Friday, January 1, 2016

Top Cat: The Movie

One thing in my life that I appreciate is the past, what I love about the past is Hanna-Barbera cartoons, also both Joseph "Joe" Barbara and William "Bill" Hanna. This studio and all of their cartoons have been a major influence to my life and my taste in animation and cinema (also Fleischer Studios, Jay Ward, Rankin/Bass Productions, UPA [United Production of America] and Ruby-Spears). At this point in the past I expected all my cartoons to have animals that can talk and an article of clothing, this is when limited animation won my heart. With that I got caught up in the Mystery clones, but there were many gems in the sundry of cartoons created by the powerhouse duo. One of my favorite being Top Cat, a series about a clever cat (with vest and hat) and his gang of alley cats who live in New York City. Simply it's them outwitting the people of the City, a cute and improbable group of rogues dashing around with waggish banter and an undying need to become rich. Top Cat's popularity was huge in Hispanic countries, specifically Argentina and Mexico, also it had a personally better title Don Gato. Enough that in 2011 they made a feature film in theaters and when it was brought to the United States everything was redubbed. Let me give you my opinions on the translation.

All of the characters were "updated" with more contemporary personalities, though for the most part they were all still stuck in this 1960's/2010's hodgepodge period film. The one thing that bothered me the most was my favorite character Choo Choo had a dramatically different voice, given the voice actor (Marvin Kaplan) had moved on from this role, though in the Mexican-Argentinian version they got Jorge Arvizu. Jorge Arvizu was the original voice actor of Cucho (Choo Choo) and a bunch of other amazing characters that I love and respect (Popeye, Felix the Cat, Fred Flintstone, and Bugs Bunny), also was the voice for live-action roles like (Maxwell Smart and Fester Adams ), and Cookie Monster! A lot of passion and creativity went into this movie, the animation was a hybrid of CGI and Adobe Flash, at times excellently executed, though at other times it felt immature for some of the production. Though the designs are the most flattering and splendid in the films for Top Cat, since the creation of the series, I'm looking at you Top Cat and the Beverly Hills Cats!

Gom giving the best Morocco Mole impression I've seen.

Let's move focus back to the feature at hand, and introduce the film's opening sequence. Starts off like every film based on TV shows, a reinterpretation of the theme song and opening sequence. This one is peppy and the opening is more modern, but holds a lot of the elements of the original. What's surprising is that they used the original theme song, like same singers and all. The voice acting for the most part are amazing and well casted. The gags are hit and miss, though from what I can see this was meant for a younger audience, this has become a theme with Hanna-Barbera based cartoon movie. I think it's interesting, since Hanna-Barbera were known for being groundbreaking and edgy since they were the first cartoon show (and one of the few TV series) to have a pregnant wife in the main cast and have a baby grow up. I mean, our main cast are a bunch of rogues, stealing and lying to people in a real location, grounding it in our reality, not a theme that should be for children, though makes sense for cats.

The blend of CGI and Traditional animation is interesting, it's not prefect, but it's interesting to see, since it works in some scenes and others it's obvious. Like I said it's interesting all the CGI backgrounds, though it keeps taking me out of the film, since I keep noticing the difference. Don't get me wrong, I think it looks really great since it helps the flat animations pop on the screen, though it shows the skill of the director. The main cast looks like their from the old program, though all the other designs don't reflect the original series. This is my main problem, there isn't a good blend between designs, sometimes a show or film needs to reflect the style it selected. A lot of shows try to bring either an updated version of the series or a communal agreement that the style would fit the source material. That's one thing that bugs me about shows like this, stick with one style or make it relevant that the distinctive style change is purpose.

Tea Steeping showing off her best Thundarr look, also her fancy sword, sadly not made of lasers.

The celebrity voices were obvious or the mixing studio recorded it poorly. It's a weird hissing that keeps appearing, it sound tinny on others, it felt like the recording was on someone's lap top using the built-in mic. They were well acted, but the sound quality was a problem. Now with Strickland in a TV the sound made sense, it was perfect, like the person recording did this one first, then forgot to change it back to normal for the rest of the film.

The trail was dumb, no other comment.

Lizards thing is really funny, though why do they croak like frogs. I used to live in NYC, it's roaches and rats, I haven't seen any lizards, still super funny, but the Ninja Turtles were as close to reptiles in New York City.

Here's the part that really is bugging me, it keeps going back and forth from quality animation and comedy. The film does things that make me want to say this was a fan film or student short. Then the classic speech to change the main character's mind on doing what was wrong (it's cliche and painful). Fixing everything, happy ending changes nothing major, though everything sits well for a second film, nothing changes and nothing progresses. The end credits present highlights from the original series with vector versions of the clips, I found it charming, though I wish that the film was in this style for all of the feature. Personally there could have been things that made it better, though they did a lot of things wrong. Too many storylines that don't lead anywhere, it needed a director or storyboard revisionist that knows how a tale unfolds.

Professor Steeping doing what he does, a wonderful Barney impression, you should hear the laugh, spot on.

Overall the flick was worth something to me, since I really enjoy Top Cat, the spirit of the character was there in each one of the Top Cat gang, but the over arcing plot was nothing like a Top Cat episode. It could have been handled better, though again this was a feature in a part of the world that still respect these characters and are still popular for being a five decades old animation. Through out the film I keep thinking that it would do better as a 15 minute cartoon with this over all evil creeping into power as the main characters try to pretend that things aren't getting worse, then banning together to finish off the villain, but this doesn't sound like the type of plot that would make a Con Man (Con Cat) movie. Would I see it again, no, it just wasn't my age group, though would I show it to kids, I'm not sure? With the way a lot of Scooby-Doo movies are currently going, I guess I would, since that's the demographic who'd enjoy a film like this.

I trust you enjoyed the inspection, thank you for reading.
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Keep well and Stay well.

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