Association International du Film d'Animation
(International Animated Film Association)

January 2011

The new issue includes:

****A look into newly published information about the advantages and disadvantages for-profit schools that teach animation. (we plan to post it on our website soon)

* local news,
* local events,
* news about various end of the year award competitions and other news stories,
* a report from Nancy Denney-Phelps about a festival in Norway
* details about two ASIFA-SF events in January. (An open screening and a party/screening of the ASIFA-East Annual national competition

THE US SENATE IS INVESTIGATING FOR-PROFIT SCHOOLS THAT RAKE IN MILLIONS FROM GOVERNMENT STUDENT LOANS, BUT SOME OF THEIR "HIGHLY SKILLED" GRADUATES, INCLUDING MANY WHO STUDIED ANIMATION, CAN'T FIND JOBS TO PAY BACK THEIR LOANS by KC There are many schools in the US that take anybody as a student without determining if they have the aptitude and talent to study a given subject. Some schools mislead people into thinking they will be great in their chosen field, there is lots of employment available upon graduating and you will make fabulous sums of money. While some of these schools provide excellent educations, others do not. Also some fal! sely claim they have an excellent placement rate. I asked a graduate from one school with a supposedly outstanding employment service about its usefulness and she laughed at the "joke." Are there enough entry-level jobs available?

For-profit schools are often more expensive than state run and private non-profit colleges. They often encourage incoming students to obtain government loans and undercover investigators found some councilors tell students they can lie on loan applications to get bigger loans. The government and the schools know that more than half of the unqualified students will drop out within the first two-year and some will eventually default on their loans. A few years ago a teacher at a for-profit school said they loose about 60% of their first year computer animation students!

Why are schools willing to accept unqualified students? By accepting as many students as possible, the school will benefit financially and it is not their responsibility to repay the loans, nor do they have to help the government get repaid.

How much money is involved? The government lent around $24 billion to students in 2009. One article said $1 out of every $4 lent goes to students at for-profit schools, yet only about 8 or 9% of the nation's students go to these schools. The Senate's records on the 15 largest for-profit schools show the loan default rate at one school is 19%. Federal data shows that about 11.6% of student borrowers from for-profit schools will default within two years after repayments began, while the default rate for students who attended most of the nonprofit schools in! the study was 0% to 4%. The government is concerned as schools make their profits and tax dollars must pay for the losses.

The government found there was "wasteful spending on educational programs of little or no value that also lead to high indebtedness for students." Students at some schools are being enrolled in courses of study where there is little chance for employment upon graduation.

Many of the schools do provide an excellent education and have good reputations (and others do not) so if you or somebody you know is considering going to one a for-profit art school, do a lot of serious research before committing to an expensive education.

Do some research!

Much of that research can be done using the Internet and this article will suggest ways you can do that research. You can find opinions about many schools and they will be quite varied, so you need to evaluate them. A good example is the posting of an Internet article titled "An Art College President's Compensation Reached Nearly $2-Million in 2008," by Paul Fain in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Sept. 29, 2010. The article is followed by 178 comments from readers. Many are full of information so you can evaluate the merits of the school. The school's president and her family created a successful nonprofit a! rt school and they have expanded their success into for-profit businesses that include satellite campuses and large real-estate holdings. Most of the letters praise the president as she has done many positive things for the community, while others are quite critical. It makes fascinating reading and gives a lot of insight into how education can be turned into an extremely lucrative enterprise.

Wikipedia has articles on a lot of art schools and several have sections call "Controversay" that give easy to understand information. There is also a blog called Yelp that offers reviews by students, former students and sometimes by teachers from both for-profit and nonprofit schools that teach animation. You can see what is posted for a given school, but you also have to decide how credible the statements are.

An indication of which schools have the strongest programs is to see where the nominated shorts come from in the annual student Academy Awards competition. Also check lists of winners from other major festivals.

Open for business, everybody welcomed!

A veteran of the old MGM animation studio wrote me, ""Unfortunately "For profit' in educational institutions often means that standards get lowered and graduates are often less well trained than they ought to be and they wind up in dead end jobs because they're not really qualified in the professions they go into." Another friend said, "Trade schools are a last-resort option for young people who, for one reason or another, cannot get into a regular university. If you know how to tie your shoes, they will accept you and arrange for your loan. I taught a workshop a while back and had a candid conversation with the newly appointed head of admissions. He acknowledged that he was under pressure to enroll more students, that he was conflicted about it because, in order to do that, he would have to lower entrance standards."

Another e-mail said, "The government really should set higher standards for the schools, and then keep an eye on them to see if they are complying. I taught for a single semester at (a school in the mid-west), and left because it was obvious that the animation students were not being rigorously pre-screened. It is not impossible to have a good quality for-profit school; it is just rare."

Would we mislead you?

One matter the Senate hearings brought up were schools offering specialized training in areas that were becoming obsolete or offered little employment. They interviewed graduates that are stuck with no jobs and loans to pay off. Internet articles tell how recruiters at schools promise prospective students things they can't possibly deliver to get them to enroll.

One outrageous case is the woman who was halfway through her gaming animation degree program when she discovered that some of her instructors were not certified/licensed teachers (some were recent grads of that school and one had no knowledge of the subject he was teaching). She tried to transfer to another school, but those that she applied to would not accept her credits so she finished her degree at the school she was already attending. (Note: Course credits from many for-profit schools are not transferable which can be a serious problem if one later wants to transfer to another college. Also not all schools have the same accreditation certificates.)

