Animation Fashion: Watches, Kimono and Makeup

Fashion and animation go quite well together don’t you think? The former sees no shortage of inspiration from the latter, and the latter is rapidly expanding its fashion sense in recent years. It’s no surprise therefore, that articles on the topic of animation-related fashion come up rather frequently so here’s a few recent ones to check out.

Out Now! Coraline and Boxtrolls on Bluray DVD combo

New from Shout! Factory are Bluray editions of Laika’s films. Up first are Coraline and The Boxtrolls!

It’s hard to believe that Laika’s fantastic stop-motion films have been coming out for over a decade with very few imitators. Yet that’s positive, because those films retain their uniqueness amongst a vast array of superhero films and by-the-numbers animated comedies.

Now, with advances in HD media and so on, four of the studio’s films are getting proper BluRay releases with lots of lovely features. Up first are Coraline and The Boxtrolls which are out today (August 31st) with ParaNorman and Kubo of the Two Strings to follow on September 14th). Instead of pondering the films themselves, this review will be for the features that are completely new for both films.

However, it would be remiss to not mention how good both films look in HD. The level of detail that’s visible, which adds more to the viewing experience than you’d think, is incredible and if you haven’t seen both films in a while, be prepared for a few surprises. Returning to Laika’s early films after such a long time makes for a breath of fresh air all over again. They hold up exceptionally well and it is a credit to the artists and crew that they exhibit a truly timeless quality compared to such contemporaries as ‘Monsters Vs. Aliens’ and even ‘Up’.

Both boxsets are similarly styled and you get DVD and Bluray versions of the film along with a glossy booklet on each film. The extra features revisiting the puppets and their test footage are all new for home media. For students and fans, they are a true in-depth look behind the scenes that in conjunction with the other features from previous releases, are the kind of things that Netflix simply doesn’t offer. If you have any appreciation for stop-motion, you will want to check them out.

Both Coraline and Boxtrolls are out now on DVD/Bluray from Shout! Factory.

NOTE: I’ll get some images up as soon as WordPress cooperates.

‘Dreambuilders’ Review

Just about out now from Shout! Factory, ‘Dreambuilders’ is definitely one for the kids, but that’s actually OK.

Minna’s life is turned upside-down when her dad’s new fiancée and her daughter move in. Her new stepsister, Jenny, turns out to be horrible and Minna is very frustrated. She wants her gone! One night, Minna discovers a world behind her dreams, where the whimsical dreambuilders create every fantasy and nightmare we endure nightly on their theater stages! Minna also finds out how to manipulate Jenny’s dreams. But interfering with dreams has dire consequences … and when Minna goes too far one night, Jenny can’t wake up anymore. Minna must enter the dream world one more time to face the nightmare she has created in order to save Jenny and her new family.

‘Dreambuilders’ will struggle to hold adults’ attentions but it’s the kind of film that kids will love because they’ll focus on what’s important. Two half-sisters who are more like chalk and cheese can stand in for any sibling relationship with its ups and downs. The animation isn’t Pixar-quality but then which kid ever notices that, let alone complains about it? The story is engaging and although the first half of the film trots along at a leisurely place, it gradually quickens towards the climax. Only the dialogue seemed to be lacking with characters struggling to get their feelings across without sounding mealymouthed. The cast of characters is diverse and for Jenny in particular, touches on a very real factor in many kids’ lives that is rarely if ever shown in children’s films.

Overall ‘Dreambuilders’ is an interesting take on some well-trodden ideas that will keep younger viewers entertained with its daring adventure. ‘Dreambuilder’s is available from Shout! Factory on August 24.

Quick Notes: Shrek & Fox’s NFT Hype

This is just a quick note on two topics that I can’t let pass by but which I don’t have enough to say to warrant a full post.

Shrek


It’s 20 years old and no, I can’t believe it. The film came out just at that awkward point in your life when you’re too old for kids stuff and a bit too young to appreciate more mature fare. I went to see it anyway and I’m glad I did.

