Saturday, February 1, 2014

Bits Journal #3

Now this bits thing will be a journal of sorts…

To start off…

This… Thing… Happened to surface the other day.

I don't know where it came from. Last autumn, after it was announced that the film was delayed to 2015, the fake poster below showed up.

While the designs of Arlo and Spot look exactly like the concept art that was presented at last summer's D23 Expo, the background foliage was taken from the Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 poster and lacked the little details teaser posters usually have. Plus, it was far too early for Pixar to even release a teaser poster for what was - back then - opening over two years away. It was no different from those fan made Frozen posters that had the close-to-final character designs. Again, who gets this stuff? Who is making these posters? Who is getting access to these designs?

Anyways, you'll notice that Arlo's head is pointed in another direction on the banner but the same pose is used for Spot. The background is concept artwork for the film, as you can see Arlo's head and Spot in the lower right. Again, how is this stuff getting out? Do Disney and Pixar intentionally have people leak in-progress stuff to get people talking?

That all being said, it's been months since it was announced that original director Bob Peterson was off the project. A new director has not been named yet, and there's less than two years to go… What's going on with this production? Has a new director been named but not announced? All very troubling, but I hope all the best happens with this production. Then again, we aren't hearing much about Inside Out either. Maybe Pixar doesn't want to announce anything for a while. They've caught heat for a lot of things recently, and I feel that they'll be having a quiet 2014. At least until the Inside Out teaser debuts before Big Hero 6 or whatever…

2013 just wasn't their year. More talk of their decline, Monsters University not being warmly received, Finding Dory being announced, Pixar Canada being shut down, Peterson being booted off of the dino film, Planes being confused as a Pixar film, Cars 3 rumors/semi-confirmation, Brenda Chapman's comments to the New York Times upon going back to DreamWorks… Pixar probably wants to keep quiet from now on, because since 2008, they haven't been as secretive as they used to be. For a while, they shouldn't mention what's coming out in 2017 and 2018, just to be safe and to make sure no productions run into real problems while racing to make their deadlines. I firmly believe that them announcing dates for films like Cars 2, Newt and Brave long before they came out caused problems, ditto The Good Dinosaur and other projects. Don't tell us what will hit theaters in 2017 until at least next year, when Inside Out and The Good Dinosaur come out.

While the Emeryville house has its current problems, a house over in Canada is beginning to rise…

The success of The Nut Job has really given its creators - Gulfstream Pictures, the Canadian-based animation studio ToonBox Entertainment and the Korean studio Red Rover International - a lot of confidence. So much confidence that they set up an animation "lab" to foster new projects, which I presume will be hitting theaters after 2016, when The Nut Job 2 opens.

This could be a good thing. More small-scale animation is needed at the moment, especially with many big budget endeavors not turning profits. However, we don't need bad small-scale animation either, and the same goes for big budget animation. The Nut Job might be harmless fluff for kiddies with its silly animal antics and fart jokes, but animation is much more than that. Again, as I've said over and over, studios should take bigger risks when making lower budget films. LAIKA does it, Aardman does it. Reel FX may do it, considering their slate (The Book of LifeBeasts of BurdenW.I.S.H. Police)… Now this studio. After the two Nut Job flicks, I think they should take some risks and make animated features that are truly different from all the heavy-hitters' offerings.

Three projects have been approved so far.

The first of which is "an epic romance set inside a turf war in the animal kingdom", which is being written (and possibly directed and/or produced) by Jason Horwitch. His work includes the television series Rubicon and Medical Investigation along with Finding Graceland. He has a rather different resume, so let's see what he brings to an animated feature. Will it be family friendly? Or will it be a little daring and be… Ya know… Not a G/PG family comedy?

The second is a coming-of-age story with an ensemble cast… That's it. Comedian Rebecca Drysdale, a writer for the sketch show Key & Peele, is attached, so who knows what this film will be like. Very little info, so I can't really say.

The third one comes from Academy Nicholl Fellow Alfredo Botello (Reality Reboot), there is currently no info on what the project is about.

These names being attached imply that these films will be different and perhaps more for adults, but at the same time, it wasn't said by anyone at the studio that they are planning to go different routes with animation. These may just be kiddie flicks much like The Nut Job.

Bill Bindley of Gulfstream had this to say…

"Our Animation Lab is unique because it's so centered on the writers and the engaging characters and amazing worlds they can develop. Working with our partner ToonBox, writers can enjoy the creative power of sitting along side world-class animators to stretch and realize their vision."

Jay Ahn, President and CEO of ToonBox added, "The Animation Lab will allow for the best and most promising projects to be afforded a dedicated space for first-rate creative and narrative development."

Another Gulfstreamer partner, Mike Karz, said "After the success of The Nut Job and anticipation for The Nut Job 2, the Animation Lab allows Gulfstream and ToonBox to together bring to life for global audiences a whole new slate of exciting animated projects."

