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Saturday, 28 February 2009

Vera Myakisheva "Stock Farm"






I seem to use the word charming or enchanting a lot of late. Well there is nothing of this quality in Russian director Vera Myakisheva’s Stock Farm (2007). Perhaps the music fits the bill though its euphonious qualities disappear quickly enough. Vera explores the sad possibilities of breeding animals for their meat by mixing up the genes. A series of pig, cow and hen all succumb to the various weird machines that squash and squeeze the animals into their constituent parts and then some. A mix of CGI and stop motion is used and I confess the awkward movements of the animals surprised me initially. Suddenly the smoothly animated factory equipment appears, the incongruous beasts are placed in a context and the satire is revealed. Then the sausage machine churns out little piglets, surprisingly as I had been expecting ... sausages and there's a rather superb mechanical crocodile. Legs get mixed up in the various animals and the whole menagerie concludes as a succulent tin of well branded pineapples. Never trust labels. Hasn't the cow got a sad eye? Don't get too attached. I know nothing whatsover of the director save for a carnival snap of her with the remarkable Ivan Maximov looking suitably festive. I do know however that Vera has a softer side to her nature as will be revealed shortly The link is to pavlovich74 a YouTuber with a deep resource of Russian movies and knowledge of them.

Friday, 27 February 2009

2nd International Animated Film Festival ANIMATOR \ 2009 Poznan, Poland

Submit your films for the 2nd edition of the International Animated Film Competition at ANIMATOR \ 2009 Festival

The International Competition of Animated Films is open to artistic animated films of all techniques up to 30 min. Grand Prix of 60 000 PLN /ca. 12.000 Euros/ will be awarded by an international jury including Yoram Gross, Hieronim Neumann and Michèle Bokanowski.
Films can be submitted for selection till April 15, 2009.
The entry form and regulations can be downloaded from http://www.animator-festival.com/.
The festival is held in Poznan (Poland) starting 6 – 11 July 2009

John McCloskey "Loocy Moon"






Loocy Moon (2005) directed by John McCloskey and produced by Northern Ireland's Raw Nerve Productions has a particularly impressive opening though this CGI movie really gets warmed up from the moment the young girl gets to skate on thin ice under a brilliant, if fractured, moon. As in so many movies reviewed here the key is an inspired idea. Escorted by her mother through the wintry streets, Loocy is distracted by a crescent moon that is only completed by its reflection on the frozen lake in the town's park. Intent on reuniting crescent and circle, in the middle of the night she creeps out, skates in hand, to rescue the moon trapped under the ice. The seven minute, 3D film is enchanting throughout as Loocy sets about repairing the damaged eye of a snowman, uses the new moon as a launching pad for her assault on the ice and makes a new moon into a full moon - such is the magic of animation. Brian Irvine’s original musical composition works particularly well establishing a variety of moods required to speed along the movie or emphasise the wonder of it all. John too has a lovely touch as shown again in his BAFTA nominated short The Crumblegiant (extract).

Thursday, 26 February 2009

ReAnimacja Festival - extension to deadline


Dear Friends,
Due to many requests to give you a bit more time for competition film submissions we decided to extend the deadline! NEW and FINAL Deadline for all submissions is 6th March 2009 !!!
The Competition Statute and Application Form are available from the Festival website: http://reanimacjafestival.com/ - feel free to visit it any time!
Hope to receive all your submissions on time! :)
Best regards,
Organisers

Katy Davis "Stay In My Memory" (Bim)












With well over 400,000 hits on YouTube alone and comments testifying to the joy at both song and animation, Katy Davis' Stay In My Memory surely takes her into a major league for UK animators. It is a lovely song from Bim with lyrics that give considerable license to go with the flow. Katy uses a combination of stop motion and computer animation using After Effects. The video opens with a scene difficult to beat as a woman's hand opens up a real pop up book to reveal a young couple pointing at the moon. The figures, shooting stars and moon are animated in such a way as to suggest cut-outs though in fact some 1,651 drawings (very exact) were hand drawn and scanned for the figures alone. The pop up book acts as a stage for the animation, a real hand turning the pages, the computer animated figures smoothly acting out their drama as boy is slain by buccaneers, the girl rides a dragon, gazes at her lover's photograph, rows her boat and generally searches until, as it is a romantic movie, she discovers her (memory) man and enters into free fall. The latter scene is vividly captured as the pair fall through the air in a miniature set, controlled by the real woman as computerised cloud effects float by. With props that are true works of art, notably the book itself but also including pirate ship and rural scene, the effect is multi layered, the tiny figures of girl and boy delicate paper, the props tangible, the controller human. When the girl walks through her memories, it is an art gallery in which the portraits come alive as live action poses. In short, Stay In My Memory is an assured piece, almost a bravura performance from a young animator of growing confidence with imagination and skill to match. Katy’s website, by the way, showcases her talent rather impressively. A measure of the movie is that despite the admiration one feels for Katy's technique, the freshness of the music video is what ultimately wins one over. Oh, and big softy that I am, I like the song.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Jeff Scher & Selina Wagner




