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Well it appears that Monster have been doing something all this time, as they've made a separate official Dreamstone channel WITH EVERY SINGLE EPISODE UPLOADED:…

Also just to point out, requests are currently closed at the moment.
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Character Analysis: Rufus and Amberley

Most of my character analysis’s follow main characters who go on centre stage for significant limelight. This one is more obtuse however, it follows a character who is quite clearly not the writers’ favourite, but still resultantly is required to be tweaked recurrently in their role because of it. To emphasise this, the “character” is actually two, but making two separate analysis for either of them would almost be pointless, so here we’re going for a double whammy.

The Dreamstone Opening Special

The earliest conceptual stages building up to the pilot two parter are the closest to justifying the two character’s separate presence. Mike Jupp’s concept notes and ‘The Dream Thief’ pitch clearly pitches Rufus as the main character, with Amberley more a pseudo love interest and supporting character. They’re clearly going for a Disney-esque action adventure approach here, with Rufus the charming fantasy kid hero who goes on a quest.

This is a fragment still existent in the pilot episode, and would largely remain in most merchandise and promotional material, likely because it was a popular genre to endorse to kids over the more unique approach later entries would take. There is clearly a bit of struggling for central stage going on even at the start, we gather that the writers clearly have clicked the Urpney characters and enjoy using them, but the effort is still on Rufus’ character arc, and attempts are still made to maintain his charm and fallibility. He’s something of a naive bumbling underdog, seen as a failure and chaining off the dilemma of the plot, with the climax serving as his vindication arc. We get a lot of his personal insecurities here, he is definitely seen in a far more introspective manner here.

Amberley also has a big role here, but she spends most of the story as a damsel in distress, the arc and development is clearly not devoted to her. Still there is reasonable and heartfelt limelight put into her three dimensional bond with Rufus. I take interest in the fact they go for a more unique twist approach establishing her, she is introduced largely chewing out Rufus for screwing up at work, making her seem a rather cold character who doesn’t tolerate fools. When Rufus is finally fired and left despondent however, her softer empathetic side is seen and she is quickly established as his best friend. It is apparent Amberley is short fused but only because she wants Rufus to succeed. We continue seeing this sugar and ice disposition when the Urpneys take the stone. She is blatantly not going to stand for them endangering her friend’s employment and viciously and furiously charges them, ironically just making the situation worse by getting kidnapped. There’s this curious blend of her being a voice of reason for Rufus while still being ‘not so above it all’, which is something they do try to maintain at least a little throughout the show. Any time Rufus is flawed or bumbling, she is only relatively above him in level headedness.

There is a lingering feel something is kind of skewed about the premise here. The Urpneys have a VERY sympathetic stakes and characterisation from the start, their core stakes in fact are FAR more dire than the heroes (‘getting bad dreams’ vs ‘getting fed to carnivorous fish or turned to stone by their evil boss’). Most of the Urpney cast herd don't even want to do evil bidding and are dragged into action under protest. The heroes don’t remotely acknowledge this throughout the entire series, seeing the Urpneys as just standard evil minions. Even when they demonstrate what Zordrak does to Urpneys who don’t follow his orders, Amberley continues kicking and screaming abuse at them for being ‘evil’ (in her defence she was in the midst of being kidnapped right then) and later on the Noops nonchalantly use stone carcases as bait to get the stone back from the Frazznats. It doesn’t come off quite so intrusive in this case however because the Noops themselves are still clearly the underdog against the villains and Zordrak's more active role maintains mortal stakes for them being in the thick of things, the tensity of the situation makes their actions still feel pretty valid and within the realms of self-defence.

Season One

While Season One does follow on from the pilot in areas for a while, it doesn’t much branch off of the heroes’ side of things. Their role is much more mundane, Rufus’ character arc doesn’t really continue and we don’t even get that many dilemmas or personal hardships within their world, everything is pretty placid until the bad guys interfere. It is clear that the Urpneys are taking more central stage at this point, the general formula is the same as the pilot, with them going in to take the stone through elaborate methods, but the heroes’ agency protecting it is dumbed down since the Urpneys are much more clearly the underdog now. They are almost antagonists of the story, the threat the Urpneys must avoid and usually fail to.

This is where the uneven stakes start to become a problem, since with that threat level completely undermined, the heroes go from a bit pragmatic about a legitimate threat to being almost zealot level petty towards a bunch of harmless scapegoats. They are more the comedic ‘vengeful’ heroes, the guys clearly in control and spend most of the cartoon getting their own back at the bad guys in rather sadistic ways, the difference here being the bad guys aren’t quite as much bad guys, they aren’t persistent assholes who clearly walk into punishment after punishment out of stubborn spite, the Urpneys, or at the very least Frizz and Nug most of the time don’t even want to face the heroes, knowing they’ll brutalise them, almost making it kafka comedy where they’re stuck between two wrathful groups.

