THE SMURF’S CELEBRATE THEIR 50th BIRTHDAY IN GENT
Monday March 17th 2008, 3:20 pm
Filed under: Events
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Nancy and Remi dancing with a Smurf in Sint Baafsplein
Nancy and Remi dancing with a Smurf in Sint Baafsplein

Last Saturday and Sunday (March 15 and 16) the Smurfs came to my home town of Gent, Belgium to celebrate their 50th Birthday. The tiny blue figures, who live in little mushroom homes and speak their own language, first appeared as comic strip figures in cartoonist Pierre Culliford’s cartoon “Johan and Pirlouit” which was set in the middle ages.

The Smurf’s popularity increased rapidly, and by 1960 Papa Smurf and his clan had their own comic strip. Hanna-Barbera Productions brought the characters to life as an animated cartoon in 1981, and they soon became a hit around the world.

One of the Smurf Displays
One of the Smurf Displays

Although the Belgian born Culliford, or Peyo, as he is better know to his legion of fans, passed away 15 years ago, he lives on in he hearts of two generations of children around the world. The Smurfs are known in Spain as Pitufo, in Germany they are called Schumpf; Chinese children know them as Nam Ching Ling, and as Sumafa in Japan. Israeli children call them Dardassim. The Smurfs have teamed up with UNICEF to raise awareness of the plight of ex-child soldiers in Africa and this year they will promote children’s rights and education worldwide.

The year long birthday celebration was kicked off in Brussels, Belgium. The Smurfs will tour Belgian cities and continue the celebration in Paris and Berlin. Among the events planned for this special anniversary year is a feature 3-D animation film, new comic book collections and a remastering of the 1980’s television series.



EXPLORING THE WORLD OF CINECITTA STUDIOS AT I CASTELLI ANIMATI
Sunday March 09th 2008, 4:40 pm
Filed under: Festivals
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It was quite a change from cold Estonia and Latvia to arrive at the sunny Rome airport. I had the honor to be invited to be a juror at the I Castelli Animati, 28 November through 2 December. This year the festival was held on the Cinecitta Campus, home to the legendary Cincecitta Studios, in honor of the 70th anniversary of the founding of this famous studio which stands as a symbol of Italian cinema. After a month where I traveled back and forth across Europe and Nik stayed in Gent working on music we were finally reunited when my driver left me at the festival hotel.

The festival encompassed many facets of the animation world from workshops, competitions for special effects, television series and web to the International Competition where I was on the jury. There were also a multitude of special guests from all over the world. The opening evening gala served as a sampling of the diversity of the festival that awaited us. Bruno Bozzetto’s new animated theme for the festival was premiered. The Pierce Sisters, winner of the 2007 Cartoon D’ Or was followed by the first four competition films. Nik performed his score for Fetch! as Nina Paley’s animation was screened and David Silverman talked about the birth of THE SIMPSONS on the Tracey Ullman Show.

After the opening night gala, the next four days were packed full of workshops beginning at 11:00 AM each morning, presentations from such schools as the Vancouver Film School, Bristol School of Animation and the Italian Schools of Animation, and special presentations from Germany’s renowned Studio Film Bilder. I have read about Gabriele Zucchelli’s documentary Quirino Cristiani – The Mystery of the First Animated Movies and was very pleased to finally have the opportunity to see it. Cristiani, a self taught animator, literally forgotten today, developed his craft in Buenos Aires far away from Europe or Hollywood. The world’s first animated feature, El Apostol, was premiered in a Buenos Aires cinema in 1917, and in 1931 he created the first animated feature with sound, Peludopolis. Unfortunately most of his work was destroyed in a number of fires. The documentary shows what is left of his films, a never before seen interview, and two shorts which were rediscovered during the making of the film. For more information on the 90 minute documentary visit www.quirinocristianimovie.com.

I was delighted to discover that the legendary Bruno Bozzetto is as charming as he is talented. When I first saw Europe And Italy, his witty and graphically elegant commentary on European versus Italian sociocultural attributes, I loved it. At Bruno’s workshop screening of his films, I watched this body of his work, and it was easy to understand why this multi award winning master of animation is considered in a class by himself. Bruno was on hand to introduce his film Allegro non Troppo at a special 30th anniversary screening.

Bruno Bozzetto and Nancy
Bruno Bozzetto and Nancy

David Silverman, director of the first Simpsons episode, Bart the Genius in 1990, and most recently, of The Simpsons Movie, is not only an animation genius but a lover of the tuba. He arranged with the festival staff to have one provided at the festival and whenever there was a free moment David and Nik made “beautiful music” together. Nik playing clarinet and David on tuba serenaded Bruno with Happy Birthday when a cake was wheeled out after the Allegro non Troppo screening.

Nik and David Silverman
Nik and David Silverman

David was indeed a very busy man at the festival. In addition to playing duets with Nik and giving an opening night presentation, throughout the festival he hosted 5 separate conversations with the audience about different Simpsons episodes and conducted a workshop.

