Association International du Film d'Animation
(International Animated Film Association)
September 2008
by Karl Cohen

Nina with the Oscar winning stop-motion animator Barry Purvis

NINA PALEY WON A SECOND HONOR AT ANNECY Not only did she win the festival's grand prize (known as the Crystal) for best animated feature, she and Johannes Walters of Germany came in third in the 8th running of the Nik and Nancy Phelps Annual Paddle Boat Race. (Not yet an official Olympic event.) The photo was taken after they crossed the finish line.

Nancy tells me the annual race and picnic came about because, "Not much ever happens on Saturday in Annecy. Everyone is waiting for the awards ceremony. We had a lot of the major contenders at the party this year. The young Croatian who won peddled his legs off. We started this event several years ago (7 or 8 at least) so that after a very high-powered week we could all relax and just have fun. We definitely consume a lot of alcoholic beverages. That makes the race pretty funny."

NINA PALEY WON THE BEST AMERICAN FILM AWARD AT FRANCE'S AVIGNON FILM FESTIVAL The film competed with several well-made live action features from the US so she feels it was a remarkable accomplishment to receive this award. When I spoke with her in July she was amazed that Sita Sings the Blues has now been shown or will be shown in 48 festivals. In late July she left on a world tour that will take her to major film festivals in two cities in Australia; to Indonesia, Korea, Italy, Germany, South Africa and other parts of the world. You can keep up with her globe trotting by visiting Sita Sings the

Nina doesn't know yet how the film is going to pay for itself. She has an agent seeking a sound distribution contract. She suspects it may be almost impossible for an independent animated feature to get a decent theatrical release in the US today so it could end up premiering on TV and then going to DVD. Several people have been trying to get the DVD rights, but she knows that Sita looks great on the big screen. It would be a shame for Sita not to be seen on giant sized screens.

Sita has been getting lots of accolades in the press. At the Tribeca 2008 film festival, Premiere magazine picked it as one of their top 10 films of the festival. Variety said it is "wittily written, brilliantly acted." Wired called her a "One-Woman Pixar" FilmMaker Magazine/IFP said, "...both heartfelt and consistently witty, the type of low-fi animated musical that puts Disney to shame."

NINA PALEY IS ABOUT TO GO ON ANOTHER INTERNATIONAL TOUR AS A GUEST OF THE US STATE DEPARTMENT! She just wrote me that she isn't going to Ottawa. "Instead I will be in Israel, also with the film, at the Rehevot International Women's Film Festival and a few other venues. The US State Department is sponsoring me." How wonderful for her. One of my greatest international travel experiences was being a guest of a festival in Tel Aviv in 1997. Israel is a fascinating country and the people I met there are wonderful.

There is unfortunate news about Nina's Sita Sings the Blueson on her blog.. Look for the entry "Information wants to be free, so do I." (July 18, 2008) I hope there is a wonderful rainbow waiting for her, complete with a big pot of gold. KC

SEE MAJOR MARS ON YOU TUBE.COM After a star- studded world premiere at the 19th Annual WonderFest Convention in Louisville, KY, the Sikoryak Bros. have begun to share some of their creations on Just search for "Sikotronic" and enjoy the Major Mars Sing-A-Long plus two earlier works by them that have nothing to do with Major Mars. The song reel is just a teaser -- the brothers are selling DVDs of the cartoon with special features, on their website We showed the 9-minute cartoon at our August ASIFA party and it is quite amusing.

Joe and Steve (two of the three brothers) were guests of the convention in Kentucky. The event included several movie and TV stars in attendance including Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood (2001: A Space Odyssey); Dirk Benedict (Battlestar Galactica), artists Bernie Wrightson, William Stout, Frank Dietz, Joe Busam and Rick Sternbach, journalists David Colton (USA Today), Mark Berry and Tim Lucas (Video Watchdog), as well as the couple that inspired Major Mars, Bob and Kathy Burns.

JOE SIKORYAK, OUR WEBMASTER, WAS A GUEST DJ PLAYING ANIMATION SOUNDTRACK MUSIC ON THE RADIO IN AUGUST Joe (aka California Kid) got to be a DJ on The Norman Bates Memorial Soundtrack Show. He programmed an hour of cartoon music including the world radio premiere of the Major Mars March! He selected "wild and wacky background music sans sound effects and dialogue, from Looney Tunes, Tom and Jerry, Teen Titans, Persepolis, and more" He also talked about ASIFA-SF. The show is on KFJC FM broadcasting from Foothill College.


ONCE AGAIN THE ASIFA-SF SUMMER PARTY WAS FULL OF NICE SURPRISES ON AND OFF THE SCREEN by Karl Cohen While I will refrain from writing about the fine spread of food except to say "thank you" to all who brought nice things to eat and drink, I do think you should know that some really nice, recently finished works were shown.

Tony Claar's Clownin Around was a great short to start off the evening as his clown kept us entertained. It is really nice hand-drawn animation (colored on a computer) and his drawings are delightfully silly. Tony told us he has just completed a second short that he will show at a future open screening. Look forward to seeing it. Tony teaches at the Academy of Art.

Marty Stuczynik has finished The Magnanimous King (we saw excerpts before). It is a 3-D cgi work about a king and an ape that keep switching channels on a 1950s modern style TV set. It is full of action including dancing, demonstrating Marty's ability as a modeler. rigger and animator. Gene Hamm created an excellent soundtrack for it.

The Sikoryak Brothers' The Cartoon Adventures of Major Mar's is a nicely paced cartoon done in the style of a low budget 1960's animated TV show. It is intentionally corny (well I hope it is) and the sound effects are the best that no money can buy. How can you go wrong with a villain that keeps saying dumb lines like "who who, ha ha." I suspect the brothers had a blast making it. We got to hear the Major Mars theme song over the end credits.

