Monday, March 31, 2014

Women in Animation: TAIS and the importance of being seen

I'd like to close this year's Women in Animation interviews by summarizing a portion of my discussion with Janice that did not get included in her interview: namely the importance of having your work seen.

National Film Board of Canada Director Michael Fukushima once gave me this advice: "Make a ten-second film, and send it to the festivals. Next, make a 30-second film, and send it to the festivals. Then, make a sixty-second film... and send it to the festivals...". My interpretation of his point, given the context of our discussion, is that you should start with a film-making goal that is small and attainable, then get that film before an audience--hopefully gaining feedback. Then, apply what you learned to your next film, and make a longer film... and get that film before an audience, etc.

Often, budding filmmakers (and even experienced ones too) will fall into the trap of wanting to produce an epic film that is clearly beyond their reach--clear to everyone but themselves, that is (and I'm just as guilty as everyone else). And while the idea may be exciting, the filmmaker is more than likely caught up in the emotional rush that comes with a new idea. Incidentally, this is part of the reason why I stress working on your drawing skills--so that you can sketch out your idea and get an impression of how much work it will take to bring your grand vision to the screen. No idea is perfect right out of the gate. Every idea will need to be refined and brought into the realm of what is achievable with your available resources (for example: your current skill level, your free time, or the finances you can dedicate to your project). This sounds like common sense, but how many times have we experienced this in our own projects be it producing a short film or painting a room? Everything looks amazing, easy, and achievable with little effort in our ofttimes deceptive imagination. But when it comes time to put our pencils to paper, we quickly learn that our imagination wasn't being entirely honest with us!

Getting back to Michael's advice: when you're starting out, start small. Animation can be a very solitary experience, especially when working on your own films. So make a film that you can achieve--both within the skill level that you have and within a reasonable amount of production time--so you won't get discouraged halfway through the project and abandon it when it turns out to be more work than your imagination had led you to believe.

Which, in turn, brings us back to my conversation with Janice. One of the things that we talked about is the importance of groups like the Toronto Animated Image Society (TAIS). Even though the cost of computers, software, and digital filmmaking equipment is coming down in price to such a degree that it makes film/animation projects very affordable to most people, that doesn't change the fact that you can't "buy" experience or knowledge--both have to be earned through study, practice, hard work, and feedback. One look at YouTube will show you that there's a lot of people out there who 'think' that they're filmmakers, but in reality, they're just novices playing at being serious filmmakers. And if they're having a good time, hey, more power to them. I've spent more than my fair share of time watching cat videos on the internet. However, if you want to stretch beyond an audience of family and friends, there will come a point in time when you realize that you need to step up your game.

And that's where organizations like TAIS come in. You see, animation (and filmmaking) isn't rocket science. It isn't some nebulous thing that only people with "innate talent" can do. It's actually a skill that can be learned. And organizations like TAIS are good environments where you can get access to equipment and expertise. Janice stated during her interview that when people join TAIS, she likes to pair them up with an experienced filmmaker who is working (or has worked) in the medium that the person is working in. That way, they have someone to bounce questions or ideas off of--something that cuts down the time required to learn a new skill considerably.

TAIS's Patrick Jenkins is my 'go to' guy for questions regarding paint on glass animation.(1) I wouldn't dream of starting a cut-out animation project without first passing it by Lynn Dana Wilton. Digital camera and live-action filming issues? Grayden Laing. Character and story development? That's easy: Ellen Besen. Classical hand-drawn character animation: Bryce Hallett. 3D CGI character animation: Barry Sanders. More than just a shout-out, these members of TAIS are experts in their field with many successful projects under their belt who gladly share their expertise with the animation community.

Additionally, every year, TAIS puts out the call for ten-second films. This "Anijam" is open to members and non-members alike and is a way for people to get their work seen by an audience. How it works is, the board sets a ten-second duration for animated films on a specific theme, then filmmakers around the world make their ten-second films using any animation technique they want and submit them to TAIS. All the submitted ten-second films are then edited together to form one big film which is screened during the annual TAIS Summer screening and later uploaded to the TAIS YouTube channel.

Assuming a frame rate of thirty frames per second, then ten seconds of footage works out to be 300 individual frames of animation if you're filming on 1's. If you're filming on 2's, that's 150 individual frames. And it's 75 if you're filming on 3's.(2) The point here is, you CAN produce a ten-second film in a day, depending on how complex you make the visuals and audio.

