Two Guys Named Joe by John Canemaker

Two Guys Named Joe: Master Animation Storytellers Joe Grant & Joe Ranft is a book that sat on my shelf unopened for almost four years, and I can’t figure out why. John Canemaker, animation historian extraordinaire has written a wonderful book about two Joes (Ranft and Grant) that influenced the Disney Studios and Pixar very heavily. I’ve covered books by Canemaker before, including Before the Animation Begins and The Art & Flair of Mary Blair. His book on Walt Disney’s Nine Old Men is a must have for fans of Disney animation.

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Press Release: Vinylmation Pixar Villains Series 5 Descend on Disney Store!

I’ve never been a big collector of the Disney Vinylmation characters, but there are quite a few that I’ve not been able to resist (usually ones related to my favorite theme park attractions). Disney has just released Villains Series 5 that contains eight villains from Disney Pixar films, including a mystery figure.

Each blind-boxed package contains one of eight different designs in this series. You won’t know which one you’ve got until you open the box!

Figures in this series include: Syndrome – The Incredibles (Artist: Enrique Pita), Mordu – Brave (Enrique Pita), Thumper – A Bug’s Life (Marvin Lao), Charles Muntz – Up (Gerald Mendez), Darla – Finding Nemo (Gerald Mendez), Waternoose – Monsters, Inc. (Marvin Lao), Dean Hardscrabble -Monsters University – with neck extension (Enrique Pita), plus Mystery Figure.

Do you collect the Vinylmation figures? Which one is your favorite of the Disney Villains Series 5?

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Pixar Easter Egg Hunt!

Disney released the following video to tease us with their new Disney Movie Anywhere service. It’s a cute clip that offers quite a few Easter Eggs from Pixar films. As Lee Unkrich mentions, there are even nods to films before they’re released.

The clip below is from the Pixar Easter Egg Hunt found exclusively in the Discover section on Disney Movies Anywhere. Disney Movies Anywhere is Disney’s all-new, cloud-based digital movie service.

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La Luna by Enrico Casarosa, a Book Review

La Luna by Enrico Casarosa, a Book Review

  • La Luna by Enrico Casarosa. 2012

As part of their internal training program, Pixar lets their upcoming writers and directors create an animated short that is shown in front of the feature. It’s close to a proving ground, but the Pixar Brain Trust is still heavily involved.

The short that is being packaged with Brave is called La Luna and has been released as a picture book.

In La Luna, we meet a young boy who, for the first time, is going with his father and grandfather on their night job. The father and grandfather argue about the best way to do the job and…well, no spoilers, right?

The book was written by Enrico Casarosa, who was also the director of the short film. Enrico was a storyboard artist for UP, Ratatouille and Ice Age before being given the opportunity to direct this short film. The illustrations match the short perfectly and the language is well-suited for the subject and the audience.

It is a very cute storybook and it looks like Pixar has created another charming and beautiful short. This is also a wonderful bedtime story. I hope that Pixar would allow other artists to create books based on their shorts and animated films. I’ve always respected that Pixar grows their talent by allowing them to try their hand at smaller, yet very important, projects.

Have you read La Luna?



Art of Pixar, a Book Review

Art of Pixar by Amid Amidi, a Book Review

The Art of Pixar is a new book by celebrated animation journalists  Amid Amidi Is this one worth adding to your library? Read on to find out.

All you need to know is that this is a gorgeous book. Like other Art of… books published by Chronicle, this book showcases some beautiful and historic artwork.

Amid Amidi is a well known animation journalist, historian and author. He is the co-founder of Cartoon Brew and has written several books covering animation. This is not his first Art Of… book (The Art of PixarThe Art of Robots and Cartoon Modern) from Chronicle and I hope it won’t be his last.

In an inspired spurt of a week or so, [Ralph Eggleston] painted the colorscript, a roadmap for the way the color (and thus emotion) would be applied throughout the film.

