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

April/May 2012

[NOTE: Posted partially unedited due to health problems]

The May issue begins with several articles about animation news some readers will find disturbing. I was quite surprised so much of it occured in just one month.

Burried in the following 2 issues are stories about the Oscar nominated fils and filmmakers, several book reviews, a fascinating remberence of the artist Moebius by Arnie Wong who was his friend for many years, notes on Peter Lord's visit to SF (The Pirates! Band of Misfits) and much more.


Business experts often reach different conclusions about how to interpret the way corporations do things. The following are recent news items about animation companies in the US. Has greed or the desire to make a profit become more important than doing the “right thing?” I’ll let you ponder what the following 9 or 10 news items suggest or mean. KC

IS THE NEW DIGITAL DOMAIN INSTITUTE OFFERING STUDENTS A GOLDEN OPPORTUNITY OR WILL THEY BE EXPLOITING THEM? A website calling itself “VFX Soldier, commentary on the visual effects industry’s march to the bottom” has reported on what could prove to be a gross example of free student labor being used to help Digital Domain, a large VFX studio, reduce their expenses. On March 26 they posted excerpts of a speech by the company’s CEO to potential investors. John Textor is quoted saying, “What’s interesting is the relationship between the digital studio and th! e college. Not only is this a first in a number of ways that we’ve talked about, but 30% of the workforce at our digital studio down in Florida, is not only going to be free, with student labor, it’s going to be labor that’s actually paying us for the privilege of working on our films.”

“Now this was the controversial element of this and the first discussions with the Department of Education, cuz it sounds like you’re taking advantage of the students. But we were able to persuade even the academic community, if we don’t do something to dramatically reduce costs in our industry, not only ours but many other industries in this country, then we’re going to lose these industries… we’re going to lose these jobs. And our industry was going very quickly to India and China.”

“So, if 30% of our labor can be free, actually paying tuition, but by your Junior and Senior year at the college, you’re working on real films, as part of the professional workflow, and you graduate with a resume that has five major films, your name in the credits, and more than just an internship level of experience, then that’s the perfect kind of trade off.” See a segment of his talk at! HBiM4gp9s

VFX Soldier commented, “It’s one thing to work for low pay, it’s another thing to work for free, but it’s unfathomable to be expected to pay to work for free. The company intends to make money by not only creating content through huge subsidies provided by the Florida government, but by having a workforce of laborers who not only are working for free, but paying a tuition totaling $105,000 for non-residents which does not include food, housing, or transportation costs.” (Note: The tuition quoted is the cost over four years. In-state it is $9,800 a year. There are over 100 replies on the website to the above posting. The controversy was also mentioned by Variety,, and by others. (I’ve been told Pixar and PDI/DreamWorks pay their interns. KC)

The new school’s website says their joint program with Florida State University, “gives students a ‘best of both worlds’ experience. Through the program, students earn an accredited, four-year Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the FSU College of Motion Picture Arts, while at the same time earning a Digital Arts 3 year Diploma in specialized areas of digital media production from DDI. Students also have the opportunity to apply their skills in the most practical and exciting environment of all, with the potential to earn internships on the production of major feature fi! lms and cutting-edge R&D projects that are always underway at Digital Domain Media Group studios.”

On April 12 Cartoon Brew posted, “John Textor sent a letter to Digital Domain employees, saying that he chose his words poorly, but didn’t give any indication that he was backing away from his plan to charge students to intern at his studio.”

The same day I first read about Digital Domain Institute I also read in the NY Times, “The essence of ‘the collegiate model’ is that college athletes are students first, and that college athletics is secondary to academics. One can then ignore the fact that during this three-week tournament, the N.C.A.A. will reap around $800 million, while the players who make that possible will get nothing. They’re students, after all.”

A TIP FOR STUDENTS PLANNING A CAREER IN ANIMATION - A FRIEND SUGGESTS TRY TO GET A PAID INTERNSHIP WHILE YOU ARE STILL IN COLLEGE There are internships that offer some pay and if they like you they can provide leads for good jobs later on or even hire you. Companies normally do not give internships to people after they leave college so students need to seek out possibilities while they are in school. Being paid to learn and meeting working people in your field is far better than paying to work according to friends in the game industry.

“L.A. TIMES” REPORTS THE VISUAL EFFECTS INDUSTRY HAS MAJOR LABOR PROBLEMS The April 20 article begins, “The artists complain they’re often employed in electronic sweatshops, working inhuman schedules, without health insurance or pensions. Their frustrations are fueling an effort to unionize.” The article goes on to sited several examples including, “For four months straight, often seven days ! a week, a team of visual effects artists worked 12-hour shifts to complete the 3-D conversion of movie blockbuster Titanic.”

Even worse was “The matte painter, who asked not to be identified for fear of damaging his career, said he nearly died when he fell asleep at the wheel after working 75 consecutive days, up to 17 hours a day, doing visual effects work on National Treasure: Book of Secrets. The money was good, $1,000 a day, but the long hours were! taking a toll. Three months after his car accident, he began experiencing chest pains… As a freelancer, he didn't qualify for the company insurance plan to cover his $100,000 in medical bills. His employer, the now-defunct Asylum Visual Effects, refused to hire him back.”

The paper says Animation Guild is preparing a class-action lawsuit against several of VFX shops, claiming “they are violating federal labor laws by routinely misclassifying visual effects artists as independent contractors or freelancers, even though they report to work, have a supervisor and use company equipment.”

Note: Outsourcing jobs is creating migratory VFX workers. The website Pixel Gypsies is dedicated to VFX workers who travel to far off locations to work. Also check out

SONY SEEMS TO HAVE A DOUBLE STANDARD FOR ITS ANIMATORS VS VFX ARTISTS On April 11 ran a long piece on how Sony Pictures Animation is a union shop while Sony Pictures Imageworks is not and does not offer the their employees the same benefits. Employees at both studios have worked in different capa! cities on the same features (Smurfs, Cloudy with Chance of Meatballs, Hotel Transylvania). The 38 union employees at Sony Image Animation work on preproduction (storyboards, concept art, character design, etc.) while the non-union Imageworks people are considered vendors to the Sony Pictures Animation people even though they work in the same building and for the same corporation. The Imageworks employees get no retirement plan, no sick leave and no vacation days and their health coverage ends the day they are laid off.

The Animation people voted to unionize years ago and as a result of that vote they get those benefits along with paid overtime, guaranteed wage minimums, etc. The Imageworks staff voted against joining a union in 2003 as they were getting a good benefit package then. Since then conditions have eroded and people are now hired on a per picture basis and let them go when the project ends.

Now some of the Imageworks employees are trying to improve things by unionizing, The Animation Guild (union) in LA is working to help the Imageworks artists to unionize. In mid-April the union, The Animation Guild had an informational meeting with almost 100 Sony workers. The Guild estimates there are between 400 and 500 Imageworks employees in LA, over 100 in Vancouver (soon to be over 250) and 30 to 40 in Albuquerque. The New Mexico studio is scheduled to close and those people will be offered jobs in Vancouver.

If interested in learning more about what is happening at Sony read’s postings on April 11 and 21.

DIFFERENT VIEWS OF THE GAME INDUSTRY TODAY AS A CAREER by KC At our recent careers in animation program I talked to somebody with a games start up company after the event. While some game companies had awful reputations in the past for burning out people with long hours and not paying overtime, etc., he said young companies in SF today are highly competitive and try to offer good benefits, even weekly paid lunches. He says the companies he is familiar with pay interns a rate above the local minimum wage.

I asked a friend later if the game industry has cleaned up its act. He replied that there is an ongoing trend in the games business to feed employees lunches and dinners as people often work into the evening. He said the meals are often OK (they vary a lot), but the norm is to overwork people and there is no overtime. Games employees usually take jobs with an understanding that your arrival time can be flexible, but quitting time is rarely much before seven and on occasions it can be long into the night. To keep a union from coming in and organizing game companies it is com! mon to be offered stock. While the stock is real, the chances of it skyrocketing in value are slim.

Another friend who works in the game industry and signed the note to me as “anonymously yours with a hint of jade,” said, “Same old bologna, in fact many of the new companies are striving to be just like the dysfunctional parts of XX and XXX, but pretend they are starting a new culture."

"Free lunches mean you leave the office less often and free dinners mean you work longer hours. In order to ‘get the work done’ the work load is often large enough that to do good work you must work a 10-11 hour day. I’m still doing that after many years in the business! It is crappy work, but if you are fast and can ‘pop it out’ everyone loves you. If you are fast and it looks like bad crap - bye bye for you.”

"As for job security, millions of artists are waiting for your job. Maybe even in India or China! Why do we really need artists? Maybe the engineers can do it."

"As for stocks? DON’T TRUST THEM. You can make more money slinging coffee unless your company is 1) super hot and 2) your stock is actually worth something. In other words, the economy is still hard and quite competitive. There are too many games people wanting to make things and too many games competing with each other for sales dollars. So it is back to working people harder and faster or we will find someone else to do your job. Companies may say they want to build a great culture and not make the same mistakes, but many make the same mistakes due to economic pressures. I hope I am wrong, but so far that is my experience.”

A person who often works at home for game companies told me, “I'm in a different position from the in-house artists and programmers who are probably more ‘chained to their tables’ than I am. Since I rarely work in house I'm not often able to take advantage of the well-stocked kitchens, but when I do the eight year old inside of me is delighted by the snack machine that dispenses candy for free, and the grown up on the outside appreciates the quality, fresh ground coffee.“

“I’ve worked for several game companies, and employees at the one in which I occasionally work in-house seem happy, but tired. They appear to be deeply engaged and excited about what they're doing, and I haven't heard a grumble from any of them.”

Finally an old friend, who joined a startup technology firm in the early 1990s, was compensated with stock in the company instead of being paid a higher wage. The product he worked on got hot, the company was sold and my friend sold his stock for over a million dollars. He invested it wisely and is now retired and living comfortably. Unfortunately his story may be a rare exception to the norm.

OUTSOURCING FEATURES TO CHINA - FIRST DREAMWORKS ANNOUNCED A STUDIO DEAL IN CHINA AND NOW DISNEY SAYS THEY HAVE ONE TOO In April Disney announced signing a partnership deal with Tencent Holdings, China’s largest Internet company. They will develop original animated content for TV, features and digital platforms. No other details were announced.

Disney will also co-produce the live action Iron Man 3 in China with Marvel, Tencent and DMG Entertainment, a Chinese advertising and media firm founded in 1993. China had a $2.1 billion box office last year and by developing the feature in China and by mak! ing sure it has Chinese sensibilities, Disney hopes to cash in on that lucrative market. China only allows the import of 34 films each year from the US, so the deal not only assures Disney of distribution there, but DMG can provide Disney much stronger marketing and distribution there. Iron Man 3 will reunite co-stars Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow and Don Cheadle and it will be shot in both the US and in China.

