Tuesday, December 25, 2007

The Links of Christmas

Joyous Noel and all that goes with it. And on this December holiday. we share a short linkfest as you scoop up the Christmas wrapping paper and hual it out to the trash ... starting with the animation chief of Disney/Pixar:

"The whole notion that the audience didn't want to watch hand-drawn animation any more was ridiculous," Lasseter says. "It would be like saying the audience didn't want to watch something made with a particular camera. Give me a break!"

Something new under the sun: an animated television mini-series about the Great Depression:

"The Dark Years," a three-part animated series from the National Film Board [of Canada] and Barna-Alper Productions, is a lively and visually sumptuous look at Canada during the Great Depression that will fascinate even those who have written off our nation's history as tepid.

"We were trying to resurrect Canadian history on television but there weren't a lot of images of that history, and there certainly aren't images of some of the most fascinating stories we discovered," Steven Silver, the director of the series, said in a recent interview.

"So being able to animate it liberated us and meant we could tell any story we wanted to and we'd have a visual language that ran through it. And the animation is really quite beautiful - it's very painterly."

Everybody knows that WALL-E is the next Pixar offering. But what about the feature after that?

Rumor has it that the upcoming 2009 Pixar animated film Up is somewhat a re-telling of the classic Don Quixote fable. For almost 60 years now the Walt Disney Company has been trying to turn Don Quixote into an animated feature film ...

Many animators may have their doubts about motion capture, but the Beowulf actors were into it:

“I loved it,” Ray Winston (Beowulf) told Hollywood Today. “The thing I had to think about the most was the way I moved because I was playing a 6’6’ Viking with an 8 pack! It’s weird. My wife loves it.” Although, he admits that during the shooting of it he wasn’t always so sure. “I felt like an idiot too, you do really feel naked,” he said. “There is a fear of letting go but once you get over that barrier you just let yourself go. The first time I saw it just blew me away. Even without all the gizmos, the story is still really great and that’s why I’m proud of it.”

May your Yuletide be bright. Or at least a warm soft glow.

20 comments:

David said...

Nice to read those encouraging comments from John Lasseter (again.. how many times does he have to say it before the mainstream entertainment press gets the message: it's not hand-drawn animation that was the problem , it's about the story and characters. )

The article goes on to say:

"At Disney, Lasseter approved production of a hand-drawn film, The Princess and the Frog...

The radical decision overturns an earlier dictate --imposed before the Pixar-Disney merger -- that Walt's 85-year-old studio would move exclusively to computer generated, 3D-style animation."


Still kind of odd to read that making hand-drawn animated films at Disney is now considered a "radical decision" . I suppose radical in the truest sense of that word: "Arising from or going to a root or source; basic" , more so than the secondary sense of "departing from the usual or customary; extreme" .

Anonymous said...

"how many times does he have to say it before the mainstream entertainment press gets the message: it's not hand-drawn animation that was the problem , it's about the story and characters."

Until a hand drawn animated film makes good box office and competes with the best of the CG films it doesn't matter what he says. He's going to have to have a 2D hit of ove 250 million before he can be proved right.
I suspect that "good story" wouldn't have saved many of the CG films that have done well if they had been hand drawn - including Cars and very possibly Nemo. Yeah, yeah, I know - what Blasphemy!
At this point the public is just more accepting of CG.

Anonymous said...

2D feature animation is sunk. What Disney is doing now will only cement that and show that Lasseter and Catmul are wrong.

I'll get ripped for saying this. I don't really care. The only reason Simpsons did okay was the built in fanbase. Otherwise, it would of been a BO disaster.

Anonymous said...

My theory is that 3D will remain the audiences preference just because it is intellectually less taxing. The typical suburbanite sees that a tree looks more like a tree in CG and finds comfort in that.

Anonymous said...

"...intellectually less taxing"

Wow, way to respect the audience!

robiscus said...

what?
i think if anything has been proven lately it is that CGI is fading. "Bee Movie" didn't make the splash it was intended to and the upcoming crop of CGI features have just as many problems that 2D features have had(case in point is the troubled production of Kung Fu Panda that has seen rewrite after wrewrite of that stinker).
the bottom line is story, story, story, story.
ask any and all of the most successful film makers and they will tell you the same thing. the idea that a movie's look is "intellectually less taxing" is an opinion so dunderheaded that it could only have come from a deluded member of the animation community. i love animators but lets be honest here, there's a lot of morons walking among us.
the format has NOTHING to do with a film's poularity.

2D animator said...

While I agree that it's important a story be good I think it's also clear that many CG films have skated by without having decent stories. Sure there are plenty that haven't and still won't do well.
I have to agree with the earlier poster that if some of the successful CG films had been made in 2D they most likely would've bombed and that the CG technique did indeed help endear them to the public.
I don't think you can seperate a film completely from how it's filmed whether in live-action or animation.
Though I suspect there might have been plenty of CG films that would've been succeessful in 2D as well, but would thay have been AS successful?
I won't speculate on whether Kung Fu Panda is good or not until I've seen it - if one were to judge a film from rumors than Nemo being proclaimed Fishtar early on should've proven rumors aren't often right.

robiscus said...

you know 3D films did spectacularly well in the fifties. there were dozens of them spanning over half a decade.

they would have been successful if traditionally filmed, but would they have been AS successful? no.

and yet, 3D has not endured because of the technique it was filmed with. they were eclipsed by films with story, story, story.

