Best of 2015 Animated Shorts

Hi guys!  I hope you all had a wonderful holiday.  This week I am going to be sharing my ranking for the 2015 animated films but before that I wanted to talk animated shorts!  I love animated shorts and 2015 was actually a really terrific year for the medium.  I haven’t seen all of them as they aren’t all available but I watched a lot and I came up with my top 11.  I worked really hard on this video and would love if you gave it a watch.

But if you don’t want to watch the video I will give the list here.  I did include shorts from anthology films like The Prophet and Extraordinary Tales because I feel they stand on their own as shorts without needing the framing device.  In fact, they are much better without it.

So here are my top 11 2015 animated shorts

11. Frozen Fever

frozen fever5Yep, this die hard Frozen fan puts Frozen Fever at 11 because it is sweet and pleasant but not as artistically ambitious as the others on this list.  Frozen fans like myself will really enjoy seeing Anna and Elsa’s relationship grow and the new song is very enjoyable but it isn’t spectacular or anything.  Just really enjoyable for fans and there is nothing wrong with that.

10. A Bear’s Story

shorts 2015 bears10This animated short from Gabriel Osorio and it has a bit of a steampunk feel (shorts are the best place for steampunk IMO) about a bear that makes pictograph machines with a mechanical version of his family.  It reminded me a lot of Hugo and was very sweet and beautiful.

9. Lava

lava2I’m sure you guys are shocked this isn’t higher but when it came down to it the 8 shorts were more artistically ambitious than Lava.  I love Lava!  I love the music.  The song I have been singing all year and nearly anything with Hawaii has my heart but I just couldn’t get it higher.  It’s a delightful, sweet short.

8. An Object at Rest

shorts 2015 object5Similar to Lava, An Object at Rest tells the story of a mountain, that becomes a boulder, that becomes a stone, and continues on.  It is animated by Seth Boyden and it has a sketchy sweet style like Ernest and Celestine.

7. Le Gouffre

le gouffreThis short was a big surprise for me but it is beautiful.  It is about 2 adventurers that have to cross a chasm and build a bridge to get to the other side.  It sounds mundane but it is exciting and striking with great character designs.  It is from a studio out of Montreal called Lightning Bay Studio and it makes me very curious to see what the studio will do next.

6. On Eating and Drinking

Plympton_ProphetThis short is from The Prophet by amazing animator Bill Plympton who does all his artwork by hand and I love his sketchy style.  (Check out this year’s Cheatin’ to see more of his style).  This is a poem about eating and drinking and the imagery and flow with the poem are beautiful.

5. The Tell-Tale Heart

extraordinary tales8From the Edgar Allen Poe anthology film Extraordinary Tales we get the depiction of Poe’s Tell-Tale Heart.  The art design with the black and white contrasting is really striking and Bella Legosi narrating gave great ambiance and immersed me in the story.

4. World of Tomorrow

shorts 2015 world of tomorrow5I wouldn’t be surprised if after watching it a dozen more times World of Tomorrow is at the top of my list.  It’s very obtuse and out there but I was intrigued by it.  Created by animated Don Hertzfeldt it is basically the animated sci-fi musings of a leader and a little girl.  It’s trippy and weird and different but I liked it for those reasons.

3. On Work

prophet on workThis short from The Prophet reminded me of a Van Gogh painting with the harvesters collecting the wheat from the field.  The poem was beautiful and the animation fit it perfectly.  It is bright and vivid and I loved it.

2. Sanjay’s Super Teamsanjay4I loved this story from Pixar about a little boy and a father trying to reconcile their differing views of the world.  You have little Sanjay who loves superheroes and his Dad who worships and prays to the Hindi Gods.  It’s not about polytheism or superheroes but about how we can take the best of the old and new and make something unique and great. The animation is bright, colorful and very creative.

