Animation – A Never Ending Story Pt 4 – The Death of Animation

The 80s was a time of rebellion. It was a time of great consumerism. It was a time of true Capitalism. It was all Reagan’s era. For the last 60 years Animation had gone through many changes, yet the market had always been dominated by certain companies. These companies, in many ways felt that they were indestructible. Disney and Warner Bros controlled the theatrical Animated market, while Hanna-Barbera had always been in control of the Animated television spectrum. However many of these studios were being lead by much older animators. Many of these people were vastly out of touch with what children would be interested in watching. Their era was that of the 50s, 60s, and 70s. As a result many top Animators of the Golden Age of Animation were no longer working as Animators. Those who stayed in the industry, were usually given executive positions in their respective studios. Disney’s Nine Angry Men are an example of this, as these men used to be Disney’s best Animators. By the the start of the 80s, they had either died or were given executive positions in Disney. The state that Animation was in was about to change drastically. A newer generation was coming which was about to destroy the old guard. However there would be no true victor, instead the 90s would have to come and create a whole new world of Animation, in order to repair the damage done in the 1980s. At the heart of this, Capitalism can be blamed, as Animation on TV had been deregulated by Ronald Reagan’s administration. Whereas Animation in film was not necessarily dominated by Disney. In fact Disney made various blunders during this time, which ultimately forced them to change how they approached theatrical Animation.

In 1980 Warner Bros decides to restart their Animation studio and create Warner Bros. Animation. The man who greatly helped with the creation of the Looney Tunes, Tex Avery, dies. In his heyday Tex created many famous characters such as Daffy Duck and Porky Pig as well as various others. His ideas helped make Warner Bros a force to be reckoned with in Theatrical Animation, and even surpass Disney’s style of Animated creations in terms of popularity. Pacific Data Images (PDI) is founded. They pioneer a somewhat easy computer Animation program, which ultimately will lead to the first CGI movies by Pixar. The last Peanuts feature film, which is part of the original Peanuts series, is released, Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (And Don’t Come Back!!). Thundarr the Barbarian by Ruby-Spear Productions premieres on ABC. Thundarr and his friends battle evil wizards in a post apocalyptic future. The Fly, by Pannonia Studios, wins the Academy Awards for Animated Short Film. It revolves around seeing the world through a fly’s eyes, and ends with its ironic death.

1981 brought a new era in America. Specifically in politics, as Ronald Reagan began his presidential term in January 1981. Reagan was notoriously pro big business, as he allowed the deregulation of many markets within America. Wall Street took advantage of the deregulated markets, lots of money was made and lost. In 1981 Ronald decides to appoint Mark S. Fowler the chairman of the FCC. He would serve from 1981 to 1987. Like Reagan he was a big believer in deregulation. He applied this to the Television based Animation industry, as he believed in a free market system. There were no more rules, the FCC no longer had a barrier between big business and children. It was typical for companies that targeted children, such as Mattel, to pay for advertisements during a cartoon show. The money from the advertisement would then go to the TV stations. If the show was popular, and the Animation was fairly cheap to produce, then the show might be renewed. The effects of Fowler’s actions would be felt soon. The Smurfs by Hanna-Barbera Productions is released. It is arguably the studios’ last great original cartoon, before going bankrupt. Marvel Productions releases their first project: Spider-Man, a cartoon based on the comics. The studio was birthed from the defunct DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. Disney releases their first film of the 80s The Fox and the Hound. People will count the 80s as a decline for Disney Animation, as their films during this era were very hit and miss. Some were either acclaimed or panned, some were financial successes while others did poorly. Warner Bros Animation’s first theatrical release is The Looney Looney Looney Bugs Bunny Movie, the feature is a compilation of classic Looney Tunes shorts. While there is very little new Animation in the film, it does show that the studio will have a future. Heavy Metal by Gerald Potterton is released, it was produced by Ivan Reitman and Leonard Moge. It was based on stories from the adult magazine of the same name. It was interesting because of the quality of the Animation, the very adult oriented stories, and use of some rotoscooping. While it did not make much money it has become a cult hit. Crac by Société Radio-Canada wins an emmy. The short focuses on the life of a rocking chair from the pre to post industrialized Canada.

The Last Unicorn by Rankin/Bass Productions is released in 1982 to critical acclaim. Its style is very unique, making it very discernible from the likes of Disney and its imitators. Don Bluth Productions emerges as a potential rival to Disney with their film The Secret of NIMH. Don Bluth originally worked for Disney, but felt that their stories lack depth and creativity. He left to try and prove that Disney’s take on Animation was flawed. This same year Disney’s Tron, a major live action movie, is the first movie to use computer Animation for extended periods. All the animated parts add up to about 15 minutes of CGI. One of the first cartoons to come out of the deregulated TV Animation market would be The Shirt Tales by Hannah Barbera and Hallmark cards, they were originally created by Hallmark as greeting cards. Under the new FCC system, this was ok. Before a show such as The Shirt Tales would have likely been shut down by Action for Children’s Television aka ACT. Likely through protesting at the studios which aired the show, or by sending a petition to the FCC. However Fowler was no longer listening to ACT, nor did he care that businesses would possibly be enticing children to buy their products through the use of cartoons basically designed as commercials. The Shirt Tales are a perfect example of businesses targeting children, as the product was already in existence and so Hallmark figured they could make more money by spinning their product off as a Saturday morning cartoon. The plot was very convoluted, basically a bunch of park animals would fight crime in the city as well as using their vehicle the STSST to explore the world. This upped the importance of the Saturday morning cartoon. Beforehand many toy, doll, and other children’s companies would pay for advertising during the Saturday morning cartoon block. Every major network had a Saturday morning cartoon lineup, such as ABC, CBS, and NBC. Pac-Man The Animated Series soon premiered the next week. Another partnership between an Animation studio and a company whose principle market was children. This duo being Namco and Hannah Barbera. Partnerships like this would be very common throughout the 80s. Pendleton Ward and J.G. Quintel are born this year. Tango by Film Polski nabs the emmy this year. More of an art film, an empty room is slowly filled by people who are repeat their own unique movements until everyone slowly leaves.

1983 finally introduces cartoons to syndication. Syndication basically allows one particular show, that is owned by whatever studio, to be aired on multiple networks. This is a pretty lucrative business. Through before the 80s, cartoons had not been seen as a viable market, mostly due to ACT’s actions in limiting the number of advertisements that could be used to target children. For example, in the past Hannah Barbera might create Scooby-Doo and try to sell it to the three major networks. However only one network would have wanted to air said cartoon. This is where He-Man and the Masters of the Universe comes into play. Mattel created He-Man in 1981 as an action figure. Later Mattel partnered with Filmation, who were able to come up with a somewhat understandable plot for the He-Man series. Basically the series chronicles Prince Adam as he protects his home of Eternia from the forces of darkness. Episodes were shown on different networks/stations and were shown on the weekdays. Creating a potential market for weekday cartoons, instead of the usually Saturday morning cartoon formula. This same year G.I. Joe a Real American Hero is released by Hasbro, while Toei Animation produced the episodes. This series is again based on a toyline, though from the 1960s, however is was very controversial. Caused due to the characters being rendered as anatomically correct humans, they carried real guns, death and violence was seemingly in every episode. Both He-Man and GI Joe cartoons proved to be big financial successes in terms of toy sales. So much so that other, less conventional toys spawned their own cartoons. Namely the Rubik’s Cube. Rubik, The Amazing Cube is released in September of this year. Every episode deals with a magic Rubik’s Cube named Rubik who is sentient and has powers when his blocks are lined up properly, but his blocks always get jumbled so his two kid friends always unjumble his cubes and awaken Rubik to save the day. Needless to say this was an example of a company trying to capitalize on their product by exploiting Animation, reducing its creative elements to that of a mere extended commercial. Of course this show was not successful and was soon canned. However various companies would continue to try and capitalize on their products through the use of TV Animation. Ralph Bakshi’s Fire and Ice is released, it is a commercial failure and marks Ralph Bakshi’s end as a commercial Theatrical Animator. The film follows Larn, a man from a lowly village, as he escorts a princess back to her kingdom and saves the world from an evil Queen. Sundae in New York by Motionpicker Productions wins an Academy Award. The claymation short is in essence a celebration of New York through the singing of New York, New York by Frank Sinatra.

