What an intense few months we’ve had! I think we can safely say no one was expecting 2020 to unfold the way it has, and it’s been a challenging time, to say the least. Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the world, and the way we choose to make meaning out of our lives. It’s safe to say at this point that things will change, some in ways that we can’t yet foresee and others that might make our lived experiences much more intimate and personal. Sticking together and being able to support each other is crucial if we’re to make it through this pandemic and emerge into a better world. For us over at Cartoons Underground, the importance of friendship and teamwork has always been paramount and we’ve had opportunities to bond and become closer.
Beyond the discussions that we’ve had about what’s cooking and what we’re looking forward to doing once the circuit breaker is over, quite a lot of the conversations we’ve had have been focused on how to bring a unique viewing experience to you and engage with fans of the festival in this new landscape. Being confined to the comforts our homes definitely meant all our streaming services were being utilised over time at providing us entertainment. So as we work hard behind the scene to prep for this cycle of the Cartoons Underground festival, we wanted to take some time to share with you the things we’ve enjoyed watching during this time and hope it inspires you to view your leisurely cartoon watching with a slightly more appreciative lens!
Our festival Director Vicky is a fan of comedy, and caught up with Season 4 of F is For Family written by Bill Burr. It’s important to keep your sense of humour intact during this time, and anyone who knows Vicky knows she loves a good laugh. The show follows the story of a middle-class white family in the 70’s based in middle America. It was an era of rampant drug-use, hippie music, freedom and lifestyle, and the character’s in the show are primarily those who struggled to fit into social norms of what it means to be a man or a woman in that day and age.
Season 4 points the focus on Sue, the wife of the main character, and her struggles as a mother. With their fourth child on the way, her dreams of being an entrepreneur seem to be drifting further and further away. Packed full of real life moments, frustrations and comic relief, the colour scheme, iconic 70’s furnishing and the flower power inspired patterns made the whole show come alive.
From volunteer to full-time member of the team, Athira has been a delight to have on the Cartoons Undergound team and she finally got to watch Ocean Waves during the Circuit Breaker. For those of us unfamiliar, Ocean Waves was the first Studio Ghibli film that was not directed be either Hayao Miyazaki or Isao Takahata and prior to being streamed on Netflix, was notoriously hard to view outside of Japan.
The iconic Ghibli hand painted landscapes and the emotional soundtrack evokes a sense of nostalgia and childhood, despite having never seen the film before.
The premise of this film revolves around three high school students, who eventually get entangled in a love triangle of sorts. Two simple country boys become enamoured with a city girl, and the usual bickering and misunderstandings occur, but at the heart of it this is a wonderful tale about treasuring memories of your youth. Unlike other Ghibli films, this was more grounded in reality and had no fantasy characters or strange creatures… the paths it explored were rather simple yet delicate plots with an emphasis on character development, aesthetics and visual details.
Keeping in theme with Athira’s selection of Japanese animation, our program director Wei Keong watched Japan Sinks 2020, an animated tv series directed by Masaaki Yuasa. Adapted from a disaster novel published in 1973, several modern details have been updated in the show in terms of technology and culture, but the main story arc has remained true to the plot of the book. Wei Keong was particularly enamoured by the opening title by Taeko Onuki, which once paired with the dreamy visuals, evokes a a seemingly nostalgic awakening from a dream. The plot avoids the use of stereotypes as much as possible, especially in the makeup of the characters, there is quite a lot of diversity with the inclusion of foreign characters which is a bit rare to see in anime, and the series covers topics such as national identity and xenophobia quite well. A must watch for fans of the disaster/apocalypse genre!
The latest addition to our team (and most organised one too!), Esther caught up with the Disney & Pixar animated feature, Onward. A sucker for heartwarming stories that make you tear up, it was reminiscent of coming of age stories such as the Goonies and Stand By Me where friends go on a secret adventure together and a whole bunch of funny, crazy, silly and scary things happen along the way. As is typical of the Pixar style, there were lots laughs and a genuinely touching and heartwarming story about brothers – every member of the family is endearing and quirky. As the main premise of the film is about lost magic and bringing it back, it was definitely true to that with a colour palette to match the magical feel.
As for myself, oh where do I even begin. There were so many great films, cartoons and books that I caught up with during the circuit breaker, but the one that stands out the most is Samurai Jack. I remember being a little kid and watching snippets of it on Cartoon Network after school but it’s only now, watching it back again as an adult that I can truly appreciate the attention to detail when it comes to colour selection, pacing of the plot, scoring, Haku’s evil laugh that must have caused the voice actor some serious heartburn. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about some of the things that we as a team have enjoyed watching, there’s a lot of variety in here and I suppose it’s quite reflective of us as a team. We love working on Cartoons Underground, most of us are volunteers, but it’s been an absolute joy seeing the festival grow every single year and I can’t wait to share all the plans we’ve got lined up for this year.