Tech Re­views

Animation Magazine - - Opportunities -

I draw sto­ry­boards. I draw them a lot. I draw them for vis­ual ef­fects. I draw them for short films. I draw them for an­i­ma­tion projects. I even draw them for pro­to­typ­ing soft­ware and pipe­line tools.

I’ve used mul­ti­ple types of sto­ry­board­ing pro­grams, but a lot of them might be a lit­tle more ro­bust than you need — and they still re­quire you to fall back on more tra­di­tional meth­ods when it comes to manag­ing and re­view­ing boards with clients and teams.

Bo­ords is an on­line sub­scrip­tion ser­vice that sort of puts Sto­ry­board Pro and Base­camp into the same room. It’s not meant to make you a bet­ter sto­ry­board artist, but rather to or­ga­nize and cre­atively col­lab­o­rate with others on and present your project to.

The in­ter­face is light and friendly, de­signed for ease of use. It does have draw­ing tools within the pack­age, but for my own style, I’d pre­fer to work via the op­tion of up­load­ing pre­vi­ously cre­ated boards (ei­ther dig­i­tally or — God for­bid! — with pen­cil and pa­per) and keep the draw­ing tools more for team and client an­no­ta­tions and notes. And on that note it would be fan­tas­tic to have notes and draw­ing tools in the same in­ter­face for ease of an­no­ta­tions. Lay­ers would be cool, too. But, I’m get­ting a lit­tle ahead of my­self. Once you have a ver­sion of the boards you and your team love, you can share the boards ei­ther through a URL link or you can ex­port a pre­sen­ta­tion PDF that you can tai­lor de­sign for your com­pany.

Over­all, I like the idea, de­sign and ex­e­cu­tion. I have a feel­ing that they have plans to bol­ster the toolset as they get feed­back and grow. And rang­ing from $12 per month for oc­ca­sional board­ers and up­wards as you add more col­lab­o­ra­tors, the fea­tures are def­i­nitely worth it.

The Hewlett-Packard ZBook se­ries has been a pop­u­lar choice for a broad range of in­dus­tries. NASA de­cided on the 15-inch ZBook to send up to the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion and, if any­one is more wor­ried about re­li­a­bil­ity, porta­bil­ity and weight than NASA, I don’t know who that is. But we aren’t launch­ing things into space. We’re just mak­ing art. How­ever, some­times our art needs a bit more fire­power than the stan­dard lap­top.

HP re­leased the G4 se­ries of their ZBook Mo­bile Work­sta­tion in all of its fla­vors: 14u/15u (the thin guys), Stu­dio (the all-around guy), and the 15-inch and 17-inch full-per­for­mance ZBooks (the work­horses). We’ll fo­cus on the last two.

One great thing about the new G4 line is that ev­ery­thing in­ter­nally has been lev­eled up, but the pro­file of the body has re­mained the same. The CPUs are seventh gen­er­a­tion In­tel and Xeon pro­ces­sors and the GPUs can now ei­ther be AMD Radeon- P r o WX4170 or NVIDI A M1200, up to a whop­ping P5000 w i th 16GB of RAM (for the 17-inch ZBook). And both ma­chines can be brought up to 64GB of DDR4 RAM. All-in-all, enough power to pro­vide real-time VR demos.

Like I men­tioned, the pro­file of the body hasn’t changed and has main­tained a sur­face that al­most feels soft. But there have been some body al­ter­ations. HP has in­cor­po­rated tool-less ac­cess for the bat­tery and the hard drives, which makes swap­ping disks quick and easy. And with four drive ports — a cou­ple M.2s and a cou­ple 2.5-inch slots you can pack in 4 TBs into the 17-inch and 3 TB for the 15-inch — two slots could be taken up by 1 TB Tur­boDrives for that ex­tra boost of drive-ac­cess speed. And as far as the bat­tery goes, HP has made it so the 16-hour bat­tery life is quickly ac­ces­si­ble. They have some­how made it so you can have a 50 per­cent charge within a half hour!

