Saturday, 30 June 2012

Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem


Back in 2010, Universal threw themselves into the world of animation, with the first theatrical release of their own dedicated animation department, Illumination Entertainment: Despicable Me. Despicable Me was a huge success, taking over $543 million worldwide and inspiring an upcoming sequel. However, arguably the biggest hits to come out of Despicable Me were the adorable minions.

Everybody fell in love with the minions and Universal clearly recognises that, as, following three dedicated Minion mini-movies on the Despicable Me home media releases, the minions are now even getting their own attraction at Universal Orlando!



The ride is called "Minion Mayhem" and, according to the official press release, sees you enter Gru's house to be recruited as a minion. Read an extract from the press release below:

"This brand-new ride combines the outrageous humor and memorable characters of Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment’s blockbuster film Despicable Me, with an all-new storyline, incredible new animation and the latest 3-D technology to create a wildly hysterical theme park experience.

Families will watch in amazement as they are transformed into minions, laugh together as they train to join Gru’s minion army and boogie down during the world’s-first minion-inspired dance party. Despicable Me Minion Mayhem is hilarious and heartwarming fun for the entire family."

You can see some photos from early runs of the attraction here, as well as a video (above) showing the mischievous minions causing havoc at Universal Orlando. "Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem" opens officially on 2nd July.


Also, you can check out a Facebook app with the minions, "Dance Party Marathon", similar in idea to Disney's "Mahna-Mahna" app for The Muppets a few months ago: you have 10 seconds to record yourself dancing. Hundreds and hundreds of such clips from around the world are then spliced together with some minion dancing (Universal seem really rather fond of making the minions dance) acting as an interlude.

Between this and Disney's Cars Land, studios definitely seem to understand how crucial good advertising and film-based theme park attractions are to business success!

Despicable Me 2 is released on 28th June, 2013 (UK) and 3rd July, 2013 (US), let's hope this pacifies us until then.

Theory: Monsters University Has the Potential to Beat Toy Story 3


A few days ago, I posted a theory: that Pixar's purportedly shelved film newt, wasn't in fact cancelled, but rather, just hibernating. A couple of weeks ago, the first teasers for the Monsters, Inc. prequel, Monsters University, appeared online, to a huge response. "Monsters University" trended on Twitter, worldwide, all day, and fans across the web and across the world were enthralled. It really struck home for me, once again, how insanely popular Pixar is, and how Monsters, Inc. is one of its most beloved properties.

Back in 2010, after an 11 year break since Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 arrived in cinemas, and went on to become the highest grossing film of the year, the highest grossing animated film of all time, and the 5th highest grossing film worldwide, ever (now down to 8th). This got me thinking, it'll have been almost 12 years since Monsters, Inc. when Monsters U premieres, so: does Monsters University have the potential to out-gross Toy Story 3?

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Coming Soon: Disney Animation Studios to Make an Animated Marvel Film!


Yep, you did read that right. Almost 3 years after Disney bought Marvel Entertainment, and after much speculation that we might see this, Honor over at Blue Sky Disney tells us that Walt Disney Animation Studios are working on an adaptation of a Marvel property!

Rather than focus on the more mainstream Marvel heroes like Iron Man or Hulk (mainly because they're prominent in The Avengers) Disney are instead opting to adapt and animate the Marvel super-team, Big Hero 6. The film is to be directed by Winnie the Pooh co-helmer, Don Hall, and is tentatively due for 2014.

This is a huge move undoubtedly for Disney, Marvel are enormous at the box-office, as are Disney; this may be a more obscure Marvel team, but this will certainly be a smash-hit nonetheless! This marks, that I'm aware of, the first time Disney will have worked with another studio on an animated release; their first superhero film; the first Marvel film in the Disney Animation canon, and so much more. This promises to be an extremely exciting project and it seems a perfect fit for Disney right now. Following on from the very modern-minded Wreck-It Ralph, Big Hero 6 looks to continue a new trend for Disney.

The Little Mermaid directors Ron Clements and John Musker are developing a new hand-drawn animated film, and that and Frozen will presumably keep Disney's princesses in fine form, but this and Wreck-It Ralph balance it out perfectly.

If there were doubts previously, let them be now allayed, the third Golden Age of Disney Animation has arrived.

Disney Holiday Toy Line Confirms Toy Story Toon Rumours


Yesterday, The Pixar Times posted an extensive look at the upcoming Disney Store Holiday Line, mixed in amongst lots of great Brave toys, some new Cars and Toy Story toys, and the Finding Nemo Blu-ray, is one surprise that sheds some clear light on a rumour that's been circling around the past few months.

A while back, we were told that techno/dance artist BT had just worked on a Toy Story short called Partysaurus Rex, but nothing was confirmed.Then at the start of the month, we found out that three new Toy Story Toons were on the way. This lent credence to the belief that the first of these Toons would be Partysaurus Rex.


Again though, no confirmation. I emailed Pixar to follow up on this, and they commented that "We haven't officially announced any additional toons, so Partysaurus [Rex] is just speculation at this point." It seems, however, that this speculation was correct, as The Pixar Times also posted a couple of pictures of a Partysaurus Rex bath set. If this set is going to be included in the holiday line, then it certainly seems that this will be the first of the upcoming Toy Story Toons - possibly even paired with Finding Nemo 3D, or certainly on Pixar Short Films: Volume 2.

Excited? I certainly am! See the rest of the great line at The Pixar Times.

First Look at Disney's Paperman


A lot of hype has been surrounding Disney's latest short film as of late. Paperman, directed by John Kahrs, - who worked as an animator on a number of Pixar films, before moving to Disney where he acted as an animation supervisor on Tangled - has been received to a rapturously positive response by those privileged to see it already. The film screened at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival a few weeks ago and Tweets about it passed enthusiastic and bordered on frenzied.

The short film, which is set to precede Wreck-It Ralph later this year (or the start of next year in the UK), is making waves for its revolutionary animation technique, which fuses hand-drawn animation with computer animation, combining "the dimension and depth of digital animation with the abstract warmth of traditional line-art. The result is a world seemingly sculpted out of sketches."


