Saturday, January 31, 2009

a matter of illicit animation

looks like "This Way Up" by Smith & Foulkes is up for a short time anyway on youtube...catch it while you can!

speaking of things up online that perhaps shouldn't be without permission, its the non-Oscar nominated, but the Annie-Award winning "A Matter of Loaf and Death" starring the loveable claymation duo Wallace & Gromit! it was the highest rated show during Christmas 2008 in the UK at 14.4 million viewers and indeed the highest rated in five years, along with the most watched programme in the UK in all of 2008.

the production of the film was the fastest of any Wallace and Gromit short they had ever done, with thirteen sets being employed at the same time. Nick Park seems to be relieved to have a bit quicker schedule and a smaller film:

"I felt I wanted to get my ideas out quicker and the 30-minute format is more humane. The first film took seven years to film and this one took seven months."

Friday, January 30, 2009


its been pointed out that i didn't cover ALL of the films nominated for the Best Short Animation Oscar -- i forgot about Presto! and since its online (of which only three are), i should at least touch on it briefly. Doug Sweetland, the director of Presto, has been an animator on Pixar's feature films from the very beginning -- from Toy Story to Cars -- he's done some very recognizable work on those: Woody walking out of the box from Toy Story, Sully fainting three times in Monsters Inc., Syndrome laughing at Mr. Incredible and saying "You sir truly are Mr. Incredible. I idolized you!" in The Incredibles.

as most everyone has suspected -- Doug was very influenced by Tex Avery's work and his kinetic style of animation and gag humor -- all showcased in Presto. in an audio interview with Spline Doctors, he guesstimates that he was the 12th animator hired on Toy Story, by the recommendation and support of Pete Docter (later director of Monsters Inc. and the upcoming Up) after coming out of CalArts. if you're an animation buff, be sure to check out the interview -- he's a very down-to-earth but excitable animator.

i enjoyed Presto quite a bit -- its got an amazing sense of timing. there's never a false note. that said, its a lovable homage to the films of Tex Avery. its a formula extremely well done, but its not necessarily new. of course, what's original today, but what i'd really love to see from Doug is a great story for a feature film with his off-the-wall crazy animation style. we haven't really seen a feature from Pixar like that before -- though parts of Monsters Inc. comes close. i certainly look forward to what's going on with him in the future -- he's a talent to watch. without further adieu, Doug Sweetland's Presto.

and just for fun, here's the classic MGM Tex Avery cartoon "Red Hot Riding Hood" for a little comparison:

Thursday, January 29, 2009

This Way Up, Smith & Foulkes!


the directing team of Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes (or Smith & Foulkes, as they prefer to be credited) of Nexus Productions is responsible for the final short animation nominated for an oscar: "This Way Up." i think you'll agree after watching some of their work -- its very kinetic, bouncy, and just plain alive. graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1997, they made an immediate splash in the advertising arena by hooking up with Nexus.

this high profile spoof they did for Coca-Cola of the Grand Theft Auto genre of games comes across pretty damn well -- its a spot on spoof and makes a case for Coca-Cola solving the world's problems as they always do...its fun, trust me.

just recently, they made an advert for British television on road safety for children -- its hauntingly effective.

the directors on the commercial: “We wanted these commercials to act as a pause in a child’s TV viewing, holding the gaze of the immobile injured characters almost painfully long as a contrast to the hi-energy multi-coloured frenzy of your average childrenʼs programming break.”

they don't just do computer animation either -- here's a stop motion intro they did for an animation film festival involving many, many boxes:

more technical information behind the video:
“Smith & Foulkes used a Canon Digital SLR camera linked up to a laptop allowing them to capture frames and play them back checking the shots as they went along. By shooting digitally Smith & Foulkes ended up with a much larger image size to work with when compared with the normal 35mm motion picture frame. These frames were then taken into After Effects and Photoshop for a clean-up where people and rigs from shots were removed. A final grade was then added in Flame.”

finally, the trailer for the first personal film they've made since "making it" -- although it was commissioned by BBC specifically for The Animation Show. "This Way Up" was available through iTunes for free for a while, but no longer -- you are certainly welcome to purchase it through Shorts International for a very reasonable price however.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

how about them apples?

