ANIMATED FEATURE

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We saw an extended look at this new Pixar film in Cannes with an event hosted by John Lasseter. Needless to say it looks more than up to Pixar’s standards with breakthrough animation and a touching story about a lost boy. In the clips we saw the water looked so real it could have been live action. For Oscar Pixar will go up against Pixar with Inside Out.

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Pixar hasn’t just reinvented animation for the 21st century, they’ve expanded it forward to a space and time where the adult/child line is blurred and the creativity on display is astonishingly rendered. You forget you’re watching a film primarily aimed for kids. You feel like a child again, full of innocence, full of joy, discovering a new world that previously seemed so out of reach. Over the past 20 years, Pixar has given us so much more than 15 timeless movies; they’ve brought us the ability to succumb to a universe full of magic and stories that hit the truest notes possible. It’s hard to imagine a cinematic landscape without Pixar, and the significance they represent cannot be underestimated. Their effect on regular, live-action movies is self-evident. They’ve pushed boundaries and forced other
filmmakers to think beyond the box. Here’s to another 20 great years.

1) WALL-E (2008)
Any Pixar list must begin and end with this masterpiece. The first half hour of WALL-E has scarcely any dialogue and plays like a silent Chaplin movie -– that is if he had ever decided to make a post-apocalyptic movie about a lonely garbage-chewing bot who falls in love with an A.I. named Eve. The second half is more conventional but nevertheless visionary. The future that director Andrew Stanton concocts is that of a torn up world, ravaged by an environmental crisis, where the planet’s citizens have been evacuated to live aboard a space cruiser, with only one last possible chance to rebuild.

2) Up (2009)
I don’t know many people who can come out of this film’s first 10 minutes with a dry eye. In 10 hopelessly romantic and surreal minutes, Pixar gave us the quintessential anatomy of life, love, and death in a simple but heartbreaking montage that might just be the crowning achievement of the studio.  Although the rest of the film can’t reach the peak of that montage (and really, which can?), the rest of the film is incredibly great and visually vivid, bursting out with colors. It’s an allegorical film about aging without regret but with dignity.

3) Inside Out (2015)
“Inside Out” opens this week with a flurry of rave reviews and a brilliant marketing campaign that will have you in stitches, but is the movie any good? Yes. It’s damn good. In fact, this is the brainiest, most trippy movie Pixar has made so far. Coming out of the theater, a buddy of mine, who is coincidentally a psychologist, told me the movie should be mandatory viewing for all psych students. How does Pixar come up with such ambitiously ingenious ideas? I’m guessing this is the movie most have not yet seen from my list, so I won’t say much, but just let your brain have a little workout with this golden nugget of a movie.

4) The Incredibles (2004)
While we get relentlessly pummeled by countless superhero movies every single year, it is a breath of fresh air to see the genre work so triumphantly well. Brad Bird has proven his worth in the past, most notably with the criminally underrated animated movie “The Iron Giant”. Bird gives us another visual treat by tackling the superhero genre and coming out with a classic that can stand alongside “The Dark Knight” and “Spider-Man 2″. The action scenes are breathtakingly staged, with Bird’s incredible eye for detail and pacing coming in handy. Unlike many superhero movies, this is one of the rare cases where a sequel would be welcome and well-deserved.

5) Toy Story 3 (2010)
What more can be said about “Toy Story 3″? It was supposed to be the last hurrah. A sequel was just announced recently, but it will be very hard to top this achievement.  Tackling adult themes, the movie was the darkest, most vicious of the series, with a villain who could scare you more than any live-action baddie. The stakes were dead real, tackling the loss of innocence and the promotion – or is that a demotion? – to adulthood. Near the end of the movie’s wrenching climax, as our heroes are about to get cooked alive in an oven, you can’t help but think the inevitable could actually happen. Never have I feared for the lives of animated characters more than in this movie.

6) Ratatouille (2007)
A Parisian rat named Remy just wants to become a chef. This could have gone wrong on so many levels, but it didn’t.  “Ratatouille” is highly enjoyable, recounting some of the Disney gems from the golden age of animation. When Remy starts cooking up a storm in the Parisian kitchen he has crashed, the moves are like ballet, effortlessly propelling his miniature body all around the kitchen and unequivocally expressing his unadorned passion for cooking.  This again shows just how influenced by Chaplin the great animators at Pixar really are.

7) Finding Nemo (2003)
I can think of three times in cinematic history where an actor or actress deserved to get nominated for a voice performance: Robin Williams as the Genie in “Aladdin”, Jeremy Irons as Scar in “The Lion King”, and of course Ellen DeGeneres as Dory in Pixar’s “Finding Nemo”. The work DeGeneres does here is nothing short of brilliant.  She uses a playful innocence to counterbalance Albert Brooks’ sombre, more serious tone as Nemo’s father.  The lighter optimism of Dory shines through and perfectly complements the astonishing visuals of the coral reef in all its glory.

8) Toy Story 2 (1999)
We had no right to expect a sequel that would be better than the original, but that’s exactly what “Toy Story 2″ accomplished. This time around we had a better story, improved animation, and an exhilarating sense of adventure. If the original was riding high off of its landmark CGI, this sequel was trying to perfect the glitches that held the story back a little the first time around. With Indiana Jones styled action, “Toy Story 2″ proved there was still room to expand in the Pixar canon, and that these guys were dead serious about blowing us away.

9) Toy Story (1995)
It all started here. The first time I saw “Toy Story” I could scarcely imagine how groundbreaking and important it would become for animation. This movie literally changed the game and practically got rid of all hand drawn animation in Hollywood, which of course is a real shame, because hand drawn is still one of the most beautiful and creative ways to make a movie – just look at any Hayao Miyazaki movie if you don’t believe me. Now almost every single animated movie is CGI and we’ve relied so heavily on it because of how monstrous a success Pixar had with “Toy Story”. The facial expressions, the movements, and the effortless flow that carry characters about was unprecedented. It was goodbye to the classical and welcome to the new age.

