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Sunday, 30 September 2007

RG Animation Studios "I Love Sky"


I Love Sky is a four minute animation from the Korean RG Animation Studios. Made in 2004 it is a story of two parachute jumps that go awry. The first jump has the jumper in some difficulties as his chute won't open, whilst the second allows him to land but amidst rather prickly cactii. A 3D movie set, as suggested by the title, against a blue, bright backdrop, it is a funny animation!

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Mathieu Bessudo, Douglas Lassange & Jonathan Vuillemin "Sigg Jones"


Sigg Jones by French students Mathieu Bessudo, Douglas Lassange and Jonathan Vuillemin is a breathtaking brawl between two supposed allies, the boxer (or wrestler) and his agent. Created using 3DSmax the three creators from the esteemed Supinfocom Arles demonstrate just how technically adroit are the graduates emerging from France at the moment. The action of the seven minute movie hinges on the dangers of a health drink intended to build up the fighter. No sponsorship from isotonic drinks then though the movie quickly regains its commercial feet with some pretty dynamic action centred on the opponents' trainers that do more than protect the feet or look stylish. Commercial? The credits are to Puma, Adidas and Nike! The three movie-makers are audacious in the use of technology and as well as a series of splendid variations on the fight theme there is a good variety of stylistic features such as the split screen in the image above. Sigg Jones may be viewed at the students' own website. It has gained several awards including second place in the 3D section of Animex 2007, which is where I first saw it.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Blu Sketch Notebook



Today's animation is a rather fascinating if unusual one. Blu is an Italian site featuring sketches, wall art and animations collected in a notebook, using Flash to manoeuvre around. The work of a community of artists it has archives going back to 2000 and earlier. The work is almost universally off-beat. Walls are featured from Bologna, London, Buenos Aires and Berlin plus varied other few locations. The sketches are extravagant, though manifestly the work of talented artists - energetic too as some of the walls are large. It's a fun voyage through the sketchbook with lashings of content. There are only a few animations but they are good. Try ffwd, a flip book style piece in which a jar has its contents spilled causing a transformation leading to a huge amphibian walking from the sea. I'm no lover of graffiti at all; this however is art!

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Yu Ji "The Dreamer"









Ju Ji's Flash animation, The Dreamer, was the overall winner of the Nontzeflash 2007. To say this is relaxing is pretty much an understatement. The white cat with the yellow eyes sits on a pink cushion under gentle bamboo and dreams. Wild geese are joined by a white goose who transforms to a powerful pale fish after its dive into the ocean. The changes proceed to successively more powerful beings. Sometimes it is easier to dream of course, than to actually do something. Long Yi's music adds a gentle elegance to a supremely elegant film. I featured the film as my school's movie of the week 1 to kick off the new year. In October of this year Yu Ji is commencing his degree in Animation Production at The Art Institute at Bournemouth, UK, and already has a seemingly thriving career (for someone born in 1988 anyway!!!) illustrating children’s books. He studied Fine Art in Plymouth, UK for two years from the age of 16 before commencing his degree work in Bournemouth. His artwork is exquisite. Look for example at Childhood or Hide and Seek. Look also at his two other animations: The Art of Writing and Random Story produced for his 19th birthday. I can't believe all this success for someone so young. Either I have my dates wrong or Yu Li is a very rare talent indeed. He is not like his cat, dreaming his life away.

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Giuliano Parodi "Shoa"















Shoa by Giuliano Parodi is a Flash animation about the Holocaust. I have used it extensively in school. Indeed I have written quite detailed class notes about it. "Shoa" is Hebrew for "calamity". In a simply executed movie Giulinao lays bare the sheer horror of the Holocaust through the eyes of a small boy. The animation may be simple enough but it is wonderfully designed from its opening as the boy plays with his paper plane in the clear blue sky to the end as the plane again emerges to gel the parts together. The dark shapes of the bombers, the gates of Auschwitz with its infamous "Work Makes Free", the caricature of Hitler and the smoke from the gas chambers make for powerful images though through it all an indomitable spirit survives and triumphs. I like this movie very much although sadly I know little about the director. I shall have to make some further enquiries!

