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.