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Learn Porky Pig’s Stutter In Just 30 Seconds

Posted on 07 July 2014 by Rich Drees

IKnowThatVoice

I haven’t had a chance yet to see I Know That Voice, the documentary that looks at the field of voice artists, but if this short clip is a representative sample of what it is about then I can’t wait. In it we see voice artist Bob Bergen succinctly breakdown of how to do Porky Pig’s iconic stutter. Bergen was acquainted with the great Mel Blanc, but it doesn’t seem apparent if Mel taught him this trick, or indeed if this is what Mel learned from Joe Dougherty, the first person to voice Porky. Something to tide us over until the film gets an eventual DVD release.

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Pixar’s NEWT Squashed

Posted on 16 May 2010 by Rich Drees

Pixar’s in-development animated feature newt has been shelved according to a report from The Pixar Blog, who received word from Disney archivist Dave Smith (or someone using his email address) that “[t]he film has been cancelled (sic).”

Newt was original scheduled to be Pixar’s big release for next summer until it had been pushed back a year to make room for Cars 2. With the recent announcement of dates for Monsters Inc 2 and Brave (formerly The Brave And The Bow) in 2012, newt mysteriously disappeared off of the studio’s schedule entirely. Although rumors had swirled in recent months about the film’s possible fate, it was Pixar Blog that reached out for confirmation.

According to Pixar’s official description of the film, newt was about “when the last remaining male and female blue-footed newts on the planet are forced together by science to save the species, and they can’t stand each other?” To me, it sounds like something of a first for the studio- an animated romantic comedy.

It strikes me as unusual that Pixar would just flat out kill a project in this way. When management wasn’t happy with the development of 2007′s Ratatouille, management replaced director Jan Pinkava with Incredibles helmer Brad Bird who provided the creative push necessary to make the film a hit. It was a move that signaled to many that the studio was willing to continually invest in an idea that they believed in rather than just cut their losses at the first sign of development problems. It was an investment that paid off extraordinarily well for the studio, as Ratatouille managed to bring in nearly $624 million at the box office worldwide and won an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.

But Pixar might not have the talent available to devote to newt. Ratatouille‘s Bird was just signed to direct the live action Mission: Impossible IV and is still developing 1906, his project about the infamous San Fransisco earthquake. Andrew Stanton, co-director of Wall-E, is deep in development on the long brewing adaptation of Edgar Rice Burrough’s John Carter Of Mars pulp science-fantasy novel series.

Still, Up co-directors Pete Docter and Bob Peterson aren’t currently tied to any announced projects and Toy Story 3‘s Lee Unkrich isn’t scheduled for anything once his duties on that film wrap up later this year. Are they currently working on projects that are so new that they haven’t reached a stage where they can be announced yet? Monsters Inc 2 still doesn’t have an announced director yet. Are one of them working on the film?

But I must confess some to being a bit disappointed by this news as well. For years, Pixar maintained the attitude that they would only do a sequel if they felt that they had a good enough story to warrant one. And while I don’t doubt that they have good ideas for their Cars and Monsters, Inc follow ups, it is hard not to see them as moving focus and resources away from the production of new original films. While we do not know for certain whether it was the number of sequels in their production pipeline that squeezed newt out or if they just couldn’t make the idea work, I’m hoping that the upswing in sequel production will not cut into the studio’s continuing original output.

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Hghes Bros Lining Up For Live-Action AKIRA

Posted on 11 February 2010 by Rich Drees

AkiraI have to admire the tenacity of Warner Brothers in their attempt to make a live action adaptation of the classic manga and anime Akira. First it’s in development, then it’s dead, then it’s back in development with the hiring of new writers. Now it is looking like that development is taking another step forward with Warners being in talks with the Hughes Brothers to helm their planned two-film adaptation.

The Hughes Brothers certainly did good work with last month’s The Book Of Eli, so maybe they’ll be up to bringing this sprawling epic story to the big screen. If you’ve somehow managed to miss the original groundbreaking anime film from director Katsuhiro Otomo, Akira is the story of a teenage biker whose latent telepathic powers are released by government experimentation in a post-nuclear war, rebuilt Tokyo. The proposed live-action version reportedly moves the action from Tokyo to Manhattan.

