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Results 1 - 25 of 794
1. Watch: Bruce Timm’s New Short ‘Batman: Strange Days’

DC Comics has posted online the new Bruce Timm short "Batman: Strange Days" that was created in honor of the character's 75th anniversary.

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2. Bruce Timm’s New Short ‘Batman: Strange Days’ Will Premiere Next Week [Gallery]

Bruce Timm has completed a new short entitled "Batman: Strange Days" which will premiere on Cartoon Network next Wednesday, April 9th, following an episode of "Teen Titans Go!" (6:30pm ET/5:30pm CT). The monochromatic piece, which was created as part of this year's 75th anniversary Batman celebration, pits Batman against Dr. Hugo Strange, a classic "Detective Comics" villain who predates the Joker and Catwoman.

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3. The Meditative and Mysterious Films of Tatsuhiro Ariyoshi

Born in 1984 in Aichi Prefecture Japan, Tatsuhiro Ariyoshi is an independent animator who lives and works in Tokyo. He graduated from the Musashino Art University (Department of Imaging Arts & Sciences) in 2009, followed by a graduate degree from the animation department at the Tokyo University of the Arts.

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4. Second Season of Mickey Mouse Shorts Will Debut in April

A second season of Mickey Mouse shorts will begin airing April 11th at 9pm (ET/PT) on the Disney Channel. Each new short will be available the day after its cable premiere on WATCH Disney Channel, Disney.com, iTunes, and YouTube.

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5. Short of the Week Selects Best Short Films of 2013

The website Short of the Week, which has established itself as one of the preeminent online forums for short film discourse, has announced the winners of their 2014 awards, honoring projects that "took the torch of short film and charged into the unknown [and] explored new genres, new characters, new styles, and left an impression upon us we can’t ever shake."

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6. Latest Issue of ‘Believer’ Contains Exclusive DVD of Restored Hubley Shorts

The Believer is one of the magazines in McSweeney’s indie publishing empire. Published nine times a year, it focuses primarily on books, but occasionally devotes an issue to another topic. This year, the March/April film issue includes a DVD of shorts by John and Faith Hubley, in tribute to John Hubley’s centennial, which happens on May 24th. The disc covers seventeen years of the Hubley’s work together, almost their entire career as a couple. John Hubley died in 1977, and Faith in 2001, and in lieu of any essential DVD releases of their work, this DVD serves as a fantastic introduction to their work. The Hubley’s Oscar-winning short Moonbird (1959) has lately been available as a scratchy public domain print on cheap truck-stop DVD collections of random cartoons. It’s an entirely different experience to see this recently restored print, preserved by the Academy Film Archive. Other restored prints are Tender Game, The Hole and Adventures of an * (1957). And the music scores for these films, from Benny Carter and Lionel Hampton, to Dizzy Gillespie, Ella Fitzgerald and the Oscar Peterson Trio, comprise a who’s who of jazz in the late 1950s. Moonbird and Cockaboody (1973) feature improvised dialogue by the Hubley children, providing an extra free-form quality that is jazz-like in its own way. There are seven shorts in all on the DVD, including the rare mockumentary Date with Dizzy, as well as Cartoon Modern-era TV commercials directed by Hubley and home movie footage. Plus, the accopanying print magazine includes storyboard panels from the Hubleys’ feature-length documentary Of Stars and Men (1964). The DVD was supervised by the Hubley family and Jacob Perlin of Artists Public Domain/Cinema Conservancy. For a full list of the DVDs contents, visit The Believer website. If you’re new to the Hubleys, there are plenty of articles and comments on the web, but I would recommend the late Michael Sporn’s post on Moonbird as a good place to start. The Believer may be ordered from its website if your local bookstore doesn’t carry it. /wp-content/uploads/2014/03/hole-believer-580×388.jpg” alt=”" title=”hole-believer” width=”580″ height=”388″ class=”alignnone size-large wp-image-97204″ />

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7. DreamWorks Promotes Upcoming ‘Home’ with New Short ‘Almost Home’

DreamWorks premiered online a new short "Almost Home" on Buzzfeed this morning to promote their next original feature, "Home," which will debut on November 26, 2014.

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8. First Look: “The Absence of Eddy Table” by Dave Cooper and Rune Spaans

No, these are not snapshots from the latest window display at Kidrobot, they are advance images from the upcoming CG short "The Absence of Eddy Table." The superbly lowbrow PVC collectible aesthetic that you see is the result of an artistic collaboration between Canadian comic artist and illustrator Dave Cooper and Norwegian animation director Rune Spaans.

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9. PES Sells Jewelry With Surreal, Morbid ‘Black Gold’

Leave it to PES, the whiz of the very-short short, to use the visual of a decomposing woman being colonized by insects as a way to sell earrings and brooches.

