Wow!

photo_01
Just go see Ratatouille - you'll see what I mean. Nothing else comes close. Pixar had done it again!

- steve

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Michel Gagne debuts teaser for his next short: Senseology

sensology_400wtd2
Our good friend Michel Gagne has posted a quicktime teaser for his next short film project. I remember being excited when he told me about this last Xmas but had forgotten he was working on it. As usual Michel's animation is as slick as ever and we get to see the design sense from his sculptures translated into animation. The new short is very abstract and obviously inspired by such greats as McLaren and Fischinger, but with Michel's unique snappy timing and efx design sensibility. I can't wait to see the rest of it and hope he enters it for the Oscars when it is done.

To see the teaser for Senseology , click here

-hoops

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Carping about Carp

hofferman04
Just got an email from an old colleague Richard Bazley whom I had the pleasure of working with back in the day at Don Bluth's studio in Dublin, Ireland. How time flies. He just wanted to pass on the news that his award winning Flash short The Journal of Edwin Carp is finally available on DVD for $20. AWN has a good review of the film. Click here

So if you want to check out this great little short which is done in the style of famed British illustrator Ronald Searle, email Richard for details.

richard@bazleyfilms.com

For those who don't know, Richard is best known for his supervisory work on The Iron Giant, he was also a lead animator on Disney's Hercules and has contributed to many other animated features. He is currently Head of Story at Aardman on Chop Socky Chooks.

-hoops
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A Scanner Darkly

winona
Great article in Wired about the tech and troubles of the new film A Scanner Darkly by Richard Linklater. To read more about it click here although you should skip the first paragraph which contains a spoiler. I never did see the entire film Waking Life, but it was curious. I think what they did with the backgrounds was more interesting than the people. It's hard to watch so much roto. In this film, rather than short vignettes, it's one long story.

Two things in the article stick out in my mind. One is when Bob Sabiston (creator of the Rotoshop software being used) says to his crew "I told them, you are making a living as an animator, that's the good news. The bad news is that it's hard work". The other is when Linklater says "I go crazy because it feels like the animation process just goes so slow." Well, all I have to say about that is, yes and yes. It seems that if they knew this stuff, they wouldn't have been surprised at how long the project was going to take. Roto is one of the most tedious types of animation out there. It is slow! Partially because it can get extremely boring. You don't have the freedom of expression like a traditional animator would. You need to stick with what is on screen. Linklater seems to know this as well. he states "It was more of a factory and less artists expressing themselves." Again, yes it is. I hope all of this sinks in on this project. You can't whip this stuff out. It takes time.

To be honest I haven't liked a single film Linklater has done except the genius Dazed and Confused. I'm a bit skeptical whether I will like this one. Other then the technique being used on A Scanner Darkly, it's the sci-fi aspect of the Philip K. Dick story that interests me. I really like the trailer. I hope that the story is solid and that the technique is only used to enhance the vision and not used as the sole driving force of the movie.

- steve



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Cheeeeeeese!

wallace2
Aardman Animation comes through with yet another one of their timeless, classic stories: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. This time it brings back their two most famous characters "Wallace and Gromit" for their first feature length film. In this adventure they are known as Anti-Pesto; a humane pest control company. Wallace still has inventions that don't always seem to work as intended. Gromit still figures out a way to bail Wallace out. It's a tried and true formula that works. Why screw up a good thing? It's a wonderful story that is clever enough for the whole family to enjoy. The animation is top notch as always. We can expect this film to absolutely be in the running as Best Animated Picture at awards time. Go see The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. You will not be disappointed!

What did you think of The Curse of the Were-Rabbit ? Feel free to post your own comments.

- steve

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Corpse Bride

bride
I was lucky enough to see a sneak preview of Tim Burton's latest stop-motion project, Corpse Bride. I don't think stop-motion can get any better than this (the Wallace and Grommit feature not withstanding). An incredibly well crafted film. It looks fantastic! Some amazing animation and of course, the Tim Burton design is ever present. Lots of familiar settings, but a very different film than Nightmare. The music was enjoyable, but nothing is still playing in my head like when I left the theater after Nightmare. If you love stop-motion animation, don't miss this film!

