Irish Week: Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day Responsibly, Watch The Secret of Kells

It’s that time of the year again, when everyone pretends to be Irish and the real Irish milk it from the American tourists for all it’s worth. St. Patrick’s Day is on Thursday so until then, this post is part of a series on Ireland and Irish-related animation. You can browse the full series here.

Today’s the day and while I would have liked to have written this yesterday, I could not, so I am writing it this morning before the day begins (that sounded poetic…). It is hard to believe that two years after it was released in Ireland, we are still talking about this film, it is a testament to how much it has resonated with audiences around the world. So much so that I wrote a post about it a while back.

Anyways, what better way to celebrate Ireland and Irishness than a nice Irish film eh? And if you’ve already watched it, watch it again, you might discover something you may have missed the last time around.

PS:

CORNED BEEF AND CABBAGE IS NOT IRISH!

Irish Week: Do All Dogs Go To Heaven?

It’s that time of the year again, when everyone pretends to be Irish and the real Irish milk it from the American tourists for all it’s worth. St. Patrick’s Day is on Thursday so until then, this post is part of a series on Ireland and Irish-related animation. You can browse the full series here.

Via: Wikipedia

I’m afraid my time has been squeezed for today’s post so instead, I am suggesting you all go out and watch All Dogs Go To Heaven, a film that was (for the most part) produced in Dublin. My memory of it is fairly hazy but feel free to comment below if you have any thoughts on the film. Hopefully we can get a nice wee discussion going. 🙂

Has Pixar Jumped The Shark With The Posters For Cars 2?

Via: The Animation Blog

Some say the bigger question is whether Pixar will jump the shark with Cars 2 itself, but it is still too early to tell. However, when it comes to the promotional posters, I think they’ve already done it.

The reason is simple, the posters are rather lackluster in overall design. Don’t get me wrong, they look nice, but if you’re going to ape classic Grand Prix posters, you might as well do it right.

As far as I know, Cars 2 involves a world-wide race of some sort, so it would seem like a great idea to release a few posters featuring the characters in famous cities around the world, right? Yes, of course. Pixar has been here before with the Wall-E and UP teaser posters (created by Eric Tan) that it released before those films hit the cinemas. Personally, I think they’re a great idea to drum up support from the fans and to promote the film in a slightly different and off-beat manner.

So far they has succeeded. The posters for Wall-E had a kind of quirky, Googie-like charm to them and the UP posters relied heavily on the old travel ads of the past to make light of the film’s plot.

However, when it comes to Cars 2, I think they’ve missed the mark only slightly. The main elements are certainly there. The car at the forefront, the background definitely waaay in the back. There’s no chance of mistaking where the action is or what is going on.

The main problem that I can see, though, is the character themselves. It’s just them! Sure there are a few cars in the background racing along, but for the most part, it is just a single character with a few speed lines drawn in to show that they are supposed to be moving.

How does that compare with a real Grand Prix poster? Check out the samples below.

Via: Wikipedia

Via: AllPosters.com

A race to the finish line? A duel to the death? I certainly think so. There is so much more action portrayed, so much more excitement! I want to see that Grand Prix! Just be thankful I can’t find the poster where the car literally has flames coming out the back of it!

So you see why I think the Cars 2 posters are a bit tame. They allude to the great posters of the past, but they are, at best, a timid recreation with none of the excitement and drama of the real thing. Cars 2, by the sounds of things, could certainly have benefited from a harder edge but perhaps that was vetoed by someone along the line.

So how far off are they? Check out this poster for the antique Monaco Grand Prix held last year. A thoroughly modern poster but with all the classic elements of the genuine article. It can be done.

Is Luc Besson Stirring Up Some Animated Goodies?

Via: /film and Bleeding Cool

By the looks of the image above, yes he is.

By the looks of things, ‘A Monster in Paris’ may turn out to be an interesting sort of film. I don’t know about you, but the first thing that popped into my head was Gru from Despicable Me. Must be the broad shoulders.

As /film points out, there is still little if any info on the plot so for now, we’re left guessing and it is still early stages as the film isn’t scheduled to be released until late this year (2011) in France with a wider release after that. Hopefully we’ll have the full details soon. I’m curious to see how the differences between American and European CGI films have changed over the years.

