Short Stories: Bunny

With Easter on the way and bunnies and rabbits on the brain, for this weeks short I would like to re-introduce a short film that is child appropriate and has depth at the same time.

Bunny, Blue Sky Studios, Ice Age DVD extra, Oscar winner 1998, death
Bunny, a computer animated short created by Blue Sky Studios (makers of Ice Age) happens to be very poetic for the studio’s first acknowledgement to the film industry that won them an Academy Award in 1998. The story of Bunny, is about and elderly rabbit trying to have a quiet evening in while making carrot cake. Her evening is interrupted by a noisy, clumsy moth who fancies the overhead kitchen light. In an almost Tex Avery like way, Bunny and the moth duke it out for a while until the moth reached a dark fate. The moth falls into the cake batter, Bunny churns it up and bakes it. Once all is quiet again, Bunny falls asleep in a chair and is startled awake when the oven opens and starts to emit a strange white light. When she sticks her head in the oven she is greeted by the moth who beckons her to come to the light where in the end we watch her spout wings and fly to the light.

Bunny, Blue Sky Studios, Ice Age DVD extra, Oscar winner 1998, death

Bothered by the clumsy moth flying around the overhead light

The textures of the animation are a bit course when it comes to the main character, but I think it was to give depth of a rabbit that like a life of hardship. The setting was very dark in giving a feeling of loneliness and to help the viewer focus on the character and what was happening. The music is subtle through out, and has a “blissful” feeling toward the end. But I did find the ending vocal song during the credits too jarring for the peaceful ending.

Bunny, Blue Sky Studios, Ice Age DVD extra, Oscar winner 1998, death, the dying experience

Most of the story takes place in a small, dark kitchen.

My over thinking self saw a fair amount of metaphors both good and bad. Bad first; as a short film about death as an egg timer to foreshadow something happening in the oven. I could help but see that the rabbit committed suicide by putting her head in the oven, justified by seeing the light at the end (hearing that elderly suicides are sometimes chosen over living alone) but chances are more likely that Bunny passed away in the chair when she starts to slump after putting the cake in the oven. Although I saw the moth as a symbolic metaphor for the rabbit’s late husband with is somewhat hinted at in the last few frames. Bunny’s anger is probably the most mysterious. I imagine the anger is connected to the death of her husband, or a feeling of betrayal for dying first. Whatever it may have stemmed from, when she releases that anger she was set free.

Bunny, Blue Sky Studios, Ice Age DVD extra, Oscar winner 1998, death, the dying experience

Light from the oven.

When this film first came out in 1998, I remember it made some waves for touching the topic of death. When researching the name of this film, I found another blog that suggested showing Bunny to your children/class/ elderly to address the question of the experience of death and the after-life. Despite the age of this film and the graphic being a bit dated, I would highly recommend it for a viewer of any age today. I have great respect for this film to cover such a difficult topic without showing a commonly depicted afterlife/ heaven.

Bunny, Blue Sky Studios, Ice Age DVD extra, Oscar winner 1998, death, the dying experience

Floating in a starry space in the oven.

If you haven’t seen the film yet, click here to watch on Dailymotion!

Outside the Frame: #NyanCatCity

I thought I would try another catergory with animation related events (exhibits, parties, sights, etc) which happen in the Real world.

Outside The Hole Gallery in NYC

Outside The Hole Gallery, NYC

#NyanCatCity was an art event/pop-up shop in New York City that occurred for one weekend in December. I found out about this event when passing by the gallery space The Hole, three days before opening night. There was a painting hung on a wall near the entrance of the gallery that caught my eye; it was a large canvas with an image of Nicodemis’ hands from the animated film The Secret of NIMH . I originally thought the show would showcase long forgotten animated films that live on and gain popularity on the Internet. Although the #NyanCatCity was not an homage art show, it did prove to be a multimedia filled night.

Pop Up Shop with Creator Chris Torres! (Purple sweater on the left)

Pop Up Shop with Creator Chris Torres! (Purple sweater on the left)

Pop Up Shop

Full Pop Up Shop

So unless you are completely disassociated with what trends on the internet I am pretty sure Nyan Cat might be in some memory banks of hitting major popularity in early 2012. If you have never seen, heard or need to be refreshed on Nyan Cat just click this link. Though if idly watching doesn’t suit you, I was introduced to Nyan Cat by a Flash game called Nyanicorn which is based on another Flash game that was a sensation called Robot Unicorn Attack. So there is a quick intro to internet Flash animated games (additional Flash animations will be discussed in future posts)!