That description comes via Entertainmexnt Weekly, who also provide us with our first look at the highly anticipated short, with 3 exclusive stills.

The article also offers up some insight into, and the inspiration for, the techniques behind the short's animation:

“Drawing can have a really powerful, visceral effect on the viewer. You can create anger and surprise or anguish with just a few lines of a pencil,” says director John Kahrs, an animator on The Incredibles and Tangled. “But it can’t just be the same thing it was. I think for 2-D to be revitalized, you have to figure out a way to make it new again.”

It also provides some insight into the animation software behind Paperman, Meander:

"Disney used new in-house technology called Meander to build the world of Paperman. First the characters and backgrounds were rendered digitally, and then hand-drawn art was layered over those shapes, giving the figures a kind of 3-D quality unseen in old-school animation. “What you’re seeing is a very stylized CG layer [underneath], but the feel of the image is very flat and lives in between the two,” Kahrs says."


Finally, I'll leave you with perhaps the most telling comment of all, from producer Kristina Reed:

“If this short had come out with The Little Mermaid, everyone would be excited about the CG,” says Reed with a laugh. “Now here we are in the early part of this millennium, and what we’re celebrating is going back to the handcraft.”

It's a fantastically rivetting read and Paperman promises to change a hell of a lot for animation at Disney! Be sure to read the full article over at EW.

Exclusive: Tintin 2 Details, "I'm not sure I'd put too much money on [Calculus Affair]"


Last month, Stormbreaker author and Tintin 2 screenwriter, Anthony Horowitz, told this blog on Twitter, that, in Tintin 2 "You can expect to meet Cuthbert Calculus." This sparked some debate and consideration as to what books the sequel to last year's hit would be based on.

At the time I theorised an adaptation of one of the later Tintin books, the Calculus-centric, The Calculus Affair. Since then my idea expanded somewhat; I thought perhaps a combination of this and Red Rackham's Treasure - which the first film drew from slightly. However, when I proposed my theory on Twitter, Horowitz replied "I'm not sure I'd put too much money on that."

A double bluff? Maybe. But it certainly sparks more thought on the matter. Assuming that Horowitz isn't trying to throw us off the scent, we now know what Tintin 2 isn't based on. Horowitz also told BBC a while back "I think the second film is not going to be Prisoners of the Sun", adding though that "The good news is if [Prisoners Of The Sun] is not the second film it'll be the third film so actually I could end up with two Tintins under my belt."


So, given that that effectively rules out 3 books, and rule out also The Crab with the Golden Claws and Secret of the Unicorn - on which the first film was based - and factor in that, in the first film, Tintin's walls were adorned by newspaper clippings touting his previous success in various adventures, adventures that happened in Tintin in the Congo/Tintin in America, Cigars of the Pharoh, The Broken Ear and King Ottokar's Sceptre, then we have a reduced list of 15 books. Add to that that it's unlikely to be the rudimentary and oft-called insensitive Land of the Soviets or the unfinished Alpha-Art, and we're down to 13.

The Calculus Affair does seem somewhat unlikely in retrospect; why would Tintin and Captain Haddock (particularly Haddock) risk their lives to help save someone they barely knew? So, what are we left with? I discussed this with friend of the blog and our resident Tintin consultant, Damien, on Twitter, and we're in agreement that it still seems likely Red Rackham's Treasure - or elements of it - will be used. It's such a good introduction for the character, that it makes a lot of sense to borrow from it. The Moon books seem a little sci-fi-esque and too far removed from the first film to be fitting, and after the controversy surrounding Indiana Jones 4, it seems unlikely Steven Spielberg would opt for the alien infused Flight 714 - although elements of that could also be effectively used.

Peter Jackson (Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit), co-producer of The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn and director of Tintin 2, said several times that The Black Island was one of his favourite Tintin adventures, so that is a strong possibility. But, the crux of this is: although we now have a better idea of what the film might be (or at least might not be) we're still a way off knowing for sure.

Tintin 2 is tentatively scheduled for release in 2014/2015.

UPDATE:

Damien pointed out that there is a newspaper clipping referencing The Black Island in the first film, so that probably rules that out as well.

And then there were 12...

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Genndy Tartakovsky Set to Direct CG Popeye for Sony


Sony Pictures Animation are clearly taken with what Samurai Jack creator Genndy Tartakovsky is doing with Hotel Transylvania, as Variety reports that he has been re-enlisted to direct a computer animated Popeye film!

The script for Popeye will be penned by David Ronn and Jay Scherick (The Smurfs) with Avi and Ari Arad's Arad Productions producing. Tartakovsky will start full-time on the project when Hotel Transylvania (released 28th September, US and 12th October, UK) is wrapped, and when he's finished on his long-in-production feature adaptation of Samurai Jack, the cult-hit series he created for Cartoon Network.

The spinach-consuming sailor has been adapted for the screen before, but never particularly successfully, and Sony look to change that with a 3D version of the well-known character. Between this and Illumination Entertainment's planned Woody Woodpecker feature, older characters are getting a lot of love at the moment.


Via Cartoon Brew.

Trailers: Blue Sky Studios' Epic and Tim Burton's Frankenweenie

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Today brought two fantastic new trailers for two highly anticipated upcoming animated films. Firstly, and thanks to Tyler Carter for sharing this with us via Twitter, Good Morning America brings us the first teaser trailer for Blue Sky Studios' 2013 release, Epic. The premise is magical and draws from nature, based on the book, The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs by William Joyce, and the trailer reflects this. Set to a fantastically calm, atmospheric score, the teaser is almost reminiscent of Avatar, and Epic looks set to be Blue Sky's most beautiful and delicate film to date.

