The Art Book of Song of the Sea Review

P1500080It’s rare in the world of animated art book that you have one written by the director himself! But that is just what you get with the Song of the Sea Art Book. Anyone who reads this blog knows I consider Song of the Sea to be a modern animated masterpiece so when I saw this for sale I shelled out the big bucks for it. It’s expensive but I had to have it!!

This art book is so rich I could read it for weeks and get new things out of it. It starts out with a brief introduction from art director Adrien Mericeau, head of story Nora Twomey and then director Tomm Moore. What I love is how close the team felt to these characters. Twomey says “Bit by bit, it came together, layer upon layer bound together by story, song and beauty.  Once we remained true to Ben and Saoirse and thought of them as real people, everything else came into place”.  You feel that closeness to the characters when you watch the film.

Tomm Moore shares how he came up with the idea for Song of the Sea when visiting a beach in Dingle with his 10 year old son Ben. “While there we came across a sea cull and I started thinking about the connection between our attitude to wildlife and our environment and the stories that once reminded us our place in the natural world”. This idea kept “percolating away in my sketchbooks and in the back of my mind”.  Isn’t it great that this kind of animation is still possible? That someone can get an idea and make a movie in this day of franchises, marketing gimmicks and big budgets it’s really refreshing.

We then next get a forward by Charles Solomon.  This is more like an interview with Tomm Moore sharing his approach to filmmaknig and creating Song of the Sea. It’s really cool that they have a quote from Pixar’s Pete Docter who says “Many films are noisy and manic, full of pop culture jokes; frenetically paced with wacky, manic characters that never hold still. In contrast, Song of the Sea has a quiet beauty.  It is graphically gorgeous, yet simple. Best of all, the characters are well-observed and truthful. It’s a joy to watch for so many reasons.” Amen to that!

P1500081Next Moore gives tons of information about the mythological and folkloric references. It even explains the meaning behind things I just accepted as his own invention like the spirtuality of the family dog Cu. “As it is the children’s dog Cu’s moment of glory the wind takes the form of 2 Cu Sidhe, fairy dog hounds, from Scottish and Irish folklore.” I don’t know about you but I find that fascinating.

P1500091Then Moore has a QandA he did that has incredible details. This is followed by our first chapter of the book which is all about the locations they used and how they sketched what they saw. This includes both sea and cityscapes and we get beautiful color photos along with descriptions.

P1500086Next up we have a large section on the characters.  This includes the concept art and inspiration for their stories. We  get our main characters of course but also smaller characters like the trick-or-treaters and the owls.

P1500087What’s really neat about these sketches is the finished product is so similar to them so you really feel like you are seeing into the mind of the artists!

Then we move on to development and production.  This details the storyboarding and layouts and what had to be cut that Tomm Moore loved.

P1500085P1500089The artwork in this segment is just amazing. I wish I could frame every page and put it on my wall!

P1500092The final segment is quotes and acknowledgements and has memories and thoughts from producers, cast and crew and then ‘quotes from friends’. They have Don Hall director of Big Hero 6 who says “steeped in his country’s mythology, as well as classic animation from all over the world Tomm Moore is telling that incredibly difficult and all too rare, type of story: the personal film that is accessible to all. And he does it with style, but never at the expense of substance. In fact, the style…actually enhances the substance”. I couldn’t agree more.

The Art Book of Song of the Sea is pricey. I think it cost me $60 because I had to buy it from England but to me it is worth it. I love my book and it has made the movie even better, if that was even possible. If you can afford it I highly recommend picking it up!

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Family Movie Night: Song of the Sea

This week on my family movie night video I put another plug for you all to see Song of the Sea.

I can’t say enough good things about this film.  It’s still the best movie I’ve seen all year including Inside Out.  In my opinion Song of the Sea is a true new masterpiece and I love it more each time I see it.  It’s emotional, peaceful, tense, sweet, scary and everything else.  The journey that Ben takes in dealing with the loss of his Mother is engrossing and devastating at times.  There is magic and unexpected characters and the animation is stunning.

Please watch it!!!  It is available as a free stream if you are an amazon prime member.

Have you seen it?  What did you think?

The music by Bruno Calais and Kila is so moving as well.  I have the soundtrack and enjoy listening to it throughout the day.  It has a calming effect over me.

