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Tag Archive: Blue Sky Studios


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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Review by C.J. Bunce

A fantastic animated movie is heading to theaters this week that your family is not going to want to miss, and (assuming you’re already planning to see Star Wars: The Last Jedi) if you see only two movies over the holidays you’ll want to make sure this is one of them.  Once referred to as the greatest children’s book since Winnie the Pooh, the 1936 internationally successful The Story of Ferdinand has finally been adapted into a full-length animated film.  It is the real deal–a classic animated movie in the tradition of Pinocchio, Bambi, Snow White, The Jungle Book, Tarzan, and Beauty and the Beast, possibly the best film in decades to merit inclusion among these cinema greats, with a level of animation that may have you thinking of the Aardman stop-action films because of its quality 3D animation.  The 32-page original story written by Munro Leaf and illustrated by Robert Lawson has been expanded into a larger story with new characters like many popular children’s books–think Dumbo the Flying Elephant, The Polar Express, and The Night at the Museum–remaining completely loyal to the original story.

Ferdinand tells the story of a rural Spanish bull (voiced by actor/WWE wrestler John Cena) who is not interested in growing up like other bulls to fight a matador in the giant arena in Madrid.  He leaves his farm and is adopted by a man and his daughter, where he spends his days smelling (and caring for) flowers on the hillside.  He eventually grows to be a giant bull, larger than any bull around, and a mishap bee sting lands Ferdinand back at the farm with the bulls he grew up with.  They, too, have grown up: Valiente, a stubborn, angry bull (voiced by Ant-Man’s Bobby Cannavale), a small bull named Bones (voiced by Law and Order’s Anthony Anderson), Guapo, a show-off bull (voiced by NFL football player Peyton Manning), an engineered super bull named Machina, and a Scottish Highlander named Angus (voiced by Doctor Who’s David Tennant).  Law and Order’s Jeremy Sisto provides the voice of Ferdinand’s father and Jerrod Carmichael (Transformer: The Last Knight) is the voice of the dog, Paco.  Soon an ambitious goat (voiced by Saturday Night Live’s Kate McKinnon) befriends Ferdinand as Ferdinand learns what it means to be seen by everyone as a “monstrous” bull again.

Ferdinand has it all, at its core a story about an individual who stays true to himself, beautiful scenery, some fun and familiar voice actors, a complex villain, an outstanding musical score with great songs, and powerful themes.  Brazilian director Carlos Saldanha, who directed the Ice Age films and Rio, demonstrates his mastery of cutting edge animation, with a screenplay that creates several subplots that all get nicely tied up by film’s end.  The soundtrack includes songs from Smash Mouth, Green Day, Shakira, Ed Sheeran, and many more.  Prolific composer John Powell (The Italian Job, Shrek, The Bourne Identity, Paycheck, X-Men: The Last Stand, and next year’s Solo: A Star Wars Story) offers up a musical score that includes all you’d hope for in a Spanish story, incorporating a variety of styles and instrumentation.

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This year one of the world’s best children’s books will come to life as author Munro Leaf and artist Robert Lawson’s 1936 book The Story of Ferdinand is adapted for the big screen as Blue Sky Studios’ Ferdinand.  Life magazine once called Ferdinand, “the greatest juvenile classic since Winnie the Pooh”.  The Story of Ferdinand even outsold Gone With the Wind to be 1938’s number one bestseller.

Ferdinand is a bull in rural Spain, a pacifist who only wishes to enjoy the idyllic life and smell the flowers in the pasture.  But he is thrust into the world of bullfighting because he is seen as an enormous, fierce creature.

John Cena (Psych, Parks and Recreation) stars as the voice of Ferdinand, with co-stars Kate McKinnon (Ghostbusters 2016), David Tennant (Doctor Who), and Anthony Anderson (Law and Order).  So far we’ve seen nothing but great films from Blue Sky Studios, like Titan A.E., the Ice Age series, Rio, and The Peanuts Movie.  These are the same guys that created computer animation for Alien: Resurrection and Star Trek: Insurrection.

