April 14, 2007
I've let a small pile of items gather over the last few weeks, because I haven't had the time (or, with my recent cold, the stamina) to mention them. Here they are, in no particular order.

Last March we devoted the In Progress section of the magazine to Today, a short based on a poem by poet laureate Billy Collins and directed by Little Fluffy Clouds co-founders Jerry van de Beek and Betsy de Fries. It was announced recently that Today will join 19 other promotional films (Today was commissioned by the Sundance Channel) in competition at the Annecy festival in June. Congratulations, Jerry and Betsy!

The Norwich International Animation Festival changed its name to Aurora a few weeks ago. Can't argue with that, but their reasoning is questionable. "The change of the name is the annual festival's latest move towards a truly multidisciplinary program, and represents the opinion that 'animation' itself has become a restrictive tag, which rarely does justice to the myriad artistic activity that it encompasses," reads the press release. "It follows, then, that an 'animation festival' is no longer capable of staying abreast of this enormous artistic diversity—so in order to more freely reflect the way the programmers think animation is heading, we're dropping the label." Huh? The debate as to what is and isn't animation has been going on for a long time, and animation festivals—not to mention books, academic programs and even mainstream coverage—have evolved to suit. What's the big deal? Seems to me that if they really wanted to "[challenge] the traditional boundaries of animation," they'd present the nifty installations and live performances they're trumpeting under the old name, then defend their presence. It's not much of a challenge if you punk out and change your name.

If you've been hungering for new Ghibli material and you can't wait until the Sci-Fi Channel's North American rights to Earthsea lapse in 2009, you can always pick up the Japanese DVD of Tales of Earthsea (Gedo Senki) in June, which will come with English subtitles; or you can get the Iblard Time OAV, a collaboration between Ghibli and surrealist artist Naohisa Inoue, which is due for a July 4 release on both DVD and Blu-ray disc (both come with a soundtrack CD).

Next Saturday ASIFA-Hollywood will be hosting the one-day Stop-Motion Expo at Woodbury University in Burbank. Guests include Will Vinton, Screen Novelties' Mark Caballero and Seamus Walsh and Robot Chicken's Tennessee Reid Norton. $25 for the panel discussions, $35 for the seminars or $50 for the whole thing. ASIFA-Hollywood members get a $10-$15 discount.

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