Archive for December, 2016


Zootopia: A Year End View

December 29, 2016

At this point, it readily appears that Zootopia will be number four in worldwide box office take for films released in 2016. Rogue One is likely to secure first place (it’s already at 654M after two weeks), pushing Zootopia down from third to fourth, behind Rogue One, Captain America: Civil War, and Finding Dory. (Moana seems to be fizzling out, and I’m not sure it will even crack the top 5)

So Zootopia will be #4.

This is remarkable. I’d even say amazing.

This means that Zootopia has, very handily, cemented itself in this top 5 while being the ONLY film in that top 5 that is a new property – a whole-cloth brand new original film with zero reliance on an existing franchise.

In addition, Zootopia’s box office worldwide take is just a smidge down from Finding Dory, a mere 4M or so. It’s also only about 12% down from the current top placer (and soon to be #2 with Rogue One’s ascension), Captain America.

Which is to say, without relying on previous pent up excitement, demand, knowledge, fans, or anticipation, Zootopia rocketed up the charts to hang out with the so-called “big boys and girls”. *

It also garnered the top spot on Rotten Tomatoes rankings for 2016, at 98% Fresh.

And it did this with a very modest marketing push.

When I was visiting the Walt Disney Studio lot, I struck up a conversation with another attendee, and we got to talking about Zootopia. She mentioned she didn’t go to see the film while it was in theaters, because as she put it, “the way Disney was marketing it, I thought it was one of their filler movies.”

And maybe that is exactly how Disney thought.

If so, they were mistaken.

All this long windedness is really to underscore and illustrate that Zootopia’s success – that #4 position in amongst “bigger” films – comes solely from its own merits. Zootopia’s success is born through the strength of its story, the strength of its characters, and the strength of its storytelling. Zootopia is a movie filled with panache, with wit, with love, with beauty, with transformation, with delight, and with gravitas. It is a movie filled to the brim with possibility. Zootopia touches us dearly. In a movie about animals, it reminds us who we can be as humans.

It is the triumph of what good storytelling can be, and what it can do.

Judy, Nick, Byron Howard, Rich Moore, Jared Bush, Cory Loftis, Josie Trinidad, Clark Spencer, Matthias Lechner, David Goetz, Jennifer Lee, all the voice actors and actresses, and everyone at Walt Disney Animation who worked on this film can stand proud with the art they have wrought through their hard work and dedication.

When Zootopia opened, few may have been aware of it. By the end of its long run, the world knew. **

Zootopia is not a movie that will ever leave us. We will carry it, and all it embodies, forward with us into 2017 and beyond.


* – Yes, I will be the first to admit that box office take does not necessarily equal quality. Quite the contrary, there are many, many examples of movies that are terrible on a whole host of levels – cinematically, story, narrative, action, excitement, story-telling, etc – that still manage to rake in gazabillions of dollars. As do their sequels. Even if it’s crappy titillation (and titillation can be great and wholly worthwhile, if it’s well-done titillation), it still gets butts into theatres. But here, Zootopia doesn’t play up the usual and safe/default tropes to entice viewers. There are only two major action sequences, with minimal violence and only one explosion (used more for humour than anything). There’s no sexy sexy imagery or action (nudity is used, again, more for humour). No giant set pieces. It’s not a typical “blockbuster”. Yet it nearly matched the very explosion-heavy, punch-heavy, skintight suit-heavy, giant set piece-heavy, and readily known next chapter in, Captain America (and it beat the pants off BvS, Suicide Squad, Deadpool…). And, on the other end of the spectrum, it’s also not the typical “kids” fare of either princesses, which can rake in millions from familiarity and little girls, or fart jokes (can I just celebrate that Zootopia tripled the Angry Birds Movie take?). Zootopia was a whole different animal. (Ha! Pun semi-intended…)

** – With more marketing and support, who knows what heights Zootopia could have reached… and what greater impact might it have had? We can only imagine.


