September 27, 2009
The first Montreal Stop Motion Film Festival will take place on October 24th and 25th. If you already have a stop motion film, you still have a few days left to submit your film. There are no submission fees (but you should read the rules first). Submit your film by September 30th!

In addition to submitting your professional, independent or academic film, you'll need to:
  • Complete the submission form.
  • Provide 2 images from the film.
  • Provide a photo of the director.
The festival is the brainchild of Erik Goulet, one of the most enthusiastic supporters of animation in the city, especially if it's pixillated or has an armature or clay in it. After a long stint at Softimage, Erik is now an instructor at Concordia University's Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema in the Film Animation program. He created the Stop Motion Award to further raise visibility of the art and technique.

(Erik has also contributed to fps in the past, interviewing Ray Harryhausen in the first online issue of fps.)

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July 20, 2009

Imagine if your TV was hijacked by aliens with a sense of humour who wanted to give you a taste of the completely bat-shit weird-o things that they saw while conducting experiments in channel surfing to better observe our planet’s strange idiosyncrasies. Rather than ask for the remote from their spiney green hands, you sit back and enjoy the show. The Razzle Dazzle Zappin’ Party show curated by Quebec-based multimedia artist DJ XL5.

Consisting of short films, music videos and animated snippets, DJ XL5's shows always entertain and never disappoint. I still have visions of the KISS video he played flashing through my head and I can’t take a shower without expecting Gene Simmons head to pop his head past my shower curtain.

As for the animation clips featured in this year’s show, they were plentiful and wild and included such treats as Canadian David Baas’ Skylight which presented the perils of global warming using a very Aardman Studios vs. Gary Larson’s Far Side approach. (Spoiler alert – global warming results in everything becoming a cooked turkey.) Lone Sausage Productions (creators of the infamous Dr. Tran) returned to this year’s festival with two new shorts: 100% Ice and The Furious Little Cinnamon Bun. Completely bonkers material folks. Watch at your own discretion!

Simon Tofield’s mischievous cat came back in the adorable TV Dinner:

Aussie Dave Carter had several of his randy and wickedly bizarre stop-motion clips from the Psychotown series featured and won many snickers and guffaws from the crowd. Other laughs were generated by Éric Lavoie’s repurposing of the printed comic book pages of Batman’s Wedding accompanied by the backdrop of the 1960’s French version of the record of the same name. (Spoiler alert #2 - Robin is very disappointed by these nuptials.)

Patrick Boivin had several stop motion clips added to the repertoire including Condoms Are Bad?

Like many of the 700 others that packed the theatre, I was shocked, amused and amazed by the hallucinatory clips that the renowned DJ XL5 mixed together and tossed out for us to enjoy. It takes true talent to evoke a wide range of feelings en masse and DJ XL5 consistently gets it right. Bravo!

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April 29, 2009
To pay homage the generous donation of former Cinematheque quebecoise director Robert Daudelin's exceptional collection of Jazz vinyl records and periodicals to the Phonotheque quebecoise, the Cinematheque will be screening some musical animation gems.

Some of the shorts, notably Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs and Tin Pan Alley Cats are controversial for what many (including myself) consider racist imagery, which was the norm for the dominant popular culture of the day. What many of these shorts also have is unparalleled animation with an incredible sountrack and unparalelled timing.

This screening also features a new 35mm print of The Greatest Man in Siam, newly acquired by the Cinematheque.

Catch it on Thursday, April 30 at 6:30 p.m., but if you miss it, you get a second chance on May 14.

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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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November 1, 2008

The Animation Show wraps up at the end of the month. If you checked the tour's website, you may think you missed the Montreal leg, but it actually began yesterday and runs until November 6th. Use the Cinema du Parc's schedule for the correct showtimes. If you missed it in your city, or saw it and liked it, stay tuned to the official website or console yourself with The Animation Show Vol. 3 DVD.

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October 22, 2008
FlutterChez Madame Poule

The National Film Board is getting an early start on World Animation Day festivities and is turning the party out well after. From October 24 to November 12, Canadians in 13 cities will be able to enjoy free screenings of the Get Animated! series to celebrate World Animation Day (October 28).

Get Animated! features one program of ten new works (including Theodor Ushev's Drux Flux and George Schwizgebel's Retouches) and a second of ten children's animation shorts (including Claude Cloutier's Sleeping Betty, and shorts from Hothouse 4 participants Carla Coma and Jody Kramer). Many of the cities will include complementary screenings and workshops in addition to these programs.

Two short are available at the event site. Just click a graphic above to view Howie Shia's Flutter (top) or Tali's At Home With Mrs. Hen.

Thanks, Matt and Jody!

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October 14, 2008

The Cinematheque Quebecoise will be screening a retrospective of George Schwizgebel's shorts on Wednesday, October 15th at 6:30 p.m with the animator present. You can also catch an exhibition of his paintings there, which runs until November 9th.

I've included a clip of Jeu, one of the films those in attendance will get to see in addition to Schwizgebel's latest film Retouches, which is among one of my favourite shorts viewed at this year's Ottawa International Animation Festival.

Previously on fps
Jeu: George Schwizgebel's Games Without Frontiers

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September 4, 2008

The Montreal chapter of ACM SIGGRAPH is holding its season opener with an open-air screening in the park next to their usual haunt, the Society for Arts and Technology. Selections from the 2008 Computer Animation Festival will be shown, and while the event is free, you can pick up your annual membership to help support the chapter.

"Doors open" on Saturday, September 6, at 9:30 at Parc de la Paix. There's more info on the SAT website.