Have you seen it? What did you think? Feel free to post your comments!

- steve

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HD heads up!

toy_story_small
Just a quick heads up for anyone who is into animation and owns an HDTV here in the U.S. Last night during ABC's HD broadcast of Disney's Pocahontas here in L.A., they were promoting the rerun of the original Toy Story in to be broadcast in HD on this Thursday, June 30th at 8:00pm PDT. I saw this film the last time they broadcast it in HD, and let me just say, as good as your DVD copy is, it doesn't even compare! So set your HD TiVos or be at home if you can. Check it out!

-steve

P.S. - Pocahontas looked great in HD as well!

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Attack of the 80's!

Two new "non-Disney" animated features from the 80's are coming to DVD. 1983's Rock & Rule (which is available now) and 1985's Starchaser: The Legend of Orin which will be available on June 21. In today's 3D world where most kids may not have ever even seen a 2D feature, they are refreshing to watch (even if they may seem a little dated). Both are worth checking out.

-steve

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The Incredibles

iincredibles


Wow!
"The Incredibles" will blow your mind! This is by far the best film PIXAR has released to date.
Wow!


When Brad Bird went up to PIXAR, it was a dark day for the world of 2D animation. Had Brad turned his back on his 2D breatheren? Now that "The Incredibles" has been released, I am pleased to say, HELL NO! All the qualities of a 2D film that we all know and love are there. Strong design, style, action, villians, heroes, comedy and music and most of all ... fun, all of which tie together to make one of the best animated films of all times! I can't wait to go see it again!


Without giving too much away about the story, it revolves around a family of Super Heroes that tries to cope in everyday life.


The animation in this film is spectacular. The crew truly out did themselves. The acting is terrific! The emotions that these characters can convey are wonderful. The folks at PIXAR seem to have a "lock" on what makes a great animated film. Great characters, great story, period.


It's too bad some of the other studios currently in production have not yet unlocked this idea. Remember that when you go see some of the other holiday fare this year. In discussing his new film "Polar Express", Robert Zemeckis shows his obvious contempt for animators and the art form of animation in general. From
.


I think when you see the movie, you’ll realize it’s absolutely nothing like an animated movie,” Zemeckis said. “You’ll see such subtlety in the performance of these characters that
you would have to have the genius-of-all-genius animators. In my opinion, there’s no animation in the world that could have created it
.”


Well, we'll see Bob. I think what PIXAR has achieved with the "The Incredibles" has already far surpassed anything you and your mo-cap team can hope to come up with.


-Steve





UPDATE
- Here's an excerpt from the
that further illustrates the difference of opinion between Zemeckis and Bird on the subject of animating humans. See what you think.


"Zemeckis (Polar Express) guesses that it is just a few years before a digitally rendered 'synthespian shares
the screen with a live actor - convincingly. 'That point where we'll be able to have a virtual,photo-real character standing next to a photographed [human] character in the same shot, and not be able to tell the difference - that's going to be the big breakthrough,' he says."Pixar's Brad Bird isn't sure what purpose that serves. "There is a segment of the CG community that aspires to make a fully realistic human character, and I think it's the weirdest goal, the dumbest goal," Bird says. "It's like scientists' getting so caught up in the science that they forget what they're doing. 'Look, I can make an orange out of dog poop, and it only cost me $100 million! And it looks just like an orange! Isn't that cool?!' But I can get a great orange for 25 cents, you know. If the goal is to have a CG character share the screen with a real person, like Gollum in The Lord of the Rings, then being photo-realistic is totally understandable... .

But with animated films, I don't see why you'd want to be limited by doing something that was pseudo-realistic."


Read more about Brad Bird on creating "The Incredibles" at
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Popeye (Fleischer's)

max-popeye

Wanna know how Max Fleischer's Popeye was put together?

