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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December 11, 2008

Madeline and Brenden have shown quite a bit of love on behalf of fps for Mamoru Oshii's Sky Crawlers (Read Madeline's review from the September TIFF screening).

The film has been showing in Los Angeles since last week (the last screening is today) at the Los Feliz 3 in order to qualify for Oscar eligibility, and will screen at the Lincoln Center in New York twice on Friday, December 12.

If you are lucky enough to be in either city to see it, let me know what you think of the film!

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November 12, 2008
One of the good things about anime conventions is that they provide opportunities for fans to hear from industry professionals about what's new, and what directions various influential companies might take. For example, Erin Finnegan's excellent coverage of a NYAF panel with representatives from Bandai and FUNimation. The talk was candid:

Funimation rep Adam Sheehan says, “Our sales have gone up in the last couple of years. We’ve been lucky to get quality shows.” Funimation has been doing 13-episode sets of One Piece for hardcore fans. “One Piece is the most illegally downloaded series in the world” Sheehan says. “If just 1% of those people bought a DVD it would increase our sales tenfold.”

This news is disappointing for two reasons.

  1. It means that, as Chris MacDonald from the Anime News Network says, “It’s not exclusively a DVD industry… DVD sales of Naruto are inconsequential. Viz doesn’t give a damn... They only care about licensing. Boxed Home media is never going to be as big as it was in the ’90’s again.”
  2. One Piece? Seriously?

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October 17, 2008

Michel Ocelot's Azur and Asmar had its US premiere tonight at the New York International Children's Film Festival, starting a five day run of the film at the IFC Center in Manhattan.

Ocelot, best known for his well-received previous film, Kiriku and the Sorceress, has created an engrossing fable with Azur, a film that links themes of racial and cultural barriers, immigration, prejudice and superstition with a resplendently rendered fairy tale.

Azur's art is both elegant and exotic; its characters navigate the film's Arabian setting as if Ocelot cut paper dolls from the pages of illuminated manuscripts of the Islamic Golden Age and brought them to life.

Complementing the film’s visual feast is a skillfully woven tale of two boys, one Caucasian (Azur), one Arab (Asmar), raised as brothers by Asmar’s mother, who regales the pair with tales of faraway lands and a fairy Djinn, who waits for a hero to free her from captivity. Azur is separated from Asmar and his mother, only to find himself in their company years later in an unfamiliar country where the fairy tales he heard as a youth unfold in waves of enchanting encounters, engaging characters and rich landscapes.

Azur and Azmar will be screened October 17 through 23 at the IFC Center in Manhattan.

Previously on fps
Azur and Asmar at Ex-Centris

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July 21, 2008

The 2008 Animation Block Party begins on Friday, July 25 and continues until Sunday, July 27. If you're near Brooklyn you can catch three different programs of animated shorts. Friday's program will be screened outdoors at Rooftop Films and the remaining programs, played twice each day, can be seen at the BAMcinematek. Not only do you get to see tons of shorts, the event lives up to its name with beer and live music every night. Party on!

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July 8, 2008

The audience of the Monday screening of Fear(s) of the Dark was treated to a bonus before things got rolling: Hot Dog, the third in a series of shorts by independent New York animator, Bill Plympton. Many know Bill Plympton's name, but those who don't will immediately recognize his trademark style in the clip shown here. Only a portion of the short is in the clip, and gets much funnier as it moves from one stage to the next.

His current feature, Idiots and Angels, seems distinctly different in tone. In Plympton's words:

The look of the film is very Eastern European - something like what Jan Svankmayer might make, or David Lynch if he made animation - very dark and surreal.

Fear(s) of the Dark will replay again tomorrow at the Fantasia festival, but without Hot Dog preceding it. Later in the day, Plympton will present the Canadian premiere of Idiots and Angels, and continuing the festival's spotlight on Animated Auteur Visions.

Previously on fps
2008 Fantasia Festival Animation
Review: Plymptoons: The Complete Early Works of Bill Plympton

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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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February 12, 2008
From February 12 to 16, the Japan Society in New York City will be hosting six screenings featuring a total of 38 early Japanese animation shorts. Each screening's shorts will be followed by a silent live-action feature film, and benshi narration for silent films will be performed by Midori Sawato. Most of the animation featured can be found on Digital Meme's Japanese Anime Classic Collection DVD set, with rare shorts dating from 1928 to 1950.

Previously on fps
Japanese Anime Classic Collection review
Podcast 11: Our Baseball Match (1931)
Podcast 12: Interview with Digital Meme CEO Larry Greenberg

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

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

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November 4, 2007
Got plans this coming weekend? If you're in New York, make sure to swing by the Museum of Modern Art, which is going to be showcasing the work of Michael Sporn from Friday to Monday. Friday and Saturday will feature fourteen of his shorts from 1984 to the present (they'll all have second screenings on Saturday and Sunday); Monday night features a discussion between Sporn, fellow New York independent animator John Canemaker, and MoMA assistant curator Joshua Siegel, plus a screening of Sporn's commercial work and a preview of his current feature. Each program is about 90 minutes.

