Sunday, February 28, 2016

"Anomalisa" and Why "Adult" Stop Motion is Killing the Art Form

With the Oscars® so close (tonight if you are reading this on the day which it's coming out) and all the hype surrounding the award ceremony, I think there's no better time to consider one of this year's nominees in the Animated Feature Films category, which is also the second Stop Motion film nominated: Anomalisa.

Anomalisa is a film directed by Charlie Kaufman (Being John Malkovich, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind), based off a 2005 play he wrote. Now in this post I want to take a different angle that's not coming from a story standpoint, or quality. I have yet to see the film for myself so I cannot argue for or against it on those standpoints. (Although it should be said that even from what we see from the trailers and the featurettes that the production value on Anomalisa is stunning and incredible.) But what I would like to consider in this thought experiment is what this film means to the Stop Motion industry and why this and other R-rated Stop Motion films might just be killing other Stop Motion projects in the future. And yes, if you are unfamiliar with the more recent history, there have been other R-rated Stop Motion films who have well achieved their rating. The 2009 film $9.99 directed by  Tatia Rosenthal and featuring the voice of Geoffrey Rush. Consider as well the upcoming Hell & Back, a raunchy R-rated Stop Motion film directed and made by the minds behind Adult Swim's Robot Chicken.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Aardman/Nick Park's Newest Flick "Early Man" Gets a 2018 Release Date

Nick Park and Aardman have teamed up for their next film, a Stop Motion animation comedy employing multi platform techniques: Early Man. Written by Mark Burton and John O'Farrell with Nick Park directing, Early Man will be set in the early prehistoric world based off an original idea featuring a cast of brand new characters and setting.

The film is set for 2018 release dates and will be distributed in five territories by partners StudioCanal (also co-finanacing) and the BFI (the British Film Institute): UK, France, Germany, Australia, and New Zealand. Currently there is no release date or a distributor announced for a US release. The 2015 Shaun the Sheep Movie had Lionsgate distributing in the US and was an overall box office failure, opening to a disappointing $800K in the USA.

The release dates for film's releases in the aforementioned territories:

UK: January 26th 2018
France: January 31st 2018
Germany: March 29th 2018
Australia/NZ: March 29th 2018

The synopsis for Early Man from Aardman's blog announcement reads:

Set at the dawn of time, when dinosaurs and prehistoric creatures roamed the earth, ‘Early Man’ tells the story of how one plucky caveman sets off to unite his tribe against a mighty enemy and saves the day…

It sounds very promising, and with Nick Park (Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run) attached to direct it looks like the project could turn out to be something very funny and very interesting indeed. The concept of going to cave man times is not as well-tread territory in contemporary animation (excepting Blue Sky's CG Ice Age franchise), and there's a lot of potential for exploring both visual and conceptual elements we have not yet seen in the Stop Motion/Claymation arena before. Although the concept of using circa that time period in Stop Motion goes back to the very first filmmaking attempts of legends like Willis O'Brian and Ray Harryhausen. This is Nick Park's first flick since he directed the Academy Award winning Wallace & Gromit: Curse of the Ware-Rabbit.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

2016 Oscar® Animated Features Nominations & Return of SMG! Subscribe by Email for the New Monthly Posts!

Hello fans of Stop Motion and readers of the blog!

Firstly, I suppose the inaugural subject I should cover in this post is simply an explanation and then apology, which I most assuredly owe to you, reader. By chance I glanced at the time stamp of the last post that went up on the blog and it just so happens it dates exactly a year ago to this day. If you are reading this when this goes up, that means it was a year ago that you were last updated (at least by this blog) to the latest Stop Motion news, reviews, and behinds the scenes featurettes. For that let me apologize. Lately I've been slaving away at a few personal projects. It is yet too early for an announcement of any kind so on the details of those let me stay, at least for the time being, silent.