We showed 2 reels that wouldn't play on the Exploratorium's DVD player in April. The first was a really fine reel of clips by graduating students from Animation Mentor. If the work on the reel is any indication of the school's ability to prepare students around the world for a career in computer animation, I'd say they are doing an excellent job.

The second reel was full of enjoyable music synch exercises from SF State. Most of the works were hand-drawn (one or two were animated with clay) and they demonstrated that instructor Paul Naas knows how to inspire his 2nd semester students to excel at what they were doing. (Our attempt to show a work by Signe Baumane from NYC was a failure even though it plays on my DVD player at home. Stephan Parr thought it was mastered using a European format. I believe she created the work in Latvia.)

Another delightful surprise was The Rubber Soul Project, a DVD containing 4 music videos from Belgrade, Serbia. The animation on it is by Rastko Ciric. It is a wonderful professional sounding band that has written and recorded music that the Beatles had planned to write and record, but never wrote. They found the titles of several unwritten songs and worked out arrangements that I think the Beatles might have enjoyed hearing. What I didn't have time to show was the documentary on the creation of this project. It took years to complete and in the background in several outdoor scenes we see explosions and clouds of smoke rising from the war that was going on. Those scenes are a very strange and sad reminder of the recent history of what was Yugoslavia. Rastko performs at animation festivals in Europe with Nik Phelps (Krok, Annecy, Zagreb, etc.)

The next to last work was Dennis Tupicoff's Chain Saw. It is a powerful work of art that recently won the grand prize at Oberhausen, a major festival in Germany. Dennis will be here Thurs., Sept. 25th at 8 :10 PM, presenting several of his works at an ASIFA-SF/SF State event. This is animation worth leaving home to see.

The last disc of the evening was Richard Williams' 10-minute promo for his big DVD set The Animator's Survival Kit. It captures the spirit of his wonderful rich live presentations. It includes clips of him lecturing, making fascinating observations about how different types of bodies move, etc. Hopefully he will be coming to San Francisco later this year and you will have a chance to learn something from this great artist.

OHN JOTA LEANOS and his associates with Burning Wagon Productions have received a grant to stage Imperial Silence: Una Opera Muetra with full Mariachi, DJ, his animation and dancers. He says, "It's great that we'll be able to tour this work." On the other hand, he had to table two animation projects that were going to begin this summer, but a third one is still in the works. John showed his work at our spring open screening. His short Los ABCs has been shown in a good number of film festivals.

VINCE COLLINS' ANIMATION WAS SEEN BY 10,000 PEOPLE IN MADISON SQUARE GARDEN He was delighted to hear that 10,000 people saw his work on a Monday night in June. The event was a concert by Coldplay, part of their world tour to promote Viva La Vida, their new album. The band is showing a "remix" of his animated shorts from the late 1970s and early '80s behind them as they tour the world. After New York the band continued their tour and Vince is delighted that his looping images of "vaginas and so forth" are again being seen. He told us, "What could be a better accompaniment to electronic music?"

Vince came to San Francisco from Florida to study animation at the Art Institute in the early '70s and has lived here ever since. I used to show his shorts at Intersection in the 1970s and early '80s when I ran weekly film shows, and at Fillmore and Warfield concerts in the 1980s and early '90s when I was part of Eye Candy, the Bill Graham Presents (BGP) light show. Vince's films are in the collections of the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and other important institutions

On you can see a few of his shorts There is a remix of his visuals made by musician Jon Hopkins' for the Coldplay tour at .

MICHAEL LANGAN HAS COMPLETED TWO ADS FOR ADIDAS AND A PSA ABOUT GLOBAL WARMING Langan's PSA Intelligent Life reminds us about the dangers of global warming. It shows 2 fuzzy round space aliens (heads with small elephant-like noses and no bodies) floating in a room in space. They are talking about how foolish people were who ignored scientific evidence of the coming danger). The PSA premiered at the Animation Block Party, a three-day event in Brooklyn and was the opening film the first night of the festival.

His PSA is a composite image of live action puppets that were built using furry material from thrift store stuffed animals. He says he submerged them in a small fish tank and shot them on green screen to simulate "cartoonish" zero gravity. "I performed alongside the completed dialogue track to lock the timing of the puppets. Then I lip-synced the dialogue, turning my head in sync with the puppets' rotation. The set is built mostly out of used computer and television parts."

His Upper Playground spot called Fast Shoes features a pair of Adidas shoes on a skateboard racing through a city. He says he gets his stable pixilation look using a technique he has been "playing with since Doxology in which the raw footage is re-stabilized on a point in the distance to simulate a surreally stable camera. I shot it with stability in mind, lining up a point on the skateboard and a point in the background with corresponding points in the viewfinder, then fine-tuning the stability in post."

His Upper Playground spot called Shoe Birth uses stop-motion to show the birth of an Adidas tennis shoe slowly emerging out of a shoebox covered with a hospital gown in a delivery room. The soundtrack ends with a newborn baby crying. Upper Playground is a clothing retailer with headquarters in SF and a retail outlet at Haight and Filmore. The ads premiered on the company's website Aug. 7.

MICHAEL LANGAN'S "DOXOLOGY" WILL BE ON THE INTERNET SOON It will have an exclusive online premiere as the first film on Cartoon Brew's new BrewTV website in mid-September, followed by on October 1.

"WALL-E" REVIEWS Once again Pixar has created an exceptional work and people are enjoying finding creative ways to praise the film. Disney distribution chief Chuck Viane said, "The reviews that have been springing up all day have been nothing short of fantastic," The San Francisco Chronicle said, ""Philosophically and emotionally, this is probably the most profound animated film ever made or attempted... The moments of sheer brilliance, which are one-of-a-kind, will gain in importance." Hollywood Reporter said, "It's now 9-for-9 for Pixar! This is getting to sound like a broken record: Pixar Animation Studios has just topped itself. Again."

