Up Debuts at Cannes to Rave Reviews
Pixar-Disney’s Up is about to make history by becoming the first animated film — not to mention the first 3-D film — to open the Cannes International Film Festival.
That screening will occur Wednesday night in Cannes, but its screening there has given advance critics the opportunity to begin weighing in on the film.
As per usual for a Pixar movie, the reviews are raves.
Here’s a sampling of what’s being said, starting with Variety’s Todd McCarthy, who writes:
Depending on what you think of Cars, Pixar makes it either 9½ out of 10 or 10 for 10 with Up, a captivating odd-couple adventure that becomes funnier and more exciting as it flies along. Tale of an unlikely journey to uncharted geographic and emotional territory by an old codger and a young explorer could easily have been cloying, but instead proves disarming in its deep reserves of narrative imagination and surprise, as well as its poignant thematic balance of dreams deferred and dreams fulfilled. Lack of overtly fantastical elements might endow Up with a somewhat lower initial must-see factor than some summer releases. But like all of Pixar's features, this one will enjoy a rewardingly long ride in all venues and formats.
Writing for The Hollywood Reporter, Michael Rechtshaffen chimes in with the following:
Given the inherent three-dimensional quality evident in Pixar's cutting-edge output, the fact that the studio's 10th animated film is the first to be presented in digital 3-D wouldn't seem to be particularly groundbreaking in and of itself.
But what gives Up such a joyously buoyant lift is the refreshingly nongimmicky way in which the process has been incorporated into the big picture -- and what a wonderful big picture it is.
Winsome, touching and arguably the funniest Pixar effort ever, the gorgeously rendered, high-flying adventure is a tidy 90-minute distillation of all the signature touches that came before it.
And Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times weighs in with some initial thoughts after seeing a 2D presentation of the film:
My official review is scheduled to run when the movie opens in late May, but there will be hundreds online and in print from Cannes, so I see no harm in making some unofficial observations. Such as, this is a wonderful film. It tells a story.The characters are as believable as any characters can be who spend much of their time floating above the rain forests of Venezuela. They have tempers, problems, and obsessions. They are cute and goofy, but they aren't cute in the treacly way of little cartoon animals. They're cute in the human way of the animation master Hayao Miyazaki.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
Fatkat Shuts Down
Canadian animation studio Fatkat has shut its doors. The studio employed 100 people at its peak providing service work on shows like Skunk Fu!, Chaotic, and SuperNormal. Studio founder Gene Fowler has posted a long blog entry with information about the closure. In the post, Fowler says that he and a few of his friends are gathering together to launch a new studio called Loogaroo, located in Miramichi, the same city as Fatkat.
The story of the studio’s shutdown is more complicated than it appears. In his post, Fowler blames the production of a new series called Three Delivery, calling it the “most demanding and torturous production I have ever seen,” and says his “heart goes out” to the crew that had to work on the show. That show was created by Larry Schwarz (Kappa Mikey), who runs the New York studio Animation Collective, which as you may recall, was having its own problems paying artists a few months back.
Additionally, this CBC article from a few weeks ago offers juicy details about Fatkat’s finances. It says that the Canadian government had awarded over $1 million in grants to Fatkat since 2005, but had decided to withdraw its funding in the past few weeks because “Fatkat does not have the revenue stream it had anticipated.”
Winder Heads North to Rainmaker
Catherine Winder has left her post at Lucasfilm Animation, where she oversaw the successful Star Wars: The Clone Wars feature and series, to become president of Vancouver-based Rainmaker Entertainment.
Winder will take over the title of president from Warren Franklin, who will continue to hold the title of CEO. Hiring Winder "changes our ability to do world-class animation, which is our goal,” Franklin told Variety.
The hire is part of Rainmaker’s strategy for expanding the scope and quality of its animation projects. The company is in production on its first feature film, Escape From Planet Earth, and is preparing to make a short film titled Luna directed by Jon Mead, formerly of Pixar.
Rainmaker also hired Kim Dent Wilder, who returns to the company as VP of production and operations, and Tara Kemes, who takes the title of manager of talent development.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
10 Films Vie for Votes in NFB Contest
Voting has opened online for the National Film Board of Canada’s 5th annual short film competiton at Cannes.
The contest, organized by the NFB and the Cannes Short Film Corner in association with YouTube, features ten shorts films from around the world selected from more than 1,400 entries.
The finalist films are:
Countdown, by Jordan Canning (Germany),
Legacy, by Teemu Nikki (Finland),
Dr. Mori’s Teleshopping, by Spiros Jacovides (Greece),
Reach, by Luke Randall (Australia),
Tenner, by David O’Neill (Great Britain),
The Black Hole, by Diamond Dogs (Great Britain),
The Facts In The Case Of Mister Hollow, by Rodrigo Gudino (Canada),
The Rules Of The Game, by Tom Daley (Great Britain),
Sebastian’s Voodoo, by Joaquin Baldwin (U.S.)
Walter Ate A Peanut, by Robin Willis (U.S.).
Fans can view the finalists online at www.nfb.ca/cannes or www.youtube.com/nfb and pick their favorites using YouTube’s five-star rating system. Voting closes May 20.
Tom Perlmutter, chairman of the NFB and government film commissioner, will announce the winner at the Happy Hour of the Short Film Corner in Cannes on May 21. The winner will receive a semi-pro HD Mini-DV camera and a computer with post-production software.
This year’s submission attracted more than double the entries from the 2008 contest. Last year’s nine finalists were viewed at least 193,000 times on the NFB Screening Room on YouTube.
(Thanks Animation Magazine)
Animation prize added to Banff World TV Awards
A new Grand Prize in the Kids and Animation genre will be awarded at this year's Grand Prize show at the Banff World Television Festival, organizers announced Monday.
The prize, Best of Kids and Animation, will be awarded Monday, June 8 at the 30th annual Banff World Television Awards, also known as the Rockies.
In the category of Animation Programs, the nominees are I Met The Walrus (Bravo!; Canada), Jibber Jabber (Jibber Jabber Toons Ltd. for YTV Canada; Canada), Kid vs. Kat (Studio B Productions in association with YTV Canada and Jetix Europe; Canada), Life's a Zoo.tv: "2D or Not 2D" (Cuppa Coffee Studios for Teletoon Detour; Canada), My Second Life (Submarine for VPRO; Netherlands), Onchan (Hokkaido Television Broadcasting Co.; Japan) and The Fairly Oddparents: "Fairly OddBaby" (MTV Networks/Nickelodeon; U.S.A.).
