Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Holiday (Double Feature) Review

A Holiday (Double Feature) Review
By Taylor Castro
With Christmas just around the corner, here's my double feature review of two children's animated holiday classics, "The Snowman" and "Mickey's Christmas Carol." First up is the 1982 film, "The Snowman", which was based on the children's book of the same name by Raymond Briggs. Interestingly, this film has no dialogue with the exception of the opening narration, and the lyrics to the song "Walking in the Air."
"The Snowman"
One Christmas Eve many years ago, a young boy was surprised when a snowman he made earlier that day magically comes to life. After playing around inside the boy's house, the Snowman and the boy fly to the North Pole to visit Santa Claus and other living snowmen. There was some joyful dancing and silliness. It was one Christmas night the young boy would remember for the rest of his life.
When I first saw the film as a kid, I was impressed by the film's animation style. It has that moving Illustration like feel, since it looked like they used colored pencils or pastels on each of the animation cells. The illustrations and movement convey a lot of emotion since there's no talking. The vibe is gentle, sweet, and whimsical. I give the film, four out of four stars.

"Mickey's Christmas Carol"
We fast forward to the following year of 1983: the 1977 Disney animated classic, "The Rescuers" was re-released along with the new Mickey Mouse cartoon, "Mickey's Christmas Carol." The film marked Mickey's return to the big screen since his last cartoon in 1953. It marked the movie debut of the late Wayne Allwine who provided the voice of Mickey Mouse.
The first time he did Mickey was for the short lived 1977 television version of the Mickey Mouse Club, which lasted for only one season. Allwine continued to do the voice of the character until his death on May 19, 2009 at the age of 62. The film also marked the last time that Clarence Nash provided the voice of Donald Duck. He passed away nearly two years later on February 20, 1985, at the age of 80. The voice  of Donald Duck was then handed over to Disney animator, Tony Anselmo.
If you're familiar with the original Charles Dickens story, it needs no introduction. This film has classic Disney characters playing the Dickens characters. For example, Mickey plays Bob Cratchit, and Scrooge McDuck plays Ebenezer Scrooge.
The animation style was the standard Disney 2-D of the time. The setting was true to the era of the original publication of the book in 1843, and added to the story. Even after nearly 30 years, the film holds up, and is one of those films you'll want to see during the holiday season. I give the film four out of four stars.
Next month will be my 24th Birthday, I will review one of my all time favorite movies, the Disney version of "The Little Mermaid."

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Review

Batman: Mask of the Phantasm Review
By Taylor Castro

I decided to check out a TV showing of the animated movie, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm on the Hub Channel. I had seen parts of the movie when it aired on Cartoon Network back in the late 1990’s and on YouTube in recent years. So I finally got a chance to see it in its entirety.

Before I can discuss the film’s storyline, let’s talk about the making of the film. With the success of the Batman Animated Series, a movie version of the show would soon be made. According to the website IMDb, it was originally planned as a direct to video movie, but Warner Bros. decided to upgrade the movie to a theatrical release late in production. As a result, the movie’s aspect ratio had to be reformatted to widescreen. Many of the actors who worked on the Batman animated series reprized their roles for the film version. The film was released during the 1993 Christmas season, but it wasn’t a big hit as the studio had hoped for, but it was a hit with critics. In fact some of them said that the film was even better than the two Tim Burton Batman movies released before this film.

Here’s a summary about the movie. A new anti-hero named the Phantasm has arrived in Gotham City to take out a group of gangsters one by one. In the process, Batman is mistaken for the murders because of the similarities to the Phantasm’s costume. Now he must go into hiding from the Gotham Police while figuring out the mysterious killer’s motive. To make matters worse, one of the remaining crime bosses hires the Joker to take out Batman and soon discovers who the Phantasm really is. While that is going on a woman from Bruce Wayne’s past returns into his life and decides if he should retire Batman once and for all.

About half of the film is told in flashback which explored the relationship between Bruce Wayne and Andrea Beaumont, as well as Bruce’s first attempt of being a crime fighter before coming with the idea for Batman. After a while of being together, Bruce asked Andrea’s hand in marriage in which she says yes, but later rejects him due to personal reasons. This wave of bitterness finally pushed Bruce into becoming Batman.

Many of the voice actors from the Animated Series like Kevin Conroy and Efren Zimbalist Jr. reprise their roles for the film version. The voice acting here is great and as well the film’s score by the late Shirley Walker. If you’re a fan of the Batman Animated Series, I recommend checking this film out. I give the film ***1/2 out of ****. With the holidays upon us, next time I’ll do a double feature review. However these will be two animated shorts instead of a feature film. First up will be “The Snowman” and “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.”

Brodie Rush, Mixed Media Artist in KC

We here at MAPA wanted to thank all the local animators and new friends who joined us for Brodioke Night by taking a little deeper look at our host, Brodie Rush.  This mixed-media artist keeps us wowed on a regular mix of After Effects, video sequences manufactured in his basement studio set and amazing alternative rock rhythms/vocals.  Brodie works on a variety of different projects, from Bubbles & Blankets to his animated rock video Space.

Here's more on the man, the myth, the mystery...

MAPA: What is 'Bubbles and Blankets'?

BRODIE: Bubbles & Blankets is an outlet of energy spent to make "comedy" out of my After Effects learning curve.  I needed some way to have tasks for myself to accomplish and a way to get better at the craft without using my laughable skills on more serious projects and looking like a fool.

MAPA : Briefly explain Be/Non and how you use mixed media to create your art.

BRODIE: Be/Non is my band.  We have been together since 1994.  Recordings and audio training seemed like a perfect transition into video work.  Finally the video medium can be attained at home.  Animations have become my recent passion.