So from some talk at the event and some printing hand outs, #NyanCatCity was an event to celebrate Nyan Cat and what it has brought to the ever maluable internet. The creator was there as well as a few companies there to show their gratitude (the event was hosted by Vice media) and who with be conducting panels and Q&A’s in the days to follow. For this opening night they had some art(stagnant and interactive to my surprise), a DJ(a bad one), and a small bar. I head to bar first (not just for the alcohol) but the colorful presentation of it. It was a vodka bar where the visitor can pick one of any 6 colored drinks on the table. It was well presented for representing Nyan Cat and the vodka itself had a bit of a kick to it (I think debuting as the first vodka with  menthol which was refreshing at times and then terrible with some flavor combinations reminiscent of cough medicine). Besides the Nicodemis painting, the other art on canvas where dark but they seemed to play when certain colors of light shown on them.

Cocktails come in all colors

Cocktails come in all colors

 

The Secret of NIMH, The Hole Gallery, #NyanCatCity

Painting of Melting Nicodemos on Canvas. Artist unknown.

The interactive artists where set up toward the front of the gallery and with a projected game set up (nothing like the one I linked above) which had high quality visuals and seemed chaotic and downright difficult. The other trick they had up their sleeves was the main Sphero device that was used for the projected game also can me controlled on a mobile device to the ball can be remotely controlled while you would see Nyan Cat in 3D walking around in place of the lighted orb. For me personally the hype of Nyan Cat had left me long before finding out about this event, but seeing Nyan Cat simulated was pretty fun and exciting.

 

Sphereo, nyan cat game, #NyanCatCity

Sphereo interactive game

 

Sphereo, #NyanCatCity

Holding Nyan Cat thanks to interactive technology

 

After heading around town I returned to the After Party at Santos Party House with a much smaller crowd in attendance with some light dancing(the house DJ was great, but the gallery DJ came to take over afterword well you know…) and a small animated music video playing on a small screen. With that night’s overall events being pretty quiet, I was able to see a few fun things and I did not leave empty-handed.

 

Santos Party House, NYC, #NyanCatCity

After Party at Santos Party House, NYC.

 

Short Stories: The Reward

With a current drought of new media to quench the thirst for something new, a bit of refreshment happens to fall into my lap. Thanks to Vimeo’s staff pick of 2013 the animated short by Denmark’s The Animation Workshop, The Reward presents great art in a small package.

The Reward, io9, The Animation Workshop

The start of a long journey

Two strangers come together and set on a quest where the final reward is not the common treasure most would think but finding the value one sees in themselves.

The Reward, io9, The Animation Workshop

The first cavern

The Reward, io9, The Animation Workshop

A bit of graphic violence and mild nudity

The Reward, io9, The Animation Workshop

Tree Beasts

I am starting to see a trend outside the Japanese animation circle(herald by the makers of Catsoup or the makers of Tekkoninkin or the animator of Dream Machine as part of the 2010 Genius party collection of short films) where simply outlined and colored characters are becoming a frequent style picked up but European short films(such as the mini episodes in French animation series Wakfu, the History of Nox and The Legend of Orgrest). It’s a minimal style but seems to animate action scenes well. The Reward in contrast has beautifully rendered backgrounds that as far from minimal, making a great backdrop for many places the viewer visits in about 9 minutes!

The Reward, io9, The Animation Workshop

An amazing shot

The Reward, io9, The Animation Workshop

…with great panning

The Reward, io9, The Animation Workshop

My favorite shot, with great color and a hint of loneliness

Of course, since this is a BFA piece, I do have a few critiques. The first minute or so in the village the animation was rough and proves to be an eyesore after multiple viewings. The background renderings, cinematography, scene transitions, character design, voices (or lack of) all spot on here. There is a bit of response coming from viewers on io9 blog that are saying there is sexism present though the film. Which is true, at least I feel. I would almost wish to defend this by saying “But we have a female villain that seems confidant enough”, but the whole hero complex does objectify women. It would have been nice if the women at the end of the video take the map for themselves. It is what it is and all I can do is give this piece a slap on the wrist, for it doesn’t go on for very long and in the end doesn’t take away from the viewer enjoying the story.

The Reward, io9, The Animation Workshop

Conquering the female bandit

The Reward, io9, The Animation Workshop

Riding off into the sunset 2.0

Watch The Reward on Vimeo now! And see what you think.

The Reward, io9, The Animation Workshop

To the Future!

UPDATE: Thanks to some research, io9 has some news that the creators are hoping to continue with The Reward as an animated series! I myself may pledge to get my hands on some original sketches (or cells *crossing fingers*). Here is the io9 link for more info.

