The End of Hand-Drawn Animation

During the 2013 Disney Stockholder meeting, Walt Disney Company President/CEO Bob Iger was asked if Walt Disney had any 2D/hand drawn animation in the pipeline. Here was his response:

”To my knowledge we’re not developing a 2D or hand-drawn feature animated film right now. We’re not necessarily ruling out the possibility [of] a feature but there isn’t any in development at the company at the moment.”

Does this mean that the age old tradition of hand drawn animation is dead? Probably or at best will take on some kind of hybrid form. Disney killed hand drawn animation before under the Eisner regime. When he was booted and the company was run by Iger and Lassister, Disney produced two traditional animated features: The Princess and the Frog (2009) and Winnie the Pooh (2011).

The other major studios have long since abandoned hand drawn animation. Disney appears to be the last.

Why abandon the age-old tradition? It’s easy money and effort. Money is always an issue when it some to movie making. Sadly it’s man-power that’s the issue. One computer animator now takes the place of a lead animator and several in-betweeners. Not to mention that a single animator can work with numerous characters in one scene as opposed to several lead animators working together to produce one scene.

Effort is easier in a few different aspects. In hand drawn animation, a scene is designed and drawn and changes even small elements are a large task. Computer animation allows you to tweak and perfect every scene. Also computer animators have the luxury of framing scenes and employing camera angles after the scene is animated.

But is computer animation able to achieve art. For the longest time, I preferred hand drawn to computer animated from an art standpoint. For some reason drawn art looked more real than anything a computer could generate. Even when Disney produced the photo realistic Dinosaur, it missed a lot of beauty because it replicated reality and could not develop it’s couldn’t render an artistic style.

The Incredibles is the first time an overall artistic style of how human characters are designed. As great as that film was, it was far from perfect in capturing human qualities. In other words, it still felt like a computerized version of 2D animation.

When Iger and Lassiter took over Disney, their first project was to bring back hand drawn animation. With great excitement the Princess and the Frog was announced as a project. As much as I loved the movie, it simply underperformed at the box office. Kids just don’t have an appreciation of tradition.

My sadness for the scarcity of hand drawn animation changed when Tangled came out. It was the first time I felt that a computer animated movie captured everything I loved about hand drawn animation. Watch the movie and you’ll discover that the backgrounds, landscapes and buildings all have a hand drawn feel to it. The bright and vibrant colors created a hyper real fantasy world. The character design looked very “Disney” in style.

To me it was tangled that told me that they finally got computer animation right. On top of that this year’s Oscar winning animated short, Paperman was an example of computer animation replicating hand drawn animation. It was a well produced short that told an amazing story and if you didn’t know better you’d swear it was a traditional movie.

Has hand drawn animation gone the way of the dinosaur? From a major motion picture standpoint, yes. The technology has proven itself successful and the intended audience, children, could care less whether it was drawn or computer generated. They just want you to tell a fun story.

How Disney Bought Lucasfilm – Bloomberg Businessweek

Bloomberg Businessweek ran a story today about how Disney bought Lucasfilm. Here are some highlights:

  • Part of Iger’s strategy is to acquire companies that could be described as mini-Disneys such as Pixar and Marvel—reservoirs of franchise-worthy characters that can drive all of Disney’s businesses, from movies and television shows to theme parks, toys, and beyond.
  • Lucas’s needs were more emotional. At 68, he was ready to retire and escape from the imaginary world he created—but he didn’t want anybody to desecrate it.
  • “I’ve never been that much of a money guy,” Lucas says. “I’m more of a film guy, and most of the money I’ve made is in defense of trying to keep creative control of my movies.”
  • Lucas pitched the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles to Bob Iger, Chairman of ABC in the early 90’s. “It struggled,” Lucas says of Chronicles. “But [Iger] was very supportive of the whole thing.”
  • Regarding the criticism of the prequels, it got to Lucas. He found it difficult to be creative when people were calling him a jerk. “It was fine before the Internet,” he says. “But now with the Internet, it’s gotten very vicious and very personal. You just say, ‘Why do I need to do this?’ ” At the same time, Lucas was reluctant to entrust his universe to anyone else.
  • In purchasing Pixar, Iger personally negotiated the deal with Steve Jobs, who was then Pixar’s CEO. As part of the deal, Iger kept the creative team, led by John Lasseter, in place and allowed them to continue to operate with a minimum of interference in their headquarters near San Francisco. “Steve and I spent more time negotiating the social issues than we did the economic issues,” Iger says. “He thought maintaining the culture of Pixar was a major ingredient of their creative success. He was right.”
  • In 2009, Iger negotiated a similar deal for Disney to buy Marvel Entertainment for $4 billion. Once again, Iger kept the leadership intact: Marvel CEO Isaac Perlmutter and Marvel studio chief Kevin Feige.
  • On the morning of the Star Tours opening at Walt Disney World, Iger met Lucas for breakfast at the Hollywood Brown Derby, one of Disney World’s restaurants. Then Iger inquired whether Lucas would ever consider selling his company. Lucas replied that he’d recently celebrated his 67th birthday and was starting to think seriously about retiring. So perhaps the sale of his company was inevitable. “I’m not ready to pursue that now,” he told Iger. “But when I am, I’d love to talk.”
  • The pieces had to be put in place before the deal could be made, specifically maintain some creative control/influence on the future. Kathleen Kennedy was placed in charge of Lucas Films. Michael Arndt was hired as the screenwriter for Episode VII and Ford, Hamill and Fisher were notified of Lucas’ pending retirement. Now Lucas was ready to approach Disney.
  • Lucas was adamant that Lucas creative executive were in charge. Iger agreed in theory but the Walt Disney Company had to have the ultimate say on the final product.
  • Lucas needed to have assurances that Disney would tell his stories and he has treatments of the next three films already written. Iger wanted to see them, but Lucas said he would have to trust him or he’d sell to someone else.
  • Once the papers, were signed, Iger when trick or treating with his family dressed as Darth Vader.
  • Lucas felt comfortable with Disney based on the way they handled the acquisitions of Pixar and Marvel.
  • Before the deal closed in late December, [Kennedy] reached out to J.J. Abrams’s agent to see if he would direct Episode VII. “He was very quick to say, ‘No, I don’t think I want to step into that,’ ” Kennedy says.
  • Kennedy persisted. She visited Abrams at the Santa Monica headquarters of Bad Robot, his production company, with Arndt and Kasdan. “By the time we finished, which was a couple of hours later, he had really gone 180 degrees,” she says. “To be involved in this next iteration of the Star Wars series is more exciting than I can talk about,” says Abrams.

When Should I See A Movie in 3D?

More and more movies are being released in the 3D format. It’s more expensive to see a movie in 3D and it can be a big hassle having to wear glasses or glasses over your glasses for the experience. Question: is it worth the extra expense to see movies in 3D?

Shot in 3D or Converted Into 3D

First question, what are the differences in movies shot native in the 3D format, meaning filled using 3D cameras or movies converted into 3d? If you asked me two years ago, I would have told you that movies shot in 3D are var superior and the example I would have given you was The Last Airbender, aside from being a horrible movie, the 3D decreased the quality of the movie. There was a loss in clarity and a significant loss in brightness.

Today, I honestly can’t tell the difference between a movie shot native or in post-production. Men in Black 3 is a good example of this. Fun movie and great visual effects that exploited the 3D format. All done in post. One would argue the movies converted into 3D are better from an artistic standpoint.

MenInBlack3When Barry Sonnenfeld appear on Geektime to promote Men in Black 3, he preferred the conversion process because it gave him freedom to play with the depth of field after the fact. The decision of the placement of 3D items can be tinkered with until its perfect. When you shoot in native 3D, you lose this freedom.

Cheap 3D Tricks

3D became a big thing about 4 years ago. Disney began releasing Pixar movies in 3D beginning with the Toy Story movies. Soon all computer generated movies where being released in 3D since it was the easiest to produce compter animated film in that format. Soon live action movies got the same treatment with Thor and Captain America.

the-avengers-3d-glasses-imageWhen movies started coming out in 3D the fear was that filmmakers would distract us with cheap 3D tricks to exploit the new format. Tricks like objects floating in front of our faces and objects being thrown out of the screen and into our laps.