WHAT DOES THE ART INSITITUTE OF CALIFORNIA, SAN FRANCISCO HAVE IN COMMON WITH OLYMPIA SNOWE FROM MAINE WHO RECENTLY DECIDED NOT TO RUN FOR RE-ELECTION? Her husband, the former Maine Gov. John McKernan, is currently the chairman of the board of directors of Educational Management Corporation (EDMC) and the former CEO of that corporation. EDMC is the second-largest ! owner of for-profit colleges in the country and they are under investigation by the Justice Department and eleven states. The government believes that the firm falsely reported that it was not basing recruiter salaries on incentives, which is an illegal ploy the for-profits have used to increase enrolment. The government claims that the schools did use incentive pay for recruiters.

EDMC runs two chains of for-profit schools. One of the chains goes by the name of The Art Institutes and their local school is The Art Institute of California, San Francisco on Market St. (The SF Chronicle reported this year that the schools in that chain within our state are under investigation by our city attorney.) If government’s allegations are proven, then EDMC will be held liable for the theft of bil! lions in government funds from Title IV. The government is suing EDMC for $11 billion.

So how is Snowed involved? According to Wikipedia, “Snowe (R-ME) has publicly declared assets between $5 million and $25 million in EDMC.” Snowe says that she is a moderate Republican, and there is no place for her as the party moves toward the far right. A friend in Maine who considers her a moderate says, “But I now have to wonder if perhaps her departure isn't being hastened by what looks to be increasing public scrutiny of her husband, and deservedly so.”

Please note that the Art Institutes chain is not connected with The San Francisco Art Institute, a fine private non-profit art school located at 800 Chestnut in N. Beach.

THE US GOVERNMENT HAS SENT LETTERS TO DISNEY, DREAMWORKS AND FOX ASKING IF THEY PAID BRIBES TO CHINESE OFFICIALS The New York Times uncovered in April that Wall Mart made a series of bribes to people in Mexico to obtain their help to build stores there. Now the Securities and Exchange Commission has sent letters to movie studios seeking information about potentially inappropriate payments to government officials in China. It is illegal for Americans to pay bribes to foreign government officials in order to facilitate their business dealings, but a friend claims that is how business is done in many countries.

JEFFREY KATZENBERG LIVES MODESTLY COMPARED TO DISNEY, DIGITAL DOMAIN AND CBS EXECUTIVES In 2010 Jeffrey earned $6.7 million but only 4 million in 2011, a decline of 40.5 percent. He got a salary of $1 both years, but he benefited from option awards worth $4.3 million in 2010. He didn't take any in 2011. His stock income was $3,999,997 in 2011, up from $2,399,976 in 2010.

We know what a minimum wage in the US is, but it seems the sky is the limit for corporate CEOs. Animation Brew reports John Textor, CEO of Digital Domain, made $16 million in 2011 while his company’s income dropped (a loss of $141 million). According to Wikipedia, Iger, CEO of Walt Disney, got $29,028,362 in 2009 “which included a base salary of $2,038,462, a cash bonus of $9,260,000, stock awards of $6,336,509 and option aw! ards of $8,308,647.” In 2010 his bonus was $13.5 million, a 45.4% increase from 2009.

The CEO of CBS Corp. raked in $69.9 million in 2011, a jump up from $57.7 million in 2010 while CBS’ executive chairman Sumner Redstone made $20.3 million both years. Discovery Communications CEO David Zaslav took a 23 percent raise to $52.4 million. (The Hollywood Reporter)

DISNEY’S RICH ROSS RESIGNS AFTER A DUBIOUS TENURE AS HEAD OF THE STUDIO. Rich Ross’ big disaster was John Carter. He didn’t green light the project, but he oversaw the production and marketing and could have made changes of ended the production. He is also said to have fired good executives and he hired the marketing expert who did a lousy job on John Carter. She has left the company. His less expensive flop was the high school film Prom that had an $8 million budget. It grossed about $10 million worldwide, but over 50% of that gross doesn’t get back to Disney.&! nbsp; It was criticized as being more suited for TV.

Ross had green lit two questionable $200 million projects, now in production, Sam Raimi's Oz: The Great and Powerful and Johnny Depp in The Lone Ranger. His contribution to Bay Area unemployment was closing ImageMovers Digital. On the positive side, The Hollywood Reporter said. “Ross had enjoyed great success running Disney's cable channels.” A stock analyst told the press his Ross’ leaving should have little impact on the studio. “Disney’s results are driven by the theme-park and cable network businesses.”

WHAT WE MAY BE REPORTING ON LATER THIS YEAR DreamWorks Animation may be heading for a showdown with Paramount as their distribution deal with them expires in Dec. 2012. Past news reports said Paramount wants a bigger percentage of the box office and DWA wants to give them less. Meanwhile Paramount released Rango which won an Oscar and they will release The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie in late 2014.

******LOCAL NEWS******

TWO MEMBERS OF OUR CAREERS IN ANIMATION PANEL WERE INVITED TO THE WHITE HOUSE IN APRIL Clarissa Matalone and Seth Podowitz produced, directed and edited a video that resulted in San Francisco artist Nidhi Chanani ( being recognized as a Champion of Change, part of President Obama’s “Winning the Future” initiative. Their video and over 200 other entries were submitted in a category for Asian American and Pacific Is! lander leaders (AAPI) who have dedicated themselves to improving the lives of others. Clarissa and Seth's work resulted in Nidhi being selected as one of ten AAPI Champions.

The winners of the video and essay contest about people and groups who make a difference in the lives of others were honored at a ceremony at the White House on April 5. 2012. Clarissa later told me, "It was such an amazing opportunity to be at the White House and celebrate Nidhi being honored as a Champion of Change. We feel privileged to have been a part of that experience through the video that we created for her. The event and all of the Champions were incredibly inspiring and we are grateful to have had this rare opportunity.” Seth added, “It was a fantastic event, it was awe! some.” The “Champions of Change” initiative is

Clarissa graduated from SF State in animation in 2010 and works for Disney as an Imagineer (Special Effects Designer Associate). At SF State she was president of their animation club. Seth is a voice over director and agent. He composed soundtracks for three of the films shown at SF State’s Animation Finals in 2010 and he is presently directing an animation project. They are talking about getting married later this year.

ANIMATOR DAN McHALE WAS GIVEN A FRONT PAGE (“DATEBOOK”) ARTICLE ABOUT HIS PAINTINGS OF THE OLD HAMM’S BREWERY BUILDING The article appeared in the SF Chronicle April 10. Google “Dan McHale's 36 Views of Hamm's Brewery”

AWN.COM’S BILL DESOWITZ SAW THE FIRST HALF-HOUR OF “BRAVE” AND HE SAYS PIXAR IS AT THE TOP OF ITS GAME ONCE MORE Bill was quite impressed with what he saw and Director Mark Andrews told him “Sure, we do our Cars 2 and there's going to be a Monsters 2 and everyone wants an Incredibles 2. But after our Scottish epic/fantasy/adventure comes out, people are going to say it's hard to predict you guys… because we keep pushing the bar."

MICHAEL LANGAN HAS A NEW SHORT AND PLANS TO MOVE BACK TO SF THIS FALL Choros, a 12-minute experimental film of a dancer, is inspired by Norman McLaren’s Pas De Deux. Working with Terah Maher they have combined music, dance and image manipulation to create a film that enhances our perception of motion. “Choros delivers a visually mesmerizing narrative in three movements, following a dancer’s (Maher) experience of discovery, euphoria, and r! ebirth through this surreal phenomenon.” The music track is Steve Reich’s “Music for 18 Musicians.”

Michael is presently living in Seattle. He told me, “I'll be crazy for a while working on a new TV spot.” When asked about the local animation scene he writes, “I've found an awesome group of animators here that go by the name SEAT, Seattle Experimental Animation Team. Lots of energy, doing cool stuff:

WILL THE NEXT OSCAR CEREMONY BE HELD IN THE DOLBY THEATRE IN LA? That may happen if the owners of what was the Kodak Theater can work things out with Dolby and the Academy. The Hollywood Reporter says the Academy has to agree to renew their agreement to use the hall for Oscar events in the future, to agree to the hall being named Dolby and they need to work out a yearly price to use the space. Dolby also has to agree to the cost, etc. Kodak was paying around $4.5 million a ye! ar for the naming rights. Dolby, the company that lets us use their impressive theatre for Ron Diamond’s shows, has a long history of working with the Academy and they have won technical Oscars in the past for some of their scientific and technical innovations, so it is likely their name could go over the doorway. While the hall is used for other event, the main value to Dolby will be having a billion people around the word seeing and hearing their name over and over doing the Oscar telecast.

PDI/DREAMWORKS LATEST WILL BE SHOWN AT CANNES Their big tentpole production Madgascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted will premiere there.

ASIFA-SF NEEDS MORE MEMBERS, PLEASE ENCOURAGE PEOPLE TO JOIN OUR ASSOCIATION While we maintained a bank balance high enough in 2011 to avoid paying B of A bank fees, our income dropped 16% while total expenses remained the same ($4,978 in 2011 Vs. $4,922 in 2010). According to our treasurer our income was only $4,058. Your dues money goes to postage (26%), printing ! (24%), hall rentals (20%), receptions (15%), database (5%), ISP (5%), Paypal (2%), honorarium (2%) and office (1%).

PIXAR ANNOUCES NEW PROJECTS FOR 2014 AND ’15 AT THE ANNUAL THEATRE OWNERS MEETING IN VEGAS Besides showing clips for features coming out this year and having Johnny Depp, Tim Burton and other stars present, Disney announced Muppets 2 and John Lasseter announced that Pixar is pursuing a 2015 animated film based around the Mexican holiday Dia de los ! Muertos. Toy Story 3 director Lee Unkrich will direct. Pixar has titled its May 30, 2014 dinosaur film The Good Dinosaur and is also working on a film that takes us on a journey through the mind.


Thurs. May 3, “CHICKEN WITH PLUMS,” SF Film Festival, by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud It is a fascinating live action feature with a 3 or 4 minute animated 2D CGI segment about a man trying to escape Azrael, the angel of death. There is also a lovely animated title sequence. I had hoped for more animation as the team had created Persepolis. It is an unusual story that includes a tragic romance, a classical violinist who wills himself to death and a strange comedic int! erlude about a grotesque American family presented as if John Waters (Hair Spray) had cast and directed it.


Sat. May 19, BRAD BIRD TALK ON DISNEY AS STORY TELLER Disney Family Museum. It may be sold out.

Friday, June 15, 7:30 pm, THE NEW ASIFA-SF SPRING SHOW – SHOW YOUR WORK AND YOU WILL GET A CHANCE TO WIN AN AWARD At the Exploratorium, free, see back page flyer for details – come celebrate!


BILL PLYMPTON’S NEW BOOK IS, “MAKE TOONS THAT SELL WITHOUT SELLING OUT” His how-to guide to making a career as an independent animator will be released on May 29 by Focal Press. “Learn time-saving techniques, the secrets to good storytelling, and the business-side of short and feature-length animation films, from a true animation legend.” The book can be pre-ordered from Amazon for about $25. It will retail for $38.95.

