19th Annual Animation Show of Shows Press Kit
The ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS returns to theaters across North America this fall, presenting 16 exceptional and inspiring animated shorts from around the world. At a time of increasing social instability and global anxiety about a range of issues, the works in this year’s show have a special resonance, presenting compelling ideas about our place in society and how we fit into the world.
“Because animation is such a natural medium for dealing with abstract ideas and existential concerns, the ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS has always included a number of thoughtful and engaging films,” says founder and curator Ron Diamond. “However, more than in previous years, I believe that this year’s program really offers contemporary animation that expresses deeply felt issues in our own country and around the world.”
These films include Niki Lindroth von Bahr’s Annecy Grand Prix-winning “The Burden,” a melancholy, funny and moving film that explores the tribulations, hopes and dreams of a group of night-shift employees, uniquely capturing the zeitgeist of our time. At the other end of the spectrum, David OReilly’s playful and profound “Everything,” based on the work of the late philosopher Alan Watts, explores the interconnectedness of the universe and the multiplicity of perspectives that underlie reality.
16 animated short films presented in order of appearance – TRT 92m11s
- Can You Do It - Quentin Baillieux, France
- Tiny Big - Lia Bertels, Belgium
- Next Door - Pete Docter, U.S.
- The Alan Dimension - Jac Clinch, UK
- Beautiful Like Elsewhere - Elise Simard, Canada
- Hangman - Paul Julian and Les Goldman, U.S.
- The Battle of San Romano - Georges Schwizgebel, Switzerland
- Gokurosama - Clémentine Frère, Aurore Gal, Yukiko Meignien, Anna Mertz, Robin Migliorelli, Romain Salvini, France
- Dear Basketball - Glen Keane, U.S.
- Island - Max Mörtl and Robert Löbel, Germany
- Unsatisfying - Parallel Studio, France
- My Burden - Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Sweden
- Les Abeilles Domestiques (Domestic Bees) Alexanne Desrosiers, Canada
- Our Wonderful Nature: The Common Chameleon - Tomer Eshed, Germany
- Casino - Steven Woloshen, Canada
- Everything - David OReilly, U.S
Perhaps the most relevant film in the show is a 50-year-old short that was restored by The ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS with grants from ASIFA-Hollywood and The National Film Preservation Foundation. “Hangman,” by Paul Julian and Les Goldman, and based on a poem by Maurice Ogden, explores themes of injustice and personal responsibility in its tale of a town whose residents, afraid to speak up, are methodically executed by the title character.
Other program highlights include “Dear Basketball,” Disney veteran Glen Keane’s animation of a poem by Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, written on the occasion of his imminent retirement; Academy Award-winning Pixar director Pete Docter’s 1990 CalArts student film “Next Door”; and “Casino,” the latest film from director Steven Woloshen, who, for some 30 years, has been creating award-winning experimental films by drawing directly on film stock.
The 19th ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS represents the work of artists from eight countries, including nine women. Funny, moving, engaging, and thought-provoking, the ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS not only has something for everyone, but is a remarkable and insightful microcosm of our world.
For 19 years, the ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS has been presenting new and innovative short films to appreciative audiences at animation studios, schools and, since 2015, theaters around the world. Over the years, 36 of the films showcased in the ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS went on to receive Academy Award® nominations, with 10 films winning the Oscar®. Founded and curated by producer Ron Diamond, the ANIMATION SHOW OF SHOWS is funded by major studios, companies, schools and hundreds of animation lovers around the world.
CAN YOU DO IT (2016) by Quentin Baillieux, France
2m53s – 2.35:1 – 25fps – stereo – 3d
Date and place of first release: September 2016, VimeoJoyfully mixing incongruous elements from the highbrow world of horse racing and the “mean” urban landscape, this beautifully designed music video explodes preconceptions of race and class as cultures gracefully collide on the streets and freeways of Los Angeles. The infectious track by L.A. artist Charles X, whose music combines strains of hip-hop, soul and jazz, is perfectly realized in the stylized blend of abstraction and representation, languidness and kineticism, in this evocative nocturnal fantasy.
For "Can You Do It", I wanted to make a film that not only illustrates the specific song, but also embodies Charles X’s message of optimism and hope. The concept of this film was born from a peaceful revolution that doesn’t spring from violence, but gains momentum through mutual love. I wished to approach the subject with delicacy, as well as find a way for contrasts and paradoxes to interact.
I began by mixing two opposing universes – the street and the elite – with the goal of bringing them together. In searching for an ideal street setting, I was immediately drawn to the neighborhood of Pacoima in Los Angeles – Charles’s birthplace. I then decided that horse racing would be a striking and singular elitist universe that would provide a strongly cinematographic contrast.
The first scenes of the film feature a mixture of codes and conventions from both cultures. Gradually, identities blend to create an extraordinary, party atmosphere, where privilege no longer exists and where everyone mixes and has fun together.
