[NOTE: Posted partially unedited due to health problems ~ Curtis]

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

September 2013


HENRY SELICK SPEAKS OUT ABOUT THE CURRENT STATE OF ANIMATION AND ITS FUTURE Selick, who lives in Marin County, expressed his concerns about the future of theatrical animation in Hollywood at a SIGGRAPH press conference and as a member of the conference's keynote panel. Even though the animation industry in the US is experiencing its most successful time in its history, he believes all is not well. Read about his criticism of Hollywood in our SIGGRAPH article in this issue of the newsletter. What I didn't say in that article is Henry knows firsthand how conservative Disney can be about allowing directors to be creative.


This is a feature length article that was based on dozens of reports, videos and articles on the Internet and by asking friends who attended the conference for comments. The most important parts of this article to me are Henry Selick's critical comments about the current state of animated features KC

AN ICONOCLAST'S LOOKS AT TODAY'S ANIMATION INDUSTRY IN THE US by Dan Bessie who is retired and now lives in France

THE 3RD BEIRUT ANIMATION FESTIVAL ~ A report By Nancy Denney-Phelps, Beirut, Lebanon, 14-18 June 2013

by Corrie Francis Parks


THOUGHTS ON THE VALUE OF ANIMATED SUPRISES a heavily illustrated article on a major reason why we love animation, by KC


See flyers at end of this issue for details

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IN 2008 PIXAR'S PRESIDENT EXPLAINED THE PHILOSOPHY BEHIND WHAT MADE THEM GREAT. IT NOW SEEMS TO BE LESS IMPORTANT TO THE STUDIO Ed Catmull, Pixar's president, said in an article for the Harvard Business Review in 2008 that, "We're in a business whose customers want to see something new every time they go to the theater. This means we have to put ourselves at great risk. Our most recent film, Wall! -E, is a robot love story set in a post-apocalyptic world full of trash. And our previous movie, Ratatouille, is about a French rat who aspires to be a chef. Talk about unexpected ideas! At the outset of making these movies, we simply didn't know if they would work. However, since we're supposed to offer something that isn't obvious, we bought into somebody's initial vision and took a chance."

The quote was reprinted in The Atlantic Monthly in an article that discusses the recent changes in Pixar films that have resulted in what they believe is the end of their golden age.


A second article in the issue "Monsters University: All Gleeful Style, No Grown-Up Substance," they focus on why the studio is no longer making great films:


ED CATMULL HAS ANNOUNCED THAT PIXAR NOW WANTS TO PRODUCE AN ORIGINAL FEATURE EACH YEAR AND PROBABLY A SEQUEL OR PREQUEL EVERY OTHER YEAR Ed Catmull, who is Pixar/Disney Animation Studio's President, has told the press that the studio plans to scale back its production of sequels and prequels. He said, "For artistic reasons … it's really important that we do an original film a year. Every once in a while, we get a film where we want or people want to see something continuing in that world ... which is the rationale behind the sequel. They want to reuse characters. That means we were successful with them. But if you keep doing that, then you aren't doing original films."

How successful Pixar will be trying to move forward? Can they avoid Disney's CEO trying to interfere with their story decisions? He is beholden to stockholders, not to the desire to create brilliant original work unless it is likely to be extremely profitable. How original can they be if they are under a lot of pressure to create features primarily for young audiences?

Does Pixar have the story people today that can equal the talent that created their most brilliant features? Joe Ranft died, Glenn McQueen has left, Brad Bird hasn't been inspired to create another masterpiece and others have moved on. I also suspect Steve Jobs had a major role in shaping their work. As far as I know Ed Catmull's brilliance is with technical development, not story, so does John Lasseter have the brain trust surrounding him that can revitalize the studio's creative and artistic freedom? Time will tell.

JOHN LASSETER HAS BEEN ELECTED FIRST VICE PRESIDENT OF THE ACADEMY OF MOTION PICTURE ARTS AND SCIENCES John is a governor of the Academy's short films and feature animation branch and he has previously served one-year terms as the Academy's treasurer and as secretary. He is also is chief creative officer at Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios.

The new president is Cheryl Boone Isaacs, the first African-American and third woman to head the 86-year-old organization. She is a marketing executive who has worked for Paramount and New Line. Actress Bette Davis held the post of president in 1941, and screenwriter Fay Kanin served for four years from 1979-83.


CHARLIE CORRIEA HAS COMPLETED "PSALM 90" A MEANINGFUL AND MOVING FILM EXPERIENCE The text of Psalm 90 is a poem by a person with a terminal illness that offers a prayer of hope to live another day. Charlie's animation features moments of animation that are at times reminiscent of the giant explosive images seen in Franz Kline's abstract expressionist paintings from the 1950s and"60s. This is a powerful/memorable work of art.

Charlie told me that several months ago a producer approached him about creating something, but he wasn't told what it might be. "Then two months ago the producer told me about a project he thought I would be good for. He had loved my film Fu-de so he asked me to work in watercolor again. After hearing the audio we came up with a series of visuals that would work with the voice track. We agreed that the words were so powerful that they needed to take center stage, so I made my paintings minimalist and lacking a lot of detail. I relied on the natural texture indicative to the medium. After over two months of making watercolor and Sumi paintings on index cards my project for The Center for Jewish Literacy was finally complete. It seems to have paid off nicely!"


He later said he painted most of the art on the blank side of index cards and used the lines on the other side to maintain the registration of his images. "I could just line up the lines with the aid of a light box. Using small cards cut down the amount of time it took to do one frame of art. I took full advantage of the textures that are created from water marks that you can only see in water color paintings close up. Additionally I did some animation in Flash and later layered and re-timed everything using After Effects." He also shot footage of himself working on the film for a possible 'making of' piece about the project for his website.

Charlie explained that while the film can be considered as a "religion based work," he is not a religious person; however, he is student of Zen Buddhism. "As such I have committed myself to not creating work that perpetuates hate or violence. Since this work deals with healing and actually questions the motivation of a supreme being, I thought it fitting use of my skills."

The producer of the project was Jeremy Shuback of Studio G-dcast, a media origination dedicated to the telling of Jewish stories. Sarah Lefton is the producer of the series. The film was funded though The Center for Jewish Literacy, the Koret Foundation and by other institutions.

Charlie graduated in 2010 from SF State's animation program. His first film, Fu-De (The Brush), 2010, received a Princess Grace Award and other festival honors.


See an excellent demo reel at http://charliecorriea.squarespace.com and see additional work at http://vimeo.com/user3712073

SEE GHOSTBOT'S DELIGHTFUL WORK THAT IS BEING SHOWN BY THE OTTAWA ANIMATION FESTIVAL IN SEPT. Written by a Kid: La Munkya stars La Munkya, a ravenous horse made of paper whose off-the-wall journey from the county fair to the county jail is the subject of a delightfully strange tale told by a very cute "animated" 6 year-old Emily. See it at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=O_UWRUacIuk

THE FIRST TWO OF KAREN LITHGOW'S SEVEN ANIMATED ALGEBRA LESSONS ARE NOW AVAILABLE The Phoenix Learning Group, her publisher, has launched a website for the project www.animatedalgebra.net. Two lessons are available for immediate download and sale for home and school use (for Mac and PC). She has been working for many months to make this happen. She says, "I'm quite pleased and am working on the third lesson, Exponents, to be released this fall. I chose the 2 most difficult topics to create first, The Slope Intercept and Quadratic Equations. The rest of them should be easier to make. I get on great with my Phoenix contact and they made a wonderful website, logo and marketing materials for me.

ZYNGA IS OUTSOURCING WORK A news item from India proudly announced "Team Zynga India has successfully brought out its first global game that saw its Facebook June release." The multi player game is Hidden Shadows where you solve crime mysteries, can uncover corruption, etc. with the help of supernatural powers. It has over 34 million monthly active users. Zynga's most ! popular game, FarmVille 2, has fallen to the third spot with 31 million players.

THE CARTOON ART MUSEUM IS PRESENTING WILL EISNER: FATHER OF THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, through November 10, 2013. Denis Kitchen was the show's curator.

JOHN CANEMAKER'S WINSOR McCAY LECTURE/TRIBUTE AT THE CASTRO GOT A LONG STANDING OVATION The reason for calling attention to his outstanding ability to entertain, charm and educate an audience at the same time is let you know he is likely to return to San Francisco at some point, and when he does, if you are an serious lover of animation, don't miss his next local presentation! He has already presented programs at The Walt Disney Family Museum and now the Silent Film Festival. There is talk of a future visit. John is a remarkable person. He is the author of several books about animation, has won an Oscar an! d other honors for his animated shorts and is the head of the animation program at NYU.

THE WALT DISNEY FAMILY MUSEUM IS SHOWING "WATER TO PAPER, PAINT TO SKY: THE ART OF TYRUS WONG" Tyrus Wong is a Disney Legend whose watercolors influenced Bambi. Explore Wong's career beyond the Walt Disney Studios in this retrospective exhibition featuring more than 150 works. He was at Warner Bros. for over 30 years creating concept art, etc. for major features. The exhibition includes paintings, hand! painted ceramics and silk scarves, original greeting cards, works on paper, and his latest work including handmade and hand-painted kites. Show ends Feb. 3, 2014.

MICHAEL JANTZE IS BACK AND HIS NEXT PERSONAL WORK IS WELL FINANCED He has left teaching in Georgia to return to the Bay Area where he will continue with his writing and animation directing. He's currently living in his hometown, San Anselmo, with his family and dogs and finishing a graphic novel that stars his syndicated comic character The Norm. The book is titled Knocked Out Loaded. His indiegogo campaign raised $22,660 for the project even though his basic goal was only $7,500. For details visit Jantz.com and http://igg.me/at/thenorm/x/1078650

THE ASIFA-SF SPRING FESTIVAL PARTY was a lovely evening of networking between professionals (directors, animators and university teachers), people who love animation and serious students with a lot of shop talk, good things to snack on and a screening of our award winners. Every film got an ample amount of applause. The award certificates were created by Ric Carrasquillo. Besides doing the covers for our newsletters, he is a freelance artist and stop motion animator. He recently completed work for a soon ! to be released music video for the band Upstairs Downstairs. At present you can see his stop motion work that opens and closes an Adidas skateboarding film plus his titles. The short is Philadelphia with Mark Suciu posted on YouTube. Other credits on the Adidas piece are produced and designed by Juice Design, shot and edited by Chris Mulhern and compositing by Adam Porter. www.youtube.com/watch?v=redN-JcM0Fc&feature=youtu.be Ric's website is squillostudio.com.


WEDNESDAY, SEPT. 11, 7:00 PM, LOST AND FOUND: RECENT EXPERIMENTAL ANIMATION WITH LAWRENCE JORDAN, KERRY LAITALA, JAMES SANSING AND STACEY STEERS IN PERSON Bits of intricate lace, an outdated video game, and a water-soaked ledger are among the disparate materials used to create the animation art in this program. The silent-film actress Lillian Gish, magic lantern slides relating the story of Alice in Wonderland, and J.M.W. Turner's painting Slave Ship are among the artists' inspirations. Whether dreamscapes or videoscapes, hand-painted films or videos painted with computer pixels, these works suggest the ! diversity evident in recent experimental animation.

