Cortex Academy Review

Screen Shot 2020-02-08 at 9.06.52 AM

AKA: N/A
Genre: Comedy
Year Released: 2004

Distributor: Unlicensed

Origin: France
Running Time: 4 minutes
Rating/Recommended Audience: 12+
Related Films/Series: N/A

For Fans Of: Inside Out, Cells at Work, Minions
Notes:
-Cortex Academy is streaming on YouTube.

-Spoilers will be mentioned in this review. Part of this involves a controversy associated with this short film.

-Special thanks to dbmoviesblog for letting me know about this short film.
Fun Facts:

-The dialogue is based on an audio skit from French-Canadian comedian/musician Francois Perusse. He’s from Quebec City, QC, has his own radio show, and he even got to work with the Cirque du Soleil for their Beatles tribute show.

-One of the co-directors is Cedric Jeanne. He also got to animate a Disney movie with Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas. Speaking of Disney…

-Controversy Alert: Pixar? Are you serious? I thought you did original things, but much like your parent company, you decide to steal from a foreign animated film. Which movie has been accused of stealing from Cortex Academy? Inside Out! We’ll talk about it in the review proper.


I get to be immersed in short French animations again. It’s been a fascinating find discovering shorts of various kinds. Despite having a background in film during my university days and with my autodidact leanings since starting this blog back in 2017, I am still learning about different aspects of the cinematic art form. Things such as directors, countries I never thought I would see movies from (this even goes back to my first review with the Jordanian film Theeb!), controversies I never knew, and genres I never were exposed to all seeped into my mind. I wanted to know more outside of whatever the mainstream gave me, so I was able to pick a few things from blogs I’ve been checking out.

Of course, I would have to open my mind for something I never expected.

Cortex Academy takes place inside someone’s mind. Instead of looking like a typical brain, there’s a high-tech background and mainly revolves around a control center or sorts with monitors, control panels, and intercoms. Various aspects of the brain and psyche are shown in multi-colored anthropomorphic forms such as the Cervical Center as the leader, Vocal Cords, Emotion, Reason, Judgment, and so many more all have to work together inside a person’s head. This particular case involves someone who may or may not be cheating on this person.

Ooh, this was a quirky little short film of sorts. The world-building worked very well in such a short period of time. The Cervical Center is busy calling out everyone to assess and react to the situation in hilarious ways. He orders on what to sound like to the Vocal Cords, contacting Reason to mediate between others, knowing what to feel with Emotion, and asking Judgment on how to deal with this individual who might be a philander. That was funny with the fast-paced humor and zingers thrown in. I do think Vocal Cords was very hilarious like how he would sing when he’s being called before switching to a normal voice. The sound design was creative like how the Cervical Center tells the heart to increase while EDM plays to represent the raising heartbeat which was very creative. I’m sure fans of Cells at Work would appreciate the anthropomorphic take on neural functions talking to each other and reacting. Even though things get crude at times, it never gets to Family Guy or South Park level of raunchiness which was fine.

Okay, so we have this CGI animated film that takes place in someone’s mind, anthropomorphic aspects of the brain and feelings, done from the perspective of these synapses reacting to a human’s condition, and they all happen to be color-coded. Wouldn’t it be crazy if a major studio were to make a kid-friendly version of that concept? Oh, wait. That would happen nine years after Cortex Academy.

Pete Docter, you just HAD to filch from France again with a movie you directed, didn’t you?

Pixar, that’s two strikes from me right now. I find out about Up ripping off Above Then Beyond, and now this? Why does the freaking Disney corporation steal so much and get away with it? I know Cortex Academy is more about brainwaves than different emotions, but the concept is still there. You could make a case of Emotion (the character) being the original Anger if you really think about it. Not only that, but Pixar was actually taken to court by child psychologist Denise Daniels who is the creator of an educational toy/multimedia series called The Moodsters because she believed that Inside Out ripped off her creation, too! Seriously, just do a Google search on The Moodsters and you’ll even see a related search pop up about this famous CGI movie. This is just insane. The court case was dismissed in 2018. This is so bogus since no one has any of that Disney cheddar to take on Mickey Mouse. Now, is Inside Out as shameless of a ripoff compared to Up as far as Pixar is concerned or about two certain Disney flicks that stole from the respective anime series Nadia: Secret of Blue Water or Kimba the White Lion? I’d say not as much especially compared to that copycat film from 1994 (Is any movie this blatant of film plagiarism as this one?). Still, I know Pixar knows better.



