Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"Get A Horse" (2013) - "Newly Found" Classic Short

Mickey and Minnie Return in "Get A Horse"

Get a Horse Mickey Mouse Minnie Mouse Peg Leg Pete
Villain Peg Leg Pete confronts Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a cart driven by Horace Horsecollar.
"Get A Horse" is the short that has been showing in theaters before Disney's "Frozen." It is nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short, and is quite popular with audiences. Some, though, may not really understand what is going on with it, because it purports to be an old-style cartoon, but obviously isn't old at all. It involves a villain in a fancy new motorcar chasing Mickey and Minnie Mouse in a cart being pulled by Horace Horsecollar.

Though you may not notice because he is used to promote the Disney theme parks so extensively, Mickey Mouse rarely appears in Disney animation films these days. This is a rare star turn for the old warrior, and it's a good one.

The short was the brainchild of director Lauren MacMullan, with assistance from producer Dorothy McKim. MacMullan was an independent animator who sold the idea to the Disney brass as an homage to Disney's own glorious past. Not a bad marketing idea, eh?

"Get a Horse" incorporates the archived voice of Walt Disney himself. It is a parable on changing technologies, though in this case the old manages to win out over the new - at least for the moment. The underlying theme is "new isn't necessarily better unless used with style and grace."

As the director says:
"Horse wins over Pete in the car because Horse and Mickey combined are more inventive, and Pete just has power. I think the takeaway would probably be invention rules, and being inventive and inventive is a good thing, even if it’s a mix of old and new."  
The animation is in classic hand-drawn style, the 1928 "rubber hose" style." Thus, black lines surround just about everything and it is black and white. However, it doesn't stay that way throughout, which gives the short its punch.

The car horn pounds home the theme, saying "make way for the future." As MacMullan says about that:
"I thought it was a nice little precursor, maybe you start thinking a little early, this is a bit odd that we’re hearing this. But it is also about every era even in 1928 was an era of change. The horse was giving way to the auto and now maybe 2D is giving way to CG, but I don’t think one is better than the other."
The title refers to the old jibe directed by horse-lovers to the encroaching automobile users when the fancy mechanical contraptions caused inconvenience (much like people now say "get a room."). The animation changes to CG color and 3D, so the short serves as a pseudo-historical document all its own, chronicling the original and current state of animation. It is intriguing that Disney has had its own issues about transitioning between hand-drawn animation and CGI, with at least one backtrack in that regard so far.

"Get a Horse!" CG Animation Reel - Andrew Chesworth from Andrew Chesworth on Vimeo.


Tuesday, January 21, 2014

BAFTA Nominations 2014

Monsters University Pixar
The big "Monsters University" football game.
Many consider the BAFTA awards the second-most prestigious film awards of the season, even above the Golden Globes. The Golden Globes get more press because they are the first awards of the year, are in Hollywood, and are considered fairly good predictors of what will happen at the Academy Awards.

The three nominees for the 2014 BAFTA Awards in the animated feature category are Illumination Entertainment’s Despicable Me 2, Disney’s Frozen, and Pixar’s Monsters University. Frozen and Despicable Me 2 appear to be the favorites this awards season, with other choices shuttling into the third spot. Since "Monsters University" wasn't nominated for an Academy Award, its people would dearly love to get at least a BAFTA. Since Pixar doesn't have any releases scheduled for 2014, this will be the last chance for the studio to pick up a major award any time soon.

It's only natural that conspiracy theories start now, because that's how people are. This BAFTA nomination sort of legitimizes "Monsters University" as a top film, so why no Oscar nod? The thinking is that Disney wants its own "Frozen" to win everything, and so did not push Pixar's competing "Monsters University" for the Academy Award. It's tough to get a nomination - it's worth money at the box office and in DVD sales - so it wouldn't take much to slight a film that Disney didn't really have its heart in having as a fellow nominee. I'm just throwing that out there, wrong as the theory may be.

To be honest, I think that "Frozen" is simply the better film, Disney's best in years and years. But everyone will have their own ideas about that, and they are just as legitimate as anyone else's.

