Getting More Immersed with Indiewire


  The Penske Media purchase of Indiewire has resulted in an expansion of my role as crafts and awards season contributor.  Beginning this week, I begin Emmy coverage of below-the-line contenders along with my usual Oscar season crafts reporting, working closely

Immersed in Blu-ray: Hitchcock and Bogart


The WB Archive Collection gets Hitch and Bogie on Blu-ray and they've never looked better for home viewing. In Kent Jones' indispensable doc, Hitchcock/Truffaut, he reminds us that Truffaut was on a mission to correct misconceptions about Hitch as a lightweight

Immersed in Books: Farber on Film


For the first time, the complete writings of film critic Manny Farber is available from Library of America, edited by Robert Polito (Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson). Manny Farber (1917-2008) was the first modernist film critic to write like a modernist.

Tech

Revisiting Cowboys & Aliens VFX

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Blu-ray, Clips, Home Entertainment, James Bond, Movies, Oscar, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Last summer ILM had competing aliens with Super 8 and Cowboys & Aliens. Now you can compare both at home on Blu-ray/DVD. In fact, Jon Favreau’s western/sci-fi mash-up arrives this week via Universal Home Ent. with an extended cut that’s 16 minutes longer. It looks and sound stunning in HD, as does Super 8. As far as Oscar, though, the J.J. Abrams homage to Steven Spielberg has the definite edge. No matter: ILM had fun with both and each offered their tech challenges. For the Daniel Craig/Harrison Ford actioner, ILM was tasked with animating a 10-foot tall, bipedal reptilian-like creature.

“We created an uber alien in evolutionary scale to make it more complicated in hierarchy,” says ILM visual effects supervisor Roger Guyett, who also oversaw onset VFX production. “We used the Legacy design as a foundation and then [VFX art director] Christian Alzmann and others developed it.

“And I thought that the irony of all this was that the aliens turn up and it could be more exaggerated for them. This is not their planet. They’re frontiersmen in a way: traveling to another place and having to deal with all the adversities of the climate. And in our case, we played up the fact that they weren’t comfortable in our world. There are flies all around them; they didn’t like the light; when they were wounded and exposed, a strange fungus grew around them.”

ILM keyframed all the animation (overseen by Marc Chu) because after doing some MoCap tests (a la Super 8), they found that it didn’t work to take the motions of a human and remap it onto the creature. “I set up an all-CG test for the studio where the cowboys were mocap,” Guyett continues. “It gave you an idea of what the aliens could do and we explored some fighting techniques (including Last of the Mohicans-style hand-to-hand) to see how they would attack a creature of that size. They have a complicated anatomy that we made organic to their behavior and in relation to their ship.”

Jennifer Yuh Nelson Lifts Kung Fu Panda 2

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Annies, Blu-ray, Clips, Events, Home Entertainment, Movies, Oscar, Tech, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

Talk about timing: On Monday, the Annies announced that Kung Fu Panda 2 got the most nominations with 12. Meanwhile, I spoke with Jennifer Yuh Nelson on the same day for my TOH column at Indiewire. She discusses why the original cried for a sequel, deepening Po, providing a more devious villain in Lord Shen, and expanding the universe to take Po out of his comfort zone. In this year of the sequel, KFP2 needs all the help it can get in distinguishing itself for an Oscar nomination. It’s coming out next week on Blu-ray/DVD (DreamWorks Home Ent.) and deserves a second look.

Kung Fu Panda 2 Leads Annie Noms

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Annies, Events, Movies, performance capture, Shorts, stop-motion, Tech, VFX, Videogames, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Well, how fitting that on the same day that I spoke with Jennifer Yuh Nelson about directing Kung Fu Panda 2, that the DreamWorks sequel wound up leading the pack of Annie nominees with 12. And, with Puss in Boots grabbing nine (tied for second with Paramount’s Rango), it was a very good day for DreamWorks. Of course, we’ll have to wait and see what the impact will be on Oscar voting, but, for now, Yuh Nelson can bask in the glory of more epic and exotic Po.

