Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Fan-Made Minimalist Pixar Posters

It's not often I post on fan creations, but these minimalist posters for ten of Pixar's classics deserve it. They were done by Wonchan Lee, a Melbourne, Australia-based designer who calls himself "one of the biggest fans" of the studio.

See them all at full size here (via My Modern Met).

Monday, February 27, 2012

Watch First Brave TV Spot

Disney/Pixar aired the first 30-second TV spot for Brave during the Oscars telecast last night. After floating around online in varying qualities, its now up in HD on YouTube (via FirstShowing.net). Watch—

Your ears have not deceived you. The music is in Scottish Gaelic. (Pixar Place found a video of the performer, Julie Fowlis.) This may be the most grown-up promo for a Pixar movie ever.

84th Annual Academy Awards Photos

Here are some official Academy photos of the winners (and a few of the nominees) in the animation categories at last night's 84th Annual Academy Awards.
Gore Verbinski accepts Oscar statuette for Rango. Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.
Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.
Verbinski and guest at the Governors Ball, as finishing touches are put on Oscar engraving. ©A.M.P.A.S.
Ellie Kemper presents William Joyce his Animated Short Oscar for Lessmore. Michael Yada / ©A.M.P.A.S.
Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg accept Animated Short Oscar for Lessmore. Matt Brown / ©A.M.P.A.S.
Joyce and Oldenburg strike a pose reminiscent of the opening of The Artist. Todd Wawrychuk / ©A.M.P.A.S.
La Luna director Enrico Casarosa and wife on the red carpet. Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.
Casarosa gives thumbs up before the show. Ivan Vejar / ©A.M.P.A.S.
Kung Fu Panda 2 director Jennifer Yuh Nelson (C) with producer Melissa Cobb and production designer Raymond Zibach. Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.
Short film nominees for Wild Life Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby. Matt Petit / ©A.M.P.A.S.

Rango, 'Lessmore' Animated Winners at 84th Academy Awards

Matt Brown / ©A.M.P.A.S.
The 84th Annual Academy Awards were presented Sunday night by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (A.M.P.A.S.) at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center.

Martin Scorsese's Hugo, a showpiece of story and visual effects, took home five awards (tying for the most wins), but lost out in the Best Picture and Best Director categories to the equally deserving The Artist.

Standing out in the animated field were Rango and The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, which picked up the Oscars for Best Animated Feature Film and Best Animated Short Film, respectively.

"Someone asked me if this film was for kids," said director Gore Verbinski accepting the feature award for Rango, "I don’t know, but it was certainly created by a bunch of grownups acting like children and we just had the best time."

Verbinski thanked Johnny Depp and the cast; the artists at Industrial Light & Magic; his own company BlindWink Productions and distributor Paramount; and finally his family. "It doesn’t get any better than this."

While I was saddened that that Pixar's beautiful La Luna didn't win for animated short, Lessmore directors William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg gave one of the best, most sincere speeches of the night. "Look, we’re just these two swamp rats from Louisiana."

Congratulations to everyone who had a part in bringing these films to the screen!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

84th Academy Awards Coverage

The 84th Academy Awards happen tonight at the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood. The show will be televised live on ABC in the United States and CTV in Canada beginning at 8:30 PM ET/5:30 PT. (Red carpet pre-shows begin at 7 PM ET and 8 PM, respectively.)

I'll be live-tweeting the animation categories (and more) throughout the night, to be followed by a complete post after the ceremony. Check back tomorrow for official A.M.P.A.S. photos of the animation nominees you likely won't see anywhere else.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Review: The Lorax Original Score Soundtrack Album

The Lorax Original Motion Picture Score soundtrack went on sale on iTunes this week, a couple of weeks before the CD release from Varèse Sarabande. If you haven't picked it up already, you'd be wise to do so.

John Powell's score is one of the highlights of Illumination Entertainment's adaptation of the Dr. Seuss classic. Miles ahead of his work on How to Train Your Dragon, in some ways it's a throwback to the early Disney scores.

If you're going to download individual tracks, make sure they include "Ted, Audrey and the Trees", "Wasteland", and "Funeral for a Tree". The auditory cortex of your brain will thank you.

(A second soundtrack album, with original songs written by Powell and screenwriter Cinco Paul, will also be released next month. Probably skip, unless it's for the kids.)