HP has also kicked up the se­cu­rity on the ZBooks. On top of fin­ger­print and mul­ti­ple-stage lo­gins, there is some­thing called SureS­tart, which is a BIOS level se­cu­rity. It has been get­ting more pop­u­lar for hack­ers and pur­vey­ors of mal­ware to al­ter the ac­tual BIOS, af­fect­ing things on the sys­tem even be­fore the op­er­at­ing sys­tem can boot up. So HP has put in a re­dun­dant BIOS sys­tem, which mon­i­tors the boot time BIOS for unau­tho­rized changes in real time, and can be used to flush and re­fresh the pri­mary BIOS — even while re­tain­ing user pref­er­ence.

I re­ally love these ma­chines. They run more ex­pen­sive than the run-of-the-mill lap­tops that you use for your email and brows­ing. But that’s be­cause they are de­signed for more. It’s made for those who need a sub­stan­tial amount of power while on the run or work­ing away from their pri­mary work­sta­tion. Yes, I want to be able to run Hou­dini sims on a lap­top. Who wouldn’t!

I’m al­ways en­thralled by in­no­va­tions tak­ing place in dis­ci­plines that have been do­ing things in par­tic­u­lar ways for so long. And I say “so long” in a way that im­plies that 3D an­i­ma­tion has been around for SO LONG. It hasn’t. So, that said, there are al­ways places that can be made more ef­fi­cient. One of those places is in how char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion is ac­com­plished.

If you are a work­ing an­i­ma­tor and have had the chance to work with some­one who is com­ing from the 2D an­i­ma­tion of yore — like Glen Keane, for ex­am­ple — you will be fa­mil­iar with them draw­ing on your frames to in­di­cate sil­hou­ettes and ac­tion lines. Well, what if you could kinda an­i­mate like that?

I can only imag­ine that is what was go­ing through the heads of the de­vel­op­ers at Moka Stu­dios when they con­ceived MoSketch, their char­ac­ter an­i­ma­tion tool that at­tempts to bring some flu­id­ity to the process of 3D an­i­ma­tion.

See, tra­di­tion­ally, we go through and — with a com­bi­na­tion of for­ward and in­verse kine­mat­ics — we pose our char­ac­ters at cer­tain points in time. But fre­quently, that re­quires tweak­ing a whole bunch of bones or con­trollers, and it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily feel “nat­u­ral.”

MoSketch al­lows you to se­lect a chain of bones in your char­ac­ter and then draw the pose you’d like those bones to form. You click on the par­ent bone and use hotkeys to ad­just how many bones you are in­flu­enc­ing, and then sketch the path you want the bones to fol­low. Keyframe those po­si­tions and then re­fine — ei­ther through ad­di­tional sketch­ing, or you can switch to us­ing tra­di­tional FK/ IK trans­la­tions by sim­ply click­ing the par­ent bones and hold­ing — which gives you a stan­dard trans­form han­dle.

The up-down in­flu­ence of the bones is also handy, be­cause you can ei­ther go from the base “up” like from the shoul­der to the el­bow, so you just bend the arm. But you can re­duce in­flu­ence from the ends down. So, you could ro­tate the el­bow and keep your shoul­der and your fin­gers locked into place. The IK so­lu­tions are, in­ter­est­ingly enough, ac­cel­er­ated us­ing the GPU.

Once you have keyframes, you can switch to your curve edi­tor, which ap­pears as a HUD us­ing the en­tire screen real es­tate, which I haven’t see much of ex­cept for an­other unique an­i­ma­tion tool called Nukey­gara. It al­lows you to watch the an­i­ma­tion changes be­hind the curves as you al­ter the key po­si­tions on the curve.

MoSketch does have the abil­ity to ex­port your an­i­ma­tion back out through FBX files, so that you can ap­ply them back onto the orig­i­nal skele­ton of your char­ac­ter. So, in the­ory, you could use the an­i­ma­tion in a work­flow out­side of MoSketch, but in my ex­pe­ri­ence, the com­plex­ity of full-blown pro­duc­tion rigs climb into the strato­sphere. So it’s hard to pre­dict how it could work in larger pipe­lines.

That said, I love the feel, I love the con­cept, and I love how quickly you can block out per­for­mances. I see big things hap­pen­ing for it if there was some way the mo­tion could be em­bed­ded into your stan­dard an­i­ma­tion pack­ages.

Non­pho­to­re­al­is­tic ren­der­ers have been around for as long as we’ve been try­ing to take 3D ob­jects and smash them back into 2D space, in an at­tempt to make the art­work look “tra­di­tional.” And since we started, those ren­der­ers just keep­ing get­ting bet­ter and more ro­bust.