10) Monsters Inc. (2000)
There hasn’t been a cuter, more adorable Pixar creation than Boo. The little girl who called Sully “Kitty” just about made the movie for me. The attention to detail given to Boo was simply amazing, encompassing the smallest, most precious details a baby girl can have.  Every time she spoke you couldn’t help but just want to hug the screen. Kudos must be given to directors Pete Docter, Lee Unkrich and David Silverman who let this kid run loose and cause chaos at Monsters Inc. Billy Crystal and John Goodman’s voice work and chemistry here is tremendous.

Pixar Post - Inside Out Madness TV Spot2

And here we are again. There are two films that were screened in Cannes that will very likely be named by many authorities as two of the best films of the year but are also two that don’t fit the Academy’s formula for what defines a Best Picture contender. Why? Because one is an animated film and the other a genre movie. While it’s true that Gravity and Life of Pi managed to make the cut in previous years, they are both heavy on emotion and character, while depending heavily on visual effects.

Quick primer on how Best Picture works for those who don’t know the history (it is confusing to many). In 2009, the Academy expanded their Best Picture lineup from five nomination slots and five nominees to ten nomination slots and ten nominees. In those magical years the wide array of films that were selected prove that the Academy members can expand beyond their comfort zone if given enough room.

In 2009 and 2010 voters were given ten nomination slots and ten Best Pictures. There were two films per year directed by women. There were several films nominated about women. There were animated films (Up and Toy Story 3) and genre films (District 9, Avatar, Inception). Sure, the male hero feelgood drama still dominated but there was room for more than just that.

Beginning in 2011 and up to present, the Academy has done away with the ten nomination slots and shrunk it back down to five. They still allow for more than five Best Picture nominees (an even 9 except last year). Voters had to stick to five nominating slots, making it nearly impossible for an animated film, no matter how good it is, to get a Best Picture nod.

This is the single reason that Inside Out can’t be considered a likely Best Picture nominee. The chances of it making the top five lists of enough voters is slim to none. Not only that, but it has to compete with Pixar’s other movie coming out this year, the Good Dinosaur which will feature state-of-the-art visuals as well, and will be more traditionally about your misfit male hero. Pixar against Pixar.

Once again, it would behoove the Academy to open up the Best Picture race and make it a REAL race again. While it’s true that ten sort of obliterates the unification of Best Picture and Best Director or any film ever sweeping the Oscars again, it does help address the way Hollywood has changed.

Devin Faraci wrote a nice piece about Inside Out where he says how much more meaningful the story is because the stakes are higher:

As the two emotions try to make their way back to Headquarters they are shocked to discover that Riley’s Islands of Personality – the emotional epicenters of who she is, and the things that define her as a person – are unstable. More than unstable, some of them begin to completely fail, falling away into the Memory Hole, from which nothing returns. Joy and Sadness have to get back to Riley’s Headquarters before all of the Islands collapse, changing her into someone unrecognizable.

These stakes are enormous. The world isn’t going to end, no one is going to die and the future of the human race aren’t on the line here, but the film firmly establishes that what’s going on inside Riley’s head is important. The film established that Riley is a good kid, and that Riley deserves something as basic as a smile on her face. Watching the movie – often through a film of tears – I cared more about whether Riley would keep playing hockey than I cared about whether Chris Pratt would escape the dinosaurs at my previous night’s screening.

Stakes come when we care about characters, and the biggest stakes are how things will impact those characters. We all know that Sadness and Joy will eventually make it back to Headquarters, but will they get there in time to help Riley maintain the things that make her her? And how the heck will they manage to make the journey in time? As each Island of Personality crumbled and collapsed I felt more tension and concern than I did seeing a hundred CGI cities laid waste over the last few years.

When a film cuts this deeply it’s worth considering it as one of the year’s best, whether it is animated or not.

Good-Dino

Since Pixar and Disney brought Inside Out to Cannes, they also hosted a special presentation to feature several other films coming up in months ahead from the two studios. Their offerings are distinctly different in many respects; Pixar is always going to be Pixar and Disney is always going to be Disney, but both houses have benefited from recent technological advances that will truly change the way we all regard animation. In short, it is starting to look more like real life, or live action.

The most disappointing part of the event was to see that with all of their movies coming up they had not a single female director to announce. All of them were male with female producers, even for two films that have female protagonists. It is clear that they don’t trust women yet to helm these kinds of films or else it’s the kind of thing where you can only get the job if you have a previous credit.

After Jennifer Lee co-directed Frozen last year, Disney’s biggest hit of all time, you’d think they’d at least go with a co-director but nope. It’s 100% men. That bummer aside, the movies look pretty great.

Pixar reps talked about The Good Dinosaur, opening November 25, the story of a young male dino getting lost and finding a pal in a young boy human. The animation on this is going to blow the lid off the joint, as they say. Absolutely incredible atmosphere. We saw a bit of it and indeed, it’s jaw-dropping. It looks to be a very traditional Pixar story in that it is a little boy lost finding his way and saving the day. It’s sure to be a hit and will give Inside Out a run for its money for the animated feature Oscar, though I suspect The Good Dinosaur could win out because of its groundbreaking animation.

Pixar also announced two upcoming sequels, Toy Story 4 which will start a new chapter in the life of toys and won’t involve Woody and Buzz. No plot details were given on that. Finding Dory picks up where Finding Nemo left off. That looks like a great follow-up to one of their all-time best.

Disney has Zootopia coming out in 2016 and I wanted to see the whole film after watching today’s clips. It looks funny and interesting with what they’re trying to do. It gets the closer than any of these films in dealing with any sort of issue short of raising a child’s self-esteem. Next up, Moana, directed by John Musker and Ron Clements (Aladdin, The Little Mermaid) will feature lots of music, songs and pretty pretty animation, and will also introduce a new raven-haired Disney princess for your purchasing pleasure.

