Animation Tidbits #4 What’s Cam Looking Forward To 10/19/17: Animation is Film Festival Edition

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this editorial!)

Welcome to another What’s Cam Looking Forward To on Animation Tidbits. I guess you can call this version the “Animation is Film Festival Edition”, because a lot of the films on this list will be at the LA-based Animation is Film Festival. So many of these animated films are making their US release at this festival. It’s a shame it wasn’t happening closer to me, since I live all the way in Texas, but I think anyone who wants to see some truly, in the sense of the word, “unique” animated films, they should go to this event. Now, some of these films I have talked about before, like The Breadwinner, Birdboy: The Forgotten Children, Zombillenium, and The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales. However, the mass majority of these will be new to the Animation Tidbit label. Let’s jump in!

Fireworks

While I am still bitter about Your Name’s success opening the floodgates for a slew of teen dramas/romances to overcrowd the market, I’m always willing to put that aside to judge the film on its own merits. Fireworks is helmed by the producer of Your Name, Genki Kawamura. It’s a tale of two junior high school boys, who fawn over the same girl who is going to be leaving their country-side town. One day, one of the boys finds a magical sphere that can control time, and uses it to try and get together with the girl, who by the time he finds this sphere, has fallen for the other guy. In the film, the boy will use the sphere he found to turn back the clock to fix a mistake, but may end up causing more consequences to doing such a thing than he would like. It reminds me of The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, which used the same plot idea. If handled well, it would lead to some touching scenes. The animation, while having fairly generic anime character designs, looks great, and I’m always down for a teen drama/romance to be taken or tackled in different ways. I wonder how good it will be compared to the mega hit Your Name, or the other massive hit, A Silent Voice. Granted, I am getting tired of Japan’s fixation on teen dramas and romances, but if the film can tell a compelling story and bring some creativity to the table, then I’m down to check it out. This will be playing the same day as The Breadwinner on Friday, the first day of the event.

MUTAFUKAZ

I love to consider this the French/Japanese-animated lovechild of a classic Robert Rodriguez action movie. MUTAFUKAZ is, like I mentioned, a French/Japanese collaboration combining Studio 4 ° C, director Shojiro Nishimi and Guillaume Renard, the creator of the comic on which the film is based.  It revolves around a young boy named Angelino, who lives with his skeleton friend Vinny in a dirty disgusting city known as Dark Meat City. After getting into an accident, Angelino starts to experience unknown powers, and boy, everything just hits the fan afterwards. Everything is thrown into this film, like a stew made of everything inside your fridge. You have gang fights, frantic car chases, Akira-style physic powers, trippy visuals, Jin-Roh-style soldiers, and utter chaos. It all blends together in this over-the-top action film that looks fantastic. I think for such a crazy idea, it was a good idea to get Studio 4 ° C because they are good at getting frenetic and fast-paced action done well. I’m concerned it’s going to be flash over substance, but it’s still one of the animated films I’m looking forward to seeing the most, due to the fact we rarely get action-focused animated features anymore.

Big Fish & Begonia

I have not been subtle about talking about the lackluster animation scene China has going on. It’s either bad anime-style clones, or really bad CGI with no thought about being creative with a small budget. This is why Big Fish & Begonia is poised to be the turning point for better animated features from that country. For a film that took a decade to make, the animation is gorgeous, and a lot of it makes the film look like this Chinese version of Spirited Away, which is fine by me. I have read early reviews of the film, which spoke highly of its philosophical elements, and it will have an English dub at the event, which means that Shout! Factory is probably getting ready for a more wide release and announcement for the film. If you want to see what could help turn China’s animation scene down a much more optimistic route, then you should definitely go check this film out.

Lu Over the Wall

Now, we have one of the big boys playing at the plate. Masaaki Yuasa, the director behind Mindgame, has two films out this year and at this event. Lu Over the Wall is the first film being shown, and is another take on the Little Mermaid story in the same way Hayao Miyazaki did with Ponyo. That means you will get offbeat characters, trippy animation, and a more light-hearted tone. It’s definitely what I got from the trailers and, from a few clips that are on YouTube, the charm really comes through the animation. It looks fantastic, and I hope GKids can bring this film over along with Masaaki’s other film that will be talked about later in this editorial.