In the Children's Programs category, animated nominees include Classical Baby (I'm Grown Up Now): The Poetry Show (Home Box Office; U.S.A.), The Backyardigans: "What's Bugging You" (MTV Networks; U.S.A.) and The Wonder Pets!: "Save the Bengal Tiger" (MTV Networks; U.S.A.)
Chosen from over 800 entries, the 130 category nominees represent 29 countries, making the Banff World Television Awards truly international.The Grand Prizes will be awarded to one nominee from each category (Entertainment, Documentary, Drama, and the two new prizes for Interactive and Kids & Animation). All nominees are eligible for the category Grand Prizes.
All Grand Prize winners will compete for the "Best of Best in Banff," to be awarded June 8.
"Demonstrating the ability to master many different television genres, the Banff World Television Awards allow the best producers around the world to compete for the prestigious 'Rockies,'" commented Georges Leclere, director of program competition for the Banff World Television Awards. "With our 23 categories, we offer our great nominees top recognition in the ever-changing international television landscape."
All ceremonies will be held at the Fairmont Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alberta.
E-F-G-H-I've got an animation fest... in Kalamazoo
Dale Myers, the winner of an Emmy for his computer-animated re-creation of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, will be one of 30 speakers at the fifth Kalamazoo Animation Festival International, to take place Thursday through Sunday at various venues.
The festival is being hosted by Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Myers will speak at 3:30 p.m. Friday at KVCC's Arcadia Commons Campus, 202 North Rose Street.
Other speakers include Oscar nominee Gary Schwartz, the designer and producer of animated features for Disney, Sesame Street and MTV.
Workshops are provided for those learning how to create animation. For the spectators, there are film screenings and other activities.
"Those are the two groups, and that covers virtually everyone," KAFI director Grant Chandler, dean of KVCC's Arcadia Commons Campus, told the Kalamazoo Gazette. "There are free events, events geared toward families, and there are workshops that teach those wishing to learn how to create animation themselves."
"There is something for everyone throughout the festival," Chandler said. "It's not a case of Thursday and Friday being experts only, and Friday and Saturday being strictly for families or entertainment.
"No matter when you come, or what you want to learn or see in the way of animation, there will something that interests you."
This year's festival will award a $15,000 first prize in an animation-creation contest that began Monday. Ten animation teams from art schools and colleges from around the United States are taking part.
Animation teams are each creating a 30-second public service announcement over four days. The PSAs will be shown at 8 p.m. Saturday at the State Theatre, 404 South Burdick Street.
The public will vote for the "People's Choice" award. Other winners will be announced at Sunday's awards luncheon, which is not open to the public.
Saturday is family day, with activities ranging from making your own flip book to learning about Japanese culture through animation.
In the "It Came from Kalamazoo" workshop, students can create a trailer for the festival using the city as a backdrop. Pre-regisration is required for the workshop, to be held Friday at the State Theatre.
While many festival events are free, others carry a small cost, such as $10 or $15. The "It Came from Kalamazoo" workshop requires a $60 registration fee.
An educator conference pass for the whole festival costs $185, while a full pass costs $125. Reduced fees are available for students.
For further details, visit www.gokafi.com.
Voice of Bart Simpson honored at Danville festival
Nancy Cartwright, the voice of Bart Simpson and other "Simpsons" characters, will receive the Humanitarian Award at the sixth annual Danville International Children's Film Festival, to be held Friday, May 15 to Sunday, May 17.
The three-day event will be centered at the Village Theater, 233 Front Street. Located in the San Ramon Valley in Contra Costa County, California, Danville is an upscale suburb of San Francisco and Oakland.
The voice of Ralph Wiggum, Nelson Muntz and Todd Flanders on The Simpsons, Cartwright also supplies the voice of naked mole rat Rufus in the Disney series Kim Possible, and does voices on many other animated shows.
Fifteen-year-old singer and actress Raini Rodriguez will receive the festival's 2009 Rising Star Award. Raini played Maya Blart in the recent Kevin James comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop. She also guested as Isabel in "Lost and Found," an episode of the Disney cartoon series Handy Manny.
Almost 40 films aimed at children, and made by youths, students and professionals from across the United States and the world, will be shown at the festivals. As well, educational seminars for children and parents will be offered.
One of the animated films is Abracadabra, a 94-minute feature directed by Glenn Jason Hanna and produced by Heather R. Wilbur in Los Angeles. This is a story of a young powerless girl who must strive to learn and use science to survive in a world inhabited by magical witches, warlock, slugs, wolves and fairies.
Other animated films at the Danville International Children's Film Festival:
Madam President (dir. Pete List; prods. Paul R. Gagne, Melissa Reilly and Lone Smith; Norwalk, Connecticut; 9:45)
A little girl imagines what her day would be like if she were Madam President.
The Boy Who Cried Wolf (dir. Fyodor; prods. Paul R. Gagne, Irina Margolina and Melissa Reilly; Norwalk, Connecticut; 8:35)
A retelling of a timeless tale, this animation is sure to leave viewers grinning sheepishly.
Voyage to the Bunny Planet (dir. Gene Deitch; prods. Zolenka Deitchova and Paul R. Gagne; Norwalk, Connecticut; 19:11)
Three bunnies, each experiencing a truly dreadful day, are whisked away to the gentle Bunny Planet, a place that lies far beyond the moon and stars.
Egg Dream (dir. Won Chan Sohn; Minneapolis; 5:35)
Every child is excited to learn how to cook. Four-year-old Bomi learns how to make a simple egg dish with a microwave. He has so much fun cooking egg by himself and falls into dreams. But he soon finds out that an egg is an early stage of a chicken.
Three Kludges (dir. and prod. Gordon Straub; Danville, California; 4:12)
After their friend suffers from a great depression, three fools, known as the Three Kludges, get together to help him in this claymation.
How the Cow Got Over the Moon (dir. Eli Nash; prod. Jefferson White; Piedmont, California; 0:52)
This is a comedic twist on how the cow got over to the moon.
Cuento De La C (dir. Carlos Navarro; prods. Drop Ilustracion & ESDIP; Madrid; 7:00)
Cristina can not write the letter "C," but with the help from her parents and observing the environment around her, she discovers the letter "C."
Egon & Donci: East or West, Home is the Best! (dir. Ádám Magyar; Hungary)
Egon, the slightly absent-minded, amateur astronaut, and Dönci, his nosey parker, fumbler and overfed, cat-like partner, are living together on a small planet far away from the Earth.
The Bicycle Lesson (dir. and prod. Paul Ullrich; Winnipeg; 3:35)
A five-year-old boy's first bicycle lesson goes terribly wrong!