MAPA: Tell us about your musical influences and what in your life led you to this calling?

BRODIE: My musical influences are mainly classic rock.  I enjoy all kinds and types of music and they all make it into my music in some way or another.

My mother used to cater concerts for 13 years here in KC when I was growing up.  I was always backstage.  My parents were and still are big concert goers.  They love music.  I think that is what led me to this calling.  Although after trying to "make-it" for years... I have recently decided
that I will still play music and see where it takes me but, creating visual arts and scoring to that, I feel, is the fast track to making a name for myself. 

MAPA: Who is your work aimed at?

BRODIE: All persons throughout the world.  Those with an flair for the arts and an open mind.
I'm not overly concerned to satisfy the mainstream American public at large with my
work with Be/Non or Bubbles,  although I do make animations for commercial work. 
A man's got to be paid right?  Hahaha...

MAPA: Is there anything specific you want to say to your viewers?

BRODIE: Be patient, have an open heart and mind.  I hope you will laugh or get some kind of emotion from it.  Positive or negative, it's still an emotion.  I'm kind of a wacky person, so, if you're wacky too, I just might appeal to you.

Thanks so much Brodie for the update.  We'll check in with you again soon.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Any great projects brewing?

MAPA wants to keep Kansas City & Midwest animators and FX artists working! Maybe you can help.

Know of any animation projects going on in the area? Drop MAPA a line at

Keep on Keyframing!

Dylan Dietz
(816) 267-0719

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Tonight's the Night MAPA Returns to Trinity Animation

Hey MAP - Animaniacs!

Come celebrate a great 2012 with MAPA and Trinity Animation.

We will meet tonight at:

Thursday, December 6
6:30 P.M.

672 SE Bayberry Ln  Suite 101
Lee's Summit, MO 64063

The talented crew in Lee's Summit has invited us to come back and see what's brewing in local animation!

Just some of the things we'll see:

1. KC's biggest animation production studio and one of the web's biggest 3D software dealers
2. sneak preview of an Archer season 4 episode in its entirety
3. Demo elements of how Trinity built sets for that episode in 3DS Max with vray
4. 3DS Max "how to model cars" demo elements of Corvette C7  and 67 CRC animations
5. The new Dell T5600 that has 32 cores (dual 8 core system with hyperthreading)

Not familiar with Trinity?

They specialize in photorealistic 3D architectural rendering, 3D animation, 3D industrial design and 3D visualization… and they do it picture perfectly.  They also produce the backgrounds for the hit T.V. series Archer.

“Some call it virtual photography or photo-simulations. We call it art.”

 So come out and see what Trinity is working on these days!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Trinity Animation: Land of 400,000 Hits.. and growing

On October 20, MAPA Director Dylan Dietz attended a special reception at the home of Trinity Animation President Jim Lammers.  The party was a public celebration of Trinity’s animation depicting the studio's visualization of a proposed C7 Corvette design for 2014.  The animation went viral on YouTube, exceeding 400,000 hits in August.

This all began in November of 2011, after Jalopnik and other sites leaked details of the design, which had previously been kept secret.  Trinity designed their animation based on what they thought the car would look like, employing the company’s trademark realism.

We caught up with Lammers who shared a few words on the success with MAPA.

MAPA: What does this amazing social media response mean for Trinity Animation?

LAMMERS: For starters we are actually animating a car project now, in fact a Corvette related car project. It's our first commercial car work and we're really glad to work on it. This is a company that makes retro bodies and puts them on modern cars, so people can have classic looks without giving up any modern safety or performance.

MAPA: What can you tell us about the challenges that went into designing your Corvette spot?

LAMMERS: The challenges were particularly unique compared to our usual work because the target was unknown. So we weren't modeling something we could see, we were trying to build something from little glimpses and hints. It was a real challenge and a lot of the time it seemed like we were in the mode of a car designer ourselves. That's a big part of why it took so long; there was no way to know if or when we had it "right."

MAPA: We heard that you had some criticism. What was that about? 

LAMMERS: YouTube criticism is unhelpful, people there seem to delight in simply saying silly things, or one-upping each other in vulgarity. I never read it. But we did get some thoughtful and constructive thoughts on the site, which was fun.

I think our car is a good first impression of what it might look like and the ONLY 3D reveal of the car to date.

It's easy to make one drawing of one angle, like car magazines do. But it's much more rewarding for the public to see the car moving and to see it from all angles! I am fairly certain the final GM design will be better and sleeker but we did the best to combine Jalopnik's predictions with our own best guesses to make something close enough to be interesting.

MAPA: What's going down with Archer?  You shared a sneak peek at the party but what can you share with Trinity fans?

LAMMERS: We are halfway through season 4 production and we've had a chance to preview a few of the early episodes. Adam Reed continues to shock, delight and entertain with his scripts. It seems like he has huge amounts of new places to take this cast and this show. I don't know how he can keep the funny turned up to 11 show after show but he does!

MAPA: Tell us about your musical contributions to your work.

Jim Lammers on the Gibson

LAMMERS: I really liked being able to put my own music on the Corvette video and having hundreds of thousands of people hear my work. I wrote something I thought would make good anticipatory "film score" like music, and then played guitar, cello, drums, bass and keyboards to put all those parts together. I only did the cello on the opening jaws-like segment as the sun shines into the opening doors of the warehouse. But the other parts I played straight through. I wish I had time to have done it in a proper studio for better fidelity (particularly with the drums) but I wanted to get the video done and out before it was old news!

MAPA:  Thanks Jim for your responses and all your warm hospitality.

If you want to go behind the scenes of Trinity’s C7 concept animation with High Res Wallpaper Images of this car, click here.