BILL PLYMPTON CREATED AN OPENING FOR “THE SIMPSONS” AND IS DOING OTHER COOL THINGS His delightful The Simpsons show opening aired on Sunday April 15 in an episode titled “Beware My Cheating Bart" (Season 23, Episode 18). It is posted on Cartoon Brew (April 15). Bill warned people in advance “see Homer and Marge in a way you've never seen them before!” and he was right. Just Google “Plympton, The Simpsons” and enjoy!

Bill has a new short film out titled Summer Bummer. He also had the world premiere of the Stereosopic 3D version of Bill's The Cow Who Wanted to Be a Hamburger. It was held in April at the Disney Screening Room in NYC as part of the BE FILM Underground Film Festival.

He is working with Nancy Phelps on the next Annecy Plus event, a screening/party of important shorts not being screened by the official Annecy festival. This year Annecy didn’t hire an international selection committee and I’m told the jury overlooked some exceptional works.

LAIKA OPTIONS THE RIGHTS TO THE BOOK 'GOBLINS' BEFORE IT HITS THE SHELVES IN THE US If produced it will be a stop-motion adaptation to be directed by Mark Gustafson. Gustafson directed Fantastic Mr. Fox, and is now co-directing with Guillermo del Toro a stop-motion adaptation of Pinocchio. His earlier credits include a five-minute dream sequence for the 1980s Bruce Willis-Cybill Shepherd TV series Moonlighting, work on! the Fox series The PJs and on numerous commercials, including the California Raisins. Goblins is a children’s book written by Philip Reeve about bloodthirsty monsters who live in a ruined castle.

ENJOY A NEW DOCUMENTARY ABOUT JOHN HALAS ON THE INTERNET April 16th, 2012 was the centenary of the birth of John Halas, the Hungarian animator who became the father of British post-War animation. He is best remembered for co-directing and co-producing the first British animated feature Animal Farm in 1954 and his studio Halas & Batchelor was responsible for thousands of other animated films (shorts, TV commercials, etc.). He was sometimes controversial including his belief animation might help cool down the cold war, one of the goals of ASIFA, an association he founded. He was a crucial figure in British cinema.

John's daughter Vivien Halas continues to present screenings of her father's work in Britain and around the world. To celebrate his centenary she has produced a short documentary called "Remembering John Halas." See it on YouTube and Vimeo. or at

The film was produced by Vivien with the help of many people including Martin Pickles of the London Animation Club. To find out about their monthly events visit To find out more about John Halas visit and

AN ASIFA TRIBUTE TO JOHN HALAS While you can see it in London, Beijing, Melbourne, or in the Czech Republic, you will also be invited to our chapter’s showing of it later this year. ASIFA is making a DVD copies and the international office will be sending them to each chapter.

OTTAWA 2012 HAS ADDED A CATEGORY FOR “NON-GAME PLAY” ANIMATION Non-game play animation include trailers previewing new games, cinematic cut scenes, and a break in the game play action that is used to further the plot. Entry form deadline is May 18th and preview DVDs by June 1st. There is no entry fee.

PETER LORD CAME TO SF IN EARLY APRIL TO PROMOTE “THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS” The private screening on April 7 was a delightful, silly evening in keeping with the spirit of the film. Peter Lord charmed the youngsters in the audience when he introducing them to Pirate Captain, the star of his film. The colorful actor, who was full of life on the screen, turns out to be a well-made stop-motion puppet about 12 or 14 inches high. His co-star, an extremely rare dodo bird was much smaller, perhaps the size of a smallish tangerine.

Lord’s audience was fascinated with the information he shared with us about the production. About two dozen models of Pirate Captain were made so he could be animated on several sets at the same time. It took about five years to make the film, including 18 months to shoot it. He chose Hugh Grant to be the voice of the captain as Lord considers him to be one of the few British male stars who is genuinely funny and who has a natural sense of comic timing.

Lord said he loves stop-motion animation for its handmade feel and because you shoot it in a linear way, from the first frame to the last of each shot. Since making Chicken Run he has become a champion of digital technology as it is easier to correct mistakes. He also loves being able to work using green screen. He calls it liberating to have that flexibility.

CG was used for skies, lots of backgrounds and minor characters and extras, but about 90% of the sets were models. The giant whale in the film was modeled in clay and then scanned into a computer so they could have greater control animating him.

When a young audience member asked the director about deleted scenes he was told they edit out material in the storyboards and story reel to save money and time. The average animator only produces about six seconds a week. Most of the outtakes were just a few frames long at the beginning or end of a shot.

When asked about facial animation he noted that it is pretty much limited to moving eyebrows, eyelids and changing replacement mouths. He ended up with about 250 different replacement mouths for the Pirate Captain to get the various expressions and sounds need in the film. Since he was using multiple puppets of the same character (there were about 15 sets being used at the same time), he estimates his replacement library had about 8,000 mouths in it. At one point he grabbed his Pirate Captain and ripped off his mouth to show how parts were removable and replaceable.

One of the most absurd elements in the film is having Queen Victoria and Charles Darwin as the film’s villains. Although some critics may object to that as too implausible to be believable, Peter Lord said he loves the idea because it is totally ridiculous. He added that having the pirates loving ham and holding ham nights was another absurd whimsical touch. He has no idea where that idea came from.

Although Peter Lord did the presentation, he introduced several of his crew members who were in the audience. I was later told they had been at Pixar that afternoon and were visiting other studios on the west coast.

Since this is being written before the film is released I don’t know how reviewers will react to it. I think kids of all ages who love pirates will love it as it is a fast paced, funny romp. The film is jolly, silly and over-the-top fun. Also, at times the backgrounds are absolutely stunning or beautiful. Like Aardman’s most famous films starring Wallace and Gromit, Pirate Captain like Wallace is a somewhat slow witted guy. Unlike Gromit, the captain’s exotic dodo isn’t all that bright or charming, but the kids loved him. If you plan to see it, take a kid.

THE 15TH NEW YORK INTERNATIONAL CHILDREN’S FILM FESTIVAL 2012 The festival shows quality films kids won’t see on TV. It was held over four weekends in March and they showed over 100 films including several foreign works and a few films that might disturb younger kids. Screenings are promoted with age recommendations and advisory notices are posted if needed.

An annual program at the festival is “Heebie Jeebies,” a shorts program for kids over 10 that includes scary films (most kids programs omit such films). This year it included a film Nancy Phelps has praised, Rosto’s The Monster of Nix. Rosto is a Dutch artist who created the story for his son Max when he was six. The 30-minute animated musical takes an eerie-looking puppet of a child on a quest through a surreal landscape of talking trees and birds. The menacing black swallow is voiced by Tom Waits.

Another unconventional work I look forward to seeing is Jiri Barta’s animated feature Toys in the Attic. The English-language version had its world premiere at the festival. It is in not a sweet Pixar/Disney type film. In this Czech production dolls and other toys come to life and form an uprising against a dictatorial figure. The festival also showed Barta’s stop-motion Club Discard (aka The Club of the Laid Off, 1989.

Another highlight was a mini-Beatles tribute. They managed to convince Apple to let them screen two rarely seen classics, Yellow Submarine and A Hard Day’s Night.

The opening night feature was the English-language version of Bibo Bergeron’s 3-D animated French feature A Monster in Paris. It stars a kind-hearted mutated flea with musical talents. The English vocals were done by Sean Lennon, John Lennon’s son. They also showed Twist and Shout, a Japanese short about puppets en route to Abbey Road to record that song on ukuleles.

JAMIE CALIRI CREATED THE SHINS’ “THE RIFLE’S SPIRAL” MUSIC VIDEO Caliri, who is best-known for his end titles for Lemony Snicket, now has a new music video out along wi! th a making of video. The video is rather dark. His crew included two stop-motion people who have worked locally in the past, Anthony Scott as lead animator and animator Richard Zimmerman. See it at


SEE AN INTERESTING ANTI-NUCLEAR ENERGY AD BY ECOTRICITY, A BRITISH WIND POWER COMPANY Just Google “Dump the Big Six,” the sponsor’s name Ecotricity or on YouTube “Collapsing cooling towers.” The ad was based on art by Herman Bailey and the ad agency is Man+Hatchet. The campaign began in February.

9/11 ANIMATION BY THE RAUCH BROTHERS WINS A PEABODY AWARD The award was shared with Story Corps, POV, NPR’S Morning Edition, and others.

OMG, A LEGO ANIMATED FEATRE Warner Bros. will release it on Feb. 28, 2014. The 3D CGI adventure is being directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller who previously worked on Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. It is based on LEGO Construction Toys. “Experience their visually unique LEGO world as never seen before.”


CALL FOR ENTRIES FOR THE 18TH ANNUAL BRAINWASH MOVIE FESTIVAL, OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA, AUGUST 2012 Early entries postmarked by May 15th, last day for late entry is June 10.

IRIS BECKERMAN PASSES AWAY Iris with her husband Howard ran Beckerman Animation for several decades in NYC. They were also major supporters of ASIFA-East. In the 1980s they presented ASIFA-SF an excellent program about their work. In the 1970s Howard wrote an animation column for Filmmakers Newsletter. He is an amazing animation historian and resource. Iris passed on April 8 after a 14 year ! decline with Alzheimer. She is survived by Howard, three daughters and five grandchildren.

AMOS VOGEL, PIONEER AND CHAMPION OF INDEPENDENT FILM, DIED AT 91 He was a distributor and exhibitor of independent cinema who with his wife created Cinema 16, the breakthrough and immensely successful New York film society, in 1947 until 1963. Subsequently, Vogel and Richard Roud created the New York Film Festival. Vogel's image-text book, Film As a Subversive Art, published in 1974 was crucial for many of us. Vogel was also a teacher of film history, first at the New School in New York and later at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Penns! ylvania. He was born in Vienna and immigrated to the US in 1938 after the Nazis annexed Austria.

“I knew Amos Vogel very well. My first wife and I were regulars at his Cinema 16 screenings. He was pioneer #1 in the popularizing of independent cinema!” Gene Deitch


“TASHLINESQUE: THE HOLLYWOOD COMEDIES OF FRANK TASHLIN” Tashlin was one of the great Warner Bros. directors from the 1930 (Porky Pig classics) and briefly in the 1940s. He also worked as a writer for Disney in the late 1930s and for Columbia. He later directed live action comedies with Bob Hope, Jayne Mansfield and Jerry Lewis. He introduced amazing camera angels, movement and other cinematic techniques to his cartoons.

It is by Ethan de Seife, $35 from Wesleyan University Press.

CHRISTIAN GASSER’S “ANIMATION.CH: VISIONS AND VERSATILITY IN SWISS ANIMATED FILM” by KC This handsome, profusely illustrated, oversized book is the first serious study of Swiss animation. It covers both the fine artists and briefly in the final pages of the book, commercial productions. It is an excellent survey of artists who are unfortunately still unknown in the US. I felt frustrated reading the book as it reminded me that despite the fine work of Ron Diamond, the SF Film Society and others who showcase the work of international independent animators in the US, we are exposed to only a tiny fraction of the work being done abroad.