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Mari Inukai "Blue and Orange"













"I just follow my emotion,
To find it."
The lines are from Mari Inukai's poetic Blue and Orange. It has won several awards including being screened at Expo 2005 and Sundance 2003. Blue and Orange is about a succession of emotions, tastefully realised, evoked by the depth of her relationship with her daughter. The mother comforts and guides, hugs and listens. The pencil drawings are incredibly delicate as is the whole tone of the 3 minute movie, greatly assisted by the gentle guitar soundtrack. I can't quite read the credits though I guess the Japanese narrator with the sweet voice is Mari herself. This is not a movie I would have thought to make - though I wish I could! Mari is a supreme artist as can be seen from the drawing of her beloved Serena, her daughter of 15 years, or the rest of the work on her blog or website. Mari presently works in Los Angeles to which she moved from Nagoya in Japan in 1995. After completing her education at the California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California in 2004, she has moved on to working for, amongst others, Nickelodeon, and now designs toys and clothes, as well as selling the sort of wonders we see on her blog - where she expresses an exuberance and delight that is uplifting to read.

Monday, 24 September 2007

Clay Lipsky & Daedalus "Sundown"


Clay Lipsky has produced a very stylish animated video for Santa Monica based musician Daedalus. Mixing sepia and the dark red of dusk together, Clay delivers an arresting mix of images - musician, sun and city landscape. I have never heard the music before but if the first aim of an animation is to bring to our attention the client then this works fantastically well. The fluidity of the artwork matches the tempo of the music to perfection. Sundown is viewable directly from the designer's site. The BBC's Film Network also highlights another of Clay's videos, this time for True Skool.

Sunday, 23 September 2007

"Binge and Purge" Ben Meinhardt













Ben Meinhardt 's anarchic Binge and Purge has enjoyed considerable acclaim from festival audiences all over the world. It does not proclaim a brave new world or indeed seek to improve our lot. But it's very funny. Mysterious, blue bears come out from the shadows and wreak havoc on a city in present day America. It's a splurge of comic book violence, not intended to be taken seriously in any way, save for the sheer verve of the animator. A graduate of the University of Missouri-Columbia in 2000, Ben moved to the marvellous Vancouver Film School in 2003 and as his movie was released in 2004 it is possible to see the creative fruits of that time. He presently works in Vancouver on the MTV2 series "Where my Dogs At?" Ben's website is crazydeathmonkey.com and a direct link to his movie is here.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Joni Mitchell & John Wilson "Big Yellow Taxi" & "The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines"














"They paved paradise/And put up a parking lot/With a pink hotel, a boutique/And a swinging hot spot" (Big Yellow Taxi). Thus starts Joni Mitchell's greatest popular hit from 1970. “Big Yellow Taxi” is a link to John Wilson's funny animation of the song with the two hippies fleeing from their rustic pleasures under the pressure of the bulldozer and urban sprawl. This is a better movie than yesterday's trailblazer. It seems to have everything of the sixties about it including the remarkable insight that caring about the environment is not just territory of the young today. I have to admit the ending of the movie is as neat a match for Joni's closing laugh as it is possible to make. The second animated Joni track is from one of her least favourite albums "Mingus", which coincidentally is one of my favourites. The Dry Cleaner from Des Moines has been animated by Tim Jerran here in the UK. Tim seems to be more web designer than artist (though with a good taste in music.) It shows how software for animation has advanced since the years in which John Wilson was working. See Tim's video on YouTube. You can read about John in yesterday's post and if you go to the profile for the interestingly named Oofus Twillip you can access some more of John Wilson's 70s classics including some music videos he made for Sonny and Cher for their television series. The unmissable ones are Cher's cover version of the old Spinners classic Black and White, The Candy Man and one I'd forgotten about, Brand New Key, covered by Cher though I much prefer Melanie's original.

