Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Two New 'TS3' Characters: Chatter Telephone and Chunk

Two new Toy Story 3 characters have been announced! Head over to The Pixar Blog for an exclusive 360° view of Chunk, and Cartoon Brew for one of Chatter Telephone.

Chunk's product description is as follows:

Chunk will rock your world! This gargantuan creature sports protective shoulder spikes, while his ferocious fists are ready to smash whatever enemy gets in his way. Chunk’s oversized limbs are fully poseable, making him ready for hours of imaginative fun. As an added bonus, the press of a hidden head spike will spin Chunk's facial expression from friendly to fierce! No batteries necessary.
No word on who will voice Chunk (or even if he'll have a voice), but Chatter Telephone will be voiced by Pixar artist and director of the upcoming short Day & Night, Teddy Newton.

Toy Story 3 comes out on June 18, and that day cannot come quickly enough.


Sunday, March 28, 2010

Toy Story 3's Special Cliffhanger Screenings

It is common for studios to begin pre-screenings of their films several months before they are released, but Pixar is doing something a little bit different with Toy Story 3. In what they are calling Special Cliffhanger Screenings, only the first 65 minutes of the film will be shown exclusively to college and university students. It will be shown at over 80 schools in 22 states. A valid school ID will be required for admittance, and, of course, no recording devices will be allowed in the theater. As with all pre-screenings, seating will be based on a first come, first served basis, but you will be able to RSVP.

Find out more on Facebook, and watch three somewhat odd, yet funny promos for the special screenings (reload the page for a new video).

What a great move by the marketing department! This will generate extra buzz for an already sure-to-be-hit. Also, all of the college kids who see the first 65 minutes at one of these screenings will simply have to see the rest on June 18. After all, it is called a 'cliffhanger screening.'


Saturday, March 27, 2010

A Three-Dimensional Mess

If you regularly read Disney, etc., you know that I hate 3D. It is a cheap gimmick created by movie studios to reduce their costs. It doesn't make movies better, but it makes them more expensive to make and to see, and it is just an empty trick.

Well, it would appear that the movie studios are still pushing hard on their 3D con, because there is currently an overcrowding problem with 3D films. Even though 3D was created to make theaters install more digital projectors, they haven't yet. Many movie theaters only have two or three digital projectors. This doesn't seem like a problem, but it is. Currently, Alice in Wonderland and How to Train Your Dragon are the big ticket items of the 3D world. There's probably one 3D screen for each at every theater in America due to the lack of digital projectors. However, Clash of the Titans in 3D will come out next week. Theaters are still making money on Alice and How to Train Your Dragon, but Clash of the Titans is a potential blockbuster that they won't want to ignore. What is a theater to do?

Even though I hate 3D, I wish that theaters would hurry up and install more digital projectors. That way, studios will cease shoving 3D down our throats since their con will be complete and their costs will be significantly reduced (digital projectors mean that studios don't need to produce, store, or ship film reels).

Only time will tell us the future of 3D, but I think it looks rather bleak for the cheap gimmick. However, it will continue going strong until theaters address this overcrowding problem and install more digital projectors, but that is exactly what the studio execs want to happen. What an interesting and unfortunate three-dimensional mess.


My Review of 'How to Train Your Dragon'

In 2006, Chris Sanders was removed from his post at Disney Animation Studios. Previously, he had worked on Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, Mulan, and directed Lilo and Stitch. He was directing the feature American Dog (which would later be renamed Bolt), but was fired by Lasseter, who called Sanders' take on the film “too quirky for its own good.” So, once Sanders cleaned out his desk and left the Mouse for good, he was snatched up by Katzenberg. How to Train Your Dragon is the outcome.

DreamWorks Animation does not have a flawless record when it comes to their films. Over the Hedge was decent, but Monsters vs. Aliens was really awful. Shrek and Kung Fu Panda were great, but The Bee Movie and Shark Tale were just bad. I wasn't sure what I would think of How to Train Your Dragon, but was pleasantly surprised by what I did.

(Spoiler Alert!)

In the Viking village of Berk, killing dragons is a way of life. Dragons regularly raid the village for food, and the Vikings always retaliate, being lead by their chief Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler). Every member of the town contributes to the cause of destroying the beasts—they all either fight or make weapons or keep the women and children safe. Well, every member except for Hiccup, that is. Hiccup longs to become a heroic dragon-killer like his father, the chief, but he is scrawny and weak.

