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Saturday, 30 June 2012

Omer Ben David "For The Remainder" (2011)

What did our cat do all alone in our home when we were out at work? He never seemed distressed though he usually deigned to rub himself against our legs when we returned. In For The Remainder, Omer Ben David's cat is old and in its dying moments as it makes a farewell tour of the house, amidst a rain shower and heartbeat that creates a vividly evocative sound scheme. All the movement, the sinewy grace, of the cat is there but as the screenshot demonstrates, the drawing has the effect of the bare brushstrokes of watery paint, albeit the computer animation is very much in 3D. Indeed some sequences look for all the world as if Ben had painted around a blown glass model of the cat. The film is genuinely experimental, almost an art exhibit except that one becomes emotionally attached to the animal as it clearly begins to slow down. The final frames are symbolic and entirely beautiful. Ben graduated from Jerusalem's Bezalel Art Academy. Lovely film.

Friday, 29 June 2012

"Electroshock" Hugo Jackson, Pascal Chandelier, Valentin Michel, Bastien Mortelecque & Elliot Maren (2011)

Electroshock is the second film from  Montpellier's ESMA in two days. There is more variety in the humour to my mind and in contrast to just about every other frenetic French movie I've featured here the guys slow it down. Well, to be honest, there's a bit of frenzy but a lot of stop. Here's how. Buck, a feckless, small town American electrician falls for Mady, the amply bosomed delight who needs a strong man. She's being courted by one such mature guy who happens to be sheriff. Buck, as I say, falls for her, from a great height, gaining awesome powers that he is totally incapable of using in his defence of the town and pursuit of Mady. Technically as brilliant as anything else from ESMA with engaging humour throughout and two particular delights. First off is the novel means of covering action in seconds as opposed to minutes (there's never enough time in a short); and second, a nice little epilogue that will encourage every red blooded husband to plunge his hand onto a live electric cable to gain the power. Hugo Jackson, Pascal Chandelier, Valentin Michel, Bastien Mortelecque and Elliot Maren made me laugh especially at the close. The link, by the way, is to the translated version.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

"Infection" Vincent Dobbel, Mathieu Maurel & Jerome Ponzevera (2010)

Infection makes one wary of employees with grandiose ideas, this one being for self defence against infectious diseases. In the hope of winning a prize, Walter, the owner of a gas station, prepares himself to deal with robbers by employing pretend hoodlums who proceed to terrorise the poor fellow. Enter the young employee who claims to have studied medicine. He explains everything in terms of metaphor, though his boss is none too sure of figurative language. There follows a mounting escalation as the poor man has to be ever more heavily armed. Vincent Dobbel, Mathieu Maurel and Jerome Ponzevera make a funny film with the sort of ratcheting up of the action that is a staple of many French films that have proven hugely popular on YouTube - as this one has and for very good reason. Frankly, any film from ESMA (L'École supérieure des métiers artistiques) is going to be both artistically and technically first rate and Infection is no exception. I like the manic young man and the bigging up of the armoury although I found the underlying premise a little difficult to grasp.

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Jonathan Hodgson "Camouflage" (2001)

Camouflage is a powerful film about children growing up with schizophrenic parents. Made by the experienced director Jonathan Hodgson whose work I have featured before, it mixes live action, drawn animation and taped interviews to tell something of the traumas associated with the condition. The filmed action is particularly moving: the girl's mum disrupting the family garden party or the girl visiting mum in hospital. Each piece of footage is blended into the animation, the symbols strongly etching the illness in our minds: monochrome room with bare lightbulb, garish coloured heads, slipping into the loo, being washed out to sea. I worked in a psychiatric hospital as a male nurse for one long summer long ago and dealing with the family was the worst part of the job. The film was made, as many superb British animated films were a few years ago, for Channel 4, by Hodgson's company Sherbet. The blend of styles is such a convincing vehicle for documentary films. And the director is one of the very best in the UK.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Marina Budovsky "Dear Alphabet" (2006)

