Pixar 39: Cars 3 (Some Spoilers)

Vrrmmm Vrrmmm! It’s time to head into the world of Cars- Cars 3 to be more specific. Pixar’s latest animated offering was met with groans and derision from many when it was announced, as the Cars franchise is not the most popular amongst some fans. However, I am not a Cars hater and liked Cars and actually had fun with Cars 2(yes I don’t hate Cars 2 despite its flaws. Deal with it). So I met the arrival of Cars 3 with the normal anticipation of a Pixar sequel- curious to see where it would go and anxious for the ideas of the animators.You will never see me not excited about a Pixar film. It will never happen.

Then we got the trailers and they were fantastic! The teaser promised a new tone and feel to the series but then the actual trailers were more standard and showed a sports movie story in the vein of Rocky 3 and 4. I like sports movies so that was fine with me. A side of me was hoping Cars 3 would be a redeeming movie to the franchise that everyone would love but the response has been about 60/40 praising it. Truth is, if you hated the first two Cars movies then it will not win you over. If you liked the first but hated the second you might like it. If you liked both you will definitely like it. I’m in the latter camp and so I really liked Cars 3. I’ve seen it twice now and if anything I liked it even more on the second watch.

The basic plot of Cars 3 has Lightning reaching the end of his racing career. He’s getting older and new, faster cars are joining the circuit. A new rookie named Jackson Storm proves particularly hard to beat and enjoys taunting Lightning for how old he is. Then one day Lightning gets in a horrible accident and must put himself back together for a comeback.

Most of us have seen the crash in the trailer but it was still very impactful especially in 3D. The racing in Cars 3 felt so real and tactile it was very impressive. To see Lightning fly through the air and come to pieces was pretty upsetting especially with the great score by Randy Newman.

What follows for Lightning is a period of introspection where he thinks a lot about his mentor Doc Hudson who was also forced out of racing by a crash. As someone who has always had mentors and people I looked up to I found these scenes very touching. Plus, you get to hear the late Paul Newman voicing Doc using old interviews and clips. I couldn’t believe they were able to find such perfect dialogue from him to match the scenes. Well done!

Another similar moment that meant something to me is when Lightning goes to Rusteze headquarters for training and finds out that Rusty and Dusty have sold the company to a new owner named Sterling. Rusty and Dusty are voiced by Tom and Ray Magliozzi, who are the voices behind Car Talk on NPR. I’m not a car person but their show brought a lot of joy into my life and Tom has since passed away so it was meaningful to me to hear their voices again in Cars 3. All the voicework across the board was great in Cars 3 but these resurrected voices were especially powerful and touching.

Anyway, they have sold the business and Sterling has set everything up with the highest technology to train Lightning and other racers. He has a trainer named Cruz Ramirez, who was probably my favorite character in the film voiced by Cristela Alonzo. She is bubbly and positive while having a bit of a sarcastic, cynical side to her.

I won’t go into the rest of the plot but they meet Smokey, Doc Hudson’s mentor (Chris Cooper), and Lightning learns what he meant to Doc, and they even end up at a demolition derby!It all builds to a really satisfying conclusion worthy of any sports movie. Chariots of Fire here we come 😉

There are many positives to Cars 3. As I said, the animation is first rate. The racing sequences are amazing, and I loved the way the mud splattered and flowed at the demolition derby. It was perhaps the best mud I’ve seen in a cgi film!

Just like all the Cars movies the soundtrack is also outstanding. We get great covers from Brad Paisley, Lea DeLaria, ZZ Ward, Andra Day and more.

People that hated Cars 2 will also be glad to hear it has been completely forgotten in Cars 3. I didn’t even see any Easter eggs or hints to Cars 2. There is also way less Mater and the few sequences he is in worked well- giving Lightning a friend to talk to when he is struggling with training.

As with all Pixar films, I loved the messaging of Cars 3. First of all, the idea of teaching kids that their elders are still people with emotions and stories to share is a good thing. There is something in current pop culture that often portrays old people as worthy of ridicule or mockery. As silly as it might sound, Lightning’s story may just start a few conversations between families about ageism and listening to your elders- just like Lightning did with Doc and then Lightning does for Cruz.