Via New York Magazine’s Vulture.

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Pixar: A Decade Of Animation Domination

Posted on 21 January 2010 by William Gatevackes

We continue our look back at the cinematic decade that has just passed with a look at the company that redefined film animation, Pixar.

It’s true that the era of Pixar started in the 1990s, when the company produced three films: 1995′s Toy Story, 1998′s A Bug’s Life, and 1999′s Toy Story 2. But the Aughts were when the animation studio became an overwhelming force in not just film animation, but at the box office as well.

Pixar has changed the world of films forever. At the start of the decade, computer generated animation was a rarity. Now, cel-based animation, such as last year’s The Princess and the Frog, are novelties. At the start of the decade, there was only Pixar and fledgling Dreamworks (which also started in the 90s with 1998′s Antz) in the field. Now, Dreamworks has become a powerhouse to rival Pixar, and other outlets such as Sony Pictures Imageworks and The Weinstein Group in producing CGI fare. Before, if you got one CGI animated film a year, it would be a lot. Now, each year features a multitude of CGI animated films for your movie going enjoyment.

But what separates Pixar from the rest is the quality of their output. They appear to never be a company that settles for being as good as they can be. They strive to be better. And that results in them accepting challenges and advancing technology to suit their needs. Look no further than their first offering of the decade, 2001′s Monsters, Inc. Consider the lead character, a furry monster named Sully. In order to capture the look of the character, Pixar’s animators had to painstakingly animate every hair on the monster and in such a way that it would appear natural. This attention to detail is one of the reasons why they are a leader in the field.

The focus on quality doesn’t just involve the technical, but also extends to the storytelling as well. On paper, films about the monster in your closet told from the monster’s point of view, a trash collecting robot on an abandoned Earth, and a rat that loves to cook haute cuisine might not seem like scintillating cinematic fare, but in Pixar’s hands it became great film magic. They have a unique ability to bring the most out of any concept, and tap into a sense of whimsy and wonder unlike anything seen since, well, Disney’s heyday in the 30s and 40s.

As the decade went on, Pixar became one of the most artistically solid film producers of the decade. Take 2008′s Wall*E, which featured the first 30 minutes devoid of almost any dialogue or last year’s Up, where a couple’s life together from childhood to late adulthood was captured in about a 10 minute wordless montage.  This kind of film making is almost impossible to pull off even in live-action. Pixar made it look easy and told more story on both occasions than other filmmakers did with full-length features.

While Pixar films have been critically well-received (the lowest rated at Rotten Tomatoes was Cars at respectable 75% fresh, the rest received no lower than a 95% rating), they have also been financial successes. Each Pixar film released in the past decade made it’s way into the top 10 grossing films of each particular year, with the lowest (again, Cars) making $461 Million worldwide.

The success of Pixar critically and commercially might have also had an affect on the Academy Awards. In 2002, the award ceremony added a category for Best Animated Feature. All of Pixar’s films released in the decade have been nominated for the award, and it has won four out of the eight Oscar’s given out in the category ( for Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Ratatouille, and Wall*E). Critics of the new category have complained that it was only created to keep the Pixar films out of the Best Picture race. That argument will be tested this year as the number of nominees for Best Picture are risen to 10. If Up doesn’t get a nomination in the main category, then this argument will gain more weight.

On the business side of things, Pixar’s relationship with its parent company, Disney, start at the beginning of the decade as contentious to say the least. Squabbles over the number of films included in their agreement and release dates for the films caused Pixar to announce that they were ending their partnership with Disney in 2004. After several less-than stellar in-house CGI films developed, Disney eventually bought out Pixar in 2006, allowing the company to remain its own identity and placing Pixar bigwigs in charge of all of Disney’s animation efforts.

The next two years might be risky creatively, but most likely not financially, for Pixar as they release a second sequel to Toy Story on June 18th of this year and a sequel to Cars in June of 2011. They return to original projects in 2012 with The Bear and the Arrow and Newt set for release that year. So it looks like Pixar is set with film releases until the end of time, if the rumors about 2012 are correct.

