Pixar’s fourteenth feature film, Monsters University, opens this weekend in the U.S. and many other countries. The film, directed by Dan Scanlon, is playing better with audiences, who have given it a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes, than with critics, whose reviews currently stand at 77% positive. In the New York Times review, Manohla Dargis offers the typical dissenting viewpoint that suggests Pixar has been unable to fix the clumsy and cliched storytelling that had mired the studio’s previous two efforts:
[T]he story remains disappointingly familiar, mired in recycled buddy movie dynamics and the usual child-developmental directives about finding yourself and learning to work well with others. Both the originality and stirring emotional complexity of Monsters, Inc., with its exquisitely painful and touching parallels with the human world, are missing…
The feature is accompanied by a new photorealistic Pixar short, The Blue Umbrella, directed by Saschka Unseld. Check out both films and report back here with your opinion in the comments below. As always, this talkback is open only to those who have seen the film and wish to share an opinion about it.
The new content, which will be inspired by characters from existing DreamWorks franchises like Shrek, Kung Fu Panda and Madagascar, as well as properties from the recently acquired Classic Media library (Casper the Friendly Ghost, Lassie, Rocky and Bullwinkle, among others) will begin to air in 2014.
The agreement is part of DreamWorks’ initiative to expand their entertainment brand by courting television production away from mainstream TV outlets like Cartoon Network and Nick, where its TV shows currently air. This will begin with the December Netflix debut of a new original series, Turbo F.A.S.T., based on the upcoming feature film Turbo, which will hit theaters on July 17. It will also offer Netflix exclusive streaming rights to a selection of DreamWorks animated films, including The Croods and their movie version of Mr. Peabody and Sherman, coming to theaters in March 2014.
For Netflix, the contract, which is the most significant first-run content deal in its history, is part of their ongoing efforts to beef up their selection of children’s programming, which is very popular among parents as it offers a commercial-free alternative for younger, more impressionable viewers. The streaming site did not renew a deal with Viacom for reruns of Nickelodeon cartoons, and will rely heavily on DreamWorks for kids’ content.
DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg spoke about his company’s Netflix deal on CNBC:
There are plenty of GIF-making apps out there, but none compare to the Internet-ready capabilities of Glitché. Developed by designer Vladimir Shreyder (also spelled Schreider), the app comes with tons of filters and makes it easy to alter, animate and share your own images. The best part is the simple interface, which enables easy frame-by-frame manipulation and sharing across most major social networking sites.
Glitché is as easy to use as it is addictive—I made this GIF in a matter of seconds and then had trouble putting my phone down. A few of the filters even create some extruded, 3D visuals; I took a picture of my laptop keyboard and quickly turned it into this bizarre thing:
Glitché also feeds into the retro-Nineties aesthetic that dominates certain pockets of the Internet. Glitch art and datamoshing, which carry with it a curiously nostalgic vibe, have spread across visual culture, and increasingly entered the mainstream, whether in Kanye West music videos or David OReilly’s recent Adventure Time episode called “A Glitch is a Glitch.” Apps like Glitché not only make it easier to experiment with looped animation, but also enable a wider audience to participate in major digital art movements.
Just by looking at this “bar code”, can you tell what animated movie this is? Go on, take a guess:
For a few years now, MovieBarcode has been one of my regular stops on Tumblr. The moderator (who prefers to remain anonymous) takes every frame from a movie, skews it to be only a pixel wide and lines them up in a row, creating a barcode-like image of the entire film. While many live-action films don’t necessarily need color to help tell the story, the majority of animated productions go to great lengths to plan out a clear color script. In many ways, the color is as vital to a movie as the characters and story. Color can set the mood, intensify the drama or action, clarify with contrast, and even define a character. Just pick up any Pixar “Art of” book and you’ll see how much thought is put into the color and lighting of a movie, through the use of color scripts, color keys and color association.
Take a closer look at the Bambi barcode again. For those who are familiar with the movie, can you tell just by looking at the colors what sequences are taking place? The light blue for the ice skating sequence? Deep red for the forest fire? Desaturated grays and blues for the death of Bambi’s mother? And what about the color of the characters themselves? How well does the black and white skunk stand out when Bambi first meets him in the predominantly yellow flowerbed? Or Bambi’s bright orangey hue against the pale greens of the forest behind him? All these things are planned out to the most minute detail to make sure that the viewer can clearly see what is happening on screen.
Let’s make things fun by testing your animation knowledge. Here’s a few more animation barcodes, now try and guess what movies they are from. Some are pretty clear, and some might be a little tricky. For those that are stumped, click on the images to see which movie it is.
Los Angeles-based artist David Colman specializes in designing animal characters for animated productions.
David’s sketch work and rough drawings often feature these creatures in action, drawn in an energetic line.
David, who is currently an art director at Hasbro Animation Studios, shares his professional experience with students through his three self-published books—available on his website—and the courses that he teaches. You can see more of David’s work on his website, David’s Doodles, and on his DeviantArt gallery.
It’s been a week of animated film trailers and teasers. This afternoon, we see the release of the Free Birds trailer, which is the first feature film produced by Reel FX, a studio known for animating the well received CGI Looney Tunes shorts. Free Birds is directed by Jimmy Hayward (Horton Hears a Who!) and will be released by Relativity Media in the U.S. on November 1st.