In the animated short category, the BAFTA nominees are Everything I Can See From Here (Bjorn-Erik Aschim, Sam Taylor, and Friederike Nicolaus), I Am Tom Moody (Ainslie Henderson, who also won a BAFTA last year for co-writing Will Anderson’s short The Making of Longbird) and Sleeping With The Fishes (Yousif Al-Khalifa, James Walker, and Sarah Woolner). Short-film nominees, unlike the feature film nominees, must have some British content.

The Making of Longbird from Will Anderson on Vimeo.


Feral (2013) - Quirky Animated Short

Feral Daniel Sousa
"Feral" (2013).
"Feral," one of the top animated shorts of 2013, is about a wild boy who is found in the woods by a solitary hunter and brought back to civilization. Alienated by a strange new environment, the boy tries to adapt by using the same strategies that kept him safe in the forest.

Now, this is no "Frozen." You have to bear in mind that this is the work of one very-talented guy, not an entire studio. Someday, he'll probably be directing a "Frozen" of his own. Shorts are great for giving aspiring animators an idea of what one person can accomplish. Entire animated feature films, where a team of animators will work on one character alone, can be a bit intimidating for anyone contemplating the field.

The 12-minute film can be downloaded at Vimeo.

Feral from Daniel Sousa on Vimeo.


"Frozen" Wins Producer Award

Peter Del Vecho producer Frozen
Peter Del Vecho.
I won't be posting all the awards for Animated Films because, quite frankly, it would bore the heck out of me. Just assume that "Frozen" wins everything because it pretty much will.

I'm making an exception here because I didn't even mention the name of the producer of "Frozen" in my previous write-ups. He's just another working stiff like anyone else and deserves his moment. Peter Del Vecho is his name. He won the best producer award. Congratulations!

Frozen notched another win on the awards circuit: Peter Del Vecho won the Producers Guild Award for Oustanding Producer of an Animated Theatrical Motion Picture. The other competitors in the category were the producers of The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Epic and Monsters University.

Accepting the award, Del Vecho said:
I worked for Disney for almost 20 years. This is the first Disney film to bear the producers’ mark.
I assume he meant by that quote that "Frozen" had originality and a point of view throughout, and was not another cookie-cutter "Disney" film. If so, he was quite correct, which is why everyone seems to love the film. Great work that led to a great sequel, too.


9-Year-Old sings "Frozen" song "Let It Go"

The Biggest Singing Sensation... of 2030!

Annelise Forbes Frozen Let it Go
Annelise Forbes

So, everyone likes "Frozen," especially the delightful songs. The soundtrack hit the top of the Billboard charts, the first Disney soundtrack to do that since 1995’s “Pocahontas.” I realized I didn't have any songs from the film on this site, so this post fills that gap.

Nine-year-old Canadian Annelise Forbes is very inspired by the song "Let It Go" from the film. It is sung in "Frozen" by Broadway star Idina Menzel, who may get a chance to sing it on Broadway herself according to Disney plans to adapt the film for the stage. It is not an easy song, requiring a bit of a range, emotion and the ability to really fill a room.

Now, I am taking a bit of a chance posting this, because people are going to think I'm making fun of a little girl. I'm not. She's actually very good! I mean, she's nine years old. But she can belt it out! And she's an adorable little thing.

“She’s been singing since she could talk,” Tamara Forbes, her mother, said at the family’s home in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. “She sings around the house constantly, even when we’re trying to get ready for school.”

“Of course, every parent thinks their child is special,” she said. “But it’s very emotional to see others share that thought with you about your child.”

Annelise is special. That said, I'm not going to lie. I do find her adult phrasing a bit weird in a little girl, and it does make me chuckle a bit at times. I realize you won't like me for saying that, on this site I just say what I think and let the chips fall. But she really is talented! And this gives her just a sliver more of exposure, so that's not bad, right? This unexpectedly has become one of my more popular pages, a tribute to Annelise and her raw, inspiring talent.

Not being a real music critic other than in the context of animated films, I will refrain from much further commentary about Annelise's vocal skills. I must say, as a layman, that I am very impressed by her range (she needs to work a bit on the low end - but she's nine years old!), her precise enunciation (which always was Julie Andrews' most under-appreciated trump card), her timing, her ability to attack the notes directly without scalloping or any other lazy vocal tricks, and her sense of fun and drama. She seems to inhabit the song, which is a great talent for anyone of any age. Annelise will go far if she pursues this singing thing through to the end, I think.