1.  On Love

shorts 2015 on loveIf you haven’t caught on I am kind of obsessed with Tomm Moore.  His animation is so beautiful.  I loved Song of the Sea- one of my favorite animated films of all time and I think Secret of the Kells is wonderful.  Naturally, his short in The Prophet was my favorite of the group and of the year.  It is called On Love and is of course about love.  We get joy, passion, rejection, and belonging perfectly animated with the Khalil Gibran poem accompanying the stirring images.

 

So that is my ranking.  What do you think about my picks and what are your favorite animated shorts from the year?  I hopefully introduced you to a few you haven’t heard of and I would encourage you to check them out.

I know there are many I missed so please put in the comments section.  Thanks!

Pixar Review 35: The Good Dinosaur

good dino23Going into Good Dinosaur all I heard about was too things- 1. It won’t be as great as Inside Out and 2. It was a nightmare to make.  Going out of the film I didn’t care how hard it was to make and having had a totally different experience than Inside Out.  Different but still good.  I know it’s gotten some mixed reviews but for me I loved The Good Dinosaur!!  It’s unlike anything Pixar has done before but I found it magical in the way old school Disney films used to be.  This is a film like Bambi or Dumbo that are about the growth of a character and are artistically ambitious at the same time.

good dinosaur15I have seen it now twice, once alone and once with my nieces and both times I was dazzled by the Good Dinosaur.  I worry that it may suffer the same fate as Rescuers Down Under.  That film was about a journey of a child who is taken by a man and must find his way home with the help of Bianca and Bernard.  It was technologically groundbreaking and something different from Disney but it had the misfortune of being couched between Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast so it is largely forgotten.

Let’s not let that happen with Good Dinosaur folks!  Go and see it.  You are in for a real treat if you do!

The Good Dinosaur is about a dinosaur named Arlo who is separated from  his family after a tragedy occurs.  He is a fearful creature who is even scared of a coop of chickens at the beginning of the film.

good dinosaur farmingIn this world the asteroid misses Earth and so the dinosaurs evolve into subsistence farmers with corn crops and even a silo. Being fronteirsman it is essential Arlo learn to conquer his fears and his father tries to teach him this.

good dinosaur and dadBut as I said a tragedy occurs and he ends up getting lost and having to find his way home.  This is not a particularly new storytelling device but who cares?  I certainly didn’t.  The journey home is a favorite plotline of mine in movies or literature and as long as the characters are great and they do interesting things with it I’m on board.

good dinosaur5Arlo meets a little human boy named Spot who I really loved.  He may be my new Baymax of favorite side characters.  He is brave, but sweet and simple. His bond with Arlo grows bit-by-bit and felt like a believable friendship to me.

On their journey home they face a lot of peril from both Mother Nature and predators. There are pterodactyls that are pretty scary (and a little funny)

good dinosaur pterodactylAnd then they meet some raptors who are kind of like redneck poachers.

good dinosaur222Arlo and Spot also meet a family of T-rex longhorn ranchers stolen from a western film that I loved!  I didn’t know if I liked their animation going into it but I did.  They swap stories about their scars and the Pa Butch,  voiced by Sam Elliottm teaches Arlo an important lesson about fear and how being afraid is part of knowing you’re alive. It’s going through the fear that makes all the difference.

good dinosuar8The Good Dinosaur is a different kind of film for Pixar.  It’s a journey but it has the emotion you expect from Pixar.  There is a terrific scene where both Arlo and Spot learn about each other’s family.  This should make even the hardest person tear up!

good dinosaur famiyThe animation in Good Dinosaur is the most stunning that Pixar has done.  Yep, I realize what I just said but it is true.  The water alone is hard to believe.  It looks so real. There are many moments where you will swear it is real photographic backgrounds like in Dinosaur but it isn’t. I normally hate gifs but look at this!

pixar waterThe only problem I had with Good Dinosaur is that it is pretty scary for small kids (kind of like Bambi, Pinocchio and early Disney films were).  My niece is 6 and she had to be taken from the theater once because it was too scary.  There are many moments of peril on Arlo and Spots journey.  I mean the t-rex is the good guy if that tells you anything!  That said, she still walked away enjoying the film and having nice things to say.  She wished the tragedy hadn’t happened but still liked the movie.   Just be forewarned small kids may be upset or scared in some sections but that’s not a reason to not see it.