Cortex Academy could use some surgery. Much like Above Then Beyond, this has aged CGI which hasn’t held up as well. It is blocky and doesn’t coalesce well with the environments. Besides the hoopla about the person cheating, I don’t know anything about the person besides how her mind operates. I wish we could learn more. Like some “real life” footage of the person talking to people (funny enough, Inside Out would’ve ripped this movie off even MORE if that was the case) to see how they operate. You can create a much larger short film than just something under four minutes. Also, one minute of that was the credits which was very disappointing. Yes, there’s still animation that happens, but there should’ve been more story and comedy going on here. I was also not a fan of the generic disco track as an ending theme.

This little French short did elicit a few laughs out of me. The concept was funny as well as creative. I do wish it was longer though. Yes, I did hear about Cortex Academy because of the Inside Out plagiarism controversy which I didn’t know was actually a thing. In any other case, I’d give this an average review, but because this got ripped off, I’ll be gracious to give it an extra point. It’s a painless four minutes, but it could’ve been better.


Adjustable Rating System:
Add 1-2 points if you like animated comedies.
Subtract 1-3 points if you really like Inside Out.

Pros:
-Creative world-building
-Funny moments
-Good sound design

Cons:


-Aged CGI animation
-Lack of development with who the person is
-Way too short

Final Score: 6/10 points

Content Warning: Despite the frequent comparisons with Inside Out, I would recommend Cortex Academy for older children and up. There’s some swearing, innuendo, cheating as a plot point and direct comment about sex (the word “shagging” is used).

-Curtis Monroe

All photos property of their respective owners and used under US “Fair Use” laws. Cortex Academy is property of Frederic Mayer and Cedric Jeanne. The screenshot is from YouTube and property of Frederic Mayer and Cedric Jeanne.

9 comments

  1. Delightful little short you dug up, glad you’re given some creative work some attention. Ripoff, depends on how you see fit but in terms of copyright infringement I might have to politely disagree with you there. Above Then Beyond would never be ruled copyright infringement because there is nothing similar besides the idea of “an old person ascends in a hot air balloon house” and ideas can’t be copyrighted. The tone is different, all the characters are different, and the short doesn’t even have a story to copy.

    There has to be substantial portions stolen that the conclusion almost has to be that nobody could have came up with this without having seen the original. If ideas could be illegally infringed then Kingsman infringes on James Bond, Knives Out on Sherlock Holmes, and Cells at Work on Osmosis Jones.

    I really don’t buy at all that Inside Out ripped off this short personifying emotions Mr. Men & Little Miss did it, and Spongebob had a gag where his brain was a metaphoric cooperate office should Disney be paying them all royalties? I feel like “ooh” similarities makes for great buzz articles but at some point all it’s going to do is harm lower-end creators who are going to have to defend their work at fight this untrue perception that a couple of screenshots is enough to prove someone guilty of theft.

    Nadia I don’t know anything about and the Kimba discourse is kind of a mess. I think you should consider maybe looking at YMS Highlights has a video researching all of the Kimba commentary on YouTube and it’s interesting. I would be interested to see what you have to say as a lot of the pro-Kimba side blows visual similarities out of proportion (certain animals and occurrences happening in the jungle isn’t really all that damning, a high school drama having elements of: Prom, jocks, nerds, lockers, bell schedule, etc. would be considered stealing) but I do think YMS shows some bias and downplays some of the more damning stuff.

    Liked by 1 person

    • No problem. I didn’t even know about Cortex Academy until recently. I did mention how it isn’t as bad as other examples I’ve covered on this blog. With Above Then Beyond, it was concerning because the school where that animator made it had a partnership with Pixar at the time, so someone must have known about it. You’re right about ideas not being copyrightable though.

      As much as I champion originality and innovation, I hope I haven’t come across as someone who calls everything and anything a ripoff. I wouldn’t call Kingsman, Knives Out, or Cells at Work shameless clones of those aforementioned stories. Do elements mach those older works? Certainly, even if they are archetypes of sorts.

      I actually forgot about Mr. Men & Little Miss. I remember reading those books and seeing the show when I was a kid. Unlike that book series/TV show, Cortex Academy and Inside Out takes place in someone’s brain instead of an outside society. I don’t think I saw that episode (or episodes) of Spongebob, but I get what you’re saying. There are some similar concepts, but I wouldn’t say there are identical scenes much like what happened with Paprika and Kimba.

