If you are a follower to this site you know I have a special place in my heart for Blue Sky Animation Studios. Aside from the Ice Age films they have consistently put out films that are bold and ambitious. I particularly think their films Epic and Robots are very underrated and anyone knows of my love forThe Peanuts Movie.
So now we get their latest offering called Spies in Disguise and it’s a film I have been very nervous about. The trailers have not been great and with Disney acquiring Blue Sky in the 20th Century Fox merger I fear the studio will be dissolved if they have a big flop. To make matters worse it’s being released at a very busy time with Jumaji: The Next Level and Star Wars: the Rise of Skywalker opening along with Cats and Little Women. Plus, Frozen 2 is still going strong.
Anyway, now that I’ve seen the film what do I think? It’s ok. Kid’s will like it but it lacks that boldness I so admire in Blue Sky and I still worry it is going to be a big flop.
The biggest appeal to Spies in Disguise is Will Smith. He does a great job voicing Lance Sterling, ‘the world’s most awesome spy’. Tom Holland is fine as his nerdy sidekick. When the 2 characters are in spy mode it’s a lot of fun and it reminded me of a similar dynamic between Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in the first Men in Black movie.
I also thought the action set pieces were well done with some very fast animation and engaging character designs. Kids will get a kick out of it especially the scenes with glitter grenades. There’s a nice message to the film about loyalty, hard work and trying to use non-violent methods whenever possible.
However, the problem with this movie is the pigeons. I liked the sequences with the humans way better than with the birds. It seemed like the birds was merely there for cheap humor and the story and fun action stalled whenever they were on screen. All that personality we’ve built up with Lance Sterling was missing and instead we have a pigeon.
Going along with the pigeons the humor mostly didn’t work for me. It will entertain kids just fine but it’s pretty puerile if you ask me. There’s a particular part where they have a lot of laughs over the fat rolls of a passed out villain character that gets old fast.
I also felt some of the voice casting was strange. Like why have Reba McEntire voice the agency director? She has such a recognizable voice it is distracting to hear it coming out of a boss character. Also what is DJ Khaled doing in this movie? No thank you!
Nevertheless, Spies in Disguise is a perfectly serviceable action movie for kids. I worry that it will not be enough to save Blue Sky, but I hope I am proven wrong.
If you get to see Spies in Disguise let me know what you think.
So I just participated in a really fun podcast over on my youtube channel. My friend’s Josh and Mark joined me to do a pitch session for ideas for animated films and series. I got the idea after I was so depressed with the upcoming 2017 slate. So I decided the studios need better ideas and my friends and I could give them some!
The way the pitch session worked is there are 4 sessions. Each of us pitched an idea of why it would be good. Then we could ask questions to flesh out the ideas. Then at the end of the round we each must vote for an idea that is not our own. The idea with the most votes wins the round. Then we do the same thing for the final 4 ideas and a winning idea is selected!
I liked all of our ideas and would love to hear your feedback. Here are polls so you can vote on what you like
We really had a blast doing this so hopefully we will do it again soon. The beginning of the video google hangouts wasn’t switching off the way it should but hopefully you can listen to it just fine.
There are times when I wonder about my commitment to see all of the animated films of the year. Watching the latest Ice Age film, Ice Age: Collision Course, is one of those moments. It’s kind of crazy because I just saw it this morning but I’m having a hard time remembering anything that happened just hours later. This is a completely lame animated film that hopefully will be the end of the series.
The core story is Scrat, the squirrel who is always looking for his acorn, activates an asteroid in space that is headed towards Earth. Manny and company see the asteroid coming and follow Buck to a prophesied place that will keep them safe. Along the way you have lots of attempts at humor, sheer randomness and Manny dealing with his soon to be son in law. If that sounds boring it kind of is.
There are moments where the randomness can be interesting but other times it’s just frustrating. Characters will wander off just for a joke that isn’t funny or pay off well. And some stuff is weird more than it is funny. Like Neil de Grasse Tyson appears inside Buck’s brain explaining the science of the asteroid.
