Prior to seeing Up* last weekend, there were two pieces of animation that impressed me a lot.
The most impressive was Partly Cloudy. This Pixar short seems to have gotten a lot less attention than previous Pixar shorts. Maybe it’s because Partly Cloudy hearkens back to Dumbo and a seemingly simpler and gentler style. If you ignore the technical accomplishments, it is a lot less showy than most short-form animation these days. But that’s what blew me away — the submersion of very difficult and impressive technological accomplishments into a beautiful, evocative piece that never showed off its technical merits for their own sake, but instead told a layered, heartfelt story.
I was blown away by the nuance and organic expressiveness of the cloud characters. Gus (perfect name) was as real and tangible as a character could be, and yet as ephemeral as a real cloud. This is exactly the kind of subtle, flowing work that CG animation generally fails at. His physical character emerged from hundreds of thousands of lovingly lit individual particles, in just the same way his actual character emerged from scores of subtle, beautifully realized gestures. So major props to Pete Sohn and his team for a masterful integration of technology and animation. Bravo! (And be sure to read the AWN interview linked above — it contains of some great insights).
And prior to Partly Cloudy we saw the trailer for G-Force. Frankly, I usually cringe when I see mixed live-action/talking-CG-animal movie previews. I’ve never actually watched one of these films — I know I’m not the audience for them (having graduated from elementary school), and they aren’t my cup of tea. I’ve know lots of talented animators who’ve worked on such movies, and I’ve heard their production tales. Suffice it to say, they’re usually stories of good animators toiling away on projects that aren’t about doing cool animation. That’s the nature of the beast, or at least the nature of talking CG beasts. So I was pleasantly surprised at the character animation in G-Force. It was fun to watch, and worked well. It actually made me want to watch the movie, which is about as high a complement as I can give.
As best I can tell, the animation was done at Sony Imageworks, and from IMDB it looks like a few friends worked on it. Nice job, guys! I think you’ve raised the bar for this type of film.
*There’s not much point in my reviewing Up — Michael Sporn said pretty much exactly what I would have said about this excellent film. I’ll just say one thing — I loved Carl’s wrinkles! Amazing what a big difference such a small think can make.