October 27, 2008
If you didn't get a chance to attend Richard Williams' masterclass at the 2008 Ottawa International Animation Festival, and live on the west coast, you may have another chance to catch him. Beginning today, the award-winning animator will be touring several west coast cities until November 7th.

Tonight, ACM SIGGRAPH's Vancouver chapter will host a free two-hour masterclass, signing and a screening of Who Framed Roger Rabbit?

On Wednesday the 29th, he will be in Redmond, WA, at as a run-up to Seattle's 2D Or Not 2D festival. While the event is free, it is open only to DigiPen BFA alumni and working professionals, so follow the link if you qualify to find out how to get your tickets.

On Thursday the 30th, it's Portland time with the Cascade ACM SIGGRAPH chapter. The event is free for chapter members and 5.00 dollars for everyone else, but attendees need to RSVP by the 28th.

The last public event on November 2nd happens in San Francisco. A benefit for ASIFA-SF, this event will feature the two-hour masterclass and the event will be moderated by author and chapter president Karl Cohen (shown above, left, with Richard Williams, and Cohen's wife Denise McEvoy at the OIAF Animators' Picnic). The admission is only 9.00 dollars and only 6.50 for a child or a senior. A mere pittance for the wealth of information and experience that will be available and to help a great organization.

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December 23, 2007
Update: The original image that accompanied this post has been replaced at the request of Focus Features.

Ward Jenkins and Neil Gaiman have both put up pointers to a sneak peek of Coraline, directed by Henry Selick based on Gaiman's novel of the same name.

The final film is be the first stop-motion film shot stereoscopically, however this clip is in glorious 2D (otherwise it would just look silly on the Web).

I'm satisfied with this treat. I can wait to see the Other Mother and the Mouse Circus when the film comes out. I don't want to see too much before it's in the cinema. I want to see it as a whole - a solid story, excellent animation, great concepts, striking design - all at once.

Hi-res Quicktime
Lo-res:

[Disclaimer: I am huge fan of both Henry Selick and Neil Gaiman. Huge.]

Previously on fps
Platform: Henry Selick Previews Work on Coraline

Previously on The Critical Eye
Neil Gaiman: The Sandman Scribe on Anime and Miyazaki

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July 8, 2007

I'm still reliving the highlights from the Platform Animation Festival last week. I confess I didn't get quite as much sleep as I should have, and upon my return from Portland, I found myself struck down with the common cold. There is something terribly wrong about catching a cold in July. I digress. In case you missed out on Platform, here's your chance to catch a few festival clips, without catching the common cold. Regretfully, presentation on a glorious big screen with a room full of animation fanatics from around the world are not included:

The Platform trailer (Smith & Foulkes of Nexus Productions)

From the Portland Animation Showcase (not in the official competition) here's a clip from a personal favourite, the memorable Operation Fish (Jeff Riley)

Party clips:





Impromptu tabletop animation by Audrey M. Eschright at the LAIKA picnic.

drinking + drawing, the party hosted by Dan Meth and Channel Frederator. The finished film premiered close to 2am, after many sharpies had been put to good use.



PikaPika 2007. Check out this impressive trailer of light painting.


And of course, a few winning films:






Best Film For the Internet: Secret Lives of Robots (Lee Rubenstein and Dan Meth)

Best Sound: I Met the Walrus (Josh Raskin)
Perhaps some controversy could be stirred up here, as the audio was recorded almost 40 years ago. However, it is the meticulous timing of the visuals to the audio that creates a most compelling storytelling experience.

Best Performance by Animated Character: No Room For Gerold (Daniel Nocke) Feel the tension of simple human conversation.

Best Series for Children: Shaun the Sheep: Still Life (Chris Sadler)
Aardman shines with this series, cleverly illustrating their nack for picking up clay and making something great.

Check out this local community radio interview of Scott McCloud by illustrator/animator S.W. Conser. It's currently available as a podcast from KBOO FM.

Another radio interview podcast discussing the animation installations, one of the truly hybrid elements of this festival.


A few more things to look forward to:

Amid & Jerry at Cartoon Brew previewed a handful of exciting new projects. In addition to their beta portal http://www.cartoonbrewfilms.com/, they've crafted a glorious collection of the Worst Cartoons Ever! http://www.cartoondump.com/ is coming soon! Jerry also happens to have two new books forthcoming. The Hanna-Barbera Treasury (Hardcover) (October 23, 2007) and Harvey Comics Classics Volume 1: Casper (Paperback) (August 1, 2007)

Check out the Sita Sings the Blues clips online to see how the film is progressing. Nina Paley previewed a work in progress screening of her very own Flash feature film on Friday, and she indicated it should be wrapping up production in approximately 8 months!

