Twelve Forever- Complete Series Review

Twelve Forever is a 25 part animated series centred around Regina (Reggie), a 13 year old girl who doesnt want to throw away her toys. She instead travels to a fantastic land, called the Endless, where her toys come to life and she becomes Twelve, the super awesome athletic hero of the world. Todd, her best friend, has morphing powers and their friend Esther has flying abilities. Together they fight the ills of society and puberty. The show is cute and sweet as it is presented in a superflat art style, familiar with fans of Adventure Time, but it deals with real weighty emotional issues such as dealing but being a young carer, societal expectations of beauty, negative formative experiences and much more.

In episode 2, we are introduced to the big bad of the show, the Butt Witch, voiced by Matt Berry of It Crowd and Disenchantment fame. For the duration of the series he tries to destroy the optimistic and fantastical world of Endless by corrupting its citizens.

Across 25 episodes the three lead characters go through many of the perils we've all probably experienced in our lives but it is presented through the fantastical world of Endless. If I were being pretentious I would say that the series was showing the pre-pubescent to pubescent forms of Ego, Super Ego and the Id and its effect on youth. According to Freud's psychoanalytic personality model, the id is the primitive and instinctual part of the mind that contains our innate human drives and hidden memories, the super-ego operates as a moral conscience, and the ego is the realistic part that mediates between the desires of the id and the superego. The three characters represent the 3 parts of Freud’s theory which is a characterisation common in many stories ranging from Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings; Reggie is the Id, Esther is the Super Ego and Todd is the Ego.

As you can see, for a 'kids' cartoon this show does get deep and it presents quite difficult concepts at a child friendly level. As a grown up man-child the show had me reflecting on my own childhood and some of the trials and tribulations I faced. Twelve Forever is a solid show that looks at positive representation and with each episode being only about 13 minutes long, it is easily bingeable if that's your wont to do. Check it out on Netflix!

Carmen Sandiego Season 2 Trailer Drops

Carmen Sandiego is the latest rebooted animated series on Netflix which is based on an older property, in this case many edutainment video games and multiple prior animated series. I reviewed the entire first season and liked it a lot, praising the art style and character development. So, it is with bated breath that I’ve waited for the next season to drop and lo and behold, a new trailer landed recently that announced the new season would be showing on Netflix on 1st October. I can’t wait!

The Hollow- Complete Season 1 Review

The Hollow is a 10-part animated show with an intriguing central mystery. We are introduced to three teenagers, Adam, Kai and Mira, who wake up in a cell with amnesia. They work together to escape and figure out who they are, where they are and how to get back home.

The three main protagonists have a great dynamic; Adam is a strong leader with super strength, Kai can fix machines and Mira can talk to animals. With their abilities they try to survive in the harsh and mysterious worlds they seem to be inexplicably pushed around in, and as they do so they find the other powers they have.
The premise is très J. J. Abrams, but what separates this from ‘Lost’, apart from it sticking the landing--which is does, is that it does things I haven't seen other animated shows too. It is quite unique in the way it pushes animation boundaries. Once you're a few episodes in an overriding mythology comes through and so, predicting the ending may be possible but the finale is very original and a bit left field.

In terms of animation, there is an issue for me here. Whist I love the story and characterisation, the animation style left me a little cold. I like and character designs and world building but the Flash animation-style cycles look very dated. This is a shame as even shows with a poor animation legacy like Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated have remained true to their origins but updated it so it looked incredible in 2011, whilst this looks... like 1960s Hanna-Barbara, or gosh forbid, Filmation quality animation. But dodgy animation aside, the show is well worth a watch as the mystery will keep you guessing to the end. In fact, without spoiling the ending, the show could continue with different animation styles as the story lends itself to this quite easily. I look forward to seeing where the creators take this show next.

LINK- Disenchantment- Complete Series 1 Review

LINK- Gravity Falls Complete Series Review

LINK- Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated Complete Series 1 Review

LINK- Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated Complete Series 2 Review

LINK- Manga Exhibition at the British Museum

LINK: Japan: My Journey to the East

LINK- Battle Angel Alita: And So It Ends

LINK- The Moomins 80's Soundtrack Vinyl Review

LINK- The Mysterious Cities of Gold Retro Soundtrack Review

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Complete Season 3 Review

The first two She-Ra and the Princesses of Power series have been a bright and generally breezy reboot of the classic 80s Filmation series, but boy does season 3 crank things up a little. There are three main through-lines over the course of this season; Hordak's plan, which is suitably nefarious, involves portals and the Horde army travelling through space and time to take over Etheria; Adora and her Best Friend Squad deepen their bonds on a journey through the Crimson Waste to find more First Ones technology and learn what happened to Mara, the previous She-Ra, and Catra and Scorpia become closer as they search for the tech in the Crimson Wastes too. The three storylines converge in dramatic fashion and, from episode 5, get pretty heady.

