Month: April 2011

The 42nd ASIFA-East Aniamtion Festival is Just Around the Corner!


42nd ASIFA-East Fest PostcardVia: The ASIFA-East Exposure Sheet

In fact it’s even closer than that, it’s standing just across the street!

Yes, this Sunday (May 1st) plays host to the 42nd annual ASIFA-East Animation Festival in New York City. If you are not familiar with it, it’s the chapter’s annual awards show although it is much more than simply handing out glittering prizes.

It’s been three (!) years since I first attended and the evening has been an absolute pleasure every time. The festival is a fine display of talent from the East Cost and beyond and with such a wide variety of categories, the films are a joy to watch and provide for plenty of entertainment throughout the evening. If you aren’t convinced (shame on you!) check out the signal film for this year’s festival produced by Dan Meth:

Besides getting to see some lovely films, there is also the opportunity to meet lots of really talented people, or as Mr. Warburton would call them, soooooooper talented people. The evening is a superb chance to meet and greet (and explain to everyone why an Irish civil engineer of all people would attend).

Things kick off this Sunday (May 1st) at the Tischman Auditorium in The New School at 6pm. If you love animation and live near New York, you really don’t have any excuse for not being there.

The 42nd ASIFA-East Festival.
Sunday, May 1st, 2011
Tishman Auditorium
The New School
66 West 12th Street
Party/Reception to follow
Admission: Free!

Can Animated Films Make You Feel Old?

Movie AgesYesterday’s xkcd comic turned up a bit of a surprise. Oh sure, it made me feel as old as the hills (The Lion King came out how long ago???) and it gave me a good laugh. I couldn’t help noticing the list of movies Randall picked for the comic.

Out of 11 films, 5 of them are animated. That’s just under half!

Those films weren’t the only ones to come out those years so why on earth would Randall choose to use them instead of more live-action ones? It would be safe to argue that the animated movies are in fact better but I’d say it’s more likely that because of animation’s timeless qualities, the films’ ages are much harder to judge and as a result can be used for superior comic effect.

It’s just another reminder that animated films stand the test of time much better than live-action.

Should You Aim For A Specific Animation Style?


An example of Mike Maihack's incredible style

Via Mike’s website

It’s a tough question that’s not too easy to answer straight off the bat. So let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages and compare them at the end, OK?

Having you own particular style of animation can have many advantages. Although it may sound tough to be unique in a market filled to the brim with creativity, there are always ways to make your own mark. A unique style can serve as a fantastic calling card. For example, look at the picture below. Can you tell who drew it? I bet you can.

It is of course, Bill Plympton. His pencilly style is known throughout the animation world and beyond. The same goes for the likes of Bruce Timm, Matt Groening, John Kricfalusi, David OReilly, etc. etc.

Besides being instantly recogniseable, a particular style can serve you well in your films as well. Arguably Bruce Timm’s style of hard edges and stylized characters and backgrounds served the original Batman: The Animated Series very well and played a significant role in that TV show’s success.

The same goes for the likes of South Park. Yes, it is incredibly crude, but it suits the incredibly crude nature of the show and after so many seasons, it is impossible to imagine it any other way.

Is there anything else a certain style can help you out with? How about merchandising? It’s something that is not necessarily at the forefront of your mind when you create a TV show is it? Or is it? Did you know that Chowder creator C. H. Greenblatt supposedly designed Chowder with a plush toy in mind?


Forget the fact that Cartoon Network never took up the opportunity but think about how easy it would be to turn the round little guy into a toy. Chowder is not a toyetic show in the traditional sense, but it style does lend itself quite well to marketing.

Now the bad news. Can a style hurt your career? Sure, it is easy to become typecast into a particular style although a lot of the time, this could be due to a multitude of other reasons besides the style of your work alone.

In fact, if you think about all the poor animated films out there, the style normally doesn’t even factor into it. Why? Well for one, a lot of poor films attempt to copy successful styles and appear as such, and secondly there are usually even bigger problems with the likes of the story or script that overshadow the style.

