FAST FILM (2003) by Virgil Widrich is one of those films that reminds me why I love animation in the first place: it’s a medium in which you can literally do anything you want. This film blew me away when I saw it at Annecy in ’04 so I was excited to find that my friends at the Animation Show have discovered it on YouTube. Usually the things that make an animated film great are the story, characters and animation, but FAST FILM is one of the rare instances where a film is great primarily because of its technique. The visuals were achieved by printing out thousands of film frames (over 65,000 to be exact) and folding them into three-dimensional shapes. The paper-objects were then photographed and composited in After Effects. I can’t even imagine the effort it took to mash-up hundreds of live-action films, often times with three to four films in each scene, and make it all work in a narrative context. It’s an incredible creative achievement.
The film is unlikely to ever find release in the US due to the fact that it uses unlicensed imagery from over 300 live-action features. But don’t let that stop you from enjoying it online. There’s a lengthy interview with the director, Virgil Widrich, and details on how to purchase the dvd, at the film’s official website. Be sure to also check out the “making-of” video and photos for more fascinating insights into the production process.
Five Pixar artists are currently working on a new hardcover art book called THE ANCIENT BOOK OF MYTH AND WAR. It’s scheduled for release in February 2007 under Scott Morse’s publishing imprint Red Window. Participating artists are Scott Morse, Don Shank, Ricky Nierva, Lou Romano and Nate Wragg. Some of them have started to post bits and pieces from the project on their blogs and it looks like it’s going to be a lot of fun.
One of the biggest film mysteries of 2006 still remains unanswered: Why did Fox bury the release of IDIOCRACY, the new live-action film by KING OF THE HILL and BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD creator Mike Judge? Today’s LA TIMES has an op-ed piece by Patt Morrison about this topic, though it doesn’t really offer much in the way of answers. I’m surprised that the LA TIMES didn’t treat this as a news story and interview people like Judge to get to the bottom of the story. A Fox spokesman says in the piece that the film was always planned as a “limited release” but limited releases rarely (if ever) get treated this poorly, especially for a well-reviewed film from an established filmmaker like Judge. I’m more inclined to agree with the line of reasoning presented by the TIMES’s Morrison:
Did Judge’s film, by sheer happenstance, mirror Rupert Murdoch’s blueprint for a Fox-fed nation of fat, dumb and happy? Is the problem a threatened lawsuit over the way “Idiocracy” treats corporate America? Starbucks in 2505 serves speedy sex acts with the coffee, and Carl’s Jr. and H&R Block get the same rough handling. But that’s why studios have lawyers, and that’s why we have the 1st Amendment.
Perhaps it’s been cast out of distribution Eden for the same reason that Newsweek made “Losing Afghanistan” its cover story last week in every country except the United States. We got a cover story about a celebrity photographer….And that would be because Americans are being mollycoddled and infantilized. If we’re not getting the truth – even delivered via satire – it might be because leaders think we can’t take it, or they may be afraid of what we might do if we did get it. President Bush dismissed leaked intelligence reports critical of the Iraq war because they could “create confusion in the minds of the American people.” Goodness no; don’t confuse us with information.
And since Fox won’t allow people see the film, you can download a PDF of the film script HERE and find out what you’re missing.
Johannes Nyholm is a fascinating visual artist, animator and filmmaker from Sweden. He’s currently working on a stop motion serial, and the first episode is now online. The Tale of Little Puppetboy, Chapter 1: A Lady Visitor is bizarre fun. And check out the rest of Nyholm’s work on his website, which offers many fine examples of his commercial music videos and personal short films.
It all began back in 1996 when I wanted to ask a colleague in the animation industry for a drawing. I was embarrassed to ask because I knew the pressure of being an artist and having to “think” of something to draw. So, I decided to use this photo of a random dog that I took one day in a flower shop. I had no connection to the dog so therefore there were no expectations of the subject matter from my end as well. All I wanted was the artists to represent themselves.
Most of the drawings are done by Paul’s Feature Animation colleagues at Disney – including Chris Sanders (above), Alex Kupershmidt and Aaron Blaise. Twenty drawings have been posted so far, but Paul tells us he has over sixty drawings in total that he’ll be putting up over the next several months. If you’re interested in participating or want to see a photo of the original dog, visit this page.
