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Blogs BULLETIN: Osamu Tezuka spinning in his grave!

By Joe Strike | Friday, February 15, 2008 at 6:00pm

Just got this press release in the Email:

"Los Angeles (February 14, 2008) – Timothy Harris is writing the screenplay for Imagi Studios’ upcoming CG-animated feature film Astro Boy, it was jointly announced by Cecil Kramer, Executive VP of Production, and Maryann Garger, producer of Astro Boy. Writer of such box office [s]hits as Space Jam, Kindergarten Cop, Twins and Trading Places, Timothy Harris has been authoring screenplays for almost 30 years..."

Damn. And I was looking forward to this one. Well, it's being directed by David Bowers, co-director of Flushed Away, so maybe not all hope is lost.

Blogs Panda doesn’t pander

By Joe Strike | Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 7:01pm

My first reaction to Kung Fu Panda was, (bored, Droopy voice), whoopee, here we go again: hopeless slob (Jack Black, who else?) makes good in spite of himself, done with that trademark DreamWorks unattractive angular character design.

Mea culpa, friends. I just saw a lengthy promo reel for the film hosted by Ol’ Bullet-head himself, Jeff (nyah-nyah Michael, I’m still a player, what are you doing these days?) Katzenberg – and I am blown away. This is going to turn into an Anton Ego review (end of Ratatouille Anton that is), but here we go.

Blogs Panda doesn't pander

By Joe Strike | Wednesday, February 13, 2008 at 6:23am

My first reaction to Kung Fu Panda was, (bored, Droopy voice), whoopee, here we go again: hopeless slob (Jack Black, who else?) makes good in spite of himself, done with that trademark DreamWorks unattractive angular character design.

Mea culpa, friends. I just saw a lengthy promo reel for the film hosted by Ol’ Bullet-head himself, Jeff (nyah-nyah Michael, I’m still a player, what are you doing these days?) Katzenberg – and I am blown away. This is going to turn into an Anton Ego review (end of Ratatouille Anton that is), but here we go.

This is the most gorgeous cgi film I’ve seen to date, in terms of the world it’s created for itself, surpassing Pixar’s best. There are some backgrounds so otherworldly they look as if they came out of a sci-fi film, while at the same time obviously inspired by Chinese landscape art.

Blogs Well duck my dogs...

By Joe Strike | Friday, December 28, 2007 at 5:20pm

Word on the London Street is that “Howard the Duck” and “The Plague Dogs” are due for a UK DVD release:

http://www.dvdactive.com/news/releases/howard-the-duck.html

http://www.dvdactive.com/news/releases/the-plague-dogs.html

It just so happens I was in London during its original release there in December 86. The movie's posters in the tube stations showed him from the back with only the tip of his bill visible, with the slogan "Howard, A new kind of hero." I guess they didn't want people figuring out they’d paid to see a duck movie until it was too late.

Blogs Enchanted 'House'?

By Joe Strike | Saturday, December 22, 2007 at 5:26pm

Disney is deservedly getting good notices and making some nice money (it will probably crack the $100mm mark this weekend) off ‘Enchanted.’ Everyone agrees that part of the film’s charm – beyond its winning performances and the half 2D/half CGI chipmunk Pip – is how it tweaks the Disney canon, but in the most affectionate manner.

But I have news, people – it’s not like it’s never been done before. In fact, it’s not even like Disney has never done it before.

House of Mouse ran Saturday mornings on ABC from 2001 through ’04. The show’s premise was not unlike the early 1960’s primetime Bugs Bunny Show. For those of you younger than myself and Jerry Beck, in BBS the Oscar®-winning rabbit hosted a stage show featuring the Warner Brothers characters. New wraparound footage wrapped around shorts from the WB vaults (with an occasional newbie created for the show), often bridging directly into them (in far-from-seamless transitions), while providing a narrative to tie the half-hour together.

Blogs Lordy save us from true believers

By Joe Strike | Saturday, December 1, 2007 at 5:28am

At this moment TCM is blessing Saturday morning viewers who don't care for cartoons or warmed-over news, with Byron Haskin's From the Earth to the Moon (1958). Last time I'd seen this I was a kid on The Late Show (back when the Late Show meant local movies & not David Letterman cracking wise).

I'd forgotten what a turkey this sucker was, as Joe Cotten invents 'Power X' just after the Civil War and uses it to power a moon rocket. (Its design looks swiped from Melies). Haskin did far better work for George Pal (War of the Worlds, anyone? The Power?) not to mention a half dozen episodes of the 1960's Outer Limits, but it's stiff city here, with head-on camera set-ups, cheez-o-rama spfx & dialog that sounds like it was cut 'n pasted straight out of Jules Verne's century+ old novel.

Blogs "How To" succeed in cartooning

By Joe Strike | Wednesday, October 24, 2007 at 10:40am

Snuck into Ron Diamond's 'Animation Show of Shows' at HBO's NY screening room the other night. (I told security I was Paulie Walnuts, or maybe Paulie's walnuts, I forget which. Oh, and I understand this blogateria I'm part of is part of Ron's entertainment empire - love ya', Mister D!)

