Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Animated Thoughts: Festival Season - Ottawa International Animation Festival 2018, part 1

September arrived, and with it came my yearly trip to Canada for the Ottawa International Animation Festival.

However, this year was going to be a little different as I had spent the prior year saving a little extra money each month so that I could take some extra time off of work and spend it in Toronto before the festival. Every year, I like to drive to Toronto on Monday or Tuesday, spend a day relaxing in the city, and then drive to Ottawa on Wednesday. It breaks the nine-hour drive in half so I have at least a day to unwind before the festivities and I can always find something to do in Toronto that allows me to mentally shift gears from work to festival mode.

This time, the extra money was set aside so that I could spend five days in Toronto exercising those artistic muscles that never seem to get enough of a workout during the year. For those five days, I had lined up a solid schedule of events that would allow me to feed my artistic nature through a mixture of cultural events, animation research, and hands-on animating while I was in town.

My plan was to look at a rare book of animation at the University of Toronto, spend time at Toronto's cultural landmarks doing sketches, and then spend a day at the TAIS offices doing some test animations on Lotte Reiniger's trick-table for a silhouette animation that I'm working on.

But, things rarely go according to plan...

Friday, September 21:

"Packed the night before, actually got some rest, woke up early, got all my pre-trip preparations finished and left the house on time. But, I completely forgot my glasses on the way to get gas for the trip and had to drive back home. That should have been my first warning. Five hours later, I would be pulling onto Ontario Highway 427 in Toronto when I realized that I had left my sheet of blue Plexiglas at home. Doom on me. I had only planned on testing my fish models and their motion, but I still wanted to do it right with the nice blue background. My downshooter setup at home can handle what I want to animate. And as much as I would've loved to do the whole film on Lotte's trick-table, time limitations wouldn't let that happen. You can only animate so much in a single day. I'm planning that one-half of the animation will be completely CGI -- heck, I might do all of it in CGI. Dunno at this point. But it would be nice to test my idea on Lotte's table. Just wish I hadn't forgotten the friggin' blue Plexiglas!

Checked in to the hotel. Ran a couple errands -- like replenishing my brother's supply of artisanal mustard from a vendor at the St. Lawrence Market. Then hightailed it to the Art Gallery of Ontario for a presentation on Ethiopian Orthodox Christian artwork from the first century. The presentation itself was okay. However, I actually found myself enjoying the historical and archeological part of the lecture more than the art. But the real highlight of the AGO visit was making the most welcome discovery that they had a painting by Claude Monet hanging on one of their galleries! I made sure to get pics of 'Charing Cross Bridge, Fog' before I left.

Charing Cross Bridge, Fog
Claude Monet
Then it was off to dinner... then a trip out to BMV where I found a nice used book on Disney's 1930's animation concept art. All-in-all, a good first day."

Saturday, September 22:

"Had a really good time today, even though I upended my day for it by sleeping in and skipping my lunch plans in Kensington Market. Instead I went straight to the Dragon City Mall DQ for my yearly Cherry Arctic Rush.

Then it was off to the chocolate tasting tour hosted by Tasty Tours. Isabella kept us moving as we hiked through the city to visit six chocolatiers in Downtown Toronto over by the fashion district. On the way, I met three young ladies doing a private Lolita fashion shoot. They were a little upset when one of our party took pics of them, but I think it all blew over when I complimented them on their outfits and chatted them up about a friend who is part of the Lolita fashion club back in Michigan. My cred was firmly established when I asked them if Twylite Creations over in Kensington Market was still open. As I walked away, I couldn't shake the feeling that I'd met them before. Eh, my work with historical needlework takes me to some interesting people and places.

Another highlight was how Isabella took us through some alleyways with a lot of cool graffiti art and gave us time to take pictures. At every chocolatier, we got food samples -- always a different sample: gelato, truffles, macaroons, etc. -- and some tidbit of knowledge or history about the chocolatiers in Toronto or the chocolate making process. Strangers when the tour started, all twelve of us were joking around like old pals by the end of the tour. And as the tour came to a close, we were presented with a going away present: the Toffle, an exclusive truffle created by Tasty Tours. One part truffle, one part butter tart... I could eat a whole box of these in one sitting, if only they'd sell them outside of the tour.

