"What's New" Archives: February 2005
February 27, 2005:
BRAD BIRD: As promised, you can read my interview with Brad Bird,
the writer and director of Pixar's The Incredibles, by clicking
here. If you've
been visiting the site for the last few months, I don't have to
tell you that I'll be rooting for Bird and The Incredibles when
I watch the Academy Awards tonight. You can read my enthusastic
comments on the film by clicking here,
and my article about The Incredibles in today's Los Angeles
Times by clicking here.
BI-POLAR: I flew into Boston on January 31, exactly one
day too late to see The Polar Express in Imax 3-D at the
New England Aquarium's theater. I haven't been anywhere else near
where the film was showing in 3-D. Fortunately, John Benson, the
esteemed comics scholar, has seen it in 3-D, and he has written
detailed comments on how dramatically the 3-D Polar differs
from the flat version. After reading John's report, I'm sorrier
than ever that I haven't been able to see Polar Express in
3-D. John didn't want his comments presented as a separate by-lined
piece, so I've appended them to my own review
of the film.
February 26, 2005:
OSCAR AND THE INCREDIBLES: The Los Angeles Times asked me
to write about The Incredibles as part of its Oscar preview
coverage, and you can read the result by clicking here.
I interviewed Brad Bird for my article, and I'll post the transcript
of that interview on Sunday.
February 20, 2005:
THE NEW LION KING: Sometimes movie studios do things
that leave one baffled: what could they have in mind? I'm not referring
to Warner Bros., which clearly knew exactly what it was doing when
it let the world know about its new Loonatics show. (I just
watched a segment on Loonaticsan expanded version of
a report that ran on the CBS Evening News last weekon
CBS Sunday Morning.) I would welcome the show itself if I
felt the least confidence that it would be as sly and clever as
Warners' publicity coup.
The studio I'm speaking of is Disney, which has entrusted
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
to Andrew Adamson, a co-director of Shrek and Shrek 2;
you can click here
to read a New York Times report on the making of the film.
My question is this: C. S. Lewis's Narnia books are a Christian
allegory, a touchy subject for any film, much less one coming out
under the Disney label and mixing live action with computer animation.
Why would you entrust such a film to the director of the Shrek
films, both of them notable not just for their smart-ass sceenplays
but also for clunky computer animation that makes stop motion look
smooth and realistic?
The only possible answer, of course, is the two DreamWorks films'
huge boxoffice success. I suspect that what we see here is yet another
of the many conjunctions of cynicism, cluelessness, and huge amounts
of money that make Hollywood a fascinating and unending train wreck.
There's another question that I find even more intriguing: Given
his years at DreamWorks, will Adamson be able to resist the temptation
to use at least one fart gag? "Aslan, you big old putty tat!
Did you cut the cheese?"
February 18, 2005:
BARRIER BOOK: Not by me, but by my wife, Phyllis; and not about
animation or the comics, but about a rather more serious subject,
Phyllis is a health professional who has specialized in diabetes
for most of her career, and and now she has written Type
2 Diabetes for Beginners, the first easy-to-read book for
people newly diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It has just been published
by the American Diabetes Association, her employer for more than
a decade until we moved away from the Washington, D.C., area.
Fortunately, neither of us has had any direct experience with diabetes,
but members of our extended family have, and it's probably a rare
American family that does not include one or more members who suffer
from Type 2. Phyllis knows her stuffas one expert says, her
"wealth of personal and professional experience is evident
on every page of this book"and if people you care about
are struggling with the disease, you should give Type 2 Diabetes
for Beginners a look.
(If you click through to amazon.com,
don't be confused by the cover shown on the page for the bookthat's
an old and outdated version.)
February 17, 2005:
PEOPLE: I've just received my contributor's copy of the first volume
People, the new series of books, edited by Didier Ghez,
that collect interviews with artists who knew Walt Disney and worked
for him, in some cases for decades. The book includes my interview
with David Hand that has already been published here, but most of
the other interviews have either never been published or have been
out of print and difficult to locate for many years. The interviewers
include many of the Disney researchers that I like and respect most,
people like Robin Allan, Paul Anderson, J. B. Kaufman, Jim Korkis,
and Didier Ghez himself. The interviewees are also a stellar lot:
Rudolf Ising, Ken Anderson, John Hench, Marc Davis, Jack Hannah,
Milt Kahl, Harper Goff, Joyce Carlsonand Bill Tytla, whose
interview with George Sherman of Disney's publications staff is
the only such interview that I know of.
It's hard for me to praise this book enough, or to praise
Didier enough for having conceived this series and brought it to
fruition. I expect to be represented in all the future volumes,
and I hope there will be many of them.
Didier asked me to write a foreword for the second volume, and
I happily complied. Writing that piece gave me the opportunity to
consider the value of interviews, especially interviews about Walt
Disney. Lazy or timid academics tend to dismiss the importance of
interviews as research (as opposed to, say, reading trade-paper
articles as if they were tea leaves), but I think interviews about
Walt, in particular, have indisputable value. To learn why, you
can read my foreword by clicking here.
February 16, 2005:
THE HORROR, THE HORROR: Today's Wall Street Journal includes
a terrifying story about the "extreme makeover" planned
for the classic Warner Bros. characters. Excerpts:
"Hoping to breathe new life into its animated Looney Tunes
franchise and prop up the WB television network's slumping Kids'
WB line-up, Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. is planning to launch
a new cartoon series this fall based on 're-imagined' versions of
Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Tasmanian Devil, Lola Bunny, Road Runner
and Wile E. Coyote.
Bros. has created angular, slightly menacing-looking versions of
the classic Looney Tunes characters for its new series, dubbed 'Loonatics'
and set in the year 2772. Names for the new characters haven't been
finalized, but they are likely to be derived from the originals:
Buzz Bunny, for example. Each new character retains personality
quirks of the original. The new Bugs, for example, will be the natural
leader of the Loonatics' spaceship; the new Daffy will remain confident
that he is the one who should be in charge. ...
"'The new series will have the same classic wit and wisdom,
but we have to do it more in line with what kids are talking about
today,'says Sander Schwartz, president of Warner Bros. Animation.
The plots are action-oriented, filled with chases and fights. Each
character possesses a special crime-fighting power.
"Sounds familiar? The format echoes a successful show Warner
Bros. launched in 2003 on its WB network and Cartoon Network called
'Teen Titans,'about five teenage superheroes. The series, featuring
dark, futuristic characters, based on such DC Comics personalities
as Robin the Boy Wonder, quickly became a hit. It ranked No. 26
among kids programs for the fourth quarter last year. ...
"Given Warner's mixed track record over the past two decades
with the Looney Tunes franchise, advertisers may be wary. Steven
Spielberg sparked things up in the early 1990s with 'Tiny Toons,'
a series in which new characters interacted with the originals.
But a 2002 effort, 'Baby Looney Tunes,'has been a dud for the Cartoon
Network, where it ended the fourth quarter ranked No. 104 among
It isn't just advertisers who will be wary.