Yahoo Top 5 for this week
Later this week in Los Angeles, key figures from all levels of the entertainment industry will gather at the 3D Animation Summi
After decades of simply being a tacky marketing gimmick, 3D appears to have finally come into its own. 3D animation in particular, has become a Hollywood A-lister.
Among the expected keynote speakers at the Summit is Jeffrey Katzenberg, CEO of DreamWorks Animation. One of the most vocal proponents of 3D, Katzenberg is on record as saying all DreamWorks animated projects will now be done in 3D. His faith was rewarded this past spring when DreamWorks' 3D animated romp "Monsters vs. Aliens" earned nearly $200 million in the U.S.
"I think 'Monsters vs. Aliens' heralded the official arrival of the notion...that you could have long-term success with 3D animation," said Hollywood.com analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "Katzenberg was waiting for that movie to open, to determine...whether or not it was a viable and profitable genre, versus something that might just be considered a fad."
Disney/Pixar's summer blockbuster "Up," with its $291 million tally (the highest-grossing 3D film of all time) reinforced the belief that 3D is here to stay.
Wearing glasses has never been cooler.
"There's just something about 3D animation, almost in a way more than in live-action 3D, that brings you right into that world," said Dergarabedian.
Transporting the audience into a spectacular new world, whether it be Paradise Falls or the Ice Age, is what 3D proponents call the 'immersive experience' that only 3D can offer [for a look at 10 Milestones in the history of movie 3D, click here].
While box-office results for live-action 3D films remain spotty - only three such films have ever earned more than $100 million - recent box-office receipts indicate audiences want to be immersed in animation. The four highest grossing 3D animated pictures of all time have been released in the past year, signaling 3D animation may be ready to overtake superhero movies as Hollywood's newest home-run hitter.
The four highest-grossing 3D animated pictures of all time have been released in the past year:
All-Time 3D Animated Earners: (source: Box Office Mojo)
1. Up (Disney/Pixar) - $291.3 million
2. Monsters vs. Aliens (DreamWorks/Paramount) - $198.3 million
3. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (Fox) - $194.6 million
4. Bolt (Disney) - $114 million [Nov. 2008 release]
"Coraline," a darker tale adapted from Neil Gaiman's novel, took in $75 million during its early-year release. The one blemish on 3D animation's box-office performance was springtime flop "Battle for Terra."
Friday marks the debut of "Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs," the sixth 3D animated movie released so far in 2009. Sony has high hopes for the family-friendly picture, which is based on a bestselling children's book.
More than a dozen new 3D animated films are due out between now and the end of 2010. Some old favorites will try to cash in on the 3D craze, including the "Smurfs" (due out Dec. 2010), a fourth "Shrek" movie and even the Beatles.
Disney just announced plans to have Robert Zemeckis direct a three-dimensional remake of the Fab Four's 1968 psychedelic animated picture "The Yellow Submarine."
Then there is the return of two old pals named Woody and Buzz.
In October, Disney will re-release "Toy Story" and "Toy Story 2" in 3D. Each film has been given a complete 3D makeover in a process overseen by John Lasseter, the Academy Award-winning director of both Pixar movies. The re-release will also include the first trailer for "Toy Story 3," which debuts next June, in 3D of course.
Adding a new dimension to one of its most beloved franchises is just the latest move in Disney's ambitious 3D plans. It has a half-dozen such movies in the animation pipeline, including "Cars 2" and the animated musical version "Rapunzel."
This would seem to paint a bleak picture for traditional hand-drawn animation, which have struggled recently to find audiences.
Disney's summer release "Ponyo," from legendary Japanese animated filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, failed to connect with audiences.
"'Ponyo' was too Japanese for mainstream American audiences. It's a kid's film - aimed at small children," states animation historian Jerry Beck, who writes about the genre for the website cartoonbrew.com. "U.S. audiences are interested in animation that kids and grown ups can relate to."
Drawing by hand
The House that Walt Built hasn't completely abandoned the classic animation style the company was built on. "Rapunzel" is a hybrid of CGI and hand-drawn animation. And December will see the release of "The Princess and the Frog," the studio's first non-CG animated movie in five years.
Beck, who has seen the first 30 minutes of the film and was impressed by what he saw, says without a doubt, "'The Princess and the Frog' is very important to [the future of] hand drawn 2D."
Ironically, perhaps the biggest proponent of hand-drawn animation inside Disney is the man who helped usher in the Age of CGI Animation with "Toy Story."