This year, the theme is 'Robots' and you can find all the technical details, along with the film submission link on the TAIS Robot Anijam 2014 webpage.

So whether you're in the Toronto area or not, make a ten-second film using the theme of "Robots" and submit it to the TAIS Anijam. You'll get some experience making a film, hopefully get some feedback, figure out what you learned making that ten-second film, and then apply this newfound knowledge and experience to making another ten-second film... or maybe a thirty-second film... and then send it into the festivals... then make a sixty-second film... and send it into the festivals...

1. Using the method of mixing paint with glycerine.
2. For those who aren't familiar with the lingo, "1's" refers to filming one single image, one time, before moving to the next image. 2's refers to filming one single image twice before moving to the next image, etc. So, filming on 1's can give you very smooth motion but it's very labor intensive when compared to filming on 3's where every single image is filmed three times before moving to the second image. Fortunately, our eyes don't normally have an issue processing animation that's filmed on 3's, so it's a great labor saving device.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Women In Animation: Janice Schulman

Although a member of the Toronto Animated Image Society for six years, I hadn't had the pleasure of meeting independent animator Janice Schulman until she recently replaced the previous Administrator Coordinator. Part of the problem when you live five hours away from an organization is that you can only show up for major events like the yearly AniJam and the occasional workshop. Unfortunately, it limits the people you meet to a select few individuals. Since then, however, it's been a real joy to get to know Janice and discover another person in this digital age who still has a passion for producing hand-drawn animation. As we sat down for this interview over Skype, what I expected would be a fifteen to twenty minute interview quickly became a discussion lasting over an hour as we expressed many of the same frustrations with digital technology and (limited) nostalgia about analog filmmaking. But rather than paraphrase our conversation, the following is Janice in her own words.

Janice Schulman
Q: What is your current job description?

A: I'm an independent animator. I specialize in 2d animation. I'm kind of like a one-stop shop, if someone needs something done from start to finish, from concept to completion, I can do it. But they have to want my style, right? So I do that on a freelance basis. I do 2d, I use Flash some of the time. I use a combination of digital and traditional inks—hand-drawn, digital and collage. I'm [also] working part time for the Toronto Animated Image Society (TAIS) as Administrator Coordinator, so I help plan events and do member outreach and whatever else they want me to do around the studio.

Q: How long have you worked in the animation industry?

A: On and off since about '95. I wouldn't say twenty years, because there were some years I wasn't working as an animator. You could say I have fifteen years experience.

Q: What roles have you performed during your career in animation?

A: In the early days, my first job was working on interactive CD-ROMs. I started doing multimedia; doing animation for "edutainment" or educational CD-ROMs for kids. Then I did animation work for pixelboards--for jumbotrons--in Montreal. That was a fun job, I worked within a marketing department, I had to come up with little ads and animate them and then get them in the right format and export them so they could be on display on the electronic signs. And then I was also in charge of changing the copy and scheduling the signs. But I was the only artist working at the place so it was kind of a little odd. There was nowhere to go, I was the "in-house" artist, right? Anyways, I left that job after two years.

After that, eventually I managed to do some work in television. Working as an independent, I did some work for Discovery Channel. That was almost full time, but I was working from home. I had to officially register a company name at that point, so I registered "Janimations". I did a bunch of stuff for this show called "The Sex Files". It ran for five years, I think, and I animated for them for three years. I also animated some title sequences for a couple of different specials that they had.

Q: What made you choose animation as a major course of study?

A: I kind of fell in to it, truthfully. I started in film production, but my films were very cartoony, I didn't get accepted back into year two of the program. So I needed to find something else to do. I always liked to draw and a teacher recommended I try out for the animation program—that was at Concordia. I guess it was a better fit for me.

Q: Have you have worked for studios and as an independent? If so, which do you prefer and why?

A: I worked very briefly at Cuppa Coffee, but for the most part I’ve worked from home. Whatever animation work I've managed to get has been on a freelance basis. That’s just sort of the way it worked out. I guess there are advantages and disadvantages. It was kind of tough working alone at home and actually having to produce quite a bit of animation as one person. You need to figure out your capacity. You have to figure out your own creative rhythms, when you’re going to be most productive. I haven’t really had a traditional career.

