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Wednesday, 31 October 2007

Lubomír Beneš & Vladimír Jiránek "Pat and Mat"

















Pat & Mat created by Lubomír Beneš and Vladimír Jiránek first appeared in 1976 and is still being produced from the Prague Studio patmat s.r.o. run by Marek Benes, Lubomír's son. Lubomír died in 1995. Lubomír had a background in puppet theatre whereas Vladimír was a cartoonist and illustrator. Their characters are general repair men whose ingenuity is not matched by their common sense or dexterity. Their first episode Neighbours is typical of the sort of dilemmas they face. Mat (or is it Pat) has a loose tap that swings over to the side and the edge of the kitchen cabinet basin. Solution: move the unit. They share an egg for breakfast. It has to be exactly divided into two. Solution: pencil, scissors, saw and axe. Alternatively, Water (Voda - 1982) has our intrepid pair constructing a garden. When they discover there is a need to water the plants, the well seems to have dried up so they hit on the only possible solution really, they break the dam and have a plentiful supply water, a veritable deluge to be honest. There are over 70 episodes and very popular they are too on the European mainland. With well designed sets, thoughtful scripts and skilled animation, the series is given greater appeal with the cheery music of Petr Skoumal. Those of you who do not know the series (and it is not that well known in the UK) will perhaps recognise the bouncy theme tune (thanks Jürg) It is hard to obtain a legitimate DVD collection as the excellent and informative Swiss based fansite run by Jürg Schaeppi explains; episodes are however plentiful on YouTube. Finally a footnote to an earlier post I made about The Mole. Two children of my acquaintance were introduced to the series on my recommendation with the three year old distraught at the "demise"of the snowman; even the six year old had a tear in her eye. I can't say Pat or Mat score highly on the compassion front but they are very funny and addictive: classic.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

Jan Svankmajer "Et Cetera"











Jan Svankmajer’s surreal Et Cetera is one of those movies you either like or, as one reviewer for Amazon puts it, consider “quite dreadful”. It is in three parts. In the first a man use two chairs and a gradually expanding set of wings to learn to fly. In fact the two chairs end up right by each other at the conclusion of this section and a new cycle of endeavour suggests itself. In the second section a man trains an animal to do tricks though as it concludes the two have become virtually indistinguishable, the roles reversed. Finally a man builds a house though quickly realises he has to erase the house walls in order to enter or leave it. This is the theme I presume – the pointless endeavours of man, the cycle of events of history. Et Cetera is one of very many movies by a hugely prolific and distinctive animator. Remember in 1966 Jan was producing this and other movies at a time of Soviet domination and the curtailment of freedoms in Czechoslovakia so it is quite possible to discern all sorts of symbolism in his work. All his films have assumed the status of classics, in part due to some extraordinary later work, and this seven minute early piece does provide an early example of the man who produced the sublime Alice or Faust. The mechanical, rather ugly sounds and the puppet movements of the figures are all his stock in trade, though he does appear to have a wide range of animation techniques at his disposal. I like the textured backgrounds with figures superimposed on ancient maps or texts which presumably add an element of historical perspective to what appears to be a perpetual and ultimately fruitless struggle. Of course, as is my mantra, YouTube gives only a taste of the real thing so if you wish to see Jan's work in all its finery buy Jan Svankmajer - The Complete Short Films, a three DVD collection on sale here in the UK for anything from £16 to £30 - a bargain in any language and it contains more or less everything he has created from The Last Trick in 1964 to a trailer for his 2005 Lunacy. Now it would be lunacy not to purchase at these prices! I have just done so.

Monday, 29 October 2007

Lou Poláková "Noggins"


Lou Poláková's 2007 2D animation Noggins is a tale partly told by a cat concerning the relationship between two sisters. With rather sweet music by Tadeas Vercak it has a curious charm, assisted by my inability to fully explain the action. It occurs at night with the bed cover becoming at one point a water hole for animals and then a point of departure for the two Noggins sisters and a dream sequence. In their journey the pair discover their dependence upon each other through rivalries, injuries and even survival from a lethal cup of coffee. Cats are always inscrutable.

Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Zdeněk Miler "The Mole"









It is half term week and in a world where cartoons on television are all pervasive and of dubious quality in all sorts of ways what a joy it is to discover a wondrous creation from the Czech Republic. Zdeněk Miler is the first of a series of Czech animators I am considering for my "Prague Autumn" series. Born in Kladno in the Czech Republic in 1921 Zdenek's greatest popular triumph has been his series of animations about a mole, Krtek, who keeps popping up in new places. Scarcely known in mainstream Britain Krtek is hugely popular in Eastern Europe and beyond. There have been nearly 70 of the animations produced and many books published. The mole is a lovely creation. Three of the series taken at random have been thoroughly road tested by a (nearly) three year old. The Mole and the Lollipop was our first introduction to the series. Typically Krtek emerges from his earth mound to a new world, new adventure. He bangs his head on the park bench, risks being submerged by litter from two children, and then discovers a lollipop. The ensuing adventures surround his ignorance of the true purpose of the confectionery and the battles he has with three mischievious bees, a struggle that creates a sticky situation when the rain comes. The second road tested episode is The Mole and the Rocket. This has been viewed five times by the youngest member of the two person review team. The story develops like this. Krtek discovers a rocket, takes a flight in it, crashes on an island full of shells, then has to put the rocket back together again with the help of a crab and a collection of brightly coloured citizens of the ocean. It is enchanting. Then there is the snowman created by Krtek who discovers that winter is succeeded by Spring and that Snowmen thrive best in the cold. The Mole and the Snowman is every bit as good as that of that of Raymond Briggs - no mean achievement. So why the success? Zdeněk's mole is generous and playful, the most charming little child, as willing to laugh as to shed a tear or two. His giggle is infectious. His friends are generous too and they help each other out. Thus when the magpie steals the green star the three birds help Krtek raid its nest. The backdrop is exquisitely painted in imaginative designs that set off the characters. The music is also exceptional, ranging from oboe to piano or trumpet as the moment or title requires. There are few better examples of music as good as this in animation anywhere. These are, with the exception of the first episode, wordless and so accessible to children and adults everywhere. Other features too - humour, stories and a message that one wants to give to children. Any trawl of the web will bring up lots of posted copies. However, and it is near Christmas, the DVDs are available though you have to search. Amazon.de seems a good bet although there is a Chinese retailer offering the 6 DVD boxset for an impossibly low price. Finally, the last date I can find for a completed episode was 2002 with The Mole and the Small Frog.




Tuesday, 23 October 2007

Guinness Commercial for Rugby World Cup Final












Well England didn't win the rugby World Cup - no sour grapes from this quarter and congratulations to South Africa - but as compensation or celebration enjoy this simply magnificent television commercial from Saturday night's final - Seconds From Greatness. Beginning with a 10 second snippet in September and then gradually increasing the lengths of time for the ads, the £6m TV advertising campaign for Guinness introduced the black and white teams separately. On Saturday the towering hulks competed during the half time interval in a 60 second extravaganza, black versus white. It was a miraculous anticipation of a script as the black player touched down in exactly the same spot as did Mark Cueto for England - except I thought an action replay was needed to sort out the validity of the "try" at the end. Of course if we had had to wait for Australian video referee Stuart Dickinson to judge the replay action, Guinness would have run well over budget and Caffreys declared the winner! Guinness, already sponsor of the English Rugby Premiership, used the agency AMV BBVO with executive creative director Paul Brazier, art director Mike Bond, and copywriter Mike Bond. However it is not surprising for those many fans of Marc Craste from Studio aka that he was the animator called in. There are strong echoes of his JoJo in the Stars in the ad. The use of the black and white motif that runs through all Guinness campaigns has never been bettered. Marc's ad triumphed in a match of heavy-weight contenders. Consider the opposition screened that night: the Sony Bravia Bunnies populating a city centre (well, if you allow them to breed) and the computer generated (Phil Collins & 'In The Air Tonight' ) Gorilla Ad for Cadburys Dairy Milk. Interestingly the two ads involved Argentinian Juan Cabral of Fallon London. Votes in my household were split, the women opting for gorilla, the men for rugby. Sad to say, New Zealand were unable to reach the final otherwise we might all have enjoyed Anchor - and there's still time to enter their competition by the way.

