Saturday, December 12, 2009

The wait is over

I went and caught The Princess and the Frog last night, Disney's first traditionally animated film since 2004.

This has easily been the most anticipated animated film over the last year. Did it live up to the hype?

The short answer is yes.

After a year of seeing the same five scenes in every trailer and promises of being a return to the way things were in the early 90's, I went in to this film fearing the worst, knowing Disney and stagnated and squandered potential before aimlessly trying to make Cinderella again.

However I was largely mistaken. The Princess and the Frog is an interesting mix of things you've never seen in a Disney film and things you've seen in every Disney film. Parts of the story had already been done to death others were amazingly fresh.

Some of the cliches are obvious. It does have a princess in it after all, and it has more wishing on a star in it than Pinocchio.

Another standard throwback this film has is being crammed full of songs. Like 9 of them, including one spot where there's two in the span of five minutes. That's a Don Bluth movie level of songs. And the the good Bluth neither.

As for the different stuff, one thing that surprised me was the lack of "star voices". Oprah notwithstanding (I didn't notice her and you probably won't either) the only names in the credits I recognized were John Goodman (rather small part) and Keith David (classic "that guy").

The animation felt a lot more like an old Warner Bros. cartoon than the standard Disney style. It definitely added more fun to the film.

The characters were surprising as well. Tiana's friend Charlotte has all the makings of a bitchy spoiled brat, but she's not. Even if she does look like Darla Dimple from Cats Don't Dance.


I'll end it here since I don't want to get into spoilers on a movie that been out one day.

Go watch The Princess and the Frog. It was well worth the wait.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Back to Brackenwood

If you're not familiar with Australian animator Adam Phillips, you should be. On top of all his freelance work, he's created several animated shorts in his Brackenwood story-world.

He just finished his newest film: The Last of the Dankin.

Also, be sure to check out his other Brackenwood films.

It's pretty inspiring to see someone make so much by himself. Especially since they're full-standing stories rather than little 10 second pencil-tests. If you're the type to kick an artist a couple bucks so he can keep making great work, he's definitely one to consider.

And if you're looking for a way to donate while actually getting something, he's also putting together an online book on animating in Flash that you can buy a chapter at a time.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Goin' Gnomon

Animation and visual effects-types are probably familiar with The Gnomon Workshop. Their training DVDs cover all manner topics in the film, effects and game creation worlds, with discs by industry professionals covering topics like matte painting, character design, 3D modeling and sculpture.

One common theme amongst the design discs are these alien bug-beast things. I know a lot of the instructors are concept designers and invented creatures are sort of their stock and trade, but how many crab/spider-monsters do you need?


I've wanted to get my hands on some of these fro a long time. I even feel a desire to get the ones that teach things I'd never use; like tattooing. The downside is the cost. Each disc runs $60-80.

Since these things are so unbelievably expensive I'm constantly scanning eBay to find people unloading their copies on the cheap, which there are plenty, usually going for about half the original price. I recently picked two discs for $50 that would've cost me $110 new, both coming from a guy selling about 70 discs in a two hour period.

In fact there's often someone selling a bulk lot of 100 or more. I can't fathom spending the 10+ thousand dollars it would've taken to acquire that stack of DVDs. For that money you could've gone to college and learned some of this stuff.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Book hunt

It took me a month or two, but I finally finished The Education of a Comics Artist, an extensive collection of essays and interviews about the comics medium.

Despite being a real word-brick with very few pictures for being a book about a visual medium, it had some very interesting and enlightening ideas.

My personal favorite essay was by Craig Yoe. He talked rather tongue in cheek-ly about being a voracious accumulator cartoons and comic art to the point of saturation. That point where A&E or Oprah might document your extensive hoarding and give you an intervention.

Some artists he mentioned, like Heinrich Kley, only have so much available. Just the same two books that've been around for the last 50 years.

Even a prolific artist like Walt Kelly is hard to find books published in the last 20-30 years. Fantagraphics was supposed to start releasing books of Pogo strips like they have with Dick Tracy, Terry & the Pirates and the like, but nothing has ever come of the book since I preordered it on Amazon two and a half years ago. Yet every year instead of canceling it Amazon pushing it back and keeping my feeble hopes up.
Sorry, maybe next year

Despite all this I've been cramming my Amazon wishlists (yes, plural) full of cheap, used books on comics, cartoons and illustrations that'll take me years to buy off.

I'm not sure what happens after that. I think you just soak up comics awesomeness through you pores or something. Maybe I need to reread the essay.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Anything's Possible

I never in a million years would have expected this show to come out on DVD:

This is one of those long-dead shows that the Sci-Fi Channel would play all the time back when I was in high school. (Also back when Sci-Fi was spelled right) It kinda sucks becoming a big fan of a show after it's already been canceled for about a decade.

But for a 19 year-old show that went downhill pretty fast by turning a gritty supernatural drama into a goofy romantic comedy (it was like turning The X-Files into Moonlighting... but with werewolves) it's still coming out on DVD.

