Association International du Film d'Animation
(International Animated Film Association)
May 2009
by Karl Cohen

“SITA SINGS THE BLUES,” THE GREATEST BREAK-UP STORY EVER TOLD, AT THE RED VIC MAY 8 – 12 Help spread the word. Help the world discover her wonderful film. Her distributor and the theater can only do so much; we can also help keep the seats warm. Nina says, “I am thrilled that Sita is going to be at the Red Vic, one of my f! avorite SF theaters… I feel so triumphant!“ - So help this short run in SF become a triumph for Nina.

NINA PALEY HAS BEEN INVITED TO CREATE THE POSTER FOR INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION DAY 2009 This is quite an honor as the poster is used in 30 or 40 countries around the world to honor animation. The official announcement that said Nina has accepted the invitation came from Juliette Crochu of the French Animated Film Association (AFCA). They are France’s ASIFA chapter (the national organization was founded prior to the organization of ASIFA in 1960). ASIFA chapters around the world honor this annual event with celebrations in late October that range from individual programs to weeklong animation festivals.

EMMY WINNER CHARLIE CANFIELD HAS RECEIVED HIS THIRD EMMY NOMINATION He has provided animation for a series of documentaries on the rebuilding of the Bay Bridge. All three episodes have been nominated for regional Emmy awards for his animation. Charlie won an Emmy for the first part, “A Bridge So Far, a Suspense Story.'” David L. Brown, the series producer, also won the best documentary award. This year “A Span in Time” has been nominated both for its animation and as a documentary. The awards ceremony is May 9. The films first aired! on KQED 9.

CHELSEA WALTON IS PROVIDING ANIMATION FOR A REALLY UNUSUAL DOCUMENTARY She says, “I'm working on animation for a locally produced documentary called The Beard Club by Laura J. Lukitsch, Director and Producer.

The film is a celebration of facial hair that explores the many ways it is used to convey status, indicate group identity, and to profile and discriminate against people. Men from different regions, religious backgrounds, age groups, and historical periods share their stories and personal motivations, revealing hidden meanings behind the fashion. -

NEWS FROM MICHAEL LANGAN The big, and I mean really big news item, is still under wraps. You’ll understand why when we run the story next month. Meanwhile he says, “Doxology has gotten more mileage than I ever imagined. I secured international distribution at the Clermont-Ferrand Festival, working out the details between a couple interested companies. Dahlia is getting a nice start, too. It's in the opening program at Ann Arbor this month.”

BILL PLYMPTON IN STOCKTON MAY 16-17 TO GET AN AWARD The San Joaquin International Film Festival will present Bill the first El Dorado Award and screen Idiots and Angels on May 16 at 6:30 PM at the Stockton Empire Theatre ($10). The next morning at 10 AM Bill will present a master class at the annual Filmmaker and VIP Brunch at the Matinee Movie Lounge. The brunch and master class is $25. The festival runs May 14 – 23)

HOW OUR AUDIENCE VOTED AT OUR SCREENING OF THE 39TH ASIFA-EAST ANNUAL COMPETITION The first place winner ($100) was Maraka by Wachtenheim/Marianetti Animation, an outrageous spoof of Dora the Explorer made for Saturday Night Live. Second place ($70) went to The Veterinarian by Signe Baumane and in third place ($30) was Fantasia in Bubblewrap by “Metcaff Loves You” (Arthur Metcaff). Honorable mentions went to Doxology by Michael Langan, The Upstate Four by Fran and Will Krause, Last Time at Clerkenwell by Figli Migli Productions, Sensorium by Karen Aqua and Ken Field and Hedgehug by Dan Pinto.


THE ASIFA-SF BLOG, AKA THE CABLE CAR CARTOON, JUST CELEBRATED ITS FIRST ANNIVERSARY AND 100TH BLOG ENTRY Joe Sikoryak asks, “Where did the time go? Probably lost in a dark theater somewhere, but the official blog of ASIFA-SF is going strong and will continue to spotlight the local animation scene! for a long time to come.” Check it out every now and then.

IMAGE MOVERS DIGITAL AND DISNEY ARE OBTAINING THE FILM RIGHTS TO “STONEHEART” The Hollywood Reporter says the two companies are acquiring the film rights to Charlie Fletcher's fantasy trilogy and that ImageMovers' Robert Zemeckis, Jack Rapke and Steve Starkey will produce it using motion capture. In the books set in London, a 12-year-old boy is transported into an alternative reality where statues come to life and he finds himself in the middle of a battle between good and evil. Image Movers Digital is located in Novato, California and I’ve been told that many of the laid off orphans from The Orphanage have formed a new production unit at IMD and are excited about what they are working on.

Their present production, or clips from it will be shown to the press and industry at Cannes May 18. The press release says, "Disney’s A Christmas Carol, a multi-sensory thrill ride re-envisioned by Academy Award-winning filmmaker Robert Zemeckis, captures the fantastical essence of the classic Dickens tale in a groundbreaking 3-D motion picture event."

SOME WALL STREET ANALYSTS ARE CRITICAL OF PIXAR’S NEXT FEATURE Perhaps the most far-fetched reporting in April dealt with “Up” from Pixar. It opens at the end of May, but on early April 4 the New York Times published, “Pixar’s Art Leaves Profit Watchers Edgy.” The article stated that even though it will probably be a hit, Wall Street and toy manufacturers “are notably down on Up.” One stock firm downgraded Disney stock based on their belief that young boys will not get excited about the film’s main character, an old man who goes on a fantastic adventure. They also complained there is no female lead. The stock analyst ignored that the old man travels with an eight-year-old boy scout. Of course they h! adn’t seen the film, and Pixar has little reason to listen to stock merchants in their pursuit to make great films.

Another stock company complained that while they expect Up to be a hit, it might not be a mega-hit. And toy makers are upset as the film doesn’t lend itself to cute products. Do animated films exist just so toy companies can develop lines of action toys, etc?

