UK-based Cyriak‘s path to stardom has been an odd one. He made his name by becoming a master of one of the least glamorous yet most challenging forms of animation–the animated GIF. Today, he’s making music videos and commercials. His latest is this video for Eskmo’s “We Got More.” I’m continually impressed by his ability to create hypnotically recursive animated patterns using only the most trivial live-action footage.
As part of Google’s Demo Slam, a team of three artists created a piece of animation using the spreadsheet program Google Docs. Tu+ Uthaisri designed and directed the piece; Nam Doan and Arthur Metcalf animated the piece. Here’s a link to their source file (BIG!) if you want to see how they made it. It makes me smile to think that some day animation schools could be teaching students Google Docs instead of Flash.
Yesterday’s DVD release of Despicable Me was a smash hit and the film is on track to become the “second biggest-grossing animated home entertainment title of the year,” according to Universal Studios Home Entertainment. Its home video success is counter to the general trend in animated home video; The Hollywood Reporter writes that both Shrek Forever After and Toy Story 3 are underperforming on DVD.
This press release from Universal has more details about Despicable Me‘s first day sales:
Despicable Me made off with first-day sales on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download of nearly $25 million on December 14. Fueled by the exclusive debut of three all-new mini-movies on DVD Double Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack and 3D Combo Pack starring the film’s wildly popular Minions, the mega-hit animated family comedy sold well over one million units to consumers (excluding rentals) in its first 24 hours of release and is poised to become the second biggest-grossing animated home entertainment title of the year.
Amazon is heavily pushing Despicable Me on its site, which is reflected in their sales rankings where Despicable Me currently holds three of the top ten slots, including number one. A screengrab of their sales rankings follows the jump.
I’m glad we haven’t compiled our year-end list of favorites yet because last weekend I encountered one of the best shorts I’ve seen in a long time: Jason Carpenter’s The Renter.
The film snuck up on me. I only learned about its existence after the filmmaker emailed me a few days ago inviting me to preview it on-line. The Renter is currently nominated for an Annie Award. It’s perhaps a long shot against formidable competitors that include big-budget CG shorts from Pixar and Warner Bros. and an entry from perennial indie Bill Plympton, but there’s no question in my mind which of the nominees is the most emotionally captivating, artistically innovative, and viscerally beautiful. The Renter is certainly the one that will remain with me for the longest time.
Before we proceed further, here’s the trailer:
The Renter transports viewers into a rustic American landscape. Water towers and farmhouses standing in stoic isolation, lonely stretches of two-lane roads, and trains inching across rolling fields are images that will feel instantly familiar to anyone who grew up in certain rural regions of the United States. This Americana backdrop frames a story about the often overwhelming experiences of childhood. Carpenter masterfully builds the tension in his dialogue-less film while subtly revealing his young character’s feelings and experiences. He avoids filmic cliches of heroes and villains instead focusing on the humanity of the story.
The animation style and background paintings in The Renter exhibit uncommon grace and spontaneity, all the more surprising considering the short was created entirely within the computer. Carpenter’s use of color, limited in palette but rich in tone and texture, is pure visual poetry. His expert use of cinematographic techniques (staging, pacing, match cuts, and light and shadow) conceal any hints that this is his first professional short.
I conducted an interview via e-mail with Jason earlier this week. We discussed the film’s long path to completion, his personal history, how he created the film, and how he supported himself financially while making the short.
AMID AMIDI: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from? Where did you go to school? I was surprised to read on the film’s site that this was your first film because it looks like you’ve been making them for years. Have you done a lot of animation before?
JASON CARPENTER: Well, let’s see . . . my name’s Jason, my brother calls me Breamis, and I grew up in Greensboro, NC. I went to undergrad at the College of Design at NC State and got a graduate degree in Experimental Animation from CalArts. Yeah, The Renter is my first film. I’ve worked professionally in animation for a while–for TV, other people’s films, theme parks, museums, and teaching–but this is the first film I’ve made all on my own.
AA: Was there any specific filmmaker or films that inspired you to pursue animation as a career?
JC: This might sound funny, but they were all painters. I couldn’t even name them all. Some of my favorites are Egon Schiele, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, David Hockney, Paula Rego, and the German Expressionists. I love image making and the texture of paint. I think I went into animation because I could make those paintings move.
Tonight, a rarity: The Apple won a BAFTA (British equivalent of the Oscars) in 1963. It was directed by Yellow Submarine director George Dunning, and designed by some guy named Richard Williams.