What would you say is a new masterpiece released in the last 3 or 4 years.  I would put last year’s Boyhood in that discussion and Inside Out would be on the short list.

Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet Review

The new film released by Gkids, Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet, is a tough film for me to review.  It has great stuff wrapped in a not-so great packaging.  There is a side of me that wants to give it a free pass because it is made with such love and devotion, it is in 2D animation and the parts that are good are really good.  But for long segments the The Prophet feels like a Sunday School lesson and so I am torn on it.

The Prophet is based on Kahlil Gibran’s book of poetry called The Prophet, which is a popular book of spiritual affirmations and positive thoughts.  Evidently it was a passion project for Salma Hayek who produced the film.

prophet3To set up for the poetry they have a framing device of a man named Mustafa (voiced by Liam Neeson) who has been on house arrest for stirring up the people and giving them hope.  He is a prophet of some kind, a very Messianic like character.  There is a little girl named Almitra (voiced by Quenzhane Wallis) who has refused to talk for 2 years because of the death of her father.

prophet211These sections reminded me of the old Living Scriptures animated movies we used to watch in Sunday School but even those had an actual story (Daniel and the Lions Den, David and Goliath etc).  This is just a lot of Almitra getting into trouble, authorities moving them around and then Mustafa proselytizing to the people for long segments.

There are 8 shorts within the framing device directed by some of the great artists and animators of our time and those are wonderful but it’s all the other stuff that is tough to sit through.  I’m surprised Lion King director Roger Allers wasn’t able to wring more drama out of it. They were just too long and boring.  Perhaps they should have just done it Fantasia style with a concert and shorts approach?  That would have been much better because you would have gotten right to the cream filling!

Anyway, the 8 shorts are

On Freedom-

animated by Michal Socha, Sound designer Bartek Baranowski.  A beautiful segment with birds and wires symbolizing both being caged and released.

prophet5On Children-

Animated by Nina Paley, Music by Damien Rice. From the creator of Sita Sings the Blues a beautiful short

prophet7On Marriage-

Directed and Designed by Joann Sfar a tango of sorts that was a very strong effort.

prophet2On Work-

Directed, designed and animated by Joan Gratz  (this one was a particular favorite of mine.  It reminded me of Van Gogh painting)

prophet4On Eating and Drinking-

Directed, designed, animated by Bill Plympton (another favorite)

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Plympton_ProphetOn Love-

Directed by Tomm Moore.  This one really had a strong narrative and I kind of wish it was a feature not just a short.

prophet10
prophet11On Good and Evil-

Directed by Mohammed Saeed Harib

prophet14 prophet15I found this segment available online.  It will give you a feel for the picture. 

On Death-
Directed, designed, animated by Paul Brizzi, Gaetan Brizzi.  It reminded me of the same animators efforts on Fantasia 2000.  Beautiful.

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prophet20

The voice cast is all fine.  Liam Neeson is of course good as Mustafa and Salma Hayek is endaring as Kamila.  Even now I’m finding myself saying ‘it was pretty good’ but I’m telling you while I was watching those framing segments were really hard to sit through.

My advice on this film get it on dvd and go to the shorts.  Watching it that way you would have an argument for one of the best of the year.  In a way it is a little bit of a shame they are all together because what a great race we’d have for Best Animated Short with all these greats contributing!

It’s tough to give a grade to a film that is so up and down.  A film that tries so hard even in the sections that don’t work…I love the shorts so overall I’m inclined to be generous towards it I suppose.

Overall Grade- B-

No content problems that I saw.  PG and even Bill Plympton keeps it clean 🙂

WatchMojo Greatest Animators

The most prolific list site watchmojo.com came out today with their list of 10 Greatest Animators of All Time.  It’s a pretty good list.  If it was up to me I would have put Don Bluth on the list and maybe given an honorable mention to Ralph Bakshi, Patrick McHale, Glen Keane, Tomm Moore and Bill Plympton.  That said it’s always tough to make a top 10 list (believe me I know) and good stuff always gets left behind.  But Don Bluth?  He’s so big and practically kept animation alive when Disney was struggling in the 80s.

What do you think?  Who would you add or take away?  I admit I am a little less familiar with a few of the modern TV animators like Genndy Tartakovsky but I am sure they are very talented.