Two weeks ago we got the first piece of concept art from the film, that seemed to capture this calm yet (pardon the pun) epic scale and many crowed that this could be Blue Sky's best film yet. But there were also the naysayers, who said that, given the voice cast, including Beyoncé, it would fall down a daft comic route. This should allay that. Aside from a few jokes towards the end of the trailer, the teaser is almost entirely speechless, which is exactly how it left me.

Look forward to seeing more from Epic over the next several months now that Ice Age: Continental Drift is almost out in theatres.


Secondly, the second fantastic trailer for Tim Burton's black-and-white, stop-motion return to animation direction, Frankenweenie, is up over at iTunes Movie Trailers. Showcasing the wicked comedy and attuned  sense of character that has made Burton's films such huge hits in the past, Frankenweenie look set to be a huge hit for Disney.

Epic is due for release on 24th May, 2013, with Frankenweenie hitting later this year, on 5th October (US) and 17th October (UK).

Monday, 25 June 2012

Theory: Newt Isn't Cancelled, It's Just Hibernating


*This post contains some mild spoilers if you haven't seen Brave yet*

Pixar's latest feature film, Brave, is out now in the US and its release dates for the rest of the world are fast approaching. With the release of a new Pixar film, swiftly comes the Easter-egg hunting. Pixar have a long-standing tradition of cross-pollinating their films with references, both to each other and to the wider world of animation in general. The most famous examples are the Pizza Planet Truck (which first appeared in 1995's Toy Story) and the code A113 - the very same code that this blog is named after.

Very common also though are references to other Pixar films, past and present. Occasionally for the purpose of time-saving or due to cost-constrains - like the use of Geri from the short film Geri's Game as the cleaner in Toy Story 2, or the tree from Ant Island from A Bug's Life being used as the scene for Jessie's happy playtime memories, also in Toy Story 2, due to the film's short time-frame for animation - but more often just as a neat little reference, indicative of the deep affection Pixar have for all of their projects. In Monsters, Inc. for example, in one of the final scenes in Boo's bedroom, you can see Jessie from Toy Story 2 and Nemo from Finding Nemo (the previous and following Pixar films). Also, in Ratatouille you can see a shadow of Dug, who would appear two year's later in Up.


Now that Brave is out, the search is on for how Pixar slotted its references into the antiquated 10th century Scottish setting. The Pizza Planet Truck has been spotted quite en masse, but A113 and an apparent Monsters University reference have alluded most viewers - despite Pixarian Cat Hicks' helpful hint (above) that all of the Easter eggs are in the same scene. However, one reference that has been noticed quite widely, to some delight and shock, was one to Pixar's cancelled project, newt.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

UPDATED -- Brave Opens Strong


Pixar have always been a critical and commercial juggernaut, and Brave looks set to keep that tradition alive with a very strong opening day. Pixar's latest opened at the #1 spot, making it the thirteenth consecutive #1 opening for a Pixar film. Early estimates place the film's takings at roughly $24.5 million (according to Box Office Mojo) completely obliterating its competition (including DreamWorks' Madagascar 3, down to #3 with $6.1 million this week) and making Brave Pixar's third biggest opening day yet; behind only Toy Story 3 and Cars 2. So it's Pixar's biggest ever opening for a non-sequel!

A tremendous start and good word of mouth means it's entirely likely that  Pixar's first fairy-tale will take in over $70 million over the weekend. Where it goes from there is just conjecture at this point, with generally strong reviews and a sure to be powerful overseas Box Office performance, it could end up with a very high worldwide gross like Up or Finding Nemo, or may fall slightly short of estimates, like WALL-E.

We'll have to wait and see, but it looks promising.

UPDATE

The estimates for Brave's weekend gross are in, and it's even better than expected! Above you can see I predicted about $70 million for its opening weekend, analysts predicted around $60 million (domestically), the reality is even grander than both, as Brave took $80 million worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo. Taking $66.7 million in the US and $13.5 million in international markets (especially impressive given it still hasn't opened in a lot of countries yet), Brave has had an incredibly strong start, more than Cars 2's $66 million.

Look for Brave to be another hit for Pixar!

Friday, 22 June 2012

New Brave Clip and UK Trailer



*Beware of spoilers in both of these videos*

Brave may be out now in the US, but us poor blighters in the UK and in several other territories still have to wait quite a while yet. So, seemingly to pacify us until August, Disney and Pixar have rolled out a brand-new UK trailer for the film on the Walt Disney Studios UK YouTube Channel. Not entirely dissimilar to what we've seen so far in trailers, this latest (and presumably last) trailer has more of a focus on the Witch than we've seen until very recently. It also has more of an upbeat tone than the film's advertising has largely had, yet still focusing on the crucial mother-daughter relationship at the heart of the film.


I particularly loved 1:25 onwards, it has a great epic feel - as does the film in general - and I loved the focus on the characters; Brave is, after all, a character driven film.





We also get a much more solemn, ominous, tense and very, very awesome clip, showing off the wisps that best typify the film's magical elements. This point, and the subsequent few minutes, act as the turning point in the film, and you can really feel the tension being amped up!


Brave is released on 13th August here in the UK (3rd August in Scotland though) and is open now in America!

Brave is Now in Cinemas! - In the US Anyway


Pixar's latest animated feature, Brave, is now out in US cinemas (although those of us in the UK - and indeed several other places in the world - will have to wait a while yet). As such, the reviews are now rolling in, and Brave currently stands at a 72% Fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, with a much better consensus than some early reviews might have indicated:

It may not live up to the lofty standards of the Pixar brand, but Brave offers young audiences and fairy tale fans a rousing, funny fantasy adventure with a distaff twist -- and surprising depth.

Roger Ebert, who seems to be on a roll of awarding Pixar films 3 stars - after doing so with Toy Story 3 and Cars 2 - awards Brave 3 stars, echoing most of what we've heard up until now:

"Unlike such brightly original films as "Toy Story," "Finding Nemo," "WALL-E" and "Up," this one finds Pixar poaching on traditional territory of Disney, its corporate partner."

