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America’s harshest social critics aren’t some distant foreign leaders; they’re French animators. Remember the 2009 Oscar-winning short Logorama and its merciless take on American consumerism? Now it’s Patrick Jean’s turn to satirize the United States. In his new short Motorville, he delivers a stinging commentary on America’s addition to other countries’ natural resources. The film was originally commissioned by the American broadcaster Showtime Channel, but after Jean submitted the film, Showtime decided not to air it. Some ideas, even animated, are too dangerous for mainstream America.
Jean’s previous film Pixels, which turned New York into a batch of pixels, was a big hit both online and offline. It not only won the top prize at Annecy in 2011, it also attracted the attention of Sony Pictures and Adam Sandler who are now trying to develop it into an 8-bit Ghostbusters-style feature.
The key visual element in Motorville is using a map of a major metropolis (in this case, Los Angeles) as metaphor for the human body. Jean generated the maps using open source data from OpenStreetMap.org, which lands him clearly in the emerging New Aesthetic camp. While Motorville is hardly the first time that map data has been turned into film art, Jean’s sharp and witty handle on the concept elevates this film into a league of its own.
Directed by Patrick Jean
Produced by Showtime Channel
Sound design: David Kamp
Additional animations: OneMoreProd, Stephen Vuillemin
By: Jerry Beck,
Blog: Cartoon Brew
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Canadian filmmaker Nick Cross (Yellow Cake, The Pig Farmer) took a break from production on his one-man feature Black Sunrise to make the animated short Perihelion.
Cross describes Perihelion as “a sort of animated tone poem…that toes the line between narrative and non-narrative, essentially having no real beginning, middle or end.”
The film draws upon his appreciation of fine art, particularly German Expressionism and Surrealism:
Visually, I was heavily inspired by the work of a number of German painters from the early 20th century. Notably: Otto Dix, Richard Oelze, Ingrid Griebel-Zietlow, Rudolf Schlichter and Max Ernst, as well as Francisco Goya. This is sort of a tribute to the work of these artists living in a time of Fascism and impending war, which really informed their work in a distinct way.
Fans of those classic artists will enjoy spotting the visual references, like this one:
By: Jerry Beck,
Blog: Cartoon Brew
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, Hoang Ngoc
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, Maria Vernoica Ramirez
, Milen Vitanov
, Paco Vink
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, Thomas Sauvin
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The 16th edition of the Holland Animation Festival wrapped up earlier today in Utrecht, The Netherlands. Hisko Hulsing’s Junkyard won the top prize for Dutch animation, while Jérémy Clapin’s latest film Palmipedarium took home the festival’s top prize for narrative animated shorts.
The Short Film jury was comprised of Gabriella Giandelli (Italy), Steven Subotnick (United States) and Marc James Roels (Belgium). The Feature Film jury consisted of Hans Walther (Netherlands), Luca Raffaelli (Italy) and Frans Westra (Netherlands). Student Film jury was Marc Bertrand (Canada), Chris Sullivan (United States) and René Windig (Netherlands), and Dutch prize jury was Nik Christensen (UK/Netherlands), Ton Gloudemans (Netherlands) and Dennis Tupicoff (Australia).
Here is the complete list of winners:
Winner Grand Prix—Dutch animation:
Junkyard by Hisko Hulsing (NL/BE, 2012)
Winner Grand Prix—Narrative shorts:
Palmipedarium by Jérémy Clapin (FR, 2012)
Winners Grand Prix—Non-narrative shorts
Recycled by Lei Lei and Thomas Sauvin (CN, 2012)
Winner Grand Prix—Feature:
Ánima Buenos Aires by María Verónica Ramírez (AR, 2012)
Winner Grand Prix—European student films
Washed Ashore by Jonas Ott (AKV St. Joost Breda, NL, 2012)
HAFF Audience award Dutch animation
Fallin’ Floyd by Paco Vink and Albert ’t Hooft (NL, 2012)
Klassefilm HAFF Junior Audience award in cooperation with Eye
Rising Hope by Milen Vitanov (Hochschule für Film und Fernsehen Konrad Wolf Potsdam, DE, 2012)
Winner web competition HAFFTube
Odio by Adriano Vessichelli (UK, 2012)
MovieZone HAFF Award in cooperation with Eye
Briganti senza Leggenda (Thugs with no Legend) by Gianluigi Toccafondo (FR, 2012)
Student film Honorable Mentions
International Father’s Day by Edmunds Jansons (Estonian Academy of Arts, LV, 2012)
Steven and the Beetle by Hoang Ngoc, Piotr Loc (Polish National Film School in Lodz, PL, 2012)
Blackmeal created this slick motion graphics/EFX animation homage to Marvel Comics. The Ben-Day dots add a comic book-flavored touch of embellishment.
