If any of you are interested in learning more about Pixar and their chain of blockbusters over the years, it would interest you to watch 60 Minutes II tonight on CBS at 9:00 EST, 8:00 Central. They’re going behind the scenes to talk to the animators and writers to see what they do best. Here’s a quick synopsis of the story.
Personally, I’m very interested in learning about their new animation studio out in Emeryville, California. If you watched any of the commentary lead-in’s for Monsters, Inc. you got a pretty good look at the facility and how they do business there. The place is like summer camp for artists and I’ve always been a big fan of corporations who use alternative tactics in motivating employee creativity. It should be a good show.
As promised on Wednesday, here is your strip on Finding Nemo.
I had some difficulty generating a joke to coincide with Nemo as I know next to nothing about the plot. This goes deeply against my M.O. because usually I’m up to my neck in facts about every movie in production.
But Nemo I purposefully stayed away from. Most of the time I’ll say I’m not looking up information on the next Star Wars movie or Return of the King, but in truth, I can tell you what Elijah Wood had for breakfast on any given day of pre-production.
Nemo, on the other hand, I made a real effort to shy away from. I do this because I remember when I first saw Toy Story on opening day back in 1995. I didn’t know anything about the movie other than it was the first completely rendered computer animated movie in the history of cinema. If for no other reason, I would see it for that.
Imagine my surprise when the story turned out to be great, the characters were (pardon the expression) fully fleshed out and when it was over, I spent the remainder of the holiday season trying to figure out how they did it.
Since then, Pixar has kept that tradition alive and raises their game every time they put out a new movie. I forbid myself from seeing screen shots or learning plot information out of the need to regain that sense of awe when I saw their first offering.
I have high hopes for Nemo. I don’t think I will be disappointed.
One note of interest; Be sure to check out NewMoanYeah for an interview I did with intrepid reporter Jennifer. Both Cami and I sat down to talk with her and we had a blast. It’s a great article. Check it out
I’m going to get this out of the way right now.
If you enjoy Theater Hopper, please vote for us at Top Web Comics. The Top 150 comics list resets every month, so if we can get a lot of votes past the sleeping guard, we might be able to sneak into the Top 10 and tip more people off to the site.
I don’t have anything I can give you in return. No promotions. No gimmicks. Just consider it a favor to me. Thanks.
That said, I had a chance to see Finding Nemo on Friday and of course I loved it. In fact, much to Cami’s chargrin, I spent most of Saturday quoting from it!
Technologically speaking, it’s light years ahead of 1995’s Toy Story (check out those cascading water effects!) But I don’t think Nemo will ever supplant that movie, it’s sequel – Toy Story 2 – or Monsters, Inc. It’s sad to report that the movie just doesn’t carry the same emotional resonnance.
Don’t get me wrong. I loved every frame. But I think the barrier in this case is that, frankly, we’re dealing with fish here. And while they have great personalities and characters traits, they’re hard to empathize with because… well, because they’re fish.
A Bug’s Life suffers from the same disadvantage. There is only so much I can warm up to a bug.
I don’t mean to sound overly critical. Especially in light of the fact that I think Finding Nemo is still the best picture I’ve seen this year. Story-wise, it still runs circles around the competition.
I thought Ellen DeGeneres did a great job as Dory, the fish with the short attention span. Her character’s disposition was infectious and even though they used the short term memory gag countless times, it never got stale.
Obviously, if you haven’t seen Finding Nemo yet, you need to go. I know I’ll watch it a second time.
Let me sum up another way. How much fun did I have at Finding Nemo? I opted out of seeing The Italian Job because I didn’t want to harsh my buzz. It’s that good.
One last time: VOTE!
Can I just say something really quick about Disney/Pixar’s The Incredibles?
I was watching it last night – Actually listening to it would be more apt. I put on the commentary track with director Brad Bird and Producer so-and-so while I was drawing today’s comic.
Anyway, I was listening to the commentary, and the darn thing is about as funny as the actual movie. What a great commentary track. I live for stuff like this. Most commentary tracks are very flat and boring. They talk about how hot is was that day or how difficult scene "x," "y" or "z" was to shoot. The Pixar guys really go into detail telling you stuff about the production that you actually want to know.
I could watch The Incredible’s over and over. It speaks directly to my comic book sensibility and every time I watch it, I catch some kind of new detail. These was a film made with great love and care. The expressiveness of the animation totally sells. If I ever am at a lose for an expression to give the Theater Hopper characters, I will toss in The Incredibles and pick up a new one every time.
