Thursday, November 11, 2010

Less is More

It's hard to advertise TVs. If you don't actually have the TV in front of you to look at, you can't see what the advertisers are claiming. They just use stand-in pictures of flowers or hot air balloons to imply what you cant see.

Also Peyton Manning.

Since I'm trying to write about these same TVs I'm going to try my best to describe what's going on without forcing you to go to store to see them in person.

First off, look carefully at these two clips from The Twilight Zone:

Don't feel the need to watch the whole thing, or pay attention to what's going on with the story. Just look at the quality of the image and the way things move.

You may not be able to describe it in words, but you can probably tell that there's something different between the way those two clips look.

The reason is the first clip is shot on film while the second is shot on video. The way the light bouncing off the actors and the surroundings is converted to a series of fixed images is different between the two methods, which is why they look different.

Okay, I lied. I really do want you see these TVs in person, so put on your shoes and grab your keys...

Go to Shopko or Walmart or some other big store that has a wall of TVs all playing the same movie. If you look closely, the movie will look different on some TVs (namely the big expensive ones) than others.

The difference is almost as stark as it is in those Twilight Zone clips. Two TVs playing the same thing, but one looks like a movie and one looks like basic cable. I was at Shopko the other day and saw Toy Story 3 playing on the TVs and it looked like a videogame cut-scene.

To really see this in action, go to a big electronics store like Best Buy where they have the fancy TVs playing a demo reel that over-emphasizes this effect, supposedly to impress you. What I saw was big budget live action features that looked like soap operas or behind-the-scenes footage and even bigger budget animated films that looked like the cheap educational shows on Nick Jr.

Only one of these cost $80 Million.

What makes these TVs look different is that they have a really high refresh rate of 240Hz, compared to the 60Hz of a regular TV. Every manufacturer has this and each have their own special-sounding name for it. Sony has FlowMotion, Toshiba has ClearFrame (or ClearScan; they call it both ways on their site) Samsung has it, but doesn't have a fancy name for it.

What it's actually doing is taking the frames from the movie and interpolating new inbetween frames to "smooth out" the motion, and in turn changing the picture's inherent visual qualities, just like the videotaped Twilight Zone episodes.

The stated purpose of this is to reduce blurring of images, which may look good watching sports, (which is all you may see on some TV demos) but disastrous for films where the blurring is specifically part of the look of the medium, or even worse CG animation where the blurring is consciously added to make the these wholly manufactured images look more "lifelike".

I don't know what this does to hand-drawn animation. I couldn't bring myself to ask the sales clerk to pop in a Blu-Ray of Princess and the Frog just so my blog post could be more thorough.

Plus blurriness is a normal part of human vision (both from depth of field and fast motion). So taking it away for the sake of technological one-ups-manship and "realism" actually makes it look more fake.

Skyline isn't as impressive as I thought it would be.

I'm already disillusioned about CG films on Blu-Ray in general because I think the added clarity just amplifies the "CG-ness"of it all and reminds me I'm watching a computer model rather than an actual character with a personality. These TVs just kick it further into the uncanny valley.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Marketing Matters

I've come to the conclusion that animated features are overexposed.

The amount of money studios spend on marketing and advertising for movies is truly insane. It can be almost as much as they spend on actually making the movie itself.

Pixar and Dreamworks tend to be the biggest offenders, routinely spending well over $100 million a film to convince you to buy your tickets. (UP cost $175 million to make and likely cost another $150 million to advertise) And from what I can tell, it's not worth it.

Animated films have become the"safe" movies to go to; the ones that you can easily assume will be funny without being confusing or disappointing; not just films for

When I went to see Megamind today the row in front of me had 3 adults in their mid-20's and the row behind me had 3 adult in their late-40's/early-50's; no kids at all.

Given the broad appeal this films have, they could save a lot of money by advertising less and I doubt it would hurt their box office numbers at all.

In the case of Megamind, it would do far better because the advertising effectively ruined the actual movie.

Here's the trailer you've been hammered with for the past several months.

Here's the problem: The whole "Metro Man is retired" thing is a plot twist. For the 50 minutes or so before that you're supposed to think that he's dead.

