Mar 222014
 

The IncrediblesNews came earlier this week that we’ll be seeing sequels to two of Pixar’s most successful films, “Cars” and “The Incredibles.” Yes, there’ll finally be an “Incredibles 2,” as the Pixar sequel fans have most desired, save maybe the hype around “Toy Story 2.”

Meanwhile, “Cars 3″ is certainly the least desired Pixar sequel, ignoring non-Pixar made spinoff “Planes,” as well as the “Planes” follow-up due for theaters this summer. In spite of many adult fans’ views of “Cars 2,” the “Cars” films are popular with kids and the merchandise sells quite well, thus the justification for a part three.

While “Incredibles 2″ will be interesting to watch, I do hope to see more original fare from Pixar, not just sequels. Next year should bring that, with “Inside Out” the next scheduled Pixar film.

Apr 022013
 

Finding NemoIt was announced earlier today that we’ll be getting yet another Pixar movie sequel, this one to their 2003 hit “Finding Nemo.” Titled “Finding Dory,” the film will focus on Dory, the absent-minded blue fish voiced by Ellen DeGeneres. The sequel’s expected to be released at Thanksgiving in 2015. More details here:

The Mary Sue on “Finding Dory”

While I enjoyed “Finding Nemo,” I wondered (as did Ellen, with her amusing “Toy Story 16″ crack) why a sequel to “Nemo” didn’t come sooner. “Nemo” is one of the most popular Pixar films, and until “Cars,” was Pixar’s main go-to for merchandising (after “Toy Story”). That said, the large spate of sequels Pixar’s putting out is of some concern, especially after the mediocre effort that was “Cars 2.” However, I’d expect “Finding Dory” to be well above “Cars 2″ quality-wise.

Also of note is this makes the second Pixar film to star a female character, after last year’s “Brave.”

Feb 262013
 

BraveA bit late, but thought I’d note that this year’s Academy Award animation winners are:

  • Animated Feature Film: “Brave” by Pixar.
  • Animated Short Film: “Paperman” by Disney.

Looks like I guessed right (as vague as my guesses were), and it’s a sweep for Disney this year. This year also marks a strong showing for women in animation, between “Brave” being Pixar’s first film with a female lead and “Paperman” produced by a woman named Kristina Reed.

The low point of the evening, of course, was Seth MacFarlane hosting the ceremonies. While I opted to watch “The Amazing Race” instead of the Oscars, I did keep up on goings-on via Twitter, and wasn’t pleased with what I read. Between MacFarlane’s usual bottom-feeding humor and “The Onion”‘s inappropriate tweet about one of the child actresses, this must easily be one of the worst Oscar ceremonies I can recall. Maybe next year the Academy should offer this year’s Golden Globes hosts (Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, who I heard were quite popular) twice whatever the Globes-folks paid them to host. That, or just stick with Billy Crystal.

Jan 112013
 

Bugs Bunny with his OscarThis year’s Academy Award nominations were announced yesterday. For animation, the nominees (and my guesses who’ll win) are below:

Animated Feature Film

  • Brave
  • Frankenweenie
  • ParaNorman
  • The Pirates! Band of Misfits
  • Wreck-It Ralph

Will win: A tough one. I’ll go with “Brave” (it’s Pixar), “Ralph” (it’s Pixar-like), or “Frankenweenie” (by a well-known-to-Hollywood-types live-action director). Going against my choices: “Brave” stars female protagonists (Hollywood sexism), “Ralph” is about video games (too low brow and/or the “competition” media-wise to movies), and “Frankenweenie” might be too odd for Hollywood, though per “The Artist,” they’re OK with black-and-white.

Should win: “Brave” or “Ralph.”

Animated Short Film

  • Maggie Simpson in “The Longest Daycare”
  • Paperman
  • Adam and Dog
  • Fresh Guacamole
  • Head Over Heels

Will win: Not sure, only having seen “Paperman.” It won’t be Maggie’s short—it’s A) based on a TV property, and B) it’s actually comedic; unlike Bugs Bunny’s day when “Knighty Knight Bugs” won, the Oscar folk nowadays seem allergic to comedies for animated shorts, instead favoring arthouse-type fare. Thus I’ll assume it’ll be one of the other four nominees, though given “Paperman” is from Disney, it might be too mainstream.

Should win: Again, can’t really say, though I did enjoy “Paperman.”

