This Holiday, Go Back to the Grid
The holidays are here, and no doubt many of you will visit the movie theater at least once during the break. It seems a bit odd, don’t you think, that right about the time when we are thinking about summer, there is a big rollout of blockbuster movies? The same holds true for the Christmas holiday. Instead of anticipating a relaxing time with family and friends, we are lining up at the ticket counter to see the year’s second wave of these tent-pole films. Studios have their reasons for putting movies on our holiday list. One, of course, is money. People love to go to the theater during these times. It seems like it is the chicken-and-egg scenario: Do these top-billed movies drive people to the theater, or do people want a bit of fun and relaxation during their time off from work, opting to take in a flick? I am sure there are facts and figures to back up one theory or the other. The reason doesn’t really matter much. The fact that audiences love a great holiday flick is what’s important.
Last year, Avatar raked in more than $800 million at the worldwide box office following its mid-December release. This year, Disney execs are hoping to do the same with its highly anticipated release/remake: TRON: Legacy. In July 1982, Disney gave us TRON, a science-fiction flick that boasted all-digital shots inside a video game, at a time when few studios knew how to create CG effects. Despite the cutting-edge work by facilities such as MAGI, Triple-I, Robert Abel and Associates, and Digital Effects, the work, unfortunately, was ignored by the Motion Picture Academy of Arts and Sciences’ Visual Effects Branch. And the film—with a budget of $17 million—grossed just $4.8 million on its opening weekend (but would go on to earn $33 million overall), bested by ET, Tootsie, Rocky III, Porky’s (gulp), and a host of others. While the original TRON was appreciated by our industry, only a handful of outsiders looked at it as a cult classic—until recently, that is. Now, its status has risen tremendously over the past year in anticipation of Legacy, which has hacker Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges) still trapped in the game grid. The sequel, which was nearly three decades in coming, shows off the leaps and bounds that CG effects have made since the original film debuted. We might be amazed by the techie look of the cycles and environments in the remake, but don’t overlook the fantastic de-aging of Bridges done by the experts at Digital Domain, who once again set new standards for creating digital actors, building upon the work they did for Benjamin Button just two years ago. (For a behind-the-scenes look at TRON: Legacy, see “Inside Job” on page 6.)
There are many out there who are billing Legacy as this year’s answer to Avatar, what with the full-CG environments and all. Indeed, CG runs deep throughout the film, as it did in Avatar. But, will the stunning digital work be enough to earn Legacy an Oscar for Best Picture? Or, will non-VFX movies like The Social Network or The Town be 2010’s answer to The Hurt Locker when it comes to Oscar night? It’s hard to say, with VFX-infused films such as Inception also vying for this honor. And what about Toy Story 3? Does the CG feature have enough story power to sway voters? One thing’s for sure, there are a number of effects movies and animated films that have huge Oscar potential, if not for Best Picture, then in their respective categories of Best Visual Effects or Best Animated Feature. There are still weeks to go, but the race is heating up. Be sure to check out our story about the road to Oscar in “Going for Gold” on page 21. While you are reading our Oscar preview piece, you will see some boxes. Those are quick response (QR) codes. Basically, they enable readers to access related material on the Internet quickly: Just point your mobile phone at the code, snap a picture, and the software on your phone decodes the image and takes you directly to the related Web or landing page. (If your Web-capable phone does not come with the required software, you will have to download a reader, which can be accessed free of charge at www.cgw.com/qr-code-app-info.aspx.)
For months now, CGW has been using icons at the end of our stories to direct readers to cgw.com for augmented material (additional stories, photos, videos, and so forth). We’ll continue that for a while longer until readers become more familiar with this new QR capability. Meanwhile, you will see these QR tags either directly in the stories or on the Table of Contents, whichever seems more appropriate for that particular material.
You also will start to see these QR codes popping up in ads within CGW, as our advertisers take advantage of this new service. The codes merge the best of two worlds (print and online), and CGW’s parent company, COP Communications, which prints our magazine, has been quick to embrace this leading-edge offering so that we can bring this innovation to our readers and advertisers. So, try it out and let us know what you think.
The holiday is upon us as I close up this issue. For some, it has been a difficult 12 months, but the forecast for our industry looks promising as we embark on a new year of innovation. From all of us at CGW, we wish you the happiest of holidays!