The program: Night Hunter Stacey Steers, b/w with touches of color, digital video, from the artist; Slave Ship by T. Marie, silent, color, Digital video, from the artist; Point de Gaze by Jodie Mack, silent, color, 16mm, from the artist; Ceibas: Epilogue - The Well of Representation by Evan Meaney, color, digital video, from Video Data Bank; Solar Sight II by Lawrence Jordan, color, 16mm, from Canyon Cinema; Verses by James Sansing, 2012, silent, color/B&W, 35mm, from the artist and Conjuror's Box by Kerry Laitala, silent, color, 35mm, from the artist. Total running time: 54 mins

I've seen Night Hunter and it is a fascinating surreal experience using stills of a real woman (Lillian Gish) who appears to be part bird and apparently she lays the large eggs seen in her home. Lots of animated creatures add to the mystery of this lonely environment. I look forward to seeing Solar Sight II as Jordan is a highly accomplished animator who taught at the SF Art Institute until he retired a few years ago.

Mon. Sept. 23, 15TH ANNUAL ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS in SF, see flyer for details, must RSVP

Wed. Sept. 25, 15TH ANNUAL ANIMATION SHOW OF San Jose State Univ., Morris Dailey Auditorium, 7:30 pm, free

Fri. Sept. 27 FROM THE NATIONAL FILM BOARD OF CANADA, award winning work, guest artists, see flyer, RSVP



The box office figures for 2013 suggest the business plan of flooding the market with expensive tentpoles need to be refined, but will the bosses learn from their mistakes? The films for 2014 are already in production so don't expect to see the next bright and not so bright script and marketing ideas before 2015.

The biggest surprise is that Despicable Me 2, a film with a "modest" budget, a so so look, a dull title, but fun juvenile humor, is presently the 2nd highest grossing film of 2013. It was produced on a $76 million budget and has grossed as of August 18, $781 million worldwide. $346 million (44% of the gross) was from ticket sales in the US. In the UK it! is now their fourth-biggest animation release of all time ($66.8 million and growing) behind Toy Story 3 ($115.5 million), Shrek 2 ($75.3 million) and Toy Story 2 ($69.3 million).

The biggest box office winner in 2013 so far is Iron Man 3 which has earned $1.2 billion worldwide. In 4th place is Monsters U at $781 million (40% earned in the US, budget N/A) and in 9th place is The Croods at $583 million (32% in US, $135 million budget). In 19th place is Epic from Blue Sky with a $252 million gross (42% from the US) and a $100 million budget. Those are the profitable US made animated features for 2013.

And there are duds! The Smurfs 2 is presently in 39th place, had a $105 million budget and has so far taken in $207 million (72% from foreign box office and the return on ticket sales abroad is a lot less than the domestic return to producers – for example US producers get 25% from China). Planes in 48th place has grossed $53 million so it isn't likely to break even theatrically.&nb! sp; It might make a profit on DVD sales. Turbo had a $135 million budget and its worldwide gross is only $142 million so far with 55% from the US. Escape from Planet Earth had a $40 million budget, and a $71 million take (80% made in the US). Silver Circle released in March has only played theatrically in LA and the 3 week run grossed an unimpressive $4,080. (Statistics! from boxofficemojo,com) An article on live action flops


PROJECTING LIGHT SHOWS ON ICONIC BUILDINGS CONTINUES AS AN IMPRESSIVE WORLDWIDE ART FORM Once again the Sydney Opera House was lit up, this time from May 24 to June 10, as part of Vivid Sydney. It is an annual winter celebration (yes, it is winter down under) and the images were based on pinball machine designs.

Not all architectural illuminations are artistic successes. A year ago Shard, the tallest building in Europe opened. The laser light show "failed to illuminate the London skyline." A video on YouTube confirms that it was a minimal, boring show.

If you saw the first night of the Exploratorium's grand opening of their new space, I recently found out why the show projected on the museum's façade started almost an hour late. A power generator broke down just as the show was about to begin. I was told their giant 4K digital projectors consume an enormous amount of electricity.

ROBERT IGER FOR GOVERNOR OF CALIFORNIA? Iger, who was going to step down as Disney's CEO in March 2015, will retain that title for another 15 months when his current contract as executive chairman expires (June 30, 2015). According to the Hollywood Reporter he was considering running for governor of California (would he have been another Mitt Romney?) but he has decided to stay put and enjoy opening Disneyland in Shanghai.

"JUNGLE BOOK" IS 119 YEARS OLD, BUT IT IS STILL A HOT PROPERTY Even though it was written by Rudyard Kipling in 1894 and has already been made into several features over the years and into a TV series, it still excites producers. In India a $45 million 3D animated feature is in production by DQ Entertainment Ireland Ltd. Disney opened a theatrical musical production of it with a cast of 30 in June in Chicago and both Disney and Warner Bros. have live action feature productions of it in development. Disney's animated version (1967) was the last film Walt produced. He died as it was nearing completion. Most of Kipling's book of short stories focuses on Mowgli, a young boy raised by wolves whose friends include a bear named Baloo and a panther named Bagheera.

Jungle Book is the latest animated Disney title being turned into a live-action film. Alice in Wonderland started off the trend, grossing $1 billion in the process, and Maleficent, based on Sleeping Beauty, is in the can while Cinderella, under the direction of Kenneth Branagh, is readying for a fall shoot.

A LIVE ACTION BATMAN AND SUPERMAN FEATURE IS PLANNED BY WARNER BROS. FOR 2015 It will be the first big tentpole to star both of them. The Hollywood Reporter also says a Flash movie starring the pair is planned for 2016 and a Justice League title is planned for 2017.

DETAILS ABOUT WHY BRENDA CHAPMAN WAS RELIEVED OF HER JOB DIRECTING "BRAVE" It touches on John Lasseter micromanaging Pixar and why she is back at DreamWorks Animation where the environment allows people to be more creative and is pleasant. The article was posted July 16. at


A PBS RADIO REPORT ON MAURICE NOBLE INCLUDING A RIFT BETWEEN HIM AND CHUCK JONES IS POSTED ONLINE There were several beefs including his taking over directing MGM's Dot and the Line, but Jones didn't share the screen credit or the Oscar with him.


AN HONEST REVIEW OF "THE SMURFS 2" The Hollywood Reporter says, "A sequel largely unwarranted other than for box office and promotional purposes, the unimaginatively titled The Smurfs 2 should have little trouble scaling stratospheric heights similar to its predecessor with undiscriminating young audiences and their chaperones, weary from near-unrelenting summertime care-giving - frequently repeating lines, gags and life lessons to near-numbing effect. Beyond a few chuckle-worthy one-liners and some amusing visual comedy, there's not much to engage adults, although the wee ones should be distracted enough." Jerry Beck's Animation Scoop says, "The Smurfs 2 epitomizes the sort of toxic jollification that's billed as"fun for the whole family,' but that no one really enjoys.

LAIKA'S WEBSITE HAS AN INTERESTING TRAILER FOR "THE BOXTROLLS" See their nice looking trailer for their next big release along with behind the scenes videos and other material.


DISNEY'S "PLANES" ISN'T A HIT, IT STALLED AT THE BOX OFFICE According to the Hollywood Reporter on Friday, Aug. 2 it looked as if Disney's Cars spin-off "would break the recent animation curse and hit $30 million in its debut, but no such luck. Battling the continued glut of family product, both Planes and Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters suffered." Planes, came in third with a $22.5 million weekend. Since then it has grossed a total of $53 million worldwide (as of Aug. 18). The good news is "the film's cost was only $50 million to produce, far less than most animated features today as it originally was intended for a direct-to-DVD release." As for the "animation curse," it appears to be a silly term just invented by the paper.

"FOODFIGHT" IS CALLED AN UNWATCHABLE FEATURE BY CARTOON BREW The article is based on a NY Times business section story about how businessman Larry Kasanoff raised $45 million and decided he could direct and produce the film himself. He made a mess of it, as did the bond company that foreclosed on the project and released it on DVD. The article and trailer were posted on August 10, 2013 on


ARGENTINA RELEASES THE MOST EXPENSIVE ANIMATED FILM EVER MADE IN LATIN AMERICA With the biggest budget in the nation's history, Juan Jose Campanella's follow-up to his Oscar winner The Secret in Their Eyes with the animated film Foosball. It is in 3D and is Latin America's biggest animation project ever. The Hollywood Reporter calls it "a Pixaresque tale in which a timid small-town youngster named Amadeo is challenged to a soccer game by Grosso, an international star who is back for revenge after losing a match against him when they were kids. A group of the table's foosball players, led by Capi, help Amadeo win the match and save the town."

The $20 million feature has to score big on the international marketplace as Argentina only has about 900 screens nationwide and a low percentage of them are digital 3D theaters. The producer says that, "If everyone in the country goes to see it twice, it still wouldn't be enough to make money."

"THE SIMPSONS" CO-CREATOR, SAM SIMON, IS TERMANALLY ILL When he left the series in 1993 as a writer he remained one of the show's executive producers. His Sam Simon Foundation, worth almost $23 million in 2011, has made impressive donations to feed human (only vegan food), animal causes, Save the Children, the Sea Shepherd Conversation Society and other groups. His Malibu estate has become a haven for rescued dogs from kill shelters. The dogs are trained to become companions for the deaf.

RICHARD WILLIAMS EXPLAINS HIS NEW "ANIMATOR'S SURVIVAL KIT iPAD APP" ONLINE He's dedicated his life to animation including advancing the art of animation by passing his knowledge on to future generations. Jerry Beck posted his new short promo for his new The Animator's Survival Kit iPad app. Jerry writes, "If you care about the craft of animation - this is a must-see, must-buy."


RICHARD WILLIAMS WILL BE IN LA FOR A PUBLIC APPEARANCE AT THE ACADEMY OCT. 4 He will talk about his career and the Academy will open a major exhibit on his art in their exhibit hall. Show ends Dec. 22.


GKIDS TO RELEASE AN ENGLISH VERSION OF "WRINKLES" EARLY IN 2014 Variety reports the dubbed soundtrack for this animated hit from Spain is voiced by George Coe, Matthew Modine and Martin Sheen. Wrinkles is a charming hand-drawn buddy film set in a retirement home. The paper says, "Wrinkles has become a Spanish flagship for traditional animation and one of the best-reviewed of any Spanish film in recent years, whether animation or live action." Gkids is the US distributor for several award wining animated films including The Secret of Kells, A Cat in Paris and Chico & Rita.

DIGITAL DOMAIN IS BACK IN THE NEWS It has been sold again. This time Sun Innovations of Hong Kong obtained it as part of a deal when Sun bought Galloping Horse. China's Galloping Horse owned 70 % of the company. Reliance Media Works of India still owns 30%.

John Textor, who bankrupted the company, is being sued by a shareholder in the old company and by Legendary Pictures for fraud. He is also in a legal mess over who owns patent rights and intellectual properties. The studio and school he created in Florida remains unsold.

The new Digital Domain is now out of bankruptcy and has recently worked on Iron Man 3, Oblivion, G.I. Joe: Retaliation, and Jack the Giant Slayer. It has also worked on commercials and games.