Tehran Taboo

Now, this is a nice little surprise. Tehran Taboo is a German-Austrian collaboration about three different women and a musician trying to survive in a harsh and punishing city known as Tehran, where sex and drugs run amok under heavy religious and patriarchal ruling. It looks like an emotional and human experience, as we see these characters survive in such a restrictive life. I know some will argue about its animation, since it’s not technically 2D animation, but some form of rotoscope animation, but those purists can go bugger off. You are still tracing over living individuals frame by frame. Animation is much more vibrant and expansive these days, and this is a good example to show that. If you want something mature and adult during this festival, then it’s probably a good idea to step into the dramatic world of Tehran Taboo.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower

It’s not a surprise that one of the two major viewings that are sold out is the spiritual successor to Studio Ghibli, Studio Ponoc’s Mary and the Witch’s Flower. First off, the animation looks fantastic. It has a style very similar to Studio Ghibli, and while I have heard people say that this is distracting, I don’t find that a problem. Studio Ghibli isn’t doing anything besides Hayao Miyazaki’s newest film, and if it’s a distracting thing to have fluid and very expressive Japanese animation, then I think that’s a pretty good situation to have. Even Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata have shown their approval of the film. It looks like a great one, and it has directors I trust behind it. It’s one of the most anticipated animated films of the year, and probably one of the sure Oscar nominees.

Night is Short, Walk on Girl

Finally, we have Masaaki Yuasa’s second film, Night is Short, Walk on Girl. Technically, it is a follow-up to a series he worked on called The Tatami Galaxy. The surreal romantic comedy of a girl and the guy who has a crush on her looks trippy, unreal, and hilarious. This is what I love about Yuasa’s work. Fantastic and vibrant visuals, interesting characters, and what might look random, has an underlying tone of something much more. I am concerned that I can watch this without having seen the TV series, which I just started, but the quality of the film will depend on if it stands strong on its own or not. Still, I hope GKids brings this and Lu Over the Wall over to the states.

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Animation Tidbits #3: What’s Cam Looking Forward To? 5/22/17

 

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this quick editorial!)

So, I know it’s soon to do another editorial like this, but I found a slew of animated films to be on the lookout for, and since the Annecy Film Festival is right around the corner, I decided to do another list of films I’m looking forward to. Now then, let’s take a look at some of the films that will be competing at the festival first.

 In This Corner of the World

First up is the Japanese animated film by director Sunao Katabuchi, In This Corner of the World. This character-focused film that is about a young woman named Suzu during World War Two is a beautiful and emotionally-driven experience. While the story is said to be a fictional tale that takes place during that period in time, it is apparently based on real life events of said historical period. I love the soft watercolor look to everything, and that should be no surprise due to the director having previous award-winning films under his belt like Princess Arete and Mai Mai Miracle. I can’t wait for Shout! Factory to release this in the states with Funimation helping out because I will definitely be going to see this film when and if it comes to Austin.

Zombillenium

Like with Icarus from the previous list, Zombillenium has probably one of my favorite settings for an animated film. It’s a French animated film about a theme park where all the ghosts, ghouls, monsters, skeletons, and mummies are, in fact, real monsters. One day, a human named Hector, a safety regulations officer, is threatening to shut down the park. That is, until the vampire manager of the park decides to bite him and bring him on board as an employee. First off, the art style has this great comic book/cartoony style that is very eye-catching. Then again, this is based on the comic book series by one of the directors of this film. I feel like this setting could lead to some very interesting social commentary, with how the monsters work and live at the park, and how some of the monsters could symbolize labor laws and so on. I also get a vibe from something like a good HBO/FX drama, where it’s about the life and the days of the characters in their environment. Unfortunately, I don’t have a traditional trailer for this film, but instead, a music video. It’s done by Arthur DE PINS, one of the directors and the creator of the comic. I bet you that this was a huge excuse for not only a fun music video, but a tech demo to get funding for the film. It’s for a song called Nameless World by a French Rock Band called Skip the Use. This is also one of the films competing for the grand prize at the Annecy Film Festival, and it’s the only animated film competing at the Cannes Film Festival. I hope it turns out to be a fantastic flick.

UDATE: Here is a teaser for Zombillenium!

Bird Boy: The Forgotten Children

Well, GKids just got the rights to bring this film over in the fall, so I might as well talk about it next. Plus, I can’t pass up a GKids distributed film. This dark yet cartoony animated film from Spain is directed by Alberto Vazquez and Pedtro Rivero. If you are into the foreign animation scene, then you know about Alberto Vazquez, who is releasing a new movie called Unicorn Wars. And yes, that is a real movie. This guy is known for combining great animation, with cute designs and strikingly dark visuals. I can see it catching some people off-guard, but I think challenging what defines animation in terms of visuals is breathtaking. It might not be the first animated film to have super dark visuals and a story to boot, but it’s something I like to see going on from time to time with animation. I can’t wait to see who they get for the main cast, and I hope they can bring over his new film in the future.

