If the war drums and choral harmonizing in its intro don’t get your blood pumping, surely Keith David’s deep, triumphant voice-over will: “We are defenders of the night. We are Gargoyles!” A new generation with Disney+ access can now experience the dense lore and breathtaking action of Gargoyles, a cartoon created by Greg Weisman for Disney Television Animation in 1994.

The show starred an oppressed warrior clan of sentient, bat-winged humanoid creatures who are frozen in stone by day and once protected their medieval Scottish castle until they were betrayed and woke up in modern-day Manhattan. Thematically, Gargoyles was a fantasy take on Marvel’s X-Men—mining mythologies from around the world for its stories, casting a technocratic multi-millionaire as its central villain, and commenting weekly on prejudice, identity, and even sexuality through its motley crew of heroes and villains.

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The 10 Best Non-Hollywood Animated Movies of the Decade

Best Non-Hollywood Animated Films of the Decade

(This article is part of our Best of the Decade series.)

It’s not that there’s inherently anything wrong with films like the CGI animated remake of The Lion King or the third How to Train Your Dragon movie, but they have oversaturated our big screens purely by virtue of their budgets, parent companies, and the mass-market gamesmanship that fuels them. But audiences crave variety—and I’d argue that we need it to make sense of this world. To that end, the films below are some of my favorite animated films of the decade that weren’t produced in Hollywood.

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Gone are the goatee and helmet, but Game of Thrones and The Mandalorian heartthrob Pedro Pascal is indeed in the new trailer for next year’s Wonder Woman 1984. His Maxwell Lord is a capitalist known for mythmaking. “Think about finally having everything you’ve always wanted,” he says in the trailer, in a television broadcast over ’80s scenes with boxy cars and shopping malls.

In the short trailer, Pascal captures the comic books’ Lord, a smarmy-smooth negotiator who acts as a thorn in the side of both Wonder Woman (Gal Gadot) and her allies in the Justice League. As several commenters have pointed out on Twitter, the makeup team definitely succeeded in making Pascalunhot.” In some ways, Lord is a lot like Lex Luthor, but showier, using the media to craft a benevolent narrative around himself, before deploying that to damn his heroic enemies like Wonder Woman and ruin their reputations. He’s also known for killing people and controlling minds, before later becoming one of Wonder Woman’s most haunting nemeses.

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The 11 Movies That Redefined Animation This Decade

Movies That Redefined Animation

(This article is part of our Best of the Decade series.)

As we exit the 2010s, one thing is certain. The decade brought advancements in technology, bold choices in storytelling, and more creative diversity than cinema has ever seen before, trends that all apply to animation as it does to live-action. This medium remained the one in which artists can dream up wonders that we’ll never see in the real world and make them move, and the 2020s will be shaped by what we watched in the 2010s. As Vincent Van Gogh says in the painted animated film Loving Vincent: “I don’t know anything with certainty, but seeing the stars makes me dream.” These animated films either dreamt more boldly than what came before or inspired more daring dreams in their wake. 

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Batman Hush review

“Deep down, he’s a good person, and deep down, I’m not,” Batman says as he’s about to fight his brainwashed pal Superman in the latest DC Animated Movie Universe release, Batman: Hush. There might not be a single line that better captures Batman’s simultaneously toxic self-loathing and self-mythologizing quite so succinctly in relation to his most hopeful (and much more socially-adjusted) friend and thematic foil.

It’s also such a casually badass Batman line that I couldn’t imagine a movie adaptation of the classic Batman: Hush comic, which was written by Jeph Loeb and illustrated by Jim Lee, without it. The new film, directed by Justin Copeland from an adapted screenplay by Ernie Altbacker, is full of savvy pulls like this one and cuts alike, slimming a sprawling 12-part saga into a lean 80-minute feature. They preserve nearly all the key themes of the originally printed murder-mystery while making changes big and small along the way. (Small change: Batman wears a pair of kryptonite brass knuckles instead of a single kryptonite ring to fight Supes). Some of the biggest changes in the film’s ending even recontextualize Batman and Catwoman’s final moments of the story, but the film holds together fabulously nonetheless. Let’s talk about why. Read More »

Justice League vs The Fatal Five Review

The hype for Justice League vs. The Fatal Five was real from the moment DC and Warner Bros. Animation announced that they had three of their most celebrated voice actors working on the film. Almost 13 years after the end of their show Justice League Unlimited, Kevin Conroy (Batman), George Newbern (Superman), and Susan Eisenberg (Wonder Woman) returned to reprise their roles together as DC’s Trinity. I never expected the gambit to pay off as well as it did, but now that I’ve seen the movie following its digital release, I’m happy to eat crow.

In 77 minutes, less than the length of a four-episode JLU arc, Justice League vs. The Fatal Five proves itself rich and engrossing, partly by side-lining its three veteran capes. This is a bombastic, fisticuff-filled superhero movie that makes time for serious meditations on mortality, legacy, and—most surprisingly—mental health. The best part about this movie is that it gives us a fan service rush while proving over and over again that it’d be perfectly fine with punting that stuff into the sun and flying on the story’s own merits.

Some light spoilers follow.

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This article contains spoilers for Akira and the Batman-centric DCAU films and TV shows.

A giant explosion of light and sound. Biker gangs and crime-ridden streets. A city run by crooked politicians and a militarized police force. A flawed hero who operates outside the law and is pitted against a villain who thrives on chaos. All these make Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, the spinoff film of Batman: The Animated Series, one of the most iconic representations of the DC Comics hero ever put to a screen, but they’re also major parts of what make the legendary anime film Akira tick, too.

Both films celebrated big anniversaries last year — Phantasm turned 25 on December 25, and Akira crested its 30th birthday on July 16 — and they’re both still widely respected as classics of their respective art forms. It’s not an exaggeration to say Katsuhiro Otomo, creator of the Akira manga and director of the film, influenced a generation of artists around the world, and you can say the same for the film’s version of Batman created by Bruce Timm, Eric Radomski, and Alan Burnett.

What’s harder to pin down is what the two iconic movies have in common. While they couldn’t be more different plotwise, both films share a lot of DNA that showed up not just Phantasm‘s source TV series Batman: The Animated Series, but the rest of the DC Animated Universe properties for years to come. There’s clear homage to Akira, yes, but over the years the B:TAS spinoff properties have also borrowed its animators and — most importantly — ideas that enrich how we understand the character today.

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