Friday, March 30, 2012

Buzz Lightyear Action Figure Headed to Smithsonian

Mark Avino / © Smithsonian Institution
The Buzz Lightyear action figure that made a 15-month visit to the International Space Station between 2008 to 2009 will be put on display this summer at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.

Buzz was formally presented to the museum's directors yesterday by Pixar chief creative officer John Lasseter and NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver. (Watch the full event here.)

Now can we get a major Disney and Pixar exhibit at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History? Put it right next to Archie Bunker's chair.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lasseter Contributes to Beatles' Yellow Submarine Reissue

It's official: Dreams do come true. Pixar is teaming up with The Beatles. Well, sort of.

The upcoming Blu-ray/DVD reissue of the band's 1968 psychedelic animated feature Yellow Submarine will include an essay by Pixar and Walt Disney Animation creative chief John Lasseter.

Writes Lasseter: "As a fan of animation and as a filmmaker, I tip my hat to the artists of Yellow Submarine, whose revolutionary work helped pave the way for the fantastically diverse world of animation that we all enjoy today."

(Lasseter's involvement was actually revealed a week ago by the Beatles' company Apple Corps as part of the reissue announcement, but has stayed mostly under the radar.)

As much as I am an enormous Beatles fan, I've never cared for Yellow Submarine (the movie). Too strange for me. But fans can look forward to the 4K digital restoration, done frame by frame without automated software.

If you ask me, it's curious to see Lasseter taking part in a Beatles project just out of the blue. Makes me wonder if we might be hearing a Paul McCartney track on Brave.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Glen Keane Says Goodbye to Disney

One of the animation industry's most well-known talents, Glen Keane, retired today after nearly four decades at Walt Disney Animation Studios.

This is the guy that animated The Beast in Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin in Aladdin, and Pocahontas in Pocahontas—to name just some of the classic characters he brought to life as supervising animator.

Most recently, Keane was a strong influence on the story development and animation of Rapunzel in Tangled (see The Art of Tangled, published by Chronicle Books).

Cartoon Brew obtained the text of his letter to friends and colleagues at Disney. In it, he says: "I am convinced that animation really is the ultimate art form of our time with endless new territories to explore." Yes.

Monday, March 19, 2012

A Brief Note Regarding Pixar Petroleum

Remember Pixar Petroleum? Less than four months after Disney threatened to sue, it now goes by the moniker Cavalier Energy. The moral of the story? Don't be cavalier about trademark law.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Animated 'Cat in the Hat' in Development

"After topping the box office the past two weeks with Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, Universal Pictures, Illumination Entertainment’s Chris Meledandri, and Audrey Geisel will... begin developing a 3D CG-animated feature based on The Cat in the Hat," reports Deadline.

Geisel, the widow of Dr. Seuss, whose real name was Theodor Seuss Geisel, served as executive producer on The Lorax. (Ted and Audrey in the movie were named after the couple.)

This animated Cat in the Hat would come about a decade after Universal/Imagine Entertainment's critically reviled 2003 live action adaptation.

(via /Film)

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Exclusive Pixar Items in Auction for Toronto Wildlife Centre [2 UPDATES]

Over the years, I’ve posted stories on some of the many charitable endeavors supported by Pixar artists. One thing I had never done is organize one myself. That’s why I’m incredibly excited today.

A few of Pixar’s top talents have generously agreed to contribute some unique items which are up for bidding right now on eBay, 100% of proceeds going to the Toronto Wildlife Centre (TWC).

TWC does some amazing work with wildlife rescue and rehab here in the Toronto area. I like them because they’re super-local (although they have been known to treat stowaways from as far away as Costa Rica) and have built an excellent reputation as a federally registered charity since opening nearly twenty years ago.

As the only place of its kind in Southern Ontario (an area teaming with wildlife, I can attest), the TWC is one of the busiest wildlife centres in North America. The Centre admits about 5,000 sick, injured, or orphaned “patients” ever year, and fields about 30,000 phone calls.

Here is the cool stuff you can get (click for auction pages):
  • La Luna Posters (1, 2, Studio Store Exclusive)
  • Pixar Logo T-Shirts (S, M, L, XL, Studio Store Exclusives)
Update (Mar. 15): With $1000 raised so far, I've added to more exciting items to the auction. First another limited edition La Luna poster, this one signed by Enrico Casarosa. Second, a tour of Pixar's campus in Emeryville for up to six people!

Shout out to Pixar publicity for helping to set it up!

Update: (Mar. 20) The first ever Big Screen Animation auction is officially closed. Over $5,700 raised for the Toronto Wildlife Centre! Not surprisingly, the tour of Wonka's chocolate factory Pixar's studio campus got the most bids. It sold for an astonishing $4,617 USD.

Thanks to everyone who helped make the auction a huge success!

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Lorax Keeps Winning at the Box Office

It seems that North America shares my taste in movies. Universal/Illumination's The Lorax was No. 1 at the box office for the second weekend in the row, taking in an estimated $39.1 million.

The Chris Renaud-directed film beat Andrew Stanton's live action directorial debut, Disney's John Carter, by nearly $9 million. (Final figures will be released tomorrow.)

The Lorax's opening last weekend ($70.2 million) was one of the biggest ever for a non-sequel animated film. With total earnings approaching $122 million, it's already the highest grossing picture of 2012 so far.