Friday, 21 September 2007

John Wilson & Joni Mitchell "Both Sides Now"


Today's movie is a special one because it concerns my favourite musical artist plus the man who made the very first computer designed animation for a musical track. Both Sides Now is not my favourite track by Joni Mitchell, nor is this my favourite animation. However John Wilson created a first here. The early 1970s were early days for computers and John's animation can now be viewed as a trail-blazer. He is credited with being the father of the conceptual music video. In this particular example, there's a mixture of jazzed up film photography as well as drawings. The uploaded image gives a taste. Very sixties let alone 70s! John has a very distinguished record as an animator since his entry into the profession in the 1940s. Originally born in Watford he has worked in America (including a spell with Disney) and Australia as well as here in the UK. He lives in the North West of England so he is no mean judge of location either (my birthplace.) His company Fine Arts Films has an excellent website and when you read the credits you can only marvel at his output and creative energy. John was one of the organisers, with the late Dick Arnall, of the first animation festival held in Cambridge in 1967. Tomorrow's movie selection is made up of two music videos, one by John Wilson but this time based on one of my more favoured Joni Mitchell tracks, and another more recent animation of one of her jazz numbers of which I am a very big fan.

Thursday, 20 September 2007

Theodore Ushev "Walking On By" & "Early in Fall, Late in September"


Theorore Ushev is one of my favourite animators and a helpful one as well. I use his work to demonstrate the possibilities of Flash animation with my students. He's also a superb artist which helps. He has two independent outlets for his work, ushev.com/ and mortadellatv.com. I'm featuring two of his animations but all his work is better than excellent. Walking On By is just that: a guy takes a stroll through all the stones and arrows that life can throw at him. He's as bouncy at the end as he is at the beginning. It was produced in 2003 and has been used with all my classes to explain the walk cycle and much beyond. Theodore is very witty and his simply drawn character and basic idea is a triumph of its sort. Early in Fall, Late in September is also simply drawn. It is about relationships that fade, and separation, and the seasons. Theodore uses shimmering, floating splashes of colour on a basic line drawing of black on white. Shapes and characters merge freely into each other in a fluid sequence of movement. I fnd it very moving. I use it to teach how to use alpha in Flash, and how or when to use frame by frame animation. Do, by the way, look at his book illustrations at his site. They are really something special. Theodore was born in Bulgaria but moved to Canada in 1999. Increasingly his work is not available on-line. He is however becoming a mainstay of the North American and European festival circuit. Last year his Tzaritza opened the Carrousel International du Film de Rimouski. ("Little Lili finds a tzaritza, a magic shell that will grant her a wish. She decides to use this magical gift to bring her grandmother, who lives near the Black Sea, to Montreal." NFC) His latest movie, Tower Bawher, is due to be screened later this month at the Ottawa International Animation Festival 2007. It's described by the National Film Board of Canada as a "wild ride through the pages of a chapter in modern art" which sounds just about right for Theodore.

Wednesday, 19 September 2007

Géza M. Tóth "Maestro"




A mechanical arm pours a glass of something strong for the star performer seated by his dressing table and preparing himself for the grand performance. Maestro is an immaculately produced 5 minute, 3D animation concerning the build up to our opera maestro’s entrance onto the stage. The star warms up his voice in his small changing room as his mechanical dresser prepares him for the role. The voice is good. It deserves a little pampering. The dresser is therefore most attentive, a trifle over-fussy perhaps. Géza M. Tóth’s short movie is one of those films that is entirely spoilt if you know the ending. Think of the movie as a puzzle. Spot the clues because they are there in the narrative. Then when you have seen the movie through watch it again and marvel at Géza's talent in what is a terrific little movie and future classic. The Hungarian animation was short listed for the Oscars in 2006. It can be viewed at dailymotion.com.

Tuesday, 18 September 2007

Samantha Ferguson & Marek Colac "Alice"


It's about time I featured another music video. Samantha Ferguson and Marek Colac co-directed the video Alice for Canadian singer and songwriter artist Howie Beck. Alice is so gorgeous she attracts men wherever she goes, whether it be at a party or on the street - not something always to the advantage of the men, or their partners. Alice of course sails on regardless! The video tracks her adventures through a mixture of hand drawn animation both in black and white and then full colour. This is an accomplished piece of work matching the easy on the ear voice of Howie with an easy on the eye movie. Both Samantha and Marek have their own studios, Marek's at: http://tincanforest.com/, Samantha's at http://www.samanthaferguson.com/. Direct links to the music are variously,
Samantha or Marek.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Tom Judd "Wheel Time"