Kung Fu Panda is mentioned as the most recent boondoggle, but the CGI fallout hass been established by lackluster returns on "Over The Hedge", "Barnyard", "Open Season", "Flushed Away", "Bee Movie", "Surfs Up", "Robots"...
etc.
etc.
etc.

Anonymous said...

"but the CGI fallout has been established by lackluster returns on "Over The Hedge","Barnyard", "Open Season", "Flushed Away", "Bee Movie", "Surfs Up", "Robots"...
etc.,etc., etc."



Here are most of the other etc.'s mentioned above:

Valiant

Jonah: A Veggietale's Movie

Happily N'ever After

Everyone's Hero

Meet The Robinsons

The Ant Bully

The Wild

Doogal

Shark Bait (aka The Reef)

Monster House

All of these were box-office disappointments or outright bombs. Maybe not Monster House ? But Monster House had a reported budget of $75 million and a tepid domestic box-office gross of $73.6 million and an additional $66.5 million overseas ... so did it actually make any money ?

But hey, at this point the public is just more accepting of CG and those trees look so realistic and pretty.

Anonymous said...

You're equating CG with a tacky gimmick? Boy, that's a reach.

How can you call KFP a boondogle when it hasn't been released to the theaters yet?

BTW over the Hedge made 335 million worldwide -- maybe not shrek numbers, but not a boondoggle.

Anonymous said...

The whole history of commercial art (and feature animation is such) is that is that obviousness wins.

2D has far more artistic possibilities that photo-real CG, but the couch-sitting audience, the harried parent who just wants a DVD to distract their kid for 90 minutes... they don't care about possibilities, they want easy to digest video that doesn't make them think too hard.

If audiences wanted challenge then silent movies and radio drama would still be big and Fantasia 2000 would have been a hit.

Anonymous said...

I can certainly agree that, initially, a new technology can pique an audience's interest, and allow marketers an easy way to build excitement for a movie.

But I think those days are now over for CG. It's been 12 years since Toy Story, and CG is commonplace. The playing field has evened out, and the only thing that matters at this point is a compelling concept for a well-told story.

I'm sorry to see that CG has now fallen into the same kiddie ghetto that 2D fell into. Frankly, what's needed for real box-office success is a unique film-maker with a unique, singular vision and voice doing something never seen before. Animation needs more true auteurs at the helm. Brad Bird, Cohen Bros., Wachowski Bros., etc. The medium is irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Gotta disagree.
I don't think the new sparkly CG piqued the audiences interest anymore than I think audiences would flock to see Cars or Finding Nemo in 2D and generate the same BO the CG versions did.
My suspicion (and there's no way to prove this theory anymore than anyone else's) is that CG felt more like live-action to audiences (and still does) and so they don't have that visceral reaction that they do with 2D. 2D has always been ghettoized in America as basically a children's G-rated medium. Especially in features - though for one brief shining period it seemed like 2D had risen out of that ghetto only to be beaten back down to that old predjudice by bad projects.
I'm talking mainly features - TV is a slightly different animal altogether. Though TV had a lot to do with these predjudices being created.
I think what we're witnessing with CG now isn't a lot different than what we're used to seeing with live-action features. There are some that become hits and others that aren't. We also see some good CG films that do badly (that should've done better) and we see some bad ones that do well (and can't be explained) and others that don't do well domestically, but do good business overseas or on DVD. It mostly falls into the Goldman maxim that "No one knows anything". Just like live-action.

I think that 2D still has a big hurdle to overcome and while good storytelling will always help it's not the magic bullet. I think it's important to decide who your audience is and make a film for them.
My theory is that what killed 2D isn't just some bad storytelling (ok, some REALLY bad storytelling) or bloated budgets - though those factors certainly contributed. It was mostly caused by projects being put into production that the audiences didn't want to see. When an audience stays away from the opening weekend of a film it can only mean a couple of things: the audience didn't know the film was out there (not likely with a Disney film), bad marketing or an audience didn't exist for that film to begin with. When the audience never even bothers to see if the storytelling is any good you can't blame bad storytelling. If they stay away the second weekend then you might have an argument.

Not picking the right films to make holds true especially for Disney. The minute Disney started to think that they were making films for the adults that also enjoyed their children's animated fairytales they lost.
Dreamworks is a slightly different matter. They should have been able to get away with making more adult types of features, but they still wanted to get the whole family and were picking projects that weren't young enough for children and not old enough for adults. Not to mention having too high of budgets as well so that even moderate hits became failures. If some of these experimental (more for adults) features had been made for $25 million then they probably would've been seen as successes.

