Thursday, February 28, 2013

Yee-Haw, Cowboy (Er...Caveman) --
It's Time Fer This Week's Review Round-Up!

Until I finally get to see The Croods, I'm going to keep viewing it vicariously through the reviews of others. The way I see it, these reviews are like seltzer bottle blasts to a thirsty clown. Refreshing, yes, but only tiny teases of the dunk tank to come.

I just made that metaphor up! Could you tell? You could? Aw, to heck with you. On to the reviews...

This video review by Zach Marsh came to me via the ever-alert Commenter Bob. He sent it to me Sunday morning saying, "I came across another video review from someone who saw the movie. He thought the movie was spectacular."


"It is a great movie in my opinion. It is well-acted, well-voiced, the animation and 3D are spectacular, the creature design was marvelous...this is a GREAT family movie." 

Good to hear!


HotButterReviews finished their long and loving review with the following A+ appraisal:

The Croods is a great film to be enjoyed by the entire family - young and old. Filled with dangerous action, hilarious situations and gags that would give The Flintstones a run for their money, and a heart bigger than the entire Jurassic era, The Croods is the first great animated film of 2013.


MomStart.com loved it, too. In their rave review, they applauded the fun elements, but SALIVATED over the film's surprising depth:

Within The Croods, are unexpected, but comfortable layers of rich story bringing up the themes of family, fear, and searching for the meaning of life. Who knew you could squeeze all of that into one little movie? 

I also enjoyed this paragraph, near the end of MomStart.com's review:

The dynamics of family are also a huge part of this movie, and one of the biggest dynamics is that between Eep and her father Grug. As a former teenage girl (not that I always want to admit it!), I remember the days of absolutely hating my dad… and loving him more than anything at the same time. Kirk DeMicco (director) even added, "Here at DreamWorks, there’s been lots of families of friends, that’s the way it is. But, actually, a true father-daughter story was pretty unique, and everyone was really engaged by that."
 

One reviewer who was not nearly as enamored was Filmaluation's Hemanth Kissoon:

A big fat yawn. An ancient trek journey; haven’t the ICE AGES done those to death? See also THE LAND BEFORE TIME and DINOSAUR. Is this the best plot the team behind THE CROODS could have come up with? Add in the one-note characters: Stubborn father, peacemaker mother, mother-in-law jokes, and we have a vacuous candy coated sugar-rush ride. Reynolds is not given the script to deliver his usual insouciant charm, and excellent comedienne Stone is barely tested. The occasional 3D spectacle avoids the experience from being totally dire; but the cacophony of loudness and silliness is too ever-present for satisfying divertissement [sic]. Contrast say TANGLED for a thoughtfully made quest flick.

C'mon, Hamanth, don't hold back. Tell us how you REALLY feel.


Back to the positive reviews! This one's from Baby Center's Sarah McGinnis, and she loved it. After showing a slideshow of all of the terrible or dead or non-existent mothers in kids' movies, Sarah said:

Mom characters have a notoriously tough time making it through children’s movies. If you’re not the evil stepmother, odds are you’re dead long before the flick even begins, or, perhaps even worse, will bite the dust right in front of your teary-eyed offspring.

The good news is that the tides are slowly turning, and not only are moms surviving — they’re thriving.

As much as I adore young Eep’s innate curiosity (and the voice of the fabulous Emma Stone), it’s Ugga, the mom, that’s particularly noteworthy in my book. This mother of three is not only as freakishly strong as the rest of her family, she’s smart (relatively smart for her time period, anyway), compassionate and most of all, alive.

As a HUGE fan of Catherine Keener, I'm looking forward to seeing what she does with the role. Sounds like I have a lot to look forward to!


This last review is actually a PRE-review. Apparently, Tree, Root & Twig's Stacey is as wordy of a Croods fan as me! In this, the prodigious prelude to her 'real' review, Stacy singles out three areas where she feels The Croods raises the bar for animated films.

1. The creation of the Croodaceous Period:

It's a fantastical world, based in a familiar enough earth for us to identify with, but full of inventive landscapes and creatures.

2. The multi-generational family:

You could make a party game out of trying to name animated films that include both a father and a mother. [...] There are some, but they're hard to name because they're so few and far between. In The Croods, not only is there a mother and a father, there is a grandmother as well, making it a multi-generational family tale. It adds weight and gives heart to the story.

3. The best use of 3D in animation in...MAYBE EVER:

I have seen a lot of animated 3D movies in the last few years, and I can say without hesitation that this is perhaps the best use of 3D in animation I have ever seen. The use of 3D is not a gimmick in The Croods, but instead a technique for making the film a completely immersive experience. I was awed by so many scenes.

Alright, that's it for today. But don't worry, there are surely more to come! For wherever there are reviewers reviewing The Croods, I shall be there, cut and pasting the highlights and providing links to the leftovers. In an era when even the US Postal Service is cutting back on the regularity of their deliveries, isn't it comforting to know that a blogger such as I exists? Like a shelter in a storm, a fire in the hearth, and that last Kleenex in the box when the drop of snot in your nose becomes visible to passersby, I am here for you. Always.

Or March 23.

Whichever comes first.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Let The Games Begin Continue!


This is the internet's equivalent of the Tooth Fairy deal:

Late last night I posted a set of sub-par Croods games. This morning I woke up to find Michael Martinez' comment pointing me towards FOUR GOOD GAMES -- on The Croods' official website!

While Maze Mania, Punch Monkey Mayhem, Paint By Number and Memory Madness may never replace chess as the Ivy League's favorite frivolity, I could easily see myself wasting 15 minutes racing through them, looking for images of new critters or tidbits of Croods trivia. (Yes to new critters, no to trivia tidbits.)