Serendipity brought me to Tom Judd's work. I particularly like his short 2D movie Wheel Time accessed, as is all his work, from his website and blog: http://www.tomjudd.co.uk/. Simply but effectively drawn by hand it has our hero marching through the town pushing a wheel along in front of him. In the course of his journey he encounters the rather unattractive elements of urban life putting up with them in stoic fashion until he hits on a novel means of fighting back. Set against a soundtrack of the gentle strumming of the guitar by Steven Farrimond, there's a gentle humour I found most engaging. Tom has just obtained a first class honours degree from Manchester Metropolitan and will progress to a Masters in Animation at the Royal College of Art this coming October. In that case he is sure to advance his studies further because some of the UK's best animators have come from that esteemed institution. His website repays scrutiny being full of illustrations and bearing testimony to an enthusiasm for and talent in his subject. Do also look at "Snared", an animation with a not dissimilar alienation theme and style, though it has used photographic images set alongside his hand drawing. This time the pace is rather phrenetic as instead of walking the man runs away full tilt to the beat of the snare drum. The "Drum Boy" is Tom himself and this time Steven plays harmonica.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Florian Thouret "Le Moulin"












Le Moulin (The Mill) by 26 year old Florian Thouret has a novel premise. A seemingly idyllic island community is held in thrall by a towering windmill. The rhythms and movements of life are dictated by the whirr of the blades and the turn of the cogs. It has a cliff-hanger of an ending! The opening is also pretty impressive as we see a quintessential fishing vessel complete with bearded skipper and seagull; the bird moves but the man does not. Produced in 2005 at the remarkable École Émilie Cohl, the ten minute film formed Florian's graduation project. The artwork and animation are professional, with bright, continental colours. The ending is most satisfying and unexpected. Florian has been lucky with his choice of musician because Nadege Feyritt's piano work is lovely. Similar praise should be bestowed on his Trio Manouche, the musicians for the second movie he has chosen to place on YouTube; much shorter than Le Moulin at only 2.5 minutes, La vie est un jeu d'enfants..., is perhaps a salutary tale about the dangers of school romances. Pleasant enough but first go to YouTube to discover about the dangers of relying too much on windpower.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Jimmy Liao, C. Jay Shih, Alan Tuan and Poliang Lin "A Fish With A Smile"


A Fish With A Smile by Jimmy Liao must be one of the happiest movies I have featured this year. It is perfect. The concept is simple enough. A man passes a pet shop featuring the biggest shop window aquarium I've ever seen. His attention is taken by one particular fish that appears to be mutually attracted to him. A series of encounters occur, each one utterly charming, until the guy purchases the fish and takes it home in a glass bowl. I won't divulge anything else though it has some of the most charming scenes imaginable (swimming, walking through a city at night, reliving childhood) and a constant wit that envigorates the movie and sustains interest throughout its 10 minutes or so. It is based on Jimmy's original short story "A fish that smiled at me". Two things drew me to the movie: one was the title which is kind of cute, the second was a still from the movie for a festival showing the guy in his bath with the fish in its bowl beside him. The animation is impressively drawn, full of colour and embued with great warmth, the atmosphere enhanced given a musical score by Chien-Chi Chen. Animation was by Liya Huang, Hong Mou Lin and their team. They used Maya, After Effects and Photoshop with 2D for the characters and 3D for the backgrounds. Jimmy was the executive producer for the project with directors C. Jay Shih, Alan Tuan and Poliang Lin - though the whole ODD Incredible Inc. production team seem to have been involved (as documented in a case study for Wakum.) The DVD can be shipped from Asia here and it is posted on YouTube. Jimmy is a very well known illustrator and author in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Julia Pott "My First Crush"


If having over 437,000 viewers this year for an amateur movie on YouTube is anything to go by, 22 year old Kingston University student Julia Pott has struck a chord. Her graduation movie "My First Crush" comprises three and a half minutes of interviews with her friends about their first loves. Julia has stitched together these disarmingly honest observations with animations that are both cute and funny. A charming collection of characters includes a pony, sparrow, dog, shark polar bear, fox and a sea horse. Julia intersperses printed dialogue from the interviews ("Will you sit next to me on the BUS") along with some names of the participants. Music is by Christopher Frost (assisted by Robin Bushell.) Julia herself has placed the video on YouTube and you can visit her at MySpace or pop into her colourful and distinctive website: http://www.juliapott.com/. And if you like skipping or swinging Learn This. But back to My First Crush: "If you're listening to this, Jackie, I'm Steve Bowler ......and I'm still in love with you." Now isn't that something.

