For me great animation is a marriage of two other big loves of mine—beautiful 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.
At the Reel 2 Real Festival where I had the opportunity to see "The Prophet", the folks that introduced the film described it as a "Fantasia" for our generation. Inwardly I cringed at this, but I kept and open mind and... wow, this is absolutely a film that must be seen.
The combination of the Mustafa storyline and Gibran's poetry, give "The Prophet" the through line that I felt "Fantasia" was always sorely lacking. I wouldn't characterize it as the most earth-shattering story to be animated, but it gives bones to the film that could easily have turned into another grab bag collection without it.
Liam Neeson also is a superb casting choice for the poet, Mustafa, and listening to him gently impart Gibran's essays on subjects such as work, love, freedom, children and death is a real treat. I would love to hear him do a full audiobook reading of the original text so that I can curl up with his voice every night.
For animation enthusiasts, "The Prophet" is a treasure trove of delights. The segments are beautifully animated and strikingly different from one another. While I easily recognized the ones by Nina Paley, Tomm Moore and Bill Plympton, all of them are of a very high calibre. I was particularly impressed with the one for "On Work" by Joan Gratz and found myself Googling her other films on my way home. Her clay painting technique is extraordinary and utilized beautifully in her segment.
"The Prophet" has been popping up in festivals since its debut at Cannes last year. It should be getting a broader release in the US in August 2015.
See this film.
It isn't just a worthy heir to "Fantasia"... in my opinion, it vastly improves upon it.
In terms of tone this is a small, delicate film reminiscent of something like "My Neighbour Totoro" or "Ponyo." Like in "Secret of Kells", the visuals are absolutely breathtaking and Moore's style always reminds me of stained glass come to life. The backgrounds are so heavily stylized and richly textured that you never run out of places to look. The characters themselves are uniquely designed and very appealing with my favourites being the owl witch and the hermit with all the hair.
Where I felt "Secret of Kells" lagged a bit was with its story. The visuals were amazing, but the story felt like it was meandering along in service to the visuals. "Song the Sea" feels like a much more cohesive piece. It is, at its heart, a very simple story about a boy learning how to be a good big brother and the love the eventually blossoms between these two siblings. The magical elements in the tale only serve to enhance the story and provide grounds for the visual tapestry to unfold.
This is truly a not-to-be-missed film and one worth tracking down and seeing on the big screen if you can.
Its sequel is another.
I went into that theatre tonight with fairly moderate expectations given how often sequels have disappointed me in the past. I was excited to see Hiccup, Toothless and the world of Berk again, but that was about it.
Truthfully this is a different kind of movie than the first. The original is the story of a boy and his dragon--sort of "The Black Stallion" if the horse had had wings and breathed fire. The sequel is more about how does that boy, his dragon and their dragon-riding people fit into the wider world. It's a much bigger story which feels at times less intimate and it teeters on the edge of trying to pull off too much. If I have any quibble with this movie, it's that I feel like there's some level of expectation that viewers will have seen the "Riders of Berk" TV series. There were a couple places where it seemed like they were referencing Hiccup's background as a 'peacekeeper' and to adventures and habits that we don't get the opportunity to see in this movie.
So why did I still give it four stars? Because it's funny, because it's amazing to look at... and because, when all is said and done, it ultimately came down to being about a boy and his dragon. The sequel honours all the best qualities of the first movie while "growing up" into something more--just as both Hiccup and Toothless have done.
And because, when the credits rolled, I wanted to jump to my feet and cheer... and there just aren't enough movies that do that anymore.
Oh, and there was a HUGE grin on my face as I said it.
This film is hilarious. I can't think of the last time I went to a movie--animated or otherwise--where I laughed so hard. There are pop culture gags that are genuinely funny. There are sight gags. Toward the end, I just about died over the whole "SPACESHIIIIIIPPP!! SPACESHIP! SPACESHIP!" thing.
(Don't worry, you'll get it.)
The animation and effects are just insane. Going in I knew Lego would be everywhere, but I never anticipated Lego smoke bricks rolling off glowing clear plastic Lego fire bricks. I'm also fairly certain someone lost many years of their life figuring out how to making a roiling, sloshing Lego ocean. Effectively the Lego itself becomes a continuous sight gag, but it's one that is so well done that you can't wait to turn the corner to see what else the animators come up with.
If the film stumbles at all it's over the whole convoluted plot of involving the Special, the Piece of Resistance and the Kraggle.
I know, I thought that too. It does eventually come together in a way that makes sense, but I spent a good chunk of the first part of the movie rather confused, thinking that I'd heard some key plot point wrong. The reveal is quite funny so I won't spoil it, so just enjoy all the colourful Lego bricks flying about until you get there.
It was the second viewing for the friend that I went with. Usually I'm the one who is going to see an animated film for a second (or third) time, so the fact that she wanted a second viewing definitely lit a fire under me to go. Make sure you see this one in the theatre at least once too.
I think what intrigued me the most about this series was the blend of the mythic and the modern. Just this idea of medieval magical beings flying around New York city. Now that I think about it, there's a certain "American Gods" flare to it with these displaced creatures just trying to bumble their way through our world.
The animation isn't quite as edgy as say "Batman: the Animated Series" but it has a bit of that vibe and, considering what else Disney was making at the time, this is definitely a stretch for them.
Although I liked the gargoyle characters, particularly Goliath, thinking back Elisa was probably my favourite character. Just this tough female cop who could hold her own with these guys.
Oh, and for the DVD hunters out there, all of Season 1 was released but only the first half of Season 2. So if you look on Amazon or elsewhere you'll find Season 2, vol.1 but not vol.2. Disney says it was due to lack of sales, but it's frustrating to be one volume from having the full series on one's shelf.