THE PUPPETTOON MOVIE & LOTS OF EXTRAS ARE AVAILABLE ON TWO BLU-RAY DISCS The limited edition (3000 copies) will not be available in stores. Parts are in high definition, other parts in standard definition. Producer will ship in late Oct.


ALTHOUGH THIS MESS MAY FINALLY BE RESOLVED, CHINA'S FILM DISTRUBUTOR HADN'T PAID US STUDIOS SINCE LATE 2012 US studios were reluctant to walk away from China as a marketplace despite millions owed to six studios as China is expected to be the world's biggest consumer of new features in the coming years. (It is presently the 2nd biggest consumer. The US is #1.) In 2012 the China Film Group stopped payments pending resolution of a fight over who should pay a new 2 percent value-added tax. China Film Group wants the studios to pay and the studios say that the additional payment would violate an agreement reached last year between U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

After the above story appeared in the Hollywood Reporter around the end of July talks to resolve the issue began again. China's top film industry association wants the country's tax bureau to waive a 2 percent luxury tax on the industry, but will they?

On August 13 it was announced that payments of over $150 million owed US companies will be paid, but the Chinese government still has yet to resolve who will pay the 2% value added tax.

I DIDN'T KNOW "CHENNAI EXPRESS" IS "THE MOST AWAITED MOVIE OF THE YEAR" That is what Animation Express.com from India calls it. The film was produced by UTV Motion Pictures (Disney's "digital arm" in India) and Red Chilies Entertainment. The movie opened in theatres Aug. 9 and a mobile game based on the film is out.

WILL ACTION ADVENTURE INTERNET SHOWS FROM INDIA WITH 3rd RATE ANIMATION BE THE NEXT DUBIOUS ANIMATION CRAZE IN THE US? Grant Morrison, a major comic book writer (Batman, Superman, etc.) developed 18 Days with a company in India. It is based on an epic mythological tale with superheroes that tells about a war with super gods. The trailer on the Internet suggests it might be a fun fantasy for kids, but the animation is awkward, crude and ugly. Unfortunately super low budget shows on late night cable TV proves there is an audience for awful "animation."

90% OF NICKELODEON'S CG ANIMATORS IN LA VOTED YES TO JOIN THE UNION The 70 computer animators are now represented by the Animation Guild while the studio's traditional animation artists have been Guild members since 2004. The main issue that convinced the CG artists to join the union was uninterrupted health insurance benefits.

BILL PLYMPTON'S TRAILER FOR "CHEATIN" It is unusual looking artwork, fast paced and it looks like a story people can relate to:


AN ICONOCLAST'S LOOKS AT TODAY'S ANIMATION INDUSTRY IN THE US Dan Bessie, who worked at MGM's animation studio in the Golden Age of Animation and went on to become a film producer, says, "Karl, based on what I read about the latest crop of dumbed down animated features coming out these days, I'm sure glad I'm not entering the field about now. It was bad enough grinding out commercials just to sell products for all those years ... not to mention vacuous early Spiderman, Linus the Lionhearted (essentially half-hour Post cereal ads), inbetweening Tom, Jerry and Spike, plus endless miscellaneous animation assignments, all mainly to feed my family ... AND to feed the Big Eye in American living rooms ... the reason for which, as always, was just to sell even more products."

Well, water over the damn dam, huh? Perhaps one day progressive social thinking will seep into the minds of young hotshots, and some will decide to SAY something with their talent, and the craft will reach the kind of potential it has demonstrated from time to time over the years (but all too rarely)."

NANCY PHELPS' CAREER TIPS She says "the advice I have for young animators is to get out there and meet people in the animation world. Networking is the best way to find out who is hiring and what is going on."

"Too many students look alike so develop something that people will remember you by. Two animators from The Netherlands always wear red fezzes in public. Even if all I see is the top of the hats across a room I know immediately who is there. I've known the"Red Fez' guys for about 10 years; when they were still students and now they have a very successful animation company in Amsterdam. Everyone recognizes them immediately." (Note: When Nancy lived in SF she often had a fresh fragrant gardenia in her hair or wore an unusual antique red hat. She tells us, "Unfortunately gardenias are not available here in Gent, but I still wear my beautiful red antique hat.")

FORMER MSNBC AND "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE" INTERNS FILE A CLASS ACTION SUIT AGAINST NBC UNIVERSAL The class action seeks unpaid wages for hundreds of interns who worked at the company in the past three years. People who have taken or will take unpaid or low paying internships at animation companies in the future need to know the rules governing when they are doing work that qualifies as unpaid training and work that is exploiting free or low paid labor. By misclassifying the plaintiffs in the NBC-Universal case hundreds worked unpaid and were denied benefits that the law affords to employees, including unemployment coverage, workers' compensation insurance, social security contributions, and, most crucially, the right to earn a fair day's wage for a fair day's work. In the NBC case damages may total around $5 million. An unpaid internship is supposed to provide training similar to what is given in an educational environment and it should be for the benefit of the intern. It should not displace work that would have been done by regular employees, nor should it be work done for the immediate advantage of the employer. Google "unpaid intern rules" for details.

DIGITAL COMICS ARE A FAST GROWING BUSINESS Comics for mobile devices are a fast growing business according to a NY Times reporter at Comic-Con. ComiXology reports 180 million downloads since they started business in 2009 and 80 million them were in the last six months. They had $70 million in sales in 2012, up from $25 million in 2011. While they will continue to release their own publications, they now have distribution deals to release DC and Marvel products on the same day they are released in print. &nb! sp;The entire digital industry sales total was $750 million for 2012, about 19% of the comic book business. What will happen in 2013?

Technology promotes innovation and it makes it easier for new publishers to enter the business. Madefire, based in Berkeley, CA began by releasing original content that includes animation, sound and music delivered through their own app. They now have a Web distribution deal with other publishers and deals to create motion books for Star Trek, My Little Pony and Transformers. This looks like the start of a hot business.

THOUGHTS ON THE VALUE OF ANIMATED SUPRISES by KC One of animation's important capabilities is to present to the audience wonderful visual surprises. Artists have found a variety of ways to create unexpected moments that show that animation can go anywhere and do anything our minds can imagine. Animation is not confined to showing a world that can be recorded live on video or film.

The visual surprises are found in many of animation's most memorable films. In Winsor McCay's Little Nemo (1911) we meet characters that change shape several times in one sequence. They become short and squat, tall and thin, then squat again, etc. In another sequence Nemo arrives in a wonderful looking chariot, but when more of the chariot is seen it turns out he is seated in the mouth of a tame dragon. In McCay's most famous film he amazed people by going for a ride on! the back of a prehistoric dinosaur named Gertie (Gertie the Dinosaur, 1914).

Characters having wild dreams or drunken hallucinations can result in fascinating surreal sequences. One of Emil Cohl's early films (cutout and drawn animation) is The Hasher's Delirium (Le Songe d'un Garçon de Café, ca. 1910). It is a bizarre dream about the evils of alcohol by a waiter who falls asleep at work. You can see the dream sequences on the Internet, but not the live action opening and closing footage.

In Felix the Cat cartoons from the 1920s we can enjoy his doing countless impossible things including removing his tail so he can use it as a tool or prop. He can do other impossible things like turning a wooden barrel into a plane so he can fly across an ocean in one film or his having a mule kick him so he can fly through the sky to Russia in another. (The Moscow Mule drink wasn't invented until 1941.)

In films from the early sound era we can still be amazed when Betty Boop enters a mysterious cave and meets the ghost of a walrus that sings and dances, or when Willie Whopper consumes too much laughing gas at a dentist's office and floats into outer space, landing on another planet where he meets a mad scientist. Bugs Bunny, Mickey Mouse, Farmer Alfalfa, Popeye, a puppet's nose grows and dozens of other cartoon stars have also had wonderful strange experiences that take us by surprise.

Even in animated features where it is important for the story to progress logically, unusual things can happen. One of my favorite moments is in Disney's Dumbo (1941) where he drinks from a bucket of water that contains alcohol (an open bottle has been knocked into it by mistake). The film's next sequence is "Pink Elephants on Parade," a series of amazing hallucinations. It breaks completely from the realism of the rest of the film.


The morph or metamorphosis is another way to delight audiences. A subtle kind of morph can be seen in Snow White and other films when trees in dark forests turn out to have menacing limbs that move and scare someone. A more elaborate morph is when the queen turns into an old witch (why are there never any beautiful young sexy witches?). One of the strangest morph is in a chase sequence in Max Fleischer's Koko the Cop (ca. 1928) ! when Bimbo, a dog, rounds a corner and hides from Koko by turning himself into a window with a lovely woman in it. Koko flirts and tries to kiss her. When their lips meet the woman turns back into Bimbo (yes, man kisses dog on the lips as a gag) and the delightful, absurd chase continues.

Self-referential images are ingenious ways to delight us while reminding us we are looking at a film. In Frank Tashlin's Case of the Stuttering Pig (1937) starring Porky, the silhouette of a member of the audience is introduced and he eventually helps in capturing film's villain. In the Fleischer Popeye cartoon Goonland (1938) the film breaks and the projectionist's hands are seen using a safety pin to fasten the broken film together. ! In several chases directed by Tex Avery characters run past the sprocket holes on the edge of the film.

This article could be extended into a book about highly imaginative images in each decade of animation. It was common in early cartoons for "rubber hose" arms and legs to stretch in funny ways including one of Daffy's legs stretching over 15' long in Bob Clampett's Baby Bottleneck.

There might be a chapter on extreme takes and the visual puns in the work of Tex Avery, Bob Clampett and other directors. Animator Jim Tyer (see Jim Tyer's Wildest Takes at

www.youtube.com/watch?v=pVi5g2KitLg was another master of extreme images.

Anything can take us by surprise in animation

A chapter or two might be on the variety of animated surprises that are found in most of the animated shorts nominated each year for the Oscar. I suspect a lot of space might be given to stop-motion artists including work by Charlie Bowers, Willis O'Brian, Ray Harryhausen, George Pal and modern masters like Will Vinton, Nik Park, Jan Svankmajer, Henry Selick and the employees of George Lucas' ILM. The book might end with the wonderful visual surprises that show up in the openings of every Simpson's show (the couch gags) or in the work of Nina Paley, Bill Plympton, Signe Baumane, Joanna Quinn, Chris Landreth and hundreds of other independent artists working in the 21st Century. I believe visual surprises have a lot to do with why we like and remember animated cartoons.

Part of the joy of animation is how it can surprise us in so many different ways. They range from the wonderful brightly colored psychedelic constantly morphing award winning films of Vince Collins (from the 1970s, several are posted on the Internet including Fantasy and Malice in Wonderland) to the lush almost photo realistic worlds from Studio Ghibli. I just watched From Up on Poppy Hill, a film so intense with rich lush colors that they express to me a palette in nature we seek out, but rarely find. I was fascinated by the glimpses of the domestic life in the boarding house that the school girls lived in and by other period details of a culture quite unlike the world I grew up in here in the USA. I was amazed by the film's Latin Quarter; the large old building the boys live in (when I was 16 I attended a prep school and lived in a large ancient building, but it wasn't a fun place, nothing like the Latin Quarter). For me Goro Miyazaki's film is a refreshing work of art as wonderful as a Renoir or Monet painting. (Note: ! Kaze Tachinu (The Wind Rises) by Hayao Miyazaki, Goro's father, has just been released in Japan and it was shown at the Venice Film Festival.)

