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Who is Brad Bird?

He’s been called by some Hollywood a modern day Walt Disney. He believes animation is an art form not a genre and he’s the director of the new film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol.


Director Brad Bird with Tom Cruise on the set of M:I – Ghost Protocol. The partnership was started when Bird got a text from J.J. Abrams shortly after the release of   The Incredibles that read “Mission?”

Born Phillip Bradley Bird, Bird started training as an animator at the age of 14. Not only is he good friends with John Lasseter, the head of Pixar, in 2007 he was ranked by Entertainment Weekly as #23 on their 50 Smartest People in Hollywood list.

The Young Animator
At the age of 11, Bird was on a tour of the Walt Disney Studios when he announced he would eventually work there. Soon after his tour he started work on a 15-minute short that he submitted to the company. He so impressed the studio, Bird (at the age of 14) would mentor under animator Milt Kahl, one of Walt Disney’s legendary Nine Old Men and continued to follow his dream as he eventually attended the California Institute of the Arts, after he was awarded a scholarship by Disney.

While at Cal Arts, Bird met and became friends with another future animator, Pixar co-founder and director John Lasseter. The two formed a fast friendship which still continues. Bird would go on to adapt and direct the critically acclaimed The Iron Giant for Warner Brothers in 1999, although he’s best known for The Incredibles (2004) and Ratatouille (2007).


Brad Bird at Pixar, behind him are storyboards for Ratatouille.

Bird also directed The Simpsons‘ episodes “Krusty Gets Busted” and “Like Father, Like Clown” – which is appropriate since Krusty The Klown is his favorite Simpsons character. On the subject of animation, Bird is pretty protective, “People keep saying, “The animation genre.” It’s not a genre! A Western is a genre! Animation is an art form, and it can do any genre. You know, it can do a detective film, a cowboy film, a horror film, an R-rated film or a kids’ fairy tale. But it doesn’t do one thing. And, next time I hear, “What’s it like working in the animation genre?” I’m going to punch that person!”

Brad Bird’s latest is Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol and the director put his stamp on that movie too - Ethan Hunt’s code number is A113 – a classroom that Bird and Lasseter attended at Cal Arts.

Inspired by Animation
Today Brad Bird is one of Hollywood’s rising stars – and his star is only going to get brighter. For kids who want to learn how to get started in animation and become animators, it’s easy to get inspired. Disney classics are a great starting as well as artist like Mary Blair, or look no further than you’re own local movie theater. Who knows you could be the next Brad Bird.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

“Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol” Movie Review

We’ve seen it, and in short, it’s awesome. Tom Cruise stars as Ethan Hunt in the new film Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol directed by Pixar’s Brad Bird (The Iron Giant, Ratatouille, The Incredibles).


Tom Cruise performed all his own stunts in the film, including the sequence where Ethan Hunt climbs the Burj Khalifa tower – the tallest building in the world.

Eager to prove himself in the live action genre, director Brad Bird takes a worn-out franchise and supercharges it. M:I 4 – Ghost Protocol is a check-your-brain at the door popcorn actioneer – and much like Bird’s first Pixar film The Incredibles, the action is like the Energizer bunny…it keeps going and going…

Making Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol  couldn’t have been easy, it’s obvious that Bird is out to prove himself – and he does. But this film shouldn’t be this good, the Cold War storyline is played out and the star is too. But instead of making a dud, the cast and crew turn out a blockbuster with both visuals and witty dialogue that are constantly assaulting you. But that’s not all, the ensemble cast, including Jeremy Renner (who is being groomed to take over the franchise from Cruise) and Simon Pegg keep Cruise, and the audience, on their toes.


“You’ll be on the outside of the building, I’ll be…on the computer…” Simon Pegg offers comedic relief in M:I – Ghost Protocol.