And note that I didn't call spoiler alert and such, because I don't have to. The movie spoiled itself with its trailers.

If you haven't seen it before (like I hadn't) here's the Comic-Con trailer:

I'd bet anything that after this trailer screened the marketing people freaked out at letting people think the protagonist of their $170 million movie killed somebody so they did theirest to sweep that under the rug even though the movie was probably 90% finished at the time.

I spent bulk of this movie unable to really care about what's going on because I already knew what was going to happen. It wasn't until the 75 minute mark (of this 95 minute movie) that I was able to actually be surprised at what was going on.

So this is a case where a movie would have been vastly better had it been advertised differently, but Megamind is also a laundry list of all the things I hate about Dreamworks films in general. Ugly designs, insincere trendiness, relying on popular songs to carry things, etc... Plus it's wall-to-wall talking. The first 8 minutes or so of this movie is Will Ferrell talking non-stop and it's all stuff you've already seen in the trailers.

Every time I've seen this poster I grunt out an audible UGH of involuntary disgust; even when I passed it as I was walking to my seat. That should've been a tipoff.

If you really love the sound of Will Ferrell's voice, go watch Megamind. And if you can find way to sneak into a screening that's already about 75 minutes in, do that; you've already seen that part anyway.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

It's a Plympton-mentary

Are you familiar with the work of animator Bill Plympton?

On top of his dozens of shorts Plympton has also released 5 feature-length animated films, all drawn entirely by him.

Filmmaker Alexis Anastasio is working on a documentary on this legend of animation, but she's got a lot of money left to raise and only about 12 days left to do it.

Check out her Kickstarter Page and see if you can't toss a couple bucks her way.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

OMG Owls!

How can you adapt 3 books spanning about 750 pages of epic fantasy into a single 90 minute movie?

If Legend of the Guardians is any indication, you can't.

In cramming as much of the books into this film as possible, little is setup well enough for you understand what's going on, and if you do understand what's going on, you won't be given the context to care.

Another problem is that a lot of what they're bringing in from the books just isn't conducive to film. Many of the names (ex. Ezylryb, Otulissa) are hard to hear and remember when they're just spoken. And so much of what these owls do throughout the film has to do with how the feel in their gizzard, which in this rushed pace and without the descriptive power of prose is just confusing.

The fact that this is directed by 300 director Zach Snyder is evident because he obviously has a patent on obnoxious and pointless slo-mo. The idea of the 3D fad turning movies into cut-rate theme park rides is only buoyed by film like this.

Snyder also loves big metal helmets

A major part of artmaking is composition; selecting and enhancing certain aspects while minimizing or eliminating others in order make what you want to say more clear. On the other hand the hyper-realistic style of Legend of the Guardians does themselves a lot of harm by piling on detail for its own sake while covering up parts that make things interesting, or at least understandable.

There are also many times when you can't tell two characters apart from one another, which is compounded even further when they're in a swooshing, fast-cut action scene.

This is either the undercover traitor or one of the 4 comic relief characters. They look the same.

I will give the production studio Animal Logic credit, Legend of the Guardians is far better than their previous film, Happy Feet. Being goofy and cartoony isn't well suited for this hyper-real style and that's restrained compared to Happy Feet, but when it does happen it still drags on the film. Also not hammering us with "celebrity voices" is an improvement. There are a few well-known actors in this such as Helen Mirren and Geoffrey Rush, but they don't stick out like sore thumb like Robin Williams assaulting your ears in not one, but two characters in Happy Feet.

And whatever the hell this is.

So if you're interested in watching Legend of the Guardians I highly suggest you either read the books or stay away.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Give me my ball. I'm going home.

Variety is reporting that Disney has decided to pull it's support for the annual Annie Awards, run by ASIFA Hollywood.

The contention is the judging for the awards, which are voted on by everyone with a paid-up ASIFA membership. But since Dreamworks buys memberships for all their employees that theoretically allows them to stuff the ballot box, even though Pixar has won top honors 6 of the last 10 years.

I can't claim to be a big follower of the Annie Awards, or any other film awards for that matter, but if Disney is so concerned about Dreamworks buying up memberships, why not buy memberships for its employees as well?

