Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Finding Nemo 3D to Premiere at TIFF

The TIFF Bell Lightbox is TIFF's headquarters and year-round home
For years, I've been hoping that Pixar would premiere a feature at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in September. The announcement finally came today, even if it is just for a re-release.

Finding Nemo 3D will have its World Premiere at the globally renowned celebration of film. Since it opens everywhere on September 14, I'd guess the premiere will happen in the first few days of the festival.

No word on who will be attending, but one would hope director Andrew Stanton shows up with some of the voice cast and maybe another Pixarian or two.

Also premiering at the festival will be the traditionally animated French film Ernest & CĂ©lestine (watch a clip here), as well as Sony Pictures Animation's rip-off of Pixar's Monsters, Inc. franchise.

The 37th Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 6 to 16.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Dr. Seuss' The Lorax Blu-ray Review

Earlier today I got my advance copy of The Lorax Blu-ray, going on sale in 2-D and 3-D Blu-ray combo packs and single-disc DVD a week from tomorrow from Universal Studios Home Entertainment.

As you might recall, I gave Illumination Entertainment's take on the Theodor Geisel classic a positive review back in March. The Blu-ray likewise doesn't disappoint.

The high-definition presentation is as perfect as you could ask for. Colors (check out those truffula trees) are superbly brilliant and crisp, making the picture appear glossy.

Extras, however, aren't as shiny—unless you're under 10.

The "mini-movies" included with the combo packs aren't much. Of the three, Forces of Nature is probably best, but only because it acts as a deleted scene from the movie. Parents—except the hearing-impaired—will rue the moment they press play on Serenade.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Monsters, Inc. 3D Coming One Month Sooner

Previously scheduled to open on January 18, 2013, Disney/Pixar's 3-D re-release of Monsters, Inc. will instead arrive in theatres one month earlier, on Wednesday, December 19.

That means we'll be getting to see two Pixar classics again on the big screen this year, since Finding Nemo 3D opens just over three months prior, on September 14—extremely bold timing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Teaser Poster for DreamWorks' Me and My Shadow

DreamWorks Animation has unveiled the first teaser poster for Me and My Shadow, coming to theatres March 14, 2014 from director Alessandro Carloni, head of story on How to Train Your Dragon.

Featuring the voices of Bill Hader, Josh Gad, and Kate Hudson, the movie will explore the world of shadows through the story of one in particular—Shadow Stan, who happens to be 'stuck to the world's most boring human', Stanley Grubb.

IMDb adds the following in its unofficial synopsis:
"When a crime in the shadow world puts both of their lives in danger, Stan is forced to take control of Stanley. They go on a madcap adventure to investigate the crime and stop the shadow villain from leading a rebellion where shadows take over the human world. During this adventure, Stan empowers Stanley to let go of his fears and embrace life. Through their adventure, they both learn that one cannot be whole without a true friend."
Me And My Shadow combines CG and traditional hand drawn characters—a growing trend, it seems. The shadows will all be traditionally animated. As quoted on Facebook, DreamWorks creative chief Bill Damaschke says that it "felt creatively interesting"

What do you think? Personally, this could be either the studio's best yet or a total disaster.

(via Rope of Silicon)

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Must-Watch Short: Wildebeest

It's not often I post independent shorts here, but this minute-long gem from Bird Box Studio warranted an exception. Enjoy Wildebeest, from the folks who brought us Dinner.

(via Cartoon Brew)

Thursday, July 19, 2012

DreamWorks Opens Redwood City Campus

DreamWorks Animation opened a new, 200,000-square-foot campus for its Pacific Data Images (PDI) division in Redwood City, California on Thursday.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the new facility has an on-site doctor's office and nutritionist, cafe, and heated outdoor spaces. There's also a "giant" topiary of the DreamWorks logo, like the one at the studio's Glendale headquarters.

PDI, which served as 'home base' for animation on Madagascar 3, currently employs 526 of DreamWorks' 2,191 employees, and is expected to add another 200 over the next three years.

In related news, the Times reported late last week that DreamWorks "has decided not to distribute its own films after its longtime deal with Paramount Pictures expires this fall, and it may strike a new pact with Sony Pictures".

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Exclusive Interview: Jeannie Catmull

At Disneyland's Cars Land last month.
If you happened to watch the Oscars last year, you might have noticed Ed Catmull, Pixar and Walt Disney Animation president, strolling the red carpet with a noticeably younger woman in tow—red dress, oversized eyeglasses.

Meet Jeannie Catmull, the Pixar co-founder's daughter.