There are softer moments as well with Arlo and Spot bonding and some good laughs.  I particularly like a scene with a dinosaur that carries around his ‘protection crew’. And like I said the scene with the t-rex family are completely lovely.

good dinosaur6

The voice cast as usual with Pixar is outstanding  Raymond Ochoa reminds me a little of the boy from Finding Nemo but a little more nuanced. Jack Bright is Spot, Sam Elliott is the T-rex Butch.  Anna Paquin, AJ Buckley, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Steve Zahn and others all do excellent work.

I tweeted after seeing Good Dinosaur the first time ‘Another triumph for Pixar’ and I stand by that.  Just in animation alone it is an astonishing film but it’s more than that.  Director Pete Sohn has created a story that has it all.  It’s moving, sweet, funny exciting and emotional. It’s interesting because inside a conventional story journey home they do unconventional things like the Western segments and the pterodactyles. I found it to be oddly unpredictable in its own way.

Please go out and see it.  I know you won’t regret it.

Both times I saw it in the 3D which I recommend to get the full experience of the visuals.

I will probably do a spoiler filled review next week like I did with Inside Out.  If you get to see Good Dinosaur please put your experience in the comments.

What a special time to be an animation fan!  2 great Pixar films in a year!!  Happy day!

Overall Grade- A

Youtube review

Pixar Review 34: Sanjay’s Super Team

sanjay2Hi from California guys!  I am going to try and write my reviews of Creed and Good Dinosaur in the next few days but I have to fit it in with spending time with my nieces, which of course takes first priority (and taking them to see Good Dinosaur tomorrow!).

In meantime, let’s talk about the newest Pixar Short, Sanjay’s Super Team.  It is a delightful short and unlike anything Pixar has really done with their shorts.  It’s brighter, it explores culture and is one that isn’t based around a gag or joke.

sanjay6Sanjay’s Super Team is directed by Sanjay Patel and it is based on his childhood growing up with traditional Indian immigrant parents.  As a young American kid Sanjay loved superheroes, Looney Tunes and other shows and was often bored with the Hindu rituals and traditions of his parents. He said “”Our worlds were diametrically apart. I just wanted my name to be Travis, not Sanjay.”

sanjay7You really get this sense of conflict in the short. Young Sanjay wants to watch his superhero show but he has to be quiet while his father prays and performs the Hindu rituals to the Gods (sorry I don’t know the specific names).

sanjay5His father gets more annoyed with the TV and turns it off forcing Sanjay to come and pray with him. It’s then that Sanjay starts to daydream about the Gods becoming the superheroes from his show.

sanjay4This combination of modern pop culture and traditional beliefs was really great to see, and I really liked how Sanjay learns to appreciate his father’s point of view while also developing his own ideas.  I think this is great for kids to see.

It’s also refreshing to see an animated Indian, darker skinned little boy and honestly I wouldn’t mind seeing more of this father and son.  They were very sweet and relatable.

sanjay3As someone who was raised and still practices a rather traditional faith I really thought they got the tone right on the struggle kids like Sanjay experience as they try to figure out what they believe.  It’s easy to want to throw off the old as archaic when really there is a merging of both new and old that can happen.

I think you can probably tell from the images in this post the animation is stunning in Sanjay’s Super Team.  It is bright and colorful and I really enjoyed the character design of Sanjay and his father.  I liked how the backdrops sparkled and looked like embossing more than paint.

I like they didn’t feel a need to explain the Gods or culture because those details don’t matter.  It’s a story about generational conflict and so the source of that conflict is largely incidental although certainly beautiful here.

I loved Lava but I think Sanjay’s Super Team is even better.  Let me know what you think when you see it before Good Dinosaur.