A most macabre alphabet today in  Dear Alphabet.  Not one to use with the kids. A little hint of the cheerful tune that accompanies the credits: "The monster ate my mother but I'm gonna get it back." This identifies theme. Taking the direct route through the alphabet, CalArts student, Marina Budovsky, uses a combination of collage, live action, stop motion and drawn animation in her enactment of the A to Z. The seven minute short is full of memorable images, eyes peeping from a doll's house, hands climbing up the cell bars with just enough room to scramble out. I'm not sure whether this is all black humour (some of it certainly is) or a sincere attempt at the grotesque. Whether it be the red headed puppet girl with the whitened face, or the monster in monochrome, there's a certain elegance, not to say brilliance, about this marvellously lit film. And if the visuals are superb, the sound design from Nathan Ruyle is gloriously complementary in a discordant, eclectic manner mixing up archive, original and avant-garde recordings with the narrator's own young voice. He must be good as he has missed this film from his bio. I must not neglect an excellent script: C is for chaos which swallowed my mom. I am unable to say much at all about the director. However I have seen far worse award winners in major festivals. If anyone knows of Marina's other work do let me know. The film is dedicated to Marina's father, Samuel, who died a year previously.

Monday, 25 June 2012

"Slimtime" Bertrand Avril, Pierre Chomarat, David Dangin & Thea Matland (2011)

A more marked contrast with yesterday's movie is difficult to achieve. Slimtime is all seductive voices, sleek bodies and the merest sliver of menace. And there are some less chic bodies on show. Set in a vast, ultra modern, airport terminal (without the crowds) clinic, a man accompanies his wife for some therapeutic waist reduction. Whilst she is undergoing her treatment he takes a walk through the complex, admiring the beauties on display whose responses are not all demure. The programme seems unusual to say the least, the ladies with the waists fastened into machines, pressurised, sprayed, slimmed. But not all female body shapes are suitable, or even attractive, to all men. The directors from the marvellous Supinfocom Arles, Bertrand Avril, Pierre Chomarat, David Dangin and Thea Matland restrain themselves. Other movies might well have overdone the excesses of cream cakes or slimming equipment. Their colour palette is restrained and where there is mockery it is gentle. I loved the sound effects and the little design flourishes - the stained glass emblem of the cup cake in the treatment room, for instance. Most of all, Andrés wife has a great day out. Much better than afternoon cream tea.

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Sune Reinhardt "Mighty Antlers" (2011)

Mighty Antlers is another impressive film from Denmark's The Animation Workshop.  The directors (Sune Reinhardt, Mikael Ilnæs, Michael L. Fonsholt and Jouko Keskitalo) stage a fight to the finish between a reincarnated demon with antlers and the brutish driver of a vehicle who attempts to mow down a stag in his path. All the force and intensity of the car crash is conveyed in a frankly epic struggle between two brutes, muscles rippling, soundtrack blasting. Frankly I was not for one moment curious about the possibilities of the encounter, whether for instance all this was internalised fantasies of a traumatised brain, or of motive, did the driver intend to to kill the deer. Essentially the film falls into the category of all-out violence: well made, stylised to a degree, no holds barred. The increasing synchronisation between duel and crash makes for quite a film.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Sitji Chou "Peter the Space Between" (2011)

I felt my temporal node ache a little as I viewed Peter the Space Between by Sitji Chou.
There's many ways of saying I'm depressed and Sitji's character meanders through the whole gamut of them, verging into physics as we explore the inner universe, molecules and people, voids and distances in between, the truth of self, existence itself. I actually passed Physics as an exam all those years ago without truly understanding and struggled with several books by Stephen Hawking before deciding I'm better at colour and shapes. So enjoy the abstract vortex of an unusual and strikingly intelligent work. Maybe it's more intelligent than I know for the conclusion has just a touch of comic absurdity about it and I used to laugh ever so much in the Physics lab. Sitji graduated last year from Vancouver's Emily Carr University of Art & Design.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Xin Sun & Yun Li "Happy Life" (2012)