I'm Bandrilla (dir. Brian Zemrak; animation dir. Daniel Racusin; prods. Derek Zemrak, Leonard Pirkle and Matt Kierscht; Los Angeles; 2:15)
Bandrilla, the evil witch of the Kingdom of Rhythm, admires herself in this hip-hop music video, starring the voice talent of Ruth Buzzi. This is a scene from the animated feature film Bongee Bear and the Kingdom of Rhythm.
Gerald's Last Day (dirs. Shel and Justin Rasch)
Today is Gerald's last day at the dog pound. Can he convince someone to adopt him before his time runs out?
Rybka (The Tiny Fish) (dir. Sergei Ryabov; Russia; 9:35)
"I want to help small Mr. Fish, but it will take a miracle!"
The Weatherman (dir. William Becher; prod. Claire Jennings; Bristol, United Kingdom; 3:20)
When his trusty forecasting machine malfunctions, the weatherman's life takes a turn for the worse... A short film with rain in places.
Tickets for the Opening Night VIP Reception -- which includes a meet-and-greet with Cartwright and a screening of The Simpsons Movie -- are $10.
Tickets for a May 16 event to meet Rodriguez are $7, while day passes to attend all other events are $8 each.
A VIP Package pass for all events at the festival, including meeting Cartwright and Rodriguez, costs $20. While organizers encouraging online purchases, tickets are also available at the door.
The festival is a coproduction of the California Independent Film Festival Association and the Town of Danville.
For more festival information, call the theater at (925) 314-3400 or visit caindiefilmfest.org.
Filmmaking Advice From An Unlikely Source
This is one of the most sage pieces of filmmaking advice I’ve ever run across:
“Don’t let this idea ‘Box Office’ and this idea of what pleases people bother you. Concern yourself with the best and finest thing, by God, that you know and do it to the top and give it to them to the hilt and you’ll go places and you’ll never lose.”
Who said it?
Architect Frank Lloyd Wright.
He offered this golden nugget to Disney artists during his visit to the studio in the 1939. Historian Wade Sampson has written a nice article—“Why Frank Lloyd Wright Disliked Fantasia“—which appears at MousePlanet.com. And here is the link to the transcript of Wright’s entire Disney talk.
Milt Kahl at the Academy, 2.0
Let’s try this again.
If you were turned away from the Milt Kahl event last month, the Academy wants to invite you to an encore presentation. The screening, on video tape, will be held on Tuesday, June 30, at 7:30pm at the Academy’s Linwood Dunn Theater (1313 Vine Street at Fountain, in Hollywood). Free parking is available behind the building if you enter off Homewood. The event, of course, is free but reservations are required for the obvious reasons.
This invitation is extended specifically to those who did not get in to the initial presentation, however you may bring along as many friends as you care to invite. The videotape will feature the original event in its entirety, though it has been edited to provide the best coverage from two cameras. Andreas Deja and Alice Davis are planning to be there for the encore screening so the evening should have a nice personal atmosphere of its own. All attendees will receive the poster and program from the original event.
Reservations may be placed by emailing guest names to email@example.com or calling 310-247-2688 and leaving names and a return phone number. Any questions, comments or concerns may be addressed to the same above.
(Pictured above from the Kahl tribute 4/27/09, Left to Right: Andreas Deja, Brad Bird, John Musker and Ron Clements)
Pixar in Vancouver Continued or The Good, The Bad and the Ugly
I've been quite surprised by the absolute glee that has resulted from the announcement that Pixar will be opening a studio in Vancouver. It is, of course, a good thing. However, I hope that the people celebrating are not blinded by the Pixar dust in their eyes. It is a good thing, but not a great thing. There are limitations relating to Disney, Pixar, general corporate behaviour and the nature of Canadian industry.
The good things are fairly straightforward. It's always good when there's an increase in employment opportunities, especially in the current economy. There will undoubtedly be educational benefits. Pixar will bring their rigs, their pipeline and their software tools and more people will have the opportunity to use them. While they are proprietary, the nature of software is such that once something exists, it is relatively easy to imitate. Just as Disney knowledge spread into the larger animation industry at the time of the 1941 strike, Pixar's approach will spread into Canada.
The Pixar name will enhance people's resumes and job opportunities. A commenter in the previous post seemed to believe I was endorsing Pixar by praising them "for being THE place." I was not praising them so much as pointing out a Canadian reality.
To date, Canada has no animation studios that can compete with Pixar, Disney, DreamWorks, Blue Sky, etc. Canadian studios have yet to produce an animated feature that grossed $100 million or attracted the same kind of critical attention. Furthermore, those features that have come out of Canada are based on scripts and stories that originated outside the country (Pinocchio 3000, The Wild, Everyone's Hero, 9, etc.) so even if any of those films had done well at the box office, it would have been a mixed endorsement of Canadian studios at best.
Canadian studios are aware of this. Therefore, when they see a resume with a big name studio on it, they see it as a mark of excellence. A studio better than a Canadian studio has seen fit to hire this person, therefore, they have no reason to question the person's skills. This attitude is not unique to Canadian animation. Many people go to Harvard for the opportunity to have it on their resume and many employers are happy to welcome Harvard graduates.
This does not mean that all graduates of Harvard or all former big studio employees are uniformly excellent. It also doesn't mean that people who came from other places are unworthy. However, when the hiring is being done by someone who is unqualified to judge someone's skills -- and that person might be from Human Resources or be a producer -- or if a company is in a hurry to fill a position, the right name on a resume is a shortcut to a solution. This is not fair, but it is a fact of life. Those people who work at Pixar Vancouver will be taken more seriously than those who work at other Canadian studios.
The last bit of good news will be determined by the quality of films that come out of Pixar Vancouver. If they are good, then the people who work on them will have the pride and pleasure of doing good work in an industry where that is rarer than it should be.
Now, on to the bad. The following quote comes from an email list I'm on. The author is a Pixar animator who has given me permission to reprint the quote but has asked to remain anonymous.
There are some factual errors in this article (big surprise). The Vancouver studio will only be producing ancillary work with legacy characters, like Cars and Toy Story. All the stuff that Pixar doesn't have the time or money to do to keep the franchises alive. The original shorts and DVD shorts will still be done in Emeryville. As I understand it, Pixar will still generate all the stories for the ancillary work, and the Vancouver studio will be strictly for production.