CREDITS (via Ephemeral Film’s YouTube page)
Studio: TVC (London)
Production and Direction: George Dunning
Idea and story: Stan Hayward
Design and Storyboard: Richard Williams
Animation: Tony Gearty, Mike Stuart, Alan Ball, Jack Stokes, Charlie Jenkins, George Dunning
Music: Ernst Naser
Camera: John Williams
Sound and Editing: Alex Rayment
Has anybody seen The Art of Tron: Legacy? Is it worth purchasing? It looks like Disney Editions is copying Chronicle’s popular wide-rectangular ‘art of’ book format. The book sells for $26.40 on Amazon.
Excerpts from the catalog description:
The Art of Tron: Legacy is a view into not only the creation of the 2010 film, but will also contain never-before-seen looks at the design and creation of 1982’s original Tron. Written by co-producer Justin Springer, the book will spotlight the technical wizardry, imagination, artistry, and passion that brought this project to life. From concept art and designs, to profiles on the characters and the actors playing them, to on-set photography and visuals from the movie itself, every step of the film’s creation will be broken down and laid out for the reader. In addition, this title will also have a preface by Joseph Kosinski, the director of Tron Legacy; and a foreword by Steven Lisberger, the director of the original Tron and producer of Tron Legacy. The book will use special fluorescent inks to make the illuminated world of Tron come to life, and is sure to be a must-have coffee table edition for the holidays.
Brooklyn-based filmmaker Jeff Scher created this mixed-media music video for Paul Simon’s “Getting Ready For Christmas Day.” The quirky assortment of visuals don’t match the rhythms of the song very well, but they do graphically complement Simon’s lyrics, which touch on subjects like the tough economy and American soldiers fighting overseas during the holidays. Simon’s vocals are interwoven with recordings of pre-WWII Christian preacher Reverend J.M. Gates.
Full song lyrics after the jump:
I think Walt Disney’s family might be surprised to read the following sentence that somehow made it into the New Yorker‘s Eli Broad profile published on December 6:
In 1987, Lillian Disney, Roy Disney’s widow, donated fifty million dollars for the construction of a symphony hall to replace the acoustically flawed Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, and by 1995 Frank Gehry had been selected as the architect and had completed the design.
The LA Times also critiqued this particular sentence, but instead of catching the obvious error, they debated whether Chandler Pavilion is acoustically flawed. Welcome to the lonely world of the animation historian, and our constant struggle against the mainstream media’s indifference to the art form and its most important figures.
Those ain’t no ordinary carrots. And Bugs’ giggling friends with their hazy stares look like they’ve had a few sticks of something too. I saw this 1957 storybook in a junk store over the weekend and couldn’t help but think about the artist’s hidden subtext. Readers, what would be a better title for this story?
Yoni Goodman, the Israeli animation director of Waltz with Bashir, has started a new blog called Dailymation where he posts a daily piece of animation. The one above shows his three kids doing cartwheels. Yoni explains:
“Most of my career as an animator revolved around fast, efficient animations, mainly Flash cutouts. Some time ago I got sick of the technicality of cutouts & decided to return to the basics of frame by frame animation. To get my hand back in shape I started doing Dailymations- short, sketchy, rough & FUN animations, more about mass and movement and less about fine, clean animation. each one about an hour’s work (more or less). These are done with Toonboom Harmony.”
Disney’s Tangled finished in third place this weekend, pulling in a FINAL $14.3 million. Its three week total is $115.4 million, pushing the domestic gross ahead of Disney’s last three features: The Princess and the Frog ($104.4M), Bolt ($114.1M), and Meet the Robinsons ($97.8M). In Russian, Tangled has become Disney’s highest-grossing animated feature ever after only two weeks. (Remember, Russians love American CG nowadays.) In Italy, the film moved from a third-place opening to first place in its second weekend.
DreamWorks’ Megamind finished in 10th with a FINAL $2.5M. Total stands at $140.2 million. Paul and Sandra Fierlinger’s My Dog Tulip snatched $3,148 from 3 theaters, lifting its cume to $139,923.
Italian street artist Blu, who also happens to be one of my favorite contemporary animators, was commissioned by LA’s Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) to paint a mural on one of the museum’s walls. The mural, which depicted wooden caskets draped with dollar bills, proved to be too contemporary for the museum and they whitewashed it (literally!) less than 24 hours after it was completed.