...back to looking at the animated shorts that are nominated for an Oscar --

La Maison en Petits Cubes is not available as of yet to view online. but fear not, for a short clip exists at least to get you a little taste to appease the animation addiction you've been diagnosed with.

you can't really tell too much about the film from the clip -- but its quite an amazing artistic style that Japanese filmmaker Kunio Kato has shown time and again. as a part of the ROBOT character and animation design team, Kato has won praise over the world with his fantastic designs. La Maison en Petits Cubes won the 2008 Annecy Cristal award that honors the best short film at the festival. the blurb on the 12-mintue hand-drawn film given to the press:
"It is difficult to keep the house made of blocks out of the water. The grandfather who has lived in it has been constantly adding to it as the water level rises. This is the story about his family memories."

in 2001, he made the exceedingly surreal "The Apple Incident" which involves apples kind of...taking over the planet? my feeble attempts at categorizing the short do not give it justice -- its just plain weird and breathtaking at the same time.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

the uncanny valley of pumpkins

here's a still from the opening of my next stop motion film...if you can't tell, its halloween-themed.

i'm going to attempt to construct some kind of dolly for animating stop motion camera moves with my technical engineering/set construction/cinematographer extraordinaire buddy Jose Bedoya.

totally switching gears now, i'm looking forward to animators and designers overcoming the "uncanny valley," but they're just not there yet. as anyone who knows me, i've always been a more traditional kind of animator and story teller -- do it with your hands and tell it well, no matter the technology. of course, i don't mind well-told and well-animated stories in any medium -- Pixar tells amazing stories in CG and South Park (say what you will) is consistently telling engaging and hilarious stories, while being animated fairly simply and flatly. needless to say, i'm not a big fan of motion capture -- i'll be the first to congratulate them when they tell an engaging story, but something's missing and here's a good deal of the reason why:

the idea behind the uncanny valley is tough (at least for me) to get your head around. its kind of the notion that the closer that something non-human gets to being human, there's a point that when its so close (but not quite there) it induces a very negative reaction in the viewer -- or at least a reaction where it takes one out of the illusion of the thing looking human. one can see this effect in the motion capture movies in the past few years like The Polar Express:

because we're so attuned to ourselves and other human beings -- we realize the slightest difference between us and an impostor. of course, we don't care when its stylized, like in most animated movies -- most of Disney's stuff for instance. they are not necessarily trying to recreate reality. with stuff like The Polar Express, Beowulf, and the upcoming A Christmas Carol (with Jim Carrey, god help us all), the imitation of reality tries so hard but misses some basic things. people often complain of the soulless eyes and emotionless marionettes that come from such motion capture. video games, in particular, try to recreate reality at an alarming rate and, i think, have less of a problem than feature animated films because people aren't necessarily there for reality recreated -- they'll settle for a lot less because of the interactivity. if people wanted reality in gaming, they'd have latched onto the Full-Motion-Video craze of the early 90s...

Ward Jenkins put it pretty succinctly back when Polar Express came out:

"when Hanks pulls his head up to belt into the mic, there's some straining going on in his neck area. This, again, is lost in the digital version. The way he thrusts his head up and out, with his shoulders going down, and the way his right arm is positioned all get mussed up, and become stiff and weak. There must be something in the way that the characters are created, or "modeled", that no matter how much the digital artists tried to tweak to get the body just right, the CG model would still win. All the characters I've seen in FINAL FANTASY and THE POLAR EXPRESS have a puppet-like, marionette-style of construction. The shoulders, the way they walk, the way the head is held in turns, etc. - even when you are capturing real live action for the performances - all have a stiffness to them that apparently cannot be tamed."

David Cage, behind one of the best games I've played in the 00's Indigo Prophecy (despite a disappointing third act), likes to motion capture his performers and treat his games likes movies. they're exceedingly engaging and keep you feeling like you're in the story. you have to interact with your environment constantly, especially during action sequences where you have to make split second moves to get out of the way. he's been working on his latest million dollar venture, "Heavy Rain," for a few years now and it looks very interesting. they've put a lot of work into making the characters look and act real -- but they've got a long way to go before that happens. its still in the creepy realm of the uncanny valley. this is a demo for the PS3 game that played at E3 in May of 2006 (a much higher quality quicktime version of the video here):

here's a more updated video of the game from last year that stands as the trailer for the (hopefully) soon-to-be-released game.

Monday, January 26, 2009

What is the Secret of Monkey Island, Alex?

i've recently found myself discovering computer adventure games from the late 80s and 90s that i'd either forgotten or never knew about. there's a structure of thought in regards to what kind of an adventure gamer you are -- you're either a Sierra man or a LucasArts man (or woman of course). Sierra was often characterized by well-written stories, erudite dialogue, and, most importantly, a god-awful need to present death to the user at every corner. they're notorious for the ease in which you can enter a dead end and die. the puzzles, as well, are usually pretty difficult -- and many are copy-protected by vital information being included in the manuals.