What's more, while the Wu-Tang Clan may swear by chess' strategy-building side-effects, when has chess ever awarded anyone free, downloadable, 'Keep Out/Come In' door hangers? NEVER, that's when. And they call it 'the game of kings.' Ha!

Click here to play.

Nothing Makes Me Feel Dumber Than The Fleeting Feeling Of Being Smart

The Croods is -- at its core -- a family road trip picture. Sure, it takes place in a fictitious past, on a fictitious landscape populated by fictitious creatures, but the actual 'family road trip' part -- the fighting, the nagging, the constant cries for food and bathroom breaks -- that's 100% NON-FICTION. In fact, the only part of the traditional family road trip that I have NOT seen spoofed in the trailers for The Croods are the cheesy activity books that our parents used to throw at us to try and keep us quiet.

Do you remember those?

Usually themed around a recent movie or an upcoming holiday, these 'activity books' were really nothing more than a bunch of hastily assembled crossword puzzles, word searches and connect-the-dots. The connect-the-dots, in particular, were a joke. You could usually identify the final picture without even drawing a single line. It made you feel clever as a kid, at least until that dark day you finally realized the truth. You weren't smart. Those puzzles were pathetic. YOU'D BEEN DUPED!

You're getting nostalgic, aren't you? Good. Cuz we're about to hop back into the family car and take a trip down memory lane. Next stop: Croods-themed activity sheets!

Go on. Flatter your non-existent junior genius. You know you want to...



Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Breaking News: Croods Castmember Arrested!


Los Angeles, CA - In what is now an all-too-familiar story, one of Hollywood's hottest young ingenues has been arrested. Belt, or 'the sloth from The Croods,' as he is known to most movie-goers, was picked up late last night by LAPD, charged with multiple counts of public indecency.

At a press conference held this morning, Police Chief Wiggum read from a prepared statement, saying, "At approximately 11pm last night, LAPD began receiving dozens of 9-1-1 calls. The callers all reported seeing a large, grinning sloth wandering the streets, clad in nothing but its natural fibers. It took our officers less than five minutes to locate the suspect, who was alone and on foot. Officers reported that the suspect made no attempt to run. Wait, are sloths even ABLE to r-- er... I mean, the suspect's eyes were large and glassy. He appeared dazed and was unable to speak. After failing a series of sobriety tests, the officers were forced to carry him to their squad car. I'm sure you've all seen the photos."

The photos that Chief Wiggum is referring to were taken by a cadre of cameramen for TMZ. One of the TMZ camerawomen has been quoted as saying, "Classic Hollywood, right? Get famous one day, get arrested the next. Maybe they can put him in a cell with Lindsay. Hopefully she won't try to hang herself with him. Oh, and did you see his hair? Grey as a goose. I guess Emma Stone's not the only phony red-head in The Croods."

Classy, TMZ. Real classy

Only a week before, the mono-monikered mammal made headlines for a series of nude photos published by the Italian website, ComingSoon.it. In those NSFW photos, Belt can be seen making his way past various German landmarks, totally nude. In one photo, he is even seen taunting two local law officers. It looks like this time, Johnny Law taunted back.


DreamWorks declined to comment.

3 Free Facebook Timeline Photos...pt. 7




Your estranged family and fake Facebook friends are wondering what you've been up to. Trying to explain to them that you're eagerly awaiting a cartoon's release is going to make for an awkward conversation. (Trust me. I've had it!) So why not let 'em know silently...subtly -- via your Facebook Timeline photo. Installation be e-z!

Instructions:
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"

Related: 3 Free Facebook Timeline Photos...parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 & 6

Monday, February 25, 2013

Right Now It Seems Like These Chris Sanders Interviews Are A Dime A Dozen...



...but in less than two months, that's it, they're done. ENJOY THEM WHILE YOU CAN.

Three cool things I learned from this informal round-table:

1. Croods co-director Kirk De Micco is leaving the press tour because HIS WIFE IS HAVING TWINS! Congratulations, Kirk -- and Kirk’s wife!

2. The Croods was influenced by a wide variety of films. The Wizard of Oz makes sense, but Beverly Hills Cop?! Watch the interview to find out how.

3. As soon as The Croods’ press tour is done, Chris Sanders is going back to DreamWorks to help storyboard How To Train Your Dragon 2! Woo-hoo!

OFFICIAL Croods Comic Wishes You A Happy Monday


It's the Owl City + Yuna Croods Song!



Here it is: The OFFICIAL music video for Shine Your Way by Owl City and Yuna. What do you think?

Update: The sidebar on the right now contains samples from EVERY TRACK on the soundtrack!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fan Art Friday


Today's first piece of fan art is from W. Means. It's a super-sassy portrait of Eep and the man-eating plant that she wrestled in Chris Sanders' Croods storyboards. I've been doing this blog for a little over a year, and this is the first time I've seen anyone draw Eep in this particular style. It reminds me of the 70/80s MAD Magazine art, with a bit of old-timey fairground caricature in there for added zing. From the flirty pose to the cocky facial expression, W. Means' Eep is oozing with attitude and appeal.

Come to think of it, Chris Sanders would probably get a kick out this pic, too. Heaven knows he loves the cutie-pie pin-ups, arched arches and curled toes!



These next two drawings were done by former Fan Art Friday contributor, Michael (a.k.a. Cliffjumperprime2). Michael's original submissions were a trio of colorful critter still lifes. This time around, Michael has upped the ante, adding action poses, landscapes and additional critters to his drawings. What's more, each of these drawings TELLS A STORY.

