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APRIL 2003

04-25-03
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As you probably already know, Will Vinton Studios was bought out last year by Nike owner, Phil Knight. The more recent news is that Will Vinton himself was laid-off or fired from his own studio Will Vinton Leaves. Strange events, front office politics or something? Here is some additional info from a source in the Portland area that use to do some work for Vinton Studios.....

"It was sad to hear but not to unexpected with all the rumblings and equiptment sales going on, even the puppet and art dept annex buildiing is up for sale. Many of the artist and animators have moved away or have fallen on bad times. Portland's economy is in the dumps right now, basically a bad time to be into stop motion in the north west. I did hear that the studio was taking an executive producer role for Corpse Bride but I also heard all of three people from the studio are involved. They were up to a CG Popeye project for thanksgiving but apparently that too has been shelved as the producer for the show got their walking papers as well as Mr Vinton. Will was not the only one to be let go that day. It will be interesting to see where things go from here. The studio has been leaning more and more toward CGI"

So, it looks like the CGI dark forces has dealt it's final blow to Stop Motion in the USA? If the so-called "new" Vinton Studios goes completely over to the other side, do we really need another CGI studio? My sense is that the CGI market may be starting to get saturated. There are possibly more CGI wanna-bees being cranked out by schools than the demand (I see ads all the time pushing it), and so the gaming companies, TV commercial ad houses and movie studios will have their pick-of-the-litter. Kind of like the music & acting field ..... many unemployed. I had a sense long time ago, since the release of the first Jurassic Park this is what CGI might do .... the utopian pancea to ALL visual entertainment .....homogenization? Again, like I said many times, my only major critique of CGI, is how it is shutting out other styles and aesthetics in visual entertainment. I do not buy the producers and studio "suits" line, that "This is what the public wants". That's bull crap. It comes down to: THE AUDIENCES ARE NOT GIVEN ANY OTHER CHOICE. So it looks like Stop Motion Animation will probably live-on Underground and it will maybe have a better chance outside the USA
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04-21-03
* At first, I thought it was sacrilegious that the original 1933 King Kong was going to be remade again (by Peter Jackson), but then we saw the 1976 remade joke, Dino De Laurentis Kong version (Baker's ape suit was okay, just bad movie) so maybe I should not be so shocked. Did you know last year, there were rumors that Jason and the Argonauts was going to be remade into a major film to be directed by Stephen "The Mummy" Sommers? Also, remember that too long & dullish NBC television Jason & Argonauts mini-series version? (read online reviews/many said it was so-so). Around January 2002 many online news-type sites announced the Argonauts/Sommers buzz. Here is an archived article sample Film Force . In other articles, Sommers said it would not be a remake or sequel but a homage to Harryhausen? I am not so sure that Uncle Ray is going to be really touched or that honored. With Sommers at the helm, it will most likely be a CGI Orgy Fest. It seems that Sommers' will be pushing "artistic license" to the limit. His Argonauts version will be set in contemporary times in the 1930's or 40's; kind of like The Mummy and probably will be marketed to the 13 to 20 year old raging hormone "boy" demographics. What a sad interpretation of that classic mythological Greek story (I am trying to contain my real opinion!). Upon further net surfing, I then discovered, as announced here in another archived news item Creature Corner that Sommers will definitely be directing Van Helsing (monster hunter). Another overdose of digital pixel monsters onto the masses, but I do admit, the website teaser / hype makes it look kind of interesting. So, it seems that Sommers' Argonauts will be put on "hold" or maybe not made at all !?

* Julie Ng's archived commentary on movie remakes Doin' It to Death
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04-17-03
* In our last news item below, I listed Nimba Creations as a very cool site to visit and you can kick back and just enjoy all the photos and explanation how they created a full size T-Rex animatronic. Nimba's website has had server problems the last few days but they are online again. If you cannot reach their site, you should bookmark and keep trying later ..... it is worth your time to visit them. The only area not covered in detail, is the internal animatronic mechanisms in which they used some proprierty designs & engineering. In designing & creating the "look" of the T-Rex animatronic, they were inspired by Tony McVey's Running T-Rex figure.
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04-14-03
* I remember before the current CGI 'take-over and occupation' of mainstream Special Effects field , they use to broadcast behind-the-scenes shows, programs, specials on television and even a series on cable TV called Movie Magic. These how-it-was-done shows do not seem to exist today. Maybe mainstream studio's excess of digital eye candy has jaded the public? Compared to CGI production techniques, perhaps it was much more interesting seeing artisans-technicians-craftspeople build & create real puppets, miniatures and models. Also, a magazine called Cinefex use to be the source of traditional effects methods and we would study the small pictures with a magnifying glass to dissect their workshop layout & tools. Now, Cinefex seems to be mostly dry and sterile with pictures of people staring at their computer monitors (yawn). As I have said often, Stop Motion is generally perceived by the mainstream industry as the "Black out-cast Sheep" of animation & special effects but we do share some fabrication techniques with other traditional special effects such as prosthetic make-up, animatronics, miniatures and modelmaking. These websites Nimba Creations & The Making of a Model have nothing to do with Stop Motion Animation, but I am sure that you will appreciate them; you will see many pictures showing step-by-step, how full size T-Rex display figures were fabricated using tactile hands-on crafting and sweat in the creation of real models. Enjoy.