“We are really excited about the expanded list of nominations this year…in all 28 categories,” said Frank Gladstone, president, ASIFA-Hollywood.  “All of the major animation studios are represented, as are some of the independent productions from Europe and South America. This certainly is a testament to the wide reach and appeal of animation and the people who create it.”

Special juried awards honoring career achievement and exceptional contributions to animation will also be awarded: Winsor McCay Award — Walt Peregoy, Borge Ring, and Ronald Searle for career contributions to the art of animation; June Foray Award — Art Leonardi for significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation; and Special Achievement Award is given to an individual, individuals or a company for unique and outstanding achievement falling within the Annie Award eligibility period and not recognized within the existing award category structure. This year’s Special Achievement goes to Depth Analysis.

The 2011 Annie Award winners will be announced at the 39th Annual Annie Awards ceremony on Saturday, Feb. 4, 2012, at UCLA’s Royce Hall. For more info, please visit www.annieawards.org.

Here is the complete list of nominees:

Best Animated Feature

  • A Cat in Paris – Folimage
  • Arrugas (Wrinkles) – Perro Verde Films, S.L.
  • Arthur Christmas – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
  • Cars 2 – Pixar Animation Studios
  • Chico & Rita – Chico & Rita Distribution Limited
  • Kung Fu Panda 2 – DreamWorks Animation
  • Puss In Boots – DreamWorks Animation
  • Rango – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production
  • Rio – Blue Sky Studios
  • Tintin – Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall

Annie Award for Best Animated Special Production

  • Adventure Time: Thank You – Cartoon Network Studios
  • Batman: Year One – Warner Bros. Animation
  • Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas – Blue Sky Studios
  • Kung Fu Panda – Secrets of the Masters – DreamWorks Animation
  • Prey 2 – Blur Studio
  • Star Tours – Industrial Light & Magic

Best Animated Short Subject

  • Adam and Dog – Lodge Films
  • I Tawt I Taw A Puddy Tat – Warner Bros. Animation
  • La Luna – Pixar Animation Studios
  • (Notes on) Biology – Ornana Films
  • Paths of Hate – Platige Image
  • Sunday – National Film Board of Canada
  • The Ballad of Nessie –Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • The Girl and the Fox – Base14
  • Wild Life – National Film Board of Canada and Studio GDS

Best Animated Television Commercial

  • Audi “Hummingbird” – The Mill
  • Geico “Foghorn” – Renegade Animation
  • McDonald’s “Apple Tree”– Duck Studios/Kompost
  • McDonald’s “Suzi Van Zoom” – Duck Studios/Kompost
  • Norton “Stuff”– Psyop
  • O2 “Niggles & Narks” –The Mill
  • Statoil “Good Night” – Studio AKA
  • “The Pirate” – Meindbender
  • Twinings “Sea” – Psyop

Best General Audience Animated TV Production

  • Archer – FX Productions
  • Green Lantern: The Animated Series – Warner Bros. Animation
  • Hoops & YoYo Ruin Christmas – Hallmark
  • MAD – Warner Bros. Animation
  • Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2 – Starburns Industries, Inc.
  • Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
  • The Simpsons – Gracie Films

Best Animated Television Production – Preschool

  • Chuggington – Ludorum Pictures
  • Disney Jake and the Never Land Pirates – Disney Television Animation
  • Disney Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – Disney Television Animation
  • The WotWots Season 2 – Pukeko Pictures

Best Animated Television Production – Children

  • Fanboy and Chum Chum – Nickelodeon and Frederator
  • Kung Fu Panda – DreamWorks Animation
  • Penguins of Madagascar – DreamWorks Animation
  • The Amazing World of Gumball – Cartoon Network in Association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media & Studio Soi