This series has a laser focussed storyline but the true area of development is character as we delve further into all our invested parties.
A surprising addition to this is that we learn about Hordak's motivations, and even though he is the big bad in this series, it is hard not to feel a little sympathy for him. Special mention must be made of the cool artistic style to present Hordak's back story, all art deco edgy stuff, similar in style if not colour palette of Batman: The Animated Series. This episode, episode 2, also sees his friendship (maybe romance?) with Entrapta grow. What could have been a 2-dimensional bad guy, becomes more intriguing and the storyline goes to some pretty heady places, not Pulp Fiction level dark but for a 7+ kids show... pretty noir. Alternate realities, the darkest timeline and time and space being all wobbly wobbly feature in this series and actually play a huge part in the finale.

Fans of this blog will already know how much I like this series but this series ups the ante and delivers powerful, tour de force storytelling whilst remaining humorous and true to the characters it has developed. I've said it twice before, but I will say it again: miss this show at your peril.

She-Ra Season 3 Airing This Friday

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power on Netflix is a modern reimagining of the classic ’80s Filmation series. She-Ra is a part of the He-Man universe and so holds a place in many fans’ hearts, and as expected this led to many debates about the redesign of the characters. Some arguments seemed to be reasonable, like some complaining about the more cartoony super deformed art style, or the redesign of She-Ra herself, but some seemed purposely argumentative and toxic like why was there a wider LGBTQ and minority ethnic representation on the show and why She-Ra herself was less 'feminine'.

I personally thought that She-Ra and the Princesses of Power Season 1 was an excellent 13 part animated series with a lot of heart. I knew that it would not please all fans of the 80s show but as a father 2 young daughters I liked the strong female lead, the characterisation of the entire cast and the well told Heroes Journey tale.

I thought that the second series continued well from where the last series ended with She-Ra still being trained by Lighthope and making slow progress. The Princess Alliance was holding strong against the continuous daily onslaught of Horde robots. At only 7 episodes the second series was light on storyline but it really focused on the characters and the world of Etherea. Along the way it tackles some heavy topics like toxic friendships, ageism and bureaucracy through the lens of animation.

So, it is with bated breath that my daughter and I have been waiting for the third series to drop and with the trailer dropping this week, it seems like the wait isn’t going to be so long! I am ecstatic and super excited to see where writer Noelle Stevenson et al. take us next.

The Clangers Soundtrack on Vinyl Review

Oliver Postgate and Peter Firmin were giants of British animation, creating Bagpuss, Noggin the Nog, Ivor the Engine and, of course, The Clangers. With their stop motion animation studio, Smallfilms, they have delighted legions of fans young and old over the last 50 or so years. Part of the charm of Smallfilms was the craftsy handmade products they made, and that could also be reflected in the magical music. I've already discussed that the Bagpuss Soundtrack had recently been released on vinyl but far more exciting for me is the recent re-release of the out of print Clangers Original Television Music by Vernon Elliot.

The music is from the original 26 episode run of the series from 1969, which was recorded in a local Kentish village hall. 50 years after their initial recording, these pieces of music have lost none of their wonder and charm. The Clangers soundtrack remains a seminal work piece of work, not just of children’s television, but of music as a whole. Composer Elliot's contribution to The Clangers was great as he created a warm and recognisable soundscape in an alien world. Listening to the music away from the show you can appreciate the craftsmanship that went onto the compositions; it is all beautifully minimalist performed mostly on a bassoon (in which Elliot was an expert) and a clarinet, harp, glockenspiel and flute. Highlights for me include Music, Cloud and Music of the Spheres as they are all very unique soundscape pieces that stand on their own.

The Clangers Soundtrack is a wonderful album that can be appreciated for its music in isolation from the show and is highly recommended.

