Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Alison Snowden and Canadian David Fine "George and Rosemary"

George and Rosemary (NFB) was made in 1987 by Alison Snowden from the UK and Canadian, David Fine. They are best known for their adult series, running to 52 episodes, Bob and Margaret. If you have seen Alison’s Oscar nominated movie, Second Class Mail, featured on the Animation Blog, you will recognise the style immediately. The late Cec Linder provided the richly delivered narration of a very fine script for the story of George Edgecombe who lives opposite the grandmother, Rosemary, and bears a secret passion for the lady. Sitting on his front porch he watches her comings and goings, outwardly respectable but inwardly conceiving fantasies involving cruise ships and, most passionate of all, ballroom dancing. He watches her rounded figure leave and arrive, is thwarted in his mission to woo her by the arrival of her horde of grandchildren. The humour and the cartoony drawings are, for all David's Canadian background, quintessentially British - David and Alison were students together in Britain at the National Film and Television School - and anyone who has seen any work by contemporary Nick Park will instantly be at home with the characters. There is something lovably eccentric about the woman who bestows such love on her pet fish, a man who spruces up his bow tie for the moment of truth, fortifies himself with a "nice plate of bacon and eggs" prior to his big moment, fantasises about ballroom dancing, and even the pinny thrown over the goldfish bowl at a particularly intimate moment. The ending is not a surprise but part of the delicious warmth of it all. In the past few days I have treated myself to some animation delights. This is a very funny movie, charmingly drawn, slickly animated and fresh as a spring day. The movie was also nominated for an Oscar though the pair had to wait for Bob's Birthday in 1995 for the success their class deserved. Another post on that movie shortly. In the meantime their website is a treat.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker’s Award 2008 - Austin Formato: "The Museum"

Austin Formato's commercial for Coca Cola, The Museum, was the winner of the Coca-Cola Refreshing Filmmaker Award for 2008 with a projected 21,000 cinema screens across the USA due to see the commercial. The story is a clever one. Based in a museum art gallery in which various artistic masterpieces are displayed, a figure from the Degas portrait takes a shine to a bottle of the magic substance and reaches out of her canvas to steal the thing. Not to be outdone, Abby dives into the canvas and chases the girl around until she has retrieved the substance, allowing just sufficient time for boyfriend Jake to work out an ingenious escape route. The (in this order I think) Degas, Van Gogh, Picasso and Warhol paintings are well integrated into the action and the whole is a pleasing confection of live action and animation. Thirteen of the USA's top film schools were involved allowing them a real commercial commission with one of the great brands, not to mention $10,000 and glory. Austin teaches, presumably part-time, Commercial Production at the University of Southern California, School of Cinema / Television. He is clearly destined for the top; his summer school must be something special. By the way, speaking as an animation teacher it is very beneficial to see the storyboard.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Alison De Vere "The Black Dog"

When Alison De Vere died in 2001 we lost a huge talent in the world of animation. Today’s post is about her masterpiece, The Black Dog, made in 1987. Alongside her Café Bar and Mr Pascal, featured on the The Animation Blog, her work has an intensity and depth about it that marks it out from others. I would place her firmly beside yesterday’s Caroline Leaf as a giant of the medium. Triggered by real experience of depression, represented here by the dog of the title, the movie begins with the awakening of a young woman from her sleep by a fearsome black dog, her guide and mentor for the duration of the film. The girl is taken from her crumbled home to a bleak landscape of rocks and mountains. Attracted by the sound of raucous music, the young woman climbs towards Fata, a boutique, restaurant and club. She meets the first of creatures from the ancient world who allows her to try on pairs of shoes, until the discards litter the carpet. A full beauty make-over follows. Any pretence that this is for the good of the girl's soul is dispensed with when the creature enters the backroom where caged birds coo at each other. A pair of white doves are disturbed, their love duet rudely interrupted with the killing of one for its feathers, a fate that befalls all the caged white mink who are killed for their fur, joining the fish in the tank killed for dinner. The girl, wined and dined, dressed up to the nines, exists at the expense of the dead. Meanwhile the dog howls and eventually calls her away. Misunderstanding the message she throws the animal a bone on which he promptly urinates. For the girl it is party time and she gives herself up to the high tempo music and such excesses as are available in this hedonistic world. From hereon in the action becomes ever more firmly rooted in mythology, surrealism and symbolism. She is rescued from drowning, mummified, entombed, only to emerge from a drain in a modern city where Death is a pavement vendor and her guide still the dog though now handsomely clad in a suit. She confronts the good things of life: musicians, Shakespeare, sculptors, a painter in the sky whose drawings come alive as a white bird and a library full of riches. She carries in her arms a rolled up document from the library that looks suspiciously like a baby. Leaving the library we see the three are perched high on a pyramid above the clouds. The package is revealed to be what one suspected and the girl has to walk a precarious balancing act in the clouds. The three become a family as the mood lightens and we hear a child's laughter and light guitar music. The events turn full circle. Mixing ancient myth with the modern world (Anubis and the River Styx separating our world from Hades) Alison's complex work is not always easy to follow in all its machinations though the broad thrust is there: the choices in life, the distractions, dangers, rewards. Like her other works featured here Alison produces parables for today's society, woman in particular. Life is a difficult journey she informs us, but there is a better way of life. In this sense the beautifully designed and drawn short could have been produced today. It is ageless.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