In other words, Pixar Vancouver is for outsourcing. It will be owned by Disney and not a service facility bidding on work, but will still be treated like a subcontractor. In essence, it will do the work that Pixar doesn't consider important enough to bother with itself. The article referenced above also states "John Lasseter, chief creative officer at both Pixar and Disney Animation, is not expected to spend much time at the Vancouver studio." That's because his time is too valuable to waste on what will be produced in Vancouver. I don't doubt that Lasseter will make an early appearance to give the staff a pep talk about what great work they're going to produce, but with the budgets, concepts and stories being worked out in Emeryville, Lasseter has no need to spend time in Vancouver. Should Vancouver not produce sufficiently good work, the Vancouver managers will be called to account in Emeryville. Lasseter's appearances in Vancouver will be more for morale and publicity purposes than for making creative or managerial decisions.
Now we get to the ugly, and I'm sorry to say that it relates more to Canada than it does to Pixar. While I've lived in Canada since 1980, I was born and raised in New York City. As a result, I've got a dual perspective on Canada. There is much about this country that I love; I feel more comfortable politically here than I did in the U.S. I value ethnic and cultural diversity and living in Toronto I am surrounded by people from all around the world.
However, Canada suffers from two major problems. The first is colonialism and the second is a small population. Canada never fought for its independence and has historically seen itself as a junior partner to a larger, protector nation. Canada entered World War II in 1939 when the British entered the war, even though Canada itself was not attacked. Since the war, Canada has seen itself as depending on the economic and defense largesse of the U.S. While Canada has not marched in lockstep with the U.S. (Viet Nam and Iraq being two examples), no political decision is ever made in Ottawa without first thinking about U.S. reaction. I don't doubt that if the U.S. was not so vehement about its war on drugs that marijuana would be legal in Canada.
Canada's population is 1/10 the size of the U.S. population. It is easier for U.S. companies to expand their products or services by 10% to take advantage of the Canadian market than it is for a Canadian company to grow by 1000% to compete in the U.S. market. Besides logistical problems, there is also the problem of securing the necessary capital.
Canada's economy can be roughly divided into three parts: natural resources, branch plants and protected industries (primarily culture and communications). The presence of resources is just a matter of luck. Because Canadian companies have difficulty competing with American companies 10 times their size, it has been easier to open branch plants of American companies than to create Canadian companies. For instance, many countries have their own car companies. The U.S., Japan, Korea, England, Germany, Italy, etc. all have cars identified with their countries. Canada has many auto manufacturing plants, but there is no Canadian car.
Entertainment falls in the area of protected industries and this is an area of particular annoyance to me. Canadians don't create markets. They wait until someone else creates a viable market and then Canadians go to the government and ask for protection in order to participate in the market. It's easy for American studios to dump TV shows in Canada for less money than it costs Canadians to create original programming. For the Americans, the money is pure gravy. On the face of it, it makes sense that the government should carve out a percentage of TV air time for Canadian programs and then figure out a way to fund them.
The danger of not doing this can be seen in the film industry. The U.S. walked into Canada in the 1920's and owned all the movie theaters. They treated Canada as part of the U.S. domestic market and the Canadian box office is still considered part of the U.S. domestic gross. Furthermore, on average only 3% of screen time in Canada is devoted to Canadian films. As low as that number seems, it's actually lower because the percentage is higher in Quebec due to language differences. So in English speaking Canada, the percentage of Canadian films is actually less than 3%. The government, not wanting this pattern to repeat in other aspects of popular culture, instituted various quotas and then fought to have culture exempt from the free trade agreement and it's successor, NAFTA.
While this works in theory, the reality is another story. What happens is that the companies who are protected under the quota spend more time working the system than creating work that would allow them to compete. As in most democracies, profitable companies make political contributions to protect their interests and are happy to hire former government officials to lobby for them at salaries higher than those people made in government. So while Canadian television has benefited from government intervention in ways that Canadian film has not, it has not done a significantly better job of creating popular work because the companies have been too busy protecting their profits.
Name a Canadian animated character who is a worldwide success. If you managed to name one (and I'd be surprised if you could), I'll bet that it was based on a children's book and was not an original character. The branch plant mentality combined with government protectionism has killed risk-taking in Canada and creative Canadians know this. That's why so many of them head to the U.S.
The problem is not the talent, the problem is the management. I can personally name dozens of Canadians who have worked at ILM, PDI, Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks, Sony, etc. and have done well at those studios. The U.S. welcomes people with ability while Canada is content to let them leave. There are no Canadian animation managements with the guts, brains and resources to create original material that entertains a worldwide audience.
That's why when a company like Pixar opens in Canada, people are so gleeful. Maybe here is an opportunity to go beyond the run of the mill Canadian product. Unfortunately, it's not going to happen. What comes out of Pixar Vancouver is going to be the equivalent of the direct-to-DVD Tinkerbell features. Those films make money for Disney, but nobody takes them seriously. They are there to bolster the bottom line, not to win awards, not to inspire critical essays, and are only known by parents with young daughters. With all due respect to the people who work on them, they are conceived as filler and they fulfill their corporate duty.
People in Vancouver have a right to be happy over Pixar's arrival, but keep it in perspective. The problems of Canadian animation (and entertainment generally) are still there and still awaiting solutions. When Canada produces its own Aardman or Ghibli, then no one will be cheering louder than me.
(Thanks Mark Mayerson)
Juxtaposed by Alex Myung
Juxtaposed by Alex Myung, one of the films that I’d highlighted in last week’s review of the SVA student screening, has been posted online. In the YouTube description, Alex writes, “This is a personal story and serves as a depiction of my experiences in dealing with my own adoption and acceptance of others.” He also has a blog at TheLemonFish.blogspot.com.
Say "Yup" to "Up" : Pixar's latest is a charming mix of heartbreak, hope and hilarity
Jim Hill reviews this new Pete Docter film. Which uses colorful characters, faraway places & over-the-top action sequences as a way to illustrate what’s really important in life. WARNING ! This review contains SPOILERS. So read at your own peril !
Forget about the flying house, that giant bird and the talking dog. All of those out-of-the-ordinary items. Because -- when you get right down to it --“Up” is a movie that celebrates the boring stuff. Those tiny, little moments that really make life worth living.
Copyright Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved
Mind you, it takes Carl Fredericksen quite a while to realize how important the little things are. 70 years, to be exact. When we first met Carl, he’s this 8-year-old boy in the 1930s watching a newsreel which reveals that Fredericksen’s hero – explorer Charles Muntz – has recently been discredited.
As Carl walks home from the movies that afternoon recreating Charles’ exploits, he discovers that another kid in the neighborhood is also enamored with Muntz. This is 8-year-old tomboy, Ellie. Who is so determined to become just like her hero that she has actually turned an abandoned house into a crude approximation of Charles’ airship. And Ellie vows to someday follow Muntz down to South America and then explore the mile-high mesas around Paradise Falls.
