Recap of the 43rd ASIFA-East Awards Ceremony

Last night (Sunday), ASIFA-East held their 43rd annual awards ceremony at the New School’s Tischman Auditorium. As per usual it was a great night with lots upon lots of lovely animation followed by much talking and socialising afterwards.

I thought the standard was quite high this year, with a particularly strong student section that was nicely book-ended by the experimental films, one of which, Old Man by Leah Shore, seems to be getting quite the praise.

My two favourites were Test Train by Brandon Denmark, which is sadly not online yet but development clips can be seen in Brandon’s reel. As a short, it mixed a rather dark plot with a suitably dark design all wrapped up in a soundtrack that was more than appropriate.

The other film that I really liked (and is online – see below) is Orbis Park by Andrew Kaiko which won the tie for Excellence in Design with The Girl and The Fox. Besides a great, humourous story line, it is a very well designed short. Great layouts and colours but above all a superb character design that ticks all the right marks.

Otherwise it was a very fun night with much animation discussions taking place with many friends both old and new. I was also congratulated no less than three times for my winning film, which was most unfortunate as the truth was far from reality in that I am apparently the doppelganger of Mike Rauch erstwhile half of the Rauch Bros. who won best in show for their Storycorps film John & Joe.

I can’t wait till next year. 🙂

Rebecca Hains Discovers Disney Princess…Flowers???

Yes, these are entirely real, believe it or not. Media studies professor and author, Rebecca Hains, came across them at her local Home Depot recently. Kinda reminds you of the Disney Princess grapes I stumbled across at the grocery store last year, don’t they? Rebecca’s written a great post about on these seeds which you should all read (as well as the comments).

While her post does a great job of analysing how such merchandise is bad for kids and parents, I can’t help but conclude that it is bad for the Disney company also. How is that, you say? Surely they are simply getting a cut and/or fee from the licensing rights and nothing more. Why should they care about it any further than that?

Well, because it’s a sign that they’re failing to care for their characters. The Disney Princess brand is a faux collection of said characters who supposedly represent the best in female traits. Now you could argue about that until the cows come home, but what’s more important is that each of the princesses is only a good fit for her particular context. In other words, the film they appear in.

The Disney Princess brand takes that context completely away, and instead mashes the characters together in a manner that attempts to blend them all into a singular idea of what good female characters should be like; read: princesses. This would be OK if it was for a once-off thing or a singular celebration of the characters, but branding them in such a manner (and licensing them to everyone under the sun) only serves to devalue the characters themselves, and worse, the films they originally appeared in.

The original films are masterpieces, they evoke they very best in art and character. These seeds and the grapes which precede them do not. They are a cheap attempt to imbue otherwise unexciting products with some sort of luster, and while even the humblest of grape can make the finest wine, a grape is still a grape, no matter which character is on the packaging or how superb the film she appeared in is.

Unfortunately, it would appear that the brand is making big bucks for Disney and shows no sign of abating.

 

 

 

Start Your Animation Studio In 6 Easy Steps!

The inclusion of this ad is explained at the end.

Yes! Start your very own animation studio is 6, yes, 6 easy peasy simple steps! Soon you’ll be on your way to Walt Disney-esque fame and fortune, or John Textor-like infamy and ridicule (if you prefer). Why have a boring office job, when you can be making cartoons! Funny, hilarious, maybe even serious ones! Your adoring public is awaiting! Don’t delay! Start today!

OK, enough of that nonsense and onto more serious things. Yup, animation is certainly booming. Everyone and their Mum seems to be getting into the business; either starting a studio or setting out their stall over on YouTube. So it should come as no surprise whatsoever to see that borderline spam site eHow (no, I won’t link, even Google will only help you begrudgingly) has a nice [snicker] guide to setting up your animation studio in 6 steps. Let’s deconstruct it.

Here’s the pitch:

Animation services are in high demand right now. Not only do film makers use animation services to create animated movies, but they also use them for special effects. Computer and video game manufacturers also utilize animation services to enhance their products.

Totally true, right? That’s why the industry as a whole has been expanding over the last 15 years. Then we get to the hook:

With such a high demand for animation this is an industry that is in desperate need of additional service providers, because of this you can turn your artistic abilities into a six or seven figure business.

That’s right, you too can build a $10 million business in one of the most competitive industries in the world.

From here, we go into the actual 6 steps. Step 1:

Find a niche for your animation business. You can focus on animation for commercials, animation for computer games, animation for video games, CGI animation for special effects or you can focus on producing animated shorts or features. The focus that you select will impact which supplies and equipment you use for your new animation business.

Hmmm, that’s a wee bit vague, but then again the industry is quite broad. Let’s see what step 2 says:

Buy equipment. You will need a quality computer system with extra hard drive space to store your animation, digital cameras, lighting equipment, animation paper, cellulose, paint, pencils, general art supplies, drafting tables, light tables, sound equipment and editing equipment. You will also need to buy enough licenses for your animation software to facilitate the size of your animation staff. Some animation software products that can be used include Toon Boom and Xara 3D.

