Thursday, December 18, 2008
Sunday, December 07, 2008
A Bolt from the Blue that leaves me blue...
First of all, I apologize for not posting more recently. I have had a very busy life and have had to put a lot of things on hold, including personal hygiene and personal creations. Hopefully I'll make up for that soon. Anyway, here's my first post in a while...about my pecuilar feelings about a very good movie.
I was pleasantly surprised, but later upset, by Bolt. The later upset came after thinking about the story.
As Michelle reminded me, this film was in development for a long time under the title American Dog. It was apparently quickly rewritten under the orders of Mr. Eisinger (after the original creative team was fired) and rushed to completion in 18 months, rather than the two or three years a CGI feature normally take.
The story's a fairly standard comedy about a deluded soul. In this case, the deluded soul is Bolt (voice by John Travolta), a pup rescued from a shelter by a young girl named Penny (voice by Miley Cyrus). Five years later, Penny is an actress in an elaborate spy/thriller TV show, and Bolt is the star.
The show "Bolt" in which Bolt appears is clearly a riff on the original Inspector Gadget cartoons; Penny tries to rescue her captured scientist father from a mad scientist, and Bolt is a superdog that rescues her time after time. (Inspector Gadget's niece was named Penny too...is this Disney ripping off another animated cartoon, a la Simba/Kimba?) And another couple of borrowed riffs exist in this film, partially from The Truman Show, but more realistically from the production legend of The Blair Witch Project.
As in The Truman Show, the only way to get Bolt to "act" is a variation of the Stanislavksy Method. He is treated to believe that he truly is a dog with laser-beam eyes and a devastating super-bark, and that the show's adventures are "real." As in Blair Witch, where the actors were deprived of sleep and understanding of the story and made to "live" their adventures, the show's producers are unwilling to trust Bolt to be an actor.
Through various plot incidents, Bolt escapes the studio and is shipped to New York. He fights his way across country with the reluctant aid of cynical alley cat Mittens (Susie Essman) and a hamster in an exercise ball who's a fanboy, Rhino (Mark Walton). Most of the way Bolt believes he has the powers of his TV character, and is mystified when he bleeds, or can't break through a chain link fence.
Okay, unless you're under eight years old I don't have to tell you how the story plays out. And it plays out fairly well. In the world of this movie, animals can talk to each other, even cross-species, but not to humans. Bolt believes that Mittens is an associate of the TV show's master villain (voiced briefly by Malcolm McDowell). It takes a cross-country journey for them to eventually like one another, like in a lot of other road pictures.
The movie is also very pretty. Walt Disney Animation has borrowed a lot of Pixar's technology. And while the visuals aren't up to Pixar's best, they work in context. The film doesn't even mind going to iconography. As the trio travels across country, they are shown on a placemat map stolen from a Waffle House-like chain. (Unlike the real Waffle House, Waffle Hut stretches past the South into the North and West.) The characters appear as cutouts riding along in various vehicles across the map.
The problems I had with Bolt occurred afterwards. The film portrays the real "villains" as the Hollywood establishment, including a sleazy agent (voice by Greg Germann) who enforces Bolt's separation from Penny, tries to substitute another dog for Bolt, and is just freaking creepy. Penny goes along with the whole mess, because she is a trouper, but she would like a life for herself and Bolt, and is devastated when Bolt goes missing.
This is my problem. Penny the CGI character is not much younger than Miley Cyrus, the real person and heavily-exploited Disney star.
There's already been controversy about Cyrus, with her father Billy Ray Cyrus allowing her to appear in a naked-back photo shot for a magazine. Celebrity clock-watchers also know that the Hannah Montana craze is about to enter its third year, the time when kids get bored with their idols and move on to someone new. Disney knows this too, which is why the Hannah Montana hype and live concerts were so heavily pushed in this year of the Bush Depression.
I'm not spoiling much by saying that, in the film's denouement, Penny leaves Hollywood for a happy life with Bolt, Mittens, Rhino and her single mother. They are apparently living in the old Kent Farm in Smallville, Kansas, from the looks of the house-with-barn in the film's closing shot. (I hope they don't go digging in the basement and find leftover "meteor rocks" or Kryptonian devices.)
I hated that so-called happy ending. Penny was an actress, and apparently a good one. Bolt apparently learned enough about life that he could be a real actor himself, working consciously without all that delusion. You don't simply throw talent like that away and live in retirement, going to school like a normal kid and the like. At least you wouldn't in a fair world.
And that's where my real discomfort begins.
Sadly, in the real world, performing children like Miley Cyrus get used up and discarded by Hollywood on a regular basis. Very few kid actors make it through to adulthood as active performers; Melissa Joan Hart and Bill Mumy are among the few that have. Danny Bonnaduce and Gary Coleman are far more typical, with their lives in rehab and shambles. Disney has a schoolroom full of kid actors currently on the air, who will go nowhere after their Disney Channel series disappear into obscurity. And they won't have the loot to move into the Kent Farm's old turf like Penny, despite the "Jackie Coogan laws" about child actors.
Cyrus got the part of voicing Penny largely because of her fame, and Disney's continuing exploitation of that fame. Raven Symone didn't, because she is one of those aging-and-disappearing kid stars Disney employs. (Her show, That's So Raven, is pretty close to disappearing off ABC's kid show block.) It almost makes me wonder if being cast in this movie was a deliberate warning for Cyrus about what is to come.
Bolt is a fun film, and probably the best product Walt Disney Animation has put out in the last few years. But the shadow of real-world kid entertainment, and the film's dark view of Hollywood and the entertainment business, will keep me from buying it on DVD. And if something happens to Miley Cyrus in the meantime - if she does something adult that isn't compatible with being a Disney star and she suddenly disappears - that may make things even darker.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Too bad this ad didn't qualify for the Annies...
This was easily the best animated ad I've seen all year. Sugoi neh!!!
Monday, December 01, 2008
ASIFA-Hollywood announces Annie noms.
Best Animated Feature
Bolt - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Kung Fu Panda - DreamWorks Animation
$9.99 - Sherman Pictures/Lama Films
Wall-E - Pixar Animation Studios
Waltz With Bashir - Sony Pictures Classics/Bridgit Folman, Les Films D'ici, Razor Films
Best Animated Home Entertainment Production
Batman: Gotham Knight - Warner Bros. Animation
Christmas Is Here Again - Easy To Dream Entertainment
Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs - The Curiosity Company in association with 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Justice League: The New Frontier - Warner Bros. Animation
The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning - DisneyToon Studios
Best Animated Short Subject
Glago's Guest - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Hot Dog - Bill Plympton Studio
Presto - Pixar Animation Studios
Sebastian's Voodoo - Joaquin Baldwin
Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death - Aardman Animations Ltd.
Best Animated Television Commercial
Giant Monster - Curious Pictures
Long Legs Mr. Hyde - Curious Pictures
Rotofugi: The Collectors - Screen Novelties
Sarah - Z Animation
United Airlines "Heart" - Duck Studios
Best Animated Television Production
King of the Hill - 20th Century Fox TV
Moral Orel - ShadowMachine
Phineas and Ferb - Disney Television Animation
Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II - ShadowMachine
The Simpsons - Gracie Films/Fox TV
Best Animated Television Production Produced for Children
A Miser Brothers Christmas - Warner Bros. Animation
Avatar: The Last Airbender - Nickelodeon
Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends "Destination Imagination" - Cartoon Network Studios
The Mighty B! - Nickelodeon
Underfist: Halloween Bash - Cartoon Network Studios
Best Animated Video Game
Dead Space - Electronic Arts
Kung Fu Panda - Activision
Wall-E - Heavy Iron Studios, a division of THQ, Inc.
INDIVIDUAL ACHIEVEMENT CATEGORIES
Alen Lai "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears A Who" - Blue Sky Studios
Li-Ming Lawrence Lee "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Fangwei Lee "Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa" - DreamWorks Animation
Kevin Lee "Bolt" - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Enrique Vila "Wall-E" - Pixar Animation Studios
Character Animation in a Feature Production
James Baxter "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Jeff Gabor "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears A Who" - Blue Sky Studios
Philippe Le Brun "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Victor Navone "Wall-E" - Pixar Animation Studios
Dan Wagner "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Character Animation in a Television Production or Short Form
Sandro Cleuzo "Secrets of the Furious Five" - DreamWorks Animation
Joshua A. Jennings "Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II" - ShadowMachine
Pierre Perifel "Secrets of the Furious Five" - DreamWorks Animation
Character Design in an Animated Feature Production
Valerie Hadida "Igor" - Exodus Film Group
Sang Jun Lee "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears A Who" - Blue Sky Studios
Nico Marlet "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Character Design in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Bryan Arnett - Mighty B! "Bat Mitzah Crashers" - Nickelodeon
Ben Balistreri - Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends "Mondo Coco" - Cartoon Network Studios
Sean Galloway "The Spectacular Spider-Man" - Sony Pictures Television
Jorge Gutierrez - El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera "The Good, The Bad, The Tigre" - Nickelodeon
Nico Marlet "Secrets of the Furious Five" - DreamWorks Animation
Directing in an Animated Feature Production
Sam Fell, Rob Stevenhagen "The Tale Of Despereaux" - Universal Pictures
Ari Folman "Waltz With Bashir" - Sony Pictures Classics/Bridgit Folman, Les Films D'ici, Razor Films
Tatia Rosenthal "9.99" - Sherman Pictures/ Lama Films
John Stevenson & Mark Osborne "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Andrew Stanton "Wall-E" - Pixar Animation Studios
Directing in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Bob Anderson - The Simpsons "Treehouse of Horror XIX" - Gracie Films/Fox TV
Joaquim Dos Santos - Avatar: The Last Airbender "Sozin's Comet Pt. 3" - Nickelodeon
Craig McCracken, Rob Renzetti - Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends "Destination Imagination" - Cartoon Network Studios
Chris McKay - Moral Orel "Passing" - ShadowMachine
Alan Smart - SpongeBob SquarePants "Penny Foolish" - Nickelodeon
Music in an Animated Feature Production
Kevin Manthei - "Batman: Gotham Knight" - Warner Bros. Animation
John Powell - "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears A Who" - Blue Sky Studios
Max Richter - "Waltz With Bashir" - Sony Pictures Classics/Bridgit Folman, Les Films D'ici, Razor Films
William Ross - "The Tale Of Despereaux" - Universal Pictures
Hans Zimmer & John Powell - "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Music in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Carl Finch & Brave Combo - Click and Clack's "As the Wrench Turns" - CTTV Productions
Henry Jackman, Hans Zimmer & John Powell - "Secrets of the Furious Five" - DreamWorks Animation
Kevin Kiner - "Star Wars The Clone Wars: Rising Malevolence" - Lucasfilm Animation Ltd.