Unusual comments about the film are on the Internet. Steve Hulett, the Animation Guild's Business Representative in LA posted an observation from The Guardian (London) that some people see Wall-E as an eco-terrorist! The paper said there are critics complaining about a Pixar-Disney hypocrisy in making a film with sound ecology messages and then wanting to merchandise Wall-E products. They also quoted one conservative complaining that, "From the first moment of the film, my kids were bombarded with leftist propaganda about the evils of mankind." Other writers have analyzed the film's Biblical content (the Adam and Eve story, etc.) And trivia fans have spotted all kinds of things in the film that relate to earlier Pixar films.

WE WILL HOLD SEVERAL SPECIAL EVENTS IN OCTOBER AND NOV. -- SOME MAY BE FOR MEMBERS ONLY, SO I SUGGEST PEOPLE WHO ARE NOT MEMBERS JOIN NOW TO AVOID MISSING ANYTHING (KC) Richard Williams is planning a visit from England, Gene Deitch from Prague will talk about adapting work for the screen (mid-Nov.), Ron Diamond is expected to show another great program in 35mm and we will show the ASIFA-East 2008 competition winners. For membership information visit


Thursday, September 25, ASIFA-SF and SF State's animation program present AUSTRALIAN ANIMATOR DENNIS TUPICOFF IN-PERSON One of Dennis' strengths is his unique writing ability. His award winning films are similar to discovering work by a brilliant short story writer. Chain Saw, his latest powerful film experience, recently won the grand prize at the Oberhausen Film Festival in Germany. At 8:10 PM, Coppola Theater, Fine Art Bldg. room 101, free.


Veterinarian by Signe Baumane

BILL PLYMPTON PRESENTS "THE BEST OF THE BEST: AN ANIMATED EVENING OF OSCAR QUALIFYING SHORTS" Bill has come up with an excellent idea to help films he admires get Oscar nominations. He has organized a program that was shown in Los Angeles August 30th to September 1st at the Laemmle's Sunset 5. It qualified the following films for consideration for the 2008 competition. The program was Doxology by Michael Langan, Chainsaw by Dennis Tupicoff, Veterinarian by Signe Baumane, Hot Dog by Bill Plympton, A Letter to Colleen by Carolyn and Andy London and Berni's Doll by Yann Jouette. Thanks Bill.

HENRY SELICK AND LAKIA'S "CORALINE" LOOKS GREAT -- I SUSPECT IT WILL BE A BIG HIT I've only seen the SIGGRAPH reel, but it looks better than Nightmare Before Christmas. It is stop-motion and it opens in mid-Sept.

BILL PLYMPTON TOLD THE PRESS AT ANNECY "Anybody can do animation, you just must have a lot of ambition and that's it. You should have a big desire to make a film. You don't have to be a great artist; you should want to do it. Talent like drawing, writing or art are great and help, but ultimately it's most important to be ambitious." From Animation Express, an online publication from India

Other news about Bill includes his short Shuteye Hotel (2007) was picked up by PBS station WNET/13 in NYC.

FILM INDUSTRY HAD THE BEST WEEKEND EVER, LED BY "DARK KNIGHT" SETTING A NEW RECORD FOR AN OPENING WEEKEND GROSS The film took in $158.4 million. That topped a record set by Spiderman last year. Box Office said film executives were saying a film couldn't possibly break the opening weekend gross record in mid-July, but were proved wrong.

The live action Journey to the Center of the Earth, which is full of digital backgrounds, creatures and effects was playing in fewer theaters, but did extremely well per screen, especially where it was shown in 3-D. It isn't a great film by any means, but it is a lot of fun and it shows off how refined and easy on the eyes the technology has become.


GENE HAMM'S LIST OF IMPORTANT "HOW TO" ANIMATE BOOKS He says, "to imitate the Fleischer/Terrytoons 1930s style you can use the old Walter Foster animation book that came before Preston Blair's book. To learn the MGM/Disney/Warners '40s style you can use the first Preston Blair book. To imitate the Hanna-Barbera '50s and '60s style you can use Preston Blair's second book. To imitate the '70s style you can get the Animation Book by Tony White. To imitate the 80's and 90's you can get How to Animate by Christopher Hart. To imitate anime, get the Tezuka School of Animation volume 1 and 2. Or save some money and get Richard Williams' The Animator's Survival Kit."

This interesting list came about when I sent Gene a note saying he should check out the hand-animated short Endangered Species by Tony White on the Internet (posted July 3 on Cartoon and on Gene also tells me the short comes with Tony White's latest book Animation from Pencils to Pixels, but it doesn't play on his Mac so he was glad to finally see it on the Internet. Endangered Species is a well made short that is a reaction to the misconception that 2D animation is dead. When White started the short 4 or 5 years ago that was a hot issue, but today most people are well aware that is a false assumption. Animation Brew's blog says the stupid rumor that 2D is dead can be attributed to Disney's former leader Michael Eisner. Gene Deitch joined the discussion and ended his note by saying, "Save your 2B pencils, folks. Drawn animation will rise again!" The short may be preaching to the choir, but it is worth checking out.

Tony White contributes animation tips on Tom Sito tells me, "He is another graduate of the Richard Williams Animation Studio of the 1970s. His short Hokusai Sketchbook and the one animating Toulouse Lautrec drawings are very good."

Note: Gene has been working in LA for several months. When not working commercially he has created an excellent sounding a James Bond-like piece and a spaghetti western-like piece for

THE ACADEMY IN LA HONORED FREDERIC BACK AS PART OF AN ANIMATION WEEKEND IN AUGUST The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences held several events the weekend SIGGRAPH met in LA. They opened an exhibit of Frederic Back's artwork at the Dunn Theater in Hollywood (running through Nov. 1). On Friday, August 8 they held "Sound in Animation," hosted by Mark Mangini, an Academy Award-nominated sound editor. The focus was on the use of sound in classic animation. They showed clips, held a discussion and had live demonstrations of sound effects.

The big event was on Sunday, August 10. Composer Normand Roger who has composed music for many of Back's films and animator Frederic Back held a conversation about collaboration. Four Oscar-winning animated shorts were screened: Crac, Every Child, Father and Daughter, and Old Man and the Sea.