PSOFT Pen­cil+4, as a plugin for 3ds Max is one of those op­tions. And it’s a kind of ex­cit­ing op­tion con­sid­er­ing that this is its first up­grade in seven years. And what have they been do­ing in that time?

Well, for starters, they in­te­grated the ren­der tool set to work with Max’s Ni­trous ren­der, for real-time re­sults at near fi­nal qual­ity, with not just flat cel-shaded like ren­der­ing, but also cal­cu­lat­ing lights and shad­ows.

And that Max in­te­gra­tion doesn’t stop there. The in­ter­face de­sign has been re­vis­ited to in­cor­po­rate the toolset into the UX of

con­tin­ued from page44 Max it­self, al­low­ing for a much easier tran­si­tion into us­ing the new tool.

And to main­tain the theme of Max in­te­gra­tion, PSOFT sup­ports Max’s XRef sys­tem, al­low­ing you to not only pop­u­late scenes with tons of ob­jects, but to take ad­van­tage of be­ing able to swap out a model for an­other model — with­out looks your draw­ing set­tings. PSOFT deals with ma­te­rial in­ter­pen­e­tra­tion so that you get shapes that look like they ap­pear in front of others. Not such a big deal when ren­der­ing with a pho­to­re­al­is­tic ren­derer. But non­pho­to­re­al­is­tic ren­der­ers have to con­tend with out­line of shapes and con­tours and how to main­tain a con­sis­tency. These in­ter­pen­e­tra­tions can fre­quently lead to un­nat­u­ral look­ing ren­der­ers.

Part of that is­sue is re­solved by new edge-de­tec­tion al­go­rithms that look to see how in­ter­nal and outer edges are work­ing in 3D space, and how best to present them.

But the ac­cu­racy and rigid­ity of the 3D world isn’t some­thing you want all the time. You are try­ing to cre­ate a dif­fer­ent aes­thetic af­ter all. So PSOFT of­fers some unique ob­ject mod­i­fiers to de­form, bend and ex­ag­ger­ate the model be­yond what you would nor­mally ex­pect — even fur­ther at­tempt­ing to break that tell-tale tie with CG ren­ders.

Oh! And PSOFT Pen­cil+ is now multi-threaded, pro­vid­ing ex­po­nen­tially faster ren­ders than be­fore. And who doesn’t want that?

It sells for 60,480 yen, which is roughly $550. Not a su­per cheap plug-in, but not the most ex­pen­sive ei­ther. And if NPR is your jam, you may want to check it out.

Some­times Pho­to­shop just isn’t what you need. And that’s kinda say­ing a lot since Pho­to­shop is the de facto stan­dard for cre­at­ing and ma­nip­u­lat­ing im­agery. But some­times you want to be a lit­tle more cre­ative. Some­times you yearn for paint­ing with phys­i­cal paint. Re­belle 2 pro­vides these things (to an ex­tent), through its sys­tem of fluid-based brushes, paints and can­vases. Com­pound­ing on the ini­tial watercolor en­gine that was part of Re­belle’s first out­ing, ad­di­tional brushes and medi­ums bring a level of re­al­ism that just feels real. You can se­lect tra­di­tional wa­ter­col­ors, or maybe acrylics are your in­ter­est. Or maybe you do want to go the wet paint route — you can choose pas­tels, chalk and other dry medium. You can even wet down the can­vas or dry ar­eas. Each vari­a­tion on the wet­ness cre­ates dif­fer­ent re­sponses in the medium, and give you dif­fer­ent re­sults.

Re­belle 2 has added a bunch of new brushes to the kit, and the abil­ity to com­bine fea­tures and save brand new cus­tom brushes. Each of them has the abil­ity to be ac­cel­er­ated through the GPU.

Ad­di­tion­ally, you have a set of sten­cils that re­act to both the brushes and the can­vas to give you an in­ter­est­ing in­ter­ac­tive ex- pe­ri­ence as you wet down a can­vas through the sten­cil and see how the paints be­neath be­gin to re­spond.

Re­belle 2 does sup­port PSD files from Pho­to­shop, so you can move your files back and forth with­out hav­ing to flat­ten the art­work be­fore mov­ing. Top that with speed op­ti­miza­tions, mul­ti­touch op­tions for tablets, and a price tag un­der $100, and Re­belle 2 is a great artis­tic tool for pro­fes­sional and hob­by­ist alike.

