Michigan Central Station Adventure (part 1)

Depot by Rick Dolishny

To view the trailer for “Depot” click here.

Growing up in Windsor, I’ve often wondered about the hulking structure just north of the Ambassador Bridge in Detroit, Michigan. It wasn’t until the Internet when I was able to conduct searches of what I knew about the building and piece it all together. And since then, I’ve been obsessed with viewing any images or scarce video I could find of the place. I dreamed of an opportunity to photograph it myself in high quality, somewhat better than cameraphone safaris I’ve taken in the past.

You can read about the history of the magnificent building on Wikipedia, but suffice to say the world’s tallest train station was a grand structure upon it’s completion in 1913, and has come to symbolize many frustrated Detroiter’s views on local politics and urban decay.
When Detroit City Council decided to appropriate Federal ‘stimulus’ money to demolish the building as soon as within a month, I raced to action.
Two people immediately came to mind to join me. I would be taking some expensive gear into the building and needed a posse.
I’ve known Mir Lada from our time at Ryerson’s Photo Arts program, and he’s gone on to become one of Canada’s top photographers. You can visit Mir’s site here. He knew about the building and photographed the exterior on a recent trip to Chicago.
Our other member of the team was Chris Barnes, who has picked up on my love of urban decay through Facebook and commented on a number of posts involving abandoned buildings and cities.¬†With a team firmly assembled it was time to secure a guide. Within minutes of posting a “help wanted” ad of craigslist.org, we had dozens of responses. Interested guides included college girls, a teacher, a paranormal advisor, and a local filmmaker who shot a segment for current.tv a few years ago and had a quality segment to show for it. With Brad we found our guide.
The trip to Detroit was quick and enjoyable. Having made that drive hundreds of times to visit family in Windsor and Detroit, I am very familiar with the route. It’s also second nature to me to bring lots of ID (especially with the passport requirements changing June 1 2009), but I guess Chris didn’t get that memo! At the border, all he had was a birth certificate, which got us a trip to a holding area for clearance.
The border agents were curt at best, but once they realized we were all photographers just hoping to take some pictures, one of the agents whispered under his breath, “I’m a photographer too, watch out at night”. With that, we were back on the road, our orifices intact.
A word of caution: if you’re entering another country as a photographer and in an immigration holding area, avoid using the word “shoot” as I did.
After clearing customs, it was a quick three minute drive to the base of the Station. We piled out of the car and pressed up against the razor wire, enjoying a spectacular sunset and total solitude. If it wasn’t for the crack whore passing by on her way to ‘the ho-down’ I would say we were pretty much on our own. And yes, I had to look it up, there was in fact a downtown Detroit ‘ho-down’ happening at the same time as our trip.
After a quick survey of the building, we headed downtown to check into our hotel. The Book-Cadillac has a storied past and was slated for demolition no less than two times in recent years. But $180M has created a hotel that is nothing short of a modern wonder. In fact, perhaps a bit too modern judging by the 42″ plasma screen and double-sized bathroom. But the exterior is stunning and the neighbourhood surrounding Washington Blvd. is showing tremendous signs of positive energy. There are of course office towers that sit completely empty with trees growing on the roof, if you care to look up. The city is certainly a place of contrast, which makes for an interesting adventure.
After a refreshing late-night dinner in Mexicantown, we headed back to the hotel to check our batteries, clean our lenses, and try to get some sleep. We had a 9AM call time with our guide and we didn’t want to be late.
To view the trailer for “Depot” click here.
In the next chapter, a “Soul Food” breakfast, the Obama calming effect, getting inside and almost not getting back out.
Also, a detailed look at the innovative gear and tech we brought in to document the building.

Dorito Guru Contest: “When Nacho Met Cheese” Animation

Dorito Guru Contest: "When Nacho Met Cheese" Animation

Dorito Guru Contest: "When Nacho Met Cheese" Animation

I had been working a few weekends on several Doritos spots. I’ve shot Steadicam, I’ve done some 3D tracking doing some monitor-replacements, as well as some effects for a number of spots. But it was the sound guy Alex Shapcott on one of the shoots who wanted to direct a hybrid live-action animated spot with little Dorito chips. The shoot would happen in three days, and the deadline was one week.

I was hooked.

Once we met to go over storyboards, the shoot was booked and we were on our way. In all, there were 13 FX shots for the 30 second spot. We would be shooting 24p in 720p HD using the Panasonic 200. DOP Steve Whitehead had plenty of experience shooting for FX, so everything came to me perfect.

