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

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

May 2015



We are accepting entries from college students, independent and professional animators. Membership in ASIFA-SF is not required. We prefer shorts under 9 minutes. Send us a DVD by May 26th if possible. Works selected will be listed on the events flyer. If the work isn't finished write us what to expect.! Late entries will be accepted. No entry fee. Send entries on a DVD (film file, we may not be able to show Data files and can not download files over the Internet) Mail to Karl Cohen, 478 Frederick, SF, CA 94117 karlcohen@earthlink.net

This year the celebration is on Thursday, June 11, 7 PM at Dolby Labs, 100 Potrero Ave. SF. Arrive early to sign in. Program will end with a screening of 35mm prints of animated classics.


What Does Winning the OSCAR for Best Animated Feature Really Mean When Most of the Voters Don't Take Animation Too Seriously?

ANIMA BRUSSELS Ushered in the Year of the Sheep in Grand Style, February 13-22, 2015 at the Flagey in Brussels, Belgium by Nancy Denny-Phelps

Was DREAMWORKS HOME Really A Surprise Hit?

A Major Animation Celebration is Being Presented in New York

HEALD COLLEGE, A For-Profit School Has Closed

Several Short Films on the Internet, Plus Lots More News and Information


PIXAR'S INSIDE OUT GOT IMMEDIATE PRAISE AT CINEMACON, AN EVENT FOR THEATRE OWNERS The annual trade event in Los Vegas promotes new film and products. The Hollywood Reporter said it earned immediate praise for its smart storyline. The film goes inside the head of a young girl, where five different emotions — joy, anger, disgust, fear and sadness — try to run the inner workings of their 11-year old keeper.” The film's world premiere will be at the Cannes Film Festival and it opens in theaters June 19.

Inside Out is Pixar's first release since summer 2013. This year Disney will also release Pixar's The Good Dinosaur on Nov. 25. There will be no film from Disney Animation Studios in 2015. Their next product will be Zootopia, and it opens March 4, 2016.

At CinemaCon Disney also showed trailers for Tomorrowland directed by Brad Bird (May 22), Ant-Man (July 17), Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Dec. 18) and Avengers: Age of Ultron. The theatre owners who saw Inside Out were also treated to their first glimpse of Dolby Vision, a new high dynamic range (HDR) projection system which provides greater contrast and a wider color gamut.” Tomorrowland and Inside Out will be the first movies released in that format. 2015 could be Disney' s most profitable year ever!

A fun sounding product that was on display in Vegas was the 4D theatre from MediaMation. Their MediaMation MX4D Motion EFX theatre includes moving seats, air/water blasts and other special effects. There are about 100 theatres in the world that feature this system. Upcoming releases in the MediaMation format include Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tomorrowland, Poltergeist, San Andreas and Mad Max: Fury Road.

A SALVADOR DALI EXHIBIT IS COMING TO THE DISNEY MUSEUM The Walt Disney Family Museum and The Dalí Museum in St. Petersburg, FL are proud to announce Disney and Dalí: Architects of the Imagination, on view from July 10, 2015 through January 3, 2016 at the Walt Disney Family Museum and at The Dalí Museum late January through June 2016.

ASIFA-SFS CAREERS IN ANIMATION PANEL OFFERED LOTS OF POSITIVE SUGGESTIONS TO OUR AUDIENCE The discussions focused on getting started with an animation career. While there is a decline in jobs in the feature industry in the US, the panel talked a lot about the growth of studios creating a variety of different kinds of shorter products. Most of the work is on a job by job basis. Short term employment can offer you a wide range of experiences where one can develop a variety of skills. Those projects may last for just a few days to well over a year. The young worker should be flexible and should be willing to develop several skills instead of focusing on using what you consider to be your main talent. You may love to draw, but there is more likely to be ! a need for a compositor.

In terms of getting started you are more likely to succeed if you have a demo reel or personal short that demonstrates you worked hard in college and learned as much as possible. One person said your best industry contact may turn out to be somebody who graduated from your school a year before you.

When asked about finding internships, there apparently are fewer available this year, so you may need to do a lot searching to find one. Use caution. Some short term unpaid internships may prove to be rip-offs that want gofers, but others may give you the opportunity to learn a valuable skill. They are worth considering. Useful internships can offer valuable, unique training experiences.

Working in games and with new animation technology was discussed as was working overseas and in Canada. All of the panel members had at one point worked abroad.

People with well-established careers like John Hays, former president of WildBrain, see a tremendous growth potential working on international projects. He is directing TV commercials for an ad agency in Paris and the production studio is in Thailand.

One valuable piece of advice is to continue working on upgrading your sample reel when you are unemployed. Use your non-employed time wisely. Create something even better than your current reel. You need to impress the trade with your abilities. There were also conversations about how to get useful exposure for your work on the Internet and at festivals.