      If you want to know more about the Nadia/Atlantis case, I would strongly recommend Ashley from The Review Heap’s post about it: https://thereviewheap.home.blog/2020/01/29/nadia-the-secret-of-blue-water-fushigi-no-umi-no-nadia-nadia-vs-atlantis/

      The Kimba thing is insane. Are there some pro-Kimba fans who blow certain things out of proportion? Unfortunately, yes. It wasn’t just about having similar animals in an African environment, but how you had so many of those characters having identical roles and/or personalities (Claw and Scar being the most brutally obvious of all the character comparisons). For me, it wasn’t just about the characters, shot-for-shot scenes (Caesar’s ghost talking to a distressed Kimba was the biggest one), or even having some plot points, but you had the more incriminating things like Roy E. Disney’s 1993 Prodigy transcript, Simba drawn as a white lion in pre-production, and Disney almost banning Jungle Emperor Leo ’97 from North America via an attempted cease & desist lawsuit during the Fantasia Film Festival in 1998. Of course, The Lion King got even more tainted for me after THAT trademark issue, the Mbube/The Lion Sleeps Tonight court case, and most recently the La Maison Noir/Spirit music video comparisons. It just annoys me how Disney could get away with this, yet pay settlement money for that snowman animated short that the one Frozen trailer was similar to. That and seeing Disney fans thinking the Kimba/Lion King controversy is just a coincidence or baseless when there are so many factors that prove otherwise.

      Thanks for the comment, K. I’m glad we can have some healthy discourse about these things even if we disagree on some matters.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Yeah no probably, and no you’re not that bad that you’re pointing the finger at everything. Yeah I was wondering if for Above then Beyond if their was any connection between the directors. An unfortunate incident where it possibly a scummy thing but not illegal. It’s wild, I like the writing partner rules that if you’re telling someone what to write down then when you’re done the writer owns 100% of the copyright.

        I don’t know it’s a double-edged sword in that people should learn about copyright and not just blindly consume products, but also the language of copyright and fair use is already very loose and what people think these are is probably going to hurt like smaller book publishers or YouTubers who have to defend themselves more then megacorps like Disney which whether guilty or not are just going to settle most of these. Music copyright almost seems like it’s just an ear-test at this point and I hope videos/films don’t get this oversimplified.

        Regardless, I’m glad you’re bringing light to these lesser known works and it’s always interesting to see how concepts play out by different creators.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Sure. I hoped I didn’t come off as irrational and blinded by my passion for originality in my review. There was a connection and the director of Above Then Beyond couldn’t do anything about it even though he wasn’t going to pursue legal matters. Yeah, that is underhanded even if what they did was sound from a legal perspective.

        I certainly agree that people should pay attention to copyright and fair use. I own copyrights on my books and music. Most of my fiction projects are original, but I’ve done an adaptation of a public domain work with Sylvain: Serpent King which I based on a French fairy tale that was written centuries ago. I don’t want to see the smaller guys hurt for their unique projects they worked hard for. That makes sense about music copyright (I’m trying not to repeat myself when I reviewed The Lion’s Share with “Mbube” and how obvious the thievery was). Videos and films can certainly be more complicated. I’m not going to call Pacific Rim an Evangelion ripoff despite some similarities for example and some EVA fans need to calm down about that situation for example. It also annoys me how people can pick and choose what consists of some clone or ripoff.

        Thank you! I’m doing my best to expose my thoughts about lesser known works to everybody through this blog.

        Liked by 1 person

    • You say “Above Then Beyond would never be ruled copyright infringement because there is nothing similar besides the idea of “an old person ascends in a hot air balloon house”” – you are joking right? Have you actually SEEN the two animations? There are similar shots, scenes, characters and details. I mean, look at them – from similar TITLES to similar looking HOUSES and ROOMS inside the houses – there are so many SHOTS which are almost IDENTICAL in the two films, including “camera-angles”. You call that similarities in “just ideas”? lol I wish it was so.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Good points. I even reviewed Above Then Beyond and had a link to your article about that plagiarism controversy. I understand that the comment wasn’t towards me. The fact that the school where the animator went had a partnership with Pixar proved that someone knew about Above Then Beyond. It does make me wonder more about Cortex Academy and how Pixar figured it out.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I mean I think there’s fair speculation as to what actually happened here, but in terms of a court ruling I honestly don’t think they would rule this copyright infringement. If all it took was for two things to share similarities then to the same degree your blog post on Above Then Beyond is possibly plagiarizing Peter Sciretta’s post on slashfilm.com. That article on the short predates yours by 7 years, and it brings up the same exact points that you did: Both link/embed the short film, both share side similar shot comparisons, both share the same counterpoint of Carl’s design, you both used “inspire” in the title, and both of your logos use a film reel and have blog within your blog title. Are you a plagiarist? Of course not!

