Friday 30 December 2011

Brad Bird Joins Twitter

Briefly, the director of such animated greats as The Incredibles and Ratatouille - and more recently the live-action blockbuster, Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol - Brad Bird, has now joined Twitter.

The Academy Award winning filmmaker is joining fellow Pixarians Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich and Ed Catmull on Twitter. His username is BradBirdA113 (rather similar to mine, although he does have more license to use it) and his account can be found here.

Be sure to give him a warm welcome.

National Film Registry Gets Two New Animated Entries

Two animated films have been inducted into the National Film Registry, being recognised as being of "cultural, historical or aesthetic" importance.

This included Walt Disney's fifth animated classic, Bambi. Bambi, which was originally released in 1942, has been preserved due to, amongst other reasons, "the movie’s resonating, emotional power. Treasured as one of film’s most heart-rending stories of parental love, "Bambi" also has come to be recognized for its eloquent message of nature conservation."

Secondly, A Computer Animated Hand, created back in 1972 by current Walt Disney and Pixar Animation Studios President, Ed Catmull, has been preserved for its foundational role in the basics of Computer Animation. The description provided by the registry says that the film "worked out concepts that become the foundation for computer graphics that followed."

This is a huge honour for both of these landmarks in animation history, to be preserved for all time and have their paramount importance recognised. The two animated features are amongst 25 to have been added to the registry, including Forrest Gump and The Silence of the Lambs, of 2,228 nominated (full list here).

You can have your say in nex year's addition here.

Thursday 29 December 2011

2nd Annual A113Animation Awards

The winners for the 2nd Annual A113Animation Awards have been revealed. The big winner this year was DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda 2, which swiped 7 awards, including a lot of the top ones, such as The Oh So Close Award, the Second Opinion Award, both the Luke's and Sean's Choice Awards (as each of our The Corner reviewers get their own award this year), The People's Choice Award (which it shares with Pixar's Cars 2) as well as Best Director (Jennifer Yuh Nelson) and Best Voice Acting (Jack Black).

However, Kung Fu Panda 2 couldn't quite take the top award, as, as you can see above, courtesy of David A. Price (author of The Pixar Touch), that honour went to Steven Spielberg's The Adventures of Tintin. Tintin, which was, in my opinion, just such a brilliant film that I simply couldn't not have it win the award, also collected the Heather's Choice Award and the Best Villain Award (Sakharine).

It seems the general populous agrees with me, that Cars 2 was rather good after all, as Pixar's latest drew with Kung Fu Panda 2 in The People's Choice Award (the poll is currently still up, to the right, if you want to view the results). Cars 2 also took the music related awards, winning Best Song (You Might Think, Weezer) and Best Score.

Disney's Tangled won the Best New Side Character(s) Award for the brilliant Maximus and Pascal, and also the Breakout Film Award, for putting Disney Animation back on the map and reestablishing a sense of credibility for the famed studio.

Rango won the animation related awards: Best Animation - as the animation in Rango is the best I've ever seen in an animated film - and the Ben Kerfoot Award for Specific Character Animation or Design in Fur, Hair or Textures for the fantastically detailed character, Spoons.

Finally, in terms of feature films, DreamWorks' other offering this year, Puss in Boots, collected the award for Best Female Character (Kitty Softpaws).

The breakdown for this years awards, by film, is:

  • Kung Fu Panda 2 - 7
  • The Adventures of Tintin - 3
  • Cars 2 - 3
  • Tangled - 2
  • Rango - 2
  • Puss in Boots - 1
In terms of our final two awards, the Best Animated Short Film Award went to the fantastic CGI Looney Tunes short, I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat, and The One to Watch Out For Award went to Pixar's Brave.

It's safe to say that 2011 has been a great year for animation, it was particularly difficult for me to pick the Best Animated Film Award, specifically having to choose between Tintin and Kung Fu Panda 2 proved rather challenging; and I have high hopes for 2012.

Reviews for all nominations and winners can be found on the reviews page.

The full awards listings can be viewed on the A113Animation Awards page.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

The Future of Looney Tunes

Looney Tunes is one of those shows that we all grew up watching, it's a staple of any childhood if you're old enough; the wacky, extremely violent and beloved shorts graced our screens for several decades and are still replayed today. However, in recent years, their popularity has somewhat diminished due to the fact that they haven't been putting out a lot of new stuff. There was a time that Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and the rest of the Looney Tunes characters were more popular and well known than even Walt Disney's best known creations and over the past few years, Warner Bros. have attempted a resurgence of that - to introduce Looney Tunes to a new generation.

Now, I've always been a fan of Looney Tunes - I grew up watching that, Tom and Jerry and Ed, Edd n Eddy more than any other shows - but I'd never obsessed over it in the same way that I have over Disney, Pixar and animated features, however, I've been infatuated with it since seeing Happy Feet Two. As I mentioned in my review of the dancing-penguin sequel, the film was preceded by an all new CGI Looney Tunes short film, I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat, starring Sylvester and Tweety.

The short (clip above) was absolutely fantastic and brilliantly encapsulated the genius of Looney Tunes in just a few short minutes. Using the archived song, I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat, recorded back in the 50s by the late, great voice of Looney Tunes, Mel Blanc, the short feels wonderfully familiar, quirky and nostalgic and is a very fitting tribute to the animation legend. The short also features Looney Tunes mainstay, June Foray, as the voice of Granny. The characters are far more lively than they could've conceivably been with new voices, and although the CGI animation, in place of the old fashioned traditional animation, took a while to get used to, the wonderful, familiar characters, the charming style, the ridiculously violent comedy, engaging story and Mel Blanc's talented voice work made it an absolute delight.

