Association International du Film d'Animation
(International Animated Film Association)
July - August 2008
by Karl Cohen

"SITA SINGS THE BLUES" WINS THE GRAND PRIZE AT ANNECY, BILL PLYMPTON'S FEATURE "IDIOTS AND ANGELS" WINS THE SPECIAL DISTINCTION AWARD Russell Merritt, who teaches at UC Berkeley, e-mailed us the great news on his way to Nina and Bill's victory party. He also said, "Kunio Kato's La Maison en Petits Cubes from Japan won the grand prize for shorts." I checked the Annecy website and Nina won "The crystal for best feature" and Bill won the Special Distinction award. They were the only awards given work from the US this year. The jury for the features that bestowed the prizes was Matt Groening who created The Simpsons, Ram Mohan and Barry Purves.

An hour after the awards program this was posted on Nina's blog. "Nina Paley's feminist musical Sita Sings the Blues and Bill Plympton's blackly comic redemption tale Idiots & Angels pulled off a triumphant double at the 32nd Annecy Intl. Animated Film Festival, winning best pic and a Special Mention respectively. Annecy is by far the biggest and most prestigious animation fest in Europe. While crowning US animation, the double win can also be regarded as a thumbs-up from the features jury for classic, adult-aud 2D animation made with a sardonic punch. "

Nik Phelps, who wrote and played music for Nina's film, said Nina was in shock, totally surprised, when her name was called. All she could do from the stage was thank people, but at the party " she shined and had lots of fun."

Nina's feature is also scheduled to be shown at Cinema City in Novi Sad, Serbia, June 14-21; Avignon/ New York Film Fest, June 25-29; The Taipei Film Fest, June 20 - July 6 and at the British National Library, July 8.

THE PRESS LOVES NINA PALEY Wired called Nina "a one woman Pixar." In N.P. Thompson's review (Seattle) he disliked most of what he saw at the festival's press screenings except for Sita Sings the Blues. He called it "the must-see at SIFF... the first wholly satisfying movie I've seen at SIFF 34." The Seattle Weekly said, "Alt-cartoonist Nina Paley's imaginative, giddily witty, visually delicious animated take on the Ramayana..." Bradley Steinbacher, writing for a program guide, said, "It all works beautifully. Bouncing between ancient and modern times, the movie has creativity to spare—and is all the more impressive since Paley did all of the animation herself."

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"THE ANIMATION SHOW" OPENS JULY 4 IN THE BAY AREA The 4th edition of The Animation Show features 27 shorts programmed by Mike Judge, creator of Beavis and Butt-Head. It opens July 4 in San Francisco at the Lumiere and in Berkeley at the Shattuck Cinemas. It showcases a broad selection of styles and quality from Jeu (Game), a remarkable complex hand painted work of art by Georges Schwizgebel (National Film Board of Canada) to Angry Unpaid Hooker by Steve Dildarian that has been described by several articles in the press as a hilarious, crude audience pleaser. Steve is a local and highly successful copywriter who will appear Sat. July 5 at the evening shows in SF along with Australian animator Dave Carter, creator of 3 Psychotown shorts.

Other highlights are Bill Plympton's latest out-rageous short Hot Dog (that inept bull dog is back "helping" a fire crew) and Smith and Foulkes' This Way Up (two undertakers have trouble getting a coffin to the grave site.

To see what else is in this show visit -

The show's press site has lots of positive reviews on it from the Chicago run. Several pointed out that this is really a quality program, not like the dumb shows Spike of Spike and Mike has been presenting in recent years. The Chicago Tribune called it "a terrific program. Most of the pieces are short, smart and lively, so the show can get a little overwhelming in its sheer quality, like a particularly intense firework show. But it's great to have too many high-quality options instead of too few. Come prepared to ooh and aah."

As for the local star of the show, Steve Dildarian is a San Francisco based writer who works on television commercials. He is the co-creator of the Budweiser Lizards TV campaign, and has written well-known ads for Little Caesars Pizza, Budweiser, Bud Light and Staples. His work has won top advertising awards, and is often included in many "Best Of" lists, including TV Guide's 10 Funniest Super Bowl Commercials Ever, and Adweek's Top 20 Ad Campaigns of the Last 20 Years. Angry Unpaid Hooker, Steve's first animated film, was awarded Best Animated Short at the 2006 HBO Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, and is currently being developed into a TV series for HBO.

Another local connection is Joel Trussell who created Welcome Aboard. At WildBrain Trussell made his television directorial debut with three segments for Nickelodeon's Yo Gabba Gabba! He has directed animated commercials for Esurance and Kid Robot Zoomies and has also art directed other spots at WildBrain. He presently lives in Tennessee.


