Thursday, 25 November 2010

Whack Bat

"There's three grabbers, three taggers, five twig runners, and a player at Whackbat. Center tagger lights a pine cone and chucks it over the basket and the whack-batter tries to hit the cedar stick off the cross rock. Then the twig runners dash back and forth until the pine cone burns out and the umpire calls hotbox. Finally, you count up however many score-downs it adds up to and divide that by nine."

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Seriously Check this Out!!

I posted a couple of links at the end of the Corpse Bride Review and I had a thought that some people might miss them, so I'll put it in a separate post.

Corpse Bride Interview with the Puppet Maker- Concept art to Finished Puppets

This is such an informative interview as to how the puppets are made, how long they take to make them, the problems they face and how they go from artwork to final model. So please take a gander :D

Fantastic Mr Fox

Director: Wes Anderson
Editor: Andrew Weisblum
Distributed by: 20th Century Fox
Release Date: 2009
Running Time: 87 Minutes

Adapted from Roald Dahl's book of the same name, Fantastic Mr Fox is a quirky, funny and brilliant stop animation. The plot is as follows:
It is the story of one Mr. Fox and his wild-ways of hen heckling, turkey taking and cider sipping, nocturnal, instinctive adventures. He has to put his wild days behind him and do what fathers do best: be responsible. He is too rebellious. He is too wild. He is going to try "just one more raid" on the three nastiest, meanest farmers that are Boggis, Bunce and Bean. It is a tale of crossing the line of family responsibilities and midnight adventure and the friendships and awakenings of this country life that is inhabited by Fantastic Mr. Fox and his friends.'1

The film has an all star cast of voice actors including George Clooney as Mr Fox, Meryl Streep as Mrs Fox, Owen Wilson as Coach Skip and Willem Dafoe as Rat. These famous actors really add to the character's personality, for example George Clooney's voice adds the suave charisma that is needed to portray the sly Mr Fox. 'The humour is often dry, even ironic, while the look of the film- all reds and browns and at once convincingly realistic and ultra absurd-is perhaps its greatest strength.'2
Wes Anderson has visually tried to make this stop animation look like it has jumped off of the page. The set design and colour palette is absolutely stunning, each scene looks like you could frame it and hang it up on your wall. It is a beautiful film right down to the carefully composed, symmetrical framing, the almost theatrical depth of field, and the colourful, choreographed movements.

Shot digitally using a Nikon D3, which offers a significantly higher resolution than even that of full High Definition. It was also shot at a frame rate of 12 frames per second, rather than the more fluid 24, so that viewers would notice the medium of stop-motion itself. Making a stop animation is a very pain staking process as Andy Biddle, an animator for the film, says:
'Any animated film is quite painstaking. If you ask an animator how much footage they do in a day, it depends on the production, but for Fantastic Mr Fox, it was about 4 seconds of footage a day. The style that Wes[Anderson] wanted was quite fast and character-based action. It was quite involved.'4

The puppets themselves are gorgeously made, and the individual hairs on each of the animals shows the pain staking amount of work that went into making each puppet. 'The human characters' hair was actual human hair collected from studio employees at MacKinnon & Saunders, the company that manufactured the puppets for the film.'3 And the animal hair was collected from goats, due to how well it dyes, the strength it has and how good it looks when lit.In the end there were 100 people working on making the puppets and eventually about 530 puppets were made. The reason for so many puppets were that they made the puppets to 6 different scale, some for up close and others to interact with the humans.

Nobody can deny that Wes Anderson took on a huge task here, turning a much loved childrens book into a full length stop animation. From the frequent laughter from the cinema, I think it has definitely been a success, appealing to adults and children alike. He hasn't ruined the original and has created something that is beautiful and lovable.