I don't think a few CG failures means that 2D will come back. 2D will come back when the right film gets made for the right audience. And as long as they plan on hitting it huge with Shrek or LionKing numbers there might be a chance it'll happen.

Anonymous said...

And as long as they DON'T plan on hitting it huge with Shrek or LionKing numbers there might be a chance it'll happen.

is what I meant to say

robiscus said...

"I don't think the new sparkly CG piqued the audiences interest anymore than I think audiences would flock to see Cars or Finding Nemo in 2D and generate the same BO the CG versions did."

and i think that you just might be ignoring how new CG actually is. it is SO new that with every single new CGI feature audiences are witnessing new developments that were not possible a mere 3 years ago. look at the difference between the human characters of Toy Story and The Incredibles. they are WORLDS apart.
every CGI feature is a singularly new step forward int he technology. from the fur effect in Monsters Inc to the water effects in Nemo, audiences are constantly being wowed by new technological advances.


and traditional 2D animation is definitely not a medium relegated to childrens audiences alone. reading that point of view and its almost as if Ralph Bakshi never existed...
or the Academy Award nimonated Triplets Of Belleville, or Heavy Metal, or Waking Life...

if i'm not mistaken(and please correct me if i'm wrong) CGI has had at most 2 features that would appeal to adult audiences: Beowulf and that one based on a video game from way back in 2000.

Anonymous said...

You're kidding yourself if you think audiences are staring at a screen and going "wow, look at how they animated that water!"

Yeah, there have been plenty of adult animated 2D films, but few have even made any serious money in America - even Miyazaki. The closest you can point to is Beavis and Butthead, but as I said they were making the right film for the right audience AND they made it cheap.
I will correct you...a film doesn't have to be R rated to be an adult film. It needs to have adult subject matter. I personally feel that the Shrek movies (mainly the first 2) were more adult than child oriented. The Toy Story films and The Incredibles were edging in that direction as well. Some of the other Pixar films started to head that way - though they tended to go soft and settle for G-rated storytelling most of the time. And clearly Cars was an adult story the first time it was told as Doc Hollywood and even Ratatouille tried to reach for adult storytelling.

Anonymous said...

"You're kidding yourself if you think audiences are staring at a screen and going "wow, look at how they animated that water!" "

Actually, I heard a comment very close to that after walking out of Surf's Up.

I think a lot of people outside the industry notice these things. Of course it doesn't make or break a film for them, but they notice.

I think a lot of people, especially the younger generation that grew up with video games around attach themselves more to CG films.

Baba said...

I believe 2D is considered low budge to the common movie goer, esp kids.
The only people who defend 2D is the people that work in them.
Kids dont get excited over 2D anymore.
Story doesnt really matter either cause they are kids.
If anything, marketing is more important to MAKING MONEY than story.
The audience(kids) want to be mesmerized by what they are seeing.
3D achieves that.

3D is here to stay because it can be improved upon even more.

David Nethery said...

Baba wrote:

"The only people who defend 2D is the people that work in them."

Defend ? Defend?! Was there a trial ? Some people seem to have already pulled on their anonymous white sheets and formed a lynch mob in an attempt to hang ol' 2D without a trial, so there is really no possibility of defending it apparently ...

By the way, speaking of people who are attempting to "defend" 2D ... did you happen to notice the article that kicked off this lovely discussion?

A certain Mr. John Lasseter said:

"The whole notion that the audience didn't want to watch hand-drawn animation any more was ridiculous," Lasseter says. "It would be like saying the audience didn't want to watch something made with a particular camera. Give me a break!"

Is John Lasseter a 2D guy, Baba ? (as in, does his livelihood depend on it ? Does Lasseter run down CG to be a cheerleader for hand-drawn ? No. But he's vocal in his support (not defense) of the ongoing value of making hand-drawn animated films alongside of CG films.)


"Kids dont get excited over 2D anymore."

Oh, yeah, let us never forget that all we're good for (2D and 3D animation) is to pander to the kiddies. Animation is stuck in this kids-film ghetto in North America because of attitudes like that .

To hell with that.

"3D is here to stay because it can be improved upon even more."

Whatever that means...

Of course it is here to stay. Who said it wasn't ? This isn't a false dichotomy about choosing either hand-drawn or CG.

CG animation certainly ought to be here to stay for sure, as one valid animation technique among many . (Clay/Puppet stop-mo is here to stay, Hand-drawn is here to stay , Flash is here to stay, CG is here to stay ... so are oil painting and watercolor and sculpture, despite the invention of photography and the more recent invention of computer apps like Painter,Photoshop and ZBrush ... how long do we have to keep having this same ridiculous discussion ? The invention of the new doesn't necessitate the casting off of the old and established ways. I reject that kind of 'revolutionary' mentality.)

By "it can be improved upon even more" I agree, but so can hand-drawn be improved upon even more, so can any art form as long as people using it are thinking as artists. We haven't even scratched the surface of what hand-drawn animation could be.

Anonymous said...

Someone got their panties in a bunch...

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