Chris Buck

Animation Tidbits: Annecy 2019 Part 2

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Alrighty, for the final part of this look at Annecy 2019, I decided to combine a bunch of films from different categories. This is because the various categories don’t have enough to warrant talking about in individual articles. At least, that is my opinion on the other categories. The one major change they made was a new category called Contrechamp, a category with animated features that are in competition, but have visuals that challenge the medium of animation. Otherwise, the films on the list will be from the screening events and In Production section of the festival. Let’s get started!

Children of the Sea (Contrechamp)

Directed by Ayumu Watanabe, the story focuses on a girl named Ruka, who saw a ghost in her dad’s aquarium when she was little. She becomes attracted to the aquarium and the appearance of two mysterious boys named Umi and Sora, all the while the adults who work there figure out the mass disappearance of the earth’s fish. In a lot of ways, it’s almost unfair that this film is the perfect representation for the Contrechamp section of the festival. It’s almost unfair how downright jaw-dropping-off-your-face beautiful the film is. Studio 4C has done a lot of great work, but this easily looks like it will be their best. Plus, with GKids now attached to bringing it over to the states this year, I have major hopes it’s going to be at Animation is Film 2019! If that wasn’t enough to get you hyped, Joe Hisaishi, the composer behind many of the Studio Ghibli classics, is composing the music for this film.

Away (Contrechamp)

Directed by Gints Zilbalodis, Away is about a young man who’s riding a motorcycle, trapped on a mystical island while trying to avoid a shadowy monster chasing him. This is also a film that looks like it will be taking advantage of the Contrechamp title. Sure, it kind of looks like an indie game that’s trying to be the next artistic achievement in gaming, but that’s sort of the fun of it. Plus, this was directed and animated by someone who is 25 years old. That is wildly ambitious and I give him kudos for that. It looks like a visually creative film that I hope does well.

Underdog (Contrechamp)

Directed by Sung-Yoon Oh and Chun Baek Lee, the story revolves around a blue dog that was once a house pet, but ends up back in the wild. He encounters wild dogs, and tries to help them survive and live freely. Generic title aside, I really like the visual look of this film. It reminds me of the work arounds French animation uses in projects like The Painting. It has a super vibrant color palette, and while the CGI may not be Pixar or Disney level at all, it has its own identity and personality to it. I’m happy to see South Korean animation finally making some break-out titles to show that they can make animated features that aren’t tied down to propaganda, and can be watchable by all. Though seeing some of the marketing blurbs say it was more emotionally gripping than Zootopia? Yeah, we will have to see about that.

Ville Neuve (Contrechamp)

Directed by Felix Dufour Laperriere, Ville Neuve focuses on a man named Joseph, who moves into a house with his friend, and tries to get back with his ex-wife, and this is happening with the 1995 Quebec Referendum happening in the background. I like the minimalist approach with its focus on whites, blacks, and grays. It comes off like a more personal and intimate film, and I can’t wait to see what the reviews say about this one.  

Playmobil (Screening)

Now then, let’s jump in with the first film in the “Screening” category. Directed by Lino DiSalvo, the story focuses on a young woman named Marla, played by Anya Taylor-Joy, who gets pulled into this Playmobil world with her brother Carlie, played by Gabriel Bateman. They get separated, and it’s up to Marla to team up with Rex Dasher, a secret agent voiced by Daniel Radcliffe and Del, a food truck driver voiced by Jim Gaffigan, to get her brother back and avoid the evil clutches of Emperor Maximus, played by Adam Lambert. Yeah, this film did not get the warmest impression, being negatively compared to the 2014 The LEGO Movie. I can understand why. It comes off as a bit outdated that there needs to be a reason for the Playmobil world to exist, when people would rather just enjoy the world that they make. Still, the film looks silly and aware about itself, and some of the jokes I saw got a chuckle out of me. Hopefully it can be an entertaining flick once it releases later this year.

The Prince’s Voyage (Screening)

Directed by Jean-Francois Languionie and Xavier Pircard, this is a follow-up to a film Jean Francois did a while back called A Monkey’s Tale, which follows the prince from that film, as he washes up on the shore of an island, and encounters an individual named Young Tom and his two parents, who were exiled scientists. The film itself looks great, but that should be no surprise, because it’s the same guy behind The Painting, but I am curious to see how they make this film work, because who remembers A Monkey’s Tale? It has only gotten an English UK release, and no one in America has probably heard of this guy or his films. Still, the CGI looks stylized, and I’m curious to see how this film does in continuing the story with these characters in a travel diary-style form.

