Recommend documentaries about animation or live-action film production
July 31, 2020 1:44 PM   Subscribe

Looking for recommendations for documentaries centered on the production of a single animated or live-action film, or closely following a single studio / filmmaker over a short period of time.

We just finished watching Into the Unknown on Disney+, and even though I've never seen Frozen, the behind-the-scenes story of it's production was awesome.

I'm looking for other documentaries in a similar vein: about animation or other live-action films / shows, that follow a single production or studio closely for a period of time. I liked how ItU was filmed in real-time and felt like witnessing the actual making of a thing, rather than watching archival footage and interview footage about something that happened in the past.

A couple of other documentaries I enjoyed along the same lines were The Kingdom of Dreams and Madness, which was more about Miyazaki the man but also followed Studio Ghibli and the daily activities for an arc of time. Also the 2 Player Productions documentary about Double Fine's Amnesia Fortnight in-studio game jam which followed several small multidisciplinary teams developing small games from start to finish.

Do you have suggestions for anything else I should track down?

**I just signed up for the Criterion Channel so I could watch more bonus features on films and hopefully discover more stuff like this.

posted by pilibeen to Media & Arts (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Final Cut: The Making And Unmaking Of Heaven’s Gate is a great deep look into the famously-failed mega-budget western from 1980.
posted by migurski at 2:10 PM on July 31

Burden of Dreams, on the making of Herzog's Fitzcarraldo (1982).

Lost in La Mancha, on the (failed) production of Gilliam's The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2002).

Hearts of Darkness, on the making of Apocalypse Now (1991).
posted by mr_roboto at 2:12 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]

And an interesting angle on your question: My Best Fiend (1999) is a documentary about the collaboration between a director (Werner Herzog) and an actor (Klaus Kinski) over several films.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:15 PM on July 31 [2 favorites]

A Grand Night In is the history of Aardman Animation, and is super fun to watch! it's on netflix.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:17 PM on July 31

This is perhaps not quite what you're looking for, but since Hearts of Darkness and the Ghibli one were already mentioned, I thought I'd go a little further afield.

Room 237 is a very weird, very interesting documentary about Kubrick's The Shining, delving into all kinds of theories about its symbology and production, and the psychology of Kubrick himself among other things. It's quite strange, but a very fun watch.

Although it isn't really in single documentary format, the many making-of vignettes of the Lord of the Rings trilogy (they take up a whole DVD in the extended cut set) are super fascinating and hilarious. It's amazing seeing this truly enormous production being managed across multiple countries and locations, and there are lots of cinematic tricks and personal stories that are fun to keep in mind when you next watch the movies.
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 2:35 PM on July 31

Since you mentioned a video game in there, NoClip's youtube channel is about games and how they get developed. The playlist page in particular is a great place to start. In specific they have been following the Hades team as the game has gone from concept to live (and is still ongoing).
posted by ladyriffraff at 3:45 PM on July 31

The Sweatbox, about the making of The Emperor's New Groove. (Or, rather, the film they were originally trying to make and why they ended up making something else instead.)
posted by offog at 3:59 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]

A documentary about animation, that follows a single production closely?

Maybe not exactly what you're looking for, but Behind the Scenes is a short film from 1985 about making stop-motion animation -- in this case, of Frog and Toad.
posted by Rash at 4:13 PM on July 31 [1 favorite]

There's a two-season anime series about making anime, called Shirobako.

It's not a documentary, more edu-tainment: a fictional anime story about a fictional production company making a fictional anime. With this format, it's not done in an exhaustive, rigorous documentarian style, instead seeking to tell an entertaining story using the trappings, framing, challenges, and successes of anime production itself, mostly following a core group of five women who were in a high-school animation club together, taking place a few years after their graduation. It's a really fun show, with lots of homage and oblique references to actual anime and famous figures in the industry, but getting all that isn't necessary to enjoy it, as it's really well-done and written on its own. Again, not a documentary, but if you enjoy anime, you might enjoy watching this show, and also learn a lot about what goes into the construction of an anime series.

As a bonus, each of the two season of Shirobako have OVAs that are actual episodes of the fictional anime each season was focused on the production of.
posted by glonous keming at 4:24 PM on July 31

It’s totally possible you’ve seen it already but as someone who also loves this type of thing, while not animation/film production, the Imagineering docuseries on Disney+ is also great viewing.
posted by caitcadieux at 8:12 PM on July 31

The 'making of' featurettes of Pixar movies tend to be quite good, e.g. The Incredibles.

I'd also recommend The September Issue, which is about making the year's major issue of Vogue.
posted by rjs at 10:56 PM on July 31

The "making of" special for the new dark crystal series on Netflix was very interesting.
It really made me happy that people could work on what was obviously a dream project for them. I get really inspired by this kind of thing, and my most repeated comment is "this is somebody's job!"

I agree that I've found the making of for Pixar movies to be interesting, too.

I will also recommend, based on... vibe? A YouTube channel called the Crafsman (no letter t in there). He likes making little stop motion shorts and explains his processes of model making, filming, editing, etc in a very very very calm way.
posted by Acari at 7:58 AM on August 1

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