Dear Anna Olson

Dedicated independent animators will do – and should do – anything they can to complete their films. Case in point: East coast animator Dean Kalman Lennert has been working on a personal film for over ten years between professional jobs on Doug, Beavis & Butt-head, TV Funhouse, and Ice Age. Inspired by a note he found tied to a balloon, Dear Anna Olson is hand drawn, fully animated and entirely dependent on donations for completion. In an effort to raise the funds to finish the last 30% of the project, Lennert is doing everything he can think of, including making this recent appearance on local TV (“Better Connecticut”, WFSB, Channel 3 in Hartford) to make his case:

For more information on Lennert’s film, or to make a donation, go to DearAnnaOlson.com.


  • Chris Webb

    Go Dean Go!

    The movie looks good. I especially like the character design – reminds me of Gahan Wilson. Very nice.

    Good luck with the film!

  • amid

    I’m sure this filmmaker is well-intentioned but on his site he says he’s budgeted the film at $230,000. If it’s costing you $230k to make a 15-minute animated short that looks this rudimentary, then you’re clearly doing something wrong. Heck, Bill Plympton makes his features for less than that!

  • Tom Pope

    I’m sure he’s put in 230k worth of man hours into it. That doesn’t mean it has cost that much in cash put-out, and it is hard to get someone to supply that until you hit it big. But it is and will be a great accomplishment.
    By the way, Amid, once again you show a really indiscreet, unsupportive way with the language. “Rudimentary”? I’m sure it applies in one form or another, but it sounds nasty here.

  • http://hand-drawn-animation.blogspot.com David Nethery

    Rudimentary ?

    On the contrary, the clips I saw had some very time consuming, exacting close inbetweening work and elaborate animated backgrounds shots that look as if they were drawn by hand , not computer assisted (even if they were computer assisted for the perspective, the final rendering on paper with color pencil is very precisely done and would take many long hours of careful labor to produce) .

    The animation is full animation on 1′s and 2′s . By contrast Bill Plympton (who you referenced) works on 4′s and 6′s , so he has many , many less drawings to do to complete his films. (this is to say nothing against Bill Plympton; he has a style and it works for him. But just on a technical level it seems unfair to compare what Dean is doing to Bill’s work)

  • http://wardomatic.blogspot.com Ward

    I’m assuming ‘rudimentary’ meaning not much compositing and effects, etc. There’s definitely a great deal of animation going on in his film, no doubt about it.

  • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

    It’s nice to see some support of the independent animator from at least half of the brew. Keep going Dean! Illegitimi non carborundum.

  • http://www.stephenneary.blogspot.com pizzaforeveryone

    keep on truckin, dean!

  • Chuck Rekow

    “It’s nice to see some support of the independent animator from at least half of the brew”

    That’s a pretty unfair statement, Floyd.
    I’ve been following the Brew since its inception (and I believe you have as well). We both know that no one champions the cause of independent animation quite like Amid. He works tirelessly to seek out work off the beaten path and never misses an opportunity to champion the “little guy” —almost to a fault IMHO. Even though I was as surprised by his comment as some of you, (and I don’t necessarily disagree with it either), I think we can assume his comments are an honest appraisal.

  • http://www.fortaxreasons.com Ben

    GO DEAN!

  • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

    There are better ways to raise questions about production costs than with a put down. I know that this is a project that Dean has worked on and kept going for several years. To get a plug on the Brew for his project (and wider exposure to the animation community) is a big deal, but to get such a negative post from Amid only two posts into the comments doesn’t show a whole lot of support.

  • David Levy

    I am in full support of the idea of indie animation, but that doesn’t meant that I will automatically like every indie piece I see, and why should Amid be any different? Blind support is pretty useless.

    As others have pointed out, Amid has been a big booster of indie animation. His comment doesn’t change that. And as Chris Robinson has said, for this industry to grow up, we have to stop building a protective wall around each other. There has to be room for criticism and intelligent commentary.

