Sunday, 31 May 2009

Igor Kovalyov "Milch" (2005)

I have kept clear of Igor Kovalyov's award winning Milch because a) I found it depressing, and b) it is difficult to understand. The story is of an eight year old boy in a life changing period of his life. The boy's father, a policeman I guess, has a sexual relationship with a girl who delivers milk to his door. In a sense it is an exploitative affair though the girl certainly encourages him. There is no happy ending the girl being whisked off at the end. The doting son's relationship with his father is devoid of warmth on the parent's side. Indeed the man is a cold, intimidating character, with what warmth there is in the family emanating from the grandparents though they, like the boy and mother are mere onlookers. There is also a corruption of the young boy by the events he witnesses and an obsession that is not in any way healthy. Now if the boy were drawn in the manner of the movie I featured a week ago by Sarah Van den Boom then the impact would the greater. Given that he is a meanly drawn figure, a carbon copy if miniaturised version of his father, I find it hard to sympathise with him. This may be explained in part by the dark interiors, unpleasant adults or the mundane images of washing, dustbins, washing, peeling a plaster from a still raw wound. There are snatches of conversation but essentially this is an accessible movie for the non-Russian speaker. What is clear is the lack of love between the boy's parents, a genuine dislike that surfaces with the woman's perfunctory placement of a milk bottle on the table, an echo of a cotton bobbin that seems to hint at other illicit relationships. Past and present, grim reality and fantasy seem merged here in an expertly drawn and animated if often tangential work that tackles in an adult manner the origins of a boy destined to be like his father.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Luke Robinson (The Viral Factory) "Samsung Mini-Notebook N310 "

Not the most enthralling of titles but a clever ad nonetheless and already picking up quite a few hits on YouTube since its launch a week or so ago. Samsung Mini-Notebook N310 has two figures showing off for the public at a trade stand. Much of the comment on the channel has wondered how the animation was created, essentially CG or claymation? The reason the subject fascinates is that everything is placed in a real world where presenter and audience marvel at the antics of the pink and blue pair - naturally, boy and girl respectively. The girl wins decisively and our boy is flattened between the panels of a very fetching notebook. It certainly looks claymation to me though I do know of animators who could have a stab at the effect digitally. A product of The Viral Factory with animation director and compositor, Luke Robinson, producer was Jon Stopp, and animation producer Tim Searle. Triffic Films are credited as the Animation Production Co. Thanks to Vincenzo for the prompt.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Vacation Over

Doing my bit for the UK's thriving tourist industry .. I've returned. The Cotswolds are not my usual haunts but man-made scenery can be as inspiring as natural wonders. Anyway this is where I stayed after two days in London with my daughter.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

Short of the Week

I am on vacation at present and forced into the role of consumer. Click in at Short of the Week where Andrew S Allen has featured Tomas Mankovsky's Sorry I'm Late and some relevant comments regarding a backlash against ultra real CG work, sort of clothing repairs where one sees the joins:

Monday, 25 May 2009

Elmer Kaan "Mac & Roe"

Anyone for tennis? Dutch animator Elmer Kaan is one of those discerning people who follow the blog so I trust it will be a pleasant surprise for him (and a humorous pleasure for all of you) to see his fine stop motion piece Mac & Roe featured here. Splitting the screen down the net allows for some gentle and not so gentle manipulation of rules, where etiquette flies out of the window. I've never seen a player stomp on another one before. Nice play on words for the title - You cannot be serious! I warm to the little fellows in a way I never did towards their namesake. A graduate of Image and Media Technology/ Animation from the Utrecht School of Arts though Elmer now, lucky man, resides in Italy.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

War is My Destiny: Concept to Creation

War is My Destiny: Concept to Creation is a supplement to last week's exciting War is My Destiny. There are so many different means of creating animation. The producers overlay the final product with their sketches and models. Thanks to Adam from More Frames.