In doing so you're supporting a non-profit organization that aims to preserve and promote animation as an artform while preserving your chances to continuously win an award that no one outside the animation industry cares about.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I've been Incepted

I finally got around to watching Inception which I really enjoyed. Reading other people's opinions it seems to be both a pretty divisive film with a lot of respectable people either loving it or hating it, and also a film that's perfectly suited for over-analyzing. It takes about 10 seconds to find over a dozen theories and allegorical models as to what really happened and what it all means.

Damn you, toy top. Once again you've shattered my delicate grasp on reality.

All this cinematic navel gazing reminded of the Pop Culture and Philosophy Series, books featuring 15 or so essays that each explore philosophical ideas in the guise of a certain movie, TV show, etc....

This list has 40 of these books, but there are a good 10 or so more than that. I have the one on baseball and really liked it, though it's been about 5 years since I read it so I cite anything specific that I liked. Probably wouldn't kill me to read it again.

Some I can buy more than others. The Lord of the Rings and the Chronicles of Narnia seem far more fertile ground for philosophical introspection than say Family Guy or Harley-Davidson motorcycles. And judging by the review score people are far more accepting of waxing philosophical on Quentin Tarantino movies than Jimmy Buffet songs.

Not pictured: Immanuel Kant

I fully expect Inception to get one of these books in the next 6 months or so.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The 11 cartoon you can't show on television

Check out this article from The Root calling for a DVD release of the so-called Censored 11-a group of Looney Tunes shorts that have been kept under wraps for the past 40+ years because they contain black caricatures and stereotypes.

Run for cover! That rubber nose is loaded!

Much in the same way Disney balked on the idea on releasing Song of the South as part of the more collector and historian-oriented Disney Treasures DVDs, apparently some of the best animation the Golden Age has to offer is off limits because there are black characters in it.

I can see not wanting to air these cartoons for kids on mid-day television, (not that Looney Tunes get aired on TV anymore) which was the main idea of the Censored 11, but on DVD it can easily be marketed to the adults that want to see it.

As the article mentions, Charlie Chan grossly caricaturized Asians as much as (probably more than) these cartoons caricaturize African Americans. And there are dozens of DVD releases for those films.

Left: Completely offensive and should never see daylight. Right: A-Okay!

Plus, none of these cartoons were hateful or mean-spirited toward blacks, and compared to WWII cartoons aimed at lampooning the Japanese they're downright quaint.

I'm against outside censorship and believe all media should be readily accessible, even if it's the stuff giant media conglomerates would rather people forget.

Warners already has their Warner Archive site that sells print-on-demand DVDs of old and obscure movies from the Warner Bros. catalog. Why not dump those and any other unreleased Looney Tunes on there where you can make a buck off the cartoon nerds and the squares are none the wiser?

I'm sure the lure of profits can soften even the grip of decades of over-zealous censorship.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

20 Minutes into the Future is here

When I was in high school my favorite shows were often old reruns on the Sci-Fi Channel, (before they all 80's hair metal and started spelling their name wrong) and my favorite of them all was the cyberpunk drama Max Headroom.

It definitely says something about my teen years that my favorite show was one that had been canceled 10 years earlier.

With it's rather prescient take on the future of technology and media in society, it's amazing more hasn't been made of a show so ahead of it's time.

It's also amazing that the creators behind Max Headroom never really did any major after that.

Nothing you can mention in polite company, anyways.

However I never really expected Max Headroom would ever be released on DVD. Fortunately, I was wrong.

As for the show itself, the picture looks as good as mid-80's TV can be expected to look, which is actually pretty good.

Plus the episodes are the full cuts that ran on ABC and later on Bravo and I always went to great lengths to track down tapes of those instead of the cut-down ones that ran on the Sci-Fi Channel and the butchered ones on Tech TV.

The special features are more than thorough; more than 2 hours of interviews with writers and producers and actors. The big disappointment is that they couldn't get an interview with Matt Frewer, which casts rather gray shadow over the whole ordeal. You couldn't get Max Headroom for your Max Headroom DVD?

