Sunday, February 27, 2011

The 83rd Annual Academy Awards

The biggest night in Hollywood has just about wrapped up (at least it has for you and I--I'm sure the night has just begun for all of the big stars out there), and I have to say there were absolutely no surprises this year. The King's Speech was the big winner, with four awards for Best Actor, Screenplay, Directing, and Picture--it certainly deserved these awards. It was a phenomenal cinematic piece.

And, of course, Toy Story 3 won for Best Animated Feature (see pics of the Animated Feature Symposium from a few days ago at TPB here) and Randy Newman won for Best Original Song, "We Belong Together." Oh, and he had, by far, the best acceptance speech of the night. Although I am ecstatic he won this award, what was up with his "live performance"? The tempo was way sped up, Randy's voice was drowned out, and none of the instrumentation but the piano was live. That aspect of the awards were a bit of a let-down.

In fact, the whole ceremony felt very detached and weird; they kept trying to find a theme with their little vignettes about past Oscar shows, but nothing really clicked. Not only that, but all of the jokes were, quite frankly, just lame. And Anne Hathaway was plain annoying. The whole time . . . I approve of the winners (although I still think Toy Story 3 should have won Best Picture, and Day & Night for Animated Short), but the show itself could have been much better.

Congrats to the crew at Pixar, the guys behind The King's Speech, and all of the other winners.


Brilliant New Pooh Poster

Above you will find yet another stunning poster for the upcoming animated feature Winnie-the-Pooh. The animators did brilliant work on this poster and this one, but the newest poster is quite simply brilliant--and the best. It is very minimalistic and tells a wonderful story while also showing off lots of characters and their familiar personalities. I really hope the awesome set of posters speak to the film itself.

I think I have stated how thoroughly excited I am for this movie before, but it bears repeating... I am excited for this movie!


Friday, February 25, 2011

Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation Stills

Above and below you will find the just released, hi-res stills from Pixar's upcoming short, Toy Story: Hawaiian Vacation. The short will be attached to Cars 2 (and we will be treated to yet another Toy Story short before the upcoming Muppets film), and it looks like lots of hilarious fun . . . Awesome!!


Monday, February 21, 2011

'Cars 2' Daytona 500 Spot

Above you will find a brand new, minute-long spot for Cars 2 that aired this past weekend during the Daytona 500. The ad features tons of never-before-seen footage, and does a great job balancing the action, humor, and sheer amount new characters.

I'm still skeptical about Cars 2, but this television spot makes me slightly more optimistic--not because it makes the film look better, but just more fun. And, while I expect heart over fun from Pixar, a lot of fun in a movie is never something to be frowned upon.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Some Pixar Links: a Grammy, a BAFTA, Some New Cars and Lotsa Toys

There's been a lot of Pixar news recently, and I decided I'd share it with you like the good, little Blogger I am. You'll find it all packaged, nice 'n' neat, below . . .

Toy Story 3, ever the favorite of everyone, has won two more awards: a Grammy for Best Score Soundtrack Album and a BAFTA Award for Best Animated Feature. Good job, Pixar! Now all that's left is for the Academy to give you that award for Best Picture.

New Cars 2 characters have been announced, including some voiced by John Turturro and Eddie Izzard. Those are two very funny and wonderful actors, so I am very excited that they will be joining the cast of Pixar's next film. However, the fact that the cast keeps growing on the film is making me anxious . . . is Pixar really being this gimmicky with their film and marketing campaign? I haven't had a good feeling about Cars 2 from the get-go, but let's hope that I'm wrong.

Last but not least, we have Pixar at the American International Toy Fair! Watch the embedded video above for the scoop, including Michael Caine revealing a life-size Finn McMissile, and an on-stage discussion with voice actors Caine and Emily Mortimer. Also check out this link and this one and, for kicks, this one for more of the Cars 2 toy announcements from the fair . . . and you know there's lots of 'em! Disney loves merchandising, especially when it comes to Cars.


Some Brief Thoughts on 'Gnomeo and Juliet'

This past weekend I saw Gnomeo and Juliet. It's a film from the defunct banner under Disney, Miramax. Any of you who frequent Disney, etc. would know after one look at the trailer that it's the type of film I tend to avoid and, frankly, smack talk on a regular basis--it's filled with pop culture references, motormouth sidekicks, and just about every other gimmick in the book that takes away from what's important: story. However, even with those faults, I found the movie very witty, the characters very entertaining, and the entire thing a joy to watch.