Last month, CBS aired 3 episodes of the American Creature Comforts before pulling the plug on the show. Sadly, there are no plans to broadcast episodes 4-7. American producer Kit Boss gave us an elaborate look at the production of the series, and we were given a very special screening of episode 4.

Kit also happened to mention despite the disappointing cancellation, a DVD release of the entire series would be forthcoming, perhaps even ready for a fall release.

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July 4, 2007
Before the inaugural Platform Animation Festival rolled into town, one could already make a case for calling Portland a truly animated town. Birthplace of Bill Plympton and Matt Groening, HQ for Will Vinton, and now home to Laika, Dark Horse Comics, and a growing number of VFX shops. But was city of Portland ready to become an international animation metropolis?

Portland has a well-established reputation as an artistic town. It is also a beautiful city, known as the City of Roses for over 100 years. Those in the literary world know Powell's Books to be the largest independent new & used bookstore in the world. Walking the streets, it seemed clear to me that this town has not just a great respect for books and storytelling, but great typography too. High calibre storefronts and signage abound (and what a concept - shop with no sales tax!). This is a smart city.

As a newcomer to Portland, it didn't take long to warm up to the city. Friendly? It seemed at every turn, you would be greeted with a smile. We were surrounded by diverse and historic architecture, and the official festival venues themselves were exceptional. The Portland Art Museum, the multi-stage Portland Center for the Performing Arts (the PCPA) and the Pearl District are all jewels, all walkable, and all appear to have room to grow.

A few notes worth repeating. This was an inaugural festival, one with an entire week of programming. Putting together a festival from scratch is a mammoth task, and organizer Irene Kotlarz deserves a commanding ovation. We were told the festival took over two years to produce, and the amount of effort invested was clearly evident in the details.

In the festival programme, Irene points out that while this event was largely sponsored by Cartoon Network, it was also going to be a logo-free festival where diverse artists and art forms take the centre stage. This is key, and helps to foster a healthy and independent spirit for the event. Equally important and worth remembering - there were no entry fees for artists to submit work to the festival.

Geographically speaking, Portland is perfectly and ecologically positioned. Placed due north of Hollywood and Silicon Valley and not far south from Vancouver, BC, it seems to make sense hosting an international animation festival here. For three decades, Canada has hosted the Ottawa International Animation Festival with an outstanding program of its own. With Platform, Portland gives America an equal opportunity.

Does the world need to see another Platform animation festival? Based on what I saw, I think it does, and I think it is perfectly at home in Portland. Want to see the festival repeat the program in the future? Send the organizers an email and tell them how much you'd appreciate their return. Doing so, you just might help Portland secure a name for itself as the bold new international capital of animation on the Pacific.

Recommended reading: check out over a dozen animation landmarks in the city of Portland in this Aaron Mesh article from the Willamette Week Online.

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The Platform festival is helping to widen how the audience thinks about animation and looks at its use beyond traditional platforms of the television and big screen. Festivals have begun to feature Internet competitions and Platform was no exception. However, it was notable that they included a competition specifically for mobile devices and jaw-dropping installations, curated by artist Rose Bond.

An entirely different medium can also help us reconsider what makes some elements of animation tick: comics. While not all animators are into comics and vice versa, there are many who enjoy, derive inspiration from and create in both media. Many current animators are producing comics in printed and digital format. Walt Kelly and Osamu Tezuka were both animators and comic book artists, as is Hayao Miyazaki. I've recommended comics on fps before that I think some animators will enjoy, because of the cinematic quality of their stories.

Running concurrently with Platform was a Graphic Novel intensive at the Pacific Northwest College of Art and Platform attendees had the opportunity to hear a lecture by Scott McCloud, creator of Zot! and Understanding Comics, a treatise on the mechanics and form that underlie comics. As he notes, comics and animation both deal with sequential art and time. Comics are images laid out one after the other to denote a change in events over time, and animation is sequential images displayed in the same space that also denote the same thing.

Another important element of successful comics and animation is storytelling - graphic storytelling - and on top of all this both types of creators have to rethink the impact of the Web on distribution, exposure and format. Both media also are changing due to the intersection of influences from North America, the Europe and Asia. These and other themes were explored during his lecture and whether audience members agreed with him or not, they came away with something to think about.

McCloud is currently on a year-long tour with his wife and two daughters in conjunction with his new book, Making Comics. You can find out if he'll be in a city near you by keeping up with his family's Livejournal account of the tour. If you went to the Portland lecture, he can read your comments here.

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Animation director Henry Selick gave a special presentation during the Platform International Animation Festival last week. After an extended reel including his (mostly stop-motion) work for MTV, the shorts Slow Bob and the Lower Dimensions from Liquid TV and the entirely CG Moongirl; and the features The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach and Monkeybone, the audience was given a sneak peek into the evolution of the character design for the protagonist in his new directorial effort.

