Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Watch Disney's Paperman Short on YouTube

With Paperman nearing the end of its long theatrical run with Wreck-It Ralph, Walt Disney Animation has released the critically acclaimed short film online on YouTube in its entirety.



Directed by John Kahrs, Paperman is one of five nominees for Best Animated Short Film at the 85th Academy Awards, to be handed out February 24 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Peter Pan: Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review

Walt Disney's fourteenth feature, Peter Pan, is coming to Blu-ray for the first time on February 5, exactly sixty years to the day it was released in theatres by RKO Pictures on February 5, 1953.

I must admit that Peter Pan has never been a personal favourite: too frenetic and loud, with none of the magic of Alice in Wonderland and Cinderella, the two classics that precede it in the Disney canon. I'm sure many will disagree.

Still, it's not hard to see why the film has become the most recognizable adaptation of Sir J. M. Barrie's most famous work. The character design and animation on Peter and villainous Captain Hook is superb, as is the effects animation on Tinker Bell.

It all looks better than ever in high definition, of course. Every frame looks like it was inked-and-painted last week. The Blu-ray also features a fresh DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix—but you know I went with the original mono. The menus look great, too.

With this Diamond Edition release, Disney continues their efforts to push interactivity, adding features like Disney Intermission, which brings up animated activities when your kids unnecessarily pause the movie.

As for extras, there isn't much that's new; mainly a 40-minute documentary, Growing Up with Nine Old Men. It's a fly-on-the-wall look at director Theodore Thomas, son of Disney animator Frank Thomas, as he visits some of the children of the other Nine Old Men.

The Peter Pan: Diamond Edition will go on sale in 3-disc and and 2-disc combo packs that include the film on DVD, the 3-disc adding a digital copy and Storybook App. (Note: Cover of the 3-disc is slightly altered in its final form, adding a barely noticeable Tinker Bell.)

For a more technical look at the release, head over to Blu-ray.com, an excellent resource for such things. Their review has an interesting discussion on Disney's restoration work on the film and other classic titles.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

2012 Big Screen Animation Awards—Winners


Here are the winners of the 2nd Annual Big Screen Animation Awards, my way of recognizing the best achievements in animation of 2012. Congratulations to all the winners. (For my non-animated selections, see here.)

Basically the same deal as last year, only there are no top three contenders in each category (there were no real close calls), and a few categories have been eliminated. Please feel free to agree with all of my choices in comments.


Wreck-It Ralph is not only Disney's best CG animated picture to do date; it's the first one good enough to beat Pixar on every level. Appealing characters, killer script, and rich environments, masterfully helmed by Rich Moore in his feature directorial debut. A classic whether you care about gaming or not.

At only one minute long, this direct-to-YouTube short was the funniest of the year. Perfectly timed with an interesting animation style. Bonus points for the message: Sometimes, it's not worth being right.


Although the movie's songs were pretty horrendous (the under-six crowd may disagree), John Powell's compositions for The Lorax, particularly the tracks named above, make it the clear winner.

For the second year in a row, a disgusting old man wins the honor. Pixar's character design on Dingwall was brilliant: just the right mix of comic distortion and photorealism, with not a hint of uncanny valley creepiness. Although a relatively minor character, every appearance was priceless.


Yeah, Vanellope can be annoying—she's a glitch after all. But after a while, she begins to grow on you. That's largely thanks to Sarah Silverman's unique performance, which brought a lot of warmth to the character, especially in the final act.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

2012 Big Screen Animation Awards—Introduction

On Sunday, January 20, I'll be revealing my selections for last year's best achievements in animation—it's the 2nd Annual Big Screen Animation Awards! There will be six five categories this year, but no top three contenders in each like 2011.

Below is my "qualifying list" of animated features and short films I watched during the year, from which winners will be drawn. Festival, limited, or online releases during the calendar year are marked with an asterisk.

Feature Films

Brave
Ernest & Celestine*
Ice Age: Continental Drift
The Lorax
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted
The Pirates! Band of Misfits
Wreck-It Ralph

Short Films

Fresh Guacamole*
The Last Belle*
Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare"
Paperman
Tangled Ever After
Toy Story Toon: Partysaurus Rex

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Brave Takes Home Golden Globe

Pixar's Brave won for Best Animated Feature Film at the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards a few minutes ago. Director Mark Andrews accepted the award at the ceremony, hosted by the ever enigmatic Hollywood Foreign Press Association.

