Saturday, 31 May 2008

Emma Calder "Springfield"

I've been away. Maybe I should get in some guest writers? I have remarked before on the durability of quality animation. Emma Calder made Springfield in 1986 and I swear no-one would have known it was not released yesterday. Emma's heroine is half woman, half vacuum cleaner. Well to be exact, her bottom half is machine the top half rather attractive woman, at least she is when she dolls herself up and ventures out of the house. Before that though there's an awful lot of hoovering and dusting to be done. Her only relationship appears to be with her black cat. Oh, and have I mentioned the housework. Apart from one moment when the vinyl on the turntable transports her back to her holidays at the seaside and she is happy, the woman has a lonely life up there in her multi-storey apartment surrounded by photographs of the cats. Cue for a spot of make-up at the mirror and off she goes to join similarly rather lonely women at the bingo hall. Decisions about her life's direction need to be taken before the poor girl drowns. This accomplished film deals wittily with the subject of a woman in danger of losing both confidence and identity. The drawings have a sense of fun about them, whether it be zooming in to the underside of the vacuum cleaner or the multi coloured collection of ladies poring over their numbered cards; and always there is a certain zaniness to the piece, counterpointed by a sadness such as the view from the upstairs tower block. Emma's animation/design studio in London is Pearly Oyster Productions. She qualified from London College of Printing and, as if I didn't guess, the Royal College of Art. A word for Ged Haney, who also works at the studio. Ged produced the words and music that manages to be of its time and yet modern. It is a quite exceptional soundtrack of songs and melodies that succeeds in capturing the zest and occasional delicacy of the enterprise. More work by Emma to be reviewed here shortly as I'm a great fan.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Norman McLaren "Begone Dull Care"

This is an item for my ipod. Bop jazz music by the Oscar Peterson trio and a 1949 piece of work by Norman McLaren that defies the years. Begone Dull Care does banish the blues with an abstract mix of shapes and colour splashes bouncing in perfect synchronisation to the music. A graduate of the Glasgow School of Art, Norman was a great experimenter and pioneer. This seven minute piece was created by scratching on the blank film strip and adding paint and dyes to match. The coordination of colour sequences to different musical sections and instruments is a remarkable feat. A most informative, thorough description of the animator's work has been produced by Bill Schaffer from Newcastle University.

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Ben Minton "The Guard Dog"

Ben Minton's hero in The Guard Dog seems hardly up to the task of thwarting a determined burglar. He shakes in terror and makes a little puddle whilst his owner blissfully is unaware of the danger. This is a modern home however with a burglar deterrent built into the electric toaster. The owner seems mightily unimpressed by his canine defender and off he goes back to bed after handing the pooch the mop and bucket. This was Ben's graduation piece in 2004 from Newport School of Art, Media & Design and has some simply drawn if appealing 2D animation.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Simon Rouby "Le Présage" (The Omen)

A man leaves his hand-made dwelling in a wilderness and treks out in search of food. Resting a while he sees a mysterious figure. A time shift occurs and he is transported into the urban world with all its rush and noise. An omen of the future? He returns to his home. The story is sparse but Le Présage (the Omen) is an unusual and artistically creative piece. Simon Rouby made his graduation movie on an exchange between two of the great training institutions of the world for animation, Gobelins, L'ecole de l'image and the California Institute of the Arts. I am going to feature some other Gobelins work in the next week or so and that school of excellence is noted for its awesome computer generated work. Simon uses computers all right but his film is rooted in his traditional skill as an artist. The character is roughly sketched with the swirls and strokes having an attractive starkness in its loosely rendered state. The texture of the skin and the background is given a watercolour effect that in the sunset or the brightness of the desert has a dramatic beauty about it. The contrast of wilderness and city is well made. From the oasis of the college environment these young men and woman have to venture out into the harsh commercial world. Nothing whatsoever to do with the animation, just me musing,. Not that someone so obviously talented as Simon should experience too many problems making the transition. Visit his blog, Direct420 and admire and enjoy the work of this startlingly talented artist and animator, or watch the short video, the making of the movie.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Lauren Child "Charlie and Lola"