Action Wednesday

December 28, 2016

I’ve put my money where my mouth is and doubled my monthly contributions to both Earthjustice and the NRDC.  With the incoming administration in Washington DC, they are going to need it.

I invite you to do the same.  A one-time donation, a monthly donation, of little or lots, whatever you can, take a stand.  Take a stand for health and safety and life and liberty and for the fundamental operating system of our planet.  Take a stand for that which the gods gifted to us.

You can donate to Earthjustice here.

You can donate to the NRDC here.

And, if you live in the USA,  I double invite you to call your State Senators to ask them to reject the confirmation of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA.

Let’s stand together.


El-ahrairah’s new Owsla member

December 27, 2016

Richard Adams, author of Watership Down, has passed away.

I adore Watership Down.  The ending of the novel is one of the most beautiful and moving I have ever read.  It’s is wonderfully understated, with a moment of realization so deliciously woven from an obscure side-tale from earlier in the book and culminating with the ultimate fulfillment and expression of who Hazel was.  I re-read at least the ending once a year, and the book in its entirety frequently.  It is a story of great layers and depth, of characters and journeys, and, as befitting of a tale about rabbits for whom storytelling is paramount, it itself is a novel that features great storytelling.  It flows.

Adams was 96.  He led a good life and left an incredible legacy.


“My heart has joined the Thousand, for my friend stopped running today.”




Philosophy Tuesday

December 27, 2016

This is a philosophical statement.  It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

“In the end, I think people make experiences wonderful,

not the other way around.”

John Green (click for video)


Architecture Monday

December 26, 2016

This one’s not built yet, but it’s already got me intrigued.  An insertion into and old former water tower, in the town of Noordwijk, Netherlands.

Through that lovely model we can see how this is an example of a building “designed in section”, which is to say that there has been a lot of attention placed into the interplay of rooms and spaces in the vertical direction.  We’re more familiar with looking at plan views, and evaluating how this room joins another room just next to it.  But the upwards dance is just as important in creating spaces that feel good and enlivening, especially in something like a tower which, by it’s very nature, can’t accommodate much spreading out.  The model shows off the complex interlocking rooms, with mezzanines, double height spaces, stairs criss-crossing, and the grand windows both high and low.

An adaptive reuse (yay!) that will house both a private home and some public areas, the tower will be capped with a viewing platform to look out over the rugged landscape.  Colour me interested!

Water Tower by Studio Akkerhuis


Wonder Wednesday

December 21, 2016


All men have stars, but they are not the same things for different people.

For some, who are travelers, the stars are guides. For others they are no more than little lights in the sky. For others, who are scholars, they are problems…

But all these stars are silent.

You – You alone will have stars as no one else has them…

In one of the stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars will be laughing when you look at the sky at night.

You, only you, will have stars that can laugh!

— Antoine de Saint-Exupéry


Philosophy Tuesday

December 20, 2016

This is a philosophical statement. It is intended to spark thinking and examining.

It’s usually “better” to describe what something is, rather than to create it through the negation of other things.

But, given how our minds work, and how they try to fit things into what we already know, and how easily they will say “oh yeah yeah yeah, I know that, what you’re talking about is this…”, there is value in trying to create a blank slate for something by pre-emptively letting the mind know “nope, that’s not what we’re talking about.”

In this vein…

Transformation is many things.

Transformation, however, is not:

Positive thinking
Wishful thinking
Faking Until Making
Glass Half-Full

Clearing away the mind webs that hang, oh so ready, to ensnare and cement down any view of transformation is a first step.

Inside of that cleared space, revisiting the list, what transformation may be shines stronger.

Discovery can begin.

Let’s go exploring.


* Wishful thinking was the pitfall I often fell into when I started my journey.  I was well familiar with wishful thinking, it was something I’d already done a lot (without really realizing it), so that was the web that kept snaring me until I noticed it…