Cima Balser, the wife of animation director Bob Balser, has written a fantastic piece for AWN about the early years of the Annecy International Animation Festival. As much fun as it is to attend the festival nowadays, I can only imagine the excitement of those glory years when one could mingle lakeside with the likes of Bobe Cannon, Chuck Jones, John and Faith Hubley, Pete Burness, Bill Littlejohn, George Dunning, Peter Foldes, Yoji Kuri, and all the other greats of animation that I so admire. Cima’s article is one of my favorite historical reads in recent months, and she offers many wonderful stories about the festival that I’d never heard, such as this one about the Hubleys:
“That was the year that John and Faith Hubley showed their Of Stars and Men. We had noticed that the French audiences were not restrained in any way from showing their regard for each film. As well as wild applause, there were equally loud boos, and worse yet, the sound of stomping feet walking out and slamming the door as loudly as possible.
“Each filmmaker, when their film was projected, was obliged to sit in the balcony box, which we all rapidly named “The Hot Box,” and take a bow — to either applause or boos, and in this case the boos were heartbreaking. John and Faith bowed and then exited as quickly as possible. I still firmly believe this is one of the most important and beautiful animated films ever made, and we tried to assuage their deep disappointment, and assure them this was a film for all time. Alas, it has been forgotten, which is a loss to all of us.”
While I work up a few reviews from the Annecy International Animation Festival, held earlier this month in France, check out the Annecy festival openings created by groups of students at French animation school Gobelins. My favorite openings this year are Garuda and La ballade sauvage.
There’s minimalist animation and then there’s Grant Orchard‘s work. His short Park Foot Ball (mentioned on the Brew back in 2006 is a masterpiece of graphic clarity and communication. I was pleased to learn in this interview Grant recently did with The Animation Show that Italian broadcaster Qoob has commissioned him to do ten more sports-themed shorts based on the pared-down graphic and aural approach of Park Foot Ball. The first of the ten new “Love Sport” shorts–Paintballing–can be viewed below. I can’t wait for the rest of the series.
Beginning this month, a group consisting of hundreds of Japanese animation artists have launched the Japan Animation Creators Association (JAniCA), an attempt at unionizing Japanese animation artists, especially those who freelance, and creating awareness of the generally poor working conditions of Japanese animators. More details about the formation of the group can be found at Anime News Network. To better understand the necessity of this group, this article describes some of the working conditions that Japanese animators have to endure:
One 32-year-old female animator is working in her second year at an animation company to pursue her childhood dream, but she works 12-hour days for half the salary of her former job. Another animator used to be a regular company employee with an apartment to himself, but had to move back with his parents since he could not afford rent on an animator’s budget. Without health insurance, he would not check into a hospital even when an illness worsened. One 59-year-old had to cut back due to deteriorating physical health, and now subsists on 120,000 yen (US$1,000) a month. Some of the 59-year-old animator’s former colleagues now receive public assistance or are now homeless.
The long-awaited how-to book from master animator and director Eric Goldberg is almost here. Character Animation Crash Course! will be released next month and is currently available to pre-order on Amazon for $23. Here’s what Eric tells us about the book:
“Well, the animation book I’ve been writing for 25 years, based on my animation notes, has finally arrived! Well, almost… Character Animation Crash Course!, published by Silman-James Press, is 240 pages of cartoon goodness, all geared to getting great performances from your characters on the screen. It comes with an accompanying CD that has animation movie files of selected sequences in the book. You can watch them in real time, or frame-by-frame, and they all include X-sheets, inbetween charts, circled keys, and underlined breakdowns, so the tests can be analyzed while you read the book, revealing how the principles actually look in movement and why. Shipping date might be as early as mid-July. Also, I’ll be premiering it at the San Diego Comic-Con, signing copies at Stuart Ng Books, Friday July 25th from 2 – 4, and Saturday July 26th from 11 -12. Also, the book provides examples from classic cartoons that can be pretty easily-accessed in this DVD, YouTube, iPod age so you can see my inspirations from the Golden Age Masters. And because, frankly, I’m a big geek.”
