Friday, October 29, 2021

“It’s (Faith and) the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!”

(Guest Post by David)

Last week, I got into the Halloween spirit by watching “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!” Being a Peanuts (particularly Snoopy) fan, this spooky season wouldn’t be complete without viewing this holiday classic, and this year is no exception. As I sat down with a bowl of freshly popped popcorn in my lap and began to watch, I realized that there is a principle of the Gospel in this seasonal special that I hadn’t noticed before, and that principle is faith. 

In the show, the character Linus van Pelt observes Halloween by annually writing a letter to and then awaiting in a pumpkin patch for the arrival of the Great Pumpkin, a magical Santa Claus-like fruit that brings presents to “good little children.” The other characters, including Charlie Brown, Snoopy, and especially Lucy do not believe the Great Pumpkin is real (with the temporary exception of Sally). As a result, Linus is ridiculed for sincerely believing in the gift-giving gourd. 

Watching this, I recognized how this scenario is similar to those who believe in God and how they are treated by many in the world. Before I continue further, please do not think that I’m equating a fictional child’s imaginary idea of an anthropomorphic pumpkin with real people’s faith in a living Supreme Being. However, I do feel Linus’ experience is analogous with faith-filled believers. 

The Book of Mormon prophet, Moroni taught, “…that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen…” (Ether 12:6). He also admonished to “…dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6). Linus hadn’t seen the Great Pumpkin with his eyes, although he was yearning to catch a glimpse in the pumpkin patch. And even though year after year, the magical squash didn’t materialize on Halloween night, Linus still believed the Great Pumpkin was real and would come. The same is true of God-fearing believers. Women and men of faith have not seen God physically, but they maintain a fervent hope in his reality and divinity. Christians believe that Jesus Christ has come and redeemed mankind. They believe in His Second Coming, and Christians and Jews alike believe the Holy Messiah will come in great glory. 

Linus was bullied for believing in the existence of the Great Pumpkin. The other children insisted that Linus was “wasting” his time, that the Great Pumpkin was a “fake!” Similarly, followers of God have been and continue to be persecuted for their faith in Him. Nearing the mortal birth of Jesus Christ, unbelieving Nephites asserted that time for the prophetic fulfillment of His coming had expired, and that the “joy [of those who believed] and [their] […] faith concerning this thing hath been vain” (3 Nephi 1:6). However, the scriptural account states that the Nephite believers “did [still] watch steadfastly […], that they might know that their faith had not been vain” (3 Nephi 1:8). Ultimately, the prophecies of the Redeemer of the World came to pass with His birth (see 3 Nephi 1:15, 19-21). 

At this Halloween season, if you watch “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown,” remember the principle of faith and the opposition to it. Linus and faithful followers of God have persisted, and continue to persist in believing, whether in the Great Pumpkin or in God. They are undeterred by those who would bully or persecute, because of the peace and joy that their convictions bring. Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Ten Best Animated Disney Movie Monster Designs

Disney is an expert in character, setting and film design, but one thing you don't hear about is their monster design. Oh we talk about villains until the guards transformed into cows come home, but since Disney's animated department are focused on the family friendly faire, actual monsters are few and far between. Which is why, for Halloween, I figured we'd celebrate the top 10 best monster designs from Disney animated films. 

Plus I never pass up a chance to talk about monsters. 

Or Disney. 

Note: I will be excluding straight up humans from the list because while I get that some of the villains are far worse monsters than any of the creatures on this list, we're going for straight up monster designs. 

Stuff that transforms though is perfectly fine. 

10: Monstro from Pinocchio

The infamous whale is almost as famous as the puppet's wooden nose from this film, and for good reason. Monstro's name says it all: He's a monster whale capable of swallowing entire ships whole. Geppetto and his pets are swallwoed by the whale when they go to look for Pinocchio, who joins them in the belly where they escape by making Monstro caugh. His design is everything we think of when we think about a giant man-eating whale, a massive sea creature with an insatable hunger. He also has an entire psychadelic (and annoying) level inside of him in Kingdom Hearts. 