The idea of a color script might be a new concept to you (it was to me). It is a defining work or a canon on a film that shows the progression, changes and mood of the color as it relates to the stories and the characters. From what I understand, it goes hand-in-hand with the storyboard and might be created before the storyboard has begun. A few studios used the color script before Pixar, but not for every single film and short. Ralph Eggleston created the first color script for Toy Story and it captivated John Lasseter and Steve Jobs. It became a standard tool after that.
Beyond presenting every color script that Pixar has created (at least the ones that were saved), the Art of Pixar shows how the artistry has evolved. It was very surprising to see how close the color script stayed to the final film as well as how different films changed over the course of production. Amid included the color scripts for the short films so you get a look at how the process differs for the shorts. With a company like Pixar, you would assume that all of color scripts would be computer-based art. Surprisingly,they were done with different media, including pastels.
The second half of the book is dedicated to “Select Art from 25 Years of Pixar Animation.” There are over 100 pages of artwork sharing the creative process of the 12 feature films. This is closer to what we are used to with a typical Art of… book. The artwork shines and is an impressive look at how the films develop. Amid discusses that the artwork we see is part of the Pixar Living Archive that was created during the development of A Bug’s Life. Pixar was shipping its art to the Animation Research Library when Pixar decided to keep its own artwork and create a “morgue” for their artists to use.
With most art-related titles, it is sometimes easier and more effective to let the images speak for themselves. Many of these images would be welcome in any art gallery.
The Art of Pixar is a welcome adition to the body of literature on Pixar. The color scripts offer fantastic insight into the development of the modern animated film. It is a part of the animation process that has not garnered a lot of attention previously. This is a gorgeous book that will leave you speechless at times when you realize how dazzling the artwork is and that more attention needs to be given to the art of animated films.

What do you think about The Art of Pixar book? Is this one you’ll add to your collection?

Disney’s Cars 2 Blu-ray Review

Cars 2 debuts on Blu-ray just in time for the holiday season. Does it fare better on the home theater front than it did in its theatrical release?

Cars 2 (Two-Disc Blu-ray / DVD Combo in Blu-ray Packaging)

Cars 2 was the critics’ whipping boy during its initial theatrical release. We saw it in the theater and enjoyed it, but the film couldn’t hold a candle to Thor and Captain America for our family. Cars 2 has a lot of action and is a stunningly gorgeous film, but it seemed as formulaic as any fish-out-of-water story that we had seen before.
When we received our review copy, everyone was excited to watch it. The film was beautiful in the theaters, but seeing it in hi-definition with the blu-ray edition was even more dazzling. By far, the most enchanting parts of the film were the night races in Tokyo.
With a second film in a franchise, the filmmakers are able to let the characters stretch and put them in different situations. Mater really steps up and is the central character, yet it is just gag after gag about his lack of intelligence. The first Cars film was about Lightning McQueen discovering himself. Cars 2 is about McQueen discovering that he is alright with who Mater is.

My major gripe was the violence perpetrated on a few of the characters. We are introduced to a world where cars, boats and planes are living with human characteristics. One character is crushed by a compactor and another one is tortured. It was fairly off-putting to me, but my kids didn’t seem to notice. I guess that is what they call desensitization.

Cars 2 is an action film, though and through. Boys are going to love it; spies, chases, explosions and humor round out most of the film. Although, I hear that the Good Ole Boy Network is contacting a lawyer about a defamation suit, or something. Apparently, Mater is not the best image of a Southern person.
It is still puzzling that Disney doesn’t seem to offer a standard package with Blu-ray releases. The only extras included are the two short films and the director’s commentary. With an initial release, there is probably no need to add anything extra, since the film should sell itself. I hope we have some good documentaries for the 45th Platinum, Smell-O-Vision version. “Hawaiian Vacation” was just as charming as it was in the theaters. The Pixar short film is still a fantastic medium. “Air Mater” was a typical Cars Toon short that follows a day in the life of Mater and the incredible adventure he falls into. As expected, it was a direct tie into the upcoming direct-to-video Planes film. There is some self-deprecating humor at the end of the short, though. My eight year-old has watch “Air Mater” countless times. Not sure what that means…After viewing the movie on blu-ray, it is definitely one that I am glad to own and that will get repeated viewings in our household. It is obvious that Pixar is able to create gorgeous worlds and they are still the masters of digital animation. It is a compelling story; I just appreciate Pixar more when they are producing more original content and not working on sequels.