Animated surprises help define characters

One function of animated surprises is that they may help define a character's personality which can typecast them. We know what to expect when Popeye opens a can of spinach, but we don't know how he will resolve the situation. We look forward to certain characters going bonkers when provoked unexpectedly (Daffy Duck, Donald Duck, Screwy Squirrel, Woody Woodpecker, etc.).

When characters become typecast we expect certain things to happen including similar plot structures. Willie Whopper began his cartoons by telling an outrageous tall tale and we know what to expect in Roadrunner, Tom and Jerry, Goofy cartoons etc., although we don't know the exact scenario (the surprises). The same is true today in new works by Jib Jab, Pes and other artists. For example Bill Plympton has created a dog character that he calls his Mickey Mouse. In the dog's first three films they start out with his having the best of intentions, then he creates havoc and after the mess is resolved the dog walks away rejected.

While developing strong personalities that react to surprises can be funny and can make the character popular with the public, somewhat similar repetitions from one film to the next can eventually wear thin. Too much repetition has resulted in stars fading from view as their films became more predictable. In the case of Screwy Squirrel Tex Avery said he just ran out of original violent ideas for the squirrel to let loose on the hound chasing him.

(photo caption) Even lovable Wallace and Gromit work best in specific roles

Only a few animated actors were versatile enough to perform in a wide range of roles. The most noticeable examples include Bugs Bunny and Mickey Mouse. Both are seen as lovable leading actors who could be cast in a wide range of comedies that ranged from low brow tales to spoofs of operas. Neither star was cast as villain nor heavy, but both surprised us with their unique performances in a variety of nice roles. When their acting careers in theatres finally came to an end both were able to switch over to successful TV careers as likable personalities.

Note: This was a fun article to write and while it is addressed to all lovers of animation, part of my motivation was to remind students that their work does not have to be a literal and logical approach to storytelling. Over the years I have seen too many student films that could have been made as live action projects. Student artwork is rarely if ever unique enough or exciting enough visually to warrant a basically live action story being realized through animation. Leave that to masters like Hayao and Goro Miyazaki and Frederic Back from Canada.

Of course not everybody shares my enjoyment seeing illogical, surreal incidents. When I went with a friend who was a professional animation checker to see Don Bluth's An American Tale (1986) I was delighted with the film, but she hated it. All she talked about were the flaws as she was trained to see every imperfection including when a character went off-model. For her conformity and perfection were important. As a professional, one would expect her to feel that way, but for the rest of us good film is like ! fine wine, you don't need to be a connoisseur to enjoy it. Tom Sito tells me that the legendary British animator John Halas once said, "Animation should pick up where live action leaves off." The surrealism is part of the charm of classic animation, so uncork and enjoy!


This article was written based on dozens of reports, videos and articles on the Internet and asking friends who attended the conference for comments. The most important parts of this article to me are Henry Selick's critical comments about the current state of animated features KC

(photo caption)
A la Francaise starring fancy birds dressed as members of the court, won the grand prize this year.

There are many ways to describe SIGGRAPH 2013, the computer industry's 40th annual conference. It was a remarkable event in Anaheim where 17,162 people exchanged ideas and promoted products, screened films and learned all kinds of things related to computers. Those attending included artists, research scientists, gaming experts, developers, filmmakers, students, and academics from 77 countries. There were 180 industry exhibitors from 15 countries with over a third coming from outside the US. Over 1,354 speakers and contributors presented talks, papers, tutorials, or were part of panels and screenings. For some people they were there looking for work while student were seeking knowledge and lots of networking took place. Others had something to promote or sell and while others were there to be amazed and to party.

The highlights began the first day with nine distinguished animation directors presenting the keynote event. It was a panel where they discussed their rises to success and answered questions. The panel included Ron Clements (Little Mermaid, Aladdin), Pete Docter (Monsters, Inc., Up), Eric Goldberg (Pocahontas, Fantasia 2000), Kevin Lima (Tarzan), Mike Mitchell (Shrek Forever After), Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch, How to Train Your Dragon), Henry Selick (Coraline, Nightmare Before Christmas), David Silverman (The Simpsons Movie) and Kirk Wise (Beauty and the Beast).

The event began by showing clips from the panel's student films. Then the directors talked about how they got their first jobs and their rise to fame. In the 90 minute event they touched on many topics including brainstorming techniques when they need to resolve situations that are not working. You can watch the entire keynote session as it is posted online including Henry Selick discussing why he feels the present state of Hollywood features is stifling creativity and where original, inventive works will be marketed in the future.

Henry Selick is critical about the state of animated features

Henry Selick has serious concerns about where theatrical animation is headed in the US. He discussed the problems both during his SIGGRAPH press conference and as a member of the event's keynote panel. He believes all is not well even though the US animation industry is experiencing its most successful time in its history. He says that due to the enormous costs of each animated feature, producers play it safe and repeat what has worked before to ensure ! box office success rather than risk trying out new creative ideas. He feels there is an unhealthy pressure on directors to making every animated feature a blockbuster and the industry fears catastrophic losses if a film fails at the box office.

Henry questions the belief that in order to make a profit in animation today producers have to produce overly expensive products. That business model has resulted in films that are "too homogenous. It's way too much the same. The films aren't really that different one from the other. Despicable Me could have been made at Pixar, by DreamWorks. It's not a great time for feature animation if you want to do something even moderately outside the formula." Producers simply avoid taking! risks on new creative ideas due to intense economic pressures according to Henry.

He also discussed his thoughts on where new creative forms of animation might develop. He believes the most likely place creativity in commercial animation will flourish again is with producers like Amazon, Netflix and Google who are beginning to develop films for non-theatrical outlets including cable TV and the Internet. He says, "There's way more creativity in television, and risk taking, but especially in new media." He believes not everything has to have an enormous budget and "not everything needs to be on a big screen." He sees animation's future is with new forms of media.

Selick briefly mentioned the types of projects he likes to develop. His sensibilities lean towards "comedic horror films," not slasher movies (think instead about Coraline or Nightmare Before Christmas)." He thinks his films in the future might include social satire. He also imagines that instead of working in the feature format he might develop products that could be delivered in shorter chapters such as his making something as "a limited 10-part! series."

The Computer Animation Festival

The Computer Animation Festival at SIGGRAPH tries to present the world's most innovative and accomplished works from the creators of digital media. The Electronic Theatre presented the top 33 works from over 500 entries. Many more hours of work was screened in the Daytime Select programs.

This year European entries dominated the festival's awards. Best in Show was awarded to ? la Française by Morrigane Boyer, Julien Hazebroucq, Ren Hsien Hsu, Emmanuelle Leleu, and William Lorton from Supinfocom Arles, France. The film is a visit to an 18th Century palace full of nobility; however, the people wearing the fancy high fashioned wigs and costumes doing the minuet, playing tennis and other courtly things are fancy birds.

The Jury Award went to Lost Senses (Zmysly Prysly) by Marcin Wasilewski working with Grupa Smacznego in Poland. The film is a "short story about an encounter in an abstract world." We follow a man as he goes to meet a woman in a flying city. The landscape and architecture are influenced by paintings by Giorgio de Chirico from the WWI period. His work also inspired surrealist artists in the 1920s and '30. Wasilewski's character designs are rather whimsical.

The Best Student Project Prize went to Rollin' Safari directed by Kyra Buschor, Anna Habermehl, and Constantin Plow from Filmakademie Baden-Wrttemberg in Germany. The work is a group of four very short gags used as idents at 2013 Stuttgart Animation Festival. The humorous segments are based on an offbeat idea, what if African wildlife looked and behaved like fat balloon shaped animals?

There were also two Best Student Project Prize Runner-Ups. One went to Sleddin' by John Pettingill from Texas A&M University in the US. It is a fat tubby boy's fantasy of sledding down the cliff of his dreams.

The other student runner up was Harald by Moritz Schneider from Filmakademie Baden-Wrttemberg in Germany. It stars a giant male wrestler who is fierce, loud and obnoxious in the ring, but at home he is a soft and tender guy who loves flowers. When his pint-sized, overbearing mother takes away his favorite flower, he goes berzerk.

The Computer Animation Festival was a lot more than the juried competition. There were 16 Production Sessions ranged from a making of Pixar's short Blue Umbrella and a session on their feature Monsters University to "How to Bake a Pi." ! The documentary on how The Life of Pi reveals details you may never have thought about. For example the tiger had 10 million hair strands, with 30 control points per hair.

The "How to Bake a Pi" session was also important to a lot of people who are trying to make sense of Rhythm & Hues going bankrupt right after the feature won an Oscar. People are concerned about the future of the VFX industry in the US and some fear a lot more jobs may eventually go abroad.

David Chai, who teaches animation at San Jose State says, "The highlights for me included ILM's presentation on the visual effects of Star Trek Into Darkness, DreamWorks' behind the scenes look at The Croods featuring Chris Sanders and my favorite was LAIKA's presentation on the Seamless Fusion of stop-motion and VFX in their films."

Another screening at the conference took advantage of the city's warm summer nights. A large outdoor screening area was set up so attendees could watch two major blockbusters from the past one evening. "SIGGRAPH After Dark" showed Toy Story and Jurassic Park.

An unusual event was Dailies. It celebrated excellence in computer graphics by showcasing images from 45 films in a rapid-fire while somebody from each production talked about the

(Photo caption)

Laika presented a program on the seamless fusion between stop-motion and visual-effects in their features clips. Each clip had to be no more than two-minutes long and the discussions ranged from artists creating the work under a tight deadline to a thought provoking discussion about a clever technique used to make incredibly complex imagery.

Courtney Granner, who teaches illustration and drawing at San Jose State, told me, "On the panels that I attended by ILM, DreamWorks and Laika, and as evident in this year's Electronic Theater, the creators are solving incredible problems that had never, ever, been considered a possibility twenty-five years ago when everyone was hoping for the simplest of successes."

"What impressed me most this year was the analog mash-up with the digital when it came to finding the right solutions to the many challenges of the medium. This is the new frontier where the proving ground is of the learned generalists going straight-ahead with problem solving, like the finest animators of old when the moment called to do so. They follow an unspoken creed: Absorb, Understand, Contemplate, Solve and Enjoy."

Alice Carter, who heads the San Jose State animation program, says, "SIGGRAPH is always a great place to connect with the animation industry. The range of presentations offers a comprehensive view of the past year as well as insights into what's coming up in the future."

"For me, the highlight is always the Electronic Theater where new ideas come together in short films that are fresh and entertaining. This year I especially enjoyed Supinfocom's A la Francaise, and Lost Senses, an animated love story set in a landscape inspired by the paintings of Giorgio De Chirico.

Emerging Technology

A fascinating part of any SIGGRAPH is the emerging technology display and as expected the 17 exhibits were quite diverse. EMY (Enhancing MobilitY) is a full-body robot suit (or exoskeleton) designed to help quadriplegic people walk again. The patient is fitted into a robot rig.