9. Dean Hardscrabble from Monsters University

The monster designs in general from the Monsters franchise are all fun, but the dean of the monster scaring college takes the cake. Her centapede body with massive dragon wings could be anyone's nightmare. No wonder she's an expert in scaring. 

She scares me. 

8. Angler Fish from Finding Nimo

This thing doesn't need any embelishments to be scary, they're scary just the way they are in real life. Seeing Dory chasing after the light while we're on edge knowing what that light is connected to is probably my favorite part of the movie. 

That and squishy. 

7. Curse Dragon from Onward

Again, movie is flooded with cool monsters, but our final antagonist takes the cake. It's a curse that takes the form of a dragon using pieces of the nearby high school to form it's body. The use of the dragon mascot as the monsters face is brilliant, giving it expression without giving it too many facial features. Ian has to bust out all the magic he's learned on this final boss, made harder to fight by the fact that it's not flesh and bones but is cement and rebar. 

Then the movie got right back to tugging at all my heart strings. 

6. Jafar Snake Form from Aladdin

Jafar’s genie form almost took this one but I had to go with the snake. His snake staff hinted at some snake iconography since we first saw him, and here we get the full treatment with a large wicked snake fighting Aladdin. The fangs, the hood and the coloring all give us the same concept as Jafar so we don't lose any of his iconic villany in his transformation. 

He's also an annoying boss in Kingdom Hearts

5. Hydra from Hercules

This list is just becoming a who's who of boss monsters from Kingdom Hearts isn't it? 

The Titans almost went on here, as did the Centaur, but the Hydra got the most screen time and the best fight sequence in the movie so it takes the cake. It takes Hercules a while to figure out how to kill it (Someone doesn't play Dungeons and Dragons) and by the time Phil tells him the thing has a tangle of heads and anger. 

4. Te Ka from Moana

A demon of smoke and fire, Te Ka tries to get the heart of Te Fiti for her own unkown gain... Until we find out that she actually is Te Fiti and she just wants her heart back. There's some deeply rooted metaphor in losing one's heart and becoming a monster with the intent of getting it back that I would love to explore in another post, but for now let's just look at Te Ka's design. She's a massive terrifying lava monster that has no obvious weakness. 

Except water. 

And recognizing her true form and then making the audience tearbend. 

3. Dragon Malificent from Sleeping Beauty

Going back to one of the OG's Malificent is a scary monster pre transformation, but post she's the best dragon till Game of Thrones. I love the idea that at the opening party she had the option to turn into a dragon and just toast everyone present, but instead she went with the curse the infant option. 

Gotta love a woman who knows when it's best to turn into a dragon. 

2. Stitch from Lilo and Stitch

Stitch has become the new Tinkerbell, put on stuff to make it look cutesy without remembering how big of a terror he actually is. Remember Stitch is designed to cause damage on a wide scale, only failing to do so because he's trapped on an island. If Stitch landed anywhere on the mainland we would all be in a lot of trouble and no amount of ohana could save us. His cute demeanor is to make him easier to sneak across borders and infiltrate enemy territories, and it works because even at his worst he isn't scary, but he is dangerous. 

1. The Beast from Beauty and the Beast

Okay I've gotta end on the mother of all Disney monsters, the Beast. This design had to be initially terrifying but something that someone could fall in love with, which is an extremely hard balance but one that was achieved perfectly. The animators even stated that in designing the Beast's human form in the end that no matter what they did everyone would hate it because they fell in love with the Beast and not some long haired French aristocrat. The fact that you don't see anything with the prince's face on it but with the Beast instead is a testament to his design and how incredible this Disney monster really is. 


Monday, October 25, 2021

Pokemon Teams for Dumbledore's Army

With Halloween coming up, my wife and I started rewatching the Harry Potter movies (because that's what you do every Halloween, Christmas, etc. right?). For a second, remove yourself from the movies and books. Imagine if instead of a list of spells or curses, Dumbledore's Army fought back against the Ministry and Death Eaters using Pokemon. Imagine Harry facing off against Voldemort's Ekans, Seviper, and Serperior with a team of his own.