The woman said that before she enrolled her department chair "told me I would move up very fast in the gaming industry and would most likely retire after ten years because I'd be making so much money." She graduated with honors, but the great jobs never materialized. Instead she discovered that many people who did get gaming jobs worked extremely long hours six or seven days a week and eventually gave up their animation careers. She did find a job unrelated to her studies that paid $12 an hour, but she was laid off when the economy changed.

After being laid off the woman states the only job she could find to pay off her debt was being a stripper. Her advice to people is not to go to a for-profit college. "All they're interested in is your money. Especially the schools that advertise on the Internet and TV." Her long detailed interview is available on the Internet. Read "College grad-turned-stripper says 'my soul has been darkened" ! and "Stripper says for-profit college degree "worthless," Read also "Degrees of Debt," NY Times, at

Stretching the truth

The credibility of statements being made by some for-profit schools was challenged when Kathleen Bittel, a career placement adviser for a chain of art schools. She testified on Sept. 30, 2010 that her corporate office pressured her and other placement advisers to falsify documents and create misleading reports about student successes and employment in their chosen field. One example of fals! ified information she presented was claiming a game design graduate was now a succesful creative artist in the video game industry. Impressive claims like that presumably draw in more students, but the truth was the man was selling video games at Toys R Us. (Google her name to read her testimony online.) A Wikipedia article about her employer says they "have been padding their job placement percentages, graduations, and success stories with stories like this."

Since the government loan programs require schools have good placement records for their graduates, some schools pad their records by including people that received both paid and unpaid internships. Interns can become employees, but apparently most don't.

A teacher at a for-profit college told me one of the worst things about her school is that they pander to every prospective student the minute they walk in the door. Regardless of talent they constantly praised the work in their portfolios and call them "artists," a title she feels students should earn or the word becomes meaningless.

The government hearings have also uncovered an unsavory practice that some schools use to keep students enrolled. Students need to maintain a certain grade point average in order to keep a government loan. At some schools a student who gets a D or F doesn't need to worry. The administrators fix the books, often without the teacher"s knowledge.


For students excited about studying for a career in animation, don't expect the sales staff at for-profit schools to explain the reality of what a career in animation is like. Job security with many companies is on a project-to-project basis and animation is a lifelong learning process. It takes years to really get great at it. I've known students who have had many interests and while animation was their dream career, they left it behind when they learned you couldn't master it overnight. A director of animated TV shows told me, "The reality of working in animation is so different then the fantasy many students have. I think many students want to be instant Bill Plymptons or Don Hertzfeldts, not understanding what talent and drive goes into that."

I read about a young woman whose goal was to pitch her project to Cartoon Network and then direct it. She discovered that wasn't going to happen so she accepted an internship with a small company producing a low budget adult cartoon show. She left them because she was disappointed at the kinds of work she was given. Along the way she discovered that the trend in the US is to outsource the animation to studios in Asia. Now she realizes, "You can't really sell yourself as an animator, you have to sell yourself as a storyboard artist or character designer." Fortunately she learned a variety of skills in college and she ! is presently assisting on an independent feature.

Beware of outsourcing

What will happen to students who specialize in just one set of skills and then discover their jobs have been outsourced? A disturbing thing about outsourcing is that it doesn't offer the artists abroad long-term job security either. Rocky and Bullwinkle, the first American job to be sent abroad, went to a studio in Mexico. Then Hanna-Barbera found better quality work at low prices in Australia and Taiwan. Now the work is going to other less expensive parts of Asia. While US producers send work to South Korea, India and other countries, the French get work done for! less in North Korea (off limits to US businesses). I've heard some Asian studios are already developing projects and then outsourcing the animation and I assume studios in Africa and/or South America will eventually open and undercut the Asian industry.

I also get daily e-mails from abroad promoting expensive unregulated animation-training programs. I suspect they too promise fabulous careers to anybody who walks in the door. I think the quality of the art in their ads is often substandard and I wonder what kind of work experiences their teachers have.

The value of a traditional education in these rough times

When I discuss college programs with aspiring students I suggest they get a well-rounded education at a nonprofit or state institution, to learn a wide range of techniques and to see as many animated shorts as possible from both the US and abroad. If one really wants an exciting career I think it is important to complete a well thought out short and to make it as good as possible. That short can jump-start a career once you graduate.

One student of a state university who understood what I was saying finished an outstanding short this past spring that demonstrates his unusual sensitivity to the art of animation. He is entering it in festivals, but more importantly his film impressed the lead animator at well-known corporation and he is now a freelance animator working for them.

Two of his classmates followed their instincts and finished stop-motion shorts. About that time a director started to develop proposals for a stop-motion feature. The two recent graduates and a third student still in school became interns and began constructing models for test shots. The company has hired one member of the group and I expect the other two will be hired as stop-motion animators once the project gets green lighted.

As for two students I know who just graduated from a for-profit school, both focused on learning Maya. Both graduated in 2010 and have been improving their sample reels while looking for work. Some of their classmates have found cg jobs and I'm told local companies will need more cg animators soon.

Good luck

For people planning to study animation at a school, it is extremely important to do your research. If possible, talk to graduates of different programs about the quality of their education and get some idea about what percentage go on to successful careers. We all know times are tough, so the Senate committee has good reasons to question their present guidelines for funding career training programs if our tax dollars are resulting in people getting into debt and not into jobs.

As this article was being completed the NY Times reported that the incoming Republican head of the Senate committee is opposed to any legislation tightening rules for for-profit schools. The outgoing head, a Democrat, believes legislation might be needed to rein in schools with high student loan default rates and low graduation percentages. If you are planning to study animation in school you need to be extremely diligent in deciding upon where to go. The Senate is telling us there is a problem, but is leaving it up to us to avoid it.

