Animation

Got a Wacom tablet… and other random things I’d like to say at this point in time thank you very much and how long can I make this title anyway? I guess this is too long already so I’ll just stop

Animation studies

Whew, busy month! It’s week 3 of class 4 of Animation Mentor. Last week I got through blocking out another practice shot, which I’m continuing to add breakdowns to and I hope to start splining soon; next week will consist of polishing. I’ll upload a video eventually… maybe.

Drawing

In other news revolving around the self, I bought a Wacom Intuos4 Medium Pen Tablet! I can’t draw very well at all, but this device should at least make it much more fun and convenient to practice, if I can ever find the time. (I am still quite interested in learning the craft.) But it’s also great for animating in Maya; it’s just easier to move around the screen than a mouse. There’s so much more precision you can get in your cursor movements, and it’s much more comfortable for the arm, hand, and wrist when you’re animating for hours on end (though my back posture is still awful since I have no way to get a monitor at eye level or higher). I really should’ve bought one earlier.

I also bought Stan Lee’s How to Draw Comics, which I’ve been scanning through. It seems to give a great beginner’s overview of the comic-drawing process, but I wish it went into more depth; it sort of just touches the surface of a bunch of topics. It’s still nice as an intro, but I’m going to want more eventually… If anyone out there knows of any good drawing books, let me know! Especially if they’re oriented to the more cartoony side. Or good drawing videos on YouTube… I found a few, though I haven’t spent any time with any of them.

My eventual amibition (perhaps years or decades down the road, if I actually put in the practice hours), aside from trying some simple 2D animations, would be to write and draw a graphic novel. Maybe even turn the novel I’m writing now into a graphic novel; it’s very visual, especially since it takes place in non-Earth worlds. It could be so much fun to come up with a look and feel for different worlds, yes?

I don’t have any fancy drawing software like Photoshop yet, but since I’ll just be practicing, I can probably just make do with some simple free programs.

Google plus

Thanks to Luke for Google plus invite! A while back, somewhere, I blogged about how Facebook needed to allow you to “follow” strangers and celebrities as you can on Twitter, instead of having to mutually friend everyone. Google plus allows just that, along with privately organizing friends into “circles.” For example, you could group some friends into “old annoying high school classmates.” Then you can easily hide their boring annoying updates and shared links, hide your own updates from them if you want, and they’ll have no idea that they’re in such a group. I wouldn’t be surprised if Facebook soon steals this concept.

So I like the overall concept of Google plus; it’s just the kind of social network I want. But they still need plenty of more features (something like Facebook’s “fan” feature, “tag” feature, verified celebrity accounts, integration with more stuff so it’s easier to share links, etc.) and more users, and if it doesn’t get them soon enough, people will lose interest and it’ll quickly become archaic. I’ll be interested to see where it goes.

Hugo trailer

The trailer for Hugo (based on the book The Invention of Hugo Cabret) came out recently. Aside from some awful cheesy dialog here and there and some awful cheesy feel-good pop music accompaniment which does not at all go with the magical mysterious spirit of the book, the trailer looked interesting. Visually, it was quite good; I think they really captured the look and feel of the world, and the casting seems good. I hope Howard Shore’s score suits the film better than the trailer music. Shore is responsible for the brilliant Lord of the Rings scores, but most of his other scores have been more standard; I hope his work for Hugo is more melodic and fantastical. I look forward to hearing what he’s come up with. And I do hope to see this film in 3D.

Cars 2

I saw Cars 2 the other day. Despite hearing many bad reviews, I thought it was good! It just doesn’t try to make you cry like many other Pixar films do, which is fine with me, because those sentimental moments tend to seem forced and cheesy to me anyway. (Finding Nemo and Ratatouille are the ones that really work for me; the beginning of Finding Nemo just gives me shivers, as does Ego’s flashback.) But the story was fun and the humor, though sometimes corny, had me laughing out loud like a big dork. (“That’s right Mater, you are the bomb!”) Overall, the movie reminded me of being a kid playing with toy cars. You don’t imagine them going through some Doc Hollywood story about a small town in troubled times; you imagine them racing and shooting and crashing and falling off cliffs and flying, and that’s what Cars 2 delivers; it’s what the first Cars should’ve been. Pixar is still standing strong in my books.

(Although that Toy Story short that preceded the film was as awful as watching the Disney Channel.)

The Lion King 3D

Preceding Cars 2 was a trailer for The Lion King 3D rerelease. I have mixed feelings about it. Some scenes looked really awesome in 3D, when they were really able to separate the different layers. Other scenes just look funky, especially facial close-ups. It looks like they just “bubbled” the characters, stretching them out in one direction for one eye, and the opposite direction for the other eye. The overall effect is: “Uh… hmmm… huh? Eh…” My overall judgment: Disney, you either have to put more effort and money into 3D-izing something like this, or forget it. But I’m a hypocrite, because I’ll probably still go see it.

By S P Hannifin, ago
Movies

Interesting movies for 2011

Here are the 2011 movies I’m most interested in. Some I definitely want to see in theaters (the ones with a star), and some I just want to keep an eye on and I’ll decide after watching previews and hearing other people’s reactions. (Animated films I almost always want to see in theaters.

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March 4, 2011 – *Rango – Industrial Light and Magic finally tried its hand at animating its own feature instead of just doing effects work. I’m very interested to see what they’ve come up with. The movie seems to be about a chameleon who goes on and wild west adventure of some sort…

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March 11, 2011 – *Mars Needs Moms – These motion capture films always look a bit wonky to me, but I do have a special place in my heart for 3D CGI spaceships.