Having recently turned 22, Jeannie (I will call her by her first name throughout for clarity) was just five years old when Toy Story was lighting up the box office in November 1995.

After a year studying film and television production at New York University (NYU), and another doing Critical Studies at the University of Southern California (USC) School of Cinematic Arts, she is currently learning interior design.

For the past few weeks, Jeannie has been sharing some of her experiences with me: what it was like growing up around Pixar and the animation industry; her time as a Walt Disney Company intern; and how she feels about her dad.

You can follow Jeannie on Twitter @uglyogre (not a Shrek reference, she avers).

“Until I re-watched Toy Story and Toy Story 2 right before ‘3’ came out, I always remembered scenes from the first Toy Story in either storyboard form or really basic basic computer animated geometric shapes. I was super little, but I guess ... a lot of those images just stuck with me,” Jeannie says of her earliest Pixar memories.

“I love all of the Pixar films because they all represent to me different challenges and experiences that I got to see my dad go through. It's really incredible that they've made such excellent films regardless of the innumerable problems and setbacks that have plagued Pixar.

“[But] if I had to name one movie that I loved most, however, it would have to be Monsters, Inc. It's super funny, it's an amazing universe, and the whole movie is just so exciting.

"I was surrounded by a bunch of Pixar toys growing up. Unfortunately I never really realized how cool that was until I was older. I just wanted to play with those Pokemon figurines and my N64, ha."

With Pixar executive contingent at the 77th Academy Awards in 2005. Jeff Vespa / WireImage
“My time at Disney was so, so lovely”, she gushes of her time as an intern in 2010. The internship had her working two months each in development and production/visual effects, and one week in marketing.

“Development was amazing because the area I worked in was comprised of just a small number of people. Everyone was so nice to me, and very accommodating. I was allowed to sit in on meetings, read tons and tons of scripts, and if I ever had any questions [they] would always find time to explain things to me.

“I also had the opportunity to sit in on casting sessions, which was an absolute treat.  What blew me away was how much the head of casting could tell from just a few minutes of being with someone. I mean, you only get a small amount of time to watch someone, and she was definitely picking up on things that I wasn't able to see.

“Everyone in the development office works very hard and they have grueling hours. They're making decisions that affect the entire company, and there are so many great scripts and brilliant ideas out there, it's hard to try and find the one that will really turn into something special.

“Production was even more intense. I really loved [it]. “[It] houses some of the projects. When I was there, it was The Muppets ... I got to be in one of the character tests for Walter and meet some of the crew ... other than that I was mostly doing stuff for John CarterTron, and Pirates.

"I felt like I got more done in production than I did in development because I had started out in development and hadn't learned the ropes yet. In production they're so overloaded with all of this paperwork that is absolutely necessary ... otherwise the films can hit huge snags that cost the studio absurd amounts of money."

"Visual Effects is [also] on the same floor as Production, they coordinate between the visual effects houses and Disney. If I were to work at Disney full time I would want to work in VFX. I felt very comfortable there and the work really interested me. It felt challenging, but still very cool.

83rd Academy Awards, February 2011. Richard Harbaugh / ©A.M.P.A.S.

“I have never considered a career in animation/CG. I think my dad was the happiest ever when I told him I was going to take a break from pursuing the film industry ... He's also very pleased to have me back in the Bay Area. I'm the only girl in my family, so I think he likes being able to keep a close eye on me.

“I'm so proud of him. He's a funny, interesting, bona fide genius.” Catmull, she says, works “hard at growing mentally, keeping in great shape, and having a pretty damn fantastic sense of humor.”

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Paperman Featurette: The Drawings

Watch this new "Paperclip" featurette for Walt Disney Animation Studios' Paperman short. Director John Kahrs discusses his vision of melding traditional animation and CG.

Kahrs just announced on Twitter that a limited run of 6000 Art of Paperman booklets, showcasing many of the drawings, will be produced for the SIGGRAPH 2012 computer graphics conference in Los Angeles next month.

Andrew Stanton Rises to Helm Finding Nemo 2

Fresh off his unfortunate experience in live action, Andrew Stanton has returned to Pixar to direct Finding Nemo 2 for a 2016 release, according to Deadline and The Hollywood Reporter who have it on good authority.

The sequel to 2003's Finding Nemo is being produced by WALL-E co-producer Lindsey Collins, with a screenplay by a mostly unknown writer, Victoria Strouse.

Personally, I think we all knew this was coming. Nemo is one of Pixar's top successes and many fans (and cast member Ellen DeGeneres, who voiced Dory) have been clamoring for a follow-up for years.

