A Hand-Painted Valen­tine to Van Gogh

Animation Magazine - - Features -

Billed as the world’s first fully oil-painted an­i­mated fea­ture film, Dorota Ko­biela and Hugh Welch­man’s Vin­cent is a stun­ning achieve­ment and a marvel to be­hold. By Ramin Za­hed

to do this project, around the same age Vin­cent was when he started to paint,” notes Ko­biela. “More than his paint­ings, which I do love, it was the ex­am­ple of how Vin­cent lived that in­spired me. I have bat­tled with de­pres­sion all my life, and I was in­spired by how strong he was in pick­ing him­self up from sim­i­larly ter­ri­ble life set­backs as a young man, and find­ing through art, a way to bring beauty to the world.”

Welch­man, who is based in Poland and has pro­duced sev­eral well-re­ceived an­i­mated proj- ects such as the Os­car-win­ning short Peter & the Wolf (2006) and The Fly­ing Ma­chine (2011), says he be­came ab­so­lutely ob­sessed with Van Gogh’s enig­matic life and phe­nom­e­nal achieve­ments. “He had failed at four ca­reers by the time he was 28,” he elab­o­rates. “He was writ­ten off by his fam­ily as a no-hoper. But then he be­came a self-taught artist with­out any real artis­tic back­ground and was able to cre­ate a body of work that mes­mer­ized the world in only 10 years.”

Soon, Welch­man con­vinced Ko­biela that it would be im­pos­si­ble for her to work on such an am­bi­tious project alone. “We did a quick cal­cu­la­tion, and it would take her 81 years to paint the film,” says the film’s writer-direc­tor. “So, we de­cided to in­vite painters from around the world to au­di­tion for the film. We had over 5,000 ap­pli­ca­tions, and out of that we held au­di­tions. The ones who passed the tests were put in an in­ten­sive, 180-hour an­i­ma­tion course, and then, we had 125 peo­ple who joined our pro­duc­tion as painters.”

Art Isn’t Easy Of course, the di­rec­tors had their share of concerns about their gi­gan­tic un­der­tak­ing. “I was wor­ried about hir­ing these painters who had not worked on an an­i­mated project be­fore,” Welch­man notes. “It’s hard to stop an­i­ma­tors from fight­ing each other, let alone these artists who were used to paint­ing on their own. And they had to learn to paint in this spe­cific style. We thought that was go­ing to be prob­lem­atic. But the funny thing is that that wasn’t the tough­est chal­lenge. I thought paint­ing 65,000 oil frames on 103 cm by 60 cm

pos­i­tive time. He had just sold his first paint­ing for a proper sum of money and he had got great re­views. Other painters were tip­ping him to be the next big star. In ad­di­tion, his brother Theo had just name his son after Vin­cent.”

Around the same time, a bi­og­ra­phy of the painter by Steven Naifeh and Gre­gory White Smith put for­ward the the­ory that per­haps Van Gogh didn’t com­mit sui­cide and he was ac­ci­den­tally shot by some teenage boys. “Dorota and I thought that by look­ing at dif­fer­ent and con­flict­ing the­o­ries on his death we could un­der­stand more about his life. There’s drama that comes out of that con­flict,” says Welch­man. “We also watch a lot of film noir, so the ap­proach was nat­u­ral for us.”

So how do they see the death of their enig­matic sub­ject? “We have dif­fer­ent opin­ions,” says the direc­tor. “Dorota thinks he killed him­self be­cause of his brother, be­cause he felt he had been a bur­den to him for too long. I am more open to the the­ory that he might have been ac­ci­den­tally shot. We have been ar­gu­ing about who’s right for a few years now!”

As the film’s pro­duc­ers await Lov­ing Vin­cent’s re­lease world­wide this fall, they are pleased that their la­bor of love will spark more in­ter­est in the life and art of the tor­tured artist. Welch­man also hopes that their in­cred­i­ble tech­nique will be em­braced by more di­rec­tors. “I am in love with our method of film­mak­ing,” he ex­claims. “I hope other peo­ple will want to direct in this style. It’s a shame to spend so much brain and heart power to set up this style and not have oth­ers fol­low it as well.”