Best Animated Video Game

  • Bumpy Road – Simogo
  • Catherine – Atlus
  • Gears of War 3 – Epic Games
  • Gesundheit – Konami Digital Entertainment
  • Ghost Trick: “Phantom Detective” – Capcom
  • Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet – Shadow Planet Productions, Gagne/Fuelcell
  • Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One – Insomniac Games
  • Rayman Origins – Ubisoft Montpellier
  • Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception – Naughty Dog

Animated Effects in an Animated Production

  • Can Yuksel “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Chase Cooper “Rango” – Industrial Light & Magic
  • Dan Lund “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Dave Tidgewell “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Eric Froemling “Cars 2” – Pixar Animation Studios
  • Jason Mayer “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Joel Aron “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” – Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
  • Jon Reisch “Cars 2” – Pixar Animation Studios
  • Kevin Romond “Tintin” – Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall
  • Willi Geiger “Rango” – Industrial Light & Magic

Animated Effects in a Live Action Production

  • Branko Grujcic “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”– Industrial Light & Magic
  • Florent Andarra “Transformers: Dark of the Moon” – Industrial Light & Magic
  • Gary Wu “Cowboys & Aliens”– Industrial Light & Magic
  • Lee Uren “Cowboys & Aliens” – Industrial Light & Magic

Character Animation in a Television Production

  • Chad Sellers “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Michael Franceschi “Kung Fu Panda” – Nickelodeon
  • Rebecca Wilson Bresee “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Sihanouk Mariona “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” – Starburns Industries, Inc.
  • Tony Smeed “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Character Animation in a Feature Production

  • Andreas Deja “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Dan Wagner “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Jeff Gabor “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios
  • Mark Henn “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Olivier Staphylas “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Patrik Puhala “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios
  • Pierre Perifel “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation

Character Animation in a Live Action Production

  • Andy Arnett “HOP” – Rhythm & Hues, Illumination Entertainment
  • David Lowry “Paul” – Double Negative Visual Effects for Universal Productions/ Relativity Media/Working Title Films/Big Talk Productions
  • Eric Reynolds “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” – 20th Century Fox
  • Mike Hull “Paul” – Double Negative Visual Effects for Universal Productions/Relativity Media/Working Title Films/Big Talk Productions

Character Design in a Television Production

  • Bill Schwab “Prep & Landing” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Carl Raggio “Disney Kick Buttowski” – Disney Television Animation
  • Chad Hurd “Archer” – FX Productions
  • Chris Battle “Dan Vs.” – Starz Film Roman
  • Eric Robles “Fanboy and Chum Chum” – Nickelodeon & Frederator
  • Gordon Hammond “TUFF Puppy” – Nickelodeon
  • Mike Dougherty “TUFF Puppy” – Nickelodeon
  • Robert Ryan Cory “Secret Mountain Fort Awesome” – Cartoon Network Studios

Character Design in a Feature Production

  • Jay Shuster “Cars 2” – Pixar Animation Studios
  • Mark “Crash” McCreery “Rango” – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Productions
  • Patrick Mate “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Peter de Seve “Arthur Christmas” – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
  • Sergio Pablos “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios

Directing in a Television Production

  • Brian Sheesley “Dan Vs.” – Starz Film Roman
  • Chris Savino & Clay Morrow “Disney Kick Buttowski” – Disney Television Animation
  • Dan Riba “Ben 10 Ultimate Alien” – Cartoon Network Studios
  • Duke Johnson “Community” – 23 D Films, Inc.
  • Gabe Swarr “Kung Fu Panda” – Nickelodeon
  • Ken Bruce “TUFF Puppy” – Nickelodeon
  • Kevin Deters & Stevie Wermers-Skelton “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice”– Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Matthew Nastuk “The Simpsons” – Gracie Films
  • Mic Graves & Ben Bocquelet “The Amazing World of Gumball” – Cartoon Network Europe in association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media & Studio Soi
  • Peter Hausner “Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu” – Wil Film
  • Steve Loter, Christo Stamboliev, Shaun Cashman, David Knott “Penguins of Madagascar” – Nickelodeon and Technicolor
  • Tony Craig “Hoops & YoYo Ruin Christmas” – Hallmark

