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Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts
Showing posts with label USA. Show all posts

Friday, 13 July 2012

John Hubley "Flat Hatting" (1946)

Take cover, that dare-devil pilot Murphy's going to dive-bomb beauties sunbathing on the beach. Shrieks of terror. The trouble is Murphy is bored, bored to distraction. No city or farm is safe from his antics. And it was all predictable from early childbirth. Why, as a boy Murphy dangled from chandeliers holding cats, chased girls round the playground. He'll come to a sticky end in the US Navy. The great John Hubley's little known short from 1946 is still funny and apposite today. I've got one such terror in the house this very second. But I digress. Made to demonstrate the perils of flying for kicks, Flat Hatting is a great find. As I have remarked before, animations never age if they are well made and this one is. What is it? 66 years old and wonderful to behold. Confident, surprisingly modern artwork and animation, easy humour, some terrific aerial shots of the countryside and cities. And that feature of the times, a tendency to moralise, albeit tongue in cheek and commissioned by the military. Great work from the master, Hubley. Just one problem - I think I'd be more like Murphy having seen what one can get up to in an aeroplane.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Caroline Torres "21 Years in 7 Minutes" (2012)

The best animation website launches its third annual Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival and it's off with a lovely Flash film. Caroline Torres does what a good animator does best, mastering the drawing tablet with the hand sketched look of her 21 Years in 7 Minutes. Take that moment when a child realises that chicken is indeed chicken, that boys aren't all rough, add the expanding chest measurement, smoking on top of a hill, more boys; anyway our girl goes to arts school and meets lots of other boys, girls, passes through the mandatory psychedelia phase and falls for the redhead in the beard.  A student at Rhode Island School of Design, Caroline's film reminds me that things have not changed that much since my day. It also squashes a lot of incident into a short time-frame, briskly encompassing a range of emotions, funny and not so funny, all imaginatively encapsulated.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Marina Budovsky "Dear Alphabet" (2006)

A most macabre alphabet today in  Dear Alphabet.  Not one to use with the kids. A little hint of the cheerful tune that accompanies the credits: "The monster ate my mother but I'm gonna get it back." This identifies theme. Taking the direct route through the alphabet, CalArts student, Marina Budovsky, uses a combination of collage, live action, stop motion and drawn animation in her enactment of the A to Z. The seven minute short is full of memorable images, eyes peeping from a doll's house, hands climbing up the cell bars with just enough room to scramble out. I'm not sure whether this is all black humour (some of it certainly is) or a sincere attempt at the grotesque. Whether it be the red headed puppet girl with the whitened face, or the monster in monochrome, there's a certain elegance, not to say brilliance, about this marvellously lit film. And if the visuals are superb, the sound design from Nathan Ruyle is gloriously complementary in a discordant, eclectic manner mixing up archive, original and avant-garde recordings with the narrator's own young voice. He must be good as he has missed this film from his bio. I must not neglect an excellent script: C is for chaos which swallowed my mom. I am unable to say much at all about the director. However I have seen far worse award winners in major festivals. If anyone knows of Marina's other work do let me know. The film is dedicated to Marina's father, Samuel, who died a year previously.

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Po Chou Chi "The Lighthouse" (2010)

A top film is to be featured on the Animation Blog today! The Lighthouse deals with a relationship between a boy and his ageing father. Absolutely beautifully drawn, director Po Chou Chi sets his film symbolically in a lighthouse, as the boy leaves home but the father keeps watch, the passage of years depicted as ever bigger boats that depart and, sometimes, return, the rowing boat and the vast ocean going vessel. Letters are written, father waits, boats pass by. Seasons change, absences grow longer. Of course the boy will return but to what? Some of the most touching moments are set at the piano as the father teaches his son, and naturally enough the soundtrack, composed by Chien Yu Huang, is piano music of the highest order. As is the film-making. It did not come out of a vacuum. The director holds a BFA degree in Fine Art from National Normal University and a MFA degree in Applied Art from Nation Chiao Tung University in Taiwan. He is current studying for his second MFA degree in animation at UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles). The Lighthouse was made there. It has won numerous awards. Naturally enough.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Matt Sullivan "Reviving Redwood" (2012)