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10. “i” by Isabela Dos Santos

The Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival is made possible by sponsor JibJab and their strong support for emerging filmmakers.


We’ve presented seven truly exceptional student films in Cartoon Brew’s annual Student Animation Festival so far, and today we present our eighth film premiere, i by Isabela Dos Santos, a student in the CalArts Experimental Animation program. It’s a bittersweet moment because Dos Santos’ film marks the final premiere of our 2013 Student Festival, but we can take pride in ending the festival with such a truly unique animated experience.

I uses hand-drawn animation and live-action dance to pose the eternal question, ‘Who am I?’ The film accomplishes the most difficult of the difficult by visualizing inner conflict. Encasing the live dancer is a delicate amorphous figure constructed of wispy lines. These representations of a fragmented psyche—one animated, the other human—converse with each other throughout the film as they try to reconcile themselves into a unified whole.

The choreography of these two figures forms the foundation of the film, and the details of their interaction represent the type of magic that can exist only on film. Dos Santos’ multidisciplinary approach to the film required a collaboration with dancer Yanina Orellana for the choreography and performance, and singer Kate Davis, each of whom contribute something special to the final piece.

Continue reading for comments from the filmmaker Isabela Dos Santos—

THE IDEA

In 2011, I was chosen for a scholarship program called YoungArts; I got in as an animator, but part of what they do is bring together 15-18 year-olds of all artistic disciplines for a week at a time to generate interdisciplinary performances. I also grew up dancing, but being with the other YoungArts kids really showed me there was so much more to art and humans than my back-stiffening work animating in windowless rooms. It made me all warm and fuzzy inside to be part of those performances. I began attending CalArts that fall and was frustrated trying to “just be an animator” after all those experiences. I don’t know, I just wanted more than was in front of me, and I had this image in my head of dancing with an imaginary monster. In terms of the story, I’ve always been an identity crisis kind of girl, and it goes with the whole, “identified as an animator but I wish I could be a real moving, dancing human” dilemma. I mean, there’s more to it than that, but you can watch and interpret the rest.

TOOLBOX

I worked with a dance student from CalArts, Yanina Orellana, for the choreography and original performance, and I had the song picked out beforehand (by Kate Davis, a friend from YoungArts). We worked on the dance before any animation, and I filmed it using a Canon T1i at CalArts’ dance theater. Then things got janky and I taped a peg bar to the edge of my laptop and traced key frames of her performance to paper. I used those as reference for timing and the general positioning, but everything was generated with pencil on paper. Paper cuts and graphite-smudged hands can be so rewarding. I ultimately composited the animation to the video using Adobe After Effects.

CHALLENGES

It was difficult knowing what to fix. Everyone had a different fantasy of what technique or technology I should incorporate, so it was tough to get feedback that was mindful to my sensibilities—I wanted to improve my skills and the emotions in my piece but I would get overwhelmed by the far-out possibilities people kept bringing up. And trying to describe the love/hate conflict about identity was always a hot mess. Just a lot of confusing conversations that semester. But animating to dance was a great tool—the choreography did all the dirty work for me as far as timing. I like that animation pulls something organic and instinctive out of you when you’re not looking, and this scenario encouraged that. And I learned that I can, after all, combine dance and animation this way. That was important to me, even if i didn’t come out perfect.

INSPIRATIONS

I watched just about every dance documentary available on Netflix while I animated. Couldn’t get enough of bloody ballerina toes (just kidding). Norman McLaren, of course, was very encouraging to watch in terms of the line quality of his simplistic yet expressive scratch-on-film, or the treatment of dance in Pas de deux. It felt good to stay in the realm of earlier animation pioneers. It reminded me to do what I needed to tell an honest story, not wow people with technology. I also wrote a lot of essays around that time connecting dance with animation, and it inspired me to see beyond both mediums, to really hold on to the humanity of movement, of expression through movement. I loved getting nerdy about all that—seeing animation as a dance—and reminding myself why it meant so much to me to merge the two mediums together. And I kept taking dance classes.

WHERE YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS

In five years I’ll probably still be skirting around the animation world, but not in the industry. Like I said, there’s so much more to art and life for me—animation is only part of what makes me happy. I is also fit for live performance, with a scrim projection of the animation like a hologram on stage, and I’ve been able to perform it this way a couple of times now, most recently in NYC for a music festival. It’s a lot of fun. So I have plenty of stage/animation work ahead of me, also working in arts advocacy/administration, writing, and making plenty of non-dance-related animation as well. But it’s all independent or collaborative fun, making art “as a participation in the world of ideas,” one might say. I’d like to continue appreciating it that way. It feels good that way.