DAVID CHAI FROM SAN JOSE STATE GETS A SURPRISE, AN ANNIE NOMINATION When the nominations were announced in December it was no surprise that the Best Animated Feature nominations went to Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon, Tangled, The Illusionist and Toy Story 3, but while 3 of the Best Animated Short Subject nominations went to obvious nominees, Warner Bros. Animation's Coyote Falls, Pixar's Day & Night, and Bill Plympton's The Cow Who Wanted To Be A Hamburger, two others went to unknown works, Enrique Wrecks the World by House of Chai (David Chai from San Jose) and The Renter by Jason Carpenter (CAL Arts). ASIFA-SF members and the public are invited to see Enrique Wrecks the World at ASIFA-SF's free January 28 Open Screening at the Exploratorium, 7:30 PM. It is full of surprises.

The Annie's are Animation's highest honor in the US. The 38th Annual Annie Awards will take place on Saturday, February 5, 2011, at UCLA's Royce Hall, in Los Angeles, California. For a complete list of nominated films visit

"NO ROBOTS," AN EXCEPTIONAL FILM FROM SAN JOSE STATE U, WON BEST STUDENT ANIMATION AT THE CALIF. STATE UNIVERSITY MEDIA ARTS FESTIVAL – SEE IT AT OUR OPEN SCREENING JAN. 28 David Chai has amazing students or is he a great teacher or both? The film tells a great story with an ending, worthy of a Pixar short. The extremely good-looking artwork was influenced by great illustrators, including Sylvain Chomet. What is even more amazing is that it is a first film for co-directors Kimberly Knoll (from Sacramento) and Yung Han Chang (from Taiwan). Both are now juniors at SJSU. David Chai tells me, "They produced the film entirely on their own and with no budget. It was a true labor of love." See it Jan. 28!

Kimberly says she and Yung-Han started to develop the story last February. Working with over 30 classmates and friends they started production in June. "We were lucky to have Corwin Herse-Woo and Tim Tang as our production designers and key players in the making of the short. It was a very hard summer, but we were all determined to finish the film." The film has already been accepted for Cinequest 2011 and the best animation award was presented at CSU's 20'th Annual Media Arts Festival held at CSU Fullerton, Nov. 6.

CLARISSA MATALONE has created a handsome motion graphic logo for Delta Kappa Alpha. Music is by Seth Padowitz.


CONGRATULATIONS TO ASIFA-SF MEMBER MARCY PAGE, PRODUCER OF A FILM HONORED IN THE "HUFFINGTON POST" IN THE ARTICLE "INNOVATIVE FILM AND ART ANIMATIONS FROM THE PAST 10 YEARS" Along with Waltz with Bashir and Triplets of Belleville they include Madame Tutli Putli. Marcy taught animation at SF State with Marty McNamara for several years before moving to Montreal. She is a NFB producer and worked on the Oscar nominated Tutli Putli. Her recent film with the same directors Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski, Higgley Piggley Pop (on the DVD of Where the Wild Things Are), has been selected to be shown at the Clermont-Ferrand festival in France Feb 4-12, 2011!

SCOTT KRAVITZ IS KEEPING BUSY AS A STOP-MOTION ANIMATOR. He recently returned from LA where he worked on the Christmas episode of Community. It aired Dec. 9 on NBC. In it Abed woke up in a stop-motion world wanting to find the true meaning of Christmas. Members of the group become concerned with Abed's hallucination so the group undergoes hypnosis to explore Abed's winter wonderland to unravel the truth behind his madness. (See the show on Cartoon Brew, Dec. 10 posting.)

At present he is animating on a commercial at Mekanism here in San Francisco with Misha Klein, Justin Kohn, Richard Zimmerman, and Webster Colcord.

HENRY SELICK'S CINDERBITER, A NEW STOP-MOTION COMPANY, IS LOOKING FOR SOMEONE TO HEAD STORY The feature's working title is Shademaker. Eric Leighton, who animated on Nightmare and has since directed and animated for Disney and other studios is part of Henry's new team along with designer Lou Romano (Pixar). http://www.creativehead!

JOHN JOTA LEANOS HAS AN INTERESTING VIDEO ONLINE ABOUT HIS NEXT FILM Frontera! Animated Histories of the Southwest Borderlands will be about the complex social history of the southwest borderlands of the US along four major river systems, the Rio Grande, Colorado, Mississippi and Sacramento in an animated musical documentary film. His video gives a hint at what the film might be and is posted as part of his fundraising efforts to make this project happen. I found it an interesting, well-made way to try to raise funds (see it even if you're broke).

A 1970'S LIGHT SHOW IMAGE BY KARL COHEN IS BEING USED TO PROMOTE "RADICAL LIGHT" AT THE UNIVERSITY ART MUSEUM Radical Light is both a book that was just published by the Univ. of CA Press, a museum exhibit and a film series. The abstract image was created for a series of experimental performances Karl did with musician George Mundy. Similar images are in their film Sidereal Passage. Several of Karl's images are also in the exhibit in the downstairs gallery. It closes ! March 31.

PART-TIME JOBS AT THE WALT DISNEY FAMILY MUSEUM They occasionally have part-time openings for guards/guides. Interested students can visit the museum's website to fill out an application. They are located on the main parade ground of The Presidio of San Francisco, 104 Montgomery St.


