Great Russian Animator Yuri Norstein in Person in San Francisco February 7th
Friday January 29th 2010, 7:16 am
Filed under: Festivals
Comments Off

If you have never had a chance to meet or  see the amazing films of the Great Russian Animator Yuri Norstein do not miss this rare  opportunity.Yuri will appear in person on Feb 7 to present 3 works: Hedgehog in the Fog, Tale of Tales, and a segment of his work in progress, Nikolai Gogol’s OvercoatTale of Tales has been recognized as the greatest animated film ever made.
The first two will be accompanied live by Gojogo - a Berkeley based world music quartet with guest artists who will perform a new original score for the animations. The entire duration of the screening will be about 1h20m. Doors 8pm, screening 8:30.

The show will be a benefit to raise funds for Yuri Norstein’s studio in Moscow.

The show is expected to sell out so advance tickets are advised.
Advance tickets and prices: Brown Paper Tickets

The Balboa Theater is located at:

3630 Balboa Street

San Francisco    94121

Don’t Miss the Deadline for Entries for ANIMAFEST Zagreb 2010
Thursday January 21st 2010, 1:05 pm
Filed under: Festivals
Comments Off

I can whole-heartedly recommend that animators send their films to this world class festival — but pay attention because the deadline is drawing near — 31 January.  Hope to see many of you there.

Submission deadline is 31 January 2010.

For detailed information and online submission please visit Animafest official web site

World Festival of Animated Film - Animafest Zagreb 2010

20th World Festival of Animated Film - Animafest Zagreb dedicated to short animated films will be held from 01  -06 June 2010 in Zagreb, Croatia.

Animated shorts completed in 2008 or later with a running time of 30 seconds to 30 minutes may be entered into the following competition categories:
- Grand Competition
- Student Competition
- Films for Children Competition
- Commissioned Films (Educational, Commercials, Music Video)

World Festival of Animated Film - ANIMAFEST Zagreb
c/o: Hulahop
Nova Ves 18/3
10 000 Zagreb, Croatia
tel: +385 1 3907074
fax: +385 1 4666443

Wednesday January 13th 2010, 1:04 pm
Filed under: Festivals
Comments Off

Nancy in Frederikstad
Nancy in Frederikstad

Only a few festivals stand out in my memory as a perfect combination of excellent animation programs, superb organization and top-notch hospitality.  Fredrikstad Animation Festival, November 11 through the 15th in Fredrikstad, Norway was such an event.  Of course, how could I not love a festival where the award is named The Golden Gunnar, after my good friend Gunnar Strom, Norwegian professor and animation historian.  The statue, a moveable golden armature sculpture of Gunnar, complete with his wild long hair, designed by renowned sculpture Pjotr Sapegin.
At the heart of the festival is the Nordic-Baltic competition comprised of three competition programs and a separate screening of the top student films.  Some of the films were very familiar to me such as Kaspar Janice’s wonderful Crocodile and Signe Baumane’s Birth, however I made many new discoveries.
The biggest surprise was Anita Killi’s Sinna Mann (Angry Man), based on a popular Norwegian children’s book of the same name by Gro Dahle and Svein Nyhus.  Killi’s disturbing film is about a boy who blames himself for the repeated acts of domestic violence that he witnesses.  The story is loosely based on a true incident in a Norwegian village, where several children wrote to the King asking for his help in dealing with the violence in their families. They assumed that tbe King could do anything. The King was extremely touched and invited the children to the royal palace so that he could explain to them that their father’s behavior was not because of anything that they did.
I was told that when the King saw Anita’s film he cried.  Obviously the jury and audiences were equally moved because the film was awarded as The Best Nordic-Baltic Short Film as well as receiving the Audience Award.  The jury stated that Angry Man is a “dark theme told in a naive but very wise way.  It is an important film for all ages that really gives a positive solution to a terrible problem.
An interesting departure from most festivals was the third competition program carried a warning “This program is not suitable for children”.   It certainly did contain some strong material.  The opening film, Ralph and Jimmy, by Swedish director Jacob Stalhammar dealt with pedophilia.  The competition went on to Dildoman, set inside an unusual strip joint and Watch Alice Bleed, an 11 minute stop motion music and theater show whose title tells it all.  I didn’t think that I would ever say that Signe Bauman’s Birth was one of the tamer films in a program, but in this case it was.  I commend the festival programmers for putting together a program that was challenging to watch and sure to offend some of the audience, but with films deserving to be screened.
In addition to the Nordic-Baltic films there was a presentation of International Short Films, a special Children’s Program and a screening of the five 2009 Cartoon d’ Or finalists. The winner for 2009 was David O’ Reilly’s Please Say Something.  He received the prestigious award a few weeks before at the Cartoon Forum in Stavanger, Norway.  Several feature films such as Mary & Max and Coraline were also screened.
The Festival abounded with guests and special moments.  The Opening Night ceremony started on a very touching note when revered Norwegian animator Inni Karine Melbye was awarded a Life Time Achievement Award for her many contributions to animation.  To add to the joy of this special evening, Inni was presented her award by her old friend and collaborator Michel Ocelot.  Michel flew in from France for the one night just to honor his colleague.  He kept his arrival a secret, even eating dinner in his room that evening so that no one would see him and spoil the surprise.  The next morning, he was on his way back to France.

