Saturday, March 27, 2010

Dreamz Unlimited

After the bout of seriousness on my last post, I decided to go easy this time round and take up something light-hearted. So here goes my tribute to the diadems of animation, Walt Disney animation studios, Disney Pixar and Dreamworks, and the wonderful dreams they have instilled in us to cherish for years.

Before I immerse myself into the dreamland, a recognition is due for the predecessors and contemporaries of Pixar, who have been no less instrumental in building our most cherished childhood memories. Hats off to Hanna-Barbara (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) for bringing the evergreen joy that is Tom and Jerry in our lives. Kudos to the "originals" of Disney, Mickey and Donald, who are household names in almost any family round the world. My respects go also to Warner Brothers for the inimitable wit of Bugs Bunny.

I enlist below some of the most notable films, short videos and concepts of Walt Disney Studios, Pixar and Dreamworks. A little reflection easily reveals that although the target audience has been children by and large, there are fundamental lessons to be learned for all the media and society in general

1. UP (Pixar):

There has been a good deal of contention among fans about which movie is closer to people's hearts - Wall-E or Up. I personally have felt that Up's storyline, though charming, falls slightly behind the appeal of Wall-E. But I enclose here a little video, which occurs in the beginning of the movie. These few minutes are, by far, the BEST I have ever seen in any animation, and really brings tears to my eyes every time I watch it.

Nobody has ever, in my knowledge, captured the little joys of married life more beautifully than this on screen. Its painful and endearing at the same time to see how a couple, on whom Provenance refused to bestow Her complete blessings, found an alternative way to be happy by chasing a simple dream... Pixar knows what is important in life, no doubts about that.

2. Wall-E (Pixar):

Very widely praised as one of the best Pixar films ever, although avid fans of Up would disagree. I personally liked this even more than Up, but that may be due to my technical predilections. But the magic that Pixar brought on screen is unquestionable. Pixar made it clear that you dont need to talk a lot to let someone know your feelings. A little puppy-face, a raised eyebrow, a hesitant twitching palm, and some awkward quirky actions. And its history. Wall-E speaks more than anyone else without uttering a clearly discernible sound throughout the film. Love has never been the same again after I watched Wall-E and truly, this coupled with Up defines in Pixar's own unique way how deep emotions can be without going into all the complications and ostentations that are considered concomitant to any relationship today. And on the backdrop, Pixar does not miss raising the concern for the ever-growing pollution in the world, our increasing dependency on machines and inherent laziness settling into our lives. I have enclosed here a couple of clips telling the wonderful love story of two robots :) and the most famous space dance scene:

3. Cars (Pixar):

As far as a movie goes, Cars is not a member of the top-notch. But there are a few moments that take your breath away. Among them undoubtedly is the song "Our Town" by James Taylor. This song got the Oscar for best original score. Kudos to Pixar again for blurring out the line between mainstream cinema and animation. Here is the video:

4. Finding Nemo (Pixar):

The relationship between a caring father and a rebellious but loving son has never been explored more beautifully. Add to that Pixar's legacy of creating unique and unforgettable characters, and we have Dory with short-term memory loss, Bruce the shark on a twelve-step no-fish diet and Crush, the tortoise who lived 200 years. But what comes through most strongly is the never-ending love and affection between father and son, for which they are ready to go any distance to find each other again. Karan Johar may have made K3G with the tag "its all about loving your parents", but he sure has a lot to learn from little colored fish. Honorable mention also goes to "Shark Tale" by Dreamworks.

5. Madagascar (Dreamworks):

Dreamworks has gifted us wonders like Antz and Shrek, but over and above these, I think Madagascar is closer to our hearts than any other. The main reason for that being the awesome variety of characters they had. It was not just the lead characters of the lion, zebra, giraffe and the female hippopotamus. Rather Madagascar will be remembered for the inventive genius, military discipline punched with juvenile idiosyncrasies of the unforgettable Penguins, the oh-so-cool-so-arrogant-so-irritating yet adorable King Julian (my favorite character by miles) and the terrifying Grandma who does everything most unfitting to her age. And every time I hear "I like to move it move it.." I just cant help but shake a leg along. Here are two clips for you: one testifying the genius of the penguins and the other - obvious - "... we like to - MOVE IT!!"

6. Ratatouille (Pixar):

Its a simple idea - "anybody can cook". And perhaps only Pixar could take this as far as a rat with unmatched culinary and gastronomic skills. Remy the mouse cooks, and cooks real good. Its unbelievable, but Pixar makes you believe that its possible. Add to that the charm of Paris and the budding romance of Linguini and Collette. Plus there's the ever skeptical Anton Ego to find faults and belittle chefs. There is a certain feel of culture about the movie, and Pixar has mixed it beautifully with all the weird characters :)

7. Ice Age (Blue Sky Studios):

Once again, not a very top-notch film, at least in terms of emotional content. The first one was definitely better, second one was good too, but the 3rd one was more of a wild adventure game. But the fossil who really made a permanent impact was the acorn-crazy Scrat. Scrat is probably a pre-historic squirrel who is crazy for acorns, and will go to any end to preserve and acquire them. Ok he did develop a soft spot for Scrattle, but then first love took over :) I put a little video, actually a short film, showing the tragedy of Scrat and what all misfortune makes him endure for his prized acorn:

8. Disney Princesses (Walt Disney Studios):

We have undertaken great movements to establish women's rights. India in particular has tried in various ways to convey the importance of the girl child. But Disney has done it in the most adorable style of all. "Within every girl there is a princess" - and Disney brings the charm of royalty true to the screen. Disney's princesses are not the quintessential snooty prim pulchritude. Rather, each girl is a lively embodiment of the desire for freedom of speech and action, artistic grace and cultural integrity occasionally interrupted by awkward emotions, childish laughter and the sweet craving to love and be loved, which brings them much closer to everyday girls than any royalty. Be it the royal Snow White or Aurora, the sweet Ariel, exotic Pochahontas or Mulan, the dashing Jasmine or the benign Cinderella, Disney has celebrated and cherished the girl child like no other.

9. Pixar Short films:

Many are unaware of this genre of films produced by Pixar, but these are some of the best short animations I have seen. In particular, I am enclosing here a short fim titled "Geri's game". Its a simple story about an old man who plays both sides of a chess game all by himself. His change of expression and emotions are amazing, but what is even more amazing is how Pixar has so sensitively and humorously brought out the shattering loneliness of old age:

There are several more amazing videos of this genre available online - be sure to check them out! Some of my favorites are:

Here's a little medley of short films:

Call them cartoons if you will, but animation movies have brought us the dreams and emotions which many mainstream films have failed to deliver. With the simplest of gestures conveying hearts out, animation remains an art beyond any parallelism, and will continue to engross us, make us laugh, cry, cheer and fantasize for years to come. :)