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Entries in animated films (261)

Saturday
May092015

Tim's Toons: 1979 and the first film of Hayao Miyazaki

Tim here. May is 1979 Month at the Film Experience, and as far as animation goes, that was a pretty meager year (ardent fans of The Flintstones Meet Rockula and Frankenstone would no doubt disagree, but sadly, they do not exist). There was one clear highlight, though: 1979 was the year that a Japanese animator and TV director named Hayao Miyazaki made his first feature film. And 36 years later, he’s one of the only name-brand individuals in animation, anywhere in the world.

You wouldn’t necessarily be able to guess the full range of Miyazaki’s future career from Lupin III: The Castle of Cagliostro. For that is the title of this debut film, and if that whole “subtitle after the colon” thing makes it feel like it might have been part of an established franchise, that’s exactly the case. Lupin III was an anime series made by TMS Entertainment, adapting the adventures of a gentleman thief from French pulp literature; the first batch of episodes started to appear in 1971, and iterations of the animated franchise kept poking up for decades; the series still remains a cultural touchstone in Japan and it’s reasonably popular anywhere there’s an enthusiastic audience for classic anime.

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Friday
May012015

Tim's Toons: Soviet Propaganda Sampler Platter

Tim here. It's the first of May, and of course that can only mean one thing! ...oh, right, the new Avengers opens. Yeah, it means that too. But the thing is, the whole internet is going to be around to talk about Avengers: Age of Ultron, all weekend and probably all next week, and by then it will be time to talk about its sequels and spin-offs till the heat death of the universe.

So for right now, it's May Day, or International Workers Day for the anarcho-socialists in the crowd. Sort of like Labor Day's burlier, more aggressively political sibling, it's the kind of holiday that can only be celebrated in one way: animated Soviet propaganda! So please, won't you join me on a brief tour of some of the best - or at least, the most interesting - snippets of propagandistic Soviet cartoons? I promise that it's fascinatingly weird...

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Friday
Apr242015

A.I. "Ghost in the Shell"

Artificial Intelligence Week, our way of saying "hey, Ex-Machina and soon Age of Ultron are in theaters so it's trending, sort of" continues with Tim Brayton on an anime classic...

If we're going to talk about artificial intelligence in animation - sci-fi in animation generally, to be honest - we can't help but eventually find our way to the wonderful world of anime. Something about the combination of Japan's willingness to see animation as a medium for all kinds of storytelling, not just kiddie flicks, along with Japan's longstanding obsession with high-tech toys, makes Japanese animation a miraculous breeding ground for complex, philosophically overheated stories of life in the future and the impact of technology on humanity.

And possibly no movie in all of anime is so eager to explore the weirdest, thorniest issues of human vs. robot life, of consciousness vs. the electronic simulation of consciousness, and of self-determined identity as it is constrained by or transcends the body, as director Mamoru Oshii's Ghost in the Shell...

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Thursday
Apr232015

Tim's Toons: The new short "The Alchemist's Letter"

Tim here. It's been a good few weeks for animated short films about the fluctuating nature of memories and the complex relationship we have with the past: the warm glow has hardly faded from the online premiere of World of Tomorrow, and this week has seen the premiere on Vimeo of The Alchemist's Letter, written and directed by Carlos Andre Stevens, a Student Academy Award nominee for his 2008 debut, Toumai.

It's transparently a calling card for Stevens, an employee of commercial animation studio HouseSpecial -- that's a former division of Laika, some of whose designers and effects animators have hopped over to help guide the uncommonly lush and appropriately fussy look of the short -- but what a calling card! It's a brilliant little jeweled egg of a short, evocatively sketching out a whole human life in less than five and a half minutes, and doing it through some utterly beautiful design and animation.

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Thursday
Apr232015

A.I. "WALL•E"

Dancin' Dan here to continue TFE's Artificial Intelligence Week with a little something on my favorite dancing robots.

If there’s a common thread in stories of artificial intelligence, it’s that we can think that we, the programmers/creators, can control it all we like, but if we’re truly successful - if we succeed in creating actual artificial intelligence - we can’t do a damn thing to control it. It will grow and learn and eventually decide things for itself.

In Pixar’s masterpiece WALL•E, we don’t know exactly how our hero gained what for lack of a better word we have to call a “personality,” but we can imagine. Human ingenuity can do a lot of things, but one thing it is notoriously terrible at, on the whole, is predicting the future correctly. Which, coincidentally, is one of the ideas at the heart of Pixar’s masterpiece. [More...]

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Saturday
Apr182015

Tim's Toons: Star Wars - the Animated Misadventures

Tim here. A good cinephile would be able to look around the world and think about the whole range of possible movies in all their splendid variety. Me, I haven't been able to stop thinking about Star Wars ever since the new Episode VII trailer dropped yesterday. That's the poisonous fever bog of nostalgia for you.

So, as long as I'm not going to get my head right anyway, how about we take a little wander through the corridors of Star Wars and animation? Because, golly, talk about being gripped by a dubious affection for a brand name...

At some point, people subjected themselves to all of these things just to get a little tiny bit more of a Star Wars fix. And even if The Force Awakens can't live up to the awesome pileup of top-shelf fanservice in that trailer, there's not any chance in hell that it can be as bad as some of these:

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1979)
Two and a half years after the original film redefined what blockbuster box office could look like, the very first expansion of the universe came in the form of this legendarily wretched variety show that starts with ten damn minutes of people in terrible shaggy suits barking at each other in unsubtitled Wookiee-ese. After which it proceeds to get worse. The solitary highlight, and that's almost solely because of the lowlights surrounding it on all sides, is a short animated sequence by Nelvana in which Luke, Han Solo, and Chewbacca fall for the most transparent con job in the universe and future fan-favorite Boba Fett is introduced. He rides a dinosaur. [More...]

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