Mmm... the Toffle! :o
If only they would sell these in bulk!

Afterwards, since I hadn't eaten anything all day, other than chocolate, I had to get something more substantial. Off to Wahlburgers I went -- since it was on the way to my next two attractions: the Aquarium and the CN Tower.

Wouldn't sit still for a picture.
Guess he was feeling a little crabby...
Really not much for me to say about those experiences. During the visit, I took lots of photos, spent a fair amount of time looking out on the city at night while thinking about life, enjoyed the cool weather, then went back to my hotel to do my five sketches from the Aquarium photos."

Sunday, September 23

"Had to swap out events on Saturday. As they were predicting rain on Tuesday, I drove out to the Toronto Zoo instead. The weather was gorgeous so it seemed like a good idea. Spent the better part of three hours walking around and taking pictures. Got to play with a caterpillar. Did some sketches and took a lot of great photo and video references of the giraffes for my silhouette animation. We only have two zoos back in Michigan with giraffes and they're a bit of a chore to get to from where I live, so, best to take the opportunity now while I have it.

He didn't seem to understand the concept of a concrete path so
I helped him find a nice tasty plant before a bird found him.
After hiking through every paddock at the Zoo, I drove back into town and immediately walked to the E.J. Pratt library where they have a copy of Walking Shadows by Eric Walter White -- the only copy that I have been able to locate in the Great Lakes region. Couldn't see the book that day but set up a time on Tuesday to have it brought out from the archives: Tuesday at 10:14 a.m. -- right before I go visit the ROM.

After dinner, I visited another used bookstore and found another book that is on my burgeoning list of books I want in my collection: The Art of Disney's Dragons. Gotta love it when you find a book that wouldn't fit in your budget when it was released, but you find months later in a much more affordable form at a used bookstore.

After perusing my find, I spent the rest of the night doing my ten Zoo drawings."

Monday, September 24

"Wasn't exactly sure what to expect out of Monday. I got up and went to the TAIS offices over on Dufferin. Then, over the next four hours, I worked with my three fish models and animated the same scene six times -- this was on purpose mind you. All my prior work in silhouette animation has either been research or tinkering with ideas at workshops. This was the first time when 'getting it right' really mattered. So I started at square one: set up my scene until the visual style (lighting and color) looked the way I wanted, then I started experimenting with the motions to answer those questions that were mulling around in my head: how long should the scene last, should I film on ones, twos, or threes, how much motion did I want the puppets to engage in -- finding that tenuous balance before the secondary motion becomes a distraction from the overall scene -- these were all questions that I could only answer visually. By the sixth take, I had learned exactly what I wanted to learn from the experience and much more.

Combined with the photos and video that I took at the Zoo and Aquarium, I left TAIS finally ready to go from my shotlist to storyboards.

The rest of the day consisted of a quick nap, a long walk around the Eaton Center, a couple chocolate truffles from Godiva followed by an excellent meal at Ginger, a Vietnamese hole-in-the-wall restaurant that I will definitely be returning to. I really wish we had a restaurant like that at home! And to top it all off, that night, I accidentally cracked the screen protector on my iPhone. Doom on me."

Tuesday, September 25

"Skipped breakfast again, but was up just in time to get to the E.J. Pratt Library to look at their copy of Walking Shadows. The book was only thirty pages long, with four plates showing some models that Lotte created for her films but interestingly enough never made it on screen in the final edits. That trip was well worth the visit. I devoured the book over the next hour then immediately jumped online and bought a copy from a bookseller in California -- the only one in the States that I could find for sale. Another nice addition to my collection of antiquities from the history of women animators (click here to see how that all worked out).

