Wednesday, February 29, 2012

New Croods Poster 'Captures the Imagination'

Now THIS is the Croods poster that DreamWorks should have initially teased the world with! Seeing a small family being chased by a large herd of multicolored monsters is not only eye-catching, it's imagination inspiring.

First you've got the obvious life-or-death action element: Are they gonna make it?!

Then there's the subtle differences in each character's reaction to the chase. While most of the family seems understandably unhinged, the granny and the teenaged daughter seem almost invigorated by it. What's up with that? Is the granny crazy? Is the girl a CG stand-in for all of our latent, adventurous, secret-selves?

And then there's the beasties. What exactly is going on with that rainbow-hued Pokemon deck bearing down upon our heroes? Initially, it appears to be a first-come-first-serve dinner rush. But then you notice the small, rodent-like critters in the front and the prehistoric parrots overhead, and you get the feeling that maybe things are not quite what they seem. Could there be an even bigger beast behind them? Or since this all takes place in the caveman days, could everyone and everything seen in this image simply be fleeing whichever natural disaster (massive meteors, volcanic eruptions, tectonic plate shifts, etc.) prompted earth's last batch of mass-extinctions and evolutionary bumps?

Your guess is as good as mine!

This poster perfectly embodies that old movie-reviewer cliche, 'captures the imagination.' For years, I'd always just skimmed over those words, assuming them to be nothing more than a critic's fallback phrase, another way of saying 'captures your attention.' But where 'captures your attention' could be seen as provoking a passive reaction, with all of the work being done by the one doing the capturing, 'captures the imagination' is definitely pro-active. It's about more than just being receptive. It's about the mind taking that which it is being presented with and then running with it. And right now, I'm ready to run to the nearest movie theater to watch The Croods. How about you?

Image courtesy of

Monday, February 27, 2012

Super Funky Song Alert!

In a cheap effort to pad out these blog posts, I'm gonna start posting the funkiest and freakiest caveman-themed pop songs to ever blast outta Fred Flintstone's conch shell car speakers. First up is The Jimmy Castor Bunch's 1972 hit, Troglodyte.


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Awaiting The Croods: The Agony & The Ecstasy

Have you ever looked forward to a film with an equal measure of anticipation and dread? More specifically, have you ever felt the anxiety of waiting for a new film from one of your favorite directors, hoping beyond hope that he or she will deliver yet another masterpiece, while simultaneously fearing that this may be the first movie by them that you find less than life-changing? That's the bi-polar battle my brain is currently waging over The Croods. On the one side, there's this exponentially increasing excitement over the fact that CHRIS SANDERS IS ABOUT TO RELEASE HIS THIRD MOVIE! Dude has NEVER let me down! On the other side...well, no one's artistic output remains unsullied forever.

Don't get me wrong. I realize that expecting perpetual perfection from anyone is unreasonable, unfair and just plain stupid. Making this all the more ridiculous is the fact that the aesthetic criteria and emotional demands I'm secretly hoping for The Croods to deliver on are mine, not Sanders'. Or, to put it another way: I'm asking Chris Sanders to fulfill the unspoken wishes of someone he's never even met.

And this is the SECOND time I've done this.

A li'l back-story:

Chris Sanders is, in my personal pantheon, one of the capital-g Greats. I don't know about you, but Lilo & Stitch slays me every time I watch it. The way that Sanders and co-director Dean DeBlois managed to blend quirky comedy with a heart-breaking treatise on the meaning of family is an artistic feat on par with Wes Anderson's The Royal Tenenbaums, Mamoru Hosoda's Summer Wars, and Charlie Chaplin's The Kid. It's been ten years since Lilo & Stitch was first released, and I still find myself tearing up during Stitch's final scene with the Grand Councilwoman. ("This is my family. I found it, all on my own. Is little, and broken, but still good. Yeah, still good.") Never mind the scene on the bed between Lilo and Nani. (“I like you better as a sister than a mom. And you like me better as a sister than a rabbit, right?") I can't be the only one who feels this way.

Maybe it's my being a product of a 'broken' family, but this film really resonates with me. There is something so achingly honest about the way that Sanders and DeBlois portray the emotional fragility and combustibility of Nani, Lilo and Stitch. When arguments arise, it's a roll of the dice as to whether they're going to cry, scream or tear off down the hallway in a huff. This is exactly how it is with my make-shift family. And just as with me and mine, throughout it all, there's an equal and opposite set of emotions also at play. The unconditional love, unfathomable affection and intuitive understanding, all colliding and combining to create an unspoken, unbreakable bond that somehow ends up being spoken just the same. (Sometimes there's nothing quite as comforting as having someone say the obvious.)