LucasArts games, on the other hand, were characterized by off-the-wall scenarios, characters, and humor -- their primary purpose was for the user to have some fun and maybe solve some deceptively simply puzzles. they often used item based events, as most adventure games do, but LucasArts in particular depended rather heavily on them to move the game forward. some were more difficult than others, but to me, they were infinitely more playable (and replayable for that matter). possibly my favorite computer game of all time, certainly at least my favorite adventure game, is The Secret of Monkey Island, represented here on some Converse sneakers by a fanatic follower of the series from Madrid:

until recently, i had never been able to get my hands on a copy of Monkey Island 2: LeChuck's Revenge -- its one hell of a game. what it lacks in the originality of the first game in the series, it makes up for in some pretty out-there humor including the infamous ending, which i adore. adventure games seem to be chock full of some great art and this is no exception. pixels were never rendered so well in 1991. here's the amazing cover done by Steve Purcell (creator of Sam & Max: Freelance Police):

it routinely shows up on top 100 pc games of all time lists and for good reason -- its of one the best examples of its genre. if The Secret of Monkey Island is Ron Gilbert's Star Wars, then LeChuck's Revenge is his Empire Strikes Back. the opening, while short on the animation -- and its got no voices, like the entire game -- is charming and shows just how many people had to work to get an adventure game like this finished and out there.

on a completely unrelated note, Sundance just opened with a claymation feature film by Adam Elliot, the guy who made Harvie Krumpet back in 2003. to my mind, this looks a little bit more suited to the medium than say $9.99.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

you have a great effects animation on me

often times, the general public and even us animators don't realize how much effort goes into animation that seems almost trivial to a scene -- effects animation. when its done great, you hardly notice it. when its poorly done, it sticks out like a sore thumb. Kathleen Quaife has done traditional effects work since the early 80s for all the major studios including Disney -- and she teaches life drawing to boot.

here's a cycle on twos for fire she worked on:

she (along with seven other animators) worked on this car commercial for Sprint:

most of her work is not available on youtube persay -- because no one thinks to put up just feature effects work in clips for those who peruse the digital boobtube. but on her blog, she has gaggles of her effects work available to view including some really beautiful stuff from The Pagemaster, The Chipmunk Adventure, Once Upon a Forest, and even a commercial she did some effects for Will Vinton -- Michael Jackson as a California Raisin of course. be sure to check out all the wonderful clips she has on her blog including her simply dazzling reel of effects animation.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

hey clayarnold!

here are the three original shorts that the popular Nickelodeon television show "Hey Arnold!" was based on -- all by Craig Bartlett while working at the Will Vinton Studios. the first one and arguably the best is "Arnold Escapes From Church" from 1988. its got a great flat clay aesthetic.

coincidentally that Groening you see in the credits is Lisa Groening -- Matt's sister and Craig Bartlett's wife. Vinton was notorious for encouraging his animators to make short films. Hey Arnold! in particular started originally as a comic strip. here's the next short, "The Arnold Waltz" -- it shows a little bit more of the rest of the characters in the later series, though it continues the idea of a very daydreamy Arnold:

this last one was featured on an episode of Sesame Street. once again, not much to say, just very inventive. i'd love to animate clay on glass some day -- Rex the Runt did it beautifully.

Friday, January 23, 2009


continuing with the films up for the Oscar under Best Short Animated Film, here's a 2-D film from Russia by Konstantin Bronzit called Lavatory Lovestory. its a charming piece of animation with true emotional beats. as you can imagine, its involves a woman who works as an attendant in at a public bathroom whose heart yearns for another.

it seems like its animated in Toon Boom, but please forgive me if I'm in any rate, its top notch work from a man who's directed seven animated films including a feature animation. here's an article on Bronzit's 2004 feature Alosha.

2003's The God offers a much different aesthetic from Bronzit. its got some layers beyond the obvious implications...

finally here's a short and very traditionally animated gag film by Bronzit in 1993 when he worked as an animator and director for Pilot Studios in Moscow. his films have received more than 50 awards in film festivals around the world including the coveted Grand Prix twice at Annecy. without further adieu, "The Pacifier":

Thursday, January 22, 2009

i am so proud of you.

the nominations for the oscars came out. here's the list for short animated film:

La Maison en Petits Cubes - Kunio Kato
Lavatory - A Love Story - Konstantin Bronzit
Oktapodi - A Gobelins, L’école de l’image Production
Presto - Pixar, Doug Sweetland
This Way Up - Alan Smith and Adam Foulkes

kinda disappointed "I Am So Proud of You" by Don Hertzfeldt isn't in the bunch, but such is life. surprised Bill Plympton's Hot Dog didn't make it either, but i suppose since its part of a "series," its time to honor some other shorts. here's the only student film among them, Oktapodi:

its got some great animation -- and its very smooth, but like I remarked before...I would've liked to see some more challenging animation story-wise recognized by Academy. maybe one day...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

the fluffy fluffy kevin kevin show

so this is a pretty forgotten piece of pc game culture -- an adventure game that follows frustrated cartoonist and creator Drew Blanc (Drew a Blank...get it?) and his inability to come up with something to revitalize his failing cartoon series The Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun Show. when he falls asleep, complications arise guessed it, he's sucked into the cartoon universe he's created! its a more twisted take on Who Framed Roger Rabbit starring noneother than the villain of the aforementioned piece -- Christopher Lloyd. in the beginning, if you listen closely you'll probably recognize the voice of the secretary that calls Blanc as voice actress extraordinaire Tress MacNielle (Dot Warner from Animaniacs, as well as a slew of voices from The Simpsons and Futurama). fellow Simpsons voice actor Dan Castellaneta plays Drew Blanc's first creation Flux Wildly -- Blanc's equivalent of Roger Rabbit.