FILMMAKER WEBSITES

BLOG: BelaDosSantos.blogspot.com
VIDEOS: Vimeo.com/BelaDosSantos

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11. “Rob ‘n’ Ron” Aims for Cartoony CGI

The keyword in computer animation nowadays is “fun.” More and more artists appear to be exploring the possibilities of cartoon-inspired design and movement in CGI. A recent effort in this direction is Rob ‘n Ron directed by Magnus Igland Møller and Peter Smith of the up-and-coming Danish animation studio Tumblehead.

The unlikely combination of real sets—yes, they’re handmade—combined with the Cartoon Modern-esque character designs is immediately compelling. Achieving humorous computer animation with these type of design choices isn’t an easy assignment, but the creators of Rob ‘n Ron handled the challenge with ease.

Their creative solutions to movement can be seen in this rigging demo, which is almost as much fun to watch as the short itself:

CREDITS
Directors: Magnus Igland Møller, Peter Smith
Script and Storyboard: Mads Juul
Backgrounds: Eva Lee Wallberg, Christian Bøving Anderson, Andreas Husballe
Animation: Eva Lee Wallberg, Christian Bøving Anderson, Lars Ellingbø, Peter Smith
Compositing: Lars Ellingbø
Pipeline: Soren Berg Nørbaek
Music and Sound: Thomas Richard Christensen, Peter Smith,
Jody Ann Ghani, Sia Søndergaard

(Thanks, Erik Barkman, via Cartoon Brew’s Facebook group)

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12. Meet NFB Directors Chris Landreth and Theodore Ushev in New York

The Ottawa International Animation Festival begins tomorrow in Canada, but fret not for New Yorkers who can’t make it—a small part of the festival experience is coming to you.

On Wednesday, September 25, the National Film Board of Canada will present its latest works, headlined by stereoscopic 3D screenings of Subconscious Password by Oscar-winning director Chris Landreth (Ryan) and Gloria Victoria by award-winning filmmaker Theodore Ushev (Lipsett Diaries, Tower Bawher). Landreth and Ushev will attend the screening to discuss their work. Both of these guys are thoughtful artists whose intelligence shines through their work. Their films are always worth seeing and these new works are no exception.

The screening, which is co-sponsored by ASIFA-East and Dimitris Athos of BeFilm, will also include presentations of the following films: Hollow Land by Michelle and Uri Kranot (Dansk Tegnefilm/Les Films de l’Arlequin/NFB), The End of Pinky by Claire Blanchet and Impromptu by Bruce Alcock (Global Mechanic Media/NFB).

The event will take place at the Park Avenue Screening Room (500 Park Avenue at 59th Street). Entry is FREE, but it’s open only to current ASIFA-East members. Tickets are limited and seats must be reserved.

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13. “Obsolescence In Love” by Jon Dunleavy

Obsolescence In Love ( The Ballad of Smiley Face ) by Jon Dunleavy tells the tale of a “twisted romance between a loved up phone and a promiscuous hand.” The sideway-emoticon-as-a-character’s face is a smart creative choice that I can’t recall having seen in animation. Even if it’s been done though, the idea is appropriate and executed flawlessly in this short. The film’s impish lyrics and suggestive imagery pack a surprising amount of comedy in its brief ninety-second runtime. Dunleavy is repped by London-based Tandem Films.

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14. Koji Morimoto Directs Sequence for Lexus-Sponsored Short Film

A little product placement can go a long way, as proven in Mitsuyo Miyazaki’s A Better Tomorrow, a short film about a pair of kidnapped orphans in a water-starved, not-so-distant future.

In the short’s third act, our young protagonists hop into a flying Lexus LF-LC (naturally) and escape their captors via an expressionist anime fantasy sequence directed by Koji Morimoto (Akira, Mmeories Animatrix) with music composed by Simon Webster. Produced by the Weinstein Company and sponsored by Lexus Short Films, the film premiered at Cannes earlier this year.

If you want to see the animated sequence by itself, here it is:

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15. “A Very Fuddles Christmas” Book Trailer by Frans Vischer

Veteran film animator Frans Vischer (Cats Don’t Dance, Curious George, Rover Dangerfield, The Princess and the Frog) has completed his second illustrated children’s book featuring the chubby cat Fuddles. The book is called A Very Fuddles Christmas and will be released on October 1st by Simon & Schuster’s Aladdin imprint. Like the earlier Fuddles book, this new story is accompanied by a charming and lovingly animated book trailer by Frans that gives life to his feline star.

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16. “Imitation of Life” Sneaks Animation Into the Venice Biennale

The Venice Biennale, the major biannual art festival that is currently ongoing in Venice, Italy, features an animation installation this year. Imitation of Life by Mathias Poledna is housed in the festival’s Austrian Pavilion. The three-minute 1930s-style short was produced by DUCK Studios in Los Angeles, and appears to be a fairly authentic throwback to the classical era, especially in regard to process: it was drawn on paper, inked onto cels and shot on 35mm. (Mark Kausler used similar vintage processes for his recent pair of shorts There Must Be Some Other Cat and It’s the Cat.)

