Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Lucas vs. Spielberg

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg PhotoWith Steven Spielberg's War of the Worlds set to do box-office battle against George Lucas' Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith, it seems a fitting time to take a look back at their creative relationship and how the two friends have nurtured the other's career.

Tom Shone of Slate.com wrote a great article at this link exploring the history of two of the most financially-successful filmmakers of all-time. He talks about their admiration for each other's work in film school, their collaboration on the serial-based Indiana Jones franchise, getting Lucas to direct again, and even their divergent personalities. Well worth the read!

Thanks to Dr. Michael Ryan of Palaeoblog for the link!

Friday, June 10, 2005

The Arrival of Dr. Tran!

Dr.Tran DVD Photo

Guess who arrived in the mail today?

That's right! Dr. Tran! Here! Now! Forever!

The 'Special Edition' DVD sports over 30 minutes of Bonus Features!!

Also included in this incredible DVD package:

  • 16 pairs of 3D glasses!
  • A 24-piece fold-out Dr. Tran Movie Poster!!
  • A Dr. Tran and Friends Paper Doll Playset!!!
  • A coupon for 30% off of the Dr. Tran 30,000 DVD Box Set!!!!
  • A 'BUY ONE GET ONE FREE' coupon for the 10 kg bag of Hickory Smoked Horse Buttholes!!!!!
  • A Redemption Certificate good for One Complimentary Session of seriously hot dic[CENSORED]...uh, well you know...!!!!!!!
  • A Cowboy Hat!!!!!!

    OK. I lied. It doesn't really contain any of those things, just the DVD. Unless my copy got raided at Customs...in which case I best call on...Dr. Tran!!!

    If you haven't ordered your DVD yet...(all you folks hitting the blog in search of the good doctor!!) get your butt over to the official Here Comes Dr. Tran website and make the purchase!

    Thanks Rick (and Breehn)!
  • Thursday, June 09, 2005

    The DreamWorks Machine

    Shrek Characters Image
    Shrek © 2001 DreamWorks LLC.

    This article in the June 2005 issue of Wired Magazine site is sad. It seems to provide yet more evidence that DreamWorks Animation SKG is more concerned about quantity than quality.

    Though not a religious fellow, I quite enjoyed The Prince of Egypt and I thought The Road to El Dorado was a wondrous ride into adventure. Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas had a lot of the excitement of an old Ray Harryhausen film, and Shrek took the workings of the animaton industry and spoofed it well up on the silver screen. However, a lot of content in DreamWorks Animation SKG films rely on modern-day or past pop-cultural references and movie star voice narration. Yet Katzenberg seems to want to fashion the studio after Walt Disney's dream factory, where films are remembered long after they've been produced. Okay, Okay, before all the straight-to-video stuff hit the market. If you look at the Katzenberg-era produced Disney films, they too contain pop-culture references and superstar voices (Aladdin, The Lion King), yet pre-Katzenberg ones do not contain any, or very little.

    What happens when a production relies on these references is that it dates the films; making it necessary for the audience to understand the time period to grasp the humor. 20 years from now, will Shrek 2 be as memorable as Pixar's Finding Nemo? Likely not. Sure it will still look great, but repeated playability won't be the same between the studio's films. Pixar Animation Studios may not turn out the quantity of films that DreamWorks does, but they focus on their story, leaving the pop-culture references to the music for trailers and end credits. DreamWorks Animation SKG would argue that the use of 'pop' helps the audience relate more, and that's certainly true for today's audiences, and in some cases, a portion of the future ones, but not for all down the road. Pixar's films are solid performers at the box office, and almost even better on DVD and home video sales. The fact that they don't need to rely on the pop-culture references demonstrates that they have taken the time to ensure a solid tale before a solid sale. Their films will still be doing well financially many years after their theatrical distribution.

    From my humble opinion (as well as others around the web), I believe there needs to be less of the managerial hands-on approach to the production at DreamWorks Animation SKG. An environment needs to be created that supports the collaboration of artists, but also one that allows for growth and courting of talented storytellers, whose visions are trusted within the ranks. While this may affect short-term financial gain at the theaters, it would ensure a long shelf-life in terms of the home viewing market. It would also allow for the belief in the studio, and retention of talent, helping animators, directors, and writers solidify their decision to stay. One can glean information that there are many talented people who have left DreamWorks Animation, yet try to find the same number of departures at Pixar...the numbers don't seem to compare.

    DreamWorks Animation has produced enough hits that they're not going anywhere and with the company now in the hands of shareholders who are primarily concerned about one thing, profits mean more now for DreamWorks than ever. By contrast, Pixar is a shareheld company, and they and their shareholders seem to be doing fine, with the studio producing far less films. Of course it could be argued that Pixar has a more complex marketing and distribution agreement with Disney which affects the financial bottom line and they could end up making more or less were they to do all the work themselves as DreamWorks does. The general consensus, however, is that it is The Walt Disney Company reaping the benefits from Pixar's hard work and not the other way around, so it would seem the Pixar shareholders could benefit even more if a more suitable agreement was in place.

