February 27, 2009

Since Thursday, WNET in New York has made Nina Paley's independent Flash feature Sita Sings The Blues available in its entirety online. The primary story arc is a retelling of the Ramayana from the point of view of Sita.

The film will also air on WNET on March 7 for those who want to gather around the television.

(via Mark Mayerson, Brent Smith, and Matt Forsythe.)

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February 14, 2009
We've talked before about Korea's animation boom and covered some of the great features produced there in the last few years. But features aren't the only thing to have come out of Korea in the last few years.

One of them is a series of five short Flash films released by a trio called SamBakza: There She Is!!

There's also some extra love for the great music, nods to anime magical girl transformations and to Nausicäa and some great character animation.

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December 26, 2008

In the flurry of holiday films it might be easy to miss a few. The animated feature-length documentary Waltz with Bashir opens this week theatrically in select cities, some of which include New York, Los Angeles, Montreal, Vancouver and Toronto.

While I am not a big fan of the animation style typically, in this context I think it strikes an interesting balance with the tone and subject matter of the film. The film is a meditation on war from the point of view of former Israeli soldiers from the war with Lebanon, so there is much to discuss in addition to the animation.

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July 9, 2008








Two years ago, Peruvian-born Jossie Malis produced a short animated film called Bendito Machine using Moho (now called Anime Studio). The style was silhouette animation, but not in the fantastic or whimsical vein of Lotte Reiniger or Michel Ocelet; Bendito Machine was instead a darkly funny meditation on power, corruption, greed and religion. Malis has since considered the short as the first part in a ten-part series, and I have no doubt that all seven deadly sins will be covered by the end.

This interview is our first collaboration with Directors Notes, and here MarBelle interviews Malis about his quirky creation.

Links
Zumbakamera
Bendito Machine
Directors Notes
Anime Studio 5 review

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July 8, 2008


A strange, godlike machine is overthrown and replaced by another strange, godlike machine. This is quite possibly the most disturbing-looking silhouette-style film you've seen in some time. This first part of a ten-part series is a Flicker Pick from June 2006.

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May 20, 2008


Waltz with Bashir looks like one of those films that could be simultaneously fascinating and trying. Fascinating because the Israeli autobiographical feature focuses on writer/director Ari Folman's experiences as a 19-year-old soldier in Lebanon during the early 1980s. Trying because feature-length Flash-animated films can, depending on how they're made, make your eyes bleed.

The key, of course, is the phrase "depending on how they're made." Watching the YouTube clip from the film, Waltz with Bashir might be quite watchable, and I'm always fascinated by documentaries that look at wartime through the lens of individuals rather than armies.

I am a bit irked by publicist Richard Lormand's claim in Israel21c that Waltz with Bashir is "basically the first animated documentary ever." Clearly, he hasn't read our first PDF issue, which focused on animated documentaries. And what about the more recent Persepolis, which was also autobiographical and the darling of independent animated cinema last year? It seems to me that everyone involved—including the article's writer—was so excited at the prospect of this film being a "first" that no one bothered to question the assertion. And besides, who bothers to fact-check articles on animation, anyway? Certainly not mainstream journalists.

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May 2, 2008
Toon Boom Animation, the University of Trinidad and Tobago and the Animae Caribe Festival have teamed up to launch the first Caribbean and Latin America Edition of the Toon Boom Animation Festival. As in previous editions of the festival, they're looking for short films produced in the Caribbean and Latin America using Toon Boom Studio, Digital Pro, Adobe Flash, Shockwave or similar packages. The submitted shorts must fit the theme "Bridging the Caribbean and Latin America through the Arts and Local Festivals." The top ten finalists' work will be shown at this year's Animae Caribe festival, which is being held September 25–27 in Trinidad.

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April 12, 2008


Signe Baumane dropped me a line to let me know that two of her fellow New York-based independent animators are screening the American premieres of their recent features at the upcoming Tribeca Film Festival. Nina Paley's longtime endeavour Sita Sings the Blues—which we featured in our November 2005 issue—will be showing from April 25 to May 2, while Bill Plympton's Idiots and Angels runs from April 26 to May 3. Screening times and ticket info below.

Tickets: Visit the Tribeca Film Festival site, or call 646-502-5296.