Usual links:
Interview with the animators


Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Corpse Bride

Directed By: Tim Burton and Mike Johnson
Running Time: 74 Minutes
Released: October 2005
Film Editing: Chris Lebenzon
Jonathan Lucas
Music By: Danny Elfman
Distributed by: Warner Bros

Based on a 19th century Russian folktale of a groom who marries a zombie by mistake, the Corpse Bride is a stunning, romantic musical set in the gloomy Victorian era. Two characters Victor Van Dort and Victoria Everglot are Due to be married, to both of their parents advantage. After forgetting his vows in the rehearsal ceremony the priest tells him to go learn his lines otherwise they cannot be wed. Victor goes out into the woods and everything is going perfectly until he puts the wedding ring onto a twig on the ground, which turns out to be the hand of a corpse called Emily and she declares they are now legally married and whisks them off to the underworld. He desperately tries to get back to the land of the living so that he can marry Victoria, but finds out that she is to marry a rich lord to make sure her family doesn't go into the poor house. "The man she is being forced to marry is the devious Lord Barkiss, who is only after Victoria for her money (not knowing that she and her family are now completely broke). When he (and the rest of the dead) finally get to the land of the living a shocking discovery is made which reveals how Emily (the corpse bride) died and who did it, as Victor and Victoria are finally able to be together."

The film was made using stop animation, a technique used to make objects appear as if they are moving by themselves. This is done by photographing the object between small movements which creates the illusion of movement when the images are played in a sequence. Corpse Bride is ground breaking in many different ways. Firstly it is the first feature to use digital SLR photography (31 Canon EOS-1Ds MARK II SLR cameras with Nikon Lenses) instead of film cameras. It is also the first full length feature to use Apple's Final Cut Pro.

The actual models were made from stainless steal armatures covered with a silicone skin. The puppets were 25-28 cm tall and some of the stages were so large that animators could actually fit through the set doors with minimal crouching. The puppets used neither of the industry standards of replaceable heads (like those used on The Nightmare Before Christmas) or replaceable mouths (like those used in Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit), but instead used precision crafted clockwork heads, adjusted by hidden keys. This allowed for unprecedented subtlety, but was apparently even more painstaking than the already labourious animation. And to make sure that the production went faster they created multiple identical puppets, fourteen of Victor and Emily were created and thirteen of Victoria!

The actual shooting part of the production is the most arduous part of the whole process. Editor Johnathan Lucas says;
"Most features shoot in 12 to 14 weeks,” notes Lucas. “With Corpse Bride it’s 52 weeks! We only get two minutes of film a week with stop-motion. One shot can take three weeks."2
The storyboarding is just as labourious as well;
"The storyboards are all JPEG images, and they shoot almost to the frame what’s on the storyboards. At one point, we had five or six storyboard artists working ten hours a day, six days a week. Do they play it in a close shot? A wide shot? It’s fine-tuned for months on end until the director says he’s happy.”

Tim Burton's Own Words on Corpse Bride:

"After doing The Nightmare Before Christmas, I was looking for something else to do in the same medium, because I love the stop-motion medium. A friend of mine gave me a little short story, a couple of paragraphs from an old folk tale. It captured my attention and seemed right for this particular type of animation. It’s such a special medium. It’s like casting––you like to marry the medium with the material. And this seemed like a good match.
I’ve always loved stop-motion animation. What’s nice about it is that it’s so tactile. Our Corpse Bride puppets are beautifully made and our animators are amazing. There’s something wonderful about being able to physically touch and move the characters, and to see their world actually exist. It’s similar to making a live action film; if you’re doing it all on blue screen, it doesn’t give you the feeling of actually being there, which the stop-motion process does.
My love for stop-motion started with Ray Harryhausen. One of the beautiful things about Harryhausen’s work is that no matter what it is that he was doing you always felt there was an artist at work behind it; you always felt someone’s personality. It’s like bringing an inanimate object to life. It’s moving a three-dimensional object frame by frame, and you think, “Wow, there’s something really beautiful and old-fashioned, hand-made and artistic about that.” To me, there’s something very special about that.

You can do beautiful work on a computer and you can do beautiful hand-drawn animation. All of it has its own quality. But there’s just something special to me about the stop-motion medium.

It truly is such a visually gorgeous animation with its gloomy moody dark undertones in the living world contrasting with the bright colourful jazz filled underworld. It is sad that the film is only 77 minutes long as it does not give enough time for character or narrative development. The film does not quite live up to The Nightmare Before Christmas but the film definitely does have it's heart in the right place and is a very touching story about love and death.