The Adventures of André and Wally B. by The Graphics Group is released in 1984. John Lasseter Animated the film. This technically marks Pixar’s first movie. Even though it was only 2 minutes long, it was highly acclaimed as the short was very creative at the time. Everyone who worked on the project had some Art or Animation background, before this the only people who had access to CGI animation software were typically scientists who made very uninspired CGI sequences. At this time The Graphics Group was part of Lucasfilm. Bob Clampett dies. He worked on many Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes projects. As well as directing other films for other studios, such as Private Snafu and Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs. Hasbro decides to launch another toyline along with a tie in animated series. Transformers was birthed, though its creation was a bit complex. Its toyline was based off of a Japanese toyline by Takara. Toei Animated the original mini series, as well as most of the original series. AKOM Animated some episodes for seasons 1-3 and all of season 4. What makes this series so interesting is that most of Transformers’ creation is of Japanese origin. Furthermore it was mostly Animated in Japan, then later in Korea making it a wholly foreign cartoon, regardless Transformers still managed to be a massive hit. The series follows the war between the Autobots and Decepticons, a classic tale of good vs evil. Except they all happen to be robots who can turn into cars. As with many shows that become financially successful, some companies would rip off their ideas. Challenge of the GoBots is a cartoon, which many feel copied much of the formula that made Transformers successful. The series was based on a toyline by Tonka, while Hanna Barbera developed the series. Like Transformers two factions of robots, the good Guardians, and the evil Renegades battle on Earth in a millenniums old conflict. During this time Disney was in danger of losing its entire Animation archive and studio. A corporate raider named Saul Steinberg had envisioned this crazy idea. In the name of capitalism and greed Saul figured he could buy enough Disney stock to have a majority stake in the company. He then wanted to sell off the Animation arm of Disney, as he felt he could make tons of profit from selling the archive off in pieces instead as a whole division. Fortunately Disney’s CEO and COB, Ron Miller and Ray Watson, were able to stop him. Though Saul did not give up easily. He eventually massed together enough cash to fulfill his plan. Seeing no way out, Disney decided to cave and payoff Saul, giving him $325 million. He actually made a nice profit, and the shareholders were pissed. This disaster led to Roy E Disney’s return to Disney, while he was still on the board he had resigned earlier this year. He sought to protect Disney, so he kicked out the CEO and COB. He then installed Michael Eisner and Frank Wells as CEO and COO/President. Roy was then given his chair back and made the vice chairman of the Disney board of directors, as well as head of the Animation department. The Canadian film Charade by Michael Mills Productions wins the emmy for this year. The plot revolves around two different men playing charade, with one being better than the other.

1985 sees Disney trying to go in a different direction in terms of their animated feature films, to this end they release The Black Cauldron. A dark movie, with depth, and an enticing plot. However the film was a flop. On the other side of the Animation spectrum, the first toy based Animated feature film is released by Filmation, He-Man and She-Ra: The Secret of the Sword. The movie acts as a staging point to introduce She-Ra. Later the She-Ra: Princess of Power show begins airing on different channels. This takes production promotion to another level, as other feature films based on kids toys are released. Such as The Care Bear Movie and Rainbow Brite and the Star Stealer. Both shows already had TV shows, though this disturbing trend of toy based cartoon franchises continued to grow as money was still being made. By this point there were many shows like this, such as Jem and M.A.S.K. whose main goals were selling toys instead of trying to introduce original and creative cartoons. The idea for franchising a cartoon typically started with the release of a toy, then maybe a comic, and then finally the cartoon itself. With movies being the high points of the series, followed by its end. However this was going to lead to a disastrous end to the American Animation industry of this era. The ThunderCats is released by Rankin/Bass Productions. Unlike other shows of this time, there was no preexisting toyline that inspired the series. Instead the series was created by Ted Wolf, interestingly the show was Animated by Japanese studio Pacific Animation Corporation. The show involves the heroic ThunderCats battling the evil Mumm-Ra. Disney throws their hat back into the TV Animation ring with Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears and The Wuzzles. This is Disney’s dawning of their TV based Animation division. A game changing “cartoon” is released by Harmony Gold USA, titled Robotech. In actuality the series was an Anime, made up of three different Anime, known as the Macross series in Japan. Tatsunoko Production Co helped with adapting the three series into one cohesive plot. Though they were the original creators of all three Anime. Needless to say the show was a hit in America. It brought high quality Animation and singular plots. Whereas most American Animated series up to this point did not have strong plots to follow, and characters lacked strong development. This also was a small stepping stone for Anime to come to America. Anna & Bella by Børge Ring wins the 1985 emmy. The story follows two sisters in their afterlife reminiscing about their pasts.

Steven Spielberg throws his hat into the Animation ring with An American Tail. Although it was directed by Don Bluth and Animated by Amblin Entertainment, Spielberg helped with production. The movie had an effect on both Spielberg and Disney. Earlier Disney had released their own feature The Great Mouse Detective. However An American Tail grossed more revenue, leaving some critics to believe that Disney Animation was becoming irrelevant. Spielberg took the success of An American Tail as a sign that Animation could be a viable medium to make money and tell intriguing stories though. He would later involve himself in more Animation productions as a result. Pixar Animation Studios is finally formed. This same year they release their first official short, Luxor Jr. which centered on two desktop lamps playing with a ball. By this point another formula becomes commonplace for cartoons, the 65 episode minimum for syndication. The idea was to have enough episodes to air for the weekday. Being that a weekday is made up of five days, a series could run for thirteen weeks. Which is about a quarter of a year, this was done purely for ad revenue purposes. As stations wanted their slots filled with cartoons, to attract both children and potential advertisers. This was brought about as many of the most successful cartoon franchises were made up of at least 65 episodes. Although shows that did not meet the 65 episode requirement were still picked up and usually sent to the Saturday morning blocs. Even if a series did make 65 episodes, most cartoons were never commissioned for more seasons or episodes. This all had to do with production costs, as most companies that commissioned a cartoon series were looking to make quick profits. A longer running series would only drive up production costs and potentially hinder profits. Filmation and Columbia release their own Ghostbuster series’. Filmation had created a Ghost Busters tv show back in the 70s. Though Columbia had released a Ghostbusters movie in the early 80s, and while the concepts were similar, both were related in no way. So when Columbia decided to created a cartoon show based on their movie, Filmation actually offered to produce the show. However Columbia was still mad at Filmation, due to a settlement Columbia had to make with Filmation over the Ghostbusters name. As a result Filmation released Filmation’s Ghostbusters, whereas Columbia was forced to name their cartoon The Real Ghostbusters. Both shows had very similar plots. Hanna Barbera releases their last Scooby-Doo series that follows the original series’ style and exists within the Scooby-Doo continuity. Titled The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo, it focuses  on the gang having to recapture some ghosts they freed by accident. It ends an era, as Scooby-Doo had been running in one series after another since 1969. It had arguably been Hanna Barbera’s last great show with long lasting appeal. Rambo: The Force of Freedom by Ruby-Spears Enterprises is released. Unlike some cartoons, that were based on movies or other live action TV programs, this series was the first to be based on an R-rated film trilogy. It was actually marketed for kids, despite the fact that Rambo had suffered from PTSD from his time in the Vietnam war. Although strange as it may be, Rambo: The Force of Freedom actually managed to make the 65 episode cut. The cartoon even got its own toyline, which of course was again marketed to kids. Dragon Ball, an Anime based on a manga by Weekly Shōnen Jump and Animated by Toei Studios, begins airing in Japan. While it would be years before the series would come to America, the series ultimately would act as a gateway for future Anime to come to America. A Greek Tragedy by CinéTé  takes home the Academy Award. Three Greek sisters try to save an ancient Greek temple.

1987 is a very important year in American Animation, as it marks the end of Fowler’s reign as the FCC commissioner. This would have deep ramifications, which ultimately contributed to the death of American Animation in the 80s. Though the FCC would begin to start regulating children’s programming the following year, this year the typical system of TV Animation is followed. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is released by Murakami-Wolf-Swenson. Though IDDH, a french company, also helped with production. The series, was actually based on a dark toned comic, and usually followed the very goofy adventures of the turtles. The toyline came after the series had its first few episodes, as Playmate Toys were unsure if the cartoon would be a success with children. Beyond the successes of the TMNT and Disney’s DuckTales, it was obvious that the TV arm of the Animation industry was burning out. As many shows were very bland, or were constrained creatively by the toy companies that Animation studios had relied on for much of their business. If a show like The Adventures of Teddy Ruxpin can’t convince you how random and unstimulating cartoons had become by this point, you may be in denial that American Animation has had its low points. The plot followed a teddybear-looking bear, as he followed a map in search of treasure, along the way he battles an evil organization. Thats pretty stale writing. Furthermore it did indeed make the 65 episode minimum for weekday syndication. However not all was lost. The Simpsons shorts by Matt Groening begin airing on The Tracey Ullman Show. While the shorts were only a few minutes long, they began to increase in popularity. So much so, that it would eventually surpass The Tracey Ullman Show in notoriety and financial success. In Japan Anime production skyrockets, with many Anime series and feature films being released. Animation as a medium had become a highly respected art in Japan. It would only be a few more years before any major Anime franchise made it to the states. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation take home the Emmy for their short The Man Who Planted Trees, the short is based on the story of the same name.

