Friday, December 20, 2013

The Chase


Image courtesy HDwallpapers.in.

Walking With Dinosaurs 3D has been released. As is probably well-known to anyone reading this post, the production company, in a panic to comfort viewers used to the tropes of modern big-budget children's entertainment, tragically decided to add dialogue, pop music cues, and puerile humor to the film. And I had such high hopes in May.

Reviews are uniformly unkind. "If you could turn off the soundtrack you’d have a fascinating silent film featuring photo-realistic prehistoric beasts. But just you try ignoring what sounds like Smurfs 2 meets Alvin and the Chipmunks," writes Chris Knight for the National Post (though he also refers to Edmontosaurus as a carnivore, LOLWUT). As of this writing, the film has a 25% fresh rating at Rotten Tomatoes, though 61% of ~5,200 users on the site like it, so who knows. Maybe the gamble will pay off and in six years we'll be seeing the third movie in the series rolling out. Here's my idea: in a Triassic twist on Roxanne, a dim-witted Plateosaurus tries to win the heart of his crush with the help of a wacky Liliensternus. Take that one, 20th Century Fox. The next one costs you.

We may or may not review the movie here (there has been mention of Marc and Niroot possibly seeing it together), but seeing yet another big animated dinosaur project get muddled by terrible studio decisions has pretty well convinced me that big studios will never make the dinosaur movie I want to see. Which, for the record, would be something that feels like a feature-length version of the first lagoon shot from Jurassic Park. A narrative arc would be fine. It's been done before, and well - think The Bear. What I want is an immersive, I-just-time-travelled-to-the-Mesozoic feel, with a great score and as little anthropomorphism as possible. There's no way that film gets made anytime soon.

There's hope, though. Who knows what will be possible as the technology gets cheaper and dinosaur fanatics get more motivated to make something on their own? Or perhaps expecting a feature film is the wrong way to look at it. Maybe the dream of an immersive exploration of prehistory is better left to game designers, like the folks behind Saurian (also, like it at FB and follow on Twitter). They'll reportedly be crowdfunding the project as it develops, and I think that the work-in-progress pieces of the process they've shown give some hope that it will be a worthy project to back.







We can spit and curse at huge studios all we want, but they'll never really care about what a small group of passionate paleontology fanatics think. There's no incentive. I'm tired of chasing the wrong dream.

19 comments:

  1. All I want is a feature-length Prehistoric Beast by Phil Tippett. Is that asking too much?

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  2. Same here, for sure! I guess I would say: depends on who you're asking.

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  3. It really is tragic that the once-great Walking With Dinosaurs brand has now been turned into anthropomorphized dinosaurs spouting shoehorned dialogue and toilet humor. The negative reviews are much deserved, in my opinion.

    The real heartbreaking part is all the artists, animators and paleontologists involved who were dedicated to the project and gave their all to make a great dinosaur film, only to have it sabotaged by last-minute executive decisions. These are the people I feel for. And the film does look visually stunning -- even the most negative reviews comment on that. But why-oh-why did they have to ruin perfectly good footage by having voice actors shout tasteless jokes over it the whole time?

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    1. Absolutely agree with all of this. The heart and soul that the craftspeople pour into something like this is trampled on by people with none.

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    2. Also agree a hundred times. Even speaking as a humble, no-account illustrator, I can faithfully say that I know too well the frustrations of having creativity stifled by marketing decisions (the book I've been working on and will shortly complete is a case in point).

      But hey, I would watch a saurian version of Cyrano de Bergerac. But it has to be period-set and have Rostand's original dialogue, mind. ;)

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    3. CYRANO! Dagnabbit, as I was writing this I made a mental note to look up the original's title, as it was escaping me, but forgot. Thank you.

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  4. Do you know what engine they're doing this in?

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    1. I am pretty ignorant in that arena. This is the team that was involved with Project Crynosaurs before that project ended. That was using CryENGINE 3, so maybe still that?

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    2. At the moment I believe they are using Blender 3D

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    3. I am a member of the Saurian team, we are using Unity 3D. Thanks for the mention David, by the way.

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  5. Also, a great big 'hurrah!' for the team behind Saurian.

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  6. Such is the story of the "Walking with..." series. I had lost faith in it after the awful Sea Monsters entry with that annoying time-travelling zoologist (paleontologist? I don't remember) and have not regained it since. You would think they'd realize at one point that there most successful products were the early gimmick-less series (Dinosaurs and Beasts), but no such luck.

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  7. I guess Walking with Beasts £D will also be a sequel to ice age...

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    1. Got it in one! "We wanted Prehistoric Beast; they gave us Ice Age."

      Fingers crossed for the 'Artists, Animators and Palaeontologists Cut' on deeveedee or the internets machine.

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  8. We can always watch the movie on mute when the DVD comes out.

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  9. Finally a good excuse for me to buy noise cancelling headphones.

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  10. ANIMES ARE BETTER THAN CGI MOVIES !!!

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