Los Angeles Downtown News offered details about the situation:
[Blu] was on the scene as a crew began to paint over the work, and he was not pleased, said Daniel Lahoda, a street art advocate who curates the L.A. Freewalls Project and was in Little Tokyo to document the whitewashing. “He was here this morning, taking pictures,” Lahoda said. “He was [angry].”
MOCA has provided just about the lamest response imaginable: “Directly in front the north wall is the Go For Broke monument, which commemorates the heroic roles of Japanese American soldiers, who served in Europe and the Pacific during World War II, and opposite the wall is the LA Veterans’ Affairs Hospital. The museum’s director explained to Blu that in this context, where MOCA is a guest among this historic Japanese American community, the work was inappropriate.”
Unurth, a street art blog, tore into that rationale, writing that, “This is a terrible explanation. The concept that street art and graffiti must be ‘appropriate’, to the point of not making political statements, is absurd and contrary to the history of the medium.”
The most embarrassing aspect of this is that MOCA is opening a show next Spring about street art. Too bad it’s now going to be viewed as a joke by many of the artists it was supposed to be celebrating and promoting.
Here’s a video of Blu’s painting being whitewashed:
Santiago, Chile-based animator Guayi Mas created this opening for the TV series La Colonia. The single-man production was made in After Effects over a two-week period.
Indie animation legend Bill Plympton‘s outlandish experiment to remake his Oscar nominated short Guard Dog as a global jam session is nearing completion. Dozens of animators contributed a few seconds each to recreate his original short shot-by-shot in their personal styles.
Bill shared this exclusive clip with us to show its progress. The mix of styles, techniques and skill levels is delightful, and the animator who animated the dog barking at the squirrel is the wildest piece of animation you’ll see today. The film will be completed in January and will hit the festival circuit in Spring ’11.
The Gruffalo, a holiday special based on a children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, makes its US debut TONIGHT on ABC Family at 7pm/6c. The half-hour CG/stop motion mix was directed by Jakob Schuh and Max Lang at Germany’s Studio Soi and produced by London-based Magic Light Pictures. The film also debuts in Canada next Wednesday, December 15, at 6:30pm on TVO.
The filmmakers are posting pieces of Gruffalo pre-production art on their blog every day during the month of December. I’ve yet to see the special, but have been hearing plenty of raves about it throughout the past year, and have watched it pick up award after award including Best TV Special at Annecy, Best European Program of the Year at Cartoons on the Bay, Best Short Film for Children at Anima Mundi, and Best Television Animation Made for Children at Ottawa. The film was also nominated for a BAFTA and is currently on this year’s Oscar shortlist for best animated short.
If you’ve seen it already, share your thoughts in the comments.
Trailer and hi-res still gallery follows the jump.
Our post announcing the nominees for the 2010 Annie Awards generated a lot of controversy with people alternately pointing fingers at ASIFA and Disney for the latter company’s decision to withdraw its employees from this year’s individual achievement categories. Mark Walton, a former Annie nominee himself, took a tempered position in support of ASIFA (mostly) and made some good observations.
Alex Salsberg, a 2008 grad of Rochester Institute of Technology and current co-owner of Boston’s PokeGravy Studios, created this hilarious short that envisions what would happen if holidays had to be approved in a corporate boardroom like everything else nowadays. The art and animation is crude but funny as hell, and the voices made me laugh out loud.
Don’t worry, the marketing team is just messing with us. The actual film won’t be composed entirely of warmed over CG cliches that make audiences want to stay miles away from the nearest theater playing Rio. (Crosses fingers.)
Higher res version on the Apple website.
Creepy and atmospheric animation is hard to pull off, but Keith Rondinelli does it with style in his dark and hallucinatory short The Forbidden Forest. To fully appreciate its visual design, watch the HD version on Vimeo and put on your headphones because the sound design adds a lot to the mood. Intentional or not, the film has a Run Wrake influence, but that may be an inevitable comparison for any filmmaker who manipulates antique imagery in After Effects. Keith’s film goes beyond mere imitation by creating a rich and immersive three-dimensional world for its flat cut-out heroine to navigate.
Rondinelli directed, animated, scored and edited this film by himself over a period of six months inbetween client work at Woodhouse, an Ann Arbor, Michigan-based creative services studio where he is co-founder and chief creative director. I asked him to share some details about the production of The Forbidden Forest:
The Forbidden Forest is inspired by the work of Arthur Machen, who was a Welsh writer of supernatural fiction from the late 19th and early 20th century, specifically his classic tale “The White People”. I’m also a big fan of 1960s and 1970s animation and cinema, so the impetus for the piece was an attempt to marry the feel of Arthur Machen with movies such as René Laloux’s Fantastic Planet, Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man, and the films of Stanley Kubrick, namely 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining.
