Cartoonist Dash Shaw, who has been working on a feature-length animated film of his own, will present a selection of his recent animation work on Tuesday, May 21st, at Light Industry (155 Freeman Street in Greenpoint, Brooklyn). In addition to his own work, Shaw will screen the rare 1980s anime biker drama Bobby’s Girl, a film that has inspired his own approach to animation.
The screening will be followed by a conversation with Shaw. Doors open at 7pm, and tickets are $7. More details at LightIndustry.org.
Last night in New York City, the ASIFA-East Animation Festival Awards were presented for the forty-fourth year in a row. The Best in Show prize was awarded to the NYU student short Based on a True Story directed by Jacob Kafka. In the Independent Film category, first place went to Celia Bullwinkel’s Sidewalk. Other prizes in the indie category were handed out to films by Mark Kausler, Arthur Metcalf, Bill Plympton, Richard O’Connor and David Chai.
New York veteran Candy Kugel took home first place in Commissioned Films for her TEDEd short Sex Determination, while first place in Student Films went to Michelle Ikemoto’s Tule Lake, produced at San Jose State University.
The complete list of winners is below:
BEST IN SHOW Based on a True Story
Directed by Jacob Kafka
INDEPENDENT FILMS: FIRST PLACE Sidewalk
Directed by Celia Bullwinkel
INDEPENDENT FILMS: SECOND PLACE There Must Be Some Other Cat
Directed by Mark Kausler
INDEPENDENT FILMS: THIRD PLACE (TIED) It Took A While To Figure Shit Out
Directed by Arthur Metcalf
INDEPENDENT FILMS: THIRD PLACE (TIED) Drunker Than A Skunk
Directed by Bill Plympton
EXCELLENCE IN ANIMATION It Took A While To Figure Shit Out
Directed by Arthur Metcalf
EXCELLENCE IN DESIGN Christmas Day
Directed by Richard O’Connor, designed by Kelsey Stark
EXCELLENCE IN WRITING A Knock On My Door
Directed by David Chai
EXPERIMENTAL FILMS The Productive AniJam
Produced by Katie Cropper & Cynthea Diaz
COMMISSIONED FILMS: FIRST PLACE TEDed: Sex Determination
Directed by Candy Kugel
COMMISSIONED FILMS: SECOND PLACE Quiet Loud (Sesame Street)
Directed by Bob Boyle
COMMISSIONED FILMS: THIRD PLACE Sniffles
Directed by David Cowles & Jeremy Galante
STUDENT FILMS: FIRST PLACE Tule Lake
Directed by Michelle Ikemoto
STUDENT FILMS: SECOND PLACE Chasing Unicorns
Directed by Deena Beck
STUDENT FILMS: THIRD PLACE (TIED) The Crawler
Directed by Seth Brady
STUDENT FILMS: THIRD PLACE (TIED) Good Night Guard
Directed by Janice S. Rim
STUDENT FILMS: HONORABLE MENTION (TIED) Mirror
Directed by Q-Hyun Kim
For this week’s crowdfunding profile, we travel to Central America where the husband-and-wife team of Guillermo Tovar C. and Nadia Mendoza A. is working feverishly to complete Costa Rica’s first full-length animated feature The Esoteric Birthday (El Cumpleaños Esotérico). They have been working on the film for the past two years, and plan to finish it by this December. They describe their unconventional-looking movie as an “experimental digital” animated film:
The Esoteric Birthday tells the story of the coming of age of a peculiar little girl who is about to become a powerful witch. She has to undergo a ceremony of initiation that involves a series of dangerous trials. It all takes place in a fantastic and mysterious tropical island, with over 50 characters, like a group of intergalactic witchdoctors, a religious sect of wild animals, two cannibal Amazonian warrior twins, and lots and lots more.
Guillermo and Nadia, who operate as Interdimensional Studio, are asking for $25,000 for the post production which includes sound design, original music, and hiring a small crew of local animators for lighting, texturing and compositing. The entire 70-minute film will be released online at no charge after its festival run in 2014. The rewards they are offering include drawings from the pre-production phase and having a donor’s face drawn into the film as a background character. They have currently raised just over $4,000 with 51 days left in their campaign.
Today on the Frenzer Foreman Animation Forum, Bill Plympton’s producer Desiree Stavracos visits the program. She talks about what it takes to produce cartoons for America’s King of Indie Animation, shares the genesis of Plympton’s upcoming animated feature Cheatin’, reveals Bill’s favorite kind of pencil, and teaches the proper way to communicate with artists.
