I’m fairly certain the office motto at Dreamworks Studios is: Quantity, Not Quality! These guys pump out movies like the Duggar woman pumps out babies. They don’t have time to develop silly things like unique characters with individual personalities! Audiences will have to like them based on their hip attitude, represented by the ever present Dreamworks Face.
This isn’t some mind-blowing discovery I made last night while studying the Declaration of Independence. The Dreamworks Face has been well-documented by others for years now: it’s that crooked half-smiling, occasionally snarky expression which just screams irreverence. DID I MENTION THE RAISED EYEBROW??
It’s this fact that makes this even more depressing. You’d think the studio would switch it up a little now that they’ve been caught. Sometimes it seems like they have! How to Train Your Dragon had no Dreamworks Faces in the promotional materials, and neither did Rise of the Guardians.
…But then they throw out shovelware like Turbo, Penguins of Madagascar and the upcoming Home and the Dreamworks Face is out in full force, almost to the point of parody.
Below I have put together a compendium of Dreamworks Faces from nearly every one of their animated films. Here they are, in varying degrees of sardonicism.
This is the most Dreamsworkiest Dreamworks Face there ever was!! Tied with Bee Movie and Over the Hedge for first place. And this is from 2015. Of course the movie does star Rihanna so I don’t think they’re taking its success very seriously.
You know, doing this “research” I realized two things:
– I feel kinda bad criticizing the animators’ hard work. Looking at the pictures in high resolution made me realize how much effort goes into the textures and modelling. A pox upon whoever forces them to cram “the face” into their work.
– As aforementioned, How to Train Your Dragon didn’t have any Dreamworks Faces in the posters or banners online. There was this:
Which seems like it might be an acknowledgement of the meme! Hooray for meta humor.
Except not, because a few years later…
DREAMWORKS FACE OVERLOAD. ERROR. ERROR.
Update March 2017: Back at it again with the eyebrow
Despite the intensely frigid weather Sound Academy was packed to see post-grunge veterans Bush take the stage. Supported by Stars in Stereo and Theory of a Deadman, it was a night of hard rock that heated up the winter-weary crowd.
Stars in Stereo were the first to take the stage. The L.A. based group recall the hard rock heyday of the early 2000s, complete with high-octane riffage and “pump-you-up” stage banter from frontwoman Becca and guitarist Jordan McGraw. Reminiscent of acts like Kittie and Flyleaf, the band tore through a brief but energetic set comprised mostly of songs from last year’s Leave Your Mark.
Canadian active rock mainstays Theory of a Deadman were on second, playing mostly newer songs in support of ther 2014 album Savages. In fact the only song from before 2008 was the 2005 ballad “Santa Monica”. While their peers Nickelback have opted for a more poppy approach in recent years, Theory have continued with their sludgy, Alice In Chains indebted direction. Frontman Tyler Connolly was full of impish energy the whole night, throwing out quips and good-humoured observations about hockey throughout the scuzzy, muscular set. The band even performed a truncated version of “Sweet Home Alabama”, tailored to an Ontario audience and filled with local references.
Bush took the stage to huge cheers and started off their set with their 2011 single, the appropriately titled “Sound of Winter”. This was the single that officially declared the band a reunited presence in the world, meticulously crafted to recreate the sound Bush became famous for. A sound that the audience became reacquainted with over the course of the night. The chunky riffs, the serrated lead guitar and unabashedly big singalong choruses reminded the crowd that frontman Gavin Rossdale has always been a talented songwriter who knows a good hook when he hears one, and has written a huge amount of them. He’s also a very gracious, humble man who repeatedly thanked the crowd for coming out to see the band.
The set was largely comprised of older material, with a few songs from last year’s Man on the Run thrown in. Everything got a good reception but it was the singles from the 1994 breakthrough album Sixteen Stone that drove people ecstatic. It cannot be stressed enough how excited the crowd got when the first of that albums FIVE (!) massive singles, “Everything Zen” was played. 1996’s “Swallowed” also got tremendous cheers, as did its album mate “Greedy Fly” and the 1999 single “The Chemicals Between Us”. The new material was also received well, as it sounded like vintage Bush with a few modern augmentations here and there. “Bodies in Motion” and “Man on the Run” in particular sound like they will fit well on a future greatest hits compilation, with big brash guitar riffs kicking them off.
Many bands save a one-two punch for the encore, but Bush gave the crowd a one-two-thee-four-five punch in the form of the remaining singles from Sixteen Stone, as well as a left-field cover of the Talking Heads new wave classic “Once in a Lifetime”. The set ended with “Comedown” and its snaky bass groove and massive crescendo of a finale. And so the audience did come down from their clouds, back into the cold night but hopefully with a little fire in their hearts thanks to Gavin and his boys from London.
Last year I created a brief guide in order to help non-football fans understand the big game, but it lacked the in-depth analysis the event deserves. This year I’ve expanded upon many of the crucial points you need to “get” Super Ball X-LIX.
This year’s teams include the New England Patriarchs and the Wichita Witches.
