The theme song toX-Men: The Animated Series is undeniably amazing, but now there are accusations that it was stolen. A Hungarian man has filed a lawsuit against Marvel, Disney, Fox, Apple, Amazon, and others—along with folks from Saban Entertainment—claiming that the theme song was plagiarized.
io9 has looked over the lawsuit, which was filed Monday and first reported by TMZ. Zoltan Krisko, who claims to be managing the estate for Hungarian composer Gyorgy Vukan, says Vukan’s theme song for the 1980s crime drama Linda the Policewoman bears striking similarity to the one created for X-Men: The Animated Series, which debuted almost a decade later in 1992.
Linda the Policewoman, which was created by György Gát and distributed by Hungarian National Television, is described in the lawsuit as a “household name.” That’s not inaccurate. Running from 1983 to 1989, Linda was a popular show that not only brought kung fu fighting styles to Eastern Europe television but also apparently contributed to reshaping gender norms during the Iron Curtain.
Even though Hungary was isolated from much of the Western world during this time, the lawsuit claims the folks behind X-Men’s theme song still associated with Hungarian animators, which could have exposed them to Linda. The suit includes:
During the 1980s, cooperation between film industry professionals from different countries, including from the “Eastern” and “Western” world, existed despite the still standing Iron Curtain. Based on information and belief, as professionals in the animation film industry, Defendants Ronald Wasserman, Haim Saban and Shuki Levy all came in contact with Hungarian professionals in the film industry, and were aware of the famous animation workshop at Pannonia Filmstudio in Hungary, where Hungarian film industry professionals, such as Gyorgy Vukan, were frequent visitors.
Along with the companies, Krisko is suing Ron Wasserman and Shuki Levy, two composers for X-Men: The Animated Series who have each at one point taken credit for the theme song. The suit accuses several companies and folks that produced, distributed, syndicated, or otherwise profited from the show of enabling the copyright infringement of Vukan’s work (a problem that could still continue, since Disney is reportedly considering putting the series on Disney+).
That said, Vukan’s composition wasn’t registered for copyright in the United States until 2017, which is when Krisko said he first learned about X-Men: The Animated Series. Krisko is asking for damages and to award any profits attributable to him, and asking the court to restrain them and others from infringing on the copyright further.
This isn’t the first time the X-Men theme song has been accused of borrowing from other works. Several folks have cited its similarity to Whitney Houston’s “I’m Your Baby Tonight,” which came out in 1990. But unlike this situation, it doesn’t look like that ever resulted in a lawsuit.
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When the Dragon Ball Z anime premiered in April of 1989, it was a mere six months behind its Dragon Ball manga source material. For a show that aired every single weekday without fail, this wasn’t much of a gap to fill. It was important to the Dragon Ball Z showrunners that the anime storyline never surpass the manga, for fear of spoiling the ongoing plot for dedicated fans. Thus, those in charge found a way to entertain viewers while their cartoon waited for the its print counterpart to catch up — filler episodes.
Unsurprisingly, most anime filler episodes don’t add much to the main plot of the show. In the case of Dragon Ball Z, filler episodes usually involved characters training, a conflict with a lesser villain, or simply screaming really loud for an extra hour or two. Most filler was, at best, forgettable. Within Dragon Ball Z’s nearly 300 episode run, around 40 filler episodes were produced, with most falling in between story arcs.
The best filler episode (or possibly the worst) aired on February 5, 1992 in Japan and September 13, 2000 in America. Known as “Goku’s Ordeal,” the episode centers on powerful Z warriors Goku and Piccolo as they attempt to… acquire their driver’s licenses. Though certainly a filler episode, this painfully offbeat adventure is thought to be inspired by the official Dragon Ball art (seen above) featured as the cover for chapters 255-256 of the manga.
“Goku’s Ordeal” stands out from the average Dragon Ball Z fanfare for a few reasons, but the biggest of all is its humor. It feels much more like an episode of the original Dragon Ball, than its much more serious successor. It is quite possibly the dumbest episode of Dragon Ball Z in existence — and I say that as a compliment.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Previously on Dragon Ball Z! Some blue-haired hunk from the future appeared to warn Goku and friends that evil androids were in the works. He informs the group of heroes that they have three years to train before those nasty robots are ready to rumble. This led to the previous episode, “Z Warriors Prepare,” where Goku sparred with Piccolo and Vegeta did many sweaty push-ups while yelling. Pretty standard stuff.
And cut to screaming.
Chi-Chi is sprinting home from the grocery store, followed closely by a giant murderous boar. The carton of eggs in her bag splatters on the boar’s eyes and it runs off a cliff as Chi-Chi narrowly avoids death once more. Oh giant boar, when will you learn?
While his wife fends off Calamity Ganon, Goku is relaxing by the river after a day of training with Gohan and Piccolo. They return home, where Goku, being the moron that he is, dumps all his smelly training gear on the table in front of Chi-Chi, asking her to give them a scrub and letting her know he’ll be in the bath with Gohan. Piccolo broods outside, like he’s known to do, thinking about how insolent everyone else is.
Unsurprisingly, Chi-Chi ain’t havin’ it.
She tells Goku and Piccolo that she had to walk all the way home from the store and she almost died and they both have to get driver’s licenses so they can drive her to the store from now on. Yes, even Piccolo, who has apparently been mooching off Chi-Chi’s hospitality for weeks. Goku and Piccolo are Earth’s mightiest heroes, but they know when they’ve been beat.
Flash forward to the next day where both Goku and Piccolo wait outside the driving school, clad in some wonderfully awful ‘90s fashion. Piccolo, looking fresh to death, explains to a dumbfounded Goku that these are, in fact, Goku’s clothes that Chi-Chi has simply lent him to appear as a normal Earth boy.