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THE SIKORYAK BROTHERS' FIRST ANIMATED SHORT WILL PREMIERE AT WORLDFEST The Cartoon Adventures of Major Mars, produced and directed by Joe Sikoryak with his brothers Steve and Rob, will have its world premiere at Wonderfest sci-fi convention in Kentucky on July 19. Why? The main character is a featured guest at the convention. It turns out Major Mars is the brainchild and alter ego of Bob Burns, a sci-fi film expert and serial adventure fanatic. His original 35mm live action short The Further Adventures of Major Mars was the inspiration for Joe and Steve's cartoon parody-of-an-homage-wrapped-in-a-tribute.

Major Mars is an action-packed parody of 1940s adventure serials cleverly rendered as an homage to 1960s Saturday-morning cartoons. Major Mars, whose middle names are Danger, Disaster and Catastrophe, battles Dr. XYZ in a more innocent time of thrilling, comic entertainment and sugarcoated cereals. A teaser will be on You Tube sometime soon and the Sikoryak brothers are planning a series of short webtoons entitled The Interstate 6 7/8 (think The Twilight Zone meets Fractured Fairy Tales). Visit - - for more details.

Some of you know Joe as the California Kid, a frequent contributor to our ASIFA-SF blog the CableCartoon (Joe is also our webmaster). As a result of his revamp of the ASIFA-SF website and blogging he was interviewed by Tee Bosustow, whose dad was the head of UPA studio in the 1950s (Mr. Magoo, Gerald Mc Boing Boing, etc.) Joe says, "Tee is a generous interviewer and the 30-minute podcast turned out pretty well, considering I've been more of an observer than a participant in the animation scene, but happily that's changing. You can hear the interview at -

"CINE SOURCE MAGAZINE," A GREAT REASON TO TOOT YOUR HORN ABOUT YOUR WORK by Karl Cohen I'm writing a monthly column about animation for the Bay Area's new media publication and I mainly cover local news. The magazine is available both as a paper edition with color photos and on the web at - Your newsletter will continue to carry more and longer local news items; Cine Source will reach a much wider audience. Let the world know what you are doing. Send news items to

MICHAEL JANTZE'S "MR LUX" WAS SHOWN AT CANNES Michael Jantze, creator of the internationally-syndicated comic strip "The Norm" had his first short Mr. Lux: At Your Service" accepted into the Short Film

Corner in Cannes (not part of the big festival). "Mr. Lux is only happy when he delivers five-star service to his hotel guests." You can meet Mr. Lux and see other recently finished work at -

Jantze's script was brought to life by a team consisting of Jantze, David Andrews and Kelly McNutt. Jantze created the layouts and designs as well as directed McNutt's animation. Jory K. Prum provided the sound design and Jared Emerson-Johnson wrote and performed the Mancini-esque soundtrack. Nicole Jantze served as Executive Producer. Jantze Studios - contact Christopher Jantze at or call (415) 451-1945.

WILDBRAIN WINS TWO AWARDS AT ASIFA-EAST'S ANNUAL COMPETITION In NY WildBrain won the Excellence in Design award in the Sponsored Films category for their Virgin America Safety Video, directed by Gordon Clark. (See "Virgin America Safety Video" on You Tube.) They were also awarded the Excellence in Design award in the Commercials category for Esurance Homeowners, directed by Phil Robinson.

An Honorable Mention in the Student category went to Bay Area animator Michael Langen for his Doxology (made while attending Rhode Island School of Design). In the Independent category the Best in Show prize went to Fantasie in Bubblewrap by Metcalf Loves You. First place went to Bill Plympton for his Hot Dog. 2nd went to Germans in the Wood by Rauch Brothers Animation and Storycarps. In 3rd place was Teat Beat of Sex (new episodes) by Signe Baumane. She also won the Excellence in Animation award for The Veterinarian. Last Time at Clerkenwell by Figli Migli Productions (Alex Budovski) won the Excellence in Design prize. The Excellence in Writing/Humor award went to Colleen by London Squared Productions (Andy and Carolyn London). Karen Aqua and Ken Field's Sensorium won in The Excellence in Experimental Techniques. Compost by Visual Voice won the Excellence in Sound prize. There were other awards given in the sponsored film, commercial and student categories. A full list is at -

"NEW YORK TIMES" BUSINESS SECTION DISCUSSED THE PIXAR -- DISNEY MERGER AND EXPLAINS THE SUCCESS OF "CARS" Most of the article explained why the merger has been a happy marriage so far as Disney has let Lasseter and friends run Pixar without making major changes. The interesting part of the article for me was on Car's success. Despite mixed reviews it grossed $460 world- wide, sold 27 million DVDs and generated $5 billion in the sale of Cars retail products. There is a Cars virtual world on the Internet and a Cars ice skating show opens this Sept.

THIS IS OUR JULY AND AUGUST NEWSLETTER Traditionally we take a break from publishing in August. Any important news or last minute events will be e-mailed to you. Our next newsletter will be out around Sept. 1.

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THE AMAZING WEBSTER COLCORD HAS JUST FINISHED A MUSIC VIDEO FOR THE DANDY WARHOLS He says it is for their new album and the song is called "Welcome To The Third World." He did it in cel, Flash, and a little bit of CG animation.

