Monday, January 30, 2017

Animated Events: the 44th Annie Awards

This Saturday, February 4th 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
  • Finding Dory - Pixar Animation Studios
  • Kubo and the Two Strings - LAIKA
  • Kung Fu Panda 3 - DreamWorks Animation
  • Moana - Walt Disney Animation Studios
  • Zootopia - Walt Disney Animation Studios
Best Animated Feature - Independent
  • Long Way North - Produced by Sacrebleu Productions, Maybe Movies, Norlum Studios, France 3 Cinéma and 2 Minutes
  • Miss Hokusai - Production I.G
  • My Life As A Zucchini - Rita Productions, Blue Spirit Productions, Gebeka Films, KNM
  • The Red Turtle - Studio Ghibli – Wild Bunch – Why Not Productions
  • Your Name. - CoMix Wave Films
Best Animated Short Subject
  • Blind Vaysha - National Film Board of Canada
  • Deer Flower - Studio ZAZAC
  • Path Title Sequence - Acme Filmworks
  • Pearl - Google Spotlight Stories/Evil Eye Pictures
  • Piper - Pixar Animation Studios
Best Student Film
  • Citipati - Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemberg
  • FISHWITCH - Adrienne Dowling
  • The Abyss - Liying Huang
  • The Wrong End of the Stick - Terri Matthews
  • Twiddly Things - Adara Todd
In addition to the Production and Individual Acheivement 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 44th Annie Awards ceremony live right 'here' on the Annie Awards website.

Congratulations to all the nominees!

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Animated Events: 2017 Academy Awards Nominees
Earlier this week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences released the nominations for the 89th Annual Academy Awards.

A lot of feelings regarding this year's nominees. On the one hand, I'm very happy to see that Kubo and the Two Strings was nominated in not one, but two categories. 'Kubo' was a beautiful film that deserved to do far, far better than it did in the box office. Travis Knight and the talented folks at Laika continue to impress with how they push the boundaries of stop-motion animation with every film they release.

And I'm very excited to see that Studio Ghibli was nominated for The Red Turtle. While a joint production between Ghibli and director Michaël Dudok de Wit, having followed the films of both for years, I'm really excited to see this film.

One sad note regarding the selections this year, there was only on female director nominated and it was for a co-directed film: Cara Speller for Pear Cider and Cigarettes. I'm not going to go off on a rant about the number of women creators in animation, however, I find it a little incredulous that there weren't enough women filmmakers making Oscar-worthy films in 2016 to garner more than one nomination, and for a co-directing position at that.

So, if you follow my sister-site 'The Women of Animated Film', this year is a little bittersweet. I was hoping to see more, especially after watching the trailer for the film Once Upon a Line, directed by Alicja Jasnia, which was in the running but didn't make the shortlist.

ONCE UPON A LINE by Alicja Jasina - Trailer from Alicja Jasina on Vimeo.

The following are the films nominated for Best Animated Feature and Best Animated Short Film.

Best Animated Feature:
Kubo and the Two Strings - Laika
Moana - Disney
My Life as a Zucchini - GKids
The Red Turtle - Studio Ghibli
Zootopia - Disney

Best Animated Short:
Blind Vaysha - Theodore Ushev
Borrowed Time - Andrew Coats and Lou Hamou-Lhadj
Pear Cider and Cigarettes - Robert Valley and Cara Speller
Pearl - Patrick Osborne
Piper -Alan Barillaro and Marc Sondheimer

Also worthy of note are the additional nominations in separate, non-animated categories:

Best Documentary:
Life Animated - Roger Ross Williams

Best Song:
"Can't Stop the Feeling" - Trolls - Dreamworks
"How Far I'll Go" - Moana - Disney

Best Visual Effects:
Kubo and the Two Strings - Laika

As always, for those who would like to see these short films before the awards ceremony, they will be playing at the Detroit Institute of Arts' Detroit Film Theater in January and February.

The schedule from the DIA's website is as follows:
  • Friday, February 10, 2017 - 7:00 PM
  • Saturday, February 11, 2017 - 7:00 PM
  • Sunday, February 12, 2017 - 1:00 PM
  • Sunday, February 12, 2017 - 6:00 PM
  • Friday, February 17, 2017 - 7:00 PM
  • Saturday, February 18, 2017 - 7:00 PM
  • Sunday, February 19, 2017 - 1:00 PM
  • Sunday, February 19, 2017 - 6:00 PM
  • Friday, February 24, 2017 - 7:00 PM
  • Saturday, February 25, 2017 - 7:00 PM
  • Sunday, February 26, 2017 - 1:00 PM
  • Sunday, February 26, 2017 - 6:00 PM
  • Friday, March 03, 2017 - 7:00 PM
  • Saturday, March 04, 2017 - 7:00 PM
  • Sunday, March 05, 2017 - 1:00 PM
  • Sunday, March 05, 2017 - 6:00 PM

The Academy Awards will be broadcast on Sunday, February 26, 2017.

Congratulations to all the nominees and to all the filmmakers who submitted their films for consideration.

* The Academy Awards and the Oscar are registered trademarks of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Animated Events: Women of Animated Film - the College Class!

Huntington University... 'Go Foresters!'
Well, after a several month break from blogging, I'm finally back behind the keyboard. In truth, I never left, but my late-Summer, Fall, and Winter seasons were taken up by copious amounts of research into and writing about women working in the field of animation.

Some background is necessary:

Two years ago, a friend and fellow ASIFA/Central member who teaches at Indiana's Huntington University asked me if I'd be interested in teaching a J-Term course about women animators. Well, we didn't get the paperwork submitted on time for me to teach during January 2016, but we were right on track for 2017. And it worked out for the best as that extra year of research and prep-time helped me create a better course than I had originally planned. I wrote the course as a three credit-hour class (though we billed it as a two-credit hour class to make it more affordable for the students) and taught it in three hour blocks for eight days (working out as eight, six hour days).

The class content was a mixture of historical information, films, film analysis, and discussion of current events. Though it's hard to pick a favorite aspect of the class, one near the top of the list was an afternoon workshop where I instructed the students in the basics of sand, paint-on-glass, and silhouette/cut-out animation--techniques used by Lotte Reiniger, Caroline Leaf, Martine Chartrand, and Lynn Smith.

This being the first class I've taught in a collegiate setting, it was mercifully free from problems. Other than a DVD that went bad during a screening and the ever present 'volume control' on the sound system, the class was free from technical glitches or other issues that would detract from the learning environment. And when the class was over after that second week, I found myself wishing for just one more day to share one more animator with the class--as my research would prove: there's no shortage of women out there who are creating wonderful animated films. It was extremely heartwarming to read the students' daily journals and have them come up to me after class and state how much they enjoyed learning about these women animators and how the class inspired them to seek out their films on their own time.

The best surprise was that at the end of the two weeks, several students chose to make films for their final projects. All were very good, but one sand animation was excellent. I've encouraged Jemimah to send it out to the festivals, so hopefully you'll all get to see it soon.

The folks at Huntington University were very friendly and went out of their way to ensure that my class was a success for me and their students. The other professors and staff were a real joy to work with.

All-in-all, while I've already pinpointed things that I'd do differently and modifications I'd like to make to the class, I would definitely run this class again!