2015
Walt Disney Pictures releases first teaser trailer for Steven Spielberg’s upcoming fantasy adventure film The BFG (2016). It’s the first time Spielberg directs a live-action 3D film.

The talents of three of the world’s greatest storytellers – Roald Dahl, Walt Disney and Steven Spielberg – unite to bring Dahl’s classic children’s book The BFG to life. The screenplay is written by Melissa Mathison who also penned Spielberg’s E.T. – The Extraterrestrial (1982).

The film tells the imaginative story of a young
girl
and the Giant who introduces her to the wonders and perils of Giant
Country. The BFG (Mark Rylance), while a giant himself, is a Big
Friendly Giant
and nothing like the other inhabitants of Giant Country, e.g. Bloodbottler (Bill Hader) and Fleshlumpeater (Jemaine Clement).
Standing 24-feet tall with enormous ears and a keen sense of smell, he
is endearingly dim-witted and keeps to himself for the most part. Upon her arrival in Giant Country, Sophie (Ruby Barnhill), a precocious
10-year-old girl from London, is initially frightened of the mysterious
giant who has brought her to his cave, but comes to realize that
the BFG is actually quite gentle and charming, and, having never met a
giant before, has many questions. Sophie and the BFG soon depart for London to see the Queen
(Penelope Wilton) and warn her of the precarious situation, but
they must first convince the Queen and her maid, Mary (Rebecca Hall),
that giants do indeed exist. Together, they set out on an adventure to capture the evil, man-eating giants who have been invading the human world.

After his impressive portrayal of Rudolf Abel in Bridge of Spies (2015), Mark Rylance once again plays a major role in a Steven Spielberg film. Principal photography for The BFG begins just three months after Bridge of Spies wraps.

Filming locations are: Vancouver (British Columbia, Canada), Blenheim Palace, Woodstock (Oxfordshire, United Kingdom), Buckingham Palace, Westminster (London, United Kingdom), Skye, Highland (Scotland, United Kingdom).

The film’s score is composed by John Williams. Other regular Spielberg-collaborators are: Director of Photography Janusz Kamiński, Editor Michael Kahn, as well as producers Frank Marshall and Kathleen Kennedy. The stunning visual effects are created by Weta Digital.

The film is a co-production between Walt Disney Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Amblin Entertainment, and Walden Media

Release dates

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2011
Steven Spielberg
’s cutting-edge computer-animated film The Adventures of Tintin (aka
The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn) is a
photorealistic 3D cartoon based on Hergé’s famous
comics series
.

It’s the first time Spielberg directs an animated film, and it’s his first 3D movie.

Spielberg
discovers Hergé’s comics when Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) is compared
to them, and he manages to obtain the cinematic rights. Hergé writes the following note about Spielberg: “If anyone can bring Tintin successfully to the screen, it is this young American film director…”.  

However, conflicting schedules cause the project
to be delayed until the late 2000’s when DreamWorks renews Spielberg’s option
for the film rights.

The Adventures of Tintin is produced by
Peter Jackson, whose visual effects company Weta Digital provides the
computer animation. It is based on three of Hergé’s albums: The Crab
with the Golden Claws
(1941), The Secret of the Unicorn (1943), and Red
Rackham’s Treasure
(1944). The screenplay is written by Steven Moffat,
Edgar Wright
and Joe Cornish. Philippa Boyens and Fran Walsh also
contribute to the script.

The cast includes
Jamie Bell, Andy Serkis, Daniel Craig, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg who
lend their voices and portray their characters via motion-performance. For
Tintin’s dog Snowy, a dog’s motion is captured digitally, so the
animators have inspiration for realistic movements. His vocal effects
are taken from various breeds of dogs (unlike the comics, cinematic
Snowy has no voice).

Filming is due to begin in
October 2008 for a 2010 release. This plan deteriorates when Universal
opts out of co-producing the film with Paramount, and Sony steps in. The
delay results in Thomas Sangster, who is originally cast as Tintin,
departing from the project. As his replacement Peter Jackson suggests
Jamie Bell
, having cast him as Jimmy in his remake of King Kong (2005).

