Planetoid was my animated short created for my final in my first animation class.
The Secret Of Kells is an Irish traditional animated feature film. The story is about a young boy named Brendan who lives with his monk uncle in the walled city of Kells. His uncle is very controlling and wants to protect Brendan and the city from the outside world. One day another monk comes to the city with a book that needs completed. He inspires Brendan to adventure beyond the walls of the city and to help complete the book. The story continues with very adventurous and emotional moving moments.
The first thing many people will notice about the film is the visuals. They stand out compared to all other animated feature films. The story is based around the Irish Book Of Kells. The beautiful ornate illustrations from the real book itself was the main inspiration for the film’s art direction. Every single shot looked likes like a completely different hand drawn Illustration that moves. Everything is very flat and geometric but there is still a very strong organic element to each image. Just because the style might look basic, the animation is still fluid and not choppy.
As a traditional animator myself, I found the film’s visual style extremely enjoyable. I am a fan of the video game series The Legend Of Zelda, which The Secret Of Kells had a very smiler style and story to the series. But many fantasy adventure stories have smiler plots and style. I am such a big fan of Zelda that the similarities actually made me enjoy the film more, instead of a negative factor.
I am happy the film was nominated for the Academy Award For Bet Animated Feature. Even though it did not end up winning, the nomination alone will make more people watch this film that could have easily gone over looked. I still wish The Secret Of Kells had actually won because its story and style were just as good as the rest of the collection. The film is appropriate for all ages, but adults might understand it a little more. So I highly recommend this film to everyone.
The best way to describe the film is to simply show you more images.
The Princess And The Frog is the return of traditional animation by Disney. The film is Disney’s own take of the fairy tail, The Frog Princess, but with a new twist. The story is about a young African American girl named Tiana. All she has ever worked for in her life was to make enough money for her own restaurant. She wishes upon a star for her dream to come true. The interesting thing is, the fairy tale of The Frog Prince actually exists in the films world and the characters are aware of it. So after making her wish upon a star, she sees a frog and sarcastically questions if she needs to kiss him to turn him into a prince. Since it is a talking frog, she finally grudgingly agrees to kiss him. Since this is a twist on the original tale, instead of the frog becoming a prince, Tiana herself becomes another frog. The story continues from there in the classic Disney animation style of the two going on an adventure while meeting new friends along the away.
I think Disney did a very good job at creating the characters of the film. They are not the stereotypical fairy tale or classic Disney characters that we are use too. This is the first Disney Princess film in a very long time to feature the Princess with a mother. Out of the eight former Disney Princesses, there has only been a single Princess with both a mother and a father. The past five Disney Princesses only had a father and no one ever mentioned a mother. In this film, Tiana actually starts with both parents until her father passes away. After his passing, Tina’s motivation is living up to her fathers dream. Which is a very strong motivation for any character. The princess himself, is actually very poor. Trying to get rich again is his motivation. This seems very shallow and negative at first, but this allows room for his character to grow and change is ways and become a more dynamic character. I even teared up during a very sad moment during one of the final scenes of the film. I was completely surprised and still unable to think of another one of Disney’s animated films to have same emotional rich plot point in the film.
Not only is The Princess And The Frog a return to traditional animation, but also the classical idea of it being a musical. I had almost forgot completely about the idea of singing in an animated film. It was very rare for any animated film over the past decade for a character to brake out in song and dance. This film featured many songs, maybe too many. I am not a fan of this musical style of animated films any more. It might of been fun when I was a kid, but I enjoy a more traditional way of telling a story now. Instead of a character braking the flow of a story by singing their feelings and motivations. The only saving grace was that it just reminded me of all my favorite classic Disney films and their song and dance numbers of my child hood. I actually enjoyed the very first song, because the character’s did not stop what they were doing to sing and dance to it, instead the music was just background music during montage like sequence. I hope Disney loses the complete musical style format, and instead make it more subtle background music.
A very important note is that, spoiler alert, Tiana does becomes a princess. This means she is the first African American Disney Princess. There had been so many Western European Princesses, a Middle Eastern princess, a Native American Princess, an Asian Princess, and even some kind type of Fish Princess. So after already having the majority of races, and even a fictional one, it was finally time for Disney to have African American Princess.
Since The Princess And The Frog is brand new, of course it is missing the nostalgia factor of all the classic Disney animated film. But I can easily see how a young generation and generations to come will classify this film in the same nostalgia category that my generation and I do for Aladdin and The Lion King.
Fantastic Mr. Fox is one of my favorite films of the year. It is based on the book by the same name by Roald Dahl. The story is about Mr. Fox, voice by George Clooney, who is forced to quite his risky job as being a thief at the request of his wife, voiced by Merly Streep. Years later Mr. Fox has a more boring job of writing a news paper column and now have a son, voiced by Jason Schawrtzman. His family moves to a brand new house and with three neighboring farms. This inspires Mr. Fox to start up thieving again. He slowly gets more people involved in his plan and starts putting his family and friends in danger when the three farmers try to take revenge. Including one friend, voiced by Bill Murray.
The film has a unique charm to it. I always found myself smiling while watching it. There is many funny and quirky parts, including a punch line at the end of almost every scene. A constant joke was how human-like the animals acted, but randomly and suddenly they would turn back into the animals they are and act out their animal instinct. It had a lot of adult themes and ideas that would go over children head. Nothing is inappropriate, so I would have to say that this film is made for adults, but can easily be watched by children.