The Swallows of Kabul

This one caught me by surprise. This French-animated film, based off the book of the same name, is being directed by two female directors. One of them is an actress-turned-director by the name of Zabou Breitman and designer/animator Eléa Gobbé-Mevellec. It’s also being produced by Les Armateurs, who worked on The Secret of Kells, The Triplets of Belleville, and Ernest & Celestine. Its watercolor art direction brings out some very beautiful visuals, and the character designs are fantastic. Then again, when one of the directors worked on The Prophet, The Rabbi’s Cat, and April and the Extraordinary World, it should be no surprise that it looks great in motion. Even though I know the story will be a bit more mature than your typical animated film, I don’t find the designs or the animation to be distracting. The teaser also does a good job at getting me intrigued about the story, as I’m curious to know what happened after the guard Atiq watched as his eyes were set on a beautiful woman who is the newest prisoner in a female prison. This is another good example why European animation can be so wonderful. Hopefully, in the future, we can hear more about the film.

The Breadwinner

While Wolfwalkers is in the early stages of development and funding, we can look forward to Cartoon Saloon’s upcoming film, The Breadwinner. This beautifully animated film from the studio that made Song of the Sea and The Secret of Kells is based off the book of the same name. It’s also being partly produced by Angelina Jolie. I’m a tad concerned about that part, since I have found her recent projects to be pretentious and lackluster, but just by the teaser trailer alone, the film looks impressive. I also enjoy the fact that they went full frontal with the casting, since they hired multiple actors of Afghan descent to be the major characters. It’s a wonderful-looking movie, and I can’t wait to watch it later this year.

Loving Vincent

This is probably the most visually striking of the films listed in this editorial. How many animated films can you think of that are painstakingly painted by very specific animators and artists that recreate and pay tribute to one of history’s greatest artists? I love the idea of someone going around asking about the legacy and impressions the artist left on people that he met. It’s such an impressive feat to watch what was going to be a short film directed by director Dorota Kobiela, and has now become this hugely passionate animated film celebrating the beauty and history of art from the infamous painter, Vincent Van Gogh. After it hopefully does well in the Annecy Film Festival, I will patiently wait for theater showings in my neck of the woods.

The LEGO Ninjago Movie

While this entire list has been mostly following smaller and foreign releases, it doesn’t mean I’m not looking out for the bigger releases. While we have gotten this trailer a few months back, I wasn’t really thinking about it until recently, as I was thinking back to The LEGO Batman Movie. It’s honestly going to be interesting to see how people react to another LEGO movie in one year. One kudos that I will give this film instantly is that no one has to watch the TV show with the same title to watch this movie, since neither the film nor the show are connected in any way. It also helps that personally, The LEGO Ninjago Movie gave off a strong first impression with good laughs, good animation, and solid voice work. It also helps that the film has a director that has worked in different positions on action-focused cartoons before, like The Powerpuff Girls Movie, Batman: The Animated Series, Tron: Uprising, Samurai Jack, and a lot of Cartoon Networks’ biggest and most popular cartoons. Now, I am concerned with how much emotional substance will be in this film, and how it’s going to have a slew of characters to introduce in one go, but I think Warner Animation Group has been pretty spectacular these past few years. Hopefully, The LEGO Ninjago Movie can be another feather in their cap.

Well, that’s it for this list. I probably won’t have enough to talk about for another one for a while, and I plan on doing an editorial on Blue Sky’s Ferdinand instead of adding it to a list, since I’m excited for it, but not fully on board with it due to the studio. Thanks for reading, and I hope you all get excited for these films as well!

The Other Side of Animation 69: Snowtime! Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

Winter time is here, and this is a film I have wanted to talk about for a while, Snowtime! When I review films, I always want to make sure I review seasonal films around the appropriate time of year. That’s why I really don’t do horror animation unless it’s October, and you get the idea. That’s why I wanted to talk about Snowtime! since it is the holidays now, and everyone should be watching winter-themed or Christmas-related specials and films. Snowtime! is a French/Canadian collaboration directed by Jean-Freancois Pouliot. The film also boasts a couple of big names for the English dub, including Sandra Oh, Ross Lynch, and Angela Galuppo. It’s also on the list of animated films up for the short list for the Oscar’s Best Animated Feature category. So, does this movie deserve to be included with the likes of Zootopia, Moana, Finding Dory, Kung Fu Panda 3, Long Way North, Only Yesterday, Miss Hokusai, and Kubo and the Two Strings as one of the best animated films of the year? Well, let’s find out.

