Mickey Mouse in 3D: How “Get a Horse” Gets It Right

1928 or 2013? (Courtesy Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Let’s get this out of the way up front: I’m not a fan of 3D movies. I think they’re a scourge, a nuisance, a gimmicky money grab that’s rarely worth the extra expense. Given the choice, I’d almost always rather see a film in plain old 2D, and I’ve never walked out of a theater regretting that decision. I want to firmly establish this point so when I say that Disney’s new 3D Mickey Mouse short “Get a Horse” is a brilliant, genuine visual treat you will understand it’s not an opinion I came to lightly. When I say it’s the best narrative use of 3D I’ve ever seen, know that’s not just effervescent hype. This is the real deal.

“Get a Horse” will be a little bonus gift for audiences who see the new animated feature Frozen in theaters beginning November 27. Audiences at the 3D showings will also get the short in 3D, the best way to experience it, in my opinion (I’ve had the privilege of screening it twice now, both times in 3D). I’m sure the charm of it will still come across in two dimensions, but without the full 3D effect you’re missing out on something truly special. And I never thought I’d say that about any 3D film.

I should advise you at this point that there are some delightful surprises in “Get a Horse” that may be spoiled in the remainder of this article. If you want to go in without knowing anything about it, come back and read the rest of this after you’ve seen it. If you’re like me and don’t mind knowing every last detail going in, by all means read on.

Continuing the metaphor above, this little bonus gift comes wrapped in many layers. The first is a painstakingly faithful recreation of an original 1928 Mickey Mouse cartoon. Although it may look authentically vintage, there is no lost or restored footage in “Get a Horse,” as you may have been led to believe if you’ve seen any of the studio’s coy publicity for it. Every frame is brand new. The only element taken from the archives is the voice of Walt Disney himself as Mickey, pieced together from different sources to match the needs of the script.

Even the poster looks vintage. (Courtesy Walt Disney Animation Studios)

Director Laura MacMullan (the first woman to have a solo directing credit on an animated Disney film) and her team went to great lengths in production to emulate the rubbery, free-form style of famed artist Ub Iwerks, one of Disney’s early collaborators and the co-creator of Mickey Mouse. At a recent press screening, MacMullan explained that as far as technology has come, we still don’t have the ability to effectively mimic the fluid quality of those early black-and-white cartoons. As she puts it, “They seem to be made of ink and expressiveness and humor.”

To fully capture the look and feel of an authentic 1928 cartoon, all of the 2D animation in the “Get a Horse” was drawn just like they did in the old days, with pencil on paper. Then it was put through an extensive aging process to make it look 85 years old.

“We created a bunch of ways to simulate digital film damage,” MacMullan said. “And this was a matter of adding some gate weave, scratches, and dust. They shot on high contrast film so the blacks start to bloom and the whites kind of blow out in this really nice way. There was emulsion flickers. We discovered at one point that what we thought was happening was that the electrical system in 1928, as they shot each individual cell, the current wasn’t steady. So the lights kind of go up and down. And then we also added stuff like cell shadows and then at the very end we had to go back and carefully add mistakes, because that’s the way they did it. They rushed through it.”

“Get a Horse” marries form and narrative in a way that’s not only innovative, it’s magical. This is where the big reveal comes in and the technology takes over. The story features a hayride gone awry when Pete shows up in an automobile and steals Minnie away from Mickey. At one point during the action, Mickey bursts through the screen into the real world and transforms from a flat, black-and-white drawing into a fully dimensional, colorful figure. At this point, the 3D effectively becomes part of the story. What follows is a wonderfully madcap chase as the characters jump in and out of the screen through what appears to be a tear in the very fabric of space. And the effect is so seamless it’s easy to forget the incredible amount of work it took to achieve it.

To accomplish this tremendous task, the project required close collaboration between the two halves of Disney’s animation studio—2D and CG. Eric Goldberg (co-director of Pocahontas and animation supervisor on The Princess and the Frog) led the 2D team, while Adam Green (an animator on Tangled and Wreck-It Ralph) was responsible for the CG aspects. Since the majority of the short involved shots with both elements, the two groups each had the opportunity to take the lead in creating portions of the action sequences, sharing shots with each other as much as four times a day. It took 18 months in all to complete the dazzling seven minutes of footage audiences will see on the screen. But there’s so much packed into those seven minutes, you may feel you’ve gotten your money’s worth before the main feature even starts.