And I’ll give you a moment to scroll back up to that image of Piccolo at the top of this article and bask in the Namekian’s radical style. The tucked-in Postboy shirt, the backwards hat, the bad boy attitude — really take it all in.
But hey, we’re not here to ogle Piccolo’s firm cheeks in them jeans.
Meet the hilarious driving instructors! One is a really old gentleman and the other is a overly peppy young woman. Goku is saddled with the geezer, while ladies man Piccolo slides in next to the cheery brunette.
But oh no! As it turns out, Piccolo’s instructor is actually a road raging speed demon, who screams “Burn rubber!” as they zip away. It’s at this time that I’d like to point out Goku and Piccolo are learning to drive hover cars, which do not have wheels, and therefore cannot “burn rubber.” It’s a glaring oversight that really shatters the realism and continuity Dragon Ball Z is known for.
Anyway. Goku’s guy is so old that he can’t open the door to the hover car, and he might just keel over at any moment. Too funny!
Back at Capsule Corp we see Bulma complaining to her parents that all Vegeta does is train in his gravity dome out back. Cut to a beefy Vegeta, clad in booty shorts, doing fast punches. He collapses as the gravity reaches 450 times (!!!) the normal amount, but since his bones haven’t been crushed into a fine powder, he decides to push through the pain. Good for him.
Meanwhile, Gohan (who needs more screen time) is studying under the watchful eye of his doting mother. Instead of learning helpful real-world math connections, Gohan doodles a comical portrait of his father and Piccolo (who, let’s be honest, is a much better father to him at this point) that looks suspiciously like the official Akira Toriyama art mentioned in the intro. Gohan decides to ruin his future and sneak out with his pet dragon to watch his dads learning to drive.
Piccolo, having finally taken control of his hover car from Speedy McGee, is cruising on the highway like the noble, law abiding citizen he is. Meditating for hours on end near waterfalls has given him the concentration he needs to master driving, and he’s sure to get his license at this point.
Goku, on the other hand, is still being his normal idiot self. He cuts the steering wheel off his car, drives his instructor into a lake, and upon being told that he “stinks,” Goku actually smells himself. Cue Jim Halpert’s trademark stare from The Office.
As Goku endangers average citizens with his reckless driving, he passes the calm and confident Piccolo on the highway. Believing Goku’s buffoonery is some sort of challenge, Piccolo is thrown into a fit of rage and attempts to race Goku’s out-of-control hover car. Gohan, who somehow knew exactly where his dads would be, looks on from the sidelines as both hover cars hurdle by at alarming speeds.
It isn’t long until both hover cars collide in a massive fireball, knocking both instructors unconscious and severely injuring them. Goku and Piccolo are fine of course, because they’re basically gods. Goku quips something like, “Well at least they’re alright,” like he’s a doctor or something.
As it turns out demolishing driving school cars isn’t a deal breaker, as we jump to the next day wherein both Goku and Piccolo attempting once more to satisfy their now-mangled instructors. And this time it’s raining.
Suddenly, a large lightning strike hits the top of a nearby cliff, sending an avalanche of rock and ice falling towards a bus of adorable children. Much like the giant boar at the start of the episode, the child-filled bus is seen careening off the side of a nearby cliff.
Crashing their hover cars upon seeing the accident, both Goku and Piccolo burst out of their vehicles to catch the falling bus and take on their greatest enemy yet – some big ol’ falling rocks. You would think holding a bus and destroying a few boulders would be a piece of cake for the muscle-bound duo, but Goku and Piccolo sure make it look like a strain.
Following their heroic rescue, Goku and Piccolo wave goodbye to the busload of emotionally scarred children. Their instructors are impressed by the freakish display of power they just witnessed, but the sparring partners still destroyed four cars in a matter of hours, so driver’s licenses are off the table.
When this information is relayed to Chi-Chi, she is so overcome by Goku’s unrelenting incompetence that she faints right there on the kitchen floor. Game over.
“Goku’s Ordeal” ends with a sudden leap forward to three years in the future. It’s almost android time, folks. A shiny white hover car sits outside Goku’s house, gleaming in the sunlight. Did Goku and Piccolo go back and ace the driving test? Did Chi-Chi get fed up and get a license herself? How did they even afford a hover car if no one in that family works? I guess we’ll never know.
Goku, Gohan, and Piccolo all head out to save the day, leaving Chi-Chi to the lonely life of an on-again/off-again widow.
Well, wasn’t that fun? You can see why fans, including myself, are very fond of this wacky episode. It’s a delightful and memorable break from the average Dragon Ball Z offering, giving viewers some much-needed laughs along the way. It’s amazing to think it’s been around for over 25 years at this point.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go work on my Postboy Piccolo cosplay.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power returned packing a short but powerful punch. The six-episode season felt like a long movie, telling an epic story that raised the stakes in a big way—for both our heroes and villains. So, what does it all mean, and what’s next? We asked showrunner Noelle Stevenson to weigh in.
In our condensed, spoiler-filled interview, Stevenson shares her thoughts on Catra as a dual protagonist, the martyr complex in Chosen One narratives, and her recommended way to watch season three. She also told us her reasons behind making the portal do “that,” and the big shocker of the season. There’s a lot to cover, so let’s dive in.
io9: Season three didn’t really have any standalone episodes like season two did. It was one long thread. Did you envision this more as a movie, or as something else? What was your process?
Noelle Stevenson: When we were first breaking down this season, we intended it to be one season along with season two. So it was first broken down as a drop of 13 episodes. We found out there were plans to break up the season, so we could bring them to viewers on Netflix more often. It exists as “Season 2.5.”
[She-Ra] sort of starts out more episodic, more fun and games, and then it gets more serialized toward the end of the season. This next episode chunk is just the serialized parts of the end of that 13-episode chunk.
io9: Do you feel it was the right choice to break it up, or would you have rather kept seasons two and three together?