The Guardian posted a review by Scott Tobias that’s decidely unflattering but it misses the point entirely. Yes, Shrek doesn’t look so great in hindsight given everything it spawned, but at the time it was groundbreaking.

For the decade prior, all that audiences had were Disney’s renaissance and Pixar’s golden age and that’s not really a choice. Almong comes Shrek with two very important qualities: 1. it goes in the opposite direction and, 2. it mercilessly pokes fun at Disney’s films.

That second aspect was something new to most audinces which made it incredibly fresh while painting the old classics in an entirely new light. Disney themselves had to admit as much and produced films such as Disenchanted and Tangled in the years following Shrek.

From this vantage point, the films holds up rather well. It’s place in animated history was assured a long time ago (despite Mike Myers’ atempts at a Scottish accent).

FOX Hypes an NFT show

Yup, I’m scratching my head too. The news was announced at an upfront which probably tells you everything you need to know.

If you’re reading this post, it’s already too late to get into NFTs. The hype train sailed over a month ago and it sure isn’t going to hang around for this show to be produced.

As for the entire concept, I sort of get it? I think FOX is placing a bit too much faith in the idea that fans will pony up for exclusive content and bragging rights to owning pieces of a show. Cels and original art has been around forever and owning the only copy of something is quite a bit different from owning a receipt that says you own it.

It’s all part of the broader attempt to exploit the value of digital goods which by their nature, have no real value since they can be infinitely and perfectly replicated for extremely little cost. NFTs are just the latest trendy way of doing so. I don’t hold out much hope that this show is described in the future as groundbreaking.

Pixar Employees Learn the Hard Way that their Films Aren’t so Superior

Lots of films go straight to VOD in light of the COVID pandemic, but Disney made a point of upcharging for the latest blockbuster releases. With new Pixar films being released without an upcharge, some employees are upset at their apparent downgrade in status.

Aeons ago (OK, five years ago), I wrote a somewhat incendiary post for Jerry Beck’s Animation Scoop where I argued that Pixar’s films were not the stellar, unimpeachable magnificence they are marketed as. My argument was they while their initial films were, the industry soon caught up. With a rash of sequels [then] scheduled to be released, I pointed out that Pixar’s films were, for all intents and purposes, average films designed to appeal to the broadest of audiences and make the most money.

The responses were, well, not in agreement to say the least.

Fast forward a few years later, and Disney announce that the soon-to-be-released ‘Luca’ will be released on Disney+ but crucially, will not command an additional fee on top of normal subscription charges.

This isn’t sitting well with Pixar employees:

In many ways, this tweet speaks to the ego of cinematic filmmaking. When only a select few films got made let alone receive a cinematic release, those films are seemingly ‘better’ than ever other.

With times a changing, Pixar’s latest and greatest find themselves on the same playing field as every foreign, independent, and two-bit animation studio out there. Does this devalue their work? No, but it clearly stings to realise that you’re not creating superior films based on some grand, artistic purpose that the cinema ordains upon its releases. Instead you’re creating a film that’s just a flash-in-the-pan along with a million others. Vying for attention down in the televisual muck in a dogged, scrappy fight that will never end.

Such feelings are also somewhat disingenuous. Feeling ‘demoralised’ is one thing, but to be so at a time when many of Pixar’s former colleagues at Blue Sky are out of a job and looking for work?

Another flake falls from the facade to reveal a bloated ego filled with hubris and Pixar’s reputation tarnishes a little further.

Nickelodeon Kills the Golden Goose in Search of Avatar Gold

Avatar: The Last Airbender is the quintessentially perfect animated TV series. Its three seasons (or books) set the gold standard with meaty stories and lovable, complex characters. Recent news that Nickelodeon are establishing a special studio to expand the Avatar ‘universe’ is akin to killing the goose in search of perceived gold within.