I think the reason that I liked it so much in lieu of the gimmickry is that it is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, and therefore you aren't really looking for a story as you watch it. I know this is utterly contrary to everything else I have ever preached on the blog before, but it's true--since I know the plot of Romeo and Juliet and know exactly what will happen next, I am not looking for a story, and therefore the empty gimmicks were not a distraction, since there was nothing for them to distract from. In fact, the gimmicks were quite welcome--think of the film as more of a basic retelling of a Shakespearean tale as the backdrop for countless jokes, musical numbers, and hilarious characters. This was less of an actual movie and more of a circus, if you will--you don't watch it for the plot or emotional value, but for the sheer spectacle and great humor. Something like Shrek 3 (or 4 or 5 or whatever-the-heck number they're on now) falls flat because it's a "circus" that's trying to tell a story; while it has clever gimmicks and funny jokes, these are strewn across an attempt at a plot, which is meant to create emotional reaction in the audience. When this plot and the "circus-ness" mix inside the viewer's head, what results is a muddled mess of confusion and disappointment. The creators of Gnomeo and Juliet cleverly stepped around this problem by simply ignoring the plot aspect and replacing it with a well-known and purposefully predictable story.

So, I think that's the main reason I enjoyed Gnomeo and Juliet despite its constant gimmicks. Besides, the gimmicks were really funny. There were several characters, such as the rubber garden frog, a plastic Hispanic flamingo, and a small, angry reindeer that were very unique and funny and great to watch. Also, there were numerous Shakespeare references throughout the film that I most certainly appreciated, such as a moving truck which read "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Moving Company," a glue bottle labeled "The Taming of the Glue," and neighbor apartments with the addresses "2B" and "Not 2B". It was filled with back-to-back jokes, and I laughed out loud more times during that film than I have since Toy Story 3 . . . and that's a lot.

I am a huge Elton John fan, so I was ecstatic when I found out that the entire soundtrack was Elton John songs and the score was based on his works. The integration of the songs was great, and I especially loved it when they replaced the lyrics with garden gnome-related terms and it was sung by the characters themselves. Elton should be proud. Great stuff.

Needless to say, Gnomeo and Juliet is worth seeing. While it lacks a plot, it is funny with great characters and an Elton John soundtrack to boot. It won't be winning any Oscars or getting any raving reviews from the stuck-up critics or even a decent standing at the box office, but if you can manage to shut your brain off for a few hours and just let yourself be entertained, I don't think you'll be disappointed.

7 out of 10.

(Oh, and you'll enjoy the film much, much more if you read the play Romeo and Juliet by Shakespeare before seeing it. There are many little inside jokes and nods to the play that are really cool and quite hysterical.)


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Newman Talks Oscars, Pixar

Briefly: Read this interview. It's with Randy Newman and its about Pixar. What more could you ask for?...


'Hop' Trailer

Above you will find the trailer for the upcoming film Hop, starring Russell Brand. Oh, and its by the guys who did Despicable Me Looks like it might some sorta funny jokes. Like a rabbit that poops jelly beans.



'Pooh' Wrapped

As of this past Friday, February 10, Walt Disney Animation Studios' newest hand-drawn film Winnie-the-Pooh is in the can! Production has been wrapped, and now all that's left is a bunch of marketing and several months of waiting...

Although I don't entirely agree with their decision to release the film on the same day as the sure-to-be-blockbuster Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2, I think it's still gonna be a smash hit--everybody loves Winnie-the-Pooh and Eeyore and Piglet, and seeing the refreshing return to the classic animation of the beloved Pooh cartoons of decades ago will lure both young and old audiences to theaters. Even so, the film cost under $40 million to make, and therefore its apparent that Disney doesn't need (or, frankly, expect) it to come out number one at the box office; a modest opening will easily make the film's budget back.

As if the film by itself wasn't super awesome enough, John Cleese will be narrating, Tom Kenny (Spongebob) will be providing the voice of Rabbit, and everyone's favorite elderly Pixarian, Bud Luckey, will be doing the voice for Eeyore! This is a great cast. This movie cannot come out soon enough...

The film is being directed by Stephen Anderson (Meet the Robinsons) and Don Hall and is set to be released on July 15, 2011.


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

'Superman Classic'

Robb Pratt, animator on Pocohontas and Tarzan, recently released the above animated short, Superman Classic, and it is just great. The animation style is a joy to watch, the dialogue is pretty darn funny (especially the line, "Can I help it when my bladder gets a little Silly Susan when I get nervous?"), and the music from the original Superman serials adds a lot. Watch it above, and then hear Rob Pratt discuss how and why he made it . . .

We want more of this, Robb!


Monday, February 7, 2011

Brad Bird Officially Quits Animation (...kind of)

This past Sunday, the Annie Awards, an annual ceremony for the animation community, was held in Los Angeles. And, as was feared and predicted among us Pixar-lovers, DreamWorks Animation took home almost all of the awards, leaving just one for Pixar (Best Short - Day & Night).

Bigger news than that, however, is that Brad Bird, director of The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and The Iron Giant, has officially quit the business of animation forever . . . well, sort of. Watch the hilarious video embedded above to see what I mean--it is his acceptance speech for the coveted Windsor McCay Lifetime Achievement Award. (Oh, and jump to 4:30 for the actual speech.)