Anyway, hope you enjoy it. She's become a big youtube sensation over this. And you know where that can lead... Justin Bieber!

If you're looking for an amusing version of "Love is an Open Door" from "Frozen," look here. We don't want to slight any of the songs!

Idina Menzel Frozen
Idina Menzel.
For comparison, or if you can only abide by a heavily produced version sung by one of the top singers of our time, Idina Menzel, below is the version from "Frozen" itself. You can also enjoy the awesome animation from the film in this clip.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Mary Poppins (1964) - The Peak of Walt Disney's Career

Walt Disney Hits a Grand Slam in the Ninth

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
"Mary Poppins" (1964).
"Mary Poppins" (1964), directed by Robert Stevenson, is a Walt Disney Productions film based on the series of children's books (1934-1988) by Australian novelist (screenplay by ).

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964 Dick Van Dyke

It is a live-action film with several animated sequences that were drawn using the new xerographic animation process that had been introduced in the 1961 "One Hundred and One Dalmations."

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke behind the scenes of "Mary Poppins."
Set in 1910 Edwardian England, "Mary Poppins" was shot at the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California. Upon its release, "Mary Poppins" became a phenomenal success, the top box office success in a year of classic films and, on a price-adjusted basis, still one of the top-grossing films of all time. It also has been reissued to continued success.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
"No romance!" ordered Travers for "Mary Poppins." Walt Disney complied... sort of. This only makes the covert romance sweeter.
There aren't a lot of films that become so legendary that later films are made about their genesis and filming. "Mary Poppins" fits into that tiny club ("Citizen Kane" and "Gone With the Wind" also are members). The 2013 "Saving Mr. Banks" starring Tom Hanks became a phenomenon in its own right, generating renewed interest in the original film and reintroducing "Mary Poppins" to a new generation of viewers.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Rehearsing for "Mary Poppins."
Coming along at a time when Disney's catalog of live-action films was less than stellar ("The Shaggy Dog" and "Swiss Family Robinson" were two of the better-received releases), "Mary Poppins" had far-reaching results that continue to this day. We'll get to those later, though. First, let's look at the film itself.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Sliding up banisters in "Mary Poppins" is quite a trick!
Bert (no last name) is a Cockney with no fixed means of support. He supports himself by a variety of entertaining schemes, such as painting on sidewalks. One day, as he is garnering contributions by performing as a one-man band at a park entrance, Bert suddenly realizes by a change in the wind that something momentous is about to happen. He then introduces the film audience (breaking the fourth wall) to various eccentric local characters, such as Admiral Boom and the nearby Banks family.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
The children in "Mary Poppins," Jane and Michael, played by Karen Dotrice and Matthew Garber. 
George Banks is a conservative banker, and his wife is frustrated suffragette Winifred. Their two children, Jane and Michael, are cared for by nanny Katie Nanna (Elsa Lanchester, who was famous as "The Bride of Frankenstein"). The children have been running off, and when it happens again, she quits in exasperation despite the entreaties of Ellen the maid.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
The three stars of "Mary Poppins" at the premiere.
Because Katie Nanna is very strict, though, others are not displeased with her departure. George places an advertisement for another strict nanny, but the children draft their own version seeking a fun-loving lady. George takes the children's paper and burns it in the chimney, causing the paper's ashes to float out into the night.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
One of the most iconic scenes from "Mary Poppins."
The next day, while a line of stern replacements waits in line in response to George's ad, a strong wind blows them away and also blows in another candidate, the lovely Mary Poppins. Poppins is able to fly with her magical umbrella, and she states that she is responding to the children's version of the ad rather than George's. Despite George's uncertainty, Poppins quickly ingratiates herself with the children via her bottomless carpetbag full of gifts and toys. She also has the power, by snapping her fingers, to make the children's room come alive and clean itself, much to their delight.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964

Poppins happens to be a friend of Bert's, and it was her imminent arrival that he had sensed in the park. She takes the children to meet him in the park, where he is drawing chalk portraits on the sidewalk. Mary Poppins uses her powers to take the group into one of the paintings, where they enjoy an outing in an animated countryside. The children and Mary Poppins ride a merry-go-round while Bert dances with penguins at an outdoor restaurant.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964 Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964 Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964 Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964

