Director/Concept Artist Via (Blue Zoo Animation) Growing up, Blue Zoo Animation concept artist Izzy Burton was obsessed with Disney’s 101 Dalmatians. “It’s still probably my favorite 2D animated movie, because of the sketchiness and the London environments,” she recalls. “I’ve also been a huge fan of Ratatouille and The Aristocats for the Parisian backgrounds … Come to think of it, most of the films I love are down to the environment art, which seems very fitting.”
The creative 24-year old recalls writing stories and illustrating them even as a child, growing up in the Cotswolds of England. After studying computer animation at Oxford, Burton realized that she could merge her passion for computers and the arts and pursue a career in CG animation. Before long, she landed a job as concept artist at BAFTA-winning U.K. studio Blue Zoo, where she directed the acclaimed short Via, a painterly, poetic take on a man’s journey through life.
“I love that I’m doing something I didn’t even think was possible for me to do,” says Burton. “I’ve always worked hard, but I feel so completely lucky every day to be a concept artist and have the opportunities I do to direct my own short film. I see so many talented people struggling to find jobs, so the fact I’m here it’s crazy — literally living a bizarre but amazing dream.”
Via’s great reception has encouraged Burton in many ways. “I’d spent so many years trying to be cool and like everyone else, only to realize that it was my kookiness and bonkers ideas that made me me,” she admits. “The response from Via taught me that my way of seeing the world isn’t all that crazy or airy-fairy, and I’m starting to trust in my ideas more.”
Burton says she hopes to direct more short films, and even try her hand at live-action projects in the future. “At the moment, there’s a big commotion over female directors, and I’d love to be one of the next generation of women directors that helps the industry change and progress.”
age the Cowardly Dog). A special GameZone will be launched at the Kunstmuseum, focusing on “Games and Architecture” and e-sports.
Among other special programs are a unique look at the animation of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as master classes offered by the artists and technical teams of Loving Vincent and Isle of Dogs. The organizers are also planning a special tribute to Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon studio with screenings of their hugely acclaimed films The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea and The Breadwinner, as well as William Joyce’s Moonbot Studios. Movie Premieres and Innovative Experiments
“We have around 200 different events at the Festival this year,” says festival director Ulrich Wegenast. “Personally, I am really looking forward to The Futurological Congress by Theater Dortmund. It’s a combination of live animation, acting and shooting of various
to the Russian animation market. We are certainly open to join projects with international studios and can bring much value in terms of artistic creativity.”
FilmFay is an up-and-coming animation studio, which opened its doors in Kazan seven years ago. The team at FilmFay are currently working on a plasticine stop-motion musical feature titled Home. The project’s exec producer Ksenia Fedorova believes that the animation industry in Russian is a victim of corruption, monopoly and a lack of competition because it’s funded by the government. “That’s why we are experiencing big challenges in terms of sales as well as lack of top-level educational institutions in the field of animation,” she says. Despite all odds, the team at FilmFay are working on promoting their new animated feature. “We are pleased to have the participation of famous Russian actors and musicians and to be able to produce an entire feature with plasticine animation. We’ve already released 10 minutes of the project and hope to produce a new children’s series for family audiences on YouTube in the near future.”
While many of the executives expressed their positive hopes for the future, they also believe that the country should put more emphasis on teaching animation to the next generation of artists and workers. Shar is one of the leading animation studio/schools in Russia, and was founded by Fyodor Khitruk, Eduard Nazarov, Yuri Norstein and Andrei Khrzhanovsky in 1993. Over the past 25 years, the school has helped produce over 90 animated projects, including acclaimed shorts such as Khrzhanovksy’s Lion with Grey Beard (1994) and Long Journey (1997), Alexander Petrov’s The Mermaid (1997), and the TV series Literal Stories (1996) by Liza Skvortsova.
Shar’s festival director Anna Ostalskaya is also pleased about the rapid development in the country’s animation sector. “We are seeing the development of many new projects,” she says. “Russian animation has become more visible in the global industry thanks to commercial animated projects
The crown jewel of my animation travels last year was a trip to Russia as a guest of the the 6th St. Petersburg International Cultural Forum.
