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Friday, February 28, 2014

Astronomy Animation

I found this in the Mail.Online, a UK site. Not sure why they posted it, but thought it was interesting. I view all animation as films, and this is a pretty interesting animation of an educational sort. Animation is what you make of it, and that isn't necessarily ogres and princesses and floating genies.

The animation was created by Prague-based astronomer, Rhys Taylor. It compares the different planets to marbles and gives an understandable impression of their size.

You can visit his "Physicists formerly of the Caribbean" blog if you want to see his explanation.


Thursday, February 27, 2014

A New "Shrek" Film on the Way?

Jeffrey Katzenberg
DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg

Only a couple of days ago, we suggested that given all the DreamWorks Animation plans in place to capitalize on their "Shrek" franchise with theme parks and the like (excuse me, "interactive adventures"), another Shrek film might be under consideration.

Well, what do you know.

DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg apparently had this to say in the latest Variety:
"We like to let them have a little bit of time to rest. But I think you can be confident that we'll have another chapter in the 'Shrek' series. We're not finished, and more importantly, neither is he." 
No, we did not know about this when we made that suggestion. And yes, we are wearing out our hands patting ourselves on the back.

There's too much money being left on the table, and DreamWorks just reported some very weak financial results that hammered the stock price. Katzenberg is a sharp businessman and knows how to prop up his stock in a hurry. Don't believe for a second that there is any question that he wouldn't say something like that unless he already had a script ready or in preparation, had talked about it with some or all of the leads, and was thinking ahead to a possible release date.

In our view, the only question is when.


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

"Batman Vs. The Terminator" Fan Video

Batman vs. The Terminator
Batman... with a moustache!

I am all for supporting independent/fan animation. Yes, we all love Disney films that cost hundreds of millions of dollars to put together. However, there also is value in an independent view imposed on accepted characters without the burden of appealing to the lowest common denominator in the US or China or Europe.

Producing their own shorts is where a lot of the industry big shots began, simply working up their own treatments and honing their skills.

This effort, "Batman Vs. The Terminator," is one of the better ones you will ever see. It is a five-minute animated film from Tony Guerrero and Mitchell Hammond, with music by Noir Deco.

According to the creators' synopsis:
30 years have passed since Bruce Wayne survived Skynet's nuclear blasts in August of '97. Iron demons now roam the planet, and without the requirement to defend the innocent against crime and injustice, Wayne has seeked refuge in the bomb shelter that saved his life; the Batcave.
Having scavenged the wasteland for resources, he discovers the radio of a dead soldier. There is static over a frequency. Flesh and blood is rising up to the west. With The Stinger; a riot control vehicular unit built before the apocalypse along with a refitted bomb blast vest, Batman makes his way across what remains of the United States to join forces with the man determined to neutralize the electronic menace - John Conner.
The original concept is credited to Tony Guerrero, the animation and sound editing to Mitchell Hammond. Do I know who these guys are? No, I haven't a clue. I do know they good good work without an entire studio behind them.

It appears to be Green Arrow and Solid Snake from Metal Gear Solid with John Connor in the three-man strike team. The tank is similar to the Batmobile in "Batman: The Animated Series Batmobile." It may just be me (probably is) but I see echoes of "2001: A Space Odyssey" in some of the design layout.

Overall, a solid effort.

Oh, and just to show that this mixing of superheroes is not completely unknown, below is an interesting poster which features "The First Filipino Batman in Full Eastman Color!."


Monday, February 24, 2014

Shrek Coming to London

Shrek Wants YOU... To Come to his Theme Park

Shrek DreamWorks Animation

DreamWorks Animation is taking a page out of the Mouse Factory's playbook and is finding a new home for the world's favorite ogre. Shrek is coming to London!

The animation studio is partnering with Merlin Entertainments to open a "live interactive adventure" devoted to Shrek and his friends. The "adventure" will open in summer 2015, right in time for tourist season.

I'm not really sure what a "live interactive adventure" is, but it sounds awfully similar at first glance to the kinds of meets and greets that are a top attraction at Walt Disney World.

Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks' CEO, fills in a bit of the detail:
"It's not like anything else, if you can imagine a theater-like experience where you the audience are part of the story. This is just a continuation of what we have been working on in the last 18 months, which is a broad diversification of DreamWorks into a family entertainment company."
Now, I am no legendary impresario of animated feature films like Mr. Katzenberg, but I'm not so sure that people going to theater necessarily want to be part of the show. But maybe that's just me.