Sita Sings the Blues

Friday, April 25, 8:15 pm
AMC Village VII (AV7)
66 Third Avenue (at 11th Street)
New York, NY 10003

Sunday, April 27, 3:45 pm
AMC 19th Street East (A19)
890 Broadway (at 19th Street)
New York, NY 10003

Monday, April 28, 10:45 pm
AMC Village VII (AV7)
66 Third Avenue (at 11th Street)
New York, NY 10003

Thursday, May 1, 1:45 pm
Village East Cinemas (VEC)
181 Second Avenue (at 12th Street)
New York, NY 10003

Friday, May 2, 3:00 pm
AMC 19th Street East (A19)
890 Broadway (at 19th Street)
New York, NY 10003

Idiots and Angels

Saturday, April 26, 5:30 pm
AMC 19th Street East (A19)
890 Broadway (at 19th Street)
New York, NY 10003

Sunday, April 27, 9:30 pm
Village East Cinemas (VEC)
181 Second Avenue (at 12th Street)
New York, NY 10003

Wednesday, April 30, 11:00 pm
AMC Village VII (AV7)
66 Third Avenue (at 11th Street)
New York, NY 10003

Saturday, May 3, 8:00 pm
Village East Cinemas (VEC)
181 Second Avenue (at 12th Street)
New York, NY 10003

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April 9, 2008


So let me get this straight: According to this Washington Post article from March 30, NBC's Qubo Saturdary-morning block is offering its young viewers the "opportunity" to make shorts featuring the twins and maybe get them on the air. And this is an opportunity for who, exactly?

Here's the deal. Kids visit the Zimmer Twins site and, with parental permission, sign up to make mini-movies using their assets, either by adding speech balloons to prefab animation or making their own from scratch. The most popular of those bubble up to form the Must-See Movies list, and from those two will be chosen every month to air on Qubo. Asked about the mini-movies themselves, Qubo prez Rick Rodriguez is quoted as saying, "What I just love ... is that they tell so much about the personality of the kids who make them."

Maybe. I think what you really love is fresh and proven content without having to pay pesky writers, directors and animators.

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December 18, 2007
Since we're trotting out the fun animated holiday greetings, I decided to share this one I received from Matt Tamaru at Plexipixel. See, I'm not the Grinch everyone thinks I am.

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July 9, 2007

Thinking about global warming this summer? Animate your thoughts on the subject, and enter to win yourself a copy of Toon Boom Solo AND get screened on IAD (International Animation Day). The ASIFA (International Animated Film Association) and Toon Boom Animation Inc. announced the launch of an International Animation Contest for the Web this past week.

The contest is scheduled from July 6 until October 28, 2007. The production date for entries must be between January 1, 2007 and September 24, 2007, so get cracking! Games are not eligible, but interactive creations that run on autoplay only are acceptable.

Work can be created using Toon Boom Studio, Adobe Flash, Shockwave (.SWF), or other equivalent software packages, respecting the theme: "Global Warming" in any language. Ten movies will be chosen and submitted to a public vote. The three movies with the highest votes will be showcased online for a year, AND will be screened in different cities around the world during the evening celebrating the International Animation Celebration Day on October 28th, 2007. For more info, visit ToonBoom's contest site.

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June 29, 2007
Our pals at the Fantasia film festival have unleashed this year's lineup, and as always, animation fans are well served—but they have to do a little more work to get their fix.

Features seem a little diminished, but not so much as last year. The fest starts and ends strong—Tekkon Kinkreet is the opening film, and the Korean Yobi the Five-Tailed Fox is the last animated screening, on the second-to-last day of the festival—but those are the only two features on 35mm film. The odd-looking stopmo film We Are the Strange is in high-definition video, but the other features (the Flash-animated Minushi, Naruto the Movie: Ninja Clash in the Land of Snow and Ghost in the Shell: Solid State Society) are all projected, standard-definition video. Previous Fantasia fests prove that watching projected video can still be enjoyable, but spending four days at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema watching nothing but 35mm reminds you of the kind of difference the medium makes.