To Read more into the technicalities of making Corpse Bride I highly recommend this article, it goes extremely into depth and is well worth the read:

Plus I highly recommend reading this website as it tells you how all the models were made, what the challenges were to making the models and how they went from sketches to model in exquisite detail:



Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Monsters, Inc.

Directed by: Pete Docter
Co- Directed By; Lee Unkrich & David Silverman
Studio: Pixar Animation Studios
Distributed by: Walt Disney Pictured
Release Date: 2nd November 2001
Running Time: 92 minutes

Monsters, Inc is a 2001, American, computer animated film. The story is set in the city of Monstropolis where all manner of monsters live. A utility company called Monsters Inc works to get the energy that the city survives on. The company sets up portal doors to the closets of human children and extracts the energy from their screams.

James P Sullivan, "Sulley", and Michael Wazowski, "Mike", are two hard working employees that work to collect scream. Sulley and Mike are the company's bests scarers, but their record is endangered after a toddler called Boo slips into Monstropolis, which is a big no-no considering that humans are highly toxic to monsters. Boo is a cute, brave little girl who finds life on the other side of the closet more exciting than her real domestic life. She is also endearingly innocent and blissfully unaware to the dangers she faces, and the mess she creates wherever she goes. The characters in this film are funny and loveable, which the audience can relate and attach themselves to.

The voice acting is superb, especially those of Mike and Sulley. Billy Crystal is the voice of Mike and if you didn't recognize his voice from his films, then you might recognize his as the voice of Calcifer from Howl's Moving Castle. Another famous actor is used as the voice of Sulley. John Goodman's voice has been used in many other animated films such as The Bee Movie, Emperors New Groove, The Princess and the Frog, and Cars.

The film is technically more advanced than its predecessor, Toy Story 2, as will be the case with every computer-animated film as the technology moves on. But for the sake of comparison Toy Story 2 used nearly 1.1 million render marks (a measure of computer power) compared to Monster Inc's 2.5 million. A much more intriguing detail was the breakthrough of depicting a characters' fur and hair, which has all the density, lighting, shadowing and above all the movement is consistent with the real thing.

Overall I think that this is a good example of what Pixar can do. Not the best from the studio, but it still delivers what Pixar sets out to do: A visually captivating film whilst appealing to a wide audience.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Tekkonkinkreet trailer

Friday 15th

Hello everyone the film for Friday is going to be:


Hope to see lots of you there!!!

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

The Aristocats- The last touch of Walt Disney

Theatrical Release: December 24th 1970
Running Time: 79 Minutes
Director: Wolfgang Reitherman

The Aristocats may not be in many a top Disney film list, but I believe this film still holds its charm and grace. It may not be the best but it is still easy to fall in love with And being that it was the last film that Walt Disney gave the nod for, it has its key place in history and makes it a must see for anyone who hasn't seen it.

The film is set in 1910 Paris, and is about a mother cat, named Duchess, and her three kittens; Marie, Toulouse and Berlioz. When their loyal butler, Edgar, overhears that Madame Bonfamille wishes to leave everything to her cats he decides to kidanp the cats and take them out into the countryside. Once he gets out there in his motorcycle, he is attacked by two guard dogs and in the ensuing chaos the cats are left by a river. A stray alley cat, Thomas O'Malley, takes the family under his wing and helps them get back to Paris.

Phil Harris did the voice of Thomas O'Malley and if you have watched any other Disney features you may recognise his voice, as he also voiced Baloo in The Jungle Book (1967) and Little John in Robin Hood (1973). Eva Gabors' gorgeous voice is used for Duchess and you may recognise her voice from The Rescuers (1977) as Miss Bianca.