Watching their films makes me want to pack up my bags and move to Emeryville, California so I can camp out at their studios. I’d love to get a job there. But I just remembered I’m not an animator.
I think they’ve been advertising Cars ever since The Incredibles came out in 2004 and, since it’s a Pixar movie, I’ve been eagerly anticipating it ever since.
But going on vacation kind of screws up your time table and we’re still trying to integrate ourselves back into the flow of pop culture. That’s why I was kind of caught off guard when I remembered that it’s in theaters today! Yippee!
In my opinion, Pixar can do no wrong. While I was a little skittish about Cars at first, the trailers got progressively better and I knew they had a winner on their hands. There have been a lot of doubters in the blogosphere, but trust me. Cars is gonna knock your socks off it.
I have more to say about the haters, but I’m going to put that on hold for Monday’s comic.
You might have noticed that Cami is sporting a new hairdo. Truthfully, this is something I’ve been itching to do for a while. I kept trying to figure out a way to "introduce" the haircut before finally realizing that was stupid. People get their hair styled differently all the time. I don’t know why everything I do needs an explaination. When I started coloring Tom’s scalp so he didn’t look like Charlie Brown’s long-lost cousin, no one made a peep.
Anyway, I really like Cami’s new look and I hope you do too. Real-life Cami loves the fuller head of hair. The last one looked too much like a swim cap. See? We’re learning new things every day!
I feel good about todays comic. I didn’t think that last two were that good. It took me longer than expect to fall back into things. To think of comics and jokes more organically. I felt like I was really forcing the last two. Hopefully I can keep firing on all cylinders going forward.
Well, this is the last comic update before the deadline on the book pre-orders. If you notice the little countdown thingee in the upper right hand corner, you’ll notice that it’s dropped significantly. Do you believe in miracles? Because I do! Just when I thought things were looking grim, along comes Pierre-Luc Brunet from ZeStuff with a great business offer. He proposed buying 100 books off me to sell in his store that also sells merchandise from web comic luminaries like Ctrl+Alt+Del, VG Cats and 8-bit Theater. How could I say no?! I’m very psyched that copies of Theater Hopper – Year One will be alongside the wares of these other comics that I have enjoyed and looked up to for years. So Pierre-Luc? You’re the bee’s knees!
Incidentally, Pierre-Luc recently welcomed their first son into the world – Vincent. Both Mother and baby are doing great. Congratulations to the proud parents.
I should mention that even though Pierre-Luc’s offer came at the best possible time, your efforts in the last week have really helped as well. I must have gotten two dozen orders in the last 7 days from you guys and that’s absolutely amazing! As you can see, there are still a few book orders that we could still squeeze in. Honestly, there’s always room for more. But I just sent the artwork to the printer today and production starts next Monday. I hope to get a proof back soon and – hopefully – the books will be finished by the end of July. My goal is to have books to take with me to Wizard World Chicgo on August 4 – 6. In fact, we’re even talking about throwing a book launch party to celebrate! So if you’re on the fence about going to Wizard World Chicago, you gotta be there and visit me in my booth on Artist Alley. I’ll be handing out invitations and there will be free beer involved!
At any rate, sincere thanks to all of you that have put your faith into me and the book. You didn’t have to pre-order, but you did and you’ve really helped me out tremendously. My first book IS GOING TO HAPPEN! I am really pumped!
Oh, one more thing. I know I was talking about Wizard World Chicago in August, but if you want to see me before then, I will be at a convention here in Des Moines this weekend. In my own backyard! I will be exhibiting at I-Con Comic Book Convention this Saturday, June 10 at the Polk County Convention Center here in Des Moines from 10 AM to 5 PM. This is a big deal for me because I’ve been wanting to go to this convention for two years, but could never make it because I was always out of town. It’ll be great to represent Des Moines along with the other local and regional talent. I won’t have books, of course. But I’ll have t-shirts, posters and buttons. And I’ll sign or draw anything you like! Come down and see me this Saturday!
Whew! That’s a big post! A lot of news to share. Mainly, I’m excited about the book. Thank you again. Now that I’ve sent off the artwork, I can stop worrying about it for a little while. Sure, I’ll always have inventory and I’ll remind those of you who haven’t bought a book yet that they’re still available from time to time. But now that you guys have helped me get over that first big hurdle, I can get back to talking about movies and the stuff that interests you.