Rock and Rule: aka Drats! The Movie that Could

After much delay looking at multiple retro animated series and a possible investigation of a “minor” event that happened 20+ years ago, has plagued my mind and caused a delay. I have to remember above all the questions I take on I have to keep in mind that I am reviewing movies after all. If my curiosity is still not satisfied I could always pick up an investigation/expose later on. I will go into further detail about my thoughts at the end of this post.

"I got your uppers and downers, inners and outers, screamers and shoutas, and things that make you go sideways"

“I got your uppers and downers, inners and outers, screamers and shoutas, and things that make you go sideways”

After my first two posts, I was speaking to my sister about what movie I should review next. She tells me I should inquire on a film called Rock and Rule, a film that had the hopes of the late 80’s comic book community then flopped in box offices. My sister never saw the film before, but heard about it from her co-workers and when she saw a clip of it on the internet she said it looked “really smooth”. I do love when I find films I haven’t seen before and especially when it has a cult following. Thanks to some research and the internet I have gotten hold of two versions of the film Rock and Rule.

vlcsnap-2012-12-13-00h12m10s213

The story of Rock and Rule is presented to us shortly after the title card. It is about a post-apocalyptic world where hybrid human rat/dog people live not so differently from the present world. An entertainment superstar named Mok is searching for the perfect voice to help him raise a demon. But the story goes back and forth from Omar lead singer of the unnamed band of Ohmtown and Angel, Omar’s piano player who also can sing and is the voice Magic Man Mok is looking for. After Mok sees their show and the two not-so-secret lovers make up shortly on their artistic differences, the band mates are invited to Mok’s house to talk business. Mok instead drugs everyone and separates the band taking Angel to Nuke York (which sounds like everyone is saying it as “Nuke Gyawk”) to play a sold out concert to raise a demon. Omar and the other band mates Dizzy the drummer and Stretch the annoying bass player make it to Nuke York only to be brainwashed and sent back to Ohmtown. After Mok and Angel play Nuke York and fail to raise the demon its back to Ohmtown for the power plant should supply enough energy for the task at hand. To not give the ending away, it is the power of “One voice” that saves the world and rainbows flood the sky.

vlcsnap-2012-12-13-09h59m50s45

The story took a long time to develop and the ending seemed to fall short of it feeling like the world was ending with the rise of the demon, along with a really cheesy last scene as the credits rolled. There were many different characters to keep track of and sadly I think only two had any depth and more disappointingly it was not any of the main characters. Cindy(aka Cinderella) who was the secret sister to Mok’s henchmen brothers was really enjoyable to watch in her naivety and the way she was animated. And unlike her brothers (Toad, Sleazy and Zip) she was the only one who owned her skates, where her brothers moved as if the skates were a plague on their feet. Zip, the dumber of the henchmen brothers tried to redeem himself at the end of the movie questioning Mok if what they were doing was evil. Very disappointed that the main characters were dry and out of the five characters Mok was the only one I slightly sympathized with which was probably not the intention of the writers.

Cindy aka Cinderella

Cindy aka Cinderella

The quality of the animation was okay, with moments of weird stress and not so quick actions. My major issue with the way it was animated was that we usually never see a whole character. Most of the time you can see the characters as legless torsos, so the most action poses you will find are in sitting positions or the club scene early in the film as well as Club 666 after the midway mark. I believe this affects the interest of the movie because we start to feel like Nothing is happening; characters are just talking with a good amount of gestures. It almost felt like all the unnecessary events where the characters were still or just talk heads where animated and quarrels where avoided. For example, toward the end of the film Mok and Angel get into a mild dispute where we see Mok go as far as choking Angel. As Mock moves off-screen, we can hear him going into a fit of rage and then the screen goes black. We can still hear him. Not like it is a transition to another scene. I timed about 20 seconds, until the flashlight of one of the henchmen looks for Mok in a storage closet. At first I thought it might have been censored, but in both films the same black screen happens! If we would have seen Mock break down, or react we the viewers can make a clearer line of “Mok is the bad guy. He went completely crazy!” Sadly I could only dream of seeing that side of him.

Mok being discovered in the closet. This was a by chance capture of a short moment of Mok's breakdown

Mok being discovered in the closet. This was a by chance capture of a short moment of Mok’s breakdown

A great concept to animate was the event in Club 666 and right after they leave to club to the foggy streets. Club 666 was animated to be an “antigravity” club, which was a lot of fun. Seeing different people dancing in a spiral, flirting and pushing drugs seemed to really capture a packed night club. Angel and Cindy seemed to be part of a different world compared to Omar, Dizzy and Stretch who seemed like they were looking around the club for chicks while the girls(more Cindy then Angel) who just wanted to dance. When they move out the club, everyone is out in the foggy streets calling out to each other while moving from different plains of views. It’s not a new technique but it has a nice touch and pulls the viewer’s attention.