I stopped by onset to take some mental measurements of the space, and get an idea of where the lights were.

 

Dorito Guru Contest: "When Nacho Met Cheese" Animation
The shoot was going to be pretty much 100% macro, so I didn’t pay too close attention to details.

What I was concerned with was whether or not the latest version of my 3D software was going to be able to handle the extreme Depth of Field. It turns out my concerns were unwarranted.

Lightwave has always been known for having an exceptionally good renderer, but in the past, motion blur and DOF have always been a signature problem. You could tell a Lightwave rendered shot by it’s nasty layered effect when in reality you would expect things to be much smoother. Well, the new Lightwave did not disappoint! Although plugins like XDOF still exist for proper bokeh effects, the included DOF settings worked really well with a minor bit of tweaking.

So off to the grocery store to pick up some Doritos “$” brand, as well as a plain flavour for our male character.

I started modeling in Modo but gravitated to Lightwave because the geometry wasn’t that complicated, and I can still work faster in Lightwave for basic jobs. I still want to learn to use Modo faster than Lightwave! But with a deadline of less than a week for everything, this was not going to be the job.

The footage was shot locked off, and I used Combustion to add a hand-held effect to everything. Working in non-interlaced HD is always such a joy.

Rendering became a big problem, as I upgraded Lightwave and ButterflyNetRender at the same time. Thanks to the patient assistance of Paul Lord, we were able to isolate the problem to the plugins Proximity or Range Finder. I pulled them both and the rendering moved very quickly after that.

I was also hoping to make use of the new EXR format to handle by shadow and DOF passes, but in the end I used regular TGA files and utilized the feature in Lightwave under properties>advanced that assigned the shadow map to the front projection mapped ground. This allowed for quick and easy compositing of the CGI over the live action. Pros might look down on this low tech solution, but it worked and was quick and easy. Caution: make sure you use a unique shadow catching plane for each scene! And as mentioned earlier, the new DOF looks great. Just turn up the Adaptive Samping. The setting we ended up using was:

Anti-Aliasing = 1
Adaptive Samping = 0.03
Over Sampling = 0.5

Render times ranged from under a minute to twenty minutes, but were swiftly handled by BNR.

I haven’t had an opportunity to use Lightwave’s particle engine for production work, and at the last minute we decided to do a treatment to some 3D text. Man, I forgot how easy it is to set up Dynamics in Lightwave. After setting up the simulation in seconds, and cloning it for each time the word hit the ground, I assigned a Hypervoxel renderer to each emitter, added some orange colour, and I was done. Pretty uneventful, but very effective use of an effect.

In Combustion I composited the CGI foregrounds over the live action backgrounds, used the awesome Discreet colour corrector to power window parts of the shot, remove elements, or add a customizable soft vignette.

One of the reasons I think Lightwave isn’t used more, and one of the reasons I’m not working in animation professionally as much as I’d like, is the role of generalist has long died off. Lightwave is good for doing all sorts of things, but it’s not necessarily great. And in many cases it’s not very customizable. It can be run very smoothly by just one guy, which doesn’t lend itself well to a studio environment. But that’s also it’s strength. I don’t think I could have pulled off this level of quality as quickly as I did, with another app.

I would also like to point out any animator’s best friend when it comes to assembling the final timeline is Sony Vegas Pro. It seamlessly refreshes new animation if even only one frame was updated, it doesn’t mind dealing with a series of TGA files vs. a single Quicktime file (FCP still can’t do that), the colour correction is really clean, the secondary colour correction (which I used to time the CGI chips to the real chips in all shots where both were present) was Symphony calibre and much easier to use. As someone who uses Final Cut Pro and Avid professionally, nothing can beat Vegas if you’re doing production animation work with lots of change and lots of little tweaks. The timeline was kept to 720p and final renderings came off that.

My thanks go out to Alex Shapcott the Director, Paul at Liquid Solutions for the weekend tech support, the DOP Steven Whitehead, Brian Collins, Richard Pierre, Kyle Milligan, and the cast and crew that made this remarkable project come together. I’d also like to apologize to my wife and three kids for not being available to play outside on this glorious weekend!

Now go and vote!