1988 basically ends Wall Street’s era of Animation. The number of new cartoon shows commissioned drops drastically. This in turns creates instability within the Animation industry, following Fowler’s time as the FCC Commissioner, cartoon shows were being commissioned left and right. Year after year, in an almost unseen number. Turning studios into Hanna-Barbera like companies, such as Rankin/Bass, Filmation Studios, and even Marvel Productions. However with the FCC starting to regulate children’s programming again, many toy companies and Wall Street investors began to lose interest in TV Animation. As it would be harder to make money now. So while many studios had been making a profit, though Hanna Barbera still had a greater lead, the lack of a need for new cartoons would begin to drain the Animation TV based market. Furthermore Hanna Barbera was nearing its deathbed, as many of their newer shows were considered failures. Such as a Pup Named Scooby-Doo, which was basically Scooby-Doo dumbed down for kids. They had of course done this periodically throughout the 80s, old shows were rehashed. Removing elements of the original shows and replacing them with elements that were “popular” with successful cartoons in the 80s. However this was true for many Animation studios, they all went with the flow, few would survive in the 90s. Many studios were either bought out or merged into other larger studios. Garfield and Friends is released by Roman Films. The cartoon series is based on the comic strip by Jim Davis. Oliver and Company is released by Disney Animation, marking the studios’ first real financial success of the 80s. This prompted great confidence and a shift within Disney Animation, as Disney sought to  release animated features yearly. Although The Land Before Time released that same day by Sullivan Bluth Studios, and beat out Disney at the box office. The movie was great collaboration with Don Bluth, Steven Spielberg, and George Lucas. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is released by Touchstone Pictures to critical acclaim. The film imagines a world that is inhabited by both people and cartoon characters. It made lots of money and proved that live action/Animated combo films could be good. Pixar wins an Academy Award for their Short Tin Toy. Their first big achievement in Hollywood. Tinny, a tin toy, interacts with a baby which brings hilarious results. Their achievements with CGI would eventually led to their partnership Disney.

1989 is truly the end of the 1980s era of Animation for many reasons. Not for the fact that it was last year of the 80s, but things were brewing politically. Ronald Reagan was gone, and instead we now had George H,W. Bush as president. People had become very angry over Wall Streets actions with buying out stations and peddling what many felt was an inferior quality of TV. Compared of course to the 50s-70s era of TV, as quality programming and servicing the public conscious were primary goals. TV in the 80s had degraded, its primary goal was to create shows that could be popular, which in turn could be used to gain lucrative ad revenue. So it boiled down to what are the most popular shows, and how can we make them cheaply? Just because a show is popular, doesn’t mean its well written or made. However more to the point, this of course affected parent’s opinions on cartoons. Parents grew to feel that cartoons had basically exploited kids, all in the name of selling toys, comics, and other dumb pieces of merchandise. Even if you were ok with this fact, which indeed led to increased sales of merchandise by toy and comic companies, there was also the fact that these shows had no redeeming qualities. Most shows had no continuity or real plot, so every episode was an isolated incident. There was also the fact that sometimes these shows were inappropriate for kids. Such as GI Joe, Robotech, Rambo: The Force of Freedom, Jem, etc. As many of these “kids” shows had lots violence, concepts on love that were too mature for children to grasp, as well as other element usually thought to be too mature for children to understand. This also led to a brewing political debate. With Fowler gone, ACT was back in full force. TV had usually been a self regulating industry, though there was still debate that TV needed to have set guidelines. Before the 80s, TV had regulated itself enough, that there was no basis for regulations. Parents might voice concerns to stations or the FCC, and these concerns were then addressed. As the FCC did not fulfill their duties in the 1980s, there was finally a reason to create more concrete standards for TV programming. ACT was campaigning more in order to regulate children’s programming, holding rallies, as well as talking to both State and Federal government officials. The hammer was coming down on unregulated TV Animation programs. This also marks Disney finding itself again creatively and commercially with their release of The Little Mermaid. A movie in which Ariel, a mermaid, falls in love with a human. Their movie was again, up against a Don Bluth production, All Dogs go to Heaven. His film focused on a tale of life, death, revenge, and friendship between two dogs. However unlike the last two times, Disney crushed Don Bluth’s movie at the box office. This victory helped usher in Disney’s second golden age. A vision in which Roy Disney sought to make Disney Animation the top Cinematic Animation studio, as well as creating an impressive TV Animation lineup. Balance by Wolfgang and Christoph Lauenstein, takes home the Emmy. The German film is about a group of men who live on a small floating platform and must all move together in order to balance the platform and keep themselves from falling. Production on The Ren & Stimpy Show pilot begins, it would later be sold to Nickelodeon in 1990. The voice behind Porky Pig and 1000s of other voices, Mel Blanc finally dies, with his passing the Golden Age of Animation is essentially gone. Osamu Tezuka dies. Many saw him as the Godfather of Anime, and an equal to Walt Disney. He is widely considered to have laid down the foundations for the Anime style of Animation. The Simpsons is finally given its own primetime show, and as such it is finally divorced from the Tracey Ullman Show. The show follows the Simpsons family and their ridiculous adventures in Springfield. Their first episode, Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire, aired on December 17, closing out this terrible decade of Animation with a bang. Thus the Modern Age or perhaps Second Golden Age of American Animation begins.

What characterized this era of American Animation was the fact that Wall Street had a vested interest in Animation. There was also the advent of CGI technology greatly advancing, and the passing of many great Animators. Leaving room for a newer generation of Animators. Disney Animation was seemingly falling apart, while other Animation studios were flourishing. The absence of Disney’s Nine Angry Men greatly affected the direction Disney was going. Deregulation of TV based Animation led to a degradation of quality. Many Animation studios became dependent on toy based partnerships. So while they succeed in the Animation market, they were left in bad financial shape once they were bought out by bigger companies who sought to decrease production costs. Likewise once TV Animation began to be regulated again, many of the toy based partnerships were no longer viable. This all led to many studios going bankrupt, defunct, or merged into larger studios. Even Hanna Barbera was in ruin, due to their parent company Taft, going belly up. By the end of the decade every major movie studio such as MGM and Universal were already bought out by big conglomerate companies. This would go on to affect how the movie industry does business. This also meant that every Golden Age Animated short was now owned by a select few companies. Through all of this only Disney, Warner Bros, Pixar, and Nickelodeon were in good financial shape. Disney Animation was already under better management. While the other studios had not gambled on partnerships or get rich quick schemes. This also poised Turner broadcasting to create Cartoon Network in the 1990s. All this corporatization of Animation nearly killed the spirit of Animation. In particular the creative nature, as well as the ability to create Animation that was geared towards adults. Heavyweights Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon would soon build their empires. The 90s would see a rebirth of Animation, creativity would flow back, and some of the greatest series’ would be Animated to life by Ainmators frame by frame.

Hidden Characters – Forgot About the 90s?

The 90s, its a nearly forgotten era. Being a tumultuous time for both media and streetwear. Many great artists and movements existed during this time that tried to challenge people’s collective way of thinking. Of course Nirvana and 2Pac will instantly come to mind. Much of the 90s philosophy ended through the death of various people who were spearheading the revolution that was grunge as well as gangsta rap. However the 90s was more than just a revolution in music, there was also countless new shows and cartoons that caught the eye of millions of people. There was also Anime, and even video games during this period which helped give the 90s its own unique zeitgeist. For video games there was the advent of 3D gaming environments, utilized by the likes of the Final Fantasy series and Metal Gear Solid franchise. As for Anime there were many well written shows that existed during this time, such as Neon Genesis Evangelion, as well as Pokemon. Streetwear in the 90s was also different as, it was occurring at a benign level. Being widely ignored by both fashion and major media outlets. 

2001 was more or less the end of many ideals that were persistent in the 90s. The 2000s was a very 80s nostalgic era. Many popular fashion and streetwear brands alike heavily referenced 80s pop culture, stealing it, commenting on it, even incorporating concepts and transforming them into contemporary logos or themes. However over the last few years as the bigger more senior streetwear brands have begun to show their age, some newer streetwear brands have begun to look towards the 90s for inspiration. For their second drop of 2014, Hidden Characters took on a bigger risk, looking back at a vastly ignored zeitgeist and took inspiration from its obscure elements.

