Friday, June 25, 2010

Lasseter to the Rescue!

Cars 2 is the next Pixar feature. It is slated to be released on June 24, 2011, and is currently having some problems. Not as many problems as newt, but more like the development problems that Ratatouille experienced before Brad Bird took over. However, it is fair to say that the problems will soon cease to exist, as John Lasseter has recently been working very closely with Brad Lewis, the film's director, since these problems arose.

Jim Hill of Jim Hill Media states that at Disney's Hollywood Showcase, he was told that Lasseter has been officially named the film's co-director. This is both surprising, and un-surprising. It is surprising because he is one busy individual--working on Disney animated features and theme park attractions. It is un-surprising since he directed Cars, and would want a strong sequel. Plus, if he's already been working closely with the director to hash out issues, he might as well get credit for it.

Whatever the case, Lasseter's presence in a film's development can never be a bad thing. He definitely knows what he is doing...


Sunday, June 20, 2010

The Toys Give Pixar its Best Opening Ever

The pros estimate that Toy Story 3's final earnings of this weekend were a whopping $109 million! This is a land slide victory that puts the film high above Pixar's #2 opening, The Incredibles, at a measly $70.5 million. Of course, this means that Toy Story 3, like every other Pixar film to date, was #1 for its opening weekend.

In addition to this accomplishment, TS3 also had the second best opening weekend for any animated film, behind only Shrek the Third which earned $121.6 million.

Excellent job, Pixar! You've done it! You should all be very proud of yourselves, especially you, Mr. Lee Unkrich.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

'TS3' Reviews + Rotten Tomatoes Update

Toy Story 3 is a great film. If you've read my review, you know that I loved it. The critics have spoken, and they all completely agree with me. The final film of the Toy Story trilogy is a smash hit, both at the box office and when it comes to reviews. I was going to compile a list of my favorite reviews, but Mike over at The Pixar Blog has an even more comprehensive list than mine; check it out here and here. All of these reviews offer valuable insight to anybody who is still wondering why they enjoyed the film so much.

But, if you just want the Cliffs Notes of what the critics thought, I recommend that you look no further than Rotten Tomatoes, a site that compiles all of the reviews for you. Currently, Toy Story 3 is the second best reviewed film of all-time on the site with a 99%, ranked only behind its predecessor in the trilogy, Toy Story 2.

TS3 has 153 tallied reviews--151 of them "Fresh" and the other two "Rotten". The two men who tarnished an otherwise flawless record for the picture are none other than Armond White and Cole Smithey, both of which are notorious for giving critically-acclaimed movies a bad name, just for attention. In fact, there's an online petition going around to get White (who has given every Pixar film a "Rotten" review, but Norbit a positive one) banned from RT. It currently has over 1,700 signatures (including mine), and I suggest you sign it as well.

Despite two hacks who call themselves critics, Toy Story 3 has a glowing record so far, and will continue to. Do I smell an Oscar? Or maybe even two? We'll see... But one thing is for sure: Lee Unkrich is gonna need a wheelbarrow for all of his award statues come award season.

Sources: The Pixar Blog, RT


'Toy Story 3': a Box Office Record Breaker

Toy Story 3 earned a record-breaking $41 million yesterday at the box office, putting it ahead of Up and WALL-E (both earning under $25 million in their first days). This also gives the film a very good chance of beating The Incredibles' opening weekend box office of $70.5 million, Pixar's best to date.

The film is currently playing at over 4,000 theaters across North America.

Will Toy Story 3 be Pixar's biggest opening ever? You'd better believe it.

Source: AP


Friday, June 18, 2010

Best. Toy Story. Ever.

In 1988, John Lasseter wrote and directed the Pixar short Tin Toy. It was a very crude short film that won an Oscar, as well as the admiration of the animation and filmmaking world. Quickly after the then-revolutionary short was released, Pixar was commissioned by Disney to produce a feature film. Ed Catmull recommended a one-hour TV special to the Mouse instead of a film, but Disney quickly replied that: "If you can make a one-hour special, you can make an hour-and-a-half long picture."

Lasseter was still the big-wig creative at Pixar then (and, some might debate that he still is), and he loved the idea of toys coming to life. So, Pixar set out to turn the short Tin Toy into the world's first CG-animated movie. From this notion, Toy Story was born.