PR sugarcoating? Or is something cool truly brewing here? Take your pick. I hope for the latter, but I wouldn't be surprised if we get more safe, harmless Nut Job-esque movies. However, I am happy that a small studio is trying to make it big. Reel FX stepped in last year with Free Birds, now ToonBox is an established player. Though, I wonder… What will end up happening to their two other films (Spark and the Bolts & Blip movie) that are in the works?

In other news, Disney's live action studio continues down the reboot path…

Gone are risks like John Carter and The Lone Ranger, gritty rebooted fairy tales are the name of the game along with sequels to franchises that just won't go away. Also… Remakes of live action classics in their library that need to be left alone. Maleficent, The Jungle BookAlice in Wonderland 2, Oz 2, The Rocketeer, Pete's Dragon, Flight of the Navigator and the Cruella origin story all the way! Hell, while they're at it, they should make a gritty rebooted Condorman in 2021 for the original's 40th anniversary!

Now Disney is looking to get nostalgic 80s kids into the theaters with a film based on Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers

That's something to get excited about, right? Think again.

It's going to be a live action/CGI hybrid much like the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. Would it have killed them to just green light a lower budget hand-drawn film based on the show? Oh wait, the suits assume audiences don't like hand-drawn animation. Silly me.

Anyways, the best we can hope for at this rate is a decent screenplay… Ya know, one that doesn't indulge in potty humor, pop culture references and a hip attitude. I at least want to see Chip 'n Dale, not pitiful parodies of them, on the silver screen. I wouldn't be surprised if the film is not horrible, because Mandeville Films (who were behind the recent Muppets films and the on hiatus Phineas and Ferb film) will be making it.

Still, doing it in CGI? I don't approve of that. I don't hate CGI (I've stressed millions of times that I see it as equal to hand-drawn and stop motion) and I think classic characters can be done in CGI, I just really want Disney to be wise and realize that hand-drawn is not outdated. How about a live action film with Chip, Dale, Gadget, Monterey Jack and Zipper rendered in hand-drawn? C'mon. Or how about a big budget hand-drawn DuckTales or Darkwing Duck. The latter would be perfect in this world dominated by superheroes, as others have pointed out.

Now watch, when the damn thing hits in 2019 or whatever, I may just come back here and say, "Gee… You really shouldn't judge a book by its cover."

Please don't let this be Alvin and the Chipmunks-level bad…

Speaking of superheroes…

The Marvel Cinematic Universe might be going in an interesting and unexpected route… It's rumored and suggested that The New Avengers will be integrated into this ever-growing series…

Of course, if you've been here for over a year, you'll know that my comic book knowledge is very slim but I have a huge interest in these characters and the films they are in. I will admit, there are some MCU films that I don't think are very good. Iron Man 2 and The Incredible Hulk immediately come to mind, but I like these characters, their stories and the world-building - I think - is solid. The Incredible Hulk is often named the weakest film in the MCU, I just think it's a decent superhero blockbuster with some knockout action and decent writing, acting and whatnot. It's no Iron Man or The Dark Knight, but I see it as a fun flick.

Phase 2, so far, has been consistent. I absolutely loved Iron Man 3 and felt that it all clicked, despite the fact that it left many viewers and fans divided. Thor: The Dark World on the other hand… Well I will say that it was consistent and the story was okay, but there was no real character development, the villain was cardboard and the pacing was pretty bad. I'm tempted to call it the MCU's weakest, perhaps even worse than Iron Man 2, but I feel I should see it a few more times in order to give it its final spot on the best-to-worst list.

That being said, I acknowledge that these films are being handled by different directors and writers. Thor: The Dark World being not-so-good doesn't destroy my interest in any upcoming films, especially Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Everything I've seen of it looks great; the trailer, the 5-minute sneak peek, the sneak peek of the Super Bowl spot, the images… It all just looks and sounds incredible, it could even be the MCU's best film, if not Marvel's best. Captain America: The First Avenger was damn good, so this has a chance at being excellent.

Guardians of the Galaxy intrigues me in every way, even though we've seen very little of it. The Avengers: Age of Ultron sounds it'll be what a good sequel should be. Phase 3's kick-off film, Ant-Man, little by little sounds better and better. We won't get any juicy Phase 3 news for a while, I presume we'll end up knowing the full slate that runs from 2016 to 2018 during Marvel's presentation at Comic-Con.