    Dean’s film will stand on its own merits, and I am certain that it will win the appreciation it deserves.

  • http://wardomatic.blogspot.com Ward

    Floyd, I wouldn’t take it as negative. Really, I’m just as curious as to why it’s costing Dean so much myself, since I’m currently working on my own short film. 230K is quite a number, one that I’m hoping not to see as a finally tally on my own film.

  • Eric Weil

    David Levy makes an excellent point that blind support of indie (or any) animation serves neither the art nor the artists. The same can be said, however, for Amid’s puzzling, and arguably premature judgment of the economics behind Dean Lennert’s incomplete film.

    I don’t know all of Dean’s work, but I repeatedly hired him for some “Sesame Street” films I produced and in my experience, there’s nothing rudimentary about his finished animation. Granted, Amid doesn’t specify what he finds so rudimentary about the available footage– as noted by others, it may not be the animation. It’s unfortunate that Amid, who clearly knows how to write evocatively and perceptively, denies us any explanation for what reads as an authoritative, if speculative, criticism, apart from a reference to the work of Billy Plympton.

    So let’s indulge Amid’s suspicion that Dean’s ambitions don’t merit his budget. What if it were possible that Dean just wants to be well paid for his pet project? Clearly his donors, which include a murderer’s row of animation talent and authorities on the art, feel that a least some support is justified. So where’s the harm? Does Amid feel that one needs a permission slip from Bill Plympton in order to make a film non-frugally, assuming that is even the case here?

    Bill produces on a scale that works for him, and boy, does it work well. But economics dictates that our work is worth at least as much as what people will pay us to make it. And there, nestled among the wall of names supporting “Dear Anna Olson” is one Bill Plympton. So I guess that permission slip may need to come from Amid himself.

    I admire much of Amid’s writing and salute the vitality and relevance that he and Jerry bring to the Brew and the larger animation community. But in this case Amid has allowed the act of blogging to recuse himself from the more informed standards of simple fairness, much less those of good journalism. To be fair, though, Amid has also done Dean and me a true solid; he has motivated me, albeit belatedly, to offer a little financial support for Dean’s film. I hope that other readers who have the means join me, and if so, perhaps Dean will see fit to thank Amid in the acknowledgments for “Dear Anna Olson.”

    Good luck, Dean.

  • Eric Weil

    Gulp. I actually referred to Bill Plympton as “Billy” in my first reference to him in the post above. Apologies to Bill. Just another reason why editors/better proofers than I apparently am are so valuable. How embarrassing…

  • http://www.DearAnnaOlson.com Dean Kalman Lennert

    Let me offer up some perspective on this.

    Everything in this film has been hand-animated, hand-inked & colored and photographed on 35mm film using an Oxberry. When I started “Dear Anna Olson” years ago computers were not the central tools in the industry that they are today, and, as such, were not a viable option for this independent production. It’s true that *now* I could find cheaper and simpler ways to tell this story, but with so much of the film already “in the can”, I am staying committed to my original vision and seeing this project through as planned.

    The current total budget includes sizable amounts for hiring animators and other artists at fair market prices, as well as covering camera and lab services for shooting on 35mm, post production costs, and the initial start-up for promotion and distribution.

    In this day and age, I recognize that these numbers may seem outrageous, but this is the nature of producing hand-crafted artwork. In other words, you can go buy some furniture at IKEA for an incredibly low price, but that doesn’t mean a craftsman selling a hand-carved chair is ripping you off when it costs substantially more to purchase his product. The sequence in the film with the balloons flying over the city, for example, took well over 1,200 man-hours to produce from beginning to end, and is just one small portion of the final piece.

    Over the years, I have been blessed with a great amount of guidance and support for this project, and I would like to say thank you to everyone here for sharing their comments as well as their words of encouragement.

    Peace,
    Dean

  • http://wardomatic.blogspot.com Ward

    Thanks for your comment, Dean — best of luck to you on your endeavor!

  • Stephen

    Good luck… by the way my mom works with your sister Dorian