It's been over two decades since Tin Toy debuted, and here we are still enjoying Pixar's anthropomorphic toys. And, let me tell you, we are really enjoying them.

Toy Story 3 is the best film of the Toy Story trilogy. I know that it may be considered bad etiquette to begin a review so blatantly with my straight opinion, but, it's the truth. Toy Story 3 was that good. But, without further ado, if you want to know why it was so good, here's my review (Spoiler Alert!):

Plot Synopsis

Toy Story explodes onto the screen in an epic scene jam-packed with train crashes, explosions, chases, and the familiar "Death by Monkeys" and "forcefield dog." Woody and Mr. Potato Head (er, One-Eyed Bart) have a thrilling fight on top of a speeding train. The tracks running over a bridge explode, and Woody plunges into oblivion. But who is there to save him? Buzz Lightyear of course! The scene continues, getting more and more ridiculous and funny. Then after the over-the-top action sequence that might as well have come out of a Michael Bay or Jerry Bruckheimer picture, we find out that the whole scene is taking place in Andy's imagination. Cue the classic Randy Newman tune "You've Got a Friend in Me" as we get treated to more footage filmed by Andy's Mom of him playing lovingly with his toys.

But, everybody grows up. Once Mr. Newman is done singing and the VHS-quality video fades out, we find out that Andy has grown up and is moving off to college. His mom makes him decide what to do with his old toys, and gives him three options: donate them, put them out for the garbage man, or store them in the attic. Andy decides on the latter for all of his toys except Woody, who's going off to college with him. But after some confusion and excitement, the toys, including Woody, are all sent off to the Sunnyside Daycare Center.

Upon arriving at the new, strange place, Lotso the Strawberry-Scented Bear greets the toys with a big grin and lots of hugs. All of the center's toys are friendly, and the place seems almost heavenly for a toy. Andy's toys are excited that they will finally be played with after so many years. Woody, however, insists that they all have to do their jobs: "be there for Andy when he needs us, no matter what."

Despite his best efforts, Woody has to make his way back to Andy's alone. After an exhilarating scene involving a lot of toy-acrobatics and kite-flying, however, he is found and brought home by a little girl named Bonnie, and is lovingly played with again, just like Andy used to play with him. The other toys in Bonnie's room are very funny, especially the hedgehog Mr. Pricklepants (pictured above), who is a very well-versed thespian.

Meanwhile, the other toys learn that the daycare is not all that it's cracked up to be. They get put in the "Caterpillar Room," which is for the toddlers. And, trust me, being played with by toddlers from a toy's perspective is horrifying, as Buzz, Rex, Hamm, Jessie, and the others quickly find out in a rather darkly humorous scene.

Once the daycare closes and the toys decide they'd much rather be in the pleasant "Butterfly Room" for the older kids, Buzz escapes from the Caterpillar Room to seek out the cheerful leader, Lotso. What he finds, however, is that all of the toys at Sunnyside are being held captive.

Lotso finds Buzz's manual and resets him, turning him into one of the strawberry-scented villain's many henchman. The other toys are all put in cages and given a very stern speech from the new Buzz about "the box"--a scene that is humorously lifted from the classic film Cool Hand Luke. (Click here to see the scene I'm talking about--it's the first minute or so.)

Bonnie's Mom works at Sunnyside, so many of her toys move freely between her house and the daycare (that is, if they can avoid detection). Therefore, Woody quickly finds out what Sunnyside really is: a place of darkness and despair. He gets told the tragic story of Lotso by Chuckles, a depressed clown voiced by Pixar's own Bud Luckey. Lotso, Chuckles, and the Big Baby were all Daisy's favorite toys. One day, Daisy took them to the park but forgot them there. After the trio of toys had waited for weeks and weeks and traveled far to find her again, they discovered that she had replaced them with new toys. "Something snapped inside Lotso that day." They then found Sunnyside, and Lotso slowly gained power, eventually becoming the dictator of the daycare center.

The majority of the rest of the movie is an elaborate, The Great Escape-esque escape sequence that consists of a lot of humor and a bunch of action. The escape ends with Woody, Buzz, Hamm, Rex, the Potato Heads, Slink, Jessie, and Bullseye slowly slipping into the dump's enormous incinerator. Jessie turns to Buzz and asks "What do we do now?" Buzz slowly looks up and takes her hand in his. The rest of the gang follows suit and all join hands, forming a circle of friends as they all slip slowly to their imminent doom. This scene is so intensely emotional, that I get teary-eyed just thinking about it.

