Sunday, November 28, 2010

Interview with Pixar's 3D Director

Head on over to Collider and watch a video interview with Pixar's 3D director Bob Whitehill. While I, as you know, despise 3D, it is an excellent interview that reveals some new tidbits about TS3, Cars 2, and even Brave. Very interesting.

Watch it here.


Saturday, November 27, 2010

My 'Tangled' Review

I just saw Tangled. I know my review is a little bit late (and that I haven't posted anything for awhile), but I was out of town (at Disneyland!) and have been unable to post this past week.

Anyways, Tangled, directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard (Bolt), was superb. As with any film, story is the most important part, and Tangled really delivered. The plot was filled with conflict, intrigue, and suspense; there was a very good balance between fast, action-packed scenes and those of deep emotion.

Although, the story did suffer slightly due to an inevitable fact: it's a fairytale. I have nothing against fairytales and I think that they can make a wonderful basis for a story, but I think that this fact made Tangled suffer. While it was really funny and engaging, it was predictable and was restricted by the classic form of the fairytale. While I realize that every story is more or less predictable and restrained by a common plot outline (Hero's Journey!), fairytales suffer the most, especially since the majority of Disney's past films have been in this same genre. Still, it did a decent job of pushing the boundaries of the fairytale further than I thought they could. And I don't think it really hurt the movie, unless you over-analyze it like I am. (But I am very glad that Ed Catmull has announced that Walt Disney Animation Studios will never make another fairytale.)

Combined with the importance of story is the importance of character. Tangled didn't fail us here, either. The villain was very evil (and excellently voiced), which is a necessity for any good story, and the audience really cheered for the main characters. One thing that is always missing from a bad movie is that there isn't a forseeable goal or adequate motivation for the hero or villain--Tangled, however, had an achievable goal and lots of motivation for every character. And that made for quite interesting characters.

However, one problem is that the audience tended to root more for the adventurous rogue of Flynn Rider (most likely due to his unparalleled charisma, classic good looks, and spot-on humor), rather than the real hero of the story, Rapunzel. This is due to the fact that the character of Rapunzel was rather flat and uninteresting; she seemed to act as more of a catalyst for action than a thinking being (think Hitchcock's MacGuffin). Perhaps it's the fact that all she seemed to talk about were those darn flying lanterns. Maybe it's just that she was overshadowed by far more interesting characters. But I think the real reason is that I couldn't relate to her. I can sympathize with Flynn's back-story of rejection and longing, but how could I ever empathize with somebody who's been trapped in a tower for 18 years? I can't. Still, the strength of the other characters easily made up for this minor flaw in Rapunzel.

My favorite character of the movie, however, was the valiant steed, Maximus. He managed to get across so much emotion and humor without ever saying a word--he was really, really funny and well-animated. Whoever managed to animate that horse with such flamboyant and exaggerated emotion deserves an Oscar. And a Golden Globe.

And a Nobel Peace Prize.

Similarly, I appreciated how Pascal the Chameleon was just pantomime; it is so much more interesting and fun to watch a character convey emotion through good acting instead of fast-talking dialogue (I'm looking at you, Donkey of Shrek and every character ever voiced by Wanda Sykes...).

The animation of the whole thing was excellent. Each frame could be framed as a piece of art in its own right--the vibrant colors and excellent art direction made for truly remarkable visuals. I also appreciated how the animators made the chase scenes and characters and gags more "cartoony" by adding classic animation techniques like the squash-and-stretch--it is so entertaining to watch. This nod to the traditional forms of animation, most likely inspired by animation legend Glen Keane, has been missed from a lot of CG films, but is welcome back with open arms. Also, the medieval village and vibrant forest backgrounds are very reminiscent of the gorgeous hand-drawn Disney classics. Glen Keane has done it again!

One negative thing, though, were the songs. While I loved the European-inspired instrumental score, the soundtrack left a lot to be desired. Alan Menken, who wrote the songs for classics like Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin, didn't write one great song for Tangled. I was expecting a Whole New World or Under the Sea, but was left with a generally uninteresting set of melodies. You know it's a good song when you can remember the melody and hum it...and I can't even remember one line from a single tune. It's too bad, really. Disney fairytales are known for their beautiful and catchy soundtracks.

A hot topic that's been surrounding Tangled is whether it is geared towards boys or girls. After the flop that was The Princess and the Frog, Disney's marketing department did a major overhaul of Rapunzel, retitling it, adding pop music to the trailer, and up-playing their male lead and humor. While I think that this marketing technique was an unclassy move for Disney, it seems to have worked, since Tangled is doing fairly well at the Box Office (it didn't beat Potter, but it was the second biggest Thanksgiving opening ever). Back to the issue at hand: I don't think Tangled is aimed at male or female audiences. Like all Disney movies, this movie is for everybody; there are things for the parents, the boys, and the girls. If you enjoy good cinema and have a good sense of humor, you'll enjoy Tangled.

It ain't no Bolt or Toy Story 3 or Lion King, but the great animation, spot-on humor, interesting plot, and overall flow of the story and jokes more than made up for its "fairytale-ness," somewhat weak main character, and lack of decent song-writing. Tangled, Walt Disney Animation Studio's 50th animated feature, is a winner.

9 out of 10.


Friday, November 19, 2010

'TS3': For Your Consideration Ad Campaign

Above you will find a recently-released advertisement--it is part of a "For Your Consideration" campaign by Disney, promoting Toy Story 3 for Best Picture at the Oscars.