Writer and Director: Alexander Shapcott
Director of Photography: Stephen Whitehead
Visual Effects Supervisor, Compositing and Animation: Rick Dolishny
Sound Designer: Brian Collins
Grip and Electric: Dan Luizinho
Production Assistance: Suzanne Stalker
Actor: Dan Fox
Actress: Jenny Michaels

Creative COW, Discrete Edit*ors, And Crusty Old Editors

Google Cache Framegrab of the Mast-head of Old Crusties

edit: the post that’s been described in private emails to me as, “right on the money, but I hope Ron doesn’t see it” has been pulled. I slept on it. Clever googlers might try google cache but let it go.

Here’s the deal: it’s not worth it. I like Ron and the COW.

Ron at the COW: “Take some time off. Please don’t take your business regrets out on your volunteers.

I remain sorry for your loss”.

Regards,
Rick Dolishny

Bike Ride from Oshawa to Toronto


I recently responded to a blog post by talented photog Derek Lang about the choices he made during what can be described as a Ferris Beuller Day. He had quite an adventure. You should really check it out.

I got to thinking about travel and slowing down to take in the world on a more human level. Bike riding for me has always been the perfect thing to do: it offers excercise, travel and adventure. And it’s never boring. In fact, it’s zen like in its awesomeness.

One day I’m guessing in 2000, I thought I’d try riding my bike from my home in Oshawa to my office at the Second City in Toronto. I figured it was about 65km, and knew after my NZ trip that was going to be a challenge on my mountain bike. But I packed up some food and hit the road at about 5:45am.

I didn’t have a digital camera back then, and in fact just started a job at Second City and I was pretty broke at the time. I think Melissa would have just been born then too. But I did score Bryce’s new Jam Cam, a kids digital camera that recorded 640×320 and it held exactly eight shots.

I remember the feeling of riding through the early morning mist rolling off Lake Ontario as the sun broke through the clouds behind me. I remember standing in awe underneath that massive air turbine at the Pickering nuke plant listening to the incredible “whoosh, whoosh” of the impressive blades. I took a great picture of that, but with only eight images I had to do some editing mid-adventure.

I remember the intensity of my day rising when I crossed the Rouge River on that awesome foot bridge and started seeing kids and families and finally some traffic. Until then I was pretty much on my own. I stopped at my favourite Starbucks in the Beaches for a grande latte and sat on a bench watching the families bustle about making their way to school or yoga or work.

The last leg of that trip was melancholic. I was on the familiar Martin Goodman Trail making my way. At this point I was joined by plenty of other bikers; I believe that was a defining moment when I realized I really wanted to move back to Toronto and specifically the Beaches. Riding my bike to work, incredible idea.

I made it to work just after 10, got a few high fives from some impressed co-workers. I remember working for a few hours then closing my eyes and totally falling asleep on the couch in the edit suite. I left work early to beat the rush hour, which meant I was allowed to bring by bike on the GO train. Watching my day unfold in reverse at 110km/h, I felt a little sad, but privileged to have experienced the journey one wheel revoltion at a time.

Client Changes


Received in my inbox this morning from my web design client:

The attached represents update/refinement to content primarily but within the context of a suggested visual presentation to look at both aspects holistically.”


… uh, I think he wants me to change his web site. But I’m open to suggestions.

LG TU720 Shine: Photo Samples

As promised, here are a few unprocessed images taken from the camera. Note, you may wish to press the “view all sizes” button to see them in higher quality.

Really nice camera phone.

Video will come up later.

LG TU720 Shine: Actually Shines …. Despite Rogers

I’ve been thinking about how to start this blog post, but to rant about the abysmal service, clueless staff, lacklustre product lineup, and expensive ‘bundles’ no-one wants has all been done before. I decided to take a fresh look at the company and see what those doorknobs on Bloor St. have conjured up as something at Joe Public might actually want in the world of Wireless Internet.

You guessed it, I’m not a big fan. In fact, despite being a customer of Rogers for almost 20 years, I can say that my relationship with the company is “net-neutral”. They do a few things well, they offer consistent service … but the times they let me down are big letdowns.

For a number of reasons the time was right to explore a major upgrade to the poor Samsung e316. I need web and gmail access.

I would like a robust media experience, camera that can do decent stills and video, in a non-proprietary format.

I would not accept a crappy interface, and wanted something that looked good enough to pull out at a meeting or during an edit.

I also needed it in two colours: professional and pink. Susan always wanted a pink phone, and for years I’ve been clever to always get our phones upgraded together because the charger will always get lost.

My neighbour is with Bell and has been showing off his tiny but cool little HTC and boasting about that $7/month unlimited data plan. I had a budget goal.