The panel included John Hays, George Evelyn, Tom Knott and Scott Kravitz. Both Tom and Scott are presently working on a short for Google. George Evelyn was a last minute substitute for Charlie Canfield who was under a great deal of pressure to complete a rush freelance project. George is an animation director who recently returned from LA where he spent two years directing a preschool children's show for the Disney Channel that he also helped develop and write. His career has included work at WildBrain, Colossal Pictures, Mill Valley Animation, Korty Films and with other studios. He has also directed jobs that were produced in Asia and Europe.

Martha Gorzycki, who heads the SFSU animation program added. All the panel members emphasized how today's animators and production persons need to have flexibility, join professional organizations for networking contacts and be self-motivated in upgrading their skills all the time. Even if a studio hires a person at the entry level, most positions are precarious and short-term. Once someone has gainful employment, it is in his/her best interest to learn all he/she can about the studio, be engaged in the company's activities and learning opportunities. This can help a new employee become more valuable to the company, a means to move through the ranks.

LATE NEWS: On the last weekend of April the Heald College owners closed the remaining campuses that were still operating without giving notice. That included their SF campus and the other 37 schools that were still open. That was one week after the new term had started. I assume tuitions were paid, teachers were fired and students were screwed.

This notice was added to the May issue just before the issue went to press.

HEALD COLLEGE IS IN THE PROCESS OF CLOSING For several years our newsletter has been reporting on the student loan crisis, various scandals over fraudulent recruiting practices and other problems with for profit colleges. While the outcome of the seven billion dollar case against Education Management Corporation, which runs the Art Institute of California schools, is still pending, the Heald chain case has been settled and the campuses are now for sale.

Students, who are some of the neediest in the country, must have been desperate to attend Heald. A CNN story said they were paying $22,275 at Heald in Fresno to get a medical assistant diploma while the same degree at the local Fresno community college cost $1,650. A paralegal degree from Everest University (owned by the same corporation that ran Heald), costs over $40,000, while the same degree costs around $3,000 from a community college.

The losers in this scam are of course the students. The students and faculty members held a demonstration in Sacramento in April Kamala Harris, our state's attorney general, to keep the schools open so students could complete their educations.

On an Internet blog one student from Los Gatos commented that he had good teachers, but I really feel ripped off and like I wasted over a year of my life at the school. The Heald advisors told him his course credits would be accepted by the CSU system. That was a lie! He concluded, I was a sucker who now owes nearly $20,000 for nearly nothing.

Also, in April The U.S. Department of Education announced it will fine Heald College $30 million and will bar the once venerable business school from enrolling new students because a federal investigation found that its owner, Corinthian Colleges Inc., made nearly 1,000 misleading job placement claims. The most absurd one I read about was their claim that they had a 100% success rate in finding employment for their graduates in 14 of their degree programs. The government found many of those who were supposedly successfully employed were not working anywhere.

The SF Chronicle has reported numerous sleazy practices including claiming that former students who were hired to work at the school to do short temp jobs were placed in the full time jobs they were trained for. Other cases of fraud were claiming graduates who were actually working in low paying retail jobs unrelated to their course of studies were successfully started on wonderful careers. The school claimed one former student had a job as an accountant was actually working at a Taco Bell and a business administration career turned out to be a sales job at Macy's.

Kamala Harris and attorney generals in eight other states are asking the Dept. of Education in Washington to use some of the assets of Heald to pay thousands of former student debt relief.

Heald is part of a chain of schools owned by Corinthian Colleges. Corinthian also owns Everest University, Everest University Online and Wyotech. The parent corporation has agreed to close and sell off all of their 107 campuses. They also must pay a $16 million fine.

While the closure of the Corinthian chain may seem like good news, a cynical reporter pointed out that the law doesn't stop another corporation from reopening the property sold as for profit schools and continue fleecing students who want a degree, but who probably do not have the skills needed to be successful in college. Remember many for-profit colleges accept anybody who can get a student loan, regardless of their qualifications.

DID JOHN LASSETERS ARTISTS INFRINGE ON THE COPYRIGHT OF A SHORT BY KELLY WILSON WHEN THEY CREATED A TRAILER FOR FROZEN?” Wilson brought a copyright lawsuit against Disney in March 2014. He claims that a Frozen trailer was substantially similar to his short 2D computer-animated film The Snowman. In it a snowman battles a gang of hungry rabbits to save his carrot nose. Two attempts by Disney to have a judge dismiss the suit have failed so the case could go to trial in October. Wilson claims that Pixar/Disney artists saw his film at a festival prior to the trailer being animated, but he may have a hard time proving they plagiarized his work.

BUMMER! HELP FIND THE CARTOON ART MUSEUM A NEW HOME I just got an e-mail that reads, Following a notice to vacate, the Cartoon Art Museum will be closing its doors at 655 Mission Street on Sunday, June 28. They celebrated their 30th anniversary knowing the rent was going up and they would probably have to relocate.
ASIFA-SF wishes them well and hopes they can find a great location that is affordable. Know of such a location? Let them know (415) 227-8666, extension #313. Summerlea Kashar, director office@cartoonart.org

THE GLAS ANIMATION FESTIVAL IS COMING TO BERKELEY IN MARCH 2016 The festival has announced several programs and their call for entries. Jeanette Bonds is their director. www.glasanimation.com


Friday, May 8, 3:30 PM PIXAR PRESENTS A BEHIND-THE-SCENES PRESENTATION ABOUT INSIDE OUT ASIFA-SF members are invited to attend a presentation with Eric Langly, the art manager on Inside Out, at SF State, Coppola Theatre, (Fine Art building room 101), free.