Of course, simply making an animated film isn’t enough to qualify as Art with a capital ‘A’ and it certainly won’t gain a filmmaker admission into the Biennale. Animation has to be recontextualized into a more ‘meaningful’ endeavor, hence this impressively decadent official description for the piece:

A 35mm color film roughly three minutes in length, Imitation of Life was produced using the historic, labor-intensive technique of handmade animation and is built around a cartoon character performing a musical number. Its buoyant spirit and visual texture evoke the Golden Era of the American animation industry during the late 1930s and early 1940s. In the preceding years, the time of the Great Depression, the medium had evolved from a crude form of mass spectacle into a visual language of enormous richness and complexity that shaped and continues to resonate in our collective imaginary.

Imitation of Life appropriates and reassembles this language as it revisits the contradictions and ambiguities that accompanied the medium’s development. Advanced methods of production and visual ingenuity – indebted to the syntax of European modernism in its handling of surface, depth and color, and lauded by the avantgarde and critic intelligence of the time – coexisted with sentimental characterization and storytelling based on age-old fables and fairy tales.

Among the most pronounced features of the film is the extreme contrast between the conciseness of its scene, and the extraordinary amount of labor that went into its creation: more than 5,000 handmade sketches, layouts, animation drawings, watercolored backgrounds and ink-rendered animation cells, produced in close cooperation with acclaimed artists from the animation departments of film studios in Los Angeles, most notably Disney. Several small groups of these drawings are presented in the Austrian Pavilion.

The soundtrack, another key element of the production, was recorded with a full orchestra in the style of the period at the Warner Brothers scoring stage in Los Angeles. It combines new original music created specifically for this project with a re-arrangement of a popular song from the 1930s written by Arthur Freed and Nacio Herb Brown.

Presented in Venice, Poledna’s installation allows for a complex cross-reading with other episodes from this period: the relationship between European art and American mass culture; European emigration to the United States and American export to Europe; the presentation of animated films produced by the Disney Studios at the first film festivals in Venice; the late modernism of the Austrian Pavilion, and the period from 1938 to 1942 during which the building remained empty while Austrian artists exhibited in the German Pavilion.

Beyond its engagement with animation, Imitation of Life incorporates into its fleeting narrative a number of other elements from the early history of entertainment, such as Vaudeville, silent comedy and film musicals, and form diverse artistic forms including film, music, painting and literature. But even while it subscribes to the synergistic logic of its medium, the film deliberately eschews a seamless whole, remaining at once alien and utterly recognizable.

(Thanks, @StephenPersing)

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17. “Wolf Within” by Alex Horan

The Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival is made possible by sponsor JibJab and their strong support for emerging filmmakers.


Alex Horan’s Wolf Within grabs the viewer with its opening line: “As a boy in Kansas I was afraid of three things: rattlesnakes, tornados, and my father.” The short doesn’t let up, hitting all the right emotional beats throughout its nine-and-a-half minute length and exhibiting maturity and ambition that are rare for a student filmmaker.

Horan’s film, the seventh film to debut in this year’s Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival, was produced at Massachusetts College of Art and Design. Th film is a period piece and family history, based on the relationship between Horan’s father and grandfather, the latter whom Horan never met. Without giving away the story, Horan’s literary allusions to the Jack London novel The Call of the Wild give the viewer an entry point into the world of the film, while providing an engaging narrative framework.

Horan’s delivers the complete package: carefully considered cinematic compositions and camera movement, one the more lush monochromatic palettes you’ll see, evocative sound design, and understated but highly proficient animation that matches the tone of the story. It’s this attention to detai that gives resonance to the father-son relationship depicted in Wolf Within.

Continue reading for comments from the filmmaker Alex Horan—

THE IDEA

I tend to lean towards humor in most of my work because it lends itself so well to the medium and it’s something I feel I have a natural ability to produce. I was afraid of using comedy as a crutch, and thereby challenging myself as both storyteller and an animator. For my degree project I wanted to push myself to create a film that made the audience feel something deeper than laughter; a film where you could connect and empathize with the characters. I felt that in order to create a film that meant something to the audience I first had to make one that meant something to me. I looked at what was closest in my life and found my father standing at the forefront. When I was growing up, he recited parables of his youth that shaped his character which, in turn, shaped mine. By deciding to explore the relationship between my father and grandfather I provided myself with the source material necessary to create a compelling narrative. More importantly, I also ended up learning a lot more about myself and my own relationship with my father and a man I never knew.

