At first glance, his original style, with its high level of detail, might not seem like a natural match for animation. He’s been lucky though to work with smart directors like Pete Candeland who understand how to use his paintings in the context of animation production. The paintings, with their smooth blend of photorealism and abstraction sometimes remind me of the Precisionist paintings of Charles Sheeler, while some of his work also recalls Wayne Thiebaud’s paintings which have similarly vibrant colors and clean sense of light. Whatever his actual influences, he pushes far beyond them, and brings a fresh and beautiful sensibility to animation.
The thing that I find most exciting about his work is how he reveals the abstract patterns of landscapes through simple color and shape. Zoom close into one of his paintings and it becomes mesmerizing in an entirely different way:
While there’s nothing wrong with trying to recreate the look of traditional techniques like gouache, oil, and watercolor within the computer, I get far more excited when I see work like Alberto’s which doesn’t attempt to mask its digital footprint. For example, note the fascinating effect of how his clean lines and shapes break down as objects recede in the distance and the scenery begins to look like digital artifacting (example here). His work feels well suited to the digital medium and takes advantages of its possibilities while applying solid artistic principles that a painter using more traditional techniques would use.
Something for the vinyl heads: “Into the Cosmos” was directed by Chopsy (aka Darren Robbie). The short asks, “What happens to all the old vinyl people used to play? From out of attics, rubbish bins & forgotten shelving, the records are summoned to an old warehouse by a mysterious ‘collector’.” Love the energy of the animation–the music and SFX added by Architeq is a smooth fit–and I’m impressed how Chopsy was able to create snappy and interesting movement out of “characters” that are essentially flat circles. The LPs cutting through objects like blades was also a nice touch. In addition to making his own films, Chopsy directs commercials at Aardman–here’s the most recent spot he’s done for them.
Production info from the director:
Using a combination of stop-frame, pixilation, live-action & time lapse animation, it was shot in a variety of locations around Bristol & was created by shooting entirely in camera whenever possible (at other times multiple passes were combined). By shooting each frame within a specific timescale for the external shots, we see vinyl records interacting with the ever changing natural light & weather (dry or wet, sunny or cloudy) — if you look closely you can even see puddles drying out in a couple of shots.
The short film was created on & off over a period of 7 months by a bunch of friends between paid work, a real labour of love (it had no budget to speak of). It was shot in late winter earlier this year with the spring & summer being used to do all the post (mainly rig removal). All the records you see were cut before shooting, with new centre labels stuck onto them to create the desired visual effect of them spinning & bouncing through the ground, they were then animated on location using weighted rigs.
Architeq added the music & sound effects after filming finished & the first edit was completed. Rigs were removed, different passes combined & shadows cleaned up in AfterEffects. Motion capture on location was achieved by using Dragon software on a laptop, which was in turn powered by a portable caravan battery. Cameras used were the Canon Eos 5 & 7.
Producer: Kev Harwood
DOP: Toby Howell
Animators: Darren Robbie, Inez Woldman (additional help: Wendy Griffiths, Ed Patterson)
Compositing: Jim Lewis, Bram Thweam, Darren Robbie
Appearances/pixilation: Ian Whitlock, Bobby Proctor, Robin Crowther-Smith
Rigging: Craig Atkinson
Gaffer (warehouse shoot): Clive Scott
Editor: Nikk Fielden
Megamind opens in US theaters today, but the film already premiered in Russia last week. The DreamWorks feature posted a healthy $6.9 million opening in Russia and was the country’s number one film at the box office. Earlier DreamWorks features also fared well this year–How to Train Your Dragon launched with $7.3 million and Shrek Forever After with $19.7 million.
Russians are apparently hungry for CG animation of any kind, and notably, they’re getting to see the big Hollywood releases before their American debuts. Open Season 3, which won’t appear in the US until next year, opened theatrically in Russia two weeks ago, and it too was the number one film at the box office, taking in $2.3 million. I swear, it’s like some bizarro universe where every animated film does well. Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole opened at number one with $3.4 million, Despicable Me at number two with $3.3 million, and Alpha and Omega also at number two with $1.6 million. In fact, just about the only computer animated feature the Russians haven’t liked this year is Toy Story 3, which opened with $2.3 million and finished its box office run with a weak $6.6 million–or less than the opening weekend of Megamind.
In case you’re curious, here’s the Russian poster for Open Season 3:
While the NY Times mentioned the word “SpongeBob” EIGHT times in their write-up, Fast Company mentions him ELEVEN times and even added a SpongeBob infographic just in case you’re not sufficiently clear what show Disney wants you to think Phineas and Ferb is like.
UPDATE: Phineas and Ferb co-creator Dan Povenmire posted in the comments. He wants to make clear that any SpongeBob references are instigated by the authors of the articles and that Disney publicists don’t reference that show. Here is Povenmire’s full comment:
Just so you know how it works, Disney itself NEVER (and I mean NEVER) brings up SpongeBob for comparison, that is the angle the WRITER OF THE ARTICLE takes. People at Disney will answer questions about comparisons the interviewer might make based on ratings and merchandise, but to insinuate that Disney is in any way trumpeting that comparison themselves demonstrates a total lack of knowledge of how this particular company does business.
Writers write what they want to write and the comparisons to SpongeBob probably sell the article to the editors.
That being said, I love SpongeBob, I worked on SpongeBob, and if the comparison means people think we’re a funny cartoon too, then I welcome that comparison. But just so you know, Swampy and I created Phineas and Ferb almost exactly the way it appears on TV today, while we were working on Rocko’s Modern life in the very early 1990s, before Steve even started developing SpongeBob.
