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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July 9, 2008

Two years ago, Peruvian-born Jossie Malis produced a short animated film called Bendito Machine using Moho (now called Anime Studio). The style was silhouette animation, but not in the fantastic or whimsical vein of Lotte Reiniger or Michel Ocelet; Bendito Machine was instead a darkly funny meditation on power, corruption, greed and religion. Malis has since considered the short as the first part in a ten-part series, and I have no doubt that all seven deadly sins will be covered by the end.

This interview is our first collaboration with Directors Notes, and here MarBelle interviews Malis about his quirky creation.

Bendito Machine
Directors Notes
Anime Studio 5 review

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July 8, 2008

A strange, godlike machine is overthrown and replaced by another strange, godlike machine. This is quite possibly the most disturbing-looking silhouette-style film you've seen in some time. This first part of a ten-part series is a Flicker Pick from June 2006.

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March 16, 2008

It's taken almost half a year, but I finally got the "Dance Off!' episode of the Spanish/British co-production Pocoyo on my PVR. I wasn't always a fan; for months I'd spotted the show on my satellite TV grid, but I never stopped to look at it. Then at last year's Ottawa fest I caught "Dance Off!" during the Kids Competition and—along with much of the rest of the audience—laughed my ass off.

During that half year, I recorded every episode of Pocoyo, hoping to find that episode. Since it repeats pretty frequently, that meant I was recording and skimming through three or four of the ten-minute episodes every day. It wasn't a hardship; Pocoyo is not only one of those rare kids' programs that adults can watch and genuinely enjoy, it's an animator's delight. Those two elements aren't unrelated; although Pocoyo is 3D CGI, it's animated somewhere in between UPA and anime. The character designs are simple and expressive; there's plenty of stylized motion and popping from pose to pose; and the characters have distinct body language. Since the show has minimal character dialogue (which, conveniently, makes it easy to translate to multiple languages), the animation has to carry the story. If you want to see what I mean, check out the trailer for the show's second season:

What kills me is that Dreamworks knocked themselves out to create cartoony CGI with Madagascar, and Disney did the same with Chicken Little, then both patted themselves on the back for all the time and effort and technology and research they poured into it. Meanwhile, a handful of animators working at small studios like Peter Lepeniotis (Surly Squirrel) and David Cantolla, Luis Gallego and Guillermo García (the creators of Pocoyo) just quietly and effectively nailed it.

Buy Pocoyo DVDs and more from Amazon.com
, or Amazon.ca

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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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