Thursday, 13 September 2007

Suzie Templeton "Stanley"



Stanley is a very successful, award winning comedy by Suzie Templeton released in 1999. At over 7 minutes in length it is full of black humour in a rich tradition of British movies. A very British movie in fact. An elderly couple seem not to talk with each other. Not once! They are full of dark suspicions of each other's interests. The wife cooks and wields the heavy knife on her various huge chunks of meat with relish. The knife is honed to perfection. Her husband, Stanley, fondly feeds, washes and generally dotes on his prize possession, a cabbage. Stanley even dreams of the beautiful brassica. He's smitten, in love. There are three in his marriage. Then one day the wife's eyes alight on a recipe that will change her life forever. Suzie's puppets are terrific. One perspective has us looking up at the old woman's lined face as she prepares to hack into the chicken, her eyes manic, her features florid. Wonderful. The set is a delight too with an archaic kitchen and the cabbage in the old metal bath in the backyard. There is also a perfect accompaniment of light jazz from Jonny Templeton and Sam Butterfield. To think this was a student project! By the way, the illustration is a little brighter than is the norm in a generally dark set because it is part of a dream sequence. Stanley is available at Atom Films and YouTube.

Wednesday, 12 September 2007

Nora Twomey "From Darkness"




From Darkness by the Irish film-maker Nora Twomey is a very moving film with one of the finest opening sequences I have seen. An Inuit fisherman is fishing in the cold ocean when he spots something in the water. It is the corpse of a maiden long since thrown into the sea by an angry father. The lonely young man develops an unlikely friendship. Nora has embraced the ancient Inuit story of "The Skeleton Woman" and created a powerful drama. I'm told the Inuit have many names for the different shades of white; well, Nora creates all sorts of shades of greys and white in the outside scenes. The remoteness of the location is vividly captured as is the blue of the ocean. Certain of the scenes are spell-binding, such as the first appearance of the girl and her eventual metamorphosis. To complement a gripping ending and satisfying development, the film ends in an emotional tour de force. From Darkness was made in 2002 using funding from the The Irish Film Board, The Arts Council & RTÉ. Nora has given an interview for the estimable AnimWatch in which she provides details of the production techniques and background. This is one of my favourite movies. Nora is one the founding partners in the Kilkenny based The Cartoon Saloon. They have produced several movies of which Nora's Cuilin Dualach has received much praise. Another facet of their work is television commercials and their website has examples. I particularly liked those for the Environment Agency with a great seaside scene, a delicate one for Positive Options signalling help for those women having unplanned pregnancies, and a jolly Christmas blitz for Cadbury's chocolates. Nora has a background and higher education both in fine art and traditional animation. She also has huge talent. From Darkness works in the classroom and students are captivated. A trailer for the movie is available on the company's website though one can view it in full at that great outlet for independent film-makers, Zed.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Luis Zamora Pueyo "My Grandmother"











My Grandmother produced and directed in 2004 by Luis Zamora Pueyo is a distinctive movie that packs a punch. Sketched in black on white it concerns an old lady who is seemingly happy, surrounded by her family, but has to be prompted by the local bakery that the annual delivery of her grandson's birthday cake is imminent. She talks endlessly, particularly to her cat. When the cake arrives the bakers have a shock in store for them. It is a powerful movie, with a surprise ending and some revealing choice of detail to show the old woman's life. Thus we have no real close-up of her face and the angles of view are often oblique; instead we gain a view of a dripping tap or, as in the still above, her feet and ball of wool. Two other features may be commented upon: first an excellent soundtrack and musical score both of which were produced by Luis himself; second, the convincing and expert voice of Liz Smith in the role of old woman. Those who know British television's The Royle Family and The Vicar of Dibly will find Liz very familiar and her portrayal here is touching. The film is over nine minutes in length and based on a story by Gonzallo Miralles. It was produced as one of Luis' first year works from his time studying for a BA at the Royal College of Art and may be viewed or downloaded from his website. His graduation piece is the equally enthralling "The Family", and his "About Sofia" gained him an MA. He now resides in Madrid in his home country though he has worked professionally here in the UK. I will write about his two other movies later this week.


