Designer Chris Abbas downloaded a public domain archive of still images captured by NASA’s Cassini Solstice Mission and composited them into an animated short. The pixilation approach shows fly-bys of Saturn, its rings and other objects in Saturn’s neighborhood. Abbas made some stunning artistic and editing choices that transforms raw scientific data into a marvelous visual achievement. For more details about the imagery, visit Astronomy Picture of the Day.
“In a room there is a box. In the box there is a forest. In the forest there is a lost child.” The Smaller Room (Der Kleinere Raum, 2009) by Cristobal Leon and Nina Wehrle may be short, but its claustrophobic and foreboding atmosphere leaves an impression on the viewer.
Striking mixture of stop motion imagery and experimental techniques in “Second Song,” a music video for TV On The Radio. The director is Michael Please whose Royal College of Art graduation short The Eagleman Stag was awarded a “special distinction for student film” at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival this weekend. The short also won the BAFTA earlier this year.
The legendary Tyrus Wong, who art directed Bambi among countless other accomplishments and who is one hundred years young, was hanging out at Pixar yesterday. Here are some impressions of his visit as tweeted by Pixar artists:
Today I shook Tyrus Wong’s hand and listened to his many stories. He’s got 100yrs worth of them! His secret to a long life: sense of humour! – Daniela Strijleva
You know it’s a great day when Tyrus Wong’s hanging out, chatting on the patio. I wish Maurice was here, too. – Scott Morse
Tyrus Wong is 100 yrs old & looks AMAZING ! He is so impressed by the studio he asked for a job ! – Matt Jones
Today, the rumor is that he’ll make an appearance at the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, though they haven’t officially announced it. The museum is hosting a lecture at 3pm called “The Art of Tyrus Wong” with historian Charles Solomon, and production designers Ralph Eggleston (WALLÂ·E, Finding Nemo) and Paul Felix (Lilo & Stitch, The Emperor’s New Groove). I imagine that’s the event Ty will appear at, but even if he doesn’t, it still sounds like a terrific presentation. I’d recommend purchasing an on-line ticket before showing up because it’s probably going to be a sell out.
Rebellious Bird is a fresh looking watercolor cut-out animation created by Philadelphia-based Jennifer Levonian. The documentary short ostensibly revolves around Wendy Ramsburg, an American Civil War reenactor who portrays women soldiers that disguised themselves as men, but the film also asks broader questions about gender roles in society, which Levonian smartly ties together with the story of Albert Cashier (as recounted in Spanish by her husband) and her own pregnancy. Levonian created the film during a one-year artist residency at The Library Company of Philadelphia with support from The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage through the Heritage Philadelphia Program.
A short piece about Alejandro Garcia, a professor at San Jose State who teaches physics to animation students and is now consulting DreamWorks animators on how to incorporate believable physics into their films.
There are few things more aggravating than when ad agencies and art directors troll the Internet for innovative animation techniques that they then pilfer wholesale without rewarding (or even acknowledging) the original creator. Technically, there’s nothing illegal about such behavior, but the fact that these deep-pocketed firms often take ideas from the most vulnerable people in the community–students and independent filmmakers–shows an awareness of their unscrupulous actions. This sort of thing unfortunately happens over and over again, two of the more recent examples being the cases of Javan Ivey and Takeuchi Taijin’s short A Wolf Loves Pork.
Saatchi & Saatchi’s Geneva office has proven that it doesn’t need to be that way and that agencies can collaborate respectfully with student filmmakers. They did just that for their recent “Africa is Moving” HIV/AIDS spot, which is posted above.
First, a little background: last March, we posted Cyclotrope, a film by British animation student Tim Wheatley. Many other sites posted it too and the film went viral within twenty-four hours of appearing on-line.
When the creative team at Saatchi & Saatchi decided to create their AIDS spot using Wheatley’s animation style, they brought Tim, a first-year student, on board to work on the commercial. Andy Wyatt, the head of the animation department at University College of Falmouth where Tim studies, filled in more of the details:
Once Saatchi and Saatchi’s creative team Frederic Doms and Frederic Bry devised a script, they worked closely with Tim as animation consultant to develop the animations that would communicate the messages. Subsequently, Fred Doms and Tim Wheatley travelled to Cape Town to produce the film with South African production company 7Films and their new director called Wednesday at the helm.
“It just shows the power of the Internet,” said Wheatley. “We are encouraged to put our coursework online and in my case it lead to a fully paid trip to Cape Town to work with some of the world’s leading media professionals. It was a fantastic opportunity and experience.”
A making-of video for the commercial by Tim Wheatley and commercial credits after the jump: Continue reading →
“As a person with Asperger syndrome, I learned more about theory of mind, friendships and social interactions from this season [of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic] than I had in the previous 31 years of life.”
That’s a quote from this article about the popularity of the Hub’s My Little Pony series with adult men, who call themselves “Bronies.” And no, it’s not an article from The Onion.
UPDATE: My comments were interpreted by some readers as making fun of people with Asperger’s. That was never my intention. I wanted to point out that adult men were interested in the series, which is what I wrote, but my careless use of that quote caused confusion. I apologize to readers for the misunderstanding.