There will be numerous more print ads like this one, in which TS3 characters re-enact scenes from films that have previously won the coveted Best Picture prize. This will hopefully convince A.M.P.A.S. voters that animation should be taken just as seriously as any other media of film.

And not only that, but they're going to be super funny. This one is. I can't wait to see other TS3 characters parodying other films...

According to Disney chairman Rich Ross, "We wanted to come up with a campaign that kept our aspirations clear but at the same time used a tongue in cheek approach."

More on the awards season as it develops...

(If you weren't aware, I have already predicted that Toy Story 3 will shatter the Oscars this year and win the Best Picture statuette.)

Source: Deadline


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Two Trailers: 'Pooh' and 'Cars 2'

Briefly: Below, you will find two new Disney trailers, Winnie the Pooh and Cars 2.

I am so excited for Winnie the Pooh. The 51st animated film from Walt Disney Animation Studios is looking great--I am very glad that they kept with the original style of animation. I've got nothing negative to say...

Cars 2. Oh, Cars 2. What will we do with you? Your animation looks exquisite, I am very excited that Michael Caine will be voicing one of your characters (Finn McMissle), and John Lasseter is even directing you. Still, this movie seems to be missing that certain Pixar "edge." It seems too predictable and generic. Sure, it'll be really funny and entertaining, but I don't see how they can possibly fit any heart into the plot. Every Pixar movie thus far has had heart. I don't see any potential for it in Cars 2, but I'm willing to give Pixar and Lasseter the benefit of the doubt.

I think they've earned that at the very least.


Monday, November 15, 2010

A Collection of 'Tangled' Reviews

I have been seeing more and more reviews for Disney's Tangled leaking out within the past week, so I've decided to compile them all right here for your reading pleasure...

The Disney Blog
Movie Viral

I'll update this post as I discover more reviews.

The overall reception for the film is overwhelmingly positive. Many reviewers agree that this film shows Disney "getting back to its roots." It's supposedly very funny with stunning animation...

Although I am disappointed that the marketing campaign took a turn for the worse (by appealing to young boys instead of girls) after The Princess and the Frog flopped at the box office, I am very excited to see this movie. I am expecting great things from Glen Keane, Nathan Greno, and Byron Howard.

The film will be released later this month on November 24. Watch the trailer here.

Also, stay tuned for my exclusive review of Tangled.


'Cars 2' Synopsis and First Still Released!

Above you will find the very first still from Pixar's next feature film, Cars 2, opening June 24, 2011.

Check out the new official synopsis for the film here.

That synopsis makes me a tad bit skeptical. The plot seems too...normal? I'm not sure. It seems like a gimmicky premise that we'd see in a DVD spin-off or something like that. But we'll see; I won't pass any judgments just yet, especially with master story man John Lasseter on hand to direct.

Here's a gorgeous new poster for the film. And, also, stay tuned for the brand new Cars 2 trailer, debuting tomorrow at 11 AM ET/8 AM PT at (The trailer is also set to show before Disney's Tangled.)

(P.S. Sorry for the lack of posting lately. My internet and computer have been on the fritz this past week. But fear not! Regular posting will resume shortly...)


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

'Toy Story 3' Link Round-up: Featurettes, Storyboards, the Screenplay, Interviews, and more!

The Toy Story 3 Blu-ray has been officially released, and I'm planning to watch the complete trilogy back-to-back-to-back this weekend. It's gonna be awesome.

Anyways, to coincide with the release of the Blu-ray and DVD, Disney has released a few things online for our viewing pleasure.

The first is this set of previews, letting you in on what you'll get to see within the Bonus Features section of the Blu-ray.

Next up is a set of storyboards from the "Thrown Away" sequence in Toy Story 3. They are huge images, and slightly cleaner than I'd have expected storyboard drawings to be. Still, they get the action across effectively, and obviously did their job well:

NPR's Fresh Air conducted a wonderful interview with Lee Unkrich and Michael Arndt here. It's definitely worth a listen--if you wondered why you cried at the end of the movie (twice), this will satisfy your curiosity. They talk about everything from advances in technology, to the infamous story retreats, to how Lee thinks of his animators as his actors. Give it a listen if you've got the time. You'll enjoy it. I promise.

Also check out Ned Beatty's (voice of Lotso) recent interview with here.

I also thought I'd mention this article published in the LA Times yesterday. It predicted a victory for the Conservatives at this year's midterm elections, based purely on the popularity of Toy Story 3. While I think that this theory is completely absurd, it's an entertaining op-ed piece.

Finally, Walt Disney Animation Studios has released the complete Toy Story 3 screenplay, written by Michael Arndt, for your reading enjoyment here. It is located on their "Awards" site, which also indicates the other categories that they hope Toy Story 3 will be nominated for. These include Best Original Song for Randy Newman, Best Director for Lee Unkrich, and Best Picture for Darla K. Anderson. See the complete list of potential nominations here.

I'm calling it right now: Toy Story 3 will be the first animated movie to ever win Best Picture at the Oscars. Maybe I'm just being blindly optimistic, but that's how I see it playing out. It really is the most critically-acclaimed and the highest-grossing film of the year. It deserves Best Picture.

I loved Toy Story 3, and am now the proud owner of the complete trilogy on Blu-ray. I'm planning on watching every Toy Story, as well as every special feature, this Friday night. And I can hardly wait.

Next stop: Awards Season!