The fuss resulted in Robert Iger, Disney’s CEO, to comment to the press, “We seek to make great films first. If a great film gives birth to a franchise, we are the first company to leverage such a success. A check-the-boxes approach to creativity is more likely to result in blandness and failure.” The article also pointed out that Pixar will release Toy Story 3 in 2010 and Cars 2 in 2011, and that both should provide the world with lots more merchandise.

Steve Segal adds a few words of wisdom to this discussion. He says, “Wall Street is down on Pixar? Remind me which one of those has a good track record, and which one doesn't.” He added, “I like Iger's take on these things. And I think they are underestimating the allure of 3-D in a Pixar film. We should all applaud Pixar for building their films around stories and not marketable products.”

Gary Meyer, who runs the Balboa, saw the first part of Up at ShoWest in Las Vegas (trade convention for film exhibitors). He says that if the rest of the film is as good as the first part it will be Pixar’s best film.

WALL STREET IS ALSO PICKING ON DREAMWORKS by KC One way to get your brokerage company’s name in the news is to be first on the block to downgrade a stock. It really doesn’t seem to matter if your predictions are right or wrong or if they unnecessarily scare investors. So in early April a Wall Street firm made headlines in The Wall Street Journal (4/6/09) by saying Monsters vs Aliens is simply “not scaring up enough attendees.” It turns out that Pali Capital cut the investment rating of the company from buy to neutral on April 6, and the stock fell 11%. By Friday the stock had gone back up.

So why did Wall Street react? The film had opened the first week with a $58.2 million gross. That was great news - the best opening weekend at the box office for this year. Then a week later Fast and Furious opened at $72.5 million and the gross for Monsters went down the predicted amount. Pali didn’t seem to notice Monsters opened overseas that weekend or that the box gross in the US was $105 million as of April 6.

Moving on to the 3rd weekend (Easter), Monsters did slightly better than expected. It had taken in $153.4 million in 17 days in the US and almost $89 million abroad, yet Business Week reported that a UBS stock analyst believed Dreamworks Animation SKG stock “remains overvalued.” I’d say that a film grossing almost a quarter-billion dollars in three weeks is an impressive accomplishment.

Monsters may not end up as the giant moneymaker Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks’ CEO, wants, but in the long run Disney, Pixar, DreamWorks and Sony will most likely do quite well for themselves in this recession by keeping the public well supplied with good if not great features.

STUDY ANIMATION ONLINE WITH GENE HAMM Gene taught animation at the Academy of Art for several years both online and in person. He has a long history of working in animation both in LA and SF and is offering both cartooning and animation classes. He teaches online (one-on-one tutoring) using Skype video. All you need is a free Skype account and a webcam. He can tailor the class to the needs of the student.

The animation class teaches basic concepts including the wave principle, squash and stretch, walk cycles and lip sync. His cartooning class covers concepts in my Cartooning Shortcuts, Formulas, & Cheap Tricks DVD including facial emotions, exaggeration, heads, bodies, realism vs. cartoon, and the language of comics.

Hour sessions once a week for five weeks for a total cost of $125. He says, “Between classes I will email you assignments in PDF form. During each videoconference students can ask as many questions as they want. To get it started, the students just need to click on the PayPal button.” He says, “When PayPal contacts me, I will email the student and we can work out what days and times are convenient for the class. I will email them material to work on.” If you have any questions about Gene’s class, email or call him at (707) 235-9064.

THE DISNEY MUSEUM OPENING IN THE PRESIDIO THIS FALL IS STARTING TO PROMOTE WHAT SHOULD BE AN IMPORTANT ASSET FOR SAN FRANCISCO The New York Times, Chronicle and other publications have been shown what Diana Disney Miller, Disney’s oldest daughter, and other family members have created to honor Walt. All were impressed. The articles say the exhibits are more informative than the glossy picture of the man presented at Disneyland and they ! try to provide a balanced view of the man, less biased than many of the books about his life. Housed in two old buildings, the space should be comfortable and big enough for lots of displays covering his extraordinary life. There will be over 200 video displays and a 120 seat screening area along with a café and shop. About $112 million has been spent on the project and Richard Benefield, formerly of Harvard’s University Art Museum is their first director.

A FEW CHOICE WORDS DESCRIBING KEN PONTAC’S CONTRIBUTION TO THE SEGA GAME “MAD WORLD” – HE WAS THE OUTRAGEOUS WRITER Lots of websites are talking about his work. One said, “It is some of the funniest banter I have heard in a video game. Sometimes I find myself playing just to hear what they will say… Sega contracted celebrity voice actors Greg Proops (Whose Line is It, Anyway?) and John DiMaggio (Bender from Futurama) to play those wacky commentators.” – “The story regularly questions the nature of violence in our modern culture, while also reveling in the same blood lust. By never taking itself too seriously, the game actually manages to make a! few interesting (if subtle) points regarding violence's influence on society, and what humanity is capable of when placed under the right sort of pressure.” – ”It's the kind of aural assault that's so relentlessly, knowingly offensive, you'd have to be fairly puritanical not to get totally swept up in its giddy revelry.” – “Little of this dialogue is fit to print, […] but it's witty and profane, so you may become red-faced both from laughter and the occasional blush” – “The commentary is such a highlight it could be released as its own separate album.” –

SILICON GRAPHICS HAS FILED FOR BANKRUPTCY A SECOND TIME AND HAS SOLD OFF MOST OF ITS ASSETS Founded in 1981, they became a leading maker of workstations of the CGI business in the 1990s, but their products were eventually undercut by less expensive PCs. They moved into the high performance server business, but eventually were undercut again by less expensive products. They eventually had to produce less expensive systems. In 1996 they bought Cray Research, the maker of amazing supercomputers. Apparently their customer base shrunk while their production costs rose. In 2006 they filed for bankruptcy, came out ! of it, but sales continued to decline. Now on April 2 they filed again.

A BIT OF INTERESTING TRIVIA. Google now occupies their former headquarters in Sunnyvale.