In addition, the L.A. Times' Kenneth Turan says:


"If the Walt Disney Studios logo were the only one on "Brave,"this film's impeccable visuals and valiant heroine would be enough to call it a success. But "Brave" is also a Pixar Animation Studios film, and that means it has to answer to a higher standard."



No one seems to have particular gripes with the film, just that it doesn't live up to Pixar's self-imposed standards as much as we've come to expect. The review that I find myself most nodding my head approvingly to is that of Rolling Stone's Peter Travers, awarding it 3.5/4 stars, best summed up by:

"No one seems to review a Pixar film without comparing it to other Pixar films. OK, Brave isn't The Incredibles or Toy Story. So? It's still a rousing, gorgeously animated good time."

That addresses a lot of my problems with the majority of the Cars 2 reviews; judge it on its own merits, folks. I'm hoping that Brave's Rotten Tomatoes score grows, hopefully into the 80s at least - I'm predicting around the 81% mark - as Pixar truly deserve it.


Going to see Brave this weekend, stateside readers? Already seen it? Share your thoughts below or with us on Twitter (@A113Animation)!

--

As a brief aside, also be sure to check out the (finally) newly revamped, and suitably wonderful, Pixar website; chocked full of great behind-the-scenes videos and interviews!

Hotel Transylvania Trailer 2


The second trailer (above) for Sony Pictures Animation's Hotel Transylvania arrived online yesterday. Much better than the teaser we saw a while back, this newest trailer (courtesy of Yahoo! Movies) shows a lot more of everything: more heart, more story, more character. Also, the animation is very stylish and striking and looks to make Hotel Transylvania a visually exciting film.

Admittedly, I'm still not head-over-heels excited about it, but Hotel Transylvania looks promising, and Sony may be on to another surprise hit, à la Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs here.


Directed by Genndy Tartakovsky (Samurai Jack), Hotel Transylvania, stars the voices of Adam Sandler, Selena Gomez and Kevin James and is due out on 28th September in the US and 12th October here in the UK.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Interview: Peter Lord, Co-founder of Aardman and Director of The Pirates!


Today I had the fantastic opportunity to speak to the very kind, very friendly and very, very talented Peter Lord on the phone, from Aardman's headquarters in Bristol. Peter, who is a co-founder of Aardman, co-directed their first feature film, Chicken Run, and directed their most recent film, The Pirates! in an Adventure with Scientists. Despite his very busy schedule as one of the famed studio's top-brass, Peter was kind enough to speak to me for just over half an hour about all things Aardman.

I'd also like to take this time to extend my sincerest thanks to Emily Metcalfe, Julie Lockhart and Amy Wood from the Aardman publicity and production team for helping to set this up. As a huge fan of Aardman, it was a great honour to interview Peter.

Topics covered in our conversation include the history of Aardman, critical reaction to the studio, why their films have never caught on in a big way in America, working with DreamWorks and Sony and The Pirates! and The Pirates! 2. Be wary though, there is some (very) mild language used. Check out the full interview after the jump break:

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Brave: Potion Making



Pixar has heavily shrouded the second act of Brave during promotion of its thirteenth feature film, that is, until very recently. Two weeks ago we got our first real look at the Witch (Julie Walters) who helps Merida change her fate, and today Pixar provide us with another, called "Potion Making".

"Potion Making" is the real turning point in the film, to the more mythical and magical elements, as well as some of the darker parts of the film, and the Witch looks like an insanely good character.

Be warned though, this clip contains pretty big SPOILERS, as do a lot of the recent ones, and, although they're great to hype you up for the film, I'm once again going into a Pixar film feeling like I more or less know the plot already.

Brave is released in the US in two days, on 22nd June, and here in the UK on 13th August.

Brilliant Monsters University Teaser(s) and Concept Art!



As promised, Pixar have finally released the first fantastic teaser trailer for their Monsters, Inc. prequel, Monsters University - actually make that teaser trailers, there's four! The four teasers are more or less identical, but apparently Billy Crystal (voice of Mike Wazowski) was so funny in his reading of four different possibilities, that they decided to release them all!

The first version (above) arrived on via Pixar's official YouTube channel this morning, and we get three more versions from Yahoo! Movies, iTunes Movie Trailers,  and The Huffington Post, check them all out below:

Yahoo! Movies


iTunes Movie Trailers


Huffington Post


The main thing to note is, as we've been told consistently since CinemaCon, the teaser is hilarious; the younger character models are also fantastic and the university looks great. But most of all, it's great to see Mike and Sulley back on our screens again after 11 years. Monsters U looks phenomenal!


In addition, we've been treated to some fantastic concept art from the film (presumably, although not stated, by the film's art director, Dice Tsutsumi). The two pieces (above and below) are wonderfully reminiscent of the original 2001 film, whilst also adding a new dynamic to the film - The Art of Monsters University will surely be a must-buy!


I'm curious to see how Pixar handles its first prequel and continues from Monsters, Inc. and greatly anticipate hearing more and more about it going forward, now that Brave is almost out. The synopsis reads:

Mike Wazowski and James P. Sullivan are an inseparable pair, but that wasn’t always the case. From the moment these two mismatched monsters met they couldn’t stand each other. “Monsters University” unlocks the door to how Mike and Sulley overcame their differences and became the best of friends.

Screaming with laughter and fun, “Monsters University” is directed by Dan Scanlon (“Cars,” “Mater and the Ghostlight,” “Tracy”) and produced by Kori Rae (“Up,” “The Incredibles,” “Monsters, Inc.”). The film opens in U.S. theaters on June 21, 2013, and will be shown in Disney Digital 3D™ in select theaters.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Review Report: Brave and Madagascar 3


Rotten Tomatoes is often the authority on whether a film is good or bad, sure it's not always exactly right, but it gives a good indication as to the general consensus about a film. That said, after a startlingly weak Rotten Tomatoes performance last year (whether deserved or not) with Cars 2, Pixar are back up into a Fresh rating again so far this year, with Brave currently holding a 68% rating. Admittedly though, that's nowhere near the norm for Pixar, the Toy Story studio usually have a rating of over 90%. Although there are few reviews now (even less from reputable, well known reviewers) and we can only hope and trust that the rating will rise when we arrive at the film's opening day on Friday.


