First of all, the largest possible thank you goes out to Miss Arria Cross and her blog Fujinsei. She featured my ecchi post, and even labelled it as the best post on there. Check her stuff out if you have not already (assuming most of you reading this somehow found me through her). It was a very humbling experience, and I hope to impress everybody with more interesting content.
So why not celebrate by posting something completely different than that?
If you are new to this blog, I try and post about world animation in any fashion. Western animation is included in this, and this is one of the more interesting topics for discussion this year.
One of the most negative animation stereotypes is that it’s kids garbage. While that may be true sometimes, it usually causes problems for the view of animation. Sausage Party, from the get-go, goes against this. It is a film that would screw with any kid in the audience. The film is filled with sex jokes, racial jokes, religion jokes, and obviously food jokes. Whether that appeals to you is personal, so I can’t tell you for sure if it is a good thing. I went in expecting just a raunchy food pun filled show with a substance problem.
I got so much more…
The film is packed with critiques about race, religion, belief, groupthink, and communicative interactions. All the while executing very over the top comedy and writing. I would love to go on more and more about how it executes it’s unique style, but there is so much more to say. If you care mostly about my recommendation, it has a very high recommendation from me. I loved every second of the film, and my watching experience was unparalleled. I want to see it again soon, to get a better perspective on it. But that could be a problem.
Because even though Rogen’s writing and Conrad Vernon & Greg Tiernan’s wonderful directing deserve their praise, they are very much overshadowing a lot of production
problems. Many many animators are completely uncredited at the end, which is a partial result of terrible management. They were overworked, barely paid, and put in forceful positions to stay (though many left because the conditions were terrible). Allegations of the directors or other management at Nitrogen (the main animation studio working on it) mistreating workers and forcing them to stay while making them think that they had no future outside of complete loyalty keep popping up everyday. Every single animator that has spoken about their experience on the film had very similar, very bad experiences. Having around half of the animation team uncredited is not a good thing anywhere, for any reason. They may have loved the project and working on the film, but their hatred for the studios conditions is too much to ignore.
So, to say the least, we have workers that aren’t speaking highly of the film. But they aren’t the only ones. Saying this film has mixed reviews is underselling it. This film is polarizing.
While I can sing praises of the racial or religious critiques, many others couldn’t stand it because it came off as watered-down stereotype jokes. The over-the-top sexual stuff of course does not sit well with many viewers. I could go into more detail, but I am trying not to go into spoiler territory. I would encourage you to check it out for yourself and form your own side on the debate.
These are very tame, and unexplained responses but they encapsulate the main arguments. I also encourage you to check the discussions themselves after you see the movie. It is a very interesting film to talk about.
I would love to know if any of you have seen it and what you thought (please clarify if you use spoilers), and catch more perspectives on it.
This has been Animated Monolgues, slicing into animation in every post. Thanks for reading, have an animated day!
Bill Plympton is an animator I respect a lot. The way he loves animation and produces films with his style in such a unique fashion is impossible for me to ignore. On his wonderful blog Scribble Junkies, he writes updates on his productions as well as pieces about animation and his ideology on it. One thing he does at times is review movies, and as a blogger who enjoys movies I obviously took some interest. I came across a review he did for Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises, his last movie for Ghibli before he retired temporarily that was very well accepted across the board. Plympton didn’t agree. I do respect his opinion and realize that it’s his own perspective, and am writing this more as a critical response offering up different viewpoints as opposed to fanboy bashing. I don’t think his review is bad at all, I just have some things I disagree with and want to write down. His review is here, even though I go point by point, it is better to get them all in a row from his side. It is unfair to hear his side as I break it down piece by piece without knowing his full perspective. So please please read his side first, and remember that I’m not trying to discredit him. If you have read his review, than you can scroll down.
See, right out of the gate we know right were he stands, I mean yeah the review is short but at least it doesn’t hang for too long. Though it’s worded objectively, we hear from the rest of the review that it seems to be based off of opinion. If it is meant to be objective than I’d disagree. Because Miyazaki’s films have so many similarities, it feels wrong to say one is specifically worse than the rest. This is mostly because we hold him at such a high standard that saying one is bad doesn’t seem to matter. If it’s his opinion, than I respect it.
Art style. Most artists have a very specific style, and animation directors typically are no different. The fact that most of any artists products have such a similar style isn’t usually a problem. Aardman looks different than Mamoru Hosada looks different from Don Hertzfeldt. Getting to recognize their style is what gives any artist their niché. One commentor, quite harshly, on this post points out that Plympton himself has a specific style he has employed for years now, which is his illustrator style with more mature slapstick. Of course, I have no problem with directors keeping similar art styles because I like distinguishing them because of it, and because it adds positively to their products in the end. Some may disagree, and this is probably where Plympton comes from.
