Monday, October 19, 2020

New Animated Features

Now that Oscar season is beginning, I'm starting to receive all the new Oscar-eligible animated feature films that are in the running for nominations.  With this being the year of the COVID virus, I'm expecting to get a smaller group of films, since many cinemas are still essentially closed (at least here in NYC and in L.A.), so in some ways it's a lot more difficult to qualify, but the rules are new and a bit vague.  I think films that have gone directly to streaming services are now eligible, so for some films that might even make it easier to qualify.

Already, I've seen two high-quality contenders:

Two years ago, master animator Glen Keane won an Oscar for a short film he created with the late Kobe Bryant, called "Dear Basketball".  With that Oscar, he was able to attract money and backing for a half-Chinese feature film, called "Over the Moon", co-directed by the wonderfully talented John Kahrs ("Paperman").  I'm not sure how much input they received from their Chinese backers, but the film looks like it was made in China.  My big complaint is that the film is very saccharine - in fact, it's almost too cute for a Disney movie.  The palette is heavy on pastels, with lots of giant eyes - and the fantasy story sort of loses meaning for me halfway through. 

However, there is some beautiful animation and imagery throughout the film.  And it's definitely important to see because of Glen Keane and John Kahrs' involvement. 

The second film I watched online (no more DVD's?) was "Wolfwalkers", made by Cartoon Saloon and directed by the very talented Tomm Moore.  His previous films were Oscar-nominated fan favorites "The Secret of Kells" and "Song of the Sea" - both wonderful tales of Ireland told in a unique and decorative style.  

The new film kind of fills out an Irish trilogy.  According to Tomm, it's apparently an ancient legend about wolves who can become human, and vice versa.  Like his earlier films, it's told with a very decorative and colorful style.  I like the concept and subject matter, but had some trouble with the visuals.   The backgrounds were wonderfully water-colored nature, but the characters themselves were simplified to ultra-basic shapes and designs.  For a while I thought I was watching a Hanna-Barbera film.  I expected Barney Rubble and Fred Flintstone to enter the screen.  

And that brings up another issue I have with both films, "Over the Moon" and "Wolfwalkers" - there was very little humor in them.  It's my own prejudice, I know, since I make comedies, but I always like a few laughs in my animation, even if it's a film noir.  That's my own personal taste. 

I believe both films are well-made and very deserving of Oscar nominations, so I wish them both good luck.  

Now here's this week's gag cartoon.  See you next time!

--Bill P. 


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