Happy Life certainly does not seem so happy at the outset. A lonely young man seems intent on inspecting his nether regions when he tumbles out of bed. There is a good reason too for he has been laying a golden egg each night much to his obvious distress. The things - Sesame Streetish - once hatched have to be secretly disposed of, to be released into the woods. Despair comes too easily to modern youth however and, fear not, moods change, the happy note at the close all exuberance and feel good. A combination of hand drawn and 2D computer animation, the piece has brightly coloured urban and domestic scenes plus a rural idyll where the guy can let rip. It was made at the School of Art and Design, Kassel. The directors, Xin Sun and Yun Li, graduated from Nanjing Arts Institute in 2003, moving to Kassell in 2005. They now work as animators in Berlin.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Screen Projections for "Madness" (Trunk Animation 2012)

I was somewhere mid Atlantic during our Queen's Diamond Jubilee concert held outside Buckingham Palace. However I recorded the whole evening. One of the acts I enjoyed on playback was Madness, their act greatly enhanced by the astonishing screen projections. (There's a separate video of the changing projections here.) I normally (and signally) ignore the press releases I receive but I'll make an exception here for my friends at London's Trunk Animation. They provide the detail some readers may well be interested in rather than my usual anodyne contribution. I will add one comment from a paper we in the UK trust for its level headed commentary. The Daily Mail observed: "Viewers were left in awe of the amazing light show which turned the palace into terraced housing." Now here's that press release:

"The ‘Our House’ projection, Directed by Rok Predin and Layla Atkinson, showed Buckingham Palace falling to the floor as though on a stage curtain, revealing rows of terrace houses and council flats which opened up like dolls houses to reveal big jubilee parties inside. Layla created the architecture for the collaged streets which were taken from a multitude of different locations to build the terraces, whilst Sara Savelj worked alongside designing characters. Rok Predin built all the 3D rooms and projected Layla’s terraces onto geometry before creating the dropping motion in C4D. Rok then went on to composite everything together adding detailed effects and grading the overall piece to look fantastic.

‘It Must Be Love’ Directed and designed by Alasdair Brotherston and Jock Mooney, turned the Palace into a colourful romantic setting, adorned with heart shaped hot air balloons, swans, cherubs and even palm trees all forming love hearts, as they emanated from the palace. Their animation started as line drawings scanned and coloured using Photoshop. These were then traced and animated using Flash before being taken into after effects and heavily composited. Both videos were set at a huge resolution at double HD (4096X1046). The videos were projected by d3 control system and crew, using an array of 36 projectors set just inside the gates of Buckingham Palace.

Geoff Posner, the BBC show director and Sam Pattinson, Treatment Studio’s Producer and Art Director came up with the initial “Our House” and “It Must Be Love” concepts and we produced each piece in just under 4 weeks.
"

Rodney and Berty "White Wine in the Sun" (2011)

Australian comic and musician Tim Minchin is one of my favourites from the usual plethora of overhyped and overpaid comics who dominate late night television here in the UK. His is a genuine talent, an absolute exception to the rule. As is that of Rodney and Berty in their White Wine in the Sun. It's a fun video, Minchin's intelligent lyrics providng much scope for the animators for the seven or so minutes. There is a twist here as the software, Muvizu, is an appealing program that is entirely free and can create real working animations in a day or so as opposed to months. If you doubt the speed of the process check here, to see a tutorial showing how a snow scene might be manufactured, for example by building the road as if with sections of Scalextric, or adding headlights that work or changing the scenery to snow, or having a moving figure kick the crashed car. The off-the-shelf figures come readily created with a constantly expanding library of characters and backgrounds. Of course, the look is a presribed one but judging from the burgeoning interest in this Scottish software the fun of so easily creating animations, adding lip syncs, changing camera angles and the like for zilch is an appealing one. To think how I struggled.... And as you will see, the finished product from messrs Rodney and Berty is excellent. You may also enjoy The Book by Matthew Perks that has a group of pals investigate a mysterious book that leads them to pirates. And we like pirates in my household!