Renowned illustrator, animator and long time I Castelli friend Oscar Grillo drew the 2007 Festival poster. He also created “The Animated Kafka” exhibition taking us on a journey through the world and style of Grillo especially for the festival. In his workshop, Oscar screened animation that he admires and concluded the program with his intriguing work in progress animation The Blues According to Charlie Parker. Nik and I were both quite taken with this lush depiction of a jazz legend set to Parker’s music.

Thomas Meyer Hermann, founder of the prestigious Studio Film Bilder in Stuttgart, Germany, and my fellow jury member, presented a program of film from his studio. Thomas has produced several films that I have a great respect for. Most notable of these are Andreas Hykade’s The Runt, which always gets a response from the audience by reminding us of the realities of life that we must all face growing up, and the ever intriguing Phil Mulloy’s The Final Solution.

Italian born special effects wizard Alberto Noti works his magic in Los Angeles and has created the effects for such projects as Men in Black 2, The Matrix Trilogy and Spiderman 2. Alberto gave us a glimpse into his latest work on the latest Will Smith film I Am A Legend. Geert Van Goethem introduced the screening of The Flanders Animated Poetry Project. I have written in previous articles about these Belgian, Dutch and Estonian projects, so I won’t go into detail again.

Nik and I presented our program “The History of Animation through Music”. After our presentation we were very touched when Bruno Bozzetto told us how excited he was to see the wonderful Disney classic Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom again. He said that it is one of his favorite films. He first saw it when he was a young boy and the film made him want to be an animator.

The festival had six separate awards categories which were presented in a very interesting manner. In the International Short Animation Competition, the category where I was a juror, films were screened in clusters of 2 to 6 films at a time throughout the day. There is a complete list of the winners in all categories at the end of the article.

Festival Director Luca Raffaelli stays true to the I Castelli philosophy that it is much more rewarding to see a masterpiece for a second (or third) time rather than seeing a mediocre film for the first time. There were very few of the 47 animations in the International category that I had not seen before but the overall quality was so high that I agree with Luca that viewing them for second, third, or even fourth time did not diminish my pleasure of watching them.

The International Competition jury was a very eclectic mix, and even though we had some widely divergent tastes, we all recognized quality. After some intense discussion our final selections were a group of films that the entire jury was very proud of. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend the awards ceremony on the final evening since Nik and I had to fly out to Bournemouth, England for our visit to The Arts Institute at Bournemouth. My jury colleagues e-mailed me that our choices were popular with the audience and that the ceremony was followed by a lovely dinner.

The jury Foreman, Roberto Perpignani, is an eminent film editor having worked on such projects as Last Tango In Paris and countless other feature and short films. Roberto also teaches and coordinates the Editing and Printing Course at the National School of Cinema in Rome.

Fellow jurors Paolo Briguglia is an emerging talent in Italian Film, and Giorgia Maria Priolo is a co-founder of Manigolda Film Production Company and authors a column for La Rivista del Cinematoggrafo. Joining us on the jury was Thomas Meyer-Hermann, founder of Studio Film Bilder in Stuttgart, Germany. I was especially happy to get the chance to know him since he and his studio produce such fine films.

The festival jury
The festival jury

L to R: Jury Foreman Roberto Perpignani, Paolo Briguglia, Giorgia Maria Priolo, Nancy, Thomas Meyer-Hermann

There were two distinct and yet related parts to the festival. Along with the cultural programs, for the second year in a row, there were conferences and meeting dedicated to professionals with an international group of buyers, producers and authors in attendance. Along with workshops, the professional conferences covered topics as diverse as “From Cartoons to Digital Content: Towards a Strategy to Re-launch Made in Italy and Communicating Animated Film: New Marketing Strategies and New Communication Possibilities.

The aim of the programs is to provide a favorable environment where small and medium enterprises can explore services to help them develop their own creative and business projects. Presented in co-operation with ICE-Institute for Foreign Trade, the Ministry for International Trade, Region Lazio and Sviluppo Lazio, with contributions from the Provincia di Roma, the conference shows every sign of growing into a major business market.

On the day I arrived, Nik, David Silverman, Moritz Hirchenhain (director of the Bitfilm Festival in Germany) and I took a walk on the Appian Way which was just blocks from our hotel. It was amazing to gaze at the Roman ruins and realize where I was actually walking. I was doubly glad to have had that walk since I could not leave the Cinecitta Campus after the first afternoon because there was often only an hour or two between our competition screenings that I needed to attend.

Lovely leisurely lunches and dinners were served in the studio commissary dining room to all invited guests. This was the same room where Fellini dined everyday when he was shooting on the lot and there was much speculation amongst us about who was sitting in a chair that the great master had occupied.

