Animation

The Three Caballeros

It’s the weekend of Rio 2. Of bright colors and latin pop and Bruno Mars deciding he can act. And birds — big birds, small birds, bright birds, scheming Jermaine Clement birds. Rio 2 is the latest in a long tradition of bird-themed animated films; a tradition that dates back all the way to Disney’s early shorts like Chicken Little and The Ugly Duckling, and the feature-length The Three Caballeros. Then, sixty years of almost nothing. Once the digital age brought about a slew of new animated features, birds returned en masse. Our new heroes sported ruffled feathers and powerful wingspans. They also choked our cinemas to death with so many forgettable animated bird flicks. Surf’s Up, Happy Feet, Valiant, Free Birds and so forth. The future is dotted with more of the same with Storks, Angry Birds and The Penguins of Madagascar all planning to invade theaters in the next year or two. Now, this whole idea — that the “animated bird movie” is actually a thing, and a thing worth discussing, at that — may seem weirdly specific and potentially insane. It sort of is. But it works, and there’s actually a way to properly dissect a bird-centric cartoon. You quarter it into four distinct pieces; four categories that can be used to identify and analyze any animated bird flick. Categories that, when fulfilled, ensure the movie in question is a Chicken Run and not a Free Birds.

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Nightmare Before Christmas

First Smith, Soderbergh, Spielberg and Spike Lee, and now Henry Selick. The stop-motion master behind Nightmare Before Christmas and Coraline is adding his name to an alliterative list complaining about the filmmaking industry and its risk-averse decision-making process. Selick took aim at Despicable Me 2, but by his own reckoning, could have been talking about any animated film these days. “It’s too homogenous. It’s way too much the same,” said Selick, “The films aren’t really that different one from the other. Despicable Me could have been made Pixar, by DreamWorks. It’s not a great time for feature animation if you want to do something even moderately outside the formula.” Selick also championed streaming as a possible new outlet for animators and had more strong words that echo the typical narrative — that Hollywood is broken because they’re betting too big on too many tentpoles, refusing anything that doesn’t fit neatly into their Channing Tatum-starring Profit and Earnings report. The director is certainly qualified to talk about the system shutting out creativity; his latest project, an adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s “The Graveyard Book,” was dropped by Disney wholesale late last year and his Shadow King project came close to disappearing before an indie production house picked it back up.

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The Best Short Films

Editor’s Note: With Sundance 2013 upon us, we’re revisiting some of our favorite shorts from Sundance years past. This wonderful little film played the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, played in our Short Film of the Day series in August 2011 and is back for another run as we kick off a week of Sundance shorts. Why Watch? Because WTF stands for “Genius.” The vibrant, skillful blend of puppetry and animation, the hammer-to-nail satire of children’s programming and the huge wad of creativity make this short a winner all around. As a bonus, the song is catchy as hell. This is what everyone is thinking whenever they see kid’s shows as adults. Fortunately, it’s done as smartly as possible. The easy joke is avoided, and the rest is a frantic, jaw-lowering exercise in insanity. What does it cost? Just 3 minute of your time. Trust us. You have time for more short films.

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Crowdfunding campaigns are everywhere these days, and with this week’s report on the huge success of films financed through Kickstarter (more than 8,500 projects have made their goal since 2009), the number is sure to keep getting bigger. So, how do you choose which projects to help out, if that’s something you’re interested in? The easiest way to go is to find familiar talent, such as a veteran indie filmmaker looking to both avoid the established studios and financiers and focus on pleasing his fans rather than a suit with a checkbook. Animator Bill Plympton is a perfect model for how crowdfunding works best with an artist’s fanbase, by calling on and also giving back to the loyal followers as well as potential newbies. His latest feature, Cheatin’, is currently in the works and needs financial support, which he’s seeking through Kickstarter. It’s likely mostly people who know and love past “Plymptoons” like the feature-length Idiots and Angels (which we recently recommended you stream), the Oscar-nominated shorts The Face and Guard Dog and his brilliant first feature, The Tune, who will be lending a hand.