Puddy Tat was directed by Matthew O'Callaghan - who previously worked at Disney on films like The Great Mouse Detective, as well as directing the feature film adaptation of Curious George. O'Callaghan has been leading the Looney Tunes revival in recent years, after directing three brilliant Wile E. Coyote and Road Runner shorts last year, including the Annie Award nominated Coyote Falls (above). He's also directed Daffy's Rhaspsody (another short, starring Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd, featuring the voice of Mel Blanc - clip below) and another, as of yet untitled, Road Runner short, both of which will debut in 2012.

From what I've seen, so far, the future looks bright for Looney Tunes, as the beloved cartoons are being done proud by these all new, fun 3D shorts.

Monday 26 December 2011

The Validity of Performance Capture Animation - What's the Actor and What's the Animator?

Motion/Performance Capture has always been a touchy subject, in terms of, how much of the final product is attributed to the actor's performance and how much is due to the actions and work of the animators. Each side has an opposing argument, animation buffs would argue that the role of the animator is the most important and that the performance is only outstanding due to being brilliantly illustrated and brought to life through detailed, animated characters. Whereas acting thespians would present the argument that animators only add the polish to it and that the powerful, raw performance and the emotion that endears the characters to us is the work of the individual actor or actress.

It's a touchy subject, and one that has been in the spotlight as of late - mainly since Avatar in 2009, but a lot more in the past few months as well - with two films in particular, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Adventures of Tintin. These two films have oppositional arguments; the Planet of the Apes prequel, Rise, is very much a live-action epic, yet, arguably the most important performance of it - in terms of the strength of the acting and the importance of the character to the plot and franchise - was that of Motion Capture veteran, Andy Serkis. Serkis, who rose to fame and public attention with his performances as Gollum in The Lord of the Rings trilogy and as King Kong in Peter Jackson's remake, turned in an extremely powerful and brilliant performance - one of the best I've seen this year - as Caesar and has been in the awards limelight as of late. Due to his popularity and the strong performance, there has been a large push for Serkis to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor - I think he's more than deserving of a nomination, if not a win. The performance, more so than his work as Gollum, highlights his strengths as it captures his facial performance as well as his bodily movements (there's an interesting article here about his Oscar chances and the arguments for and against) - however, what, of what we saw in the film, should be attributed to Serkis? And what should be attributed to the animators?

Serkis says in the aforementioned article, of Performance Capture, and of Weta Digital (Peter Jackson's visual effects company) who carried out both the special effects on Rise and the animation in Tintin (which Jackson also produced):

“Weta is very loyal to the actor’s performance and are able to interpolate that through the translation process after the director and actors have shot the scene on set. They’re very conscious that when they apply the ‘digital makeup,’ it is to honor the actor’s performance; not to bend or enhance it.”

This seems to, not underplay the role of the animator, but, more highlight the work of the actor or actress instead. However, The Adventures of Tintin (also starring Serkis, as Captain Haddock, and involving Peter Jackson, as producer) plays to the opposite side, in its quest to be nominated for Best Animated Feature at the Oscars, it played up that, yes, they do use the performance of the actor or actress, but only as the basis for the still very complex and detailed character animation; highlighting the work of the animators over that of the actors or actresses.

Now, obviously the two cases aren't entirely comparable, but it still raises the question, who gets the credit for these films? Personally, I believe one can't work without the other; there's nothing wrong with traditional, frame-by-frame, animation, but if you're working with performance capture, the role of the actor is equally important as that of the animator, a weak character will come through if either the animation or the acting is weak. As a method of animation, I've never been all that fond of Mo-Cap, particularly because of the just plain creepy Uncanny Valley scenario, which takes you out of the moment, but if used right, it can result in sheer brilliance, as evident by all the films mentioned here. People just need to remember that, performance capture, like any film, animated or other wise, is a collaboration and a team effort.

Christmas Thoughts - 2011

I hope you've all had a wonderful Christmas and that you all had a wonderful day yesterday. I thought I'd, as I did last year, share my thoughts on some animation related gifts I received.

At the top you can see the vast majority of them, I was incredibly overjoyed to receive these presents, as you can see, and as you can probably tell from reading my blog, I quite like animation, so these presents were fantastic for me.

To go through the presents one by one, I got, which is probably my favourite present, 'The Art of Pixar: The Complete Color Scripts and Select Art From 25 Years of Animation'. The book which touts colour scripts from all of Pixar's 12 feature films, as well as from some of their shorts and includes several pieces of art made for each film, is fantastic. Authored by Cartoon Brew co-founder, Amid Amidi, the book is rather scarce on text, but what there is is rich in detail and history. However, as it should be, the main focus of the book is the fantastic, jaw-dropping, beautiful artwork from the artists of Pixar; and if they included the level of detail in the text we see in the individual 'Art of' books, this one would be substantially larger than the 300-odd pages it is at the moment. The book is a brilliant read and I would definitely recommend it. I will likely publish a full review of the book in the coming week.

In terms of DVDs, I got a decent amount of animated films this year, including Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs (a fun and quirky animated film that was one of my favourites from 2009), Rio (which isn't pictured, as the box is somewhat trashed, as the security stopper wasn't removed for some reason, so we had to pry the box open) and Kung Fu Panda 2 (which seems even more awesome than it did when I first saw it). While I loved these films and would have been more than content with these, two of the best presents I got were in the form of the Disney classics, Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians, two of the films that helped form my childhood; utter classics in every form, it meant even more as a present, given that they had to be, not cheaply, purchased second hand as they're in the Disney Vault at the moment.

In terms of other knick-knacks and whatnots, I also received official Wallace and Gromit slippers and an alarm clock, and Muppets socks and a T-shirt (not pictured), all of which were just brilliantly fun and quirky presents to receive.