This is where any points about criticism in animatio gets interesting. It’s true that animation is different because it is a different visual medium. Few animation fans or creators will debate that. Even stories like this that could hypothetically be live-action can benefit from animation as well. The way the writers and even editors of The Wind Rises handle emotions through animation is what I believe gives it the right to be animated. Handling the different obstacles Jiro goes through works in the medium because they are tailored to meet the visual style and medium the artists chose/created. This sort of abstract handling is something I have seen in products from romance anime series to blockbuster CGI that could have told their stories live-action. The dream sequences and the earthquake scene are beautiful to look at and I think the way they were directed required animators to animate like they did. Plympton gave some leeway at the beginning so it’s possible that this is a point he agrees with.
All 3 of those films required a different style. They all had fantasy elements focused on spirits or other supernaturally designed creatures. I love Spirited Away because the spirit world had so much more creative freedom to design everything with. Princess Mononoke had the forest gods and some action scenes, meaning the animators had leeway to make very exciting and visually stimulating work. Totoro had a very calm heart mixed with the Totoro spirit design, and they tailored their animation to fit that. As stylistic choices it only made since that they turned out so beautiful. The Wind Rises was more reality based and based on a topic Miyazaki is passionate about. Because of this, the animators had to find beauty and glorious visuals in reality. I’d say the animators were at something of a creative disadvantage. The character animation and the designs of the world still looked beautiful. They took every chance to find the beauty in simplicity and ran with it. While they had more leeway in the dream sequences, that was most creativity they could emplore because they were so busy with beautifying reality in the section Plympton said could have been live-action. So while I get where this comment is coming from, I think there is a solid defense for animating reality. If the inate immediate restriction of reality-based animation is the problem Bill has, than consider this section void.
Well, this is where it goes from interesting to tough to argue. A lot of others took issue with it, (as I’m sure everyone knows). I would say that the planes as war toys isn’t the focus. The focus is more on Jiro’s love for designing planes and the unfortunate circumstance that forces them to be used for war. It is evident in a discussion some engineers have later in the film. They are discussing how to tailor the wings so the plane can actually. Jiro says something close to, “Well, if we removed the guns it would be fine” and gets immediately dismissed. Jiro just wanted to make something beautiful, and was forced to mold his passion into something that killed people. The films focuses on his life and everything around it. At no point does it seem Miyazaki is saying that there was good in the fact that the planes kill people, since Jiro doesn’t like the weaponized aspect. Jiro didn’t cheer when his planes directly killed many people. We don’t see them in action because the creators aren’t focused on trying to defend war planed. We see that, like Miyazaki, the essence of flying planes is the central goal and purpose. It’s about the life of Jiro, not the unfortunate use of his creations.
This is a very good point. Since the perspectives and focuses are different between these 2 films it makes sense. I agree with this, even if it’s used to prove the point I disagree with.
No major comments on his last words since it, as it should, goes to exemplify his feelings towards the film. I like that he still tells people to think about it for themselves, and that we should see it. Even when I talk about products I don’t like I usually will tell people to skip it, unless I realize that other people could get better enjoyment out of them. This proves to me in the end his review is still honest and has integrity. I don’t think less of him and I hope your opinion doesn’t change either if you disagree. With this his review comes to a close.
In terms of my views, if it isn’t obvious, I do like The Wind Rises. My rebuttals are taken from my positive views on the film. I would recommend The Wind Rises, if you haven’t seen it already. There are better Miyazaki films, (Spirited Away, Castle In The Sky) and better Ghibli films, (Grave of the Fireflies). In terms of modern Studio Ghibli, I would first recommend ‘When Marnie Was There’, as it is their best film of the decade and one of this years animated Oscar nominations. Even though Studio Ghibli is on hiatus and we don’t know if it’s permanent or temporary, there is still a lot of beautiful films in their catalog that are worth the rewatches we inevitably give them.
Animation Monologues: Reviewing my slice on animation in every post. Thanks for reading and have an animated day.
Now that the animated feature category for the Academy Awards is up we have a new year of animation fans being disgraced by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. Recently, they have been making really shitty decisions. This year they nominated possibly their best pool of films yet. While Inside Out, Anomalisa and Shaun the Sheep aren’t surprises the others are. There were 16 films submitted for the award, they are as follows, and nominees are bolded.