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Book Review: The Art of Cars 2

The Art of Cars 2 by Ben Queen and Karen Paik. 160 pp. 2011.

Chronicle Books has released another stunning, behind-the-scenes look at the latest Disney/Pixar film with the Art of Cars 2 (see my reviews of the Art of Toy Story 3 and the Art of Up). This review was written before the release of the film and contains no spoilers outside of the images featured in this post.

One of my first reactions to the art presented is that the film is going to be absolutely gorgeous. The book follows the format of the other titles in the “Art of Series…” with lush graphics, concept artwork, storyboards and anecdotes from the film’s creators. Granted, I have a better idea of the storyline after reading it, so you might want to wait until after you see the film before purchasing this book. Detailed and stunning backgrounds will give you pause–I can’t wait to see how they are integrated into the film.

This book goes beyond the basics and takes you deeper into the minds of the artists making the films. More than just character drawings, you learn a little bit more about their backstory and how the cars developed their own significance in in the film. It does look like Mater is going to be a major comic-relief character, but that would be expected. Anywhere Mater goes, it is a hick-out-of-water story. One section of the book details the characters, plots and locations that just didn’t make the final cut of the film. Calais Port and several locations in Germany (including Oktoberfest) were dropped or reconfigured to take place in other areas of the world. The section offers a look at how a modern animated film is composed and how ideas are often recycled.

The idea of the Cars franchise never really excited me. I enjoy the Pixar films (The Incredibles is the best one, by far) but I don’t find myself wanting to view them as much as the older, classic Disney films. I enjoyed Cars in the theater but I found myself more distracted by the fact that this was a world inhabited by cars and built by cars. I paid attention to the way that buildings were set up and tried to figure out how they were built and how the cars inhabited them. When I first heard about Cars 2, I couldn’t build up any internal momentum to see the film. As information was released and I learned about the spy aspect, I became more interested. From the book, it looks like they model the world on various automobiles. With the addition of planes, boats and other vehicles, it makes me wonder if we will see Cars 3: The Civil Unrest! Where the planes, trains, boats and cranes revolt against their evil, car overlords!

I am hoping to get more of an Incredibles experience from this film, as opposed to a Cars experience. And from the looks of the Art of Cars 2, I might just get my wish!



Blu-ray Review: The Incredibles

The 2004 release of The Incredibles is my favorite Pixar-animated film.I say this without a moment of hesitation, even after seeing Pixar’s more recent releases Wall-E and Ratatouille. The superhero mythos tied to the 60s-era ideal of the family unit is spellbinding and always draws me in, whether the kids pop in the DVD or it is being shown on the ABC Family channel. This is one of the first non-Studio Ghibli releases that I was truly excited to see on Blu-ray.

It is time to stand up and recite the Imaginerding Blu-ray mantra: Blu-ray and animation are a perfect match. My sentiment over Disney’s recent spate of Blu-ray releases is that you need to own the high-definition version and this film is no different. The visuals and sound are stunning and unmatched outside of the theatrical viewing experience. And yes, the film score is pretty spectacular, as well. It always reminded me of some of those wonderful 60s-era spy movies.

As Jeff Pepper at 2719 Hyperion notes, the extras are quite surprising compared to the recent release of Tangled. For The Incredibles, Disney has included a second Blu-ray to hold the majority of the bonus features.

