Entries Tagged 'Animation' ↓

“Quality is the Best Business Plan,” or Even More Proof That the Experts Don’t Know Jack-Jack.


You know those lists of bad predictions from the 1800s and early 1900s, where people who should have known better say stuff like, “I think there is a world market for maybe five computers” (Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943), or “Who the hell wants to hear actors talk?” (H. M. Warner, Warner Brothers, 1927)?

Well, add Richard Greenfield of Pali Research, Chris Marangi at Gabelli & Company, and Doug Creutz of Cowen and Company to that esteemed company. Don’t know their names? You better learn ’em while these guys still have jobs: They’re the analysts from that now notorious NY Times article, back in April, “Pixar’s Art Leaves Profit Watchers Edgy,” who predicted doom for Pixar Animation Studio’s 10th feature, Up:

Richard Greenfield of Pali Research downgraded Disney shares to sell last month, citing a poor outlook for “Up” as a reason. “We doubt younger boys will be that excited by the main character,” he wrote, adding a complaint about the lack of a female lead.

Mr. Greenfield is alone in his vociferousness, but not in his opinion.

“People seem to be concerned about this one,” said Chris Marangi, who follows Disney at Gabelli & Company. Doug Creutz of Cowen and Company said qualms ran deeper than whether “Up” will be a hit — he thinks it will — but rather whether Pixar can deliver the kind of megahit it once did.

“The worries keep coming despite Pixar’s track record, because each film it delivers seems to be less commercial than the last,” Mr. Creutz said.

Big freaking yawn. Of course, now, Disney-Pixar can pun, “Up yours!” since, to the surprise of none who’ve seen it, Variety reported yesterday that

After less than a month at the multiplexes, Disney-Pixar’s 3-D toon “Up” has enough lift to likely become the second-highest-grossing Pixar title at the domestic B.O. after “Finding Nemo.”

Through Sunday, “Up’s” domestic total was $187.4 million — the second best of any summer film to date. Par’s “Star Trek” has cumed $231.9 million. …

At the rate it’s going, “Up” will soon surpass the $206.4 million grossed by Pixar’s “Ratatouille” in summer 2007, and the $223.8 million grossed domestically by Pixar’s “Wall-E” last summer.

“Finding Nemo,” released in 2003, cumed $339.7 million domestically. Next-best Pixar grosser is “The Incredibles” at $261.4 million.

Based on its performance, box office observers now believe “Up” has every chance of surpassing “Incredibles.”

john_lasseter_372x495That quote in our hed, “Quality is the best business plan,” is attributed in the Times piece to John Lasseter, right, one of Pixar’s co-founders, and chief creative officer at Disney, post the Mouse’s $7.4B purchase of the famed computer animation company in 2006. It speaks to the focus on making compelling films via captivating stories that has always marked the Pixar way.

Even Bob Iger, Disney’s CEO, seems to be learning how Luxo rolls: “A check-the-boxes approach to creativity is more likely to result in blandness and failure.”

Or, as Up‘s cranky protagonist, Carl Fredericksen, would say to those analysts,

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World’s Greatest Chaste Scene.

In Detroit-based filmmaker Matthew J. Tait‘s animated short, Zygote, above, Bob has talked his teenage girlfriend into coming over so he can claim her virginity. Unsure she’s ready to take their relationship “to the next level,” the girl wavers. So Bob deftly parries, observing that his previous girl, a mature woman, wouldn’t have had all these issues.

It’s a despicable, caddish move, played thousands of times a day. So why does this 2:05 piece have me howling with tearful cackles at the plight of these losers?

Blame it on Tait and Xtranormal Text-to-Movie web-based software. With it, users create their own shorts, complete with avatars lip-synching dialogue you keyboard in. (“If you can type, you can make movies,” says the company’s motto.)

By coupling the application’s wonkiness—a gentle arm around shoulders leaves Bob’s limb hanging in mid-air—with tightly warped dialogue (“My hymen…I’m embarrassed..it’s thick…like a disc of thick-cut Canadian bacon”), Tait fashions 125 seconds of rogue puppetry, where you know the actors are controlled by entities that truly mean them ill.

[via Logan Walters]

Disney Bites…Disney?

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It’s common knowledge that, after masterpieces like Sleeping Beauty, Snow White, Fantasia, and other features, Disney animated films kinda went into the toilet. This was particularly true in the 1960s and ’70s, as the studio turned out uninspired crap like The Fox and the Hound, The Aristocats, and more.

However, what’s not been truly clarified, at least until now, is how demoralized the company had to be by the rampant cost-cutting at the studio during that time in order to do this: Create new films by merely retracing sequences from their old ones.

The (apparently French) editor of this short YouTube clip, above, has clipped shots from a number of Disney animated works, like The Jungle Book. Comparing them, he shows that animators of that era were not inspired by their past works, but merely sampling them: Literally redoing their cues with new characters.

Blecch. Thankfully, Disney Animation has since been taken over by Pixar, a company which it owns, and whose track record for storytelling and image quality are pretty much unchallenged. (Reportedly, they also treat their talent well. Disney had a reputation for mismanaging their work staff that, even into this century, was widely known.)

But what the Mouse’s House has made clear is that their problem was never a “2-D vs. 3-D” one. Their problem was imagination, and creating an environment in which it thrived. Sadly, the skills it takes to make that flourish can’t be copied from a movie, literally or otherwise.

The Monsters Are Coming.

Mosters vs Aliens’ screaming office admin.

In Dreamworks’ upcoming Monsters vs. Aliens, above, an invasion of Earth by a patronizing race of four-eyed, little gray men, below, moves the U.S. to send out an inoffensive clique of mutants to defend the planet. They include

the brilliant but insect-headed Dr. Cockroach, Ph.D.; the macho half-ape, half-fish The Missing Link; the gelatinous and indestructible B.O.B.; and the 350-foot grub called Insectosaurus.