I know a three year old who loves Bafta Award winning Charlie and Lola and I do too. We are used to praising the classics of children's animation but look here, we may have one in our midst. I Will Not Ever Never Eat a Tomato is the episode I watched at the weekend in which five year old Lola proclaims very confidently just how much she detests the fruit (and other vegetables and fruits that are good for growing kids.) Seven year old Charlie proceeds to show her the error of her ways. We are transported along with the sister to a magic world in which the fruits appear in a different guise. To illustrate, how about the humble carrot? Little green men on Mars love carrots and change colour accordingly whilst garden peas are Green Drops from the sky and the world has an emerald glow. It is produced for the BBC by Tiger Aspect whose claim to fame was the animated Mr Bean. Lauren Child's massively selling picture books have been adapted since 2005 to animations perfectly blending a collage of simple drawings, fabric, live action footage and some use of cut-outs. The children's voices and the always imaginative presentations work beautifully. YouTube seems to have several episodes posted at present though my wife tells me it's an ever-present on UK television's CBeebies: in two sections then - Tomato and Tomato 2. You may also enjoy the interactive Charlie and Lola website. and even purchase DVDs of a much higher quality than YouTube. And, my word, Wikipedia delivers on the series.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

"Indigen" Nicolas Chevallier, Laurent Sauvage, Alexandre Theil, Julien Vanhoenacker

For Tom and Jerry, or Road Runner, read more gory (as in much more) 3D Supinfocom extravaganza in which a squirrel and local boy have a little tussle involving hand grenades, rocket launchers, satellite controlled missiles and finally, the big daddy of them all, the nuke bomb. And if my treatment sounds a little cavalier just watch this product of the over fertile minds of four former students of the renowned Supinfocom CCI Valenciennes. Yesterday's movie extolled the virtues of the hand directed paintbrush, today's Indigen is pure computer. In the hands of this quartet (Nicolas Chevallier, Laurent Sauvage, Alexandre Theil, Julien Vanhoenacker) the digital graphics are lethal. Once you get used to the violent splurge of course it's all good wholesome fun as hands and skulls are blown up and ripped apart, miraculously coming together for the next frantic moment. One's attention is gripped by the two howling in terror or malevolence for the full five minutes. With a loud soundtrack made up of loud music (Frank Zappa for one) the whole thing goes with a bang. A great movie full of wit and verve. The link is to YouTube but you can download the movie from the team's website although I found it a bit slow and almost gave up, the exact reverse of my feelings towards this entertaining film. The high definition download is worth the wait however.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Erica Russell "Feet of Song"

Erica Russell has no peer when it comes to animated choreography. Feet of Song was her first dance film made in 1989 for Channel 4. It was also the first film made by her then studio, Eyeworks. She describes the film as a celebration of African Dance and certainly composer and musical director Charlie Hart has done her proud with a music soundtrack that is resplendent in African and South American melodies and rhythms. Feet of Song essentially rejoices in dancers, performing solo, in pairs or small groups. They are highlighted or silhouetted against changing backdrops. The dance has moments of passion and courtship, sometimes pure joy. One moment the dancer is a bird parading for his mate, the next the single slash for arms or wings is transformed effortlessly to waves in the ocean. Always there is the fluidity of movement that is Erica's trademark, allied to her skill as artist and sculptor reflected in the sumptuous use of colour or the pared down lines. This economic use of her brush, or air brush, is another trademark. She does not waste paint. Her figures have two colours, one bold for definition or highlight, the other, chosen from a softer palette acting as a foil; often the combination of colours is unexpected but works wonderfully well. And always there is the music and the choreography, the dancers in overt courtship or synchronised in sequence routines. There is a strength to the figures too, the men unmistakably male through the strength of their torso, the women lithe, a perfect counterpoise. At times the movement is of their constituent parts alone, abstract slashes of colour, again in equilibrium. I have written equally enthusiastically on Erica's Oscar nominated Triangle. I can't think off hand of a more vibrant or dynamic animator. As a footnote, if you want to see an artist at work in the world of advertising retaining integrity and oozing quality look at this offering for Levi women's jeans: Sensual is so hot it makes one want to get into them, so to speak.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Dik Jarman "Dad's Clock"

Short of the Week is currently featuring my comments on a movie I think is just wonderfully produced with a set to linger over. Dik Jarman's Dad's Clock is one of three movies I've written up for Andrew Allen's intelligent review site. So far my features involve rather more sadness than fun so I'm in danger of being typecast. Next one, Andrew, I promise you mirth. Dik's movie is, nevertheless, one I'm glad to have highlighted.

