I saw James Cameron’s Avatar last night and I feel a talkback post here would be appropriate.
Did I like the film? Yes, very much so. Eye candy galore! We’ve seen this movie before, but never like this. The film is an awesome, epic spectacle – a classic “western” told through a pulp sci-fi prism.
The film also changed my mind about motion-capture. It turns out I don’t hate mo-cap after all… I just hate the mo-cap films of Robert Zemeckis.
According to this BBC report, Fede Alvarez uploaded his short film Ataque de Panico! (Panic Attack!) to YouTube last month, on November 3rd, and now has a $30 million dollar contract to make a feature length Hollywood film — to be produced by Sam Raimi!
Alverez’s four and a half minute film (embed below) was made for $300.
USC film student Daniel Johnson noticed a few similarities between Pixar’s Up and Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino. So he recut Up’s trailer and combined it with Gran Torino’s soundtrack to prove his point:
Hayao Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli has announced its next animated film, an adaptation of Mary Norton’s 1952 classic kid’s book, The Borrowers. Miyazaki-san will produce, but the actual direction will fall to one of his key animators Hiromasa Yonebayashi. The movie will be titled Karigurashi no Arrietty (aka Arrietty Borrows Everything). Toho will release the film summer 2010 in Japan, with a US release (home video?) via Disney to follow. For more information, check out the mini interview with studio head Toshio Suzuki at the Ghibli World blog.
The Walt Disney Company announced today that Roy Disney has passed away. Click here for LA Times obit. Roy did his father and uncle proud. He was a true champion for the legacy of Disney animation — and he will be sorely missed.
UPDATE: The Academy of Television Arts and Sciences recorded this extensive (six part) interview with Roy for their Archive of American Television in 2007. Worth watching today.
Within the last few days, many of the Hollywood award associations and motion picture critics have selected their best-of picks for 2009. It’s been an incredible year for animated features and that’s being reflected in their selections. The most amazing of all was Time Magazine’s Richard Corliss selecting animated features as the top three of his Top Ten: 1. The Princess and The Frog 2. Up and 3. The Fantastic Mr. Fox.
The Golden Globe nominees were announced yesterday. They nominated Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Princess and the Frog and Up For Best Animated Feature. They also nominated Michael Giacchino for Best Score (UP).
NY Film Critics selected George Clooney as Best Actor for his performances in both Up in the Air and Fantastic Mr. Fox. They also handed the award for Best Animated Feature to Fantastic Mr. Fox.
The American Film Institute announced its official selection for the 10th annual AFI Awards. Their list included Coraline and Up.
Los Angeles Film Critics Assn. gave its Best Animated Feature award to Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox, and its runner-up prize to Disney/Pixar’s Up
The San Francisco Film Critics Circle gave its first ever award for animated feature. It went to Henry Selick’s Coraline. Wes Anderson and Noah Baumbach won best adapted screenplay for Fantastic Mr. Fox.
The African-American Film Critics Assn. granted their screenplay award to two winners: the live action Precious, adapted by Geoffrey Fletcher and The Princess and the Frog, scripted by Ron Clements, Rob Edwards and John Musker.
The Southeastern Film Critics Assn. and the Boston Society of Film Critics both voted UP as Best Animated Feature.
To put us in the holiday mood, how about this fan-made music video for Tom Kenny & Andy Paley’s Don’t Be A Jerk (It’s Christmas), from the recent SpongeBob’s Greatest Hits album. Nothing politically incorrect about this – ya think?
The graduating Experimental Animation MFA class at Cal Arts has informed us about their thesis show, going on all this week on the Valencia campus. Titled “Loud and Rich!”, it’s a collection of animated installations and excerpts from the class’ thesis films. The show is full of surprises, including a display with a 9-foot tall puppet, an interactive motion sensor, giant green screen projection, and erotic hand drawn animation, among many other installations and animations. There is an opening reception Thursday December 17th at 9pm. It’s free and open to the public. California Institute of the Arts, 24700 McBean Parkway, in Valencia California.
