Today’s NEW YORK TIMES has an ARTICLE that discusses how animation was used during the 1940s and ’50s to teach valuable medical lessons. The piece barely scratches the surface of the topic but it’s still nice to see Private Snafu and Hugh Harman get mentioned in a contemporary newspaper article.
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Produced as part of Channel 4′s Mesh program, POTAPYCH is a wonderful little short that works on every level. The film’s style is a delight – a combination of cel-shaded CG characters with painted backgrounds – though what impressed me most was the elegant storytelling, which is fast-paced but never rushed. Price manages to tell a great story with heart in under three minutes – something much harder to do than it looks. (Sidenote: After watching the film, be sure to click on the “Learn More About The Bear” link.)
Who needs DANCING WITH THE STARS? EN TUS BRAZOS is a new French student film from Supinfocom created by Edouard Jouret, FX Goby and Matthieu Landour. I had some issues with the design and animation, but the stylish dreamlike atmosphere makes this film worth checking out.
What’s the most popular piece of animation on the Internet right now? How about KIWI!, a Master’s thesis film by Dony Permedi of School of Visual Arts. The 3-minute, dialogue-less short became a “Featured Video” on YouTube’s front page a few days ago and it connected with audiences in a way that nobody could have expected. It is currently the most linked-to video on the blogosphere according to Technorati.com, it’s in the top 15 all-time favorited videos on YouTube, and it’s racked up nearly two million views in the past week.
That last number is particularly impressive. It’s one thing to talk in the abstract about the Internet and the potential it offers for animated shorts, but KIWI! offers clear proof that an online audience exists for animated shorts. When was the last time anybody heard of a piece of student animation being viewed two million times in a week? Even if the film had screened at dozens of film festivals or been released onto a compilation dvd of shorts, it’s unlikely to have ever achieved such a sizable viewership through traditional short film distribution channels.
KIWI!’s success is part of a much bigger story, which is how the Internet is making animated shorts accessible to mainstream audiences, something that hasn’t happened in the last thirty or forty years. It’s going to take some time until filmmakers figure out models for generating revenue from their shorts online, but with a worldwide audience thirsty for fresh animated content, making money from animated shorts has finally become a matter of when and not if.
One of the unlikeliest sources for quality animation writing nowadays is PRINT MAGAZINE. Their September/October issue had two smart pieces worth mentioning. The first was an article by John Canemaker about the OpenEnded Group, a NY-based trio of artists who are combining CGI, artificial intelligence, real-time graphics and installation art. It’s the type of experimental work one imagines Fischinger, Lye and McLaren would have been doing if they’d lived in the 21st century. The second piece is an informative profile of New York stop-motion director PES, whose latest spot I mentioned in yesterday’s TV commercial roundup. The PES article is posted on the PRINT website and it’s worth a read.
Here’s a few recent animated TV spots that have caught my attention:
Orange “Kids” – “Spot 1” | “Spot 2”: These spots for European cell provider Orange take conventional children’s-style drawings and add dimensionality to them. Antoine Bardou-Jacquet of Partizan directed, with Buf responsible for the animation production.
Orange “Hide N Seek”: Another Orange spot, this one by New York director PES, who is seemingly incapable of producing anything but amazing work.
Honda Jazz “Tetris”: I thought this German commercial was brilliant until I saw this old SIMPSONS clip, which is way too close for comfort. It’s still an effective visually-driven concept; too bad ad agencies have to “borrow” their ideas from animated TV series.
Kymco Motorcycles: Beautiful spot by Spanish studio AÄB. This is the type of stylized art direction that I’d love to see in a CG feature some day; I’m not holding my breath though.
The Esurance animated commercials – produced by Ghostbot and Wild Brain – look great, but are they good at selling car insurance? Ad critic Seth Stevenson doesn’t think so and he’s penned a lengthy complaint on SLATE about these commercials:
On the Esurance Web site, you can watch an ad that shows Erin battling robots in a Wild West shoot’em-up; another where she clashes with ninjas who are breaking into an art museum; and still others that I just don’t get at all. Yes, in each spot the dialogue makes salient points about the benefits of Esurance. But those confusing, busy plotlines drown out the message. While we’re hearing this: “At Esurance, if we can’t give you the best deal we’ll show you where you can – and help you buy the policy right away,” we’re seeing this: a robot, in a cowboy hat and duster, firing a machine gun at a woman with pink hair. Wha?