Redwood needs reviving, yes siree. The town's a mess with a stated population of 137 but that was long ago and the number crumbles even as we look. Redwood is a ghost town. Well, not quite, for there's one old fellow beaten down by the weight of adversity. But who knows what the winds of change might bring. Time for one last effort. Reviving Redwood is an optimistic film at a time when optimism seems thin on the ground. Matt Sullivan has just graduated from Ringling College of Art and Design. There's a great score from Corey Wallace that sweeps us along, changing the mood from meltdown to hoedown to glorious sunset, reflecting the revival. Not to ignore an affecting collection of little wooden working models at the close, brightly coloured and low-tech, to complement Matt's high tech mastery of the software. Nice work.

Monday, 11 June 2012

Tyler J. Kupferer "The Girl and the Fox" (2011)

Who killed the ducks? Nine year old Ilona sets off in pursuit of the bushy tailed one in what is a film with a heart. The Girl and the Fox was Tyler J. Kupferer's thesis film for his masters at Savannah College of Art and Design. The piece is a well made, hand drawn digital animation employing a forty strong crew from one of the colleges I have ear-marked for my series on great schools of animation. The praise on Vimeo is well merited though I had no tears myself: foxes is foxes and I lived on a farm with hens! But this fox is literally heart warming and the sentimentalised glow of the artwork and lighting possesses a winning quality. Tyler could have been a little harder hitting in the depiction, say, of the slaughter of the livestock and my snow storm would have had more bite to it. Different film this - Disney not Tarantino. Tyler's got talent, has led his gifted team conspicuously well, and created a film you could show to the kids without fear of nightmares.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Erick Oh "The Bag" (2005)

If you enjoy the simple pleasures of frames merging into each other in a free and easy fashion, characters morphing into different ones, easing in and out of situations, you will enjoy The Bag, the very first animation made by Erick Oh, a very talented Korean animator working presently in California. If this was the first, rest assured it was not the last from the prolific director. Back to the Bag. It is transported from pillar to post; I swear Toad from Toad Hall takes a stint, but then, wasn't that Adolph Hitler, most certainly a whale. It's a virtuoso piece, demonstrating mastery over pencil and medium. Erick obtained his Fine Art degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in 2010. Back to the bag. The item may be much sought after but in this humorous work, it's all sh.. to some folk. The sublime piano, masterfully synchronised with the animation was by eun soo Im. Erick is showing How to Eat Your Apple at Annecy this month. He's also showing his exhibition of watercolor paintings, sculptures and films at Los Angeles' Lois Lambert Galler. 

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Christopher Alender "Eye of the Storm" (Ben Lovett 2011)

Steampunk Saturday. Ben Lovett's Eye of the Storm, directed by Christopher Alender has amassed nearly half a million hits on YouTube alone so it's likely you will have seen it but fewer of you will have viewed the behind the scenes video. The lyrics suggests heading into the eye of a storm and this is what occurs. The captain steers his flying machine by wires slap bang into the winds though the storm is not actually as ferocious as might be envisaged. It is however visually appealing and suitably enigmatic. And of course the music is great. View the production video and learn all about red tape, black light and blue screens. Learn that Lovett himself is behind the goggles. See where the lighting, the animation and the electronic wizardry coalesce.  To take one example, the flying scarf is puppeteered and then jazzed up by visual effects guru Wes Ball.  The company responsible, Soapbox Films, is based in Burbank, California.