Also, despite drooling over the Nokia N82 reviews provided by the very talented and well-connected blogger Andrew Currie, I knew I wasn’t in the $400-$600 phone range. Although that phone is lovely!

Looks Like I Want An iPhone

So, except for the pink and possibly the video (I’ve seen hacks), it sounds like a trip to Buffalo is in order to pick up a firesale of the first generation iPhones. But not so fast!

I resigned to the fact that I might be changing carriers because Rogers sucks so badly. Specifically, they bundle crap together that no-one needs, they use way too many exclamation marks when describing the craptacular* (* credit: Andrew Currie) products they are pawning off (“Download cool ring tones!”). You’ve heard it all before. Maybe you’re a lucky Rogers customer trying out a crummy PPV on your “High Tech 100% Digital Scientific Atlanta Cable Box!”, when it’s not crashing or slowly refreshing it’s circa-Vic20 user interface.

I visited the Rogers web site only to find a few instances of superscript 1 and ++ and of course * but when I scrolled down to read the fine print, it was never there. Look for yourself. EDIT: they just added the Terms link today. Maybe somebody listened when I complained. I called Rogers to explain their data plans to me and I just got frustrated, “you pay $7 per month so you can access the Shop Rogers site and buy ringtones!” (exclamation mark mine). Finally, I visited the Rogers Plus store on Taunton and Ritson in Oshawa and dealt with the stupidest CSR I’ve ever had the misfortune of dealing with in my life. She thought 2M per MONTH was a pretty good deal for most users. I strongly disagreed. I asked her if she was embarrassed offering such an abysmal and tightly capped product to unsuspecting customers, and she said, ‘no’. At this point I announced to Susan that we were dumping Rogers tomorrow, but I wasn’t sure exactly where I was going to go.

Going Shopping

Fido was first, because they are flogging an older Nokia 6301, with wifi, for only $50 per phone. But I could never get through to a CSR and when I went by their office at First Canadian Place they were closed, despite Bell, Telus and Rogers all being open at 9. Finally, they’re basically Rogers anyway so I didn’t give it too much effort.

Telus was pushing Blackberrys and Treos (Sorry, Palm. You’ve died.), which left a very helpful CSR at Bell pushing the lovely but hello-kitty looking LG Rumour. The Bell rep was very helpful, asked what my rate was with Rogers Couples, and sent me to get a coffee while she worked out a killer customer stealing package. While walking to Tims I noticed a Rogers booth and thought I’d give it one more try.

The CSR rep greeted me right away, and took the time to show me all the phones. Despite looking and sounding like a Blackberry customer, he respected my declined offer and stuck with regular cel phone hybrids (balance of phone and PDA). After showing me a few he settled on the featured phone: the LG Shine. Lovely near iPhone appearance, and it came in pink!!! OK, let’s talk about the $7/month data plan once and for all.

Let the Suckage Begin

From what I can see, as long as you use the Rogers browser you’re good to go. I could visit any web site I could think of, it seems to work fine. But that Rogers home page is just horrible. I can’t imagine what the fine folks on Bloor St are thinking when they put “Ringtones!” and “Friends!” and of course “Web Favourites!” that don’t include Google (Rogers is affiliated with Yahoo!) but I was assured I could create bookmarks to escape the Rogers grasp quickly (it’s true). So after a few hours of fighting the Rogers computer (it seems I could only buy one phone) I got my two phones. Yes, the CSR wasn’t allowed to sell me two phones.

…Not So Fast

After playing with the Rogers ‘applications’ for a few seconds, I thought I’d give Google Mobile a try. After all, I have the full suite of Google Aps running at home: gmail, calendar, docs. It took me about five seconds to realize Google is again out to rule the world, this time in my handheld. Everything worked exactly the way I expected it to, I even set up an iGoogle homepage because it JUST SO AMAZING to have new emails, a google search window, and the New York Times on one tiny little page. Needless to say I learned bookmarking really quickly and got that set up so with just three taps I’m out of the Rogers miserable world and into fast and easy world.

On the subject of bookmarking, it’s awesome that LG provided more than one button on the faceplate for things like “select” and “back”. This means now that I’ve set up my bookmarks, I don’t have to slide out the keyboard at all for a totally satisfying web browsing experience. The centre joystick takes a little getting used to, but I think it will work out fine.

I should point out, and the CSR at Rogers was very clear, it’s unlimited browsing using the Rogers browser. I can’t install Opera or install the uber-kewl gmail app, otherwise I’m back to the five cent per kilobyte (yes you read that per kilobyte) data rate.