2008 SIGGRAPH Computer Animation Festival trailer

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September 3, 2008

La cinematheque quebecoise
is screening recent Chinese animated shorts on Thursday, September 4th.

Marcel Jean is the guest programmer. I've provided a loose English translation of what he wrote on the CQ website.

Faced with feeding it numerous television stations, China has recently become, on a quantitative scale, one of the most important producers of animation in the world. Seeking to limit imported productions from Japan and Korea, Chinese officials are basically encouraging local production by creating high production quotas and encouraging the creation of major schools, equipped with cutting-edge technology, which trains thousands of animators on a yearly basis.

In comparison to this rapid development, auteur animation film are still marginalized. As a result, the Chinese presence in large-scale international animation festivals (Annecy, Zagreb, Ottawa, Hiroshima, etc.) remains weak and, seemingly, purely diplomatic. In Annecy, this summer, for example, just one Chinese film was featured in the short competition and it was... a commercial. At this point the festival organizers can claim to have presented a Chinese film...

This situation is explained by the abscence of a framework that is able to support auteur animation in China. Cette situation s’explique par l’absence de structures permettant de soutenir le cinéma d’animation d’auteur en Chine. The free market economy is effectively, the fundamental motivator governing every production, and there is no place for pure research in a cinema where creation is driven solely by a specific demand. If there is no specific demand, nothing is offered.

The sole exception to this: the schools. In this economic context, schools remain the only space where production is not totally regulated by an imperative for economic growth. Not all schools: some essentially train technicians destines to increase the industry ranks, but there are some privileged spaces where creativity has a real place: Beijing Academy, Chinese Academy of Fine Arts in Hangzhou, Nanjing Institue of the Arts, are examples.

The program of recent animated films I have devised reflect this reality. Most of the films were directed by students, others by instructors. Pan Tian Shou, for example, is the work of Joe Chang, a Canadian national that used to live in Vancouver, who now oversees animated cinema at the academy in Hangzhou. Inspired by a famous painter, Pan Tian Shou is representative of a strong undercurrent of films inspired by traditional Chinese paintaings. Two other films — Season and Butterfly et White Snake — also belong to this prolific body of films. At the same time, I tried to limit the films of this genre to provide a good amount of space to atypical films that offered a closer look at the realm of possibilities in today's Chinese schools. Save, by Anli Liu, and Tree, by Jie Lin, which include an ecoloical message that is undoubtedly stunning. Directed in 2002, Daily Diary, by Han Bo, is reminiscent of Flux, by Chris Hinton, also directed in 2002 at the NFB. Directed in 2007, The Emerald Jar, by Xi Chen, evokes that yle of Russian Igor Kovalyov. Fantasia festival fans will delight at She is Automatic, the ingenious Star Wars puppet animation parody with music from the Chinese rock group, New Pants.

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July 21, 2008

I'm all for do-it-yourself projects. Self-starters can take part in Montreal's newest film festival, M60. Participants will make a 60-second film, animated or live-action, which must be completed by August 24th, to be screened for 2 days in September.

Register at the launch party on Thursday, July 24th from 9:oo pm to midnight. The theme will be revealed during the launch. While you're there, enjoy the short sets from several bands, one of which is Ragni (including fps's newest blogger, Brenden Fletcher).

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July 16, 2008

Montreal is home to the world's largest comedy festival, Just For Laughs. The festival's annual live action and animated Eat My Shorts program begins today and continues until July 18. Among the animated offerings are John and Karen and Lapsus (pictured above) two recent shorts I enjoyed.

Space Chimps, a CG feature by the Vanguard in the UK and Starz Animation in Canada, will also be previewed tonight.

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May 28, 2008

In case you didn't know, Kino Kid and René Walling, the two longest-serving Frames Per Second co-conspirators (aside from, well, me) have both been working on Anticipation, the 67th annual World Science Fiction Convention (aka the Worldcon), which is happening right here in Montreal next year. Just this morning I got word that I can take the gag off my mouth and spread the news: this year's Guest of Honor is none other than Ralph Bakshi, one of the few people I can call a maverick without rolling my eyes. Bakshi spent close to four decades in the animation business, starting on Terrytoons productions like Mighty Mouse but ultimately making his mark with gritty urban fare like Fritz the Cat, Heavy Traffic and Coonskin along with fantasy fare like Wizards, the first Lord of the Rings feature, and Fire & Ice—and along the way worked with comics and animation legends like Frank Frazetta, Jim Steranko, Virgil Ross, and a kid named John Kricfalusi.

Many of Bakshi's films continue to cause controversy, if not heated discussion, but the best part about all of them is that they display his belief that no subject is out of bounds for animation. When I wrote the introduction to our July 2004 interview, I commented that if he ever came to Montreal the drinks would be on me. I don't know if he ever read that, but the offer still stands.

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May 14, 2008

The last time you were working on your computer and it crashed, did you do it? Smash it, I mean.

On Halloween night 2005, local artist Eric Bond celebrated in public his frustration with computer malfunction in an intensely hilarious performance piece called "Goreputer" (I was present). The performance was videotaped, but most of the footage was lost due to another type of malfunction… Human error. Bond, also an animator, did not want lose the evidence of what he did to a computer on that night. He filled in the lost footage with stop-motion. This is how in 2007, "Goreputer" the performance piece became Goreputer the animated short.