Usually, teachers dole out tips to the students, but filmmaker Pat Smith, who’s been teaching at NYU in Singapore the past couple years, wrote a post on his blog to share teaching tips with other animation professors. His ideas are all smart and outside the box, but my favorite is this awesomely subversive suggestion:
Use the Cintiq as a traditional light box for drawn animation. Oh the IRONY! You’re lucky to find any animation tables or light boxes at the technology happy modern university of today. Who needs a light table when you have Cintiqs! Just tape a plastic peg bar to the bottom, set your desktop to blank white (nice and bright!) and you’re in business! This also saves the school space and money;)
Two shows doesn’t make a trend, but with Pocoyo and now Saari, one could make a convincing argument that the most artistic and appealing preschool animation is currently coming out of Spain. Saari was created by Finnish-artist Veronica Lassenius and directed by Spanish-animator Pablo Jordi. Thirty-nine three-minute episodes were produced out of the animation studio they own together, Barcelona’s Stor Fisk. The show has aired on Disney Channel in Italy and Spain, Cartoon Network in Japan, and various other broadcasters in Norway, Finland, Sweden, Wales, and Catalonia in Spain. Here’s an episode:
Based on the artwork of Lassenius, Saari has a beautiful sense of color and design. The animation–done in Flash–really shines too. There’s plenty of symbol use and it’s quite limited in some parts, yet it’s also fun and creative when it needs to be, and every character has an individual style of movement uniquely suited to its design. It’s refreshing to see something this well done–more often than not, studios will take good designs and animate them lifelessly and formulaically. Looking at Saari‘s credits, I’m going to assume that some of my praise for the animation belongs to the show’s animation director Txesco Montalt. Prior to working on this show, Montalt was also the animation director of Pocoyo.
If you find yourself anywhere near Chicago this Saturday, make sure to check out the inaugural edition of the Eyeworks Festival of Experimental Animation, a one-day event featuring “abstract animation and unconventional character animation.”
The event, organized by Lilli Carré and Alexander Stewart, takes place at DePaul’s CDM Theater (247 S. State Street, basement level; Jackson stop, Red Line). There are two film programs–”classic shorts” which features experimental animation work from the 70′s-90′s, and “new shorts,” which is kind of self-explanatory. The trailer above gives a taste of what they’re showing. The third program will be a screening of animated films by animation hotshot David OReilly who will also be attending the festival. Admission is a super-bargain: $5 for each program, or $12 for the entire day. More details at EyeworksFestival.com.
Finally! A live-action adaptation of a cartoon that might actually be watchable. The Flintstones: A XXX Parody was released last month, and thankfully Rosie O’Donnell isn’t around to screw up this version. Just in case you’re wondering, the trailer below is totally SFW.
Harvey Deneroff reported on his blog that 77-year-old animation legend Richard Williams premiered a new short called Circus Drawings at the 29th Pordenone Silent Film Festival in Italy last month.
In Williams’ own words, the film had been gestating for a long time:
“In 1953 I was a young artist of twenty, living in Spain near a village circus, where I drew the acrobats, clowns and onlookers. Twelve years later I filmed my drawings to an original score but didn’t complete the film. Now that I’m 77, I’ve finished the film by animating my original drawings.”
More details about Circus Drawings, taken from the film festival catalog, can be found on this blog. And while we’re on the subject of Williams, may I also recommend this interview with him from a few months ago.
Today is what would have been the 82nd birthday of Osamu Tezuka, the creator of Astro Boy and Kimba the White Lion. Fittingly, a book I’d ordered from Amazon just arrived in the mail: The Art of Osamu Tezuka: God of Manga by Helen McCarthy. The book is deeply discounted on Amazon right now–only $16.59–and includes a dvd with a rare 1985 Japanese documentary about the artist. It’s a classy looking package and the most comprehensive overview of Tezuka’s life I’ve seen in English. The book doesn’t appear to focus as much on his animation work as I would have liked, but that’s understandable given that it’s an overview of Tezuka’s entire career, the greater portion of which took place in the realm of comics.
There are obvious benefits to attending an animation school, but for those who are unable to do so, the wealth of how-to material about creating animation continues to grow on-line. Some noteworthy examples:
If a Hell exists for animation artists, I imagine it would involve having to work on later seasons of The Simpsons. There’s an interesting thing going on here though. Anybody familiar with animation history knows that virtually every classic cartoon character from Mickey to Bugs to Woody to Yogi became stiffer and less appealing as the years passed. It’s a good argument for why repetition is unhealthy for artists, and how it leads to artistic stagnation and an overreliance on formulas.
The limitations of Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson’s approach to Tintin is evident from the very first still they’ve released (above). The most glaring flaw–besides the fact that Tintin and Snowy look like zombies and they’ve lost all the appealing shapes in the original designs and everything is drowning in an obscured mess of shadows and excess detail–is the tilt (or lack thereof) in Tintin’s pose.
Performance capture can only capture what it records, and the animators are clearly hindered in this image because no human can comfortably run at Tintin’s angle as drawn by Hergé. The ability to achieve the impossible is one of the strengths of cartooning (and art in general), and so remains the paradox of why anybody would be foolish enough to spend a hundred million dollars to create a more inept and less appealing version of something that could be better drawn by artists.
This quote by Peter Jackson is particularly hilarious in light of the images that WETA is cranking out:
“With live action you’re going to have actors pretending to be Captain Haddock and Tintin. You’d be casting people to look like them. It’s not really going to feel like the Tintin Hergé drew. It’s going to be somewhat different. With CGI we can bring Hergé’s world to life, keep the stylized caricatured faces, keep everything looking like Hergé’s artwork, but make it photo-real.”