Saturday, 23 May 2009

Sarah Van den Boom "That's Nothing" (1999)

Sarah Van den Boom made her graduation movie That's Nothing at Paris' Ecole Nationale des Arts Decoratifs. It has no subtitles and might best be referred to by its French title, C'est rien. Those whose French is, like mine, little better than schoolboy will not find undue difficulty following the narrative however. It concerns the dreams of a very sick boy whose escape from his bed is via his imagination. Those whose knowledge of Sarah's work is down to her beautifully drawn Novecento Pianiste (there is a direct link to the movie on her website) will doubtless be prepared for the style of her work, founded essentially on a natural talent as an artist as, again, a visit to her website will testify. As the boy hides the medicine he retreats into his own world, along lonely roads, hillsides, circled by orange fish; he meets with an adolescent boy with the same hair colour, a boy who will visit him at his home in a moving, poetic finale. Piano music by Pascal Zavaro adds to an artistic mix. Yes, it is sentimental and no apologies for that. And Sarah is wonderful at faces! She sent me some artwork showing the backgrounds for Novecento some time ago and honestly they were breathtaking in their detail. Like so many of the world's most recognised animators, Sarah freelances for Acme Filmworks, a visit to whose site is well recommended and indeed overdue here.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Anton Groves & Saatchi and Saatchi Romania "Choices" (2009)

Choices explores the options every child has or rather has not in a study of one young girl's possible futures, a child born into a squabbling household where dad takes his eyes off the road ahead; another possible direction is child prostitution via cigarettes, alcohol and drugs. I often point out the desirability of a particular animation form for the specific task. Here the director Anton Groves uses cardboard cutouts, thousands of them by all accounts, supplemented by stop motion and digital animation - a spot of alpha and the girl is a ghost. The effect is of the classroom with simple percussive music supporting a collage effect of stuck on figures of card. And very appropriate to the child's tale, for although the girl grows to adolescence she is still very much the child. Her entry into the adult's car is chilling in its implications, but it is foreshadowed the moment she ignores the ice-cream van and taps on a car window begging for coins. A thought-provoking, professional short then from Saatchi & Saatchi Romania whose creative directors were Jorg Riommi and Daniela Nedelschi whilst the UK's Anton directed for Studioset. The charity is United Way Romania ( I understand that the piece is up for the Cannes Advertising Competition the winners of which are due to be announced any day now.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Joaquin Baldwin / Sebastian’s Voodoo - winner!

Sebastian’s Voodoo, winner of the 5th NFB Online Short Film Competition

Cannes 2009 Competition draws more than 170,000 views in 9 days. Tom Perlmutter, Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the National Film Board of Canada, today awarded the prize for the 5th NFB Online Short Film Competition to Joaquin Baldwin of the United States. His film Sebastian’s Voodoo was honoured at the Short Film Corner in the presence of Jérôme Paillard, Executive Director of the Marché du Film of the Cannes Film Festival. This year, the ten shortlisted films generated more than 170,000 views in 9 days on the NFB’s English and French channels on YouTube. This fifth edition was organized in collaboration with the Cannes Short Film Corner, the meeting place for short filmmakers from over 40 countries, and in association with YouTube, the world’s most popular video sharing site. In partnering the competition, the NFB continues to encourage the creators of bold and innovative shorts. The public had 9 days to vote online for their favourite short films on the YouTube site, which recorded nearly 8,000 votes from all over the globe. The competition attracted a large number of NFB Twitter subscribers <@thenfb> and <@onf>, reaching tens of thousands of short film lovers – not to mention the numerous blogs that aired the videos. The winning film, Sebastian’s Voodoo, is an animation drama in which a voodoo doll must find the courage to save its friends from being pinned to death. The film can be seen until June 21, 2009 in English at <> or <> and in French at <> or <>. Winner Joaquin Baldwin receives from the NFB a semi-professional HD MINI-DV camera and a computer with post-production software. The ten short films of this 2009 edition were selected by Danny Lennon from over 1,400 Short Film Corner entries from filmmakers worldwide.

Rémy Schaepman "A Sheep on the Roof " (2007)

A grey and dreary life, turn off the alarm clock, commute on the Paris Metro, sit with strangers, return dog tired to a lonely apartment: all communicated in a series of monochrome stills before the smoothly animated A Sheep on the Roof gets into its stride with the arrival by parachute of a sheep on the adjacent roof. As the animal makes itself ever more at home, the bemused commuter's life becomes increasingly whimsical. Gauche fellow traveller morphs to giant mother hen and brood, colourful posters appear on the Metro walls and it's party time on the journey. A life transformed forever? Rémy Schaepman made this surreal graduation film whilst at the Institute Saint-Geneviève. There's something of the eccentric world of a Nick Park here as the guy stands wide eyed at the increasingly bizarre antics occurring around him. Made with cutouts, animated in Flash, the coloured inks used in the backgrounds give a textured, watercolour effect that is very attractive. Clearly an outstanding talent, Rémy is now continuing his studies at the renowned Gobelins, l'Ecole de l'Image, in Paris.

Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Giulio Gianini & Emanuele Luzzati "L'italiana In Algeri" (1968)

Giulio Gianini 1927-2009

Around the time I first commenced writing this blog Michael Sporn wrote a series of articles on the work of Emanuele Luzzati who passed away in February 2007. Giulio Gianini, Luzzati's artistic partner over some 26 films, died this weekend and Michael has again posted an article and copious artwork in tribute. I decided to draw attention to the pair's 1968 L'italiana In Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers). For a breakdown of the plot may I draw attention to Michael's original review here. The ten minute film is based on an overture by the then 21 year old Gioachino Rossini first performed in 1813. The screen credits are for Luzzati/design and Gianini/photography and animation. Enough of the overtures. The tale is light in touch throughout, from the introductory verse at the outset as the waves lift up the tiny boat containing Lindor and Isabel from Venice in rumbustious time to the music. Castaways now on the rocks off the battlements of Algiers, Ali, “a treacherous knave”, spies the shipwrecked girl and plans to add her to his master’s already plentiful harem, a plan with which said Mustapha heartily concurs. The remainder of the movie concerns the pair’s attempt to thwart the lascivious Bey of Algiers. This is not highbrow drama. There is a great sense of fun throughout. Isabel spies the soldiers from the beach and thrusts her lover's head out of sight just in time; there follows high farce as she uses her plentiful charms to both encourage her suitor whilst shielding the ardent Lindor from their gaze. The use of cutouts with caricatured faces that dart about the screen, exuberant colour and the sheer quality of design all enrich our world of animation. Such riches - Lindor's ardour, Isabel's fluttering fan, Ali's knavery, Mustapha's female retinue.

Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Spela Cadez "Lovesick" (2007)

You will not see a more charming love story than Lovesick, by Spela Cadez last year's winner of the "FIA 2008 People's Choice Award" - I trailed the festival here yesterday. Sickness and x-rays are not my cup of tea, nor gory operations. I get squeamish spreading strawberry jam. So when our wide eyed, tearful hero goes into the hospital, has the treatment and sees his heart laid out on a tray he not unnaturally becomes concerned. The nurse and doctor are briskly efficient to the point of indifference and their patient is left with the vital organ and number 61 in the queue. Waiting for the continuation of the operation he meets a real head turner of a girl whose afflication appears catching. Can the doctors work their magic? Humour is the art of the unexpected and Spela's puppet drama kept me guessing till the end, with a series of twists and turns. (You have to see the thing to appreciate the reference.) The puppet and set are works of art as a click on the high resolution images here will show. The boy's expressive eyes express so much other than tears, not surprising if you too could hold what he holds in his hands. I often say this and it bears repetition, the music - in this case by Mateja Staric - adds so much to a quite magical eight and a half minutes. Spela studied Communication Design at Slovenia's Ljubljana Academy of Fine Arts, doing her postgraduate course at the Academy of Media Arts, Cologne. She has a special talent and I intend to feature more of her work.

Monday, 18 May 2009

FIA Animation Festival Stockholm

An opportunity to enter your work for another festival. Alex Mood, one of the organisers sends me the following. Tomorrow I shall feature last year's festival winner:
October sees the second annual FIA Animation Festival in Stockholm. You can see the splendid program from last year's festival on our site ( Films from all over the world, exhibitions, workshops, guests, parties and debates about animation! This year's festival will take place at Kulturhuset (the Culture House) and at Cinema Rio in Stockholm.
We are now asking for your contribution. Films produced in 2008 and 2009 can be selected to participate. Deadline for submission is August 19, 2009. Please submit your application online at and send your DVD (PAL) to: FIA (Forum for International Animation in Stockholm)Box 9029102 71 Stockholm. (The illustration is taken from vignettes produced by students from Forsbergs School of Design, Thea Hemrén and Katarina Mattsson for last year's festival.)

More Frames "War is My Destiny" (Ill Bill 2009)

I get a lot of material sent to me these days and sadly there is only time to satisfy so many demands. Time enough though for Adam Lukas from Pennsylvania's More Frames, a new studio born out of the State's Edinboro University, who sends me the company's official video for Brooklyn’s rapper, Ill Bill. The lyrics for War Is My Destiny are ultra violent and demand a certain response. What the studio gives is comic book violence, vengeance with a swagger. From the moment our hero (I think he is a hero) free falls into the action I know for certain I want him on my side in any war. To the artist's thundering litany of mayhem, he and his two pals take on the army, police force, air force, warlords and anything that moves. Limbs and heads are hacked off at will in the urban jungle and I simply love it when our guy shoulder charges an armoured tank. Very confidently animated in a flat 2D style that suits the music to perfection, the colours are primarily grey though there's lashings of red - obviously!