In the first drawing, we see one of those ludicrous-looking liyotes being chased by a piranhakeet. The way Michael drew the liyote's tongue dangling out of his mouth, blowing in the breeze, cracks me up. The second drawing portrays a slightly more serene scene. In it, we see the Macawnivore (a.k.a. Chunky Death!) watching from the top of a cliff as a couple of crocopups gnaw on what's left of some poor critter's skeleton. As a Disneyland die-hard, this scene immediately brought to mind the moment in The Jungle Cruise where your boat happens upon a family of lions eating a zebra. ("Look, kids. It’s Simba and Nala from The Lion King. Aw, that Zebra is dead tired.") For that alone: ALL-CAPS KUDOS.

One more strange compliment: I really like the almost sinewy look of the cliff in the second drawing. It kinda looks like muscle tissue, but clearly reads as rock. It's a new approach, and I think it works wonderfully.

It's Your Croods Clip O' The Day!



When I first used that hackneyed 'clip o' the day' phrase earlier this week, I was only kidding. Now I'm thinking, MAYBE I'M PSYCHIC! We've LITERALLY been getting a new film clip and/or trailer EVERY DAY since Monday. At this rate, some ambitious, young, video editor is going to be able to piece together a pretty nice approximation of the film using nothing but officially sanctioned clips.

(Hey, kid. When you do, email a copy to me!)

Jim Hill Loves The Croods -- AGAIN!

This is Jim Hill's SECOND positive review of The Croods. His first was back in October, when he called it  "completely charming" and "a skillful mix of comedy and adventure which has plenty of heart." In today's combination review/back-story/Berlinale Film Festival wrap-up, Hill goes even further with his fervor. Reprinted below are a few choice quotes.

You'd think -- given the sophisticated sorts of folks who annually attend the Berlin Film Festival -- that this wouldn't be the sort of crowd which would enthusiastically embrace something as crass-sounding as The Croods. But that's actually what happened last Friday night at the world premiere of this DreamWorks Animation production. As the credits began to roll for this out-of-competition screening, an audience of 2000 got to its feet and began to applaud wildly for this silly, sweet yet surprisingly sophisticated animated feature.

And...

What makes a lot of the prehistoric animals that appear in The Croods so much fun is that they've been filtered through Chris Sanders' unique design sensibility. Anyone who remembers Disney's Lilo & Stitch, Toothless from DWA's March 2010 release, How to Train Your Dragon or who frequents Sanders' own website will know exactly what I'm talking about.

Hill also shares some new quotes from the directors. Here's Chris Sanders discussing The Croods' lack of a traditional villain:

This movie really doesn't have a villain. The thing that keeps pushing our set of characters forward, that constantly challenges them is change. The very ground that they're standing on -- thanks to the continental split -- is constantly changing due to earthquakes and all of these great chasms opening up. So the only way that this family of cavemen can hope to survive amid this upheaval is by embracing change.

And here's Kirk De Micco talking about the The Croods' emotional arc, and the way they structured the film to make this arc all the more powerful:

We deliberately loaded the first two acts of The Croods with fun comic sequences because we wanted the audience to laugh and slowly fall in love with our cavemen characters. Just so -- when we get to [SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!] in Act 3 -- the stakes are suddenly so high that the audience then can't help but get caught up in the emotion of the moment.

To read Hill's full review, click here. Warning: Thar be spoilers!

The Croods Soundtrack: The COMPLETE Track List


I don't know which fan base is more excited for this soundtrack: Chris Sanders fans, Alan Silvestri fans, or Owl City fans. Whichever, it looks like they're all going to have something to run around the house pretending to be on fire to. Twenty-three tracks -- that's A LOT of good music!

1.  Shine Your Way (Yuna, Owl City)
2.  Prologue
3.  Smash and Grab (The USC Trojan Marching Band, Alan Silvestri)
4.  Bear Owl Escape
5.  Eep and the Warthog
6.  Teaching Fire to Tiger Girl
7.  Exploring New Dangers
8.  Piranhakeets
9.  Fire and Corn
10.  Turkey Fish Follies
11.  Going Guys Way
12.  Story Time
13.  Family Maze
14.  Star Canopy
15.  Grug Flips His Lid
16.  Planet Collapse
17.  We'll Die If We Stay Here
18.  Cave Painting
19.  Big Idea
20.  Epilogue
21.  Cave Painting Theme
22.  The Croods' Family Theme
23.  Cantina Croods

The soundtrack to The Croods will be released on March 26.

Update: The sidebar on the right now contains samples from EVERY TRACK on the soundtrack!

See also: Owl City Joins the Croods Crew

A New Chris Sanders Interview!

ComingSoon.it is quickly becoming my go-to source for new Croods news. It seems like every day they've got a new, exclusive something or other about The Croods. Today's something or other? An interview with Chris Sanders! As the interview was originally in Italian, and Google Translate is only a teensy bit better than a first year language student, I took the liberty of rearranging the words so that they made some sense. Now it reads like it was translated by a SECOND year language student!


Chris Sanders Talks About The Croods by Domenico Misciagna

Domenico Misciagna: I met Chris Sanders in Rome. Sanders is co-directer of The Croods, the new cartoon from DreamWorks Animation. The Croods is about a family of cavemen forced to leave their home due to the imminent end of the world. Before moving to DreamWorks, Chris worked at Disney, storyboarding The Rescuers Down Under, Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and The Lion King. He was promoted to co-writer and head of the story on Mulan, then made his debut as a director with Lilo & Stitch, along with Dean DeBlois.