I also loved Cruz’s story arc. She is presented as a character who is told what she can do because she is different- both female and a minority. “You can be a trainer. You can’t be a racer” is drilled into her and if that happens enough most of us eventually believe it is true. For decades women were told ‘these are the careers you can have’ and that is it.

I particularly found it moving during a pivotal moment where Jackson Storm tells her ‘How long do you think you can play dress-up?”. It reminded me of an old article I love called ‘A Pinch of Reality’ by Lynne Tempest. She talks about the women she knows who feel like imposters in their own lives:

“What if I can’t do it? It’s just a matter of time before they discover I really don’t know what I’m doing’. These were common refrains played over in my mind during my first months as editor. It didn’t’ seem to matter that I had been intimately involved in the production of network for 6 years. I knew it was just a matter of time before they found me out. I was scared. I felt alone:

“Why is it so hard for women to accept their own genius? What are we afraid of? And what does it mean when we don’t allow ourselves to relish in a job well done? By denying our own capabilities, we prevent ourselves from fully enjoying what we’ve worked so hard to achieve. ”

When Cruz is told she’s playing ‘dress up’ it’s another way of saying she’s an imposter and doesn’t belong. Women have been told that for centuries and it can be very limiting. I love the way Lightning and the other characters refuse to allow Cruz to give in to these thoughts and feelings pushing her along. I love that Cruz wasn’t always strong but wavered and needed that encouragement. It’s something many women will be able to relate with. In fact, it is something Cristela Alonzo said she related to with her early days as a comedian and how she was treated as ‘playing dress up’ with the guys.

Anyway, it was a touching moment I really appreciated, but Cars 3 is not without its flaws. There are some sequences of training that drag a little bit and the story is certainly predictable. That doesn’t bother me because I think it is executed well but it will probably bother some.  There are also some characters I would like to see more of such as a commenter car Natalie Certain (Kerry Washington) or Miss Fritter (Lea DeLaria) over at the demolition derby. They were a lot of fun and if there is a Cars 4 maybe we will see them again?

It also makes no attempts to explain the world of Cars so if you are someone who can’t let that go then it will continue to bother you. My theory on Cars is that it is all in the imagination of Andy from Toy Story. He has a very active imagination and doesn’t necessarily follow the rules of nature when we see his play in Toy Story 1 and 2. If he is playing with his cars he can make them talk, age, live together in their Car world and even become spies. Cars can be anything he wants! Why not?

Cars 3 is probably my favorite of the Cars movies and the more I think about it the more I like it (who would have guessed a Cars movie would give me so much to think about!). Like I said, it won’t win over new fans to the franchise, but I really enjoyed it and think all involved should be commended on a job well done! Congrats!

Overall Grade- B+ (Right now it is still under Captain Underpants for this year but it could keep rising with more viewings).

My friend AJ joined me to podcast about Cars 3 and I think you will enjoy the insight.

Pixar 38: Lou

I am going to see Cars 3 at least one more time before I write my review but I thought I would go ahead and write my thoughts about the short before it entitled Lou. This was a charming short that teaches a nice message for kids. I really enjoyed it.

I mean how can you not like that face?

The premise for Lou is very clever. Set in a playground at a school, Lou focuses on the lost and found box full of various misplaced items. These items include hoodies, rackets, mitts, baseballs and more. Through some kind of magic all of the items have combined together to make a creature called Lou.

I really liked the look of Lou and the way he flopped around as one cohesive unit while still keeping the individual items separate. It was very creative.  He kind of reminded me of a mixture of Telly and Elmo from Sesame Street. His eyes and mouth had the expressions of a Muppet and his body reminded me of how Hank from Finding Dory moved around the room.

Lou kind of takes ownership of the playground and picks up all the lost items after the kids leave. One day a boy named J.J. starts bullying the other kids and taking away their stuff (toys, backpacks etc).

I won’t give away the ending but Lou finds a way to get to the heart of the bully and help him realize what he is doing.