As I'm sure you can tell, I loved these presents and this is just the animated portion of them, it was a great horde of gifts to receive this Christmas and one that I fully appreciated.

Feel free to share your own lists of presents and what you're thankful for this Christmas, I hope the season treated you all well.

Saturday 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas From A113Animation

At this most festive and jolly time of year, I thought I'd take a minute out of my day of Christmas Eve TV to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Thank you for spending time reading this blog over the past year, it means the world to me. So, I hope you all have a very happy holiday season and I'd like to leave you with these words from Donald Duck in Mickey's Once Upon a Christmas:

"Christmas isn't about candy canes, holly or lights all aglow.
It's about the hearts that we touch, and the care that we show"

Wishing you all lots of love this Christmastime from all of us here at the blog and Merry Christmas from A113Animation!

Friday 23 December 2011

Disney's Snow Queen Now Titled Frozen - Pixar's Dinosaur Film Bumped Off Release Date

Disney recently unveiled the title for their November 2013 release, Frozen. This caused some confusion on Twitter yesterday, as the Novemeber 27, 2013 release date touted for Frozen is the very one that we had been told Up co-director Bob Peterson's Untitled Dinosaur Film would be released on. This in turn led to several reports that that film was now called Frozen; however, courtesy of /Film, we now know that that's not true.

/Film tells us that Frozen is the new name for Disney's The Snow Queen, the adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen fairytale, a film which has been circling around Disney for years, being on and off the shelf time and time again. Speaking of on the shelf, this now means that The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs has been bumped off its release date. This presumably means that we'll be seeing the film around 2014 - when The Untitled Pixar Movie That Takes You Inside The Mind is due out.

Whilst this means we'll have to wait slightly longer to see another Pixar film, it means The Snow Queen is finally back on track - for now.

Ammended A113Animation Awards Nominations

I recently unveiled the nominations for the second annual A113Animation Awards. However, since then, I've watched Happy Feet Two, and while it wasn't good enough to have much of a drastic effect on my opinions of animated films in 2011, the music and animation were both fantastic, so it has been nominated for Best Song (for Bridge of Light) and the Best Animation, replacing Tangled and Kung Fu Panda 2's respective nominations in the category.

Moreover, I've added a new award: Best Animated Short Film, the nominations for which are:

  • The Ballad of Nessie - Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Hawaiian Vacation - Pixar Animation Studios
  • I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat - Warner Bros. Animation

Head on over to the A113Animation Awards page to check out the updated nominations.

Happy Feet Two Review - An Amiable, Toe-Tapping, Song-Singing Sequel

The sequel to the 2006 Academy Award winning musical-penguin film, Happy Feet Two, still directed by George Miller, is an ambitious sequel. It takes the charming, touching, coming-of-age original and populates the world with more characters, more songs, dances and adventures. Yet, Happy Feet Two does it all less effectively than its predecessor; it is still charming and has a decent story, but mainly because at least half of the film feels copy and pasted from the first. This is a case of having to remind the film makers that less is more; adventure and enthralling peril cannot, and should not, be a substitute for story.

Shrek: Once Upon A Time

No matter what you make of the sequels, Shrek, as a film and indeed a franchise, is one of the most important and noteworthy sagas in animation history; the 2001 original did, after all, win the first Oscar for Best Animated Feature. Tonight, BBC Three (this's really only applicable if you're in the UK) has a night of Shrek in store. Shrek the Halls is on right now, to be followed by the original film, however, the point of this post is what starts at 9. A documentary based upon the influence of Shrek, entitled Shrek: Once Upon A Time, narrated by David Tennant. It sounds great, after all, the Pixar: 25 Magic Moments documentary that BBC produced recently was great! I would suggest catching it if you can.

Tuesday 20 December 2011

Tintin 2 Details

Although US viewers are still waiting for the release of Steven Spielberg's phenomenal first animated film, The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (I believe it hits theatres in the US tomorrow actually) plans are already underway for the long foretold sequel.

The sequel is to see Spielberg and Lord of the Rings helmer, Peter Jackson, swap places, as Spielberg switches to producing and Jackson assumes the director's chair. Spielberg tells us that "we have the story and we have the book we're adapting from Hergé", and many a report (see this one from Screen Rant) are claiming that the sequel will be based on the Calculus Affair story. Spielberg also tells us that the bumbling Thompson detectives will "have a much bigger role."

The film, to be written by Alex Rider author, Anthony Horrowitz, will begin to take shape once Jackson has finished his directorial duties with the Lord of the Rings prequel, The Hobbit. It will likely be hitting cinemas late 2014 or early 2015, as co-producer, Kathleen Kennedy, says that the script will be finished in the first quarter of the new year.

Via CBC News.

Read my review of the first The Adventures of Tintin film here.

Monday 19 December 2011

Final A113Animation Award Nominations - The One to Watch Out For

Last week, I revealed the nominations for the 2nd Annual A113Animation Awards, which will be revealed on the 29th December; I've just now revealed one last batch of nominations for the awards, the 'The One to Watch Out For' Award, to declare which animated film will be the one to keep your eyes on most in 2012.

The nominations for the 'The One to Watch Out For' Award are:
  • Brave - Disney/Pixar
  • Ice Age 4 - Blue Sky Studios
  • The Lorax - Illumination Entertainment
  • Rise of the Guardians - DreamWorks Animation
  • Wreck-It Ralph - Disney Animation
DreamWorks' Madagascar 3 only just lost out on a nomination to Blue Sky Studios's Ice Age 4. This award, along with all of the others, will be revealed on the 29th. Also, of note, is that the Best Animated Film award will be revealed by a special star, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Also, remember to vote in the poll to the right for your favourite animated film from 2011, to decide The People's Favourite Animated Film award.