Our hosts were the lovely CEO of the Russian Animation Film Association, Irina Mastusova; Yuliana Slashcheva from Soyuzmultfilm; the Government of St. Petersburg; and leading the Russian Federation, President Vladimir Putin. The Forum supports the gathering of artists from all over the world and introduces foreign guests to opportunities available commercially in Russia in their specific artform. The guests attended high-level lectures and social occasions where discussions centered on the opportunities and effective mechanisms to get involved with Russian production companies and individuals. The whole trip was, in one word, spectacular — as was the beautiful city of St. Petersburg!
I was well aware of the long history, talent, heart and ingenuity of Russian animators. We were fortunate to host the late director Fyodor Khitruk (1917-2012) in Los Angeles during the 1980s at one of our World Animation Celebration events, along with our longtime friend Aleksandr Petrov ( The Old Man and the Sea, My Love), whose film The Cow is still on my Top 10 list of most favorite animated shorts. I was thrilled to see Petrov again and discover an extensive collection of art by Khitruk at a wonderful reception in the KGallery. The exhibit celebrated Fyodor’s long career as one of the major forces in Soviet animation through acclaimed works such as Winnie-the-Pooh, Toptyzhka, Boniface’s Vacation and The Lion and the Bull.
Beyond the Forum, I was happy to be able to visit a few of Russia’s more than 50 animation and game studios whose work we have covered both in our magazine and online extensively. The largest and foremost of them was The Riki Group, headed up by Ilya Popov, who was our gracious host during a tour of the beautiful home office, including extensive licensing displays for their many shows. Their anchor series Kikoriki is both a Russian and global hit and is sure to be a classic. This impressive group of professionals has been conquering the world with their international co-productions, distribution and licensing projects for more than 10 years. The studio has its own school for the training of animators, storyboard artists, directors and screenwriters in the art of animation. (riki-group.com)
A real treat and surprise was visiting my old friend, and Oscar contender for his short films Lavatory Love Story and We Can’t Live without Cosmos, Konstantin Bronzit, at Melnitsa Animation Studio. Melnitsa made its first feature, Alyosha Popovich and Tugarin the Serpent in 2003. The studio enjoyed the highest domestic box office returns for their seven features about the legendary bogatyrs (warriors) of ancient Russia and continues to innovate with their features across the nation. (melnitsa.com) Glorious Past, Thriving Future
The second half of my trip took us to Moscow for a whirlwind tour of three studios there. Pictured below was the group from Soyuzmultfilm, the studio known for a wide variety of styles and techniques produced by many of the most influential animation artists from the Soviet Union era. We were hosted by Yuliana Slashcheva, chairwoman of the Board, and director Boris Mashkovtsev. They are aggressively continuing the tradition of supporting a diverse collection of artists and shows by extending their outreach around the globe with their much-loved projects. The studio is launching several TV series, and is continuing in the tradition of being the center of animation with the Technopark initiative, which collects innovations and helps Russian animation startups. (souzmult.com)
Next, it was on to where we talked to CEO Dmitry Loveiko and director of marketing Daria Katiba, who told us about the history of and future plans for their global internet phenomenon Masha and the Bear (27 billion views on YouTube). In only nine years they have produced 67 high-quality episodes, and are looking forward to branching out into the U.S. market with their Spin Master deal. Of course, I was very happy to hear Dmitry say, “Thanks to the support of Magazine from the beginning, we have experienced a warm feeling of acceptance from both the industry and the viewers around the world”. We love you too, Dmitry! (animaccord.com)
Our last stop was the studio, the home of the first Russian animated film in 3D: a.k.a. (2010), which was launched by visionary Vadim Sotskov. The company has completed four feature films and has one in production. They have also branched out into series production with and Family. (kinoatis.ru/en)
I highly recommend a visit to the next edition of the St. Petersburg Int’l Cultural Forum in November if you have the opportunity. The Russian people are warm and welcoming, and eager to work with global animation producers. It’s a wonderful chance to experience all that Russian animation and culture has to offer, and should be a must-do on your global animation calendar!
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