Saturday, January 20, 2007

Reminding myself how much I suck... a.k.a. Pixar Night

Subject: Cinema
Pixar's "Cars" showed up from Netflix this weekend, so I decided to make a night of it. A jealousy-laden, green-with-envy sort of night.

I remember hearing a few well-publicized rumors that "Cars" was totally falling apart, and John Lasseter had to practically scrap it and start over. And I tell ya, I was really dubious about the whole idea of anthropomorphic cars, and thought that even John Lasseter couldn't pull this one off.

Mr. Lasseter, as you may or may not know, is now the head of all Disney animation, since Pixar manged to buy Disney for -$300 billion trillion -- or whatever it was Disney actually had to shell out in the deal. Watch Disney closely for a massive resurgance of the sort of thing that made it famous in the first place.

He got there for a reason.

Mind you, "Cars" isn't exactly "Snow White" or nothin'. But I'll be damned if he couldn't get his team to pull off making cars look like they were alive! As I've admitted in the past, I'm totally a technique whore, and what he did to make those cars into characters totally put a smile on my face. The physics of it, and the attention to the little details; those were so thoughtfully and meticulously carried through in every frame.

But I was most impressed with the "eyes".

Like I've said before, the eyes are key. And if you look really closely at the eyes, they're practically these two static orbs on the windshield on a layer behind the "lids". But watch their movements. And their light and sparkle. And how the "eyelids" actually work. It's so simple, but it works so dang well! Added to the aforementioned physics of the "body language", and suddenly you find yourself suspending disbelief and paying attention to these phony digital absurd props as actual living characters. Magic.

The story overall is rather simplistic and a might bit cheesy and predictable, of course. Which is a shame. But there's plenty of little things that keep it fun to watch, so I'm inclined to forgive those sins. With all the other mass-produced computer animation to come out of late, and how much it struggles to mimic having any sort of soul, it's heartening to see that it's definitely possible to have soul in such a work. At least if you throw enough top-notch talent at it, I suppose.

To top off the evening, I rewatched "The Incredibles" as well. I've gushed about it on two previous occasions, but I don't feel like scouring the archives for them -- all I remember is that they were almost exactly one year apart, and said almost exactly the same thing. Like how I actually met John Lasseter back in the day, and how I talked with a Pixar recruiter and submitted my lame, lame, totally lame demo reel, only to never hear from them again.

And I guess I don't really have anything to add to that. Whenever I watch this show though, by the time the end credits roll around, I find myself misting up at just how much I think this movie nails every single note. Brad Bird and the whole team do such a tremendous job visualizing details the exact way they need to be -- you just know it deep inside that it's perfect. That is has to look like that, move like that, have a blaring horn-section soundtrack like that, for each and every scene and shot. It's tremendous. It's entertaining.

And I'm not worthy.

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