Saturday, Jan. 8, Cartoonist and Animator Michael Jantze In-Person At 11:30 he will present a master class for adults on "The New Media, bridging the divide from paper to new media platforms like web comics." Advance reservations required. Call for fees and to reserve your space: 707-284-1263. At 3 pm Michael will talk about his work and draw for the public. He teaches at Savannah College of Art and Design. See his work at Charles M. Schulz Museum, 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa.

Sunday, Jan. 9, ASIFA-SF PRESENTS OUR 12TH NIGHT POTLUCK PARTY PLUS WINNERS OF ASIFA-EAST'S 41ST ANNUAL ANIMATION COMPETITION, Party starts at 6:15 PM, films around 8, at Oddball Films, 275 Capp, third floor (Capp runs between Mission and South Van Ness, on Capp near 18th St.) free, ASIFA-SF will provide the basics. Please feel free to add to the treats. See flyer for details.

Opens January 14, "THE ILLUSIONIST" by Sylvain Chomet at Landmark's Clay in San Francisco. It opens January 21 at the Shattuck in Berkeley, Santana Row in San Jose, Aquarius in Palo Alto, Century 5 in Pleasant Hill. Chomet's first feature was The Triplets of Belleville.

Saturdays, Jan. 15 - Feb. 12, LEGO ANIMATION WORKSHOP Learn to create characters, build sets and to make a short movie. Advance reservations required. At the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa. Call for fees and to reserve your space: 707-284-1263.

Friday, Jan 28th at 7:30, ASIFA-SF PRESENTS OUR ANNUAL WINTER OPEN SCREENING FOR ANIMATED WORKS At the Exploratorium's McBean Theatre, free, public invited, anyone is invited to bring animated work (16mm, DVD, VHS tape). See flyer for details.

Sat. Jan. 29, 4:30 pm, "Kirikou and the Wild Beast" by Michel Ocelot (France, 2005, 74 mins), Pacific Film Archive

Saturday, February 12, Master Class for Adults: Political Animation and the Future of Satire with Pulitzer prize-winning editorial cartoonist Mark Fiore. He will explore the ins and outs of editorial cartooning in the digital age. At 11:30 AM. Charles M. Schulz Museum, 2301 Hardies Lane, Santa Rosa. Advance reservations required. Call for fees and to reserve your space: 707-284-1263.

SEE "THOUGHT OF YOU" BY RYAN WOODWARD - Ed Hooks writes about it in his December blog. &


THE RACE FOR BEST-ANIMATED SHORT Last year members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences were invited to screen 33 animated shorts in LA and NY. Their votes determined the ten animated shorts from that group that will be screened in January by members and their votes will select the five that will get Oscar nominations.

The ten films on the "short list" are The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger by Bill Plympton, Coyote Falls by director Matthew O'Callaghan for Warner Bros. Animation, Day & Night by Teddy Newton for Pixar, The Gruffalo by Jakob Schuh and Max Lang, Let's Pollute by Geefwee Boedoe, The Lost Thing by directors Shaun Tan and Andrew Ruhemann, Madagascar, Carnet de Voyage (Madagascar, a Journey Diary) by Bastien Dubois, Sensology by Michel Gagne, The Silence Beneath the Bark by Joanna Lurie and Urs by Moritz Mayerhofer. Cartoon Brew run by Jerry Beck and Amid Amidi posted stills from the shorts and links to their websites on Nov. 30.

If you attend the shows Ron Diamond presents in San Francisco you have already seen six of the films and met two of the directors. The 83rd Academy Awards nominations will be announced Tuesday, January 25 and the award ceremony will be held on Sunday, February 27 at the Kodak Theatre in LA (televised live by the ABC Television Network and seen in more than 200 countries worldwide).

THE BEST-ANIMATED FEATURE RACE COULD GET INTERESTING The odds are on Toy Story 3 winning the Oscar, but Dreamworks is mounting a major campaign that could result in an upset. How to Train Your Dragon might just win a best award in either the Annie or Academy Awards competitions. Dragon is a film most people didn't see when it came out, but people who saw it really liked it. Dreamworks has been mailing out screeners and lavish picture books to people who vote in both competitions and when I screened the DVD with a few friends it was an unexpected treat. I was thoroughly entertained and absorbed by it once I got used to the Viking accents. I thought there were a few awkward moments, but I loved the unusual story, the excitement and the different kinds of fanciful dragons in it. It was a delightful and original treat as opposed to the carefully manicured feel and predictable story of Toy Story 3. While TS3 is an impressive box office champ, it relies on our familiarity with Buzz, Woody and friends. I suspect many mature voters will consider voting for the new kid on the block.

The other Oscar contenders

This year 15 films qualified in the Best Animated Feature competition. Had there been 16 films there would be five nominated films, but the rule is firm so only three features will get nominated. Your guess is as good as mine as to what the third film will be. The choices are: Shrek Forever After, Despicable Me, My Dog Tulip, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, The Dreams of Jinsha, Tinker Bell and the Great Fairy Rescue, Alpha and Omega, Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, Idiots and Angels, Megamind, Tangled, The Illusionist and Summer Wars.

OTTAWA 2011 WILL BE IN LATE SEPTEMBER The festival was held in late October in 2010. The 2011 event along with the business event will be September 21-25.

THE ACADEMY'S SEMIFINALIST CONTENDERS FOR BEST VISUAL EFFECTS The 15 films are Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Clash of the Titans, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, Hereafter, Inception, Iron Man 2, The Last Airbender, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Prince of Persia: ! The Sands of Time, Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Shutter Island, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, Tron: Legacy, and Unstoppable.

OTHER AWARDS AND NOMINATIONS The New York Film Critics Circle has voted The Illusionist as the best-animated film of 2010.