Thursday, May 14, STORY AND TECHNOLOGY WITH BRENDA CHAPMAN, She directed Prince of Egypt (1988), joined Pixar in 2003 where she created, wrote and directed Brave (Oscar, BAFTA and Golden Globe winner). She is currently developing projects for Chapman Lima Productions, Inc., with Kevin Lima. 6:30 pm social hour (drinks and snacks provided), presentation at 7:30. Zynga Theater - 699 8th St, San Francisco, CA 94103 Online registration is required - register at https://tinyurl.com/storyandtechnology, $7.00 for the San Francisco ACM SIGGRAPH members, $15 for public.


VISIT US ONLINE www.asifa-sf.org

MAY 2 – OCT. 15, ANIMATING COMICS 2015 is the 50th anniversary of the Peanut's TV specials so the Charles Schultz Museum is honoring the 70+ specials that have been released. 2301 Harding Road, Santa Rosa, CA. www.schultzmuseum.org


MAJOR ANIMATION CELEBRATION IS BEING PRESENTED IN NEW YORK The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is presenting An Animation Showcase: From Celluloid to CGI,” that began April 24th and ends May 29th. It highlights the techniques of animation with a variety of panels and screenings to explain hand-drawn, stop-motion and computer animation.

The series opened with a presentation from LAIKA, a look behind the scenes with their Creative Supervisor of Puppet Fabrication Georgina Hayns; Annie Award-winning Director of Rapid Prototype Brian McLean, one of Variety's 2012 Animation Elite,” and VFX supervisor Steve Emerson, who worked on The Boxtrolls, ParaNorman and Coraline.

On May 12th the showcase will feature a conversation with members of Blue Sky Studios about their CGI work. The panel will include people who worked on Ice Age and Rio, as well as on the upcoming The Peanuts Movie.! They will take the audience on a journey through the CGI creative process using clips and storyboards to unveil the magic of Blue Sky Studios.

On May 19 film archivist and historian Tommy Stathes will present the History of Silent and Early Sound ! Animation in New York. Tom is a young collector with an extensive film archive of early cartoons created in New York City between 1900 and the late 1920s. The program will have live jazz accompaniment, and will end with one of the first sound-on-film cartoons to be produced in New York, Paul Terry's Dinner Time (1928). ! The above events are at The Academy Theatre, 111 East 59th Street.

On May 29 Pixar will present A Sneak Peek at Inside-Out with Director Pete Docter and producer Jonas Rivera sharing behind-the-scenes details about Pixar's latest feature, its inspiration and what it took to bring it to the big screen. At The School of Visual Arts, 209 East 23rd Street


FREE COPIES OF PIXAR'S RENDERMAN SOFTWARE for non-commercial use is available. Visit Cartoon Brew, March 29, 2015 for details.

WAS DREAMWORKS HOME REALLY A SURPRISE HIT? By KC DreamWorks has had financial trouble as several of its features have under performed. Many people were expecting Home to also do poorly as advanced reviews from overseas festivals were less than enthusiastic. It opened on almost 4,000 screens in the US while Disney's Cinderella was still drawing crowds at the box office. Also the new reviews were mediocre. Only 47% of the 95 reviews that RottenTomatos.com saw were! favorable. Stock market analysts were saying it would only gross between 30 to $35 million. Instead it took in almost $54 million and more in foreign markets. Before the first week was over it had grossed $127 million worldwide. The film's production budget was $135 million.

On Monday, March 30, Cartoon Brew's headline read, DreamWorks Animation Hits A Home Run. That day the value of DreamWorks’ stock went up 7%. Home had one of the best opening weekend grosses of any DreamWorks feature. Only Madagascar 3 ($60.3 million opening) and Kung Fu Panda ($60.2 million) had better openings. It made more than last summer's animated hit How to Train Your Dragon 2 (a $49.5 million opening). Penguins of Madagascar only made $35.5 million over a five day holiday weekend.

So was Home a surprise hit? Three weeks after the film was released it hadn't broken even, but it was in the #3 position on the US box office charts (averaging less than a million a day). The film had grossed $244 million worldwide. When you add in the film's expensive publicity campaign, it probably will need to make over $350 million to break even. I suspect it should do that, and it will make a few million from sale ! of DVDs and Blu-ray discs.

