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LUCK Review | A Magical and Inspiring Adventure!

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From Apple Original Films and Skydance Animation comes their first animated feature which premieres on AppleTV+ this Friday, August 5th. I adored this movie and was truly charmed as the story is something the whole family can get behind and will find it fun but also moving as the film shows how we perceive good luck but also how bad luck can lead to the best things that you never expected would happen in your lifetime.

“Luck” centres around the story of Sam Greenfield, the unluckiest person in the world. When she discovers the never-before-seen Land of Luck, Sam must unite with the magical creatures there to turn her luck around. Eva Noblezada provides the voice for Sam. When she ages out of foster care, Sam discovers the Land of Luck and embarks on a quest that could change her luck forever. And despite her bad luck and clumsiness and everything that goes wrong, Sam never lets anything get in her way.

Apple TV+.

Simon Pegg voices Bob, a mischievous black cat from the Land of Luck. He’s all about number one, he’s a self-preservationist, so it’s all about him which makes him sound very selfish. However underneath he’s just trying to survive and once Sam, invariably enters his world she starts to penetrate that facade he has. The Captain, voiced by Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner Whoopi Goldberg, stands guard as the head of security. She sees Bob for what she thinks he is and that’s a black cat, she thinks they’re unlucky. Jane Fonda voices Babe the Dragon, the exuberant CEO of Good Luck and undisputed luckiest ancient being in all the land.

Throughout our world, we’ve become very superstitious and have long ascribed luck to little trinkets. In different cultures, we’ve had lucky pennies, four-leaf covers, horseshoes, dreamcatchers, Maneki Neko, ladybugs, etc. All of these are meant to bring luck and ward off bad luck so getting to see a whole world based on these two factors was incredible, especially in a stylistic world like the Land of Luck. A world that creates the moments in your life where everything goes right or wrong. This amazing colourful world is where all kinds of magical creatures work together to create Luck, the good and bad. Throughout Sam’s journey, she meets Leprechauns such as Gerry voiced by Colin O’Donoghue, bunnies in hazmat suits and a flamboyant unicorn names Jeff voiced by Flula Borg. They all work tirelessly every day to bring you those sweet fortunate moments.

Apple TV+.

But Luck isn’t complete without the bad luck which is made on the other side of this world. A team of goats, roots, and goblins work to make your day a little more frustrating. We’ve all had these moments of stepping in gum, losing your keys, and in my case spilling a hot cup of tea over a MacBook Pro. The world-building showcases a fine balance between good luck and bad luck, however, the tiniest amount of bad luck can shut down the Land of luck’s entire operation, which is totally thrown off by Sam’s arrival. Things are certainly about to get interesting.  Skydance Animation has truly created a world I’d love to visit. Production designer Fred Warter has given the Land of Luck its personality and colour pallet. The use of green for good luck and purple for bad luck is genius and those two colours truly complement each other as the use of colours in this film help amplify each sequence.

Apple TV+.

As the title suggests, Luck sees Sam trying her best to save this newly discovered world after she brings her unfortunate bad luck into this sacred space. Throughout the film, we discover why she’s in search of a lucky penny and ultimately Luck is an original story that’ll touch people’s hearts with its strong messages that give us hope. Luck isn’t so much about the trinkets and charms and what it means to be unlucky which I can say features some funny gags, it’s rather about love and finding your forever family.

Luck also taps into the reality of the foster care system and the emotionally tolling process that is adoption.

The film is truly an amazing story, one that works for Skydance Animation’s first feature but also Apple Tv’s first original feature film. Everything from character design to the environment is outstanding. The Land of Luck is so universal and relatable, Luck is totally random. You can’t control it, you can’t create it. The world mirrors our own but it has good luck at the top and bad luck at the bottom. They’re both opposite sides of the coin. The film was also made over Zoom and many of the actors did the voicework in their homes.

Ultimately this movie made me feel inspired, to never give up on myself, never give up on my dreams and just keep going as life can be hard sometimes but luckily it will turn around.

Apple TV+.

