DID YOU READ

“Sincere fairy tales” sell toys.

“Sincere fairy tales” sell toys. (photo)

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One of the things Pixar boosters love is the studio’s supposed indifference to overt commercial prospects — you know, their willingness to make a movie with a robot who doesn’t talk for the first 45 minutes (no matter that “WALL*E”‘s sound and visuals are more than enough stimulus for even your most easily bored viewer) or build a movie around a crotchety old guy (no matter that the old guy is just as cute and cuddly as, say, a fish voiced by Albert Brooks?).

So there was reason for Pixar fans to get psyched that Disney’s traditional animation division was being taken over by John Lasseter. As far back as May, Lasseter was all pumped about what he called the return of the “sincere fairy tale” — which Disney apparently hadn’t made one of since “Beauty And The Beast” — and he still is, talking to the Los Angeles Times about designing Mattel toys for “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney’s hyperactive but harmless (if far from amazing) return to the traditional animation fray. “We’re a filmmaker-led studio, and not an executive-led studio,” he said in May.

But quickly he was making intuitive leaps that are savvy, cynical or both: “What’s at the centre of every Magic Kingdom the Disney company has?” he asked Screen Daily. “The castle. Look how gigantic the princess brand is within consumer products. You’ve got to recognise that, and see how important it is to families.”

Which makes one wonder — what’s an insincere fairy tale and what’s wrong with “Aladdin”? Does “important to families” mean “important” in some kind of meaningful quasi-spiritual sense or just “renumerative” and “good to get for your kids for Christmas”? By “fairy tale,” does Lasseter mean fantastical tales centering solely around princesses rather than men (because the toy market is just that much more lucrative), and isn’t that kind of not true? When the LA Times praises Lasseter for his meticulous attention to toy-making (flying to Hong Kong to watch Buzz Lightyear being painted, insisting “WALL*E” have real treads rather than wheels), should we be impressed or wonder where the man’s priorities are?

12152009_princessfrog9.jpg“The Princess and the Frog” just isn’t that great. It’s not as saccharine and overbearing as the Disney pits of the ’90s, but it never once does anything surprising or odd — something the best Pixar films, despite their general observance of the generic three-act arc, are totally capable of doing. But I’m have to applaud Lasseter’s uneuphemized calculations here. The resurrection of the Disney “brand” is irrevocably tied in with princesses and toys and lessons about being yourself, all of which “Princess” has (down to its title, I mean c’mon).

What Lasseter seems to be saying (unconsciously?) is that the Disney brand can’t be reinvented all at once, much less salvaged, and his primary responsibility there is to the merchandise, and at Pixar it’s the work. That’s what he really means when he says one difference between Pixar and Disney is that “at Disney we believe in the sincere fairy tale.” For “sincere fairy tale,” read “toys.”

[Photo: “The Princess and the Frog,” Disney, 2009; ]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. 

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number! 

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time. 

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by. 

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo. 

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim. 

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t? 

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?” 

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud. 

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.