Disney is releasing two critically acclaimed and fan favorite films from the famous Studio Ghibli on Blu-Ray! Widely considered to be a masterpiece, the Oscar award winning ‘Spirited Away’ (2002, Best Animated Feature Film) as well as the charming fantasy/adventure ‘The Cats Return’ will be made available for the first time in a Blu-Ray Combo pack on June 16th here in the US.
Created by world renowned filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki, one of the most celebrated and respected filmmakers in the industry, ‘Spirited Away’ is a feast for the eyes. With lush dazzling landscapes, minute details in things like environments and architecture, and a story bursting with adventure and wonder, its no wonder this film has been called an absolute masterpiece. ‘Spirited Away’ tells the tale of a young girl named Chihiro who ends up in a strange and unfamiliar world populated by spirits. After witnessing her parents undergo a bizarre transformation, Chihiro is tasked with finding the courage shes always carried as well as learning to cope with change in order to save her family and free them back into the outside world. A story for the ages, ‘Spirited Away’ is not to be missed if you haven’t already seen it.
The English-language voice cast is made up by Daveigh Chase (Chihiro), Suzanne Pleshette (Yubaba/Zeniba), Jason Marsden (Haku), Susan Egan (Lin), David Ogden Stiers (Kamaji), Lauren Holly (Chihiro’s Mother), Michael Chiklis (Chihiro’s Father), John Ratzenberger (Assistant Manager), Tara Strong (“Baby”) and Bob Bergen (Aogaeru).
While the original Japanese version was written and directed by Miyazaki, the English-language version was produced by Donald W. Ernst and John Lassetter (of Pixar). Bonus content in this new release includes an introduction by John Lassetter, in addition to “The Art of Spirited Away” and “Behind the Microphone” featurettes and original Japanese storyboards, Nippon Television Special, original Japanese trailers and TV spots.
Also from Studio Ghibli comes ‘The Cat Returns’. Directed by Hiroyuki Morika the film follows Haru, a schoolgirl bored and unsatisfied by her ordinary routine who saves the life of a mysterious cat and suddenly finds her world flip-turned upside down. To alter her destiny, she must learn to believe in herself and in turn, appreciate her everyday life.
The English-language voice cast is made up of Anne Hathaway (Haru), Cary Elwes (The Baron), Peter Boyle (Muta), Elliott Gould (Toto), Andy Richter (Natoru), Rene Auberjonois (Natori), Tim Curry (Cat King), Judy Greer (Yuki), Andrew Bevis (Prince Lune), Kristen Bell (Hiromi), Kristine Sutherland (Haru’s Mother) and Katia Coe (Little Haru).
Bonus features for ‘The Cat Returns’ include the original Japanese storyboards, original Japanese trailers, TV spots, and two features: “The Making of ‘The Cat Returns’” and “Behind the Microphone.” Again, don’t miss either of these releases on June 16th.
‘Uhcharted 4: A Thief’s End’ developers Naughty Dog have divulged details of major improvements to their internal facial animation rigs used since Uncharted 3 and the Last of Us. They claim face models now animate with around “300 and 500 bones”. Writer Josh Scherr spoke to GamesTM and quantified the improvements by comparing them to rigs used in previous Uncharted titles, and ‘The Last of Us’ which used “about 90 and 100 ‘bones’ in their faces.”
“We’ve completely revamped our facial animation systems,” Scherr commented. “Think about that, how detailed Joel and Elli’s pained facial expressions were, how well the game captured the respective actors … Now, the faces have anywhere between 300 and 500 bones.”
“(This) lets us emote more, with all the ‘bones’ we can put onto (the face) – you pan round the camera to look at Nate’s face when he’s climbing and you see him grimacing and all this kind of stuff … we’re pushing detail on a macro and micro level that I think people are really going to respond to,” chimed in lead designer Ricky Cambier.
On previous Naughty Dog games, “some of the animations might have been sample(d) at 10 or 15 frames per second to save memory,” these captured frames would then be run through software to interpolate or “tween” (in-between) them to run at 30 frames per second in game. This new technology can “afford to record [footage] at 30 frames per second so that [it'd] look that much smoother.”
“If you look at the first Uncharted and how that looked versus how The Last of Us looked … I have difficulty fathoming that we’ll have that kind of graphical leap in the next several years. The reality is, we probably will as we learn the systems better, so it’s all up from here, and that’s exciting.”
Naughty Dog has said it is targeting 60fps for Uncharted 4, but the studio won’t push the PS4 game that far if it affects the gameplay in a negative way. According to director Bruce Straley, the Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End – Gameplay Demo was hard locked at 30fps, however, the game is now achieving higher frame rates.
What if the dinosaurs hadn’t have gone extinct? This is the question animation studio Pixar poses in their latest film, ‘The Good Dinosaur’. Anyone who’s been following this movie knows its had trouble getting onto its feet, after a change in directors, and a pushed back release date ‘The Good Dinosaur’ is finally ready to be shown off to the public.
The story is somewhat simple, but full of the signature charm and multi layered approach Pixar has been recognized for. A boy and his puppy… except the roles are reversed, the boy is a wild child (the puppy) and the dinosaur is the one offering life lessons to the boy. With the help of the good dinosaur, the boy learns more about the world, himself, and how to be a normal human. Originally pitched and directed by Bob Peterson, the movie has been shifted over to Peter Sohn.
Peter Sohn has been the inspiration
Arlo (the boy) isn’t seen much in the trailer, with the teaser focusing more on the titular Good Dinosaur, and the situations he finds himself in. Most of the trailer is spent focusing on the asteroid that never impacted this big blue marble we call Earth. Glimpses of Arlo are seen towards the end, which is sort of a shame as Sohn won the directors position after his insistence on the boy-and-his-dog archetype. Sohn told Yahoo! the following:
The heart of it has always remained the same in terms of the boy and the dog. I’ve been very diligent with the story team to kind of protect that and focus on that more. In terms of the world, it has kind of changed a bit here and there, and some of the characters have gone out and new ones have come in.
“We’ve been trying to find physical obstacles and and emotional obstacles for our main character, and nature can represent both. In a lot of the research that we’ve done, going out into the Northwest and out into the wilderness, I cannot tell you how beautiful and scary it can be, and how quickly nature can just turn on you. And we’re trying to finding the truth in that in terms of Arlo’s growth.”
Watch a trailer for ‘The Good Dinosaur’ on YouTube, it will be released November 25th of this year, one day before Thanksgiving.