Saturday, 31 March 2012

Richard Borge "I Am Organic" (Meat Beat Manifesto 2011)

Given a free hand of tracks from Meat Beat Manifesto for an exhibition at .No Gallery in New York, Richard Borge chose I Am Organic and had the luxury of three weeks to work on the final product. The result is an eclectic collage mix of images and live action including what I take for the two band members in spacesuits losing control with a fish cum spacecraft swimming in an orange yellow ocean. I'm not entirely sure what the genre of music is but I guess techno would get in the mix. Most things have. For all sorts of reasons when time pressures are there - they nearly always are in animation and always are in music video animation - there's got to be bit of duplication of images. It works very well here, inventively, adding to the music in a contemporary, synchronised to the beat, way. As for the content, well, flying saucers, fish shaped spacecraft doing the space trawler bit and multi footed beasties seem surprisingly apt. Somehow. Richard is an interesting guy, with a variety of teaching experience, which he continues to work at part time whilst making slick animation work, freelance in New York,  Richard has quite few samples of work on his YouTube channel.

Friday, 30 March 2012

Ezra Wube "Hisab" (2011)

Why do goats run from cars? Why do dogs chase cars? Why do donkeys block the roads? Hisab is the first animation I have featured here that is made in Ethopia. Ezra Wube's seven minute film answers all three questions and does so in a manner that is fiercely African in style and absolutely gorgeous to view and listen to. But first some idea of the narrative. Ezra recounts a folk tale to explain the three phenomena above. So the dog, donkey and goat take a cab journey in a minibus that is already full of men. They travel through the cities and countryside and for each animal there is a story to tell, an encounter to experience, the conclusion of which explains the beast's subsequent behaviour. Being painted on glass allows fluidity and spontaneity. It underscores the lavish colour painted in bold strokes, the tactile texture leaping off the screen. And the colours are the colours of the African continent possessing as appropriate both backlit vibrancy and deep shadow. Then there is an astonishing soundtrack. The constant voices, the din of traffic and discourse. Each of the animals triggers another drama. Ashebir Kastro, Maaza Haile, Hzkias Kasa and Getachew Tadese provided the voices. Those donkeys block the road all right. Huge queues. Huge brouhaha. But we know why thanks to a remarkable animator with a piece of work that resonates with the warmth of a continent.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Veronika Obertová & Michaela Čopíková (Jana Kirschner 2012)

Over the years I have become acquainted with some fabulous musicians having viewed their animated music video. Déjà vu (all over again) with the gorgeous voice of Slovak singer, Jana Kirschner. And so to O laske nepoznanej for which I have no translation: sad music and a melancholic little tale in which fishergirl and deep sea diver confront a huge sea monster with dire results. The diver makes a great sacrifice, but then so does the girl. This is not a Disney world scenario so don't go looking for sweetness and light. That said, the inventive use of stop motion with marionettes is most refreshing, there being no attempt to mask the components of the little models and dolls. Considerable thought has gone into the business of creating special effects out of textiles. Thus the blood, seagull, lighthouse and fire beguile due to their texture and mechanical movements. The sea monster is not your typical great white either, more of  a giant, cumbersome prawn. And somehow it works better than some streamlined brute with a fin. The joint directors are two young women. Veronika Obertová and Michaela Čopíková live and were educated in Slovakia though their education has been international, Veronika training in Romania and Greece, Michaela in San Francisco and Bristol. Together they founded Ové Pictures and have quite a body of work behind them, as well as great originality and flair. As you will doubtless discover. 

Matthias Hoegg (CBeebies Summer) "Sam" 2011

It's amazing weather we're having here in the UK and we are all looking forward to a family holiday by the seaside (the mountains and lakes actually but it doesn't fit). So here's a seasonal piece for an early summer with the kids. I was planning to write about something else from Matthias Hoegg from London's Beakus but got waylaid. Sam was made for the BBC's channel for young children, CBeebies. In a simple style so clean it's like new washing, Matthias reminds us what the beach is all about for youngsters. The little boy narrator talks about playing that game where one gets as near to the waves as possible without getting wet, dogs that shake their hair dry, and there's the esential bit of fantasy as mummy and daddy lift the boat into the clouds. "I can see the sea from my house. It sparkles in the sunshine." Well, I've been on a few when it hasn't. I wrote some time ago about Matthias here. Quality animation for kids with perfect imagery.  

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival : Call For Entries

The Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival is proud to announce the official opening of its call for entries for the Festival’s fourth edition, taking place on
October 19, 20 and 22, 2012 at Concordia University’s J.A. de Sève Theater (1453 Mackay Street, Montreal).

As the festival ramps up, we will be making announcements and sharing information about the upcoming edition via our brand new web site. Be sure to check back often as we will continue to add photos, videos, and other goodies from previous editions.

The festival is inviting all filmmakers of this unique art form to submit their latest masterpieces in any of the three competitive categories: Independent, Academic, and Professional.

Please have a look at the new submission section of our website for information concerning eligibility, dates, accepted formats, and new rules.  While you’re there, you can also fill out the on-line entry form.

The deadline for film entries is September 21, 2012.

It's also easier to stay up-to-date on our latest developments by subscribing to our newsletter, liking us on Facebook, or following us on Twitter!

We can’t wait to see you in October for what's sure to be the coolest festival around!

Cinematographically yours,

Erik H. Goulet
Festival Director

Michele Bernardi "Djuma" (2012)

Djuma is a work of some power in its study of the more violent aspects of the human psyche. To a thundering score, courtesy Andrea Martignoni, the short travels with a pack of wolves and one wolf boy in particular. Italian director Michele Bernardi  has been animating professionally for Italian television since 1980 and his experience shows. With an almost sumptuous ease and design flair, something of which is captured in the screenshot, the rampage through the countryside and cities has a resonance when one considers the riots that periodically besmirch all our countries. Shades of William Golding with maybe just a touch of Joseph Conrad - sorry for the English references here - in the judgement on mankind, for Djuma is a metaphor for human nature, I think, and its assessment is grim. Particularly if one is brought up by wolves. But there's such artistry and glamour in the depiction.

