I love the documentary style they employed for this film.
I am sorry but I am a little burnt out on animated animal movies.
Surf's Up is essentially the story of 1987's North Shore only it's done with humans instead of animated animals. Cody (voice of Shia LaBeouf) loves surfing and for him winning is all that matters. So he sets about on a journey to take to part in the Big Z Memorial Surf-Off on Pen Gu Island. As he sets about on this mission he meets a lot of people with the characters of Chicken Joe (voice of Jon Heder) and Lifeguard Lani (voice of Zooey Deshanel) making the biggest impression on him. However, it isn't until he meets Geek (voice of Jeff Bridges) that I really felt that this movie was aping the North Shore.
If we are going to go down that road then Cody would be Rick Kane (Matt Adler), Chicken Joe would be Turtle (John Philbin), Lani would be Kiani (Nia Peebles) and Geek would be Chandler (Gregory Harrison). As you may or may not recall, Chandler was the one who got Rick to realize that your surf with your heart and soul and not with your mind on the prize. Basically, Geek gets Cody to think the same way only in Surf's Up the slang no longer sounds as cool.
They have put three of these on this DVD with optional filmmaker intros. All of the scenes are hand-drawn and it genuinely seems like the scenes were cut because they got in the way of Cody's story. The hand-drawn pictures looked really sharp in these sections, even if taken out of context from the rest of the film I am not sure how much they really work.
Arnold makes no bones about the fact that this is an "Original Arnold Production." He credits himself so many times it seems the creators of this segment are trying to make a very specific point about certain directors. He opens up this release by showing us where he is in all of the backgrounds, then move into areas like "Surf Lingo." Okay, I am 34 and I grew up near beach cities so hearing terms like "Dude" and "Bro" really don't resonate that strongly with me anymore.
"Lose Myself" Music Video
Five featurettes came on this DVD. Well, there are actually 3 but they have broken it into three parts. The titles of some of these segments are "Voice Sessions" and "Not A Drop of Real Water." I especially enjoyed seeing the voice sessions because they are usually done so rigidly. Here it seemed like the actors were really given an opportunity to experiment and try things with their characters. Also amidst these featurettes they explain the very detailed and technical process of giving this movie its handheld look. It amazes me that so much work goes into making something look imperfect, but I guess that has to be the case when dealing with animation.
Progression Reels and Galleries
In the Galleries segment they present the kind of pictures that one might see in a book. They come on and off the screen and it seems like short of fast forwarding there really isn't any other way to control them. I really liked the Progression Reels because we are shown how the images are put together from the ground up. We see the backgrounds, then the middleground action, then the main characters placed in the foreground. My biggest problem with this whole thing as that it all happens way too quickly, and the technical people taking us through this don't show us how it's really done. Sure they gloss over it but it really doesn't give us the kind of information I want.
1.85:1 - Anamorphic Widescreen. This movie looked awesome. It is so colorful and so full of life that I was beside myself. As I have mentioned, I also liked the shaky camera look that they utilized to give this movie a documentary-like feel. While Surf's Up plays very much as a traditional animated film, I love it whenever a rigidly determined genre gets tossed on its ear.
Dolby Digital. Mastered in High Definition. Languages: English, French and Spanish 5.1 (Dolby Digital). Subtitles: English, French and Spanish. The audio on this movie was very fresh. What caught my attention the most was the background mix. This really seemed to capture the sounds of the beach and the whole surfing vibe. Also, I think they made things sound a tad more "wild" so that it would enhance the documentary-like feel. Good work, all around.
This front cover features a fun shot of Cody and the gang as they surf through a big tube wave. The back portion of this release gives us another shot of the gang that serves as half the background, a small description of what Surf's Up is about, a Special Features listing, a credits list and technical specs.
All in all for me the most interesting thing about Surf's Up is its look. Sure the Penguins and everything else look really good (I am always blown away by how these characters look like they are in 3D), but the actual look of this film is pretty aggressive for this kind of a release. They made this movie look like a documentary complete with the shaky camera, the off the cuff zooming effects and everything else that genre employs. Now, when you watch through the Special Features you will see that this release had to go out of its way to create that, it is still highly impressive that the creators of this movie pulled it off. Also, when you consider that this is an expensive family film, I was even more impressed with the chances they took in utilizing this.
All in all I found Surf's Up to be a very enjoyable movie. Enhancing the viewing experience was getting to find out about the movie's creation in the bonus features. To think that they ad-libbed and experimented really shows how they wanted to expand upon the traditional genre of animation.
Surf's Up was released June 8, 2007.