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May 6, 2008
If you're in Montreal this week, check out Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema's 35th Year End Screening at Cinema du Parc. There are 5 screenings left from this year's Film Production and Film Animation programs—2 on Tuesday, 2 on Wednesday and the Best of the Fest on Thursday night. If getting a fix of student animation is what you need, then your best bet is to attend the 7pm and 9pm screenings on Wednesday, for a total of 11 animated films. Although, I should add that a lot of the experimental films that come out of the Film Production program are as graphic and fun to watch as their animated cousins. For a full program schedule, go to Concordia's School of Cinema website and click on the text below the Super-8 camera image.

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April 5, 2008

The "To the Source of Anime" retrospective ends its run today at the Cinémathèque québécoise with a tribute to Noburo Ofuji. The "Wartime Japanese Animation" programs included propaganda cartoons that feature strikingly American character designs. I mentioned this to Akira Tochigi, the curator of the retrospective, when I interviewed him during his stay in Montreal. Mr. Tochigi spoke with enthusiasm during our lengthy interview.

Armen Boudjikanian: This retrospective does a survey of Japanese animation from 1924 to 1952. Is there any reason why there are not any films from before the 1920s?

Akira Tochigi: Actually until last year, we haven't had any surviving elements of animation from the 1910s. But a private collector found two elements of early animation from 1917 [35mm prints]. We are now doing their digital restoration. We will showcase them soon in a program highlighting recent restoration projects.

What can you tell us about the state of Japanese animation in the 1910s?

Animation was first imported to Japan between 1908 and 1910 from France [the works of Émile Cohl] and the UK. The Japanese film industry created its first major studio in 1912: Nikkatsu studio. Nikkatsu was very powerful at making and distributing its own films but also distributing foreign films. Gradually, along with its competitors, it began being interested in making animation. Pioneers of early animation found opportunities in these studios.

Around the 20s, as more animation came from abroad, especially the States, the majors lost interest in producing their own animation. Rather, [they decided to focus on] importing. They believed that American animation was much more sophisticated and more appealing to [Japanese] audiences.

But also in the 1910s, there was a heated debate in Japan about the influence of cinema on children. The portion of young audiences was big: about 30 to 40 per cent of the moviegoers. The government, academics and intellectuals were all concerned on the [effect of films] on children.

So in the early 1920s, the Japanese central government set up the policy of supporting educational films [which at the time also encompassed] animation. By this kind of categorization the government supported animation filmmaking and sometimes commissioned independent filmmakers to make animations for kid audiences. Animation became a way to safeguard children [from] the influence of cinema. And so, its quality changed at that time.

Coming to the question of governmental funding for animated films. I have noticed that films from the WWII era which are heavily funded by the government resemble Hollywood cartoons much more than earlier Japanese animation. Is there a principal cause for this?

Yes, [this is the result of the combination] of two elements. In the late 20s, early 30s, more and more American animation came to Japan: Disney, [Fleischer's] Betty Boop and Popeye, etc... Japanese animation was very quick to react to this situation by creating its own [set] of characters which originated from comic books and also from Japanese folklore such as Momotaro, monkeys, badgers, etc...

It seems that the synthesis is very well done, though. These are early cartoons but they are very well executed technically. The western influence is obvious but the Japanese elements are blended in successfully.

[The reason for] this synthesis is that in the 1940s, the Japanese government set up the Film Law which forced culture films [documentaries], educational and animation films to be shown in theatres to [large] audiences.

The law also controlled film projections, and [theatre] personnel. There was severe censorship. [Nevertheless], the field of animation became prosperous in these times because the government supported it with its law. So as the influence of American cartoons on Japanese animation continued in the 1940s, it came together with the film law and this resulted in the making of the first medium and feature-length animated films in Japan [the 1942 war film Momotaro and the Sea Eagle was Japan's first five-reel animation].

[Films from this period] used characterization that was typical of American animation. [This] is pretty ironic because these films were very much anti-American propaganda, but still [laughs] it is very apparent that their character designs and aesthetic were coming from American animation.

Coming to Momotaro and the Sea Eagle, can you talk about its cast of characters? Why is the leader of the Japanese army a young girl and why are its soldiers animals?

I think that it's a young boy, not a girl. It seems that he has a kind of femininity but it's a boy. [These characters] come from the original story of Momotaro, who was a boy character that fought the enemy [with the help] of animals.

What happened to Japanese animation between the end of WWII and the establishment of Toei Doga studio in the fifties?

This is one of the hardest ever periods for Japanese animation. There was a shortage of film stock and taxes were high. The defeat of the war finished the [governmental] support to filmmaking. There were no festivals, no theatrical exhibitions, but there were a lot of talented young artists who tried to make films on an independent basis. So when Toei started in the '50s, and TV animation in the early '60s, they [offered the young] animators a way to sort of continue making films under a well-financed situation.

Noburo Ofuji, an animation pioneer to whom you attribute a program to in this retrospective, made Burglars of Baghdad Castle in 1926. This film is very innovative. The techniques used in it foresee some of those that Japanese animators will employ later such as limiting the movement of characters. Do you see a link between Ofuji's work and some of the techniques that were used later on?

Noburo Ofuji started using chiyogami [Japanese coloured paper] as a medium of motion in the 1920s. Celluloid was very expensive in Japan and most animators were not able to use it until the middle of the 1930s. Even then Ofuji remained interested in using chiyogami.

He would cut them [drawings done on chiyogami] out, right?

Right. Ofuji continued making films in the late '50s, and in his later films, used colored cellophane—not to use celluloid [laughs]. And because of the materiality of the [cellophane] paper, [he had] to find ways to economize the motion of the characters. And this seems very associative with TV animation. As you may know, when Osamu Tezuka started the program Astro Boy, thirty minutes of animation were aired on TV weekly. It was pretty hard to make original pictures for thirty minutes amount of work per week.