Also, check out our blog posts about Harry Potter-themed nicknames for your Pokemon: Gen I-III, Gen IV-VII 

Friday, October 22, 2021

Hawkeye Binge List

It’s almost time for another installation of the Marvel epic. In a month, we’ll finally get a close-up on one of the original Avengers (and one of the only still active in any sense). We know that he’s going to be bringing in a protégé to potentially take over the Hawkeye mantle. In the meantime though, let’s look back at the history of Clint Barton, better known as Hawkeye.

Thor (1 hour 55 min)

He only appears for one scene as Thor is trying to lift the hammer, so you could probably just skip this movie as you’re preparing for Hawkeye. However, it’s still his first appearance and our first glimpse of his skills and his sass.

The Avengers (2 hours 23 min)

Sure he’s mind-controlled for most of the movie, but here we get our first true appearance for Hawkeye. From Black Widow’s talk with Loki, we learn they have shared history. We also get reference to Budapest (which is later discussed in Black Widow). But what really matters here is Hawkeye joining the team and becoming an Avenger.

Avengers: Age of Ultron (2 hours 21 min)

The Avengers return to the fight after Loki’s scepter is located. First, he’s attacked. Then he’s the only one to avoid mind control. And then we find out he has a secret family. Just when we thought he was just the guy with the bow and arrow, he’s the one who holds the team together by giving them reprieve. Not only that, but he ends up being a motivating factor to Wanda and Pietro joining the cause.

Captain America: Civil War (2 hours 28 min)

After seemingly retiring, Clint gets pulled away from his family to help Cap. I honestly wish we’d seen more of his story here. He shows up, helps Team Cap in the airport fight, and then gets imprisoned at the Raft. I wish we knew exactly why he joined Team Cap. Was he against the accords? Did he just want to stop Zemo? All he said was he was disappointing his kids. Maybe someday we’ll find out.

Black Widow (2 hours 13 min)

Obviously Clint doesn’t appear in this movie and Natasha isn’t going to appear in Hawkeye. However, this movie introduces Yelena, another Widow and Natasha’s adoptive sister. As you could assume from the post-credits scene (which takes place after Endgame), we can expect to see Yelena in Hawkeye. Whether she’ll be antagonistic or Clint wins her over… I guess we’ll see.

Avengers: Endgame (3 hours 2 min)

We start with that heartbreaking scene with his family dusted during the Snap. As the world falls into chaos, Clint just loses himself. As he started assassinating people as Ronin, it was a dark time (to say the least). As a father and husband, I can’t imagine the pain and the grief he experienced. And then after five years to go back in time and lose his best friend Natasha… by the time Thanos 2.0 was defeated, it would be a vast understatement to say he had some difficult trauma to deal with. But I suppose that might be what the Hawkeye series is going to be about. 

Now the countdown begins for Hawkeye. Not long after that, Spider-Man. And Disney has no intention of slowing down! 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

DC Fandome Trailer Rundown!


DC's Fandome is apparently going to be an annual thing now, and for that I am going to be eternally grateful. For those who have no idea what I'm talking about, last year DC Comics hosted a live conference online for fans completely free, including celebrity interviews, cosplay contests, and most important to me, trailers for new stuff coming out. 

Let's take a look at some of the best (And maybe not so best) trailers from DC. 

Aquaman 2: The Lost Kingdom Teaser


 Not really a trailer because they don't really have enough material for a trailer, but a fun behind the scenes teaser did come out. My favorite part is the concept art of Aquaman riding his giant sea horse Storm. If that doesn't make it into the movie I'm going to throw a fit. 

Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League

This game was announced at last year's Fandome and looked amazing... In concept.... The issue with the newest trailer is that, while the characters look fun, we have yet to get a hint at gameplay. A game can have all the snappy dialogue and interesting ideas they want, if the gameplay isn't fun then it's not going to be a good game. I am still interested to see what we get, but I'm not going to be excited until we see how the actual game looks when it's not heavily edited cut scenes. 

