Spark Animation ’09 is taking place next week in Vancouver. I wasn’t blown away by the line-up for the event’s first year, but this second time around they’ve brought together an exciting and diverse group of industry bigshots including DreamWorks director Conrad Vernon, David Fine of Bob and Margaret fame, Blue Sky art director Michael Knapp, Pixar production designer Ricky Nierva, The Secret of Kells co-director Tomm Moore, and feature animators like Dave Burgess and Chris Wiliams. There are also discussion panels and film screenings including $9.99, Mary and Max, The Secret of Kells, and Azur and Asmar. The event is industry-centric–no surprise because it’s being put on by SIGGRAPH–but there is a definite need for an event like this on the West Coast, and Vancouver is a lovely place to host it. The schedule and single-ticket/full pass info can be found on the SIGGRAPH Vancouver website. If any reader wants to send some notes about how it goes next week, I’d be interested in hearing about it.
Is anybody following the official Chuck Jones blog? Because fans of Chuck should be! Chuck’s daughter, Linda, has been posting a fascinating series of letters that he wrote to her when she went off to boarding school in 1952. Even though a lot of the details are mundane, the value of sharing these letters is immense. They offer a totally new personal perspective on how Jones handled being a father at a time when he was also at the top of his game. There are also some great animation-related bits sprinkled throughout the letters, like his thoughts about working on the Roadrunner/Coyote shorts:
Been slamming through another Coyote and Roadrunner, as I may have mentioned. These are sort of money-in-the-bank type pictures. We don’t have to worry about establishing a premise or continuity or character development much or trick backgrounds. Everything’s pretty open. Just sit down and start drawing and when all the gags are roughed out, arrange them according to pace, so’s the picture will build in tempo, find myself a strong gag to end on and I’m in business. Timing is a snap because no dialogue and there’s no worry about making it too long, because I can time the gags as I go along and use just as many as I need. All in all, life could be very simple and maybe a little bit dull if all I had to do was direct coyote and r.r.s.
Danny Antonucci (Lupo the Butcher, Ed, Edd n Eddy) posted this refreshingly frank piece of advice on his Facebook page, and he’s allowed me to share it with everybody on the Brew. Even with all his years in the biz, Danny hasn’t forgotten what it’s all about:
Danny Antonucci’s 4 “C”s to Great Cartoons
1. CREATE (…new territories through art not technology)
2. CONTRIBUTE (…to the art form, not rape it for cash!)
3. CHALLENGE (…everything currently being done)
4. CHANGE (…don’t redo, copy, or repeat)
If you can’t adhere to any of these 4 “C”s, get the fuck out of animation.
Spline Doctors, one of the smartest animation podcasts around, has finally released a new episode, and the guest is UP production designer Ricky Nierva. I haven’t had a moment to listen to it yet, but I understand that Nierva speaks at length about his relationship with Maurice Noble. Can’t wait to hear it.
“My Favorite Way” is a colorful and visually inventive video for Black Drawing Chalks directed by Marck Al at the Brazilian studio Nitrocorpz. Virgilio Vasconcelos, who was responsible for the CG animation, has posted some interesting ‘making of’ footage and production details on his blog. In his email, Virgilio also told me that two of the band members animated on the project.
Production: Nitrocorpz / Bicleta sem Freio
Direction: Marck Al
Dir.Photography: Jovan de Melo
Illustrations: Douglas Castro, Victor Rocha, Jovan de Melo
2D Animation: Douglas Castro, Victor Rocha, Jovan de Melo
3D modelling: Virgilio Vasconcelos
3D animation: Virgilio Vasconcelos
Aditional animations: Suryara Bernardi, Daryn Wakasa
Composition: Victor Rocha, Marck Al
WOW! A real rarity today. It’s A Nose, an animated short from 1966 directed and designed by Mordi Gerstein (who prior to this had worked at UPA). The film is based on a surreal piece of satire by Russian writer Nikolai Gogol, and was produced at Jack Zander’s NY studio Pelican Films. There’s some impressive bits of animation in the film, which shouldn’t be a surprise considering that Emery Hawkins and Jack Schnerk are credited as animators. Nowadays, Gerstein is illustrating children’s books, including the well-received The Man Who Walked Between the Towers.
(Thanks to Mordi’s son, Aram Gerstein, for posting the film onto YouTube.)
You’ll never look at an apple the same way again after Ecological Apple, an unsettling experimental piece by Swedish artist Andreas Soderberg. It’s standard time-lapse photography edited in After Effects with time remap and camera shakes.