After the audience has used up all of their Kleenex however, they're gonna need to find some more. Pixar has constructed an emotional one-two punch for the last twenty minutes of Toy Story 3. After the gang escapes the dump and makes it back to Andy's, Woody decides that the best place for them to be is at Bonnie's house; a toy should have a proper owner that knows about playtime. Thus, the final scene is almost equally-emotional, consisting of a seventeen-year-old Andy sitting in the grass, giving all of his toys to the young Bonnie. He fondly introduces each toy, then plays with them for one last time. He drives off to college, leaving Woody, Buzz, and the rest of the toys we all love to a brand new owner who will love the toys just as much as Andy did, to infinity and beyond.

(End Spoiler Alert!)

Toy Story 3 is a superb film. It combines classic lines for us die hard fans, comedy, romance, action, Hollywood's best animation, and a wonderful score to create something that I still can't believe I saw.

The Story
Storytelling is at the heart of what Pixar does, and should be at the heart of every film. That's why their films just work: they focus on story over everything else. Story is king. And, let me tell you, story is definitely the king of Toy Story 3. From the outset, you are thrown on an emotional journey that you never thought you could have with a bunch of talking toys. How is it that Pixar can tell us all so much about the human heart through simple pixels assembled into some toys? I don't have an answer for you, but I don't think that I want an answer. I'd prefer not to know. But whatever it is, I hope they never change it. Toy Story 3's practically flawless story is such an intensely emotional roller coaster that it is really difficult to convey through words in this single post. You really do have to go out and see it for yourself. You won't be disappointed--I promise.

The Animation
Pixar is the world's best animation studio. While they didn't earn this title by devoting all of their energy to developing new animation techniques, it certainly hasn't stopped them from doing so. Toy Story 3 is gorgeously animated with brand new, well-designed characters, visually-stunning backgrounds and action scenes, and such clarity and flawlessness that it's so obvious how much the technology has advanced since the first Toy Story. I know I said the same thing about Up, but you could take any given frame from Toy Story 3 and have it stand alone as its own true piece of art. The characters and objects really are animated that well.

The Score
I don't have much to say about the score, except for the fact that it successfully heightened every emotion of the movie, which is exactly what a score should do. Randy Newman has done it again! I especially enjoyed the Latin music-inspired score when Buzz was reset to Spanish mode, as well as the new song "We Belong Together." Oh, and the awesome Gipsy Kings cover of "You've Got a Friend in Me" is already my ringtone. It's great. Check out the whole soundtrack at Amazon here.

I grew up with Woody and Buzz and the other toys. I feel like I know each and every one of them like they were my best friends. That may sound geeky, or even creepy, but it's true. That's how powerful films can be if you have creative people like those at Pixar helming them. Many were doubtful that a third film could live up to the first two Toy Stories, but 3's loyalty to the themes of friendship and the fact that everybody grows up gives the movie so much heart that you are forced to look at it as the perfect ending to the world's greatest trilogy of films.

If you loved the first two Toy Story films (and, really, who couldn't?), you will laugh harder, cry harder, and be even more entertained in this final installation when you see the last of Rex, Hamm, Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head, Slink, Buzz, and Sheriff Woody.

I (easily) give Toy Story 3 a 10 out of 10.


'TS3' Easter Eggs

Briefly: /Film has just posted a list of "easter eggs" from Toy Story 3. These easter eggs are almost all references to other Pixar features, which is a tradition for the 25-year-old studio. And with the very colorful and intricate scenes of the daycare, the animators had a lot of freedom when it came to hiding these references. One of the more obvious ones is pictured above--Buzz's battery is a BnL brand battery, straight from the universe of WALL-E!

Check out the awesome inside jokes made exclusively for us die hard fans here.


Monday, June 14, 2010

New 'Inception' Featurette

Ever since I saw
Momento, I knew that Christopher Nolan knew how to make a movie. Then, I saw The Dark Knight, and that just reassured me that he is a master of the art of film. His next feature, Inception, looks thoroughly confusing, entertaining, and visually stunning. Watch the video embedded above to learn more about it, and see some cool behind-the-scenes footage.