Old School Action
Like we said the storyline isn’t going to win an Oscar, it’s just there to propel Cruise and Co. through the eye-popping locales and jaw-dropping stunt sequences. The script is written by Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec (two former Alias writers) and it does an solid job of keeping your interest. The “mission,” changes as the movie progresses but it doesn’t really make any difference. (Even the villain is forgetful, but don’t get hung up on any of that.) This is a roller coaster ride that plays out like an old James Bond movie.

Thankfully, the movie doesn’t take itself too seriously. To the writers and directors credit, it plays like a comedy at times with the drama being juxtaposed nicely against the jokes. For example, the first major action sequence plays out to “Ain’t That a Kick in The Head” by Dean Martin. Later, Simon Pegg goes in disguise as a Russian army official. It’s fun to watch Renner and Pegg play of each other too, that’s one of the added treats for M:I 4 – Ghost Protocol, a buddy comedy. Equally ridiculous are the film’s gadgets.


Director Brad Bird reviews a shot with Tom Cruise. 

The Amazing Brad Bird & IMAX
Director Brad Bird, is one of the new generation of digital filmmakers – he’s been called one of the smartest people in Hollywood. In M:I 4 – Ghost Protocol, the director keeps the action focused – and loves the IMAX cameras. He does a great job on keeping the story and characters on a straight line too – you never lose interest or your place. Speaking of places, you’ll visit Russia, Dubai and Mumbai and take in the sites in glorious IMAX – provided you see the film in an IMAX theater.

The signature scene where Tom Cruise climbs the world’s tallest building (Burj Khalifa tower in Dubai) is breathtaking and seeing it in any other format in a theater beside IMAX is ridiculous – especially since the film was shot specially using IMAX cameras. (The Batman Dark Knight preview that preceeds it, is equally amazing.)

In the end what could have become a tired, over worked visual effects spy-thriller is an incredibly enjoyable adventure – this is what the movies are all about. And believe it or not, Tom Cruise is still a great action hero, even though he’s pushing 50. Go see this movie – and if the option is available in your area, in IMAX.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Reel Steel: The Best Robot Movies

In the future, robot fighters are the stars of the boxing ring. In the new film Real Steel, Hugh Jackman uses a joystick to control Atom – a punching-bag robot who is more or less a metallic Rocky.


“Get in there and show ‘em who’s boss!” 

Before running into Atom, Jackman tours with another robot which he trains to duke it out in a back-alley slugfest. For robot junkies, Real Steel is heaven. But if you can’t get to a theater, there’s still a way to quench your thirst for metal. Entertainment Weekly recently polled its readers to find out what they considered the best robot movies of all time. We broke down the results:

WALL-E (2008) 22%
Pixar’s plucky little recycling bot won the poll hands down, pulling in a whopping 22% of the votes.


Maybe WALL-E is so popular because it’s one of the most recent robot movies out there, and we admit it’s one of our favorite Pixar films. Still, we couldn’t believe the computer-animated flick beat out…

Star Wars (1977) 17%
C-3PO and R2-D2 are probably the most famous robots EVER. And they’ve got six – count ‘em, six - Star Wars movies to prove it.


What a pedigree: One of the robots (C-3PO) was built out of spare parts by Darth Vader (see Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace). 

Terminator 2 (1991) 17%
And the third most-famous robot film is Terminator 2. T2 stars the T-800 Terminator, the robot role that helped transform Arnold Schwarzenegger into one of the world’s biggest movie stars.


Terminator 2 also features another awesome robot…the shape-shifting T-1000.

I, Robot (2004) 6%
Another major action hero, Will Smith, plays a cop in the year 2035, who investigates a crime committed by a robot. The film was based on Isaac Asimov’s classic sci-fi novel.


Will Smith headlined I, Robot, although the real star of the movie is Sonny, a high-end glossy bot that has superhuman powers (but then again, so do most robots).

The Iron Giant (1999) 8%
Vin Diesel voices The Iron Giant, the Jolly Green Giant-sized alien robot that a boy befriends in order to save him from a paranoid government.


