News & Notes
Best Script: Fired on Mars by Nick Vokey & Nate Sherman (USA, 2016).
Best Design: The Absence of Eddy Table by Rune Spaans (Norway, 2016).
Best Animation Technique: Velodrool by Sander Joon (Estonia, 2015).
Best Sound: Squame by Nicolas Brault (Canada, 2015).
DHX Public Prize: Fired on Mars by Nick Vokey & Nate Sherman (USA, 2016).
Canadian Film Institute Award for Best Canadian Animation: Blind Vaysha by Theodore Ushev. Honorable Mentions: 4 min 15 sec au Revelateur by Moia Jobin-Paré, Begone Dull Care by Paul Johnson.
VIA Rail Award for Best Canadian Student Animation: Nihil by Khoebe Magsaysay (Sheridan College, 2016). Honorable Mentions: Der Tod Ist ein Dandy by Daniela Vargas (Vancouver Film School), The Clitoris by Lori MalepartTraversy (Concordia), De Racines et de Chaines by Francis Lacelle & Robert M. Lepage (INIS), Bouncing Blunders by William Martin (Sheridan College)
Miyazaki, Ronja was produced by NHK, NHK Enterprises and Dwango in collaboration with Studio Ghibli and Saltkråkan, The Astrid Lindgren Co., with animation by Polygon Pictures.
An English language version of the 26-episode title is in production in London (narrated by Gillian Anderson and starring Teresa Gallagher as Ronja), to launch on Amazon Prime Video in the United States and United Kingdom this fall.
The show has also been picked up by Universum in Germany, which will release four Blu-ray volumes in the run up to Christmas and hold a promotional cinema release. International broadcasters now onboard include Yowu (Spain), VRT (Belgium), Canal Once (Mexico) and Jeem TV (Middle East). FEATURES Cyber Group Sets Iqbal as First Feature to Distribute released in France in August to critical acclaim. The French-Italian project is a coproduction of 2d3D Animation, Gertie and Montparnasse Productions. TELEVISION Bento Box, Davenport Start Kids and Family Division James Corden ( Into the Woods) and Emmy nominee Ilana Glazer ( Broad City) are joining T. J. Miller ( Deadpool) as lead voice cast members in Emojimovie: Express Yourself. Columbia Pictures will release the film Aug. 11. ... Vancouver- based Big Bad Boo Studios ( 1001 Nights, Lili & Lola) in partnership with TVO Kids has OK’d production on a new original animated series, 16 Hudson. ... Jane Fonda will be voicing an evil sorceress in the new TV movie Elena and the Secret of Avalor, which will premiere Nov. 20. ... A new original webslingin’ toon will debut on Disney XD next year with the arrival of Marvel’s SpiderMan. Marvel Animation and Family Entertainment SVP Cort Lane announced the new show at New York Comic Con. ... DreamWorks Animation and Netflix announced that season two of Voltron: Legendary Defender will premiere exclusively on the streaming service on Jan. 20. ... Women in Animation awarded the 2016 Phyllis Craig Scholarship to CalArts student Tracey LaGuerre. She is a CalArts character animation sophomore, and stood out to the scholarship committee for her passion for storytelling and community service. ... Series creator Adam Reed has declared his intent to end his adult spy spoof comedy Archer after three more seasons, for an even 10. FX announced it was renewing the popular show for three more short seasons of eight episodes each this summer, just after the finale of season 7. ... Pendleton Ward’s smash- hit series Adventure Time will end its run in 2018, Cartoon Network has confirmed. ... Titmouse, Inc.’ s first feature animation project Nerdland — directed by studio co- founder Chris Prynoski — has been picked up for North American theatrical distribution by Samuel Goldwyn Films. ... Disney is teaming back up with The Jungle Book director Jon Favreau for a live- action remake of The Lion King. ... Genius Brands International is partnering with Rob Minkoff, director of Disney’s The Lion King, and Shane Morris, co- writer of Frozen, to develop and produce a new animated preschool series titled Rainbow Rangers.