TOOLBOX

Nothing fancy here: backgrounds in Photoshop, frame-by-frame animation in Flash, compositing in After Effects and edited using Premiere. I love Foley so I tried to do as much as possible, only downloading sound when completely necessary. My favorite was using a pad of Post-its for the moth’s wings, utterly satisfying. I had initially hoped to use my father for the narration but quickly learned he’s a doctor, not a voice actor. I lucked out with a really talented guy from California using a casting website, which was a great learning experience coaching somebody via telephone.

CHALLENGES

Over the course of the year I really struggled with the narrative structure of this film. Initially I had a rough animatic with a general outline, but nothing concrete. I wanted my father’s story to carry the same weight for the audience as it did for him, but finding a way to do this narratively proved to be difficult. How much narration was too much? When was there not enough? Should there be any at all? I felt there was a fine line between spoon-feeding the audience and leaving them totally clueless. Unfortunately, due to deadlines, I had to start animating immediately and hopefully iron out the kinks along the way. I met with my god sent teacher, Tammy Dudman, a couple times a week where we’d just workshop my story. During these meetings we explored the relationship between my father and grandfather which, in a way, became an inquisition of myself. Here, I finally realized I had to worry less about my audience and more about myself and the film I wanted to create. Regardless of how tight or loose a narrative structure is, ultimately it is the viewer who decides how to interpret the film.

INSPIRATIONS

Lone Wolf and Cub by Kazuo Koike was a huge inspiration to me as well as The Road by Cormac McCarthy, both works obviously dealing with similar themes as my film. Also, The Book Of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi naturally played a huge role throughout the filmmaking process. Daniel Sousa’s film, Mikkel Sommer, whose loose style really influenced a lot of my process work leading up to my film. Additionally, “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash actually influenced me quite a bit because of its Americana feel and the lyrics of Shel Silverstein which parallel my father’s upbringing in a way.

WHERE YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS

I’m sitting on a few short ideas right now that need some nurturing which I will continue developing and producing over the next five years. Ultimately I’d love to produce my own original content for television or film, but until then I feel there is still so much I need to learn about the industry. I’d be more than happy being a worker bee somewhere just to learn the ropes where I can develop my skills further as both an artist and an animator.

FILMMAKER WEBSITES

WEBSITE: AlHoran.com
TUMBLR: Phantomlobster.tumblr.com

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18. The Hunt is On in “Hound” by Olivia Blanc and Marion Delpech

Just who is being hunted in Hound, the Ecole des Métiers du Cinéma d’Animation graduate film from Olivia Blanc and Marion Delpech? While this singular question is central to the blissfully unencumbered storytelling of this short film, you are challenged to remember it as you become lost in the juxtaposition of monochromatic starkness and bursts of rich color.

CREDITS:
Directed by Olivia Blanc and Marion Delpech
Sound design by Florian Calmer

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19. Carlo Vogele Makes His “Wurst” Film Ever

Carlo Vogele has unveiled the trailer for his new stop motion short Wurst. He has made the natural progression to sausages and poultry after animating fish in his last short.

Vogele’s witty and playful animated treatment of real-world objects (lamps, socks, meat) compels the viewer to see familiar everyday objects in a new light. The trailer for Wurst would suggest that he has another winner on his hands. He has posted some behind-the-scenes photos on his blog.

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20. Aardman Animates Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon”

Director Darren Dubicki of Aardman Animations created this strikingly elegant mixed-media piece to celebrate Pink Floyd’s legendary album The Dark Side of the Moon.

The three-minute piece serves as a trailer/supplement to an original radio drama based on the album, written by playwright Sir Tom Stoppard, premiering on BBC Radio 2 on August 26th. Dubicki also created an extended film loop that will complement the audio experience online.

More details about the production from the official Aardman release:

Aardman director, Darren Dubicki saw the piece working as a film trailer and the team spent time absorbing the rich detail from both Pink Floyd’s music and Sir Tom Stoppard’s play. In doing so they developed a striking visual concept where images juxtapose with carefully considered lyrics and dialogue from the play encompassing the underlying themes of greed, conflict, consumption, humanity and the descent into madness…

Dubicki says, “What was fundamentally important to us was that we retained a consistent visual tone that echoed the imagery created over the years for the band. The intensely surreal and powerful artwork created by Storm Thorgerson and Hipgnosis has always had a strong distortion on reality. Their sense of space and twisted context make for some uncomfortably beautiful art. This tone has been consistent for decades and we wanted to honor this with our contemporary digital (and analogue) slant on the style.”

Created using a collage of digital imaging, CGI, studio-based effects and hand crafted elements the films were produced with depth and richness that reflects the classic tone of Pink Floyd’s art.