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The story revolves around a group of kids in a small town who decide to have this epic snowball fight that takes place over the winter break. And, well, that’s pretty much it. The film is attempting to be more intimate in scale and slice-of-life.

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I’m going to mention the good stuff first because once again, I have a lot more to talk about in terms of the negative aspects of the film, but I don’t think it’s entirely terrible. Now then, I really like the art design. The overall animation might be clunky, but the character design really does stand out. It reminds me of a good timeless children’s’ book-style art direction. Granted, some of the kids look like they have similar design choices, but the overall look of the film is pleasant. They even go into these 2D sequences when in a memory of one of the kids. It definitely has a much more interesting look than what you usually get with limited released animated films for families or straight-to-DVD schlock. I also respect that the film wants to be on a smaller scale and laid back. I think that’s pretty neat, since so many films aimed at children and family are loud and fast. I want animation studios to get that not every film needs to be fast and in-your-face with modern references and culture. It’s probably why no matter what I’m going to negatively say about Snowtime!, it will probably hold up better than most animated films.

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Now then, let’s break down why Snowtime! is not that great of a film. As I was watching it, I was thinking it was just okay, and was pretty harmless in terms of animated films of this year. It doesn’t have the grand epic scale or the edge of Kubo or Zootopia, but it’s not as insulting or terrible as Norm of the North and Ice Age: Collision Course. Granted, there are a few fart jokes in there that are distracting, but the overall film is very inoffensive. However, it really doesn’t have a whole lot that’s memorable about it. The kid characters aren’t that interesting and have very basic traits. Some of them get some “depth”, but due to how short the film is at 70 minutes, they don’t pace them enough, or they aren’t fleshed out enough to leave a lasting impression. It made me question why they needed actors like Sandra Oh in it, since having her or the other “big” names they got don’t add a whole lot to the film. I will at least respect that they keep the dialogue very timeless, and don’t try to make it sound modern or hip.

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Now then, let’s talk about the biggest and most glaring problem with this movie. When the film gets into its third act, out of nowhere, it turns into an anti-war film. One of the characters dies and it comes out of the blue and breaks the immersion of the film. You are sitting through this harmless bit of entertainment, and then bam! A character dies and it ends on this anti-war message. My jaw hit the floor, because it doesn’t fit the rest of the movie. Why did a character have to die? What was the point of it? Wasn’t this supposed to be an epic snowball fight? It ruins the movie because you can’t focus on the ending due to that one scene. It’s so hilariously bad that you wonder what the heck was going on when in development. It feels so forced into the movie, and I know this film was based on a book, so it might be just a bad or clunky adaptation, but it’s still so shocking that it happens. Another element that bugs me is, where the heck are the parents in this movie? This isn’t something like Charlie Brown where you know the adults are there, but you don’t see them. You never see them in this movie. It caused me to riff on the film a bit, due to how they don’t appear once in the entire 70-minute running time. Like, was this an unintentional Children of the Corn film?

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I was surprised by the experience I had with Snowtime! It wasn’t a great movie, but it’s also not the worst I have seen. I respect that it wanted to be more laid back and simple, but that last third is way too distracting, and elevates the other problems the film has. I know Shout! Factory Kids is new to this business of bringing over animated films, but they really need to learn from GKids and think of quality over quantity. If you can somehow rent this film or watch it on Netflix, I would do that, but if you want to watch a good Shout! Factory Kids film, you are better off skipping this film, and watching and buying Long Way North. Well, next time, we will look at one of the most infamous franchises in animation in one review. Thanks for reading, I hope you liked the review, and I will see you next time.

Rating: Rent it

The Other Side of Animation 64: Long Way North Review

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(If you like what you see, you can go to camseyeview.biz to see more of my work on video game reviews, editorials, lists, Kickstarters, developer interviews, and review/talk about animated films. If you would like, consider contributing to my Patreon at patreon.com. It would help support my work, and keeps the website up. Thanks for checking out my work, and I hope you like this review!)