I’m not sure how much of this was intentional on the writers’ part, the first season definitely was the most cynical (the Urpneys seldom got a respite like they often did in later seasons, and there’s a curious focus on ‘menacing grin’ shots of the heroes like they were almost supposed to be a little malicious). It felt like maybe it was supposed to be a bit of a deconstruction but maybe one that was meant to stay within the realms of the usual story. The heroes were never outright painted as callous (Frizz constantly whines how “vicious” they are, it feels like his disposition is meant to be undermined far more than vice versa) it felt like you were still meant to feel they had the moral high ground, after all the Urpneys still started it, they were still kind of selling them out to save their own skin, how many heroes DON’T enjoy delivering retributions a little too much? Just that level of sympathetic personality and situation given to the Urpneys really dumbs down the karma of the matter, and as mentioned the stakes without the added threat level from the villains feel really uneven, thus it really exacerbates what were small inklings of issues in the pilot.

I feel like I should be talking more about Rufus and Amberley specifically, but their role is pretty much within the generic slot of the other heroes, besides being the more novice heroes the others exposition situations to, they mostly act in the group and don’t really stick out as the main characters anymore. They still have shades of their pilot competence when the story requires it, but since the Urpneys don’t remotely put up a fight, it doesn’t feel as remarkable. We also get little hints of Rufus excelling in his job, he manages to materialise a daydream of himself in real life in The Voice of Zordrak and even creates a spell to fool the Urpneys in Blob’s incredible Plan. The two also still have sprinkles of their pilot characterisation here and there, Amberley still has odd temper spats, Rufus still bumbles a little here and there. That’s about it in terms of his characterisation this season however. It is clear that the two have lost the writers’ investment outside as a mandatory hero for the story.

Season Two

While Season One clearly shown the waning interest in developing the hero side of the show, Season Two capsizes it. They are completely defanged this era, being drained of any developed agency or personality. The writers can’t even bother with them in terms of gags anymore, it was one of the most undiluted cases of ‘good guys are boring’. The idealistic setting of the Land of Dreams is also exaggerated at this point, this season really adds a whole load of sugary sweetness to the whole thing.

Rufus and Amberley’s role is almost superfluous in this regard, outside ironically a necessary negative quality. The two mostly just exist to screw things up. A lot of episodes had awkward padding use because of how easily the Urpneys could be defeated. Season One usually had them quickly stopped and punished by the heroes….and then they keep doing for a little while longer. Season Two kind of reverses it around, having the Noops try and fail to stop the Urpneys before their peers come in with a far swifter (and thus less relentless) resolve near the end of the episode. This situation still has blatant holes, making the two main heroes incompetents who are still always sent into the front first by their overpowered superiors, but it resultantly feels less mean spirited outright.

Rufus in particular holds the idiot ball for a lot of the season, nearly always being the go-to guy whenever a hero needs to screw up to give the Urpneys an opening in their scheme. He doesn’t really get characterised as stupid or jerkish outright, he is just required to be incredibly thoughtless if the plot demands, always ignoring peers’ warnings or doing something stupid with the Dreamstone (this aspect of him does track back to the pilot but the sympathetic motive is lacking here, he put the stone in danger because he finally had a means to look remarkable, here he is just being careless out of whim). His penchant for daydreaming is brought up a lot more this season, but rarely in creative or relevant manners (even in their randomness they're nothing on say the level of Homer Simpson or Doug's hilarious dream sequences), they mostly just exist to remind us this character even has a quirk. Amberley sort of continues that voice of reason role while still being fallible herself and getting easily caught or outdone several times. It is apparent the two are not in control anymore and are for the large part completely ineffective in their job, just insane plot armour means it never really becomes an issue for them, they still always win pretty easily, just never through their own abilities.

The second season seems to really amp up the virtuousness of the heroes as well. Season One kept a bit of cynicism on the whole thing, it just didn’t kept the heroes painted in the right and fairly idealistic, while here they are well and truly painted as an unflappable sugar bowl. They really chime in their motives to melodramatic levels, emphasising how damn precious the dreams are and how no good and underhanded those Urpneys always are for trying to ruin them, often with very dramatic music and ambience to the whole thing, almost like they’re trying to validate to the audience their need to punish them. I feel like the writers caught onto some complaints that the Urpneys’ treatment was a bit too mean spirited last season (hence them getting lax treatment or happy endings in odd episodes here), just they maybe didn’t quite catch what was wrong about it on the heroes’ end of things, they still never address that elephant in the room, they’re just more superficially heroic and perfect. It is like they are trying to spell it in plain writing that they are the good guys, the other side started it, what more can you need?

Season Three

Season Three has another writer change, and while the Noops remain largely bland throughout, it is probably the most dynamic season in readjusting their role and agency.