Filmmakers obliged and refused to pander to the technology with cheap tricks. The solution soon became the problem. I found that 20 minutes into watching a 3D movie, I forgot that I was watching a 3D movie. I no longer felt I was immersed into the world of the movie, but I was simply watching the movie as I always had. The only difference was I paid more and had to wear glasses on my face.

The problem with most 3D movies is that without the cheap tricks, there’s no point in the 3D. If I forget 20 minutes into a movie that it’s in 3D then why should I bother to watch in 3D. Otherwise it’s just a waste of a format and my money.

It’s an Economics Problem

For the most part, when I go to a 3D movie, there are usually 2 to 3 moments when the 3D is worth it. Those moments tend to be wide panoramic shots, such as the Rainbow Bridge in Thor and city of Asgard. It gives you that immersive feeling of being there.

amazing_spiderman_ver5The other moment tends to be one of flight, magic and depth. For example, a floating object that comes out of the screen. Men in Black 3 had a few moments like that. They often serve as that reminder that you’re watching this in 3D.

If you’re only getting 2 or 3 brief moments, where the 3D is amazing, then is worth the extra $7 to $10 you pay on top of an already expensive movie ticket. Honestly it depends on the film and you have to ask yourself if you think the 3D is worth it.

I saw only two movies in 2012 that was worth the extra expense of 3D and that was the Amazing Spider-Man and the Hobbit. The 3D in any scene that Spidey used webbing was great. Swinging across the city was also fantastic. The battle scenes in the Hobbit was perfect in 3D, but the jury is still out on the High Frame Rate feature.

On the other hand, Marvel’s the Avengers was fun in 3D but I didn’t really need to pay the extra. The only scene I noticed the 3D was Iron Man flying across New York.

What is the Criteria?

Here are some factors I consider whether or not to spend extra on 3D.

TTHRF3Dhobbit-207x3001Clarity. Is the movie an animated feature or relies heavily on green screen? 3D relies on superb image clarity in order to see the depth of field properly. The Hobbit is the perfect example. Everything was shot on set an on green screen and that helped give the immersive feeling.

Artistic Backdrop. Movies should also be visually amazing. Thor and Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland is my example of this and I suspect Oz The Great and Powerful will also look amazing in 3D. Bright, colorful visuals make the experience all worth it. The drab backdrops of Captain America did not help the 3D at all.

Moving Witch Poster

Moving Witch Poster

All this to say is that I no longer just see a movie in 3D because it’s offered. I actually have to think through consider if a movie will be worth seeing in 3D. Making smart choices is the key. What do you think? What movies have you seen that exploit the 3D format.

Happy Lunar New Year Celebration – Disney’s California Adventure Limited Time Magic

Show Times: February 8-13, 2013

As part of Disney’s Limited Time Magic, Disney’s California Adventure will be having a Lunar New Year Celebration from February 8-13 at 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. each day in the Pacific Wharf area of the park, guests will enjoy unique cultural experiences, flavorful food offerings, unique merchandise, and colorful performances from dancers, musicians, and martial artists. Some of your favorite Disney characters will be there as well, such as Mulan, Mushu, Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse.

Sensational Sights

Certain areas in Disney California Adventure Park are decked out with festive decorations for this exciting celebration.

Woven throughout walkways are ornamental lanterns. Bright banners and signs — presented in English, Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese — wish everyone a Happy Lunar New Year.

Mulan Processional

At select times during each day of the celebration, Mulan and Mushu lead a procession along the parade route in front of Pacific Wharf.

Adding to the merriment are umbrella dancers clad in brightly colored costumes. This procession ends at a fanciful photo location near The Little Mermaid ~ Ariel’s Undersea Adventure attraction.

Character Greetings

Gather your family and pose for pictures with select Disney Characters — like Mulan, Mushu, Mickey and Minnie Mouse — dressed in their best to celebrate the Lunar New Year with you!

Special Pin

But there’s one more piece of “Limited Time Magic” to share with you today. A special limited–edition pin commemorating the Lunar New Year will be available while supplies last. We hope to see you there as we celebrate the Year of the Snake during the Happy Lunar New Year Celebration at Disney California Adventure park!

Food Options

Lucky Fortune Cookery is adding chicken and veggie pot stickers and pork spare riblets with char siu sauce to its menu, as well as ginger milk tea (a delicious new creation by the Disney chefs) and mini-almond cookies.

