Nants ingonyama bagithi baba! It's been nearly two decades since that glorious savanna sunrise, and once again The Lion King is at the top of the box office. It's a good chance to revisit what made the original the capstone of the Disney Renaissance, starting with the music. Not the gaudy show tunes or the Elton John ballads, but the soaring, elegiac score by Hans Zimmer which, despite winning an Oscar, never saw a full release outside of an unofficial bootleg. Luckily, it's unabridged and high-quality, allowing one to lay Zimmer's haunting, pulse-pounding, joyful tracks alongside the original video (part 2, 3, 4), revealing the subtle leitmotifs and careful matching of music and action. In addition, South African collaborator Lebo M wove traditional Zulu chorals into the score, providing veiled commentary on scenes like this; his work was later expanded into a full album, the Broadway stage show, and projects closer to his heart. Speaking of expanded works, there were inevitable sequels -- all of which you can experience with The Lion King: Full Circle (download guide), a fan-made, three-hour supercut of the original film and its two follow-ups. Want more? Look... harder... [more inside]
It was bound to happen eventually. After a quarter-century, 26 Academy Awards, and an unparalleled streak of eleven artistic and commercial triumphs, Pixar's latest project, Cars 2, is Certified Rotten. Critics have assailed the film as a slick but hollow vehicle for Disney's $10 billion-dollar Cars
merchandising industry "lifestyle brand," replacing the original's serviceable tale of small-town redemption with zany spy games, hyperactive chase sequences, and even more lowbrow aww-shucks potty humor from Larry the Cable Guy. But it's not all bad news! Along with a fun new Toy Story 3 short, preceding today's (3-D) premiere showings is a first look at next year's Brave -- a darkly magical original story set in ancient Scotland featuring the studio's first female lead (and director). Evocative high-res concept art [mirror] is available at the official website, and character sketches have leaked to the web, with the apparently striking teaser trailer sure to follow. Also, be sure not to miss the sneak peak of Brave's associated short, "La Luna"!
Toy Story 3 hits theaters today, and it's already winning universal acclaim as an enchanting and heartbreaking wonderwork, employing understated 3D and a "real-time" perspective that deftly capitalizes on the nostalgia and can't-go-home-again angst of a generation that grew up with the series. It has a strong pedigree, with 11-year-old predecessor Toy Story 2 the rare sequel to equal its forebear, 1995's Toy Story (itself the first CGI feature in history). And it joins a lofty stable of films: over the last 15 years, Pixar has put out an unbroken chain of ten commercial and critical successes that have grossed over $5 billion worldwide and collected 24 Academy Awards (including the second-ever Best Picture nom for animation with Up), a legacy that rivals some of the greatest franchises in film history. But there's rumbling on the horizon. Although the studio has been hailed for its originality (of the 50 top-grossing movies in history, only nine were original stories -- and five of them were by Pixar), two of their upcoming projects are sequels, both of them based some of their least-acclaimed films (Cars 2 in 2011 and Monsters, Inc. 2 in 2012). And while 2012 will also bring
The Bear and the Bow Brave, the first Pixar flick to feature a female protagonist [previously], fellow newcomer Newt has been canceled. With WALL-E/Up/Toy Story 3 guru Andrew Stanton focusing on his 2012 adaptation of John Carter of Mars and with forays into live-action already in development, does this mark the end of the golden age of Pixar? Or is this latest entry lasting proof that even the toughest case of sequelitis can be raised to the level of masterpiece? [more inside]
In 1983, John Lassetter and Chris Wedge created some test footage that integrated CGI and traditional animation [YouTube] for Disney. The work it was based on? Where The Wild Things Are. The movie was never made and Lassetter left to start Pixar, which redefined how animated movies were created. Curious to see the shorts that led to Toy Story and its followers? Pixar's put all their short films online.
It's the plot, stupid. USA Today runs their usual insightful commentary about the upcoming release of Lilo and Stitch. It obsesses over the absence of CGI graphics pointing to Atlantis as evidence for the failure of traditional animation to draw box office. Funny me, I thought that Atlantis bombed because of a plot better left in 50s serial format, a cast of sterotypes rather than characters, and no sense of humor beyind dirty French jokes repeated over and over again. And is huge success of Pixar due to their pioneering animation, or their brilliant comic talent? What causes FX myopia anyway? Granted I can understand why fanboys obsess over the wrong things in a movie. Do the studios set it up by trying to hype each new summer release as the next big technical development (while the artistic development gets trumped by Waking Life and Insomnia?)