as a game, its got some issues -- namely that it can't be played very smoothly on today's computers -- but its a very charming cartoon-filled game with some great animation provided (surprisingly) by Nelvana, the company perhaps best known for buying and animating The Care Bears from American Greetings. here's the intro to the game, featuring a lot of FMV with Lloyd and Ben Stein.

another rare Nelvana-for-hire creation was for the disastrous and rightfully shunned by society and its creator Star Wars Holiday Special in 1978. Nelvana was contracted to do the nearly 10-minute animation sequence which is really the only part of the special that people are interested in seeing. its a very fluid, if rough piece of traditional animation that boasts the first appearance of Boba Fett (who would later grace us with his appearance in Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

you humble me, Mike Jittlov

Mike Jittlov got into animation after taking Dan McLaughlin's UCLA animation night class in 1968 while majoring in math language. it made it to the finals of the nomination process for the Academy Awards. he's perhaps best known for, however, his short film and subsequent feature featuring amazing pixilation techniques (amongst others) called "The Wizard of Speed and Time." here's the original short film:

this was created for Disney for their "Major Effects" special in 1979. before that, however, he got Disney's eye with his acclaimed short films and was contracted to do a special tribute to Disney's 50th Anniversary. here's the second part of that animation:

a very considerate fan has uploaded a great deal of Jittlov's early work onto MySpace here. in particular, Jittlov's Animato is a very dynamic collage type of film -- its actually a reel for Jittlov's work in the 70s, but it acts as a dynamic short film in its own right.

the story goes that Regis Philbin as a young local LA reporter saw Jittlov's work and insisted it be showed on television, which led to Disney's offer of work.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Walt Bakshi

Junktown was an early '60s comic drawn by a young Ralph Bakshi. this is one of my favorites:

it was later made into a special for Nickelodeon called Christmas in Tattertown (the name changed from Junktown). originally, it was meant to be a pilot to a 39 episode series in 1989, but the idea was abandoned.

and just so you have a little something to watch, check out the trailer for his seminal classic (no, not Fritz the Cat) Heavy Traffic. i watched it for the first time last year and i'm starting to see why this Bakshi has such a reputation. its sort of an animated Mean Streets -- its dark, gritty, funny, offensive -- and everything else the trailer mentions. its also very free-flowing. i assume at least parts of it were animated straight ahead (instead of drawing the keys first). i remember reading that Bakshi didn't do many pencil tests for his films and saved not only money, but also some creativity that got lopped away with incessant checking. he's certainly the anti-Disney he set out to be, at least here in Heavy Traffic.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

yes mr. harman?

i'm currently creating the animatic for my upcoming stop-motion ghost short...

so i don't have too much time to blog -- but perhaps i can take time to ruminate a bit on the creative process:

animation great Will Finn (animator on Secret of NIMH, Little Mermaid, Aladdin and co-director on The Road to El Dorado) has been doing some comics on his own creative process -- its something that most artists (or anyone who's ever had to create something) can relate to.

check out part I and part II.

also, this floated around the internet a little bit after the Comic Con last year -- its kind of a call to arms to current animators from Ralph Bakshi. i think its pretty inspiring (and after reading the new book on him "Unfiltered," I think i appreciate it even more). he's straight talking, at least moreso than that McCain guy and he is truly a guerilla filmmaker, but it just so happens he's in animation.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

blogger meets far side

Gary Larson hasn't made much of a ripple since his retirement from The Far Side in 1995. beloved by millions, its still reprinted in thousands of papers around the world. his drawings seem like they would lend themselves to animation -- and it has, but you've probably never seen it. 1994's "Tales from the Far Side" was a short film collaboration between Larson and animation veteran and teacher Marv Newland (Bambi vs. Godzilla). after winning the Grand Prix at Annecy and airing on CBS for Halloween, it was rarely seen again.

that didn't stop Larson and Newland from working on a sequel, the aptly named "Tales from the Far Side II" in 1997.

eventually, they were only available on a limited run VHS which goes for quite a pretty penny on ebay -- you can now buy both on Larson's website for $30 altogether. its not the best price, but much better than it had been going for. from what i've seen of it, its looks interesting, if a mixed bag -- as any type of anthology film is bound to be. this is one of the funnier clips from the 2nd film:

from the first film, here's a less successful skit: "Dead Ranch"

and just for fun, one of the most successful and least animated animations of all time. the story goes that Marv Newland missed magic hour for his live-action short that was due for class, so he decided to do something quick -- an animation. and so began his illustrious career...

and if you just can't stand any more drawn/cartoony farsidedness, then check out this recent movement of live-action still renactments of Far Side cartoons.

