Tag Archive: animated movies


Review by C.J. Bunce

Writer Ramin Zahed is back with his next dive behind the scenes of the latest animated films (including Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Missing Link, The Little Prince, and Klaus), this time exploring this year’s CGI version of The Addams Family in The Addams Family: The Art of the Animated Movie.  You might have thought you’d seen it all when it comes to the creepy, kooky, mysterious, spooky (and ooky) family that became a classic to two generations, first as a 1960s television series and later as a 1990s movie series.  What you might not have known was the Addams Family dates back to a New Yorker cartoon from the 1930s.

For the 2019 movie The Addams Family, co-directors Conrad Vernon and Greg Tiernan didn’t want to make another version of the TV or film versions in animated form.  So they went back to the source, creator Charles Addams.  In interviews with executives and animators, Zahed explores the source material and concept artwork that inspired the new film.  It turns out Charles Addams created character descriptions for each of the famous characters, Gomez, Morticia, Wednesday, Pugsley, Uncle Fester, Lurch, Grandma, Thing, and It–it was these descriptions that the character designers used to guide the personality of the new animated version of the characters.

The Addams Family: The Art of the Animated Movie walks readers through each of the above characters, supporting character art designs, a portrait gallery from the mansion, props, vehicles, and setting locations, providing images of the designs artists went through before deciding on the final, with concept art, storyboards, and production art, and inspiration from Charles Addams’ original cartoons.  Contributors from the film include producers Gail Berman, Alison O’Brien, Alex Schwartz, and Danielle Sterling, character designer Craig Kellman, production designer Patricia Atchison, story lead Todd Demong, animation director Mike Linton, and animation creators Rav Grewal, Casey Kirkpatrick, Marie-Eve Kirkpatrick, Laura Brusseau, and Yiqun Chen.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

You may not know it, but you probably first met them in their record-breaking music video that they pulled together in only two weeks for Peter Gabriel’s song, Sledgehammer.  It’s a story of two teenagers borrowing mom’s old kitchen table to use to film their Plasticine creations.  Flash forward a few years and their multiple Oscar-winning company is negotiating for big-budget real estate for their movie studio.  The company is Aardman Animations, named for the star character of their earliest film.  And the founders are Peter Lord and David Sproxton, who have documented their journey in this year’s latest chronicle of the history of animation, A Grand Success! The Aardman Journey, One Frame at a Time, now available from Abrams Press.

It’s not just a biography of the two boys who would see their company bring home four Oscars and even more nominations and BAFTAs.  A Grand Success! (the title a play on their first Oscar-nominated adventure, A Grand Day Out) is a time capsule of those key intersections of effort, skill, perseverance, and happenstance, that can make any endeavor a success.  The efforts of the small British upstart found their footing in both the worlds of fantasy film and advertising.  One put the food on the table until, like many creators, they could focus on their passions.  And although they didn’t sever their ties with commercial work, they created what are now among the most recognized characters in England and the world outside the United States (and their U.S. following isn’t too bad, either).  Before long their ideas had them sealing big deals with the likes of Jeffrey Katzenberg and Steven Spielberg, and having actors from Ralph Fiennes, Helena Bonham Carter, Hugh Grant, Eddie Redmayne, Maisie Williams, and Tom Hiddleston–the cream of Britain’s acting talent– providing the voices of their characters.

A crowning achievement in animation in The Wrong Trousers, from the studio lauded by Ray Harryhausen, Terry Gilliam, and Matt Groening.

Lord and Sproxton pull in two other key players in their look at Aardman’s history, animators Nick Park and Richard “Golly” Goleszowski.  Park grew up as a fan of Aardman’s films as a kid, and by 1989, when he was only 31, he was attending Oscar parties as the face of the studio.  All four would create iconic characters from Wallace & Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, and the anthropomorphic “very British” animals of Creature Comforts.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The next level of books on film animation is here.  But Klaus: The Art of the Movie, a behind the scenes look at the new Christmas movie from Netflix, doesn’t dig into the next advances of CG-animation.  Instead you’ll find a story about a group of creators wanting to advance the style of animation before the advent of CGI.  And that’s what they did, finding new ways to take hand-drawn animation forward in a way that will appear just as exciting and new to movie audiences.