In
a partnership which Spielberg describes as “doing a crossword puzzle
with a friend,”
Peter Jackson convinces Spielberg “not to do Tintin in
live-action”
as it would not do justice to the comic books and opts for
motion capture as the best way of representing Hergé’s world of Tintin.

In 2006, a demo is shot on the stage that is used by James Cameron for
Avatar (2009). The test involves Andy Serkis as Haddock and Peter
Jackson standing in for Tintin. James Cameron and Robert Zemeckis are
present during the shoot. Weta Digital produce a twenty-minute test reel
successfully demonstrating a photorealistic depiction of the
characters.

Starting on January 26th 2009,
Spielberg completes principal photography after 32 days, with other
directors such as Guillermo del Toro, Stephen Daldry and David Fincher
visiting the set. Peter Jackson is present for the first week and
supervises the rest of the shoot via  customized iChat
videoconferencing. Spielberg treats the film like live-action, doing a
lot of his own camera work
, noting: “Every movie I made, up until
Tintin, I always kept one eye closed when I’ve been framing a shot,”

because he wants to see the movie in 2-D, the way viewers would. “On
Tintin, I have both of my eyes open.”
Spielberg finishes six weeks of
additional motion-capture filming in mid-July 2009.

Loyalty to the original concept is key to Spielberg’s approach, the
characters’s look and personalities painstakingly matched to their comic
counterparts. This is apparent right from the film’s stylish title
sequence
and the first scene that features a painter who looks a lot like Hergé and draws Tintin’s portrait in Herge’s style. Spielberg describes working on this film as “feeling
artistic and painterly”
. Fittingly, the movie starts with a closeup of a
painter’s palette.

Jackson supervises Weta Digital during post-production, with
Spielberg attached via video conferencing. Director of Photography
Janusz Kamiński serves as lighting consultant for Weta, contributing to
the “film-noirish, very atmospheric” look of Tintin. To improve the
quality of the indoor lighting nuances, Weta Digital and NVIDIA develop
the ray tracing software application PantaRay, which requires 100 to
1000 times more computation than traditional shadow-map based solutions.
Post production is completed on September 2011.

When working
with Spielberg, Michael Kahn has always edited his movies on a Moviola and KEM, but for Tintin, he cuts digitally using Avid.

John
Williams
composes a mindboggling score for his first animated film.
Most of it is written while the animation process is still in the early
stages, with Williams attempting to employ “the old Disney technique of
doing music first and have the animators trying to follow what the music
is doing”.
Eventually several of his cues have to be revised when the
film is edited. Williams employs various musical styles, with “1920s,
1930s European jazz”
for the opening credits, or “pirate music” for the
battle at sea. American opera singer and soprano Renée Fleming provides
the singing voice of Bianca Castafiore, performing a section of Romeo et
Juliette
.

The film is released on the 30th
anniversary of Raiders of the Lost Ark
. Its world
première
takes place on 22 October 2011 in Brussels, followed by
subsequent releases in European countries on 26 October 2011, and in the
USA on 21 December 2011, in Digital 3D and IMAX.

The
Adventures of Tintin
grosses over $373 million against a budget of $135
million, earning considerably more outside the US (where Hergé’s comics
are virtually unknown). It receives positive reviews from critics,
being compared to Spielberg’s Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981). It is the
first non-Pixar animated film to win the
Golden Globe Award for Best
Animated Feature Film. John Williams is nominated for an Academy Award
for Best Original Score.

Producer Peter
Jackson intends to direct a sequel
, with Spielberg serving as producer.
Spielberg and Jackson also hope to co-direct a third film.

In
his fascinating analysis of the Tintin film, Paul Bullock focuses on
Spielberg’s use of his core visual motifs (light, reflection
and the idea of seeing) and how they reflect three of his key themes:
emotional development, heritage and community.