“I still can’t believe we got to make this short,” MacMullan said as she finished her presentation. “And I’ll just close by saying people call this the animation industry, but to us it’s an industry of hands and drawings and light and motion. And I’m so happy that we got to make this little engine of joy.”

Epic Lives Up to its Name

20th Century Fox

It’s a bold move to name your movie Epic. That’s a lot to live up to, even if you’re pretty sure your movie might be epic. Fortunately for us moviegoers, Epic lives up to its name.

I had a feeling I’d like this movie from the moment I saw the bit of animation in the trailer where beautifully-rendered dandelions suddenly turn to reveal themselves as tiny people. Stunning. My daughter and I were invited to the premiere here in New York City, and we had an epic morning. (We totally walked the red carpet, even if it was a green carpet.) We were certainly in a frame of mind to enjoy the show.

Continue reading Epic Lives Up to its Name

A Monster in Paris Giveaway: We Have a Winner!

A scene from A Monster in Paris. Image:  © 2011 Europacorp.
A scene from A Monster in Paris. Image: © 2011 Europacorp.

We received so many great entries for our recent A Monster in Paris giveaway! It was great to see everyone sharing their favorite monsters. There were big ones, small ones, furry ones and funny ones, as well as ones from the past and present. Sure, I had a few nightmares, but hey — we have a winner!

We asked everyone to submit their favorite monster. Here was the winning response…

Continue reading A Monster in Paris Giveaway: We Have a Winner!

Last Chance to Win Our Monster in Paris Prize Package!

A scene from A Monster in Paris. Image:  © 2011 Europacorp.
A scene from A Monster in Paris. Image: © 2011 Europacorp.

Did you spent the weekend watching a bunch of plain, old 2D movies? We want to make one of your upcoming movie marathons more in-your-face, with a few 3D-enhanced goodies. Just enter our Monster in Paris contest — before it’s too late! Continue reading Last Chance to Win Our Monster in Paris Prize Package!

Giveaway: A Monster in Paris and an LG BP530 3D Blu-ray Player!

A scene from A Monster in Paris. Image:  © 2011 Europacorp.
A scene from A Monster in Paris. Image: © 2011 Europacorp.

April showers are bringing, well… they’re bringing out the monsters, apparently. Shout! Factory is releasing the animated adventure, A Monster on Paris, on DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D next Tuesday, April 16, 2013.

The film has an excellent voice cast, including Vanessa Paradis, Catherine O’Hara, Bob Balaban, Sean Lennon, Adam Goldberg, Jay Harrington, and Danny Huston. It should also be a pretty nifty one to watch in 3D, given all of the pretty Parisian cityscapes, the colorful characters, the scientific experiments, and of course, Franc.

Don’t have a 3D Blu-ray player? GeekMom is giving away the LG BP530 3D Blu-ray Player, along with a Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack of A Monster on Paris.

Now, you’re going to need a 3D TV to watch the movie in 3D, but this player is also a great 2D player and the combo pack has the regular Blu-ray as well. Just wanted to put that out there!

So, how can you scare up a chance to put this package into your home theater? Just comment below and let us know about your all-time favorite monster. Is it Sully, one of the Gremlins or Frankenstein’s Bride? Let us know!

Now comes the fine print: The winner will be randomly chosen from all of the entries. We’re going to contact you via email, so please have one listed with your account or in the comment form. We can’t get you through Facebook, Twitter or by Bat-signal. The winner must respond within 48 hours of prize notification or will have to forfeit. The contest is open to U.S. residents from now through Tuesday, April 16, 2013. Good luck!

Thanks to Shout! Factory and Click Communications for supplying the prize package for this giveaway.

New Super Mario Bros. 2 for the Nintendo DS

New Super Mario Bros. 2  Image: Nintendo
New Super Mario Bros. 2 Image: Nintendo

I was really excited to get this game downloaded to my son’s Nintendo 3DS. I’ve been a fan of Mario since my parents bought our family the first Nintendo system when I was 6 years old (did I just age myself?) and we played the original Mario Bros. Thankfully the games have come a long way since I was a kid and I’m happy to say this game keeps in with the spirit of the characters and the storyline.