Webster's personal work is truly amazing anarchy of the screen, but it doesn't pay the bills. One memorable gem is Extreme Man and Insane Boy. I show it to my students each semester that I teach.

He also tells me that he was the animation supervisor on the two new Nicoderm commercials that Genndy Tartakovsky directed with The Orphanage. He says, "You listed Corey Rosen as the VFX supervisor and Nathan Fariss as the Animation Supervisor. Actually, Nathan Fariss was the CG Supervisor, which means that he was in charge of lighting, environment and textures and I was the Animation Supervisor. The cel animation was done in Korea by Roughdraft studios; Genndy has worked with them for many years."

MICHAEL LANGAN DISCOVERS DR. COHN IN ANNECY" Michael Langan e-mailed me from Annecy, "I didn't think there was a market for Doxology, then I received an offer from Canal+ this morning!

Annecy is great, and the most beautiful French town I've ever seen." Two days later he e-mailed me, "Noticed a little shout-out to you in Bill Plympton's new feature. One of the doctors listed on the hospital directory is 'Carl Cohn.'" Michael also mentioned that he "had a nice short video interview with Animation Magazine yesterday. Hopefully that will be coming out later this month on their website."

The week before Annecy he was in Zagreb, Croatia where his film was shown and he met some of the great animation artists of Eastern Europe. Earlier this year the Ann Arbor Film Festival gave him the award for most promising filmmaker; Slamdance awarded him the best experimental short prize and last year Ottawa gave him the best undergraduate award. Before moving to San Francisco Langan attended Rhode Island School of Design. ASIFA-SF will be showing Doxology again (it was in our open screening in April) when we show winners of the ASIFA-East annual show as they gave it an honorable mention.

VINCE COLLINS ANIMATION IS BEING SHOWN TO A NEW GENERATION OF MUSIC FANS Jon Hoplins, one of the principle musical collaborators on the new Coldplay album 'Viva La Vida', is providing visuals on their world tour that includes stops in Barcelona and New York (a show at Madison Square Garden). Vince sent me to a blog that announced the band "will play over the backdrop of a re-mix of short animated films by legendary San Francisco based animator Vince Collins."


OPENING JULY 4 at the Lumiere and Shattuck Cinema, THE ANIMATION SHOW, 27 new well-made shorts in 82 minutes.

Wed. July 9, 7:30 PM at the Exploratorium, ASIFA-SF PRESENTS A PRIVATE SCREENING FOR MEMBERS AND YOUR GUESTS. It is an extremely important film not yet in release. See flyer for details (flyer not included in our e-mail edition).

Sunday July 13, 10:30am "THE ADVENTURES OF PRINCE ACHMED" (1926, Germany, Lotte Reiniger) Live Piano Accompaniment by Donald Sosin. Prince Achmed is the earliest surviving feature-length animated film. Reiniger created an intricate cutout silhouette animation technique to depict the fantastic adventures of Prince Achmed on the magic island of Wak Wak. Presented by the Silent Film Festival at the Castro Theater in SF.

Sat. August 2, ASIFA'S SUMMER PARTY AND OPEN SCREENING Fun starts at 8 PM, At Stephen Parr's Oddball Films, 275 Capp Street (3rd floor). See flyer for details.


Sat. Aug 2, 2 PM at the Berkeley Roda Theater and Sun Aug 3 at 9 PM at the Jewish Community Center in SF, "QUEST FOR THE MISSING PIECE," directed by Oded Lotan. "Once upon a time in a small land by the seashore, a baby was born. Eight days after the birth, the Baby's parents celebrated in a mysterious ancient ceremony... The Missing Piece is a thorough investigation of the tradition and implications of circumcision under the humorous pretext of the director looking for his missing piece."

Thurs Aug. 7th 9:30 PM, Berkeley Roda Theater and Sat. Aug. 9th, 1 PM at the Jewish Community Center in SF, the short "A TRIP TO PRAGUE," directed by: Neil Ira Needleman/ "There aren't enough happy endings in the world, so I decided to create my own. This short, sweet, and touching story is told, very simply, by Herb. He is the narrator and my friend and it is illustrated with Herb's wonderful sketches of Prague. The story may be fiction, but the feelings are real. And, I sincerely believe, happy endings can be real, too."

July 26th 1:45 PM, Castro (SF), Tues. Aug. 5, 2 PM, Berkeley Roda Theater and Thurs. Aug. 7, 2 PM at the Palo Alto Cine Arts. "DER SOLDAT," directed by: Max Cohen. Der Soldat is a hand-drawn short about a young man who carries an injured companion out of an empty battlefield to look for help. For more information visit -

COMING TO THE RED VIC IN JULY - AUGUST Iron Man July 2--5. Indiana Jones -- Crystal Skull July 18-19. Harold and Maude July 25-28, It Came From Outer Space (1953 in 3-D) Aug. 22-23 and wild psychedelic visuals in The Trip (1967) Fri. Aug. 29.

