When I bumped into Stephen Neary a couple nights ago, he told me about his new animated piece “Toxie” which debuted on NPR.org this morning and can be seen here. Produced for the show “Planet Money,” Toxie reenvisions a toxic asset as a cute but destructive pet creature. Stephen directed and animated, and Connie Li Chan provided assistant animation and backgrounds. The piece communicates a difficult concept quite effectively, and there’s some really nice character animation to boot–an impressive accomplishment especially considering their turnaround time was just three weeks.
This is the trailer for The Experience, a Jimi Hendrix-themed short that was produced to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of his death this year:
In the depths of a tropical valley, an adventurous young man discovers with surprise a giant amusement park dedicated to rock’n'roll. Curious, he decides to try a psychedelic Rollercoaster haunted by Jimi Hendrix. He is greeted by a mysterious jailer, looking like a voodoo sorcerer. During the ride, entirely on the rhythmes of the song “Voodoo Child”, the spirit of Jimi Hendrix manifests in the form of a voodoo doll.
The combination stop-motion, live-action and CG short was made by the French collective Pirates PépÃ¨res whose twelve members have an average age of 22. Like Nina Paley and her film Sita Sings the Blues, these guys made their animated film without bothering to license the music. Now they’re trying to raise $6,700 to license Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child” from Experience Hendrix, the company that manages his musical estate. Afterwards they plan to release the film on-line.
The first time we wrote about Kirsten Lepore, she was studying at Maryland Institute College of Art where she’d made an inventive hand-drawn short called Story from North America. Now she’s a grad student in the experimental program at CalArts, and she’s turning out some top-notch work.
Bottle is the story of an unlikely friendship between a clump of sand and a pile of snow–a far more engaging concept than it may sound and the type of story that can only be told through animation. Kirsten uses stop motion to create a believably bittersweet fantasy within the natural outdoors, and her masterful storytelling has the ability to make us both smile and reach for a box of tissues.
If the heartwrenching final shot of the film is too much, here’s a brilliant and funny bit of animation she did that’ll cheer you up.
I’m sure there’ll be varying opinions on which one’s better–for the record, I think the original is more fun to watch and feels less labored–but Michael is curious to know why they did this in the first place: “Why would they put so much time, money and effort into a remake when they could use that same energy on making something original? Was it because of the big Disney strike that happened a few years earlier? Were they planning a package feature of remade shorts which never fully came to fruition?”
All I know is that my life would be a lot more productive if I could figure out how to always watch two cartoons at once.
UPDATE: David Gerstein, animation historian and author of Mickey And The Gang: Classic Stories In Verse, posted a comment about why the remake was made. The reasons are more complicated than one might believe and worth reading:
On June 27, 1939, Walt, Riley Thomson and Dave Hand screened nineteen early Mickey cartoons. The plan was to compile the best scenes from the shorts into a two-reel clip show for Mickey’s upcoming twelfth anniversary. MICKEY’S REVIVAL PARTY (as it was to have been called) would have opened with Mickey’s gang arriving at a studio cinema. As the vintage scenes unreeled on a “screen within a screen,” Mickey and friends in the audience would react in various comic ways.
There were only two problems with this. The elaborate manner in which the vintage scenes were to be reused precluded simply lifting them from old negatives and splicing them together. They would have to be reinked onto cels from the original animation drawings; repainted, retimed, and refilmed.
Another hindrance was that the old cartoons excerpted had to be from summer 1935 or earlier. Anything more recent might still be in release. This meant that there were very few color cartoons to include in the retrospective.
Walt decided to kill two birds with one stone. As the excerpted shorts were all to be reinked and repainted anyway, he decided to repaint some in color that had originally been in black and white: ORPHANS’ BENEFIT among them. Walt also saw an opportunity to retouch and improve the color in THE BAND CONCERT, the one short in the show that was originally in color. Story meeting transcripts reveal Walt repeatedly suggesting that remaking or upgrading older shorts could be an ongoing program, independent of REVIVAL PARTY.
That’s what ended up happening. REVIVAL PARTY director Riley Thomson completed a cutting continuity for use in preparing the excerpts; but for some reason, the clip show format ended up on the shelf. Instead, Thomson moved forward with remaking earlier cartoons in full-length, standalone form. ORPHAN’S BENEFIT came first. Then came MICKEY’S MAN FRIDAY, four early color Silly Symphony shorts, and ON ICE.
But then the bottom dropped out. ORPHAN’S BENEFIT, directed by Thomson, ended up the only exact Disney remake ever completed. MAN FRIDAY was shut down partway through animation; you can still see model sheets at various online animation galleries for what the updated models were going to look like.
The other remakes were shut down before animation. I’ve been unable to find out why.
Bill Plympton, who is prepping for the October 6th theatrical release of his feature Idiots and Angels in New York, has been writing a blog diary describing the tough slog of self-promoting an indie animated feature. In the course of doing so, he revealed a worthwhile news tidbit in one of his entries from last week:
Then I’m talking on the phone to Tom Akel of MTV who’s setting up a new animation web channel (he even wants to bring back Liquid Television) and wants to do some interviews and maybe show some of my shorts.
Akel’s on-line bio lists him as a supervising producer who heads digital production of shows and games across MTV.com. It’s nice that MTV is considering animation again, but in today’s bottom line-driven TV industry, don’t hold your breath for any network to aggressively embrace indie and short-form animation–even on-line.
Can anyone envision a Liquid Television-type program ever happening again, where a network would support animated programming without concern about profit or return on investment? I certainly can’t. And more importantly, in the bountiful world of on-line animation, who needs a corporate monolith as a curator of animated content?