The earliest episodes are largely a mish mash of Season One and Two’s approach, Rufus and Amberley shift between being competent or not depending on whether the plot requires it. They have a mix of that virtuous and unforgiving streak with the Urpneys as usual, but interestingly it is a bit more undermined here. It is probably the closest the writers catching on they looked a bit unsympathetic and self righteous against the Urpneys. In ‘Moon of Doom’ Amberley starts pontificating at Frizz and Nug and successfully shut up when they show their usual lack of motivation in the matter. ‘The Dream Beam Invasion’ in particular seems divided over the whole matter. The whole episode sets up on building on the heroes’ motives throughout the show, with the Urpneys shown directly sabotaging the dreams in this episode. Not only do we see dreams for a rare time onscreen this episode, but we get mythos building into how they are made and how cherished they are to the heroes’ community. We even see little kids crying after awakening from a bad one. The writers seem to want to strengthen the heroes' main provocation with substance in this episode, and yet, in the climax, the Noops suffer a comical backfire after making yet another eye, arm, leg, and left pinky for an eye, perhaps the one and only time the show intentionally punished them for going excessive on Frizz and Nug, to the point of even conveying them as cowardly frauds when they become a real danger.

Or maybe the writers just thought it would be fun to have the heroes do a gag for a change. I am probably overthinking the whole dynamic of a very light hearted episode. But I don’t think it was a coincidence that the remainder of Season Three tries much harder than any previous point to bulk up the Noops in their hero role. Not only are their retaliations downplayed from more cartoon sadism to pragmatic mischief, but they gain a slightly more beefed up amount of limelight, not necessarily in terms of characterisation, they’re still pretty bland (if anything this might be the one season they are most interchangeable) but their role is far more effective within many episodes. The biggest pivot comes in a ‘A Day Out’, after a fairly dull B plot at the start going skiing, which is largely another screw up to chain off the plot, the heroes then start off a far more concise and effortful method to getting the stone back. They are very nearly the underdogs again in this one. They also bother to give sense to the elder heroes’ role in their home turf and the Noops going out into Viltheed (and now competently doing their job), it is not a clear afterthought to the role of Urpneys (who are mostly absent during the climax). The key changer in this episode however is Zordrak’s speech, at face value it’s superfluous (but glorious) ham courtesy of Gary Martin, but it also establishes MUCH greater stakes for him having the stone for the rest of the show. Every time the Urpneys try giving it to him now is genuine life and death stakes for the heroes.

The following couple of episodes practice the Noops with relatively more malicious and challenging opponents like Urpgor or the one-time antagonist the Basilic, the final episode in the Season has them back to an oblivious role but ends with a comedic downer ending for both sides. There is clearer attempts here to make the Noops more sympathetic (or at least more provoked) in their role, even if they remain blander secondary characters.

Season Four

With Season Three mostly mending the Noops base roles as the heroes, Season Four makes some core attempts to develop them in their agency. From the start of the season we are established a more individual formula for the Noops, while they were mostly just the kids of the group in previous season, here they are more evidently the dogsbodies of their side, given a job to do each episode that mostly helps develop the heroes’ mythos and world building. This nearly always merges with the Urpneys’ own formula since their two occupations nearly always collide and the Noops are made to stop them just so they can continue with their own work.

While the Noops still aren’t much for individual character development this season, there are at least some token attempts at giving them enjoyable personalities here. They usually supply at least a few jokes and funny lines at this point and get in odd bits of slapstick, even if it’s still lighter and more forced than the Urpneys’ humour. The writers are clearly still struggling to care about them compared to the villain side, but we’ve got to the point they are at least trying to ‘click’ them. Rufus and Amberley also go back to having their personalities branched out into more idiosyncrasies, Amberley is more blatantly the strategist or smart one of the two, while Rufus is more the dippy comic relief, supplying zoned out one liners and buffoonery until the story asks him to show a more eccentric supply of competence on the fly. These elements do sort of compliment their original characterisations, even if they’re still not quite as depthful, though it does at least make them more compatible with the current formula.

There is also a vague underlying pang of cynicism to their role here, there are odd gags that like to shrewdly make fun of the fact they’re as much grunts to the hero side as Frizz and Nug are to the villain side. Wildit outright sends them to do all the work in ‘The Stowaways’ and the two seem quietly aware they’re being screwed over for example. Perhaps due to this more jaded agency, the writers seem to be more eager to make them work for more victories, while their other occupation not connected to protecting the Dreamstone gives them a more freely decided fallibility. They sometimes fail at their job unlike stopping the Urpneys. In ‘Little Urpip’ both sides fail at their job, but while Frizz and Nug couldn’t care less and laugh off their failure when Blob plays fall guy, Rufus and Amberley, who do actually care about their job, seem more mournful.

It is perhaps because of this more put-upon element that the writers seem to manage click a more genuinely sympathetic element to them. There’s a slightly greater sense of self awareness to them this season as well, they sometimes seem as aware as the Urpneys of the ridiculousness of the situations at hand, and while they still don’t really have much of a chemistry with them, they seem more aware their opponents are just buffoonish nuisances, with their reactions often more bewilderment and apathy than righteous fury. The Noops positive aspects seem more genuine this season because of this. They still seem very optimistic and eager to help in spite of their job sometimes coming off as a farce (and them sometimes being more suspect to it). They are clearly not in a perfectly cushioned situation anymore, they actually suffer comedic pain and failure at times this season, but they will still always give things the old college try, making them interesting counterparts to Frizz and Nug who just don't want to be involved at all.