Check out this fun trailer for Ferdinand:

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Peanuts movie clipIt’s something that fans of Charlie Brown and Snoopy have been waiting for, for several reasons.  The Peanuts Movie hit theaters late last year, but it was lost in the movie season among the spectacle that was Star Wars released just weeks later.  Yet if you saw it in the theater, you realize this movie was a keeper.  The Peanuts Movie is what all family movies strive for:  classic characters, good-natured humor, something to enjoy for every moviegoer.  The very young will love Snoopy and understand the relationship of the Peanuts kids that we older folks have known and loved for years, in newspaper funnies, in paperback editions, and the many Peanuts specials.  The Peanuts Movie does something else–it provides the best version of Charlie Brown and friends we’ve seen since the original 1965 favorite A Charlie Brown Christmas.

The Peanuts Movie gets it right from the beginning, in its pedigree.  It’s written by Craig Schulz, Charles M. Schulz’s son and a writer on the Community comedy series, and Charles’ grandson, Bryan.  So, unlike the onslaught of lackluster adaptations that have plagued the Dr. Seuss properties after his death, the same heart and soul of Charles’ creation is as powerful as ever.  The writers have turned to the source material for many interactions in the film, like Lucy’s converted lemonade stand/psychiatry office and the famous wall where Charlie and Linus ponder the worlds’ problems, and yet they have updated the story in subtle and important ways that are both loyal to the original and still give loyalists a satisfying pay-off.  And don’t worry, the updating ends with the inclusion of standardized tests–you won’t find any cell phones, smart phones or texting issues for the kids in this movie.

The story centers around Charlie Brown’s attraction to the little red-haired girl who moves in across the street and the lengths he will go to to try to impress her.  This love affair was the core of many original Peanuts comic strips, based on Charles Schulz’s real-life attraction from afar with a red-haired girl.  Snoopy’s parallel exploits in this movie mirror this love affair, as he pursues his own love story on paper, revealed to us as a story of a dog trying to win over air pilot Fifi in his World War I Sopwith Camel fighter plane on a mission in France, also taking on the famous Red Baron.

Peanuts blu-ray

The Peanuts Movie hails from Blue Sky Studios, who brought us the Ice Age franchise.  Even without a 3D television the depth of field here is spectacular, and with the 3D effect director Steve Martino does not shell out standard 3D gimmicks, but lets the characters simply float off the comic strip and into their own full-color, beautiful “real” world.  The backgrounds look like the homes and backyards of any American town cul de sac.  And if you look close enough you’ll see Snoopy finally has fur.

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Ice Age Collision Course July 22

Blue Sky Studios–the same studio that brought the Peanuts characters to the big screen last year–and 2oth Century Fox are continuing the animated Ice Age series this summer with Ice Age: Collision Course.  The studio released a new full-length trailer this week to accompany March movies.

This is the fifth film in the series that began with the 2002 hit Ice Age, and continued in the full-length films Ice Age: The Meltdown, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs, and Ice Age: Continental Drift, as well as the short films Gone Nutty, No Time for Nuts, Surviving Sid, Cosmic Scrat-tastrophe, and the TV specials Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas and Ice Age: The Great Egg-Scapade.

Ice Age: Collision Course includes the voices of Simon Pegg, John Leguizamo, Max Greenfield, Ray Romano, Denis Leary, and Jennifer Lopez.

Check out this new trailer:

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Peanuts movie 2015 Christmas

We first started talking about the new Peanuts movie here at borg.com back in March with the release of the first teaser trailer.  With all the throwaway animation for kids out there these days why not give us a trailer showcasing our old pals an entire year prior to its release?  And lighting up poor Woodstock aside, why not give us a Christmas scene to ponder over?

Which raises the question:  Will the Blue Sky Studios/20th Century Fox update to Charles Schulz’s classic short films and theatrical releases, filmed in Real D 3D and Digital 3D, give us any remakes of classic scenes from past Peanuts films?  Like the Christmas pageant or the Great Pumpkin watch?

3D peanuts movie

After the break, check out the new trailer for Peanuts, featuring Snoopy as a World War I flying ace and his own doggy version of the Sopwith Camel flying over Paris, a scene we have seen many times before:

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