Just forget the words and sing along

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Thoughts on Monsters at Work

 It's here!  Another one of the very first Disney+ originals has finally made it the streaming service.  And that's what was once hyped as Pixar's first original half-hour series for the streamer, Monsters at Work.

Monsters at Work Logo

I don't know what kind of politicking happened behind the scenes at Disney, but this is no longer branded as a Pixar production.  It's now listed as being produced by Walt Disney Television Animation.  Regardless, I'm still a Pixar junkie and anything that they're even tangentially related to gets my interest.  And when you're developing a series, the Monsters, Inc universe is just ripe for development, especially when you're getting into the workings of a power plant like Monsters, Inc works.  

Our main character is Tyler Tuskmon, the purple guy with the big horns you see in the picture there.  He just graduated top of his class at Monsters University and is all ready to become the next top scarer at Monsters, Inc.  Just one problem:  this takes place just a couple of days after the events of Monsters, Inc.  The Monster world is now switching gears to generating power by getting kids to laugh, and Tyler now has the completely wrong skillset.  When he shows up for his first day of work at Monsters, Inc, he's assigned to MIFT:  the Monsters Inc Facilities Team.  They're the maintenance crew, who spends most of their days in the basement waiting for the call to come fix something.  

So who are the wacky misfits that Tyler is now stuck working with?  We've got:

Fitz, the grey guy with the big nose.  He's the head of MIFT and just desperate to be liked.

Duncan is the green guy with bat wings and multiple eyes.  He's second in command and has his eyes on Fitz's job if/when Fitz retires.  He instantly sees Tyler as a threat and makes it his mission to destroy Tyler.

Cutter is the green one in safety gear.  Always has a morbid story about how a previous MIFT member was killed on the job.

Val is the orange, furry one.  She's an old college friend of Tyler's and is always cheerful and perky.  She's voiced by Mindy Kaling, so, yeah, it's Mindy Kaling being Mindy Kaling.  

But that's not all.  Also coming back from the Monsters Inc films are Billy Crystal and John Goodman as Mike and Sully.  Sully is now running Monsters Inc, and Mike is helping out the scarers become jokesters by teaching courses at Monsters Inc.  Of course, Tyler takes those courses, because he's desperate to adapt to this new world and get out of the basement.  

Also coming back from the films are Jennifer Tilly as Mike's girlfriend Cecile, Bonnie Hunt as Ms. Flint (the person running the simulator in the film), and John Ratzenburger as the Yeti.  Although, Yeti wasn't in the first two episodes.

Got to see the first two episodes for review purposes.  The first deals with Tyler showing up at Monsters, Inc and coming to terms with the new situation.  The second one follows his first day on the job as he realizes that MIFT has a pretty important role.  We also get to see Mike and Sully in their parallel journey as they adjust to being the ones in charge now.  There's a bit of a story arc that they're setting up as well, as there are mysterious power outages at Monsters Inc that they're trying to get to the bottom of.  

There's still a bit of Pixar charm in there.  One thing I really liked about Monsters University is how it's about the death of dreams.  Mike comes to the terrible realization that he'll never be scary enough to be a scarer, so has to adjust to the real world accordingly.  Monsters at Work very much continues that theme.  Tyler's journey is all about realizing that the real world isn't what you thought it'd be, and learning to adjust accordingly.  Even though it's colourful monsters in a fantasy world, it is still a very relatable story.  

With our cast of characters, it's easy to make comparisons to The Office.  Fitz is Michael Scott, desperate to be loved by his employees.  Duncan is Dwight, a stickler for the rules and desperate to advance.  And, well, Mindy Kaling is Mindy Kaling.  But just as A Bug's Life took its cues from Three Amigos and Cars took its cues from Doc Hollywood, it'll be interesting to see what new direction they can take these characters in.  

I think Monsters at Work has lots of potential.  I'll be tuning to see where this goes.  The first season is 10 episodes long.  The first two episodes drop on Disney+ on July 7, with new episodes every Wednesday after.  

Tuesday, June 08, 2021

Thoughts on Loki

 It's been a pretty good year for Marvel.  Over on Disney+, they've given us two fantastic TV shows so far with WandaVision and The Falcon and the Winter Soldier.  And now, their third offering for the streamer drops tomorrow, Loki.  

Loki Poster

Loki was the first Marvel Studios series announced for Disney+, way back when they first announced Disney+.  And it made sense.  Loki was one of the most unexpected breakout characters from the MCU, particularly with his villainous turn in The Avengers, and his redemption arc over Thor: The Dark World and Thor: Ragnarok.  So why not gift the world with more Loki?  

I've been lucky enough to see the first two episodes, so I thought I'd share my thoughts.  

It all starts as we all predicted after seeing the events of Avengers: Endgame.  With the time heist to 2012 going sideways, Loki swiped the Tesseract and was able to escape.  But he doesn't get too far, as he's promptly captured by the TVA:  the Time Variance Authority.  The TVA are a police force that exist outside of time and make sure the the timeline stays pure, lest any alternate timelines be created that could destroy the multiverse.  

While awaiting his trial, Loki captures the attention of TVA Agent Mobius.  There's a variant on the loose ("variants" are what the TVA calls folks who are mucking about with the timeline) who's killing TVA agents, and Mobius believes that Loki is just the Hannibal Lecter-type who can provide insights into the variant's motives.  So Loki gets drafted as Mobius's reluctant partner, and he's off to save the timeline.  

Episode 1 is very exposition-heavy, as they lay out the rules of the TVA and who they are, and also bringing us up to speed on Loki.  There's some great character stuff for Loki.  Remember:  this is not the Loki who died in Endgame.  This is a Loki who escaped at the end of The Avengers, so he's still a bit of a villainous bastard.  Tom Hiddleston gets some great stuff to do, as Loki comes to grips with his new reality.  Owen Wilson is great, too, as Mobius.  I don't think I've ever seen Wilson this subdued, and it works great for the character.  

And I just love the whole look of the TVA, as you've seen in the trailers.  It's very much stuck in the 1970s...a 1970s vision of the future.  But it's a vision that's lasted well into the 90s, making it look very run down.  It's a bit of a soul-crushing bureaucracy, but I just love the whole aesthetic.  The music even compliments it well, with some 70s synths and even a hint of Theremin.  

Episode 2 is where we're off to the races, as Loki and Mobius get down to business hunting down our variant.  And this is just spectacular.  I felt a dash of DC's Legends of Tomorrow, in the way our heroes have such a lack of reverence for what they're doing to the timeline.  It also felt a bit like Doctor Who.  Can't quite place it.  They go back to one historical and, well, it just felt like Doctor Who.  But don't worry...it still felt like Marvel through and through.  

Episode 2 has a spectacular ending, with the revelation of who the variant is.  I won't say who, but I just smiled and said, "Aw man, that's great."  And now I've gotta wait two weeks for episode 3!

All in all, with Loki, it looks like Marvel Studios has another winner for Disney+.  

Don't forget, with Loki, Disney+ is trying something new.  Rather than drop new episodes every Friday, they're dropping every Wednesday.  Loki premieres on Wednesday, June 9, with new episodes every Wednesday after.