Friday May 8, 7:15 pm, ASIFA-SF’S ANNUAL OPEN SCREENING FOR INDEPENDENT ANIMATORS AND STUDENT FILMS, At the Exploratorium’s McBean Theater, free, public invited, lots of free parking, everybody with an anima! ted film is invited to bring it and it will be shown (16mm, VHS tape & DVD). Just show up with it. Questions?

Fri. May 8 to Tues. May 12 “SITA SINGS THE BLUES,” The Greatest Break-Up Story Ever Told, at the RED VIC

Ending Friday, May 8, DREAMWORLDS: The Inspired Concept Art of DreamWorks Animation an art exhibit at San Jose State University, School of Art and Design, Natalie & James Thompson Gallery. The show includes paintings, drawings, sculptures and miniature sets that helped the designers and directors turn their flat art into 3D environments on the big screen. Gallery hours: Tuesday-Friday 11am-4pm and Tuesday evening 6-8pm.

Fri. May 15, 3 pm, ANIMATION FINALS at SF State, free, AI 101 (Coppola Theatre), awards program. See highlights from the 2008 – ‘09 school year and enjoy meeting the students at a catered reception after the screening.

Fri. May 15, 7 pm, 49th FILM FINALS at SF State with a reception at 6 pm. The screening is in McKenna Theatre.

May 29 CLASSIC ANIMATED TV COMMERCIALS Dennis Nybeck from Portland, OR will be in SF to present his rare collection of 16mm prints of ancient TV ads at Oddball Film, 275 Capp St. near 18th St.

Sat. May 30, New Experimental Works including Triumph of the Wild by Martha Colburn, an underground film artist from the E. Coast who uses a lot of animation in her often very angry work. At ATA, 992 Valencia, 8:30 PM


photo of The new Simpsons stamps


NINA PALEY’S “SITA” IS SLOWLY GETTING ON TO THEATER SCREENS The bookings east of the Mississippi are April 17-23: Drexel Theater, Columbus, OH; May 1-7: Gene Siskel Film Center, Chicago, IL; May 15-17: Theatre N at Nemours, Wilmington, DE; May 15-21: Lake Worth Playhouse, Lake Worth, FL; June 12-14: Brattle Theater, Boston, MA; July 23-25: DeBartolo Performing Arts Center, Notre Dame, IN.

Other books are in April in New Orleans, LA at the Zeitgeist Multidisciplinary Arts Center; 5/3 Nevada City, CA, Nevada Theater; 5/8-5/12 San Francisco, CA, Red Vic Movie House; 5/15-21 Mesilla, NM, Fountain Theater; 5/15-21 Warterville, Maine, Railroad Square Cinema; 5/29-? San Luis Obispo, CA, Palm Theater; 5/29-6/4 Salt Lake City, UT, Broadway Center Theater; 6/12-18 Boise, ID, The Flicks; 6/12-? Denver, CO, Starz Film Center and 7/24-30 Salem, OR, Salem Cinema. It is also in Vancouver at the Van City in May.

“CORALINE’ TO BE SHOWN IN 3-D IN COMPETITION AT THE SYDNEY INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL It will be in competition against 11 other features (live action).

CORDELL “CAT CAME BACK” BARKER TO PREMIERE “RUNAWAY” AT CANNES His third animated short produced by the NFB of Canada is a lively film about passengers on a runaway train headed for disaster. It will be shown in competition May 15 at Cannes and then it will be shown at Annecy. The music is by Ben Charest who did music for Triplets of Belleville. The NFB website has 3 documentaries on the making of the film, a trailer for Runaway plus Cordell’s earlier work.

DISCOVER A REMARKABLE ANIMATED FILM FROM RUSSIA CALLED “DEREVO DETSTVA” This is a lovely story and a beautifully executed surreal adventure about a boy whose teddy bear is stolen by birds. Aleksay Budovsky tells me the translated title is The Childhood Tree and that its creator, Natalya Mirzoyan is from his hometown, St-Petersburg, Russia. “I just met her at the Russian Animation Film Festival in Suzdal (it's a small old town 5 hours away from Moscow). I think it was her diploma work, she is a very young woman.” Don’t miss it.

SEE A FASCINATING VIDEO THAT SHOWS HOW DISNEY ANIMATORS USED EXCELLENT SCENES OVER IN LATER FEATURES By animating different characters going through the same movements in later features, I assumed they managed to save considerable production time. I had heard this was done from time to time, but I hadn’t seen footage of this before. Somebody has created a very interesting short illustrating this practice. !

ALSO DISCOVER “NIEBLA” (“THE FOG”) Billy Burger introduced me to this remarkable surreal work by a Mexican animator. Although seeing it on YouTube isn’t the ideal way to view it, it is an excellent film worth pondering. The copy on YouTube says: “Animated Short Film. Mexico/Spain. In the world of Niebla, a seven-minute short released in 2006 by Mexican animation director Emilio Ramos Fern?ndez, an elderly man living in an impoverished village perpetually enshrouded in fog ("niebla" in Spanish) offers poetic reminiscences about the time the town was visited by an unexpected boon of sheep that arrived from the skies, briefly changing its fortunes. This short! has been shown in more than 50 festivals around the world and has received more than a dozen international awards including a special jury prize at the Hiroshima International Animation Festival 2006 (Japan), the grand prize at Animanima 2007 (Serbia), a special distinction award at SICAF 2007 (South Korea), a special jury prize at the Virtuality Conference Student Competition (Italy), the 1st Iberoamerican Animation Prize at the Festival de Cine de Guadalajara (Mexico), and the audience award and 1st jury prize at Art Futura 2006 (Spain). Zagreb, Annecy and SIGGRAPH 06 also showed it.

“STOP MOTION WITH WOLF AND PIG” is a work full of good ideas, but some of the images are a bit small and hard to see on my computer screen. This is definitely worth seeing. Reminds me of the gems Jane Aaron made in the 1980s. Thanks Sheila Sofian for telling us about it.