DreamWorks' Rise of the Guardians

As the end of the year approaches, DreamWorks have begun promoting next year's slate of animated films: last week we saw the trailer for Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, and on Friday, via their official Twitter, we got to see the teaser poster for their upcoming epic, Rise of the Guardians (above).

The stunningly cool, and rather festive, poster, which appears to sport a very bad-ass looking Santa Claus, was accompanied by a link to the official website and a description, which reads:

"Rise of the Guardians tells the story of a group of heroes – each with extraordinary abilities. When an evil spirit known as Pitch lays down the gauntlet to take over the world, the immortal Guardians must join forces for the first time to protect the hopes, beliefs and imagination of children all over the world."

It sounds intense and it sounds brilliant; with this and Pixar's Brave, 2012 promises to be an epic year for animated films.

Keep an eye on the official Rise of the Guardians Facebook page for updates.

Friday 16 December 2011

Marvel to Publish Toy Story Comic Books

Via IGN, we get the exciting news that the comic giants, Marvel (owned by Disney, remember), will be publishing a series of comic books based on Pixar's Toy Story franchise to take place between the first and second films.

The 4 issue series, another way of continuing the insanely popular film saga, will tell the story of Andy's dog Buster's introduction into the household and how the toys bonded with him.

IGN also caught a few words off Marvel's Editor-in-Chief on the subject:

"Everyone loves Toy Story, so we're excited to team with our friends at Disney-Pixar to bring readers all new stories of our favourite characters from these blockbuster films," said Axel Alonso, Marvel's Editor-in-Chief. "Toy Story allows us to bring great new material to the market that's not only perfect for kids, but also a great read for fans of all ages. What's next for Woody and Buzz in these stories? We can't wait for you to find out!"

This, to me, sounds like a wonderful idea! It's a brilliant way of expanding on the canon, without, hopefully, leading to a fourth film - which would just be unnecessary. Toy Story is the pinnacle of cinema and animation, so this should be fantastic news to any Toy Story, Pixar, Disney, film or comic fans!

Read the full article over at IGN.

Thursday 15 December 2011

Behind the Magic: The Look of 'Rango'

Via the official ILM (Industrial Light and Magic) YouTube channel, we get a behind the scenes look at absolutely gorgeous animation of Rango.

The video (above) shows some of the brilliant techniques and unparallelled detail that gave Rango some of the best animation of all time; the video shows the film's use of 'emotion capture' and how all the big names helped give the animation its life and vibrancy.

Golden Globe Nominations Revealed

The nominations for the 69th Annual Golden Globes Awards have been revealed today, the full list of nominations and categories can be viewed here.

In terms of animation, the nominations for the Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature are:
    Paramount Pictures/Columbia Pictures/ Hemisphere Capital/Amblin Entertainment/Wingnut Films Production/ Kennedy/Marshall Production A Steven Spielberg Film; Paramount Pictures and Columbia Pictures
  • ARTHUR CHRISTMASColumbia Pictures & Sony Pictures Animation; Sony Pictures Releasing International
  • CARS 2
    Walt Disney Pictures, Pixar Animation Studios; Walt Disney Pictures
  • PUSS IN BOOTSDreamWorks Animation; Paramount Pictures
    Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink / GK Films Production; Paramount Pictures
It's somewhat strange to me that Puss in Boots and Arthur Christmas (or even Cars 2, due it's rather negative reviews) were nominated, whereas Kung Fu Panda 2 - definitely one of the best films of the year - was omitted.

Nonetheless, it is a very solid field this year, and it seems likely to me that the HFPA will pick either Tintin or Rango. However, we'll have to wait until January 15 to find out.

Via Big Screen Animation.

Tuesday 13 December 2011

DreamWorks To Bring Captain Underpants to the Screen

This is a rather late post, as the news broke almost two months ago, back in October, but somehow it evaded my attention until now; DreamWorks have won a bidding war to acquire the film rights to Dav Pilkey's brilliant, funny and superb Captain Underpants book series.

The fantastic, popular kid's books had been not up for film acquisition for quite some time, due to Pilkey's reluctance to see his creation ruined or tampered with by big studios. Nonetheless, the studio behind Shrek will be bringing the underwear wearing hero to the screen in the near future, Empire tells us.

The famed studio's CCO, Bill Damaschke, told us about the studio's ambition for the project:

"We are thrilled that Dav has decided the time is right to turn his beloved property into a movie and we look forward to bringing the greatest Waistband Warrior of all time to the big screen at DreamWorks Animation!"

The brilliant Pilkey added his own words about his sudden change of heart:

"I never wanted to do a Captain Underpants movie in the past because, frankly, I worried that a movie might not be able to properly convey what I was trying to do with the books. Then I saw How to Train Your Dragon and the Kung Fu Panda movies. I loved the subtle way that morality and personal responsibility were handled in these very funny and exciting adventures. I felt that DreamWorks Animation would be the perfect home for Captain Underpants,"

No release date or time frame has currently been announced for the project, although I'll be right near the front of the line whenever it does turn up. The full press release from DreamWorks can be viewed here.

Sunday 11 December 2011

2nd Annual A113Animation Awards Nominations

I've just revealed the nominations for the 2nd Annual A113Animation Awards, to praise and reward the very best of animation from the past year, to be handed out on the 29th December.

Cars 2 and Rio got the most nominations at 8, Kung Fu Panda 2 got 7, The Adventures of Tintin and Tangled got 6, Rango got 5, Puss in Boots got 3, Winnie the Pooh got 2 and Gnomeo and Juliet got 1.

The 5 films nominated for the top award, Best Animated Film, are:
  • The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn
  • Cars 2
  • Kung Fu Panda 2
  • Rio
  • Tangled
Also, note, Tangled is nominated for awards as, although it came out in November last year in America, it arrived over here in the UK in January 2011. For the whole list of nominations, head on over to the A113Animation Awards page.