The film looks, if nothing else, very pretty. There are a lot of new shots and things in that featurette that I haven't seen elsewhere, but that make the film look even better than I could have imagined. I have no idea what the movie is going to be about, but one thing is for sure: I really want one of those big spinny rooms in my basement.

Direct from, here's the unofficial synopsis:
Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) is a skilled thief, the absolute best in the dangerous art of extraction, stealing valuable secrets from deep within the subconscious during the dream state, when the mind is at its most vulnerable. Cobb's rare ability has made him a coveted player in this treacherous new world of corporate espionage, but it has also made him an international fugitive and cost him everything he has ever loved.

Now Cobb is being offered a chance at redemption. One last job could give him his life back but only if he can accomplish the impossible: inception. Instead of the perfect heist, Cobb and his team of specialists have to pull off the reverse: their task is not to steal an idea but to plant one. If they succeed, it could be the perfect crime. But no amount of careful planning or expertise can prepare the team for the dangerous enemy that seems to predict their every move. An enemy that only Cobb could have seen coming.
Inception, directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, will be released on July 16 of this year.


'Toy Story 3' World Premiere

If you had the pleasure of walking down Hollywood Blvd. yesterday, you would have noticed a lot of commotion coming from Disney's El Capitan theater. All of that commotion would have been the world premiere of Toy Story 3.

A lot of Pixar and Disney personalities showed up--director Lee Unkrich, Tim Allen (voice of Buzz), Tom Hanks (voice of Woody), composer Randy Newman, John Lasseter, Disney CEO Bob Iger--as well as some other celebrities, such as Buzz Aldrin and Britney Spears.

Check out Daylife and for a ton of photos, as well as TrailerAddict for some great on-the-spot interviews.

Only 3 more days...


Sunday, June 13, 2010

Possible Replacements for Del Toro

Briefly: Wired has recently released a hilarious article that proposes five alternative directors to helm The Hobbit, but then quickly decides against all of them. These directors include Terry Gilliam whose "famed bad luck comes into play" and dooms the whole production, Tim Burton but "doubt sets in when Johnny Depp is brought on to play Gandalf," George Lucas who "changes the plot to be about Sauron's early life as an adorable toddler caught in the middle of a continent-spanning dispute over water rights," Michael Bay and Uwe Boll. There's some really funny stuff in there if you're as into movies as I am.

Source: Wired


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Quench Your Toy Story Thirst: Lots of Interviews, Articles, Videos, and More [UPDATED!]

This is it, folks. Toy Story 3 is right around the corner; we have just one more week until we get to see Pixar's eleventh feature in all of its glory.

If you think that the wait is going to be impossible, I have good news for you: this is a super-duper mega post packed to the brim with interviews, videos, featurettes, advertisements, and more, all about Toy Story 3. This thing will take you about a week to get through, then, without you even realizing where the time went, it will be time for you to see the third installment of Pixar's most lovable franchise.

So, without further ado, here's a slew of Toy Story 3 stuff to indulge yourself with:

Two Video Interviews with Tom Hanks and Tim Allen:

There are some great quotes in those interviews. Especially when Tom talks about how emotional he and Tim got during Jessie's song in Toy Story 2. It just shows how powerful Pixar's unique attention to story can be.

TrailerAddict has released 3 new clips from Toy Story 3:

The New York Times has a very interesting article about how director Lee Unkrich and production designer Bob Pauley designed all of the new characters that we'll see in Toy Story 3. Unkrich describes how his "primary goal was to not screw it up. I really wanted to stay true to the world and the characters."

In an article on AMC's, Michael Keaton discusses (in great and humorous detail) his TS3 character, Ken.

And, finally, Google and Disney teamed up to bring you the following advertisement. I love these Google commercials, and the fact that it's Toy Story makes it 10 times better. Very clever and cool. It will show before most, if not all, showings of Toy Story 3:

UPDATE: Here are two featurettes entitled Old Friends, New Places and New Faces, respectively. Cast and crew discuss various aspects of making Pixar's next feature. Enjoy:

Wasn't that great?! That took your mind off of the excruciating wait for at least an hour, plus, it was really interesting! I hope you enjoyed the super-mega Toy Story 3 post. Stay tuned for more TS3 news as June 18 gets ever closer.