Abominable (Screening)

Finally, we are seeing actual trailers and footage for this film. Directed by Jill Culton and Todd Wilderman, we follow the exploits of a young Chinese woman named Yi, voiced by Chloe Bennet, as she encounters an actual Yeti on the rooftop of her apartment building. It was previously caught by a scientist named Dr. Zara, voiced by Sarah Paulson, and an evil rich man named Burnish, voiced by Eddie Izzard. It is up to Yi, her friends Peng, voiced by Albert Tsai, and Jin, voiced by Tenzing Norgay Trainor, to get the Yeti back to his home in the mountains. This is an important film, due to this being DreamWorks first Chinese collaboration with Pearl Studio. As per usual with their non-comedy stuff, Abominable looks visually great, and has some endearing moments, but the jokes and references made in the first trailer and in the recent trailer are iffy. Hopefully, this is more of DreamWorks working at a How to Train your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda level, and not Shrek the Third level. Also, what is up with their marketing for this film? Everyone has already seen a trailer for the film for two or so months before the “official” trailer was released last week. What was the point of having two trailers and one of them was already viewable in theaters? Oh well, I hope this is a good movie.

Toy Story 4 (Screening)

Directed by Josh Cooley, we follow our heroes dealing with their new lives and a new encounter with a self-made toy named Forky, voiced by Tony Hale. One day, Forky gets out, and Woody, voiced by Tom Hanks, sets out to bring Forky back, but also runs into Bo Peep, voiced by Annie Potts. Shenanigans then ensue as Woody and the gang try to get Forky back to their new owner Bonnie, and Woody starts to have a crisis of what it means to be a toy. It’s too easy and frankly lazy, to say how this is a “cash grab”, when all films are cash grabs. We didn’t need a 4th one, but if we needed this one to get back on the train of original films starting with next year’s Onward, then so be it. Plus, I have been hearing good early word of mouth, and plus, who doesn’t want to see Keanu Reeves in his first ever voice role? Even if we might “not need it”, I’m glad to go back if the story is good.

Frozen 2 (Screening)

Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, our heroes from the first film, Elsa, Anna, Kristoff, and Olaf are off on another adventure to go beyond the kingdom of Arendelle. Yeah, there isn’t much known about the film right now, so let’s talk about how incredible the teaser trailer was. This film looks jaw-dropping-off-your-face-and-exploding gorgeous. I’m sure a lot of this is just teaser editing, and the film may not be this serious in tone, but wouldn’t that be awesome if it was? I know there is a bit of Frozen burnout, but I liked the first movie, and I’m excited to see how this new one unfolds.

Weathering With You (WIP)

In the Work in Progress section, we have the newest film from Makoto Shinkai. The story revolves around a young boy who moves to Tokyo alone, and almost becomes broke, until he gets a writing job for an odd occult magazine. His life feels like it’s constant misery, as rain and dark clouds follow him everywhere. One day, he encounters a young girl who has a mysterious power to clear the sky of the clouds and rain. While I have been critical of some of Shinkai’s efforts and directorial touches in the past, this one has me very excited. To no surprise that Shinkai has more drop-dead eye-popping visuals, something about the story feels instantly likable, and GKids recently announced that they will be bringing it over! I can’t wait to see this film, and I hope to see it sometime soon.

Promare (Midnight Special)

Finally, for the Midnight Special, we have Promare. Directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, and animated by Studio Trigger, we follow Galo Thymos and his team, the Burning Rescue Fire Department. Their main goal is to take down a group of evil mutants called BURNISH that emits and can control a special fire that is engulfing the planet. This movie looks so over-the-top, silly, nonsensical, it’s super drenched in its anime identity, and this is why I follow foreign/indie animation. This movie looks crazy in the most positive way possible. Sure, if you know anything about Studio Trigger’s previous work like Kill la Kill, Space Patrol Luluco, Little Witch Academia, and SSSS Gridman, then you know you are going to get some of the most vibrant Japanese animation around. It looks like a lot of fun, and I hope to also see it soon.

