One of LEGO’s more popular franchises of late is the LEGO Friends line.
This line proved popular enough to spawn a series of videos and specials, chronicling a quintet of (teen? Tween?) girls: Mia the animal lover, Emma the beautician/martial artist, Andrea the music enthusiast, Stephanie the social butterfly/party planner and Olivia the brain, who lived in fictional Heartlake City where they…did stuff.
However, in 2018, something changed. One fateful day, Jason and I were shopping at a Target store when we came across a LEGO display in the toy section. The LEGO Friends had been transformed from this…
-No joke: when we first saw this display, we thought that LEGO had replaced the cast.
But no, it’s the same set of characters, they’ve just been radically redesigned. Some of the characters’ standout traits/shticks have either been exaggerated or changed altogether, and their adventures and the overall tone of the stories have been ramped up considerably, with more fast-paced, frenetic action and favoring sight gags and slapstick. Furthermore, the Friends do more than just plan surprise parties or go on nature hikes and cruises; they’re now the resident do-gooders of Heartlake City, thwarting criminals, saving the townsfolk, doing good deeds here and there…
How do I feel about this? I’m not too sure yet. On the one hand, I approve of the comic exaggerations and the new zaniness; after all, the original LEGO Friends’ stories were, let’s face it, kind of dull and generic, but on the other hand, I didn’t think there was anyone wrong with the original designs. There wasn’t any reason to change so much, but at the same time, there’s no harm in changing so much either. About these new designs:
Andrea has always been my favorite LEGO Friend (tied with Mia), so I’m glad LEGO didn’t make a ton of changes to her; the alterations to Andrea’s design are merely tweaks, no need to fix something that wasn’t broken. All LEGO did was give her a different hairstyle and alter her decal/logo from a multiple magenta musical notes with cream circles to one large note with wings beside 2 smaller ones. They also made Andrea’s skin tone a shade darker than it was before, which normally I’d probably object to, but here it seems to work, as the darker brown contrasts nicely against the yellows, purples and magentas of her daily outfit, and thankfully her skin isn’t so dark that one can’t make out her facial features. Her basic character and shtick is also still basically the same: she’s still a music lover and very confident.
Honestly, the only real objection I have with Andrea 2.0 doesn’t concern Andrea herself, but the world she inhabits: would it kill the producers to put some other People of Color in the backgrounds as extras and whatnot? In all the LF 2018 videos I’ve seen, it seems like Andrea is the only POC in the entire town. I think I saw one other black kid in the background of the “Meet Andrea” spotlight video, but that was it. Come on guys.
Mia likewise hasn’t been changed all that much; her daily outfit is just a tad more rugged and less hippy-dippy, and she’s still the only LEGO Friend who wears pants instead of a skirt for her usual daily outfit. Her decal has been switched to a lightning bolt, which I have mixed feelings about (lightning bolts are cool, they’re one of mine and Jason’s favorite decals, but I also liked the paw print decal), and she now rides a lightning bolt-studded skateboard, which is kind of cool. Thankfully, she’s still the resident animal lover and nature enthusiast.
Like Andrea, I only have one real pet peeve about Mia’s new look: it’s that she now wears sneakers instead of sandals. I liked the sandals.
Stephanie (the only LEGO Friend whose name doesn’t end in ‘a’; means nothing, just something I noticed) is one of the Friends who has received something of a personality makeover. Admittedly, the whole ‘social butterfly/party planner’ shtick probably wasn’t the easiest thing to represent visually and it was arguably not particularly funny or entertaining at least not in terms of animation, so now LEGO has apparently turned Stephanie into Sporty Spice, which kind of overlaps with Mia’s character, as she’s always the most tomboyish of the Friends, but whatever. One’s a nature and critter lover and the other’s an athletic baller, so they’re not 100% the same. Despite Stephanie’s being a sports enthusiast, she still dresses kind of girly, with a daily outfit which kind of resembles a Japanese schoolgirl outfit/sailor suit, which I do kind of dig.
LEGO has also modified Stephanie’s decal from multiple stars and circles to a single star. Admittedly, the multiple stars-and-circles decal might not have been the easiest thing to replicate or put through the process of animation, so I’m OK with the simpler symbol. Her star symbol here is in the form of a necklace. I’m fine with that.
