The magic of animated films

Why do animated films mean so much to us?

This is a question I started asking myself recently just for the fun of it. Just last week, the Frozen 2 trailer came out and last I checked, it has garnered more than 30 million views on YouTube. With the excitement seen here, as well as for the recent release of How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, and numerous upcoming titles such as Toy Story 4, it seems that animated films strike a chord with most people. And no, it is not just kids.

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Frozen 2 (2019)

I am talking about full-grown men and women, myself included. You don’t have to look far to find people who are still excited about such films even though they are way past their “early years”. Just look on the Internet or look at your friends.

And that honestly has got me wondering – why do animated films mean so much to us? It isn’t exactly erroneous to say that most animated films made by the likes of Disney and Illumination are targeted towards a younger crowd. But either way, we still see adults equally (if not, even more) hyped up about these movies, queuing up for tickets at the box office.

One reason I can think of is nostalgia. My mom makes joking remarks about me when I watch animated films. She always says these films are for kids, and teases a 23 year-old me for watching them. This applies not just exclusively to animated films though. She says the same for superhero films. And that could be because our parents didn’t grow up watching these characters come to life. Guess who they recall watching most of these movies? Their children – us.

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Toy Story 4 (2019)

When Woody and Buzz Lightyear embarked on their first adventures, most of our parents were already in their adulthood. They might not have been drawn to watch Toy Story because there were other more “mature” movies available to them.

But for me, once I began to have a basic understanding of the world around me, I was already seeing Toy Story frequently playing on TV. Animated films formed a significant part of my childhood. I presume this is also the case for many of you. Maybe that is why we get so thrilled finding out there was a sequel to Finding Nemo, 13 years after the movie came out.

Movies like Finding Dory, Incredibles 2 and Toy Story 4 throw us all into a frenzy because these stories were huge parts of our childhood. Watching these familiar characters return brings back loads of good memories and maybe even reminds us of the happiness we felt as a child.

But is nostalgia the only reason we get so easily attached or attracted to animated movies? I’d like to doubt so. If nostalgia was the only reason getting us to watch animated films, why do we also look forward to watching brand new ones?

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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (2019)

Assuming you are a little closer to my age, when films like Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon and Frozen came around, we were not really young anymore. Want even more recent titles? Sure. Rise of the Guardians, Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6, Zootopia, The Secret Life of Pets, Moana, Coco are all titles that come to mind when it comes to animated films released in recent years. Yet we love them all equally. One of my favorite animated films of all time is Inside Out, a film that was released in 2015 when I was 19. I find myself more interested in animated films the older I get!

Perhaps, the “magic” of animated films is not really found in their ability to bring us nostalgia, but in their ability to bring us back to a simpler time. When we were young, our knowledge of the world was little and our imagination of what was possible – limitless. Now that we are older, maybe that’s not the case anymore. When we were young, our view and belief of the world was purer; maybe now, not so.

Perhaps, animated films serve as a reminder to our inner selves that we should never stop imagining. These films have always fueled our imagination in our youth and continue to bring out the child on the inside. Deep down, though our minds have long matured (and rightly so), our inner child remains; and he/she believes in and yearns for a world that is beautiful, colorful, even a little magical like how it is in many animated films.

The “magic” of such films lies in their power to remind us what true friendship (e.g. Toy Story, How to Train Your Dragon), heroism (e.g. Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph) and family (e.g. Incredibles, Frozen, Coco) are like. Though we should definitely grow out of our childish selves, I say we should remain child-like in our faith towards humanity and the world as a whole.

Good people do exist. Good things can happen. Maybe it’s time to gather some good people around you and catch some good animated films again, don’t you think? See you at the cinema.

How I find true Rest

It’s Chinese New Year – the best time to connect with our family members and friends. No matter whether you are reading this while on the way to a relative’s house, in the midst of a conversation (I hope not), or while eating handful after handful of snacks, I am going to keep this post short so I will not hold you back and keep you on your devices for too long. After all, like I’ve just said, CNY is about spending time with people.