Two new websites I can heartily recommend: Reasons to be Glad, Jeff Scher’s blog. I greatly admire his visual work. His observations are similarly perceptive and well written. He includes video and photographs. Jeff is also a great guy. Selina Wagner is great too, one of the most naturally talented artists working in animation that I know. Her relaunched and rather snazzy Flash website Blobina has a range of her work on show- husband Jason helped. Crow Moon is such a stylish piece. Two (or rather three) stylish operators!

Konstantin Bronzit "Lavatory Lovestory"











Konstantin Bronzit is a class act and his Academy Award nominated short Lavatory Lovestory was a worthy addition to the contenders for the top prize. I venture to suggest your attention will not waver as you seek to discover the identity of the lavatory attendant's secret admirer. He is the mysterious one who places flowers in her collection jar, a constantly changing bouquet that has the lonely lady guessing almost to the end. Which one of the trouser legs in the cubicles can it be? Line-drawn in spare fashion the only splash of colour is the from different bunches of flowers, or discarded petals. Armed with mop our heroine goes on the trail and it is to be hoped that any love affair in a lavatory runs smoothly. Funny throughout as the lady's suspicions and passions are aroused, there is one laugh out loud moment as she does a little ice skating with bucket. As I say, Konstantin is a class act, featured twice on the Animation Blog already with still more to come. He works for St Petersburg's Melnitsa Animation Studios. Animation has different styles. Lavatory Lovestory is not as beautifully painted as, say, last year's Oscar nominated My Love from Aleksandr Petrov, a work of art that curiously failed to move me despite a deep admiration for the director, but it is beautifully observed humour, confidently drawn, subtle and with a sense of timing that is exquisite. Just watch how the flowers appear like rabbits out of a hat. Yesterday's link was taken down almost as soon as I published - view it while you can!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Kunio Katô "La Maison en Petits Cubes" Oscar Winner 2009







Kunio Katô was the outstanding candidate for Sunday's Best Animated Short Film category at the 81st Annual Academy Awards. La Maison en Petits Cubes is moving in a way that Michael Dudok de Wit's Father and Daughter was. This is high praise indeed for I adored that movie and Kunio's is no less hauntingly beautiful in concept and execution. Commencing in a deceptively domestic setting, an old man with his pipe relaxes amidst his photographs and mementos. Everything changes when he opens up a heavy slab in the centre of the room and proceeds to fish there. The peculiar universe he inhabits is revealed as an ocean world where only the tips of homes project above the water. When the water rises again the man stoically builds up the next level of his house. The retrieval of his beloved pipe dropped into the hole requires him to don diving suit, his search in the ever deeper, abandoned levels revealing memories, layer by layer, room by room in a very moving chronicle of the man's life. As a metaphorical device for exploring the past the gradual exploration of descending submerged rooms is ingenious, whilst the setting of a city under a rising ocean will remain in the imagination, each successive level of house being that much smaller than the original, each life reduced in scale as the man grows old and more alone. Initially drawn on paper before being worked on in 2D on computer, the effect seems more European than Japanese with a hand etched, hand coloured look. Kenji Kondô has composed a simply magnificent soundtrack that underscores all the emotion. The Apple Incident by Kunio was featured here last July. The production company for both pieces is Robot Communications. La Maison en Petits Cubes may be downloaded from iTunes via the distribution company Shorts International. Other nominations for the Oscar were Konstantin Bronzit's Lavatory - Lovestory, Doug Sweetland's Presto, Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes' This Way Up , and Emud Mokhberi and Thierry Marchand's Oktapodi, the final two already featured on the Animation Blog. Until such time as it remains, Kunio's award winning film may (temporarily, I hope) be viewed via YouTube in two sections: La Maison en Petits Cubes (1) and La Maison en Petits Cubes (2).



