Posts tagged ‘Animation’

Cars 2

The other day I went to see Cars 2. To show what an impression it made on me, I couldn’t be bothered blogging about it until now. This shows just what an impact this movie made on me.

To say this is the worse film Pixar has made is an understatement. After watching movies like The Incredibles, Wall E, Up! and Toy Story 3, which all have great emotional depth, Cars 2 comes as a major disappointment. It seems to me that Cars 2 was made purely with the merchandising in mind, rather than the plot or character development. The animation was impressive, as it always is, but overall I couldn’t help thinking that Kung Fu Panda 2 was a better movie.

Even the Toy Story short at the start of the film was quite average.

Kung Fu Panda 2

Kung Fu Panda film poster, with Po in the middle.

Image via Wikipedia

On Tuesday I saw Kung Fu Panda 2. I enjoyed the film a great deal, but I’d have to say that the original film is a bit better. I love Jack Black but think that James Hong as Po’s father Mr Ping is hilarious.

One thing I thought was interesting was the use of 2D animation in different parts (mainly flashbacks) of the film.

UPA Retrospective

Tonight I went to the first session of the UPA retrospective at the Melbourne International Animation Festival at the ACMI cinemas. It was a great night with lots of great cartoons. It was good to see such an enthusiastic audience too. It was the first time I have been to see animated shorts on the big screen, and it was good to see people still laugh at these things, although most of the audience seemed to be made up of animation students.

Guest of honour was Tee Bosustow, son of UPA founder Stephen Bosustow. He spoke enthusiastically about the studio and let slip that Sony are finally releasing a dvd box set of the UPA shorts. Actually he said that Sony had outsourced this to two other companies and they will be releasing the DVD. If this is true, and I don’t doubt Tee’s word, this is great for classic animation fans. A UPA set has been a long time coming, and I thikn both John Canemaker and Jerry Beck have in the past tried to persuade Sony to release these cartoons, but failed. If I recollect correctly there was some rights issue with Classic Media owning the Mr Magoo character, despite the Magoo theatrical shorts being owned by Sony.

Most popular cartoon tonight would be a toss-up between

The Jaywalker

Rooty Toot Toot

and Madeline

The Hand Behind The Mouse – The Ub Iwerks Story

Ub Iwerks

Image via Wikipedia

This excellent documentary by Leslie Iwerks (grand-daughter of Ub) is about the legendary animation pioneer Ub Iwerks, the man who not only created Mickey Mouse and single-handedly animated the mouses‘ first few cartoons, but made so many other technical contributions to movie making in general. This documentary was included as an extra on the Walt Disney Treasures’ Oswald The Lucky Rabbit dvd box set.

The documentary rightly concentrates mostly on Ub’s contribution to animation, thoroughly examining his first meeting with Walt Disney, his work on Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, Mickey Mouse and the Silly Symphonies, and then his branching out onto his own away from Disney. It gives a fascinating insight into the animation industry at its beginning, and about the relationship between Ub and Walt. It also examines the underhanded way that Charles Mintz stole Oswald and most of Disney’s animators from Walt, although with the exception of Hugh Harmon, none of these other animators (Rudy Ising and Friz Freleng) are mentioned.

One thing that I was a little disappointed with was the way in which it skipped hurriedly through the technical innovations Iwerks made, such as the development of the multiplane animation camera, developing the processes for combining live action and animation, the xerographic process adapted for cel animation, the work he did to develop the rides at Disneyland, and the special effects work he did on Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. These are mentioned briefly but get nowhere near as much time as his animation career does.

Overall it is a great documentary with a lot of information about one of the greats of animation. It is narrated by Kelsey Grammer and is a must watch for anyone who is interested in how the Disney story all began.

Melbourne International Animation Festival – UPA Showcase

Today the Melbourne International Animation Festival begins at ACMI and there is one part of the program that I am very excited about and really looking forward to seeing. Every year the MIAF has at least one retrospective on animation history, and this year they have chosen one of my favourite studios from the golden age of animation in UPA. I have previously made posts about UPA, which you can find here.

There are three different programs for UPA, with the first being next Friday evening. The first one features the cartoons Blues Patterns, Outlaws, Mr Charmley Greet A Lady, Be Quiet, Kind, And Gentle,  The Lost Duchess, Madeline, The Jaywalker, Bringing Up Mother, The Wonder Gloves, Christopher Crumpet, and Rooty Toot Toot. Of these I have only seen Madeline, Christopher Crumpet and Rooty Toot Toot, so it should be an interesting evening.

Program 2 is on Saturday evening and features some of the more well-known UPA cartoons as well as some of their earliest work. Hell Bent For Election was the first UPA cartoon made, directed by Warner Bros. Chuck Jones as a favour to the fledgling studio, it was made to help re-elect Franklin Roosevelt as president of the USA. Brotherhood of Man is another industrial cartoon made for the auto workers union to help ease the desegregation of that industry. It seems quite strange today that some people needed a film to tell them that black and white people could live and work together. Flat Hatting was made for the US Navy (I think) as an instructional film of what not to do for the pilots. Then there are the classic commercial cartoons they made such as The Magic Fluke, starring the Fox and the Crow, Gerald McBoing Boing, one of my all-time favourites, The Unicorn In The Garden, Fudget’s Budget and the interesting and gloomy The Tell Tale Heart. I have seen all of these films with the except of Flat Hatting and Fudget’s Budget, but it will be the first time I have seen any of these on the big screen, which I am really looking forward to.

Program 3 is on Saturday afternoon and features UPA’s only really well-known character in Mr Magoo. This is a good cross-section of Magoo’s theatrical cartoons and features The Ragtime Bear, his first cartoon, Trouble Indemnity, Barefaced Flatfoot, Hotsy Footsy, Magoo Express and When Magoo Flew.