As far as I can tell the film's modest success will be based on several factors. One is the popularity of the book that the film is based on, The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. It apparently is loved by millions of young readers. The film's advance publicity interested them and it got favorable word of mouth from kids that saw it on opening day. It features music by Jennifer Lopez and two of its songs, “Toward the Sun” and “Feel the Light,” have had modest success as singles. Also most of those kids don't care about the film's negative reviews (they probably didn't read them). Even if the reviewers were right when they announced parents will be bored and it is “predictable fun,” the intended audience found it a lot of fun.

Rotten Tomatoes called it, “Colorful, silly and utterly benign, Home is a passable diversion, but there is no shortage of superior animated movies.” A poll of 24,842 adults and kids who have seen it reports that 69% liked it. I suspect the kids liked it more than the parents.

Home is a buddy comedy. The two characters destined to become friends start out by seemingly having nothing in common and they mistrust each other. One is a timid alien and the other is a young girl, the last human in the area where she lives. The villain had captured and moved the other humans elsewhere. Both of the film's heroes are lovable and cute (think of E.T.). Their goal will be for the nice alien to help the young girl find her mother and to save Earth from the wacky villain, Captain Smek, voiced by Steve Martin.

The film moves quickly around the world and like any DreamWork’s film it is full of jokes. The New York Times called it, “A charming concoction with a positive message for younger children about conquering fears, understanding outsiders and knowing your self.”

The film distinguishes itself as having aliens who can change colors, size and shape depending on their mood. They are fun to watch as they are constructed using rubber hose animation, which means they do not have rigid skeletons. Their bodies can squash and stretch freely into many shapes.

The director talks about making Home

Tim Johnson discovered the book his feature is based on in 2007. He got excited about the possibility of turning it into a feature after reading it aloud to his sons who were 5 and 7 at that time. In one interview on the Internet he said he loved the character Captain Smek and called him “insane, arrogant and incredibly chicken.” He also loved the idea of directing a feature about a girl who discovers her enemy can become her best friend. He says, “If you just took the time to understand them, (they) might end up actually becoming your best friend if we just… drop those quick, first judg! ments. Then we might just live in a much, much nicer world.”

The character designs were inspired by Japanese collectable vinyl toys he discovered at a comic convention. He bought a few to show DreamWorks character designer Takao Noguchi. It turned out Noguchi already had a collection of them. Together they developed what the film’s aliens would look like. Johnson says what they created “wasn’t that flat UPA design that was so popular, or that over-wrought Jack Kirby superhero, or an anime sense of realism. We were looking for a fresh take on an animated character.”

The project was in production for almost four years. One of the fun challenges was casting Captain Smek, “a leader elected because of his cowardice.” They thought of him as a Steve Martin-like character and were delighted when Martin agreed to be Smek's voice.

He praised DreamWork’s new Premo software program that was first used on “How to Train Your Dragon.” He said that using it meant he could use a smaller crew that turned out more footage faster and with fewer mistakes. It allows animators to be freer to improvise and they are no longer restrained by “sort of steel girders.”

Johnson began his career a PDI in 1988 when computer animation was quite primitive. In 1990 he was co-founder of PDI’s character animation team. They created the first computer generated Pillsbury Doughboy and he directed Antz (1998). He said that they couldn’t create hair, fur and a lot of other things with their computers in those days, but it was possible to create ants. Johnson’s directing credits since then include Sinb! ad, Legend of the Seven Seas (2003), Over the Hedge (2006) and two TV specials. He was executive producer of How to Train Your Dragon and is presently directing Rumblewick.


JEFFREY KATZENBERG TOOK A 53% PAY CUT IN 2014 It was a tumultuous year for DreamWorks Animation. Jeffrey reduced his pay to $6.4 million (he made $13.5 million in 2013). Why? Shares of DreamWorks’ stock dropped 37 percent in value in 2014 and there were massive layoffs and write-downs. The Hollywood Reporter said, “Katzenberg has criticized himself for perhaps focusing too much on acquisitions and expansion and not enough on the core business of quality theatrical releases for family audiences.” The studio’s recent flops include Penguins of Madagascar, Turbo, Mr. Peabody & Sherman and Rise of the Guardians.

This year the company raised cash by selling its Glendale campus for $185 million and then leasing it back. Other DreamWorks administrators took serious salary cuts, but all were still making two or three million dollars for the year.

WHAT DOES WINNING THE OSCAR FOR BEST ANIMATED FEATURE REALLY MEAN WHEN MOST OF THE VOTERS DON’T TAKE ANIMATION TOO SERIOUSLY? While there are 300 to 400 Academy members in the animation division, the final judging is made by all Academy members, about 6,000 people. In February the Hollywood Reporter asked seven voting members to comment on the ballot. It turned out the comments made about animation were disturbing to me, suggesting the voters were not too interested in understanding that animation can be more than good for a few laughs. Two abstained from voting for that category, one voted for Big Hero 6 because his kids found it funny, and another voted for that film because he or she hadn’t seen Dragon 2. That person wrote, “If I was just voting for animation, I’d have gone with Boxtrolls, but since you have to consider everything I went with Big Hero 6.” (Not sure what everything is – studio hype, best reviews, etc.?) Another person wanted to vote for Lego because it “hit all the right chords” and was successful at t! he box office. That person was pissed that Lego wasn’t nominated, but they nominated “two obscure Chinese fucking things” (none of the films were Chinese). Another also liked Lego, but since it wasn’t nominated they voted for Big Hero 6. The final voter went for Dragon because it was “superbly entertaining.” None mentioned animation’s ability to tell a story, be a great art for or be technically brilliant. None saw that animation can have meaningful content or