"Nice Jewish Boys" by Janice Schulman

Q: Your previous work spans short narrative animations (Great Canadian Inventions, Nice Jewish Boys) and commercial animation (CallBack and The Sex Files). Which story format do you prefer to work with—short vignettes where you control the content or commercial work where you’re handed the story?

A: They have both have advantages and disadvantages, like when it's someone else's idea that they want you to illustrate, you're given certain parameters and usually you're given a tighter deadline so you're forced to work. It can be an interesting challenge to kind of work within a story that someone else has given you, I do enjoy that. It's like you're figuring out the pieces of the puzzle and how are you going to get their message across in a clear way, and in a way that they usually find amusing--because that’s usually why they're bringing me in--to create something entertaining for them.

And then working on my own stuff, I mean that's more of a labor of love. I'm the one doing it so, of course that's satisfying if I’ve had an idea in my head for a while and I finally start to make the thing. But it's a different kind of satisfaction.

Q: Given that we've seen the NFB closing their Mediatheque location in Toronto and funding for the arts is being reduced all across Canada, what do you see as the future for independent, non-commercial animation in Ontario?

A: First of all, I still think that the technology has become so much more accessible than it was even twenty years ago that if someone wants to make animation today as an independent, it's easier for them to do it than it ever was before. You don’t need that much technology. You don't have to shoot on film anymore--the way it was when I got out of school and I was trying to budget to make a short film. Well, I wasn't thinking about using a digital camera, right? So that was way more complicated. And now even, say, TAIS is a great resource in the city, at least in Toronto, and it's affordable and it’s accessible.

Q: You’re currently involved in the Toronto Animated Image Society, what role do you see societies like TAIS and QAS (1) fulfilling within the animation community? And with the greater accessibility to animation tools (cheaper computers, animation software with more affordable options: Adobe’s Creative Cloud), do you see a future where younger animators continue to take advantage of animation societies like TAIS?

A: Yeah, I think if they're smart, they’ll come to TAIS. [Laughs] It's amazing that people now have the choice that they don't have to work from home. We can provide them with affordable access to studio space and equipment and we also provide community. It's a chance to work with other people working on their projects within the same space so that there can be an exchange of ideas, an exchange of energy, and knowledge. I mean, really, it was through meeting people at TAIS over the years, they filled in some information for me that I hadn't received in university. Some knowledge--how to improve my timing in animation, squash and stretch, anticipation--I've met some people along the way who have been mentors to me and I met those people through TAIS. Coming out to an event is a great way to start to meet people and also by committing to actually joining the group. We do try to connect people. If there's somebody who comes along and they're interested in a specific form of animation and there's another person who's more experienced in the group, we do try to connect those people. And it doesn't have to happen in a very formal way. Even if it's just to introduce them at a certain event, if I know that someone is interested in doing puppet animation and we’ve got someone who is experienced in it, I'll try to put those people in touch with each other

"Great Canadian Inventions"
Storyboard & animation by Janice Schulman
Written & created by Allan Kane

Q: How have opportunities changed for women pursuing a career in animation today as opposed to when you started your career?

A: I think it's probably easier today to make connections with people through social media, for example, that didn't exist when I graduated. When I graduated if you were going to network you had to actually pick up the phone. I had to do a lot of cold calling to get anywhere. I don't know if it’s changed so much to actually get into any of the larger studios, I really think you have to have the specific skills they’re looking for either today--probably like some high end knowledge of 3d animation or if you want to do 2d animation you really have to have a knock-out looking portfolio. There are some houses that are doing some of the more boutique style animation, like producing commercials, who are open to people who work in different mediums. I had better luck with them, but yeah, there was no LinkedIn. There was no Facebook when I got out of school, so it was tough to break in. But I'm certainly seeing a lot of animation still being produced. There's still a lot of it on T.V. The main thing is the commercial studios still want versatile artists who are able to copy character designs and who have classical training. So I don't know if it's changed for women, I think if you are a good enough artist, you’ll get your foot in the door whether you are a woman or a man, I really don't think it makes a difference.

Q: What do you think is the biggest obstacle to women who want to pursue a career in animation?