It’s the time of year again when the East Coast animation community gathers to recognize its own. This Sunday in Manhattan, ASIFA-East will present the 44th annual ASIFA-East Animation Festival awards ceremony. Awards will be presented across a variety of categories including independent and student film, as well as commissioned/advertising projects.
The festivities will begin at 6pm in the New School’s Tishman Auditorium (66 West 12th St) followed by a reception. The event is free and open to the public, though non-members are encouraged to donate $5. More details can be found on the ASIFA-East website.
I returned a few days ago from the Czech Republic where I judged the feature film categories at Anifilm, a fun festival situated in the quaint lakeside resort town of Trebon that was filled with great people and positive vibes. The three-person feature film jury consisted of Portuguese filmmaker Regina Pessoa (Tragic Story with Happy Ending, Kali the Little Vampire), Slovenian festival director Igor Prassel (Animateka International Animated Film Festival) and myself. (That’s us in the photo above.)
The Anifilm organizers smartly divided features into two categories: adult and children’s films. We watched five films in each category. In the Adult category, we awarded the top prize to Chris Sullivan’s sweeping and uncompromising Southern Gothic tale Consuming Spirits, and also gave special mention to Don Hertzfeldt’s feature It’s Such a Beautiful Day. These two films alone don’t make a trend, but add Paul and Sandra Fierlinger’s My Dog Tulip and Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues to the list, and you could argue that American indie feature animation is experiencing a renaissance right now. All of these films utilize animation effectively to express deeply personal visions.
The other three features in the Adult category—O Apóstolo from Spain, A Liar’s Autobiography from the United Kingdom and Fat Bald Short Man from Colombia—each had positive qualities and exhibited the kind of maturity and narrative ambition that is often lacking in mainstream feature animation fare.
The children’s category was less impressive. The five features were European co-productions that relied on cliches borrowed from popular American films. Three of the films featured hot air balloons (UP, of course), and a number of them used the ‘dead parents’ trope that is an all-too-common fallback for lazy animation scriptwriters. We awarded the children’s prize to The Day of Crows (Le jour des corneilles) which was unquestionably the most interesting film of the bunch. The hand-drawn animated film featured appealing (if inconsistent) animation and character designs, along with gorgeous backgrounds. It reached for Miyazaki-style mysticism before attempting to hamhandedly explain everything in the last act. Imperfect, but worth a look.
Animation director Bill Plympton wrote about his recent experience judging the feature animation categories at the Stuttgart Animation Festival in Germany. He watched eight features at that festival, and it’s interesting to note that not a single one of those films was in competition at Anifilm. It’s a reminder that feature animation is a flourishing art form today. The handful of mega-budget corporate-studio films that dominate American multiplexes barely scratch the surface of what’s available in the marketplace.
The good news is that institutional support is growing for more diverse types of feature animation. Most major animation festivals now have feature film categories, and of course, there’s the Oscars, which hands out an Academy Award specifically for animated features. The American distributor GKIDS has made a commitment to distributing foreign animated features, and this site you’re reading attempts to cover independent and foreign animated features as few other major animation media outlets have in the past.
More and more companies are turning their attention to the rich world of feature animation, but there is still plenty of room for others to join. For example, when will Criterion begin releasing art house animated features? When will distributors bring foreign animated features into multiplexes across the country? Exciting times are ahead in the feature animation field.
In last weekend’s NY Times Sunday Magazine, the paper published a profile of artist Paul McCarthy in connection with his new show WS (which stands for “White Snow”). The epic performance piece, which opens June 19 at Manhattan’s Park Avenue Armory, will consist of “a massive, fantastical forest with towering trees, two off-scale houses, equipment and props from classic film-sets, and layers of film and sound.” During the piece, McCarthy—as Walt Disney—will participate in an orgy with Snow White and the seven dwarfs.
All that is well and good, but what alarmed me about the piece is why Times writer Randy Kennedy compared McCarthy’s portrayal of Disney to Hitler in the article’s second paragraph:
The transformation was startling not only because McCarthy, 67, had succeeded in making himself look quite a bit like Walt Disney, but also because his version of Walt smacked — obviously but also hilariously — of Hitler.
It’s hard to believe that the editors at the NY Times are naive about the implications of comparing any individual to Hitler, much less an important historical figure who is commonly—and falsely—portrayed as an anti-Semite in popular culture. It’s irresponsible at best, malicious at worst.