The Batman

We've really got to stop prejudging actors before we've seen them in costume. Once upon a time Michael Keaton was ripped into for being cast as Batman, only for the haters to eat crow. Years later people had the same issues with Heath Ledger, a former teen heartthrob and cowboy playing the Clown Prince of Crime, and the amount of crow that had to be eaten aferwards nearly drove the bird to extinction. Now the same issues were leveled at Robert Pattinson, of Twilight fame, for being Batman, and it looks like we're going to have to find some new recipes for crow because he looks like he nailed it based on what we've seen. The Batman promises to be the same dark gritty distopian Batman movie that Christopher Nolan gave us, and despite Batman's story being told more times than the Three Little Pigs at this point I'm looking forward to see how this adventure plays out. 

Gotham Knights

See? This is what I'm talking about.


The story here is that Batman is dead and has left Gotham to his cavolcade of sidekicks, specifically Nightwing, Batgirl, Robin (Damien Wayne) and Red Hood. Gameplay looks akin to the Arkham series, of which I am a huge fan. The main antagonist seems to be the Court of Owls, a relatively new and intriguing villain group. 
This is a trailer that gives us what we need, story concept and gameplay. 
Suicide Squad: Kill the Justice League, get your act together! 

The Flash

Now rumors have been flying everywhere about this film. Between this and Marvel's Spider-Man: No Way Home it seems that every actor who has ever played a superhero is getting called back to reprise their roles. We only get a glimpse of Michael Keaton and a hint at his iconic Batmobile, but it's enough to get this classic Batman fan excited. 
Side note: Ezra Miller, the 80's called and they said to keep the jean vest, that look barely worked back then and the less said about the chest hair the better. 

Black Adam

I was going to mention Shazam: Fury of the Gods but like the Aquaman trailer this was just a behind the scenes thing, but unlike Aquaman there was a sister film that did get a trailer that I wanted to talk about far more. 
Talk has been circling about Dwayne Johnson playing Black Adam for years, and now we finally get to see what it'll look like with this glimpse of the first few minutes of the upcoming film. Being a huge villain fan I can say without a doubt that this was worth the wait. Johnson was born to play this role and if the rest of the film is anything like the trailer I think we will be in for a treat. 
A treat that will disintegrate anyone who disagrees. 


Monday, October 18, 2021

Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales

In the Star Wars universe, Life Day is a stand in for Christmas, but there is no stand in for Halloween. So the new Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales (which can be found on Disney Plus) uses the Dark Side as the basis to tell some "scary stories". Let me clarify what I mean by "scary": these three stories claim to be terrifying, but they are really very tongue-in-cheek. As they should be. In true Lego fashion, they make fun of their own jump scares, they put lightning inside the buildings to broadcast how "scary" the scenes are, and they go over the top in breaking the fourth wall. This show is geared toward kids, with a few jokes sprinkled in for adults. Any given Treehouse of Terror is scarier, and even Sesame Street has more humor geared towards adults. 

But Lego Star Wars Terrifying Tales is still an enjoyable show, if you can enjoy the fact that it’s for kids. There are some good references to The Twilight Zone, Carrie, A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Lost Boys, The Shining, and The Fly. The battle droids become zombies saying “Roger! Roger!” instead of “Brainz!” Fun, silly stuff.

There are some simple lessons to learn about the balance of fear and courage, about being careful what you wish for, about tenacity, and about the dangers of greed. There are good references to the existing Star Wars canon, especially in "The Wookie's Paw" which is really just a clever adaptation of A New Hope. But as with any Lego property, the best parts are the background gags and the self aware humor. Darth Vader saying "Feel the power of the dark side … at the Empire Emporium!" Stopping to do wordplay in the middle of a battle. Using the name "Mr. The Hutt". 

The humor in this special, just like the most recent Lego Star Wars Holiday Special, is a little juvenile and over-the-top when compared to the much better jokes of Lego video games. But that’s to be expected. This is a Halloween special aimed at kids. But even still, there really are a few great moments of self-awareness and humor mocking the original Star Wars franchise itself, which older fans will definitely appreciate.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Creepy Pokedex Entries

has been part of my life since early in elementary school. It’s definitely a kids’ show and everything, but if you look into the depths of the franchise, it’s obvious that it’s not just for kids. Perfect example are ghost Pokemon. Have you ever looked at the Pokedex entries for some of these Pokemon? Sometimes you get ghost Pokémon that are relatively harmless, like Misdreavous feeding off the small amounts of fear it induces by pranking people. Even Shuppet feeding off vengeful people isn’t too crazy (that’s pretty much how Joe lives his life). But then you have others that’ll send a chill up your spine. So in honor of Halloween, take a look at some of these chilling Pokedex entries. 

