Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Adventures in (Armchair) Historical Research

Cover for Das Loch im Vorhang
One of the direct benefits of the Internet is the ability for researchers like myself to track down rare material in other countries. Not only is there a plethora of films from other countries being uploaded to sites like YouTube and Vimeo, but sites like Google Translate lower the communication barrier with their tools for translating foreign languages and in some cases, the ability to translate entire websites into English on the fly.

An example occurred earlier this year, when I was looking through my collection of works that involved Lotte Reiniger. Among the books I've located in the past were an original German copy of Venus in Seide , which featured Lotte's silhouette illustrations, or an old library copy of Walking Shadows from a bookseller in England -- Walking Shadows being a hardback essay written about Lotte by Eric Walter White, one of her former assistants. This essay is particularly interesting as it gives details into Lotte's animation process – along with a few plates with images of models that she created but never used in her films.

Well, while I was looking at the short list of publications that Lotte directly worked with, one that has eluded me for years piqued my interest. A quick visit to the normal sites that sold international books, such as Abe Books or the German antiquarian who sold me Venus in Seide, proved fruitless. Then, for some reason, I decided to switch gears. A quick search on the German-language version of Amazon.com, and there it was: a copy of Helmuth Krüger's Das Loch Im Vorhang (English translation: The Hole in the Curtain). It’s the only other book, that I am aware of, for which Lotte created silhouette illustrations (there may be more, I'm just not aware of any other than the aforementioned two). However, purchasing from Amazon.de proved fruitless. Google Translate wouldn't work on the Amazon website, and I couldn't figure out how to a) select international shipping or b) ask the bookseller if they
even would ship to America.

Illustration from 'Flucht in die Rulissen'
English translation: 'Escape to the backdrop'
After thinking about it for a day, I went back to Amazon and puzzled out the bookseller's name then tracked down their website. Lo and behold, there it was, listed on their website. And while struggling to figure out the German website, I made the welcome discovery that their shopping cart had an English-language feature. A month later, I had a very weathered copy of this book from 1922 sitting on my desk, and a smile across my face as I tried to translate the handwritten dedication that the author -- Helmuth Krüger -- had written to someone named Rolf. The images included in this article are taken of Lotte's silhouette illustrations to give readers an idea of how detailed her work was back then. For those interested in looking at all the illustrations in this book, a copy of Das Loch im Vorhang was scanned and posted on the Deutsche National Bibliothek website, which is accessible at the following link: https://portal.dnb.de/bookviewer/view/1128443937.

Ain't modern life grand?

'Sumurûn' illustration on page 89
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Sunday, March 1, 2020

Notice regarding Yearly Women Animator Interviews

Greetings all,

I have made the decision to skip this year's interviews with women animators.

Reason being is actually an uplifting one: turns out that I was asked to teach animation history at a local university. As such, all the time I would have spent on doing interviews in 2019 was reallocated in order to read several books, prepare lectures, presentations, assignments and exams, locate and view films to show in class, locate visual aids, and all the other miscellaneous prep work that was required to teach a college-level course.

I apologize that I couldn't get any interviews prepared ahead of time, but there are only so many hours in a day and I'm already working two jobs between the day job and freelancing.

However, the women animator interviews will return in 2021 (and I may have a couple later this year to whet your appetite). In the meantime, I urge you to visit my Women of Animated Film FaceBook page as I am sharing a bunch of highlights, articles, and films spotlighting women animators over the month of March.

Thank you for your understanding,

Charles Wilson
Smudge Animation

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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Animated Thoughts: The 47th Annie Awards

Well, the 47th Annie Awards ceremony has come and gone. Time for the yearly "random thoughts" I had during the broadcast:
  • Opened by honoring Richard Williams. Nice. Very touching words from his daughters and colleague.
  • I immediately put Shadowmachine's Kaiju Confidential on my list of animations to track down and watch.
  • "Saving the polar bears" in... Antarctica... Um... whut?
  • Please God, let Fox and the Pigeon win Best Student Film!
  • YES!!!!! Congrats to Michelle Chua for such a beautiful film. One of my favorites from Ottawa the other year.
  • Best Short Subject... Hrm. Haven't seen 'Uncle Thomas' yet. Was hoping that Acid Rain would win -- though I reserve the right to change my opinion once I see the others in that category.
  • Hi Jerry! :)
  • Oh please, Love, Death, and Robots (The Witness) is nominated for Best Production Design - TV/Media!!! Let an adult-themed animation win...
  • Heh, the Clutch Cargo gag was pretty clever. Loved the mini history lesson.
  • Love Death And Robots (Sonnie's Edge) wins again! This time in the category of Music TV Media. A great night for adult animation!
  • Loved Charles Solomon's part on early CG animation honoring Dr. James Blinn with the Ub Iwerks award. Dr. Blinn sounded like a fascinating man. Wonder if there's a Ted talk or podcast out there with him.
  • Oh please, let The Secret War win Best FX TV/Media... that would be just awesome!
  • And another win for Love Death and Robots. This has got to be my favorite Annie Award ceremony ever!
  • And the award for Editorial TV/Media goes to... Love Death and Robots (Alternate Histories)!
  • Henry Selick wins the Winsor McCay award, and is well deserved. Would love to hang out with him at the OIAF picnic and listen to him tell stories about his career.
  • Satoshi Kon posthumously awarded the Winsor McCay award. Very well deserved. A life and a career that ended far too soon.
  • Y'know, as much as I like Patrick Warburton (we love you Brock Sampson), I'm really enjoying this new format where there are fewer monologues and they 'appear' to have given more time to the award recipients' speeches.
  • Hrm... The Hospital by Amazon Studios... looks interesting. Time to take advantage of that Amazon Prime subscription.
  • Love, Death & Robots missed out on the Best Storyboarding for T.V./Media award. Would have loved a full sweep but happy that they won at least four of the five categories they were nominated in.
  • Kind of wished I'd watched I Lost My Body at Ottawa... honestly glad it won the award. Going to have to re-up my Netflix subscription and track it down.
  • Lotta love for Netflix this year!
Congratulations to all the nominees and winners. See you next year! :)

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