It’s always refreshing to see stylized applications of CG animation as opposed to today’s ubiquitous photoreal approach. “Under the Cherry Tree” is a new music video that combines cut-out characters (which look to be done in CG) within a dimensional, yet stylized and evocative, setting. It was conceived and directed by Dael Oates of Animal Logic for the Australian electronica/rock group Telemetry Orchestra. We also wrote about the group’s earlier music video, “Suburban Harmony”, a few months back.
Overman, the director of the unbelievably popular Machinima film we mentioned yesterday, MALE RESTROOM ETIQUETTE, has posted an entry on his blog in which he theorizes why his film has become so popular. Lots of interesting ideas in his post. I particularly agree with this final thought he offers:
In closing, someone asked me recently, “What is a good machinima?” My answer, which may get published elsewhere too, was this: A good machinima is a film which is not intricately wrapped up in it’s own “machinima-ness”â€¦ I believe the best thing machinima can do for itself is forget that it is machinima and remember that it is film.
Forget LOONATICS.It seems the classic Looney Tunes characters are getting another makeover, in a slightly different manner, with Warner Bros.’s full support. Three weeks ago, I noticed a mysterious new mural on a wall near my home in Hollywood (on LaBrea, near Melrose). It featured Bugs, Daffy, Tweety and Sylvester in an operating room – a strange, but cool, piece. I looked into it and it turns out to be the work of a Dr. Romanelli (an artist, clothing designer and “brand reconstructionist” also known as DRx) who has been engaged by WB to spearhead a new line of urban marketing and alternative merchandise.The DRx line will include everything from a clothing collection (by upscale Japanese clothing label Over The Stripes), to a high end DRx/BUGS vinyl toy (by Span of Sunset). The official launch of this art project-slash-marketing effort will commence this Friday with an opening at the 181 Martel gallery space. I got myself invited. The gallery will also be unveiling a limited edition DRx/Looney Tunes Converse Chuck Taylor sneaker that night. I know a certain orange furry monster who might like that for Christmas.
This blog post about the making of the recent animated film CURIOUS GEORGE, written by one of the film’s supervising animators, is pretty depressing, but probably not any more depressing than how the typical US animated feature is produced nowadays.
I’m super-excited to announce that I’ll be headed to Scotland for the Projector 2006 festival, which takes place next week from October 11-14. The festival takes place in Dundee, Scotland, about a one-hour drive north of Edinburgh. I’ll be doing a “masterclass” about 50s design on Friday, October 13, and will also be presenting a couple different programs of rare 1950s animated shorts. If you’re anywhere around the festival, these are screenings you’re not going to want to miss. Even though I’ve personally seen all the films in the 50s programs, I’m anxious to attend the screenings myself because there’s nothing quite like seeing amazing animation design projected via film onto the bigscreen, the way it was meant to be seen.
A full schedule of Projector events can be found at ProjectorFest.com. Festival director Susie Wilson has put together a strong slate of screenings and talks that also includes Chris Landreth of RYAN fame and sound designer Larry Sider, a frequent collaborator with the Brothers Quay. It promises to be a lot of fun. I’m also going to try and check out Edinburgh for a day or two. If there’s any good animation sights to see over there, let me know at amid [at] animationblast [dot] com. Below are some of the shorts that I’ll be screening at Projector:
If anybody is in need of some tough love from Dr. Phil, it’s probably Hayao Miyazaki and his eldest son Goro. This Reuters article about GEDO SENKI (TALES OF EARTHSEA), the first film by Goro Miyazaki, is quite revealing, sad and funny all at the same time. Among the details revealed in the piece:
Goro Miyazaki says, “For Hayao Miyazaki, now that I’ve made one movie, as far as he’s concerned I’ve become a sort of rival.”
The opening scene of Goro Miyazaki’s film has a prince stabbing his father to death.
The elder Miyazaki didn’t directly tell his son his thoughts about the film, but relayed them through a Studio Ghibli producer.
Goro Miyazaki wrote a blog entry about his father titled, “Zero Points as a Father, Top Points as a Director,” and claims that “From the time I became aware of things up to the present, we have almost never talked.”
I must say though, in one sense it’s refreshing to see somebody like Hayao Miyazaki who cares so much about his art that he’s willing to put it above his family’s happiness. Great works of animation like SPIRITED AWAY and PRINCESS MONONOKE certainly aren’t made without sacrifice. Perhaps animation would be better in the States if more people were willing to make those type of sacrifices for their films.