NVISION 08 IN SAN JOSE August 25-27. One big highlight is on Tues. August 26 at 6 pm. It is a special performance of Video Games Live. It is billed as the most successful video game concert in the world. It is "an immersive performance featuring music from the most popular video games of all time. Top musicians perform special musical arrangements with exclusive video footage, synchronized lighting, and interactive segments to create an explosive entertainment experience -


PBS' FIRST ADULT ANIMATED SERIES, "AS THE WRENCH TURNS," PREMIERS WEDNESDAY, JULY 9. The animated sitcom based on the National Public Radio show Car Talk, follows the on and off the air adventures of Click and Clack. The show's fictional home is Car Talk Plaza on Harvard Square in Cambridge, Mass. Former Disney director Tom Sito oversaw the production. It was animated using Flash. For more on the series visit -

NEW COPYRIGHT AGREEMENT IN EUROPE WILL MAKE IT EASIER TO SEE "ORPHANED WORKS" While our Congress has yet to decide if they will revise the US copyright laws, an agreement has been reached in Europe. Their EU-wide copyright agreement for "orphan works" increases the number of films that can be made available to the public: online, illustrated in books, etc. An "orphan work," is a film, music score, book, illustration, etc. whose rights holder is impossible to identify and/or locate. In the past not being able to locate the rights holder meant that since rights could not be cleared, the work usually ended up being withdrawn from public distribution due to the legal uncertainty and fear of being sued for copyright violation. That prevented the legal distribution of a great number of older works.

The new set of laws in Europe provides a system where libraries, archives, publishers, film companies, etc. can use orphaned works. What wasn't clear in the June 5 article in Screen Daily is how people who claim they now own rights to orphaned works can later be compensated for uses of works they have inherited or otherwise have acquired. Instead the article went on to illustrate one problem in the past. In a recent survey by the Association des Cin?math?ques Europ?ennes they concluded that "up to 50,000 unfulfilled requests have been made to re-use orphan works in Europe's film archives."

In the US an author of several books about historic comic strips told me she has had a great deal of trouble finding the owners of obscure historic comic strips. As a result she has had to leave illustrations of their work out of books she has written. I had similar problems when I wrote my book Forbidden Animation: Censored Cartoons and Blacklisted Animators.

A NEGATIVE LOOK AT THE ORPHANED WORKS BILL IN THE US CONGRESS Mark Simon wrote an article urging people to oppose the proposed legislation (June 16 at His main arguments are that people will abuse the rules and not be diligent in their searches to find the copyright holder. He states, "The proposed law does not encourage a reasonably diligent search. In fact it does just the opposite. It makes it easy for someone to do a quick search on a registry and then call a work of art an orphan if it doesn't appear in that registry results." He also says the proposed law limits compensation if your rights are infringed upon. Read a copy of the law going before Congress at -

LOOKING FOR FILM FESTIVAL INFORMATION? Three good sites to check are Without A, Film and Filmmaker Magazine online.

VIDEO GAMES INDUSTRY, LED BY GRAND THEFT AUTO SALES, GROSSED $1.12 BILLION IN MAY The Associated Press reported retail sales in the US of video games, consoles and game accessories had a 37 percent rise over the same month last year, driven by sales of the new edition of Grand Theft Auto. Nintendo's Wii console is still the top-selling hardware unit, with 675,100 units sold in May. Their handheld player sold 452,600 units. Sony's Play Station 3 and Microsoft's Xbox 360 sold 208,700 and 186,600 units sold, respectively. Hardware sales rose 34 percent to $428.6 million, while software sales rose 41 percent to $536.9 million (compared to the same month last year). So far sales this year have grossed $6.6 billion. The industry expects to take in between $21 billion and $23 billion in 2008.

ANIMATED DILBERT CARTOONS ARE NOW ON THE INTERNET RingTale, the company producing cartoons for The New Yorker, has obtained the animation rights to Scott Adams' Dilbert. The new works can be seen at, on - and on iTunes.

NEWLY DISCOVERED PHOTOGRAPHS FROM THE PERIOD GENE DEITCH WAS AT TERRYTOONS Gene writes, "Thanks to the J.J. Sedelmaier collection, you can now see in my online book, How To Succeed in Animation several fascinating publicity shots made at CBS-Terrytoons in 1957, showing some of the studio stars, including Vinnie Bell, Connie Rasinski, Tommy Morrison, Bob Kuwahara, Bill Focht; the recording of Tom Terrific with Lionel Wilson, Jules Feiffer, Eli Bauer, Frank Schudde, me, and the only known photo of the Dark Lord, Bill Weiss! Go to: Chapter 15A 'Terrytoonery' pages 8, 10 & 11"