The book includes fairly long interviews with Georges Schwizgebel, one of my all time favorite artists, along with Jonas Raeber, Yves Netchammer, Ted Sieger and Ted and Fred Guillaume. It also includes excellent informative portraits of 15 other artists that are shorter personal statements written by them about their working methods, inspirations, careers and films. The artists chose work in a wide variety of styles and techniques and even though I have not seen most of the works discussed, I enjoyed reading about them. I wish a DVD had come with the book that contained at least one film by each of the featured artists.

An unusual section of the book is a provocative discussion of the Lucerne School of Art and Design’s Animation Department. Some of the fascinating sub-chapter headings may give you an idea why I was curious to read this segment of the volume. They include, “A Very Special Portfolio,” “Bugs Bunny or Sku-La-Boom,” “The Ego of a Professor Vs. the Ego of an Artist,” “Five Seconds, Five Minutes,” “Trained Dogs and Experimental Storytelling,” “Pigheadedness,” etc. The book suggests Lucerne has an excellent, innovative faculty in animation and has graduated some exceptionally talented artists.

Animation.CH is well written/edited and quite enjoyable to read. Since the book is in both English and German, the text in the 320 pages reads quickly. More importantly it is inspiring to read about people who want to create original fine art instead of focusing on training to get jobs on a studio’s assembly line. Amazon sells this $55 book for $40.15 (hopefully used copies will be available soon at lower prices).

“TRICKY WOMEN: WOMEN IN ANIMATION” reviewed by Nancy Denny-Phelps The new book contains twelve essays on women in animation plus a DVD. The Tricky Women Animation Festival in Vienna, Austria has published this fine 189 page book honouring women in animation. Birgit Wagner and Waltraud Gruber (Hg.), directors of the Vienna based festival have edited the twelve essays written by scholars, animators, and educators.

The opening essay is “Historical Milestones: Who Gets to Tell Whose Stories?” by Jayne Pilling, Director of the British Academy Awards as well as a historian and curator. Jayne traces the careers of pioneers from Lotte Reiniger and Mary Ellen Bute, who were able to work on their own because they were either supported by parents, husband, or well off in their own right, down to present day women including Signe Baumane, Ruth Lingford, and JoAnna Quinn who finance their own projects and often work alone.

I particularly enjoyed “The Czech and Slovak New Female Wave of Animation” essay by journalist/animation researcher Eliska Decks. When most people think of contemporary Czech animation, Michaela Pavlatova immediately comes to mind. Michaela’s insightful storytelling, often ironic and politically incorrect views of relationships, has brought short animation to the attention of adult audiences who heretofore have relegated it to children’s entertainment. It has also earned her numerous festival awards and an Academy Award nomination. Pavlatova’s work has blazed the trail for an entire new breed of young Czech and Slovenian women who are creating their own unique heroines.

Ruth Lingford’s piece on the art of Vera Neubauer entitled “Soft Toys, Rough Treatment” was followed by Masa Ogrizek’s interview with Neubauer. Vera is a pioneer in the art of transforming animation by women from “lovely little stories” into works dealing with female emotions. Vera talks frankly about being cast as a feminist saying “I never considered myself as being political, but at the time I started making films the personal was political.” Her point of view is shared by many of the next generation of female animators who are telling ! their own personal stories.

Four of the essays are in German while the remaining eight are in English. Unfortunately for me, the essay about Mary Ellen Bute is in German. I am very interested in her work because she worked with what she called visual sound. Unfortunately her work is barely known today as good prints of her films are rarely shown and there is surprisingly little written about her.

I would also like to be able to read the chapter on Russian women animators but it was in German. Dina Goder, a critic writing about Russian film and animation, profiled three generations of Russian women animators. Oxana Cherkasova began working in the mid ‘80’s, Svetlana Filippova began her career in the late ‘90’s representing the middle generation, and Yulia Aronova belongs to the new generation.

Women are not prominently represented in the digital design of the gaming industry. Jennifer Jenson and Suzanne de Castell analyse the obstacles female game designers face in “God Trick, Good Trick, Bad Trick, New Trick: Reassembling the Production Line.”

Along with the essays, Women in Animation has two lovely surprises for readers. Ten well known female animators were asked to name the three films by women they each considered to be “Milestones in Animation.” The individual selections give an interesting insight into their own work. It was intriguing to learn that such a diverse group as Sarah Cox, Gaelle Davis, Vera Naubauer, Joanna Priestly, and Marjut Rimmin! en all selected Caroline Leaf’s 1976 film The Street. This was the only title to appear on multiple lists.

The second surprise is a five film DVD that is included in the book. The DVD is worth the price of the book alone because most of these films are not seen very often. The films are: Le Chapeau/The Hat by Michele Cournoyer (Canada), Flawed by Andrea Dorfman (Canada), Blind Justice: Some Prote! ction by Marjut Rimminnen (Great Britain), Pleasures of War by Ruth Lingford (Great Britain) and Ostorozhno, Dveri Otkryvajutsia!/Caution, The Doors Are Opening (Mind the Gap) by Anastasia Zhuravleva (Russia).

All five films show life from distinctly different feminine perspectives. I was especially pleased that Anastasia Zhuravleva’s delightful film was included in the collection. Anastasia used buttons, pins, thimbles, and zippers; materials usually associated with women, to tell her story of rush hour on the Moscow underground.

Women In Animation is full of information on subjects ranging from the work of female pioneers in the animation industry to the gaming industry and museum installations. The book is academically oriented and I wouldn’t recommend it for readers who just have a casual interest in animation, but for anyone wanting analytical analysis of women and their history it is an excellent reference work. It is also a book that should be in art, animation and film school libraries.

The book was edited by Brigitt Wagner and Waltraud Gruber (Hg.), published by Schuren Verlag (Marburg, 2011) and it sells for €24,89 (approximately $33.00 USD). It can be ordered on line at the Tricky Women Animation Festival Store or from the publishers.

KARL COHEN’S WRAP-UP OF ANIMATION SHOWN BY THE SF INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL AIRS MAY 3 AND THEN AS A PODCAST During the festival Mara Math from Radio Valencia did a long interview with him about the animation shown. Due to a delay editing it, the interview will be broadcast on May 3 from 5-6 PM at 87.6 FM if the live in the Mission, or if you live beyond the area the station’s website will also air it. The show is “Depth Perception” and it should be available in their online archive as a podcast beginning Sat. May 5.



FRIDAY, JUNE 15, 7:30 PM

At the Exploratorium’s McBean Theatre, free, public invited, free parking.

No forms to fill out and no entry fee. Just send us a DVD or bring it the night of the show.

Please limit your entry to less than 10 minutes so all works submitted can be shown. You do not have to be an ASIFA member or even live in Northern California (but you are invited to become a member and we hope you can be present). We can show thumb drives if you let us know you are bringing one.

Mail work in advance to: Karl Cohen, 478 Frederick, SF, CA 94117

There will be prizes:

Probably a small grand prize (cash and/or a free year's membership) and other awards for best student film, best film by a teenager and best independent or professional animator prize. We may also present an award for the funniest film of the evening, and if appropriate the most educational or intelligent work. Details about the prizes will be in the June newsletter.

If you are thinking about entering a film, let Karl know before May 22 and your name and film title will be on the flyer listing expected contestants.

There will not be an event in May as the Exploratorium was booked solid.

Our summer party, probably in July, will include Meet the Animators, an hour TV documentary about Bay Area animators and their work. It was shown on KQED in 1982.

It stars:

Marcy Page working on Paradisia, a handsome erotic fantasy made before she became a producer with the National Film Board of Canada

Sally Cruickshank and clips from her wonderful Make Me Psychic and Quasi at the Quackadero

Luckey Zamora Animation produced delightful hand-drawn TV commercials animated by Bud Luckey, long before he joined Pixar, and produced by Rudy Zamora Jr.

Vince Collins and his film 200. It was made for the US Information Agency so it required an act of Congress to permit the Kennedy Center to show it. USIA films were only distributed abroad (they were pro-American propaganda so Congress “wisely” passed a law prohibiting USIA films from being screened in the US!

Jeff Hale, formerly with the National Film Board of Canada and head of Imagination Inc., talks about and shows his short The Last Cartoon Man.

John Korty talks about and shows several clips from his feature Twice upon a Time.

Drew Takashi, co-founder of Colossal Pictures, shows lots of their work for MTV and great TV commercials.

This fascinating, historic show was directed in1982 by Prescott Wright, one of our chapter’s founding fathers. It was believed to be lost, but thanks to The G Man we now can see a copy of this rare program.

APRIL 2012

“THE LAND OF SUNSHINE” IS VINCE COLLINS’ NEW 3 MINUTE TRIP ON YOU TUBE I hope this trip bares no resemblance to any you are familiar with. Enjoy!

ALLISON HUFFMAN’S NEW FILM WINS A TOP AWARD AT THE FIRST FESTIVAL TO SHOW IT Allison Jean Huffman was awarded the Best Student Film prize for Coming Home by the 3rd Annual Epiphany Children’s Film Festival in NYC. This festival’s mission is to encourage children to make their own films. To add to the excitement for the students they invite filmmakers from Europe, Canada, and the US to attend (including Allison).

Allison, who studies animation at SF State and is president of their Animation Society, says “My short animation Coming Home is about a young girl getting lost in a sunflower field and finding her way home. It was done in honor of my grandmother, whom I almost lost last year. I’m happy to say the film ended up winning Best Student Film in the festival. My grandmother is very proud and I couldn't be happier.”

ROGER EBERT PRAISES “NO ROBOTS” The film is by Kimberly Knoll and Yung-Hun Chang from San Jose State and we showed this excellent work in an open screening last year. In a tweet Ebert called “No Robots an animated film about the all-human future. This one is a treasure.”

DAVID TART, A GRAD OF SF STATE’S ANIMATION PROGRAM, HAS CREATED A COOL LOOKING SHORT, “THE STORY OF ANIMATION” He wrote me “One segment of this film was inspired by the animation history course I took with you so long ago at SFSU.” It is an entertaining UPA inspired short that was posted on Cartoon Brew on March 2:

ANDREW STANTON ON STORYTELLING For an interesting moment with Stanton talking about key ingredients to storytelling, watch his well illustrated TED lecture at See also a short interview with him at


TED-ED IS PRODUCING ANIMATED EDUCATIONAL SHORTS Do you have a good idea for one? They are apparently open to seeing proposals from animators.


TARA BEYHM-BERGER, ANIMATOR, TEACHER AND ASIFA-SF VICE PRESIDENT, IS MOVING TO SILVER SPRING, MD. Tara graduated from CAL Arts in Experimental Animation and obtained a MFA from SF State in Cinema. Her award winning film The Doll House is an intelligent discourse on values. In the 20-years she has lived in the Bay Area, she has taught animation locally and in Sacramento to kids and adults in several schools. She was active with our chapter as a trusted advisor and she managed to keep our mailing list in order for 10-years. Her husband, Drew Berger, has taken a job as house/stage manager for a music venue in the DC area, so the couple and their 11-month old baby, Moxie, are off to new adventures.