The horses magically break free and take the children and Poppins on a ride over the nearby countryside. As they watch, Bert manages to save a fox from a fox-hunt, and they all wind up a horserace which Mary Poppins, on her merry-go-round horse, wins. After Poppins and Bert sing ""Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious," a storm arises, washing away the chalk drawing on the sidewalk and returning everyone to the real world.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964

The children now are rightfully entranced by the wonderful Poppins and ask her how long she can stay, and she replies only until the wind changes. The next day, she takes them to visit her Uncle Albert, who has the ability to float in the air. They take tea together, floating in the air, but Poppins decides that they are having too much fun and stops the frivolity.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Now, this is riding in style in "Mary Poppins."
Later, the children tell George of their wonderful adventures with Poppins, and he decides to dismiss her for filling their heads with nonsense. Instead, she convinces George to take the children with him to his bank. Along the way, the children see the "Bird Woman" who Poppins had mentioned the night before, but George hurries them along.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
An impromptu dance with some chimney sweeps on the roof in "Mary Poppins."
At the bank, they meet George's employers, Mr. Dawes Sr. and Jr. Mr. Dawes snatches a tuppence out of Michael's hand to deposit in the bank, and when Michael cries out in protest, the other bank customers misunderstand his shouting and begin a run on the bank, forcing the bank to close temporarily.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964

The bank guard chases the children out, and they wind up in the slums of the East End. Bert is there, working as a chimney sweep, and he saves them from the dangerous area. As he takes them home, Bert soothes the children and mentions that their father is not a bad man at all, simply stressed and with nobody to lean on.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Julie Andrews never looked better than in "Mary Poppins."
Mrs. Banks asks Bert to mind the children on Poppins' day off and clean the chimney. Poppins returns but is too late to prevent the children from being sucked up the chimney to the roof.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Dick Van Dyke's rooftop dance has been endlessly parodied down through the years, such as in "Run Ronnie Run."
This leads to Bert and Mary Poppins leading the children on a tour of the nearby rooftops, where Bert dances with some of his friends who also are chimney sweeps.

Julie Andrews Emma Mary Poppins
Julie Andrews with daughter Emma on the set of "Mary Poppins."
Admiral Boom notices them and has his assistant Mr. Binnacle set off some fireworks which send the party back down their own chimney. George returns home to see what has happened and demands an explanation, but Poppins demurs, saying that she never explains a thing. George then receives a call to return to the bank immediately. Bert points out that George needs to take more of an interest in his children while they are young. Michael gives his father the tuppence to make up for the earlier incident at the bank.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Mary, Bert and the children of "Mary Poppins."
George returns to the bank, but along the way, he is thoughtful and begins to notice things he always had been too rushed to enjoy. At the bank, he is dismissed over "the first run on the bank since 1773." He responds with the nonsense word that Mary Poppins had sung earlier, then tells Mr. Dawes Sr. one of Uncle Albert's jokes, gives him Michael's tuppence and departs. After he departs, Mr. Dawes mulls over the joke, comes to understand it, then floats into the air, laughing.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
The merry-go-round scene of "Mary Poppins" can be scary for young viewers.
The next morning, the wind changes. Mary Poppins must leave, but first, she worries that George has disappeared. He reappears, though, with his kite and takes the children out to play, with Mrs. Banks supplying one of her suffragette ribbons. They all head out to the park to fly the kite with Mary Poppins watching from the window. At the park, George runs into Dawes Jr., who also is flying a kite. He tells George that his father had passed away from laughing at Uncle Albert's joke. Pleased that George had given his father one last moment of joy, he rehires George and makes him a partner in the bank. Mary Poppins then leaves with the wind, Bert wishing her well and a speedy return.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Taking a ride on friendly turtles in "Mary Poppins."
There are so many legendary features to "Mary Poppins" that it is difficult to know where to begin. The thirteen Academy Award nominations almost seem like a footnote. The casting alone has gone down in film lore as the most eccentric and wonderfully successful choices of all time.

