Tag Archive: animated movies


Raya and the Last Dragon is the next animated Disney movie, coming later this winter.  Every new look at the film is more exciting than the last, and this is shaping up to be the next Mulan or MoanaRaya and the Last Dragon is entirely computer animated.  It features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Raya, a warrior heroine who is seeking the Last Dragon, named Sisu, voiced by comedy actor Awkwafina (Jumanji: The Next Level), all in a classically designed visual fantasy homage to The Hobbit or The Last Unicorn.  Other cast lending their voices to the film include Gemma Chan (Humans, Captain Marvel) as Namaari, Raya’s chief rival and frenemy, Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange) as giant warrior Tong, and Daniel Dae Kim (Hellboy) as Raya’s father.

Here’s the second trailer for Raya and the Last Dragon:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Over the Moon is Netflix’s latest achievement in animation, a Chinese-American production with Pearl Studio about a young girl named Fei Fei (meaning “to fly”) who decides to build a rocket to the moon.  The animation style is a mix of 1990s Disney, elaborate and surreal Fantasia-inspired sequences of color and texture, with doses of Japanese anime and kawaii characters while immersed in Chinese culture–and it’s a musical.   In a word the film is ambitious… in a good way.  At its best, visually the 3D CGI visual effects may recall the groundbreaking imagery of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.  The sweet and innocent girl’s story is built on the idea that a kid can actually build a ship to go into outer space (just as in the 1980s film Explorers).  But as with many animated movies, like Bambi and Dumbo, its focus is on the serious issue of overcoming grief, and in this case it’s moving on after the death of a parent, so the audience for the film may be a bit narrow.  To take Netflix viewers on a deeper journey, film critic and historian Leonard Maltin has written a behind the scenes look at the making of the film and its stunning artwork.  Below we have a preview of his Over the Moon: Illuminating the Journey for borg readers.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Comic book readers knew him first when he was created in 2011 from the mind of Brian Michael Bendis in the pages of Marvel Comics, then in 2018 Miles Morales took the world by storm in the groundbreaking animated movie Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, one of the best animated films that year.  A new novel for teens fleshes out the young superhero as he moves to a new neighborhood and experiences a new generation’s take on the teen angst once exhibited in the comics pages of newspapers everywhere by his mentor, Peter Parker.  Spider-Man Miles Morales: Wings of Fury is a prequel novel (not a comic book) to the new PlayStation game Spider-Man: Miles Morales from Insomniac Games and Sony, but it’s a story that can appeal to anyone beaten up and battered around by life and circumstance.

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Notable in part for being the first animated movie out of Disney without the work of creator John Lasseter in 15 years, the next major animated movie from Disney features the voices of two well-known genre stars, and it looks a bit on theme with Disney’s last live-action movie, Mulan.  Raya and the Last Dragon is all computer-animated, and it features the voices of Kelly Marie Tran (Star Wars: The Last Jedi) as Raya, a warrior heroine who is seeking the Last Dragon, named Sisu, voiced by comedy actor Awkwafina (Jumanji: The Next Level), all in a classic fantasy The Hobbit or The Last Unicorn-homage tale.

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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 the animation is cranked up a few notches, more like the style of The Incredibles, The Peanuts Movie, Toy Story, and Ferdinand.  And now with theaters closed for the COVID-19 pandemic, this means Scoob!, scheduled to debut in theaters this Friday, instead is coming directly to your home Friday via streaming platforms including Amazon Prime and Vudu.  As part of Vudu’s Theater at Home, you can also get a $3 credit via email by pre-ordering Scoob! today–May 14–only.

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altered-carbon-resleeved

Review by C.J. Bunce

Audiences have seen some great animated films in recent years, with movies upping the ante on technology and visual magic, whether in Ferdinand or Spider-Man: Into the Spider-verse or Spies in Disguise or Klaus.  Netflix’s new anime movie, a sequel to its live-action, futuristic, sci-fi hit Altered Carbon, takes animation and visual effects even further.  Altered Carbon: Resleeved is part Blade Runner 2049, part Marvel’s The Punisher (season two), and part Wu Assassins.  Live-action action sequences are rarely as thrilling as those choreographed in this film.