Surprisingly, beating it so far is DreamWorks' Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted. Madagascar 3, which is raking in cash at the box office at the moment, currently having amassed an impressive $280,386,851 worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo, currently sits at a very respectable 75% Fresh rating. Rotten Tomatoes' 'Top Critics' seem to just about agree, as the site aggregates 71% from 'Top Critics' for Mad 3. The consensus reads:

"Dazzlingly colorful and frenetic, Madagascar 3 is silly enough for young kids, but boasts enough surprising smarts to engage parents along the way."

It's a testament to how much DreamWorks have improved over the last few years (after outputting the phenomenal How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda 2) that they: a) have produced a film whose Rotten Tomatoes score is significantly higher than the its predecessor, which, itself, was significantly higher than the original, and b) are currently beating Pixar's offering this year.

I guess only time and Brave's 22nd June opening date (US) will tell how this plays out in the coming weeks.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Interview: Luke Chueh, Pop Surrealist Artist



A few weeks ago I posted a review of pop surrealist artist Luke Chueh's debut 'art of' book, The Art of Luke Chueh: Bearing the Unbearable. I was just recently introduced to Luke and the art movement he represents, and have been enthralled by the startling originality of it. Although some of Luke's work was a little gory for my easily queasy disposition, on large, his work is fantastic! Widely symbolic and using a wide cast of cute, lovable and very clever characters, The Art of Luke Chueh is a great by for fans of art.

So, I was very excited and pleased when I got the chance to ask Luke a few questions via email, about his work, his origins and future, and how that links into animation - including his favourite animated film - and what parts of his work he'd be interested in adapting into animated shorts. Thanks to Lauren Woosey from the Titan Books publicity team for setting it up. Check out the interview after the jump break!

Cars 2 - One Year On


Pixar's thirteenth feature film, Brave, is opening in US theatres this Friday, 22nd June, and the embargo has been lifted, thus reviews are flooding onto the Internet, and they're a mixed bag. There are none that I've seen that cite Brave as a bad film, nearly all of them say, in fact, that it is very good, that it is gorgeously animated, has a wonderful score and great characters, but that the story is unoriginal - more Disney than Pixar. The most balanced and reasonable review I've read is that of Bryko from Upcoming Pixar, who says:

"Ultimately, one has to question: if a film makes you laugh, shed a tear, and stay on the edge of your seat, is it really at fault for lacking originality? Even if it’s not Pixar’s best movie to date, does it really matter? The film will undoubtedly be a hit with audiences worldwide with its boundless appeal and beauty; even with a fairly predictable story, Brave is a winner."

So, despite some quibbles, general consensus is that Brave is still a good film, even if it's not Pixar's finest. We've been down this road before though, and much criticism was directed, last year, at Cars 2. The sequel that nobody was particularly clamouring for, Cars 2 was often maligned as being "the first bad Pixar film"; this is simply not the case. I watched Cars 2 again yesterday, and thought I'd offer up my thoughts, in hindsight, one year on.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Brave Review TV Spot



Brave is out in US theatres on 22nd June, that's this Friday! Although those of us here in the UK have to wait to until 13th August to see Pixar's latest, that hasn't quenched my excitement for it in the slightest. So, I was going through Pixar's YouTube channel, watching all of the Brave videos, and found the above video, posted a few days ago.

For some reason, this TV spot is unlisted so it only showed up when I clicked on my subscriptions list, and despite being up since the 14th, it has less than a hundred views. But, it's fantastic, as it shows, despite some negative reviews and that people are happy to search for Pixar's shortcomings, this is still a brilliant film. Cited as "visual magic" and "remarkable in every way", I'm still very, very excited for Brave, and have the utmost faith in Pixar.

The teaser still gives me goosebumps, and I have no doubts that the film will blow me away.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Monsters University Teaser Trailer Due Wednesday


Brave isn't quite out yet, but Pixar are gearing up to advertise their next release, the Monsters, Inc. prequel, Monsters University. The official Facebook page for Monsters U  yesterday shared the above simplistic image, with the accompanying text:

"You’re about to discover a bit more about Mike and Sulley’s days at Monsters University."

With Brave opening stateside on the 22nd, this seems to point to the upcoming reveal of the Monsters University teaser trailer! That's 4 days now, which places the teaser reveal on this coming Wednesday. The trailer, which apparently follows Mike and Sulley trying to prank each other, will be attached to Brave and La Luna in cinemas, and we'll post it here when it arrives online on Wednesday - so be sure to visit this blog then!

The trailer was screened to CinemaCon audiences this year, and is said to be hilarious, and with characters like Mike and Sulley back on screen for the first time in 12 years, it's easy to imagine why!

Brave opens in the US on 22nd June (and 13th August here in the UK) and Monsters University, directed by Dan Scanlon (Mater and the Ghostlight) opens just under a year later, on 21st June, 2013 (12th July, 2013 here in the UK).

UPDATE:

You can now view, not one, not two, not even three, but four - count 'em, FOUR - teaser trailers for Monsters U here, along with a couple of pieces of concept art.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Brave: Happy Father's Day



For Mother's Day last month, Pixar released a touching Brave promo to remind you to show your Mum the care and affection she deserves, the very sentiments at the heart of Pixar's latest feature film. Today, they released another (above) to promote Father's day this Sunday. Using a lot of the same footage and showing a young (and very cute) Merida, this once again emphasises how important the realistic family at the centre of Brave is to the film.

Remember to get your Dad something nice for this Father's Day! Brave is released on 22nd June in the US, just a few days away now, and on 13th August over here in the UK.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Rise of the Guardians Posters


DreamWorks' official Facebook page just uploaded five new character posters featuring the main cast of characters from their upcoming adaptation of William Joyce's The Guardians of Childhood books, Rise of the Guardians.