ASIFA-SF’s board welcomes Dan Steves who has taken over Tara’s responsibilities that keep our monthly newsletter getting to you on time. Dan is a long time fan of animation, having been introduced by a friend to Spike and Mike's Festival of Animation in the 1980's and the old Tournee of Animation. He graduated from SUNY College at Fredonia with a degree in Communication/Media, and later received an MA in Cinema Studies from SF State.


DID DISNEY MAKE “JOHN CARTER” KNOWING IT STOOD A GOOD CHANCE OF BEING A FLOP? From stories in the news about the film it sounds like Disney may have expected the film to flop. On the Monday after John Carter opened, The NY Times was declaring the film a flop and they said that studios knowingly risk millions on these projects to please stars that have made them money in the past. They said that when Columbia Pictures r! ealized they were about to release a flop (Ishtar, 1987) they didn’t cut their losses, they increased the ad budget. The writer believes, “The studio was desperate to stay on good terms with the two stars of Ishtar, Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman. ‘Ego trumps logic in Hollywood,’ said Peter Sealey, who was Columbia’s marketing chief at the time.”

Disney, according to the article, made John Carter in part “to appease one of its most important creative talents, Andrew Stanton, the Pixar-based director of Finding Nemo and Wall-E. The film cost an estimated $350 million to make. Its opening weekend was only $30.6 million in the US and about $71 million abroad ($103! million worldwide). After two weekends it had only grossed $179 million worldwide. It must make over $600 million globally to break even. The writer reminded us that a big flop last year was Disney’s Mars Needs Moms.

The NY Times said that for Disney a failure is simply a tax write-off. Robert Iger, Disney’s CEO is reported to have told senior managers not to blame anybody, but to learn from our mistakes. Rich Ross, chairman of Walt Disney Studios, said in a statement, “Moviemaking does not come without risk. It’s still an art, not a science, and there is no proven formula for success. Andrew Stanton is an incredibly talented and successful filmmaker who with his team put their hard work and vision into the making of John Carter. Unfortunately, it failed to connect with audiences as much as we had all hoped.”

Read a logical account on what probably went wrong in the making and marketing of the film at: NY, search for ‘Ishtar’ Lands on Mars, March 3. See also Cartoon Brew on 3/3/12

Isn’t it great that Disney has money to burn? In 2011 Iger earned $31.4 million in salary, bonus and equity; up 12 percent from 2010 when 77 percent of shareholders voted in favor of the compensation plan. What kind of raise do you get?

Late news: March 19 Disney announces they are taking a $200 million loss on John Carter for their second fiscal quarter.

SF ECOLOGY FILM FESTIVAL SELECTED “COALITION OF THE WILLING” AS THEIR BEST SHORT Coalition of the Willing was created by 24 animation artists from around the world using a variety of techniques (mostly simple semi-abstract images) to create an optimistic and principled film. It explores how we might use new Internet technologies to leverage the powers of activists, experts, and ordinary citizens in coll! aborative ventures to combat climate change. See it at

“MADAGASCAR” TO PREMIERE IN CANNES IN MAY Madagascar: Europe's Most Wanted, animated by PDI/Dreamworks in the Bay Area and DreamWorks Animation in the LA area, plans to have its world premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May. It opens in the US June! 8. The previous Madagascar features had a combined gross of $1.1 billion. The new film is the first in the series that was animated in 3D.

“BRAVE” SET TO PREMIERE AS THE CLOSING FILM AT THE EDINBURGH INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL ON JULY 1 The next Disney-Pixar feature is set in mythical Scotland. It features the voices of Kelly Macdonald, Billy Connolly and Emma Thompson.


CLIPS FROM A GENE DEITCH INTERVIEW TALKING ABOUT MOMENTS IN HIS LIFE AS A YANKEE ANIMATOR WHO MOVED TO PRAGUE The National Czech & Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa has posted several short excerpts of Gene talking about his life. Check it out at:

ttp:// Deitch-Gene.aspx#Impressions

RALPH McQUARRIE, A SCI-FI CONCEPT ARTIST (“STAR WARS,” “ET,” “JURASSIC PARK,” “RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK”), DIED AT 82 in Berkeley, CA. In 1986, he won an Oscar for visual effects on Cocoon. Hasbro created a line of McQuarrie Signature action figures, based on his initial concepts for Chewbacca, Han Solo and Darth Vader.


Sunday, April 1, 1 to 4 pm

CAREERS IN ANIMATION, free, public invited, at SF State, Arts and Industry Bldg. Coppola Theatre. Learn from people with experience in stop-motion, 2D and 3D animation, games, voice work and in other areas. Our experts have worked for major studios ILM, Digital Domain, Film Raman, Disney, with major game companies and in other situations. See flyer for details.

Friday, April 13, Friday the 13th Cartoon Classics, Karl Cohen presents toons that deal with bad luck, murder, trips to Hell, ghosts and other unwanted experiences. 7:30 pm, Methodist Sanctuary, 777 Miramontes, Half Moon Bay


Chicken with Plums is a live action feature with animated segments by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud, (France, Germany, Belgium). Marjane told her own story in Persepolis, and now it is the life of her great-uncle Nasser ! Ali Khan, a revered Iranian musician. “It is a story of lost love, familial tensions and musical genius that shimmers with visual riches.” Much of it is set in Tehran ca. 1958. Nancy Phelps says, “It is a lovely film. Visually beautiful and a good, well told story.”

Crulic – The Path to Beyond, Anca Damian, (Romania, Poland, France) This sounds like a powerful Kafkaesque feature about a wrongly convicted man who dies while on a hunger strike to protest his incarceration. His death caused a public outcry that didn’t exist when it was needed.

An Oversimplification of Her Beauty, (feature, USA) “An entrancing journey through the heart and mind of aggressively intelligent filmmaker Terence Nance, who turns the camera on himself in this documentary-narrative hybrid.” He combines “vérité realism, dramatic recreation, tone poetry and a wild array of animation… as the artist tries to understand himself and the nature of love.” “Wholly unique!”

And/Or by Emily Hubley, (USA) In her new short an artist negotiates with interior and/or exterior muses using colorful hand-drawn animation.

Shanimation (Shorts Program)

Plume, a masterpiece by Barry JC Purves in which a primeval winged man falls to earth and is robbed of freedom by his alter egos. Made in France

Belly, Julia Pott, England Oscar is coming of age…

Dust and Glitter, Slovakian filmmaker Michaela Copikova reflects back on her year studying in SF. She wrote me, “The movie is not based on one character, but on images, scenes and feelings that I have witnessed and crossed in SF.”

Lack of Evidence, Hayoun Kwon, France A translation of an application for political asylum is the touchstone for multiple perspectives on the consequences of civil war.

La Luna, Enrico Casarosa, Pixar (Oscar nominated)

The First Time I Ran Away, Joel Trussell and M. Ward

Oedipus, Paul Driessen’s delightfully strange trip to a shrink’s office where screwed up Oedipus meets other well-known NFB-animated characters. NFB of Canada

663114, Isamu Hirabayashi, Japan The 66-year cicada has been waiting a long time to creep up your wall…

20 HZ, Ruth Jarman, Joseph Gerhardt, UK An experimental work that captures “tweeting and rumbling caused by incoming solar wind, captured at the frequency of 20 hertz.”

The Storytellers Show
(A shorts program for ages 6 and up)

Storyteller (Kahanikar), Nandita Jain, UK When grandfather can no longer remember details of a favorite story a child recreates the fable of fishing and coconuts.

Keenan at Sea, Jeremy Galante, USA Adrift at sea in a small boat, two girls sing a sea shanty about food and hunger.

Play Lunch, Cassandra Nguyen, Australia A small girl finds a clever way to make new friends.

Little Boat, Nelson Boles, USA “Like a nautical Red Balloon, a tiny boat wends its way across the globe, both besieged and beloved by all it encounters.”

Panyee FC, The Glue Society, Thailand In a water-bound Thai village a group of boys is determined to pursue a love of soccer despite having no land on which to play.

The Boy in the Bubble, Kealan O’Rourke, Ireland A gothic love story of a heartbroken boy who finds a magic spell to shield him from emotion forever.

The Vacuum Kid, Katie Mahalic, USA Kyle, aged 12, has an odd obsession, he owns over 160 vacuum cleaners.

Paper Piano (Papierowe Planino), Marianela Maldonado, Poland A Venezuelan girl who lives in an urban jungle takes part in a groundbreaking youth orchestra.

The Girl and the Fox, Tyler Kupferer, USA In this beautifully animated tale a girl tracks a mysterious fox through a foreboding snow-covered wilderness.

Orange O Despair, John Banana, France Life in the orange box seems awfully boring compared to the pineapple dance party going on across the way. How can a sad little orange make the leap to the fun side of the store?

National and international news

“THE LORAX” MAY BE A BOX OFFICE HIT, BUT SOME CRITICS FEEL CORPORATE INTERESTS HAVE SUBVERTED THE GOOD DOCTOR’S ECOLOGY MESSAGE Universal and Illumination Entertainment's Dr. Seuss' The Lorax had the best ever opening for a non-sequel animated feature, $70.7 million (the previous record holder was Pixar’s The Incredibles with a $70.5 million opening). It also is doing extremely well in the merchandise department with over 70 different product lines benefiting from the film’s release. They include Lorax promotions of the gasoline-powered 2013 Mazda CX-5 crossover SUV, a line of disposable diapers, IHOP meals, DoubleTree Hotel sweepstakes and HP printers.

The film’s tie-ins have raised lots of eyebrows. Somebody using the Twitter handle of “@FakeLorax” is using Seussian rhymes to mock the exploitation of Dr. Seuss. "I am Fake Lorax. I speak for companies...for companies have no tongues. And I'm asking you, sir, at the top of my lungs -- to buy a Mazda." Another caustic bit of poetry reads, "Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss - N! ow that you've passed, I'll make some cash. Pretend to like books, hijack your fame, and sell SUVs in your name."

A.O. Scott's review of The Lorax in The NY Times said, “Don’t be fooled. Despite its soft environmentalist message The Lorax is an example of what it pretends to oppose. Its relationship to Dr. Seuss’s book is precisely that of the synthetic trees that line the streets of Thneedville to the organic Truffulas they have displaced. The movie is a noisy, useless piece of junk, reverse! -engineered into something resembling popular art in accordance with the reigning imperatives of marketing and brand extension."

Adam Mazmanian from The Washington Times seemed to agree with Scott, saying, "The use of the character to promote sustainably manuf! actured products points to the essential hypocrisy and crude stupidity of the new film."

Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times said, "Although it keeps intact the ecological message of one of the original tree-hugger books, first published in 1971, this movie version adds a whole lot of other stuff, most of it not very good and not in keeping with the spirit of the Seuss original."