Stevenson: We’re sort of reinventing how we bring cartoons to audiences, now that they’re being streamed on these streaming services. One of the potential issues [of streaming] is that you drop all the episodes and then it’s done, and everyone kind of binges it. You’re absorbing a lot of information really quickly. The idea of breaking up the season—so it does give people time to theorize and come up with ideas of what’s gonna happen next, instead of getting those answers right away—it’s definitely kind of one way of dealing with that potential issue.
In this case, I think we probably would’ve broken the season a little differently in hindsight. But I would recommend viewers watch seasons two and three together as one long runner. It should be like a really fun watch, with the threads that carry over those 13 episodes.
io9: Adora struggles a lot with identity and choice this season, as she learns she’s actually a First One who was brought to Etheria through a portal. How would you describe her journey so far?
Stevenson: Adora occupies this sort of classic hero’s journey archetype of the Chosen One. When she was being raised in the Horde, as part of this army, a child soldier, she was still being raised as this chosen one. She thought that her destiny was very clear cut, very predictable. She knew was she was supposed to be and she believes in that very strongly. When she ventured outside of her experience, she stumbled into a different chosen one destiny, with She-Ra.
I think that she’s really struggling with that. She really really wants to be the best She-Ra she can possibly be, but she doesn’t want to make the same mistakes she did last time—when she thought she was in the right, when she was really in the wrong.
io9: We also see Mara, who explains to Adora why she separated Etheria from the universe. Can we expect to learn about more She-Ras in the future? And will they be different ethnicities or gender identities?
Stevenson: I will say that we focus a lot on the relationship between Adora and Mara, those are the main She-Ras we discuss. Stay tuned, there’s a lot more to come.
io9: This season paid off Catra’s struggles in a big way. She tried out life by herself in the Crimson Waste but was pulled back in by her need for validation, and she chose to activate the portal rather than let Adora be right once again. Was this always where she was leading, or did her journey evolve through the storytelling?
Stevenson: When I pictured the series, I pitched a complete story arc with the characters, like major beats already kind of nailed down. But within that, I think our approach to the characters—we’ve set up the major plot points, and then we see how the characters react to them. That’s how I personally write. It helps to know what story you’re telling and where you’re going and generally what ending you have in mind. Once you have that set out, you look to see how your characters behave, and I think there are some surprises along the way.
For Shadow Weaver, all the plans I had for her, she’s bucked basically all of them. And I think Catra is someone, she’s one of them too. I see her as almost a dual protagonist to Adora. While Adora is on this path of becoming a hero, Catra’s on a darker mirror path of that. I think Catra has really surprised me in a lot of ways too. A lot of that comes from the voice acting, the writing, and the board artists. I’m really excited for her arc coming up. There’s a lot still in store.
io9: Out of all the things I expected the portal to do, a “What If?” episode—bringing Adora to a reality where she’d never left the Horde— was not among them. What made you decide to take this route?
Stevenson: [laughs] I think that it was something, it felt like we should do. Especially with what Adora and Catra are struggling with this season. We’ve gotten so far from where we were in this pilot episode—them in this much more childish way, a lot more carefree. I think both of them are sort of, they’ve gotten so far from it, but they’re still so hung up on it…Catra is turning into a person that I don’t think she ever expected to be, and someone she doesn’t even think she’d recognize.
They both have reasons to go back to the beginning. Where Catra wants to hide from everything she’s done, and Adora’s going, “How can I go back and fix it?” Throwing them back and asking those questions again: Who were you then, who are you now? It was something I wanted to do, something that was unexpected
The portal was such a great opportunity to try something really weird and different, also while asking questions about our characters and delving a bit more into their interiority and how they’re processing what’s happening.
io9: Even though Adora’s storyline is about choice, in the end, the final choice—to close the portal and sacrifice herself—is taken away from her by Glimmer’s mother, Angela. What was the reason behind having Angela sacrifice herself instead?
Stevenson: Adora is this person with kind of a martyr complex. She’s always worried she’s not doing it right. I think what we wanted to say was the answer is not that simple. It might be really hard to figure out the right thing to do—you might hurt people, even when you have good intentions.
Adora, she’s got a lot of story left to tell. She has to use her power as She-Ra to try and help people. It’s not enough [to say], “Okay, if I just throw myself on this sword, then I can fix everything and then I’ll be this martyr and everyone will be proud of me. I’ll have done it right this time.” It’s more complicated than that for her. She has to stick around because they need her. Angela knew that and trusted Adora—and trusted Glimmer to run things after she’s gone. It’s not something that she can hide from.
io9: The season included the shocking revelation that Hordak, our supposed Big Bad, is a clone of a much-greater enemy—one whose eye is now pointed squarely at Etheria. Is Horde Prime’s arrival going to unite our heroes and villains, or will it further drive them apart?
Stevenson: I think that we throw a lot of really big status quo out the window. Not only is Angela gone, which is obviously going to have huge implications for Glimmer and for the whole rebellion and the Horde, but we’ve only been focused on Etheria so far. There haven’t been any other planets or intergalactic visitors. There is this much, much bigger conflict going on outside this hidden empty dimension that they’re in.
There is so much ground still to cover with what that actually means. That’s going to be what the next season about. We want to push our characters out of their comfort zone…I can’t go much deeper than that. But what I can say is the way that all of this plays out is so epic. The characters’ relationships are going to change, their relationshIp to the world is going to change, and we’re going to see so much more in the future.
She-Ra and the Princesses of Power is currently available to stream on Netflix.
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With games like Guilty Gear Xrd and Dragon Ball FighterZ, Arc System Works has managed to basically make playable anime games. It looks like hand-drawn animation even if it’s really complex 3D. Daniel Floyd of YouTube channel NewFramePlus took a closer look at how it all works. It’s a fascinating dive into some of the most stylish games around.
