Monday, October 8, 2012

'Monsters University' viral site

Briefly: Pixar's viral marketing division hit a home run with its just-released Monsters University website.

The site is incredibly detailed, featuring tons of images that glorify their campus, a large map, news articles highlighting their teachers and students, and even a store where you can pick up a hoody or coffee mug. They offer majors ranging from "Creative Roaring" to "Door Technology" and "Canister Design".

It is awesome stuff like this that makes me love Pixar. The keen attention to detail they share with the world makes you know that they are passionate about their films. And that's really cool.

Monsters University will be the next film we see from Pixar, in June 2013.


Sunday, June 10, 2012

My 'Brave' Review (and it's spoiler-free!)

Being a diehard fan of Pixar's films, I had high hopes for Brave. Even when it was still The Bear and the Bow, I decided that I would love it. This may seem like I set myself up with unfair expectations, but Pixar has consistently made heartwrenching film after heartwrenching film, always dishing out not only well-crafted stories, but stunning animation and hilarious scripts.

Needless to say, when I settled into my seat with popcorn in hand, I was anticipating a truly great film.

And I was painfully disappointed.

Brave let me down because it's story was not on par with other Pixar films. It just didn't have heart. This section of the review is about Story, but don't worry - it's spoiler-free. I'm not going to discuss any specific story details because I don't want to give any of it away, but also because it is hardly a story worth retelling. And that's just too bad from a great storytelling company like Pixar.

The set-up of the film is great. The very real family relationships are serious and deep. The mother-daughter relationship is immediately understood and dynamic. However, Brave becomes muddled in the second act. There is far too much reliance on coincidence, deus ex machina, and other storytelling shortcuts, like the over-manufactured flashback to Merida's childhood. Pixar takes the notion of “fairytale” too seriously, utilizing exposition, magic, and on-the-nose plot devices to the point where all I could do was shake my head in disbelief. The storyteller's hand is all too prevalent – which is even worse when the story you're telling isn't good. The characters aren't given enough time to make the change that they have to make.

The final act is as good as the first, tying up loose ends and showing the character transformation well (although the Queen's line “We have both changed,” is just depressingly bad, especially for Pixar). The climactic action is exciting and fun. But you just aren't all that invested in it, since the characters aren't developed enough.

While watching, you can definitely feel the hand of Disney's corporate hounds. The triplet boys are distressingly manufactured as comic relief and merchandising powerhouses. There is no reason at all to have them in this story, except to fulfill Eisner's silly little dated list of things that audiences (apparently) want.

But for all of those shortcomings, I'd still sit through the film again.

Yes, the story was Cars 2 material. Sure, it was frustrating to see such unforgivable tactics of audience manipulation, so underhanded it made me scan the credits for “Katzenberg”. But the movie is genuinely funny (with some surprise base humor thrown in, too), with good animation and acting, and a stunning setting.

The crowning achievement of Brave is its character design. From the King's massive bulk of a body to the witch's bug eyes to Merida's wild, red locks, the characters are a joy to watch. They're all unique and vibrant. The acting is subtle and realistic, yet also outlandishly slapstick and exaggerated at times, creating a surreal, dynamic mood. Which is exactly what you want from a fairytale – it's a believable world, with just a touch of unpredictable wonder. And physical humor that'd make even the great Buster Keaton let out a chuckle.

There's also genuine fear and suspense. There are visceral bear attacks, real sword fights, and a good deal of grounded violence. Although Pixar used its fair share of Disney tactics and fairytale plot devices, they certainly didn't attempt to sugarcoat any of the action. And that keeps Brave exciting, with more of that delicious unpredictability.

Brave is beautifully cinematic. The rolling hills of Scotland are lush and vivid. The action is big, and feels very real. The story will let you down, but no other part of the movie will. Especially if you see it on the big screen with booming sound. It creates a comprehensive, dreamlike world of staggeringly real action combined with slapstick and overstated movement. The jokes are funny, the characters are each a work of art in their own right, and it is entertaining.

But I'll still never be able to completely fill the void that its lack of Story has given me. I expected more from the creators of Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Up. Pixar's dedication to Story over the years is what inspired me to become a storyteller, and it is just too bad that Brave couldn't carry the torch of Pixar's trademark heart.

See Brave when it comes out on June 22. But just know that it very well might be the end of an era.


Sunday, May 13, 2012

'The Avengers' smashes box office records more efficiently than the Hulk

The Avengers has officially passed the billion dollar mark at the worldwide box office, after only a week and a half in theaters.