SEE BRAD BIRD'S PENCIL TEST FOR “THE SPIRIT,” A PROPOSED FEATURE THAT NEVER WENT INTO PRODUCTION The 1980 pencil test for the film’s trailer is impressive, especially if you love the Will Eisner comics it was based on. Jerry Beck writes that Brad Bird and Gary Kurtz (Kurtz was the producer of the first two Star Wars ! movies) made the trailer for the proposed film using Bird’s former classmates from CAL Arts. www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqcJ2dFHNWM –

Brad Bird is said to be working on an Angry Bird feature with a $180 million budget. He also directed Tomorrowland for Disney (search for deleted animated scenes on the Internet).

LOOK WHO IS CREATING AN ANIMATED SPIDERMAN FEATURE! The directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller who created the Lego Movie are creating an animated Spider-Man film for Sony that will be released on July 20, 2018. They'll write and produce the project, but are not currently signed on to direct it.


by Nancy Denny-Phelps

ANIMA Brussels ushered in the year of the sheep in grand style with the Belgian premier of Shaun the Sheep Movie on their opening night. Aardman Studio is back doing what it does best, pure entertainment using flawless claymation. The 85 minute film brings Shaun and his fellow sheep to the big screen with all of the usual suspects from the television series.

The film opens with Shaun deciding that he wants to take a day off from the boring routine of barnyard life at Mossy Bottom Farm, but first he has to devise a plan to put The Farmer to sleep. The plan works better than expected when the trailer that The Farmer falls asleep in breaks loose from its moorings and The Farmer, Blitzer the dog, Shaun, and the entire flock find themselves in the big city. What follows is pure slapstick comedy. There is delightful music and, as in the TV series, no dialogue, which will make the film even more popular worldwide.

I am looking forward to watching the film again as I’m sure I missed a lot of clever sight gags and other details. Even though the short television episodes are designed for young children Shaun the Sheep Movie is a film for the entire family. On opening night the adult audience provided lots of loud laughter throughout the screening. I have never seen an opening night audience at a festival with such big smiles on their faces as they left the theatre for! the opening night party.

Usually I find watching feature length animation my least favorite part of a festival because if it is bad you are doomed to 90 minutes of wishing it were over. This year there were a record 21 features at ANIMA, ranging from films for children to very serious adult topics. I am happy to say that many of the features were really good.

South Korean director Yeon Sang-ho has once again explored the dark side of Korean life in The Fake. His first film King of Pigs was set in an all boys’ middle school in Seoul. In the schools harsh environment there is no escape from constant bullying and violence aimed at the poorer boys by the rich snobs w! ho have a sense of entitlement. The Fake, which Yeon Sang-ho wrote as well as directing, is a scathing critique of organized religion in Korea, a country known for having one of the world’s most active evangelical movements.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Cho Young Kag, producer of The Fake. I asked him if the film had been screened in South Korea and if so how was it received? He told me that it was shown in Seoul where church groups picketed it. They were angry because they couldn’t understand why the film picked on reli! gion and the church when there is so much corruption in other areas of South Korean society.

Cho Young Kag said that religion is meant to be a metaphor for all forms of cruelty and corruption, not just in South Korea, but worldwide. He did say that many of the churches in his country are very corrupt, preying upon the faith of the poorest people who want to believe in something. They clutch desperately at straws.

Yeon Sang-ho insisted on using a team of top comic book artists to create the soft, rich backgrounds that emphasize the raw, harsh look of the characters. The film opens with a chained up dog being brutally killed for no apparent reason except that the powerful person who owns the dog can order it killed and his henchman must follows his orders. The film doesn’t get any easier to watch. There was not one single character that I liked in the film, not even the “hero” who was as cruel and brutal as everyone else. Mr. Cho told me that Yeon S! ang-ho wanted the violence in The Fake to be even more raw and brutal, but the producer finally convinced him to tone it down a little.

This is definitely not a film to take children to but no matter how difficult it is to watch this is a film that you will be thinking about long after you leave the theatre. It has not been announced yet, but Yeon Sang-ho is already at work on his new feature film which I am told will be even more hard-hitting than his previous two films.