Brave's win is a return to form for the Globes, which established the animation category with the 2006 awards. To date, all but one of the winners, last year's The Adventures of Tintin, have been Pixar films.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Awesome! Disney Artist Draws Toony

Earlier in the week, a reader sent me these super cool drawings of Toony, the canine character appearing in the Big Screen Animation logo. (Toony was originally created by an artist currently at Disney Interactive.)

Quote: "I was visiting your site (which I like a lot by the way!) and was looking at the dog on your title bar and thought to myself, 'That's a funny character—I'm going to draw him!' So, I spent a couple of seconds and drew him."

The artist prefers to go publicly unnamed, but allowed me to share that they are currently working on Frozen at Walt Disney Animation in Burbank. I think I can add that their IMDb profile lists some recent (and not so recent) Disney titles you've probably watched.

Since they also gave me permission to use the artwork however I wish, the Big Screen Animation logo is getting updated using the third image—it looks like Toony is explaining his superior knowledge of animation.

I'm truly grateful that someone, especially a busy Disney artist, would take the time—surely more than "a couple of seconds"—to show their appreciation for the blog this way!

85th Academy Awards Nominations Announced

Nominations for the 85th Academy Awards have just been revealed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, California.

The nominees were announced by animator Seth MacFarlane, host of this year's awards ceremony—the first time since 1972 that an Oscar host has participated in the nominations announcement.

The complete list of nominees in all categories can be found here.

This year's nominees for Animated Feature Film are:
  • Brave (Mark Andrews and Brenda Chapman)
  • Frankenweenie (Tim Burton)
  • ParaNorman (Sam Fell and Chris Butler)
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits (Peter Lord)
  • Wreck-It Ralph (Rich Moore)
The nominees for Animated Short Film are:
  • Adam and Dog (Minkyu Lee)
  • Fresh Guacamole (PES)
  • Head Over Heels (Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly)
  • Maggie Simpson in "The Longest Daycare" (David Silverman)
  • Paperman (John Kahrs)
The 85th Academy Awards take place on Sunday, February 24 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The show will be televised live on ABC in the United States, beginning at 7 PM ET/4 PT, and will be broadcast in over 225 other countries worldwide.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Monster in Paris Getting U.S. Blu-ray/DVD Release

Several months ago, I posted about A Monster in Paris, a wonderful independent feature from France, and its limited Canadian/UK release on Blu-ray/DVD (click for trailer). Earlier in 2012, it was my selection for Best Music of 2011.

This morning, distributors Shout! Factory announced that the film will finally be released "everywhere" in the United States on April 16 on Blu-ray/Blu-ray 3D and DVD—available for pre-order from Amazon.com beginning today.

A new official synopsis has been put out. It's not inaccurate, but doesn't do the movie justice either:
A wacky inventor, his camera-crazy best friend and a madcap monkey make a massive mistake when let loose in a mad scientist’s laboratory.  
With lotions and potions spilling everywhere, the troublesome trio accidentally creates Franc, the product of a reaction between a common flea and one of the scientist’s mystery concoctions. What they fail to realize, however, is that this ‘monster’ is actually a soft-centered soul with an astounding talent for music.  
With the help of an enchanting nightclub singer Lucille, Franc becomes the talk of the town, just as stories of Paris’s newest monster attract the attention of the egotistical police commissioner, hell bent on securing a big prize to help his battle to become mayor.  
The unwitting scientists and the singer must team up to protect Franc, a monster with more than a musical career to protect!
A Monster in Paris features the vocal talents of French singer Vanessa Paradis (best known to American audiences as Johnny Depp's ex) and Sean Lennon. Although produced in France, all the animation was synced to the English voice cast.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Warner Bros. Wants More Toons; Aims For One Feature Yearly

Like every studio in Hollywood these days, Warner Bros. wants a bigger footprint in animation. The home of Bugs Bunny and friends is "forming a think tank-style creative consortium" that's aimed at delivering one quality theatrical feature per year.