Friday, January 16, 2009

what's your medium? and i'm not talking about patricia arquette...

i'm always intrigued by what medium (or mediums) people choose to animate with. its very hard to make mixed media work and it seems like its always a challenge when animating something different from the rest of the pack.

my friend and fellow animator Jessica Hokanson's chosen medium (though she can animate clay with the best of them) is rubber bands. this first video that she did was one of her first animation projects in school (for a short film production class). it still plays in festivals around the country; Wake Up Alice

watching it again, i think the medium really has lots of exploration to do. it has so many possibilities -- its got such a unique, 3-D look, but can be animated on a flat surface. the next short she did on 16MM, Fatty and the Sandman, is a little shorter, but no less endearing.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

fast blog

here's a music video that defies definition of exactly what style it is -- i think its perhaps best categorized as a hybrid between cut-out and 3-D stop motion puppet animation. regardless, its a fun and technically impressive romp by Frenchman Victor Haegelin (represented by Partizan) for Caravan Palace.

Haegelin also did this identification for a French radio station that can best bedescribed as Pes meets Fast Film...if that makes any sense. its really quite beautiful.

speaking of which, Fast Film is essential viewing for the animation connoisseur, so here you go. it involves using film images from one film...with film images from another film. all on paper.

a little bit about the making of the film:
"In a technical sense, it meant that individual images were taken from various films or printed out, and then these printouts were folded into various figures. The objects were then assembled in various arrangements and a background was added so that four, five and up to 30 different films are visible within a single shot. That was the idea behind Fast Film. The challenge was to combine found footage in a meaningful way. The content and perspective of each image must match, but the individual shots must also fit together and tell the story, and do that extremely quickly. Applied to literature, that would be like taking individual sentences that rhyme from all of Shakespeare’s plays and using them to write a love poem which tells its own story. In that sense Fast Film is a journey through film history and at the same time a new film which is created in the heads of the audience members. In my opinion the fun thing about Fast Film is that everyone sees his or her own personal memories. Everybody has certain stimuli which trigger specific reactions, or recognizes certain actors or directors immediately. Suddenly the viewer is watching not Fast Film but his or her memory of the film from which the image was taken. I think that, when watching it, the audience switches back and forth in their heads between their perception of Fast Film and their perception of the films it references, so that everyone sees a completely different film."

check out Virgil Widrich's website for more info.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

this is where i live

here's a stunning stop-motion short by London-based Asylum Films completed in just three weeks for 4th Estate's 25th Anniversary -- its a whole city through different parts of the day where everything is made out of books (and their insides). its a technical marvel -- done with a homemade dolly no less.

This Is Where We Live from 4th Estate on Vimeo.

here's another animation from the guys at Asylum. this time its a lego music video -- its no Michel Gondry, but its very well done.

Black Ghosts - Someway Through This from Asylum Films on Vimeo.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Master Manipulator

i'm a big fan of animations that play with the art form. Duck Amuck, of course, was of the most famous examples, along with the Fleischer's Out of the Inkwell series. here's a 1991 Oscar-winning short by Daniel Greaves that plays like a lost Don Hertzfeldt film (I can imagine that Don was at least a little inspired by it while thinking up "Genre"). this really must've taken quite a long time -- the moves are so well choreographed and timed together. enjoy:

here's a later CG short by Richard Jack and Daniel Greaves about the secret life of billiards balls from 2001 called Rockin' & Rollin'

Monday, January 12, 2009

harryhausen wouldn't approve

so, you don't see stop-motion used for effects work much anymore, mainly since the computer graphics revolution started mostly in the 80s, but popularized by Jurassic Park when Phil Tippett, the stop-motion animator said upon seeing the first computer test for the film "I think I'm extinct!" of course, he adapted to CG on the film:

"Dennis Muren: "Eventually Phil realised there was a place for him, and I was able to convince him there is a place for you and your shop on the show. He had some really terrific animators there that understood how we could make these dinosaurs move naturally."

but i digress. recently on The Sarah Silverman Program, Rob Schrab (yes, the Rob Schrab that created Scud: The Disposable Assassin and Monster House) decided to use stop-motion for a creature that Sarah gives birth to...