There is also some nice physical comedy between J.J and Lou that I enjoyed. I liked how the balls of Lou’s eyes bulged out when he was thrown about. It was a lot of fun.

Obviously the message of Lou is something many kids will be able to relate with. I certainly would have related to it very strongly. I liked also that they were able to teach J.J. a lesson without overly shaming him. He just sees what is the right thing to do and makes the correct choices.

Lou was directed by Dave Mullins and features the music by Christophe Beck of Frozen fame, which I enjoyed. I particularly liked how bubbly it was as we see Lou explore the playground and what is happening. You can see a little clip here:

It would have been very easy to make Lou a PSA and not a short but I think they straddled that line quite well. It’s funny, balanced and nuanced enough to work as a story, not just a message. Just Lou’s design and expressions are inventive enough to entertain me.

I don’t really have much to criticize about Lou. It’s not my favorite Pixar short but that’s a high bar to cross. This is sweet and a lot of fun with a nice message kids will love.

Overall Grade- B+

Now I will go off to see Cars 3 again!

Dreamworks 5: Antz

Today we get to look at one of the oddest entries in the Dreamworks Canon- their 1998 film Antz. This film was not only loaded with controversy but has more subplots, characters and ideas than it knows what to do with.

Let’s start with the controversy: After the success of Toy Story in 1995, Pixar began developing their next picture that would revolve around a colony of ants. This became A Bug’s Life. At the same time, executive Jeffrey Katzenberg left Disney in a feud with then CEO Michael Eisner. Then in a very fishy move Dreamworks also developed their own ant movie under Katzenberg’s leadership, Antz.

In my opinion Antz is the inferior film over A Bug’s Life but aside from being ants they are actually quite different. A Bug’s Life is more of a traditional hero narrative where Antz is a hodge-podge of story elements focusing more on the colony than on one particular ant.

The lead character in Antz is a neurotic bug named Z voiced by Woody Allen. There are a lot of jokes meant for adults in this movie, and many of these come from Allen with his deadpan style of humor. It feels like such an odd choice to have Woody Allen waxing philosophical in a kid’s ant movie. I’m used to him as more of an R rated figure and so it’s a bit jarring to hear his voice and type of ramblings in a Dreamworks movie. However, the movie does move away from him for long stretches with subplots involving a soldier named Weaver, a princess named Bala and a worker ant named Azteka.

On the other hand, the main strength of Antz is how nutty and strange it is. It combines 8 different kinds of movies into one. It’s at all times a  romcom, war, dystopian, road trip, fantasy, prison escape and children’s movie all in one. This can make it unpredictable and fun to watch. I never know quite what it is going to do or what is happening next.

There are also a ton of characters in Antz. I counted 16 named characters with vocal work.  And not only do they have all of these characters, but they all look the same with the brown color palate. Most I wouldn’t be able to tell apart if it wasn’t for the voice actors.

While it can be fun to have all these plot points and characters. it can also be overwhelming. It’s tonally all over the place with a massive battle scene happening one minute and  playful banter at an ant landfill the next.

Some of the rules of the world building also don’t make sense. The ants are kept under strict routines and follow orders yet there is a long sequence at a bar where ants drink quite a bit including the princess (she’s sneaking but still). What kind of workers paradise is this place? I don’t know but it is just kind of all over the place.

With all the characters there are so many relationships and friendships to keep track. Because they all look the same the only way I knew who was who was the vocal work (one time when the celebrity vocal work actually helped Dreamworks). Still, for a kid it could be a very confusing film to watch.

The message also becomes muddled. Is it anti-war? Is it teamwork? Is it individualism or collectivism? Is it never give up and forgive others? Is it revolt against tyrants? All of that is in there but it feels very confusing.

A part of me wants to give Antz a smile worthy just out of shear strangeness. In a world of cookie-cutter movies at least it tries a bunch of weird stuff. It does score some laughs and is moderately entertaining but it is also a jumbled mess of a film. It’s not very rewatchable or visually appealing to me.

I am definitely much more of A Bug’s Life girl but I’m not going to give that many smiles to Dreamworks so this one is just barely entertaining enough to get one.