As I mentioned on Twitter, I had the chance to enjoy an early screening of the film this morning and it was a lot of fun. I'll have more when it opens on Friday.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Merida Armed and Dangerous in New Brave Poster and Clip

Ahead of tomorrow's debut of the latest (final?) Brave trailer, Apple's iTunes Movie Trailers brings a first look at Pixar's newest poster for the film. Disney.com/Brave has also been updated with an illustrated synopsis and mini character bios.

Update (Feb. 23): Surprise! It wasn't a trailer Disney/Pixar has been teasing for the past few days, but actually an extended clip from Brave. (Apple labels it as "Trailer 2".) If you didn't already, you'll want to watch the movie after seeing it.

Ice Age Parodies The Artist

Have a laugh watching this black-and-white parody of critical favourite The Artist, starring Scrat from Ice Age. It's promoting the series' fourth installment, Ice Age: Continental Drift, opening on July 13.

The next trailer for the film lands at iTunes Movie Trailers on March 5.

(via Total Film)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Oriental DreamWorks to Open This Year in Shanghai

DreamWorks Animation announced this hour its agreement with a group of Chinese media companies to form a new family entertainment studio in China, named Oriental DreamWorks.

The joint venture, first reported in late November 2011, will open later this year.

One of the areas the new Shaghai-based company will focus on will be the creation of 'high-quality, original Chinese animated content'.

While emphasis is placed squarely on content for the Asian market, it's likely that the Shanghai studio will also allow for the outsourcing of some work on future DreamWorks Animation projects.

New Still from La Luna

Disney/Pixar just debuted this beautiful new still from La Luna at Stitch Kingdom. Another clip from the short has also been around for a few days, but I'd recommend against watching it if you care about spoilers.

La Luna opens in theatres on June 22 with Brave.

The Pirates! Behind the Scenes Featurette

A brand new, 'making of' featurette for Aardman Animation's The Pirates! Band of Misfits has moored at Yahoo! Movies. The film opens in North America on April 27.

There's some great footage of the enormous stop-motion sets, plus some facts about the animation process. Producer Julie Lockhart calls The Pirates! "the most ambitious film Aardman's ever done".

Thursday, February 16, 2012

'Tintin' coming to Blu-ray/DVD on March 13 [UPDATE]

The Adventures of Tintin will be arriving on Blu-ray Disc (BD) and DVD on March 13 from Paramount Home Entertainment.

It's available for pre-order now from Amazon in three flavors:
Animation Magazine reports the BD combo packs will sport over 90 minutes of extras, many exploring the methods Weta Digital used to bring the story to life for director Steven Spielberg and producer Peter Jackson.

Also up for pre-order on Blu-ray and DVD from Paramount is Brad Bird's live action debut, Mission: Impossible–Ghost Protocol. No release date for that has yet been announced, but expect it some time in March as well. It will be released on April 17.

Rango Animation Progression Reel

With only a few days left until Oscar voting closes, Paramount Pictures and Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) released this progression reel highlighting the animation accomplishments of Animated Feature nominee Rango. Watch—

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Universal Embraces The Lorax's Environmental Message

I was at the supermarket a few hours ago and spotted some bottles of detergent from Seventh Generation stamped with a bright orange "The Lorax Approved" label.

Sure enough I get home to find a news release from this afternoon about the cross promotion between the eco friendly household products company and Universal Pictures/Illumination Entertainment.

I don't usually post on licensing deals, but I found this one interesting because it makes clear that, as suggested by the trailers, distributor Universal isn't shying away from the environmental theme of the movie, which opens on March 2.

Based on the 1971 children's book by Dr. Seuss, the film's plot is, of course, driven by the deforestation of the main characters' world. The press release talks about "the tale's crucial message of... environmental action."

The marketing people at Universal clearly aren't losing sleep over the possibility of a Fox News backlash of the kind that (hilariously) befell The Muppets a couple of months ago, not to mention WALL-E and Happy Feet a few years back.

It's also worth mentioning that like every other industry, more studios are choosing to use the environment as a selling point. At the same time, organic food and other green companies are looking for the recognition value that comes with major entertainment brands.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

2011 Big Screen Animation Awards—Final Selections

Presented below are my final selections for the 1st Annual Big Screen Animation Awards—the finest achievements in 2011 animation.