Just to put that into perspective, when I first got my Facebook account maybe year ago I tried using it using my poor old Samsung for maybe a dozen times until the bill for $25 came in.

This might be a good time to point out I’m on the new Rogers Vision, which I think is G3, and it’s so incredibly fast. Web pages download in a second or two or less. I’m really impressed as a web device accessing Google Apps.

As a sidebar, and I don’t want to get into a rat hole, but the TV On Demand and Video services suffers from major bloatwear in the design department, plus I was not able to get videos to play very consistently at all. But the video calling on the phone between two phones was really awesome and seamless. When you dial a number you have a choice to make a default voice call, or with one extra tap a video call; it’s that seamless.

The phone quality is the best I’ve ever experienced on a cel phone, which is nice for a change. After having the misfortune of using a friends Blackberry Pearl I can say some manufacturers have forgotten what the phone is really supposed to be for.

Another feature of the phone is the camera, or cameras (plural). There are two video and stills cameras on the beauty, one on the front facing the user and one on the back. The backside camera is a 2M chip that looks really nice. I’ll post more pictures on a future blog. And both cameras function as a video recorder and video phone. Sure enough, the kids had a ball calling Daddy on the video phone. That’s free for a year. Plus, the camera has a flash.

Getting the pictures, videos and sound memos are a piece of cake using the included USB cable or Bluetooth (not tested). The videos are standard quicktime and pix are standard JPG. Awesome.

The keyboard, I’m not a huge fan. Way too much like the Razor, but it does have a nice solid metal density to it. Definitely not cheap feeling.

So enough rambling. I hate how Rogers rams crap down customers throats. But with a little work, I’ve been able to play by their crummy rules and use their browser to have a very rewarding online experience with one of their lovely new phones.

The bottom line: $50 per phone on a three year contract. My couples plan remains at $35 for BOTH phones plus 911/system access/taxes. The unlimited data is $7 per month. I have unlimited long distance, TXT and local calls between the two cels or my Rogers landline. The total monthly outlay will be about $64/m minus the 15% Rogers bundled discount for TWO cel phones.

I would say mission accomplished, for the most part.

More photos and video to follow. BTW all the photos of Toronto were taken with the phone, and transferred seamlessly via the provided USB.

PIXAR Tarzan Boy


There were three seminal moments in my youth that suggested to me that I be involved in the visual effects industry, and specifically computer animation.

One was walking out of that crummy run-down urban movie theatre in Detroit, Michigan in 1977 after seeing Star Wars.

Two was walking out of the Capitol Theatre on Ouellette Avenue in Windsor, Ontario after seeing Tron. Man, that day I’ll never forget. I may make a doc “Where Was I When Tron Came Out”. It created a lot of CGI heroes today.

Three was when I was sitting in the frozen food section of Meijers, also in Detroit, bored out of my fifteen year old skull. Mom gave me a few quarters to blow on a rare stand-up Asteroids game and I ran out of things to occupy my decaying brain. But the music caught my attention … I always liked that track “Jungle Boy” from Baltimora. But where was it coming from?

The music played out of a crummy 15 inch tube TV suspended preposterously in an aisle cap near the pharmacy. It had an incredibly worn out VHS tape on loop playing this video, one of about seventy commercials produced by PIXAR. I remember watching this Listerine spot again and again, enough to catch the little wobble they added to the Jungle Listerine swinging on a vine, enough to note the interesting exchange between the old original Listerine and the young one that “tasted fresh”. I would later reproduce that exact same wobble in my animated short film “Goin’ Cuckoo”, and when I saw it today in 2008 it was like I never missed it.

I stole that VHS tape, right out of the deck.

I wish I could find it, because this sad youtube copy just doesn’t do it justice.

As a side note, I have a very limited edition 3D holograph from another Listerine PIXAR spot, that shows the bottle shadow boxing with the camera. It was a mailer from a company called Optigraphics: Magic Motion Dimensional Printing. And across the bottom in tiny mouse print, the byline: Computer Graphics by PIXAR.

I have to credit Amid at CartoonBrew.com for finding this animation and a few others. Sadly, but understandably, PIXAR is keeping a tight-ish grip on these, but I hope they release them in higher quality. I don’t think they have to worry about their ‘sordid’ past doing commercials for hire!

