Monday 7 May 2012

World Animation Review (UK / USA) - Fantastic Mr. Fox

Fantastic Mr. Fox - 2009
Director - Wes Anderson

1. Fantastic Mr. Fox Poster

Plot summary / review:
Director Wes Anderson looked to be a promising movie maker after his 2001 release The Royal Tenenbaums. His stylised visuals and dry sense of humour appealed to devoted young movie-goers, however it can be argued his subsequent films "showed worrying signs of fatigue". Sukhdev Sandu of the guardian analyses stating "charm had given way to arch whimsy; the inventiveness of old had curdled into mannerism and melancholia." (Sandhu, 2009). Knowledgeable movie lovers were worried when it emerged that Anderson was adapting Roald Dahl's beloved 1970's book Fantastic Mr. Fox into a feature animation. Ali Catterall of Film4 slates the film in her review asking "how much longer are we expected to stand impotently by while Hollywood arrogantly Americanises our every British children's icon?" (Catteral. 2009).

Anderson does semi-Americanise the British Story. He resorts to the old Hollywood cliché of making all the good guys Americans; and all the bad guys the Brits. However, he takes the story in an exciting new direction and is backed by a stellar voice cast, from both sides of the pond. George Clooney is on form as the cunning, (supposedly retired) chicken thief Mr. Fox. Meryl Streep plays the upright Mrs Fox from who he keeps his dinner plans a secret. Nonetheless, Mr Fox endangers his family by battling with the three farmers Boggis, Bunce and Bean played by Michael Gambon.

2. Fantastic Fox

3. Evil Brit Farmers

Fantastic Mr. Fox's story does bare similar themes to Anderson's previous works. It has a dysfunctional family many of who display social anxiety's. But he wraps these themes up in a deliciously rendered world. Roger Ebert describes it as "an animated picture with nothing in common with traditional animation, except that it's largely in one of the oldest animation styles of all -- stop motion, the one used in "King Kong." The animals aren't smaller than people but often larger, and more mature." (Ebert. 2009). The retro-tinged animation lends to the 1970's feel appealing to young and old audiences familiar with Dahl's work. Peter Bradshaw of the Guardian compares the visual style with that of pioneering animators and artists. He observes "it's like something by Oliver Postgate or Jan Svankmajer, and some might detect a trace of affectation in this olde-worlde effect, but I found it utterly beguiling and entirely consistent with Anderson's quirky homespun aesthetic, his snappily offbeat dialogue and distinctive proscenium-style framing. In its cheerful anarchy and brutality it's very Dahlian – in spirit, anyway." (Bradshaw. 2009)

4. Super stylised visuals

Mature viewers will recognize the painstaking hours endured by the animators to achieve Anderson's look. Younger audiences will marvel at its magic. "Only an idiot would expect profound insights. What we do get, though, is a dazzlingly imaginative and poetically inflected comic caper that offers the tantalizing possibility that Anderson’s best work, far from being a distant memory, is still to come."  (Sandhu, 2009).


Bradshaw, Peter. Guardian review 22nd October 2009 - Accessed 07/05/12

Catterall, Ali. Film4 review 23rd October 2009 - Accessed 07/05/12

Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times review 24th November 2009 - Accessed 07/05/12

Sandhu, Sukhdev. Daily Telegraph review 23rd October 2009 - Accessed 07/05/12


1. Fantastic Mr. Fox Poster - Accessed 07/05/12

2. Fantastic Fox - Accessed 07/05/12

3. 3. Evil Brit Farmers - Accessed 07/05/12

4. Super stylised visuals - Accessed 07/05/12

Maya Dynamic Bodies Tutorials

Tuesday 1 May 2012

World Animation Review (Ireland) - The Secret of Kells

The Secret of Kells - 2009
Director - Tom Moore

1. The Secret of Kells - Poster

Plot summary / review:
Set in Medieval Ireland, The Secret of Kells tells the story of a young monk, Brendan (Evan McGuire) and the creation of the sacred "book of the Kells". Brendan has lived his whole life behind a fortified outpost called the Abbey. It is under constant construction by his uncle, Abbot Cellach (Brendan Gleeson), to protect from invading Vikings. Brendan is captivated by the arrival of travelling wise man and "illuminator" Brother Aidan, protector of the sacred book.

2. Brendan and Brother Aidan

Inspired by brother Aidan, Brendan's dormant 'illustrative' talents are awakened. It can be argued that one of the films underlying message revolves around the discovery and wonder of arts, crafts and nature.  Brendan ventures outside of the walls and into the surrounding forests to gather nuts to use as ink to help complete the book. There he meets a mysterious, forest dwelling, fairy-like girl called Aisling. Using her powers, she helps guide Brendan into the brave new world.

3. Brendan and Aisling

The Secret of the Kells is clearly a labour of love by director Tom Moore. "The story is a bit tangled, and there is too much of it packed into nearly 80 minutes, but little kids won’t be bothered when the animation is so magical." (Clark. 2010). Although the plot revolves around the sacred book illustrating the four gospels, it is never fully explored or explained. It is however at the heart of the films greatest success, it's visual style and design. Every shot of the film is "filled with patterns and borders, arches and frames, do-dads and scrimshaw images. The colors are bold and bright; the drawings are simplified and 2-D. That reflects the creation of the original book in the centuries before the discovery of perspective during the Renaissance." (Ebert. 2010).

4. Artistry

Moore's film was rightfully nominated for "Best Animated Film" at the Oscars in 2009. It doesn't quite reach the heights of it's competitors, including Wes Anderson's Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), Henry Selick's Coraline (2009) and the eventual winner Up (2009) by Pixar. However it "is a rare example of The Academy using its powers for good, since the word-of-mouth that's followed has garnered it a UK cinema release, as well as guaranteeing that more than a handful of people at festivals will see it. And see it you must." (Ivan. 2010). Even if it is just to marvel and the beguiling animation.


Clark, Cath. Time Out Review - 29th September 2010

Ebert, Roger. Chicago Sun-Times review - 31st March 2010 - Accessed 01/05/12

Ivan, Sophie. Film4 Review - 6th October 2010 - Accessed 01/05/12


1. Poster - Accessed 01/05/12

2. Brendan and Brother Aidan - Accessed 01/05/12

3. Brendan and Aisling - Accessed 01/05/12

4. Artistry - Accessed 01/05/12

Maya Tutorials - Lighting / Rendering - Mental Ray

Displacement Mapping

Maya Software - Displacement map

Mental Ray - Displacement Maps

Mental Ray - Non SubD Displacement

Mental Ray - Non SubD Displacement

Mental Ray - Nurbs Displacement map

Final Gathering

Global Illumination

Software Caustics

Mental Ray Caustics

Mental Ray - Mia material x

Mental Ray - Physical Sun and Sky