The posters showcase the bad-ass character designs for the Easterbunny, now called Bunnymund, (Hugh Jackman, top), Jack Frost (Chris Pine, above-left), the Tooth Fairy, now called Tooth, (Isla Fisher, above-right) and Santa Claus himself, now simply called North (Alec Baldwin, below). We also get a poster for the villainous Pitch, the Boogeyman, (Jude Law, bottom) who is scorned and angry after having to "to endure generations of parents telling their children not to fear or believe in him, while the Guardians are beloved by all."


There's also some character descriptions for the revamped and re-imagined childhood characters, head here and click on the individual posters to read them.


I think I'm going to grab the Bunnymund or North one for my iPod background; Rise of the Guardians looks utterly fantastic and will surely be a huge hit for DreamWorks.

Remember to visit the Rise of the Guardians Facebook page to keep an eye out for future updates.

Rise of the Guardians is due for release on 21st November in the US and just over a week later on the 30th here in the UK.

Update

Whoops, my bad, I overlooked the final character poster, the awesome and visceral Sandman (no voice actor announced yet) poster (below).


Temple Run: Brave Review - A Runaway Success For Disney and Imangi


A couple of weeks ago we reported that the recent string of pairing a popular mobile game with an upcoming animated movie was to continue with the mash-up of the immensely popular Temple Run and Pixar's latest feature film, Brave, with Temple Run: Brave.

Last year Disney released an original film tie-in game for Cars 2 (review here), a 2D platformer in the same vein as Halfbrick's Monster Dash. The game was a big commercial success, and I loved it on a critical level also - recent updates bringing new levels and more playable characters made it even better. But there's something about the familiarity of Temple Run: Brave, due to it being based on an existing property, that makes it that little bit more interesting.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Aardman News 9 - Watch Wallace and Gromit's Latest Outing and Win an Aardman Tour!



In our last Aardman News, we showed you a brief clip from Wallace and Gromit's latest outing, the new, Jubilee themed, "mini-animation", A Jubilee Bunt-a-thon. Now that the Jubilee extended-weekend is over, the very short short-film is now online.

Embedded above, the just over one minute long outing is more of a mini-bit really. It's funny of course - it is Wallace and Gromit after all - but it's too short to really amount to much.

Nonetheless, this isn't the really exciting news. Wallace and Gromit creative director, Merlin Crossingham, shared a link to the National Trust's website, on Twitter, toting a competition! The competition is hardly challenging:

What does Wallace say to Gromit when he sees the size of the house that they've got to decorate?

a) Oh crikey
b) Oh crumbs
c) Woweee

And although it pains me to add more competition to this - it means I have less of a chance of winning after all - email your answer to competitions@nationaltrust.org.uk by midnight (UK time) on 30th June 2012.

I haven't even got to the amazing prize yet: In addition to spending a day at Tyntesfield - an old National Trust house - you also get:

"the chance to visit the Aardman studio [in Bristol] and meet some of the teams who bring the famous characters of Wallace & Gromit to life. You'll also get the chance to have your very own private screening of your favourite Wallace & Gromit film. And after that, there's a family trip to At-Bristol Science Centre to have a look at some real life Wallace & Gromit sets."

What an utterly fantastic competition and even better prize! Be sure to enter!

--

Speaking of Aardman, be sure to cast your vote in our "What's your favourite Aardman film?" poll to the right - there's less than a day left!

Turbo, Rio 2, Cloudy 2 and More At the Licensing Expo


Yesterday we posted the first look at Blue Sky Studios' upcoming animated feature, Epic, out of this year's Licensing Expo, however it seems we overlooked lots of others. /Film and comingsoon.net bring us some other great first looks, posters and promotional material for upcoming animated films.


Firstly, (top) we have our first look at DreamWorks' Turbo, which follows "an ordinary garden snail who dreams of becoming the fastest snail in the world". While I was greatly looking forward to this film, I'm somewhat more cautious now. The animation is very bright and vibrant, and it looks like a lot of fun; but it also looks very goofy, and the main character is dangerously close to pulling the "DreamWorks face" (see above). I also found a recently released poster for the film (top), which does nothing to allay my fears.


We also get posters for a lot of sequels. Including Blue Sky's Rio 2 (above), Sony's Cloudy 2: Revenge of the Leftovers (above) and The Smurfs 2 (below) and Illumination Entertainment's Despicable Me 2 (below - we actually got a large display for this one). All of what we see for these films, though, gives us nothing new; it merely displays a '2' and the characters from the original - I suppose Cloudy 2 gives us a subtitle...


I loved Rio and Despicable Me - they were both phenomenal - but, at this point, I'm not really that excited to see sequels. I'm sure they'll be handled well, but I'm going to need some more details before I invest in the projects. I haven't seen, and don't particularly want to see, The Smurfs and have zero interest in a sequel. However, the one I'm particularly excited for is Cloudy 2. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs was a surprise hit, it was a lot, lot better than the advertising led us to think it would be - and Sony Pictures Animation will presumably handle a sequel well.


And finally, we get another poster (above) for Sony's impending release, Hotel Transylvania.

Turbo is released on 19th July, 2013 (US) and 18th October, 2013 (UK); Rio 2 will premiere in Brazil on 28th March and on 4th April, 2014 worldwide; Cloudy 2 is due for release on 14th February, 2014; Despicable Me 2 is due on 28th June, 2013 (UK) and 3rd July (US); The Smurfs 2 will be in cinemas on 31st July 2013; finally, Hotel Transylvania is out much sooner, on 28th September (US) and 12th October (UK), of this year.

All release dates are via IMDb and are correct at the time of publishing.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

First Look at Blue Sky Studios' Epic


Following the recent title change that turned Blue Sky Studios' (the studio behind Ice Age) 2013 release from Leafmen into Epic, and some big voice cast news, we now get our first look at the characters and animation of the film.

