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Pixar’s Stanton to Adapt JOHN CARTER OF MARS

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Now it’s official: テつFinding Nemo and WALL-E director Andrew Stanton will be helming his first live-action movie, John Carter of Mars. テつThe movie, based on the novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs, will be released under the Disney banner and not the Pixar banner, as was originally rumored/hypothesized, and will be hitting theatres sometime in 2012.

I’m both very excited and a little disappointed with this news. テつI have every confidence that the movie’s going to be amazing: Stanton’s already a two-time Best Original Screenplay Oscar nominee — and that’s not even counting the fact that Michael Chabon (one of my favorite novelists) worked on the screenplay, too. テつAnd I’m glad for Stanton in that he’s stretching himself and trying to do something different. テつIt’s not often that animation directors cross over to live action or vice versa (though Mad Max director George Miller did so with impressive results with Happy Feet).

This means that my two favorite animation directors (combined, they were in charge of four of my top five Pixar movies) are working on live-action flicks instead. テつThe Incredibles and The Iron Giant director Brad Bird is readying 1906 (also due in 2012) about the great San Francisco earthquake and subsequent fires which nearly destroyed the city in — you’ll never believe this — 1906. テつIt’s not as if I’m worried about Pixar’s output dropping in quality while those guys work on non-animated features. テつUp, for instance, was perfectly excellent without any input from either Bird nor Stanton (well, that’s not entirely true; both Bird and Stanton are senior executives at Pixar who surely have input into everything). テつBut it does mean that we won’t see animated features from either of them until probably 2014 at the very earliest. テつ I trust them both and will gladly rush out to go see both of their live-action movies. テつWhat little bit I’ve heard about each sounds like they have the potential to be fantastic. テつAnd again, kudos to both for trying new things.

But I’m already looking forward to both of them returning to animation someday.

Written by Allen

June 14th, 2009 at 12:38 pm

Continuing Up

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Finishing up my inadvertent Week of Pixar-Related Stuff:

disneypixar-upFor the second straight weekend, Up was the top movie at the box office in the United States Ummm, oops, scratch that…Up was the second-place movie at the box office in the U.S. this last weekend テ「竄ャ窶 its gross dropped only 35% from last weekend to this weekend.テつ People, thatテ「竄ャ邃「s absolutely spectacular, at least for most movies, and itテ「竄ャ邃「s still pretty impressive even by Pixarテ「竄ャ邃「s lofty standards (see chart below).テつ For some perspective, industry pundits celebrated Star Trekテ「竄ャ邃「s 42% second-week dropoff as an example of excellent staying power, and this isテ「竄ャツヲwell, itテ「竄ャ邃「s seven better, isnテ「竄ャ邃「t it?テつ (For further comparison, Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian fell off 55% between the first and second weekends and X-Men Origins: Wolverine fell off 69%.)

The lesson to be learned here?テつ Short movie titles lead to better audience retention numbers, of course.

Up has already grossed $137 million and is still going strong after weekend number two, meaning itテ「竄ャ邃「ll easily sail over the $200 million mark with a decent shot at $250 million by the time itテ「竄ャ邃「s done, which would put it in the upper echelons of Pixarテ「竄ャ邃「s top moneymakers (but well below Finding Nemo, their biggest hit to date).テつ For more numberiffic comparison, hereテ「竄ャ邃「s how the nine previous Pixar flicks did in their first two weekends and overall:

Flick First Two Weekends Total Domestic Gross Second-Week Dropoff
Up $137 million ??? -35.0%
WALL-E $127 million $223 million -48.5%
Ratatouille $109 million $206 million -38.3%
Cars $117 million $244 million -43.9%
The Incredibles $143 million $261 million -28.7%
Finding Nemo $144 million $339 million -33.7%
Monsters, Inc. $122 million $255 million -27.2%
Toy Story 2 $116 million $245 million -51.6%
A Bugテ「竄ャ邃「s Life $68 million $162 million -48.4%
Toy Story $64 million $191 million -30.8%
All statistics courtesy the amazingly useful BoxOfficeMojo.com.

So, itテ「竄ャ邃「s official:テつ Up is a blockbuster commercially and critically:テつ an astonishing 98% fresh on RottenTomatoes.com and, honestly, probably already something of a lock for next yearテ「竄ャ邃「s Best Animated Feature Oscar (or at least a nomination; we do still have half the year left).テつ That makes Pixar ten-for-ten, consistency which is almost mind-boggling.テつ Theyテ「竄ャ邃「ll have to wind up with a swing-and-a-miss someday, of course, but this streak is one Iテ「竄ャ邃「m hoping doesnテ「竄ャ邃「t end anytime soon.