Inna Karine Melbye with her Golden Gunnar
Inna Karine Melbye with her Golden Gunnar
Gunnar Strom, Inni Karine Melbye and Michel Ocelot
Gunnar Strom, Inni Karine Melbye and Michel Ocelot

A screening of the new Swedish animated thriller Metropia, introduced by director Tarik Saleh followed the award presentation.  Set in the near future in a Europe which is kept under control by a massive underground Metro system, the film features characters made with highly stylized and reworked photos, in muted tones of grey and black.  The film held my interest for the first few minutes but then the plot seemed to wander all over and the script writing became very weak.  Nik and I discussed the film later and neither of us could make much sense of it.  The party in the hotel Blue Sky Bar with its sweeping views of the city skyline definitely lifted spirits.
Ralph Eggleston, Academy Award winner (The Birds, 2002) and production designer at Pixar led off the daylong seminar for professionals entitled Style and Design in Animation.  Not only is Ralph a nice guy, he’s also a very entertaining speaker.  He filled his two hours with a mixture of technical talk and stories about his contributions to such legendary films as Toy Story, Monsters Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, Wall-E and Up.  I was very pleased to hear him stress how important a strong background in drawing is for working in computer animation.  Ralph showed the importance of each step from the initial drawing of a character to the sculpting of it before it is finally rendered into the computer.

Ralph Eggleston
Ralph Eggleston

Meeting Philip Hunt, co-owner and creative director of London based Studio AKA, was a delightful surprise.  Philip also gave a two hour professional seminar covering some of his idiosyncratic work in commercials and short films including the multi-award winning short film Ah Pook is Here, an interpretation of recordings by the late William S.Burroughs.
In a separate program, Hunt talked about adapting and directing his latest project,  the children’s animated film Lost and Found.  It is based on Oliver Jeffers’ award winning children’s book of the same name.  I’ve watched this heartwarming story of a boy who finds a penguin on his door step several times with friends of all ages and they have all been as touched by it as I am.  It is definitely a film for children of all ages. Lost and Found won the TV special award at Annecy 2009.

Lost and Found
Lost and Found

The third participant in the daylong event was Tarik Saleh, designer and director of Metropia.  I couldn’t attend the presentation but I did talk to a fellow festival guest who did.  He said that the talk didn’t make him like the film any better, but he did gain an appreciation of the film’s design process and the new techniques that the film makers invented.
Renowned Russian animator Ivan Maximov presented a retrospective of his work.  It was a rare treat to see the body of Ivan’s work on the big screen.  Nik created the music for Ivan’s latest film, The Additional Capabilities of the Snout, and he played along with the film on his clarinet when it was shown.  Nik and I also presented a program of historical animation with emphasis on the musical scores.   We were extremely honored to be introduced to the audience by our old friend Gunnar Strom.

Nik, Gunnar Strom and Ivan Maximov
Nik, Gunnar Strom and Ivan Maximov

An animation workshop was set up in the theatre lobby by E6 Ostfold Media Workshop, part of the Fredrikstad Cultural School, to give festival attendees a chance to explore simple hands-on animation techniques for themselves.  The Media Workshop also premiered Animation Composition, a collaborative program that brought together the talents of The Norwegian Wind Ensemble, five local composers, and young students from throughout Norway.   Under the tutelage of professional animators, the students made animated music videos which were screened with live accompaniment by the ensemble.  Although not all of the pairings of animator and composer worked well together, it was an impressive undertaking, as this was a first-time project.
Live music and images were again put center stage with a special performance by audio visual artists Noriko Okaku and Max Hattler.  Using repetitive sequences of animated figures and objects, ranging from simple designs to more complex structures the duo worked seamlessly together to create a live audio visual experience projected onto three screens.  The work “/\/\/\”, commissioned by and premiered at the festival, was an amazing experience.  As I watched the images flow across the trio of screens and listened to the interesting soundtrack especially commissioned for the piece, I became part of the experience.  I talked to several festival goers who had the same experience.  I urge any of you who have the opportunity to see Noriko and Max not to miss the experience.  Visit to find out more about the duo’s work.

