Trailer: Minions (Official)


 

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BANANA!

The Minions are back and all is right with the world. What better way to decompress from a month full of horror and everything horror than to get back to our helpful, little yellow henchmen.

Minions stars Stuart, Kevin and little Bob. They go on a journey in search of the ultimate master villain to pledge their race’s allegiance to. We’ll find out in July 10, 2015 if their search is one of success.

Trailer: Big Hero 6 (2nd Official)


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Big Hero 6 is the next offering from the Walt Disney Animation Studios. While Pixar has the reputation of being the top animation house within Disney, the last couple years have seen the Walt Disney Animation house taking most of the glory. First, there was the surprise hit Tangled which was soon followed up by Wreck-It-Ralph which was both a success with critics and audiences alike. Then last year we saw the unstoppable juggernaut that was Frozen.

Frozen was originally thought to be a weak offering due to a weird marketing campaign, but it soon changed both critics and audiences minds when it came out in November 2013. From there on it just stayed in the weekly top 10 box-office for months.

Now we have Big Hero 6 which brings one of the more obscure Marvel Comics properties to the big-screen. This film looks to take the characters from the original comics, but the story itself looks to be something wholly original. So, fans who have been waiting for either Pixar or Disney to create an animated film using more recognizable heroes from Marvel’s massive library will have to wait just a bit longer.

Big Hero 6 will make it’s premiere at the Tokyo International Film Festival on October 23, 2014 with a wide release on November 7, 2014.

Trailer: Big Hero 6 (Official)


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Walt Disney Animation has always lagged behind it’s more lauded older sibling Pixar Animation. Yet, in the last couple years it’s more than held it’s own with it’s two most recent releases with Wreck-It-Ralph and Frozen. Will third time be the charm as the studio is set to release the first CG-animated feature that was greenlit after Walt Disney bought Marvel Comics over 6 years ago.

Big Hero 6 is loosely-based on the same comic book title from Marvel Comics. It tells the story of one Hiro Hamada and his sidekick balloon man….robot who must team up with an eclectic group of other would-be heroes to save the fictional city of San Fransokyo from a mysterious villain.

Big Hero 6 is set for a November 7, 2014 release date.

Quickie Review: Frozen (dir. by Chris Buck & Jennifer Lee)


FROZEN

“The cold never bothered me anyway.” — Queen Elsa

During the 1990’s Disney was the king of animated films. It was a decade where they enjoyed a new Golden Age of film animation which first started with Little Mermaid. As the company entered the new millenium their success with traditional animation began to wane and a new kid on the block took over as king. This new kid was called Pixar and soon enough they joined the House that Mickey built. So, it was through Pixar that Disney retained their crown when it came to animated films, but their own in-house animation house suffered setbacks through failed projects and/or subpar productions.

It was in 2010 when Disney itself began a nice comeback with the surprise hit Tangled. This new Disney take on the Rapunzel fairy tale became not just a hit with both critics and fans, but showed that Disney could compete with their very own Pixar when it came to CG animation and storytelling. These were two areas that Pixar were known for and Disney followed it up with another critically-acclaimed and fan-favorite Wreck-It Ralph.

Frozen marks the latest from Walt Disney Animation and, at first glance, the film looked like an attempt to replicate the fun and whimsical nature of 2010’s Tangled. Even some of the character animations looked similar. The film wasn’t helped by a media and ad campaign which made the film feel like it would be about pratfalls and juvenile jokes. Yet, what the public got when it was finally released this past Thanksgiving was a definite return for Walt Disney Animation to their heyday of the 1990’s.

The film takes Hans Christian Andersen’s Snow Queen fairy tale and makes it into a story about the love of two sisters in a faraway kingdom where one grows up repressing her ability to control and create ice and snow for fear of harming her younger sister. It’s this part of Frozen which brings the film from becoming just an animated production for little kids and into the realm of appealing to audiences of all ages. Even Olaf the Snowman who was a prominent face in all the ads leading up to the film’s release ended up becoming more than just comedic relief.

The characters of Elsa and Anna, at first, look like your typical Disney princesses, but as the narrative moves forward the two pretty much blow up whatever negative tropes that have been attributed to past Disney princess roles. Anna didn’t just come off as the spunky little sister, but becomes a multi-faceted character who actually becomes the redemption for her older sister Elsa.

Now, speaking of Elsa, Disney has been famous for creating some very iconic female characters with their animated films. Some of these characters have been the protagonists in their films, but some have also been the villains. In Frozen, Disney has created a character in Elsa who many could say inhabited both sides of the film’s conflict. She becomes a sort of antagonist midway through the film due to fear and ignorance of her ability to create and control snow and ice. This incident also prompts the film’s turn from being just a cute and fun film and into the realm of becoming a classic in the making.