Overall Grade- C+

Animation Pitch Session!

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.

Anyway, let me know what you think!

The Art of Up Review

P1500119This is the last in my little series of art book reviews I am uploading before I go on vacation.  I hope you have enjoyed them! You guys all know my favorite movie, not just animated, is Up. It’s a movie that for whatever reason really spoke to me when I first saw it and it continues to do so on each rewatch. To me it is about grief and remembering our loved ones but moving on too.  It embraces a spirit of adventure and travel while still feeling remarkably intimate and close. I just love it. So naturally when I heard there was an art book for Up I had to have it!!

One cool thing in this art book is to learn to the Pixar creators it was their chance to make their version of Peter Pan. I have never thought about that before. Pete Docter says in the preface “odd as it was the image of a floating house captured that feeling of escaping the world…4 years later more than 300 of us are floating along in our studio-sized house, making this movie. And although from time to time I still long to escape from it ll. I’m so happy to have had the chance to work with these amazing people. As Carl discovers, it’s the people you’re with who make the adventure worthwhile.”

P1500120In the introductory essay you learn about how the creators were inspired by the notion of a ‘coming of old age story’ and the desire all of us have to escape. We learn they started with the idea of a floating city and then it evolved to just one man. Pete Docter says “the story has simple beginnings, in thoughts like, ‘We get a kick out of old people. IS there anything fun we can do with an old person’. Pete had evidently drawn an old grumpy man holding a bunch of balloons and that inspired them. Isn’t that interesting?

Then they got the idea of a couple and the life they had together. Then when she is gone Carl feels all this regret “Carl had led a very simple life, he felt he had not fulfilled her hopes and dreams. She died before he could. So he has this guilt throughout the journey, thinking ‘all I want to do is fulfill this wish for Ellie. I missed this”.  I loved reading this because it is the true reason I love Up so much. This journey of self-forgiveness that Carl goes on is so moving.

And then he says “There is a strong moment when Carl’s wife gives him absolution, a reminder that ‘the life that we lived together was a great adventure-and I was not wanting more. You are my greatest adventure’ I love that”.  I love it too! As much as people love the opening montage I think I love that moment with the scrapbook even more.

And this is all before the first chapter of the book! The first chapter is called Seeking Simplicity and it is mostly about the characters and overall art design of the film. The book gives you tons of concept art and sculptures the characters and scenes of the film.

P1500121Then next we get a chapter about the house and the meaning of home to the artists.

P1500132It’s really cool to see all the thought that went into every detail from the weather veins to the stove, picture frames and lamps inside. “Pete wanted the house to feel claustrophobic because Carl doesn’t ever leave it, and his world has become very small. But then for the tepui and Muntz’s lair, the scale had to feel grand”

P1500127

Next we get a chapter on the The Tepuis in South America and the beautiful Mountain waterfalls that inspired the film.

P1500129I love that we get quotes throughout from the entire team behind the project from art directors, editors and designers and it is all beautiful work.  It is clear they were all inspired by Pete Docter’s vision. This section is long and it also includes more character design from Russell, Kevin and Dug.

P1500125Throughout the book we get lots of storyboards and concept art and it is all a joy to look at!

P1500128The Art of Up is really only for people who love this movie and were inspired by its vision. As that includes me it is wonderful to own. I love seeing the progression of an idea of a floating city and Pete Docter’s desire to escape morph and change into something truly special. The heart and passion that he had for this film clearly trickled down to all involved. The art work is beautiful the text is inspiring.  It’s a perfect companion to a great movie! So if you like Up get this art book. I know you will love it too!

The Art of Finding Dory Review

While I am happy vacationing in Spain the first 2 weeks of July I thought it would be fun to post a couple of reviews of animation art books I own. If you don’t have an art book it’s pretty self explanatory. It’s a book that explains and shows the art behind a particular film. These are not limited to animation (Marvel, DC and Star Wars for example have them) but all that I own are. I might not be quite as quick to respond to comments as I usually am on these art book posts because I will be gone. Have patience with me and I hope you enjoy them!