(6’7”, Adriano Gazza, United Kingdom) https://vimeo.com/185194788 (3’17”, Leïla Courtillon, France) https://vimeo.com/164336207
In honor of the film’s 30th anniversary, VIZ has issued a lovely new hardcover celebrating Studio Ghibli’s first feature film. Directed by living legend Hayao Miyazaki, Castle in the Sky follows Sheeta, a girl with the power to defy gravity, who meets a young inventor named Pazu while on the run from pirates. Together, they explore Laputa — a mysterious floating city built by a long-lost race. The book is packed cover to cover with gorgeous Ghibli artwork, creating a visual journey from the film’s concept to culmination, augmented by comments and insights from Miyazaki himself. By Jerry Schmitz [Cameron + Company, $45]
1Enjoy 10 days of fantastical shorts and features at the 26th Les Nuits Magiques in Bègles, La Haillan and Bordeaux. [lesnuitsmagiques.fr] This week’s must-have discs? The Legend of Korra: The Complete Series eight-disc set and David Ayer’s Suicide Squad. Gamers can also check out theaters today. in
The Red Turtle, the first feature by Oscar-winning director Michael Dudok de Wit and the first international collaboration by the renowned Studio Ghibli, presents an outwardly simple story that can be read on many levels in ways that recall the work of Frédéric Back, Ji í Trnka and John and Faith Hubley.
Moving, thoughtful and thought-provoking, it invites the viewer to reflect on man’s place in the world, his relationship to nature, the recurring cycles of life. Its simple yet striking visuals stand in marked contrast to the lavish studio CG features of recent years. The Red Turtle won a Special Jury Prize at Cannes, beating 17 live-action films.
Dudok de Wit was already a well-respected figure in international animation for his droll short The Monk and the Fish (1994), and the poignant Father and Daughter (2000), which won the Grand Prix at Annecy, Hiroshima and Zagreb, and the Oscar for Animated Short. He had considered making a feature, but felt his personal, intuitive approach to filmmaking would clash with the collaborative methods of studio production. All that changed when he received a letter from Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki of Studio Ghibli, asking if he would be interested in making a feature with them.
“It was one of the biggest shocks of my life,” Dudok de Wit said in a recent tele- phone interview from London. “I love Miyazaki’s and Takahata’s work, then to receive a letter from Ghibli out of the blue, that just doesn’t happen! Yet it happened to me. My immediate reaction was, ‘Yes! This is my chance!’ Ghibli is very auteur-film oriented, they respect the director.”
Suzuki explained: “Seeing his film Father and Daughter made me want to watch a feature-length film by Michael. Therefore, I asked if he would be interested in making a feature for Ghibli. His condition for agreeing to do this was that Studio Ghibli would pro- vide creative guidance. I got Isao Takahata’s consent to be involved and the project took off.”
Like many artists before him, Dudok de Wit realized the leap from short films to a feature would require a steep learning curve: “Father and Daughter lasts eight minutes and took me two years to make. The feature film is 80 minutes — 10 times longer — and I knew it wouldn’t just be 10 times the amount of work spread over the team: It would be much more.
“In a short film you have one idea, in my case supported by one musical composition, that’s it,” he says. “I elaborate the idea until it’s reached its natural end, whether that takes four minutes or eight. When you make a feature, you can explore the characters, the landscape, the ambiances. You can use repetition and explore differences in motions. I work intuitively. For a short film, that’s easy, but a feature film is more complex.” Spreading the Work Around
The shift to the longer format also meant Dudok de Wit would be working with a crew of animators and background artists, rather than making the film by himself. He would also be making the film in France, but visiting Japan to confer with Takahata and Suzuki. The collaboration occupied him for almost 10 years.
“I’m basically an animator. I sit down and animate for eight to 12 hours in one go. I always worked that way,” he says. “But when you’re a director, you’re spread all over, you’re interrupted all the time, you’re divided between tasks and every task is incredibly important because people are waiting for your opinion. I needed to learn how to verbalize my concerns and my wishes. It took me a long time to adapt to a new way of using my brain.”