A: I really think it comes down to getting the right skills, and you really need the appetite to do it. It has been an ongoing challenge that the technology keeps changing so fast. That's something I've found where I would finally master a new program, like Flash or whatever it was, then Flash wasn't hot anymore. You know what I mean? It has been a struggle feeling like you're always one step behind of "the" software that's in demand. Like for a while it was Flash and then they wanted you to learn ActionScripting. Now I'm seeing... I don't really see people asking for Flash anymore. So it's just sort of like 'where do you put your time in?' And unless you’re already working within a studio where you’re going to get trained on the job or you're going to learn on the job because you’re working on a specific project, then you're going to have to really be driven and committed to learning it on your own time. And it just sort of feels like a bit of a gamble, like, which direction do I go in? How long is this particular software going to be popular for? That's been a frustration of mine. It's been a challenge. But I guess the nice thing though is that if you know how to animate, you're not going to lose that skill. If you know how to animate and/or you know how to draw, those skills are still valuable. You’re just going to have to find out how to fit them in and make your skills work with the latest software.

Composer Maria Molinari and Janice Schulman (2)
Q: If your daughter said that she wanted to work in animation, what advice would you give her?

A: Pick a different career! [Laughs] No, I would tell her you better work on your drawing and you better talk to people who work in the industry. Find out what their hours are like. And try to visit some studios and really go and see if the work appeals to you. A piece of advice that someone gave me years ago was 'make sure that you are always doing some of your own work.' It doesn’t have to be animation but just continue doing your own side art projects, however small they may be. Otherwise things can get boring or you can get burned out. It's good to just play and try working in a different medium, because it refreshes you.

Q: What is the most important thing that authority figures (parents/teachers/professors) can do to encourage girls who are considering a career in animation?

A: Take them seriously and pay attention when they want to show you their work in progress or their ideas. Y'know? Encourage them, find some sort of extracurricular art class or maybe find a way to connect them to a group like TAIS. But I think it would be to try to point them in the direction of someone who could be some kind of mentor where they could go and sit down for an informational interview with someone who works in the industry--someone who would take a look at their portfolio before they considered applying to art school and give them some feedback. I think it’s definitely helpful to connect them with another artist who’s more experienced--if you’re not an artist, if you know little to nothing about the industry, try to use your connections. Take the girl’s ambition seriously and interest seriously and maybe get her to check out some of the different colleges.

* * *

Janice's work can be viewed on her company website "Janimations" at and she has uploaded several of her completed films on her YouTube channel.

1. QAS - The Quickdraw Animation Society located in Calgary, Alberta, Canada
2. Photograph copyright Grayden Laing and the Canadian Animation Blog and used with permission.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Women in Animation: Madeline Sharifian

Last June, my brother, himself a new dog owner, brought a delightful student film to my attention entitled: "Omelette". The young lady who produced this film is Madeline Sharifian, a second year student enrolled in the CalArts animation program.1 Well serendipity struck me a week later when on vacation in Toronto, I met a girl at the Toronto Zoo who was drawing a peacock. After asking me to look at her portfolio, she stated that she was interested in becoming an animator and wanted to go to college at CalArts.2 As a result of that conversation, I decided to reach out to Ms. Sharifian and see if she'd be interested in sharing her experiences, to which she graciously agreed.

Name: Madeline Sharafian
School: California Institute of the Arts (CalArts)

Q: What made you choose animation as a major course of study?
A: I chose animation because of two movies that totally changed my life: 'Spirited Away' and 'Monsters, Inc.' I was pretty young when I saw them, but they completely changed my expectations of animated movies. I was so emotionally moved that I can still remember that car ride home after seeing 'Spirited Away' to this day. The story of Chihiro's personal transformation was so incredible that I think it may have permanently changed my personality (I used to be a very whiny child just like her at the beginning of the movie... so whiny). I didn't learn about CalArts and the character animation program until much much later, but the prospect of trying to make a film was too exciting to ignore!

Q: Your two films "the Mew-sician" and "Omelette" were both produced using 2d hand-drawn techniques, is this your preferred method of animating or do you plan to make the jump to 3d CGI for some of your future student films?
A: I am definitely much more comfortable with 2D animation, whether it's on paper or via a program! I'm not very savvy with computers in general; I didn't learn how to use Photoshop until I went to college. The first time I opened Maya, I felt totally overwhelmed! Now that I'm more familiar with the controls, I've started to really enjoy CG animation class, but I don't think I'll ever become proficient enough with it to make a CG film. Plus I'm horrible at modeling (it's a little embarrassing).