He also points out that Van Gogh’s life con­tin­ues to be a source of in­spi­ra­tion for him and his wife. “Dur­ing the pro­duc­tion, there were times when we worked 14 hours a day, seven days a week, and I felt quite mis­er­able,” he re­calls. “But then, I’d tell my­self, ‘Come on, Hugh, pull your­self to­gether!’ Look at what Vin­cent did. He worked so hard and had so many things against him. There’s a rea­son he is seen as one of the great­est artists of all time. He had this amaz­ing, in­tense pas­sion for life.”

Ko­biela agrees, “We only de­cided to take the risk of mak­ing the world’s first fully painted fea­ture film be­cause of how much peo­ple around the world are al­ready lov­ing Vin­cent. I hope this film will in­spire au­di­ences to find out more about Vin­cent, read his let­ters, and see his paint­ings in the flesh. I want ev­ery­one to be Lov­ing Vin­cent.” Good Deed En­ter­tain­ment will re­lease Lov­ing Vin­cent in the U.S. on September 22. The film be­gins its Euro­pean run in Oc­to­ber.

Top-notch an­i­mated con­tent from Fin­land is ready to the in­dus­try at Car­toon Fo­rum 2017. Fin­nan­i­ma­tion presents five ex­cit­ing new projects at this year’s Car­toon Fo­rum. These in­no­va­tive an­i­mated projects cen­ter on out­siders find­ing their way in new worlds, solv­ing ev­ery­day prob­lems in ex­tra­or­di­nary worlds and hav­ing ab­surd ad­ven­tures along the way. This year’s crop of ex­cel­lent Fin­nish se­ries are an ex­cel­lent re­minder that an­i­ma­tion breeds imag­i­na­tion. Kids love to com­pare things, whether it’s ice-cream fla­vors, whose dad is strong­est or imag­i­nary mon­sters. Gig­gle­bug En­ter­tain­ment is de­vel­op­ing an orig­i­nal com­edy TV-se­ries that cel­e­brates dif­fer­ent tastes in the most ab­surd way. Two com­i­cally head­strong and wildly imag­i­na­tive best friends spend their time com­par­ing what is the best thing of all time. If you thought com­par­ing ap­ples and or­anges was im­pos­si­ble, wait un­til Best & Bester com­pare fly­ing cows to dou­ble sided pizza, and toe­nail clip­pings to toi­lets. Be­cause for Best & Bester, no com­par­i­son is too silly when you’re try­ing to de­ter­mine what the best thing that has ever ex­isted is, and no ar­gu­ment is too il­log­i­cal if it means that you’re right! Divine Con­sul­tants is an an­i­mated ad­ven­ture com­edy with great cross-plat­form po­ten­tial. In the be­gin­ning of this unique story our young heroes fall to their deaths but find them­self in a cor­rupt After­life where they bat­tle against a cor­po­rate God and other forces of good and evil in the pur­suit of truth. Who is be­hind this macabre fan­tasy world and who gets to de­cide what goes on in Heaven or in Hell? Can Joye save all the hu­man souls? Divine Con­sul­tants is cre­ated by Juha Fi­ilin and is at an ad­vanced ed­i­to­rial de­vel­op­ment stage. A bright yel­low bal­loon named Marco lives in Bal­loon Town where all the bal­loons live after they are re­leased to the sky. He likes to lis­ten to sto­ries that his Great Grandpa tells him of bal­loon knights, astro­nauts, and ad­ven­tur­ers. In­spired by these bal­loon heroes, Marco goes into Bal­loon Town with loyal side- kick, Bumper, to solve ev­ery­day prob­lems in ways only an in­flated bal­loon can! With Marco’s cre­ative ideas, and Bumper’s abil­ity to tran­sform into any­thing, bal­loons of all shape, size, and color get a lit­tle help from Marco and live hap­pily in Bal­loon Town. Hare and the Pris­oner tells the story of a rac­coon who was born with a birth­mark across her eyes. Oth­ers have al­ways treated her like a thief be­cause of it. But when she ar­rives in his for­est, Hare sees only a new friend. After all, ad­ven­tures are much more fun as two. Hare can’t wait to in­tro­duce Pris­oner to chat­ter­ing birds, cu­ri­ous squirrels and grumpy preda­tors. In turn Pris­oner shows Hare that there is a huge world be­yond the trees. Ink and Light’s new se­ries re­flects the ex­pe­ri­ences of their young au­di­ence as Hare and Pris­oner nav­i­gate new friend­ships and dis­cover that ev­ery­body has some­thing unique to of­fer. Royale Sis­ters is a com­edy about a royal fam­ily that lives in a reg­u­lar house! Due to ex­ten­sive re­fur­bish­ment of their cas­tle, they were forced to move out. Stella, her sis­ter Molly, her par­ents and pets dis­cover ev­ery­day stuff with en­thu­si­asm and a touch of ec­cen­tric­ity, while they try to stay true to their tra­di­tion and royal du­ties. For Stella it is all about blend­ing in at the new school, mak­ing friends and hav­ing peo­ple like her for her­self, not be­cause of her no­ble an­ces­try. This new Pikkkukala se­ries ex­plores the chal­lenge of adapt­ing to change with­out los­ing one´s iden­tity in a key of hu­mor.