There has been quite a bit of movement in the Stop Motion world that I sadly was not here to inform you about. Most prominently: the Shaun the Sheep Movie was released into theaters and although it did incredibly poor in the B.O. it was widely reviewed extremely well by audiences and critics alike, two Stop Motion feature films were nominated for the 2016 Oscars® (Shaun and Anomalisa), and there have been talks that Henry Selick has teamed up with comedy duo Key and Peele to make a Stop Motion feature.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Stop Motion Ocsar Nominees "BoxTrolls" and "Bigger Picture"

In the Best Animated Feature category, The Academy nominated: Big Hero 6, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The BoxTrolls, Song of the Sea, and The Tale of Princess Kaguya.

Nominated in the Best Short Animated Film category: The Bigger Picture by Daisy Jacobs and Christopher Hees, The Dam Keeper by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi, Feast by Patrick Osborne and Kristina Reed, Me and My Moulton by Torill Kove, and A Sing Life by Joris Oprins.

Boxtroll's directors Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi said this:

“One word — HONORED! We are honored and humbled to accept this nomination in recognition of our amazingly talented cast and crew — the artists, actors, craftspeople, and freaks who brought The Boxtrolls to life. We are eternally grateful to them and to our fearless leaders, producers Travis Knight and David Bleiman Ichioka, for making it all possible. Thank you so much, Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, for including us in this great list of nominees! We would be thrilled to sit in the dark and clap for any one of them.”

Laika CEO Travis Knight reacted in these words:

“What an odd and lovely way to greet the day. I’m overjoyed that the Academy has honored us with this nomination. Cobbled together over well-nigh a decade, The Boxtrolls was a labor of unwavering love crafted one frame at a time by a superb community of actors, artists, mad geniuses, steely-eyed pragmatists, and starry-eyed dreamers. I’m so pleased with the recognition of their artistry. It shows that original stories are valued, along with the weird people who make them.”

However excited I may be that BoxTrolls was nominated, I almost cannot hope it will win against Big Hero 6.  This is not to put down The BoxTrolls, by any means, for it is the most well-crafted film I have ever experienced.  However, the story isn't nearly as emotional or well-told as Big Hero 6.  I have seen them both and of the two, Hero tells it's story much better than BoxTrolls.  And here's how they did it: by focusing on the main character and his inner problems, by establishing the emotional 'heart' of the flick and staying true to it throughout the film, and by giving a satisfying ending to the whole film.   Now -- ParaNorman (which was nominated but did not get an Oscar in 2012 for whatever reason), did these things brilliantly.  It is one of the few films I will point out and say: "Yes, they got that one right."  I will spare you the rant about why it didn't receive an Oscar, but in the end, it's just a tiny man statue on a platter.  Pixar is a master at doing these things (the reasons why Hero 6 will get the Oscar) right.  But they're motto stands tall: 'Story is King'.  I cannot spend enough time here.  If you're going to spend 5+ YEARS making a Stop Motion movie, just get the story right!!  Edit and refine your story.  Then, gut it.  Write it again.  Edit.  THEN start on production design and the little details.  You will win the Oscar almost every time and be hailed as a brilliant studio for doing this.  Pixar isn't full of brilliant people with fully rounded ideas.  They are just the same as you and me.  The only difference is that, when they get those ideas, they refine and pound them out until they are something special.  I'm looking at you, Laika.

I encourage you, rematch ParaNorman and Big Hero 6 and begin to notice what they have done that's right.  These are the films that will be remembered.  There's a reason that almost every Disney film from the late '90s and '2000s (besides Pixar films) are complete trash and should will stay that way.

The Bigger Picture

Laika's BoxTrolls

Sunday, January 11, 2015

"Shaun the Sheep" Christmas Short - 'We Wish Ewe a Merry Christmas'

Merry January 11th!!  Okay, I admit, it's almost a month after Christmas and for the first time, I'm blogging about the new (or relatively new Shaun the Sheep Christmas episode (YESSSSS!!).  But you can't get too much of Christmas, now can you?  Yes, you can.  But you can't get too much Shaun the Sheep goodness!! During the Christmas season, Aardman, the award-winning beloved creators of Wallace & Gromit, Chicken Run (in partnership with DreamWorks Animation), and Shaun the Sheep released a new Shaun-short via his YouTube channel.  Watch it below!