It's also too bad they couldn't have put the original British movie on this set as well. I doubt it'll get it's own release so I'd have gladly paid a few extra bucks to have tossed it in here.

If you've never seen Max Headroom, give it a rent. The future isn't as distant as you think.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Ebay account OF THE BEAR!

I doubt this is of interest to many people, but if you're a fan of the 80's Filmation show Bravestarr, Christmas just came early:

There are literally over a thousand listings of cels, backgrounds and even entire folders of animation scenes. All ranging from 5-30 bucks!

I got mine:
Big Shot of Thirty-Thirty loking like a Spaz? Where's my wallet!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The lynx has been found

I got a pleasant surprise this morning to see that the Spanish animated feature The Missing Lynx which came out in Europe at the end of 2008 was released on DVD in North America today and is available on Netflix Watch Instantly.

I'm really only mentioning this for people like me who feel compelled to watch every animated film that comes along, (assuming there are such people) because it's such a skippable movie.

The only notable thing about this film is that Antonio Banderas was a producer on it. Literally the first thing you see in this movie is his name. And as far as I can tell he didn't do a voice in it, not even the Spanish version.

I also got word that WB is releasing a complete series set for Batman Beyond almost 3 years after their single season releases. I assume this is for milking out some more money rather than tying in to another property.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Hooray Books!

I have a special Amazon wishlist for books and such that are out of print and really hard to come by. And one that's about to come off that list is Donald Graham's landmark book Composing Pictures. Not because I bought it (not yet at least), but because it's back in print.
Donald Graham was a long-time art instructor at the Disney studio and was a driving force in their swift artistic improvement in the golden age.

It's good to see that out of print isn't forever, at least for good books.

And if any publishers are looking for books to reprint; Mort Drucker's Familiar Faces and that big, 2 volume Charles Dana Gibson collection would be perfect.

And thanks to On Animation for pointing this out for me.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Framing Device

Scoping out the comedy section on Netflix I couldn't help but notice a recurring... motif if you will in the covers:
Shots of an anonymous woman's ass with the characters between her legs.
I know this has been done before, but when you can effortlessly find more than dozen covers like this, attention must be paid.

Poor Photoshop skills are a pre-requisite for this work.

Holding a bra seems to be a sub-motif.

So is Kal Penn looking freaked/grossed out by what he's staring at.

Sometimes these shots are added years after the fact; just so you know that's it's a comedy apparently.

Why she has Swiss flag on her ass is a different matter entirely.

National Lampoon seems to be the biggest offender.

And why should guys be the ones having all the fun?

He really wants that bra.

Plus I have to give credit to Booty Call for trying to reinvent the style somewhat.

So, Adobe, if you're listening and wondering what features to work on for Photoshop CS6, the clear answer is a button that generates an anonymous woman's ass into a picture.

Hollywood thanks you in advance for the time saver.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Chase the Thief

If you're a fan of Richard Williams and aren't familiar with The Thief Archive then finding it now is going to feel like you've slept through Christmas.

On top of containing piles of newly uploaded ads from his commercial house, interviews, specials and whatnot, it also contains a recut version of Williams' bastardized epic The Thief and the Cobbler that's as close as possible to his original vision.

This is what Youtube is for. Check it out.

Friday, July 9, 2010

The Magicians' Sectrets Revealed

I have an on again/off again relationship with drawing. I like drawing even though I'm not that good at it, but I often go months without drawing a single thing, which sort of negates the purpose of learning to do anything.

Right now's a serious on phase and I've easily drawn more this week than in the past two years. I've made progress, but I get very frustrated that I can't put down the lines that are in my head' let alone do what other artists I admire can do.

Luckily ASIFA Hollywood is on the case and cheered me up with a post about the erroneous idea most non-artists have that drawing is like magic. It's not. They even compare it to Penn & Teller and how their revealing of how a magic trick works actually makes it more enjoyable.

I don't think I've thought of it quite like that before, but the idea of drawing as some sort of talent that allows a chosen few to effortlessly depict anything they want leads to two of the biggest problems in artmaking.