Seeing Elsa accepting her true nature and becoming more confident in herself as a woman makes Frozen a rarity in animated films where females character tend to have male counterparts to help them along. Elsa also becomes such a great character due to Idina Menzel’s voice performance both in the speaking parts and the songs Elsa becomes a part of. In fact, I would be quite surprised if the most pivotal moment and song in the film, “Let It Go”, doesn’t end up winning best original song come Oscar time. Ms. Menzel brought so many facets of emotions through Elsa from a sense of despair to a sassy determination that should make the character a fan-favorite of little girls and mature women for years to come.

Frozen, a film that looked like it was a flop for Disney waiting to happen, ends up becoming one of the surprise hits of this holiday season and cements the return of Walt Disney Animation back to the forefront of animated film storytelling. This was a film that ended up becoming more than it’s initial first impression had going for it. A film that showed the power of female-centric storytelling could compete with the sturm und drang of the male-dominated blockbusters.

I wholeheartedly recommend people see this film on the bigscreen if just to experience Idina Menzel’s performance in “Let It Go” on the biggest screen venue as possible.

Trailer: How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Teaser)


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Dreamworks Animation’s How to Train Your Dragon was one of those films for 2010 that caught me completely off-guard. I had dismissed it as another Dreamworks attempt to try and take the crown from Pixar. So, it was quite a surprise when I finally saw it and realized that Dreamworks had out-Pixared Pixar with this latest offering.

The film did great in the box-office and made the names Hiccup and Toothless names to remember fondly. So, it was a given that a sequel was going to be made and now it is 2013 and we finally have the first teaser trailer for How to Train Your Dragon 2 which will splash across all big-screen theaters around 2014.

To say that this teaser trailer evoked all the fun of the original would be an understatement. I would say that this simple teaser showing Toothless just flying around with Hiccup gave a better sense of the joy of flying than this year’s Man of Steel.

Trailer: Wreck-It Ralph (Official)


I had heard about this upcoming CG animated film from the Disney Animation Studio but since it wasn’t being done by Pixar I paid no mind to it. This changed today after site co-founder Lisa Marie Bowman linked me to the first official trailer to Wreck-It Ralph.

After watching the trailer to this upcoming animated film that looks to have been created by people who understands the nostalgia gamers of my generation have for the older games of our youth. It seems like the film was made for gamers of my generation. I definitely had a huge grin on my face as well-known video game characters from days past appeared in the trailer. It’s going to be interesting to find out how Disney was able to pull off putting into one film so many characters from so many different video game publishers like Nintendo, Capcom, Atari, etc…

Wreck-It Ralph is set for a November 2, 2012 release date.

Trailer: Despicable Me 2 (Teaser)


One of the big surprises for me film-wise in 2010 was a CG animated film that came out of left field. It wasn’t by Pixar and it didn’t come from Dreamworks Animation. No this CG film came from a little-known animation studio called Illumination Entertainment. Their very first full-length animated film would turn out to be a critical and box-office success. I’m talking about Despicable Me and while the character Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) and the three girls he adopts in the film were quite good it was Gru’s minions who stole the film from the bigger names.

In 2013 we’ll have the sequel to this film and what better way to lead off the first teaser trailer for Despicable Me 2 than get the beloved minions announce the film’s arrival.

Scenes I Love: Up


The passing of Steve Jobs has brought out condolences and praise for one of the most innovative and creative forces in technology, entertainment and how the world interacted in the digital age. One of the many things he has created and fostered was the animation studio we’ve grown to love and call Pixar. It’s difficult to fathom of anyone who doesn’t have at least one fond memory from watching a Pixar film. I have my favorite from several Pixar releases, but one that I really have enjoyed reliving over and over (sometimes with my brother who also loves the film) is the film Up from 2009. It’s from this cg animated film that I’ve chosen the latest “Scenes I Love” in honor of Steve Job.

I’m sure there’s many scenes other people love from this film. Whether it’s the great opening sequence that will bring the most cynical person to tears or scenes between crotchety, old Mr. Fredrickson and Wildlife Explorer Russell. I’m also sure that many would choose scenes involving their talking furry companion Dug. It’s the scene where Dug first meets up with Russell and Mr. Fredrickson which I love the best.

I would try and describe why I love this scene but I think watching it would be the best explanation why I love it so. The one below is a bonus and just shows why Dug is a favorite.

 

Review: Kung Fu Panda 2 (dir. by Jennifer Yuh Nelson)


In 2008, Dreamworks Animation released what many had thought was one of their animated films. Some even went so far as to consider it on the same level as many of the Pixar animated offerings. This was high praise indeed and the praises from critics was awarded by public acclaim as Kung Fu Panda became an instant classic for Dreamworks Animation. It wasn’t a huge surprise that a sequel was quickly greenlit by the studio and now three years has passed and that sequel has finally come out. Kung Fu Panda 2 does one of those rare feats in film-making where it surpasses it’s original predecessor in all things. This was a sequel that was able to take what made the first one so fun and thrilling and build on it without losing the charm that made it so beloved in the first place.