Truth Has Fallen by Shelia Sofian, who teaches at USC, is an excellent example of the power of animated documentaries. Her 60-minute live action/animated doc is about the work of James McCloskey, who works to free prisoners who have been wrongfully convicted by the United States justice system. In 1983 Mc! Closkey founded Centurion Ministries which has freed more than 25 people proven to be wrongly accused of murder. The cases of 3 incarcerated people are told with live action footage shot in a surrealistic manner and juxtaposed against expressionistic animation to illustrate the testimony of the innocent victims. Gripping images of actors in a black void, hands on prison cell bars, and a row of manacled ankles in prison dress accompany the expert’s commentary. Painted animation illustrates the prisoners’ stories. The different artistic styles are woven together throughout the film while images of prison, courtroom, and police interrogations are interfaced together throughout the film.

Given that the United States contains only 5% of the world’s population but has 25% of the world’s prison population, the United States has the world’s highest prison population according to the American Civil Liberties Union. Sofian, an associate professor of animation at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, has made a film that asks how innocent people could be convicted of murder in such vast numbers, what can be done to prevent such injustices in the future, and what happens to these innocent people when they are rele! ased from prison after years of incarceration. I’m not sure if Truth Has Fallen has been shown widely in the United States where it needs to be screened, but it has been at such important European festivals as Annecy, DOK Leipzig and of course ANIMA Brussels.

Signe Baumane charmed the audience with her humor and candor when she introduced her award winning feature film Rocks in My Pockets. Signe lays her soul bare in her film which tells her very personal story of her life and speculates on the madness that has run through the history of the women in her family. She ponders on her share of their DNA and wonders if she can escape the family destiny. With equal parts humor and irony she has turned what could hav! e been a very tedious, dark film into a delightfully entertaining trip through her mind. What makes the film an even more amazing success story is that in this day and age of slick, big budget studio animated features Signe managed to finance the film on her own with a successful crowd funding campaign and money from working on commercial projects while creating a feature film almost single-handedly.

She is a brilliant story teller and animator so it is good to see that she is finally getting the recognition she deserves. If you have not had a chance to see Rocks in My Pockets you can choose from three ways. At hwww.rocksinmypocketsmovie.com you can purchase! the DVD, rent a stream, or buy a download. You can also become an affiliate and share in the profits for every copy that is sold to someone you recommend the film to. It is a film that you can enjoy over and over again.

Prior to making Rocks In My Pockets Signe made short animated films. Her series on sex from a woman’s point of view, Teat Beat of Sex, made for Italian television, are short vignettes that range from being swept off your feet by the wrong prince to “does the size of a man’s penis matter?” These are topics every woman can relate to. The 2001 film Natasha, about a frustrated housewife who has a love affair with her vacuum cleaner, makes me laugh every time I watch it. A collection of her shorts were also screened at the festival.

Signe is an old, dear friend who I have not had a chance to see much of during the past few years because she lives in New York City. It was a special pleasure for us to get to spend some time together. It was a laugh- filled few days for sure.

Several feature films were also screened that have received rave reviews such as Tomm Moore’s beautiful Song of the Sea (Ireland) and Alê Abreu’s O Menio E O Mundo (The Boy and the World from Brazil) which won the feature crystal at Annecy last year. It is a charming, poetic Brazilian adventure about a young boy that goes in search of his father who has left his village to search for work. It was selected as the best feature film by the ANIMA jury.

The date of ANIMA Brussels changes every year because it is always scheduled to coincide with the Belgian Carnival Week school holidays. Afternoons are always devoted to screenings for youngsters from 3 to 8 years old. I talked to two parents who had brought their 3 year olds to see The New Adventures of Spot and Splodge for their first cinema experience. They both told me that they remember ! their parents bringing them to the festival for their first movie when they were very small and they are carrying on the tradition. The only sound in the theatre was laughter as the little children watched the 6 short episodes of the adventures of the 2 inventive and curious rabbits that can turn anything from doing laundry to baking cookies into a great adventure.

For older children there were big name hit features such as Big Hero 6 and The Boxtrolls along with independent features from around the world. I watched Yellowbird with an audience of 5 and 6 year olds and their parents. They clearly enjoyed it. The film is the first feature from the French independent studio TeamTO.

The story is about a very unlikely hero. A little orphaned yellow bird who desperately wants a family accidentally becomes entrusted with the responsibility of leading a flock of colorful blue birds on their migration to Africa by the dying elder of the flock. Yellowbird has to summon all of his courage to undertake the task. He admits his ignorance when he leads the flock the wrong way across Paris and the Netherlands before they end up in Iceland. He finally finds a solution to get his freezing charges to Africa. Of course once they get to Africa he is accepted into the flock and finds the family he so desperately wanted. This is not a complicated story.

What makes this computer animated film stand out above so many others is that it looks beautiful. The attention to details including the bird’s feathers and the leaves on the trees, are very impressive. The English language version of the film features the voices of Danny Glover, Elliot Gould, Dakota Fanning, and Seth Green who all do a first rate job.

I spent a lovely evening with the film’s Italian director Christian de Vita who told me that Yellowbird was designed by the very talented Benjamin Renner, known for his work on the charming Ernest and Celestine. When I learned that I understood why the film is so visually pleasing.

