My wife has always been into animated flicks. We don't typically go running out to see them in theaters but we usually have most new releases in our hands once they come out in HD or BD. That said, I was actually quite excited to get "Surf's Up" on BD even though she is normally the one who really gets excited for these movies.
Cody (Shia LaBouf) loves surfing. Ever since he was a little penguin and the ultimate surfer Big Z (Jeff Bridges) visited his little town of Shiverpool in Antarctica, Cody was smitten. He has big dreams to get out of his town and prove to his family that he is something special...he just knows that some day he will make something of himself. Mikey the recruiter finally comes to see what Cody can do and he barely makes the cut. But it doesn't matter because he is off to Pen Gu Island to catch some huge waves and surf competitively. The waves here are totally rad and the girls...oh the girls are awesome. Cody quickly takes to the lifeguard Lani (Zooey Deschnel) and obviously must impress her with his mind-blowing riding. His first time out on the waves, Cody goes up against Tank (Diedrich Bader), nine-time winner of the competition...and a jerk of a penguin. Too bad Cody wipes out, loses consciousness, and has to be saved by Lani. She whisks hims off into the jungle to recover, thinking her uncle might have some home remedies. Cody wakes up but is quite embarrassed about his surfing mistake. Uncle Geek decides to give Cody some tips and prove that surfing isn't all about competition. Cody has to make choices as he trains for the big surfing challenge and realizes that surfing isn't about winning, it's about having fun.
"Surf's Up" is amazingly shot as a documentary. Everything you see comes from a reportage or journalistic perspective...the camera swings around and follows the main characters and action. Doing this in CG is quite the feat. I was absolutely blown away as I watched each frame whiz by and really felt like I was watching an animated version of the surfing documentary "Step into Liquid."
When you watch "Surf's Up," you will really appreciate what I am talking about. The movements are not fluid...which in animation terms doesn't make sense, but is translated wonderfully to the screen. I want to take just a second to explain this...by the way, my degree is in Computer Animation. When you do animation, you try and make the animation fluid, and as "life-like" as possible. This also translates to camera movements. When you animate a camera you animate what are called key frames, which each represent a frame in the film. If they were to go and animate each individual key frame it would have taken years for them to finish this film. They used a new technology that allowed them to use real cameras and do the movements they wanted and translate them into the CG of the film. This in itself is mind blowing and I am sorry if I bored you but you have to watch the special feature about it!
Another really neat thing about "Surf's Up" is the way they did their voice talent. They actually had everyone come in a room together, instead of having each actor read by themselves. This really translates well in "Surf's Up" and creates emotion that we don't normally see in animated films. The dialogue is so smooth and never feels pieced together. These penguins all feel like they have real relationships which draws us closer to the characters.
Yes, "Surf's Up" is indeed a kids movie at its core. It is an animated film and most of the humor is still geared for younger kids. That doesn't mean that adults are not going to enjoy it. I had a great time sitting with my wife and enjoying a good laugh and diving into the world of surfing through a penguin's eye.
Animated films have a tough time not having a beautiful transfer. I love the vibrant color that most animated films have. "Surf's Up" does have those moments, but they decided to go an entirely different route. "Surf's Up" takes those gorgeous scenes and almost dulls them. They wanted it to feel like a documentary, so they added grain, and gave some elements an older feel. I just don't know if I like this style...the colors are still great, the blacks are fantastic, and the detail is good. All around this is a wonderful transfer, that for me didn't need to have the documentary feel and actually kind of ruined it for me. This is my personal opinion and I can't drop the rating because of my opinions...personally I think it deserves a 3. I thought that there was way too much grain in several areas, and it just didn't pop like other recent animated films. But because I know this is the style they were going for, I can see the bigger picture, and the quality is spot on to how they intended it to be.
Here we get a 5.1 Uncompressed PCM track and a 5.1 True HD track. Both of these tracks are spectacular. The waves come crashing in and rumble nice deep sounds in the subs, mixed with rushing water through each speaker. The dialogue is very strong throughout the film and is always crisp and clear. The soundtrack fills the speakers brilliantly and in itself is a wonderful addition to the film. Definitely a top notch audio package here.
The ChubbChubbs & The ChubbChubbs Save Christmas: "The ChubbChubbs" actually won an Academy Award for best short...it is a fun and entertaining short about these cute little fluffy guys that are actually scary creatures. It is definitely worth a look and good for several laughs. "The ChubbChubbs Save Christmas" pulls from the same idea from the first, but isn't nearly as funny, and is just about "saving" christmas.
Lost Scenes with Filmmaker Intros: Here we get 3 deleted scenes and one that just shows voice talent reciting a scene that never happened. They come with filmmaker intros but nothing really special to see here.
Arnold's Zurfinary: Little Arnold gives us a lesson in surfing lingo!
All Together Now: Surf's Up Voice Session: This is a great look behind the cast as they voiced "Surf's Up." Definitely worth a look to see all the cool new things that they did for "Surf's Up."
Not a Drop of Real Water: Here we get 3 separate features, all giving us tons of detail. Surf Cam focuses on the movements of the camera and creating a documentary feel to the film. Making Waves is everything about creating waves that looked and felt real. Finally, Storyboard to Surfing is an interactive feature where you can watch the whole process from storyboard to animation.
Meet the Penguins: A "birds-eye" view, acting as if they were penguins as we learn about them and making them life-like.
Surf's Up Pinball Game: Pretty standard...boring.
Progression Reels: This is a cool feature that brings us from start to finish of several scenes.
Galleries: Characters and Locations...yep just as they sound.
Music Video: "Lose Myself" by Ms. Lauryn Hill
Filmmaker Commentary with Director's Chris Buck and Ash Brannon and Producer Chris Jenkins: This is a pretty good commentary track. It definitely helps that all three get along great, and have a really good time remembering the film. They do a good job talking about all things "Surf's Up" and don't get very technical so anyone can enjoy.
Visual Effects Commentary with Visual Effects Supervisor Rob Gradel, Animation Supervisor David Shopp, and Layout Supervisor James Williams: Along with the first commentary these guys really get along. This track is definitely not for everyone as they do tend to get extremely technical and might lose some. Otherwise a good track.
"Surf's Up" is a great animated flick that obviously has lots of competitors but should easily stand out amongst them. It is safe for anyone's ears, and has a ton of laughs for all ages. The cinematography is so unique it is worth a look just for that alone. The audio track also helps tremendously and so does the huge amount of extras. Surf's Up" is an easy one to Recommend to families looking for a fun Friday night movie.