It makes sense from all angles, except for the perception that Pixar has been pursuing too many sequels/prequels lately—although the studio has three original features in production following next summer's Monsters University.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Curiouser: Rare 1991 Pixar Shorts VHS

Last Tuesday, I posted on the deluxe Disney Store VHS sets released a couple of decades ago. This week, a look at another early-'90s videocassette, this one much, much rarer.

Reader Dan Siercks recently sent in some photos of a 1991 Pixar VHS—a compilation of short films Luxo Jr.Red's DreamTin Toy, and Knick Knack—asking if I knew anything about its history.

Not only did I not, there were no mentions of such a release anywhere. The lack of a barcode suggested it was not sold commercially. (Siercks had gotten it from a friend whose dad worked in the computer graphics field at the time.)

I sent the story and photos directly to Pixar, and my request was forwarded to studio archivist Christine Freeman. (This is her showing off some art goodies during the Toy Story 3 bloggers' day).

After 'checking in with some peeps', she was able to make some interesting observations:
"This might have been a giveaway during the time that we were promoting our ability to make commercials. The shorts collection would demonstrate the quality of the work that we were able to do. It might have been a giveaway at SIGGRAPH. John Lasseter designed the cover.
"Without seeing it [in person], I'm guessing that this video was put together by Direct Cinema Limited, who was our distributor back then. They handled external requests for our video (for broadcast or film festivals, for example), and were the people who you'd contact if you wanted a viewing copy."
Freeman attached a copy of this 1990 ad for a compilation of three of the films that appear on the 1991 video.
"You'll also notice that these videos were not cheap to purchase. The reason for that is that we didn't produce very many copies," Freeman added. "The production costs were high, and I imagine that we wouldn't have been able to subsidize the price for consumers (1991 was a year of massive layoffs and budget tightening at Pixar)."
Needless to say, Siercks was thrilled to own such a unique part of Pixar's history. Having seen one too many episodes of Pawn Stars, I offered to take it off his hands but, alas, Dan was not selling.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ice Age: Continental Drift Rules Weekend Box Office

Never mind its $339 million in foreign ticket sales, Ice Age: Continental Drift was the No. 1 movie at the North American box office in its opening weekend, earning an estimated over $46.6 million.

This brings its total worldwide lifetime gross to $385,629,259, according to Hollywood number crunchers Box Office Mojo. The film is currently playing at 3,880 locations (2,731 in 3-D).

Ice Age 4's opening is the fourth best for an animated film so far this year, following
The Lorax ($70.2 million), Brave ($66.3) and Madagascar 3 ($60.3).

Did you see Ice Age: Continental Drift this weekend? If so, what did you think?

Friday, July 13, 2012

Ice Age: Continental Drift Predictable But Watchable

This afternoon yours truly braved a theatre full of the most obnoxiously loud youngsters to see Ice Age: Continental Drift, the fourth installment in 20th Century Fox/Blue Sky's Ice Age series.

If only I were still a child too.

While it's by no means painful to watch, Continental Drift will do a lot more for kids than for the grown-ups taking them to see it. In a way, the film seems like a double episode of a TV series—this isn't the last we've seen of the franchise.

Continental Drift is a shiny diversion with a bit of heart, but too predictable in it's storytelling, dialogue, and humor. Also, that female sabretooth sounds a lot like Jennifer Lopez, which is really distracting.

With that out of the way, the animation was all-around excellent. The effects-laden ocean storm scene, among others, was a blast to watch in 3-D (except for the crazy pre-teens seated behind me screaming "I'm so scared!").

Ice Age: Continental Drift is preceded by The Longest Daycare, a mostly silent Simpsons short starring Maggie and a certain malevolent, butterfly-murdering baby she encounters at the Ayn Rand School for Tots.

Disney Wanted Super Mario Characters for Wreck-It Ralph

At San Diego Comic-Con on Thursday, Walt Disney Animation Studios showed off footage from its upcoming video game tale, Wreck-It Ralph, opening in theatres November 2.

During the Q&A that followed, director Rich Moore was asked about the many classic game cameos seen in the first trailer and whether there were any others he wanted to include in the movie, but couldn't because of rights issues.
"Why would I talk about that certain mustachioed plumber guy?" he responded. "And his brother, who wanted more money?" 
That translates to no screen time for Mario and Luigi.

Unless it was just for humor, that wording probably suggests Nintendo wanted a substantial fee to allow its Super Mario Bros. characters to appear.

