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Saturday, January 17, 2015

'The Lego Movie' Strikes Back, Wins Critics Choice Award

The Lego Movie Critics Choice Awards

Right after being passed over for an Academy Award nomination in the animated feature film category, 'The LEGO Movie' gave it's creators a consolation prize. The film took home the gold at the 2015 Critics Choice Awards .

Co-director Chris Miller, referencing the Oscars snub, noted, “What a roller coaster of emotions today has been.”

The other nominees were:
  • Big Hero 6, 
  • The Book of Life, 
  • The Boxtrolls, and 
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
The Critics Choice Awards was hosted by Michael Strahan at the Hollywood Palladium. It happens every year and the ceremony was broadcast live on the A&E network for its 20th anniversary year.


Friday, January 16, 2015

2015 Animation Oscar Nominations

2015 Oscar nominations

The animation Oscar nominations for 2015 are in, and they contain some surprises. I predicted that Irish eyes would be smiling at Oscar time, but for another movie than will be under consideration (omitted was animated short "Coda," which shockingly wasn't even nominated). In any event, these nominations still show that Ireland is moving forward steadily in the world of animation.

2015 Oscar nominations

Best Animated Feature

Big Hero 6
The Boxtrolls
How To Train Your Dragon 2
Song Of The Sea
The Tale Of Princess Kaguya

Four out of the five nominations for Best Animated Feature were on pretty much everybody's list. The interloper is "Song of the Sea," produced in Ireland, which is becoming a hotbed of animation talent. Tomm Moore of Big Farm is the director/writer of this charming feature which has Brendan Gleeson and Fionnula Flanagan playing the leads. It is an engaging play on Celtic mythology that follows on cult favorite "The Secret of Kells" (2009), also by Mr. Moore among others.

Naturally, everybody is talking about the omission of "The Lego Movie." On a financial basis that film swamped "The Song of the Sea," but, let's face it, "The Lego Movie" was just another toy movie made by insanely creative people. Toy movies like "The Lego Movie" or "The Smurfs" or what have you that, no matter how good, seem like nothing but giant product placements have trouble with the Academy voters. Also, the big studio films weren't all so wonderful that they could crowd out some very charming smaller films, and the bombastic "The Lego Movie" was the odd man out. It also probably didn't help that "The Lego Movie" came out very early in the year, unlike all the others.

2015 Oscar nominations

As for the others, "The Tale of the Princess Kaguya" is an awesomely beautiful film and also a sentimental choice because of Studio Ghibli is winding down. "How to Train Your Dragon 2" from DreamWorks Animation has awesome animation, though the story is nothing special as it is a sequel, after all (the only sequel nominated). "Big Hero 6," well, you knew they weren't going to leave Disney out, but it is just an average Disney film (meaning very good work, but, let's face it, an average Pixar film would have beaten it). The real sleeper nominee, and the one that might just run off with the whole thing in a wide-open field, is "The Boxtrolls," which has superior stop motion animation and a charming plot that wisely focuses heavily on the animation, not the actual (rather pedestrian) story.

"The Lego Movie" did earn a nomination for its original song "Everything is Awesome" by Shawn Patterson, which must be cold comfort to the filmmakers.

Very, very tough to call this category this year. "The Boxtrolls" would be my choice.

2015 Oscar nominations

Best Animated Short

“The Bigger Picture” 
“The Dam Keeper” 
“Me And My Moulton” 
“A Single Life”

The Best Animated Short category was full of surprises. The only real favorite to get a nomination was Disney's 'Feast,' which has superior animation in its role as lead-in to 'Big Hero 6.' The animators really worked hard on this one, getting the shadows just right in a difficult setting.

The shocker aside from 'Coda's' omission is that 'Duet' did not get a nod either. 'Duet' had sparkling animation from Disney veteran Glen Keane, who won for 'Paperman' a few years ago. That may have hurt him, along with the fact that the animation, great as it was, could have struck some voters as more of an exercise in animation than an actual mini-movie.

As for the other nominees, it's basically pick'em. 'Feast' may win simply because I doubt 'Big Hero 6' will in the feature film category, and the voters may want to, er, throw Disney a bone. But this is one year that very few people watching, in or out of the industry, are going to nod their heads when they announce the award and go, 'Eh, I knew it all along, that was so obvious.'

So, the bottom line again is that Irish eyes certainly could be smiling on Oscars night - only for a different film than I thought. And that ain't too shabby for the animators in Ireland, to produce two quality films in one year like that.


Friday, January 2, 2015

Walt Disney: It's a Snap!

Walt Disney

Every so often, for absolutely no reason at all, I post a few little-seen shots of the animation master, Walt Disney.

Above, Walt Disney serves as the Grand Marshal at the 1966 Rose Bowl Parade, accompanied by Mickey, some elves, and a pretty smooth ride. Could you imagine Walt Disney himself appearing, open limousine, fearless and greeting his fans? That's just a fabulous occurrence right there.

Walt is glad you came, and wants to preserve the memory with his Instamatic!

Walt Disney

Below, Walt shows that all this animation business is simply a snap! And he's off to take care of business.