The New England Patriarchs are coming off a ten-year winning streak and have on their team superstars such as Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Brayden Manning, Phil Manning, the praying man, M’ant’i T’eo, Joe Namath, and Jose Canseco. They are the “favorites” to win this year.
The opposition, the Wichita Witches, are in fact the NFL’s very first all-evil team. Finally society has progressed enough that we can accept an entirely evil team (although some players do identify as half-evil).
The object they play with is called a football, or in their terms, a “pigskin“. This is an abbreviation of “pig’s kin”, as the ball in fact IS a pig’s kin- it is a pig egg which has not been fertilized and therefore will not hatch. The unique hard texture prevents it from breaking and leaking yolk.
The footballs have recently been in the news.
On each end of the field there is a large, strange looking antenna. These are television antennae that are positioned this way to serve each coast. This way audiences on both the east and west coast of the continent get the best reception of the big game.
You may notice that during the game the players pour Gatorade on each other from big tanks. This provides a double purpose:
First, it hydrates the players. The team has undergone rigorous physiological training that has enabled their skin to become extra porous and absorb liquid through it. This way the Gatorade gets through the skin cells and into their system.
Secondly, the excess Gatorade that remains after the skin has become supersaturated creates a membrane which makes the players more slippery and harder to tackle/pin down. Talk about getting out of a tight squeeze!
The Language of Football
One of the football players favourite things to say on the pitch is “hut“. You can hear them say it all the time. This is short for an Old English term, “huttence“, which means “we will conquer”. It is said to strike fear and intimidation into the hearts of the opposing team.
You might notice that every coach looks like Academy Award winning actor Ed Harris. They are actually all related! Ed was the only male member of the Harris clan who did not go into football coaching, the rest of the bloodline have all hit the field to get that football gold. Inspiring.
Many people will tell you that football is very simply but that is not true. Each team hires a Nobel Prize winning mathematician and physicist to assist with the logistics of the game. These brainiacs calculate the weather conditions, wind speed, dynamics, and muscle mass and then tell the players their findings.
Each player then is mentally armed with formulas that they must apply to their throws, passes, tackles and other actions in split second decisions. Wow.
Not much is known about the current announcer of the game, only that he got his start in the Nintendo 64 game “Madden 64”. He impressed the executives so much that they brought him on to voice every game since the late 90’s. He is beloved by fans all across the nation, who have given him the nickname “Madden Guy”. His most popular catchphrase? We all know it: “He shoots he scores!” Unforgettable.
If there is one thing that you take away from this report, it’s this: football brings people together– literally! At the end of the match both teams jump into a big pile in celebration, despite the mud and sweat they may be covered in. It is a joy to watch, and it’s the reason that football is known as “the Lover’s Game” across the continent.
So as you watch Super Ball X-LIX, do not watch it in fear any longer. You know your stuff, champ. Good Grief!
Talking strictly from a cinematic sense, of course- branding’s been lording over every other market for generations. It’s not like it was absent from movies all this time either, it’s just that now it has become the single greatest asset for films. This proves difficult, however, if there are no brands.
And so somewhere in the mid-late 00’s the executives and corporate brass began mining the past for brands, for familiar properties that would not require pesky things like “establishing plots” or “character development”. It was harder and harder to create cultural touchstones; in turn the nostalgia market blossomed. Suddenly a load was taken off the backs of Hollywood’s thinktanks as they no longer needed to imagine ideas for blockbusters. They just needed to re-imagine them.
It boiled down to two genres, loosely divided by gender demographics. Comic books for the fellas and the classic fairy tales for ladies. This is by no means a static divider, but from a marketing perspective this is how the trends skewed. Trends that are still healthy to this day, though they’ve required a little augmenting as the decade turned.
Why have one brand when you can have two? Or three? Or ten? All in one property, too! Hollywood was more than happy to oblige and sate the public’s appetite for brands and thus was born the shared universe.
Although crossovers and spin-offs have popped up throughout cinematic and televised history (remember, the Flintstones and the Jetsons live in the same timeline), the roots of the modern incarnation of the shared universe model can be traced to one early millennial franchise: Shrek.
Seven years before Tony Stark got a knock on the door from Nick Fury, the green ogre and his postmodern adventures gave audiences the thrill of seeing Pinocchio interact with the three little pigs, the gingerbread man and the magic mirror in the same room, and all the famous princesses walk down the red carpet together. Not only that, but they were all so sardonic and witty! They referenced modern expressions in fairy tale style! It would set the stage for the fairy tale renaissance towards the latter part of the aughts.
It’s also worth mentioning that the early 00’s also gave us Nintendo’s Smash Bros. franchise and the Kingdom Hearts franchise, with Kingdom Hearts also incorporating classic fairy tale characters (Disney versions of course) into their universe.
Disney would eventually become the king of the shared universe. They bought Marvel Studios one year into their epic undertaking and took the reins of what has become the most lucrative franchise in the cinematic world. The Marvel brand at this point is unassailable; a Midas blessing for whatever it’s attached to. Even without the rights to the X-Men and Spider-Man brands, they have a vast vault of comic book characters to use in their properties and populate their one world.