Hotel Transylvania 2
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet
Moomins on the Riviera
Regular Show: The Movie
Shaun the Sheep Movie
The Boy and the Beast
The Boy and the World
The Good Dinosaur
The Laws of the Universe â Part 0
The Peanuts Movie
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge out of Water
When Marnie Was There
I really am stoked that When Marnie Was There and Boy and The World made it. GKIDS movies have been getting more Oscar nominations lately, and I think that’s cool. I want When Marnie Was There to win, though I haven’t seen Anomalisa. In terms of winners, I’d probably say Inside Out has the best chance unless Anomalisa’s critical reception can compete with the Academy’s Disney bias, but you never know. Last year everyone said The LEGO Movie was the obvious front runner, and they didn’t receive the nomination. This made a lot of people angry, and is widely regarded as a bad move.
Everyone called this a disgrace and some people even started to question the Oscar’s viability in judging animated films, (this has included shorts before). The answer is obvious actually. The Academy usually doesn’t give a fuck about animation and knows jack shit about it. I’m happy people are acknowledging it, but it took too long to bring it up. While my opinions on animated features are subjective, I still believe there is a problem involving animation in the Academy’s eyes.
Before the animated feature category is brought up, let’s look at what they’ve done with animation before. Animation was first recognized with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves being the first hand-drawn animated feature and the first feature to hit a wide-release market. They also recognized Fantasia’s contribution to film sound, Who Framed Roger Rabbit’s visual effects, and Toy Story’s 3D animation. This is fine and good, since Disney has been, historically, the most prolific producers of animated features. I understand why Disney would get all the awards for what they’ve done to animation. Things have changed, Disney may have revolutionized many aspects of animation, but others have put it to better use.
Animated features from 2001 were the first to be nominated for the new Oscar Best Animated Feature, possibly since the previous year’s Chicken Run was critically acclaimed but the Academy couldn’t do anything to honor it. That year Shrek went up against Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, and Monsters Inc. for the first Oscar in the category. After years of praising Disney, Dreamworks took the first award, and so far they haven’t taken it since. Now that this award is given out every year, it should be a much better way for us to salute animation every year. More often than not, though, it goes to a Disney company. Spirited Away, Wallace and Gromit, Happy Feet, Rango are the only 4 films besides Shrek that have taken the Oscar without Disney having anything to do with it, (and even with Spirited Away, they were involved in localization). Besides that, Disney and Pixar Animation Studios have taken all 9 other awards given. Disney bias is not speculation. Disney owns ABC, the network that hosts and broadcasts The Oscars. This doesn’t mean shady voter rigging, it just means heavy bias or subtle incentivizing could be a factor. Aside from this fact, a lot Oscar voters involved with animation are involved in some way with Disney or otherwise have a bias towards them, (linked below).
They have overshadowed much more deserving animation almost annually. Year after year they correctly recognize great films, and sometimes they come from around the world. Last year was actually one of the most diverse set of nominations, with 4 wonderful films and the Boxtrolls being nominated. With Stop-Motion, Anime, CGI Blockbuster, and Foreign 2D animation ALL being represented for one of the first times ever, they still gave the win to fucking Disney with Big Hero 6. But, should LEGO Movie been nominated, the answer is yes. But it should not have won, the award is supposed to be given to the best animated film of the year, (which I argue was How To Train Your Dragon 2). A lot of people aren’t happy about how that year turned out but this is a tradition.
For 2013, they gave Frozen the win over the vastly superior The Wind Rises, (apparently giving Miyazaki one win is enough for them).
2012: ParaNorman and Wreck-it-Ralph, (2 of the decades best films) lost to Pixar’s worst film, Brave.
2009: Mary and Max, (best film of 2009) and Waltz with Bashir, (the most unique animated film of the decade) didn’t even get nominated but Princess and the Frog did, (I like Up winning though). Though Waltz was nominated, and of course lost, for Best Foreign feature.
2006: Happy Feet vs. Monster House vs. Cars as nominations. Paprika and The Girl Who Leapt Through Time never entered the question.
2007, my least favorite example. Ratatouille, (an average film about a cooking rat) beat out freakin Persepolis, (a moving character study detailing a girl living through war).
I understand that some years didn’t have options like the one’s above, but when the Academy salutes a good variety of films, they go with the most standard. Some of this is my subjective opinion, and I may be stretching it when I give these examples. I framed it this way because it reflects how I feel about the award, and how it just doesn’t feel right.