David OReilly’s Freudian Review of Tangled

Disclaimer: I don’t normally post stuff that isn’t suitable for all ages but this is a slight exception. Exercise restraint if you are easily offended!

Yesterday (Thursday), in an amusing hour and a half, David OReilly (the Irish fella that has a wicked sense of humour, and who made these films) watched Tangled. He tweeted his thoughts as follows:

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43354415456976897

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43356373060292609

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43358448968155136

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43363060357926912

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43367503044419584

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43386156641038336

Lastly his recommendation:

http://twitter.com/davidoreilly/status/43388148054626304

Is Animation Really Killing the Movie Business?

Exhibit A, this quote from an article by Mark Harris in GQ Magazine (I profusely apologise, I would never consider linking  to, much less blogging about, an article from such a rag unless it is under exceptional  circumstances similar to this one) which came my way via Marco Arment.

As recently as 1993, three kid-oriented genres—animated movies, movies based on comic books, and movies based on children’s books—represented a relatively small percentage of the overall film marketplace; that year they grossed about $400 million combined (thanks mostly to Mrs. Doubtfire) and owned just a single spot in the year’s top ten. In 2010, those same three genres took in more than $3 billion and by December represented eight of the year’s top nine grossers.

Let me posit something: That’s bad. We can all acknowledge that the world of American movies is an infinitely richer place because of Pixar and that the very best comic-book movies, from Iron Man to The Dark Knight, are pretty terrific, but the degree to which children’s genres have colonized the entire movie industry goes beyond overkill. More often than not, these collectively infantilizing movies are breeding an audience—not to mention a generation of future filmmakers and studio executives—who will grow up believing that movies aimed at adults should be considered a peculiar and antique art. Like books. Or plays.

Where to start? If you have read the rest of the article, you will know that is a passionate lament about the slide of the quality of Hollywood films over the last 40 years or so. He talks about the seismic shift towards more family friendly films and how they are strangling the mature films that he decries as a rare find today.

In my (admittedly) hard-headed Irish opinion, it’s a complete load of bullshit that smacks of both desperation and a complete misunderstanding of the facts. He focuses solely on content and uses that as a crutch for why films made for adults are becoming more and more scarce. Harris bemoans the fact that R rated films have to be made on a relatively small budget. He goes so far as to say:

The economic pressures the studios are facing aren’t just an excuse—they’re real. Movie-ticket sales may be reasonably strong, but any number of economic forces are conspiring against the production of adult dramas. They don’t generally have the kind of repeat-viewing appeal that would make them DVD smashes. They often end up with an R rating, which puts a ceiling on their earning capacity and makes a modest budget absolutely essential. Oscar nominations or even wins can no longer be relied upon to goose a quality film’s revenues.

The kicker to the entire article is that it seems like one big advertisement for Hollywood, in particular the large studios.

Studios make movies for people who go to the movies, and the fact is, we don’t go anymore

Duh, no shit sherlock. It costs a fortune to do that and the films are generally not that great. Besides, I can’t watch the film in my underwear or drink beer at the cinema, which I can at home (not that I actually do, but it’s nice to have the option).

Harris completely (and I mean utterly) misses the point, which is that animated films have become successful over the last number of years because they’re great films, and their suitable for all ages too!

He fails to mention the seismic shift in cinema over the last number of years, namely the rise of the internet and the total failure of Hollywood studios to adapt a new business model. They keep spending tons of money suing fans that completely pisses them off and make life difficult for them to enjoy what they love.

Harris’ position is that because animated films are successful at the box office, they will eventually push out “real”  films that are ultimately less profitable to make because they are appropriate for a smaller audience. As any business student can tell you, that’s basic economics. If a film is suitable for a larger audience, it will of course, make more money. That is a simple fact that has been true since the dawn of time. The only difference is now there are many more animated and family-friendly films being made than in the past. A fact that zooms straight over Harris’ head.

Overall, this article was not worth blogging about because I have only served to call attention to it and the nonsense contained within. The only reason I do so is because it is featured in GQ magazine, one that I can only presume people other than myself read and respect. As a result, I cannot allow such readers to believe that what the article says is the truth.