FRONT LIT SAND ANIMATION The short A.E.I.O.U. eps. The Ghost is done in an unusual sand technique with some color segments. Not a great work, but charming and worth looking at.

Another approach to sand animation can be seen in the work of Ferenc Cako. Google his name if you are interested. Of course the real masters of the art are Caroline Leaf, who worked for the NFB of Canada and Aleksandra Korejwo, who works with colored salts.

CHECK OUT “A DARK AND SILLY NIGHT,” DESIGNED BY GAHAN WILSON, BASED ON A NEIL GAIMAN STORY this gem was directed by Steven-Charles Jaffe. It was posted on April 16 on Cartoon Brew. Gaiman wrote Coraline, the book that Henry Selick turned into the movie. Look for the April 16 posting at

A GAHAN WILSON FEATURE LENGTH DOCUMENTARY EXISTS Gahan Wilson: Born Dead, Still Weird is a dissection of cartoonist Gahan Wilson, who has made a career out of turning the solitudinous fears of his Illinois childhood into ghoulishly funny tableaux in The New Yorker, Playboy, National Lampoon, Paris Match... In addition to Wilson, who lives in Sag Harbor, the interviews include Nancy Winters, Gahan’s wife who lives in London, and “fans” that include Stephen Colbert, Lewis Black, Neil Gaiman, Stan Lee, Randy Newman, Nicholas Meyer, Guillermo del Toro, Hugh Hefner, David Remnick, Roz Chast and others. There are also behind the scenes footage on how cartoons for ! The New Yorker are pitched, bought, or rejected. Apparently the film was made in 2007, has no distributor.

THE KIDS FROM “SOUTH PARK” HAVE TAUGHT A MAJOR RAP STAR WITH AN OVER INFLATED EGO A LESSON IN HUMILITY Kanye West was shown in an episode that aired Wed. April 8, “as a narcissistic figure so out of touch with reality he couldn’t even take a (very politically incorrect) joke” according to the Associated Press. On his blog the next day he wrote, “South Park murdered me last night and it’s pretty funny. It hurts my feelings, but what can you expect from South Park! I actually have been working on my ego though. Having the crazy ego is played out in my life and career.” He said he wants to “get past myself.” He even posted a link to a clip from the show and ! thanked the show’s writers for their critical assessment of him.

HOLLYWOOD BUCKS THE ECONOMIC TREND With Fast and Furious breaking the record for the all time best April opening ($71 million), the industry continues to beat its chest and say it is “recession proof.” Receipts are up 15% “and studio bosses are hoping that 2009 might be the first year that they reap more than $10 billion in ticket sales.” Mark Batey, head of the Film Distributors’ Association, says, “It’s a terrific time for cinema.” From an article in The Independent (UK)

LA HONORS THE 100TH BIRTHDAY OF JULES ENGEL Jules (1909 – 2003) worked as a color designer on Disney’s Fantasia, on UPA’s shorts and at other studios before founding the experimental animation program at CAL Arts. Over the years I’ve met many of his former students and all praise him both as a person and teacher. In honor of what would have been his 100th birthday, an exhibit of his art is being held at the Tobey C. Moss Gallery through June 30 (7321 Beverly Blvd, LA) and a screening was held at the Redcat Theater along with a panel of Cal Arts Alumni including Jorge Gutierrez, Steve Hillenburg, Mark Kirkland, Mark Osborne, Joanna Priestly and Henry Selick.

THERE ARE ANIMATED FEATURES MADE IN BOLLYWOOD by KC My first awareness of them was a mention by Jerry Beck in 2002 that began “Roll over Pokemon and tell Hey Arnold the news! The winner of the worst animated film of the year goes to… Pentamedia’s Alibaba. The Indian CGI animated feature is pathetic – at least 15 years behind the current levels of artistry at studios like Pixar and Blue Sky… The film is awful. The animation is terrible. Worse than the cheapest video game…” He also panned the dubbing, music and other elements and concluded by saying, “Avoid this loser at all costs.”

Flash-forward to 2009 and I read in Business Week (January 21) that “Bollywood Improving in Animation, Special Effects.” The article said the features are improving in both quality and popularity and are “real moneymakers.” In 2008 five animated features were released including Roadside Romeo made by Disney and Yash Raj Films. They reported 28 animated features were in various stages of production, that the entire animation industry in India was valued around US$460 million, that it is expected to grow by 27% in 2009 and it should be valued at over a billion dollars by 2012.

The Business Week article pointed out Indian features rarely gross over US$20 million so production budgets are quite low, around US$2 million for animated features. The author of the article expected quality to improve as budgets increase and as better trained animators become available. “India needs more three-year degree programs in animation as opposed to short, six month courses.”

Animation Express, an online publication in India, said that the five features released in India did not set box office records and “although the audiences were glad to get Indian animation content, they felt in some movies the animation quality lacked, while the story and its telling was lacking in most.” While low budget animated features from Bollywood are not likely to compete with US products soon, the writer was optimistic about the future. I suspect that in a few years Bollywood animation may mature and get a lot better.

HOLLYWOOD REMEMBERS MILT KAHL’S 100TH BIRTHDAY Milt Kahl (1909 – ’87) was one of Walt Disney's legendary "Nine Old Men." He was considered by the studio’s artists the most accomplished and influential. He brought to life some of the animals in Snow White, the tiger Shere Khan in The Jungle Book, Peter in Peter Pan, Tramp in Lady and the Tramp and the villainous Madame Medusa in The Rescuers. In late April the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences celebrated his centennial with "Milt Kahl: The Animation Michelangelo," a tribute that included clips of his work along with a panel discussion hosted by animator Andreas Deja (Scar from The Lion King), Floyd Norman (who worked with Kahl on 1963's The Sword and the Stone) and the directing team of Ron Clements and John Musker (The Little Mermaid, Aladdin).