Coraline is based on the award-winning young adult novel of the same name by fantasy author Neil Gaiman. The original cover and illustrations were provided by Gaiman's frequent collaborator Dave McKean (their next collaboration for children is a picture book called Crazy Hair). McKean is known for his incorporation of photo collage in his artwork, but is also a deft illustrator. Although both writer and artist have worked with others, for many, you name one and the other name follows.

Unfortunately, no audio or video recording devices were allowed during the presentation, but I can tell you that I was delighted to see that:

1) The style does not look anything like McKean's. As huge a fan as I am of his work, it seems almost lazy to just go with his style because it's expected of anything associated with Gaiman's work. The medium is different and it's worth coming at the design from a different angle.

2) The new character design, similar to what you see above, really fits the character and the tone of the story. The audience was treated to a short animatic, and Coraline's look and movements make me very hopeful for this adaptation. The talented designers at Laika had me budgeting already for the book featuring conceptual art of the film.

Coraline is slated for theatrical release in late 2008.

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July 1, 2007
The first Platform International Animation Festival has come to a close, but if you weren't able to make it you can always check out our new fpsmagazine photo pool on Flickr. Between the two of them, Kino Kid and Jason Vanderhill have dropped almost 150 photos in there. As ever, we make it easy to live vicariously through us.

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June 29, 2007
Animation bloggers got their due at the Attack of the Blog panel. Don Sarto of AWN moderated a discussion of five bloggers including Ward Jenkins of Wardomatic, Aaron Simpson of Cold Hard Flash. The discussion ranged from why all students and working animators should have their own blog, monetizing a blog and blogging as a full time-endeavour, how the animation discussion has been transformed due to the blogging explosion.

After the panel, I headed over to the waiting area near the Portland Center for the Performing Arts where a busload of attendees were driven to Suavie Island for the Platform Festival Picnic.

(left to right: animator Musa Brooker, Amid Amidi of Cartoon Brew, stop-motion animators Seamus Walsh and Mark Caballero of Screen Novelties and contributors to Celebrity Deathmatch and Robot Chicken)

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June 28, 2007
The first event of the Platform International Animation Festival took place on Monday night with Competition 1. Irene Kotlarz, Director of Programming (pictured) got things rolling and welcomed and eager crowd that had already been well-taken care of by registration and other volunteer staff. If there were any fires being put out in the background, attendees sure didn't know about it. The festival has been a well-oiled machine so far.

The first short to screen was Torill Kove's The Danish Poet, this year's Oscar winner. Luis Cook's The Pearce Sisters was a standout Aardman short and one of the newer shorts in the selection. Recently acclaimed shorts such as Run Wrake's Rabbit and Theodore Ushev's Tower Bawher were shown and I became newly acquainted with Herzog and the Monsters.

The opening night party offered a chance for people to reconnect and make some new contacts in a great setting and others snuck off later in the evening for Comedy vs. Art, featuring an animation face-off between Bill Plympton and Joanna Priestley.

Tuesday was the first full day of the festival and I started off the day at the Meet the Animators panel moderated by Ramin Zahed of Animation Magazine. The thread that ran through all of the discussions dealt with passion for animating. Marc Bertrand of the National Film Board said he would rather people make films for themselves with themes they care about rather than impressing a producer. Motomichi Nakamura suggested that animators put work in their portfolio that they really enjoyed and not put in the rest.

The highlight of the day was the feature Tekkon Kinkreet, with its lush visuals and bold style. Director Michael Arias (pictured) was in the house and answered an extended Q&A about the making of the film.

After Competition 3, I could barely survive Animation From Hell, which screened Shut Eye Hotel, Bill Plympton's new short. So many activities can get a bit taxing, and I had to get ready for another day replete with great activities.

(Photos by official festival photographer CJ Beaman.)

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June 21, 2007
If you weren't hanging around in New York or a city in France when Tekkon Kinkreet was showing recently, you'll be able to see it on the big screen if you're near the Portland, Oregon area on June 26 at the Platform International Animation Festival.

Don't be fooled by the picture. As much as you want to snatch White up, this film is not for kids. I was reminded of that pointedly after rereading the first volume of the English comics adaptation of the original Tekkon Kinkreet comic, Black and White.

This is just one of the many exciting films and panels scheduled for the inaugural edition of the festival. Visit our contest page to see how you can win a Full Pass for two to Platform.

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June 18, 2007
It's rare that we run more than one contest at a time, but sometimes we're just bursting with giveaway goodness. We're giving two winners a two full passes each for next week's Platform International Animation Festival, and another two winners are getting a copy The Art of Ratatouille, which features 160 pages of art and text (text? No, really, we get it for the pictures) about the making of Pixar's latest feature. You can enter the Platform contest here and the Art of Ratatouille contest here. The contests close 1t 11:59 p.m. on June 22 and June 29, respectively.

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