Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Low Quality CG Films

It will be interesting to see how well "Hoodwinked" does in the next few months. Here we have a CG film with some very middle of the road to sub-par visuals and very simple animation tied together with what seems to be a pretty decent story. ...continued...

The film is being distributed by the Weinstein's and should get a fair shot in the theatres. It won't have the marketing muscle of your typical wide-release CG film, however it really doesn't need one. The budget is so low that a decent box office will make for a successful theatre run. I have to say, I am extremely interested to see how this fares. You can bet a lot of producers will be eyeing this film very closely.

Another film is "Cat Tale" from Imagi. This is the same company that did the animation for DreamWorks "Father Of The Pride" television series. For this movie, we have bad character designs, just-okay-animation and mediocre visuals. The story doesn't appear to be very strong but you know this movie has a low budget. Again, the movie will not have to make much. I wonder how it will do (if they find distribution).

You may be surprised to hear that I am not going to rant about outsourcing. I believe Cat Tale is a home brewed film. If true, they are safe from my wrath. However, Hoodwinked doesn't fall into that category. With a budget of $15 million, some US producers made the film in Manilla. This pisses me off. However, I don't want to go off on a tangent. I'm still interested to see how the film does.

Out of these two movies, I think Hoodwinked is the stronger picture and the one to be watchful of this Holiday season. Although it doesn't come close to visuals that Sony, Pixar, Disney, Blue Sky, and DreamWorks put out, the story looks funny and a very mild box office dent will be a success for such a low budget film. We could be witnessing the beginning of the flood of ultra-low-budget CG films.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Pixar Asking For The World

What is Jobs asking for? Will Disney bend over for a chance to be with Pixar again? Not likely. ...continued...

In the current terms that Steve Jobs is asking for, it would be extremely idiotic for Disney to make a deal. Let's lay down what terms Steve is rumored to be asking for:

* Pixar picks their release dates.
* Pixar has more creative control of their films.
* Pixar says which films can be sequeled (if any) and gets full creative control.
* Pixar pays 10% distribution fee to Disney to market their films.
* Disney stops production on TS3.
* Pixar gets 100% ownership of previous Pixar films.

Disney is probably willing to concede on the release dates, full creative control of their future films, and maybe a distro fee of 12%. However, Disney would be completely out of their mind to allow Pixar the other terms. If you drop the production of TS3, that means you are saying you wont sequel any other Disney/Pixar films. Big mistake. Would it be worth it for Disney to lose the lucrative money from previous Pixar efforts and from sequelization for a lousy 10% distribution fee on future films? No freaking way. If Iger accepts those conditions, he should be flushed out of Disney immediately. It would be a disservice to Disney and their shareholders.

Crazy terms like this are presented as concession fodder. That way, Jobs looks like a reasonable human being when he pulls back from one of his demands.

Everyone and their mother is saying the deal is going to happen. Touting that Pixar will get what it wants. I'm going to go on record (again) saying that the deal will not happen. The potential money from TS3 and other sequels is too great. Unless Jobs reigns back his demands, Iger/Disney would have to be a complete moron to accept. And, I don't think he is.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Attack Of The Motion Captured Movies

It started with Final Fantasy, that awful movie starring stone faced characters that creeped out most everyone who made the mistake of entering the theatre. We absorbed another salvo with Polar Express, now we have Monster House and Happy Feet to look forward to. ...continued...

Plain and simple. Motion capture looks absolutely ugly in a fully animated film. Don't get me wrong, the technology has its uses for things like stunt men, crowds of people, or the times that you need absolute realism. Games! Another great use for it. However, when you start using motion capture in an animated movie, especially on cartoon'ish characters, it looks like crap.

Both Final Fantasy and Polar Express had the most zombie like performances I think I have ever seen. Monster House looks slightly better but has the same problems and just looks wrong. The producers for Happy Feet should of just hired a bunch of actors to put on giant rubber costumes, because that is exactly what the CG characters look like.

