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"Re-Animated": Cartoon Network's Live-Action/Animation Hybrid Experiment Gone Awry

Alex is a School of Visual Arts graduate with a passion for media, writing and animation. He writes reviews for film, television and games.

Since 1992, Cartoon Network has evolved from a network "home to classic cartoons" to an unique lineup of original and memorable cartoons that defined a generation. However, nothing is perfect and sometimes we make mistakes and learn from them. During the mid-2000s, Cartoon Network was struggling with its ratings (despite having a successful run of its cartoons at the time) due to heavy competition with Nickelodeon and Disney Channel's live-action sitcoms. So, Cartoon Network wanted in on the live-action bandwagon, but still wanting to implement the "cartoon" in the Cartoon Network at the same time. Inspired by The Goonies and Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, the network produced and launched their first live-action/animation hybrid film Re-Animated in 2006. This project was a sign of a dark age for the company that was yet-to-come.

A 12-year-old (Dominic James)'s life changes after he inherits a famous cartoonist's brain and has the ability to see cartoon characters while others can't.

Out of sheer honesty, the concept on its own is not that bad. The subject matter that carries the idea around in this film is spoofing the most famous animator in history, Walt Disney. It is evident that the writers spent time and research on Walt's history and carefully integrating them into the story that animation historians would get a laugh out of. For example, the urban legend involving cartoonist Milt Appleday's brain is hidden frozen under the theme park ride 'Tux's Arctic Adventure" is a based on the myth of Walt Disney being cryogenically frozen and buried under the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride. Plus, the idea of a human having a gifted ability to seeing cartoon characters in real life could leave to fun and creative possibilities. Yet, the concept becomes tarnished once we get to the actual story.

The plot is the basic "nerd becomes popular" story where it has its cliches and becomes easily predictable. While that type of story alone is not problematic, execution is everything and this movie chose the wrong path. The first problem with the story is the inconsistent tone. Remember when Cartoon Network tried to emphasize the "cartoon" in its name into live-action? Throughout the movie, the live-action setting and its characters act more like "cartoons" than the actual cartoon characters themselves which give an awkward and unnecessary feeling. The ridiculous factor took full advantage of the story and later created plot holes. If the movie was completely animated, then it would've been excusable and given the writing the freedom to do whatever they want into the medium. Then again, the tone would sometimes get cruel whether the main character would get into a dangerous trap or certain characters making this movie unpleasant to sit through. On a side note, the idea of a human seeing cartoon characters in his/her head is treated more as...a controversial topic that is difficult worth discussing. It is very ironic nowadays that there have been stories involving animators and their behavior. Lastly, the next answer is no: the humor doesn't help make it better. Outside a few laughs, most of the jokes fall flat and the execution of these ideas get overshadowed. The story had a promising start but failed at the finish.

For a movie being made for television, the budget is highly questionable. With the live-action setting taking majority of the film, its locations are nothing special to look at. You have your typical main character's household and middle school. The only exceptions are the amusement park Golly World and the entertainment company Appleday Studios. It is clear that most of the budget went into renting out these locations to decorating the rides, constructing the set buildings/offices, the meet-and-greet character costumes, and the countless merchandising. However, the technicality on the production didn't live up to their capability. If one could believe if the story was written in one draft, then the editing is proof that no care was given to the cinematography or sound effects. There are some scenes that actually drag an establishing shot or a long conversation for a desperate laugh. For the sound mixing, there will be an occasional instance where the characters would ad lib their dialogue over these drawn out scenes or putting sound effects at the wrong timing.

If the live-action portions seem lackluster, then surely the animation would help balance it out. Unfortunately, despite the medium being more tolerable, the results came out weak as well. It may sound like an unfair statement since this was a television produced movie, but the production values on the animation makes the finished product look more like a commercial than a movie. The animation was provided by Renegade Animation, the same studio that made Hi Hi Puffy AmiYumi, an animated Cartoon Network series based on the Japanese rock duo. Even though their animation quality isn't generally bad, it's not enough for a television film. Fairly enough, the character designs on Golly Gopher and the others are decent, sporting a Disney-like appeal that the concept was satirizing. Nevertheless, the character animation is limited since this was done with Adobe Flash (Animate). Even mixing both live-action and animation is inconsistent. In some scenes, the flat character models lack depth and drop shadows, which making them look like they're floating off the ground. Other times, they do have drop shadows when they are outside. The weight and feel of a human and cartoon character don't correlate either and is less believable than what Roger Rabbit accomplished. There was one moment where Jimmy does change into a cartoon character, but that was easily underwhelming short. Mediocrity is the best way to characterize the movie's production.

