Friday, August 31, 2012

EW Offers More Croods Info: Profiles & Pics

My multimillion dollar arch-nemesis, Entertainment Weekly, has released even MORE exclusive info about The Croods. Less than a day after dropping a close-up photo of the Crood clan, EW is back with a looong article detailing the film's plot, providing character profiles, and offering two head-to-toe shots of Ryan Reynolds' character, Guy.

Hoping to keep you coming back to this site (instead of abandoning us forever in favor of Time Warner's puppet periodical), I've cut and pasted some choice quotes from directors Chris Sanders and Kirk DeMicco below.

Das plot:

After continental drift smashes open their cave and leaves them wandering over landscapes such as the floor of a now-empty ocean, the Crood family encounters every protective parent’s worst nightmare — a guy (named Guy, voiced by Ryan Reynolds) who wins their daughter’s heart by showing her how to start fires.

“This is the world’s first family road trip,” says Kirk DeMicco.

The characters:

“Our cavemen are very gifted,” Sanders adds. “They can run 40 miles an hour, can throw a rock many many miles. Physically they’re very capable, but mentally we have a lot of beginner minds.”

“They’re not dumb, but they’re like kids,” DeMicco adds. “They have literal minds that have blindspots. When they see fire for first time, they think it’s alive.”

Crave more character info? I call 'em talking points, some say they're spoilers:

Grug (voiced by Nicolas Cage): The filmmakers call him the animated caveman version of well-meaning but hopelessly outdated cinematic dads such as Steve Martin in Father of the Bride or Spencer Tracy in Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. “Everyone deals with change in their family, and who deals with change more than a father with kids growing up?” says DeMicco.

Eep (voiced by Emma Stone): “Of all The Croods, she was the one who liked the cave they lived in the least,” Sanders says. “The Croods spent much of their time in the dark, and that was Grug’s way of keeping his family safe. When their cave falls down and they’re forced to go on this journey, everyone is a little freaked out — but not Eep.” She’s eager to do some traveling.

Ugga (voiced by Catherine Keener): “She’s probably more open-minded than Grug when it comes to change, but she’s very much his partner in this thing,” Sanders says. “For a mom, she has the world’s hardest job. Keeping this family alive is not easy. Just getting lunch is a life and death situation.

Sandy the baby: Sanders calls her “half Tasmanian devil and half child.”  She doesn’t speak; growling is more her thing and Oscar-winning sound designer Randy Thom is building her voice from compiled creature noises. “She’s still ferocious, still bites, and it’s kind of the way that Grug wants his kids to be.”

Gran (voiced by Cloris Leachman): “She’s like this ferocious, almost crocodile-type woman,” DeMicco said. “We always say: ‘She’s older than dirt — some say she’s 45. She has lived a very long life in a short amount of time.” She is the main antagonist for Grug.
Thunk (voiced by Clark Duke): This middle-sibling is described by DeMicco as “6-foot-9, 320 pounds, and 9 years old. [...] He has the best heart and the worst coordination.” Though everyone in the family is evolving, Thunk may already be at the zenith of his intellect.

Guy (voiced by Ryan Reynolds): “Guy is human being 2.0; he’s not as a strong as the Croods but he’s more about using his brain,” Sanders says. “When they discover he can make fire, they kidnap him, stick him in a hollow log, and keep him.” [...] Of course, Eep eventually falls for him, and vice versa.“This is really Grug’s nightmare,” Sanders says. “Guy is full of ideas. Croods don’t really have ideas.” He introduces the Croods to shoes, for example, and suggests that life doesn’t have to be lived in a dark cave. Such ideas make Eep swoon even more.

To read the whole EW piece, click here.


Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Croods Are Ready For Their Close-Up

When Kurt Cobain made that t-shirt that said, "Corporate Magazines Still Suck," do you think he was jealous of them for always getting first dibs on new images from upcoming animated features? No, me either. But that's why I'M gonna make myself one of those shirts. Cuz I'm bitter. And sad. And have an out of control sense of self-entitlement, especially for someone doing an unofficial movie blog -- on freakin' Blogger, no less.

