Thursday, November 29, 2007

Some good things in the Horton Trailer

Holy cow, I didn't realize I'd get so many comments just about a post I threw together. I was a bit worn out from preparing the college post and that got hardly any comments, so I threw up a picture of Horton and didn't think much about it and got deluged! Now I feel guilty. I looked at the trailer and the first thing I saw was all the modern 'tude and Cal Artsy acting and self-analyzing character story stuff.

But then I noticed there were some pretty good things in there, so I thought I better mention them.

http://www.hortonmovie.com/site/horton.html



The Non Cal Arts Expressions Look Great
A lot of them are buried in fast inbetweens though. And I'm curious as to why they are blurred. It'd be great if you could actually see this stuff.
I like how the eyes are sunk into the skin of his eyelids here. I wish we could see it better.
After the blurry stuff stops, he goes back into the Cal Arts business.

Here's some very clever stuff...
I'd rather it wasn't blurred though.
These hands are great!

The Textures Are More Subtle Than Usual
The fur looks more cartoony or toylike than what you usually see in CG films. They aren't putting realistic hairs and pores on cartoon bodies - which makes most cg characters look like deformed mutant humans.

These characters look like Seuss characters - at least when they aren't making Disney expressions and that in itself is a huge advance in modern cartoon design.


The Colors Are Not Obnoxious
They seem to be doing natural colors and not trying to punish our eyes with typical cartoon colors.
It doesn't really look like Seuss BGs and the colors are conservative, but it's a huge relief from what we are used to in cartoons:

I hope there is at least one sequence that is rendered in the style of my favorite Seuss book:
Maybe the Blue Sky artists are slowly pushing back against the forces of Hollywood/Disney formula. This definitely looks better than most feature cartoons. It's at least cartoony underneath the expressions and in a few short bits. Maybe there is more of that in the film.

I wish they could just go ahead and do some shorts using the Seuss stories as is, and not have to fill them up with Hollywood sappy story stuff and characters who have to examine their inner selves and learn that it's ok to be yourself. Just tell the stories and use the original poetry and get good character actors with fun voices to narrate.
Come up with a animation style that is as silly and cartoony as the drawings. Seuss is pure silly fantasy. It's not supposed to have fake heart or be believable. It's supposed to be funny and clever and imaginative. An escape from the mundane.

That'd make a great DVD.
_________________________

A note on individual interpretations of classics:

I'm actually all for individual creative additions to classic properties, as long as they don't completely undermine the essence of the material. Unless they are satires, of course. (Good ones). It's like covering a standard pop song.

Clampett and Jones both did their own interpretations of Seuss and Horton and you can sure tell the difference between them. I think Clampett did the better version and closer to the source, but that's just my opinion. The Grinch has a lot of good things in it. Both directors obviously have great respect and admiration for Seuss, but are also very strong stylists themselves and couldn't possibly help adding their own personalities to the cartoons. I wouldn't want them to just take Seuss' drawings and inbetween them.

That's not the same thing as a corporate whitewashing of a classic. My complaint is that the same bland formulaic makeover is applied to everything today. There's no sign of anyone's individuality anywhere. It's like there is only one animation creator and he makes every frame of every film. The same expressions, same acting, same contrived story gimmicks are just pasted over any subject matter.

There are lots of truly creative people in the business that could do marvelously entertaining, exciting and popular cartoons if only we could discard the corporate formula veneer that smothers every attempt to be sincere and creative.

32 comments:

Bitter Animator said...

Hmmm...Not sure I'd go as easy on it. It still looks like most of the CG features out there. They are lucky to have such great source material and that's what's saving some of the elements. But those tired expressions are still killing it. The lighting and textures, though maybe more subtle, still have the effect of taking characters shaped roughly like Dr.Suess characters and rendering them the same as most other CG films.

The voices are dull, though I've heard worse.

What's the point in having a few good expressions if you can't see them behind the blur and the key poses are back to 'tude?

Bitter Animator said...

And while I'm on a roll, just look at how integrated some of the design elements are in the original drawings - like the ears and the hair at the top. Always part of one overall design, like a flow. Then look at how they are placed awkwardly over a 'cartoon' head (though with realistic elephant skin). No integration.

Nah, I'm not buying it.

Kali Fontecchio said...

The colors are nice- like that shot from the trailer you have that's dark with a bit of yellow in the corner. My first impression when I saw it back in July off the Cartoon Brew link was, "what the hell am I looking at? I can't tell!" But looking back, whatever it is I'm looking at, the colors on it are pretty.