Directing in a Feature Production

  • Carlos Saldahna “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios
  • Chris Miller “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Don Hall & Stephen Anderson “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Gore Verbinski “Rango” – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present a Blind Wink/GK Films Productions
  • Jennifer Yuh Nelson “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Kelly Asbury “Gnomeo & Juliet” – Touchstone Pictures

Music in a Television Production

  • Adam Berry, Bob Schooley, Mark McCorkle “Penguins of Madagascar” – Nickelodeon and Technicolor
  • Ben Locket “The Amazing World of Gumball” – Cartoon Network Europe in association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media & Studio Soi
  • Frederik Wiedmann “Green Lantern The Animated Series” – Warner Bros. Animation
  • Grace Potter, Michael Giacchino “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Joel McNeely, Brendan Milburn and Valerie Vigoda “Pixie Hollow Games”– DisneyToon Studios
  • Kevin Kliesch “Thundercats” – Warner Bros. Animation and Cartoon Network
  • Shawn Patterson, Zeb Wells “Robot Chicken” – ShadowMachine and Stoopid Monkey in association with Adult Swim

Music in a Feature Production

  • Henry Jackman “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • John Williams “Tintin” – Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall
  • Mikael Mutti, Siedah Garrett, Carlinhos Brown, Sergio Mendes, John Powell, “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios
  • Zooey Deschannel, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Henry Jackman, Robert Lopez “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Production Design in a Television Production

  • Mark Bodner, Chris Tsirgiotis, Sue Mondt and Daniel Elson “Secret Mountain Fort Awesome” – Cartoon Network Studios
  • Peter Martin “Hoops & YoYo Ruin Christmas” – Hallmark

Production Design in a Feature Production

  • Harley Jessup “Cars 2” – Pixar Animation Studios
  • Paul Felix “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Raymond Zilbach “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Tom Cardone, Kyle MacNaughton & Peter Chan “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios

Storyboarding in a Television Production

  • Barry W. Johnson “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Benton Connor “Regular Show” – Cartoon Network Studios
  • Brian Kesinger “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Dave Thomas “TUFF Puppy” – Nickelodeon
  • Fred Gonzalez “TUFF Puppy” – Nickelodeon
  • Joe Mateo “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Justin Nichols “Fanboy & Chum Chum” – Nickelodeon & Frederator
  • Katie Rice “Fanboy & Chum Chum”– Nickelodeon & Frederator
  • Rebecca Sugar “Adventure Time” – Cartoon Network Studios

Storyboarding in a Feature Production

  • Bob Logan “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • David Gosman “Rango” – Paramount Pictures & Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production
  • Gary Graham “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Jeremy Spears “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Josh Hayes “Rango” – Paramount Pictures & Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Production
  • Kris Pearn “Arthur Christmas” – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
  • Nelson Yokota “Gnomeo and Juliet” – Touchstone Pictures
  • Philip Craven “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Scott Morse “Cars 2” – Pixar Animation Studios

Voice Acting in a Television Production

  • Carlos Alazraqui as Denzel Crocker “Fairly OddParents” – Nickelodeon
  • Dan Harmon as Jekyll “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” – Starburns Industries, Inc.
  • Daran Norris as Cosmo “Fairly OddParents” – Nickelodeon
  • Dee Bradley Baker as Obi-Wan “Star Wars: The Clone Wars”– Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
  • Diedrich Bader as Batman “Batman: The Brave and the Bold” – Warner Bros. Animation
  • H. Jon Benjamin as Sterling Archer “Archer” – FX Productions
  • Jeff Bennett as Kowalski “Penguins of Madagascar” – Nickelodeon and Technicolor
  • Jeff B. Davis as Victor Frankenstein “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” – Starburns Industries, Inc.
  • Jessica Walter as Malory Archer “Archer” – FX Productions
  • Judy Greer as Cheryl Tunt “Archer” – FX Productions
  • Logan Grove as Gumball “The Amazing World of Gumball” – Cartoon Network Europe in association with Dandelion Studios, Boulder Media & Studio Soi
  • Nika Futterman as Asajj Ventress “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” – Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
  • Scott Adsit as the Creature “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” – Starburns Industries, Inc.
  • Tara Strong as Timmy Turner “Fairly OddParents – Operation Dingleberg” – Nickelodeon