Floyd, an animator who has worked for Pixar, might be familiar to readers as the former voice of Extra Credits, an educational series on game design. For some time now, he’s also run a YouTube channel focused on animation. He’s broken down Overwatch and outlined what happened with Mass Effect: Andromeda. His latest video uses information from a GDC talk from ArcSys technical animator Junya C. Motomura to explain how games like Dragon Ball FighterZ nail that anime vibe.
Part of the magic comes from ArcSys’ history on games like BlazBlue, where 3D models for each character were made before the pixel art process began. This allowed animators to pose them for reference and gave the studio a powerful tool for moving into true 3D fighting games. Floyd also explains questions animators need to ask, since ArcSys emulates the “limited animation” of anime. They need to achieve a fluid look without too many extraneous frames of animation. He also breaks down the power of visual effects on attacks and other important factors for nailing the feel of hand-drawn animation in 3D.
In all, Floyd’s breakdown is a chance to understand more about the hard work of game animation via one of the best studios around for intense and detailed action animation. Give it a watch and you’ll walk away with an appreciation for the craft and insight into why Goku really does look like Goku.
And so the hit hand-drawn animated video game spawns a hand-drawn animated Netflix series. Called The Cuphead Show, the series will chronicle Cuphead and Mugman’s adventures on Inkwell Isle, expanding on that bizarre 1930s animation wonderland.
Though the official announcement gives scant details on the plot of the upcoming series, in an interview with IGN, game creators Chad and Jared Moldenhauer say it’s not a “little kids cartoon” and that it will expand upon the “same kind of vibe that the game hints at.”
The series is being animated in-house by Netflix and produced by Netflix and King Features Syndicate, the license holder for many classic animation properties, including Popeye and Betty Boop.
No word on a release date, but The Cuphead Show is coming. Hopefully it won’t be too hard to watch.
King of The Hill was on for from 1997 to 2010, aired over 250 episodes, won two Emmy awards and has been called one of the best-animated shows of all time. Yet unlike The Simpsons, which received many games across multiple platforms, the world was only granted one King Of The Hill video game and it sucked.
For those who haven’t seen King Of The Hill, or KOTH as I like to call it so I don’t have to type it out over and over, the show is set in Arlen, Texas. This is a medium-sized town where Hank Hill and his family live. They have some neighbors and a son, Bobby, who has various friends. Unlike The Simpsons, KOTH was more grounded and got comedy out of situations like anger management, pest control, and infidelity. Hank Hill never went to space or became a zombie or became President of The United States. They just hung around Arlen, mostly, drinking beers and dealing with life, love, failure, and work.
This more grounded and slower pace might have been one of the main reasons the show never got many games based on it. And it also might explain why the first and only major game to star Hank Hill and the gang was a boring point and click adventure and puzzle game for the PC.
Simply named King Of The Hill, the KOTH video game was released in November 2000 for PC and Mac. It was developed by Flying Tiger Development, a company who is still around and helped port Kerbal Space Program to consoles not long ago. They also made DVD menus for Disney films.
There isn’t a lot of information floating around on the web about this game and not many people seem to have played it and even fewer have uploaded footage of it. Luckily, one YouTuber has uploaded a full let’s play of the game so we can all see what this thing was.
The game is two small adventures packaged together, with some websites referring to the package as “King Of The Hill: Block Party,” though the official developer website doesn’t refer to the game by this title. Anyways, the two stories included in the game are Hootenanny and Texas Hutnin’.
In Hootenanny you play as a new resident that just moved on to the street that Hank Hill and the gang live on. You meet them while taking out the trash and they invite you to the block party. The party consists of… a collection of bad mini-games. And like any good and fun party, each activity is rigorously scheduled. And this schedule isn’t just background detail, no, you actually have to wait different amounts of time before you can play each game. Luckily, you don’t have to wait in real time for hours, but it is still wild to me that this game is mostly just checking your in-game digital watch, waiting for the next mini-game to start.
The actual games themselves are bad and consist of stuff like a scavenger hunt in an empty house and bean bag tossing game. It seems Hank and Peggy Hill suck at throwing parties. Also, for some reason, everyone in this game is a close-talker and is ALWAYS getting right in your face to talk to you. They also have dead eyes that don’t blink or move enough.
The other story included in the game, Texas Huntin’, is all about you and the gang going out hunting. You help pick where to hunt, what to bring and then once you arrive the game actually gives you a gun and lets you shoot some stuff. The gunplay is stiff and choppy, but hey, it beats throwing bean bags at a wall.
Unlike the block party story, Texas Huntin’ is mostly set in the wilderness and fields of Texas. So you mostly sit around, waiting for animals, missing shots and waiting some more. Which is an accurate recreation of hunting, but it doesn’t make for a very fun video game.
King Of The Hill, the video game not the cartoon, looks really nice and has all the original voice actors. I even laughed at some of the writing, which feels ripped right out of the show.
For a nearly 20-year-old game, it also has nice animation and art. Altogether, the game feels like I’m watching an episode of the series. Sadly, all this effort is wasted on a boring mini-game collection. And over two decades later, this is still the only main King Of The Hill game ever made.
Some KOTH characters appear in the free-to-play Animation Showdown, which is a card game featuring various animated characters including Bender, Bob Belcher, and Peter Griffin. It’s a mostly fine game, but Hank, Peggy, and Bobby deserve much better.
With over 13 years of stories and characters, there is plenty of stuff to work with to create a game based on King Of The Hill that is more exciting than the one we got in 2000. What about a game based on the video game Hank becomes addicted to in Grand Theft Arlen? Or maybe a game all about Hank Hill trying to fix his truck but people keep interrupting him? Honestly, almost anything would be better than the one boring PC game we got two decades ago.
