Long Way North Review

long-way-north2For the most part the 2016 animated blockbusters have been excellent. Even the middle tier films like Storks and Secret Life of Pets weren’t half bad. That said, I wish I could convince more people to enjoy the equally strong indie animated scene of 2016. We have had great films like April and the Extraordinary World, Only Yesterday (which grows on me more I see it), Miss Hokusai Phantom Boy and now Long Way North!

Directed by Rémi Chayé, Long Way North, is like nothing else you will see this year in animation. It is a small 2D animated adventure that uses color blocking to create a unique visual style.

long-way-north5Rémi said about the style:

“What interests me is the emotion. I want animators to spend time on the characters’ emotions. I don’t want them to spend time tracing details or pulleys. That’s why the graphic style is so simple. No buttons, no laces, no folds in the clothes. So for the ship, the train, the dog sleds, the carriages, we made 3D objects”

This was so beautiful to watch!

The story is set in 1882 Russia where a girl named Sacha is worried about her grandfather who left for the North Pole and never returned. His failed expedition has become a joke and her family is disgraced. She then sets out on an expedition to find her grandfather and redeem her family name.

Adobe Photoshop PDFMy favorite part of the story was Sacha as a character. She is a strong female character but not in a cliched way. She has diva moments where she doesn’t want to let go of her aristocratic ways and I liked that. She felt human and was fallible and grew over the course of the movie.

long-way-north-sacha-voiced-by-chloe-dunn-in-the-northI also liked once they got to the North Pole how things didn’t play out exactly the way I thought they would. Honestly I could have spent even more time there as the adventure really got going then.

long-way-north-still-3-sacha-voiced-by-chloe-dunn-in-a-scene-from-long-way-northThe animation is stunning. I loved, loved, loved, loved it. There was a roughness to the lines and a brightness to the color palate that was so refreshing and beautiful. I think Rémi is right. The simplicity did help me to focus on the emotion of the scenes and Sacha as a character. It’s funny with everything trying to be realistic these days (ala Jungle Book) I get much more emotional truth out of animation like this that is mostly shape and color.

I also really enjoyed the music by Jonathan Morali and a rock band called Syd Matters. It felt modern but as Sacha was a modern voice in this world it worked for me.

long-way-north-sacha-voiced-by-chloe-dunn-and-katch-voiced-by-tom-perkins-set-sailUnfortunately, there were some negatives to Long Way North. I love a good adventure story but some will find Sacha’s story to be predictable.  This wasn’t a big problem for me but I do think they could have introduced more conflict earlier to make it a bit more interesting. For example, it does not take the narrative risks that April and the Extraordinary World takes.

Also I think the middle segment in the boat lasts a bit too long and I got a little bit bored (also that section was the least visually interesting in my opinion). Once they get to the North Pole it picks back up again and I was engaged.

sasha-at-ball

Even with a few issues, I think it is a very strong feature film for Rémi Chayé and he and his 2D animated team deserve tons of applause. Long Way North is a 100% European production with a studio in Paris of 20 animators, 15 layout artists and 20 cel painters and the staff is equally male and female (how refreshing is all of that!). I love what they produced here and can’t wait to see what comes next!

We need independent visually unique voices in animation so I hope you will seek out films like Long Way North and give them your support. Don’t be surprised if you hear about this one come Oscar season!

Overall Grade- B+ (I’ve gone back and forth between B and B+ but it is so pretty I will go with B+)

Did the Right Film Win? 2009 Animated Oscars

Hey guys!  So 2009 was a very strong year for animation.  It was a year with 5 films nominated for Best Animated Feature Film and all 5 I enjoy.  There were also strong films that I personally think could have gotten a nomination in another year like Ponyo (I know you’all disagree with me on that one but oh well!), 9 and A Christmas Carol, to name a few.

Not only are the 5 films nominated very strong but they are also really different so I had a lot to say about each.  I ended up making 2 videos about them (my editing software was also giving me all kinds of grief so I got up what I could in 2 batches).  The first video is about Princess and the Frog and Secret of the Kells.

Basically I’m hot and cold on Princess and the Frog.  There is a lot I love about it and then things I really don’t like.  I love the animation, the character of Tiana, vocal performances and 3 of the songs.  I don’t like the voodoo elements, the convoluted story or Prince Naveen.  He is not Tiana’s equal.  All in all, that puts it in the middle of my Disney rankings. It’s certainly worthy of the nomination and worth a watch even with some major flaws.

Secret of the Kells is beautiful and looks like illustrations from a book.  It is only lessened in my opinion because I think Song of the Sea by the same team is much better.  Maybe an unfair comparison but I can’t help it when they are so similar.  Nevertheless, Secret of Kells has a beautiful look to it.  I like the story and the lead character Brendon is very appealing.  The Aisling of the forest is beautiful with stirring music from Kila.

The next video has the remaining 3 films- Fantastic Mr.  Fox, Coraline and Up.  You all have heard my thoughts on Up ad nauseam but I did get a little emotional when talking about it and how it reminds me of my Grandpa who I love.  It’s a special movie to me and I filmed the review several times but each time I started to tear up.  That was my honest response so I left it in. 🙂

Fantastic Mr Fox is a very creative film directed by Wes Anderson.  I love the world building and the story is a lot of fun based on Roald Dahl’s book.  I really like the characters like Ash, Mr and Mrs Fox.  The story is unpredictable even for someone who has read the book and it is extremely creative.  It is actually my favorite Wes Anderson film and while I don’t find it super funny I do enjoy it.

Coraline is a film from Liaka and I liked it much more this g0-around.  I always enjoyed it but for whatever reason I really was charmed while watching it this week.  It is directed by Henry Sellick who did Nightmare Before Christmas and it has the same dark tone and style of that film.  I love the character of Coraline.  She is sincere, quirky, endearing, inquisitive and in the end loving.  She ends up getting presented with another version of her family through this magic portal and it leads to some big scares but also a huge heart.  I love that she comes to accept her parents for who they are, even though they aren’t very good people in a lot of ways.  She still loves them anyway.  It’s really surprising and visually inventive.

In this case, I clearly think the right film won because Up is my favorite movie.  If I was going to pick a second place I would pick Coraline, but I can see people’s arguments for all 5.  What would you pick?  Thanks so much for your comments and for watching the videos.  It has been a great series both on the channel and this blog and next up is 2010 where my Tangled got snubbed (wa, wa, wa,….).  I look forward to watching the Illusionist for the first time.  Thanks!