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.

Links
Zumbakamera
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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December 7, 2007








At last year's Ottawa International Animation Festival, I met with I.Toon founder and president Yuichi Ito; at this year's festival, we—along with his manager Hiroko Kamata—sat down to talk about his series of short stop-motion films, Norabbits' Minutes. Created for Shochiku's 110th anniversary, Norabbits' Minutes features two young rabbit brothers who live together in the forest and have endearing adventures together... though not without some absurd twists. As a bonus, we are also presenting the first episode of Norabbits' Minutes in its entirety.



Links
I.Toon
Shochiku
Ottawa International Animation Festival
Buy the Norabbits' Minutes series on DVD (Region 2)

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October 31, 2007








My guests in this podcast are Betsy de Fries and Jerry van de Beek, who form the San Francisco Bay Area studio Little Fluffy Clouds. (And yes, they're named after the Orb song.) Little Fluffy Clouds has been in business since 1996, when the pair left the (Colossal) Pictures studio during its last days. The studio's been busily creating ads for a wide variety of clients since then.

Links
Little Fluffy Clouds
Au Petite Mort
IBM: "Alignment"
Festival Watch: SIGGRAPH 2003
March 2006 issue of fps, featuring Little Fluffy Clouds' Today

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An animated Rorschach test is the backbone of one of three spots that Little Fluffy Clouds produced for Ogilvy's series of IBM commercials.

Links
Little Fluffy Clouds
Ogilvy
Trivers Myers Music

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October 29, 2007


A stream, a fisherman, a dragonfly, a fish: In Little Fluffy Clouds' Au Petite Mort (2003), these elements come together to evoke the waning days of summer, the circle of life, and just a little cruel irony.

Links
Little Fluffy Clouds
Festival Watch: SIGGRAPH 2003


Image Credit: © Little Fluffy Clouds LLC

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September 27, 2007


White's Dream is a music video based on the Tekkonkinkreet movie. Set to the Shinichi Osawa remix of Plaid's song from the soundtrack and directed by Tekkon director Michael Arias, the video encapsulates most of the movie from Shiro's (White's) perspective.

Links
Tekkonkinkreet review
Michael Arias interview
Tekkonkinkreet image gallery
Tekkonkinkreet soundtrack
Tekkonkinkreet soundtrack remix CD

Image credit: © Taiyo Matsumoto / Shogakukan, Aniplex, Asmik Ace Entertainment, Beyond C., Dentsu, Tokyo MX.
Special thanks to Michael Arias for providing this video.

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August 17, 2007








In April, the Tokyo-based company Digital Meme released the Japanese Anime Classic Collection, which contained almost 60 animated shorts from Japan's silent era. I recently spoke with Digital Meme CEO Larry Greenberg about this landmark collection, as well as his company.

Links
Digital Meme
Matsuda Film Productions
Japanese Anime Classic Collection review
Oira no Yakyu [Our Baseball Match] (excerpt)
Benshi

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August 2, 2007


This excerpt is from the 1931 short Oira no Yakyu (Our Baseball Match), directed by Yasuji Murata. Oira no Yakyu and many of Murata's other works are featured in the four-DVD set Japanese Anime Classic Collection, which was released earlier this year by Digital Meme. Oira no Yakyu features a baseball game between rabbits and tanuki (raccoon-like canines indigenous to Japan). Tanuki are known for being shape-shifting tricksters, and while the shape-shifting isn't present here, they certainly are tricky.

The silent era of Japanese cinema featured one major distinction from that one the West: the addition of the benshi, a narrator and actor who added a significant live-performance component to the movies beyond just the music. As a result, the silent era lasted longer in Japan than in the West—so even though Oira no Yakyu came out two years into the sound era, it still has the look and feel of a silent movie, and features benshi narration.

Links
Japanese Anime Classic Collection review
Digital Meme
Tanuki
Benshi

Image credit: © 2007 Digital Meme.