A few critics just see the film as a spin-off to the 1961 101 Dalmations:

'Remember the classic song-filled Disney animated movie about a sweet group of pets who are in peril due to the interference of dastardly schemers? No, I’m not talking about 101 Dalmatians, although it’s far more memorable than that nine-years-later imitator. I’m talking about The AristoCats, a nice enough Disney feature that some consider an under appreciated classic and others view as a movie that’s distinguished only by the inclusion of a handful of cool jazz tunes.'
Brian Webster, The Aristocats, 6th October 2010, [Online]

You must agree that there are similarities between 101 Dalmations and The Aristocats such as in both films there are incompetent kidnappers stealing pets. One aspects that lifts the film away from its doggie counterpart is the music, especially the jazzy number 'Ev'rybody Wants to be a Cat', from the Oscar winning combination of Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, who penned the songs for Mary Poppins. The music is the best part the film, like in most Disney features, and highlights the differences between Duchess' opera world and the street-smarts of Thomas' jazz friends.

Another amazing aspect of the film is how visually beautiful it looks. The film was made in a pre-digital age and the pain staking hours of drawing and painting shows. More than 325,000 drawings were completed for the movie over the course of four years, making for 1,125 scenes in total, using some 900 painted backgrounds. Here are just a few of the backgrounds:

The aspect that this film lacks, that makes it not as good as other Disney features is the absence of a lot of action and sense of place. The film is set in period Paris but with many of the actors sounding like they are from New York or London it is hard for the audience to buy into the french backdrop. And if the place of the film is not believable the action has to be, and alot of the film is cats wandering around. Although you can tell that the artists have studied cats' movements and it does add a certain charm to the film.

Friday, 30 April 2010

AKIRA- Breaking 'Anime' into the Western World...

Akira is one of those must see animations if you are getting into the Japanese anime genre. It still holds it head up high, even today, as a ground breaking animation addressing some of the major concerns of the time.

Katsuhiro Otomo wrote and directed Akira, adapting it from his own epic 2,182 page manga. One of the films' flaws is simply that he tried to condense such a mass of information into 2 hours of
animation. In fact, where the film ends is not where the manga ends, and there is another whole films' worth of story left.

The manga is packed with political scheming, revolution, religious conspiracy, the mystery of the awesome power of Akira and a couple of kids caught up in it all. When you try to pack all of that into a single film you end up with a gigantic tangled mass of information that can be very confusing if you don't pay close attention to it. I guess those who have read the manga will have no trouble deciphering what is going on and those who haven't are thrust into the position of the main characters as they are just as confused as the audience.


The film starts on July 16 1988 with an apparent nuclear bomb destroying Tokyo and starting World War III. Thirty-one years later, in 2019, Tokyo is rebuilt on an artificial island in Tokyo bay and renamed Neo-Tokyo. The government is under a lot of strain from anti-government terrorists, political arguments and gang violence.

The government also has a mysterious program controlled by the colonel, which has experimented on children to unleash their latent mental powers resulting in three prematurely aged mutants, known as the espers.

The film centers around Tetsuo and Kaneda, two members of a bike gang called The Capsules, who are in a gang war against another bike gang called The Clowns. After a bike battle on a highway (one of my personal favourite scenes ever) the gang is involved in a web of military secrets involving a force known as "Akira".




Shotaro Kaneda- Kaneda is the gang leader of The Capsules who boasts a custom modified motorcycle. He and Tetsuo have been best friends since childhood.

Tetsuo Shima- Tetsuo is seen as the black sheep in the group and suffers a major inferiority complex under Kaneda. He looks up to Kaneda but resents the fact that he has to rely on him. After his psychic abilities manifest he becomes Kaneda's nemesis. He seeks to prove himself supremely powerful and that he does not need anyone's help. His powers become to powerful for him to control and the espers then have to awake Akira to stop him. His torment, god complex, and desperate breakdown give an emotional center to events that are otherwise drastically out of human scale.

Akira- Akira was a young boy who developed god like abilities when serving as a test subject for a secret ESP government program in the 1980's. He lost control of his powers and the blast completely annihilated Tokyo. They recovered Akira's body and when their tests came up with nothing they cryogenically froze his remains and stored them underneath the Olympic Stadium so that future generations can study it.

The Espers- Masuru, Takashi and Kiyoko, three children that were also on the same ESP program as Akira. They are not as strong as Akira but to prevent the event of 1988 they gave them drugs to control theirs powers which kept them in a state of perpetual but ageing childhood.


