Monday, November 28, 2011

Naming Your Environmentally Destructive Company After a Beloved Animation Studio? Priceless. [UPDATE]

Not exactly animation news, but you'll get a kick out of this: a Calgary-based oil and gas company has renamed a part of its business after a certain Emeryville-based animation studio.

"Paramount Resources Ltd. is pleased to announce the reorganization of all of the Company's oil sands and carbonate bitumen interests into a new wholly-owned subsidiary, Pixar Petroleum Corp. ("Pixar")," reads the press release.

If you're thinking this is an early April Fool's Day joke, well, the news has been picked up by Canadian Business magazine and the Calgary Herald. And these bozos are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

I'm no trademark expert, but this seems like shameless hijacking of a well-known brand by an industry in desperate need of good publicity—the Alberta tar sands are an environmental disaster.

Coincidentally, Leslie Iwerks, director of The Pixar Story and A Day in the Life of John Lasseter, made a series of documentaries about the issue. You can watch one of them, Downstream, here.
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Update: "We intend to take the appropriate legal action," a Walt Disney Company spokeswoman tells The Wall Street Journal.

(Updated Dec. 2)

Lost for Decades, Early Walt Disney Short to be Auctioned

Oswald plush from the Disney Store
A long-lost Walt Disney cartoon from 1928 discovered earlier this year will be auctioned at Bonhams in Los Angeles on December 14.

Entitled Hungry Hobos, the 5 minute, 21 second black-and-white film stars Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

It "follows a starving Oswald and his friend Peg Leg Pete on a train. They rob a chicken of her egg... and cook it by using the train's wheels," reports the Daily Mail.

The short was found in the Huntley Film Archives, one of the U.K.'s biggest film libraries. (Huntley has a collection of about 80,000 films, only half of which are properly catalogued.)

"When we checked this film we couldn't quite believe our eyes. For an archive, finding a lost masterpiece is incredible—you just don't think it will happen to you," archivist Amanda Huntley told Reuters.

Auctioneers expect the original, silent 16mm print (the only one known to survive) to go for between $30,000 and $40,000. Disney is said to be aware of the sale, but whether they will try to acquire it is anyone's guess.

Oswald was created by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks for distribution through Universal Studios prior to the founding of Walt Disney Productions. The Walt Disney Company brought Oswald 'home' in a 2006 talent/intellectual property trade with Universal. The rabbit is one of the stars of the bestselling video game Epic Mickey.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

DreamWorks Animation in Talks to Build Shanghai Studio

DreamWorks Animation SKG is "in talks to set up a joint venture studio in Shanghai...to produce animation and design theme parks," reports Reuters.

Reuters' story is based on a report in Chinese finance magazine Caijing, which quoted government sources as saying the studio would be formed with a consortium of Chinese media companies.

"DreamWorks Animation and the consortium would invest a total of $2 billion in the joint venture, DreamWorks East, over the next five years to produce animation for the Chinese market."

Caijing reported that CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg was in China earlier this month to discuss the plan with government officials there.

New Small Fry Still: It's Mini Zurg!

Here's a new still from Toy Story short Small Fry, in theatres today with the best comedy of the year, Disney's The Muppets.


Read my (unfortunately negative) review of Small Fry here, then head over to Upcoming Pixar for an interview with director Angus MacLane.

Lasseter Family Winery Open for Visits this Weekend

The Lasseter Family Winery will be opening its doors to the public for the first time this Friday and Saturday, November 25 and 26.

Admission is $25 per person and includes tastings of all four current wines. Seating for the event is limited and reservations must be made in advance.

More information can be found on the winery's new blog, Entre Nous.

Located in Glen Ellen, CA, the winery was founded by Pixar creative chief John Lasseter and his wife Nancy in 2002. Their first wines went on sale in early 2009.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Toy Story Toon 'Small Fry' a Big Disappointment

That's a pretty shocking headline, am I right? Sadly it's true, at least for me. Small Fry is no Hawaiian Vacation or Air Mater.

My main problem with the Angus MacLane-directed short is that it feels like a rehash of the same issues of toy abandonment that packed a real emotional punch in the trilogy.

Mini Buzz and the other original characters do little to help. They may be funny, but their time on screen is fleeting; they aren’t afforded any time to develop. Mermaid-like toy Neptuna (voiced by Jane Lynch) is devoid of personality.

Small Fry’s best moment is its end credits—and not because it was over. Without giving it away, the design of the titles is top notch and just a bit unexpected. (They were created by Pixar's resident text and titles expert Susan Bradley.)

Despite the foregoing, everyone should see Small Fry in theatres. Why? Because it’s playing with The Muppets, which is a fabulous triumph of a comedy and the best movie of the year so far, period. Read my "Muppetational" review at The Disney Blog.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

2011 For Your Consideration Ads

It's that time of the year again. Studios are furiously pitching their films to awards voters "for consideration" as the best of 2011.

Awards Daily has brought online several For Your Consideration ads for animated films—they're some of the brightest this season. More are sure to be around the corner.