The We The People petition website is run by the White House and bills itself as a site that gives “all Americans a way to engage their government on the issues that matter to them.” Any citizen of our great nation can create a petition and round up signatures from other constituents. The petitions that achieve over 100,000 signatures will generate a response from the Obama administration. Democracy in action…or so it would seem.
Last week, a courageous American started a petition that asked President Barack Obama to “re-enact the scene from The Incredibles where Frozone is looking for his supersuit.” The petition was supported by Incredibles director Brad Bird, who retweeted the request on his Twitter account. It made a reasonable request of the leader of the free world:
However, it turns out that Obama (or his minions who run the We the People site) do not appreciate The Incredibles as much as the rest of America’s freedom-loving, tax-paying, God-fearing citizens do. In an act worthy of the Turkish government, the petition asking Obama to re-enact a simple one-minute scene from a beloved animated film and which had received over 5,000 signatures in two days, was abruptly halted by the the U.S. government. Perhaps, then, Frozone was an appropriate character for Obama to re-enact because he clearly has no qualms about freezing the needs and desires of American citizens.
The harm that has been caused to the fundamental integrity of our democratic process is unquestionable, but we should never forget that, as Americans, we have the right to demand of our leaders to perform scenes from classic animated movies. In fact, a new petition requesting that Obama dress up as Frozone has already been launched on Change.org. We will make it happen one way or another:
Pop culture references abound in the new teaser trailer for The LEGO Movie directed by the creative team of Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Clone High TV series, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street). Warner Bros. will release the film in the U.S. on February 7, 2014. The highlight in this teaser is the animation, which has the chunky staccato rhythms one might expect of LEGOs animated in stop motion though it is actually achieved through computer animation.
Philip Dimitriadis works as a conceptual 2D and 3D artist for animation productions.
For the “Arabia project” that Philip was working on at Mike Young Productions in 2007, he was assigned to create a fictional hieroglyphic alphabet for use in the background environments which can be viewed here.
Above is a foliage study and robot design that Philip modeled in Maya.
More work in both 2D and 3D is available for viewing on his blog.
Identifying the next Jeffrey Katzenberg or George Lucas isn’t something easily done, but a columnist at the Washington Post has figured out who it is: Nick Weidenfeld.
Weidenfeld, the former Adult Swim development executive whose recent move to Fox has the industry buzzing with anticipation, was the recipient of a glowing profile in last Sunday’s Post, in which his grand plans for the animation industry were revealed.
Post columnist Thomas Heath details Weidenfeld’s career path, starting with his humble beginnings in Washington D.C. where he was raised by an estate lawyer and Betty Ford’s former press secretary—the latter being the daughter of a presidential confidant and ambassador to Italy. Educated at Georgetown Day School and then Columbia University, the Post recounts Weidenfeld’s upbringing where he bounced from an internship at the Pentagon to writing about hip hop and rap, and then clawed his way to a writing gig at Esquire. It was at the last job, while researching a piece about Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, that he ‘bonded’ with CN exec Mike Lazzo over a mutual love of William Faulkner, which was the obvious qualification for a career in animation.
“You wake up one day and you are head of development at the number one ad-supported network on cable TV,” Weidenfeld told the Washington Post. “The nice thing about my story is about the connections I made, but not family connections. I broke into this business myself through friends.”
Weidenfeld attributes his inspirational trajectory from scion to media mogul to his ability to “be open.” When pressed for an explanation, he clarifies, “It’s just being open… to be open to know what you are good at, and know what value you bring to something, you find a way to fit it into whatever job it is. I’m good at making connections or putting an organization or putting pieces together. I’m a good global thinker.”
This unequivocal business acumen was refined by reading the biography of Steve Jobs, the history of Pixar, and Clayton M. Christensen’s The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail. “These guys had these ideas and figured out that the old systems don’t work anymore,” Weidenfeld said. “The first thing I said to Fox is I don’t want to just make shows. I want to build a business for you that takes advantage of the best parts of animation.”
Using only the choicest parts of animation, Weidenfeld is ready to reinvent how cartoons are made. He is putting all phases of production for Fox’s upcoming animation block, ADHD (Animation Domination High-Def), from development to animation, under a single roof at his new 120-person Los Angeles studio, generously provided by Fox. From there he intends to usurp the young male demographic from YouTube and Saturday Night Live by producing loads of animated content and writing off the costs. He told the Post that when he presented this foolproof business plan to Fox, they said, “Okay, here you go.”
“It sounds like a parallel universe to me,” writes Heath, “but he’s the one who is becoming the next Jeffrey Katzenberg or George Lucas, not me.”
Nate Wragg works as an art director and illustrator for animation and book projects, and teaches courses about character design.
For the production of Toy Story 3, one of Nate’s assignments was to design the new toy characters in Bonnie’s room, including Mr. Pricklepants. See more toy character designs and read Nate’s thoughts about his process in this blog post.
Nate posts much more personal and professional work on his blog N8Wragg.blogspot.com, where you can also find links to the books that he has illustrated including two that are related to Pixar’s Ratatouille.
Aurora is a short film by young Dutch filmmaker Aimee de Jongh. It’s based on a Dutch fairytale about spooky white apparitions that haunt the forests of the Netherlands, but de Jongh plays with story conventions and upends audience expectations during the film’s brief two-minute length.