At last weekend's D23 expo in Anaheim, Disney Chief Creative Officer Lasseter told fans hand-drawn animation has become the industry scapegoat for poor storytelling, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Shane Acker, the director of the recent CG-animated adventure "9", echoes those sentiments.
"It's just going to take a really amazing 2D film to come out with a really good story, interesting characters and look, and all of a sudden 2D will be back," says Acker, whose film earned $15.3 million in its first week of release.
Lasseter, who studied under the tutelage of veteran Disney animators, promised fans more traditional efforts in the future, saying hand-drawn films can deliver certain things computer animation can't.
Writer and animation veteran Mark Evanier echoes that sentiment.
"What's driving 3D is that since everyone is deciding it's the wave of the future...new animators are learning CGI instead of hand-drawn...so hand-drawn is simply being neglected," says Evanier. "Which is a shame because there is so much it can do that CGI can't."
"I love 3D. But the 3D we have today, with glasses, is a gimmick," says Beck. "It's a gimmick designed to get movie theaters to convert to digital projection... It's just that the public is being misled into thinking 3D is the future."
3D's big challenge
Perhaps the biggest obstacle to 3D animation's growth is the fact that fewer than 10 percent of American movie screens are equipped to handle digital 3D. The economic downturn has hurt theater chains' ability to borrow money to fund the digital conversion.
And as Beck pointed out, studios have much to gain by pushing the 3D revolution. Not only do 3D movies command higher ticket prices, but also delivering digital copies of movies will cost far less than thousands of expensive film prints.
Studio executives like Katzenberg also believe digital delivery will also cut down on film piracy.
But those ancillary benefits aside, 3D will likely live or die at the box office as a means, rather than an end. After all, who wants to be fully immersed in a bad movie? As Lasseter said last weekend, what audiences don't like is bad movies, in any dimension.
That's why a film like "Up" became a box-office sensation despite having the unlikeliest leading man in recent history: 78-year-old Carl Frederickson.
"Pixar is more successful with 3D because their movies are better," Beck said. "Their stories are better."
The 3D aspect at that point simply becomes the icing on the cinematic cake.
"I think at some point 3D will become to animated films what navigation systems are to cars," Dergarabedian says. "You're just going to have to have it in every single one. Otherwise you're going to feel like you're missing out."
More on Newsarama:
We spoke with Gibbons about seeing his work move online.
Newsarama: Dave, you're now the first artist to have their worksadapted by Warner Premiere Motion Comics - what's the attraction foryou to how they do what they do?
Dave Gibbons: One of the attractions for me of having Watchmenmade into the first Motion Comic was just that - it was breaking newground. It was pretty good candidate for Motion Comics as the linestyle was very clear as I had drawn it years ago and therefore veryeasy to animate. John Higgins used a very flat, interesting colorpalate which made the technical aspect of animating easy. Also thestory is a complete story - you know a beginning, middle and an end.The person who happens upon the Watchmen Motion Comics does not need tohave any previous knowledge of continuity. So I suppose it's anotherway to look at the material.
When I first looked at the samples of the Motion Comics, I thought theywere quite well done but there are a few things that need tweaking,some things and that could be improved quite easily. One of theproblems with the Watchmen material is that I'm so familiar with it andit's hard to get an unbiased view on it. So I showed it to some friendsand family who are in the business of games and animation. Of course wediscussed the technicalities of it, but everyone remarked how well itwas done. The "civilians" that I showed it to, particularly my twoteenage stepdaughters, just thought it was great. They thought it wasso exciting. They wanted to learn more and see what happened next inthe story. So I think that really convinced me that this was a way ofgetting the material out to people who might not be aware of the comic,who might not pick up the comic and get some great entertainment valueout of it.
NRAMA: Speaking how they do what they do, how involved are you in the process, with Watchmen?
DG: The way we work with the Watchmen Motion Comic isthat I get sent successive versions of it. The first is a roughanimatic that gives the breakdown of it in time which has limitedanimation and an unfinished audio track. Then I make my comments onthat.
I start the Motion Comic up and record my comments on my computer insync with what's going on the screen. The people at Juiced and WarnerPremiere play my comments back in a similar fashion and it providesthem a sense as if I'm in the room with them. That works very well.
Basically what I'm looking out for is bits of animation that are notconvincing to me. Bits of re-drawing that need some work. I meananybody who'd tried to re-draw even a static comic to change the formatof it or the size knows that there's a lot of work, a lot of judgmentinvolved in doing that. Doing that in motion as well is a whole newlevel of complexity. By in large it's done very, very well.