I can hear some of you saying, “but Persepolis isn’t for kids” or something like that. But this award gives the best to animation, not kids films which admittedly, the Academy doesn’t know anything about. I believe that animation is simply another visual medium to tell stories with. Animation is no genre that is defined by certain ways to tell stories, because it was always meant to please a wide array of audiences. So when the Academy gives so many awards to Disney corporation, it makes people think that animation should be strictly one thing and nothing else, because it becomes defined as a genre. I feel that the Academy genuinely doesn’t realize that animation is more than kid-pandering medium limited to keeping the attention of young children without needing to actually tell them good stories.
When they didn’t nominate The LEGO Movie last year, people were mad because it isn’t a typical animated western feature. It does have some clichéd tropes, but it also proves that animation can be so much more than Dreamworks or Disney seem to give it credit for. People started talking about The LEGO Movie’s injustice, which brought people closer to a stance in animation I’ve been fighting since I got into animated films. Animation needs better representation, and the Academy Awards not including The LEGO Movie wasn’t smart, (I’d probably switch it with Big Hero 6’s nomination but given How To Train Your Dragon 2 the win). The movies they did nominate showed off a wide variety, almost giving me hope, but then they fucked it all up. While a wide array of films are submitted and shortlisted, they usually nominate the same big studio crowd. If this is because of a popularity contest, it makes my idea more valid because movies should be judged on their quality and not as much success and popularity. Sometimes these studios do have the best, or better options I admit. I don’t believe they have it enough to always give it to the same people, and this predictably destroys people’s faith in the Oscars and does no good in furthering the reputation of film, whether it includes animation or not. This year they have such a good pool of nominations, so I don’t expect that I’ll take as much issue this year. When I see Anomalisa and Shaun the Sheep that may change. Luckily, Inside Out is a film I’d have no problem winning. I would rather When Marnie Was There, but the Anomalisa vs Inside Out awards battle has been going on for a while and will probably be this year’s main Oscar match up.
So was the LEGO Movie’s snub as big a deal as some make it out to be? Not to the most extreme extent. It is a good representation of how bad the Oscar’s are at recognizing animation. I could nitpick examples I think are more severe, but this one is up there. The Annie Awards, when they aren’t being rigged by Dreamworks, is usually better at this since they represent so much in animation and award so many different aspects of it. Big name animation festivals also feature a wide array of competitors and winners, whose names are big in the indie animation circuit. Annecy and Ottowa are the biggest one. Now we play the waiting game to see which movie, (if any) has a chance at taking away Inside Out’s award. For next year, we just have to wait to see what amazing films come out, and how many of them while get the shaft if not completely ignored!
What do you know about the original surrealist movement? Little to nothing? ok no problem. If you recognize the film Rose Hobart from that era, than keep that in your short term memory until I bring it up again. Did you see Inside Out? I hear some yes’s, good. I heard a few no’s, and I’m sorry about that. Inside Out is easily one of the best animated films of the decade, and will stand as my favorite Pixar film of the decade and 2nd favorite of Pete Docter’s films unless proven wrong, (I doubt it). It is so many kinds of good that I can’t feasibly review it on it’s own without going full fanboy and neglect to actually critique it. Anyway, my favorite parts of the film were the way the imagination of Riley was portrayed by the stunning visuals. With the emotion characters and the world of the mind, it left nothing more to be desired and it was rendered and colored wonderfully. A film student named Jordan Hanzon edited out all those parts, leaving just the segments with Riley. It is called Inside Out: Outside Edition, and I recommend checking it out. Hopefully we can all get to enjoy this edit, but if it gets taken down by someone at corporate Disney, then so be it I guess. But I want to talk about it, so lets review it.
Riley Anderson is born in Minnesota and spends most of her early childhood there. Her family moves to San Francisco so dad can work. She goes through the usual blues, (such as intro sadness and anxiety, fighting with mom and dad, and contemplating running away) and nearly does run away. She changes her mind, and comes home. Now let’s talk Rose Hobart, for all those who should be able to recall it.
Review, and some Surrealism:
Linked in this sentence is ‘Rose Hobart’, a surrealist short film made by Joseph Cornell in 1936. It is an edited version of East of Borneo, and old Universal film actress Rose Hobart was in, and director Joseph Cornell cut out every single second that she wasn’t on screen. This left an old reel where she literally is always on screen. I bring it up because it was the odd parallel I was thinking the whole time I was watching Inside Out: Outside Edition. The reasoning was because they both edited down feature films into cuts that have one female character on screen the whole time. I may not understand what the hell is happening in Rose Hobart, but we know what’s going on in Outside Edition. It still tells the same coherent story from the original Inside Out, but I don’t know if Rose Hobart does. One reason that I couldn’t help but compare the both of them is because I didn’t see the original film Cornell cut into Rose Hobart. So I have no idea what the story is supposed to be, if anything. I can’t tell if Cornell was trying to teach us something or try to do something new with the story Rose Hobart acted in. I know that Hanzon probably wanted to test a different perspective on Inside Out. We get the same story, but the original has a lot of explanation and world development with the emotions. Inside Out was so enjoyable to me because of it. However, when removed I still find myself enjoying the story. I see that all of her emotional reactions are still coherent and make sense, and I really like that.