Plan­et­side Soft­ware re­leased Ter­ra­gen 4.0 last Oc­to­ber, so I’m a bit slow on the up­take. How­ever, with a point up­grade to 4.1, I felt it was an op­por­tune mo­ment to hit on some of the advances that hap­pened from TG3 to TG4.

First on the list is speed and re­spon­sive­ness. TG4 takes ad­van­tage of In­tel’s Em­bree ray-trac­ing core to drive its new pro­gres­sive ray-trace pre­view. In­stead of the tra­di­tional mi­crop­oly buildup, we can a quick pix­e­lated ver­sion of our view with all of the bells and whis­tles ac­ti­vated (if you like), pro­vid­ing im­me­di­ate feed­back for color and com­po­si­tion de­ci­sions. The longer you let the frame cook, the more de­tail is ren­dered. This pro­vides fast it­er­a­tions as you tweak light­ing, shaders, cam­eras, etc.

But, then, when you have some­thing you like and hit ren­der, ev­ery­thing un­der the hood has been op­ti­mized to give you sub­stan­tial speed im­prove­ments over TG3 — even tak­ing into con­sid­er­a­tion that more com­plex math is at play.

New multi-scat­ter cloud al­go­rithms have been im­ple­mented for more re­al­is­tic light cal­cu­la­tions with and around cloud sys­tems. These are con­trolled by pa­ram­e­ters in the at­mos­phere nodes, and can eas­ily be setup with a quick set of pre­sets for re­al­ity-based cloud sys­tems like cir­rus and stra­tocu­mu­lus and other clouds with sci­ency names. Plus, like many other pre­sets, you can pur­chase cloud pre­set packs from sources like www.lucbianco.fr.

To bring the at­mos­phere to an even higher level than with sim­ply pretty clouds, there is the in­cor­po­ra­tion of light ab­sorp­tion through ozone. It may sound like an in­sub­stan­tial thing when it fits into one sen­tence. But ozone and how it af­fects sun­light is what makes ev­ery­thing in the world look like it does — and when you’re in the busi­ness of cre­at­ing worlds, it’s kind of a thing.

The cam­era has re­ceived a few up­dates as far as lens ef­fects go. It’s not so much im­prove­ments on the scenes them­selves as much as how we per­ceive those scenes through the cam­era lens. What’s great is that the post ef­fects are tak­ing in­for­ma­tion from the high dy­namic range that Ter­ra­gen is gen­er­at­ing in its ren­ders and ap­ply­ing the post ef­fects to that — which takes into con­sid­er­a­tion the light source, spec­u­lar re­flec­tiv­ity, at­mo­spheric scat­ter­ing, color and oc­clu­sion (like when the sun move be­hind clouds, moun­tains, or tree leaves.)

Shaders have been added and cur­rent ones im­proved upon, and all of them are in­cor­po­rated into the pow­er­ful node-based sys­tem that drives all of Ter­ra­gen.

For the 4.1 up­grade, Plan­et­side is throw­ing in some pa­ram­e­ters for your EXR out­put so you can save 16-bit or 32-bit files. Some new shaders are be­ing in­cor­po­rated. Some in­ter­face and nam­ing tweaks. But most of the heavy lift­ing has been go­ing into the cloud sys­tems and at­mos­phere to op­ti­mize qual­ity and ren­der times.

Ter­ra­gen and al­ways has been su­per pow­er­ful. The work­flow is a bit dif­fer­ent than other 3D pro­grams, so it has a steeper learn­ing curve. It’s also a bit pipe­line un­friendly. Mov­ing things out of Ter­ra­gen into other pack­ages is less than kind. How­ever, that said, a great deal of the re­al­ism of Ter­ra­gen lies in the ren­derer — and if you move your stuff out to an­other pro­gram? Well, you kinda lose that.

For fu­ture up­grades, I would love to see some sup­port for OpenVDB — both im­port and ex­port. [ Todd Sheri­dan Perry is a vis­ual-ef­fects su­per­vi­sor and dig­i­tal artist who has worked on fea­tures in­clud­ing The Lord of the Rings: The Two Tow­ers, Speed Racer, 2012, Fi­nal Des­ti­na­tion 5 and Avengers: Age of Ul­tron. You can reach him at todd@tea­spoon­vfx.com.