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? A deaf boy sees lions for the first time on a trip to the zoo and is profoundly affected in this beautiful animated movie from Alois Di Leo. The mixed animation style here is storybook with a greater sense of dimension, and the cinematography gives a great sense of motion to mimic what the little boy is feeling at any given time. His hearing aid provides an opportunity to toy with the sound design in a way that makes us experience life through his ear drums immediately – facing the alienation from and annoyance with a rowdy school bus full of loud children. It allows him to shut out the world when he wants. A young man named Max wanting to become a wild thing? The homage to Maurice Sendak here is fairly clear, but it works completely in its own way with a story that heads in an astonishing, captivating direction. Give it a chance, and it will devastate you. Thanks to Short of the Week for featuring it. What will it cost you? Only 8 minutes. Skip work. Watch more short films.

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Ernest and Celestine

Ernest & Celestine is based off a children’s book, which is unsurprising because the traditional animation style is evokative of the pages many of us grew up with, even if the story isn’t exactly familiar. In the film, a bear and a mouse strike up an unlikely friendship. What’s most exciting is that the movie comes from A Town Called Panic filmmakers Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar alongside A Mouse’s Tale director Benjamin Renner. Or at least that’s what used to be most exciting. That’s been replaced by a trailer that makes the movie look absolutely spectacular. Check it out for yourself:

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A Liar

The trailer for A Liar’s Autobiography: The Untrue Story of Monty Python’s Graham Chapman is a lifetime of insanity squeezed into 2 minutes. It helps that the story seems to take a Python-like look at Monty Python, but the main absurdity comes from 17 different animation styles from 14 different animation houses. There isn’t a coherent-looking bit in the bunch, which might be what Chapman would have wanted, or it might just be a mess. Excuse me. A bloody mess. At any rate, it looks like a must-see for Python fans. Where else could you get this level of intimacy? Everyone from the group but Eric Idle was involved in doing voice over work for it and, assumably, providing insight. The main thrust comes from Chapman’s own writing, though, distilled into what looks like an R-rated retelling of a life that might just have a few embellishments. The big question is, of course:  What will his ashes think of this? Check out the trailer for yourself:

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Sparse, biting and jaw-dropping, this excellent work from Joseph Pierce echoes Plymptonian greatness both in its style and insanity. With a photographer on hand, things that should stay buried are revealed for one unfortunate family. It’s hard to tell whether the look or the storytelling is more surreal. What will it cost you? Only 5 minutes. Skip work. Watch more short films.

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Editor’s note: With FSR favorite ParaNorman opening today, we thought it was only appropriate to re-post our very special set visit from the film, originally posted on May 21, 2012. I recently visited a nondescript building outside Portland, Oregon that would feel right at home in any corporate office park in America. Nothing about the bland, uninteresting exterior even hinted at what to expect beyond the front doors. There’s no sign outside to tell you where you are. No iconic sculptures alluding to what they do inside. Nothing at all that even hints at the harmonious blend of magic and technology within. But make no mistake, what LAIKA Studios is hiding inside those four generic-looking walls is nothing short of a revolution in film production…a revolution 115 years in the making. LAIKA is the studio behind 2009’s critical and commercial hit, Coraline, a film that utilized creepy but beautiful stop-motion puppetry to tell Neil Gaiman’s dark childhood fable. Their follow-up feature is an original work called ParaNorman. It’s an Amblin-like tale of a small New England town, a very special boy who can see and talk with the dead, and a zombie uprising that threatens to destroy them all. And yes, it’s a comedy. Keep reading for a peek behind the scenes of LAIKA Studios’ upcoming production, ParaNorman, and their secret, high-tech weapon…Rapid Prototype 3D printers.

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Why Watch? Nathan has a drawer in his forehead filled with seed, a pissed off bird in his brain, and he knows why the damned thing sings. Bursting with metaphor and twisted imagery, Benoit Berthe has crafted something special with Je m’appelle Nathan (My Name is Nathan). Consider it a 2-minute existential break that lasts a bit beyond its runtime. What will it cost you? Only 2 minutes. Skip work. Watch more short films.