I do get to look at the script which is virtually very light editing ofAlan's original script transcribed from the original comic book andthen edited and re-recorded in sound. I must say I am impressed withhow carefully the editing has been done. Words have been cut andre-arranged, but it's incredibly faithful to Alan's original script.Everybody's aim is to be as faithful to the source material aspossible.
NRAMA: Have you had to do anything to the original art for the transition to the Motion Comics version?
DG: I've done a little bit or re-drawing. There are lots ofscenes where cars are driving by in the background. There are very fewcomplete cars drawn in Watchmen. So I've extended the drawing of someof the cars so they can smoothly slide by in the background. I actuallyre-drew the Minutemen picture which Rorschach discovers in the back ofThe Comedian's closet which re-occurs several times throughout thestory. Again, there was no drawing of the Minutemen photo that wasactually complete. Back in the day, I had a complete drawing of it thatI used as a reference. So I re-drew a pretty good sized image so itcould be used cleanly for transitions in all the scenes where theMinutemen photo appeared.
NRAMA: What are your thoughts on the finished product?
DG: I was looking at one of the episodes on my iPhone the otherday and I have to say it translates beautifully to it. The image areais roughly the equivalent of a panel in the comic book with a differentorientation. The sharpness of it is the same as the comic book. Also,the word balloons have been resized and read very clearly on an iPhonescreen. I thought it was fascinating. I could see how the combinationof the material and delivery system would make something like this areally attractive 25 minutes of entertainment for somebody. Also, thefact that it's episodic gives you a new episode to look forward to intwo weeks. So the finished product isn't a comic book but there arestill aspects of it that you'll still need to go to the comic book for.The comic book is the prime experience but I do think the Motion Comicis a very good translation of the experience done very contentiouslywith a great deal of attention. Hopefully this new format will lead toeven more people being aware of and interested in Watchmen.
NRAMA: What are your thoughts about the Motion Comics and theirsource? That is, you and Alan didn't design the comics to do this,necessarily, but rather, they were presented as static images. Thereare some who see this as an adulteration of the original material,while others see it as a hybrid, something reaching to be two things.Where do you land on those topics, that is, how these are "comics thatwiggle" as one observer has called them?
DG: The source material was never designed to be animated andthis has created a lot of logistical problems with extended drawing,additional movement to figures that never had it, etc. I think it'salways going to be a hybrid; it's never going to be the pure thinganymore than the multi-million dollar motion picture will be the realthing. Watchmen the comic book is the real thing.
I still do think it's an attractive and exciting way to present thematerial and I also think it shows the great strengths of Alan'soriginal story and, with modesty, the accessibility of my art stylethat I used on it. I think people can enjoy the graphic novel, they canenjoy the Motion Comic and they can enjoy the movie. I don't thinkenjoying the presence of one excludes enjoyment of the others. I wasparticularly struck by the reaction of people who did not read theinitial graphic novel. They were used to getting their visualexcitement and storytelling from YouTube, TV or DVD. I think it's a wayof bridging that gap - bringing people hopefully to Watchmen thegraphic novel and hopefully to other graphic novels and comics ingeneral.
I do take the point about "comics that wiggle." Obviously the animationis not full animation. It would be interesting actually to maybe do acomic book with this eventual use in mind. Certainly with digital mediamost comic books pass through a digital stage so it would not be adifficult to allow for a later translation to a Motion Comic. I thinkthat would be a really interesting thing to see. It would also beinteresting to make limited animation solely for a Motion Comic. Itwould seem to me to be an artistic challenge to create something thatwould be animated in a limiting way but still have great impact. Idon't think you need to have sophisticated execution to bring a storyover powerfully. The good thing about comics is they are pretty simpleand straightforward. I'll be really interested to see what people cando with Motion Comics as a prime medium without looking over itsshoulder for comic books as source material.
NRAMA: One last thing - any other of your works that you'd liketo see used in this fashion? Any that you think would translate betterthan others?
DG: I think some of the short stories I did for 2000 A.D. - theBritish science fiction anthology. They would be interesting to do andof course I did those with Alan. They're really satisfying littlestories. I suppose there's Martha Washington that Frank Miller and I did together which has some great action sequences. I was thrilled to see how well Batman: Mad Lovewas adapted to Motion Comics format. I think there's something aboutthat style of drawing - the kind of clarity of line and the flat colorthat is the key to the success of the translation. I'm reallyinterested to see where this kind of hybrid medium goes. I'm quiteexcited to have something that I've worked on be the landing craft orthe flagship of it.
I hope and confidently expect that a lot of people will very much enjoy these Motion Comics.