Last Thanksgiving, while watching Lilo & Stitch with the remnants of a family separated by death and divorce and countless inner and outer-demons, I experienced one of those fabled 'Paul on the road to Damascus' moments. Looking around at my girlfriend, her siblings, their partners, and all of their kids, I was powerfully reminded (or was it a realization?) that we are no less a family because our parents are gone or avoided or even because all of us do not share the same blood. I know that this sounds obvious, but it hit me hard. Since then, I've been making it my mission to wrangle what's left of my 'broken' family together as often as possible. Where we were once in danger of drifting apart, now we are...less so. And I have Lilo & Stitch and Sanders and DeBlois to thank for this.

Okay, so I might have been a total sucker for this film had it simply been the gentle, occasionally sentimental movie I described above. But it's sooo much more! You've got the hyperactive hi-jinx of the now-iconic Stitch. The Laurel and Hardy antics of Jumba and Pleakley. The ingenious inclusion of Elvis (the man, the myth and the music). The extended surfing sequence. The gorgeous watercolor backgrounds AND the eye-gougingly good character animation. What's more, Sanders and DeBlois found a way to fit it all together seamlessly. In doing so, they created - what is to me - an A+ production. I know I'll raise some eyebrows when I put Lilo & Stitch up there with Beauty & the Beast, but I'm gonna go ahead and do it anyway. Hell, Roy Disney said it's as good as Dumbo, and you don't think you know more about Disney animation than Roy Disney, do you?

So that was the movie that started it all. The movie that made it impossible for me to approach Sanders and DeBlois' next film, How To Train Your Dragon, with anything less than exceedingly high expectations. Luckily for me, they delivered.

A li'l more back-story (this batch more recent than the last):

When I initially read the press releases for How to Train Your Dragon, I was less than enthused. First off, I'd been a bit of a dick about DreamWorks' animated output thus far, judging them solely (and harshly!) on the Shrek films, while conveniently dismissing the better moments of such films as Antz and Over the Hedge as statistical flukes. Secondly, I 'knew' that the film that Sanders and DeBlois REALLY wanted to make was American Dog, but that John Lasseter had fired them from the picture because it was "a little too quirky for its own good." It was this he-puts-the-ass-in-Lasseter act that resulted in Sanders and DeBlois hopping over to DreamWorks to take over The Croods (previously being handled by Aardman), before being reassigned to HTTYD (previously being handled by The Country Bears director, Peter Hastings). You see what I'm saying? This didn't exactly sound like a 'passion project' for anyone involved. Thirdly (don't worry, I promise not to drag this out to the double-digits), the voice cast was comprised almost entirely of the dreaded, de rigueur, DreamWorks assemblage of currently 'hot' actors and actresses and SNL alumni. The girl from Ugly Betty? Seriously? Lastly, Sanders and DeBlois were being given "just over a year to rewrite and direct the film." That right there seemed to sound the quality death knell.

And yet...

Those marvelous motherf*ckers did it again. Defying all logic and internet speculation, How to Train Your Dragon was not only not a disaster, it was one of 2010's stand-out animated films. (This in a year that also saw the release of Tangled, Toy Story 3 and The Secret of Kells.)

Once again, Sanders and DeBlois aced the story's emotional arcs with ease. The tender friendship between Hiccup and Toothless? Immediately identifiable to anyone who had ever owned a pet or dreamed of doing so. Astrid and Hiccup's blossoming teen romance? Sweet without being saccharine, sarcastic without resorting to a distanced, 'Yeah, we know it's corny, too' attitude. Hiccup's inability to be the person his father had hoped? Another nuanced blending of "quirky comedy with a heart-breaking treatise on the meaning of family." It didn't matter if you were a boy or a girl, child or adult, or if your paternal problems stemmed from your relationship with mother instead of your father, this section of the movie spoke to everyone who'd ever felt a disapproving adult presence in their life.

As for the story itself, I believe its simplicity is what will make it an enduring classic. Is it The Black Stallion with a dragon? Yes! Is it Romeo and Juliet with the Vikings standing in for the Montagues and the dragons as the Capulets and with a super-happy, love-conquers-all ending tacked on by the Hollywood powers that be? Uh...why not! Heck, I even get a sick kick out of reading those pretentious and contentious commentators who try and make an argument for HTTYD being a piece of liberal propaganda encouraging kids to disobey their elders and befriend the terrorists.

(Here's where I wait for you to click those links to see if such readings really exist.)