Caroline Leaf "The Street"

The Street is one of the finest animations I have seen and its creator, Caroline Leaf, one of the all time greats. This is a classic of the first order. Made in 1976, the paint on glass movie provides an at times unsettling perspective on life though I guess it is accurate. Based on a semi-autobiographical story by Mordecai Richler, The Street is situated in the Jewish immigrant community of Montreal in the 1930s. The central character is a young boy aged 7 at the commencement of the movie who has to share a bedroom with his older sister in what is already an overcrowded tenement apartment. In a precious bedroom the boy's grandmother is dying though she takes rather longer to do this than the doctor originally decreed. The boy has been promised her room when it becomes available. Two years pass. The old woman no longer communicates in any meaningful sense while the boy grows more and more impatient for her death - though he obeys his parents and dutifully kisses his grandmother's unresponsive forehead. Mother is over-worked and over-wrought, so much so that she has to go to hospital; the grandmother goes to a home until, that is, racked with guilt, Mother returns and so does Grandmother. Father explains more than once how lucky he is, though allow for the deepest irony here: his eyes look directly at us and he takes time to chew on a toffee to reflect on his good fortune. Meantime, the boy's talk is callous both with his sister and his friends. Truths and non-truths about death and ghosts abound. When the moment arrives that the room becomes available the boy is no longer so keen, perhaps feeling guilt, more likely a terror of the dead encouraged by his sister's teasing. The voices are expressive and authentic, never more so than the narrator, Mort Ransen. One scene is exquisite. As the family gather round on the death of the grandmother, we are treated to a magnificent "camera" panorama of the domestic scene as our view weaves in and out of the assembled people crowded in the apartment. The boy's uncle and the rabbi go for a smoke on the balcony:
"There's been a death in the family, your heart is broken, and yet it's a splendid summer day, a day made for love and laughter. And that must seem very cruel to you...... and yet it's remarkable that she held out so long."
"It's amazing - the mysteries of the human heart."
The dialogue is amazing, the direction and the soft delicately drawn animation astonishing. In this magnificent scene the artistry of the director is wonderful to behold. The "camera" tours the tenements as the men speak, a mass of washing on lines and the noise of a busy community. In short, a movie with economy of visual detail, gloriously smooth transition of images, humour and understanding. The movie is available in compilation form: Leonard Maltin's Animation Favorites From the National Film Board of Canada.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Kate Steed "Death by Scrabble"