It’s exciting to watch the animation genre explode. I think women directors will eventually break in but it won’t be without a fight. Maybe they have to start their own animation studio. My daughter is about to graduate high school and has a mind to major in animation at college. I hope that by the time she does, the landscape will have changed and more women will be allowed into the club.

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“At the heart of it all is The Little Girl (Mackenzie Foy), who’s being prepared by her mother (Rachel McAdams) for the very grown-up world in which they live – only to be interrupted by her eccentric, kind-hearted neighbor, The Aviator (Jeff Bridges). The Aviator introduces his new friend to an extraordinary world where anything is possible. A world that he himself was initiated into long ago by The Little Prince (newcomer Riley Osborne). It’s here that The Little Girl’s magical and emotional journey into the universe of The Little Prince begins. And it’s where The Little Girl rediscovers her childhood and learns that ultimately, it’s human connections that matter most, and that it is only with heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.”

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Nobody can touch Ari Folman’s approach to animation – he, like Miyazaki, is rewriting the rules. If you’ve not yet seen The Congress give it a whirl. It is unlike anything I’ve ever seen – imaginative, dark, beautiful. I expect his film on Anne Frank will walk that same odd line. Hard to package and sell these kinds of films to today’s audience who are branded beyond an inch of their lives and won’t see anything unless there’s pre-awareness or a toy or comic book tie-in. But wow, right? Indiewire gives us a preview of the film. Believe it or not, according to this site, where the images originated, the film is trying to secure financing. Can you imagine? No wonder Hollywood is becoming a mini mall of fast food joints.

Ari Folman continues to follow his own strange star. The Israeli filmmaker will follow his spellbinding animation hybrids “Waltz with Bashir” (Oscar-nominated) and “The Congress” (a high-IQ cult oddity that will someday get its due) with an animated retelling of the life and diary of Anne Frank.

A blend of stop-motion and traditional animation—with 2D characters cut into stop-motion backgrounds — his Anne Frank Film is the first of its kind. That’s because Folman, with Diana Elbaum of Belgian-based production company Entre Chien et Loup, negotiated to obtain world rights in all languages and media and complete access to the Anne Frank archives.

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The team behind Big Hero 6 is not getting near enough credit for their efforts to diversify their storytelling and the expert way they carry it off. Despite the many articles about the diversity in the cast in the film, it doesn’t seem to be talked about much. I guess because where there’s controversy there’s conversation. There wasn’t much controversy around the film because it set its own bar so high.

For one of the first times in a major Disney film, the cast of Big Hero 6 represent various gender and ethnicities and refuse to fall into stereotyping, especially with the females. While the main story, like every story almost, centers around a singular male who overcomes (insert obstacle here) to succeed, he doesn’t do it alone. He needs help.

The film ended up making around $218 at the box office so far, and considering it wasn’t drawing from a well known brand (but an obscure one) that’s great in today’s climate, especially in a year with the “Oscars so White” hashtag. No one really takes into account the doc category, the short category and the animation category and especially Big Hero 6. The filmmakers and the nominees may be white but unlike the Best Picture category, where you have Alejandro G. Inarritu — a Mexican – making a film 100% cast with white characters, ditto every other film in the lineup with the exception of Selma.

We can’t “fix” Hollywood overnight but it is heartening to see those in the animation branch acknowledging that ticket buyers come from all pockets of this melting pot of a country we have and it’s pathologically unhealthy to always make the story center solely around a white male protagonist. That a film like this could be this successful really does open the door for future projects to at least consider diversity.

It doesn’t seem possible to change the older grownups in the Academy, at least not where Best Picture is concerned, but change starts with young minds. Those minds are already way ahead of the status quo. The Oscar voters have a lot of catching up to do. Those at Disney and at Dreamworks are listening. They have to because in animation you simply can’t afford to be stuck in the past.

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I can’t really get behind the anger over the Lego Movie snub. I know that it was extremely popular and that it had a clever screenplay and it made a point about American consumerist culture. The problem I have with it? At the end of the day, it’s still a toy brand. In effect, the Lego Movie, like Transformers, is really just a kicked-up version of a feature-length commercial for a brand. Sure, one could argue that all of tent-pole cinema now is branded – that the sequels themselves are brands, that any comic book film is a brand. Any films that sell toys and merch are branded. To me, it’s NOT quite the same thing as a movie selling Legos.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 won big at the Annie’s, which seemed to cause some grumbling among Lego fans. But to me, they picked the right movie to honor.

Today the Superbowl will launch the best in advertising. The football game will come almost second to the excitement over the commercials. Selling shit is really what America is all about. Movies are made to make money, certainly. The formula is the formula. As an old timer in the days before branding became so all-consuming I still lean towards celebrating originality in art. It’s a gray area to be sure and arguments can be made in both directions.

At the end of the day, for me, I just can’t see The Lego Movie as anything but an ad. However great the Burger King commercial will be today, or the Go Daddy commercial or the Budweiser commercial or the McDonald’s commercial — however good they are they are still ads. Artistry can be brought to them and they should be rewarded in the advertising field for great and innovative advertising but can films still be films? And ads still be ads?

I’ve watched this sink into full blown commercialism starting back when Pirates of the Caribbean became a movie. Really? A movie about an amusement park ride? That’s what the world was coming to and that’s what the world became. That is what our world is. We embrace consumerist culture in every aspect because Hollywood makes its maximum profits from “pre-awareness.” What kid didn’t play with Legos? Who hasn’t been to Disneyland?

The first How to Train Your Dragon was so good it should have won Best Animated Feature that year. It didn’t because you can’t get in the way of the Pixar train. This year, both Dragon 2 and Big Hero 6 are innovative, original, brilliantly executed stories that take animation to new heights. Dragon 2 is as good, if not better, than the first one. Breathtaking animation that should be rewarded.