Anyways, I had predicted the Phase 3 slate a few days ago…

Thor's third outing - two writers just got on board the film - and The Inhumans should arrive in 2016. Marvel currently has two films slated for May 6, 2016 and July 8, 2016 respectively. Warner Bros/DC played dirty by moving their Batman vs. Superman film to the former date, but I have a feeling that WB and DC may end up kicking Marvel out of July 2016 since DC has had a history with the June/July zone. (Batman Begins and Man of Steel were June releases, The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises were July releases)

So I can see this happening… (Working off of Screen Rant's predictions and a discussion I had with Disney and Marvel fan PJ, who worked with me on the Marvel and DC articles last summer.)

  • The third Thor film, with Surtur as the villain, arrives in May 2016.
  • WB/DC releases Batman vs. Superman in July 2016.
  • Marvel opens The Inhumans in fall 2016. Presumably the second Friday of November. Worked for Thor: The Dark World

Marvel has one film pegged for a 2017 release, and that's set to open on May 5th. Pretty soon, Disney or Marvel should announce a second 2017 release.

Now, it was recently announced that Gal Gadot is set to appear as Wonder Woman in three DCCU movies: Batman vs. Superman, a solo film and Justice League. Now I think, if WB was smart, they'd have Batman vs. Superman open in summer 2016 and only have Wonder Woman cameo in it. Then Wonder Woman gets her solo movie in summer 2017, follow that up with The Flash in fall 2017… Then in 2018, they can roll out Justice League and go head-to-head with The Avengers 3.

But I have a feeling that WB will just film Justice League next and release that in 2017, with solo movies being released after that. Instead of building up a potentially solid Justice League movie, they'll just go about it the wrong way. Zack Snyder is at the helm of Batman vs. Superman and probably this, after all… They just want to rush. They announced Batman vs. Superman in summer 2013, a mere two years before its original summer 2015 release date!

It's very telling, to me, that Argo writer Chris Terrio had to come in and rewrite the script for Batman vs. Superman (what are they gonna call this damn film anyways?). I think WB is simply racing to make team-up films because Marvel already got the ball rolling. Man of Steel was not a good film, a very unpleasant one at that, but it's suggested that its sequel is introducing Batman because WB was disappointed with the film's box office performance. Opening with $116 million, you'd think this would breeze to $320 million, right? It ended up making $291 million, suggesting that the word of mouth wasn't that good. Still, $600+ million worldwide is nothing scoff at… That's way more than what Batman Begins made back in 2005.

If anything, WB will go for the buck and not care to build up a decent cinematic universe. Even if they did, I'd still not be too interested because this version of Kal-El is unlikable and he will continue to be unlikable because I can't get past the fact that he recklessly killed millions of people in his fight with General Zod, when he could've very well moved the fight to another location in order to… *gasp* Protect the people of Metropolis! I'm just so sick of the "dark and edgy", "grim and brooding" trend that plagues movies these days… They had every opportunity to make a darker, more serious and dramatic Superman. Snyder and David S. Goyer went about it the wrong way, and are actually justifying the horrible writing and bad storytelling decisions.

Anyways, Marvel should have Captain America's third outing ready for May 2017 with Black Panther following in the late summer. Screen Rant suggested Doctor Strange, but after the talk I had with PJ, it seems Doctor Strange will change things up a bit.

A lot of people expect Phase 3 to be like this: Thor 3 and an original in 2016, Captain America 3 and an original in 2017, then Avengers 3 in May 2018. But…

If The New Avengers is going to be a thing in the MCU - and Kevin Feige said everything is planned out, from now until 2021 - then Black Panther should be a go. I can see him getting his film in 2017 now, but Doctor Strange still isn't out of the mix.

PJ thinks that Doctor Strange and The Avengers 3 will arrive in 2018 in that order. But shouldn't The Avengers 3 arrive in May 2018? The first two were May releases… Not this time.

Going by his current prediction, I can see Doctor Strange being an early April release since Captain America's second outing will be an April release. The Avengers 3 should follow in July.

Also, Sony claimed the first Friday of May 2018 with The Amazing Spider-Man 4, which probably was an inconvenience to Disney. So they'll have to work around that and just ready the big battle with Thanos for July. So now, I'm thinking…

Thor: Rise of Surtur - May 6, 2016
The Inhumans - November 11, 2016
Captain America: Civil War - May 5, 2017
Black Panther - August 4, 2017
Doctor Strange - April 6, 2018
The Avengers: The Infinity Gauntlet - July 2018

Then after that, they can build characters like Black Panther while also continuing Hulk's story and get The New Avengers set up. I think Marvel will end up going this route because at this rate, they are not getting Spider-Man or the Fantastic Four. Sony is building up their own big thing with Spider-Man, and Fox is making sure that they hold onto Fantastic Four, plus they seem to be in a pissing match with Disney right now. Have you noticed how they're opening their films against Disney's? And Disney is opening their films against theirs?