MTV spent years cultivating an enviably hip identity through animated station IDs and short film commissions only to squander it all. If their on-line initiative recaptures some of that animation glory, nobody’s going to complain, but if they want to begin competing at this late stage in the game, they’re going to have to offer the Internet something truly special that hasn’t been seen before.
The Lost Thing, a fifteen-minute CG animated short with a tactile, painterly feel, is based on a children’s book by Shaun Tan. It won the top short film prize earlier this year at the Annecy International Animation Festival. Co-directed by Tan and Andrew Ruhemann, the film was produced by a micro-crew of four artists out of Passion Pictures Australia. All of the animation is credited to just one person–Leo Baker–who also did most of the rigging. Lots of info about the project in this article on Screenhub. Film website at TheLostThing.com.
Here are some photos from earlier today of Brad Bird scouting locations in Prague for Mission: Impossible IV. But who’s that guy standing besides him wearing the Yankees cap? I’m pretty sure I’ve seen him somewhere before.
A follow-up to his film My Chinese, Cedric Villain‘s Cliché! pokes fun of stereotypes about French people. The pacing is a bit too slow for my tastes, but the compensation is a lot of funny well-presented gags throughout. It’s designed in Illustrator, animated in Flash, and composited in After Effects. I highly recommend watching the higher-quality version on Cedric’s website to appreciate the graphics.
As long as we’re exploring student CG from around the world, here is Pombinha Branca by Fernando Augusto Dias, produced while studying at Melies–School of Cinema and 3D Animation in SÃ£o Paulo, Brazil. Undeniably bright and charming, it probably makes a stronger impact on Brazilians who are familiar with the nursery rhyme on which it’s based. In fact, it won the best Brazilian student film award at this year’s Anima Mundi festival.
Director and Animation: Fernando Augusto
Character Design: Fernando Augusto and Dalton Muniz
Musical Production: Fernando Augusto and Ãtalo Lenker
Arrangements: Lua de Prata Group
Sound Designer: Herbert Perez de Lima
A graduation project made by Arjen Klaverstijn at the Utrecht School of the Arts in The Netherlands. One of my most frequent bits of advice to students is to keep their films as short as possible. This is a good example: a cute, well-executed concept that shows a clear knowledge of art and design principles. It may not change the world, but it showed some personality and kept it entertaining for a minute and forty seconds. Mission accomplished. Some behind-the-scenes artwork posted on Klaverstijn’s website.
Fear not, The Trouble with Terkel isn’t an ironic Studs Terkel biopic; it’s a raunchy R-rated animated comedy based on the stand-up routines of Danish comedian Anders Matthesen. (Actually, raunchy seems a bit too generous; immature is a better descriptor.) Indie distributor Indican Pictures is releasing the film in the United States on October 15, according to Box Office Mojo.
Notably, the film is rather old; it debuted in Denmark in 2004. Directors are Kresten Vestbjerg Andersen, ThorbjÃ¸rn Christoffersen, and Stefan Fjeldmark. Perhaps the original Danish version was hilarious, but the American trailer looks irredeemable. The British dub is less abrasive and makes me want to at least give the film a chance. No details on how limited the film’s release will be, but I don’t anticipate it’ll be showing up in many theaters.
I posted the trailer to “Salesman Pete and the Amazing Stone from Outer Space!” last June. The entire film is now online. It’s directed by Anthony Vivien, Marc Bouyer, and Max Loubaresse, who dropped out of the French animation school Supinfocom to produce this film. The short is basically an extended chase scene, which is a common theme in many contemporary French student films, and unfortunately it lost my attention a quarter of the way through, but I do appreciate their aesthetic accomplishment. These guys approach computer animation with an illustrative sensibility, and in the service of engaging personality animation and storytelling, their style could be something amazing to watch. Learn more about their film at SalesmanBuck.com.
Portland-based Joanna Priestley‘s new short Missed Aches is destined to become popular in English classes across the world. A cheeky Symphony in Slang for the new century, it’s based on the poem “The The Impotence of Proofreading” by Taylor Mali, who wrote and narrated the film.
Sound Design by Normand Roger and Pierre Yves Drapeau
Music by Pierre Yves Drapeau with Denis Chartrand and Normand Roger
Text Animation by Brian Kinkley
Character design and animation by Don Flores
Storyboards by Dan Schaeffer
Directed, produced and animated by Joanna Priestley
Supported by The Regional Arts and Culture Council and the Caldera Institute
I’ve never written a post fully expressing my appreciation for the Taiwanese animators at Next Media Animation who create news segments like the one above, but I’ve been fixated by their work since they made a splash last year with their reportage of Tiger Woods. Using the most basic CG models and animation style, they’ve developed a take no prisoners series of animated political cartoons with a sharp outsider’s point of view on American and global politics. Not every one of them is a homerun, but that is to be expected considering that they often produce two minutes of animation on a three-day turnaround to keep aligned with news cycles.
Looking beyond the simplistic, crudely rendered imagery (I like to call it honest CGI), there is plenty of creativity evident in their work. They pepper their films with visual metaphors and symbolism to make them understandable in any language, and they take storytelling liberties that are possible only in a graphic medium like animation. The work that NMA produces has been improving throughout this year, and they get my praise for being among the funniest and most creative computer animated projects currently in production.
John Dilworth (Courage the Cowardly Dog, The Dirdy Birdy) presents his work in Manhattan next week at the 92Y Tribeca (200 Hudson Street). The screening is on Thursday, September 23, at 8pm and tickets are $12 (purchase at the 92Y Tribeca website or at the door).
Dilworth events in the past have been anything-goes affairs with live music and special guests, and this one appears to be no different. The flyer for the event even promises a prize for a free head massage from the infamous French pornographic animator Pierre Delarue, whose only film to date has been The Return of Sergeant Pecker.