Q: What was your inspiration for Omelette?
A: Well, I love dogs and food. That's really all there is to it! I came up with the basic concept on a hike over the summer and I stuck to it pretty faithfully all year. I wish it had a cool origin story, but it's really just an homage to my foodie family.

Q: On your Vimeo page, you allow people to freely download your film the Mew-sician in HD, SD, and mobile device formats. As students at CalArts retain copyright to their works, what prompted the decision to freely distribute copies of your film as opposed to seeking a way to monetize it or keep it for a DVD compilation of your future works?
A: Can I be honest with you? I had no idea that it was available for download! But it doesn't bother me so much. Also, I would personally find the concept of making money off of my student films very strange! It's definitely not something I think about. I just want to make more films!

"Omelette Designs", by Madeline Sharifian
(click image for larger view)

Madeline currently has two blogs that showcase her work. The first is a portfolio of her character designs and storyboards which can be viewed here on blogspot ( The second, also on blogspot (, includes preliminary work for "Omelette" as well as a wider array of designs, storyboards, sketches, and artwork that showcase the depth and breadth of Madeline's artistic ability.

Below are Madeline's first and second year films that she produced at CalArts: "The Mew-sician" and "Omelette"

The Mew-sician from Madeline Sharafian on Vimeo.

Omelette from Madeline Sharafian on Vimeo.

UPDATE: Now in her third year at CalArts, Maddie has moved her blog over to Tumblr and filled it with lots of cartoons about food and animating, check it out when you get a chance: Maddie's Silly Dillys.I can't wait to see Maddie's next film!

The images and animations used in this blog entry are copyright Madeline Sharafian and used with her permission.

1. Founded in 1961 by Walt Disney through a merger of the the Chouinard Art Institute and the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music, CalArts produced another notable female animator: Nancy Beiman, whose work runs the gamut from Ralph Bakshi and Warner Brothers to Walt Disney Animation Studios (source: LinkedIn).

2. Funny story, three weeks ago, as I was preparing to leave town for a one-week job in Boston, I got an e-mail from out of the blue. Turns out that it was the girl from Toronto asking for a little advice, mentioning that she enjoyed the interviews, and that she's now looking at attending Sheridan College in Toronto. Always happy to hear that the interviews are helping encourage girls who want to be animators! :)

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Women in Animation: Corrie Francis Parks

Corrie Francis Parks
Following in the footsteps of the first sand animator, Caroline Leaf, but not afraid to make the technique her own through the integration of modern technology, Corrie Francis Parks has created a sand animation called "A Tangled Tale". Having made its way through the festival circuit which includes the Annecy International Animation Festival--the largest and oldest animation festival in the world--her award winning film is now available for viewing on the Internet.

I had the opportunity to chat with Corrie via e-mail a month ago about her experiences in animation and her game-changing film that blends digital and traditional tools: 'A Tangled Tale'.

Q: How much does experimentation with different media factor into your filmmaking? Put another way, do you find yourself coming up with an idea and then figuring out how to do it using sand animation, or do you just start with a blank pane of glass, a handful of sand, and then play while waiting for the happy accidents to teach you something new that you can integrate into your filmmaking process?

A: When I was first starting out with sand, I did a lot of experimenting. I would spend hours trying out different methods of shaping sand and figuring out how to make it move. My first sand film, "Tracks" came directly out of these experiments. The animals seemed to break free of the amorphous piles of sand and just want to run all over. So I definitely built "Tracks" up from the happy accidents I discovered during that time.

Now that I have worked a lot with sand, it sometimes work the other way. Having an idea in mind gives me a starting point for further experimentation. In some of my recent commissioned works, I have made it a goal to incorporate sand somehow, even though the concept may not necessarily make that the obvious choice of technique. This sort of puts me back at that initial stage of exploration again, and that's how I can push the technique further.

My goal at the moment is to play with different types of "sandy" materials. I have a sculptor friend who gave me a bag of his leftover marble dust from all his polishing, and a student gave me a jar of sand from Lake Michigan. I tried animating sugar in one workshop, because we didn't have any sand available, and it gave me a plethora of new ideas. So I never am very far from experimenting with materials.

Q: When you made the decision to work with sand animation, were you influenced by the works of silhouette artists like Lotte Reiniger or sand animators like Caroline Leaf--or even more experimental animators like Claire Parker and Alexandre Alexeïeff (pinscreen animation)?