Zdenek Miler "The Mole and the Music" ("Krtek a muzika" 1974)

A delayed epitaph for the great Czechoslovakian illustrator and director, Zdenek Miler, who died in Prague on 31 November 2011. (For his obituary read this article.) I was asked by some American students who was my favourite animator. Not possible to answer I answered! But I watch Zdenek more than any other director. I have a box set of the complete adventures of Krtek, The Mole, that I sent away to China to purchase. I am delighted to say my family think as much of the little fellow as I do. Let me tell you about him. Mole arrives out of his hole often unsure where he is. It may be a zoo or it could be a rubbish tip. Radios will be repaired and enjoyed, motor cars and roads explored, stars replaced in their orbit, or he may just take a ride on a magic carpet. Whatever and wherever, his resilient charm, the support for and by his fellow animals, the thwarting of the thieving magpies, or the simple delight in the countryside, his irrepressible optimism and good humour are sparks that keep childhood of all ages alive. So to The Mole and the Music, not the funniest of the series, but so very typical. Krtek has his phonograph and record broken by the windswept arrival of the mouse. Not to worry, with a little help from his friends it all ends well. Max and I watched this very episode earler today. At only three he does not understand what vinyl is but we muddled along in good humour. Impossibe not to. I last wrote about Zdenek and his creation in October 2007. Too long.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Philippe Grammaticopoulos "The Bellies" ("Les ventres" 2009)

The Bellies is a stunning satire, as visually innovative a film as I have featured on the Animation Blog. This is no small claim. Philippe Grammaticopoulos' film contains so many strikingly stylised images that I was hard pushed to select a screenshot; in fact I took one from early in the fifteen minute film so as not to reveal too much of the ending. Baldly stated. it is all about food, how we manufacture it in ways that run counter to nature, and gluttony, oh and cannibalism. Whetted your appetite? Set in a bizarre universe where a rotund toff enjoys a tasty meal with identical diners, we are transported to a cold, surreal world of ghastly excess, where a factory conjures up squirts of goo made from real creatures, where discarded mollusks appear as an alien landscape and our man becomes tangled up in his own lunch. A visual feast in all respects. Some of the scenes are extraordinary, the fork or spider on the hunt, the gory repast at the close, the giant, empty snail shells as emblems of our greed. Adept use of CG technology, drawing that is extraordinarily skilled, gorgeous cross hatch shading and striking perspectives on a generally spare landscape. Each scene is so wonderfully composed. There is something of the science fiction nightmare too, particularly towards the end when the nature of lunch is graphically exposed.  A graduate of Supinfocom in Valenciennes, Philippe was born in Belgium. He is a central part of Mr Hyde in Paris. I have twice featured his work before here and here. 

Monday, 26 March 2012

Marc Riba & Anna Solanas "La Lupe y el Bruno" (2005)

After an Oscar nominated Saturday, violent Sunday, here's a calming love story for a Monday morning. Marc Riba and Anna Solanas tell an age old story of girl meets boy, wants boy and will do everything it takes to get boy. Boy is nonchalant. Aren't we always? So girl uses all her charms and wiles to win over hesitant, shy boy. Who .... dithers. Lupe will not be denied however and when and if Bruno gets presumptious well maybe she'll just let him. Or not. La Lupe y el Bruno is set on a subway platform where our girl takes an instant shine to her man. You'll need to wait for Bruno's delayed reaction but the stop motion piece engages one's attention throughout, assisted by Bruno's ennui, Lupe's determination, Emilio Solla's music and two directors with a simple idea that is well executed. There's also more than one laugh aloud moment including a very funny, gripping resolution. I guess the pair are school pupils. It's the hot climate and all that waiting for public transport that does it.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Damian Nenow "Paths of Hate" (2010)

I am in a privileged position with my blog. I only write about films I like. Yet Paths of Hate from Polish film-maker Damian Nenow is unlike any animated film I've ever reviewed. Although there is a theme, gone are the niceties of plot or character development. Instead we get full throttle, full on violence in opposing WW2 aircraft as two indomitable pilots fight it out over an alpine landscape in a fight to the death. In full gory detail we see the blood, the mechanism of warfare as fuel and ammunition, not to mention luck, run out and our demon men are driven to fight it out on the land itself. Indeed the film is about the demons that dominate our souls, never sated of war. As I have said then, an all action film though we never truly engage with the two men, the photograph of woman in the cockpit a mere token of their humanity. However Paths of Hate is a film that engages the eye, and one cannot be without admiration for the detail, of the cockpit for instance, or the demonic faces as all elements of humanity crack through the veneer. Personally it is a little long for me and the violence palls though it is comic book violence, never unsettling. Compensating is the dramatic, stunning spectacle from beginning to crimson end. Damian graduated from Lodz Film School and works for Platige. He has a staggering amount of ability and I look forward to seeing other work of his in the future.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Patrick Doyon "Sunday" ("Dimanche" 2011)

Patrick Doyon's quietly disturbing comedy, Sunday, is based on memories of his Sundays with the family, the minutiae, routine, trivial dreams (dad's is of a toolbox!), passing the factory with the For Sale sign, the train that shakes the whole town as it passes, the squashed coin on the rail track. Then of course there are the animals. They don't fare well in the world of adults, squashed or sliced, boiled or mounted on the wall for all to see. Or the three crows who are there to squabble over lunch. Little boys notice these things, little boys who are at once the centre of attention and peripheral to the world of adults. Sunday has all the ingredients of comedy, the crows, the uproar of the train, or the fantasy that creeps in as lunch jumps up and looks at you. But somehow the bear changes all that. And what does the bear dream of? A fast train. That's what I found disturbing and sad. Beautifully observed and subtle through and through, this is a first class movie. The Montreal based animator draws his pen or ink sketches, then scans and colours each and every one on computer. His pared down style with its limited soft palette of shades is a delight. Patrick was nominated for an Oscar though lost out to The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore by William Joyce and Brandon Oldenburg. Consolations were that the NFB also had the wonderful Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis nominated alongside Patrick. (There is an alternative French site here for those YouTube viewers in the US.)