The team of Tezuka Productions only animated eight pictures in a second [as opposed to 24] to sort of economize the motion of characters... So when trying to connect history to what came before it, [early] paper animation and TV animation [seem] closely related.

Also, Burglars of Baghdad Castle, like current anime, has also plenty of action.

Yes. The Baghdad film features mass action.

Yes! A lot of crowds.

[Laughs] Something like a Kurosawa movie.

How about other links between the early animations and contemporary anime? Do you see any similarities in terms of inspiration?

I think that [there] is a very clear association with contemporary anime [especially] with the work of Studio Ghibli: in Pom Poko for example, a community of creatures [raccoon dogs, or tanuki] fight against human beings. This Ghibli film is not similar in content to 1930s cartoons that have [similar] characters, but [in terms of] the idea to use creature characters to make a satire of human society, it is very closely related. Ghibli, in this sense, is a very traditional animation creator.

So what got you interested in animation?

To be honest, I didn't have a special interest in animation for a long time. Of course, as a child I was intrigued by theatrical animation—and in fact had a passion for TV animation. I [also] read comics in my elementary school [years]. When I entered college, I continued reading comics, [especially the work of] Otomo [creator of Akira]. He was popular with the college crowd not only because of his aesthetics but also because of his handling of contemporary issues.

At this time, my interest in animation was not so much special. [However], when I started working for the Film Archives several years ago, I found many animations in their collection [from the past]. When I watched these films, I was struck by their power and complexity. Of course most were for kid audiences; but from a contemporary perspective, I found out about the [ability] of animation to deal with fantasy, illusion and delusion in many different ways. It seems to me that because these early animators worked mostly independently [their only support came from the government], their individualities and sense of art as filmmakers is apparent in their films; [whether] they worked on mainstream films or in alternative cinema.

[And since] I was struck by experimental cinema in college, including [laughs] Norman McLaren...

Of Course! [laughter]

[Continues laughing] So... Because of this intrigue, my connection with these animated films [felt] natural. And of course as an archivist, I was interested in the history of animation cinema.

There is going to be a retrospective of Canadian and Québécois animation in Tokyo in 2009. Is there an interest in Canadian animation in Japan right now?

Yes, definitely. Next year's exhibition of Canadian and Québécois animation will be programmed by [Marco de Blois of the Cinémathèque québécoise]. We like to leave him to make the final decisions for that [exhibition], as I did for this one.

The staff members of our institution [the National Film Center in Tokyo] are very eager for [this] program because when Norman McLaren was first introduced in Japan in the late '50s, many young artists were so surprised by his films: they were experimental and personal expressions of ideas and feeling through the medium of animation. Most of the Japanese audiences at the time thought animation would [only] be kid entertainment.

That's something that's common in many countries.

Right... And in the late '50s, early '60s, the word "animation" was first introduced in Japan.
Before then, we used the word "manga" film, not animation. But the exhibition that introduced McLaren's work was called "animation film screening". [This] means that the term animation was related not to Disney type of animation but to experimental film and personal film... So this context of Canadian animation has a special [significance] in Japan: it is a kind of individual expression.

Which filmmaker from the "To the Source of Anime" retrospective is of special interest to you as a researcher?

When I was watching the films of this retrospective again and again, the films of Masaoka Kenzo struck me so much [in terms] of aesthetic, ideas and technique.

The Spider and the Tulip is very well directed and animated, could you talk about the artist and how he got into animation?

[Kenzo] had a unique background; he came from a very rich family from Kyoto. He studied western painting in college. Then he joined a major film studio as an actor. He then made his first film, a documentary. [It is only afterwards] that he moved to animation.

Because he came from a prosperous family, and because of his movie studio contacts; he did not rely on [external] funding to make his films. He was exceptionally able to have his films exhibited in theatres, even his first film. Also, because of this, he did not care about targeting his films to children. He wanted to show his films to regular audiences. He often created in his own small studio. He [also coined] the Japanese term doga which means "animated images" in English.

He [did this to be able] to cover all aspects of animation: from puppet to silhouette animation, [whether designed] for children or not. He wanted to value animation as an art for everybody.

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February 26, 2008

Starting with the 1940s films that will be shown within the two wartime programs, state funding (and control) of animation production began in Japan. Films from this period are the ones that resemble classic Hollywood cel animation the most. Momotaro, The Sea Eagle, shown under "Wartime Japanese Animation 1", is Japan's first five-reel animation (33 minutes). The Ministry of Navy commissioned this film to celebrate Japan's successful attack on Pearl Harbor. The visuals of this cartoon will seem familiar to the contemporary viewer (anthropomorphic animals cast as Japanese soldiers) though the totality of its style remains ominous: the lieutenant or leader of the soldiers is a human girl, and the Americans are represented by Fleischer Brothers-style humanoids. The character animation is quite developed, with appropriate usage of stretch and squash, while the mechanical animation of airplanes and boats and the animation of the water is top-notch.

Though Momotaro, The Sea Eagle is evidently racist—American soldiers are treated as incompetent and oafish—the level of animated fantasy is what stands out the most in this cartoon. The actual attack is not shown for very long; two thirds of the film sympathetically shows Japanese soldiers getting ready for battle and returning from it. There is delightful humour in these scenes: a monkey soldier makes fun of his rabbit trooper buddy who can't put his bandana on because of his long ears. When the squadron flies to Pearl Harbor, a monkey pilot stumbles upon a lost baby bird. He interrupts his mission to find the baby's mother.