JOANNA PRIESTLEY AND JOAN GRATZ PREMIERED NEW FILMS IN PORTLAND “Words Worth a Thousand Pictures: Contemporary Animation about Language” included premieres of Missed Aches by Joanna Priestley and Puffer Girl by Joan Gratz. The directors were present to answer questions. The program also included several modern classics: The Characters (Netherlands) by Evert De Beijer, Guy 101 (England) by Ian William Gouldstone, Primiti Too Taa (Canada) by Ed Ackerman and Colin Morton, Rabbit (England) by Run Wrake and Amore Baciami (England) by Oliver Harrison. The program was held in! April at the Hollywood Theatre.

JOANNA PRIESTLEY WAS GIVEN A ONE-PERSON RETROSPECTIVE AT REDCAT IN LA “Joanna Priestley Fighting Gravity” was presented April 20 as part of the Jack H. Skirball Series. Priestley who has been dubbed "the queen of independent animation" by Bill Plympton, showed Missed Aches along with her shorts Voices, Grown Up, All My Relations, Streetcar Named Perspire, Utopia Parkway, Candyjam, She-Bop, Pro and Con and Dew Line. Redcat is a movie theater located in the Frank Gerry designed Disney concert hall.

Missed Aches is described as a humorous rant about the need for proofreading and the indiscriminate use of spell check. It “incriminates” character animation with moving text. The sound design is by Canadians Normand Roger and Pierre Yves Drapeau. The production was supported by The Regional Arts and Culture Council, and the Caldera Institute.

STAN LEE AND MARVEL ARE BEING SUED FOR $750 MILLION IN PROFITS THEY MADE ON SPIDER-MAN, IRON MAN, X-MEN AND ON OTHER CHARACTERS The suit is by shareholders of Stan Lee Media Inc. Lee is no longer part of it. They claim that profits from Lee's comic creations belong to the company, which emerged from bankruptcy in 2006. The suit claims Lee, Marvel and others have violated Stan Lee Media's copyright interests and that the firm is due profits from all properties, including blockbuster films that were made after 1998 and based on Lee's creations. Marvel says these are "ridiculous claims."

"He made a deal," said Martin Garbus, a lawyer for the shareholders. He said of Lee's confidential settlement that led to his reconciliation with Marvel, "That money should have gone to the corporation."

Lee helped found Stan Lee Media, an online comic site in the late 1990s, but the company went into bankruptcy in 2001 and several of its officers were arrested and accused of manipulating its stock price. Lee was never implicated in the scheme, but the company's meltdown has sparked court actions in New York, Colorado and Los Angeles.

Lee has been involved with many lawsuits. He once sued Marvel over profits from his creations after he entered into an agreement with Marvel that deprived Stan Lee Media of the profits from blockbuster movies including the Spider-Man and X-Men trilogies. In 2007, Lee sued Stan Lee Media for copyright infringement, cyber-squatting, defamation and other claims. In a document filed last year, Lee's lawyers denied he gave the company copyright interests in characters he created during his Marvel career.


DISNEY CUTS 11% OF ITS THEME PARK STAFFS IN LA AND FLORIDA A friend and long time loyal employee wrote me from Orlando, “On Wednesday, March 25, HR pulled me into a little office in the Administration Building and told me my position was being eliminated due to the re-organization. I surrendered my Disney ID and will be given two months severance...after that I am on my own to pay bills and medical. They walked me to my car and told me to arrange with my manager when I can come back and pick up my stuff. Of course, I feel like I have been hit hard in the stomach with a two by four but I'll survive.” On Friday the 27th ! The Walt Disney Company announced it is cutting 1,900 jobs at its Anaheim, Calif. and Orlando, Fla.-based theme parks. Note: A former Disney employee told me, “That Disney bums-rush tradition of being walked to your car, goes back to Art Babbitt.” Walt firing Art was one of the issues that caused the famous strike in 1941.

Variety reported Disney spokeswoman Tasia Filippatos said, "These decisions were not made lightly, but are essential to maintaining our leadership in family tourism and reflect today's economic realities. We continue to work through our reorganization and manage our business based on demand."

Disney's parks and resorts are doing their best to keep people thinking Disney by cutting costs and by offering deep discounts. I suspect the cuts are also being made to show stockholders that the company is actively trying to keep profits up. (The company’s dividends in recent years have not been very attractive. They remain under 2%.).

The gossip about the animation studios in LA is positive. An insider wrote me, “TV animation is hiring, and at Feature the screenings of Princess & Frog are doing well enough to give a tentative go-ahead to two more projects.”

BLOCKBUSTER MAY BE IN SERIOUS FINANCIAL TROUBLE While most people know Netflix has hurt their business, the company has announced the real danger is from a revolving long term loan agreement worth $250 million. They believe recent financial events cast doubt on their ability to meet repayment schedules and that raises serious doubts about their ability to stay in business. The loans are with J.P. Morgan Chase & Co, and other major institutions. The stock has been downgraded.


HOLLAND ANIMATED FILM FESTIVAL is a major international event held in November. Deadline is July 1.

OTTAWA 09 HAS AN INTERESTING LINEUP They have announced retrospectives of Don Hertzfeldt, Suzan Pitt, Jim Blashfield, Stan VanDerBeek and Studio Film Bilder. There will be a special look at Quebec animation, a show called Can't Draw Straight: (a program of gay animation), and an exhibit on the National Film Board of Canada’s SANDDE, a 3D animation system developed by the Imax Corp. The festival’s honorary president is Otto Alder who will present a program called 7 Reasons to Love Animation. Theodore Ushev of the NFB created the festival’s 2009 poster. The festival runs Oct. 14 – 18.

OTTAWA 09 The deadline for entry forms is June 1st, and they must receive your preview DVD by June 15th. NO ENTRY FEE!

BITFILM The Bitfilm Festival is for 3D animation, digital hybrids, Machinima movies and Realtime demos. Online submissions end July 1. Event opens in Hamburg, its hometown, on August 13 and it ends in Tel Aviv on October 1.