Starting with its title—Dziwne dziwy, czyli… Baśń o Korsarzu Palemonie—this Polish film is nearly impossible to explain. As soon as the title of the film appears onscreen, the letters of the title morph into question marks and exclamation points, which then melt into a flag adorned with a skull that is smoking a pipe. The skull emits pipe smoke out of its eye, which quickly engulfs the screen. Then, the sun breaks through and shines. And that’s just the first 10 seconds! Add another 30 minutes of uninterrupted surrealist insanity and you begin to get an idea of this incredible piece of film.
Krzysztof Dębowski (pictured left), a veteran of the Polish animation scene, was in the twilight of his career when he made this film in 1986. It’s a difficult film to classify because it doesn’t fit into any conventional timeline of animation history. Some of the character designs are a throwback to the blocky ‘cartoon modern’ style of Sixties and Seventies Eastern European animation, but the facial expressions resemble the crude graphic exaggeration of manga and the cartoonish painted stills foreshadow the Spumco style of the early-1990s. Such efforts to compare the film’s individual elements to other visual work are inadequate though. It is the totality of Dębowski’s vision that is so striking and utterly original.
Dębowski gleefully disregards the Western animator’s narrow-minded obsession with achieving the “illusion of life.” He breaks every rule that is sacred to the character animator and moves things however he damn pleases. His universe functions on the level of pure graphic cinema and exists exclusively on its own terms. Characters distort in grotesque ways, and they move in fits and starts that suggest human locomotion in only the most abstract sense. Dębowski has no use for things like perspective and instead suggests space through design and movement. Effects like waves, clouds and cannon fire are conveyed through gorgeous patterns of shapes and lines that move to their own unique rhythms.
The film is visually lush, but its heavy narration makes it difficult to decipher. I called upon Pawel Wieszczecinski, a film studies major at the New School in Manhattan as well as the founder of the Kinoscope film series, to explain what I was looking at. Here’s what he told me:
The title is “A Fairytale about Palemon the Pirate.” This particular film is based on a fairytale by a famous fable writer named Jan Brzechwa. His stories are generally aimed at young audiences. I even remember his fairytales from when I was a kid. He is definitely the most famous fairytale writer in Poland. This particular piece was written in 1956. It’s about a King who dies, but before he does so, he announces to his four daughters that the one who will overcome the Palemon the Pirate will get the crown. Palemon owns all the seas and his empire is enormous. Eventually one of King’s daughters, the ugliest one, conquers Palemon’s empire and she becomes the new Queen. But besides that, she also hooks up with Palemon and they get married.
Dębowski should be an animation legend on the basis of this film alone. Yet, I’d never heard of him until I randomly stumbled across this film during a late-night cartoon binge. Further searching yields absolutely nothing written about him in the English language. His lack of recognition in the West is a shame considering his prolific body of work. He started directing in 1960 at Studio Miniatur Filmowych and made dozens of films over the next thirty years. The only other example of his work that I can find online is this early piece called Wzeszło słoneczko.
Not About Us is a sensitively composed student film effort by Swiss artist Michael Frei:
The short is a symbolic staging of the complex dance of rapprochement between a man and a woman. A mechanical ballet flitting between black and white, light and dark and countless mirroring motions—until at last contact is made and a relationship develops.