Bill Justice "Jack And Old Mac"

I haven't written up any Walt Disney for some time. Here's a jazz number, Jack And Old Mac, made in 1956. Bill Justice directed and Al Coe, Bob Carlson and Jack Parr did the animating. Essentially it is two animated jazz numbers, This is the House that Jack Built being the first. Apart from the style of music, there's something about the backdrops to the simply drawn figures that smack of a different era. The violet, purple and indigo are not what I would have chosen and yet the the short swings along as letters transform to characters (or house) and the maiden milks the cow by pumping his tail. Old MacDonald (had a Band) has the same repetitious form of lyrics and the same singers though peculiarly the style is different, the farmyard animals being more realistically drawn and dancing their steps with gusto. This second half has a beatnik pounding his piano, drinking hard liqueur and smoking his pipe; there's also a neat little jive routine. Disney's world is full of these quirky pieces fitting into no particular category and giving a flavour of their age whilst proving to have a very long shelf life. In the informative Disney Legends site there is an interesting story about Bill Justice. When asked if he ever tired of drawing Micky Mouse, Bill replied, "Have you seen me draw Mickey upside down?" He then did so - effortlessly. Born in 1914 Bill lives with his wife Kim in Granada Hills, California. His Noah's Ark is another animation I intend to feature shortly.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Tobias Stretch "Illuminant"

Two of the outcomes of my venturing into the AniBoom-Radiohead competition were several emails and some most interesting work. Tobias Stretch entered the competition unsuccessfully though his Radiohead animation looks pretty impressive to me: I should have enjoyed his stop motion piece very much if the revolving fish and drawings are anything to go by. (Mad Max comes to mind with the fish for absolutely no reason that I can discern other than a certain madness and deliberate incongruity - though the rest of the snazzily drawn storyboard with Octopus Man, Gliderman and Tree Giant is something out of Lewis Caroll or Mervyn Peake .) Anyhow, it's a tad more imaginative than most of the entries and could have been very special. I was taken to task by one commentator on the blog who pointed out that the track record of the storyboarders could have been checked out by AniBoom researchers to ensure the credentials were correct. So here I turn to a completed work by Tobias - Illuminant. To a moody track from Danish band Efterklang, we are first treated to a glorious display of illuminant light from which emerges a transparent head, swiftly followed by a more recognisably wintry landscape over which a two headed figure in a wheelchair careers along before overturning. The two old men (man) are or is redeemed or saved by the appearance of a newly born or nearly born baby who appears to reinvigorate them/him for re-entry to the world of blinding light. That's it as far as explanation of meaning goes but there is something fascinating in the work. The images are spectacular: the gargoyle like heads leering from the light, the baby peering at us as from the womb, spectacular time lapse photography of dusk and the disquieting old men out of control or still as death as the vehicle is overturned. Don't seek for meaning but enjoy a splendid visual and aural feast. Radiohead, look what you missed. Tobias' website is a bit of a treasure trove, by the way, multi-talented.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Marco Besar "La leyenda del espantapájaros" ("The Legend of the Scarecrow")

There's a scene in the original Frankenstein movie in which the good scientist's creation smiles at a member of the public who repays him by screaming the house down, a little scene that leads inexorably to a chase and the direst of consequences. In La leyenda del espantapájaros our hero is a scarecrow whose role is to frighten crows though he'd much rather be friends. When he attempts to administer first aid to a passing bird he does rather more harm than good and a cheerful wave to a sleeping peasant is misinterpreted. Some of the animated scenes of the windmills and the mob armed with torches and I know not what else are vividly realised in a mixture of 2D and 3D work. It's all very dramatic and don't expect happy endings. Born in 1969 and based in Madrid, writer and director Marco Besar's 2005 short is exciting, accomplished and overcomes any lack of Spanish.

Friday, 16 May 2008

“MONSTERJAM” Animation Competition

Call For Animation Submissions for National Film Board Cinema Screening in Toronto, the premier online animation community, is co-sponsoring the Toronto “MONSTERJAM” Animation contest. Animators are challenged to create a 10-second animated film featuring monsters created with any animation technique.

