Oscar nominees for Best Animated Shorts

For those who haven't seen them yet, the 5 Oscar nominees for best animated shorts have finally made it onto the internet for public viewing pleasures. Of the five I had already previously seen Paperman and Fresh Guacamole. Now being able to watch the rest I have found a love for Adam and Dog and Head over Heels, both beautifully crafted and tells a lovely story. I previously had thought that I wouldn't care much for the Simpson's one but after watching it I found it to be a very endearing short. [youtube] [youtube] [youtube] [youtube]

*Will update with Maggie Simpson's The Longest Daycare when I can find a good full length version. It does not appear on youtube yet, the vimeo one has embeds disallowed and metatube does not work with wordpress*

Oscar Nominees 2013

The nominees for the 85th Annual Academy Awards have been announced. Yay!The awards show will be broadcast live on Sunday, Feb 24th on ABC.Let's take this by categories, mainly focusing on animation and vfx.

Best Picture “Argo” “Django Unchained” “Les Miserables” “Life of Pi” “Amour” “Lincoln” “Silver Linings Playbook” “Zero Dark Thirty” “Beasts of the Southern Wild”

Life of Pi is expected, and I've already mentioned it twice before so I won't say as much about it this time. Les Miserables was amazing; I cried, everyone cried. I haven't seen Beasts of the Southern Wild yet but I have heard great things about it and this movie is particularly of note due to that a group AAU students worked on the VFX of the movie.

Animated Feature Film “Brave” “Frankenweenie” “ParaNorman” “The Pirates! Band of Misfits” “Wreck-It Ralph”

As unfortunate as it seems, I don't really expect Brave to win as there have been many contention points about the story being somewhat weak. ParaNorman and Wreck-it-Ralph are some great contenders for the award. I'm somewhat disappointed that Rise of the Guardians was not nominated, but I suppose since the list is limited to five and there are already two 3D animated films that picking Frankenweenie would be a more diversified choice, although I found the movie to be somewhat dull.

Short Film – Animated “Adam and Dog” “Fresh Guacamole” “Head over Heels” “Maggie Simpson in ‘The Longest Daycare’” “Paperman”

I just went to watch the trailers for Adam and Dog and Head over Heels and they look beautiful and so adorable. As I haven't seen the full short it's somewhat hard to judge though. I think I've only seen Fresh Guacamole and Paperman in full but here I am fully expecting Paperman to take the award. Beautiful story, beautiful art, beautiful music, and particularly the advancement and combination of integrating 2D animation with 3D animation.

Visual Effects “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” “Life of Pi” “Marvel’s The Avengers” “Prometheus” “Snow White and the Huntsman”

I still think that the top two films fighting for the award will be Life of Pi and The Hobbit. It's quite hard to say who will win but I think I would prefer Life of Pi. I had a lot less issues with Life of Pi compared with The Hobbit, particularly at 48fps. I thought the vfx in Life of Pi was more beautiful and used well without a lot of frivolousness.



CTNX '12 - Day 3

CTN is ending the last day of the expo with a lot of Disney events. Time has gone by so quickly but at the same time I felt like I spent a lifetime being re-inspired. The fun's not over yet so here's is what I have for day three.

First up was the panel on Frankenweenie. Particularly fun about the panel was that not only were the producers, Don Hahn and Allison Abbate, and the art director Rick Heinrichs, present but the voice actor of Edgar, Atticus Schaefer, and the actual puppet of Sparky used in the film also joined in. What's great about the panel is how they talked a lot about the beauty of puppet animation in a world that is currently so invested in CG. There is a tactile quality to stop motion that people really respond to and love. Also, puppet animation is something that anyone can easily get into with something as simple as Legos and not have to worry about all the expensive software. One thing that was really great about Atticus was that he really loved being a voice actor. It has been said that there is a disjunction between animators and actors due to deciding who is really driving the performance of the character on screen; is it the motion or the voice and emotion portrayed. Atticus loved that being a voice actor and working with the various people on the film allowed for him to really try different variations out and to take on a new different persona to become the character instead of where in live action where not a lot of takes are allowed and directors may want something specific.

Paperman was amazing. Again. Even though I've seen the making of Paperman before, at the panel additional clips were seen. There was a shot breakdown of the process they went through to create a shot. First an animation pass, then the 2D lines animated over, a beautiful light render, and then shaded shadows and highlights to give the shot a more drawn textured quality. It was also shown an animator working in the Meander software to get a sense of how things are done. The panel that consisted of John Kars, director, Jeff Turley, art director, Patrick Osbourne, animation supervisor, and Sarah Airriess, final line supervisor talked a lot about the lighting and composition of the shot. It was really interesting of how things were setup in that the shots that George was in were darker while Meg's shots were lighter. George was primarily on screen left while Meg was on screen right, which is additionally the same direction that the light comes from. Beautiful. I should have seen this from the beginning but I was so enamored by the art and story that I haven't broken the film down and analyzed it per shot.

