Posts Tagged ‘Toy Story’

Three Toy Stories – in Three Dimensions

May 20, 2012

[My review that appeared in Johannesburg’s Saturday Star newspaper:]

3-D Nirvana for Toy Story fans!

Disney has recently been converting selected favourites of the last two decades into 3-D, with varying success. When Toy Story 3 was opened in 3-D, it was decided to release its predecessors (now in 3-D!) as a run-up; hence what we’re examining today. Beauty and the Beast and Lion King were combinations of traditional 2-D animation and computer-generated backgrounds, so their conversion to 3-D yielded predictably mixed results. All of the Toy Story movies, however, were entirely created within a three dimensional virtual world, so the process was easier for the techies – and more impressive for the viewer. The films are all separately available in two-disc sets (which include 2-D versions and bonus features). It’s a treat for stereoptiphiles (which is fancy-speak for 3-D fans).

Toy Story (Ster-Kinekor Disney Blu-ray) *****

A pioneer; the first entirely computer-animated feature film, and an astonishing feat which rapidly has us empathising with the challenges and joys of being a child’s toy. It also establishes an ensemble of lovable, quirky characters headed up by Woody the cowboy (voiced by Tom Hanks) and Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen) the intergalactic cop.

The bonus features offer interesting insights into the development of the lead characters, and how the guys at Disney came to accept the relative autonomy of the newly-formed Pixar team. There are some fun anecdotal shorts, but most the fascinating aspect for me was seeing how much the story’s look-and feel changed from the early days to the completed product.

Toy Story 2 (Ster-Kinekor Disney Blu-ray) ****

As ‘middle child’ of the trilogy, it lacks the originality of the first film and the emotional ‘end of an era’ feeling of the last. It does, however, expand the toys’ social circle by throwing a sassy cowgirl, Jessie (Joan Cusack), and sinister prospector, Stinky Pete (Kelsey Grammer) into the mix. And let’s not forget Al, the sinister toy collector, voiced with aplomb by Wayne Knight (perhaps best known for being Jerry Seinfeld’s nemesis, Newman).

Bonus features include a profile on Pixar head honcho John Lasseter, and a moving tribute to the beloved Pixar staffer Joe Ranft. There are also heaps of other extras, too numerous to detail here, but, if you’re interested in behind the scenes info, the extras packed with first two Toy Story movies won’t leave you wanting!

Toy Story 3 (Ster-Kinekor Disney Blu-ray) *****

This closing chapter asks what any toy would do, had it the sentience to contemplate such existential issues: “What will become of us now that ‘our child’ has grown up?” In doing so, it speaks to the issues of moving forward into adulthood and deserting the magic of our childhood fantasies as much as it addresses the issues of looking back; and of loyalty. Cloaked in grand adventure, it’s actually a five-tissue tear-jerker!
Bonus features are lean in this package, seeing as Pixar’s process has already been so well explained in the earlier discs. They’ve thrown in the Oscar-nominated cartoon, Day & Night, that accompanied the film on its theatrical release, but a big let-down is that it isn’t the original 3-D version.

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The Comeback King – in Depth

August 26, 2011

An Active3D Movie Review:
The Lion King 3-D

Rating (out of 5 stars): ****

I was hardly champing at the bit to see The Lion King again; no matter what format. I’ve seen the 35mm theatrical version, the IMAX version, the DVD version and – twice – the stage show. South African musician Lebo M, who had a minor part to play in the show’s creation, also cast a shadow of disrepute over the stage production when it opened locally… So you could comfortably say that The Lion King was both overplayed and tainted in my eyes.

Then there were my low expectations of the 3-D version. Firstly, its characters existed in 2-D animation format, which presents a largely insurmountable problem, dealt with further down. It’s a lot easier to do a stereoscopic conversion on a movie that was created in a computer graphic environment (such as, say, the Toy Story movies). The reason for this is the characters are already created in 3-D, within a 3-D environment. All that needs to be done (give or take a tweak or two) is to set up a virtual ‘second camera’ alongside the original viewpoint, in order to simulate binocular (or stereoscopic) human vision.