There are also two short feature documentaries that are about animation, and they're screening together. Animania is about Canadian anime fandom, which appears to focus on how the current generation of teen fans relate to anime. I've seen and heard so many reports on teen fandom I'd be inclined to give it a pass, but last year—back when the movie's focus was less on the teens—I was interviewed extensively for Animania, and I was asked some very interesting questions. I'm hoping they applied the same kind of thoughtfulness to their adolescent subjects. (And no, I'm not in the actual Animania movie, but apparently I'll appear in the DVD extras.) The other documentary is the French Ghibli et le mystère Miyazaki (Ghibli and the Mystery of Miyazaki), which needs little explaining but which is definitely a must-see, especially with interviewees like Isao Takahata, Moebius and Takashi Murakami.

Fantasia's real source of pleasure for animation fans comes from the animated shorts, but that's also its real source of pain. For years I've been preaching that animation shouldn't be ghettoized, that it should be treated like "regular" film. The problem is that Fantasia gives me just what I ask for, scattering its animated shorts among omnibus films (Ten Nights of Dreams) and over a dozen collections of shorts, only two of which are animation-specific (a best-of compilation from last year's Ottawa fest, plus the latest edition of The Outer Limits of Animation, which inexplicably includes the two-year-old, almost overexposed, not-terribly-out-there In the Rough). Miraculously, it's possible to see all of the animated shorts with only one schedule conflict: The one screening of The Outer Limits of Animation is at the same time as Watch Out! Beyond the Genres of Korean Short Films, which includes the 34-minute The Hell (Two Kinds of Life).

And really, that's the most amazing thing about Fantasia this year. They've added a third cinema to their venues, but in three weeks of screenings there appear to be fewer repeats than ever before. It's a testament to the passion of their crew that they're still going so strong.

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June 21, 2007
The coarse but visually interesting Korean film Aachi & Ssipak, based on the rudimentary Flash webisodes of the same name, will be showing at the New York Asian Film Festival on June 30 and July 4. Censored expletives are really the only international language, if you ask me.

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June 5, 2007
I have a soft spot for mythology and folk tales, especially when they're produced by individuals or small teams. Favourites include the Dust Echoes series and the films of Nick Kozis; now I can add Croatian Tales of Long Ago, produced by Helena Bulaja. Helena brought together animators from around the world to create eight Flash-animated shorts based on stories from Ivana Brlić Mažuranić's 1916 book of the same name, allowing each one to put his or her spin on it and add interactive elements. For me, the perfect matchup between story, style and interactivity was How Quest Sought the Truth by Nathan Jurevicius: the laid-back delivery, quirky style and fun but challenging (and completely optional) Flash games just clicked for me. But honestly, the whole project is a delight. You can check out segments for free on the project's website, or buy the CD-ROMs—which are chock full of extras, including the original stories—from the Web shop.

Last year, many of us in the northeast faced an enormous quandary: go to the 30th anniversary Ottawa International Animation Festival, or to the inaugural ADAPT Conference in Montreal, held the same weekend? Independent animation or the gorgeous art to be found in big-budget features? Konstantin Bronzit or Syd Mead? It was a dilemma of soul-crushing, garment-rending proportions. Fortunately, this year our spirits and outerwear are safe: the 2007 edition of ADAPT is being held immediately after Ottawa, so you could conceivably rush from one to the other. None of the master class topics have been announced as yet, but Syd Mead, Iain McCaig and Mark Goerner are already confirmed as guests.

Forgot to mention earlier that Laurie Maher and Jason Walker will be hosting the North American premiere of Madame Tutli-Putli at the Worldwide Short Film Festival in Toronto on June 13.

Coolest mug ever.

Do you create animation in SWF format? If so, you'll want to contact Adobe's Customer Research team; they're looking to collect SWF content to get an idea of what people are using the format for, so they can better support them. If you want to make sure animation is well represented, send the following to flashresearch [at] adobe.com by July 6:
  • Your SWF or a link to your project or a screenshot of the project
  • A brief description (3 to 4 sentences) describing the audience and purpose of the project
  • Descriptive tags to categorize the project's content and purpose – Use as many or as few tags as you like, and feel free to make up your own. Some examples tags are included below.
  • Percent of all your projects that are SWFs
  • Percentage of time you spend writing ActionScript
  • Percentage of time you spend using the timeline
  • Your name
  • Your job title and company
  • Your phone number (so a member of the Adobe's customer research team can contact you for a quick 15 minute phone call if they need more information)
Adobe's sweetening the deal with $50 Amazon gift certificates given out at random for 1 in every 50 submissions.

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