Initially daily but now sporadic blog about anime and world animation with a specific focus on the artists behind the work. Written by Ben Ettinger.
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Sunday, February 27, 2005

01:27:49 am , 422 words, 3068 views     Categories: Animation, Indie

The Animation Show 2005

For those of us who don't go to festivals, the Animation Show is a nice chance to see a sampler of recent high-quality shorts from around the globe up on the big screen for once, and to support independent animation at the same time. I suppose it's a little naive for me to be surprised how many people were at the screening, but it was a nice thing to see anyway. Mike Judge and Don Hertzfeldt were on hand for a Q&A afterwards, and we got treated to some impromptu King of the Hill. I wasn't aware that they were going to be there, which was an added bonus for me.

The selection was more solid than I'd expected, but then it goes to reason when you hear that they whittled it down to 10 from 1022. So much animation is being made these days! I mainly wanted to see Guard Dog, because the teaser had made me laugh tears, but everything was worth seeing, even the CGI films. At the opposite end, Don Hertzfeldt spent four years animating The Meaning of Life, and, as a disclaimer at the end reads, "No computers were used in the making of this film." Kind of inspiring to see how much he can get out of stick figures and pencil and paper. I kind of wish I'd asked how he created the mezmerizingly beautiful starry effects near the end of the film, because until I saw the disclaimer I was thinking it was CGI. Interesting also was that Don stated that parts of the film were thought up along the way during that long four-year trek, so that it kind of evolved naturally. Pan With Us struck me as the most inventive and awe-inspiring, The Man with no Shadow as the most visually appealing, with its tour-de-force constant-moving-perspectives, warm coloring and flowing narrative style. I'd wanted to see When the Day Breaks by Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis since I'd first seen a few pieces of it some years ago on the web and been totally taken by the look and feel of it, and I was not disappointed by the film itself, which was probably the most satisfying film in the show to me. It's great that Mike and Don had the good sense to get this film from 1999, the only one of the selection dating from more than 3 years, the distribution it deserved. That consideration was the other selection criterion after submissions. Everyone will have their own favorite, so you can't go wrong.

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12 comments

tim_drage [Member]

>I kind of wish I’d asked how he created the mezmerizingly beautiful starry effects near >the end of the film,

I just searched for info on the film, sounds interesting, will have to look out for it,… and found this official site - http://www.bitterfilms.com/meaningoflife.html -
with this info:
“Eventually, over 45 minutes of footage was shot for Life’s final 12 minute running time – an large shooting ratio for any animated film, due to the unprecedented amount of experiments and trial-and-error. A good portion of footage was also spent on creating and perfecting the film’s outer space scenes from scratch. All of these hand-crafted shots began by transforming Don’s effects animation and star fields (as well as some charcoal artwork), into line negatives. These pieces were then back-lit, often layered with plastic sheets to create diffusion, tinted, and then cobbled together in-camera through multiple exposure, using any means necessary to get the right effect on film. One moving field was mounted on a diagonal plane of glass, to create depth. Other elements were carefully captured by actually rotating star fields by hand, with the camera running above. “
… and here’s a gallery page with more on the FX shooting - http://www.bitterfilms.com/prod16.html

Nice, i’m always a fan of proper analogue effects on film!

02/27/05 @ 06:19
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Incredible! 45 minutes? The explanation of the shooting of the 45-second planets sequence was particularly hair-raising:

http://www.bitterfilms.com/prod14.html

It’s great that someone these days is still going to such lengths to come up with interesting new methods using simple materials like this. That sort of down-’n-dirty tinkering with odds ‘n ends to get the right results is one of the things I liked about pre-digital animation. Equally impressive that all those characters walking across the screen at the same time weren’t done individually on different cels like you’d think, but all on one sheet of paper. Calculating that must have been real hell. All in all I really like his approach. I never imagined all the work that went into the film.

Damn. That’s made me want to see it again.

02/27/05 @ 10:33
Jericho
Jericho [Visitor]

In terms of 10-year animation production schedules that take less than 15 minutes to watch, When the Day Breaks was particularly fascinating. The sudden swerving narrative for me, proved to be the biggest latch, which complimented well with the charcoal-esque character of its animation style. I was moved by something I thought would just end up as the singing animals genre!
I’m wondering if you have seen Mr. Reapers Really Bad Morning by Kevin Kurytnik and Carol Beecher and Jean Francois Cote. It hails from Calgary and was a huge 10 year experiment in using Raster based animation software. I watched them a year ago still pencil testing some cut scenes, and now not only are they shipping the film out to various international festivals, they are planning in letting people interested in the gritty details of animation to look at their entire basic foundation materials. Storyboards, original art, and dozens of computer production notes, not to mention tutorials on financial sponsorship.
I think we should be proud that our identity in terms of animation is centered almost exclusively on the individual artist run animation rather than a mega American production based system. Canada does have this system, but not to it’s southern neighbors extent. Really, I have no idea why some anime inspired young kids try to make such a Japanese based ambitious plan work in a place that doesn’t tolerate their kind of militaristic attitude integrated in the work ethic. 26 episoders are impossible here. But that lack is compensated by intriguing independent animation full of substance and so ephemeral in its short length.
I hope we can pull a Mindgame someday…

02/27/05 @ 18:32
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Hear hear. I didn’t realize the production length for When the Day Breaks was also four years. These people show an amazing love of their craft and a patience that I would probably never be able to muster, and I have nothing but admiration for that. Indeed, that mad devotion is what I love to see most in animation. Those few minutes made by a dedicated individual outweigh the hours of mediocrity made in the same span. That’s something anime will never be able to reach. All the best animation I’ve seen has been made by individuals, not productions lines. Canada has been blessed with a great institution that backs up that sort of individual-based animated creation, so yeah, I agree, it’s worth being proud of.

