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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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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April 26, 2007
This has been kicking around on my hard drive for some time, and I was surprised to discover I hadn't posted it here before. Someone has posted an extensive collection of opening credit sequences from anime robot shows on YouTube, spanning from 1963 to 1996. The first collection starts with Tetsujin 28, the very first giant robot show, and the last collection closes out with Gaogaigar. A nice look at what hasn't changed (catchy pop songs, lots of crazy camera moves over zooming mecha) and what has (the sudden transition from black and white to colour, the creeping introduction of CGI) over the first 33 years of robot anime. Old-school anime fans can also see the original openings to Go Lion (brought over here as the five-lion Voltron), Dairugger XV (the vehicle Voltron, my favourite), Mazinger Z (Tranzor Z) and UFO Robot Grendizer (Grendizer, Goldorak and Goldrake in English, French and Italian).

Last week we kinda snuck a little note in our newsletter about a special going on at Amazon.ca right now, where several dozen anime DVDs are being sold for up to 42% off. Strangely enough, one of the discounted titles is the decidedly Danish The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Bear, which René Walling reviewed in our May 2005 issue.

From May 4–25, the Stay Gold Gallery in Brooklyn, New York is hosting the latest Too Art for TV exhibition, in which artists who have worked on such productions as Ice Age, SpongeBob SquarePants, A Scanner Darkly and Venture Bros. present their own artistic creations.

Black Entertainment Television are putting three new animated series into production: Bufu, an animated sketch comedy; Cipha, a near-future science fiction story in which young people rebel against the outlawing of hip-hop culture; and Hannibal the Conqueror, a series that aims to tell the life story of the legendary military genius. The variety of genres certainly looks promising, and the sort of thing I was hoping for when Denys Cowan signed on at the network.

New Israeli studio Animation Lab is embarking on a feature with a script by Philip LaZebnik, Alex Williams as director and Jim Ballantine as producer. Between the three of them they've worked on Mulan, Pocahontas, Open Season, Robots, Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas, Brother Bear 2 and Bambi II. The movie is called The Wild Bunch and is about "a group of genetically modified cornstalks who attack a group of common wildflowers." That's the best you guys could do? Really?

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