Stereoscopic 3-D filmmaking is either the latest film fad or the future of theatrical animation. For those who know their film history, all indicators point toward it being the former. This Portfolio article by Kevin Maney is one of the better pieces I’ve read about the topic:
“Studios are latching onto 3-D for much the same reason that Bob Dole took Viagra. Most of Hollywood’s businesses are making money–for all Katzenberg’s complaining, DreamWorks’ first-quarter profit was up 69 percent–but the sector that makes Hollywood feel best about itself, theatrical showings, is deflating, in large part because the difference between seeing a movie in your local multiplex and on a 52-inch high-definition TV in your family room is not that vast.”
If nothing else, Animation Magazine serves as an entertaining repository of all the awful ideas that animation studios try to produce nowadays. In the latest issue one of the properties being pimped by this studio is called Donkey Ollie.
It probably wouldn’t be so disturbing if the same company hadn’t taken out a full-page ad on the facing page honoring a certain animator named Ollie (see below). What’s sadder perhaps is that having a crappily animated CG ass named after one’s self is a higher honor than many animation legends have received.
The prizes for the 2008 Annecy Animation Festival were announced last Saturday. The top prize for short film, The Annecy Cristal, went to La maison en petits cubes by Kunio Kato. He is only the second Japanese filmmaker to win the Cristal, following Koji Yamamura who received it in 2003 for Mt. Head. The top Cristal prize for animated feature was awarded to Nina Paley‘s wonderful Sita Sings the Blues. It’s interesting to note that the major winners in both short and feature categories are 2-D works of animation. A complete list of winners can be found on the Annecy website.
The latest issue of Arthur Magazine has an article by illustrator Arik Roper who recounts his personal memories of discovering the animation of Ralph Bakshi during his teenage years. Despite the personal nature of the piece, there are some incisive thoughts on Bakshi’s work, like this discussion of Coonskin:
“I had read that it was considered offensive, so I was expecting shock value, but Coonskin was more than shock, it was from some dark place that I hadn’t visited before. It was relentlessly raw and visceral, the violence was staggering, and presented in the goriest of detail. I had some understanding of the laborious task of creating an animated film, and was amazed that anyone had put this much time and effort into making something so willfully disturbing. Where did this movie come from, who was it for? I didn’t quite get it at the time. I wasn’t really sure if the racism was being parodied or promoted, although the fact that no race, religion or sexual orientation was left unscathed was a clue that this was some form of harsh social satire. But there was much more to the movie than shock value…”
I’ve scanned the two-page article below. Click on it for a readable version. Or just order the entire issue (#29) at ArthurMag.com.
“Chase” is an art project from 2005 that I only heard about recently. In it, animated cartoon characters participate in a never-ending chase in which their speed and actions correspond to the speed of a moving car. It’s a modest experiment but I could see the idea being applied to more interesting and ambitious marriages of interactivity and animation in real-world environments. The artist, Karolina Sobecka, offers the following artistic statement about the work:
Danger, violence, fear, persecution are popular themes driving the children’s cartoons. Such infantilized representation of these concepts stands in absurd contrast to the stark reality of the urban LA context.
Speaking of Chuck Jones, as we were yesterday, here is his infamous 1969 TV special based on Walt Kelly’s classic comic strip Pogo. Kelly, who wrote the special, allegedly hated the final results and felt that too much of his personal vision had been subverted into that of Jones’s. Both artists voice characters in the film: Jones is the voice of Porkypine, Bun Rabbit and Basil the Butterfly; Kelly is Albert, P.T. Bridgeport and Howland Owl.
Animator and director Will Finn recently watched the entire Warner Bros. output of Chuck Jones and has composed a thoughtful blog post analyzing the work of Jones. Lots of good insights throughout, especially this spot-on comparison between the work of Jones and fellow WB director Bob Clampett:
“Unlike his arch rival Bob Clampett, Chuck Jones wants to prove to us that he is smart, tasteful and always in control of everything. Clampett of course is ultimately “in control” too, but his genius is for giving the genuine impression that all Hell is breaking loose onscreen. Much like that other Jones, namely bandleader Spike, Clampett makes us feel (frequently throughout an entire film) that every person in his troupe has gone out of their minds. This never happens in Jones’ world because he won’t allow it. Clampett’s embrace is wider: he can grasp the highbrow world of surrealism in one hand and the lowbrow crudeness of burlesque with the other–he has no boundaries. Boundaries are Chuck Jones’ stock in trade, his main theme is pitting the rational against the irrational. Even when he adopts the point of view of an irrational character, (as with the Coyote), he only does so to mock himself.”