MyToons is excited about co-sponsoring the first “MonsterJam,” said Paul Ford, co-founder and president of MyToons. “We encourage everyone to get their monster animations turned in and we look forward to seeing the monstrous results in Toronto in June.”

Animations should be submitted to TAIS (Toronto Animated Image Society) and will be edited into a film which will be screened at the TAIS Summer Showcase at the National Film Board Cinema in Toronto in late June.Films should be submitted on CD/DVD-Rom. Format should be a 720 x 480 Quicktime. Include your name, contact info, a brief bio, and 2 stills (.jpg) from your film. Unleash your monsters!

Send submissions to: Toronto Animated Image Society, RE: Monster Edition60 Atlantic Ave. Suite 102, Toronto, ON M6K1X9

To submit film via e-mail, or for any questions about MonsterJam, e-mail: Submission deadline is May 30th, 2008.

Co-sponsors are, Channel Frederator, Monster Factory and the Beguiling. MONSTER giveaways include a chance for entrants to win a hand-crafted stuffed monster toy from Monster Factory or one signed copy of either Jellaby by Kean Soo or Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi.

For info.

Animated Credits "Pink Panther"

Sorry for the delay in posting - the paid work sort of had to take precedence this week and I have another written project to undertake. Working on animated screen credits with my students we have been enjoying the three minute sequence for the 2006 The Pink Panther, Steven Martin movie. In case you miss the team responsible for the animation credits, they are animation director Bob Kurtz, animator Eric Goldberg, and animation editor Ken Smith. To the immortal Henry Mancini theme music, the debonair panther cavorts in a glistening, scintillating, almost over-powering pink, from champagne bubble bath with lady bathing, strutting underneath pink ladies’ legs, and above a sparkling pink Paris with the landmarks shimmering in the pink moonlight. The animated wit flows like champagne in a movie that was a little flat at times if I have to be truthful. Not so for the credits. Whether sprucing himself up in a hall of mirrors, catching bubbles in his mouth, treading on pink footprints, or soaring in the sky on a pink balloon, the animated character steals the show. It is a classy show-stopping sequence at the start of the movie.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Delphine Hermans "L'enveloppe jaune" (The yellow envelope)

L'enveloppe jaune (The yellow envelope/ 2007) by Belgian director, Delphine Hermans, is an innocent, endearing tale of lonely Anna who receives the yellow envelope of the title containing a brochure for an inflatable man. Perhaps this is the answer to her dreams. The next morning she answers the door to the postman delivering the requisite package. But life with an inflated man is much over-rated and Anna sets off on her travels into the real world where she encounters a real man or two and an inflatable woman. Counterpointing any pathos in the tale is the girl's faithful pooch who emulates in his doggy way what his mistress does, paddles after her and howls when she takes her new acquisition into the bedroom. The drawing is very pleasing in a rather quirky fashion with a series of different angles and perspectives, strong colour, and a nice line in blushes that reveals Anna's emotions. There's also a surprising, satisfying ending I should have seen coming but didn't. The sound effects and the original music by Garrett List add something to the matter of fact way in which odd behaviour appears as if normal. An interesting comparison might be made with Alison Snowden's Second Class Mail.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Mamoru Oshii "Murphy's Irish Stout"

The UK is sweltering in an unseasonal and very welcome heat wave following a cold spring. Just the moment for a drop of the dark liqueur on the lawn. I have been preparing a post on the Japanese director, Mamoru Oshii, so in his commercial for Murphy's Irish Stout you see what a big budget and an even bigger director can do. There's not a lot that's Irish and an awful amount that's pure Japanese genius. The build-up to the arrival in the bar is breath-taking as the Samurai warrior makes his way via underground sewers, up and out of the manhole cover, through a neon light city, leaping from automobile to automobile underneath the admiring gaze of the blonde in the glass tower; and no, it's not a scrap, he's got the scent of Irish stout in his nostrils and is just in time to meet his mates at the pub. Pure genius, to steal a phrase from Murphy's main competitor. In passing we see the guys who quarrelled with the gang the previous evening sort of tied up for the night and the old fellow with the mechanical leg ringing our bell. Pastiche comes no sweeter than this.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