Wait. What am I doing? I swore to myself that I'd stop all of this self-pitying stuff a few weeks back. Heck, I even bought a bottle of children's shampoo in an effort to combat my tendency towards tears. Ah, but narcissism and neediness are not so easily nixed. It takes time. Lots of time. (Well, at least a li'l more than a couple of weeks.) So while I'm dutifully dealing with my inner demons, please enjoy this rainbow bright family photo of The Croods that Entertainment Weekly released earlier this evening.

Entertainment Weekly. Ha! More like, Entertainment: Weakly. The big budget, boardroom-buggering bast--


Just breathe...

Related: New Croods Poster 'Captures the Imagination'

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Second Piece of Croods Production Art Revealed

My fellow Lilo & Stitch enthusiast, The Entertainment Nut, has trumped me yet again. While I was slacking off on the beaches of ye ol' New England, homeboy was out finding, photographing and uploading the second piece of Croods production art to ever hit the net! (He snapped this trippy pic while attending DreamWorks' art exhibition, DreamWorlds – Behind the Scenes, Production Art from DreamWorks Animation. For more info on this tiringly titled exhibit, click here.)

While the first piece of production design featured a lush, jungle landscape that dwarfed the film's titular family, this new piece looks like the cover to an old Yes album. From what I can surmise, it's the perimeter of a primordial pond. Growing out of the bright blue body of water(?) are what appear to be squat, twisted trees(?) topped with large, orange and green crystals(?).

Yeah...I'm not entirely sure I'm getting it either.

That said, I'd MUCH rather not 'get' something than feel like I've seen it all before. A little mystery is a whole lot more enjoyable than a feeling of been-there-done-that, don't you agree?

Still, there is ONE thing that's still nagging at me a li'l. From all accounts, there were THREE pieces of Croods production art on display at the DW-BTSPAFDWA. And so far, I've only been able to find two. If anyone has a picture of the third, puh-leeze: DROP ME A LINK in the comments section. I'll send you a beat up copy of Classic Yes.

For lots more info on the DreamWorks exhibit, check out The Entertainment Nut's photo-filled review.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Top 10 Overused Openings to Period Pieces

The filmmakers behind The Croods face a unique storytelling challenge. How do they begin their prehistoric picture without wasting too much time establishing its intended era? While it only took you and I a quick glance at the caveman cast to see that The Croods takes place in the stone-age, most Americans asked about the image above exclaimed, "Cool! The new season of Survivor stars cartoons!"

Over the years, Hollywood has repeatedly relied upon ten techniques to clue audiences in to a film's antiquated time period. Although seemingly simplistic (and often painfully obvious), these cinematic cues have proven to be the most effective methods of telling an audience that the movie they're watching takes place in the past. Sure, many of these tricks stem from Hollywood's assumption that all Americans are idiots, but we as a nation made Avatar the highest grossing film of all time, so maybe they're on to something.

Anyway, without further ado...

Ten Tried and True Tricks for Telling the Neo-Neanderthals of North America that the Movie They're Watching is NOT Happening Now

10. A Title Card Declaring the Date
This one seems almost too obvious until you remember that the average movie-goer spends more time staring at their phone than they do the silver screen. Hiring Morgan Freeman or James Earl Jones to read the date aloud helps, but even this fails to reach the balding businessmen with a Bluetooth buried in both ears.

9. Drop a Stack of Newspapers in Front of the Camera
While you can hope and pray that your audience will see the newspaper's publication date, it's probably better to just focus on an easily identifiable headline instead. Does your film take place in the 1940s? Use a headline about World War II. Making a movie about the mid-60s? Try 'Beatles Invade America.' To insure the illiterates in the audience are not lost, you can always have a knickered newsboy hold out the newspaper, screaming, "Extry! Extry! Read all about it! (Insert easily identifiable headline here)!"

8. Fill the Opening Shot with Anachronistic Clothing and Props
Women with parasols riding horse and buggies. Men in top hats driving Model T Fords. Girls wearing mini-skirts twirling hula-hoops on their un-emaciated hips. And so on.

7. Start with a Scene from the Modern Day, then Fade Into the Past

You know this trick. It's sorta like the wolf man's transformation, only in reverse. The movie opens on a run-down home, its grounds unkempt and overgrown. Then the image begins to blur as we slowly fade into the past, where the house is now new and the lawn is a suburban Dad's wet dream.