Written by Allen

June 7th, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Posted in Movies

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Review: Up

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I read a discussion of Up recently テ「竄ャ窶 I donテ「竄ャ邃「t remember where テ「竄ャ窶 which said that the movie was ultimately about acceptance of death, which is an awfully adult theme to find in a kids’ film. (Truth be told, of course: Pixar movies are family movies, not kids’ movies, and there’s a big difference.) I think that statementテ「竄ャ邃「s close, but not quite accurate: itテ「竄ャ邃「s more fair to say Up deals with the ability or inability to accept change in all its forms and learning to let go of the past, whether that past was one or seventy years ago. Up reminds us that when someone we love passes on テ「竄ャ窶 or even just passes out of our lives テ「竄ャ窶 life doesnテ「竄ャ邃「t end for those of us left behind.テつ Up suggests we appreciate the little things in life and that those little things can be bigger than the biggest adventure.

And Up gives us these weighty messages wrapped up in the gaudy Mylar of thousands of helium-filled balloons.

As I discussed in my ranking of the ten Pixar movies to date, the テ「竄ャナ努orstテ「竄ャツ (for some awfully lenient definition of テ「竄ャナ努orstテ「竄ャツ) of their films donテ「竄ャ邃「t engage the emotions nearly as much as they engage the eyes.テつ That fault most certainly does not plague Up テ「竄ャ窶 I have to admit that I cried while watching it, and I canテ「竄ャ邃「t remember if Iテ「竄ャ邃「ve ever done that before.[1] Pixar started their career by finding the humanity in inhuman characters (toys, bugs, monsters, etc.), but in Carl Frederickson theyテ「竄ャ邃「ve created quite possibly their most human character yet.

Director Pete Docter lays out all we need to know about Carl in the first ten minutes of the movie, covering sixty-odd years of his life during the opening sequences.テつ His crankiness is given believability and meaning; grumpy though he may be, he doesnテ「竄ャ邃「t fit the simple Grumpy Old Man stereotype.テつ Carl is not ill-tempered by nature but by circumstance, and itテ「竄ャ邃「s the circumstance of meeting Russell, his young opposite, which begins to bring him out of his emotional hole.

Russell couldnテ「竄ャ邃「t be much more Carlテ「竄ャ邃「s antithesis:テつ young where Carl is old; optimistic and exuberant where Carl is withdrawn and cranky; brave and adventurous where Carl is shuttered.テつ Even visually the difference is clear:テつ Carl is almost a perfect square, Russell is almost a perfect egg.テつ What the two have in common is something of a common history, and the bond which develops because of it, each affecting the other, ultimately provides much of Upテ「竄ャ邃「s lift.

I must talk for a minute about the dogs which feature so prominently in Up.テつ To see just what an amazing feat of modeling and animation these dogs represent, what a leap in quality, please go back and watch the first Toy Story.テつ Even at the time, watching Buster felt like a テ「竄ャナ鍍heyテ「竄ャ邃「re not quite there yetテ「竄ャツ moment in the middle of an otherwise technologically mind-blowing (again, for 1995) movie: his square, awkward build and clunky animation left plenty of room for improvement.

And improve they did.テつ Each of the dogs here has not only a distinctive and well-rendered look, but a clear and well-animated personality as well.テつ Dug was especially done well:テつ his character model may be cartoonier than the other dogsテ「竄ャ邃「, but that more cartoony look allowed for more expressiveness, which the animators used to fantastic effect.テつ His look also visually sets him apart from the other, more realistically-modeled dogs so that we never group him in with the テ「竄ャナ澱adテ「竄ャツ dogs.テつ Dug stands out as my favorite character in the movie:テつ the fact that he always remains Just A Dog and never an especially テ「竄ャナ塗umanizedテ「竄ャツ or anthropomorphized dog (even though he could speak) was one of Docterテ「竄ャ邃「s nicest touches.


[1] I cried during The Iron Giant, but thatテ「竄ャ邃「s totally different since I saw it on DVD.テつ Brad Bird lined up all of my emotional buttons and punched them all at once. The big meanie.

