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Review: 'Turbo' goes nowhere, fast

Your rating: None Average: 5 (5 votes)

TurboTurbo is a movie about a snail who dreams of racing in the Indianapolis 500, and that totally works out for him.

Technically, there is not any rule that says a snail cannot race in the Indianapolis 500, just like there are, technically, no rules saying that a dog can’t play basketball, or that your sheepdog in the sheepdog competition has to be an actual dog (at least that one turned out pretty good), but there probably are rules stating that your race between race car drivers has to involve driving race cars. As the end of Talladega Nights pointed out, you can’t just run across the finish line and have that count; I’m sure this applies equally to whatever the technical term for snail locomotion is. [Adhesive locomotion, apparently.]

But, hey, a snail racing in the Indianapolis 500 is the premise, and this is an animated movie, so whatever. Unfortunately, the wonky premise is actually one of the better parts.

The Pitch Party 2013

Another San Diego Comic Con, and that means it’s time once again for Animation Magazine to hold their annual Pitch Party competition. For the past 12 years the Animation folks have asked would-be show-runners to purchase a 1/6-page ad in the magazine, wherein those creators can show off their idea for a new animated series as a one-panel poster. The ideas are judged by a panel of animation industry experts (including executives from The Hub, Cartoon Network, PBS, and more), as well as the Animation staff and the magazine’s readers, all of whom picked their favorites for a show to actually bring into development. As usual, there were several furry-themed titles among the entries, including: Mob Dogs by Paul Trineer, Across the Universe by Daron Orange, Master Karate Todd & the Power Squad (web site), Night Watch Dog by Chris Gruszka (web site), Fast Sloths by Stephanie Komure and Joseph Medina (web site), Shell & Paddy by Thomas Spettel (web site), and The Tinies of Raglan Shire by Michael Kushner (web site). So who won?

'Brain Divided' animates conflict between id, superego

Your rating: None Average: 2.7 (3 votes)

The Cartoon Brew website has announced the closing of its fourth annual Student Animation Festival. The Grand Prize winner is “Brain Divided”, a five-minute CGI film directed by Josiah Haworth, Joon Shik Song and Joon Soo Song at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida.

Can animators anthropomorphize the brain functions known as the id and the superego? Surely, going back to Disney’s Reason and Emotion (1943), probably most famous today for the animators’ caricature of fellow Disney animator Ward Kimball as the caveman Emotion. There is also the 1956 s-f feature Forbidden Planet with its “monsters from the id”, although the id there technically is not anthropomorphized; it’s just shown running amok. It’s not done often, thank Roscoe, or it would get old fast; but Haworth & Co. have done a fine job of it.

'Top Cat' theatrical feature coming August 2

Your rating: None Average: 3 (1 vote)

Frame from 'Top Cat'Was Hanna-Barbera’s Top Cat ever one of your favorite TV cartoons? It wasn’t one of mine, even in its original broadcast fifty-plus years ago – and there wasn’t much competition at the time.

Yet I am looking on this new theatrical feature more favorably. Thank Roscoe it hasn’t been given the CGI makeover that Yogi Bear got! Or Rocky & Bullwinkle, or the live-action makeover of George of the Jungle or Dudley Do-Right. (Can you imagine a live-action Top Cat played by Brendan Fraser?)

Animation: 'The Boxtrolls'; are trolls anthropomorphic?

Your rating: None Average: 2.5 (6 votes)

A stop-motion feature coming from Laika in Portland in September 2014. I dunno; they look more like really ugly men wearing cardboard boxes to me. But, just in case, here’s their first trailer, from Animation Scoop and Cartoon Brew (which also has the movie poster).

Review: 'Le jour des corneilles' ['The Day of the Crows']

Your rating: None Average: 3.3 (3 votes)

French DVD cover of 'The Day of the CrowsLe jour des corneilles (The Day of the Crows) is a 2012 French-language animated film for kids. While I was initially intrigued by the anthros at the end of its trailer, it turns out the furry content is marginal at best. Still a good film though!