Here's a clip.

Lower res file here

Higher res file here


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Futurama

futuramacast

Wanna know how the show Futurama gets put together? Here's a clip from Tech TV's
"The ScreenSavers"
.

Lower res file here

Higher res file here
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Chicken Run

cr_henhouse


This is the best animated movie to be released this year. Although "Chicken Run" is rated G, adults will find this film just as enjoyable as the kids. The film has a great sense of humor. Nick Park, Peter Lord, and Aardman have created yet another fantastic adventure. Although Wallace and Grommit bow out this time in favor of a chicken named "Ginger", the film still has the magic that we have come to expect from this group of filmmakers.

The story borrows heavily from "The Great Escape" and "Stalag 17" except this time it's the chickens that are the prisoners. They want off of Tweedy's Farm before they become fillings for Mrs. Tweedy's Pies. Led by Ginger they are determined to escape somehow.

The animation is terrific. You completely believe that these chickens are alive. Additionally, you care about what will happen to them thoughout the course of the film. Every detail is used to enhance the plot and move the story foward. Disney and Dreamworks traditional animation departments could learn a lot from this little film. It stays "on track" and does not get lost in mindless musical numbers and stupid sidekick jokes. There is a dance number in the film but it fits well within the context of the story and is quite funny.

Another reviewer put it best:

"
Reduced to its essence, this is a joke told by a person, not a corporation--and that makes all the difference.
"

-KENNETH TURAN, Times Film Critic

It is my opinion that Nick Park and Peter Lord along with John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton at PIXAR are the true successors to Walt Disney. The films that these individuals are producing are much closer to the old Disney classics than anything that has come out of the traditional departments in decades.

-Steve



Stop by the

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Titan A.E.

titanae


Don Bluth finally gives all the whining animation fans what they claim to want, and guess what? They fail to show up and buy tickets. Titan AE, which fulfilled the claimed wishes of most of the animation whiners I have listened to over the years, has been solidly disparaged by these same folks on its release.

I personally thought it was a pretty good ride, and from a pure character animation point of view it was excellent. It featured some of the most solid human animation performances I have seen in a long time. Not only that, it also was adult themed, had no singing characters and the sidekicks were not totally annoying. If you are an animation fan I urge you to go see this film. You might be disappointed with a few things but overall the animation is pretty fun.

The major criticisms I have heard on the net and in various reviews usually revolve around the fact that the story seems to be cribbed from every sci-fi film made in the last 25 years. But then I could probably say that about most science fiction done in recent years, with the exception of
The Matrix
which still had "borrowed" concepts. Frankly this didn't bother me and I have to point out a couple of cool sequences which were totally original in concept; the Hydrogen Tree Planet sequence and the Ice Field sequence. Both these sequences were very cool and well executed, and they are not ripped off from any other movie. Another sequence which was quite visually stunning was a section where the heroes ship flies through a bunch of gaseous nebulae.

The other big criticisms seem to be the standard guns which people pull out to piss on Bluth films. The humans are rotoscoped and look like Saturday Morning animation, the dialog is too overdone, it moved too much and so on.

Let's look at these complaints one by one:

The humans are rotoscoped!
I say so what. Most human animation in all the Disney classics was rotoscoped and no one complains about this. Whether it is badly rotoscoped or not is another issue. In Titan AE the roto is very well done, and I know from talking to Len Simon who directed the animation that it was done properly. He was saying that they much more strictly enforced a policy of using the live action as keyframe reference rather than allowing people to simply trace. This is very apparent in the solidity of the drawings and in the weight displayed by the characters as opposed to the usual floatiness and crawliness associated with roto.

The characters look like they are from a Saturday Morning GI Joe cartoon!
One character, Corso, looks like a military guy but that is his character. The animation certainly isn't Saturday Morning, but I've read reviews implicating the quality of the animation because this one character reminds the reviewer of some sub standard TV show they saw when they were a kid. Another review claimed it was worse than Heavy Metal. Give me a break! People making these claims obviously couldn't animate their way out of a paper bag and are probably prone to calling an inbetween a "tween".