Written by Allen

June 4th, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Posted in Movies,Reviews

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Ten2One: Ranking My Pixar Favorites

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Welcome to the first installment of yet another new ongoing series I just now thought up: テつTen2One, which is, in all honesty, just a fancy handle for a fairly standard Top 10 list. テつTo kick things off, in honor of the opening of Pixar’s tenth animated feature, Up, I present to you my ordering, from worst to first, of my favorite Pixar movies.

10. A Bugテ「竄ャ邃「s Life (1997)

While A Bugテ「竄ャ邃「s Life might be my least favorite Pixar movie, I want to note that I donテ「竄ャ邃「t at all think itテ「竄ャ邃「s bad. テつItテ「竄ャ邃「s still perfectly entertaining, and the leap in technology from Toy Story, their first film, to this, their second one, was immense テ「竄ャ窶 just look at that model bird in the big climax.テつ But A Bugテ「竄ャ邃「s Life also featured their most annoying lead character, and most of the secondary cast, while funny, didnテ「竄ャ邃「t have any of the emotional connection that the great Pixar movies have.テつ This one gets a solid B from me, which is still damn good for being in the bottom slot on this list.

9. Cars (2006)

pixar-cars-largeI know John Lasseterテ「竄ャ邃「s The Man at Pixar and all, but this labor of love from him wasテ「竄ャツヲunderwhelming.テつ Again, certainly not bad テ「竄ャ窶 and itテ「竄ャ邃「s held up surprisingly well to the several thousand of viewingsテつof itテつIテ「竄ャ邃「ve endured thanks to my two daughters.テつ But I think the fundamental problem with Cars was much the same as with A Bugテ「竄ャ邃「s Life: テつits lead character simply wasnテ「竄ャ邃「t compelling enough (Owen Wilson‘s voice just didn’t connect with me) and the supporting cast was colorful but not especially engaging (Paul Newman‘s Doc Hudson aside).テつ Maybe thatテ「竄ャ邃「s a problem which will get rectified in the sequel.

(Side note: I have a separate post brewing about that difference between these two テ「竄ャナ斗ower tierテ「竄ャツ Pixar movies and all the ones above it; I hope to get that written sometime this week.)

8. Monsters, Inc. (2001)

And now we enter the solid A-minus-and-up range with the movie which has bumped farthest down the list simply because all the films released after it have been better.テつ And that テ「竄ャナ兎motional connectionテ「竄ャツ thing I mentioned was missing from numbers nine and ten above?テつ Yeah, totally present here.テつ Thereテ「竄ャ邃「s more pure emotion in the closing shot of Sully than in those last two flicks put together. テつ(Pixar Show-Off Shot: テつSully’s fur, especially when blowing in the wind and covered in snow.)

7. Toy Story 2 (1999)

In many ways, probably a superior film to the original Toy Story, but this list is rating my favorite Pixar movies, not necessarily the best, and thatテ「竄ャ邃「s a small but important distinction to make.テつ Story goes that Toy Story 2 was supposed to be a straight-to-video release (banging out straight-to-video sequels was pretty much standard practice with Disneyテ「竄ャ邃「s animated features then), but when Disney realized just how good it was, they had Pixar finish it up for theatrical release instead.テつ And good thing, too: テつit went on to gross $245 million, making it the third-highest-grossing film of テ「竄ャヒ99.

6. Up (2009)

My full reviewテ「竄ャ邃「s coming very soon, but for now Iテ「竄ャ邃「ll say that Up is the first animated movie since The Iron Giant to make me cry.テつ (Yes, I know thatテ「竄ャ邃「s more knocks against my Jason Statham-like Tough Guy image.)

5. Ratatouille (2007)

One of the things I absolutely adore about this movie テ「竄ャ窶 even aside from the gorgeous renderings of Paris and the celebrations of both cooking and eating テ「竄ャ窶 is the fact that lead characters are so flawed.テつ Remy is petty, obstinate, defensive and rash; Linguini is weak (to begin with, anyway), cowardly, willing to take credit not due him, and equally rash.テつ Yet together, they manage to lift themselves above their テ「竄ャナ塗umblest beginningsテ「竄ャツ (so says the critic Anton Ego) to incredible successes テ「竄ャ窶 and they lift Ratatouille up, too.