UPDATE: Just in case it wasn’t clear that the entire post above was written with tongue firmly planted in cheek, let me say that I was not seriously suggesting that the quality of American animation directly correlates to how little time one spends with their family. I feel silly even writing that, but judging from the number of emails I’ve received, a lot of people didn’t quite get that (due to my own poor communication skills).
The NY TIMES published a piece today about the glut of poorly performing animated CG films. That’s hardly news to anybody working the industry. The article has your typical pass-the-buck quotes from execs, like this one from Nickelodeon’s Julia Pistor: “I think audiences are saying, ‘I’ve seen a lot of computer animation and it’s not so special anymore.” Of course, Julia. Audiences must surely be tired of the computer animation technique itself, not by the poor decision-making of animation execs who have continuously greenlit poorly conceived, derivative, stupid films over the course of this CG animation goldrush. On another note, the most interesting “news” revealed in the piece is that DreamWorks and Aardman have had a falling out and FLUSHED AWAY will be their last film together. To my knowledge, that’s the first time this news has made print.
Note: Use BugMeNot if NY TIMES registration is required.
Machinima is a CG animation technique that uses real-time, 3D gaming engines for its imagery source as opposed to traditional CG software like Maya. The technique has been around for a while, though for the most part, Machinima has remained on the fringes of animation and pop culture. That may be changing however with the release of a recent film that could be classified as the first breakout Machinima hit. The film is MALE RESTROOM ETIQUETTE directed by Overman, and it uses the SIMS 2 game engine for its graphics. The 10-minute film starts off as a mock-instructional film but winds up documenting the world’s toilet apocalypse.
The film has been blowing up online since its release on September 14 with hundreds of blogs linking to it. It was featured on YouTube’s front page last weekend – the first for a Machinima film? – and has received over 1 million views on YouTube in the past three days, and over 1.5 million views total. If anything, this film should go a long way towards proving that Machinima is a technique capable of resonating with mainstream audiences as long as the storytelling and filmmaking are on a par with other forms of animated filmmaking. We’ll keep on top of further developments about this film.
UPDATE: Alessandro Cima, director of the Machinima film DRACULA’S GUEST, points out this WIRED article from last January that highlights a couple of progressive Machinima films, including his own. He also writes:
I think with a software tool completely focused on Machinima filmmaking and separated out from any sort of a game environment, Machinima will indeed be a powerful medium. For now, it’s still a bit too difficult to make games flexible enough to tell real stories. I had to pull my footage out of the ‘Movies’ game and render my own soundtrack in order to get around the game’s limitations. But very soon some enterprising company will give us a complete, powerful Machinima-making application.
Gallery 1988 on Melrose and LaBrea is opening another theme show on Saturday, based around the Cheshire Cat from Disney’s Alice In Wonderland. For one week only, amazing art and vinyl toys will be on display celebrating the surreal feline created and animated by Ward Kimball in the classic 1951 animated film. Opening reception begins at 7pm. If it’s anything like past openings there, it’ll be quite a crowd.
[OPEN SEASON], based on the humor of cartoonist Steve Moore, introduces a technique dubbed “squash and stretch” that allows the cartoon characters to change shape during action sequences.
I hear the animators working on HAPPY FEET have also come up with an exciting new technique. They call it a “walk cycle.” What will they think of next?
UPDATE #1: Paul Naas writes the following:
I saw the item out of this morning’s L.A. Times about squash and stretch, and dropped a quick email to the author, Josh Friedman. To my surprise, he responded quickly, saying:
“Sorry about that. I’m working up a correction for Tuesday’s paper.”
Quite a difference from the response a few months back from Mick LaSalle and his ridiculous comments about facial animation. I’m looking forward to seeing if the correction actually appears.
UPDATE #2: Story artist Jenny Lerew comments about the LA TIMES piece on her blog Blackwing Diaries.
UPDATE #3: The LA TIMES indeed ran a correction in Tuesday’s paper. It reads:
An article in Monday’s Business section reporting the weekend box-office results incorrectly described as new the “squash and stretch” technique used in the film “Open Season.” The method, which enables the cartoon characters to change shape during action sequences, has been used before.