Chris Sanders: Before The Croods, I always co-directed with DeBlois. It's easy to be infected by his joy.

D.M.: John Cleese, ex-Monty Python, is credited as co-writer of The Croods. Would you please share his history with the film?

C.S.: John and my co-director, Kirk De Micco, had already written a first version of the film. I came on later. Kirk and I kept the main idea, that Grug's father -- played by Nicolas Cage -- has an exaggerated fear of all that is new. That new technologies terrorize. And this was John! John does not love technology. [...] His contribution is the DNA of the film.

D.M.: I really admired The Croods from a visual standpoint. The style is hyper-realistic, we might say. Realistic and cartoon at the same time. Was this a deliberate choice?

C.S.: We played with fantastic shapes. The main characters are a good example. Their arms and shoulders are huge, even the character of Eep. She has broad shoulders and a swimmer's body. Yet their forms manage to be graceful. The shapes of plants, animals and humans are exaggerated, but their surfaces are realistic. This is because we wanted the story to have a strong emotional core, as well as realistic consequences to the actions. We wanted people to feel the Croods' world was real, although imaginative.

D.M.: If you had to point out the main themes of The Croods, what would you choose?

C.S.: There are so many different themes. There is the fear of change. We set the story in a prehistoric world because it is the most subject to change. The land itself changes under their feet. And this is the story of a caveman whose sole purpose is to protect his family, to keep it alive. The central theme becomes their change. Grug tries to hide the change, but the change still happens to him. It's an experience that we all share. You have to change jobs, you have to change schools, the children will grow up, you get old. This is the aspect that all viewers will identify with on a strong, emotional level. The Croods talks about how change is something that we all have to accept sooner or later.

D.M.: Face tomorrow, the sun.

C.S.: Yes, face tomorrow. I love the theme of following the sun. The Ryan Reynolds' character, Guy, is the new caveman, human being 2.0. He's like us. He loves technology, he creates fire. When it comes to Guy, Grug is absolutely terrifying. He hates him. But what Guy brings to the Croods is just imagination. Like, 'Imagine this wonderful place where everything will be better.' Guy calls it "tomorrow," and he is following this dream that leads him to the sun. He's following the sun to reach a safe tomorrow.

D.M.: It 's the birth of the imagination.

C.S.: Seriously, yes. It's the theme of "follow the light," which we created for the film. The characters -- children and adults -- are all drawn to the sun and light. You can interpret the "light" in many ways, no interpretation is wrong. I think they are all right. 


D.M.: I do not think that all the actors in the film had previously voiced animated characters. As a director, how did you help them?

C.S.: Wow, this is one of my main tasks! Kirk and I carefully introduced our players to this strange world. We always tried to spend some time with the actors before putting them in front of the microphone. We didn't want to rush them with a quick, "Nice to meet you. Okay, you're a caveman, now! Do it!" We'd show them graphics, we'd talk about the world. We record our actors in a dozen sessions over at least a year, sometimes even more. In that year we have more and more things to show them. We record their voices first, then animate and show them the scenes. During that time, we all grow to know the characters better. The interesting thing about working on an animated film is that it grows over time. At the end of the process, you actually understand everything. Then we'd want to redo the movie from the beginning, because we knew the characters and their dynamics so much better!

D.M.: You gave your voice, or rather your sounds, to both Stitch and Belt. Could you describe the process that leads a director to do a voice for the film? You are not an actor, after all.

C.S.: [Laughs] Every now and then it happens. In the case of Stitch, we did not want him to speak. We thought we'd be embarrassed hiring an actor and then asking him not to speak. It seemed strange and we thought that one of us should just do it. When I began to record Stitch, I worried. I knew I was not an actor, so I'd better be careful! For Belt, the same thing happened. Originally the character -- believe it or not -- didn't even move. Was just a 'belt,' a small hairy thing. Then, while working on it, we thought it would be nice if every time he moved, his eyes or hands moved, too. So we built a very simple rigging. The rigging is something that is not seen, but through which the animators move things. Belt was the character in the movie with the most basic rigging. He could do nothing, but the animators managed to work wonders with him. Of course, when we were in full production, we realized that it was one of our best characters, and we had given him the most demented gags!

D.M.: You were part of the animation renaissance in the nineties, after the crisis of the early eighties. What do you remember most of those difficult years?

C.S.: I was in school during what was perhaps the most difficult period for animation. I was finishing college [at the California Institute of the Arts, 'CalArts,' ed.] during that time. I remember many people from Disney roaming the school, because they were not working. I had gone to that school to study and work with those people who were not doing anything! I thought, "Oh my God, what have I done!" I was in the third year, I had almost finished, and I was wondering, "Will I find work?" I never imagined [at that tine] that animation would come to have such importance.

D.M.: Looking at your website, I noticed that comic strips are part of your artistic experience. Obviously you create these comics on your own, and that it is a very different process from film, which is a collaborative art. Have you ever thought about making a cartoon by yourself?

C.S.: I always think about it. Maybe one day I'll have that chance, when I retire. One of the reasons I do the comic strips is because an animated film takes five years. It never ends, you can not see the end. While I spend years and years working on things that never end, once in a while I like to do a drawing, from pencils to inks, and say, "Finished! I managed to finish something! Now I can go back to work."

D.M.: Most animated films in Hollywood are computer graphics or stop-motion. It's obvious that you love the two-dimensional hand-drawn graphics. Will we ever see another American big-budget, hand-drawn animated feature?