Copyright 2009 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved
As soon as young Fredericksen sets his sights on this lively lass, Carl falls in love with Ellie. And in one stunning, dialogue-free four-minute-long sequence, “Up” takes you through their entire life as a couple. Their unconventional wedding. How Carl & Ellie turn that old abandoned house into a home of their own. The heartbreak that these two feel when they learn that they can’t have children. Carl’s determination to make good on his childhood promise to Ellie to someday fly her on down to Paradise Falls. And how real life – a flat tire here, a broken leg there – kept getting in the way of making that dream come true.
And then suddenly Carl is alone. Worse than that, due to an unfortunate run-in with a construction worker, Fredericksen is now being forced to leave the home that he & Ellie built and move into a retirement community. And as this 78-year-old is pulling a suitcase down out of the closet, he comes across his wife’s old scrapbook. Which is where Ellie wrote about all the things she planned on doing over the course of her life.
Copyright 2009 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved
And that’s when Carl remembers his long-ago promise to fly Ellie down to Paradise Falls. Which is what then causes this elderly balloon salesman to tie 10,000 balloons to his house and take flight.
Of course, what Fredericksen hadn’t counted on was an accidental stowaway: 8-year-old Junior Wilderness Explorer, Russell. This boy has just spent the past few days badgering Carl so that Russell could then complete all of the requirements for his “Assisting the Elderly” badge. And this Wilderness Explorer chose the exact wrong moment to wander back up onto Carl’s porch.
Now you’d think – from the way that this character has been portrayed in “Up” ‘s trailers & commercials as well as those “Upisodes” that have been airing on the Disney Channel – that Russell is this movie’s comic relief. But that’s where you’d be wrong. There’s a kind of heart-breaking reason behind this Junior Wilderness Explorer’s efforts to earn that “Assisting the Elderly” badge.
Copyright 2009 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved
Even Kevin – that goofy 13-foot-tall bird that Carl & Russell discover as they’re dragging their still-airborne house through the jungle – has a sweet sort of secret that deepens this character. Makes you genuinely care for this oversized canary.
That’s the real beauty of “Up.” Nothing is ever quite what it seems to be. This Pete Docter film is loaded with surprises. Moments that will make you laugh out loud (like that geriatric fistfight between Fredericksen and Muntz, where canes can become swords and even dentures can be used as lethal weapons) or tear up (Be sure to have a few tissues on hand for Russell’s award ceremony toward the end of this picture).
Copyright 2009 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved
Is “Up” perfect? Well, I could have done without all of those “He smells like prune juice” jokes that the talking dogs in this movie continually make at Carl’s expense. And given the high number of Disney villains who have plummeted to their deaths over the decades, I have to say that I was somewhat surprised to see Docter trot out this tired old cliche. But that said, given where this film’s climax is set, it was a pretty logical way for Muntz to go.
But that said – overlooking these very small flaws – this new Pixar movie would be well worth the full price of admission if only for Dug the Dog. This character virtually walks away with “Up” because of the amazing job that those animators up in Emeryville did with creating this canine caricature. From the way this character walks to Dug’s slobbery tongue, all of the necessary details are there. And then when you factor in that Dug actually talks like a dog should (“I smell you,” “I have just met you and I love you” and – of course – “Squirrel!”), you’re talking comedy gold here.
Copyright 2009 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved
I don’t want to say too much more about “Up.” Mostly out of concern that I might then blow even more of this movie’s delightful surprises. But this much I will say: When you do plan on going out to see Pixar’s latest , be sure and factor in a little extra time for what comes after this screening. For – once you’ve seen “Up” – you’re definitely going to want to go out and get yourself an ice cream cone.
And then -- when you’re out on that curb counting cars -- be sure and count ALL of the cars. The blue, the red AND the grey ones.
Copyright 2009 Disney / Pixar. All Rights Reserved
“Up” is rated PG. Not for language, mind you. But more for several situations in this film that young people may find rather intense. Not to mention two brief glimpses of blood.
At the Nick
Today's big do at Nickelodeon was Jeffrey Katzenberg meeting with the crew of Madagascar Penguins in Nick's main building on Olive. I'm informed that he was there to meet, greet and thank everybody for the job they were doing with the series ...
Meanwhiole, Mi Hao Kai Lan has had it's third season trimmed. Word is that Viacom/Nick (I'm told) wants to see how merchandise sales roll out before ordering more episodes, and the toys and baubles are only now hitting store shelves. But a staffer said:
"The show is going good. The characters are cute. Once the toys being to sell, we're going to make new episodes. The studio is going to try assign a lot of the artists to other shows, because they're trained to do the pre-school type programs and don't want to lose them ..."
The Mighty Bee is also in production, and of course the inimitable Sponge Bob:
SpongeBob SquarePants ... turned 10 years old this spring ...
He made his debut on Nickelodeon on May 1, 1999, in a pilot episode called “Help Wanted.” The plot: a young sea sponge applies for a job at a grungy ocean-bottom diner called the Krusty Krab. Oh, how he wants this job—the position of fry cook represents the summit of his ambition.
And the Bobster has sold a thousand steamships worth of merchandise over the last ten years. Which is why they're still producing his cartoons.
(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)
Fantastic Mr. Fox And Its Test Screening
You've probably already heard that Roald Dahl's literary classic for children, Fantastic Mr. Fox, is being adapted into a stop-motion animated film by Wes Anderson. What we're also hearing now is that Fox Searchlight, and not 20th Century Fox, will be releasing it.
After a test screening last week in New York City, word on Fantastic Mr. Fox was that the voice acting was superb. Audience members also reported that Meryl Streep was, in fact, voicing Mrs. Fox, contrary to the film's IMDB page and earlier reports pointing to Cate Blanchett in the role.
For more info on the film's progress and early reviews, head over to The Film Experience.
Terrafarmer Trailer Sprouts on YouTube
Check out this trailer for Will Adams’ 2-minute, CG short, Terrafarmer. The plot centers on a lone astronaut who attempts “to terraform a hostile planet with a malfunctioning robot as his only companion.” The film had a lap around the festival circuit, and we’re hoping it debuts on the web here soon. When it does, we’ll surely be posting here.
Anima Mundi: Call for Web/Cell Phone Submissions
The 17th annual edition of Anima Mundi, South America’s largest animation festival, is coming up this July in Rio and São Paulo. The deadline for short film submissions has already passed, but they are still accepting entries for Web and cell phone animated works.