OK, I’m not going to mince words here: I like Olivia, but hers is my least favorite of these new designs. LEGO has exaggerated Olivia’s intelligence to full-blown Master Inventor/Genius Engineer/Math Whiz, to the point where she can see numbers and make immense calculations on the fly and even possesses a little robot buddy of her own creation which doubles as her scooter (so it’s also a Transformer!), and I’m fine with that; I’m totally down with Mad Science and Super Tech; I don’t even mind the glasses (True Story: Olivia’s re-design is so different that several fans actually emailed LEGO to complain because they thought Olivia had been replaced), but that outfit and the overall aesthetic…just why?? Olivia 2018 now looks too much like a stereotypical nerd, which ironically was one of the things I liked about Olivia originally: that despite being the “smart one”, she looked and dressed like she shopped at the same Justice as the other girls.
Then there’s this new symbol, the gear necklace. Eech. Again, I see what they were trying to do, but that’s just not clicking with me. There wasn’t anything wrong with the hearts. I’ve already said this in an Unpopular Opinion, but just because a kid is smart doesn’t mean they have dress like a dork; smart kids like cool clothes too.
Emma 2.0 has gone from beautician (again, probably not the easiest or most entertaining thing to represent visually) to full-blown artist; she also no longer appears to know Kung-Fu. Ironic then that the artist of the group possesses the most mundane and least visually dazzling design of them all. Emma’s look isn’t bad per se, it’s just so…basic compared to the others. I’m not the biggest fan of Olivia’s new look, but it at least stands out and is distinctive, even if I’m not particularly fond of it. Emma’s overall design, while pleasant, is a tad too ordinary for her to be a vibrant, visually inclined artist.
Emma’s decal (a paintbrush) doesn’t even appear anywhere on her daily outfit. Just polka dots. Polka Dot??
Now, onto the new story structure.
I’m not sure how I feel about the Friends saving lives and stopping bank robbers. Their original adventures were very mild. Granted. But I’m not sure if having them foil crimes is the way to go. For one thing, these have to be the dumbest criminals on record, wearing dark clothing and watch caps in broad daylight.
For another, are the LEGO Friends the Powerpuff Girls now?
To be fair, everything seems to be exaggerated now, so maybe how these 5 young girls with no powers or special skills beyond their hobbies and likes are able to accomplish so much could be part of the joke.
So overall, while I see some hiccups in the LEGO Friends makeover, I’m curious to see how this new style will pan out. This change was abrupt, but hey, at least LEGO is still willing to do stuff with their girl-centric franchise, unlike some companies I could mention…
R.I.P. Pop-Art Pixies
Ladies and Gentlemen…
What The Funny…
That’s right. I’m back in the driver’s seat (after Damon entertained us all with his Freakazoid! episode breakdown) with another WTF miniseries. This time around, the show that I’ll be spotlighting is Cartoon Network’s Regular Show!
True story; when I first got the idea to do What The Funny, I planned to start with Regular Show, but then I learned that Nickelodeon was planning to air a Rocko’s Modern Life revival special sometime this year, so I decided to start with Rocko instead. After that, I was so impressed with Damon’s Pop Dream miniseries for Barbie: Life In the Dreamhouse that I wanted to do a Pop Dream of my own, resulting with the one that I wrote for the family on The Loud House. This brings us to now. No more holding back. After being delayed twice, I’m finally going to embark on my favorite episode breakdown of one of my favorite Cartoon Network original shows.
Everyone who’s been following this site for the past two years already knows how this will work, but I just want to mention a couple more things: First, I’ll only be doing the standard episodes. I won’t be covering any of the half hour specials because we have a separate segment for TV specials. Second, I won’t be covering any of the episodes form RS’ final season in space. I know that the series finale was noteworthy, but there weren’t a wide abundance of laughs to be found there, and comedy is what this segment is all about.
Having said all of that, on with the fun!
The first episode that I’ll be covering here is episode 5: Free Cake.
Synopsis: Mordecai and Rigby develop a craving for chocolate cake, and decide to throw a birthday party for Skips in order to get it.
Rigby digs up a good-looking plate from the trash in the back of the house. ‘Cause he’s a raccoon and going through the garbage is what raccoons do. When they try to buy cake mix at the grocery store, they believe that the cake mix is too expensive ($1.50).
Wait. $1.50 is too rich for their blood? Either these guys are really bad with money or Benson must pay them with game tokens.
Then they try to find a free cake, but all their attempts (they try to get some at a wedding and attempt to get a cake at a “free store”) fail.
