My own animation students are presently applying the finishing touches to their films. Once again I marvel at the difference music makes to a work. Had I not been whisked away by friends I had intended to feature three shorts that make best use of their musical support. Those responsible for the sound on Jae Hee Jung's atmospheric 3D piece, Little Dark Corners (64mb), Matthew Thomas and Leonardo Barragon, have done a stunning job. We move upwards from the cellar to enter the room where the old lady (pig?) and baby pigs seem frozen in a time warp watching a flickering television set, the music and gently wafting seeds making for a spell-binding few minutes. A room full of curiosity, mystery, strange objects at once familiar and not so. And then the Korean director, furthering her studies at the estimable Vancouver Film School, lets us into her little dark secrets. Or certainly the mysteries of how a confidently crafted, haunting film has been fashioned. Jae Hee's earlier drawn animation, Handmade, has a more social message as the woman beavers away in a small factory - sweatshop is a better term - despite injury and pregnancy. There is effective use of colour to add impact to an essentially monochrome and beautifully drawn piece. The sound engineering by the director herself and Eric Oyun Kwon works here too. The director casts a striking presence as a visit to her website will testify. Much much more from VFS and some more musically uplifting works to come.
Sunday, 28 February 2010
Thursday, 25 February 2010
Unusually for the Animation Blog I shall introduce the animators before the animation. Those in question are the subject of a clever live action piece by Hungary’s Peter Vadocz, Twins. Tatiana and Marina Moshkova are featured side by side, almost as one but not quite. Tatiana (on the right) made The Laughterfall in 2007, their first year at St Petersburg State University. A conventionally drawn animation about snowmen, I could have used it at Christmas though we’ve had plenty of the white stuff lately and there is a melting giant in my front garden. My family’s sad snowman fades away alone but Tatiana has four of the creatures competing against each other in an ultimately doomed competition given a certain bright individual in the skies above. I wonder how much was intentional in theme as, despite grandiose plans, the snowmen suffer the fate of all mortals. 2007 was a good year, with sister Marina making In Scale, a precisely drawn piece indeed. Created in a deceptively simple manner, it features an indomitable mother bird whose dedication to maintaining nest, egg and hatchling knows no bounds, has no mercy and wreaks havoc all around her. One has to maintain a sense of proportion but does any mother about her child? Graduating in 2009, Marina was named best student of the year. I aim to take a further look at both women’s later work.
Wednesday, 24 February 2010
Continuing my exploration of the work of Russian director Elizaveta Skvortsova today’s post concerns Lullabies of the World, a series of short films in which a folk song from a country is animated in the style suggested by the culture, albeit all share a stylised approach aimed, primarily though not exclusively, at children. Chukchi Lullaby provides a solution to a problem afflicting parents everywhere: how to quiet a screaming child. Commencing with a polar bear making its steady way over the ice, the unborn baby evident in the womb, we leave the blue of the Siberian for the interior of their hide covered tepee, any tranquillity disturbed by the bawling infant. Parents don masks, dance and sing to quell the infant. African Lullaby explains how in that continent, there is no need for such antics for the most attractive flies I have ever seen induce sleep in all the people and wild animals. Turkish Lullaby employs vivid colours in its explanation of the diet of calves and the origin of babies. If being found under a gooseberry bush is considered bizarre, discovering the new born babe in a cabbage is much more rational as it is less prickly for delicate skin. The three named lullabies are offered in a random selection. All animations in the series share a considerable beauty, the visual elements arranged to the music with an extraordinary degree of skill and such a vibrant sense of colour. They generally end with parents cuddling child and can be found readily enough on YouTube, emanating from the above links. Because I wish to support such work I have attempted to discover a link to the DVD series from the studio, Metronome Films. I shall update if and when.
Tuesday, 23 February 2010
Monday, 22 February 2010
Sunday, 21 February 2010
Saturday, 20 February 2010
My Friend Is A Cloud is a film about childhood, dreams and music. I built the script of this film from my own experiences. I say this because I have been drawing since I was 4 years and am still drawing. In My friend Is A Cloud the little boy dreams, imagines the future that he would like to have in the future. Dreams that will become a famous pianist among robots on an floating island created in his imagination. The film is divided into 3 phases. The first stage is where he discovers music and friendship, the second is the passage of time where the little boy is more mature, more responsible, it becomes more serious and sad. And finally the third stage is that of awakening from the dream, waking up to reality.