CREDITS
Client/Agency: BBC Radio 2
Producers: Rhian Roberts/ Rowan Collinson

Aardman Animations
Director: Darren Dubicki
Executive Producer: Heather Wright
Producer: Helen Argo
Production Assistant: Danny Gallagher
Production Co-ordinator: Louise Johnson

DOP: Mark Chamberlain
Camera Assistant: Joe Maxwell
Gaffer: Nat Sale
CG Modeling: Olly Skillman-Wilson
CG Modeling: David Klein
CG Modeling: Saul Freed
CG Animation: Mathew Rees
CG Animation: Rich Spence
CG Lighter: Andrew Lavery
Supervising Senior Compositor: Jim Lewis
Compositor: Spencer Cross
Compositor: Paule Quinton
After Effects Artist: Tom Readdy
Editor: Dan Hembury

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21. “Passer Passer” by Louis Morton

The Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival is made possible by sponsor JibJab and their strong support for emerging filmmakers.


Slap on a pair of headphones before you watch Louis Morton’s Passer Passer, a graduation film produced at the Univeristy of Southern California. The film uses the atmospheric sounds of urban settings—recorded in both Los Angeles and Tokyo—to create a dense and exciting soundscape that evokes the organized cacophony of city life. From the smallest sounds, like the tinkle of a fork in a restaurant, to the brashest car alarms, everything is mixed into one well-simmered city stew.

Morton matches the audio with a fresh visual style that mixes the abstract and the cartoon. His loose, fleshy animation loops and vivid sense of color add the right quality of whimsy. There is a clear visual journey, from day to night, and we are whisked from scene to scene at the frantic pace of city life. The camera moves diagonally across the space in a way that further elicits the stress of city life. By the end of the film, we’re ready to go home and get a good night’s rest, before it starts all over again the next morning.

Continue reading for comments from the filmmaker Louis Morton:

THE IDEA

One initial spark came from a podcast, in which a musician explained how he categorized several escalators in his city by sound. It got me thinking about the huge array of sounds that I encounter every day in Los Angeles and if I could develop a way to categorize the most common sounds through animation. Oftentimes I’m about to fall asleep and a car alarm goes off, and I imagine a little guy spazzing out to the rhythm of the alarm, and it makes it less annoying. I wanted to take all these city sounds like the alarm, give them personalities and organize them into a system. My plan was to walk around recording audio for a few months and then listen and animate what I heard.

TOOLBOX

All audio was recorded on a handheld Zoom H2 that was usually in my pocket to avoid looking like a nosy creep. I did a rough sound edit in Adobe Audition before handing it off to the super-talented Katie Gately, who used Ableton Live for the sound design and mix. I animated everything in Flash on a Cintiq. Most of the cleanup and shading was done in Photoshop. Compositing was done in After Effects.

CHALLENGES AND LESSONS LEARNED

The animation was mostly driven by the audio, so it was difficult to know if a scene was working until I had watched it with sound. Katie and I developed an interesting work method. I would give her small sections of the audio, and she would alter it in such an interesting way that it would often give me new ideas for the animation. Especially in the second half of the film, the animation developed organically with her sound design work. It was definitely a collaborative process, which was very rewarding, but more challenging than a traditional approach would have been. Technique-wise, I wanted to experiment with how many frames it would take to make an action or character readable, and as a result I think I learned a lot about the craft of 2D animation.

INSPIRATIONS

Living in L.A. and (briefly) in Tokyo and soaking in the sounds of each city. In Tokyo: zoning out in a train station. In Los Angeles: merging with highway traffic and walking down Hollywood Boulevard at night. The blogs 99% Invisible (the escalator episode), Radiolab, and Adventures in Audio helped me form the initial ideas for the film. I was also influenced by the “city symphony” films of the 1920s and the work of Norman McLaren, especially Spook Sport. Also inspiring were: Jules Engels’s background designs for UPA, the Disney “Silly Symphonies,” the awesome work of my classmates and the support of the faculty at USC.

WHERE YOU SEE YOURSELF IN FIVE YEARS

I hope to be in a position at a studio where I can be designing, animating or directing short-format work, commercials and ideally title sequences or educational type work. I love working in the super-short format, and I like using animation to explain things. And no matter what, I plan to continue making short films!

FILMMAKER WEBSITES

WEBSITE: LouisJMorton.com
BLOG: LouisJMorton.blogspot.com

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22. VICE Creates Animated Kung Fu Lessons To Promote Wong Kar-wai’s “The Grandmaster”

VICE has produced three short animated pieces as a promotional supplement for the release of Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster, a fictionalized account of the life of Chinese martial artist (and Bruce Lee trainer) Ip Man. Each of the shorts, animated in a limited moving-comic style, explains a specific martial arts style: Wing Chun, Hung Gar and Ba Gua. The design and animation was handled by Erie, Pennsylvania-based MoreFrames.

