A thing I’ve recently noticed: Starkid has their finger on the pulse of pop culture. I have three pieces of evidence for this.
One: Twisted as the heralding in of the new Disney Renaissance
I don’t know if we’re actually living in a new Disney Renaissance but I do remember what life was like during those years in which Pixar was the only studio making very good animated movies (Western ones, anyway). I also know that at some point it levelled out. I’d say from Princess and the Frog through to now we’re in a highly creative Disney era, and likely will be for some time yet. Moana looks good. The next fairy tale is Jack and the Beanstalk so, yes to that.
But it really was Frozen that changed things. Frozen having both an Anna and an Elsa meant that for me, watching it in the theatre for the first time, it was like I was in the 90s again, but better. It married what was really good about those older movies with what’s good about the newer ones and was unapologetically about female empowerment.
Twisted called for this.
Jasmine tells Prince Achmed that he can go and do his Pixar thing but he needs to help the Magic Kingdom get back to its roots, and bring back the two Ds (duty and devotion. Or. 2D animation). I’d hazard a guess that as soon as they figure out how to do Paperman style as a feature length film, the 2Ds will indeed be back, but Frozen, even being a 3D animated film, really did answer Jasmine’s demand anyway because it felt like a renaissance film.
It was a bit annoying that they casually ignored Princess and the Frog‘s existence but hey.
Two: Holy Musical B@man predicts the fall of the DC movie universe
It’s controversial that Marvel movies do well with critics and DC movies do not. Personally I think it comes down to bad writing/directing and clinging to an ideal of superheroes only allowed to be Frank Miller-machoesque over at the DC headquarters but I don’t know. I don’t have a dog in this or any fight because dog fighting is despicable.
On the other hand, I’m pretty bored with the Marvelverse. While acknowledging that the creative team over there is doing a far superior job than the DC team is, I still say that the Marvel movies have blundered occasionally (whyfore so little diversity and wow those are incredibly boring villains) and that overall they just aren’t my thing.
My thing is a Harley Quinn movie where she dumps the Joker for good and that’s all. Throw some Batman cameos in there, maybe have Poison Ivy be the love interest, Catwoman cameos too because Catwoman is my queen. My thing is live-action Kim Possible. Teen Titans and literally no one is white. Superheroes fight grassroots battles too, like Beast Boy fights against the meat industry or Cyborg joins BLM. Superheroes literally stop wars. Those are the things I want. And neither Marvel nor DC seems interested in giving them to me.
I will of course be going to see Wonderwoman because obviously. And I will be going to see Guardians of the Galaxy 2 because the closest thing to the superhero movie that I’ve always wanted to see is the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Although that’s ignoring The Incredibles, Big Hero 6, Sky High, Megamind, and Catwoman which I still like despite how horrible it is because, and I repeat: Catwoman is my queen. Even if she’s the Halle Berry one. She wasn’t nearly as bad as everyone goes on about. Also the other day our emergency foster cat walked up my sternum and I asked him, “Are you about to impart magical cat abilities to me?” but he didn’t, and it was sad.
So back to Starkid. In Holy Musical B@man, which was released the same year as The Avengers, Batman gives Superman an amazing pep talk in which he tells him, “Superheroes are cool, man!” It’s hard to explain, but take my word for it: there has never been a more enthusiastic or succinct argument for making sure your superhero movies don’t forget to be fun in the midst of all that macho angst.
Honestly, this is exactly how Batman V Superman should have happened, and that’s likely down to the fact that it was written by people who like superheroes and understand why that is.
Three: Ani demands better Star Wars movies
I’ve heard a lot of the Starkid fanbase didn’t really like Ani but I did. I suspect part of the reason others couldn’t get into it is because it seemed to come from an angrier place than B@man or Very Potter or Twisted – it was less a celebration of Star Wars than it was just a big massacre.
The part where Obi Wan shows up and tells the entire prequel story is both hilarious and pretty cruel. I didn’t hate the prequels. I actually really liked Ewan McGreggor as young Obi Wan, so that’s one thing. And as stupid as Jar Jar is, the first time I saw him I was a kid, so due to nostalgia goggles I’m pretty neutral to him.
Ani as a whole seems like Starkid went in planning to make fun of the prequels and then ended up feeling pretty lukewarm towards the Star Wars franchise as a whole. I shouldn’t argue about what the creators were feeling when they made it because I can’t possibly know, but the show doesn’t do a lot of celebrating. Sure, maybe the Boba Fett parts are celebratory, but otherwise it’s just criticism after criticism. Our heroes are all people from the Dark Side, but unlike in Twisted, making the villain the good guy from the source material (Obi Wan in this case) didn’t work out the same way. Likely this is because there was Jasmine at the end to reinforce the good in Aladdin and Disney in general in spite of the things Twisted wanted to take to task, but in Ani there’s none of that. Obi Wan being an evil schemer is like the Wizard of Oz being a sleazy exploiter of animals in Wicked. There’s no room left to sympathize with the source material’s version of events.
I still really liked Ani because apart from being entertaining, and still nailing the male/male friendship thing like only Starkid can, it was also completely different. I liked seeing Starkid on the war path. I liked Chris Allen’s Ani and how Patrick Warburtony he was. I liked how despite the fact that he was a pretty horrible coworker he was just jovial and harmless (passing over the force-choking business). I liked the friendship that was just friendship and nothing else between Ani and Mara. I liked how even when Ani was being “gross” he was still just a jovial harmless guy (“You’re a funny group of gals!”) I really liked Tarkin and Ani’s budding friendship – that sold the show for me, and then there was that guy. who played Sebulbla. Oh my God.
It didn’t have a heartfelt moment like in B@man where the characters elucidate on why the stories they come from are so beloved, so what we’re left with is all the bad guys having fun and Obi Wan plotting to raise Luke in ignorance and set him on his patricidal path.
While this is a departure from the celebrations of their other musical parodies, it makes Ani a prediction for what was to come. The entire show is complaint after complaint and though I don’t know what Starkid likes about Star Wars, as they never really told us, I assume that The Force Awakens was probably a wish granted to a few of them. It’s hard to recall even now, when it hasn’t been a year since the new movie, but Star Wars was a bit of a punchline during and after the three prequels in pop culture, which is probably unfair but it is what it is. I once heard it said that the worst crime an adaptation can commit is to make a fan doubt that there was anything worthwhile about the source material in the first place, and from the way that Ani was written, it seems as though that’s what the prequels did to the original trilogy for Starkid. No wonder Ani didn’t find anything to celebrate.
If Ani was too different for many Starkid fans to enjoy, it’s probably because their trademark “heartfeltness” or “genuineness” or just straight up extremely high levels of emotional intelligence they put into their shows just wasn’t here for this one. They were on the war path with Star Wars which is completely unlike their other shows. And that’s even acknowledging that one lyric from Twisted: “Whistle while you swallow a spoonful of sugar and your dreams will come true upon a star!”
But since Rogue One will have both Tarky and Ani in it I think it would be nice if they did an Ani Part Two where they celebrate Star Wars rather than just tearing it down. Either way, Ani wanted a fresh start, if it wanted anything at all, and Awakens and Rogue One seem like they’re delivering.
So yes. Starkid knows what’s going on. They put clever commentary into their shows and inadvertently it seems like the powers that be are listening. Sort of. OK no one at DC is listening but still.
All the videos are set to the specific part I was discussing but if you have five or so hours, a really good way to spend them would be watching these and other Starkid shows.