Doug Tennapel and the Chiodo Brothers took the job. its a pretty cool mini-behind-the-scenes along with a great face-melting scene to boot.

speaking of Doug Tennapel -- the creator of Earthworm Jim and the Neverhood (an all stop-motion Dreamworks game created in the 90s) -- here's an unfinished/effects-less stop-motion short he did called Kog-Head and Meatus. and let's be honest, he can tell the story better than I:

"This was for a character I made associated with a video game company in North Carolina. Koghead and Meatus are blue creatures that are supposed to be violent cartoon beasts in battle with giant synthetic monsters. Yes, it's a lot like GEAR and a common theme in a lot of my work.

I wrote and directed, but my lead animators were Mike Dietz and Ed Schofield. I think we did this in the year 2000 or 2001. We never finished it because we sent the footage back to North Carolina to do some effects work and they went out of business and now we can't find the people who might have the material.

The voices are by Rob Paulsen.

The characters are owned by the NC company and are pretty much tied up and dead at this point since the company doesn't seem to be in the gaming business anymore.

This version of K and M you're looking at is a work in progress. It's not finished at all and shouldn't be seen as such. I'm mostly showing you guys how we do our work. If they request I remove it for any reason I'll have to do it immediately."

Rob Paulsen is of course the voice of Pinky and Yakko, as well as Arthur from The Tick amongst countless others. its truly a cute short, effects or not, and technically very impressive. without further adieu:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

super epic blog party 2009

Paul Robertson has mastered 2-D 16-bit side scroller animation. its his chosen art form. he's become an internet sensation over the past few years, in large part due to his first major release -- Pirate Baby's Cabana Street Fight 2006. i remember seeing this at Spike and Mike's a while back and it got the most rousing audience response by far.

he's a 2-D video game animator by day for Game Boy Advance and DS games like Contra 4, Barbie and the Magic of the Pegasus, and SpongeBob SquarePants: Creature From the Krusty Krab. though he's not too proud of the work he's done in the industry,
"It's always just been a job to me as I've usually just worked on projects I didn't care about," its been the main source of his income and has fueled some incredibly detailed and well done shorts like no other.

because of the shorts he's done, he's gotten offers for music videos and commercials in the same style. this particularly kinetic one works pretty darn well for Architecture in Helsinki's Do the Whirlwind off 2005's In Case We Die:

this next music video for "Devil Eyes" by Qua is probably my favorite and most affecting animation by Robertson. its about a simple friendship between a cat and a panda until a visitor from outer space comes to play.

here's a commerical for Syke, an energy drink for gamers. its got parodies up the yin yang, see if you can spot all the references:

finally, if you have the time for his latest 12-minute epic -- 2008's Kings of Power 4Billion% -- its quite a ride. its essentially a tricked out run through of a game that never existed. if you loved 16-bit sidescrollers that made no sense, then this is your holy grail...

on Vimeo.

and if you can't get enough of the 29-year Australian animator, be sure to check out his awesome blog where he posts his art and animation-related materials often as well as his myspace, where he has plenty of animated gifs to keep you busy.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Gerald's First Day (On My Blog)

so this looks amazing:

Justin and Shel Rasch are a husband and wife animation team that I really adore. they share their projects frequently on their blog, Stop MOTION Mission. apparently, this was their first try at stop-motion, though they've been doing animation for a while (Justin's a computer game animator by day).

its a 12-minute film that's just starting the festival circuit. it already has a rave review. its very hard to get pathos in stop-motion (or is it just not tried very much?) -- Moral Orel did it recently with Nature Pts. 1 & 2 as well as most of the 3rd season and More was a pretty affecting piece of IMAX stop-motion though. what's impressive, here, is that its all done on their free time, for the most part. they weren't getting paid to do what looks like quite a professional piece of work.

according to an interview with Anim8 Stop Motion, they're currently developing a 45-minute stop motion animation as well as a dream feature stop-motion project in the future.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Say It Ain't So Unca Scrooge

so we all know the economy is in the tank. but you know its really bad when Scrooge McDuck applies to TARP for a bailout:

perhaps he forgot the lessons that he taught his young nephews in the 1967 short "Scrooge McDuck and Money." its a lively info-toon that Disney liked to produce in the 50s and 60s and is Scrooge's first major appearance in animated form. he was originally created, of course, in the comic book format for Disney by the legendary Carl Barks in 1947. here, McDuck is beautifully animated by one of the Nine Old Men from Disney -- Ward Kimball.

in this incarnation, Scrooge is voiced by Bill Thompson, probably best known as the original voice of Droopy, as well as various Disney characters in The AristoCats, Sleeping Beauty, Smee in Peter Pan, the White Rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, and Jock in Lady and the Tramp. this is notable because the role of Scrooge McDuck has been indelibly linked with that of Alan Young, the human star of Mr. Ed. this is the only appearance of Scrooge (except one cameo in the Mickey Mouse Club) where McDuck is voiced by anyone other than Young, who would start with Mickey's Christmas Carol and go all the way through Ducktales and to present day.