The running time is about 94 minutes. It was co-produced in France, Belgium, Luxembourg and Canada, directed by Jean-Christophe Dessaint, written by Amandine Taffin, and was loosely inspired by a book written in 2004 by Jean-François Beauchemin.

Trailer: 'How to Train Your Dragon 2'

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It’s started! The How to Train Your Dragon 2 teaser trailer, on the Animation Scoop and Cartoon Brew websites.

Furry Movie Award Watch: June 2013

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Folks, it’s a slow month, so I put together a list of animated movies to be nominated for an Academy Award by cross referencing Jerry Beck’s animated feature list and the Oscar’s site.

First off, not all of these movies feature anthropomorphism or animals, much less anthropomorphic animals, but a vast majority do. Secondly, my definition of what constitutes an animated feature is stricter than Beck’s, so some movies that appear on his list and did gain nominations do not appear on mine. Thirdly, this is going to be a dry and boring read, but I promise it is full of facts. [And links!] I’ll be witty and insightful next month.

Update 3/9/2015: Now updated through 2014.

Fred Patten's CaliFur IX con report

Your rating: None Average: 3.8 (8 votes)

Califur IX intro screenSorry, but my CaliFur report this year is even skimpier than last year’s. That’s just the way it is.

Like every year since CaliFur V, CaliFur IX took place at the Irvine Marriott Hotel in Irvine, California, on May 31–June 2, 2013. This year’s theme was “FURtual Reality”. There were two guests-of-honor: Maxwell Alexander Drake, the Author GoH, author of the Moonbeam Young Adult Fantasy Award-winning novels in 2009 and 2011 (the first two novels in his Genesis of Oblivion Saga), and their publisher, Imagined Interprises, Inc. in Las Vegas; and NecroDrone, the Artist GoH, “BDSM Illustrator and Dominatrix extradiordinaire!” Official attendance was 1,178; an increase of over two hundred. Due to my continuing poor health, I was in a wheelchair, with my sister Sherrill pushing me. We could only attend for Saturday the 2nd.

Review: 'La chat du rabbin' ['The Rabbi's Cat']

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The Rabbi's Cat posterHad enough of French animated films yet? Don't worry, I'll run out of them soon! This week's review is Le chat du rabbin (The Rabbi's Cat), which came out in France in 2011 and only just recently got a North American DVD release. (Trailer). It's based on a comic book series by Joann Sfar.

The film starts in Algiers (North Africa) in the 1930s, with a rabbi, his daughter, and her pet cat. After the cat eats a parrot, he gains the ability to talk, and immediately gets in trouble with the rabbi because the cat's first action (of course) is to deny everything.

As the rabbi tries to keep the cat away from his daughter, the cat tries to get on the rabbi's good side by offering to convert to Judaism - although what he really wants is a bar mitzvah. Still, being a cat, he's an independent thinker and isn't shy about challenging the rabbi's religious teachings.

A Bird and a Raccoon Walk into a Bar…

It’s one of the most popular and well-known creations of Cartoon Network, and it’s been nominated several times for an Ursa Major Award. Now, fans of CN’s The Regular Show will be happy to hear that two full seasons — that’s 40 episodes — will be coming this July with the release of  Regular Show — The Complete First and Second Seasons on DVD and Blue-ray. From the preview at Movieweb.com: “This release marks the first time the Emmy Award-winning animated series created by J.G. Quintel (The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, Camp Lazlo) and produced by Cartoon Network Studios will be available as a full season set and the show’s first Blu-ray release. If that’s not enough of a draw, both the DVD and Blu-ray will also include more than two hours of bonus features, highlighted by: Audio commentary for every single episode from Quintel and the show’s storyboard artists; the un-aired pilot episode from the series and an animatic for it; a video of Quintel pitching the series’ first episode, The Power complete with animatic; an interview with Quintel about the series; and his student short, The Naïve Man from Lolliland.” More Rigby and Mordecai than you can shake a gumball at.