That means that it has shattered 23 records, and is set to break even more as attendance shows no sign of slipping. These records include best opening weekend, best second weekend, best 3-day, 4-day, 5-day, 6-day, 7-day, and 8-day gross, and the fastest film to gross every amount between $100 million and $350 million.

Avatar is the current all-time champ, having made $2.7 billion worldwide, but that took over 34 weeks to achieve. In the same time that The Avengers broke $1 billion, Avatar was going steady at a measly $300 million.

And not only is Joss Whedon's blockbuster on track to become the biggest movie ever, but it has widespread critical acclaim, with a 93% on Rotten Tomatoes. Check out my quick review here.

And go see The Avengers right now! It is a great movie, and I can't think of any storyteller more deserving to take the throne of box office king than Joss.

Art: 'Where The Avengers Are' by AgarthanGuide on DeviantArt


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Viral Marketing for Pixar's 'Brave': Kilt by Ruff McLauren

Posted just moments ago to Brave's iTunes video page is a surefire viral marketing masterpiece, Kilt.

It is a faux advertisement for Kilt, by Ruff McLauren (as opposed to Ralph Lauren). "What makes a man feel like a man? . . . The freedom a man feels when he wears a small plaid skirt . . . Stylish, sexy, strong. . . Kilt. Are you BRAVE enough to wear one?"

This spot is just downright funny and clever. I was surprised that Disney took the marketing into the realm of such blatant satire, especially with humor edging on the adult. Still, I think that it will payoff in the end. I certainly enjoyed the sarcastic and over-the-top nature of it. And Brave!

Be sure to pay close attention during the video. You'll spot some great-looking new footage from the film, as well.

Brave hits theaters June 22, 2012.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Some Spoiler-free Reasons Why 'The Avengers' is Great (Hint: JOSS)

I didn't quite know what to expect from The Avengers. Yeah, I love Joss Whedon's work. All of it. But when you're tackling a huge summer blockbuster film like this one, it's tough to get your way and have your style really shine through with all those suits breathing down your neck. Disney suits, too, even. On top of that, I wasn't a huge fan of the second Iron Man, and Mark Ruffalo is a dweeb.

Let it suffice to say that I didn't go into this film with the highest of expectations.

However, get yourself ready to heighten your own expectations: The Avengers is a very good film. And the main reason is Joss Whedon.

More often than not, tentpole films like this one get destroyed when a half-baked story ends up drowned beneath a pile of special effects, pop stars, and an edgy soundtrack with electric guitar-ridden Bob Dylan covers. But Writer/Director Joss Whedon is a talented storyteller, and it really shows.

The subtleties of each character come across as they individually trudge through their own emotional journeys. The debonair Tony Stark is as deliciously snarky as ever (and man is he cool). Captain America's stoicism, Thor's family issues, Bruce Banner's anger management, and even Fury's political struggles (and shiny eyepatch) are all poignantly portrayed. There is intense inter-personal drama and complication. While nothing got as heated or in-depth as it could have, and the villain could have been more motivated for his villainy, it all served its purpose of getting the audience emotionally-vested in what's going on.

But the important thing is that this quality character development is balanced perfectly with what the audience is really there for: explosions and capes and laughs. There are countless fight scenes, each with their own unique twist for added suspense and visual stunnery. You are constantly thrown for a loop as each character is dealt the next impossible task they have to accomplish. The shots soaring through the sky with Iron Man or jumping between buildings with the Hulk leave you feeling like you just took the wildest ride of your life. Like a super awesome roller coaster. With punches and flying. And more awesome.

And not only are the fights and effects spectacular in every sense of the word, but the writing is genuinely witty and the character interactions hilarious. I don't remember the last time I laughed in a movie theater that much. The film plays with audience expectations, exploits superhero stereotypes, and is just plain smart about the way it approaches its combination of high and lowbrow humor.

Without giving any plot detail or specific situations away, I am going to tell you, dear reader, that you should go see The Avengers. Whether you are familiar with the caped heroes or not, you'll have a blast. The writing is clever, the story is fleshed out Joss-style, the jokes are beyond funny, and the action is so action-packed that it should be illegal. It won't win an Oscar, but it will win the hearts of countless Americans with its unique brand of charming action and rakish dialogue.

This movie will break box office records. Everyone can enjoy it, and word of mouth will ensure that everybody will. A sequel will definitely be on its way, if it isn't already. And I'll be the first in line to see it.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Disney's 'Paperman' poster and details

At CinemaCon earlier last month, Disney revealed an up-and-coming animated short, Paperman.