Death By Scrabble directed by Kate Steed is based on a 2005 short story of the same name by Charlie Fish. He sets the scene:
It's a hot day and I hate my wife. We're playing Scrabble. That's how bad it is. I'm 42 years old, it's a blistering hot Sunday afternoon and all I can think of to do with my life is to play Scrabble.”
The voice of Glen McCready is fitting as the discontented moaner with Zoe Anne-Phillips providing equally adroit assistance in her role as the wife who humiliates her partner at the Scrabble table. The middle aged man stuck in a rut, blaming everything that is wrong with his life on his partner, twining, moaning, fantasising, procrastinating: it is all contained in this confident movie and adaptation. Given it is based around a board game Kate has made every effort to provide variety and visual stimulation. She is not averse to shock tactics - the wife's head is blown to smithereens and Kate's intelligent manoeuvres of the Scrabble board are never less than fun, including the artful use of the pieces in the closing credits. There is also a revealing insight into the character of Sharon Stone. In the conventionally drawn 2D piece Kate has achieved a remarkably adept interpretation of the story. Humour, albeit of a dark sort, abounds. ("Do you want tea, dear?" "It's the hottest day in ten years and my wife is putting on the kettle. This is why I hate her.") The narrative's twists and turns, together with a surprising ending, provide a good script for this talented young animator. Kate's third year graduation movie was made in 2007 and, one would suspect, obtained a decent degree! A student at The University College for the Creative Arts at Surrey's Farnham campus, Kate shares a good heritage as Suzie Templeton is one of the more famous alumni. Together with Aaran Wood, Kate has set up Slurpy Studios. (Aaran's work is perhaps to be the subject of another article.) The movie is another contender at Annecy 2008. The pity of it is I'm doing my paid work at that time! I'm beginning to sound like him.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Johnny Kelly "Procrastination "

I was going to post this a few weeks ago but kept putting it off. Procrastination by Johnny Kelly is a graduation piece for his MA in Animation at the Royal College of Art in 2007. In some respects the movie is like a showreel in that so many different styles of drawing or stop frame technology are demonstrated, all to the increasingly or perhaps potentially hysterical voice-over by Bryan Quinn. I guess Johnny commenced by writing down a list of all the ways in which one might procrastinate (itself procrastination): make a cup of tea (twice), sort his sock drawers out, get drunk, pat a dog, redesign his bedroom, play a computer game, play a computer game about redesigning his room. You get the idea. In witty fashion and with an eye for design Johnny lays bare all the myriad devices I personally use to avoid actually doing anything. The first three screenshots are taken from Johnny's website, revelling in the bold use of strong colour though elsewhere as I have remarked above one could have selected, for example, shades of grey or a series of 3D envelopes each opened out to signify the endless opening or writing of e-mails, a task that increasingly deters me from working. The impressive sound editing was the work of Mike Wyeld and one can also enjoy other work from Johnny at the website he shares with brother Michael (nice work from him also and I'll get round to writing about it after I've patted my cat.) Good to see wit and artistic talent of this quality - so thanks to Josie who drew my attention to a talent to watch out for. The movie is in the midst of an extensive screening programme in the various international festivals though you can see it courtesy of the incomparable Nexus Productions site and, thanks to Johnny, a direct link to "a great big juicy quicktime of the film". Worth getting round to it, maybe, you know. In the meantime Johnny is one of the galaxy of stars at Nexus. Their site is a source of inspiration.

Thursday, 24 April 2008

Luc Perez "Shaman"

I normally post reviews of movies I have viewed in their entirety. In the case of Luc Perez’s 2008 Shaman I can only link to a four minute sequence from the 11 minute movie. This however should be enough to whet one’s appetite. It is a mystical story told in flashback concerning the attempts of the young Innuit boy Utaaq to train himself as a Shaman in order to defeat a Tupilak, an evil monster terrorising and killing the hunters. The victory is given added poignancy because we see the action from a future in which the boy has grown to manhood and is riddled with consumption. The actual sequence covered in the extract reveals Utaaq fishing in the frozen land, and enduring the ordeal of climbing into the mountains. Graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts in Lyon in 1986, Luc moved to Denmark in 1997 where he has experimented with acrylic paint scanned into 2D software. The result is fluid, distinctive animation with some ravishing depiction of the Innuit landscape. The flickering and striking imagery, strong, vibrant use of colour together with the subject matter suggest it will do well in the international festivals. Shaman is a joint Denmark/France production for the film company Dansk Tegnefilm. Like most of the movies I am featuring this week it is short-listed for Annecy 2008. Luc's technique is also used to marvellous effect in Underground Railroad Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center (the clip is taken from Acme Filmworks showcase.) The dramatic animation from the museum depicts the grim days of slavery in which a young black man flees from a ferocious dog through the swamps. Such style and technique is of the finest quality.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

