Friday, June 12, 2009

DreamWorks Animation Walk Thru

I spent a good part of my morning going around DreamWorks Animation's Glendale campus, updating members about the ongoing negotiations between TAG and their studio.

In the layout department, I stood watching a clip from Shrek 4 and asked an artist what he thought of the latest ogre opus. He said:

"You know, I laughed out loud more during this one than the others. I think it's really funny. I think it's the best of the four ..."

It was at that point that his roommates began debating him, one artist saying the like Shrek 2 the best, another saying he thought the first had a lot of zest and pizzazz. (I'm partial to the first, but that's me.)

The quality of the next Shrek, to be released twelve months hence, might have something to do with today's financial report on DWA:

Dreamworks Animation stock has been showing support around 27.86 and resistance in the 29.14 range. Technical indicators for the stock are Bullish and S&P gives DWA a positive 4 STAR (out of 5) buy rating. DWA appears on the Investors Observer Volume Leaders list ...

The DreamWorks Toon factory continues to expand, with a newer building going up behind the Lakeside Building, and more staff continuing to be added.

I've got the idea that the company is confident about its three upcoming features (all released in 2010) doing better than all right.


C. said...

Unlike a lot of animation "critics", I always have liked Shrek, and think that some people are very unfair to these movies. I guess Shrek isn't "cool" like those supposedly hip UPA and Spumco types of things.

These critics, like Amid Amidi, spend all their time compiling "hate lists," mocking and jeering, all the while not having the talent or ability to create anything themselves. They bear grudges and are unable to get the chip off their shoulder, obsessing over past slights.

Real critics like Leonard Maltin and John Canemaker don't do this. They are unbiased, and approach the subject like scholars, with balance. Dreamworks has been a pillar in the animation community, and is a true success story. It is a shame that the Amid Amidis of the world feel the need to constantly tear them down.

Anonymous said...

"I guess Shrek isn't "cool" like those supposedly hip UPA and Spumco types of things."

I can't stand the Shrek movies, but that has nothing to do with whats "cool", but rather what is clever. There is nary a clever joke in the Shrek movies. They are filled with low brow, lowest common denominator gags - or lazy pop culture references that wouldn't be worthy of Family Guy.
Add to this that the animation is stiff, wanky, and often downright ugly. The films have a feeling that they were rushed out the door.

They never rise above the genre and bring all viewers together no matter age or gender, but divide their audience in predictable fashion. They never come close to the sublime(as Pixar's always seem to strive for), but as A.O. Scott of the NYTimes put it, they "leave a sour, cynical aftertaste".

C. said...

I'll leave it to the effete elitists at the New York Times to discuss that which they know best--aftertastes.

Yes, just like all the other Amids, who are too interested in their mockery, their biases, their hate lists, their worship of Spumco and 50's designers.

Hats off to Dreamworks, folks. You've made an enduring world in the Shrek movies, all while contributing to the animation community, and bringing joy to countless families and children. If only the "critics" like Amid Amidi could say the same.

Anonymous said...

Y'know, it IS possible to simply disagree with someone else's opinion; that is, after all, all that it is...

Steve Hulett said...

As I say above, I enjoyed Shrek Uno immensely. Found it funny, fast-moving, witty.

I have friends who slam the feature mercilessly: the designs are terribe; the art direction stinks; the humor is clunky. Etc.

Well, the humore works for me. I like the characters. I'm glad it won the first animation Academy Award. This might make me out of step with various critics, but it's the way I feel.

So sue me.

Wonkey the Monkey said...

All of this argument about how good Shrek was or wasn't is ultimately pointless because most of the people on either side have a more fundamental difference in worldview. Those that don't like it tend to believe that there are objective, universal criteria for measuring the quality of a film. Those that did like it tend toward the belief that the quality of a film is determined solely by the individual watching it, based on how much they enjoyed it at the time of the viewing.

So basically, the argument will go: "I liked it."
"But it wasn't GOOD!"
"Well I thought it was funny."
"Then your standards for comedy are too low."
"Who are you to decide what makes a movie good or bad if someone likes it?"
"At least I respect the artistry of film enough to hold movies to a certain standard of quality."
...and so on forever.

The point is, you can argue about Shrek until you pass out, but in the end you aren't arguing about Shrek at all. Maybe if we could all debate about the bigger issues of film criticism instead of specific films or genres, there would be less name calling and more productive discussion.

Floyd Norman said...

I could care less either way.

I'm just glad Jeffrey is keeping animation people employed.

My 2 Cents said...

Shrek was entertaining and funny, but most importantly, it was ORIGINAL. It opened up a whole new genre- animated fairy tale satire. Audiences found it charming and fresh.

Obviously, when you do sequels, you neutralize the originality factor and people start looking under the hood, so to speak. The sequel has to try to compensate for the missing originality hit with better script, characters, craft and creative ideas. It's a tall order.

Ultimately, the ticket buyers vote on how well the sequels fulfilled their expectations. Every sequel has to try harder to keep the seats filled. Eventually, they won't be able to. Then comes the TV show, etc, etc. (Yawn).

Anonymous said...

the fractured fairytale is nothing new. it was revisited by many animation students in the 80's who were inspired by jay ward and others. it slowly filtered up into the studio system, where the theme has been surely beaten into oblivion, where it should happily remain until the next group mines it.

My 2 Cents said...