Dis­ney TV An­i­ma­tion re­launches fan-fa­vorite se­ries remix­ing Carl Barks’ iconic ad­ven­tures with a mod­ern sen­si­bil­ity. By Tom McLean.

One of the most over­looked trea­sures in the long his­tory of Dis­ney is the Don­ald Duck comic-book se­ries from Carl Barks. Revered for decades by comics fans who knew Barks — long un­able to sign his own name to Dis­ney work — only as “the good duck artist,” his decades-long run is a ver­i­ta­ble gold mine of ad­ven­ture.

Barks’ work in­spired the orig­i­nal Duck­Tales car­toon, a ma­jor hit pro­duced by the then-nascent Dis­ney Tele­vi­sion An­i­ma­tion from 1987-1990. That se­ries, from its in­fin­itely catchy theme song to suc­cess­ful spinoffs, brought Barks-style ad­ven­ture to a gen­er­a­tion that still reveres and loves the se­ries. That, of course, made it primo ma­te­rial for a re­boot.

As in the orig­i­nal, the new Duck­Tales fol­lows Scrooge McDuck, the world’s rich­est duck and its great­est ad­ven­turer, and the es­capades he and his great-neph­ews (triplets Huey, Louie and Dewey) get into — usu­ally, de­fend­ing Un­cle Scrooge’s riches from ri­vals, pur­su­ing lost trea­sures, solv­ing mys­ter­ies and re-writ­ing his­tory from time to time. Join­ing them are the usual sus­pects: over­pro­tec­tive Don­ald Duck, the triplets’ un­cle; Un­cle Scrooge’s house­keeper Mrs. Beak­ley and her grand­daugh­ter Webby; and blowhard pilot Launch­pad McQuack.

View­ers got their first taste of the se­ries Aug. 12, with an hour-long pre­miere event on Dis­ney XD, with the reg­u­lar se­ries cel­e­brat­ing Sept. 23 the 30th an­niver­sary of the orig­i­nal’s de­but with two new episodes air­ing six times that day.

Ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Matt Young­berg ( Ben 10: Om­ni­verse, Trans­form­ers: An­i­mated) and co-pro­ducer/story ed­i­tor Francisco An­gones ( Wan­der Over Yon­der) con­fess — as does most of the crew — to be­ing among the many diehard fans of the orig­i­nal show. They love the orig­i­nal, and the Barks source ma­te­rial, and feel no small amount of pres­sure to make a show that lives up to ex­pec­ta­tions.

“We were all mas­sive Duck­Tales and Barks fans — I mean the lyrics to the theme song were in my wed­ding vows,” says Young­berg. “We just have to in­cor­po­rate it all and take the el­e­ments that work to­gether and fit them into a thing that’s still new, that gives kids to­day the same feel­ing that we had when we heard the

put Launch­pad and Dewey to­gether, that re­la­tion­ship and the fun you can have be­tween them is go­ing to be dif­fer­ent than when you put Launch­pad and Webby to­gether,” says Young­berg.

The bonus is that these themes work to­gether on mul­ti­ple lev­els for fans. Barks’ comics ran from the 1940s through the 1970s, and ‘ We didn’t want to treat the neph­ews as the same char­ac­ter, which is some­thing that is usu­ally done with them…We wanted to make sure we could find a way to dis­tin­guish their per­son­al­i­ties clearly.’