An animated classic, The Iron Giant was directed by Brad Bird (who also directed The Incredibles and Ratatouille).

Blade Runner (1982) 9%
Flying cars, building-sized video screens and an ultra-modern Los Angeles are the backdrop for this futuristic noir flick.


The robots in Blade Runner are bad guys and they’re being tracked down by Harrison Ford. The lifelike robots are called replicants, and they never show their metal skeletons.

Short Circuit (1986) 5%
Before WALL-E, the robot in Short Circuit, Johnny #5 (who bears an amazing resemblance to WALL-E) was the little tread-wearing robot that ruled theaters.


“Who’s Johnny?” Short Circuit is an 80s classic.

Transformers (2007) 12%
Isn’t Optimus Prime a truck? At any rate, the giant bots from Transformers not only invaded theaters but had enough power to grab 12% of the vote.


Optimus Prime: Part robot, part truck.

Other 4%
How can you overlook the Steven Spielberg classic A.I.? Sure, the film is a little dark, but Spielberg’s loving portrait of a robot who thinks he’s a boy is amazing on so many levels.

Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots
Long before video games or Real Steel or LEGO robot battles, the original butt-kicking robots could be found in toy stores (where they’re still being sold). “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” is Mattel’s two-player action toy boxing game, which features two plastic robots that face off against each other, not unlike the robots in Real Steel. The human “manager” for each toy robot uses two simple joysticks to control the robots, which throw jabs and hooks at each other’s head until one player scores the knockout punch that makes its opponent’s spring-loaded head pop up in defeat. The toy was first marketed in the 1960s by the Marx Toy Company, and has been produced at various times by other manufacturers (most notably by Mattel). The classic game has been recently remade into a video game and an updated toy.


This was first robot-boxing toy, and its object was simple: “Knock his block off!”

Still, for robot lovers who want to get “real” and build their own robots, there’s only one way to go…

LEGO Robotics
LEGO’s NXT Robotics set is the best way to get into robotics. The kit provides everything you need to design, build and program your very own real robot. You can make fetching robots, task robots or even battling robots.


Take control of real plastic – there are some microchips, gears and a little steel in there, too – with LEGO’s NXT robot.

In fact, robot battles have become a big deal. There are robot battle competitions all over the world, and there’s even a robot battle league. So Real Steel isn’t that far off from the truth. Now there are even robot summer camps, where kids and teens can build and battle bots of their own creation – just like Hugh Jackman does in Real Steel.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Why Did Steve Jobs Wear a Black Turtleneck?

Apple’s former CEO was recognized as a technology innovator. He reinvented media distribution, and pioneered technology with products like the iPhone 4S and iPad. But what Steve Jobs was not known for was his fashion sense.


Steve Jobs in Paris in 1998, introducing the new iMac.

Unlike his hi-tech hardware, Steve Jobs stuck to routine fashion –  like a black turtleneck, Levi’s 501 jeans and New Balance sneakers. But Jobs didn’t always dress that way; in the 1980s he sported bowties and even vests.

Image Conscious
In the late 1990s, Steve Jobs started wearing black turtlenecks and sneakers. The outfit would ultimately make him the most recognizable CEO in the world. At times his plain and predictable look was parodied on Saturday Night Live and even The Simpsons, but Apple’s famous co-founder probably would have never adopted his trademark outfit if his employees hadn’t rejected the corporate uniform he wanted them to wear.


Pixar paid tribute to Steve Jobs with this image featuring Woody, Wall-E, Buzz Lightyear and other famous Pixar stars dressed in Jobs’ signature black turtleneck.

In Walter Isaacson’s new authorized biography of Steve Jobs, Jobs revealed to Issacson in an interview before his death how the late Apple CEO developed his trademark look. The new book (which releases October 24) is the culmination of forty interviews that were conducted with Jobs over a two-year period. The book is also said to include  interviews that took place just weeks before Jobs’ death on October 5.