The first book we are going to look at is from the most recent animated release, Finding Dory.  It is the Art of Finding Dory.

P1500021It’s kind of interesting because this art book has a preface, introduction and forward. The preface is by John Lasseter and he talks about the first time Andrew Stanton pitched Finding Nemo (“You had me at the word fish”) and then Finding Dory (“Nemo had as its canvas the entire ocean, but Dory expands that world even more…where even the plainest quarantine tank is lit by intricate caustics of light playing along its walls and floors). That emphasis on light and how it was used by the artists is a big theme of this art book.

The forward by director Andrew Stanton is quite moving. It shows the emotional connection he had to Dory from get-go. He says “Dory was  lost. Most people overlook that fact…You see, Dory was looking for her family, too, only she had forgotten that fact. Dory had been lost for years, no knowing where or when that tragic separation occurred. I’ve always wanted to believe every audience member sensed that longing in her- that a fish with short-term memory loss, wandering the ocean alone, couldn’t truly be happy”. I know feel thoroughly guilty for never thinking that much about Dory- the poor fish! I’m so glad Andrew Stanton told her story because clearly he was very moved by it and it shows in the finished film.

Finally, the introduction by author Steve Pilcher, pencil and marker man on Finding Dory, shares his perspective on the design of Finding Dory. “The way shapes, color and light worked together to support the intent and focus of a shot became a carefully coordinated balance from sequence to sequence, shot to shot”.

You can tell The Art of Finding Dory is written by a technician like Pilcher because it is very technical but I found that fascinating.

The first part of the book is all about the production design. They focused a lot on lighting and how the ocean illuminates things differently than on the land/tank sequences.

P1500022I really liked pages that showed the sketching process to making Finding Dory.

P1500027They then have tons of information on character design for both small and larger characters.

P1500025Next we get tons of storyboards showing the evolution of the film’s story. I love looking at storyboards. It reminds me there are men and women actually drawing this stuff!

P1500028Finally we get to see the layout of the Marine Life Institute and all the small details from the flags, maps and signs.

P1500032They designed everything for the park- even stuff you don’t really see like the Kidzone bag you see above. That’s so cool!

P1500029If you liked Finding Dory then I think you will definitely like the Art of Finding Dory. It’s beautiful to look at but very enriching as well. I learned a lot about computer animation and the Pixar brainstorming process.

Let me know if you get to check it out what you think. Thanks!

Pixar 37: Finding Dory (Spoiler Review)

Ok I figure most everyone has given their normal non-spoiler review at this point so I’m going all spoilery! I’ve seen Finding Dory twice and am ready to dissect and talk about more subtle messages and meaning behind our watery tale. Do not read this review if you have not seen the movie. If you want to know my thoughts watch my youtube review which is non-spoilery (I gave it an A, which on a second watch I might move down to A-).

Now we get all spoilery. You’ve been warned.

finding dory4There are a lot of ways to enjoy Finding Dory. My first watch-through I loved it as a film about a special needs fish and quite possibly Pixar’s funniest film. It’s right up there with Monsters Inc as Pixar film with the most jokes per square inch of screen time. But as I am want to do I dug deeper at some of the more subtle messages in the film. I even pondered on a connection between it and another popular Pixar film that may make Finding Dory more thoughtful than just a silly comedy.

Let’s start by talking about what we know about Dory going into Finding Dory. Obviously she has short-term memory problem. That’s clear in Finding Nemo but what is also clear is how her memory is aided by being around Marlin. Clearly love, support and a continuing presence helps with her memory.  She even remembers “P. Sherman 42 Wallaby Way, Sydney” from almost the minute that she is around Marlin. It is then no surprise that being with Marlin and Nemo for a year her memories would continue to improve and that’s what we get at the start of Finding Dory. We also learn that Australia is a much more lush and clean area than where she grew up…

finding dory 11Dory has some flashbacks of her parents and herself as a baby fish. Her parents are warm and nurturing- trying their best to raise their daughter and keep her safe.  Dory tells Marlin she must go and find her family and to be honest this surprised me at first. Dory has a family for all intensive purposes already with Nemo and Marlin but she feels a need to find her birth family anyway. With what we see later on in the film I wonder if as soon as she thought of them she was immediately struck with a sense of worry for her family and that is the reason she must hunt them down?

