July 6, 2009
In addition to the opening film and animation highlights revealed by the 2009 Fantasia festival, the rest of the films do not merely round out the animation portion of programming. These selections reflect some of the more interesting selections of on the cinematic edge.

The features, in addition to Genius Party Beyond, Hells, and Les Lascars:
  • Edison and Leo, the first Canadian stop-motion feature, is described as a "surprising chunk of steampunk fun, a revisionist, retro science-fiction thriller with a zesty dash of decidedly adult gags." OK, I'm in.
  • anime features Eureka Seven and Evangelion 1.0
The shorts, in addition to those in Tokyo OnlyPic 2008, Celluloid Experiments 2009, DJ XL5's Razzle Dazzle Zappin' Party:
Also of note:
Bon festival!

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February 27, 2009


Spring break is here and it is time for Festival international de films pour enfants de Montreal (FIFEM) once again. The opening film from France, Mia et le Migou is far from the only animated selection this year, but it is definitely an interesting one. The film's director is Jacques-Remy Girerd, the producer of Tragic Story with Happy Ending and Hungu (recently featured in the NFB Screening Room) and director of delightful La prophétie des grenouilles (Raining Cats and Frogs). Mia was released in France last year, and is proving to be a hit with families.



Another animated feature that recently received accolades, Nocturna, a 2007 feature from Spain, is also screening. In all there are five animated features to keep the kids and their animation-friendly parents interested.

fps favourites Komaneko and Ludovic are back in the Mini-cinephiles program track, geared toward animation for children as young as 2 or 3. Komaneko is a stop-motion cat, who likes to make stop-motion films. Ludovic is a little teddy bear whose educational and inventive tales are also told using stop-motion animation, directed by Co Hoedeman, Oscar winner for the short, Sand Castle. The Ludovic television series is a follow-up to the Four Seasons in the Life of Ludovic shorts.

Even more shorts will screen before feature films, including Konstantin Bronzit's Oscar-nominated short, A Lavatory Lovestory.

Do it for the kids... er, les enfants... all fillms will be screening in French or with French subtitles.

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December 4, 2008
Whoa! Christmas shows up early for Montreal animation lovers. This year's Sommets du cinema d'animation de Montreal (Montreal Animation Summit) literally explodes this year, with an expanded lineup, including exhibits and great guests.

As in recent years, Marco de Blois, animation curator at the Cinematheque quebecoise, has gathered some of the year's best animated shorts in two programs screening on Friday and Saturday. This year, the audience gets to vote on their favourite and award a public prize to the best director.

This is just the beginning. This weekend includes a program of the notable international student films from 2006, 2007, and 2008; the best recent Canadian animation; and a free screening of Acme Filmworks and Animation World Network's The Show of Shows, presented by Ron Diamond.

I'm not done yet: A major restrospective, Du praxinoscope au cellulo (From Praxinoscope to Cel), is divided into three programs, two of them specifically targeted to include younger viewers. This film series focuses on the evolution of French moving images, and touches on drawings, marionettes, and pin, cell, cut-out, mixed media, and computer animation. This is an extraordinary chance to see shorts by Emile Cohl, Ladislaw Starevich, and Paul Grimault, among others.

Now get a load of these prices.
Free 0–5 years accompanied by an adult
Free Show of Shows
$4 6–15 years
$6 students and seniors
$7 adults
$50 CinéSommets passport, all-access pass


For the full schedule, including parties and concurrent exhibits, download the PDF program.

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July 19, 2008

A little while ago, I got a copy of Animania in the mail. It was a copy-for-blogging exchange, and I was glad I got a chance to see it. I had caught it on local cable a couple of weeks ago, and was curious to see the rest.

Turns out, I had only missed about the first ten or fifteen minutes. The documentary itself is only about an hour long, with a half-hour special features section called "Anime Uncovered." Despite my interest in fan studies, I thought that this was the more interesting part of the package -- and not just because it featured our friend Emru. I liked hearing from experts, specifically Canadian experts, and I also enjoyed hearing about the mechanics of modern animation.