Julie Andrews Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Julie Andrews is a class act. So was Walt Disney.
Julie Andrews, a promising stage actress, was available only after Jack Warner passed her over in place of Audrey Hepburn for "My Fair Lady" despite the fact that Eliza Doolittle was Andrews' signature role on Broadway.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Disney DVD art always is the finest, as here on the "Mary Poppins" DVD - but Bert should be on there somewhere, too.
Andrews drew so much praise for the role that she won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award. One look at Poppins' knowing final glance at George and the children as they dance off to fly their kite completely sealed the deal. It was the best film debut in Hollywood history, bar none.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Dick Van Dyke with the old baggy pants routine in "Mary Poppins."
Dick Van Dyke, meanwhile, was a rising television star who also had starred in the previous year's surprise hit "Bye Bye Birdie," but that's not why he was picked to play Bert. According to Van Dyke, it was because he had given a radio interview which Walt Disney happened to hear in which Van Dyke stressed the importance of family values, which were important to Mr. Disney.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
And here we see why the pants have to be baggy as Dick dances with penguins in "Mary Poppins."
It was a stellar choice, as Van Dyke's dance scenes in "Mary Poppins" are perhaps the best and most iconic in film history. His dance scenes remain on people's minds, weirdly lampooned in the raunchy 2002 comedy "Run Ronnie Run," for instance.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
The iconic dance on the roof of "Mary Poppins." It was awfully difficult to imagine anyone stealing the film away from Julie Andrews, but Dick Van Dyke gave it the old college try.
Van Dyke deserved a nomination even despite the fact that his accent was gloriously broad and stereotypical and tends to vary throughout. Lost in all the attention lavished on Andrews is the fact that Van Dyke also played Dawes Sr. to perfection. The rest of the cast does not deserve short shrift either: David Tomlinson is impeccable as George, Glynis Johns is wonderful as Winifred Banks, Hermione Baddeley is Ellen the maid, Reginald Owen is properly eccentric as Admiral Boom, and Ed Wynn is a joy as Uncle Albert (please see here for a possible Paul McCartney connection).

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
The scenes of Bert and Mary together in "Mary Poppins" are radiant.
"Mary Poppins" is a musical in the old style, but the songs are fresh and do not have the "Broadway" sound where actors belt them out such as in "South Pacific" or "Oklahoma." Instead, the songs are mellow and light and intricate, perfectly in keeping with the film's themes. "Let's Go Fly a Kite" fits into the story for several different reasons, both metaphorically and as a real activity, while Julie Andrews' "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" has entered the lexicon as a nod to "Mary Poppins" and nonsense songs in general. Other classic songs from the film, all of which were composed by Disney's house songwriters the Sherman Brothers, include "A Spoonful of Sugar," I Love to Laugh," and "Chim Chim Cher-ee."

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Disney animation at its finest in "Mary Poppins."
There are echoes of other Disney films throughout "Mary Poppins," such as the tea party which echoes "Alice in Wonderland" and the "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" pick-up jazz band of fellow race-goers that foreshadows the later animal band in "The Aristocats," but it is what "Mary Poppins" led to which is the most amazing feat of all.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Walt Disney with Julie Andrews and Dick Van Dyke at the premiere of "Mary Poppins."
As the most successful film of 1965, a time when the Disney animation department was becoming too expensive and was in a creative slump after the wonderful flop "Sleeping Beauty," Walt Disney walked away with the staggering sum for that time of $28 million. He took that windfall and used it to purchase some swampland in Florida. Long after his own death the following year, the Disney company was able to realize Walt's dream and create Walt Disney World in Buena Vista, Florida.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
A beautiful blend of live-action and animation gives "Mary Poppins" a unique look.
Every child should see "Mary Poppins." Every adult, too. It bears repeat viewings. I'm a fan. For everybody involved, without exception, it was the high point of their career, whether they knew it then or know it now (Andrews and Van Dyke continue performing as of the date of this writing). Julie Andrews did "The Sound of Music" the following year, a rare follow-up that matched her greatest success and cemented her legend.

Dick Van Dyke, meanwhile, also had one more flash of lightning with "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" and classic songs such as "Truly Scrumptious," "Toots Sweets" and "Me Ol' Bamboo" before returning to the small screen for good. Those later successes and many, many others confirmed that their explosion of talent in "Mary Poppins" was no freak occurrence, though it never again was quite the same.

