Tag: animation

Movie Review: The Bad Guys


I really liked the animation of The Bad Guys. Parts of it at least. Abandoning the hyper-detailed showboating that’s long been the norm for computer-animated movies, DreamWorks brings us a movie with sleek art where textures like fur and hair accent the character designs rather than dominate them, and textures like scales are simply drawn onto the model. The eyes stand out the most. Instead of glassy doll eyes, they’re nothing more than ovals with black outlines, pupils, and highlights on the pupils. Bob Clampett didn’t need more than that. Things like explosions and dust trails are depicted with clean 2D shapes which will always do the job better than volumetric clouds or whatever is the snazzy tech these days.

The parts I didn’t like were the human characters. I’m convinced computer animation will never create a human that is not to some degree horrifying. Those in The Bad Guys suffer from that disease of modern cartoon design: they’re rounded grotesques with snub noses, bottom-heavy heads, and mouths shaped liked legumes. Despite this, the overall art direction of the picture is a breath of fresh air. It would have given more hope for the state of animation were the trailers ahead of it not the same tired CGI cartoons we’ve seen for the past decade.

Outside of its animation, this is your stock kiddie flick. The titular gang consists of Mr. Snake, Mr. Piranha, Mr. Shark, Ms. Tarantula, and their leader, the suave Mr. Wolf. They wear their badness with pride, robbing the rich with no intention of giving to the poor, getting into high-speed chases for the thrill of it. After being publicly called out by the new governor, Diane Foxington, the crew decide to go on their biggest heist: stealing the Golden Dolphin award.

Short Film Review: The Old Man and the Sea


Aleksandr Petrov

In 1988, early in his career when still a student, animator Aleksandr Petrov was a director on “The Marathon,” a three-minute short made to commemorate Mickey Mouse’s 60th anniversary and presented to Roy E. Disney when the Disney company was first allowed to visit the Soviet Union. It consisted of black silhouettes on a white background, a level of visual simplicity abandoned in his subsequent shorts. These shorts played festivals and received awards, but Petrov got the biggest boost to his visibility in 2000 when he won an Academy Award for adapting the Hemingway novella The Old Man and the Sea.

I dislike Hollywood’s onanist festival as much as a person should, but the category of Best Animated Short Film has led me down such pleasant avenues I can’t dismiss the awards entirely. That’s how I found out about not only Petrov but also Bill Plympton and Adam Elliot, and could certainly discover more were I so inclined.

Member Post


UPDATE 1: Woo hoo! Nathan’s animation was accepted to the Alone Together film festival. The festival viewing period will be July 1-5. I believe there may be an audience favorite voting thing involved, in which case I will repost later requesting your support. UPDATE 2: Nathan took first place in the film festival. You can […]

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RIP Stephen Hillenburg, Creator of ‘SpongeBob Squarepants’


Public reaction to the death of SpongeBob Squarepants creator Stephen Hillenburg, who died from ALS last Monday, might have confused those unfamiliar with his most famous work. Here was a man being mourned across all ages and demographics, from the trades to Twitter, for creating … a cartoon made and marketed for children?

But this gets SpongeBob, Hillenburg ’s magnum opus, all wrong. At its best, SpongeBob was not simply a kids’ cartoon. From the beginning, Hillenburg brought to the show a unique tone and aesthetic that drew from his background in marine biology. He attended the show’s pitch meeting in a Hawaiian shirt. SpongeBob, the relentlessly upbeat, cleaning utensil-shaped main character, lives in a pineapple under the sea; Squidward, his grouchy next-door cephalopod, inhabits an Easter Island head. And the opening theme song is sung by a portrait of a (human) pirate. Though a veteran of Rocko’s Modern Life, another successful Nickelodeon program, Hillenburg had something all his own in mind from the start.

The result of this tonal intentionality was, at its peak, a delightful, offbeat, and sometimes surreal mix of childish humor for its purported target audience, reinforced by subtle or obscure (though never tasteless) comedy for older viewers. “Help Wanted,” the first episode, which premiered on May 1, 1999 (and which I viewed then as a five-year-old), is a good example of this. On the surface, it is a silly story about a fruit-residing sponge who decides to apply for a job as a fry cook at the Krusty Krab, a fast food restaurant run by a miserly crab in his underwater hometown of Bikini Bottom, a place populated by other anthropomorphic aquatic creatures. Some puerile humor ensues; entering the restaurant, SpongeBob trips on an errant nail and proceeds to spend about a minute tripping, falling, and bouncing around. It’s very silly stuff; slapstick taken just up to the point of absurdity.