Later in August the Academy held a George Pal Centennial. They invited 6 actors who had worked with him to talk about the master, plus special effects expert Jim Danforth and animator Bob Baker (both worked with Pal). They showed 2 Puppetoons that received Oscar nominations (John Henry and the Inki Poo, 1946 and Rhythm in the Ranks, 1941) plus the feature The War of the Worlds, 1953.

-- cover story --

SOME FILM FESTIVALS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS -- AND SOME ARE A DUBIOUS VALUE AT BEST I was recently told that the "Short Film Corner at Cannes is a lame enterprise. Anyone who pays 80 Euros (about $120 US) can submit and anything submitted is accepted, so that's not a big deal." I was also told the programs are poorly attended and are very boring. I read that the festival showed over 1,700 films in 40 venues in May. I'd call this a great way to make a buck off of people who think having a film shown at Cannes is a great honor. It is if it is shown in the well-known festival.

OTTAWA 08 TO SHOW THE HOTTEST NEW ANIMATED FILMS MAKING THE FESTIVAL CIRCUIT For starters they have 3 features getting excellent reviews, Nina's Sita Sings the Blues, Bill Plympton's Idiots and Angels and Waltz with Bashir. Waltz is an animated documentary in which director Ari Folman retraces the 1982 Lebanon War from a highly personal point of view. They will also show Fear(s) of the Dark, an anthology of surreal tales of phobias by six i animator -- directors.

From the record-breaking 2150 entries received from 70 countries, 105 films and 4 schools have been chosen for the competition (and 26 more are to be shown in out-of-competition). Some of the highlights of the competition include new films by Georges Schwizgebel, Framestore NY, Bruce Bickford, Theodore Ushev, Gerd Gockell, PES, Passion Pictures, Smith and Foulkes, JJ Sedelmaier, the National Film Board of Canada, Run Wrake and Koji Yamamura. The Canadian Showcase is filled with talented up-and-coming filmmakers, and special screenings of Pixar's Presto and Walt Disney's Glago's Guest. Karl Cohen will present Brainwashed! Cartoons That Influence Your Mind. There will be Jonas Odell, Michael Sporn and Skip Battaglia retrospectives, a show of naughty animation and lots of other programs.

LUCAS WINS LAWSUIT AGAINST SCULPTOR WHO CREATED THE STORM TROOPER HELMETS USING DESIGNS PROVIDED BY LUCAS Lucasfilm hired the plastics manufacturer in 1976 to reproduce designs from his company for the film. The company started selling unauthorized copies of the helmet a few years ago that were made from the original molds. Lucas claimed the sale was in violation of US copyright law.

JOHN DILLWORTH'S "LIFE IN TRANSITION" PLAYED AT NYC'S MUSEUM OF MODERN ART In connection with the gallery exhibit, Dali: Painting and Film. It was paired with Fellini's Lo Sceicco Bianco (The White Sheik).

IS "BAD SANTA" A GOOD IDEA FOR A TV SERIES? Dreamworks Animation is making it for NBC TV for the 2009 holiday season. The animation will be done in India.

"YEAR OF THE FISH" GETS A LIMITED RELEASE The rotoscoped feature is having a very limited theatrical release. It opened in August in NY, SF and Berkeley, and it will open in October in Portland and San Antonio. The writer/director of this Cinderella type story is David Kaplan who shot the film entirely in NY City's Chinatown. It was shot on an inexpensive live-action video system. The images were used as a guide for digital painting in post-production. He says the aesthetic effect is less like a graphic novel and more like a painting brought to life. It premiered at the 2007 Sundance Film Festival.

Three part-time employees animated the film over a 6-month period using four Macintosh G5 computers and two Wacom tablets. The film's press release makes no sense to me. It says, "Using an advanced algorithmic digital painting software based on cognitive neuroscience studies into the nature of human visual perception, Kaplan and his small group of part-time assistants were able to work quickly and efficiently, doing with three people what would normally employ 40 full-time animators. A single miniDV live-action frame was up-converted to a high-definition painted frame, and that one frame was interpolated into a technique for converting an entire shot. After rendering these shots, Kaplan and his team were able to go back and refine the images frame by frame, add particle effects."

Instead of the flat use of color seen in Richard Linklater's Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly, Kaplan's aesthetic is said to be more like living, breathing paintings brought to life. "Some shots resemble watercolors; others look like oil paintings. The colors move and dance and spill into each other."

IF YOU SEE "YEAR OF THE FISH" SEND ME YOUR COMMENTS Is it a turkey, a surprise hit or??? And is it animation? Amid at Cartoon Brew says the trailer suggests there isn't any real animation in it, just digitally enhanced Live action images (Aug. 21) Send comments to

"THE WORST CARTOONS EVER!" A DVD CREATED BY JERRY BECK While this sounds like a DVD to avoid at all costs, it is actually a fascinating subject as it shows what talented animators including Hugh Harmon did to create works cheap enough that TV stations could afford them. Stations/networks spent their money on equipment, not programs in the early days of commercial television. Most of the 68 minute DVD is the work of the late Sam Singer, a strange character that I interviewed many years ago. He smoked cigars and talked like a foul-mouthed sailor. The Paddy Pelican episode that I've seen was an animated pencil test. His Bucky and Pepito and Pow Wow the Indian Boy are politically incorrect limited animation shows. Also on the DVD are Mighty Mister Titan, "a heavy-handed, limited-animation piece of cold war physical fitness propaganda," Sir Gee Whiz (I've no idea what that is), Captaain Fathom and The Mummynappers, which isn't animation, just silhouetted human beings prancing around drawn backgrounds." $19.95 plus postage from

I'M SURE YOU WILL SAY, "CAN'T WAIT TO SEE THIS" (IF IT ACTUALLY GETS MADE) Shoreline has begun work on The Living Corpse, a 3-D animated feature. The film is based on a cult comic book about a zombie who embarks on a search for his long lost son. Justin Ritter is directing.