JohnK said...

>>Nah, I'm not buying it.<<

Well, like Eddie said, it looks better than any cg cartoon design yet. Animated features, whether cg or 2d have to conquer the formulas of design and storytelling and acting before anything truly sincere will happen in full animation again.

This looks like they are struggling to take some serious steps towards that.

I know how hard it is to cut through the huge forces of sameness that the business thrusts upon you.

Sphyzex_9 said...

What's so good about the Horton stills? Is it just the fact that his eyes are sunken in? The expression just looks like generic happy to me. Can you be more specific about what you like about it?

Elisson said...

Clampett's 1942 version of "Horton Hatches the Egg" is, to me, the all-time best screen adaptation of any of Dr. Seuss's work.

Excellent animation, sterling voice work...it doesn't get much better. And the more sarcastic tone of the story fits well with the Warners style of the day.

pinkboi said...

It really seems that CG is getting better at facial expressions - I mean from a technical standpoint, it's easier to fiddle with them, which is a good thing. CG features are slowly getting better, but they'll never be truly entertaining until the corporate structure is overhauled to foster creativity more. Or until John K. creates his animation school ;)

Larry Levine said...

Even the best looking CG animation still looks like a high-tech version of a 1960's Rankin/Bass special.

I want to see animation produced by the creativity of an animator's pencil, not a by computer technician playing with the latest software.

What's next? CG Peanuts specials--they can make 'em to look like those old View-Masters disks--GOOD GRIEF!

Ryan G. said...

That blurriness comes from the motion blur they use to render the frames with. Its noticeable for alot of fast motion, for more "realistic" movement.

JohnK said...

Hi Ryan

that's what I can't figure out. Why would anyone want "realistic" motion in a cartoon. It should boast cartooniness, like the Seuss books do.

>>What's next? CG Peanuts specials--they can make 'em to look like those old View-Masters disks--GOOD GRIEF!<<

If they could make cg movies look like the old sculptured Hanna Barbera or Warner Bros. viewmasters, I would love it!

Chris S. said...

When you follow the advances in CG character flexibility, the artists ability to add cartoony-stretchy FUN is relatively new AND MUCH NEEDED! Most of the photorealistic crap (pores, etc) makes me ill - hope that dies out.

It will take a true visionary to break the mold entirely (formula be damned). I agree John, a short film that follows a Seuss book without adding extra story lines would've been a good way to do it. That opportunity was lost with this feature.

I tried to get into CalArts in the past thinking it was THE school to go to if you wanted to be an animator. I consider it good fortune now that I didn't. I was definitely headed in that direction ... thanks for helping me see the alternatives.

PCUnfunny said...

See I like artwork. I agree on the backrounds and the character designs, they look very cartoony. But what kills me is characterizations, they are so wrong. Horton is a quiet, loveable, and simple. Now he is Jim Carrey in a Horton suit. And that scene with the Whos, typical Cal-Arts bland acting, minus one or two poses. I don't think I am going watch this one.

Peggy said...

I haven't looked at the Horton trailer, but I gotta say, Blue Sky is at least trying to get away from the hyper-"realism" found in so much 3D work. I was really impressed with the overall look of "Ice Age" - they tried some daring abstractions in their design, and the overall rendering looked more like a moving children's book than anything else. They're clearly trying to experiment with a lot of non-photorealistic rendering.

Also they actually understand that there is a color dimension called 'saturation', and don't make everything intensely hot colors.

(Also on that front, go hunting for information on 'Team Fortress 2'. They did their damndest to create an environment that looked like Norman Rockwell was painting every frame.)

The Flea said...

Once you analyze it, you do make some good arguments. Like I even mentioned before, it's Dr. Seuss, so I'll definitely be seeing it. It doesn't look shabby.

I suppose I'm just stuck in the simplistic aspects of animation. I don't like the overkill of light and shadows (even if they aren't particularly realistic). Although it looks cool, I'm anti-Maya, anti-lightwave, anti-3d whatever. I'll be the first to admit how incredibly stubborn I am!
Maybe it's silly to say this, but my eyes are drawn to line art! I feel as though with line art (or in this case, traditional animation), it's so much easier to shine through as an individual than it is with computer animation. I still have yet to see a corporate or independent (student, etc) computer generated film where the creator/designer is distinguishable from the rest. When I see a three-dimensional animated film, I can't say to myself "oh! so and so must have designed this.." or "this has a very *insert studio name* feel to it." Not sure if that's a good thing or not, but perhaps I like the familiarity (design wise) between certain animated shorts and features. I feel as though when you take a drawing and build a model on top of it, the true essence of the character is lost.

