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Entries in animated films (306)


The Honoraries: Debbie Reynolds in "Charlotte's Web" (1973)

TFE is celebrating the three Honorary Oscar winners this week. Here's Tim discussing Debbie Reynolds' first time as voice actor in an animated feature.

Celebrity voice casting in animated films are older than you'd probably think, and usually as bad you'd probably expect. But sometimes, it works out well enough; sometimes, in fact, it turns into stone-cold classic cinema, as happened the first time Debbie Reynolds lent her voice to an animated feature. The film was Charlotte's Web from 1973, adapted from E.B. White's great 1952 children's book by Hanna-Barbera, the nation's leader in dismal television animation in the '60s and '70s. Ah, but Charlotte's Web is the exception: the handsomest and most emotionally rich thing Hanna-Barbera ever made by far, and Reynolds is the primary reason for that emotional richness.

She plays the title character, Charlotte A. Cavatica, a barn spider. Should I assume you've all read Charlotte's Web? You really ought to have. [More...]

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The Oscar Eligibility List for Best Animated Feature

The 16 official submissions for the Best Animated Feature Oscar have been revealed. The finalists include expected high-profile entries like Pixar's Inside Out and the still-to-come festival darling Anomalisa, and some you are maybe hearing about for the first time. Here's the list:

After racking up Pixar's second highest domestic gross, Inside Out is the early frontrunner. Its potential is also boosted by its Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay prospects, and it has the blend of brains and heart that have lead Pixar to more wins in the category than any other studio. There is also The Good Dinosaur coming for Thanksgiving and hoping to celebrate Pixar's first dual release year with dual nominations.
Pixar isn't alone in bringing a high pedigree. Anomalisa stands to benefit from its uniqueness among the pack: already boasting the Academy-approved pedigree of Charlie Kaufman, it's also a rare entry intended squarely at adults. GKIDS, who have found favor in this category with lovely low profile films, have three eligible candidates, including Studio Ghibli's When Marnie Was There. Will Blue Sky's The Peanuts Movie register with nostalgic love or will it have similar poor luck to the other releases by the studio?

This category also has some tricky qualifications to note. The short version is that there could be five nominees (provided every single one of these meets release qualifications), but that depends on how well the nominating committee rates each film. If they think the field is weak, we could see less than five.

Tim's Toons: Peanuts at the movies

Tim here. One of the all-time iconic snippets of American pop art returns to movie theaters this weekend: The Peanuts Movie from Blue Sky Studios (of the regrettably deathless Ice Age movies) converts Charles Schulz's comic strip characters to CGI, and the results have been getting surprisingly warm reviews (I haven't seen it yet, and am only now letting myself start to get really optimistic about it). In its honor, and in case it turns out to be bad, let's revisit the animated Peanuts films to have gone before. For even setting aside the God knows how many television specials, this is the fifth Peanuts feature, and while some of them have been weaker than others, there's not a true clinker in the bunch.

A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969)
The first in this case is pretty emphatically the best: based (like all of the movies and TV shorts, ultimately) on a couple of narrative arcs taken from the comic strip, A Boy Named Charlie Brown is the one that gets the essentials most perfectly. It's a story of perpetual loser Charlie Brown finding something he's genuinely terrific at, and coming up short in the end, anyway. The specific thing the film hinges on is a spelling bee, but that's almost beside the point; the film takes its time getting to that point, dwelling on Charlie Brown's keen awareness of his own shortcomings for a good third of the running time before the plot even announce itself in earnest.

It could be mopey, and it sure as hell sounds mopey, but A Boy Named Charlie Brown benefits from having the genuine anguish on display cut with the same sense of wry humor as the comic strip – as well it ought to, being written by Schulz himself (like the other features and basically every Peanuts animation prior to his death in 2000). And there's also the flights into broad comedy on the back of the Snoopy B-plot, to knock the rest of the edge off. It's perfectly bittersweet, funny enough that it's never hard to watch (it is, after all, for children), but deeply felt and never, never willing to join in the general mockery of Charlie Brown himself.