50 years later, the Amer­i­can adap­ta­tion of the anime clas­sic con­tin­ues to ex­cite view­ers with zany an­tics and rac­ing thrills. By Charles Solomon.

When Speed Racer de­buted in syn­di­ca­tion in Amer­ica in Septem­ber 1967, few view­ers re­al­ized they were watch­ing a Ja­panese pro­gram. With their round heads, broad chins, wide mouths and small eyes, Speed (Peter Fer­nan­dez) and his girl­friend Trixie (Corinne Orr) looked more like char­ac­ters from a 1960s Hanna-Bar­bera Sat­ur­day morn­ing se­ries than re­cent anime he­roes and hero­ines.

Based on the manga by Tat­suo Yoshida, the an­i­mated Mach GoGoGo had de­buted in Ja­pan ear­lier in the year. Re­port­edly in­spired by the Amer­i­can films Viva Las Ve­gas and Goldfin­ger, Yoshida took Elvis’ pom­padour and neck scarf for his race car driver-hero Speed and the gad­gets in James Bond’s As­ton Martin for the Mach 5. The de­sign­ers for the an­i­mated se­ries must have stud­ied Arts & Ar­chi­tec­ture mag­a­zine as well as Road & Track, as the Rac­ers live in a sleek mid-cen­tury modern house with ab­stract art on the walls.

Eigh­teen- year- old Speed Racer (“Go Mi­fune” in Ja­pan) wants to be­come a pro­fes­sional race-car driver, but his fa­ther, au­to­mo­tive en­gi­neer “Pops” Racer (Jack Cur­tis), “blows a gas­ket” at the idea. Pops, who de­signed the amaz­ing Mach 5, re­lents when Speed demon­strates his ex­tra­or­di­nary driv­ing skills. He em­barks on a se­ries of fan­tas­tic ad­ven­tures that pit him and his friends against Skull Dug­gery, Snake Oiler, Mr. Wi­ley, Mr. Van Ruf­fle and as­sorted other bad guys.

Speed and his friends race against a mad­man’s ro­bot-con­trolled car in “Race for Re­venge.” Trixie, who usu­ally helps Speed by ar­riv­ing in a he­li­copter or plane at a strate­gic mo­ment, gets jeal­ous when Speed pays too much at­ten­tion to the pretty ti­tle char­ac­ter in “The Girl Dare­devil.” In “The Des­per­ate Desert Race,” the gang is taken pris­oner by rebel army leader Ali ben Schemer, a char­ac­ter who may of­fend Arab-Amer­i­can view­ers. The ad­ven­tures of­ten go a bit over the top: Dur­ing the race on Saw Moun­tain, Speed and Skull leave the race course and end up cling­ing to the lip

of a vol­cano.

Su­nao Katabuchi fo­cuses on the or­di­nar­i­ness of one Ja­panese cou­ple’s lives as the specter of war looms in the award-win­ning By Charles Solomon.

Ear­lier this year, Su­nao Katabuchi’s in­ti­mate World War II fam­ily drama In This Cor­ner of the World won the Ja­pan Acad­emy Prize for best an­i­mated film, beat­ing Makoto Shinkai’s record-break­ing Your Name. Katabuchi al­ready en­joyed a distin­guished ca­reer in an­i­ma­tion, hav­ing worked on such pop­u­lar ti­tles as Card­cap­tor Sakura, Mag­i­cal Shop­ping Ar­cade Abenobashi and Sher­lock Hound, as well as serv­ing as as­sis­tant direc­tor on Hayao Miyazaki’s beloved Kiki’s De­liv­ery Ser­vice.

With the help of trans­la­tor Junko Goda, Katabuchi dis­cussed In This Cor­ner of the World dur­ing a re­cent visit to Los An­ge­les, where he screened the film and an­swered ques­tions at Anime Expo, prior to the film’s re­lease in the­aters and on disc in Amer­ica.

Based on Fu­miyo Kouno’s manga, which will be pub­lished in English this fall, Cor­ner tells the story of Suzu, an artis­tic but dif­fi­dent young woman, who moves to a small vil­lage near Hiroshima when she mar­ries the gen­tle Shusaku.