A: Caroline Leaf's work has been a huge influence. When I was in high school I went to a summer animation camp (CSSSA) at CalArts and at the time, my head was only full of Disney characters. The films they showed us absolutely blew my mind. Norman McLaren, Ishu Patel, Frederick Back and of course, Caroline Leaf. Her work taught me to think of materials as part of the story - that they are intimately connected and as visually powerful as the drawings that serve as their foundation. I have had professors both in undergrad and grad school that have encouraged me to play with a lot of techniques, which cultivated an experimental way of thinking. Each of my films from that era has a different look - and only one of them is sand. When you are in school you don't have the luxury of spending an insane amount of time working with a particular material because you have deadlines and parameters for your work. Now that I have been working with sand for several years I can see its potential both as a stand-alone technique and in combination with other techniques. To borrow a phrase from another animator friend, "A Tangled Tale" is definitely a "research film" in my mind. I still feel like I have a long way to go before I consider myself a master of sand animation and I look to those early experimental animators as inspiration to keep pushing the boundaries further.

A Tangled Tale from corrie francis parks on Vimeo.

Q: Sand animation carries restrictions, much like any 2d medium--most notably a lack of three-dimensionality in scenes as well as characters who are locked into silhouette. Do you find that these restrictions limit you as a filmmaker or does it help your focus on what's really important in your story? Do you ever find yourself thinking 'arrgh, I could do this really cool scene if only I was using cel animation instead of sand?'

A: Well, the main thing I catch myself thinking is "I could do this so much faster if I was drawing!" I don't mind the flatness of sand - I tend to think that way when I do drawn animation as well - crazy perspective shots were never my style. The limitations make me pay much more attention to the texture of the sand and the fluidity of its movement. I am a big proponent of limitations in my working methods. If I find myself struggling with something in an art project, I will create a set of rules to follow - like limiting my color palette or using only one type of brush - so I think the limitations of sand are an asset for me.

In A Tangled Tale, I was really struggling with how to create a dimensional feeling to the water without making the environment feel too CG. Most of the camera movements are along that 2D plane until the climactic scene at the end where the perspective shifts mid-shot. That was a very intentional moment which visually reinforces what's going on in the story.

Q: You funded your film through a variety of sources: grants, donations, Kickstarter, etc. How has crowdfunding changed the way you go about financing your films?

A: It has made it possible for me to make films that are at a professional level. Since I work as a freelancer, I strongly believe that trained, skilled artists should get paid a fair market rate for their work. Anything that I would want for myself, I want to offer to my team. I don't think I would have made this film without Kickstarter because I would not have felt right asking people to donate their time. Some people did without me asking and others offered me reduced rates because they believed in the project and that was amazing, but it was their impetus not pressure from me and that is what makes the film feel so polished and professional. The effect snowballs because when there are so many people invested in it, I make a better film and when the film is great, other people want to jump on board. The Montana Film Office gave me a very nice travel grant to take the film to festivals and other festivals have noticed it and wanted to promote it.

Q: From the perspective of a woman animator, what do you think is the most important thing that authority figures (parents/teachers/professors) can do to encourage girls who are considering a career in animation?

A: I wish someone had made me sit down and learn a basics of how business and accounting works! This is probably NOT what any young animator wants to hear from their parents/teachers/professors. I certainly didn't listen to mine when they gave me good advice. The animation industry is changing. A lot of the work is moving to small, boutique studios as the big studios ship out overseas. So having some good business sense will be important whether you are going to start your own studio or work at someone else's. When I was in college, I interned at a small studio in New York and I was sure I would never want the stress of running my own business. Yet here I am, balancing budgets and pitching to clients in between the actual moments I'm animating. Having those skills is what enables me to do the work I really want to do - playing in the sandbox!

*  *  *

Readers interested in the nuts-and-bolts of Corrie's animation process will enjoy viewing the following video. Corrie has posted a 'Making of' video that she recorded over the span of producing 'A Tangled Tale'.

Making Of - A Tangled Tale from corrie francis parks on Vimeo.

Another of Corrie's animations that showcases her sand animation technique is "Snow", an animated Christmas card that she produced.