Animation is an artform for filmmaking. It does not purport to usurp the crown of the classic American dramatic film. It is also not guilty of ‘gaming the system’. many have tried that game and failed miserably. Hollywood as an industry is in a time of great upheaval and those who do not adapt are getting left behind. it is these tragglers that Mark Harris is lamenting, because there continues to be plenty of fantastic, dramatic films being made outside the system, and their often much better for it. This includes animation, the supposed slayer of the industry.

So don’t blame animation and children’s films for the demise of Hollywood, it’s their own damned fault.

 

The economic pressures the studios are facing aren’t just an excuse—they’re real. Movie-ticket sales may be reasonably strong, but any number of economic forces are conspiring against the production of adult dramas. They don’t generally have the kind of repeat-viewing appeal that would make them DVD smashes. They often end up with an R rating, which puts a ceiling on their earning capacity and makes a modest budget absolutely essential. Oscar nominations or even wins can no longer be relied upon to goose a quality film’s revenues.

The economic pressures the studios are facing aren’t just an excuse—they’re real. Movie-ticket sales may be reasonably strong, but any number of economic forces are conspiring against the production of adult dramas. They don’t generally have the kind of repeat-viewing appeal that would make them DVD smashes. They often end up with an R rating, which puts a ceiling on their earning capacity and makes a modest budget absolutely essential. Oscar nominations or even wins can no longer be relied upon to goose a quality film’s revenues.

Cool Mosaics That Provide A Different View of Fantasia

Via: Blabbling on Arts And Culture (Stephen Hartley)

By way of Oswald Iten, I’ve come across s series of posts by Stephen Hartley, who has gone and made a series of mosaics of various sequences in Fantasia (one of my favourites is above). I must say they do bring out some of the beauty in the films and provide an opportunity to see how the scenes progress throughout the film.

It’s well worth paying the blog a visit and perusing the series. They are thought-provoking and once again highlight the level of detail that went in the timeless classic that is Fantasia.

Anomaly Appraisal: The External World

Embedded above is 17 minutes of perhaps the most insane, random and almost gut-wrenching animation I’ve seen so far this year. Warning: it’s definitely NSFW and contains plenty of adult themes, although the film addresses that point oh so adroitly somewhere in the middle.

I wrote about David OReilly a while back with an admiration post, and having watched The External World, I can safely confirm that I was correct in my observations.

This is not necessarily a film for the faint-hearted. There are plenty of scene that one might conclude were included only for their shock value. While that may be true, those same scenes have to be viewed in the context of the whole film, and then they will most likely get a laugh.

The film is loaded with pop-culture references (video games, TV shows, etc.) although they only support the action that’s actually going on. In stark contrast to OReilly’s previous film, Please Say Something, there is little, if any, invitation for the audience to connect with the characters, who are never given a chance to develop.

Some don’t like this aspect of the film, but I was perfectly fine with it. It’s almost like you are flicking the channels while watching TV. If you are not intimately familiar with the characters on the screen, then you are much less likely to care about them, and I think this is what David was aiming for.

The External World is full of David’s wit, which is just as sharp as his animating skills. There are tons of side jokes, background gags and of course, the actions of the sardonic characters themselves. Besides the pop-culture references, there are plenty of animation references, including cartoons of the 1930s (in particular Felix the Cat, of whom David is an avowed fan). Of course, these are not mere references but modern interpretations thereof.

Overall, there’s not much more I can say about this fantastic film. It is well worth watching and it has seemed like an age for it to finally make it to the internet. David is offering a HD version for download for 4 euros, which is hardly breaking the bank to own such a great short, and it supports the man too.

With The External World, David OReilly has proven that he is a filmmaker with considerable skill (and if my twitter feed is any proof, has a heck of a following in the animation community and beyond).

So Yesterday I Decided to Watch Fritz the Cat

Yesterday, when I was stricken with fatigue, I had some time to finally watch a few things in the ol’ Netflix queue. I got through On The Waterfront, which I enjoyed immensely, and had to figure out what to watch next. The two and a half hour director’s cut of Metropolis seemed tempting, but I reckoned that was too long. So instead, I opted for Ralph Bakshi’s seminal underground film, Fritz the Cat.

Big mistake.