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23. Steve Moore’s “Chief, Your Butt’s On Fire” Combines Hot Jazz with Hot Ass

Steve Moore, the director of Disney’s rarely seen Oscar-nominated short Redux Riding Hood as well as The Indescribable Nth, has completed a new short called Chief, Your Butt’s On Fire.

The fifteen-second trailer posted online put a smile on my face. Maybe that’s because Steve used Ward Kimball’s Firehouse Five Plus Two as his soundtrack. He wrote a lengthy blogpost about the production of his film on the FLIP Animation blog that he co-authors. Moore is planning to screen the film on the festival circuit.

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24. Chris Burns’ “Coin” Is the Videogame Satire to End All Videogame Satires

Coin, an animated short directed and animated by Chris Burns, premiered at the Midsummer Night Toons a couple months ago and was recently posted online. The short, about a guy who loses a coin and then recovers it through a virtuous combination of diligence and perseverance, was produced by the young Long Island animation studio Exit 73 Studios, co-founded by Burns and Bob Fox, who did the film’s music, sound effects and compositing.

Typically, I’m not an advocate of the ‘action-for-action’s-sake’ variety of animated shorts, but it’s easy to make an exception when it’s done to such a high level of craft. Burns was a key artist at Augenblick Studios before leaving to start Exit 73, and he has an uncanny ability to keep numerous elements in constant motion without confusing or disorienting the viewer. In this film, he managed to add something fresh to the threadbare videogame satire genre, but hopefully, he will apply his unique abilities to more substantial projects in the future.

CREDITS
Chris Burns (animation and bgs)
Bob Fox (music/sfx/composite)

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25. Scott Benson Discusses The Premiere of “Ghost Stories” and Late Night Work Club

Today, the Late Night Work Club debuts their first project Ghost Stories, a 38-minute compilation of animated shorts by up-and-coming names in the animation world. The films and filmmakers are:
I Will Miss You by Dave Prosser
The Jump by Charles Huettner
The American Dream by Sean Buckelew
Mountain Ash by Jake Armstrong and Erin Kilkenny
Rat Trap by Caleb Wood
Loose Ends by Louise Bagnall
Phantom Limb by Alex Grigg
Asshole by Conor Finnegan
Ombilda by Ciaran Duffy
Post Personal by Eamonn O’Neill
Last Lives by Scott Benson

At a time when more animated shorts are being produced than ever before, it is increasingly difficult to get attention for individual short films. Late Night Work Club’s attempt to create a curated ‘mix-tape’ of animated shorts is an interesting attempt to draw more eyeballs to the work of independent filmmakers.

The project is ambitious in both scope and length, particularly considering that it was made with no commercial intent. The filmmakers self-funded the entire project with no crowdfunding or other forms of sponsorship. The filmmakers hope to recoup some of their costs by offering download packs and Uncanny Mystery Packs. Also unique, the film wasn’t kept offline for a festival run. It debuts on Vimeo today, just five days after its theatrical premiere in Los Angeles.

I interviewed filmmaker Scott Benson, one of Late Night Work Club’s founders, to find out more about LNWc and the unique creative and distribution strategies that they are exploring with Ghost Stories.

Cartoon Brew: Late Night Work Club began in 2012 as a collective for animation filmmakers who wanted to create non-commercial work. These type of collectives have existed before in one fashion or another, but most do not choose to release a single project around a specific theme, such as ghost stories. What made you decide to pursue this route?

Scott Benson: The themed anthology thing was a pretty direct inspiration from NoBrow I think. The general ideas for what would become Late Night Work Club had been kicking around between Charles Huettner, Eimhin McNamara, Eamonn O’Neil and I on Twitter for a few months. I was reading an issue of NoBrow at one point and was thinking, “The comics in here are like the animation I like and my friends make. Why isn’t there a place for us like this?” Something that wasn’t self-consciously highbrow or lowbrow, just a bunch of creators with strong individual voices all doing variations on a theme. That kind of thing appealed to me, and then we talked about it and the idea grew.

Cartoon Brew: How does creating a 38-minute film as opposed to a more standard short-film length increase your opportunities for visibility? Do you feel there are any downsides to this approach than if everyone had just released their films individually?

Scott Benson: Not sure, honestly. We’re making this up as we go. We didn’t want it to feel like a film festival, but more like a compilation. One album, a bunch of different bands. Go through, find someone whose work you love and seek them out individually. If we released them all separately there’d be one or two films that would get a lot of buzz here or there, and a lot of the others that might not have been picked up on this or that blog would get passed over. Doing it together binds us all into one noncompeting group. We all rise or fall together. We’re all colleagues and a lot of new friendships have developed over this project, and so it makes sense to do this all together. It’s one group project with a lot of defined voices, and that’s pretty cool. I do personally hope that doing it this way also makes it more of an event as opposed to just a curated list of affiliated shorts. We’ll see how it goes.