All in all it promises to be a very good time and I cannot wait to go. More information can be found at the MIAF website.


La Belle et la Bête

Beauty and the Beast (1946 film)

Image via Wikipedia

This is a film that I have wanted to watch for a very long time, ever since I first saw photographs from it in my brother’s horror movie book almost 30 years ago.  Finally I got that chance today. This film was voted at number 26 in Empire magazine‘s 100 Best Films of World Cinema in 2010.

Jean Cocteau‘s La Belle et la Bête (Beauty and the Beast) is a French masterpiece of surrealist cinema. The plot of the film follows the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale that we all know and love so well. Belle’s father wanders into the Beast’s castle where he unwittingly cuts a rose to give Belle on return from his travels. The Beast takes offense at this and gives Belle’s father an ultimatum, either he dies for this or he sends one of his daughters to pay his debt, and to become a prisoner of the Beast. Belle agrees to take her father’s place and although initially repulsed by the Beast, ends up admiring him. The Beast invites Belle to dinner, where he tells her that she’s in equal command to him and that she will be asked every day to marry him.

Days pass as Belle grows more accustomed and fond of the Beast, but she continues to refuse marriage. Using the magic mirror Belle finds her father deathly ill. The Beast grants her permission to leave for a week. Belle’s sisters devise a plan to keep Belle from returning to the Beast and Belle reluctantly agrees to stay the Beast almost dies of a broken heart. Belle returns to the Beast while Belle’s admirer Avenant, and her brother Ludovico, attempt to enter the castle so that they can slay the Beast. As the Beast dies in Belle’s arms, Avenant breaks into the Pavilion through its glass roof and is shot with an arrow by an animated statue of the Roman goddess Diana and is himself turned into a Beast. As this happens, arising from where the Beast lay dead is Prince Ardent (Marais) who is cured from being the Beast. Prince Ardent and Belle embrace, then fly away to his kingdom where she will be his Queen, and where her father will stay with them and Belle’s sisters will carry the train of her gown.

It is a really beautiful movie and I don’t know why my brother’s old book labeled it as a horror film. Sure the Beast bears a resemblance to Lon Chaney Jr.‘s Wolfman character, but the actual movie is very romantic with quite a bit of fantasy thrown in for good measure. Anything horrific is done off-screen. It is simply a great, enjoyable film, although some of the special effects are dodgy by Hollywood standards, whilst the ending is a little strange and is perhaps the only weak point of the film.

The Puppetoon Movie

Cover of "The Puppetoon Movie"

Cover of The Puppetoon Movie

I bought this a while ago and it has become a DVD that I have come to cherish. The Puppetoon Movie was released in 1987 as a tribute and retrospective to stop-motion pioneer George Pal. Pal was responsible not only for the Puppetoons, but also for assisting another young stop-motion animator, Ray Harryhausen, who would soon make his own mark on the film world. After he was finished with the Puppetoons George Pal then went on to producing a number of hit live action films, such as War Of The Worlds and The Time Machine, for which he also created the special effects.

The Puppetoon movie features eleven of the Puppetoon short animated films from the 1930s and 40s. The film is hosted by Art Clokey’s little green clay man Gumby, and his pals Pokey and Arnie the Dinosaur. Arnie explains to Gumby the significance of George Pal and the Puppetoons to stop-motion characters like himself, and then shows Gumby some of the Puppetoons.

Eleven of the Puppetoon animated films are shown in all, but the first four of these, The Little Broadcast and The Big Broadcast of 1938, Hoola Boola and South Sea Sweethearts and only shown in part.

My favourite Puppetoons are John Henry and the Inky Poo, which retells the African-American folk tale of how railway worker John Henry beat the Inky Poo (a railway track laying machine) in a competition to see which was more efficient at laying railway tracks, but died of exhaustion at the end, and Tubby The Tuba, which tells the story of a Tuba who longs to be able to play a melody rather than just going oompah, oompah. (My explanation doesn’t really do justice to these films.)

Puppetoons included in the movie are:

1 – The Little Broadcast/The Phillips Broadcast of 1938
2 – Hoola Boola/South Sea Sweethearts
3 – The Sleeping Beauty
4 – Tulips Shall Grow
5 – Together In The Weather
6 – John Henry and the Inky-Poo
7 – Phillips Cavalcade
8 – Jasper In A Jam
9 – Tubby the Tuba

Included with the DVD are 12 bonus cartoons which are all a joy to watch.

They are:
1 – What Ho She Bumps
2 – Mr. Strauss Takes A Walk
3 – Olio For Jasper
4 – Phillips Cavalcade (full film)
5 – Jasper’s Derby
6 – Hoola Boola (full film)
7 – Ether Symphony
8 – Aladdin and His Magical Lamp
9 – The Magic Atlas
10 – Jasper and the Haunted House
11 – The Phillips Broadcast of 1938 (full film)
12 – The Ship of Ether

Hopefully there will be a second Puppetoon DVD soon, as I would like to see some more of these wonderful films, including the two Oscar nominated adaptations that George Pal made of Dr. Seuss stories. These are great pieces of entertainment and it’s is fascinating to see the infancy of stop-motion animation. With the renewed interest in this art form thanks to the likes of Fantastic Mr. Fox and Coraline we can only hope that Arnold Leibovit and Paramount can see fit to release more of these great films that served as inspiration to today’s stop motion animators, onto DVD where everyone has the ability to see them. Unfortunately this DVD is the only way at the moment to view these wonderful short animated movies. Arnold Leibovit is very strict at enforcing his copyright and whenever  Puppetoon is loaded onto Youtube or any other such website, it is never up for long, usually removed within a week of being uploaded due to breach of copyright terms and conditions.