With a movie full of awkward and cruel moments, this also applies to its cast of characters. Beginning on the awkward category is Jimmy Roberts. He is the socially awkward kid who has trouble saying "no" whenever takes advantage of him. Sure, he goes through an arc of acting more assertive when he got the cartoonist's brain. Yet, maintaining his "personality gland" wouldn't help make him more interesting. He lives with his child-like father who works as his school's guidance counselor and hard-working astronaut mother. We also have Robin, Jimmy's love interest. She is the typical nice girl who is a secret fan of Appleday cartoons. For the deceased cartoonist Milt Appleday...without going into detail...the best word to describe him is...eccentric.

On the rotten side, we have Robin's younger brother and Jimmy's "best friend" Craig. He is an obnoxious kid who often takes advantage of Jimmy in attempting to be popular. Even when Jimmy is under pressure during his new life, Craig shows no support and called him a "crappy friend". And yet, the movie wants us to feel sorry for Craig because he claims Jimmy is the only friend he ever had? ...No thanks. Throughout the movie, we also have bizarre kids that either brings different animals to school, one walks barefoot in public and an easily-excited kid. They act more vague than humorous.

For the Appleday cartoons, we have the romance-obsessed Dolly Gopher, the pea-brained alligator Crocco, the bad comedian penguin Tux, and the mute slapstick duo Prickles & Pickles. But then, we have the main Appleday character, Golly Gopher. It is understandable with that he is supposed to be a mix between Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny and being a washed-up star. However with the execution, his ego and desperation for stardom makes him more like an antagonist than the actual antagonist. Sure, he apologized during the climax, but THAT doesn't excuse his irrational behavior.

So, is there any tolerable characters? Honestly, two. One is Jimmy's adopted alien older sister, Yancy. Yes, the idea of an alien living with a human family has been done to death. But, thanks to her sharp attitude, powers and the only character pointing the flaws in this movie, she is easily the best character. In fact, the rest of the human characters act more like aliens than the actual alien herself! The second is the villain, Sonny Appleday. He is Milt's son who currently poorly runs his father's company while hopelessly searches for his father's brain. But once Jimmy surgically has it and reluctantly takes over the business, Sonny would go into extreme and dangerous lengths in order to get what he desires. It is an assumption that Sonny is a parody of Jeffery Katzenberg but as an over-the-top cartoon-y villain. He has a long cape, announces his plans out loud, maniacally laughs and has a money sack named Mittens. He even moves into Jimmy's house with the family (excluding Yancy) not once noticing. However, once Yancy has the authority over a grown man, such as grounding him or caring less about his plan, that is where the comedy hits its mark.

The acting from the live-action ranges from underacting to overacting. Personally, the actors themselves are not to blame, especially that they brought in comedians like Bill Dwyer and the late Fred Willard. It's the material that was catered to them and tried their best. The voice acting isn't too bad with Paul Reubens, Ellen Greene and Tom Kenny giving passable performances. Speaking of the latter, the highlight is Tom Kenny himself making a cameo as an Appleday studio executive and Stephanie Courtney (a.k.a. Flo the Progressive Girl) as a Golly World employee.

The title itself Re-Animated metaphorically defines this movie as a Frankenstein experiment overall. It has ambitious ideas for a live-action/animated hybrid. But, once the experiment came into fruition, it wreaks havoc with a puzzling story, disappointing animation, nasty and one-note characters, and sub-par acting. Not to mention it was also a pilot for a continuation series Out of Jimmy's Head but much worse and thankfully got cancelled during the writers' strike. It is very difficult recommending this movie to. If you enjoy live-action/animated hybrids like Roger Rabbit or Space Jam...stick to what's just mentioned. For everyone else, it is an absolute skip. For those that grew up and enjoy watching it, good for them. It’s not the worst thing Cartoon Network produced. But, let's all agree that Cartoon Network has moved on and improved into a better age nowadays.