Monday, 22 October 2007

François Roisin, Raphäel Martinez-Bachel and Jules Janaud



Three Supinfocom Valenciennes students created the 3D 90 Degrees in 2005 as their graduation film. Described as experimental it reminds me of that great French car advert where the car metamorphoses to robot, save that this movie is more cool than that. To an impressive soundtrack by the three directors concerned, Jules Janaud, Raphaël Martinez-Bachelf and François Roisin, the electric blues, whites and blacks transform into a robot searching for its head. It's pretty hypnotic viewing as the abstract arrangement of cubes and circles gradually take a more humanoid shape. Two of the guys went on to make Raymond with its mixture of animation and real life film.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Emmanuel Ho "The Owl"

















Emmanuel Ho was only 20 when he made the music video for Austin band, I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness. His 2006 animation The Owl has arresting use of black and white contrast, particularly in the birds' feathers. There are actually two birds here, one black with piecing orange eyes overlooked by a rather ominous and marvellously rendered owl. The opening sets the scene with the bird tied by a line to a claw, frantically attempting to break away towards the light. The menace of the music is beautifully captured by the animation. Emmanuel studied graphic design in Vancouver, Canada. The design here is first rate. Visit his website (http://www.emmanuelho.com/) to see more of his work.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Asaf Agranat "Bus Ride and Flower in Her Hair"


Asaf Agranat from Edinburgh College of Art won several awards with his 2005 graduation film Bus Ride and Flower in Her Hair. Asaf is from Israel though he is now working in London. His movie concerns a long coach ride for a young boy with only a captured fly and a dog belonging to someone else for company. The boy's imagination, memories and that semi-dream state one enters on a long journey are perfectly captured. One example: line after line of ubiquitous cyprus trees give way to a field of sunflowers from which emerge incongruous upturned legs and feet; a swivel of perspective and the feet are reality as the boy retrieves the lid from his glass jar from the floor and real legs. I'm always impressed by traditional skills of the artist and Bus Ride and Flower in Her Hair is beautifully composed and drawn with softness and delicacy. There is also just as delicate a sense of humour here. Asaf posted the movie on YouTube himself. Two very thorough interviews with him have been posted on the Bauhaus and TVP Animation websites. Asaf must be a charming fellow because he received an offer of marriage at the conclusion of the second interview.

Friday, 19 October 2007

Marta Madureira "As máquinas de Maria" ("Maria's Machines")














This is a fresh, innocent animation from Portugal. Made in 2004 As máquinas de Maria (the link is to the Venice Film Festival) Marta Madureira creates an inventive character in Maria who makes machines. As the child's commentary is in Portuguese I am indebted for the following synopsis from Bjcern. "Maria's favourite hobby is to invent machines. One day she stops being able to come up with more machines, because everything she thinks of has already been done. She gets so sad she loses her sleep. Worried, her mother sends her to the doctor, but he tells her she isn't ill, that her problem is lack of sleep. She just needs to rest. This is when Maria comes up with another one of her brilliant ideas: she hasn't yet built a sleeping machine! At home, she starts to build the sleeping machine, and as soon as it's finished, she turns it on to see if it works. Immediately she falls asleep. We just don't know whether it's because of the sleeping machine or due to the exhaustion of not having slept in many days." I'm fond of machines, intricate clockwork contraptions, Heath Robinson devices, meccano. Maria's dress, her face, arms and the rest are bits of cogs and dials, and her eventual machine's a great beast of a locomotive. It's a lovely concept and execution, quite delightful. (Click on the image to see the detail in the work.) And I wish I had a machine like that to lull me to sleep. Usually it's just doing the gardening.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Michaela Pavlátová: a montage of her work




Michaela Pavlátová is one of those hideously talented individuals whose work can intimidate because of its sheer excellence. I featured her 1995 Repeat at the beginning of August and since then have seen far more of her work including the monumental The Carnival of the Animals, one of the most impressive movies of 2006. She does not shirk adult issues and thus is not first choice for screening in class. However as well as earning critical acclaim for her ground-breaking and often acerbic commentaries on relationships she earns a regular living working as a director for the Francisco and Los Angeles company Wildbrain. You will enjoy her commercials for Wrigley chewing gum for instance or her darkly comic Graveyard Picnic. However to enjoy the full richness of her output look at Michaela's Montage. She has a range of drawing styles and the montage has been put together with an eye for continuity. The Czech Republic has some of the best animators in the world with a rich tradition I intend to feature in the next week or so. Michaela, though, transcends national boundaries.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Sébastien D'Abrigeon "Bascule" ("Balance")

















Sébastien D'Abrigeonis was a student at La Poudrière in Valence, when he created his 2004 movie Bascule. Created chiefly in Flash it charts the adventures of a young couple in search of a rooftop, armed with a red umbrella and plagued by a host of smaller umbrella wielders as they clamber across the skyline in the face of a strong wind. There's a lot of visual humour here with umbrellas being blown in and out and characters scaling or plunging impossible heights or depths. I'm not entirely sure if there is a meaning I'm missing though I can greatly admire the inventive manipulation of perspective and the abrupt twists and turns that give a comic edge. It has recently been posted on YouTube.

Tuesday, 16 October 2007

Bernard Derriman "The Dinosaurs Song"


Bernard Derriman, the object of Saturday's post, has another series of animations on-line. The Dinosaurs Song (used for the screenshot above) was created by Bernard for the website Big Green Rabbit though curiously it not featured there - you will have to go to YouTube to discover it. Featuring the voice of David Williams (in a sort of Dean Martin mode at times I feel) it is one of a series of witty, conventional cartoons that tell the story of animals, existing or extinct, who eat the wrong things. Working with a team of animators (Andrew Collins, Lily Dell, Ian Harrowell, and Brian Estanisloa) the series is aimed at children. This weekend I read that the UK is facing an explosion of problems associated with our diets, akin to the threats posed by climate change claimed one government minister. Big Green Rabbit is a USA initiative to address childhood obesity by promoting healthy diets. The series of animated songs is one means by which they obtain publicity though they also aim to attract children and parents to sign up for their health club. Whatever, the videos are fun with lyrics and colourful child-centred animations. Toucan, Rhino, Green Amaconda, Iguana and Mashed Potato (!) await your attention.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Yuriy Norshteyn "Hedgehog In The Fog"


Yuriy Norshteyn's 1975 movie Hedgehog In The Fog is one of the most famous animated shorts of all time. It features a female hedgehog bearing a gift of raspberry jam wrapped up in a cloth, and making her way through rough country for a regular rendezvous with her friend a bear cub. As you might gather from the title the fog complicates the journey somewhat as does an eagle owl who stalks her. This is far from being a frightening journey however. The opening words reveal the tenor of the movie: "In the evenings the little hedgehog went to the bear cub to count stars." Certainly the first appearance of the owl is potentially frightening, rearing up behind our heroine ready to strike but losing its concentration as it copies the hedgehog's gaze upwards towards the stars. Along her journey the hedgehog encounters friendly creatures to set against the owl. One of the most charming is the gorgeously faced dog whose appearance comes just in the nick of time. Indeed a series of lucky escapes follow although for much of the film the hedgehog is entirely oblivious of the threat. The voice of Alexei Batalov as narrator has such warmth about it that one is not troubled by any sense of danger. This is a feel-good movie, under twinkling stars, full of good friends, fire-flies and a hedgehog whose first thoughts are always for others. Made in a period when time and manpower was not so constrained as today there is a rare beauty in the animation, abetted by a perfect soundtrack by Mikhail Meyerovich. The technique used for the animation is the painstaking one of drawing onto multiple glass planes to lend perspective and a 3D look to the finished product. The fog was created by the use of thin paper held over the lens. Having said this, Yuriy was severely reprimanded for taking too long to make the movie, censure that only abated when he screened what he had for a special committee of the party and they were won over. There has been a bitter legal dispute between the successors to Soyuzmultfilm, the Soviet animation company who made so many of the great Russian animations in the communist era, and the Californian company Films By Jove who purchased the rights to the library of films at the time of the dissolution of Soviet Russia. There are several ways to view the movie. A free way is via YouTube but should you want to enjoy the full splendour do what I did and purchase Masters of Russian Animation, Vol. 2 for the princely sum £7 plus postage. The difference in the quality is simply huge and you will enjoy a beautiful movie (for Christmas?)

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Ljubisa Djukic "Menage Frei"













Ljubisa Djukic's 2005 flash movie, Menage Frei, has been well aired on the internet. Indeed it has been a mainstay of my classes for two years now since I saw it at the 2005 BAF Awards (the link is to their archive.) A huge bear gazes out of a cage that is only just big enough to accommodate him. His attention is drawn to a bright butterfly fluttering outside the cage. It is the only source of beauty in a life dominated by a tyranical though tiny circus master who whips him into submission. The bear is forced to parade round and round the ring on a ridiculously small bicycle wearing a ridiculously small vest. Part of him yearns to escape, to free himself from the ring. Thus Ljubisa's movie explores that need to break away from our confines, though of course some of us never will. It also works on a simple narrative level: will the bear escape from the circus? Artistically it is quite special being beautifully drawn and smoothly animated. Throughout there are touching moments as well as humour. Although born in the old Yugoslavia Ljubisa Djukic's career has been in Germany. He studied both at FH Bielefeld and the Animation School of Hamburg. Ljubisa produced the movie for the Berlin based company, dyrdee. I have featured the movie on the school website. Finally I must praise the music of Benjamin Söllner for a soundtrack that captures the melancholic essence of the situation.

Saturday, 13 October 2007

Bernard Derriman & Shane Starr "The Mids' Big Adventure"















Bernard Derriman's five part animated commercials for the American Suzuki Motor Corp never actually graced UK television, sad because they are very funny with the sort of catchy jingle that is both appealing and teeth wrenching at the same time. Setting off for foreign climes in their "all new" XL7 the Mids family experience a series of comic adventures with bears, snow and unexpected inclines. Follow the family's adventures via YouTube or visit http://www.labov.com/ and navigate the link "Clients - Suzuki Mids". Labov and Beyond Inc. is a Fort Wayne, Indiana, based agency with one of the best Home pages around. (You can draw!) The animator enjoys a flourishing career having worked with Disney and alongside Adam Phillips the creator of the Brackenwood shorts. The Co-Creative Director at Labov, Shane Starr, who posted the episodes on YouTube, originally developed the Mids’ concept and the character descriptions, then Bernard developed the character style and animated the pieces. Bernard must have been some acquisition. Shane tells me: "I’m a big fan of Bernard’s style and the personality he’s able to capture in his characters. He was great to work with -- super-talented and creative, down-to-earth and a real professional." The commercials are interesting in that the figures and background are traditional, brightly coloured cartoons whilst the motor vehicle itself is rendered from a photographic image. There's a deliberate lack of affinity between the two that certainly throws the car itself into focus and lends a curiously amateurish quality belied by the rest of the slick 2D work. It's such a good idea this Mids family. The series commences with them setting off on vacation- only just remembering at the last minute to pick up one of their stray kids who frankly should have been left at home - and ends with the family photograph for the album used in the screenshot above. (Note the interloper.) There's mileage in this Mids family, you know - more episodes with or without the car please! Surely one of the networks could pick it up. In the meantime I intend to feature some of Bernard's animated animal songs in the next day or so. These are great fun and in a good cause.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier "Panique au village" , "The Last Glass" & "Cravendale Out Of Stock"











One of the most watchable advertising campaigns on British television at the moment is for Cravendale milk. Orchestrated by Wieden + Kennedy London this is the one in which the near hysterical cyclist, pirate, and cow charge around in search of the last drop of milk. The techniques used appear to be an eclectic mix of digital, clay and stop frame. Although the Milk Matters site is itself lively enough, the agency also designed an interactive microsite that went on-line on 3rd September 2007. Created by Interactive Creative Director, David Lee and creative team Sam Heath and Frank Ginger it is a great fun. If only all sites were this imaginative! The campaign is actually a joint one with Belgian Pic Pic. Here partners Vincent Patar and Stéphane Aubier imbue a surreal zest to their work, never more so than in the fabulous series Panique au village ("A Town Called Panic".) The similarity between the Cravendale campaign and the Belgium series is obvious. It's off the wall. Try Kidnapping in which a farmer, his tractor and his livestock are given the red carpet treatment, or Les Cartes in which something rather nasty patrols a puddle in the farmyard - this necessitates the release of a giant fish in a tank. Genius. Maybe, just maybe, the Belgians are a trifle more hysterical than our mad cows but it's touch and go. The flash interface for the site is also pretty impressive and I just love their house! There's something pretty heart-warming about such wacky animators succeeding in the tough old world of the media. Tomorrow I shall also feature another rather surreal advertising campaign from the USA.



Thursday, 11 October 2007

Regina Pessoa "Tragic Story with Happy Ending"












Tragic Story with Happy Ending made in 2005 by Portuguese filmmaker Regina Pessoa is a special movie. Regina tells the story of a young girl who does not fit into small town life because she is so different to the rest. This difference is the rather dramatic one of having a heart that is too small for her. It has to beat so loudly that folk are disturbed in their work and sleep. They resent her. In fact, rather like the ugly duckling that turned out to be a swan, the girl has a uniqueness that offers her salvation and escape. So much for the story but the film’s success lies in the sheer quality of the pencil drawing. The original drawings are transferred to glossy paper, brushed with india ink, and scratched with a sharp blade giving an end effect of an engraving. Almost every shot is worthy of framing, from the hostile population, the haunted face of the girl, the view from her upstairs window as she looks down on the town and its inhabitants. The use of shadow or perspective to emphasise her ostracism from the community is of rare quality. Some of the very finest animation of its type is seen in the people going about their mundane tasks and chores, their sheer ordinariness contrasting with the girl's very special qualities that, unrecognised by her neighbours, develop as the seven minute movie unfolds. The soundtrack by music and sound designer Normand Roger, with its persistent beat that echoes her heart, is very successful in transmitting the urgency of the situation. The film has won prizes galore, notably The Annecy Cristal Award International Animated Film Festival in 2006. There are downloadable versions of the movie about though I note YouTube has had some taken down and I doubt whether the posted copies still available are legitimate. Therefore visit the film's site (with an impressive Flash interface), the film company's site, or that of the National Film Board of Canada from where you may purchase the DVD, download sizeable clips from the movie as well as some high resolution images from the film. As I have said before, independent film-makers deserve remuneration for their efforts.

Wednesday, 10 October 2007

Kalina Vutova "Sunday Evening"















It is a unhappy time for a lonely moth in a forest under a perfect moon with just a pack of cards for company. You can play your cards only so many times before they pall, or construct a card pyramid before an errant wind scatters them asunder. Sunday evenings are for companionship, or romance as enjoyed so spectacularly by the fire-flies. So our envious hero watches with his binoculars before embarking on a voyage of courtship. Using traditional pencil on paper, Bulgarian animator Kalina Vutova's monochrome Sunday Evening (2002) is six minutes soaked in atmosphere that is heightened considerably by the two accordion pieces played by Richard Galliano. Rather like Kalina's earlier Deliverance discussed here yesterday there is a twist in the ending and a salutary one at that. The drawing has a definite style. I loved the snail bearing a lantern on a tentacle, the self-satisfied cat, the frogs, the abandoned chessboard, the feverish climax as rain beats down and the object of fascination appears in view. Kalina placed the animation on YouTube in July of this year. It leads to her website and some nifty 3D modeling and her work profile.

Tuesday, 9 October 2007

Kalina Vutova "Deliverance"

















Kalina Vutova is a witty and highly talented animator from Sofia. Her 1999 movie Deliverance is a comedy in the classic tradition of comedies, in that it has depth and a denouement that is unexpected and yet satisfying. Three men are drowning in the ocean and quite willing to sacrifice each other to ensure their own survival. They fight and scramble until, miraculously, a boat appears. More fighting takes place before they escape from the sea. At the time of releasing the movie Kalina was a student at the National Academy for Theatre and Film Arts. You can download it at the Annecy 2000 archive and Kalina has also placed it on YouTube. A later and longer movie, Sunday Evening (2002) is waiting in my in-tray to write about. I'll do so tomorrow.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Lesley Barnes "Herzog and the Monsters"
















Lesley Barnes' quirky Herzog and the Monsters is a distinctive four minute movie. Herzog lives with his gran and has difficulty reading books despite being surrounded by Penguin editions of the things. So he steals some letters and goes from there, including a forest into which he falls. The movie has very clever use of 3D graphics and letters. Monochrome images jut out of the screen like paper models swinging on string, and there is a carousel type movement at times that is most effective together with mechanical, almost clockwork objects and shuffling letters. I also love Lesley's choice of music, Al Paxton's Metronomes. The piece was Lesley's graduation film from the Glasgow School of Art in 2006. You can also view it at Sumo Dojo, where other work by Al Paxton may also be enjoyed. Lesley has obtained considerable success in international festivals. I originally saw it at Bradford in November last year. Lesley has her own website (click the link) and she has posted the film on YouTube.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

Eric Castaing, Alexandre Heboyan, Fafah Togora "La Migration Bigoudenn"











La Migration Bigoudenn is a delight from start to finish. A group of aged chefs, immaculately and identically attired in black and white, gather on a Brittany cliff top to conjure up magnificent crêpes to present to their even more elderly leader. Under the light of the moon pancakes are perfectly created and tossed to the heavens before being tasted by their critical superior. There are elements of dance in the symetrical celebrations; the group of chefs floating to the skies at the end is a thing of beauty. Gobelins L’Ecole De Image is very lucky to have such students and they are lucky to have it. So good. Produced in 2004 the three students, Eric Castaing, Alexandre Heboyan and Fafah Togora have all graduated and moved on to different, if not better, things. You can download the movie in various forms here or here.

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Igor Coric "Deus Ex Machina" & "3 Feathers and a Rainstorm"













Deus Ex Machina by Belgrade based Igor Coric may loosely be translated as "God from the machine". In the far distant days when I studied for my English degree I remember it had something to do with stage devices and Greek Drama. Igor uses it as a metaphor for the God (or beast) released from his word processor as he types away. At first larvae then full grown moths appear and all manner of images chase across the screen to signify either madness or writer creativity. The movie featured at Ottawa 2004. A second of Ivor's movies is 3 Feathers and a Rainstorm about a man who forms an attachment to a bird he raises from an egg. In three parts and a coda the movie is double the length of the previous movie at 4 minutes.
3 Feathers and a Rainstorm is extremely well executed in Flash, entertaining and slickly produced with an artistic confidence and a twist of an ending that I should have foreseen but didn't. There's a message from the animator about allowing one's loved ones some independence, together with a warning of so doing. The ingredients of course are in the screenshot. Originally from Strasbourg, Igor graduated in Painting at the Belgrade Faculty of Fine Arts in 2002. His website contains lots of his work and his shop. I'm planning to review his Dog's Pavlov, another of his works selected for last month's Ottawa, when I sample the winning entries from that festival in day or so. In the meantime visit Igor at his website.

Friday, 5 October 2007

Andrei T. Bakhurin "The White, The Black"


The chess board is a dangerous place. Players devise fiendish tricks to deceive their opponents, mercy is not an option, whilst sacrifice of one’s own pieces most decidedly is. The board is a battlefield where opponents are butchered. Andrei T. Bakhurin is a great favourite of mine. The animation work for his Bloody Circus of Scary Dolls is impressive. It is difficult to choose one from his many flash animations though The White, The Black is distinctive. Here, around a smoke filled chess table, the symbolic action of the chess pieces is brought rivetingly to life in all its savagery. Andrei is a superb artist. Look at his gallery and be aware of a scary talent – I swear some of the art looks like Picasso in his blue or rose periods. In all his animations the art jumps right out at you. Sometimes it’s a matter of scale, a giant quality to objects or people, or odd angles and perspectives, twisted faces and insect-like creatures that give a macabre tinge to his work, muted colours. His towns look East European but from an earlier century. They reek atmosphere. In The White, The Black is it a cockroach that scuttles the board? Is Death an insect with a scythe? Shiver at the Black Queen with a revolver in her leg gaiter. A talented man, Andrei is also a singer and musician with a band. I'm delighted he enjoyed such success in this year's Torino Flash Festival. I use his work all the time to demonstrate how distinctive an artist can be. Visit his site: Bloody Circus of Scary Dolls.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Don Hertzfeldt "Billy's Balloon"










Don Hertzfeldt has a distinctive style and when the mood takes him he can produce the sort of emotional tour de force that is rare indeed. In Billy's Balloon, produced in 1998 during his graduation year at University of California, Santa Barbara, Don sympathetically tells the tale of a young boy, Billy, and his relationship with a red balloon and, albeit of lesser importance, a rattle. Boy and balloon have some interesting travels together and, whereas Billy does undeniably undergo moments of vertigo and tinnitus, he has the comfort of knowing he is not alone. Don Hertzfeldt is wickedly funny. The movie is available at Bitter Films Volume One: 1995-2005 DVD and is terrific value at only £12 or so considering it comes with lots of his other movies. The man is a phenomenon! If you really are unable to wait it is available seemingly all over the place, including AOL Video, and I sincerely hope there is no copyright infringement because animators deserve their royalties!
Go to www.bitterfilms.com and support a towering comic talent!

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Joel Simon & Vaibhav Kumaresh "Horn OK Please"








“Horn OK Please” is a meticulously observed tale of the travails of a taxi driver in India. It’s no kind of life raising a son at the same time as attempting to save enough for a taxi of your own as well as paying the greedy owner for the hire of the cab. Pity the poor taxi driver having to brave the traffic chaos of a busy Indian city and ferry a very disparate population around. There are some highly comic vignettes in the eight minutes or so journey. I liked the high tipping (however unwittingly) American tourist, the horde of school pupils, the moaning old lady and felt just as uncomfortable as the driver when the cab waited for the lights to change. Of course when the cash pile begins to build up towards the end of the day then the cab driver can begin to dream - not a good thing to do on a busy road. There is quite a large production crew behind the movie, directed by Joel Simon who handled the direction with Vaibhav Kumaresh at Flickerpix Studios in Belfast. The Anglo-Indian collaboration was funded in part by the British Council in 2006. It is plain to see the collaborative fruits, for so vivid a depiction of Indian life, albeit satirised mercilessly here, could not have been produced were it not for the involvement of those who know India so well. Belgian born Joel set up the animation and puppet company in 1999. The music is by Brian Irvine and adds much to the film. The movie may be watched directly from the company’s website and they have placed it on YouTube.

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

Emeline Bafoin, Tristan Michel, Eric Le Dieu De Ville & Vincent Techer "Chaperon Rouge"











Two out of three of the previous posts have related to Animex 2007 and now it's time to consider the third placed Chaperon Rouge by four more talented French students of the Supinfocom: Emeline Bafoin, Tristan Michel, Eric Le Dieu De Ville and Vincent Techer. Chaperon Rouge is a modern take on the Red Riding Hood tale with our heroine pursued by a somewhat amorphous black wolf, or rather wolves. These are something straight out of Mordor and just as terrifying. I'm not sure whether to accept the tale as literal or allegorical though the climax gives a clue. The colours stand out, the red of the girl and the black with yellow eyes of the wolf, and there are some pleasing backdrops of castle, forest and high cliff. Just maybe the movie is not quite as technically dazzling as the pyrotechnics of Sigg Jones, posted here on Saturday, with just a trace of stilted walking from Red Riding Hood herself, though I personally found the five minute film more engaging and imaginative: it held the attention of my class late yesterday afternoon, no mean feat! The ending is suitably gripping, perhaps the highlight of the movie and certainly unexpected. Chaperon Rouge may be downloaded in full from the makers' website, http://redchap.free.fr/, where you can view in impressive detail production information including such gems as the costume for the girl herself. At the risk of repeating myself, these French students are good!

Monday, 1 October 2007

Tom Bracht & Tim Weimann "My Date From Hell"


The devil is a bit of a fraud and beginning to lose his grip. He needs to meet a new partner to spice up his life. Then one day a letter arrives from an admirer. He has to meet her and he's not nearly as confident as his age and position would suggest. This is a very clever and humorous movie with some stunning 3D work and a Shrek-like character in the role of Satan. How he terrifies the world is beyond me. "My Date From Hell" is the work of German directors Tim Weimann and Tom Bracht. Both are experienced animators in the media although they were studying for their degree at Filmakademie Baden Württermberg’s Institute of Animation when making the movie. In a well contested field it won the 2007 Animex 3D Animation Award. A very comprehensive account of their collaboration may be viewed at Computer Graphics World. I note that Tom says the movie, although short, has a feature length quality. It does and the characters could well be developed further. Computer Arts has a five minute download (from the 14 minute movie) to whet your appetitie.