Current plans are for there to be an interactive walk-through as the main attraction. In addition, Merlin is designing a 6,500-square-foot courtyard where visitors will be able to meet Shrek, along with characters from other DreamWorks movies including "Kung Fu Panda" and "Madagascar" (see what I was saying about Walt Disney World?). Included will be a rotating exhibit showcasing DreamWorks Animation film and DVD releases, with a handy store nearby should the original thought strike you that perhaps buying a DreamWorks DVD would provide a memorable memento of your day there.

The company made it clear that the "adventure" won't be just about Shrek, but also Princess Fiona, Donkey, and fan-favorite Puss In Boots who will be part of the ensemble. And all the other beloved DreamWorks characters, of course.

Merlin, for those who don't know, is behind all sorts of London, er, entertainments. These include the famous EDF Energy London Eye, the London Sea Life Aquarium and Madame Tussauds wax museums. Basically, if you have been a tourist in London, you have become good friends with Merlin without, perhaps, even knowing it.

The Shrek "experience" will be on the South Bank near Merlin's other properties, making it convenient to go from one to the other and perhaps get a bundle ticket that you would actually use.

According to a statement from Merlin Chief Executive Nick Varney:
"Developing an attraction based on Shrek and his friends is hugely exciting for Merlin Entertainments and the start of what we hope will be a wider collaboration with DreamWorks Animation." 
By "wider collaboration," CEO Varney means plans that are already in the works to put similar exhibitions in six other cities around the world. And, who knows, maybe more cities. And then Mars. And then....

This is not a first for DreamWorks. It previously licensed its characters for exhibits in Russia, China and ... New Jersey. And that is not to even mention the popular Broadway Show "Shrek the Musical."

It sounds like a right jolly time to be had by all. If they keep this up, we may even eventually see that ill-fated fifth Shrek film.

Puss in Boots


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Disney on Ice Does Thailand

"Disney On Ice" Spans the Globe

Disney on Ice
All of our old friends made it all the way to Thailand

"Disney on Ice" is everywhere these days!

It's easy to lose track of the fact that the Mouse Factory is not just popular in the States and the major foreign markets such as Europe, China and Japan. In fact, it is growing in popularity everywhere.

One such place is Bangkok, Thailand.

"Disney on Ice" serves up a medley of your greatest Disney characters and riffs. Mickey, Minnie, Donald Duck and Goofy are there from the old days, while Ariel the Little Mermaid, Tiana from "The Princess and the Frog," and Buzz Lightyear and Woody from the "Toy Story" films are among the top representatives from the newer generation of Disney/Pixar films. Other characters are from "The Lion King," "Alice In Wonderland" and other classic Disney animated feature films.

Now, Bangkok, Thailand is hardly a skating hotbed - well, it may be the hotbed part - but these days everyone around the world, even in Southeast Asia, love Disney.

There will be eleven shows March 27-30, two or three daily. Mickey is everywhere!


Puss in Boots TV Spot Old Spice Spoof [HD] 2011

Hola Amigos. Now Look at Your Cat. Now Back to Me.

Puss in Boots Old Spice ad
Where are you? You are in an adventure! With a cat your cat could act like.

Puss In Boots is our old amigo, and we can't get enough of him. We first met him in "Shrek 2," then "Shrek The Third," then "Shrek Forever After," then in his very own film "Puss In Boots" and its short follow-up "Puss In Boots: The Three Diablos." 

Puss in Boots Old Spice ad
Look at your cat. Now look at me. Now look at your cat. Now look at me.

Well, here he is again! And doing all the double-talk we know and love.

Puss in Boots Old Spice ad
What is in your paw? Holy Frijoles!

Yes, it's just a spot, but it's very amusing and completely in character for our caped feline. The promotion is low-key and this is more a celebration of this iconic character than anything else.

How can you not like this if you like the character? Extremely well done.



Saturday, February 22, 2014

"My First Crush" (2007) - A Look at Real-World Relationships

My First Crush Julia Pott

This is an edgy animation based on interviews the artist, Julia Pott, conducted with real people about their actual experiences. As she puts it, “their animal counterparts tells their stories of humor and heartache” and, through doing so, give voice to these stories in a way profoundly different to any straight forwardly representational strategy for conveying narratives.

The artist's full description from her Youtube listing:
Using interviews with people about their first encounters with love, their animal counterparts tells their stories of humor and heartache. This was my graduation film at Kingston University.
I don't know a thing about this animation apart from that. It is proof that animation does not have to involve a single princess, troll or ogre.

Animated By Julia Pott, Music, Sound Design by Christopher Frost.