Walt Disney


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

THE BOXTROLLS - Time Lapse End Credits

The Boxtrolls

THE BOXTROLLS - Time Lapse End Credits

"The Boxtrolls" was one of the top animated films of 2014. Here, in what appears to be a very subtle and informative bit of campaigning for the various awards for which "The Boxtrolls" has been nominated, including the Annies and (we'll soon see) the Oscars, is a very informative video. It is "The Boxtrolls - Time Lapse End Credits" shows the work required to film a single scene of a top stop motion animated film such as "The Boxtrolls."

The Boxtrolls

I'll leave it at that, the video speaks for itself. My bet is that "The Boxtrolls" is sure-fire Oscar bait in the Best Animated Feature Film category, which this year is wide open, with no clear favorite.

The Boxtrolls

This film is an interesting little time-lapse piece of art itself.

The Boxtrolls

In fact, I think that this little video is one of the best shorts of the year. But it's not nominated by itself. ;)


Wednesday, December 17, 2014

'Hermès Noel,' A Takeoff on Rudolph

Hermès Noel

Hermès Noel from Hornet on Vimeo.

This is a cute (and subtle) ad from Hermès called 'Hermès Noel.' It is brilliantly done by director Peter Sluszka (who goes by the name 'Hornet'), with all the bells and whistles that you would expect from a truly top animation shop.

Perhaps the most brilliant thing about this animation is that it tells a complete tale in exactly one minute. You won't even notice that it is only one minute when you are done, you'll just be like, wow, that was really cool. But that's difficult to do - tell a story in one minute. Can't have any fat on the bones of something that short. And they manage to do it here.

It is a stop motion animation that is a slightly different take on the claissic 'Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer tale. The way they work the scarf in - you knew there was going to be a scarf, right? - just shows how good these guys really are.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rabbit and Deer, Hungarian Animated Short

Rabbit and Deer

Rabbit and Deer (Nyuszi és Őz) from Péter Vácz on Vimeo.

We keep saying that animation is an international field of endeavour, and 'Rabbit and Deer' (Nyuszi és Őz) from Budapest, Hungary is more proof of that.

'Rabbit and Deer' is a 16-minute animation from a final-year student at a Budapest University, Moholy-Nagy University of Arts ('MOME').  Péter Vácz showed the animation in 63 countries at 300 festivals - that probably took as much work and aggravation as making the darn thing - and won 120+ awards for it. This included top awards at American festivals in Nashville, Arizona and Atlanta, Georgia.

You may want to watch the animation and decide if all this acclaim is deserved. You have to hand it to Péter in any event - producing a polished product and then also getting it out to the world in order to find an audience requires two completely separate and unique talents, and he apparently possesses both of them. It's not like Budapest is considered any threat to Hollywood, but with more talent like this, some day it might be.

The video is amusing and has a nice background score of what I imagine is music with a Hungarian flavor. Since the extent of my knowledge of the music of eastern Europe pretty much begins and ends with 'The Third Man,' well, the music sounds as if it comes from Hungary at least. And the music is quite good, along with the animation. It is a light, effervescent animation designed to delight the eye, and it definitely succeeds. The juxtaposition of hand-drawn animation and stop-motion enhances the plot quite nicely.

Incidentally, the enduring symbol from this film is a Rubik's cube. Did you know that the Rubik's Cube was invented by a Hungarian? Ernő Rubik.

"Rabbit and Deer are living happily and careless until their friendship is put to the test by Deer's new obsession to find the formula for the 3rd dimension. After an unexpected accident, Deer finds himself in a new world, unknown to him. Separated by dimensions, the two characters have to find the way back to each other."

From the web page:

Writer Director and Designer: Péter Vácz
Co-Director and Animator: Attila Bertóti
Edited by: Judit Czakó
Music and Sound Design: Máté Hámori, Mahdi Khene
Photography: Gábor Garai
Voices: Adrienn Mórocz, Dániel Czupi
Animation: Attila Bertóti, Péter Vácz
Set design: Kata Müller, Móni Kovács, Kati Egely
Production: MOME, Budapest (Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design)
Budapest, 2013


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Iraqi War Animation

Iraq War

This is a moving animation about a real-life military event.

Just to summarize, in August 2005, Marine Lance Cpl. Travis Williams and his 1st Squad of the 3rd Platoon went on a mission. They loaded up in a lorry and set off.

It was a rescue mission in Barwanah, Iraq. The vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb of unknown origin shortly after departing.

It was a 12-person squad. Only Williams survived, because he was moved out of the vehicle at the last moment. Three other soldiers also died, making a total of 14 fatalities from the incident.

Travis narrates this animation of what it means to be at war, and to suffer casualties, and the difficulty of coming to terms with surviving while all the others were dead. He recorded this in 2013 and is still putting his life back together at home in Missoula, Montana.

Iraq War

This is a StoryCorps production. According to the youtube page, funding was provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting in partnership with POV.

It was directed by the Rauch Brothers, with art Direction by Bill Wray. The producers were Lizzie Jacobs, Maya Millett & Mike Rauch, with animation by Tim Rauch. The audio was produced by Yasmina Guerda & Nadia Reiman.

Music (Open): Fredrik
Label: The Kora Records
Publisher: House of Hassle

Music (Close): Christopher Bowen
Label: MovieScore Media
Publisher: Christopher Bowen