The film premiered at the London International Film Festival. Even though it only opened in the United States on 5 screens in Detroit (What was the US distributor thinking?) it is faring very well in Europe. It opened on 900 screens in Russia, as well as a good number in France. It will ! hit screens in the rest of Europe in the next month or two as well as screening at the Trick Film Festival in Stuttgart in May. If you have a young child in your life I recommend taking them to see Yellowbird. The DVD will also debut on 7 April in the United States.

2014 produced a large number of excellent short films. The films that impressed me most in the Short Film Competition programs include The Bigger Picture, The Dam Keeper, and Brutus, films that have already been screened and have won multiple awards at earlier festivals. The year is still young though so hopefully the best is yet! to come.

One pleasant new surprise was Simhall (Bathhouse) by Swedish director Niki Lindroth van Bahr. The story takes place in a Swedish bathhouse managed by a horse who is a stickler for rules and order. A male wolf tries to persuade his reluctant female companion to get into the pool even though she is plainly terrified and then 3 mice show up who are obviously up to no good. The animal puppets which are all extinct species are beautifully crafted and the script is well written. Simhall mirrors modern society far too closely to call it pure entertainment, but it is an excellent film.

Belgian animator Sacha Feiner is definitely a rising star in the horror animation genre. His film Last Door South is eerie, creepy, and delightfully entertaining. The story is about a young boy and his attached head Toto, who never grew to full size, which reminded me a bit of the alien in the film ET. Their mother locked them away in the huge family mansion, safe from prying eyes. Between exploring endless corri! dors, being tutored by their mother, and visits to their father's mausoleum, the brothers have never questioned the limits of their world. Until one day when . . . but I don't want to spoil the ending.

The beautifully crafted puppets and sets are lit perfectly and add to the rich, textured look of the black and white film. The National Competition Jury awarded Sacha the Grand Prix for Best Short made in the Federation Wallonie-Brussels (the French speaking region on Belgium). I am sure that we will see much more work from this talented young man. I am quite curious to see what he comes up with next.

Everyone wants to think about the artistic side of animation but the business side is just as important. The three days of The Business of Animation seminars were aimed at Belgian professionals and students to explore facets of the business in this country. Getting Your Animated Film Out There – The Do’s and Don’ts covered tips on making a film and getting it out to the international market. Eric Goossens co-founder of the highly successful Walking the Dog Studio was joined by Emma De Swaef and James Marc Roels, whose short film Oh Willy won numerous awards at festivals worldwide. They discussed the topic and answered questions from the audience. Oh Willy brought Emma and Marc countless commercial jobs. At one point Willy appeared on posters all over Gent advertising the bus and tram company. The pair shared their firsthand knowledge of the pleasures and pitfalls of creating an extremely successful film and the problems of dealing with commercial jobs and people who want you to create the same style over and over.

The session with web creators brought together professionals working in new forms of writing. It was devoted to the connections between web creation, animation, and comic books. The group exchanged ideas on work collaboration and getting your work out to the right people.

In the video games presentation, 3 employees from Gent-based Larian Studio discussed the characteristics of game design and the nature of their work to a packed audience of young would-be game designers. Larian Studio’s Divinity: Original Sin was recently named Best Game of 2014 by the Gamespot website. This is just one in a long list of successes that the studio has racked up. They had lots of information and tips to share with the audience.

Two programs spotlighted Dutch animation. Studying Animation in the Netherlands introduced films made at universities and academies by the talented new crop of young Dutch animators. The films were selected by Gerben Schermer, director of the Holland Animation Film Festival in Utrecht.

The Dutch Delights screening was a selection of the cream of the crop of professional Dutch animators selected by the KLIK Animation Festival in Amsterdam. KLIK not only hosts an annual animation festival at the beautiful EYE Dutch Film Institute but also takes Dutch animation touring to such far flung places as Saint Petersburg, Russia and San Francisco. The screening began with the short KLIK on tour promo film followe! d by this year’s festival trailer created by the talent studio Job, Joris, and Marieke. The remainder of the diverse program was created by established Dutch animators including Rosto, Joost Loeuima and Job, Joris, and Marieke whose A Single Life was nominated for an Oscar this year.

The two screening were followed by the Dutch Walking Dinner. The walking was actually done by the waiters who brought course after course of delicious Dutch food and drink specialties around the room as we stood at cocktail tables.

At the party I had the opportunity to spend time with my old friend Sam, the master of Spanish puppet animation and his wife Maria Marti Orti. His new feature film Pos Eso premiered at ANIMA Brussels. Director/screenwriter Sam described the film to me as an animated horror/comedy/slasher film made out of plasticine. He is a true master with the material, having honed his craft at Aardman Studio working on Creature Comforts. Sam told me that he loves horror films and thinks of Pos Eso as a comic cross between The Exorcist, Hellraiser, and The Fifthh Element. I didn’t get to see the film but I assume it will be at many festivals in the coming year so I will see it.