Also, remember to vote in the poll to the right, to decide the People's Favourite Animated Film Award.

Saturday 10 December 2011

Puss in Boots Review - Prepare to be Mewowed

Puss in Boots is a film that I was very pensive about going in. In that, Shrek 1, and indeed Shrek 2 (in which Puss was introduced), were absolutely brilliant- fun, heartfelt, family adventures -, however, Shrek 3 was awful. It still remains one of the few films that I genuinely hate. It angered and annoyed me that from there they decided to make yet another Shrek film, although at least the 'final chapter' was decent enough; it was indeed rather good. However, DreamWorks had really been pushing it and came close, on a number of times, to ruining the franchise for me, so, I was far from pleased when I heard that DreamWorks were planning a spin-off, my immediate reaction was: just let it die. I was even less pleased when I heard that Chris Miller, co-director of Shrek the Third, was directing the film; he had a hell of a lot of redeeming to do. Fortunately, these fears were allayed during the first five minutes of Puss in Boots, as it was a pretty darn great film.

Friday 9 December 2011

At DreamWorks, The Dream Works

DreamWorks Animation Studios is a name and a company that will likely garner mixed responses. Its films are often accused of being cheesier, cheaper and more rushed; it’s always playing second fiddle to Pixar. Then again, that’s nothing to be ashamed of. Pixar is the greatest animation studio of the past few decades; it took over when Disney faltered, as the crème de la crème of animation. Narrowly following this is a hard act, yet one DreamWorks seems to have managed over the years, with improvements hitting us all the time.

Also, let us not forget that DreamWorks were awarded the very first Academy Award for Best Animated Feature back in 2001, for Shrek, which still remains one of their finest films, trumping Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. in the process – not an easy feat.

So, how did DreamWorks get this reputation for being a far cruder, far less emotionally poignant, wannabe version of Pixar? To be honest, I don’t think they have this reputation anymore, but the main reason is likely the way they rush a lot of their films, in the past anyway. There are a few DreamWorks films that I love on par with any other film – Pixar, animated or otherwise –, those being Shrek, How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda 2; they were witty, smart, funny and, more importantly, genuinely touching and heart warming. However, we also have a series of, maybe not great, but solidly fun and entertaining films, such as Monsters vs. Aliens and Megamind. The problem, however, with their reputation lies in the large portion of their films that are just mediocre filler.

A lot of the DreamWorks canon is unmemorable, dull, crude or just plain pointless; Bee Movie, Shark Tale, Over the Hedge and Shrek the Third are four films that I just consider plain bad, they were cringe worthily terrible, the characters felt unformed, the scripts felt unfinished and the animation looked unpolished. Similarly, films like Madagascar and Shrek 4 felt like they had potential and, while they were fun, they felt like DreamWorks, in their desire to make money, had rushed the production, loaded them full of stupid pop-culture gags and references and crude “edgy” humour.

The effect on the studio of its CEO, former Disney head honcho, Jeffrey Katzenberg, usually provides some form of consternation for animation aficionados. Katzenberg has a reputation for being unreasonable and micromanaging, insisting on 'edge', and making it difficult to make a resonant, warm film. However, let us not forget that he is one of the largest factors behind the Disney Renaissance, without which, Disney may not be what it is today still, it may have not been able to buy Pixar and the entire landscape of animation history would be different. Jeff Katzenberg is an animation visionary and without him, DreamWorks wouldn't be what it is, for good and bad; yes we can attribute blame to him, but we must also attribute rapturuous acclaim.

But, there is no arguing, DreamWorks is a fantastic studio. Specifically in recent years, the studio has been, more and more, refining their films, fine tuning the story and its characters and focusing on genuine emotions, and it shows. Over the last two years, DreamWorks have released two of my favourite animated films of all time: How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda 2. Both were definitely ‘Pixar quality’, and can easily be considered some of the best films in recent memory. The studio is riding a curve upwards at the moment, they are on a major roll, Puss in Boots (review up this weekend) is supposed to be a pretty solid and entertaining film from the studio, and films like The Croods sound like they’ll be a great way to keep the current tradition going.

DreamWorks produce, more so now than ever, warm, touching, very funny and witty animated films that the whole family can truly enjoy. They are the second best animation studio around, and, particularly after the last couple of years, it should be very proud of that.

Thursday 8 December 2011

Madagascar 3 Trailer

DreamWorks have revealed the first trailer for the third instalment in the Madagscar franchise, Europe's Most Wanted, via Yahoo! Movies.

The previous two entries into the franchise weren't brilliant, although 2, for me, marked a definitive improvement on the very clunky first one, and, from this trailer, Madagascar 3 looks very witty and fun. Obviously, it doesn't look entirely heartfelt or deep like The Lorax trailer Yahoo! also brought us earlier in the week, but DreamWorks have been amazing the last couple of years, so I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

From the look of the trailer as well, it doesn't look entirely like the first two films, it looks rather like Blue Sky Studios' Rio to me. Also, it seems to have a slightly higher focus on the penguins, presumably to help segway into their upcoming spin-off feature film.

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted hits cinemas on June 8 next year.

Small Fry Bios

The second Toy Story Toon, Small Fry, is currently playing with Disney's The Muppets in the US and while those of us here in Europe and the UK will have to wait until February to see either, Disney and Pixar are promoting Small Fry now by revealing bios for some of the new characters that the short introduces on the official Toy Story Facebook page.

In Small Fry, Buzz is left behind at a fast food restuarant and finds himself in a support group for abandoned kid's meal toys, so Pixar have released some bios and images of these extremely eccentric characters (below).