Can The Lorax sustain its winning streak over the next week? We shall see. One thing is for certain: Disney is very disappointed with John Carter's performance.

As much as I hate agreeing with the prevailing industry viewpoint (which has foamed at the mouth over Carter's reported $250 million production budget), it's clear that weak marketing added to the movie's problems.

Example: Despite all the interplanetary romance, women comprised only 37 percent of John Carter's audience. Nobody can blame Disney for selling the action, but did no one think to spend a few ad dollars targeting the other half of the population?

Of course, it's easy to criticize from the sidelines. But, even for a big Disney supporter like me, this looks like a clear cut case of audiences following the trail of bright orange posters all the way to the stronger film.

(Numbers via Box Office Mojo)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Review: Andrew Stanton's 'John Carter' Doesn't Impress

Andrew Stanton (foreground) and Taylor Kitsch during filming on John Carter. Frank Connor / Disney
Warning: Contains "spoilers"

Let me start off by saying, I have nothing but respect for Andrew Stanton. The animated films he directed at Pixar are some of the best ever. That's not to say I was thrilled by Disney's John Carter, Stanton's live action directorial debut opening on Friday.

Aside from the pulpy nature of the source material, John Carter didn't live up to my expectations on a number of levels, beginning with the screenplay. Written by Stanton, Brave co-director Mark Andrews, and Michael Chabon, it would never have left the door at Pixar.

You know things aren't going in the right direction when two characters borrow Harrison Ford's and Tommy Lee Jones' "I thought you didn't care" repartee from The Fugitive.

Taylor Kitsch's kitschy (the pun was irresistible) portrayal of the title character makes matters worse. After being right on target in the earthbound scenes, as soon as he arrives in Barsoom, the corn starts coming out of his ears.

How much of the overacting from Kitsch and others in the cast is to blame on the script they were given, their own acting abilities, or Stanton's direction, I don't know.

Even the visual effects are nothing special—not post-Avatar, at least. How is it possible that the CG creatures here are less realistic than the dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, a movie two decades old?

By now you may be asking, is there anything good about John Carter? There is, starting with Carter's jumping, surprisingly enough, which the camera follows with a fluid energy.

The action sequences, despite the lackluster effects, are well executed. The same goes for cinematography and music. A battle juxtaposed with painful memories of Earth conveys the character's trauma better than anything else.

Strongest of all are the closing moments—Carter choosing to return to the red planet to be with the (Martian) woman he loves.

Would Andrew Stanton please do the same with Pixar?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Shreveport Parade for 'Morris Lessmore' Team

Moonbot Studios float in today's parade. Credit: Shreveport-Bossier / Flickr
The artists at Moonbot Studios were treated to a good old-fashioned ticker tape parade in their home base of Shreveport, Louisiana today, in celebration of their Oscar win just over a week ago for The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore.

After the parade, which saw hundreds of people lined up to watch, Shreveport Mayor Cedric Glover honored the short's directors by declaring March 5, 2012 to be "William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg Day" in the city.

Head over to Flickr to see more photos of the event.

Ice Age: Continental Drift Full-Length Trailer

The first theatrical trailer for Blue Sky Studios' Ice Age: Continental Drift is up on iTunes Movie Trailers. It's available in English and 14 other languages.

Don't know what to make of the humor and plot, but the animation, particularly on the ocean/storm shots, is beautifully done.

Ice Age: Continental Drift arrives in North American theatres on July 13.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Japanese Brave Trailer Shows Tons of New Footage [UPDATE]

A full-length Japanese trailer for Pixar's Brave has landed at Disney.co.jp. It's chock-full of never-before-seen footage from the movie, set to a very dramatic voiceover. Beware, it does contain what some call "spoilers", especially if you happen to speak Japanese.

Update (Mar. 5): A subtitled version is now on YouTube (video is of lower quality). With all the attention it's getting, Disney/Pixar should release an English version.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Watch New Universal Pictures Logo Unveiled with 'Lorax'

Anonymous commenter #3 on my review of The Lorax suggested I post about the new "100th Anniversary" Universal Pictures studio logo unveiled with the movie. Indeed it is awesome. Animation was done by Weta Digital. Watch via Yahoo! Movies UK

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Review: Dr. Seuss' The Lorax

Confession: I never actually read Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax as a child. I downloaded it to my iPad the night before the movie. (Pathetic, I know.) So I may not be the best qualified to comment on the nostalgia factor.

I can say, however, that Illumination Entertainment’s take on The Lorax is as faithful as possible to the classic story. It adds characters (e.g. villainous Mr. O'Hare) and plot material only to the extent necessary for a feature length film. And it works.

Admittedly much of the dialogue (mostly rhyme-free) and original songs will be best enjoyed by younger viewers. But the jokes are guaranteed to get laughs from everyone in the audience.

CG animation, loveable characters, set design, original score, and use of stereoscopic 3-D are all excellent. So is Betty White as a sort of resistance fighter granny.

The Lorax isn't anywhere near as epic a film as WALL-E, that other great tale of overconsumption. It doesn't matter. Not when the story (and its moral) is so much fun to watch.

Opens tomorrow in 2-D, RealD, and IMAX 3D IMAX Tree-D