The Mad Aardvark

Critical commentary on culture…

Archive for October, 2014

Star Wars Rebels

Posted by madaardvark on October 20, 2014


The cartoon Star Wars Rebels started on Disney a few weeks ago, and I managed to catch the first episode. There are problems, of course, but I can’t say it’s necessarily worse than, say, the Ewoks cartoon, other than the fact that Ewoks didn’t necessarily fit into continuity (and even as a kid, I didn’t expect it to).

Star Wars Rebels, like the Clone Wars before it, uses that crappy computer animation so popular nowadays, though I have to admit that stuff is getting more sophisticated as the technology gets cheaper. I mean, it’s become pretty clear to me that cartoons are made on a budget, and computer animation is the cheapest way to make something with a consistent, fluid style.  Unfortunately, that makes it feel much less warm and inviting than hand-drawn stuff, and in that regard, the Boba Fett cartoon from the Christmas Special remains the best animated Star Wars I’ve ever seen.

Anyway, the story and setup are much better than I thought t hey would be, and there seems to be some nod to the things that have come before, which Lucasfilm tried to erase with its list of what is and isn’t canonical. Disney is re-writing that list, apparently, probably because it’s cheaper and easier for Disney to maintain a status quo by doing so. The good news is what they’re including, and I think the new cartoon is establishing some of that.

For one thing, one of the main characters on the show is modeled after the original Chewbacca design. The Star Wars Roleplaying Game from the 80s, published by West End Games (affectionately known as D6 Star Wars), called that race the Lasat. I don’t know if that was kept part of the cannon in the Lucasfilm re-writing, but that race did first appear in D6 material, back when they had wider license to write things based on leftover images from the films back in the day, long before the Lucasfilm cash-cow locked down all of those images and ideas and had to approve of things before they saw print.

Another nice thing: although one of the main villains uses a double-bladed lightsaber and has a conspicuously adjective name (very stupid ideas, from where I’m sitting), the advertisements I’ve seen clearly label him as an “Inquisitor”, which was the title given to dark side force-users under Empire command in those D6 books. Again, I don’t know how much of that ever stayed in the public memory long after West End stopped printing those things, but I know Lucasfilm stopped considering those things part of the universe when they drew lines in the sand between CANNON and EXPANDED UNIVERSE and OTHER THINGS.

Most importantly, though, the tone and setup for the show is very reminiscent of the “classic” D6 RPG campaign setup. There are about 5 characters on a light freighter that more or less act independently from the Rebellion while clearly acting in line with the Rebellion’s philosophy. Character templates include: Brash Pilot, Lasat (generic alien race template, circa 1st edition), Cranky Astromech (heavily modified by the crew), Failed Jedi (on the run from Imperials), and Kid (who is Force Sensitive and will be getting trained by aforementioned Failed Jedi). In-game schticks also included: a speederbike chase, a stormtrooper and taking his gear to sneak around (thankfully, they’re stormtroopers and not clones or even some halfway stormclonetrooper), daring rescue aboard an Imperial Star Destroyer, and the obligatory TIE fighter chase.

Computer animation and double-bladed lightsabers aside, the experience wasn’t unenjoyable. It made me want to play Star Wars D6 again, or at least give it an honest try. I stopped for a long, long while when I realized that I couldn’t put the game into a context that didn’t include the prequels, and that damaged the spirit of the campaign and, indeed, the setting as a whole.

I’ll write more critiques of the show as it progresses, though I don’t get to watch much since I don’t have expanded cable. I mostly get a chance to watch these things when I’m sitting around with my daughter, turning her into a television junkie like myself, but that’s a post for another time.


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Ponies: They Could Be Worse

Posted by madaardvark on October 15, 2014

“MLP in Spongebob” by bronielover106 (deviantART)

In light of recent life changes, I’m having a much more positive outlook on the world. I have found myself still seeing those things that need improvement, and I still don’t care for them, but I’m spending more time focusing on what I enjoy rather than what I don’t.

A lot of what I dislike comes from seeing inevitable change, and I’ve had to learn to accept that. Other things that go through such changes, though, are hurtling towards an inevitable disintegration. I’ve had to accept that, too. As we age, we have to be cognizant that there are experiences we have had that define not just ourselves, but entire generations. These things can’t be shared ever again.

The death knell for Saturday morning cartoons has been rung, and despite a few education shows for toddlers, there really isn’t a long line-up of brainless cartoon junk food to watch on Saturday mornings anymore. Is that for the best? Or is it just different now? It stands as no surprise to me. I myself raised my daughter without that weekly institution. She had entire television stations dedicated to cartoons, and now streaming for whatever kind of show she wants to watch. We spend whole weekends with Spongebob Squarepants playing almost non-stop. (Weekends tend to be the time when Nickelodeon marathons the hell out of Spngebob.)

Once upon a time, I couldn’t stand Spongebob, not for the sexual innuendos, but for the philosophy of the show. Now, though? I’m getting more complacent with it. I have to admit, it’s a rare show that still relies on hand-drawn animation that manages to draw characters as three-dimensional objects, rather than flat computer-aided images that most cartoons use nowadays. The world and characters are consistent, too, both in their behavior and the function of their world. As weird and chaotic as the show might be, it functions with a regular, consistent representation of how its own reality works, and that’s something you can only appreciate from watching this show at great length. Forced to, if you will. At great risk of mental health. Because your daughter wants to.

I’m starting to appreciate My Little Pony, too. It’s a horribly drawn show, and the dialogue is mind-numbingly stupid, but the message it sends is consistent and very rarely hypocritical, unlike, say Monster High, which TELLS children that they should embrace their differences, but SHOWS them a world where all the girls fit the EXACT SAME body type. And that’s really why I have loosened my stringent cartoon beliefs to let my daughter watch those Ponies: a very positive message for girls. They’re strong and independent, and their world consists of something unrelated to impressing boys or even needing them around. Boys are there, in the background, doing their own thing, and the girls pretty much run the world. It’s a nice place for an otherwise sexist world. If only the animation wasn’t so, so awful!

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