Great stuff!


Friday, February 4, 2011

A Great Interview with Guillermo

Guillermo Del Toro recently talked with NY Times' Daniel Zaleweki. The main focus of their discussion concerns his upcoming film At the Mountains of Madness, an adaptation of a classic story by H.P. Lovecraft which is being produced by James Cameron, but it also covers The Hobbit, Frankenstein, and even his childhood. The entire interview is incredibly interesting--the way it's written makes it feel like you're reading a detailed and flowing narrative instead of a simple interview.

It's easier for you to just read it than for me to try and explain it. Read it here.

Oh, and for a laugh, look at the below photo, which features Del Toro enjoying a Lakers game with famed DreamWorks dude Jeffrey Katzenberg. Although I hate seeing ol' Guillermo fraternizing with the enemy, it is an interesting dynamic to picture in your head...


Two Super Bowl Spots: 'Rango' and 'Kung Fu Panda 2'

Briefly: Above and below you will find Super Bowl spots for two animated films that I am very much looking forward to: Rango and Kung Fu Panda 2, respectively. Expect to see epic trailers for Pirates and Cars 2 during the big game on Sunday, too.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Birthday Pixar! (with Link Round-up!)

It was 25 years ago today that the best movie studio of all-time officially came into being. Above you will find their original logo--it would soon be replaced, however, by a cute little lamp named Luxo, Jr.

Over at Cartoon Brew you can read Pixar's full, original press release from February 3, 1986. It is very interesting to see what the studio thought of themselves then, without having known how successful and iconic they would become.

At The Pixar Blog you can read the wonderful story of Pixar's creation from David A. Price, author of The Pixar Touch.

Anywho, in honor of Pixar's illustrious 25 years (and having being my favorite film studio of all-time), here is a massive Pixar link round-up for your reading pleasure:

Probably the most exciting bit of news is that Randy Newman will perform his Oscar-nominated song from Toy Story 3, "We Belong Together," live, during the Awards ceremony on February 27. Also performing will be Mandy Moore and Zachary Levi accompanied by Alan Menken with their piece "I See the Light" from Disney's Tangled. I am much more excited for Mr. Newman's performance since, as you know, the music from Tangled didn't exactly knock my socks off, whereas I just loved all of the songs from TS3. Just writing this post got the chorus of "We Belong Together" stuck in my head . . . again.

While we're on the subject of the Academy Awards and the third Toy Story, it's worth mentioning that Lee Unkrich and Teddy Newton (director of Day & Night) will both be on-hand at a symposium at the Smuel-Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills on February 24 to join all other nominees in the Animation categories in order to "discuss their films' development and their creative processes as well as present clips illustrating their techniques." Let's hope these discussions will be recorded and uploaded to the worldwide web so we can all get our Pixar-thirsty, grubby little mitts on 'em.

Now, while we're on the subject of Day & Night, it has recently won the VES (Visual Effects Society) Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Short. It is no surprise that the short won for its visual effects--it definitely broke several barriers in the field by combining classic 2D animation techniques with the world of CG... TS3 was also nominated, but lost to How to Train Your Dragon.

Above, you will find a picture of Tom Hanks recording his voice for an upcoming Toy Story Toons short, most definitely the short that will be attached to Cars 2, whose synopsis can be found here. He is surrounded by the energetic crew of animators (turned directors): Angus McClane, Bobby Podesta, and Scott Clark.

Speaking of Pixar shorts, in a recent interview with AWN, Reher of Pixar, leaked some info about future Pixar shorts. Reher told AWN that:

It's funny, the new film we're finishing production on now, which will be attached to Brave in 2012, it's three characters and two sets, and man, how easy it is. It's different, there're no gags…
It's beautiful, it's lyrical, it's very different from all the other ones. It's amazing how easy it can be when you just have 3 characters and 2 sets."
Read the rest of the larger discussion with Newton, Reher, and Wellins for more interesting tidbits on Pixar, their short films, and the overall process.

It has long been said by many that Lee Unkrich looks like Office regular Andy Bernard (played by the always-funny Ed Helms). To secure any and all suspicions, Mr. Unkruch went to the set of The Office and took the above photo, tweeting: "Amazing day visiting set of The Office. How is it that all these people are so incredibly cool and friendly? Reminded me of Pixar." This is not the first time that Pixar and The Office have united--Woody and Up and numerous other Pixar-related themes and characters have made their way onto the show in the past. Being a huge Pixar and Office fan, I think it is all very, super cool.

That's all the Pixar news out there for now! (Unless you call the constant "leaking" of new Cars 2 characters news. If that's the case, head over to TPB for the scoop).

Once again, Happy Birthday, Pixar! It's been 25 wonderful years of great films, whimsical stories, and truly timeless characters.

I cannot wait to see what the next 25 years will bring . . .