AniBoom & Radiohead & Karen Penman & Liam Brazier "Two times three times" (Reason or Romanza)

British animators Karen Penman and Liam Brazier together form the not insubstantial fledgling studio Little Nobody. Liam was largely responsibe for the studio's glorious video for Amplifico, Yeah, You can be my Muse , that fought its way into my Top Ten Animated Shorts for 2007. This was a computer animated, beautifully designed short with a conspicuous wit about it. The pair worked on another film What Cassandra Saw that married live footage with animation. Another of their works, Thou Shalt Always Kill, previewed via the link when short-listed for BAF07, was an altogether different movie with whole tins of graffiti sprayed on a wall and recently named as top rated video in the Babelgum Online Film Festival. And the reason for the history? Well, in addition to previewing their latest work I just wanted to point to one of those unsuccessful entries for the AniBoom/Radiohead competition that was in embryonic form and, as the studio's track record for diversity amd completion has shown, would have been glossed up for the final stages of the competition. Some of the very articulate contributors to the forum seem to suggest the only good videos are from fans of the band and/or individuals. Little Nobody is a small studio and their entry is as valid as an individual. Whether or not they are fans of Radiohead is immaterial for them or indeed any of the animators who submitted entries. Their take on Reckoner was entered in the spirit of the competition; that is, it was original, made within the time frame and very much in an unpolished form. I'm not claiming it should have got into the top ten, though it's as good as several there (and there are some equally good ones not short listed.) The key players, magpies, look at this early stage very much the quickly cut-out props they are though any trawl of the studio's website would have assured the organisers of the animators' bona fide credentials to move from cumbersome to winsome cut-outs as required. (I would personally have preferred to watch Liam and Karen's magpies strut their stuff than risk boredom as inconsequential clouds form in a dim room or coloured balls float in an underground parking lot.) Still, the Animation Blog exists to showcase animations I enjoy, it's not a forum. Should you be interested, however, in addition to the excellent forum run by AniBoom, try Adult Swim or Dig as examples brought to my attention in this morning's mailbox. By the way, Radiohead is an astonishingly intelligent band and also the band of the people so I'm sure they will be heartened to note that AniBoom allowed a man of the people to represent the company on the forum when reacting to intelligent concerns. And quickly onwards to a necessarily truncated review of Little Nobody's Two times three times for Reason or Romanza. It's a car ride along the out of season seafront of Southend - I think: windows open, views of sea and sparse day trippers, coloured origami creations materialising either on the back seat, or outside escorting the moving vehicle. Whether they be folding, hopping or flying, the stop frame figures are remarkably effective in adding something to the music. This is where another connection with the Radiohead competition comes in. Unlike some of the selected competition semi-finalists, the video and music form an organic whole. The electronic beat of the music is synchronised with the ever changing forms being created as if by magic on the car seats, or the passing figures strolling along the promenade, or the speeding car. Sometimes, as when a butterfly is formed, there is a beauty bestowed on the scene and always there is an edgy magic to the production. An imaginative, original approach. And finally, will those magpies ever fly again?

Friday, 9 May 2008

Top Three Radiohead Videos

AniBoom’s forum for their Radiohead competition has been red hot since the semi-finalists were announced. Disappointed entrants have understandably taken the opportunity to air their grievances. I have even submitted my feelings on the matter of what constitutes a storyboard. To judging babies and dogs, one must add animation – I know this, from bitter experience! AniBoom is a huge resource and outlet for all those involved in the animation industry. Their team has been working flat out, to judge from the emails and information I have received from the team, together with a first rate website exposure. In their defence, in selecting a short list the judges clearly need to know that the animator has the capacity to animate their storyboard. Therefore the ideal would be storyboard plus short animated extract.

So away from the furore of what was preconceived prior to the contest or not, here’s my three suggestions for the final. It's a personal view of course and certainly not one I couldn't be persuaded out of in debate.