Technically, the film is ambitious in mixing 3D with pure design in order to create a final result that matches the refined artistic level of Charles X’s work.
– Quentin Baillieux
Quentin Baillieux graduated from the Gobelins School of Photography, where he co-directed “La Grande Arche,” which served as the opening titles for the 2007 Annecy film festival, as well as “Passion Ski,” his senior project. In 2010 he formed Parallel together with Raphaelle Tinland and directed the short film “Lavomatic,” which screened at numerous festivals, including The European Independent Film Festival, Outbox Beirut, Les Nuits Photographiques Paris, and RIFF Reykjavik 2011. His works with Parallel include adverts for Mediapart and Nespresso, music videos, and the feature film Plan de Table (2011), directed by Christelle Raynal. His film tribute to Stanley Kubrick, which paid homage to space exploration, was screened in the prestigious film competition “La Cinémathèque Française.” His latest project is “Le Mans 55.” Quentin’s works often challenge the tendency of man to self-destruct, as well as exploring the delicate balance between pride, passion and humanity. Since 2011, he has been represented by the production studio Eddy.
TINY BIG (2017) by Lia Bertels, Belgium
Date and place of first release: 1 January 2017 – La Raffinerie – Charleroi Danses, Molenbeek, Belgium
At once fanciful and disquieting, “Tiny Big” presents a series of seemingly unrelated vignettes expressed through simple black-and-white line drawings, punctuated with occasional surprising bursts of color. Underscored by a soundtrack featuring the sounds of nature – wind, waves, crickets – the film eschews narrative, challenging viewers to draw their own conclusions about the significance of ritualized actions in a world that’s both hauntingly familiar and decidedly strange.
“Tiny Big” was created like a personal diary in animation, a sequence a day, in conjunction with a conference about possession and trance organized by the Belgian dance company Charleroi Danses. “Tiny Big” was intended to be choreographic and free of any narrative constraints, focusing on how human beings are somehow inevitably possessed by all that surrounds them. I wanted to create intimate and personal pictures that echo a form of daily violence that we all have to deal with, and show how our deep sensations keep living in the actual world. This film was a kind of letting go for me, constrained only by my own imagination.
“Tiny Big” has made using 2D hand drawn animation, with a little part in stop motion. The idea was to be as spontaneous as possible, like a sketchbook. Every day, after work, I animated little sequences using the animation program TVPaint. I was inspired by old dances in religious ceremonies, finding a similarity with our everyday actions – hence the term “everyday dancers” that appears in the beginning of the film.
– Lisa Bertels
Born in Brussels in 1987, Lia Bertels grew up with a mother painter and a father writer, between brushes and typewriters. She began writing suspense scripts (about the black cat that shared her home) as a young child and, during frequent rainy Belgian days, she became a voracious reader. When she discovered the world of manga (especially the authors Jiro Tanigushi and Tayo Matsumoto), she realized that there was a way to illustrate emotions that cannot be said in another way. After an internship in illustration at St. Martin School in London, she decided to begin animation studies at ENSAV La Cambre in Brussels, where she quickly found her mode of expression – a personal, sensitive and contemplative style influenced by her observation of humanity. In 2009, her first school movie “Micro-Dortoir” was selected for numerous festivals, winning a number of prestigious awards, and her 2011 film “Yussuf the Whisperer” was even more successful. Lia’s other work includes the ongoing web series “Trumfs” (2012- present) and music videos for Nicolas Michaux and Great Mountain Fire. She is currently working on a documentary series about French writer Marguerite Duras and two short films. She lives in Brussels.
Charleroi Danses is one of the most renown contemporary dance company based in Belgium. The company originated with the Royal Ballet of Wallonia, (Ballet Royale de Wallonie), founded in 1966, which was brought under the direction of Frédéric Flamand in 1991. He renamed the company Charleroi/Danse and shifted the focus of the troupe entirely on to modern dance.
Frederic Flamand directed the company between 1991 to 2004 and made the institution well known not only in Belgium but also internationally. In September 2004 he was appointed artistic director of Ballet National de Marseille.
The new coordinator of Charleroi Danses is Vincent Thirion assisted by Michèle Anne De Mey, Pierre Droulers and Thierry De Mey. Charleroi Danses has premises in Charleroi called "The Stables" focused on contemporary art, and a branch in Brussels called "La Raffinerie". Charleroi Danses have produced many dance shows all around the world ("Kiss & Cry" by Jaco Van Dormael and Michèle Anne De Mey, "Rain" by Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker,…) They don’t produce animation films but for an event called "Coupés/Décalés" (Organized by Justine François) they asked Lia for a video about trance and possession in dance.
NEXT DOOR (1990) by Pete Docter, U.S.