With rumors that the show might return, we might get another game starring the king of propane and propane accessories. And while I’m wishing for video games based on TV shows I love, where’s my Bob’s Burgers video game? And no, that digital pinball game doesn’t count.
io9 ReviewsReviews and critical analyses of fan-favorite movies, TV shows, comics, books, and more.
Above all else, the one thing Toy Story 4 needed to do was make itself worthy of the title “Toy Story.” That’s a name with a grand tradition in animation. A name that promises excellence, not some by-the-numbers cash-grab. And while it’s certain to grab a lot of cash, the movie somehow lives up to that high standard. It’s an exciting, surprising, incredibly funny film that’s just as poignant and heartfelt as you’d expect from this franchise.
Directed by Josh Cooley, from a story and screenplay credited to 10 people, Toy Story 4 picks up where Toy Story 3 left off. Woody, Buzz, and the gang are now the property of Bonnie, a young girl who is about to start kindergarten. However, Bonnie’s world is different from what they’re used to. Woody, always the leader and the favorite, finds himself at the bottom of the toy food chain. In fact, he’s one of Bonnie’s least favorite toys, so he continually goes out of his way to make her happy, like looking after her brand new toy, Forky.
Forky, voiced by Tony Hale, is a homemade toy crafted out of a spork and some garbage. He does not want to be a toy. And that existential crisis is just the start of what’s to come. Bonnie and her family go on a road trip and all the toys come along. Forky is Bonnie’s favorite, though, so as he continues to try and throw himself in the trash, Woody takes it upon himself to continually save him. When things go too far, Woody and Forky get separated, and things kick into high gear.
While much can be said about Forky, he’s just one among the new and returning characters at the center of Toy Story 4, all of whom are there for a single purpose: to make this movie about Woody. Sure, the Toy Story movies have all been about Woody, but Woody himself never sees it that way. He’s always doing what’s right for others. But Forky’s actions—and the reintroduction of Woody’s former flame Bo Peep—kick off an adventure that will make Woody question everything.
Toy Story 4 asks questions about selflessness. About love. About existence and purpose. All of which is possible because the film tells a surprisingly compact story. Once Forky and Woody get separated, the rest of the film takes places basically in two places: a carnival and an antique store. By limiting the number of locations, Cooley and his crew can really zero in on the characters. Specifically, the story focuses on Woody and Bo. Turns out, Bo Peep has been living a unique toy lifestyle that’s new to the franchise. She has new friends, like Giggle McDimples (Ally Maki); a nemesis, Gabby Gabby (Christina Hendricks); an ex, Duke Kaboom (Keanu Reeves); and eventually meets Bunny and Ducky, voiced by Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele.
Over the course of the film, each of these new characters provides a unique, interesting perspective on life as a toy, while simultaneously enriching Woody’s journey. Gabby, in particular, has a fascinating arc that’s handled incredibly well. Unfortunately, for these new characters to shine, most of the main toys from the previous three films get the short end of the stick. Even Buzz Lightyear, the usual second lead, doesn’t have as much to do he usually does—and he still has at least four or five times as much to do as Jessie, Rex, Slinky Dog, and the rest. It’s a little disappointing, but ultimately, it does no real disservice to the movie.
Toy Story 4 also really stretches our suspension of disbelief, far more than any previous installment ever has. The toys in this movie do more juuuust out of sight of humans than probably all of the other movies combined. That makes for a more propulsive, exciting narrative, but it also slightly negates the whole idea of the franchise, which is that these toys are part of our world but can’t be that impactful for fear of discovery.
Still, while the film pushes that line between reality and fantasy, it also takes things to some dark, hilarious new levels. There are some borderline disturbing moments in the film. A few even come close to what many would consider legitimately scary. But those things, coupled with the new characters, breathe a freshness into the movie that’s welcome. And, once the story starts wrapping up, it comes together in a memorable, emotional way that will surely get the waterworks going.
The first three Toy Story films are about as perfect as a trilogy gets. They’re legendary, landmark films that changed the animation art form as we know it. So, the mere notion of a Toy Story 4 felt superfluous. A foolhardy, insurmountable task to continue and build upon that wonderful story. Could it be done? Should it be done? Turns out, the answer is abso-freakin-lutely.
Toy Story 4 opens June 21.
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Studio Ghibli may not be working on it, having only helped out on the first game in the series, but that trademark look is still very much apparent here. In no small part because former Studio Ghibli animator Yoshiyuki Momose is directing the film.
Last summer, voice actor Vic Mignogna went into a booth with a few others to record audio for a video game. At one point, Mignogna asked the client, who was overseeing the session, if she was okay with his performance. When she didn’t answer right away, he followed up with: “You know the old Latin—or is it Greek? There’s an axiom that says: Silence gives consent.”
Stories about Mignogna have been circulating online for over a decade, including through the Tumblr blog Dear Vic Meggnogna, but the latest round of accusations started surfacing around mid-January of this year. io9 spoke with more than 25 voice actors, cosplayers, industry professionals, convention employees, and former fans about their experiences with Mignogna. Many of them asked not to be named in fear of retaliation from Mignogna or his fanbase. These, along with the testimonials circulating online, paint a picture of a 56-year-old man who aggressively hugs, grabs, touches, kisses, and propositions women—often without asking for their consent. It happens at panels, in autograph lines, at private events, and behind closed doors. His behavior has become so known in the anime and comic convention communities that it’s more than an open secret.
“Have you heard of the missing stair analogy?” voice actor Jamie McGonnigal said. “It’s basically what happens when many folks in an industry know about a certain person, and warn everyone about that person, kind of quietly… It’s related to a missing stair in that, yeah, the stair is missing, but you tell the people that you know to skip that stair because it’s broken. The problem is, people who don’t know about that stair are bound to trip [on it]. That’s what it’s been like for upwards of 15 years. People just know about Vic.”