In this film I wanted to use the concept that... what we do when we are young, those things will influence our future." Made with Anime Studio and Photoshop, the atmospheric piece is clearly drawn, has delicious colouring and a textured finish. And, yes, of course, I can see how the explanation fits. The boy was waving to himself. But, you know, somehow it still seems first and foremost to be about friendship and loneliness. I misunderstood all of Shakespeare's plays or that's what my students used to tell me when I taught English Literature. They were wrong.
Friday, 19 February 2010
Alarm is a remarkable piece of work. With a precision of imagery that is, well ... remarkable, director Moo-hyun Jang mounts a ferocious attack on that most fiendish of torture devices, the alarm clock. Guy sets his alarms (sound system, mobile phone, straight-forward, bog standard alarm clock) for 7.00am. Work. It is possible to waive the first call, of course, a submergence under the quilt or cushion works after a fashion but modern devices have snooze alarms, spawn of the devil. And these alarm clocks in the apartment are irrepressible. The humorous short is a masterly use of CG technology, the sheer detail of the objects in the apartment taking one's breath away. Surely that is real, as in actual, material, metal, plastic, chrome.... Only the central character himself is artificial, though possessing a naturalistic movement - some of it very funny - but with the skin texture of a child's plastic doll. This is a deliberate and effective style choice. Our guy looks most stylish with gloriously spiked 3D hair that fairly pulses with life. Truly. His simple facial features are capable of great expression, though the range here moves from yawning to unadulterated rage at the alarms. I do get complaints that I feature too little 3D. I heeded the alarm. Moo-hyun's website has a huge HQ download plus lots of extras.
Thursday, 18 February 2010
This is the first of three posts concerning the Russian director, Elizaveta Skvortsova. I'll commence with her thesis film of 2002, Wait, Be So Kind. The story is an age old one of a struggle with Death, personified here as a young woman whose dark presence is somewhat challenged by a lively girl cast down to Death's kingdom. The girl has been dispatched by her father, the king, angry at a defeat in battle and by the sight of his daughter embracing her lover. The spirited girl proceeds to argue with Death in order that she return to life if only for a minute. "Do you want me to tell you how beautiful it is to be alive?" Death relents - for one night only. Elizaveta frames the narrative as a slide projection show, as a girl (looking exactly like Death) presents a late night story, a scary one, using old fashioned equipment, complete with mechanical whirring sound. The music is at once melodic and repetitive, a wistful carousel ride, whilst the cut-out style has a simplicity about it that is both appealing and apt, particularly as emblems of life, in all their colour, are wheeled on towards the close. Viewed from the perspective of a child, one fleshes the details out oneself. Death is a lonely figure, strangely discomforted in the presence of Life. Elizaveta attended the State Institute of Filmmaking (VGIK). She was 24 when she made this most beautifully designed short. And yes, life is beautiful.
Wednesday, 17 February 2010
In a rich tradition of Australian cultural events, inspired doubtless by that great epitome of a great country, Cultural Attaché Sir Les Patterson, Daz (Dazza to his mates) pauses awhile from the hectic circuit of academic engagements to make a heartfelt plea for the return of his best mate Baz, "because, pickle me grandma, the silly old bugger has gone bloody missing." Cane Toad: What Happened to Baz? has the guy's conjectures and hypotheses on the whereabouts of the elusive toad. Daz has a fertile imagination, drank too much of the bottled nectar and been watching too many horror films. Cane toads have a persecuted life and every gory moment is explored in glorious detail in a hilarious film that I first saw on the internet years ago and just stumbled on via YouTube. David Clayton and Andrew Silke hit a funny bone or two, though lovers of toads may not agree. The mobile features of the toads make for glorious animation. Paul Davies does the voice. Every fear of Daz is justified, by the way, though he does not go far enough.