Wordless Books: The Original Graphic Novels by David Berona came out last month and it is packed with STUNNING artwork that falls somewhere between comics, illustration and fine art. The book also discusses the work of Milt Gross and Fleischer animator Myron Waldman, who created the 1943 graphic novel Eve.
I’ve always wanted a copy of Amos Vogel’s influential Seventies book Film as a Subversive Art and didn’t realize until recently that it had been reprinted. The book is inspiring and packed with lots of black-and-white stills. Animation filmmakers are also sprinkled liberally throughout the text.
One half of Cartoon Brew, namely me, will be attending the world’s largest animation festival next week. If you’re going too, drop a comment below. Lots of interesting programs slated for Annecy this year: a screening of the Israeli animated feature Waltz with Bashir, a celebration of Ã‰mile Cohl with live piano accompaniment by the festival’s artistic director Serge Bromberg, a presentation by Richard Williams, a lecture on Winsor McCay by John Canemaker, a sneak preview of Bibo Bergeron and FranÃ§ois Moret’s new feature A Monster in Paris, two behind-the-scene presentations about the making of Jacques-Rémy Girerd’s new feature Mia et le Migou and the Irish feature Brendan and the Secret of Kells, Bill Plympton’s new feature Idiots and Angels screened in 35mm for the first time and the world premiere of Disney’s new short Glago’s Guest and Pixar’s latest short Presto. Sound like a decent week if you ask me.
Effective paper doll concept and fine execution in this series of South American ads for Rexona Skin Care. One of the spots can be viewed below, the rest can be seen at Coloribus.com. The agency repsonsible is Buenos Aires-based Vegaolmosponce, while the animation was created by Passion Pictures.
The MoCCA Art Festival is coming up this weekend in Manhattan. I’ve heard only good things about the event; it’s been described to me as kind of like a mini-San Diego Comic-Con, comprised entirely of people who are serious and appreciative of the comic art form. In other words, no sword play or collectible card games at this convention.
Many animation folk will be present at MoCCA: Chris McDonnell will be at the Meathaus table promoting the new book he created about Ralph Bakshi, various Blue Sky artists will be there to launch the new volume of Out of Picture, and other artists like Mo Willems, Bill Plympton and JJ Sedelmaier will be presenting projects at various booths. Also, on Saturday, Plympton will receive the 2008 MoCCA Art Festival Award, and on Sunday the festival will present a program of contemporary Nordic animation. Complete exhibitor list and programming guide can be found on the MoCCA website.
This is an honest, if not particularly funny, bit from the MTV Movie Awards about the desperation in Hollywood for finding new and unique ways to promote movies online. Just remember the key word: viral.
Animation contests are not a popular subject around the Brew, but this one sounds intriguing enough to mention. MTV is currently recruiting animators, designers and filmmakers from around the world to participate in a show called Engine Room, in which four teams (Europe, the US, Asia and Latin America) compete for a chance to win $400,000 in cash plus lots of tech gear from Hewlett-Packard. The contest was described to me by an MTV producer as “a design/animation-based reality show.” The show is casting through the end of June, and will be filmed for four weeks beginning in mid-July.
Here’s a bit more description from the materials he sent me:
Each team will be made up of four members with one or more of the following talents: graphics and web design, animation, filmmaking, and sound mixing. Each team member will need to make sure they’re making the most of their unique talents if their designs are going to stand up to criticism from our panel of experts.
The Engine Room is a unique opportunity for talented creatives to compete in a high pressure, highly creative environment — and the prize will give the winners a massive head start in their professional lives.
As sponsors of the show, Hewlett Packard are there to ensure that the stars are working on top of the best hardware they’ve got to offer, with a selection of cutting edge design packages.
MTV channels will be screening Engine Room on-air and online across the world this autumn, but this is so much more than a reality show. This is the perfect opportunity for young talent to shine.
I’d mistakenly posted earlier that they’re only looking for Europeans, but there are slots open for all regions. To submit a portfolio or for additional details, visit MTVEngineRoom.com or email engineroom [at] mtvne.com.
If you want to do a little drawing at the Annecy animation festival, take note that Flight artists Bannister and Dik Pose are hosting the first-ever Sketchcrawl drawing jam during the festival next week. The event is planned for Thursday, June 12, beginning at 2pm. Full details can be found on the Flight Comics blog. The drawing at top of this post is by Matt Jones, who held a personal Sketchcrawl at last year’s festival.