Friday, January 9, 2015

68th BAFTA Film Awards Nominations in: 'BoxTrolls', 'Lego', 'Hero 6' Lead

Three animated films stand in the BAFTA Film Awards Animated Film category and they are: Laika/Focus Features The BoxTrolls, Disney's Big Hero 6, and Warner Bros. The Lego Movie.  Also, in the best British Short Animation category stand (Stop Motion) The Bigger Picture, Monkey Love Experiments, and My Dad.

THE BIGGER PICTURE Chris Hees, Daisy Jacobs, Jennifer Majka
MONKEY LOVE EXPERIMENTS Ainslie Henderson, Cam Fraser, Will Anderson
MY DAD Marcus Armitage

Big Hero 6 Don Hall, Chris Williams
The Boxtrolls Anthony Stacchi, Graham Annable
The Lego Movie Phil Lord, Christopher Miller

The winners will be announced on February 8th at the Royal Opera House in London.  The awards ceremony will be hosted by Stephen Fry.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Laika Will Auction off Puppets, Props, and Models

Laika, the Golden Globe, Annie, and Academy Award-nominated and winners of Stop Motion masterpieces such as Coraline, ParaNorman, and most recently, The BoxTrolls.  The Oregon-based will open its archives for the first time for a limited auction of more than 250 puppets, models, props, and art in The Art of Laika.

A portion of the profits will be donated to The Art of Elysium, a nonprofit arts organization that works to make art a catalyst for social change and to bring creative inspiration to children, artists, and various population in need.  The Heritage Auction site reports:

"LAIKA's films aim to promote thought, feeling, and connectivity through art, inspired by our shared humanity," says Travis Knight, President & CEO of the studio and an Annie-Award-winning animator and producer. "We're deeply gratified that the spirit of our work has resonated so strongly with audiences around the world. LAIKA's artists and craftspeople are consummate creators, and each piece of this collection is a testament to their talents and imagination. These are beautiful, unique, and handcrafted works of art of the highest order. We're so pleased to open up our vaults for animation fans around the world and to support The Art of Elysium, whose mission is so close to our hearts."

Some of the items in the auction include, but are not limited to:

From Coraline
  • Coraline production puppet in her iconic blue-starred sweater
  • The Cat production puppet
  • Other Mother production puppet in her elaborately realized black dress
From ParaNorman
  • Norman production puppet in his baseball shirt outfit
  • Zombie Judge production puppet with fully articled mouth and face
  • Intricate large-scale production props such as Mitch's Van and "Zombie Attack"
  • vending machine
  • Annie Award-winning character design originals
From The BoxTrolls
  • Eggs and BoxTrolls production puppets complete with their "Box" outfits
  • Snatcher production puppet in his exquisite hand and laser-etched velvet jacket
  • Snatcher's Mecha-Drill, at over five feet tall, the largest prop ever created for a Stop Motion film
Selected highlights from The Art of Laika will be on display in Dallas, January 27-29, at Heritage Auctions (3500 Maple Avenue, Dallas, TX, 75219); February 3-5th at Heritage Auctions Park Avenue (445 Park Avenue at 57th Street); and February 9-12, Heritage Auctions Beverly Hills (9478 West Olympic Avenue).

For more info and pictures of the items being auctioned go to the Heritage Auction webpage.

"LAIKA is known for its artistry and revolutionary stop-motion animation techniques," says Jim Lentz, Heritage Auctions' Director of Animation Art. "The studio's legions of die-hard fans regularly ask LAIKA for the opportunity to own some of the masterfully engineered puppets, props and other artwork used to make these beloved films. So the studio is finally offering a specially curated collection of items from its production archives. This is the chance that those fans, and animation and film collectors of all stripes, have been waiting for."

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Short Flicks: "AMWAY" Making of

Beautifully hand-crafted and delicately made, this is a great commercial made on a tiny, tiny, frame-to-frame scale.  Also beautiful is the 2-minute 'making of' featurette.  Which I would consider the (or close to) best Stop Motion 'making of' for a commercial.  In the briskly paced film (link below) we are taken from idea to final product but what we mostly see is the design process (including animation, set building, lighting, and everything important to us geeks!); also, we get to see the great little details most looks behind the scenes leave out (I give huge credit the Comma Studio, the powerhouse behind this flick).