But more than that, public holidays like CNY are a good time for us to rest. I believe different images just showed up in your head when you read that. For some people, “rest” means having a weekend getaway, vacation or a gathering with family & friends. For others, it’s playing recreational sports, exercising, or going for a hike. Or maybe, it could be engaging in a hobby, painting, reading a book, eating, or just simply sleeping.

“Rest” is something we always associate with things or activities that makes us feel relaxed and recharged. We rest in things we find certain levels of fun or peace in doing. And it is no different for me.

Just last week, I went to the National Gallery with a couple of friends. I can’t even begin to describe the level of “tranquility” I was at after taking a short tour around the art museum. Then the next day, I went cycling from the East Coast to the city with another bunch of friends. It was a pretty quiet afternoon and we cycled & skated while appreciating the Marina Bay skyline on the horizon. Eventually, we came to our last stop – the 100th Starbucks outlet in Singapore, where the River and The Esplanade could be observed from within the cafe.

Fast forward to two days later, I was on a day trip to Johor Bahru, where I had tons of food, a massage and a Lazer Tag game with once again – the craziest group of friends. That was just three days ago.

Right now as I am writing this, I am in the comfort of my room, contemplating what movies to watch at the cinema the next few days after house visits, and which Netflix shows I need to catch up on. All these things I have described are what personally brings me a certain level of rest, fun, and sometimes even peace. If you were Marie Kondo, you would say these are things that “spark joy” in my life.

But as I am thinking about the concept of finding rest and peace this festive season, I can’t help but be reminded of a couple of verses I came across in the Bible a few days back. Because while there is nothing wrong with recreational activities and doing things that we enjoy, true lasting peace and rest are not found in those places. I have to remind myself that true rest is found in a Person.

Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28 (NKJV)

While I had a great time at the National Gallery, I no longer feel the “good vibes” I got from there six days later. However, if you ask me right now if I still feel rested and at peace, my answer would be a resounding “Yes”. Because my rest is not found in circumstances, but in Christ. Think about it – if circumstances can give you rest, then circumstances can also take away your rest.

But if our rest is found in the God of peace, who promises to never leave us, then we will have the peace of God that will be always present despite what kind of day we are having.

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 (NKJV)

The peace of God is something that transcends situations and happenings in our lives. Even when it shouldn’t make sense to have peace in a certain moment, the peace of God can still be present. It surpasses understanding, and can guard our hearts and minds from negativity. It’s not just a peace that floats around, waiting to be dispelled. It is a strong peace – a shield that defends.

This week, apart from all the feasting and family bonding, let’s find time every day to be with God, shall we? He will give us a peace on the outside, but also peace from the inside out. And this peace will not just give us rest from work, but it will give us rest to work. We will have strength to run towards our goals again. Just like what my pastor has proclaimed, I believe this year, we will have rest from petty fights, battles with “enemies” and even personal struggles.

We will have peace with people and peace with ourselves. This will be a time when we will have a peace to build. A peace to build what? A peace to build relationships with our family & friends. A peace to build up our finances. A peace in our health to build up fitness. A peace to build up ourselves in faith and in our walk with God. Last but not least, a peace to build ourselves up for the future.

Alright, it’s time for me to go fill my belly with CNY goodies. I wish you peace & rest in 2019 and a Happy Chinese New Year.

Thank you for reading. Peace out.

Why I Think Spider-Man: Far From Home is NOT a Spoiler for Avengers: Endgame

Alright, I assume that most people reading this already knows about the Marvel Cinematic Universe or at least the Avengers films in general. So I will spare no time for introductions and jump right into why I think the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer spoils probably nothing about Avengers: Endgame.

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I’ve been thinking about the Far From Home trailer since it was released last week. A lot of people liked it, are hyped about the movie, but are also concerned about what it means for Endgame. We all know that at the end of Infinity War (spoiler alert), Peter Park, along with many of the heroes disintegrated into dust and faded away from existence. Nick Fury and Maria Hill were also shown to be victims of this in a post-credits scene.

