story.

Overall, the character designs are in three major categories: attempted realistic (Trot) that looks odd, stylized characters (Gloria) that look interesting, and cartoony (the Witch, the Jinxland guards) that just don't work.

The story itself is changed from the book, though not as severely as Tin Woodman was. Perhaps the biggest change to the story is that it is set as a sequel to their previous film, even though Scarecrow came first in the novels (Scarecrow was #9 and Tin Woodman was #12). Well, that and the aforementioned tying the story together.

The Scarecrow is introduced earlier in the story, and is shown having an argument with his friend, the Tin Woodman, over his ability (or inability, as the case may be) to scare crows. Then there's a scene with the Tin Girl, who I didn't care for in the first movie, calling the Tin Woodman "Tinny." While I have no problem with pet names and the like, I would have preferred she called him "Nicky" or something. Something that shows she loves him beyond his tin nature, you know?

Scarecrow also meets Trot and Cap'n Bill earlier as well, meeting them in the land of Mo and participating in their encounter with the Bumpy Man. Button Bright fails to appear in this scene, or the story at all. They travel to Jinxland in a boat held up by balloons where they meet Pon, who was exiled from Jinxland because of his love for Princess Gloria.

Once they get to Jinxland, we meet Gloria (who is Trot's cousin in this movie), King Krewl, and Googly Goo. There's an attempt to make these characters look at least a little exotic, with Gloria wearing an elaborate outfit including harem pants.

The local witch is never referred to as Blinkie, mainly because the character has two functioning eyes. And while she does turn Cap'n Bill into a grasshopper, she doesn't manage to change him back. And the flying armada that saves the day is nor Orks, but crows, since the Scarecrow's inability to scare crows means that he can attract them in prodigious numbers.

Unlike their previous effort, none of the characters sing. There are a couple of songs in the movie, but they are in the background. Too much in the background, really. The sound levels are so quiet most of the time that you can barely hear the lyrics even when a character isn't talking over it.

In summary, the adaptation is at least a little more faithful than their previous effort, the animation is good on a technical level, but odd character designs and amateur writing and voice acting make it difficult to watch.

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