Several ASIFA-SF members have sent in interesting comments. One wrote, “What did you really expect? The good doctor has been raped repeatedly.” Another said, “I have no intention of seeing it. The TV ads show something that bears no resemblance to Dr. Seuss' book. Poor Dr. Seuss must be rolling over in his grave!”

One member disagreed with the NY Times article. He said, “I don't agree with Scott and rather liked the film as did all of the kids who came to the screening that I attended.”

AN INTERESTING 4-MIN. VIDEO ON DIGITAL MATTING OF BACKGROUNDS It shows complex scenes from the TV show Boardwalk Empire. Many of their sets are composits.

GEORGES SCHWIZGEBEL’S “ROMANCE” WON THE GENIE AWARD FOR BEST CANADIAN ANIMATED SHORT The film was on the Oscar short list and now it has won “Canada’s Academy Award” for best animation in 2011. In the film a romantic daydream swirls to a Rachmaninoff scherzo, erasing the boundary between dreams and reality. It was produced by Marc Bertrand for the NFB of Canada and Georges Schwizgebel for Studio GDS in Switzerland.

ALL OUR OLD "VALUABLE" MOVIE AND STILL PHOTOGRAPHY CAMERAS, ENLARGERS, DARKROOMS, ETC. ARE GETTING CLOSER TO BECOMING OBSOLETE ANTIQUES. Eastman Kodak has announced the end of their making Ektachrome film “in a few months.” Kodak notified film dealers March 1 that it was ending its Ektachrome film line. Ektachrome was Kodak’s first color film that could be developed by independent labs and in at home darkrooms. I made a living shooting special effects images for clients in the 1970s and ‘80s on Ektachrome (B of A, Harcourt Brace Jovanivitch, SF Magazine, Omni, etc.).

In 2009 Kodak ended the manufacture of Kodachrome, a film that was archival and had richer colors (Ektachrome can fade or turn red.) Kodak film rival Fujifilm USA still has a line of Fujichrome color reversal films available to photographers.

Eastman Kodak is bankrupt

There were several jokes on the televised Academy Awards broadcast about not saying the name of the theatre the event was held in. If you watched this year the announcers were told to refer to the venue as the “Hollywood and Highland Center” although the Kodak name was seen in several exterior shots.

It is hard to believe, but Kodak, a corporation that has been in business for over 100 years is bankrupt. They filed for chapter 11 and are reorganizing the company. One way to cut expenses is to get out of the contract made in 2000 to have the theatre complex where the Academy Awards are presented, known as the Kodak Pavilion. Their 20 year lease giving them naming rights for the hall requires them to pay $4 million a year. The Academy anticipated Kodak dropping its name on the hall, so they may move the awards show to another locatio! n after the 2013 ceremony. Those plans may be cancelled if the next name of the theatre is appropriate for the prestigious event. The Academy probably is concerned that it would not be proper to hold the ceremony in the Burger King or McDonald’s Auditorium.

THE MOEBIUS TRIP by Arne Jin An Wong

As the warm summer’s sun rises, we saddle up on horseback for a tour with a Navajo guide. On a dusty, thin trail leading down into Monument Valley, Jean bolts ahead off the path. His wife, their two children, a friend, the guide and I, race after him. We are in full gallop hooting at the top of our lungs. As I come up beside him, Jean has a grin from ear to ear and looks like Arsak sailing on his bird in the sky. This is how I remember him, blazing his own path towards the great mystery before him with a smile.

Next thing I know, I find myself sitting in a sweat lodge next to Jean, we are both butt naked, sweating and chanting songs with a Lakota Indian. Jean was living his dream of the west, everything he had been drawing in his Lt. Blueberry comics were coming alive.

It all began in 1979 when I introduced Moebius’ epic comics Metal Hurlant to the director of Tron, Steve Lisberger. I had been a big fan of Moebius for many years though we had never met. Jean “Moebius” Giraud was soon hired by Steve as conceptual designer and storyboard artist to work on Tron.

Jean and I hit it off right away that first day at Disney Studios. He misplaced his house key and ended up crashing in my home in Santa Monica. He never went back to his place in Hollywood; he preferred to sleep on my living room couch. It was a never-ending comedy to be with Jean. We were like Laurel & Hardy, constantly finding ourselves in situations that were outrageously silly.

Jean was invited to meet George Lucas for lunch. George said Moebius’ work inspired him to create Star Wars. Jean was nervous about going alone as he didn’t understand English well. He asked if he could bring his personal interpreter (me). They sent down two tickets not knowing that I do not speak French. George would say something to Jean, then Jean would look at me puzzled. I would slowly repeat what George said in the few words Jean knew in English. George was totally confused at this strange C! hinese translator repeating everything he said… in English!

After Tron, Jean and I shared an office for the next 4 years. We worked on our own animated feature project called Internal Transfer. It was ahead of its time and no studio could understand its metaphorical inter-dimensionality. We were committed to bringing his work out in an animated film.

Years later, we co-produced the first digital animated feature made in China, Through the Moebius Strip. Although we finally created a “Moebius” movie together, it has never been shown outside of China due to a legal dispute between distributors. I organized the preproduction and supervised the initial storyboard. Jean conceived the idea, designed and supervised the script. It is a story about a boy who finds his lost father in another dimension.

Jean was insatiable when it came to new ways of seeing; he was truly an adventurer of the imagination. It was my good fortune to have known such a visionary artist and a blessing and gift to be his friend. Sometimes I wonder if I drew him into my life, or he drew me… either way we ended up on the same page.

SONGWRITER ROBERT “IT’S A SMALL WORLD AFTER ALL” SHERMAN HAS DIED He was 86. He and his brother wrote many tunes for Disney, including songs from Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. I find one of his memorable songs quite obnoxious. Decades ago I had a girlfriend who loved It’s a Small World After All and she insisted I g! o on the ride. After being subjected to the phrase over and over I emerged from the ride feeling Disney tried to brainwash me. I still hate the song, I digress. Robert was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1976 and in 1992 Disney released The Sherman Brothers: Disney’s Supercalifragilistic Songwriting Team album. KC

“WHEN MAGOO FLEW: THE RISE AND FALL OF ANIMATION STUDIO UPA” This is a really important book for anyone who wants to understand how animation evolved from the 1930s traditional Disney look to contemporary content and modern styles during and after WWII. Adam Abraham has written an excellent, well-researched text that begins with the elements that caused the Disney strike and ends with a discussion of the legacy of the studio. It covers the behind the scenes history of the talented people who made UPA a great studio, detailed accounts of th! eir struggle to get started, how the studio was damaged by the anti-communist hysteria in the early 1950s, the company’s successes, why it was sold and much more. I’m thoroughly enjoying reading it. It is available as an illustrated hardbound book from Wesleyan University Press, 301 pages, 2012, $19.95 at Amazon..

A new 3 disc DVD set of UPA cartoons

Jerry Beck hasn’t posted his review of the book yet, but he is raving about a three disc set of beautifully restored UPA cartoons titled The Jolly Frollics Collection. He suggests it could be the best DVD of the year! There are 38 shorts in the set and Beck was delighted to discover how excellent many of them are.

PES SET TO DIRECT A FEATURE BASED ON THE GARBAGE PAIL KIDS AND THE PRODUCER IS MICHAEL EISNER, THE FORMER CEO OF DISNEY! It sounds crazy, but Eisner bought the card company and obviously sees the potential of making a feature with the characters on the cards. While PES is a brilliant, clever graphic artist, is he ready to jump into the big league and work successfully with Eisner? PES does amazing shorts (Roof Sex, Western Spaghetti, The Fireplace, etc.) and ASIFA! -SF honored him with a wonderful evening several years ago. By all means Google Fresh Guacamole as his latest film is brilliant!

SEE YOUNG RICHARD WILLIAMS ON TV EXPLAINING ANIMATION The 8-min. clip was posted on Cartoon Brew March 10. See lots of other segments from an old British TV series about animation at

A DOCUMENTARY ON RUSSIAN ANIMATION IS OUT ON DVD Magia Russica, Masha and Yonathan Zur’s film about animation in the former USSR has several bonus features including Yuri Norstein in his studio, an interview with him and outtakes. Its available from

ANOTHER IMPRESSIVE ARCHITECTURAL MAPPING EVENT WORTH WATCHING This show was held in Berlin and includes a very impressive looking giant octopus:


San Francisco’s local animation community is fortunate to have Ron Diamond start his annual 12 day tour of California’s animation world here. It introduces the directors and producers of the Oscar nominated shorts to our animation world. Ron takes them to studios in the Bay Area and then to ones in LA. They get to screen their nominated work before fellow animators, take tours of major studios and attend parties given in their honor.

The tour began on Feb. 14 (Valentine’s Day) with a dinner for the guests after they checked into the historic Mark Hopkins Hotel at the top of Nob Hill in San Francisco. For the next four days they presented their nominated works to the staffs of Pixar, PDI-DreamWorks, Apple Computers, Lucas Animation, Electronic Arts and to ASIFA-SF members at Dolby Labs. They were given detailed tours, met with John Lasseter and other noted people in the animation world and were wined and dined.

As president of ASIFA-SF it was an honor to host Ron Diamond and his guests for the screening at Dolby. The evening began with Tom Bruchs, who manages Dolby’s state of the art screening room, tearing the walls apart to reveal the secrets behind the removable paneling. The audience seemed awfully impressed with how the hall can be rearranged for different types of recording sessions and screenings. His final surprise was removing a panel by the stage to reveal a concert grand piano that can be rolled out when needed.

After the full house applauded the final nominated film, Diamond told the audience that he enjoys the annual evening screenings at Dolby as the audience doesn’t have to rush back to work, resulting in more time to ask thought provoking questions. The audience got the hint so we learned a great deal about the making of three of the five nominated films (representatives of A Morning Stroll and La Luna joined the tour in Los Angeles). Attending the San Francisco leg of the tour were Marcy Page and Bonnie Thompson, producers of Wild Life (National Film Board of Canada); Marc Bertrand, producer and Patrick Doyon, writer, director and animator of Dimanche/Sunday (NFB of Canada); and Brandon Oldenburg, co-director and Lampton Enochs, co-producer of The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore (Mindbot Studios, USA). This article is based on the Q and A session and discussions later in the evening when our guests and about 15 othe! r people adjourned to a Spanish tapas bar where we ate, drank and talk ed till about midnight. Although we were serenaded by a local Mexican Mariachi band at one point and the crowded restaurant was noisy when we arrived around 9 PM, things slowly quieted down to the point where interesting conversations were possible.

The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore, a remarkable success story

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Shreveport, Louisiana welcomed home the Oscar winners with a tickertape parade!

The story behind the making of The Fantastic Flying Books, the film that won the Oscar for Best Animated Short in 2012, is quite amazing. Director Brandon Oldenberg told me the film began as the studio’s first project, a basic sample reel of what Moonbot, a small new animation studio could produce. The studio was created by Brandon and Lampton Enochs! , a recent graduate from the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Florida and William Joyce, an older man who has illustrated over 50 children’s books. Joyce had also worked at Pixar as a character designer. The trio created Moonbot Studios in 2009 and it is now located in Shreveport, Louisiana. They chose to locate it in Louisiana partly due to the state offering them seed money to locate there along with favorable tax advantages if they became the state’s first animation company. It also happens that Joyce is a noted artist from Shreveport. The initial money came from a fund to help rebuild the state after Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of it along the Gulf Coast.