Fred who? Kopietz is not a household name by any stretch of the imagination, even amongst animation historians, but he was a distinguished contributor to the Golden Age of animation who worked on Flip the Frog cartoons with Ub Iwerks, Oswald cartoons with Walter Lantz, and animated for years at Disney. Barrier’s interview with him sheds light on familiar studios, artists, and cartoons from a completely fresh perspective. Kopietz is remarkably modest throughout the interview, so much so that one might not realize how respected he was by his peers. There’s a good reason that Ward Kimball used Kopietz as his right-hand man on the title song animation of The Three Caballeros.
At nearly twenty thousand words, Barrier’s interview contains a veritable treasure trove of stories and insights, such as how Kopietz helped Chuck Jones get his first job in animation, wonderful descriptions of Lantz’s studio operations in the 1930s, Kopietz’s frustrations with how credit was doled out at Disney, why he refused to work with Woolie Reitherman, and his disastrous experience trying to direct Beany and Cecil for Bob Clampett. Amusingly, the interview is also peppered with Kopietz’s recollections about where various artists lived owing to the fact that he had a real estate broker’s license.
(Photo: Fred Kopietz on the right, with Ward Kimball)
As much as I personally dislike the aesthetic effects of motion capture films, I feel that both the Academy and Leiva are dead wrong on the matter. However ugly and unappealing a Robert Zemeckis film or the upcoming Tintin might be, they are still animation in my book, as is Happy Feet and even James Cameron’s Avatar.
In motion capture, more often than not there is an animator behind the scenes building and evolving those performances. The argument, therefore, becomes a mechanical question of how much of the performance was created with recorded movement and how much by an animator. Lest we forget that the exact same question could also be posed for Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, which had heavy rotoscoping on some of its human characters. The Disney studio’s later animated features like Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty were almost entirely filmed in live-action before being animated too, with often heavy reliance on rotoscoping for the final movement.
The more somebody attempts to label animation with inflexible definitions, the more prone that person becomes to making ridiculously misinformed statements such as the ones Leiva makes throughout his op-ed. For example, he argues that “film animation is not a fine or graphic art but is, rather, a performance art.” I could spend the next month posting links to abstract animated films, music videos and features like Yellow Submarine that are more graphic art oriented than performance based, but for the sake of ease, let’s just post the most obvious example that puts Leiva’s opinion to rest–a segment from Disney’s Fantasia:
The reason the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences changed their rules is understandable: they’re scared. They’re not ready to admit yet that in the next decade, feature film animation and live-action will become near indistinguishable. The kneejerk response is to throw up abitrary fences and proclaim, “This is animation” and “This isn’t animation.” Unfortunately, animation today can’t be compartmentalized. It incorporates CGI, visual effects, Machinima, After Effects puppetry and an ever-increasing variety of new techniques. The Academy will be forced into making more uncomfortable rule changes until they acknowledge the reality of animation’s evolution in the 21st century.
The traditionalists like Leiva come at it from a slightly different angle. Their position is to preserve the art of animation as if it were a dying and stagnant relic. They’ll pull out their dated “illusion of life” definitions as if Disney invented animation and made the rules for what can and and can’t be considered animation. In reality, what Leiva wants to protect is a specific brand of animated filmmaking rooted in classic conventions. Of course, take a look around and you’ll find that style of animation is still the status quo throughout the industry.
The silver lining in this whole debate is that while the Academy and the Leivas of the world rush to define animation and place labels on it, the art form will continue to evolve as it always has, in imaginative forms far beyond anybody’s wildest imagination.
As far as Disney fanvids go, this is one of the more intriguing. The creator, “The Pixar Princess,” created these images “to show what would’ve been if Disney held on to the rights to Oswald but kept Mickey, and Oswald starred in a few cartoons.”
For all the companies that have classic cartoon characters languishing amongst their assets, Disney’s repopularization of Oswald is a textbook example of how a company can derive financial value from its vintage library of characters, even characters that are nearly ninety years old. Suffice to say, we would not be seeing this fan video if not for Disney chief Bob Iger’s canny decision to reacquire the character from NBC-Universal in 2006.
Joseph Pierce’s A Family Portrait has found its way online after a successful run on the festival circuit. Here’s some admiration for Stand Up, his earlier student short that was created in a similar rotoscope technique.
The story of Kung Fu Panda 2‘s second weekend is much like its first: a success overseas and an underperformer in the US. Around the world, the film took in an estimated $40 million in its second frame, including $1.3 million in the United Arab Emirates, the highest-grossing animated opening in that country. Its overseas gross now totals $125M.
In the United States, it is the weakest performing DreamWorks movie in recent years. The film had a 49.9% drop in its second weekend, which is steep by DreamWorks standards. According to Box Office Mojo, audiences still avoided the 3-D version of Kung Fu Panda 2 in the second week, with only 44% of viewers choosing the enhanced imagery. Its $23.9 million weekend earnings pushed its domestic total to $100.4 million. For perspective, here are the second weekend drops and grosses for DreamWorks features in the previous three years:
(2010) Shrek Forever After: -38.9% ($43.3M)
(2010) Megamind: -36.7% ($29.1M)
(2010) How to Train Your Dragon: -33.7% ($29M)
(2009) Monsters vs. Aliens: -45.0% ($32.6M)
(2008) Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa: -44.5% ($35M)
(2008) Kung Fu Panda: -44.2% ($33.6M)