Tuesday, January 15, 2019

Animated Events: 46th Annie Awards

On Saturday, February 2nd at 7 p.m. PST (10 p.m. EST), ASIFA Hollywood will be streaming the annual Annie Awards, a celebration of the best our industry has to offer.

Both the Production and Individual Achievement categories are listed on the Nominees page, however some highlights are below:

Best Animated Feature
  • Early Man - Aardman Animations
  • Incredibles 2 - Pixar Animation Studios
  • Isle Of Dogs - Fox Searchlight Pictures / Indian Paintbrush / American Empirical Pictures
  • Ralph Breaks The Internet - Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse - Sony Pictures Animation
Best Animated Feature - Independent
  • Ce Magnifique Gâteau! - Beast Animation, Vivement Lundi !, Pedri Animation
  • MFKZ - Ankama / Studio 4ºC
  • Mirai - Studio Chizu
  • Ruben Brandt, Collector - Ruben Brandt LLC
  • Tito and the Birds - Bits Productions, Split Studio
Best Animated Short Subject
  • Grandpa Walrus - Caïmans Productions
  • Lost & Found - Wabi Sabi Studios
  • SOLAR WALK - Nørlum
  • Untravel - Production: Film House Baš Čelik, Serbia Co-production: BFilm, Bratislava / Your Dreams Factory, Bratislava
  • Weekends - past lives productions
In addition to the Production and Individual Achievement awards, they'll also be presenting the Juried Awards for the following:
  • the Winsor McCay Award - 'for their career contributions to the art of animation',
  • the Ub Iwerks Award - 'for technical advancement in the art of animation',
  • the Special Achievement Award,
  • the June Foray Award - 'for their significant and benevolent or charitable impact on the art and industry of animation', and
  • the Certificate of Merit.
You can watch the 46th Annie Awards ceremony live right 'here' on the Annie Awards website.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Monday, January 7, 2019

Animated Reviews: "Padak: Swimming to Sea"

I watched "Padak: Swimming to Sea" this past weekend on Amazon Prime. Such a beautiful and touching yet sad film. Highly recommended viewing but make sure that you have a box of tissues handy! If you liked Watership Down and Plague Dogs, then this is the film for you.

The film itself is about a Mackerel who is captured and sold to a restaurant on the docks. So she, and the other fish in the tank, try to survive without being eaten by the customers. But as Padak was not from a fish farm, she remembers what it was like to live in the ocean and tries to rally the other fish into escaping their tank while they still can!

Padak came out a year after the first fully Korean animated feature film: Leafie, A Hen into the Wild so there's some similarity in the themes but it's it well worth the time (I actually liked Padak better than Leafie). And like Watership Down and Leafie, Padak does not shy away about how life (and death) can be short and brutal for animals -- and thankfully, just like the other films mentioned in this post, Padak is honest and unflinching without pushing the boundaries just for the sake of being gruesome or for shock value. If you've ever cleaned a fish (or watched a fish being prepared for a meal), you know what to expect -- and it ably sets the peril that the fish face as they must decide to either await their fate or risk escape.

Now, as it's been six years since its initial release in South Korea, I don't see Padak getting an English dub and wide release to the American market (the sub version was released to online services in 2016). And I "really" don't think that it plays to the tastes of an American audience that is still heartbroken over Bambi's mother dying over seventy-five years ago, so there's no telling how long it'll be up on Amazon Prime. Watch it while you can! Coincidentally, I bought a region-free DVD player this weekend, so hopefully, I can find a legal copy of Padak with English subtitles as I think this film would fit rather nicely in my collection.

Oh, one last note: on Amazon, they just call this film "Swimming to Sea".

Monday, December 31, 2018

A Year of Animation: LEGO stop-motion edition

The LEGO Arc de Triomphe Architecture set
For the final film in my "Year of Animation", I chose to do a stop-motion animation. I'd been thinking of time-lapse video for a couple months now but never found the right location or date to really produce something worthwhile... and technically it wouldn't be "animation". I'm currently working on (redoing actually) a direct-on-film animation as part of my R.I.T. film archiving project, but it won't be done in time for this post, so... a stop-motion animation.

Years ago, I taught an animation course at the local community rec center and in order to visually teach the students the differences between frame rates, I animated the assembly of a simple LEGO model. So, knowing now what I learned then, I thought it'd be fun to revisit that idea.

Here's the film from back in 2003 played back at 3 frames per second. The individual frames were captured using an Olympus digital camera, hence the flicker as the camera readjusts itself between each shot.

For the new film, I chose the Arc de Triomphe Architecture set because it was one of the few LEGO sets with a location that I've actually visited--granted it was in a tour bus and we drove around it before going to the Eiffel Tower, but I "was" there darn it!

A view from the bus back in 2010

After looking at the Eiffel Tower set, I just didn't think that it had enough pieces and it had too much visual uniformity to make the animation interesting. The Paris skyline set is nice, but I wasn't feeling it. I'm just not too into the skyline sets, which is why I passed over the New York, Chicago, Paris, and London skyline sets. I liked the Louvre Building Kit, but I've never been there. The London Tower, Big Ben, Lincoln Memorial, and White House sets were a little more than I wanted to spend and they don't have a Musee d'Orsay set for sale (I actually would've expanded the budget to get a nice Musee d'Orsay kit). And unfortunately, there's also no LEGO set for the Toronto skyline or CN Tower. Oh well. Like I said: the Arc fits the bill, so that's the set I selected.

Need to rearrange the studio, this was way too cramped!
My setup was a little more complex than the other animations I've created for this 'Year of Animation' series. Before filming, I jumped on Amazon and picked up a pair of light stands and a set of four sandbags to hold them in place (had to get the sand from Home Depot) and borrowed a tripod from work that was sturdy enough to hold my DSLR camera -- which was tied into DragonFrame 4 on the reliable MacBook that I use for demonstrations.

Good ol' Dragonframe on my TravelMac.
After assembling the LEGO set and studying the instruction manual to determine how I would film its assembly, I came up with a shotlist to make things easier and then disassembled the set--separating the pieces by color into small plastic containers. That original shotlist actually involved some close up shots using my iPhone, but when it came time to film, I discarded that idea. There just wasn't enough room to maneuver around with two tripods, two light stands, my laptop on a portable t.v. tray, and all the little plastic containers that I had used to separate the LEGO pieces. Eh, I can always go back and refilm those two sequences if I want to.

The animation is as follows:

I could play with the frame rate and add the aforementioned close-ups in order to provide a little variety and boost the "interesting" factor, but in the end, this was just for fun and I learned what I wanted from the experience. Which raises the question: what did I learn from my Year of Animation and all the films I created?

Well, there were some great triumphs, like when the project inspired me to go through all my RIT films and materials, enabling me to recover almost everything I had lost from a hard drive crash over a decade ago. And there were some new experiences, like working on a team with Gary Schwartz and Linnea Glas on our ASIFA Central tongue-twister animation. But throughout it all, this project highlighted how much work goes into producing an animation, even a small one. So future projects should never be taken lightly -- speaking in terms of the amount of work they take to complete. But my main takeaway was how personally fulfilling it is to put in all that effort and watch the completed film. The playback is truly the payback.

Now, on to the next project...

LEGO, always good for a fun animation

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