Tag Archives: Stop motion

The Valley Of Gwangi

Directed by Jim O’Connolly
Produced by Charles H. Schneer & Ray Harryhausen
Starring James Franciscus
Gila Golan
Richard Carlson
Laurence Naismith
Freda Jackson
Gustavo Rojo
Music by Jerome Moross
Cinematography Erwin Hillier
Editing by Henry Richardson & Selwyn Petterson
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release date September 3, 1969
Running time 96 minutes
Country United States
Language English

You would think that any movie that combines cowboys with dinosaurs would be the best film ever made, but that is not the case with Valley Of Gwangi. This is not to say that it is a bad movie, it just doesn’t live up to the potential of the premise of the film. It takes 45 minutes until Gwangi, an Allosaurus (not a T-rex), appears.

Despite all this the film is still pretty good. It is impossible to dislike anything that features the stop-motion magic of Ray Harryhausen, although he is not at the top of his game here. Some of the animation is a bit jerky and not as smooth as it should be, for example with the flight of the Pteradactyl or in the scenes where Gwangi battles the elephant. Despite this the film is still enjoyable.

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Tim Burton

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.


Vincent

The Nightmare Before Christmas

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
Country USA
Language English

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.


First Men In The Moon

Directed by Nathan H. Juran
Produced by Charles H. Schneer
Written by Nigel Kneale (screenplay)
H.G. Wells (story)
Starring Lionel Jeffries
Edward Judd
Martha Hyer
Music by Laurie Johnson
Cinematography Wilkie Cooper
Editing by Maurice Rootes
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date November 20, 1964
Running time 103 mins
Country United Kingdom
Language English

First Men In The Moon is a 1864 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ novel featuring the great stop motion animation of Ray Harryhausen. It is an exciting film, even though at times Lionel Jeffries overacts.

This is typical 1950s/60s sci-fi stuff, with the ending sort of pinched from War Of The Worlds. Harryhausen’s monsters are perhaps not as threatening as in the Sinbad movies or Jason and the Argonauts, with the only real threat being the brief scene with a giant caterpillar-like moon cow. The other creatures created by Harryhausen are the insect like moon people called the Selenites.

The film is interesting and entertaining and a faithful adaptation of H.G. Wells’ work, but it is a change of pace from Ray Harryhausen’s usual film making magic.


Fantastic Mr. Fox

Directed by Wes Anderson
Produced by Wes Anderson, Scott Rudin, Allison Abbate &
Steven M. Rales
Written by Wes Anderson & Noah Baumbach (screenplay)
Roald Dahl (book)
Starring George Clooney
Meryl Streep
Jason Schwartzman
Bill Murray
Michael Gambon
Jarvis Cocker
Owen Wilson
Willem Dafoe
Helen McCrory
Music by Alexandre Desplat
Cinematography Tristan Oliver
Editing by Andrew Weisblum
Studio 20th Century Fox Animation
Indian Paintbrush
Regency Enterprises
American Empirical Pictures
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release date November 25, 2009
Running time 87 minutes
Country United States
United Kingdom
Language English

It is difficult to watch any film, let alone an animated film, after just seeing a movie as brilliant as Toy Story 3, but as I am so fascinated in stop motion animation and because I have wanted to see this film for quite a while, so I decided to watch Fantastic Mr. Fox.

The film is OK and the stop motion animation is excellent, but it cannot compare to the emotion of the Pixar Toy Story 3. The film is an Americanized version of Road Dahl’s book, which is not as bad as it sounds as there are still some very British elements in the movie. All I can say is that it is a good but not great film.


The Time Machine

Directed by George Pál
Produced by George Pál
Written by David Duncan
H. G. Wells (novel)
Starring
Rod Taylor
Alan Young
Yvette Mimieux
Sebastian Cabot
Whit Bissell
Music by Russell Garcia
Editing by George Tomasini
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date 17 August 1960
Running time 103 minutes
Country United Kingdom
Language English

The Time Machine is a sci-fi film made in 1960 by George Pal and stars Robert Taylor. It roughly follows the plot of H.G. Wells’ novel from the late 19th century in which an inventor creates a time machine and goes into the future to discover that mankind has torn itself apart through war. It does of course deviate away from the novel as it features scenes of World War I, World War II and the possibility of nuclear annihilation, things that Wells could not have possibly predicted.

When Taylor’s character H. George Wells goes into the future (1966 to be exact) and discovers that the world has been destroyed in a nuclear holocaust, he then decides to go thousands of years into the future to see i anything could have survived this destruction. He discovers that the human race has split into two species, the surface dwelling Eloi who are beautiful and seemingly carefree and ignorant, and the underground Morlocks, who are ugly and beastly and cruel. The Eloi have everything that they need provided to them by the Morlocks, who breed them like cattle only to cannibalise on them once they reach an age of maturity.

George ends up saving the Eloi and destroying the Morlocks and in doing so falls in love with the beautiful Eloi girl Weena. He then goes back to his own time where he relates his tale but is not believed by his friends. Because of this he returns to the future at the conclusion of the film.

The film is a typical 1960s type sci-fi film, of which their were hundreds. It is a very good fantsy film but the special effects are not all that special by 21st century standards. The use of stop motion animation and time-lapse photography is very quant when compared to today’s CGI but it was state of the art for its time. All in all the film is quite enjoyable as there has been a lot of thought put into the plot and the feelings of Taylor’s character. While the acting is a bit over the top, which was standard for 1950s and 60s sci-fi I still liked the movie.

By the way you may recognise Alan Young who plays Wells’ friend Filby. You may even recognise the Scottish accent he uses throughout the film. At around the same time that the Time Machine was released he was appearing in the first season of TV’s Mr. Ed as Wilbur Post. Since the 1980s he has lent his voice and Scottish accent to Uncle Scrooge McDuck for Disney.


Coraline

Directed by Henry Selick
Produced by Claire Jennings
Written by Henry Selick (Screenplay)
Neil Gaiman (Novel)
Starring Dakota Fanning
Teri Hatcher
Jennifer Saunders
Dawn French
Keith David
John Hodgman
Robert Bailey Jr.
Ian McShane
Music by Bruno Coulais & They Might Be Giants
Cinematography Pete Kozachik
Editing by Christopher Murrie
Studio Laika
Distributed by Focus Features & Universal Pictures International
Release date February 6, 2009
Running time 100 minutes
Country United States
Language English

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.