LINK- The Moomins 80's Soundtrack Vinyl Review

LINK- Inspector Gadget Retro Soundtrack Review

LINK- Ulysses 31 Retro Soundtrack Review

LINK- The Mysterious Cities of Gold Retro Soundtrack Review

LINK- Sonic Mania Video Game Vinyl Soundtrack

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power- Complete Series Review

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power on Netflix is a modern reimagining of the classic ’80s Filmation series. She-Ra is a part of the He-Man universe and so holds a place in many fans’ hearts, and as expected this has led to many debates about the redesign of the characters. Some arguments seem to be reasonable, like some complaining about the more cartoony super deformed art style, or the redesign of She-Ra herself, but some seem purposely argumentative and toxic like why there is a wider LGBTQ and minority ethnic representation on the show and why She-Ra herself is less 'feminine' .
So, away from the Twitter frenzy what is the show like?

The character redesigns have led to many online discussions, unfortunately not all have been healthy. She-Ra and the Princesses of Power ©Netflix, NBC

Well, I did like the design of the '80s show but the new art style is great too. I am a big fan of Noelle Stevenson (the creator and lead writer of the show), who has created the amazing Nimona and Lumberjanes graphic novels, and her art style feels modern and stylised like Steven Universe. I don't understand why this seems to be an issue when many cartoons have been drawn in a more simplistic style compared to what they were years ago, after all, Phineas and Ferb, Adventure Time, The Amazing World of Gumball and Over the Garden Wall are all brilliant but less detailed and 'realistic' when compared to '80s fare such as He-Man, TMNT, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, MASK or GI Joe. However, what is inarguable and beyond dispute is that the storylines, dialogue and characterisation in the new She-Ra show is much better than in its predecessor. In a medium which has been hegemonic in portraying white characters and often sexualised females, the recent wave of real world representations in cartoons is exciting and the fact that it is backed up by engaging stories not just meant to sell toys is brilliant.

The story itself is classic hero fare: Adora is a cadet in the Fright Zone and a part of the Horde, who are trying to wipe out the 'evil' Princesses. However, after a joy riding accident in the Whispering Woods with her friend Catra, Adora finds the Sword of Power and has visions of She-Ra and the First Ones.
Adora is captured by Princess Glimmer of Bright Moon and Bow and realises that the Horde are evil and that the Princesses aren't a guerilla force but actually just peaceful rulers of their respective lands. Over the course of a few episodes Adora transforms and aims to unite the Princess Alliance that once fought the Horde but ultimately failed and fell apart.

So, as I stated before, the usual Hero's Journey fare. But what really helps set this apart from many shows of its peers is the snappy dialogue and characterisation. From episode 10 of onwards the show goes deep into lore and it is genuinely exciting to see the battle between Adora/ She-ra and Catra as they realise that they want different things in life yet their paths are inextricably and destructively linked.

She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is an excellent 13 part animated series with a lot of heart. It may not please all previous fans of the show but as a father of a 3 3/4 year old daughter I can honestly say that it is wonderful to have a show that has a strong female lead that isn't wearing questionable clothing or revealing too much skin. The Heroes Journey is a universal tale and in She-Ra it is a tale told well.

LINK- Disenchantment- Complete Series 1 Review

LINK- Gravity Falls Complete Series Review

LINK- Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated Complete Series 1 Review

LINK- Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated Series 2 Review

LINK- Ms Marvel Can Change the World

LINK- 13th Doctor Revealed

Hilda- Complete Series 1 Review

Hilda is a graphic comic series and now Netflix animated show about a young adventure loving girl. The 13 part animate series is adapted from the multi award winning and highly acclaimed graphic novel series by Luke Pearson.

Protagonist Hilda lives with her mother in a cabin near the woods and mountains, away from people and it is in this landscape that Hilda goes on her first few adventures.
The first two episodes are a delight, reminiscent of Tove Jansson's Moomins, in that fantastical adventures are had and magical creatures such as the woodsman, stone trolls and giants are met against the backdrop of the wilds. The weirdness and slight tinge of unease reminds me of Over The Garden Wall, with episode 2 being especially melancholic and touching.

After the events of episode 2, Hilda and her mother leave their cabin and move to the city of Trolberg. Hilda then adapts to life in an urban setting, meeting new people and the complexities that brings. She begins to understand the beauty that can exist in the city and develops friendships through the Sparrow Scouts group she joins and it is here that the main thrust of the series is pushed forward with each episode being an amazing and whimsical adventure. There are elves, stone giants, a Thunderbird and even a nightmare inducing teen thrown into the mix and it all ends up making sense as the world is a tapestry of story and character with its world building logic.