The first is the "I can't draw" problem. Put most people in contact with drawing and they'll either adamantly claim that they can't do it or express that they wish they could.

This is such a weird idea since everyone draws as a kid, but most just stop at some point and don't develop it any further. How can something you did when you were 3 be something you're completely incapable of doing as an adult?

I've always thought of playing the violin as magic. Unlike drawing most people don't play the violin as kids so there's a valid excuse for not doing it. And even if you don't know how to play the piano or guitar you can at least noodle out a few notes. Not so with a violin.


The other problem the "magic drawing" idea creates is the general disrespect of commercial artists and the undervaluing of their work.

If you know anything about commercial art (or at least have read Clients from Hell) you're probably familiar with how often artists get screwed on payment. If you think of art as something a certain few blessed people can just conjure up out of thin air it doesn't have much value since you can make as much as you want.

I once heard a story where cartoonist Sergio Aragones was at a convention and got yelled at by a customer when the sketch he paid $75 for only took about a minute to complete. He responded "You're not paying for the time it took me to draw that. You're paying for the 30 years it took me to learn to draw that."


It's better for everyone involved to treat drawing as a skill that can be learned rather than some sort of pencil-based alchemy. Just like with Penn & Teller, knowing the secrets make it even better.

Monday, July 5, 2010

What's Wrong With This Picture?

How many things are wrong with this poster for Dreamworks' third animated feature of 2010, Megamind?
So far I've got:

  • Ugly "Tude" facial expressions that you find only in animation.
  • Selling the celebrity voices rather than the story or the characters.
  • Selling the film as a generic "Superhero Movie" which is replacing the Fairy Tale as the most cliche-ridden, overdone and downright lazy genre of stories in animation or any other storytelling medium.
Anything else?

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Digging yourself a hole you can't climb out of

I've been down on The Last Airbender ever since I first heard of it. It just seemed rather pointless. And while I don't root for movies to fail, I'm not exactly weeping over the reviews I've read.

With an 8% positive on Rotten Tomatoes and horrible word of mouth from the awful afterthought 3D I wouldn't hold my breath for them to make two more of these films. Especially when you look how much money is on the line.

The Last Airbender reportedly cost $280 million to make. Even the other Avatar "only" cost $237 million. What did they spend it on? They obviously didn't have any big money actors (unless the guy from Slumdog Millionaire and the guy from The Daily Show both cost $20 million a piece) so I'm guessing it was spent on massive amount of CGI and location shooting.

I can't fathom spending that much money on a film, no matter how good it is, just for the sheer amount of risk you're taking just to break even.

When you see all those weekend tallies of how much money a movie made, not all of that money goes to the studios. It's usually a 50/50 split with the theaters. The exception is opening weekend where the studios usually take in about 80% of the money, which is why they advertise so much. It's worth more money to get you in the theater those first few days.

Speaking of advertising, with summer blockbusters these days often being marketed a year before they even come out, the astronomical cost of selling these films often doesn't get mentioned, even though it can run upwards of $100 million.

I'd guess that in the case of The Last Airbender the marketing cost along with the budget would push the overall cost of the film up to about $400 million. That means even if they made $100 million this weekend, (which only 16 movies have ever done) they'd need to gross about $750 million overall just to break even. Given I doubt they'll make anything resembling that much this weekend they'll probably need closer to $800 million, which means unless The Last Airbender becomes one of the top 25 highest grossing films of all times it'll likely lose money.

Obviously I'm playing this a little over dramatic. The overseas box office (which these days usually makes up about 2/3 of a film's total gross) will likely be a bit kinder to this film and all the tie-in merchandise, DVD releases, etc... will pull in a lot of money for Nickelodeon/Paramount, but this movie is a prime example of the spending with wild abandon that plagues summer blockbusters.

If for every dollar you spend you have to make two just to break even should you really be tossing money around this freely? At these stakes can you really hope to make a movie that's more than a cookie cutter story loaded with special effects and other gimmicks without the risk of not pulling down the insane amount of money needed to even turn a dollar's worth of profit?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Another addition to your extra-large bookshelf

I swear Disney puts out more books than anyone. There have to be about 8 books out every year about Disney in general on top of ones tied in to recent projects.