If you are looking for more wartime and propaganda cartoons, you are in for a treat:
Village Animals Fight Against Espionage and Village Animals Fight for Air Defense are the Japanese equivalent to Warner Bros.' Private Snafu army shorts and the likes. These two cartoons, alongside four others, will be shown under "Animation Meets Propaganda".

After Japan's loss in WWII, the government's contribution to animation production declined and filmmaking became a tough challenge for independents and small studios. The films from this era are grouped under "Japanese Animation During the Occupation" I and II. Thematically, these films seem to deal with Japan's traditions. One is called Torachan and the Bride, a nine-minute film promoting freedom of choice in marriage.

The most striking common feature of these early Japanese animations is the clarity of their storytelling. There are probably many reasons why these films can be easily followed: the subtitling is an obvious one. The abundance of onscreen action is another. However, a solid grasp of what cinema can do by the filmmaker is what I'd bet my money on. In the films that I saw, there were practically no shots or actions that I found boring, tedious or distracting (even when the animation quality was not that great.) This is noteworthy: Japanese animators knew what they were doing from the beginning. It is often said that non-Hollywood animation blossomed after the 1950s—and this is true for Japanese studio animation as well—but what these early Japanese animators accomplished with low budgets and often working independently is proof that animation filmmaking does not necessarily require a long assembly chain. If you attend this retrospective you will agree that ingenuity can impress and entertain all by itself.

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There is a lot to be discovered at the retrospective To the Source of Anime: Japanese Animation (1924-1952) taking place at the Cinémathèque québécoise from February 27 to April 5. This huge undertaking of ten programs and a lecture by the retrospective's curator Akira Tochigi is a collaboration between the Cinémathèque québécoise and the National Film Center/National Museum of Tokyo.

With 53 films comprising this five week long retrospective (51 of which will be shown on 35mm), anyone interested in anime, film history, wartime cartoons, and independent animation will discover the achievements of pre-major studio Japanese animation: landmark films that came before Astro Boy, Akira or Sprited Away. The ten 70 min programs are divided by themes ranging from "Early talkies" to "Animation meets propaganda". There are also programs attributed to directors Shigeji Ogino—a modernist and master in experimental animation—and Noburo Ofuji, a pioneer who, as I will get into later, was forging the anime style 1920s. Based on the films I saw by these directors at the press screening, I highly recommend both tribute programs.

The earliest films of the retrospective are grouped under "The dawn of Japanese animation" program. These silent films will be accompanied by Gabriel Thibaudeau on piano. There are two "Early talkies" programs: "Selected works 1" contains a 7 min short from 1931 that feels as fresh as a film made in the last couple of years. Synchronised to a song originally played on SP record (78 rpm), A Day in the Life of Chameko joyfully illustrates the life of a schoolgirl. We see her do all the mundane things such as getting up, getting dressed and eating before going to school as she explains things in operetta. This short works as comically as the musical moments of The Simpsons and Persepolis do.

For more early animation, check the "Tribute to Noburo Ofuji" program. Ofuji was a true animation innovator. A technique he employed is animating chiyogami (Japanese colored paper) cut-outs. His first ever usage of chiyogami is in Thieves of Baghdad, a masterpiece from 1926. The accomplishments of this short can not only be seen in recent cut-out or "cut-out style" digital films but also in contemporary anime. Its two aspects that struck me foremost are the sophisticated personality animation and the elaborate staging and camerawork. All of the characters that populate this short have distinct movement: Dangobei the protagonist, the princess, the elderly lady and the clan of warriors all move convincingly according to their designs. This is particularly difficult to achieve in cut-out animation, since its reliance on pre-planned action is limited. This method of working contributed to the creation of many styles, including anime. An aspect of anime is its segmentation of the human anatomy in order to animate only parts of it: i.e., treating the drawing of a figure as pieces of cut-outs.

Another attribute of Thieves of Baghdad that can be seen in recent anime and digital cut-out style cartoons (or Flash cartoons) is its rendering of depth through strictly 2D methods. In the strictest sense, this means not drawing space in perspective; instead using a medieval style of representation: the top of the screen is the background, while the bottom, the foreground. In this type of scenario—which is typical of traditional cut-out films—depth becomes symbolic and not actually perceived by the viewer. However, as early as 1926, Ofuji was able to make depth in cut-out scenes come close to cinematic quality by animating elements in the foreground (the bottom of the screen) and the background at different speeds.

Madame Butterfly's Fantasy, based on Puccini's opera, is in "Early Talkies: Selected Shorts 2". This short, like A Day in the Life of Chamenko, has aged beautifully. It looks gorgeous and the sensibilities of its makers are heartfelt. The relationship between Madame Butterfly and her lover is shown beautifully with shadow-like figures. Silhouette animation technique is employed to lyricize the love story that was not meant to be.

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February 18, 2008
La Cinematheque Quebecoise is hosting the largest retrospective of early Japanese animation to ever take place outside of Japan. Just last week that distinction went to the Japan Society's selection of films.

From February 27 to April 5, the special Montreal screenings of Japanese animation from 1924 to 1952 will feature 53 films in 16mm and 35mm, including one feature - Japan's first - Momotaru, The God Soldier of the Seas. National Film Center/Museum of Modern Art of Tokyo curator Akira Tochigi will be in town to inaugurate the event and will lead a conference on February 29 on early Japanese animation.

A full schedule is available on the CQ website (French only), and Facebook, with a sampling of the shorts. As of this week, a bilingual (French and English) program for the retrospective is available at the Cinematheque.

