Hey guys! Today I finished video 2 in my series on the Animated Oscars. It is 2002 and so I asked Did the Right Film Win?
For this video I rewatched Ice Age and wasn’t very impressed. I found the animation to look very amateurish and the story very predictable. I’ve always felt it was a bit of a Monsters Inc copycat (studios loved doing that to Pixar in those days). It’s harmless but I was surprised I didn’t enjoy it more on rewatch.
I also saw Spirit Stallion of the Cimarron for the first time and really enjoyed that. It’s got striking animation and I liked they didn’t have the horse talk like in Bambi or other films. The narration is all you need. It’s kind of like Black Beauty in the Old West and I liked it. Definitely one of the better Dreamworks films and great music by Hanz Zimmer.
The rest are less a surprise to my readers. Lilo and Stitch has really grown on me each time I see it. Treasure Planet is beautiful but for some reason puts me to sleep. And Spirited Away is a complete masterpeice.
I’d love for you to put your comments on the nominees and winner. If you watch the video and think it is good give me a thumbs up. Thanks!
I hate to say it guys but I’m calling it- Dreamworks time of death, March 2015. Let’s give a little bit of background. For years Dreamworks has been battling it out with Disney and Pixar scoring some hits with particularly the Shrek films being the apex of their financial success. They’ve also had creative victories like the How to Train Your Dragon series, Kung Fu Panda and Prince of Egypt. Unfortunately they have been unable to curtail costs so even seeming successes were actually studio failures.
Last year it all came to fruition with 3 releases. Mr Peabody and Sherman with a budget of 145 mil (ridiculous for a comedy like that) made 272 million at box office. This might seem pretty good but when you take into account theater shares and marketing they took a 57 million hit on it. Then they had How to Train Your Dragon 2, a healthy success, with budget of 145 million (see Sherman should not have cost as much as HTTYD2!) making 618 million. Most of these proceeds were overseas (over 400 million of it) and it was significantly less than its predecessor so on the whole a disappointment (total profit 107 million).
Then we had Penguins of Madagascar, a fun comedy which cost $132 million and made $367 million Sounds pretty good right? Nope that 132 doesn’t include incentive based pay to the actors! So in the end they took another 57 million hit on Penguins. This is after losing 87 million on Rise of the Guardians and 13.5 million for Turbo in 2013. As you can see whatever good Dragon did is quickly evaporated.
Then at the end of last year they closed their PDI animation studio laying off 1/3rd of their artists.
That’s where we get to their latest release, Home. I think many of us were hoping this could be a Frozen size savior for the studio but sadly it is far, far, from that. In fact, if I am honest it is closer to this years’ George Lucas offering Strange Magic than anything else. It cost $135 million to make and I have a hard time believing it will do better than Mr Peabody and Sherman which was actually pretty clever. So in other words another loss.
I’m grasping at straws to find things I liked about Home but there isn’t much.
The best thing I can say about home is that it is harmless. Kind of like Strange Magic there is nothing offensive or off putting. Your kids will be moderately entertained so if you need a babysitter you could do worse but that is about it.
Home is based on the book The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, which my sister says is quite brilliant. It is about an alien named Oh that is the ‘most special’ character in his entire race like we’ve seen in movies from Twilight to the Host to Harry Potter. What makes him unique? Well, he makes mistakes and likes to have friends and be happy. Not exactly defeating Lord Voldemort but we will go with it.
He is part of a race called the boovs who run away from their nemesis and conquer other planets. They have just conquered earth and sucked up all the humans relocating them all to Australia. I suppose if I had been more engaged I wouldn’t have been left asking so many questions about this basic premise. For example, why do the boov know enough about humans to build houses for every human family, evidently recreate hospitals, schools, and even an amusement park and yet they do not know something like ‘humans live in families and have a Mother and a Father’?
How do the boov know how to run everything in a city like New York and yet are eating paintings, footballs and using a hair dryer for an inhaler? How do they know how to work a power plant and yet the lights are always on? How are they planning on getting food in this land they have conquered and wouldn’t gathering all of the human race in one place be a really bad idea? Nothing like 6 billion humans that have mastered interstellar flight and atomic warfare all together on an island…especially for a race that is evidently so gun shy?
Also why does Oh drink gasoline, motor oil, eat plastic and yet is disgusted by a blue tablet and urine from a restroom? I think that is an attempt to be funny but it doesn’t really make sense so it didn’t make me laugh. It would have been more funny if he had loved the urine and blue tablet. I mean if we are stooping to that level isn’t that funnier?
I know I’m overthinking it but again it just shows how disengaged I was with the story and characters that I started asking these questions.
So our misfit Oh tries to throw a party for his new neighbors but nobody in his race likes him or parties (which again makes me ask how does he even know what a party is? And yet he has a banner, appetizers, the whole works..).
Nobody comes to his party and so he goes outside to try and get people to go but his ‘friend’ doesn’t want to so he sends him an ‘e-vite’ (these aliens still use email and internet just like us) but the email to the party he is currently having goes to the entire galaxy including their sworn enemy, a woefully undeveloped ‘bad guys with spaceship’ called the vrogs I think.
The leaders of the boov’s try to arrest Oh with the captain played by Steve Martin who is actually only in 3 scenes of the movie.
But Oh runs off before he can give the boov his password to stop the email. (Always bad in a movie when the entire plot could be resolved by a 3 minute conversation…). In his running he bumps into a girl named Tipp who was left behind by the human relocation and is trying to find her Mother. She is far too calm and collected for someone who’s entire race and Mother has been sucked up by aliens. Plus, her car has been hidden by trash. How did she know to do that? And why hasn’t the trash been sucked up by the unnecessary item balls? They are sucking up bikes wouldn’t they suck up her car? And would she have been the only human to escape? Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to have had a few that band together with Oh?
She is voiced by Rhianna and it is a terrible piece of voice casting. She sounds like a grown woman and I was never exactly sure how old she was supposed to be. She sounds like a grown up, looks like a child but can drive and yet she talks about getting an A in 8th grade geometry. At best it is completely bland.
Oh is voiced by Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parson and the two of them are the only characters in the movie for 90% of the film and he isn’t right for the part either. It just sounds too much like Sheldon which was distracting. But I have a hard time blaming him because the part was written a lot like Sheldon and didn’t give him much to work with. He’s socially awkward and oblivious most of the time. I like Big Bang Theory but I know it has its haters and they will definitely find the voicework very annoying but again I don’t think anything Parsons could have done would have saved the character.
Most of the movie is a road trip story full of road trip movie cliches. Tipp and Oh must go to Paris to enter the password (I guess no cell phones in this world even though the Boov have these little tablet things) and then to Australia to find Tipp’s Mother voiced by Jennifer Lopez who has maybe 3 lines in the movie.
There were about 6 kids in the theater with me and they laughed at a few bits of toilet humor but they seemed squirmy and disengaged.
A lot of people will want to compare this to Lilo and Stitch, a movie that grows on me the more I see it. Lilo and Stitch is not a perfect film but it is far superior to this mess. First of all Lilo is a much more complex character than we ever get from Tipp. She is strange but in interesting ways. We see her interacting with students and fighting with her sister. We see her crying and mourning her parents before Stitch is even introduced.
Stitch is also a consistent character. He is a wild creature and pretty mean throughout, to the point of frustrating me as a viewer. Here Oh is sometimes smart when the plot needs to be and other times stupid. He sometimes understands complex words and other times speaks in 2 word phrases. He’s whatever the plot needs him to be which makes it really boring and hard to root for.
I really did not care about Oh or Tipp’s journey because I knew exactly what was going to happen and the movie didn’t give me any reason except for telling us ‘people think I’m strange’… Lilo is pulling heads off of her dolls. We know she is strange and we are rooting for her because of it.
It’s also a little unclear if the Steve Martin character is intentionally lying to everyone about their enemy and the ‘shush stick’ or if he is just too stupid to know. If he is lying on purpose than he is a really bad alien and that sense of evil is never laid out at all. I mean this is Darth Vader bad if he is conquering planets and relocating everyone.
The lesson of the story is that ‘everyone makes mistakes’ and that you should ‘run towards your fears’ not away from them (I don’t know if I agree with that last one…). Again this is usually told to us not actually shown. Lilo and Stitch conquers weighty themes of family, grief, loss and it does it with the gravitas perhaps only Disney can muster. Plus, it looks so unique with the watercolors and the Hawaiian feel. Home looks anything but unique.
A movie like Penguins of Madagascar works because it was funny. The script was very clever that it could overcome a silly story. I’m not saying it was a masterpiece but it made me laugh. Same with Mr Peabody and Sherman. Home did not make me laugh one time.
Like I said at the intro if you take your kids they won’t be miserable. It’s harmless but I said the same thing for Strange Magic and that movie at least had voicework that made sense.
I’m sorry Dreamworks I want to help you out but I can’t in good conscience give this any higher than the D I gave Strange Magic. It just doesn’t deserve it. (This movie has 5 people listed in the voice cast. Why on earth did it cost $135 million to make? In contrast, Pixar’s Bugs Life with a huge cast cost $120 million!).
The music is by Rihanna and it is nice but feels like it is written for a different movie. It is dark and solemn when they are just flying across the ocean or walking around. It’s not nearly fun enough for this kind of movie (think Happy by Pharrell for Despicable ME 2. That made sense.). The whole Rihanna choice was just wrong all the way around. What a disappointment and the absolute worst timing for a Dreamworks dud.
I just wanted to share this video with all of you from the Cartoon Palooza. He covers the history of the transition from hand drawn to computer animation. This is a divisive topic but I will share some of my thoughts after the video.
I’ve said it a number of times I think 2014 has been one of the best years for animation in the last 20 years. It is thrilling to see so many different voices and visual styles being told. Everything is out there from Book of Life to The Lego Movie to Big Hero 6. And I’ve liked at least on some level every animated movie I’ve seen this year except for Legends of Oz and The Nut Job. It’s an exciting time to be an animated movie fan and part of the reason we are able to have such variety and creative output is because of computer animation.
It is just a fact that the average studio can put together a computer animated film faster than hand drawn. Disney just admitted as much when they changed their upcoming release Moana from 2D to CG so it could be finished 2 years sooner. 2 years is a long time for a studio to hold out a film just for artistic integrity that will probably not show as any benefit in the box office (of the top 5 biggest animated films ever at box office only 1, Lion King, is hand drawn).
Cartoon Palooza makes a good point about Tangled but the reason why that film was so expensive was not because of the animation. It was all the rewrites, reshoots and it being their first 3D film. If a studio can make a movie 3D than they are going to make more profit and computer animation looks better in 3D than hand drawn.
Now we are getting hand drawn movies from the Studio Ghibli team and other smaller studios. This December we get Song of the Sea which looks stunning.
What I want is good quality movies and if computer animation makes more people jump into the game than I think it is great. If I was just going on personal preference I’d pick hand drawn but not a strong preference. I love the artistry of the Pixar films. Ratatouille, for instance, has some of the most gorgeous backgrounds of any movie I’ve ever seen. So it just depends on the movie.
Or how about this scene from Wall-e? It’s stunning.
Most importantly I just want to be entertained whether it is 2D, 3D, hand drawn or stop motion. So if CG allows for more than 2 players to be in the game of animation and we get more years like 2014 I am a happy girl.
That said, maybe John Lasseter could set aside a few animators that could work on something over time like a Lilo and Stitch- not a big expensive epic just a simple story with hand drawn animation? Something that would keep the medium alive? Or it would be great if studios came to be known for hand drawn like Laika with stop motion animation. Someone could make it their nitch and at least do well enough to keep the studio profitable. If they are careful about release dates (which has been brilliantly timed for all the animated movies this year. Only one stinker at the box office Legends of Oz) than it will probably do quite well.
Maybe a way to go is to use characters from an animated series like reclaiming the Avatar series after what Shyamalan did to it? That way you would have a natural fan base to tap into? If they can pump out the hand drawn for the shows maybe it wouldn’t be too hard to make them into a movie?
Again, thankfully we do have Studio Ghibli and Cartoon Saloon putting out quality, if not American, hand drawn films. So it is not a totally dead art.
The way I see it animation has gone through different periods. We went through the Xerox phase in the 60s and 70s and there were some good one’s (Jungle Book, 101 Dalmatians, Winnie the Pooh) and some bad one’s (Aristocats, Sword in the Stone, Black Cauldron). Now we are in the CG phase and there have been hits and misses but all it takes is that one big movie to hit with hand drawn and people will be back on the bandwagon. So, no I do not think the medium is dead. Like I said Song of the Sea is coming out this year so it is being made by smaller, foreign studios. Even a moderate hit will prick the executives ears and they will make hand drawn again. It goes down to supply and demand.
But like I said to me what matters most is being entertained. I want to see art, music, and a great story in any medium. I hope hand drawn is not dead but I understand why studios don’t want to take the risk. From a business decision it does often make sense, and they are after all businesses first.
Here’s something I think shows what I am trying to say. For years we would get 1, maybe 2 animated films a year. This is the result of hand drawn animation. As glorious as those films could be and could not be it was just not a venture every creative thinker could do.
If we look at the 100 best reviewed films on rotten tomatoes we see the following. You will notice that in the 90s during the renaissance there was only 1 film that made the list for most of the years. It wasn’t until 1998 when we got both Antz and Bugs Life that things start to pick up in numbers. The largest number is 2012 with 9 films that critics at least gave the highest scores too. My point being with computer animation more ideas and projects are able to get greenlit and that’s a good thing.
People are still making traditional animated films. Even if it is not the big studios there are 2 releases this year so they exist. I can totally see a studio like Liaka emerging with the hand drawn niche. There will be 2 more added to 2014 by the time the reviews come in for Song of the Sea and The Tale of Princess Kaguya to this list . That will mean that 2014 will have as many critically lauded animated movies as the highest year 2012. That’s a good thing for the future of animated films. Plus, all of the animated films in 2014 made money except Legends of Oz. That’s also a good thing. People feel inspired to take creative risks when they know there is a population that wants to see said movies. So if you want hand drawn movies than support the one’s that do come out. It’s as simple as that.
Now you can debate whether critics were duped by certain movies and the blogosphere knows better but the output has without a doubt increased. I like hand drawn but if computer animation means we get more stories and things as beautiful and different as Book of Life or as funny as The Lego Movie than sign me up.
I hope the big studios will make hand drawn animation but I don’t agree that it is dead, and like I said, I think the state of animation is in an amazing place.
But again this is just my opinion but it’s my blog and so I call it like I see it. Feel free to disagree. Just do so politely.
I will be seeing Big Hero 6 in the next 3 hours! Oh boy!
I was talking with a friend about Robin Hood and told her despite its problems it is one of the most rewatchable Disney’s. What I mean by that is some movies are masterpieces but more weighty than the kind of thing I want to watch over and over again .
So what are those movies that I don’t mind repeat and frequent rewatching? What’s the one that if I’m feeling like a movie that will entertain but not challenge me what do I pick? I will add that I seem to have a unique high tolerance for repetition. Other people tire of music, movies, food, books and I just don’t. If it is something I like than I like it forever and repeatedly.
That said, some films like The Lion King I love but the intensity makes it tough to rewatch again and again.
I will also say that all of the Pixar movies with the exception of Brave (yes even Cars 2) are very rewatchable. That’s why I’ve struggled to write up reviews of Pixar ,movies . How many ways can I say masterpiece?
Here goes in no particular order:
1. Tangled- romantic comedies are probably my favorite genre to rewatch. Tangled is funny, light, joyous, beautiful and a terrific villain.
2. Robin Hood- Maybe not the most ambitious Disney film but the humor makes it very rewatchable. I love the voice performances and while it is a bit too long it is so much fun I enjoy rewatching it.
3. Jungle Book- I hate the ending but other than that it is charming, funny, and the music is the true star. It clips along so well with moments of real heart. It is certainly up there in the movies I’ve seen the most.
4. Emperor’s New Groove- Again not the most ambitious but so full of laughs that it is great to rewatch. Comedies are often the best for rewatching as we don’t always feel up to an intense emotional experience.
5. Aladdin- Another comedy makes the list but Aladdin is so much fun with the manic energy of Robin Williams. Every time I see it I spot a new impression or moment I had missed before. It will entertain both boys and girls equally and it is just one I wouldn’t mind watching on most any day.
6. Frozen- I can see many of you roll your eyes because you are sick of this movie. I repeat I don’t get sick of movies. If I like them I like them and I like Frozen. I could listen to the music all day and the humor is great, pacing a lot of fun and I just enjoy watching it most any day.
7. Lady and the Tramp- sweet, simple, romantic and with some tension and laughs. Just something so pleasant I can’t think of a time when I would not enjoy watching it. As the poster says the ‘happiest motion picture’ from early Disney.
8. 101 Dalmatians- A lot of of humor with Cruella, fun lively story, lots of great characters. Dry with with Horace and Jasper. Always at the top of my rewatch list.
9. Lilo and Stitch- Probably my most emotional film on this list but it is so lovingly told and Lilo is such a real kid I am drawn to the picture despite my dislike for Stitch. Maybe part of it is I find the Hawaiian local and music so relaxing it’s an easy rewatch for me.. It brings back many happy memories.
10. Mulan- Another movie with a lot of humor, romance, heart, and excitement. Just thoroughly entertaining and not too deep or morose like other less rewatchable films.
Honorable Mentions- Beauty and the Beast although it feels a little long for a frequent rewatch, Little Mermaid because of my nostalgia for it, and Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh which is probably the most rewatchable for little one’s.
There probably is not a movie I am more personally divided on in the Disney Canon than Lilo and Stitch. About half I LOVE and the other half not as much… I guess you could say I love the Lilo but not as crazy about the Stitch.
As much as I enjoy the big epic Disney movies like Frozen I also love the smaller, more intimate pictures like Lilo and Stitch.
In fact, after 3 or 4 commercial disappointments they decided to embrace the Dumbo strategy. Back in the late 1930s Disney had 2 financial ambitious failures in Fantasia and Pinocchio. Bambi was also full of delays and expenses. Walt decided to pull a few animators and make a simple, easy to draw but likable film and they came up with Dumbo.
Dumbo had watercolor backgrounds instead of the layers like Bambi and the characters were relatively simple and appealing. The strategy worked and Dumbo was a big hit.
Lilo and Stitch followed this strategy all the way down to the stunning watercolor backgrounds.
Looking for an easy to execute idea Disney turned inward and animator Chris Sanders pitched a book he had drawn in the 80s about a girl who adopts the world’s meanest alien.
The animators liked the idea and decided on Kaua’i Hawaii as the setting because of the spirit of family, its visibility from space, culture, music and it had never been done before in an animated film.
They do a great job not just showing the lush paradise of Hawaii but also the poverty and harder sides. It feels like a place people actually live.
The adult actors are all lesser known (more cost cutting) except for Ving Rhames as Cobra Bubbles. Many of the cast like Tia Carrere and Jason Scott Lee who play Nani and David are Hawaiian.
Another cost cutting measure was using traditional Hawaiian songs and Elvis numbers which made the soundtrack easy to put together and had minimal recording. I guess because I love Hawaiian music and Elvis I LOVE the soundtrack!
There’s a personal reason I respond to the Hawaiian setting and culture in the film. In 2007 I was starting to come out of a very dark period. There was a time when I felt I had lost the ability to feel happiness. Then I made big changes in my life in early 2007 but hadn’t made the tough decision to quit my job.
That summer my girlfriends and I went to Hawaii and had the most amazing trip. It was an awakening for me. I realized I could be happy. That life was beautiful and lush. I called my Dad the night before we were leaving and cried my eyes out. The idea of leaving such happiness made me so sad. I realized I needed to quit my job and create a happy life for myself.
I guess you could say the ohana spirit moved me and made me a better person.
I’ve been back three times since then and each time I leave feeling renewed and happy. Watching Lilo and Stitch with its music, surfing, watercolor mountains, hula and everything else brings back those memories which are always close to my heart (I need to get back!)
The intro really captures the ohana magic
It was also the first Disney classic to be nominated for Best Animated Film at the Oscars but lost out to Spirited Away (who wouldn’t lose to that masterpiece?)
So let’s continue on this vein by talking about the things in the story that best show the Hawaii I love. Lilo and Stitch is about 2 sisters, Lilo and Nani who’s parents have passed on and are forced to try and make their ‘broken family’ work.
These scenes between the two sisters are perfect. I wouldn’t change them one bit.
Here they are arguing like all sisters do, but I so relate to Nani because I was the older sister carrying for a sister and a brother who were 16 and 18 years younger than me. I get how she was feeling
And then this scene is perfect too. This felt like a real sisterly moment.
The prayer at the end of it just breaks my heart and is one of the few prayers in Disney films. Again wouldn’t change a thing.
I love that Lilo is a weird little girl. She has a strange doll and doesn’t get along with the other little girls. She tries to feed sandwiches to fish and is just a strange kid- like all kids! (especially a kid who has experienced recent trauma).
I also love this is a Disney movie about a little girl. That is actually pretty rare. Most Disney movies are about adolescent girls like Ariel, Belle, Pocahontas etc. I love that little girls have a little girl in a Disney film they can relate too and feel a little less alone in their strangeness.
Unfortunately there are problems for Nani and a social worker is concerned about her problems keeping a job and the stress of carrying for Lilo. He’s not a bad guy- just doing his job, but the threat of the ‘ohana’ being taken away is palatable throughout the movie. Not so much it is depressing but a real fear propelling the story forward.
Now we get to the part I don’t like…
Nani decides to let Lilo adopt a dog. At the shelter the find a weird creature who Lilo names Stitch:
We have seen earilier in the film that Stitch is an alien genetic mutation created by a mad scientist alien for world domination.
I’m sorry but I just don’t like the look of any of the aliens. Stitch looks like a cockroach, which I guess is appropriate for Hawaii but it was so unpleasant to look at (I hate cockroaches btw!). And he is so awful. Everything else in the movie is so sweet and tender having this maniac alien thrown in hurt the tone and I couldn’t wait for him to get off the screen.
The other aliens are all modeled off of sea creatures and they don’t look much better and are kind of boring. I kept wanting it to be done with the alien story and get back to the sisters. This movie should have been simple like The Fox and the Hound but it decided to pay homage to ET. The problem is ET was kind of cute and aside from frogs and resees pieces he didn’t really hurt anything. Plus, Elliott’s family is not in crisis like Lilo’s so it feels like too much for Stitch to destroy their house (literally), make Nani loose multiple jobs and more.
I don’t know how you have enough story without the Stitch but maybe just tone him down a little bit or make him a little bit cuter. Make him something good to the family not another struggle. Hmmm
I did like Lilo teaching Stitch how to dance like Elvis and hula.
The ending drags a bit and it could have been 10 minutes shorter (or follow the example of Dumbo and make it 62 minutes!). I don’t want to give everything away but there is some fun action and the spaceships are pretty cool.
We do get a nice moment where even Stitch learns he has found his ‘little and broken family’ (that gets me every time!).
And we get a little Elvis which is tons of fun.
So like I said I have mixed feelings about Lilo and Stitch. I wish I could excise all the Stitch stuff out and just make it about the sisters. I loved their relationship. I loved the Hawaiian culture. I loved the watercolor look. I loved the music both Hawaiian and Elvis. I love the focus on families and ohana, and I love that Lilo is a little girl not an adolescent who behaves like a little girl.
I still think Stitch is one of the ugliest animated creatures ever created and the scenes with all the aliens drag. I found myself itching to get back to the sisters. It was so much more compelling. Unfortunately this is a large part of the movie so it is a problem.
It makes giving a grade very difficult .
I guess I’m going to treat it like Bambi. When Bambi works it works so well but when it doesn’t I’m not invested. I gave Bambi a B- so
So now we are starting the part of this project I am probably looking forward to the least- the Disney 2000s. To be honest, if I could just watch 12 Pixar movies instead I would be a lot more pumped but I promised to go into the project open minded and I will do so with each of these films.
In fact, most of them aside from Emperor’s New Groove, I either haven’t seen or haven’t seen in a long time. So I am hoping to be pleasantly surprised kind of like I was with Rescuers Down Under. Hopefully I will find a hidden gem.
So, I am curious, my wonderful readers, which one (or more) out of these 12 do you like and why? Get me pumped! Which is your least favorite? I promise I will not let your likes or dislikes affect my view of the films so don’t worry about that. Just share in the comments or message me on facebook or twitter at @smilingldsgirl.