Here's a new one for this year. The animation studio is continuing its archive series with a new book focusing on design.

I already got the previous two on story and animation which are great books to look through. The books are big, square behemoths so you can get a good look at drawings which are of the scratchy, rough pencil variety rather than slick cleanup art, which makes them more useful to study and learn from.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Objects in trailer may differ from those delivered.

How do you sell an unconventional movie?

Films come in all shapes and sizes. Ranging from assembly line, mass market pablum to wholly original works that appeal to a group so small they could have carpooled to the theatre together.

But when it comes time to sell them, all films have a trailer that does it's best to appeal to as broad of audience as possible. So how do you take a movie that doesn't fit in the standard genre boxes and sell without the time-honored technique of lying?

For starters here's one of my all time favorite films that most people have never heard of: Cradle Will Rock.

This is a pretty good trailer that sells a really good film. But what it's selling and what you end up getting are very different.

Cradle Will Rock is an odd film by conventional standards. It's an ensemble film with no real lead character and several different plot lines that intermingle and revolve around a central theme.

I think a movie like this takes a little more effort on the the part of the viewer than the average film, which would help explain why one person I showed it to was bored by everything in it except for Jack Black and asked to watch something else after only half an hour.

Even though it's the climax, the film's only partly about the play, and you never get that big crescendo moment like in the trailer. It's much more understated.

One a completely different tone: Here's a film I love even more: Paprika.

This one is sort of the soft sell. Surreal images, catchy music, critical acclaim. Maybe you want to watch and see what it's all about?

This second one takes a much more conventional approach and actually oversells it a little.

It does a great job of telling you the concept of the movie, even better the movie itself. And even though the music in the trailer is nowhere near the type used in the film it still communicates the basic feeling of things.

If I'd have seen a trailer for Paprika before seeing it, that's the one that would've sold me.

Annecy's 50th Anniversary

Anyone who says there aren't any original ideas left obviously hasn't stuck a fox and a chicken in a field inexplicably littered with champagne bottles.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Thinking way too much about e-books

I’ve been lukewarm about the whole e-book concept for a long time. On top of the hassles of a book in file form, there just a certain value in something being tangible.

Now I’m starting to realize that electronic publishing is the solution to the type of problem I assume kept Marshall McLuhan up at nights.

See... He's thinking about it.

It’s my personal belief that all media should be readily accessible. I don’t mean free per se, but capable of being acquired at a reasonable cost.

There’s an untold amount of books, movies and such that are either out of print, making them very difficult if not impossible to get, or were never released in your home country at all, making them even hard to acquire and likely not translated into a language you read.

For example one of my favorite anime franchises is Full Metal Panic. Along with three different TV series there are 2 different manga series and 3 of the original light novels released here in the west.

But at the same time, there are 7 light novels, 10 short story collections and about 20 volumes of manga that have never been released in North America; and unless they make another anime or restart the abandoned live action remake with Zac Efron probably never will.

You were my only hope.

That problem is the sort of thing e-books could fix. Without the financial and physical limitations of printed books publishers could better cater to niche audiences and release tons of previously inaccessible material.

At the same time it’s occurred to me that on top of lightening my shelves, electronic books would also kill off the used book market.

The reason I have so many books and DVDs and the like is because I buy almost everything used.

Re-selling an e-book isn’t allowed and even though $10 for an e-book is much cheaper than a new printed one, it’s still far more than the $4-5 I’ll spend at a used bookstore or Amazon marketplace.

So the difference is between greater access top media and less freedom to use it.

The only questions are where the balance is and whether the trade off is worth it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Place Your Bets

If you think that what Hollywood needs is more suits, this is the plan for you.

Government regulators have approved the creation of a new commodities market that would trade on the projected revenues of movies; even though every one in the movie business has come out against it and part of the financial regulation bill currently working through the Senate would ban it.

Commodities trading has always seemed a little shady to me, but then applying that to a good that doesn't really follow supply and demand definitely sounds like a terrible idea.