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

David R. Christensen "Load" (2012)

Load is a powerful visual and audio experience. Set in an inhospitable world with chasms and cliffs, huge machines that both take and bestow burdens and mysterious colossal structures. In the midst of this stumbles a man burdened to collapse by the weight of stick-on notelets that are constantly being added to, obscuring his vision, blurring his mind. It is not surprising that under the weight of responsibility he buckles. For any of us who has worked in a pressurised environment this nightmare is all too real for all its heavy symbolism. I used to throw a lot of things about and turn infantile. Wrote a few lists in the diary and promptly forgot about them. Back to the movie. David R. Christensen leads his team from The Animation Workshop with aplomb.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Homeowners' Associations in Ukraine

Other than a goal-line camera (as in South Africa two years ago) I can only offer this consolation to the Ukraine after this evening's disappointment when they certainly deserved at least a draw. (For readers outside Europe think soccer.) So here is the sight of jubilant Ukrainians celebrating in the streets. Their little house has promised to return and they can turn their hands to proper maintenance: Homeowners' Associations in Ukraine.

Po Chou Chi "The Lighthouse" (2010)

A top film is to be featured on the Animation Blog today! The Lighthouse deals with a relationship between a boy and his ageing father. Absolutely beautifully drawn, director Po Chou Chi sets his film symbolically in a lighthouse, as the boy leaves home but the father keeps watch, the passage of years depicted as ever bigger boats that depart and, sometimes, return, the rowing boat and the vast ocean going vessel. Letters are written, father waits, boats pass by. Seasons change, absences grow longer. Of course the boy will return but to what? Some of the most touching moments are set at the piano as the father teaches his son, and naturally enough the soundtrack, composed by Chien Yu Huang, is piano music of the highest order. As is the film-making. It did not come out of a vacuum. The director holds a BFA degree in Fine Art from National Normal University and a MFA degree in Applied Art from Nation Chiao Tung University in Taiwan. He is current studying for his second MFA degree in animation at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). The Lighthouse was made there. It has won numerous awards. Naturally enough.

Monday, 18 June 2012

Anna Ginsburg "How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep" (Bombay Bicycle Club 2012)

You wake up and wonder at your journey. What was that light sinking beneath the bedroom floorboards? Was it the moon? Anna Ginsburg takes us on a nocturnal journey as a young boy endeavours to scoop light from the moon in a totally magical music video, How Can You Swallow So Much Sleep, from Bombay Bicycle Club. The puppet animation was triggered by one of the stories in Cosmicomics by Italo Calvino. There is a full making of blog here, demonstrating the process from initial sketches and scrapbook of ideas through to manufacture. It is a impressively detailed college of thoughts and images, all chronologically catalogued. Of course, music and animation need to blend and the fusion is fabulous as witnessed by the large number of hits on YouTube. A graduate of Edinburgh College of Art Anna works between that the Scottish capital and London.

Malcolm Sutherland "Umbra" (2010)

A space explorer falls onto the surface of an unknown world. Picking himself up he is quickly surrounded by tiny beings who throw themselves at his shadow in a seeming act of mass suicide. Startled, he commences a journey of self discovery. I admire Canadian Malcolm Sutherland's work, having written in praise of his work on several occasions. Umbra is, as explained in the YouTube link, hand-drawn then worked on with computer. Malcolm's films are imaginative and intelligent with a precision about his drawing that, even as in this quite simply drawn piece, shines out. Here the central concept engages one's curiosity from the first frame. The director understands the medium of animation beautifully, the visual tricks one can play. I also like it when I spot the ending early on.

Sunday, 17 June 2012

"Benigni" Jasmiini Ottelin, Pinja Partanen & Elli Vuorinen (2009)

The second of two Finnish animated shorts this weekend. Benigni is a beauty albeit the hero is a rather seedy, chain-smoking xylophone player who lives a solitary existence until he discovers a nasty growth sprouting out of his side. Some drastic pruning is required. But wait awhile......  This is a superior stop motion film with an appealing subject amidst the squalor, and a relationship that is very moving. It is another product of the Turku Arts Academy featured yesterday. I know from my correspondence that stop motion is popular on the blog. Jasmiini Ottelin, Pinja Partanen and Elli Vuorinen excel themselves, the story having all sorts of appealing twists and turns, plus a dramatic shock and beautifully conceived ending. The transformation of something awful is rendered with love, skill and sensitivity. I am surprised Benigni has not had more attention.

