Best and Worst Animated Films of 2018

Back when I was young, I was happy to see even one new animated film a year. Now there’s practically one a week.

In the 80s, I started a magazine called “Animato!” that later grew quite large and popular. I got to meet and interview great animators like Chuck Jones and Ralph Bakshi but later sold the magazine, and it went on to even bigger successes until the internet killed all magazines.51MKTRQpAhL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_

So I’m still an animation fan, but it’s basically impossible to see all the films and all the animated TV shows these days unless you’re a full-time animator or animation historian, I guess.

There were some really great films this year I did get to catch, though.

These days, with so much CGI, we can debate what an “animated film” even is, but generally the accepted definition is that the main characters must be animated — not just the monsters or effects. (And “motion capture” doesn’t count.)

So here’s the end-of-the-year list of best and worst animated films (based on their Rotten Tomatoes score).  It only includes films that actually were released to theaters and had at least five reviews in order to get a Rotten Tomatoes score. (Lots of bad films go directly to DVD or cable.) Ties are broken by number of reviews.

  1. Paddington 2 (100%)
  2. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (97%)
  3. Incredibles 2 (94%)
  4. Teen Titans Go to the Movies (91%)
  5. Mirai (91%)
  6. Isle of Dogs (89%)
  7. Ralph Breaks the Internet (89%)
  8. Mary and the Witches’ Flower (87%)
  9. Sgt. Stubby (86%)
  10. Early Man (81%)
  11. Liz and the Blue Bird (78%)
  12. Smallfoot (75%)
  13. Peter Rabbit (64%)
  14. Hotel Transylvania 3 (59%)
  15. The Grinch (57%)
  16. Sherlock Gnomes (27%)
  17. Monster Family (10%)


Norwegian Would (This Trump has Flown)

I once had a job raking the leaves
Out in the woods
A socialist job keeping them safe
The best I could

A Scandinavian task that was needed it seems
I moved the leaves from the forest and into the streams

So day after day I raked away
Down through the snow
“An important task” they’d say when I’d ask
I didn’t know

It was demeaning and tiring and I couldn’t see
How this was a process done in any other country

So one day I stopped and took a break
There’s my mistake
The forest caught fire
I didn’t do good
But a Norwegian would


To Tell The Truth!

My award-winning artist wife Heidi Hooper will be a guest on the ABC TV show “To Tell the Truth” this Sunday, June 17th, 10 pm EST.  Heidi makes art out of dryer lint! Consumer Reports has called her “The Andy Warhol of Dryer Lint” and To Tell The Truth flew us out to Hollywood (all expenses paid!) to film the show last summer — and it’s finally going to be on!

Please watch and support her!

1134728318_10157404840883306_7148639091830030336_n34813378_10157404841648306_4230411089977802752_nHeidi and Mel

Release the Virgins!

Okay, time for a commercial break.

Announcing a kickstarter campaign for a new anthology (edited by me!) where the only requirement is that each story must contain the line “release the virgins” somewhere within. We have commitments so far from award-winning authors David Gerrold, Lawrence Watt-Evans, Jody Lynn Nye, Allen Steele, Steve Miller, Sharon Lee, Keith R.A. DeCandido, Gail Z. Martin, Cecilia Tan, Patrick Thomas, Shariann Lewitt, Alex Shvartsman, Hildy Silverman, and Daniel M. Kimmel. More will be added (especially if we raise enough from the kickstarter).

Pledge and reserve your book today (and/or get other goodies)!:…/667435382/release-the-virgins

First Drafts: Book Titles

Previous first drafts:  Band names and Movie titles

Here are my favorites in the “book title” competition (and the ones that got the most “likes”).  And if you want to join in future ones, send a Facebook friend request.

Michael A. Ventrella

  • The Okay Gatsby
  • War and Not-War
  • Donkey Hotey
  • The Left Pinkie of Darkness
  • The Sound and the Furries
  • The Catcher in the Pumpernickel
  • Ringworm
  • Strawberry Finn
  • The Selfie of Dorian Gray
  • J, Robot
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sleep?
  • The Man who Folded His Wallet
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hellos

Ef Deal

  • Moby Bob

Kelly Allard

  • To Seriously Injure a Mockingbird
  • Moby’s Dick

David Gerrold

  • Stranger In A Strange Place
  • The Puppet Monsters
  • Time For Enough Love
  • The Left Hand of Dorkness
  • The Grapes of Rage

Van Tilburg

  • Beau Jest
  • Harry Pothead and The Goblet of Weed

Murray Blehart

  • Okay Omens
    The Dragon-Walkers of Pern

Henry Hart

  • The Stray Cat, the New-Age Yoga Teacher, and the End Table

Christine Norris

  • A Crease in Time

James Ryan

  • Gone With the Light Breeze
  • Sooner Rather Than Later, Voyager
  • Tinker, Seamstress, Reservist, Snitch
  • A Streetcar Named Intrigued
  • Steppenpuppy