WWF’s Mick Foley, Final Fantasy, and Attack on Titan all clock in as inspirations this time around. For those who didn’t grow up in the 90s, or just don’t remember, WWE was originally known as WWF for many years. The main focus of WWF (World Wrestling Federation) was mainly to promote more adult oriented wrestlers, giving the masses someone to love or hate. Whereas today’s WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) is mainly focused on creating a spectacle that the whole family can love. Mick Foley is the specific subject that Hidden Characters chose to tap into. What characterized him was that he seemed to have multiple personality disorder. Foley seemed to always use fuck or its variations in his vocabulary, he drank lots of booze, acted liked a deranged stalker at times, as well as being a womanizer, among other things. Mankind was the psycho of Mick Foley’s personality, being a brute, often mumbling nonsense, as well as shoving his dirty sock down people’s throats, truly he was deranged. Foley was a staple throughout the 90s, what with all his drinking and all the tail he managed to scrounge up. In a nutshell hes the lovable creep from the corner of your street.

Final Fantasy may have been around in Japan since the late 80s, but it didn’t come to America til the 90s. What can be said about the series, more like what can’t be said about it? Every game was a new one even though our favorite characters never came back, you always had a new favorite character that kept you coming back to the series. The Final Fantasy franchise had a unique theme for every game, certain characters would find their way back into each installment, albeit with different designs and purposes. What probably made Final Fantasy so enjoyable in the 90s was being able to do summons. Basically You could unlock certain monsters, which were called elementals or Aeons. You could bring them to the battlefield and they’d kill your enemies, because you know, they were basically your slaves. Arguably the most popular summon was Ifrit, a goat looking humanoid fire Aeon. Hes a staple in the Final Fantasy series, usually being unlockable, though in the newer games it isn’t possible to unlock him. Which is a shame, because Ifrit is usually the villain nowadays.

Lastly, but certainly not least Hidden Characters again chose Anime as a motif. This time around they didn’t actually use an Anime from the 90s, instead they took cues from Attack on Titan, which is a newer Anime. Some might debate the merits of using a newer Anime as inspiration, as Attack on Titan products are sold at Hot Topic. However there really is a lot to elaborate on when talking about Attack on Titan. As a whole Anime is being mass produced, like food or clothing, and being sheparded to America. Though this may seem great, many of these newer shows lack depth, or creativity. Although once in while something breaks through the mundane and gets people excited again as well as thinking in new ways. Attack on Titan is something that invokes the spirit of 90s Anime, as it goes beyond the concept of friendship, a very overused theme. The series questions the existence of mankind, and what possible purpose do individuals serve in the grand scheme of life. Trigun questioned people’s resolve to live, as well as their nature. Evangelion in particular questioned people’s desire to be individuals, and what the ramifications of freewill could be. In ways Attack on Titan mirrors the drive of older Anime.

Hidden Characters’ second drop of 2014 consisted of three tees, as well as their first venture into pants. The brand has already shown to have a strong following, so rather then starting their second release off with a typical lookbook, they opted for a different route. Out of the kindness of Hidden Characters’ dark hearts, a select number of buyers from the first release of 2014 were given all three tees from the second drop as well as a plethora of freebies. Such as silkscreens and stickers. Apparently Hidden Characters wants its fans to know that selling your soul to them, comes with many great perks. Following this fans were shown a lookbook which gave off a sense of battle, pain, and of course blood. Much of this can be attributed as being a nod to the Mick Foley tee which was arguably the tee that had the most amount of silkscreen put into it. Though their IFRIT tee probably took more time to design, as it featured a fair amount of original artwork from the brand. While The Inner Demons tee was a great tee that showcased an overall theme for Hidden Characters. As for the Battle Dress Uniform pants, each pair of pants were apparently given an extra print featuring the buyers name on the tags of the pants.

Each product was given a meticulous amount of thought and execution put into it. The Mick Foley tee has prints all around the shirt. The front showing a classic Cactus Jack moment, as he strikes down his opponent with his barbed wire 2×4, 1991 is the year he debuted at WWF. The right sleeve print is another memorable moment, presumably from one of Foley’s many Hell in a Cell matches, all bloodied and battered. Yet he persists with his twisted smile. The left sleeve is a nod to Foley’s autobiographical book, Have A Nice Day: A Tale of Blood and Sweatsocks. The back has the biggest print, with the most detail. Another Hell in the Cell match is shown, with Mankind dominating the ring. The various dates written are the most memorable matches of Mick Foley’s career. At the very bottom is a classic WWF inspired Hidden Characters logo, which looks very sleek and well rendered. What can be said about this shirt? Everything is so right. While Mickey Foley may not be associated with streetwear, he is an example of what streetwear’s principle convictions are. The IFRIT has some beautifully drawn art by  Hidden Characters, which is located on the back. Teased months before the drop, fans were given a peak on HC’s tumblr. So much detail is put into IFRIT’s clothing. Its trademark goat horns are displayed, while the position of its body suggests that its being summoned into battle, likely from some fire-y brimstone-y place. A nice nod to the FF series. Right below IFRIT, the text Hidden is written. While coming off as being the usual old english inspired gangsta text, it also has an added stylization which may be of Asian origin. Below the Hidden text, theres an added smaller Arabic text, which possibly says IFRIT. The back graphics are amazing, although the front graphic also pays a great tribute to Final Fantasy. Utilizing the logo from Final Fantasy VI as a base, for obvious reasons, while establishing their own name in lieu of the og FF moniker. What makes this small logo so nice is the fact that Hidden Characters made each logo a slightly different color, making the IFRIT tee an especially unique piece to own. Regardless of why you like it, the IFRIT tee is for anyone who loves Final Fantasy, the 90s, or in general great design work. The last tee to examine is The Inner Demons tee. Unlike the last two, this shirt isn’t really giving a shout out to anything specifically. It does flip a graphic from Attack on Titan. This could be for purely aesthetical purposes. Furthermore this tee may serve as a soapbox for what Hidden Characters wants to embody. A pocket is sewn on front, with their own label protruding from the side. A fairly simple red label that reads “Hidden.” On the right sleeve with an odd display of numbers, 1-9 are printed. In particular the 1 is engulfed in a circle. If you want to delve deeper, one could say that the numbers have significance, perhaps in biblical terms or numerology. 1 meaning individual, while 9 may signify completion. Or it may just be a nice pop driven print. The left sleeve is a bit more interesting as Hidden Characters’ mountain is displayed, presumably their base of operations. While below that Purgatory is written backwards, another possible hint of where they operate from. Finally on the back theres a diagram, repurposed from Attack on Titan. The illustration shows that killing a Titan requires their nape to be cut out. While the graphic is fairly simple, what it represents is somewhat chilling. Below, “The Inner Demons” can be read. This added text changes what the graphic means. The graphic may represent the evils of mankind, while the severed neck may symbolize that evil exists within humanity. Its all ambiguous, but nonetheless its a really clean tee to wear that reps Hidden Characters, while fostering some base ideals. Mainly death and Anime, while still encouraging fans to think beyond the scope of superficiality, concerning their own graphics. On a last note theres also Hidden Characters’ BDU pants, which are different from most pants you’ll find on the streetwear market. One difference being that they only came in two sizes, having an elastic waistband, ranging from waists 27″-34″ as well as having a sewn on ‘Hidden” patch. Doing the embroidery themselves, it came out rather nice, another little element that HC added were the buyer’s names to the tags, thereby giving the wearer a more unique product.

Trailing from their last drop of 2014 Hidden Characters has continued to showcase their penchant for making quality graphics and executing bold ideas that keep bringing people back who want more HC clothing. If you were lucky enough to cop from this drop, count yourself lucky. Their next apparel release, which will probably be dropping soon, won’t be any easier to buy. Whats ironic is that many people were likely skeptical of a brand that chose to tap the likes of WWF, Final Fantasy, and perhaps Attack on Titan. WWF, because its not a streetwear thing. Final Fantasy, because its for nerds. Attack on Titan, because its a Hot Topic brand. The potential criticisms may be endless. Despite this, Hidden Characters still sold out their stock on this second drop. Proving that they can indeed change the status quo in streetwear, and will eventually be future leaders in the industry. Stay tuned for the next drop, no one knows when its coming. Be patient, be swift, and stay hidden.

Mick Foley

IFRIT

The Inner Demons

Battle Dress Uniform pants

*SS14, second drop

*Sold Out

*Hidden Chracters Twitter and Tumblr.

* Google Hidden Characters Hypebeast to find their forum and stay updated.