The Lego Movie fits into some category, just not really in the animation category. Whatever it is it marks, to me, the day everything really changed to where it doesn’t matter anymore whether you’re watching a full length advertisement or not – as long as it’s entertaining. Though I give the Academy a lot of shit for how they continually and systematically shut out women, I have to applaud their efforts in this category, despite what the popular opinion is. The animators in the Academy are traditionalists, thus, they reward animation as art, not as pop culture.

Dreamwork’s animation is one of the few studios that really does support women in all aspects of their company. Both How to Train Your Dragon 1 and 2 are both about preserving the natural world, and loving our animal friends. They’re spectacular while also being good for humanity overall. Not to sound like an Academy voter but really, it’s hard not to admire these films.

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Best Animated Feature

Big Hero 6 – 
Walt Disney Animation Studios
Cheatin’ – Plymptoons Studio
How to Train Your Dragon 2 – DreamWorks Animation
Song of the Sea – GKIDS/Cartoon Saloon
The Book of Life – Reel FX
The Boxtrolls – Focus Features/Laika
The LEGO Movie -Warner Bros. Pictures
The Tale of The Princess Kaguya – GKIDS/Studio Ghibli
Best Animated Special Production

Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey – Voyager Pictures LLC
Dawn of the Dragon Racers – DreamWorks Animation
How Murray Saved Christmas – Universal Television
Polariffic – Bent Image Lab
Toy Story That Time Forgot – Pixar Animation Studios
Best Animated Short Subject

Coda
- 62 George Street
Duet
- Glen Keane Productions
Feast
- Walt Disney Animation Studios
Inside Homer – The Simpsons Couch Gag (Episode #549) – Acme Filmworks
Me and My Moulton
- National Film Board of Canada
Silent -
Creative Artists Agency
The Dam Keeper 
- Tonko House LLC
The Raven – Moonbot Studios
Best Animated TV/Broadcast Commercial

Citizen M: “Swan Song” – Stoopid Buddy Stoodios
Flight of the Stories – Aardman Animations
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham 
- Plastic Wax
Best General Audience Animated TV/Broadcast Production For Preschool Children

Doc McStuffins 
- Disney Channel / Disney XD
Peter Rabbit – 
Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Tumble Leaf
- Amazon Studios
Wallykazam! – 
Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Zack & Quack
- Zodiak Kids
Best Animated TV/Broadcast Production For Children’s Audience

Adventure Time
 – Cartoon Network
Gravity Falls – 
Disney Television Animation
Legend of Korra – Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Over The Garden Wall
 – Cartoon Network
Wander Over Yonder 
- Disney Television Animation
Best General Audience Animated TV/Broadcast Production

Archer
 – FX Networks
Back To Backspace
- Cartoon Network Studios
Bob’s Burgers
 – Bento Box Entertainment
Rick and Morty 
- Starburns Industries, Inc.
Mike Tyson Mysteries 
- Warner Bros. Animation
Regular Show 
- Cartoon Network Studios
The Simpsons
 – The Simpsons
Best Animated Video Game

Forza Horizon 2 – Microsoft – Turn 10 Studios
Valiant Hearts: The Great War – Ubisoft
Child of Light – Ubisoft
Best Student Film

After School – Junyi Xiao
Dead Over Heels – Jose Matheu
El Coyote
 – Javier Barboza
Frog’s Legs -
 Katie Tamboer
My Big Brother 
- Jason Rayner
Tiny Nomad 
- Toniko Pantoja
INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT CATEGORIES___________________

Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in an Animated Production

Michael Kaschalk, Peter DeMund, David Hutchins, Henrik Falt, John Kosnik – Big Hero 6 – Walt Disney Animation Studios
James Jackson, Lucas Janin, Tobin Jones, Baptiste Van Opstal, Jason Mayer – How to Train Your Dragon 2
- DreamWorks Animation
Fangwei Lee, Krzysztof Rost, Jihyun Yoon, Robert Chen – Mr. Peabody & Sherman -
DreamWorks Animation
Mitul Patel, Nicolas Delbecq, Santosh Khedkar, Yash Argawal – Penguins of Madagascar
- DreamWorks Animation
Augusto Schillaci, Erich Turner, Bill Konersman, Chris Rasch, Joseph Burnette – The Book of Life – Reel FX
Rick Sevy, Peter Vickery, Kent Estep, Peter Stuart, Ralph Procida – The Boxtrolls
 – Focus Features/Laika
Jayandera Danappal, Matt Ebb, Christian Epunan Hernandez, Danielle Brooks, Raphael Gadot – The LEGO Movie – Warner Bros. Pictures
Outstanding Achievement, Animated Effects in a Live Action Production

Steve Avoujageli, Atsushi Ikarashi, Pawel Grochola, Paul Waggoner, Viktor Lundqvist – Edge of Tomorrow – Sony Pictures Imageworks
Raul Essig, Karin Cooper, Rick Hankins, Owen Calouro – Noah – 
Industrial Light & Magic
Charles-Felix Chabert, Daniel La Chapelle, Spencer Lueders, Klaus Seitschek, Chris Messineo – The Amazing Spider-Man 2 
- Sony Pictures Imageworks
Areito Echevarria, Andreas Soderstrom, Ronnie Menahem, Christoph Sprenger, Kevin Romond – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – 
Weta Digital
Michael Balog, Jim Van Allen, Rick Hankins, John Hansen – Transformers: Age of Extinction -
 Industrial Light & Magic
Jeremy Hampton, Daniel Stern, Edmond Smith III, Hiroshi Tsubokawa, Daniel Jenkins – X-Men: Days of Future Past – 
Digital Domain
Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production

Don Crum – Toy Story That Time Forgot – 
Pixar Animation Studios
Carlo Vogele – Toy Story That Time Forgot 
- Pixar Animation Studios
Ken Kim – Toy Story That Time Forgot – Pixar Animation Studios
Michael Granberry – Tumble Leaf – Amazon Studios
Teresa Drilling – Tumble Leaf – Amazon Studios
Justin Nichols – Wander Over Yonder – Disney Television Animation
Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Feature Production