Written by Ramin Zahed, Klaus: The Art of the Movie is a peek inside the mind of long-time animator Sergio Pablos, who has worked on his share of popular animated movies that have taken a more typical approach to the modern animated movie, as co-creator of Despicable Me, in addition to serving as animator on Disney movies like The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Hercules, Tarzan, and Treasure Planet, plus more modern films like Rio and Smallfoot.  This book is the next step for students of animation techniques, following in a long line of movies whose behind-the-scenes accounts have been reviewed previously here at borg, like Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse–The Art of the Movie, The Art of Ferdinand, Alita: Battle Angel–The Art and Making of the Movie, Planet of the Apes: The Art of the Films, Jonny Quest Speaks, Harryhausen: The Lost Movies, and Special Effects: The History and Technique.

Although you may be distracted from the background details by the stunning, innovative use of light and shadow in Klaus, this book features dozens of double-page artworks that allow you to take your time, marveling over the techniques used to create everything from snowy peaks to old, dusty floorboards.  It’s then that you see the influence of the styles of Christmas classics from Rankin & Bass and early Walt Disney Studios on the artists that worked on the film.  With decisions like having animal characters act like real animals instead of the typical talking comedy foil, stark contrasts in the direction of the story’s various environments, and vivid color choices, all the key production creators are able to point to what specifically sets their movie apart.

Here is a look inside Klaus: The Art of the Movie:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

For years it seemed like new Christmas classics were few and far between.  It usually takes some time for a movie to gain “classic” status, and that itself is, of course, in the eye of the beholder.  Early on audiences stamped the label on Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, and White Christmas.  You have your A Charlie Brown Christmas, your How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and a bevy of Rankin & Bass stop-motion animated shows like Frosty the Snowman.  Then more modern fare came along, like A Christmas Story, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, The Muppet Christmas Carol, and Elf.  Oh, and we can’t forget Die Hard.  All stamped with an anvil as “classics.”  If you want to see more movies from cinema history, check out the Turner Movie Classics book Christmas in the Movies, reviewed last year here at borg.

Putting aside the modern made for TV movies, if you’re younger, you may count as a classic something like The Polar Express, with Tom Hanks.  It’s that kind of recent film category where you can add in Netflix’s new movie–its first animated feature, Klaus Both of these movies are animated in interesting ways that will keep you entertained simply from a visual perspective, Klaus from its unique lighting and color choices and a strong Spanish comic art style (as seen in Dog Mendonça and PizzaBoy).  They also share a certain traditional storybook look, and their tales also look back to nostalgia for their ideas.  Klaus is another origin story take on Santa Claus.  Audiences have seen this many times, including in the not to be missed films Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (featuring the voices of Fred Astaire, Mickey Rooney, and Keenan Wynn) and in books like L. Frank Baum’s The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus and more recently, the brilliant Santa: My Life and Times, with artwork by Bill Sienkiewicz (we reviewed it here).

Spain’s Sergio Pablos directed Klaus intentionally stepping away from modern Disney-style CGI animation to traditional hand-drawn art, so it looks more like Disney’s top technical achievement, the Oscar-winning Beauty and the Beast from 1991, and less like The Hunchback of Notre Dame.  The story is cute, and contrasting with the traditional visual style, is the inclusion of humorous dialogue told by voice talents famously known for being snarky.  We follow a postman named Jesper, who couldn’t look or sound more like David Spade, actually voiced by Jason Schwartzman.  Jesper is a non-achiever, and his father sends him to a distant Scandinavian town to learn to be successful at his job.  The town ends up like a lawless town out of the Old West.  His job is to get people to use the mail service again.  Along the way he runs into a Hatfield-McCoy conflict, with one part voiced by Joan Cusack, and an old man with a house full of toys named Klaus, voiced by J.K. Simmons.