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May 16, 2007


In the summer of 2001, I was part of a National Film Board peer review, where six of us spent a day looking at film proposals to provide recommendations. One of those films was Madame Tutli-Putli, and Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski presented us with an animatic—a rough animated presentation of what they intended for the film—as part of their proposal. A few elements have remained almost exactly the same over the course of six years, but many are strikingly different.

Photo credit: National Film Board of Canada

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May 15, 2007










Clyde Henry Productions is Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, a team of multimedia artists who have been working together in animation and effects since 1997. But for about half that time, the pair locked themselves in a dark room to produce Madame Tutli-Putli, a seventeen-minute stop-motion short for the National Film Board of Canada. The title character, a demure and hesitating young woman, boards a train for an overnight journey in what appears to be 1920s Europe. But her journey is filled with strange passengers and even stranger events.

Madame Tutli-Putli is exquisitely produced, with meticulously crafted puppets and carefully worn sets and props. It's a wordless fever-dream of a story that nails you to your chair—even in its quietest moments, you get the feeling that something isn't quite right. Part of that unsettling feeling comes from what Chris Lavis calls the "gimmick" of digitally compositing human eyes onto the puppets, which produces a haunting effect that's difficult to ignore.

I spoke with the Clydes last Friday, just a few days before they were off to France. Madame Tutli-Putli was selected for the International Critics' Week at the Cannes film festival, and it's also slated to screen at the Annecy animation festival a few weeks after that. When we met at a local pub, they'd just finished several whirlwind days of publicity, and were recharging their batteries with a few pints before getting ready for their trip.

Clyde Henry Productions' next project is The White Circus, a feature in development at the National Film Board.

Links
Clyde Henry Productions
Madame Tutli-Putli
Marcy Page spotlight (from the July 2005 issue of fps)


Photo credit: National Film Board of Canada

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March 14, 2007










Much of the artwork seen at the Once Upon a Time Walt Disney exhibit comes courtesy of the Disney Animation Research Library, which is under the direction of Lella Smith, who was present for the exhibit's opening at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art.

Photo credit: Emru Townsend

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Much of the artwork seen at the Once Upon a Time Walt Disney exhibit comes courtesy of the Disney Animation Research Library, which is under the direction of Lella Smith. In this video podcast you can listen to my interview with her while watching a slideshow of some of the Library's artwork that's on display at the exhibit.

Photo credit: Emru Townsend

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March 12, 2007









Veteran Disney animator Andreas Deja was an unexpected guest at the press conference for the Once Upon a Time Walt Disney exhibit at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. I sat down with him and talked about how he was inspired to become an animator, and how he feels about anime, CGI, and people referencing his animation the way he used to reference his predecessors.

Links
Andreas Deja (Wikipedia)

Photo credit: Emru Townsend

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March 7, 2007








On March 8th, the exhibition Once Upon a Time Walt Disney opens at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Yesterday we did a tour of the exhibit, which presents the work of the Walt Disney Studio from 1928 (the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy) through to 1967 (The Jungle Book), in its artistic context. Hundreds of production drawings, concept sketches, background paintings, character studies and film clips are presented side by side with classical artwork and contemporary media to show how Walt Disney and his artists drew from the world around them to create animated movies that are still astonishing to this day. In this podcast I interview the exhibit's curator, Bruno Girveau.

Links
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Shop
Once Upon a Time Walt Disney (hardcover)
Il était une fois Walt Disney (hardcover)

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On March 8th, the exhibition Once Upon a Time Walt Disney opens at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Yesterday we did a tour of the exhibit, which presents the work of the Walt Disney Studio from 1928 (the first Mickey Mouse cartoon, Plane Crazy) through to 1967 (The Jungle Book), in its artistic context. Hundreds of production drawings, concept sketches, background paintings, character studies and film clips are presented side by side with classical artwork and contemporary media to show how Walt Disney and his artists drew from the world around them to create animated movies that are still astonishing to this day. You can see a sampling of the exhibit in this video podcast, as well as my interview with curator Bruno Girveau.

Links
The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Shop
Once Upon a Time Walt Disney (hardcover)
Il était une fois Walt Disney (hardcover)

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February 10, 2007








Earlier this week Hellboy: Sword of Storms, the first in a series of original animated Hellboy movies, came out on DVD—just a little over four months after its debut on Cartoon Network. Last December, Emru Townsend spoke with Tad Stones, who wrote, directed and produced the movie.