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

Sink, Egg and Hallway (Blacklist & Dvein 2012)

You want monsters? Real monsters that climb out of the bathroom sink, wrench apart your floorboards and walls, monsters that are so excruciatingly obnoxious they make Alien seem half decent. We've got them folks. Cockroaches and termites (1 in 30 American homes). I feel an exclamation mark or three coming on. Sink, Egg and Hallway are the three new Terminix ads building on last year's batch, each giving a super monster alter ego to insects. Talk about scare tactics to drum up custom. I've got ants that are determined on gaining admission to the kitchen. The trouble is I quite admire ants and there's not that many. The 51% equity holder in my household has determined they have to go. If she saw this ad she's be after ferreting out the toxins in our garden shed. Last summer our neighbours gassed a busy nest of bumblebees that had gained access to an airbrick in their wall. They'd been all over our garden and never stung anyone. Cockroaches and termites of course are different, especially after seeing the three ads. The work, by the way, is from Barcelona-based Dvein.  Production company was Blacklist. I get lots of information. Here's something on Sink. “Our main goal was to create a very flexible and adaptable creature, who can narrow itself to get into your home by any tiny hole, as cockroaches do. In this case, we weren’t looking for a destroyer look but we wanted to show cockroaches as a synonym for dirt. We wanted to stress the disgusting mouth with no teeth, in contact with bathroom objects and licking everything around it.”

Monday, 21 May 2012

Yves Geleyn "Colosse: A Wood Tale" (2009)

Colosse: A Wood Tale: an unexpectedly cute wooden puppet robot gets tangled up in a forest and has to be helped out by a woodpecker. It's amazing how such a diversity of ideas gets animated. Type in Yves Geleyn to the search this blog facility here and you will discover, firstly, what a wonderful device it is, then four other equally unusual shorts by the French animator. What a wonderful world when little treasures like this are made, in this case for New York's Hornet INC. I've enjoyed the music and sound work of Huma-Huma before. A nice start to the week.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Jamie Caliri "The Rifle's Spiral" (The Shins 2012)

The Rifle's Spiral, the second music video in two days and it is a stunner from Jamie Caliri for The Shins. Jamie is one of the very best in the business. He mixes stop motion and 2D on a striking set with a roughly washed backdrop, and puppets possessing mystery and menace. Three evident villains look like they have emerged from one of those spaghetti westerns, mercenaries transported by railway to town, up to no good, with metal fingers wielded like daggers as they muscle in on a young conjurer's territory. Their attempt to magic up their (paper) rabbit however comes to grief when they unwittingly become immersed in a spectacular act of illusion. Or is it just illusion? I'm a fan of the band and the track takes flight in the magician's hands, puppet and director. A theatrical tour de force by a master performer. This, by the way, is no solo feat, Jamie enlisting a talented crew, the many credits and the technical detail provided in the Vimeo link above. I had praise for Jamie way back in 2007. He was soaring away then, magic man that he is.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

"Responsibility Project" Daniel Oeffinger, Yker Moreno, Justin Fines & Chad Colby (2012)

I've featured work from Liberty Mutual's Responsibility Project before. This particular Responsibility Project is a smooth running, optimistic short pressing home the advantages of taking ownership of our own world, helping people rather than hindering or ignoring. S'not rocket science y'know. Made by four guys from Buck, the Los Angeles and New York studios, Daniel Oeffinger was Animation Director, aided by Yker Moreno, Justin Fines and Chad Colby. It seems a laudable way for an insurance company to spend its money. And we get a slick piece of work into the bargain.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Great Schools of Animation: Ringling College of Art and Design (USA)

Ringling College of Art and Design is situated in Sarasota, Florida in 35 acres of mainly pedestrianised campus. The private, independent, four-year visual arts college has some 1100 students including students currently from 40 countries. The Computer Animation course, one of 13 disciplines on offer, is the most popular. A requirement of entry is proficiency in English and the submission of an art portfolio. The university as a whole has an acceptance rate of 74.0%, not surprising given applicants need to be able to afford the high fees. That said, the quality of tuition and the standard of facilities is widely considered state of the art, whilst the Computer Animation major has the most demanding standards for admission. Programs include motion, modeling, sound and lighting. Computer Animation majors take core courses in such topics as drawing and design. The graduate employment is outstanding with Pixar, Disney, Blizzard Entertainment, Dreamworks and Hallmark actively recruiting. Tuition and fees was $32,290 in 2011. The gender ratio last year was 41.5 percent male students and 58.5 percent female students. Freshers are housed within the campus. In terms of alumni one cannot get more contemporary than Brandon Oldenburg, the co-director of the 2012 Oscar winning short, The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lessmore. For more detailed information on the college click here.

Ringling is rightly proud to point out that 3D World Magazine has selected it as their top college for computer animation in North America for the past two years. Bear in mind though, computer animation is a loose term; just about every animation I cover uses a computer somewhere in its creation. 3DWM has its own focus so the award is not all embracing. Other schools of animation in Canada or the USA, of course, have their own style, often praised in the Animation Blog. I shall look at their qualities as the series develops. For now, the four films below are chosen at random from the Vimeo presentation site for the 2011 Ringling Thesis Films. I simply looked at the last four posted. They each display an assured mastery of the 3D software (thereby endearing them to the editors of the 3D magazine) and unlike some thesis films from some other schools, they are chiefly by individuals.

Hunted from Gordon Pinkerton has the last of his kind hunted to extinction in a humorous and well made 3D (Maya) short. The production extends to a character voice in what I take to be an English accent though nothing like mine.

Origins from Robert Showalter has a beguiling little tin man, all rust and odds and ends, board a train on a voyage of discovery.

Stephanie Russell's Marshmallows features a dragon exhibiting dog like behaviour in its lust for the squelchy confectionery. Never trust dragons though this one is something of a sweetie. A terrific score from Erez Koskas.


Shadow of Doubt once again is a comic affair, this time tracing the antics of a bungling killer as he attempts to cover up his crime. Eric Chou and Russell Miller show why the big companies are so keen to employ Ringling graduates. They should and hopefully do look at the musicians too because, again, Erez Koskas' contribution is exemplary. He's a star if I've ever heard one.


Friday, 4 May 2012

Eusong Lee "Will" (2012)

A girl listens to her daddy's voice on the answer machine and plays with the yo-yo he gave her before setting off for work. A number of factors make today's movie completely special. Will is first and foremost a beautifully crafted film that will surely move you. Second it has astonishingly apt music from Julian Kleiss that adds to a poignancy not usually achieved in a student work. Thirdly the voice recording of Dario Barrera is central. And brought tears to my eyes. Eusong Lee has made a wonderful tribute. The significant change of colours for father and daughter, and one exquisite moment of sheer artistry as the action is held on pause for a moment. This elegantly composed 2D piece is a credit to CalArts. They turn out brilliantly prepared students. Create marvellous films. But none better than this.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Sabrina Cotugno "Kagemono: The Shadow Folk" (2012)

Here am I believing I had discovered Gruffalo MK 11 and the cute and cuddly critter turns round and bites. As in not cuddly but lethal. Sabrina Cotugno is a 4th year student at CalArts.   Her graduation film is Kagemono: The Shadow Folk. In a delectably drawn opening sequence we meet a delightful bushy tailed fox called Beopup, an immature or inept hunter of other cuddly things. It's not quite Disney but in the vicinity. Things get darker when Beopup tangles with a seemingly unpleasant kind of shadow dragon though after the skirmish there is still time to play with the cuddly shadow mouse. Big mistake. From then on it turns decidedly ugly and not Disney at all. Vampires, as I have opined before, are flavour of the month in film and literary land for reasons that entirely elude me. I'll make an exception here. Sabina has benefitted greatly from her four years of studying animation in Valencia. She is a native Los Angeles girl with invaluable experience as an exchange student at Gobelins L'Ecole de L'image in Paris and as story intern at Pixar Studios.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Todd Hemker "Seven Corners" (2001)


