Last week I went to the Tim Burton exhibition at ACMI here in Melbourne. I haven’t yet written about this experience as since then I have caught quite a bad case of football fever and have had a hard time concentrating on anything other than Saturday’s big game between Collingwood and St Kilda.
I found the exhibition to be quite interesting as it focussed mainly on Burton’s early work when he was at Disney and the stuff that inspired him.
There was lots of stuff from Nightmare Before Christmas and his stop motion animated movies, but very little from Batman or Batman Returns or any of his popular movies.
I like Tim Burton and there are some movies of his that I enjoy but I also think that he is massively overrated. I think that a lot of times when he is doing adaptations of other people’s work he takes creative freedoms a bit too far. An example of this I think is on the design of the Penguin character from Batman Returns. Nowhere in the Penguin’s 40 years (until then) of comic book history did he ever have flippers or live in the sewers. Despite Burton being a self-confessed comic book geek he must have known that he would piss off the Batman fanboys by doing this.
Then there are his versoins of Charlie & the Chocoltae Factory and Alice In Wonderland. My problem with these films is that they take too many liberties with technology and CGI and look too freakishly unrealistic to work. Seeing Helena Bonham Carter‘s massive head bobble around just freaks me out and screams of uncanny valley.
Image via Wikipedia
Directed by Tim Burton
Produced by Rick Heinrichs
Written by Tim Burton
Narrated by Vincent Price
Music by Ken Hilton
Cinematography Victor Abdalov
Studio Walt Disney Productions
Distributed by Touchstone Home Video
Buena Vista Distribution
Release date UK 1982
Running time 5 minutes 52 seconds
I saw Vincent last week as a part of the Tim Burton exhibition that is currently on at ACMI in Federation Square, Melbourne. (I also have it on DVD as an extra on The Nightmare Before Christmas) It’s a great six-minute stop motion animated film that shows where Burton would be headed in his career. It features great narration from Vincent Price and the animation is very good.
Directed by Henry Selick
Produced by Claire Jennings
Written by Henry Selick (Screenplay)
Neil Gaiman (Novel)
Starring Dakota Fanning
Robert Bailey Jr.
Music by Bruno Coulais & They Might Be Giants
Cinematography Pete Kozachik
Editing by Christopher Murrie
Distributed by Focus Features & Universal Pictures International
Release date February 6, 2009
Running time 100 minutes
Country United States
I love stop motion animation. I think that it is fascinating to think that the animators are able to painstakingly pose and film lifeless puppets so that on film the look like they are real living things. It is really quite amazing and I think that I appreciate this form of animation even more than the traditional ink and cell form that was the dominant form of animation until a decade ago. (I hope that all makes sense!) 2009 saw a bit of a renaissance for stop motion animation with both Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox and this movie, Coraline, being nominated for the Academy Award for best animated film. I haven’t yet had the opportunity to see Mr. Fox, but I have seen Coraline and think that it is very good.
The film is at times a little dark and really young kids may find it a little scary. I suppose that this perhaps to be expected as it is directed by Henry Selick, who previously directed Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas and James And The Giant Peach for Disney and is based on a book by Neil Gaiman.
The plot involves Coraline, whose parents are too wrapped up in their own lives to take much notice of her. They’ve just moved to a new house where Coraline discovers a secret door to an alternate reality and her other family. This new family are just like her own but perfect, except for their button eyes. They cater to Coralline’s every whim, especially her Other Mother but things start change after Coraline wishes that she could stay with her other family forever. Upon hearing this the Other Mother states that if Coraline really wants to stay she should become just like them and allow her to sew buttons onto Coraline’s eyes. Naturally the thought of this revolts Coraline who then discovers that the Other Mother is really a monster.
The film is particularly creepy in parts, especially the character of the ‘other Wybie’, the other world’s doppelgänger of Coralline’s friend. Unlike the real Wybie the other one has had his lips sewn together so that he doesn’t speak. It is in my mind really amazing how this lifeless puppet can express so much emotion without speaking a single word. He does look as though his soul has been tortured whenever he’s on screen and expresses such a great mix of defiance and defeat that it is a great credit to the director and the puppet makers. It is here that it is easy to forget that this is a stop motion film and has not created using computer generated graphics. I can only imagine how painstaking the film-making process must have been to make the film this good.
There is but one criticism that I can level at the film and that is that the animation is not as smooth in some places as it should be. In a few scenes, mostly at the beginning of the film, the animation looks a little jerky, as if there are additional frames added to the film. I guess this was done to enhance the 3D version of the film but as I was watching the 2D version it just made the film a little jerky in places.
The DVD contains both the 2D and 3D version of the film and comes with those funky red/blue glasses that people in the 1950s used to use when watching 3D films, not the more modern Roy Orbison glasses that are used today. I still think that 3D is a gimmick and will die out unless some poindexter can invent a way to watch these films without the silly, uncomfortable glasses. It also doesn’t help when today’s cutting edge 3D filmmakers use cheap tricks like having objects fly at the camera for no reason at all just because it is a 3D film. This sort of gimmick becomes boring after a while and is not so cutting edge, as the same thing used to be done in the 50s (House Of Wax’s scene with the spruiker batting the ball at the camera!!!). Anyway the rumour is that 3D is just a fad designed to get cinemas to update their projection equipment to digital and that in a few years it will go the same way as the first 3D era in the 1950s. I still laugh at the thought of people buying 3D TVs and hearing Gerry Harvey say that they are the way of the future. Sorry but I cannot really see people sitting around watching the TV with those ridiculous glasses on. 3D TVs will be just like those internet refrigerators that people like Gerry Harvey were predicting that we’d all have a decade ago.
After that rant all I can say is that Coraline is a very good film and was worthy of its Academy Award nomination. It is a little scary in parts but it is very well made and enjoyable.