Banette: “A doll that became a Pokémon over its grudge from being junked. It seeks the child that disowned it.” (Black/White)

Drifloon: “Wandering souls gathered together to form this Pokémon. When trying to make friends with children, Drifloon grabs them by the hand.” (Ultra Moon)

Dusknoir: “At the bidding of transmissions from the spirit world, it steals people and Pokémon away. No one knows whether it has a will of its own.” (Sword)

Duskull: “If it finds bad children who won't listen to their parents, it will spirit them away--or so it's said.” (Heart Gold/Soul Silver)

Froslass: “The soul of a woman lost on a snowy mountain possessed an icicle, becoming this Pokémon. The food it most relishes is the souls of men.” (Moon)

Haunter: “Its tongue is made of gas. If licked, its victim starts shaking constantly until death eventually comes.” (Silver)

Litwick: “The flame on its head keeps its body slightly warm. This Pokémon takes lost children by the hand to guide them to the spirit world.” (Sword)

Mismagius: “Its muttered curses can cause awful headaches or terrifying visions that torment others.” (Ultra Moon)

Palossand: “Each of its grains of sand has its own will. Palossand eats small Pokémon and siphons away their vital essence while they're still alive.” (Ultra Sun)

“After a lost child perished in the forest, their spirit possessed a tree stump, causing the spirit's rebirth as this Pokémon.” (Sword)

Yamask: “Each of them carries a mask that used to be its face when it was human. Sometimes they look at it and cry.” (Alpha Sapphire)

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

What If... Two Bloggers Debated What If...?

Ryan: I just finished watching What If...? and I found that the series really does what Marvel does best: focusing on character development and letting the story flow from well developed characters. Marvel doesn't minimize their characters to, say, just a power, or just the color of their skin. For instance, there were concerns that Episode 2 (T'Challa becoming Starlord) would just be "Black Star-Lord". But I was pleasantly surprised. T'Challa brings his own set of quirks and character traits. So when he steps into the role of Star-Lord, it becomes so much less about just swapping roles, and so much more about how one character would respond in various different situations.

Joe: T'Challa did bring a different quality to his role as Star-Lord, his biggest accomplishment being that he turned Thanos. However, I feel that the series was far too constrained. I feel that they could've explored some less paid attention characters in the cannon, like Drax or Rocket. Drax as a bartender was not enough. Also why was Iron Man completely shafted? He builds Killmonger a few mechs then that's it.

Ryan: I feel like Tony Stark's death must be an "absolute point" in the timeline. I mean, except for the last episode, Tony Stark died in every timeline we saw. Interesting.

Joe: What was your favorite episode?

Ryan: The two that stick out to me the most, for completely different reasons, are:
  • Episode 4, about Dr. Strange. It was much more character-centric instead of plot driven. I feel like we really explored a different side of Stephen Strange, and really got to know him as a character. We also saw some new aspects to what he is able to do, and ultimately the consequences of acquiring too much power.
  • Episode 5, ZOMBIES! Just because it was fun and different and I’m a sucker for a good zombie thriller.

Joe: I have to agree completely. Dr. Strange's episode was dark and almost felt like it came out of a Dungeons and Dragons story. While the zombie episode had zombies, which were glorious, and had two of my favorite MCU characters in focus: i.e. Spider-Man and Scarlet Witch.

Ryan: And Ant-Man's head!

Joe: Quit having such great taste! I'm trying to find somewhere that we argue.

Ryan: How about the fact that Hawkeye is a better character when he's animated than as a live actor?

Joe: Exactly. Okay, what was your LEAST favorite episode?

Ryan: Probably Party Thor (Episode 7). I just found it to be kind of jokey. I’m still not quite sure why the Watcher chose him to help save the multiverse.

Joe: Okay, see no. I thought that one was hilarious. Thor's personality keeps going between the jock with a sense of humor and a classic D&D Paladin. In Episode 7 he had a distinct personality and I found it hilarious.