"A Bicycle Trip" (2007) - A Real Trip in More Ways Than One

Albert Hofmann A Bicycle Trip

The 2007 animated short “A Bicycle Trip” recounts the fateful day in 1943 that Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann ingested a chemical compound he had synthesized. It was lysergic acid diethylamide, better known to Joe Friday of "Dragnet" as LSD.

Mr. Hofmann thus became the first person to intentionally experience an acid trip (he had accidentally dosed himself with acid a few days prior). The animation was created by Lorenzo Veracini, Nandini Nambiar, and Marco Avoletta.

There is orchestral operatic accompaniment, with the ordinary sounds of life (a bird chips, a cat meows) dialled way up to (presumably) mirror what actually happens during an acid trip. This is a dreamy film, full of odd moments, weird perspectives, and ethereal vistas, perhaps best viewed ... during an acid trip. It may not be the best thing for young viewers. It is, in any event, a kind of history lesson of something that actually happened, and you certainly can't say that about most animation films.

I'm trying to add some short animation films to this site because that is where a lot of the really creative stuff appears. Also, anyone really interested in animation knows that there are creative animators around the world, so this short helps fill that gap a bit as well. These creative folks deserve some recognition before Hollywood co-opts their fresh ideas!


"The LEGO Movie" Sequel Coming in 2017

There Are More Toys in Your Future!

The LEGO Movie

In perhaps the least unexpected announcement in animation feature film history, Warner Bros. has officially stated that there will be a sequel to "The LEGO Movie." The studio also has made official a release date for the sequel: May 26, 2017.

The date is the only thing that was up in the air. Note that Warner Bros. has staked out that Memorial Day holiday weekend for its sequel release. That shows extreme confidence that the studio expects the follow-up to be one of the top films of that year. An early announcement of a release date for a major holiday weekend so far in advance is one way for a studio to scare off other studios from choosing that date. Nobody wants to open a competing animation film on the same day as a presumed blockbuster, that is how you get lost in the shuffle. Well, unless it is "Toy Story 4" or something like that, in which case Warner Brothers might "adjust" its own release date at some point in the intervening three years. However, that is unlikely, and you can mark your calendars with confidence: May 26, 2017.

The movie has proven a bona-fide smash hit, having crossed the $200 million worldwide gross mark in less than two weeks of release. It won its opening weekend with a big $69 million domestic gross and is expected to hold on to that title for the third weekend in a row. One can only speculate so far at the effect the film has had on sales of LEGO products at retailers, but it probably is as impressive as the box-office totals.

If Warner Brothers had known before the release of "The LEGO Movie" how well it would perform, it very well might have held it for this coming Memorial Day weekend.

The film has come in for some mild criticism for making the bad guy played by Will Ferrell, "Lord Business," into a sort of anti-Capitalist caricature. However, the public no doubt feels there are bigger problems in the world to worry about than that. The animation is superb and the story works.

"The LEGO Movie" stakes Warner Bros.' claim as a major player in Hollywood animation, joining Disney/Pixar, DreamWorks and the rest. As I noted in my review, Warner Bros. actually has a long and storied animation history, but it was known more for occasional cult classics than as a real competitor for theater-goer dollars. Until now.

Warner Bros. confirmed before the film even opened that it had hired Jared Stern and Michelle Morgan to write a script for the sequel. Only an utter failure would have led to cancellation of a sequel, and "The LEGO Movie" is far, far, far from being a failure.

The LEGO Movie was written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, with animation by Animal Logic. Produced by Doug Davison, Roy Lee and Dan Lin, the movie features the voices of Chris Pratt, Will Arnett, Elizabeth Banks, Will Ferrell, Channing Tatum and Liam Neeson.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Shakespeare in Disney Animated Films

The Immortal Bard Gets His Due in Disney

William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare.

It is easy, but wrong, to dismiss animated feature films, especially Disney films, as intellectually lightweight. While they often appear designed for younger audiences, the Disney people aren't stupid, and they don't think you, the viewer, are stupid, either. While children might not be up to speed on the Bard of Avon and his 38 plays, they can enjoy scenes for simpler reasons in which the people behind the greatest animation films of all time throw in an occasional treat aimed at adults. A key to increasing the popularity of animated films has been to broaden their appeal beyond children and create films that are more than mere cartoons. Adding Shakespearean references has been one sly way to do that.

Nothing in a Disney animated film appears there by accident. Every scene, every character, every bystander is planned and discussed and reviewed and approved. Believe it or not, there are people at Disney who delight in figuring out appropriate references for Shakespeare in their films, and they usually find a way not only to fit one or two in, but also to use them to add depth to the film's larger plot.