A most intriguing assortment of short toons were screened. Some were horribly arty, others artfully heartfelt, but being an old-time Hollywood studio cartoon junkie (if you remember "Meeska, mooska, mouseketeer / mousecartoon time now is here," welcome to my decrepit demographic), I went completely bonkers over a nouveau/retro Goofy 'How To' short from Lassetter's Burbank boys - 'How to Hook Up Your Home Theater.'

Blogs I'm not the only one with a dirty mind...

By Joe Strike | Monday, October 22, 2007 at 8:22am

Seems like someone outside the animation world finally picked up on Nala's "f*** me' look in "The Lion King:"

http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/film/2007/10/the_lion_king_the_only_walt_dis...

Even a friend of mine who's only a casual animation fan pointed the shot out to me long ago. I've been told that on the DVD (which I don't own myself) commentary track, one of the animators announces 'I can't believe they let us get away with that shot.'

The Guardian's columnist ends his piece with "I've got to check through Bambi for subliminal porn." He won't have to look very hard: the scene where Bambi, Flower and Thumper meet their girlfriends is pretty hot: Thumper starts thumpin' a mile a minute until he keels over in exhaustion (all she has to do is stroke his ear a bit to start him up again), Flower blushes bright red and stiffens like a board while Faline gives Bambi an unmistakable 'come hither' look of her own.
And let's not even go near the various Disney shorts that focus lovingly on punishment administered to various characters' backsides - like for instance the spanking machine put to liberal use in one of the 3 Little Pigs shorts...you're a naughty boy, Walt; naughty, naughty, naughty...

Blogs Nickelodeon's big time Saturday night screw-up

By Joe Strike | Friday, September 28, 2007 at 7:16pm

Boy, I haven't seen an on-air boner like this one in a loooong time. For some reason Nick tried to squeeze 3 11-minute SpongeBob episodes into a half hour time slot just now. (Just now being Friday 28 Sept, 9:30pm eastern time.) Interesting how the third episode's top credits started rolling the same exact time the show's closing credits began rolling - with  that third episode sitting inside that box where they usually run a promo next to the credits. Not squeezed into the box mind you, but cropped off by it, with just a peekaboo portion visible inside.

It gets better. The closing credits end with the full screen Nickelodeon splat logo/copyright page - which sat there for a verrrry long time while the episode's audio continued in the background. THEN the episode came back for a minute or so - THEN cut to another closing credits roll, this time with just silence and empty space where that promo usually runs.

Blogs Cowchip-munks?

By Joe Strike | Thursday, August 30, 2007 at 5:52am

Just saw a teaser trailer for the upcoming live-action/cgi Chipmunks feature. Excuse me while I blow my brains out in car...

Is there some way we can get the Geneva Convention to outlaw these god-awful, gag-(not the funny kind)-inducing grotesqueries? Garfield, Garfield: A Tale of Two Kitties, Scooby-Doo, Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed...

They were all Oscar contenders (for Best Pic period, not just Best Animated) compared to this, this - eugggghhhhh, is the best I can describe it. It's not just that the sole gag in the trailer (an homage to Pink Flamingos?) revolves around Alvin eating one of Theodore's turds to convince Dave Seville (Jason 'uh-oh I picked a stinker this time' Lee) it was only a raisin; (I guess kid movie farts were just a gateway drug to flat-out coprophilia) it's not just that the 'munks are life-size in the sense of REAL LIFE-sized chipmunks, thus losing the characters' kid/adult size relationships and turning them into pettable pets; no, it's that....

Blogs Hark, hark, this film's a lark...

Just had the pleasure of watching Tsui Hark's Black Mask 2: City of Masks, a loony, loopy movie that made me feel (in the best sense of the words) ten years old.

I never saw the original BM which starred Jet Li, but in this one some guy named Andy On (drugs?) takes over as the genetically messed-over superhero. He's fighting a bunch of grunting wrestlers whose DNA has likewise been altered, giving them bestial powers & uncontrollable metamorphoses into nasty animal hybrids.

For a while back in the 90's, it looked like cgi effects were going to wipe out modest little B-movie genre pix, with sci-fi/fantasy films given A-budgets & big name directors. Then PC's & Macs started making lower-end, lower-priced cgi efx possible. Combine that with Hong Kong style wire work, martial-arts mishegas (choreographed by Woo-ping Yuen, who did the same on Kung-Fu Hustle), cleverly chosen ultra-modern architectural backgrounds and snappy, vivid direction (from Hark, helmer of Iron Monkey, a Tarantino fave) and you have a high-energy nutsoid action flick that's a pleasure top to bottom. The opening credits of multiple silhouetted martial artists going through their paces on a computer screen background get you in the mood right off the bat.

Blogs Find your fantasy

Very interesting contrast last week when I caught back-to-back screenings of a pair of fantasy flicks: Stardust and Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix.