Guardians of the Galaxy – Differing Puzzle Pieces that fit

When people think of Marvel movies, they most likely will think of the Avengers. Maybe Iron Man more specifically. Looking back at The Avengers from 2012, the story took place on a planetary level. However the heroes who saved the world seemed to have little in common, well from a glance. The Hulk is big and green, Cap is literally from a different era in time, Thor is from a different dimension, while Iron Man comes off as being very egotistical. Everyone was an outcast in their own right, mostly due to their great individual powers. However despite their different backgrounds the heroes found unity in the fact that they all wanted to save the Earth, as most of them live there, and have loved ones residing there. Moreover through their fighting and arguing, the Avengers realized that they actually share certain ideals and can even relate to one another on a more personal level.

However Guardians of the Galaxy, directed by James Gunn, approaches the super hero collective in a different light. Not only do most of the team have differing reasons for living, they aren’t even the same species. And really thats one of the main driving ideas in Guardians of the Galaxy. Unity through collective rejection. As all of the characters meet through reaching their lowest points in life, specifically all being incarcerated in the same prison. The team is rallied by Peter Quill/Star-Lord, as he figures they’re all losers, and only coming together as a team can they be a greater force in the galaxy. Specifically something a force for good.

Looking at every character’s background gives us a better idea of what type of group the Guardians of the Galaxy are. 

Peter Quill/Star-Lord, Chris Pratt, was abduct as a young boy right after his mother died. Furthermore Quill didn’t know his father, the fact that he has no family is something that does weigh on Quill throughout the film. As evidenced by him carrying around a Walkman his mom gave him, while often listening to the mix tape she made him. Another curious element is that Quill kept a present his mom gave to him, but never opened it. Perhaps he still hasn’t come to terms with his final meeting with her, a meeting that was emotionally grueling for him. He was raised by the Ravagers, and became a great thief. While the Ravers obviously consider Quill part of their group, Quill doesn’t always identify himself as part of the Ravagers. Then theres Gamora, played by Zoe Saldana. Her family was killed, while she was captured by Thanos, and forced to become one of his assassin “daughters.” Like Quill, Gamora does not associate Thanos as being her father in any context, she does however consider Nebula a sister. Gamora is ultimately seeking to stop Thanos from attending a great power. Rocket, voiced by Bradley Cooper, is probably the most peculiar of the group as he was a common raccoon, who was then experimented on be means of dissection and reassembly, until he was final modified with cybernetics and a genius intellect. Of course he has no family, and being that hes basically a one-off experiment he feels like hes a monster/joke.Though Groot, voiced by Vin Diesel, does service as Rocket’s surrogate family. Goot is a humanoid plant, which can almost only say “I am Groot.” As a result we know nothing about Groot’s family or background, though The Collector insinuates that Goot’s people may have gone extinct. Groot unlike the rest of the group does not seem to be motivated by loss or tragedy. Instead he may be drawn to Rocket, as he recognizes  Rocket and himself as being the only ones of their kind. As such Groot is never far from Rocket, while Rocket some times belittles Groot, both do look out for each other’s well being. As evidenced near the climax of the film, with Groot nearly dying. Drax is the last member to show up onscreen. While having a similar story to Gamora’s, Drax lost his wife and child to Ronin’s armies. His sole desire is to kill Ronin, because of this he is filled with great anger.

Their primary antagonists are Ronan The Accuser, portrayed by Lee Pace, and Nebula, played by Karen Gillan. Ronan is a Kree who heavily believes in their traditions and seeks to give the orb to Thanos, so that the Xandarian people will be exterminated. Nebula initially helps Ronan because Thanos orders her to help him retrieve the orb. While Yondu, played by Michael Rooker, seems to be after Quill for stealing the orb before he and the other Ravagers could.

The film opens with Quill talking to his mom on her death bed, she gives him a present and wants him to open it, which he refuses. Moments later she dies and unable to bare the pain Quill runs off and is abducted by the Ravagers. 20 years passed and Quill goes to steal an orb from Ronan. Later as he tries to hock the orb, Quill finds himself in a fight with Gamora, Rocket and Groot. This lands them all in prison.

The Guardians of the Galaxy start out more as criminals in film, because of this they aren’t really a team until the latter of the film. Save for Gamora, who is initially the only one of the collective looking to do something noble. Specifically storing the orb, whichs holds an infinity stone, somewhere where no one will be able to use it for evil. While Quill is looking for a greater purpose in his life, which at first seemed to be becoming a well known and great thief. Rocket and Groot are mercenaries looking for a big pay day, so they can retire somewhere nice. Then of course theres Drax who simply wants revenge. Everyone’s differing desires, causes clashes amongst these criminals.

After the group escapes from prison, their plan is to meet with Gamora’s client, who will give them enough money to live out their lives comfortably. They meet up with The Collector, who reveals that the orb is an Infinity Stone. An object of great power that can destroy worlds, and do more. The Collector’s assistant grabs the stone, infusing her with great power, though she can’t contain it. As a result she explodes, and nearly destroys The Collector’s gargantuan home.

From here the mission changes. Gamora seeks to give the stone, to the Nova Corps on the Xandarian home world. However due to Drax’s strong desire to kill Ronan, he actually gives him their location. Causing the Guardians to flee. Ronan shows up with his army and takes the orb, while easily beating Drax. Quill, against Rocket’s wishes, saves Gamora by floating in space and giving her his mask to breath, and contacts Yondu. Quill is able to convince Yondu that together they can get the orb back and make a great profit together. Rocket, Groot, and Drax tag along.

Ronan discovers that the orb houses an Infinity Stone and places it on his hammer, which is able to stabilize the stone’s power. He also declares to Thanos that he will kill him, which causes Nebula to continue her alliance to Ronan out of her hate towards her adoptive father. With this last part, the theme of family should already be obvious to the audience. As all of the main and most of the supporting characters have particularly strong feelings of family, which ultimately does play a role in each character’s motives in the movie. All of the GotG members have lost their family, so they initially only rely on themselves for support. While Ronan desires to fulfill the wishes of his forefathers by killing the Xandarians.

Again things change, this time in everyone’s mentality. The Guardians of the Galaxy are symbolically born through Quill’s speech to the others. Gamora’s desire to strive for redemption, driven by her time killing for Thanos, inspires Quill. He decides that together this group of criminals (Gamora, Rocket, Groot, Drax, and himself) can do great things, specifically being a force for good. As he says they’re all “losers” and have have encountered great losses, but can overcome this if they unite with a singular purpose in mind. Quill contacts Rhomann Dey, played by John C. Reilly, who earlier had arrested the GotG except for Drax, and informs him that Ronan is coming with his forces to destroy Xandar. The Nova Corps is put on alert, and with help from the Ravagers are able to greatly slow down Ronan’s assault. 

The GotG are able to infiltrate Ronan’s ship. Nebula is subdued and later flees. Ronan is then confronted by the GotG, however they fail to neutralize him. As a result most, of the Nova Corps are killed and Ronan’s ship crashes on Xandar. At around the same time Groot encases himself and his team within his own body mass and suffers most of the impact from the fall, seemingly killing him. Ronan proceeds to bestow The Guardians of the Galaxy moniker to Quill and his friends, while in same breath taunting them for not being able to kill him. 

In an odd scene Quill challenges Ronan to a dance off. While it seems very out of place, its actually a distraction for Rocket to shoot Ronan with his makeshift weapon. This causes the hammer to break, thus freeing the Infinity Stone. Quill is able to grab the stone, however he doesn’t explode. During this time Quill confronts his mother in his mind, and comes to terms with her death. Zamora and the other Guardians grab Quill’s hand, and are able to control the power. Together they use the stone to kill Ronan. 

The aftermath results in the Guardians of the Galaxy being recognized as an official galactic force for good by the Nova Corp. Yondu is given a fake orb, while he realizes this he obviously has no ill feelings towards Quill. He then reveals that the Ravagers were supposed to transport Quill to his father, but decided not to as he was an “asshole.” They are also absolved of their crimes, and the Nova Corp feels confident that Quill will be able to keep the team united. As well as informing Quill that he is only half human, and maybe part Ancient. With the celebration over, Quill finally feels its time to open his gift that his mother had given him before she died. Its revealed to be another mix tape, and he proceeds to play it. A piece of Groot is revealed to have survived and is slowly growing back into its form. Afterwards the Guardians of the Galaxy proceed to venture off into space, presumable to their next mission.

