Peanuts specials are plentiful - almost four dozen of them, in fact. Happiness Is A Warm Blanket, Charlie Brown is notable in that it's the first production to be made since Bill Melendez died in 2008. Melendez was the guiding light of Peanuts specials since A Charlie Brown Christmas (if you listen carefully to Charlie Brown's dialogue, you can hear how his line readings echo Melendez's Mexican accent). Amazon will have it for sale next week.
The script, as always, is based on Charles M. Shulz's original strips, particularly the storyline of Linus losing his beloved blanket, which appeared in the 1960s. (Colour me biased, but prime time for Peanuts.)
Brad Bird's The Incredibles is not only one of my favourite animated movies, it's among my favourite, period. I love the characters, the story, the breezy recreation of silver-age comicdom, the in-jokes, the performances (Sarah Vowell's Violet, Holly Hunter's Elastigirl/Helen and particularly Brad Bird's Edna Mode) and especially the fantastic score by Michael Giacchino. It's a film we watch together at least once a year.
The DVD set itself was good, with extras that included Easter eggs galore, including a hilarious recreation of the plot done with sock puppets. Now there's news of a new edition for Blu-Ray, with new features, set to come out in April.
The catch: we don't yet have a Blu-Ray machine. I've put off the decision for, well, ages. We have, after all, managed. This might be the tipping point.
This was posted a year ago this week; with all of the snow we've had in St. John's (and I'm sure elsewhere) lately, maybe you'll get a kick out of it again, or for the first time if you haven't seen it. Click here to see the whole Simon's Cat series.
This has been such a hit on the web for the last few months, and is a great example of how a career disaster doesn't mean the death of a career. Jenny Slate got hired by Saturday Night Live, and then got dropped by Saturday Night Live after one season that was notably largely for her accidentally dropping an F-bomb on her debut episode.
Now she has a whole new following because of the Marcel videos she makes with her partner. A book deal is the works. Probably more.
You don't have to have stacks of servers to make great animation, or clay, or an exquisite way with a pen. The Thomas Beale Cipher is a short film made with a low-tech approach: papercuts. It's brilliant. Read more about it here.
Simon's Cat is a favourite feature for my sister, my wife, me, and countless thousands of others who flock to the YouTube page of a different kind animated puddy-tat. Here's this year's Christmas offering.
I caught the pinkness in this ad for LG's very, very thin TVs, before I caught the Pink Panther itself. Clever. It's part of a series that also had nods to Michael Jackson (the other thin white - sort of - duke) and Avatar; you can see the lot here.
When I was a kid, cartoons were best watched on Saturday mornings. That is, that’s when you could most easily find them in abundance. Nowadays, there are whole networks devoted to ‘toons, and the web is rife with animation. In other words, you could easily spend every waking minute watching one kind of animation or another.
The range of quality for online animation is startling. This week’s column is devoted to some of the best … and to some other stuff, too.
won the Oscar on Sunday night for best animated short. It runs just 16
minutes long, and many of its stars – hundreds of them, actually – are
world-famous. They’re not people, though; they’re logos. Nonetheless,
they’re characters in this remarkable film, with attributes that are,
well, like people. I wonder how many media literacy courses will take
advantage of this clever film.
Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty While Logorama got the big prize in L.A., I actually liked this Irish short even more. Granny O’Grimm looks just like your stereotypical sweet-hearted granny … until she starts talking, that is, and you realize her bedtime story is infected with a lifetime of repressed anger. Don’t get the wrong idea: this is hilarious, and (to use a local frame of reference) like something Codco might have cooked up. It looks great, too. The best news on the site: the makers are planning a series. How They Donut One of the other nominees in the best animated short category featured a cheese-loving Englishman and his silent, remarkably efficient dog. Wallace & Gromit have had Oscar love before – three times, in fact – so perhaps it was someone else’s turn. I haven’t seen the new short, A Matter of Loaf and Death, yet, but I had a good laugh watching this, a making-of special … with a joke of a title to match. [Note: Since this column was published, the video for this item has been removed.] Runaway More and more, I love the NFB site, which offers crisp, high-quality uploads of shorts and full-length films. Runaway is the third film by animator Cordell Barker, and it’s a hoot, what with a cast of characters about a train gone wild, accompanied by a pulsing, rhythmic score … but oblivious to the dangers that are literally around the bend. Barker made The Cat Came Back, a Canadian favourite, in 1988; you can watch that online, too, if you poke around for it.
Hungry!! Don’t have the time today to commit to most animated shorts, even those running just seven or eight minutes? Hungry!! will do the trick, since you can see the whole thing (girl meets muffin, muffin gets revenge) while you’re dialing a number and waiting for someone to pick up.
RenderMan RenderMan is a propriety system that Pixar uses to make movies like Up, Wall*E and more; you can actually buy a copy for yourself, if you’ve got the cash. Movie fans, though, will dive right into the rich material on this site, which explains fully how those amazing details in Pixar movies come to be. Remember the realistic food in Ratatouille’s kitchen sequences, for instance? You’ll learn how the artists made the grapes and steaks look good enough to eat, and then some.
Elsewhere this week
Whiteout George Murray is a St. John’s writer, and the author of Bookninja, a book-focused blog that has a worldwide following. He’s also a renowned poet. You can read one of his poems, Whiteout, here in the prestigious literary journal Granta, and listen to Murray read it, too.
BoardTracker Google may be the default choice for looking stuff up on the internet, but always remember that even Google has its limits, and that other tools can be very useful for finding particular things. BoardTracker specializes in following that old-fashioned corner of the web, the message boards. They may have flourished even before the boy-band era, but they’re still vital.
John Gushue is a writer in St. John's, and works with CBC News. John is on Twitter right here.
It sat on the PVR for a while before I got to see it (the boy's enthusiasm prodded me on), but last month's Simpsons episode on curling, Boy Meets Curl, was not only funny, but had some decent curling jokes in it, too. (That said, I don't curl. The curlers may feel differently.) The setup was that Homer and Marge make it to Vancouver for the Olympics, in a supposedly mixed-curling category.
It looks like Americans, though, weren't much in on the joke. The episode ranks among the least-watched Simpsons episodes ever ... largely because it aired as counterprogramming to the real Olympics itself.
Last Friday, I recorded the debut episode of HBO's Ricky Gervais Show, and we caught it later on. It's fun, and it's strange; if you haven't heard, they've taken old podcasts that Gervais made over the years with his long-time collaborator Stephen Merchant and their comic foil, Karl Pilkington. The two-dimensional, jaunty animation style is like something right out of the Sixties (think the Jetsons or Flintstones), except that what you see is most definitely not for the kids.
I've heard many of the original podcast episodes (the in-the-flesh chaps are above), and remembered some of the inane exchange between Pilkington and the others over everything from technology to human reproduction. Seeing the banter, including Pilkington's utterly daft ideas, come to life is something else.
Dot Dot Dot is Morse code for the letter 'S,' the full message Guglielmo Marconi claimed to have received atop Signal Hill in St. John's in 1901. It ushered in the age of telecommunications. My maternal grandfather worked as a telegraph operator for Canadian Marconi on Signal Hill for many years.
As well, I have a habit of overusing the ellipsis when I write ... as frequent readers might notice.