I really think someone at Universal was scanning their list of properties for something to cash in on the Twilight/vampire craze and came across this.

There are numerous titles that only made it to DVD because there was a big movie to jump on for. I'm convinced that's the only reason Aeon Flux got a decent DVD release.

I wonder what kind of Hollywood tie-in there'd need to be to get Max Headroom on DVD. Neuromancer? A re-make of Blade Runner?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Would you trust someone who smiles like this?

I'm still not sure about Planet 51, which comes out this next Friday. I like the concept of a role reversal of the standard alien invasion and all, but I don't know if it'll actually be any good.

I haven't even seen all that much promotion for it. That is until today I was at the store when I saw this face glaring at me from the freezer section:

Is this part of the dreaded `Tude that John K always warns about? Not really, but it is the stock "squash one side of the face and stretch the other" expression that doesn't really mean anything. And in this case, his eyes are crossed just enough to make him look like an imbecile.

I can't get too hyped about a movie when the press shots of the main character make him look like a moron.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

More like a Book-va-snow-day

Suddenly, I can understand how people at political rallies and such can overestimate the crowd size by twenty-fold.

My boast of owning 1000-2000 thousand books fell a tad short once I actually counted them:


Now I haven't really counted them all, just the ones on my shelves. There are a few books laying about on desks and end tables, there's several in "The Box" which is where I keep books I've bought but haven't gotten around to reading yet. Plus I have a whole other 5'x3' bookcase the completely full in storage. (which is code for "In my parents' basement.")

All those will probably push my over the 1000 mark, but I was still way off. Lucky I didn't go with my original claim of having more books than the New York Public Library. I'd have felt pretty stupid.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

All Hail Slobovia!

I get so much of my animation news from Cartoon Brew I giving it it's own tag.

Check out this Brew post about an award winning, but rather unconventional Scottish kids show.

It's hard to really judge a show when all you got to go on is a 50 second song chanting about intercourse, plus I haven't found an actual episode form their season on sexuality yet, but here's part 1 of their episode of Charles Darwin:

All in all, I was really impressed by all they covered. Darwin's life, his work, his conflicts with religion, as well as a general snapshot of life in the mid 19th Century. And with a goofy song as a kicker. I'm well past the target demo, but I still felt like I learned something.

When I think of educational TV, I immediately picture the Sesame Street-type shows aimed at the pre-preschool set. So educational shows geared toward 11-16 year-olds is a far less explored area, apart from the Bill Nye/Beakman's World "Science is Wacky and Cool" kind of shows. But even those didn't quite appeal to the learning to drive crowd.

I think it'd be interesting to see more junior high/high school aged educational shows. Especially ones that talk about Friedrich Nietzsche and sing songs that contain the word "erection."

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Instructor Zim

If you're not already a regular visitor to the ASIFA-Hollywood blog, you should be. It's a treasure trove of animation and comic art as well as scan of entire books that've fallen out of print, like the original Preston Blair book or Nat Falk's How to Make Animated Cartoons.

One of their current features is high-res scans of Zim's Cartoons & Caricatures, or Making The World Laugh by turn of the (last) century cartoonist Eugene Zimmerman.

What I'm most impressed with is how lively his roughs can be while still being so specific. No vague stick figures or stiff layouts. Plus there's definitely a different style and sensibility to cartooning from 100+ years ago, before the influence of animation.

Apparently the pages are going to start being cycled off soon, so if you want to get the entire book you'd better head over there now. Besides that's the only place you can get it, and it's free.

Monday, November 9, 2009


I'm embarking on a quest to answer one of the hardest questions in my life: "Just how many damn book do I own again?"

A couple years ago I took up the very nerdy task of cataloging all my DVDs on a spreadsheet so I could easily say how many I own, (about 500) many total discs there were (about 980) and how long it would take to sit down and watch the entire collection. (about 2½ months)

Now I'm setting off to do the same with my book, simply because I couldn't even hazard a guess as to how many there are. 1000? 2000? I have absolutely no idea.

I figure if I pace myself and do a shelf a day, I should be done in about 2 weeks.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Uncannily Expensive

Word is that Robert Zemeckis' mocap Christmas Carol cost $180 Million to make, putting it above Up which cost $175 Million.

So far it's safe to say that these motion performance capture films aren't better than what studios like Pixar have to offer. But if they're not cheaper, what's the point of making them?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

We're getting a bigger kit

I'm not crazy about re-buying a book I already own, but I guess I can make an exception for the best animation book ever written.

I haven't heard what "expanded" means, not even how many pages more it'll be. But since I don't see myself dropping $1000 on the DVD set anytime soon, I guess I'll have to take it.

Hello World

This blog begins...

I'm Grant Beaudette and this is my new blog where I'll talk about art, animation and... books about art and animation. I assume I'll talk about other things too.

I'm slowly collecting my thoughts and writing up some actual posts.

Plus check the Twitter widget (or Twidget, if you will) on the sidebar for mini-updates between posts.