This film is like a display case of great Stop Motion and the possibilities it opens up to a filmmaker on a micro-scale.  Go watch the final product and you can find out more info about Comma Studios go here.


Monday, January 5, 2015

CGI/ Stop Motion "The Little Prince" Trailer is Here

Mark Osborne's (Kung Fu Panda) has released the first trailer for his next movie The Little Prince.  The trailer is spectacular.  The film is a mix of 2D hand drawn, paper cut-out Stop Motion, puppet
Stop Motion, and CGI.  Which is pretty risky in this day and age.  Now, anything with 2D or Stop Motion is an immediate red-flag; needless to say, this film (the Stop Motion side of it) will be beautiful.  Although in the trailer we see a CGI little girl imagine a hand drawn plane, which turns into a paper cut-out plane, and then morphs into a Stop Motion puppet that becomes The Little Prince.  CGI, in my opinion, was not the way to go with this project -- or so I thought.  Now that I see the fusion process in realtime my view has shifted a little.  Although my rule still stands, if you don't have a huge budget for CGI then don't do it!  The Little Prince trailer, though, did still pull it off; yes, it could be tweaked, but I have confidence in Osborne and his ability to pull of CG.
....But the Stop Motion!!!  It's just beautiful!  One of my favorite things to watch is his flowing scarf, the animation on it is just fantastic!

I read The Little Prince, a French children's novella little over a year ago.  The Little Prince was first published in 1943 and was the most famous work of the French poet and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  My review on it was 4.3 out of 10.0 (approximately).  The story was interesting.  A fantasy of a man in WWI who's plane has crashed and he is trying to fix it, when, a young boy comes and comforts the man.  The boy then tells the man his fantastic story of space exploration -- a metaphor for the times.  I recommend it if you find that sort of story (or just out of curiosity) but warn you, it stands a period piece and so you really have to understand the subject matter otherwise your view of it could be twisted.

There are shots animated by Evan DeRushie, Dale Hayward, Sylvie Trouve, Philip Tardif, Payton Curtis, and Anthony Scott.  Scott was the animation supervisor for the Stop Motion bits.  The film will not be out for a year and so we still have some time to wait unit we get the project in more detail.

The Little Prince Trailer

Sunday, January 4, 2015

"Wallace & Gromit: Holidays at Home" Making of

It feels like such a long time since we've visited our favorite plasticine duo Wallace and Gromit.  Like a good friend we can count on them to be here for us.  I was surfing around for a little while today when I rediscovered the Wallace & Gromit: Holidays at Home making of and watched it rather excitedly to rediscover them again.  I assure you, they are a comfort to us in this rushed and constantly improving CGI and busy world.  The great thing about plasticine and Stop Motion in general is that you can't loose the homemade and real feeling of it.  It always stays the same: there's an animator, in a room with a set and a few puppets and he's animating.  That's it.  Nothing more to it!   So snuggle up with your tea and crackers and enjoy this making of...


The final product:

"The BoxTrolls" Time Lapse

Weather or not you have or haven't seen Laika's The BoxTrolls yet, (although if you haven't I highly suggest giving it a watch) the end credit 'extra short flick' is one of the best I've seen.  Also, it won't spoil anything in the flick for you.  The piece is pretty short so I won't say anything more other than we see two puppets begin talking and then we see animation wizard Travis Knight begin to move the puppets every other frame and...


Go watch it in slow motion if you're so incline (and a Stopmo geek like me):

Thursday, December 25, 2014

LAIKA Announces Next Feature...and It's a Mystical Samurai Movie!!!!

Laika, the studio behind The BoxTrolls, ParaNorman, and Coraline has announced it's first film of three in it's new distribution deal with Focus Features (fourth in their partnership) entitled Kubo and the Two Strings.