Neptuna, Queen of New Nautica
For centuries, Queen Neptuna ruled the peaceful ocean kingdom of New Nautica.
When her undersea home was defiled by corporate industrial waste and discount chain stores, Neptuna formed The Mermaid Battle Squadron to protect the ocean from future pollution and exploitation.

T-Bone, Leader of the Steak Force
Fearing the healthy, life-extending agenda of the evil Vegitenarians, the government established the Steak Force, a commando squad of heroic robots dedicated to mandating a meat option for every meal. Sponsored in part by The American Meat Council.

Funky Monk
Spiritual mentor to Rappin' Robin and Lil' Juan, Funky Monk always keeps it real and on the down low. Be it a rap battle between his boys and Producer P John or hooking up a guest-spot on the next MC Maid Marion single, Funky Monk has got your back. See Funky Monk in the CGI animated film "Rappin' Robin in the Hood 3D," only in theaters.

When comic book artist Wiley Wilkins is given the opportunity to act out the pages of his greatest cartoon creation, “Condorman,” he jumps at the chance! Will Condorman defeat the evil Krokov and win the heart of the beautiful Natalia Rambova? Find out when Condorman swoops into theaters, Summer 1981.

Bozu, The Ninja Clown
Circus clown by day, 15th century ninja from feudal Japan by night, Bozu is a master of silent entertainment. Armed with his balloon katana and a cream pie, this Ninja Clown is sure to have even the grumpiest Circus audience members in stitches!

More are likely to follow, so stay tuned.

Wednesday 7 December 2011

National Board of Review Recognises Rango

The National Board of Review, a collection of top film experts, have announced their annual awards, with Martin Scorsese's critically acclaimed Hugo scooping the top prize of Best Film. However, in the animation category, the NBR recognised Nickelodeon Movies and ILM's Rango, starring Johnny Depp, which is a heavy favourite going into award season due to its wit and satire.

Rango really was a fun and clever film, whilst not in my opinion the best of the year, it's still a good choice that may very well be repeated by the Academy come February.

New The Lorax Trailer

Courtesy of Yahoo! Movies, we get the next full trailer for the next animated film from Illumination Entertainment, the guys behind Despicable Me, the adaptation of Dr. Seuss's The Lorax.

The Lorax, due to hit cinemas on March 2, 2012, is looking pretty great so far. It looks insanely charming and quirky and the animation is just fantastic, retaining Illumination's very European, stylised character models and capturing the heart of the Dr. Seuss book.

I'm genuinely excited to see how The Lorax turns out, as it looks pretty great thus far.

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Pixar's Untitled Mind Film Takes Form

The next Pixar feature film from the Academy Award winning director of Up and Monsters, Inc., Peter Docter, currently known as The Untitled Pixar Movie That Takes You Inside The Mind (just rolls of the tongue doesn't it?), is starting to take shape.
Pixar and Disney Animation head honcho, John Lasseter, was on the Charlie Rose show recently and talked about Pixar in general, but touched on Docter's next film. Specifically, about the Up helmer's film, which takes the audience inside the human mind, Lasseter said:
"Pete Docter, from Monsters, Inc. and Up, is doing a new film that takes place inside  of a girl’s mind and it is about her emotions as characters, and that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen."

This is the first real bit of information we're getting about Pixar's furthest off anounced feature, which sounds like their most ambitious film to date, and it sounds very intriguing. So, this not only means that we're going to see physical representations of human emotions as characters, but also that Pixar will likely be looking at their second female protaganist in as many years, following Brave next year. The entire film just sounds brilliantly exciting and evokes memories of Day and Night, the Pixar short attached to Toy Story 3, for me.

I cannot wait to see what Pixar come up with here, it sounds fantastic and it's released on May 30, 2014.

Monday 5 December 2011

Annie Award Nominations Revealed

ASIFA-Hollywood have revealed the nominations for the 39th Annual Annie Awards, 'Animation's Highest Honor' will be presented on February 4, 2012 and the extensive slate of nominations were released online today.

The top prize, the Annie Award for Best Animated Feature, this year has a whopping 10 nominations, including my personal favourites, The Adventures of Tintin and Kung Fu Panda 2. The full list of nominations for the award can be viewed below:

Best Animated Feature
  • A Cat in Paris – Folimage
  • Arrugas (Wrinkles) - Perro Verde Films, S.L.
  • Arthur Christmas – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations (my review)
  • Cars 2 – Pixar Animation Studios (my review)
  • Chico & Rita – Chico & Rita Distribution Limited
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 – DreamWorks Animation (my review)
  • Puss In Boots – DreamWorks Animation
  • Rango – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production (my review)
  • Rio – Blue Sky Studios (my review)
  • Tintin – Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall (my review)
There seems to be a large portion of Individual Achievement Awards for Disney's Winnie the Pooh (my review) and DreamWorks' Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots - some absolutely gorgeous films. Obviously, as DreamWorks is one of the main sponsors of ASIFA-Hollywood, there's always the accusation of unfairness - especially due to the shut out of Toy Story 3 last year and the lack of nominations for Cars 2 this year, following the very public pulling out of the studio's support for the awards -, but Kung Fu Panda 2 was brilliant, and I'd hate to see a repeat of last year, where How to Train Your Dragon's monumentous wins were overshadowed by screams of fowl-play.

Read the full list of nominations here.

Also, rememeber to vote in the poll to the right, for your favourite animated film of the year, to decide The People's Favourite A113Animation Award.

Once in a Generation, a Genius is Born

Today, December 5th, 2011, would mark the 110th birthday of a true genius, pioneer and inspiration; the man that spawned a legacy and the company that spawned a history, today, we mark the birth of Walt Disney.