This sentence in the Associated Press review of HAPPY FEET should raise a few eyebrows: “So the goodhearted Mumble is nonetheless a total outcast – though he should be the most popular guy on the iceberg with Savion Glover providing his tap moves behind the scenes through stop-motion animation.” I’ll start worrying when reviewers start labeling HAPPY FEET as 2D animation.
Check out this stomach-churning talk show appearance by Dave Jeser and Matt Silverstein, creators of Comedy Central’s animated series DRAWN TOGETHER. It’s from an episode of REALITY REMIX which aired last week on Fox Reality channel. (WARNING: Don’t click the above link if you’re offended by vomit.) Between this and last Friday’s appearance of FAMILY GUY creator Seth MacFarlane on the LATE LATE SHOW WITH CRAIG FERGUSON, one would think that the animation industry is populated entirely by talent-deprived, unfunny hacks. It’s not often that animation artists get air time and it’s annoying that when they do, it’s always the lowest representatives of the art form. At least on German talk shows, they get Andreas Deja. See below:
The new SIMPSONS MOVIE trailer premiered last night on Fox during a new episode of the TV series. Watch it HERE. With all the recent animated features, it’s smart marketing strategy on Fox’s part to use the show’s animation technique as a way of distinguishing the SIMPSONS from the pack. The fact that the SIMPSONS is hand-drawn is, of course, hardly a revelation to animation folk, but as I’ve repeatedly witnessed first-hand, the average moviegoer can’t differentiate between hand-drawn and CG animation so this trailer should play quite effectively to general audiences. Those of us in animation can chuckle at the irony that the SIMPSONS portion of the trailer is also loaded with CG elements (the machinery and wrecking ball both appear to be CG).
THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER published a couple pieces recently about ’06 Oscar predictions for animated features and animated shorts. Jerry and I are both quoted liberally in the pieces and we offer our predictions as do others like the Animation Guild’s Kevin Koch and Acme Filmworks producer Ron Diamond. The interview was conducted a while back and at the time I didn’t know that Satoshi Kon’s PAPRIKA had also qualified for the animated feature Oscar. Not a whole lot of people are aware of Kon’s film at the moment, which really hurts its chances, but you have to assume that it stands a good shot of an Oscar nod if people actually have a chance to see it. Also, for the animated shorts, I recently found out that Don Hertzfeldt’s new short EVERYTHING WILL BE OK, Bruce Alcock’s AT THE QUINTE HOTEL and Jonas Odell’s NEVER LIKE THE FIRST TIME qualified. These are all superb animated shorts and I hope Academy voters don’t overlook them in favor of this year’s batch of typical (and in my opinion, much blander) mainstream studio shorts from Disney (THE LITTLE MATCHGIRL), Pixar (LIFTED), Blue Sky (NO TIME FOR NUTS) and DreamWorks (FIRST FLIGHT).
Directors Notes is a weekly audio podcast that interviews indie filmmakers who create short films, docs, music videos, art films, etc. The site doesn’t focus exclusively on animation, though so far they have solid interviews with Brazilian animator Guilherme Marcondes of TYGER fame and Japanese filmmakers Takeshi Nagata and Kazue Monno who are responsible for LIGHTNING DOODLE PROJECT [PIKAPIKA]. This is one podcast I’ll definitely be keeping an eye on.
There’s not a whole lot to recommend about the 1964 Hanna-Barbera cartoon PUNKIN’ PUSS AND MUSHMOUSE, but this background pan that Brew reader Bob Perman emailed is pretty nice to look at. Click on the pic below for the full image. I wonder if the original painting still exists somewhere?
For most artists, paper is an expendable material that one creates their art on, but Megan Brain’s paper sculptures show that the paper itself can be transformed into a piece of art as well. While the art of paper sculpture is nothing new, Megan brings an appealing cartoon sensibility to the practice that I haven’t seen before. The closest thing that I can compare her work to are the characters from the early-60s Disney short A SYMPOSIUM ON POPULAR SONGS though that cartoon never pushed it quite as far design-wise. Brain recently contributed her distinctive paper sculpture skills to Henry Selick’s feature CORALINE, which is being produced at Laika. See more of her delightful work at MeganBrain.com (see if you can find the Craig Kellman piece) and meganbrain.blogspot.com.