The Funny Side Of Growing Beyond The Target Demographic

Tumblr use Isaia posted a few comics that look at the humourous side of a show growing in popularity in demographics far beyond the one it was created for. They poke fun at the whole idea of a “target demographic” by pointing out that any show that’s good will attract the right audience.

 

Disney & Pixar Should Not Make Any Marvel Cartoons [repost]

Via: Screenrant

Just a little bit over a year ago I posted a bit of a rant about how Disney & Pixar had no business engaging in productions of Marvel properties, despite the fact that Disney owns the lot. My position hasn’t changed but the fact that there is a supposed co-production in the works, has spurred me to re-post it below.

There I said it. Disagree if you must, but please hear me out before you judge me!

Two years ago, The Walt Disney Company agreed to buy Marvel Entertainment in a massive deal that cost so much money, I could very happily live for the remainder of my years on 0.01% of it. The question arose at the time and it still exists today in what will the company do with the new acquisition?

Many answers abounded with one of the most prominent being the possibility that the Walt Disney Company could use its superior animation skills and artists to create some wonderful new Marvel-related entities.

There are numerous problems with this approach and I suppose the fact that we are discussing it two years after the fact is proof enough. Firstly, Disney and Marvel do not see eye to eye when it comes to their content.

Who would a Disney-produced Marvel TV show/film appeal to? Oh sure the likes of the X-Men films can be theoretically suitable for kids, but I’d be willing to be that the Old Maestro would be spinning in his grave at the thought of the company he built putting out such stuff.

Disney is purportedly all about the family whereas Marvel is about the individual. Each approach tends to deal with very different approaches to the story and characters and there is little common ground between them save for the fact that individuals can enjoy family-orientated entertainment too.

Who would produce the content? Marvel has its own department for such things but Disney has all the necessary staff. Can you imagine Disney artists working under people accustomed to comics? I can’t and I doubt the artists can either.

Comic animation is also very different to what Disney is accustomed to. The current artists wouldn’t be able to work on it so new ones would have to be found. Besides that, Disney has never done a comic-style film or TV show. Tron is about as close as they got and even then that was technically live-action.

On a related note, would Pixar take up the challenge? According to head honcho John Lasseter, no:

No, not at Pixar. We have The Incredibles, so we’ve done superheroes here ourselves and so we have that kind of history with Brad Bird doing The Incredibles.

Arguably the best situation is to run both companies independently. There is little common ground so why exert all the effort to merge for no real benefit. Unlike TimeWarner, Disney has no need for excuses when it comes to keeping its comic department separate from its animation one.

Valve Releases Its Open Source “Source”

It would appear that the game is slowly changing when it comes to making animated films. First there was the Tube Open Movie, and now, video game maker Valve has announced the beta release of its Source Filmmaker software. What is that? Well it’s Valve’s own program for creating animated shorts.

What is the best aspect to the annoucement? The fact that users will be able to use assests from the game Team Fortress 2. While this might not be the most ideal set of tools for moviemaking, it is a significant shift from the usual studio mindset of hiding all your tools away.

Think you could get access to all the sets and rigs used for Toy Story 3? Guess again. So it’s a bit of a fresh breeze to see a company stump up its own assets for regular folks to use, free of charge.

And if you thought this was a simple tool for the bedroom director, you’re mistaken. Powerhouse Irish outfit Brown Bag Films has signed on to create nothing less than a full feature film using the software, and the budget is a not so measly €15 million ($18.7 million).

The most exciting aspect to the whole thing? The fact that video game rendering engines are seeing a second purpose in rendering animation in real time. The future is bright I tell you.

Brave Review: Merida is Not The Feminist Heroine Many Were Expecting

Via: Nerdy Feminist

“You’d better say it was excellent.”

Such was the direction I received from the fiancée for this review. However it is something I simply cannot do for the entire film. For parts? Sure, we’ll get to those in a minute, but as a whole film, Brave is very good, but it isn’t excellent; there are simply too many areas where it comes up short.

First, the good stuff. Yes, the scenery really is as good as it looks. Pixar has done a superb job in replicating rural Scotland, complete with the wild open spaces and the intimacy of the woods, that provides ample eye candy throughout the entire film. Perhaps it is because of my bias (I’m from the part of Ireland that is just as, if not more, wild and rugged) I was entranced by the scenery for the entire film. Well done to Pixar for doing their homework!