4. Toy Story (1995)

toy-story1I first discovered Pixar in 1992 when I saw their short film テ「竄ャナ適nick Knackテ「竄ャツ as part of an animation festival in Tampa.テつ I immediately fell in love with the company テ「竄ャ窶 while they certainly werenテ「竄ャ邃「t the first company to produce computer-generated animation, they were far and away the best Iテ「竄ャ邃「d seen yet テ「竄ャ窶 and I desperately looked forward to seeing more work from them.テつ Then two years later, I heard they were producing a feature-length animated film to be released by Disney.テつ I saw Toy Story the weekend it opened in theaters テ「竄ャ窶 a tradition Iテ「竄ャ邃「ve continued to follow with all nine of their subsequent releases テ「竄ャ窶 and loved it even more than Iテ「竄ャ邃「d been expecting to.テつ The technology obviously doesnテ「竄ャ邃「t hold up as well as one might hope, but hey, itテ「竄ャ邃「s fifteen years old; thatテ「竄ャ邃「s lifetimes in terms of software development.テつ The story craft was already there, though, and (hereテ「竄ャ邃「s a little secret for you) that’s just as important to me as the actual animation.テつ (Toy Story also sparked some of my earliest love for Joss Whedon, before I even knew who the hell he was!)

3. WALL-E (2008)

WALL-E has to be one of the most engaging, sympathetic leads in any movie in recent history; the fact that director Andrew Stanton and his crew managed to convey those qualities with such limited dialogue really is amazing.テつ Yes, OK, fine — the environmental message can come across a little preachy.テつ Or a lot preachy.テつ But it’s a good message, so it doesn’t much bother me, especially in the service of such an excellent movie.

2. Finding Nemo (2003)

One of the most finely-tuned scripts of any movie I’ve seen, animated or otherwise.テつ Not a scene or line feels wasted to me: テつthe Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay director Stanton received for this movie was very well justified.テつ Nemo features one of the strongest supporting casts of any of the Pixar flicks, and the interplay between Ellen DeGeneres‘ Dory and Albert Brooks‘ Marlin still makes me laugh (and care) every time I watch it.テつ Unsurprisingly, the bit about the overprotective father learning to let go gets to me, too.テつ (Also, Nemo was the first of four Pixar movies to date to take home the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature.)

1. The Incredibles (2004)

incrediblesHonestly? テつThe Incredibles is my favorite movie, period.テつ Here’s the thing:テつ when I first saw the teaser trailer for this one before Finding Nemo and found out what it was about and who was behind it, my mind was already blown.テつ It’s Pixar?テつ And superheroes?テつ And it’s written and directed by Brad Bird, the genius behind The Iron Giant, my favorite non-Pixar animated movie?テつ My expectations were so high that I was convinced there was no way this movie could possibly live up to them.

But it did.テつ To make a bad Pixar joke:テつ if my expectations were infinite, then The Incredibles went to infinity and beyond.テつ The characters are richly nuanced and believable, the animation and design are stunning, the script respected its audience’s intelligence, the heroic action scenes are, well, incredible…honestly, The Incredibles is pretty much my platonic ideal of a movie.テつ I sincerely hope they never make a sequel, because I don’t think it could do the original justice.

Of course, Pixar’s blown away my expectations before…

Written by Allen

June 2nd, 2009 at 2:00 pm

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Toy Story 3: Cowboy Down

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Originally published December 9, 2005. テつThis is not what will actually be happening in Toy Story 3 (pretty clearly, I think). テつI wrote this after I snapped this picture when Laurel dropped her Woody doll in the snow outside our house. テつAt the time, Disney and Pixar were going through the contentious battle which saw Disney threatening to make Toy Story 3 without Pixar — I think luckily for all of us, that original plan was scrapped once The Mouse officially acquired them. テつNow, though, feel free to go check out the official Toy Story 3 teaser trailer, and look out here for more Pixar-related content this week, including my review of Up. テつ(Spoiler alert: テつI liked it.)


テつ R.I.P WoodyThe Walt Disney Company today revealed that the plot of Toy Story 3 –テつa movie the studio is making without longtime partner Pixar, who produced the first two Toy Story features — would surround the mysterious death of Woody at the hands of a “cereal (toy) killer” and the other toys’ quest for revenge. Speculation has it that Disney’s willing to kill off the beloved cowboy sheriff because Tom Hanks was reluctant to lend his voice talent to the project; given Tim Allen‘s career of late, he’s expected to return to the role of Buzz Lightyear. No word on whether Slinky Dog (voiced by Jim Varney, who died in 2000) would also meet his grisly end in the flick.

Written by Allen

May 31st, 2009 at 10:05 pm

Posted in Movies,Photography

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