Frei recently wrapped up the film’s festival run, which included screnings at Annecy, Hiroshima, Fantoche, DOK-Leipzig and the Krakow Film Festival. He is a graduate of HSLU (Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts), but produced Not About Us mostly during an exchange year at the Estonian Academy of Art under the mentorship of filmmakers Priit and Olga Parn. Frei kept this blog during the production of the short.
Barcelona-based Headless Productions has attracted a lot of attention for its hand-drawn projects. They’ve translated their quirky aesthetic into CGI before, such as this feature trailer, and now they’ve tried it again with a CG test piece called Strange Oaks.
Directed and designed by HEADLESS
3D supervisor: Javier Verdugo
Modeling&Lighting: Javier Verdugo
Rigging: Miquel Campos
Animation: PH Dallaire, David St-Amant, Guillaume Pelletier, Christine Houle
Irish animation studio Brown Bag Films released its 2011 short 23 Degrees 5 Minutes online today. Based on a story by Austin Kenny, the CG short is directed by Darragh O’Connell, who has been twice nominated for the animated short Oscar for co-directing the films Give Up Yer Aul Sins and Granny O’Grimm’s Sleeping Beauty.
If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself.
Walt Kelly had had a regrettable experience making The Pogo Special Birthday Special (1969) with Chuck Jones.
“How did you ever okay Chuck’s Pogo story?,” Ward Kimball asked Walt Kelly shortly after the special aired on TV. “I didn’t, for Godsake!,” Kelly cried out. “The son of a bitch changed it after our last meeting. That’s not the way I wrote it. He took all the sharpness out of it and put in that sweet, saccharine stuff that Chuck Jones always thinks is Disney, but isn’t.” Kimball, who was dining with Kelly at the Musso & Frank Grill in Hollywood, pressed further. “Who okayed giving the little skunk girl a humanized face?” he asked. Kelly was so angry he couldn’t answer. His face turned red, and he bellowed to the waiter, “Bring me another bourbon!” In Kimball’s words, Kelly wanted “to kill—if not sue—Chuck.”
Shortly after that debacle, Walt Kelly took matters into his own hands and decided to personally animate his popular Pogo characters. With the help of his wife Selby Daley, he planned on creating a fully-animated half-hour special for television, with the characters expressing a strong stance on taking care of the environment. But due to his ill-health, he was able to complete only thirteen minutes of We Have Met the Enemy and He Is Us, which you see below.
The finished portions are absolutely charming and beautifully crafted. Much like his character P.T. Bridgeport, Kelly is a real showman here. Although he hadn’t animated since Dumbo thirty years prior, his animation skills are still top-notch. While the animation can be a bit choppy at times (mostly keys and some breakdowns with no in-betweens), his drawings are solid and appealing with some real flourishes of fluid animation throughout.
The color, though muddy in the existing prints, also appears to be as vibrant as his Sunday pages, and the backgrounds are as intricately detailed as his splash panels, if not more so. And the voices, humorously performed by Kelly himself, fit the tone and mood of his characters.
Besides Winsor McCay, I can’t think of any other mainstream comic artist who animated their comics to such a painstaking degree. While many comic strips have been adapted for film and television before and since, none of them have met or surpassed the charm and quality of the original artist’s work. Here, the animator and the creator is one and the same, and the drawings are pure, unfiltered and straight from the artist’s hand.
Disney unveiled a new Mickey Mouse short today called Croissant de Triomphe, that can be watched HERE. It is one of 19 new shorts that will begin airing on Friday, June 28, on the Disney Channel, Disney.com and other Disney-branded platforms.
Paul Rudish (Dexter’s Laboratory, Sym-Bionic Titan, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic) is exec producing and directing. Aaron Springer (SpongeBob SquarePants, Korgoth of Barbaria) and Clay Morrow (Dexter’s Laboratory, Chowder, Camp Lazlo!) are also directors. Joseph Holt is art director and Stephen DeStefano did character design.