Before reading on, take a look at the introduction and criteria, and prepare yourself for some serious commenting afterwards. Winners (bold) in eight categories after the jump.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Rumors Swirl Around Disney's Mysterious 'Paperman'

Earlier this week, an unannounced short from Walt Disney Animation Studios, titled Paperman, was given a G rating by the MPAA. Naturally, word about the project has begun leaking out, leading to some very interesting theories.

Bleeding Cool discovered a reference to Paperman on the personal blog of Disney animator Patrick Osborne, who names himself as being the animation supervisor on the short.

Osborne writes:
"We’re finishing up a rather exciting project at Disney in the next few weeks. It’s been keeping me pretty busy and away from this blog. The short, directed by John Kahrs, will be heading out there sometime next year. We’re very proud of this one and can’t wait to show the world."
Kahrs, a former Pixar animator, joined Disney around 2007 and most recently served as animation supervisor on Tangled. Osborne also names the film's producer, art director, and VFX supervisor.

Pixar animator Catherine Hicks added this on Twitter:
"I saw Disney's new short Paperman yesterday. I have never seen anything like it before. Absolutely incredible. Hard to describe."
Dutch site Animatie.blog.nl reports that there may be more to these comments than the expected pre-release enthusiasm. Their sources have whispered that Paperman was created using a "new technique" that's been "described as groundbreaking" and 'could wipe motion capture from the map'.

Of course, this is light years away from being substantiated. But it does mesh with what we know about the development of light field imaging technology at Pixar and Disney Research.

As I exclusively reported last year, the studio has filed patent applications for methods that allow light field data to be converted into rendered 3D images. That would certainly change the playing field for mocap.

We'll find out what Paperman is all about, and what makes it so special, soon enough. Osborne's wrote 'next year' in December, so it wouldn't be a shock to see it attached to Wreck-It Ralph following a festival run.

(Hat tip to Stitch Kingdom)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Eyes on Moonbot Studios After 'Morris Lessmore'

The New Orleans Times-Picayune published an interesting piece over the weekend about Moonbot Studios, the Shreveport, LA-based outfit behind the Oscar-nominated animated short The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

(You can watch it for free online at Vimeo, and in HD on iTunes.)

The article discusses the team's efforts in other media, like interactive apps and books for the iPad, as well as the origins of its latest short, which itself is sort of a love song to books and literature.

After the success of Lessmore, larger studios are said to be reaching out to director William Joyce and the 35 artists at the company; the paper calls it "a step toward Moonbot's ultimate goal of making a feature-length film."

The Atlantic writes that the "Moonbot is on the verge of national recognition".

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2011 Big Screen Animation Awards—Categories & Contenders

Here are my finalists for the 1st Annual Big Screen Animation Awards, celebrating the best in 2011 animation. (If you haven't already, read this post for an introduction.)

There are six regular categories, with three possible winners each, and two special categories recognizing unique achievements. Films are listed in alphabetical order.

I've already made my final picks for most of the slots, but in a couple, I'm still undecided (won't tell you which). So don't leave without commenting; you might sway me one way or the other.

Final selections will be announced this Sunday, February 12, at 7 PM ET.

Best Feature Film – For best overall direction, production, and writing

The Adventures of Tintin
Cars 2
Winnie the Pooh

Best Short Film – For best overall direction and production

Air Mater
Hawaiian Vacation
La Luna

Best Credits – For achievement in title design

Small Fry
Winnie the Pooh

Best Music – Best use of music through original score and song, and music not created specifically for the film

A Monster in Paris (Un monstre à Paris)
Winnie the Pooh

Best New Character – Exceptional character concept and design in first on-screen appearance

Captain Archibald Haddock from The Adventures of Tintin
Finn McMissile from Cars 2
Rango from Rango

Best Voice Acting

Larry the Cable Guy as Mater in Cars 2
Craig Ferguson as Owl in Winnie the Pooh
James Hong as Mr. Ping in Kung Fu Panda 2

Artist of the Year – Recognizing outstanding work by an artist of any field. Winner to be announced.

Special Achievement – TBA

Monday, February 6, 2012

First Look at Disney's Wreck-It Ralph

Three pieces of concept art from Walt Disney Animation Studios' upcoming picture Wreck-It Ralph have seen the light of day at Entertainment Weekly. They're the first we've seen from the film, which opens in North American theatres on November 2.

Looking at the rendered images, you get a sense of the varied environments that will be a part of the story—the 52nd in the Disney canon—directed by Rich Moore and executive produced by John Lasseter.