I feel like I’ve been away for a long time and I’m finally making my way back home.
Thanks again and have a great weekend! See Cars!
Go on. Admit it. If you saw Cars this weekend, you stepped out into the parking lot with a new interpretation on automotive transport. Seeing the late show on Friday night and strolling out to our lonely Honda Element stranded in the middle of the parking lot, I expected it to ask us "Where WERE you guys?" with incredulous impatience. Or at least a sly "That tickles!" when I put the key into the ignition.
Just like every other Pixar movie that came before it, I was completely enthralled by Cars. How they manage to make these otherwise inanimate objects into characters you care about is a feat in and of itself. But the fact that they stringently adhear to what their real-life counterparts are capible of doing so that the illusion of a photo-realistic world unfolds in front of you is an equally grand accomplishment.
Going further, any movie that doesn’t give me more reason to hate Larry the Cable Guy casts quite the enchanting spell.
Something of note from Friday’s comic – I was innundated with several e-mails from those of you who caught my scripting error when I had Tom say that if he could be any car, he’d be a ’57 Mustang Convertable. Anyone who doubts America’s love affair with the automobile need only look at my inbox for proof otherwise. Several of you wrote in that you don’t often pen letters to comic strip authors, but my error forced you to speak up. You see, there is no such thing as a ’57 Mustang convertable. Ford didn’t start manufacturing them until 1964.
Everyone that wrote in was very sympathetic. Their solution to my shoddy research falling into one of two camps. Either I meant to reference the 1967 Mustang convertable – the first year for such an offering. Or I meant to reference the 1957 Ford THUNDERBIRD convertable – which existed at the time.
Quite truthfully, I just pulled a date and the make of a car out of my ass. But I appreciated all the e-mails none the less!
Incidentally, if people weren’t writing about the car thing, they extended praise for Cami’s new haircut. You guys love it! I was really surprised, actually. Who thought it would cause this much uproar? But if you guys are willing to write in over a haircut, who am I to turn away a compliment? Thank you!
Saturday’s appearance at the Iowa I-Con comic book convention went great. I had prime real estate on the showroom floor. Basically, I was right in front of the entrance. When you walked in, I was the first one you saw.
Obviously no one knew who I was, but I think it was good from an awareness raising standpoint. I was handing out flyers and stickers left and right. Telling people about the comic and where to find us online. So if you saw me at the show this weekend and are coming here for the first time, WELCOME!
I-Con was a great dry run for Wizard World Chicago – which I will be attending August 4 – 6. I was able to look around at other booths and get ideas for things to do in Chicago. Typically how it works is that I show up in Chicago and realize "Crap! I don’t have any flyers to hand out!" So I slap something together really quick and run it down to Kinko’s. This year, I’m going to actually prepare in advance as opposed to TELLING myself to prepare and forgetting about it. As is becoming the tradition at WWC, I’ll probably be giving away commemorative 1" buttons to people who come and find me on Artist’s Alley. So make a note on your calendar to come visit me August 4 – 6!
My primary piece of merchandise will, of course, be copies of Theater Hopper – Year One – which my printer has promised to deliver by July 31. So that means those of you who ordered through the site will probably start seeing them in your mailboxes after I get back from Chicago – around the middle of August. Don’t worry. I set the pre-order copies aside so I don’t run out!
I’ll probably be looking to clear out my inventory of t-shirts pretty soon to lighten the load for The Windy City. So keep your eyes open for that in the future.
Until then, happy Monday!
Some of you guys have written in and asked me "What’s up with the spelling in panel three?" Some of you are asking "Was it intentional?"
A short preface: If you read Joe’s blogs, LiveJournal entries or forum posts, he’s… a little lax with the spelling. Hey! I’m not one to judge. I’m a terrible speller, too! But when people read Wednesday’s comic, some people wondered if I was maybe having a little fun at his expense.
The answer is "Not intentionally."
I was pretty much trying to find something for Joe to say in the third panel that would rile Tom up enough to display his tattoo in a threatening manner. I actually bounced a few ideas off of Joe because I didn’t want to write his "voice" in an incincere manner. Eventually I just decided to copy one of his posts from the LiveJournal thread I was talking about earlier and let that speak for itself.
Of course, it was so late when I was putting the comic together, I didn’t notice any of the spelling errors at all! See what I mean when I say I’m not a great speller, either?
