A Big, Brainy Bash on the Bay

2014 edi­tion of Car­toons on the Bay el­e­vated it­self with out­stand­ing pro­gram­ming in an idyl­lic set­ting. By Jean M. Thoren.

Animation Magazine - - International -

al­ism of this rel­a­tive new­comer on the Ital­ian multimedia scene.

Round­ing out the Ital­ian por­tion of the pro­gram was Luca Mi­lano, vice di­rec­tor of Rai Fic­tion, who pre­sented an am­bi­tious slate of pro­duc­tion for Rai Car­toons, in co­op­er­a­tion with ma­jor Ital­ian pro­duc­tion com­pa­nies and an­i­ma­tion stu­dios.

Adding an­other feather to the cap of CEO Pierre Siss­mann and his tal­ented team, Cy­ber Group Stu­dios from France was awarded In­ter­na­tional Stu­dio of the Year. This nine-yearold stu­dio has built a cat­a­log of pro­grams with more than a thou­sand hours of glob­ally dis­trib­uted pro­grams for the youth and fam­ily mar­ket. Cy­ber Group is cur­rently at work on the TV se­ries Zorro: The Chron­i­cles, fea­tured in this is­sue of An­i­ma­tion Mag­a­zine.

On the tech­ni­cal front, Toon Boom An­i­ma­tion’s Deside­ria Mas­tri­aco and Fed­erico Val­lar­ino teamed with Omar Fer­reri of Clar­ity In­ter­a­tional and founder of Cap­puc­cino Apps to demon­strate how Har­mony caters to an­i­ma­tors re­gard­less of style or plat­form and suc­cess­fully in­te­grates with pop­u­lar game en­gines.

Toon Boom spon­sored Car­toons on the Bay’s Pitch Me! award this year. First prize went to Ele­menti Esper­i­menti, by Sinne Mut­saers and Marco Bonini. Sec­ond place was awarded to Blanco, by Marco Farace and Benedetto Sicca, and Power Nando - An Ital­ian su­per­hero in Moscow, by Lorenzo Gar­buglia placed third.

The three win­ning projects will re­ceive a prize of a li­cense for Toon Boom Sto­ry­board Pro and Toon Boom Har­mony. The win­ner in the first place will have the op­por­tu­nity to make a teaser an­i­mated video in col­lab­o­ra­tion with Direc­t2Brain.

Liv­ing up to its his­tory of di­verse, thought­ful pro­gram­ming, the 2014 Car­toons on the Bay team was headed up this year by artis­tic di­rec­tor Roberto Gen­ovesi. The event the chal­lenge of of­fer­ing to its au­di­ence of in­ter­na­tional guests some in­ter­est­ing and thought-pro­vok­ing view­points and guide­lines for nav­i­gat­ing the uni­verse of global an­i­ma­tion pro­duc­tion on all for­mats. We look for­ward to next year’s 2015 edi­tion and con­grat­u­late the 2014 award win­ning artists and stu­dios. For a com­plete re­port on the Fes­ti­val and the Pul­cinella Awards visit www.car­toons­bay.com.

Kiko­riki

Fin­land’s ris­ing an­i­ma­tion in­dus­try has a lot to cel­e­brate — not only has it reached world­wide suc­cess with hits such as An­gry Birds, but the na­tion is cel­e­brat­ing in 2014 the cen­ten­nial of its first an­i­mated film.

Sev­eral events are planned planned through the year for the cen­ten­nial, the date for which is based on a film by Eric Vasström that, un­for­tu­nately, no longer ex­ists.

“Vasström has the honor to be the first, but we have not see his an­i­ma­tion work,” says au­thor Tu­ula Leinonen, au­thor of a book on the Fin­nish an­i­ma­tion cen­ten­nial to be pub­lished this sum­mer. “His 1914 film (ti­tle un­known) and im­ages sadly have been de­stroyed.”

Vasström is con­sid­ered one of the pi­o­neers of Fin­nish an­i­ma­tion, along with Hjal­mar Löfv­ing, whose work has fared bet­ter. “He was a pro­duc­tive guy and knew how to an­i­mate. In 1932 he in­de­pen­dently pro­duced the fa­mous an­i­ma­tion Mu­u­tama metri tu­ulta ja sadetta (A Few Me­ters in Wind and Rain),” says Leinonen.

De­spite those early ef­forts, the first se­ri­ous steps for­ward came in the 1970s, when Fin­nish broad­caster YLE built an an­i­ma­tion stu­dio that pro­duced dis­tinc­tive stop-mo­tion pup­pet and cutout an­i­ma­tion. That style, in­spired by Fin­land’s re­knowned de­sign aes­thetic, came to de­fine Fin­nish an­i­ma­tion through the work of an­i­ma­tors like Heikki Par­ta­nen and his wife, Ri­itta Rau­toma.

With Seit­semän Vel­jestä (Seven Broth­ers) in 1979, Fin­land’s first an­i­mated fea­ture was re­leased, made us­ing wa­ter­color, by artist Ri­itta Ne­li­markka. Ne­li­markka says she was in­spired by the wa­ter­color and cutout tech­niques used in Stock­holm, Swe­den, where she stud­ied an­i­ma­tion from 1967. Ne­li­mar­rka worked al­most four years on the film, with only six people help­ing. Based on a well­known novel, the film won mul­ti­ple awards and es­tab­lished Ne­li­markka as a na­tional tea­sure — a des­ig­na­tion she downplays.