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RUN WRAKE'S FIRST SHORT SINCE "RABBIT" IS A MUST SEE The Control Master, a film by Veer and Run Wrake features art from CSA Images. A trailer and the entire film are on the Internet and both are a lot of fun. It isn't brutal like Rabbit. Instead it has a delighful absurd story that works well with Run's use of cutouts. It is full of twists and surprises. The film uses images reminiscent of old comic books, but you have never seen anything like this before. The following publicity blurb gives you an idea of the plot, but it doesn't prepare you for the weird adventure you will experience. "Halftone City, USA. A peaceful metropolis of family values and space-age dreams. Mild-mannered blonde Dorothy Gayne secretly protects its citizens from harm. But dangerous new technologies abound. What happens when a powerful device falls into the hands of Doctor Moire, a scientist-turned-villain? Who will rescue Halftone City from this oversized creep? Watch The Control Master and find out!!" - (The film didn't open on the official site so I had to use Google to find a site that worked.)

Run Wrake is an animator and illustrator who gained a lot of attention with his short film Rabbit. He has provided images for U2 and Howie B and has made commercials for Coca-Cola and Natwest. He lives in Kent, England. A short review for the new film on the Internet calls it, "a hilarious pastiche of retro illustrations and comic book storylines. Like much of Run's work, this project is full of unexpected visual combinations and a deadpan weirdness held together by a familiar but twisted narrative."

VISIT RICHARD WILLIAMS' NEW WEBSITE We showed the pencil test of his 2 min. opening title sequence in May at our Richard Williams Tribute and it was posted by Dick's daughter Holly* on Animation Brew [June 5, 2008] and on You Tube. Now you can now see the finished sequence on Williams' website. It was developed to promote his DVDs based on his master classes/lecture series The Animators' Survival Kit. It is a wonderful site full of tips on how to draw characters in motion. It captures some of the spirit and energy of his brilliant lectures. See what I'm talking about at -

When the new animated sequence was sent to us, Dick wrote that the logo was a lot of work because "it all had to be on ones. There are 600 swimmers and 500 Veroniques (sexy lady) for example." He was proud that he made no compromises so "we got exactly what we were trying for." He also said that while pencil tests are generally more impressive than the final fully rendered colored work, "this time we have an exception. Wait till you see the finished sequence." It is in the trailer for the DVD set on the website. We should receive a copy of the trailer and we plan to show it at our August. 2 ASIFA-SF party. Note: *Holly Williams lives in the Bay Area. Her art includes unusual images of SF and can be seen at -

ASIFA IN PORTLAND TO HOLD A PROGRAM HONORING ANIMATION ARTIST ROSE BOND IN JULY Included will be a document on Rose Bond's latest interior/exterior installation Electro-Flux. Her work "re-imagines animation through multi-windowed projections that transform surrounding spaces into cinema-lit Lyceums." In other words she projects images on rear projection screens from the insides of the buildings so audiences in the street can see her work. Bond will shares stories and images from several of her installation pieces, including her latest work Electro-Flux, created for the Platform Animation Festival.

Also in the program will be a document on Ward of Court: County of Origin, "a multiple-lens observation of children remanded to state care," and Gates of Light that documents another of Bond's animated installations. The latter was commissioned for a museum in New York City housed in the 120-year-old Eldridge Street Synagogue. It evokes a haunting vision of the building's history and the history of the dynamic Lower East Side immigrant neighborhood in which it resides. The program will be held Thursday, July 10 at the Northwest Film Center in the Portland Art Museum. -

ASIFA MAGAZINE, THE INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION JOURNAL, SUMMER, 2008 ISSUE The official magazine has been changed slightly to include more news about our chapters around the world, followed by over 30 pages of featured articles. The articles include a tribute to Raoul Servais from Belgium, an informative piece on the animated works of Terry Gilliam, studies about David Anderson's Dreamless Sleep and Koji Yamamura's Franz Kafka's A Country Doctor, my interview with the creators of Persepolis (longer than the version published months ago in this newsletter) and John Lent's massive and highly informative study on the growth of commercial animation in Asia and the movement towards these countries producing animation for their domestic markets. Lent points out several facts that may surprise you including, "In 2002 Japan exported nearly $4.4 billion in animation products to the US, a figure four times greater than the value of Japanese steel exports to the US. That year Japanese popular culture products exported amounted for $14 billion in revenues." I was also surprised to learn from Lent that "despite US economic sanctions on North Korea US animation is made by North Koreans. In some cases North Koreans are brought to China to work exclusively on US animation... Disney subcontracted TV series..." The issue has other informative articles in it and is free to international ASIFA members.

THE 2ND PLATFORM FESTIVAL IN PORTLAND is being planned for next June. I checked with the festival's director to see if the rumor going around Annecy that Platform is being scheduled for June 2009 is true. It is true.

ARE YOU READY FOR "SHREK THE MUSICAL?" Tickets for the Broadway show are now on sale. The show begins previews in NYC on Nov. 8.