Unfortunately, this is also because I saw Inside Out on multiple occasions in theaters with different friends and will probably have it in my DVD collection by next year. I know Inside Out fairly well, so I know what is going on all to well. I know what the emotions are doing with each scene I see, and the explanations as to why Riley acts the way she does. The problem is I cannot accurately review from the perspective of someone who never saw the original. I have no problem believing it still tells a story that makes sense, and has a certain sense of coherency and flow. But I don’t know the impact of it, which is so important to explain when reviewing. Going back to Rose Hobart, it is a different story. I don’t know if East of Borneo was cut and edited chronologically, so I don’t know how the story, emotions, development, or overall impact changes. Due to this, the Cornell cut makes no sense to me, (not that surrealist films ever do) and I have no idea if it is objectively good or bad. I bring this up because I can’t help but wonder if there are any parallels to Outside Edition. What is it like if you don’t know Inside Out. The sudden jumps and wishy-washy edits probably stand out more as do the sound jumps and cues, but I want to know if it is still good. I have seen Inside Out and I love it, so I can’t help but wonder if a blind viewing is anything like Rose Hobart, (replacing confusion with impact).
If you haven’t seen Inside Out, please watch it. Films not part of a franchise are dying, and Pixar isn’t helping, so Inside Out/Good Dinosaur/Coco, (coming out in 2017) may be the last stand. If you have seen it, watch Outside Edition because it is an interesting perspective and destroys the counterpoint everyone makes about Herman’s Head being ripped off. If you have seen both, than I guess I can recommend Rose Hobart for kicks and giggles. I apologize if you don’t understand what is happening, but I warned you that I don’t either. Though I don’t know of any other ways filmmakers or others have cut movies like Hanzon and Cornell did, it seems to be an interesting experiment of sorts. I don’t want to see this concept trend too much, but it could improve or change other pop culture properties. After all, fans already do stuff like cut every F-bomb in movies together and other stuff like that. Since I ignore most of Pixar’s sequels, I should pass the time with them when I’m not watching Disney’s original films or trying to find out what the hell surrealist filmmakers consider normal.
This has been Animation Monologues, reviewing my slice of animation in every post. Thanks for reading, and have an animated day.
I think 2015 was an astounding year for animation everything considered. This idea will be explained in another post. In terms of films, it’s been good overall but not as wonderful. Home and Strange Magic may not have hooked anyone, but we also got Inside Out, The Prophet, When Marnie Was There, while Boy and The World got released in America plus King and The Mockingbird got remastered, (even if the English dub is inferior to the French dub). I was looking forward to Inside Out, The Little Prince, and The Prophet at this point looking towards 2015, but had so much more that I enjoyed. Now that I am more well-read and have spent a lot of time with animation this year, my anticipation for next year is a bit different. While I am very excited to see a multitude of films, there are also films whose success I want to see, and therefore anticipate them for more than a good story. Both of these have come together to make this monologue. These are what I can’t wait to see in 2016 for many different reasons. Honorable Mentions go to; Revengeance because Bill Plympton, Zootopia since Disney has been doing very well this decade, Mune if it gets released worldwide next year, Phantom Boy since GKIDS typically distributes good films, and Coco because Pixar originality should be rewar…ohh that’s 2017 shit. I’m not the most optimistic about 2016 as I was about 2015. But I still believe 2016 will be good overall, but for now I’m just looking forward to…
5. Moana, (Walt Disney Animation Studios):
I cannot remember where, but an animation website talking about these films said that Moana is supposed to have a new painterly style of CG. If this is true, Moana will stay on this list, if not, then I won’t be as excited. Since Disney is cutting their ties to traditional animation, they don’t have any real different animation style. Since CGI looks so good with every studio that uses it, even the old animation juggernaut can only offer classic formula feel with the in-style of CG. When I heard Moana was going to have a different visual style, I felt relieved. I just want to see more visual variety in animation, which doesn’t always happen with blockbuster films. Even on top of that, this movie is featuring a Polynesian princess, (the first non-American princess and the second to be not-white) whose voice actress is local to Hawai’i. The concept art is also very beautiful, with a more natural environment. Lilo and Stitch, one of my childhood favorites, did justice to Hawaiian culture but the setting focused more on the town environment, while Moana looks to be more nature/Ocean based. This decade has been amazing for Disney, with Tangled kickstarting a new-era of the original animation studio producing animated features, and every following film being welcomed to positive reception. While Zootopia also looks enjoyable, I am much more excited for Moana.