Fabio Lignini – How to Train Your Dragon 2 
- DreamWorks Animation
Steven “Shaggy” Hornby – How to Train Your Dragon 2
- DreamWorks Animation
Thomas Grummt – How to Train Your Dragon 2
- DreamWorks Animation
Ravi Kamble – Penguins of Madagascar
 – DreamWorks Animation
Travis Knight – The Boxtrolls – Focus Features/Laika
Malcolm Lamont – The Boxtrolls
- Focus Features/Laika
Jason Stalman – The Boxtrolls – Focus Features/Laika
Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Live Action Production

Daniel Barrett, Paul Story, Eteuati Tema, Alessandro Bonora, Dejan Momcilovic – Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
 – Weta Digital
Kevin Spruce, Dale Newton, Sidney Kombo, Chris Mullins, Brad Silby – Guardians of the Galaxy – Framestore
Eric Reynolds, David Clayton, Andreja Vuckovic, Guillaume Francois, Gios Johnston – The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug – Weta Digital
Outstanding Achievement, Character Animation in a Video Game

Mike Mennillo – Assassin’s Creed Unity – Ubisoft
Don’t Starve: Console Edition – Klei Entertainment Inc.
Alex Drouin – Child Of Light – Ubisoft
Outstanding Achievement, Character Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

Andy Suriano – Disney Mickey Mouse – Disney Television Animation
Benjamin Balistreri – Wander Over Yonder 
- Disney Television Animation
Zac Gorman – Welcome to the Wayne – Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Outstanding Achievement, Character Design in an Animated Feature Production

Shiyoon Kim, Jin Kim – Big Hero 6
- Walt Disney Animation Studios
Timothy Lamb, Joe Moshier – Mr. Peabody & Sherman – 
DreamWorks Animation
Craig Kellman, Joe Moshier, Stevie Lewis, Todd Kurosawa – Penguins of Madagascar
 – DreamWorks Animation
Sang Jun Lee, Jason Sadler, José Manuel Fernandez Oli – Rio 2 
- Blue Sky Studios
Tomm Moore, Marie Thorhauge, Sandra Anderson, Rosa Ballester Cabo – Song of the Sea
 – GKIDS/Cartoon Saloon
Paul Sullivan, Sandra Equihua, Jorge R. Gutierrez – The Book of Life – Reel FX
Mike Smith – The Boxtrolls
 – Focus Features/Laika
Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

Yuasa Masaaki, Eunyoung Choi – Adventure Time
 – Cartoon Network
Bryan Fordney – Archer
 – FX Networks
Jennifer Coyle & Bernard Derriman – Bob’s Burgers
 – Bento Box Entertainment
Aaron Springer – Disney Mickey Mouse 
- Disney Television Animation
Rob Renzetti – Gravity Falls
 – Disney Television Animation
Robert Alvarez, Ken Bruce, Larry Leichliter – Over The Garden Wall – 
Cartoon Network
Matthew Nastuk – The Simpsons
 – The Simpsons
David Thomas – Wander Over Yonder – 
Disney Television Animation
Outstanding Achievement, Directing in an Animated Feature Production

Don Hall & Chris Williams – Big Hero 6
 – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Bill Plympton – Cheatin’
 – Plymptoons Studio
Dean DeBlois – How to Train Your Dragon 2
 – DreamWorks Animation
Tomm Moore – Song of the Sea
 – GKIDS/Cartoon Saloon
Jorge R. Gutierrez – The Book of Life
 – Reel FX
Anthony Stacchi & Graham Annable – The Boxtrolls
 – Focus Features/Laika
Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, Directors; Chris McKay, Co-Director – The LEGO Movie – Warner Bros. Pictures
Isao Takahata – The Tale of The Princess Kaguya
 – GKIDS/Studio Ghibli
Outstanding Achievement, Music in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

Christopher Willis – Disney Mickey Mouse – Disney Television Animation
Peter Lurye, George Gabriel, Chris Gifford – Dora and Friends: Into the City! – Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Jay Vincent, Michael Kramer, Jeppe Riddervold, Erin Chapman – Lego Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu
 – Jam
Lolita Ritmanis, Kristopher Carter & Michael McCuistion – Marvel’s Avengers Assemble
 – Dynamic Music Partners
Nathan Barr & Lisbeth Scott – Tumble Leaf
 – Amazon Studios
Outstanding Achievement, Music in an Animated Feature Production

Nicole Renaud, Composer – Cheatin’
 – Plymptoons Studio
John Powell, Jónsi – How to Train Your Dragon 2
 – DreamWorks Animation
Danny Elfman – Mr. Peabody & Sherman
- DreamWorks Animation
Bruno Coulais & Kila – Song of the Sea
- GKIDS/Cartoon Saloon
Joe Hisaishi – The Tale of The Princess Kaguya
- GKIDS/Studio Ghibli
Outstanding Achievement, Production Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

Kara Vallow, Brent Woods, Lucas Gray & Andrew Brandou – Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey
 – Voyager Pictures LLC
Joseph Holt – Disney Mickey Mouse – Disney Television Animation
Narina Sokolova – Mickey Shorts
- Disney
Kevin Dart, Chris Turnham, Jasmin Lai & Elle Michalka – The Powerpuff Girls – Cartoon Network
Antonio Canobbio, Khang Le, Mark Taihei, Howard Chen & Brandon Cuellar – Turbo FAST – 
DreamWorks Animation
Alex Kirwan, Chris Tsirigotis, Alexander Duckworth, Janice Kubo & Francis Giglio – Wander Over Yonder – Disney Television Animation
Erez Gavish – Zack & Quack – Zodiak Kids
Outstanding Achievement, Production Design in an Animated Feature Production