        Because if by the odd chance that you both had the same idea, there’s going to be similarities with a basic concept like “House in the sky”. Some of the “shot comparisons” are kind of silly. Because nobody could have thought of taunting someone in a getaway vehicle? Or a wide shot through soaring in the sky, is that just a natural and reasonable shot composition for something flying. Is that why there’s a similar shot in Howl’s Movie Castle, because Disney stole it from them. If having a shot of a house in the sky, with that house being old fashion with a somewhat similar interior then didn’t these both rip-off the 1983 anime Flying House.

        A lot of these comparisons ignore a lot of the reasons why they appear in both. A shot of someone relaxing in the grass is very visually representative of someone relaxing, or comfort or deep in inner thought. It’s a simple way to display the state of mind of a character is in visually. You can google search “resting on grass anime” and you’re going to get a ton of results from 100s of shows. A shot of something happening outside someone’s window while someone is oblivious, I’m sorry you can’t claim ownership of dramatic irony. It’s been done a thousand times, that’s a troupe, that’s a visual gag. That would be like saying a horror movie can’t have the killer disappear when someone looks behind them.

        If I wanted to make a flying house film. I would need to ask why would anyone do that. Introduce conflict, maybe they’re forced to do it because they’re being evicted. Why because people want to use the land for commercial reason. Why would someone go through such a drastic measure? Maybe because the house has sentimental value. Who would have sentimental value to a home an old person. What kind of home does an old person have, Victorian. How do I display this conflict visually, let’s exaggerate and make his old home in the dead center of a city under construction. Animation you deal with a lot of exaggerations, it would make sense that given the conflict the person would be really old, with a really old looking house. I don’t think this is a completely irrational that 2 people working under this premise would piece together this sort of logic and potentially create similar films.

        Maybe I should ask if you’ve seen the 2 films because I don’t remember seeing a giant exotic bird in Above the Beyond. I don’t remember a city of sky people in Up. I think you almost do both works a disservice by harping on these shallow commonalities when both offer completely different experiences, and their tones, lighting, music, messages, characters are so drastically difference that they both offer a unique experience.

        At the end of the day, I just don’t think Above then Beyond is long enough to have substantial evidence that the “written expression” of the two are too similar. Is there potentially something to maybe suspect fowl play, because of the creators history …sure. Is Disney had a history of some crooked or unsavory shit, yeah. But that’s just my two cents.

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      • Yes, I was replying to K at the Movies. Pixar and Pete Docter really make me think these days. I mean, what Pete Docter is known for? “Monsters, Inc.”, which some says took a lot of creative inspiration from 1989’s “Little Monsters” too, “Up”, we know the “inspiration” of that, “Inside Out”, that’s “Cortex” and “Soul” – well, I bet we are still to find out an inspiration for that because it is the newest release. The man is the original writer of “Toy Story”, that’s “A Christmas Toy”. Pixar made “A Bug’s Life” which is “Antz” (and both looks at each other for “inspiration”), and “Coco”? That’s “A Book of Life”. Quite a track record, and I haven’t even mentioned other thinner plagiarism claims directed at other creations.

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      • K at the Movies – I hope your misleading and cocky essay made you think better. You are completely delusional. Am I to believe that you are comparing MY article on my unpaid website that has fewer than 1000 views a month (plagiarism) to an animation that has made millions of dollars (plagiarism)? You seriously need to have your head checked, but I am most flattered by this comparison, I should say that and won’t defend my article to you because you are a nobody. I don’t think I am even in a position to argue with you about ANYTHING after that. We are talking here about creative ideas – original animation concepts. If you know anything about intellectual property, you would that – and about the differences when it comes to writing plagiarism in particular – which is SUBTANTIALLY different from article plagiarism, can you believe that? The fact that you are ignorant and completely delusional is pretty clear. And your attack on my blog article is probably pure jealousy because your own creative materials on your blog look like a pile of movie rubbish.

        You say I “plagiarised” this article? https://www.slashfilm.com/did-the-french-short-film-above-then-beyond-inspire-pixars-up/ ? It did not even scratch the surface of what I was talking in mine – do me a favour, will you – buy some eyeglasses?

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