The box office for last weekend is in, and it is an interesting statement on the need for escapism that Resident Evil: Retribution (the fifth in a franchise I once upon a time very much enjoyed) roundhouse kicked Finding Nemo 3D at the box office, with $21 million to Nemo's $16.6 million in ticket sales.
While it is true that Nemo is a movie many have already seen, it also boasts a 99 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, a rating few movies of any kind attain, while the most recent trip back deep into the bowels of the Umbrella Corporation starring Milla Jovovich fighting brainless zombies shambled in at 30 percent.
Jeannetter Catsoulis of the New York Times said of the movie: "A zombie plague may have laid waste the world, but apparently supplies of black leather unitards have yet to be exhausted." One can only surmise the lion's share of sales came from the demographic of teenaged boys hopped up on hormones of the natural kind.
In any case, I will endeavor to rescue you from your temptation to trudge lifelessly into the cineplex to see another "lackluster blockbuster." As Cinema Siren strives to teach as much about animation in particular (as she is "guiding film lovers through a sea of celluloid"), I contacted Pixar and asked a few questions of some folks in the know about bringing Finding Nemo 3D (and the great new short "Partysaurus Rex") to the screen, and why it is worth seeing again.
Cinema Siren's Q&A with Bob Whitehill, stereoscopic supervisor, Finding Nemo 3D:
CS: Beyond re-rendering the film (and adding a higher resolution), how is the sharper quality and more defined texture achieved? 3D often gives viewers the sense of it being more muddled and darker; not so in this film. Why?
BW: We also do a careful 3D color-timing pass on the entire film — brightening it overall and increasing the saturation of certain colors to offset the loss of light in 3D projection.
CS: Much more defined and "fluid" water is seen (a challenge in computer animation) compared to the original, which was at the time quite innovative. What was done specifically with surface water, as well as the undersea waves, and how did that lend itself so well to 3D?
BW: Our principal challenge with the water was the reflection of light off its surface. Because we are re-filming the scenes for 3D with two cameras spaced slightly apart, these water reflections were often different shapes or brightness. We had to carefully massage those reflective surfaces so the water looked fluid and natural but not distracting.
CS: What part of the expansion of and successful use of computers in animation that Nemo represented when it was originally released (that "Wow" factor) — like the depth of environments and 3D feel of the characters as they were originally built — makes it easier to add 3D? Can you explain how the artists approached the 3D release in terms of giving that same "wow factor," and how they attempted to add new ground-breaking processes or techniques to the film by doing 3D?
BW: As 3D artists, we are fortunate to inherit a film originally crafted, as you describe, in 3D space. So we can return to that world 10 years later and in essence, just re-film the entire movie, this time in 3D. Imagine trying to exactly re-create a live-action movie 10 years later in which the sets, actors and lighting look exactly the same, the lines are delivered in exactly the same way. It would be impossible. But because of the technology that created the original film in 3D space, we are able to resurrect it and re-capture it anew in higher-resolution and in 3D.
CS: Thanks so much for your explanations. The film is utterly beautiful and you should be very proud. I hope it will allow not only a whole new generation of young fans but also remind older fans just how great this movie is, and why they loved it in the first place!
Q&A with Partysaurus Rex director Mark Walsh and producer Kim Adams
Cinema Siren also interviewed Walsh and Adams to hear what they had to say about hiring dance music guru and local boy made-good BT — Brian Wayne Transeau of Rockville — to write music for Partysaurus Rex.
CS: The music is quite different than anything you've used before! How was BT chosen to create the music?
MW/KA: We first met BT when we worked with him on a CarsToon called "Tokyo Mater" in 2008. As BT is a world-renowned electronic music maestro, when the music in Partysaurus Rex took a turn toward rave/party music, there was no question that BT would be the perfect fit. His music is a main character in Partysaurus.
CS: Pixar has a history of adding a short that is as good as the feature itself on their releases. How long did this short take to develop, and how was T Rex chosen as the featured character?
MW/KA: Partysaurus Rex took about two years from the birth of the idea to the final film. Rex is one of my favorite characters, I love his timidity and sweetness. I liked the idea of him trying to push beyond himself. We've all had times when we've tried to reinvent ourselves at a new school or job. It's rare that the "real" us ever goes away, no matter how we try! Bath toys are a new community for Rex to try to fit in with, a group of guys who love a party. I hope audiences agree!
About this column: Leslie Combemale, "Cinema Siren", is a movie lover and aficionado in Northern Virginia. Alongside Michael Barry, she owns ArtInsights, an animation and film art gallery in Reston Town Center. She has a background in film and art history. She often is invited to present at conventions such as the San Diego Comic Con, where she has been a panelist for The Art of the Hollywood Movie Poster and the Harry Potter Fandom discussion. Visit her gallery online at www.artinsights.com and see more of her reviews and interviews on www.artinsightsmagazine.com.