the short itself reminds me of two things, both Disney: Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land(which you really have to see if you haven't been so lucky to have seen it) and Mary Poppins.

this is no surprise, then, to find out that the director of the short, Hamilton Luske, directed both the animation for Mary Poppins and the entirety of Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land. Mathmagic Land and Scrooge McDuck and Money are both educational in tone, but share a very similar abstract animation quality about them, though Money has a more memorable song and dance number. Luske co-directed many Disney classics as well as directing perhaps one of the most famous and I think one of the best Mickey Mouse cartoons -- Mickey and the Beanstalk (part of the Fun and Fancy Free feature filled with shorts).

some guy on flickr decided to make a scale model of Scrooge's money bin:

its incredibly detailed and done from blueprints from a Don Rosa comic (Carl Barks' successor on the Scrooge comics).

Thursday, January 8, 2009

the fantastic mr. gustafson

in anticipation of one of the few stop motion animation features to be released this year, i thought i would take a little time to look at the director's previous work. of course, i'm talking about Wes Anderson's adaptation of the 1970 Roald Dahl children's classic Fantastic Mr. Fox and its animation director Mark Gustafson.

originally Wes Anderson had wanted Henry Selick (Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, Monkeybone) to direct the animation, as he had directed the stop motion sequences in the Life Aquatic. however, when the company that was setup with the project (Revolution Studios) folded, Anderson took the project to Fox Animation Studios and Selick left to direct Coraline for Laika, the old Will Vinton Studio that was bought up by Phil Knight (the Nike guy). Anderson then turned to an old stop motion pro -- Mark Gustafson, the Emmy award-winning animator who got his start with the Will Vinton Studio beginning with Return to Oz all the way through The PJs, where he was nominated for an Emmy. here's an interview with Mark from that era when he was the supervising director on The PJs that shows the production process. it reminds me a lot of the Moral Orel production breakdown, but with a bigger budget.

lately, he had been doing a lot of commercial work with Laika. including this award-winning spot for Ben & Jerry's:

he won an emmy for directing Will Vinton's Easter Special for CBS, but I think his most endearing and impressive animation work thus far was a short he produced while at the Vinton studios called Mr. Resistor in 1993. its become a popular and enduring character, even used for the 1997 Oscars in a skit. the original has a kind of a Mad Max in a junkyard feel.

here's a little bit of behind-the-scenes on Mr. Resistor including a tv commercial for a local radio station that he created:

finally, in 2005 Coca-Cola commissioned a stop-motion spot for the 2005 FIFA World Cup in spanish. this is what followed:

its truly bizarre. Coca-Cola got such a great response that they commissioned six more stop motion spots from Gustafson and Laika. this one features a horseshoe, a lucky rabbit's foot, and a four-leaf clover:

at any rate, Fantastic Mr. Fox is being animated in London at the 3 Mills Studio, the same place where Corpse Bride was shot. very little actual information about the production has gotten out, as Anderson likes to keep a notoriously tight lid on his projects before they are released.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

let's call this...not quite safe for work day

if you can't tell by the still below, this video is a tad NSFW.

but its got some of the most unique animation of the last year -- of censorship bars. David Byrne talks about the genesis of the song here

the music video was directed by a one Keith Schofield, a commercial and music video director that seems to specialize in this kind of rotoscoped animation. err make that directed by a three Keith Schofield -- its a directing collective comprised of Keith Haverbrooks, Eric Schoman & Jeff Mayfield. earlier this year, their promo for the Italian fashion design house Diesel's 30th anniversary party took the internet by storm. Schofield makes some 70s porn much safer for work...

Diesel SFW XXX - Watch more Free Videos
this was probably one of my favorite animations of the year -- its just so darned inventive.

finally, a completely safe for work've probably seen it. the "Flatheads" Axion commercial. its very well done. if not entirely inspired.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

does a body good.

Chris Milk is a player in the music video industry -- he's done three Kanye West videos, a Modest Mouse video, a U2/Green Day video, and countless others. on top of that, he's also conquered commercials, art, and professional still photography realms -- he was even contracted to go to the DNC with Barack Obama to take pictures on the campaign trail.

this is all well and good. as you can guess, however, what i'm interested in is his contribution to animation...

his two videos for Gnarls Barkley, the first "Gone Daddy Gone" in 2006 and then "Who's Gonna Save My Soul" last year, represent some pretty unique and intense CG/Live-Action compositing usuallly not reserved for music video fare.

the heart has some extremely impressive modeling:

Gnarls Barkley - Who's Gonna Save My Soul? from Toolshed Media on Vimeo.

"Gone Daddy Gone" has a few more cycles and less intense modeling, but the craziness and rhythm of the song is captured perfectly in the animation. the end is truly disturbing.