Perhaps because of this, the writers don’t feel the need to hash in too much superficial cutesy righteous behaviour here, they’re still idealistically portrayed but it’s not as in your face. Episodes like ‘Trouble with the Miners’ are in fact one of the most clear cut cases of the two sides doing absolutely horrible things to each other, but unlike previous episodes, there isn’t much direct malice to it, both sides clearly aren’t going to lose any sleep about it, but they really just want to get the other out of the way so they can get their job done. I like how the Noops have been kind of integrated into the same motif as the Urpneys here, being stuck in the same line of work with the other side making it worse for them. It’s a funny mix of fantasy whimsy mixed with a cynical tint of real life, the crushing style of employment and trying to just apathetically get things done with in spite of other equally downtrodden employee in other departments causing a hinderance.

This still doesn’t make them fully fledged stars however, they remain relatively bland heroes and counterparts to the Urpneys, just they have a role and characterisation that makes everything flow reasonable well. They’re more or less akin to Urpgor in earlier episodes, they figured out a role that works and gives entertainment value, but they’re still not developed into stars, they mostly come in, do their skit and then the Urpneys do the rest. It is for that reason I think it’s a shame they didn’t get a Season Five, they might have actually got round to fully realising them at last.

Final Analysis

Rufus and Amberley are a very unique case to delve into, in that while they aren’t given a whole lot of depth throughout the work and are very clearly not the writers’ favourites, their subtle evolution throughout the show still offers a lot to delve into. I will admit that a HUGE amount of this is just speculation, I can’t prove this was all a deliberate process, especially since only so many interviews and development notes exist from creative members of the show, barely any of them discussing the Noops’ role in the show, though that should only further explain some things.

The same creative team worked on shows like Bimble’s Bucket and the 1995 Snow Queen TV animations, however while the dynamic is better adjusted there, the heroes remain fairly stagnant and bland, the writers clearly don’t feel the need to richen them, they work. It is clear the hero characters are not their passion. In The Dreamstone however, while the Noops similarly start off apathetically written, the earlier establishment as main characters and the broken more complicated dynamic they are working on clearly requires a greater need to adjust and develop them. The show seems to acknowledge the need to make them work more intricately as it goes on. As such they probably exist as Martin Gates’ productions best AND worst attempts at developing a hero character. They are barely even characters or even heroes early on, but by the end of the series they have a more unique agency designed to work more in their comfort zone and make them less generic.

At the end of the day, the only reason I'm likely even obsessing such a preposterous amount of intricacy into the handling of two mostly bland supporting characters is because of the charm they shown in the pilot episode that never really got fully following on from. It is a constantly dumbfounding and frustrating personal niggle how badly they downgraded from it afterwards (my guess is Mike Jupp had a bigger hand in the pilot), thus I came to relish even the mildest return to form afterwards. I mean seriously, this has to be my largest character analysis thus far and these are by far the least developed characters to be subject to one.

It is a true shame they were never really the apple in the creative team's eye and thus never quite fully realised, the pilot is the nearest to achieving this and it shows off their potential. What happened afterwards to make the team lose that investment in them is purely up for speculation but that wavering care for them is probably the nearest to a dynamic narrative force in The Dreamstone, compared to the more favoured Urpney characters, who are largely fully realised from the beginning.
Character Analysis: Bambi

So many Disney film characters have a long history outside the company, mainly in the form of an early novel. I could look into many of them for a intricate and long character analysis, though Bambi is one that has the most unique but conveniently streamlined history, so he will be my subject for today.

The Felix Salten Novels:

(My access to the novels is a bit limited so forgive me if I make errors.)

Anyone expecting a happy little children’s book about cute little forest animals to be Disney’s inspiration will be sadly mistaken. However Bambi: A Life In The Woods is definitely an early and plausible attempt at personifying nature. Nature in all it’s gritty details. Bambi is designed as an average deer (and everyman of nature of sorts) and the book makes attempts to mix human emotion and intellect with the untainted natural processes of animal instinct. Everything he and the other animals do, while given shades of sapient personality, is based on impulses of their real life counterparts.

Not to say their isn’t moments of self awareness added on there, as he goes through life Bambi questions the apathetic treatment of outright murder in the forest through predators, while later he and Faline question their capacity for love, given real life deer do not breed out of affection and it seems to be turning out so here as well. These things do not alter the direction they enter or how they process however. Everything, even with human-like acknowledgement, is driven by natural instinct, and in the end Bambi is implied to ultimately come to the same disposition in life as the Old Stag who ridiculed his complaints towards it.