C.S.: Maybe. We'll see. Maybe we'll see more hybrids, as is happening now. CG has its advantages, as does the traditional technique. I believe that engaging people emotionally is easier with a freehand drawing. There is something in that analog process, something more emotional and engaging. There is much more work to do to convey the same emotion with the characters in CGI. So I hope so!

How's that for a good gettin-to-know-ya? That last question alone will keep my imagination fueled for days. Chris Sanders returning to hand-drawn animation would be a DREAM COME TRUE for so many of his fans. It's nice to read that it'd be a dream come true for him, too!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Well, Looky There -- A New Croods TV Spot!



If I thanked Commenter Bob for the link, you wouldn't be jealous, would you?

Fun-Looking Footage from the Croods Game



Commenter Michael Martinez sent me this trailer for the upcoming Croods video game, The Croods: Prehistoric Party. It looks like a lot of fun! Incredibly colorful and shamelessly silly, it looks like the kind of game you could sit an entire family down in front of and they'd all have a good time. Extra points to the game makers for using Joe Moshier and Margaret Wuller's stripped-down character designs on the menus and scoreboards. Honestly, I think I prefer these designs to the 'official' ones, and I can't wait to see how they will be used in the future.

Related: Okay, This Is Weird

Did You Know...


…that Chris Sanders is doing the voice of Belt in The Croods? This is the second major character that he’s voiced in an animated film. His first? Stitch!

Related: Did You Know...

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

It's Your Croods Clip O' The Day...



...starring Thunk & Douglas!

Some Old Chris Sanders Art That I Probably Could've Passed Off As Croods Concept Art
(...but I didn't. I could've, but I didn't. Doesn't that sort of journalistic integrity merit at least ONE advance screening pass? Mishka will have to wait in the car, but she's cool. She'll understand. Oh, wait. Here she comes. Shhh. Act natural.)




These drawings originally appeared in Sanders' sketchbooks, available here.

Buzz Is Building At The Advance Screenings


YouTube reviewer Rae344 was lucky enough to attend one of the free Croods screenings that took place this weekend in Boston. As a New England resident myself, I tried my damnedest to get a ticket to one of these. Unfortunately, um...nope. Still, it's nice to know that the film was enjoyed by all -- especially this gal!


That poster-worthy pull-quote comes courtesy of husband, father and religious blogger, paradoxparables. paradoxparables also attended a weekend test screening of The Croods, and he, too, came out singing its praises. Here are a few excerpts of his gushing review:

This was probably one of the funnest pre-release movie screenings I have ever been to. My wife and 5-year-old loved this movie. It’s some clean good family fun. It feels like a cross between a theme park ride and being there. Visually it is stunning, probably will draw comparisons to the Life of Pi and Avatar.

And...

Full of humorous moments and a visual appeal that is epic. This is a stunning masterpiece of cinematic story telling where the 3D Animation has a life of its own. This was exciting, exhilarating and enjoyable. The movie will leave you hoping for tomorrow and dreaming of the beautiful landscape.


It's not just the online film reviewers raving about The Croods. Positive feedback from the advance screenings is also starting to pop up in the comments sections of various industry websites. Reprinted below are just the first two comments that followed Deadline Hollywood's posting of last week's Croods clip.
  • When I saw the trailer I had little hope. However I saw a screening and loved it. This is the first time I’ve seen a 3d movie worthy of 3d in a long time.
    Comment by Cali — Saturday February 16, 2013 @ 3:35pm PST 
     
  • I saw it this morning too and agree. The movie is gorgeous and I think it delivered the rebellious teenage daughter story much better than Brave did. Also, Nic Cage as a caveman, what took so long?
    Comment by CarlosinMD — Saturday February 16, 2013 @ 6:21pm PST
For those of you unfamiliar with the reputation of Deadline Hollywood and its commenters, the site is generally NOT known for its kindness and positivity. So for the comments there to be this good, the movie's gotta be something special.

Thanks to Commenter Bob for the multiple heads-ups. AS ALWAYS.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Q: How Do You Follow A 9 Part Recap of The Croods at Berlinale?
A: TWO NEW FILM CLIPS!

The Croods: Discover Fire

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The Croods: Roadtrip

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Greatest lines from the film to date:

Gran: What's a pet?
Guy: An animal you don't eat.
Gran: We call those children.

Related: New Croods Clip? Yes, Please!

The Croods at Berlinale pt. 9: Belt in Berlin!


Belt is NOT shy. There's plenty more photos where these came from. Klicken sie hier.

The Croods at Berlinale pt. 8
The Complete Press Conference

This is long, but good. Really good. Sure, there are a couple of crap questions. (Clip 7 has two of the WORST!) But there are also many, MANY great answers, insightful anecdotes and brand new bits of info on the creation of The Croods. So kick off your shoes and settle in. These vids are well worth your time.

Note: The first clip is primarily introductions to the cast and crew. The first real question doesn't occur until just after the 4:00 mark.



Warning: BIG SPOILER in clip 4!

The polar opposite of a Warning: In clip 6, Chris Sanders tells a price-of-admission story about an important lesson that Alan Silvestri taught him during the production of Lilo & Stitch. Nic Cage's follow-up is also great!



The Croods at Berlinale pt.7:
Automatic Answers To Unasked Questions


One of the most fun and rewarding parts of ANY filmmaker/actor/actress' job is the hotel press junket. Combining the thrill of self-expression with the glamor of old Hollywood, the hotel press junket is the epitome of the Tinseltown dream. Sitting in small chair in a lightly-themed hotel room for hours on end, answering the same ten questions over and over again --WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?