Anyway, more and more people started to notice and Joe himself saw what he had written. Ultimately, we decided it was funnier just to leave it in. Funnier for us at least.
I know the comic plays a little inside, but if you can amuse yourself from time to time, what’s the point?
I just didn’t want you to think that it was ME who was the terrible speller. Even though I’ve been guilty of that crime many times!
Today’s comic plays a little inside. Either your familiar with Joe Loves Crappy Movies and it’s creator Joe Dunn or you’re not. However, if you’re a fan of this site, I would think you would be educated in the ways of Dunn. He’s done a bajillion guest strips for us, is a friend of the site and tackles movies over at his comic with great enthusiasm.
With that said, I don’t want people thinking this comic is the start of some kind of flame war between Joe and I. It actually sprung from a real-life conversation we had about Cars on his LiveJournal. Everything Joe said in the third panel? That’s a direct quote.
Okay, okay. So Joe didn’t like Cars and I understand that. Do I think it’s as good as The Incredibles? No, of course not. Do I think it’s the worst movie they’ve ever done? No. Is it somewhere in the middle? Maybe. But then, when you’re talking Pixar, even a half-assed attempt has more craft and care in the first 5 minutes than other movies execute in two hours.
Joe and I have disagreed on movies before, so I don’t know what it is about Cars that I felt I had to defend it in a comic. Honestly, there’s not much to it. I was writing the comic backwards more than anything else. I came up with the Buzz Lightyear tattoo and needed to figure out a reason why Tom would roll up his sleeve to display it. My little conversation with Joe seemed like a good opportunity. And, frankly, I think the guy is really cool and I wanted to sent another shout out his way!
Not much more to say today. I’m writing this post kind of late and I’m drowsy. Now that the artwork for the books is at the printer, I’m kicking around ideas for a new site design. Does that grab you? Oh, well. I only have sketches at this point. I need to take some time this weekend and put together a first draft. It’ll be fun.
This was actually supposed to be the comic you guys were get on Friday and the Live Free or Die Hard comic was the one you were supposed to get last Wednesday. Of course, since my computer completely melted down last Wednesday, the order is all screwed up.
I’m sure it makes no difference to you, but I enjoy being timely with the comics. It’s one advantage the web has over digital media. So, for me, it would have been a lot more fun if I could have gotten the LFoDH comic up on Wednesday when the movie started playing in theaters and having this Ratatouille comic up on Friday before the latest Pixar film was proven a success with a near $50 million opening weekend.
There has been so much crap written about Ratatouille and these concerns that it wouldn’t connect with audiences. Rats in a kitchen? Yech! French cuisine? Double yech! So what? If the story is good, the audience will be there. And I think word of mouth is only going to improve on this thing, from what I’ve been reading.
Marketing aside, the only red flag that came up for me is that the original director Jan Pinkava was replaced by Brad Bird. But then, that’s like having Nolan Ryan come in to finish out a pitching session for a rookie’s first time on the mound. Everything is going to be fine.
Shamefully, I didn’t get to see ANY movies this weekend due to my overwhelming computer issues. What a pain in the ass. I finally got a hold of a new hard drive Friday night and it pretty much took me the rest of the weekend off and on to get Windows XP and the rest of my software loaded back onto it. I didn’t really suffer any significant data loss, but it just takes SO MUCH TIME. Like, HOURS at a stretch, it seems. I don’t really have that kind of free time with Henry in the house. I pretty much stuck him with Cami all day Sunday. Father of the year, over here, gang.
At this point, my concern is falling behind. In addition to Ratatouille, both Cami and I want to see Sicko. But it’s a matter of finding the time and getting someone to babysit Henry. My radar is up for Transformers on Wednesday. Begrudgingly, I think I have to go to this one. Not particularly because I think it’s going to be a good movie (I certainly don’t respect the direction they went in regards to the robot designs) but because I feel like this is the movie everyone is going to be talking about.
In a way, Michael Bay and company were right to wait until the July 4 weekend. It seems like Spider-Man 3, Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End and Shrek the Third all kind of blew their wad by landing in theaters back in May. No one is really talking about them now because I think they all kind of canceled each other out. I’m looking at the upcoming release schedule and I’m not really seeing anything that is going to challenge Transformers dominance. I mean, Harry Potter and The Order of the Phoenix will probably steal some of it’s thunder, but that’s the fifth movie in the franchise and – truthfully – haven’t we seen it all before?