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Osamu Tezuka "Mermaid" (1964)

Osamu Tezuka, "Father of Anime", "the Japanese Walt Disney" and director of today's classic movie Mermaid, one of the treasures of animation. A boy sits daydreaming by the sea in some far off totalitarian state where it is wrong to dream. He rescues a fish stranded on the beach and beneath his gaze the fish transforms into a beautiful mermaid; he plays music using a passing cloud for a flute whilst she plays piano using the waves as a keyboard. They cavort in the sea in an idyllic sequence until he carries her home to his parents' home. However the girl he sees is not the fish his parents see. Refusing to relinquish his dream he is subjected to the full attentions of a regime for whom lack of conformity is anathema. Torture, conditioning, indoctrination, re-education are potent weapons of state and the boy is beaten down just as absolutely as in any Orwellian satire. Or is he? The choice of music is a key feature in the success of the movie as Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun by Claude Debussy establishes an ethereal atmosphere. However the apparatus of police state and rockpools in which lovers play could hardly form a greater contrast in a sparingly drawn but always exquisitely designed animation, full of haunting scenes that etches one's memory. A masterpiece and one of my favourite movies of all time, Tezuka's warning about the dangers he detected in his society is ultimately an inspiring if unsettling vision that has aged not one jot. Required viewing.

Saturday, 16 May 2009

Sandy Hong "Pathway" & Alex Myung "Juxtaposed"

Two further movies from New York's School of Visual Arts referred to yesterday. Pathway by 22 year old Sandy Hong concerns a life changing experience for a young woman. It is a movie that revels in the simple joy of drawing, using colour, creating beauty. Of course, one can certainly see areas where short-cuts are taken with the animating - long skirts are a godsend in this respect - but a glance at Sandy's blog will reveal the pressures of hitting that deadline: "oh dear god 20 days left before we have to hand in our thesis!" In terms of explaining the story the second thesis film uses a narrator, Wanda O'Connell, to good effect. At the Dusty, "Best Animation Design" was won by Alex Myung (aka Alex Wager) for his narrated piece about the search of a light bulb for his real mother, a story mirroring his own experience of adoption. Juxtaposed like Pathway reveals a talented artist just happening to choose animation as the medium. All the qualities of that movie are here with, if anything, an even more stylised, anime look most appealingly seen in the girl with her large eyes as well as the overall softness of the artwork and colour. Again I could have done with more movement in the girl, as opposed to the light bulb. When the girl does move however there is a grace to the animation that is most appealing. Working alone is hard work and corners need to be cut. Time is always in short supply in animation. Two highly talented young people then with good careers ahead of them.

The 5th NFB Online Short Film Competition

The 5th NFB Online Short Film Competition – Cannes 2009 is launched Vote online May 12 to 20 Montreal, May 12, 2009 – May 12 to 20 is your chance to vote online for your favourite short among the finalists of the 5th NFB Short Film Competition – Cannes 2009. Just go to <> or <>.

Now in its fifth year, the competition is organized by the National Film Board of Canada in collaboration with the Cannes Short Film Corner and in association with YouTube. Its ten short films from Australia, Great Britain, Finland, Greece, Canada and the United States were selected from over 1,400 Short Film Corner entries -- more than twice the total for 2008. The Short Film Corner is the meeting place for young creators at the Cannes Film Festival, attracting submissions from more than 40 countries. The nine films from last year were viewed at least 193,000 times on the NFB Screening Room on YouTube. The NFB competition is your chance to join in the fun and frenzy of Cannes by voting online for your favourite short, using the 5-star system on YouTube. The winning film chosen by popular vote will be unveiled by the Government Film Commissioner and Chairperson of the NFB, Tom Perlmutter, at the Happy Hour of the Short Film Corner in Cannes on May 21. The winner will receive a semi-professional HD MINI-DV camera and a computer with post-production software. The short film expert Danny Lennon has picked a mainly comedy selection, but with a sprinkling of dramas, thrillers and animations as well. Here are the finalists: COUNTDOWN by Jordan Canning (Germany), LEGACY by Teemu Nikki (Finland), DR. MORI’S TELESHOPPING by Spiros Jacovides (Greece), REACH by Luke Randall (Australia), TENNER by David O’Neill (Great Britain), THE BLACK HOLE by Diamond Dogs (Great Britain), THE FACTS IN THE CASE OF MISTER HOLLOW by Rodrigo Gudino (Canada), THE RULES OF THE GAME by Tom Daley (Great Britain), SEBASTIAN’S VOODOO by Joaquin Baldwin (U.S.) and WALTER ATE A PEANUT by Robin Willis (U.S.). So don’t forget to vote for your standout film, May 12 to 20 at <> or <>!