An officer that yells "Get off the street"

An officer that yells “Get off the street”

Another concept I really enjoyed was the setting of Nuke York (aka Nuke Gyawk). The dark and almost damp setting had the iconic Statue of Liberty and Radio City Music Hall had original looking transformations reflecting overpopulation and the great divide of the rich and the poor. The NYPD cargo freight made me laugh, for it does not seem terribly farfetched for current New York.

NYPD Cargo bus or patrol vehicle

NYPD Cargo bus or patrol vehicle

When you first see Rock and Rule, I am certain the movie Heavy Metal 2000 comes to mind. But this film is like a light-hearted Heavy Metal. Originally targeting as a kid friendly rock opera it proves to be little of both. It’s very hard to make a movie about or inspired by rock and roll to not mention sex and drugs. Although a good amount of sexual situations happened in the Club 666 scene, lust and romance was pretty well avoided. Drugs on the other hand, went from abstracted balls of light called Edison Balls to Mok clearly snorting cocaine as part of a “wake-n-bake” routine. The opera part of the movie was very easy to look over, with no real songs sticking with you. From what I have found, it is true that Earth, Wind and Fire did make a song for the movie titled “Dance, Dance, Dance”, not a masterpiece but one to the better songs. “My Name is Mok” by Lou Reed also was pretty memorable with some amazing lip animation, repetition and graphics but terribly animated back-up dancers.

Stoned face on 'Edison Balls'

Stoned face on ‘Edison Balls’

Snorting what looks to be cocaine through a witch's ring. Kinda Classy

Snorting what looks to be cocaine through a witch’s ring. Kinda Classy

So when watching this movie from start to finish, I noticed to company name Nelvana. During my time growing up in the 90’s, the Nelvana Logo was iconic because I remember it in many Saturday morning cartoons and some children’s shows. And from what the film wikipedia page says, this film was Nelvana’s first full length feature and entirely produced in Canada. Which is pretty impressive. This also led me to question why I had two almost similar versions of the film; it seemed that based on voice actor quarrels there was a remastered American version which had terrible voice acting from Paul Le Mat as Omar, then a Canadian version that had Greg Salata as Omar with addition scenes and a slightly different ending. The Canadian copy is in rough quality, because supposedly the original film was destroyed in a fire. Hearing about the fire, I searched the internet for several days looking for any reports of a studio fire and I found no records. I would hope in the future to uncover some more facts about this film, for the backstory is way more interesting than watching it.

Short Stories (Every Tuesday): Paperman

So I forgot to mention before the title card came up for Wreck-it Ralph and in true Pixar spirit, I had the delight to view Pixar’s latest short called Paperman. Before I go into Paperman, Pixar Studios got their start with highly recognized shorts such as Geri’s Game, Luxo Jr. and Knick Knack. I am certain Pixar has just as much stress on the team to make a good movie and an even better short.

A good summary direct from the words of the director John Kahrs, “how fates would conspire to bring them back together“. Paperman is about a man and a woman who cross paths on a train platform and how the lost connection is repaired.

I can easily say that out of all the animated shorts that has come out of Pixar (including La Luna), Paperman is the best made and my new favorite. The style alone is what caught my eye; a combination of hand drawing and 3D rendering has given depth and really brought something different. Compared to the high polished look of the main feature that followed it, I can only hope Pixar will learn from Paperman and explore this technique to make a unique look for their future projects.

I know I find something great when I become curious to see production. I must admit I do have a obsession with storyboards and character design sketches. Not only is the final product beautiful, but the sketches and roughs as well.

See what I did there.

Soon I will be talking about when Disney copies their own films. But I thought the main character of Paperman(I think his name was Greg) look similar to another famous face.

Sketches of “Greg” (2012)

Roger (1961)

Some food for thought, here are some videos were the director talks about the drawings. It has some nice rough cell animation from Peter Pan(1953).

Wreck-it Ralph: P.S. I love you Gamers

It seems every time a movie comes out of the studios of Pixar, the masses flock out to see. Despite that I and my friend who writes  Scarina’s Scary Vault of Scariness do agree that the animated eyes of all 3D rendered characters seem soulless, I must admit Pixar movies are very entertaining and really create a great cinematic experience by drawing the viewers into the fantastic worlds that are created.

