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Entries in animated films (187)

Thursday
Aug212014

Tim's Toons: All Dogs Go to Heaven, the strangest animated film of 1989

Tim here. We’re talking 1989 this month at the Film Experience, and as any dabbler in the history of animation knows, 1989 is most important for being the year that Walt Disney Feature Animation get back on track after some two decades in the wilderness with the smashing success of the fairy tale musical The Little Mermaid.

That’s not what we’re here to talk about. The Little Mermaid doesn’t need me: it’s a stone-cold all-time classic that everybody reading this has an opinion on already. Instead, I would like to take you to the other animated feature that opened on November 17, 1989, and which crumpled in the face of Mermaid’s juggernaut performance at the box office. That day, y’see, also bore witness to All Dogs Go to Heaven, a film which shriveled up and died in the face of Disney's singing crabs and diva octopodes.

This was the fourth feature made by Don Bluth, who had once been the heir-apparent to the Disney studios until he fled that company during the joyless production of The Fox and the Hound in 1979. Throughout the ‘80s, he and his succession of companies had represented an old-fashioned, back-to-basics alternative to the confused, often unpleasant films Disney was miserably trying to hawk, and his two biggest successes – 1986’s An American Tail and 1988’s The Land Before Time – found him effectively beating his old employers at their own game.

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Friday
Aug082014

Tim's Toons: The quickly-forgotten Ninja Turtles animated movie

Tim here. I hate to even mention Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the new film that looks like it copies all of producer Michael Bay’s bad habits while compounding that with director Jonathan Liebesman’s clumsy hand and lack of Baysian visual style. So soon after Nathaniel went to all the work of updating the Oscar charts, it feels a little like being the guy who takes a crap in the punchbowl.

And yet, we are driven by the tides of history, and like it or not, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is the big new release this weekend, because that’s how August works. So rather than pout and moan and try to find anything else to talk about (“Hey you guys, it’s the 75th anniversary of the Popeye Short Hello, How Am I this week!”), I shall play the hand I have been dealt, which means that we now to get to talk about the one and only time that the famous of martial artist reptiles were in a completely animated feature film.

That being TMNT, which despite its sort of ‘90s-ish X-treem title, actually came out in 2007. Honesty requires me to say up front that, from any objective standpoint, TMNT is not very good at all. [More...

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Monday
Aug042014

Studio Ghibli is taking a break

Tim here. The story over the weekend as far as popcorn movies go might have been the monstrous over-performance of Guardians of the Galaxy, but for those of us who like a little more personal artistry and a little less big-budget sizzle out of our movies, Sunday's biggest news was the apparent revelation by Toshio Suzuki, general manager of Japan's Studio Ghibli, that the company is ceasing to produce animated films.

Or maybe not. The internet, in its glorious need for news, News, NEWS, has perhaps jumped the gun on some ambiguous words that have slightly different weight in Japanese than in English. They're merely talking about restructuring and re-evaluating their business and production strategies in the wake of Hayao Miyazaki's retirement. That certainly could mean that they're going to close; it doesn't mean they've closed yet (though that "yet" might well be nothing but diplomacy talking). What is certainly the case is that following the newly-released in Japan When Marnie Was There, Ghibli has no future plans involving animated features. So even if it's not The End, it's not a very good day for lovers of animation or just top-quality world cinema.

While we stew and wait for more news on the Ghibli front, I'd like to invite everyone to share their favorite movies from the studio. I'll start off: if I wanted to showcase to a newbie the breadth of Studio Ghibli's artistry (and today of all days, that's exactly what I want to do), these would be the five movies I'd pick:

  • My Neighbor Totoro (1988) - a generous children's fable filled with a love of nature
  • Grave of the Fireflies (1988) - a deadly serious examination of the human cost of war
  • Porco Rosso (1992) - a clever spin on an animal fable and loving tribute to the beauty of flight
  • Whisper of the Heart (1995) - a quiet, beautiful story of adolescent curiosity and self-knowledge
  • Spirited Away (2002) - the perfect gateway drug: bold visions, fearless storytelling, impeccably clear characters

What are your favorite Studio Ghibli films? And how sad are you going to be if this really is the end?

Thursday
Jul312014

Tim's Toons: A field guide to animated raccoons

Tim here. Tomorrow, the much-hyped latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Franchise Expansion Plan opens, Guardians of the Galaxy. While reviews have promised a broad, inventive space comedy/adventure, the marketing to date has focused on two specific things:

1) Chris Pratt plays Han Solo.
2) Bradley Cooper voices Han Solo as a raccoon.

And since I take it as axiomatic that two Han Solos is better than no Han Solos (as graphically demonstrated by the Star Wars prequels) I’m actually perfectly okay with that. Anyway, it’s pretty clear at this point that Disney wants the Raccoon – Rocket Raccoon, to give him his proper name – to be the film’s big breakout character, so the time was perfect to launch into a brief history of the talking raccoon throughout animation history.

RJ, Over the Hedge (2006)
To date, the most visible of all anthropomorphic raccoons has been this character in DreamWorks Animation’s noble but somewhat ineffective attempt to break out of their “pop culture jokes ‘n’ celebrity voices” ghetto with a movie looking back to the madcap slapstick of the Looney Tunes shorts...

Disney, Canadian, and Japanese raccoons below the jump!

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Saturday
Jul262014

Live from Comic Con: The Boxtrolls and Sin City's Sequel

Anne Marie here, surviving on pop tarts and coffee and delivering film news live(ish) from SDCC. This next bit covers two very different panels that were placed side-by-side: kid-friendly The Boxtrolls and blood-and-guts comic book noir Sin City: A Dame To Kill For.

The Boxtrolls
The latest picture from the studio that brought us Coraline and ParaNorman is another stop-motion animation that made the chattering crowd of Hall H stop and stare. The trailer gave us everything we expect from Laika; a creative world, seamless animation, and humor. But they really got the audience's attention from a preview of a nearly wordless scene featuring the Boxtrolls searching through the garbage and playing with a trashed teddy bear. Have you ever heard 6,000 people "aww" at the same time? It's both loud and cute.

The panel assembled creators Travis Knight, Anthony Stacchi, and Graham Annable, along with voice talent Elle Fanning (bubbling over and wearing yellow eyeshadow), Isaac Hempstead, and Sir Ben Kingsley. The Boxtrolls is based on Here Be Giants, and has been 8 years in the making (as long as Coraline, as the head of Laika informed us). Stop-motion animation is hardcore! Knight and Stacchi described a bit of the time-consuming frame-by-frame process, which puts animators through a physical wringer, burned fingers handling lights, contorted bodies fitting in tiny sets, sliced hands handling puppets. Knight admitted the sets get destroyed too, as the man-sized cameras push through the doll-size set pieces. The sacrifices look worth it, though. The Boxtrolls looks utterly unique. 

Sin City sequel after the jump...

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