What’s with all the remakes?

I deal in creativity; where a cake maker can make delectable treats out of flour and eggs and sugar or a potter can transform unwieldy lumps of slimy clay in to beautiful vases or sculptures, I use ideas. Some of these ideas I may formulate with a pencil and others I may sculpt with a computer, but even now, as a student, doing my course and dabbling in web design to make ends meet, I know the sweetness and value of a fresh original idea.

And I’m not alone, a lot of people I know possess wonderful creative minds. I have colleagues who can create astounding things in Adobe Illustrator, friends who can conjure whole new worlds through the written world, a husband who wields a stills camera as an artist wields a brush and a mother who can construct whole carnival floats using paper and glue! And wonderful and talented as my friends and family (and hopefully myself) are, my elite little circle can not be unique! So why, with the whole kaleidoscope of imagination at their feet, do the studios insist in making remake after remake?
Now I’m not talking about adaptations here, How To Train Your Dragon, Harry Potter and Iron Man are all adaptations from other formats, and I don’t take issue at reworking something for the big screen. I can even tolerate the long parade of sequels due to hit the screen this year – Toy Story 3, Iron Man 2, Shrek Forever After – but surely Gus Van San’s ‘Psycho’ and this years ‘Clash Of The Titans’ should serve as a warning that remaking the classics isn’t always the best idea? And yet a just as last year made us witness an updated Fame and Last House On The Left, so this will show us a new look Freddy Kruger and Karate Kid, as well as a 21st century take on Short Circuit, Westworld and Footloose.
I did not set out to use this blog as my soap box, I do not want to rant but I have to say this here… LEAVE THEM ALONE!! There has to be wonderful, talented, creative people who can come up with new and exciting ways to thrill and entertain audiences with their original ideas. So come on Mr Producer Man in your Studio office, take the risk and bit the bullet, leave the classics alone, and, to borrow from Sainsbury’s ad campaign for a moment, “try something new today!”
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SIGGRAPH 2010 Deadline!

The deadline for the SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival is apon us! By the 19th April all submissions for this muct be uploaded if they hope to be considered for inclusion in the festival, which this year takes place in Los Angeles on 27th – 29th July.

The Computer Animation Festival is only one part of SIGGRAPH, the other side to the event is the conference where you can try new technologies, listen to featured speakers and explore the exhibits. A Basic Conference Pass costs $125 (US) for non members.

To find out more about submissions or attending vist them online!

Animation Festival 2010!!

Its time to get festive!!

The Ottawa International Animation Festival is looking for entries! This is the biggest animation festival in Canada, which means, if you make the cut, awesome exposure for you and your work.

There are six catagories for entries:

  • Feature film
  • School Competition
  • New Media Competition
  • Independent Short Film
  • Student Animation Competition
  • Films/Videos made for children

Check out there website for more details

The closing date for entries is June 1st!!

REVIEW: Clash Of The Titans

From Epic Feature To Epic Fail!

I was looking forward to this film! It was a remake of a film I had loved as a kid, an epic tale of action and adventure with amazing stop motion effects by Ray Harryhausen and some slightly dodgy eighties hair! I liked the characters, the edge of humor and the fantastical nature of it. It rocked! So when I saw the trailor for a remake I thought “Woohoo! I’ve got to go and see that!” And so I did and it was… abysmal!!

We’re all special effects nuts here, right? So let us set aside the complete lack of character development and a script so bad that it didn’t even make the characters unlikable just unmemorable. Lets forget, just for a moment, the uninspiring performances by the films 5 star ensemble cast. Lets even put a pin in the fact that the story, that was neither true to the original film or the myth, limped a long at a speed that made you want to eat your own spleen by half way through! Let us not dwell on any of this and instead lets get right to the heart of the matter… the special effects sucked!!

That was perhaps the cruelest blow, that where as the original (dated as they look now) had effects that were so beautifully crafted and wonderfully animated so that everything from the golden owl Bubo (who merely makes a guest appearance in the new version) to the scaley faced Medusa was full of character. There was no doubt with whom you sympathised, the bad guys were scary, the good guys were couragous and the film even had a none too subtle moral at the end. Now of course films like Jurassic Park and more recently Avatar have made Harryhausens stop motion effects look dated, now even kids programs use cutting edge CG – but then nowadays I can use the same software that makes Hollywood blockbusters on my laptop, so times change – which is why I was so horrified to see that Clash Of The Titans effects looked so ropey. From the unrealistic movements pretty faced Medusa to the giant scorpians none of the effects seemed quite there, instead appearing to have escaped out of a PS2 game to hijack the film!! The most engaging characters in the movie had to be Pegasus, the winged horse who had had a slight make over since his 1980’s incarnation but who moved and flew realistically and the fleeting introduction to the cursed and powerful desert people, the djin, of whom it would have been nice to find out and see more of.