Monday, 23 February 2009

Tobias Stretch "Spider" (Oh, Rabbit)






I do not know Oh, Rabbit though their melodic if saturnine Spiders is destined for my iPod when I get the download sorted - echoes of the British band Suede in the music, a favourite of mine in the early 1990s. I do know Tobias Stretch though. His contribution to my forthcoming book has been immense and I am amazed how he fits so much into his day. The animated music video Spider is typical of his work. That means it is distinctive. The lyrics are of a relationship at risk, the spider crawling out of the dark, a metaphor for aimlessness and lack of communication. Tobias has his two characters travelling in desultory fashion through a wintry landscape, partly urban, partly field. Their hair is yellow, straw, gold, flowered. They travel in a vehicle of straw. This may sound eccentric, and Tobias' work is most certainly of that ilk, but here the mood is established in flickering, fading light, streets that are empty of people or traffic, the cold red of street lamps. References to angel and Christ in the wings and ring of thorns throw a perspective on their suffering and the extended Moog synthesizer finale is accompanied by a blurring of imagery at the close that suggests no reconciliation rather like the facial rigidity of the puppets themselves. This excellent example of stop motion and puppetry may also be viewed on Tobias' website.

Sunday, 22 February 2009

Guilherme Marcondes "Tyger"


The Sunday Classic
Guilherme Marcondes
2006











Tyger directed by Guilherme Marcondes was on my radar for the blog almost as soon as I had commenced writing two years ago. I keep some rich movies back to ensure a mix as the months progress. It gets into my Sunday Classic category now. Set in the director's native São Paulo and featuring the Japanese art of Bunraku puppetry blended with photographic images and CGI, Tyger is based on a poem I know well having taught the blessed thing on many occasions: William Blake's "The Tiger". I am unable to spot the religious resonance of the original but certainly the fear and dread comes across, together with the burning symmetry, the awe. Into a modern city at dusk appears a huge tiger, rivalling King Kong for size and even more fierce. As the inhabitants go about their nefarious pursuits, the tiger prowls, roars, inducing fear and fascination both, its larger than life reality overpowering their paper-thin presence. His appearance brings the jungle into the city as creepers spread their neon tentacles ever more gloriously, insects fly, and a whale leaps in the bay. The three puppeteers, clad in black, seem to add menace to the orange glow of the screen with the beast itself illuminated by a glaring lamp to bring it into ever greater prominence. This is spectacle par excellence as the giant cat appears on the city's skyline and roars; the city's underpasses queue with 2D vehicles morphed into giant mollusks; whilst in the football stadium under streaming floodlights the inhabitants transmogrify in an eruption of flying insects and cockroaches; and outside the nightclub the brutes in bow ties become gorillas, their fancy clients toucans. Some of the scenes are extraordinary as propelled by its dark masters, to a pulsating soundtrack by Zeroum, the tiger walks amongst Lilliputians, towering over highways that are Scalextric in proportion. Somehow or other the flat, cut-out feel to the monochrome figures works alongside the explosive puppetry in a magnificent movie and compelling vision. Consider how lately the jungle has asserted itself in the world of city finance though sadly without any of the charm of the tiger, not a jot.
Biography: "I was born in São Paulo, Brazil. I started working as an illustrator when I was still in Architecture school. In 2000 I joined the Brazilian animation studio Lobo where I worked for five years, eventually directing spots for international clients such as Diesel, Cartoon Network and Nickelodeon. In 2005 I went to London to direct the build-up campaign for that year's Europe Music Awards at MTV Networks. I came back to São Paulo and directed "Tyger", a short, film that won more than 20 awards around the world. I moved to Los Angeles in 2006 and worked for a year at the renowned studio Motion Theory. I'm currently living in New York, directing short films and commercials." (Sources: photograph Flux, words Guilherme's website - guilherme.tv )

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Jim Clark, David Daniels & Ray Di Carlo "HP Flea Circus"




I recently featured Harrowdown Hill and promised a follow-up. HP Flea Circus directed by Jim Clark, David Daniels and Ray Di Carlo from Bent Image Lab is an intriguing piece made for Hewlett Packard in 2005. It takes some explaining. So I shall rely on David to narrate a short film describing how computer modeled characters were made into 3 dimensional miniatures and props, filmed in live action/stop motion before going back to the computer for the post production phase - HP Flea Circus Making of. The fleas perform their circus with style and no luck at all. The microscopic varmints look superficially tough, brown armour plated suits straight from Mordor though they are considerably cuter than orcs and more likely to favour Hobbits in the struggle against the dark. They are also a little clumsy judging from the attempt to leap through a burning ring: correct waist measurements are particularly appropriate when attempting that little feat - the self styled "King of Fire" would require a good boot up the posterior at the close plus some ample dousing of the rear. Beautifully made throughout, carousel music adds to the charm of the hapless creatures' antics. What one does to entertain! The images are from artist David Manuel who was commissioned to make circus style posters for the piece, a celebration of Hewlett Packard's "Wobulation" high resolution video projection technology. At 90 seconds in length the movie is long for a commercial, if short in that I desired more, balancing on a bicycle or massacring Uruk-Hai or something: with these guys as foes Sauron might have won.