Overall Grade- A

Finding Dory Teaser Trailer Thoughts

So I wasn’t going to do a review to the Finding Dory teaser trailer released today but after some rest felt well enough to put out a few thoughts.  If you haven’t subscribed to my channel I’d really appreciate it and if you like the video please give it a thumbs up.  Thanks!

Basically the trailer is more of a clip than a regular trailer.  It gives us a scene with Nemo finding Dory sleep-swimming because she is remembering her parents.  One of the interesting things is that clearly Finding Dory is going to take place very soon after Finding Nemo because Nemo is still little in this film.  That surprises me a bit but it makes sense when you think of all the stimulation Dory received while looking for Nemo.  She was able to remember details like PT Sherman and so perhaps her brain is remembering lots of things it had forgotten.

There is a little side of me that is nervous about this film.  It’s just a worry that side characters like the recent Minions can’t uphold their as the lead to their own movie.  Now I think the team behind Finding Dory is a milion times stronger than Minions but there’s still that worry.

However, I am mostly excited to see Marlin, Nemo and Dory back in the ocean on an adventure.  I love the oceanscapes of Finding Nemo and can’t wait to see how beautiful the ocean looks again.  The cast they have on board looks great including returning favorites like Ellen Degeneres, Albert Brooks and William Defoe.  And we have new characters voiced by Diane Keaton, Eugene Levy, Ty Burrell and Ed O’Neil.  Andrew Stanton is back directing and writing (a lot of people forget that Nemo was nominated for Best Screenplay not just Animated Feature Film).  So, hard to not get excited about such talent involved on every aspect of this film.

Really I think the trailer was more for people outside Disney and Pixar fandom who aren’t aware of the project and to just introduce to them that the Finding Dory is coming next June.

What did you think of the trailer?

If you haven’t had a chance to watch it here it is

Steve Jobs Movie Review

steve jobs 12I just got back from seeing the new film Steve Jobs about the famous Apple founder and CEO. I will say it is a very good movie that left me a little bit cold.

Let me explain . First of all, it is a great looking film and credit there goes to director Danny Boyle and cinematographer Alwin H Kuchler.  They take the approach of showing 3 launches of Jobs’ products- 1984 Macintosh, 1988 NeXT box and 1998 Imac.  You have to go with the conceit that basically everything comes to a climax in both Jobs’ personal and professional life on the day of the launches. I was personally willing to make that leap.

If you are a fan of this blog you might know I am not the biggest Aaron Sorkin fan.  I find his Social Network and Moneyball to be overrated mainly because the characters are rather one-note when they could be more fleshed out and nuanced.  Sure he can write banter but if I don’t care about the characters and they don’t feel authentic that is just talking heads. (I’m not saying those are terrible films.  I just don’t think he is the genius writer everyone else seems to see).

That said, Steve Jobs is my favorite Sorkin film.  He builds tension very well and the various characters weave in and out. This is helped greatly by a top notch cast.  Michael Fassbender continues his amazing hit streak with an Oscar caliber performance.

steve jobsKate Winslet is also superb as Joanna Hoffman his PR rep or secretary or something. She refers to herself at one point as Steve’s “work wife” and you buy that.  It feels like she is up for the challenge of his big personality every time.

steve jobs3I also thought Jeff Daniels was amazing as John Scully who is wildly seen as the man who fired Steve Jobs from his own company.  It is there conversations where you get the few moments of warmth from Jobs.

steve jobs8Before I saw the movie I read an article about how much Steve Wozniak loves the film.  Well, of course he loves the movie.  He is painted as the hero of the film.  The man who fights for the little guy against the corporate pig Steve Job.  Seth Rogan is good but it’s a role that requires him to mostly stand in the audience calling for Steve to ‘acknowledge the little guy’.  That’s the kind of one-note characters in Sorkin’s writing I don’t care for.

steve jobs6Partly because of the 3 launch structure you don’t get a ton of time to paint a well-rounded picture of Steve Jobs.  We see him as mostly a bully who pushes his own agenda at the cost of relationships and people. He has a huge ego and is kind of a modern Ebenezer Scrooge but with no redemption arc.  He doesn’t own his daughter, he pushes Wozniak, and Scully away and no other functioning softening relationship is shown.