Moviegoers were left to presume that these characters have died and were wiped out together with half of all living creatures in the world. This made Infinity War‘s sequel – Endgame highly anticipated as fans just couldn’t wait to find out how the remaining Avengers are going to fix or undo Thanos’ destruction. In fact, it was still a mystery whether they do so or not.

This kind of changed last week with the release of the trailer for Spider-Man: Far From Home. It is known that Far From Home is going to be set after the events of Endgame and will kick off Phase 4 of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That poses a problem because we now know that Peter Parker, his friends, Nick Fury, Maria Hill all survived/came back to life.

It kinda tells us how Endgame is going to play out – or does it?

First of all, I trust the people at Marvel and Sony. Ever since Avengers: Infinity War, I am convinced that not everything shown in trailers are going to be in the actual movie itself. It is highly unlikely, but what if the scenes we have seen so far in the Far From Home trailer aren’t going to be part of the movie? Even if my optimism is misplaced, and the trailer does eventually prove to have spoiled certain scenes, character developments and plot points in the upcoming films, I believe these details will not be important.

What do I mean by that? I mean that these so called “spoilers” that people are talking about from the trailer will not reveal the most important plot points or key moments in Endgame. Hence, even if we have watched the Far From Home trailer, it will not ruin or take away from our enjoyment of the Avengers film.

Just think about Spider-Man: Homecoming. Sure, there were things that I wished wasn’t shown in its trailers – like how Tony intervened Peter’s heroic attempts. But that eventually still did nothing to diminish my positive experience of the movie (spoiler alert). Some of the biggest twists and moments for me turned out to be the reveal of Vulture’s true identity as Liz’s father, Peter’s journey as a hero without his suit, and even how Pepper showed up at the end.

Now, recall Avengers: Infinity War. The trailers were stitched together in such a clever way and even included scenes not in the film. That gave fans a general idea of what the movie was going to be like, revealing certain information, yet doing so without giving away the important parts of the movie.

For example, fans could guess from the trailers that Thor was going to forge Stormbreaker. You could say that was a spoiler! However, so many people still enjoyed Infinity War and see it as one of the best superhero films of all time. Why was that so? Because though we sort of knew that Stormbreaker was going to be forged, we didn’t know how it was going to be forged with Groot’s arm. We didn’t know that Thor was going to make an epic entrance into Wakanda, eventually driving his powerful new axe into Thanos’ chest, yet still failing to save the universe.

A lot of us enjoy movies not just because we don’t know what is going to happen, but how it is going to happen. The best stories and plots aren’t just those that present to us scenario after scenario, but brings us through a thought-provoking, unexpected and beautiful process of getting from one point in the narrative to another.

And that is why I think the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer or even the fact we know the movie exists, is not a spoiler for Avengers: Endgame. Because while we now know that some characters made it out of Endgame, it is only a snapshot and preview of its real story. A real spoiler is one that tells us something way too important, like a twist or a turning point in the narrative that would reveal how things are going to play out.

And honestly, the possibilities are endless. We only know that there is a Spider-Man film set after Endgame, and Spider-Man and some allies are going to be in it. How do we know for sure that they do get resurrected and return from The Snap? With recent speculations about time travel apparently being a huge part of Endgame, how do we know for sure that Spider-Man: Far From Home isn’t set on an alternate timeline where The Snap didn’t happen at all? For all we know, that could be why everything and everyone seems so normal in the Spider-Man trailer, like as if not half of everyone just disappeared and reappeared. Everyone is like “Oh, Let’s move on with life!”

Man, I hope I didn’t just spoil myself. LOL.

Anyway, until April comes and the real, final cut of Avengers: Endgame is released in its entirety and we see something from that, nothing is a spoiler. In fact, nothing can be a spoiler for any film unless we believe it is one.

p.s. Jake Gyllenhaal as Mysterio is the coolest Marvel villain to date. Change my mind.