ENJOY THE SHOW
Some animated films are made for kids. Some animated films are made for adults. But some animated films are made for audiences of all ages, for everyone to enjoy, and for everyone to appreciate and learn from. Tito and the Birds (Tito e os Pássaros) is one of these animated films made for audiences of all ages, and it's an important film for the times we live in. Directed by three filmmakers – Gabriel Bitar, André Catoto, Gustavo Steinberg – the film comes from Brazil and is set in Brazil, telling the story of one young boy who saves the world. Not with any superpowers or clever tricks, but by using his brain, and by resisting the urge to cave to the paralyzing fear that pervades society these days. It's a gorgeous film, both in the way it looks and its story, and one that I hope finds a global audience as it certainly deserves the attention and acclaim.
"Animation can explain whatever the mind of man can conceive. This facility makes it the most versatile and explicit means of communication yet devised for quick mass appreciation." -Walt Disney. I decided to attend the Annecy Film Festival this year to see some films, in hopes of catching the best best animated films before anyone else. What I discovered is a festival unlike any other, a community of animation geeks, illustrators, filmmakers, storytellers, and cinephiles; a lovely little town known as the "Venice of the Alps"; and a handful of films that show how incredibly versatile and emotional animation can be as a storytelling technique. I fell in love with this festival, which is no surprise considering I've heard great things about it for years. It is indeed one of the greatest film festivals in the world, and I did indeed see some exceptional films.
One important lesson we all learn in life is that happiness is an endless pursuit. There's no such thing as a permanent state of happiness. But this is a hard lesson to learn, and something that takes years to discover, through trial & error, experience, and understanding. On Happiness Road is a lovely little animated film that addresses this very idea, taking us on a journey through past and present in the life of one woman from Taiwan. On Happiness Road is an autobiographical film made by Taiwanese animator/filmmaker Hsin-Yin Sung that is about her pursuit of happiness, and learning what exactly that means, how to get there, and that happiness is not forever, and is not something you can just obtain. It's a very deeply personal film, but also a very meaningful and enjoyable, with a light touch that makes it that much more captivating to watch.
"Today's my birthday, and I'm treating myself to a trip to the seaside, as I do every year." In honor of the Annecy Film Festival for animation this week, I'm featuring a few good animated short films that are worth watching. This one actually won Best Short Film at Annecy back in 2016, and it's finally available online for viewing. The Head Vanishes is the latest short made by award-winning animation filmmaker Franck Dion, inspired by his great-grandmother, and the challenges of dementia. "The Head Vanishes is about the imagination of someone who is interpreting the world around her. It's an evanescent vision of things, just like Jacqueline's memory." The animation style is a bit clunky, but it's a heartfelt story. Watch in full below.
What have I stumbled upon?! What is this genius work of cinema?! Seder-Masochism is the new film by filmmaker Nina Paley (of Sita Sings the Blues previously) and it's totally amazing, brilliant, and hilarious. It's very hard to describe the film, but I will try. Seder-Masochism is an animated exploration of Judaism, featuring Moses and a few other characters singing and dancing to various pre-existing songs (of all kinds). I could almost describe this as fun animated YouTube short extended to a full-length feature, but it deserves more credit than that. It's also a personal film for Nina, as she interviews her father about her upbringing and his views on Judaism, while taking us on a journey into the history of Moses and the Book of Exodus.
"I'm going to steal their Christmas…!" Universal & Illumination have revealed the second official trailer for Dr. Seuss' The Grinch, their new animated take on the classic Christmas story about the lovable green grump the Grinch. Benedict Cumberbatch voices the Grinch. No other voice cast members have been revealed yet, Cumberbatch is still the only one listed. "The Grinch tells the story of a cynical grump who goes on a mission to steal Christmas, only to have his heart changed by a young girl’s generous holiday spirit. Funny, heartwarming and visually stunning, it’s a universal story about the spirit of Christmas and the indomitable power of optimism." This looks like another cash grab retelling of the classic holiday story, with some of Illumination's usual animated quirks. It looks amusing, but not as good as the original cartoon.