Howard the Duck is teased in the after-credits scene, drinking a beverage with The Collector. This in particular is an example in how Disney handled The Guardians of the Galaxy. Simply put, discord and alienation can breed unity. Unlike The Avengers, The Guardians have little in common, each character is vastly different. The Avengers all come off as being heroic individuals, who while having slightly different ideas regarding defending the Earth, can come together in perfect unison and defend the Earth. At their very core, they are all the same the archetype, being heroes with typical heroic traits with certain variations to paint them as more unique individuals. Each of The Avenger’s stand alone movies, like Captain America, is of course able to delve deeper into each character. However all of the members of The Avengers, had much of their personalities watered down in The Avengers movie. Being in the presence of one another they did show some uneasiness, but nothing too volatile. Whereas The Guardians of the Galaxy were very aggressive to one another, because their personalities seemed much stronger. However this is necessary as the GotG were unknown and therefore the viewer needed to see them as individuals before being convinced that could really be a group of heroes. Being that these characters were all new giving them strong attitudes helps us better understand these characters as individuals.Quill is a selfish thief, Gamora is an assassin looking for redemption, Drax is killing seeking revenge, while Rocket and Groot are outcasts/mercenaries.The fact that they’re all different races further cements that these protagonists are indeed unique. Of course they can all put aside their differences and through unconventional means form a dynamic team.

James Gunn was able to help the audience understand these characters, by devoting a good amount of screen time to their origins, Though only Quill’s life is actually shown onscreen. The movie flows pretty well with a few hicips that make you wonder whats going on. Most of these are usually caused by Quill, at times he comes off as being too awkward. Likewise in a few shots Pratt’s acting doesn’t seem believable. so he sometimes seems like a flat actor. Though for the most part Quill is very comedic and brings some relief to tense moments, while still showing signs of being human. The group arguments between the Guardians is always fun to watch being that they are all trying to prove themselves to each other. Ronan makes a good villain and so at times he seems overqualified to be the main villain of the film. He also elaborates on who Thanos is and what he wants. setting things up, for possible The Avengers 3. The effects are without question well made and executed. Especially when Quill saves Gamora from dying in space. There are many great scenes in the movie. Though the opening scene with Quill and his mom is probably one of the best photographed in the film. So overall Guardians of the Galaxy is definitely worth a watch, at least two. You may not like it compared to other comic book films as the heroes aren’t typical, however you may find yourself empathizing with the Guardians of the Galaxy regardless about what you may initially feel about them.

The Hunt (2012) – De Facto Guilt

The Hunt is a 2012 Danish film by director Thomas Vinterberg. Mads Mikkelsen stars as Lucas, the movie’s protagonist. In many cases of child molestation, once the story is broken amongst the community its effects are nearly apparent. The accused is de facto guilty by the community. Whatever the accused says to exonerate themselves is perceived as a lie, as “children don’t lie.” Now in many cases of child molestation, the accused is usually proven guilty. The abuser is forever tainted with what they did and society promptly labels them as some sort of sub human creature. However in cases in which the accused is proven not guilty, things can sometimes become more complex. Most people accused of child molestation are proven guilty, so those that are proven not guilty are often viewed with contempt. So while being innocent of the crime brought against them and exonerated by the courts, they are guilty for simply being accused of the crime.

This idea of de facto guilt is what strongly drives The Hunt. Ultimately this is what makes the movie an intriguing subject to watch, as other movies have delved into the problems of identifying situations of child molestation and the difficulties of convicting offenders. Doubt (2008) is actually a good compliment to The Hunt as the differing subjects and style of shooting allows people to see both sides of the spectrum when dealing with a sensitive subject. When watching one movie, I feel its also a good idea to also watch the other film. In both flicks there are main characters who are trying to do the right thing, yet are constantly stonewalled or put through the ringer by their respective communities. In Doubt Sister Aloysius tries to expose Father Flynn’s misconduct with a child, however she is later stonewalled by the church and seen as being an enemy. Whereas in The Hunt Lucas tries to break through his town’s growing prejudice and disgust in him while trying to prove his innocence, despite answering the accusation against him.

In The Hunt the movie opens with Lucas, who is a  middle aged divorced man and living in a somewhat small Danish town. Hunting is ultimately what unites the men, and thus the families and people of the town. Its also the basis for the title as  Lucas is the hunted. He is a kindergarten assistant and all of the kids love him, as well as his coworkers. Together they act as a sort of safety net for the kids who live in a hostel family atmosphere. Klara, Annika Wedderkopp, is one of these children. Being the child of Theo, Lucas’ best friend, they share a bond that is slightly more special. The key difference being that Klara sometimes is taken to school by Lucas or comes to his house to walk his dog Fanny. Klara’s parents seem to bicker often, which in turn leads her to spend time with Lucas, so she can gain her a reprieve from the madness in her home.

While much of this is fairly harmless, certain elements brew together, which slowly culminate to shatter Lucas’ life and the relationships with the various people he has known for years. Klara’s closeness to Lucas is one element. She longs to seemingly have someone  in her life who can protect her from her parents fighting. Lucas apparently  fills this role, and as a result she develops the inkling of a childlike romance towards him. One day Klara’s brother and his friend show her porn, this is the first time she sees an erect penis. Later she gives Lucas a romantic-ish card, and slips it into his coat. That same day she kisses Lucas on the lips. Lucas then gives the card back to Klara. She expresses her hate for Lucas, which is childish, to Grethe. Being a child  Klara puts two things that she knows together into one sentence, one being that she knows Lucas, and the other being that penises can be erect. Feeling uneasy with what Klara said, Grethe takes action and tries to determine whether or not Klara has been molested by Lucas. She of course informs Klara’s mom, who is horrified. Eventually Klara meets with a specialist in order to figure out if she has been molested.

This is where things truly begin to build up against Lucas. At this point things are going pretty good in Lucas’ life. He has a girlfriend, his son has decided to live with him instead of his ex wife, and he has a great relationship with the various parents whose kids go to his school. Likewise the feeling of the town is that of kinship and laxness. However once Klara is to be questioned on her story, Lucas is promptly put on leave. This is without question the eye of the storm. At this point, if all goes well with Klara’s assessment, then the community can continue on with its peaceful existence. However the truth is rarely heard or understood when Klara is asked questions and she responds to the best of her ability. Going into his interview, the specialist already seems biased. Neither Grethe or the specialist seem to know what to do when assessing a possible case of child molestation. Instead of trying to fully explain what they are asking of Klara, such as what happened between her and Lucas. Why does she hate Lucas, what does the heart mean? Or even Did he hurt her or do anything to her which made her feel uncomfortable? Klara is far too young to really understand these questions and so she gives very vague responses. Regardless its enough for Grethe and the specialist to run with their imaginations. Sewing a story extremely lewd which seems to never have an ending. The aftermath of Klara’s “confirmed” molestation is swift and continues to build extremely damaging momentum, so much so that not even she is safe.

Of course Lucas’ suspension continues, and he is informed that the charges brought against him have merit. Grethe quickly informs the parents of Lucas’ supposed guilt, however she adds fire to the flame by saying there could be several cases of molestation. While the parents begin to observe their children for symptoms of  abuse, the story of Klara’s abuse is continually twisted and added to, thereby breeding various stories. As Lucas determines the accusations are based between him and Klara he tries in a vain attempt to plead with her parents that he is innocent. Theo is obviously still in shock and displays doubt as to who he should believe. However his wife undoubtedly reinforces Lucas’ guilt into his mind. The story continues to spread and grow in prominence, so much so that Lucas is even assaulted when he tries to buy groceries from the market, specifically by its employees. The town perpetuates the idea that Lucas is guilty, so much so that his girlfriend eventually doubts his innocence, this leads to their breakup. Grethe seems to possibly be responsible for the stories circulating about Lucas. One day he confronts her, while he begs her to tell him what the contents of the stories are she continually remains silent and retreats from his presence.

This is especially important, because the audience never actually hears any of these accusations that are being bought against Lucas, only the original story that is created by Grethe. This really brings a feeling of ostracization, as Lucas wants to know what people are saying about him, he wants to know how ugly this story has evolved. However both him and the viewer are not even allowed to know what is being said, which makes Lucas a very defenseless character. This puts Lucas and the audience in the same boat helping us empathize with him. Things grow more complicated once Lucas’ ex wife Kristin is told by someone, likely that he is a twisted child molester, this in turn is relayed to his son Marcus. Who comes to his aid, going to the town and staying with him. In a strong and emotional scene Marcus tries to confront Klara as to why she “accused” his dad of molesting her. It ends with him being beaten a bit. Eventually only one family, Bruun’s, decides to side with Lucas as they have known each other for years and truly believe he is not guilty. As Lucas and Marcus are staying with the family, they prepare for the case. This serves to bring a vestige of hope to Lucas’ seemingly hopeless situation. The next day Lucas is taken away by the police. While investigating the claims, an element added to the abuse stores was a basement. However the authorities find no basement and believe Lucas is indeed innocent, the charges are then dropped. Thus the story of supposed abuse is crushed as well as the constant persecution from the community, well not quite.

