Although he wrote
them in 1859, Charles Dickens might have been thinking of animation in 2013 when
he penned the celebrated lines, “It was
the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was
the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of
incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was
the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us,
we had nothing before us…”
Looking over a year that seemed to seesaw between Light and Darkness, I’d
like to present some awards for the best and worst of 2013, prizes I’m naming
after the ultimate animation APM, Mikiko “Kuromi” Oguro.
AGE OF WISDOM DEPARTMENT
But Can He Storyboard?
Obama’s visit to DreamWorks – a first for an animation studio, although
animators have visited the White House. Congratulations to Jeffrey Katzenberg,
Dean DeBlois and the rest of the artists.
And All That Jazz:
on the Slope, the new jazz-themed series by Shinichiro Watanabe, the
creator of Cowboy Bebop and Samurai Champloo: It was a rare treat to
wish a series ran longer, instead of dreading another unnecessary sequel.
“I’m Still Here” (1)
short Get a Horse: Nobody’s had so
much fun with Mickey Mouse in decades.
“I’m Still Here” (2)
Blinn at CTN in a friendly discussion with Tad Gielow: An all-too-rare
encounter with one of the giants of CG.
Profile in Courage:
Catmull for asserting that making a quality film is more important than meeting
a studio schedule.
Hands Across the Sea:
Wolf Children, Colorful, Ernest and
Celestine and Letter to Momo
offered welcome proof that animation can be truly individual in its
storytelling and subject matter.
You’re Not Getting Older, You’re
Getting Better (1):
The Tyrus Wong exhibit at the Walt Disney Family Museum, highlighting the work
of an artist who’s as modest as he is talented.
You’re Not Getting Older, You’re
Getting Better (2):
Williams wowing animators and fans alike in two appearances at the Motion
to Olive Films for the first two discs of their Essential Betty Boop collection – cartoons animation fans have been
awaiting for years on DVD. Now if only someone would do a comparable collection
of the silent Felix the Cat shorts…
Less Really Is More:
Simon Tofield of Simon’s Cat for reminding us that animation
doesn’t need elaborate rendering or 3D to be effective. His films are minimal,
but beautifully timed and observed – and hilarious.
Miyazaki’s rapturously beautiful The Wind
Rises showed why he’s the most admired and influential figure working in animation
WINTER OF DESPAIR DEPARTMENT
All the Way to the Bank:
four top animated features films (Despicable
Me 2, The Croods, Monsters University and Frozen) earned over $1 billion at the domestic box office — more
than 10% of the year’s total. Why doesn’t that success translate into more
respect from the Academy and other groups in their major award categories?
Hollywood Foreign Press Association nominated The Wind Rises for Best Foreign Language Film. But their nominees
for Animated Feature were, not coincidentally, the three biggest box office
successes of the year: Despicable Me 2,
The Croods and Frozen, suggesting money is the only
criterion for respect.
Deja vu all over again (1):
with a Chance of Meatballs 2, meteorologist Anna Faris befriends a cheeseburger-monster
by reaching out to touch its muzzle, just as Hiccup did to Toothless in How to Train Your Dragon. By placing the
camera behind Anna (and the audience) directors Cody Camron and Kris Pearn kept
the viewer from experiencing the key moment of contact—and the magic.
Deja vu all over again (2):
Me 2, Gru remembered his childhood rejection by a little girl – exactly the
way Anton Ego recalled being comforted by his mother’s cooking in Ratatouille, but without the emotional
Deja vu all over again (3):
Poomba and Timon, a warthog and
a meerkat, found the exhausted Simba lying on the cracked mud of a dry lakebed
in The Lion King; Mama V and Bradley,
a wildebeest and an ostrich, found Khumba lying on the cracked mud of a dry
lakebed in Khumba. So much of Khumba was lifted from Lion King and the Madagascar films, I’m surprised there weren’t lawsuits.
Interchangeable Parts Department:
Although different in physical
appearance, the heroes of Turbo, Planes,
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, Free
Birds and Walking with Dinosaurs are
essentially the same character. Do we need another smart misfit who seems to
lose, then comes from behind to win the day and the girl? Someone who Doesn’t
Let Others Define Him? Or another spunky, slightly klutzy heroine, for that
Say It Ain’t So!
Miyazaki’s decision to retire. Animators and fans the world over are praying he
changes his mind.
Cart Before the Horse Department:
The makers of Free Birds and The Legend of Serila for trying too hard to start a
franchise – instead of making a film good enough to warrant a sequel.
The Animation as Gimmick Award:
Is the Man Who Is Tall Happy, Michael
Gondry’s worshipful tribute to Noam Chomsky, was a disjointed, semi-coherent paean
with animation that looked like a poor student work. With all the resources at
his disposal, why not make a coherent documentary?
Despicable Me’s Frito Bandito-style
Mexican villain – It’s 2013, not 1953.
Singin’ the Blue:
not easy to erase Neil Patrick Harris’ charisma or Paris’ appeal, but the
makers of Smurfs 2 managed.
Gone Too Soon:
energetic and resolute Diane Disney Miller, who died on November 19. Although
she leaves a legacy that includes the Walt Disney Concert Hall and the Walt
Disney Family Museum, her friends expected to enjoy her company for at least
Finally, to this
writer for being curmudgeonly above and beyond the call of duty at times.