David James, Ruben Perez, Priscilla Wong, Timothy Lamb & Alexandre Puvilland – Mr. Peabody & Sherman
- DreamWorks Animation
Adrien Merigeau – Song of the Sea – 
GKIDS/Cartoon Saloon
Simon Varela & Paul Sullivan – The Book of Life 
- Reel FX
Paul Lasaine, Tom McClure & August Hall – The Boxtrolls
 – Focus Features/Laika
Grant Freckelton – The LEGO Movie
 – Warner Bros. Pictures
Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

Heiko Drengenberg – Disney Mickey Mouse – Disney Television Animation
Luke Weber, Alonso Ramirez Ramos, Neil Graf & Steve Heneveld – Gravity Falls 
- Disney Television Animation
Joaquim Dos Santos – Legend of Korra -Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Nathaniel Villanueva & Douglas Lovelace – Star Wars Rebels
 – Disney Channel / Disney XD
Brad Ableson, Matthew Faughnan & Stephen Reis – The Simpsons
 – Film Roman
Louise Smythe – Toy Story That Time Forgot 
- Pixar Animation Studios
Mark Ackland – Wander Over Yonder – Disney Television Animation
Outstanding Achievement, Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production

Marc E. Smith – Big Hero 6
 – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Truong “Tron” Son Mai – How to Train Your Dragon 2
 – DreamWorks Animation
Piero Peluso – Planes: Fire & Rescue
 – Disneytoon Studios
John Hurst – Rio 2
 – Blue Sky Studios
Rodrigo Castro – Rio 2
- Blue Sky Studios
Julian Nariño – The Boxtrolls
 – Focus Features
Emanuela Cozzi – The Boxtrolls
 – Focus Features/Laika
Outstanding Achievement, Voice Acting in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

Bill Farmer as the voices of Goofy and Grandma – Disney Mickey Mouse
 – Disney Television Animation
Carlos Alazaraqui as the voice of Crocker – Fairly Oddparents – Nickelodeon Animation Studio
Seth Green as the voice of Robot Chicken Nerd – Robot Chicken 
- Stoopid Buddy Stoodios
Outstanding Achievement, Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production

Cyndi Lauper as the voice of Nurse Cyndi – Henry & Me – Reveal Animation Studios
Andy Garcia as the voice of Eduardo – Rio 2 
- Blue Sky Studios
Sir Ben Kingsley as the voice of Archibald Snatcher – The Boxtrolls
 – Focus Features/Laika
Dee Bradley Baker as the voice of Fish – The Boxtrolls 
- Focus Features/Laika
Outstanding Achievement, Writing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

Darrick Bachman – Disney Mickey Mouse
 – Disney Television Animation
Dave Tennant, David P. Smith, Chris Mitchell & Will Mata – The Powerpuff Girls
 – Cartoon Network
Rob LaZebnik – The Simpsons
 – 20th Century Fox
Tim Long – The Simpsons – 20th Century Fox
Steve Purcell – Toy Story That Time Forgot – 
Pixar Animation Studios
Outstanding Achievement, Writing in an Animated Feature Production

Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson & Jordan Roberts – Big Hero 6
 – Walt Disney Animation Studios
Dean DeBlois – How to Train Your Dragon 2
 – DreamWorks Animation
Will Collins – Song of the Sea 
- GKIDS/Cartoon Saloon
Irena Brignull & Adam Pava – The Boxtrolls
 – Focus Features/Laika
Phil Lord & Christopher Miller – The Lego Movie
 – Warner Bros. Pictures
Outstanding Achievement, Editorial in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production

Illya Owens – Disney Mickey Mouse
 – Disney Television Animation
Ernesto Matamoros – Dragons: Defenders of Berk
 – DreamWorks Animation Television
Mike Elias – Family Guy
 – Super 78
David Suther, Bradley Furnish & David Condolora – Toy Story That Time Forgot
 – Pixar Animation Studios
Todd Raleigh & Doug Vito – Turbo FAST
 – DreamWorks Animation
Outstanding Achievement, Editorial in an Animated Feature Production

Tim Mertens – Big Hero 6 
- Walt Disney Animation Studios
John K. Carr – How to Train Your Dragon 2 – DreamWorks Animation
Dan Molina, Mark Keefer & Karen Hathaway – Planes: Fire & Rescue – 
Disneytoon Studios
Darragh Byrne – Song of the Sea
 – GKIDS/Cartoon Saloon
David Burrows, Todd Hansen, Doug Nicholas, Jonathan Tappin & Courtney O’Brien-Brown – The LEGO Movie 
- Warner Bros. Pictures

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(press release) LOS ANGELES, CA – Twenty features have been submitted for consideration in the Animated Feature Film category for the 87th Academy Awards®.

The submitted features, listed in alphabetical order, are:
“Big Hero 6”
“The Book of Life”
“The Boxtrolls”
“Cheatin’”
“Giovanni’s Island”
“Henry & Me”
“The Hero of Color City”
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”
“Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart”
“Legends of Oz: Dorothy’s Return”
“The Lego Movie”
“Minuscule – Valley of the Lost Ants”
“Mr. Peabody & Sherman”
“Penguins of Madagascar”
“The Pirate Fairy”
“Planes: Fire & Rescue”
“Rio 2”
“Rocks in My Pockets”
“Song of the Sea”
“The Tale of the Princess Kaguya”

Several of the films have not yet had their required Los Angeles qualifying run. Submitted features must fulfill the theatrical release requirements and comply with all of the category’s other qualifying rules before they can advance in the voting process. At least eight eligible animated features must be theatrically released in Los Angeles County within the calendar year for this category to be activated.

Films submitted in the Animated Feature Film category also may qualify for Academy Awards in other categories, including Best Picture, provided they meet the requirements for those categories.

The 87th Academy Awards nominations will be announced live on Thursday, January 15, 2015, at 5:30 a.m. PT in the Academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater.

The Oscars® will be held on Sunday, February 22, 2015, at the Dolby Theatre® at Hollywood & Highland Center® in Hollywood, and will be televised live by the ABC Television Network. The Oscar presentation also will be televised live in more than 225 countries and territories worldwide.