Apparently Lucas was only in the eye of the storm. Lucas’ life actually gets worse. De facto guilt has been invoked. The idea that Lucas has dodged justice is probably  coursing through the minds of the people. The town still hate him and his son. In probably the stronger climax, as there could arguably be two, a rock is thrown into Lucas’ house. This prompts Lucas and Marcus to investigate whats going on, only to discover a dead Fanny. Lucas proceeds to bury her, which also echoes the town’s tranquil nature or possibly innocence. Marcus is sent home, leaving Lucas to discover a solution to his dilemma to which there seems to be non. The months continue to pass, by this time its Christmas. Yet nothing has changed for Lucas. He decides to attend the special Christmas service, to which the second climax is introduced. Lucas sits towards the front, while Theo and his family sits near the back. Lucas can hear the other people talking about him, however hes more concerned with Theo. He occasionally looks back at Theo, and witnesses him exchanging words with his wife. In a fit of anger and sorrow Lucas confronts Theo telling him to look into his eyes to see he has no guilt in him, but Theo chooses to ignore him. In his frustration Lucas starts slapping Theo, this leads to Lucas’ ejection from the church.

Back home Theo put Klara to bed, and quietly laments to himself. A barely awake Klara mistakes her father as Lucas and expresses her sadness over the events of the film and how they are no longer close. Especially how Marcus hates her, and how she misses walking with Fanny. Then she basically confesses that she doesn’t know why people hate him, because he has not done anything to her. She expresses that what people say happened to her, did in fact not occur. In a way this is symbolic for Theo, who  is finally able  to recognize Lucas’ innocence. Its also reminiscent for how the lies started in the darkness and how the truth was eventually uncovered in the night as well. Theo drinks his figurative medicine and tells his wife what Klara said. Against her wishes he decides to go and take some food to Lucas. The two reconcile, and Theo wholeheartedly wants to clear Lucas of any wrongdoing.

A year passes and it seems that Lucas’ life has been fully restored. Marcus is living with his dad now, Lucas has reconciled with his girlfriend, and the community has embraced Lucas’ innocence bringing him back in sync with everyone. Hunting season has begun and Marcus is ready to accept his manhood. Lucas and Klara are back to being close family friends. All is well that ends well. Except that Lucas manages to dodge a bullet to his head by a total fluke. A startled and scared Lucas looks at his attacker unable to make out the person’s face against the sun. Too in shock to chase the gunman, Lucas is left to lament on the fact, that things have not come full circle and maybe never will.

The ending rings true. As most people accused of molestation will likely never be viewed as innocent by the communities they live in or places they work. It will forever hang over them, unless these people choose to leave the places they reside in and move some place where no one knows them. Now of course The Hunt is not trying to say that all people accused of molestation are innocent. However it can be viewed as the consequences for when the proper channels of identifying and reporting cases of abuse fail. Again going back to Grethe and the specialist, there are many possible things that could have been done in order to avoid the fallout of Lucas’ de facto guilt. That said the movie is a great drama. It portrays a man desperately trying to clear his name, as well as fighting an invisible enemy that resides in people’s minds. Specifically fear and assumptions. Constantly we see Lucas up against the wall of accusations and even in a corner silently receiving everyone’s hate. However Lucas trudges on, hoping to change everyone’s mind, which throughout the movie does not happen. The best angles that capture the mood are often the ones where Lucas or Klara are off center. These types of angles perfectly embody Lucas’ de facto guilt. As many people believe him to be guilt, so the town is focusing on him, yet they widely choose to avoid him or ignore his presence. The murder of Fanny is an especially chilling and enlightening scene,  as Fanny served as a link to Lucas’ and Klara’s close ties. One these ties die, they die hard. Fanny was also a very innocent canine. The Hunt is definitely worth a watch, and a rewatch.

X-Men: Days of Future Past – New, old, its all good

Remember the 90s when the X-Men  cartoons were all the rage? Entrenched into episodes which always seemed to have good plots and intriguing characters. Two such episodes were known as Days of Future Past 1 and 2. The episodes featured a brief glimpse into possible dystopian future where mutants were detained or hunted and killed. The viewers were also introduced to the future X-Men, what was left of them anyways. Bishop travels to the past to stop an assassination. While the assassination is stopped the future is still a dystopia.

There have been many great X-Men incarnations that were birthed outside of the comic world. In 2000 the world became acquainted with the X-Men film series, which had highs, and unfortunately lows. As the series fell into disarray, a “new” series came onto the scene. X-Men: First Class (2011) sought to initially create a new series. However something far more ambitious was spawned instead. The idea being to pair the new younger X-Men from First Class with the X-Men from the original film series. The old and new came together to formulate X-Men: Days of Future Past, directed by Bryan Singer. For starters it does deviate from both  the comic and animated series of the Days of Future Past story.

While many people may think that Days of Future Past tells one story, in reality it tells three. The main plot being that Wolverine is sent into the past to reunited the X-men in order to stop Mystique from killing Bolivar Trask, which in turn is thought to prevent certain events that will usher in the creation of the Sentinels. As this is occurring the future X-Men, from the original series, are hold up at a temple and as a result are forced into what likely their final battle for survival against a huge Sentinel force. Lastly the final subplot revolves around the past X-Men trying to stop Magneto from from killing the president of America.

Unlike the last few X-Men movies DOFP is able to balance itself nicely. There isn’t too much comedy distracting from the story, instead we get lots of references to elements from the X-men comic lore as well as references to the original X-Men film series and their rebooted counter parts. One such reference being that Magneto is Quicksilver’s father, which is executed in a subtly comic conversation between Magneto and Quicksilver. Another is Wolverine passing through a metal detector, in which Logan is surprised that the alarm has not went off being that he has bone claws. As he likely is accustomed to alarms going off, due to his Adamantium coated skeleton. Theres also a reference to Stryker having a kid, who later appears in X2.

As the story begins in the future we are shown a setting that beyond hopeless. Mutant extinction is a very tangible reality, oppression and genocide are fact. This is the world of future. The last mutants alive have banded together, with no real solution of a brighter future. Seeing every mutant’s power in action is visually appealing. Ice Man’s powers are a fond reminder of the og X-Men films. Although Blink’s powers are the most stunning to watch in action. With every portal she opens you may find yourself trying to keep up with the action. The sentinels are also an interesting antagonist, as they’re much more high tech then their original forefathers. With every X Man slain you can feel a bit of fear creeping into your body, thats how terrorizing the sentinels are versus the comics/cartoons. As a result theres a bit of a struggle, as you know the X-Men can’t stave off their robotic tormentors for very long. Despite this seemingly hopeless revelation, you still have to root for the X-Men going down with dignity. The situation is further dramatized when Logan is sent into the past, through Kitty’s powers.

In 1973 Wolverine awakens with his mission clearly laid out, uniting the X-Men and stopping Mystique from killing Trask. Much of the drama is played out in this part of the story. While Charles is still very angry at Magnus, and vice versa, they still miss their friendship and try to understand one another. The hatchet is buried, though not fully. While both mutants understand what will happen in the future, each one has a differing way they want to avert the distant atrocities to come. Things are further complicated with Mystique as she has not killed anyone in her life, but is dead set on Killing Trask. She still leans towards Magnus’ ideals, however Mystique ultimately must find where she stand philosophically. Magnus tries to kill her, which causes a big stir among the world and leads to the premature birth of the Sentinels, which are less hi-tech. This also detracts from Trask being the main antagonist. Trask himself is a bit odd, as he doesn’t seem to hate mutants, but rather sees them as a solution to humanity’s division. His master plan is basically to use mutants as a catalyst for fear, which would lead to world unity.

Nearing the end of the end of the film Charles is actually able to communicate to his future self, through using Logan’s mind as a proxy. He has an epiphany that Raven (Mystique) must be able to make her own choices in life, instead of himself or Magnus trying to guide her. Charles is able to set aside his romantic feelings for Raven in order to finish the mission. In an awe shocking scene Magnus seals off the White House by using a huge stadium as a makeshift barrier, as well as gaining control of the Sentinels. Charles manages to subdue Magnus and convinces Raven not to kill Trask. Thus saving the future. Charles then proceeds to let Raven and Magnus flee, through each takes a separate path. While Beast questions whether they should be let go, Charles is hopeful that they will all be united one day.

Back in the future the X-Men are being slaughtered by the Sentinels, as a huge convoy descends upon the temple where they make a final stand. Eventually all the mutants guarding the door are killed. The Sentinels begin breaking down the door, Magnus tries one last tactic to hold them off, Ice Man is killed tying to stop them. The end is finally here and the Sentinels prepare to deal a death blow to Charles, Magnus, Logan, and Kitty. Since the past was changed, the future begins to change as well.