Also appearing online are a number of time-lapse films, like the one below by Eric Spiegelman, that capture the fires happening in LA. Nature is clearly the most awesome special fx animator.
In my mind, the worst quality a teacher can have is to be close-minded because that narrow interpretation of good and bad is passed on to an entire generation of young artists at a critical time when they should be learning, growing, and exploring. That’s why I shuddered when I read this post on Sheridan instructor Pete Emslie’s blog in which he trashes this year’s poster for the Ottawa International Animation Festival (pictured above). The poster was drawn by Theo Ushev, who in addition to being an accomplished fine artist, is the director of amazing animated shorts like Drux Flux and Tower Bawher. In his post, Emslie he describes it as “blecchh!,” a “cat vomiting,” and writes that it’s proper place would be “taped to a fridge door by some loving mom.” It’s downright embarrassing to think that this guy represents the quality of instruction and critical thinking at a school that purports itself to be one of the top animation institutions in the world.
Emslie’s criticisms, if describing something as “blecchh” can be regarded as a valid criticism, drew a response from Ottawa festival director Chris Robinson who wrote on his blog:
What annoys me is the infantile hostility coming from a man who claims to have 30 years experience in animation as an animator and, egad, a teacher (I thought teachers are supposed to be guides. They introduce students to a diversity of possibilities and then let them go off and develop their own thoughts.). This guy doesnt even try. It’s just outright reaction. The work is ugly and pretentious and that’s that. There’s no processing, no attempt to contemplate and consider. He doesnt even encourage dialogue (isn’t that one of the primary functions of being a teacher?).
Animation director Michael Sporn also weighed in on the issue (and a lengthy comments thread follows his thoughts), while the artist himself, Theo Ushev, wrote on his blog, “I had much more daring posters in my life. But it seems that the animation community is a little special. And this conversation happens in 2009?!!! Not in 1909.”
Not sure what any of this means except that I was bothered enough to write about it. At the end of the day, life goes on. Sheridan students who are too young to know any better will continue accepting instruction from a guy who draws cartoon characters on a par with Chris Hart and throws in some tired Hirschfeld impersonations to boot. Theo Ushev will continue making beautiful films and drawings. The Ottawa International Animation Festival will be a great time for everybody who attends. And animation will continue to advance as an art in spite of those who wish to impose primitive rules and restrictions about what a piece of animation can and can’t be. If something good came out of all this, it’s that Marco de Blois, the animation curator at the CinémathÃ¨que québécoise, started a new blog devoted to the art of the animation festival poster.
My Day is a short about personal space. It’s a third-year project by Irish animation student Eamonn O’Neill. It was made at IADT Dun Laoghaire. I like how he’s exploring the visual possibilities in a largely dialogue-driven concept.
Next month in Rio de Janeiro marks the debut of Ãris–International Festival of LGBT Animation. According to the festival, they will screen animated films with topics related to sexual diversity: gay men, lesbians, bisexuals, transvestites and transexuals. There are only two programs of films in their inaugural year, and the programs will screen on September 1, 8 and 15. Line-up of the films can be viewed on their site.
I don’t know if this videogame parody–Ultimate Muscle Roller Legend–technically qualifies as Machinima, but in my book, it does qualify as funny. There is an explanation here of the different video game graphics used in the creation of the piece. Like most of today’s kookiest animation, it hails from Japan.
Haven’t done this in a while, so here are a few artist blogs worth your time:
Animator Sandro Cleuzo’s blog is just over a week old, and it’s already filled with rare material, including work from unproduced Disney projects like Sweating Bullets and My Peoples. His credits also include Fantasia 2000, The Emperor’s New Groove, Tarzan, Home on the Range, Enchanted, Anastasia, Curious George, Asterix and the Vikings and the upcoming The Princess and the Frog. Check Sandro out at his cleverly titled Inspector Cleuzo blog.
Illustrator and Ice Age character designer Peter de SÃ¨ve is also new to the blogging scene. I found it interesting to read a personal perspective on his forthcoming monograph, which I announced here last week. Visit him at PeterdeSeve.blogspot.com.
Dexter Smith has been working in animation since the groundbreaking Batman, the Animated Series. Since then, he’s worked on Superman, Samurai Jack, Johnny Bravo, My Gym Partner’s a Monkey, Clone High, Freakazoid, and a bunch of other stuff. I liked seeing the artwork and hearing the development story about his personal project True Romance. More at Dexter-Smith.blogspot.com.