The documentary itself revolves around a group of cosplayers (not a cosplay group, just different cosplayers) who attend Anime North, Toronto's major anime convention. The filmmaker, Felice Gorica, asks them the same questions, most of which are about why they like anime, how long they've been watching it, why they cosplay, and what they think life is like for teenagers in the twenty-first century. Also included are interviews with the parents of each cosplayer. Whether this was intentional or not, there seems to be a clear cultural divide between the minority parents and the white ones -- the Chinese, Japanese, and Caribbean parents all profess to love the way cosplay gives their kids projects to do, teaches them discipline and stick-to-it-iveness, and keeps them out of "normal" trouble. The white parents, however, seem intensely worried about how their son uses anime to help create his identity, how much money he spends on his anime habit, and whether he should be "living his life by the rules set out by a world of fantasy." (My husband then pointed out that the American Dream is more of a fantasy than anything anyone could animate, and that living one's life by its rules is probably twice as unhealthy as any fannish obsession.)

If I had one criticism of this documentary, it would be that the editing needs work. Technically it's fine -- it's not like the audio and visual tracks leap apart, or anything -- but there's a lot of extraneous footage used to split up the segments that make no immediately-apparent sense. We get unexplained cuts of anime like Slayers, but no commentary on why Slayers fits with what the interviewees have just said. Then there's the wrestling footage. To be fair, Anime North has wrestling exhibitions in full view of the registration line (it gives people something to watch while standing for hours), so it does make sense to at least acknowledge that. However, the frequent intercuts to the footage make it seem as though the wrestling should have some narrative or thematic significance to the points being made in the interviews. And it doesn't, unless the point was to highlight the fact that both wrestlers and cosplayers wear costumes.

Aside from that, though, I recommend it. It's nice to see something that's exclusively about Canadian fandom, and cosplay specifically. I also liked the inclusion of the parents' commentary. These parents seem to have great relationships with their kids, and they clearly savour the opportunity to spend time with their children at a time when most children can't wait to get out of the house or otherwise spurn parental attention. Their contribution is perhaps the most unique to the documentary, and this low-key approach was just right for talking to both halves of the relationship.

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February 6, 2008
Richard Condie has donated thousands of animation items to his alma mater, the University of Manitoba.

The CBC reports:

Condie's work is hugely popular around the world, [archivist Shelley] Sweeney said.

"There's, like, cult followings for The Big Snit and Getting Started," she said. "I just ran across a blog that's in the Czech Republic where people were talking about it. People are very interested in his work."

Condie's work is the largest donation her department has received in 25 years, Sweeney said. The artist donated his work in part because he wanted it properly preserved, she said.

The work goes on display Thursday, in an exhibit aptly named, "Arrgg!"

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January 22, 2008
Today, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the 2008 Oscar nominees. For all the concern of Beowulf getting a spot, the worry was for naught. The shorts are diverse, in technique, storytelling and geography.

BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

Persepolis (Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, France)
Ratatouille (Brad Bird, US)
Surf's Up (Ash Brannon and Chris Buck, US)

BEST ANIMATED SHORT FILM

Even Pigeons Go To Heaven (Samuel Tourneux and Simon Vanesse, France) entire short
I Met The Walrus (Josh Raskin, Canada) clip
Madame Tutli-Putli (Chris Lavis & Maciek Szczerbowski, Canada) clip
My Love (Alexander Petrov, Russia) clip
Peter and The Wolf (Suzie Templeton and Hugh Welchman, UK) clip

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October 27, 2007
Sunday is World Animation Day. Here are some events that are happening in different cities. Check with web sites, media outlets and your friends to learn more. Let us know what's up in your neighbourhood.