Friday, 23 March 2012

François-Xavier Goby & Matthieu Landour (Nexus) "Seige" (Coca-Cola 2011)

Nearly 2,000000 hits on YouTube alone signifies the interest shown in the epic Seige made for Coca-Cola  by the London studio, Nexus. It won the Best Commercial: 3D in last week's British Animation Awards. Two French animators previously featured here and, in the early days of the blog as students, here, François-Xavier Goby and Matthieu Landour were responsible. In the finest Tolkien fashion a momentous assault on a castle is due to be complemented by a fire breathing dragon. Cue the defenders' last chance when they launch a giant dragon themselves, this time made of ice. And you know what ice is needed for?  Thirst quenching extraordinaire. Now I have no intention of labouring over a sixty second ad seen by so many, suffice it to say it is so jaw droppingly spectacular it puts the "Ah" into Cola. Released for the American Superbowl in 2011 so it's big league, all right.

Ahmad Saleh "House" (2011)

If only all political perspectives were as eloquently articulated as is Ahmad Saleh's four minute film, House. The movie is an extended metaphor on the state of Palestine, as the history of a family's house is traced from the moment when fertile orange tree and house is a welcoming home for family and guests, to the present day situation that is presented as hideously unfair. Narrator Ulrich Fuchs recounts a tale without obvious rancour that is all the more convincing for the restraint. The stop motion animation moves at a steady but remorseless pace, the nature of what is occurring unravelling over the years until the final depressing conclusion. The website outlines the family support for the project, and the process of manufacturing puppets set within the six month academic deadline. The video itself is for private viewing on Vimeo, the link above being to the Dragon Award For New Talent, one of the many screenings and awards Ahmad has enjoyed since its release. There is also a making of film more freely available. As Ahmad was born in Jordan of Palestinian origin, graduating from a German university, his film has its own stance as would any of those gracious Israelis whose work is also represented here. The Animation Blog is entirely non-political but it does appear to me that were those politicians with responsibility for the Middle East as dignified in their approach as the makers of House then we would be nearer to resolving one of the seemingly intractable problems of our world.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Kate Anderson "Displacement Song" (Liz Green 2011)

There does seem a plethora of female vocalists here in the UK at the moment. One of the most distinctive is Liz Green whose Displacement Song was named as best music video at the recent British Animation Awards. This is no music blog but I quite like her northern folksy voice blended with what sounds like a German oompah band. Whatever, the lyrics are sufficiently mysterious to allow scope for the animator. Kate Anderson from HSI’s animation section, Dept. A, takes a sombre view in her "who dun it?" historical ballad. Commencing with a burning town, set in a time long ago when soldiers had muskets, the dark story unravels of a pyromaniac puppeteer whose manipulation gets out of hand. It all seems particularly well suited to the look of puppets and cut-outs Kate has selected. Rather than scissors and string, the director uses Adobe's Photoshop, Flash and After Effects, finishing off with Apple's Final Cut. The end result is imbued with the period charm of the monochrome lithograph and the added attraction of the singer herself appearing in portraits, her hair very much in style with the piece.

Danae Diaz and Patricia Luna "Caffeine" (Brandt Brauer Frick 2011)

I have two cups of coffee each morning and for the rest of the day drink tea. Too much coffee leaves me feeling anxious. But never so anxious as in Caffeine. Produced for the ‘organic techno’ Berlin trio Brandt Brauer Frick, the music video was made by Danae Diaz and Patricia Luna. Something similar to the screenshot was used for the album cover.  Now speaking candidly, amongst friends, I have to confess that were I to listen to this particular track for any length of time I'd end up leaping off a tall building. But purely for the purposes of the animation it works very well. For the driving beat of the music is as relentless as the momentum propelling the endless line of commuters making their way to work, which itself is anonymous drudgery. One brave soul rebels and breaks away. The geometric arrangements of the identical figures and spare design are striking. There's also a twitch in the tail that I did not predict. Patricia is an interesting character: "I was born in Russia in 1977, raised in Colombia and currently, I'm living in Barcelona." In the international, mobile world of animation, Danae also seems well suited: born in 1981 in Barcelona, educated there and at Manchester Metropolitan University and Kunsthochschule Berlin Weissenssee. She lives and works in Berlin.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Elinor Geller "The Spirit Child" (2006)

Graduation films appear like stardust from the many universities across the world. I have time for only a few. But lest I forget, here's one from way back in 2006. The Spirit Child is the work of Elinor Geller who obtained a well earned first class degree from Southampton Solent University. Based on the loss of her sister's six month old baby, Elinor wrote a rhymed poem in one evening and from this her special tribute was born. The seven minute film is the story of young Orli, seemingly content in a dark cemetery, "eternally young, forever beguiled". When an angel appears her world is transformed by light, colour and friends. Franklin Ojeda Smith narrates the piece, his rich voice a gem, and her brother, Avi Geller, wrote and produced the music. It has received much critical acclaim but not, until now, from me. I have waited years to quote the great man but Mark Kermode said this: "Enchanting, evocative animation melts with a poetic voice-over and an accomplished score. The film deals with the difficult subject of death in a manner which is universal and uplifting. Tim Burton would love this!"  The use of a seemingly effortless, sketch book style in 2D fits her subject perfectly. Elinor's lightness of touch is sustained throughout. Her wide eyed child has made a number of people wet eyed. It is that sort of heart-warming film possessing of an innocence and sweetness that does not cloy.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

"Ride Of Passage" Animation Workshop (2012)