The stories are often simple standalone adventure tales but there are elements of continuity as each episode has repercussions for all that follows. The episodes often have a lot of heart and are touching, something I've been seeing a lot more of in 'children's animation' over the past few years.

The animation is stunning and the colour palette beautiful at conveying the mood. The fully realised characters are beautifully animated and even though they may look quite basic, have warmth and depth.
The voice acting is superb, especially the voice actress of Hilda, Bella Ramsey.

The soundtrack is also really something, all synthy and atmospheric, it has elements of the 80s but is definitely its own thing. The title track by one of my favourite singers, Grimes, is a triumph and interspersed throughout the series' moments of wonder are individual tracks that create whimsy and joy. The standout for my daughter and I was when Hilda was riding of the water spirit in the Lost Clan episode. And that is what this series is about, a programme for adults and children alike. My daughter is nearly 4 years old and loved the episodes I showed her but some of the episodes I didn't let her watch as I knew for prior watching that they would scare her.

I binged the series over the course of an evening and a day and loved it. It reminds me of Gravity Falls and Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated and that is very high praise indeed as those two series are some of the best animated shows I've ever seen. If you get a chance watch Hilda, you won’t be disappointed.

LINK- Disenchantment- Complete Series 1 Review

LINK- Gravity Falls Complete Series Review

LINK- Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated Complete Series 1 Review

LINK- Scooby Doo: Mystery Incorporated Series 2 Review

Inspector Gadget- Retro Soundtrack Review

Inspector Gadget was a staple of 80s cartoons for many children. The crazy adventures of a confused Clouseau-esque cybernetically enhanced policeman, who is rebuilt with many attachments may sound horrific and slightly reminiscent of the Robocop storyline but in the hands of Haim Saban and Shuki Levy it became a crazy farce that filled 86 episodes! I watched the cartoon regularly and even though it was never my favourite I still watched to see where Gadget would end up going each week. The soundtrack realy struck me at the time and the stunning introduction animation and theme song struck a cord with many people, being instantly hum-able even now.

Several soundtracks of the show were released in the 80s but they have been incomplete or suffered from noise distortion after being mastered from vinyl originals, Télé 80 released a CD in 2013 but it only had 22 songs, missing much from the series but the CD is still highly sought after by retro animation collectors.

The 2012 release of the soundtrack is incomplete and not worth getting. Also it is pretty expensive to purchase.

The 2012 release of the soundtrack is incomplete and not worth getting. Also it is pretty expensive to purchase.

However a few years ago they released the updated Inspector Gadget 30th Anniversary Special Edition, which is the most complete collection so far published of Shuki Levy and Haim Saban's score. It contains all the surviving compositions known to exist and Levy provided the master tapes for the new CD himself so the quality of the tracks is pretty clear. So what of the soundtrack? The whole album is composed of 30 tracks, some vocal but many instrumental pieces from the show. The first 3 tracks feature French vocals over well known Inspector Gadget instrumental pieces. They are fine if you are into that kind of thing but they're not really for me. However the album starts properly with track 4, Gadget Sur Mars (Gadget on Mars) which is a moody slice of 80s synth with a deep wubby bassline. In parts there are sounds that are similar to some Mysterious Cities of Gold tracks. 