Philippe Grammaticopoulos, Stéphanie Thomasson & Stéphane Gaubert "Signature" (Amnesty International)

Signature, commissioned by Amnesty International, is one of the most powerful and yet optimistic campaigning videos I have seen in quite a while. Immaculately drawn in pencil with clearly delineated illustrations, it represents a series of people in the most appalling danger: a prisoner of a brutal regime about to undergo torture, a victim in a war at his most vulnerable moment, a man about to be shot. They are each offered a lifeline in the form of a signature. The written names are then used by the victims to extricate themselves from the threat. The force of the animation lies in the sheer blinding brilliance and truth of the concept. Signatures on petitions do save lives. Organisations like Amnesty International work because they focus the world's attention on the darkest recesses of what might otherwise be completely hidden. The directors' ingenuity is in setting out the direst possible scenario and then allowing each of the five characters to use the signatures and save their lives. The message: "Your signature is more powerful than you think." And it is. Stéphanie Thomasson and Stéphane Gaubert are up for an award at Annecy 2008 though I note that Philippe Grammaticopoulos was responsible for the filming and the executive creative director was Erik Vervroegen for TBWA (Paris). The film's link is to last year's Cannes Film Lions Winners 2007 where it received a Golden Lion.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Oxfam "Be Humankind"

Oxfam's new Be Humankind television commercial was first aired on April 18th although the theme gathered pace yesterday with a supporting campaign of posters. London's Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R (RKCR/Y&R) was awarded Oxfam’s £3 million advertising business in September so this is hardly a philanthropic gesture from the agency. It must be stated though that Oxfam have got a lot for their money. The 45 second ad has plenty of oomph, with a little old lady rapidly tiring of being inactive when headlines proclaiming another Asian Flood are ignored and crawl like a colony of ants in front of her, or when mosquitoes form from Poverty headlines beamed alongside HIV from a shop window television monitor. When the most huge and slug-like Injustice monster surfaces in the town centre and is ignored by the public, the lady turns and discovers a most unladylike dragon's breath. A younger woman lends some heat to the argument. "Be aware. Ge moved. Be involved" is the message and all the public join in to flambé Injustice. Two other commercials come forcefully to mind: one that is similar in pitch and message (though totally different in style) I shall feature tomorrow in my continued build-up to Annecy: the other is Marc Craste's award winning campaign for Lloyds Bank; indeed when the woman raises her glasses at the sight of the first insects and the not dissimilar music breaks out one might have expected to see a black horse or two. (Link to the sublime RKCR/Y&R website and you will see some of the best work of its kind anywhere including, surprise surprise, Marc's work for Lloyds.) Meanwhile, in keeping with the new age, it's nice to see the ad firms recycling.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Naomi Nishimura and Jonathan Garin (Zune Arts) “Masks” for Black Angels

Fans of computer games or the band Black Angels will doubtless enjoy this all action piece to the track Young Men Dead. The movie Masks, commissioned for Zune Arts, has two tribes, the blues and reds, battling it out for supremacy on the battlefield. Massed ranks of the warriors create carnage and bits of them are scattered liberally across the screen. Time was when the victors celebrated their triumph by slaughtering the vanquished, lopping off their heads and displaying them on up-turned spears; this lot simply exchange heads and peace and tranquility breaks out. There's a bit more to it of course. By swapping the masks and revealing the hitherto hidden psychedelic world of the different tribes, differences are reconciled and the two groups sort of swap shirts with each other at the end of the game. Directors Naomi Nishimura and Jonathan Garin's 3D CGI work is, from what I can tell, integrated with stop frame techniques to good effect. The pair, alongside Lydia Holness (executive producer on this project), run the New York-based company, PandaPanther. Should all the gore get too much imbibe on a South African apple beverage I know not of, Sarita, or more particularly the ultra-refreshing new commercial, Apple Tree, created stylishly in translucent fashion as witnessed in the screenshot. The company does have a nicely varied output with Chimney Sweep being one of two shorts they made for MTV recently. Intended to raise awareness of pollution issues, this piece seems a bit guns out, boys' stuff until you realise the warplanes are firing corks at chimneys, or something like that. Masks, by the way, is one of a number of movies I have been (or will be) featuring that have successfully gained admission to Annecy 2008.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Animals Save the Planet: Aardman Animation