25 year old Christian Bøving- Andersen has just graduated from the Animation Workshop in Viborg, Denmark. His group's thesis film, Ride Of Passage, is an exhilarating ride through the jungle that nevertheless has an ecological as well as a moral centre. In a splendidly 2D opening, tribesmen enter the jungle slaughtering all the beasts therein. The trophy of the tiger head confers status. The movie proper then slips into full 3D, full of vibrant colour, when a rather cute youth meets a huge chameleon with a heart and tongue to match. Sent out to collect his own trophy, young Toki then has to make a decision. Part of the journey involves trophy collecting, of the bloodless sort, and the collection of animals would grace any Disney extravaganza. I particularly enjoyed the moment when a preening bird stands up to its would be hunters. The full team were Casper Michelsen, Eva Lee Wallberg, Tina Lykke Thorn, Søren B. Nørbæk, Allan Lønskov, Jakob Kousholt and David F. Otzen. Visit the dedicated website for the film. I've also browsed the guys' blogs and they have talent to spare. Interestingly, most seem to have travelled to obtain employment, London and Paris being popular destinations.  There must also be mention for Pablo Pica's rousing music and the sound of Thomas Arrent and Jonas Jensen. Enough of the adulation. The undoubted star of the show is the chameleon. Such a good idea to cast a beast that changes colours in such a central role. And one question: what happened to the bundle of animals at the end? These things torment me.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Vida Vega "Tempo - Bike" (2011)

The best television commercials flow organically from the product. Thus the ad for a paper handkerchief  Tempo - Bike won Best 2D commercial at this year's British Animation Awards. Simple bright music and a clever idea, a straight forward, hand drawn animation on folded paper, held together by an unfolding narrative in which boy distributes the tissues to deserving causes until, you've guessed it, he needs one himself. The inked figures echo the blue packets rather fetchingly. Vida Vega from Film Club directed but the full list of credits (see below) is: DP - Pete Ellmore, Stop Motion animator - Anthony Farquhar-Smith, Animators - Nicolette Van Gendt, Ed Roberts, Gerry Forder, Assistant animators - Jay Wren, Alan Henry, Clean up artists - Ange Desilva, Justine Waldie, Artworking - Fiona Woodcock, Kaori Onishi, Sharon Lui, Belle Mellor, After Effects compositor - Jonathan Topf, Editing - Danny Mac, Music composition - Owen Davey.  Lovely. It brings a tear to the eye. The judging panel got it right. More tears. And as for the full credits above, which time normally precludes on my single person blog, I got it completely wrong first time round until some kind soul set me on the right path. Apologies to those concerned.

Alex Schulz "Inner Steppe" (2012)

Dwelling in a spartan hut in a desolate wasteland a man is surprised to discover a narrow gauge railway line ends up smack bang in the middle of his home. We are launched on a journey through an inner landscape as our man meets people central to his self knowledge. Inner Steppe is based on the work of Carl Gustav Jung and Hermann Hesse. I did once read the latter's Steppenwolf and I don't think I understood it at the time, or so my tutor said. German director Alex Schulz proffers an explanation.  Read it and I can assure you that everything will be so much clearer. Or not. In fact, a short stop motion animated film could never hope to elucidate such dense material and Alex's written explanation is an amorphous word maze. I am therefore minded to view the whole exercise as a very well produced, funny prank. There's something fishy about the central character's eyebrows! And there are undeniably highly comic moments in an altogether surreal experience. The website offers pictures revealing the process of animation. Prank or not, the little figures and models, together with the undoubted craftsmanship that has been bestowed on the stop motion animation, reveal rather more than we learn about the Swiss philosopher and Swiss/German author. Interestingly, no-one has actually said it's a joke on Vimeo. And yes, there's serious comment here about persona, but the spooky clowns are not the only pranksters in the piece.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Georges Schwizgebel "78 tours" (1985)

Reading comments on YouTube about movies that could in any way be deemed art is dispiriting. Unless there is a definite linear structure, allied to a clear story, then works are scornfully dismissed. Therefore if that is your preference you should not view the great Swiss animator, Georges Schwizgebel's  78 Tours.  A lone man is pensive at the table, drinking his coffee, listening to the music from his transistor radio. Memories are triggered. The framing of the film is very precise, the stationary children's roundabout, the accordion player poised to play, a still crowd of people from which, panning out, we see they are but mere decorations on a woman's dress.  When the action occurs it blends together like cream in coffee, sumptuously - Georges is so easy in his control of his medium. (I have written about his technique elsewhere on the blog.) In fact his film does have a definite narrative, that of life itself, revolving in circles or rings, boy meets girl, boy loses girl, in an ever repeating pattern across the generations. The director bases his work on circles, a park roundabout, fairground rides, spiral staircase, cup of coffee. There is a rapturous scene as young man and woman dance. Pierre-Alain Besse and Jacques Robellaz were responsible for the atmospheric soundtrack, accordion music being so capable of evoking nostalgia. At the close of the piece, notice that the staircase down which the man descends is more square than circle.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Aardman / Sumo Science "Nokia Dot" (2010) & "Nokia Gulp" (2011)

Here is the first in a series of posts triggered by the recent British Animation Awards 2012. Best stop motion commercial was Nokia - Dot. In terms of technological advance it was obviously a winner given that the star of the piece, Dot, is a mere 9mm in height, the team from  Aardman, Sumo Science, utilising microscopic CellScope technology and a Nokia N8. I simply loved the textures of the various garments and items, all of which presented a real obstacle course for young Dot, although she found an ingenious solution to her problems. The team and camera phone were not finished yet though, obtaining the award for Best commissioned animation with their Nokia - Gulp. It was a clever switch, moving from the microscopic to the vast, shooting the sand animation on Pendine Beach in South Wales, covering 11,000 square feet: the world's smallest and largest animation sets. Once again it is the quality of the work not the means by which it was achieved that counts. The happy sailor copes with all adversity from gulping fish to exploding mine in a piece that is beautifully designed. Sandinyoureye were the sand sculptors. In both ads the music and sound are exemplary. The guitar music for Gulp was, appropriately, “Guitar Gulp”, composed by Will Grove-White with Jack Sedgwick designing the sound at Wave Studios. The sound for Dot was also produced there by Aaron Reynolds and composer Michael Sims.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Winners of the British Animation Awards 2012

The ninth British Animation Awards 2012 was held last night.