If the first short released Croissant de Triomphe is any indication, this is a handsome and distinctive series, featuring a mixture of Cartoon Modern-styled backgrounds and loose, expressive cartoon animation. The three-and-a-half-minute running time of the first short is perfect. I’m glad that studios are awakening to the fact that there can be other lengths besides 7- and 11-minute episodes.
If I have any observation about the first short Croissant de Triomphe, it’s that it struggles to find the humor in its set-up, which is Mickey driving around Paris on a scooter. Outside of a couple half-hearted attempts at gags (nuns knocked into the air like bowling pins who then float down, an appearance by Cinderella), the cartoon emphasizes frenzied non-descript action sequences over slapstick. Even obvious gag set-ups—for example, Mickey dressed as a knight and lancing croissants—have no comedic payoff. Hopefully as the crew finds its footing, they are able to balance the accomplished action sequences with a more spirited comic sensibility.
Patrick Smith has debuted his 2011 short Masks on the Internet. He called upon frequent collaborator, musician Karl von Kries, to work on the film’s music, but unlike their earlier collaborations, they inverted the workflow. On earlier films like Delivery and Drink, Smith created the animation before von Kries scored the film. With Masks, von Kries composed a score first, and Smith then drew what he heard.
Having known Pat for the past decade, I think I can say with some confidence that his greatest love is animation. The raison d’être of his films is a passion creating movement via the currently unfashionable ritual of flipping thousands of crinkly pieces of paper over a lightbox. And yes, Masks was animated on paper, not digitally. I’ve never asked him if he enjoys filling out timing charts and exposure sheets too, but I suspect he gets some perverse pleasure out of the entire process. He’s one of those rare independents who knows and loves Disney greats, past and present. He admires the hell out of Bill Tytla, Glen Keane and Sergio Pablos, and he filters that passion for dynamic, powerful character animation through a more personalized storytelling approach.
In earlier films, Pat has used basic visual analogies to express bigger themes: in Handshake, an entangled man and woman depict individual identities literally consumed by a relationship, while in Puppet, hand puppets with a life of their own become a vehicle the creative process taking control of its creator.
Masks is less conceptual and builds a more complex narrative, but the opportunity for masochistic character animation excesses still presents itself through the mysterious masked characters who chase, chomp and destroy multitudes of tiny, helpless figures. Relevant contemporary themes weave throughout the narrative, from our overuse and abuse of natural resources to the power of the masses against the exploitative classes. If not necessarily his most entertaining film, it qualifies as Pat’s most ambitious and effective work as a filmmaker to date.
Sometimes a little good, simple cartoon fun hits the spot. Danish brothers Rune and Esben Fisker (aka Benny Box) begin Jazz That Nobody Asked For with a simple concept—a guy gets a song stuck in his head—and push it to its maddest conclusion. Dig more of their jazz at TheJazzMovie.com.
Directors: Rune Fisker & Esben Fisker
Idea: Rune Fisker & Esben Fisker
Storyboard: Rune Fisker
Animatic: Rune Fisker
Character design: Rune Fisker
Background design: Esben Fisker
Animation: Pawel Binczycki, Rune Fisker, Esben Fisker
Compositing: Rune Fisker, Esben Fisker, Pawel Binczycki
Sound design: Pawel Binczycki
Music: ‘Quaker City Jazz’ by Jan Savitt and his Top Hatters ‘Intro’ by Balkan Balagan
Produced by Benny Box
If you read just one article this month about short film distribution, make it this piece at Short of the Week. Written by filmmaker Ivan Kander, the piece is ostensibly about the changing game of short film distribution, but it also contains a sharp critique of short film distributor Shorts International.
Nobody denies that Shorts International works for a handful of high-profile short films—think Oscar-nominated—but, as the article makes clear, their model simply doesn’t work for the average animation filmmaker, a complaint that I’ve heard often throughout the years. Their business model might have been relevant as recently as five years ago, but in 2013, they are an anachronistic presence on the short film circuit. They take far too many rights for the limited financial reward and exposure they offer in return.
Solutions exist, but companies in the short film community have been slow to implement them. Firstly, filmmakers need something like Bandcamp that facilitates the sale of digital downloads and merchandise, the latter of which is a major part of the income stream of established indie animators like Don Hertzfeldt and Bill Plympton.