To the Webmaster (Jeff?);

The previous three postings are stealth advertisements and should be removed.

My 2 Cents said...

Thanks, Jeff. Back to topic. To previous poster: Shrek is emphatically not Fractured Fairy Tales. Fractured Fairy Tales was an ironic take on familiar stories, with the humor heavily dependent on Edward Everet Horton's brilliant voice over work. Shrek was based on an original contemporary story. The originality was in the role reversal concept; "good" ogre "bad" prince, happy ending because beautiful princess becomes she-ogre, etc. It was like a breath of fresh air with profound implications about the true nature of happiness and unhappiness and how fairy tales of all kinds make us miserable rather than happy.

The problem is, as I said before, having made the point, where do you go from there?

Anonymous said...

What most fail to recognize about Shrek 1 is that even without all the bells and whistles and gags it is a really solid story - though I do think they stumbled upon it by accident from all I've heard.

It's a story about an outcast who thinks he' happy being an outcast and wants to be just left alone when it's clear to everyon in the audience that despite what he 'wants' it is not what he 'needs'. The entire movie he does his best to get rid of those that want to undermine his want until it becomes clear to him he wants something else entirely.
That's why Shrek works despite everything including weak animation and really bad design.

Anonymous said...

It’s great to hear the debate on Shrek but what’s happening with Chris Sanders’ “How to Train your Dragon” project. Is the project moving forward as expected, have you seen and of the animation, what are your thoughts on it…Thanks.

Neal said...

I used to be kind of a snob about this stuff, turning my nose up at the Shreks, etc, and always praising the Pixar aesthetic...

...until I started doing a lot of animating, studying it, following the industry, and meeting artists, looking for work - then I realized that there are hundreds of people at Dreamworks who are more talented than me. And who are employed, and who I would learn a great deal from.

I enjoy criticism, love great animation, and have high expectations, but when you start talking face to face with artists, bashing their work becomes less of an abstract film-school exercise, and sometimes just seems ignorant.

Anonymous said...

Even so, Neal, bad films are bad films. The greatest artists always have their share of failure.

Not saying the first Shrek was a failure. It indeed is the only saving grace of DreamWorks and truly deserved the first Oscar, anti-Disney and all that, bar none.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to hear some scoops about Dragon too.

Sanders should be the next Walt Disney, not Lasseter.

Anonymous said...

" It indeed is the only saving grace of DreamWorks and truly deserved the first Oscar, anti-Disney and all that, bar none."

Wow. Thanks for the sour persimmons, friend.

"only saving grace of Dreamworks"? No love for Panda? For POE? For Madagascar? For Over the Hedge? For Wallace & Gromit or Flushed Away? Oh well!

What the first poster said about Shrek was true. It WAS a good film. No one wanted to hate it more than me, but damn, it was funny and entertaining and even had some sincerity in there. It did have ugly, ugly designs and some clunky rigs. But it worked which is why it was such a huge hit.

Anonymous said...

It seems there will always be this venomous hate from the Pixies directed to DW, especailly over Shrek, for one reason.
Shrek won the FIRST Best Animated Picture Oscar over a Pixar non-classic (though a little clever marketing has since turned Monsters Inc into one of the 10classics from Pixar along with Bugs Life, Cars and Ratatouille - hell, if prompted I'll even make the case that Nemo was far from their best film, but such stellar BO makes that difficult).
I doubt Pixies will ever forgive DW for having the better film in 2001 and embarrassing Pixar and if you don't think John doesn't do the happy dance every year a Pixar film wins over a DW film and screams: "Take that Shrek" you're kidding yourself.

C. said...

Why is no one discussing Amid Amidi? He is the problem here! He and his ilk are elitist snobs who make hate lists and mock everything except a narrow selection of what HE considers hip.

I speak for the animation community, and this is what is being discussed in the animation conversation. The people I talk to all agree that Amid is grudge-bearing snob who belittles everyone he disagrees with.

Anonymous said...

What's the point? At one time it was the bought and paid for Charles (I never turned down a company perc for a good puff piece so don't be the studio to dare forget it)Solomon and now it's Amid (my taste starts and ends with anything not mainsteam unless I'm paid to write about) Amidi.
You can always assume anything he tells his readership to check out will be something that looks like it was made in the back of a crackhouse by 'artists' who could draw anything appealing if their lives depended on it. Or unless he was offered a book gig...

Amidi loses the self-implied title of historian the minute he starts to hate as much animation as he does. Historians tend to find a way to appreciate all of the offerings in their subject without much criticism. Beck and Maltin fall into that category.

good enough for you...?

Anonymous said...

"a little clever marketing has since turned Monsters Inc into one of the 10classics from Pixar"

If it's that easy DreamWorks should do it to their Bee Movies too.

"No love for Panda? For POE? For Madagascar? For Over the Hedge? For Wallace & Gromit or Flushed Away?"

I'd give you Prince Of Egypt. It gave hope for another direction of animated films but then JK himself turn away from that promising road. But no, not the others, nothing better than Shrek. And I don't really count W&G as a DreamWorks movie, it's like to count Spirited Away as Disney's.

Thad said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Thad said...

Nobody's discussing Amid Amidi because his opinion is his opinion. He's entitled to it. And his opinion sure as hell has no effect on whether Dreamworks stays open or not. And I'm making this defense as someone who Amid probably dislikes.

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