Voice Acting in a Feature Production

  • Ashley Jensen as Bryony “Arthur Christmas” – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
  • Bill Nighy as Grandsanta “Arthur Christmas” – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
  • Gary Oldman as Shen “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • James Hong as Mr. Ping “Kung Fu Panda 2” DreamWorks Animation
  • Jemaine Clement as Nigel “Rio” – Blue Sky Studios
  • Jim Cummings as Featherstone “Gnomeo and Juliet” – Touchstone Pictures
  • Zach Galifianakis as Humpty Alexander Dumpty “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation

Writing in a Television Production

  • Blake Lemons, William Reiss, C.H. Greenblatt, Derek Evanick, Diana Lafyatis, Neil Graf “Disney Fish Hooks – Fish School Musical” – Disney Television Animation
  • Carolyn Omine “The Simpsons -Treehouse of Horror XXII” – Gracie Films
  • Dani MIchaeli, Sean Charmatz, Nate Cash, Luke Brookshier, Paul Tibbitt “SpongeBob SquarePants – Patrick’s Staycation” – Nickelodeon
  • Josh Weinstein “Futurama – All The President’s Heads” – The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Television
  • Kevin Sullivan, Will Schifrin, Ray DeLaurentis “TUFF Puppy Thunder Dog” – Nickelodeon
  • Matt Maiellaro, Dave Willis “Aqua Unit Patrol Squad 1 – The Creditor” – Williams Street Studios, Adult Swim
  • Ray DeLaurentis, Will Schifrin “Fairly OddParents “Invasion of the Dads” – Nickelodeon
  • Steve Wermers-Skelton, Kevin Deters “Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice” – Walt Disney Animation Studios

Writing in a Feature Production

  • Andy Riley, Kevin Cecil, Mark Burton, Kathy Greenburg, Emily Cook, Rob Sprackling, John R. Smith, Kelly Asbury, Steve Hamilton “Gnomeo & Juliet” – Touchstone Pictures
  • Brian Kesinger, Kendelle Hoyer, Don Dougherty, Clio Chang, Don Hall, Stephen Anderson “Winnie The Pooh” – Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • John Logan, Gore Verbinski and James Byrkit “Rango” – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Productions
  • Sarah Smith, Peter Baynham “Arthur Christmas” – Sony Pictures Animation, Aardman Animations
  • Steve Moffat, Edgar Wright, Joe Cronish “Tintin”– Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall

Editing in Television Production

  • Garret Elkins “Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole Season 2” – Starburn Industries, Inc.
  • Hugo Morales “Kung Fu Panda” Nickelodeon
  • Jason W.A. Tucker “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” – Lucasfilm Animation, Ltd.
  • Paul D. Calder “Futurama” – The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Television
  • Ted Machold, Jeff Adams, Doug Tiano, Bob Tomlin “Penguins of Madagascar” – Nickelodeon and Technicolor

Editing in a Feature Production

  • Clare Knight, A.C.E. “Kung Fu Panda 2” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Craig Wood, A.C.E. “Rango” – Paramount Pictures and Nickelodeon Movies present A Blind Wink/GK Films Productions
  • Eric Dapkewicz “Puss In Boots” – DreamWorks Animation
  • Michael Kahn “Tintin”– Amblin Entertainment, Wingnut Films and Kennedy/Marshall
  • Stephen Schaffer, A.C.E. “Cars 2” – Pixar Animation Studios

The Smurfs Go Blu

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Blu-ray, Home Entertainment, Movies, Tech, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

The Smurfs came out on Blu-ray this week (Sony Pictures Home Ent.) looking every bit as good in HD in all its blueness. Plus there are a bevy of bonus features, including the new Christmas Carol short and Smurf-O-Vision: a second screen interactive feature that syncs with the movie and allows new interactive experiences for kids using their iPad, IPhone, or iPod Touch with easy to follow instructions.