There is of course a lot of scatological humor but most of the jokes are more characters complaining about each other. Plus, you have the specter of the world coming to the end which gives the whole enterprise a rather downbeat feeling.
They end up meeting this Shangri Llama who is doing yoga in an asteroid that grants a fountain of youth. Then they had to take the crystals and make a pit that would then repel the asteroid. This is as convoluted as it sounds and it never worked in creating tension or empathy for the characters. I frankly just didn’t care.
They also keep zipping back to Scrat and his silly antics can be amusing but at this point it’s a very tired gag. A few of the characters land jokes but mostly it’s complaining more than actual jokes.
The 3D also looked terrible- instead of immersing me in the experience it kept shoving things in my face.
The best joke of the screening was when Scrat turns a planet into Mars and a little boy behind me said ‘that’s not how it happened Mommy”. That made me laugh!
Ice Age Collision Course is a definite skip.
Overall Grade- D+
I was able to review this on my channel with my friend Rachel and I would love if you gave it a watch and thumbs up. I am getting close to 1,000 subscribers so thank you!
I unabashedly loved The Peanuts Movie last year. And it wasn’t just nostalgia for Peanuts, which I do have but I genuinely thought it was a sweet, charming little film. And I’ve always said that the artistry didn’t get enough credit. Just because it was a familiar property I think people missed the hybrid animation trailblazing the film did. So naturally when I saw they had a Peanuts art book I had to jump right on that!
The Art of the Peanuts Movie starts with a forward from director Steve Martino where he talks about how he related to the entire Peanuts gang growing up. “Growing up in the Midwest, Charlie Brown’s neighborhood felt like my own…the gang were like friends that I visited on a daily baiss through the ‘funny pages'” He then talks about the specials and even a Charlie Brown sign on his coffee table growing up that read “Happiness is a Warm Puppy”. He is then honest about the huge pressure he felt in adapting this work that is beloved to many including himself. “It felt like I was carrying Schroeder’s piano, only it had grown to a grand piano”
Finally he was able to overcome his fears by a quote from Charles Schulz himself”One of the solutions is, as Charlie Brown does, just to keep on trying. He never gives up. And if anybody should give up, he should”. I’m not going to lie I teared up a bit reading his essay. I love when artists admit their fear of the art.
Next is another forward by Vanessa Morrison president of 20th Century Fox Animation. This is a little more corporate although she does express her love growing up on the series and reading it with her mother.
Then we get 2 articles about the legacy and new direction of Peanuts as well as early concept ideas. With all that done, we get into the main meat of the book where they dive into the process of making CG characters. It’s really cool. You see the mold making process and how the characters are designed.
They also have this neat graphic showing the comic to 3D transitioning for the entire gang.
Next we get several pages on each character describing the design and attributes.
Next is a cool article about how you keep characters on model and moving in a natural way. This is something they achieved in spades especially in the skating scenes.
It’s really cool as well to learn about the animation and how the computer uses pin points to bring them alive.
We get an entire section on backgrounds and how they created the pop friendly feel of the Peanuts neighborhood.
The last section is mostly about the story and goes into incredible detail about how every facet was created and designed down to the posters and flags on Charlie Brown’s wall. That is so cool to learn about!
And we get storyboards and anything else you could want to know about the process of bringing this movie to screen.
The Art of the Peanuts Movie is a great book because it is so rich. It covers the incredibly difficult task of adapting the strip to a movie, the design process of characters, and the story development and boarding process. You can learn about all sides of animation through this book and it will warm your heart to see such love going into a work of art. I think it might even give some people more respect for what they accomplished than the film is given. At least it does for me but I already loved it.
But definitely if you love the Peanuts and thought The Peanuts Movie was great you should pick up this art book. It’s fantastic!
I tell you guys I am happy, happy, happy right now! I just got back from seeing The Peanuts Movie and I LOVED it!