GENE HAMM COMPARES ERIC GOLDBERG'S NEW BOOK TO RICHARD WILLIAM'S BOOK FAVORABLY! Reviewed by Gene Hamm. My best friend Eric Daniels (inventor of Deep Canvas for Disney's Tarzan) gave me an autographed copy of Eric Goldberg's new book Character Animation Crash Course. He is working with Goldberg on the new Disney cartoon The Frog and The Princess.

The book is so fascinating that I stayed up until 3:30 AM reading it. I liked his section on attitude poses where he said in a real walk the foot spends more time off the ground, but in a cartoon walk the foot spends more time in the contact pose and quickly moves to the next attitude pose.

In the chapter "Flexible Drawing For Graphic Characters," he solved the mystery of cheating a head turn when the character is facing front but parts of his face are drawn in profile. This can come in handy to create more UPA-like characters, especially in Flash.

The CD really helps seeing what he has talked about in the book. It springs off the page and comes to life. The guy getting hit in the head with a brick is hilarious. It's a perfect example of Goldberg stating that actions should be one at a time so they read better. The brick hits him, bounces off and falls to the ground, then he falls slowly. If he had fallen just as the brick hit him, it wouldn't have been funny.

The example on the CD of the character popping to several successive poses as his hat catches up with him is hilarious and simple in its elegance. It's not just a how-to book, but like Richard Williams' Animators Survival Kit, it is a "why" book, telling you why something works.

In its own way Eric Goldberg's Character AnimationCrash Course is as good as Richard Williams' Animator's Survival Kit. The book, including the CD, is $35. It is a much better bargain than Williams' series of DVD's priced at $1000. Goldberg is still a young man, so he still has a lot more animation in him. Hopefully one day, Glen Keane or Brad Bird will write their own books too.

Note: Eric may be coming to SF this year to talk and sign books. We will keep you informed. If you want to hear a talk by Eric visit I understand it runs about an hour. The first trailer for The Frog and The Princess is now on the Internet. It is delightfully irreverent and it might just turn out to be an excellent film.

BROOKLYN'S BIG ANIMATION PARTY WAS HELD IN LATE JULY The 5th Animation Block Party showed more than 100 films from 800-plus entries. The events also offered live music, parties with free beer (The Onion provided Newcastle Brown Ale for one party and Autodesk provided beer and food at another event). The first film on opening night was Michael Langan's PSA Intelligent Life that reminds us about the dangers of global warming.

THE BRITISH MEDICAL ASSOCIATION IS CALLING ON CENSORS TO GET TOUGHER OPPOSING POSITIVE IMAGES OF SMOKING Once again they are saying that pro-smoking images are still encouraging young people to become addicts. They want any film or TV show with people enjoying smoking to be preceded with anti-smoking messages, for tobacco to be packaged in white packages showing only government anti-smoking messages, for fewer stores to carry tobacco products and to ban cigarette vending machines. A few years ago Disney altered one of their cartoons to remove a cigarette in the hand of an animated cowboy.

HOW BIG A DEAL IS MEDIA PIRACY? A recent Hollywood Reporter article said that in India the entertainment industry loses about $4 billion annually. $2.68 billion is lost by the TV industry and $959 million by feature films. In France illegal downloading of films has reached 450,000 per day according to a report by anti-piracy association ALPA.

FOUR US STUDIOS HAVE NOW GROSSED A BILLION DOLLARS WORLDWIDE THIS YEAR AT THE BOX OFFICE They are Universal, Paramount, Warner Bros. and Fox. The big winners last year also included Disney and Sony.

DISNEY IS TRYING TO CUT EMPLOYEE HEALTH BENEFITS IN LA The dispute involves about 2,300 maids, bell hops, cooks and dishwashers at three Disney-owned hotels: the Paradise Pier, the Grand Californian and the Disneyland Hotel.

The workers' contract expired in February and their union says Disney's latest proposal makes health care unaffordable for hundreds of employees and creates an unfair two-tier wage system. The union also says Disney wants to create a new category of part-time employees who would receive greatly reduced benefits.

"The other hotels around the area have health care that is provided by the boss and have been able to get wage increases," said Ava Briceno, president of the union that represents the workers. The dispute became national news when strikers dressed as Disney characters were arrested.

COMPUTER ANIMATION ENHANCED THE FIRE-WORKS DISPLAY FROM THE OLYMPICS IN CHINA London's Telegraph reported that shots supposedly taken from a helicopter over the Olympic opening ceremony were computer generated fakes made before the event. The Chinese were concerned about the potential danger of filming the live display from the air. It was also reported that the game's organizers were criticized "after a whistleblower revealed that the 9-year-old who performed a song during the spectacular opening ceremony was lip-synching to another girl's vocal track." Around 2 billion people around the world watched the opening, almost 1/3rd of the world's population.

HOW REALISTIC ARE NEWS STORIES THAT PREDICT FUTURE STOCK MARK TRENDS? On July 7 Disney stock declined 80 cents to $30.10 when a Lehman Brothers analyst downgraded the stock, saying the company is threatened by the growth of digital content distribution and he saw a potential weakness at its theme parks. (AP story, 7/7/8). The analyst said the rise of digital distribution of film and TV content could significantly disrupt the revenues and profits of media companies soon. The analyst added that the theme parks might be hurt by a decline in visitors due to rising airfares to Orlando and Los Angeles. A couple days later the story was repeated by Reuters who added a headline that read, "TV and film business facing dark days: analyst."

Take a look around our city and you will see an increase in foreign tourists due in part to their getting a very attractive exchange rate when converting their currency into dollars. My brother-in-law who is a ranger in Yellowstone says park attendance is higher this year so the price of gas isn't stopping people from driving long distances when planning vacations. As for digital content, I think Disney and DreamWorks will make very handsome profits on Wall-E and Kung Fu Panda and it is a safe bet both companies will go after anybody offering either film on the Internet as a free download.

