The Internet and nostalgia go together like peanut butter and jelly, barbecue chicken and the Fourth of July, and other appropriate food-related metaphors. A day doesn’t seem to go by anymore without Buzzfeed or another clickbait-centric website publishing an article about some piece of popular culture from the 1980s or 1990s, something you’d forgotten over time but are reminded of with a few well-placed GIFs. The power of this kind of nostalgia has revived countless toys into movies, or old properties into new ones designed to appeal as much to adults as to their kids; it’s both enveloping and somewhat corrosive. This isn’t to say that nostalgia in general is a bad thing; the problem is that the Internet has allowed such wistfulness to go unchecked and run rampant. [Read more…]
We are so excited to feature this new piece of art from Disney animator Benson Shum. Shum was hired at Disney to work on Wreck-It Ralph and then Frozen. He currently spends his time working on the upcoming Big Hero 6 (November 2014). When asked about getting started in the animation business, Shum said he knew he wanted to be an animator since his high school days. “I applied to Capilano College’s commercial animation program, but didn’t get in the first time. I ended up getting a job and worked on my drawings after work for a year. I applied again the following year and got in!”. In retrospect, Shum said he was glad he didn’t get in on his first try. “It made me appreciative and work harder when I got in the second time.” Read more about Shum and take a close look at his artwork after the break!
When Pixar Animation Studios unveiled its first feature film in 1995, it represented a rebellious pushback against a formula that some people might not have been conscious of until watching Toy Story. Only then were audiences reminded that not all mainstream animation needed to have Broadway-style songs, straightforward leading characters paired with talking-animal sidekicks, or the like. When The Little Mermaid was released in November of 1989, it felt like the culmination of what Disney animation and its rivals were trying to accomplish in reviving the form for a younger generation; movies like The Great Mouse Detective and An American Tail had paved the way, but didn’t approach the same qualitative cohesion as the story of Ariel and her dreams of being human. But within 6 years, its story structure, characterization, and aural composition were no longer even mildly groundbreaking. The same happened with Pixar and its films; even though Toy Story owes a great debt to the buddy comedies of the 1980s, its combination of unique visuals, childhood nostalgia, and action once felt fresh and new.
Note: This column will discuss some third-act plot twists and general spoilers for The LEGO Movie. If you haven’t seen the film yet, consider yourself warned. (And also, see The LEGO Movie.)
In the nearly 20 years since Toy Story opened and kickstarted a revolutionary new period in mainstream feature animation, most of Pixar Animation Studio’s competition–even at the Walt Disney Company–has taken away the wrong lesson from that 1995 film’s success. A solid majority, though not all, of the computer-animated films that would follow in the 2000s and beyond focus on a few elements present in Pixar’s early work: famous actors, stylized and cutting-edge animation, adult-centric pop-culture references, and fast pacing. By themselves, and together, these elements shouldn’t instantly inspire dread. (Arguably, Toy Story 2 has all of these elements, and is one of Pixar’s early highlights.) However, a great deal of films from DreamWorks Animation, Blue Sky Studios, and other rivals lean so heavily on the aforementioned aspects that they leave out what matters most, and what’s present in almost every Pixar film: a lively, all-around spirit. A few non-Pixar animated films have felt like more than just a handful of elements concocted by a group of soulless executives–How to Train Your Dragon, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, and the recent Frozen come to mind. These films all feel as if they were made by people who took the right lessons from Pixar’s early success; now, we can add a new entry to this too-small pile: The LEGO Movie.
What is the price of a decreasing amount of prestige? This is the question that may be worth asking most of all right now if you’re a fan of Pixar Animation Studios. As Samad pointed out on the Pixar Times home page, when the Golden Globe nominations were announced this past Thursday morning, Monsters University was not included among the nominees for Best Animated Feature. There is, to be sure, a necessary discussion to be had, not only about how seriously people do or should take the Golden Globes, as well as why, this year, they only nominated three films for Best Animated Feature. (On the latter point, Hayao Miyazaki’s final film, the exquisite and mature The Wind Rises, was nominated for Best Foreign-Language Film, but not Best Animated Feature, inexplicably. Also, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, which hands out the Golden Globes, has a rule stating that if fewer than 12, but more than 7, animated features qualify in a given year, there can only be three Best Animated Feature nominees. As there were only 10 wide-release animated features this year, that must explain the small number of nominees, but just barely.)
Over the last few years, the amount of controversy surrounding the Golden Globes, and its voting body, the Hollywood Foreign Press (HFPA), has grown to great heights. Although awards season is always accompanied by a healthy dose of controversy, there is no awards show that embodies that more than the Globes. Serious allegations have been tossed at the HFPA in the past and that has certainly come to taint its reputability. On the list of questionable decisions made by the voting group for the upcoming awards is this year’s snubbing of Pixar.
Nine months after this article kickstarted the Pixar Perspective column, it’s worth taking stock of the calendar year 2013. (With just three weeks left before we start 2014, it is, of course, possible that there may be more news on the horizon, but doubtful.) In that first editorial, the topic was the now-common choice among writers to pit Pixar Animation Studios against Walt Disney Animation Studios, only a few weeks after Brave won the Best Animated Feature Oscar over the apparent underdog, Wreck-It Ralph. A similar inter-company battle may occur once again, as Frozen and Monsters University are assumed to be among this year’s top challengers for the prize, along with another film being distributed under the Disney banner, Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises. And unlike even Wreck-It Ralph, Frozen has performed extremely well to this point; it’s too early to know for sure, but it could easily wind up as the highest-grossing feature in the Disney animated canon since The Lion King. Never mind, of course, that Monsters University, despite not being as widely embraced by critics, made nearly three-quarters of a billion dollars worldwide. For yet another year, Disney has “beaten” Pixar, in some people’s minds.