Friday, 20 February 2009

Guilherme Marcondes "Your Home Is Your World" British Gas










Your Home Is Your World was the ad that took my eyes these past few days whilst resting my weary legs after a day's walking. Taking the suburban family, placing them on a little planetary world of floating houses and gardens, adding a friendly British Gas fitter to drive out between the orbiting planetoids to connect the family's electricity supply, one inhabits an alternative universe, the very world that animation does best. There are some clever flourishes here: the dolphin jumping in the circular ocean on which is the world's biggest off-shore wind farm, the tiny worlds replacing the leaves on the garden's trees, the real faces of the characters. It was produced by Hornet Inc. via agency CHI&Partners. Director Guilherme Marcondes was born in São Paulo, Brazil, though he now resides in New York. One of Guilherme's movies, coincidentally, is earmarked for Sunday's post. Full credits via his website.







Winter Break: Malvern Hills


Taken this morning on the last day of our winter break in the Malvern Hills. Doing my little bit for England's tourist industry. The dollar and Euro go further! My legs are going in a hot bath.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Coca Cola "Picnic"


Have you ever noticed the similarity between a ladybird and the top off a coke bottle? Well that's what the big brands are paying for when they commission their ads. I read it cost $100,000 per second to place an advertisement in this year's Super Bowl. To the music of Peter and the Wolf conducted by Robert Miller and performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Picnic, the latest ad for Coca Cola has man flat out enjoying a snooze when an army of insects filch the bottle from under his very nose. Beautifully animated via some clever use of CGI, the ingenuity of the piece is impressive with bees, butterflies and grasshoppers contributing their best endeavours. Portland's Wieden+Kennedy developed the Open Happiness campaign, with creative directors Hal Curtis and Sheena Brady. Credits are numerous but may I point to copywriter Marc D’Avignon, Psyop and a mass of others including animation lead John Velazquez. I also have read somewhere that insects will inherit the earth. A bottle of coke is only the beginning.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Benoit Creac'h and Julia Gaudard "1973"











It is always better to review a music video if I like the music and Tahiti Boy & the Palmtree Family is a new band to me with a fresh sound I enjoyed very much. Which more or less applies to 1973 a creation of Benoit Creac'h and Julia Gaudard, Ben a product of CLCF film school in Paris, Julia from Central Saint Martins in London though she hails from Switzerland. The music video is expertly composed with constant surprises in a tongue in cheek presentation, a kind of distillation of every kids' programme ever made and then some. Use of colour takes the eye immediately, prismatic blues greens and pinks, radiant in the case of the glove puppets. The mix is of live action, puppetry and some CGI. It is in fact a very happy video, full of fun: fish blowing bubbles in the sky, puppets floating on fluffy clouds and trees with human arms painted blue. The band appear as disembodied heads in the sun, there are simple kaleidoscopes and vivid fungi, a hairy yetti with green eyes, more toadstools with fluorescent hair than one could normally see in a hundred and one movies, no plot I can discern. Just happiness. Visit the directors' website and as an alternative view the shiny piece again at Vimeo.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Andy Sykes "Special Glue and Other Stories"



Many years ago when I was a young teacher of English I taped myself telling a story from my childhood, played it back and that almost verbatim account was published. I was reminded of this when listening to and watching Andy Sykes' Special Glue and Other Stories. His gentle Yorkshire twang and obvious relish for his tales are most engaging. So too is his fresh style of artwork, cartoon style, with arms extended, thrusting objects close in, tennis ball eyes or thought bubbles floating above the heads of the economically drawn characters. His stories are refreshing anecdotes of family life as he idolises a father who can put the world to rights with a dab of super glue, or lament the loss of his paintings blown up into the skies prompting some imaginative theorising on what might have occurred. But most of all I responded to him being put on the "stupid table" at school, an ignominy that was only eased as he grew older eventually attending art school where, naturally, all the artists had occupied a similar space in their schools unable to write and read properly. I too sat on that table as a young boy, Andy, my movements from little school to little school depriving me of a conventional education before my teachers discovered the error of their ways. Three tales comprise this thoroughly entertaining, original approach and a visit to the director's website will introduce you to more of his material. Andy graduated from Manchester Metropolitan University’s Interactive Arts degree in 2004. There is a degree of interactivity built into his work here; it's called empathy and is a precious commodity in an animator.