Ha! Nuts, right? You owe me. And here's where I cash in that debt. Please continue to indulge me while I take this opportunity to admit my total lack of imagination regarding:

1. DreamWorks' handling of the picture

In regards to tone, 'tude and the inclusion of unnecessary pop songs, How To Train Your Dragon was certainly no Shrek. Thank you, DreamWorks!

2. Sanders and DeBlois' perceived lack of passion for the project

Whether or not they had it at the outset of the assignment, they certainly managed to summon it up during HTTYD's high-speed production. Never does the film feel like the micro-managed, highly manufactured product of an assembly line of artists - even though it is! The credit for this surely has to go to the two directors, whose positive energy and passion for the project must have been at crazy, near-Krakatoa levels in order to inspire the hundreds of cast and crew members listed in the closing credits. Which dovetails nicely into...

3. The vocal performances

The entire cast (including America Ferrera, a.k.a. the aforementioned "girl from Ugly Betty") did a great job imbuing their characters with personality, humanity, warmth and wit. Is it weird that the Vikings all have Scottish accents (except the ones that have American accents)? Sure. But never so weird that it took me out of the movie or inspired me to blog more than three sentences about it.

4. The film's rushed production schedule

To coin a phrase too awkward to ever be used again: I guess what doesn't kill a film makes it stronger.

Suffice it to say, How To Train Your Dragon was another outstanding animated achievement for directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois. It was also another arrow straight to the heart of this daddy-issues Muppet-of-a-man just making his peace with cats after a long bout of Ailurophobia.

(For those of you keeping track at home, this put Sanders at a solid two for two.)

Fast-forward to today:

I'm sitting here, typing and re-typing this, trying to kill all of the unwieldy alliteration that naturally vomits forth from my fingertips (damn you, Stan Lee!), while working towards some sort of eloquent (ha!) and succinct (double-ha!) form of self-expression, all in an effort to get across the myriad of personal hang-ups and highlights that have led me to making the upcoming release of The Croods such a seemingly life-or-death moment in my movie-going existence.

Then it hits me. The question I was supposed to be addressing since the outset of this article. Why do I do this? Why do I go through this push and pull, this anticipation and anxiety, this all-caps AGONY AND ECSTASY over something my therapist would not hesitate to describe as fleeting and insignificant?

The truth is, the answer may have less to do with my love for Chris Sanders' films than it does with my love of film in general. This is, after all, not the first time I've felt this way. Nor will it be the last. Since I first started watching movies, whenever I found a filmmaker who spoke to me emotionally and honestly, who showed me a new and better way of looking at/living my life, I've felt a connection to them. Not just to their work, but to the artists themselves. These connections, although unarguably one-sided, are undoubtedly real. They're nearly as real to me as some friendships I've had, and a lot more real than most crushes I've had. These connections teach me, heal me and inspire me. On more than one occasion, they have saved me. Losing such a connection, even temporarily, is devastating. So why would I allow a single film to diminish an artist's entire oeuvre for me? Why would I do this repeatedly? Self-centeredness and unfair expectations, I guess. You read what I wrote about my daddy-issues. Still, knowing the fickle nature of these ephemeral connections does not make them any less vital to me. It just makes me realize how important it is to immerse myself in them while they still exist. That's why, every time I'm fortunate enough to make such a connection with a director and their work, I cherish it. I indulge it. I wallow in it. And in rare instances, I devote an entire year of my life to making a website about it.

Related: Awaiting The Croods: Great Expectations

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What Are They Saying On The Web?

By now y'all are undoubtedly aware of my excitement about The Croods. But what about the rest of the world? Is anyone else feeling this same sort of embarrassingly early advance anticipation? In lieu of actually going outside and (gulp!) talking to people, I've taken the five seconds necessary to Google "The Croods" and skim the results. Here's a small sampling of what I found.

Bleeding Cool says, "I have to be honest: they had me at Chris Sanders."

Den of Geek carries a similar torch for Sanders, proclaiming, "The DreamWorks Animation slate has some really interesting titles on it, but if you want our tip for one to keep an eye on, then The Croods would be it. Much of this is down to the fact that Chris Sanders is co-directing. Sanders has directed two feature films to date. The first was Disney’s excellent Lilo & Stitch. The second was DreamWorks’ excellent How To Train Your Dragon."

Last but not least, from the Tumblr of The Last Souloasis:
Stone, Reynolds, Cage ALL IN ONE AWESOME MOVIE.

The bloody funny Emma Stone, the bloody gorgeous Ryan Reynolds, and the bloody sexy-bearded Nicholas Cage.