Not cool. On both sides. Nintendo should have just let it go (free publicity for the franchise) but Disney could also have paid up (bragging rights are worth whatever Nintendo was asking).

Trouble with rights clearances is, of course, not new.

Mattel, you might recall, didn't allow Barbie to appear in Toy Story, before having a change of heart for Pixar's second and third installments. More recently, Sesame Workshop refused permission for an Elmo cameo in Disney's The Muppets.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Viral Site Hints at Next Pixar Short; Reveal Next Week Likely

Yesterday The Pixar Times discovered a strange Tumblr blog, called Rainy City Tales 332, which is chronicling the making of an unnamed animated short film.

"Posts have been providing voices—often humorous—to inanimate objects found within a city, such as a broken umbrella, an emergency door handle, and base of a fire hydrant," the site reported. Also, "city rain seems to be a common focus of the blog."

So where does Pixar come into the picture? The clues are everywhere.
  • One image shows a whiteboard with technical writing that discusses 'stealing MU rigging system' and Pizza Planet. Monsters University, anyone?
  • On May 4, Pixar's Emeryville studio was evacuated due to a nearby hydrogen fuel leak. A post from the same day states, "Who would have thought snow days happen even in California. Well, if you think of hydrogen as California’s snow."
  • Rainy City Tales 332 is also on Twitter, where they follow—and are followed by—several Pixarians, including one in the Worldwide Publicity department, which takes the lead in marketing the shorts.
That's some strong circumstantial evidence right there. But there's more, including some sly references The Pixar Times didn't catch.
  • A post from February has a photo of a fire hydrant named "Horst". Said hydrant bears a striking resemblance to the sous-chef of the same name in Ratatouille.
  • Another entry mentions a "Mr. M.G." and "Jonas", suggesting Michael Giacchino as composer and Jonas Rivera as producer.
With dozens of intentionally maddening items dating back almost six months, I'm sure I've missed a few clues myself. This is Pixar's most viral-y marketing campaign yet (see here and here).

Interestingly, the Tumblr names the photography of Saul Leiter as the major 'inspiration' for the look and style of the short. Leiter is known in the art community for his New York City street photography.

A reference to not wanting to be eclipsed by Comic-Con in a post from yesterday points to the short being revealed next week, after the convention wraps. It may end up being this decade's Red's Dream.
Update: A video just posted shows an animator's workspace decorated mostly with Pixar movie posters and one for Aardman's Chicken Run! What?!

(Updated 11:24 PM)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Looking Back: Deluxe Disney VHS Sets

I'm trying something new today, taking a look back at a part of animation history many readers might remember: the deluxe VHS releases Disney put out in the early to mid-'90s.

Artist Jerrod Maruyama sent me this photo of his Deluxe Collector's Edition Aladdin VHS set from the Disney Store. It was available for $50 and included the movie (2.0 sound!), soundtrack, 'making of' book and video, lithograph (issue of 35,000), and kids' watch.

Disney released similar special editions of Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. A couple of Disney fans have unboxed them on video here and here.

I remember getting a Bambi VHS with lithograph around 1997. Pity, I was a kid who didn't look after stuff; the litho is likely decomposing in a landfill somewhere.

Depending on reader response, this might become a regular feature. If you have your own cool chunk of animation history lying around, send details along with a good quality picture or two to mail@bigscreenanimation.com for your chance to see it on the blog.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Sugary Cover for The Art of Wreck-It Ralph

Amazon.com has revealed this cover for The Art of Wreck-It Ralph on its pre-order page. It shows Ralph with Vanellope von Schweetz in the world of video game "Sugar Rush". (See this post for more.)

Coming in October from Chronicle Books, the 160-page book is written by Jennifer Lee and Maggie Malone, with preface by John Lasseter and foreword by Wreck-It Ralph director Rich Moore.

Here's the official publishers' description:
In Wreck-It Ralph, Disney's expert team of concept, visual development and story artists explore the hidden world of video games from classic 8-bit arcade games to the most modern and inventive offerings of the digital age. At the center of this hilarious and wildly original video-game-hopping adventure is Wreck-It Ralph, an arcade game bad guy who breaks all the rules when he sets off on a mission to prove he can be good. 
The Art of Wreck-It Ralph captures the fresh artistic vision of the film and the aesthetic journey of the filmmakers through interviews with the film's many artists, including a foreword by director Rich Moore and a preface by John Lasseter. Illustrated with character sketches, storyboards, visual development paintings, colorscripts, and more, this behind-the-scenes look at Disney's latest 3-D animated epic is a treat for video game and animation lovers alike.