As an animator, it is these problems that will be the ones you will have to watch more so than your style. Having said that, there are still plenty of opportunities to go wrong, especially in the are of character design. An area where many non-Disney animated films seemed to fall short (at least according to my mother).

The second danger with having a strong style is that it may go out of fashion. A great example are the fantastic Cartoon Modern TV shows and films put out in the 1950s and early 60s. As fantastic looking as these shorts are now, they apparently could not stay in style forever and by the end of the 1960s, it was extinct in the mainstream.

This is not fault of its own, just the whims of consumer taste. Just bear in mind that if you have a very strong, contemporary feel to your style, you should be prepared to adapt a new one at some point.

Overall, the reasons for adopting your own style far outweigh the disadvantages. Signs of uniqueness and individualism can go a long way in the creative arts (just ask Andy Warhol or Georgia O’Keefe). In animation, developing a particular style should be a priority when it comes to your personal films or indeed your creative pitches to others.

What are your thoughts on a unique animation style?


Do Cartoon Characters Work Their Way Into Your Life?

Via: Cartoon Brew

While reading Amid’s post about the upcoming exhibition of so-called street art at MOCA in Los Angeles, a thought occurred to me. Is there a reason why there is animation in it at all?

What I mean is that, why on earth would such street artists choose to use animated characters? As Amid points out, some have graduated to using their own characters, but the majority will use well known characters (from perhaps some big, evil corporation).

If you think about it, it seems somewhat obvious. We do seem to have a strong attachment to the cartoons and cartoon characters from our youth. Is it a subconscious yearning for the old days? I’m not sure (but feel free to post your theories in the comments below).

I would argue that characters do tend to work their way into your life as a child and they do tend to reside in the ol’ noggin for the rest of your life. They also represent a certain time that you may like to hold dear or perhaps you identified with the character as a youngster. For artists like the ones in the exhibition, cartoon characters can represent a whole host of things, either from their own personal lives or from their work. Either way, they seem to find artistic value in the characters far outside their original purpose.

What is clear is that cartoon characters pop up all over the place. I’ve seen plenty of 18 wheelers with a Tinkerbell sticker on them! I’ve also seen plenty of old folks wearing a Disney sweater or baseball cap. They are surely well outside the target demographic for such things, right? But is it really that surprising to see such things?

All of this is a sign of the relationship that animated characters form with ourselves. If you need any proof, just think about the last time you saw someone some Saved by the Bell merchandise. Such stuff is pretty hard to come by. Now compare it with all the Ren & Stimpy stuff out there. I think the answer speaks for itself.

Are the Characters the Only Good Thing About Anime?

Three (or four) of the most intriguing characters of any anime series.

Way back in sometime last year, I wrote a post about anime that seemed a wee bit condescending on quite a few levels. In retrospect, I suppose I was referring more to the fan culture surrounding it  than to the animation itself.

Long story short, I recently began watching Witchblade, the first anime show I’ve watched since I bought Neon Genesis Evangelion on DVD a few years ago, and I have to say that I appreciate anime in a much different way than I used to.

Now, I notice that I pay much less attention to the likes of plot, animation and setting and much more attention to the characters themselves. Now perhaps that’s just me, although I tend to judge a film/TV show on the characters more than anything else.

So that led me to begin wondering whether in the case of other anime; is it the characters much more than anything else that provide the appeal of this particular kind of animation?

I mean, why would I find a character in an anime show interesting? That I don’t know, although if I were to hazard a guess it is because anime characters are more complex and layered than their American counterparts, for the most part that is. There are plenty of US and European shows with just as complex characters too.

Such depth naturally allows for a lot of character development throughout a series and helps keep the viewer coming back every week. It’s a bit unlikely that American viewers are coming back for the voice-acting, right? I wouldn’t. (Not to detract from the voice actors who do marvelous work, it’s just that unless your Dan Castellaneta, I’m unlikely to be watching the show for your voice alone).

While there is clearly a story to tell in Witchblade, it is the characters more than anything else that has kept me hooked on the series.

Is it the same for you, or is there something else about anime that keeps you interested in a series?


