For me great animation is a marriage of two other big loves of mineóbeautiful art and captivating storytelling. You nail those things and it's almost guaranteed that you'll have my eyeballs glued to the screen. I grew up on Disney films like Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast so my tastes tend to unconsciously lean that way, however I love seeing animation that breaks new ground and really shows where the medium can go.
drawing, painting, animation, absorbing pop culture, animation, web design, writing, animation...
Animation that I love:
How to Train Your Dragon, Mary and Max, Tangled, Princess Mononoke, The Incredibles, Nightmare Before Christmas, Rescuers Down Under, ... etc. etc.
And then the trailers came out and it was like a checklist of things I love to see in movies... fiery heroine--check!... kicking ass and taking names--check!... awesome archery skills--check!
(Side note: Is it just me or is this the year where the archers are just coming out of the woodwork? First "Hunger Games" then Hawkeye in "Avengers"... )
ANYWAYS... I was pretty stoked to see this movie. Even after I began to see some weak reviews coming in, I thought "meh, this is PIXAR movie... even a supposedly 'bad' or 'fair' Pixar movie is going to be head and shoulders above everybody else!"
So I saw it tonight and the short non-spoilery version of the review is that the animation and rendering are, of course, top-notch. Somebody should be getting an Oscar for Merida's hair alone and there was some really nice work done on her horse, Angus. But, unfortunately, the story really felt kind of slap-dash. It just didn't have that simple, solidity that past Pixar films have done so well with.
***BEWARE! Beyond this point there be SPOILERS!!***
An prime example of this kind of surprisingly sloppy storytelling is when Merida goes to talk to the witch. The witch, btw, was a great character and I'd wish they'd found a way to use her more. Now, Merida's emotional, she just had a big fight with her Mom and obviously that's going to be on her mind... but when she tells the witch to cast a spell to "change her Mom" and "change her Fate"... she doesn't specify! AT ALL! It was probably the biggest plot point in the film and all it needed was a few extra lines where she tries to tell the witch how her Mom is trying to marry her off, but it was like the whole conversation was deliberately and painfully vague so that this otherwise likeable character of the witch would change Mom into a bear.
And the whole bear thing combined with witch? It took me some time to place it, but it there's kind of this weird Disney's "Brother Bear" mashed with Ursula from "The Little Mermaid"... thing... or maybe that just popped into my mind because I've watched too many animated films.
There was also the whole business with a ripped tapestry and Merida trying to sew on the back of a galloping horse that just left me a little too incredulous in the latter part of the film. And while I'm sitting there with my brain going "huh??", I'm not emotionally engaged and that's kind of a let down in a Pixar film. And while I absolutely believe that fantasy can be fantastical, the best fantasy still has be grounded in logic... in the actions of characters that you can understand and relate to.
I don't know, maybe it'll improve for me on subsequent viewings, but I'm afraid that "Brave" was kind of a disappointment.
It's not a bad movie, but it's not what I would call a great one either. It meanders along with its occasional cute/funny moments... I will give a kudos to the character design department for all the cool new prehistoric critters... but nothing about the movie as a whole held me and it's not something I'd go out of my way to recommend to a fellow animation fan.
Also there was a definite quality of 'more and faster is better' for the action sequences. Clearly CGI opened up a lot of options for Aardman, but all the action sequences felt too frantic and not nearly as funny or well thought-out as their previous films.
There's some good stuff here and hints at what might have been a good movie, but personally I don't think it ever quite came together in the way that their other work has in the past.
I think I enjoyed the stuff with Gargamel and Azrael the best.
(edit: yeesh even with that much endorsement they're immovable... guess they'll be on our Worst 5 list for a while longer...)
Runaway Brain is one such offshoot and watching it I frankly found it to be quite jarring. Mickey Mouse absorbed in a video game? Mickey Mouse forgetting his anniversary with Minnie? Crazy frothing Mickey Mouse? I don't know exactly what it was about this short, but personally I felt its tone just pulled too far away from the Mickey I was used to seeing... so that the end result was akin to watching Tenderheart Bear in a Rambo outfit... okay, possibly not the far, but still...
There's nothing particularly wrong with this short--great animation and some good gags--but overall it just didn't sit right with me.