Monday, 10 September 2007

Yamamura Koji "Man and Whale"













Man and Whale is a moving and very effective campaign movie made for Greenpeace by Yamamura Koji. Although only 2 minutes in length it manages to convey an alternative Japanese as well as world perspective on hunting great whales for food. It focuses on the ageing headmaster of a school whose office overlooks the sea. His interest in the whale is obvious given the sketches on his desk and wall, together with a pair of binoculars. But today he has not seen any whales. He considers the past when whales formed part of the diet in a poor country. Now in the modern and rich Japan there is no longer that need. How the headmaster harnesses the pupils to save a whale is one strand of the movie. The film is quite beautifully and sympathetically drawn. The present day is in colour, the past in black and white. However it is the recreation of the huge creature, both hauled in by the fishing boats or in its natural element, that the lies at the heart of the movie: the majesty of the beast is captured. Also the enthusiasm of the headmaster and his total commitment is entirely communicated. The presumed brief of the Greenpeace sponsors is to awaken modern Japan to the wonders they have in the oceans. The movie delivers this in spades. Yamamura is a hugely successful movie maker with a great number of films to his credit since his graduation from Tokyo Zokei University in 1987. His exceptional Atama-Yama was Oscar nominated. You can see other samples of Yamamura's work on the dauntingly slick On-Line Theatre. I will look at his other work including Atama-Yama in a further post.

I have decided to include a still from the movies I feature on the blog. I hope it adds something, if only to my workload! I may be tempted to backtrack a little and add images as the mood takes me.

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Avi Ofer "Autofoto", "Sandbox" & "Tulik"


Avi Ofer's "Autofoto" was made in 2001 and is only 2.5 minutes in length. It is a cute tale of a guy who wanders into a shopping mall photograph kiosk intent on taking some self-portraits. Suddenly the first strip of prints appears and the background is a beach. He looks around him, can't see anything, and then places more money in the slot to see what happens. The Flash movie is simply but effectively draw by hand chiefly in black though the sparing use of colour is arresting. (For example look at the nice touch with the blue balloon linking the start and end.) The Israeli based animator, photographer and artist has posted three movies on his website which contains some remarkable work other than his films - such as these posters. Yossi Yampel composed the easy on the ear music and Ely Zak plays it on acoustic guitar. Avi's other movie "Sandbox" produced in 2006 has a similar style and features a playground where a little boy and girl have a bit of a problem with a low flying aircraft. Yossi Yampel plays a cheerful melody on synthesiser to add more than a touch of warmth to proceedings. Avi's third movie, "Tulik", again is in Flash though this time the colours are vivid as the boy sits on the beach and discovers the way to a lady's heart is to provide her with fruit. Simple really. You can view the movies at the films section of Avi's excellent website.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

"Riba" Supinfocom Valenciennes - Yves Dalbiez, Elise Garcette and Laurent Leleu


“Riba” is by three French students, Yves Dalbiez, Elise Garcette and Laurent Leleu from Supinfocom Valenciennes, the same school of excellence who brought us that marvellous tango movie featured here a while back, "En Tus Brazos". Produced in 2003 using a combination of Maya and Adobe software, the film tells the story of a cat who when lighting the streetlamps of the city spots a wonderful grand piano through a window, with an emblem of an orange fish stamped upon it. Returning to his apartment he is joined by the same fish, miraculously come alive but with another metamorphosis (or at least growth spurt) still to come. I hope I don't spoil the movie by suggesting the cat gets to play the piano because this introduces a credit for a sumptuous piece of music composed by Yves Dalbiez and played on piano by Stéphane Corbin with Frédérique Legrand joining towards the end on the cello. This soundtrack is gorgeous and as good as you get really. It would grace any movie. Certainly it enhances "Riba" though it is well reciprocated. The pinky browns of the apartment and the watery blues of the city lend a delicacy to the artwork and acts as a foil for the Maya produced 3D effects of the cat. Some of this movement is truly excellent, such as the fingerplay as the cat plays the imaginary piano. The French animation schools are turning out some immensely talented animators and Supinfocom Valenciennes in particular. A visit to the movie's home site (http://riba.dalbiez.com/) provides lots of information, pictures and links together with an opportunity to view. Should you feel inspired and wish to see more of this powerhouse of talent click the following link to Supinfocom Valenciennes and enjoy yourself. The northern French town of Valenciennes should be proud of itself.