Dudok de Wit decided to recount the ad-
Last year was the centennial of the Gallipoli campaign, a key World War I battle fought in Turkey by Australian and New Zealand military forces trying to assist the Allies in gaining a sea route to Constantinople. The battle devastated the Australian and New Zealand forces — the depth of the losses prompting the citizens of those nations to start thinking about determining their futures independent of the British monarchy.
The battle has been extensively documented Down Under, but never as in veteran documentary director Leanne Pooley’s feature 25 April — her first animated project. Named for the day the nation’s forces joined the battle in 1915, Pooley’s film vividly and creatively brings the reality of the battle and the high cost paid by its participants to cinematic life with devastating effect.
The film played at the 2015 Toronto Film Festival and in the feature competition at Annecy 2016. It had a short theatrical run in Los Angeles in October and is next set to play in Asia.
We caught up with Pooley to chat about the movie.
Animation Magazine: you to this material?
Leanne Pooley: 2015 was the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign, so there was a view that it was a good time to revisit the story. It also struck my producer, Matthew Metcalfe, with whom I’d made my previous film, Beyond the Edge, that given the importance of Gallipoli on the New Zealand national psyche it was odd a feature film had never been made about it here.
Animag: At what point did you decide to make this with animation? What were the influencing factors in that decision?
Pooley: It was decided to make the film an animated documentary from the very beginning. Both Matthew Metcalfe and I were big fans of Waltz with Bashir, and we thought we might be able to use similar techniques on our film. There have been many documentaries made in New Zealand about Gallipoli. Animation gave us the opportunity to tell the story in a completely new way. If I’m honest, I wouldn’t have been not been ani-
Animation often has been described as dreamlike, and the creators of the new Adult Swim series Dream Corp LLC are taking that idea literally.
The new hybrid Adult Swim series, which debuted its six-episode first season Oct. 23, is a comedy set in a slipshod dream therapy clinic in which absent-minded Dr. Roberts (Jon Gries) and his assistants enter the dreams of patients to, supposedly, help them.
Created by Daniel Stessen, who previously directed the 2013 animated short The Gold Sparrow, the show uses rotoscoping and animation for the scenes that occur in patients’ dreams.
The show has personal origins for Stessen, who suffered from night terrors and recurring dreams when he was younger. “I ended up going to a therapist who did help me figure out what was happening in my dreams, so I wasn’t afraid to go to sleep anymore,” he says. That combined with rapidly advancing technology lead him to the idea for the show.
“And I thought there’s no better way to show that idea than through the beautiful and surreal element of rotoscope,” he says. “You still get the actor acting, and we can make impossible shots out of that. I thought it was a perfect marriage.”
To execute his idea, Stessen turned to his friend Michael Garza, who was head animator on The Gold Sparrow and worked on similar sequences in Richard Linklater’s 2006 Philip K. Dick adaptation, A Scanner Darkly.
A Crack Team Garza brought on animators Jennifer Deutrom and Greg Geisler to do the rotoscoping and animation work on the show and set up a simple pipeline for them to work in.
“It was kind of tricky, because I’m in Austin, Texas, and everybody else is in Los Angeles, so we created a share system of files,” Garza says.
Stessen says the dream sequences are shot in live action and edited together as they’ll appear in the finished episode before they are handed off to Garza and his team. “We grab it and definitely have a lot of beer conversations with Danny about his vision,” says Garza. “But we just kind of take it from there and just start working at it.”
Garza and his team divide each scene into individual shots, assign them to one of the animators and then begin painting and drawing directly on top of the images, adding some of the more fantastic dream-like elements as they go.
“Some scenes might have multiple characters and some might just have one character and we kind of split them up naturally,” says Deutrom. “There’s only three of us animating, and Mike will assign maybe one of us to do a particular character, but sometimes it would be one person or it could be all three of us would draw the same person, so it was a very kind of intuitive process.”
Garza says he works with a software script of his own invention when rotoscoping. “Through the years I just had so much trouble with other software, I just kind of wanted to make something that was easy for me to use,” he says. “And given that Jennifer’s worked in the field before and then our other animator, Greg, is also very familiar with the technique, they both picked it up pretty easily.”