With TransWall people on either side of a glass computer screen can see each other while interacting with both images on the screen and with the person on the other side. Using "vibrotactile feedback" and audio each person is tricked into believing they can feel the other person through the glass.

Disney presented two experimental technology systems. Papillon will be used to generate eye expressions for animatronic characters using fiber optics. Aireal is a tactile feedback device where a gamer can feel things visualized on a screen without wearing a glove. Aireal uses air jets to stimulate the skin as well as vibrations.

Ben Ridgway, who teaches computer animation at San Francisco State, told me his favorite part of SIGGRAPH was the emerging technologies and art gallery area. He was quite impressed with the Occulus Rift VR helmet, still being developed as a product. He says, "This technology is a huge leap forward in regards to virtual reality. The headset reads your head motions so that you feel as if you are actually looking around in a virtual environment. I got a little seasick after a few minutes of running around the environment, but I think that is testament to just how real the motion feels to the user."

The Art Gallery

The 2013 Art Gallery presented "exceptional digital and technologically mediated artworks that explored the existence of wonderment, mystery, and awe in today's art world." (SIGGRAPH website) From nearly 400 submissions, the Art Gallery jury selected 16 pieces to be featured. One person supposedly said of the art show, "Finally I can experience the reality I was looking for in LSD."

Cloud Pink by Yunsil Heo and Hyunwoo Bang from Seoul National University is an immersive media installation with a giant stretchable fabric that can cover an entire gallery ceiling. Viewers can touch this sky with their fingers to stimulate the creation of pink clouds. Ben Ridgway "especially enjoyed the emerging technologies and art gallery area. One of my favorite installations was a large box shaped space with a long white illuminated sheet overhead that allowed you to create flowing cloud like designs by stroking the surface of the cloth."

Digiti Sonus by Yoon Chung Han from the University of Santa Barbara and Byeong-jun Han from Korea University is an interactive audio/visual art installation based on fingerprint "sonification." It transforms the unique patterns of fingerprints into sound resulting in real-time music compositions. The distinct visual features of fingerprints create a musical score and at the same time they are converted into three-dimensional animated images. By controlling the starting point of animated visuals, the musical notes are reorganized in different orders and duration, which resonates with attendees' bodies and minds.

The trade show, technical papers and other amazing things

Many of the latest items displayed were refinements over previous models. NVIDIA showed the Quadro K6000 GPU that is almost twice as fast and has almost twice the graphics capability of their previous state of the art product. Dell impressed a lot of people with their high resolution 32 inch 4K monitor. Samsung showed off the power of their new chip and other companies displayed improvements in 3D printing, virtual reality, motion capture technology and other areas of computer technology.

Ben Ridgway commented, "I noticed that there is an ever growing presence of affordable rapid prototyping technologies on the showroom floor. The accuracy and affordability of this technology is opening it up to a wide variety of applications including film production, architectural visualization, and fine art."

Another important part of the conference was the presentation of papers that focus on groundbreaking research. There were 115 Technical Papers presented from 480 submissions. The Technical Papers detailed new advances across many fronts, including 3D printing, creating water and snow with particles, deformation and distortion, and much more.

A sidebar of the conference was the third annual SIGGRAPH Business Symposium. The one day event featured Captain Thomas Chaby as the keynote speaker. He is executive officer at the Naval Special Warfare Center and he spoke about "disruption in the battlefield. The objective of the event was to provide tactics for leaders in the industry to move beyond disruption." (What does that mean?)

A new feature of the conference will be the first "SIGGRAPH University." It will offer free courses that were recorded onsite and will be posted to the Internet.

Ben Ridgway told me two of his students volunteered at SIGGRAPH 2013 and they "had an amazing experience and I hope that they can help spread the word about the importance of conferences like this. I think any student considering a career in movies or games should definitely consider being a volunteer." So if you are a student in Asia considering volunteering at SIGGRAPH Asia or at SIGGRAPH 2014 in North America. The 41st International Conference on Computer! Graphics and Interactive Techniques will be held August 10 -14, 2014 at the Vancouver Convention Centre in Canada.

Note: The Hollywood Reporter briefly touched on other controversial issues raised at SIGGRAPH. They noted that a big component of the conference was on education, and some worried professionals from Hollywood questioned the career potential for the students after they graduate. An industry veteran was quoted as saying, "The only people making money are for-profit universities, from tuition. Students are graduating and want to work in movies … but jobs are scarce, and they are [often] graduating with student debt. [Veterans] are competing with new graduates who will work for pizza and beer. What does that do?"

State and federal subsidies to help the VFX industry survive were another issue raised. John Knoll, CEO at ILM told the Hollywood Reporter that he is "not particularly optimistic" about the business in California. Referring to the generous film subsidies being offered, he said, "Economic war is being waged by Canada, England, New Zealand. California is not fighting back. It's losing a war (with) an extremely unlevel playing field." Another person told me people were quite depressed about the survival of the VFX industry in the US.


by Corrie Francis Parks

The first time... it is something you will always remember, a special time to be thoughtfully cherished and, when the universe aligns, enjoyed to its fullest in the true spirit of the French mode de vie. I am, of course, talking about Le Festival international du film d'animation d'Annecy, or simply "Annecy", as it is affectionately called.

Since my early days as a student, Annecy's reputation has demanded deference. With each new film, I diligently filled out the entry form and sent in my DVD, wondering if I would ever have the chance to join the historical roll-call of Annecy animators.

This year, the universe did align. A Tangled Tale was one of the 236 films selected from 2461 submissions. And so I joined roughly 7099 other animators and industry professionals in the quintessential French alpine town for a week of animation glory.

I arrived in Annecy directly from the closing night of the Hamburg Kurz film festival, and when I say closing night, we really did shut it down; they were moving on to the hard alcohol when I caught my taxi to the airport at 6am. After a week of explaining sand animation to live-action filmmakers, what a relief for my sleep-deprived mind to find myself in a shuttle to the lake talking about the minutiae of animation theory with animator/professor Raimund Krumme and animation student Sara Shabani. It was like coming home to my animation family!

I quickly learned that I was not the only newbie at Annecy. There was a new Artistic Director, Marcel Jean. He soon became the charismatic face of the festival, introducing the special screenings, important guests and moderating the morning Q+A with shorts directors.

The famous Bonlieu Theater, which had been the central hub of the festival in years past, was under renovation, which meant the main screenings would take place in a specially constructed theater at the Salle des Haras. This was essentially a giant shipping container plopped in the courtyard of what used to be a convent. Standing outside, one could hear every thunderous Dolby boom shiver through the thin walls. The courtyard unfortunately turned into a giant mud puddle when it rained and the soggy row of portable toilets diluted the Annecy glamour to the level of a hippie music festival. ! ;With seating for 800+, this was where all the "important" events took place.

Despite my sleep-deprived state, I was quite eager to see the first Shorts in Competition screening in the Salle des Haras. After picking up my accreditation and tickets (which required waiting in 3 separate lines and talking to 6 people, yet remarkably only took 20 minutes), I met up with Swiss animator Dustin Rees to head into the Salle. After our first 80 minutes in knee-breaking bleacher seats in the main seating section, we learned the best seats in the house were down in the front row, offering high-backed chairs with plenty of legroom in exchange for a mild risk of being hit by paper airplanes. Rees, an Annecy veteran of many years, took me under wing and explained three essential traditions of! an Annecy screening:

1) The paper airplanes gliding in flocks from the upper rows of the theaters must be wildly applauded should one manage to even come near the massive stage.

2) The certainty of a rabbit hidden somewhere in the Annecy Teaser, which causes the crowd to go wild once spotted.

3) The distinctive popping fish sound and possibly other animal sounds to be produced during any extended period of darkness.

All these I experienced at every screening. Frankly I expected the Annecy audience to be much rowdier. There were no shouts or boos or throwing of objects during the screenings. There was always polite and sometimes even enthusiastic applause as soon as the end credits appeared. Every screening I went to was full enough to feel like a crowd and while the ticket-procurement process was baffling at first, once I figured it out, I never felt like I wouldn't be able to get into a screening.

The festival itself was a mixture of all things animated. The headline events were from the major studios, with premier screenings of Pixar's Monsters University and Universal's Despicable Me 2, as well as Disney's "recently-restored" Mickey Mouse short Get a Horse. There were features in competition and out of competition, running the spectrum of the highly produced Arjun from India, the comically-spooky stop-motion O, Apostolo from Spain and a one-man labor of love Consuming Spirits from Chicago by animator Chris Sullivan. Student films, commissioned films and shorts, both in and out of competition, filled the gaps.

What is the difference between in competition and out of competition anyway? From my perspective, In Competition means that when your film plays in the Salle des Haras, you get to run up into a little patch of light and wave at the applauding crowd. It means the festival will provide a hotel room, which, depending on how important you are, may or may not be a 30 minute hike from the center of town. After a late night of beer and disco bowling, you will be required to roll out of bed before 9am and talk coherently about your film to eager students and bleary-eyed press (who were also bowling). On awards night you will dress your best and sit with sweating palms, secretly hoping your name will be called, even though the buzz above your head says that the Cristal is surely going to some Oscar-winning Canadian from the NFB.

My film was Out of Competition which means I got the special "official selection" purple badge that let me into everything and gave people a reason to talk to me without the performance anxiety of being in competition. The only thing I really missed was the opportunity to talk about my film publicly. It was odd to be an anonymous observer in the theater while my film screened, and not having any way to engage with my audience. I sat there absorbing the enthusiastic applause, wondering how many other filmmakers were sitting around me, detached from their films.

I've watched my film at several festivals in several theaters and the Annecy projection was the best I've seen. Sound levels were perfect, the color saturation was balanced and the screen was immersive. But with no immediate way to connect with my viewers, I was completely unmotivated to attend the other two screenings of my film. There was too much else to see.

And see I did! Though the veterans told me that Annecy has become much more commercial lately, focusing on feature films and the expansive film market (Mifa), I found plenty of shorts to get excited about. I've taken the opportunity to bestow my own awards for a few of my favorite films: Furthest distance travelled between cuts to Trespass by Paul Wenninger. Biggest pile of empty paint tubes to Norman by Robbe Vervaeke. Song certain to get stuck in your head for the rest of the festival to Autour du lac by Carl Roosens and Noémie Marsily. Film that made me wish I spoke Slovenian to Boles by Spela Cadez. Best children's fable that's really for adults to The Big Beast by Pierre-Luc Granjon. Most poignant visual metaphor to Les Souvenirs by Renaud Martin and Film that made me think of Thom to In the Air is Christopher Gray by Felix Massie.

In addition to overdosing on shorts, I managed to catch a few features, and wander around the Mifa. Having been to Cannes, I was prepared for miles and miles of booths and was surprised that it only took me an hour to wander most of the Mifa area. Luckily it was lunchtime and most booths were empty so I didn't get accosted by buyers and sellers. I did get to test out the new Cintiq touch. Cue Tex Avery wolf whistling mayhem - that thing is HOT!