Critic's Choice Awards has picked Tangled, How to Train Your Dragon, Despicable Me, The Illusionist and Toy Story 3 for Best Animated Feature. Toy Story 3 was also nominated for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screen-play, Best Song and Best Sound. Tangled is also up for Best Song.

Golden Globes (Hollywood's Foreign Press Association) picks for Best Animated Feature are Tangled, Despicable Me, How to Train Your Dragon, The Illusionist, and Toy Story 3.

The Writers Guild of America has nominated for outstanding achievement in animation writing two Simpsons programs, two Futurama episodes and a Back at the Barnyard show. The awards will take place on Feb. 5.

London Critics' Circle Awards nominated five films for Best Film of the Year. One was Toy Story 3.

STATE DEPARTMENT PLANS TO SEND 15 VISUAL ARTISTS AROUND THE WORLD AS CULTURAL AMBASSADORS. This kind of federal government recognition of visual artists hasn't happened in recent decades. The artists will create public art projects in 15 countries including China, Egypt and Kenya. Holly Block, director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts, is the director of this million-dollar program and will announce an open call for proposals soon. It isn't known if any animators will be included in the smArt POWER program. The call for proposals will be go out Jan. 3.

SEE BALLOONS OF DISNEY CHARACTERS IN A 1935 MACY*S THANKSGIVING PARADE NEWSREEL It also includes shots of a much simpler looking New York City and FDR.

FORMER "DORA THE EXPLORER" VOICE ACTRESS SETTLES NASTY LAWSUIT OUT OF COURT When Caitlin Sanchez was 14 she says she was "forced" to sign an "unconscionable" contract, and was given just 22 minutes to sign it without a lawyer present or lose the job. She claims that Nickelodeon had promised her substantial compensation from merchandising and residuals, but later cut her out and underpaid her for her work. Terms of the settlement were not made public but the lawsuit was for several million dollars.

THE BRITISH FILM INSTITUTE HAS BEEN GIVEN THE HALAS AND BATCHELOR ARCHIVES For several decades Halas & Batchelor was the top and largest animation studio in Great Britain. The archive includes film prints, stills, scripts, correspondence and original cels. It is a very large donation and BFI director, Amanda Nevill says, "We look forward to working on ensuring these films and artifacts are enjoyed by the widest possible group of people in years to come."

The company was founded in 1940 by John Halas, a Hungarian Jewish emigre and his British wife, Joy Batchelor. Their daughter Vivien Halas, has been responsible for the collection since her father's death in 1995. The company's productions include the feature Animal Farm, and lots of TV commercials, theatrical shorts and public information films. During WWII they made more than 70 information films even though Halas was classified as an enemy alien. The war shorts include everything from the importance of separating bones, rags and cans from your rubbish to venereal disease prevention films made for soldiers.

G is for George missing legs and an eye.
H is for Harold who attempted to fly.

"THE A TO Z OF UNFORTUNATE DOGS" BY ADAM ("HARVIE KRUMPET") ELLIOT HAS BEEN PUBLISHED Penguin Books recently published this unusual collection of his drawings. Available in Australian bookstores. It can be ordered from

DAVID LEVY'S "DIRECTING ANIMATION" IS A "MUST HAVE" FOR ANYBODY SERIOUS ABOUT THEIR ANIMATION CAREER This isn't a mindless book full of amusing Hollywood stories from the golden age of animation. David has written a very practical and highly informative book for anybody considering, starting or even further along in their career. The book focuses on how to get started in the right direction, how to advance in today's studios, mistakes to try and avoid, how to organize your day as a successful director, and most importantly how to develop your people skills.

Much of the text is useful information about the director's leadership role so you can hopefully lead a great productive team through the project. He talks both about what works and the many mistakes he and others have made so we can learn what to do and not to do. There is lots of well thought out, up to date advice from successful directors he has interviewed whose credits include TV, Internet and theatrical projects. He covers working on jobs you might realistically encounter from pilots that go nowhere to top notch shows. He includes a few disasters as exam! ples of how things can go wrong.

The text includes information from a wide range of talented people. Among them are folks from Pixar, Nickelodeon, and other studios, independent artists like Bill Plympton, PES and Nina Paley, heads of small studios like Michael Sporn, directors of TV commercials and several Internet animators.

Some of the positive advice in the next article is echoed in David's book including getting a well rounded education and the importance of creating personal films that can help you advance your career. Directing Animation retails for $24.95 from Allworth.


by Nancy Denney-Phelps

The Fredrikstad Animation Festival in Fredrikstad, Norway10 – 14 November 2010, focused on screening Nordic animation and a small selection of films from around the world. Along with Nordic short films, student competitions and screenings of animation aimed at family audiences there were two days devoted to seminars with international guest speakers from all branches of the animation world.

Making Sylvan Chomet's The Illusionistj

The "Story in Animation" seminars for professionals, co-produced with the Norwegian Film Institute, examined the process of The Illusionist's development from script to finished animation. Paul Dutton from Canada, worked two years in Edinburgh, Scotland as animation director and assistant director on the feature. Paul talked about Chomet's unorthodox approach to filmmaking including making his feature without storyboards! Chomet prefers to create as he goes along day by day and usually leaves the animators and even his animation director in the dark as to where the story is going until the last minute.

One of Paul's jobs was to travel all over Europe searching for animators who, in this age of computer animation, could still draw. What he thought would be a relatively easy job turned out to be a difficult search.