CONTROVERSY OVER PLAYBOYS’ 2009 ANIMATION CONTEST An ASIFA-East blog entry by Patrick Smith suggests it is exploiting animators. While somebody will win the top prize of $10,000, too many other artists will blow a lot of time and some money trying to create something outrageous to please their judges. A second writer suggested that you should read the rules carefully as you may be giving your work away if you win an honorable mention. You may get free exposure, but you may not be able to show it elsewhere. My Google search informed me that the top prize was $25,000 in the first contest and a major LA studio won it. Now they only hand out $10,000. I tried to find the rules online, bu! t the closest I got was a note from Playboy that said they couldn’t find the requested page. says the deadline is May 31.

15TH ANNUAL BRAINWASH MOVIE FESTIVAL This juried show held in Oakland has a late deadline of May 10 ($35). Prizes include items from Jungle Software.

ANIMAZING AniMazing fee has been reduced to $45. This online competition has completed two quarterly competitions and has chosen their first winner (visit website to see details). Due primarily to the worldwide economic situation the entry fee has been reduced.

ANIMA BRUSSELS 2009. A Festival Close to My Home and Heart by Nancy Denney-Phelps

Since moving to Belgium I always look forward to ANIMA BRUSSELS every February. The festival is only a half hour train ride from my front door, and it always marks the beginning of Spring to me. Best of all, it is a wonderful opportunity to see a great deal of Belgian animation.

Opening night got off on a high note with a screening of Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful new film Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea. I had seen Ponyo at the Anilogue Festival in Budapest, but was very glad to have another chance to see this lovely film.

There are so many layers and textures that, as with all of Miyazaki’s films, you can watch them over and over discovering new things each time.

This has been a very strong year for feature films and it was nice to see that there are still surprises yet to come in that arena. Nine feature films were in competition. I have already written about the much lauded Sita Sings the Blues by Nina Paley, Bill Plympton’s tour d’ force Idiots and Angels and the beautiful Masayuki Kojima film The Piano Forest.

I was particularly happy to have the opportunity to see $9.99, a live action style drama made with puppets. Tatia Rosenthal, the director, was also a guest at the festival. I first met her several years ago at the KROK International Festival of Animation where her short film A Buck’s Worth was screened. The Israeli born New York City resident told me when we first met that her aim was to expand her short film based on an Etgar Keret short story into a feature length film encompassing several of his short works. A feature film is a formidable undertaking for anyone, but for a first time director to finance such a proj! ect is a herculean task. It was a delightful surprise to meet her again in Brussels and to see that she has succeeded in her quest to bring the Israeli writer’s short stories to life. Tatia refers to the film as a dual effort, written by Keret and directed by her. She has indeed brought his biting comments on our times to the screen with sensitivity. The Israeli-Australian co-production features the voices of Jeffrey Rush and Samuel Jackson, two of Australia’s best-known actors. It received an ANNIE nomination for best feature as well as a best director nomination for Tatia. While many people will have the opportunity to see this excellent film at festivals over the next two years, I hope it also opens commerci! ally so that it will have the opportunity to become known by the gener al public.

The programmers at ANIMA Brussels have a good sense of humor and made sure that not all of the feature films were totally serious. Although not in competition, Queer Duck: The Movie was pure fun. Animated by Xeth Feinberg and written by Mike Reiss, who is better known as executive producer and writer on The Simpsons and The Critic, the film is a totally camp comedy full of references from the world of film, TV and show business. The character of the gay, anthropomorphic duck debuted on and moved to cable TV channel! Showtime in 2002 as a short cartoon. Although it was not the first gay cartoon it was the first animated TV series to have homosexuality as its theme. Mike was a festival guest and presented The Simpsons Back Stage Tour.

I had never seen a feature length Bollywood animated film before. Cheenti Cheenti Bang Bang is ostensibly based on a Bengali story about two warring kingdoms, the red and the black ants. Unfortunately it is a terrible film with poorly executed 2-D animation and voiceovers that become very annoying as the grunts and groans in the dialogue droned on endlessly. The two people I was with walked out after only a few minutes, but being an eternal optimist I hung in there. I think it is important for festivals to screen a film like Cheenti, Cheenti, Bang Bang because there would be no other opportunity to see it otherwise. Seeing an Indian animated feature in Brussels was a unique experience and there was a good-sized crowd in the theatre for the screening. I wish that they had seen a better film.

The five short film competition programs contained some films that I consider old friends such as Portuguese animator Zepe’s beautifully complex film Candido, Australian Dennis Tupicoff’s multi layered Chainsaw and KJFG 5 from Alexi Alexeev, which never fails to make me smile no matter how many times I watch it.

It was a great treat to get to see Alex Budovsky’s new animation The Royal Nightmare. Alex’s work is always a crowd pleaser and this story of an evil King whose life is turned into a nightmare by a pilgrim is no exception. The film is done in Alex’s signature black and white style, but unlike his previous films this one is not music driven.

The festival has a separate category of awards for films produced in Belgium. Their two short film competitions gave me an opportunity to see some of the best new work created in the Flanders and Walloon regions. One of my favorite films was Milovan Circus, a puppet animation by Gerlando Infuss. The story of the rise and fall of a circus artist from star back down to a street performer is shown through flashbacks. The audience and jury must have agreed with me, since the film won 3 awards and has been selected to compete at Annecy in the graduation film competition.

I was also totally captivated by Ophelie Tailler’s poetic impressions of a world of spiders as portrayed in Une Toile (A Spider Web). As I watched her strong black and white images, I was totally drawn into the rhythmic swaying images floating over the screen. This was her graduation film and I am sure that she will go on to create even more interesting films, since she says that rather than look for an industry job she wants to continue working in independent animation.