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Sanni Lahtinen "Kuka kehtaa?" ("Who Dares?" 2010)

You may recognise the references to a children's fairy story though our pompous ruler remains in his robes.  Kuka kehtaa? ("Who Dares?)
has a young girl witness the arrival of her emperor, the massed crowds kissing his hand in salutation. All is going marvellously well for the fat fellow when a whistle emerges from the crowd. Who is the whistler and who can prick the conceit of this fool? Sanni Lahtinen graduated with a degree in animation from Turku University of Applied Sciences in 2011. She works a lot with puppets and I shall have a look at this aspect of her films some time soon. Today's film is hand drawn, the crowds, stylised people and colours all having a distinctive quality about them. So too the gentle humour, warm and engaging.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Matt Sullivan "Reviving Redwood" (2012)

Redwood needs reviving, yes siree. The town's a mess with a stated population of 137 but that was long ago and the number crumbles even as we look. Redwood is a ghost town. Well, not quite, for there's one old fellow beaten down by the weight of adversity. But who knows what the winds of change might bring. Time for one last effort. Reviving Redwood is an optimistic film at a time when optimism seems thin on the ground. Matt Sullivan has just graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design. There's a great score from Corey Wallace that sweeps us along, changing the mood from meltdown to hoedown to glorious sunset, reflecting the revival. Not to ignore an affecting collection of little wooden working models at the close, brightly coloured and low-tech, to complement Matt's high tech mastery of the software. Nice work.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Fred Rowson "World Enough" (Police Dog Hogan 2012)

Director Fred Rowson informs me that this is his first attempt at stop motion and, to be frank, it's more well filmed live action than animation, but I like the song and style. So to World Enough from bluegrass outfit Police Dog Hogan off their album, From The Land of Miracles. The band is excellent and no fly by night act, having been on the UK music scene for eons. Filmed at the Powell-Cotton Museum, actor Alistair Findlay wanders through the stuffed animal section before making friends with one of the inhabitants. Susie Jones handled the animation. She also makes cakes. Very stylish altogether, Fred, but may I make a plea for more animation next time. I may just purchase the album though.

Ülo Pikkov "Bermuda" (1998)

I shall not spoil the surprise about the three characters in Estonian animator Ülo Pikkov's fabulous short, Bermuda, that amuses throughout its eleven minutes. It is the eternal triangle but set in a desert landscape where a landlocked boat houses a lady with lustrous red hair and little else to hide her modesty, and a sailor with a wooden leg. He pursues a daily ritual of hauling water from a well and attending to the needs of the red haired one. Oh, and there's a snail but he's no rival. That person arrives complete with flashy coat and dashing moustache. The lady is distracted. Ülo's artful, hand drawn piece is full of wit. And considerable charm. Should you have missed it do view Alexandra Hetmerova's lovely Swimming Pool for clues as to character but only after viewing Bermuda.

Sebas&Clim (TI Sparkle ads x 4 - 2012)

Trunk Animation's Sebas&Clim make an aesthetically pleasing set of four ads (1, 2, 3 & 4) for TI Sparkle, the international division of Italia Telecom to be shown during their international conference in Chicago before appearing on their website and multiple social media channels. The simple animated pieces have a refreshing quality about them especially when combined with the equally cheerful, rejuvenating sound design of Barcelona's Flow Audio. And the great thing is that the ball (or whatever) always gets to where it is intended after a smoothly negotiated route, like a computer game that faultlessly models the action before my own invariably cack-handed attempts.

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Christopher Gray "2012 AICP Show & Next Awards" (Studio Aka & Blacklist)

London's Studio Aka and New York's Blacklist combined under director Christopher Gray to make the opening sequence for the 2012 AICP Show. Who could have thought such slow moving blocks and spots could work so well? Gorgeous.

Animation Sequence Project



































Dear Ian,

First, let me introduce myself. My name is Arent Benthem, and I am one of the founders of animation studio in60seconds, based in Amsterdam.