This also can be said about Katari­ina Lil­lqvist, “The Grand Old Lady” of Fin­nish an­i­ma­tion. Lil-

lqvist’s ground­break­ing pup­pet films, some based on Franz Kafka´s writ­ings, touched on pol­i­tics, phi­los­o­phy, mul­ti­cul­tur­al­ism, tol­er­ance and racism as main sub­jects. Her most fa­mous film, Maalais­lääkäri (The Coun­try Doc­tor), is about refugees from the Sara­jevo war and it won the Sil­ver Bear at the 2006 Berlin Film Fes­ti­val. “I wanted to tell their sto­ries,” she said. “The Sil­ver Bear felt as a true recog­ni­tion, op­po­site to the crit­i­cism many people ex­pressed.”

The cel­e­bra­tion of the Fin­nish an­i­ma­tion cen­ten­nial also marks the 100th birth­day of one of the coun­try’s best-loved fig­ures, Tove Jans­son, who cre­ated the iconic Moomins in the 1940s. The Moomins have be­come Fin­land’s best-known an­i­ma­tion char­ac­ters, and also have be­come pop­u­lar in Ja­pan. “Fin­nish and Ja­panese people like to live quiet, peace­ful and care about the en­vi­ron­ment,” says Leinonen. “The gen­tle and time­less Moomins world is built on these val­ues.”

The Moomins have starred in three fea­ture films, the first of which — Comet in Moomin­land — was made in 1992 us­ing Ja­panese an­i­ma­tion and al­tered the look of the char­ac­ters sig­nif­i­cantly. “The Moomins were look­ing com­pletely dif­fer­ent. Tove Jans­son was hor­ri­fied by it,” Leinonen says. In 2008, Moomin and Mid­sum­mer Mad­ness was re­leased, fol­lowed in 2010 by Moomins and the Comet Chase (Mu­umi ja punainen pyrstötähti), Fin­land’s first stereo­scopic film.

The Moomins will re­turn to the big screen for the cen­ten­nial cel­e­bra­tion, with the Oc­to­ber re­lease of the fea­ture Moomins on the Rivera. Co­pro­duced by Paris-based Pic­tak and Fin­land’s Han­dle Pro­duc­tions, the film has a budget of about $4.9 mil­lion. “The film will shed new light on the orig­i­nal black and white Moomins sto­ries, used in the script, from Tove Jans­son’s books and comic strips pub­lished in the ‘50s,” says Han­dle Pro­duc­tions owner Hanna Hemilä.

Han­dle worked on a num­ber of pro­duc­tions in the 1990s that ad­vanced Fin­nish an­i­ma­tion through col­lab­o­ra­tion with more ad­vanced lo­cal na­tions like Es­to­nia. A pup­pet­maker on one such project was Kari Ju­u­so­nen, who has be­come one of the pil­lars of mod­ern Fin­nish an­i­ma­tion af­ter his short film Pizza Pas­sion­ata won an award at the Cannes Film Fes­ti­val. Ju­u­so­nen next co-di­rected the fea­ture Niko Len­täjän poika (Niko: The Way to the Stars) in 2008 and Niko 2: Lit­tle Brother, Big Trou­ble in 2012, two of Fin­land’s most pop­u­lar an­i­mated fea- tures ever. In 2013, Ju­u­so­nen made a sur­pris­ing artis­tic change by go­ing to Fin­land’s leading en­ter­tain­ment com­pany, Rovio, where he is di­rect­ing the TV se­ries An­gry Birds Toons.

Both Niko films were pro­duced by An­ima Vi­tae, cur­rently Fin­land’s leading an­i­ma­tion stu­dio. Mikael Hed, CEO of Rovio, says that talent-wise, An­ima Vi­tae can be com­pared to Pixar. “I think they are awe­some. They have done some in­cred­i­ble stuff. I have noth­ing but re­spect from them.”

An­ima Vi­tae and Rovio co-op­er­ate on the An­gry Birds an­i­mated se­ries. An­ima Vi­tae CEO Pet­teri Pasa­nen, who pro­duced Ju­u­so­nen’s Pizza Pas­sion­ata, says: “Tech­ni­cal people from Pixar have vis­ited us three times, and they were amazed how we — as a small stu­dio in Fin­land — achieved our projects.”

Pasa­nen says the suc­cess of the Niko films opened doors for Fin­nish an­i­ma­tion. “It brought aware­ness, al­though not ev­ery­body di­rectly rec­og­nizes Niko is a Fin­nish an­i­ma­tion project,” he says. “In the U.S., we are con­sid­ered a U.S.friendly com­pany. It feels like a foot in the door. That makes it eas­ier to work on new pro­duc­tions. I don’t have to ex­plain who we are any­more.”