Once hired, each animator was given a different character or characters to draw and that sometimes led to problems with group scenes. Two different people worked on Tati, one drawing only the "vaudeville" scenes. The slight differences in drawing styles were not noticeable on the screen until Paul pointed them out. He also showed examples of the attention and care that was given to incidental characters such as the people on the train, details that are easy to miss when watching the film. He easily filled two hours with his relaxed conversational style and a myriad of interesting stories. The Illusionist was going to be screened but unfortunately, at the last moment, there were complications with the Norwegian distributor. Despite valiant efforts by the festival staff, it wasn't shown, disappointing everybody who had heard Paul speak.

Shrek Forever After

Nik Fletcher, editor on Shrek Forever After, gave an entirely different style of presentation. He focused on the tight process the Dreamworks team used from script to finished film. He also talked about some of the different choices made in the creation of the 2D and 3 D versions of the film. The festival did screen Shrek Forever After.

Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski

Last but not least on the seminar schedule were Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbowski. Since 1997 they have worked together as Clyde Henry Productions to create award winning films, ads, illustrations and music videos. Their first professional animated short, Madame Tutli-Putli, produced by Marcy Page at the National Film Board of Canada, received two awards at the Cannes Film Festival and a 2007 Academy Award nomination.

Their second animation project, Higglety Pigglety Pop! was based on a Maurice Sendak story, featureing the voices of Meryl Strep and Forest Whitaker. Spike Jonze produced it for inclusion in the Warner Brothers DVD of Where the Wild Things Are. Their search for the right voice for Jenny, the Sealyham Terrier star of Higglety Pigglety Pop! ended when they visited Sendak at his home and he played an ol! d books on tape recording of Meryl Streep reading the book. Chris and Maciek played examples of the stars reading lines with different expressions, intonations, and adlibs. It was great fun to hear the outtakes.

The entertaining part of their presentation was their methods of script development including such unique techniques as writing down ideas, cutting them into strips and randomly drawing the slips out of a hat. They said that they never want to make the same picture twice and that once they have completed a film they put it out of their minds. This was excellent advice for the many students in the packed audience.

Their brand new seven-minute film L'Annee de L' Os (The Year of the Bone) was made just for the sheer joy of making an animation that they wanted to do. They talked about the techniques that they used in making the film that included suspending a friend in a body suit by a harness and rotating him into every possible position to create a unique multiple image effect. They also noted that their friend got a hernia from the shooting. After watching the film twice it gave me the feeling that Oskar Fischinger had just met MC Escher. I hope that it ! will be well received at festivals and that juries will judge it on its own merits rather than trying to compare it to their two previous films. The team is currently working on a feature film in conjunction with the NFB, The White Circus. It was selected for development at the Sundance Film Festival's 2008 Screen Writing Lab.

Nordic professionals

A separate day was devoted to a forum for Nordic professionals where studios and producers were given an opportunity to present themselves and their projects. It was particularly interesting to hear Sarita Christensen, who co-founded Copenhagen Bombay Production Company with animator Anders Morgenthaler. I associate their names with the hard hitting adult animated film Princess, which I greatly admire, so it was intriguing to hear that the main focus of their production company is the development of original stories for children and young people. Sarita told me that Morgenthaler is at wor! k on another adult oriented animated film.

The festival's opening program

The festival officially opened on Wednesday evening by Secretary Lotte Grepp Knutsen of the Ministry of Culture and then the audience was treated to a screening of Elias and the Treasure of the Sea. Elias, the plucky little rescue boat, is a beloved children's book character in the Nordic and Scandinavian countries. The story centers around Elias' small coastal fishing village of Cozy Cove where the fishing season is about to begin and large industrial trawlers have appeared and are emptying the ocean of fish. The survival of the little village fishing boats is threatened. The new super! modern fishing enterprise is owned by the evil Arctic Queen who plans to rule the fishing waters and send all of the Cozy Cove fishing boats to China as scrap metal.

The film is meant for the youngest audiences but the story of small business being squeezed out by big aqua-business can be appreciated by all ages. Director Lise I. Osvold did not need gimmicks or 3D glasses to hold the audience's attention. The characters are charming and the story entertaining. Even though Nik and I saw the film in Norwegian without subtitles, we both followed the story and thoroughly enjoyed the film. Elias and the Treasure of the Sea opened 10 December in Norway.

The screening was followed by a party at Verdensspeilet Kaffebar, the official festival bar across the street from the cinema. The café is located in what was the first cinema in the city. It was originally just a small space in the old lobby, but in 2010 it expanded into the former screening room. Amid numerous champagne toasts to the festival, it was wonderful to see so many old friends again and catch up on news since our visit to Fredrikstad last year.

The shorts

This year's festival had a strong emphasis on programs for families, a wise decision since most screenings were filled with local festival-goers of all ages. The program of short Nordic-Baltic children's films was full of little gems. Baker'n (The Baker) by my longtime Norwegian friend Kine Aune was a sweet treat indeed. The tale of a lonely baker on an island reminiscing about a bygone era when people traveled from far away to feast on his tasty treats was so delicious that it was screened a second time in the Short Film Competition.

I loved Siri Melchior's previous short animation A Dog Who Was A Cat Inside, so I was delighted to see her new film Flojtelos (Whistleless). Being totally nonmusical and living with a wonderful multi-talented composer / musician, I felt a great deal of empathy with the only bird that can't whistle in a town full of music.

A new addition to the festival was a children's jury that selected the winning Nordic-Baltic Children's Film from this program. The five youngsters ranging in age from six to ten years old selected the Latvian puppet film Dzivais Udens (Magic Water) as their favorite work.