Kung Fu Panda 2 brings back the Dragon Warrior Po (Jack Black returning in the role of the big fat panda) as he continues to live his dream of having become the Dragon Warrior and fighting evil, bandits and criminals with his fellow kung fu masters, the Furious Five. Instead of the film highlighting Po’s size as a detriment and keeping him a buffoonish character like in the beginning of the first film this sequel actually makes him an equal of his heroes, if not, surpassing them. This is a refreshing change since the writers could’ve easily banked on Po as a character who bungled and stumbled his way through most of the film.

This film was a continuation of Po’s journey as a hero which the first film was just the first step. Despite being a kung fu master in his own right his culture becomes threatened by a villain even more devious than the first film’s Tai Lung. Lord Shen (voiced by Gary Oldman) is the mad peacock heir to Gongmen City who has found an ultimate weapon through fireworks that he plans to defeat kung fu and conquer all of China. Kung fu is everything to Po and he journeys with the Furious Five to confront Lord Shen and stop his plans before it’s too late.

It’s during this journey that Po learns more about his true past and where he truly comes from. The sequences where Po’s adopted goose father tells of Po’s past was some of the best animations Dreamworks has done and I’d say surpasses some of Pixar’s own work. After seeing this film I’m sure many kids and some adults would want themselves their very own baby panda. Who would’ve thought that baby pandas sounded like human babies when they cried. It’s knowing his past that Po must now learn to find his inner peace if he’s to ever go beyond just being a kung fu master.

Kung Fu Panda 2 was actually quite a dark film in places as themes of genocide, destructive march of technology against nature, difficulties of adopted children finding their true origins and many others. That’s not to say that this sequel wasn’t fun to watch. The action took the kung fu fight scenes from the first film to a whole new level, but without turning it into all flash and no substance. It’s during some of the thrilling fight sequences that we see Po truly become part of the Furious Five and even affection from some of it’s members. It would be interesting to see how a third film would explore the growing relationship between Po and certain striped-feline.

The story gets a much needed infusion of creative help from one Guillermo Del Toro who served as creative producer. His inclusion in the film’s development was probably why the film had a much darker and serious tone in addition to the charm it continued from the first film. If there was anyone in Hollywood who knows how to further develop a character through a Campbellian hero’s journey then it’s Del Toro. If Dreamworks Animation is able to keep Del Toro on hand to further treat their other projects then it will be quite a coup for the studio.

The animation in this film is a step above the first film and anything Dreamworks Animation has ever done. With each passing year and release it looks like Dreamworks Animation has been able to come to the same level of animated work Pixar has set with their own projects. While I’m sure there’s no animosity between animators fo the two houses there probably is some sort of friendly rivalry which helps push both studios to improve on their animation work. All this means is that the public wins out in the end as we’re treated to better animated features from both Dreamworks and Pixar. It’s a good thing that Dreamworks Animation has also improved their storytelling with each new film that they’re not being called the weaker films when compared to Pixar’s latest.

In the end, Kung Fu Panda 2 more than lives up to it’s predecessor and actually surpasses it in every way. This sequel’s animation and use of stereoscopic 3D was some of the best in CG animation to date. It had a story that continued to explore and build the characters from the first film that they’ve gone beyond simple, basic animated characters but fully realized and complex individuals. Even the ending scene in the film which definitely sets-up a third film doesn’t seem tacked on but looks like something that would further continue Po’s hero’s journey. Sequels and milking of a franchise usually don’t sit well with serious film fans, but this franchise seems to be doing it correctly and using each new film to further an epic tale. Here’s to hoping we see Po and his Furious Five friends back for more in the coming years.

Scenes I Love: Despicable Me


For some reason the CG-animated film Despicable Me has been replaying in my head all afternoon and night. Most of the scenes looping in my mind focuses on the youngest girl, Agnes. Whether she’s exclaiming “Three Sleepy Kittens!” or passing out from holding her breath the film just won’t leave my head. The one scene I really love from Despicable Me involves Gru taking the girls to the carnival fair.

Agnes, of course, ends up having the scene I remember best in this entire sequence. She sees one of those stuffed unicorn toys at a booth and she just has to have it because it’s so fluffy that she could die. The carnival barker ends up trying to cheat the girls from winning the fluffy unicorn, but thanks to Gru and one of his weaponized inventions Agnes wins her unicorn and my ice-cold heart.

All I can say about this scene that I love is: “IT’S SO FLUFFY!!!”