And that wraps up what I think looks to be the most promising at the Annecy International Film Festival. Even with these listed, there are truly more interesting features being shown in their completed form or work-in-progress form. Just go check out the site, and see the multitude of animated projects being shown, and find your favorites.

The Negatives: Frozen


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Welcome to The Negatives. This is where we look at the critically acclaimed films from Disney, Dreamworks, and Pixar, and, well, point out their problems.

For In Defense Of, we looked at one of Disney’s biggest failures with The Black Cauldron, and I found some positive elements of the film. This time, let’s take a look at one of Disney’s biggest moneymakers of all time, Frozen. Now, even though we are about to look at the negative aspects of the film, I do want to say that I really do like this movie. Not as much as everyone else, but I still loved watching it. It brought a certain spark of Disney love back into me after my being so cynical about the company for years. However, over time, I have thought more critically about the film, and while I love Frozen, it really does have some flaws. Let’s get started!

 

The villain was weak!

Now, to be fair, I started off with this negative opinion, since in some ways, the villain, Hans, voiced by Santino Fontana, does work. Hans could represent the consequence of Anna being too outwardly social and trusting due to being inside a castle for so many years. It’s the reason why you shouldn’t be super-social and trusting of everyone, since some people out there are willing to hurt you and do things you don’t want to do. However, I think everyone could have seen this plot twist coming from the very beginning of the film. About 20 minutes into the movie, you hear Han’s father mentioning his plans for taking over the kingdom that Anna and Elsa rule. It’s not very original, and I feel like they didn’t really need a villain, since the main focus of the film is on the relationship between Anna and Elsa.

 

The Rock Troll song in the final third

You know how the song from the gargoyles was really distracting in Hunchback of Notre Dame? It was during a point in the story where the stakes were high and at that point, you were enthralled with the drama. Too bad that gargoyle song just ruins the entire mood and didn’t need to be in the film. That is how I felt about the song from the Rock Trolls in the final third of the film. This is after Anna was slowly freezing over. The male lead took her to see the Rock Trolls to try and cure her. Sadly, this leads into a song that really didn’t need to be in the film. It’s like “Hey! Anna is dying! Can you stop singing for a freaking minute, and try and save her?!” Granted, in the end, they couldn’t do anything to cure her, but they could have said that before breaking out into a song that ruins the mood and heartbreak of seeing one of the film’s main characters dying! At least Olaf’s song was amazing since he was so blissfully unaware of his fate if the sun hit him. Not to mention it was probably made to take a jab at annoying side characters.

 

Not really based on the source material

So, this film is very loosely based off the classic story, The Snow Queen. Why base Frozen off The Snow Queen story, when you barely do anything with the original story? Why not actually make a dark fantasy film? Dark fantasy films can work like The Dark Crystal. It is rather tiring that Disney, while they have been making good movies these past few years, will not do straight-up adaptations. It would be so nice for them to not think of how marketable this can be, or how many toys they can sell. Heck, that piece of CGI garbage The Snow Queen film at least hit elements of the original story more than Frozen, and I think Frozen is the better movie! They can at least say not “based on” and instead say “very loosely based on”.

 

Being overly marketed and commercialized ruined its charm!

When Frozen came out, it was a huge hit, and it was like, “Finally! Disney is back on track with good movies!” Not that they didn’t hit gold with the films leading up to Frozen, but still. Sadly, after Disney saw how hugely successful the film was, they tainted it with commercial tie-ins, putting the film back in theaters multiple times, and it resulted in all that charm and good graces that Disney got back, being now gone. It was overplayed, hyped-up to be the Citizen Kane of Disney films, and it was way too much. I really enjoyed it the first time I saw it, but that love shrunk slightly because of business. I know Disney is a company, and at the end of the day, it is all about making that bottom dollar, but at the same time, they should know when too much is, well, too much.

Like I have said many times, I do like this movie. Would I put it in my top 5? No. What about top 10? Well, maybe. I am glad it did well, and I am curious to see how they would do a sequel. I don’t think they should, but that’s just me. Well, next time we will be going back to In Defense Of, and I think it’s time to poke at Dreamworks. However, we might have to go a long way from Home to find something positive. Thanks for reading!