The reason that I send you this mail is that I set up a project called the 'Animation Sequence Project'. One of the early participants, the great motion artist Ariel Costa suggested I should send you a message about this.

It all started a few months ago. I had some vague but potential ideas about a co-creation project for animation artists. The most important idea for me was to create something great together with a bunch of great animators and thereby show an overview of the state-of-the-art in animation in the world. Eventually these thoughts ended up in what is now called the 'Animation Sequence Project'.

To cut it short, creative minds from all around the world are invited to make a short piece of animation. With only two rules! First, the animation starts and ends with a 250 pixel square in the exact middle of the screen and seconds, has a maximum of 10 seconds.

The square then can become anything you want. A box, a character, a building, a circle, and it can tell its own little story. Absolutely anything, as long as it is a square again within 10 seconds.

Combining the best and most inventive entries, we create a short story showing the state-of-the-art in animation and have it shown on animation festivals worldwide.

Now I have some great first entries, but I want to spread the word so that more animators all around the world can join this project. I really hope you want to share it on the Animation Blog! I think it would really help to turn this into a success.

Website: http://www.animationsequence.com
Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/animationsequence/

Kind regards,

Arent Benthem
arent@in60seconds.nl

PS. It’s cool to be square!

Boris Labbé "Kyrielle" (2011)

Boris Labbé's  Kyrielle was very well received at Annecy this year winning the Special Jury Award. I concede it is a clever piece of work, consisting of some 285 watercolour drawings, worked on in 2D on a computer. The sparse screen is soon teeming with a myriad figures each greeting each other, cartwheeling, stretching, leapfrogging.... At over ten minutes in length it is possible to fix on one figure and watch the various actions and metamorphoses. I read vicarious explanations on Vimeo without conviction. I was too busy working out how many layers it had taken to create the piece, or whether or not Flash was used to simplify compositing. Ten minutes at Annecy on the big screen with an enthusiastic, knowledgeable audience whooping it up might make the ten minutes pass more quickly. Post holiday blues meant that I contracted my viewing into about half that time. Boris studied at L'Ecole des Métiers du Cinéma d’Animation. I wonder what L.S. Lowry might have done had he the use of a computer. Use less colour I suspect.

Julius Liubertas "Jonukas's First Fish" (2012)

Jonukas's First Fish casts a sentimental glow as grandfather and grandson go fishing. Julius Liubertas made the piece in two months whilst studying in Vilnius, Lithuania. He was, he informs us, looking for a "warm, colorful, toonish looking film". Well he's got it and Jonukas his fish. Well, they're always bigger in the memory.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Virgilio Villoresi "The Future We Want" (2012)

Virgilio Villoresi made The Future We Want as part of Rio+20, a sustainable development campaign from the United Nations. Using stop motion and a series of painted hands the 75 second short lightens up a somewhat preachy, earnest monologue with a witty and often striking series of animated images. Indeed I am unable to think of how better to lighten the heavy burden of aims set out in the brief. Thus we have a hand wiping away ink from a globe or passing card images through an iPad frame, plus a tasteful, bright array of colours.

"Loom" Fabian Pross, Jan Bitzer, Ilija Brunck & Csaba Letay (2010)

Loom has the look of one of those expert nature programmes on television that so captivates viewers. Sometimes a piece exudes class and this technical tour de force is one. A moth flies into a web, attracting the spider whose venom is absorbed by the insect. From there we commence an internal journey as the fibres spread through the body until one cannot fathom where destruction or creation begins or ends. With a stupendous sound design by Joel Corelitz and inspired rendering, the team of Fabian Pross, Jan Bitzer, Ilija Brunck and Csaba Letay create a memorable film, almost a visual and audio experience. Hailing from the rightly lauded Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, the directors formed Polynoid who were responsible for the much acclaimed 458NM and much more. Loom is in the same mould. It has already attracted much comment since appearing on Vimeo. I'd be remiss to omit it from the blog despite a weight of more recent films I've got piling up since my vacation.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Tyler J. Kupferer "The Girl and the Fox" (2011)