6. Open the Film in an Empty Desert. Subtitle It: Los Angeles, California
"What?! But we live in Los Angeles, honey! And that's not what our home looks like! Hey, that's the La Brea Tar Pits, innit? Well, why is there a real mastodon where the plastic mastodon should be? I'm confused. I told ya we should've stuck to watching sports." Okay, so this one doesn't work on everyone. But as a kid, I LOVED it when a Twilight Zone opened like this.

5. Have a Character Mock the Mere Mention of a Modern-Day Reality
"Man will never fly" is the first groaner that comes to mind, but even good movies use this weak tactic. Hell, half of the jokes in the first Back to the Future seem to be based around the idea that Doc Brown -- an inventor -- can't fathom the fact that new things will be -- gasp! -- invented in the future.

4. Open on an Old Photo that Magically Comes to Life
In the not-so-distant future, simply showing a photograph will be enough to make kids realize they're glimpsing the good ol' days. But until then, filmmakers will need to use not-so-special effects to turn a faded old photograph into the first scene of the film.

3. Open on an Old Person Narrating, Flashback to their Younger Self
Think: Citizen Kane, Edward Scissorhands. While recalling these films, also try and remember how hard it is to create truly believable, non-distracting aging make-up. After all, if Orson Wells couldn't pull it off...

2. Open the Film with an Obvious Pop Song

This can be expensive, but if done right, it can instantly win over a crowd. Not only will audiences intuitively understand that WAR FOOTAGE + A DOORS SONG = THE VIETNAM WAR, they'll inevitably mistake their feeling of familiarity with the song for an emotional connection to the film. (Note: When picking a pop song for a movie that takes place in a pre-pop song era, always use a song EXPLICITLY referencing that time period. For example, a film about ape men would use The Kinks' Apeman. Anything else could be confusing.)

1. Sepia Tint
Previously the product of Cinemax sex scenes and silent film dream sequences, sepia tinting became the go-to visual shorthand for 'THIS SH*T'S OLD' in the early 90s thanks to the one-two punch of Ken Burns' Baseball and Steven Spielberg's Schindler's List. That said, unless you're an Oscar-winning director with deep pockets and an adoring audience, you'll only want to OPEN your film in a sepia tint, transitioning to color a.s.a.p.

In closing: According to an imaginary, self-described "high-ranking studio executive" currently raising funds for a feature film via Kickstarter, the real question is not IF the filmmakers behind The Croods will use these tips, but HOW MANY will they use. And he should know -- he's written over a dozen unproduced screenplays, nearly half of which are XXX parodies of preexisting period pieces.

God bless underestimated America!

This post was originally published on April 16, 2012.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Two More Croods Books Up For Pre-Order

Chris Sanders collectors and Croods completists may want to start construction on that Beauty & the Beast-sized home library now. Two new books have been added to the film's ever-growing tie-in market, and we're still seven months away from the picture's release!

First up is Reader's Digest's Croods Super Search: Picture Puzzles, Mazes and More. It's a pretty self-explanatory collection of time-killers. At 96 pages, it oughta keep the iPhone/iPad/3DS-deprived child in your family occupied for the hour or two it takes to buggy from Amish Country to the Farmer's Market. The release date is Feb. 13, 2013.

More intriguing (although a helluva lot skimpier) is Readers Digest's other Croods-related cash-in: The Croods Mix & Match. Clocking in at a scant 12 pages(!), this glorified brochure boasts full page, full color pictures of the critters from The Croods. While the "point" of the book is to let kids' indulge their inner-Frankensteins, combining the head of one creature with the legs of another, I can totally see non-vivisectionists enjoying it, too. I mean, who DOESN'T love them some Chris Sanders cuteness? Even in the form of a madman's medical journal? The release date for this one is Feb. 5, 2013.

The Art of The Croods Available for Pre-Order
Second Croods Book Available for Pre-Order

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Early Croods Review Raves: Cloris Leachman "Hilarious"

A fella by the name of Gary Bass has posted a short, albeit enthusiastic review of the The Croods on IMDB. According to Bass, the version he saw was only "40% done," and the rest of it was "animatics and storyboards, with a temporary music score taken from other movies."

Still, Bass felt the film "had a good balance of humor and action," and gave special praise to Cloris Leachman as the mother-in-law. "She stole every scene she was in," Bass said. "Absolutely hilarious!"