At this year's Licensing Expo, the above image (via comingsoon.net), showed up, showing us the huge, grand and, yes, epic scale of the film, and the heavy fantasy elements prominent in the adaptation of Moonbot's William Joyce's book.

The characters and animation look solid and we can't wait to hear more about Epic as we approach its 24th May, 2013 release date.

Also, if you haven't already, check out our interview with Blue Sky Studio vis. dev. artist, Tyler Carter, who's working on Epic!

Monday, 11 June 2012

More Details on Disney's Frozen



Walt Disney Animation Studios announced (via ComingSoon.net earlier today some more details about their 2013 animated release, Frozen. We heard a while back that Frozen was the new title for the Disney adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen, and that it was due on 27th November, 2013 (the date previously scheduled for Bob Peterson's The Good Dinosaur), this latest release though just cites November 2013 - no specific date is mentioned.

The computer-animated "epic tale of adventure and comedy" is directed  by Chris Buck (Tarzan, Surf's Up) and produced by Peter Del Vecho (Winnie the Pooh, The Princess and the Frog). Frozen features the vocal talent of Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) as Anna, "a young dreamer about to take the adventure of a lifetime", and Tony Award winning actress, Idina Menzel (Broadway's Wicked, TV's Glee), as Elsa the, formerly titular, Snow Queen.

Original songs for the film are being created by Broadway's Robert Lopez (The Book of Mormon) and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (who's working on songs for a stage-adaptation of Pixar's Finding Nemo), and the synopsis for the film reads:

In “Frozen,” a prophecy traps a kingdom in eternal winter, so Anna (voice of Bell) must team up with Kristoff, a daring mountain man, on the grandest of journeys to find the Snow Queen (voice of Menzel) and put an end to the icy spell. Encountering Everest-like extremes, mystical creatures and magic at every turn, Anna and Kristoff battle the elements in a race to save the kingdom from destruction.

Frozen seems like a more traditional film for Disney - going down the princess and musical route again - and a million miles away from Wreck-It Ralph. That said, it worked phenomenally well for Tangled, and it does look to provide some great range (both with its setting and premise), following the more Pixar-esque Wreck-It Ralph late this year.

Can't wait to hear more about this as we progress!

If you haven't done so already, be sure to watch the trailer for Disney's next film, Wreck-It Ralph, here!

And be sure to vote in our Aardman poll to the left; only 3 days left!

First Brave Reviews And More TV Spots


Ahead of the US premiere of Pixar's Brave in 11 days, the first reviews have started to surface - and it's looking good! Contrary to the somewhat lukewarm critical reception to their last feature, Cars 2, Pixar look to be back on top form with Brave.

Only a handful of reviews have showed up so far, but the prevailing impression is a good one. Variety's Peter Debruge says that Brave creates "a resonant tribute to mother-daughter relationships that packs a level of poignancy on par with such beloved male-bonding classics as Finding Nemo", whilst citing it as more "conventional" than some of their previous more ambitious projects like 2004's The Incredibles. HeyUGuys gushes about the film in their review, saying:


"What makes Brave truly special is that, even if it were stripped of its dazzling visuals, laugh-out-loud humour and dynamism, it would remain a clever, arresting and emotionally involving, yet inherently simple tale about the turbulent relationship between a mother and daughter and the fact that freedom may not be all it’s cracked up to be. It’s the emotional core, with all those extra elements sprinkled liberally on top that makes Brave the best animated film of the year, rewarding in droves. It’s quite simply, unrelentingly spectacular."

Awarding the film 4/5 stars.

However, although (from a small sample of 5) it currently totes an 80% Fresh Rotten Tomatoes rating, not all of the reviews are positive. The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy seems less enthused about the film, saying "Pixar's 13th film, which follows an adventurous Scottish princess, is visually stunning and strongly voiced, but doesn't take any real risks.", although it's by no means a bad review, saying it has a "beautiful and eventful prologue", also stating:

"The wild beauty of Scotland, of the verdant forests and the craggy peaks, is lovingly rendered with a gorgeous palette of painterly colors and in very agreeable 3D."
and
"Patrick Doyle's active and resourceful score is another major plus "

Big Screen Animation's Mike Bastoli also said on Twitter "If you read any early Brave review that say Pixar fans might be disappointed by Brave, ignore it."

Also, head on over to Pixar Corner to check out a bunch of great new TV spots for Brave!

Brave is released in the US on 22nd June, and 13th August here in the UK.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Wreck-It Ralph Website's Up


Following recent releases for Disney's 52nd animated feature film, Wreck-It Ralph, including the film's first stills and trailer, Disney have now launched the official website. Largely what you'd expect, the site features the trailer, stills, the official synopsis and some downloads including wallpapers and Twitter icons. However, it packs a little extra punch.

You can play the fictional game, Fix-It Felix, Jr., the game in which Ralph is the villain. Not dissimilar to Donkey Kong, your aim is to use the arrow keys to avoid Ralph's obstacles, using the space bar to repair the damage Ralph has done. Contrary to the trailer which sees the inhabitants of the building launching Ralph off the roof, the aim of this game is to see how far you can get before Ralph beats you - he is the star of the film after all!

It's a great little game that gives you a real feel of the world of Wreck-It Ralph and shows how well the team at Disney - led by director, Rich Moore (The Simpsons, Futurama) - understand the retro-game world.

This film already has the feel of a classic...

Marcus Mumford Talks About the Brave Soundtrack



I stumbled upon this video the other day but completely forgot to post it until now: Marcus Mumford, the lead singer of British folk-band Mumford & Sons talks (above) about the band's role in writing the song "Learn Me Right" for Pixar's Brave.

Mumford talks about the freedoms of writing for a film as opposed to for a CD, working with fellow Brit singer Birdy and Pixar. It's a very interesting look at the musical side of Pixar - Brave is scored by Scottish composer Patrick Doyle (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Thor) and definitely worth a watch.

The Brave soundtrack promises to be one of the grandest and most immersive Pixar soundtracks to date!