Monday, January 5, 2009

let it begin!

i start winter quarter tomorrow. ill try to post progress of my 181C film, "You're My Ghoul" whenever there's something (hopefully) neat to look at...

Dan Meth is the king of comedic animated web videos. his animated films have been seen by many, even if they didn't know it. starting in 2006, he was hired to do internet webseries' for Frederator Studios, the company behind The Fairly Oddparents, Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!, and the upcoming Neverhood and Samurai Jack features.

his first two series, "Meth Minute" and "Nite Fite" have become pretty well known successes, at least in the animation industry. here's one of his Meth Minute shorts:

Pez Power from Dan Meth on Vimeo.

this is a commercial he was commissioned to do for a company that produces a glow-in-the-dark toilet seat cover:

Jonnyglow commercial from Dan Meth on Vimeo.

and last but not least, an atypical Meth Minute with some stop-motion and cartoon faces laid over. reminds me a little bit of the opening of Hertzfeldt's Genre.

Foreign Cartoon About Hands from Dan Meth on Vimeo.
at any rate, its one of my favorites of his.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

It's Oh So Quiet!

John Kricfalusi made a name for himself in animation first working with Ralph Bakshi on the Rolling Stones music video for Harlem Shuffle and on the revival of Mighty Mouse (until a "coke sniff" scene animated by John K was latched onto by religious groups who eventually forced a cancellation). he's perhaps best known for his creation of Ren & Stimpy and founding his production company, Spumco. he's mostly retired from television (he created the world's first Flash animated series online in The Goddamn George Liquor Program in 1996). he shares his amazing insights on classical animation on his website each week here.

here are a couple of less famous videos he's produced. the first is a commercial for an online company called Raketu he produced in early 2007. his poses are always stellar and his character designs, always attractive (even the ugly ones look terribly alive).

this next one is a music video he directed for Bjork in 1995. Bjork and John K don't seem like they would make a great pairing (she reportedly was a huge fan of Ren & Stimpy), but the contrast between the two styles makes for a great and very surreal video with both computer and hand-drawn animation along with composite live-action footage that all seems to gel with each other

Saturday, January 3, 2009

No Is My Second Favourite Word

David Shrigley
is bar none one of my favorite artists.

he's ridiculous. he's over the top. he's simple. he's provocative. he makes you think. and he's just downright weird.

he's been featured in museums across the world. but if he were to be doing this thirty years ago -- i think he would probably be homeless by now.

he designed these:

available here.

back in 2005, he made a short film that i would say is a less intense version of the amazing Don Hertzfeldt short "I Am So Proud of You" (recently accepted into Sundance).

its more of a statement of his profound oddity and the reaction to his art and photography. he did not animate this but everything was based on his art.

Who I Am and What I Want, David Shrigley from Richard Summers on Vimeo.

i get the impression from this interview, that he's not too hot on animation. but he's done quite a lot of it recently.

much of his art books are a little on the expensive side. but his set(s) of postcards -- Joy and Evil Thoughts -- are affordable and fun. especially if you want to make your friends think you're insane.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Well, I Wouldn't Exactly Say I've Been Missing It, Bob.

here's another animation originated in Toon Boom, this time by Janet Perlman and completed for "The Responsibility Project" for the insurance giant Liberty Mutual. the object of the whole thing is to get people talking about what responsibility means. and, of course, sell insurance. take a look at "Hot Seat":

Janet Perlman is an independent animator and storybook author/illustrator who got her start way back in 1981 on her Oscar-nominated short film, "The Tender Tale of Cinderella Penguin" for the National Film Board of Canada. its silent -- and its exactly as charming as it sounds.

the bunnies in the first short hop a lot like the penguins in this one.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Yeah. I got the memo.

i'm back! and since i've mostly been posting animation history related shorts, here are some that aren't from 60 or 70 years ago:

this is an earlier short from Randy Boyum, the guy who did the awesome HowCast video about surviving a bear attack that i mentioned previously.

apparently i was totally unaware of "Zune Arts," but I guess Microsoft created a community of artists in order to promote their competing-with-the-i-pod MP3 device.

Bent Image Lab created this slick and rockin' (and TWO MINUTE) ball of fun, mostly in stop motion. Bent is the animation company that spun off of the old folks at Will Vinton/Laika in Portland. its been thriving mostly with adverts, including the recent Alltel stop motion commercials.

and here's another from the same Zune project, featuring music by The Deadly Syndrome , former UCSB film students (go gauchos!) -- Jesse Hoy was quite an animator in his own right. "Intergalactic Swap Meet" is a top notch production utilizing a gaggle of different styles. its by the ad agency againstallodds, which made a name for itself for those realistic body part Coca-Cola ads recently...