They try to say that he was such a bully because he was adopted and then returned by a family and then his new family fought custody with his mother saying she didn’t love him for the first year of life.  This may all be true but I at least have read about another side to Steve Jobs- a side that believed in others and inspired people.

creativity incIn Creativity Inc President of Pixar Ed Catmull talks at length about Steve Jobs.  He does mention the tough egotistical side but also fleshed out another side. If you didn’t know Steve Jobs bought Pixar in 1986 and incurred losses for 8 years while they worked on the crazy goal of the first computer animated film.

“There were so many things I could say about Steve- how he bought the division that would become Pixar from George Lucas in 1986 saving us from extinction; how he encouraged us to embark on our first feature film, Toy Story, 3 years later, when the idea of a computer-animated feature film still seemed beyond our reach; how he’d solidified our future by selling us to Disney and then ensured our autonomy by orchestrating a merger that created a true partnership; how he helped take us from 43 employees to the 1100 …

Looking back, I could recall the earliest moments of our relationship- him probing and poking, me honing  and fortifying my ideas.  He had made me more focused, more resilient, smarter, better.  Over time, I had come to rely on his demanding specificity, which never failed to help me clarify my own thinking.  I could already feel the weight of his absence”

Brad Bird then went on to say:

“Steve held the bar for quality.  he was always about the long run  He was into Buddhism, but I see him more as just a spiritual guy.  I have to believe that he believed in something beyond this” he hesitated overcome for a moment “and that’s where we’ll see him again.  Where cream rises to the top.  So here’s to you Steve, and to the long run”

I share those long quotes with you because that is not any of the man we get in the movie Steve Jobs.  I realize a movie can’t be everything but when you are dealing with a real person it doesn’t feel right to paint him as such an egotistical bully.

As animation fans there is a huge ripple effect beyond even Pixar that Steve Jobs started.  First of all he bought and nurtured Pixar so without him none of their classic films.  Without Pixar John Lasseter would not have stepped in as Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney.  Without Lasseter no Disney 2nd Renaissance, probably no purchase of Lucas Films, so no new Star Wars, no bringing in the Ghibli films, which Lasseter was a champion of… The list goes on.  There is a reason the entire campus at Pixar is named after Steve Jobs.  He is absolutely essential in all of that happening, and yet the movie makes us believe he was nothing more than a good pitch man who doesn’t deserve the credit he gets.

But I was entertained by the film.  If I can kind of pretend it is a fictional CEO then I might even call it a masterpiece.  It is very well acted, directed and paced.  It also has some interesting questions about the masses and how we honor people and what makes us purchase products.

If you see Steve Jobs I’d love to hear what you think.  Also if you have read Creativity Inc put in the comments below.

Overall Grade- B-

Here is my youtube review:

Good Dinosaur 2nd Full Trailer Review

spot comforts arloYou guys all know how much I love Pixar (and if you don’t look at my series of Pixar Reviews). So it is such a treat this year to have 2 Pixar movies!!!!  And the cool thing is they are both so different. Inside Out we got a thoughtful, funny, moving story of the inside of a little girls mind.  And in Good Dinosaur we are getting a Finding Nemo-like adventure of a dinosaur named Arlo trying to find his family.  He meets a boy named Spot who becomes his travel-mate and he also meets a group of t-rex dinosaurs who he appears to be friends with.

I don’t know a whole lot else about the story but they just released a new trailer yesterday and it looks like a beautiful film.  I am so impressed with the realism of the plants, water, and other scenery.  I am also excited about the relationship between Arlo and Spot.  It looks like it is going to have a ton of heart to it.  The only thing I am not sold on yet is the design of the T-rex dinosaurs.  They look a little unfinished for Pixar so I hope they are still working on them and will be better in final film.

What did you guys think of the new trailer? Here are some more of my thoughts.

International Trailer

US Trailer

Did the Right Film Win? 2012 Animated Oscars

So I finally finished my video on the 2012 Oscars.  Sorry this one took me so long (and it was a pain to edit today also!).