The Aughts were a great decade for Pixar. They established a domination over a new breed of animation that they helped perfect. They have produced consistently excellent product again and again, and have become one of the last bastions of creativity in Hollywood. It was a great decade for Pixar, yet we’re the ones that reaped the benefits.

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Tom Cavanagh Is YOGI BEAR’s Ranger Smith

Posted on 01 December 2009 by Rich Drees

RangerSmithTom Cavanagh, the Canadian actor who headlined the great (and tragically not on DVD yet) early 2000′s series Ed, has been cast in the upcoming live action/CGI animated film Yogi Bear.

Cavanagh has been cast as Yogi’s comic foil Ranger Smith, though the Variety story which broke the casting news states the character will have more to do than just chase after Yogi and stolen picnic baskets- “Cavanagh is the male lead and romantic interest of a documentary filmmaker (Anna Faris) who comes to Jellystone Park to shoot a film.” Dan Aykroyd will be providing the voice of Yogi Bear and Justin Timberlake will be voicing Yogi’s side-kick Boo-Boo.

This news has me a bit torn. On one hand, I’m excited that Cavanagh is getting some work. On the other hand, he’s getting work in a live action Yogi Bear movie. I can only hope that it is good for his sake.

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Twenty Contend For Animated Feature Oscar

Posted on 12 November 2009 by Rich Drees

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences have announced the 20 films that are eligible for nomination for Best Animated Feature Film for the 2010 Academy Awards. They are-

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel
Astro Boy
Battle for Terra
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Coraline
Disney’s A Christmas Carol
The Dolphin – Story of a Dreamer
Fantastic Mr. Fox
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Mary and Max
The Missing Lynx
Monsters vs. Aliens
9
Planet 51
Ponyo
The Princess and the Frog
The Secret of Kells
Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure
A Town Called Panic
Up

Under Academy rules, there need to be at least 16 potential films that meet all of the qualifying rules in order for their to be five nominees in this category. Even though seven of them – Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel, The Dolphin – Story of a Dreamer, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Planet 51, The Princess and the Frog, The Secret of Kells and A Town Called Panic -have not had their qualifying theatrical run in LA,enough of them should to satisfy the rules. Of the 20 films, I would say that Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox, Ponyo, The Princess And The Frog, A Town Called Panic and Up would be strong contenders for the five slots available. I hope no one is thinking that Astro Boy has any kind of a chance.

The nominees for the Academy Awards will be announced on February 2, 2010 and the Oscar award show will be held on March 7.

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See SITA SING THE BLUES For Free

Posted on 04 November 2009 by Rich Drees

SitaCriesARiverIf you missed Nina Paley’s animated film Sita Sings The Blues while it was making the film festival circuit in 2008 and early 2009, you missed out on an impressive debut film. But don’t worry, you can now watch it online, or even download a copy for yourself, for free.

And if you haven’t seen the film yet, you’re in for a treat. Paley combines several different styles to retell s story out of the Hindu epic the Ramayana. Sita is the wife of Prince Rama, who in a bit of palace intrigue is banished to live in the wilderness. When she is kidnapped by the demon king Ravana, Sita remains true to her husband whom she knows will come and rescue you her. A second story that draws parallels to the the main story focuses on a woman whose marriage is strained when her husband takes a job oversees.

Sita Sings The Blues earned stellar reviews and numerous awards, but never got picked up for distribution due to one minor hiccup- The 1920s jazz recordings of Annette Hanshaw that Paley uses to have Sita comment on her situation at various points in the film were not in the public domain as the director first thought. Although she was able to hammer out a deal with the music’s copyright holders to keep the film available, the legal situation kept distributors from picking up the film.

The upside of this is that you can download the film for free in a variety of formats from its official website or watch online at YouTube (embedded below). Paley is not making a dime from making it available this way, but does see some money from the sales of t-shirts and the like, so think about adding something Sita-related to your wardrobe.