WThe cre­ator of Car­toon Network’s chats about his hot new show and the secrets of his suc­cess. By Ramin Za­hed

hen Ian Jones-Quartey was only 15, he put to­gether his own home com­puter from what spare parts he could find. Then, he saved money to buy a scan­ner, up­loaded his draw­ings and cre­ated his own we­b­comic. Years later, after grad­u­at­ing from New York’s School of Visual Arts, he cold-called ev­ery an­i­ma­tion stu­dio in the city un­til he landed his first job at a com­mer­cial stu­dio. It’s that kind of cre­ativ­ity, per­sis­tence and en­thu­si­asm that has helped the toon vet­eran work on shows such as The Ven­ture Bros., Ad­ven­ture Time and Bravest War­riors, and be­come the su­per­vis­ing direc­tor and code­vel­oper of Steven Uni­verse. His much-an­tic­i­pated new show OK K.O.! Let’s Be Heroes has al­ready at­tracted a die-hard fol­low­ing since its pre­miere in Au­gust on Car­toon Network.

The se­ries started its life as a Car­toon Network pilot short called Lake­wood Plaza Turbo, which was then re­tooled as a mo­bile game on CN’s Any­thing app last year. Jones-Quartey even par­tic­i­pated in a “game jam” ses­sion in Port­land, Ore­gon, where par­tic­i­pants cre­ated a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent games based on the prop­erty.

“I first pitched the show six years ago when I was a sto­ry­board su­per­vi­sor on Ad­ven­ture Time,” Jones-Quartey says dur­ing a re­cent phone in­ter­view. “I re­ally wanted to make a show that was su­per fun and had ev­ery­thing that I loved when I was a kid. So, it be­came a car­toon about young friends who get to fight ro­bots.”

Billed as the nexus of gam­ing and an­i­ma­tion, the show was de­vel­oped to play on all screens while of­fer­ing a solid sto­ry­telling ex­pe­ri­ence for view­ers. Each episode fol­lows K.O. (voiced by

Sean Jara, the master­mind be­hind Nel­vana’s hot new an­i­mated se­ries Mys­ti­cons, re­mem­bers be­ing ob­sessed with play­ing Dun­geons & Dragons when he was a teen. “I grew up in the ‘burbs in the ‘80s, and my friends and I spent thou­sands of hours [play­ing the game],” he re­calls. I was the Dun­geon Mas­ter, which meant I had to come up with all the ad­ven­tures. We’d play in the base­ment on an old ping-pong ta­ble and or­der pizza into the wee hours of the morn­ing while I im­pro­vised tales of high ad­ven­ture for my friends. I was con­stantly think­ing of the char­ac­ters, do­ing voices, com­ing up with ex­cit­ing plot twists, world-build­ing, etc.”

Jara, whose many writ­ing cred­its in­clude De­grassi: The Next Gen­er­a­tion, The League of Su­per Evil, Johnny Test and the up­com­ing Re­Boot: The Guardian Code, says he took all those fan­tasy sto­ries and mixed them to­gether with an ur­ban en­vi­ron­ment to make them more re­lat­able to young, mod­ern au­di­ences for Mys­ti­cons. “The idea was Mid­dle-earth meets Man­hat­tan with a band of cool girl heroes who de­fend the realm.”

The se­ries, which is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween Nel­vana, Play­mates Toys, Topps and Nick­elodeon, was orig­i­nally de­vel­oped as a show tar­get­ing boys, but it changed di­rec­tion dur­ing de­vel­op­ment. The toon now cen­ters on four dy­namic hero­ines who are brought to­gether by a prophecy to bat­tle evil and pro­tect their world from the evil Queen Ne­crafa.

“Mys­ti­cons did start out as a boys’ ac­tion show and that was my ex­per­tise, which is why Nel­vana brought me aboard,” notes Jara. “But dur­ing de­vel­op­ment, we dis­cov­ered there was an op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress a gap in an­i­mated ac­tion con­tent for young girls. Once we com­mit­ted to the new di­rec­tion, we to­tally reen­vi­sioned the show, and took great care to make sure we came up with four awe­some, unique, and re­lat­able girl heroes. Ev­ery­thing else spun out from that.”

The cre­ators of the show wanted the Mys­ti­cons uni­verse to be both mag­i­cal and re­lat­able. “We thought of ways to put a mag­i­cal spin on ev­ery­day items and tech,” says Jara. “We’ve got fly­ing cars, fly­ing mage­boards, and ban­gle-phones, which are like cell phones that flip off your wrist, so you can make calls or glyph. ‘Glyph­ing’ is our world’s ver­sion of tex­ting. We even cre­ated our own runic al­pha­bet for it.”