Kennedy says in his piece that McCarthy’s Walt “obviously” channels Hitler, but in the Times photo of McCarthy, the association is far from obvious. So how did Kennedy come up with such a far-fetched observation?
Perhaps the answer lies with one of the people interviewed for tge piece: curator and former New York City Public Art Fund director Tom Eccles, who is helping organize McCarthy’s show. In an interview with another media outlet, Eccles also described McCarthy’s Walt to Hitler, calling the show a “gory, horrifying tale of Paul McCarthy as Disney, as Hitler, in love with Snow White.”
What I’d like to know is whether McCarthy himself endorses this comparison of Walt Disney to Hitler or is this something concocted by his handlers? McCarthy’s commentaries on contemporary media and pop mythology tend to be layered and thought-provoking, and I’d be surprised if he was personally promoting such simplistic, banal allusions. Whatever McCarthy’s views, it’s clear that a lot of people want to encourage this revisionist portrait of Walt Disney as monster, including, sadly, the NY Times.
This Thursday, Cinefamily (611 North Fairfax Ave, LA, CA) will present “Autarky: Frontier Animation,” a collection of 26 animated shorts from current CalArts students in both the Experimental and Character Animation programs. The trailer above shows an impressively eclectic range of student work. It will be interesting to see how students curate their own work as opposed to the school’s year-end shows. The late-night screening begins at 11:59pm and tickets can be pre-purchased HERE.
A promising trailer was released today for The Congress, the new live-action/animated hybrid directed by Waltz with Bashir helmer Ari Folman. The film will premiere this Thursday at the Directors’ Fortnight sidebar of the Cannes Film Festival. No theatrical release dates have been set so far beyond France, where it will open on July 3.
The Congress is loosely adapted from Stanislaw Lem’s sci-fi novel The Futurological Congress, and follows an aging actress (Robin Wright) who agrees to sell a digital version of herself to a movie studio with the stipulation that she can never act again. The live-action portions of the film also star Harvey Keitel, Jon Hamm, and Paul Giamatti.
The film was produced as a co-production between Israel, Germany, France, Belgium, Poland and Luxembourg, but the creative heavylifting appears to have been done in Israel. Folman’s collaborators on Bashir rejoined him for this project, including animation director Yoni Goodman, production designer David Polonsky, editor Nili Feller, composer Max Richter and sound designer Aviv Aldema. The Israeli paper Haaretz offers this worthwhile article about how the film was conceived and produced.
Shot in São Paulo, ‘Caveirão’ imagines the secret night activities of that city’s spirits. Inspired by the darker side of Brazilian pop culture, the film crosses over genres and techniques. Fantasy, horror and cartoon meet through live-action, 2D animation and 3D VFX. This is the first film from The Master’s Voice project about ghost stories based on urban folklore.
‘Caveirão’ literally means ‘Big Skull’. Besides obviously addressing the main character’s features, the name has few of connotations in Brazil. It nicknames the armored policecar that goes up the favela hills to terrorize drug-dealers (and the whole population living there). You would also use the word ‘caveira’ (skull) in everyday language as an adjective for something evil or ominous. At the same time, despite the dark imagery it conjures, ‘Big Skull’ sounds as goofy as a monster from a Scooby-Doo cartoon. That irony was certainly not lost when I chose ‘Caveirão’ as the name of my film.
Follow Guilherme’s new Facebook page for behind-the-scenes footage, animation tests, and updates on the film.
Music video for Iron and Wine Behind-the-scenes video HERE Director/Animator: Hayley Morris Fabricators: Hayley Morris, Denise Hauser and Randy Bretzin Color Correction: Evan Kultangwatana Model for watercolor animation: Louise Sheldon
Google is celebrating the birthday of graphic designer Saul Bass (1920-1996) with a classy animated tribute on their homepage to Bass’s famous film title sequences including Vertigo, The Man with the Golden Arm, Around the World in 80 Days and West Side Story. The piece was designed and directed by Matt Cruickshank who offers some behind-the-scenes production details on his blog.
It’s a busy time for Cruickshank, who is also the illustrator of the new Monsters University Golden Book that will be released next week. It’s available as a pre-order on Amazon for $3.59.
It’s that time of year again. Our annual call for entries for Cartoon Brew’s 4th Student Film Festival, a yearly showcase of outstanding student films from around the globe. We received over 200 submissions for last year’s festival, and aim to top that number this year.