Guy Moon - Back at the Barnyard "Cowman: The Uddered Avenger" - Nickelodeon/Omation
Guy Michelmore - "Growing Up Creepie: Rockabye Freakie" - Taffy Entertainment LLC
Production Design in an Animated Feature Production
Ralph Eggleston "Wall-E" - Pixar Animation Studios
Paul Felix "Bolt" - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Tang Heng "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Evgeni Tomov "The Tale Of Despereaux" - Universal Pictures
Raymond Zibach "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Production Design in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Andy Harkness "Glago's Guest" - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Tang Heng "Secrets of the Furious Five" - DreamWorks Animation
Seonna Hong - The Mighty B! "Bee Patients" - Nickelodeon
Dan Krall - Chowder "The Heavy Sleeper" - Cartoon Network Studios
Raymond Zibach "Secrets of the Furious Five" - DreamWorks Animation
Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production
Alessandro Carloni - "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Ronnie Del Carmen - "Wall-E" - Pixar Animation Studios
Joe Mateo "Bolt" - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Jen Yuh Nelson - "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Rob Stevenhagen - "The Tale Of Despereaux" - Universal Pictures
Storyboarding in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Butch Hartman - Fairly OddParents "Mission: Responsible" - Nickelodeon
Andy Kelly - Ni Hao, Kai-Lan "Twirly Whirly Flyers" - Nickelodeon Productions/Nelvana
Andy Schuler - "Secret of the Furious Five" - DreamWorks Animation
Eddie Trigueros "The Mighty B! "Name Shame"- Nickelodeon
Chris Williams "Glago's Guest" - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production
Ben Burtt - Voice of Wall-E - "Wall-E" - Pixar Animation Studios
Dustin Hoffman - Voice of Shifu - "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
James Hong - Voice of Mr. Ping - "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Ian McShane - Voice of Tai Lung - "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Mark Walton - Voice of Rhino - "Bolt" - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Voice Acting in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Ahmed Best - Voice of Jar Jar Binks - "Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II" - ShadowMachine
Seth MacFarlane - Voice of Peter Griffin - Family Guy "I Dream of Jesus" - Fox TV Animation/Fuzzy Door Productions
Dwight Schultz - Voice of Mung Daal - Chowder "Apprentice Games" - Cartoon Network Studios
Writing in an Animated Feature Production
Jon Aibel & Glenn Berger - "Kung Fu Panda" - DreamWorks Animation
Etan Cohen and Eric Darnell & Tom McGrath - "Madagascar:Escape 2 Africa" - DreamWorks Animation
Ari Folman - "Waltz With Bashir" - Sony Pictures Classics/Bridgit Folman, Les Films D'ici, Razor Films
Cinco Paul and Ken Daurio - "Dr. Seuss' Horton Hears A Who" - Blue Sky Studios
Writing in an Animated Television Production or Short Form
Joel H. Cohen - The Simpsons "The Debarted" - Gracie Films/Fox TV
Scott Kreamer - El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera "Mustache Love" - Nickelodeon
Paul McEvoy and Todd Berger - "Secrets of the Furious Five" - DreamWorks Animation
Tom Root, Douglas Goldstein, Hugh Davidson, Mike Fasolo, Seth Green, Dan Milano, Matthew Senreich, Kevin Shinick, Zeb Wells - "Robot Chicken: Star Wars Episode II" - ShadowMachine
Chris Williams - "Glago's Guest" - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Winsor McCay Award
Mike Judge, John Lasseter and Nick Park for career contributions to the art of animation.
June Foray Award
(For significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation)
Certificate of Merit
Amir Avini, Mike Fontanelli, Kathy Turner, Alex Vassilev.