Now onto the not so good stuff.

The Plot

The plot, while fine as a concept, stutters in execution. Pitting daughter against mother isn’t entirely original, but at least the ancient Scottish setting was a new twist. Sadly that doesn’t come to pass. Brave can’t decide if it’s a serious drama or a comedy. In the end it tries to be both and thus becomes a film of two halves. I’ll let you guess which half sustained my real interest and which was accepting of my superficial attention.

Unlike How To Train Your Dragon, Brave makes the mistake of proclaiming to be a dramatic film but whereas the latter makes no bones about its comedic side, Brave feels like its being funny in order to hide something and one can’t help but suspect that its to do with the removal of Brenda Chapman halfway through production that caused the, quite frankly, lazy use of comedy to patch up the hole left behind.

The Animation

While the background and scenery animation is superb, the same can’t be said for the character animation. Yes, Merida’s hair is stunning, but that is merely a distraction. Every other character seems to pop around as if on a very heavy dose of caffeine and once the action kicks in, I simply could not have been reminded of Shrek at a worse time.

Characters were simply far too jumpy, case in point is the royal family’s housekeeper (the one that, uh, hides the key in that place). As she runs through the castle and finally gets to the kitchen, there is no grace in her stumbles. They speak nothing of her character, she could have been anyone and the effect would have been the same. What differentiates Pixar from DreamWorks at this point? Nothing to be honest, DW at its best could easily pull off character animation as, if not more, graceful than Pixar has in Brave.

The Characters

This is the acid test for Brave. It was intended to be a ‘different’ Pixar film, one with a female lead, a princess, and a setting in Scotland; all traits that Disney itself would have used in the past. The film was marketed as such with a heavy emphasis on how Merida was something different from what we had seen before; a teenager, a rebel and so on.

Sadly, all the characters are stock for a Hollywood film.

There’s the idiotic father, the prim and proper mother, the rebel teenager and the three triplet boys who are simply incapable of doing anything good. While the father and the boys are merely filling comedic space, the mother and daughter who are the focus of the film, should have been much more complex.

For all the hubbub about Merida being Pixar’s first feminist, there is little evidence that she is anything more than a spoiled child who is in need of a life lesson or two. If anything, it’s Merida’s mother who is the strong female in the film, being more than capable of stopping the men right in their tracks, especially her husband!

Merida attempts to make a case for finding her own way, but with such an emphasis on ‘fate’ and placing your future in someone else’s hands, namely a [redacted spoiler],she spends more time being led down the garden path and having her decisions made for her than discovering them herself. She’s not the strong female protagonist that many (including myself) were expecting.

Even the other princesses in the Disney films seem to come off as stronger characters. Jasmine was coy enough to play along with Jafar to help Aladdin. Ariel knew what she wanted but really had to work in order to win over the prince. Belle had to work at the Beast fairly hard and overcome many obstacles to save the day. Merida on the other hand, simply has to reverse what harm she did and follow the steps laid out for her, and that isn’t a particularly difficult task.

Once the big change comes about, the Queen instantly becames a different character, an unlikeable character, a comedic character. She isn’t the same and the change dramatically shifts the tone of the film, for the worse. Yeah, there are a few genuinely loving moments, but I just couldn’t shake the fact that the queenias an innately funny character. A shame really because her serious side could have easily been kept while keeping the humurous side to her transformation to a minimum.

Conclusion

Pixar has been one of the most successful animation studios over the last 25 years. They’ve been knocking out hit after hit after hit on a more consistent basis than anyone else before them. Many have proclaimed that each new film has the potential to be the first Pixar ‘flop’. Cars and Cars 2 were certainly not the critic’s favourites; in a sense they are ‘critical’ flops.

The reality though, is that we are seeing Pixar slowly slide into mediocrity. They set the gold standard for films and unfortunately for them, everyone else is catching up. Toy Story 3, Cars 2 and now Monster’s University represent Pixar slowly cashing in its goodwill chips at least DreamWorks make no bones about using sequels to make money. Expect to see Pixar films doing well, but to become increasingly ordinary; the spread of the Disney corporate machinery is inevitable after all.

Brave is Pixar trying too hard. It’s fine to portray the film as an epic with a strong female lead but when you’ve built your brand on delivering on your promises, it’s devastating when you come up short. Brave was the first Pixar film where I lost interest during the screening. I was expecting so much more from a studio that has proven the ability to deliver, and it almost hurts when to see a film with such a great premise come out half-baked.

