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+

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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.

————————————

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?

Finding Dory Trailer Review

So we got our first full trailer for Finding Dory today.

I must own I thought the trailer was just ok. I like that girl shark they show.  She looks fun and the visuals of the ocean look amazing.  I can’t wait to see that!  But the story does concern me a bit.  Pixar has always had a philosophy of never repeating the original film with their sequels.  So far I’m just not seeing what is going to make Finding Dory unique. That concerns me a bit.

What was so great about Finding Nemo is how surprising it was.  Things like the AA sharks are hilarious.  I still laugh at those scenes.  Plus, the dual plotlines of Nemo in the dentist office and Merlin looking for his son were delightful.  The ocean was beautifully portrayed and I loved all of the tense, emotional and funny moments.  The seagulls- hilarious!

It makes me wonder- how is Finding Dory going to surprise me? As much as people hate Cars 2 I’d rather watch that then a warmed over Cars duplicate.  At least they were trying something new and different.  I enjoyed it with its flaws.  I hope they surprise me and try something new.

But it should also be noted that Pixar isn’t always great with their trailers for some reason.  This one had things I liked and am looking forward to but it didn’t wow me.

What about you? What’d you think of the trailer?

2016 Oscar Nominated Short Reviews

I’ve been wanting to do this post for some time but I had a hard time finding 2 of the nominated animated shorts for this years Oscars.  I finally was able to watch them all and thought I would give you my thoughts.

animated shorts5Bear Story

Coming out of Chili by director Gabriel Osorio Vargas Bear Story is about a bear who builds diorama’s kind of like what we saw in Hugo.  He is a lonely bear and tells the story of that loneliness through the diorama.  The animation is beautiful with a heavy steampunk feel to it.

Basically the story is the bear is taken from his family to perform in the circus.  You get that sadness mixed in with the fun of the circus. Each scene is layered with movement and details.  It is extremely charming.

Overall Grade B+

animated shorts1Prologue

Animator Richard Williams vision of ancient warfare is definitely a unique nominee.  It is done using a pencil, hand drawn style and the animation is quite striking.  When it focuses on a characters eyes or face it reminded me of a lithograph or an etching.

However, this film is ADULTS ONLY!  I am not being quaint or hesitant when I say that.  It is extremely bloody and  the nudity is graphic and repeated.  For a short that is just over 5 minutes it is kind of astonishing how R rated it could be!

Evidently it is accurate to ancient warriors for them to fight naked (who knew?) but there really isn’t any story here that I could see at least.  It is people brutally killing each other and then at the end a girl stands in shock over the blood.  I guess that is a message about war but not particularly inventive or thought provoking in my opinion.

Maybe we will learn more in future episodes? It is called Prologue after all

Overall Grade- C-

animated shorts44We Can’t Live Without Cosmos

We Can’t Live Without Cosmos is out of Russia and directed and written by Konstantin Bronzit.  It may not have the most stunning animation but the story makes up for any failings in that department.

It is 2D animation in the style of TV animation like The Simpsons, and tells the story of 2 best friends who dream of becoming cosmonauts.  It starts with them in training and they joyously complete every task.  At one point they even leap off of their beds trying to get a feeling of zero gravity.

I don’t want to spoil it for you but suffice it to say I love stories of friendship and this one had my heart. It is very sweet and lovely.

Overall Grade- A

animated shorts2World of Tomorrow

Oh boy…how do I explain World of Tomorrow?  To be honest Don Hertzfeldt’s sci-fi study of human nature makes me feel kind of dumb.  I’ve seen it a lot and I still don’t really get it.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing but did it need to be quite so obtuse?  I guess for Don’s artistic vision it did.

Basically it is about a little girl named Emily who receives a video transmission of a clone version of herself from the future.  This clone takes Little Emily into her current world where they have a land called ‘the Outernet’.

Clone Emily then takes Little Emily through different memories and then tells her that the earth will be destroyed by a meteoroid. Then Clone Emily reveals she came to see Little Emily to retrieve a memory she had forgotten.  She hopes this memory will be comforting for the end of the world.

So there you have it.  The main message is we should focus on the important stuff. That when the end comes the trivial will dissolve and only the most special memories will remain.  Technology  obscures the hear and now and makes us focus only on the fluff.

Clone Emily says

“Do not lose time on daily trivialities. Do not dwell on petty detail. For all of these things melt away and drift apart within the obscure traffic of time. Live well and live broadly. You are alive and living now. Now is the envy of all of the dead.”

The animation is brilliant and different in World of Tomorrow and I think it will win, and it is probably deserved.  On one hand I like it is layered and tricky to decipher it’s meaning, but I think it goes a little too far in that department, to the point of ostracizing me a bit as a viewer.  It’s great but I still don’t love it like some people do.

That said Overall Grade- A

animated shorts3

Sanjay’s Super Team

I have already done a whole blog post on Sanjay’s Super Team.  This is Pixar’s offering (Lava was actually submitted in 2014).  Everyone seems to think it is shoe-in for Sanjay to win this category but I did some research and Pixar actually doesn’t have a great track record here.  They haven’t won since 2001!  Even something like La Luna (my favorite Pixar short) was beat by Fantastic Flying Books of Mr Morris Lessmore which is completely charming so I get it.  The academy seems to like to reward smaller studios in animated short category.

Anyway, Sanjay’s Super Team is directed by Sanjay Patel and it is inspired by his childhood growing up as an American boy with Hindu observant parents.  The story is little Sanjay is watching his favorite superhero show when his father is praying and meditating.  His father insists he join him and Sanjay starts out bored but imagines the Hindu Gods as superheroes.

It is a beautiful film about how a meeting of the minds can occur and generations can understand each other better.  The animation is bright and colorful, some of Pixar’s best, and the lesson Sanjay learns is very sweet.  He see’s that maybe his Dad’s crazy ideas aren’t so bad after all.

Overall Grade- A+

 

My thoughts on all 5.  Prologue is too R rated for me and lacks a good story so it is my least favorite. The other 4 I like a lot, even if World of Tomorrow makes my head hurt.  I would probably order them

  1. Sanjay’s Super Team
  2. We Can’t Live Without Cosmos
  3. World of Tomorrow
  4. Bear Story
  5. Prologue

Have you had a chance to see the animated shorts? I would love your thoughts. Which do you like the best? Do you think World of Tomorrow will win or are you pulling for another choice?