Disney's done a great job with the ads for Cars 2 and Winnie The Pooh; ditto Paramount with The Adventures of Tintin.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Scrat's Continental Crack-Up–Part 2

Scrat's Continental Crack-Up–Part 2 was released this week by Blue Sky Studios/20th Century Fox. It continues where the first 'Crack-Up' short (released last winter) left off.

Directed by Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier, the shorts act as teasers for the fourth feature installment of the Ice Age series, Ice Age: Continental Drift, due out in theatres July 13 next year.

If you haven't already, you can watch them both in HD on iTunes Movie Trailers. I tend to prefer Part 1—the gags are hilarious.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Woody Woodpecker Feature in the Works

Illumination Entertainment (a subsidiary of Universal Pictures) is the early stages of development on a feature starring classic cartoon character Woody Woodpecker.

Screenwriters John Altschuler and Dave Krinsky are attached to develop a story for the CGI film.

Illumination is looking to "create a story that modernizes the character, hopefully launching a franchise in the process," says The Hollywood Reporter.

Do you want to see this happen?

Watch the Second Trailer for The Pirates! Band of Misfits

The second domestic trailer for Aardman Animations' The Pirates! Band of Misfits (known in the U.K. as The Pirates!—In an Adventure with Scientists) debuted this afternoon on Yahoo! Movies. Watch—


I can't say I'm a fan of Aardman's style, but The Pirates! is one of the animated films on my radar for 2012. (It opens March 30 in North America.)

By the way, you can follow director Peter Lord on Twitter, @PeteLordAardman.

DreamWorks Wants to Kill Text on the Internet [CORRECTION]

Speaking at the Techonomy conference on Monday, DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffery Katzenberg spoke about DreamWorks' development of new technology in collaboration with HP Intel.

"The two companies have been working together for almost four years to create 12-core chips and specialized software able to create photo-real animation in real time," reports MIT's Technology Review.

Using the new technology, animators no longer have to wait to see the final version of a scene. This 'speeds up the creative process by an estimated 50x to 70x.'

DreamWorks plans to take the tech beyond animation and use it to make online communication less 'text-centric'.


"An immersive audiovisual experience will be able to compete against text in a lot of situations," Katzenberg said. But he "was vague about just how it will transform the Web", suggesting only a focus on social media applications, reports the Review.

If Pixar and Apple would be rumored to be doing this, I would be jumping off my office chair. HP Intel, on the other hand—I'd be surprised shocked to see them make advanced technology like this work for consumers.
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Correction: While DreamWorks Animation does have a longstanding relationship with HP, the collaboration discussed in the Technology Review article was actually with Intel, which makes chips for HP workstations. Sorry for the inaccuracy.

Watch the Epic New Brave Trailer

The first full-length theatrical trailer for Pixar's Brave has been unleashed online. Watch it below in HD via YouTube or on iTunes Movie Trailers.

 

Something tells me this movie is going to be epic.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Welcome to Big Screen Animation

The transformation is complete: The Pixar Blog is now Big Screen Animation.

Starting tomorrow, make this your destination of choice for the best in animation news and commentary. Be sure to subscribe and follow on Twitter, @BigScreenToons.

Send your comments, questions, and tips to mail@bigscreenanimation.com. (All mail to pixarblogunofficial@yahoo.com will be redirected to the new address.)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Three new Brave stills emerge; trailer debut tomorrow [UPDATE]

Three new film stills from Brave have been released, ahead of the online debut of the first full-length theatrical trailer tomorrow.

The above still is one of two that appeared at Empire this morning; this AP article provides a look at another and shares some details regarding what's in the trailer.

Brave arrives in theatres June 22, 2012.
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Update: It appears that the trailer will be out tomorrow (Wednesday) instead of today.
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Update: Disney confirms the trailer will be released Wednesday morning on Apple's iTunes Movie Trailers site.

(Updated Nov. 15)

Watch half a minute of Toy Story Toon: Small Fry

Here's a 33-second clip from Toy Story Toon Small Fry, opening on the big screen November 23 with Disney's The Muppets.



I had a chance to screen the short with The Muppets over the weekend and I'll share my thoughts on both on or around Nov. 23 (Muppets review on The Disney Blog).

(via The Pixar Times)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Buttercup, Dolly, Mr. Pricklepants join Toy Story Collection

Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich tweeted this picture of the three new additions to the Toy Story Collection: Buttercup, Dolly, and Mr. Pricklepants.

The collection showcases the truest replicas of the Toy Story characters, made using Pixar's original data files. It currently includes Woody, Buzz, Jessie, Lotso, etc.

The premium line is manufactured by Thinkway Toys.

First look at Small Fry

USA Today brings us a new still and plot details from Pixar's latest Toy Story Toon, Small Fry, in theatres November 23 with The Muppets. A second hi-res still is up at Stitch Kingdom.

In the 7-minute short, Buzz is 'kidnapped and replaced' by a "pint-sized impostor", a fast food version of himself. "It's like the Prince and the Pauper tale for toys," says writer/director Angus MacLane.

