Fall 2012 Animation and VFX Movie Preview
Rise of the Guardians – November 21st 2012
DreamWorks Animation has something special up its sleeve with this adaptation of William Joyce’s The Guardians of Childhood books. For starters, they hired Hugh Jackman to voice a truly intimidating version of the Easter Bunny with his natural Aussie accent. That alone seems reason enough to check this one out. Pair him up with a silent Sandman, Alec Baldwin’s Russian-sounding Santa, Isla Fisher as the Tooth Fairy and Chris Pine as a young Jack Frost, and you’ve got the makings of a magical holiday crossover flick the likes of which we haven’t seen since The Nightmare Before Christmas. Once again handling art direction duties is DreamWorks regular Max Boas (Kung Fu Panda, Shrek Forever After), with Peter Ramsey stepping into the role of director for the first time. After spending two decades working his way up in the entertainment biz, Ramsey has the distinction of being the first African American to direct a big-budget CGI animated film. Here’s hoping things go well for him on opening weekend.
The Life of Pi – November 21st 2012
In this 3D feature based on Yann Martel’s award-winning novel, Ang Lee tells the story of a boy trapped at sea on a small boat with a Bengal tiger. It’s hard to imagine how such a film would even be possible to make without the aid of state-of-the-art visual effects, and that’s reportedly exactly what Lee delivers. After its debut at last month’s New York Film Festival, critics praised Pi’s “game-changing use of 3D” as the main reason why the picture is a serious contender in the Visual Effects category at next year’s Oscars. Rhythm & Hues Studio, which has won that very award twice before for their work on 1998’s Babe and 2006’s The Golden Compass, would be wise to start setting aside some room on their trophy shelf.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – December 14th 2012
Anyone with even the slightest interest in fantasy and special effects is already counting down the days to the release of this first entry in the prequel trilogy to the Lord of the Rings films. Though the project got off to a bit of a rough start in 2007, Peter Jackson eventually signed on to direct J. R. R. Tolkien’s tale of Bilbo Baggins, guaranteeing continuity with the previous movies. Jackson’s Weta Digital (which has won no less than five Academy Awards for Best Visual Effects) will be bringing the magic of Middle Earth to life once again, and the motion capture technology famously used to transform Andy Serkis into Gollum will also turn Benedict Cumberbatch into the fearsome dragon, Smaug. Shot using Epic cameras from the Red Digital Cinema Camera Company, the new 3D films will all run at 48 fps (frames per second) to allow for what the director calls, “hugely enhanced clarity and smoothness.” Though this one’s sure to be a feast for the eyes, I’m just looking forward to seeing Sir Ian McKellen back in the robes of Gandalf the Grey.
Django Unchained – December 25th 2012
Quentin Tarantino is back with probably the most unlikely film to open on Christmas Day – a spaghetti western set in the pre-Civil War South about a slave who teams up with a Bounty Hunter to “kill white folks” in exchange for his freedom. Jamie Foxx stars as the titular hero, alongside Christopher Waltz as Dr. King Schultz and host of others, notably Leonardo DiCaprio as a smug plantation owner. Special effects artist Greg Nicotero, who has worked with Tarantino in the past, says that the director is sticking to his less-is-more approach with Django. "There are not a lot of special effects. It's all about his actors and it's so cinematic for him. We don't shoot anything digital, he uses film, one camera, we don't have five cameras shooting. That's it. It's inspiring.” It’s also certain to be a crowd-pleaser.
James Gartler is a Canadian writer with a serious passion for animation in all its forms. His work has appeared in the pages of Sci Fi Magazine, and at the websites EW.com and Newsarama.com.