FESTS AND EVENTS World An­i­ma­tion Cel­e­bra­tion Re­turns to Sony Lot in 2017

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An­i­ma­tion Li­ba­tion Stu­dios and An­i­ma­tion Mag­a­zine will again present The World An­i­ma­tion Cel­e­bra­tion in 2017. Hosted by Sony Pic­tures An­i­ma­tion, the in­ter­na­tional an­i­mated short film fes­ti­val will take place Sept. 30 and Oct. 1 at the stu­dio, lo­cated in Cul­ver City, Calif.

The two-day event will show­case the best in tra­di­tional, CG, dig­i­tal, stop-mo­tion, ex­per­i­men­tal and VR an­i­ma­tion from fllm­mak­ers and stu­dents around the world, which will be reviewed by a panel of world-class pro­fes­sion­als as judges.

In ad­di­tion to the film pro­gram, at­ten­dees will be able to take in in­dus­try pan­els, guest speak­ers and artist demos, meet with re­cruiters and school rep­re­sen­ta­tives, and par­tic­i­pate in port­fo­lio re­views.

Film sub­mis­sion and early-bird reg­is­tra­tion in­for­ma­tion will be an­nounced soon.

Book­mark WorldAn­i­ma­tionCel­e­bra­tion.com for up­dates.

U.S. film and TV pro­ducer Sky­dance Me­dia has launched an an­i­ma­tion di­vi­sion and mul­ti­year part­ner­ship with Madrid-based Ilion An­i­ma­tion Stu­dios ( Mor­tadelo & File­mon, Planet

1The two-day Vi­sion VR/AR Sum­mit kicks off in L.A., while the Golden Kuker-Sofia Int’l An­i­ma­tion Film Fes­ti­val be­gins a week of screen­ings in Sofia, Bul­garia. [vi­sion­sum­mit2017. com | 2017.an­i­ma­tion­fest-bg.eu]

Spark: A Space Tail as­pires to some­thing few an­i­mated fea­tures these days will ad­mit to: It’s an an­i­mated movie squarely aimed at en­ter­tain­ing chil­dren.

“There’s a sort of pu­rity to an­i­ma­tion,” says the fea­ture’s writer-di­rec­tor Aaron Wood­ley, “where you’re re­ally try­ing to lock into an emo­tional nar­ra­tive line for chil­dren … break­ing things down into that child­like mode of sto­ry­telling and imag­i­na­tion, and that’s re­ally what I was try­ing to do.”

Re­leased April 14 in the United States via Open Road Films, the CG an­i­mated sci-fi ad­ven­ture movie is a Cana­dian-Korean co-pro­duc­tion be­tween ToonBox En­ter­tain­ment, Re­drover Co. Ltd., Shang­hai Hoong­man Tech­nol­ogy Co. Ltd. and Gulf­stream Pic­tures. Dou­ble Dutch In­ter­na­tional is han­dling the Cana­dian dis­tri­bu­tion as well as in­ter­na­tional sales, ex­clud­ing China and Korea.

The movie fol­lows the story of Spark (Jace Nor­man), a teenage mon­key who lives in a ga­lac­tic junk­yard with his pals Vix (Jes­sica Biel) and Chunk (Rob deLeeuw), and dis­cov­ers his true iden­tity to be the key to tak­ing back the planet Bana from the evil King Zhong (Alan C. Peter­son).

Wood­ley has a broad back­ground that in­cludes stop-mo­tion an­i­ma­tion work on shorts and the se­ries Glenn Martin, DDS. He’s also di­rected live-ac­tion fea­tures and TV, giv­ing him the kind of broad ex­pe­ri­ence the co-pro­duc­tion was seek­ing when they hired him in 2011.

“They had a script and it was loosely based on Jour­ney to the West, which is an an­cient Chi­nese text,” he says. Com­ing aboard to re­write the script, Wood­ley stepped into the di­rec­tor’s slot on what was his first ex­pe­ri­ence with CG an­i­ma­tion. And with a bud­get of $15 mil­lion, there were plenty of challenges to over­come.

“Cre­atively, there’s not a whole lot of dif­fer­ence be­tween mak­ing a live-ac­tion film, mak­ing an an­i­mated film, mak­ing a stop-mo­tion film or a CG film,” he says. “It was re­ally try­ing to learn how to har­ness these tools, these highly tech­no­log­i­cal tools, to do that.”

Most of the work on the movie was done at ToonBox’s stu­dio in Toronto, with about 30 per­cent of the an­i­ma­tion done in Korea, Wood­ley says.

Typ­i­cal of the movie’s challenges was the need to an­i­mate a char­ac­ter named The Cap­tain be­fore an ac­tor was cast in the role. When Pa­trick Ste­wart took the role, he im­pressed the en­tire crew by ris­ing to the chal­lenge of de­liv­er­ing a per­for­mance that synched up with the an­i­ma­tion and was af­fect­ing and fresh.

