Archive

Miscellaneous

To put it simply, lately animated reboots and I have a weird relationship.  In fact, I feel that this is actually true for most people who have been paying attention to what Warner Bros., Illumination Entertainment, and Sony have been regurgitating lately.  While many justly gripe and moan about productions such as The SmurfsYogi Bear, and Alvin and the Chipmunks, there have been a few bright spots as well.  For example, while I wouldn’t say they deserve any sort of fanfare, The Lorax and, of course, Space Jam, deserve some credit to their names as they do not completely tarnish the name of their original brand.  Heck, The Lorax kept me locked in and engaged throughout the duration, whereas I don’t anticipate The Smurfs 2 will have the ability to even hold down my lunch.

So this puts us in a very unstable relationship in terms of these reboots featuring the characters of bygone eras once again on the big screen, trying sometimes helplessly, sometimes with mild success, to entertain today’s restless, demanding audiences.  However there is something that all of these reboots lack: a story that has been defined as a classic in books, on television, and in theaters.  The one series that does meet this description is Dr. Seuss’ Christmas classic, How the Grinch Stole Christmas which will be released by Illumination in the coming years, according to variety.com  In the article, published Thursday, February 7th, 2013, the reboot will be helmed by new director Pete Candeland (animator on Balto, “Aladdin: The Animated Series”).  Though much is uncertain (writers have yet to be named, and a release date is yet to be confirmed), it seems that the studio will stay true to the book’s three-act structure, which it had to partially create for The Lorax.  What I find most interesting however is that the film will focus on “underlying tones of the book” and also the extreme attitudes of Cindy Lou Who’s optimism and the Grinch’s pessimism.

These statements give me hope.  From them we know that, if the production is actually carried out focusing on these aspects, we won’t be seeing Chuck Jones’ cartoon remade with modern technology.  And this isn’t to say I dislike the Jones version, rather I find it to be the baseline from of which we can judge the reboot.  While Jim Carrey’s 2000 How the Grinch Stole Christmas provides a few laughs during the holiday season, I see the film as being merely a surface adaption of the original book.  What could potentially happen with Illumination’s reboot is an exploration of relationships.  If Illumination explores Seuss’ symbols rooted in the characters and leaves most of its gags at the door, the studio could ultimately find that they have the ability to create a modern adaption of a classic without embarrassing the originals, those being the Chuck Jones television special and the original storybook.  I for one am excited for this.  You can see glimpses of high-caliber storytelling in The Lorax and Despicable Me, but it just ends up being clouded over too quickly by cheesy jokes or gags.  If they hone in on their story and the relationships they display, we will see an animated film that has the ability to rival Pixar’s productions, causing everybody in the industry to step up their game, which right now is gradually becoming needed.

Connections are important.  They are the supply lines of careers that can often act as a springboard for up-and-coming talent in any profession.  In film especially, connections can provide a strong basis on which you can begin a career.  The best way to form these when you live in the middle of nowhere is through email, and over the years, that is exactly what I’ve been trying to do.  I’ve come across some very valuable advice from a woman who has worked as an animator on The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh.  Just recently, according to iMDb.com, she worked in the visual development of Wreck-it Ralph.  This woman is Sarah Airriess whose blog you can find here.

Following the release of The Princess and the FrogI found Mrs. Airriess’ name listed in the credits as an apprentice animator.  Hoping to find how she had made it to this stage in her life, I emailed her a few questions along the lines of “What advice do you have for a kid who wants to do what you do some day?” I also couldn’t resist asking her what parts she animated.  The response I received was fantastic, and her advice was surprisingly simple.

First of all, she recommended some materials to learn from, specifically a website this website:  The Temple of the Seven Golden Camels .  It is a goldmine in terms of explaining various aspects of storytelling.  The author(s) has posted articles ranging in subject from costumes to character arcs.  Whether you want to better understand movies, or simply add to your writing, this blog will help out invaluably.  In addition to this, Mrs. Airriess recommended the practice of “stop-framing,” as she described it.  Basically, she explained that by playing back animated classics like Snow White or Tarzan frame by frame, a viewer can study character movements and understand better the idea of what animation should look like in the individual drawings.  Through the method of “stop-framing,” you really can get a first-hand look at what animation legends put into their drawings to bring out the life.  I’ve even tried it with Looney Tunes cartoons.  When “stop-framing” a Looney Tunes cartoon however, if it is directed by Chuck Jones, you will find that every few frames contain one of his own key frames, as he would draw out the keys for many of his cartoons, including all three episodes of The Hunting Trilogy.

I also found that Mrs. Airriess animated in The Princess and the Frog many background and crowd shots, as well as a few scenes with Dr. Facilier.  The lesson to be learned from all of this is that a simple email is possibly the most empowering tool for any adolescent looking towards his or her future.  The worst that can happen is your contact may decline or forget to respond due to a heavy work schedule.  All of this valuable advice has come straight from a professional.  It’s safe to say that connections are pretty powerful stuff, and coincidently, they’re in the name of my blog.  (I didn’t mean to do that at all).

Sarah Airriess created this pencil test of Dr. Facilier.  Notice how much energy and flexibility she gave Facilier in this shot, even though the camera angle was in an unfamiliar position.  It’s impressive how visible the energy is in the character, despite the rough form it is presented in the video.  ( http://www.penciltestdepot.com/2011/03/bruce-smith-facilier-patf.html )