This year’s awards are being hosted by Seth MacFarlane of “Family Guy” fame, which removes any interest in my watching this year. Well, even moreso than usual. Of late, I’ve only flipped to the Oscars to see the animation and best picture categories before changing channel back to something else, so I suppose it doesn’t matter. Besides, I have Twitter and YouTube in case something goofy or interesting happens…

Dec 312012
 

BraveNext on the “best and worst of 2012″ rundown is animation.

Best

  • Pixar’s “Brave” and Disney-proper’s “Wreck-It Ralph” were both enjoyable films. Oddly, “Brave” felt more like a Disney film, while “Ralph” felt like a Pixar one.
  • Seth MacFarlane’s take on “The Flintstones” is apparently dead in the water. Thank goodness. The last thing I need is to see the “modern Stone Age family” have pointless flashbacks once every 3.7 seconds, among other “Family Guy”-isms.
  • “Total Drama: Revenge of the Island” was amusing this season, albeit with a shorter run than normal. Favorite character: Sam, the video game geek. Don’t agree with the choice of the American-broadcast-version’s winner, Lightning, however.
  • You can now Google “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” using (among others) cartoon characters!
  • More DVD releases from the Warner Archive program, including the primetime “Flintstones” specials and (announced for 2013) the final volume of “Animaniacs.” Speaking of the latter show, it’s also now back on TV after being off the US airwaves for a decade, with The Hub (home of “My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic”) picking up reruns of the series as of late December.

Worst

  • “The Looney Tunes Show.” I’ve tried giving it a chance, but ultimately decided to bail. The Looney Tunes being shoved into boring sitcom plots more at home with “Seinfeld” (a show I never liked) and with zero slapstick, fourth-wall-breaking, unfunny jokes, etc. isn’t “Looney Tunes.”

For 2013, I look forward to the aforementioned “Animanaics” DVD set, plus the debut of the also-announced-this-year “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” cartoon on The Hub. I also plan to see “Monsters University,” the next Pixar movie (a prequel to “Monsters, Inc.”).

 

Oct 062011
 

Russell ("Up")Thought I’d make this week’s entry a Pixar-related one, in light of the passing of Steve Jobs. Besides Apple, Jobs also headed Pixar during its 90s rise to fame; thanks to “Toy Story,” “Finding Nemo,” and a spate of other films, Pixar has become a powerhouse in animation, not to mention spawning many imitators. On the down side, theatrical animation in the US, thanks to other studios trying badly to ape Pixar’s success, is now near-exclusively CGI-based. TV animation, when not cutting corners by using Flash animation, has lately been relying heavily on CGI animation as well. CGI TV shows have been produced about everyone from Casper the Friendly Ghost to Babar the Elephant to an upcoming Green Lantern series.

Anyway, this week’s entry is Russell, from Pixar’s 2009 movie “Up.” Russell is a young member of a Boy Scout-like organization (called the “Wilderness Explorers”), who’s trying to seek a merit badge for assisting the elderly. This brings Russell to the door of the movie’s other lead character, Carl (voiced by Ed Asner), who’s trying to honor his late wife’s wishes by flying their house (via balloons tied to the roof) to a waterfall in South America. Unplanned by Carl, he winds up bringing Russell along for the trip.

Russell’s initially shown as quite eager at his scouting role, trying very hard to earn his badge (to go with the multitude of ones he already has). Of course, we soon learn reasons why Russell’s thrown himself into his scouting duties so much, and he (eventually) forms a bond with Carl. As seen in the photo above, Russell’s also an example of youthful enthusiasm and openness to new ideas (or technology, in the photo’s case), traits which Carl’s wife also embodied. This stands in contrast to Carl, who after the death of his wife, has become set in his ways and somewhat cantankerous.

Russell was voiced by Jordan Nagai, a (now-11-year-old) Japanese American voice actor. “Up” marks the second Pixar film with a non-Caucasian main human character (after Frozone in “The Incredibles”).

Oct 052011
 
Steve Jobs

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Erik Pitti

Earlier tonight, I heard the news that former Apple CEO Steve Jobs has passed away at the age of 56.

I don’t have much more to say about Steve Jobs that I didn’t already say with my previous post on his retirement barely over a month ago. All I can say is that the technology world (through Apple), the animation world (through Pixar), and the world at large has been greatly improved by Jobs’ contributions. I wish his family well.