L.M. Kate Johnston

  • Fifty Shades of Neigh

Chuck Rothman

  • Middling Expectations

Dean Herrmann

  • The King James Babble
  • A Christmas Carly

Jesse Hendrix

  • A Haunakah Hymn
  • The Old Man and the Pond
  • Casino Royale with Cheese

Joe Niedbala

  • Heart of Dimness
  • Lady Chatterly’s Liver
  • An Arbor Day Carol

Drew Bittner

  • Howard’s Midsection

Cheryl Lynn Jones

  • Green Eggs and Food Poisoning

David Sweeney

  • A Tree Grows on Staten Island

Larry Hodges

  • The Wizard of Ounces

Steven Morgenlander

  • Boss of the Bracelets

Jonnan West

  • The Man in the Aluminium Foil Mask

Nicci Burnside

  • Gulliver’s Staycation
  • The Call of The Domesticated

Scott Gillespie

  • Concern and Dislike in Las Vegas
  • Plucky New World

J.A. Fludd

  • Pride and Mistaken Assumption
  • Crime and Plea Bargain

Pam Smith

  • No County for Millennials
  • Nurse Yes

Paul Boyle

  • Civil Disagreement on the Bounty

Farber Bunny

  • Around the Neighborhood in 80 Minutes
  • The Second Cousins From A Previous Marriage Karamozavs
  • 10,000 millimeters under the Sea
  • The Past Puberty But Not Yet Middle Age Man and the Sea

Gary Dowell

  • The Hatchback of Notre Dame

J. Spike Rogan

  • Goodnight Reverend Sun Myung Moon

Sam Norman

  • The Moon is a Rude Girlfriend

Thom Truelove

  • The Dunce and Future King

Chris Impink

  • The Sternly-Worded Letter of the Worlds
  • Do Androids Dream of Book Titles?
  • A Tryst with Rama
  • I Have No Mouth and Would Like a Breath Mint
  • The Martian Direct Mail Circulars

Don’t be a fool tomorrow

A clever April Fool’s joke is always welcome, especially when it’s just plain funny, like an Onion article, where you first go “This can’t be real!” and then you realize it isn’t. If you can pull off that kind of joke, more power to you.

However, too many people simply post a lie and then after everyone believes you, you say “April Fools!” It doesn’t take skill or talent to say “Oh no, I broke my leg! Ha ha, April Fools.”nobodys-fool

That’s not clever and distracts from people who really do have serious things happen to them tomorrow.  Posting that you had something terrible happen to you may simply remind people who have had that terrible thing happen to them about it, and what’s the fun in that? You’ve just made people sad instead of entertaining them.

For instance: The same year my wife and I got married, we made invitations exactly like the ones we sent out for our wedding, except these invited everyone to come to our divorce, to be held at the Suffolk County Courthouse, on April 1. It went over well, because people first thought it was an official invitation to some special event, then they went “Whaaaaa?” then they laughed.

Anyway, please be clever if you’re posting an April Fool’s joke. Thanks.

First Drafts: Movie Titles

Our previous first draft contest (“band names“) gave us some hilarious responses. This time, I asked for the first draft of movie titles, and here’s some of my favorites and the ones that got the most “likes” (in no particular order except me first):giphy

Michael A. Ventrella:

  • Moon Wars
  • WALL-F
  • The Wizard of Ounce
  • Bravespleen
  • The Hobbit: Battle of the Five Hours
  • Howl’s Moving White Castle
  • The Credibles
  • Apocalypse Whenever
  • Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Kidney Stone
  • Hectopussy
  • Aunt-Man
  • Indiana Jones and the Penultimate Crusade
  • The Halfback of Notre Dame
  • The Perfect Stormy Daniels
  • Plan 9 From Altoona, PA

Savannah Luther:

  •  Ladychicken

Esther Friesner:

  • The Spare Change of the Sierra Madre
  • Debbie Visits Dallas
  • Hi, Noon!

Brandon E. Kumm:

  • Die In A Somewhat Difficult Way

Jay Pennington:

  • Prince Kong
  • Moulin Eyeliner
  • The Ten Suggestions
  • Lord of the Friendship Bracelets
  • A Barely Worth Mentioning Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
  • Force 10 from Toblerone
  • Permitted Planet
  • Lawrence of Flatbush

Terri Lynn Coop:

  • All’s Chill on the Western Front
  • The Streets of Conshohocken

Pam Smith:

  • The Jungle Pamphlet
  • Raging Cow

Daniel Persons:

  • Star Trek 3: The Search for Sporks
  • The Seven Year Staph Infection

Rachelle Stein:

  • Some Like it Lukewarm

Eric Hamilton:

  • Irate Max
  • Logan’s Amble
  • Children of a Lesser Dog

David Edward Martin:

  • It’s a Fairly Annoyed, Kind of Annoyed, Pretty Annoyed, Really Annoyed World

Jesse Hendrix:

  • The Okay Dictator

Glenn Haumann:

  • Indiana Jones and the Temple Of B’Nai Brith

Marcus Dark:

  • Awe Woman

Rebecca Morris:

  • Rosemary’s Tween
  • The Devil Wears Chinese Rip-offs
  • Call of Doody
  • Minority Post-it Notes

James Ryan:

  • The Shiny

Carl Montano:

  • Children of the Zucchini

Jason Harris Vichinsky:

  • Anxiety and Mild Disdain in Las Vegas

Steve Vaughan:

  • You’ve Got Texts
  • Crochet Your Wagon
  • Conan the Bartender

Andrew Sugermeyer:

  • Undocumented Immigrant Kane

Michael Engler:

  • A Fistful of Dollies
  • Slightly Soiled Harry

Maria Solly Engler:

  • Ghostadmonishers

Jason Leon:

  • The Fast and the Slightly Perturbed
  • Dances with Irish Setters
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grill
  • Escape from New Brunswick
  • Snakes on a Plain

Sarah Adams:

  • The Penultimate Jedi

Susie Guarino:

  • Where Eagles Consider
  • Air Force Two
  • First Lieutenant America

Mike Guarino:

  • Illinois Jones and the Shrine of Moderate Peril
  • Shaving Private Ryan

Kevin Irwin:

  • Drizzle Man

Donald Smith:

  • Larry of Arabia
  • The Wildebeest in Winter
  • Lab Assistant Zhivago

Michael Kaspszyk:

  • A Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Neighborhood

Sorry I couldn’t post them all! Be a friend of mine on Facebook for the next one.

“Black Panther” and white audiences

The new Marvel movie “Black Panther” looks great from all the previews. I’m looking forward to it, as are many fans of a good superhero film.

But you watch — as soon as it is released, you’re going to see articles from Hollywood types acting surprised that a film with an almost-entirely black cast is so popular with white audiences as well.


I still remember when Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” was out, and I was reading articles from Hollywood “experts” saying that it was an “urban” film (that’s their code word for “black” — as if there are no white people living in urban areas) and that white audiences couldn’t relate to the film.

As it was, I lived not far from the neighborhood where that movie was filmed. I can guarantee you that I could relate more to the people in that movie than I ever could to some white British aristocrats in 19th century England, yet no one ever says “White people can’t relate to ‘Pride and Prejudice.'”

In any event, what we really want are good movies. I don’t have to be black to enjoy a movie with black characters any more than I have to be Jewish to enjoy a Woody Allen movie or an animal to appreciate “Zootopia” or a hobbit to appreciate “Lord of the Rings.” And I think, despite what Hollywood executives may think, most Americans feel that way.

But just watch out. The articles acting surprised at the film’s success will soon be here.

Freedom from ads!

I’ve been running this blog for five years or so now, using WordPress. In exchange for giving me a free page, they’d run ads everywhere.cache

But they never showed me the ads. I’d just get a message saying, “Some of your readers may see an ad here.”

I recently looked at this page on my phone and then again from a computer where I was not logged into WordPress automatically and was surprised at how often these ads popped up.

So I finally gave in and paid the extra yearly fee so you won’t have to see any ads.

You can thank me by maybe buying one of my books — they make good holiday presents, too.

Wait, was that an ad?

Real people complaining about fictional people

The new Doctor Who has been announced, and it’s a woman. So of course, some fanboys (and some fangirls) are complaining. “But the Doctor is a man!”

No, the Doctor is fictional.

The biggest complainers are the ones who get an idea in their heads and decide that X version of a fictional character is the only one possible, and any variation is blasphemy. “Superman can’t be black!” they scream, ignoring the fact that Superman isn’t even human — he could be green and polka dotted (although that might make his secret identity a bit tougher to hide).

Sometimes it really matters whether a character is male or female, black or white … if it’s important to the plot. And sometimes the writer/director/producer decides to go against the expected to make a point or to do something different with the character.

Re-interpretations of fictional works happen all the time. Look at how many times Shakespeare has been done in a new way. Characters can change race and sex; the story can take place in the present or the future — it’s fiction. You can do that.

With Doctor Who, it’s even easier to change, because the Doctor changes. Since the show has been going on for 50 years or so, the same actor has not played the part and so the writers came up with “regeneration” where the Doctor sheds his old body and takes on a new one. I’ve never understood plot-wise why that has to happen, but I certainly understand why that needs to be done for TV’s sake. And there is nothing in the established history of the show to indicate why the Doctor regenerated as male the last dozen times (or, for that matter, why the aliens always seem to be attacking London, but that’s a separate issue). So what’s wrong with a female this time?  Statistically speaking, shouldn’t that have happened long ago?

For that matter, what’s wrong with changing real, actual history for dramatic purpose? Hamilton features minority actors playing the white Founding Fathers, and they did that to make a specific point, as well as to say, “Who cares what color the actor is that plays this part?”  The story is still plenty strong, the characters are believable and real, and so what if they don’t look exactly like the people they’re portraying?

So let’s stop complaining when we get a black Santa Claus or a black Hermione, or a female Doctor Who. It’s fiction.