Are you ready to step into the Land of Luck? Thanks to Toikido for sending out the awesome merchandise for us to review!. My family absolutely adored the film and the toys. Our favourite character is Bob the cat voiced by Simon Pegg so we were excited to receive the deluxe interactive talking plush. Tia aged eight says “It’s so soft and cuddly”. Bob is delightfully curious and mischievous and is so self-obsessed that he comes with over twenty-five phrases. Press Bob’s left hind paw to hear Pegg’s vocals and phrases which include “Top of the morning to ya”, and “You flushed my penny down the toilet”.

Links to purchase these magical products are below!

You can also bring the world of Luck to life with the deluxe figures of Bob the black cat, Jeff the Unicorn, Lucky Pig, and Sam. It’s awesome to have my favourite characters as fun action figures as you’ll be able to play out scenes from the beautifully animated film.

The magical and adventurous animated film is helmed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Peggy Holmes (“The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning”), from an original screenplay written by Kiel Murray (“Raya and the Last Dragon,” “Cars 3,” “Cars”), Jon Aibel and Glenn Berger (“Kung Fu Panda 2,” “Trolls”). John Lasseter, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg and David Eisenmann are producing for Skydance Animation.

“Luck” joins an expanding lineup of the Apple Original Films and Skydance Animation partnership, alongside upcoming titles such as the highly anticipated feature “Spellbound,” and the animated series “The Search for WondLa,” with several more feature films and television series to be announced. “Luck” follows the recent Apple/Skydance NAACP nomination for Outstanding Animated Short-Form and Annie Awards nomination for Best Music for “Blush,” written and directed by Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Joe Mateo (“Prep & Landing,” “Big Hero 6”), and composed by Hollywood Music in Media Award winner Joy Ngiaw (“Red,” “Fish Head”), now streaming on Apple TV+.

Luck” will be available in select cinemas and available on Apple TV+ this Friday, August 5th. 

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Animation

DC and Warner Bros. Discovery on Cusp of Animation Deal with Amazon

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There has been much anticipation in waiting to see the unveiling of the structure of James Gunn and Peter Safran as the new heads of DC for Warner Bros. News came just this week from Gunn that the comic book flagship money maker for Warner Bros. that he and Safran are aiming to make everything cohesive within their vision connecting movies, television, video games and animation throughout the universe. However, a new report from Deadline sees that they may be looking at a new (or additional) streaming home for animated content surrounding their heroes and villains.

In an article originally reported from Deadline, Channing Dungey, the Chairwoman of Warner Bros. Television, has alluded to “closing a big deal” with Amazon featuring DC branded content in animation on their streaming platform, Amazon Prime Video. Though she also explained that HBO Max will be the “first stop” for all things DC, it’s interesting to note a deal such as this potentially going through with a company and competitor as big as Amazon, no less.

While it’s hard to imagine any major DC characters synonymous with the brand such as Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman or Green Lantern getting animated foray onto Prime Video, it begs the question, could we see Amazon as a pipeline to popularity for some lesser-known characters getting introduced to a larger audience? There is so much potential and richness of characters within the DC landscape that have yet to be introduced through live-action or animation so this seems like a risk that might be worth taking, especially considering the financial troubles that Warner Bros. Discovery has been reported to have. 

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Disney’s ‘Strange World’ Review | An Ecological Sci-Fi Family Adventure

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Adventure is Out There! And “Strange World” is an Epic One indeed! Showcasing breathtaking animation, colourful visuals, heart, and a beautiful story about three generations living up to a family legacy whilst directors Don Hall and Qui Nguyen (who also wrote the screenplay) weave in an impactful eco-environmental message.

Walt Disney Animation Studios’ original action-adventure “Strange World” journeys deep into an uncharted and treacherous land where fantastical creatures await the legendary Clades, a family of explorers whose differences threaten to topple their latest—and by far— most crucial mission.

© 2022 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Review

They’re The Clades!

“Strange World” introduces us to the multigenerational Clade family. There’s larger-than-life explorer grandfather Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid), his family-orientated farmer son Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal), Searcher’s wife and pilot Meridian Clade (Gabrielle Union), and their teenaged 16-year old son Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) who longs for adventure beyond his father’s farm and together with the help of their crew aboard the Venture, the Clade family alongside their adorable dog Legend, a mischievous blue blobby creature named Splat and the president of Avalonia Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) navigate through this Strange unique world in a race against time to save their home.

