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.