The sequel novel Bambi’s Children however, seems to break a few rules Salten made in this concept. The plot and narrative are reasonably similar, but there’s a bit more character driven impact here, conflict and impulses not just driven by realistic nature checks. Bambi is no longer an apathetic stag and makes actions based on caring for his children, making him to some degree a human dad. To compare while Disney took their usual liberties with the first novel with their film, they also made a comic book version of Bambi's Children which, despite keeping the Disney film's original characters and whimsy, managed to be much more loyal to the original story.

Disney’s Bambi

While Disney did seem to be trying to adapt the same core premise from the books, there’s obviously a bit of etchyness given Walt’s trademark for cartoon endearment.

Bambi here trades a lot of dialogue for expressiveness. While he remains a somewhat vague perspective character, some shades of a personality and role are peppered on. He shows signs of shyness, naivety and sulkiness, making him a loveably demure and hapless character. Walt described Bambi as an animal with slight human caricaturisation, but also described him as very much an actor than just a flat animal. Indeed a lot of animators seemed to use human acting as much as animals for inspiration (two members related themselves to Bambi and Thumper’s very different terms of competence in ice skating while making the scene).

While “prince” was merely a collective term for male deer in the books, here “Prince Bambi” is also treated with prestige, he is to some degree a “special” deer that will grow up to be of important role, thus his “everyman for deer” role is compromised slightly for him to meet a destiny of prominence for a triumphant ending.

Note however, despite this more whimsical approach to nature, like the novel, nothing about it is being compromised of its status quo outside of Man’s chaotic presence. Again self awareness exists, Bambi mourns his mother and he and his friends all have the “cooties” approach to mating at first, but be it futility or mere happenstance, there is a failure to ever alter the course. Bambi and Faline DO fall in love in this rendition, but the Disney film’s lore of nature states love is real in the first place, and sure Ronno trying to take Faline against her will is portrayed as sinister, but given it all still replicates standard nature, it never directly terms him as “evil”. Bambi is “prince” of the forest, but this is never implied to be some new order of things. Bambi for the large part is still a pawn while nature drives the story, just one with enough charm to be an endearing member of the Disney lineup, which is where things get complicated…

Disney’s Bambi II

Well, some sixty four years later (betcha Paul had a field day with that one) Disney were churning out sequels to loads of their old classics in order to maintain profit as their company lowered in box office popularity. While most of these were infamously low in both budget and effort in their attempts to replicate the spirit of Disney’s original film making, Bambi II was granted better resources and even had a few of their veteran team helping with it (Andreas Deja in particular was a die hard fan of the original, to the point he wasn't fully positive he should be assisting with such a project). In spite of this, the changes in film making had a very blatant change in the depiction of an old favourite.

Bambi II is a nature piece superficially only. Primarily it’s a character study, a piece that retroactively gives Bambi a development arc and evolves him and his supporting cast of forest animals into motive driven human beings. All the usual points in Disney’s modern film making tend to be here, more dialogue, more conflict, more motivation, a desire for something that is not the normal order of things, and unlike the first film and book, is actually a successful endeavour. At one point a heartbroken Bambi seems to relent to the natural order of things with a stiff upper lip over aiming for love and happiness. You know it's not the last we'll hear of it by a long shot.

Curiously Bambi here doesn’t break much character to work within this premise (besides talking a lot more, and with Nemo’s voice instead of a Southern twang), the first film still gave him all the openings in terms of having a personality, just not setting it out to give him an agency. He is still awkward, still a shy but perky child with an eventual breaking point, but he is proactive here, and his traits generally set him up more as an underdog. His role in the film is not just defined by “life cycle of a deer” but a tragic event that drives him to bond with his father and make the best of what has occurred. Like many Disney heroes, Bambi is also given an unambiguously virtuous streak here, with some actions conveyed more as heroism than from natural instinct (or alternatively Disney’s take on natural instinct). Bambi for all intents and purposes is driving this plot as the story's hero, not nature.

Bambi’s growth and maturity is also conveyed as more poetic and scenario invoked here rather than a gradual and natural maturity into adulthood. He gets the usual ‘Take A Level In Badass’ moment in the main climax, even if they are shrewd enough to convey him using a lot of the same tricks he uses as an adult in the first film. It is a moment of culminating heroism and character development rather than natural bestowment of age.

Why the midquel may not seem an outrageous blasphemy to the first film is that it largely keeps all this simplistic and often seems to exploit the liberties it itself made on the novels’ realistic mythos. Basically it does the research to justify it’s own existence since “the first film broke the rules first”. You know how the Great Prince took Bambi in after his mother died? Well, male deers don’t do that at all in real life, and the midquel is sure to remind us that firsthand and outright make it the main conflict of the plot. Same for the heritage of “Prince of the Forest”, which here has trials over the responsibilities Bambi will have to take. Again these were things that didn’t really influence how the characters effected the story themselves in the first film, it was still a version of nature acting as the dominant force on the plot, but they were still blemishes to make things more idealistic and human-like, and same so for Bambi’s personality. He had one before, but only here does it matter much.

It is also maybe befitting since the midquel takes place in Bambi’s pre-teen/adolescent years, which is when a person is most often forming and discovering their own identity and personality and coming to terms with greater complexities in life, that adults are not infallible human beings, that there are bad people that are not villains, that they must make decisions on their own. It is still to some degree Bambi’s life cycle, just with a far more humanized outlook.

Final Analysis

Bambi is a surprisingly complex character to analyse, at least through the two different mediums and their follow up material, given the deer’s most familiar status within most people’s mindsets is “that cutesy little baby deer whose mom got shot”. In fact you’ll likely find many who didn’t even know Bambi was a novel first (come on, how many people pay full attention to the opening credits?). Perhaps what is most complex about Bambi however is his actual position in terms of being a character with depth.

It’s especially intriguing since BOTH mediums go through the same process, having established a protagonist that is meant to be more a symbol of an ambient format and then the sequel ending up unable to resist giving them more humanity and star appeal. For the Disney version especially, years of marketing has obviously left an awkward conflict between “Bambi the nature piece” and “Bambi the loveable cartoon character”. There’s actually more excusing this transition for Disney however, obviously the creative team and direction will change after sixty four years, when animation is no longer a revolutionary experiment in art and just another conventional method of storytelling (take for example, Disney's more modern "circle of life" piece The Lion King, which even shared some creative members with the midquel), the sequel to the books was made after about a quarter of that time distance by the same writer. And let’s face facts, it’s in Disney’s own instinct to make loveable characters for family audiences (even Fantasia, a completely ambient piece, relishes a bit too much in it’s cartoon cast to fully embrace it’s concept at times).

It does seem to be an approach that’s hard to resent for many at least, while it goes against a format, it is basically replacing it with investing characters and story, if at the cost of its artistic narrative and reverence. While Bambi II certainly doesn’t garner the interest of many animation enthusiasts, it did seem to gain the curiosity of a more passive cult fanbase (especially fanfic writers) due to giving the cast substance and making what could be often seen as a bland symbol of Disney’s saccharine image at face value into a three dimensional character with dynamic development. After Bambi II there seem to be less people embarrassed to admit they like Bambi as an actual character, despite the first film having all the same mood swings and concepts, just in a different more sweeping narrative (if anything the midquel supplies more in the cloying antics). I guess without that emphasis on character depth, Bambi’s cutesy image made him pretty easy to dismiss to those less informed with the actual film and its narrative intentions.

But hey, the midquel’s Bambi, while somewhat cliche, is pretty damn charming and sympathetic with a cathartic development arc, that’s not something you can say everyday when reviewing a Disney sequel. In personal opinion, he might actually be one of my favourite Disney protagonists in fact, especially since the film’s tactical rewrite of how the first film works gives him even more substance to work off of. That’s not to say the second film did things “right” per se, but if they did do it “wrong” they did wrong right (?).

It’s worth noting that the midquel was far from Disney’s first attempt to follow on from the Bambi franchise. They’ve dabbled with the idea of making Thumper a breakout star for years, with ideas of films and TV shows that never quite got off the ground. Perhaps it was this complication that kept getting in the way. Maybe with the midquel finally laying out an opening, he might get his big moment one day, and we can be doing another character analysis.
Character (Over)Analysis: Bambi
Wildlife Expert: Why in Bambi, the buck steps into the clearing ahead of the doe and fawn to be sure there are no hunters there. Actually, bucks hang back and have even been seen kicking the does out of the brush ahead of them. And the picture wasn't true to life in so many other respects, either.
Walt Disney: How right you are. And do you know something else wrong with it? Deer don't talk.
Character Analysis: Coco Bandicoot

Okay, we’re gonna go for something different this time, a video games character. This is a more complicated situation, since a games character is designed as much around gameplay mechanics as actual storytelling, if not usually more so. Coco however has some interesting dynamic handling throughout a franchise that has now gone full circle by remaking its original titles.

Background and Conception

After Naughty Dog’s planned love interest for Crash Bandicoot, Tawna, became the object of distain for feminist executives of Universal, the creative team found themselves losing passion for the character. Sony of Japan however, still wanted a female sidekick for Crash in the second game, with Naughty Dog deciding to just start anew by introducing another character, Crash’s little sister, Coco.

Naughty Dog Era

Coco’s first appearance is limited but pivotal. She appears solely in cutscenes, mostly nagging at Crash or warning him of ominous holes in Cortex’s current ‘good guy’ ploy. Naughty Dog by their own admission weren’t really that focused on story with the Crash games, and it kinda shows here. Coco lacks much of any introduction, she supposedly existed, already evolved some short time before the ending to the previous game. While there is an effort to give suspense to Cortex’s suspicious activity as you trek throughout the game, Coco largely exists just to reveal his true nature at the very end. Her personality and agency seems mostly established according to this role, she a techno wiz, a hacker and a bit more headstrong than her brother who just goes with the flow of things.