4. The Little Prince, (Onyx Films, distribution by Paramount Animation)
I was looking forward to this so much last year. It screened at Cannes, and my excitement only grew. I knew it’d be released October 2015 in France, but had no idea about North America. Now it’s confirmed March 2016, and I am still as stoked as ever. I may not know the original story of The Little Prince, but this title excites me for many reasons. One of them is because French animation has a certain artistic element to it that I miss from other nations. Artistry in storytelling and design/vision, and being a well-known tale being adapted with stop-motion and CGI tells me that there will be beauty. It’s also not a direct retelling, it’s about a character interacting with the story which gives the film a different perspective on the story and more creative freedom. Onyx Production is a studio that has had other successful films that I want to see, (such as Mune: Guardian of the Moon which I brought up in honorable mentions). The Little Prince has ground in North America because people know the story and it’s directed by Mark Osborne, (director of The Spongebob Movie and Kung Fu Panda 1). It looks very good, and has a classic near fairy tail feel that looks very promising. I wanted it last year, and I want it more this year.
3. April and The Extraordinary World, (StudioCanal/Cine+ and other collaborators, distributed by GKIDS)
The movie took the Annecy Cristal in 2015, and is being distributed by GKIDS. Granted, they usually do, but here’s why it’s important, (for those who may not know). The Annecy Animation Festival is to animation what Sundance is to independent cinema, the Annecy festival is very important, very competitive, and important in animation. The biggest announcements happen here first, plus the most special of events, (Thief and The Cobbler: Director’s Cut was screened this year as was Pinnochio 75th Anniversary first). The films that screen in competition try to win the main award, The Cristal. GKIDS usually distributes the winners. Some of the best films they’ve distributed result from this, (Boy and The World, Sita Sings The Blues). Plus The Cristal has been given to very amazing names in animation, (Mary and Max’s Adam Elliot, Henry Selick twice, Bill Plympton twice, When The Wind Blows). The most recent winner is April and The Extraordinary World. This films is on the list because of the reputation of the Cristal and GKIDS, because I believe they hold value in the films they honor. In terms of the production company behind it, I recognize a lot of the collaborators for the help they’ve given foreign films like Nocturna and Tomm Moore’s features, (who also competed at Annecy and were distributed by GKIDS). It’s true that these credits behind it don’t always mean golden, (since Renaissance won in 2005) but it creates a level of anticipation that secures a spot on this list.
2. Little Door Gods, (Light Chaser Animation Studios):
Was called The Door Guardians, but the name was changed for some reason, (I think the original name is better). Blockbuster animation is dominated by many different American Studios, (Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks, Blue Sky, Reel FX, and the shit-vortex that is Illumination) producing all of these beautiful 3D films, since they have the budgets and resources and etcetera blah blah blah. Most foreign animation is produced with collaborative funding using 2D animation or the occasional stop-motion, and when they do 3D animation it’s never of this studio quality on a visual level. This could start to change with Light Chaser animation, a Chinese animation studio that aims to produce 3D animated films that at least rival the beauty of American CGI. Little Door Gods is going to be their debut feature film. Like their first ever short, The Little Yeyo’s, it is going to be more focused on Chinese culture than marketing to worldwide audiences. I don’t care if it’s the smartest move or not, because I’m just happy that they have some cultural integrity. They seem to be more focused on proving they can make a good film before they make a super huge money maker. It’s not that they’re trying more than anything to compete with Pixar quality, it’s more that they’re trying to become a respected name in animation with the perk of having western studio quality animation. I want to see this because this means a lot to foreign animation’s stance in American film culture, if only to compare the capabilities of foreign animators. Anyone that focuses on foreign animation knows that overseas producers are more than capable of making beautiful looking movies, (Tomm Moore’s films, Ghibli films) and very entertaining movies, (Mary and Max, Boy and The World, When The Wind Blows, and Ghibli films). These films always use traditional animation because it’s easier, but Light Chaser is trying to break into 3D animation. I believe they can do it, but I’ll have to see Little Door Gods to make sure of it.