The storyline is much the same as the previous games. Princess Peach is the damsel in distress and it’s up to Mario, Luigi and their friends to save her. The game itself has over 80 levels across water, land, air and snow to fight through before the final battle for the princess. Some of the bosses are from previous games and others are new to this version. The same goes for the powers and abilities that Mario and Luigi can obtain. My favorite part is being able to store extra powers while in the level. For instance, if you have fire power and you come across another one, the game will bank it for you to use later.

The refreshed look of Mario and his companions is not a big enough change for you to do any double takes and it doesn’t take any time at all to get used to. A few of the powers have changed as well but it’s a good change. My husband thinks this game might be a little easier than the previous games, but I rather enjoyed it that way. I’m not a hard core gamer so when levels are too hard, I just give up and let it collect dust on my shelf.

Image: Nintendo
Image: Nintendo

Cheat alert – If you fail the level enough times, when you start the level again, the game will give you an advantage that will allow you to finish the level unharmed.

One of the neat features I heard about (but was unable to try out myself) is the ability for two players to play at once on their own devices. As long as both devices have the game loaded, they can share the screen and play at the same time. Maybe I’ll get my husband his own device for Christmas so he and our son can play together instead of fighting over it all the time.

For the Mario fan this game is a must have and for anyone who has not play any of the previous games , this is a great place to start.

New Mario Bros. 2 is available for the Nintendo 3Ds and is rated E for Everyone (with a side of comic mischief)

You can purchase Mario Bros. 2 for the Nintendo DS directly on your device as well as on Amazon and your local video game retailers.

Stars Wars 3D, I've Got A Bad Feeling About This


Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menance 3D

I thought 3D movies were the coolest thing ever when I was a kid. I even loved the silly paper glasses with one red lens and one blue lens and took them home to play with until they completely fell apart. I thought it was neat when popcorn looked like it was flying into the air, or arrows soared over my head, or random birds or feathers or just about anything came out of the screen at me. This was when I was a kid.

Then came a time when 3D fell by the wayside and I forgot all about it until Jaws 3D arrived on screens. I went to see this with a group of my friends, despite being terrified at the whole idea of Jaws. I couldn’t tell you much about this movie now. It was a blur of sharks, people screaming, blood in the water and a last ditch effort to save the world, but I do remember one 3D moment quite vividly. It involved a dead body and worms and that was the last I ever wanted to see of 3D.

I avoided it until Avatar, which I saw in 3D, surround sound, IMAX, blah blah blah because everyone said I absolutely had to see it that way in order to appreciate the movie. And, although it was incredibly pretty, I was unimpressed with the movie as a whole. The story was not intriguing and ridiculous things kept happening. They took out armored choppers with spears. Spears! This movie is single-handedly responsible for turning my dislike of 3D into something more akin to hatred. All of which poses a bit of a problem for me as a die hard Star Wars fan.

In just a few days, on February 10th, Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace will be hitting theaters in 3D. As a Star Wars fan but a 3D hater I have no idea how to handle this situation. I know, my first complaint should be to demand that George Lucas stop messing with the movies, but I’m actually okay with the changes. I don’t like them all but he made the movies to begin with so I figure he should be able to tweak them a bit. (Except for Han and Greedo which was a horrible mistake. Han shot first. End of Story.)

So, although I’m okay with changing things, hopefully for the better, I dread the thought of going to see a movie in 3D. I have visions of lightsabers appearing to poke my eye out or Anakin flying a ship right over my head. This won’t be cool, it’ll be hokey. But, and this is a big but, what if it’s the most awesome version of a Star Wars movie ever created and I don’t see it just because I hate 3D? What if that lightsaber duel is improved? What if JarJar is somehow less noticeable?

In the end, my love of Star Wars is going to win out, although I’m not at all convinced I’m going to walk away happy. I will pay too much for my ticket. I will buy over-priced popcorn. I will don those horribly uncomfortable glasses and sip my two-gallon soda. I will see Star Wars in 3D but, honestly, I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

The GeekMoms Podcast #14 Star Wars, Hugo and 3D



Nicole Wakelin is joined by GeekMom Mandy Horetski to talk movies, from The Avengers to The Hobbit and even the age old debate, is 3D worth the fuss? First there’s Hugo with Oscar nominations galore and then later this month Star Wars fans get The Phantom Menace in 3D. Should you jump at the chance to see them or save your money? Tune in and find out!