But it’s the blockbuster, cutting-edge movie from Sony PIctures Animation and Imageworks that’s worth enjoying and exploring in more detail.

There were major design considerations, first of all, they involved capturing the silhouette, making the eyes believable and expressive and getting the skin texture right so that it was fleshy but not creepy. Plus they created a model (Troy Saliba was senior animation supervisor for Imageworks) with subtle variations, including pliable facial rig and proper bone structure. There were around 36 character models for film, with Gutsy (voiced by Alan Cumming), being totally new.

“There were physical limitations of anatomy that we had to deal with in creative ways,” suggests Rich Hoover, the Imageworks visual effects supervisor. “We wanted humanistic profiles, joints, muscles, bones, human-like wrinkles in the skin. But we also had to maintain volume for these [7 1/2 inch-tall] characters. Raja wanted them to have a spring in their step, so we made them jump 10-feet-per-second to keep up with the human characters they interact with.”

And when it came to hair for the ever popular Smurfette, they actually started from scratch after animating 20% because the old design just wasn’t convincing in CG. So they tweaked the volume and gave her a prettier makeover with a more modern sheen. Now it hangs down straighter.

10 Shortlisted for Animated Oscar Race

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Movies, Oscar, Shorts, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

Ten animated shorts have been shortlisted out of 44 entries in the race for the 84th Academy Awards, and somewhere between three and five will get nominated. Among the standouts that I’ve covered are Pixar’s La Luna, William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg’s The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, and Tweety & Sylvester’s I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today announced that 10 animated short films will advance in the voting process for the 84th Academy Awards. Forty-four pictures had originally qualified in the category.

The 10 films are listed below in alphabetical order by title, with their production company:

* Dimanche/Sunday, Patrick Doyon, director (National Film Board of Canada)
* The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg, directors (Moonbot Studios LA, LLC)
* I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat, Matthew O’Callaghan, director and Sam Register, executive producer (Warner Bros. Animation Inc.)
* La Luna, Enrico Casarosa, director (Pixar Animation Studios)
* Luminaris, Juan Pablo Zaramella, director (JPZtudio)
* Magic Piano, Martin Clapp, director and Hugh Welchman, producer (BreakThru Films)
* A Morning Stroll, Grant Orchard, director and Sue Goffe, producer (Studio AKA)
* Paths of Hate, Damian Nenow, director (Platige Image)
* Specky Four-Eyes, Jean-Claude Rozec, director and Mathieu Courtois, producer (Vivement Lundi!)
* Wild Life, Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby, directors (National Film Board of Canada)

The Short Films and Feature Animation Branch Reviewing Committee viewed all the eligible entries for the preliminary round of voting in screenings held in New York and Los Angeles.

Branch screenings will be held in Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco in January 2012.

The 84th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2012, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

Academy Awards for outstanding film achievements of 2011 will be presented on Sunday, Feb. 26, 2012, at the Kodak Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center, and televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 200 countries worldwide.

Trailering New John Carter

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Books, Movies, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Something old, something new, something borrowed, something Burroughs. The new John Carter trailer shows off more action, more CG, and more of sultry Lynn Collins as Princess Dejah Thoris. Double Negative, Cinesite, MPC, and the other contributors have populated this Southwest-looking Mars with cool creatures, bolstered by sci-fi looking space ships, graphics, and pyrotechnics. Straddling fresh with familiar, Stanton’s naturalistic approach was probably the best after Avatar. Opens March 9.

