QUOTE OF THE MONTH
Can it really be that time of year? It seems like we were just talking about awards season contenders and watching all the events ramping up to the Oscars. And, yet, here we are again! And this year’s awards season has the potential to be one of the most interesting in the history of animation. That’s because there’s more qualifying films than ever before — and more high-quality films telling stories in all kinds of genres using any number of techniques. And that means the race could have more than its fair share of wild cards and surprises. We run down the list of the most likely contenders in this issue — a quick read will tell you who we see as the front-runners at this point. But with these words being written in mid-October, there’s still plenty of curves that might come our way.
Among them are the films covered in this issue: DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls, the last film to come out of the studio under the leadership of its founder, Jeffrey Katzenberg. Since I first saw at Annecy some of the work that went into this one, I’ve been looking forward to seeing its candy-colored, felt-covered, tune-focused tale in full — and I wasn’t disappointed. Jeffrey had a great run and it’ll be a blast to watch what happens next at DreamWorks under the control of Comcast-NBCUniversal and Chris Meledandri.
Then there’s The Red Turtle, which I also saw at Annecy, and was impressed in a totally different way. There’s no dialogue in this movie — just stunning visuals from Studio Ghibli and a poetic tale that enchants, puzzles and delights all at once. And 25 April is another example — as we saw last issue with Tower — of the outstanding ways documentary filmmakers are using animation to explore historic events with an immediacy no other medium can offer.
What else? We have our annual View from the Top feature, in which we survey directors of some of the year’s top features about the making of those movies, their careers and the state of the business. (I have to agree with most of them, in that the animation industry is in extremely good health.) We also run down the contenders for Oscar’s animated short film category, a notoriously difficult race to parse out in advance. But our track record has been pretty good at casting a net with this feature that catches the eventual nominees, making it a must-read for awards fans.
As a bit of an experiment, we have a small mini-special in this issue as well, focusing on sound and music in animation, and the ways those fields are crossing over and playing off each other in today’s industry.
And then we get to Animation Magazine’s own World Animation & VFX Summit, which in its fifth year continues to grow and find new depths to plumb. This year sees our Awards Gala outgrow the main site for the show, the California Yacht Club, and head up the coast to Santa Monica and the Hotel Casa del Mar, just adjacent to the world-famous Shutters on the Beach. This change was essential to accommodate the star power that will be on hand that night, as we present honors to six of the industry’s most ambitious, important and successful leaders. It will have to be seen to be believed — I know I’ll be there, and I hope you will be, too! It’s not too late to check out the festivities and access an incredible range of expertise through the panels and networking opportunities this year’s summit offers. Head over to www.animationmagazine.net/summit for details.
Lastly, as another year begins to sink below the horizon, I want to say what a privilege it is to work among an industry as full of talented, passionate and just plain nice folks as animation and visual effects. I want this magazine to represent the best of this industry and to be a voice for those who work in it. So please, feel free to drop me a line or bend my ear at the summit or any other event you spot me at. I want to know what’s going on at every level of the industry and represent it as best as possible.
Until next issue,
Serious Lunch has secured a raft of deals for the enchanting family adventure series Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter across multiple territories and platforms.
Based on the book by Astrid Lindgren and directed by Goro
Cyber Group Studios announced its first animated feature film for distribution at MIP Junior: Iqbal, Tale of a Fearless Child.
Based on the book by Francesco D’Adamo and developed with the sponsorship of UNICEF, the movie was ony Pictures Animation announced that Emmy and Tony award winner Brent Chambers, founder and creative director of Auckland, New Zealandbased Flux Animation, died of heart failure Oct. 1. He was 54.
Michiyo Yasuda, an animator and color artist whose four-decade career included a span at Studio Ghibli from its first feature ( Castle in the Sky, 1986) to Hayao Miyazaki’s last feature ( The Wind Rises, 2008) died Oct. 5. She was 77. [
Any Paladin-at-heart would adore this bold, beautiful Voltron ring from geek-bling designer to the stars, Han Cholo. The sculpted face ring is done in gold- and silver-tone steel with black CZ stones (and yes, it is an officially DWA licensed product). Available in sizes 9-11 from ThinkGeek.com for $60. Both high-end designers and high street shops are digging Looney Tunes this season. H&M (pictured: long-sleeve tee, SRP $25) and Zara offer kid and adult options for affordable fashion statements, or you can splurge on women’s wear from Iceberg or Paul & Joe’s Sister X Tom & Jerry capsule.