Headlines include, Grant Orchard for Best Short Film: A Morning Stroll (Studio Aka)

Public Choice for Best Short Film to Francesca Adams for Bertie Crisp featuring the voices of Kathy Burke, Mark Benton and Tamsin Grieg.

Paddington Bear won the on-line public vote for the UK's Favourite Ever British Animated Character of all time

GorillazPete Candeland & Jamie Hewlett) obtained the Best Public Choice Music Video for their track Stylo

The Tale of the Three Brothers, part of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 picked up the award for best animated sequence in a film

Two Aardman successes for their commercials for Nokia: Dot and Nokia:Gulp directed by Sumo Science

Best Long Film went to The Gruffalo’s Child directed by Johannes Weiland and Uwe Heidshötter (Magic Light Pictures/Studio Soi)

The full list then:

Britain's favourite animated character: Paddington Bear

Best short film: A Morning Stroll

Best long form film: Maska/The Gruffalo's Child (joint winners)

Best pre-school series: Ben & Holly's Little Kingdom

Children's choice: The Amazing World Of Gumball

Best children's series: The Amazing World Of Gumball

Best mixed media children's series: Bookaboo

Best music video: Liz Green - Displacement Song

Best 3D commercial: Coca Cola - Siege

Best 2D commercial: Tempo - Bike

Best stop motion commercial: Nokia - Dot

Best film/TV graphics: Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows Part 1

Best student film: The Eagleman Stag

Best commissioned animation: Nokia - Gulp

Public choice best short film: Bertie Crisp

Public choice best music video: Gorillaz - Stylo

Public choice best commercial: Pilsner Urquell Legends: The Day Pilsner Struck Gold

I know that BAA Director Jayne Pilling is indefatigable in her efforts to keep the awards going.

Osamu Tezuka "Muramasa" (1987)

Muramasa is an eloquent plea against war. A samurai discovers a cursed sword thrust through the heart of a straw man. With this weapon he slays all who oppose him, and many who do not. Men are scythed down as if they were made of straw. The slaughter appals him to such an extent that the result is inevitable. The great Osamu Tezuka has an extensive and varied body of work. I have laughed aloud at his films, several featured on the Animation Blog. Musamasa is different. The pace is slow, the animation taking the form of zooming in or panning out to capture the clear drawings, of the samurai's eyes or the sword. The piercing music of the flute is mournful, discordant when the violence occurs; the director bathes the screen with frequent colour to reflect a mood, be it a harsh orange for violence or the cool blue of morning in the forest. Muramasa Sengo is a figure from Japanese legend, a notorious swordsmith whose swords also had a sinister reputation. His name will crop up in many games. The link is to a High Definition version of the film.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

New York Television Festival's annual Independent Pilot Competition

The New York Television Festival's annual Independent Pilot Competition is now accepting original, independently produced television and web series pilots in ALL genres, from 4-22 minutes in length. By submitting to the NYTVF, artists are eligible for category and sponsored awards including guaranteed development deals from partners IFC, MTV, Syfy, and VH1 Creative Lab. For additional details, rules and FAQ, visit:

Network sponsored awards: IFC "Out Of The Box Award"

Genre: Alternative Scripted Comedy
Award: $25,000 development deal

MTV Comedy Development Deal
Genre: Comedy

Award: $10,000

Syfy "Imagine Greater" Award
Genre: Scripted and unscripted pilots that include science fiction, adventure and/or fantasy elements

Award: $5,000

VH1 Creative Lab "Theory of Creativity" Award
Genre: Unscripted pilots, including competition, docu-series, social experiment, dating, sketch or talk show formats
Award: $5,000 to further develop project and an invitation to participate in an upcoming VH1 Creative Lab session as a paid freelancer

In addition to the four development partners guaranteeing deals inside the 2012 Independent Pilot Competition, all Official Selections are shared with the NYTVF's industry partners ( in the weeks prior to the 2012 Festival, including the recently announced NYTVF Pitch Partners ( No matter what you're producing – scripted, non-scripted, comedy, drama, animation or children's programming – there is a home for you and your work at the NYTVF.

All Official Selections will be screened at the 2012 Festival in October where Official Artists will have the exclusive opportunity to participate in NYTVF Connect - including Executive access, NYTVF Pitch and Industry Development Chats (

Important Dates:Friday, May 11, 2012, 11:59 PM --- Early Submission Deadline...$30
Friday, June 15, 2012, 11:59 PM --- Final Submission Deadline...$50
Friday, June 29, 2012, 11:59 PM --- Procrastinator Deadline...$100

Find out more information, view the Official Rules and Entry Packet here:

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Kylie Matulick & Paul Kim (Psyop) "Go Your Own Way" (Lissie 2012)

How do you follow a wonderful first ad in a projected series in which women get back to themselves for ten precious minutes for their cup of Twinings Tea? Answer: Go Your Own Way. Last time was all at sea, now it's over mountain, bog and misty forest until the young woman meets ... herself. Once again it's a strong song, the Fleetwood Mac classic with American singer Lissie filling in for the magnificent Stevie Nicks. She does a great job. The ad, if a little shorter, still has that spectacular feel. Kylie Matulick and Paul Kim from Psyop direct with something approaching aplomb. Read more about Lissie via the link. Mind you, the song is a good one, ideal title too, given the campaign. Where to go next? Sea, land and .. it's got to be space. Do astronauts drink tea amongst the stars? Silly. I guess it will be a city break for the next ad. City woman snatching precious minutes from the office. Watch me claim copyright if they do. I'd push the Earl Grey, or Lady Grey. My favourites.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Dadomani Studio "The Box - Poltergeist" (2012)

You know how it is. An evening in front of the television with one's loved one. Except your partner's snoozing away and you play around with the remote control. When your companion is a box, and you are a box dog, there are complications, because out of boxes come things. Tennis ball or landlocked fish is one thing, poltergeist is quite another. Our canine box is taken on an out of body experience. The Box - Poltergeist, from our friends the Italian Dadomani Studio, whose other paper cut animation was featured today, is in quite a different style. At 3 minutes in length the piece is a definite movie, the team proving as adept with paper boxes as they are with white towns. The link is to the studio which provides a much deeper explanation than my own, with Box and Dox involved in "interactive hallucinations uncontrolled and interacting freely with their surrounding environment..." There's quite a bit more of this. Dox, by the way, is the box dog. Mmm it's a bit deeper than I can manage but I get the picture. And very good it is. Better than that. Dario Imbrogno was responsible for the animation, Patrizio Saccò the photography, Stefano Armeni the screenplay, Enrico Ascoli the sound compilation and the fluid simulation, Dario Cavaliere. I hope the box pooch recovers because there's a hint in Carlo Paolillo's (from Dadomani)  email to me that this is episode one of a series. I do hope so.