I went into Peanuts a little skeptical. I love the comics and the shorts that have come out over the years especially Great Pumpkin and Charlie Brown Christmas Special. The thing I love most is the character of Charlie Brown and how he is thoughtful and even depressed at times. There’s something about that which makes him very relatable and easy to root for.
I guess he is the classic underdog who we all like and a lot of the times he speaks the truth whether it is about materialism at Christmas or the difficulty making friends. I was worried this quality of Peanuts would get lost. I was particularly worried when Blue Sky was the studio involved and when they decided to go the CG route instead of the hand drawn of the shorts. I also wasn’t a huge fan of the trailer so I was nervous walking into the theater.
But I’m telling you they pulled it off. This film is a complete delight. I can’t say enough good things about it.
Let’s talk about the animation first. It feels like a hybrid animation like we got in Paperman or Feast. I saw it in 3D and it looked multi-dimensional but also paper thin, so it had both a 2D and CG look to it. Mostly it felt like layers and bold colors to the characters we know and love.
It’s so pleasant to look at and the character design down to the squiggly lines of the smiles was perfect while still having it’s own new look. The scenes with Snoopy, Woodstock and the Red Baron looked bright and wistful, like right out of a comic strip or book.
They also got the voice work perfectly without any of the celebrity voices that can be distracting in films like Home. These are the voices we know from the original shorts.
The story is very simple. It is basically about how Charlie Brown wants to win the attention of a new red-headed girl but he lacks the confidence he needs to even talk to her. He gets some advice from Lucy and decides he wants to be a winner.
On the way he experiences some really sincere and lovely moments of both triumph and success. They got the tone just right in this movie and I was always hopeful and filled with joy even as Charlie Brown was struggling.
The jokes all worked and the kids in my audience were cracking up (and I was too!). There is absolutely nothing offensive in this film. It is G rated and deserves a G rating. You can take any age of kids and I think they will be entertained even small toddlers I think will like it.
I loved the world of the characters. These are no cell phones or laptops. These are kids that have to go to the library to look something up, go skating on snow days and participate in school talent shows for fun. It all felt so innocent and charming. You can tell they had the influence of producers and screenwriters Craig and Bryan Schulz (Charles Schulz’s son and grandson) involved creating a story that will satisfy new viewers and longtime fans.
They have a few songs from Flo Rida, Meghan Trainor but you also get the classic Vince Guaraldi numbers from Charlie Brown Christmas Special and the Christophe Beck score uses Guaraldi as an influence. Jazz pianist David Benoit helps add to the authentic feel of the score.
Over all, I was completely delighted by this film. I really don’t have anything negative to say. I guess if you are looking for something new and challenging than this isn’t the film for you. We got that in Inside Out, which I still think is the better film, but I really did love this film. They had such a tough task in front of them and congrats Blue Sky! You pulled it off!
Blue Sky’s Rio and Rio 2 remind me a lot of Disney’s Bolt. They are entertaining to watch, pleasant to look at, but in the end kind of forgettable. That said, you will enjoy the experience of watching them so it is a mixed bag
In Rio we meet Blu who is a rare blue macaw living as a pet with his owner in Minnesota. He is a completely domesticated bird and does not know how to fly. Blu is voiced by Jesse Eisenberg and he is one of the many poor voicework choices in the movie. Especially once they get to Brazil the voices don’t make any sense and are forgettable. I found Eisenberg’s nasal nervous quality to be very grating so it was not a good choice.
Blu’s owner is contacted by a man from Brazil who has found another blue macaw and he is hopeful the two birds can mate and he successfully convinces the owner to bring Blu to Rio to try it out.
The girl macaw is named Jewel and is voiced by Anne Hathaway in another poor choice. If a bird is supposed to be exotic living in Rio is Anne Hathaway the exotic voice that comes to mind? Not for me. Really George Lope and Rodrigo Santoro are the only voice actors in the cast who give it any kind of Portugese flair.
The rest of the cast we have Jamie Foxx, Tracy Morgan, Jermaine Clement, Leslie Mann, etc.
Of all the voices the only one I liked was Jermaine Clement as the bad Cockatoo named Nigel. He is very funny and reminded me of Tim Curry.