As awesome and as defining as the film is, I had to turn it off after 35 minutes. Clearly this is a film that you have to be in a certain mood for. I only saw half an hour, so it’s not fair to poo-poo the whole film based off of that but I found it to be wanting in many areas.

The animation is OK, there’s lots of colours and of course, Robert Crumb’s character designs. The only problem is, that’s where it seems to stop! I simply could not find anything to like about the eponymous character. Am I missing something? Probably. I can sense Fritz’s antagonistic relationship with the world and those around him, but for me, that added nothing to the viewing experience.

Again, I write this more as a mental note on what I’ve seen so far, I still need to finish it, but I’m willing to bet that it’s more of the same, at least it seems that way.

Is there a certain shock value involved? Sure, Friz is infamous for being the first (well, first widely known) X-rated animated film. It delivers on that promise, but if that’s the main selling point, there’s little else to make it worthwhile.

Sigh, I suppose I could have picked a better time to watch it than when I was parked on the couch in a daze, but I honestly expected a bit more from the film. I might go back and watch the rest at a later point, but I think Fritz is certainly guilty of being over-hyped.

Anomaly Appraisal: Mary & Max

Via: My[confined]Space.com

When you think of claymation, the first thing that might pop into your head is probably not a feature film. A pre-school series such as Pingu perhaps, but not something that you intend to watch over the course of an hour and a half or more. For the record, claymation is a form of stop-motion animation, not a different type of animation altogether.

I know that this films has been out for a while, but it was only the other night that I finally got the chance to sit down and watch it, and I am pleased to report that it exceeded all my expectations and then some.

Admittedly, the idea of the story did not exactly speak volumes to me. A tale of a young Australian girl being pen-friends with a 50-something New Yorker does not exactly warm the cockles of the heart, especially at this time of year when there’s snow everywhere.

However, if you look past the superficial skin of the story, you will be amazed at how deep it really goes. For one, this is a story about character. Both main protagonists are clearly contorted, confused and seemingly alone in this world, and yet both find solace in each other in different ways.

The film begins in Australia with a background to Mary’s life; her alcoholic mother, her aloof father, her agoraphobic neighbour, her pet rooster and the boy next door with the terrible stutter. In the middle of all of this, we get a glimpse into the life of a little girl who is isolated and in in the extreme sense, sort of abused as an unwelcome intrusion into her parent’s lives.

On the other side of the world, Max is a loner who sees the world in a very literal sense. He is easily confused by the actions of others and as such, he often lets his anger get to him. He is emotionally fragile, and like Mary, had a similarly traumatic childhood.

Both seemingly disparate characters do share something in common, their love of chocolate and The Noblets, a TV show. With these two similarities, the two develop a friendship maintained only through letters (the film is set in the 1970s) through thick and thin.

I don’t want to give too much of the story away, but there are some dramatic twists and turns that have implications for both characters. What I can say though, is that the ending is carried out in a very suitable way that left me feeling empty at the time, like the directors skimped out, but after having thought about it for a while, I came to the conclusion that it is one of the better endings I have seen in a long time. It brings a definite conclusion to things and it is clear how much each character benefited from all the correspondence over the years.

The animation is superb, I cannot say any more. The limited use of colour means that you are much more focused on the animation rather than the look of things. There are plenty of visual gags that are in that subtle, British style, in other words you have to pay close attention to what’s going on in the background.

The direction is excellent, with every shot clearly having been thought through thoroughly (try saying that 10 times in a row!). The quirkiness of the film stands out in the actions of the characters and the way each shot is used to help explain a character’s emotions or thoughts.

Although I am averse to celebrity voice-actors, I will say that Philip Seymour Hoffman does an excellent job of portraying Max. You can hear the weariness in his voice and the way he dictates his letters to himself suggest that he is a man who has a lot on his mind. As for the other characters, they are all performed to perfection (lots of alliteration in this post today, eh?).

In the end, Mary & Max did not elicit an enormous amount of emotion from me, but it did leave me immensely satisfied that I had seen an excellent film that is clearly a cut above many other movies that are billed as emotional dramas. Looks are not everything and I am confident that if you can get past Max’s sour puss on the poster, you will be rewarded by a very good film indeed.