And of course, there were the parties. Several people advised me before I went, "It doesn't matter what you see, just go to as many parties as you can!" To kick off the festival, Annecy hosted a cocktail mixer for all the directors in the official selection. I adopted my usual strategy: when in a room full of strangers, grab a chilled glass of rose and strike up a conversation with the most impressive mustache in the room. My chat with Belgian animator Kris Genjin, who has a mustache that would make Poirot proud, led to a delightful week of hanging out with several Belgian and Dutch directors. Not only am I convinced I want to move to Belgium, but I snagged a coveted invitation to the Belgian Party, where the Duvel flowed freely!

National pride is a big thing in Annecy. Each country hosted a party with wine and nibbles and a casual atmosphere for chatting. There were sponsored parties as well, like Nickelodeon's night of disco bowling. Pixar/Disney imported a bit of Americana to France, by throwing a chilled out beach BBQ at La Plage. Animator Anne Beal and I astounded some French producers by sandwiching our Ben n' Jerry's ice cream between two chocolate chip cookies. It seemed like an obvious idea to us Americans. The sun was shining on the mountains across the calm lake as directors, producers and industry VIPs lounged on the sandy shore with paper plates and plastic cups. Here I had a nice chat with Bill and Sandrine Plympton and admired the newest addition to their family. It is only a matter of time before roly-poly Luke ends up starring in one of his dad's films.

To top it all off, one cannot write about Annecy parties without mentioning Nik and Nancy Phelps potluck picnic on Saturday. At the end of the week, when everyone is exhausted and bug-eyed from so many hours in the theater, an afternoon sharing wine, food, lawn sports and paddle-boating with the many friends you've made along the way is just what we all needed."

As Nancy told me, "After all the Annecy snobbery, we wanted to have a party without gates and security guards, where anybody can come and talk to anybody else without worrying if they are good enough or important enough." This was, indeed, the truest expression of the animation family, and the perfect way to end an Annecy romance with those warm fuzzy feelings that will last until the next rendezvous.

See Corrie's photos and a list of the winners at http://bit.ly/annecyvirgin

Photo caption
Nik and Nancy at the DreamWorks' picnic with Croatian Daniel Suljic and Veljko Popovic who is director of Animafest Zagreb

HOW I LEARNED TO STOP WORRYING ABOUT THE COMMERCALISM AND LOVE THE ANNECY INTERNATIONAL ANIMATION FESTIVAL, June 10 - 15, Annecy, France by Nancy Denney-Phelps For several years I was bothered by the direction that the Annecy International Animation Festival had been heading, but this year I finally came to terms with the fact that the festival is now about money and feature length films. After thinking about it for a very long time I came to the conclusion that having one animation festival devoted to business is not a bad thing since feature films, television series, and commercials are an important part of the animation world. Besides it means that Annecy is doing the "industry job" very well, so that other festivals don't have to do it. Now I can accept Annecy for what it is.

If I had any doubts that Annecy has become all about money and feature films, Annecy 2013 painted a very clear picture of what the festival now considers important. With a total of 23 feature films, 9 in competition and 14 screened out of competition, you could spend your entire festival watching nothing but feature length films. That is if you have time to watch much film at all with everything else that is going on.

If you were at Annecy to do serious business then MIFA (International Animation Film Market) at the Hotel Imperial was the place to be. Over 460 exhibitors were there to showcase their films, television series and all sorts of technical equipment to the 2,400 MIFA delegates. 63 countries were represented and for the first time a production company from the tiny island nation of Malta had a booth to show off their stop motion preschool children's television series Teddyland.

For those of us who were there to see film, the opening night feature was Monsters University preceded by Sashka Unseld's Pixar short The Blue Umbrella which I wrote about at length in my Trickfilm/Stuttgart article.

This year the traditional hub of the festival, The Bonlieu, is undergoing renovation to enlarge the back stage area so that the theatre will be able to host opera and ballet productions. This meant that the main screening room was moved to a temporary pre-fab building erected especially for the festival inside the walls of the Salle de Haras. Until a few years ago the Haras, constructed in 1806, was a stable and horse training center inside the walls of an old convent. The king kept his stallions there so that he would have horses to ride when he came to Annecy.

Unfortunately Salle de Haras was a smaller theatre so not everyone could be invited to opening night. There was a special press screening of Monsters University in the afternoon before the opening ceremony.

With fewer seats this year I can understand that it was impossible to give everyone a ticket to the opening night screening, but what I cannot understand is why the Short Animation Competition directors were invited to the opening night screening but were not invited to the opening night party at La Plage following the opening. This is the first time in my memory that these directors have not received an invitation. La Plage has not shrunk and has always been able to accommodate everyone.

When Nik and I entered the party it was immediately evident that the event was for feature film directors, their entourages, and money people, with nary a short film director in sight. There was a party at La Plage for the short film directors the next night after the Pixar/Disney Renderman party, but that is not the same as the opening fete. Animators work long solitary hours to create their films and have slim hopes for money or recognition unless they are extremely lucky. Animators also spend a great deal of their own money to come to Annecy not ! to mention the high cost of a place to stay for a week, so a ticket to the opening night party seems a small token of appreciation from a festival.

I was pleased with the overall quality of the 5 short film competitions. I have watched the progress of Robbe Vervaeke's beautifully painted on glass film Norman for the last couple of years. Robbe graduated from KASK in 2008 and his studio is close to my home. I have seen Norman at other somewhat less than perfect screenings where the sound has not been correct and the picture looked too dark and indistinct, but at Annecy, Robbe's film, the story of a man obsessed by the smallest detail and strange habits, sparkled and the soundtrack really stood out. Obviously the jury agreed with me because Norman won the award for best first time professional film.

Any film by Dutch animator Rosto always needs several viewings to catch all of the subtle references and Lonely Bones, his latest film which combines live action with computer animation, is no exception. The film is the second of a planned trilogy of music films featuring the band Thee Wreckers and it continues where No Place Like Home left off. The film makes references to crucifixion, resurrection, and the souls of the dead and demons down below in strong visual images. I have watched the film a couple of more times here at home and each time I find new little touches that make me laugh. Rosto took home the SACEM Award as the composer of the original music. He is also the group's lead singer.

In an entirely different vein The Wound tells a poignant tale of a lonely, bitter little girl whose resentment and estrangement from the world around her are manifest in a monster that feeds on her anguish. As she grows elderly the monster grows from a small companion to a gigantic monster that finally completely dominates her life. Russian animator Anna Budanova's use of space, muted images, and no dialogue set the perfect tone for her poignant film. Anna Budanova won a special jury award for The Wound.

On my first evening at Annecy I had drinks with Chris Landreth, 2004 Best Short Animation Oscar winner for Ryan. When I asked him what his new film was about he just smiled and said "we'll talk after you see it". I don't want to ruin the delightful surprise that awaits viewers when they see Subconscious Password! but I will say that it is one of the funniest animations that I have seen in a long time. I still laugh whenever I think of Chris' take on a situation that is all too familiar to all of us.

Subconscious Password is a far cry from Landreth's previous cerebral, psychoanalytical films. When I later asked him about his complete change of style and story he told me (and I paraphrase this) that he is "getting older" and instead of serious probing of the psyche he has lightened up.

I think that Subconscious Password was clearly the most creative film at the festival this year. I was very pleased to see that Chris took home the coveted crystal for Best Short Animation. When his name was announced he looked totally amazed and surprised. The film produced by Marcy Page of the National Film Board of Canada and Toronto's Mark Smith of Copper Heart Production is another example in a long line of award winning films that shows what ! a brilliant, creative asset Marcy is to NFB.

The daily noon press conferences were an opportunity to listen to directors and animators talk about their films. I have seen the wonderful Spanish feature film O Apostolo twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. The story of an escaped convict who tries to retrieve his hidden loot in a remote village where he had stashed it years before is delightfully macabre.

I was fascinated to finally get to see O Apostplo's extremely detailed puppets up close and to listen to director Fernando Cortizo Rodriguez and Executive Producer Isabel Ray Sastre speak about the making of the film. O Apostolo was made with puppets and handmade backgrounds (no computers were used). The score by Phillip Glass added just the right rich, sinister undertones to the film without dominating it.

Although the film is not based on any one true anecdote, the 3D stop motion feature combines folklore, traditions and the history of Northern Spain. Sinister old people, odd disappearances, spirits, a strange parish priest, and even the archpriest of Santiago de Compostela come together in a tale full of humor, terror, and fantasy. It was definitely made for adults. It will be released in Spain and across Latin America in 2014. As often happens with intelligent adult animation the film has no U.S. distributor so far.

Each year I begin my visit to Annecy with The Big Sleep, a screening that honors our colleagues who have passed away since the last Annecy. During the past 12 months we lost 9 great talents from the world of animation. Tribute was paid to Czech puppet master Bretislav Pojar; Feodor Khitruk, an important figure in post war Soviet cinema, known to generations of Russian children as the creator of the Soviet version of Winnie-the-Pooh; Gerrit Van Dijk, Dutch pioneer animator and inspiration to a countless number of younger animators; Dave Borthwik of Great Britain whose feature The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb won numerous awards and Hungarian master of drawn animation Csaba Varga.

We also lost Leif Marcussen, Danish master of experimental animation and British producer John Coates who produced the disturbing classic When the Wind Blows which addresses a nuclear attack on the British Isles along with many other memorable films. The brilliant British animator Bob Godfrey, much loved for his joie de vive and wicked sense of humor, left us with so many memorable films in his 92 years on earth. Run Wake of Great Britain left us far too soon at the! age of 47. Although he only made 3 films, his 2005 Rabbit is already a classic. These animation greats may not be with us any longer but they will live on in the many beautiful films they have left us.

This year the festival spotlight was on Polish animation. I was happy to see my friend Jerzy Kucia receive a Special Crystal Award for Lifetime Achievement. Jerzy brings together music and drawing to create very lyrical films such as his Reflections (1979), a film rich in ironic thoughts on life, rivalry, and senseless fighting. The film was chosen by a panel of animation experts as one of the 50 most outstanding films created during ASIFA's first half century of existence.

The 3 programs devoted to Polish animation encompassed a broad range of styles, topics, and animators. In Zbigniew Rybczynski's Plamuz (1973) he used rotoscoping to create a visual equivalent of a piece of jazz. Zbigniew has won numerous awards including an Oscar for Tango in 1982. Damian Nenow's Paths of Hate is at the other end of the viewing spectrum. The 2010 exploration of what pushes people into the abyss of blind hate, fury, and rage was short listed for an Oscar, honoured at Annecy with a Special Distinction Award and was named Best of Show at SIGGRAPH 2011.

Since 1985 ASIFA has given an annual award to an individual or organization that has made a significant and innovative contribution to the promotion and/ or preservation of animation. This year the prize was awarded to Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto. Bruno's 1976 Allegro Non Troppo, which featured 6 pieces of classical music in an adult parody of Disney's Fantasia, is considered an animation classic. My personal favourite of Bruno's films is Europe vs. Italy which is an extremely humorous and clever commentary on European versus Italian Sociocultural attributes.

Bruno's award was a framed drawing created especially for him by Tyrus Wong, a 102 year old animator who worked on Walt Disney's classic Bambi, one of Bozzetto's favourite films. The award was presented to Bruno on stage and was followed by a screening of Allegro Non Troppo.