Previously on fps
Japanese Anime Classic Collection review
Podcast 11: Our Baseball Match (1931)

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January 16, 2008
Montreal's Cinematheque Quebecoise is screening two modern anime favourites this month. Today, they are showing Akira, and next week Thursday, they offer the opportunity to see Princess Mononoke on the big screen.

Princess Mononoke was overlooked for an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 1997. It seems like the pattern has been repeated this year. Check out this Cartoon Brew post about this year's snub of Persepolis.

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Friday and Saturday, January 25 and 26 at McGill University in Montreal, Thomas Lamarre will be hosting a workshop on shoujo anime and manga. Academic papers on gender, genre, and culture will be presented by the likes of Frenchy Lunning, Toshiya Ueno, and Ian Condry. I will attend and cover the event for fps. There is no charge to attend. For more information, contact Thomas Lamarre.

Here is a prospective list of papers:

Session 1: 11:30 – 14:00

Anne McKnight, USC. ‘Subcultures and Frenchness’

Brian Bergstrom, McGill. ‘Girliness is Next to Godliness: The Girl as Sacred Criminal in Kurahashi Yumiko’s ‘Seishôjo’

Frenchy Lunning, University of Minnesota. ‘Under the Ruffles: Shojo and the Morphology of Abjection’

Session 2: 15:00 – 16:30

Saitô Satomi, McGill. ‘Genre Convergence in the Digital Age: Shojo manga, sekai-kei, and Shinkai Makoto’

Emily Raine, McGill. ‘Kawaii and Capital in t.o.L’s Tamala 2010: A Punk Cat in Space’

Ian Condry, MIT. ‘Future Anime: Girls and Boys who Leap through Time’

Session 3: 17:00 – 18:30

Livia Monnet, UdM. ‘The Anatomy of Permutational Desire: Perversion and the Artificial Girl in Contemporary Japanese Animation’

Tom Looser, NYU. ‘The Utopic Matter of Women’


Session 4: 9:30-11:30

Toshiya Ueno, Wako University. ‘Matriarchy and Criticism in Japan’

Yukiko Hanawa, NYU. ‘Camouflage Time’

Tom Lamarre, McGill. ‘Nature Girls and Culture Times’

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January 5, 2008
2007 wasn't too bad as far as animation coverage was concerned in the local arts weeklies in fps's hometown of Montreal. The Montreal Mirror, Hour and Ici reserved the cover for the opening of Paprika, Tekkon Kinkreet, Lucky Luke and even the homecoming of an animated short, the worthy Madame Tutli-Putli.

So how do you beat that?

The first week of 2008 features Persepolis creator Marjane Satrapi and co-direct Vincent Paronnaud on the cover of Hour looking hipper-than-thou (I actually passed the stacks a few times around the city until I took a closer look and realized Satrapi was on the cover). The article does neglect to mention that the features, of which we're fans, begins its general run January 11.

If that wasn't enough, the Montreal Mirror's annual Noisemakers issue compiling 30 influential local artistic forces features an animator as a 2008 noisemaker! Marie-Josee Saint-Pierre's animated documentary McLaren's Negatives is highlighted as well as an upcoming animated documentary she is working on.

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December 4, 2007
Norman's Montreal run begins this week. It's been getting excellent reviews in Canada, and the Montreal run will be at one of the city's best live venues, Place des Arts.

Click the graphic to enlarge for location and ticket information.

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November 21, 2007
(click image for complete schedule.)

UPDATE: There is a misprint on page 2 of the program. Saturday screenings are as follows: Program 2 at 5:oo p.m., Program 1 at 7:00 p.m.

The Montreal stop of the annual Sommets du Cinema d'Animation will be at the Cinematheque Quebecoise on Friday, November 23 and Saturday, November 24. Over two days, Montrealers can see some of the best animation shorts in recent memory, from the haunting Madame Tutli-Putli, the harrowing Milk Teeth, to the laugh-out-loud funny Cold Calling. And that's just Friday Program 1 (both programs are showing on both days). Almost every short in both lineups is a Quebec premiere.

It all begins on Friday at 5:00 p.m. with the launch of the Isabelle au Bois Dormant/Sleeping Betty exhibit featuring the latest work of Claude Cloutier.

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November 12, 2007
This Wednesday, November 14, at 6:00 p.m., the Montreal chapter of ACM SIGGRAPH is screening the 2007 Electronic Theatre at the SAT. Admission is free and so is the popcorn!

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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.


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


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


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

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

2 p.m. Animate It! workshop for youth

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


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

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October 24, 2007
The Cinematheque Quebecoise focuses on German animation this week. Filmfest Dresden Presents New German Animation screens on Thursday, October 25 at 6:30 p.m., and repeats on Friday at 4:00 p.m.

Our Man in Nirvana Jan Koester
Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Hazen & Mr. Horlocker Stefan Müller
Delivery Till Nowak (attending)
Close Your Eyes and Do Not Breathe Vuk Jevremovic
Lovesick Speka Cadez
Bildfenster/Fensterbilder Bert Gottschalk
The Tell-Tale Heart (Der Verrückte, das Herz und das Auge) Annette Jung
Diary of a Perfect Love (Tagebuch einer perfekten Liebe) Sebastien Peterson

As part of its World Animation Day events on Sunday, October 28th, Hints of Excellence: Classics of the DEFA screens for free.

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October 22, 2007
If you live in the greater Montreal area and are curious about what films are being made in other parts of the world, here's your chance to see something a bit off the beaten path.

Thanks to Atopia, we're going to select 5 names randomly for a pair of tickets to see Montreal's premiere of The District at Cinéma du Parc, this Friday, October 26, at 9:30 p.m.