Audiences know! Maybe they cannot put their finger on it, but something looks off to them. The movement in Polar Express and Final Fantasy got reemed by non-industry reviewers. So they have to be in tune to it.

No animator in their right mind wants to work on a motion capture project. If they do, I'd argue that they probably have no animation skills of their own and shouldn't be labelled as animators to begin with. The only people that want this awful technology used in movies like these are directors that wish they were directing live action instead, producers that are misled that it will save money, and techno-geeks that think it is just cool.

Somebody needs to grab these producers by the neck and let them know that it isn't going to save you money. Polar Express, Final Fantasy, and Monster House have huge budgets. How was the money saved and exactly where did it go? An average CG film may have anywhere from 25-50 animators on it. Let's say you can get rid of all of them. You still have to hire someone to come back and clean the mocap data up. It needs to be done. In a lot of motion capture setups, someone still has to animate the faces. Better hire some of those animators back. If a production really wants to save money, there are other ways to go about it. Motion capture isn't a solution.

----This rant was brought to you by an unamed producer that tried to tell me how much motion capture was going to save them on a proposed CG film. After our conversation it was obvious that this man hates animation and wants to make his production as "live-action" as possible.----

Unfortunately, the money that CG features are making is bringing in a lot of undesirables. We have producers that don't even like animation and we have business men that have never been closer to a movie than a theatre think they can make easy profits. "Motion capture? Wow that is cool. We dont need those overpaid animators anymore. We'll be rich!"

Monday, November 14, 2005

Around The Water Cooler

Congratulations to the people at Disney for their successful outing with Chicken Little. Still in first place after two weeks. It may not be the greatest movie, and Disney has really ruined a lot of lives. However, I can't help but hope that they will be successful again. Maybe 2D is gone, but good film making can make a comeback under the hat....continued...

I'd also like to congratulate the bitter frequenters of Animation Nation.com. That once great message board has degraded into the Home For Bitchy Artists. The shit and moan sessions have taken over and all other useful reading has pretty much ended months and months ago. Normally I love a good bitch session. Lord knows I do plenty of it. But, when it reaches AN levels, it just becomes too much. Especially when the useful posters have disappeared or limited their posts and we are left with what we have. After Charles fully implements his fee based ideas, you can be assured the website will fall another few rungs.

Polar Express 2, err, ahh, I mean Monster House.. The trailer has just been released. Wow, another film with stiff emotionless characters. That is what we need. No offense to the Sony Imageworks people, because we know there are some talents that work there. But this looks absolutely horrid. Even reviewers of Polar Express recognized the zomby-like performances. Don't think the public doesn't know the difference.

Speaking of Sony. The Open Season trailer looks wonderful. Some nice animation with almost painterly renders. I'm hopeful for this flick. It looks good.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Ant Bully & Open Season Trailers

An Ant Bully teaser and a new Open Season trailer have been released in the past few days. AB really seems to be borrowing from the Antz and Bugs Life character design for the insects, but the kid looks pretty good... ...continued...

I would imagine that in the first real trailer for AB, we will see more of the boy (at least I hope so) because the bugs just aren't doing it for me. Character design quibbles aside, DNA is doing well for itself and should continue its ascension.

The Open Season trailer played in front of Chicken Little in our theatre. Ashton Kutcher continues to irk me as a voice and as a human being. Judging by the trailer, his character is going to irk me too. On the plus side, we got a chance to see something more than a few forest creatures throwing nuts at a poor defenseless lumberjack. The audience had some mild laughter for the trailer and didn't quite know how to react to the deer throwing rabbits at Boog's garage window. Speaking of Boog, he seems to be a likeable character and has a neat Jungle Bookish look to him.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

The Sky Falls on Chicken Little Critics

The movie going public spits in the faces of film critics. And I for one am glad it happened. This chicken is on its way to making well over $30 million this weekend and I'd like to say congratulations to Disney and all of those that worked on it. ...continued...