There's a distinct stiffness to the dated and even awful (but Oscar-nominated!) song score, which jangles badly against the terrific instrumental jazz score by Peanuts mainstay Vince Guaraldi, but that's really the worst thing to say against it. The animation is as ambitious as the series ever got, with shifts into an almost experimental mode, the child cast's voice acting is right on point with sharp frustration and melancholy, and the pragmatic moral – "The world didn't come to an end" – is one of the great moments in all of Peanuts.

Three more Peanuts classics below the jump

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YES, NO, MAYBE SO: Anomalisa

Coco here, ready to talk about the trailer for Charlie Kaufman's Anomalisa


- Being John Malkovich, Adaptation, Eternal Sunshine... Even if you don't love Synecdoche New York, a Charlie Kaufman project deserves enthusiasm.
- We don't get enough stop-motion animation in our screens, and even fewer animated movies aimed at adult audiences.
- In a sea of computer generated mediocrity, it's always nice to see a strong voice be inspired by the medium of animation, which seems to be a good way for auteurs to find revitalizing force. Think, for example, of Wes Anderson's wave of success after Fantastic Mr. Fox. 

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Trailers for Short Oscar finalists

AMPAS has selected 10 documentary shorts from their undoubtedly long (unpublished that we know of) eligibility list to compete for the 5 nominations in the category. For those who are unaware the short film race at the Oscars each year can be a hodgepodge of years (no release dates apply obviously) because the shorts qualify for the competition by winning prizes at Oscar-qualifying festivals around the world. (The short film categories are often as international as the Foreign Language Film Award.) And the festival journey can be a long one for tiny low profile films. 

Doc trailers after the jump and a few Animated shorts, too...

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Tim's Toons review: Last Days of Coney Island

Tim here. One of the most important events in animation in all of 2015 happened this week; it is important to stress that this doesn't mean it's also one of the best things. But the first new piece of animation from living legend Ralph Bakshi in almost 20 years is certainly worth spending a moment with, though now that I've seen the 22-minute Last Days of Coney Islandcurrently available for rental on Vimeo, where it just had its world premiere – I can't really claim that I want to stretch that moment out too long.

The film finds Bakshi, whose 77th birthday was October 29, returning to the territory of his most characteristic works from the early 1970s, including Heavy Traffic, the infamous race relations fable Coonskin, and his groundbreaking debut, Fritz the Cat. That is, it's a story about the New York City of Bakshi's battle-hardened memories of youth, involving deeply wearied souls scratching their way through an apocalyptic vision of the '60s counterculture.

The new film has clearly defined characters in the form of explosively violent Shorty (Omar Jones) and the hapless-in-love Max (Robert Costanzo), and it even has something that looks pretty clearly like a plot, though you have to work pretty diligently to carve it from the energetic blast of frenzied activity that makes up the film (it's a condensed version of a feature Bakshi has been trying to make since the '90s; it was shortened without losing any content).

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Wes Anderson Returns to Animation

Tim here, with exciting news for those of us who regard Fantastic Mr. Fox as a high water mark in the career of Wes Anderson. The Playlist reported on Friday that the director will be returning to the realm of stop-motion animals with his next feature, currently in pre-production. There are no plot details nor a title nor really anything, which I don't think should prevent us from going hog-wild with random speculation in comments. 

My guess: an exact replica of the Vietnam War play from Rushmore, only with fussy animal puppets.

We actually do know one thing: the film will be about dogs. Anderson, of course, is noted for his tendency to kill or otherwise abuse dogs in his movies: The Royal Tenenbaums, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Moonrise Kingdom all feature terrible things happening to their various pooches. It remains to be seen whether the new film represents his attempt to apologize to the noble species of Canis lupus familiaris, giving man's best friend a feature film to thrive and triumph. Or maybe it will just be his first movie in which every cast member dies at the end in a hideous Tarantinoesque bloodbath. But, y'know, set to Alexandre Desplat music.

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