OH MY, MOOMINS! It’s been a busy few years for Tove Jansson’s lovable Moomins brand, and the marshmallowy trolls and their storybook pals aren’t slowing down anytime soon. Their first theme park outside of Finland (Moominworld on Kailo island) is set to open in Japan in 2018 (Metsä, at Lake Miyazawa), and in the meantime Moomin Cafes are popping up all over — lately in Bangkok, Seoul and Hong Kong,
Among the many new products available: Ivana Helsinki’s extensive Moomin collection of women’s attire and handbags fit for a Snorkmaiden (shop.ivanahelsinki.com). “Snowhorse” winter 2016 mug and “Friendship” collectible tableware by Arabia. And a new spin on a classic from leading toy licensee Martinex, which has created a new Moomin House playset with characters which link into an iOS & Android app game. (shop.moomin.com) — [toysrus.com] LEGO TIE Striker 75154 543 pieces, 4 minifigs ($69.99) JAKKS Big-Figs K-2SO 20” tall ($19.99) HASBRO The Black Series Sgt. Jyn Erso 6” collector quality ($19.99)
7The Asia TV Forum & Market in Singapore highlights distribution innovation and VR storytelling for three informative days. [asiatvforum. com]
The ubiquitous toy Trolls, with their “ugly-cute” faces, stubby bodies and swirling tufts of hair, are familiar to almost everyone, and yet known not at all. Created in 1959 by Danish fisherman Thomas Dam, the Trolls have, surprisingly, never been adapted to books, TV or movies, making them a rare opportunity for filmmakers: a well-known property that is also a completely blank slate.
It was that combination that excited director Mike Mitchell when DreamWorks Animation founder and CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg presented to him the opportunity to develop and direct a Trolls movie.
“I just went crazy for it,” says Mitchell, who previously directed Shrek Forever After, as well as Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked and SpongeBob SquarePants. “It really gave us a chance to create a whole world, a whole land and a whole story and a whole backstory for these creatures that didn’t exist before.”
The starting point for the movie was the idea of happiness — what it is, how to get it, what happens when you lose it. “We thought it was important in these kind of, times of turmoil, I’ll just say — social unrest — that we could have a film that could deal with the issue of what does happiness mean,” says co-director Walt Dorhn, a fellow veteran of the Shrek and SpongeBob franchises.
It also gave Mitchell a chance to bring to a CGI film the surreal, fairy-tale esthetics he admires in the movies of Hayao Miyazaki and in the Cartoon Network TV series Adventure Time.
“He just creates a completely unique world that I’ve never seen before — and on top of it he populates it with creatures I’ve never seen before, and they all seem to fit within those worlds. There’s a real continuity to it,” Mitchell says of Miyazaki. “Wouldn’t it be great to honor that and be inspired by it, but at the same time still give it that Western influence and really strange, irreverent comedy?”
Throwing those ideas in with the surreality of Adventure Time and other influences from Jim Henson and Dr. Seuss to the 1970s and Sid and Marty Krofft TV shows, the world was handed off to production designer Kendal Cronkhite to execute.
The result is what the filmmakers ended up calling “fuzzy immersion”: a world that looks handmade, with everything covered in brightly colored natural fibers — mostly felt — yet also photorealistic and deep at the same time.
“CGI technology is so sophisticated now and so realistic, you can make anything look super real,” says Mitchell. “So for this, we wanted to take that technology and go a different way. We made these creatures like Gummi Bears that have been flocked in vel- vet. Instead of making a realistic tree … we wanted to cover that tree in felt, and every leaf in felt, and maybe the ground is carpet and even the rocks are felted. And even the dust and all the effects kind of follow this kind of handmade natural fiber material look that is basically just surfacing, but it’s surfacing I haven’t really seen explored.”
Opposites Attract In this setting, the film tells the tale of Poppy (Anna Kendrick), the happiest of all Trolls, and Branch (Justin Timberlake), the only pessimist in the group, who must team up to go rescue Poppy’s friends after they’re captured by hungry Bergens.
“So Trolls, they would represent everything that is happiness, and then of course you need the flip side of that and so we have these other creatures — in a classic fairy tale way — these monsters that eat Trolls, so they’re miserable and they’re on