To celebrate Valentine’s Day the festival put together a program titled This Thing Called Love. The adult look at love as seen through the eyes of Bill Plympton, Signe Baumane, Michaela Pavlatova, and Pez definitely had something to put everyone in the mood after that romantic Valentine's Day dinner.

Animated Night is a yearly tradition featuring 3 late night programs selected from films submitted to the festival. The first group of films began at 9:30 PM and the screening goes until the wee hours of the morning. This is a distant relative of KLIK’s Midnight Madness so even though there was no audience participation beyond the groans, there were some really bizarre films. There were intermissions so the audience could go to the bar. After some of the films a beer was really needed. Live music for dancing during the breaks got you limb! ered up and ready to go back into the theatre for another round. Not all of the films were bad, but as the night wore on the bad ones are the ones that were stuck in my mind.

The daily Meet the Talent sessions were a welcome new feature. The opportunity to hear directors from films shown the previous day talk about their films gives the audience an opportunity to understand more about the directors’ motivation in making the film. I always learn a lot at these chats and try never to miss them at a festival. Unfortunately the sessions were scheduled at the same time as competition programs. When ANIMA figures out the right time to hold the chats I am sure they will beco! me popular.

At the early evening talks complementary drinks were provided which was a nice touch. When Korean producer Cho Young Kag finished discussing The Fake he treated the audience to delicious Korean sushi.

The Pecha Kucha event is a big crowd pleaser. It originated in Tokyo in 2003 and has spread to over 800 cities around the world. It was conceived as an event for young designers to meet, network, and show their work in public. The concept is simple. Participants show 20 images for 20 seconds each from their work in progress. As the images progress the creators talk about their work and the! images on the screen.

A large room housed the Behind the Scenes of Stop Motion exhibition featuring the work of 25 film makers. They ranged from international studios to independent animators working with every material imaginable. It was originally assembled for Annecy 2014 where it was located throughout the main walkway of a shopping center. At Annecy most people were too busy shopping to pay much attention and some even used the couches in front of the monitors to park bored husbands or children! while they shipped. The Brussels edition was smaller, but much nicer as you could enjoy the amazing creations in a gallery setting. Visitors got to take their time enjoying such wonderful creations as Adam Eliot’s Max from Mary & Max, who came from Australia to be part of the exhibit, and Spela Cadez’s character from her latest film Boles.

In a small room furnished with hassocks and pillows I was fascinated by 2 video installations created by Maarten Isaak de Heer. A Flood Story is an animated cityscape where Western European animals live in an Eco-social housing estate. The river tide rises daily flooding the animals’ homes, but they aren’t surprised or scared. They just go with the flow because it is an endlessly repeating story.

The other film loop was Handelonger (The Book of Acts). It looked like a drawing filled with small occurrences happening in different areas on the screen. As I watched the high resolution video installation of a typical Dutch suburb, daily city life is slowly revealed to give us a bird’s eye view of streets and buildings. The bridge across the canal slowly raises, allowing a boat to pass while traffic piles up waiting for the bridge to be lowered. Buses come and go as ant sized people go about their business. I’m not sure if I saw all of either piece, but it didn’t really matter. Whenever I was passing the room where the projections were I stopped to take a look at what was going on and I always noticed something new.

Maarten's work was exhibited in the Dutch Pavilion at the World Expo in Shanghai and at the Holland Animation Film Festival in Utrecht as well as in several museums. He is currently at work on a 360 degree visual instillation that will be projected into a dome.

Philip Moins announces he is stepping down

At the opening night gala Festival founder and long-time co-coordinator Philippe Moins announced he has stepped down as head of the festival to pursue his writing and other projects that have been put on hold while the festival took center stage in his life. It was Philippe's artistic vision that framed the character of ANIMA Brussels. He will continue on as a consultant.

You can see pictures and learn more about ANIMA Brussels at www.animafestival.be. The 2016 edition will take place February 5-14.

CALL FOR ENTRIES ENTER OUR 4th ANNUAL ASIFA-SF SPRING SHOW We are accepting entries from college students, independent and professional animators. Membership in ASIFA-SF is not required. We prefer shorts under 9 minutes. Send us a DVD by May 26th if possible. Works selected will be listed on the event’s flyer. If the work isn’t finished write us what to expect. Late entries will be accepted. No entry fee.

This year the celebration is on Thursday, June 11, 7 PM at Dolby Labs, 100 Potrero Ave. SF. Arrive early to sign in. Program will end with a screening of 35mm prints of animated classics. Send en! tries to Karl Cohen, 478 Frederick, SF, CA 94117 karlcohen@earthlink.net

Newsletter Editor: Karl Cohen
Contributors include Nancy Denney-Phelps
Cover illustration by Ricci Carrasquillo
Proofreader: Sarah Chin
Mailing Crew: Shirley Smith, Denise McEvoy, Dan Steves
Webmaster Dan Steves

Special thanks go to the SFSU Animation Society for hosting our careers event and to a great panel, to Nancy Denney-Phelps for representing our chapter on the international ASIFA board, to Dan Steves who k! eeps our mailing list 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.

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