During one of the dragons' attacks on the village, Hiccup tests a large catapult he's created and successfully takes down a dreaded Night Fury dragon, the likes of which have never been seen. The next day, Hiccup hikes through the forest and finds the fallen brute. Carefully, our hero approaches the creature with his knife drawn, preparing to cut its heart out to earn the honor and respect he's been dreaming of. But, at the last second, he decides to cut the ropes and free the creature instead.

Hiccup returns several days later and sees that the dragon's tail was damaged. Hiccup creates a new tail attachment for Toothless (what he has named the Night Fury), and very carefully approaches him to fasten it on. After some modifications, the new tail works perfectly, and Hiccup and Toothless quickly become best friends.

Being best friends with the dragon, Hiccup quickly realizes that everybody's beliefs about dragons are completely wrong. The Vikings think that the dragons are evil, brutish creatures who only live to attack and kill, whereas the truth is that the dragons are frightened, calm creatures who only fight in defense. If they're treated kindly, like Hiccup treats Toothless, then the dragons really are gentle beings. When the chief decides to hunt for the dragons' nest, Hiccup tries to explain that the dragons really aren't vicious creatures at all. But trying to change the beliefs of generations and generations of his father's people provokes an absolute war between the dragons and vikings, and only Hiccup and his faithful Toothless can end the madness once and for all.

(End Spoiler Alert!)

How to Train Your Dragon's story is fairly straightforward. There is an outcast who dreams of doing bigger and better things, eventually gets his chance to do so, and then succeeds. This universal plot outline is known as the Hero's Journey, and is followed exactly by How to Train Your Dragon. That's not to say it's a bad thing—almost every story follows the Hero's Journey in one way or another, and this movie managed to utilize the universal outline very well.

The most amazing aspect of this movie for me were the two main characters, Hiccup and Toothless. How to Train Your Dragon nails one of the most important aspects of any film: having a likable main character that audiences will cheer for. From the opening of How to Train Your Dragon, you want Hiccup to succeed. The filmmakers managed to make Hiccup a really likable and innocent guy that served the story well.

Even more amazing than that, though, was the relationship created between Toothless and Hiccup. The connection that this boy and dragon have is heart-wrenching and incredible, and is conveyed through almost no dialogue. Chris Sanders has turned the silent, strong relationship between a kid and their pet into an art form within itself with Lilo and Stitch and now How to Train Your Dragon. There are parts of the film when you forget you're watching a movie and feel genuinely frightened that Hiccup will lose Toothless. It is a truly remarkable aspect of this film.

How to Train Your Dragon had decent animation. Every dragon was unique and colorful and just plain interesting to look at. There were many different types of dragons, all with imaginative names and powers. One reason why I loved the dragons' animation so much was because of the amount of emotion the animators managed to convey through solely their eyes. Another aspect of the animation I loved were the settings. The forest, village, and volcano were all very detailed, colorful, and works of art on their own. Although the animators were very skilled when it came to the dragons and settings, they were fairly lazy with the Vikings. The eyes were lifeless, the cloth and hair were inorganic, and the characters' acting lacked believability and humor. It was pretty distracting for someone like me who appreciates great animation and is very particular about what they like, but I doubt that the average moviegoer would notice. After all, it wasn't that bad.

Another great thing about How to Train Your Dragon was its soundtrack. While I was expecting the usual rap- and rock-laden track that so commonly graces Katzenberg's features, I was surprised to find that this particular film didn't. Instead, it was scored by an orchestra. And, more than that, its score was inspiring, beautiful, and very relevant to the subject matter. The music really helped heighten the action and emotion, and also helped to transport you back to the times of the Vikings. I've already purchased the soundtrack, and love the score even without the film playing along with it.

As Forrest Gump might say if he reviewed films, “DreamWorks is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you're gonna get.” Some of their films are high-quality, entertaining movies worthy of Oscars while others are just embarrassingly awful. From the trailer, I couldn't decide where How to Train Your Dragon would fall on the Katzenberg Spectrum, but now I'm proud to say that it's one of my favorite films to come from DreamWorks. It is funny, touching, full of action, beautifully scored and animated, and imaginative. After seeing How to Train Your Dragon, Lasseter might actually think twice about letting Chris Sanders go.

I give How to Train Your Dragon a solid 8 out of 10. We can only hope that Sanders' next feature for DreamWorks, The Croods, is just as good.