One bit in the episode that I like is how whenever it looks like Mordecai and Rigby will have some cake, they do this chant:
…And when their hopes are shattered, they go into this chant:
Finally, the duo see a chocolate cake at the snack bar, so they attempt to trick Benson into giving them the cake. Benson says they only get the cake if it is either of their birthdays (which it is not).
Enter Pops, the naive man from Lolliland. Also the son of the park’s owner. Pops likes Mordecai and Rigby, so he’s basically the only reason why these guys still have a job there.
Pops informs them that it’s Skips’ birthday, but that Skips always evades birthday parties by secluding himself in the woods. Mordecai believes that Skips deserves a party because he is always there to help. Benson agrees (egged on by Pops) and says to the two that they will throw a party for Skips if they can get him in on it.
Oh, yeah, let’s talk about Skips for a second.
In the house, Mordecai and Rigby wonder how they will involve Skips. Rigby suggests that they should ‘kidnap’ Skips, but that doesn’t work out. Finally, Mordecai gets the idea of throwing a surprise party. When they ask Skips to spend time with them that night, he refuses. Rigby and Mordecai decide to lie to Benson. Mordecai and Rigby tell Benson that Skips wants a surprise party at 8:00 at his house (as well as a chocolate cake). Benson gives them the key to the snack bar and tells them that he will punish them with a month’s worth of dish duties should he find out that they are not telling the truth.
After getting the cake, the guys walk into the woods in search of Skips. Rigby, being the unleashed id that he is, of course wants to nosh on the cake. Mordecai says not to touch the cake, but Rigby remains as eager as ever to have a bite. Also, I love this line from Rigby to Mordecai:
Meanwhile, back at Skips’ house, Benson says to turn off the light because it is almost time for the party to begin. In the darkness, Muscle Man eagerly undresses himself, but Benson reminds him that it is “not that kind of party”.
Back in the woods, it’s almost 8:00 and Skips is still nowhere in sight. Rigby starts thinking about eating the cake, but Mordecai argues against it. After a few minutes of squabbling over the cake, they hear an eerie noise. The two stumble across Skips performing an ancient ritual around a mysterious blue bonfire in the middle of the woods. Rigby then startles Skips and thus interrupting the ritual. It turns out that Skips was actually performing an ancient eternal youth dance to sustain his immortality for another year. A figure named Gary descends in his car and takes Skips away, but Mordecai and Rigby manage to hitch a ride as well to see where they were going.
Gary’s car eventually stops before The Guardians of Eternal Youth.
The Guardians are angry with Skips for failing to finish the spirit dance. Skips tries to explain, but the chief declares that once a decision is made, there’s no overturning it. The Guardians begin stripping Skips of his immortality by shaking their rattles, aging him and causing him to crumble to ashes.
Mordecai steps forward, along with Rigby, and they explain the situation to them. Fortunately for them, the Guardian’s fondness of cake spared them. The chief would let Skips have his life for the chocolate cake.
Mordecai, Rigby, and Skips are sent back and Skips’ birthday party starts. They give Skips their plate as a birthday present. Benson finds out the duo can’t be trusted, but says that Pops was able to get a spare cake just in case. Then, Mordecai and Rigby each help themselves to a slice. It’s a happy ending….well, almost.
This was a good episode. There were plenty of laughs to be had here and the all of the characters played off of one another well. It was great seeing a simple desire for some chocolate evolve into all of the surreal lunacy involving ancient rituals, eternal youth and magic. Once I saw this episode, I knew that I had to keep watching.
My rating: 5 out of 5.
Next time, it’s Just Set Up the Chairs. Stay funny.
It’s that time again!
It’s time for another installment of Pop Dream…ya big dummy!
This Pop Dream spotlights the world of Animal Jam, specifically Animal Jam‘s Alpha Masters.
For those not familiar with Animal Jam, here’s a (kind of) abridged synopsis:
Animal Jam is an online virtual world launched in 2010 by WildWorks in partnership with the National Geographic Society. It takes place in a fictional area known as Jamaa, with various different biomes and customizable animals. New players create an animal with a name composed of three simple words, such as “Awesome Coolclaw.” From that point, players can customize and move around with it in the gameplay environment. The original six virtual animals that could be created were the panda, rabbit, tiger, wolf, koala, and monkey. (Hint-hint at what’s to come…) Many more animals are added following the six, giving players a possibility of seeing one of their favorite animals in-game.
Jamaa was once home to hundreds of animal species of all shapes and sizes. These animals spent their days playing games, going to parties, building homes, and living together as friends.