Thanks to Mumford & Sons and Birdy and Doyle's fellow Brave musician, Pixarian Alex Mandel, for sharing this video!

Madagascar 3 Now In US Cinemas - New Clips and Featurettes


DreamWorks' latest instalment in the Madagascar series, Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted, is now out in the US, and things seem pretty promising so far. The first two films weren't particularly well received by critics (although the second was a definite improvement), but were commercial hits, garnering $532 million and $602 million respectively. This third entry looks promising so far, early projections expect Europe's Most Wanted to make in excess of $50 million this weekend, with many spectators saying it could beat Ridley Scott's Alien prequel, Prometheus, to take the weekend box-office crown. The critical report so far is also quite positive, with the film currently holding a 76% Fresh Rotten Tomatoes score, with the consensus reading:

"Dazzlingly colorful and frenetic, Madagascar 3 is silly enough for young kids, but boasts enough surprising smarts to engage parents along the way."

TIME's Richard Corliss praises the film, saying "In circus terms, it’s like a guy who’s shot out of a cannon and lands on a high wire in a perfect pirouette." in his review, and calling it a "Cirque de Berserk".

Also, seemingly as one last push to try and convince you to part with your cash, DreamWorks have uploaded several new clips and featurettes from the film onto their official YouTube account. Check them out after the jump break:

Go Behind the Scenes of Brave in a New Featurette



The latest in the recent slew of Brave promotional material is a brief, 2-minute behind-the-scenes look at Pixar's latest film. The video (above) acts as a taster for the kind of stuff you can expect to see on the DVD and Blu Ray releases of the film when it hits home media later this year, and features comments about the film's story and characters from co-director Mark Andrews, producer Katherine Sarafian and voice talent including Kelly Macdonald (Merida) and Billy Connolly (King Fergus).

Brave hits US theatres in just under two weeks on 22nd June, and arrives here in the UK on 13th August.

Friday, 8 June 2012

First Look At DreamWorks' Mr. Peabody and Sherman


With Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted due for release on 8th June (US release; 19th October here in the UK) and Rise of the Guardians due late November, DreamWorks Animation are setting their sights further forward to begin promoting their huge slab of upcoming films. So, today, Collider gives us our first look (above) and synopsis from their 2014 release (or one of them) Mr. Peabody and Sherman.

The image is pretty much what you'd expect, but it looks pretty good - nice visual style. The official synopsis for the film reads:

Based on Jay Ward’s classic cartoon, Mr. Peabody is the world’s smartest person who happens to be a dog. When his “pet” boy Sherman uses their time traveling WABAC machine without permission, events in history spiral out of control. It’s up to this most unexpected of “father-son” teams to somehow put things back on track before the space-time continuum is irreparably destroyed.

Sounds like the kind of huge romp that we've come to expect from DreamWorks - and the kind that they've recently handled very well. There's a great team behind Mr. Peabody and Sherman as well, it's being directed by Lion King helmer Rob Minkoff, with Ty Burrell (Phil in Modern Family) voicing Mr. Peabody and Max Charles (Young Peter Parker in The Amazing Spiderman) voicing Sherman.

Between this, The Croods, the expected Kung Fu Panda and How to Train Your Dragon sequels, and further away projects like Turbo, Monkeys of Mumbai and, one of my personal most anticipated films, their adaptation of Captain Underpants, DreamWorks have a solid upcoming slate, and I look forward to hearing more about this.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman is currently scheduled for a 14th March, 2014 release.

Via Slashfilm.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

John Lasseter Talks About The Good Dinosaur and Pete Docter's Mind Film


Pixar and Disney Animation Chief Creative Officer, Executive Producer and general head honcho, John Lasseter, on a recent promotional tour for Pixar's next film, Brave, spoke about the studio's slate of films beyond that - specifically, Bob Peterson's The Good Dinosaur and Pete Docter's Untitled Pixar Movie That Takes You Inside the Mind!

Normally I would post small excerpts from the quote's here, to give you a flavour of what he's saying, but as this is John Lasseter, and as what he says is so interesting - it's our first real flavour of plot and inspiration for the films - I'm going to post the entirety of John's comments below:

Read what Lasseter said on Up co-director Bob Peterson's directorial debut (and my most anticipated Pixar film) The Good Dinosaur, after the jump break!

New Ice Age 4 Characters and Trailer


The official Ice Age Twitter feed has introduced us to a bunch of the new characters that we'll be meeting in the fourth entry in the Ice Age series, Ice Age: Continental Drift. The new characters range from members of the pirate crew (top) that we've seen in the trailers and clips thus far, to new members of Manny and co.'s group.

We've been introduced to self-appointed Master of the Seas, Captain Gutt (Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones), the main antagonist of the film, and his pirate crew, consisting of:

  • Shira (Jennifer Lopez) - Captain Gutt's saber-toothed first mate, and presumably a later love-interest for Diego.
  • Flynn (Nick Frost, Hot Fuzz) - "a British elephant seal with a heart of gold".
  • Raz (Rebel Wilson, Bridesmaids) - "a prehistoric kangaroo" and the ship's weapons expert.
  • Squint (Aziz Ansari, 30 Minutes or Less) - a prehistoric rabbit, and a valued member of Gutt's crew.
  • Silas (Alain Chabat) - a 'Blue-footed Booby' that "flies ahead of the ship to ensure smooth sailing".
  • Gupta (Kunal Nayyar, The Big Bang Theory) - "the Bengali badger" who acts as the ship's Jolly Roger.
There are a bunch of other characters joining the franchise as well, including some new Mammoths - Ethan, his posse and Louis - and some new sloths - Sid's absent family who show up to dump his elderly Granny on him.

In addition to this huge glut of new characters, iTunes Movie Trailers have the second trailer for the film for us, which you can watch here. It certainly enforces the epic feel of the film, as well as Blue Sky Studios' usual comedy; Ice Age 4 is certainly looking good so far!

Ice Age: Continental Drift arrives in cinemas on 13th July.