The most shots done for an episode in the first season was about a hundred. Episodes require anywhere from four to seven minutes of animation out of a quarter hour, and each episode took generally about a month to complete, Garza says.
“It was a pretty intense schedule compared to other rotoscope projects I’ve worked on,” says Deutrom. “I came on a little later than Greg did, and Mike, of course, had been working on it before him, but right when we started work, there was no rampup time. It was just, get going!”
When it comes to designing dreamlike elements for animation, the ideas usually started with Stessen. “It definitely starts with Danny’s vision, and then we kind of we all work together, talking about, ‘This would look cool if it was this way or that way,’” says Garza, who was on set when the live action was shot.
“We have time to develop these concepts as it’s being edited,” says Stessen.
The pilot screened at New York ComicCon in front of a crowd of about 2,600 people, which was a happy moment and one of relief, says Gries. “They laughed at the jokes and they ooh-ed at the animation, and their applause was rousing,” he says.
As for the show’s future, Stessen says they’re waiting to see how the episodes play out, and hope to score a second season order from Adult Swim. “If you know anybody over there, put in a good word for us,” he says. [
There’s never been a year as robust for animated features as 2016, making this year’s Oscars race one of the most competitive in the category’s 15 years of existence. And that’s great news for animation fans. The diversity of subject matter and technique is as deep as ever, ranging from beautiful handcrafted international features to a subversive Rrated CG-animated hit, to some of the year’s biggest box office blockbusters.
Here is Animation Magazine’s annual run down of the contenders for this year’s animated feature awards race.
Animation Magazine #262 Studio: LAIKA Distributor: Focus Features Release Date: Aug. 12 Box Office: $63 million worldwide ($47 million U.S. domestic) Director: Travis Knight Cast: Art Parkinson, Charlize Theron, Matthew McConaughey Rotten Tomatoes: 97 percent fresh Reaction: “Folks familiar with the Oregon-based studio LAIKA — the people responsible for the Freudian waking nightmare Coraline (2009) and the tender I-see-dead-people parable ParaNorman (2011) — know that the company has more or less set the standard for modern stop-motion animation. But with Kubo and the Two Strings, LAIKA doesn’t so much surpass its own previously set bar so much as demolish it. Watching Kubo turn flat pieces of paper into tiny warriors or an undulating origami swarm of birds, or an underwater swimmer surrounded by floating eyeballs, or a climactic stand-off between our hero and a giant, serpent-like spirit, you forget you’re essentially watching things being painstakingly, microscopically manipulated. And then you remember that this is indeed the product of artists working with small figures on a grand scale, and you find yourself staring at the onscreen sound and fury in awe. The work here is fluid and near-flawless — which is as apt a description for the entire film as any.” — David Fear, Rolling Stone. Behind the Scenes: The non-human puppets posed unusual challenges. Beetle looks like an origami samurai, and was the first LAIKA character built with an exoskeleton. “We had to allow the internal hard parts to ride over the internal skeleton,” says Georgina Hayns, creative supervisor of puppet fabrication. “There’s a soft foam core that sits around the armature and then all of these breast plates slide over the top of the material.” Beetle’s armor itself is made of Tyvek, which looks like paper but can’t be torn. Those properties, however, made it difficult to paint, requiring a number of techniques including roughing up the surface, dying and spray paint to color it. Monkey was another difficult character, as LAIKA’s first fully furred puppet, Hayns says. “We approached it more like a live-action body suit,” she says. “We built her armature and we built on top of it a muscle suit ... and then we covered the muscle suit with a fur fabric suit.” As with the human hair, the fur-like coat was combed through with silicone to create a stylized effect that was easy to animate and avoided chatter. The sisters — since they’re twins, they are portrayed with identical puppets differentiated by their choice of weapon — were all about the cape. Hayns says her team designed a cape that could transform into wings as the story called for and be used in every shot (save one) needed for the movie. Awards Chances: Each of LAIKA’s previous films has been nominated