A friend in the film industry said, "He is nuts. Disney is in the lead of digital content distribution with their iTunes partnership." I asked Steve Segal his opinion of the story and he replied, "Media companies are smart enough to be able to overcome the digital shift, since there is so much at stake. And as pioneers of stereoscopic 3D they will benefit from a not easily pirated technology. If it gets below $28, buy."

While the stock did go down to just over $29.00 a share, by July 19 it was back to where it had been at $30.90. Part of the brief decline was during a major slump in the overall market (the Dow Jones hit a 4 year low). As of Aug. 21 Disney closed at $32.20 a share.

Nancy having fun in the land of 50 cent glasses of wine.

MONSTRA, A MONSTER OF A FESTIVAL by Nancy Denney-Phelps Monstra, Lisbon Animated Film Festival (May 8 -18 in Portugal) is indeed a monster of a festival. For 11 days the festival brought together the cream of United Kingdom animators for a salute to British Animation along with quality competition screenings. The British segment included workshops and retrospectives honoring Paul Bush, Phil Malloy, the Brothers Quay, Vera Neubauer and many other artists.

Paul Bush is always certain to entertain both in person and on film. His retrospective covered a wide selection of diverse styles and subjects. His Comedy, a journey to hell with Dante Alighieri and images based on Dore illustrations, is incised directly on the film. Paul's While Darwin Sleeps uses over 3000 images of insects shown at vertiginous speed, one in each frame. One of my all time favorite films is his classic Furniture Poetry where, with the aid of optical tricks, he illustrates Wittgenstein's quest to discover if common objects will disappear or change shape every time we are not watching.

I've never had the pleasure of meeting the Brothers Quay before. They turned out to be as interesting as their films. They gave a workshop that was two entertaining hours of the brothers talking about a wide range of topics, especially how they work as an inseparable team in their studio. They alternate jobs with one brother moving the puppet and the other filming. The packed audience was treated to an unusually personal glimpse into the lives of two extraordinary filmmakers who work as one. After the session a group of us repaired to the little neighborhood cafe where they further endeared themselves to me when I discovered how much they appreciate red wine.

Brothers Quay with Phil Mulloy

The American born identical twins Stephen and Timothy have lived in England for so long (since 1978) that they are considered an important fixture on the British film scene. Their surreal films are full of personal and distinctive imagery that can be disturbing and riveting at the same time. Two retrospectives of their work were screened.

There was also an extensive exhibit of their puppets and sets at the Lisbon Museu de Marioneta (the Marionette Museum). Seeing the small dimensions, detail and inventive use of found objects in the brothers' work gave me an even greater appreciation of their artistic abilities. This was the first year that the museum hosted a festival exhibit and I hope it will not be the last. Located in an old convent, the museum is a wonderful setting for the puppet collection, which includes sets for the revered Portuguese animator Jose Miguel Ribeiro's award winning the Suspect. It is worth visiting the museum just to see Ribeiro's sets.

A special treat was seeing four films by Vera Neubauer. I had never thought about how radically different Vera changes her style from film to film until I saw 4 of her films together. The petite Neubauer may look like a charming proper lady, but her highly experimental work triggers strong emotions, with its unforgettable images that continue to haunt you long after the screen goes dark. The festival showed The Last Circus, Wheel of Life, Mid Air and Wooly Wolf. The last film was made for kids and in 2001 it was awarded 2 BAFTA awards (Best Animation and Best Short Film), while the first 3 are intended for mature adults. I think that her work is exciting because she can work in such radically different styles from film to film and yet make each style and story interesting to the viewer. She certainly deserves her place in the hierarchy of British animation for daring to push the boundaries of imagination to new levels with her creative mixture of images and mediums.

Even more innocent looking when you first meet him is Phil Mulloy. I have known Phil long enough to realize that behind his boyish grin lurks one of the most abrasive, in your face animators creating films today. Phil's works are a ferocious attack on conservative conventions and sensibilities. In his The Sound of Music from 1993, we are shown a portrait of western culture with its class distinctions and sexual repressions. His first feature film The Christies, one of a projected trilogy about the Christie family, uses enormous black silhouette faces that fill the screen. They speak to each other in complex dialogue of the most abusive nature to confront each other. Whether you love or hate his work and there don't seem to be many people with an indifferent point view, you have to agree that Phil Mulloy is one of the most original voices of present day animation.

British Academy Award winning director David Anderson, who had a new film in the competition, presented a retrospective of his work and a workshop. Known for mixing traditional animation with stop-motion, pixilation, cutout animation and reworked live-action footage, Anderson gave us a peek into his bizarre, surreal worlds. His award winning Dreamless Sleep uses no dialogue to communicate a couple's uncertainty and fear about what is happening after the nuclear explosion. If he had used dialogue it would have been a much easier job to tell the story, but he relied upon his puppets to create the mood and emotions.

David's most recent film, Tongue of the Hidden, is an adaptation of the poet Hafez's "The Tellers of Secrets." Hafez, called the teller of secrets, used the language of human love and metaphor to describe his intoxication with the mysteries of the universe and David uses the visual language of 2D and 3D animation to take us into the lyrical world of Hafez.

Halas and Batchelor's daughter Vivian Halas presented a screening of short films by her parents, who are renowned pioneers of British animation. The festival also showed their adaptation of George Orwell's Animal Farm, 1954. It was the first British animated feature shown to the public (prior to this there had only been educational and war propaganda feature films which were exclusively shown to the army). The film combines the Disney style with an adult script. Vivian has documented her parents' brilliant careers in a book entitled Halas & Batchelor Cartoons; An Animation History.