Friday, November 9, 6:30; Repeated Saturday, November 10, 1:30
Program 1: New York Stories

Mona Mon Amour (2001)
Champagne (1996)
The Man Who Walked Between the Towers (2005)
Lyle, Lyle Crocodile (1987)
The Little Match Girl (1991)

Saturday, November 10, 3:30; Repeated Sunday, November 11, 2:45
Program 2: Fables

Doctor DeSoto (1984)
Abel's Island (1988)
The Red Shoes (1990)
The Hunting of the Snark (1989)

Saturday, November 10, 5:30; Repeated Sunday, November 11, 4:45
Program 3: A Peaceable Kingdom

Goodnight Moon (1999)
The Marzipan Pig (1990)
The Amazing Bone (1985)
Ira Sleeps Over (1992)
The Story of the Dancing Frog (1989)

Monday, November 12, 7:00
An Evening with Michael Sporn

Previously reviewed on fps: The Films of Michael Sporn, Vols. 1 & 2

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October 25, 2007
New Yorkers have four opportunities to catch a screening of 11 Croatian animated shorts between Saturday, October 27 and Wednesday, November 14. Light Drawings: The Zagreb School of Animation is part of the Beyond Boundaries: The Emergence of Croatian Cinema series at the Film Society of Lincoln Center, which begins tomorrow.

The Loner, Vatroslav Mimica, 1958; 12m
Concerto for a Sub-machine Gun, Dusan Vukotic, 1958; 14m
The Inspector Is Back! Vatroslav Mimica, 1959; 11m
The Piece of Shagreen Leather, Vlado Kristl, 1960; 10m
Don Quixote, Vlado Kristl, 1961; 11m
The Substitute, Dusan Vukotic, 1961; 10m
The Wall,Ante Zaninovic, 1965; 3m
Curiosity , Borivoj Dovnikovic-Bordo, 1966, 8m
Revelry, Zlatko Bourek, 1966; 9m
Passing Days, Nedeljko Dragic, 1969, 10m
Satiemania, Zdenko Gasparovic, 1978, 14m

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May 2, 2007
Last week was only a warm-up: May is a busy animation month at the Cinematheque Quebecoise. Things get underway Thursday, May 3, with a selection of Animation Classics of the 1980s. Each of the six films would make it worth seeing an entire program of animation shorts.

Tale of Tales
, Yuri Norstein
Tyll the Giant, Rein Raamat
The Cat Came Back, Cordell Barker
Rectangles & Rectangles & Rectangle, René Jodoin
Do Pivnice (Down in the Cellar), Jan Svankmajer
Jumping, Osamu Tezuka

May 10

On the eve of her retirement, a secret program of 10 films has been prepared for Hélène Tanguay (Marketing Manager for the NFB's English Animation Studio) by a team of employees at the CQ and the National Film Board. Details to come.

May 17, May 18, May 20, May 24, May 25, May 31, June 1, June 7

New York independent animator Bill Plympton graces the city once again with his presence. Yes, his films will be showing right until June!

May 17 is a special workshop with Bill Plympton. He will discuss his career as an animator, do an drawing demonstration and explain how directors can make a living working on short films. On May 18, there will be a screening of his shorts from 1977-1994 (in the presence of the director), and May 19, watch the balance of shorts from 1994 to the present. The next four screenings will be devoted to his features, The Tune, I Married a Strange Person!, Mutant Aliens, and Hair High.

If I died from an overdose, this is the way I'd want to go out.

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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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April 2, 2007
Norwalk, CT, April 1, 2007: Fans of anime and manga may now look forward to a brand new annual festival celebrating the very best of Japanese popular culture launching later this year in New York City. Reed Exhibitions, the organizer of New York Comic Con, has today announced the creation of the New York Anime Festival (NYAF) which will take place December 7-9, 2007 at the Jacob K. Javits Center in midtown Manhattan. "New York finally has an anime event of its own!" proclaims John McGeary, Show Manager for NYAF. Show planners note that the new event will be an extravaganza featuring the latest in anime, manga, Japanese cinema, music, and games, and the best of anime-influenced comics, animation, and film from around the world.

Show staff also note that by being in New York City, NYAF will allow exhibitors to interact with one of the largest anime fan bases in the country and at the same time garner tremendous exposure by being in the media capital of the world.

"We are using our experience at New York Comic Con as our springboard," McGeary states. "We will continue to have strong anime programming at NYCC, but at the same time, we want to serve the anime community directly by giving them their own show. Anime has taken the nation by storm, and the professional and fan community in New York is looking for more. We want to give them as much as possible." By bringing professionals together with fans, convention organizers seek to create a productive and energized atmosphere that is modeled on NYCC. The professional element at NYAF will include book buyers, video retailers, libraries, booksellers, and other assorted industry professionals.

The festival will span the complete breadth of anime pop culture including exclusive and extensive screenings, a gala cosplay masquerade, and sessions with the biggest names in anime from Japan, Asia, and America. The event will also explore the Japanese cultural experience with a showcase of both traditional and cutting-edge Japanese cuisine, apparel, and lifestyles. Of course, NYAF will also feature the latest in manga, toys, costumes, video games, trading card games, DVDs, music, and much more on the show floor.

Festival organizers are anticipating that the early December date will be a major attraction to fans and other festival attendees as it is an exciting time to be in New York and see the city in the full splendor of the holiday season. McGeary states, "Our festival is a celebration of the anime art form, and so it seems only appropriate that we would have the show at a time when New York is abuzz with traditional holiday celebrations."

The website for NYAF is now live and tickets are available at http://www.nyanimefestival.com/. Fans are also encouraged to sign up for a monthly newsletter by visiting the website.

The New York Anime Festival will be sponsored by ADV Films, Anime Insider Magazine, Anime Network, Anime News Network, AnimeNEXT, Diamond Book Distributors, ICv2, Newtype USA Magazine, Playthings Magazine, TOKYOPOP, and VIZ Media.

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