Kouno’s care­fully de­picted de­tails of daily life ex­cited Katabuchi. “The scenes in the manga of Suzu mak­ing a ki­mono into the mom­pei pants women wore dur­ing the war and gath­er­ing wild plants for din­ner made me re­ally want to make this film,” he says. “But Ms. Kouno also shows the bat­tle­ship Yam­ato in the back­ground. The seem­ingly or­di­nary bridge Suzu and Shusaku stand on while they talk was the tar­get for the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. The shadow of war em­pha­sized the pre­cious­ness of ev­ery­day life — cook­ing, mend­ing, gar­den­ing.”

“I sent Ms. Kouno a let­ter, ask­ing per­mis­sion to an­i­mate In This Cor­ner of the World,” Katabuchi says. “It turned out she had watched my TV se­ries Meiken Lassie [based on Eric Knight’s pop­u­lar novel Lassie Come Home (1996)], and the fea­ture Mai Mai Mir­a­cle (2008). Like This Cor­ner of the World, they both de­pict lit­tle snip­pets of ev­ery­day life. When she re­ceived the let­ter, she re­al­ized not only had she been watch­ing my work, I had been watch­ing hers. So she said the film was prob­a­bly fated to be.”

Be­cause In This Cor­ner of the World fo­cuses so closely on daily life in ru­ral Ja­pan dur­ing the 1930s and ’40s, Katabuchi felt it was es­sen­tial to present that life as ac­cu­rately as pos­si­ble, which re­quired more de­tailed re-

Fol­low­ing its world pre­miere at Comic-Con and a one-night theatri­cal re­lease through Fathom Events, Warner Bros. An­i­ma­tion and DC En­ter­tain­ment’s lat­est orig­i­nal fea­ture comes home at last!

In this ad­ven­ture, Poi­son Ivy (voiced by Paget Brew­ster) and Ja­son Woodrue “The Floronic Man” (Kevin Michael Richard­son) hatch a plan to save the planet — which ne­ces­si­tates the elim­i­na­tion of

and other va­ca­tions from re­al­ity. By Mercedes Mil­li­gan.

much of hu­man­ity. To save the species, Bat­man (reprised by Kevin Con­roy) and Nightwing (Loren Lester) en­list Ivy’s BFF and fre­quent part­ner-in-crime, Har­ley Quinn (Melissa Rauch). Bat­man’s skills and pa­tience are put to the ul­ti­mate test by un­pre­dictable, un­trust­wor­thy Har­ley along the wind­ing route of their road trip to save the hu­man race.

Sam Liu ( The Killing Joke) di­rected from an orig­i­nal story by Bruce Timm. Blu­ray Combo Pack ($24.98), Ul­tra HD BD Bak­shi as be­grudg­ing big brother Tim, Jimmy Kim­mel and Lisa Kudrow as Tim’s par­ents, Steve Buscemi as the re­venge-ob­sessed head of Puppy Co., and Tobey Maguire nar­rat­ing as grown-up Tim.

Also avail­able on Dig­i­tal, Blu-ray ($36.99), BD 3D and 4K ($44.99), these bun­dles of home en­ter­tain­ment joy come with over 30 min­utes of ex­tras: The Boss Baby and Tim’s Trea­sure Hunt Through find a leg­endary lost vil­lage be­fore the evil wiz­ard Gargamel (Rainn Wil­son) does — and dis­cover the big­gest se­cret in Smurf his­tory. The voice cast also fea­tures Michelle Ro­driguez, El­lie Kem­per, Ariel Win­ter, Ju­lia Roberts, and Mandy Patinkin as Papa Smurf.

Bring the flick to your own mush­room on DVD and Dig­i­tal and you get film­maker com­men­tary, Meghan Trainor’s “I’m A Lady” mu­sic video, The Emoji Movie sneak peek, and fea­turettes Kids at Heart! The shows how far fea­ture an­i­ma­tion has pro­gressed be­yond The Big Stu­dios.

The ac­tion cen­ters on Spark (voiced by Jace Nor­man), a wise­crack­ing teen liv­ing on an aban­doned planet with his friends Chunk (Rob deLeeuw) and Vix (Jes­sica Biel). To stop the plan­e­tary over­lord Gen­eral Zhong (A.C. Peter­son) from un­leash­ing a space kraken to wipe out the uni­verse, Spark must un-

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