A Student Blog Worth Your While Reading

I forget how I managed to stumble across this blog (probably late at night when I’m a bit sleepy) but I’m glad I did. Written by the students at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, it’s a collaborative effort by the animation students there.

It’s a wide ranging blog that covers anything from individual animator’s to hints and tips on techniques to opinions on the industry as a whole.

While there may not be the sage advice you would find on a an experienced animator’s blog, it is quite fascinating to see the opinions of students who too often neglect to run any kind of individual blog. Besides that, there are also links to workspace advice, internship opportunities and links to suppliers.

The updates are fairly frequent and the tone is friendly. The SMFA Animation blog is certainly one you should consider adding to your bookmarks.

A Sensationalist Book Filled With True Stories

Via: Heroes in My Closet

Which I managed to pick up at MoCCA and have been quite intrigued by some of the stories therein. While we’re talking about the author, Craig Yoe, I also managed to pick up his absolutely excellent Jetta book.

Via: Colleen Coover

Besides being stuffed to the gills with great art, there are also the original comics themselves, which are fascinating to look at, especially when you realise they were published a good decade before the Jetsons made it to TV.

An Open Letter To Mr. Tom Lowe

Not that I want to keep coming back to the same topic, but waaaay down in the comments for Amid’s recent post on Cartoon Brew about making money from your short film, are some responses from a Mr. Tom Lowe who would seem to be involved in Bob Gofrey’s official website.

In case you’re curious, here are his comments:

Each video on YouTube had around 4000 hits, and there were around 5 videos up, so around 20,000 hits in total. Not much by YouTube terms.

We are looking in to DVD-to-download options, as the inital cost of DVD mastering would be way too much at the moment.

As for the films initially being free, can I ask where you got that information from, or have you just made it up?

As for free and extra content, we have an interview with Bob talking about Henry 9 ’til 5 which is free before the paywall for the film. More films will include these interviews with Bob, for free.

As for an iPad app, I’m not going with a closed-system run by Apple. As for services like Netflix or LoveFilm, they only deal with distributors, finding one of those isn’t something I have any inclination to do, as we would lose control and certain rights. It may generate more revenue, but it’s simply not an option for us.

As for a better designed site, we’re working on it. We are trying to perfect it and make it as user friendly as possible, so please keep comments coming, we are listening.

In the mean time, if you do want to use the site, we offer weekly subscriptions from £2.99 (around $5) a week.

And here’s his response to a few other comments which pointed out where you could still watch the shorts online.

Here’s his final comment after all of the above:

Amid, I must say it’s a shame that you want to rubish our Pay-per-view site and break copyright law, rather than contact us, talk to us about it and maybe come to some agreement about giving your readers a discount, maybe even giving you a percentage. This would be far more constructive for everyone involved.

With all that fresh in your mind, may I present my open letter to Mr. Tom Lowe:

Dear Mr. Lowe,

The career and legend of Bob Godfrey as an animator will never be forgotten, as long as people such as myself are alive who have fond memories of growing up on some of his greatest works (I have an affinity for Roobarb myself). His many short films and the numerous nominations he received for them solidify his place in animation history without a doubt. What I am concerned about, is that his legacy is at risk in this new, digitally connected age.

The frontier that is the internet has been drastically altering the entertainment landscape for some time now with no end in sight to the revolution we are currently going through. It has been tough on many aspects of the film and TV businesses as they have struggled to try and find their place in the new landscape. You are not alone in your attempts to preserve the legacy of Bob Godfrey for all to enjoy.

You face a considerable challenge in this regard, and I admire you for making the effort necessary to bring Bob’s films to the attention of people who may not be familiar with his works. Naturally it is desirable to do so in a profitable manner that is sustainable, yes? After all, no-one could they be expected to incur the considerable costs of providing streaming content by themselves, I know I sure wouldn’t.

However, your comments as posted to the recent Cartoon Brew posts are somewhat disheartening, especially so when considered in light of your comment on Amid’s post back in 2010 where he revealed that the shorts were online. There is a great air of optimism about it! You seem excited that fans are enjoying the YouTube channel and its videos. The comments above are such a turnaround from then, yes?