Cartoon Brew: I was surprised to see that you didn’t run a crowdfunding campaign. How did you convince nearly a dozen artists to create projects on a specific schedule with no financial incentive?

Scott Benson: No one needed any convincing. It was just “Hey you! You want to join up?” Never anything beyond that. Everyone immediately got it, and many seemed eager for something like this to come along (including me). We never got any outright refusals to our invites, just a few people who had to drop out because of life or couldn’t join this time but wanted in on the next one. No one even said the word Kickstarter, it just wasn’t a thought. Maybe in the future, who knows. We’d want to do this anyway, so we just did it. And hey, there is indeed a financial incentive—if we make enough from donations and sales of downloads/ mystery packs, we’ll have enough to split up fourteen ways and then we can each buy a pizza and have an international pizza party over Google Hangout.

Cartoon Brew: How much interaction was there between the collective? For example, does everybody have to pitch their idea to the group and get it approved? Or were there limits on lengths, style, content?

Scott Benson: There was a rule from the beginning that each member set their own level of involvement. If they wanted to just make their short in peace with minimal chatter, that was fine. If they wanted to get all involved with each other or the project in a broader sense, that was cool too. There are some epic-length email chains as we looked at one another’s work, gave reactions and encouragement, or just chatted about the project or our lives or whatever. There was also some cross-short help. I did the snow in the first shot of Alex [Grigg]‘s short, and he made some Photoshop brushes that I know several of us used. There were a couple of times where we all delivered our general ideas, mostly to make sure they didn’t sound like total crap to other people. The suggested length was ~2 minutes or longer. Other than that we didn’t really have a lot of guidelines and for the most part there were no discussions about content. In part that was because the group was a bunch of adults who wanted to make something personal or fun, or to stretch creatively, so with very few exceptions the content discussion didn’t need to come up. We weren’t trying to be all, “Look how ka-razy this R-rated animation is! These ain’t your DAD’S cartoons!” That kind of thing is so tired, silly and small. We just made what we liked.

Cartoon Brew: I guess one reason I wondered about that is that nearly all the shorts that were in color used a no-outline style which is a trendy look nowadays in digital animation. Was that a conscious aesthetic choice or coincidental?

Scott Benson: Stylewise, everyone also just did what they wanted to do. Much of it follows on from the styles of the work we did before Late Night Work Club. If you watch the first three shorts, for example, those are three distinct voices whose work very much flows from what they do elsewhere. My short is almost embarrassingly within my wheelhouse, I think. If there are similarities, it’s just how we roll individually, and we each got there in our own way on the road to wherever we’ll be artistically in the future. And if that’s trendy, maybe we’ll all finally have dates to the prom this year. Fingers crossed.

Cartoon Brew: Another unconventional part of this is your distribution plan in which you’re premiering the film online before a festival run. What is your release strategy and what do you hope to accomplish with it?

Scott Benson: As much as we’d love to, both Charles Huettner and I have never been able to attend a festival, though our work has played at them. We both live in Pennsylvania and probably make up about 50% of the people in that state making their own animated work. A lot of other LNWC members are out there at Annecy, Ottawa, Pictoplasma, etc. every year and they’re like, “I just watched some really cool thing after the two-hour program on sand animation or whatever, but you’ll have to wait until it goes online.” And the years go by, and I’m still waiting to see a lot of things I got super excited about when I saw the trailer years back. Now imagine you’re a teen. Those years are forever. Animation will never be as diverse, as interesting or as inspiring as it can be if the best work is only available for years at a time on specific weekends in faraway cities, accessible mostly to people with the means and ability to fly there, book hotels, and pay for passes.

Having it up on the Internet from day one was set in stone for us right from the start. We’d love to do fests and will be at them over the next year if they are good enough to have us, but our audience are the people with an Internet connection, but no ready access to the very tiny world of animation film fests. I’m one of them. Most people are. And getting this in front of them will expose them to our work and hopefully inspire others to say, “I can make things. I can say things. I want to get into this. I want to support this scene.” And that is something I feel really good about. Personally, I want people other than fellow animators and hardcore fans to see my work, longshot though that is. And a lot of the festival crowd already follows animation news, so there’s an excellent chance they’ll see it online anyway.

Cartoon Brew: What does Late Night Work Club plan to do next, and if anything, will it be the same crew of filmmakers?

Scott Benson: We’ll all probably sleep for a while. Ghost Stories will be screened in various places throughout the fall and hopefully we’ll do some fests with it for the next year or so. There are already plans and conversations happening about the next thing we’ll do together. For our big projects the idea right now is that all participants from the last one have right of first refusal. But as we’re all busy and living our lives, there will be spaces open, and we already have a pretty nice looking list of other potential members. So we’ll see. Like I said, we’re making this up as we go along. But that’s pretty exciting in and of itself.

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