PJ and another Marvel/Disney fan (Tyler/Wraithkelso) who collaborated with me had said that Galactus would make an excellent villain in a fourth Avengers, but Fox is going to keep him and Dr. Doom away from Disney in an attempt to build their own little shared universe. Ahhhh, studio politics…

A compromise like this could make up for the absence of Spidey, the FF, Galactus and others that would perfectly fit into the MCU and make for an excellent finale. We can't get that, but we are getting something that could arguably be just as good.

As for Sony and The Amazing Spider-Man, I'm actually really looking forward to seeing what they will do with it.

The Sinister Six storyline is definitely happening, and the trailer for the second film doesn't hesitate to tell us that. A Venom spin-off is also in the works, and it just looks like big things are going to happen with this series. To go in-depth would potentially spoil a lot of things for this film and the third one (which is expected to come out in June 2016), but I'm excited and not embarrassed to admit that. I know this new series has left lots of fans and people divided, but I separate it from the Sam Raimi trilogy and I take it on its own terms… And yes, I really liked The Amazing Spider-Man and thought it was a solid film. I highly anticipate the second one.

Sony's plan is to simply make a huge Spider-Man series and one that won't be derailed like the Raimi series was. Everything's all planned out, and the second one isn't even finished yet. That tells me that Sony brass really learned from their mistakes, with how they handled Spider-Man 3. Spider-Man 3 was already big, but then Venom was shoe-horned into the picture and other changes were made. Spider-Man 3, though I personally like it, is a colossal mess and it upset many people. Problems ensued with the production of the fourth one, Raimi and Sony execs butted heads and soon Raimi out the door.

The hastily-announced and produced reboot was kind of like an "Oh crap!" reaction, because Spider-Man 3 had taken in over $800 million at the box office and 3D had the potential to boost those numbers. But no more Raimi, no more Tobey Maguire and co. Many ask why they quickly rebooted the Spider-Man film series, there's your answer. Now that this new film was a big success (over $700 million worldwide is great for a reboot that came so soon!), Sony probably doesn't want to screw up again. The film was also well-received by critics for the most part, so they want director Marc Webb to stay onboard.

Early on, it seemed like they were willing to cooperate and perhaps even collaborate with Disney and bring Spidey into the MCU. But after they announced two more sequels to this film and the Venom spin-off, it's obvious that they are not interested in working with Disney and would rather continue milking their massive cash cow. Fine enough, as long as future installments are good, I'll be happy. Disney/Marvel can go on with or without Spider-Man with The New Avengers, so it's no big loss if you ask me.

Anyways, I'm geared up for The Amazing Spider-Man 2 and I hope it delivers. We'll see in May…


  1. I doubt the live action Chip 'n Dale movie will ever come to fruition, and hope to God it doesn't, because it looks like a critical and commercial disaster waiting to happen. With that said, I've lost all respect for Disney's live action division. All they seem to be doing is rebooting all of Walt Disney Animation Studios' past franchises and efforts just to make a profit ever since The Lone Ranger bombed. Hopefully Brad Bird's Tomorrowland regains my trust in Disney's live action movies when it comes out.

    Plus, you said before that WDAS was probably secretly working on something that will put hand-drawn animation on the map again many times before. I know comments like this are getting pretty annoying, but are the suits at the company trying to convince WDAS that hand-drawn is out of date?

    1. At this rate, I'm not sure if any future WDAS projects - or at least the ones we know about - will be hand-drawn in some way or another. I've heard that Paperman's tech can't quite carry an animated feature just yet, and it's also been said that hand-drawn just isn't seen as viable anymore at the company.

      All I know is that 'Giants' and 'Moana' may use an upgraded version of the painterly system WDAS is using for their features. Not sure about a film that'll put hand-drawn back on the map… I just hope one is brewing. If Pixar's getting into painterly animation, I sense a major comeback in some form.

    2. I haven't heard anything about hand-drawn not being viable for Disney from any sources such as Entertainment Weekly and Variety, and Disney didn't seem to say anything about Winnie the Pooh's box office intake, so I'm thinking they were satisfied with that film's performance. I'd at least like some answers from the company.

      Anyway, I thought I'd ask. I don't think this "Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers" project making it out of the development stage. I guarantee you that if the film ever got made, it will go the way of The Lone Ranger, and bomb badly.

    3. Right now, all this hand-drawn and CG business at WDAS is just puzzling. The optimist in me says that something is brewing, I hope there is. Lasseter truly wants hand-drawn to come back, and I think they will concoct something that'll take the suits and business people at the company by surprise. Who knows how 'Giants' will look, let alone 'Moana'…

      As for Chip 'n Dale, I can see it not getting past development either. I think something will go wrong, and I can imagine a considerable backlash. We shall see...

    4. I first read the news of the "Rescue Ranger" movie being in development on Cartoon Brew, and there's already a huge backlash coming from the dark waters that are the website's talkback section (I swear, people who leave comments on that site are so negative, it's absurd).