While filmmakers/actors/actresses would LOVE to devote months to repeating this ritual the whole world over, alas, they cannot. After all, self-aggrandizing reward shows and private school fundraisers won't host themselves. Enter: The PRERECORDED hotel press junket. This is where filmmakers/actors/actresses film a set of carefully constructed answers to the cliched questions that literally EVERY journalist inevitably asks. These prerecorded soundbites are then sent to local news stations across the globe, where they are unconvincingly spliced together with clips of local newscasters reading from a list of prepackaged questions. And just like that, NEWS IS BORN!

Now, thanks to the wonders of the internet, YOU TOO can craft your own phony interviews with the cast and crew of The Croods. If you're really tech-savvy, you could even cut-and-paste the prerecorded answers to create ALL NEW ANSWERS! Draft an internet exclusive! Start a libelous meme! Prank call your friends! Your only limits are your conscience, your imagination and the local laws in your township or jurisdiction. Enjoy!

Kirk De Micco & Chris Sanders



Nicholas Cage



Emma Stone

Monday, February 18, 2013

The Croods at Berlinale pt. 6: New Posters




This cute set of posters was released late Sunday night. Featuring the Hollywood stars who voiced the Croods, they're sorta reminiscent of those Facebook Timeline photos that I made a few months back. (Still available here and here!)

Psst, DreamWorks. Maybe it's time you offered me a freelance gig. ;)

The Croods at Berlinale pt. 5:
The Rest of the Reviews


Remember that thoughtful and effusive review of The Croods that I posted last week? The one written by the Italian film reviewer, Federico Gironi? That was awesome, wasn't it? Gironi called The Croods "the new standard-bearer for DreamWorks Animation." He said it was a "progression in the way that animated films tell their stories." Dude flat-out LOVED it!

Germany's OutNow.ch also gave The Croods a rave review. They rated it 5 out of 6 stars, saying:

There are many beautiful ideas, slanted characters and lovable animals [...] to admire here. [...] With all the vividness of the film, I was sometimes surprised by its absolute silence, which is rather unusual for an animated film.
 

It really is great fun to watch the Croods with all their endearing quirks and the whimsical environment in which they find a new home. My natural reaction was to not quit gazing. There are too many beautiful things to be discovered and, above all, to laugh at heartily.

Sounds GREAT, right?

Well, I want you to try and keep these positive words in mind as you scroll through the rest of today's review round-up. This next batch is a little less loving. In fact, a few of these reviews are downright downers.

I seriously considered not posting them. Up 'til now, this blog has been 100% positive in regards to The Croods. Hell, with the exception of my forgetting to ask Chris Sanders for a sketch of Stitch, it's been 100% positive about damned near EVERYTHING. Is that all that the readers of this blog want to read? I don't know. But I do know what I want to see when I go to a movie website. I want EVERYTHING -- the good, the bad and the ugly. Even if it's about something I love. No, make that: ESPECIALLY if it's about something I love. I actually PREFER to love something warts and all. If I can clearly see a film's flaws, if I can nod my head in agreement when someone I respect tells me their quibbles with a film that I adore, if I can face the harsh reality that a film is not only 'not perfect' but seriously flawed and I STILL LOVE IT? Then I know that my love for that movie is pure. Unshakable. Unreasonable. (Like love itself!) I know that I will cherish that movie forever.

So here they are. The not-so-effusive reviews. Read them quickly or don't read them at all, the choice is yours. I find that I disagree with the critics far more often than I agree with them, so these reviews won't really do much to dampen my excitement for the film. That said, their negative nit-pics WILL rattle around my head for the next few weeks, possibly interfering with my total immersion while watching the movie. This is the ONE THING that I wish I could've somehow prevented. But it's not too late for you! If you want an unadulterated viewing of The Croods, DO NOT CLICK THESE LINKS.

The Croods will be released in less than a month. We'll all decide for ourselves what we think of the film then. But until March 22 finally arrives, just remember: Right now, at this very moment, some very smart critic hates something you love. The same thing may turn out to be true with The Croods. How cool would that be?

Still here? Okay, then. Here are the links:

The Hollywood Reporter


ScreenDaily.com


IndieWire.com


Exberliner.com


Variety

The Croods at Berlinale pt. 4:
An Interview with Chris Sanders & Kirk De Micco

These Italian websites are great! Not only did ComingSoon.it provide me with my favorite review of The Croods thus far, today it dropped an interview with Sanders and De Micco in my lap. Here it is, awkwardly translated by Google, then clumsily reassembled by me.

A Talk with Chris Sanders & Kirk DeMicco, directors of The Croods by Adriano Ercolani 

Q: How did you decide to make the film?

Kirk De Micco: It all began in 2004, when DreamWorks decided to make a film about cavemen. I started writing the story with John Cleese -- I hope that the film acknowledges him on the screenplay credit with us. Then, in 2007, when Chris went from Disney to DreamWorks, he became interested in the project, which in the meantime I was continuing to write. In 2009, however, we had to stop production for about eighteen months because Chris had shifted to How To Train Your Dragon. I cried a lot. When he came back on board we totally revised the script. The biggest change is that in the beginning it was a village of prehistoric people who had never been far from the place where they lived. Chris had the idea to tighten it down to a single family. It was at that time that the story really began to take shape. [...] By focusing on a family, we understood our priorities. The plot centers on their journey and the ways that it changes them.

Q: Why have you created a special prehistoric time [the "Croodacious Period"] to set the film in?