The festival is progressive in its embrace of new media and has been running both of these categories for a number of years. Marcos Magalhaes, one of the co-founders of Anima Mundi, tells me that, “The Anima Mundi Web contest is celebrating its 10th edition (being one of the first of its kind on the Internet) and Anima Mundi Cell is in its fifth year. Both contests are very popular and disputed among Brazilian animators (open to beginners and professionals) but we want more international submissions this year!”
If you’ve created recent work for the Internet or cell phones, the festival will accept submissions until May 25. Entries can conveniently be uploaded online to their server. Rules and on-line entry forms for both competitions are available on their website AnimaMundi.com.br.
"Storm Hawks" winner of triple crown at Leo Awards
Nerd Corps Entertainment's animated "Storm Hawks" series was a three-time winner at this year's Leo Awards, which honor excellence in British Columbia film and television.
Co-produced with Canadian youth channel YTV, Storm Hawks won Leos for best direction/storyboarding, screenwriting and musical score in an animation program or series.
The Storm Hawks episode Stratosphere won a direction/storyboarding award for Steve Ball, Colin Lorimer, Johnny Darrell and Rasmus Norgaad, while Ball also took screenwriting honors for the episode Fire And Ice. The musical score award went to Bob Buckley for the episode The Storm Hawks Seven.
The Leo Award for best animation program or series was given to Studio B Productions' Kid Vs Kat, produced by Blair Peters and Chris Bartleman.
Rainmaker Animation's direct-to-video Max Steel: Bio Crisis was given the Leo for best overall sound in an animation program or series. Singled out were Iain Pattison, Hugo De Le Cerda, Devan Kraushar and Ryan Nowak.
A celebration awards ceremony was held last Friday at the Westin Bayshore Vancouver, where a gala wrapped up the awards Saturday evening.
Computer Animation Fest award nominees announced
Twelve award nominees for the SIGGRAPH 2009 Computer Animation Festival, to be held in New Orleans in August, were announced Wednesday.
Nominees were chosen from 770 submissions from around the globe, presented by both professional studios and students alike. Over 140 films will be shown during the Computer Animation Festival. The award winners will be announced during the conference.
"We were thrilled with level of quality and technical expertise that was prevalent throughout the hundreds of submissions," said festival executive producer Carlye Archibeque. "The Computer Animation Festival continues to show the power that the latest advances in computer graphics technologies have to amuse and entertain. As always, the jury looked not only for amazing graphic content, but also good storytelling, whether it was a film about a boy and his spaceship, or a film about new studies in Alzheimer’s research."
Since 1999, the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival has been an official qualifying festival for the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences "Best Animated Short Film" Academy Award. The film Oktapodi became an Academy nominee in the Best Animated Short category after winning Best in Show at last year's Festival. For the second consecutive year, the Festival's screenings, panels and production sessions will be open to the public, allowing general audiences to get a glimpse behind the making of computer generated effects, visualizations and animations that is rarely available.
The nominees for this year's Computer Animation Festival Awards:
Best in Show Nominees
Engel zu Fust (Angel Afoot)
Studio Soi GmbH & Co
Narrative Animation -- Waltraud, an angel, has fallen from the sky. Her wings have shrunk and she can no longer fly. She takes up with a troop of circus performers who help remind her how an angel gets her wings back.
The Pumpkin Factory
Narrative Animation -- In a fancy Parisian café of the sixties, an uptight businessman is about to pay the check when he finds out that he's lost his wallet. To save time he decides to order more coffee. With no dialogue, the story is told through character animation, music and sound. Staging is made of a single frontal master shot with a big mirror in the background to create the equivalent of a reverse shot.
Silhouettes of Jazz
Dominik Käser, Martin-Sebastian Senn, Mario Deuss , Mark Pauly, Niloy J. Mitra
Experimental Animation -- This animated short outlines the history of traditional jazz music in a virtual walkthrough of a shadow art museum. Improvisation, a key ingredient of jazz music, is mirrored in the ambiguity of a shadow sculpture (many different 3D shapes can cast the same 2D shadow). The movie highlights five different milestones in the evolution of jazz: the early songs of field workers, ragtime, New Orleans jazz, swing and bebop. Each era is represented by a single 3D sculpture that casts multiple shadow images simultaneously.
Jury Award Nominees
Live Action with CG Effects -- A dark, harrowing short film showing the complexities of psychological and obsessive behavior. An intricate part of the film was how the creators chopped up their main actor. They had to find solutions for every shot in order to achieve the best results. Some of the shots are 2D visual effects, while others needed a 3D model animated on top of the actor and then cut revealing the actor's flesh and blood.
Digital Media Design Education Center
Animation Visualization -- A visual capture of character creation software making digital construction of a newborn infant "character" that is both visually and politically stunning.
Animation Visualization -- This animation, which verges on experimental, uses animals and their forms as its center piece. An elephant is seen escaping the city, but it seems the city itself is made of animals or the shapes of animals. The graphics and lighting in this film make it immensely compelling.
Student Prize Nominees
Ringling College of Art and Design
Narrative Animation -- This amusing animation takes place in San Francisco, home of the largest and most prominent Chinatown outside of Asia. The setting is a bustling Chinese restaurant named Dim Sum where Ping, a waiter, accidentally drops a teacup which shatters on the floor. Pong, the infamous owner of Dim Sum, finds out, and he is one second away from firing Ping. How far will Ping go to keep his job?
Incident at Tower 37
Narrative Animation -- A man guards a water tower and comes across some little creatures who are trying to break into it. The short piece explores issues surrounding ownership, use, and exhaustion of natural resources. The film is a result of an undergraduate animation curriculum built upon newly-developed open-source production management and support tools.
The Animation Workshop
Narrative Animation -- The race to space is on. As nations compete, we follow the progress of a single chimpanzee that's been recruited into the space program. His results might prove influential for the better of all mankind.
WTF (Well Told Fable) Award
Sveinbjörn J. Tryggvason
Narrative Animation -- A very short film that highlights that "shorts" can be short, but still contain a whole lot of story. To better convey the concept of simplicity, simple primitive shapes are used as the base for the design of nearly everything in the film.
Music Visualization -- In this satirical take on a music video, a desperate search for salvation takes place as hundreds of evil spaceships are approaching earth. Finally the "Unbelievable 4" get the call. A superhero team (composed of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld) receives the urgent message that the earth is under attack and they have five minutes to launch a rocket for a preemptive strike. Over the course of the story, the caricaturized leaders' over-heroic personalities slowly merge with the personalities of rock stars.