Corrie's website and blog are located at: and respectively. She has created a website for her film "A Tangled Tale" located at: And you can follow her on Twitter at: @CorrieFrancis (

You can view other animations that Corrie has produced throughout her career on her YouTube channel. Additionally, you can purchase copies of "A Tangled Tale" on DVD, which includes the making of video as well as several of Corrie's other sand animated films. Her webstore is located at:

Lastly, Corrie just published a short piece on "animationstudies 2.0", the official blog for the Society for Animation Studies, where she presents her film and discusses her filmmaking process. You can read it here.

* Interview originally published on my sister blog Animated Women, January 14, 2014.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Women in Animation 2014

Hi folks. First off, let me apologize for getting to a late start on this year's "Women in Animation" interviews. Between my day job and freelancing (which led me to spend the first week in March in Boston working for a client), I've been swamped. So, sorry to be a week late, but real life often has a tendency to get in the way of the things that are important to us.

This year, I'd like to kick off the Women in Animation interviews with two personal announcements:

The first is that last year, I launched a blog called "Animated Women". On it, you can find more of my interviews with women animators as well as links to other interviews, videos, news & magazine articles, event notices (like upcoming panel discussions and screenings), and the occasional promotion for crowd-sourcing of animated films by women directors/animators. If you haven't had a chance yet, check it out at

It's also worth mentioning that while I'm doing some cross-posting of interviews from my Smudge Animation blog and my Animated Women blog, in many of the interviews that I've moved over to the Animated Women blog, I've taken the time to add more information and updates to the original interviews in order to keep the information current.

Secondly, at this year's Shuto Con anime convention here in Lansing, Michigan, I'll be dipping into my research material and presenting a lecture on the history of women working in animation followed by a screening of animated films produced by women animators.

Since the audience is in the teenage to early-twenties crowd, rather than use the traditional lecture format, I'll be presenting the information in an audience participation/game show format where I'll be giving clues to an animator's identity (or clues to notable achievements in an animator's life) and then letting the audience figure out who the animator is. People who answer questions correctly get a prize, those who give wrong answers... well, they also get a prize, just not as "cool".

Some of the films that I'll be screening afterwards are:

  • Interstellar Who's Who: the Praepredatorprae, by Carol Beecher and Kevin D.A. Kurytnik
  • A Tangled Tale, by Corrie Francis Parks
  • Excerpts from Sita Sings the Blues, by Nina Paley
  • Great Canadian Inventions, by Janice Schullman
  • and many more...

    My lecture will be at 10:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 5th in Panel Room 2 (LC 102) of the Lansing Center
    The screening will be at 11:00 p.m. on Saturday, April 5th, in Panel Room 2 (LC 102) of the Lansing Center
    (immediately following my lecture).

    If you'd like to attend, passes for the the con are available on their website: and I'm told that day passes will be available at the convention -- but you'll have to go to Con registration on the second floor of the Radisson Hotel attached to the Lansing Convention Center.

    Hope to see some of you there!

    Saturday, March 1, 2014

    Animated Quotes: Walt Disney

    "Another ugly rumor is that we are trying to develop girls for animation to replace higher-priced men. This is the silliest thing I have ever heard of. We are not interested in low-priced help. We are interested in efficient help. Maybe an explanation of why we are training the girls is in order. First, I would like to qualify it with this—that if a woman can do the work as well, she is worth as much as a man.

    The girls are being trained for inbetweens for very good reasons. The first is, to make them more versatile, so that the peak loads of inbetweening and inking can be handled. Believe me when I say that the more versatile our organization is, the more beneficial it is to the employees, for it assures steady employment for the employee, as well as steady production turnover for the Studio.

    The second reason is that the possibility of a war, let alone the peacetime conscription, may take many of our young men now employed, and especially many of the young applicants. I believe that if there is to be a business for these young men to come back to after the war, it must be maintained during the war. The girls can help here.

    Third, the girl artists have the right to expect the same chances for advancement as men, and I honestly believe that they may eventually contribute something to this business that men never would or could. In the present group that are training for inbetweens there are definite prospects, and a good example is to mention the work of Ethel Kulsar and Sylvia Holland on “The Nutcracker Suite,” and little Retta Scott, of whom you will hear more when you see Bambi." [all emphasis mine]

    Walt Disney
    February 10, 1941

    "Talk Given by Walt to All Disney Employees, Walt Disney 1941"
    Walt Disney, (Book edited by Kathy Merlock Jackson)
    Walt Disney: Conversations
    University Press of Mississippi. 2005.