Chris Sanders: To have as much freedom as possible. We analyzed many photos of unspoiled places on our planet, and then we made the decision. At first we thought about including aliens, then we realized that they were already too exploited and that they would not have seemed dangerous. We wanted to create a prehistoric world, not copy an existing one like The Flintstones that is so well built and settled in the minds of all. We wanted to do a little of what [Danny Boyle] did with zombies in 28 Days Later -- make them more lively, athletic, run them. This would help both the action and the comedy. 

Q: But the Croods seem to be a modern family... 

KDM: Once we finished removing everything that had been distracting us, we knew we had to decide what makes a family. Eep is the curious girl, the one that has an adventurous spirit, the one who asks the others in their cave: "What are we doing here?" And this is the biggest question of all. What counts most in The Croods is the discourse on the family, the ties that hold it together, the changes it faces. The one who ultimately has to answer this question is Grug, the father that wants to keep everyone safe in the dark cave. Grug -- more than any other character -- does not want things to change. But in the end, he will undergo the metamorphosis that is the most important. If you do not take risks in life, you may survive, but it is a far cry from truly living. 

Q: The great strength of [How To Train Your Dragon] was the fullness of the characters and the emotional power of the story. Can we expect this from The Croods

CS: Emotion is the basis of every memorable film. In The Croods there are many emotional truths that relate to the characters. What has always inspired me are the antics of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. They are so much fun, but they also containe some moments of deep humanity, often even pain. I remember when I was six or seven years old, I'd often burst into tears as I watched them on TV because they were so human in what they were doing and feeling. What I learned from them is that you have to be able to love the characters you write, to make them as real as we did with Dragon and hopefully with The Croods


Q: How did you choose the cast of actors for the voices of the characters? 

CS: We were lucky. Each of the actors we had was our first choice, especially Nicolas Cage. He brought so much warmth to this father figure who is lazy, who would sit in his hiding place and do nothing else. Emma Stone was also perfect. She gave Eep a very strong personality and great humanity, especially when confronting her father. [...] We always keep a camcorder pointed at the actors when they are dubbed. That way, if they do something that may be useful to their character, we can immediately show it to the animators. After every recording session with Emma we had new material. 

Q: The Croods is set in prehistoric times, just like the Ice Age films. That world seems to have greater successes than other animated worlds. Why do you think this is?

KDM: The secret for us is that there is nothing tying it exclusively to the United States. The Croods is totally universal. The same goes for Ice Age. There is no cultural gap to fill. It's also a family story. 

Q: What were the main difficulties in the animation of this film? 

CS: Humans are always difficult to animate. You must make them simple, but still full of appeal. Humans' facial expressions are difficult to animate, as there are many. The animals have less. The greatest difficulty is that making an animated film takes several years and you have to maintain the enthusiasm and the will to continue. Fortunately, today's technology makes animation easier and more realistic. There are no limits to what you can do with computer animation, even the live action movies are totally changing because of it. The problem is what kind of stories you can tell. You have to focus more than before on their consistency and their ability to connect with the audience.


Wow, this interview had A LOT of new quotes and anecdotes. Did you know about Sanders' affinity for Laurel & Hardy before this? I sure didn't. But when you think back to the relationship between Jumba and Pleakley in Lilo & Stitch, it seems so OBVIOUS! I'd also never heard the 28 Days Later comparison before. I wonder if that's something they shared with the Mommy Bloggers? I also liked De Micco's theory as to why the Ice Age films do so well around the world. His answer seems so simple, yet I'd never heard it expressed that way before. Good stuff. Great interview, Adriano!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Fan Art Friday


The Croods fan art keeps pouring in, and I am LOVING it! Today's first piece comes from Stefan Ellison (a.k.a. MrCoat). It's an INSANELY ENDEARING portrait of Eep. Do you recognize her pose? It's from the scene in the second trailer where Eep is given her first pair of shoes. It's the funniest film clip released thus far, and Stefan's depiction of it is spot-on. Look at those half-moon eyes and smile. They perfectly portray Eep's giddy delight. Heck, they perfectly capture MY delight -- at this drawing!

To view more of Stefan's art, click here.


This next piece is from Luis Garcia (a.k.a. tigerbreath13). It's the candy-colored cast of an as-yet-unmade spin-off of The Croods -- The Macawnivores. Hanna and Barbera's grandkids need to re-form the company a.s.a.p. so they can launch this as a Saturday morning cartoon. I know I'd get up extra early on the weekend if it meant eating my Cocoa Puffs in front of this fanged 'n' furry foursome.

A quick aside: Most art classes offered in public schools push life drawing and reward realism. So when I come across an artist whose work is UNABASHEDLY CARTOONY, I've gotta give them a special shout-out for their persistence of vision and dedication to the silly. Keep drawing like you're drawing, Luis. YOUR WORK IS WONDERFUL!

To view more of Luis' art, click here.

The Croods at Berlinale pt. 3:
An INSANELY Enlightened & Effusive Review!

The only real downside to blogging about an unreleased film are the recurring moments of doubt. No matter how beautiful the leaked images are, no matter how promising the trailers appear, there are inevitably going to be times when you wonder, 'Did I back a losing race horse here?'

It can't be helped. Or at least, I can't help it. After all, I've put hours and hours (added up: DAYS AND DAYS) of my life into blogging about The Croods, drawing comics about The Croods and making herky-jerky gifs of The Croods. You put that much time into ANYTHING, and if you're even the least bit glass-half-empty, you're gonna have periods of profound uncertainty. If Touched By An Angel is to be believed, religious people suffer something similar. They call it 'a crisis of faith.' I'm not sure what artists call theirs, but it caused van Gogh to slice off his ear. (And I LOVE MY EARS! They're my third favorite erogenous zone!)