I really can't put into sufficient and apt words the difference Walt has made to my life. He is, arguably, the sole reason I publish this blog at all; I started it due to a deep love of Pixar, and from that, animation in general, that spawned from a childhood love of everything Disney. From its roots in 1923 as Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio, to the production of the films of my childhood, classic Silver Age films like Peter Pan, Jungle Book and 101 Dalmations, to becoming the world's largest media conglomerate; Disney has formed so much that I care about; the sheer magic of those few notes, of that grand old castle.

None of this would have been possible, without the vision of Walt, without one man's inspiration, without one man's heart and soul, without one man's passion. So on this day, 110 years after the world was gifted a visionary, and in this most magical season, I say: Thank you Walt. Thank you for a life time of memories, thank you for the magic, thank you for making my childhood, and indeed my life, what it is. Thank you for being you.

Friday 2 December 2011

Best Animated Short Film Oscar Shortlist Surfaces

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.) have released the short list of animated short films for consideration for Best Animated Short Film at the 84th Academy Awards.

Amongst those on the list are Pixar's latest offering, La Luna (directed by Enrico Casarosa) - which is set to play in theatres alongside Brave next summer -, and I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat, the latest Looney Tunes short film, which is playing with Happy Feet Two at the moment.

The final set of between 3 and 5 nominations will be announced in January, with the awards taking place on February 26.

The full list can be viewed here.

John Carter Trailer, Poster and More

Over the past week, there has been a glut of new images, including stills and a new poster (above), from John Carter, acclaimed animation director Andrew Stanton's (Finding Nemo, WALL E). The striking new red poster, gives us some little hints at the film's story and the message about finding one's place in the world, or in another. However, most of the new revelations in terms of the massive battle scenes and in terms of story come from the images and the brand new theatrical trailer (below).

The trailer (above) showcases far more of the plot than we saw in the mystery shrouded teaser. We are shown some of the huge, epic battle scenes that span the adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs's sci-fi series, as well as a look at the romance of the film and how, exactly, Andrew Stanton is translating the character to the big screen. The film, which reminds me of a cross between Avatar and Prince of Persia, looks intense and vast; the only thing that concerns me is that it looks, although I'll be more than happy to be wrong, like it could be a vast CG pig-out. Sure, it looks a tad corny, but the huge talent behind it that has made Pixar's classics so great, promise a great film, and my hopes are still high.

We've also been treated to a few awesome images from the film, showcasing its action and epic scale. You can see some above and below and view the rest over at The Pixar Times.

Trailer via IGN.

Wednesday 30 November 2011

2011 So Far

With the end of the year just over a month away, and Christmas approaching even faster, now seemed as good a time as any to take a retrospective look back at 2011 in animated films.

Now, first of all, a few have pointed out that my reviews are mostly positive, don't get me a wrong, I can be a particularly nasty blighter some times, particularly when I strongly dislike a film, however, I, obviously, am very passionate about animation, Disney and Pixar in general, and hate to fault it, furthermore, I purposefully avoid films that I know will be bad or that I have no interest in seeing, so I'm generally complementary in my reviews, yet, even by my standards, 2011 has been a brilliant year for animation thus far.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Cars 2 Blu-ray Review

This may be old news to those of you in America, but Cars 2 was only recently (Monday in fact) released on DVD and Blu-ray over here in the UK and I picked up my copy today, and thought it a good idea to pen my thoughts on the overall quality of the product; the film, the picture, the sound, the features and more.

Now, I won't get too bogged down with talking about the overall quality of the film - read my review of the film if that's what you're after -, however, what I will say of the film is what I said at the time, do not be fooled by the bad reviews, Cars 2 is a damned good film and, perhaps more importantly, Pixar are still to produce a disappointing film. Sure, it didn't have the same emotion or character depth as some of Pixar's more acclaimed classics, but it was fun and warm hearted and, as I said at the time "anyone going into Cars 2 expecting the emotional resonance or poignancy of Toy Story 3 or of Up is, simply put, an idiot. Enjoy Cars 2 for what it is, a rollicking, fast paced, enjoyable and genuinely great spy film that, if anything, marks a definitive improvement on the original.", basically, don't review Cars 2 comparatively, but, rather, on its own individual merits; it's such a fun film. Furthermore, with absence grows fondness, as, after only watching Cars 2 once in cinemas (compared to four times with Toy Story 3), I enjoyed Cars 2 even more than the first time when I watched it back on Blu-ray.

So, getting onto the crux of this review, the actual package; I bought Cars 2 on Blu-ray (although it was a perplexing case, as, rather than selling the normal old Double Play - which is what I'd normally spring for - the Blu-rays were being sold and inside the box was a code that enables you to send off for a complimentary copy of Cars 2 on DVD, it's just weird. I assume Disney think, because some people'll be too lazy to send off for the DVD, that they'll save money making them) and was blown away by the sheer quality of the picture. Cars 2 was a gorgeous film when I saw it in cinemas, but it looks absolutely breathtaking on Blu-ray, the three main different locales of the film, Japan, Italy and England, each have their own charm and every single detail, from Lightning's bonnet to the furthest away, minuscule background item were superbly animated and designed. Pixar has long been leading the computer animation industry, basically because they invented it, and it shows due to the brilliance and gorgeousness of this film, from the glint of the runway in Japan to the sparkle of the river in Porto Corsa, the animation was top notch throughout and was only enhanced by the HD visuals.

In terms of sound, it is brilliant. The superb sound quality is utterly immersive, from the way it quietens and mellows out in the film's sombre, tender, emotional scenes, to the way it booms and crescendos in the high-octane fight and race scenes. Furthermore, Michael Giacchino is, simply, a genius, all of his work at Pixar has been sublime, I love the score here in Cars 2 (kind of a hybrid of The Incredibles and James Bond) almost as much as his work on Up.