Vic Mignogna’s name might not ring a bell for most, but within the anime community, he’s a household name. He’s appeared in hundreds of anime shows, films, and video games since 1999, including playing the lead in 2004’s Fullmetal Alchemist. Recently, he was heard as Broly in Funimation’s Dragon Ball Super: Broly, which made more than $30 million at the U.S. box office, an impressive feat for an anime film. It’s the latest movie in the Dragon Ball series, one of the biggest anime franchises in the world. The series even had a balloon at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade last year.
Over the course of his career, Mignogna has amassed a strong, largely youthful fanbase—including within his official fan club, the Risembool Rangers. He’s also a regular on the anime and comic convention circuit, attending on average about 30 cons per year—though that doesn’t look to be happening this year. Accusations of improper conduct with his fans, first reported by Anime News Network, led many comic and anime conventions to rescind their invitations to Mignogna. Entertainment group Rooster Teeth shared that Mignogna will no longer voice a character on its American anime, RWBY. Funimation, a top media company for importing and dubbing Japanese anime, announced it’s “no longer engaging” with the voice actor, following an internal investigation. io9 has viewed three of the reports that were submitted to the company.
Voice actor Charlotte (not her real name) confirmed to io9 that she shared her story with Funimation for its investigation. She relayed to io9 her experience, one which Mignogna denied in emailed responses to io9’s questions. Charlotte said that at a con in the late 2000s, she was getting ready to go to dinner with Mignogna and some other con guests and employees. Mignogna asked if they could stop by his room first, because he wanted to show her a video, and she agreed. Because both were in relationships—Mignogna with his now ex-fiancée Michele Specht and Charlotte with her then-boyfriend—she believed the invitation was platonic.
As they watched the video, she says, Mignogna grabbed her by the arms and kissed her aggressively, including putting his tongue inside her mouth. She tried to pull away, only to have him pull her back in. She told io9 she felt scared and frozen, “like a board.” Then, things escalated. Charlotte said Mignogna backed her up to the bed and she fell down, then he got on top of her. Soon after, a friend came to check on them, and she immediately got off of the bed.
“I was saved by a door knock. I can’t say what would’ve happened [otherwise]. I don’t know if I would’ve kicked his ass, or he would’ve kept [going] and I stayed frozen,” she said. “I keep waking up in the middle of the night with that panic feeling. It’s that panic, it’s that feeling I have to do something to get him away from me.”
Since the recent allegations have surfaced, Mignogna has released two statements on Twitter. First on January 21, saying he regrets if he made his colleagues or fans feel uncomfortable. The second statement, released on February 13, added that he’s taking time to “recommit to God and [seek] the help of a counselor.” When reached by io9 for comment Mignogna said that he has never forced himself on anyone, claiming that “any and all encounters I’ve ever had have been 100-percent consensual.” He gave specific responses to the accusations present in this article—denying some and providing his own version of events on others.
Several people in the anime industry, speaking under the condition of anonymity, shared with io9 their experiences with the voice actor. Rachel (not her real name) recounted with io9 two experiences she says she had with Mignogna. She said the first one, which Mignogna has denied, happened at a convention in 2008. She said a relatively friendly weekend turned uncomfortable when, outside their adjacent hotel room doors, Mignogna grabbed her in a tight embrace and wouldn’t let go, even as she tried to pull away. Like Charlotte, she knew he was in a relationship. She then went into her room, which shared a door with his. That’s when the knocking started.
“I heard a slow knocking on the door that was between our two rooms. I knew it was him so I ignored it. And just after two minutes, the hotel room phone rings. And I answered it, and it was Vic. I remember he said, ‘Open the door, nobody has to know,’’” she said.
She said he continued to knock on the door, and the phone rang at least one more time, until she stepped into the bathroom and turned on the shower—sitting on the bathroom floor for up to an hour, shaking.
The second situation happened at a separate convention a couple of years later. Rachel said she had agreed to stop by his room briefly. She said he invited her to sit down on the couch in the front room of the suite, and after a brief conversation she claims he knelt in front of her and began rubbing the backs of her thighs, and said: “Let me be sweet to you.”
Rachel told io9 she then got up to leave—only for Mignogna to stand up, embrace her tightly, and press his face against hers. She tried to get out of his embrace but says he wouldn’t loosen his hold. She kept giving him reasons why he should stop, like reminding him he had a girlfriend, but he kept repeating the same line—“Let me be sweet to you”—over and over, at least five or six times, she said. Rachel says she eventually got out of his embrace and left the hotel room, and later told the con’s guest services manager about the incident (the manager confirmed to io9 that they had been told).
Mignogna acknowledged this event happened, including that he rubbed the backs of Rachel’s thighs, but said the encounter was consensual. He also said that, to his recollection, they had shared a bottle of wine, were “probably” in her room, and had kissed before she pulled away and asked that they stop, which he says he immediately agreed to and left her room. Rachel responded by denying they ever kissed and that she doesn’t recall drinking wine with him. Both she and the guest services manager separately stated she had been in Mignogna’s room.
Rachel says she did not report the incident to hotel management or to the police because she feared Mignogna would attempt to negatively impact her career. “He’s very well known in the industry—very, very powerful in our industry,” she said.
According to the guest services manager and Rachel, in apparent retaliation after his sexual advances were rebuffed, Mignogna requested that Rachel be moved to another room for their previously scheduled joint autograph signing session (Mignogna denied doing this). Rachel said she spent the two-hour session alone, as most fans were there to see him.
Voice actor Gretchen (not her real name) described to io9 how, before their first panel together at a con in the early 2010s, he grabbed her from behind and starting tickling her aggressively until she screamed at him to stop. Mignogna told io9 he did tickle her without her consent, calling it a “playful and friendly” attempt to lighten her mood.