3m21s – 16:9 – 24fps – stereo – 2d
Won the Gold Student Academy Award in 1991
An over-imaginative young girl drives her middle-aged neighbor crazy with her noisy adventures, until a shared enthusiasm brings them together. Directed by two-time Oscar-winner Pete Doctor when he was a student at Cal Arts, “Next Door” – which presages the director’s future work with its striking design and highly imaginative visuals – is a wonderful evocation of the power of imagination and the possibility of finding common ground.
Pete Docter was born in 1968 in Bloomington, Minnesota. He taught himself cartooning, making flip books and animated shorts using a family movie camera. After a year at the University of Minnesota, he transferred to the California Institute of the Arts, graduating in 1990. A day after his college graduation, at the age of 21, he began working at Pixar, where he served as a writer on Toy Story (1995), Toy Story 2 (1999), and Monsters, Inc. (2001), which he also directed, earning his first Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Feature. In 2010, Docter won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature for Up and scored another Oscar win in 2016 for directing Inside Out. Docter lives in Northern California with his wife Amanda and his children, Nicholas and Elie.
THE ALAN DIMENSION (2016) by Jac Clinch, UK
8m46s – 16:9 – 25fps – 5.1 – 2d, 3d & stop motion
Sometimes having special powers beyond those of most mortals doesn’t work out all that well (especially for your long-suffering wife), as this very funny tongue-in-cheek fable amply demonstrates. Blessed – or cursed – with the gift of precognition, the eponymous Alan discovers that being “the next step in cognitive evolution” can wreak havoc with your domestic life – and lead to some hard choices.
The character of Alan, a retired accountant who can see the future, came from my own experience of déja vu. Unfortunately these “visions” concern incredibly mundane and routine occurrences. I found it funny that such a miraculous, time-space-continuum-defying ability would be used to foresee what's for breakfast next Tuesday, for example. I worked with a cowriter, Jonathan Harbottle, and together we would bounce ideas off each other and see what made us laugh. The script came together quite quickly once we established the rules of Alan's power.
I initially wanted to create a character-driven comedy that contrasted grand, epic science fiction with the prosaic mundanity of domestic life. However the relationship between the characters became far more important than the sci-fi element. Alan's obsession with time causes him to neglect his wife, but it’s a problem that many couples can run into: becoming accustomed to your partner means it’s easy to forget them in the pursuit of your own interests. We approached the precognition as any other hobby; Alan could just as well have been obsessed with gardening.
The film is a combination of stop-motion, 2D and CG animation. We first built the model set and shot an empty film with no characters, but with moving doors and objects. I then used Adobe Flash to animate the 2D characters and composited them in with After Effects. The VFX artists used a technique called photo grammetry to create the spectacular transitions into space.
It was the largest project I had ever undertaken, and it was very challenging at times, especially through the long months of animating with no sunlight. But I loved collaborating with a team of such talented filmmakers, and screening it to audiences around the world has been very rewarding.
– Jac Clinch
Jac Clinch is a BAFTA-nominated director, animator and writer. After completing a degree in Illustration Animation at Kingston University, he attended the National Film and Television School, where he earned an MA in the Directing Animation program. “The Alan Dimension,” which was his debut animated short, premiered at the 69th Cannes Film Festival in the Cinefondation competition and was nominated for a 2017 BAFTA award in the Short Animation category. He is currently freelancing as an animator and illustrator, while developing new shorts and a feature.
BEAUTIFUL LIKE ELSEWHERE (2017) by Elise Simard, Canada
4m41s – 16:9 – 24fps – 5.1 – 2d
Date and place of first release: 20 September 2017 - Ottawa International Animation Festival
As much about light, color, texture and sound as it is about “story,” “Beautiful Like Elsewhere” evokes a mysterious dreamscape of shimmering tableaux that seem to exist just on the edge of consciousness. Populated by human and nonhuman organisms, classical images and pure form, this allusive world, which may be a vision of the afterlife, hints at a deeper level of awareness and meanings beyond words.
When I was little, I had a book about the hidden worlds you find when you take the long way home. The illustrations were dark, peculiar. I spent a lot of time trying to decipher the feelings they evoked. It was like nothing else we owned at home – it was as though the images existed for me, because of me. I believe this early experience echoes in my work, for communicating from and through these hidden worlds has become a fundamental part of my practice.
I think of my films as experiential moments; open spaces where people may wander and contemplate. This was my fundamental intention with “Beautiful Like Elsewhere,” for it was not designed to offer a conventional narrative, but rather to create an open, visceral experience that may offer a more unique, personal journey.
“Beautiful Like Elsewhere” takes place in a home for elderly women, at the end of time. I wished to present this dramatic moment as seen from another dimension, to create a visual aesthetic that could shine a new and spectacular light on a convention that often risks crossing into the banal.
The making of this film was a fantastic opportunity for me to finesse and expend on the technical knowledge I have accumulated along the years. To achieve the visual look, I have worked with amazing animators and artists, drawing on their respective strengths and sensibilities. The aesthetic emerged from mixed media on paper, cut-out animation, photography, video and light animation. Music and sound design were present very early in the process; they inspired and guided my development throughout the production.