Friday, 7 September 2007

Ivan Maximov "5/4" & "From Left to Right"


Ivan Maximov is a teacher, game designer and a master in the art of animation. This first review of his work is his 1990 "5/4" primarily chosen because I am a fan of both him and his chosen soundtrack, the classic Paul Desmond and Dave Brubeck jazz track "Take 5". The action of this 6½ minute eccentric animation takes place almost entirely against the backdrop of a huge wall in front of which, or occasionally inside it, rather odd creatures do rather odd things. They drop objects, pour water, fly, bounce, stroke a cat at the same time as stroking their own head. The music and action are beautifully matched. The colours are bluey grey and a fog seems to flow in and out of the action. Ivan's earlier animation of 1989, "From Left to Right", a movie produced as a student, is more or less as described on the packet, that is a strange procession of weird creatures travel across the screen secreting objects, standing on them, gobbling them up and generally parading for our amusement. The creatures are amazing, sometimes snail-men, bird-men, reptile-men. The action is always ingenious, viewing addictive. I am delighted to link to his website where details can be found and even some of his later full movies may be downloaded:
http://pipestudio.ru/maximov/54.htm & http://pipestudio.ru/maximov/fromleft.htm
I fully intend to explore his work further. You can see these and more at his home website. If the links to his website fail view the animations here: "5/4" & “From Left to Right"

Thursday, 6 September 2007

Michaël Dudok de Wit "The Aroma of Tea" & his television commercials


Michaël Dudok de Wit is a master of his craft. His "Father and Daughter" featured elsewhere here is one of the most moving animations I have ever seen. "The Aroma of Tea" created in 2006 is entirely different. I guess it depicts in an abstract way a quest and eventual home-coming or union. It might also be an evocation of the reviving effects of tea on the senses though I confess I would need to drink the substance first. It is simple in execution being the journey of a dot through a maze like river journey, beautifully drawn in brown, contour-like networks, and from thence to a more sparsely drawn landscape and eventual home. The rhythm changes too, but the tobacco leaf or tea leaf colours remain. The reason? Easy really: Michaël used tea to draw the animation. The music by Arcangelo Corelli adds massively to the effect. Indeed such is the lovely soothing and revitalising effect of viewing this lazy voyage that the revitalising effect of drinking a cup of tea is recreated. Sometimes the best animations are works of art. You may view it on YouTube. Relax and put your feet up as you do. Michaël has a background in television commercials and his mastery of the medium is marvellously captured in his commercials for both United Airlines and AT&T whose extended advertising campaign using Michaël's work is remarkable. You can view them at Acme Filmworks. His United Airlines short, by the way, has echoes of "Father and Daughter". A consummate artist.

Wednesday, 5 September 2007

Fursy Teyssier "Tir Nan Og"


Tir Nan Og by Fursy Teyssier is a mystical film about loss and leave-taking set in a Tolkein-like landscape of forest, sea and mountains. It commences on a clifftop where a child and her grandmother are playing on a grand piano. Along with a flock of sinister birds a bird-like figure shrouded in mystery arrives to take the old woman away and the girl attempts to follow. The movie was created this year as a graduation piece at L'Ecole Emile Cohl. The music was created by the band The American Dollar especially for the movie. It is a moody and atmospheric film with a touching ending and excellent artwork throughout. I think it is a Flash movie. You may view it at MySpaceTV.com.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