Dreamworks was doing an animation panel but unfortunately I was not able to attend as I was standing in line waiting for the next panel, Wreck-it-Ralph. From the line I did get to see shots from Rise of the Guardians and that was neat and has me hyped up for the movie to come out even more. What was really cool about the Wreck-it-Ralph panel was the push for 2D animation as still an integral part of Disney and used along with 3D animation. As Glen Keane says that we all have a lifetime of learning and we owe it to each other to teach and pass it on. 2D animation still has so much to teach 3D animation with its fluidity. As in a pipeline for a 3D animated film there is a large process that has to be passed through with concept, modeling, and rigging, before animators get their hands on something to work with. Animation tests are really important though in that starting from there acting is created and personalities of the characters becomes established. The great thing about having 2D animators at Disney was that they were able to start the development of character personalities a lot quicker with 2D animation tests. Among the many tests that were showed, one amazing one came up and everyone wanted to watch it over and over again even though we were short on time. It was Eric Goldberg's animation test on King Candy. Hilarious and amazing.

As today was a shorter day and I had lined up the three main panels that I wanted to see I got to wander around a bit more in the exhibit hall. Early in the morning I stopped by the booth that was selling all the art books. The booth finally wasn't overly crowded and I could browse through and look. I found an amazing giant book of Art of Mulan. It was so beautiful but so expensive. As I walked away with longing eyes I passed by a booth that was selling prints and saw and bought the Facial Expressions print from Lackadaisy by Tracy Butler. Unfortunately it wasn't Tracy herself at the booth nor do I know if she was actually at CTN but it would have been amazing to have it signed. Later in the afternoon as I was headed from the main building back towards the exhibit hall, I suddenly see Nick Pitera walking towards me and I nearly freaked out. I kept my cool though and was able to greet him, introduce myself, chat for a bit, and as we were both heading off in opposite directions for something, wish him a good day and to enjoy the expo. It was amazing and it was great that he stopped to talk. As Pixar didn't have a booth, much to my disappointment and surprise, I wasn't expecting to meet anyone that I may know other than Mike Makarwicz so when I met Nick it was such a wonderful surprise.

For the past few days I've seen a couple people walking around with drawings on canvas stretchers and I had no idea what they were. After the Wreck-it-Ralph panel and as everyone from AAU was getting together and getting ready for the ride home on the shuttle, one of my friends had one of those drawings and I asked him what it was. Those drawings on canvas stretchers were drawings for sale done by Ryan Woodward, the creator of Thought of You. Why did I not know this and why do I not have one! The shuttle had already arrived and would be leaving soon so after I got my luggage I ran over to buy the last one that they currently had. I was happy. My friends called it the pooping pose. Rude. If I had options it may have not been the first one that I would pick to buy as I saw some other works that are a lot more gestural and uses more basic shapes that are really interesting, the one I had was still very nice in the line quality, form, weight, and perspective exaggeration. As people were still waiting around and not on the bus yet, I again ran back inside the exhibit hall for one last look and soak-up of talent and inspiration. So glad that I did for I was able to meet Ryan and got him to even autograph the drawing that I just bought. Now my friends are all jealous.

CTN was amazing. The panels were great; the talent were great. I got to see Glen Keane and Andreas Deja and I got to actually meet Bobby Chiu and Nick Pitera. The shuttle ride to and back from CTN wasn't fun and standing in the cold and rain waiting for the Glen Keane talk left quite a bit to be desired. CTN was a great experience where I got to soak up see so much talent and soak up so much inspiration I can't wait to go again next year!

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ASIFA - 14th Annual Animation Show of Shows

While ASIFA is showing in a few places around San Francisco, the one I went to (and the one that I could get into with an rsvp) was hosted by Dolby Labs today, Nov 5th at 7:30pm. The event is free as usual as ASIFA is a non profit organization with an aim to promote and encourage animated films. The organization is open to anyone, whether someone who is in the industry or just someone who enjoys animated films.The auditorium at Dolby was pretty awesome. They had speakers everywhere, from the ceilings to behind openable walls. Additionally, since two of the films that were being shown were in 3D, we all got to wear super fancy 3D glasses. Not those flimsy kinds that you get at movie theaters, these were nice solid ones with very cool polar lens and anti-theft tracking chips.I overheard someone introducing himself as Steve Seagal. I may have just heard wrong as he didn't seem to be the actor but I did hear him talk about currently teaching History of Animation and having had worked at Pixar in the past in the interactive technologies department back when Pixar had one. Pretty cool.