Fernet 1,882 "Mini Cab Company"
Pickle Visual Effects & Animation
Visual Effects Driven Commercial -- The space-aged TV commercial stars the owners and staff of a real mini-cab company, Renta Car, located in Cordoba, Argentina -- the city that leads the country in alcohol consumption. The ultimate goal of the ad: attract 1,882 more customers. Agency Madre tapped the employees and owner of a real mini-cab company to star in this visual effects spot, all in the name of helping them get 1,882 customers. The Renta Car staff also display some fine acting chops, giving the spot a touch of heart.
New Up clip
Apple has shared an exclusive new clip called “Tepui Landing” from Disney-Pixar’s forthcoming feature Up in various formats including HD. Directed by Pete Docter, Up opens in theatres May 29.
New onesheet for Blood: the Last Vampire
ShockTillYouDrop has posted the new onesheet for Blood: The Last Vampire, which you can view after the jump.
Click on the image for a larger version. The movie, based on the cult manga series, is directed by Chris Nahon and stars Gianna Jun, Allison Miller, Masiela Lusha, J.J. Feild and Koyuki.
In the film, demons have infested the earth and only one warrior stands between the dark and the light: Saya, a half-human, half-vampire samurai who preys on those who feast on human blood. Joining forces with the shadowy society known as the Council, Saya is dispatched to an American military base, where an intense series of swordfights leads her to the deadliest vampire of all. And now, after 400 years, Saya's final hunt is about to begin.
Blood: The Last Vampire is slated for release this summer.
Brett Ratner to helm Youngblood movie
MTV.com reports that Brett Ratner (X-Men: The Last Stand) is attached to a proposed film version of Youngblood, the Image Comics series about a group of young superheroes.
Created by veteran writer/artist Rob Liefeld, Youngblood chronicled the adventures of a government-sanctioned team of superheroes who operated in the public eye while fighting super-powered threats and dealing with superhero-sized drama.
Liefeld told the site that the movie is currently being written by J.P. Lavin and Chad Damiani, who are also working on another adaptation of a Liefeld comic (the Bryan Singer-produced Capeshooters at Warner Brothers). He said the pair are halfway through the first draft of the screenplay.
Story-wise, the big-screen adaptation will focus on team members Shaft and Chapel, the bow-wielding marksman and gun-toting former soldier who lead the team.
However, one character that won’t be appearing in the film is Badrock, the teenage boy with a body made of stone. Liefeld told MTV the decision to leave out Badrock was his choice, adding that the character “doesn’t fit in first film.”
“There are characters that have micro-cameras installed on their bows, their arrows, their semiautomatic rifles, their bo staffs,” Liefeld explained of the ambitious, unique visuals he hopes the adaptation will bring to the screen. “You’re getting footage from a thousand angles, from the casing on their weapons to their armor.”
“When Youngblood goes live, the whole word watches,” he added
Tyro writer hired to pen new draft of Grayskull
Warner Brothers and Silver Pictures have tapped newcomer Evan Daugherty to pen the latest draft of Grayskull, the studio's big-screen take on Mattel's Masters of the Universe cartoon and toy line, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
John Stevenson (Kung Fu Panda) is attached to direct the adaptation of the show, which follows a blond warrior named Prince Adam who, when uttering the magic words "By the power of Grayskull—I have the power!" transforms into the heroic He-Man. He and his allies—Battle Cat, Man-at-Arms and Orko—defend their planet, Eternia, from the evil forces of Skeletor, who seeks to conquer the fortress Castle Grayskull.
Warner sees the big-screen version as a gritty fantasy and re-imagines Adam as a soldier who sets off to find his destiny, happening upon the magical world of Eternia, the trade paper reports. There Skeletor has raised a technological army and is bent on eradicating magic. Justin Marks wrote the previous draft.
THOR Casting Imminent?
'Thor' director Kenneth Branagh is still trying to attract the press' attention to the PBS minseries 'Wallander' but MTV Splash Page took the opportunity to ask him who will play the God of Thunder in the Marvel movie.
Sadly they came up empty-handed.
"We’re down to the final stages of it," Branagh told MTV News. "The reason one has to be properly diplomatic, is simply that some talented peopled have been patient, kind, creative and really committed to working with us in this process."
Branagh also said that he's not naming names out of the mutual respect between himself and the actors who have read for the part. When asked specifcially about the guerilla self-promotion campaign waged by James Preston Rogers, who has been lobbying online for the part, Branagh was similarly diplomatic in his response.
"I am aware of certain campaigns, and I think everyone is grateful for them and knows that there is a great anticipation," said Branagh. "We have every intention of doing everything humanly possible to live up to that anticipation."
WITCHBLADE Seeking Script
Top Cow's Matt Hawkins chatted with Newsarama about the announced 'Witchblade' feature film, which was to start filming last September. Top Cow has a financing deal with Arclight Films, which still has some life in it, but is due to close in the not-too-distant future.
"We simply do not yet have a script yet that we all like. We had a window to go into production that has clearly passed but the project is very much alive and kicking," Hawkins said. "I don’t think I’ll lay out any dates at this point given the delays but we’re in the process of working with a new writer."
The previous round of writing gave the unnamed screenwriter some freedom to write the script on their own, but the current round is following the more traditional cycle of outlines, treatments and notes before scripting commences. Hawkins told Newsarama that Top Cow would rather have no movie at all than a 'Witchblade' movie that was not the best it can be. That said, there's still an opportunity to see the project catch fire.
"Best case we could go into production by the end of the year but that’s overly optimistic with no script at this point," Hawkins said.
Christian Bale on how Terminator Salvation guards the legacy
Christian Bale, who plays John Connor in Terminator Salvation, told reporters that he felt the fourth film needed to be a reinvention of the franchise. Director McG ultimately convinced him that it would cover new territory by telling a story of the future war between man and machine.
"The idea of doing another one didn't seem to be smart to me, but in the same way, it seemed that way with the initial idea of reviving the Batman movies", Bale said in a group interview last Friday in Beverly Hills, Calif. "There's no other similarity between the [Terminator and Batman] movies, because I really don't mean to compare. I don't like to compare, and even though they're very different sensibilities, I came to believe that there were some potentially good stories here and that I enjoyed it enough that I'd like to see it revived."
Bryce Dallas Howard, who plays Connor's wife, Kate, added that the original James Cameron films asked questions that could still be analyzed today. "For me this is a defining franchise," Howard said in a separate interview. "We're all huge fans of it. It was really unique, and I think it really captured a certain fear or question that people were going through 20 years ago with technology advancing and seeing what the potential consequences of that would be. Obviously, people hooked onto that, and this story somehow expressed it in a really articulate and compelling way, so it's continuing on. It's incredible to be a part of something that's almost cinematically historical."