Without further ado, here are the best Shakespearean moments in classic Disney movies.

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

The original "Beauty and the Beast" is one of Disney's most beloved animated feature films. It came right at the height of the famous "Disney Renaissance" in 1991 and subsequently was turned into a smash-hit Broadway play.

Beauty and the Beast

When re-releasing "Beauty and the Beast" following its smashing success on Broadway, Disney looked at their material anew. It added the song ‘Human Again,’ which is so good it should have been in the original release. In addition to the song, they added a short scene at the end where Belle says “There never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo” as she finished reading Romeo and Juliet aloud to the Beast. He smiles and asks her to read it to him again. Here we learn that the Beast has never learned how to read, and Belle begins to teach him.

It is a pivotal scene where Belle coyly expresses her feelings for the Beast and their relationship develops.

Beauty and the Beast
Belle teaches the Beast a thing or two.

Toward the end of the film, Gaston leads the villagers in singing, saying "Screw your courage to the sticking place." Now, this line might seem odd - what exactly is a sticking place, anyway? - unless you know it is from Shakespeare's Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 7, Line 59.

Beauty and the Beast Gaston
Gaston gets in his own reference to Shakespeare.

So, "Beauty and the Beast" is full of references to Shakespeare. Who knew?


Aladdin The Genie Sebastian
"Aladdin" has several sneaky references you may not notice. You probably realized that is Sebastian from "The Little Mermaid" - right? Well, guess what, it also references the Bard of Avon.

"Aladdin" also came at the height of the Disney Renaissance and was marked by Robin Williams' brilliant turn as the Genie. This film is usually considered one of the top-ten best animated films ever made. It also was remade into a live-action film, but if you're a Disney animation fan, you probably prefer the original animated version like me.

Aladdin Iago

There actually are several references to the Bard of Avon in "Aladdin." First and foremost, a key character is named Iago, which many will recognize as the name of a character in Othello. You don't get much more obvious than that. In Shakespeare’s play, the character of Iago is an extremely manipulative villain, although no one except the audience has reason to distrust him. Similarly, the sultan considers Iago simply a mimicking bird that eats crackers, and not someone plotting his downfall. But appearances are deceiving to the characters, to their detriment. And, this actually ties in with our next reference, to Brutus.

The Genie, voiced by Robin Williams, got off all the good lines in "Aladdin."

The next reference comes when Aladdin makes his first wish to the Genie – to become a prince. Genie quickly runs through a magical spell book. Muttering to himself, he says "Caesar salad" and an arm draped in a toga holding a dagger reaches out to stab him. The Genie responds “Et tu Brute” and pushes the arm back down into the book and turns the page. Many will recognize that this line comes from Julius Caesar Act III Scene I, Caesar’s dying words to Brutus.

The Genie gets a surprise or two himself in "Aladdin."

Oliver and Company

Oliver & Company
"Oliver & Company" was one of the better animated films of the 1980s.

"Oliver & Company" immediately preceded the Disney Renaissance - some would say that the film set the stage for it, along with The Great Mouse Detective" - and isn't exactly a high-brow affair. However, Disney did manage to shoehorn in an odd reference to William anyway in a clever manner and begin the modern trend of Shakespearean homages.

In "Oliver and Company," the dogs all have drastically different personalities and Francis, the bulldog, is portrayed as somewhat snobbish. He has an appreciation for art and theatre and an abhorrence of anyone using a short form of his name. At one point during the film, Francis is seen watching television where a production of Macbeth is playing. Not only does Francis yell at Tito to keep it down while he is watching, but he also begins to mouth the words along side the television.

The scene played on the television shows Macbeth during his monologue in Act V Scene V. “Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow.” The hopelessness that Macbeth feels in this speech is echoed amongst the vagabond canines who know their master Sykes might arrive momentarily.

Oliver & Company
Francis watches Macbeth in "Oliver & Company."

Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World

Pocahontas 2
"Pocahontas II" picks up where the original left off.

The appearance of William Shakespeare himself in "Pocahontas II: Journey to a New World" is the most organic of all Shakespearean references in any Disney film. You can't get more direct with a Shakespeare reference than to show the man himself. Pocahontas and Shakespeare were both real people and contemporaries. Showing them in scenes together thus is completely believable, save for one small detail: Shakespeare died in England in April 1616, while Pocahontas only arrived in England in June 1616. Thus, they never crossed paths or for that matter were ever in the same time zone (if they had time zones back then) at the same moment while alive. But... they could have been, because they did live during the same years.

Pocahontas 2