From Issacson’s book, courtesy of Gawker:

On a trip to Japan in the early 1980s, Jobs asked Sony’s chairman Akio Morita why everyone in the company’s factories wore uniforms. He told Jobs that after the war, no one had any clothes, and companies like Sony had to give their workers something to wear each day. Over the years, the uniforms developed their own signature styles, especially at companies such as Sony, and it became a way of bonding workers to the company. “I decided that I wanted that type of bonding for Apple,” Jobs recalled.

Sony, with its appreciation for style, had gotten the famous designer Issey Miyake to create its uniform. It was a jacket made of rip-stop nylon with sleeves that could unzip to make it a vest. So Jobs called Issey Miyake and asked him to design a vest for Apple. Jobs recalled, “I came back with some samples and told everyone it would great if we would all wear these vests. Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea.”

In the process, however, he became friends with Miyake and would visit him regularly. He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. “So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them.” Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. “That’s what I wear,” he said. “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.”

Wholly Original
While Steve Jobs may have been seen as a fashion oddball, his style was called ”wholly original” by acclaimed designer Ralph Rucci. No matter if you were a fan of his style or not, he certainly was an original.

More insight into the life of Steve Jobs will be revealed with his first and only biography, which hits stores in October.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Apple,News Blog and have No Comments

Apple After Steve Jobs

Apple must now begin the process of surviving as a company without Steve Jobs. It will be a daunting task, but one that should be made easier by the fact that Jobs himself left behind blueprints of sorts, for both the success of the company and for the executives that would follow him.


Steve Jobs with wife Laurene Powell, after his last public keynote. 

Among those plans are outlines for products that Jobs believed would be part of the company’s future – plans he personally worked on for more than a year.

Plans for the Future
Even though he was dying, Jobs worked tirelessly on Apple’s future. He worked hard to develop the plans for Apple’s futuristic headquarters in Cupertino, California, and get them approved, going so far as to defy doctors. Steve Jobs last public appearance was to pitch the spaceship-like designs to the Cupertino City Council last June.

In addition to the giant new Apple complex – which will sit on the old Hewlett Packard site (where Jobs worked part-time when he was 13 years old) – Jobs had also been supervising the development of iCloud, and contributing ideas to update the iPhone, iPad, MacBook and iPod. According to sources inside Apple, there are at least four years worth of new Apple products, thanks to Jobs.

Steve Jobs DNA to live on with Apple University
Another secret project that Jobs worked on was an executive training program called Apple University. The program, which Jobs considered vital to Apple’s future success, will teach Apple executives to think like Steve Jobs. Sources familiar with the program say Jobs personally recruited the dean of Yale’s Business School, Joel Podolny, to develop it, way back in 2008.

“Apple needed a set of educational materials so that Apple employees could learn to think and make decisions as if they were Steve Jobs.” Tim Bajarin is an Apple analyst. So it really is no surprise that, when Jobs was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2005, he was already thinking about his legacy.

It’s said that the inspiration for Apple University came out of Jobs’ admiration for Bill Hewlett and David Packard, and the way they built Hewlett and Packard into a tech giant. HP’s values or “the HP Way” were highly admired in the 80s and 90s.

Jobs wanted to establish something similar with Apple University. The program would help Apple executives and regular employees continue to innovate and drive Apple’s success. This included attention to detail, accountability, perfectionism, simplicity and of course, secrecy.  Jobs wanted to see if the creation of university-level courses would translate into the best business and operating strategies.


Ed Catmull, Steve Jobs and John Lasseter at Pixar.

One example of what Jobs hoped for is already running at Pixar. Jobs sold Pixar to Disney in 2006 for $7.5 billion. Pixar University is a professional development program that offers courses in fine arts and filmmaking as well as leadership and management training. The program also provides company history, culture and values.

Steve Jobs oversaw the most incredible corporate turnaround in Silicon Valley history. After returning to Apple in 1997, he was in charge of every major decision Apple made, from the launch of iPod to the iPad 2.