Vimeo, by virtue of its name-recognition and user base, is perhaps in the best position to make a major impact in the film distribution game. Their recent introduction of the “tip jar” was a step in the right direction, but what I’d really like to see them do is introduce a micro-payment system. For example, a filmmaker on Vimeo could charge 5 cents per film view. As a viewer, I’d purchase a $5 credit from Vimeo, and then everytime I watch a film that requires payment, the site would automatically deduct a nickel from my account. Vimeo could charge 10% for the service (that’s half a penny on a five-cent film). A film with 500,000 views at a nickel apiece would earn $22,500 for the filmmaker and $2,500 for Vimeo. Add in downloads for 25 cents, and you’ve instantly created a more effective model for short filmmakers than Shorts International, iTunes and YouTube’s Partner Program combined.
(Rich man smoking money photo via Shutterstock)
Filmmaker Regina Pessoa (Tragic Story With Happy Ending) has put out a flipbook for her latest short Kali, the Little Vampire. This is not your typical flipbook though. Depending on where you flip it, the flipbook displays six different scenes from the film. Even after watching the video, I can’t figure out how it works, but I’m guessing voodoo magic. Your own magical Kali flipbook can be purchased for 7.50€. Email ciclope (at) ciclopefilmes (dot) com for info.
Fans of classic animated shorts are undoubtedly familiar with John and Faith Hubley’s 1964 short The Hat, but there was another short released in the same year that was also called The Hat. This short, El Sombrero (retitled The Hat in English) was one of the few entertainment shorts produced by the Spanish outfit Estudios Moro, which I wrote about yesterday.
According to the 1967 book Film & TV Graphics, it’s “the story of a social outcast and his troubles with a hat…the hat is here a status symbol, but the hero never masters it, for it happens to be a hat that talks.”
Despite being animated in Spain, the film’s principal artists were all Americans. The director, Bob Balser, who I’m happy to report is still with us, had been floating around European studios in Denmark and Finland before landing at Estudios Moro to make this film. A few years after this short, Balser went to England where he would assume his most high-profile role as the animation director of Yellow Submarine.
The story was written and designed by Alan Shean, who was a fixture of the Fifties animation scene. He had worked for most of the major LA commercial houses and had also been an instrumental artist in the early years of Rocky and Bullwinkle. The background artist on the film, Dean Spille, who just turned 85, also worked on TV commercials, primarily at Playhouse Pictures. Following El Sombrero, he began working with Bill Melendez on the Peanuts specials and features, and became one of Melendez’s key artists for the next 35 years.
If the overriding trait of Fifties animation was an emphasis on formal design, then the defining element of Sixties animation was the desire to break away from formulaic ways of drawing characters. Shean, like so many other artists of the era, embraced a freer, more illustration-oriented approach to drawing. The poses and expressions in the stills below don’t look like they belong on any traditional model sheet; they are tailor-made to meet the requirements of each scene. The fluid graphic quality of the line is reminiscent of Robert Osborn’s illustrations and there’s a lovely, improvisational feel to the drawings. It would be a real treat to see drawings such as these in motion.
If you’ve seen El Sombrero or have more to share about the film, please comment.
Mysterious Swamp (Müstiline raba) offers a delightful taste of that droll humor we’ve come to expect from Estonian animators. The director is Chintis Lundgren, and she has both a WEBSITE and TUMBLR.
The most talked-about online animation debut this week was To This Day, which featured the contributions of over 80 animation artists who took turns animating a spoken word poem written and performed by Shane Koyczan. The seven-and-a-half minute short has already racked up nearly 3.5 million views on Youtube, and an additional 134,000 views on Vimeo.
The anti-bullying message of the film is powerful, but the impact originates almost entirely from Koyczan’s passionate narration. The animation—and the overproduced score—serve as attractive garnish, but don’t enhance or elucidate the core emotion of the vocal performance. That’s not to say that the visuals aren’t well made because it’s clear that a lot of effort went into this. Seemingly every current animation and motion graphic style is represented, but the novelty of rapidly shifting visual styles doesn’t feel like the most effective way to support Koyczan’s narration.