A.K.A. Buy some stuff! Computers! Digital! 3-D!!!

Hire and train your staff. This is a step you can skip if you will be starting out as the only employee in your company. However, when you grow to hire a staff, you will need to make sure that each individual understands the code of ethics associated with your business. You will also need to make sure each is trained in the animation software the business uses. Fortunately, many animation software companies offer user training programs for employees to take advantage of.

Yeah, you probably should train yourself first, and you’ll probably want to hire trained staff so, y’know, they have a clue about what they’re doing. Then again, you could always hire interns

Develop a demo for attracting new clients. This demo needs to demonstrate your full range of animation services. Get the demo down to under three minutes long, while still keeping the images crisp, entertaining and cohesive.

Soooooo, spend money in the hope of acquiring business. Hmmm, surely you would start off small and build a reputation through hard work and excellent customer service and content, no? No? You’d rather blow all your seed capital on a demo that won’t earn you any experience points? Okie dokie then.

Acquire licensure and insurance. You will need professional liability insurance, commercial property insurance, a business license and a copyright for all intellectual property.

Very important these, especially the copyright, which you must acquire despite being granted it automatically. Also don’t forget to register and trademark the shit out of any names, logos, mascots, t-shirts and/or answering machine messages so you can sue the crap out of some poor sod and be rightfully compensated.

Launch your animation company by pitching your services to a target market. For example, set up a website to promote your services, purchase television and radio advertisements, or set up meetings with computer, video game and movie production studios to pitch your services. You may also benefit from hiring an agent to promote your services for a ten percent fee.

I love this last one. Basically it pulls the old “build it and they will come” schtick, which we all know works out well for anyone who’s tried it. Yup, nowhere does it talk about capital; where to get it, how to raise it and how to put it to work. In other words, the green stuff that enables you to do all the above.

The bottom line and reason for this post? The ad at the top gives a clue; people buy this kind of scammy advice! They buy it all the time! They see the dollar signs and the promise of a quick buck, and they get in there and have a good go at screwing up the industry for the rest of the folks busting their backs to make a living, or spend all their free time hustling to get new work.

It doesn’t take a genius to see the news reports of Pixar and Dreamworks’ mutli-million dollar grosses to convince greedy folks that yes, there is money in animation.

Who ultimately gets hurt (and yes, people do get hurt), it’s the actual animators and artists these clowns hire (or not) and either don’t pay them, or promise “exposure”. Let this be a warning: know thy enemy, he is the person who read those steps and attempts to hire you.

5 Reasons To Anticipate Amid Amidi’s Biography of Ward Kimball

Admittedly I haven’t read much on the Nine Old Men. That’s partly the result of reading other things and simply not having the time to devote more time to reading things. However these past few months, I’ve been plowing through the 11th volume of Didier Ghez’s excellent tome, Walt’s People, and through many of the various interviews, I’ve acquired a new level of respect for the esteemed group. One in particular stands out though, and that is Ward Kimball.

Amid Amidi is about to publish an extensive biography on the legendary animator and here is a few reasons why I’m anticipating its release.

  1. Ward’s characters are some of the greatest to ever appear on screen and you know there are stories behind every one.
  2. Ward put together the three space segments of the original Disneyland TV show, and together with Werhner Von Braun, got the technology surprisingly accurate to the eventual Apollo program. That could fill a book in itself.
  3. Walt Disney called Ward a genius. Surely he had a good reason to do so.
  4. Just how did such a wacky “cartoonist” wind up at a studio like Disney and manage to stay for so long?
  5. Ward supposedly started the rumour about Walt Disney’s frozen head. Will this book reveal all?

A British Commercial With More Bouncing Boobs Than Anime

Naughty animated commercials are nothing new, but they were supposed to be all in the past, right? No place for such smuttiness in the enlightened age…or so you thought!

Unabashed sex or just some animators stretching their arms? Either way, this animated commercial for British insurance website Confused.com manages to fit more  bouncing boobs and a not-so-discreet wink than any that have gone before.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6nAvUKPMExc

 

Faith Erin Hicks’ Korra Comic

Faith Erin Hicks is an über-talented cartoonist whose Superhero Girl comic is one of my regular reads. So it was rather nice to hear that she’d drawn a comic strip concerning the new Nickelodeon show, The Legend of Korra.

Faith does the usual great job in breaking down the background to the show in Avatar: The Last Airbender and detailing what makes both shows so great (Hint: it’s the characters). She also finds time to subtly dig at the notions that have kept animated shows like Korra off the air for such a long time.

So enjoy Faith’s comic (via Tor. com)  and be sure to share your thoughts in the comments below 🙂 (click to enlarge)