Who killed the ducks? Nine year old Ilona sets off in pursuit of the bushy tailed one in what is a film with a heart. The Girl and the Fox was Tyler J. Kupferer's thesis film for his masters at Savannah College of Art and Design. The piece is a well made, hand drawn digital animation employing a forty strong crew from one of the colleges I have ear-marked for my series on great schools of animation. The praise on Vimeo is well merited though I had no tears myself: foxes is foxes and I lived on a farm with hens! But this fox is literally heart warming and the sentimentalised glow of the artwork and lighting possesses a winning quality. Tyler could have been a little harder hitting in the depiction, say, of the slaughter of the livestock and my snow storm would have had more bite to it. Different film this - Disney not Tarantino. Tyler's got talent, has led his gifted team conspicuously well, and created a film you could show to the kids without fear of nightmares.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

On Vacation

I've been sailing in the Azores for the past fortnight and so unable to respond to emails or write up my research notes into the best animation schools. But I did post articles in advance and struggled with my Blackberry for others. Normal service will resume tomorrow.

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Johannes Flick & Marco Hakenjos "Chop Suey" (2010)

Chop Suey is impressive not only because it was created in only one month by Johannes Flick and Marco Hakenjos from the Filmakademie Baden-Wuertemmberg. The initial  creation of a storybook China is excellent. The facial detail might be a little on the sparse side but watch that wok bubble and be hungry. Then we see what is to be the contents of said wok. The basket is too big, the sides too high. But our bird is intelligent and works out the only possible solution. Heartless directors. Heartless, heartless, heartless.

Friday, 8 June 2012

Alexandra Hetmerova "Wave of Care" (2007)

I've written about sheep several times on the blog. Here's a very early animation, Wave of Care, from Czech student, Alexandra Hetmerova, whose ewe is sprucing herself up for her ram. A girl's got to look good but sometimes a lady tries too hard. Shearing sheep was never this much fun in my youth. You will recall I wrote about Alexandra's work a few days ago. Use the Search This Blog facility.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

"Mac 'n' Cheese" Tom Hankins, Gijs van Kooten, Guido Puijk & Roy Nieterau (2011)

Tom Hankins, Gijs van Kooten, Guido Puijk and Roy Nieterau from Utrecht School of Arts made Mac 'n' Cheese 
in five months and it is considerably tastier than its namesake. Big guy chases long lean guy across the country causing havoc to traffic and citizens everywhere. The traditional chase movie much loved of Hollywood is in the style of those French graduation films I feature here frequently. It is well made, inventive and exciting. In fact so frantic is the chase that the ugly guy has to have a time out to take drugs, two whole armfuls. This allows him the impetus to continue his pursuit. Fun.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Toby Jackman "Today Only" (2009)

Today Only is Toby Jackman's 2009 graduation film from the NFTS. It is a joy from start to 9 minute end. Based on an original script by Mahalia Rimmer, it allows us entry to the surreal world of a grey cat. There's the girl who loses her red panties, the sign writer who would like to see the contents of said panties, the child with a magic wand, two fairies, mischievous ones at that, a laundrette supervisor, some lavish soap suds and a trip to the moon. The film is a slow burner, introducing us to the characters then allowing the humour to build up to the laugh aloud moments and all the time there's a glow to the action, a warmth of lovable characters and eccentric situations. And that darn cat. Let's be clear, Toby directs but there is a large cast of talented individuals conspiring for something a little bit special. (Credits here.) Technically too the film is more than first rate. The colouring is sumptuous as is the music by Jon Opstad. There's a criticism on Vimeo about the ending. I don't agree with it. The criticism not the conclusion.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Anton Dyakov "Bach" (2010)

Here's one for when you want to chill out, relax, listen to the sounds of a forest at night, owls, assorted other bird song, the distant sound of a train. Live at a snail's pace. Listen to Bach. Watch Bach. Anton Dyakov's gently humorous five minute short takes a short journey the length of a branch as a snail goes for a drink. It has company, notably fireflies and a large fish. There's even a commotion as humans pass by. The only respondent to the YouTube link wonders what is it all for. I've wondered the same myself over the years. But I think I know the answer in this case. Thirst. Anton studied at Moscow's Shar Studio. He has a new film, Kostya, out for Annecy. The music is Art of Fugue, BWV 1080: Contrapunctus 1, the players The Amsterdam Loeki Stardust Quartet