“I thought pos­si­bly he would walk away from the project, but he didn’t,” says Wood­ley. “Not only did he nail the synch — in one or two takes max­i­mum — but he ac­tu­ally made the synch bet­ter, which I think is as­tound­ing.”

While the movie didn’t set the U.S. box of­fice aflame in its open­ing frame, it is set for the­atri­cal re­lease April 28 in Canada, with the United King­dom to fol­low — and Wood­ley says he’s happy just get­ting the movie seen.

“It’s re­ally just about hop­ing that peo­ple en­joy the movie and have a good time at the the­ater.” [

char­ac­ter is only about half based on re­al­ity, the other half on fan­tasy. “I’m not a jerk like the guy in the movie,” he says with a laugh. “And I feel like it’s more maybe a par­ody of au­to­bio sto­ries or a par­ody of those kinds of Hol­ly­wood movie that are clearly the di­rec­tor’s fan­tasy.”

Asked if he thinks view­ers will con­fuse the fic­tional Dash with the real one, Shaw says he hopes not. “I feel like it’s re­ally clearly a joke, but maybe I’m be­ing op­ti­mistic,” he says.

Shaw also took in­spi­ra­tion from the works of other comic-book artists who turned to an­i­ma­tion, such as Osamu Tezuka on the orig­i­nal Astro Boy. “He wanted to com­pete with Dis­ney but the Ja­panese tele­vi­sion com­pa­nies didn’t give him enough money, so he cre­ated limited an­i­ma­tion and he re­lied on his skills as a car­toon­ist to make cinema, and I al­ways thought that that was su­per awe­some,” he says.

Shaw be­gan work on the movie with his wife, an­i­ma­tor Jane Sam­borski. “She re­ally is the tech­ni­cal mind be­hind the movie,” he says.

All of the movie was drawn on 8½-by-11inch paper and an­i­mated us­ing Af­ter Ef­fects. “There’s no lines that are made on the com­puter,” says Shaw. “I sto­ry­boarded it in color mark­ers and so there was a guide for the whole movie and in­di­ca­tions of how the color would be and how ev­ery­thing would look.”

Shaw used the boards to di­vide up the la­bor for each shot, with Sam­borski some­times draw­ing the un­der­ly­ing im­ages and friends of Shaw’s from the comics world con­tribut­ing things like painted back­grounds. Shaw inked all the draw­ings him­self be­fore they were scanned in the com­puter.

This way of work­ing saved the project at one point when about 10 min­utes of the movie was lost to a cut-and-paste er­ror.

“But we still had all of the ac­tual draw­ings, so it only took us a cou­ple of days to put it back to­gether,” Shaw says.

Find­ing the Voices Un­usual for most an­i­mated projects, Shaw had about 80 per­cent of the an­i­ma­tion done be­fore he be­gan look­ing for ac­tors. Know­ing noth­ing about that side of movie mak­ing, Shaw con­tacted pro­duc­ers Kyle Martin and Craig Zo­bel, whom he had met while they were all fel­lows at the Sun­dance In­sti­tute in 2010.

“I saw that they were two peo­ple that had made awe­some movies rel­a­tively in­ex­pen­sively and they both hap­pened to live in my neigh­bor­hood when I lived in Brook­lyn, and so I asked them to help me pro­duce the movie,” says Shaw.

The pro­duc­ers sug­gested for the lead role Ja­son Schwartz­man, who Shaw had met years ago and stayed in touch with. Shaw also had met Lena Dun­ham at the Sun­dance labs and Martin had pro­duced her fea­ture film Tiny Fur­ni­ture. With those names at­tached, and a chunk of the movie to show, the rest of the cast filled out with the likes of Maya Rudolph, Reg­gie Watts and Su­san Saran­don as the un­for­get­table Lunch Lady Lor­raine.

Once the voices were recorded, the an­i­ma­tion was ad­justed to ac­com­mo­date the ac­tors’ per­for­mances. “The draw­ings were done, but they would be changed to match what the ac­tor came up with,” Shaw says.

The film was full of new ex­pe­ri­ences for Shaw, who says he’s en­joyed the process of col­lab­o­rat­ing with ac­tors, pro­duc­ers and an edi­tor, and to see his movie play on the big screen.

“It was rad and I want to do it again,” he says. [

IBlue-Zoo unites am­bi­tious CG an­i­ma­tion with broad ap­peal for kids in its stylish hit Nick Jr. preschool se­ries By Karen Yoss­man.

n an era de­fined by re­makes and adap­ta­tions, get­ting an orig­i­nal se­ries com­mis­sioned is no easy feat, even one with a tar­get de­mo­graphic of ages 4 to 6. Which is why when Bri­tish an­i­ma­tion stu­dio Blue-Zoo first pitched Nick­elodeon’s Lon­don of­fice with Digby Dragon, a preschool show about an an­thro­po­mor­phic Scot­tish fire-breather and his co­terie of fan­tas­ti­cal friends, they made sure to em­pha­size the se­ries’ blend of vis­ual in­no­va­tion cou­pled with old-school Bri­tish charm to get the green light.