For one, the Stardust screening was deserted - just me, one other person and a friend I brought along. (A tumbling tumbleweed blocked my view of the screen for a while). The Phoenix screening was packed - they had to bring in folding chairs for the overflow, and held the start until some bigshot could make it.

And the movies deserved their respective audiences. Want to see an uninspired, you'll-leave-the-theater-humming-the(adequate)-special-effects fantasy? Stardust (directed by Matthew Vaughn of Layer Cake) is your film. Everything's pro-forma, out of the twinkly, twee, Edwardian-British faerie school of literary fantasy, without an ounce of conviction showing anywhere; I've had more believable experiences at your average Renaissance Festival.

Blogs Separated at Birth 3: Asian-American Adolescent Magic Menace Fighters

The contenders:

American Dragon: Jake Long

Disney Channel, premiered January 21, 2005

Main Character: Jake Long, pre-teen descendant of long line of shape-shifting dragons

Supernatural responsibility: Protect New York City from supernatural menaces

Supernatural power: Can turn into a flying dragon

Mentor: Grandfather Luong Lao Shi; can also turn into a dragon

Sibling: annoying 8 year-old sister Haley; can also turn into a dragon

Pet: 600 year-old talking Shar Pei ‘Fu Dog’

and in this corner:

The Life and Times of Juniper Lee

Cartoon Network, premiered May 30, 2005

Blogs Waltzing Matilda (right out the Disney door...)

A former Down Under Disney employee and Friend of the Site relays this bit of gossip:

“... a friend was at a recent studio meeting in Burbank and Ed Catmull was lamenting the closure of the Sydney studio - which is bizarre considering there were no Australians there to hear it and it was nearly 9 months after the fact. Word is the Pixar guys really regret it shutting down - had they come in a little earlier I am sure the studio would still be there now, which is such a shame. It was real waste of exceptional talent. It's not easy to have a place with over 250 people combining to work at that rate (10 feet per week) and producing such quality - it took 20 years to get to such a position…”

Blogs Oscar says 'goodnight' to "Waking Life," etc.

Interpolate this, asshole (from yesterday's AWN Headline News):

“… The significance of the change emphasizes the importance of frame-by-frame character animation, and now rules out such films as A SCANNER DARKLY and WAKING LIFE for qualification. According to Jon Bloom, chairman of the Short Films and Feature Animation branch as well as a governor, the branch was concerned that the digital rotoscoping technique utilized in these two features was not crucial enough in shaping the animated performances."

[http://news.awn.com/index.php?ltype=top&newsitem_no=20076]

Translation: 'Best Animated Feature' is, now and forever, the official Akademy of Kinema Kiddie Kategory; no druggies or existential misfits need apply...

Blogs Wet Rats

By Joe Strike | Wednesday, June 13, 2007 at 8:28am

Why can't they make a feature cartoon about rodents without sending them into the sewers via the kind of ride you'd pay money for at a water park (without the turds, of course), i.e. Stuart Little - Flushed Away and now Ratatouille? (Oops, it hasn't opened yet, gave that one away. I better not tell you he meets Harry Lime down there and becomes his partner in an animated sequel to The Third Man entitled Harry and Me.)

Blogs Separated at birth 1

"Hammy" in Over the Hedge, and "Twitchy" in Hoodwinked.

The winner: Hammy, as the film switches into bullet time to travel with a seemingly normal Hammy while the rest of the world is froze-frame stationary. Which brings us to...

"Hammy" in Over the Hedge and "Fry" in Futurama, "Three Hundred Big Boys"

The winner: Philip J. Fry, saving his slo-mo friends from a fiery demise thanks to 100 cups of 31st century coffee. Also, his heroic feat aired in 2003, three years prior to OTH's premiere. (Hmmm...)

Blogs The power of The Force and 41 cents will get your letter mailed

Saw those 'Star Wars' stamps at the PO, featuring the real-life likenesses of (along with Alec Guiness) Mark Hamill, Carrie Fischer and Harrison Ford. Excuse me, but I always heard that you had to be dead for ten years to get on a stamp.

Well, maybe the PO was looking at their careers.

Blogs Triumph of the Penguin Will

Not Chilly Willy, but that totalitarian dude Mumble. In last year's Oscar winner Happy Feet this guy waddles along and forces an entire penguin community to give up their generations-old tradition of covering a pop song to seduce a potential mate. Yes, individuality and free will are tossed off the ice floe so that they can all dance in absolute, fascistic lockstep. This is the message the Academy of MP A&S thinks worthwhile of conveying to our children? Well fie and fiddlesticks, I say! (Actually, I say 'fie and fiddlesticks' several times a day)

Seriously, am I the only one who had problems with this film? Mumble returns from his Quest to the Human World, and in about 30 seconds of screen time bends a few million exquisitely rendered digital penguins to his will. COMBINE singing and dancing like in an old-time musical, synthesizing the old and the new? I guess that idea never occurred to George Miller. That 10-second scene in the ice cave where Mumble converts his clinically-depressed dad to his cause? Phony, phony, phony; they probably realized it was time to wrap up the picture toot-sweet.

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