"Tom the Cat" Bastien Charrier, Paric Jean, Lucas Salton & Neila Terrien


French animation has a style all of its own. "Tom the Cat" is a conventional fun cartoon style animation produced in 2000-2 by four students from the Supinfocum University in northern France. It is fast and furious in the "Tom and Jerry" tradition though with the backgrounds rather more detailed than the old classic. It features car chases and old ladies and dogs falling off skyscrapers. Created primarily in Maya it is a tremendous piece of work with some exciting and anarchic moments. Bastien Charrier, Paric Jean, Lucas Salton and Neila Terrien are four talented young men. You can download the five minute movie from their website: http://tomthecat.free.fr/home.htm

Monday, 3 September 2007

Tom Schroeder "Bike Ride"


Tom Schroeder's "Bike Ride" is an animated monologue by a youth who cycles for 5 hours in order to see his girlfriend whom he has not seen for some time. The journey does not go as planned. James Peterson's very believable narration (he also wrote the story) is ably complemented by the jazz percussion soundtrack of Dave King. The artwork is drawn in white lines on a black background and is in a refreshing, easy freehand. Tom teaches animation at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and his confident use of the medium demonstrates his expertise. The tale has an air of truth about it. I also plan to review Tom's later work ("Bike Ride" was produced in 2000) "The Mexican Cloud-Swing Disaster". You can see how the boy's cycle ride to see Kerry turns out on YouTube.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

Gregory Neri "A Picasso on the Beach"


Gregory Neri created and drew the quirky "A Picasso on the Beach" in 1988 yet it is as fresh and watchable as if it were new. Imagine you were sunbathing on an empty beach and Pablo Picasso passed by just long enough to make a drawing in the sand and sign it indisputably "Picasso". What would you do? Well you might just wonder where this empty beach was because I've failed to discover it lately. However the $$$$ signs might just start to spring to mind and in Greg's sunbather this is exactly what occurs. His mind goes through the whole gamut of pecuniary possibilities. Of course what goes out also comes in as Canute discovered. However the movie sustains our interest and at this point we are actually only halfway through. It is drawn in a minimalist fashion yet one that is admirably in keeping with the spirit of the great Spanish artist. The music, half jazz/half melody, is excellent by Chick Corea. You can view the whole thing at 41 year old Greg’s MySpace site (which makes him a very young man when he produced his movie at the University of California.) There is also a YouTube video posted, I think, by Greg himself. This is the only animation I have seen by Greg which is a great shame because he has a delicious touch. He does however write pretty prolifically and well. However the great man died in 1973 so don't go sunbathing in hope. Oh and if you enjoyed the music half so well as I did go to the official website of Chick Corea where you can listen to his music as I am doing at this moment.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

Chris Wedge "Bunny"


"Bunny" directed by Chris Wedge in 1998 is a major production for a seven minute animation with a cast of one rabbit and a moth. Produced by Blue Sky Studios the Credits is an extended item with a host of animators, technical directors, digital paint artists and modelers. This does not of course detract from the movie though pity the poor guy who has to produce an animation for herself. Mind you it does have an excellent song by Tom Waites and Kathleen Brennan as the credits roll, together with a musical soundtrack and incidental sounds that are superb. "Bunny" also won the Academy Award for 1998. The story is fairly straightforward. An ageing rabbit hobbles around the kitchen with the aid of her walking frame when a rather large and persistent moth flutters into every light bulb available and disturbs her baking. In the course of its flight and her pursuit the insect disturbs a picture of the lady and her deceased husband and a note of sadness and sentimentality creep into the movie. If you thought CS Lewis had the answer to doorways to another world then this movie has it beat. And is the moth a moth or a ....? However, what makes the movie so good is that for 1998 the technical effects were so novel. For example there is the first recorded use of "radiosity", a technique that makes the lighting properties subtle and natural, together with a similarly natural feel to the kitchen and its utensils. The software works terrifically well and it is has led the way to today's even more glorious software. Finally a word from Chris himself: "We started our studio over 10 years ago with all the money we could scrape together. We struggled without pay for a long time developing software and pounding the pavement for business. Bunny started with ideas about what our software could do someday and the kinds of movies we could make with it. " You can buy the DVD and book direct from the company here or watch it on YouTube.