Monday, March 22, 2010

Some Un-Disney Links

Although my passions lie with Disney and Pixar, you may have noticed that I love all movies. And since the Disney news has been quiet lately, I thought I'd give you some links to update you about the part of Hollywood without Mouse ears:

Sony's animation division has announced that they are planning a 3D, CG version of the classic, spinach-lovin' Popeye. Producer Avi Arad is heading the project, after turning the Spider-Man franchise into a "powerhouse" for the studio.

The long and complicated casting search for the title role of The First Avenger: Captain America is finally over. After all of the possible stars, including The Office's John Krasinski, Speed Racer's Scott Porter, and Channing Tatum, they have finally settled on Chris Evans (Fantastic 4, Push). It is rumored that his contract if for a staggering 9 picture option and a quite un-staggering $300,000. Stay tuned for more details on all of the upcoming Marvel films.

While we're on the subject of casting action movies, the cast of Transformers 3 is starting to take shape. The huge Michael Bay production will, surprisingly, feature John Malkovich and Frances McDormand.

Finally watch the above trailer. I don't have much more to say about that; Sylvain Chomet's The Illusionist looks great.

That's all the news there is now. Keep checking back for more movie, Disney, and Pixar news.


Thursday, March 18, 2010

'Megamind' Teaser

Below you will find the teaser trailer that has just been released for DreamWorks' upcoming 3D, CG film Megamind. Here's the brief synopsis:

When super villain MegaMind (Ferrell) defeats his archrival Metro Man (Brad Pitt), the world should be his oyster. But instead, MegaMind falls into total despair. It turns out that life without a rival is life without a point for him. So, he creates a new superhero rival, Titan (Jonah Hill). Unfortunately, the new hero wants to be a super villain, too. Caught in the middle, star reporter Roxanne Ritchi (Tina Fey) asks the tough questions: Who can we turn to? Who has what it takes to stand up to this menace? Who will defend the innocent? MegaMind! That’s who.
Here's the trailer:

Well, this looks terrible. The characters don't fit in their environments, the jokes are very contrived and not funny, and Katzenberg appears to be relying heavily upon the films' "star power," which is never a good sign. It may seem like I have something against DreamWorks, but I don't. I just have something against bad movies. And it seems like DreamWorks' three movies per year plan is resulting in awful movie after awful movie.

Plus, doesn't this seem an awful lot like Despicable Me?

This is only a teaser, and I'm not going to judge it completely just yet, but we'll see come November...


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

'Toy Story 3' at ShoWest

Yesterday, Toy Story 3 premiered at ShoWest (a convention for movie theater exhibitors) in fabulous Las Vegas. The film was 85% animated and partially scored, but the consensus among the audience members seems to be fairly unanimous: Pixar has an eleventh masterpiece on their hands. While they aren't allowed to reveal anything about the plot, the critics still have a lot to say:

  • Cinema Blend "Toy Story 3 fits perfectly in line with the Pixar legacy, and almost definitely represents the 11th hit in a row for the remarkable studio ...I guarantee you will enjoy this film."
  • Jim Hill Media "For starters, you should bring Kleenex. Lots & lots of Kleenex. Because I can guarantee you that you’re going to spend a good portion of the last 30 minutes of this film in tears...I sat in that hall today surrounded by hardened industry professionals. Exhibitors who care more about how much popcorn & soda they’re selling than the movies they’re currently showing at their multiplexes. And these jaded theater owners – as Toy Story 3 entered the home stretch – were openly weeping. Tears streaming down hundreds of faces..."
  • ComingSoon.net "Like the best Pixar movies, it's consistently funny, exciting and moving, sometimes all three at the same time... Toy Story 3 is the type of movie that I could definitely see again right away..."
  • Entertainment Weekly "This might be one you sneak off to see with your spouse after you’ve watched it once with the kids."
Well, that's quite the accolades for one showing of a film. And a film that's only 85% done. Toy Story 3 already has rave reviews, and the film can only get better from here.

Day & Night, the short coming before Toy Story 3 was also shown and has equally ecstatic reviews. From ScreenCrave: "It was amazing. Simple and smooth, yet poignant and sentimental. The use of colors and sometimes the lack of color, mixed with the fluid and continual movement of the characters was exceptional, even more so than some of their past shorts. . . They manage to cover everything that they achieve with their feature length films in a matter of well placed moments and looks without and unnecessary dialogue. Truly amazing."

Some other tidbits of Pixar news from ShoWest include the above theater display that I'd love to get my hands on, a deal with Dolby, and news about Toy Story 3's soundtrack.

This is all great news! I knew Toy Story 3 would be great, but the great reviews it's getting makes me want to see it even more.

93 days and counting...