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April 1, 2011 – Source Code – IMDb says: “An action thriller centered on a soldier who wakes up in the body of an unknown man and discovers he’s part of a mission to find the bomber of a Chicago commuter train.” Supposedly when he fails the mission, he gets to go through it again, so it’s like Groundhog’s Day sci-fi thriller style. Or maybe not, who knows… but it definitely sounds interesting.

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April 15, 2011 – *Rio – Finally some new stuff from Blue Sky Studios! Supposedly the plot of Rio was too similar to Pixar’s previously planned film Newt, causing its cancellation; the film is about a bird of rare species who must breed to save his kind. Nothing like an animated romantic comedy to make forced arranged marriage seem OK. But I have no idea if that’s really the story or not…

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May 20, 2011 – *POTC: On Stranger Tides – Yes, I know the sequels were awful, but maybe the absence of certain characters will be a blessing for this one. Plus I want to see what it’s like in 3D.

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May 27, 2011 – *Kung Fu Panda 2 – I actually haven’t seen the first one yet, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it from my animation friends, so I will be sure to check this out.

ET Super 8

June 10, 2011 – Super 8 – I don’t know why J. J. Abrams thinks it’s so cool to not reveal plots before the movie comes out. I don’t find it interesting or compelling, I find it annoying. Maybe he doesn’t want people to pre-judge the logline, or maybe he just likes the mysterious attention it gives him? Anyway, the teaser during the Super Bowl looked interesting, so I’ll keep a watch on this one.  Personally, I think this is a film based on the classic Magic 8 Ball toy and has nothing to do with cameras, though I did find this description online: “Set in Ohio in 1979, the movie follows six kids who are using a Super 8 camera to make a zombie flick. One night, they end up filming near a set of train tracks and capture a calamitous wreck — the same one first revealed in last year’s teaser trailer — and the alien creature that emerges from the wreckage.”

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June 24, 2011 – *Cars 2 – It’s Pixar, so I have to go, even though the idea of talking cars still seems too “Putt-Putt” for me.

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July 29, 2011 – *Cowboys and Aliens – Because it’s cowboys and aliens. (So that’s where Thirteen has been…)

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October 28, 2011 – Now – From the director of the awesome sci-fi film Gattacca, this sci-fi film takes place in a world where people stop aging at 25 (why, that’s my age! ZOMG!), but then they die at 26 or something weird. And then this guy gets accused of murder or something. The details are sketchy to me. But I definitely want to see this one. (So that’s also where Thirteen has been…)

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November 23, 2011 – The Muppets – I love the Muppets, but The Muppet Christmas Carol was the last good Muppet movie. Disney bought the Muppets and I’m sure they want to do something with the franchise. I just hope they can keep that “Henson charm” even though Henson has been gone for so long. These characters are so easy to ruin with the wrong kind of humor.

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December 9, 2011 – *Hugo Cabret – My family members were reading the book and recommended it to me. A children’s book?! I scoffed at such an idea. OK, not really. I started reading it, and was immediately pulled in to the magical mysteriousness of the world and the characters. It is truly a fun book, almost like Victorian steam-punk. But what really excites me about the movie is that it will be directed by Martin Scorsese, who is awesome.

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December 28, 2011 – Adventures of Tintin – I’m not sure about this at all, but it’s a Steven Spielberg directed motion capture animation, I think? I’ll be interested to see what it will look like, but I won’t hold my breath for a compelling story.

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Sometime 2011? – Power of the Dark Crystal – A sequel to the 80’s film Dark Crystal? It sounds interesting, but it would be easy to come up with a lousy story, so I hope they’ve got something compelling… IMDb says: “An evil mysterious girl named Thurma made of fire who lives in the blazing center of the planet steals a shard of the crystal in hopes of reigniting the dying sun! There is only one thing powerful enough to heal the star – a shard of the crystal.” Um… OK. Hmmm… and please don’t overdo the CGI. Keep it looking tangible?

Overall, looks like a fun year for movies!

UPDATE: I almost forgot, *Atlas Shrugged: Part I is scheduled to come out this April.  I’m hoping there will also be a part 2?  While I think the book is great, I have to admit that I don’t have a lot of faith in a film version; I just don’t think it will translate well.  It would be better as a TV miniseries.  Still, I’ll definitely watch it.

Oh, and I’ll also be looking out for *Death Note, based on the manga series.  (I never actually read the manga, though I’d like to someday; I only watched the anime series based on the manga series, which is awesome.)  The story revolves around a student who finds a powerful book (the “Death Note”) that allows him to easily kill people by writing their names in the book.  He can also control how they die (with limits).  So he sets off to use the book to rid the world of evil; what a lofty noble goal!  Meanwhile, the police realize something extremely weird is going on, and try to hunt him down.  This has the potential to be a brilliant film, but it also has the potential to be completely awful.  Not just because it’s easy to hire awful writers, but because the material itself is kind of… delicate, in my opinion.  That is, it’s easy to get the spirit of it wrong, if that makes any sense.  Anyway, I’m predicting this will actually be pushed back to 2012 or later or never, because I don’t think there have been any developments on the production at all; I think it’s currently in limbo?  We’ll see.  The franchise is popular, so I don’t think they’ll forget about it completely.  I just pray that they use some of the O Fortuna-esque choir music themes they used in the anime, but they probably won’t just to make me angry.  And really, to do the entire series justice, there should be at least a trilogy of films, but I’ll doubt they’ll do that.

Finally, I do want to see what Pixar director Brad Bird handles live-action with Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.

And there will be a Happy Feet 2?

What else did I miss?

By S P Hannifin, ago