The Kells Conundrum

The Secret of Kells is a fantastic film and easily one of the best made in recent times. It’s highly original, dripping with beautiful animation and stands up to countless rewatching. On the surface, it appears to be the perfect animate feature, so why has it been so hard for it to find the same kind of commercial success that say, Frozen can (outside of the obvious reason of throwing hundreds of millions at it)? I call it the Kells Conundrum and it’s a concept we’re going to discuss today.

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Some Superb Secret of Kells Expression Sheets

Coming via the Art of Animation tumblelog are some wonderful expression sheets from the Secret of Kells. Much the same as the Kim Possible ones I posted a while ago, I love seeing these kinds of things because they give a great insight into a character and on a relatively ‘pure’ level; seeing as they aren’t moving or making an sound. It doesn’t take a genius to see that Brendan is a mischievous little scamp. The poses of him playing with Pangus Ban or Chrom’s Eye clearly show someone who’s having fun. All the same, the sheet with the candle portrays someone who’s clearly up to no good.

Compare them with Aisling’s sheets. She’s jsut as mischievous but in a much more playful and innocent way. The posing does much more work than for Brendan but the effect is the same. We can instantly tell she’s a decidedly more curious character than Brendan; hiding a certain amount but being open and honest all the same. Seeing these is getting me excited for Tomm Moore’s next feature; The Song of the Sea.

I’ll admit it, this one absolutely kills me 🙂

 

A Character’s Style Doesn’t Mean You Need To Follow In Their Footsteps

Character Sundays is probably going to take a break until the New Year. Sadly, school deadlines have sapped the necessary time to write a decent post these past few weeks, so there’s no point in doing a half-assed job on something you really like.

Instead, today, here’s a sketch that was posted a good while ago by Jovanna Davidovich on her blog.

Whether it really is the case that Breandan’s design was influenced by these two is up for debate, but I would hazard a guess that the resemblance is certainly striking.

The interesting thing is that Kim Possible and the Secret of Kells share practically nothing in common except Brendan! He’s a great example of how you could potentially use something as inspiration and move in a completely different direction.

Just something to keep in mind 🙂

The One and Only Reason We Don’t See More Diverse Animated Films

 The Secret of Kells most definitely counts as diverse animation.

On Sunday, Nora Lumiere posted a very passionate call to arms with a wonderful post that expounded the very many areas that we have yet to see in theatrical animated form. Far from a wistful wishlist, it’s a well thought out look at the various genres and styles that are rare or unheard of in animated form.

Hinting on the success of Tangled’s “painterly” style, Nora rattle off style after style that could easily be used on a theatrical scale today thanks to modern technology.

The only caveat with her post is that she is speaking for theatrical animation. We already see plenty of diversity in shorts for the simple reason that they are inherently more independent examples that are created at the whims of the animator themselves. Nora touches upon one reason why we don’t see more diverse animated films (emphasis mine):

It’s time to dare to push the animation envelope and break out of the children’s toy box.  Forget about box-office profits for a minute, hire some innovative scientists and adventurous animators to research new artistic software.

Ah, therein lies the dilemma. As much as we like to think of theatrical animation as an artistic market where the dreams of the artist make it to the silver screen, that is the view that is presented to the great unwashed masses. who truly believe that Hollywood is a “dream factory”.

Not to say that Nora’s post does not acknowledge this, it does, however the fact remains that no matter how right she is, unless there is enough (notice I said enough, not any) money in it, the main studios won’t touch it.

The Big 6 will only ever play within a safe set of boundaries when it come to films because they are incredibly risk averse, and justifiably so. If you were coughing up in the region of $500-600 million (including promotion/marketing) you’d be making princess movies all the time too.

That’s the current problem with the way things are set up at the moment. Independent, inspiring and mould-breaking movies are well within arms reach. Sita Sings the Blues was done by one person, ONE! Why on earth don’t we see many more films like that? The simple answer in this case is that Nina Paley busted her butt and her bank account to get the film made and released. There aren’t too many people who are willing to make that kind of commitment, let alone do it regularly.