Monday, 16 February 2009

George Mellor & Hugh Frost "Meet Me In The Middle" (Sportsday Megaphone)










George Mellor and Hugh Frost, collectively OWLS, have released their animated movie for UK band Sportsday Megaphone. It never ceases to amaze me how animators hit upon different styles and responses. In this case the lyrics determine a certain variety of images, composed on a busy screen. Have you ever noted the similarity of candy cane and barber shop poles? You will. "You're like a windmill, you're like a see-saw, you're like a barber shop sign." Koala Bear eating candy sticks, fairground and windmill by the seaside. It all suggests colour and childhood until one sees the end result of the cavalcade, a sneak preview of which is revealed in the closing screenshot - you'll need as usual to click the image and look at the difference between the darkened silhouettes in the background. Effulgent colour and a darker tone at the close. There is visual spectacle here that is most impressive with some of the images and characters terrifically well drawn with, as I say, a dark side that resonates, throwing the previous material into shadow like one of those science fiction stories where the alien planet is not what it seems. One suggestion I might have made - though certainly outside the brief of two very talented and clever animators - would have been to introduce a timely sound effect when the word "spastic" is used.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

John and Faith Hubley "Windy Day"








I noticed in passing that I have made 800 posts, this new one being 8001. Windy Day (1967) is a pleasant means of achieving a landmark. Georgia and Emily Hubley were taped making their observations on life in general - with all the wisdom of very young children they reflect on birth, death and marriage, devise plays, poke dead fish and generally roam their garden in what seems perpetual sunshine. It need hardly be mentioned that the impeccant dialogue is improvised; it meanders as tardily as a river in a flood plain delivered in a natural fashion that is picked up by the animators under the direction of John and Faith Hubley. If the dialogue is natural, so is the artwork and animation. There is a freshness of imagery that retains its crispness to this day. The girl sniffs flowers, wisps of colour waved in front of her like a child stagehand wielding props at a school play; they clamour onto an outside table the contents of which are rich reds to match trees, shack and children; or we see them move, grey colour washes on an almost blank canvas with only impressionistic reeds and grasses in the foreground. The prince, dragon, witch, knight and giant bunny are the products of a child's fertile imagination by proxy: mum and dad creating the images to match the world of their talented progeny. Windy Day was unsurprisingly nominated for an Academy Award; personally I prefer it to their Oscar winning classic Moonbird. Alongside the Hubleys, Barrie Nelson is credited with the animation, Sara Calogero and Nina Di Gangi for their character painting. And yes, there is an adult for one fleeting second as one catches a glimpse of mum hanging out her washing as the children bounce along, forces of nature in an idyllic landscape of home: "Yes we do" they chant. Lovely.

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Jeffrey Paul "Love Letters" & "The Invitation"



















When Jeffrey Paul decided to propose marriage to his girlfriend Natasha he hit on a novel means. He invited her to the Parkway Movie Theater in Oakland where in front of 100 of his friends he played one of his animations on the giant screen: a proposal of marriage. Cute idea. The entire process was broadcast on the TLC television show "A Perfect Proposal”. Made using Maya, Love Letters has Jeffrey composing his proposals by hand almost as fast as he can discard them in the bin, though most miss. The real Jeffrey as opposed to the digital one received lots of assistance from friends and students at the Art Institute of California in San Francisco. The result moves beyond a romantic idea and is well made with a great intro as we move in at ground level past the discarded and crumpled proposals before meeting the bearded would-be proposer rehearsing every literary device in the book to win the hand of his future wife. In one scene, thoroughly fired up, he launches himself and fireworks to a delicious anti-climax. One year later Jeffrey was at it again, this time producing an animated wedding invite: The Invitation. Natasha is at hand as the pair decide on an imaginative form of invitation with great humour though it was a shame they discounted the idea of tattooing goldfish. I would have travelled across the Atlantic for an occasion like that, the fish a talking point for years to come. Everything ends romantically with a fulsome invitation and kiss. Great idea, well executed. And I hope you all have a rewarding Valentine’s Day.

Friday, 13 February 2009

Matt Latchford & Lucy Izzard: Projected Set for Jekyll & Hyde


Here is a type of animation I have not written on before and it's by two of the most talented British animators around, Matt Latchford and Lucy Izzard. They were commissioned to create the virtual set for Tim Saward and Thos Ribbits' Jekyll & Hyde. Funnily enough I created projected backgrounds for plays many years ago though not as interesting as Matt and Lucy obviously. Obviously. Within an inset screen the pair explain their ideas. For UK residents in the Oxford area Matt is presenting his work at the The Firestation tomorrow evening. It's an informal event the main night having been on Wednesday "mainly illustration prints and I am doing a few murals on the walls".