I am still not sure what to think about the "special premier "of Disney's new theatrical short Get A Horse. The audience was told that this was a never before seen short starring Mickey Mouse and featuring the voice of Walt Disney himself as Mickey. The black and white hand drawn short is a musical wagon ride with Mickey, his long suffering girlfriend Minnie, Horrace Horsecollar, and Clarabelle Cow.

Director Lauren MacMullon who conceived the idea of bringing Mickey back to life began the presentation with a talk about the discovery of the old story board for the unfinished Mickey Mouse short Get A Horse. This was followed by a screening of pristine prints of two classic Mickey's Plane Crazy and Steam Boat Willie.

Get A Horse purports to start out as an actual 1928 Disney cartoon that had been "forgotten" for years, but a little way into the film a full color 3D rendered Mickey appears. From then on the film mixes classic 1920's style hand drawn animation with modern 3D effects. To achieve the 1928 look aging and blur filters ! were added for the CG part and new models were created that were faithful to the 1928 character designs.

After the film, legendary Disney animator Eric Goldberg took center stage to share his encyclopedic knowledge of Mickey's early years. As the audience watched him draw it was obvious that he was able to create "authentic" images of Mickey. His drawing, the emphasis that MacMullan kept putting on the yellow aging of the drawing paper and the old style peg board paper along with Disney Studio being very coy about the film's origins make me think that the entire film is a hoax, but if it is, does it really matter? The film is fun and it was nice to see Mickey and friends on the big screen again. Get A Horse will open in theatres later this year in front of Frozen.

I made a point of attending an "Animation Off Limits" screening because I was very curious to see Canadian animators Chris Lavis and Maciek Szczerbokski's latest film Cochemare. I had a couple of drinks with Chris and Special Effects wizard Peter Bas who created the amazing special effects for Madam Tutli-Putli and Higglety Pigglety Pop as well as for their newest film. It is easy to understand why the effects on Chris and Maciek's films look so great when I learned that Bas has created special effects on such blockbusters as Harry Potter and the Order of the Pheonix, Superman Returns, and Beowolf.

Cochemare blends a small amount of live action with stereoscopic 3D animation to take us on a journey from the mystical Forests of Storms to the orbiting International Space Station. According to Chris the film blends voyeurism, femininity, and separation of body and mind to illustrate the erotic dream of an astronaut.

I need to watch the film again because like a Rosto film, Cochemare is very layered and full of subtle images and references. I have a feeling that many people thought that the film was primarily live action but Chris told me that they only used the actress for the masturbation scene and the rest of the film was shot using a remarkably life like latex puppet.

On Wednesday evening there was a very special event at the Chateau Museum to celebrate the publication of Philippe Moins and Maurice Corbet's book Raoul Servais, Voyage en Servaisgraphics. "Servaisgraphy" refers to the artistic process invented by Raoul Servais which he used during the production of Papillons de Nuit which won the Annecy Grand ! Prix in 1998 and Taxondria in 1995 which is considered an animation classic.

Raoul was present and showed several of his original drawings for the films during the round table discussion which was followed by celebratory drinks. Papillons de Nuit and Taxandria were shown on the large screen in the museum courtyard that evening.

On other evenings the Chateau courtyard presented such excellent films as Crulic ... The Path Beyond which won the 2012 Annecy Cristal for Best Feature and a program of Jerzy Kucia shorts. These outdoor screenings were designed for adults while the other big screen in the park by the lake showed family friendly fare such as Hotel Transylvania and Monsters Inc. to packed crowds.

Even with all of the films to watch, the parties and receptions are the most important part of this festival because this is where you make contacts, find out what new projects people are working on, and talk business.


The second part covers the social scene, official and impromptu parties, great feasts including one hosted by the German film industry and others hosted by the Russian Film Commission, the Irish Film Commission, Canada's NFB and other government associations, the 7th annual Annecy screening that she organizes with Bill Plympton, the Annecy picnic and paddle boat race that she and Nik host and much more including details about more new films and annual appearances of the Annecy+ band. One new film I'm anxious to see after reading about it is Georges Schwizgbel's Chemin faisant (Along the Way), a painted on glass film that is a meditative stroll.

Nancy also writes about her brush with the law! "The French gendarmes showed up and demanded! There was no reasoning with the gendarmes, they meant business!" Read what happened and the rest of her informative article online at


By Nancy Denney-Phelps
Beirut, Lebanon, 14-18 June 2013

My first trip to the Middle East proved to be the amazing experience I had expected it to be. Unfortunately I had to miss the first two days of the Beirut Animated Festival due to commitments at Annecy. I left early on Sunday morning from the Geneva airport. My first surprise came when I landed at the Beirut airport. The festival staff had told me that I could purchase a visa when I arrived at the airport, but as it turned out with my official invitation to participate in a cultural event, there was no charge for my visa. Even though I would only be there for four days, the visa was issued to me for a month.

With a minimal staff and a very limited budget, festival director Sarra Maali and her staff have created an impressive festival. Headquartered at the beautiful Metropolis Cinema, it combined the best of Middle Eastern animation with a varied selection of international features and short animated films. The opening night was kicked off with a screening of the French feature The Rabbi’s Cat and I was told that the several hundred seat theatre was full.

Along with giving Lebanese audiences the opportunity to see high quality animation that is seldom screened in local theatres, the festival was designed to be a platform where Lebanese, Arabic, and International animators can meet to exchange ideas and discuss issues related to the production and development of animation. I was very sorry to miss the Saturday afternoon panel discussion about the independent animation scene in Lebanon. According to the catalogue the panel was divided into four sections. Educators discussed how animation is taught in Lebanese Universities, representatives from production companies debated the question of what place does animation have in their yearly production strategies, and three members of the animation community discussed the pros and cons of commercial versus independent work. A showcase of films by independent animators rounded out the program.

The evening screenings began with two programs of Lebanese and Arab short films. I would like to have seen them with an audience but the festival did arrange for me to watch all of the films in a screening room the next day. As might be expected in a city that has been torn apart by Civil War, many of the films centered on coping with memories of war and the past and present threat of being drawn into the bloody Syrian conflict.

I was extremely impressed and moved by Lina Ghaibeh’s film Burj El Murr: Tower of Bitterness. Burj El Murr, built to be the Beirut Trade Center, is a forty story skyscraper begun in 1970 but never completed due to the Civil War (1975 to 1990). Because of its strategic location in the city and its height, the tower was occupied by the armed militia. They used the upper floors as a sniper hideout and the basement as a prison for hostages. Although most of Beirut’s city center was destroyed during the war or razed to the ground during post war reconstruction, Burj El Murr is still waiting to be demolished. The empty tower rises above the city as a grim reminder of the past. Ghaibeh captured the horrific memories that the tower evokes to city residents.

Lina teaches animation and motion graphics at the American University of Beirut as well as being a comic artist. During the festival there was a book signing for her new book about the sad story of the Lebanese train stations. The country’s rail service began in the 1890’s and continued through most of the 20th century as the last stop of the legendary Orient Express. During the civil war many miles of track were destroyed and rail service ceased to exist.

Lina taught a class at American University’s Department of Architecture entitled Hijaz Railway, Illustrating Stations in Time: Graphic Narratives of a Journey Through Lebanon’s Railway Stations. She and her students visited abandoned stations along the Hijaz line searching for remnants of the stations’ once glorious past and interviewing people about their memories of riding the trains. They turned the stories into short graphic novels which were collected together to form a book. There are also photographs of some of the train stations along with pictures of the students and the mementos they found along the way.

The week before the festival Beirut Animated offered a week long workshop. Seven young Arab animators collaborated to produce a short film about Mar Mikhael railroad station. The film makers set out to make the train, stuck in the station since it was abandoned in 1975, move once again through the magic of animation. The closing night audience was thrilled to see the old train move again even if it was only for a short while on film. You can watch the film at: brofessionalreview.com/tag/David-Habchy

Fouad by Joan Baz and David Habchy also carried quite a punch. The film, about the constant fears that haunt young Fouad whose father is one of 17,000 disappeared, is intensified by the use of black and white. Fouad was commissioned by “Act for the Disappeared”, a Lebanese Human Rights Organization.

Tunisian animator Nadia Rais’ L’ Mrayet told the story of Boum Mrayet who is hired by a firm specializing in writing the future so that they can always control it. I saw the 12 minute drawn film at the 2012 Annecy Animation Festival and enjoyed seeing it again as much as I did the first time.

The two International Shorts programs gave the audiences a chance to see what is being created in other parts of the world. Though I have seen and written about all of the films before, from the lead off film, Oh Willy, to Oh Sheep!, which concluded the second program, the selection was so good that I was happy to see them all again.

The feature length films were of equally high quality. Acclaimed animator Don Hertzfeldt’s It’s Such A Beautiful Day was screened as well as Chris Sullivan’s Consuming Spirits. Sullivan’s film is about as far from a cartoon for kids as animation can get. The story of three colleagues who have a long, bizarre history together seamlessly combines cut out animation, pencil drawing, collage, and stop motion and took over a decade to complete.

The beautiful French, Belgian, Luxembourg co-production Ernest and Celestine was screened on Sunday afternoon when the entire family could enjoy it. The festival held the Lebanese premier, after which the film will be on screens all across Lebanon.

A special evening was devoted to a tribute to the master of cinematic special effects Ray Harryhausen. I have seen Richard Schickel’s documentary The Harryhausen Chronicles several times before, and the sixty minute look into the life and hard work of a genius continues to fascinate me. No matter how many times I watch it I always discover new details. Harryhausen’s masterpiece, The 7th Voyage of Sinbad was screened next and it was pure delight to see the Cyclops, dragon and sword welding skeletons come to life after hearing him talk about creating them in the documentary.

A retrospective program of anime dubbed into Arabic brought three classics that aired across the Arabic world during the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. Al Amira Yaqout (1967), Zena Wa Nahoul (1975), and Lady Oscar (1979) are all noteworthy because they all featured female heroines.

I was pleased to present and talk about a program of historical animation. Although the audience was not large, the people who attended were very interested in what I showed. Many people came up after the screening to thank me for showing so many films from the past such as Hoppin and Gross’s Joie de Vivre and Max Fleischer’s Swing You Sinner which have never been shown in Beirut before and wanted to know where they could find more of these classics to watch.

An interactive animation, Approximate Feast created by Lantian Xie, was installed on a screen in the theatre lobby. When an observer watches from a distance, the group of Arab men dining on the screen are busy consuming a traditional meal of lamb on top of a bed of rice. As the viewer approaches nearer to the screen, the diners become increasingly cautious and timid until they stop eating all together leaving their meal untouched. As the “intruder” retreats away, the diners return to their feast. Lantian Xie was born in China and raised in Bahrain and The United Arab Emirate. He studied at the Chicago Art Institute and Approximate Feast was previously exhibited in London and Denver, Colorado.

A large audience attended the closing night screening of Katsuhrio Otomo’s Akira. The 1988 manga classic is extremely violent. Tokyo is wiped out by a silent explosion of light and replaced by Neo Tokyo where gangs of bikers clash ultra-violently in the streets. An old man in a child’s body witnesses a bloody execution which causes him to unleash a psychic shock wave that shatters the glass of the surrounding mega structures and this is all in the first twenty minutes. Otomo revealed in a recent interview that he plans to begin a new manga series set in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s during Japan’s Meiji period.