“It felt like a real her­itage project,” Blue-Zoo co-founder Oli Hy­att says of the show, which was con­ceived by author and il­lus­tra­tor Sally Hunter, best known for the chil­dren’s book Humphrey’s Cor­ner. Hunter first ap­proached Blue-Zoo in 2012 with a sketch­book full of ideas for Digby, al­though the tim­ing was less than ideal since the stu­dio had re­cently de­cided to fo­cus only on in­tel­lec­tual prop­erty de­vel­oped in-house. But, Hy­att re­calls, he soon “fell so in love with the char­ac­ter” he agreed to take on the show any­way.

Nick­elodeon was equally smit­ten and quickly snapped up Digby for the network’s preschool chan­nel Nick Jr., on which it also airs in the United States. “We were im­me­di­ately taken by Digby Dragon’s art style and, most im­por­tantly, the heart at the cen­ter of the se­ries,” says Ali­son Bakunowich, GM of Nick­elodeon U.K. & Ire­land. “Digby Dragon is a strong Bri­tish prop­erty with lots of op­por­tu­nity to de­velop across plat­forms and into con­sumer prod­ucts.”

Hy­att agrees that a large part of the show’s ap­peal is down to its “un­apolo­getic” Bri­tish­ness. Digby is set in Ap­ple­cross Wood, a real lo­ca­tion in Scot­land where Hunter used to spend va­ca­tions with her grand­par­ents, and, with an en­sem­ble cast that in­cludes char­ac­ters such as Fizzy the Fairy and Grumpy Goblin, evokes clas­sic chil­dren’s sto­ries such as Win­nie the Pooh.

In fact, that tubby lit­tle cubby, who last year cel­e­brated his 90th an­niver­sary, was very much an in­spi­ra­tion for the show dur­ing the de­vel­op­ment process. “We wanted to have a brand that had longevity,” Hy­att says, re­veal­ing that his goal for Digby was to pro­duce “re­ally high-qual­ity an­i­ma­tion and make some­thing that felt like it wouldn’t date that easily.” Qual­ity Isn’t Cheap How­ever, high-qual­ity an­i­ma­tion means higher pro­duc­tion costs. To make the show fi­nan­cially vi­able, it had to have as broad an ap­peal as pos­si­ble, which is why a de­ci­sion was

big­gest writ­ing chal­lenge for Adam, the sim­ple fact that the peo­ple don’t have easy ac­cess to tele­phones.

An­imag: Well you men­tioned that you think this is one of the best-look­ing sea­sons, can you talk a lit­tle bit about get­ting the look of 1947 L.A. right?

Thomp­son: We re­ally went back and did a lot of re­search, specif­i­cally film noir stuff, things like The Mal­tese Fal­con. We ac­tu­ally hired a cos­tume de­signer for this sea­son, which we hadn’t done in sea­sons past. We’ve had peo­ple on staff serve as our cos­tume de­sign­ers on sea­sons past, but this sea­son we want it to be so ac­cu­rate with the cloth­ing that peo­ple were wear­ing that we hired a cos­tume de­signer who had worked on the short lived se­ries Mob City.

But I think that the largest thing adding to the dif­fer­ent look for the sea­son is the light­ing, the spe­cial at­ten­tion that our staff had to take in the com­posit­ing of all these scenes. If you look at any of those scenes from The Mal­tese Fal­con and all of that film noir stuff, it’s the way that the light comes through the blinds, it’s the way light shines through. And be­cause a lot of these things are black and white, they’re us­ing heavy con­trast, and we re­ally tried to pay a great deal of at­ten­tion to how things were be­ing lit.

An­imag: How did mak­ing those changes affect your pipe­line? Was this a tougher sea- son to an­i­mate?

Thomp­son: It’s slowed it down greatly. We call our back­ground char­ac­ters that re­ally have noth­ing to do with the scene “drones,” and all of our drones have been built up over six or seven sea­sons of the show so we could pop peo­ple in the back­ground. But now all those drones had to have new clothes, and that meant that our il­lus­tra­tion de­part­ment re­ally had to draw much, much, much more heav­ily than in sea­sons past.

An­imag: You have a com­plete sea­son here and a cou­ple of more sea­sons or­dered up af­ter this one. Do you have a plan for what you’re go­ing to do to top this?

Thomp­son: We do. We def­i­nitely have a plan, but I’m not want­ing to talk about it yet. But I will say that the end­ing to the sea­son is very dra­matic. And the fi­nal episode of this sea­son is as­tound­ing. Big, big things hap­pen at the end of it. It feels al­most over­whelm­ing. [

Fol­lows the tem­plate of a clas­sic hero’s jour­ney.

All the im­ages in Dash Shaw’s fea­ture were cre­ated on paper, and scanned into a com­puter for an­i­ma­tion.

The crew of Archer Dream­land took great pains to re­search film noir and ac­cu­rate cos­tumes for the show, which is set in 1947 Los An­ge­les.

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