"Lavazza - Favola a modo mio" DaDomani Studio (2011)

I've done the morning cuppa tea, so here's coffee to start the day. Lavazza - Favola a modo mio - freely translated as "Lavazza - Fairytale in my own way" - is a paper cut, stop motion animation by Milan based DaDomani Studio for the Italian coffee company. Rather tasteful it is too as a morning town wakes up to discover something is happening in the town square. The link is to the studio site and includes both a selection of images showing the fascinating process of creating the ad, together with a "making of " video. The model town looks exquisite, brightened by the stage lighting. It is also quite large in scale for those of us unused to the animation form. Andrea Ponzano's music is just right, creating both that fresh start to the day feel plus the rhythm of the coffee machine. Patrizio Saccò took the photo's and Andrea Lantelme was creative director. A genuinely refreshing piece, so peacefully white even with din of the Vespa; so much more than mere advertising. And genuine craftsmanship in the model making.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

"InaniMate" Micheal O’Donogue, Soulla Josephides & Ying Hui Tan (2011)

The second short for today could not be much different. InaniMate is a toe curling cute effort from a British animation school that continually impresses, the University of Hertfordshire. Alien arrives through open window to child's nursery intent on finding a life partner. The fun actually commences before this as we see the control system for the flying saucer, but the instrumentation is not child's play for the radar points to the whereabouts of possible partners, however not before some hiccoughs along the way. I love the way in which the hairs on the alien's body stick up in static inspired excitement, and the little gasp of delight. And of course, in time honoured fashion, our guy sails into the sky with his chosen one. He has made an appropriate choice too so we get the wink before he whisks away. Technically as well as artistically well made, Micheal O’Donogue, Soulla Josephides and Ying Hui Tan were responsible for the winsome piece.

Pranay Patwardhan "Nafasi" (2011)

Two widely different works today. First this from Supinfocom. A film does not have to be long to pack a punch. Nafasi commences slowly as the live camera tracks its view of a children's picture, wax crayons and sharply dissected paper that gradually takes on the appearance of a divided continent. We note the little girl, almost doll-like, who in animated form comes alive, fleeing in terror from the gunfire that explodes around her. Tristan Powell contributes an all too realistic soundtrack to young director Pranay Patwardhan's simply told short.        

Monday, 12 March 2012

Jean Henri Gaston Giraud "Moebius"

"Moebius" 1938-2012

I first became acquainted with Moebius due to his his illustrations for Science Fiction and Manga books and comics. It is how I know him best. He was interviewed in November 2010 for CTN.

David Prosser "Goodnight" (Studio Aka 2011)

In 2010 I wrote about a talented young animator, David Prosser, whose film Clockwork, impressed me very much. Well he graduated from the RCA in London and was employed by one of the biggest studios around, Studio Aka. I'd hoped  to show his rather wonderful Matter Fisher but that is not released yet. However, in compensation here's a sixty second slot he did for his employers, Norwegian oil giant, Statoil. Goodnight takes as a starter a bedtime chat between father and daughter in which he is asked what daddy does for a living. That was filmed in a live action sequence before father and daughter are launched down into the animated North Sea seeking out the treasure that is there, but difficult to find. Dodging giant sea squid, sea monster and other more benign sea life, the pair reach their destination. It is all complemented by the music of Johann Johansson. Somehow David captures the undoubted drama of North Sea exploration with that wonder of childhood that makes for so much great animation and literature. It also appeals to the great pride Norway has in its nationalised oil company, a pride I witnessed when travelling all over the country last summer. Great country and people.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Priit Pärn "The Triangle" 1982

The Triangle is a surreal view of marriage that actually grows funnier as it progresses through its fourteen minutes towards a conclusion that is not unexpected. Priit Pärn is at his playful best in a short Estonia's Soviet censors were not best pleased with at the time. Julia cooks all day for husband, Victor, who never leaves his newspaper, more content with his cigarettes than his wife. Dishes are extravagant, sliced up, poured out, slaughtered for the pot, dish after dish, until the kitchen work surface is awash with pots and pans of meals never consumed. And Julia yearns for her husband in an earthy expression of passion, none of which is reciprocated. Preparation of food replaces physical love, all that kneading, squashing, slicing. Frustration grows. Until there enters a smooth rival for her attentions, dapper, lustful. But is Edward only in it for Julia's dumplings? And how does Victor feel about this ménage à trois? And is Julia as committed to the real deal as her fantasies suggest? Pärn is one of the great animators, his work never being simple, offering a darkly humorous vision of life and often surprisingly graphic images, presented in The Triangle in a partial collage effect. Enjoy the juxtaposition of boring Victor hidden behind his newspaper and the gluttonous feast endlessly prepared amidst expressions of surprise and passion contained in repeated uses of each other's names, not to mention little Edward, spiv-like, salivating; or the kitchen itself, as disordered as its inhabitants. One of my favourite films of all time.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

Rainmaker / Donna Brockopp "Luna" (2011)

You'll recognise the kind of animated short film. Cute figure is established, instant rapport with audience, then summary killing off. The weaker shorts do it. Maybe the less mature director(s) are unable to resist the lure of the shock tactic. Mercifully, Luna is decidedly not one of those, though the ingredients are all there for gore. Instead there's a gentleness about the piece that is very appealing. Very appealing characters too. Silky, caterpillar, meets Luna, a flirtatious yellow moth. Instantly attracted to each other there is much fluttering of wings and eyelashes before we discover Silky is trapped in a light box. He has time enough for romantic serenading on the guitar, courtesy a beguiling score from John McCarthy. I should also mention the bonus of an accomplished sound design from Craig Berkey. The short is set in a frankly theatrical setting with the moon as backdrop, a line of  old fashioned street lanterns, and atmospheric lighting like I used to fail to create on stage. Made by Vancouver's Rainmaker as a means of publicising the work of the company, it was directed by Donna Brockopp and written and produced by Rainmaker's president, Catherine Winder. Donna is a graduate of Sheriden College with twenty years experience of working in the industry, including at Walt Disney. Her experience shows as does that of a skilled team. Luna is offered as an antidote to all those fearsome works I commenced with and as a platform for displaying the wares of a professional outfit. 