On the studio lot
On the studio lot

Nik, whose only obligation was to present a workshop, spent a day wandering about Rome, and I had the amazing opportunity to spend my free time wandering around the remarkable Cinecitta Studio lot which is not open to the public. The sets for the Spaghetti Westerns of the 60’s are not far from the exteriors from Gangs of New York. Towering above the wall of the Flintstones cave you can see the giant head of the Statue of Liberty from The Planet of the Apes. As I gazed at Sound Stage 5 where Fellini worked his magic and stood on the Column that was created for Ben Hur I knew that it didn’t matter that I never made it to downtown Rome because I was seeing “My Rome” on the studio lot. This was such a rare and wonderful experience which I will always treasure!

Spaghetti western set
Spaghetti western set

Luca Raffaelli, I Castelli Animati Artistic Director and Liz Fairs, International Coordinator and Festival Catalogue Producer, along with their hard working staff went out of their way to do everything to make our stay a pleasurable adventure. I urge anyone who is invited to participate in this not to be missed festival. Check out the festival at: www.castellianimati.it.

I CASTELLI ANIMATI XII EDITION, 28 NOVEMBER – 2 DECEMBER 2007 - AWARD WINNERS

CONCORSO INTERNAZIONALE - INTERNATIONAL COMPETITION

Jury

ROBERTO PERPIGNANI (President), PAOLO BRIGUGLIA, NANCY DENNEY-PHELPS, THOMAS MEYER HERMANN, GIORGIA MARIA PRIOLO

Grand Prize:

FRANZ KAFKA’S A COUNTRY DOCTOR, Koji Yamamura, Japan

Special Jury Prize:

MADAME TUTLI-PUTLI, Chris Lavis, Maciek Szczerbovski, Canada

Best First Film:

FOG-NIEBLA, Emilio Ramos, Mexico

Best European Film:

MARATHON, Kaspar Jancis, Estonia

Best non narrative film: EX -AEQUO

BRUISED / BLAUWBLAUW, Sandy Claes, Daan Wampers, Belgium

and

WITH MY QUANTUM STROKE / MEET MIJN KVANTORSLAG, Pieter Vanluffelen, Belgium

Special mentions:

RAIN DOWN FROM ABOVE, Ivan Maximov, Russia

THE TALE OF HOW, The Blackheart Gang, South Africa

ADMINISTRATORS, Roman Klochkov, Belgium

LAPSUS, Juan Pablo Zaramella, Argentina

Audience Prize:

BRAVEFART/LOVE IS IN THE AIR, Polona Sepe, Slovenia

THE “FABRIZIO BELLOCCHIO” PRIZE FOR SOCIAL CONTENT
Jury: JOSHUA HELD (President), BRUNO BRINDISI, ERNESTO PIRO

SANDBOX, Avi Ofer , Israel - With a delicate and effective stroke, the author paints with apparent lightness the real drama of childhood, the main victim of war.

ITALIAN COMPETITION
Jury: ORIO CALDIRON, PIERA DEGLI ESPOSTI, FRANCESCO FESTUCCIA
Grand Prize:

L’AUDIOGUIDA, Cristina Diana Seresini - For the particular effectiveness in addressing psycho-analysis of the ego, suggesting an unusual map of the lines defining subconscious.

Special Jury Prize:

WIFE’S SUPERMARKET, Centro sperimentale di cinematografia: Dipartimento di animazione, di Alice Bartolini, Valeria Pavin, Verena Fanny Trausch -For the liveliness and irony of setting the search for true love in a musical.

Special Mention:

I/O, Luigi Ricca - For the originality of the theatrical stroke and the extraordinary drawing which evokes the issue of the death penalty.

WEB COMPETITION; Realizzato in collaborazione con La Repubblica XL
Jury: DREW DAVIDSON, MAX GIOVAGNOLI
Grand Prize:

PUMPING MAN ‘ CACTUS FLOWER’, Stefano Argentero, Italy - For the originality of the project and the surreal tone of the concept, but above all for the 2.0 philosophy of the product, which can be serialized and is open to re-elaboration from the bottom.

Audience Prize:

ANGELES, Luca Lumaca, Italy

MUSICANIMATA COMPETITION; Realizzato in collaborazione con il MEI di Faenza
Jury: STEFANO DISEGNI, ROBERTO RECCHIONI
Grand Prize:

DICEMBRE, Argentero, B5, Angelici, Musica/Music Roberto Angelini

Special Jury Prize:

WHITE, Andrea Falbo, Andrea Gianfelice, Musica/Music Showroom Dummies

LAMBRUSCO & CAPPUCCINO COMPETITION - Premio organizzato in collaborazione con Andrea Baricordi

MAURICIO GERMAN ASSONE - For the best realization of an animated trailer based on the comic “Lambrusco e Cappuccino”.For the ability to create professional animation in a short time, while retaining the spirit of the original work.

VERY SPECIAL EFFECTS COMPETITION
Jury: ALBERTO NOTI

Grand Prize:

CARNERA–THE WALKING MOUNTAIN, EDI – EFFETI DIGITALI ITALIANI

Special Mention:

LE AVVENTURE DI GIGIO RICICLO, DOT MIND IN MOTION