Naughty Dog seem to get the character would catch on, she would be a playable character in their next platformer, Warped, though somewhat superficially. She is not quite the Tails or Luigi of the franchise just yet, limited to a rather superficial playability in vehicle levels. Also, for the only time in the series, she is limited to role of silent protagonist like her brother, unlike the latter however, her expressiveness doesn’t quite save her personality. The same issue occurs in Crash Team Racing, while all the other characters get bizarre victory poses, Coco’s is largely just her idle animation standing dully. In both games she partakes in the cartoon slapstick like the rest of the cast to some degree, but Naughty Dog clearly don’t see her as colourful a character, existing largely as the token female and ‘normal one’ of the cast.

Spin off Era

After Naughty Dog’s departure from the franchise, the role of developer was traded between multiple companies. Throughout their many personal liberties, Coco’s role in all of them was pretty consistent. She retained a blend of her role in her first two appearances, being the tech girl and consultant for Crash who provided him the necessary direction and tools, and occasional moments of playability. The latter only mildly upgraded at best throughout these titles. Coco in fact became a rather unpopular addition with professional reviews of the series, due to many not considering Coco nearly as fun as Crash as mechanic OR a character. This criticism is especially prevalent in Wrath of Cortex where nearly everything about Coco is Crash but diluted, less moves, less levels, less personality through gameplay animations, less humour and charm.

Coco didn’t remain completely stagnant from her Naughty Dog tenure however. She gained a mildly aged up redesign and attire that stuck throughout most of this era. Also several of these titles also toyed with another less flattering recurring role; the damsel in distress. It’s not something that isn’t excused in the plot most of the time, Cortex clearly learned from the second game and knows to treat her intellect as a threat in Purple for example, but poor Coco sure seemed to get kidnapped a lot from this era onwards, likely to justify her downplayed playable roles. Curiously Twinsanity even plays on her getting neutralised by Cortex as a running gag. This area actually seeping into the story to make her the butt of jokes seemed to set in a subtle more comical fallible side to the character that was missing beforehand (though it’s worth noting the original plans for Wrath of Cortex beforehand had her scripted as being prepared as a tribal sacrifice to a volcano, under heavy protest).

Radical Entertainment Era

Radical were infamous for taking the most unique liberties with the franchise and making it their own, as well as more blatantly turning the series into a gag series in terms of story. Coco was zero exception to this. What subtle ditzy or slapstick traits she had gained from the previous developers were completely punctuated with an exclamation mark by Radical. This Coco had no problems providing her own brand of humour, sometimes to the point of obnoxiousness, being far more bratty, air headed and impulsive. This seemed to keep Coco at the same fallibility as Crash, despite him getting his own stupidity exaggerated in this era, in particular when Cortex tries to pose his mind control devices as state of the art gadgets in Mind Over Mutant, Coco is one of the first to fall for it (and be severely disappointed it was all a dupe).

It’s worth noting that the Radical era brought in several other females as key characters for once (the previous ones being fairly one dimensional fan service such as Tawna or the CTR trophy girls). Pasadena and Nina Cortex (who Coco amusingly seems to know to resent and view as a threat) also provided their own supply of quirks and humour to the situation, so maybe the creative team were more comfortable giving what was once the token girl her own brand of flaws and eccentricities.

Despite this Coco’s agency is pretty much exactly the same as in previous titles, a mix of gadget girl, exposition/direction planner, damsel in distress and occasional playable role. Due to Radical’s greater use of cutscenes her characterisation is more fluidly breathed into these many roles. Crash of the Titans toys almost poignantly with her damsel in distress role. It’s arguably the first game to put much emphasis on Coco having much of a close sibling bond with Crash, and thus when she gets kidnapped, his brother takes an uncharacteristically serious turn, thus finally giving Cortex and Uka Uka some sort of button on their usually vacuous nemesis to sadistically press. It does make sense to some degree, The two are blatantly more like minded than in any earlier games, shirking from house work and generally acting like hyperactive kids.

Of special note, Radical made three games, and Coco’s design isn’t remotely consistent between any of them.

Revival Era

After a long hiatus, Vicarious Visions decided to bring back the franchise with a bang by remaking the original Naughty Dog games through the N Sane Trilogy. The team largely tried to perfect the look and feel of the original games, though did add their own subtle bits of polish and life here and there. Coco was one of them.

The guys at Vicarious Visions seemed to come to really love Coco since their last run with Crash, not only making her fully playable in all three games on the side as an un-mandated side project, but trying to breath in as much character and expressiveness to her gameplay model as possible. While the trilogy as a whole tries to put in tons more bits of personality to the entire package, Coco is the most blatant change in quality. A character that didn’t even have her own podium dance in CTR now has a distinctive reaction and animation for her in every area of the game (on a side note, yes, she is lacking as many death animations as Crash, but given the indiscriminate nature of the violent deaths she DOES befall, it’s likely this was a time mandated omission).