Friday, 9 March 2012

Psyop - Twinings' “Sea” (Charlene Soraia - "Get Back To You" 2011)

A lone girl in a boat, battling the waves, carried aloft by white gulls till the storms fade and she disembarks into a crystal sea to a desert island where awaits .... herself. I'll drink to that. Twinings “Sea” is one of the most successful commercials of recent times, sparking over two million hits on YouTube for the singer Charlene Soraia with her version of The Callings' song, Get Back To You, one of the key ingredients for its success. But only one, for this is a premium brand. The treatment is sumptuous and I have heard it likened, correctly, to Philip Hunt and Studio Aka's Lost and Found, still the most popular movie in our home for the kids. Sea (rhymes with tea) was created essentially with Maya but using Photoshop and Flash for the portrait-like look of the 30 second piece. "Twinings gets you back to you" is the catchline at the close as the girl drinks her cuppa. A major effort by a host of people from Psyop and Smuggler, however I'll single out the Creative Director, Kylie Matulick. Last month the ad won the Annie Award in the Best Animated Television Commercial category. I drink the stuff, love the song, wouldn't row alone on a tempestuous sea.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

YungHan Chang & Kimberly Knoll "No Robots" (2011)

If you have not already seen
No Robots let me assure you that it is a very moving film with a theme that is both subtle and superbly realised. Robots are outlawed. Demonstrators wield placards in the street against them, they are picked up in the street. The proprietor of a cafe dutifully displays his "No Robots" sign on the door. To little avail. He is plagued by one of the smaller robots that steals a carton of milk from the counter. It is a skilled pilferer, lightning quick and eluding his attempt to thwart it. Of course it returns. That sort do. And so the cafe owner chases after it through the streets and gets lucky. Or does he? Drawn in soft, muted colours, determinedly 2D in a world of 3D, the astonishingly mature and sensitive graduation film is by two students from California's San Jose State University, YungHan Chang from Taiwan and Kimberly Knoll from the USA. It is one of those compelling works that dwells in the mind long after the movie is finished. The reason for the thefts, the consequences and the little scene in the darkened cafe at the close will stir emotions and give pause for thought for all of us who leap to conclusions, mindlessly believing what we read or are told.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Chuck Jones "Private Snafu: Spies" (1943)

Private Snafu: Spies is a classic wartime propaganda movie shown only to soldiers. Private Snafu is due to sail to Africa at 4.30 but of course his lips are sealed. Which is just as well because there are enemy spies everywhere. Voice by Mel Blanc and directed by Chuck Jones, the movie is snappily written in rhyming couplets, as the witless soldier proceeds to break all his declared vows in jaunty fashion. It commences with just one tip to mother, going downhill fast when alcohol and a blonde bombshell loosen all his inhibitions. The YouTuber, , not only provides expert narrative but has also restored the film to its present fine condition. He is right to point out the racial stereotyping of the German, Japanese and Italian spies, but I have seen far worse in material created at the time. There was a series of such films made from 1943-5. They were evidently popular and successful. Modern viewers will find this a fascinating and entertaining cartoon, not just a historical exercise.

Marcello Laruccia "Estupida" (2011 Nana Rizinni)

Sao Paulo's Nana Rizinni co opted fellow Brazilian animator Marcello Laruccia for her song, Estupida. I like music and video both. I'm not sure if the Goddess in the wings is Nana herself but she certainly leads her more leaden man towards the sun with some aplomb and there's not a hint of the Icarus myth. Marcello essentially establishes his characters in shades of monochrome though colour does enter the equation, as our girl stares down on a lumpen world where, amongst the street signs, is one banning music. Cue our girl to descend from her soaring tower and save the free world. Having translated the lyrics, I'm not entirely sure what the relationship between video and original lyrics are - Nana seems to be missing her man in the song. Here her heroine takes a more dominant role. Anyway I like women who sail on the thermals, live in towers and save a humdrum world from itself.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

"Tadufeu" Mickaël Bellamy, Coralie Braconnot, Franck Delfortrie, Julien Jamme (2011 ESMA)

Tadufeu is such a wonderfully fun movie that, despite having featured quite a few ESMA films so far on the blog, I can't resist. Set in prehistoric times it covers the discovery of fire by a group of cavemen. The guys just love the thing. Food tastes better, the cold is kept out and their shared sense of camaraderie is blissful to behold. So much so that a neighbour is allowed to collect, from under their very noses, a mishmash of items for purposes unknown. Now let's not overdo this lovey-dovey sense of brotherhood. When the rain falls all bets are off. Immaculately animated by the team what I noticed is the bravura means by which day and night scenes are delineated, the sheer delight and pride of the men with their discovery and the instant remedy for righting the loss. Then there is a delicious conclusion, totally unexpected, that reveals how evolution takes many turns. There's another thing. I used to have a cat that was gorgeous. She flirted with me, loved attention, rolled round in the grass under the sun, lapping it up. Where little fluttery birds were concerned she had no conscience whatsoever. The heroes of our tale remind me of her. And it's brazen. So congratulations Mickaël Bellamy, Coralie Braconnot, Franck Delfortrie and Julien Jamme. Stars all. Fabulous entertainment.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Bill Plympton "Mutant Aliens" (2001)