While I do think GKids is the best foreign/indie animation distributor, I wish more companies were like them. There are probably a slew of great foreign animated films, new and old, that we never get to see. It always seems like besides the stuff GKids brings over, companies will bring over the worst of the worst because they are cheap and won’t cost a lot to get some B or C-list celebrities to voice the characters. Not to say they are all utter schlock, but you have to look pretty hard to find one of these cheap films that are actually competent. Luckily, some companies still know quality when they see it, and to the best of their abilities, bring it over for everyone to see. You have Sentai Filmworks who brought over Short Peace, Funimation bringing over the amazing movies by Mamoru Hosoda, and now we have a new contender, Shout! Factory Kids. This is the family/children spin-off of horror/sci-fi distributors Shout! Factory. So far, their animated film offerings have been just okay. They have some unique films, like the French-made Jack and the Cuckoo Clock Heart, A Monster in Paris, which I have already reviewed, and the Canadian-produced Snowtime! And yes, I will get to them during Christmas. However, to me, their best-to-date, in terms of what they have brought over, is today’s review, Long Way North. This French/Danish collaboration is from first-time director Rémi Chayé. This might be his first directorial job, but he has been around the European animation scene for a good while, and has worked on many classic animated films. Heck, a lot of people on here worked on some of the best overseas-animated films of all time. It’s like a European animation version of The Avengers. Rémi Chayé worked on films that include The Painting, The Secret of Kells, and Eleanor’s Secret. One of the producers, Claus Toksvig Kjaer, was a producer on Song of the Sea. Another producer for Long Way North, Henri Magalon, was a producer on Ernest & Celestine. The composer, Jonathan Morali, also has his name under the critically acclaimed video game, Life is Strange. The individuals in charge of the art direction, Han Jin Kuang Liane-Cho, worked on The Illusionist, Ethel & Ernest, Zarafa, and The Little Prince, and Slaven Reese worked on Ethel & Ernest, Song of the Sea, Zarafa, and The Prophet.  Like, wow, you’ve got some really good individuals involved with this movie. So, is it as good as the 100% critic score or the 80% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes rating it has as of October 23rd, 2016? Well, let’s find out.

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The film takes place in Russia in 1882. We follow the story of a young Russian aristocrat named Sasha, voiced by Chloe Dunn. Sasha is still getting over the supposed death of her grandfather, Olukine, who left on a journey across the ocean to find the North Pole. After an incident with a royal snob that would have promised her father a strong political spot, Sasha decides to go off on her own to find a ship to go in search of her grandfather and his ship. What will she find? What will happen to her?

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I want to start with the animation since it’s fairly unique. At least, to me it’s unique. Long Way North has a beautiful art style, but the animation is very simple. It’s not super-fast or detailed. However, it’s very expressive, and you can easily get a lot of the emotions from the characters. It’s a beautiful movie with lush countrysides, freezing landscapes, and you can essentially feel the salty air in the seaside town Sasha finds herself in during the film. This film definitely has a vibe that you would see in a Mamoru Hosoda film or something from Studio Ghibli, with characters that can be tough, but with a kind heart to them. Sure, there are some crabby individuals, and I will get to them later in the review, but this film has something that reminds me of the interactions you see in films like Castle in the Sky or The Boy and the Beast. Long Way North also has a more mature tone. It’s nice to see this be a rather dark film in the later part. You don’t know if Sasha will actually find her grandfather’s ship and make it back. Sasha is a great character who is smart, active, and is willing to learn new things, and you want to see her succeed, but man, it can be grim later on. Not enough to ruin the film, but it can be as dark as something like Song of the Sea. The overall adventure is enjoyable to watch, with the highs and lows being pretty balanced, and the highs don’t overshadow the lows.

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I was hooked on this movie from beginning to end. However, I do have some complaints. They are minor, but I should bring them up. The royal prince that you see in the film should have been taken out. He has no real character besides being a spoiled jerk. Heck, he only appears at the beginning and the end of the film. I don’t see why he had to be an ignition point for the story to get started. Why not have Sasha find the navigations on her own, and then try to deal with her parents, who are not outwardly dealing with the loss of the grandfather, but don’t want to hear that there might be a possible way to find out what happened to him. I also feel like they could have made the film a bit longer. The real end of the film is the still frames in the credits. It would have felt more powerful if we got to see it all in motion. The pacing could also use some work. Long Way North flows pretty well, but there are some bits all over the movie that could have been better.

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Long Way North might not be anything innovative or groundbreaking, but it’s a freaking good movie. It’s simple, but well executed. It’s hopeful, but it’s not afraid to be tough. It has simple animation, but it’s gorgeous and well done. If you have a theater playing this movie, you should really see it. It’s one of my favorite films of 2016. It’s easily in my top 10. It’s also coming out on DVD in January, but still, find some way to watch this great movie. Next time, we will look at one of the most popular Japanese films of recent years with Miss Hokusai. Thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed the review, and see you all next time!

Rating: Criterion/Essentials