But these two elements were too small and too fleeting to save the film and in the end the main feeling the film left was disappointment. It was something with so much potential and promise and, I will admit, a cracking trailor and it was such a shame that it came out as less epic feature film and more epic fail!!

REVIEW: How To Train Your Dragon

Go see it! Take your kids, take your friends, take your granny… its awesome!

What? You were expecting more of a review? Ok…

It’s shaping up to be a busy year for Dreamworks, with the next installment of the Shrek series on its way and this month’s ‘How To Train Your Dragon’. With Shrek such a booming franchise, its easy to think that this adaptation of Brit writers Kids-lit book might come out as the poor realation but that’s turns out to be far from the case!

I can’t really describe why, but there is something that really appeals to me about Dreamworks latest animated outing. Yes, it – like the series of books from which it takes its name – is for kids. Yes, the plot – translated to the screen by “Lilo and Stitch” team, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois – is a little standard. And yes, its not the same as the Cressida Cowell novel in which it is based, instead appearing to be more like a prequel to the novels. But, with all that said, I found something truly endearing about this dragon filled Viking romp.

There is no doubt that the look of the film offers a healthy does of eye-candy, from the beautifully rendered scenery (did anyone else drool over the look of the seas surrounding the island of Berk or was that just me?) to the thoughtfully designed characters to the wonderfully quirky look of the dragons themselves. The modelling, visual effects and texturing in the film is incredible, with water, hair and fire being virtually photo-realistic, but the movie also has a definite stylized aesthetic and its creators have, it seems, made a conscious effort to move away from the Hollywood-standard in ‘dramatic dragon design’.

Created by “Kung Fu Panda” Character Designer, Nico Marlet, the dragons are reminiscent of Quentin Blake illustrations, and certainly aren’t the majestic, ethereal beasts but more akin to children’s monsters. They are all at once angular, disproportionate, colourful and comic, making them both suitably scary and yet amazingly charismatic. Unlike Dragonheart’s Draco and Hobbits Smouge, these fiery fiends are not humans in dragons clothing! Instead they behave like real, believable animals. Though Hiccup maybe the hero of the film, it is the wonderfully named dragon, Toothless, that steals the show! A breed known as the Nightfury (Yes, yes, I know he wasn’t that breed in the book!), Toothless, designed by Chris Sanders, is the least colourful of the dragons that appear and yet he is by far the most appealing. No doubt some of this appeal is due to his large yellow-green eyes, but more, I think, is due to the fabulous animation that makes him so likable. Toothless’ actions must be familiar to any cat or dog owner. Though much of his look, such as his stumpy legs and face, and some of his movements – his walk is very lizard-like – is obviously reptilian, much of his behaviour is both feline and canine. This means that, thanks to animators Simon Otto and Gabe Hordos, Toothless appears grumpy cat and playful puppy, and is every bit as much ultimate kids pet and playmate as the monster under the bed.

The characters are beautifully drawn in more ways then one too and it goes towards the films sterling calibre. The dialogue is funny, witty and often moving, a wonderful combination of a tightly written script and the vocal work of actors including Gerald Butler, Craig Ferguson, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill and Ugly Betty’s America Ferrera. The relationships in the story may be between Vikings and Vikings and dragons but they are still familiar enough to be touching; Toothless’ panic to get to and save Hiccup from the Monstrous Nightmare and Hiccups powerlessness and distress to save the captured Toothless, truly tugs at the heart strings and the struggle of Stoic to understand and respect his unfathomable child is all too poignant.

Ok, I admit it, I fell in love with this film! I have seen it twice – within a week, ahem! – and will confess to still being smitten. Yes, some of the humour is physical and childish, and the story not mould shatteringly original. I also concede that it may not be to every one’s taste and is not true to Cowell’s book. However, its healthy dose of good natured slap stick, fast paced action, real drama and the small pinch of Dreamwork’s delightfully dry trademark humour, has certainly sold me!

The only thing is… why exactly are most of the vikings Scottish?