2009
Avatar
, directed, written, produced, and co-edited by James Cameron, is a journey of self-discovery – in the context of colonialism and deep ecology – disguised in a riveting sci-fi action adventure. The film combines live-action with computer-generated characters and live environments, using groundbreaking stereoscopic motion capture techniques. It stars Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang, Michelle Rodriguez, Giovanni Ribisi, and Sigourney Weaver

Development of Avatar begins in 1994, when Cameron writes an 80-page treatment. Filming is supposed to take place after the completion of Cameron’s Titanic (1997), for a planned release in 1999, but Cameron finds out that the technology is not yet ready to achieve his vision of the film. Cameron instead focuses on making documentaries and refining the technology for the next few years. When watching Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), Cameron is convinced that CGI effects have progressed enough.

20th Century Fox advances $10 million to Cameron to film a proof-of-concept clip for Avatar, which he shows to Fox executives in 2005. Meanwhile, Cameron works on the script and develops a culture for the film’s aliens, the Na’vi who are living on the moon Pandora (their language is created by Dr. Paul Frommer, a linguist at USC). Production design takes several years, involving two different production designers, and two separate art departments. Stan Winston, who collaborated with Cameron in the past, supports him in the creation of different species living on Pandora.

Principal photography begins in 2007, using Cameron’s digital 3-D Fusion Camera System – a new way of directing motion-capture shots (allowing the director to adjust scenes on set by showing the actors’ virtual counterparts in their digital surroundings in real time). New Zealand-based Weta Digital creates the visual effects for the film, with ILM working alongside Weta to create the impressive battle sequences

Cameron gives fellow directors Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson a chance to test the new technology. Spielberg says, “I like to think of it as digital makeup, not augmented animation … Motion capture brings the director back to a kind of intimacy that actors and directors only know when they’re working in live theater.” Jackson and Spielberg will later use the technology in their film The Adventures of Tintin (2011).

According to Cameron, Avatar implicitly criticizes the United States’ role in the Iraq War and the impersonal nature of mechanized warfare in general: “We know what it feels like to launch the missiles. We don’t know what it feels like for them to land on our home soil, not in America.” Not incidentally, the destruction of the towering Na’vi Hometree, collapsing in flames after a missile strike, eerily resembles the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

In his third collaboration with Cameron, James Horner composes the brilliant score, recording parts of it with a small chorus singing in the alien language Na’vi. According to Horner, “Avatar has been the most difficult film I have worked on and the biggest job I have undertaken.“ British singer Leona Lewis sings the film’s theme song "I See You” which is criticized as a “Celine Dion clone singing in Na’vi.”

Before its release, various critics and fan communities predict the film would be a significant financial disappointment. Criticisms range from Avatar’s whopping film budget of $237 million (or more), to its use of 3D "blue cat people“.

Avatar premieres in London on December 10, 2009, to positive critical reactions. In his review, Roger Ebert calls the film "extraordinary” and gives it four stars out of four. “Watching Avatar, I felt sort of the same as when I saw Star Wars in 1977”, he says, adding that like Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings, the film “employs a new generation of special effects” and it “is not simply a sensational entertainment, although it is that. It’s a technical breakthrough. It has a flat-out Green and anti-war message.“

During its international theatrical run, the film breaks several box office records, eventually grossing $2.788 billion. It becomes the highest-grossing film of all time, surpassing Titanic. It is nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, winning three, for Best Art Direction, Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects

Cameron says his inspiration for the film was "every single science fiction book I read as a kid”, acknowledging that Avatar shares themes with films such as Dances with Wolves (1990), At Play in the Fields of the Lord (1991), and Princess Mononoke (1997), all featuring clashes between cultures and civilizations. He admits that he got the idea for Avatar after watching Disney’s 1995 animated film Pocahontas (1995). Due to these obvious inspirations Avatar is not nominated for a Best Screenplay award.

Following the film’s success, Cameron signs with 20th Century Fox to produce three sequels, all directed and co-written by Cameron. They will be released each year starting from December 2017 to 2019.

A themed land called Pandora—The World of Avatar is being constructed for Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida and set to open in 2017.

1993
Peter Jackson founds Weta Digital
, a digital visual effects company that will  provide the effects for Jackson’s film Heavenly Creatures (1994). The Weta team will develop new technologies for groundbreakting films such as The Lord of the Rings (2001) and Avatar (2009).

Weta Digital will also be involved in the creation of the first animated film directed by Steven Spielberg: The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn (2011) .