– Elise Simard
Born and raised in Montreal, artist and filmmaker Elise Simard is the creator of seven independent films and co-founder of the animation collective Astro Plastique. Her films include “The Occupant (2007), “My Little Underground” (2012), the tiny musical “Breakfast” (2013), which she produced in Wales while in residency at the Aberystwyth Arts Center, and “Opening Hours” (2015), an occult fantasy about Montreal’s Jarry Park. Known for marrying the traditional with the unconventional, her animation techniques draw upon a diverse selection of artistic disciplines. In 2011, her children's film “La Traversée/The Crossing” (2010) earned her a special jury prize “For Graphic Solution” at the Russian-Ukrainian KROK festival, as well as a place in the Best of Ottawa International Animation Festival Tour in 2010.
Elise has also contributed unique visual signatures and optical effects for documentary features and animations, including We Can’t Make the Same Mistake Twice (Alanis Obomsawin, 2016), “Hedgehog's Home” (Eva Cvijanović, 2016), and The Amina Profile (Sophie Déraspe, 2014), which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in 2015.
Elise holds a Fine Arts degree from Concordia University and is currently pursuing a masters degree in 3D and Interactive Design at the Centre NAD in Montreal.
HANGMAN (1964, restored 2017) by Paul Julian and Les Goldman, U.S.
10m45s – 16:9 – 24fps – stereo – 2d
Originally produced in 1964 and restored by the Animation Show of Shows, “Hangman” is an adaptation of a poem by Maurice Ogden about a town that allows its citizens to be executed one by one. With its universal themes of persecution, injustice and personal responsibility, this powerful film speaks to all eras and nations, and may be seen to have particular relevance in our own time.
Born in Illinois in 1914, Paul Julian attended the Chouinard Art Institute in Pasadena and established his reputation creating murals all around Southern California for the Work Projects Administration before starting his career in Hollywood. In 1939, Julian started working as a layout and background artist at Leon Schlesinger's animation studio (later acquired by Warner Bros.), where he became known for his modernist backgrounds for Sylvester & Tweety, Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck cartoons. He is also credited with creating the Road Runner’s signature “Meep-meep” sound, which was his way of warning people to get out of the way when he was hurrying through the Warner Bros. lot. In succeeding years, he worked at United Productions of America (UPA) and Hanna-Barbera, and also had a long working relationship with Roger Corman, providing artwork for many of his movies. Julian died in Van Nuys, California in 1995.
Les Goldman was born in 1913 in New York. He developed a serious interest in filmmaking while serving with the Army Signal Corps during World War II, and became the manager of a New York animation studio when the war ended. Not long afterwards, he moved to the West Coast, where he produced animated TV commercials and established a working relationship with Chuck Jones, the celebrated director of Warner Bros. cartoons. Together, they founded an independent animation studio, Sib Tower 12 Productions, where they produced new “Tom & Jerry” cartoons under contract to MGM, which absorbed the company in 1964. The following year, Jones and Goldman made the animated short “The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics,” which won the Oscar for best animated short. Among his best-known credits, Goldman served as a production supervisor for “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” (1966) and “The Bear That Wasn't” (1967), and the series “Off to See the Wizard” (1967). He was also a co-producer of the animated feature “The Phantom Tollbooth” (1970). Goldman died in 1983 in Santa Cruz, California.
THE BATTLE OF SAN ROMANO (2017) by Georges Schwizgebel, Switzerland
2m25s – 16:9 – 24fps – 5.1 – Paint
Date and place of first release: 17 June 2017 Annecy International Animation Festival, Closing Ceremony
Georges Schwizgebel’s “deconstruction” of a painting by Paolo Uccello (1397-1475) is a meditative and hypnotic exploration of the visual elements that comprise Uccello’s masterpiece, which itself is renowned for the skill with which the artist brings order to the chaos of armed conflict. Yet, with its deliberative pacing and haunting score, the film is more than simply a masterful exegesis of color, form and space, evoking deeply felt emotions about the nature of conflict and the horrors of war.
A movement within a painting, which begins with the savagery of a battle and comes to a halt in a rendition of a masterpiece of the 15th century. “The Battle of San Romano” was the first classical painting that caught my attention when I was young and knew very little about art history. I bought a reproduction of this painting at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, which I have kept to this day.
This large painting (181 x 323 cm), which was the central component of a triptych depicting the battle won by Florence against Siena, has the same proportions as our computer or TV screens (16:9). For my film, I divided the painting into sixteen fragments and I move from one section to the next, so that one transforms into another, in a continual, counterclockwise spiral. The movement begins at the top left-hand corner of the painting and ends in the same place, which allows me to restart the spiral. Overall there are thirty-six different segments. A slow zoom out allows the painting eventually to be contemplated in its entirety, while it continues to be animated, slows down and eventually comes to a halt.
The three pieces of the original triptych have given rise to a series of contradictory statements about movement. For my part, I tried to make use of the painting’s inherent movement and ended with a freeze-frame, which is unique to cinema.
– Georges Schwizgebel
Born in Reconvilier, Switzerland, in 1944, Georges Schwizgebel is the author of 18 short films that have screened throughout the world. His works have won awards at Cannes, Annecy, Zagreb, Hiroshima, Leipzig, Stuttgart, Ottawa and Espinho, and two of his films – “78 R.P.M.” (1985) and “The Ride to the Abyss” (1992) – were ranked among the hundred most influential animated films by the Annecy International Animation Festival in 2006. “The Man without a Shadow” (2004), his first collaboration with the National Film Board of Canada, garnered 17 international awards. In his earlier films, Schwizgebel used rotoscoping, but he later traded in this tool for a freer approach marked by the gestural application of color and the frequent use of geometric shapes. In 2017 Schwizgebel received the Annecy International Animation Festival Honorary Cristal.
GOKUROSAMA (2016) by Clémentine Frère, Aurore Gal, Yukiko Meignien, Anna Mertz, Robin Migliorelli, Romain Salvini, France
6m53s – 2.39:1 – 24fps – 5.1 – 3D
Channeling the spirit of Charlie Chaplin – or perhaps Jacques Tati – this very funny tale of a series of unfortunate events in a Japanese mall displays both an impressive attention to detail and great comic timing. Even if you’re not a fan of chiropractic, grown men dressed as fuzzy animals, automated conveyances, garish décor, and/or robotic cleaning devices, “Gokurosama” will show you how, when you put all of these together, it spells highly entertaining animated mayhem.
This was truly a team effort. We each had our specific role, but we made sure that at each step of the process the whole team was happy about the story. The whole plot was Yukiko's idea, but we all contributed ideas and gags. In the early stages, we had a lot of brainstorming sessions to weave all the different actions together coherently; the teachers even began teasing us about our reworking the different gags so often. In the end, the story includes a little bit of every member of the team, which is my favorite thing about “Gokurosama” and why I'm so attached to it.
– Clémentine Frère
It's all about simplicity, lighting and colors, so the characters are nicely silhouetted on the screen and we understand clearly what's happening. We managed to simplify our textures and materials so our renders were really fast, and we could render the same shot multiple times if anything went wrong. This also gave us more time to focus on the story, gags, animations and compositing.
– Romain Salvini
Born in 1991, Clémentine Frère earned a degree in computer science before changing course and moving into the arts. She graduated from MoPA (Supinfocom Arles) in 2016 with a specialization in visual arts. After working for a few months in Paris, she moved to London, where she worked as a freelance CG artist at Nexus Studio. Since May, she has been employed at Cartoon Network as a layout artist on the show “The Amazing World of Gumball.”
Aurore Gal was born in 1993 and graduated from MoPa with a specialization in image processing.
Born in 1992, Yukiko Meignien graduated from Ecole Estienne in Paris in 2013 with a DMA, and from MoPA (Supinfocom Arles) in 2016 with a specialization in animation. The following year, she got an audiovisual media production management degree at Gobelins in Paris. While studying at Gobelins, she created 2D animations for a one-woman theatrical show, and is currently working in Paris as an assistant production manager for a CG feature film produced by a French studio.
Born in 1992, Anna Mertz graduated from Ecole Estienne in Paris in 2013 with a DMA, and from MoPA (Supinfocom Arles) in 2016 with a specialization in animation.
Robin Migliorelli was born in 1990 and pursued an Art Foundation course after high school. He graduated from MoPA (Supinfocom Arles) in 2016 with a specialization in animation.
Born in 1992, Romain Salvini studied cinema in high school and graduated from MoPA (Supinfocom Arles) in 2016 with a specialization in directing. After graduating from MoPA, he went to Paris, where he passed a layout test for Cartoon Network. He then moved with Clémentine Frère to London, where he has been working as a layout artist on “The Amazing World of Gumball.”
DEAR BASKETBALL (2017) by Glen Keane, U.S.
5m23s – 16:9 – 24fps – 5.1 – 2d hand drawn
Directed and animated by Disney veteran Glen Keane and scored by legendary composer John Williams, this moving short film brilliantly brings to life a poem written by Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant on the occasion of his imminent retirement from the sport he loves. Chronicling Kobe’s journey from a young boy shooting baskets with rolled-up socks to his arrival at the pinnacle of basketball celebrity, “Dear Basketball” pays tribute to the ideal of pursuing one’s dream, as well as having the wisdom to know when it’s time to move on to the next challenge.
Born in Philadelphia, PA, in 1954, Glen Keane attended the California Institute of the Arts before joining Walt Disney Feature Animation in 1974. During an almost 40-year career, Glen created many beloved Disney characters, including Ariel in The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Pocahontas, the Beast in Beauty and the Beast, and Tarzan. In 2012, Keane departed Disney to begin Glen Keane Productions as a way to further his artistic explorations in animation, design and film. He has created films for Google, the Paris Ballet, Riot Games and, most recently, Kobe Inc. Glen is the recipient of the 2008 Windsor McCay Award for Lifetime Achievement in Animation, the 2012 Tex Avery Award, and was a 2013 Disney Legend Award honoree for his contributions in animation.
ISLAND (2017) by Max Mörtl and Robert Löbel, Germany
2m30s – 16:9 – 25fps – Stereo – 2d & stop motionGiving new meaning to the term “rhythms of nature,” a host of fanciful flora, fauna and geological formations go about their daily lives in this engaging and highly imaginative foray into the wilds of a strange and colorful world. Accompanied by hissing, wheezing, whistling and tweeting, the action takes on increasing urgency, ending in a surprising climax that’s as natural as it is unexpected.
In “Island” we created a strange and fantastic world inhabited by a diversity of creatures. Each of them has a unique personality and its own way of communicating. But, as in the real world, in order to build a community, the creatures have to get to know each other first. As each of them contributes its voice to the community, a rhythm starts to evolve. The more familiar the creatures become, the more the rhythms harmonize with each other. Soon the community is strong and well-integrated; yet, even at this stage, something unpredictable could stop everything…
“Island” is held together by an overall visual style of abstract and geometric shapes. The individual creatures are easy to recognize by virtue of their distinctive shapes, colors and sounds. In “casting” the film, we designed lots of different characters, equipped with weird body shapes to give them special sound-producing skills. Our sound designer David Kamp inspired us with lots of buzzing, roaring, tweeting, squeaking and wobbling.
We combined our special skills to develop the handcrafted and hand-drawn style of the film. While Robert was working on the 2D animation, Max focused on stop motion and set building. As a well-established team, it was easy for us to work together in the development and execution of the story and concept.
- Max Mörtl and Robert Löbel
Robert Löbel and Max Mörtl met at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences in 2008 while studying illustration and communication design. They collaborated on several experimental animation projects and somehow got addicted to animation. Now living in Berlin, Robert is working as an independent filmmaker and animator specializing in 2D animation. Max, currently based in Munich, works as an animator and director focused on stop-motion animation and music visualization. From time to time, they join forces to create weird animations.
UNSATISFYING (2016) by Parallel Studio, France
1m17s – 1:1 – 25fps – stereo – 3d – © Parallel Studio 2016
Date and place of first release – 3 November 2016, Vimeo
You know those times when everything just seems to go right, when you feel like there really is an order to the universe and that everything really does happen for a reason? When you feel like the world is flowing and you’re flowing with it, everything just clicks, and the most difficult challenges can be accomplished with surprising ease? This film isn’t about that.
“Unsatisfying” is about those frustrating, annoying, disappointing little things of everyday life, those little “not such a big deal, but still…” moments that make you cringe. It was inspired by those “most satisfying” videos, which can be found all over the internet, that relate a series of enjoyable moments to contemplate. The slightly retro design and warm reassuring colors, which seem to come from the end of a nice summer day, contrast with the unpleasant situations and emphasize the frustration of the endings.
We quickly realized that there were a lot of other scenarios that it would be fun to see animated, so we ran an animation challenge, aimed at the motion design community. We received more than a hundred unsatisfying short films, all visible here: unsatisfying.tv/.
– Parallel Studio
Founded in 2015 by Thibault de Fournas, Nicolas Lefaucheux and Yann Pineill, Parallel Studio is a motion design studio based in Paris. The three principals met at the graphic design school ESAG-Penninghen, where they spent five years studying the relationships between composition, shapes, typography and color, and also developed a true sense of rigor in creation.
MY BURDEN (2017) by Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Sweden
14m15s – 2.39:1 – 24fps – 5.1 – stop motion
Date and place of first release – 29 January 2017, Göteborg Film Festival
If Ingmar Bergman had made stop-motion animations with singing, dancing animals, they might have looked a little like this. Set in a small commercial park, this melancholy and mordantly funny film (which could have been titled “Existential Angst – The Musical”) explores the tribulations, hopes and dreams of the denizens of this downscale microcosm of Western society. At once bitingly satirical and genuinely moving, “The Burden” is a beautifully realized paean to despair.
“The Burden” was inspired by the classical Hollywood musicals that I loved to watch when I was growing up. The theme is darker, however, dealing with boredom, loneliness and existential anxiety. I mainly wanted to shed light on the kind of pointless, underpaid labor that exists everywhere, but is seldom paid attention to – straightening groceries at a supermarket or working the night shift as a cleaner at a hamburger restaurant. If these employees were to suddenly find themselves in a musical, what would they sing about?
The film took me over two years to finish. All of the models and puppets were made by hand. The marketplace exterior model that floats in space measures roughly 2.5 meters in diameter and was built out of wood, cardboard and plastic, including over 100 miniature street lamps. The music was written and composed especially for the film by the Swedish artist Hans Appelqvist, and recorded live with a 16-person orchestra.
– Niki Lindroth von Bahr
Niki Lindroth von Bahr, born in 1984, is an artist and animation director based in Stockholm. She received her master’s degree in fine art from the Royal Institute of Art in the spring of 2016. Her films “Bath House” (2014) and “Tord and Tord” (2010) have been screened at festivals around the word, including the Berlinale, Sundance, AFI and Annecy. “The Burden” had its world premiere at the Gothenburg International Film Festival 2017, where it received the award for Best Swedish Short Film, as well as the Audience Award. In addition to making her own films and sculpture, Niki is also a freelance costume designer who collaborates with set designer Nicklas Nilsson. Together they designed and made costumes for the artist Fever Ray and for David Bowie’s music video “Blackstar.”
Les Abeilles Domestiques (Domestic Bees) (2017) by Alexanne Desrosiers, Canada
1m58s – 16:9 – 24fps – stereo – 2d
Usually it’s not a good sign when a film opens with death walking in the door; however, in this wry short, the appearance of the Grim Reaper (who exits again as quickly as he arrived) is just one of several intersecting stories that unfold within the hive-like confines of the film’s tranquil universe. Deftly playing with narrative structure – while challenging the viewer to keep up – “Les Abeilles domestiques” is a masterful exercise in “deconstruction” that’s both extremely clever and highly entertaining.
I made this film for my first-year study in film animation. Growing up in the suburbs, I was always fascinated by the beauty in the everyday routines of life. Here I mixed banal scenes with weird ones to create a surreal effect. Also, I always liked wide shots, so I decided to do the film in one long take with a very wide point of view. The beehive structure is important in allowing the spectator to follow each character in their repeating story, while also providing an overall view of a kind of organized chaos that’s very machine-like. I purposely wanted the movie to have a very loose narrative, so that the spectator could choose what to focus on and create his or her own story.
I animated the movie with TVPaint 11 and edited it with Adobe Premiere. The sound was created with ProTools. I based my perspectives on an isometric system so that I could more easily manipulate the characters’ and objects’ dimensions as they move from one box to another. To help get the timing right, I decided to link the different events together in order to make the loops look more natural. For example, the doors open all at the same time, which I think creates a natural rhythm.
Also, to help focus the spectator’s attention, I used similar sounds or particular visual connections to link what was happening in the different boxes; for example, the TV sound become the cinema sound, the smoke from the gambling room becomes a fire, and the girl’s crying becomes the gorilla’s tears. I think all of these technical manipulations also helped imbue the film with a deeper meaning and resonance.
– Alexanne Desrosiers
Alexanne Desrosiers is an animator, cinematographer, director and artist based in Montreal. After studying filmmaking, she began a career as a cinematographer on independent projects and as a camera assistant on major features like Mother! and Arrival. Then, feeling that she wanted to have her own visual world, she developed a passion for stop-motion animation. Gradually, her interest extended to all of animation and she began to experiment with the medium. Her influences include comic books, photographer Gregory Crewdson, filmmakers Wes Anderson and Sofia Coppola, and artist Yuyoi Kusama. Alexanne’s other works include “Piscine à Vagues” (2014), and “Walking the Cow” (2016). Originally self-taught, she is now studying animation at Concordia University.
Our Wonderful Nature: The Common Chameleon (2016) by Tomer Eshed, Germany
3m32s – 16:9 – 25fps – stereo – 3d
“The common chameleon is equipped with double-sided vision, a remarkable camouflage ability, and a tongue that can stretch out twice the length of its body. Despite all of its advantages, it has yet to develop appropriate countermeasures against its biggest weakness…” This cautionary tale reminds us yet again that sometimes there can be too much of a good thing (especially if our powers of discernment leave something to be desired.)
“Our Wonderful Nature – The Common Chameleon” was produced as a promotional video for our Berlin-based animation and VFX studio LUMATIC, which was founded in 2014. Though we came up with the idea for the short independently, we decided to package it as the second entry in a potential series. (The first short, “Our Wonderful Nature,” was released in 2008 and featured the mating habits of water shrews.) Apart from other considerations, we really felt that this short would be fun to do and fun to watch, which is a basic motivation behind all of the independent projects we’ve undertaken so far. The film has screened at numerous festivals worldwide and has won a number of awards.
The combination of nature documentaries and computer animation always seemed very natural to us. Besides the comedy aspects, this sort of genre bridging is also an opportunity to represent human habits through satirical animal behavior. To be successful, this effect requires realistic renderings of the featured animals and environments. We use state-of-the-art technology and we are privileged to have many great talents on our team. This allows us to achieve high production values with relatively humble budgets.
– Tomer Eshed
Tomer Eshed was born in Tel Aviv, Israel in 1977. After graduating from the High School of Arts in Jerusalem, he spent a few years traveling and working in the USA and South America, eventually settling in Germany. There he studied animation at the Academy of Film and Television Konrad Wolf in Potsdam, where he completed two award-winning shorts, “Our Wonderful Nature” (2008) and “Flamingo Pride” (2011). Tomer co-founded the animation collective Talking Animals in Berlin in 2010 and the animation and visual effects studio Lumatic in 2014. He is currently directing his first animated feature film, “Dragon Rider,” which is scheduled for international release in the summer of 2019.
Technical description: The Character Models and environment/set were modelled in Maya and Zbrush. Character Animation and rigging were done in Maya. Textures used a mix of scanned plant textures and handpainted textures done in Mari. Lighting, shading and rendering were done in Houdini and the final compositing was done in Nuke.
CASINO (2016) by Steven Woloshen, Canada
3m58s – 2.35:1 – 24fps – 5.1 – Color On Film)
Date and place of first release: 26th November 2016 Cinematheque Quebecoise, Montreal
This jazzy, impressionistic depiction of the iconography and energy of a gambling casino (a favorite destination of director Steven Woloshen’s late father, to whom the work is dedicated) is all the more impressive for having been created in Woloshen’s signature style of drawing directly onto the film. With Oscar Peterson’s “Something Coming” as its upbeat soundtrack, the film is a breathlessly kinetic and visually dazzling representative of the possibilities of nontraditional animation techniques.
“Casino” is very different from all my other films. Technically, the visual style began to take shape in 2014, which was the centenary of legendary Canadian animator Norman McLaren. I was evaluating prints of his 1942 film “Hen Hop” for the National Film Board of Canada and, as I stared at the prints, I started wondering how McLaren was able to create this film. I was intrigued and I swore that I would try to mimic this visual style.
Color was difficult. American casinos have a unique color scheme and a specific color palette for cards, roulette wheels and slot machines. As it was impossible to create these colored graphics directly on the surface of the film, I first did them as monochromatic images. Then the colors were scanned from old optical printer slides, which were inserted into the printer to change the tonal values of an image. With help, I made an eight-step cycle from each slide and composited the loop into the project.
This new workflow opened up a debate on tougher aesthetic questions, especially with regard to spontaneity in handmade filmmaking. Throughout the process, it was important to keep a free flow between the sound and the image.
– Steven Woloshen
Born in Laval, Canada in 1960, Steven Woloshen is a teacher, film conservationist, animator, craftsman and author. During the past 30 years, he has created over 50 award-winning, abstract films and time-based installations for festivals, galleries and museums. Twice nominated for Canada's Governor General's Award, he has received numerous research and creation grants and, most recently, was awarded the 2016 René Jodoin lifetime achievement award and the 2015 Wiesbaden Lifetime Achievement Award. Under his own banner, Scratchatopia, Woloshen has hosted solo retrospectives and taught handmade filmmaking techniques at workshops and master classes in Argentina, Morocco, USA, Slovenia, Australia, France, Great Britain, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Slovakia, Poland, Mexico as well as across Canada. He is also the author of the books Recipes for Reconstruction: The Cookbook for the Frugal Filmmaker (2010) and Scratch, Crackle & Pop! A Whole Grains Approach to Making Films without a Camera (2015).
EVERYTHING (2017) by David OReilly, U.S.
10m37s – 16:9 – 24fps – 5.1 – 3d
Place of first Release: Berlin International Film Festival 2017
Based on the work of philosopher Alan Watts, who was instrumental in popularizing Eastern religion in the West, this brilliantly conceived and executed short explores the interconnectedness of the universe and the multiplicity of perspectives that underlie reality. Like Watts himself, the film is both playful and profound, and its unique iconography – from somersaulting bears to interstellar flora – allows it to convey weighty ideas with lightness and lucidity.
“Everything” is a procedural, AI-driven simulation of the systems of nature, seen from the points of view of everything in the universe. The film was created over three years by a core team comprised of myself and Damien Di Fede. We previously collaborated on “Mountain,” which was released in 2014 on Steam & iOS, and was embraced by an audience of gamers and non-gamers alike. It has been used as a relaxation tool, musical instrument, meditation aid, sound generator and installation. “Everything” greatly expands the ideas and approach that went into “Mountain.”
– David OReilly
Born in Ireland in 1985, David OReilly is a filmmaker and artist currently based in Los Angeles. He is the creator of the influential short films “Please Say Something” (2009) and “The External World” (2010), and his animation work has won numerous awards and been the subject of several international retrospectives. David has lectured at Pixar, Harvard, Yale, USC and Cal Arts, as well as at conferences and festivals around the world. He has written for “Adventure Time” and “South Park,” and he created fictional video games for Spike Jonze’s Academy Award-winning film Her.