Mira and Zios, the guardian spirits of Jamaa, gifted each animal species with a Heartstone, a special jewel that contained the essence of that species and held the secrets of its magic.
For many generations, all the Heartstones were kept together in a vault beneath the Lost Temple of Zios. Every animal could visit them and see the unique gifts that each species brought to Jamaa.
But as time passed, things changed, Animals began to fear and mistrust other species. Some animals stopped living together as a united community. Soon, all the feelings of friendship in Jamaa were gone, and the animals built new villages for their kind only. Koalas lived and talked only with other koalas. So did rhinos. And crocodiles.
Before long, all the animals in Jamaa stopped working together to make Jamaa a happy and vibrant place. Worst of all, many animal species took their Heartstones from the Lost Temple of Zios and hid their Heartstones in their new villages.
It was during this time of division that the dark Phantoms first appeared, leaving a trail of destruction. (Boo! Hiss!)
Remembering how much they had accomplished when they lived and worked together, the remaining six species gathered their Heartstones, left their villages, and returned to the Lost Temple of Zios. As the tigers, monkeys, koalas, pandas, rabbits, and wolves of Jamaa gathered together for one last stand against the Phantoms, Mira and Zios saw that it would not be enough.
In desperation, the guardian spirits of Jamaa searched other lands for six leaders who could wield the power of their entire species. They even looked to our world, and it was here that they found six extraordinary animals and brought them to Jamaa: Sir Gilbert the regal tiger, Cosmo the knowledgeable koala, Graham the inventive monkey, Greely the mysterious wolf, Liza the curious panda, and Peck the creative rabbit. These were six remarkable animals with different personalities, but they were united in their strength of characters and their respect for the natural world.
Mira and Zios chose well, and these very different animals soon formed a family. To help in battle against the Phantoms, Mira and Zios gave the new leaders Alpha Stones, six special jewels that focused the strength and abilities of their entire species. With these stones, the six chosen animals became Alphas, the heroes chosen to save Jamaa in its darkest hour!
One epic battle later, millions of animals now live in peace and happiness in Jamaa. The Alphas continue to explore new lands, and whenever they are able to drive the Phantoms out of an area or reclaim a Heartstone, the animals of Jamaa celebrate that they have new lands to play in and new animal friends to play with!
Many years have passed since all of Jamaa was nearly lost, but now some of the Phantoms have returned, and they are once again trying to ruin the peace and joy of Jamaa.
Now hopefully everyone’s up to speed.
-BTW, I should probably point out that the Alpha Masters were originally going to be the subjects of the very first Pop Dream, but Mattel released the Barbie and her Sisters Puppy Adventure video around the same time, and I figured more people were familiar with those characters, so I did that one first. Then I was so taken by Jason’s What The Funny concept (his initial installment was on Rocko’s Modern Life — good choice!) that I decided to do a WTF of my own (specifically a breakdown of Freakazoid!), pushing this Pop Dream back even further, but no more delays; now we’re doing this thing!
By now, those who’ve been following Twinsanity know how these things go: I’ll be geeking out on this set of characters in succession, going across the usual five categories. One slight difference this time, though: since as of this writing Animal Jam doesn’t have a TV show or a web series, I can’t do any Funnier Moments, so for this installment that category will be replaced by a new one called Trivia Time, so for this Pop Dream the categories are:
- Trivia Time
Got it? Good! Now, on with the Pop Dreaming!
Today’s Pop Dream is all about a heroic panda in a mystical land.
Ah, no, a different heroic panda. I’m talking about a graceful, caring, nurturing, hippy-dippy panda shaman. Today’s Pop Dream is all about…Liza.
“I am Liza, the panda Alpha. I will be your guide as we travel.”
Liza is the female Alpha of the Pandas, and the chief leader of the Alphas. She is an adventurous explorer and normally comes across new lands including Coral Canyons, Mt. Shiveer, and Appondale. She formerly greeted jammers when they first joined Animal Jam, however, it was later updated to Peck.
She briefly appears in several adventures, as a major character.
Liza is the Panda Alpha who stands upright on her hind legs. She has bright neon purple eyes with long eyelashes. She has a triangular black nose. Her ears sit on top of her head, with gray swirls in the middle, and almost looks like a part of her hair. Also, three aquamarine earrings dangle from each ear. Her hair is in a long braid that falls down her back. She wears an aquamarine dress with a golden lining, which is connected by lace at the neck. and a jewel-encrusted belt. She wears black gloves and has a golden ribbon tied around her right ankle. She also has a golden toe ring on her right foot.