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I arrive back in Belfast tomorrow night, hopefully some time before 23:00. Fourteen hours later, I’ll be at work. I’ll have blog work to complete, including the remainder of my LFF coverage, films to see before they are removed from theatres, housework that I neglected, unwisely, before I departed for London, and sleep to catch up on, in my own bedroom, alone, nice and chilly. I want more time, I need more time. Not here, alas the festival finishes tomorrow, but just time to relax and come to terms with all I have to do before starting back at bloody work. Since festival season commenced at the end of August, it’s been almost non-stop graft for me. What will become of me over Christmas, I wonder? What to do when all of my favourite TV shows have ended, when there’s no film news to report on, when I’m – and here’s a word I genuinely don’t think I’ve used about myself for many weeks now, not once – bored? I don’t think anyone ever gets used to boredom. We human beings will always find something to make us happy, something to make us irate, something to make us sad, something to make us bored.

Is life in London ever boring? I don’t think I’d like to have grown up here – it’s just too big, in a standard, centralised kind of way. Not like, say, New York, with its districts. London is one massive city with one massive centre – however to feel at home in it? I suppose one must live within said centre, like the affluent new upper class, as inbred as they ever were but now with pretensions toward relevance and a supposed connection to the rest of the world. They turned out en masse for the 11:45 screening of Song of the Sea, the highly-acclaimed new film from Irish animated film director Tomm Moore, whose last film The Secret of Kells received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature five years ago. What’s more annoying than a cinema full of children? A cinema full of children with nannies. Not that the nannies are any extra bother, just that children with nannies are. They don’t just have nannies, they have £20 to fork out on a single ticket to a European gala premiere in central London… on a Saturday fucking morning. The exquisitely beautiful but dramatically lacking film is fun and full of delight; it’s not quite the classic it has been hailed as by some, not quite the equal of the Studio Ghibli films that the creative team, in attendance for a disappointingly frothy Q&A (they were playing to their audience, granted), needed to admit were their inspiration, but very much worth a watch. Just maybe not for £20. Any foreign audience would surely appreciate the lovely Irish humour strewn through Song of the Sea; not so much this crowd – I suspect what’s needed to tickle their funny bones is a daft old chap named Rafe and a jolly good case of misunderstanding involving a chimney sweep, a crystal decanter and a rather smashing plate of pork pies. Spiffing.

Are my diaries ever boring? I bet they are, especially when I go on about jolly shitty cases of faulty internet connections, misplaced pen drives and a rather horrid display on the ATM machine when I check my balance. I’ll move on to the second film of my busy day, and one which I rly rllllllly needed to start on fucking time. I knew precious little about Chiung Chiang Hsiu’s The Furthest End Awaits, also receiving a European premiere at LFF although not at y screening, prior to booking a ticket to see it – I only became aware of the Japanese film from the Taiwanese director upon reading about it in the festival programme I received in the mail some weeks back. It didn’t even have a proper IMDb page until recently. The film is about a woman who moves from Tokyo to remote coastal Japan to revisit her childhood home, the only asset left to her by her missing father, now believed dead. She forms a bond with a neighbouring girl living with her younger brother and her absent mother, and there’s a lot of learning and growing and moving on from the past etc. in the process. That’s not very kind of me, because actually the film is a total delight, made with a soothing sensitivity in every aspect of its production, rightfully causing many critics to reminisce on Ozu Yasujiro’s works in its fine depiction of family life in the Japanese countryside. But did it start on fucking time? Did it shit. I waited five fucking minutes for the introduction to begin, then another five fucking minutes before the director had been introduced and translated, leaving me with a mere seven minutes to get from Leicester Square to the South Bank. I had my belongings packed before the film had ended, forewent the credits and didn’t even get close to attending the post-screening Q&A. Like the one I’d unfortunately missed with Frederick Wiseman, and the one I’d had to cut short yesterday with Viggo Mortensen, it was a Q&A I was very keen to participate in, but was unable to. Still, the important thing is that I see all the films I’m booked to see.

Were those seven minutes of travel boring? Lol plz. I don’t think I’ve sweated so much nor smelt so bad since I was being given birth to. Despite making it to the cinema five minutes late – and that’s an impressively quick journey – the curtains were still pulled upon my arrival, a sure sign that, as expected, there’d be a Q&A after the film, and they were waiting for the special guests to turn up to introduce the film. Why as expected? Well, since Viggo Mortensen was in town for a Q&A yesterday for Jauja, he’d likely be here for today’s screening of Far from Men, David Oelhoffen’s film in which he stars opposite Reda Kateb as two unlikely outsiders caught in the Algerian war in the 1950s. It’s based on an Albert Camus story, and functions basically as a North African Western. The Q&A didn’t seem to have very much to elaborate upon, since the film is mostly just what one would expect upon, say, reading the synopsis or watching the trailer; those in attendance answered questions from interviewer Damon Wise and audience members, who reacted about as enthusiastically as any I’ve experienced this year, perplexingly. Actually, it’s not that perplexing – this probably wasn’t the type of audience that would have even stayed to the end of From What Is Before a week ago. The film’s panel did a good job, though, illuminating the film’s strongest and most persuasively intelligent points, if occasionally dodging the question. And what a panel, a truly international one, featuring Viggo, David, Reda, producer Matthew Gledhill and composers Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. The only one who didn’t speak was Cave, but he had a lovely pair of shoes on.

An evening in which to work… at last! Lol fuck it I got a few bits done in between dilly-dallying, eating, listening to Gwen Stefani’s new song (naturally) and getting as early a night as I could. Only I couldn’t, because it was a legitimate sauna in that motherfucking dorm, I mean it’s October fs, what’s the deal here? Who did that? How am I gonna get up tomorrow morning at 8:30 to check out?

Not spiffing, not smashing, just poppycock. Utter poppycock.