finding dory crushWe get a nice little visit from Crush which is basically the only real speaking part of Finding Dory from Finding Nemo. A lot of people were disappointed by that but I was glad they gave us new characters.  One of the things the film does well is it forgoes the linear storytelling of Nemo in return for a more bumpy narrative. What I mean by that is instead of having one goal and then Marlin finding a friend to carry him through that goal as in Finding Nemo, in Finding Dory, Dory is often alone and confused with what to do. Then she meets one character who helps her a little bit and then another and another. Again, I think there could be a subtle meaning in all of these characters that one solitary companion wouldn’t have shown.

So with Crush’s help they get to California and are at the Marine Life Institute.  This is where we get into the meat of my analysis. The first thing that struck me is how polluted the water around the institute is. Dory even gets stuck in a 6 pack can plastic holder.

dory polutionIsn’t that strange that the water by a marine life institute which supposedly focuses on conservation and saving fish would be so polluted? If we look at the water it looks dirty and gross.

finding dory oceanThen there are two unique things about the Marine Life Institute that stand out. First, the voice of Sigourney Weaver welcomes visitors to the institute. She says “welcome to the Marine Life Institute where we believe in rescue, rehabilitation and release”.  There’s a lot of fishy (pun intended) things going on with this statement and institute but the biggest is where do we also hear Sigourney Weaver’s voice in a Pixar film? Why she is the voice of the Axiom computer in WALLE! Now tell me there is not a double meaning behind that!

axiom walleNow let’s think about what Axiom does. It lulls humans into an acceptance of an imprisoned, satiated life. It is only when the Captain realizes all the breadth and depth of human experience that he revolts against the Axiom and we get the second half of the film. (That’s why I don’t get people who dislike the second half of WALL-E. It’s an amazing awakening for the Captain and the people. I love it!)

I can see some of that same behavior here in Finding Dory. If we think about the largest building at the institute has Quarantine written right on the side.  What happens at quarantine? Not really catch and release like they say. The fish are imprisoned in aquariums and sent off to Cleveland where guess what there is no ocean!

finding dory 12And not only that but what have they succeeded to do? They have convinced Hank, our sentipus friend that he desperately needs to go to Cleveland and that the open water is a bad place. It doesn’t sound like the kind of place that is living up to their mission statement! Also, why is Hank missing a tentacle? That seems a little suspect too.

finding dory9It’s also interesting that all of the marine life immediately agree to help Dory, Marlin and Nemo. If they were in such a great, loving place you’d think they would be resistant to helping.Dory’s parents also set up their home outside of the institute when really to find Dory it makes more sense to go back into the exhibit. I get now why there is no villain in Finding Dory because the INSTITUTE is the villain!!! (Just like in Wall-e)

finding dory homeI think at the very least the Marine Life Institute is a sham! They aren’t releasing fish back into the ocean. In fact, I don’t know if they are even rehabilitating them at all.  Think about Dory. She is taken from the water, given a tag and immediately going to be sent off to Cleveland. That seems strange! There doesn’t seem to be anything happening in quarantine but people overly concerned about the missing octopus, making coffee and coordinating the trip to Cleveland.

finding dory8When Dory has to convince Hank to leave the truck it reminded me a lot of Woody talking to Jesse in Toy Story 2. She has been manipulated to accept a life of imprisonment by Stinky Pete. Woody tells her ‘wouldn’t you give anything to be played with by Emily once again?’.  It’s a similar speech from Dory. Yes, the ending is very silly with an octopus driving a truck but it has a new tension to it when you see it as a desperate escape from a compound!

finding dory destiny and baileyWe also have Destiny and Bailey who are interesting characters.  They are very sweet and funny but they clearly are not being rehabilitated by the institute. In fact, they are just as convinced of their frailties as Hank. Is that not what Axiom would do? It’s Axiom’s voice telling them they are ok and cared for rather than it actually being true.