This nostalgic homage to sci-fi adventures has a moving intergenerational storyline, positive diverse representation, and two adorable sidekicks throughout the film we focus on the family dynamic and relationships between Ethan, his parents, and his grandfather. Ethan is a typical teenager who rolls his eyes when his parents smooch, lights up when his friends visit and get completely tongue-tied when his crush, Diazo, is around. Ethan is the first openly gay character in a Disney Animated feature and the way it’s handled throughout is beautifully done. His queerness doesn’t define him it’s part of who he is, it’s refreshing to see how his family embrace him exactly who he is without question.

© 2022 Disney. All Rights Reserved

“Strange World” also challenges the father and son dynamic as Jager represents the old-school explorer wanting to venture beyond the mountains and ultimately leave a lasting legacy, whilst Searcher is caught between that legacy, and Ethan longs for the kind of adventure that echos that of the grandfather he’s never met. Ultimately this brings to the surface deep parental anxieties and regrets as the Clades’ family dynamic becomes clear. An adventurer expects his farmer son to be more like him, and that farmer transfers his unique expectations onto his own son. At its heart “Strange World” is a story about saving your home and repairing generational relationships.

The voice cast is phenomenal throughout as the movie’s heart and soul are its characters. Everyone from Jake Gyllenhaal to Lucy Liu was fantastic, but the standouts for me were Dennis Quaid as Jaeger Clade whose dreams become an obsession, he’s a man too focused on leaving a lasting legacy and Quaid’s vocals provide warmth, charisma which makes this grandfather a very relatable character. Jaboukie Young-White as Ethan Clade provides such a vulnerable and relatable vocal performance as a young boy searching for his purpose and Adventure in life.

© 2022 Disney. All Rights Reserved

The Descent

Strange World’s” visuals are vibrant and cotton candy-coloured as the new world comes to life around the curious Avalonians. The world-building includes peril at every turn. Avalonia is part agrarian, and part retro-futuristic and the technological society uses a newly discovered bioluminescent plat called “Pando”. These round green saplings give off electricity providing Avalonia with a new energy source. Avalonia itself is a Community woven together from a mix of ethnic cultures, the world is both a peaceful and quiet utopia. 

However, to save their home from dying they must descend into an enormous hole in the ground. the group all end up in a vast, hidden subterranean world where bizarre creatures, looming danger, and point unknown await the legendary family of explorers. The look of this “Strange World” harkens back to pulp-fiction magazines that were published from 1896 to the late 1950s. This world is weird, fun, and extraordinary, the artists and animators have truly outdone themselves and have created something truly unexpected as everything looks unique and everything is not as it seems throughout this “Strange World” trees may not be trees and mass landscapes may not be real, plants may suddenly take flight it’s a junglelike landscape composed of every single colour except for green, this place is otherworldly yet grounded. One of its inhabitants was the adorable and mischievous blue blob named Splat and credit to the animators who were responsible for bringing personality and movement to such a character.  

Voyage To The Heart

The environment is something that we think about everyday as we ultimately want our descendants to have a future, but in order to do that we have to realise the choices we make today will and can affect the future. Avalonia’s energy crisis is at the forefront with the bioluminescent Pando becoming the substitute for fossil fuels.
Family is central and each play part in this environmental story. Quaid’s character Jaeger wants to conquer nature whereas Gyllenhaal’s Searcher is the controller as farmers interact with nature. As for Ethan, he’s the conservationist and the character that ultimately drives the message of the story. If we take a small step forward, we can change so much and treat the Earth a different way.

© 2022 Disney. All Rights Reserved

Final Thoughts

The Fate of Strange World

“Strange World” overall is a must watch for the family this festive season, its an epic Adventure that’s fun, showcases breathtaking animation, colourful visuals, heart, and a beautiful story about legacy, and the relationship between a father and son as told through three generations that are surrounded in a relatable world with many issues that we are facing right now shown at the forefront.  The environmentalist-friendly story truly offers plenty of laughs and feels courtesy of Legend — the family’s big, lovable, three-legged dog, who befriends everyone — and Splat, the blob-like, being that Ethan discovers in the seemingly magical world. Both will absolutely delight of younger viewers and certainly sell merchandise. The score by Henry Jackman is thrilling and adventurous harkening back to John Willam’s Indiana Jones soundtrack. There have been noticeably little to none promotion and advertising but this being Disney’s 61st animated feature film truly makes for a theatrical experience.