Three-time Oscar nominee Mark Baker began creating animated films with an 8 mm camera when he was a teenager. Today he is considered to be one of Britian's most acclaimed filmmakers. His first major film, The Hill Farm, took him three years to complete using traditional drawing techniques with crayons. Using only sound effects, no dialogue, the film takes a close look at the cycle of rural life and the ruptures of its ecosystem. This charming film won the 1988 Grand Prize at Annecy, an Oscar nomination and it has been shown at countless festivals around the world.

Baker's 1993 film The Village looks at the darkest side of rural life. Set in a village where life is organized in a way that allows everyone to know each other's business and punishment is handed out to those who don't follow the rules, it is a fascinating parable about intolerance and envy. Once again there is no dialogue. The Village won many awards including the Cartoon D' Or, the Annecy Jury Prize, and a second Oscar nomination. Baker's third Oscar nomination came in 1999 for Jolly Roger. To create this film Baker used the computer to manipulate and color his hand drawn pictures. Once again he received the Jury Prize at Annecy.

Two British programs were shown without the artists present. They were two Aardman retrospectives and a program of Joanna Quinn's brilliantly funny films. The very knowledgeable animation historian James Walker presented his choices of Humor in British Animation that featured such classics as Bob Godfrey's brilliant Do It Yourself Cartoon Kit and Karma Sutra Rides Again. And ninety of my favorite minutes at the festival were spent watching the Yellow Submarine. It's hard to believe that it was released 40 years ago. It is still fresh, humorous and incredibly entertaining. It only took director George Dunning 11 months to create it and it only cost around one million dollars, yet he and his crew created a fantastic film that is still a joy to see on a big screen.

Every evening the Festival Cafe, upstairs at the Teatro Maria Matos, offered a place for all of us to gather and talk over drinks and snacks. Keeping to the English theme, Nik and Serbian animator Rastko Ciric gave a late night concert in the cafe that featured a mixture of original Beatle songs and songs from Rastko's The Rubber Soul Project: An Imaginary Beatles Album. The project uses titles from the Lennon/McCartney songbook of songs that they never wrote lyrics and music for. (Nik and Rastko will be performing next at the 2nd ANIMART, July 13-20 in Monodendri, Ioannina, Greece. For this concert under the stars they will play only songs with "moon" in the title).

The Competition

After a week of British guests many of them left, but with new arrivals there was no lack of good company. Many of the newcomers were members of the juries including the award winning animator Koji Yamamura from Japan (Mt. Head), Jayne Pilling, a British animation authority and the director of the BAA Awards (the bi-annual British Animation Awards) and Igor Prassel, a Slovenian film programmer and long time co-editor of the Slovenian comic magazine, Stripburger.

The seven competition sessions were full of crowd pleasers including Tale of How by the Black Heart Gang and The Dress. by Jellena Girlin and Mari-Liis Bassovskaja. Both have won awards at major festivals. There were also new treasures to discover, like award-winning animator Koji Yamamura's latest film A Child's Metaphysics. Koji's view of the serious business of childhood has both humor and sadness as he deals with the pitfalls and joys of being a child.

Russia's renowned Pilot Studio sent two of its beautiful Mountain of Gems series. The audience donned 3-D glasses for Rastko Ciric's tribute to Emil Cohl's Fantasmagorie, which is celebrating its 100th birthday this year. Lapsus, a humorous tale of a curious nun who ventures into the darker side of her animated world, by Juan Pablo Zaramella of Argentina gave the audience 2 1/2 minutes of laughter while Svetlana Filippova's sensitive Three Love Stories delved into the loves and losses of a poet during the Russian Revolution. So much has already been written about Koji Yamamura's brilliant Franz Kafka's A Country Doctor that I don't have any new adjectives to use; suffice it to say that it has garnered top honors at many prestigious festivals on several continents.

I was very honored to be invited to sit on the Student Competition Jury. Joining me were Serbian Renaissance Man Rastko Ciric, Koji Yamamura, and noted Portuguese journalist Luis Salvado. The Student Competitions had many crowd pleasers. Octopodi by six French students is a tale of two octopi helping each other escape from the grasp of a stubborn restaurant cook who they lead on a very comical chase worthy of the Keystone Cops. German animator Milen Vitanov's My Happy End has won several awards at festivals. This clever story of a dog that chases its own tail and finds his own best friend when he catches it always brings a light moment to screenings.

I also enjoyed Small Birds Singing, Linda McCarthy's quirky story of a family that lives at the English estate Small Birds Singing, where every day is Monday. How could I not like a puppet film with tiny elephants that dust under tables (I need one of those), arguing apples and a body in the hedge, "just another day at Small Birds Singing." I was first introduced to Linda at the Bradford Animation Festival by Barry Purvis, but it wasn't until I met her again at Monstra that I realized that her characters were based on a popular British cartoon strip of the same name created by her cousin Steven Appleby. Steve, who accompanied Linda to the festival, is as delightfully droll and witty as his cartoons. His work has appeared in the Sun Telegraph and Weekly Guardian in London. He also created Captain Star, the Greatest Hero Any World Has Ever Known, a BBC animated series which achieved cult status in Europe and the United Kingdom.

Several programs comprised of winning films from BAA (British Animation Awards) gave us a look into the wide, refined range of the craft in the United Kingdom. The BAA, founded by Jayne Pilling in 1996 encompasses all forms of British Animation from advertisements and videos to short and feature films. Jayne has recently curated a 6 volume DVD collection, The Best of BAA, as well as a special program, Desires and Sexuality: Animating the Unconscious, which talks about sexuality, fantasies, and desires, all subjects that are so perfectly suited to animation.

Monstra is a wonderful opportunity to see Portuguese animation. Besides the familiar names of Jose Miguel Ribeiro, Abi Feijo and his wife Regina Pessoa, and Zepe many people in the animation community are not aware of what a rich tradition Portugal has in animation. There were 16 films in the competition alone. It is very encouraging to see a new generation of creative filmmakers emerging.