I never thought I would find myself in the position of defending Bay or Transformers, but I really think it’s going to be the blockbuster to beat this summer. It’s going to show us something new. Or at least a big-screen version of a concept we’ve been waiting to see for the last 20 years.
However, unlike Sicko and Ratatouille, Transformers is a movie Cami has no interest in seeing. So I might be able to sneak out of the house Wednesday night after Henry is asleep and check it out for myself. I kind of hate that it’s come to this – me seeing these movies by myself. I used to really like dragging Cami along with me. But I’m kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. I kind of have to see these bigger movies as part of my "job," but with a baby, you can’t drop what you’re doing and go see everything you want. I feel like I’m being selfish going by myself. But for the immediate future, this looks like the best solution for us.
Oh, well. What about the rest of you? Have you finally started to give in to the Transformers hype
“The Best Reviewed Movie of the Year!”
The claim is somewhat dubious. The Pixar name alone is almost synonymous with quality. But within five minutes of watching the film, you understand why it is so highly regarded.
Ratatouille is the second paring between Pixar and director Brad Bird and their effort is as good, if not better than their previous film – 2004’s The Incredibles.
The movie is centered around Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt), a passionate French rat with a highly developed sense of smell and taste. Remy dreams of an existence beyond scavenging for trash with his dim-witted brother (Peter Sohn) and loutish father (Brian Dennehy). He fantasizes about being a 5-star chef, like his hero Gusteau – a celebrity chef whose book “Anyone Can Cook” Remy has been stealing glances at in the home his family hides out in.
Remy’s life changes dramatically the day his family is discovered by a shotgun wielding grandma and he is flushed down a storm drain into the sewers under Paris. His family lost, he emerges top side in front of Gusteau’s world-famous restaurant. Kismet at it’s most unlikely.
From there the movie kicks into high gear as Remy forges an unlikely alliance with a lowly garbage boy named Linguini whose ambition to cook is offset by his complete lack of talent. By pulling locks of his hair to manipulate his arms, Remy puppeteers him into creating fantastic dishes that excite the restaurant’s patrons and brings glory to our heroes.
There is conflict with the Napoleonic head chef Skinner (an unrecognizable Ian Holm) who has taken over for the now deceased Goustea and with Anton Ego – a rail-thin ghoul of food critic who refuses to swallow anything he finds unpalatable. Peter O’Toole as Ego delivers a mesmerizing, menacing performance that transforms the character from more than a mere food snob into a frightening threat.
What follows is a predictable arc about pride, humility, teamwork and family. But woven throughout the film are much more rich subtexts about creativity, authenticity and passion – both good and bad.
Gusteau’s motto that “anyone can cook” is pervasive throughout. One must only have the desire to cook, to experiment, to be successful. If one is brave and injects their heart into what the love, they can create beautiful things. It’s a life-affirming message and applicable to all forms of artistic expression.
Alternatively, Brad Bird pulls no punches against the critic character Anton Ego whose passion for food has corrupted his ability to appreciate it at all. Scathingly, Bird identifies critics at large to mostly irrelevant and the potential death nail to creativity. Everything from Ego’s tone, to his look, to his coffin shaped office and grim hollow typewriter facade that looks like a human skull re-enforce this.
It goes without saying that the film is a seven course meal for the eyes. Pixar continues to refine its technology to the point where water effects and the rendering of hair and fur look nearly as good as the real thing.
The DVD’s extras are surprisingly thin for a film experience so sumptuous. Two hilarious animated shorts, the theatrical feature “Lifted” and the DVD exclusive “Your Friend the Rat” are excellent. The three deleted scenes animatics introduced by Brad Bird are less so.
The last and most interesting extra on the DVD is the 15 minute documentary “Fine Food and Film: A Conversation with Brad Bird and Thomas Keller.” Keller is a name familiar to foodies. A world-famous chef, he was a consultant on Ratatouille and the signature dish in the film bears his signature for its unique preparation.
The documentary explores the unlikely similarities between animation and cooking as Bird and Keller separately discuss inspiration, collaboration and mentorship. There are several valuable insights. Producing more extras like this would have made the supplemental material much more satisfying.
Obviously DVD extras do not a successful film make. But for an animated feature that is so lovingly crafted, it would have been a real treat to explore more of the process and effort that went into its creation.
We may never understand all of the mysteries that lead to great art. But in any case, my compliments to the chef.