As a longtime admirer of Leachman's work, this made me smile. Over the years, Leachman has turned in some truly stellar comedic performances. As Frau Bl├╝cher in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein, Leachman shines in every scene she appears in. She was so damned funny as Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show that they gave her a spin-off. And who can forget her portrayal of the demented Nurse Diesel in High Anxiety? Creepy!

But it's not just comedy that Leachman excels at. I all-caps LOVE her work in Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show. In it, Leachman took the sad, side-character of Ruth Popper and transformed her into the emotional lynchpin of the film. It's a nuanced, natural and heart-breaking performance, and it's one that I hope the powers-that-be box up and send out into space so that wayfaring aliens will take pity on our planet and not use us for food.

In addition to live action roles, Leachman has also lent her voice to quite a few cartoons. A quick scan of the aforementioned IMDB lists credits from such films as The Iron Giant and the English language dubs of Castle in the Sky and Ponyo. With an animated filmography as prestigious as this, is it wrong for me to heap even higher hopes upon The Croods?

To read Gary Bass' complete Croods review, click here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Croods VFX Supervisor Teases Film's "Villain"

I'd always assumed that my fairy-god-parent would be a large, White woman with magical powers and a good eye for carriage design. Turns out he's an extremely well-connected commenter with a gift for finding links. For the third time in three weeks(!), commenter Bob has dropped a delicious link in my undeserving lap. This one is for an interview with Croods VFX supervisor, Markus Manninen.

A brief excerpt:

We thought of [...] the world as a teenager. It’s still forming, it’s still experimenting, things are happening, and there’s a big disaster aspect that pushes this family on their journey and really becomes the villain of the film in some ways. [...] We have big eruptions and lots of interaction with the characters. We have water, rain…all the elements come to life in this movie and create obstacles for our characters, whether it’s in a threatening way or a comedic way. And this is a film where the family is forced out of their comfort zone and the elements become their way of coming together and experiencing something new and they have to adapt and they have to evolve.

To read the entire interview, click here.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Second Croods Book Available for Pre-Order

Hot on the heels of The Art of The Croods, a second Croods-related book has hit the pre-order market. The Croods Movie Novelization by Tracey West is currently listed at $6.99 on Amazon, with an intended release date of Feb. 5, 2013.

True story: When I was a kid, movie novelizations were a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine. How not-so-guilty, you ask? I literally did DOZENS of Middle School book reports based on the Pulitzer Prize-losing novelizations of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi, Indiana Jones and The Temple of Doom, and my personal favorite -- The Goonies by James Kahn. It delights me to no end that this slumming sub-genre still exists today.

Related: The Art of The Croods Available for Pre-Order

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

New Croods Production Art Debuts at 'DreamWorlds' Exhibit

DreamWorks Animation has taken over the Steven Spielberg Building at USC, displaying HUNDREDS of pieces of artwork from their ever-increasing film library in 'DreamWorlds Behind the Scenes: Production Art from DreamWorks.'

Scattered among the DOZENS of Kung-Fu Panda paintings, statues and sketches in this exhibit are a handful sneak peaks at DreamWorks' upcoming flicks.

Among these are FOUR pre-production paintings from The Croods.

Of these, only ONE has hit the internet thus far.

And it's blurry.

Really blurry.

Like, take-off-your-glasses-and-splash-pepper-spray-scented-shampoo-in-your-eyes blurry.

Or maybe it's just a watercolor or pastel or a really amazing piece of CG.

Whichever, new pics are good pics. You know why? Cuz no pics means more of these.

Thanks to commenter Bob for the heads-up. Thanks to Jim Hill Media for the photo.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

In Lieu of Croods News: Lilo & Stitch Stuff

Animator Andreas Deja has posted some of his early character sketches for Lilo & Stitch on his blog. It's amazing to see how certain characters -- like the social worker -- went through numerous permutations before finally settling on their final look, while other characters -- main characters, like Lilo -- pretty much came out of the pen fully formed. Click here to be blown away by the beauty of blue pencils.

Remember Pudge the fish? He's the fish that Lilo fed peanut butter sandwiches to. (Because eating tuna fish sandwiches would've made Pudge a cannibal, duh!) Well, YouTube has a story-boarded outtake from L&S featuring Pudge's formal introduction to Stitch. Warning: It gets very emotional very quickly. VERY emotional. VERY quickly. Click here to test the rapid response of your tear ducts.