Although navigating a universe where everything is canon is tricky, the payoffs are very literally worth it. With each franchise that rakes in box office dollars they gain another hype generator for any and all crossovers that will happen. Guardians of the Galaxy were virtually unknown prior to 2014, but thanks to the Marvel brand have become just as valuable as the heaviest hitters. They’re now seen as a property that will increase stock of a future project.
As will Marvel’s rapidly expanding ventures outside of the cinema. TV series like Agents of SHIELD and Agent Carter are also incorporated in their universe, along with future Netflix series Daredevil and Jessica Jones. All of these will one day tie into one massive project, presumably the two-part Avengers Infinity War movie- a film that is epic in the truest, most literal sense of the word.
But Disney haven’t forgotten what got them to this point- their fairy tales. Owning the rights to the “definitive”, most culturally accepted variations of fairy tale characters has given them another massive library to cater to those who are less fond of explosions and explosion accessories. Taking a cue from Shrek, Disney created TV series Once Upon a Time and The Descendants with hip new versions of their classic characters. Video game Disney Infinity has access to not only Disney characters, but Marvel and Pixar characters as well. It’s a smorgasbord of familiarity that thrives simply on the fact that people are attracted to all these brands separately, making them even more powerful together in one package.
Disney aren’t the only company privy to public domain properties, however, which has led to films like Into the Woods and television shows like Grimm, both based upon shared universes populated with these same bankable characters. TV series Penny Dreadful attempts to pull off a similar trick with slightly more recent literary icons such as Dr. Frankenstein and Dorian Gray. None of these have reached the same celestial heights as any of Disney’s universes though. In fact, the same can be said about the comic book side of their business as well.
Make no mistake, the Spider-Man, Batman, and X-Men movies have been hugely successful in their own right. When it comes to the shared universe gimmick though, Disney is thoroughly thrashing every single competitor due to a variety of reasons.
* Sony’s Spider-Man series is the least effective. A premature reboot of the series lead to another origin movie, and had the studio rushing to make up for lost time. This gave us two below-average movies crippled by the weight of studio mandated references. Sony wants more movies so badly, they’ll cram in plots and characters unnecessarily just for the sake of hinting at a larger franchise. Which they don’t really have, seeing as the only comic book property they own is…Spider-Man. These limits have trapped them in their own web, forcing them to come up with hilariously bad ideas like an Aunt May movie.
* DC comics have bungled it up as well. At the time of writing this, they have exactly one movie in their universe (the subpar Man of Steel) to Marvel’s 10. Green Lantern was a flop, the Nolan Batman movies are now unrelated, all DC based television series are unconnected, and the unreliable Zack Snyder has control of next year’s Dawn of Justice. There are bound to be a few more trainwrecks down the road.
* FOX’s X-Men are the best off. A rebound after the disastrous one-two punch of Last Stand and The Wolverine has led to three decent films. Thanks to time-travel plot devices they can bring the older stars back for a few more rounds while their universe is expanded with the Gambit and Fantastic 4 movies. Although the troubling production tales about the Fantastic 4 film set may mean that world does not get incorporated.
So what’s next? What will bring in audiences once the novelty of shared universes finally wears off?
* After Infinity War Part II Marvel will probably do a comic-logic approved soft reset. Messing with time and space along with inevitable tragically heroic sacrifices will lead to a semi-new timeline starting around 2020. Some new actors, some old, but well-established brands still in play. A “boss bad guy team-up” is probably in the cards in Phase IV of Marvel’s plan.
* Outside the comic book universe, Disney still has a horse in the form of their Star Wars acquisition. Not content with just new sequels, they’ve also begun constructing a Star Wars shared universe with films centred around individual characters that will tie into the main story.
* Warner Bros is doing the same with the Harry Potter books and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, a trilogy of movies based upon a tiny sliver of a book. More Harry Potter films would not be unexpected.
* Verging on the slightly ridiculous is the Universal Monsters universe. Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein, and Werewolfman all adding up to…what? How will this even make sense? Expect this idea to collapse.
* Past ridiculous is the “Robin Hood” universe, which is unbelievably stupid. Robin Hood is no longer a viable brand on his own. What makes the studios think people will come out for a Friar Tuck movie?
* Far beyond ridiculous and into sheer conjecture are these ideas: Avengers vs. Star Wars, cereal mascots universe, board game universe, Pixar universe. Though they might seem impossible now, they just might come to fruition.
The shared universe itself also has an inherent problem: what happens once people tire of the old crowd? If all time is spent on the novelty of old characters interacting and none is spent on creating new ones, what legacy is left for the future? What stories will future movie studios mine? It’s what I like to call the Smash Bros Dilemma. Nintendo has had no memorable characters for nearly a decade; the character roster can’t expand if there’s nobody worthy of putting in there. Smash Bros is a franchise that can’t grow without the success of new franchises, which simply aren’t developing in our stagnant cultural void. Disney’s Once Upon a Time gorged excessively upon the introduction of Elsa, one memorable touchstone in a landscape with fewer and fewer of them. This was a clear sign that our generation is starved for new icons in every field. Executives, take heed, if you don’t start developing new properties now, future generations will have no icons to call their own.