Monday, 4 June 2012

Ferg Brennan "The Fisherman" (2011)

I recall sitting round the campfire in the scouts listening to our leader tell ghost stories with his broad Scottish accent and then just when all seemed doomed he'd lighten the tension with a wink or anticlimax.The Fisherman has no wink that I can discern. Indeed this retelling of the Irish legend, salmon of knowledge, is confidently delivered with CG that looks like puppetry, and a theatrical quality of lighting delivering that camp-fire quality in spades. The salmon is a magic fish and the person catching it would be the wisest man in Ireland. But Ferg Brennan's film is a deeper exploration of a developing madness, the fish representing an escape from poverty for the increasingly desperate fisherman. Foust too struck an agreement with his own demon. Actor Diarmuid De Faoite surpasses himself voicing the monologue. Ferg studied at the Dun Laoghaire Institute of Art Design and Technology.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

"We Weren't The First Ones Here" (Newport Film School 2010)

Memories. Guaranteed to raise emotion. Good and bad, big days, normal days, happy days, sad days. We Weren't The First Ones Here tells the story of a house in a combination of stop motion, 2D animation, and voice-overs. "And when the tree finally fell it looked so empty - that big piece of sky where there wasn't any before." The narrative history of a house over the generations is never sensationalised in an affecting script. "I felt really small in that big expanse of a house." Indeed some of the memories are humdrum and all the better for that. Spilt champagne, scribbles on walls, a child's first words. Jack Vaughan's exceptional music sets the tone for each scene, from stillness to a brisk canter and some of the visual ideas work beautifully, the peeling wallpaper revealing the coverings of generations. "Opening the curtains and waking up." There's also a dramatic quality about the sets, particularly when empty. It was a joint enterprise for Kate Broadhurst, Emma-Rose Dade, Helen Dallat, Daisy Gould and Joseph Wallace, using the enthusiastic voices of Catherine McKinnon, Adam Peck and Edith Woolley. Such a fine idea for a student production from the fine Newport Film School"Without the people, the life, the house was nothing really."

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Siri Melchior "Whistleless" (2011)

Whistleless it might be but Siri Melchior's delightful short makes sweet music for me. Amazing isn't it that in this age of high tech computer animation (which I've taught) the humble potato print can stamp out such an impression. Our little bird seeks out helpful friends to learn the art of whistling. Tigers and traffic policemen try their best and eventually, it won't surprise anyone, our bird sings like a bird. The innocent colours, idealised urban landscape and tuneful music combine to make a special piece of work. I first wrote about Siri in 2007 when I still wore short trousers. The Dog Who Was A Cat Inside was gorgeous, this is gorgous, oh what a wonderful world.  (It makes you feel like that.) Siri was one of the founder members of Trunk.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Cat Bruce: Two Films, Trailer, Rigging and a Reel (2009 - 2012)

You'll recognise the voice of Cat Bruce from Ania Hazel Leszczynska's Monster in the Toilet. It's distinctive and very Scottish. There's also a Gaelic integrity about all her animation work and it is most definitely distinctive. In the absence of Cat's graduation piece, The Golden Bird, which I'd love to write about, here's various works of hers, one of which is a reel. memories: little men recounts a child's memory of little men who disturb her sleep and appear awfully real to her. Using a variety of media though principally cut-outs, there's a winsome charm to the piece plus an eye for colour, lighting and shadow. This same facility with her medium is apparent in her six week vacation exercise, the dream, which is equally enthralling. But what I also appreciated was the sound design, homespun like her work perhaps but endearing; never dismiss the importance of sound in animation. Shooglenifty's The Dotteral gives a definitive Gaelic air to Cat's reel, a work of art in its own right. Who needs the film itself? Well, it would help for the extracts are enticing. And if all this were not enough, here's the rigging for the The Golden Bird. Takes all the magic away, doesn't it? (No!) We will just have to wait for the festival circuit to end.