for the Best Animated Feature Oscar — though none have taken home the statuette. Kubo is the strongest film LAIKA has made to date, as well as one of the year’s best films of any type. If critical praise were the defining criterion, it would have the gold locked up, but the film’s box office has not — to date — performed as well as its predecessors and it has earned a mere fraction of its billion-dollar-grossing competitors. The Oscars like to pretend those factors don’t matter, but they clearly do — if not enough voters have even seen the film, its chances of victory are slim. But the quality is there, as is a bit of celebrity factor with the rising star of the highly likable Travis Knight. A strong campaign that gets Knight out there and makes sure people see the movie could complement the creative aspects well enough to put Kubo over the top. Animation Magazine #258 Studio: Walt Disney Animation Studios Distributor: Buena Vista Release Date: March 4 Box Office: $1 billion worldwide ($341 million U.S. domestic) Director: Byron Howard and Rich Moore; Jared Bush, co-director Cast: Ginnifer Goodwin, Jason Bateman, Idris Elba Rotten Tomatoes: 98 percent fresh Reaction: “The film that unfolds from these beginnings is in many ways a conventional one, but it unfolds with so much wit, panache, and visual ingenuity that it outstrips many a more high-concept movie. Its lessons about tolerance, diversity, and racial profiling may be familiar, but they are delivered with a conviction that is never cloying and frequently a touch subversive. (As when Judy describes Nick as ‘articulate,’ or patiently explains, ‘A bunny can call another bunny “cute,” but when someone who’s not a bunny …’) “Visually, the film is a giddy delight, bright and inventive. Given the wildly varying sizes of their mammalian cast — from hamster to rhino — the directors Byron Howard and Rich Moore and the co-director Jared Bush have particular fun with scale and perspective. One moment Judy is too small for her world, unable to reach the rim of the police department toilet without leaping; the next she is too large, rampaging through the Habitrails of Zootopia’s ‘Little Rodentia’ neighborhood. And don’t get me started on the movie’s joyously wicked sendup of The Godfather, in which Mr. Big, a tiny arctic shrew, attends his daughter’s wedding surrounded by gargantuan polar-bear heavies.” — Christopher Orr, The Atlantic. Behind the Scenes: The story itself went through multiple iterations, starting out as a spy story, then becoming a detective yarn before settling into shape as a tale about Judy Hopps, voiced by Ginnifer Goodwin, an idealistic young bunny who leaves Bunny Burroughs for the big city and a job as Zootopia’s first bunny police officer. She meets up with sly fox Nick Wilde, played by Jason Bateman, and winds up needing his help to solve a crime in a couple of days before she has to return home a failure. While earlier versions focused on the Nick character, it became clear in the fall of 2014 — a scant 18 months or so before the movie was to be released — that the story was about Judy. “A lot of studios would say, we can’t do anything about it,” says Rich Moore, who joined the production around this time as director, bringing along crewmembers like his Wreck-It Ralph head of story Jim Reardon. “But we are so lucky to have a boss in John Lasseter, who is not afraid to — when the right idea presents itself — say that’s what the story wants to be, that’s the right way to go, let’s make that change.” Reworking the story at that point was less about a complete revamp than being creative with the work that had already been done, Moore says. “The city itself didn’t change and the characters, for the most part, were rooted in who they always were,” says Moore. “But it was a mechanical change of how do we service our themes and our tone and pit these characters against one another the best way possible.” Awards Chances: Mentioned last in this section by virtue of alphabetical conventions, Zootopia has all the earmarks of a front-runner that could win the race walking backwards with 50-pound weights attached to its feet. Aside from being a huge hit, visually stunning and the best-looking CG picture Disney has ever made, Zootopia works on a story level that’s on par with anything Disney (or any other studio or filmmaker) has pulled off in many a year. A veteran of The Simpsons, Moore brings to Disney that show’s knack for nailing topical issues with laugh-out-loud comedy. But it’s the depth that it’s taken to in Zootopia — all wrapped up in an incredibly fun, appealing and satisfying story — that really sets this apart as the film to beat.