Ryan: True, it was fun to watch. I just didn't find his standalone episode to be very compelling. Which was YOUR least favorite episode?

Joe: As much as I loved T'Challa Star-Lord, I thought Episode 2 was the weakest episode since they had to find a villain to fill in for Thanos. They chose the universe's most avid Pokemon trainer.

Ryan: I really appreciated the idea that there was a power vacuum that The Collector filled. Would you have chosen somebody else is a villain? Or do you think there would just be no villain to take the place of Thanos, and everything would be hunky dory?

Joe: I liked the power vacuum but it didn't make any sense that The Collector would fill it. Even his brother, Jeff Goldblum was more threatening than The Collector.

Ryan: So you have a problem with the show because they didn’t do it the way you wanted them to do it? I see. I got your number. 😉

Joe: I'm a backseat comic writer. Classic geek move. We could've had the Ravagers, the blue dude who wanted the Power Stone, or Star-Lord's dad fill the vacuum if we have to reshuffle the existing canon. And this is my biggest problem with the show: All they did was shuffle all the already established characters around. This could've been a great way to introduce some fresh blood, like Adam Warlock, Galactus, or some of the other lesser known characters from the comics.

Ryan: Good suggestions. But there's something about Episode 3 that I really liked. I enjoyed seeing Tame Thanos. I enjoyed seeing what would've happened to Nebula is she weren't so badly abused. I enjoyed seeing the influence T'Challa had on his sphere. And I enjoyed the concept of the power vacuum, and seeing how The Collector filled it. I really appreciate, overall, how the episode highlighted some of the differences between Star-Lord and T'Challa. Again, for me it goes back to character development, and What If...? layers three-dimensional characters with depth, personality, and clear motivations in really unique ways. 

Joe: But I don't know if I needed to see a highlighted difference between Star-Lord and T'Challa. They did it well and I'm glad we got Chadwick Boseman for an episode, but it felt like it was just there to do something with the Guardians.

Ryan: "Need"? No, we probably didn’t need anything in the series. But I really like that we got to see that T'Challa is more than just a princely hero. Even when he's a Ravager and a thief, he's still classy and principled. He still believes in building bridges instead of putting up walls. He still sees the good in people. He's still selfless. And in that episode, he uses those traits to bring about good in his world. Or galaxy. Honestly, it made me reflect on what T'Challa did in the "What If Not..." timeline. All of his accomplishments really were a result of him and his values, not just being the right guy in the right time and place. Instead T'Challa himself was kind of destined to be a force for good no matter where he was. He bloomed where he was planted.

Joe: And that was fun to see, but not really as revelatory or as interesting as the rest.

Ryan: Fair enough. So what were your overall impressions, especially with how the last two episodes tied everything together?

Joe: Overall I did like it. The animation was solid and the last two episodes tied everything together beautifully, even if Dr. Strange was overpowered and the entire exercise felt like we were only working with a limited amount of Lego figures, and the other person never read the comics.

Ryan: I'm glad the series wasn't just a bunch of one-offs, but rather deepened the understanding of the MCU, gave insight to existing characters, and told a complete story that all tied together in the end. My biggest gripe was understanding why those particular characters were chosen to fight infinity Ultron. Like, why did it have to be Party Thor? Why not get a few Captain Marvels on the team? If the multi-verse is truly infinite, then why not get a version of Ultron that is good to fight Infinity Ultron? Or recruit a few thousand versions of every single Avenger? I’m willing to accept that a corrupt Killmonger had to be on the team, but I don’t see a compelling reason why the team had to be those exact individuals, and that's it.

Joe: That's the thing though, in the comics the Watchers do crap like that and then say "Mysterious ways..." before floating away.

Ryan: There are too many variables. I mean, it makes for good entertainment, but it's hard to swallow the pill that that was the only way to stop Infinity Ultron.

Joe: Agreed. And why was every Captain Marvel the same?

Ryan: Because she's a lame, overpowered character.

Joe: Homegirl just shows up bold as brass. No new haircut, no scars...

Ryan: Now we agree on something!