Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Burying the lead - Dreamworks Animation to make CGI/traditional hybrid!

The Hollywood Reporter is um... reporting that Dreamworks has lined it the three main vocal cast members for a newly-announced upcoming animated film.  The picture, entitled Me and My Shadow, concerns the plight of a shadow (Bill Hader) who grows tired of being attached to human Stanley Grubb (Josh Gadd). To quote the piece, "When a crime in the shadow community puts both of their lives in danger, Stan is forced to take control of Stanley, thrusting both of them into an adventure featuring a shadowy villain, who intends to lead a rebellion to take over the human world."  Kate Hudson will play Grubb's would-be love interest and I'll do my best to roll my eyes at a female character once again being merely described as 'the love interest'.  It will be directed by Mark Dindal, who is best known for directing the best non-Pixar animated film of the 2000s, The Emperor's New Groove (edit - I was too focused on American toons.  Spirited Away is arguably one of the best animated films ever).  Anyway, Me and My Shadow comes out November 13th, 2013.  What is buried halfway down the article is this golden nugget, something that should make animation fans take notice of this project in a big way:

"The movie will mix up CG and traditional animation (the shadow world will be handrawn while the human world will be CG), which the studio hopes will be pioneering and create an experience not seen before."  

Yup, that's right.  Ten years after the costly Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (budget - $60 million, worldwide gross - $80 million) marked the end for 2D 'hand-drawn' animation at the House of Katzenberg, traditional animation will be getting somewhat of a reprieve.  As it is, I actually stumbled upon Sinbad late last year and watched it for the first time.  It's not so much a *bad* movie as it is a somewhat slight one, a relatively small-scale adventure film concerning only a few major characters and with only a couple fine second-act action sequences to merit a mild recommendation.  But watching it did remind me of the genuine pleasures of 'hand-drawn' animated films, the way that gravity seems to apply only enough to give the various acts of daring do an appropriate physical weight.  What is also reminded me of was the pre-Little Mermaid era, when Disney cartoons weren't expected to be world-conquering blockbusters, merely solid entertainment for family audiences.  Sinbad's primary vice (other than casting Brad Pitt in a role that's tailor-made for Kevin Kline) was arguably is status as 'Dreamworks's big 2003 cartoon', with the $60 million price-tag (ah, when THAT was considered a big budget cartoon!) that came with it.

I'm certainly no snob against CGI animation (what was my favorite film of the year again?), but I do wish there was a bigger place for hand-drawn alongside CGI in large-scale animated features.  Anyway, Me and My Shadow can bring traditional animation out of the dungeon where it's rested since Disney's 2004 toon Home On the Range, where not even the $267 million worldwide gross of The Princess and the Frog could free it, then Dreamworks will have done the medium a genuine service.

Scott Mendelson


Callum Luscott said...

On the subject of hand drawn animation, im just curious of how big a fan you are of Studio Ghibli. There films are all hand drawn and all stunning, if maybe a acquired taste because of the culture difference present in some of there films.

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Scott Mendelson said...

I was too focused on American animated films... my mistake. Yeah, Spirited Away is probably the best non-Pixar animated feature of the 2000s era and, whether I agree or not, one could argue that it's among the best cartoons ever made.

ken said...

Emperor's New Groove was a piece of junk. Funny, yes, hilarious, of course, but still junk. If you want to find quality traditional animation that isn't Studio Ghibli, just watch Triplets of Belleville, Summer Wars, The Illusionist, and Girl Who Leapt Through Time, and Secret of Kells. All were released form 2000-2010.

Rita and Chico is also supposedly an excellent movie (which I haven't seen yet.)

KXB said...

Kate Hudson, even as a cartoon voice, is a deal-BREAKER for me at this point! Good day...


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