The day after the festival was officially over at the theatre, Joan Baz and David Habchy, two founding members of the Waraq Collective, launched the Manara Hully Gully project as part of Animation in the City, which is a joint project between Beirut Animated and members of the Waraq Collective. The gigantic Manara Hully Gully or Spinning Bride in Luna Park, an amusement park on a bluff overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, was transformed into a large zoetrope with the aid of Velcro and painted paper cups. Participants designed patterns on a peg board grid using red, blue, and yellow push pins, the colors of the cups. Once the pattern was finished, the cups with Velcro on the bottom were attached to Velcro strips on the outside of the Hully Gully. As The Dancing Bride revolved, the audience could see the pattern projected onto a big screen at the exact speed of a camera shutter giving the illusion of a moving picture.

If the amazing patterns are hard to imagine you can read a complete explanation of the project and see the Hully Gully in action at

http://now.mmedia.me/lb/en/acblogs/how-we-made-a-giant-zoetrope .

After successfully completing this project Joan Baz and David Habchy hope to receive a grant to develop their zoetrope idea further.

One afternoon I visited the Waraq Collective and met all four of the founding members. The quartet lives and creates art in an old yellow house called Beit Waraq which is an open cultural space for the community. They host monthly workshops in illustration, animation, art direction, and performing arts. There are also screenings of a wide variety of animation and live action filmsin their lovely tree shaded garden courtyard.

The yellow house was the birth place of the Hully Gully project. I spent a lovely afternoon sitting in the cool courtyard sticking Velcro on the bottom of the paper cups while getting to know these talented artists. I am very happy that they allowed me to play a small part in the project. My afternoon at Waraq Collective is a very special memory.

I also met comic book artist Fadi Baqi (also known as Fdz) at the collective. Fadi is one of the leaders of the small but growing number of comic authors in the Middle East. He is also one of the publishers of Samandal, a multi lingual comic magazine. According to Fadi “Samandal aims to produce a comic book revolution that will herald a new era of peace and understanding between cultures in the Middle East and the rest of the world”.

Samandal publishes in Arabic, French, and English in each issue, with sections switching between left-to-right and right-to-left. The editors hit upon an innovation they call a “floppy page”. The “floppy page” tells the reader to flip the book upside down to continue reading the next selection. Submissions for this very adult comic are welcome from all over the world. I came home with a big stack of these wonderful books thanks to a very generous gift from Fadi. I am really enjoying reading them so much. They are a nice reminder of my visit to Beirut.

On another afternoon I was invited to visit Future Television station by George Khoury, who has been head of the animation department since it was launched in 1993. The station has a very active and full animation staff so they broadcast a great deal of animation. I got to watch a selection of their work while I was there. Although much of their animated content is short political pieces they also produce children’s programs and some fun projects such as an animated soap opera. The soap ran for two years and the inside joke was that the images of the characters were based on people who worked at the station. George kindly burned four DVD’s of animation that he and his excellent team have produced. I have watched them several times since I have been home and even though they are all in Arabic, the political messages and humor translate visually. I truly appreciate the time George and his crew spent with me and allowing me to see another creative side of animation in Beirut.

I can’t thank Festival Director Sarra Maali and Lina Younes, part of the festival artistic team, enough for inviting me to Beirut Animated. Lina, along with Sarra and her husband Hisham Youness generously opened their homes to me which gave me a real picture of life in the city. I especially want to thank them for the wonderful opportunity I had to sample the diverse food of the city. I will never forget the beautiful restaurant that Lina took me to where I had the chance to sample a vast array of Armenian delicacies. The lamb stewed in cherries was a truly amazing dish. I also appreciated the opportunity to enjoy home cooking at Sarra and Hisham’s home where I ate traditional food that was made by his mother. On my flight back home I was the envy of all of the passengers sitting near me when I declined the airplane meal and pulled out the homemade meal that Sarra and Hisham packed for me.

Even though I was only in Beirut for four short days I will never forget the Arab animation that I saw or the sights, sounds, and tastes of that exciting city teaming with night life, and most of all the marvelous people that I met. If you are ever lucky enough to be invited to Beirut Animated be sure not to miss this wonderful experience and I hope that I will be invited back to the festival again soon. To learn more about the 3rd edition of Beirut Animation visit


Photos http://sprockets.animationblogspot.com/

WILL MICKEY MOUSE SUCCEED AS AN INTERNET STAR? by KC In 2013 Disney released 19 Mickey Mouse cartoons made for the Internet using Flash or similar software. They differ from older hand-drawn Mickey cartoons both in terms story design and in the way the characters look and move. I sent links to two of them to a few people and was fascinated by some of the comments they wrote back. There was a mixture of reactions from enjoyment to dislike, but what really caught my attention was Howard Beckerman pointing out the new shorts! represented current aesthetic tastes/values.

Howard is a retired NY animator, teacher at NY's School for Visual Arts, author of Animation, the Whole Story and former head of ASIFA-East. He wrote me, "I find that I can appreciate them for the attempt to bring the Disney brand into the new century. Flash is a popular medium for animation, and if Walt had it he would have been the first to use it… Disney publicity obscures the fact that you can't repeat the past. For instance, most efforts to do so, such as redos of Felix the Cat or Betty Boop, failed to satisfy audiences. Characters come from a sensibility that exists at the time of their creation… Different tastes for different times. To those who bemoan the loss of depression era animation, I say,"Move on'."

Some younger people indicate they find the cartoons fun and entertaining examples of the abbreviated and simplified work being done in Flash, while several older members find the art awkward looking. One person even called the art "weird." Another person pointed out the story concepts are basically extending one joke over two or three minutes. I suspect that it is easier for younger people to accept the new work as they probably didn't grow up seeing lots of 1930's and"40s Mickey Mouse cartoons so they don't compare the new ones to the old ones. Comments by some of the old! er writers who grew up watching a lot of Mickey were more critical, but animation historian Jerry Beck qualified his opinion by saying, "I think the new ones are great for modern cartoons."

I see the new cartoons as a natural development using the latest cost-cutting technology and short attention span pacing that doesn't allow for much or any plot or character development. The approach isn't new; it simply stands out as a departure from the style and content of Mickey's hand-drawn films and his earlier well rendered CG theatrical shorts.

The new Mickey does not conform to his traditional image, neither in style nor content. Although his look has evolved over the years in subtle ways, the latest version lacks the charm and attractiveness of the older versions of the mouse. It is possibly too radical a departure from the past for people familiar with the older films. Fortunately there is a theatrical Mickey cartoon, Get a Horse, that begins with a traditional hand-drawn look. It will be released in December with the Snow Queen and historian Jerry Beck says we are in store for real treat.

Howard Beckerman reminds us that this aesthetic conflict has happened many times over the years including when MGM ended the Hanna-Barbara Tom and Jerry cartoons and later revised the theatrical series with Gene Deitch and then Chuck Jones. Aesthetic conflicts can also be seen when theatrical cartoon stars including Popeye, Koko, Felix the Cat, and others were brought back to life in low budget TV shows.

So will the new Mickey cartoons stay popular? Nancy Phelps says she isn't fond of the new shorts and people may dislike them, but "if it is continually crammed down their throat (especially on television) they begin to accept it as the norm."

Enjoy seeing films that will be considered for Academy Award nomination.

With special guest artists

Monday, Sept. 23, at Dolby Labs in SF
100 Potrero Ave. 7:00 pm, free, arrive early to sign in at the guard's desk
It is necessary to RSVP to karlcohen@earthlink.net by 6pm, Sept. 22
Limit 1 guest as this is a small theatre - RSVPs will be confirmed
Not a member? Visit www.asifa-sf.org for membership information

Wednesday, Sept. 25 at San Jose State University
In the Morris Dailey Auditorium, 7:30 pm, free, no RSVP needed

Once again Ron Diamond is selecting an exceptional program of films. All are in high-resolution digital formats and some are in stereoscopic 3D. While the list of films and guests has not yet been announced, you can check The Animation Sh! ow of Shows' Facebook page before the event's performance in SF. The event has consistently featured films that have subsequently gone on to be considered for Oscar nominations. To date 24 from past shows have been nominated and eight in past shows have received the award (Father and Daughter, 2000; Harvie Krumpet, 2003; Ryan, 2004; The Danish Poet, 2006; La Maison en Petite Cubes (The House of Small Cubes), 2008; The Lost Thing, 2010; The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore 2011 and Paperman 2012.


Ron will also be bringing hard to find DVDs of international animation, including many films in past Animation Show of Shows, will be available in the lobby before and after this program. There are three films on each DVD and individual DVDs are only $5. Deluxe, boxed sets of six DVDs are $30. They are also available online from www.filmporium.com.


The National Film Board of Canada (NFB), in collaboration with ASIFA-SF and SIGGRAPH-SF, present


FRIDAY, SEPT. 27, 7:00 PM
Letterman Theatre, free to ASIFA-SF members and their guests (1 or 2)
RSVP necessary to karlcohen@earthlink.net

Chris Landreth, who won an Academy Award for Ryan in 2005 and recently the Grand Prize at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival for Subconscious Password , his first film in stereoscopic (S-3D). He will show both films and discuss the innovative concepts, complex digital techniques and b! old characterizations in his unique career.

At Annecy 2013 Theodore Ushev was given the Fipresci Award by the International Federation of Film Critics for Gloria Victoria. This new film completes his trilogy with Tower Bawher (2005) and Drux Flux (2009). The series focuses on the revolutionary relationship between art, industry and power using imagery reminiscent of the Russian constructivists. All three films will be screened in S-3D.

Additional recent NFB shorts: Hollow Land by Michelle and Uri Kranot, The End of Pinky (S-3D) by Claire Blanchet, and Impromptu (S-3D) by Bruce Alcock will be shown. A trailer for Hollow Land is included in an article praising the Kranot's film at




Newsletter Editor: Karl Cohen
Contributors include Nancy Denney-Phelps, Corrie Francis Parks and Dan Bessie.
Cover illustration by Ricci Carrasquillo
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Mailing Crew: Shirley Smith, Dan Steves, Denise McEvoy & Dot
Web Crew: Joe Sikoryak, Steve Segal, Randy Bravo-Chavez, Patty Hemenway and Dan Steves
Special thank to Stephen Parr of Oddball Film for hosting our July party, to Nancy Denney-Phelps for representing our chapter on the international ASIFA board, to Dan Steves who keeps our mailing list up-to-date and 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 $26 a year or $42 for joint local & international ASIFA-SF is a chapter of: Association Internationale du Film d'Animation with almost 40 chapters around the world. Local membership is $26 a year or $42 for joint local & international membership.

Our website and blog is: www.asifa-sf.org

Mail can be sent to: karlcohen@earthlink.net
or to PO Box 225263, SF CA 9412 membership.

Our website and blog is: www.asifa-sf.org

Mail can be sent to: karlcohen@earthlink.net or to PO Box 225263, SF CA 94122