I always enjoy student film competitions. Students are willing to take risks that more seasoned animators don't dare try because they have producers, studios, and funding grants to answer to. The student film that stood out was Benigni created by Elli Vuorinen, Jasmiini Ottelin and Pinja Partanen of the Turku Arts Academy in Finland. Their puppet stop motion story of a lonely man who finds companionship with a tumorous growth under his arm, is a pointedly funny story of love found, love lost. The jury agreed with me and named Benigni Best Student Film.

In the two Short Film Competitions there were some interesting films that were new to me. I haven't seen any of the previous Novus films by Norwegian director Kjetil Johannes Ottesen about a little boy searching for friendship in a harsh, cruel world, but that wasn't necessary to enjoy Novus IX. If the wolf, who is the small boy's companion and ride, being devoured by evil rabbits is an example of the evil he has encountered in his previous searches, my curiosity is aroused to find out what other perils the young boy has faced.

The Short Film jury selected Olga and Priit Parn's captivating Divers in the Rain as the Best Nordic/Baltic Short Film. I also agreed with the jury's choice of Trond and Trond to receive the festival's Grand Prix. Puppet animation is very strong in the Northern countries and Niki Lindroth Van Bahr's tale of two neighbors, both named Trond who become more than neighbors, is charming, amusing and bittersweet.

Fredrikstad Animation Festival is one of ten European animation festivals to nominate a film for the prestigious Cartoon d'Or and as winner of the top prize Trond and Trond is automatically the festival nominee for 2011. Kasper Jancis' Crocodile, last year's Golden Gunnar winner, went on to win the 2010 Cartoon d' Or.

Eight features

All eight feature films were family oriented. Shrek Forever After, Despicable Me, Toy Story 3, and Legends of the Guardians have all received theatrical release. Of the four other features, Moomins and the Comet Chase stood out. I first met the film's producer Tom Karpelan of Filmkompaniet at the Trickfilm Festival in Stuttgart last May where he gave a presentation about the then unfinished film. I was enchanted by the charming little Moomin creatures in the clips that he showed and am deli! ghted that the finished film lives up to my expectations.

Based upon a series of beloved children's books by Finnish/Swedish illustrator and writer Tove Jansson, the film has been released in time for the 65th Birthday of the cuddly little creatures. When I originally heard Tom give his presentation I wasn't sure how this new stereoscopic 3D version of the original Polish/Austrian stop-motion film made in the late 1970's would work. I am happy to say that the conversion of the original footage of felt puppet animation shot on 35mm through layers of glass looks lovely and has been designed in such a way that the film looks good without the glasses so the youngest members of the family will have as nice a viewing experience as their 3D glasses wearing older siblings. I have watched the film in 3D in the theatre and on a 2D DVD at home and thoroughly enjoyed both viewings. Remi, my animation critic dog, also watched the entire 75-minute film with rapt attention.

It's a testament to the universal appeal of the Moomins that the same characters have been made into film at least twice before. In 1978 a Russian stop-motion serial was created and an animated Japanese feature film appeared in 1971. For those of you who have not yet met the Moomins you have something to look forward to. You can learn more about the history of the characters and the film at their website:

Nik's workshops

Nik and I arrived in Fredrikstad four days before the start of the festival. As part of the festival's outreach program to the community, Nik conducted a five-day workshop at the Fredrikstad Culture School. The students, ranging in age from 13 to 17, are all music students, but had never played together as a group before and several had not even played with other musicians, much less given a public performance. In what seemed like a major miracle to everyone involved, the students with Nik's guidance composed a 5-minute score to Four Elements, an animated film created by students from schools in the Fredrikstad School District und! er the leadership of animator Gitte Ous.

On Saturday afternoon Four Elements premiered with Nik and the students performing their score live at the Versdensspeilet, the festival bar across the street from the cinema. The students gave a performance that any professional would be proud of and it was hard to believe that only a few days before the young musicians didn't believe that they could create and perform a five-minute piece. There were a lot of proud parents in the packed audience. Special thanks go to Project Director Katz Plunkett, film professor Gitte Ous and her students, and everyone at the E6 Ostfold Media Center. ! The performance can be viewed on YouTube at

Nik's workshop and performance were a joint project sponsored by the festival and the Culture School. Unfortunately Nik became known as the elusive festival guest because he was spending every minute that he wasn't at the school in our hotel room arranging and mixing the music he and the students wrote that day, and preparing for the next day's lesson.

Other events

One of my most vivid festival memories is of parents and children sitting on the concrete TV sofa in the middle of the main street of Fredrikstad watching animation as snowflakes fluttered down. The installation, created by Helena von Bergen as a gift to the city, is a concrete sofa opposite a TV screen.

Nik and I were given a private tour of the remarkable Bronze Age rock carvings outside of the town at Begby. The carvings clearly represent everyday life with images of ships shaped like animals, wagons, sun symbols, and people.

From Begby we drove to a location where Bronze Age stone graves were marked by placing massive stones on end in a ring, a bit like little Stonehenges. It is believed that the more important the person was the greater the number of stones in the circle. Lovely snowflakes began to fall as we walked through the circles.

Our final stop was a new cultural center. It was closed so we could not enjoy the vast view from its tall tower, but we did get to explore the beautiful interpretive iron panels representing the history and culture of the region.

One of the nicest things about a smaller festival is that all the guests stay in the same hotel so we all get to know each other and have great conversations over meals. Each night following the screenings we all gathered at the Verdensspeilet Café and after the café closed we continued the party in the hotel with ample amounts of beer to keep the conversation and fun flowing into the wee hours.