Outsider art is another longtime love of mine, and I wanted the piece to somehow fuse a 60s/70s widescreen cinematic language with the strange, obsessive imperfectness of outsider artists such as Henry Darger and Adolf Wolfli. The collage-like aesthetic was achieved by a lengthy process of scanning antique imagery from old books and obtaining it from online and other sources, colorizing and color-correcting, and then assembling and animating the elements in Adobe After Effects. The piece was edited in Adobe Premiere, and scored by myself using Apple’s Logic Pro.
Visit the official film website.
It’s not quite the end of 2010, but ASIFA-East president David Levy has already compiled a post about 2010 New York animation highlights. It’s a fine checklist of many major events that happened in New York during 2010. The list is done from a personal point of view so there are omissions obviously, notably from New York’s VFX and CG community, which comprises a large portion of the city’s animated output.
The Sundance Institute announced its short film line-up this morning for the 2011 Sundance Film Festival. The festival, which runs from January 20-30 will include 4 animated shorts from the United States and 9 animated shorts from abroad.
U.S. ANIMATED SHORTS
(Director: Tom Schroeder; Screenwriters: Tom Schroeder and Hilde De Roover)
Two friends decide to stage a bicycle race to determine who is the best racer of all time, Eddy Merckx or Lance Armstrong. A love triangle develops during the race and the stakes of winning grow in importance.
Link to Filmmaker Website
Marcel the Shell With Shoes On
(Director: Dean Fleischer-Camp; Screenwriters: Jenny Slate and Dean Fleischer-Camp)
A short conversation with Marcel, a shell with shoes on.
Link to Filmmaker Website
Full list of selections after the jump.
On the slowest post-Thanksgiving weekend at the box office since 1997, Disney’s Tangled unseated Harry Potter for first place with an estimated $21.5 million. Its two week total is now $96.5 million. The most concerning statistic is the film’s 56% drop from its first weekend. Comparably, other successful CG features in 2010 have dropped far less by the same point: Despicable Me fell 41.8%, How to Train Your Dragon 33.7%, and Toy Story 3 46.2%. Tangled will likely play strong through the holidays and may yet end up in the range of $160-175 million.
DreamWorks’ Megamind continued to fade fast. It plummeted 60% from the prior weekend, earning $5 million. Its total of $136.7M ranks it twelfth among DreamWorks releases, and it’ll have to work hard to pass the $155M of eleventh place Over the Hedge. Universal’s Despicable Me added an extra $217,000 in its 22nd weekend to reach the $250 million mark. Internationally, the film has grossed an additional $284.9M for a grand total of $534.9 million making it the 14th all-time highest grossing animated film worldwide.
This news piece by Taiwanese animation studio Next Media Animation succinctly points out that the feud between The Simpsons and Fox News doesn’t mean much since whoever wins, it still benefits the same guy–News Corp. founder Rupert Murdoch. It’s a depressing thought, but at least the imaginative depictions of Murdoch and The Simpsons writers made me smile.
(via David OReilly’s Twitter)
Talk about cruel and unusual punishment! Inmates in a Florida jail are being forced to watch Robert Zemeckis’s mo-cap trainwreck Polar Express over and over again. One inmate is so distressed that he filed a lawsuit claiming that the experience is akin to Chinese water torture. “I hear those little kids screaming through my brain. All night long I can hear them,” he told CNN. “I can close my eyes, but I’m still going to hear them over and over and over.” To be fair, the guy killed a woman driving drunk so Robert Zemeckis’s films are exactly the animation hell he deserves.
(Thanks, Joshua Wolf)
I have to preface this by saying that Disney hasn’t made what I’d consider a decent animated feature in years. After subjecting myself to Bolt, Princess and the Frog and any number of other recent Disney features, I dreaded the prospect of handing over my hard-earned money for Tangled. That’s why it surprises even myself to write that Tangled, directed by Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, was an utterly delightful experience. It represents a fresh new direction for Disney’s feature animation department, one that is rooted in the finest tradition of Disney’s gloried past while pushing forward to an even brighter future. Despite a half-baked story that left me frustrated at many turns, the filmmakers made the audience care enough about the characters and delivered enough entertainment that I left the theater satisfied. I wanted to celebrate this achievement by highlighting five things I enjoyed about the film. Spoilers ahead.