The interchangeable feel of the visuals has a lot to do with the way the project was set up by Vancouver-based design studio Giant Ant. They invited dozens of artists to create 20-second pieces over a twenty-day period, and assigned multiple artists to animate the same parts of the film. Afterward, they cut together the bits and pieces that they thought worked best for each scene. As one artist who worked on the project told me:
This is an excellent example of crowdsourcing in the 21st century. Everybody works hard on tiny chunks for no pay, only the best parts of their tiny chunks go in, the rest gets scrapped, and you’ve got a beautiful result for no investment.
By: Jerry Beck,
Blog: Cartoon Brew
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All the fat in Fat is contained in its title; the film itself is a lean and mean laugh machine that offers a goofy series of gags hinged on a surreal visual concept. The 2011 Supinfocom Arles graduation short was directed by Gary Fouchy, Yohann Auroux Bernard, and Sebastien De Oliveira Bispo. The film’s website includes some funny concept work and animated GIFs.
The Box by recent Rhode Island School of Design grad Joshua Durst is good for a giggle—and sometimes that’s all you want on the weekend.
Our friends at Short of the Week, an essential website about short-form filmmaking, have recognized five animated shorts for their annual Short of the Week Awards. They chose three winners amongst films that debuted online in 2012: The Eagleman Stag by Mikey Please, I’m Fine Thanks by Eammonn O’Neill and will by Eusong Lee. The two runner-ups were I, Pet Goat II by Louis Lefebvre and Ruin by Wes Ball.
All of the shorts can be viewed on ShortOfTheWeek.com. Their site also features a roundtable discussion about the future of animation with four of the five winners.
Pixar artists Dice Tsutsumi (art director, Toy Story 3) and Robert Kondo (sets art director, Ratatouille) have announced that they are producing an independent short film. To help raise funds for the production, they are auctioning some of their exploratory sketches on eBay.
The auction serves as a valuable reminder that crowdfunding is not the only way to raise money for a film project. By auctioning their drawings on eBay instead of offering them as rewards on Kickstarter, Tsutsumi and Kondo are avoiding the often stressful task of organizing a major crowdfunding campaign as well as circumventing Kickstarter’s hefty fees, thus ending up with more time and money to devote to their film.
The two artists could yet end up running a crowdfunding campaign. “We may do Kickstarter too if we get man power to set it up in the future,” Tsutsumi wrote on Facebook. “It takes a lot of work to set up [a] successful Kickstarter.” Of course, there’s nothing wrong if they choose to do that. It’s refreshing, however, to see some out-of-the-box thinking that doesn’t treat crowdfunding as the holy grail, but rather as a component of a diversified fundraising effort.
What constitutes a “lost” film? The traditional definition is a film whose existence is confirmed but of which no prints can be found. But in this day and age of infinite abundance on the Internet, there is also another type of lost film. This is the film of which prints readily exist, but the film is rarely screened publicly, unavailable online, and is not part of the general animation community’s discussion.
An even more personal definition of a “lost” film is simply a film that I wish to see and am unable to find. I plan to regularly highlight these films in this new feature called “Lost Films.” It represents a desire to draw attention to the rich history of animated filmmaking and the various ways that artists have explored the medium throughout the years.
The first “lost film” is Calaveras (Skulls, 1969), a French short directed by Jacques Colombat (b. 1940) and produced by Les films Armorial. Colombat, who was a protégé of the important French animation director Paul Grimault, was inspired by the artwork of Mexican illustrator José Guadalupe Posada to create his Day of the Dead-themed short. Using a combination of cel animation and cut-out, Colombat animated the film with Jean Vimenet and Jean-François Laguionie, the latter of whom recently released the feature Le Tableau.
Colombat appears to still be alive and well. In fact, a photo of him riding a bicycle around Paris randomly ended up on the Associated Press last October.