Warner Bros. Pictures Group president Jeff Robinov announced on Monday that the group includes names like Phil Lord and Chris Miller (co-directors of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs) and Nicholas Stoller, writer and executive producer of The Muppets.

As Variety comments: "Despite its history as home to the Looney Tunes characters, Warner Bros. has been relatively light compared with rivals in producing animated fare over the past decade."

The studio has suffered flops and "middling results" such as 2003's live-action hybrid Looney Tunes: Back in Action. It's biggest hit of late was Happy Feet in 2006, which brought in $384 million in worldwide grosses.

The Lego Movie (also known as Lego: The Piece of Resistance), written and directed by Lord and Miller, will be the first feature to emerge from the new creative group. It's set to project on February 7, 2014.

Future projects include Storks in 2015, to be directed by former Pixarian Doug Sweetland; Smallfoot, helmed by Despicable Me writer Sergio Pablos; and features based on the Looney Tunes' fictional Acme Corporation and famed Tower of London ravens.

This New Still From Pixar's 'Blue Umbrella' Will Amaze You

Following Sunday's revealing first look, The Wall Street Journal posted this afternoon this brilliantly atmospheric, rendered still from The Blue Umbrella, Pixar's latest short.


Disney/Pixar also released the short's official synopsis today:
It is just another evening commute until the rain starts to fall, and the city comes alive to the sound of dripping rain pipes, whistling awnings and gurgling gutters. And in the midst, two umbrellas—one blue, one not—fall eternally in love. 
From Pixar Animation Studios, director Saschka Unseld and producer Marc Greenberg, “The Blue Umbrella” opens in theaters on June 21, 2013, in front of “Monsters University.”

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Pixar's Upcoming Umbrella Short Revealed

Pixar has finally revealed the short film behind the Rainy City Tales viral site that's been puzzling us since July. It's called The Blue Umbrella and it will be in theatres on June 21 with Monsters University. And, yes, it's going to be awesome.

The Wall Street Journal got the first look at a clip from the six-minute short. Watch—



The WSJ article (behind a paywall, unless you search for it through Google News) reports that Umbrella is the directorial debut of Saschka Unseld, who has worked in Pixar's camera and staging department since 2008.

With the director coming from a technical background, Pixar utilized techniques it hadn't before to achieve the "absolutely photorealistic" appearance of the short, in the words of Pixar creative chief John Lasseter.

So let me reiterate: awesome. The water simulation in The Incredibles looks like claymation now. And there's still five and a half minutes we haven't seen. Can you imagine how good this is going to look in 3-D?

The sneak peak does give away the central storyline, which is close to Disney's Paperman and its boy-meets-girl chance encounter. (Animators just want to get noticed?) But with its eye-popping visuals, this has way more potential for a wider audience.

Now the question that remains is, Why didn't Pixar just call it Rainy City Tale?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

New Concept Art from Pixar's Cancelled Newt [UPDATE]

Just when I was finally starting to get over Pixar's 2010 cancellation of Newt, more production artwork has emerged, and it's even more magnificent than what we've seen before.

German fan site PixarBlog found a number of pieces (include the ones shown above) of concept art on the personal blog of visual development artist Katy Wu, who posted them yesterday.

Wu, who also posted some paintings she did for La Luna, added that even though the Newt never made it to the screen, working on it was still "a good experience".

PIXAR, LET ME SEE THIS MOVIE!

(via The Pixar Times)
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Update (Jan. 6): "Sorry, the page you were looking for in this blog does not exist." The artwork has been pulled.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

First TV Spot for Monsters University

The first TV spot for Monsters University aired this afternoon in the United States during the Rose Bowl telecast and has just gone up on YouTube. It smartly doesn't mention the movie, only the fine educational institution of the same name. Watch—

Brand New Concept Art From Pixar's Upcoming Features

We start off 2013 with (mostly) new concept art from Pixar's next four feature films. You can see all the artwork at ComingSoon.net, which received it in a card from the studio.

But it's this one from The Good Dinosaur (May 30, 2014) that really puts all the others to shame. It's possibly the most wonderful piece of art to come out of Pixar since Teddy Newton's "The Jumper" from The Incredibles. This movie is going to be gorgeous.