When Disney’s acquisition of Marvel first became news we did a post inviting artists to show off their best visions of the merger. Now, courtesy of artist John Waltrip, by way of T Campbell, comes this materpiece: Click Here to see the ultimate Disney-Marvel crossover!
I’ve been watching Weston Woods productions all my life and I never really realized it – and you probably haven’t either. I don’t know how many times I saw Caps For Sale, Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel and Curious George Rides A Bike on the Captain Kangaroo Show as a kid, but I have to admit they influenced my early reading choices. The company behind those films have been been making children’s book adaptations – initially as filmed still pictures, called “iconographic” films – since 1955. The story of the studio, which intertwines the work of producer Morton Schindel with animators no less than Gene Deitch and Michael Sporn (who’s delightful Weston Woods production of Doctor Desoto was nominated for an Academy Award in 1984 – see embed below), was just published in a lavishly illustrated book by Scholastic Press.
I recently asked Gene Deitch why he so enjoys making these films for Weston Woods. Here is his response:
“When I was presented with the challenge of adapting WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE, Maurice Sendak told me that it makes no sense to make it into an animated film unless I “go beyond the book,” which I did, while at the same time holding precisely to it’s look and rhythm. Just now, Maurice himself has agreed to have his perfectly distilled 100-word story stretched to a feature length live version. But what essentially has been added? With Weston Woods adaptations we would never go that far “beyond the books!”
“I often tell audiences that we are translators; we translate the stories from the language of books to the language of film. A good translation never feels like a translation, but creates the feeling that we are reading what the author wrote. In our process of course, we add all of components of cinema, adding voice acting/story-telling, cinematic continuity, animation acting, music, sounds, mood, atmosphere… all the tools of our craft. It’s a special brand of art.
“As the director of these little films, often only 6-12 minutes long, I do have to stay in the background. I don’t attempt to be the auteur, but I put much more into each film than easily meets the eye. In actual fact, the films must stand on their own, even though our professed aim is to “bring the child back to the book,” to promote reading. It’s a special shtick that many animators would not enjoy, but I do, as each book is a fresh challenge, and I have a chance to work in a wide variety of styles. It’s still the creation of cinema. It’s only when you would take a book in your hands while viewing my film adaptation that you would see what I’ve done. It’s actually quite rewarding to work within these parameters. And oh yes, one of the things I most enjoy about this work is that when I first asked Mort about how long he wanted the films to be, he said, “As long as it takes to tell the story!” That, I truly enjoy!”
For more about the studio behind these films, I highly recommend reading Imagination and Innovation: the Story of Weston Woods by John Cech.
As previously noted here, good U.S. distribution for an independent animated feature is very tricky thing to acquire. Nina Paley went the self-distribution route with her film Sita Sings The Blues, while smaller companies like Regent ($9.99), IFC (Mary & Max), Zeitgeist Films (A Town Called Panic), and Gkids (The Secret of Kells) try their best to introduce animated films into the competitive marketplace.
That said, I can report some good news for Paul Fierlinger’s My Dog Tulip. The film has been picked up by Apparition, a fairly new theatrical distributor out of NYC specializing in independent films for the U.S. market. They take on only about 7 films a year and, based on some of their live action acquistions (Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Hope and Jane Campion’s Bright Star), have gained a solid reputation.
Christopher Plummer and Isabella Rossellini voice Fierlinger’s animated tale of friendship between an elderly bachelor and his German Shepherd. The film was awarded Honorable Mention for Best Animated Film at the 2009 Ottawa International Animation Festival. Appriation will release Tulip in September 2010.
This is animator Peter Western’s desk during the production of Who Framed Roger Rabbit at Richard Williams studio in London. Note the model sheets of Donald, Goofy, Road Runner, Coyote and Woody Woodpecker.
This is one of 82 personal photos Western has posted on Facebook . They contain everyone who worked in or came through the studio, including Richard Williams, Nik Ranieri, Andreas Deja, Tom Sito, David Bowers, Raul Garcia, Don Hahn, Steven Spielberg, Bob Hoskins, Christopher Lloyd, and Robert Zemeckis – among many others. There are also a few memos and unused models. It’s fun to browse, even if you didn’t work there. Here’s the link.