getting homeHere’s an idea that will blow your mind. What if it is the pollution and treatment by Axiom that caused Dory to lose her memory? I mean short-term memory loss doesn’t happen every day and it makes sense when you think about Axiom. What better way to control subjects than to make them lose their memory?  They are able to successfully make everyone forget in Wall-e so perhaps Dory is just the beginning of that process?

finding dory2At the very least what if the beginning of the Axiom takeover is happening in America and the Marine Life Institute is proof of that type of control? Who knows Cleveland could be the home of the BNL corporation that creates Axiom? We know it is American and Fred Willard certainly has a midwestern voice.

finding dory sea lionsSo could it be that Finding Dory is as much a prequel to WALL-E as sequel to Finding Nemo? That may be a stretch but it’s interesting to think about. It certainly adds a layer of thoughtfulness to all the jokes and enjoyable scenes.

finding dory7On another note, one of the things I loved about the film is the way it dealt with a special needs character. Marlin and even Dory’s parents acknowledge the difficulties of being with someone who has a disability.

There is no doubt it is hard and I like they didn’t sugar coat that but the disabled also see the world through a different lens. We see that with Dory and with Bailey who’s unique vision helps save everyone. Marlin and Nemo even start asking ‘what would Dory do?’ What a great message for kids and families that just because someone is different doesn’t mean they are bad.

DoryI can’t give a review of Finding Dory without talking about the stellar voice cast featuring returning voices Ellen DeGeneres as Dory who is perfect in the role and Albert Brooks as Marlin. Then as new voices we have Ed O’Neill as Hank, Kaitlin Olson as Destiny, Diane Keaton as Dory’s Mom Jenny, Eugene Levy as Dory’s Dad Charlie,  Idris Elba as Fluke the hilarious sea lion and many more.  They are all outstanding and like I said very funny.

finding dory6It also has to be said that Finding Dory is stunningly beautiful. The seascapes both in the aquarium and back in Australia are beautiful. I particularly loved a scene where the stingrays are migrating and they move along and sing like a men’s choir.

sting raysAnd like I said Finding Dory is super funny and sweet on a surface level as well, so it’s got something for everyone!

I hope this review showed you some new layers in Finding Dory. What do you think of the connections to WALL-E?  What was your favorite part about the film? It’s a beautiful animated film from Pixar and one I will definitely be purchasing on blu-ray.

Overall Grade- A-

PS. And notice how I got through this entire review without mentioning The Good Dinosaur once! (I love that movie btw).

 

Pixar Review 36: Piper

piper disney pixar finalIn some ways something like Pixar’s latest short Piper is hard to talk about because it is deceptively simple. On the surface it is a cute little short about a baby bird at the beach but the more I thought about the more there was to it. Piper is a real Pixar gem and one of their best shorts in years.

Let’s start off with the animation. I think you can tell from the above photo that Piper is incredibly realistic. Most of the short if you hadn’t told me it was animated I would not have known. Everything from Piper’s feathers to her little legs looks so real.  There is a little hermit crab that looks animated but the ocean and the water looks amazing. Little details like the way the water reflects Piper and the look of the sand are perfect. You can really see what they learned from the Good Dinosaur and took it into Piper and it makes me excited for future Pixar properties.

piper+2Like I said, Piper is a simple story.  It’s about a baby bird who must learn to conquer its fears of the ocean. The thing that is great is it’s a valid fear.  She (or he?) gets hit pretty hard with a wave and so naturally shrinks from it, not wanting to go near the tide. Unfortunately, she is hungry and finally her stomach rules the day, so she ventures back. With each new wave she is more scared until she looks under the water and see’s the world underneath. This new vision of the world excites her and helps Piper to overcome her fears.

piper4Composer Adrian Belew does a great job with the music in Piper and the whole thing is just completely adorable. I liked it so much I could see an entire Piper movie! Look at the detail in the above shot- the coarseness of the sand, the fluffiness of her feathers.  Amazing! And it is winning without being too saccharine or sweet.