JAPAN

Hiroshima: Award-winning works of the Hiroshima International Animation Festival

INDIA

Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Thiruvananthapuram:
Simultaneous ASIFA-India celebration

CANADA


Montreal:
1 p.m. Catherine Arcand discusses her film Nightmare at School

3 p.m. Master class with Madame Tutli-Putli directors Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski
7 p.m. Toon Boom Internet Animation Contest Screening and Classic Films of the DEFA Screening

Toronto:
1 p.m.
Talespinners 2 workshop for children and families

Vancouver:
2 p.m. Animate It! workshop for youth

Winnipeg:
2 p.m. Talespinners 2 screening (recommended for children ages 5-9)

UNITED STATES

Boston:
3 p.m. Institute of Contemporary Art presents New England Animation

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September 18, 2007
Festival madness: Animatu 2007 kicks off its appreciation of digital animation in Beja, Portugal on October 17, featuring shorts like Ark, Codehunters and Guy's Guide to Zombies; in Spain, Animadrid starts off strong on September 28, opening with Nocturna; I'm still a little peeved at Aurora (formerly Norwich International Animation Festival) for dumping the word "animation" from their name because they think it's too restrictive, but damn do they have a lot of cool animation and animators in this year's fest, which starts November 7; Animae Caribe hits the University of the West Indies, Trinidad on October 25 and will feature a history of African animation; and the awesome Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema returns to the tiny town starting November 15, with an undoubtedly incredible lineup and steady supply of excellent hot chocolate.

Two new additions to our Sites We Like blogroll (over on the lower right sidebar, in case you hadn't noticed): Fill This Space is Patrick Smith's space for ruminating on the art and animation that he makes, and that inspires him; Diego Stoliar's self-titled blog features his personal and creative work. I featured Patrick's Moving Along in our Flicker newsletter a while ago, and praised his Handshake ever so briefly in my review of the second Avoid Eye Contact DVD; Diego was a participant in the National Film Board of Canada's most recent iteration of the Hothouse project, and you can see his contribution, One, along with the rest of them here. They'e both great guys, and I hope one day we'll all share beers together.

In the past we've mentioned the weekend animation workshops that the National Film Board hosts for kids here in Montreal; I should also mention that the NFB in Toronto has been running the same kind of program at the Mediatheque, for budding animators aged 3 to 13. The current program runs through to April 2008, but you can jump in at any time.

The Iranian feature Persepolis has been making the festival rounds for most of the year, but it looks like Sony Classics is giving it at least some sort of a theatrical release. I don't know about the rest of the continent, but Montrealers will be able to catch it in English and French starting January 11.

Speaking of Sony, the company is picking up where Disney left off with direct-to-DVD sequels of its feature properties; the first title is Open Season 2. Fans may howl at the resurgence of cheapquels, but I imagine it's hard for executives to ignore the heaping piles of money they generate.

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June 12, 2007
Pixar has announced that their 2009 feature will be titled Up, making it the most concisely titled animated feature ever, at least until Shane Acker's 9 comes out. According to Variety, the movie will be about "a 70-year-old man who teams with a wilderness ranger to fight beasts and villains." That's just vague enough that I went straight to Up helmer Pete Docter and asked if he could provide even a little more detail at this early date. For instance, is the movie set in the past, present or future? "It's set in the present," he said, "But I'm not supposed to say much more than has already been printed—other than it's going to be really cool!" Hopefully he'll be more forthcoming before the movie's June 12, 2009 debut.

The Mouse goes to Bollywood: In an effort to crack the Indian market, Disney is teaming up with Yash Raj Films to co-produce Bollywood-style animated features, voiced by Bollywood stars. It's a step up from, say, pitching Mulan to Chinese audiences, but it'd be really cool if Disney set up an exchange program between the Indian studio and Feature Animation in the States. It's a small world, after all.

You know we're gleefully anticipating Astro Boy Essays: Osamu Tezuka, Mighty Atom, and the Manga/Anime Revolution, but gnash our teeth mightily while waiting for its September release date. Happily, we can get a taste when author Frederik L. Schodt chats with KQED's Michael Krasny next Tuesday, between 9:00 and 11:00 a.m. Pacific Time. (If you miss it, you can download the archived podcast a bit later.) Oh, did I mention it's a call-in show? You can phone in with questions during the show at 415-863-2476 or 1-866-SF-FORUM (866-733-6786; toll free).

