As I’ve now learned, there are many ways to experience the San Diego Comic-Con: attending panels with giants from the world of comics, lining up to see previews of hot movies and TV shows with A-list stars and filmmakers, or doing what I did: cruising the mammoth exhibition floor for two days to take in the astonishing display of collectibles. (I also ran into old friends, made some new ones, and saw people costumed in ways one could scarcely imagine anywhere else on earth.) The first showcase that caught my eye was a shelf lined with retro rocket ship models from Cool Rockets. I’ve got nothing against modern-day fantasy and science-fiction films but having grown up with Flash Gordon I’ve got a—
In an era of hyperactive, overly verbal 3-D animated entertainment, I hope there is still room for a film as sweet and gentle as Winnie the Pooh. At the screening I attended it seemed like the young adults in the audience were enjoying it even more than the kids, reliving their childhood memories of the “stubby little cubby” and his friends in the Hundred Acre Wood.
Cartoon fans will also rejoice in a film that celebrates the art of classical Disney-style animation as this one does. It represents what may be a “last hurrah” for this generation’s leading artists, including Dale Baer, Andreas Deja, Eric Goldberg, Randy Haycock, Mark Henn, and Bruce W. Smith, who comprise the team of supervising animators on this film. Story supervisor Burny Mattinson’s credits go back farther than anyone’s on this team. He even directed Mickey Mouse’s comeback vehicle—
A spectacular new book about Ray Harryhausen is cause for celebration—but more about that later. The estimable Mr. H was inspired to pursue his art, and craft, by the films he saw as a boy, especially The Lost World (1925) and King Kong (1933). But the man who created the stunning animation in those films, Willis O’Brien, wasn’t the only person experimenting with the wonders of stop-motion. Steve Stanchfield, Stewart McKissick and Ken Priebe at Thunderbean Animation have compiled a dizzying DVD collection of rare short subjects appropriately titled Stop-Motion Marvels! and it’s a must for anyone interested in this field.
The centerpiece of the disc is the Kinex collection, a series of ingenious silent shorts that were created expressly for the 16mm home-movie market in the late 1920s, and marketed as—
As I discussed earlier this summer, cartoons are making a small but encouraging comeback in theaters this year. If you should happen to see Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole, you’ll be treated to the second of Warner Bros.’ new Road Runner cartoons, Fur of Flying. (The first, titled Coyote Falls, played with Cats and Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, and the third, called Rabid Rider, will appear at the head of Yogi Bear in December.) These new widescreen films bring two classic Warner Bros. cartoon stars back to life, and while they transform the graphic characters and backgrounds into sculpted CGI form they remain absolutely true to the spirit of Chuck Jones’ vintage shorts.
by John Canemaker
In "Two Guys Named Joe", his tenth book, animation scholar John Canemaker has produced an exceptional dual biography of two men who made their mark on the world of animation. They were a generation apart, yet they managed to briefly cross paths. Joe Grant was an integral part of the Walt Disney studio during its greatest period of creativity in the 1930s and ′40s, then returned in the 1980s and remained active until his death at the age of 99 in 2005. Joe Ranft studied at Cal Arts, along with John Lasseter and Brad Bird, and ultimately became a key figure at Pixar as it—
As Toy Story 3 racks up some of the best reviews of the year, I’m pleased that so many critics have taken time to make note of the innovative short-subject that accompanies it. Day & Night—which is so clever it’s almost impossible to describe—is the work of an up-and-coming talent named Teddy Newton whom the folks at Pixar have earmarked for big things.
John Lasseter and his Pixar colleagues know that while there is no real monetary return to be derived from the production of shorts, they serve as a fertile training ground for animation directors, artists, and storytellers. What’s more, audiences enjoy them. Lasseter and Cartoon Brew’s Amid Amidi even collaborated on a hardcover volume called The Art of Pixar Short Films, which Chronicle Books published last year. (Lasseter also green-lit a hilarious short made at Disney called How to Hook Up Your Home Theater, which was designed to look and—
Director Lee Unkrich says that when he embarked on this film he watched every movie he could find with a “3” in its title, hoping to find a good one he could use as a role model. He came up empty-handed. Perhaps that’s one reason he and his colleagues at Pixar put so much effort into this sequel—to validate its existence. It’s that work ethic, along with creativity and seemingly boundless imagination, that makes Toy Story 3 so good.
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