Act quickly, this contest closes on Wednesday, October 24th at 11:59 p.m. Enter now!

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October 19, 2007
I passed by the Drawn and Quarterly bookstore this evening just before their grand opening event and I had to hold onto my wallet for dear life. Drawn and Quarterly began life in the early 1990s as an alternative comics anthology of original and utmost quality, then came the comic book series, and graphic novels that were varied and, may I say in the best possible way, designy. The sense of design that all of the various artists had, in addition to unique styles and great storytelling, set the D+Q selection apart from many of the titles out there, and also, I think, gave courage to many artists and publishers to consider the quality and scope of what could be printed and how it could be told.

Drawn and Quarterly's artists Adrian Tomine, Joe Matt, Chester Brown, Seth, Gary Panter (of Pee Wee's Playhouse) and others offer visuals and stories that surely are fodder for the animator's imagination. [EDIT: I don't just speculate: I forgot that Clyde Henry Productions are creating a live-action/animated film adaptation of Chester Brown's surreal Ed the Happy Clown.] The store does not stop at stocking only their impressive list of titles. Classic graphic novels, like Maus and Love and Rockets, and hidden gems abound.

The more overt animation related selection included titles like John Canemaker's Winsor McCay, as well as McCay reprints, and Nine Lives to Live: A Felix Celebration by Otto Messmer.

Copies of Bone were also available, which I've already mentioned for its appeal to animators and animation fans. The Lute String by Jim Woodring and D+Q's translated Complete Moomin by Tove Jansson (which I happily purchased) also break down the boundaries between comics and animation. Both artists' work directly inspired multiple animated adaptations and often in a different parts of the world than where it was originally created, expanding the stories' reach.

Drawn & Quarterly Bookstore
211 Bernard, Montreal

If you're just getting started, my D+Q recommendations:
Optic Nerve by Adrian Tomine
Jar of Fools by Jason Lutes
The Fixer by Joe Sacco
Louis Riel by Chester Brown

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Atopia has acquired North American rights to The District (Nyocker!), the 2005 Hungarian feature by Aron Gauder. The film screens in Montreal beginning Friday, October 26th at the Cinema du Parc for a two-week run. The film will then show at Boston's Brattle Theatre, Austin's Alamo Drafthouse Cinema beginning November 16 for a week, Winnipeg's Cinematheque from November 26 to 28, and Cleveland's CIA Cinematheque in late January.

In Fall 2005, I had the pleasure of seeing it at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and Matt Forsythe saw it a several weeks later at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema. It sported bold visuals, an infectious hip-hop soundtrack, and starred a motley group of teenagers from the streets of Budapest. Gauder did not shy away from any subject and touched on many, including sex, ethnic differences, politics, and time travel, just to name a few.

The District's satire is raw, strange and very funny, and you never know where the story is going to lead you, and that is all part of the experience. Some films try to be too many things at once, but the film's break-neck pace and unpredictability are definitely a part of its charm.

Over the last two years, fps contributors joined the chorus of voices that have noted the film's irreverent style and storytelling. It continued to be a hit a festivals and many people wondered why more films that broke the mold weren't available to a wider audience. If you didn't have a chance to see The District, here's your chance.

Hopefully, the continued successes of non-formulaic international animated features like The District will open up the theatrical market to innovative animated features that are not afraid to tell new stories, with distinctive visual styles.

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October 12, 2007
Le Festival du Nouveau Cinéma is known for its wolf that adorns its publicity materials. The fest has a track called Les P'tits Loups or, in English, Little Wolves, with programming geared towards children, and only two shorts in that entire track are live-action. The selections will definitely be of interest to parents and guardians, and honestly, I think if you left the kids at home you might not notice.

The track begins on the morning of Saturday, October 13 with U, a feature from France that appears to be a fairy tale on the outside and is a coming of age story underneath it all, despite the unicorn and the castle. It deals with concepts of love and adolescence in a very disarming fashion.

Sunday, October 14 features an hour's worth of Komaneko: The Curious Cat shorts. I can't recommend this highly enough. Our heroine is the ultimate do-it-yourselfer and amateur auteur. This little stop-mo cat creates her own stop-motion shorts, makes her own props, sets and puppets, and can be found outside filming her surroundings. One of her partners in crime is a little cat who builds robots and fixes mechanical objects.
Kids take away a great lesson, and the shorts, although suitable for children as young as 3, can entertain someone in their 50s just as easily. The shorts are well-crafted, include engaging characters and they have a simple, but coherent story. In Japan, it is distributed by Geneon Entertainment. It's too bad that they'll no longer be distributing DVDs in North America. I hope that someone else distributes them here. For now, you can get them at Yesasia.

For a more diverse selection, Sunday, October 21 features the various shorts, mostly animated, including the hilarious Isabelle au Bois Dormant/Sleeping Betty from Claude Cloutier at the NFB. If the festival's selection doesn't get local kids interested in film and animation, I'm not sure what will.

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October 10, 2007
Since Persepolis and Madame Tutli-Putli each screened at Cannes and won awards this year in May, they have appeared at animation and mainstream film festivals to acclaim. Montrealers can now finally see both films by attending the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma, which begins today.

Animation seems to have taken on a more important role in the festival with more shorts than ever. However, a few might slip through the cracks if you aren't careful. The visceral Face lies in wait in Competition 1, on Thursday, October 11 and Wednesday, October 17th. Madame Tutli-Putli is showing during Competition 2 this Friday, October 12 and Tuesday, October 16. Selina Cobley's Crow Moon screens in Competition 3 next week on the 17th and 18th.