The following are my thoughts on some of the films. They are not all the films that were shown but were the ones that stood out to me and that I have something to say about.

The first film that was shown was Disney's Paperman. I've already written a review on Paperman back with Wreck-it-Ralph so I won't go too much into it but I will say that it's still great the third time watching it and that I absolutely love the music. Particularly the part starting with where the woman sees the paper airplane sticking out of the flowers and then starts chasing after it as the plane flies away.

The Brain Centrifuge Project by Til Nowak, from Germany, was a very interesting and hilarious film. It was about "the effect of amusement park rides on IQ". The film was styled like an interview and showcased some pretty amusing yet horrifying amusement rides, such as rides that will fling people 360 degrees around and a ridiculously long ferris wheel that takes 14 hours to go around. I'm personally not the type that goes on extreme rides, I've only started going on roller coasters recently, so when I saw those rides my thought wasn't "that looks so cool, I want to go on that" but rather "holy craaaaap".

Here and the Great Elsewhere, by Michele Lemieux, was an amazing film done with pinscreen. Pinscreen is basically a screen with a bunch of pins stuck through it and thus casts a shadow. The film was done entirely with pinscreen in a short of stop motion type of animation. There was no pen or pencil or computer graphics done to create the animation and for that the piece  was amazing. The images were highly detailed, had form and volume, depth and perspective, and a contrast of lights and darks. Unfortunately the film did feel like it dragged on, particularly due to it's abstract storyline making it hard to follow.

Pixar's Carlo Vogele made an independent film called Una Furtiva Lagrima. The film follows a dead fish's journey from the market and into the pan, all while the fish is singing the aria. While the film may be hard to grasp initially, as the aria was not sung in English and thus I didn't know what it was about, for I did not know if it was suppose to be something serious as the fish laments about the fleetingness of life, or if it was a ironic piece. The process behind the film making was also interesting as real fish were used and Carlo described how he had to handle the fish and pose them with strings and wires and working with the fish half frozen.

Flamingo Pride, by Tomer Esheds, was shown in 3D. This was amazing and hilarious. The film tells about a heterosexual flamingo who experiences growing frustration as he struggles to distinguish himself from the gay masses and find true love. I was already loving the film with all the pink flamingos dancing, partying, and hey girl, but I loved it even more with the appearance of two tigers.

Daffy's Rhapsody, also shown in 3D, by Matt O'Callaghan, was unfortunately a let down. The characters and the world were modeled in 3D. While I'm not one of those "you're ruining my childhood with your new fancy technology" kind of person, the CG in this case did ruin it somewhat for me, particularly due to how the characters were shaded. Elmer looked waxy and had really weird light pink lips but they were shaded on the inside of his mouth and Daffy had a really glossy body. Yes, feathers have a certain amount of gloss to them but the amount that was on Daffy just made him look very slick and shiny. I also felt the idea of this short has already been done with Bugs Bunny in Rabbit of Seville.

The final 3 films shown were considered parental advisory and I'll just say they were "interesting" and leave it at that.

Paperman and Wreck-it-Ralph Review

I have been waiting for today for forever! Forever being since February when I got to go to Disney for Inspire Days and see them work on the movie. First off, SPOILER ALERT. While there are super awesome technical things that I would love to talk about, there are story points that I would like to also bring up, and that would be hard to do without giving away certain parts of the movie.


Paperman is an amazing short in front of the main movie. It tells a beautiful heart warming love story of the destiny between a man who works as a paper pusher and a woman he met one day by chance. The story was simple and sweet and yet still grounded in what felt very much like reality; meeting love, attempting to achieve love, but then having to slip from your grasp. From here the contrasts between the two characters really showed. While the man fought against the paper airplanes, with annoyance and attempting to go in an opposite direction, the woman showed excitement and actively pursued the paper airplane to follow where it would lead her. I do have a small qualm with the paper airplanes when they start swirling, dancing, and following the man in a line, though. The setting of the world felt very realistic that when the paper airplanes started swirling it felt very out of place and unnatural. Maybe it was a gust of wind moving in a circular fashion which is causing it but the way the planes moved did not look that way and that illusion is broken when they start lining up behind the man. However, it is a small qualm and I don't mind it very much as I watch the journey that slowly brings the man and woman together to form a beautiful ending that warms your heart and make you smile both inside and out.

