Cars

dan scanlon andy

This is another edition of Short Starts, where we present a weekly short film(s) from the start of a filmmaker or actor’s career.  Dan Scanlon has worked at Pixar for almost twelve years (he started the day before 9/11), and it’s taken this long for him to direct his first solo effort for the studio, Monsters University. Actually, though, that’s not a very long time to wait, especially considering he’s the youngest person there to helm a feature (he turns 37 two days after the movie hits theaters). Prior to this, he co-directed the 2006 Cars short Mater and the Ghostlight with John Lasseter and had been a storyboard artist on Cars, Toy Story 3 and Disney DVD sequels The Little Mermaid II and 101 Dalmatians II and was on the senior creative team for Brave. In 2009, Scanlon put out his award-winning feature debut, a non-Pixar-based live-action mockumentary he stars in titled Tracy, which you can watch as a web serial here. That’s not all the past works of his you can watch online. Much like Jordan Vogt-Roberts, who got the Short Starts treatment a few weeks back, Scanlon has been quite generous and not at all shy about his early work. He’s personally uploaded a handful of films he made in high school and at Columbus College of Art and Design, many of which he appears in or voiced characters for (in The Chase he plays a guy who likes to be peed on, which hopefully isn’t a sign […]

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Planes

Though children everywhere adore the Cars series, the Pixar tales chronicling a world run by anthropomorphic vehicles who don’t appear to give a good goddamn about the non-existence of humans continues to terrify any adult who gives the franchise even the most brief of thoughts. Where the hell are the people? Continuing in the grand tradition of Cars, Disney has now branched off with Planes, which chronicles the adventures of, well, planes. It seems as if said planes and cars exist in the same freak world, and those cars just love watching aerial races, because honestly, why not at this point? The new film stars Dane Cook(‘s voice) as Dusty Crophopper, a crop-duster desperate to compete in the world’s most prestigious race, who has one major problem – he is afraid of heights. That’s both charming and just sort of obvious, so we look forward to the resulting final feature (or at least, we’re looking forward to having something sweet to take the kids to). After the break, check out the first trailer for Planes, guaranteed to be the new favorite film of all the kiddos in your life.

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People like to see the same plots rehashed over and over again. That’s how James Bond became such a long and successful series, isn’t it? Following Pixar’s success with Toy Story, the animation studio looked to follow a sort of pattern, but it wasn’t so much in terms of the storyline as the setup of having an ensemble of characters where each was representative of a different kind of some such (usually titular) thing. Toy Story starred different toys, then A Bug’s Life involved different types of bugs, Monsters, Inc. involved different types of monsters, Finding Nemo had different fish and other sea creatures and Cars had, of course, different models of automobile. Fortunately, Pixar has gotten a bit more inventive with their basic pitches, but now Disney has borrowed the model for Wreck-It Ralph. It could have easily been titled “Video Game Life” or “An Arcade Story.” There is a bit more to it than this, and in fact I was surprised to find that a lot of the movie is more about sweets than video games, especially where Alice in Wonderland-esque puns are concerned (the “laughing taffy” made me laugh). Overall, I had a good time watching the movie and appreciate the greatest addition to the Disney Princesses roster in years. But it didn’t really feel like something that will become a “Disney Classic,” and not just because our grandchildren will have no understanding of what arcade games are in a way they could relate to it. It […]

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For more than fifteen years, Pixar has represented the gold standard in computer generated films. Since the studio’s early days of making groundbreaking short films to producing Oscar-winning feature-length movies, Pixar has become a brand associated with quality animation and adorable characters. There have been some bumps along the road, from a love-hate-owner relationship with Disney to some questionable sequels, but few studios can boast such a consistent level of quality and innovation. This week, Pixar will be releasing its 13th full-length feature, Brave, with an entire new cast of characters different from any other Pixar film. This gives us a chance to look into Pixar’s past and remember some of the favorite characters from their films.

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Pixar Character Logo

If there’s any outfit that celebrates the team sport aspect of filmmaking, it’s Pixar. What began as the Graphics Group at LucasFilm has evolved into its own behemoth of wonder and magic. Not just pioneers of technology, they’ve sought to invent in order to put stories out into the world – using computer animation for the ancient purpose of spinning tales and crafting characters. Led by Ed Catmull, the production house (which was bought by Disney in 2006) boasts luminaries like John Lasseter, Brad Bird, Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, Lee Unkrich and many more. There newest film, Brave, is in theaters this week, so here’s a bit of free film school (for fans and filmmakers alike) from RenderMan and company.

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Merch Hunter - Large

With news coming through that John Carter has surprised absolutely nobody by losing Disney a bucket-load of cash, despite hitting the top of the box office in my own dear country and hanging around the top three of the U.S. box office, the fact that the Mouse House have apparently chosen not to try and take fill advantage of the merchandise buck looks all the more baffling. This is just one more step in a disastrous extra-release marketing campaign that saw one of the poorest cinematic trailers I have ever seen, underwhelming posters, and a generally underwhelming, unprestigious release for a film which actually deserved an awful lot more. Merchandising dollars can mean a massive financial return that can often sweeten a box office failure, as well as setting up better home release sales on the back of the brand reinforcement that toys, clothes and the usual assorted accouterments can bring. So why exactly isn’t my local Disney Store awash with John Carter branded products? And why is the online Disney Store stocking mouse mats, hoodies, mugs and smart phone covers as the primary lines for the merchandise campaign?

