The Future of Star Wars: Episode VIII and Han Solo

Star Wars Celebration Europe (SWCE, July 14-17, 2016) ended with a much-anticipated panel featuring the upcoming Star Wars films, Star Wars Episode VIII and Han Solo.

SWCE Ep. VIII and Han Solo Director Panel

Pablo Hidalgo hosted a panel featuring Kathleen Kennedy (Lucasfilm President) and Kiri Hart (Head of Story, LFL).  First up: writer-director Rian Johnson discussed the filming of Episode VIII (code named: Space Bear).

(This article was initially published on LaughingPlace.com after Star Wars Celebration Europe, on September 20, 2016). 

A New Look from Lucasfilm: Star Wars Episode VIII delves deeper into character

Kathleen Kennedy is very happy with their choice of director. “Rian moves the camera as well as Steven Spielberg.”  And she doesn’t say that lightly.

Rian Johnson’s goal was to “tell a story that feels alive right now.”  Writing for Episode VIII corresponded with principle photography for Episode VII.  Johnson spent six weeks working on Story at Lucasfilm, watching ‘dailies’ of Episode VII with Kennedy and Hart to ensure continuity of story details.

Pablo Hidalgo’s hint: to impress leaders at Lucasfilm, bring homemade ice cream (Rian Johnson did).

Johnson was influenced deeply by classic Hollywood films such as Bridge on the River Kwai, Twelve O’Clock High, Letter Never Sent, Three Outlaw Samurai, and Sahara (Humphrey Bogart version).  He had the Episode VIII story team (Kathleen, Kiri, and Pablo) watch these films together ‘like a film camp’ for inspiration developing Story on VIII.

“We are gonna end up breaking kind of a longstanding Star Wars tradition, and for the first time, Continue reading The Future of Star Wars: Episode VIII and Han Solo

Marty Sklar’s “One Little Spark” Signing at Walt’s Barn

 

Marty Sklar, the Legend

Marty Sklar, Disney Legend and Imagineering Ambassador, charmed guests as he signed copies of his newest book at Walt Disney’s Barn on August 21, 2016.

Before Disneyland opened in 1955, Marty Sklar started as an editor of The Disneyland News.  For a decade, he served as publicity writer for Walt Disney himself.  When Marty was recruited to Imagineering in 1961 (for the New York World’s Fair), he found his true calling.

Marty served as President at Walt Disney Imagineering from 1987 to 1996.  He was personally involved in shaping nine of the twelve Disney parks: Epcot, Tokyo Disneyland, Disney-MGM Studios, Disneyland Paris, Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Disney California Adventure, Tokyo DisneySea, Paris’ Walt Disney Studios, and Hong Kong Disneyland.

Sklar is the only Disney cast member who has contributed to opening all twelve Disney parks around the world, yet he remains humble.  “I quickly realized how many shoulders I was standing on.”  He credits icons such as John Hench, Herb Ryman, Marc Davis, Harper Golff, Claude Coats, and Harriet Burns … mentors, friends, and his Imagineering team.

(This article was first published on LaughingPlace.com on September 2, 2016)

One Little Spark!

The idea for One Little Spark! Mickey’s Ten Commandments and The Road to Imagineering came to Marty as he toured the country for his first book, and speaking at conventions and universities.

People wanted more stories about Walt Disney and how he accomplished the impossible.  They also wanted advice on how to become an Imagineer.  With Marty’s 53 years at Disney and having worked directly with Walt, he is uniquely qualified to share his experiences about both.

Continue reading Marty Sklar’s “One Little Spark” Signing at Walt’s Barn

Floyd Norman: A Disney Legend’s Animated Life

What would you give to spend an evening with a Disney Legend – an animator, a story artist who was hand-picked by Walt Disney himself, a creative mastermind and self-dubbed ‘troublemaker’?  Floyd Norman is all of these.  He was also the first African-American artist to work at Walt Disney Productions.

We gathered at nine in the evening during Comic-Con to celebrate the amazing story of Floyd Norman’s career.  His many adventures are featured in the new documentary Floyd Norman: An Animated Life, co-directed by Michael Fiore and Erik Sharkey (opens August 26, 2016).  Fiore and Sharkey were the acclaimed team behind the Drew Struzan documentary (Drew: The Man Behind the Poster,2013).

(This article was originally published on August 18, 2016 after San Diego Comic-Con, on LaughingPlace.com. )

Distinguished Panel Members – Contributors in the Documentary

The panel member list read like a list of “Who’s Who” in entertainment.

Front Row: Adrienne Norman, Leo Sullivan, Leonard Maltin, Gary Trousdale, Don Hahn, Jane Baer

Back Row: Floyd Norman, Nirali Somaia, Ryan Shore, Erik Sharkey, Michael Fiore, Ken Mitchroney

Floyd Norman – as himself.

Adrienne Norman – Art director at Disney. Senior artist, digital paint for Disney Publishing group. Photographer. Disney consumer products.  Married to Floyd Norman.

Leo Sullivan – Layout artist, collaborator and partner with Floyd Norman in their independent production studio, Vignette Films, in addition to other animation credits (Hey, Hey, Hey, It’s Fat Albert, Animaniacs, Tiny Toon Adventures).

Leonard Maltin – legendary film critic and historian, reviewed films for 30 years on Entertainment Tonight, creative force behind the Walt Disney Treasures series.  Teaches in the School of Cinema at the University of Southern California.

Continue reading Floyd Norman: A Disney Legend’s Animated Life

Alice Through the Looking Glass: Using “Previs” and “Postvis” in VFX Filmmaking

One of the opening panels at San Diego Comic-Con featured the visual effects team that created Alice Through the Looking Glass, set in the world of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010).  Ed W. Marsh (VFX Editor and Stereoscopic Supervisor) and HALON Entertainment’s Tefft Smith II shared their filmmaking experience in the panel: “Feed Your Head: The VFX of Alice Through the Looking Glass.”  I was also privileged to sit down with them after the panel.

(This article was originally published on LaughingPlace.com on August 1, 2016)

Director James Bobin (The Muppets) brings us the story of Alice Kingsleigh (Mia Wasikowska, Alice in Wonderland), based on the original characters by Lewis Caroll, set three years after the last film.  Alice is an accomplished sea Captain escaping pirates, but returns to London to find that the world still will not accept her for who she is.

Alice is called by Absolem (Alan Rickman, Harry Potter), the blue caterpillar-turned-butterfly, to help Tarrant Hightopp, “the Hatter” (Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean).  “You’ve been gone too long, Alice.  There are matters which might benefit from your attention.  Friends cannot be neglected…hurry.”

Continue reading Alice Through the Looking Glass: Using “Previs” and “Postvis” in VFX Filmmaking