Pacific Wharf Café is adding a barbecued pork bao roll, a traditional Chinese steamed bun, along with ginger milk tea and almond cookies. And their popular Chinese chicken salad in a sourdough bowl fits the bill, too.

The San Francisco cart adds the barbecued pork bao roll, edamame, almond cookies and ginger milk tea, while the Boudin Bread Cart is offering a giant loaf of sourdough shaped like a snake, for “the year of the snake.”

Pacific Palisades Coffee Cart is adding ginger milk tea, edamame and almond cookies, while Rita’s Baja Blenders will offer Tsing Tao beer. Try a little of everything to celebrate lively Asian flavors and a different tradition this year. Happy Lunar New Year!

Celebrate with specialty foods at the following locations:

Disney California Adventure Park

  • Lucky Fortune Cookery – pork spare riblets, chicken and vegetable pot stickers, edamame, ginger milk tea and almond cookies
  • Boudin Bread Cart – “Year of the Snake” bread
  • Pacific Wharf Café – “Year of the Snake” bread, Chinese chicken salad, pork bao roll, almond cookies and ginger milk tea
  • Rita’s Baja Blenders – Tsing Tao Beer
  • Pacific Palisades Coffee Cart – almond cookies and ginger milk tea
  • San Francisco Cart – pork bao roll, almond cookies, ginger milk tea and contour beverages

Downtown Disney District

Superior Spider-Man #1 – Marvel Comic Book Review

Writer: Dan Slott
Artist: Ryan Stegman
Rating: 4-Stars

Full Disclosure – I was not an avid reader of the Amazing Spider-Man, but I have a good knowledge of Peter Parker and Spider-Man. At least, enough to get me by.

*** Spoiler Alert *** – I’m going to spoil only the important plot points to this issue.

In order to prepare for Superior Spider-Man, I read Amazing Spider-Man 798-700. Now the spoiler. Doctor Octopus has managed to swap bodies with Peter Parker. Doctor Octopus now controls the body of Peter Parker and has access to all his memories. In a last ditch attempt to take back his body, Peter Parker fails but manages to transfer his emotional memories to Doc Ock. As “Peter Parker” dies, Doc Ock now understands and embraces the concept of “Great Power come Great Responsibility.” Doc Ock now vows to fight for good and Peter Parker in the body of Doctor Octopus dies.

There has been a lot of controversy around this. Since I’m not a full-time reader, I really don’t have a dog in this fight. The first argument is how can Marvel kill off one of their flagship characters and as will all superhero comics, when will they bring him back.

Personally, I’m intrigued by the story line. If DC can revamp their entire line of heroes, why can’t Marvel do it to just one? In Superior Spider-Man, you see a Peter Parker with attitude. He becomes incredibly ambitious in his research and his responsibility as a hero.

The new Peter Parker has a new life. No longer a dying decaying villain  Superior Spider-Man has something to live for. He can date again. He has access to the best scientific resources available.

With this new found life, comes a new found aggressiveness. His design new weapons for Spider-Man, such as finger claws and electronic devices to gain the upper hand on his opponents, in this issue, the New Sinister Six.

With all of this change, there is one noticeable personality flaw of the new Peter Parker…He’s a “dick.”

I’m on board with Superior Spider-Man at the moment, but readers always had sympathy for Peter Parker, will they have sympathy for Doc Ock? That’s the question that the book will need to answer over the next few books.

For those of you completely frustrated with the fate of Peter Parker, read The Superior Spider-Man and you will find hope.

A “Bootleg” Version of Toy Story

This video is amazing, if only for the sheer ambition to pull it off.

I found this news article from the East Valley Tribune in Mesa, AZ – A real ‘Toy Story’: EV friends recreate flick shot-for-shot, in live action.

Two amateur filmmakers, Jonason Pauley, 19, of Gilbert and Jesse Perrotta, 21, met at church and inspired one another to film Toy Story with real props, whether constructed by them or purchased at Goodwill.

Their dream was to one day visit Pixar Studios in California. After completing the film, they sent it to Pixar and not only did Pixar give passive approval of their film but gave them a tour of the studio.

Pixar can not officially comment on fan created content because it might like opening Pandora’s Box. Disney fans are crazy.

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