The National Film Board of Canada Stereo Lab is screening four stereoscopic shorts, which 2004 OIAF attendees might have seen, but this screening includes the premiere of a stereoscopic version of Theodor Ushev's phenomenal Tower Bawher.

Previously on fps
Festival du Nouveau Cinéma coverage
Persepolis coverage
Two Podcasts for Madame Tutli-Putli

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October 5, 2007
If you're in Montreal, before you go to the Poetry in Motion screening tomorrow, you may want to drop in at the National Film Board's Cinérobotheque, less than a 5 minute walk away. As part of a weekend of screenings of short programmes from this year's Fantasia festival, the Outer Limits of Animation Program will be screening at 3:00 p.m. The program repeats on Sunday at 5:00 p.m.

For nearly two hours, you will be able to see shorts selected by North America's premiere cult film festival for just $7 (less if you're a student).

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October 2, 2007
Didn't go to Ottawa this year? Even if you went, you might not have been able to see the special screenings on poetry and animation, Poetry in Motion. If you live in Montreal, you can see both programs this week on Thursday and Saturday at the Cinémathèque Québécoise. The programmer is the National Film Board producer and author Marcel Jean, and he has selected shorts that span decades and geographical boundaries (although the first screening is half Canadian, including Québécois, in its content).

From Words to Images
Thursday, October 4, 6:30 p.m.
Primiti Too Taa, Ed Akerman, Colin Morton
Essere morti o essere vivi è la stessa cosa, Gianluigi Toccafondo
Forgetfulness, Julian Grey
Rain, Michael Sewnarain
Espolio, Sidney Goldsmith
Aloud/Bagatelle, Don McWilliams
6 haïku, Éric Ledune
A Said Poem, Veronika Soul
Tengo la posizione, Simone Massi
The Old Fools, Ruth Lingford
Poetry is Child’s Play, Bouwine Pool
Sandburg’s Arithmetic, Lynn Smith
Tread Softly, Heebok Lee
At the Quinte Hotel, Bruce Alcock (click the image above for an excerpt.)

The Film as Poetry Itself
Saturday, October 6, 5:00 p.m.
Accordion, Michèle Cournoyer
Stones (Sten), Lejf Marcussen
Beginnings, Clorinda Warny, Suzanne Gervais, Lina Gagnon
As people, Ursula Ferrara
Kaiten Mokuba, Thomas Hicks
9 in a Chimney 10 in a Bed or Hates A Strong Word, Jean-Jacques Villard
Renaissance, Walerian Borowczyk
Night on Bald Mountain, Alexandre Alexeïeff, Claire Parker
Grace, Lorelei Pepi
Mr. Pascal, Alison de Vere
Repete, Michaela Pavlátová

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September 26, 2007
Award-winning French animator Florence Miailhe will be giving a master class this Thursday, September 27th, at the Cinémathèque Québécoise at 3 p.m. Miailhe works in-camera with oil paint, pastel and sand to create rich imagery in films such as Conte de quartier, which is a Films de l'Arlequin and National Film Board of Canada production.

Thanks to the generosity of the NFB and Antitube, she will be in Montreal and on Friday in Quebec City at the Museum of Civilisation to meet with the public. Both events are free!

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September 25, 2007
The Halo phenomenon continued unabated with today's release of Bungie Studios' Halo 3. I think it is inarguable that the most viewed animation today was seen by the countless fans who lined up to buy the Xbox 360 game and who ran home early or even took the day off (you know who you are) to play. The 20 minutes of cinematics in the game were completed by animators at the Montreal animation and effects house DamnFx. It's refreshing that their team has not been shy about their enthusiasm for being able to work on the character animation, something people tend not to think of when considering CG or in-game animation. The creators who will also have a presence at this year's ADAPT conference, including a special presentation by Bungie Studios' lead producer and cinematics director on the animation contribution to Halo 3 on Thursday, September 27.

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September 24, 2007
Wrapping up Norman McLaren's retrospective world tour, the NFB pairs up with the Montreal Symphony to present a special hybrid performance of music and cinema.

Next week in Montreal, the symphony will play musical accompaniment to four of the animator's greatest works; Blinkity Blank, Love on the Wing, Neighbours/Voisins and Hell Unlimited.

The richness of full symphonic sound will no doubt offer a fitting complement to the large screen presentation of McLaren's animation genius. The evening performance comes first (October 2), followed by the matinee (October 3), which sounds like a great idea for a class field trip to me. For school group reservations, call the MSO at 514-842-3402.

What: The Air Canada Words and Music Concerts series
When: Tuesday, October 2, 2007 at 8:00 p.m.
Where: Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts, Montreal
Kent Nagano, conductor
Gabriel Thibaudeau, pianist

What: The Symphonic Matinees series
When: Wednesday, October 3, 2007 at 10:30 a.m.
Where: Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier at Place des Arts, Montreal
Kent Nagano, conductor
John Zirbel, OSM principal horn
Gabriel Thibaudeau, pianist

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September 21, 2007
(click to enlarge.)

The single largest digital animation-related event in Montreal this year is the ADAPT conference, which began last year with a bang. The conference (Monday, September 24 to Friday, September 28) focuses on digital art production techniques, including animation and game development. Some highlights this year include keynote speaker Phil Tippett, returning guest Syd Mead, and speakers from Pixar, Sony Imageworks, Dreamworks and Industrial Light and Magic, among others.

Those looking for work in concept design and animation will want to attend the ADAPT job fair and master classes.

If you're in Ottawa this year for the Ottawa International Animation Festival, you can get a reciprocal discount for each event. Check their sites for details.

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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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