Saturday, November 8, 2008

Pixar's Up and the general trend towards Blandness

[disclaimer: As I mentioned in a comment, Up, the movie, will probably be less reliant on formulaic animation and style than the teaser trailer (due to its inherent time constraints) which triggered the following thoughts. This is really a comment on general trends in theatrical animation that disappoint me, and should not be construed as criticism of the superb artists at Pixar, some of whom I've had the pleasure of working with in the past.]

I just watched the trailer for Pixar's Up, and I'm underwhelmed again. Maybe I'm just getting old and cranky, but does anyone else think Pixar's films get blander every time out? The design, the lighting, the rendering and even the animation is all...there's no other word for it: bland.

Well, maybe there is: verisimilitude. Why have they gone so far down this road of pursuing realism? Why even start down that road? Can't we have some fun with the backgrounds and designs anymore?

And in the animation, I recognized about 5 different standard Pixar moves (which are also imitated by every other studio) in that short little clip [this is probably due to time constraints]. Come one, guys! Surprise us! Entertain us! You're the best in the business. You've got the skill and resources to push the limits!

Well, maybe I'm all wet. And I owe a lot to Pixar for pioneering the CG animation industry which I enjoy working in. I just wish they'd show some of the spunk they used to show in their early days.

And there's some things I like about the concept of the movie; It reminds me a little of a G.K. Chesterton story. But if Chesterton was an animator I can't imagine him limiting himself with the slavish pursuit of verisimilitude.

[edited after a good night's sleep]


Anonymous said...

Well Thom I can see what you mean about this trailer. But I really do respect the work that was done in Wall E. The fact that it was able to carry so much of the movie on pantomime action was pretty amazing to me. But it did have it's down sides. Up, right now, doesn't completely blow me away at the moment, I'm still going to give it a chance. But for me Ratatoullie was spectacular. I found that the animation was so nice to look at, I really get a kick at frame by framing through it! Other than Toy Story and The Incredibles, I think it's my favorite CG film.

I really hope that Pixar will continue to take risk. That's what made them so great in the first place. But maybe it might take another company to step up and set a new standard. I'd love to see that.

Thom said...

It occurs to me I'm probably reading too much into a teaser trailer. It was probably hastily made(for Pixar) and therefore they used tricks and formulas to make the deadline. But my general opinion of recent movies hasn't changed.

I've been less and less impressed with them every year. The animation is technically superb, i.e. smooth, but it doesn't wow me. The last movie to have any pizazz was the Incredibles. The animation has tightened up considerably since then.

In the early days of CG, the technical limits of the computers necessitated tight skinned characters. I'm just disappointed that now that those limits are mostly gone, they choose to continue to restrain the movements of their characters -- especially in regards to deforming them. I think they're wasting opportunities.

There are no characters like the comedy-reliefs of Disney's 90s heyday, like the Genie, or Mushu, who were super-squashy. They were just a lot of fun to watch. The latest CG films, which could have some really interesting characters, do not have characters like these (I'm not yearning for the comedy relief formula, just the loose characters). Kung Fu Panda went in this direction, so maybe Dreamworks will lead the way in the future.

Anyways, maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised by Up when it comes out. Thanks for your commments. Anybody else want to chime in? Am I all wet?

Jason Manak said...

Hehe! You're funny Thom.

Every movie Pixar comes out with ... I purposefully lower my expectations to virtually null. Who can make 4 great films in a row? Ok, Pixar. Well who can make 5 great films in a row? Ok, Pixar. Well who can make 6 great films in a row? Ok, Pixar.

Up ... would be number 9. And ultimately, you do have to ask yourself is what you want to see marketable? Or is it for the select few of us who love animated variety as animators?

You're right. Genie was awesome but Robin Williams is 2nd to none in roles like that. Also, that film came out nearly 20 years ago. And as in genius as Mushu was, Mulan as a film was a box office dud, wasn't it?

Pixar always manages to pull it off. I think it's because they spend 2 or 3 times on the story as anyone else does. And ultimately, story is what it all comes down to. Make the characters REAL ... what else matters? If they manage to do that again ... I will be once again impressed. If not, I can't fault them for one failure. I know I've had more than one. *wink*

At any rate, I'm interested in anything Pixar does and I don't want to see any more footage form UP!! I'll see it knowing only what I know from this trailer and that's that! We can talk about it after I see it.


regina doman said...

Hahaha! As a non-animator, I don't see what you see quite, but I'm enjoying the discussion. What do you mean by versilmilitude as regards this trailer? You mean that the hair, etc. is realistic...?