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Over Under - Large

I was only eight  in 1989, but from what I remember it was pretty much the year of Batman and Driving Miss Daisy; two movies that my 8-year-old self was less than impressed by. Perhaps we’ll talk about Batman at a later date, but today I want to talk about Miss Daisy, a movie that won so many awards and got so much critical praise that it made even those of us who had yet to sprout pubes aware of who Jessica Tandy was. The hype on this thing must have been huge to get me to tear my attention away from G.I. Joe and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles long enough to watch a film about a couple of old people driving around, but it did. The other movie I want to look at is from 2008. It’s Clint Eastwood’s acting swan song, Gran Torino. This one was well-liked, from what I can tell, but it didn’t get the hype or attention that I imagined it would once awards season rolled around, and consequently I don’t think as many people saw it as should have. I mean, with this one’s racial themes and its focus on old people you’d think it was a shoo-in for baiting the Oscars into giving it recognition. Perhaps it had too many racial slurs and too much gunplay to get embraced by the intellectual bourgeoisie that make up the Academy though. Give something a little color and suddenly it can’t be viewed as “serious […]

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Drinking Games

This past summer, Disney/Pixar continued their string of sequels with Cars 2. It may not have been the most popular Pixar film with critics, but kids loved it, and it’s one of the most merchandised movie of the year. That’s gotta be worth something, right? Now that Cars 2 is out on DVD, Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray, parents around the world will be watching it over and over and over again with their kids. Whether you liked the film or not, this might begin to wear on you. So uncork a bottle of wine or crack open a beer and find a new way to get through the film for the 50th time.

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There’s an old maxim that states that everyone in show business is fake. The traditional interpretation of that is that everyone in Hollywood is ready to be kind to your face, but stab you in the back and probably piss on the wound. That may be an exaggeration, but in the case of these 6 comedians, though, they really are fake. As in literally fake. Their public personae are carefully crafted, and you only occasionally see the real person behind it. Most of the time it’s just an extension of the person’s actual personality, but some of them are completely and totally fictitious people. For example, Bono is an experimental attention-seeking robot. Or take Neil Patrick Harris, who is actually a shaved ferret. You had no idea, right? Here are six comedians that almost never break the fourth wall to reveal their true selves.

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Last month we featured one of Kees van Dijkhuizen‘s director tribute montages, the one for Michel Gondry. He did an excellent job showing off the visual power of Gondry, as well as David Fincher, Sofia Coppola, Wes Anderson, Danny Boyle, and Baz Luhrmann. Now he’s cut together a video to showcase the God-like power of Pixar. It’s not like any of us need a reminder of Pixar‘s ability to make us shed waterfalls and get oversized lumps in our throats, but Dijkhuizen does a damn good job of doing so. Heart and wonder is what the studio does best, and this montage perfectly encapsulates how they do it Prepare to feel like a child again:

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr is inspired by Larry the Cable Guy and his character of Mater in the Cars movies. After all, if a buck-toothed rusty redneck pick-up truck can travel the world, why can’t a bald-yet-hairy fat guy from Ohio can do so as well. Kevin lurked in the streets of Tokyo, hoping to stumble onto some classy British spies and uncover a plot to undermine green energy sources. Then he brushed off his teaching degree and got a job at a middle school where he drank profusely, slept through the day and threw dodge balls at the kids. When he tried to explain to the cops that he was just following in the way of Cameron Diaz’s character from Bad Teacher, they just laughed at him and hauled him away.

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Why Watch? This short is infamous for the tall tale of how it got made and the danger it represents. The story as I heard it was that Claude Lelouch had some film left over from another project and decided to strap a gyro-stabled camera to his car for a little joyride. The result is a high speed, POV drag through the streets of Paris early in the morning while a few other vehicles and pedestrians hustle to get out of the way. Plus, it’s a romance! How sweet is that? What Will It Cost? Just nine minutes of your time. Does it get better any better than that? Only if we made sure don’t get hit by a car while you watch. Check out Rendezvous for yourself:

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You’d think my walk home from Rango, a movie that consistently kept me laughing like a madman for two hours, would be one of elation and knee-slapping fun memories. Not so. As my laughter subsided, I realized — man, I just saw an animated movie that centered on a sociopathic lizard who takes a contemplative, hallucinatory look inward to discover his true calling in the world. Whoa – suddenly that fart joke had a lot more resonance. There are universal questions everyone asks themselves at some point in their lives. Ideas, complications, internal debates that spring out of existence and challenge us as individuals. Some turn to spirituality. Others take back packing trips through difficult-to-pronounce regions of the world. But after watching Rango and looking back through a lengthy history of Hollywood’s animated films, I wondered: why not turn to cartoons?

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Somewhere out there is a movie called Rio about a bird who’s afraid to fly. You’ve probably seen the commercials for it and bristled at George Lopez’s voice. Somewhere in the same universe, DisneyToon Studios is planning a spin-off of Cars called Planes about a, get this, plane that’s afraid to fly. His name is Dusty, and he’s going to prove everyone wrong by entering a race that goes around the world. A spin-off with a propeller. Fancy that. The project isn’t brand new, but it’s news that it won’t be a direct-to project. It’s getting the full theatrical release. According to JoBlo, the press release also says absolutely nothing about Pixar. In a way, that makes sense. Pixar is incredibly picky about their projects, so it stands to reason that if they didn’t want to take on this project, Disney wanted to for the sheer marketability of it. In the meantime, we’ll be thinking of more movies about things that are afraid to fly and counting the days until Trains gets announced. Hopefully it’ll be soon.

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bluray-header

Hey kids, it’s time for a very special edition of This Week in Blu-ray dedicated to the three releases from Walt Disney Home Entertainment, a trifecta of beautiful Pixar movies coming at you in 1080p.

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Many of you may have seen some of these photos already, but hopefully you are getting them first here — because you don’t need any other film website, right?

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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