Done in a stunning black and white, with a single red accent, the short was as visually appealing as the story was beautiful. What's more intriguing to the style was that the short is a blend of both 3D and 2D. Things were modeled, simply shaded, and then lit in Maya.  With Disney's proprietary software, Meander, they drew 2D over the 3D which can be seen as the contour lines around the characters and the detail in the hair. What else is amazing about Paperman, the software, is that it is able to interpolate between two poses, using some fancy mathematical formula and coding, so that the 2D is as smooth as the 3D without animators having to go in and draw out each frame. If you're going to CTN, be sure to go to the event on Sunday, Nov 18, 12:00 to 12:45pm where the creators of Paperman will be having an event!


The movie was awesome. There were many extremely fun parts, lots of laughter, and a few parts that tug at your heartstrings. As another review that I had previously read, there is something for the adults, as it references many old school games, and something for the kids with fun and exciting characters. I do find it slightly disappointing though that there were no awesome in movie songs that will become favorites to sing along to, like Tangled's When Will My Life Begin, Mother Knows Best, and Now I See The Light. The many songs that Disney has in their long history of classic animated movies is the one thing that I love about them over Pixar movies.

From seeing the trailers, you generally know what the movie will be about and how it will end. A video game character who is the antagonist in his game gets tired of being treated as a genuinely bad person and goes off to try to prove himself, but without an antagonist, the game isn't unable to function and thus ultimately he will realize he plays an important role and go back to his game. I was a bit worried about how the movie will end because if it just follows that simple plot line it would be boring and cliched. I liked how the issue was resolved in that Ralph didn't just realize that he was important in his own way and go back in resignation but rather Ralph came upon the understanding that, in Zangrief's words, "You are bad guy, but not a bad guy". I started tearing up at this moment as Ralph was falling toward Cola Mountain. While I find myself really liking the Fix-it-Felix Jr.'s character due to a dorky cuteness that he has as he crushes on Calhoun, I find his transition of perspective towards Ralph not articulated very well. First, when asking for Ralph from other game characters, Felix describes Ralph as just his coworker, but then without any clear motivation on a change of mindset, when he knocks on the door of the Candy Castle, Felix calls Ralph his friend. Then at the end of the movie Felix suddenly got extremely chummy with Ralph kept repeating "my brother". Meanwhile, Venellope von Schweetz was a slightly harder character to watch in that she is a glitched character and she describes her condition as "Pixlexia". While the pun was funny, what happened after was harder to watch as due to her "disability", Venellope was shunned and bullied by the other candy kids. It succeeded in making the audience feel sorry for Venellope and hate the bullies but it also made you stop and think a little about the actual world. Other than that, the reveling that Venellope is the princess of Sugar Rush is a little offputting and feels like it came out of nowhere. From the glimps that we get of her on the side of the game station, Venellope looks like a possible top racer, but she looks like her glitched version and nothing at all like the princess version of herself. She's not wearing the royal dress, she doesn't have a fancy car like King Candy did, and moreover the candy in her hair is the version from her glitch appearance instead of the red candy dots that she has in her princess version. She is adorable though (and she knows it!) and Sarah Silverman was great as her voice actress.

I love Sugar Rush, it was pretty and pink and glitter all over! It was so fun to see not only the landscape and buildings being fashioned out of candy but the citizens and various items being fashioned out of candy and snacks as well. Knowing a little bit about the concept development story, I know that a team got to go to Barcelona to review inspiration from the buildings there by the architect Antoni Gaudi, and as Gaudi is my favorite architect I had already fallen in love with the world of Sugar Rush. The gumdrops though were one of the most beautiful elements of the world as not only were they coated in grains of sugar but it also achieved the translucency that gumdrops have and a beautiful shadow that shows the light refracted through it. Another big achievement is how the design of the characters. There are so many different worlds in just this one movie, both the outside human world and the various inner game worlds. While the characters still stay true to themselves and the classic icons are still clearly recognizable, the characters all look like they belong in the same world space of the movie, even the ghost from Pac-Man.

Lighting is a big part of a movie in addition to the animation itself due to how it can tell a story and exhibit the mood of events or characters. I loved the part where the "out of order" sign was put up on the Fix-it-Felix game station and the light immediately changed from that to reflect upon the fear and uncertainty of the Nicelanders. It gives a reason to a change in color to further the story telling instead of just having colors to mimic emotion which can become confusing as to why the light source is changing.

While animated films, such as those from Pixar and Dreamworks, tend to focus on more realistic animation, the movements from Wreck-it-Ralph were very interesting. One example that could be clearly seen is the Nicelanders from the Fix-it-Felix game. The game itself is styled as an 8bit game and the Nicelanders, even though are fully 3D modeled, still move in that jerky 8bit style which was not only interesting to watch, but really sells the idea of the world being a game instead of it just being there is a world behind a game.

Wreck-it-Ralph was a great movie and I would definitely want to go watch it again.