ANIMA Brussels takes place during the annual Carnival Vacation so this year they hosted the first Cosplay Belgium. It was a two-hour session full of costumed performers and audience members of all ages. Just in case there is anyone out there who has not experienced cosplay it is short for costume play where participants (and audience members) outfit themselves in elaborate costumes representing specific characters from Japanese and East Asian manga, anime, comic books and fantasy films. I hope that next year the festival will consider making Cosplay part of the Animated Nights festi! vities. I think that the costumes and high spirits of the participants would add a lot to the late night screenings.

The annual Carnival Vacation holiday is also a great time for the festival to screen programs designed for the entire family. This year they screened seven episodes of The Little Mole. The theater was packed with 3 to 6 year olds who sat in rapt attention watching Czech animator Zdenek Miller’s timeless mole with the wide eyes and blue overalls. I have to admit that I was as captivated as any 3 year old. Last year at ANIMA I bought a DVD with 8 episodes of The Little Mole and when I am feeling overwhelmed by the world, I just disa! ppear into the delightful world that Miller created. He has said that he was having trouble coming up with an animal to animate that Disney had not already used, but one day he tripped over a molehill and that gave him an idea. The 50 episodes for television were done in 1956 and even though Europeans grew up on them this wonderful children’s classic is unknown in the United States.

The Walt Disney classic Pinocchio was a big hit with young audiences as was Wall-e and the delightful Three Robbers by German director Hayo Freitag. I first saw this film at Annecy last year and thoroughly enjoyed this tale of Tiffany, the little orphan, who throws her lot in with three robbers as a result of a quirky encounter. I also like the music by Los Angeles singer/song writer Kenneth Pattengale who captured the tone and mood of the film with his music.

The Saturday morning parent/child brunch is always a lively event, with activities for children of all ages - from face painting for the tiny tots to creating clay critters for the older set. Of course there was plenty of food and beverage for children and parents alike. The morning festivities were followed by a special screening of Hayao Miyazaki’s classic Spirited Away.

The activity area for young animators was greatly expanded this year. Throughout the entire festival young people created their own versions of zoetropes, animated with computers and drew storyboards under the tutelage of young professional volunteers. Every time I stopped by to see what was going on the entire area was abuzz with activity.

At the other end of the audience spectrum I was really excited when I learned that the Cinematheque Royale de Belgium had organized a Ralph Bakshi retrospective. I haven’t seen Fritz the Cat in years and was very disappointed that it was the alternative opening night film for those not invited to Ponyo and the party. Unfortunately it was only screened once so I didn’t have another chance to see it, and sadly, of the seven Bakshi films that made up the retrospective, only 2 others - Fire and ! Ice, and Lord of the Rings were screened at the festival, with the rest shown at the museum.

The Animated Nights screening was back again this year showing a potpourri of animation into the wee hours of the morning, with breaks every so often to listen to live music in the lobby and to visit the bar. Bill Plympton, a special festival guest, made a surprise guest appearance at the late night screening, much to the delight of the audience. He introduce his latest short Santa: The Fascist Years. This was my first opportunity to see Bill’s outrageous look at Santa’s hidden past and it is hilarious.

It is always a pleasure to watch Bill in front of an audience because he has the ability to make everyone in a packed auditorium feel that he is talking right to them. His presentation “Conversation With Bill” was no exception. He compared the storyboard of Idiots and Angels to the completed film and talked about the relationship between writing, images and dramatic structure. He also answered questions from the audience, who hung on his every word and drawing.

Nik introduced the two screenings of Sita Sings the Blues and answered questions about the film from the audience. The Festival also invited him to play music on two evenings. The first night he performed on the main lobby stage and then again the next evening in the upstairs bar. He was also on the ARTE Belgique television program “50 Degrees North” where he talked About Sita Sings the Blues, the festival, and composing music for animation and film.

The noted film critic and documentary film maker Natalia Lukinykh from Moscow introduced her moving tribute to the late, great founder of Russia’s renowned Pilot Studios, Alexander Tatarsky. I have seen Alexander Tatarsky, or How to Embrace the Immense many times and it never fails to make me smile while bringing tears to my eyes. We were also treated to four films by Tatarsky: Back Side of the Moon, Lift-1, Gone With The Wind and Red Gate Rashemon.! The last film was created with his partner at Pilot Studios, Valentin Telegin who is also Natalia’s husband. Set in 1950’s Moscow, it is a story of a drunken ice skater at an important match.

[photo] Steven Woloshen holds as cameraless animation device

Canadian Steven Woloshen presented a retrospective of works from his prolific career. This master of camera-less animation uses every possible technique imaginable from scratching on film to burying it in the ground to create unusual effects. Along with the films, Steven commented on the making of each film and showed the “camera” that he constructed to create his work. During his visit to the festival he also made a film titled Impressions of Brussels that was screened on closing night.

It was a great pleasure to get to know Samuel Lord Black and his lovely wife Kathleen. He is a multitalented person having worked in software design, in the video game industry, at Pixar rendering software, and as a voice actor on Monsters Inc. and The Incredibles. Sam chaired the 2008 Siggraph Competition Jury and presented the Siggraph Computer Animation Festival program at Anima Brussels.

Anima Brussels 2009 seemed to have more special guests and fascinating special presentations than in past years. Unfortunately there is no way I can write about everything that I saw, but I can assure you that it was a packed 9 days.

The special exhibits were a real treat. I have been a fan of the clever and creative work of directors Stephane Aubier and Vincent Patar for some time. They have collected hundreds of little plastic figures of cowboys, Indians, and horses that they remolded in different positions, duplicated and repainted to reproduce movement when filmed. The exhibit of their figures and sets for Panique au Village (A Town Called Panic) which was a 20 episode TV series, shows off the multitude of little figures in their collection. They later made a feature film of the same name.

From Strip to Screen delved into the extremely rich relationship between comic strips and animation in Belgium. From little known beginnings of Peyo, Morris, and Eddy Paape into animation in the golden years of studios including Belvision and their work with Tintin, Asterix, and Lucky Luke this exhibit took me right up to the present. Currently there is a new relationship in Belgium between comics and animation with creators like Eric Blesin, Benoit Feroumont, and William Henne who have one foot in each genre.