Only 6 more days...


Thursday, June 10, 2010

15 Seconds of 'Tangled'

Above is the very first that anybody has ever seen of Disney's upcoming animated film, Tangled. It's short and has quick cuts, but I can already tell that it is going to be a gorgeous film--while computer-generated, it looks like it will retain the quality and depth of the hand-drawn Disney films we all love. Here's hoping...


Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Early 'TS3' Reviews: Variety and THR

Briefly: The cinema-oriented publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter have just released their reviews of Toy Story 3. While I don't personally recommend reading a review of a film before seeing it, some people are adamant about it. So, if you're one of these people: Variety, THR.


Monday, June 7, 2010

The Making of 'Day & Night'

Watch that video. Now. It is the making of Day & Night. It shows great drawings and concept art, as well as some great interview footage from the crew of Pixar's upcoming short, Day & Night. The director discusses his inspirations for the short, as well as the 3D aspect of it. Also, it has a brand new clip from Day & Night! It's a great, brief video.

This short is looking better and better, and more and more unique. And, according to the video, John Lasseter agrees. I cannot wait to see it on June 18, before Toy Story 3.


Sunday, June 6, 2010

'The Men Who Would Be King'

If you look at Disney, etc. often, you'll know I am a Pixar and Disney guy, and not too fond of DreamWorks Animation as a whole. Sure, they have some great films such as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, but, overall, their films aren't of the same quality as Disney or Pixar. Still, I love movies and animation, and am interested in all of the studios' histories and creative methods. Therefore, I am definitely going to pick up a copy of The Men Who Would Be King: An Almost Epic Tale of Moguls, Movies, and a Company Called DreamWorks. It has great reviews (here's one from Business Week), and apparently contains a lot of thorough research and animation history. Here's an interview with the book's author, Nicole Laporte. When asked if DreamWorks will ever surpass Pixar, Laporte comments:

The Pixar culture is the anti-Hollywood studio. It’s based in Northern California. They nurture these ideas over years. At Dreamworks, it’s much more about the way a live action movie gets made. You hire Judd Apatow to come in one day and write some jokes and punch it up. At this point, Pixar is head and shoulders above everyone. I don’t see them passing on the crown any time soon. But I think Katzenberg has seen the folly of his ways. I think he realized you have to let the artist be the artist.
The book is available from Amazon now for $18.50.

Source: Cartoon Brew


Saturday, June 5, 2010

The 'TS3' Soundtrack

The Amazon product page for the Toy Story 3 album has just gone live, and reveals a lot. It has a complete track listing, the album cover, and a 30-second sample of each track.

All tracks on the soundtrack are by Randy Newman. All, that is, except for the Spanish version of "You've Got a Friend in Me," which is performed by one of my favorite bands, the Gipsy Kings.

Here's the complete track listing:

  1. We Belong Together
  2. You've Got a Friend in Me (para el Buzz EspaƱol)
  3. Cowboy!
  4. Garbage?
  5. Sunnyside
  6. Woody Bails
  7. Come to Papa
  8. Go See Lotso
  9. Bad Buzz
  10. You Got Lucky
  11. Spanish Buzz
  12. What About Daisy?
  13. To The Dump
  14. The Claw
  15. Going Home
  16. So Long
  17. Zu-Zu (Ken's Theme)
The album will be available through Amazon, iTunes, and other online music sellers on Tuesday, June 15, and, unfortunately, will be available in the digital download format only. It will, however, come with a PDF booklet filled with pictures, album credits, song notes, etc.

Very exciting! I am definitely most excited for the Gipsy Kings' rendition of one of my favorite songs, "You've Got a Friend in Me"; it's gonna be great. See the product page for the album here.

Toy Story 3 comes out in theaters on June 18--only 13 days left!


Friday, June 4, 2010

20 New 'Toy Story' Stills

Toy Story 3 is only two weeks away. Two weeks. I can hardly wait, and I know that if you're reading this post, you're very anxious to see the sure-to-be-hit this June 18, as well.

Well, in typical marketing style, Pixar has released 20 new still images from Toy Story 3. Nothing too new about them--mostly just high res versions of stills that can be seen in the trailer. Still, it's something to stare at and pass the time during these next two weeks...

Click to enlarge.