Dreamworks, why don’t you just include Anna Torv or Zachary Levi or Logan Lerman in the cast SO I CAN JUST DIE IN PEACE!!!!??

and my two sets of ovaries just exploded.

So you see? I'm not the only one.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Croods Crew: Christophe Lautrette

Production design for The Croods is being handled by French artiste and DreamWorks veteran, Christophe Lautrette. Having served in the animation and art departments on such films as Kung Fu Panda (2008) and A Goofy Movie (1995), Lautrette now occupies one of the most pivotal roles in animated film making. Working closely with directors Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco, Lautrette has been tasked with creating the overall "look" of the film, establishing a unified aesthetic template for everything from character designs to background color schemes.

In the book, Lilo & Stitch: Collected Stories from the Film's Creators, production designer Paul Felix describes the job as "creating mood" and "establish(ing) a sense of place." He says the job lets you create "a world from the ground up," but that this "great freedom" also comes with the "particular challenge to make it all seem of a piece. [...] As disparate as (the) locations are, our goal (is) to make them feel all a part of the same movie."

While we have to wait until March 22nd 2013 to see the prehistoric world Laurette and co. have conjured up for The Croods, you can get a small taste of the man's immense talent by visiting his blog, Les dessins de Lautrette. While browsing around there, I stumbled across a couple of caveman-themed illustrations that may or may not be related to his work on The Croods. As you've probably guessed, they're posted above.

Last minute addition! has a nice, looong video interview with Lautrette here.

Related: Croods Crew profiles of Jamaal Bradley and Louie del Carmen

Monday, February 20, 2012

An Incomplete History of Cartoon Cavemen

First off, let me reiterate the second word in the title: INCOMPLETE. I know my timeline is probably missing your favorite caveman-themed cartoon, but this oversight was not done intentionally, only ignorantly. If you drop me a note in the comments, I'd be delighted to add whatever titles I might have missed. Not only will this make for a more informative piece of internet-age folk art, it will give me someone else to point to (you!) when the next angry email arrives, chewing me out for forgetting 'the best caveman cartoon ever.'

Now that that's out of the way, click through for the names and descriptions of the shows shown above, as well as some links to some pretty cool clips.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Skip to the 1:00 mark to hear animator/director/good drawer Chris Sanders speak briefly about The Croods.

Full disclosure: When Sanders says the film will be “the sweetest, most emotional film (he’s) ever worked on. It has incredible emotional depth and potential,” my heart got goosebumps and those goosebumps got chills up their spines. Just pondering how ANY film could be sweeter and more emotional than the scene in Lilo & Stitch where Nani and Lilo lay in Lilo’s bed, and Lilo says, “I like you better as a sister than a mom. And you like me better as a sister than a rabbit, right?” …it BLOWS MY MIND.

3 Free Facebook Timeline Photos

I found a cool Croods-related video that I'll be posting later, but for now I thought I'd share these pics I put together for the new Facebook timeline.

As is clear to anyone with eyeballs (or even one of those descriptive-reader-things with the Stephen Hawking-voice that blind folks use to browse the net), the first shot is of the still-unnamed saber tooth from The Croods, while the second and third pictures are from the two Chris Sanders films that made me such a fan of the man: Lilo & Stitch and How To Train Your Dragon.

The pictures are all the optimal size to fit the new Facebook timeline, so all you've gotta do is follow the seven simple steps below and you're done. No humiliating calls to tech support required!

1. Click the photo you’d like to use for your Cover photo
2. Right click the photo and choose “Save Image As…”
3. Go to your Facebook Profile
4. Click “Add A Cover/Change Cover”
5. Choose “Upload Photo…”
6. Click “Browse” and select your Cover
7. Click “Open”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Croods News

1. Laguna College of Art & Design is hosting a gallery show of original art by Chris Sanders, as well as a personal visit (or two!) by the artist. Click here for photos and info.*

2. Emma Stone and Ryan Reynolds are currently doing some of their recording work for The Croods. Don't believe me? Here's a picture to prove it!

3. D3Publisher and DreamWorks have reached a deal to develop a video game based on The Croods. Although I rarely find myself playing video games based on movies (well, not since I lost my old NES version of Hook), I'll take it on faith that there are some caveman-loving, movie tie-in addicted gamers who are delighted to hear this.

*If any of the folks who made it to this event have photos or commentary they'd like to share, please drop me a note in the comments section. I'll put your name in BOLDFACE ALL-CAPS.


