Friday, March 28, 2008

"Firebird" a Modern Disney Triumph.....

I have no idea why "Fantasia 2000" isn't heralded to be just as great as the original "Fantasia". and just like the original used "Night on Bald Mountain" as the grand, enormous finale, "Fantasia 2000" uses Stravinky's "Firebird". It's a reminder of what drawn animation can accomplish, especially when combined with truly great music, like Stravinsky.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

New Commercial...

Take a look at a recent television spot i produced for a breakthrough hearing device. I've always enjoyed doing commercials, and have never considered producing them as "selling out", actually i think it's very legit, and can be really artistic and challenging. this spot was a record production time for me, we did the whole thing in under two weeks, including post. you'll probably recognize the similar look my Zoloft work, which was the clients specific request.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Andy London's "Letter to Colleen"

Andy and Carolyn Londons new film "Letter to Colleen". I'm not a huge fan of the roto-scoped style, so perhaps it's the honest and daring writing and overall feel that makes "Letter to Colleen" one of the strongest films I've seen in some time. It's a place that I wish more animators would travel to, deep into their own personal realities to share something that defines not only who they are, but the world and our society in general, what we hate as well as what we love. It's that special type of story that can only be drawn from personal experience, and when shared, enlightens us all. "Letter to Colleen" shows us a shred of what animation can accomplish when it leaves typical storytelling conventions behind. Here's a great article about the film, which premiered last year at the Hamptons film festival.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Help Emru Townsend!

Animation writer and critic Emru Townsend was recently diagnosed with Leukemia and needs to find a matching donor for a bone marrow transplant. His best chance to find a match comes from a donor who shares his ethnic background, he's the Son of two African Caribbean parents, a further challenge is the fact that blacks are underrepresented in Bone marrow registries worldwide. There is info about Emru and how to register to become a donor at a site his folks set up. Please pass this call for help to your friends, maybe there is somebody that can help. Emru is pictured above, at the Ottawa Animation festival, hanging out with Ward Jenkins and myself.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Rant: Persepolis should have won the Oscar...

Was I the only one that was disappointed about Ratatouille winning over Persepolis? Persepolis is a ground breaking film, the subject matter is serious and educational (it's practically a doc for those of us who don't know anything about the fascinating history of Iran) and is delivered in a heartfelt and entertaining way. The film is also incredibly timely, in a day where tensions are so high due to a clash of civilizations. It really proves that a medium that is too often dismissed as "for kids" can carry a mature theme, even with a limited style. btw, there's some great animation in this film, it's basic, but nicely timed. If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend checking it out. Oh, and totally not related, but the director Marjane Satrapi is a total babe.

Monday, March 17, 2008

South Dakota State University Retrospective...

Imagine "Fargo", but filled with really cool people, amazing food(best burgers ever), and a curious lack of cold weather. That's what South Dakota was like. I had a great time at SDSU! it's a random place to travel for a screening, but ended up being one of my best attended shows ever. I had a blast hanging out with the SDSU faculty, who were just the best hosts a new yorker could ever ask for! Professor Cable Harding showed me around, and hung out with dept. head Dr. Norman Gambill, who makes the best martini ever. Images above: me talking too much to the crowd, I probably just should have shut up and showed the dang films.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Closer Look: Night on Bald Mountain...

Have you sat and watched "Night on Bald Mountain" recently? It is a sobering experience to be reminded what fine, truthful, and master-crafted animation can accomplish. This segment of "Fantasia" encompasses so many elements of quality film making, that I'm finding it hard to even discuss, you may try reading this article by Michael Koresky. I'm simply in awe of this segment of Fantasia and it's accomplishments. I can't possibly begin to point out all the great aspects of this animation.Above, It begins with an incredible opening, the image of Chernabog coming to life on the precipice of a steep rocky mountain. The simple but dramatic and raw power in the drawings of Bill Tytla is enough to give you the chills.Turning into a multimedia technique(which happens throughout), we see ghosts and spirits, brilliantly rendered in pastel, or by using camera effects, rising from the ground, and riding up toward the mountain. There are moments of true brilliance through horrific imagery of demons, spirits, and lost souls. One of my favorites is the realistically rendered dancing female figures in flames. Most of the demon characters end up be morphed into sacrificial beasts, or simply cast down into flames after a playful exchange within hands of Chernabog. "If it’s the enormousness of Fantasia that still reverberates to this day, then it’s the film’s beatific final statement that still manages to surprise" That quote sums up the ending of "Night on Bald Mountain", as well as the ending of the feature itself. the animated rendition of "Ave Maria" is an incredible victory over the evil imagery that came before it. So, in closing, next time you get into a discussion of "Sponge Bob", or "Family Guy" (and yes, you CAN compare them, one is crap, one is brilliant), remember what has truly had an impact within art history, and re-discover what powerful, quality animated content can be. Cease this artform!!!!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

A Rant: "Story" isn't all that....

Nobody ever challenges the idea that if you don't have a good story, you can't make a good film. This is not true. There are elements just as important, and in my opinion, even more important than story. I'm talking about CHARACTER, CONCEPT, and IMAGERY. I love a good story as much as anyone else, but it's simply not the only key ingredient. Perhaps this is yet another influence from me getting into fine art; painters do not use story, they use mostly concept and imagery. And i've found that my favorite films and animation are of this same spirit.
Above, an image from one of my favorite films of all time, Ron Frick's "Baraka", a film that has no story, just beautiful mind blowing IMAGERY of our world and it's people. Pictured above is the memorable "Kecak" Balinese dance sequence. haven't seen this film? run to netflix.
Above is a still from Richard Linklater's "Dazed and Confused" a great movie that has no real story whatsoever, yet you just don't want it to end, you're attached to the CHARACTERS, you can just keep watching them, doesn't matter what their doing. it's the type of film like "Trees Lounge" where you feel like the movie is still going, playing out right along with the lives of the characters.
And of course, a still from Fantasia, several individual sections of this masterpiece have strong story (sorcerers apprentice, night on bald mt), but the element that makes Fantasia epic is it's connection to the music, and the CONCEPT of great classical music guiding the IMAGERY as a whole. I'm thinking about this stuff a lot lately, because i'm neck deep in a film that is dependent on imagery and music (Masks), and ironically, i think people will probably say it has the best "story" of any of my films. It's an easy mistake to confuse "Story" with "Concept". more on that another time.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

School me: Hedgehog in the fog....

I will be the first to admit that I don't understand why the acclaimed work of Yuri Norstein "Hedgehog in the Fog" is an important film, it's OK, i like it, but for so long I heralded it as a masterpiece, not knowing why. I spoke of it because as an animator you're SUPPOSED to admire that film. But I just don't see it anymore. Maybe I'm stupid, and I don't get it, maybe I don't fully appreciate stop motion, maybe i'm too stuck on drawn animation(admitting biased). But I suspect, it's another piece of the brainwashing that goes on in art school, and I still have traces of it. At the same time, you will rarely hear about how brilliant the "rite of spring" is in fantasia. which, in art school, is quickly classified at disney stuff. There are several films like this that, after animating now for over a decade (i'm a friggin' child to this art form), i'm beginning to see an overstated value. again, nothing wrong with these films, they are quite good, but i don't get the pedestal they are placed on. Someone school me!