Joana Toste won the Best Film by a Portuguese Animator Award for O Guisado De Galinha, a story of two feuding families who live next door to each other. I am even fonder of Joana's Caes Marinheiros (Sailor Dogs). Sailors and the sea are an integral part of life in this Iberian Peninsula country so of course they are favorite topics for animation, but Joana gives us an entirely new twist in this odd tale of two worldly dogs who keep a sailor to tend their garden.

The beautiful new Museu Do Oriente (Oriental Art Museum) opened to the public on the first weekend of the festival. Retrospectives of Japanese masters of animation Osamau Tezuka and Koji Yamamura were presented at there. Films by Japanese legends Miyazaki and Renzo Kinoshita were also shown there along with. The East Seen by the West, films by animators around the world who reflect Eastern Culture in their work.

Of course not all of the jury's time was spent deliberating. One night our impeccable host and festival director, Fernando Galrito, took jurors to a fado club. Fernando knocked on the door of an unmarked building. A man straight out of the movies opened the door a crack and when he recognized our host we were ushered into a packed room. This was not a tourist spot; it was the real thing. The singing, food and wine were superb.

Lisbon has a new state of the art bullring that was very near our hotel. Underneath the ring is a high-end shopping center complete with gourmet market. One store had an 18" high man stuck through with knives in its window. Somehow this knife holder seemed very ironic in a shop under the bullring.

Late one night Nik and I returned to our hotel to find two victorious blood splattered matadors in the lobby. Of course, I couldn't resist having my photo taken with them.

Lisbon is a very walkable city with seven hills like San Francisco and Rome as well as a half sized replica of the Golden Gate Bridge over the Rio Teijo (Tagres River) and trolley cars going up and down the hills. One afternoon Nik, Rastko Ciric and I walked all over town with a stop at the Leonardo Di Vinci museum. From there we went to a little cafe in a park that is home to a museum located in an old underground water reservoir.

After two weeks in Lisbon I really began to feel at home, but all good things must come to an end. At the awards ceremony the student competition jury paid homage to two of our members. Before announcing our selection all four of us donned our 3-D glasses that were used for Rastko's film and then placed a cherry on each of our heads to symbolize Mt. Head.

very night there was music and a party in the theatre cafe, but the last night a group of us retired to Rastko's hotel room with appropriate libations. Rastko played his guitar and sang. None of us knew that Koji was an excellent guitarist as well until he picked it up and started playing. This evening was a truly memorable ending to a very memorable festival.

A big thank you goes to Fernando Galrito and his very hard working staff who went far beyond the call of duty to do everything possible to make all of us feel welcome and handle the multitude of problems that so many guests have throughout a 12-day festival. Anyone who has the opportunity to attend Monstra shouldn't even think twice before accepting this wonderful opportunity to participate in an amazing event.

SIFA (INTERNATIONAL) IS LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO BE THEIR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR (BUSINESS MANAGER) This is a part-time job that pays a token 5000 Euros. The job involves fundraising, merchandising, fees (establishing equitable rates), budget / financial planning, continuing our relationship with UNESCO and other organizations, promoting events, publications, the website, ASIFA at festivals and other tasks. Deadline is Sept. 31. The job is funded for 1 year. It can go longer (and pay more?) if the new director is successful at fundraising. Send any questions and requests for further details from Nancy Denney-Phelps Nik@Sprockets. Into the Dark by Dennis Tupicoff

Newsletter Editor: Karl Cohen
Contributors: Gene Hamm, 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: Stephen Parr for letting us use his loft for our August party/screening, to all who brought work to show and to the providers of nice things to eat and drink. Also thanks 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, 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

ASIFA-SF and SF State's animation program present


Thursday, September 25, 8:10 PM
San Francisco State, Coppola Theater, Fine Art Building, room 101, free.

Program (as time permits):
Dance of Death - 7mins (1983)
The Darra Dogs - 10mins (1993)
His Mother's Voice - 14mins (1997)
Into the Dark - 6 mins (2001)
Chainsaw - 24mins (2007)

Dennis isn't your typical independent animator who wants to amaze people with flashy techniques or outrageous humor. No, he dares to deal with serious content based on real and imagined events that can leave lasting impressions in your mind. He is a storyteller that uses whatever technique and style will work best for his project. His body of work includes the uses of hand drawn art, rotoscoped art, the use of the computer and other techniques.

One of Dennis' strengths is his unique writing ability. His award winning films are similar to discovering work by a brilliant short story writer. Chainsaw, his latest powerful film experience, recently won the grand prize at the Oberhausen Film Festival in Germany and at a 2nd festival. At times this is a gripping dramatic work that will keep you on the edge of your seat. In other segments he fascinates us with a bizarre love story. You will also learn about an enormous bull named Chainsaw, a romance between Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner, the proper way to safely use a chain saw and other seemingly unrelated elements. A tag line for this film is, "Love is like a chainsaw, a very dangerous beast indeed." Our blog-master saw the film at the ASIFA-SF party in August and says, "It will leave you gasping!"

Dennis says that His Mother's Voice is animated to a real radio interview. By using the same interview twice with different approaches to color, to cutting, to shot selection, and to sound, the two halves of His Mother' Voice are as distinctive as possible.

Darra Dogs reminds me of the sharp caustic writing of Charles Bukowski. Its focus is on a strange priest and the disappearance of several dogs. It, like all of his films, includes several surprises and twists and turns in the plot.

Dennis graduated from Queensland University and worked as an archivist and teacher before making his first animated film, Toowoomba. He moved to Melbourne and took the Swinburne Film and TV School animation course in 1977. He has made a living making TV ads and other commercial and sponsored work, has taught animation at the VCA School of Television (1992-4), and has made animated and live-action independent films.

This is definitely a program worth venturing out of your home to see. Dennis will be coming to SF (and DeAnza -- time and date not yet confirmed -- check our website for details in mid-Sept.) after his presentation at the Ottawa International Film Festival and a visit to Montreal. He rarely visits the US, so I hope you can take advantage of this rare opportunity to meet him.

Karl Cohen

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