Not nearly as character-crammed as the most recent poster for The Croods, this action shot was the original 'teaser' poster that DreamWorks dropped at last year's International Licensing Expo in Las Vegas.
While I'll admit to not being exactly head-over-heels about the cavemen's designs, I do find that multicolored saber-tooth tiger to be pretty promising. Maybe it's those patented Chris Sanders touches: The large nose...the overly spaced eyes...the sheer ROUNDNESS of it all. It brings to mind the wonderful characters and slightly off-center storytelling Sanders used in both Lilo & Stitch and How To Train Your Dragon. If The Croods possesses even HALF of those two films' humor and heart, I'd say we're in for a memorable movie!
From the official DreamWorks press release:
The Croods takes us back to the beginning – to a previously undiscovered era known as the Croodacious – a time when Mother Nature was still experimenting and the flora and fauna we know today had yet to evolve. At the heart of this comically chaotic world is the Crood family, led by Grug, an over-protective father who, like all dads, is doing everything he can to hold his family together as the world around them changes at a dramatic pace. The Croods is scheduled for release in the spring of 2013.


This Tumblr is an *unofficial blog* dedicated to the upcoming animated feature, The Croods. The third feature film from Lilo & Stitch and How To Train Your Dragon director Chris Sanders, and the second feature film for co-director Kirk De Micco, The Croods is a comic/adventure "caveman epic." Featuring the voice acting of Nicholas Cage, Emma Stone, Catherine Keener and Ryan Reynolds, and backed by the deep pockets over at DreamWorks, this film seems set to succeed when it premiers on March 22, 2013.
While we're still a l'il over a year away from that date, tiny tid-bits of Croods news has already begun to trickle out. I promise to try and track down as much of it as I can, posting it here for all of you to enjoy and obsess over. If you find any that I've missed, PUH-LEEZE send me the links! You'll be rewarded with a miniscule credit at the end of the post, as well as my undying affection and admiration.

If you're a fan of Lilo & Stitch, How To Train Your Dragon, or any and all of the folks listed above, please check back here from time to time for new info, images, interviews and idiocy. Especially idiocy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The OFFICIAL Posters

The original teaser poster, used at the 2011 Las Vegas International Licensing Expo. Yes, it's ugly.

The second teaser poster, released sometime in February of 2012. Nope, still not pretty.

The third teaser poster, released on 2/29/12. ABSOLUTELY WONDERFUL! This was the poster that made me a convert. Click here to read me shamelessly GUSH over it.

Bonus! The poster's designer, Steven MacLeod, shared his original concept sketch for the piece. Pretty cool, eh?

The first quote/unquote "official movie poster," released on September 27, 2012. Another PERFECT poster. Unsurprisingly, I gushed again.

Bonus! A step-by-step making-of the last poster. I could get used to these.

Bonus pt. 2! Steven MacLeod's early sketches for the poster.

The 'living one-sheet.' Released to MUCH internet adoration on 12/20/12.

Okay, so this one was a misstep. Accidents happen, right? Released on 1/21/13.

1/28/13 saw the release of this evocative image. It's a movie poster as a work of art. I'm guessing someone in marketing was taking night classes in Renaissance religious paintings. Either that, or they were just divinely inspired.

These next posters were released one by one between late Jan. and early Feb. of 2013. They were the first DreamWorks posters where -- if you held your smart phone over them -- you got to watch brief clips from the film. It even worked on posters found on the internet! Go on. Try it out. I'll wait. (Oh, one more thing: You need to download The DreamWorks Animation Augmented Reality app first.)

See what DreamWorks did with these 2/5/13 designs? They took the few things that were good about the 1/21/13 misstep and made them better. MUCH better. A HUGE improvement, don't ya think?

These next two posters premiered at The Berlinale International Film Festival. Star-studded posters for a star-studded event. A perfect pairing!

This poster was hung in movie theaters hosting advance screenings. It's quite different than the rest. It was painted by Paul Duncan, based on the cave paintings by Margaret Wuller. I really, REALLY like this poster.

This one was released on 3/8/13. Cuz you can never push the 3D too much...

Two fun French posters released on 3/18/13

Various vinyl banners released to theaters between Feb. 2013 and March 2013

Chris Sanders' Croods Storyboards: Animated!

Eep & Guy at the Beach

Eep & Guy on a Date

Eep Forages for Food pt. 1 & 2

Grug is Abandoned

Grug & the Horse/Dog Hybrid

Grug vs. the Liotes

Eep Stops an Elephant pt. 1 & 2

Grug and Thunk

Thunk Wakes the Tiger