Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Animated Thoughts: Erik Timmerman

Erik had a number of theories (and witticisms). One of my favorites was shared during our first year.

As we were watching a Disney cartoon in one of our Photo Core classes, during a lesson on the principles of animation, Erik stated that within every Disney cartoon was an 'ass joke'. This remark was made during an analysis of Donald Duck as he swept the floor with a broom. Sure enough, within seconds, Donald turned around and started dusting with his tailfeathers.

To this day, I can't watch a Donald Duck cartoon without the phrase "Disney ass joke" popping into my head. And I've often wondered how difficult it would be to get a University grant and hire a couple students to index and watch all the Disney short films in order to see if Erik was right.

*  *  *



Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Animated Workshops: TAIS - Replacement Animation

So this June, Sunday the 2nd to be exact, the Toronto Animated Image Society held an online workshop dealing with replacement animation. Over the span of three hours, Cristal Buemi worked with us as we set up basic downshooters using our smartphones (and tablets) and filmed a short animation using the Stop Motion Studio app.

And while I already knew the technical side of filming with Stop Motion Studio on my iPhone--as well as all of the tips for migrating our filming setup to Dragonframe--where the workshop provided the most benefit for me was during all the pre-production and process information that Cristal provided. Needless to say, because you're going to be spending hours under the camera, swapping out similarly themed objects for one another, it adds an extra layer of complexity that can be best dealt with in pre-production (as most things can).

More than once, I thought about the early trickfilms of the silent film era, how objects "magically" appeared, disappeared, and transformed into other objects. I mused about how many of those early special effects were filmed organically on set with only a 'guy leans on chair, then chair disappears, then guy falls' outline and how many were meticulously planned out?

A thought for another day.

TAIS has done an excellent job migrating their workshops to cyberspace using video conferencing tools like Zoom. Whereas in the past, I was looking at around $300 to $500 USD to attend a TAIS workshop -- mainly given that I'd have to drive roughly five hours to Toronto, reserve a hotel, pay for food while I was there, and such. But now that they've gone virtual, the TAIS workshops are much more affordable as I can now attend from the privacy of my own studio. And many of them are free to TAIS members, another perk of that yearly membership fee even if you're not paying for that full-fledged "Studio" membership.

On the down side: no cool pics of Toronto in these TAIS workshop blog posts. Oh well, there's always a tradeoff.

But what made me want to spend a beautiful sunny summer day leaning over a downshooter inside a dark room, wishing I had dedicated more time that year to strengthening my abs and lower back?

I had become friends with animator Patrick Smith on Facebook a year or so ago. As a long-time fan of the independent films he's produced for his studio Blend Films (as well as the "Scribble Junkies" blog posts he did with fellow New York animator Bill Plympton), I've been following his recent short films with some interest. Y'see, Patrick has created four award winning films using the replacement animation technique: Board Shop, Candy Shop and Gun Shop released in 2019, and Beyond Noh which he released in 2020. You can watch the first three films on his Blend Films Vimeo page, however, as Beyond Noh is currently making it's way through the festival circuit, we'll have to be patient until it finishes it's festival run and he (hopefully) posts it online. However, Patrick does have the trailer for Beyond Noh on his Vimeo and YouTube pages for those interested. In each film, he uses this technique to flash through a series of images that are all related in one form or another to the overarching theme of the film. For example: in Gun Shop, Patrick explores the theme of American gun culture by cycling through a montage of 2,328 firearms. In Board Shop, same concept, just with skateboards, snowboards, and surfboards.

During a side-conversation on Facebook, we discovered a mutual respect and admiration for filmmaker Paul Bush, whose 2012 film Babeldom was one of my favorites from my days attending the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema. Paul has also done a couple films using the replacement animation technique, two of which I saw at the Ottawa International Animation Festival: While Darwin Sleeps... released in 2004 and the Five Minute Museum in 2015. You can see 'Darwin' on his Vimeo page, along with a trailer for a new film of his that uses replacement animation as well as more traditional stop-motion techniques: Orgiastic Hyper-Plastic. I patiently await its release.

Well, after seeing replacement animation so ably executed by both Paul and Patrick, I couldn't resist the opportunity to spend a morning playing around with my downshooter. After purchasing about $23 of candy and fruit at the local grocery store, I came up with the following film:



It took me a while to get the soundtrack right -- cycling 'mouth noises' that were recorded using my headset ended up being a little trickier that I had originally hoped. And I ended up just accepting the fact that my computer's fan was going to be white noise in the background, but I'm happy with the result.

It's nothing festival-worthy, just one of those fun little films where you experiment with a technique you're unfamiliar with. No real purpose other than to learn, explore, and have fun while you're playing in the sandbox.

* * *

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Animated Thoughts: The best laid plans...


Normally this time of year would have me uploading lots of photographs of butterflies from the Frederik Meijer Gardens' Spring exhibition: Butterflies Are Blooming.

Every Spring, I usually package a trip up to Grand Rapids where I meet up with my accountant to either drop off or pick up my tax information. Then I'd head over to Meijer Gardens and spend a couple hours taking photographs of butterflies and flowers.

For obvious reasons, that didn't happen this year.

But, as the date for filing personal and business taxes was pushed back to July, I took the opportunity to catch up on other work before I finished itemizing the rest of my expenses and organizing my receipts. The fateful date arrived and I drove out to Grand Rapids. The meeting was three hours long, since Dave is also helping me plan for retirement. But when I left his office, the weather was still sunny and gorgeous. And although I knew they were closed, I couldn't resist making a trip out to Spring Lake to visit the District Library.

As animator Winsor McCay spent many a formative year living in Spring Lake, Michigan, the Spring Lake District Library has a historical marker (and a sizable collection of his works) to commemorate  the life and works of McCay. And while I would have liked to explore the McCay collection, it was nice to be out in the sunny weather, exploring those little bits of animation history in my "backyard".

Yes, there's more text on the other side,
but you'll have to visit the Library to see that.

* * *