Animals save the Planet is a very clever advertising campaign aimed at changing the UK's profligate use of resources. Aardman Animation has been commissioned by Animal Planet to produce a series of ten animated shorts each featuring a different animal and having a diverse range of targets. Dawn French provides the narration for a cow that gets embarrassed because of all its noxious emissions (eat less meat), a camel that stores its bottled water in its hump rather than use a plastic bag (not the message being pushed here but I might add another in drinking water from the tap rather than unnecessary plastic bottle) and a polar bear that uses so much energy its ignoo melts away. The Bristol studio produced 4 seconds of footage a day. My particular favourites are the Meerkats who get coated in dust from vehicles and never moan at all. In fact they clap at the passage of a bicycle. See, you can be cute and useful at the same time.

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Matthew Walker "Operator"

"Hello, is that God? Hello God." Imagine if you will that you requested your telephone enquiries company to put you through to God. Yes, God. And imagine they did. What would be your request? The survival of a loved one perhaps, peace for mankind, prosperity for yourself? Chewing on his rather pleasant toffee apple Matthew Walker's character asks for ... well, that's the subject of today's animation, Operator. Not to spoil things too much I should add that it would not be my request but life's full of eccentric characters. Given that the animation is situated in a living room watching a guy converse on the telephone, save for a single miracle occurring outside the window, the action is not spell-binding though the lovely matter-of-fact way in which the caller converses with the great creator is great fun. The link is to last year's Bristol 2007 DepicT competition. Matthew made the short animation whilst at Newport School of Art, Media and Design. His movie has been short-listed for Annecy 2008.

Friday, 18 April 2008

John Weldon "Spinnolio"

Spinnolio appeals because of the very absence of any sentiment regarding the wooden puppet turned boy. In fact one might argue that the movie strays into the realms of deepest cynicism about life, society and, particularly, work . Take the appearance of the cricket, so important to the real movie on which Spinnolio is based: the insect appears and is promptly eaten by the cat. Spinnolio's creator desires that his boy be educated, so he is flung out onto the doorstep, luckily discovered by a student on her way to school to be unceremoniously dumped on a seat behind a desk. The puppet's final report from school says much for his progress - A's in Attention, Obedience, Attentiveness and Demeaour, complete flunks for Mathematics and Physical Education. At no point does this puppet get imbued with life! He proves an absolute wow in his place of work however, handling complaints and listening to employees' angst with total equability. Eventually he is replaced by a computer of course - in one of the few signs that this outstanding movie was made in 1977, we discover the computer is huge. John Weldon not only directed the movie but led the cartoon style animation, as well as writing the script that is revealing of life and very funny with it. You can purchase the DVD from NFB.

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Bora Moon "Polar Bear Delivery"

Having recently covered movies in which the script is the principal asset, Polar Bear Delivery is a visually cute, traditionally drawn pencil on paper piece aimed at children and adults with a soft spot somewhere. Who couldn't be charmed by a small girl who is befriended, or befriends, a polar bear? The bear acts as scooter transporter of the little child from her orphanage to her new parents. She's a cute thing all right, parcelled up nicely for the journey and has an equally nice line in giggles. Together the pair sit and watch the sunset, picnic in the forest, scatter flower petals, get lost, and snooze the night away. If you like bright colours, warm landscapes and escape from it all pleasantry then this is a film for you (and most definitely me.) The movie got into the Ottawa International Animation and made Bora "Sooo happy~~ Dream comes true!" 24 year old Bora Moon comes from Ottawa, graduated from Sheridan College (where she received help from fellow student Arzu Fallahi on the backgrounds) and works in the animation profession. You can check out Bora's Whole New World blog.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Gene Deitch "Munro"

