January 9, 2008
In New York and have some free time Thursday afternoon? Head over to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) to see fully restored versions of the three Popeye Color Specials by Fleischer Studios: Popeye the Sailor Meets Sinbad the Sailor, Popeye the Sailor Meets Ali Baba's Forty Thieves, and Aladdin and his Wonderful Lamp.

The screening is part of Still Moving, a film series focusing on MoMA's media collection. January's schedule pays special attention to animation. Other screenings include Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, A Bug's Life, and Studio Ghibli's My Neighbors the Yamadas.

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September 22, 2007
The Animator's Picnic in Strathcona Park was plenty of fun. Lots of people were glad to see familiar faces and make new connections. This was my chance to see Martine Chartrand and Pilar Newton again. Pilar was one of the winners in the annual pumpkin carving contest again this year.Her pumpkin toaster was a hit with the crowd, along with many others. Another prizewinner was a pumpkin inspired by Luis Cook's Aardman Animation short, The Pearce Sisters.

It was also a chance for the animation community to come together to help the family of the late Helen Hill. During the picnic, donations were contributed to an education fund for her son, the Francis Pop Education Fund.

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July 9, 2007
The first five seasons of Pee-wee's Playhouse drop on two DVDs this September; technically it's not animated, but there's a reason it's making its debut on Adult Swim this week—it contains the work of such notables as Prudence Fenton, Aardman Animations co-founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton, Phil Trumbo, Mitch Greenblatt, and... you know, I don't think there's any way to count them all. I wonder if the discs will include all the old black and white cartoons they used to show?

Also, while we usually use our section of unknown release dates for titles that have slipped into limbo until their distributors sort things out, our two new additions (the Victorian Romance Emma collections) in that area bear mention. The release dates haven't been fixed yet, but Right Stuf is offering an interesting incentive to the first 1,000 people who order the set: their names in the DVD's credits.

New titles:

7/10 - Natural Obsessions 2 Vol. 4 (Adult) (DVD)

8/28 - Dave Mckean's Keanoshow + book (DVD)
8/28 - Open Wide: Tooth School Inside (DVD)
8/28 - Ugly Duckling & Me: School Days (DVD)

9/4 - Di Gi Charat Nyo! Vol. 3 (DVD)
9/4 - Eureka Seven Vol. 9 (DVD)
9/4 - Eureka Seven Vol. 9 Special Edition (DVD)
9/4 - Kaleido Star: New Wings: True Star Collection (DVD)
9/4 - Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Character Song Vol. 1: Haruhi Suzumiya (CD)
9/4 - Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Character Song Vol. 4: Tsuruya-San (CD)
9/4 - Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Character Song Vol. 6: Kyon's Sister (CD)
9/4 - Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Character Song Vol. 9: Kyon (CD)
9/4 - Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Vol. 3 (DVD)
9/4 - Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya Vol. 3 Special Limited Edition (DVD)
9/4 - Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny Vol. 10 (DVD)
9/4 - Mobile Suit Gundam Seed Destiny Vol. 10 Limited Edition (DVD)
9/4 - My-Otome Vol. 2 (DVD)
9/4 - Tide-Line Blue Vol. 3 (DVD)
9/4 - UFO Ultramaiden Valkyrie 4: Banquet of Time, Dreams & Galaxies (DVD)
9/11 - Pee-wee's Playhouse: #1 (seasons 1 & 2) (DVD)
9/11 - Pee-wee's Playhouse: #2 (seasons 3-5) (DVD)
9/18 - Best of Rocky & Bullwinkle Vol. 2 (DVD)
9/25 - Maggie and the Ferocious Beast: Trick or Treat (DVD)

10/2 - Mar Vol. 3 (DVD)
10/2 - Zatch Bell Vol. 12 (DVD)
10/23 - Prince of Tennis Box Set 3 (DVD)
10/30 - Bleach Box Set 1 (episodes 1-20) (DVD)
10/30 - One Piece Vol. 11 (DVD)

Unknown release dates:
12/12 - Victorian Romance Emma DVD Collection 1 (DVD)
12/12 - Victorian Romance Emma DVD Collection 2 (DVD)

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June 28, 2007
The first event of the Platform International Animation Festival took place on Monday night with Competition 1. Irene Kotlarz, Director of Programming (pictured) got things rolling and welcomed and eager crowd that had already been well-taken care of by registration and other volunteer staff. If there were any fires being put out in the background, attendees sure didn't know about it. The festival has been a well-oiled machine so far.

The first short to screen was Torill Kove's The Danish Poet, this year's Oscar winner. Luis Cook's The Pearce Sisters was a standout Aardman short and one of the newer shorts in the selection. Recently acclaimed shorts such as Run Wrake's Rabbit and Theodore Ushev's Tower Bawher were shown and I became newly acquainted with Herzog and the Monsters.

The opening night party offered a chance for people to reconnect and make some new contacts in a great setting and others snuck off later in the evening for Comedy vs. Art, featuring an animation face-off between Bill Plympton and Joanna Priestley.

Tuesday was the first full day of the festival and I started off the day at the Meet the Animators panel moderated by Ramin Zahed of Animation Magazine. The thread that ran through all of the discussions dealt with passion for animating. Marc Bertrand of the National Film Board said he would rather people make films for themselves with themes they care about rather than impressing a producer. Motomichi Nakamura suggested that animators put work in their portfolio that they really enjoyed and not put in the rest.

The highlight of the day was the feature Tekkon Kinkreet, with its lush visuals and bold style. Director Michael Arias (pictured) was in the house and answered an extended Q&A about the making of the film.

After Competition 3, I could barely survive Animation From Hell, which screened Shut Eye Hotel, Bill Plympton's new short. So many activities can get a bit taxing, and I had to get ready for another day replete with great activities.

(Photos by official festival photographer CJ Beaman.)

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April 2, 2007
Least surprising rebound ever. When DreamWorks and Aardman Features went their separate ways, right-thinking people realized that it was only a matter of time before someone inked a deal with the Bristol, UK studio. While it isn't a done deal as yet, it's looking like Aardman is inking a three-year first-look deal with Sony Pictures.

For my money, if you're Aardman and you've got to pair with someone for features, Sony is the place to go. While it would have been interesting to see Disney enter into a deal (thus covering their bases with hand-drawn, CGI, motion capture and stop-motion), the two companies' styles are so different I'd have howled if the two had even looked at each other coyly. Warner? They can't even promote the films they make themselves properly. And if we're looking at their Cartoon Network/Adult Swim division, then Aardman's relatively quiet British humour seems even more out of place. Same with Viacom—when it comes to features, if it doesn't feature boogers, obnoxious teens or lots of MTV-style editing, I don't think they'd care.

Sony, however, has spent years releasing foreign animated films (most of it their own anime like Steamboy and Metropolis, with the occasional Triplets of Belleville thrown in for good measure), and getting them into decent cinemas. They may not quite dominate the local kajillion-screen megaplex, but they get the movies out there more consistently than DreamWorks did with their anime releases. (Speaking of which, whatever happened to GoFish?)

I'm fixating on smaller releases because, as wonderful as Curse of the Were-Rabbit was, the fact is that it didn't pull the blockbuster numbers that DreamWorks wanted (or, given their investment, needed). Yet Chicken Run has shown that Aardman's got blockbuster chops. What Aardman needs is a distributor that understands that their material isn't necessarily created for an American audience, and while they can sometimes pull in $100 million-plus, that isn't always going to be the case. In short, a distributor who can be flexible. Sony's shown that they can do that.

This rebound relationship just might work out best for everyone.

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