Once the company’s sample reel was underway in 2010, someone suggested they consider turning the project into an interactive e-book for Apple’s brand new iPad. The idea made sense so the project was expanded from a 7-minute show reel into a 14-minute product. The iPad Storybook selling for $4.95 caught on with the public and became a best seller (over 100,000 sold). Now the film version has won an Oscar.

The film was completed in only six months. They hired a good sized crew as they were determined to meet film festival deadlines. The studio now has 35 employees; many of them are Ringling graduates.

Joyce started to work on the film’s story after he visited a publisher in a hospital. The room was full of books and he became fascinated with thoughts about all the books destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. The character Morris Lessmore was inspired by Buster Keaton, the storm concept was borrowed from The Wizard of Oz, and the theme of the film came from the friend in the hospital and his love of books.

The production began with the parts of the project that could be done with a small crew. They built 1/12 scale model sets of the exterior buildings including a block of the New Orleans French Quarter. They also built interior spaces that were 1/8 scale models. When the miniature sets were finished they were filmed in a former vaudeville theatre in New Orleans. As more staff was hired work began on the stop-motion work and the 2D and 3D computer animation.

After the Q and A I asked Brandon in the theatre’s lobby about how the iPad version worked as I had only seen the movie. He reached into his bag, brought out an iPad and began to amaze the crowd that quickly gathered around us. He pointed out subtle clues that suggest you touch the screen and see if anything might happen. Touch a thin light line and a building is uprooted by the tornado and it flies across the screen. After showing other things on that page he touched wh! at looked like a bent over page corner and it was on to the next scene.

Since the completion of The Fantastic Flying Books Moonbot has developed other products including The Numberlys, a story app embedded in a product with 18 educational games. It was released in time for Christmas, 2011. They have also created a game for Ford and two hard copy Simon & Schuster books, "Man in the Moon" and "The Guardians of Childhood." The complete film version of The Fantastic Flying Books is now online on several sites.

Wild Life

Wild Life is a tragic comedy about a young British immigrant who tries to establish a new life for himself as a cowboy/rancher in Canada; but fails. The film’s concept was inspired by stories Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis were told growing up about British settlers in southern Alberta where life on the barren plains was hard. Both Wendy and Amanda had grandparents that settled in that area and the photo of a man in the film’s end credits is an uncle of one of the women. The film is set in 1910, the year Haley’s Comet was seen.

Bonnie Thompson, one of the film’s Film Board producers lives in Edmonton. To work with Wendy and Amanda it was a three hour drive for her to go from Edmonton to Calgary. The film took six years to complete as work on it was occasionally interrupted by commercial jobs. The reason Wendy and Amanda didn’t join the tour in San Francisco is they were just finishing another commercial project for Ron Diamond’s company in LA.
The post-production on Wild Life was done at the NFB headquarters in Montreal. Producer Marcy Page says it was a pleasure working with Wendy and Amanda over the many years it took to create this work. They had solid ideas of what they wanted for their soundtrack and they wanted to create something somewhat original. The film can be seen on the NFB’s website and on the DVD Animation Express 2. Wendy! and Amanda received an Oscar nomination in 2000 for When the Day Breaks, a film also produced by the NFB. (It won the Palme d'Or for Best Short Film 52nd International Film Festival - Cannes, 1999 and the Grand Prix for Best Animated Short Film at Annecy, 1999.)


In the Q and A Patrick Doyon explained to the audience how he created Dimanche/Sunday, his first film for the National Film Board. He said his preliminary drawings were on paper and they included information about details including shadows. Then he scanned the drawings into the computer, refined them and added color using Toon Boom. The work was completed using After Effects. For Patrick it was important to keep the look of his origi! nal line drawings in his finished work. Marc Bertrand, a producer of Dimanche/Sunday added that Patrick is a fine storyteller and that to tell a great story you don’t need all the bells and whistles of the high-tech computers. All you need are well illustrated hand drawn images and people will understand and enjoy the film.

The film took him about two years to complete and he didn’t use assistants to make it. When asked how he knew when the film was finished, Doyon said that during the making of the film he thought at times it was terrible and he even considered looking for a better project to work on. It wasn’t until he first saw it with the music that he knew it was finished. Wild Life and Dimanche/Sunday were the NFB’s 71st! and 72nd Oscar nominated films.

When asked what he is presently working on he said he is illustrating a children’s book and plans to start work on his second film soon. It is a short called Le Volleur du Sandwich/The Sandwich Thief. The plot involves a man whose lunch is frequently stolen at work so he sets out to discover who the thief is.

During my conversations with the Canadians I was also told some interesting news. Cordell Barker, who created the Oscar nominated The Cat Came Back, is presently working on a new film for the NFB. Michael Fukushima, who co-produced Dimanche/Sunday, is also one of Cordell’s producers. There is also a new pinscreen film being readied for release by a young artist in a style quite different from the pinscreen films by Jacques Drouin (Mindscape and others).

On to Los Angeles

After a fun night eating and talking with ASIFA folks, the tour moved on to LA where over the next few days the participants got to screen their nominated works several times and to answer lots of questions. They also were given studio tours and met animators and executives. At Paramount, which is just getting back into animation, they toured the studio’s historic sound stages and spent time exploring the back lot. The tour made brief stops at Sony and Columbia. At 20th Century Fox they met several writers on The Simpsons along with the show’s creator Matt Groening and producers Al Jean and James L. Brooks.

At DreamWorks they talked with Jeffrey Katzenberg, lots of animators an their tour included previews of work in progress. At Disney they visited the feature division where they talked with directors Eric Goldberg, John Musker and lots of animators. They also visited Disney’s TV animation department.

A special treat for the group was Disney asking them what were their favorite cartoon shorts, features, artists and scenes from Disney productions. When they visited the Animation Resources Library (ARL), the studio’s archive, they got to see original artwork from those films plus lots of other works in the archive’s collection of over 60 million pieces of original art. The collection includes everything from early concept drawings to large painted-glass backgrounds used in multi-plane camera sequences from Bambi and other features. They were also shown a production maquette vault containing sculpted models used in productions from Pinocchio to Tangled and puppets seen in The Nightmare Before Christmas. The group was also shown how studio artists can use ARL’s digital archive of high resolution images to study them as reference material for projects in production. The images are photographed at 600 dpi using 48-bit color.

The week included the group attending a screening and reception in their honor at the Academy. It was hosted by Brad Bird and all of the nominated shorts were shown. Two days later the group returned to the Academy to attend the Animated Feature Symposium.

The visiting animators and producers also enjoyed impressive lunches, dinners, a tea party at Disney, and two major parties held in their honor. One was hosted by Ron Diamond at his home in Beverly Hills and the other was the 22nd Annual Fosca party hosted by Libby Simon and Marilyn Zornado. At the Fosca event Wendy and Amanda sang a duet and all the nominees were invited to practice their acceptance speeches. The nominees and their producers left with a “Chocolate Fosca.” The coveted award is based on Marv Newland’s Fosca, a! character who appeared in the film Anijam.

Rango wins the Oscar for Best Animated Feature

The win was expected by most people as Rango had already won four Annie Awards including Best Animated Feature, the British BAFTA Award (British Academy Award), an ACE Award given by Hollywood film editors, four VES Awards (Visual Effects Society) and numerous other honors.

A statement circulating on the Internet says, “Congratulations to director Gore Verbinski on his win for Rango, the Oscar winner for Animated Feature at the 84th Academy Awards! This was Industrial Light & Magic's first feature-length animated feature, and we were so very happy to bring Gore's vision to the screen. A hearty congratulations to visual effects supervisors Tim Alexander and John Knoll, to animation director Hal Hackle, and to absolutely everyone else at ILM who contributed to the film.”

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Nancy and Georges Schwizgebel

ANIMA BRUSSELS ANIMATION FILM FESTIVAL (February 17 – 26, 2012) by Nancy-Denney Phelps For me the New Year really starts when I go to Anima Brussels in the beautiful, historic, Flagey (a multiuse auditorium). For ten days each year it becomes the center of the animation world.

The This is Belgium programs are always a highlight for me since they are a chance to see the newest works from the Walloon and Flemish regions of the country I live in. I had been curious to see Natasha, the new film by Russian born Roman Klochkov who has lived in Gent since he was quite young. Roman’s multi award winning film The Administrators is a humorous, but all too true ! tale of government bureaucracy run wild. Natasha takes us into the world of immigrants trying to assimilate in a new world.

Roman makes good use of his distinctive style and sardonic humor in the tale of Nicolai, an emigrant bear from Russia who lives and works in a European zoo, living in a Russian ghetto. He longs for his great love, Natasha, but when he is finally reunited with her things don’t go quite as planned. As I watched the film I was sure that this was another award winning work and I was right. Natasha received the SACD Award for! the best film from the Flemish region.

The Grand Prix for the French speaking community went to La Boite de Sardines by Louise-Marie Colo. The delightfully quirky film is a tale about a really tiny mermaid looking for love. She finally finds it with a young fisherman but there are unexpected consequences. The film was produced at Jean-Luc Slock’s prestigious Camera-etc. Studio in Liege. La Boite de Sardines also received the RTBF Award.

In the past few years there has been a marked increase in feature films that deal with mature topics aimed at adult audiences. Arrugas (Wrinkles) is a tender and insightful film about Alzheimer. Emilio is a retired bank manager suffering from the early stages of the disease. When his son and daughter-in-law put him in a care home Emilio strives to maintain his dignity and adjust to new “friends” very different from those he would choose for himself.

The film by Ignacio Ferreras, a Spanish born filmmaker who now lives in Scotland, treats a very difficult subject that will touch all of us in one way or another sometime in our lives without melodrama or predictable stereotypes. The animation may not be the film’s strong point but the story, based on an award winning graphic novel by Paco Roca, and characters will stay with you long after you leave the theatre. It is gratifying to see that audiences are responding to animation about serious subjects. Arrugus (Wr! inkles) received the Audience Award for Best Animated Feature Film at Anima.

I originally saw Jib - The House in Annecy last year and I enjoyed it even more when I watched it again. The story revolves around Ga Young, a young girl who moves to a run-down district of town when she loses all of her money in a mutual fund. Ga Young discovers spirits that occupy the houses and she communicates with them through a magic bell that drops from a cat’s collar. The spirits’ lives depend on the presence of people and they will die in an empty house.!

As urban renewal threatens the district, Ga Young fights to save her neighbourhood and the spirits that live there. The animation is rather simplistic but the use of still photographs, as opposed to animation, gives a real sense of the neighbourhood and adds an interesting dimension to a plight that is becoming prevalent in lots of cities where urban renewal and displacement of the poor is becoming all too common.