"All these camera moves are really scrambling my eggs!" Pow! Zam! Boom! In honor of the Annecy Film Festival for animation this week, I'm featuring a few animated short films that are worth watching. Next up is a fun one titled Rebooted, a 3D animated short film made by Sagar Arun and Rachel Kral from Ringling College of Art and Design. The concept of this involves a retro comic book superhero being introduced to the gritty, dark "rebooted" version of himself. It's an amusing riff on Batman and all the current DC superhero movies with dark, brooding characters. It's not the best short ever, but it's a very clever idea executed well.
It's not often that someone makes an R-rated animated movie. And when one does get made, they're usually not too good, either over-the-top or just nasty. Every once in a while, one comes along that totally blows the the lid off of everything and becomes a huge hit, shaking things up and proving there's an audience for this. Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires, directed by Michael Mort and made by an independent stop-motion studio in Wales called Animortal, is one of these insane movies that is sure to become an instant cult classic. We really haven't seen an all-out, R-rated animated movie packed with this much absurdity and ridiculous humor since Team America: World Police (in 2004!). Get ready for this one. Scratch that, there's nothing you can do to prepare yourself - except maybe watching Big Trouble in Little China on VHS before.
"What makes you think I can do this?!" In honor of the Annecy Film Festival for animation this week, I'm featuring a few animated short films that are worth watching. This one is titled Spell of the West, made by CalArts student Sam Lane. She made this as her third year film in the Experimental Animation program, and it's a fun film that's really about saving our environment and our planet. This is a super weird short, yet oddly enchanting and mysterious. I dig her visual style and the backdrops are exceptional. The voices could be improved, but considering this is a student short it's quite impressive. Watch when you have a moment.
I'm back in France! Only one month after the Cannes Film Festival, I have returned to France for another film festival - Annecy. For years I'd heard about Annecy, but for years I thought it was a festival only for animators and industry insiders and people who work on the films. Last year I learned that it's actually just another film festival, like any other, and that anyone can attend and see films. So I decided to make my first trip down to Annecy this year and check it out. For those that don't know, the "Festival International du Film d'Animation d'Annecy" is a fest dedicated to animation - all kinds of animation. They show short films, feature films, works in progress, and they host workshops, events, discussions, signings and more. It's basically Comic-Con for animation nerds - and they flock to this tiny town every year to geek out for a week.
"We are no longer safe here. We all have to disappear…" Universal has launched the first trailer for How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, the latest sequel in the animated series from DreamWorks Animation. The story continues where it left off after the second movie, following Hiccup as the village chief and Toothless as the dragon as leader of his own kind. As both ascend, the darkest threat they’ve yet faced—as well as the appearance of a female Night Fury—will test the bonds of their relationship like never before. The film's voice cast features Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, Kit Harington, Craig Ferguson, and F. Murray Abraham. This is described as the "culmination" of the HTTYD series, and it looks like an epic grand finale. There's some jaw-dropping footage here and it looks delightful, I'm 100% in.
"In your universe, there's only one Spider-Man. But there's another universe… It looks and sounds like yours - but it's not." This looks AMAZING!! Sony has debuted a new full-length trailer for their animated adventure Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, which looks like it features groundbreaking animation techniques and style. Phil Lord & Chris Miller wrote the script and are producing this film, and they're very excited to share it. Shameik Moore (from Dope!) provides the voice of Miles Morales, and the full cast includes Hailee Steinfeld, Liev Schreiber, Mahershala Ali, Brian Tyree Henry, Jake Johnson, and Lily Tomlin, along with surprise guests. I am super duper excited for this. I haven't seen such fresh and unique animation in a while. I love what they're doing, I love how wacky & weird it seems, everything about it makes me smile. My only issue - not a fan of Johnson as the original Spidey voice. But still! So good.