1. Kubo And The Two Strings, (Laika Productions)
Admittedly this isn’t the film I think is going to be the best of the year, nor is it the film I’m most looking forward to watching, (That’s between Little Prince and Little Door Gods). The reason this is number one is because this film has many standards to live up to and even more to prove, at least to me. The first reason is that Travis Knight is the director of this picture. Travis Knight has produced Laika’s past 3 films, proving that he can effectively help someone else’s vision come to life. We don’t know yet if he has a good enough vision to make a film out of, and that really peaks my curiosity. I want Knight to succeed, but we have to wait to see if it’s good or not. The other reason I’m very curious to see if this film succeeds is because it’s following up a movie I thought failed. I really don’t like The Boxtrolls, to say it squarely. I love Coraline, which I think is one of the best stop-motion films ever, that said I also believe ParaNorman was a better film. This leaves me with the opinion that Laika has 2 wonderful films, and one not-so-wonderful film under their belt. If there is an implication to state, it’s that Kubo also may have to represent Laika’s downfall. If Kubo is as good as I hope it is, then I can say Laika is a fantastic animation studio with one poor film in their reputation because no animation studio is perfect. However, if Kubo sucks ass, then I’m forced to question Laika’s ability to compete in an increasingly CG’d world. I believe they are the perfect studio to keep stop-motion viable in blockbuster animation, but if they have 2 bad films in a row, what happens to blockbuster stop motion? It’s very important to have diversity in animation, so people’s image of animation is fair and uncluttered by the CG-washing of the industry. I want Kubo to be good so stop-motion can stand a chance against every other studio in America producing CGI. Disney is giving less of a shit about 2D animation since Princess and The Frog failed and almost destroyed hand-drawn animation in cinema’s, (here’s hoping Hullabaloo and Klaus can turn this around), and they used to be the only people producing 2D animation in blockbuster cinema. Laika is the last remaining diverse animation studio that is actually succeeding and proving they care about their beloved art form. People already think animation is purely a kids genre, and if Laika can’t be around to prove them wrong, then animation’s future as an artistic medium is at stake. No matter how much I may be excited to see other films compared to this one, the importance of keeping stop-motion available in wide release is too important. Since I have no love for the Boxtrolls, I need to make sure my love for Laika will continue with the success of Kubo and The Two Strings. This means to much to me to have anything else at the top of this list.
2016 has a lot in store besides everything I’ve told. Various other features from around the world are getting wider distributions that look promising. There is other news that will inevitably pop up that I don’t know yet, so who knows what else we’ll get. In terms of animated series or other anime, I don’t know yet since I’m far from caught up on what is available so far, and so I don’t have specialized expectations from that. So let’s ring in the new year and here’s to another great year of animation.
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There were few animated movies that I anticipated more this year than Inside Out. I wasn’t as stoked for The Good Dinosaur, because of my overwhelming support for Inside Out. I loved it, but what I didn’t care for was the short film before it, Lava. It just wasn’t interesting to me. As the year went on I started hearing a lot of hype for Sanjay’s Super Team, which would premiere before The Good Dinosaur. Now that it’s The Good Dinosaur’s time to shine, (with a below Pixar average opening weekend) and to an extent, Sanjay’s Super Team.
The Good Dinosaur had beautiful landscapes, good character development an interesting story. I would say that it’s worth the price of admission, but there is something more to this screening. If you like Pixar stuff, ya you’ll like The Good Dinosaur, so no matter what I say you’re probably planning on it. There isn’t enough for me to want to review it, but this isn’t the case with Sanjay’s Super Team.
Sanjay is trying to watch a superhero show but his dad is trying to practice a Hindu ritual, (I think, because I’m not sure what it actually is). After Sanjay is forced in, he finds his consciousness in some bell like room with Indian statues. Some evil spirit starts destroying a few, and Sanjay accidentally awakens some good spirits to help stop the evil. They combine to save themselves and Sanjay. Sanjay then comes back to the real world and starts envisioning these Indian spirits as superheroes, much to his dad’s delight.
This is one of Pixar’s best shorts to date for so many reasons. Yeah, we know the animation is going to be good, but there is more to that. When Sanjay is in the world we get the typical Pixar reality based lifelike animation.
It’s the good shit we’re used to. But when we are transported into the world of the spirit superheros, the visual style changes.