The backers of this idea say it'll reduce risk and encourage investment in smaller, independent films, but to me this sounds like the opposite is more likely. where it would lead to more "safe" bland summer blockbuster-type films to help guarantee the projected outcomes. But then again maybe I don't understand it.

I'm sure that even though studios could potentially make a lot of money on such trading, they know that movies are a risky enough venture as it is and would rather keep things the way they are.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Didn't any tell you it's not polite to double dip?

With M. Night Shyamalan's live action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender hitting theatres in July, Nickelodeon/Paramount is doing what any studio would do: fill the shelves with DVDs to tie-in to the release.

I should point out that I don't actually know what's different from the previous release. I knew this set has 7 discs and the other only had 6. it sound like that extra disc has a new documentary.This new set also contains a book full of designs and artwork.

The price is really good. $26.99 for a 20 episode TV series. isn't too bad, especially with all the goodies. The Original Book 1 box set cost $40.

But as much as I loved the show (and am rather dreading the movie) I can't see myself drop over $25 bucks on something I already own.

And for me this would actually be a triple dip. Nickelodeon first released Avatar1 in single disc releases that I had to sell once they were doing box sets.

So if you've never bought any Airbender DVDs, now's the chance to get the best deal on them.

And you want to make five bucks, I'll totally buy that book off of you.

1If there's one thing I begrudge James Cameron's movie for it's that I can't mention the cartoon without saying the full name or saying "Not that Avatar, the other one."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I didn't even know you could nominate.

There's a new nominee for really, really, really bad idea: Ghost in the Shell 2.0

The makers of this anime classic apparently decided to go all George Lucas and "enhance" the visuals with new CGI graphics.

Most of the changes are to secondary things like the helicopters and computer displays. Things you never really pay attention to and don't really matter if they look a little more detailed or not.


They also took a couple of the landmark scenes (including the opening sequence) and redid it all in CG, Kusanagi included. On top of her looking like a Poser model and it being really awkward when they cut back to her in her original drawn form, the redone versions are composed terribly. Iconic shots now look really cheap. Often there's just more artistic freedoms in 2D.

Which do you prefer?

On top of changing graphics that didn't need changing, they also redid all the sound effects, and not for the better. All the guns now sound kind of out of place.

The weirdest part of all is that they've completely changed the prevailing color scheme of the movie from blues and greens to orange. Not only have I no idea why they would got through the effort to do something like that, it really changes the mood of the film from cool and mysterious to just sorta toxic and burned out.

Again, which would you rather look at?

I should point out I've never been a big fan of Ghost in the Shell. I do own it and recognize its influence on anime and on me as an animation fan, but I still think it's cold and confusing.

But despite all that, there's really no point trying to fix something that wasn't broken.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Milking it for all it's worth

I was surprised to look on Amazon today and see Avatar show up for pre-order. For a film that's still in theatres and still making well over $5 Million a week after three months, (over 6.5 this past week in the US alone) I wasn't expecting a release for months. But one is set to hit shelves on April 22nd.

Earth Day, natch.

But it turns out the release coming out next month is just the movie and nothing more. For someone like me who's only real interest is in the special features that's of no use. Well, except for Rifftrax.

The pimped out version I was expecting isn't coming out until November, and even that won't include the 3D version of the film. (Fine by me, but some people are sure to be angry.) That probably won't come out until next year. By then Avatar will likely be re-released in theatres, if it ever leaves in the first place.

And of course they're also planning a 3D re-release of Titanic.

Multiple DVD releases is a pretty common Hollywood trick, (I'm annoyed enough about re-buying a couple favorite films in Blu Ray) but I've never seen anything like this.

Maybe this will encourage someone to take the next step and only sell the first half hour of a movie and make people buy the rest a month later.

A guy can dream.

Friday, February 12, 2010


This is a testament to how much more TV influenced my childhood than movies. If I were to pick to most iconic piece of media from when I was a kid, I'd probably go with the HBO "starship" intro.

If I could make that fanfare my ringtone, I would.

Of course it didn't hurt that they were occasionally still using that intro all the way up to 1999. That's probably why I remember it so much.