What's also been bugging me lately is that the movements in 3D animated shorts and movies seem limited. Where's the extreme squash and stretch? Is it easier to do traditionally or is it just the animator's choice? Then again. . .I don't see much of it in today's cartoons anymore, so maybe I just answered my own question. Heh.

Bitter Animator said...

Yes, to their credit, Blue Sky have tried to do some things differently. But, for me, something is still really not working and they are way off.

Is it that, when they try to be cartoony, they are trying to apply generic 2D design principals to 3 dimensions, realistic rendering and real-world textures and, no matter how well it's done, it will always result in a clash? Should they be trying to use stop-motion as a closer model? I don't know.

Some of the sketches for the Pixar movies are gorgeous but, even though I really enjoyed many Pixar movies, they seem to lose such a huge amount in translation. Something is not right. And, while there are no end of hideous generic 2D examples too, I think 2D found its feet and its strengths - it's just that they don't often seem to be used.

I think it may simply be that 3D is relatively new and it hasn't found its own direction. And, while many of us here love traditional cartoons, I'm not actually sure that trying to replicate those in 3D will lead them down the right path.

Have 3D films become too big too soon, thus settling into a comfortable groove? Should there have been many more years of experimentation and messing and disasters first to really tease out the medium?

Or am I just rambling.

Yeah, it's the rambling.

lastangelman said...

John K:A lot of them are buried in fast inbetweens though. And I'm curious as to why they are blurred. It'd be great if you could actually see this stuff.

Pixar actually pioneered this business of "blurring". 3-D graphic animators went nuts for it the first time it was demonstrated at a SIGGRAPH convention. I would recommend you getting the Pixar shorts DVD and checking out the documentary and the commentaries. It's an interesting tale how one lone Disney animator was plucked by chance to work with a bunch of nerds to produce essentially the first 3-D graphic animation with a plot. It could just have easily been Brad Bird or Tim Burton instead of John Lasseter.
Imagine if they gave you the call, way back in the early 80's. Would you have accepted? Pixar would certainly have been a different company!

Jorge Garrido said...

Hmm... It looks alot better than Grinch or Cat In The Hate, but why did they give Horton Steve Carell's eyebrows?

NineInchNachos said...

this film could be the next "Two Girls, One Cup" !

Dan Jackson said...

I think I know where the one cocked eyebrow 'tude started.

Chuck Jones' Bugs.

Granted, now it's been rehashed and watered down so many times we're all sick of it... but that's gotta be where it first got popularized.
That's the version most people think of.

Every Bugs t-shirt Warner Bros sells has that Bugs with the one eyebrow raised. Then it spread to all their TAZ crap when that character becasme popular in the early 90's... then ALL the Looney Tunes crap had "Tude". Now, everyone from Horton to "The Proud Family, to the new creepy 3D "Chipmunks (tree weasels)" have it.
Thanks Warner Bros. Marketing Dept.

Mike said...

I think it all looks quite lovely. Not really a cartoon and certainly not a Seuss - but lovely and very artistically accomplished nonetheless.

foist lastus said...

Having worked with maya and 3ds max, I believe adding in the 'extreme squash and stretch' Flea mentioned, adds up to a LOT more work... why not blur everything instead and cover it up, that's so much easier. (/sarcasm) It comes down to time x effort = $$$.

Soos said...

Are people really trying to defend this movie? Seeing the poster's asshole Horton juxtaposed to the cover of the book made me vomit a little.

I.D.R.C. said...

I wish they could just go ahead and do some shorts using the Seuss stories as is, and not have to fill them up with Hollywood sappy story stuff and characters who have to examine their inner selves and learn that it's ok to be yourself...

...There are lots of truly creative people in the business that could do marvelously entertaining, exciting and popular cartoons if only we could discard the corporate formula veneer that smothers every attempt to be sincere and creative.


Nothing much to add. Just wanted to see it said again.

I agree with both your positive and negative insights. I think the negative overpowers the positive in this and probably every cgi cartoon to date. Some good things, struggling under too much formula hollywood baggage amd uninsightful creative mistakes. People don't go to cartoons for that stuff, they go in spite of it.

Dan DeHaan said...

I think they did a nice job of animating the mayor of who-ville's facial expressions in that clip. It would appear that they used Steve Carell's voice recording sessions as a source to animate, and then just exaggerated the hell out of it. Unfortunately that could also work against them with other actors.

Jeff Read said...

In the programming world we call this "Industry Best Practice". Everybody in the corporate world writes software in pretty much the same way. The reason is because if you do anything a different way, you will attract attention to yourself and unless your methods are impeccable, the slightest flaw could explode into a million-dollar lawsuit. If you're writing code in the same crappy way as everyone else, you can simply say "look, we're only employing Industry Best Practice" and the other guy will have less of a case against you. It sucks, but that's the way the world works. That's why virtually all innovation takes place in markets that don't exist yet.

Remember that next time your computer gets a virus.

People to this day still sometimes cite "Wren and Stimpy" right alongside Beavis and Butt-head as examples of how our culture has hit rock-bottom, become obsessed with violence, etc. The major studios don't want that kind of attention and can't handle their names being dragged through the mud like that. So they employ the animation version of "Industry Best Practice" which involves CalArts expressions and 'tude.

Jeff Read said...

Oh look! Three dimensional characters with realistic hair!!!

TP said...

I think Blue Sky is really trying to get crazier cartoonier work out there. For those of you who haven't seen the Scrat shorts, here's a link:
http://youtube.com/watch?v=t6Y8gflbqVo
It has some awesome floppy penis nose action going on.
It's anything but Pixar.

Jim Rockford said...

"I wish they could just go ahead and do some shorts using the Seuss stories as is, and not have to fill them up with Hollywood sappy story stuff and characters who have to examine their inner selves and learn that it's ok to be yourself."

Yep,I'm sick of all the 'new age' self affirmations that have to be jammed down our throats!
thats just more of that feel good hippie b.s.
Shorter stories would probably be better since they cant seem to pull off a feature without inserting tons of boring filler and self discovery messages.
I know we've already discussed the bland voicework,but what about the music as well? the music is always horrible too. (at least in my opinion)
The vintage Dr.Suess tv cartoons have great soundtracks (Dean Elliot,Albert Hague etc)
Why are all the soundtracks today just shit? we dont seem to have any great composers or arrangers left anymore.
for the most part its all just forgettable ignorable disposable noise that runs in the background.
Whats worse,all the cartoons have to be "hip" and adopt whatever moronic music trend is big,and or feature a "message" song.

shorter storys based more closely on the original artists works and imagery would be far preferable to an hour and a half of filler,sidekicks,and feel good inner discoverys.

Why does everything have to have a message? cant some things just be fun and imaginative?

Jim Rockford said...

"People to this day still sometimes cite "Wren and Stimpy" right alongside Beavis and Butt-head as examples of how our culture has hit rock-bottom, become obsessed with violence, etc. "The major studios don't want that kind of attention and can't handle their names being dragged through the mud like that". So they employ the animation version of "Industry Best Practice" which involves CalArts expressions and 'tude."

Bullshit,look at the crap the major studios churn out! THEY ARE ASSOCIATING THEMSELVES WITH IT!
How many dark,violent degenerate films films do we see trailers for on TV each day?
Ren and Stimpy a sign of society in decline? I hardly think so.
and its REN not Wren!

Jeff Read said...

Jim Rockford, I know how to spell the character's name. It's just that sometimes I see people about citing "Wren and Stimpy" (sic) as the source of all evil when they don't even know how to spell it right. It's fucking retarded, but Spumco made the decision to stand out and they're going to take the heat for doing so.

And yes, you see a lot of dark, violent, degenerate, R-rated live action films. No murderously violent chihuahuas in what's supposed to be a funny cartoon (one originally aimed at kids). Most of the dark animation is either a Todd McFarlane or a Tim Burton knockoff these days.

jason said...

wow.. you're all so angry! Instead of being pissed off, why not accept that there are varied styles there and create something you're personally excited about? If you do a good job, people will love it! Yay!

I think all this anger is just wasted.. seriously.. Discuss what works, what doesn't, provide examples, then move on and create some amazing animation that represents what you think it should look like.

Animation will never grow as an art form if we don't push it, so instead of bitching about it, DO it.

hugs all around. :)

paul said...

John, well... out of curiosity, but um, er...
1. Would it be okay if I could study all of Seuss's books, including his artwork, magazine and political cartoons?
2. How does Dr Seuss write that stuff? does he come up with a nonsense word and draw a character, action or thing around it or does he come up with a character or something and write a nonsense word for it?
3 I think the Horton movie is pretty good. I think the anime sequence is a good viewing experience