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 Gemini, Cinephile, Actressexual. Also loves cats. All material herein is written and copyrighted by him, unless otherwise noted. twitter | facebook | pinterest | tumblr | letterboxd

 

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Entries in animated films (163)

Friday
Feb142014

A Brief History of the Cartoon as Toy Commercial

Tim here. With The Lego Movie devouring money at a rate virtually never seen in the middle of winter, and receiving some of the most enthusiastic reviews of any animated film since Toy Story 3, any fears that it would be nothing but a craven toy commercial have been firmly put to sleep. Which isn’t to say that it’s not a toy commercial; but, as Nathaniel put it in his review, “Who cares? It’s wonderful!” Besides, it’s one thing to have a hard-core branding effort for some new plaything that nobody wants or needs, and quite another to have a feature-length advertisement for a 65-year-old icon that’s the best-selling toy in history. Lego doesn’t need The Lego Movie.

Still and all, the fact remains that there’s a mercenary heart beneath the film: not only selling Legos, but selling multimedia franchises controlled by Warner Bros. on top of it. This is done painlessly, even cleverly, and that tends to make it harmless; and in this respect, The Lego Movie represents a striking break from the history of cartoon-as-advertisement. For the most part, previous examples of this commercial impulse have been, in fact, unusually painful, dumb, and harmful .

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Wednesday
Feb122014

GKIDS acquires Song of the Sea

Tim here with some great news for everyone who loved the 2009 Best Animated Feature Oscar nominne The Secret of Kells (which should, really, be everyone). GKIDS, the indie that Kells first put on the map, has announced that they'll be distributing diretor Tomm Moore's second feature, Song of the Sea, though they've rather cagily failed to announce a date just yet (the film is still in production). Based on the distributor's past history, I'd expect an Oscar-qualifying run in the fall, followed by a full release sometime in the spring of 2015, which isn't terribly comforting to those of us who want to see it, like, now. Just based on the images available on Moore's blog for the movie, it looks like the animators at Cartoon Saloon have taken the illuminated manuscript aesthetic gone to even richer, more tactile places.

 

Like The Secret of Kells, the new movie tells a story inspired by Irish folklore: in this case, selkies, a race of seal-humans whose previous cinematic appearances include the John Sayles family movie The Secret of Roan Inish and the Neil Jordan romantic drama Ondine. Kells veteran Brenan Gleeson is back to do voice work, and the music will once again by courtesy of Bruno Coulais and the band Kila, whose work was almost as key to the effectiveness of the earlier movie as the imagery was.

Having found Moore's last film to be one of the most fresh and enjoyable animated films in years, I'm ecstatic to have this clear indication that his new project will be treated with care for a North American audience. GKIDS has pushed films to four Oscar nominations in five years, including current nominee Ernest & Celestine; I'd (foolishly?) lay good money on Song of the Sea being part of the same conversation a year from now.

 

Sunday
Feb092014

Review: The LEGO Movie

'If you build it, they will come.' They'll come in droves. It's 2014 and at this point, it's safe to say that Hollywood has mastered the art of pandering to the masses. They deliver exactly what we are pre-conditioned to want. The box office charts each year are now completely filled by franchises and pre-branded efforts. Frozen, for example, isn't a true original, but the 12th episode of the Disney Princess franchise that's been breaking box office records since (gulp) 1937. It's now extremely rare for a non-sequel non-pre-branded film to ever become a mammoth hit; only one "original" per year even cracks the annual top ten now (Gravity in 2013, Ted in 2012, none in 2011) which is a big downturn from the Aughts which themselves weren't as original as the Nineties.

All of which brings us to this weekend's chart topper, THE LEGO MOVIE. With its built-in nostalgia for childhood as well as a huge swath of pre-licensed characters to dangle in front of your 3D glasses (Gandalf, Batman, Han Solo, Wonder Woman, and dozens more), it's easy to approach the new hit expecting the worst. But there's no need! I'll use Bad Cop / Good Cop (voiced by Liam Neeson) to illustrate the situation and my own immediate mood swing as the movie built its case.

[BAD COP] The LEGO Movie would be a massive hit even if it were terrible.

[GOOD COP] Who cares? It's wonderful!

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Thursday
Jan302014

Will the real Maleficent please stand up?

Tim here. We’ve all had a few days for the recent trailer for Disney’s upcoming pillaging of former glories live-action Sleeping Beauty riff Maleficent to sink in (full disclosure: all I get is a big rotten whiff of Snow White and the Huntsman with a bigger role for its face-saving Prima Donna as the villain). So I’d like to take a moment to rewind 55 years back to the first Maleficent, for no better – and certainly, no worse – reason than that she’s one of the very best villains not only in the Disney canon, but in cinema as a whole. And while it’s never the wrong time to pay attention to one of the finest pieces of draftsmanship in the whole of American character animation, it’s nice to have an excuse.

The question, “Why is Maleficent so damn awesome?” has many answers, but here’s the easy one: black. 

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Saturday
Jan182014

The 2013 Best Animated Short Oscar nominees

Mickey Mouse is up for his first gold in agesTim here. Having already looked at the newly-minted Best Animated Feature Oscar nominees, let's turn for a little bit towards that category's older, smaller sibling, Best Short Subject - Animated. We already briefly discussed these films back when the 10-title shortlist was announced, but now that it has been whittled down to five, let's take a more in-depth look at each of them.

Feral (Daniel Sousa and Dan Golden)
For solely aesthetic purposes, this would be my favorite of the nominees. It's a simple enough story: a boy raised by wolves is brought back to civilization and has a hard time of it. The greatness lies in the marriage of that scenario with rough impressionistic images, some which look like extra-bleak newspaper comics, some which look like somebody was trying a sheet of paper apart using a pencil.

It's the most distinctive of the five by far, looking handcrafted because it so emphatically is: some of the images are drawn on computer, some are hand-painted, but they all have a desperate crudeness that lacks the polish of most animation, and this couldn't be a better fit for the material. It's available to rent for $1 on Vimeo.

Mickey Mouse, friendly witches, and more below the jump

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