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Which came first, Scooby Doo or Scooby Snacks?

Hey, Scoob!  It wasn’t enough they got to co-star on Supernatural.  We’ve seen them in a few live action movies, but now we get to see Scooby, Shaggy, Velma, Fred, and Daphne on the big screen in animated form in their first full-length animated film The movie is titled Scoob! and it looks like we get an answer to the question about Scooby Snacks (psst… in real life they were for dogs only and colored red, gold, and green, not just gold as seen in the show, but now they are available gold-colored and only in a people version).   The animation is cranked up a few notches, looking a bit more like the modern animation style of The Incredibles, The Peanuts Movie, Toy Story, and Ferdinand.

The original voice actor for the entire four-decade history of Fred, Frank Welker, now takes on the voice of Scooby, with Will Forte as Shaggy, Zac Efron as Fred, Amanda Seyfried as Daphne, and Gina Rodriguez as Velma.  The slate of actors voicing supporting characters looks great, with Mark Walhberg as Blue Falcon, Jason Isaacs as Dick Dastardly, Ken Jeong as Dynomutt, and Tracy Morgan as Captain Caveman.

And, yes, not everything needs an origin story, but why not one for Shaggy and Scoob?  Check out this preview for Scoob!the new Scooby Doo movie:

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With winter settling in and another cold snap crossing the U.S. and the film’s nomination for a Best Animated Film Academy Award, audiences are continuing to discover Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse in theaters (reviewed earlier here at borg).  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse–The Official Movie Special is a new hardcover book going behind the scenes of the movie, and it has a different twist.  The book interviews all three of the film’s directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, and Rodney Rothman, who provide different perspectives on working with Phil Lord on the script, and share insight into the pre-production, voice actor recording, and visual effects.

Senior animation supervisor Josh Beveridge recounts the steps of the animation process used for the film, including inkline methodology to make the film look like a comic book, using a large team of animators.  Several pages are devoted to each of Miles Morales and his family, Peter B. Parker, Spider-Man Noir, Gwen Stacy, Peter Porker, and Peni Parker and SP//dr–how each was designed, how each was presented to distinguish their different comic book origins using variations in light, color, and dimension, and how each voice actor approached the performance.  The villains get coverage, too, including the Prowler, Kingpin, Tombstone, and a new Green Goblin and Doc Ock.

The best look at stills from the film released so far can be found in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse–The Official Movie Special.  It also nicely references all the writers and artists that created the various Spider-Verse characters used in the film.  It features concept art and production art from production designer Justin K. Thompson, art director Dean Gordon, and creators Jesús Alonzo Iglesias, Seonna Hong, Patrick O’Keefe, Shiyoon Kim, Yashar Kassai, Naveen Selvanathan, Paul Lasaine, and Craig Kellman.  Voice actors Shameik Moore, Jake Johnson, and Hailee Steinfeld also provide contributions.

Take a look inside at a few pages from Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse–The Official Movie Special:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

If you forgot why so many fans of superhero movies rate The Incredibles as not only their top animated movie but their favorite and best superhero movie, too, The Incredibles 2 will bring you back around.  It was 2004 when we first met the Parr family, and yet here 14 years later the voice acting talent hasn’t missed a beat.  Sure, we have a new actor as Dash (Huck Milner, replacing Spencer Fox), but Craig T. Nelson (Bob/Mr. Incredible), Holly Hunter (Helen/Elastigirl), Sarah Vowell (Violet), and Samuel L. Jackson (Lucius/Frozone) could have recorded this in 2005 and it couldn’t have sounded any better.  And sound is half of the appeal of this solid sequel to the Academy Award-winning original, which won the Oscar for best animated film.