A Future without Jobs 
Jobs, the famed co-founder of Apple, died last week of pancreatic cancer. Pre-orders for the authorized Steve Jobs biography have shot through the roof since. Apple definitely wants to continue building on Jobs’ achievements. The iPhone alone is a multi-billion dollar business and app development for iDevices is a requirement for anyone in the tech field these days. It will be a challenge for Apple to maintain its success without Jobs’ leadership, but not impossible. No other CEO or company has analyzed its success so closely – or developed a plan to continue that success after their leader was gone.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Apple,News Blog and have No Comments

Old Pixar Footage Discovered: First Appearance of 3D Computer Animation

Newly found lost Pixar footage shows the origins of the computer animation studio. The discovered footage doesn’t feature any cute robots or toy cowboys. Instead it shows some of the first film experiments in 3D computer-based animation – experiments that would help launch the the world’s foremost computer animation studio, Pixar.


The seeds of computer 3D animation. The footage was incorporated into the 1976 film Futureworld, which was the first movie to use 3D computer animation.

The experimental archival footage dates back nearly 40 years ago to 1972, when Univ. of Utah grad student Ed Catmull (who now oversees Pixar’s and Walt Disney’s Animation Studios) and a partner filmed a few basic examples of 3D computer animation. The clips show a 3D hand, face and working heart, all mapped with polygons.

Pixar Presents
Pixar has dominated the box office during the last two decades. A quick list of Pixar’s successes includes modern classics such as the entire Toy Story trilogy (1995, 1999, 2010), Finding Nemo (2003), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006), Ratatouille (2007), WALL-E (2008) and Up (2009). Pixar’s films have earned more than $6.3 billion worldwide, and the studio’s average feature makes $602 million. Toy Story 3, on the other hand, is now considered the highest-grossing animated film of all time, grossing more than $1 billion.

Pixar’s films have received critical acclaim as well. The studio has won 26 Oscars, including six Academy Awards for Best Animated Feature. Two of its animated features (Toy Story 3 and Up) were considered so good that they even transcended the Animation category and were nominated for Best Picture.


Up won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature, and was even nominated for Best Picture.

Before those masterworks started appearing on the animation landscape, Pixar was first represented by three short computer-animated films that were produced in the early 1990s. Back then, the closest thing to a “star” that Pixar had was Luxo, an animated desk lamp that showed more personality than many animated creatures of the day, despite Luxo’s lack of facial features.

These early “shorts” were a revelation to animation fans of the day, and pointed the way to today’s 3D animation. The look of the animation was perfectly clean, the backgrounds were richly detailed, and by then, Pixar had mastered its system of interpolation, so character motion was energetic but smoothly rendered.

3D Animation Origins
The newly posted video predates Luxo by a good two decades, and looks as primitive as Walt Disney’s early animation experiments. Shot in a grainy black and white, the video shows several examples of polygon-based 3D animation, each containing a few movements and motions to give a hint of what could be achieved.

The first clip shows a plaster hand which has been mapped with polygons. Then we see the hand rotate. Other clips show 3D faces, as well as the simulated workings of a heart valve. The clip contains no narrative audio—just a jazzy rendition of the classic song “Stardust,” and the video image (which started out on primitive 8mm film) shows it age and the original medium. Nonetheless, this brief film is a historic document that capably predicted the coming tidal wave of 3D computer animation.


Pixar’s first starring “character” was Luxo. The lamp is incorporated into Pixar’s logo.

Pixar has been turning out blockbusters for years, but how do they do it? How do they manage to make every film a hit? When the people of Pixar sit down to plan their next film, it’s an incredibly creative process that involves numerous steps. Pixar’s process includes brainstorming, developing a script and then actually shooting the action. If you’re interested in making the next Toy Story, start learning 3D animation skills now…because the future is computer-animated.

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posted by DMA Jordan in Art & Animation,News Blog and have No Comments