And it’s fucking wonderful. The visual style takes on an almost 2D/Cel shaded outline over the CG models. I don’t know exactly how it was animated since I never got to see Sanjay Patel’s panels at Comic-Con or any animated film festivals, but I know I love it. The colors and the Indian influence gives it a very unique visual style compared to other Pixar shorts or features. I mean it, I’m not used to seeing Pixar emplore different visual techniques besides their great Renderman real life looking stuff. So this is very welcome. If it’s hard to tell from the previews the difference, than I emplore you to check it for yourself along with The Good Dinosaur. The way they set up Sanjay role in the story is also wonderful. From a kid adjusting to cultural traditions versus pop culture interests. It comes together so naturally after the events of the short. It’s execution comes in Pixar short-form fashion, meaning it’s mostly dialogueless. This gives the animators the job of expression and style to tell the majority of the story. I love when they do this, because sometimes the best moments in animation don’t need words. The designs and color of the spirits are great. Yeah, you may see the detail in these or other previews, but they pale in comparison to seeing it on the big screen. They are animated so fluidly with the action. Watching them move and work together is truly glorious, and it makes the short worth the small amount of time we have to watch it.
So if you have any passing interest in The Good Dinosaur, watch it and enjoy Sanjay’s Super Team as well. If you’re more curious about the short like me, then it is still worth the price of admission.
Justifiably so, Sanjay’s Super Team is up for the Academy Awards Best Animated Short. Here is the full list of it’s shortlisted competition, (taken from Cartoonbrew.com)
Bear Story (Historia De Un Oso)
Gabriel Osorio, director, and Pato Escala, producer
(Punkrobot Animation Studio)
Carface (Autos Portraits)
Claude Cloutier, director
(National Film Board of Canada)
If I Was God…
Cordell Barker, director
(National Film Board of Canada)
Love in the Time of March Madness
Melissa Johnson and Robertino Zambrano, directors
(High Hip Productions and KAPWA Studioworks)
Phuong Mai Nguyen, director
An Object at Rest
Seth Boyden, director
(California Institute of the Arts)
Richard Williams, director, and Imogen Sutton, producer
Sanjay’s Super Team
Sanjay Patel, director, and Nicole Grindle, producer
(Pixar Animation Studios)
We Can’t Live without Cosmos
Konstantin Bronzit, director
(Melnitsa Animation Studio)
World of Tomorrow
Don Hertzfeldt, director
Honestly, I loved this short and it deserves a nomination this year. However, I still am hoping for Don Hertzfeldt’s World of Tomorrow. But with Richard Williams back in action, plus festival favorites Carface and We Can’t Live Without The Cosmo’s, (this years Annecy Cristal winner). It’s hard to tell where this award is going. In terms of features, it’s almost guaranteed to go to Pixar.
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Happy Day of the Dead, let’s talk about 3D animated films.
So last year around this time a movie called Book of Life came out by an animation studio that no one cared about or looked forward too, (called Reel FX). It was a film about family traditions, long lost love, and dealing with deities. It was actually very interesting in how it was done from a story perspective. The best part about it was the design aspect though, with characters designed and modeled to look like old Spanish storybook drawings. With beautiful settings and locations, (especially the Land of the Dead, that the trailers rightfully showed off) it was one of the best looking animations that year. Director Jorge Gutierrez took very special care to make sure it turned out like he wanted, and I’d say he succeeded. Though the musical numbers for the most part weren’t good and the ending didn’t go in the best direction, I liked it overall. It’s the only modern animated film I know of that decided to spotlight Mexican culture, (that didn’t come from Mexico). This is a movie that suits Day of the Dead pretty well if that’s what you are going for, though it will face competition soon.
Pixar announced at D23 that they actually have an original film coming out after this year, something I lost faith in after I heard of Toy Story 4. It will be called Coco, and is directed by the director of Toy Story 3, Lee Unkrich. This project interests me because it will tell us, (the consumers) a couple things. First, making sure Lee Unkrich isn’t a one time deal. Second, that he can deal with original stories. Third, that an American director can successfully capture a cultural landmark that isn’t this own, though he is getting help from other people in the field. A problem I have in Pixar’s upcoming line-up is that few movies are new. After this year, there will be 4 sequels in a row. Finding Dory, Cars 3, Toy Story 4, and Incredibles 2. 4 sequels to original properties that Pixar became known for. Instead of doing something new with their company, they are digging too deep into sequelitis. As far as I know Coco and The Good DInosaur are the only films they’re making this decade that aren’t leeching off of nostalgic franchising. It may be a harsh way to put it, but I sometimes feel this way. With all that aside, it’s important to take from this that, in a couple years, the Day of the Dead will have 2 great animated films to represent it.
Whether you celebrate Day of the Dead or not, it’s important to acknowledge it and at least solute it. Not that watching these movies is the way to do it, but it helps.
Animation Monologues: Expressing my slice of animation in every article. Have an animated day