In 2012 we had 5 nominees and they all have their strengths.

Brave– I recently talked about that in my Pixar review.  It is a flawed film that doesn’t deliver what it promises in the first 15 minutes.  It is supposed to be an epic legend but turns out to be a domestic dispute between a mother and a daughter.  I don’t mind that but it is a letdown when we are promised something mythic.  I do like Merida, the music and the animation is top notch.  I personally feel they took a lot of the lessons from Brave and used them to make Frozen better.

Paranorman- My favorite Liaka film and a film that made my top 50 animated films (so clearly I like it).  I really like the character of Norman and the fresh take they have on the bully narrative with the bullied becoming the bully.  I think it is very scary and funny with unique world building and character design.

Frankenweenie-  This was a new one for me.  I had avoided it because I really don’t care for Tim Burton’s style of movies.  However, I must admit that I thought it was charming.  I really liked the relationship between Victor and Sparky.  It makes you want to cry when he loses his dog and all the homages to the classic horror films are a lot of fun.  I also enjoy how they made it in black and white.  Overall a very entertaining film with a lot of heart.

Pirates Band of Misfits- One of Aardman’s best films with incredible attention to detail it is an underrated film.  They pack in the laughs and yet still tell a good story with the Captain wanting to win Pirate of the Year and his interactions with both Charles Darwin and Queen Victoria.  If you haven’t seen it trust me it is worth a watch!

Wreck-it Ralph– A film that starts out and ends strong but gets mired in a bland Sugar Rush world in the middle section.  Most people love this film but I think it is good but not perfect.  I like the character of Ralph but Vanellope I find annoying.  With the power cord train station they promise you all the worlds of the video games and yet spend 75 minutes in Sugar Rush, which to me is a disappointment.  But it is still an enjoyable film.  The villain reveal is done very well and I love Sergeant Tamora.

Like I said in the video, I think most people would pick Wreck-it Ralph for 2012 Oscar.  I can totally see that.  Of course, Brave won in a bit of an upset.  I personally would give it to Paranorman but I know I’m in the deep minority on that.  They are all enjoyable films. 🙂

What would be your pick?

Did the Right Film Win? 2010 Animated Oscars

Hi guys!  The next year is up in my review of the animated Oscars.  We are at 2010 and this is the first year where I really think the academy got it wrong with the Tangled snub.

I think Tangled was the best animated film of 2010 for a lot of reasons.  First, it looks beautiful and I saw it in 3D and scenes like the lanterns was breathtaking.  I also love Rapunzel because she isn’t weak like an Aurora but she’s also not a cliched warrior woman.  She has pieces of both inside her.  I think Flynn is a great character and I LOVE Mother Gothel.  I also like the music unlike some people.

Anyway I think they got it wrong but that’s what they did.  Here are my thoughts on the 3 nominees.

The Illusionist is by the Sylvain Chomet who directed The Triplets of Belleville.  It is from a screenplay by the French actor, director, mime Jacques Tati.  It basically tells the story of a magician who is old fashioned and can’t get a good gig.

He meets a girl who is in awe at his tricks.  He buys her presents because her adulation feels so good.  The animation is beautiful but I didn’t respond to the film.  I never felt like I got into the heart of the magician.  It kept me at a distance which made the tragic story less compelling.

The next nominee is How to Train Your Dragon which is one of my favorite Dreamworks films.  I really like the character of Hiccup and find the story of his bonding with Toothless to be very engaging.  I have a few little complaints with the Jay Baruchel vocals, the treatment of the Astrid character and some of the design of the dragons but they are minor.  It also has a lovely message about having the courage to see things in a totally new way and from a new perspective.

I just wrote about Toy Story 3 so I won’t repeat myself too much.  It’s a beautifully animated, thrilling prison escape movie.  The villain is menacing and the ending is pitch perfect for the Andy part of the series.

In my opinion the right film won of those 3 nominees.  What would you pick?