Ty’s Comic Boot Camp

Ty Templeton is a very talented comic book artist, who also does quite a bit of writing for the Toronto Star, as well as writing and inking most of the Simpsons comic books you may have come across. I’ve heard of him, I’m pretty sure I met him at a TAIS function over the years, but I was really happy to have earned a seat at his Animator’s Boot Camp at Max the Mutt’s Open House this weekend.

It was basically a two hour introduction to a full year’s course, so he went through things very quickly. Still, I found him to be the enigmatic and personable speaker I have heard so highly of. He took the audience ranging from about 10 years old to well into their 40’s through story development, genre writing, genre mixing, and very very quickly through comic panel flow and layout.


The scan above demonstrates a quick exercise I really enjoyed working through. First we drew a moment in history: somehow the first historical moment I came up with (if it’s not clear in my sketch) was the Hindenberg crash. Second, using the concept of framing, I zoomed out to reveal a different perspetive OF THE SAME MOMENT IN TIME. In this case, some godly entity has a magnifying glass and is burning a miniature dirigible. Finally, I drew the scene at a different moment in time. In this case, the five year old wreckage became a children’s jungle gym with swings and teeter totters. I think Ty dug my sense of humour, he looked over my shoulder and laughed. It was a tiny moment that meant a lot; I was having fun.

I have to admit I’m not a huge comic book fan, but I enjoyed being in the presence of an industry leader. The fact that he was such a great public speaker really helped add tremendous value to the day (for the record, it was another beautiful weekend day), so being inside was a tough sell.

And the school really put its best face forward. I have to admit I wish I was looking for a three or four year program. If I was, it seemed very comprehensive. The staff was very friendly and wanted to help. I’m not looking for that, but found their summer workshop and other scheduled Boot Camps of great interest. I’m sure this will not be the last I’ll see of the folks at Max.

Vintage Film Update


I finally saw a few standout films from the vault that caught my eye. There will be more I’m sure, I’m so disenfranchised with broadcast television these days (and it seems like I’m not the only one) that I’m giving the film world the respect it deserves.

Everyone’s Hero

First of all, I tracked down a colleague Ryan Smith originally from Toronto who’s now in Singapore doing a great job on the Clone Wars series. I emailed to let him know a film he worked on, Everyone’s Hero, looked really good, and apologized for not seeing it sooner.

He packed up the family and made the big move, really an inspiration for me thinking about doing something similar. Maybe not Singapore (who knows!), but the Toronto VFX scene is more than a little tight right now, plus if I’m going to make a break why not start totally new? The film received mixed reviews and was quickly dismissed. I have to admit seeing it now after the hype surrounding Christopher Reeve’s Directororial debut, I found it to be a lovely film that got a bit lost in the story department, but was beautiful to watch.

More than once, it had the charm of Totoro, but sadly with a storyline that even I was confused by. The one character getting hit in the crotch kept my kids attention, otherwise they would have been lost I’m sure. The story could have been better I suppose, but technically I lost count of all the clever and well designed speaking and walking characters. It’s a standout in art direction in my books. More than a few scenes were gorgeous. Overall, I did enjoy the film.

Enchanted

As an ex-Disney employee I’m not sure how I let Enchanted slip by, but I did and I’m happy to say it was worth the wait. The cel animation at the beginning was so well done, in that it very slightly jabbed at popular style. It was playing fun with itself and even my five year old laughed more than once when things “weren’t quite right”. Then of course it all made sense when everyone ended up in the real world, New York City no less. If you haven’t seen the film and are a fan of the Disney classics, you have to see this one. There are too many visual and sonic puns to recap, it’s truly a goldmine of self-referential humour.

Director Kevin Lima confesses he, “tried to “cram every single piece of Disney iconic imagery” into the first ten minutes”. Laugh out loud for a Disnoid like me.

Standouts for me included the stellar performance of eternally optimistic Amy Adams, and I’m a huge fan of Susan Sarandon.

The closing ‘pop up book’ and stellar closing title sequence was art directed by Lisa Keene and I sent the kids to bed to take in the outstanding work her team put together. It was the most enjoyable use of type I’ve seen in a long time, and perfectly complimented the magical film.

Eagle vs. Shark

This one has been on my list for years and I was happily surprised to find it on pay-per-view this week. There is some really charming claymation in the film that took me totally by surprise, and it tied the film together in the end quite nicely.

But this isn’t a review of the animation, just a solid recommendation for anyone who might enjoy a quirky romance, or New Zealand cinema, or is a fan of “Flight of the Conchords” (the lead actor and one half of the music group kinda look and sound similar) … all of those criteria describe me to a T, so it’s a hit in my books.