Nicole Wakelin: Website and Twitter
“Chaos” Mandy Horetski: Website and Twitter
Music: Rebecca Angel

Subscribe in iTunes
Subscribe via our RSS feed using your favorite podcatcher
Direct download

Harry Potter Week: Chaos Mandy and the Harry Potter Midnight Movie Experience

Image: Mandy Horetski

As I write this, I am just getting home from the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 midnight showing. While there will be many reviews of the movie itself, I thought I’d talk about my experience at my local theater’s midnight premiere.

A local radio station had an event that started at 9:30 pm that included a trivia contest along with a costume contest. So I aimed for getting there around the time the event was going to start.

Now, this wasn’t the original plan, as my husband works 2nd shift. Originally I was going to drive like a crazy person to the theater after my husband got home from work at 11:30 pm. My wonderful husband was kind enough to take a half day off of work. I got my toddler to bed, got dressed in my costume and took off for the theater.

My costume is an old one, so I was very excited yesterday when I found that the skirt still fit. I didn’t think to try the rest on and that was a bit of a mistake. I found that when I got dressed tonight, my white shirt was very tight. So I added the grey sweater, and I was very warm. But it was still a lot of fun to show up in costume.

Most people at the theater were dressed up. There were quite a few Lunas and Bellatrixes, along with a guy who was dressed as a pirate, but had put a lightening scar on his forehead. It was very crowded in the theater so I didn’t really participate in most of the activities. I said hi to a friend of mine, and then I got in line. I was able to watch the trivia and the Harry Potter Filk band (I’m not sure what their name was, but lots of people knew the words to their songs) from my vantage point in line.

The theater wasn’t very well organized as far as the lines when, and they took a while to open the theaters up. And when it came time to let people in the theater, they only opened a few. Because I had been in line, I got into the first 3D theater they opened. I managed to nab a great seat, and then headed back out for snacks. After getting seated, I got to watch the antics of my fellow Potter fans.

There were a lot of young people who had a lot of fun running around and playing wizards. One of the Bellatrixes ran up and down the stairs of the theater, yelling “Cruico.” The lady who was sitting next to me remarked to her daughter that they didn’t have the spells right, as she thought they were saying “Curse you!” I thought that as amusing.

Finally, the movie started. I won’t say much about the movie itself, but I thought it was amazing. I already want to go see it again. It was great in 3D and I’m glad I picked that version to see. The audience reactions to the movie made it an even more enjoyable time for me.

My midnight movie experience was a lot of fun. I love being able to have any excuse to dress up in a costume, and I have loved watching all of these movies. It was a little sad that it was the last time, but I’m especially glad that I was able to experience it at midnight for the last time.

Did you go to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 at a midnight showing?

12 Days of Awesomely Geeky Gifts: Day 1 – Millennium Falcon Book in 3D + Giveaway!

From roughly the next twelve days, I’m going to be highlighting one awesomely geeky gift per day. Most of these gifts are items I’ve been able to personally review, so you’ll get hands-on suggestions for giftgiving as we propel at light speed toward the holidays. I mean, really? Where does the time go?

First up is the book Star Wars Millennium Falcon: A 3D Owner’s Guide. I first stumbled upon this book at our local Costco warehouse, sifting through the mountain of publications they haul out around the holidays. I had seen some of the other 3D books, and while they’re generally pretty cool, nothing took my attention like this book.

As you turn each page, a new level of the famed Millennium Falcon is revealed, all with useful information on each part of the ship and how it works. There’s even an adorable little Han Solo on one of the first pages, ready to pilot the ship toward new adventures in spice smuggling. I learned more about the ship than I ever imagined, and my son absolutely loves paging through the book and exploring each part. It really brings a whole new level to the Star Wars tech geek! It’s absolutely a must-have for Star Wars fans of all ages. The detail alone is worth the price.

But wait, it gets better! We’ve got five copies of the book to giveaway to readers, just in time for the holidays. That’s right!

Just comment below with your favorite Star Wars character for a chance to win. Winners will be determined randomly. Sorry, but US residents only.

And if the book review itself doesn’t get you, check out this rockin’ book trailer: