Translate

Saturday, 31 March 2007

Bird Flu

Chris Watson has made a witty satire Bird Flew. Now I wouldn't describe Chris as the most naturally gifted artist in the class but he sure is one of the brightest students. This bird flu of course is no laughing matter and Chris should be chastised for mocking the disease. But anyone with this wit and intelligence deserves praise not censure. This is a very funny treatment of a subject that is lampooned by all the best cartoonists, some of which we studied in our course. It will raise my spirits as I set off for the high mountains of Cumbria.

Friday, 30 March 2007

An Old Man Complains

Modelling themselves on their animation teacher, Jonathan Scott and Matthew Howard have produced An Old Man Complaining that is me "to a T". The couple also had to incorporate the examination board's requirement that they consider "past and present". Their stucture is a simple one. An old man compares past and present and finds the present worse; however the accompanying little vignettes show it was not so. Violent and daft they may but the scenes are well constructed and witty. The boys' experience shows the importance of backing up files. Their original movie got corrupted and they had to play around with the only remains they had - the swf files created when testing the movie. You'd not know this from the end product though. I have discovered the concept of satire is a difficult one for all members of the class to grasp. A lifetime ago I had to write a dissertation on Juvenalian satire based around Jonathan Swift and, amongst other works, his A Modest Proposal in which he advocates a rather drastic solution to starvation, poverty and the like. Jonathan and Matthew have not gone as far as Swift but their animation repays a view. And the fleeting newspaper references that whiz across the stage are really quite sophisticated.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

Odd scenes my students are working on right now

I'm pretty busy assessing all the final year animations at the moment. Some are brilliant, some less so, but I will post the best on the website after the Easter break. For now enjoy a few scenes being worked on today. Jack Whitmore has a bit of a problem with fitting his character into his clothes at the moment, Johnathan Wren simply had not got round to animating anything at the time I passed, Lewiss Needham was developing an old scene I’ve posted before, Stuart Hinchcliffe is working on a bright factory scene, the Scene Fashion is the odd one out because it's one of my year 11 movie clips from an outstanding Satire animation produced by Matthew Howard and Jonathan Scott, Richard Dickinson appears to be working on a mechanical wolf but it must have been partly off-stage when I asked for the clip and Michael Bramhald has given me a compendium of characters that presumably fit into the overall scheme of things somehow.

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Joanna Davidovich & Literate Americans

At a time when a large party of our own students has ventured out to the USA it is so nice to receive another stunningly intelligent and honest interview from America. This time Joanna Davidovich replied to Laura Ballinger's thoughtful questions. Laura sent them in the morning (our time) and Joanna replied that day. Young animators like Joanna are so inspiring to our own students. They provide role models and insight both. You can, by the way, follow the adventures of our explorers in Virginia through Josh Gooden's very accomplished website set up for the purpose: http://web.mac.com/studio91st/iWeb/British%20Exchange/Welcome.html.
Josh, if I remember correctly visited us last time.

Another animator who has got back to us is Stefan Gruber. By way of variety he communicated with Liam Oades via MSM. I'm promised the interview from Liam tomorrow. Both interviews will be posted here before the website due to our Easter break.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Carlos Villarreal Kwasek & Yuko Murakami

Climber by Carlos Villarreal Kwasek, was/is soon to be our first movie of the week from Vancouver Film School. The movie is showcased on their site as one of a number of outstanding 3D animations. It is compelling. The climber fights for his life on a vertical summit of ice and rock. At any moment he looks like he will fall. Then he truly has to confront his demon to survive. Then I also watched Pekoe by Yuko Murakami. This is very different in style and content. Set in a clockmaker’s workshop the young Pekoe works away unaware of the passage of time. Then the light goes out and the young lad has to wind up the mechanism by moonlight. This is an exquisite, magical movie: our next animation of the week. If Vancouver is turning out work of this quality it is no wonder the country produces such a wealth of animation. Breathtaking stuff and I shall return to look at other work. And look out for the two animators’ names. They will make a name for themselves. Two superb animations for my birthday.

Monday, 26 March 2007

Billy Blob

This is the fourth of our series of interviews with those animators whose work has particularly appealed to our students here at South Axholme. Each interview is available in a more colourful format, along with suitable illustrations, on our website.

Nicola Bland interviews Billy Blob

Billy Blob is an animator from the USA whose ‘Karma Ghost’ was our week 3 for 2006 on the school’s Movie of the Week. His other animations include ‘Bumble Beeing part 1’, ‘E-Ticit’ and ‘Darwin Bug’ all of which are just as good as the fantastic ‘Karma Ghost’. Billy Blob uses art, deceptively simple cartoons with witty, often funny stories that definitely keep you interested. ‘Karma Ghost’ is often shown in lessons to make us aware how important it is to have your own style; it’s proof that five colours and simple drawings can be just as effective as the most perfectly crafted, realistic animation. In the interview Billy Blob himself makes the point that having your own style and working with your own ideas is the way to make an animation that at least you can be proud of. We were very proud when Billy accepted our invitation to talk to us.

Billy: Here are my answers to your thoughtful questions, Nicola.

Nicola: Where did you start to animate and what training have you had?
Billy: At work I was sent a link to a Mumbleboy animation http://www.mumbleboy.com/ (back in 1998 I think) from the web site Milky elephant http://www.milkyelephant.com/ and it blew me away. I had been dabbling with animation on the computer for some games and programs I was working on, but what Mumbleboy was doing with vector graphics and Flash changed what I thought was possible. It seemed more like art to me. I had to get the program he was using and see if I could figure it out, so I bought Flash, taught myself , and have beentrying to make something as cool as Mumbleboy ever since.

Nicola: You've had a lot of success – "Karma Ghost" is one of the best things our class has seen in Flash. How do you plan to use your animations in the future?
Billy: I finished Karma Ghost back in 2000. It was accepted to the Sundance online Film festival and actually won the audience best animation award. As for Karma Ghost's future, I would like to finish a follow up (Karma Ghost 2) that I've had rattling around in my head for a while now. Hopefully I can get to it this year.

Nicola: Your website is very distinctive. It uses humour a lot. What are your views on website design?
Billy: My views on web site design have changed over the years. In the past I was concerned with download times but now with the speed of people's internet connections, I feel you can design with a lot more multimedia. I am a big fan of Apple's site, and use it as a template to judge how far you can go with video and stuff without going overboard. My site is a little stale at the moment, but I am in the process of revamping it a bit. Hopefully the new changes will be posted soon.

Nicola: Is there any animator you admire and can recommend their work?
Billy: Oh yes, for sure there are so many people out there doing incredible work. Here are just a few:
Mumbleboy ( http://www.mumbleboy.com/)
Jerry Zucker and Orrin Zucker: http://www.itsjerrytime.com/
Steve Whitehouse (http:/www.whitehouseanimationinc.com)
Jordan Stone and Martin Hughes http://www.wefail.com/
Peter Stanick http://www.stanick.com/
David Heatley... No animation, but I love his work: http://drawger.com/heatley/

Nicola: What software do you use? (Or is it just Flash?) And a linked practical question. Do you use a graphics tablet or is all your animation produced using a mouse?
Billy: I use Flash and a Wacom tablet to draw directly in Flash. Justrecently I have started using Garageband to edit sound-effects and music. Before I would do all the sound effects in Flash.

Nicola: Concentrating on "Karma Ghost" for a moment. Two things struck me. One was the use of little movie clips to illustrate a point. The other was the colours you restrict yourself to – blues and browns. Do you self-consciously aim for a particular style in your work?
Billy: My style is pretty simple out of necessity I am kind of lazy and have never been to hung up on details so If I can figure out a way to convey the idea simply and get to animating the cartoon, then that just seems to be the direction I head. In the end I think it works okay for me. Like the little clips in Karma Ghost were there to help illustrate what was happening without having to cut to scenes and then backagain...Laziness is the mother of invention.

Nicola: Another movie I liked was "Bumble Beeing Part 1" Is there to be a Part 2?
Billy: Yes, I have had part 2 in mind since the beginning, but I am having some problems with how to convey certain aspects of it. Hopefully I'll get this figured out soon. However, I do like the idea of naming something part 1 and never really having a part 2 to it...

Nicola: Have you won any awards for your animations?
Billy: Yes the Audience award at the Sundance Online Film Festival for Karma Ghost.

Nicola: Do you animate every day if so for how many hours?
Billy: No, not everyday. I usually animate in spurts. It seems to work better for me if I can devote a whole lot of time to one project.

Nicola: Do you believe in Karma? Will your sins catch you out?
Billy: Maybe not as literally as the cartoon, but I do think that your negative actions will affect your life and happiness.

Nicola: Is animating your full job or do you do other work as well? Is It possible to make a living from creating animations for the web?
Billy: So far I have not figured out a way to make a living just doing cartoons, but Flash has definitely given me a career a in web site design and animation.

Nicola: How do you come up with the ideas for animations?
Billy: I usually come up with the characters first and after playing with them and staring at them for awhile, stories sometimes come to me and I will try to flesh it out.

Nicola: Finally, if you could offer one piece of advice to any of us animators here at school in the UK, what would it be?
Billy: My advice is to find your own style and to animate stories that mean something to you. This way regardless of what others think, you will have something that you can be proud of.

Nicola: And finally, finally is "Blob" your real name?
Billy: Yes Blob is my real last name but I did change my first name from Greasy to Billy.

Nicola: Thank you for the interview and “self-portrait”
Billy: All the best and good luck with your paper.

Billy Blob’s site is: http://billyblob.com/cartoons/index.html
And his preview on Movie of the Week is 2006
No. 3

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Matthew Irvine

Searching the web for an animation for our next movie of the week I came upon the work of Matthew Irvine, currently working for Nokia but recently a student at the Royal College of Art. His animation work is interesting enough but in 2003 he was working towards his PGCE at Oxted School in Surrey. The results of his work there is posted on his site Year 8 Pixel Portrait Project. Over four pages he develops the project from chalk and charcoal to animated images of his year 8 pupils.

Saturday, 24 March 2007

Laith Bahrani "Low Morale"

Monkeehub.com is home to Laith Bahrani who fought back against the stresses and strains of the work place to such an extent that his series Low Morale has earned him employment with MTV, even allowing him to quit his full time job ("oh... such a sweet feeling") and work in his own studio - of one. His series is very funny, and he is British! Typical examples of the humour are the poor worker getting his ear bent by a customer but fighting back, unleashing something rather nasty from a cardboard box; or again the ear-bending ends up in a mini Heath Robinson series of events culminating in the filing cabinet flattening one of them. However by his own admission it was his animated version of Radiohead's "Creep" that made his name and fortune. This is a a nice acoustic version of the song and as it progresses the office is gradually sketched out around the lead character:
LOW MORALE ::: Presents Radiohead Music Video - CREEP
It is good to see Laith's business beginning to thrive. For example he has been commissioned to produce the site for the new British band 'Nizlopi'.
You can see all Laith's work at monkeehub.com.

Friday, 23 March 2007

Sara Pocock "Ballyvaughan Story"

This is the third of our series of interviews with those animators whose work has particularly appealed to our students here at South Axholme. Each interview is available in a more colourful format, along with suitable illustrations, on our website.

Geovanna Dodge interviews Sara Pocock

Geovanna: First of all, thanks for agreeing to do this interview with me, Sara. I think you took animation at university. Why did you choose this degree?
Sara: I majored in animation at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design (MCAD). I chose an art school I knew had an animation program, because I've always been fan of animation and fascinated by the process. When I took my first animation course, I fell in love immediately and knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. There's really no feeling in the world like watching your very first pencil test. What used to be drawings are suddenly moving! It's an amazing thing.

Geovanna: What sort of training did your university provide for you?
Sara: The graduation requirements included the introductory animation course, which covered the basic animation fundamentals (walk cycles, lip/sound sync, etc). I also took a Character Animation course, an in-depth study of Disney's 12 Principles and classical character movement. All the animation students were also required to learn 3D (Maya) and stop-motion animation, and to complete a senior film before graduation. And I was in the last generation of students required to learn 16mm film. Additionally, each student was required to complete an internship or externship pertaining to their field of study. And although it was optional, students were encouraged to study abroad, which I did. It was in Ireland that I began working on Ballyvaughan.

Geovanna: Did you know then that this is what you wanted to do or did you have a different career in mind?
Sara: I definitely knew I wanted to draw animation for a living. At first I thought I'd like to work at a studio or network, but when I learned about animators such as Joanna Quinn and David Russo I was drawn to independent work because of the artistic freedom it provides.

Geovanna: What software do you use? Do you use any special equipment?
Sara: I use Adobe After Effects for most of my animation post-production. Photoshop as well, for clean up. All my animation begins on paper, though. The piece I just started working on with my colleague Ke Jiang is a little different; it's a hybrid of traditional ink drawings and 3D background animation; we're using Maya for the 3D segments.

Geovanna: Have you received any awards for any of your animations?
Sara: Ballyvaughan Story, which is still running the festival circuit, has picked up a handful of awards so far, including Best Animated Film at the LA Femme Film Festival and Cartoon of the Month in the popular Channel Frederator podcast.

Geovanna: In "Ballyvaughan Story" I noticed you used drawings/sketches and it is fairly obvious you are a great artist. How was the process of animation achieved and how did you learn to draw so well?
Sara: Thank you for the compliment. The animation was achieved by completing first the keyframes and then the in-between drawings using pencil and paper, as is the standard process in traditional animation production. After all the rough animation was completed, I went back and drew over each frame of the animation with vine charcoal and chalk pastel. It was a very time-consuming process, considering the sheer amount of drawings. There are over 3,000 drawings in Ballyvaughan Story. As for how I learned to draw, it's a constant learning experience, really. I practice drawing from life as often as I can and have many, many, many, many books on anatomy and figure drawing that I've accumulated over the years. Looking back now, I can see lots of mistakes in Ballyvaughan I wish I could fix or re-draw, but I know that's a good thing since it means I'm still improving.

Geovanna: Again in "Ballyvaughan Story", you worked with other animators to create an animation. How did this work?
Sara: Myself completed most of the primary animation for Ballyvaughan Story, but after a few months of working, I did realize I needed some help with some parts. For instance, I'm no good at drawing weapons or machines, so I asked Ke if he could animate some of the shots with soldiers. He animated the shot of the IRA soldier aiming his gun and a few of the other soldiers in town. As soon as all the rough animation was finished, he also helped me add charcoal to the pencil drawings. I also hired some assistants to help me with some of the more time-consuming aspects of post-production. After I scanned each charcoal drawing into the computer, I needed to get rid of the white space and smudges around the character so I could later bring it into After Effects and align it with the background. Normally, deleting the white space in Photoshop isn't very hard or time-consuming, but because I was using charcoal I had to pay special attention to the outlines of the characters and make sure no smudges were left behind. This took a lot of time. I could easily spend an hour working on clean-up for only 20 frames of animation. So I had people help me with that, while I worked on other things.

Geovanna: On average, how long does it take for you to create an animation? For example "Ballyvaughan Story"?
Sara: It really depends. Ballyvaughan Story took a year and a half to complete, but part of that time I was working on other projects as well. Some of my other projects, like the Nicktoons Network commercial bumpers, were finished in 4 months. The new project I'm working on is 10 minutes long and will likely be finished by September, and I started working on it in January. So I guess around a year is my average, from storyboard to post.

Geovanna: In "Ballyvaughan Story" the British soldiers are not exactly nice. Yet you could have made them far worse. Were you tempted to do this?
Sara: I think it's very important when telling a story like this, especially in these politically-charged times, not to demonize anybody, regardless of the story's point of view. Years ago, when Jim Hyland first told me the story of his mom, which became the narration for the piece, I was surprised that he described the British Marines living in town as popular and well-liked. I had known relatively little about the Irish troubles before that, and what I did know was told from the Irish point of view. So as you can imagine, the picture painted of the British was not the most pleasant. However, when I actually began research about that time period I realized that the conflict created bitterness on both sides, and it was much too complicated a situation to divide into black and white, good and bad. Warfare makes people do sad and desperate things, but it doesn't necessarily mean they're bad people. The point of Ballyvaughan isn't so much that a girl has to save her village from the English; that's just the external plot. It's more about a girl coming to terms with her fears of the threatening world around her. It's not just the English that frighten the girl in Ballyvaughan, it's really all the adults involved with the conflict. The IRA member who walks by on the street as she pets a dog and the man who shoots the marine are just as menacing as the English soldiers--perhaps even worse, since in the context of this piece they don't even have a motivation for their actions. History has a way of dehumanizing the people it dictates as "the bad guys" and I wanted to avoid that as much as possible, while keeping the excitement of Jim's original story as intact as possible.

Geovanna: We discussed the use of colour in class. In a black and white movie why do you use touches of colour?
Sara: Concerning the use of color, it's used as a symbol of growth. I explained before that the film is about a little girl coming to terms with her uncertainties of the adult world. The color is used to signify her growth. Her eyes change color at her first contact with the troubles, and the rest of her subsequently changes as she grows stronger and more sure of herself. By the end of the film she has re-invented herself, and is fully colored, casting aside her childhood naivety and taking her place alongside the other countless unspoken heroes (and heroines) of the Irish Revolution. Also, I knew that black and white can be a problem for younger audiences and quite a few short-attention-spanned adult Americans ("movies with no colors are boring!") and I was trying to think of a way to spruce it up to make the film more engaging, while keeping its original integrity. My mentor at the time I was beginning the film suggested some kind of visual sign of the girl's maturity and things fell into place after that.

Geovanna: Is animation your full time job or do you have another career as well?
Sara: While independent animation is "what I do," I pay the bills by working as a Flash animator for various website here in Los Angeles. It's a nice way to make a living, and since I often work from home I have plenty of time to concentrate on my own films. I have plans to open my own studio in a few years, as soon as Ke is finished with graduate school.

Geovanna: Do you have any plans for future animation projects?
Sara: Like I mentioned earlier, I'm currently working on a new film. It's titled Monkey and Bear and it's about two animals who run away from a Gypsy camp together. I'm co-directing it with Ke Jiang and it should be finished before the end of the year.

Geovanna: Finally, are there any other animators whose work has inspired you?
Sara: There are so many! I think my biggest inspiration right now is a Russian animator named Yuri Norstein, who makes these incredibly beautiful and intricate cut-out animations. He's the main influence for the piece I'm working on right now. Igor Kovalyov is another big influence. He's great at creating lyrical rhythms in his films without relying on music and dialogue. I've been lucky enough to meet with Igor on several occasions and he's been a great help in putting my new storyboards together. William Kentridge was a huge inspiration when I began Ballyvaughan. I loved the way he used charcoal in his animations. Finally, there's a highly creative and iconoclastic animation studio in Japan called Studio 4°C that produces some of my favorite work, particularly a film titled Mind Game. This studio has recently been a huge source of inspiration in terms of experimenting with new styles and mixed media in animation.
And of course, there's a whole slew of other names I cite regularly as people I admire: Aleksandr Petrov, Bill Plympton, Wendy Tilby, Isao Takahata, Norman McLaren, Rosto, and Michel Gondry... not to mention filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, David Lynch, etc. It literally goes on and on, never ending.
Thanks so much for contacting me!

Geovanna: It’s you I should thank, Sara. Thank you for the painting and photograph.

Sara Pocock’s website is saraspot.net where all her animations to date can be found.
Her movie Ballyvaughan Story is featured on our website here:
“New Movie of the Week 8”, and our animation blog here: animation blog: Ballyvaughan Story

Thursday, 22 March 2007

Chris Beintema imageflood

Chris Beintema became the first animator to be featured twice as our Movie of the Week. His “Urban Sprawl” and then “The Lonely Barber” were very contrasting in content but similar in quality. Urban Sprawl tells a story of the growth of the city (well obviously) in which our hero plants some box of electric tricks outside his wooden hut. He then watches in disbelief and then panic as the box sprouts an earthquake of huge scale. The creator is a Frankenstein and the grey monster a city. Chris' The Lonely Barber is lighter in tone as the hairdresser decides his bald head needs a little dressing if he is to prove attractive to his female date. But surely there is no need to worry, barbers have lots of raw material strewn around for covering up such things. I love the barber's voice. Earlier this month Chris released on his blog a new movie, http://www.imageflood.com/index.html and invited comment. And it's our barber again, though this time with a very different voice and having a bit of a rant. I have a number of students now who are very interested in 3D work and I am just going to have arrange a visit to a university department for them In the meantime here is a demonstration rig Chris has produced to show how a figure can be manipulated. It is as good an example of the technology as I have seen and will be sure to trigger more interest here in school. Chris' website Imageflood (http://www.imageflood.com/index.html) is worth visiting as is his blog. He has some very nice artwork posted.
Meanwhile Joanna Davidovich has agreed to be interviewed by Laura Ballinger, Stefan Gruber by Liam Oades, and this very morning Nicola Bland received a most detailed response to her questions by none other than Billy Blob whose Karma Ghost is one of our most popular animations now that, because of a change in the scheme of work, our students need no longer write about it!

Wednesday, 21 March 2007

Chris Appelhans "Superman"

Chris Appelhans' artwork has more than a touch of fantasy about it at times – look at his concept paintings 1, 2 and 3 for example. His website froghatstudios.com is a source of very varied drawings and paintings. I discovered his animation about Superman and have made it our 2007 Movie of the Week 6 but in the blog it's better to dwell on his other work. He has that wonderfully crisp drawing ability that only the finest artists possess, together with the imagination to capture yours. A wonderfully evocative drawing of the huge family lined up on their front stoop, “Dustbowl”, with the mother clutching a chicken and the father a scythe, led me to a very moving series of photographs in memory of his grandfather. It is a warm tribute.

Tuesday, 20 March 2007

Stefan Grubber "Big Gulp"

Stefan Gruber is a Seattle based artist whose medium is flash animation. His work is a bit like seeing some bright abstract piece of art burst into effervescent life; certainly the case in his featured animation on our Movies of the Week a while back. In his Big Gulp bright orange figures perform a series of metamorphoses, each one devouring the other in, well, gulps. His website http://stefangruber.com/ has similar treats in store. I liked his Palace of Pity consisting of a flash presentation of his line drawings from the Piti Palace in Florence. His Starry Day isn’t bad either. This fluid movement of shapes is fascinating. So is the website with a rather underdone, subtle style about it. Stefan's work is brought to mind as one of our students, Liam Oades, is considering writing to Stefan to request an interview. It was Liam who introduced me in class to Stefan's other work.
I have a confession to make regarding the work of Ke Jiang. Reading through Sara Pocock's remarkably erudite interview to be posted shortly I realised that Sarah referred to her animation partner as "he" not "she", as I had inadvertently posted on 17th February. Sloppy research and an inability to tell my "she" from my "he" from my "Ke". I beg his pardon. Excellent work though by Ke and I've tracked back and corrected the earlier post. It's magic this blogging lark. Like George Orwell's historians rewriting the history for Oceania.

Monday, 19 March 2007

Brian Moore "Teddy and Anna"

This is the second of our series of interviews with those animators whose work has particularly appealed to our students here at South Axholme. Each interview is available in a more colourful format, along with suitable illustrations, on our website.

Lewiss Needham interviews Brian Moore

Brian Moore is an animator from the USA who has animated the fantastic web series “Teddy and Anna”, which is a series of short animations about a little girl learning about the factory where her dad works. In each episode both Anna and the viewer learn something new about the factory. Anna then meets a Teddy. However it’s no ordinary teddy and Anna is soon involved in a world of the robot teddy and its job catching two crooks. It’s a strange world, what Brian Moore calls an “alternate past”, a mixture of old and new. Brian Moore is currently making a seventh episode of Teddy and Anna and his website is showing a rough preview of this episode. In my interview I ask him about this unfinished episode. Brian has also explained that he has changed the way he creates his animations and instead of relying on shape-tweening he is now doing more frame-by-frame animating, something we have learnt about at school as we progress. So we can only wait and look forward to the seventh episode of Teddy and Anna when this technique is shown off.

Brian: Hello Lewiss. Thanks for writing. I'm glad that you liked Teddy & Anna. I wish I had more time to work on it these days. I liked your Christmas animation! Nice driving sequence, good choice in background music too. Here are the answers to your questions:

Lewiss: Teddy & Anna are fairly short animations, have you ever thought of making a longer episode of Teddy & Anna?
Brian: When I began making web animation in 1999, the accepted wisdom was that you didn't want to make the viewer wait too long for your work to download; they might get bored and click on to something else. Shorter pieces of animation were smaller files and would download faster. Now everyone's connection is faster, and they're more used to waiting for video to stream. I was also in a hurry to get the story started, and to keep new episodes coming out. With every new episode, I thought of new animation tricks to try and new elements to add to the story, so that each episode took longer to make than the one before it. Eventually it took me about a month to do about a minute of animation with music. I figured it was better to release shorter episodes with a month's wait, than to work on longer ones that might take many months to complete. I didn't want people to get impatient or forget to come back to the site for the next episode.
Lewiss: How did you come up with the idea of Teddy & Anna?
Brian: It was a mix of things. I wanted to do an adventure story that was colorful and science-fictional, but using an alternate past instead of a futuristic setting. I also wanted to re-use my villains from my first animation, Nightcrawler. Some friends of mine were expecting their first child, and that put me onto thinking about fathers and children. Eventually I made a short animation with Anna being given a teddy bear by her father, with the villains sneaking in through the window, and I built the story from there.
Lewiss: When did you start to animate and what training did you have?
Brian: My first attempt at an animated story was Nightcrawler, which you can watch here:
http://www.theplasticbox.com/plastic/anim/nc.html. I went to university for Fine Art and studied drawing and painting. I taught myself animation by studying other animated cartoons and reading as many animation books as I could find.
Lewiss: Do you animate every day and if so how much hours do you roughly animate a day?
Brian: When I worked on Teddy & Anna regularly, I would animate for maybe four to six hours a day (when I could get that much free time!) I don't do much animation these days - I have too much work making un-moving drawings.
Lewiss: Is animating your full time job or do you do other work as well?
Brian: I am currently working as an illustrator and designer, and fitting in my own projects whenever I can.
Lewiss: Have you won any awards for Teddy and Anna or for any other animations you have done?
Brian: I received two Artist Grants from my local cultural council to help subsidize my work on Teddy & Anna.
Lewiss: What does the future hold for Teddy & Anna or are you thinking about making a different animation series?
Brian: I can't say when I'll get back to Teddy and Anna - it would probably take me a long time to complete their story. I may have to do it as a graphic novel or illustrated book. I would like to do more short animated pieces someday.
Lewiss: Are there any animators you admire and can recommend their work?
Brian: I love the films of Hayao Miyazaki (he directed "Castle in the Sky","Howl's Moving Castle", and "Spirited Away", among other movies). I loved"The Triplettes of Bellevile", directed by Sylvain Chomet. I also like a few of the 1940's Superman cartoons (like "The Bulleteers" and "The Mechanical Monster") made by Fleischer Studios, and of course Looney Tunes directed by Chuck Jones and Friz Freleng.
Lewiss: Is it possible to make a living creating animations for the web?
Brian: I think so, though it takes a lot of effort to create something good and promote it successfully. The current way that web cartoonists and animators seem to make a living is to sell merchandise related to their creation. It may be in a few years that people will be willing to pay directly for animated content on the web.
Lewiss: What happened to episode 7?
Brian: I decided to try a new animation technique (for me, anyway) - frame-by-frame animation. Previous episodes used Flash's shape-tweening abilities to do a lot of the animation work. It made the animation smooth and regular, maybe too smooth. I wanted to make the animation more irregular - like the difference between a well-programmed drum machine and a jazz drummer that can keep the beat as well as inject some personality into it. This ended up being a tremendous amount of work, and I ran out of steam about halfway through. Most of the episode exists in line drawing form, with some color sections; I think I made some of the music as well. At that point I had less time to spend on Teddy & Anna because of paying work, and I also wanted to try some new things like a comic book featuringTeddy and Anna. So the animated series went on hiatus.
Lewiss: Has the work you are doing for Smithson and Plastic Box taken over from Teddy & Anna?
Brian: Yes - although it probably takes about half as long to draw a month of Smithson comics than it does to draw one Teddy & Anna episode. I'm spreading my time out over more projects now: illustrations, comics, paintings, and other things. So I don't have a large amount of time to devote to just one project like Teddy & Anna. But maybe I will again in the future. Good luck in your studies! I hope you keep having fun with animation.

Lewiss: And thank you for your time, Brian.

For the first in the series “Teddy & Anna” visit: http://www.teddyandanna.com/
You can find links to Brian’s work on both our website and our blog:
http://www.southaxholme.doncaster.sch.uk/Departments/animations/page1/movie%20of%20week/Movie%20Week%2019.htm
Brian has another commercial site in which his artistic talent is plain to see (Plastic Box) and a blog, Brian Moore’s Sketchblog.

Sunday, 18 March 2007

Interviewing the animators

Our new feature in which our students interview animators is gathering pace. Those who have responded have given generously of their time. We started with Naoki Mitsusi and that has set a standard for the others to follow. I have asked our students to make their questions ever more detailed. Thus the questions posed in two interviews to be posted next week - Brian Moore and Sara Pocock - are full of detail and our guests rose to the occasion. Naoki established a new tradition when he responded to my request to send in some sort of self-portrait. Brian and Sara have also done this. We could build up quite a collection. The website is being revamped a little so there may be a slight delay in uploading the images. Brian's interview will be posted here tomorrow. Other interviews are in the pipeline and our students are keen to extend them further. We are very pleased with the information and insight we obtain from them.
Flash-based websites can be spectacular and here is one from a small company in Hungary that’s better than most. Future Films is based in Budapest and its site has the wow factor, particularly in full screen mode. Compare their old site with the new to appreciate the advances the web designers have made. This is an impressive shop window for their products. Liam Oades recommends these animations - http://www.toongum.com/toon/3/toilet-guy and http://www.toongum.com/toon/28/death-kitty-and-the-fat-man. The first highlights the difficulty of finding a plumber nowadays; the second has Death going about his business accompanied by a cat. Neither qualify for “Movie of the Week” but they are fun.

Saturday, 17 March 2007

Adam Phillips, Brackenwood, Bitey Castle

Adam Phillips’ Bitey Castle series in which Bitey takes on the whole world with a mixture of mischievousness and naivety is one of the delights of the internet. It is funny and stylish with a sophisticated mastery of the medium. We have already featured his first movie in the series as our Movie of the Week 11. The series now runs to about five distinctive episodes and the creator has even added his first Bitey game. He has created an alternative world of Brackenwood, of strange creatures with supernatural powers. The website http://www.biteycastle.com/main.html is a stimulating place to browse. For example there are 30 funny shorts in the top right hand side. I like number 12 (beach) in which the sunbather gets burnt. Alternatively if you can’t find a dentist don’t do what the guy does for number 10, Sore Tooth. There’s more to the website though with a collection of short stories, a store where you can purchase a Brackenwood shirt with a silhouette of Bitey, together with a large collection of animated movies. Phillips is a talented man. There is a thoroughly professional quality about his work. It looks for all the world like a full studio at work and I can’t believe one person is so multi-talented both in animation and art. No wonder he is working on a movie and just wanting some film executive to come along.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Altoids sweets and games

The last thing I want to do for my students at this stage in their education, any stage in their education perhaps, is to recommend a games site. But this is no ordinary site. Its purpose is to sell Altoids to a US market or worldwide via Amazon. The origins for the products date as far back as the reign of King George 111 when the product was “perfected” by Smith & Company, a London confectionery firm. They sound faintly medicinal but are in fact sweets in a tin – you can buy different flavours such as spearmint and wintergreen. It is claimed they freshen the breath. The tins are lovely and highly collectable. I keep paperclips in one. On the first Monday of each month new content is added to the site. What an interesting content it is. I simply can’t explain it. There are dancers, acrobats, puppets, animated stories and a heady mix of arcade games. The Flash games are unlike any I’ve encountered, at least in appearance. Most interestingly the digital backdrop to the site is purely theatre, and 19th century theatre at that, maybe even the travelling theatre groups who toured the USA in bygone days. If you want to control the Amazing Bend-o whose every limb you can control, or see the Ginger and Tinny marionettes dance on stage, visit the Altoids Sitemap.

Thursday, 15 March 2007

Naoki Mitsusi "Joe's Story"

This is the first of an intended series of interviews with those animators whose work has particularly appealed to our students here at South Axholme. Each interview will be available in a more colourful format, along with suitable illustrations, on our website.

Tom Henderson interviews Naoki Mitsusi

Tom: At what age did you discover animation and decide that it is what you wanted to do?
Naoki: It wasn't until I bought my first mac, around 97, so I was around 30.

Tom: Did you take part in an animation class at secondary school?
Naoki: No.
Tom: Where did you get your inspiration for your 'Joe's Story' series?
Naoki: Inspiration was gotten from all sorts of things. The beginning scene of Joe's Story 01 with the turtle crossing the road was taken from the book, "Grapes of Wrath". "Gorilla Girls" was inspired by the female artist activist group "Guerilla Girls". The museum in the animation is the Museum of Contemporary Arts in Los Angeles, where I used to work and met my wife. The location underneath the museum is a favorite location to shoot car commercials in Los Angeles.

Tom: What software do you use to produce the animations?
Naoki: Flash.

Tom: Have any of your animations received awards?
Naoki: "Adieu" won an award from the Bitfilm festival (Germany) in the flash linear category.

Tom: I noticed that you use chimpanzees in quite a few of your animations, is there any reason for this?
Naoki: Monkeys are convenient, we look like them, everybody.

Tom: Is animation a career that pays or itself or a way of attracting work in other areas?
Naoki: For me, animation is a medium, like painting. I might try to express an idea using paints and brushes or through animation.

Tom: Do you have a favourite animator or series of animations?
Naoki: I like Michel Gondry, his work makes you want to go make something.

Tom: When you make your animations do you make them at home or do you go to an office or workplace to produce them?
Naoki: I make my animation at my home studio.

Tom: On average, how long does it take to make an episode of 'Joe's Story'?
Naoki: It was taking me approximately a month to make each episode of "Joe's Story."

Tom: Is the series to be extended?
Naoki: Perhaps.

Tom: Do you have any plans for future projects?
Naoki: There are a few ideas floating around, but nothing concrete.

Tom: Thank you for the interview, Naoki, and best wishes for the future. I had a great deal of choice in this, choosing whom to interview and I selected your work because I enjoyed the series about Joe very much.
Naoki: I'm happy to hear that my animations have been useful and I’m happy to help you out with your project. Best wishes.

For the first in the series “Joe’s Story” visit http://www.goultralightsgo.com/naoki/js2002/js01.html

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Ray Bradbury "The Veldt"

I have already written of my love for Science Fiction and here is my favourite writer of the genre, Ray Bradbury, captured in gloriously authentic radio. It's one of my most vividly remembered short stories by the master of the short story's art. In this archive radio broadcast of the story The Veldt (24 minutes) from The Illustrated Man (1951) a father purchases the very best for his children, spoiling them even. He buys a special entertainment centre in which the children can live a form of simulated life, a virtual reality in which different destinations can be experienced. The children discover that because this fantasy world is so utterly absorbing their parents are threatening to turn off the machine. Rebellion (and the hot stink of lions) is in the air. Remember that this was in the days way before computer games were even dreamed of. This is a great story. Now if I say that my childhood was spent listening to radio programmes it will age me. It's interesting to discover what today's youngsters will make of it, although the story is still printed in all sorts of anthologies. You can find this and many original sound broadcasts at X Minus One at OTR.Network (Old Time Radio).
Tomorrow we will be posting the first of our "Interview of the Week" series. Naoki Mitsusi the creator of the very popular Joe's Story has been interviewed by Tom Henderson(http://www.goultralightsgo.com/naoki/js2002/js01.html) and next week Lewiss Needham's discussion with Brian Moore will appear here in which he discusses the web serial Teddy & Anna (http://www.teddyandanna.com/.) Both interviews will be posted on the blog or, should you want an illustrated version, on our website. We are very grateful for those busy people who have taken the trouble to respond to our students. Several more interviews are in the pipeline. On the subject of what's in the pipeline I'm soon to post on our website the latest student animations. The first will be "Paradise Lost" by Tom Robinson, a remarkable satire on the remarkable evolution of our planet that goes up tomorrow. I'll add a link to this retrospectively because that is the joy of blogs.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

David Bokser & The Old Man and the Fish

Having just made this our latest Movie of the Week I was anxious to find out more about David Boksor. He graduated in 2004 with a B.A. in Computer Art, from the Savannah College of Art and Design, Georgia, USA. After working on Tugger for a time he has moved on to various projects as explained on his website www.davidbokser.com. However it is Bokser's The Old Man and the Fish (Le Vieil Homme et les Poissons) that takes the eye. I sometimes remind my students to aim for the big impact, impressive scene that will linger long in the memory after the movie. Thus we remember the scene with the old man approaching the sea with the sunset a glorious red, the giant fish being held in his hands, him jumping into the ocean, the helmet slowly filling with water. As for the theme I'm reminded of an oceanic version of Icarus, even Ikky - or at least Carl Brooks and Jacob Cook's take on it a while back. (Sadly the two didn't have Maya for 3D.) But Bokser's tale of one man's obsession with fish is beautiful work and very thought-provoking. No wonder it did well in the various competitions.

Monday, 12 March 2007

Mark & John Lycette

I first encountered the Australian Lycette brothers, Mark and John, from their “self promotional” series, Not My Type. This witty series is notable for being formed entirely from the key symbols, letters and numbers, on the keyboard. Thus in my particular favourite, Not My Type 3, the figure arrives on screen to the accompanying click of the keyboard letter by letter, until he is formed. Then he glides to the side as the space bar is pressed. The artwork is very clever. For example, the apostrophe shape moves on the forehead to register changing expression, and the mouths are formed from the “o” or the “i “ letters. The story too is fun as our hero attempts to gain the affections of the typist but is beaten by the better man, with a more stylish mobile ‘phone. Mark and John also have lots of commercial work and their website repays scrutiny. Their witty use of text seems to have paid dividends with their work for telephone companies. I particularly like I Ride Over Alphabet Town with its continuation of alphabet images and the use of a tightrope cyclist above the blue rooftops. The Modern Compendium of Miniature Automata is unlike anything I have seen before as the books can be opened in Flash and all sorts of interesting uses made of the devices.
And these are the scenes my year 10 students are working on as I write: Lewiss Needham is getting to work in his kitchen, Nicola Bland is nursing a baby, Steven Szollosi is playing with a mobile phone despite rules to the contrary, Sam Stafford/Stephen Turner/Rhys Fowler struck matches and weaved in and out of traffic and finally, Jack Whitmore has his caveman being given a headache. Meanwhile Richard Dickinson and Connor Adams have been creating lots of movie clips and only now is their animation taking shape – this one is a rather weird figure.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Naoki & Elvis & Campbells & Joey

I discovered Mathew Campbell from Year 9 creating this stickman during Friday lunchtime. I normally hate twig figures but I have to admit this one is pretty good and could be developed further. His older brother Brendan managed to take the form to a different level with The Sky's the Limit. (http://www.southaxholme.doncaster.sch.uk/Departments/animations/page3/The%20Sky%27s%20The%20Limit.swf)
Talent runs in families so I guess Campbell Jnr will add flesh to the bones. Joey Jones from Little Red Plane fame has promised to send me a DVD of the full movie and, more importantly, answer the questions posed by his fans here in the UK. It is an award winning animation and Joey has gone on to other major things so look out for his interview in the next week or so. In the meantime: http://www.shadedbox.com/littleredplane/lrp_avi.html
However Naoki Mitsuse has already replied to Tom Henderson's queries and his interview will be posted next week. Naoki is a very fine flash animator. I love the world he creates. Tom has concentrated on the animations which gives me time to point to Naoki's astonishing recreations of my all time favourite, Elvis. No-one has got near him in song! And surely few have captured the legend so well on canvas. Look at Elvis hugging an elephant, though I'm not so sure about the banana. His posters are exuberant. Now I can see why Elvis features in the 2002 Joe’s Story sequence. You can enter the world via http://www.goultralightsgo.com/.