Four movies are so good they simply don’t need the lure of the competition to activate them. (I’m sure their creators would not agree, or the AniBoom panel, maybe the band itself.) Preston by Marko Milankovic has all the makings of a stunning 3D piece, an award winner in its own right. Its relationship to Radiohead is tenuous however. Ditto for 15step by Hideyuki Kota. Reckoner by Clement Picon is almost the finished article ready for release with or without the track. The movement is terrific. Wish Away the Nightmare (Jigsaw) by Henning Koczy is reminiscent of Ivan Maximov and therefore supremely stylish. From what I can see it's just about complete. All four movies are given top marks but not, at this storyboard stage, in a competition for Radiohead.
The top three then:
Faust Arp Video by Dany Saadia has excited interest on the forum but I think it is distinctive enough for me to see it developed to full length. I quibbled with the lack of storyboard but quality is quality and, as one correspondent has informed me, less than a minute has been produced so far. I’m also reminded that Dany is the director, not animator. One final note, I like the colour as it is, the washed out, faded quality adds something.

Zoo by Anthony Catania is also distinctive and if it is animated as well as it has been drawn I think it could be tremendous. Great idea. I can see that triumphant escape of the previously caged animals into a different world, a sort of Ark without Noah.

All I Need by Gerhard Human has been produced to a impressively high quality as far as it goes. Revolution’s in the air and a cheque for $10,000 may just stimulate the unrest. I suppose I want to see how it develops.

So that's it. Glad I'm not the judge. Tomorrow it's back to my normal routine of praising animations of a quality that I could only dream of creating. I need to add that the image of Radiohead used above was taken from an interesting blog linking the band with Philip Larkin.

Thursday, 8 May 2008

AniBoom & Radiohead Animated Video Competition - the semi finalists (2)

Faust Arp Video by Dany Saadia is a one minute section of a longer movie though one would have expected at this stage in the competition designated “storyboard” to have seen evidence of how the movie is to develop. Presumably it is the stylish depiction of some train commuters that has won over the panel. The characters’ faces have a cartoon quality with over large eyes and some nicely realised background and perspectives. What the young woman is getting up to in her travels and shopping I have not the slightest idea. The note under the movie suggests there is still colour correction to do which may well be true but for an obviously very talented artist and animator such a comment is insufficient. More detail in the intentions please, Dany. I like it though.

15step by Hideyuki Kota is an exciting Japanese anime with our hero sprinting for all he is worth along streets before performing a huge leap for the stars, a gravity defying act that is shown in a mind-blowing explosion of colour. The animation is not complete though we are treated to fairly advanced drawings to indicate the future evolution of the project. I received an interesting reaction to yesterday’s post essentially complaining that the selected videos had strayed beyond individuals’ storyboards into preconceived animations switched opportunistically towards the contest. Hideyuki may well, as one AniBoom respondent suggests, work for a studio. Clearly not all this work has been completed within the time frame. Visually stunning in places, professional through and through, though not, sadly, entirely my cup of tea.

16tracks vs videotape by 16tracks jaiserwinter is set in an underground car park, never the most relaxing of places, and superimposes various computer generated effects (cubes, balloons and some odd objects I can’t identify) onto video footage. This suits the band’s rather plaintive track though whether or not such a location can inspire four minutes' entertainment will be seen when the piece is properly put together. It depends on the computer effects and a greater sense of menace, perhaps, than is evident in this storyboard (remember) draft.

Zoo by Anthony Catania is, ha ha, a genuine storyboard showing what happens to the inhabitants 24 hours after the human keepers and race mysteriously die. Drawings of anguished animals abound, all expertly executed in sketch form though with some coloured in to show the end result. Anthony has concentrated on the drawings and I have no idea if his animation is up to it, though his entry is entirely within the spirit and stage of the competition. Watching animals starve to death is beyond even the anguish evoked in the band’s songs and it’s good to note the electricity failure triggers an escape route for the troop of animals who forget rivalries and head for the exit.
Wish Away the Nightmare (Jigsaw) by Henning Koczy is a slickly animated piece depicting the flight from what I presume is either an abuser father or husband by a young girl who attempts to flee the dangers of pole dancing and alcohol. There's genuine quality to spare here and quite amazingly so given the tight time frame. The music is up tempo for Radiohead and suits a chase scene well. Drawing like this and animation skills to boot make me want to see more. Not all the scenes are finished so I guess this is still storyboard.
The jury will retire to consider tomorrow's verdict. I'm a little sad that none of the videos I featured here a time back got into the top ten, albeit I only dipped my toes into a very few of the first entries. Judging by my mailbox AniBoom are putting a lot of energy into the competition and 900 entries is a fair return.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