Akira still looks amazing today, and for the time it was out of this world. At the time, and if you still watch budget cartoons today, animation companies cut comers by having limited motion e.g just having a characters lips moving but the rest of the frame still. This film broke the trend with its meticulously detailed scenes, attention to detail and super fluid motion. Also the lip dubbing is exact as they recorded the voice after the animation was made, unlike other companies of the time.

Those of you who have watched this for the first time today, may be a little confused and hopefully some of this have cleared it up for you. For others who have seen this I hope you can agree with me that this film just gets better and better ever time you watch it, and that is what makes the anime a must see film for all anime watchers.

If anyone has any questions about Akira please feel free to comment :)

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Totoro Bus Stop

Just when you thought Totoro was the cutest most cuddliest thing in the world....
This is quite a famous piece of work on, just thought I would share it :D Here's a link to the artist's page;

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


My Neighbour Totoro...I gather by the the frequent bouts of laughter that everyone enjoyed it!! I didn't give a lecture about it this time because it is truly a heart warming film, and I just wanted people to enjoy it for what it is, for a change, instead of me piling on the usual death, war and destruction themes I have given to you in past weeks. To understand this film you do not really have to know the ins and outs of it to just love it, but I am going to explain what it is all about anyways :D

My Neighbor Totoro is the second feature of the studio Ghibli and the second directed by Hayao Miyazaki. In this film Miyazaki gives us a break from previous frantic action packed animations such as Mobile Suit Gundam, Vampire Hunter D and Dragon Ball and gives us a more realistic view of family life with believable bundles of fantasy thrown in. The plot is basically about two sisters, Mei and Satsuki who move into the rural Japanese countryside with their father to be nearer to their mother, who is in hospital suffering from TB. Once the children get there they discover that they are living amongst fantastical creatures such as soot sprites and forest spirits.

The story takes place in the 1950's in Tokorozawa City in the Saitama prefecture. This place used to be a farming community and the residents are trying to stop urban development on this land calling Totoro no Furusato (Totoro's Home) National Trust Movement, using Totoro as it's symbol character. Miyazaki also donated $3 million to Tokorozawa City so they could buy up land that was about to be developed.

The film has a personal touch by Hayao Miyazaki, and many believe that it is an auto-biography. Miyazaki grew up in the same prefecture the film was set in, his mother also had tuberculosis and spent a lot of time away from home.

What is totoro?
Well Totoro is completely of Miyazaki's own design and imagination and is meant to be the spirit of the forest. It seems to some that he is made up of several animals; an owl due to the patterns on his chest, a cat because of his ears and facial expressions and tanuki's ( a Japanese version of raccoons). The other little spirits that you saw in the movie are also Totoro, the little white one is called Chibi- Totoro meaning small totoro. The blue totoro is called Chuu- Totoro meaning medium Totoro and the massive Totoro is called Oh- Totoro meaning...big...well duh

What is catbus?
The Japanese believe that when cats get old enough they have magical shape changing abilities, known as "Bake Neko". Miyazaki imagined that a bake neko saw a bus and was intrigued by it and decided to turn itself into a bus. It is also believed that Miyazaki was inspired by Alice in Wonderland's Cheshire cat, as the cat disappears and reappears in similar fashion and smiles in a similar way as well.

Is there a message?
Miyazaki says in numerous interviews that he saw this film as primarily entertainment with no real message. But however there seems to be several clear messages. The title tells us that humans and the rest of nature are friends. 'Look at this wonderful countryside' Miyazaki seems to be saying:

"I honestly did Totoro from my feelings, not by nostalgia for a time. I hope that children will always want to run in the fields, picking up acorns, playing behind the temples, and to be curious enough to look under the veranda of the house, after seeing my film. That's all I want. "

With My Neighbor Totoro, Hayao Miyazaki knew what he wanted to make a warm film with no conflict or confrontation. It is truly a film about childhood innocence, friendship and the belief that magic is all around us.


So this is now the blog page for the Wednesday night animation club. Here will be a more in depth look at the animations that we watch, simply because there just is not enough time to go properly into a lot of detail in the 2 hour slot that we get.
I hope that lots of you will continue to refer back to this page after you have watched the animation to gain further insight and understanding.