The winner of the 1960 Oscar for Best Animated Short, Munro, is as fresh as anything produced in animation today. It is a snappy satire on military life in which a four year old is accidentally drafted into the army, passing his medical because the staff doctors were too busy posing for photographs with a drafted celebrity. No-one takes a blind bit of notice of his youth, the military operating in a strictly unintelligent, mechanical way, protocol not personal. The doctor is typical. Sick of sick leave dodgers he paces up and down his waiting room where the lines of men (and boy) await his tender care:
"Everybody's faking, everybody's faking, everybody's faking. You! What's wrong with you?"
"I'm only four."
"How long you been feeling this way?"
"I'm only four."
"Open your mouth, we'll soon fix this."
Czech animators worked on the production: Zdenek Smetana, Mirek Kačena, Milan Klikar, Jindřich Barta and Věra Kudrnová. I am a very great fan of Czech animation and the whole movie progresses swimmingly if in conventional form for its six minutes. However it is the sharply written script from celebrated cartoonist and playwright Jules Ralph Feiffer, and the sardonic tones of the late Howard Morris as narrator that really scores. Some of the other voices seem a family concern with Seth Deitch (as Munro), Marie Deitch and Jules Feiffer himself. Whether it be general, barrack soldiers, sergeant or chaplain, the characterisation is just peach.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

Radiohead Animated Video Competition Revisited

I thought it time to pop back to aniBOOM to see how their Radiohead animated video competition is progressing. We are still in the storyboard stages and from the 400 entries received so far a number appeal, certainly more than I presently have time to enjoy.. AniBOOM have certainly given their all with a sophisticated countdown arrangement that certainly leaves none in any doubt as to the process. Daisy Edwards has a well drawn piece, very feminine though no harm in that at all and "Daisy" is a name that has a certain appeal at the moment. The most popular video when I last looked appears to be that of David Arafat with a nicely chosen song and a delicately coloured piece concerning the travels of a top hat clad man and his dog. Very classy piece in the making this. An exemplary storyboard has been produced by Gregel Oirom suggesting an atmospheric piece about a guy losing his girl, reinventing her within a television set from what I can deduce. 28th April is the deadline for storyboards. As I said aniBOOM have given this the big heave and talented people are responding. Sadly at a busy time for me to fully respond.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Candy Guard "The Wrong Type"

It is not only the artwork that makes an animation. Candy Guard's wonderful 1991 The Wrong Type most definitely has that delightful cartoonist's eye, a knack of expressing much with just the minimum of detail as can be seen in the screenshot. However it is her talent for writing dialogue that is both laugh aloud hilarious and so perceptive of life, and an urban woman's life in particular. She knows the concerns, trials, tribulations, deceptions, extravagances, insecurities and sheer in your face superficiality of modern day living. Roxanne hires temps for Supertemps: "All our temps are super, you could be one of our temps and be super too." The new recruit has a few problems meeting the 45 words a minute stipulation. Her trial at Supertemps managed some 45 words less than the minimum requirement. At the new office the poor girl's difficulties continue, not helped by a brisk boss with a tight Leeds accent. "File this under Gambia. Now!" Candy is a true director and guides a glorious cast of voices: Elizabeth Rider, Sarah Kennedy and Robert Brydon. Alongside Joanna Quinn Candy is one of the nation's treasures. The sharpness, nuances and wit of the dialogue is a thing of deep joy. Roxanne is not at all discomforted by a telephone call from the new temp's superior towards the end of the first morning in post. She has a bright breezy telephone manner and calls her new employee up for a girl to girl chin wag ending with the upbeat: "No problem, just take your lunch at one and then don't go back and that's fine, okay!" Candy's work may be seen in snippets at the truly sensational studio, Sherbet. Of course you may also know Candy for one of my favourite animated series, Pond Life.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Aleksandr Petrov "The Mermaid"