Four thousand hits on YouTube is actually pretty decent, considering the videos were only up for a couple of months. Great films such as those are lucky in that they are not constrained by the need to feel ‘new’ or ‘hip’. They are timeless and as a result, could remain on YouTube for many years without ever going stale. Twenty thousand hits overall may not be much by YouTube standards, but there are millions of videos on that site that have maybe hundreds of hits, and there are plenty with none at all!

You also mention providing free content and use the documentary as an example. While this is “extra” of the films themselves, it regrettably does not provide someone who has not seen Bob’s films with a big enough incentive to pay for them. Think about it. If the latest Harry Potter film came out and instead of a trailer, they posted a documentary about the actors instead, would half as many people want to go see the film? I doubt it very much.

People (in the US in particular) have become accustomed to most things available online having no direct cost to them. That is how things have played out over the last 15 years or so and once people know they can get stuff for free, the become extremely reluctant to being paying for it. While your plan to charge £2.99 (or $5) a week is commendable, it absolutely pales in comparison to the tens of thousands of hours of content I can view on Netflix for $8 a month. The problem is not so much how much you charge, but how little substitute services like Netflix charge in comparison. You are not so much competing for my wallet as for a combination of time and choice.

You are in a strong position, Tom. There are plenty of other avenues to pursue besides charging people to watch the films. I’m sure there are many items that could be sold instead. How about limited edition drawings, sketchings, posters, etc? Sure physical objects like these cost more, but they make more per sale too. Besides that people sometimes buy more than one. I’m sure you can figure something out, in the meantime, why not help spread the word about  Bob’s films? Cartoon Brew has already done so and introduced many more people who would otherwise not have known about Bob or his amazing films. Even this letter, which I am posting to my blog, will introduce my readers to a legendary animator who they not have known about.

Lastly, it is important to be acutely aware of the distinction between copyright and theft. If sharing copyrighted materials was theft, it would already be covered by the many laws already in place that cover physical property. Copyrighted materials do not come under such laws and in legal circles they take pains to avoid confusion. Unauthorized reproduction of copyrighted materials is considered infringement for this very reason.

Surely it would be much better view people who want to see Bob’s films as fans, yes? And if they want to view the films, why not let YouTube take care of the cost of hosting and streaming them? They’re willing to do it for free, why should you take on the burden and cost of doing so? Let YouTube carry take the risk!

I sincerely hope that you find a way to keep Bob’s shorts online in a way that caters to his fan’s needs and helps attracts new people to Bob’s timeless films.


Charles Kenny

How Environmentally Friendly is Animation?

Via: The New York Times (which I was somehow able to access)

Yesterday it was announced that Captain Planet is being released on DVD. Would it not have been more environmentally friendly to just stream the shows instead?

With that in mind, just how environmentally friendly is animation anyway?

Let’s see:

Traditional animation:

  1. Reams upon reams of paper (most likely not recycled)
  2. Hundreds of pencils
  3. Thousands of cels (cellulose acetate)
  4. Hundreds of litres of ink and paint
  5. Various chemicals for developing the film (as well as the film itself)

CGI Animation (assuming an all-digital production)

  1. Hundreds  of Desktop computers
  2. Render farms with thousands of servers

Now these are extremely overly simplified lists, but each element of both can be extrapolated out in terms of their environmental impact. For example, the environmental cost of pencils is not just about the wood in them. It also include the emissions from the machinery to cut down the tree, the chemicals used to treat the wood and the emissions from the various vehicles used to transport it to the shop you bought it from as well as the emissions from your car that you used to drive down there.

Other things like air-conditioning for the building, the materials used in the studio and of course the transportation costs of distributing the actual films to theaters can all contribute to the environmental cost of an animated film.

All of this can go unnoticed and usually does, but they are important to remember because it is easy to become short-sighted and think that just because animation doesn’t really produce any tangible goods (in the strict sense) that it is environmentally friendly.

This post isn’t a lecture, just more of a subtle reminder to have a broad mind when it comes to this kind of thing.