Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Wise Old Animation Exec on Blue Sky's Latest

Monday last, a grizzled animation exec I've known like forever said to me: "I don't think Dr. Seuss is going to translate well to CGI." He was referring to the latest animated extravaganza from Fox's wholly-owned subsidiary Blue Sky Animation. The creators, quite naturally, have a different opinion:

..."we looked at 3-D work that has been done," [Horton director Steve Martino] says. "Dr. Seuss had done several sculptures ... and we looked at how he translated his drawing style into 3-D ..."

"The main task that [co-director Jimmy Hayward] and I had was communicating to everybody how we were going to translate those drawings -- his thinking -- into three dimensions," Martino says. "[The drawings] are very organic and rarely symmetrical, often with odd little wrinkles and curves. We built that thinking into the style guide."

Martino and Heyward have their opinions; the wise old exec has his. My longtime friend also knows a bit about the film, and thinks Blue Sky has modernized it and slicked it up too much, and missed Seuss's main thematic points.

Me, I have zilch information or knowledge about the flick, and offered no opinion on whether it was wonderful or less than wonderful. But I do know Tinsel Town's definition of an artistic triumph yesterday, now, and always:

"To Hollywood, a good film is a film that makes a lot of money."

-- Film historian Robert S. Birchard (quoting every movie exec who ever lived.)

And Fox is good at having its animated films make a lot of money. (Alvin and the Chipmunks and Ice Age: The Meltdown anyone?)


Anonymous said...

From what I've seen, the cartoony CGI seems to be much more in keeping with the spirit of Seuss than Jim Carrey's obnoxious "comedic" style. ;-)

Kudos to Steve and the Blue Sky production team!

Robiscus said...

i think the CGI art is amazing. they nailed it in that respect....

but the animation is horrendous. its the same frantic and hysterical performances that we have seen in countless other CGI features. if there was ever a project that begged for them to reel in those over the top performances wouldn't Dr Seus be it??

they already have the world betting against them as they take one of the most beloved story tellers ever and turn a book of his(cherished by people of all ages) into a big budget film. you'd think they would have the wisdom of treading softly. nope.

again we're going to have characters yip and bounce and flail around the screen to disjointed voice performances that aren't in tune with the whole of the film at all. its awfully arrogant of them.
often, less is more.

Anonymous said...

I haven't seen the film, and I think it's ridiculous for anyone to comment too much on it until they've seen it (the trailer is always going to show the most high-energy, zippy parts).

From what little I've seen, though, I really love the amount of pliability and flexibility they got out of the faces. The animation looks top-notch.

Story-wise? No idea, could go either way.

I don't know if the movement is exactly what I'd think of when I think 'Dr. Seuss', but alone on it's merits, the little I've seen is impressive.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations Blue Sky for trying so hard to emulate the classic story. We're looking forward to seeing this latest Blue Sky project very much!

Anonymous said...

...says the anonymous Blue Sky exec! ;-)

Anonymous said...

I hope the film is void of any scatological humor.

Anonymous said...

> the same frantic and hysterical performances
> that we have seen in countless other
> CGI features

I guess it's a sign of progress that CG animation is now criticized for being hyper-kinetic, where it was once branded as "syrupy". :-)

Let's keep in mind that frantic and hysterical performances are endemic to comedic feature film in *general* ("School of Rock", "Evan Almighty", and countless others...). They're also fairly prevalent in 2D animation.

In both live-action and animation, we have Robin Williams to thank for this. ;-)

Anonymous said...

In his last will and testament Dr. Suess specified that if they ever make an animated movie based on 'Horton' that it should be overshadowed by the voice actors, peppered with "Don't GO there!"-style slang, up-to-the-minute pop-culture references and a big, ironic, singalong to an 80's tune.
Thank goodness the filmmakers had the integrity to make adhere to his vision.

Anonymous said...

To the above poster:

If what you're saying is true, then shame on them. However, I don't think the other comments about how the style of animation is "over the top" or "hysterical" is really the fault of the animators. Im pretty sure they were just following the performances of the actors or directions from the powers-that-be.

From what Ive seen, the animation and visuals of this film have broken new ground and are doing things Ive never seen done in CG before. A lot of people cry and complain about how CG is souless, and the only real animation is classic 2D stuff. Well I beg to differ. I think VISUALLY what we've seen from the heavy-hitters in feature animation in the last decade has been a renaissance-level achievement in the artform, which builds upon the legacy of 2D animation, but in many way surpasses and overshadows it's predecessors. For example, when I study old Chuck Jones stuff, he definitely pioneered many of the stylistic techniques that are so beloved today, but look dated and (dare I say it?) sloppy compared to some of the ridiculously amazing stuff we see now, even from these Horton trailers.

So while I agree that it seems very poor decisions seem to have been made by clueless, disconnected execs in a high-rise....or an ego-driven, over-actor was given free-reign over a script he never should have touched, there's no getting around the fact that animated films these days are just plain beautiful, and the visual artists involved should be given a lot more respect.

Floyd Norman said...

From what I've seen so far the film looks pretty cool. Kudos to co-director Jimmy Hayward. I had the opportunity to work with Jimmy at Pixar.

bala said...

I've never read the book, but the animation clips i've seen so far is awesome! the way Jimmy explains the funny scenes to the animators looks damn interesting and am really looking forward for the film!

Anonymous said...

Go Blue Sky!!!

Anonymous said...

On the 3D , I love how it was lit, the color work and the overall art direction was superb. It is Seuss , but it isn't and I don't see anything wrong with that because Ted never drew in 3D , if he had , this would be what he did in my opinion.

Domestic: $56,518,088 72.7%
+ Foreign: $21,175,264 27.3%
= Worldwide: $77,693,352

And we are short of the week. This film cost 85 million which is a beautifully trim budget considering all the work in this film. It will make profit so all that is left is to argue the details.

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