Anton Yelchin, who plays Kyle Reese, said that he felt he could return to the heart of the original 1984 Terminator by reprising the character. In the first movie, Reese died protecting Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), but in this film's version of the future, Reese is still a young man who has yet to travel back in time.
"I was just always a huge fan of the first two films, definitely," Yelchin said. "They had a profound impact on me when I was younger. Arnold [Schwarzenegger] was the archetypal '90s hero. If you were growing up and you're 4 or 5 years old and you see Arnold, it just has a profound effect on you. To play Kyle Reese, who's another one of those heroes that you look up to when you're younger and have action figures of and pretend to be, was also an honor. I was also really touched. Every day on set I would be so touched by the chance to be there and to cock a shotgun one-handed and say, 'Come with me if you want to live.'"
Terminator Salvation opens May 21.
‘Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles’ Producer Talks Plot, Characters And Potential Cameos In Reboot
Last month, the 25th anniversary of the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” kicked off in a big way — with the announcement of a new, live-action movie featuring the famous Turtle heroes. (Oh, and there was that whole “lighting the Empire State Building green” thing, too.)
MTV News spoke with Ninja Turtles co-creator Peter Laird just after the announcement, and he offered up some thoughts on what fans can expect from the film. Recently, they had the chance for some follow-up with the film’s producer, Scott Mednick, who also served as executive producer on comics-friendly films “300” and “Superman Returns.” He shared some details about potential plot points and where else we might see the style of effects likely to be used for the film. There was also some talk of cameos and returning characters, too. Cowabunga!
MTV: With the new “Mutant Turtles” movie, a lot of talk thus far has been about potential storylines. Peter told me it’s being envisioned as a sort of “reboot” of the live-action movie franchise. Is that the case?
SCOTT MEDNICK: Well, it is the case, that’s certainly how it’s being envisioned. I was part of the reboot of Superman, and a part of the reboot of Batman, and what happens after a certain amount of time — and certainly 25 years is a lot of time — is you’ve gone through multiple generations of fans. And we have a group of fans that love the property, and a group of fans who don’t really understand all of the intricacies of how these characters came to be.
What we want to do is service the story in a way that we have technology and ability that we didn’t have 25 years ago to say “here’s the story” to the fans, and bring in a whole new generation of fans that can then start with us again.
MTV: Story-wise, are you planning to revisit any specific stories? Is it going to be following the first story arc of the “Ninja Turtles” comics?
MEDNICK: Certainly, the first group of comics that Laird and [Kevin] Eastman wrote are just the very best of source material. We have 25 years of rear-view mirror to look into, and to see where the franchise has gone. But we’re also looking at where the audiences are now. The audience today is very different than it was 25 years ago.
So it’s really trying to modulate the expectations of the fans today, the expectations of those kids and teenagers of today, the origins of the Turtles themselves and their world, and blend those together. That’s the fun, that’s the challenge.
MTV: It’s at an early stage thus far, but Peter mentioned that he was hoping to get in Baxter Stockman and the mousers, and said Shredder was a very necessary part if you’re going to tell an origin story for the Turtles. What’s on the table?
MEDNICK: Well, I won’t talk about what’s on or off the table, but what I will tell you is, if you go back to the origin story, you’ve got one of the great villains. I mean, Shredder is just one of the great villains for us to play with, and we are certainly expecting to bring the entire origin story — which could not be told without Shredder.
MTV: It’s been said that filming will involve a live-action/CGI hybrid, with live actors and computer effects putting the Turtles’ faces over them. Can you elaborate on that process and how you envision it?
MEDNICK: Well, we’re in the early development stage, so no critical decisions have been made. However, that being said, I can tell you that yes, it’s a live-action film. We’ve gone through an animated version of the Turtles for quite some time, but if you return to those original movies, they were live-action.
I’m an executive producer on “Where the Wild Things Are,” which also used, if you will, creatures. And we have some technology today that they just didn’t have when the previous live-action movies were made, and what we’re hoping to do is to bring all of the cinematic tricks that are in the 2009 bag into this effort.
MTV: You mentioned “Where the Wild Things Are” — so are you using a similar style for both films? Did you take “Where the Wild Things Are” and say, “Hey! Let’s use this same process with the Turtles!”
MEDNICK: The similarity will be that the “Wild Things” creatures are actually there. They’re in the scene, they’re not CGI’d in, they’re actually large creatures. I remember early discussions of actually having the creatures be in the scene — because you can tell if it’s there or if it’s CGI’d in — and giving credibility to the fact that the Wild Things are in these scenes.
We have a similar issue in that we want the Turtles to be a part of that world. So we will use CGI effects where necessary, and we will use the best costume makers that we have now. You can look at anything from “Wild Things” and the Henson creature shop, to the guys who did “Hellboy,” and you can look at the expertise in technology we have now. It just wasn’t there 25 years ago, so we will hopefully utilize that.
MTV: Going back to Turtles themselves, has there been any talk thus far in terms of casting? In a perfect world, is there someone you’d like to have in one of the roles?
MEDNICK: We’re finding that — and this is fascinating for us — there are many, many actors, writers and directors who, when they’ve heard about this project, say “I love the Turtles! Oh, man, I’d love to write that!” or “I’d love to direct that!” because they just loved it. And I’m looking for that passion. When you find an actor or a director who grew up with it or wants to be a part of it, we’re definitely talking to those people.
I can also tell you, if you go back and watch the 1990 movie, there was a kid who was a thug in the movie — and he turned out to be Sam Rockwell. Looking back at the movie, we’re thinking, “Who was in that movie that we may want to revisit in some way?” We don’t know where the casting is going to go, because the first step is get the story right and get the filmmakers in line, but then we’ll start to reach out to some of the people who have already reached out to us.
MTV: It’s funny you mention Sam Rockwell. We interviewed him recently and discussed some “Iron Man 2″ stuff. I had actually given him an “Iron Man” comic with his character in it to look at for part of the interview, and later I joked about the fact that he walked off with it. But what everyone kept telling me was, “Hey, don’t get on his bad side, he’ll get the Foot Clan after you.”
MEDNICK: That’s classic!
MTV: So, the fact that he was in the “Turtles” movie was clearly not lost on people.
MEDNICK: That’s like Elias Koteas, who played Casey Jones. If you look in “Superman Returns,” we had cameos for Lois Lane from the original “Superman” television show, and for Jimmy Olsen from the television show. Again, those are the kinds of things as fanboys, and we know we are, we love that sort of thing — because it pays homage to the different stuff that came before. So we would look forward to doing that sort of thing [with the upcoming film] and hopefully, if we’re so blessed and lucky enough to get the most tangential involvement, that would be fun.