I had no idea there was such a thing as the Canadian Skills Competition, let alone that the thirteenth instalment happened last last week. And imagine my surprise at discovering that the "Olympic-style competitions that test the skills of young people at secondary and post-secondary levels in trade and technology areas" include animation! Specifically, there are two team events titled 3D Character Computer Animation and 2D Character Computer Animation. Congratulations to the winners, but of course I'm a little irked that animation is being considered a technology skill more than an artistic one.

I'm not a huge fan of '80s TV, and frankly the thought of another He-Man and the Masters of the Universe movie bewilders me. (The Transformers movie, less so. The smart money has long known to bet on robot smackdowns.) But it's now been confirmed that Warner will be making the Thundercats movie as a CGI feature. Okay, they've got a cool logo and all, but... why? I know, I know, there's a fan base. But... why?

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May 16, 2007


In the summer of 2001, I was part of a National Film Board peer review, where six of us spent a day looking at film proposals to provide recommendations. One of those films was Madame Tutli-Putli, and Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski presented us with an animatic—a rough animated presentation of what they intended for the film—as part of their proposal. A few elements have remained almost exactly the same over the course of six years, but many are strikingly different.

Photo credit: National Film Board of Canada

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May 15, 2007










Clyde Henry Productions is Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, a team of multimedia artists who have been working together in animation and effects since 1997. But for about half that time, the pair locked themselves in a dark room to produce Madame Tutli-Putli, a seventeen-minute stop-motion short for the National Film Board of Canada. The title character, a demure and hesitating young woman, boards a train for an overnight journey in what appears to be 1920s Europe. But her journey is filled with strange passengers and even stranger events.

Madame Tutli-Putli is exquisitely produced, with meticulously crafted puppets and carefully worn sets and props. It's a wordless fever-dream of a story that nails you to your chair—even in its quietest moments, you get the feeling that something isn't quite right. Part of that unsettling feeling comes from what Chris Lavis calls the "gimmick" of digitally compositing human eyes onto the puppets, which produces a haunting effect that's difficult to ignore.

I spoke with the Clydes last Friday, just a few days before they were off to France. Madame Tutli-Putli was selected for the International Critics' Week at the Cannes film festival, and it's also slated to screen at the Annecy animation festival a few weeks after that. When we met at a local pub, they'd just finished several whirlwind days of publicity, and were recharging their batteries with a few pints before getting ready for their trip.

Clyde Henry Productions' next project is The White Circus, a feature in development at the National Film Board.

Links
Clyde Henry Productions
Madame Tutli-Putli
Marcy Page spotlight (from the July 2005 issue of fps)


Photo credit: National Film Board of Canada

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August 28, 2006








In our second podcast, I interview Canadian animator Chris Hinton, tracing the course of his animation career from the mid-1970s to the present, much of which has been through the National Film Board of Canada. Hinton's work has evolved considerably over the last thirty years, starting with the kind of cartoony style that most people identify with animation, and now leaning toward abstract explorations of music and sound. But in all cases, his work exhibits a twitchy vibrancy that's all his own. He's been nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film twice, for Blackfly (1991) and Nibbles (2003). Both films are very different in appearance and execution, but they're both distinctly Chris Hinton films.

For the last 17 years, Hinton has also been teaching animation at Concordia University here in Montreal (and, in fact, I was among his first students). In the course of this interview, we also explored his observations about today's emerging animators.

Animation Lingo
In the podcast, we make references to fields and smears. A field guide is a reference for standardized frame sizes to accommodate both the film/TV viewing area and the animation camera. The higher the field number, the larger the frame. A smear is, literally, a smear of colour in a frame that indicates something moving quickly; essentially, hand-drawn motion blur.

Film Clips
Blackfly (1991; 0:25, 1.3 MB, MPEG-1)
Watching TV (1994; 0:30, 1.5 MB, MPEG-1)
Flux (2002; 0:25; 1.3 MB, MPEG-1)
cNote (2004; 0:34, 1.7 MB, MPEG-1)

Links
Chris Hinton
Dennis Tupicoff
Blackfly
Flux
Cinémathèque québécoise
National Film Board of Canada

Credits: Photo provided by the National Film Board of Canada; podcast opening and closing audio from cNote

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