AniBoom & Radiohead Animated Video Competition - the semi finalists (1)

Radiohead commissioned AniBoom to conduct an international competition for their next animated music video. I will review the first five contenders today and the other five tomorrow when I aim to announce the Animation Blog's editorial team's winner! Reckoner by Clement Picon has the world changing, cities building and overcrowding as the planet expands. Hints of ecological issues in this 2D piece though there is a beauty in the expansion of humanity as portrayed here. Clement’s video begins with the growth of a single seed or hair follicle perhaps, all in black and white shades though as it progresses into space colour is introduced to good effect. The track suits the visuals well. We are still in the storyboard stages though this looks pretty damn near complete to me.

Preston by Marko Milankovic has an aluminium, or is it titanium, giant goddess being constructed by a guy in goggles inside this massive factory or aircraft hanger. In spectacular 3D CGI graphics the huge woman begins to come alive, though her controller loses control and she jets off into the distance pursued by maker in a flying machine. I have no idea how long it took Marco to create this and I guess it was on the boards before the competition because this is fine animating by anyone’s measurement. Marko has about one third of the movie complete, the rest being storyboarded as befits this stage in the competition. I want to see the final product regardless of its progress in the competition.

Nude - 1000 Pound Bomb by Paul Beck focuses on America’s military machine with actual footage of warfare technology having superimposed heads and things. A certain juxtaposition of the politicians, generals, cruise missiles and the like suggest a little eminently sensible cynicism about the war. It is not so expertly or technically animated, as yet anyway, compared with other contenders and I have reservations about the coarseness of the “masks” - Mickey Mouse and Hefner’s Bunny, or whatever, need more expressive qualities than this. I’d like to see more subtlety here to match parts of the movie that do effectively present their case. Still, storyboard stage....

All I need by Gerhard Human has similarities to Marko's in that it commences in a factory in which a group of workers prepare for revolution or war. It also has a giant monster coming alive. This time the animation is determinedly 2D as the furry animals work in a beautifully conceived and drawn factory with lots going on and squirts of steam escaping into the air. The monster looks like the people's champion to me as, in storyboard, draft fashion we see the giant receiving popular acclaim from the populace. A great track and a technically adept piece I definitely want to see more of.

Reckoner by ViDEOGRUPPE has what I take to be a red puppet sitting morosely in a rather dingy interior watching a plant pot containing a vaporous fungi that gradually takes over the room, transforming into a theatrical set full of the things. The camera pans around a lot but the figure is insufficiently developed to actually express anything and there is no storyboarding that I can discern, though it's certainly a mile or three away from the finished product. Not my favourite from the 900 entries.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008


I've been keeping an eye on the Radiohead animated video contest despite a busy time at work. Released this evening, the ten finalists are as follows, in no particular order. - Reckoner - Jigsaw Falling Into Place - Nude – All I Need - Reckoner - Faust Arp - 15 Step - Videotape - nude - Jigsaw Falling Into Place

I'll also be having a look and making my views known tomorrow. Visit

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Gary Rydstrom "Lifted"

I have to say straight away that I am no fan of green aliens in flying saucers. Gary Rydstrom's short, Lifted, made in 2006, converts me however. I've seen the sort of thing before, somewhere, it escapes me... space craft approaches sleeping boy in lonely farm and beams the horizontal figure up on a beam of light into a gleaming Tardis of the galaxy. The visuals are impressive as for the first minute light defies gravity and our boy is up and away to the stars. Then there's a hitch. Two tree frog green aliens, of the same colour but different build, mess up big time. Ever tried to control one of those grab machines at the fairground and direct that spectacular bunch of nothing into the claws and the shute? You probably had more success than our friendly alien confronted by a daunting array of shiny and utterly identical controls. His sleeping target remains asleep despite the best efforts of the controller to disturb him. The movie was short-listed for an Academy Award in 2007 and was Gary's first attempt at directing - he's normally content with securing Oscars for his sound editing and has seven to his credit. Lifted is available in compilation form for a ridiculously small sum - Pixar Short Films Collection - Volume 1. There are two belly laughs in the movie and it sustains interest troughout its five minutes or so. Marco Milone, as has occurred several times, got to the movie I was going to present from Pixar though this one has the bigger laughs.