There is something very satisfying about an unabashed hand drawn animation where artifice is a touch of shading here or a change of perspective there. Todd Hemker has an enviable skill with his pencil together with an eye for those little foibles of personality or shape that make his sketched characters breathe. Seven Corners is an off-beat observation on Southport Railway station, its environs and transient inhabitants. There's a desultory charm about the piece, together with a heart that beats beneath the urban fatigue as commuters await the train. There's the chain smoking double bass player, slumped over his instrument at the close as the birds scour the sidewalk, or the elderly couple, intimidated by the busy cafe and road traffic, comforting each other. Of course one might view the seven minute film as a masterclass in animation, judging what to move, what to leave as a still image, when to flesh out a figure, when to indicate by strategic lines. Watch how Todd darkens the shading as the train enters the tunnel. And all at its own pace, never hurried, like public transport everywhere. Three acknowledgements: electric cello Lowell Pickett, saxophone Lenny Pickett and sound design from Jonathan Miller. Originally from Wisconsin, Todd studied Architecture at the University of Minnesota and, after a spell working on furniture and cabinet-making, moved on to drawing and animation at California Institute of the Arts, graduating in 2001. He now lives near Los Angeles with partner Soyeon Kim, an illustrator and  designer. They form the design and animation company Yellowshed. (Read Michelle Krasniak's thorough article in tsd tuts+ for rather more than I have time for.) A lovely mature film this, crafted beautifully, uplifting, downbeat. Stylish.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Great Schools of Animation: National Film and Television School (UK)

National Film and Television School: Beaconsfield

"The NFTS is right at the heart of training for the Industry"  (David Yates)

The National Film and Television School is situated some 25 miles from London in Beaconsfield, Buckinghamshire. It is considered to be one of the foremost international centres of excellence for television and film. As well as short courses, NFTS offers the two year post graduate MA in a variety of technical areas, the Animation Department being one of many. It has only eight students in any one year. They arrive from all over the world joining a mix of approximately 160 full-time students in varied industry related fields. Students in their first year experience the full diversity of animation techniques, specialising in their second year when they work as part of a project team. As a directing course, entry requirements are for students able to lead and collaborate. For Fees click on the link. Nick Park and Mark Baker are two alumni.  Entry requirements are tough. Course tutors are industry professionals and include the illustrious Caroline Leaf, Barry Purves, Ossie Parker and Marjut Rimminen. Facilities are now excellent given the new building, above, housing state of the art facilities. Discounted rates are given for transport to London Marylebone.

So to some actual work, in trailer form, sadly, as the pieces are brand spanking new and just about to go on the festival circuit, chosen to illustrate both the quality and variety of animation forms pursued at the school, as well as the collaborative nature of the project films:

Given Nick Park's appearance above, it is no wonder stop motion is so strong. Arizona born, Harvard educated, Timothy Reckart's film Head Over Heels is as exciting a prospect as I've seen in this field with simply stunning sets and models, professionally animated. Walter and Madge live in an upside down marriage. Er, literally!  An engaging idea. The film has been selected for the Cinefondation category of the 2012 Cannes Film Festival, one of only fifteen films selected from 320 film schools. I am truly looking forward to seeing this in the flesh.

Traditional in technique and artfully executed Gervais Merryweather's 
Buy Buy Baby is another upside down movie, in a sense, as
Fred Finklesworth has to look after his baby daughter in New York, in the roaring twenties as the stock exchange goes belly up. Those lovers of 2D work will revel in the display of the old arts. It is due to be screened at Annecy.

Jack Tilley also works in 2D in the evocative Rail. His subject has a similarity too although it is entirely different in tone. A train driver looks after his adopted granddaughter when their railway world is threatened by the encroachment of the city. Immaculate drawing and great music from Jered Sorkin illuminate this enticing offering. The script was written by Rachel Yelding, and just one of the production team, talented individuals working together, an approach typifying all four films featured here.