LOOKING FOR FUN CHILDHOOD MEMORIES ON DVD? This site is full of information, photos, etc. plus DVDs for sale. -

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LAST MINUTE REVIEW -- "THE ANIMATION SHOW" COMING HERE JULY 4 While you may wonder what a program selected by Mike Judge would be like since he created Beavis and Butt-head, have no fear, the 2008 package is far more sophisticated and sometimes quite funny. There isn't a bad film in this program of 27 films in 82 minutes, almost all are really well made and interesting on some level, and a few are outstanding. I thought Angry Unpaid Hooker might upset or offend the women I watch the show with, but all of us really liked it, laughed a lot and one woman called it cute. PES was commissioned to do Western Spaghetti, an excellent work that takes his art to a new level of sophistication. This Way Up by Smith and Foulkes is good enough for SIGGRAPH and funny enough to win it a few festival prizes. Bill Plympton's Hot Dog is full of laughs even though you may know what to expect from his inept pooch (it is the 3rd film to star this dog). Another of my favorites is Forgetfulness animated by Julian Gray of Head Gear to a short poem by Billy Collins. And Jeu by Georges Schwizgebel and John and Karen by Mathew Walker (both were shown here last year by Ron Diamond in his Show of Shows) are among my favorites and it was great seeing them again.

While a few films left me wondering what the point was, they were still interesting to watch. Overall this is a program worth leaving home for. A few of the films are visually stunning and "on the edge" and expect some unusual humor. Some of the films have already done well in festivals in Europe like Stefan Mueller's Mr. Schwartz, Mr. Hazen & Mr. Horlocker and Jeu and I assume others will be making the rounds soon. See you at the movies. KC

ANIMATION HAS A ROLE IN INTERNATIONAL DIPLOMACY Last month I expressed my disappointment that the film Walt and El Grupo didn't explore that theme very far. This month China View (June 15) ran, "Bollywood to be important tool of India's diplomacy. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh envisioned a new role for Bollywood, an important instrument of foreign policy, according to the Press Trust of India Thursday."

"Noting India's 'soft power,' Singh said Bollywood can be put to use as an important instrument of foreign policy when he spoke with new recruits at Indian Foreign Service. '.I find wherever I go in the Middle East, in Africa, people talk about Indian films,' he said."

He said soft power is equally important in the new world of diplomacy, 'so that is a new way of influencing the world about the growing importance of India.' "

"Bollywood is the center of the Indian film industry and one of the largest film producers in the world with an annual output of over 1,000 films a year." From John Lent's article (see previous article) I learned that many governments in Asia including India realize the importance of the animation industry and have various ways of helping it grow (tax breaks, direct aid, mandatory local animation content quota on TV, etc.).

"KUNG FU PANDA" IS A NEW IMPROVED DIRECTION FOR DREAMWORKS ANIMATION By Karl Cohen I went to the preview of Kung Fu Panda for ASIFA members thinking it's going to be loud, fast paced, glossy, full of farts, stupid off-the-wall jokes and popular culture references. Although I only expected to be mildly amused, I left telling others how much I enjoyed the film, that I was glad it didn't have an Eddie Murphy type comedian in it, and that it had much better writing and plot construction than previous DreamWorks animated products. I agreed with my friend's 4-year-old daughter who told me, "It really was awesome."

As I thought about what was different, the most important thing is its star is a very likable self-effacing panda instead of an obnoxious character with an even more offensive sidekick. The latter may be a good setup for comedy, but not necessarily for a feature length story about a quest. Unlike some quest films from the past the main character was a poor working class panda, not someone born into nobility or destined to marry a prince or princess.

A script element that I don't fully understand, but it works, is to make it clear from the start that the situations and resolutions are so exaggerated or extreme that no one need think they are intended to be believable. It tells us to relax and enjoy what is in store for us in the next 90 minutes and not to worry about logic. From the film's title we can guess its ending; that somehow the oafish and clumsy panda will succeed in his quest. What we don't have the slightest clue to is how this transformation will happen and what adventures he will go on to achieve it.

What made the film work for me were inventive plot situations and humor that were developed to fit the story. Instead of being full of stupid one-liners that didn't have anything to do with the plot, almost everything that was done and said had a purpose, to advance the story or resolve the situation that had been set up..

I think the writers have created a really delightful modern form of fairytale or children's fantasy film. It isn't as sophisticated and stylish as Pixar's best work (like the The Incredibles), and you can point out elements and moments that don't quite work as well as they might, but I suspect Kung Fu Panda will do well in getting award nominations at the end of this year. I hope the film is a turning point for DreamWorks or should we expect more of the old script design formulas in the coming years? Knowing DreamWorks is a publicly traded corporation, I suspect the box office returns will play an important roll in deciding which direction the company will go. Remember they are the company that cut their relationship with Nick Park and Aardman so the bottom line is profits, not winning awards.

