Thursday, January 23, 2014

Bits Journal #1

This will be a change of pace, not like the usual "Tidbits" pieces I do. It's a new format I'll be experimenting with, an unorganized collection of thoughts. Basically animation news that I hadn't covered that I wanted to, but not in individual posts. Bear with me here…

First off…

It looks like Pixar might be looking into a painterly, almost hand-drawn-esque style for future computer animated films…

The clip was directed by a certain someone who goes by the name of Teddy Newton.

As many of you might know, Teddy Newton is currently directing a film for the studio, his first actually. He had directed Day & Night, the hand-drawn/CGI hybrid short film that preceded Toy Story 3 in theaters. It makes sense that he directed this, and it's possible that he wants this new style to be used in future Pixar productions. Perhaps his tentatively untitled film…

Disney Animation started experimenting with painterly looks as far back as 2007 when working on Bolt, and the film does contain a few standout shots showing off this look. Tangled takes it to the next level, ditto Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen. Then there's Paperman, which successfully blended hand-drawn warmth and computer animated movement… But that's just a step, there are greater things to come from this.

But many argue, "Can that style work for a roughly 90-minute film?" I think it could, if done right. Again, growth should be a thing in animation. Walt Disney wanted to grow the animation medium, even if some first attempts at something different didn't work out. Look at Silly Symphony The Goddess of Spring, we look back on that and critique how the human animation is. Then the studio made Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which has some excellently-animated humans and then there's rotoscoped ones. Pinocchio continued to push the bar, and so on. Rotoscoping took a back seat, live action reference began to take over.

Or look at the Fleischers, and the 3D setup they devised that made backgrounds look three-dimensional. This predated Disney's multiplane camera, and the results look questionable now… But, the experiment was worth it, right? It lead to greater things in animation; we still marvel at the multiplane shots in The Old Mill, Pinocchio and Bambi.

I'm happy that Paperman exists, I'm glad that Disney tried to incorporate painterly and hand-drawn elements into their computer animated films. I want these experiments to grow, so we start seeing new kinds of animated films. Computer animation is still somewhat stuck with a couple styles, as I had said earlier. Computer animation needs a UPA, a studio or someone who will take it to new heights and try new things with it. At the same time, new areas should be explored with hand-drawn and stop-motion… But Hollywood execs and their reluctance to admit their own mistakes is what holds hand-drawn from being a thing in mainstream American theatrical animation.

Speaking of Disney…

Frozen has currently made close to $340 million at the domestic box office, topping The Lion King's original release gross of $312 million. (Which translates to $600 million nowadays.) Worldwide, it's coming up on that film's initial release gross, which was $768 million. A Broadway show is now in development, which in hindsight was inevitable. Plus, the songwriter team's resume includes two Broadway productions and another Disney animated film.

Of course, people are also speculating, thinking about a possible Frozen sequel… Given Walt Disney Animation Studios' sparse amount of sequels (Walt didn't want to make sequels, Eisner-era Disney made direct-to-video sequels to the films in the 90s and 00s), I can't really see it happening. I remember people wondering if the studio would make a Tangled sequel back when it came out, and then we heard Rich Moore saying he wanted to do a Wreck-It Ralph sequel exploring home games and have Mario cameo in it this time.

However, money talks… I bet Disney executives would want a Frozen sequel to happen, but sometimes integrity wins. Disney probably wants Pixar to make a fourth Toy Story film, but Pixar doesn't have plans to make one anytime soon and they probably won't ever do one. They'd do something else to bring Disney the moolah they want instead, be it a third Cars or whatever rather than ruin the third Toy Story's perfect ending. (Which is why I won't freak if a Cars 3 is confirmed. Better that than a Toy Story 4 or sequel to something else, right?)

So a Frozen 2? I sure hope not. Wreck-It Ralph is more worthy of a sequel, and I'm iffy on that too. Even if Rich Moore writes and directs it! Walt Disney Animation Studios should only do a sequel if they have a very strong story and have the desire to make one. If they sincerely want to make a Frozen 2, fine. But if it's pushed on them by the higher ups, I won't be pleased.

During the Golden Globes, Gravity director Alfonso Cuaron thanked all of the animators and VFX people that made his sci-fi masterpiece possible. He also explained how Gravity was very animation-based back when the film came out, a real 180 - as Cartoon Brew pointed - from James Cameron refusing to call Avatar's animation, well… Animation. Definitely a positive for the world of animation, and maybe the art form will begin to be taken more seriously. I'm actually hoping it wins the Best Picture because of that, even though Oscars mean nothing. Problem is, millions of people think they do mean something and say what film excellence is.

This also makes me wonder… Will Alfonso Cuaron direct an animated feature? Well technically he already did, but I mean a "character animation" film? I think he could.

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