Saturday, 10 March 2007

Reaction to "Making Fiends" from Year 7

Two of my year 7 pupils were very quick to email me a response to Making Fiends shown in class that morning - literally within the first hour of returning home for the weekend they had got onto their home computers. Tom Newbitt and Bethany Cooper (Tom was just first) loved the series. Bethany went into a little more detail, so here is her summary of the first four episodes:
"Amy Winfrey's "Making Fiends" is really good and funny. There are two main characters. One is called Vendetta, the other Charlotte. Vendetta is hard and tough. She is a bully. She is really mean to everyone, she makes really scary fiends. They are like monsters. Charlotte is really kind and can make friends with anyone. She is really kind to Vendetta. Vendetta is very mean to Charlotte when she brings her nasty inventions and gifts. Charlotte thinks it is really sweet of her giving her presents. She makes the nasty animals nice and kind.
There are some other characters such as Mr Milk the teacher. He is very scared of Vendetta so is the rest of the class. Mr Milk tries to teach the class but has to consult with Vendetta about the lessons. She just wants to go to recess. Vendetta has created a lot of fiends. Here are some of them. There is Grudge. He is a giant hamster, Giant Kitty, Snippy, Monkey, Sugar Cookie and even some singing vegetables. Charlotte tries to tame the giant kitty and she does until she says "bath" then the cat goes berserk. Vendetta takes the giant hamster to school everyday. For "Show and Tell" Charlotte took her small hamster and a sparkly rock. I thought the animations are really detailed, good and funny. I think there is a point to the animations that is to try and make friends with everyone, and also not to bully."
Harry Priest slept on it before sending the following observation:
"My favourite episode is the one with the vegetables. My favourite part of the episode is the scene where Charlotte is singing "We need more vegetables" and then Vendetta throws her juice carton at Charlotte, but Charlotte thinks she is being nice so she sings to the vegetables to calm them down, and the vegetables make their own choir of Charlotte's song."

Maxim Khantaev & Fever

One day all the nasty jobs will done by robots. But a robot has to dream. Maxim Khantaev from Israel produced this 3D animation in 2000 – Fever. It’s showcased on Animation Magazine.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Line of Sight

One of the joys of writing a blog is the freedom it allows to concentrate on one of our own movies, Line of Sight, by Matthew Sykes and Daniel Winterborne. The two students took to animation like ducks to water. From day one they learnt how to use the software, to such an extent they lost their teacher in slipstream rather more quickly than is normally the case. By Christmas in their first year they had created animations for our festive webpage of 2003. Daniel’s was a solo piece, The Twelve Days of Christmas in which he drew the various items in the song and composed them into a suitable pattern synchronised to the music. I remember he was upset when my laptop was so slow everything went out of time. Matthew worked with Philip Garbutt on Santa’s Little Trick. This was notable for its use of movie clips and also demonstrated a sense of humour. Matthew and Daniel were united for their major Year 10 movie, Caught in Two Minds, a superb animation featured at the Cooperative Young Film-Makers in which the leading character is caught in a time-warp.
But their Year 11 movie, Line of Sight, was their triumph. The two responded to work we had undertaken in class on Saving Private Ryan and produced their own war movie, eschewing the normal blood and guts, for a more sensitive view of the violence of war. There are some tremendous scenes that raise the use of Flash to another level. Look, for instance at the use of video for the explosion scenes or how they solved the technical problem of the officer’s hand pointing at the projector screen. They also produced some visually pleasing features: the parachutists in the skies against a background of the moon, or the landing of the parachutist. Add to this an ending that, as with their earlier full movie, is unexpected and the more dramatic for that. Finally they enlisted the help of the very talented Paul Ward to write a soundtrack that is exactly right. A final footnote: for their examination piece they produced the very funny Wrigglers. When two 16 year-old boys tell me they are going to produce a movie about the act of conception itself there must be some element of reservation. I shouldn’t have had any doubts.

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Hsin-Chian Huang

I am very keen on websites where artists work at the frontiers of their world, where there is a mixture of all sorts of experimental art projects. The Taiwan animator, Hsin-Chian Huang, is just such an artist. His work challenges us. He has a background in the games world, working for part of his life as art director for Sega and Sony. I don’t know how to describe his website Storynest. First of all it has some of Hsin-Chian’s stories incorporated within a flash framework with delicate falling leaves and a button in the form of a sliding control that reveals the story. Try Gorilla (http://art.storynest.com/_en/_3stories/p9.htm) for example. Prefer video? Try Raising Intentions without Abiding Anywhere. Here a man sits at a table and traces animated patterns with his hand. I don’t pretend to understand it but it is peaceful. He has some arresting net art. Try his Rain - http://art.storynest.com/_en/_4netart/p6.htm - click on the screen and cause a storm, actually it’s not that, more of a sprinkling of water accompanied by the melodic sound of chimes. A Butterfly Dream- ttp://art.storynest.com/_en/_4netart/p5.htm - has floating chairs; Rose (http://art.storynest.com/_en/_4netart/p1.htm) has a rose that responds to your mouse movements and a keyboard to create sound. Perhaps the greatest single piece of work, and it’s probably going to be our next Movie of the Week, is his Overwritten: http://art.storynest.com/_en/_5projects/film_overwritten.htm. This riveting and complex animation puts together a series of moving images, some of them abstract, some other-worldly, and some, like the jester/forest/flying fish, are recognisable. The music is by Laurie Anderson. This is a complex website and a showcase for an artist with so much talent it’s quite breathtaking.

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

Lesley Keen & Peptone

Lesley Keen has provided us with one of the nicest and warmest animations for our Year 10 course. Her The Invitation has a delicious, gentle humour as the girl is invited to the party and then suffers a crisis of confidence as she surveys her wardrobe, trying on and discarding each garment in turn, responding to her imagination’s fears of being over/under/sideways dressed. The soft colours and easy, classy drawing, are combined with some light, upbeat music by Keith Hawley that is the perfect fit for the animation. The boys especially like dressing up Lizzie in the nicely interactive game that indirectly led to this exercise, Dress Up Blob, by one of our students in Animation Club. Lesley has, by the way, produced another bit of fun, when carrie met miranda met charlotte met samantha. Her site, debunko, has another interactive area for young children, Sookie, with a series of interactive activities, some of the very best and functional flash timepieces around, including the mystical lost in time, and other rather snazzy playpieces. But why did her cute new year’s greetings card stop at 2002? Surely 2003, 4, 5, 6 happened. These are questions we need to get our reporters searching for in our new feature of in–depth reports, about which much more soon. For now enjoy poppy and the hat and the other inhabitants of Lesley’s world. She is a very talented lady.
And I should point out that Keith Hawley has his own Glasgow based band, Peptone, producing a sound that is really nothing like the soundtrack to The Invitation but none the worse for that; I rather like them. Four edited, or shortened, tracks are the following:
http://www.peptone.co.uk/snd/somethng.mp3
http://www.peptone.co.uk/snd/radio.mp3
http://www.peptone.co.uk/snd/dirty.mp3
http://www.peptone.co.uk/snd/candidte.mp3
Meanwhile, one class of my 10 students were working on the following scenes today: Natalie Wortley and her quickly produced reptile which I rather like, Josephine Fearn with her crying boy, Philip Harper and Cameron Ivey-Drayton working on a rather fresh rural scene, Stuart Hinchliffe and Lewis Allery using every colour known to man, and Geovanna Dodge with what is potentially going to be a cute animation if she gets the position of the characters more central on the stage and maybe just a dab of shimmering colour.

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

Little Red Plane & Games

Sadly I am unable to provide a link to today’s featured movie Little Red Plane produced and directed by Joey Jones and Wira Winata. It is a commercial concern and the winner of many awards all over the world. What is possible however is a look at the trailer and the stills. It is an exhilarating trailer, helped as the best movies are by a stirring soundtrack by Deon Vozov. It does its desired job: we want to see the film in full - well, I’ve contacted the producers. The subject is that of a seven year old boy whose imagination transforms a red bird into the little red plane of the title. You can see a reel of the titles the producers, shadedbox.com, have just put out, showcasing their work in a blended package. Some of it looks very like game simulations. No problem here then as some of the best artists in animation work in games design. My son-in-law worked on Republic:The Revolution and is presently one of those completing Battalion Wars 2 for Kuju.

Monday, 5 March 2007

Studio Soi, Elena Kats-Chermin, friendly fish and cows

Reading my newspaper the other day I saw this full page spread for Lloyds Bank with the unmistakable artwork of Marc Craste and studio aka in which a character holds a giant fish in a glass tank, the fish being as big as him. This is a second, shorter episode of the train journey with the fish having exactly the same skin tone as the man, and a not dissimilar mouth and eyes; they both gaze at each other as friends through the glass. It also features the train journeying through snow and some friendly cows. That feel-good factor is well and truly there. The UK studio collaborated with the German Studio Soi. There are some exquisite commercials presented here. Navigate their work section and select the moon on the top row. Judge this 17 second clip with a 3D castle coming into view, a 3D apple falling from a tree and a new moon being winched into the sky by a toytown machine. Alternatively click the winter penguin on the third row from the bottom for a similar clip with a floating house amid floating clouds, all in glorious 3D.
The lilting music for the Lloyds Bank commercial by Elena Kats-Chermin is perfect and it must be popular because this very morning one of our students, James Needham, entered the dining room singing his version in a perfect falsetto voice. James and others may be pleased to know that the music was written in 2003 for the ballet Wild Swans based on the Hans Christian Anderson story. This is why there such a fairytale atmosphere to the music and commercial for that matter. You can buy the CD here or there is a review by Jonathan Woolf here.

Sunday, 4 March 2007

Amy Winfrey (2)


If you are very talented and beaver away at an inspirational idea success will come. Amy Winfrey has proven this with her series Making Fiends. This is not a misspelling. Her series is about two girls and all sorts of other characters, usually terrifying but containing amongst others, the mild mannered male teacher, Mr Milk, who bears an uncanny resemblance to me, Grudge the giant hamster and Giant Kitty who is, well, giant. Vendetta makes fiends and Charlotte makes friends, except, that is, for Vendetta who spends most of her time conjuring up monsters that will snip, miniaturise or simply devour Charlotte (and her classmates.) Vendetta speaks in a Bulgarian accent and in one wonderful April Fool’s episode (17) the voices are in Bulgarian, except that the English subtitles are badly translated, which is probably an oversight on the animator’s part. Charlotte is such a sweet girl and thinks the best of everyone including Vendetta. This is the source of the humour. Which episodes to recommend? Well, episode 3 shows that Winfrey was recommending vegetables for school meals way before Jamie Oliver, and you also get a vegetable song, because there is always a song. However you’d better start at the very beginning, because it’s a very good place to start, and you get to meet the main characters. There’s no let up in the quality of the series and Winfrey’s many fans have watched them all. The episodes stop at 21 which is a shame. However, she is currently making a series of half hour episodes for Nickelodeon, which is where the potential financial success and castle in Bulgaria come from. There’s precious little to add save to point out that Winfrey worked on the first fifteen episodes of South Park, the fact that humour pervades her site in all sorts of ways and that there is a galley of the winning pictures for her 2006 Fiendish Winners here:
http://animation.filmtv.ucla.edu/students/awinfrey/fiend/images/contest2006/winners/winners.html
I love her work. It is equally as fine as anything on television and shows just what the internet can provide in entertainment.

Saturday, 3 March 2007

Amy Winfrey (1)

It is fair to say that when I first showed Bluebirds in Spring to my largely male group of students in 2001 the class was not impressed. I made it the subject of our Movie of the Week 9. The class simply had not seen enough interminable (another for the word-search, class) French films about love. Well neither had I but I at least appreciated Amy Winfrey’s parody of the style. Her thesis for her graduation at the University of California, Los Angeles in 2000 was her series of twelve films about muffins. Having been greeted by at best a pretence of interest I remember I pointed out the clever use of the muffin tray with twelve buttons masquerading in the form of muffins and this created an interest in a way that eventually resulted in such as this by Matthew Howard. The class did appreciate Hungry, but who wouldn’t, given that the little girl is eaten by a giant ….Well you can guess. Personally I like UFM (Unidentified Flying Muffins). Whatever your likes or dislikes, you’ve got to admire the clever pre-loaders, they are varied and funny. And if you want a scare, Beware. You can see all twelve animations or muffins and the famous tray at MuffinFilms. Each of the films is quite simple. However Amy’s variation in styles is novel. Of key importance is her use of the characters’ voices, a feature that was to play a big part in her greatest success. So tomorrow I will continue the tale of Amy Winfrey and show how one woman’s witty and skilled use of Flash can make her fortune and even allow her to purchase a castle in Bulgaria should she so choose.

Friday, 2 March 2007

Steve Whitehouse & Abstract

Steve Whitehouse has just been made our New Movie of the Week 9. He is a prolific animator with a whole series, for example, of his Mr Man movies - there are 21 on his Site at the moment. They all have a variety of styles. His Japanese Cub (2001) is my favourite, although it is a trifle gory. Abstact is, well, different. You can read about him in two interviews for coldhardflash.com conducted by Aaran Simpson:
http://www.coldhardflash.com/2006/10/man-behind-mr-man-part-1.htmlhttp://www.coldhardflash.com/2006/10/man-behind-mr-man-part-2.html
I like to introduce new vocabulary in the blog because it gives me a nice warm-up exercise when I teach my classes, so I'll introduce the word "quirky" and say Steve has a marvellously quirky sense of humour. The locations and mood of each animation are always distinctive. He's a great favourite of the students here and for for varying his style within a series he's practically numero uno.

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Naoki Mitsuse

When we first introduced animation here at South Axholme in 2001 I used the animations of Naoki Mitsuse to teach flash techniques. In particular we followed the adventures of Joe, the man who dressed up as a chimpanzee. Joe’s Story runs to five crime-ridden episodes and has a particular style about it. I remember we first discussed the use of movie clips and alpha to explain how to duplicate cars and create the sharp light of the shower. We learnt about creating different perspectives, producing colour schemes that did not use every colour in the swatch, and the importance of music to fill in the blanks in the animation and establish atmosphere. Naoki was very influential and still is. His Major Johnson series about a chimp in space runs for 10 episodes and I also like his Adieu in which the chimp family purchase a new piece of hardware from a famous manufacturer. Naoki has an inventive streak about him and a wry sense of humour. He also emailed me a year or so ago and that is always nice.
Take a look at another of our short scenes from the Controlled Test. This time it is Tom Robinson’s Man in a Kitchen. There is a lot of detail in the drawing given time restrictions. If you have rather more time on your hands try dressing up Mep courtesy of our old favourite of our students, Odd Todd: http://www.oddtodd.com/.