In 1997 Geri’s Game directed by Jan Pinkava won the Academy Award. One of the short listed movies it was preferred to was Russian director Aleksandr Petrov's The Mermaid, (or the YouTube version Rusalka and
Rusalka 2) the subject of this post. Based on an Alexander Pushkin poem, the story is of an elderly priest whose past mistreatment of a young girl returns to haunt him as the young trainee he is responsible for is seduced by a nymph of the sea. In a breathtaking early sequence the young man sees a girl drowning in the fast moving ice drifts, her arms helplessly grasping for safety, her voice calling out in alarm. He rescues her only for the girl to disappear, leaving footprints to the ocean. She reappears and in a series of charming sequences the pair cavort together. There is a legend of a mythological Slavic creature, the Rusalka, who would charm young men with her song and dance only to take revenge - though Wikipedia has an interesting note that the girls are not always malevolent. I am also too well aware of the story of the Sirens and maybe I should be lashed to the mast for the pair's adventures do seem like reciprocated, if innocent, love to me. In a series of flashbacks we learn that the youth's mentor had known the girl in his early life but had chosen to marry another. We guess she had taken her life and that her reappearance is an attempt to wreak revenge. A single wrinkle of the girl's nose at the appearance of the old man is sufficient to suggest malice however, though the conclusion where malevolence (or sheer foolhardy exhilaration of young love) leads to a capsized boat is somewhat confused by the appearance of a tempest over the water that might just interpret the incident as accident rather than revenge. I mentioned at the outset the excellent Geri's Game though I personally would have awarded Petrov the prize - a situation that resolved a year or so later and the subject of my next post on this inspirational animator. I have read criticism referring to a confusion in Aleksandr's story-telling. It is certainly truncated in the movie, particularly in the arguably melodramatic flashback of the wedding, and perhaps the ending is not what I would have chosen, though there is a subtlety in the movie that renders any definitive explanation difficult. It is sumptuously drawn in oil on glass, the detail being extraordinary. Just watch how the technique works as beads of water trickle down the girl's hair or as her hand appears through the ice flow.

Saturday, 12 April 2008


Sorry about the break in transmission: holiday; food poisoning (Haringey/tiramisu); new addition to the family (Daisy, mother and father much more than fine!) Tomorrow to celebrate is an absolute classic animation.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Edward "Eddie" Selzer "Birds Anonymous"

Why would Sylvester receive a card from a member of Birds Anonymous? Well, Tweety Pie has some help in his battle with the "bad oll pussy cat" from a softly spoken feline friend who in no time at all has Sylvester up on stage protesting his guilty secrets to fellow members. The trouble is the television is full of cookery programmes about basting birds whilst the radio has an inexhaustible supply of birdie songs to encourage any self-respecting cat to do mischief. And can any addict ever truly be said to be cured? "I'm weak and I don't care." This very funny cartoon won the Academy Award in 1957. Birds Anonymous gained the director, Edward "Eddie" Selzer, one of five career Oscars. As can be seen from the screenshot, all this abstinence does a cat no good at all!

Monday, 7 April 2008

Dana Farbe & Yonatan Cnaan "7 Dakot"

7 Dakot is a rather fetching music video by Californian Dana Farbe for the Israel based Yonatan Cnaan. Commencing with a geometric line drawing in which a lone figure runs, walks and then dives from the sky within a decidedly urban landscape, the figure then pays homage to the singer by scaling up a vertical wall alongside a giant screen showing the man at work. From here things get a little more cosmic. I know little of the singer or animator, but it's a good song and a neat music video.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Daniel Greaves "Manipulation"

The 1992 Academy Award winner Manipulation by Daniel Greaves is a true classic and if you have never seen it, you are missing a gem. Daniel takes his role as animator/ creator/ God to extremes. First he draws the figure on blank paper before discarding it, only for the sketch to take on a life of his own. However, this is no Frankenstein but a rather stubborn 2D creation who refuses to be subdued as the artist rubs him, stubs him, crushes him, reassembles him ... you have the idea. Daniel weaves humour and inventiveness into the narrative. The red fill drains from the figure's body but is squeezed like putty into a ball, juggled with and played with before being bounced ferociously across the screen prior to smashing into the "camera". On a whim the manipulator attaches puppet strings to the poor fellow who is stretched and contorted without dignity. You can't keep a good creation down though. Scrunched up and disposed of in the bin, the intrepid little fellow emerges in glorious 3D. A very clever movie and if I might once again recommend a stalwart of my DVD collection, British Animation Classics Vol. 2 .