In a now alternate future Logan awakens in the X Mansion with his memories intact. No one recalls the Sentinels or his mission to avert their original dystopian future. Although this raises more questions as some mutants who were dead in the og X-Men films are alive. Particularly Jean and Scott, something to note is that they don’t act like a couple. Logan proceeds to ask Charles in helping him recall events following 1973, Charles knowing why happily does so. What follows is a prelude to the next X-Men film. Overall the X-Men: Day of Future Past does everything it needs to be a successful film. While some people might fret over small congruity issues, the movie hits most marks. Particularly in uniting the X-Men reboot series and the original series. Fans on both sides of the spectrum will be very pleased. The dystopian future in particular is very intriguing, because you really feel the plight and hopelessness of the mutants. The story moves fairly quickly and able to keep the audience’s attention, but alternating between the Future and Past X-Men teams. Moreover we get to understand more about Charles, Magnus, and Mystique. specifically their strained relationships to one another. Likewise Logan feels a great pressure to be a teacher instead of just a soldier or weapon. Action, drama, and an engrossing story make up X-Men: Days of Future Past. Its definitely a movie you can more than once. If you don’t watch it in theaters, you should go and rent it, you won’t be disappointed.

Pain and Gain – So Much Pain

Pain and Gain was released in 2013, and was directed by Michael Bay. Unlike many of Bay’s previous Transformer movies the story is more down to Earth. Likewise you won’t find many explosions, or the vast destruction of buildings. Instead we’re given a film that has lots of style, with comedic acting, and a somewhat decent story to follow. Pain and Gain tells the story of the Sun Gym Gang, who were convicted of various crimes. The steepest of which was murder. However not everyone was convicted of murder, only two members, Daniel Lugo, the leader/mastermind, and his right hand man Adrian Doorbal were convicted for homicide and given the death sentence. Their associates were convicted of fraud as well as racketeering.

The movie stars Mark Whalberg (Danny Lugo), Anthony Mackie (Adrian Doorbal), and Dwayne Johnson (Paul Dyle). Its interesting to note that Paul Doyle is actually a composite character. While  these actors have acted in various action movies, they aren’t portrayed as action heroes. The movie is a dark comedy, and is rightfully labeled as such. While all of the characters are very menacing, they also come off as being very satirical. While all of the characters have great ambitions, they are also very dimwitted with delusions of grandeur.

Danny Lugo’s life revolves around fitness, specifically bodybuilding. While hes very built, he is also fairly poor. He has a strong drive to become wealthy and successful in the fitness industry. While he helps the Sun Gym become successful and signs many applicant, its apparent that he doesn’t have the intelligence or business savvy to become wealthy. Earlier in his life he tried to fraud old folks out of their money. Falling back on his old habits he tries implement a new, vastly more illegal scam. His long time friend Adrian Doorbal helps him throughout his scheme. Doorbal has similar ambitions of wealth, but his priority is fixing his erectile dysfunction, cause by his use of steroids. Then later his desire to provide for himself and his wife. Finally theres Paul Doyle who is a recently born again Christian ex convict. Doyle follows Lugo in an attempt to provide financial stability in his life. This in tun ultimately revives Doyle’s self destructive tendencies.

You can describe the movie easily, when considering what the movie is actually about. Big bodybuilders decide they want to be rich, they go out and rob rich people. Eventually their stupidity gets the better of them, and they wind up in jail for murder.

Michael Bay instead takes the viewer on visual journey, with some laughs to keep away the boredom. Pain and Gain is a great film to look at, the bright colors with contrasting dark undertones give you a feeling of fantasy. Really thats what the movie is, a fantasy. Every twist and turn you may wonder if these guys have ever heard of the term law, considering how much they break it. Of course they don’t even think about the law, because they feel they’re so invincible. So much so that the law must be beneath them. Much of the dialogue is spoken in voice overs, by the main characters. You get a sense of how little reality plays into each character’s motivation for either success or survival. The Sun Gym Gang are also very ambivalent to how bad their plan is. Lugo’s motivation for executing the plan comes from a motivational speaker, Johnny Wu who is likely a scam artist. As Wu is obviously all talk, and makes his money through hyping people up. Even when law enforcement has apprehended Lugo, he continues to believe he will go free.

Pain and Gain is controversial as it portrays the crimes of the Sun Gym Gang in a soft light, and greatly down plays what they did. This is further exacerbated by the constant ramblings of the dimwitted muscleheads, who help to subtract from the seriousness of their crimes. However it does prove a point. Being that these men are so out of touch with reality, that they seem to live in a fantasized world. However following the plot proves to be difficult at times, as certain scenes just seem to drag out too long. Likewise you’re not watching a good and balanced drama. The focus of the movie is definitely not the dialogue. The first half of the movie is definitely more engrossing than the second half. If you want to watch a movies with cool camera angles and that look visually appealing, you’d probably like this movie. If you wanna see a film with an enticing plot, you might not be interested in watching Pain and Gain.

Paint me Indigo

Indigo is a unique color which has come to dominate the world. Their biggest triumph being that indigo is the default color that every major denim maker uses for their selvedge jeans. As indigo’s popularity has grown over the centuries designers and artisans alike have expanded Indigo’s focus. From not just jeans, but to other clothing apparel. Such as jackets, shirts, belts, shoes, backpacks, and other such accessories. Many brands have treated Indigo as a new unexplored territory for clothing. To this end we will cover various offerings of indigo t shirts, as well as what make each brand’s own version of their indigo t-shirt unique.

Tender Co. (UK) $128

 

First off we have Tender Company’s Type 353 T-Shirt. Being a collective of artisans the brand tends to have more free form thinking in term of their designs. First off this shirt is constructed using interlocked jersey threads, providing added durability. The design of the shirt takes cues from vintage sportswear shirts, likely from the 1950s. Some standout designing is the shirt’s slightly wide neck design and flatlock seam construction. What makes the Type 353 truly unique is that Tender Co decided to hand dye their shirt with Woad instead of  using conventional Indigo dyes. Woad was the precursor to the use of Indigo blocks in Europe. The dye has to be extracted from many Woad planets, so much so that it isn’t made on a commercial level. Another aspect being that Woad typically yields a somewhat lighter shade of Indigo. Woad usually doesn’t dye evenly, which introduces another element to the garment dyed, being a more unique fade pattern. Based in England, the company fashions their clothing there with various artisans.

Merz B. Schwanen (Germany) $100

Based in Germany Merz B. Schawnen has taken it upon themselves to recreate vintage clothing from the first half of the 20th century. Many of their clothing is based on either work or basic military attire of their respective time periods.  This particular shirt, the 215, is based off a 1960s tee shirt design. What makes this shirt interesting is that it features under arm gussets, which gives the shirt the ability to better conform to your body. Furthermore the shirt is made using two threads instead of one. This makes the shirt more durable, as well as making it feeling a bit more heavy duty. The shirt was hand dyed using natural Indigo. Like Woad, natural Indigo is not produced on a commercial scale, but can nonetheless be made. Likewise the shirts will eventually develop a unique fade pattern. Indigo comes from a fern and is typically dried out then formed into a brick. Throw it into a hot vat, then you’re in business, the dying process is long. Merz makes their clothing in Germany with old school machines from the 1920s, giving their clothes a more authentic background.

Ludwig Van (LA) $36

Finally we have Ludwig Van of Los Angeles California. Their Caligula tee is made using ringspun 30-single threads, making their shirt very soft and strong. Adding another element the brand employed jersey slub instead of the run of the mill jersey cotton fabric. The weave of Caligula gives the shirt a mix of both soft with an added bit of feeling. As the shirt runs across your body it gives off a little sensation that may feel soothing. Likewise in the summer the shirts weave allows for a nice air current to give off  a sense of relaxation. A wider neck provokes a more laid back demeanor. The owner of the brand hand printed the text, adding a personal touch to the Caligula. Like the other shirts, the Caligula also went through an Indigo dying process, though the process is not stated. They possibly used a block of Indigo. Ludwig Van gave the shirt a wash in order to give their tee a vintage feel, as they often use vintage materials for their clothing. The shirt should develop a nice fade pattern, partially due to the jersey slub fabric. Many of their products have been made in LA.

So whether its through an artisan or streetwear brand, Indigo has certainly expanded its horizons. Each brand’s takes on the Indigo tee shirt, which is becoming a phenomenon, is wholly done with a particular thinking process you won’t find at your local mall. Needless to say, there are many options that people have when looking to buy an Indigo shirt. The dyes alone could be the deciding factor for a lover of Indigo, or the design of the shirt, or even the fabric that was used; that may ultimately convince a person that an Indigo tee shirt is worth buying, or even an essential garment for their own style.

*Some of these shirts may no longer be available for purchase, as these brands usually don’t re-release products

*Tender Company site.

*Merz B. Schawnen site.

*Ludwig Van site.