What did you think of Piper? Where does it rank for you in the Pixar shorts? It will be pretty high for me although I love all of the Pixar shorts so it is tough.

Overall Grade- A+

I posted my spoiler free review of Finding Dory on my youtube channel last night. I will post a detailed review here after I’ve seen it again, but just know it’s wonderful. I highly recommend checking out Finding Dory and Piper! If you guys could give this a thumbs up if you like that would be awesome. Thanks!

2015 Animated Oscars: Did the Right Film Win?

I’m very excited to announce my next video reviewing the Oscar nominees for Best Animated Feature Film is up!  I have reviewed every year from 2001-2015.  Here’s the entire playlist and the Animated Oscars Tag videos people have done.   It’s a long video, so perhaps a good one to listen while doing another task.  If you like it please give it a thumbs up.  Thanks!

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL7wz447AgL4x2fxnrGhVdu-6ZZa8v18Vl

Here are my base thoughts on each of the nominees.

boy and the world poster2Boy and the World-

A beautiful hand drawn animated film by Ale Abreu that tells the story of a little boy looking for his father.  Using basically no dialogue Abreu creates a kaleidoscope of colors and textures as the boy ventures into the city and confronts war, waste, commercialism and fear.  Sometimes it can be heavy handed and a bit self-indulgent but it’s also bright, colorful and fun.  The music is infectious and will make you smile.

anomalisaAnomalisa-

A somewhat cynical yet thought provoking stop motion animated film from Charlie Kaufman for adults. The animation is fluid and smooth as it focuses on a man named Michael who has become disenfranchised with the people in his life.  Everyone looks, behaves and even sounds the same.  Then he meets Lisa who is different and this excites him.  Some of the adult content I felt was distracting from what really made Lisa special. We could have dug deeper but instead we get superficial differences like a scar or voice. Still, it will definitely make you think and if you can handle the content worth a watch.

inside out3Inside Out-

I don’t know how I could say more about this film.  It was my favorite film of 2015 and it is rapidly becoming one of my favorite animated films of all time.  I have found myself watching it most weeks since I got it on blu-ray.  There’s just something about the dual stories of Riley and Joy that doesn’t age for me.  It improves each time I see it.  I love the humor, visual splendor, and heart.  The end when Riley admits to her parents ‘I miss home’ is perfect.  Joy’s journey when she finally realizes that happiness requires sadness is equally strong.  Perfection from Pixar.

shaun the sheep posterShaun the Sheep-

A delight from the team at Aardman.  A spin off from the TV show (which is great and you can watch on Amazon Prime) Shaun is tired of his boring routine and wants a day off.  So him and his friends go to the big city and have an adventure.  It has the spirit of a silent comedy with minimal dialogue and some great visual jokes.  I loved when the Farmer becomes a barber to the stars.  It’s a sweet, simple, endearing film.  And of course, the animation is wonderful as is usually the case from Aardman.  I wish more people in US saw their great films.

when marnie9When Marnie was There-

This film really impacted me emotionally.  Seeing the journey of Anna as she struggles with deep depression and her family’s effort to save her is very beautiful.  The main message is that we all have love in our lives.  The key is recognizing that love, both here on earth and from those who have passed on.  We all have love, and that love has power to rescue.  The animation is stunning.  I particularly loved the sound mixing and how lush everything felt.  The ending may not work for everyone but I thought it was pure truth. Great way for Studio Ghibli to go out. The music and song by Priscilla Ahn is gorgeous.

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So 5 wonderful films!  It’s funny looking over these 5 nominees I feel 2015 is a bit of a an underrated year.  It certainly was a diverse year especially when you consider 2 very strong films, Peanuts Movie and Good Dinosaur, that were not nominated.  And how amazing is it to have a year with only 1 CG film nominated for Best Animated Feature Film.  2014 only had 2. Take that 2D animation is dead crowd! 😉

Anyway, I think you guys know Inside Out is the clear winner in my books; although, I think all 5 are quality films.  As I said earlier, Inside Out is a game changer for me.  A film I will never forget.

What about you?  What do you think of the nominees and do you think the right film won?