Getting Some Action with ‘Bolt’

All images © 2008 Walt Disney Pictures

Wee! Back to writing about cartoons.

This is not a movie review.

But in case you were wondering: I liked Bolt. No complaints really.

Well, except that I was forced to wear glasses on top of my glasses so I could watch it in craptastic ‘Real 3D’.

The 3D thing was totally useless for this movie. Useless, I say! There was no reason for it but to gauge me an extra $3 for a ticket.

And the fact Disney gave away all the funny hamster bits in the trailers leading up to the movie release. (Yeah, thanks guys.)

But I digress.

I thought it would be a good movie to learn some lessons in action sequences.

Ahh, the action sequence.

Some board artists love ’em. Some hate ’em.

In a script they sit as cute little paragraphs. Seemingly harmless.

Then you start to thumbnail them out. And that cute little three-line paragraph suddenly morphs into a beast of pages upon pages of storyboarding hell.

I am not all that fond of them. I’m more of an ‘acting and dialogue’ kind of gal.

But they can be fun sometimes.

The opening sequences of Bolt have some really great ones. Because they are kind of spoofing action movies, there is a lot of cliched fun going on.

So let’s take a look at a few.

The Quick-Cut Mini Montage

I actually really like doing these. They are dynamic, fast and cut to the chase.

And are awesome ‘cheats’ to tell a lot of information without worrying too much about hook-ups.

Penny and Bolt are about to be chased by the bad guys. So Penny needs to get out her super-scooter thing.

How exciting would it be to storyboard this on a wide shot?


So with a series of quick little cuts from different angles, we get all the information we need.

Up shot on Penny lifting the scooter into shot.

Zing! The wheel comes to camera.

Read moreGetting Some Action with ‘Bolt’

My Feature Favorites: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

All images © 1999 Comedy Central Films/Paramount Pictures.

First off, a technical note: If the site is looking a little wonky, clear your cache and reload it. Hopefully that does it. I’ve been making a few tweaks.

Yes. The South Park movie is one of my favorite animated feature films.


Well, first off, it’s funny as all hell. Second, I’ve been a fan of the show since it first came on the air (like I said before…it brings out the 20 year old frat boy in me). And third, it proves the point I made in the Toy Story post.

That point being, the technology doesn’t matter. You can tell a good story with stick men.

Or in this case, with paper cut-out, potty-mouthed little kids.

And yes, I’m fully aware of the irony that it’s not made with paper cut-outs but with a super-powerful computer program called Maya. It’s still meant to look like paper cut-outs, so that’s really the point. It’s still simplistic in style and execution.

In other words: Crappy.

And I love it.

My personal opinion is the best seasons of South Park are 4 to 8. The movie came out after Season 3, so I think this is where it really took off. They found their voice. The characters were solid. It was ready to evolve. And it did.

This movie isn’t for everyone. If you already love South Park and haven’t seen it, what are you waiting for? If you only kind of like South Park, watch it to see them at their best. If you hate South Park, you’ll either become a convert or hate it more.

Read moreMy Feature Favorites: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut

My Feature Favorites: Finding Nemo

All images © 2003 Walt Disney Pictures/Pixar Animation Studios.

Simplicity of story.

If anyone ever questions why I love Pixar’s Finding Nemo so damn much, this is my answer.

The basic story is so simple. And they do so much with it.

When planning their short films, I used to tell students there are two ways to tell a story. You can ‘enjoy the journey’ or you can ‘lead up to a great finale’.

Finding Nemo is a terrific example of enjoying the journey. Do we really think it won’t be a happy ending? Of course not. In a story like this we can pretty much assume everything will turn out just fine.

That’s not the point

It’s what happens along the way that makes it so great.

So if you are planning your own short (or long) story, remember that. If you don’t have a super satisfying ending that will knock the socks off your audience, you can always make the journey one heck of a great ride.

I’m over-simplifying things a bit, but I hope you get what I mean.

Same deal as my other feature favorites. No story summary or anything, I’m just digging in to my favorite bits of Finding Nemo.

Let’s Roll.

It’s gorgeous. Look at the image up top. The whole underwater world is so beautiful and believable. Makes you want to take up scuba diving (if I didn’t have such a nasty fear of suffocation).

Read moreMy Feature Favorites: Finding Nemo

My Feature Favorites: Toy Story

All images © 1995 Walt Disney Pictures / Pixar Animation Studios.

“To infinity and beyond!”

Sound familiar?

Toy Story is the third on my list of my favorite animated feature films. You can see the whole list in that link. If you’ve never seen Toy Story I’d really have to ask where the heck you’ve been. See it already!

What can I say about the first 3D full-length feature film ever made?

That it’s the Snow White of a new generation? Yes, I guess it is.

That it put Pixar on the map? Yes, I suppose it did.

That it was such a success because of all that fancy technology? Uh, no. Sorry.

Some will argue with me, but Toy Story was not a success because of the technology. It was a success because of the storytelling and characters.

