Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Animated Thoughts: Shuto Con 2014 and Animated Women

Earlier this month, Spring had finally sprung and I found myself in my hometown attending Shuto Con, the yearly anime and Japanese culture convention here in Lansing.

As opposed to last year, where Disney fairies were well represented, this year, Disney princesses were all the rage. I saw no less than four sets of girls dressed like Anna and Elsa from Frozen. But almost everyone from Merida to Belle to Snow White were walking around--don't recall seeing any Tiana, Pocahontas, or Mulan cosplayers though as all the girls doing the Disney cosplays seemed to be all about who could make the most accurate (and most elaborate) dress. And unfortunately, I wasn't quick enough to get a photo of all eight of the Disney princesses when they posed for a group shot, but I did bump into Ariel later that weekend.

Though, however many princesses there were that weekend, timed with the release of Disney's "Pirate Fairy" DVD, the Disney Fairies still had adequate representation at the con.

Also, Squirrels Creations was back. Last year he showed up with a giant Starscream outfit from the original Transformers cartoon series and this year Optimus Prime was in attendance. Definitely check out his Facebook page for on it, you'll find the Mach 5 from Speed Racer! Going to have to head out to the Grand Rapids Comic Con this year to get my picture taken with the Mach 5.

This year was a bit of a departure from my regular routines. As I had been encouraged to speak at previous cons by the owner, this year I decided to toss my hat into the ring with a topic that I've been researching for several years: the history of women working in the field of animation.

I'm very fortunate that the con organizers are flexible regarding what seminar topics they allow people to speak on. They don't stick to a strict 'Japan only' philosophy as the resulting variety helps distinguish them from the other anime cons--both large and small--that are here in Michigan.

In order to liven up what could have been a very dry lecture, I decided to go with a game show format. The audience was asked three questions about a woman animator (both historical and contemporary), her career, and/or elements of work she was involved in that made it into popular culture. At the end of each animator's section, I'd recite two or three quick sentences about the animator that expounded upon the information presented in the questions

The awesome people who attended my WiA lecture

Afterwards, I presented a screening of animated short films either produced by women animators (like Lynn Dana Wilton's (Re)Cycle) or that had notable women animators working on the overall production (like Kazuko Nakamura, one of the first women animators in Japan).

"(Re)Cycle" (2011) from Lynn Dana Wilton on Vimeo.

Both events went over far better than I had hoped. Only expecting around ten to fifteen people (including friends who would be there to support me), I was pleasantly surprised when twenty-four guys and girls were there for my lecture and eighteen people showed up for the screening. As I have lots of material to draw from, you can be sure that I'll be shuffling the line-up of women animators in my presentation and proposing it to the convention next year. If you'd like to learn more about my lecture, head on over to my sister site: Animated Women for some additional information.

Given how well this presentation went over, I think it's time to dust off one of my original ideas and start working on a lecture covering the history of Japanese animation... or maybe just the history of Giant Robots in Anime... :)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Animated Inspiration: "Short Peace" and "Ernest & Celestine"

"Short Peace"

It's a good month for animation in Michigan!

This Friday, April 18th, the anime anthology "Short Peace" will be opening in theaters here in North America. "Short Peace" consists of four films:

"Possessions" by Shuhei Morita (nominated for an Academy Award for Animated Short Film),
"Gambo" by Hiroaki Ando,
"A Farewell to Arms" by Hajime Katoki, and
"Combustible" directed by Katsuhiro Otomo -- who also oversaw this project according to the film's Facebook page.

While I can't speak for the other three films, "Possessions" was spectacular and it sold me on seeing the rest of the anthology. Fortunately for me, not only will the Maple Theater in Bloomfield, Michigan be showing this anthology, but it's also within a reasonable driving distance.

A listing of theaters across the country that will be screening "Short Peace" can be found at the distributor's website: Eleven Arts. And according to Crunchyroll.com, this anthology will be released on DVD and BluRay after it completes its theatrical run.

Additionally, if you're anywhere near Three Rivers, Michigan, there's a fantastic movie that's playing from now until the 25th at the Rivera Theater. I saw "Ernest & Celestine" at the Waterloo Festival for Animated Cinema (WFAC) last November and it was truly delightful! This is a fantastic movie to take the kids to. With all due respect to Disney and the creators of "Frozen", in my opinion, this is the film that should've won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, so if you have the time, check it out.