2-D animated characters have hard, cleanly-defined and outlined edges – like cardboard cut-outs – unlike the rounded edges of 3-D-animations. This means that, try as you might, the edges of the characters will always have that cardboard feel about them, and the best that the 3-D conversion team can do is “pull out” certain features such as noses, etc. This visual extrusion, or telescoping, of character’s faces, was a distracting – if expected – element of this revamped rerelease, though I learnt to live with it, in the final analysis… My reservations in that respect were largely overcome by the splendid work that the stereoscopic conversion team has done on the foregrounds and backgrounds, pulling us right into the action.

I remembered anew that this is not a shabby film to start with, and I’ve finally come to appreciate the sweep of its Shakespearian drama. And it’s a good-looking film that looks all the more striking in 3-D splendour. And to think that I had been looking forward to being disappointed!

Active 3-D’s Award Ceremony for 2010

January 3, 2011

Whilst donning my tuxedo, I must apologise for my absence of the last few months, sadly necessitated by the restructuring of my company. Let us, however, consider last year’s 3-D releases, blow some raspberries, and dish out out some trophies, shall we? Shhh… the lights are dimming…
[Some random dancing is followed by a respectful hush as the announcer is tracked to centre stage by a follow-spot. He isn’t famous, but that’s a budgetary issue… He begins with the evening’s announcements:]

First up, is the…

Active 3-D 2010 Award for the 3-D film that was:

NOT QUITE AS GOOD AS ITS REPUTATION

Tron: Legacy – it was heartening to see original stars Jeff Bridges and Bruce Boxleitner return for the sequel, and the film contained some eye-ticklingly fanciful virtual environments – and a strong, driving soundtrack by Daft Punk. Its storyline wasn’t up to much, however, and its premise – that software should be available to all at no cost – flies brutally in the face of the film studios’ fight against piracy. Uncle Walt would’ve been horrified.

"And this pedal here accelerates box office receipts..."

 

That wasn’t as classy as one had expected.

Here, then, the…

Active 3-D 2010 Award for the 3-D film that was:

NOT QUITE AS BAD AS ITS REPUTATION

A tie, ladies and gentlemen:

Piranha 3-D – sadly, it wasn’t the tongue-in-cheek tribute to animal horror flicks that I had expected, but its crass attempts to please the older teen market at all costs were frequently laugh-out-loud ridiculous. Unintentionally so, of course. Richard Dreyfuss makes a funny cameo upfront which has all the movie buffs commenting that “You’re gonna need a bigger boat”, and its gasp-inducing, outrageous and counter-intuitive last few seconds were worth the price of admission alone!

Shrek Forever After was an entertaining-enough romp. I really believed that it didn’t deserve the vilification it received from so many loyal Shrek fans, despite the fact that its plot premise – of Shrek’s midlife crisis – was a bit heavy for junior audiences, and probably a bit depressing for the parents that took their kids to see the film.

 

 

With some trepidation, we approach the

Active 3-D 2010 Award for THE CURSE OF 2010

Without a shadow of doubt, this goes to Post-production 2-D to 3-D conversion, which plagued titles such as Clash of the Titans and The Last Airbender. These were veritable crimes against humanity, whose stereoscopic cruelty was matched only by their godawful scripts and woeful performances.

 

Moving on to the …

Active 3-D 2010 Award for THE WORST 3-D MOVIE OF THE YEAR

Where do I begin? Jackass 3-D for its relentlessly juvenile celebration of bodily functions? It’s tempting, but then I’d be overlooking some other, even more depressing, screen-time wasters…

I’d love to choose the re-release (with additional yawn-inducing footage!) of Avatar, but I’ve already roundly slagged off that release (at length) in this blog.

Could it be that disappointing animated effort, Alpha and Omega? Close… but no cigar. Nope; the winner is a tie between… the envelope, please… The Last Airbender and The Clash of the Titans. Finding the biggest offender between them is akin to having to choose between Tuberculosis and Hepatitus…

Please insert brain here. (The Last Airbender)

 

And now… the big one; the…

Active 3-D 2010 Award for  THE BEST 3-D MOVIE OF THE YEAR


Without a doubt, Toy Story 3-D. This funny, moving and highly engaging franchise-closer was not only the best 3-D movie of the year, in this reviewer’s opinion, but it was one of the finest movies of the year, in whatever dimensional package!

To add to the thrill of it all, its release was preceded by reworked, now-3-D versions of Toy Story 1 and 2. Unlike post-production 3-D conversions of live-action 2-D movies, computer-generated animated movies are easy to convert into comfortably-viewed 3-D releases, as they are originated within a 3-D environment.