  • Track 5, Le Fantome (The Ghost) is a warbly piece of music which sounds like a synthesized zither. You can imagine it being played in a ghost house, all jaunty and kiddy scary.  
  • Track 6, Musee De L'art Fou (The MAD Art Museum) is an upbeat piano piece, it moves from dramatic theatricalopening to a quick piano piece which wouldn't be out of place in a stereotypical Western saloon scene. Then the main Inspector Gadget motiff plays over what I can only describe as the sound I hear when people are trying to hide in cartoons. You'll know what I mean when you hear it.  
  • Track 7, Gadget in Japon (Gadget in Japan) is the stereotypical Japanese music, almost comically racist if it wasn't so charming, it opens with a gong and moves along to a rendition of chopsticks and then has a traditional flute sound. It is a rather whimsical and a wonderful piece. 
  • Track 8, L'usine de Chocolats (The Chocolate Factory) is a rather bouncy track that reminds me of ska music with its use of piano and trumpets. The track moves at a cracking pace and the Gadget motiff is there popping up every now and again. 
  • Track 9, Rodeo (Rodeo) is the Gadget motiff played in a American mid-west like dancing tempo, lots of fiddles, trumpets and piano combining energetically. 
  • Track 10, Theme of the Dr's Gang (Theme of Dr Claw's Gang) sounds wildly different, like an 80s cop show, it is all marching beat and jazzy and has a poppy trumpery sound with some cool bass and wailing bass guitar sinuously working its way in under some serious cello.  
  • Track 11, Hero's Dan's La Jingle Africaine (Heroes of the African Jungle) sounds like your stereotypical African sound, all drumming and pulsing jungle beat but then it changing tempo and a trumpet comes in to give it a little verve and variety, before going back to the traditional drum sound. 
  • Track 12, Gadget Chez Les Incas, (Gadget With the Incas) is a piece all panpipes and traditional folk guitar and flute. The piece reminds me of Tao's Theme from another series from the time, The Mysterious Cities of Gold, and is well worth a listen 
  • Track 13, Fai's Gaff (I'm not sure what this means) is one of my favourites tracks, it was often used when Brain the dog had to help Gadget from certain death. It changes rhythm quite a bit moving from dramatic driving synth to jaunty ska-esque high-jinks.  
  • Track 14, Gadget en Difficulte (Gadget in Trouble) was often used when Gadget was just about to fall into Dr Claw's trap, it moves around quite a bit from scary synth to ska. 
  • Track 15, Desert Arabia, (Arabian Desert), is your stereotypical Middle-Eastern sound, all flute, jingly percussion and boingy drums. 
  • Track 16, Gadget Le Sophistique (Sophisticated Gadget) sounds like a lounge piano piece, all classy and slow and then it devolves into jazzy brass and almost big showtune-esque. 
  • Track 17, Theme Du Train (Train Theme) is a fast pulsating synth piece, the Gadget motiff plays quickly at a fast pitch with a bass sounds that recalls the sound of a train in the tracks.  
  • Track 18, Le Royaume (The Kingdom) is a majestic soaring piece with a marching sound that goes into dreamy hazy territory before coming back to marching music. 
  • Track 19, Le Course de Voitures (The Race of Cars) starts of judderingly then move at a quick pace, with keys moving up and down and the pitch changing constantly, it sounds frantic and driving. 
  • Track 20, Les Pharaons (The Pharoahs) is another stereotypical sound with flute and tambourine playing over a beautiful drum beat. It certainly creates a vivid image of Egypt in your head.  
  • Track 21, Le Theme de Finot (Finot's/ Brain's Theme) a jaunty piece which is very joyful, usually when Brains is trying to help Gadget.  
  • Track 22, Gadget En Italie (Gadget in Italy) is very quick and stereotypical with the sound of fast folky guitar.  
  • Track 23 is the Gang Theme reprised and has more wailing guitar sound and a heavier burst of trumpets. 
  • Track 24 is the opening theme in instrumental and is just as wonderful as you remember. 
  • Track 25 is one of the highlights of the album for me as it is Sophie's Theme (Penny's Theme), a beautiful brass piece playing over a cheerful and jaunty beat. 
  • Tracks 26 to 30 are different versions of the opening and closing tracks and track 27 gives us the English-language opening theme in true stereo.
This is the soundtrack that any fan of the show should get as it has many of the tracks used in the show, more than any previous soundtrack release.

This is the soundtrack that any fan of the show should get as it has many of the tracks used in the show, more than any previous soundtrack release.

Overall this is an excellent soundtrack with some really strong pieces that sound similar in instrumentation to MCOG. The album itself if wonderfully eclectic but brought together with the constant Gadget motiff. The album is well worth getting and as it has been remastered from the originals, probably the best you'll get of this fondly remembered series. 

Don Hertzfeldt's Amazing Animations

Don Hertzfeldt has been producing animated short films for a long time yet the man himself is only in his 30's, an extraordinary achievement for the Oscar nominated animator famed for his rudimentary stick figures and whimsical philosophising. Hertzfeldt released World of Tomorrow a little while ago, it is a simple story of a 4 year old girl who meets her future clone. Without going into spoiler territory the story is equal parts hilarious and deeply profound. The film has garnered a lot of praise and is up for an Oscar at this years awards ceremony in the Best Animated Short Film category. Check out why there is so much buzz for this film, you owe it to yourself.

The story carries themes that were explored in Christopher Nolan's Intestellar but in a more playful and lyrical way. The animation is a step above Hertzfeldt's previous work, enhanced by his use of digital animation techniques. The short film is only 17 minutes long but is well worth the £1.49 price of admission.