Osamu Tezuka "Broken Down Film" (1985)

Young and old animators learn so much from the greats. To the detriment of the blog I have only posted on one and a bit movies from Osamu Tezuka. I shall redress the situation this weekend. Today's is a very funny movie. Broken Down Film pays affectionate homage to the silent movie era, when film was over exposed, grainy, yellowed, burnt, scratched, dusty, dirty... you get the idea. Struggling as much against projector as villain, the cowboy rescues the damsel in distress. To the winner would have gone the spoils but a streak of yellow gets in the way. In a series of visual gags Osamu parodies the whole thing to perfection. Preparation must have been easy. List all the conceivable drawbacks of the old movies and their playback. Decide on the vehicle - melodramatic western. Then just apply the genius. Osamu provides a master class in timing. How long can he leave a screen blank? Is the cowboy going to get the girl off the track in time? Or the frames get stuck and our man gets out his gun and does a bit of lifting. Or the bad guy is winning and the reel needs changing. Or how does our hero hide from the villain when crawling about his feet? A treat! And tomorrow one of the best animated shorts I have ever seen. In the meantime, if everything stops just whistle.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Chester Knebel "Soda Copped " (2007)

Every university school of animation has its particular awards ceremony. At New York’s School of Visual Arts the annual showcase is the Dusty Film and Animation Festival and Awards, in recognition of SVA’s founder and Chairman, Silas H. Rhodes, nicknamed “Dusty”. The festival was held earlier this month, the lucky people announced here. For now I'll deal with the 2007 winner for Best Animated Film (Traditional), Chester Knebel's Soda Copped. We are in very traditional 2D cartoon territory in style and subject matter, with caricature and impossible storyline. Two hoodlums carry out a bank hoist, tear off in a car, remove nylon masks, crash car, recover, stagger off with swag, tire, require a drink from a soda dispenser. And the coins from their loot don't fit so they take out their frustrations on the machine. In keeping with the genre, Chester keeps the action moving thick and fast, comic incident liberally punctuating the piece as the little guy is unable to reach the coin slot, removes the shard of metal from his sidekick's head, or along with partner is strong-armed (and footed) by the cops. Angles are varied with a view of the guy from inside the machine or via the surveillance camera and throughout the piece the director sustains the standard of drawing. In short, a well made traditional romp from a talented and promising animator, well meriting the Dusty. I also note that, unlike some other animation schools, students essentially seem to work independently at SVA a fact that renders Soda Copped even more praiseworthy. The 2009 equivalent award was won by Jake Armstrong. His winning animation The Terrible Thing of Alpha-9! is not to my knowledge on-line as yet though the demo reel is. A movie of a different style entirely from the university's 2009 awards tomorrow.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

Corin Hardy "Warrior's Dance" (Prodigy 2009)

Would a music video starring cigarette packet pyromaniacs get much of an airing on television? Doubtful, so let’s give it a try here. To the pounding beat of Prodigy, Corin Hardy’s Warrior’s Dance has a group of packet men materialising from discarded cartons, raiding a bar and letting rip. Glasses and ash tray are broken, and when the trio wreck a display stand of Tarmac cigarettes they are soon joined by a rabble who proceed to dance on the jukebox before proceeding to more nefarious pursuits. The warriors, a veritable army of tiny puppets, are delicate examples of stop motion work and puppetry both. They squeeze under doors or clamber up glass tumbler steps, entirely fascinating though be warned, paper people should never play with fire. Whilst there are no positive role models here the descent into mayhem is visually exciting and in line with a band whose album, released last Monday, is "Invaders Must Die". Well they do. There’s a good article about the piece and credits at PromoNews. One of the UK's leading directors, particularly of music videos, Corin has released a sizeable body of material in a wide variety of styles. I have prepared a further post for later in the week.