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ROGER RABBIT Sequel Under Development- Again

Posted on 01 November 2009 by Rich Drees

RogerRabbit1Director Robert Zemeckis has been making noise over the past several months about the possibility of finally doing a follow up to his classic melding of live action and animation Who Framed Roger Rabbit. Well, on Friday, MTV reported that the director has told them that work on a script for a sequel is underway with original screenwriters Jeffrey Price and Peter Seaman. Although Zemeckis is currently pounding the pavement for his latest motion-capture animation film A Christmas Carol, he took time to divulge some details of the in development project, which MTV plans on doling out in small drips and drabs over the next few days. (Teases.)

There have been a few attempts to get a new Roger Rabbit film off the ground since the first film proved such a hit for Disney back in 1988. The first, subtitled The Toon Platoon, focused on Roger heading to Hollywood to find the mother who gave him up for adoption only to enlist in World War Two and save a beautiful red-headed ‘toon by the name of Jessica from a Nazi agent.  A later attempt saw Roger heading to Broadway where he falls for a beautiful red-headed ‘toon chorus girl named Jessica.

Of course, what made the original such a hit was the seamless interaction of hand-drawn animated characters with flesh and blood ones. Zemeckis has often talked about his love of motion capture driven computer animation, the process he has used for his last few films. Is he hoping to replace all the wonderful work done by animation supervisor Richard Williams and his crew on the first film with some computer generated version of Roger, Jessica and Baby Herman? I hope not, but I have a bad feeling that he may be leaning that way.

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EXTRACT Clip Introduced By Beavis And Butthead

Posted on 01 September 2009 by Rich Drees

BeavisButtheadExtractMike Judge’s newest film, Extract, opens Friday and what better way to give it one last marketing push than with Judge’s first creations, Beavis and Butthead. The boys are on hand to introduce a clip from Judge’s film, which is a bit spoilerish, featuring Jason Bateman and Kristen Wiig’s characters.But in their own, inimitable fashion, the two manage to sum things up quite nicely.

As someone who first saw Judge’s creation back in the early 1990s when their first short “Frog Baseball” was touring in the Spike And Mike’s Sick And Twisted Festival Of Animation, it was great to see Judge return, even if it is only briefly, to his roots. (And how about Beavis actually getting to say “Fire!” again! Take that, M-TV!)

(Sorry – The video has long sonce been taken down.)

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Virginia Davis, Disney’s First ALICE, Has Died

Posted on 21 August 2009 by Rich Drees

VirginiaDavisVirginia Davis, who starred in a series of short films for Walt Disney that combined animation and live action and pre-dated Mickey Mouse, died last Saturday, August 15, at her home in Corona, CA. She was 90.

Walt Disney was a struggling filmmaker trying to keep his Kansas City, Missouri Laugh-O-Gram cartoon studio in business when he hired the four-year-old Davis to star in Alice’s Wonderland, the first in a proposed series of one reel (about ten minutes long) short films which combined live action and animation. In the short, a young girl (Davis) sneaking into a cartoon studio to see how cartoons are made. She is surprised when the cartoon characters come to life and dreams of more adventures with them that night.

Unfortunately, Disney had to close the studio soon after the short was finished. He headed to Hollywood to find interest in financing the series, ultimately securing a distribution deal with Winkler Pictures. Disney sent back to Missouri for Davis, convincing her parents to bring his young star out to Hollywood.

Davis would go on to star in 14 more of the Alice shorts between 1924 and 1925. She would film the segments that combined live action and animation in front of a white sheet hung over a billboard in a vacant lot. (Films at the time were shot outside using sunlight as the powerful lights needed for shooting indoors in a studio had not yet been developed.) She often stated that acting opposite characters who would be added later by animators wasn’t hard thing to do because she had an active imagination and Disney was a good director. She sited 1924′s Alice’s Wild West Show as her favorite of the series, mostly because she gets to play a tomboy who beats up a bully. The success of the series helped Disney lay the groundwork for the entertainment empire he would eventually build.

After Davis’ contract with Disney expired, she turned her career more toward singing and dancing, appearing in College Holiday (1936), Footlight Serenade (1942) and, her final film, The Harvey Girls (1946). Following her retirement from show business, Davis pursued careers as an interior decorator, magazine editor and real estate agent.

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