Kubo, is an epic fantasy written by Chris Butler (ParaNorman) and Marc Haimes.  It will be directed by Laika President and CEO Travis Knight.  Knight is, without a doubt, one of the best Stop Motion animators relevant today.  It would be unfair for me to deem him the best Stop Motion animator ever only because there are many other great animators, too.  For instance, one of my favorite memories of his animation is the zombie graveyard scene in ParaNorman (if you want to go watch him talk about that scene go here).  There have been certain scenes, like that one, that have taken over a year to animate overall!!  As of the directorial choice, only time will tell.  Knight will also be producing the film with Arianne Sutner (ParaNorman).  Knight said this when announcing the film:

“Kubo and the Two Strings is a rare gem, it’s a gripping yarn woven from Japanese folktales and mythology, with lost civilizations, mystical origami, noble heroes, star-crossed lovers, and blood-curdling monsters. At once epic and intimate, Kubo is a funny, intense, and ultimately uplifting fairy tale draped in some of the most bizarre and exciting imagery I’ve ever seen. Most importantly, it’s deeply moving. It’s a story that means something, a story that deserves to be told. In short, it’s a LAIKA movie. And with a poetic script, sublime cast, and our freakishly talented artists and craftspeople, Kubo will be a strange, stirring, and altogether stunning film. I can’t wait to share it with the world.”
“LAIKA raises the bar on animated movies as a creative art,” said Schlessel. “Each picture Focus does with LAIKA is unique yet identifiably theirs. Travis and Arianne have convened a wonderful group of animators, actors, and artisans to tell a story that moviegoers of all ages will be transported by.”

The film is set in a mystical Japan and promises everything we love: adventure, samurais, swords, heart, and brilliant craftsmanship.  The synopsis:

It is a quiet existence – until a spirit from the past catches up with him to enforce an age-old vendetta. Suddenly on the run from gods and monsters, Kubo’s chance for survival rests on finding the magical suit of armor once worn by his fallen father, the greatest samurai the world has ever known. Summoning courage, Kubo embarks on a thrilling odyssey as he faces his family’s history, navigates the elements and bravely fights for the earth and the stars.

...Which, to me, sounds kind of awesome.  I've said this many times before and I'm going to say it again, for a film to be great you have to have a great story.  It's a wonderful choice for Laika to choose Chris Butler, who wrote and directed ParaNorman to write this film as well.  He's a fantastic storyteller and knows his stuff, which gives me high hopes for Kubo.  As far as the Japanese Fantasy take and the initial idea I have no doubt that this will be even more spectacular than The BoxTrolls, which took Stop Motion to new heights yet again.  It's some wonder how Laika is and keep revolutionizing Stop Motion and storytelling and I can't wait to see the film.

Kubo's The all-star voice cast for the flick includes Matthew McConaughey and Charlize Theron; Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes, and Brenda Vaccaro also star in the film.  The title character of Kubo will be voiced by Art Parkinson.  The film is set to open nationwide on August 19, 2016.  The official announcement:
Kubo and the Two Strings

Short Flicks: Christmas Shorts 2014!

As of posting this, it is, in fact, Christmas.  After all your wrapping I think you deserve a little treat, some Stop Motion cookies for Santa.  Below I've posted three of what I think are some of the best interesting little tidbits, Stop Motion gold in animator tongue, consider it your holiday present (or a present on whatever day of the year you're watching this!) from SMG!!

The first thing on our list is, actually, a music video that's not Stop Motion, but uses a very similar technique of puppets, sets, and polyester!! Fantastically done and a great song as well, reminding us what Christmas is all about!

For King & Country - Baby Boy:

The Carol of the Penguin from Kevin Ulrich:

Yeti Christmas from Azod Abedikichi on Vimeo:

Merry Christmas!!!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Screen Novelties/NBC's Stop Motion "Elf"

Elf, the wildly popular 2003 Christmas movie has been turned into, by our friends over at Screen Novelties a Stop Motion Christmas musical made for TV.  If Stop Motion Christmas musicals are your thing, then this is for you.  If not, then you can still enjoy the BTS!

Below's the embedded video but you can also go to the NBC page dedicated to the project where you can also find a ton of other BTS goodies.  And remember, the best way to spread Christmas cheer is for singing loud for all to hear.

Until next time, have a Merry Christmas and a wonderful New Year! (look out, there'll be some more posts coming up soon!!)

Set Tour: Central Park...