Tom Jobbins works in a totally different way in his My Face is in Space. Paper cut out, stop-motion, live action and archive footage are intermingled in the tangled story of a young man who wants his face propelled into space in that golden period of exploration in the 1970s. A glance at the school's synopsis and credits page will emphasise the group approach of the NFTS as actors and technical staff combine their talents in as near a professional environment as a school of animation can offer.

and a personal note - the Animation Blog (me) does not take advertising revenue, the articles are not commissioned, and my coverage of the great schools of animation is a piece of personal research, necessarily squeezed into a truncated postcard form, shared with readers. I ask myself in each case, what would I want to know if seeking to enrol in one of the institutions, what are the films like? I'll release a series of these short articles in no particular order.



Friday, 20 April 2012

Tyler Carter "DreamGiver" (2011)

DreamGiver is the first short featured on the Animation Blog from Utah's Brigham Young University, a decidedly strange omission given the all round quality of director Tyler Carter's film. With a benign nod to Paul Berry's The Sandman, a strange winged figure appears in the bedroom of a young boy, laden with glowing eggs, each of which releases a dream triggered by the boy's obvious regard for sport, music and reading about ancient Aztec mythology. The fellow miscalculates however when a mishap occurs with one of the eggs. The piece features both 3D (reality) and 2D (dreams) and a sumptuous, cinematic score by Lance Montgomery, played superbly by the university's orchestra. Tyler acknowledges the work of his team of fellow animators in what is an ambitious undertaking. The smooth animation, overall quality of artwork and production values make for professional quality. BYU is conspicuously well resourced, courtesy of patrons The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In an accomplished behind the scenes video, directed by Wyatt Strain, the secrets of animation are delineated, from storyboard, modelling, rigging ... We meet the team, including staff from the Center For Animation Faculty. We get to see and hear a very youthful orchestra perform. As a shop window for BYU I can conceive of no better exposure. I understand it is now very much a multi-national university, presumably attracting members of LDS from across the globe. The video reveals the quality of Tyler's input, his artistic talent and drive, together with the support he received.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

PIXELS by Patrick Jean

Some time shortly after I have published this article Pixels will have received one million hits since its debut on YouTube almost two years ago to the day. It has also been featured by Vimeo and Dailymotion. (I like to get the scoops in way before the more pedestrian blogs.) Patrick Jean's mix of live action and lego like 8 bit pixels warring over New York has had global success.  Like all the best video games you get points for every reference to the games industry you can pick up. Made by One More Production. For those of you out there who missed it first time round, you're in good company.

Saturday, 7 April 2012

"Bose: The Power of Sound" Jerry van de Beek and Betsy de Fries (2011)

It is a pleasure to see the work of skilled professionals and Jerry van de Beek and Betsy de Fries (littlefluffyclouds) are consummate professionals. Bose: The Power of Sound embraces a host of animation techniques, from 2D to 3D to origami. Jerry is a master, artist and technician both, employing whatever software, or scissors, it takes to convey the message. Given a high end product like Bose, it figures the one minute piece requires something extra special. Technologically advanced article waveforms emanate from the music itself, scissored horses and cranes soar through the skies and scarlet sampans traverse the ocean; there is even a mathematical Fibonacci sequence of numbers in free flight. This orchestral and visual feast is a masterclass. I've not asked but I guess the ad is linked to the tsunami that hit Japan. The giant wave crashes down and soaring out of the explosion red flowers climb towards the moon. It seems like a rebirth to me, a proud nation responding to devastating adversity. I need to add that I had intended, and still do, to write about two other ads in the small (in size not stature) California studio's impressive library of work, one a very traditional cartoon (like they used to do it) and, secondly, a follow-up to an earlier piece I had written about on the blog. But I got waylaid. Jerry, by the way, hails from the Netherlands and producer Betsy from the UK. It's warmer in California.

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