Since many of the foreign guests had not visited Brussels before, the festival organized two special tours. Long-time festival volunteer Norbert Morocutti, who works for the European Union in real life, was a superb guide. Our trip to The Atomium gave us all a chance to explore this iconic building which was designed for the 1958 Brussels World’s Fair. Symbolizing an iron crystal magnified 165 billion times, the 9 large spheres are connected by 20 tubes standing on 3 enormous bipods to a height of 102 meters.

From the outside it is an impressive structure, but nothing compared to the 360-degree panoramic views from inside. As with many Expo buildings, The Atomium was not intended to survive the Exhibition but it proved so popular that it has been newly refurbished and has become a major landmark on the Brussels skyline.

The next day Norbert, our intrepid guide, treated us to a train trip to Bruges. Although I have been to Bruges many times and think of it as a “Disneyland town” for tourists, I can never resist a train ride. It was also nice to have a chance for a long chat with British animation historian and writer Clare Kitson. Clare and I have been friends for a time, but as a member of the international jury at the festival she was quite busy and this was our first chance for a good long talk. On both excursions Norbert took us to superb restaurants where we enjoyed long, leisurely meals.

All too soon the closing night ceremony arrived and it was time to hear the distinguished juror’s decisions. The 2009 International Competition Jury was made up of Clare Kitson, New York graphic designer Richard McGuire who created a segment of Fear(s) of the Dark, and internationally renowned photo-journalist Bruno Stevens. Moebius (Jean Giraud) was also slated to be on the jury; unfortunately he was unable to attend.

The three members of the Belgian National Competition Jury were animator Marie-Laure Guisset, Antoine Manier who founded Rencontres Audiovisuelles which has become one of the main resources for screening independent films, and Niels Ruell, freelance journalist and film critic. The Jury for Commercials and Music Videos was comprised of Xavier Buillon, advertising agent, film and music video creator Corin Hardy and animator/producer Toon Loenders.

Following the presentation of the awards the winning films were screened. The Anima 2009 Grand Prix (3 000 Euros and Toon Boom Softwear) went to Skhizein by Jeremy Clapin from France. It also won the audience award. Special jury mentions went to Hot Dog by Bill Plympton, Lies by Jonas Odell from Sweden and Dinner in Lisbon by Andre Carrilho from Portugal. The Best Student Short Film award went to Keith Reynolds Can’t Make It Tonight by Felix Massie from Great Britain. The Best Short Children’s Film went to Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death by Nick Park from Great Britain. The Best Music Video award went to No Place Like Home-directed by Rosto from The Netherlands. The Best Feature Film prize went to Kappa no Coo natsu yasumi (Summer Day With Coo) by Keiichi Hara (Japan).

Then it was time for the festive closing night party. There was lovely food and good wine followed by dancing until the wee hours of the morning.

Festival directors Doris Cleven and Phillippe Moins not only show impeccable ability and taste in programming a festival, but they are also the most gracious hosts a festival could have. I also can’t thank Francoise Cathala and Karin Vandenrydt enough for the many kindnesses they showed me and to the entire festival staff who worked very hard to keep everything running smoothly. Last but far from least was Mistress of Ceremonies extraordinaire Stepanie Coerten who added so much to the evening programs by really doing her homework. Her on-stage interviews with the guests added insights into the film.

I am already looking forward to Anima 2010 next year and am anxiously awaiting the great visual treats that the festival will have in store for us. Visit Nancy's Animated World at

LAST MINUTE ITEM – WANT TO TAKE A STOP-MOTION CLASS THIS SUMMER? Tara Beyhm is teaching one at Calif. College of Art (SF Campus) on Wednesdays June 3–August 5, 6:30-9:30pm. Students will create their own animated short films using traditional stop-motion techniques. This class covers all stages from turning their short story ideas into scripts, then storyboards, to creating puppets and sets and then filming it using DV cameras with frame grabbing software. Final Cut Pro will be used to edit the work BGV9 with sound effects, etc .EXTENDED ED CLASS


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 the Calif. Kid Sikoryak, assisted by Ricci

Special thanks to ASIFA-East and Linda Simensky for providing another great annual program of their festival winners and to the Exploratorium for letting us use their space on an After Dark night. 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 dAnimation with almost 40 chapters around the world.

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Mail can be sent to: or to: PO Box 14516, SF, CA 94114




At the Exploratorium’s McBean Theater, free, public invited, lots of free parking.

Everybody with an animated film is invited to bring it and it will be shown (16mm, VHS tape & DVD). Just show up with it. Questions?

The program will include: Don Albrecht, a former Disney animator, will have an outrageous surprise or two (Walt wouldn’t approve of his new work)

Jett Atwood’s Tea for Two, based on a pencil test made at Sheridan College. She finished this film on her own a year and a half later.

Signe Baumane’s Birth, is a powerful emotional work about one woman’s experience.

Charlie Canfield is bringing excerpts of his animation for the Emmy nominated A Span in Time. The award ceremony is May 9. Good luck Charlie.

Nick Fox-Gieg, The Orange, Suddenly, a humble citrus fruit is granted absolute power over the universe. From a story by Benjamin Rosenbaum.

Gene Hamm will delight us with Chinese Medicine, Puncture Perfect (made for his comedy act) and his disturbing The Truth About Cut Flowers?

Andy Kaiser’s Friendly Fire, a puppet film from Germany with music written and performed by Nik Phelps.

A surprise by Michel Langan (I think you will be quite impressed.)

Chris Perry’s The Incident at Tower 37, a tale about limited natural resources by a teacher from Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. It will be shown at SIGGRAPH 2009.

Michael Stevenson, Pigeon Pilfer. It's about a man who is tormented by stares from pigeons as he tries to figure out what they're after.

San Francisco State's Animation program is presenting student music synch projects.

Plus lots of other surprises from independent animators and college students.

The show is always a lot of fun and well attended, so arrive early for a good seat.

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