By some measure, Mutant Aliens, cannot be considered a short being almost 80 minutes in length. It also has the stroke of genius about it. Bill Plympton is no stranger to the Animation Blog, for good reason. His cartoon strip, adult style of animation has gleaned admirers all over the globe. This 2001 feature film concerns an astronaut sent into space, tricked and stranded by the rocket designer, Dr Frubar, leaving his five year old daughter to grow up and carry on the fight on earth, alongside boyfriend Darby, against the increasingly powerful and megalomaniac doctor, an invasion of vicious aliens and the timely return of her father and a mutant crew. There's much more and all in absurdly gratuitous scenes of a violent and sexual nature. So it is not the sort of movie to sit through with the young family. Plympton lampoons Big Government and B Movies. Everything really. There's no restraint. If the director ever discovered a sacred cow he'd have it strung up in the abattoir inside twenty frames and mince by the next. Funny moments? Josie, now in her twenties, waits for boyfriend to arrive for sex. Whilst she debates the whys and wherefores, Darby's trouser contents undergo a whole series of metaphorical transformations, demonstrating his anticipatory glee. Or the live news lady who gets too near to her interviewees and spoils her viewers' lunches. A gleeful classic.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Erez Horovitz "Love Is Making Its Way Back Home" (Josh Ritter 2012 )

Love Is Making Its Way Back Home is an interesting exercise in strata cut, paper animation carried out by Erez Horovitz for American singer-songwriter, Josh Ritter, whose easy on the ear song allows for a lazy drive through the countryside and coastline scenery. Thus everything is in silhouette, employing 12000 laser cut images, filmed at 15 frames per second without any post production over seven sleepless days and nights. Read in more detail about the process on Josh's blog including some revealing snaps of the cutouts hanging like some child's wardrobe of dolls' clothes, all in colour sequence, together with the lighting and stage set, and the guys shattered sprawled out on the studio floor. So it wasn't exactly sleepless after all. Practical aspects aside, there is considerable ingenuity shown in the narrative. I liked the stag who hitches a ride, moving in time to the windscreen wipers. He's making his way back home too.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Jonathan Hodgson "Nightclub" (1983)

It is entirely possible that my academic career briefly overlapped that of Jonathan Hodgson whose 1983 short, Nightclub, is featured today. Again it is possible I was a youth at the very nightclub Jonathan encapsulates so vividly in his film about a Liverpool drinking hole in the 1980s. Certainly the film closes with a view of the city's cathedral that I recognise so well from my weary, early morning return to my Toxteth digs. Jonathan is one of the UK's directors, moving from Liverpool to the Royal College of Art and thence to a whole string of films and companies. His early piece is an entirely unflattering picture of the scene at that time: smoke filled, alcohol fuelled, aggressive, egos, chests. To a repetitive, pounding beat the men eye the women with a predatory stare. Even the colour has a challenging glare about it. Filmed in 16mm, the loosely sketched figures flicker in and out of an ever-changing landscape. Faces become caricatures, beasts even. But most of all they are lost and alone. This is not an edifying perspective on the human race. Of course, things are entirely different today, less primitive, the sexes more equal, sweetness and light really. Those days were tough. I'm surprised I personally emerged unscathed. Grrr.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Allison Schulnik "Mound" (2011)

Allison Schulnik gives us the second beautiful example of plasticine animation featured this week. However her four minute film Mound is not something I can precis in easy fashion. I'll start with the chosen screenshot, selected for its grace and symmetry. I could just as easily have attached a grotesquely ugly creation coalescing or separating from its fellows, witches or clowns, or the spawn of Satan. (Though some of the images remind me variously of Goudi's Sagrada Família, or even Prospero's citizens and island in The Tempest, there being a Shakespearean feel to some of the scenes.) But of course what I should have commenced with is to describe the piece as a riveting choreography to a very smooth ballad from the legendary, ultra smooth Scott Walker. And it is truly moving, because out of the unsightly clay, in a frankly theatrical manner, five figures rise up and dance in perfect loveliness, corpses perhaps but brought magically to life for the fleeting moments of the song. Given the closing sequences, the earlier figures are empowered, rendered tragic: macabre gargoyles transformed into angels. A graduate of California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) in Valencia, Allison's free spirited manipulation of the clay and the fluid cinematography of Helder K. Sun combine in an extraordinary work of art.

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Carlos Lascano "A Shadow of Blue" (2011)

A Shadow of Blue is a solidly sentimental tale of a young girl who moves from reality to fantasy and back. Her specific focus is a paper blue butterfly that flutters into life but needs rescuing. The rightly lauded director, Carlos Lascano, confidently utilises an array of different animation techniques plus live action. Some exquisite models were made, for example of the park bench, as well as the puppets themselves. (An account of the making of the movie can be found on Carlos' blog.) The CG is first rate, bright and appealing as required, and the puppetry works in similar fashion, particularly with the adroit lighting and music. Whilst being essential to the story-line and slickly achieved, I felt the shadow mime was a touch lengthy for my tastes. I can only watch a shadow for so long. That said, Carlos is some director. If the sentimentality of this piece seems a touch cloying, try his short to be posted later today for Amnesty International that is about as sentimental as blooded boxing gloves.

Carlos Lascano "Standing Up For Freedom" (2011 Amnesty International)

Amnesty International’s 50th anniversary Standing Up For Freedom is the second film featured today from Argentina's Carlos Lascano. It commences with a vivid red flower around which an enclosing prison wall crunches down. Another flower is taken up by a running child who in turn passes it, like some hot relay baton, to an adult and so, symbol by symbol, atrocity by atrocity, the story of our inhumanity is laid bare. Amnesty has so many horrific files to report, Carlos certainly would not have wanted for material. There are some powerful images here, many of which would serve as a campaigning poster in their own right. The red of the flower and then of blood, against a predominantly black and grey background, is arresting. So is the dramatic music of Hans Zimmer and Lorne Balfe. Can one stop a tank with flowers?