Review: “Miracle Mouse: Cranky’s Miracle” animatic

I want to put more content on the home page besides just updates on my portfolio and such, so I’m trying something else as well: brief recaps of art-related events I’ve attended.

Last Thursday, I attended a meeting of the Milwaukee Animation Group, and this last time they had a screening from a local man (Tom Hignite) who wanted to get into the animation business. The screening was an animatic to a future film called “Miracle Mouse: Cranky’s Miracle”, and the idea behind this screening was to get a critique on what has been done so far.

To begin, I’ll start with what was good about the animatic:

-The little bits of animation that were done so far were really good, but that should come as no surprise considering they were done by ex-Disney animators years ago.

-The story and message were clear and not jumbled about.

-The animatic felt more like a motion comic than any other animatic I’ve seen, which could make it marketable for the iPad market in case it needs more funding.

Now, there’s everything else: it was way too much of a ripoff of 90s Disney, for starters. Everything about it screamed Disney, and there were elements that were so close to plagiarizing Uncle Walt that I felt very uncomfortable watching it. The title cards struck me as something that would be in a Disney film like “Beauty and the Beast”, Miracle Studio’s (Hignite’s production outfit) title sequence was almost frame-for-frame like the opening Walt Disney castle sequence seen at the beginning of every Disney flick, there is a requisite song-and-dance musical number, even the title character looks like Mickey Mouse with a hard hat.

There was only one musical number so far (although Hignite said the final film will have more), but I can tell you that it was not very good. The voice actors that they got were okay for their speaking roles, but they sure can’t sing. What some animated movies do is they have someone different from the character’s VO sing the songs (case in point: Anne-Marie in “All Dogs go to Heaven”, for the one song she sings). That’s what should be done here. However, even if Hignite hires someone to sing the songs separately from the other VOs, it still doesn’t change that it was a bad song. I heard the word “miracle” so many times in it that I was expecting Insane Clown Posse to pop in and say “@&#$ing magnets, how do they work?” “Miracle” was the common word throughout the entire production (not just the song), and I was so sick of hearing it by the end of the 27 minute short.

My biggest problem with “Cranky’s Miracle”, though, was that the whole plot was extremely saccharine. It really was a film aimed toward a much younger audience, but there should have been something thrown in there to entertain the adults too. Part of what makes the greatest animated films so great is that they appeal to more than one demographic. Warner Brothers did this well with the Looney Tunes shorts, and Disney itself had the darker moments in films like “The Lion King” as well as the entirety of Pixar’s library. “Cranky’s Miracle” does not have that. The darkest moment took place during a storm sequence late in the film, and even then it seemed preachy about its message.

All in all, while the animation was nice, the film needs a lot of work before it can be shown on the big screen. If anything, it would be much smarter for Miracle Studios to develop it as a short film instead, as this film has been in production for over seven years and yet it’s still in an animatic stage. It needs to not only appeal to kids, but the parents of those same kids as well, otherwise critics will tune it out as kiddy pablum. Additionally, it really needs to gain its own style. Aping Disney’s style in animation as well as plot structure makes it too derivative, and could even get Miracle Studio’s in legal trouble, considering how protective Disney is of their copyright.

After the screening was finished, there was a brief survey as well as a Q&A. While I didn’t ask any questions, I did fill out the survey and pretty much made the exact same points that I made here (no parental bonus, too kiddy).