An­ima Vi­tae is try­ing to get a foot in the door in Asia, too. The com­pany opened an of­fice in Kuala Lumpur, and is work­ing on part­ner­ships with Malaysian, Chi­nese, Korean and Aus­tralian stu­dios.

An­ima Vi­tae is pro­duc­ing — with Dan­ish Ein­stein Film — a fea­ture film called HUGO, about the Nordic troll char­ac­ter, for de­liv­ery in 2016. “HUGO has the same in­ter­na­tional ap­peal as Niko.” Pas­sa­nen says.

With­out a doubt, An­gry Birds is Fin­land’s most suc­cess­ful an­i­ma­tion ex­port and Rovio its largest en­ter­tain­ment com­pany. The game reached 2 bil­lion down­loads since its in­tro­duc­tion in 2010 and a di­a­logue-free an­i­mated se­ries re­leased in 2013 saw more than 1 bil­lion views in its first seven months. An an­i­mated fea­ture is now in pro­duc­tion, due out July 1, 2016, Made with Sony, the an­i­ma­tion is be­ing done at the Image­works stu­dio in Van­cou­ver.

Hed says Rovio chose not to build their own an­i­ma­tion stu­dio in Fin­land. “That would have taken too long.”

Guaglione says his main goal is to take the Rovio sto­ry­telling cul­ture to a higher level.

“We like to ex­pand the char­ac­ters of An­gry Birds, from the gam­ing at­mos­phere to an an­i­ma­tion-based level and di­men­sion our fans have never seen or ex­pe­ri­enced. Cur­rently, we are de­vel­op­ing new prop­er­ties and an­i­ma­tion styles be­yond An­gry Birds. It doesn´t stop with An­gry Birds.”

The re­cently re­leased char­ac­ter Stella is a first ex­am­ple of the new ap­proach, ac­cord­ing to Guaglione.

Co-pro­duc­tions have fur­ther spread Fin­nish an­i­ma­tion around the world. The best ex­am­ple of a Fin­nish in­ter­na­tional co­pro­duc­tion is the Fin­nish/Chi­nese TV se­ries Dibidogs, pro­duced by Fin­land’s Fu­ture­code, owned by Jim So­latie; and China’s Blue Arc, owned by Tommy Wang. The men met in 2007, a year af­ter the So­latie fam­ily cre­ated the Dibidogs char­ac­ters.

“We trav­elled to China 50 times to find the right part­ners,” says So­latie.

Pre­mier­ing in Fin­land in 2010, the show airs na­tion­wide in China on CCTV and has deals to air in Rus­sia and Korea. Dibidogs is also broad­cast in coun­tries like Croa­tia, Slove­nia, Bos­nia. So­latie says the vic­tory march is not ended.

“We are hav­ing talks with main chan­nels in South­ern Europe and will soon launch the unique DibiTales app, where chil­dren can cre­ate their own sto­ries and an­i­mate them. I hope Dibidogs will be the next An­gry Birds.”

With the re­lease May 23 of Fox’s X-Men: Days of Fu­ture Past, those fans fi­nally have their wish. Based on a clas­sic sto­ry­line from 1980, the movie draws to­gether the events of both the orig­i­nal tril­ogy and the 2011 pre­quel X-Men: First Class into a time travel epic that sees the mu­tants of the fu­ture try to change his­tory in an at­tempt to save the fu­ture from the Sen­tinels’ dis­as­trous rule.

Bring­ing the fu­ture Sen­tinels to life was tasked to MPC and an­i­ma­tion su­per­vi­sor Benoit Dubuc, work­ing from the com­pany’s Mon­treal stu­dio. A fan of the comic book, Dubuc was charged with de­vel­op­ing the per­son­al­ity and be­hav­ior of the fu­ture Sen­tinels.

“The idea is that they’re de­vel­oped with bio tech as op­posed to the past ones, which were more me­chan­i­cal,” he says. “We had to find the line, the bal­ance of hav­ing them still re­tain that sort of me­chan­i­cal, ro­botic feel, but also be ex­tremely ag­ile and nim­ble and ath­letic.”

In the comics, the Sen­tinels are huge ro­bots charged with pro­tect­ing hu­mans from the per­ceived mu­tant men­ace, ei­ther by cap­tur­ing or killing them. The fu­ture Sen­tinels are no­tice­ably smaller than the comic book ver­sions, stand­ing about 18 feet tall, and have a few ex­tra abil­i­ties.

“They can morph and they can ab­sorb the pow­ers of the mu­tants and then repli­cate them,” he says.

The end re­sult is one X-Men fan Dubuc is proud of. “These projects are what an­i­ma­tors love, work­ing on big ro­bots,” he says. “The Sen­tinels were re­ally fun and re­ally chal­leng­ing for us to make it work and make it men­ac­ing was a great ex­pe­ri­ence.”

At­ten­dees await the an­nounce­ment of the 2014 Pul­cinella awards; a panel pre­sen­ta­tion at the Palazzo Labia (be­low).

Ka­teri­ina Lil­lqvist’s Maalais­laakari (The Coun­try Doc­tor)

Dibidogs

A TV se­ries ver­sion of Tove Jans­son’s Moomins.

Niko: The Way to the Stars

Seven Broth­ers

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