Our mission for the festival is simple: to draw attention to student-produced animated shorts and share them with the widest possible community of industry artists, fellow students and animation fans. And not just any student films, but films of the highest caliber…the most original, the most thought-provoking, the ones that make us laugh hardest and engage us emotionally. Of course, we present student films throughout the year on Cartoon Brew, but we want the festival to draw even more attention to the exciting work being produced by the art form’s emerging talents.
Every filmmaker whose work is selected to screen in Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival will receive $500 US. This year, special guest judge Evan Spiridellis, the co-founder of JibJab, will select one additional film to receive the Grand Prize and a $1,000 cash prize.
Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival is made possible by the generous support of our sponsor JibJab, a company that has shown consistent commitment to supporting young and emerging talent. We are proud to recognize them as the sponsor of this festival.
Your film has to be animated. (Obviously.)
Your film has to be a student work. (Even more obvious.)
Must have been completed after May 1, 2012.
Must be an online premiere. (Films that are accessible online to the public will not be considered.)
Submissions due by Friday, May 31, 2013 Friday, June 7, 2013.
HOW TO SUBMIT
To submit, send an email to studentfest (at) cartoonbrew (dot) com with the following info:
Your name, school and country
Film title and synopsis
Private link & password (ex: Password-Protected Vimeo/Unlisted YouTube link).
WHAT HAPPENS IF I’M SELECTED
Up to 8 films will be selected for this year’s festival. We will announce the festival selections in early to mid-June. Screenings will begin on Cartoon Brew in late June. Every film that is selected to screen as part of the Cartoon Brew Student Film Festival will be paid a screening fee of $500(US). One of the selected films will be awarded the Grand Prize and a $1,000 cash award. We don’t assume any exclusivity or ownership of your film. In other words, you are still free to submit to festivals, sell it to distributors, and post it anywhere else on the Internet shortly after it debuts online in our festival.
USC student Simón Wilches-Castro sent a message to let us know about his new short, Semáforo (Stoplight), inspired by the street performers of Colombia:
Due to the ongoing war in the Colombian jungles, many people are forced to flee their rural territories and find refugee in capital cities. Their only mean of acquiring money is to put on shows under the city stoplights. Some dress like clowns or do acrobatics, others spit fire or juggle; and some show the only thing they have left: deformities and amputations in exchange for some sympathy and change. This is the life of the people who live under a stoplight and the people who watch them.
Castro’s animation (made in Photoshop) is fun and creative, and he takes full advantage of the cinematic possibilities of the medium. The film will screen in competition at the Annecy festival next month.
Cartoon women are inherently difficult subjects for the animator for the reason that animation demands caricature and comedy, which are concepts inconsistent with femininity, grace and sensuality. The result is that when animators create female leads, they tend to de-emphasize cartoon qualities and accentuate realistic mannerisms and behaviors.
There was a brief moment in animation history when funny and sexy female characters were encouraged though, and that era coincided roughly with World War II. Some historians, like John Costello, have argued that the war represented the true beginnings of the sexual revolution in the United States. During the early-1940s, sexual imagery gained new visibility and cultural acceptance. Young soldiers lusted after Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth pin-ups, while reading Milton Caniff’s comic Male Call and decorating their bombers with provocative nose art. Within this liberal environment, Hollywood directors and animators took advantage of the opportunity to explore creative new ways of portraying the female character in animation.
A handful of animators, notably Pat Matthews, Preston Blair, Rod Scribner, Fred Moore, and Milt Kahl, became known for their ability to handle women characters that were true cartoon creations. Still, there were limited opportunities to animate such characters, and it wasn’t uncommon for animators to use male characters in drag as a substitute for the female, such as Daffy Duck’s striptease in The Wise Quacking Duck (1943), animated by Art Babbitt.
The sexy cartoon female occasionally appeared in animation after the war, but by and large, the industry began to favor a blander and less cartoon-influenced style. By the early-1960s, the average cartoon female in Hollywood animation had become so unappealing that Rocky and Bullwinkle co-creator Bill Scott quipped, “The way women are drawn in our business today, one would assume all the artists are fags.”
The following selection of animated films illustrate some of the various approaches to the animated female character during the World War II period:
“Eatin’ on the Cuff” or The Moth who Came to Dinner (Warner Bros, Bob Clampett, 1942)
Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs (Warner Bros, Bob Clampett 1943)
Red Hot Riding Hood (MGM, Tex Avery, 1943)
Abou Ben Boogie (Walter Lantz Prod, Shamus Culhane, 1944)