It is an experimentation in the medium, seeking to redefine what animation can be. It involves "seamlessly merging computer-generated and hand-drawn animation," and in just black-and-white. Here's Disney's pitch:

Introducing a groundbreaking technique that seamlessly merges computer-generated and hand-drawn animation techniques, first-time director John Kahrs takes the art of animation in a bold new direction with Paperman. 
Using a minimalist black-and-white style, the short follows the story of a lonely young man in mid-century New York City, whose destiny takes an unexpected turn after a chance meeting with a beautiful woman on his morning commute. Convinced the girl of his dreams is gone forever, he gets a second chance when he spots her in a skyscraper window across the avenue from his office. With only his heart, imagination and a stack of papers to get her attention, his efforts are no match for what the fates have in store for him. 
Created by a small, innovative team working at Walt Disney Animation Studios, Paperman pushes the animation medium in an exciting new direction.
See the poster, released on Disney's Facebook page, at the top of the post. A really great, clean, unique design.

Expect to see this shopped around festivals before (most likely) seeing shown before Wreck-It Ralph in November.

I am excited to see this. It will be awesome. And I can't wait.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

New 'Brave' trailer

If you're as excited as I am for Brave, then you'll be all over the new trailer, released mere hours ago. It showcases some new characters - such as the rascally triplets - and reveals some more plot details.

The film is looking more and more cinematic. Initially, I was afraid that Brave would be too one-noted. But now I have laid my fears to rest.

This will be a movie worth seeing.


Friday, March 2, 2012

'The Art of Brave' info, cover

As you know, each animated film coming down the pipeline gets its own Art of book. Pixar's upcoming Brave is no exception, with an Amazon page for the volume sprouting up.

The book will be published by Chronicle Books with a set release date of May 31, 2012. The cover can be seen at the top of this post.

The Art of Brave is being written by someone new to the scene, Jenny Lerew. But a quick IMDb search shows that she is no foreigner to the world of animation, having been a story artist on films such as How to Train Your Dragon, The Road to El Dorado, Lady and the Tramp II, and Flushed Away. She also has a blog, Blackwing Sketchbook, which showcases her simply stunning yet simple illustration work.

Pre-order the book at Amazon now, or go get it at the bookstore in June. It's always worth the read.


Thursday, February 23, 2012

New 'Brave' Clip and poster!

To the left you'll find a brand new poster for Pixar's Brave.

Pa-retty pretty. And bold and colorful.

Watch a newly-released clip from the movie here, labelled as "Trailer 2."

Very good animation and editing and storytelling. I think these Pixar guys just might have a good future ahead of them.

Brave comes out June 22 later this year, and I can't wait to see it.


Tuesday, January 31, 2012

New 'Lady and the Tramp' song

Briefly: Above find a video featuring a never-before-heard song that was cut from Disney's 1955 classic The Lady and the Tramp. Nice song, but I can see why it was cut.

Still, pretty neat.

Source: WSJ


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Ray Bradbury on Disneyland

Holiday was a popular magazine published from 1946-1977. Last week, a blog archiving the articles of the old periodical published a 1956 article from prolific science-fiction author, Ray Bradbury. In his article, The Machine-Tooled Happyland, he summarizes--quite emphatically, poetically, and philosophically--how great and influential Disneyland is.

It is definitely worth the read.

Check it out here.


Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Academy has spoken . . . (and so have I).

The nominations for the 84th Annual Academy Awards were announced earlier this morning in Beverly Hills, California.

There are some surprises, but overall they're fairly predictable. Cars 2 has no chance of seeing any Oscar glory, without a nomination in the Animated Feature category. I'm not very surprised by this, since Pixar really broke its streak with that picture. However, Pixar can redeem itself with Enrico Casarosa's short La Luna, which has a nomination in the Animated Shorts category. From what I've heard of this elusive short, it is a stunning shoe-in for the prize.

Surprisingly, Kung Fu Panda 2 and Puss in Boots both got a nomination, but Tintin didn't, perhaps as a result of the impassioned debates surrounding motion capture's place among the world of animation. I was very glad that Tintin won the Golden Globe for Animated Feature--it tells a great story with eye-catching visuals, and really shows what the future of mo-cap holds.

My biggest beef this year is with Hugo. It has the most nominations at 11. It is beautifully nostalgic with stunning visuals, but the story of Selznick's original The Invention of Hugo Cabret is sucked dry by Scorsese's ignorance of character depth. The film is pretty to look at, but it does not tell a compelling story. Scorsese won the Golden Globe for Directing, and I think it is egregious. I did not like the film one bit, if you couldn't tell.

However, I am ecstatic about the attention that The Artist is getting. It is a true film--a crowning achievement of the modern filmmaking world. It is funny, emotional, and musical with great acting and set pieces that you can't help but get lost in...all without a spoken word.