I really think critics are on a witch hunt for Disney. They are so in love with Pixar and the idea of beating Disney down further, they cannot see straight and can't just enjoy a movie for what it is. The theatre I attended was packed to the gills and everyone seemed to like it. It feels good to hear the positive feedback and see that the box office revenue is solid. Nice knowing most people don't listen to the idiots writing these stories.

I find it odd that I am rooting for Disney after all the sh** they have pulled over the years and all the crap I had to go through when I worked for them. However, I am so sick of hearing people suck Pixar's teet and knocking Disney every chance they get. I can't help but pull for them. Good for Disney. This is a giant step back in the right direction.

Here's to Chicken Little, your first full CG feature and to your continued success!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

A Chicken Little Failure Will Do Nothing for 2D

Don't let the negativity of a few noisy and bitchy moaners sway you from going to see Chicken Little this weekend. For some reason, some people feel it necessary to post negative review after negative review... To do what? Don't pay any mind. Invest in your career and shell out $10 to see the movie. Judging from the posts on certain message boards, they are populated by grudge holding artists and moronic fanboys that wouldn't like anything better but have Disney and Chicken Little fail. As if that would somehow spring life back into 2D. ...continued...

A Chicken Little failure will do absolutely nothing to bring back 2D features. It will do nothing to wipe clean the management that some think are holding Disney back. Support all animated films, no matter how they are created and who created them. Success is your best chance to bring the occasional 2D feature back.

Personally opinion, and I have said it before, outside of the occasional project, major US 2D studio features are gone forever.

Chicken Little won't do Pixar numbers and since everyone in the media and on these fanboy boards will compare CL to Pixar films and point out the BO differences, it will surely be labelled as a loser. However, the ones that actually make the decisions will be happy with what the money it pulls in. Disney won't be changing course anytime soon.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Business of Movie Reviews

I've been noticing an interesting pattern to the movie reviews relating to Disney's Chicken Little. It seems that one guy wrote an unfavorable review and it has circulated to several large websites. ...continued...

The review in each case begins almost exactly the same. "The sky has been falling for the past five years at Disney’s venerable animation studios". The reviews are then altered slightly, but use the same language and expressions in each. No doubt written by the same guy, it was just submitted to a bunch of different places. The animation forums are picking this up as several negative reviews, when in fact it is the same review just re-worded and published in several places.

Pretty lame.

That review was originally supplied to the Associated Press and then picked up by other sites. They didn't re-word it in most cases, at least as far as I can tell with a quick glance. The problem is that people are talking about how awful the reviews are for Chicken Little - when in fact, it is just one guys opinion regurgitated over and over.

Do yourself a favor and go see the movie and judge for yourself. I know half of the animation industry wants to see Chicken Little and Disney fail, because they feel slighted by the company. Grow up. Go support our industry. Besides, 2D films are gone and won't be coming back! The failure of Chicken Little won't magically bring them back. Dead and buried.

Jobs Looking to Dump Pixar

Over the last week, there have been several stories hinting that Steve Jobs is entertaining the idea of selling Pixar Animation Studios. Whether they are true or not, I do not know, I just wouldn't be surprised if they were. ...continued...

I have this really strong feeling that Steve is one of those types that likes to build something, make it successful and then run away (cash out). His real love is Apple and always will be. Maybe the Pixar fascination has worn off and he wants to devote full energy to his cute little electronics company.

Steve is a shrewd business man, maybe he is testing the waters to see if anyone will pay the high price he is looking for. He knows that sooner or later one of Pixar's films will not do so well in the box office. This may be the best opportunity to get out at a super high premium.

The question is, will anyone pay that much for it? Your guess is as good as mine. All that I know, is that these little articles have been bothering some of my friends at Pixar. Maybe they feel a little worried that the company could fall into the wrong hands. I don't blame them.