Revisiting Super 8 VFX

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Blu-ray, Home Entertainment, Movies, Oscar, Tech, Trailers, VFX | Leave a comment

Last week, Paramount Home Ent. hosted a screening of Super 8 at the Academy in honor of its Blu-ray release. It’s worth looking again at ILM’s retro VFX as the J.J. Abrams coming of age monster movie winds its way into the bakeoff.

“Our visual effects strategy was to use as few bluescreens as possible, plenty of roto, lots of image-based lighting, which everybody does nowadays,” explains production VFX supervisor Kim Libreri. “J.J. wanted to keep the nature of the creature [designed by Neville Page] quite secret to the very end, so when we were shooting the creature scenes there was no maquette — there was only a pole for how big the creature was to make sure we shot everything correctly. But other than that, it was a lot of make believe for the kids.”

For Dennis Muren, it was more of a homecoming since he worked at ILM during this period on Spielberg’s Close Encounters and E.T. He was brought in toward the end as a cinematic reality check.” Everything went through me to make sure it had the right kind of look that J.J. was after for that period,” he explains. “It was quite a gamut and each one offered its opportunities to be nostalgic in the look of it. One of the things of the period is that the colors were stronger and the shots lasted longer — there was more time to digest it. It’s a matter of specifying at the start of the shot here is how the lights have to be; here is how the dust has to be; here’s how the size of the debris has to be. The whole thing was played by what I call ‘peek-a-boo.’ That it’s not terribly clear at the beginning of the shot what you’re seeing, but by the time it’s done you’ve figured it out and it’s gone somewhere emotionally.”

That includes the mysterious alien: a spidery humanoid that evokes terror and pathos by the end, with the help of animation supervisor Paul Kavanagh and his team.

Climbing The Tree of Life

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Clips, Movies, Oscar, Tech, VES, VFX | Leave a comment

Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life fared well with the New York Film Critics Circle on Tuesday, nabbing best actor honors for Brad Pitt, best supporting actress kudos for Jessica Chastain, and cinematography distinction for Emmanuel Lubezki.

Meanwhile, Fox Searchlight is also hoping to get Tree of Life  into the VFX bakeoff for its extraordinary birth of the universe sequence supervised by Dan Glass (EVP of Method Studios) and bolstered by the contribution of Doug Trumbull, who will receive the 2012 VES Georges Méliès Award.

“It’s a real coalescing of ideas and metaphysics about the history of the universe that takes us from [notions] of origins right through some semblance of the Big Bang to the early genesis of stars and galaxies and planets forming, ultimately life itself on planet Earth,” explains Glass.

The work was divided into three realms: Astrophysical, which dealt with the early cosmos and evolution of the universe, stars, galaxies and planets, principally handled by Double Negative in London (under the supervision of Paul Riddle); Microbial, the molecular and cellular origination of life, which was primarily done by the London boutique One of Us, with supplemental work by Method (the splitting off of DNA strands to form more complex organisms, supervised by Olivier Dumont) and the father/son team of Peter and Chris Parks, who shot interesting flows of colors; and Natural History, which focused on the much anticipated dinosaurs, created by Prime Focus/Frantic (supervised by Mike Fink and Bryan Hirota).

Glass also set up an in-house team in Austin led by Brad Friedman, the digital effects supervisor. This group of local talent as well as more experienced compositors could literally “mix paints,” as Malick called it, experimenting close to him and testing ideas. Like the enigmatic yet symphonic film itself, it was a process of discovery.

Trumbull consulted as a favor to Malick, working a few long weekends in Austin, where he set up a lab called “the skunkworks” in a small studio to photograph practical elements for the Astrophysical realm. “I think it’s an extraordinary thing and it comes at a time when the world really needs something that’s outside the box,” he proclaims.