Another thing I'm ecstatic about? The Muppets' "Man or Muppet" not only being nominated for Best Original Song, but also being a surefire winner in the sparse category. It is a bang-up song from the most outstanding film of last year.

Below, find the full list of nominations. My predictions for who will win are in red, but who I want to win is in bold. I didn't make predictions in every category, since I don't even pretend to be qualified to do that. There's also the occasional commentary on my selections. You'll notice a lot of things are bolded and red. This is just because I, perhaps naively, think that the Academy will be just this year. Enjoy . . .

Best Picture
"The Artist" Thomas Langmann, Producer
"The Descendants" Jim Burke, Alexander Payne and Jim Taylor, Producers
"Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close" Scott Rudin, Producer
"The Help" Brunson Green, Chris Columbus and Michael Barnathan, Producers
"Hugo" Graham King and Martin Scorsese, Producers
"Midnight in Paris" Letty Aronson and Stephen Tenenbaum, Producers
"Moneyball" Michael De Luca, Rachael Horovitz and Brad Pitt, Producers
"The Tree of Life" Nominees to be determined
"War Horse" Steven Spielberg and Kathleen Kennedy, Producers

Actor in a Leading Role
Demián Bichir in "A Better Life"
George Clooney in "The Descendants"
Jean Dujardin in "The Artist"
Gary Oldman in "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy"
Brad Pitt in "Moneyball"

Actor in a Supporting Role
Kenneth Branagh in "My Week with Marilyn"
Jonah Hill in "Moneyball"
Nick Nolte in "Warrior"
Christopher Plummer in "Beginners"
Max von Sydow in "Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close"
Not a great film, but Plummer was fantastic.

Actress in a Leading Role

Glenn Close in "Albert Nobbs"
Viola Davis in "The Help"
Rooney Mara in "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo"
Meryl Streep in "The Iron Lady"
Michelle Williams in "My Week with Marilyn"
Same as with Beginners, the film left a lot to be desired. However, Meryl Streep owned the role of Thatcher. She was phenomenal.

Actress in a Supporting Role

Bérénice Bejo in "The Artist"
Jessica Chastain in "The Help"
Melissa McCarthy in "Bridesmaids"
Janet McTeer in "Albert Nobbs"
Octavia Spencer in "The Help"

Animated Feature Film
"A Cat in Paris" Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicioli
"Chico & Rita" Fernando Trueba and Javier Mariscal
"Kung Fu Panda 2" Jennifer Yuh Nelson
"Puss in Boots" Chris Miller
"Rango" Gore Verbinski

Art Direction

"The Artist" Production Design: Laurence Bennett; Set Decoration: Robert Gould
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" Production Design: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephenie McMillan
"Hugo" Production Design: Dante Ferretti; Set Decoration: Francesca Lo Schiavo
"Midnight in Paris" Production Design: Anne Seibel; Set Decoration: Hélène Dubreuil
"War Horse" Production Design: Rick Carter; Set Decoration: Lee Sandales

"The Artist" Guillaume Schiffman
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Jeff Cronenweth
"Hugo" Robert Richardson
"The Tree of Life" Emmanuel Lubezki
"War Horse" Janusz Kaminski

Costume Design
"Anonymous" Lisy Christl
"The Artist" Mark Bridges
"Hugo" Sandy Powell
"Jane Eyre" Michael O'Connor
"W.E." Arianne Phillips

"The Artist" Michel Hazanavicius
"The Descendants" Alexander Payne
"Hugo" Martin Scorsese
"Midnight in Paris" Woody Allen
"The Tree of Life" Terrence Malick

Documentary (Feature)
"Hell and Back Again" Danfung Dennis and Mike Lerner
"If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front" Marshall Curry and Sam Cullman
"Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory" Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs
"Pina" Wim Wenders and Gian-Piero Ringel
"Undefeated" TJ Martin, Dan Lindsay and Richard Middlemas

Documentary (Short Subject)
"The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement" Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin
"God Is the Bigger Elvis" Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson
"Incident in New Baghdad"James Spione
"Saving Face" Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
"The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom" Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen

Film Editing

"The Artist" Anne-Sophie Bion and Michel Hazanavicius
"The Descendants" Kevin Tent
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Kirk Baxter and Angus Wall
"Hugo" Thelma Schoonmaker
"Moneyball" Christopher Tellefsen

Foreign Language Film
"Bullhead" Belgium
"In Darkness" Poland
"Monsieur Lazhar" Canada
"A Separation" Iran

"Albert Nobbs" Martial Corneville, Lynn Johnston and Matthew W. Mungle
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" Edouard F. Henriques, Gregory Funk and Yolanda Toussieng
"The Iron Lady" Mark Coulier and J. Roy Helland