Fantastic Mr. Fox’s visuals and animation where very original. The director Wes Anderson helped make this film stand out from all other animated films. Animator Henry Selick actually worked on part of the film before he moved on to work on his own project, Coraline. Since Wes Anderson is not an animator, but a live action director, he treated the film as if it was just another live action film, resulting in the film’s unique style. Wes Anderson is already a stylized director but this new thought towards animation makes it stand out from other animated films and even his own filmography. He uses lots of close up on the stop motion characters, which means that you can see all the hair on the character’s body swirl around because of people touching it during the animation process. Which is very uncommon in stop motion animated films. Another idea Wes Anderson brought to the production was to not record in a sound stage like nearly every animated film, and even live action films method of rerecording dialog. Instead he would record the voices and performance of the actors outside and actually have the actors digging into the ground if the animated characters were doing just the same. This added a warmness to the voices. All these new perspective of how to make animation did not detracts from the film, but actually added to its charm.
I enjoyed Fantastic Mr. Fox so much that I feel it could have been included in the top 10 Best Picture nominees. Maybe that is just me wishing for more animated films being nominated for Best Picture. Even though, I am very happy that it did get nominated for Best Animated Feature.
Coraline is one of the most beautifully animated films ever made. It truly shows that stop motion animation is not dead, and that it should not be overlooked. Coraline is based on the novel by the same name by Neil Gaiman. It is about a little girl named Coraline, voiced by Dakota Fanning. Coraline and her parents, voiced by John Hodgmen and Teri Hatcher, move to a new house. Coraline finds this new place boring, even though she meets crazy neighbors. She soon finds a small door in her house that leads her into an alternate version of her house. Everything is more magical, wonderful and fun there. There are versions of her parents and neighbors, who she finds more fun and interesting. Even though this new place seems fun on the out side, Coraline is smart and quickly realizes that this world is much darker and twisted than it may appear.
Half way through the film is when it gets a little stranger. It gets very video game like at two different points. First the the second darker would actually brakes apart and reforms again, as if she was inside of a computer, Matrix or Tron style. Right after this she is instructed that she needs to collect three different objects. Which feels very much like any modern platform adventure game. The story progressively gets darker and scarier. Coraline is rated PG and is made to be a children film. But the story gets so dark and twisted that it is easily one of the scariest PG films I have ever seen.
I was lucky enough to watch the film in Stereoscopic 3D. This added an extra element of depth and amazement to the already rich visuals of Coraline. The best part about the film is that there is always something new and interesting to look at. With the two different worlds, the scenery always switches up before it gets stale. The stop motion animation was so fluid and believable, in this area of computer generated images, I was constantly questioning if it had just been created in the computers. I know better to question it because I know that it is fact all classic stop motion. One very interesting aspect of Coraline’s production was they did use the help of computers, but not how Pixar uses those tools. The entire film of Coraline was created by stop motion animation puppets in camera. The interesting thing was how they actually created the puppets. With the help of 3D programs, they created character and objects on the computer. Once completed, they actually used a 3D printer to print out the finished parts. Then they would have the characters and object in the real world to animate in camera, the classical stop motion way.
Coraline was directed by Henry Selick. The true man behind the animation of The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach, not Tim Burton. This was Henry Selick’s first full stop motion animation feature film without Tim Burton, and in my opinion, hit a home run. I am looking forward to Heny Selick’s next project.
Up is a fully computer animated feature film created by Pixar and Disney. It is an adventure film, and like all Pixar films, it is meant for the entire family. The story is about an old man named Carl Fredricksen, voiced by Ed Asner, trying to achieve his dream of one day going to South America. He attaches thousands of balloons to his house to make it fly. Mistakenly, a little boyscout named Russell tagged along. As the two adventure on, they meet new friends and enemies, that will help them and hinder them on their journey.
Up is a very emotional film. At the very beginning of the film it shows a montage of Carl Fredricksen and his wife’s life. There are two extremely sad moments in the montage that that will leave a grown man crying, myself included. Even multiple viewings still make me tear up a little. Then through out the rest of the film, Carl comes up agents struggles that are hindering him from achieving his dream. These moments are also very emotionally overbearing. Little Russell talks very briefly about his personal life, and it is very sad. The friends that Carl and Russell meet up with also have problems of being hunted and outcasted by others.
If I had to fault Up for anything, it would be the evil old man villain story line. I felt that was much weaker than the rest of the films plot. It was kind of weird to have an evil old man villain, contrasting with a emotional journey to achieve someones dreams. I understand that they needed a major conflict in the film, but I think they could have come up with something better. Maybe Pixar should have extended the journey itself and made it a bigger conflict than it already was.
Like all Pixar films, the art direction and animation was outstanding. They created a very interesting world that was familiar but different. The character designs are stylized enough that they will never look out of date. These things make this film an instant classic. It is sadly not my favorite film created by Pixar, but it is many unique qualities that separate it from the rest of the collection. I would have to place Up on the top half of my list of favorites out of the 10 best picture nominees. I am happy this film is nominated for best picture because it is very rare for animated features to be nominated. Up is only the second ever to be nominated, Beauty and the Beast being the first.
I am TJ McKimmey and this is my blog. I graduated from Columbia College with a bachelor’s degree in film & video with a focus in traditional animation. I am constantly playing video games, watching films and TV shows. So I will be posting my opinion on the ones that stand out. I plan to find time to read more books and comics and post my opinion on those too. And of course I will post about random events from my life.
In the meantime watch my animation reel.