There’s also a way Mignogna sometimes hugs women, as detailed by one voice actor and confirmed by several others who’ve experienced or witnessed it. According to the voice actor, who asked not to be named, when Mignogna greets women, sometimes he’ll grab a handful of hair so he can pull their heads back slightly, kissing their necks or whispering in their ears. She said it can sometimes happen in public, including in front of fans, and there’s pressure to go along with it so they don’t seem like they’re making a scene. Mignogna has denied this, telling io9, “I don’t greet people that way.”
In 2014 professional cosplayer Diana (not her real name) attended what she believed was a post-convention group dinner for con guests; however, when she arrived she found it was a private dinner with Mignogna. After dinner, Mignogna walked with her to a parking area. She claims he proceeded to grab and kiss her aggressively—without her consent—before inviting her to his hotel room. Diana said she refused, reminding him that she had a partner and knew he was engaged (at the time). She proceeded to walk away to meet with friends at a nearby hotel, one that Mignogna was also staying at. He followed.
“He’s sticking next to me the whole way there. He’s trying to convince me to come into his room and spend the night with him, saying ‘It’s so hard to find someone who understands the industry and lifestyle,’ saying he’d rock my world,” she told io9. “We ended up outside of his door, and I was continuing to walk not realizing it was his room, when he stopped and was like, ‘This is my room, let’s go.’”
She didn’t go.
Mignogna acknowledged this event happened but said he remembered it “very differently.” He said the two of them went out to a private dinner, after which they “mutually and consensually” kissed, and he invited her to his room. According to Mignogna, Diana responded that she wanted to, but “shouldn’t since we were both involved with someone else at the time,” after which they parted ways. Diana denied Mignogna’s version of events, saying “it wasn’t nearly as simple as he makes it seem—telling him we were both taken was not the end of it.”
Most of Mignogna’s responses to these women’s stories included some mention of how, from his viewpoint, the women seemed fine with their interactions—and even acted friendly toward him later. He mentioned that he and Diana “flirted quite a bit both times” they saw each other and noted how both Gretchen and Rachel were cordial or friendly with him during their interactions after the events took place. All three of them rejected this notion as being proof that they weren’t upset with Mignogna for his behavior.
“I have seen him a handful of times since, always in public or work settings. He is mistaking my ‘friendliness’ for professionalism,” Gretchen said. “Vic can try to justify his actions any way he likes, but it still doesn’t make them any less inappropriate or invasive. The man has no boundaries.”
It’s easy to find proof of Mignogna’s physical closeness with fans, especially female fans. There are countless photos available online—including through the hashtags #KickVic, which has shared accusations against the voice actor, and #IStandWithVic, which later emerged as a show of support. The photos show him hugging people, holding them in his arms, pressing his face against theirs, kissing them on the cheek. Some fans remark on their experiences with Mignogna positively and have been sharing their photos and stories in support of him. Others call their encounters with him uncomfortable and nonconsensual.
Former fan Viola Hewak told io9 that at a con in 2011, when she was 16 years old, she went to get an autograph from Mignogna—a common convention activity that fans sometimes pay for—when he unexpectedly got up and said, “I’m going to hug you!” Hewak told io9 he pulled her into an embrace, his hands sliding up and down her back and sides, and wouldn’t let go when she tried to pull away. At a 2013 con autograph signing, another former fan named Michelle Light said he kissed her intensely on the cheek right as their photo was being taken, without asking for permission first, and added that if she hadn’t moved her head she thinks he would’ve reached her mouth.
Con-goer Kelly, who asked her last name be withheld, described to io9 what happened at an anime con in 2014 when she went to get Mignogna’s autograph for a friend of hers. She wasn’t a fan, though she was familiar with his work.
“I regrettably asked for a pic with him as a way to show my friend, ‘Hey, guess who I’m with.’ After the pic, I joked, ‘Well my friend’s gonna be angry’ and then he said, ‘Oh, let’s make her really angry,’” Kelly said. “He grabbed me into a tight embrace against his body, both arms. And it wasn’t just a light peck on cheek, it was a big kiss. I remember when he did it, I felt frozen for a second, and then felt my face turning really red in embarrassment.”
Convention staffers also discussed their own Mignogna interactions with io9. Two people who’ve worked at Phoenix Comicon (now Phoenix FanFusion) shared how staffers would sometimes alert coworkers over the radio when a certain person was entering an area. One of them described it being used for Mignogna, to make sure a particular 19-year-old female staffer wasn’t in the area. She called it “Code Vic.”
Mignogna’s contact with fans isn’t limited to autograph lines and panels. Over the past several years, especially following the success of Fullmetal Alchemist in 2004, Mignogna has cultivated a devoted fanbase online. Most notably, it’s been through the Risembool Rangers, an official Vic Mignogna fan group that was started in 2005 and is currently managed by Mignogna’s mother, Barb Myers, who goes by the name “Matriarch” when she addresses the group. Most of the group’s activity is on a Discord chat, which is a private text and voice chat primarily for gamers, so io9 can’t independently confirm the current membership numbers. But there is an official Facebook page with about 5,500 subscribers, as well as a closed Facebook group for the Risembool Rangers with nearly 1,600 members.
One former Risembool Rangers member, Dave (not his real name), joined the group back in 2009 when he was around 11 years old. Dave described the group as “absolutely rabid,” ready to defend the voice actor against any criticism. Still, he stayed because he was a big fan of Mignogna and an aspiring voice actor. He left the group shortly after meeting Mignogna, saying he no longer considered himself a fan after their encounter. While taking a photo together at a convention in 2012, Dave said Mignogna unexpectedly grabbed him around the waist, pulled him close, and asked if he had a boyfriend. At the time, Dave was 14 years old and presented as a young woman.