The film’s running times that I’ve seen vary between 11 and 15 minutes. Here is the most complete synopsis of Calaveras that can be found online:
An unusual and aesthetically interesting cartoon, set in Mexico at the time of the defeat of Maximilian I by the Republican forces under Juárez. It tells the story of an imprisoned Algerian soldier who, having been left behind when Maximilian’s French troops were forced to withdraw, faces a firing squad. While he is in jail he dreams of life outside, but eventually his time comes. According to popular Mexican belief however, men continue their previous lives in the state of skeletons and there is every indication that the soldier will soon find his place in this new world.
The adventurous design and color of Calaveras excites the senses. I can’t imagine how these drawings are animated as cut-outs—or if they’re even animated—but I’d love to find out.
JibJab has completed the series of ABC videos that is part of their new children’s learning project StoryBots. The last video in the series—Z, of course—was directed by Max Winston, whose mastery of classic cartoon timing and movement is second to none among stop motion animators. [UPDATE: Max has posted behind-the-scenes photos from the short on his blog.]
When I was in LA last month, JibJab co-founder Evan Spiridellis gave me a sneak peek of the StoryBots material they’re producing. The StoryBots website doesn’t give much away, but some bits and pieces of concept art can be seen on their Tumblr. The company is busy producing a significant amount of interactive storybooks, games and animated shorts to support the StoryBots iPad app. Beginning this Spring, the app will be available for a flat monthly subscription fee of $4.99.
The thing that strikes me most about the whole StoryBots endeavor is the consistency of quality. JibJab uses a large crew—both in-house and freelancers around the globe—to create its StoryBots content. Working with such a large group of people has the potential to yield a mixed bag of results—for example, see the TED-Ed animated videos.
In JibJab’s case, however, there is a remarkable through-line that stretches across the entire StoryBots universe. This doesn’t mean that every StoryBots piece will wind up as a classic piece of children’s entertainment, but like the early Sesame Street, there is a sensibility of fun and creativity that binds the various parts of StoryBots together.
It’s the type of result that can’t be achieved overnight. Evan, who is the de facto creative director of StoryBots (I’m not sure what title he actually uses), does an incredible job of mixing and matching creative talents, casting the right crew for each segment, and then letting each person do what they’re best at doing. He credits the large amount of content they create for their e-cards division, which remains JibJab’s bread and butter, as preparing him for the demands of putting together StoryBots. At this early stage, the hard work is paying off, and StoryBots could become one of those rare children’s educational products that appeals to children and parents alike.
Minkyu Lee conceived his Oscar-nominated short Adam and Dog while attending the Film Directing program at CalArts. Lee, 27, spent nearly three years making the film, all the while working a dayjob at Disney on the features Winnie the Pooh and Wreck-It Ralph. He squeezed in time on his own film during nights and weekends, but his ambitious vision (Adam and Dog is fifteen minutes long) eventually necessitated a four-month sabbatical from Disney so that he could devote full attention to his Biblically-inspired tale.
Lee was not only the film’s director, but also its producer, storyboard artist, designer, lead animator, and background painter. The backgrounds, painted in Photoshop, are one of the film’s highlights. The dramatically lit compositions contrast lovingly textured elements of nature with wide expanses of open space. It is an unlikely vision of the Garden of Eden that suggests at once comfortable familiarity and ethereal majesty.
Lee shared the following selection of background paintings with Cartoon Brew:
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After a long festival run, Joseph Pierce’s The Pub was posted online today. It’s the third film Pierce has made using his distinctive rotoscope technique, following the graduation short Stand-Up and the independent film Family Portrait. He also recently created animation for the controversial Philip Glass opera about the life of Walt Disney, The Perfect American.
Pierce has the curious ability to peel back the surface by drawing on top of live-action footage. His drawings reveal suppressed personalities and interpersonal relationships that bubble underneath the public masks that we wear. The Pub is his most pessimistic work to date and reveals human beings in their weakest, most pathetic state. Pierce turns the setting—a British pub—into a nightmarish human zoo, and creates an intriguing ambiguity that leaves the viewer questioning who is actually in control of that universe—the bartender or the pub patrons.