That's why Federico Gironi's Croods review from ComingSoon.it has me feeling so good. Gironi's review was originally written in Italian, but even through the garbled babble that Google Translate gave me, it's easy to see that Gironi LOVED The Croods. Re-printed below are some of the faith-affirming highlights.


Berlinale 2013: Review of The Croods, the new film from DreamWorks Animation by Federico Gironi  

Those who, judging by the first images and the first trailer, looked at The Croods with skepticism, should reconsider. [...] Because the new standard bearer for DreamWorks Animation is able to surprise positively, both for the story it tells and for the visual imagination and humor that it evokes. 

The world [...] is [...] populated by creatures [...] that seem to come from a psychedelic mash-up between Alice in Wonderland and the worlds of Dr. Seuss. [...] Movie fans will love the colorful and imaginative creatures and the well-chosen characters and characterizations of the Croods, as well as the film's themes.

Because in the end, the story of The Croods, as well as the love between the two young people and the jealousy of the father [...], is the clash between those who, out of fear, stigmatize and shun like the plague anything new, and those who instead, perhaps with a hint of utopianism, want to meet the future without blinders, without fear, without upsetting or disturbing what is new.

The Croods is not an evolution in the way that animated films are made, but a progression in the way that animated films tell their stories.
A movie in which the good feelings are there, but are never schmaltzy. Where the sense of family is never pedantic familism, but slapstick, humorous, sarcastic and even naughty! (The protagonist hopes every morning that his mother-in-law died during the night.)

  
Above all, The Croods is a film that pushes the idea of a freedom that is not ​​an island, but a common ground to share, a place that respects all personalities, preferences and inclinations. A place to mingle and, then, to progress.

D-d-d-damn.

"The new standard-bearer for DreamWorks Animation"?

THAT IS AN AMAZING REVIEW.

The Croods at Berlinale pt. 2:
Random Photos, YouTube Footage & A Nic Cage Quote



Extra special thanks to Janin Reinhardt for snapping these GREAT photos of the Croods crew attending this year's Berlinale Film Festival.

Pictured in the top photo, from left to right: producer Jane Hartwell; German language voice actors Kostja Ullmann, Janin Reinhardt & Uwe Ochsenknecht; English language voice actors Nicolas Cage & Emma Stone; co-directors Kirk De Micco & Chris Sanders; producer Kristine Belson.

If you don't automatically recognize everyone in the next three photos, SHAME ON YOU.

Nic Cage on The Croods:

"When I saw the family, my first thought was, 'Gee, I hope I do not look like them!'"

Via: The Dülmener Zeitung

Red Carpet Footage, Press Conference Clips & A Guy In A Belt Suit

The Croods at Berlinale pt. 1:
Sequel Talk & Voice-Over Techniques

Earlier today, The Croods premiered at the Berlinale International Film Festival. According to The Hollywood Reporter, its reception was "rapturous." Hollywood being Hollywood (even in Berlindale!), the post-premier interviews immediately veered to sequels.

Chris Sanders: The nature of this film was the road trip, of all the movies I've done this was the most heavily story boarded [...]. So if we did have to put together another film quickly, we'd have a lot of spare parts to work with.

Nicholas Cage: Yes, I would like to see another adventure with The Croods.

As the night wore on and the dollar signs in everyone's eyes began to fade, the talk returned to the FIRST Croods film. In particular, the voice-over process.

Nicholas Cage: 50 percent of a performance is voice and I consider all acting to be music on some level so this was an opportunity to stay in tune with my instrument. I just look at the lines as they were written that day and have at it. I'm be remembering images from my past, conjuring things up [...]. And they could cherry pick what worked and what didn't.

Emma Stone: I'd done a lot of ADR work on my movies like Easy A, with the narration, so I thought it was  going to be like that -- I'd just read my line. Then I realized there was so much physicality involved -- you are really playing an animated character. Which was great because I come from improv and sketch comedy -- I always want to go bigger and bigger -- and with  a character like Eep in The Croods, you can't go too big.

From what the Croods crew said at Comic-Con, this is exactly the approach Emma Stone took. According to James Baxter, "Emma is so animated when she performs her line readings in the booth." He went on to say that the animators quickly decided to use a lot of Stone's facial reactions, building them into the character of Eep.

As for Mr. Cage's recording process, allow me to pull a few quotes from a 2012 CraveOnline interview with Croods co-directors Chris Sanders and Kirk De Micco.

CraveOnline: When I saw Grug making the scary faces, I could imagine Nicolas Cage in the recording studio doing it. 

Chris Sanders: Dude, you have no idea. 

CarveOnline: Well, tell me. Do you have some video on this and was there some amazing stuff that was just too extreme Nicolas Cage for the movie?

Chris Sanders: There’s nothing too extreme.

Kirk De Micco: Never too extreme.

Chris Sanders: The one that really stands out in my mind is we had a recording session in Las Vegas, and Nicolas was about to go out to dinner with his wife. He was dressed up with his black suit, shiny black shoes, he looked like he was going to the Oscars. His hair was all combed and he had these sunglasses with black rims and blue lenses. The funniest thing in the world was when he was doing his lines, like, "Brhklhouih! I’m caveman!" He’s doing all that dressed like he’s going to the Oscars. I actually at that point had to stop and just say, "I’m sorry, I’m just enjoying this so much." 

Kirk De Micco: It was like a one-man show that would be running forever.

"Running forever," eh? Hmn...maybe the cast and crew of The Croods are ready for more than just a SINGLE sequel?

All photos were clipped from JustJared.com. To see the rest of JJ's premier pics, click here.