Tag: action cartoons

Naughty Looks Back – TRON: Uprising

TRONUprising
Copyright © 2012 by Disney

Back in early 2013, Cartoon Network finished the respective runs of Young Justice and Green Lantern: The Animated Series without renewing either title and effectively ending the short-lived DC Nation block before it really got rolling.  Around this time, I had heard about another series concluding after facing similar scheduling snafus and failing to gather a large enough audience- Disney’s TRON: Uprising.  Although I had seen the TRON: Legacy film that spurred Disney into trying to capitalize on the franchise before the purchase of Lucasfilm took all their attention, I had never seen or heard much about the show.  The little I did hear about the show was nothing but positive, and when I finally decided to check it out I was completely floored.

A New Frontier

Set in between the original TRON film and the 2010 sequel TRON: LegacyTRON: Uprising takes place in the digital world of the Grid as Kevin Flynn’s twisted doppelganger CLU sends his forces to occupy the outlying Argon City, home to a program named Beck.  Similar to the series Batman Beyond, the story follows Beck falling under the tutelage of the titular hero Tron as they work together to kickstart a revolution against CLU’s forces that, known to everyone who had seen Legacy, will ultimately amount to very little.  But despite the foregone conclusion, the joy is in the journey as Beck sides with and against a rich cast of characters brought to life by an all-star cast, all set against the vibrant backdrop of Alberto Mielgo’s art direction.

TRONTrinity
Copyright © 2012 by Disney

The untapped mythology of the TRON universe is taken full advantage of in this series as creators Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz explore a piece of that world through the lens of Beck and his home of Argon City, a city out on the fringe of the Grid and far from the seat of CLU’s power.  While the programs aren’t human, the writers succeed greatly at making them feel as such with hopes, dreams, desires and flaws.  Even the show’s villains have a surprising amount of depth to them, particularly the conflicted Paige and the deliciously sadistic Pavel (played by the very against type Paul Reubens).  Although the show only went the one season, it proved that the world of TRON remains a huge missed opportunity for Disney.

End Of Line, Program

Although I remain a hardcore DC Comics fan and would love to see continuations of Young Justice or Green Lantern, it’s actually TRON: Uprising that in my opinion possessed the most potential in story and characters.  It would have been a treat to see where this particular story would have continued, but this show is arguably the best thing to come out of the franchise and I hope that one day Disney is willing to take a risk again, though I’m sure they’re quite comfortable with the boatloads of dosh coming in from Star Wars as their sci-fi flagship.

 

TRONCast
Copyright © 2012 by Disney

 

TRON LIVES.

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Voltron: Legendary Defender

 

Voltron
Copyright © 2016 by DreamWorks Animation

Back in my childhood, when VHS stores were still a thing (before Blockbuster wiped them out), there was a local shop called “CineMagic” that my family would visit regularly and was how I initially go into Transformers.  Though I didn’t really get exposed to Japanese animation fully until the days of Toonami much later, I do remember seeing episodes of the original Voltron series the same way.  My memory of the show and characters of that time are fuzzy and I never really got into the franchise, save for remembering that five piloted lion machines would combine to form one giant human-shaped mecha, which would be familiar territory for my Power Rangers phase.

Last month, Netflix saw the premiere of Voltron: Legendary Defender on its streaming service.   A collaborative effort from DreamWorks Animation and Studio Mir under the supervision of showrunners Laura Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos and head writer Tim Hedrick, all veterans of some of the best animated shows of the 2000s, the new Voltron aims to bring the classic series to a new generation.  So how does it stack up?

Action Animation’s Return to Form

Since the ending of Avatar: The Legend of Korra, there’s been a noticeable absence of action cartoons on network and cable television.  With a slew of cancellations in 2013 resulting in the ending of shows like Green LanternYoung Justice and TRON: Uprising, it seemed that it would be a long time before tradition animated action would be making a comeback unless it had “Star Wars” in the title.

While the season is shorter than a traditionally-lengthed season for a half-hour series at about 13 episodes worth of time (a three-episode length pilot and 10 more normal length), it manages to make use of its time in effectively focusing and establishing the core cast and the world around them.  While the plot seems standard at first glance with five youths teaming up to fight a galactic evil, there’s still an air of mystery around the players, the villains and even the titular mech that makes for some excellent revelations in the finale.  Heads up; said finale ends on a heck of a cliffhanger so get ready to feel gut-punched by the credits.

VoltronCrew
Copyright © 2016 by DreamWorks Animation

Paving the Way

As much as the Voltron: Legendary Defender excited me in my time watching it, one of the really exciting things is the possibilities it opens up with its success.  One of the biggest factors that resulted in the death of action animation in the last few years comes from the way the business is structured.  With the options available in making comparatively cheap animated comedies that can bring an audience in droves versus riskier and more expensive prospects, it’s not difficult to see why many studios choose to go the route that’s a guaranteed success.  Unfortunately, this has led to a loss of some great opportunities for storytelling.

With the success of original programming on services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime, animation is starting to join the fray and could lead not only to a revival in some of the aforementioned cancelled properties but also a surge in new ideas and IPs.  As a longtime animation fan, I’ve never been more excited for what the future can bring.

Form up!