Monday, 15 February 2010
Unless one is a Tissa David, the most difficult task for budding (or seasoned) animators is to draw a figure that walks in a natural fashion. There's always someone to help but unless you can visualise the cycle your guy's got a wooden leg. Learning To Walk, Borivoj Dovnikovic's 1978 short, takes one young fellow, striding along with an occasional skip of sheer joy, and subjects him to expert scrutiny. Before one can say Jumping Jackrabbit, the little chap has sprouted wooden legs, arms and trunk. There's a lesson here. An amusing little piece from one of the originators of the Zagreb School of Animation and a faltering step towards placating one of my most learned correspondents who reminds me of a deficiency in my coverage here. (Would there were only one.) So then, director, cartoonist and book illustrator "Bordo" has 50 years experience in the business and is a founder of Zagreb's great animated film festival. Much more about him and Yugoslavian animation to come when I get into my stride.
Sunday, 14 February 2010
Saturday, 13 February 2010
Friday, 12 February 2010
Every Child directed by Eugene Fedorenko was the 1979 Academy Award winner, Canada’s contribution to UNESCO’s International Year of the Child. Every child has a right to a nationality and a name. The young infant featured in the six minute clip finds herself passed rapidly from house to house as for various reasons she is deemed superfluous. She is unable to supplant the family dog, gets in the way of business, stands between husband and wife, or is simply one too many. Abandoned completely she does however find a home in the most unlikely of communities. Sparingly drawn throughout with delicate colouring, Every Child has some interesting features notably the mimed sounds from Les Mimes Electriques. Indeed I guess they are the guys in the live action footage that binds the animated section together, two men in a recording studio miming the sounds as a grinning Sophie Cowling sits on a knee. There is also a mini opera as wife pleads with unrelenting husband to retain the child. Light, amusing, engaging, the short demonstrates how sledge hammers need not be used to hammer home a point. The link is to the NFB though a YouTube version is available. Eugene made the excellent Village of Idiots in 1999. Sadly there is no version freely available on the web.
Thursday, 11 February 2010
Academy Award winners already, Wallace and Gromit are British institutions, and their latest, made for television film, A Matter of Loaf and Death, has been nominated for this year’s awards. Indeed every film featuring them has been at least nominated. When A Grand Day Out failed to win the award it was director Nick Park’s other film, Creature Comforts, that deprived the pair of the honour. Therefore their latest adventure has something to live up to. Dog and master are running a bakery company, Top Bun, powered in the Heath Robinson mode we have grown to love. Wallace though is infatuated with Piella Bakewell, star of a series of loaf centred television commercials, and a lady intent on achieving the baker’s dozen, twelve bakery men having recently disappeared in mysterious circumstances. The film is the first outing for our heroes since the glorious The Curse of the Were-Rabbit in 2006. The most watched programme on television in the UK this Christmas, plus the highest audience in playback mode on the corporation’s iPlayer, the new half hour short is a treat though lacking the budget of its predecessors and some of the striking set pieces a more generous funding would have allowed. It also is darker in tone than its predecessors. I saw the film at Christmas and it is unavailable on-line. However there is a 20 minute making of version on YouTube, How They Donut. One of my secret pleasures in life is to listen to Peter Sallis speak and I should be delighted if that were to be after a successful awards ceremony. Those plasticine figures are magical in my eyes but maybe, just maybe, the Oscar will go to a film a little different this year. That suggests to me Logorama. (I have already covered Fabrice O. Joubert’s French Roast, a beautifully crafted comic drama and very real contender if the judges reward subtlety.)
Monday, 8 February 2010
Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty is the third of the Oscar nominated shorts for this year's award, a reworking of one of Grimm's fairy tales. Nicky Phelan's 2008 film's has the grim granny terrifying her grandchild with a fairy story in which the old lady's identification with the action dominates the tale. Kathleen O'Rourke wrote the script and offers a demented voice for O'Grimm who wakes the child up to tell the story of the ugly old fairy not invited to the christening. The production team hail primarily from Ireland's Ballyfermot College in Dublin and I should love to see the Irish triumph at the Oscars. I also am a fan of Kathleen's stand-up work as a comedian. But I can't see this as the winner. The movie is based on Kathleen's stage character, a blistering performance that is as conducive to sleep as slaughtering Duncan in his castle. It is divided into two concurrent parts, 3D work for the bedroom with little girl cowering under the sheets, close-up face of bedtime story reader. Then the hand drawn, pink world of the fairy story, a style I fail to warm to, I'm afraid, being rather flat by comparison. This is not to say the movie is not good, it is just not Oscar good. A full version is also available from the studio website.