As with the live-action Altered Carbon, the inspiration from Syd Mead’s trademark futurism is all over this film, and that world looks just as stunning in anime form.  The storyboarding and layouts, the surprise screen angles, wipes, and character movements are like nothing you’ve seen before, and the details are at times life-like and three dimensional.  The story and execution is a vast improvement on the second season of the live-action show, which was a really good season of episodes to begin with.

Gena

Two years after the end of season two we catch up with Takeshi Kovacs, resleeved and working a job for Mr. Tanaseda, who has him pursuing a girl named Holly, a tattoo artist with cybernetic eyes and pawn of the yakuza, who carries some critical secrets.  Working for CTAC is Gena, a badass agent carrying secrets, who clashes with Kovacs early on.  It’s two days from an ascension ceremony–the anointing of a new mob boss–and in that time Kovacs must figure out why Mr. Tanaseda has set him on this job.  The anime film, available with English subtitles or dubbed, has a new hotel and a new concierge named Ogai (voiced in the dubbed version by Chris Conner, who plays the concierge, Poe, and hotel manager in the live-action series).  Ogai is a holographic Japanese man loyal to the new boss, but fond of Holly.  Fans of the series will find his hotel to have equally exciting defensive feature’s as Poe’s hotel, The Raven.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

A blend of Spectre, Mission: Impossible, and Zootopia is coming your way this Christmas, and it has the look, humor, strong writing, and overall vibe of The Incredibles.  It’s director Nick Bruno and Troy Quane′s new animated film, Spies in DisguiseWant to see a U.S. version of James Bond?  How about Will Smith as James Bond?  Or a story focused on the character Q?  Like The Incredibles it has a great musical score, fast action, quick edits, lifelike CGI environments, and fun that will having you laughing out loud throughout the entire movie.  That and more is what you get with Spies in DisguiseIn his third film this year, Will Smith isn’t actually playing James Bond, but a familiar type of spy named Lance Sterling, who works in a U.S. spy facility in Washington, DC, located under the National Mall.  At the section that is the equivalent of the Bond world’s Q Branch is a host of scientists making the latest weaponry and safety equipment for Sterling and his peers.

Enter Spider-Man actor Tom Holland′s Walter Beckett, who has been an inventor of spy gadget toys since his youth, living with his mom who was a cop who later died on duty, and now he’s creating the real thing.  Only Walter’s gadgets don’t kill or hurt–they resolve conflicts in other ways.  Sterling learns this when he tries to set off a bomb when surrounded by 70 villains at a drug lord’s lair in Japan.  Instead of leaving everyone dead, it sets off Walter’s Kitty Glitter bomb–which allows Sterling to escape by temporarily disorienting the enemy with a glitter cloud and cute cat video.  This is a great family film with heart like you’d find in the Aardman’s holiday treasure Arthur Christmas, putting a stiff master spy with a young optimist very much like Arthur of the Christmas movie, borrowing that film’s theme, “being weird or different is cool.”

To defeat Sterling’s greatest foes–a cyborg with a high-tech arm named Killian voiced by Rogue One, Ready Player One, and Captain Marvel’s Ben Mendelsohn and the drug lord, Kimura, voiced by Heroes, Hawaii Five-O, and The Meg’s Masi Oka–Sterling needs the ultimate weapon.  Walter thinks he has that weapon almost perfected, but before he has a chance to explain it Sterling drinks down the formula for it.  As advertised in the trailer, it makes Sterling d-i-s-a-p-p-e-a-r, and in Walter’s view disappear means take on the form of a pigeon–yes, a pigeon–so the spy won’t be detected, because nobody pays attention to pigeons, right?  Every city has ’em.  And it only gets better from there.  Walter’s Q shop of tech ideas is nothing short of brilliant, funny, and even thought-provoking, including his all-protective Inflatable Hug.

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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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