What To Do After Graduating From Animation School

Via: Wikia

Having travelled the world, Australian animator Elliot Cowan is well-placed to offer advice, and his latest blog post is no exception. In it, he details no less than 19 things that graduating animation students should do now that their structured life of goofing off studying has come to an end.

There is next to nothing I can add to this excellent post that is more than worth your time reading, whether you’re a fresh graduate or not, but suffice to say, doing something is better than doing nothing.

4 Reasons Animated Shorts Will Soon Reign Supreme

Over at the TAG Blog (which in turn got it from Comic Book.com) Steve Hulett offers 5 very good reasons why animated shorts are apparently coming back into fashion with major studios:

1) Shorts provide a continuity of work for employees who might otherwise be laid off and move on to the competition.

2) They are added value for the features to which they’re attached.

3) They provide valuable training for up-and coming board artists, directors, and writers.

4) They help keep well-loved franchises alive and viable between the ninety-minute tent poles.

5) They can be magnets for shiny gold statues that studios covet.

I wholeheartedly agree. Shorts accomplish all of those and more! Here’s a few reasons why shorts will soon reign supreme in terms of volume.

1. Attention spans are ever dwindling

If the rise of the internet has proven anything, it’s that attention spans are getting ever shorter. Sure, people can still sit down for a full feature film, but on a day to day basis, media and entertainment is being delivered in ever smaller doses. The short is ideally positioned to take advantage of this. Taking a break to watch a quick 7-9 minute short is much easier as opposed to a half-hour TV show. Besides, small screens like phones and tablets, give shorter content an advantage when it comes to ability to watch.

2. There are cost efficiencies with shorts that even TV shows can’t match

Shorts (when done right) can quite literally be pumped out; Next Media Animation in Taiwan is proof of that. Sure, the quality is questionable, but they do take things to extremes by getting stories out literally within hours. For better quality stuff, 2-3 weeks was the standard back in the day and there’s little reason why that has changed since then. In any case, South Park has been known to cobble episodes together in under a week but then they focus much more on plot than actual animation.

On top of that, characters, scenes and layouts can be re-used ad naseum. By keeping things simpler, shorts derive most of their cost savings from not having to come up with new locations, characters, props, etc. In addition, what is created is used many more times than for a TV show and so the cost of creating something can be spread out over many more episodes, thus lowering the contribution cost to each short.

3. Bandwidth is growing, but it isn’t there just yet

The inevitability of the internet as a distribution channel means that we’ll all have to get used to loading bars, in the short term. Bandwidth will eventually expand to allow for near-instantaneous streaming/downloading for the majority of consumers, but for now, short content will stand to benefit, as it can be downloaded much quicker. Expect to see this scenario continue for a few more years to come.

4. History likes to repeat itself

When cinema first got started, it seemed fairly obvious how people would make money, but it still took a bit of time before things like the states rights markets disappeared and the studio-distributor-theatre model developed to collect and transport revenue. Where we are right now is a similar situation. Making money from content on the internet is still being worked out, with many various models being tested. It’s much easier to test one with a short than with a TV show or film. Shorts dominated the animated cinema until Snow White in 1937 and it is highly likely that shorts will dominate the internet until someone turns a real profit with a feature film.

Linux Bronies? 6 Examples That They Do Exist

Bronies come in all shapes and forms, but one of the more niche categories has to be the ones that are also Linux nerds. While Linux is well-known for the devotedness of its fans (even more so than those in the cult of Apple) it’s still a bit of a surprise to see them interested in something as saccharine as My Little Pony.

Anyway, here’s what some of them get up to when they blend their favourite OS with their favourite show:

Themes

Linux is endlessly sutomizeable and the two main websites KDE Look and GNOME Look are more than happy to oblige with Pony themed items for your computer.

Wallpapers

Don’t know what /dev/null is? You clearly aren’t be a Linux nerd.

Putting cutie marks in Bash.

Bash is a command line shell (read: text-based interface) for Linux. This purports to put the cutie mark above into the window.

Memes

You knew this one had to exist didn’t you.

Everything!

A co-ordinated desktop is a pretty desktop.

Naming your host

Very important this one, spotted over on the My Little Pony subreddit, dedicated to Linux Bronies.