Cast 01

Chiung 01

Chiung 02

Ellis 01

Kateb 01

Mericeau 01

Mericeau 02

Moore 01

Moore 02

Mortensen 01

Odeon 01

Oelhoffen 01

Oelhoffen 02

Panel 01

Panel 02

Panel 03

Panel 04

Parkour 01

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The critics are praising The Tale of Princess Kaguya, which should be enough to make it a strong contender in the animated feature race already dominated by The Lego Movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2. Big Hero 6 should join the pack once it opens on November 7, based on its groundbreaking animation alone. Book of Life’s reviews are less raves than the other four films. Then there is the Box Trolls.

Right now, most pundits have The Lego Movie to win. Lego the toy brand was in the news recently for finally relenting on splitting ties with Shell Oil under pressure from Greenpeace. But their move to separate paints the brand in a better light and if the brand is no longer tarnished, that relieves a bit of the pressure on the toy company and its movie. It stands as the box office champ currently with $257 million take.

Right behind it is the Tale of Princess Kaguya, Studio Ghibli’s latest movie. Lush and dreamy but more importantly, appeals to adults. Glenn Kenny writes that the film “is a staggering masterpiece of animation based on a very old Japanese folk tale. “The Tale of The Princess Kaguya” is both very simple and head-spinningly confounding, a thing of endless visual beauty that seems to partake in a kind of pictorial minimalism but finds staggering possibilities for beautiful variation within its ineluctable modality. It’s a true work of art.

Kenneth Turan writes, “The Tale of the Princess Kaguya” is a marvel of Japanese animation, a hand-drawn, painterly epic that submerges us in a world of beauty. While almost everything about it bespeaks its origins in a culture very different from the West, the delicacy and grace of its sublime imagery create an impact that couldn’t be stronger.”

It looks like the race, as Gold Derby has already proclaimed, is down to those two films for the win.

Third in line right now would have to be the How to Train Your Dragon 2, which not only upped its game with animation but also introduces a strong female character voiced by Cate Blanchett. It is followed by Disney’s Big Hero 6, which could, depending on box office, position itself higher in the animated feature race.

Finally, there is the Boxtrolls, which also looks to be a strong contender out of the gate. It competes with The Book of Life for the fifth slot if there are five.

Which five do you think will get in?


Screen Shot 2014-10-02 at 9.13.19 AM

Disney has both Big Hero 6 and Inside Out (Pixar) coming at you this year, which is going to make for a very competitive animated feature race. Like visual effects driven films, eventually the Academy is going to have to answer for the rise of and popularity of animated films. At this point, there is one category – Animated Feature – and several other categories contenders from animated films creep into, like adapted screenplay, score, sound effects editing. So far, Best Costumes has not been cracked but if any movie can do it the Box Trolls can.

The other big contender right now, other than the Lego movie and How to Train Your Dragon 2 would be The Tale of The Princess Kaguya. There are only five slots. Hm.

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A week ago or so I was invited to see some extended footage from Disney’s Big Hero Six. I was immediately taken by the story, which takes its cue from the Marvel comic of the same name. Here, Hero is a Japanese kid living in San Fransokyo (a dazzling, dense animated wonderland) as a super genius. He builds a robot to become the ultimate superhero. The gang is a diverse bunch with badass girls along with boys. Here is a clip.

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 8.50.22 AM

Anne Thompson points us to this new trailer from Studio Ghibli. Says Anne:

“When Marnie Was There” is is adapted from the book by Joan Robinson, and tells the story of a young, lonely girl who makes a new friend in Marnie–who very well may be a ghost. Robinson’s book is on the list of Hayao Miyazaki’s favorite 50 children’s books, so it’s not surprising that it’s getting the Ghibli treatment.

“Marnie” is directed by Yonebayashi Hiromasa, who helmed Studio Ghibli’s “The Secret World of Arrietty.” Niwa Keiko (“From Up on Poppy Hill”) and Ando Masahi (a character designer on “Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke”) wrote the screenplay.

Screen Shot 2014-06-12 at 9.42.13 AM

Home actually has — brace yourselves — a black female in the lead. This is a beautifully risky endeavor for a genre that devotes itself almost entirely (give or take an hispanic tie-in here or there) to white folk. Rihanna voices the lead, Jim Parsons plays the sidekick. Hat tip to First Showing.

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Thanks to Vulture who posted a pic with the following synopsis of what looks to be a female-driven plot for Pixar, the second in their history since Brave. Directed by Pete Docter, written by Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine).

Growing up can be a bumpy road, and it’s no exception for Riley, who is uprooted from her Midwest life when her father starts a new job in San Francisco. Like all of us, Riley is guided by her emotions – Joy (Amy Poehler), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black), Disgust (Mindy Kaling) and Sadness (Phyllis Smith). The emotions live in Headquarters, the control center inside Riley’s mind, where they help advise her through everyday life. As Riley and her emotions struggle to adjust to a new life in San Francisco, turmoil ensues in Headquarters. Although Joy, Riley’s main and most important emotion, tries to keep things positive, the emotions conflict on how best to navigate a new city, house and school.

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How to Train Your Dragon is one of the best animated features ever to hit the Oscar race. It wasn’t going to win, of course. Toy Story 3 was destined to claim the prize in 2010 as a culmination of Pixar’s trilogy that had somehow gone Oscarless until then. Now four years later, the second installment of How to Train Your Dragon has retained much of the magic of the first but this time has shifted more emphasis to the dragons and less on the people. In this case that means the animators get to really show off what they can do. Turns out, what they can do is very impressive.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 feels like a giant leap forward with animation. It isn’t just the way the dinosaurs themselves are animated, which is otherworldly and unlike anything we’ve seen before, either in the first film or in any film like it. The diversity among the species, the array of features and color, it’s nothing short of spectacular. If you need any reason at all to see this film see it for the sheer artistry of the animation.
Continue reading…

astrid__how_to_train_your_dragon_2__by_thegrzebol-d734gyn

Astrid-heavy, in keeping with the on-fire box office revolving around girl power of late.

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