* Since I am not much of an eBayer, I have not posted many links to them. You can probably find good bargains but I have read of unethical ways sellers jack-up the bids/price and if it is something you really desire, you might pay too much especially if you cannot control your urge. Anyway, check this out Stop Motion Luke Puppet . At the time of this posting, the bid was about $-930. Very pricey and how the hell did the puppet end up in Germany or is it really the original?
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04-09-03
* Back in mid 2002, Steven Speilberg was quoted as somewhat criticizing CGI. Read this Spielberg slams CGI. If he is quoted correctly, you have to wonder though, he did help unleash onto this planet, the current CGI juggernaut with the first Jurassic Park. Maybe Steven has seen the light and has been saved!? ..... Here is very short article about overuse of special effects Scripts vs. Special FX in Sci-Fi/Fantasy It is not as deep as the Not Very Special Effects article previously posted below, but some good points ...... In another forum that is about Indiana Jones they briefly discuss about the use of CGI in any possible sequel Indiana Jones / Special Effects
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04-07-03
* Following a similar theme to last week's news item about the announced remake of King Kong (the CGI debate), here is an article Not Very Special Effects.....with the author's very perceptive comments about his ocassional dislike of CGI when used in live action applications, especially when the CGI is in your face. I have commented often in my little rants, that I do not really criticize CGI-digital techniques and that my primary complaint is how the mainstream movie biz is excluding or shutting-out other film visual styles or aesthetics (maybe using more traditional special FX). In the Music Industry, it seems they are more open and there is much more diversification of music. It is amazing to me how close-minded Hollywood is..... like lemmings and just copy each other ..... they do not take chances with fresh material. If the studio "suits" would just consider investing in smaller budgeted films to offer more variety instead of putting all their eggs in one basket .... their greed always chasing for that one movie $mega blockbuster hit$. On the stop mo message board, there has been many interesting comments about the Kong remake, and even Special Effects & Stop Motion Master, Jim Danforth has been putting his 2 cents in ! Check it out King Kong remake

P.S. Yeah, I know it is a hopeless cause to whine & complain about all this especially when it comes to the Mainstream Movie Biz .... their primary goal is $$$ first, and any artistic merit is secondary or it happens by accident. I thought the King Kong remake news deserved some commentary especially with regards to the Stop Motion Art & Craft, as Roger Evans very insightfully said, Kong is the Rosetta Stone of animation; the source of the Nile
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04-01-03
* Variety's yearly subscription is $259. .... the online articles are teasers, but if you want more in-depth information about the entertainment biz, you have to $pay$. Well, I am not a subscriber and cannot link to their online news/article story that Peter Jackson will be remaking King Kong, however someone at the stop motion board was generous enough to share with us, the actual Variety article (saving me that pricey subscription!) Universal Going Ape for 'Kong'

I thought, I would be more excited by the Kong remake news but my reaction seems subdued. I think Peter Jackson is an incredible talent and his style & sensibilities just seems different than our USA Lucas/Speilberg-type directors. The Original 1933 King Kong, evoked something surreal and fantasy-like which had a lot to do with the characters & scenery having stylized qualities and not being over photo-realistic (especially on Skull Island). As Harryhausen has often said, a Dream-like atmosphere in which Stop Motion can project that Sense of Wonder. Now if Peter Jackson makes Kong look too hyper-real, I just do not know if that is the way to go. Everyone seemed momentarily ga-ga about Gollum (LOR: 2 Towers) and I am guessing that Kong will be purely CGI-synthesized with much of the giant ape's animation done via a person in a motion capture suit. If Kong looks and moves exactly like a real gorilla, I just do not know how that will come off in a fantasy story. One might as well have Rick Baker make a Kong suit and go that route .... like the Mighty Joe Young remake which was enhanced with some CGI Joe Youngs. In Lord of the Rings: 2 Towers, the giant talking-walking trees, known as The Ents really had a Stop Motion sense, feel and look (more than any other CGI characters in Rings). I hope that Peter Jackson considers this in the Kong remake ...... to take us into a Fantasy & Dream-like adventure, with the scenery, backgrounds, etc. and CGI characters perhaps not being excessively photo-realistic but try to capture some of the Obrien/Harryhausen Spirit ....perhaps mix-up the special effects using Traditional FX & CGI. Here is a brief interview with Peter, earlier this month (before Kong remake news)
Backstage: Dialogue with Peter Jackson .... in which he said, that he loved seeing models and miniatures and stop-motion animation and creatures. Hopefully, Universal Studios will leave Peter Jackson alone and give him total creative freedom. It is good that he is in New Zealand .... far away from Hollywood. Some other news links about Kong remake 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6
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