The Animation Workshop, a school in Viborg, Denmark, has posted this year’s crop of student films onto their Vimeo page. The school has embraced the model of successful French animation schools, like Gobelins and Supinfocom, that encourages students to work in teams. Like those schools, the Workshop’s films exhibit the same strengths (incredible production values and technical craftsmanship) and weaknesses (stories lacking point of view and personal voice).
I haven’t watched all of The Animation Workshop’s graduation films yet (the program is 3-1/2 years hence the mid-year debut of these films), but among the ones I have seen, The Backwater Gospel is a visual standout. The film offers a fresh look that I haven’t seen before, although Luis Cook’s The Pearce Sisters could be considered a stylistic forefather.
The Backwater Gospel filmmakers–there’s eight of them–made a sincere attempt at stylization, not only in how they textured the characters and used flat lighting, but how they fused that together with a restrained style of movement that doesn’t immediately yell out, “I’m CG!” In particular, I love the stylized mouth shapes of the hobo character, which have a nice sculpted look.
Drenched in grim atmosphere, every frame looks like a fully rendered illustration; the effect of seeing the characters move through space so effortlessly appeared jarring at times because my eyes didn’t expect to see illustrations moving like this. Terrific use is also made of Flash, which is seamlessly integrated into the CGI.
Even the National Film Board of Canada is getting into the act – the 3-D act, that is. Nicola Lemay’s upcoming new short, by way of the NFB, is called Privates Eyes, and its also a hand drawn film mostly in black and white. The trailer below is in 2D and it looks pretty good without the glasses.
Someone is selling Bob Clampett’s 1930 high school yearbook on eBay. Clampett, one of the best known short cartoon directors of the Golden Age of Hollywood animation, directed dozens of Warner Bros. cartoons including Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid, A Tale of Two Kitties, A Corny Concerto, Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs, The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, and The Big Snooze, as well as created Beany & Cecil.
As a member of the yearbook staff, Clampett created numerous drawings for the 1930 volume of The Scroll, the yearbook for Glendale’s Herbert Hoover High School. He would have been sixteen years old at the time. Never being known for his drawing skills, Clampett’s early drawings bear that out and are cruder than the high school artwork I’ve seen for other Golden Age animation artists. His skills and abilities were elsewhere.
We’ve collected his yearbook drawings after the jump.
Award Season continues: The British Academy Awards were announced last night in London. Congratulations to Pixar for winning Best Animated Feature – and to Michael Please for The Eagleman Stag winning in Best Animated Short. Complete list of BAFTA winners here.
On a related note: Toy Story 3 also won a Grammy last night for “Best Score, Soundtrack Album for a Motion Picture, Television or Other Visual Media”. Congrats to Randy Newman for this win.
Here’s a shout-out to my friend James “Tim” Walker. Walker is both a long-time veteran of the animation business (currently at Warner Bros. Animation) and one of the champions in preserving the golden age of animation (Pssst, you can see some of his incredible collection online, over at The Animation Guild Blog where it’s posted under the alias “The Mega-Collector“).
A few years ago, Walker was diagnosed with Lateral Parkinsons Disease on his right side. Since then, he’s re-learned to draw using his left hand and he’s just published a sketch book showing his incredible progress over the last three years. Drawings From The Left is a testament to his amazing abilities as a cartoonist and should be an inspiration to all.
The book is now on Amazon, but if you live in LA, Walker is doing a book signing on Friday March 18th at Decor Art Galleries (12149 Ventura Blvd in Studio City, CA). I highly recommend attending the book signing to meet Tim, one of the real “good guys” in this business.
I love this. German designer Henning Lederer’s wonderful 2009 animation of the human body visualized as an analog industrial facility, based on Fritz Kahn’s 1926 poster, Der Mensch als Industriepalast. I imagine the best way to watch this is on a huge movie screen, but this will have to do:
The article raises all sorts of fascinating questions. For example:
1.) Xtranormal now charges users an average of $1 to make a cartoon and expects to begin turning a profit by the middle of this year. Could charging people to create short animated films be the future of making money from on-line animation instead of charging people to watch cartoons.
2.) How far are we from the day when artists and studios license their artwork to companies like Xtranormal giving fans an easy-to-use system for creating cartoons based on popular characters. Let’s say you could create your own cartoon using characters from Gnomeo and Juliet. It could happen, and I can’t think of a better way of allowing someone to interact with an animated character that they like.
3.) Multiple examples are provided in the article of development execs and producers who have contacted writers after seeing their work on Xtranormal. How long will it be before an animated series is sold in Hollywood based on the work of a writer discovered on Xtranormal?
4.) Richard Appel, one of the exec producers on The Cleveland Show, said of Xtranormal’s cartoons: “It’s a writer’s medium that’s cleverly found a way to get people to look at their screen and listen to what’s being said.” Is that really any different from shows like South Park or any of Seth MacFarlane’s series? In TV animation, the visual elements of animation have been de-emphasized to the point where they no longer matter (Chuck Jones’s infamous “illustrated radio”), and Xtranormal appears to be only the next step in that evolution. But will there ever be an easy-to-use animation tool that allows the masses to take advantage of animation’s visual possibilities?
Gnomeo and Juliet opens today in theatres across the United States. It’s a Touchstone (aka Disney) release of an Elton John/Starz production, directed by Kelly Asbury (Shrek 2).
Kenneth Turan in the LA Times, calls it “Playful, inventive and endearing”. Stephen Holden in the NY Times was less enthused. He calls it “a discombobulated grab bag of jokes, peopled with characters who have little emotional resonance”.
I’ve seen it, and I say its a very enjoyable little B-film. Had a smile on my face throughout. Cute picture, and better than I thought it would be. But it didn’t need the “Dreamworks dance sequence” at the end – and I don’t think it’ll be up for the Oscar next year.
What did you think? Comments are open below to anyone who has seen it and wants to post their opinion.
Here’s the trailer for an intriguing short film called Nanuq which merges live action with stop motion animation. It’s a re-imagining of an Eskimo myth about a young girl hospitalized in Alaska for surgery who meets an elderly Eskimo man there for the same reason. In the real world (live action), he becomes her guide, while in her dreams and nightmares (stop motion), he is her protector in a stark Arctic landscape.
LA-based Jill Jones directed and Brent Yontz produced, with Marina Cavalli (Robot Chicken) directing the animation.
Disney director and animator Bill Justice passed away today, just one day after his 97th birthday. Besides animating on many of the classic Disney features like Bambi, Fantasia, and Peter Pan, he directed numerous projects at the studio and helped popularize paper cut-out animation, which has experienced a major resurgence in recent years.
Here are the opening titles he directed with X. Atencio for the film The Misadventures of Merlin Jones:
Below is a press release from the Walt Disney Company with details about his 42-career in animation and Imagineering: Continue reading →