Also take a look at the Behind the scenes video which bills their little model city as the most elaborate ever built. I know this this is almost 30 years old now, but it's hard to imagine that as "cutting edge."

Although learning how they did the light effects toward the end is pretty amazing. I could figure how to build all that in After Effects, but couldn't fathom how they did it pre-computer. I never would've thought they used some sort of spinning fiber-optic light rig.Of course I never expected they actually built a big, chrome HBO logo either.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Squeezing out a few more Tunes

With the yearly Looney Tunes Golden Collection releases drying up in 2008, I was wondering if there would be a chance for the cartoons that never made it on to a Golden Collection set to get released on DVD.

The answer is.... kinda.

In April, Warners is putting out two 1-disc releases of 15 cartoons each, one for Bugs Bunny and one for Daffy Duck.

Obviously these aren't the cream of the crop, or else they would've made it on one of the earlier sets. They all appear to be from the 50's to when the studio shut down in the mid 60's. The only cartoon the stands out to me by name is Lumber Jackrabbit because it was made in 3D during the time when WB shut down animation for a year to feel out the 3D fad.

Cartoons like these might seem second rate to most people, and they probably are, but to

The Looney Tunes have the luxury of still having a fair amount of marketable stuff to sell, just not enough for a 4-disc set anymore. There are scads of Walter Lantz cartoons that'll never see the light of disc because they're not Woody Woodpecker.

Hopefully there'll be more little releases like this that can wring out as many classic cartoons as possible.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

I got back from finally watching Avatar about 4 hours ago and I'm finally to the point where my screed against the movie will be fairly succinct rather than a multi-page bilefest.

I'm not going to complain about the "Pocahontas/Dances With Wolves" story, but I'll try to be tot he point since I'm sure everyone has read scores of rants and raves about Avatar by now and I don't want to subject you to any more if you don't to.

One little thing first: I'm also mad I went against my better judgment and watched the film in 3D. To me 3D It always takes an hour of crap swooping out at me before actually don't notice and can really get into the story.

Anyway, the one big thing that pisses me off about Avatar is that I see the potential for a really cool story in there that was cast aside for a poorly done version of the "don't kill the trees/American Imperialism" morality tale I've seen countless times before.

The main plot point of Avatar is this concept of putting someone in another body. Given how people more and more are living their lives through machines and online programs I personally can't think of a better allegory to explore our modern world through storytelling. And here's a movie that takes it one step further by putting people in the bodies of another species that they're in conflict with.

This raised up a lot of questions I would have loved to seen answered in the film. What is it like to be in another body? What is it like to literally see the world through someone else's eyes? What is is like to fall in love with someone who's in many ways not real?

The story points are all there. The big mech suits are essentially avatars. The way when one body is awake the other is basically in a coma. Jake initial motivation for spying on the Navi is so he can walk again, even though he can already walk in his Navi body. It's just that all of that stuff is glossed over in favor of Indian Wars/Vietnam symbolism.

It's like James Cameron found a cool story, but pointed his camera in the wrong direction.

As much as I hate to say it, I do feel like I've got that bullshit post-Avatar depression people have talked about. But not because I'm sad I don't actually live in a world full of technicolor dragons and floating rocks. I'm sad because for better or worse, Avatar was a once-in-a-lifetime moment in filmmaking and it was spent making the wrong movie. And now the movie I wanted to see can't be made.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I did stuff

I just finished a 3 week winter session class in stop motion animation. I never realized how little I knew about stop motion, especially considering how much I know about other forms of animation. Plus I got two pieces of animation done in 3 weeks. One good and one... less so.

First the not so good one:

For some reason, I wasn't smart enough to do the audio until afterward, so I couldn't sync things up the way I wanted. Plus I suck at waves, so the tail looks awful.

Now for the other one:

For my first ever stop motion piece, I'm pretty satisfied. Although I had a lot of problems, I shot it all on a green screen, so I was able fix some of my biggest problems in After Effects. Of course the green screen caused problems of it's own.

I'm a little mad I had to resort of stock sounds for the screams. The ones I recorded just sounded anemic. But thank God for

All in all, it was a decent use of 3 weeks, although I have a ton of paper scraps to clean up.