Jib – The House was directed by five students from the Korean Academy of Film Arts. The Academy stresses cooperative feature filmmaking which accounts for the five directors listed in the credits. It is a unique approach to student film making that seems to work at the Academy. Stu! dents from the same school created the charming The Story of Mr. Sorry in 2008.

Unfortunately, I didn’t find the opening night film, From Up On Poppy Hill directed by Goro Miyazaki. very exciting. Set in Yokohoma in1963, this coming of age film about a young girl lacks the intriguing story and intricate art work that I have come to expect from Studio Ghibli. One thing that wasn’t missing were beautifully animated sea scenes for which the studio is so well-known, but the characters were wooden and the animation not up to the quality I expect from the studio. Goro still has a ways to go before he can walk in his father Hayao Miyazaki’s shoes.

Midori-Ko is a new breed of Japanese animation. Big eyed, snubbed nose cute little girls are replaced by Keita Kurosaka’s surreal and sinister characters. Kurosaka’s brown charcoal and crayon drawings intensify the wildly imaginative and often frightening world of animals, people, and hybrid vegetables that surround Midori-Ko. The title character, a young woman, tries to engineer a “dream food” that can put a stop to the famine that is raging in a futuristic Tokyo. Her life is completely changed when she encounters a strange creature. This film is definitely not for children and is as eerie as any horror film.

When I see bad animation I usually don’t write about it, but George the Hedgehog is so bad that I am compelled to warn my readers not to go near it. The Polish feature directed by Wojtek Wawszczyk is billed as a “distant cousin of Fritz the Cat,” but unlike Fritz the humor is completely banal and there is no way George can be compared to R. Crumb’s notorious character. This film is just pointless and gross, not clever and funny.

Roy Niasbitt

The Futuranima programs are presented by animation professionals and they cover a broad spectrum of the animation industry. They talk about their career experiences and current projects. The most enjoyable of the seven programs for me was the 1½ hours that I spent listening to revered layout artist Roy Niasbitt and animator/layout artist Fraser MacLean talk about Setting the Scene: The Art and Evolution of Animation Layout (which also happens to be the title of Fraser’s new book). Roy and Fraser met and became friends while working on Who Framed Roger Rabbit? Their relaxed conversation was packed with information. Roy’s career began as an SFX animator on 2001: A Space Odyssey while Fraser spent time at Disney. The duo used numerous film clips to illustrate their points, and the highlight for me was Roy talking the audience through his layout for the classic opening sequen! ce of Who Framed Roger Rabbit? His explanation of the use of shadows in the Baby Herman/Roger chase scene illustrated to the audience that what seems like a small matter to the viewer is a vital part of the finished film.

Unfortunately Roy had to leave the day after their presentation, but Fraser was at the festival several days longer. He was often to be found in the festival café sharing his enthusiasm and knowledge about animation layout with students. I was lucky enough to be there when he talked about his work on 102 Dalmatians. He showed us his drawings for the project. I will never look at shadows and backgrounds in animation the same after their master class. !

The program What Comes After A Degree? was designed for animation students to learn some of the realities of life after school. Recent graduates Steven De Beul of Beast Animation and Jeremie Mazurek of Enclume spoke about their respective paths to success. They also showed examples of their work as animator, producer, and director.

Spanish and Swiss animation was in the spotlight this year with numerous retrospectives, special presentations, and guests. The two part Best of Spanish Animation presented 23 recent works. A few years ago most people weren’t aware that Spain has a vibrant animation industry, but with the recent success of films such as Chico & Rita and Birdboy, a new group of young animators has brought Spain into the animation spotlight.

Samuel Orti, better known as Sam, is a perfect example of this new breed. He has gained worldwide recognition as a master of claymation. Sam has worked at Aardman Studio on various projects including Wallace and Grommit and Chicken Run. Along with his freelance work he is also the founder of the Spanish production studio Conflictivos. Sam’s film Vicenta was short listed for the Oscar this year.

I had an opportunity to watch Sam work his magic when he demonstrated his claymation techniques in his three day workshop for professionals and students. Film goers had the chance to get an up close look at characters and sets from Sam’s films in the exhibition room which was totally given over to his work. His intricate constructions with attention to the smallest details must be seen in person to be fully appreciated.

As part of the focus on Spain a Spanish-Belgian daylong meeting for animation producers was organized to encourage co-productions and collaborations between the two countries. It offered a chance for pitch sessions, one on one meetings, and presentations on funding opportunities as well as networking opportunities.

In the Country of the Helvetions, a collection of 16 short films, spotlighted the beautiful craftsmanship that marks Swiss animation. The program gave the audience a chance to see classic films by Georges Schwizgebel, Jonas Raeber, and Isabelle Favez. Isabelle was a member of the Belgian National Competition jury this year and presented a retrospective of her touching, humorous works.

The Animation department of the School of Art and Design in Lucerne is the only one of its kind to offer studies at the University level. Otto Alder, co-director of the animation program, introduced a program of recent films from the school which showed why the students’ high quality of work has been recognized at festivals worldwide. A highlight of the program was Michaela Muller’s 2009 film Miramare. The film takes us into a slice of life on the Mediterranean borders of Europe, where holiday touri! sts relax in the sun while illegal immigrants struggle for a chance at a better life. Michaela used beautiful, fanciful, painted on glass animation to tell a very serious story of the harsh realities of the real world.

Otto is well-known in his own right as an animation historian. He has served as programmer for several festivals, is co-founder of the prestigious Fantoche Animation Festival and has served as a jury member at many international festivals. In 2009 he organized the Lucerne International Academy. An impressive array of animation experts was brought together by Alder to encourage deeper dialogues on animation.

ANIMA Brussels is held yearly during Carnival Holiday week so students are not in school. Morning and afternoon programs are donated to family programs. Several years ago the festival treated the very youngest animation fans to a program of short animations from the classic The Little Mole series by Czech animator Zdenek Miler. This year seven short films from Miler’s Cvrcel (The Cricket) series took us along on the adventures of the dapper, violin playing little cricket. The theatre was packed with very small children who were enchanted by the films. Their parents were equally enthralled as they relived memories from their own childhoods.

French director Jean-Francois Laguionie’s Le Tableau was one of the most visually stunning animated features I have seen in quite a while. The story of a painter who leaves his painting of a castle, flower garden, and an eerie forest unfinished is equally charming. Three types of characters live in the picture: Toupins who feel superior because the artist has fully painted them, Pafinis who are missing some colors, and Reufs who are only sketches. The Toupins have enslaved the Reufs and three Pafi! nis, Ramo, Lola, and Pen, set out in searche of the human painter so he can complete the picture and restore order to the world. Le Tableau is directed at children but the two other adults that I watched the film with were as enchanted as I was by the beautiful film.

It’s been a long time since I’ve seen Lady and the Tramp and I had forgotten what a delightful film it is. The story of two dogs from the opposite side of the tracks that fall in love can’t help but go straight to your heart. Lady and her adoring Tramp sharing a spaghetti dinner is as sweet and touching as any love scene ever put on the silver screen. Even though the film was made over fifty years ago time has treated it very well.

I am a big fan of Estonian animation so it was a delightful surprise to see Mati Kutt at the opening night party. Mati is one of a group of talented puppet animators working at the renowned Nukufilm Studio in Tallinn. The last time that I visited the studio Mati was working on his latest film, Taevaland (Sky Song) and I had an opportunity to see the story board and some of the puppets. I have been anxiously waiting to see the finished film and I certainly wasn’t disappointed.

On the surface the film is about Postman Rain who is delivering a letter to the moon, but the film is about so much more. The web site says that the film is “an ode for all those who like to fly” and fly is exactly what I did as I watched this superbly surreal work. Mati’s craftsmanship shines through in his beautiful puppets which are works of art in themselves. He can turn everyday objects into fantastic creatures, like one made from a straight razor which is my particular favorite. Sky Song is a multi-layered film that needs several viewings to peel away layers and I have a feeling no matter how many times I watch it I will always see new things.

ANIMA Brussels is one of twelve member festivals of Cartoon, the European Association of Animation Film, that nominates a film for the Cartoon d’ Or. This year the award was presented in September to The Little Boy and the Beast, a serious, sensitive look at the effects divorce has on children. German directors Johannes Weiland and Uwe Heidschotter have made a film that both children and adults can relate to and I am pleased to see them recognized for their work. Festival goers had a chance to see The Little Boy and the Beast along with the other four nominees at the Cartoon d’Or 2011 program

Blu is a familiar name in the world of graffiti animation and now a new breed of young animation artists are bursting onto the urban scene rubbing shoulders with graffiti and street art. Street Animation was an opportunity to get an international look at what is being created with miniature cameras out on our pavement and walls.

A group of Belgian animation students spent the week at the festival creating a group film about AIDS phobias. The ambitious project looked really good when it was screened at the closing night ceremony.

In keeping with the street art theme, the theater lobby and the walls upstairs in the café/bar were a perfect gallery for the large art works by the Versus Art Group. Versus (Lucie Burton, Izemo, Hero, Los Hermanos, and Denis Meyers) are part of a loose collection of Belgian Street Artists who work under the motto “Making Belgium beautiful one piece at a time”. Belgium has a rich tradition of street artists and you can see creative examples on the Belgian Street Artist web site at:

You can see more pictures and a complete listing of all the festival events at:


Newsletter Editor: Karl Cohen
Contributors include Nancy Denney-Phelps Arne Jin An Wong and other friends of ASIFA-SF
Cover illustration by Ricci Carrasquillo
Proofreaders: Pete Davis & Sarah Chin
Mailing Crew: Dan Steves, Dot Janson, Shirley Smith and
Denise McEvoy
Webmaster Joe Sikoryak

Special thank to Sam Sharkey and the Exploratorium for hosting our screening of the Tournee of Animation. Thanks also to The G Man who sends out our e-mail updates, to Nancy Denney-Phelps for representing our chapter on the international ASIFA board, to our treasurer Karen Lithgow.
ASIFA-SF is a chapter of: Association Internationale du Film d’Animation with almost 40 chapters around the world. Local membership is $25 a year.

Our website and blog is:
Mail can be sent to:
or to PO Box 225263, SF CA 94122


Come learn from people with experience in stop-motion, 2D and 3D animation, games and in other areas. Our experts have worked as writers, animators, directors and in other industry jobs and will answer as many questions as possible.



(Fine Arts 101, between Creative Arts and the Student Union), free, public invited
Presented by the Animation Society of SFSU and ASIFA-SF


Animation Director on Transformers: Dark of the Moon


(Blizzard Entertainment, Film Roman)

Production Services Manager

(Coraline, Nightmare before Christmas, creative services animation supervisor at Fonco)

(Special Effects Designer Associate)


Possibly an additional panel member

Careers in Animation is for people who want to know how to find employment in the local animation industry. Representatives from the industry will discuss their careers, background, the kinds of work they do, who gets hired, what training you need to get a job, portfolio tips on what will impress people who are in a position to hire you and other basics. This is your chance to ask and get your questions answered about careers in animation.

Please leave your portfolios at home - this is not a portfolio review session.