The story of Wreck-it Ralph is about a “villain” named Ralph, bad guy/wrecker of a retro arcade game who becomes tired of the perks of being a villain; which include but is not limited to loneliness, in acceptance and overall disregard. Ralph makes the assumption that all heroes win medals, following the model set by the good guy/fixer named Felix, the “main character” of same game they share titled ‘Fix-it-Felix’.  And so Ralph sets off in hopes of winning a medal to then return to his own game to be recognized as “not a bad guy”.  Without leaving a run-away note, Ralph sneaks himself (or accidentally crashes) into new and challenging game worlds similar to the current gaming trends of hyper-realistic graphics and highly stylized characters. During the film Ralph meets a tough cookie/dynamite gal named Sargent Calhoun,  a nasty adaptable bug plague and a playful glitch named Vanellope whose role is both comic relief and the monkey on Ralph’s back. In the end Ralph learns that his seemingly annoying ability to wreck things prove to be helpful and that medals are not won, but earned.

A few side stories are put in mid-way through the film that mostly involve the hero of ‘Fix-it-Flex’, the other plots include (without giving too much away)the reaction to the games mixing and the story of Vanellope. The resolution and how these side stories tie together seem too quickly resolved, but beside the lack of heart-to-heart Felix and Ralph share, I am pretty content with how all loose ends were tided.

In terms of design, the overall animation was pretty fluid through out. The animated movement of the support characters of ‘Fix-it-Felix’ were limited which I thought was a nice touch, reflecting the limited and jagged 8bit or 16bit pixel sprite animations. However, in terms of character design, it was difficult to stylistically separate the retro game characters (like Ralph, Felix or Q*bert) from the current (Sargent Calhoun and pretty much any character that came out of ‘Sugar Rush’). Which I am sure was a conscious and mandatory style choice, since the opening scene of the Villains Support Group had a cleaned up version of M.Bison and Zangief from the popular Street Fighter game series.

Can you tell the difference?

“They cleaned me up so I would look better when I crush skulls with my thighs”

The game worlds we saw which were ‘Fix-it-Felix’, ‘Hero’s Duty’, and ‘Sugar Rush’, all seemed a bit small. The retro games I can understand to be maybe a couple of pixels(figuratively), but the newer modeled game worlds could have seemed more vast. ‘Sugar Rush’ tried to do the most justice, but if I was to tell someone after they watched the film to then draw the race track that runs through ‘Sugar Rush’ it would be a very difficult task. In terms of settings, the Game Central Station where all the video game characters commute is the most pleasing concept. Essentially Game Central Station is a surge protector where all the game cabinets of the arcade are connected. Yet within the wires and outlets the viewers find they not only supply power, but that the characters of these video games travel when the arcade is closed in the evening. Beside the viewer being able to see famous video game characters is a sort of pristine yet common setting, when we get small glimpse inside the boarding area to enter a certain game, the viewer can see graffiti hinting references to current games (“AerithLives” being the most popular scrawl).

Bound for Game Central Station

I saw Wreck-it Ralph shortly after its debuting weekend as well as after gaining #1 box office movie in America. This makes me happy. It was a sight for sore eyes to see video games such as Q*bert, Tapper, Dig-Dug even Sonic which was like seeing old friends  (Sonic would totally be the once popular guy who still tries to charm people but now it just seems forced and creepy), but I believe Pixar is speaking directly to gamers while showing the world a good film. Although anyone born after 1996 may not get most of the well placed references, there is enough comedy and action to appease a viewer who is unfamiliar and encourage curiosity.

Tapper was a game sponsored by Budweiser

“Sorry man, only root beer today”

P.S.S: Beside the main focus of video games, there was also a great emphasis on candy and sweets. When I found out the mascot of Beard Papa made an appearance I snorted in delight (embrassing…).

First Entry

Hello internet.

It has been on my mind for sometime along with getting over personal doubts and hopefully I could bring something new to the table. Based on the subject of animation (from more of an admiring stance versus professional) I am sure I won’t be attracting the attention nor fandom as some sites. Yet I do hope to express how crazily obsessed I am about animation and if I find a few followers I would totally be cool with that. 

Since the topic of animation is pretty general, I will be trying a couple of different topics/sub-category to cover a few days(or weeks). Of course my main focus will be reviewing full length animated features, but I would like to dedicate some time to retro series, shorts and the almost unavoidable anime series. It will be a trail coming up soon, but I will make sure to cover each sub-category. I am a little ambitious but i should be able to manage.ImageWave Gertie!