Links
Hellboy Animated

Shop
Hellboy DVDs, books and more

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October 26, 2006








One year ago today, we held our second Animation Innovator event, in which we invited Corpse Bride animation co-director Mike Johnson to come to Montreal to speak about his craft and his work on the movie. In this podcast we revisit that event, as well as present some new material.

Film Clips
Mike Johnson on HypaSpace (2:05, 20.2 MB, MPEG-4)

Links
Natasha Eloi
Matt Forsythe
Kevin Holden and Trudie Mason
Mark Osborne
AnimationTrip
CJAD
Space: The Imagination Station

fps Links
Mike Johnson interview
Animation Innovator: Mike Johnson Photo Gallery
Corpse Bride review
Suggest an Animation Innovator Guest

Shop
Corpse Bride DVDs, CDs, books and more
The Devil Came Down to Georgia (as part of the Animals Should Not Try to Act Like People compilation)

Credits: Photo © Warner Bros. Entertainment; podcast opening and closing audio from The Corpse Bride soundtrack

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August 28, 2006








In our second podcast, I interview Canadian animator Chris Hinton, tracing the course of his animation career from the mid-1970s to the present, much of which has been through the National Film Board of Canada. Hinton's work has evolved considerably over the last thirty years, starting with the kind of cartoony style that most people identify with animation, and now leaning toward abstract explorations of music and sound. But in all cases, his work exhibits a twitchy vibrancy that's all his own. He's been nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film twice, for Blackfly (1991) and Nibbles (2003). Both films are very different in appearance and execution, but they're both distinctly Chris Hinton films.

For the last 17 years, Hinton has also been teaching animation at Concordia University here in Montreal (and, in fact, I was among his first students). In the course of this interview, we also explored his observations about today's emerging animators.

Animation Lingo
In the podcast, we make references to fields and smears. A field guide is a reference for standardized frame sizes to accommodate both the film/TV viewing area and the animation camera. The higher the field number, the larger the frame. A smear is, literally, a smear of colour in a frame that indicates something moving quickly; essentially, hand-drawn motion blur.

Film Clips
Blackfly (1991; 0:25, 1.3 MB, MPEG-1)
Watching TV (1994; 0:30, 1.5 MB, MPEG-1)
Flux (2002; 0:25; 1.3 MB, MPEG-1)
cNote (2004; 0:34, 1.7 MB, MPEG-1)

Links
Chris Hinton
Dennis Tupicoff
Blackfly
Flux
Cinémathèque québécoise
National Film Board of Canada

Credits: Photo provided by the National Film Board of Canada; podcast opening and closing audio from cNote

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March 25, 2006








Emru Townsend interviews British animator Phil Mulloy, who was recently in Montreal to host a retrospective of his work at the Cinémathèque québécoise. Phil Mulloy is a prolific animator who has created over twenty films in the last sixteen years, and in many of his works, the landscape and characters are stark and grotesque: rendered in black paint and ink, his characters are mostly in silhouette, with skeletal bodies, large, bony hands, and distended mouths with jutting teeth. Animation is accomplished by manipulating cutouts of his painted and drawn images. And while his plots have varied, they often feature themes of sex, persecution, violence, the body, and religion.


Emru Townsend, Phil Mulloy, and Marco de Blois.

Film Clips
Cowboys: High Noon (1991; 0:43, 2.0 MB, MPEG-1)
The Sex Life of a Chair
(1998; 0:59, 2.7 MB, MPEG-1)
Intolerance I (2000; 0:59, 2.7 MB, MPEG-1)
Intolerance II (2001; 1:00, 2.7 MB, MPEG-1)
The Christies: Mister Yakamoto (2006; 0:27, 2.0 MB, MPEG-1)

Links
Phil Mulloy
Cinémathèque québécoise
Lotte Reiniger
David Anderson

Credits: Photo by Tamu Townsend; podcast introduction audio from Intolerance I

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