Would it have worked in 2D? Yes, I believe it would have. A good story is a good story, no matter the medium. As I’ve said before, you can tell a good story with stick men as far as I’m concerned.

As I go through all my favorite bits from Toy Story, please note that I never mention rigging, lighting or texture mapping. Don’t get me wrong, it looks fabulous (even if the humans are a bit wonky 😉 ). It was freakin’ eye candy all the way when I saw this the first time.

Kids don’t care about eye candy (at least not after the first 10 minutes). Trust me. If the story sucks, a kid will let you know by their lack of interest…technology or not

But 3D worked for telling a story about toys. Period. These days, it’s just gotten a little out of hand. It’s everywhere! Gaa! Use it when it suits the story please.

That’s my two cents. Lecture over.

Let’s roll! Here’s my favorite bits from Toy Story.

The toys. It was a trip back to my childhood. I know the people making this film were from my generation because of the toy selections. I mean Weebles! Stretch Armstrong! Sweet.

Read moreMy Feature Favorites: Toy Story

My Feature Favorites: The Iron Giant

All images © 1999 Warner Bros. Feature Animation.

Oh Iron Giant, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

If you’ve never seen The Iron Giant, go now and rent it.

Then buy it.

And love it forevermore.

This is the second film I’m going to gush over from my list of favorite animated films. You can see the whole list here.

Again, I’m not giving a summary of the story. And it’s a given that I love it for the story and the strong characters and stuff. That’s usually why I love the films I love.

Spoiler Alert: I might be giving away a few of the good bits here, so if you haven’t seen it, you’ve been warned.

Here are some of my favorite moments (and other thoughts) of The Iron Giant. With maybe a few lessons thrown in. It was really hard to pick just a few. There so were many more I could have chosen.

Here’s why I love The Iron Giant.

Brad Bird directed it. You know the Simpsons? The Incredibles? Ratatouille? Yeah. That guy. If there’s anyone I’d like to share a beer with and talk about storytelling, this would be the guy.

Read moreMy Feature Favorites: The Iron Giant

My Feature Favorites: The Lion King

All images © 1994 Walt Disney Feature Animation.

After ripping ‘Igor‘ a new one when I reviewed it, I was asked in the comments what some of my all-time favorite animated films were (thanks Steph).

So why not make a series of posts about them?

In the Igor‘ review, I pointed out many of the things they did wrong. With these posts, I’ll point out what they did right. You’ve probably seen most of them, so no boring summary.

I’m just going to dig right in.

These are some of my all time favorite animated films. I’m not saying they are the all time greatest films ever made. They are MY choices and I have my reasons. That’s it. They are:

  • The Lion King (Disney, 1994)
  • The Iron Giant (Warner Bros., 1999)
  • Toy Story (Pixar, 1995)
  • Finding Nemo (Pixar, 2003)
  • South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (Paramount, 1999) (yeah, yeah, I know…)

I loved ‘Wall-E‘ but don’t want to put it on the list yet because it’s so new and I don’t have a DVD to watch and capture images yet. When I can, you’ll be getting my rave review of that movie.

And yes, as an ‘animation professional’ I know I’m supposed to say ‘Snow White‘, ‘Pinocchio‘, ‘Fantasia‘ and all those classics. But I’m going by what I’ve loved and watched the most.

So in that case, The Lion King kicks Snow White‘s ass.

I will start with The Lion King.

Read moreMy Feature Favorites: The Lion King

Where ‘Igor’ Went Wrong

© 2008 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc.

OK, this is my first attempt at a movie review.

Now it won’t be like other movie reviews because:

  1. I’m not going to give you a summary of the plot. I’m too lazy. And you can find that anywhere. Check your local paper.
  2. I’m also too lazy to look up all the names and stuff of the people who worked on it. And honestly…do you really care?
  3. I won’t be getting all animator-snobbish about the whole thing. (Or I’ll try not to.)
  4. I won’t be using words like ‘protagonist’. Ugh.
  5. I’m mostly going to focus on the story. And the problems therein.

And just for kicks I’m going to address the movie as a person. So when I say “Igor” I mean ‘Igor-The Movie’, not the character. It’ll be fun. Really.

OK? Let’s roll.

Alright Igor. I love to give the little guy a chance.

I don’t think Pixar is God. I love ’em but I give props where props are due. I really liked Dreamworks’ Kung Fu Panda.


So frankly, I don’t care who made you. Just tell me a good story. It’s nice if you look really good while you do it, but I understand you may not have ‘the BIG budget’ of the other guys. That’s OK. You can still entertain me.

And my 9 year-old companion.

I’ll give you the good news first. You looked pretty good. You had some great character designs (even though Tim Burton may have grounds to sue). I had some genuine laughs. Overall you did a pretty damn fine job in the artistic and chuckles department.

But here’s where you went wrong.

Read moreWhere ‘Igor’ Went Wrong