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Hold on to your butts. Wes Ball‘s energetic short film is a stunning work of animation, detailed beyond belief with flashpoint physics and a killer chase scene. Plus, it’s recently been picked up by Fox for the feature-length treatment. Just press play and thank me later. What will it cost? Only 8 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Aided by the kind of brightly harmonic techno sound that’s most likely brainwashing everyone, this short from Joshua Catalano is an immersive experiment in animation where images build on each other to their breaking point. With scenes that ape desert landscapes with bulging building blocks and massive ice cream sundaes with straws chasing an infinite horizon, the entire sequence is beyond hypnotic. What will it cost? Only 4 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? Wow. Take away the unbelievably detailed animation work in Philippe Gamer‘s short, and you’re still left with a thrilling movie with an acrobatic camera that cuts right to what everyone wants to see: four women leading a platoon of police cars on a high speed ride. Badass women, massive destruction and impossible road conditions get the adrenaline pumping, but it’s still the animation that stands out as the jaw-dropping star. It’s just absolutely incredible – a fun, fantastic blast of a film. What will it cost? Only 4 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? This animated short from David Broner is a smile factory the same way a fistful of the right kind of mushrooms might be. It’s not necessarily trippy for the watcher, but the star of the show – a man made up of hundreds of blended polygons – is certainly having a good time. His hand grops for a pair of glasses, and has he puts them on, he’s transported to a virtual tunnel of light and random objects that gather as they collide with him. That is, until they knock off his glasses. The animation is inventive, definitely different from pretty much anything else going on out there, and the experimental story is one that anyone logged into a virtual world might be able to relate to. Oh, and Paul Lansky’s computer-rendered song “Notjustmoreidlechatter” makes it that much more happy-pill pleasant. What will it cost? Only 1 minute. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? With a punchy, computer-aided sound track, this new short from Kadavre Exquis is the audio-visual equivalent of LSD. Its random images are tied together only by a vague memory of what the past thought of the future, and the result is something mildly brain-shaking. It earns a raised eyebrow, but it’s undeniable beautiful in its exploration of 70s retro imagery. What will it cost? Only 2 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

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Why Watch? A title sequence for a fictional documentary about title sequences? That’s just crazy enough to work. Fortunately, it’s also gorgeous – mimicking the styles of different artists from Saul Bass to Richard Greenberg. It’s clever, movie geek stuff that’s crisp. Now how about making the full documentary? Hat tip to Landon for sending this my way. What will it cost? Only 2 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

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The Best Short Films

Why Watch? An adorable blob (that’s downright Hertzfeldtian) lands on a strange planet with tiny people who all begin trying to jump into shadow. From there, it gets weird. Malcolm Sutherland‘s experimental short is the perfect blend of non-flashy animation and silent story – trying to unravel a few of the universe’s mysteries while managing humor and terror alike. It’s a tough combination, but Sutherland nails it, proving that big ideas and emotions can come from a simply-drawn creature. What will it cost? Only 5 minutes. Skip Work. You’ve Got Time For More Short Films

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Brave

Brave has already made a milestone for Pixar as it marks the 13th straight release to debut at #1. No surprise for a brand that’s loved around the world and continually crafts memorable movies that resonate with children and old children alike. But where does it rank against other Pixar openings? According to numbers from Box Office Mojo, The Movie Formerly Known as The Bear and the Bow made $66.7m domestically in its first weekend, making it the fifth highest in the production company’s history. Here’s the full ranking:

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Hotel Transylvania

The first thing you notice in the new trailer for Hotel Transylvania is Adam Sandler doing his impression of Adam Sandler doing a vampire voice. It’s unmistakable, it’s annoying, and it’s a key argument against movie stars taking jobs from trained voice over actors. However, the feature directing debut from the remarkably talented Genndy Tartakovsky looks about as charming as they come. The plot is simple: Dracula creates a hotel haven for his monster pals (and to keep his daughter Mavis safe from the Hawaiian shirted humans), but a couch surfer stumbles upon their hideaway and proceeds to fall in love with the blood-sucker’s offspring. Some of the jokes are obvious – Kevin James’s character falls down a lot even in the world of animation – but it definitely shows potential. Check it out for yourself:

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Pixar Wall-E Commentary

Oh, those geeks and their wonderful ways of storing minuscule tidbits of information and pulling them from their mental storage unit to spur on debates. What must it be like to listen to a group of them talk about a movie they love? How about a movie they’ve all worked on? That’s exactly what Disney and Pixar did for WALL*E. They’ve pulled four of the geekiest minds on the production crew, minds that would analyze every, minute detail of a film and test it for accuracy, and let them talk all over the film. And, like any good geek conversation, the pop cultural references come with each, nerdy breath. So, without any further ado, it’s time to find out what this Geek Squad has to say about WALL*E.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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