However, in terms of the quality of the bonus features, I was left unsatisfied. Blu-ray used to be the premier brand, now, however, Disney's trying to push everyone towards 3D (meaning we have to spend an extra few hundred pounds on a 3D TV and 3D Blu-ray player to have to wear daft, darkening glasses to watch the films we've paid for), and the latest uncomfortable example of this is that all of the noteworthy bonus features for Cars 2 are only viewable if you buy the 3D Blu-ray copy. The regular old Blu-ray copy sports only Hawaiian Vacation (which is still as wonderful as it was alongside Cars 2 in cinemas), Air Mater (which was very funny and a nice way to link into Disneytoon Studios's Planes - if a bit less impressively animated) and director's commentary. This is incredibly lacking and left me rather disheartened.

Nonetheless, Cars 2 was a great film, it's in great quality here and the attached shorts are sure to bring a smile to your face, while the lacking bonus features may aggravate you somewhat (it annoyed me to no end), it's still a good buy this holiday season, and, in addition to a 9/10 film score, I'd give the Blu-ray copy of Cars 2 an 8/10 for the overall product.

Want to find out for yourself? You can order Cars 2 on Blu-ray by clicking above (UK link).

Friday 25 November 2011

The Road to Pixar - RES1536

You may remember that, a few months ago, I carried out some interviews with members of the Road to Pixar team, a group who are making a replica of the famed Pixar Pizza Planet Truck and recording a documentary about their journey along the way, their interactions with Pixar fans and, ultimately, their arrival at the famed Emeryville studio.

Now, about a month ago, the team revealed the above video, which shows them adding a few of the finishing touches to the truck, including the registration plate and the group have some big news on the horizon as they are soon to participate in a Christmas parade with the truck.

In the meantime, be sure to follow them on Twitter and pay their blog a visit, and if you can help bring their endeavour to the eyes of any Pixarians, I know they'd be incredibly grateful.

Wednesday 23 November 2011

New Small Fry Images and Interview With Director

Following on from the release of the first clip and look at Pixar's next voyage into the world of Toy Story, the Toy Story Toon, Small Fry, we get a couple more images courtesy of IGN. With The Muppets now hitting theatres in the US (although those of us in the UK will unfortunately have to wait until February 2012), audiences who go to see it will be treated to the 7 minute short, that sees Buzz left behind at a fast-food restaurant and the gang inadvertently taking home a happy-meal-like toy instead.

The images give us a sneak peak at the scaled down, toy characters and how they'll slot into the Angus Maclane directed short. Speaking of MacLane, IGN also managed to catch a few words from the Pixar veteran on the short, its voice cast (including Glee's Jane Lynch and Pixarian Teddy Newton) and its genesis, which is definitely worth a read.

Via The Pixar Times.

The Tale as Old As Time is New Again - Beauty and the Beast 3D Trailer

A few weeks ago, we got a look at Disney's upcoming 3D re-release schedule, of Disney and Pixar classics that will be soon making their grand returns to theatres everywhere with an added dimension. The first of the four films to receive the 3D treatment is arguably Disney's most acclaimed classic, the only one of its films to be nominated for Best Picture, Beauty and the Beast.

The tale as old as time is due to return to cinemas, accompanied by the brand new Tangled short film, Tangled Ever After, this January (creepily, it's released on Friday the 13th, so I guess Disney aren't superstitious) in 3D. To help promote this, Disney rolled out the trailer (above) for the film's 3D re-release yesterday.

Although there are many critics of 3D, I'm sure we can all agree, that it doesn't matter the format, so long as we can watch Disney films, where they belong, on the big screen, once more.

Monday 21 November 2011

Arthur Christmas Review - A Festive Gift of a Film

Although it may still be over a month until the most festive day of the year, it is very much Christmas time, at least commercially, and Aardman set the mood this year, rolling out the year's first Christmas film, Arthur Christmas. The British animation giants behind Wallace and Gromit, famous for their use of stop-motion, release Arthur Christmas as their fourth feature film, (and their second CGI animated film) and their first under the Sony Pictures banner, after their deal with DreamWorks ended a few years back, and, as we have all come to expect from Aardman, the film was funny, charming, thoughtful, warm and quintessentially British, yet being a broad, entertaining and generally great family to the extent that it will appeal to people all over the world this holiday season.

Sunday 20 November 2011

More For Your Consideration Ads

After just posting about the Cars 2 For Your Consideration Ads, I stumbled upon (thanks to Big Screen Animation) Awards Daily's large list of the For Your Consideration Ads released as of now, a select few of which are scattered about this post, the rest can be viewed at Awards Daily.

I particularly like the sleek designs of the Tintin and Arthur Christmas ones, as well as the very vibrant Happy Feet Two and Rango ones. Also, note how The Adventures of Tintin is also being promoted for consideration in the Best Feature Film category, which it is good enough to be nominated for!

Cars 2 For Your Consideration Campaign Begins

As awards season rapidly approaches, Disney and Pixar begin the promoting of the Emeryville studio's latest feature with the above For Your Consideration Oscar adverts. Cars 2 is being promoted for consideration in the categories of Best Animated Feature, Best Song and Best Score.

However, due to the outpouring of negative and mixed reviews for Cars 2, Pixar face an uphill battle for the first time ever, just to get nominated; especially against such firm competition this year as Kung Fu Panda 2, Tintin, Rio and more. Personally, I thought Cars 2 was very, very good and was reviewed very unjustly, however, it is hard from Pixar's strongest and the studio that have won the prestigious Best Animated Feature Oscar consecutively for the past 4 years, will struggle to win, if, of course, they get the nomination.