Day & Night director Teddy Newton brings his vocal talent to Mini Buzz; actress Jane Lynch voices a mermaid toy named Neptuna. MacLane provided the voices of some of the other unloved mini toys Buzz encounters.

I'll be attending an early screening of The Muppets tomorrow—Small Fry better be attached.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Cars 2 tops home video sales charts

Cars 2 was the best selling Blu-ray/DVD in its first week on sale, beating its nearest competition by a margin of more than 5 to 1, reports Home Media Magazine.

This may be the best proof of how real audiences feel about the film.

"[Cars 2] generated nearly half its sales from Blu-ray Disc—a significantly high percentage for an animated family film. The film’s strong showing on Blu-ray is due, in part, to its availability in Blu-ray 3D, which accounted for 17% of total disc sales."

Actually, restricting the availability of many bonus features to the 5-disc combo pack (which includes the film on Blu-ray 3D) was likely the biggest reason for higher 3-D sales.

Are You Ready?

Only one week left until The Pixar Blog becomes Big Screen Animation, the world’s newest, shiniest general animation news blog.

Visit BigScreenAnimation.com next Wednesday, November 16, to check it out.

I’ll be debuting a new version of the Big Screen Animation logo with a character designed by a very talented artist who’s currently working on The Legend of Tembo for Digital Domain.

(All visits to The Pixar Blog will redirect to Big Screen Animation starting on the 16th. For more on the transition, see my announcement post from September.)

It's quite cool to see the site growing and being recognized as a resource for folks interested in animation.

On Monday, I welcomed a new advertiser, The Animation Collaborative, founded by an amazing group of Pixar artists who are passionate about teaching animation and storytelling.

Did I mention the school is located directly across the street from Pixar? Be sure to take a look at their website (the instructor list is impressive). You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Cars 2 faces crowded Oscar field

Eighteen features have been submitted for consideration in the Animated Feature Film category for the 84th Academy Awards, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences just announced.

Assuming at least sixteen of these make their qualifying theatrical runs, the category will have five nominees this year—something that's happened only twice before since the award was established in 2001.

Cars 2 will consequently face a tough challenge in taking home the prize. (The first real challenge for a Pixar film since the first Cars.) In fact, there's even the risk that it could lose out on a nomination if the naysayers have their way.

Nominations will be announced on January 24, 2012, at 5:30 AM PT. The awards will be presented on February 26.

Next Brave trailer likely attached to 'Muppets'

Disney's The Muppets is one of the year-end films I'm most looking forward to seeing. The trailers have been hilarious and there's some great buzz around the picture.

Pixar's latest Toy Story Toon, Small Fry, will also precede showings of the movie.

Now there's one more reason to head to the theatre when it opens November 23: the first full-length trailer for Brave is almost sure to be attached.

No official announcement yet, but Disney's release schedule makes it clear. When asked, a Disney rep tells me "it's very likely", adding a telling smiley to his email.

The new trailer should arrive online sometime around then.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Lasseter receives star on Hollywood Walk of Fame

Photo by Alex J. Berliner/ABImages
Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios chief creative officer John Lasseter was honored earlier today with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Photos from the star-studded unveiling ceremony were released by Disney this evening.

Lasseter’s star is the 2,453rd on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and is located at 6834 Hollywood Boulevard, in front of the historic, Disney-owned El Capitan Theatre.

The ceremony featured actress Bonnie Hunt as the special guest speaker and was followed by a luncheon catered by chef Guy Fieri, host of the Food Network's Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

Today's event was originally scheduled for next June, but was moved up, no doubt to coincide with the home video debut of Cars 2.

Cars 2 arrives on Blu-ray/DVD; Toy Story Trilogy on Blu-ray 3D

Cars 2 drove into homes today, arriving on Blu-ray, DVD, and the iTunes Store.

As we've come to expect of Pixar titles, the quality of the high definition picture and sound on the Blu-ray is perfect. This includes the accompanying shorts as well.

Besides Toy Story Toon Hawaiian Vacation, all editions of Cars 2 include the brand-new Cars Toon Air Mater, which is the first short from Pixar Canada in Vancouver.

Air Mater is one of the most enjoyable Cars Toons yet. It's very appealing visually and there are a few humorous moments here and there. It ends with a fun wink at DisneyToon Studios' Planes.

That's about it for extras on the 2-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. Besides the shorts, there is only the audio director's commentary, exactly like on the 1-disc DVD.

All other bonus features are found only on the 5-disc combo pack, which bundles the film on Blu-ray, Blu-ray 3D, DVD, and digital copy, and the 11-disc Cars Director's Edition set. (Since I received the 2-disc for review, I can't comment on these.)

Sharing the spotlight is the debut of the Toy Story Trilogy on Blu-ray 3D. Cars 2 and the Toy Story films are the first movies from Pixar to be released in the format.

Toy StoryToy Story 2, and Toy Story 3 are available separately and as a Complete 3D Toy Story Collection.

If you've got a 3-D-capable system and want just the 3-D versions, you'll want to go with the collection. It's a much better value since you don't pay for the multiple 2-D versions (Blu-ray/DVD/digital copy).