WARNER TO PRODUCE AN ANIMATED FEATURE IN INDIA FOR LOCAL AUDIENCES Warner Bros. in India is making its first domestic animated feature, to be headed by Bollywood director Jyotin Goel. Goel says, "This is a story of love and adventure. ... It is a journey into the lives of birds as they soar over dense jungles and teeming cities, giving them a point of view of the world that is hilariously different from ours." No news about the budget or release date. Goel's background includes his being the director of the 1990's hit Zahreelay and his directing several TV shows including the 2007 sci-fi series Antariksh. Mumbai-based Interactive Realities International will provide the 3-D animation and postproduction. Warners' India has already produced at least one live action feature and others are planned.

"PERSEPOLIS" IS OUT ON DVD AND BLU-RAY Other new releases include 10,000BC and Spiderwick Chronicles.

THE 15th INTERNATIONAL TRICKFILM FESTIVAL, STUTTGART '08 HONORED LATVIAN ANIMATION by Nancy Denny-Phelps My Spring festival season got off to a great start in Stuttgart, Germany at the 15th Trickfilm Festival (May 1 -- 6). For Nik and I the big event of the week was to finally see the complete 82 minutes of Nina Paley's wonderful feature Sita Sings The Blues. Although Nik composed and performed the intermission music, we had only seen segments of the film and we were very curious about how Nina would fit the pieces together. Her use of three Indian voices in a conversation about the Sita legend worked beautifully to connect the action sequences. The fact the voices were disagreeing about how they believe the history of Sita and Rama should be told was the perfect counterpoint to the 1920's Annette Hanshaw vocals that accent both Sita and Nina's stories. Sita Sings The Blues was shown to audiences both in theatres and on a gigantic outdoor screen in a lovely beer garden, while here it was screened to an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds. Prior to the screening Nik played music from the film to set the mood.

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Vladimir Lesciov, Latvia; Bruno Bozzetto, Italy; and Dennis Tupicoff, Australia in the Festival Cafe

Nik was kept busy giving a workshop on animation sound tracks and performing several times at Caf? Schlossblick, the official festival meeting point and at a beer garden.

Trickfilm Festival has focused on Eastern European animation since its outset. Animation from the Baltic States is a special area of interest to me, so I was pleased to find that Latvia was the featured country this year and that two good Latvian friends were on the juries. My amazing friend Signe Bauamane, who creates some of the most insightful work around, by talking frankly about sex from a woman's standpoint, was on the student panel. It was great to hang out with her and share gossip since she now lives in New York City and we never get enough time together. Vladimir Lesciov, a talented, ironic animator who represents a new generation of Latvian artists, sat on the International Competition jury. We also spent many hours talking and were often joined by other mutual friends in the beer garden.

Although Latvian animators are not as well known as they should be, they use a richness of color and design to push their art to extreme limits and to explore new boundaries. The festival screened two programs of Latvian short films, the 2006 feature The Three Musketeers, which is a Latvian, Danish, Scottish co-production; a special program for children, and Rose Stiebra's fairy tale classic The Cat's Mill.

An entire program was devoted to the work of Arnold Burovs, the founder of Latvia's animated cinema. It was a delight to see his films, some of which are over 40 years old.

Little Bird's Diary, 2007, an animated documentary, rounded out the Latvian programs. The film is based on drawings made in the 1980s by Irina Pilke. Irina, now 80, narrates the film. I was privileged to visit with the producer, Bruno Ascuks, and to see the diaries when I was last in Riga, Latvia. I have watched the copy of the film Bruno gave me many times and I'm still moved by Ms. Pilke's pictorial story of her life during Soviet rule of Latvia.

Several years ago Trickfilm changed from a bi-annual to a yearly event so 2008 marks the 15th fest over a 25-year span. This year there were 6 competition categories, the International Competition, Young Animation (student films) Tricks For Kids, Animovie (feature films), an Animated TV Series Competition and new this year Under Commission that included ads, music videos, and TV idents.

This year the international jury voted Franz Kafka's A Country Doctor by Koji Yamamura (Japan) the Grand Prize. The award includes 15,000 Euros. The 10,000 Euro prize for best student film went to Camera Obscura by Matthieu Buchalski, Jean-Michel Drechsler, and Thierry Onillon from France.

There were so many special programs at Stuttgart that I couldn't see all of them. The documentary King of Time pays homage to the 50th anniversary of the renowned Estonian animation studio Nukufilm. I wrote extensively about the studio and their anniversary party in my article about the Black Nights Film Fest.

There were several programs devoted to Japanese Anime, especially the work of Osamu Tezuka who invented what is now the world famous style of drawing huge round eyes. Those eyes have become characteristic of the genre.

Noted Russian film critic and animation expert Natalia Lukynikh presented a lovely tribute to Alexander Tatarsky. He was the renowned and beloved head of Moscow's Pilot Studio, the first Soviet independent animation studio. He unexpectedly passed away last year. Along with Natalia's moving documentary Alexander Tatarsky, Or How To Embrace The Unmentionable..., Tatarsky's own films were screened as well as works by his colleges at Pilot.