Since cost/risk is arguably the main problem when it comes to genre-defying films, there is a logical argument that subsidies could be a potential solution. This is true, certainly in the case of The Secret of Kells, which benefited from a few grants from the European Union and tax credits from the Irish government.

Such subsidies are the sad reality of the style of films that Nora calls for. They are too risky for mainstream, commercial studios, but they clearly have more than enough potential to succeed based on their many merits.

That is the reason why we don’t see more diverse animated films. The unholy mix of risk and cost which combine to make most films that are outside the mainstream too much of a hot potato. Hopefully in the future, as traditional distribution shenanigans break down, we will see more daring films that push the envelope.

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!

Weekly Weblinks: Part Deaux

This post is really should have been done earlier, but school and work aside, there just wasn’t time until now. I am always on the lookout for new and exciting blogs to follow as well as interesting posts to share and without further adieu, here’s a few I came across this week.

Blogs

Bleeding Pixels

The blog of Dave Johnson, who provides regular updates on the goings on in animation with some personal commentary. One to follow.

The Cartoon Cave

Written by Pete Emslie, one of the old-school cartoonists of this world. it contains tons of awesome sketches and illustration among posts on old comics and animation. Worth reading for the pictures alone but Petes personal take on things makes it all the better.

Posts

Hanna-Barbera, the Missing Theme Park

Lisa K. Berton takes a look at Hanna-Barbera’s attempts to enter the lucrative themepark market and how their presence has been declining as of late.

Animazing Amation: The Secret of Kells

A review on the Late to the Theater blog, which focuses on films available through instant streaming that reinforces everything that has been said about this film and how excellent it is. Worth reading and serves as a great reminder that The Secret of Kells is available in Netflix.

The Longevity of The Secret of Kells

It’s no secret among those who know me that I am a huge fan of The Secret of Kells, and not just because it’s Irish! I’ve already made my thoughts known in my review, which I wrote for Asifa-East’s Exposure Sheet way back in July 2009. What I’m posting about today is that the film is still making the rounds in US cinemas, in fact it is returning to New York’s IFC Center on August 14th, over a year after it premiered there.

What makes this incredible, year-long run even more extraordinary has been the unprecedented marketing campign, that is to say, the lack of one. The film was released in Europe in spring of 2009 and received the usual advertisement. However, such a campaign would have been prohibitively expensive in the US. The market is too big and crowded by the ususal suspects in California.

There was some talk about bringing the film to the States and things really got going when distributor GKids (the fine folks behind the New York international Children’s Film festival) entered the film for Academy Award consideration. The news that it was shortlisted for nomination gave the film a huge boost, suddenly people wanted to find out how a film they’d never heard of before was conisdered for an Oscar.

Thanks to its qualifying run in Burbank and of course, the Academy Awards themselves, the film was assured national showings of some sort. What has sepereated Kells from other independent films has been the potency of people’s word of moouth. OK, sure you have superfans like myself telling everyone to go see it, but in addition to that, I am pretty sure that every single animator/illustrator in the country has gone to see it and told all their friends to go see it to.

This type of promotion has been the key to the film success statewide. Well, that and the fact that it really is an amazing film. People listen to their friends and family more than anyone on TV or in the newspaper and The Secret of Kells is proof of that.

The film was released on DVD last year in Ireland (and sales received a very welcome boost with the Oscar nomination) and will be released on Blu-Ray and DVD in the US later this year and will undoubtedly make its way into a high percentage of those who saw it at the cinema.

The Secret of Kells is proof that you do not need to spend massive amounts of money to have a successful film. Sure the money doesn’t flow through the box office as quickly as it does for a blockbuster, but it does flow for longer, far longer and the fact that The Secret of Kells is still being talked about 2 years after it was completed is proof that it is better to be a slow burner than a bright flash.