I have not seen Mr. Reaper’s Really Bad Morning, but I’m curious to after reading your description of it. I suppose we’ll start to hear about it in the coming year if it’s being sent out to festivals now. It would be nice if they could put up a web page with the information you referred to.

A Canadian Mind Game would be great - a full-length film that does what its best shorts do. It’s a wonder why I haven’t seen an interesting full-length animated feature from Canada yet.

02/28/05 @ 23:58
Tsuka
Tsuka [Visitor]

Sad to live in France and to miss the Animation Show, but happy because their first Animation Show DVD is really interesting, with a lot of extras for numerous shorts, I hope they’ll release such a DVD for this new event.

About Canadian animation, I get a interesting Korean 2-DVDs release ("The Art of the Animator, Animation Films from NFBC” - with englisg subtitles) by a promising editor called Rabamajor. I posted a news on Catsuka few times ago. Here is a scan of the booklet with announces about next releases.

03/01/05 @ 04:56
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Thanks for the info about that label. Sounds interesting. I’m still eagerly awaiting the release of the Norman McLaren Master’s Edition. I actually haven’t gotten around to exploring the NFB web site yet, but I noticed there’s a good starting point here:

http://www.nfb.ca/animation/html/en/index.html

03/01/05 @ 14:36
jfrog
jfrog [Visitor]

Someone put out a DVD collection of Caroline Leaf’s work? Best news I’ve heard all day! I can’t make heads or tails of their store (don’t want to end up getting that Nazi teddy bear by mistake), but hopefully YesAsia will Rabamajor’s releases.

03/01/05 @ 14:56
Vahid
Vahid [Visitor]

Speaking of “mad devotion", I traded in for the Mindgame Perfect Collector’s Box, and watched the Remix DVD. You should see the sections where they tour Studio 4C observe each animator at work, each in their own desk area slaving over some incredible animation. Ben, you should get the Remix DVD if you don’t already have it.

03/06/05 @ 00:38
Tsuka
Tsuka [Visitor]

The Remix DVD is indeed mainly interesting for this 9min documentary only, but on the other hand it’s quite light and not very serious. They show very quickly various steps of creation (animation, sound, backgrounds, editing …), I prefer documentaries which focus more closely on these aspects, like the wonderful one on the Tokyo Godfathers DVD where Satoshi Kon comments the sequences by various animators like Hashimoto, Otsuka, Ando, Inoue …

03/06/05 @ 08:46
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Actually I got it when it first came out, same with the manga. One of the reasons I didn’t get the box. Kind of wish I’d waited. I wanted that cool box by Yuasa. Ah well. The only thing on there I haven’t seen was the Co-Mix and the layouts. Hrm. I wanted the layouts too.

Anyway, yeah, it was a nice documentary, especially the parts you said, though it could have been more, as Tsuka said. It was more a vehicle for those two DJs than a real ‘documentary’. It was still great to see Sueyoshi, and even more great and surprising to see Ito working on that insane water animation. I thought he was freelance, so I didn’t know he worked at the studio. That was the best part for me. I have to admit I was a little disappointed they didn’t include more documentary-like stuff like that. That I felt was missing from the extras. But it’s a little hard to complain considering how much they DID add. And also the Hosoda talk. That I was really disappointed not to see. OK, and the Gisaburo talk I wanted to see in its entirety.

Haven’t seen that TG documentary. Would love to see what he says about Hashimoto and the others, especially if he says what parts they all did…

03/06/05 @ 13:06
Vahid
Vahid [Visitor]

Yeah the Remix DVD was a little sparse, although I did like the peek at the VA’s too. The guy doing Yan & Myon’s dad was hilarious.

The Co-Mix DVD is nothing special, just a juxtaposition of scenes/words from the manga with the actual movie. The image board book is gorgeous, though, with tons of nice work and exposition to go with it. Pretty good-sized book, too.

I also wish they showed more about the animation, although I did appreciate the regular “Special Extras” DVD with the commentaries. I liked looking at the CG and particularly Yuasa talking about various scenes and themes. It made me really appreciate the montage scenes in particular; they paid so much attention to each 2-second scene on the thematic level.

03/06/05 @ 15:46
Ben
Ben [Visitor]

Agreed about the commentary. It was awe-inspiring to watch that commentary and see how every little shot that passed by so quickly was so packed with meaning. It’s part of what impressed me most about Yuasa’s work on the film. At first I was disappointed that it wasn’t a ‘running’ commentary, but after thinking about it, I realized that it was probably the most effective way of doing it. Those dense parts like the ending and the montage are the parts that most needed explanation, so having Yuasa go through them in slo-mo was a great idea.

I also appreciated the interviews on the Remix DVD, just to see Yuasa in the flesh, and see how low-key and unostentatious a person he is. I found the way he fidgeted with his ear throughout the interview very endearing.

03/06/05 @ 17:01