The Third Animation Production Day was a meeting for industry professionals who brought 19 carefully selected feature length animated film project producers together with distributors, bankers and investors.

For the second year in a row the Evangelical Church of Germany gave an award for best German language feature length screenplay. The 5,000 Euro award went to John Chambers for Der Letzie Neandertaler (The Last Neanderthal Man).

The Crazy Horse Session consisted of five teams of two animators each who had 48 hours to create an animated film in front of festival Each team had to use the new festival mascot, Trixi, a multi-colored psychedelic horse. The festival's awards include statues of Trixi.

To add to the excitement the festival kicked off the worldwide online Bitfilm Festival, a 2-month event that was founded in Hamburg nine years ago. It features digital technology in creative and innovative ways. Bitfilm showed highlights of the competition at the festival and all of the films could be watched online. Viewers were invited to vote for films. The awards totaled 10,000 Euros. Voting ended June 30. Films may still be online at -

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Australian animator Darcy Prendergast and Nik Phelps

From excellent screenings to enjoying delicious German beers with friends under the trees in the festival beer garden, Trickfilm is an event not to be missed. Andrea Bauer, Programmer and Guest Coordinator, and her excellent staff went out of their way to make this an enjoyable event. It you have a chance to attend this, it is a festival not to miss. The 16th edition will take place May 5 - 10, 2009. For more details visit -

Newsletter Editor: Karl Cohen
Contributors: Nancy Denney-Phelps and other friends of ASIFA-SF.
Cover illustration by Ricci Carrasquillo
Proofreader: Pete Davis
Mailing Crew: Tara Beyhm, Shirley Smith, Denise McEvoy
Webmaster Joe Sikoryak, assisted by Ricci
Special thanks to: Gabrielle Zucchelli for letting us show his unreleased feature, to all who bring work to our party in August, to our vice-president/secretary Tara Beyhm, to our treasurer Karen Lithgow, to The G Man for sending out our e-mail updates, to Nancy Denney-Phelps for representing our chapter on the international ASIFA board and to Patricia Satjawatcharapjong who posts excerpts from our newsletter on the International ASIFA website -

ASIFA-SF is a chapter of: Association Internationale du Film d'Animation with almost 40 chapters around the world.
Our website and blog is:
Mail can be sent to:
or to: PO Box 14516, SF, CA 94114

Flyer for July 9 event goes here, but was removed as the producer wants no mention of this private screening while he seeks a distribution contract. No hints, but if you live in the Bay Area stop by the Exploratorium on Wed. July 9 at 7:30 PM and enjoy this important work.

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At Stephen Parr's Oddball Films, 275 Capp Street (3rd floor)

It is on the first Saturday in August so start the month off right with a party. Come celebrate with good animation, wine, cheese and other delights. ASIFA-SF will provide some of the basic needs of this party; you bring the special treats. Everybody is welcome to bring something to show and/or nice things to eat or drink that can be shared with others.

Films range from Tony Claar's Clownin' Around (the delightful looking picture above) to Dennis Tupicoff's Chain Saw, a powerful work that just won the Grand Prize of the City of Oberhausen at the Oberhausen Short Film Festival for "its masterful synthesis of social commentary, formal experimentation, and its exploration of bareback riding both within the rodeo arena and beyond." The film has been shown by several other international festivals (Sydney, Stuttgart, etc.). The Annecy program guide said "Romance is like a chainsaw: a very dangerous beast indeed." Dennis lives in Australia.

The lineup continues with Richard Williams' promo for his new DVD lThe Animation Masterclass that is based on his book The Animator's Survival Kit. Gene Hamm, recently returned from LA, has just created Spectacular Fire (inspired by recent events there?). Signe Baumane's The Veterinarian is a nice G rated film that has been seen in festivals in NYC, Cannes, Melbourne, Stuttgart, etc. It has won the best-animated short awards at the Staten Island Film Festival and the Arizona FF, the Excellence in Animation award from ASIFA-East Annual Festival 2008, etc. We also plan to show a few short pieces from San Francisco State and from Animation, The Online Animation School and whatever surprises are brought in unannounced. Everyone, not just members, is welcome to bring work as long as it is animated.

Oddball Films can show DVDs, VHS tape and 16mm film. Oddball Films is located at 275 Capp St. between 17th and 18th Street. It is a giant 3rd floor warehouse loft full of rare 16mm films. Stephen Parr provides historic footage to filmmakers and runs a great underground film series in this space. Capp runs parallel to and between Mission and Van Ness. The warehouse is near the 16th St. Bart Station and the Victoria Theatre. (415) 558-8117 -

Volunteers needed to set up the space, clean up after the party and greet guests. If you can help contact Karl Cohen at (415) 386-1004 or

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