“I felt violated and invalidated by my idol,” he said. “I wish that I could take it away from my memory because I can’t hear that guy’s voice without thinking about how I was a grossed-out 14-year-old kid…I love anime, and I legitimately cannot watch dubs with his voice in them.”
According to former members io9 talked to, the Risembool Rangers lean toward the younger side and are sometimes underage. Mignogna communicates with his fans through email and has given out his phone number for fans to get in touch with him. He’s held Q&A sessions with members through the private Discord chat, and attends con parties hosted by the fan club—which have included events like a 2007 Twister competition, judged by Mignogna himself, where he (dressed in a Star Wars uniform) can be seen “signing” his name on a few young women’s lower backs as they’re playing.
A January 2019 chat, shared on the group’s Facebook page, showed Mignogna denying the allegations against him, suggesting it could be connected to the recent Dragon Ball Super: Broly release, and requesting members share positive stories about him online. Since then, at least eight people io9 talked to said they’ve faced online harassment for either sharing their stories or for stating online that they support the victims.
The harassment has included pizzas being sent to a former workplace, the receiving of death threats, and a fake Twitter account being created in the name of one individual. Mignogna initially spoke out on Twitter on February 8 to condemn harassment of people criticizing him. But an email shared with io9 also showed Mignogna, three days later, privately telling a fan how a certain voice actor had “turned to [be] hateful toward me.” Mignogna mentioned that person by name.
In summer 2018, as preparations were being made to record the dubbed vocals for Dragon Ball Super: Broly, two people connected to the project met with Funimation executives to suggest Mignogna be recast due to some improper conduct allegations making the rounds in the voice acting community, according to someone present at the meeting. This person, who asked not to be named, said that Funimation later told them the company was conducting an investigation into Mignogna’s conduct—but it was inconclusive, so Mignogna was kept on the project. io9 reached out to Funimation for comment on this report, and the company referred us back to its original statement:
Following an investigation, Funimation recast Vic Mignogna in Morose Mononokean Season 2. Funimation will not be engaging Mignogna in future productions.
Mignogna told io9 that, until recently, he’s “hugged everyone who comes to my autograph sessions,” saying it’s a common activity for voice actors. But he said that he’s learned he has to change this. And over the past few weeks, Mignogna has seemingly adjusted his public behavior—at least at conventions. He appeared at Bak-Anime 2019 in early February, one of the only conventions he’s scheduled to attend this year after a majority rescinded their invitations. Voice actor Neil Kaplan, who was also a guest at the show, said he didn’t see Mignogna touching any guests during his autograph signing. He mostly stayed behind his table. There are also videos of Mignogna from his panels at that con, showing him tearfully apologizing for recent events, saying he got “lazy” about interpreting whether fans wanted him to hug them. But several of the people io9 talked to said it’s time for him to be out of the voice acting industry.
Voice actors and other professionals have been speaking up online, including McGonnigal, Dragon Ball co-star Monica Rial, and The Dragon Prince actor Neil Kaplan—all of whom confirmed to io9 that Mignogna’s behavior is a problem. Specht, Mignogna’s ex-fiancée, also released a statement to io9. In her statement, she said she was not aware that he was pursuing other women during their relationship, and that she supports the people coming forward with their stories about Mignogna’s behavior:
My 12-year relationship [and] engagement to Vic Mignogna ended in May 2018. Very soon after, information about Vic’s previously unknown behavior began to surface, and has continued to do so over the last several months—each revelation more shocking and painful than the previous, spanning the entirety of our time together. I have had to face the reality that the loving, monogamous relationship I believed in and was devoted to never existed.
This pattern of egregious behavior is so linked to his position of power that the voices of those stepping forward with allegations need to be heard clearly, and their claims taken with the utmost seriousness. And I extend whatever remains of my broken heart to every one of them.
Last summer, Mignogna went into a studio and told a small group of people that silence gives consent. It may have been in response to a query about his performance, but voice director Donald Shults told io9 that it eventually became something else. When others in the room tried to push back, including Shults saying that the phrase doesn’t reflect today’s values, Mignogna didn’t drop the subject. He clarified.
“If I’m a jerk and you don’t tell me so, then you’re consenting to me being a jerk. See how that works?” he said. “If somebody is doing something you don’t approve of and you don’t say anything…the implication is that you must be okay with it.”
Toys and CollectiblesAction figures, statues, exclusives, and other merchandise. Beware: if you look here, you’re probably going to spend some money afterwards.
Lego’s partnering with Universal for a new 13-episode animated mini-series called Lego Jurassic World: Legend of Isla Nublar that takes place before both of the Jurassic World movies. It’s a thinly-veiled attempt to sell more toys, but I’m totally fine with that since one of the sets features Jurassic Park’s much-loved T-rex battling a robotic doppelgänger. Did Lego somehow find a trove of my childhood drawings?
The toymaker sold me at Dino-Mech, which is how the robotic T-rex is described in this 716-piece set that will be available in the fall for $90. But I’m even more in love with the idea of this mechanical thunder lizard given it features the same color palette and designs as the tour vehicles in the original Jurassic Park: a film I will never tire of.
The set also includes a volcano in mid-eruption that opens to reveal a treasure chest inside, four new minifigures including Chris Pratt’s Owen Grady and Bryce Dallas Howard’s Claire Dearing, a boat, and baby versions of Grady’s trained velociraptors—including Blue.
Lego Jurassic World: Legend of Isla Nublar will also spawn three additional sets including the $60, 447-piece Lego Triceratops Rampage, the $60, 434-piece Baryonyx Face-Off: The Treasure Hunt, and the $20, 168-piece Dilophosaurus on the Loose. They’ll also be available come the Fall, presumably closer to when the new animated series will air. They’ll each add more dinosaurs to your Lego collection, but only one comes with that magnificent mechanical park menace.
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