Helmed by Oscar-winning director Don Hall (Big Hero 6, Raya and the Last Dragon) and co-directed/writer Qui Nguyen(co-writer, Raya and the Last Dragon). Disney’s “Strange World” is now in cinemas.

Click HERE for an explorers activity pack full of “Strange World” goodies!

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‘Wendell & Wild’ Review | A Delightfully Wicked Stop-Motion Adventure

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From the delightfully wicked minds of Henry Selick and producer Jordan Peele comes “WENDELL & WILD”, an animated tale about scheming demon brothers Wendell (Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (Peele), who enlist the aid of Kat Elliot — a tough teen with a load of guilt — to summon them to the Land of the Living. But what Kat demands in return leads to a brilliantly bizarre and comedic adventure like no other, an animated fantasy that defies the law of life and death, all told through the handmade artistry of stop motion.

Review

“Wendell and Wild” is a solid return to Stop-Motion Animation from Director Henry Selick & Jordan Peele who reunites with Keegan Michael Key for this spooktacular! macabre adventure that features stunning visuals, dark comedy, and a touching story about facing your personal demons whether physically or mentally.

Henry Selick makes his triumphant return to stop motion as he masterfully handcrafts a nightmarish world once again. The Academy Award-nominated director has ventured and brought to life “James and the Giant Peach”, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Coraline. Now after thirteen years he’s crafted a core thrilling narrative about a misfit young girl alongside co-writer/producer Jordan Peele, who also stars as one of the titular demons alongside his long-time comedic partner Keegan-Michael Key, Peele brings his unique voice and flavour to the project.

WENDELL & WILD – (L-R) Wendell (voiced by Keegan-Michael Key) and Wild (voiced by Jordan Peele). Cr: Netflix © 2022

Adapted from an unpublished book that Selick wrote with horror author Clay McLeod Chapman, Wendell & Wild showcases the story’s 13-year-old protagonist. Kat (Lyric Ross) is a green-haired outsider with a tragic past who has come to Rust Bank Catholic School for Girls to disturb the peace, blasting punk rock through her dad’s prized boombox, the Cyclops. Through a magic toy bear called Bearz-A-Bub (Phoebe Lamot) and a nun named Sister Helley (Angela Bassett), Kat learns she’s more than a chip-on-the-shoulder punk rocker — she’s a Hellmaiden, a girl who can summon demons. 

Lyric Ross gives a powerful performance that brings to life the pain Kat has suffered, haunted by her past she puts on this gruff front to keep others away because her broken heart cannot endure any more grief. Her character design indeed illustrates her pain and disguise with a goth-punk aesthetic that includes facial piercings, her green hair, and her school uniform pierced with safety pins, paired with fishnets, and black platform boots.

the attention to detail throughout the stop-motion adventure is incredibly artistic as Kat has roughly 160 individually hand-curled strands of hair on her head, each made of dyed wool. The costuming team thinks through every detail of each outfit, down to creating scale-correct wrinkles and creases in clothing, including Kat’s school uniform plaid Rust Bank Catholic skirt that she rips up and remakes to look more punk, which took
the costuming team 45 steps and five days to make. Kat’s skirt has a vertical plaid pattern, and the rest of the RBC girls have a straight pattern, visually setting her apart.

WENDELL & WILD – Kat (voiced by Lyric Ross). Cr: Netflix © 2022

Kat’s story is intertwined with that of Wendell and Wild, two demons who want more out of life than being stuck at the Scream Faire as they plot their escape from Buffalo Belzer (Ving Rhames), who also happens to be their father. Wendell, Wild’s hot-tempered older brother, and the brains behind this duo of scheming demons. Built like a walking stick, he and Wild dream of one day escaping their miserable lives in the Underworld to build something amazing in the Land of the Living. Once there, Wendell’s ample wit and charm are bound to win over any naysayers.

Wild on the other hand is the younger half of this demonic duo, a stout rulebreaker and slacker who gulps stolen hair crème to “tickle his tummy.” When Wild brags to the wrong demons about their secret plans, he and Wendell are exiled to the barren hinterlands of the Underworld with only a giant pet bug named Sparky for company.

Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are a phenomenal duo and the chemistry between the two truly carries the film. Their puppet counterparts are a spitting image as the puppeteers have managed to capture their likeness and characteristics. To help character designer Pablo Lobato prepare for designing the characters, Selick suggested watching Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key’s comedy show KEY & PEELE. Selick specifically noted the sketch “Prepared for Terries” — the famous sketch was two eccentric airline passengers preparing to combat a hypothetical terrorist plot.

Wendell and Wild’s father, Lord of the Underworld and Ruler of the Scream Faire — an afterlife destination for the Souls of the Danged. He’s mean, scary, and vain, but he’s got a soft spot in his heart as big as the bald spot on his head. The scope and scale of his puppet are immense, the design for Belzer’s giant hands, which were built separately, was inspired by King Kong’s iconic hand design from the 1933 film, and The puppet for Belzer was cast using silicone and sugar pearls, the same kind you would use to decorate baked goods, to give him a squishy, stretchable, lightweight body.

I also loved the use of the colour green. Green is an important colour throughout the film, and ties into the Underworld. Wendell and Wild’s eyes go green when they’re angry, and Sister Helley’s redemption chamber is full of green. Kat’s green hair visually ties her to the green colours throughout the Underworld, a nod to her Hellmaiden powers.

The great Angela Bassett’s vocal performance is another outstanding role. SISTER HELLEY is a nun with a dark past, she is the charismatic science teacher at Rust Bank Catholic School for Girls who wows her students with presentations of shape-shifting octopuses and carnivorous plants. 

The rest of the colourful cast of characters is incredibly designed as Kat shares the screen with Sam Zelaya’s trans character Raúl Cocolotl A talented artist, and now the only boy at Rust Bank Catholic School for Girls. He’d like to be friends with Kat, who keeps him at a distance before reluctantly enlisting his help to deal with the chaos her arrival creates. Raul wants to use his art to expose the monsters who are gobbling up their town. Raúl’s character design was influenced by Mayan sculptures, Mexican masks, and voice actor Sam Zelaya.

Tamara Smart voices Siobhan, the lifestyle ringleader at Rust Bank Catholic School for Girls. Sweet and earnest, Siobhan might seem simple at first, but there’s hidden depth and a rebellious streak lurking behind those blunt bangs. Siobhan’s character design was influenced by the character Cher Horowitz in the 1995 film CLUELESS and Nicki Minaj’s famous blonde wig with blunt bangs.

However, Wendell & Wild aren’t really the villains throughout the film. Selick’s approach is that the film basically suggests that there are worse things on Earth than demons in Hell—those who profit off the misery of others. The material shows the corporate monsters who are literally willing to murder for profit and capitalism. IRMGARD KLAXON (Maxine Peake) and LANE KLAXON (David Harewood) are wealthy British builders who specialize in private, for-profit prisons, the Klaxons have been trying to take over Rust Bank for years to build a new monstrosity: Klax Korp. And they will stop at nothing, including murder. Their sweet daughter, Siobhan, has no idea who her parents really are but when she does, it’s full rebellion. Both Peake and Harwood give two over-the-top performances including James Hong as Father Bests.

Stop-motion animation is actually the oldest type of animation. It’s drawing things, generating them on computers or moving them — small positions at a time and then capturing each movement. And when you play it back, it comes to life. Stop motion is having these really beautifully built puppets accompanied by incredible animators who then reposition those puppets slowly, very slight amounts, and perform through the puppets, capturing each frame of that performance. And when you play it back, it gives the illusion of life.

Great animation and great characters are what really matter and the medium keeps evolving with new techniques and technology in order to get the best performance out of the puppet. They now CG to print out 3D face replacements, and there’s a seam between the upper and lower face so that you can change eyebrows separately from the lower — it helps multiply the range of expressions. Selick and Co have chosen to keep those seem’s rather than digitally erase them. Across all of WENDELL & WILD, there are 342 individual puppets with 129 unique designs. There are 165 unique sets total, most of which were then broken into smaller sets and redressed for specific camera angle needs.

Final Thoughts

With an Afropunk vibrant culture of music, style, and attitude, “Wendell & Wild” is the perfect film for this Halloween season. It has all the scary stuff you might expect — demons, zombies, ghosts. It’s got the feel of a Halloween film, but the story will be really refreshing, especially for families. The attention to detail and character design are outstanding as is the touching story about facing your demons.

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