She normally carries a long wooden staff.
Over time, Liza went through a make-over. Originally, she was quite bigger and looked older. But today, she is thinner and has a younger-appearance.
Brave and powerful, Liza values exploration and intellectual pursuits, and has personally mapped a great majority of Jamaa. She is proud and determined in her manner, and she lets nothing stand in the way of her latest expedition to a far off land. Liza doesn’t stand still for long, and never has much time to talk before having to dash off. She created most of the exploration-based challenges in Animal Jam and she presses all animals in the world to document Jamaa. She has a kind, motherly manner about her; very encouraging and very gentle. She believes that anyone can do better, and reach higher.
It is noted by the Animal Jam Insider’s Guide that she along with the other six original Alphas (excluding Peck), came from Earth. It is most likely that she lived in China, which is the only place where Pandas live in the wild. Liza was found by Mira and Zios and was asked to be an Alpha because of her personality and nature. It is noted by the Daily Explorer that she traveled to Jamaa by foot, instead of accepting a ride from Mira.
During the Beta days and early 2011, there was an interview with Liza called “Liza’s Answers” where Jammers were able to send in questions and Liza would answer them.
She is named after Eliza Scidmore, an American writer, photographer and geographer who visited Japan many times. She was the first female board member of the National Geographic Society.
She is the most commonly seen Alpha/Shaman in Jamaa.
Her favorite color is pink according to her profile page.
She was known as Liza, “the curious panda” when she was chosen to be an Alpha.
Her ears and hair resemble a typical Chinese hairstyle, buns.
This could be a reference to the fact that pandas can be found in China.
I was looking forward to this one, as Liza is my favorite Alpha Master, tied with Peck. I’ve always had a fascination with the Far East and Eastern culture and sensibilities, as well a fondness for mysticism and nature. All of those things made Liza a natural favorite of mine.
Next up is the Koala Alpha, Cosmo. Stay tooned.
Not too long ago, Phelan Porteous (Phelous) presented a video review of Our Friend Power 5 (a Korean movie made to promote a toy line that unnaturally mashes up Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Voltron, and must be seen to be believed).
This got me thinking about the types of roles that parent characters usually play on shows tailored for kids. I know that this is the type of thing that most people don’t even notice or care about, but I usually notice because I’m a weirdo.
I’ve noticed that in most Eastern (Japanese, Korean) shows that focus on kids going on amazing adventures, doing science fiction-y stuff and so forth, it will often be the father who has a secondary role in the proceedings, such as the dad being a professor or some type of scientist who will assist the kid protagonists in their adventures, while the mother will usually just be a happy housewife who has no connection to the fantasy side of the show other than being related to and living in the same house as the kid protagonist(s). Some examples include:
The Mifune family (from Speed Racer):
Mr. Racer – A former wrestler turned owner of the Go! racing team franchise.
Mrs. Racer – Subscribes to Good Housekeeping and Woman’s Day.
The Taylor Family (from Dinosaur King):
Dr. Spike Taylor – Archaeologist who assist the D-Team and sometimes directs the kids to that mission’s location.
Aki Taylor – Artist. Housewife. Makes a mean tuna casserole.
Now, my first thought is that something like this would never fly in an American kids’ show. If us yanks ever tried to have a formula like the one aforementioned, there would the inevitable cries of…
Most likely American kids show producers would deal with this issue by simply omitting the mother character altogether, which I don’t like. At all.
Now don’t get me wrong. Generally speaking, I prefer it when mother characters are active characters who do things, such as Phoebe Calisto from Miles From Tomorrowland, who’s not only a crew member of the Stellasphere, but she’s the ship’s captain!
…but even if the mother of the main family is basically Susie Homemaker, I’ll take that over the total absence of a mother from the household.
Personally, I haven’t seen any anime or Asian kids where the parents roles are reversed. That is, where the mom is the scientist/adventurer who helps the kids and the dad is just the dad. Mind you, I don’t watch a lot of anime, so if any such examples do indeed exist, feel free to enlighten me.
I know that this character isn’t a mother, but I want to give an honorable mention to Nintendo’s character Pauline.
In the course of the character’s history, Pauline went from being Mario’s one time helpless (and blonde) girlfriend who existed solely to be captured by Donkey Kong…
…to the mayor of New Donk City in Super Mario Odyssey. Not the Mayor’s aide or the Mayor’s secretary, but the freakin’ Mayor!
You’ve come a long way, baby!