The basic plot is pretty standard cat and mouse chase game with Jewel and Blu getting birdnapped by Nigel’s owner and the awkward Blu getting used to the tropical environment, bickering and romancing with Jewel, and learning to fly. It’s all very predictable but in an entertaining way.
The colors and the light in the film are gorgeous and it looks beautiful throughout. The animation quality holds up to any other studio.
But the music I could have done without. Not a single number stood out or was memorable. I really didn’t think the story needed to be a musical, especially with a lead like Eisenberg who isn’t exactly known as a singer.
Some of the music does give a latin feel but this could have been accomplished with a the score and not the extended musical numbers that don’t do anything for the story and are just kind of average.
So of course our bickering couple end up in love and going back to their owners to live together (who also fall in love at the end of the movie).
The strongest part of the movie is Nigel. He is very funny and an intense villain for this kind of story. I could have used even more of him and less of the singing.
Like I said, Rio is a perfectly adequate movie. It looks great and clips along pretty well and kids will enjoy some of the humor (although they might get a little bored in some of the extended songs or the underwhelming action) but I think they will probably like it.
A warning to parents- there is a scene at Carnival where the human owner voiced by Leslie Mann is wearing an extremely skimpy outfit for a kids movie. It felt rather garish to me.
But other than that there is nothing offensive or crass. Rio has a sweetness about it and it is an ok flick.
Overall Grade- C+
So then we got Rio 2 this summer and I’m afraid to say it but I thought it was weaker than the original.
To start with it has all the weaknesses of the original with weak voice cast (although a hip hop influence with Bruno Mars and Will I Am was a fun addition), predictable plot and underwhelming musical numbers. It still looks fabulous but it doesn’t really surprise the viewers or do anything new. It all feels very tired even though it looks great.
In this story Blue and Jewel have baby birds and they live in a life of pancakes and ipods and Jewel is worried they will have forgotten their roots. She yearns for the wild and through a variety of circumstances they end up in Rio looking for their owners (who have married since the original).
The big mistake this movie makes is it draws each step out too long and it is very cluttered. Where the strength of the original was Nigel, in this film you have Nigel for brief spurts than a Big Boss who wants to tear down the rainforest (yawn of a villain), and a red macaw clan who don’t like the blue macaws. They even face the red macaws in an extended soccer scene.
Nigel is a theater man in Rio 2 and not quite the villain of the original. He’s still my favorite character in the Rio movies but I wish they had just focused on him instead of the other storylines and villains which are much more predictable.
Jewel finds out there are other living blue macaws and they eventually find a massive colony in the amazon (they must have not been looking very hard to miss that many blue macaws!). It turns out it is the flock Jewel grew up in and it is ran by her father
Jewel likes being in the wild and Blu hates it. Blu’s new father in law thinks he’s a wimp. There’s a long soccer match in the middle and a ton of side characters and attempt at humor that doesn’t really work.
Nigel has a side character that is a little poisonous frog voiced by Kristen Chenoweth and she sings a song called Poisonous Love which feels so out of place in the movie. It’s a gorgeous operatic number and the divine Kristen of course can sing well but it does not fit the style of the movie at all. But she is a cute character and watching her fall in love with Nigel is funny.
There are so many characters we could list them all day but the George Lopez toucan who is head over heels in love with his wife bird is cute and I liked Bruno Mars as Jewel’s childhood friend and her father’s right hand bird.
So in the end, Rio 2 looks great, has some appealing characters but the songs are forgettable despite the hip-hop additions and the voicework is still a problem. But your kids will be entertained and it’s not a bad movie. You could certainly do worse with your kids. That’s for sure.
I enjoyed watching both Rio and Rio 2. They are far from perfect but the colors are bright, they look gorgeous, Nigel is a lot of fun as a villain, and the characters are engaging enough even if not on the Pixar/Disney quality level. They just need to work on simplifying the stories and making them more interesting and getting better voice talent not necessarily famous voices.