We usually don’t plug this sort of thing, but the array of talent assembled here is worthy of note. Thomas Brillante (The Art Institute of California) is organizing a charity art auction for the Loma Linda Children’s Hospital, pulling in contributions from many artists in the animation and film industry. Artists like Lorelay Bove, Lou Romano, Bill Perkins, Iain McCaig, Peter De Seve, Shuan Tan, Dean Yeagle, Bruce Smith, Floyd Norman, Glen Keane, Frank Kusuma (above), Glen Vilppu, Grace Lee, Pascal Campion, Stephen Silver and several others have donated either originals or prints. 100 percent of the proceeds go to the hospital — and any pieces that don’t sell will be gifted to hospital. The auction will be held next Saturday December 19th, 5pm to 10pm. For more information, updates and to view some of the art, visit the Gifted Artist Charity Art Auction website.
After several weeks in special limited engagements, Disney’s The Princess and the Frog opens today all across the United States, Canada and many other parts of the world. Congratulations to all who worked so hard on this magnificent production.
We’d like to know what the rest of our readers think. Only those who have actually seen the film will be permitted to comment below.
Talk about your “D-23″ – here’s the real thing! The house Walt Disney lived in when he first arrived in LA is up for sale. It’s Uncle Robert’s place on Kingswell, two blocks from the building off Vermont where he made the early Alice Comedies. They are asking $769,000 – here’s the listing. However, the fabled garage that Walt and Roy worked in, once located on this property, has been relocated to Garden Grove. Here’s a recent photo of it.
For more information on Disney’s early L.A. studios and homes, click here.
I’ll be plugging these again as we get closer to each, but here’s an early heads-up on three events coming up that I’ll be producing within the month:
1. CARTOON DUMP – our annual Christmas show will be on Monday December 21st at 8pm. Our special “Silent Night” guest comedian will be Billy the Mime. Join us for an evening of Holiday themed cartoons and skits at the Steve Allen Theatre in Hollywood.
2. CHRISTMAS CARTOON CHAOS! I’m running a full set of 35mm and 16mm Christmas cartoons – good ones – at the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theater on Tuesday December 22nd at 8pm. Rare film prints will be screened during this show, the biggest Xmas film party of the year! B.Y.O.E.N. (Bring Your Own Egg Nog)!
3. GETTING OVER HIM IN 8 SONGS OR LESS (World Premiere!) I’m extremely proud to be screening this new animated documentary from New York independent animator Debra J. Solomon (Lizzie McGuire) on Tuesday January 5th at the Cinefamily/Silent Movie Theater. Solomon will be at the Cinefamily in person to answer questions following the screening, which will also include some of her award-winning shorts! 8pm, Ticket info here.
Gallery Nucleus in Alhambra California will be hosting a The Princess and The Frog event on Saturday December 19th. There will be a panel discussion, an art demonstration, a Q-and-A session, as well as a book signing. Speakers scheduled to attend are John Musker (Director), Ian Gooding (Art Director), Lorelay Bove (Visual Development), Randy Haycock (Animator) and others to be announced. Entrance Fee: $5 (seats are limited, first come first serve, with plenty of standing room allowed). Start time: 1pm. Panel and presentation: 1:30pm to 3pm. Q and A from 3pm to 4pm, with book signing to follow. More info and directions, click here.
A few years ago I was discussing childhood fears with a couple friends. One of the fears, which I did not share, was that of animated corporate logos – specifically, the five-second company IDs tagged at the end of old TV shows. As time went on, I’d heard of others who shared this “logo-phobia”. In fact, there are now several websites and You Tube videos devoted to this particular fear.
Now a documentary filmmaker is creating a film about the scariest corporate symbol in history: The 1964 Screen Gems logo, aka The S From Hell. “Built around interviews with survivors still traumatized from viewing the logo after shows like Bewitched or The Monkees, the film brings their stories to life with animation, found footage, and reenactments.” Strange but true – here’s the trailer: