I'm doing pretty lousy at this blog updating thing. I keep forgetting I have it.
So I did wind up getting not one but four different contracts since the last time and am getting a better understanding for the rollercoaster of contract work. I went from not knowing where I was going to sleep the next night to having a month solid of contract work and staying in short term apartments or nice hotels. I like having to be on my toes.
This week is my last week for contract gigs in Helsinki and I'll be heading back to Amsterdam next week, then the US soon after. There are contract prospects for both offsite freelance as well as some longer term contracts but in the short term (November/December) I am going back to Austin, Texas and do some work on my cars and be in the US for Christmas since I missed it last time.
Anyway, I *finally* saw "How to Train Your Dragon" after seeing a lot of the behind the scenes stuff at Gobelins this summer, where animation supervisor Kristof Serrand was one of the teachers. The verdict?
This is hand down the best animated feature that Dreamworks has made. No shitty pop culture references, crappy pop punk music, fart jokes or any obvious sign of market research trumping the creatives.
"Kung Fu Panda" was descent (and I honestly find it kind of overrated, especially by other animators)but it was still a Dreamworks movie. Nice art but with leanings towards what suits think are offbeat, "zany" characters that appeal to kids and often have some doughboy of a protagonist who bumbles his way out of Act 1 after some big trouble that he's responsible for, either through his hubris, dishonesty or slapstick clumsiness.
In "Dragon", Hiccup is a clearly a runt and appears at first to be a typical Dreamworks underdog but the way it plays out is understated and believable; not over the top as they tend to do. Hiccup wasn't a conman or a self-delusional, big loser. He actually felt like a pretty normal guy.
I was really enjoying the first half but I was certain how they would handle the inevitable "all is lost" low point in Act 2 and I knew it was going to piss me off. I thought in the training montage that we were being set up for a moment where Hiccup would somehow use the knowledge he gained training with Toothless, in a moment of cliched hubris, to prove himself to his Dad or otherwise turn it against the dragons. I thought he would be responsible for the inevitable mess but when it did happen, Hiccup really hadn't done anything wrong, which made the whole thing feel a bit more human and not like a one-dimensional cartoon. I was very pleasantly surprised by that.
The way the story plays out seems to finally capture what makes the better Disney movies and all the Pixar movies so excellent; they focus on story with broad appeal above everything else; not cliched characters or conservative, by-the-numbers storytelling that assumes kids are idiots. Dreamworks has often seemed well aware that they were making kids movies but "Dragon" is the first of theirs that felt like they made a movie for everyone.