The music is just as incredible as Michael Giacchino’s work in the original, only his expanded themes this time may have resulted in an even better soundtrack.  How did he not win the Oscar for the original?  Who knows, but the Oscar-winning composer (for Up) pulls out all the stops from the 1960s spy movies, leaning on James Bond themes and using trumpets frequently grinding and screaming their way through a film that must be at least 85% action.  If you are patient enough to sit through the full credits you’ll even hear the “classic TV show” style theme songs for each of the lead superheroes.  The Incredibles 2 was worth the wait just for the visuals and style to be mirrored just right, thanks to returning writer/director Brad Bird leading the way.  Bird was nominated for an Oscar for his writing for the original, and his new story nicely balances a fresh, new adventure with those elements fans want more of.  So expect more bumbling by Mr. Incredible, more heroics by Elastigirl, more everything by Frozone, more Edna Mode, and more over-the-top, zany villainy.

Why are the original and The Incredibles 2 such great superhero movies?  They certainly rip the heroics from the comic book pages, they make the family of heroes endearing but not sappy, they pepper the film with humor, and connect it all with an easy, fun story–not too much drama, but when it’s there it’s because of the maniacal nature of the most memorable comic book villains.  The Incredibles 2 also benefits from not feeling obligated to use the Disney convention of adding goofy irrelevant characters added only for a dose of low-brow humor.  They had room to do that with super-baby Jack-Jack, but instead of leaning on him for that, they use the character to help give Mr. Incredible a rounded story arc, providing the baby with several great scenes that steal the show.  Anyone who ever had someone waking them up every night at 3 a.m. will appreciate the realism of little, smiling, happy-go-lucky Jack-Jack.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

The Art of Ferdinand is the latest in a line of books chronicling the creative process behind genre movies, but this is the first we’ve seen that explores the director’s process for envisioning and executing an animated film from beginning to end.  Showcasing a fantastic film, December’s Ferdinand from Blue Sky Studios (reviewed here at borg.com), writer Tara Bennett uses interviews with the director and an army of production artists and incorporates digital artwork and final renderings from the film to explain how a film is made that merited an Academy Award nomination for the year’s best animated film.

Movie buffs and fans of the original story will likely encounter a new lexicon of moviemaking in The Art of Ferdinand.  Not only do readers see the typical concept art and production stills you’d find in a feature film, director Carlos Saldanha explains each step he took adapting one of the bestselling books of all time, Munro Leaf and Robert Lawson’s Ferdinand, and collaborating with a staff of artists to expand upon the original 30-page tale into a big-budget animated movie.  Saldanha tells how he started with the last third of the film, sequences he knew would need to look a certain way and more closely mimic the events of the storybook.  Each animated character was taken through an elaborate design process.  After development of both the young version and much larger version of Ferdinand the bull, they moved to the supporting characters with drawings, paintings, sculptures, and digital renderings of each in multiple poses with updated techniques but mirroring what you may have seen in “making of” features from animator Walt Disney from decades past.

A different language of animation is also explored in the book: light sources and bounce-light have greater meaning in an animated film such as Ferdinand, and the director and artists must sketch character turnarounds, color callouts, and texture art, as well as shape, movement, gesture, and expression studies of characters, and a color script similar to storyboards in live action movies, identifying the flow of color throughout the film.   Interaction and movement an actor would perform must be blocked out in the most intricate of ways.  Shape language must be considered, design themes and color themes, proportions of objects, and the use of negative space.

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Moana-Final-Poster-for-Disneys-Wallpapers

Moana is the next animated movie coming from Disney, the 56th animated film created by the company.  It’s a 3D computer-animated, musical, fantasy, and adventure film starring 14-year-old high school freshman voice actress Auli’i Cravalho as Moana Waialiki and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as the demi-god Maui.

Fan-favorite actor Alan Tudyk (Firefly, A Knight’s Tale) will also be providing the voice of one of the film’s characters.

Disney is marketing Moana as the company’s first-ever Polynesian princess.

The Academy Award-nominated team of Iowa native Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules) and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Hercules) are serving as co-directors and script writers again on this feature.

Moana oceania

Check out this trailer for Moana:

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