Then, it was a quick stop at the mall to get my cracked iPhone screen shield repaired at the Apple store, followed by lunch at Marche, one of the few remaining restaurants from those family trips during the '70's and '80's. Nostalgia never tasted so good!

Afterwards, I hopped back on the yellow line and took the TTC back up to the Royal Ontario Museum where I spend hours of drifting from room to room taking lots of photos. Was a little underwhelmed by the special exhibit on spiders until I came across the display with the largest textile produced with spider silk.

Yupper. Nothing but spider silk.
Beautiful, and yet still creepy!
One fun exercise I engaged in while there was to take some time to study the dinosaurs and do a few mental gymnastics comparing them in size and scale to modern animals in an attempt to figure out how they would move. Here is where video references of giraffes, elephants, and rhinoceroses become very useful. But the real highlight of the ROM visit was watching about an hours worth of video presentations on various metals over in the Geology room -- all the videos were very good examples of motion graphics and I found myself spending more time picking apart the video editing and speculating on how they could have produced the motion graphics using After Effects than focusing on the topic of the video.

When the ROM closed, I went back to Marche for my yearly strawberry crepe. Then back to the hotel. After a quick dinner at Ginger, it was time to pack up. This leg of the trip was almost over. My only regret from the day was that I never did my ten sketches from photographs that I took at the ROM. Rather than feeling relaxed, I was feeling a little overwhelmed from all the walking and the handful of toxic people encountered on this leg of the trip. But, tomorrow would another day."

Come back next week for part two: my yearly visit to Ottawa!

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Wednesday, October 31, 2018

A Year of Animation: Replay Entertainment Exchange

My little brother owns a used media store: CDs, DVDs, video games, stuff like that. Over the years, he's moved his store multiple times due to fire, flood, better parking, cheaper rent, etc., and he's finally found a location where Replay Entertainment Exchange will probably stay for years to come (I hope).

After his fourth move, I animated a couple commercials for him as a favor. Unfortunately, after each subsequent move, he would come to me and ask me to redo the end title credit with the new website and store address. Eh, it is what it is. He's family after all. And access to his store has helped me expand my DVD collection.

So, the animation for this month was to redo the end title for his commercials. Not much, I realize, but it needed to be done and I've been travelling so much this Fall, it hasn't left much time for anything else.

Here's the new end titles, it follows the progression of original titles, second edit, and the most recent edit:

And here's one of the commercials that uses it:

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Animated Thoughts: Father Knows Best

Well, I wanted to buy a book for my Women Animators research (and collection), but apparently the Lord had other ideas.

The only copy of Eric Walter White's Walking Shadows (an essay on Lotte Reiniger published in 1931) that I have been able to locate in the Great Lakes region resides in Toronto at the University of Toronto's E.J. Pratt Library. After having the librarians pull it out of the special collections and reading it during my trip to the Ottawa International Animation Festival, I immediately went online and purchased the copy on Amazon that a bookseller in California had listed for sale.

$303.49 is a little pricey for a 31 page essay with four photographs, however... the book was printed in 1931, the info contained about Lotte's process was very good, and honestly, when am I ever going to get the chance to own this book again?

Unfortunately, after arriving home from Canada a week later, I received a notice that the bookseller had refunded my $303.49 since they could not find their copy.

Sucks to be me. Or so I had thought.

Having read Walking Shadows, there was enough unique and interesting material in there that I still wanted to make it a part of my collection. So, for the following week, I poked around the internet when time permitted in the vain hope that there was a copy of this obscure 87-year old text for sale.

Then, about to give up the search, my stubbornness paid off! I switched my search from US based resellers of domestic and overseas books to directly searching UK booksellers' websites, and there one was. It's an old library copy so there's a little bit of wear, and they frustratingly put a sticker on the book's cover which caused a little marring when I removed it, but it's still in astonishingly good condition.

Best of all, including the 5 to 8 day priority shipping from the UK, the final cost was $41.96 USD (which also includes the international transaction fee on my credit card).

Far, far better for my women animators research budget than the $303.49 I had been willing to pay!

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