Along with a 49-foot-11-inch woman named Susan Murphy, aka Ginormica, the group soon challenge the massive Alien Robot, against whom even America’s best missiles vaporize in blooms of meaningless, multicolored plasma.

From my perspective, though, this is all backstory to what’s really going on, namely a small revolution in computer animation, marked by an ever increasing capability in the form.

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Up, Up, and Away.

“So long, suckers!!”

There’s a pretty sweet teaser out for Disney / Pixar’s May 2009 release, Up. It’s about an elderly curmudgeon who, sick of people, takes his house on a wild trip into the heavens, carried aloft by thousands of colorful helium balloons. The ad features Pixar’s expected, now legendary craftsmanship, but I gotta say: I hope no other studio picks up their habit of starting each teaser with a recount of every movie they’ve ever made.



A hundred years ago this month, Henry Ford’s company drove its first Model T automobile off of his Highland Park, Detroit, MI assembly line…and changed the world forever.

Priced at $850, not only was it the first affordable, mass-produced car the world had ever seen, but the Model T—that’s a 1912 one, above—revolutionized manufacturing, caused an upheaval in labor, forced a reengineering of the American landscape, and reorganized our nation’s social order.

So argues author Lindsay Brooke, in his new book, Ford Model T: The Car That Put the World on Wheels. Lindsay is a guest today on my WBAI-NY / 99.5 FM radio show, NONFICTION, this afternoon, Friday, October 31, at 2 pm ET.

Then, tomorrow, the Machinima Filmfest 2008 animation gala is taking place at the Eyebeam Center for Art and Technology (540 W. 21st St., bet. 10th and 11th Ave), here in New York City. On NONFICTION, I’ll be talking with Friedrich Kirschner, festival director; Chris Burke, creator of This Spartan Life; and Frank Dellario, director of animation, ILL Clan about the fest, and about machinima, the art of using video and/or computer games to make movies.

Machinima directors use the game’s controller to move, or animate, characters on-screen. They then digitally record that action with a capture card on a computer; dub voices and music; add effects; then edit the output.

How’d I get here?

The results can be wildly diverse. For example, “A Few Good G-Men” remakes the climactic courtroom confrontation between Lt. Daniel Kaffee and Col. Nathan R. Jessep (from Rob Reiner’s A Few Good Men) using the Half Life 2 game engine. Working in Unreal Tournament 2004, on the other hand, Egils Mednis’s “The Ship”, above, creates an impressionistic and eerie mindscape.

You can hear these thoughtful individuals’ ideas by tuning in at 2 pm. If you’re outside of the New York tri-state, you can check out our stream on the web. If you miss the live show, check out our archive for up to two weeks after broadcast.

Loving Those Meeses to Pieces.

Jerry Fricassee.

James Cauty was half of The KLF, the 1990s duo who, backed by a collective of dancers, vocalists, and other artists, lit up dance floors with “3 a.m. Eternal” and “Justified & Ancient,” featuring country great Tammy Wynette.

Now, he and his 15-year-old offspring, Harry, under the name J. Cauty & Son, are making a new kind of art: Sculptures, limited-edition prints, and a film short, “Splatter,” pushing popular cartoon violence to its blood-soaked maximum. The five-foot resin Aim Point, above, for example, shows Tom, of Tom & Jerry fame, finally bringing their popular cat-and-mouse act to a brutal end.

U.K. anti-crime nonprofit Mothers Against Violence called Cauty & Son’s exhibition at London art gallery Aquarium L-13 “sick.” To my ears, that’s a rave review.

[via BoingBoing]

Stating What’s Obvious to All.

“You’ll be hypnotized in a minute.”

One of the reasons my wife, Zakiya, and I can’t watch television together has to do with my refusal to stop talking to the TV. I’m always critiquing inconsistencies in the storyline, yakking about subtext, or adding stupid voices.

Z usually yells at me or leaves the room, but, in fact, I love trying to crash the fourth wall, and adore media that’s self-referential in that way, whether it’s Mystery Science Theater 3000, or rudely scribbled penises and word balloons on subway ads.

So, you knew I was gonna dig this: DustoMcNeato’s “Take On Me: Literal Video Version.” Here, the original lyrics, vocals, and even the tracks on Norwegian power trio a-ha’s 1985 hit have been scrapped for a hilarious, subtitled imitation that blasts the once vanguard video’s now cheesy “plot.” Oh, it’s funnier than that sounds.

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Give That Guy a Prozac Food Pellet.

Hype man.

Pretty much anything Disney does in animation these days is annoying. But the trailer, above, for Bolt, out Nov. 26, is pretty good. It’s about a television superhero dog who escapes the set of his show for the real world, but doesn’t realize he’s actually an actor with no special powers. As one writer noted, think The Truman Show meets Ol’ Yeller. Plus, try and take your eyes off the skittish and impressionable hamster.

The Other Side of Riverdale


Artist Dan S. DeCarlo (1919-2001), below, is widely recognized as the creator of both the Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Josie and the Pussycats strips. But he is best known as the illustrator who gave Archie—the comic featuring the eponymous redheaded Hi. I’m Dan DeCarlo.teenager, plus his friends Betty, Veronica, Jughead, Reggie, and the rest—their definitive form and line, the look by which they’re most known, and that modern artists must emulate when drawing the characters.

I think it’s for this reason that I love the two recently released Fantagraphics texts The Pin-Up Art of Dan DeCarlo, and The Pin-Up Art of Dan DeCarlo Vol. 2, edited by Alex Chun and Jacob Covey.

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