Music (Original Score)
"The Adventures of Tintin" John Williams
"The Artist" Ludovic Bource
"Hugo" Howard Shore
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" Alberto Iglesias
"War Horse" John Williams

Music (Original Song)
"Man or Muppet" from "The Muppets" Music and Lyric by Bret McKenzie
"Real in Rio" from "Rio" Music by Sergio Mendes and Carlinhos Brown Lyric by Siedah Garrett

Short Film (Animated)
"Dimanche/Sunday" Patrick Doyon
"The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore" William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg
"La Luna" Enrico Casarosa
"A Morning Stroll" Grant Orchard and Sue Goffe
"Wild Life" Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby

Short Film (Live Action)
"Pentecost" Peter McDonald and Eimear O'Kane
"Raju" Max Zähle and Stefan Gieren
"The Shore" Terry George and Oorlagh George
"Time Freak" Andrew Bowler and Gigi Causey
"Tuba Atlantic" Hallvar Witzø

Sound Editing
"Drive" Lon Bender and Victor Ray Ennis
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" Ren Klyce
"Hugo" Philip Stockton and Eugene Gearty
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" Ethan Van der Ryn and Erik Aadahl
"War Horse" Richard Hymns and Gary Rydstrom

Sound Mixing
"The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" David Parker, Michael Semanick, Ren Klyce and Bo Persson
"Hugo" Tom Fleischman and John Midgley
"Moneyball" Deb Adair, Ron Bochar, Dave Giammarco and Ed Novick
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" Greg P. Russell, Gary Summers, Jeffrey J. Haboush and Peter J. Devlin
"War Horse" Gary Rydstrom, Andy Nelson, Tom Johnson and Stuart Wilson

Visual Effects
"Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2" Tim Burke, David Vickery, Greg Butler and John Richardson
"Hugo" Rob Legato, Joss Williams, Ben Grossman and Alex Henning
"Real Steel" Erik Nash, John Rosengrant, Dan Taylor and Swen Gillberg
"Rise of the Planet of the Apes" Joe Letteri, Dan Lemmon, R. Christopher White and Daniel Barrett
"Transformers: Dark of the Moon" Scott Farrar, Scott Benza, Matthew Butler and John Frazier

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

"The Descendants" Screenplay by Alexander Payne and Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
"Hugo" Screenplay by John Logan
"The Ides of March" Screenplay by George Clooney & Grant Heslov and Beau Willimon
"Moneyball" Screenplay by Steven Zaillian and Aaron Sorkin. Story by Stan Chervin
"Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" Screenplay by Bridget O'Connor & Peter Straughan

Writing (Original Screenplay)

"The Artist" Written by Michel Hazanavicius
"Bridesmaids" Written by Annie Mumolo & Kristen Wiig
"Margin Call" Written by J.C. Chandor
"Midnight in Paris" Written by Woody Allen
"A Separation" Written by Asghar Farhadi
(I couldn't pick between these two! I identify so well with Midnight in Paris that I am probably very bias towards it's screenplay, but I think it deserves to win. But so does The Artist. Hmm...)
The 84th annual Academy Awards will air live from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre on February 26.

Stay tuned for more up-to-date, exciting awards season news and opinion! Only at Disney, etc.


Monday, January 9, 2012

'Tangled Ever After' clip

Above you'll find the set-up for Tangled Ever After, a short that will be preceding the highly-anticipated Beauty and the Beast 3D later this month on the 13th.

Here's the official press release:
The Walt Disney Studios proudly announced today that directors Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, the talented team behind Disney Animation Studio’s global blockbuster Tangled, will premiere a delightful new animated short film spotlighting the royal wedding of Rapunzel (Mandy Moore) and Flynn Rider – a.k.a Eugene – (Zachary Levi) in front of each screening of Beauty and the Beast in 3D, which opens on January 13, 2012.By popular demand, Greno and Howard are bringing back some of Disney’s most beloved characters when Tangled Ever After picks up where Tangled left off. The Kingdom is in a festive mood as everyone gathers for the royal wedding of Rapunzel and Flynn. However, when Pascal and Maximus, as flower chameleon and ring bearer, respectively, lose the gold bands, a frenzied search and recovery mission gets underway. As the desperate duo tries to find the rings before anyone discovers that they’re missing, they leave behind a trail of comical chaos that includes flying lanterns, a flock of doves, a wine barrel barricade and a very sticky finale. Will Maximus and Pascal save the day and make it to the church in time? And will they ever get Flynn’s nose right?
Awesome Tolkien reference with the ring. One of the best animated characters of all time.

I'm excited.