Talking Smurfs: A Christmas Carol

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in Animation, Books, Home Entertainment, Movies, Oscar, Shorts, Tech, VFX | Leave a comment

Qualifying for animated short Oscar consideration is The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol, a Blu-ray exclusive with the three-disc holiday set that streets on Friday (Sony Pictures Home Ent.). What’s refreshing is that they’ve Smurfed up the Dickens classic with hand-drawn animation for the nightmare sequences in which Grouchy (George Lopez) stands in for Scrooge.

It not only recalls the comic strip origins of Peyo’s designs but also recalls childhood memories of such ’60s animated TV classics as Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol.

“We were excited to get the opportunity to do that again and have it work within the framework of the story,” remarks director Troy Quane, who partnered with producer Kurt Albrecht on the Sony Pictures Animation/Imageworks project.

“We hired Duck Studios, the commercial house, to do the 2D work and they managed to keep all the work in town, which is great,” adds Albrecht.

“And for myself, I started my career as a 2D animator so it was a lot of fun to play in the old sandbox again,” continues Quane, who is starting work on the CG Popeye feature in the story department after working on Arthur Christmas. It’s early days, though, and they’re trying to figure out how to translate the look and spirit of a modern-day Popeye by going back to the original comic strip, as they did with The Smurfs. One important clue is Popeye’s independence and ability to survive during economically challenging times, which should play well today.

Pixomondo Helps Hugo

Posted on by Bill Desowitz in 3-D, Animation, Clips, Events, Movies, Oscar, stop-motion, Tech, Trailers, VFX, Virtual Production | Leave a comment

Pixomondo came of age with Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, tapping more than 400 artists in 10 of the company’s 11 facilities in Germany, the US, Canada, China, and the UK with a unique 24/7 global pipeline for 800 plus VFX shots.

After an Autodesk sponsored screening on Monday night at the Landmark in LA, Pixomondo VFX supervisor Ben Grossmann explained that they had a hand in tailoring every conceivable kind of animation, including stop-motion for a toy mouse that the compositors complained lacked motion blur because they didn’t realize Scorsese wanted to go old school for his valentine to film history and preservation.

Pixomondo’s London facility completed a heavily-CG opening fly-through sequence and shots involving the inside of the train station; Stuttgart handled most of Georges Méliès’ apartment, graveyard sequences, and Paris exteriors; Berlin managed complicated fire and debris VFX simulation scattered throughout the film along with portions of the train crash sequence; Shanghai completed shots focused around the clock tower staircase and green screen composites; Beijing worked on a magic show sequence, crowd duplication, match-moving, and wire removal; Burbank created a magical animation sequence of flying papers, character animation and CG face replacement; Toronto and Frankfurt worked on train station coverage, with Frankfurt executing Hugo’s nightmare transformation into the automaton. Pixomondo’s LA team completed specialized shots throughout the film, and Hugo’s nightmare in the train station, while also acting as the hub for all VFX work and editorial for other studio-produced VFX shots.

Grossmann told me that the VFX was intricately intertwined with the 3-D as part of the narrative, and that everything for Scorsese was based on 3-D. The idea was to be on the set with the characters. You’re with Hugo in the train station; up in the clocks; in the toy store; or with Méliès in the toy store or his glass studio. It was about the thrill of discovery. In fact, to get 3-D so precise and to have so much control over it was difficult but vital. They worked very closely with all the principals, particularly Rob Legato, the production VFX supervisor who had previous stereo experience on Avatar.

“You string it all together and then sweeten the interocular distance and convergence for different parts of the shot,” Grossmann explains. “It means the stereo settings are constantly changing. For instance, you start out by separating the left and right eye cameras by 10 feet at the head of the shot and then slowly start animating them closer together as you get closer to the station, so that by the time you’re swooping through the crowd of people, the interocular distance gets much shorter. For a lot of our big stereo shots we matched the camera separation to the human eye. Most 3-D movies have a 1/4 of an inch or a 1/2 of an inch. And a big stereo shot would be about an inch. On Hugo, a big stereo shot was 2.2 inches. That’s unique. It takes a lot of refining.”