    Additionally, other animation studios haven't caught up to the 'Big Three' (Disney, Pixar, and DreamWorks) but as we progress further into digital creation and distribution, cutting production costs, it will be easier for competitors to gain footing. The animation industry has been in a transition phase between strictly 2D, to 2D combined with 3D, to full-3D production, where competitors like Warner Bros. and Fox have tried, and in some cases failed (Warner Bros. and Nickelodeon still manage to produce animated films that do well though), to capture animated box office returns the size of Pixar's. Even PDI, a smaller animation company who collaborated with DreamWorks on Antz had its remaining shares snatched up by the big studio, eliminating possible competition and talent defection. Pixar has been fortunate enough to retain its talent, continue making hit after hit, and fend off merging with Disney. They're now at the point where they can dictate the terms of a new distribution agreement instead of the other way around. Yet all of this is nothing without a good story and good storytellers.

    As with anything, there will ultimately be a change within DreamWorks, as there will probably be one at Pixar someday. The difference is that Pixar's creative transition will probably be one based on proven storytelling and collaborative leadership, whereas DreamWorks Animation's evolution may be based on management structure or financial matters, and that's definitely not how it should be when it comes to creative work. I think that an external promotion for DreamWorks Animation SKG would really be a good thing, allowing Katzenberg to step back (even if he doesn't want to) and focus on the financial segment, letting a talented, creative leader focus on the stories. As animators, storytellers, and fans, we can hope that the great studio that DreamWorks Animation SKG really can become, shapes up to be one where all residents of the animation kingdom can live happily ever after.

    Tuesday, June 07, 2005

    Raiders of the Lost Archive - Vol. 2

    More great record covers found in the 'Lost Archive'...

    The Adventures of Pinocchio needed quite a bit of image retouching. To see the original scan I did, click here.

    Pinocchio Record Cover Scan
    The Adventures of Pinocchio © United Artists Records, Inc.

    Sword in the Stone Record Cover Scan
    The Sword in the Stone © 1972 Walt Disney Productions

    Winnie the Pooh Record Cover Scan
    Winnie the Pooh and the honey tree © 1965 Walt Disney Productions

    Check out more great covers at the Vol. 1 posting I did a few weeks back.

    Saturday, June 04, 2005

    The Goonies 20th Anniversary Celebration

    Goonies DVD Cover ImageIt's hard to believe it's been 20 years since the release of the exciting film about a group of kids who seek the long-lost loot of Pirate One Eyed Willy. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Directed by Richard Donner, the movie still brings fond memories to all of us who had visions of finding buried treasure or making our way through dangerous booby-trapped caves with our buddies. Despite its age, the movie is still a blast and I pop it in the DVD player often.

    This weekend (June 3-5, 2005) in Astoria, Oregon - the town which served as the film location - you can join in the celebration of the 20th Anniversary of the film. With events including a movie location bus tour, a 'Truffle Shuffle Dance Contest,' daily screenings of the movie, a group wedding ceremony at the Goonies house, a chance to view and sail on The Lady Washington and Lynx tall ships, and much more, it sounds like it will be an adventure worthy of any Goonies fan. There's still time to participate if you're reading this on Saturday!

    You can read more about the weekend events at The Daily Astorian and at GooniesEvent.com!

    For more Goonies goodness, check out The Goonies.org where you'll find information on the fan-made documentary they're working on, location information, and a message board. Also check out Oregon/Pacific Northwest Movies for stills from the film and additional location comparisons.

    There's also been rumors and rumblings of a sequel, but as is the case with many Hollywood productions, projects sometimes go into delayed development or are cancelled. A lot of fans want to see a sequel to The Goonies and Director Richard Donner is due for another hit. Nothing seems to be happening at the moment, however, as any true 'Goonie' knows, "Goonies never say die!"

    Support me by purchasing The Goonies DVD at Amazon.com.

    Wednesday, June 01, 2005

    The Alberta Movie Guide

    X2: X-Men United in Alberta Screenshot
    X2: X-Men United. Partially filmed in Kananaskis, Alberta. © 2003 Twentieth Century Fox.

    I've started a new blog to compliment a book I'm developing on Alberta film locations and productions. The Alberta Movie Guide will feature news, stories, photos, and locations from films and television series shot in the great province of Alberta.

    The goals of the blog are to bring additional recognition for Alberta's skilled production community, present Alberta's incredibly diverse scenery, and showcase new, creative ideas from developed and emerging talent. I hope you'll enjoy the journey and I look forward to feedback, stories, and input from the readers.