Ralph follows its title character (voiced by John C. Reilly), a video game villain who escapes the world of his own game and travels to other arcade games in an effort to "prove that he’s actually a good guy."

In his own game, Ralph destroys buildings that the game’s hero, Fix-It Felix Jr. (Jack McBrayer), inevitably rebuilds. Above, Ralph is pictured sitting on a pile of rubble, disillusioned.

Jumping via power outlet into a first-person shooter, Hero's Rush, the 643-pound Ralph is 'enlisted' by Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch) to fight a "marauding horde of Cy-Bugs".

Entering Sugar Rush (pictured), he meets Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) and discovers that her world "is menaced" by a danger originating in Hero's Rush—brought there by Ralph himself. Cy-bugs, perhaps?

Frankly, I'm cheering for Disney to hit it out of the park with Ralph, but I remain skeptical after seeing these images. Prove me wrong, Disney.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

39th Annual Annie Awards Recap

Rango was the big winner at the 39th Annual Annie Awards Saturday night, taking home five prizes, including Best Animated Feature and Writing in a Feature Production.

Jennifer Yuh Nelson won the Annie for Directing in a Feature Production for Kung Fu Panda 2 —the first woman to do so. This was one of only two wins for DreamWorks Animation, a far cry from the DreamWorks domination of last year.

It seems the Disney/Pixar-led shake-up had its intended effect. (All of Disney's animation studios returned as supporters this year.) Alas, Cars 2 and La Luna still went home empty handed.

On the brighter side of things, Winnie the Pooh won for Storyboarding in a Feature Production and The Adventures of Tintin for Music. (I would have liked to see either Andreas Deja or Mark Henn win the Character Animation prize for Pooh.)

As for the show itself, you could say it was so bad it was good. Awkwardness ruled the evening. Patton Oswalt's hosting style is like that guy at a party who is so ridiculously unfunny that its actually funny to watch him do his thing.

Am I making any sense? Probably not—it's 1:22 AM. For a complete list of winners and nominees, go here. Good night everybody.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The 39th Annual Annie Awards [Live Stream]

For the first time ever, the International Animated Film Society, ASIFA-Hollywood is streaming the Annie Awards online. Today's ceremony, taking place at UCLA's Royce Hall in Los Angeles, starts at 7 PM PT/10 PM ET. Watch it live here.

The show hasn't started yet, so you've got time to download the 68-page programme booklet; it has all the categories and nominees. Once the ceremony is under way, join the conversation by tweeting @bigscreentoons using the hashtag #AnnieAwards.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Sony Pictures Imageworks Expands Vancouver Studio

Sony Pictures Imageworks is expanding its presence in Vancouver, BC, adding 16,000 square feet of production space to its current facilities, the studio announced today.

Imageworks provides CG character animation for Sony Pictures Animation, as well as visual effects for live action films, like the upcoming, completely unnecessary Spider-Man reboot, The Amazing Spider-Man.

"Imageworks Canada will occupy a total of 32,000 sq. ft. of office space when the new location comes online in March," says the official press release.

The new space is located two blocks away from Imageworks' current location in the city, and will also be fully connected to Imageworks’ data center in Culver City, CA.

The company credits the expansion to the Vancouver team's experience since it was established two years ago, and the "successful integration" with the Culver City studio.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2011 Big Screen Animation Awards—Introduction

It can't be denied: 2011 was a unique year for animation. For the first time in ages, Pixar's release was not met with universal acclaim; live action directors Gore Verbinski and Steven Spielberg made waves with Rango and The Adventures of Tintin, respectively.

This month, I'll be sharing my picks for the best animation achievements of last year in the 1st Annual Big Screen Animation Awards. (I concede the nomenclature is a tiny bit megalomaniacal.)

Presented here is a list of the 2011 animated films I've seen (yes, there were a few I missed), from which winners will be drawn. Festival or limited releases during the calendar year are marked with an asterisk.


The Adventures of Tintin 
Cars 2 
Kung Fu Panda 2
A Monster in Paris (Un monstre à Paris)*
Winnie the Pooh


Air Mater
The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore*
Hawaiian Vacation
La Luna*
Sunday (Dimanche)*
Small Fry
Wild Life*

Six categories, and contenders in each, will be announced next Tuesday, February 7. After some rewatching, I'll reveal my final selections on Sunday, February 12.

Which films will win? And for what? The results may enrage you.