I remember seeing the posters for the live-action Beauty and the Beast movie, in the subways of Shanghai, it seems like years ago. Considering the direction Disney had gone with films like Cinderella, Maleficent, and Alice in Wonderland, I had no reason to expect that they would do a faithful remake of the original 1991 animated film. Other studios work, after all, going in very different directions when bringing back classic properties.
Films like Neverland, Oz the Great and Powerful, and, dare I say, Snow White and the Huntsman, we're dramatic departures from the classic films and even from the source material. Some function more as prequels or side stories to the original. I pretty much expected Disney would do something similar. This changed, however, when I saw the live-action remake of The Jungle Book. I love that movie. This is why was extremely surprised to read that Disney was, in fact, planning to do something exactly like Snow White and the Huntsman. They wanted to go in some dark and very different direction. Luckily, the director convinced them otherwise.
Why mess with perfection? The original 1991 Beauty and the Beast is as close to perfect as you can get. I was very happy to find that Disney chose to not only be faithful to it, but to even keep the same songs. The few new songs featured therein are still done by the same composer. This made the live action version a wonder to behold. (I am now going to stop talking this entry because I have a huge sore on my tongue and the speech to text is failing miserably)
I certainly had some reservations about aspects of the film before I saw it. I couldn't see Emma Watson as Belle. I also expected she would be dubbed for her singing performances. It turns out I was mistaken on both counts. Although she doesn't exactly look the part, in my view, and seems to being a personality not fitting this character to her work, she did an amazing job here. Some critics were not impressed with her singing, but I didn't notice it. I thought she was dubbed until reading about it afterwards.
If I wanted to find something to complain about, I suppose, it would be the CGI animation for the beast. It was very good, but like most things CGI these days, it didn't look like they even tried to make it look real. It doesn't detract from the experience, probably because it is fantasy and based on a cartoon, but these graphics wouldn't cut it in a realistic, modern day story, for example. The same could be said for the wolves. I don't want to make it sound like any of this work is bad. It most certainly isn't. It's just not fooling anyone. Remember in Narnia when you sometimes weren't sure? Those days are, I guess, long gone from CGI.
Say what you want about Disney and evil corporations, but they know what they are doing. I have been extremely impressed with their output of late. Marvel movies, Star Wars, The Jungle Book, Moana, which I can't begin to explain how much I love, and now this new Beauty and the Beast; They have not tarnished their founder's name. Quality is still job one.
I don't keep up with anime often. In fact, I don't even know if I could be called a fan anymore. I used to absolutely love it. In the days when it was on VHS and DVD I would buy several titles every week. Now, there's very little I'm interested in watching. Don't worry. I'm not going to go into a rage about the good old days, and how shows back then we're really good, and the stuff they make now is a bunch of garbage. I don't believe that. I would say the same thing about modern anime as I would say about the new Star Wars movies. They are made for young people today and not for guys who are pushing 50.
So what aspect of anime am I interested in today? I am very much interested in the art of anime. I'm interested in how it's made. I'm very much interested in the skill that goes into it. If you go to YouTube, and look up a set of videos titled Sakuga Mad, you'll get an idea what I'm talking about. These videos showcase the art of individual animators. They usually show off some of the greatest word happening in the industry today. It is through one of these videos, that I found Shingeki n Bahamut.
The first thing I noticed about the show was the amazing visual quality. It's getting up there in The Legend of Korra territory, and we all know how much that show cost. I had to know who made it, because generally anime cannot spend that kind of money on a series. I learned that different from most animated series in Japan, this one did not come from a manga. It came from a video game or card game. The company behind it is called Cygames. Apparently this company has over 3 million users outside of Japan. I can only imagine how many users they have inside, but if you put it all together, and assume they have some kind of monthly subscription or micro payment system, they definitely have no shortage of income.
I have not been able to find any definite budget information on this series. I have no doubt it must be very high because animated, television series in Japan simply don't look like this. This show has some of the best cel shading work I've ever seen. There were numerous times when I had to rewind a scene over and over to be sure whether or not it was hand-drawn or cel shaded. I'm guessing that the level of integration of computer animation allows for the increase in quality of the traditionally hand-drawn elements. I can only describe it as being one step from feature animation level.
I wrote all that to talk about the importance of quality in animation. As I mentioned before, seeing a clip from the show, in a video on YouTube, is what got me to watch it in the first place. Over and over, you hear people say how story is everything. This may be true during the viewing experience, or after you walk out of the cinema, but if you don't watch that thing in the first place, you will never know how good the story is. In many cases, quality will do a lot more to get you to watch it in the first place.
A perfect example of this would be The film Genocidal Organ which is part of Project Itoh. The first, short trailer I saw for that absolutely blew me away. I'm already hooked. It was the quality of the images and in animation in that trailer that made me certain that I must see this movie. I believe that audiences today have certain expectations for quality. As the shows being put out by the mainstream continue to improve, at least in the visual arena, these expectations will continue to go up. In a world where there's too much content and not enough time to view it all, and every creator must compete for eyeballs, visual quality will be of extreme importance to the independent creator who wants to get their work seen.
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