The dialog is too overdone!
It is called "chewy-dialog" and it is the Bluth house style. Live with it. I like it myself. Also, if this is your criteria for judging animation you might as well piss on Aardman and Nick Park's animation which has a weirdly distinct lip sync style as well. The Disney mushy dialog style is not the only way to do it.

"It moved too much!"
"
One of the main principles of animation as outlined in the Illusion of Life" is
exaggeration
.

Enough said. I could go on but it is obvious that most of the criticisms laid at the feet of this movie are specious crap. The only problems I had with the movie were some small story holes and with the integration of the 2D and 3D.

Neither of these issues were significant enough to stop me from enjoying the movie. If I were Don and his team I would be proud of this film. For the next one though I'd use a toonshader and forego the fully rendered 3D. To wrap up, the film while it has a few problems is worth seeing and is quite fun. If you don't see it in the theater it is definitely worth a look on video.

 
hoops


Stop by the
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"Clerks" - The Cartoon

clerks

Well another primetime animated series unfortunately bites the dust. "Clerks" - The Cartoon has been cancelled after only two shows! Even "God, The Devil and Bob" lasted longer than that! It's a shame. It was a funny show. They even had the original actors provide the voices for their characters. The style on "Clerks" was really cool. Nice thick/thin lines. A nice change from the tiring squigglevision of Saturday morning and "The Rugrats". Guess it's just more of the same on the Awful Boring Crap Network. If you want to check out what "Clerks" was all about head over to Clerks - The Cartoon Website before it disappears and see for yourself. Apparently Kevin Smith has obtained the rights for video release so I'm sure we'll see the rest of the unaired shows of "Clerks" - The Cartoon on video or DVD soon.

Also check out The View Askew Website if you enjoy Kevin Smith's live action projects as well.

Snooch to the Nooch.

-Steve





* Pick up your very own copy of Clerks - The Animated Series Uncensored and see what you missed!
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Stuart Little Rocks!

Check out the new Stuart Little movie!
Comments

Save the Iron Giant - Join the internet campaign

giant
Everyone,

This last weekend an ongoing animation tragedy has started to unfold. The Iron Giant, probably the best new non-Disney animated film in a long time, is dying at the box office due to inept marketing by Warner Bros. Studios.

You have a chance to right this wrong by joining the grassroots internet campaign to save Iron Giant. Please join in to help this new animation classic.

First go see the movie and take a friend, or if you have kids take all of them. You will not be disappointed, this is a film for everyone adults included.

Second send this email to all the people you know and encourage them to spread the word and see this film.

Third post good things about the film on every relevant internet forum you can find Newsgroups, Chat rooms etc.

Finally if you are into toys go to a Toy Store and ask for the Ultimate Giant it is the coolest toy ever. You will probably not be able to find it but it is really cool. Perhaps we can build Ultimate Giant mania by creating massive demand.

If you want further info on the film go to:

http://www.irongiant.com

And to see that it's a really great and entertaining film go to these various sites and read the MANY lengthy and glowing reviews for what has become many peoples favorite new film in some time.

http://www.aint-it-cool-news.com
http://www.variety.com/filmrev/index.asp
http://www.hollywoodreporter.com (look under reviews)

Even Roger Ebert loved it, saying he was relieved that there were no spastic sidekicks, and singing teapots!

I went to see it this last weekend, and was really surprised at how good this film was. I would say it is the most refreshingly animated non Disney feature since Secret of NIMH. The one thing that it has that NIMH had is heart. You can see that the people making this film had fun and the animation reflects that. The giant is great and is some of the nicest character animation you will see in a long time. The rest of the animation hearkens back to 101 Dalmations which puts it in a pretty good league.

Once again, go see the movie this weekend, tell all your friends, and bring the kids. Thank you for your help in saving this new animation classic .

Jon Hooper
Friend of the Giant

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