Toy Story 3-D beat out other strong contenders, such as the charming How to Train Your Dragon, the moving, very funny and stereoscopically exciting Despicable Me, and the dramatically sound Megamind 3-D.

Disney’s 3-D Slate

September 12, 2009
Jim Carrey in Disney's 'A Christmas Carol'

Jim Carrey in Disney's 'A Christmas Carol'

You wanted the most up-to-date listing of Disney’s coming 3-D releases, and we have ’em right here, on the blog for South Africa’s 3-D faithful.

First up is A Christmas Carol, which opens toward the end of the year. Although it’s in 3-D, it features four dimensions of Jim Carrey – i.e. he plays Ebenezer Scrooge in addition to the triad of Yuletide spooks.

Some will moan that this is overindulgence on the part of Carrey, but I would argue that the three Ghosts of Christmas are actually projections of the Scrooge character – or parallel-universe possibilities of the same man, to express it in another way. It therefore makes absolute sense that one actor should play Scrooge and all of the ghosts. (And, given the current economic climate, I daresay that the studio saved millions in additional star salaries…)

Then, early in 2010, the original Toy Story and its sequel are being released in 3-D reincarnations. That way, the studio gets to milk even more box office out of titles that have already been fat cash cows on both theatrical and DVD release. These stereoptifications will further serve as a teaser for Toy Story 3, which opens shortly thereafter – in 3-D, of course. Would I miss any of these screenings? Don’t be daft!

Due to open here early in April, Disney’s 2010 take on Lewis Carroll’s trippy classic, Alice in Wonderland: 3-D, directed by Tim Burton, stars Johnny Depp, Anne Hathaway, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Stephen Fry, Christopher Lee and Timothy Spall. If that doesn’t sound like cinematic Nirvana to you, I’m afraid you’ve probably been watching too many WWF reruns to recognise a good thing…

The splendid Beauty and the Beast (arguably one of the best Disney animated movies to be made after Uncle Walt’s passing), underwent an image format conversion for its IMAX release a few years ago, and is now also being revamped for Digital 3-D release. For that happy day, I’ll go out and buy a suit.

In case you’re concerned about the possibility of the hallowed art of Disney-style ‘cel animation’ perishing in this brave (yet counter-traditional) new digital age, fear no more. For the past few decades, Uncle Walt’s nephew (and Disney Vice Chairman) Roy Disney, has fought off the “modernisers” by insisting upon the preservation of his uncle’s style of animation. More recently, Pixar/Disney’s Big Guy John Lasseter has added his considerable muscle to this lobby.

The result of their campaigning can be witnessed in Disney’s new 2-D, “hand-animated” film, The Princess and the Frog, which releases in SA on January 29th 2010. (Yes, this is a blog for the 3-D geek, but I’m a Disney devotee, so I trust that you’ll pardon this small digression…)

Those who enjoyed the Pixar title Cars will have to wait until 2012 until they can clamp eyes on the sequel, which will be in 3-D, of course. And finally, fans of the sci-fi author Philip K Dick (whose novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? inspired Ridley Scott’s Bladerunner), are busting a spleen in anticipation of Disney’s King of the Elves. It will be a good two years-plus before they can sample the Disney Studio’s adaptation of this short story of Dick’s.

Disney 3-D Slate with Anticipated South African Release Dates:

A Christmas Carol 3-D – November 6th 2009

Toy Story: 3-D (The original, reworked into 3D) – January 1st to February 26th 2010 [Updated September 16th 2009]

Toy Story 2: 3-D (The original, reworked into 3D) – January 15th to March 12th 2010 [Updated September 16th 2009]

Alice in Wonderland3-D – March 5th to April 2nd 2010

Beauty and the Beast3-D – May 28th [* This release date has been put on hold by the Disney organisation.  I’m pretty sure that the movie will still be released – just no longer sure when, at this stage… *]

Toy Story 3: 3-D : 3-D– August 6th 2010 [Updated September 16th 2009]

Rapunzel: 3-D – November 26th 2010 [Updated September 16th 2009]

Tron: Legacy3-D – December 17th 2010 [This title added September 16th 2009]

Newt3-D – Winter 2011

The Bear and the Bow3-D – December 2011/January 2012

Cars 23-D – Winter 2012

King of Elves3-D – December 2012/January 2013