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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July 4, 2007
There's once again talk of a Samurai Jack feature, but this time, rather more sensibly, it's to be animated, with creator Genndy Tartakovsky directing. Fred Seibert has launched Frederator Films (along with Kevin Kolde and Eric Gardner), with the aim of producing animated features for under $20 million. Aside from Samurai Jack, the other initial projects are stop-motion The Neverhood (based on the game I praised last year, with creator Doug TenNapel on board to direct) and the hip-hop The Seven Deadly Sins, with Don King signed to provide a voice (!).

If you happen to find yourself in Beja, Portugal in the next two months, the Animatu digital animation festival is screening the best of last year's films. In July they'll be screening a short every hour from 9:00 p.m. to midnight at the Galeria do Desassossego; in August they'll be screening a short before every feature on Mondays at the Pax Julia Municipal Theatre. And if you're a digital filmmaker, don't forget: you've still got just under two weeks to submit your work for this year's festival. (The new deadline's July 15.)

Teheran's Experimental and Documentary Film Center wants to kick-start Iran's animation industry by supporting the production of more animated shorts, as well as theatrical features, with an emphasis on films with a distinctive directorial touch. I'm all for auteur cinema, especially those that are distinctly of the culture that produced them, but I'm curious as to the flavour of the films that will be produced, as Iran has a history of being less than supportive of films the government deems anti-Islamic, anti-Iranian or anti-government (including the recent Persepolis). In some cases that makes the resulting films more interesting, as directors find new, creative ways of slipping in their messages while getting around state censors and critics.

This Saturday the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco plays host to Blast Off!, an exhibition on comics and manga that will feature taiko drumming, cosplay, panel discussions with Gilles Poitras and Fred Schodt, and more. The event, which ties into the museum's Osamu Tezuka exhibit, appears to have the goal of connecting teens who are into manga and anime with a deeper understanding of Japan, anime and manga. Cool.

July 11 will see a tribute to Woody Woodpecker in Hollywood, at Mann's Chinese 6 Theater. On the guest list are Leonard Maltin, Billy West, June Foray, Maurice LaMarche and Phil Roman. (I'm assuming that there will be actual Woody Woodpecker cartoons screened as well, but there's no mention.) People in the neighbourhood can go to this event for free, and the rest of us can watch the show online. Either way, you'll need to visit the website to sign up.

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