In terms of characterisation, she is essentially the old and Radical era Coco merged together in one coherent package. Coco has the same lucid role in the original games, but has a much wackier and enthusiastic flavour to it. Vicarious clearly saw some potential in the goofier Coco, but streamlined it better for personality purposes than Radical’s frenetic gags. It also plays more amusingly into player interactivity here, since Coco keeps her temper as well. Unlike Crash who tends to take his comedic abuse in stride, Coco has clearly lower patience with the player’s incompetence, throwing accusing glares or even throwing tantrums at the screen, making it quite clear who she blames for whatever foul up that occurs, a fun little bit of immersion is a really fun tint of character that harkens back to retro platformers like Sonic the Hedgehog. It never gets quite to say, Bubsy the Bobcat levels of obnoxiousness however, with non stop yapping and chewing out the player. Coco retains her sweeter side from the earlier titles, they even enfuse that well with other parts of her Radical self, they retain her chirpy bond with Crash through idle animations for example, even joining in on his trademark dance. She is very much her brother’s sister here.

On a minor note, I love how Coco's personality just blends perfectly into the gameplay gimmicks. For example the hand waved explanation for her being playable in all three games is that she wanted to time travel to them to help her brother. Given how potentially detrimental and pointless this would be in some cases (she's actually interfering with her past self stopping Cortex in Cortex Strikes Back) it's something that would be completely illogical with the original Coco, but, intentionally or not, makes perfect sense with the current Coco. Just like Crash fits the playable character role by being dimly passive and just doing things by order or on-the-fly, Coco fits providing the conditionally helpful assistance gimmicks, making good plans to provide the main character on paper, but not always thinking through every last detail.

Final Analysis

Coco was hard to really define early on. I mean I don’t think she was unpopular or anything, but she didn’t really have the same star power as other gaming second bananas like Tails or Diddy Kong, who thrived on being the new hit kid buddy for the main character, adorable bond and cool playability and all. The same stance seemed to be true with Naughty Dog, her creator. I don’t think any annoyance with her was among them either, they got she had potential in the third game, but it seemed to be very secondary (like almost like it was an afterthought when they realised the vehicles made the mounting character superfluous). You look at production notes, or interviews or anecdotes by the team, you don’t see a whole lot of Coco compared to Crash or the eccentric bad guys. It was evident she was there because Sony demanded a girl character, so there she is.

Later developers seemed to take the same stance with Coco at first, acknowledging she was a mainstay but largely focusing on the other more colourful characters (something several critics seemed to consider a better approach), but making odd attempts on the side to adjust her into something they love, though this gradual tune up did at least eventually bulk up into something of a vibrant presence within the series, to the point that by the time of the N Sane Trilogy remakes she has clearly garnered a popularity within the creative team and they completely encapsulate that into something very loveable, filling every quality of said second banana role she lacked beforehand. Comparing her level of personality and value within these remakes to their originals is dumbfounding.

These days Coco’s popularity seems to be only secondary to Crash and Cortex, even merchandising tends to put her straight after them, given we didn’t see much with her face on at all in the original era. It’s interesting how this very subtle stance has steadily made what was more or less just a mandated addition into a very treasured and beloved part of the franchise. In fact I think the franchise’s erratic handling is something Coco is in debt towards. I’m kinda glad they took the more subtle route in hindsight, Coco’s archetype is often a character that quickly outstays its welcome, it’s a pure miracle she didn’t end up in the positive discrimination route, being a Mary Sue-ish ‘better’ version of her stupider brother in every way, though keeping her in a humble role until they’d set about a proper personality for her has made her a very endearing foil for the main character. She’s a genius but not all knowing. In fact she REVELS in being not so above it all, a rare trait for intellectual characters in fiction, she is completely uncloseted in her goofy side and how much she looks up to her deranged brother. Along with other subtleties like her hot headedness and impudent slacker mentality, she comes off as alarmingly three dimensional for a character in a comical games series (at least a heroic one, Cortex can attest to being a multi faceted genius).

One can hope this is one thing that stays consistent with the franchise this time round since it sure has brewed long enough to be deserved.
Character (Over)Analysis: Coco Bandicoot
Okay, we're going to try something slightly different here. Since one of my most dominent penchants is over thinking fictional pieces and their cast, I'm going to make a project of it, discussing in excessive detail every nook and cranny of a character of my choice. Feel free to note whether you think this has potential with other characters, or just heads up what pretentious drivel it is.
Rufus' Bad Dream P1-4 Revised
Decided to tune up some of my oldest pages since they look really primitive next to the rest of the story.

Also added professional bleeds and margins to all the pages.
Well it appears that Monster have been doing something all this time, as they've made a separate official Dreamstone channel WITH EVERY SINGLE EPISODE UPLOADED:…

Also just to point out, requests are currently closed at the moment.
  • Playing: Sonic the Hedgehog (Taxman remaster)
  • Eating: McDonalds
  • Drinking: Pepsi


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