On Thursday evening Nik finally emerged from the hotel to play music at the café with animator/musician Alexey Alexeev. Jonas Qvale joined the duo playing an instrument that he made from a large reindeer antler with amplified strings that can be either plucked or bowed. Qvale heads the Horn Orchestra, an experimental music and performance group, that play instruments made out of antlers. Jessica Lauren Swedish, director and festival guest, joined the trio to delight us with her lovely singing.

Alexey is an accomplished animator as well as a musician. Most people are familiar with his extremely humorous Log Jam series. At his presentation in the theatre he introduced four musical creatures that he has created as bumpers for Cartoon Network. The shorts demonstrate what a multi-talented quartet his new cartoon characters can be. They perform music ranging from polkas to Irish step dancing. Alexey entertained the audience with stories about the making of his quirky universe of musical animals. An exhibition of drawings from his shorts was on display in the festival café.

Breakfast with Nik, Nancy and Alexey

Sunday morning came all too early for us as the closing night party continued late into the night. Nik and I had an appointment to be interviewed by the Animation Conversation Podcast guys. The trio, character animator Enlend Del Sakshaug, freelance CGI and hand drawn animator Will Ashurst, and animator Marton Overlie, had reported from the festival all week for the Animation Conversation Podcast. They interviewed festival guests with a novel twist. The interviewee was provided with a bottle of their favorite alcoholic beverage. The interview lasted for as long as it took the guest to finish! the bottle.

The guys showed up at our hotel room with two bottles of red wine and a lovely assortment of fruits and cheeses for a conversation billed as "Breakfast with Nik, Nancy, and Alexey Alexeev". We talked, laughed and drink for two hours with our old friend Alexey. Our conversation will be available later this year on Animation Podcast. Check out all of their animated conversations at or at News

Anyone who is lucky enough to be invited to this wonderful festival should not miss the opportunity. Not only will you have the good fortune to see the best in Nordic/Baltic animation but you will also meet many wonderful people and return home with special memories. Learn more about the Fredrikstad Animation Festival at

For a longer article on Fredrikstad Animation Festival including color photos and a list of winners, visit Nancy's Animated World at

Newsletter Editor: Karl Cohen
Contributors include Nancy Denney-Phelps
Cover illustration by Ricci Carrasquillo
Proofreader: Pete Davis
Mailing Crew: Tara Beyhm, Dot Janson, Shirley Smith, Denise McEvoy
Webmaster Joe "the Calif. Kid" Sikoryak
Special thank to all who contributed to our report on the Senate's look into for-profit animation programs.
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or to PO Box 225263, SF CA 94122




At Oddball Films, 275 Capp, third floor (Capp runs between Mission and South Van Ness, on Capp near 18th St.), free, bring a friend, show starts around 8.

Come celebrate, network, eat, drink, laugh, have fun. ASIFA-SF will provide the basics. Please feel free to add to the treats.

TONIGHT YOU CAN BE A JUDGE - $200 IN AUDIENCE PRIZES WILL BE AWARDED TO YOUR FAVORITE FILMS This is a great show with excellent shorts by Bill Plympton, Tom Gasek (a stop-motion artist, formerly from the Bay Area), and other artists, plus commercial work and student films.

The ASIFA-East awards were presented May 9, 2010 at the Tishman Auditorium at the New School, NYC.

See the December newsletter for a list of the films/filmmakers and to see how they voted in NY.

Friday, January 28, 7:30 PM
at the Exploratorium's McBean Theatre, free, public invited

Once again this looks like a great evening of new work by local artists and friends from around the globe. Anyone is welcome to bring animated/special effects work unannounced the night of the show on DVD, VHS or 16 mm and we will show it.

So far we expect to show:

Alex Siqueira's Voyage au Champ de Tour Nesal (Journey to the Sunflower Field), music by Nik Phelps, the film is being shown on Canal Plus, a French TV channel, Alex is from Portugal

David Chai's Annie nominated Enrique Wrecks the World for Best Animated Short Subject!

David Levy's Grandpa Looked Like William Powell, a lovely personal film by the noted animation director and author

Don Albrecht's Frankenstein, knowing Don's past work it will be highly original and just a wee bit outrageous

Gene Hamm teaches animation at Alchemia in Marin County. In less than 10-minutes he will show slightly outrageous short exercises by his students that feature stop-motion and/or crazy effects. See Disability and Datability, The Rock Star's Secret, Trash Talk, Photobooth Phollies, Through The Fog, Fly and Wacky Races. Gene will also show a sample of his own workincluding My Head Exploded.

Iain Gardner's The Loch Ness Kelpie (a legendary beast, made for the BBC) Iain worked at Richard Williams Studio

Karen Litgow's award winning It's All About Perspective

Michal and Uri Kranot's White Tape, this experimental segment of a longer film has been shown at Ottawa, Annecy, Anima Mundi (Brazil) and other major festivals in Israel, Germany, Czech Republic and Norway. From a project initiated by a human rights group in Israel, based on a 5-second video clip shot by Palestinians.

Misha Klein's Fred, a stop-motion work that took 10 years to create in between working on Coraline, etc.

Red Giant Studio's The Way to Heaven an award winning film, based on the Chinese myth of "Elephant Trunk Hill," that has been selected for over a dozen festivals.

San Jose State Students' No Robots, winner of best animation at the 2010 California State University Media Arts Festival

Sheila M. Sofain's Waving the Flag, a powerful 4-minute experience. Sofain teaches at the Univ. of Southern California.

Expect several surprises that will be brought in the night of the show unannounced.

Come and enjoy a really fine show!

Karl Cohen