Let’s take a look at the BONUS FEATURES: 

Blu-ray: Includes The Following All-New Bonus Features Plus All The Classic DVD Features:

  • The Incredibles Revisited – A roundtable discussion with Writer/Director Brad Bird, Producer John Walker, Story Supervisor Mark Andrews, Supervising Technical Director Rick Sayre, Production Designer Lou Romano, Character Designer Teddy Newton, and Supervising Animator Tony Fucile.
  • Paths To Pixar: Story Artists – Continuing the popular bonus feature series that viewers have seen on many other Disney•Pixar releases, this exciting new feature showcases multiple Pixar story artists giving viewers exciting insight into their work, their inspiration and the personal paths that eventually led them to a career at Pixar.
  • Studio Stories: Gary’s Birthday – Trying to make a movie when there are not enough work days and too many birthday parties? This feature showcases how The Incredibles crew solved that problem.
  • Ending With A Bang: Making The End Credits – Interview with Director of Photography Andy Jimenez and Character Designer Teddy Newton about the process of creating the end credits for the film.
  • “The New Nomanisan” Island Redevelopment Plan – A guided tour of Nomanisan Island, post-Syndrome, pitching the island as a vacation resort paradise. 
  • Classic DVD Features
  • The original short film Jack-Jack Attack
  • Pixar’s Academy Award®-nominated short film Boundin’ (2003 Best Animated Short)

So, do yourself a favor and pick up this fantastic Incredible family film that is full of action, comedy and a great musical score.

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Book Review: The Art of Up by Tim Hauser

The Art of Up by Tim Hauser. 2009, 160 pages.

Chronicle books is well-known for beautiful and lavish books concerning the art behind many of today’s modern animated films.
The Art of Up is no exception.
Author Tim Hauser is a graduate of the CalArts Character Animation Program and has been a writer, creative executive and producer. He also wrote The Art of Wall-E. The Pixar blog has a great interview with Tim about the experience of writing the book.
When I saw Up in 3D, I left the theater a little perplexed. I knew it was a great film, but, personally, I felt like the high points were the talking dogs; it was beautiful, engrossing and the comedy was top-notch. To me, though, I was missing a connection. After ruminating on the movie for a few days, I took The Art of Up from the shelves to review it. As I read the book, I saw the intent of the filmmakers to tell the story of a man’s journey–not just through him, but through everyone and everything in his life.
As expected, the book is a visual delight. Each page is filled with glorious images from the pre-production of the film. Storyboards, concept art, sketches and digital paintings help to define the look and feel of the story. Hauser was able to capture the filmmakers’ journey in bringing the project to fruition. One of the surprises for me lay in the area of character development. The artists coined the term simplexity to describe the process of designing the characters:

…the art of simplifying an image down to its essence. But the complexity you layer on top of it–in texture, design, or detail–is masked by how simple the form is. ‘Simplexity’ is about selective detail.” (Ricky Nierva, p. 18)

Most of the major characters follow a fairly simple shape format (Carl is a square, Ellie is a circle) which helps convey the internal makeup of the character. The insights proffered lead the reader into a deeper understanding of the growth of the film, from a concept vehicle into a major motion picture.

In terms of the design of the world, the filmmakers took great care in developing Carl’s house. Not only did it symbolize everything tying Carl to his life (and Eleanor) but it was a character in the film, as well. The house was created in miniature, modeled in computer space and decorated according to Carl and Eleanor. The filmmakers realized that they needed to create the interiors with simplexity in mind. Especially with so many shots of the inside during flight and fight sequences.
As beautiful as the artwork is, the text written by Tim shares equal weight. He was able to interview almost everyone associated with the production process about the important challenges that were needed to be overcome. Tim brings us along during the trip to South America to see the vistas that inspired the production. Another world opens before our eyes and we read the thoughts and feelings of the artists as they travel through Carl’s world. Peppered liberally throughout the text are quotes pertaining to the subject–some are from the filmmakers and some are from famous names in history.
Any Pixar or modern animation fan will love this title. If you are a fan of Up, then you need to add this book to your collection–it is an essential and seminal work. I applaud Tim and Chronicle books for creating such a lavish work. Up fans will treasure this book for many years to come. The hardcover (under the jacket) has “My Adventure Journal” pressed into it, just like the movie. My youngest son has now claimed the book and loves looking at the pictures. Together.