Aug 292011
 

I know I’m late with this week’s “tech thoughts” entry, but I couldn’t pass on not remarking on last week’s biggest tech news story (and the biggest one in quite awhile)…

Steve Jobs returning to Apple in the late 90s marked quite the turnaround for the company. While I was a faithful Apple user during their “darker period” (the mid 90s), it was often the butt of many jokes in the media (such as on “The Simpsons”) or by other technology users (the eternal “Mac vs Windows” flame war), and financial analysts of the time always clamored about just when “Apple was going to go under.” Admittedly in retrospect, the way Apple was run for much of the 90s *was* a disaster—too many confusingly-named models and lines (Performa, Centris, Quadra), lousy advertising, etc.

However, with Jobs’ return came a new renaissance for Apple, and a big shift in the technology landscape between 1998 (when the first iMac was introduced) and 2011: the iPod, the iPhone, the iPad, and Apple’s more stylish laptops and desktops, among various other milestones. Today, Apple’s now ranked as the world’s most valuable company, beating Exxon. Not bad for a company people 15 years ago were convinced was going to go the way of the Tamagotchi and Macarena…

While I haven’t been a Mac user since 2005 (when I moved from my old Power Mac 7500 running OS 9 to a whitebox PC running Linux (Fedora Core 3)) and have some dislikes about how modern Apple runs things (DRM related mostly, plus my dislike of OS X’s Dock, etc.), I do appreciate what they’ve done, and am glad my first computer was a Mac (a Performa 636 running System 7.5). I wish Mr. Jobs luck (including healthwise) in semi-retirement.

As for Apple’s post-Jobs future, given how tied Apple was to Jobs as their “voice” or influence, I’m worried in a worst-case scenario that it’ll turn into what became of Disney after Walt’s death. Disney post-Walt had sunk into a mediocre, unimaginative state in the 70s and early 80s, churning out various mundane films (though I liked “The Cat From Outer Space” as a kid), before its creative renaissance began in the late 80s with “DuckTales,” “Roger Rabbit” and “The Little Mermaid.” That said, today’s Disney also seems much more corporate in tone than in Walt’s day, with Disney owning everything from ESPN to ABC, not to mention Disney’s lobbying to grotesquely extend the length of copyright laws.

Like Walt, Jobs has been a big creative influence over his company. Though in Apple’s case, it’s probably in a better position to avoid what happened to Disney, with Jobs staying on in an advisory role, among other transition plans. Disney’s 70s decline also was the result of other factors unique to them (particularly the general decline in American animation at the time, plus a lot of Disney’s Golden Age animation guard retiring). Ironically, Jobs does have a connection to Disney (via Pixar).

We’ll see what happens in the future… I look forward to revisiting this post five or 10 years from now. Looking back at the posts linked to above was interesting. I’d almost forgotten that I thought the iPhone was just something for “someone seeking to replace their iPod nano, PDA and current higher-end cell phone with an all-in-one device” (when’s the last time anyone used a PDA?!), or that it wasn’t “aimed at someone like me” (ironically, buying a smartphone’s been one of my best electronics-buying decisions, and something I’ve gotten lots of mileage out of).

Jun 272011
 

Pixar’s next film, due in 2012, is entitled “Brave,” and carries a much different focus than “Cars 2.” For one, it’s the first Pixar film to feature a female protagonist as the lead character. It also looks like it’s closer in tone to “The Incredibles” or “WALL-E” than “Cars” or “Toy Story.” Here’s the trailer…

 

Dec 292010
 

Some of Pixar’s characters will become United States Postal Service stamps in 2011. Here’s what they’ll look like:

Pixar stampsYes, they’re all from recent Pixar films, versus what’s considered the most popular ones, given the glaring omission of “Finding Nemo” and “The Incredibles” (though I’d prefer “Monsters, Inc.” over “Nemo”). Still, they all look quite nice.

And yes, that’s a “Forever” price on those stamps. Starting in January 2011, all USPS stamps will be “forever” stamps, or stamps with no specific postage price marked and thus are good forever, even with future rate hikes. A welcome change over the past practice of keeping on hand a pile of 1- or 2-cent stamps to keep old stamps useful. Too bad this wasn’t done sooner; I’d still like to be able to use the Looney Tunes or DC superheroes stamps on letters without tacking on extra postage.

And yes, I’m told Canada has non-denominational stamps, as well (hi, Heather!).