Pro­duced by Jara and Suzie Gallo, the show fea­tures an­i­ma­tion done in-stu­dio at Canada’s Nel­vana, along with Yeti Farm in Van­cou­ver, uti­liz­ing Toon Boom Har­mony to de­liver its daz­zling mix of 2D and 3D el­e­ments. A Touch of Jones, Avery and

Pixar Jara, who grew up with the clas­sic shorts of Chuck Jones and Tex Avery, and men­tions Ralph Bak­shi, Brad Bird and John Las­seter as sources of in­spi­ra­tion, says one of the main qual­i­ties that makes Mys­ti­cons stand out is its enig­matic blend of mag­i­cal and ev­ery­day el­e­ments. “Yes, it’s a fan­tasy show and there’s tons of ac­tion and magic, but our main char­ac­ters are real; more like ev­ery­day teens,” he points out. “Per­son­ally, that’s my fa­vorite tone for a show—some­thing that is rooted in re­al­ity, be­cause it makes all the fan­tasy and magic seem that much big­ger.”

He is also quick to note that the fact that 80 per­cent of the writ­ers on the show are women makes a huge dif­fer­ence. “I re­lied on the tal­ents of Shel­ley Scar­row, Stephanie Ka­liner, Jo­ce­lyn Ged­die, Ash Lan­ni­gan, Tally Knoll, San­dra Kas­turi, El­ize Morgan, Amanda Spag­nolo, Grant Sauvé and Corey Liu to come up with dy­namic ad­ven­tures that would be re­lat­able and in­spir­ing to young girls,” he says.

“Per­son­ally, I be­lieve great shows are cre­ator-driven and come from a strong and unique point of view,” Jara adds. “Nel­vana saw my pas­sion for fan­tasy-ac­tion, and then paired me with an amaz­ing direc­tor, Matt Fer­gu­son, and a team of su­per-pro de­sign­ers and an­i­ma­tors. Then, they not only trusted us, but did ev­ery­thing they could to en­sure that we would suc­ceed in our quest. That goes for all our part­ners from Nick­elodeon, to Play­mates, to Tor­nante.”

The cre­ative writer, who has been a con­stant player in the world of TV an­i­ma­tion for the past cou­ple of decades, is also quite gen­er­ous with ca­reer tips.

“Study the masters,” he ad­vizes. “Work hard, and work as much as you can. Find your voice. Play well with oth­ers. Learn to give and take crit­i­cism. And never give up. Per­sis­tence is the most im­por­tant thing. Take re­jec­tion let­ters and fuel your forge of cre­ativ­ity with them. But also, be gra­cious when you have fi­nally found suc­cess.” Mys­ti­cons airs Sun­days at noon on Nick­elodeon and also de­buts on YTV and Tele­toon in Canada this month.

was al­le­vi­ated to a de­gree by Kelly’s ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing at 4Kids as a story ed­i­tor and writer on an an­i­mated Teenage Mu­tant Ninja Tur­tles se­ries un­der the tute­lage of pro­ducer Lloyd Goldfine. Rouleau also had an­i­ma­tion ex­pe­ri­ence as a char­ac­ter de­signer on Loonat­ics Un­leashed at Warner Bros. and on var­i­ous projects at Stan Lee Me­dia, be­fore it im­ploded amid a po­lit­i­cal scan­dal.

“As far as cred­its go, we didn’t have enough for Car­toon Network to hand us the keys to Ben 10 at the time,” says Sea­gle. “So we de­vel­oped it, we con­sulted on it, we wrote a bunch of episodes… but it was al­ways un­der a dif­fer­ent show run­ner.” Ahead of the Times Mov­ing be­yond Ben 10, the group found its comics back­ground a ben­e­fit as that medium’s

Starry Nights: The film­mak­ers used 94 Van Gogh paint­ings that are fea­tured in a form close to the orig­i­nal and 31 paint­ings that are used par­tially or sub­stan­tially.

A Mix of Old & New: brings back fa­mil­iar char­ac­ters from the comics and Emmy-win­ning TV se­ries, as well as new ones.

Mys­ti­cons fol­lows the ad­ven­tures of four strong­willed hero­ines who live in a mag­i­cal uni­verse.

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