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964
Come back soon, Mary Poppins!
Below is the "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious" scene, which incorporates everything that is best about "Mary Poppins": Julie Andrews singing gloriously with her superb vocal phrasing, Dick Van Dyke with his iconic jerky dance moves and, aside from the accent, the best acting of his career. And everything is accompanied by animated characters who convincingly take the place of real people. The way the two stars interact, though, is the highlight of "Mary Poppins."

If you haven't seen "Mary Poppins," you should!

Mary Poppins Walt Disney film 1964 DVD cover


Tuesday, January 14, 2014

"Frozen" Headed to Broadway

This is Certainly No Surprise

Elsa from "Frozen"
Elsa from "Frozen."
Disney animated feature films heading to Broadway has been a well-worn path. "Frozen" is about to join beloved Broadway productions such as "The Lion King" and "Beauty and the Beast" on the Great White Way. No word on when or who will be in the cast. Certainly, Broadway star Idina Menzel, who played Elsa in "Frozen," would seem to be an ideal casting choice. She could belt out her classic "Let It Go" and bring down the house with that every night.

"Frozen" to date (early January 2014) has earned $700 million at the box office. It won the Golden Globe as Best Animated Feature Film, and its soundtrack has hit No. 1 on the Billboard Charts. The Academy Award for Best Animated Film should be a lock. Conquering Broadway will be child's play after all those accomplishments.


Monday, January 13, 2014

Animation in Japan on the Rise in 2013

"The Wind Rises" Became a Huge Success in Japan

The Wind Rises
"The Wind Rises" (2013).
Seven of the top box office hits in Japan during 2013 were animated films. Japan has been a leader in anime at least since the 1960s, but this is a new development that signals a faltering Hollywood grip on a key overseas market.

"The Wind Rises," the story of the designer of the Japanese Zero fighter as told by animation legend Hayao Miyazaki, was the top box office hit in Japan, earning $116 million.

All is not lost for Hollywood. "Monsters University," the well-received sequel to "Monsters Inc.," was No. 2 in Japan with $89 million. Naturally, considering its patriotic theme, "The Wind Rises" appealed directly to Japanese sensibilities, so it would have been tough for any animated film to top it. The "Monsters University" figure was quite respectable and easily could have been the top draw in other years. However, Hollywood live-action films were conspicuous by their near-absence from the list.

Those two animated films were followed at No. 3 by "Ted," which has an animated lead character. Most of the other animated films in the top ten for 2013 were derived from local anime franchises with built-in audiences. The 2012 Disney hit "Wreck-It Ralph," was released in Japan as "Sugar Rush," came in tenth at the 2013 Japanese box office, at $29.3 million.

Surprisingly, "Iron Man 3" did not crack the top ten, earning only $25.3 million and coming in not far ahead of Johnny Depp's "The Lone Ranger," which earned $20 million and was a surprise hit with Japanese audiences.

It is easy to sneer at box office returns, especially foreign ones, as any guide to film quality. However, the success or failure of a film and, indeed, entire film franchises relies more and more on international grosses these days. Domestic US audiences may recoup production costs for a hit film, but the profits flow in from overseas. Failure of Hollywood films overseas would lead to lower film budgets and, thus, likely lower grosses both domestically and abroad in a vicious downward cycle. At a bare minimum, it would cut into actor/film executive salaries and studio profits.

In live-action films, Hollywood needs to crank out a better product for Japan or it will continue falling behind.


"Frozen" Wins Golden Globe for Best Animated Film

Golden Globes Frozen
Fun in the sun!
"Frozen" won a Golden Globe Award for Best Animated Film on Jan. 12, 2014, at the 71st Annual Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California.

The Golden Globe Awards are presented by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and honors the best in television and film. Tonight’s show was hosted by Amy Poehler and Tina Fey live on NBC.

"Let It Go" from "Frozen" was nominated for Best Original Song, but it lost to "Ordinary Love" from "Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom."

"Frozen" beat "Despicable Me 2" and "The Croods" for the Best Animated Film award. It has to be considered the clear favorite headed into the Academy Awards.

Jennifer Lee Chris Buck Frozen premiere
The directors at the premiere of "Frozen."