Animation: Disney does it again with 'Frozen'

Your rating: None Average: 3 (4 votes)

Disney 'Frozen' posterBoth the Animation Scoop and Cartoon Brew websites have the first five images of Frozen, Disney’s next animated theatrical feature, based (loosely) on Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen, to be released November 27th.

The posts include reader comments; go ahead and add yours. You can’t tell much about a theatrical feature from just five pictures, but it looks like the male hero will have the usual semi-anthropomorphized steed; in this case a reindeer rather than a horse. There is also a snowman who looks suspiciously anthropomorphic.

P.S.: A few hours later, Disney posted the first teaser trailer, which both Animation Scoop and Cartoon Brew have. Yep, the snowman is definitely anthropomorphic.

Review: 'Epic' is about as inspired as its title

Your rating: None Average: 4.7 (3 votes)

EpicThis should come as no surprise, but Roger Ebert was a personal hero of mine. The man lost his voice years ago, but he was still able to speak clearly as ever in his writing, especially the movie reviews that were his main job. He died earlier this year.

I was reminded of a line he occasionally used during Blue Sky StudiosEpic during a scene where the villain has captured the comedy relief sidekicks and is telling them stories of his son. One of them exclaims, “Your stories are boring and torturous!” As Ebert would point out (as he did for Jason X), the movie just reviewed itself. Don’t you hate it when that happens?

Epic features some really wonderful animation, great special effects and what I’m sure would have been remarkable use of 3D technology if I’d bothered to watch the movie that way, but none of it really matters, because the story is, well, boring and torturous.

Review: 'Ernest et Célestine' ['Ernest & Celestine']

Your rating: None Average: 4 (1 vote)

French DVD cover of 'Ernest & Celestine'Ernest et Célestine (Ernest & Celestine) is a 2012 children's animated film from Europe about a friendship between a mouse and a bear. It hasn't had a widespread English-language release in North America yet, but when it does, I recommend it. It's charming! (Trailer, with English subtitles.)

The two main characters exist in different worlds, and are both victims of circumstance. Ernest, the bear, is a musician who lives alone in a cabin in the forest outside a large town, an outsider. If not for the cabin, he'd be homeless; he runs out of food during the winter and must resort to busking and begging, and eventually theft, because busking is forbidden and his musical instruments are taken away.

Review: 'Unico', by Osamu Tezuka

Your rating: None Average: 4 (2 votes)

Unico (paperback)Unico, the talking baby unicorn, was the last major character created by Osamu Tezuka (1928-1989). He was inspired to design an adorably cute character by Sanrio Ltd, the merchandiser of girl’s products, in 1976. Sanrio had just created “Hello Kitty” in 1974 as an idol to sell handbags, earrings, etc. to young girls. Unico was to be a companion to appear in serialized adventures in Lyrica, Sanrio’s monthly girl’s manga magazine, as well as a series of animated theatrical features that Sanrio was planning at the time. Even minor Tezuka is worth reading, and Unico is full of the magic and color of the world of the imagination, with enough talking animals to please any Furry fan.

Unico was conceived in the U.S.; Tezuka was visiting Sanrio’s Los Angeles animation studio in 1976, where the animated feature Metamorphoses (Hoshi no Orufeusu) was in production. Metamorphoses was designed to look “cute” (if you never heard of it, it’s because the feature bombed so badly that it was pulled from theaters one day after its release), and Tezuka was inspired to draw a cute baby unicorn. Sanrio was planning to publish Lyrica, and the company quickly commissioned him to write and draw Unico’s adventures for serialization. This became a typical example of Tezuka’s prolific output; Unico appeared in chapters of over 30 pages per monthly issue for most issues of Lyrica, from its first issue in November 1976 to its final issue in March 1979.

Digital Manga Publishing, April 2013, trade paperback $34.95 (410 pages; on Overstock).