Noriko Okaku and Max Hattler performing /\/\/\
Noriko Okaku and Max Hattler performing /\/\/\

The festival café, conveniently located across the street from the festival theatre featured a special exhibition of works from Inni Karine Melbye’s 1983 feature film of The Journey to the Planet Nazar.  In the evenings there was a special festival bar which was the place for everyone to congregate.  Nik and our good friend Ivan Maximov gave a few impromptu guitar and clarinet concerts in the there.

Nik and Ivan Maximov playing in the bar
Nik and Ivan Maximov playing in the bar

The Festival “Caravanima”, the world’s smallest cinema, was parked outside the theatre.  A 1977 vintage caravan was fitted out as a mini cinema on wheels and anyone could pop inside to watch a selection of short animated films.  Caravanima is especially designed for use with children and adolescents, and also makes appearances at music festivals and other large events in Norway to bring animation to an even wider audience.
The week seemed to fly by, and all too soon closing night arrived.  The Awards Ceremony was held in a large gaily decorated room with long tables rather than traditional theatre seating giving the presentation a warm, friendly atmosphere.

Festival director Trond Ola Mevassvik and coordinator Magnus Eide at the Caravanima
Festival director Trond Ola Mevassvik and coordinator Magnus Eide at the Caravanima

The festivities opened with all of the guests being introduced on stage, where we were each presented a bouquet of flowers and a DVD of Norwegian film and animation. (Luckily for us, all the proceedings were conducted in impeccable English by the two presenters.) This was followed by a screening of Inni Karine Melbye’s The Journey to the Planet Nazar.
The jury, composed of Swedish animator Jessica Lauren, Antti Laakso, winner of the Festival’s Best Nordic-Baltic Student Film of 2008, and audio-visual artist Max Hattler, came to the stage to present the awards.  Estonian Kaspar Janice’s Crocodile, a touching, humorous film about love, pain, and loss, won the Golden Gunnar Grand Prix.  This win automatically makes Crocodile a nominee for the 2010 Cartoon d’Or since the Fredrikstad Animation Festival is one of the nine European festivals which nominate a film.
A very radiant Anita Killi took home the Best Nordic-Baltic Award for her poignant film Angry Man.  She also was honored with the Audience Award.  A complete list of winners and the jury’s statements are at the end of the article.
The ceremony concluded with a performance by Ultra Sheriff.  When I read their description in the program as “hard electronic with robot voices, grand choruses, and a sci-fi ‘80’s cartoon style” I was prepared to really dislike them, so  I was in for a very pleasant surprise when the trio took to the stage with a combination of live music and animated backdrops presented with a dash of humor.  They put on a high energy, entertaining stage show and the animations were spot on.  They also had the good sense to keep their set short (about 20 minutes) and left the audience wanting more.The tables and chairs were pushed back for dancing and everyone got into the party spirit.

A very radiant Anita Killi
A very radiant Anita Killi

Festival Director Trond Ola Mevassvik and Magnus Eide, Festival Co-director were perfect hosts, going way out of their way to make sure that their guests were well taken care of.  The festival was well organized with high quality screening rooms,  and most important of all the programming for the entire week was strong and varied.  The Festival theatre was conveniently located just a few doors from our hotel, which was especially nice when it snowed.  All of the guests stayed in the same hotel, which meant that we ate meals together.  This gave us the opportunity to get to meet and talk informally over food and drink.  Almost every night there were after parties in one hotel room or another.  Conversation, drinking and many people crammed into one room went on far into the night.
This was my first trip to Norway - I have always wanted to go there and I was pleased to find that my instincts were indeed correct.  Fredrikstad is a beautiful city located at the convergence of two rivers at the edge of the North Sea.   I took every opportunity that I could to explore the city, full of very friendly people, on foot.  Trond Ola and Magnus arranged for the guests to visit the Old Town across the river from modern Fredrikstad.  We explored the fascinating ancient city with Morten Marius who was born and raised in Old Town and works at Netron Graphic Design and animation  located in an old building there.  Morton was an excellent guide, giving us a mired of details about the walled city.   Kongsten Fort was constructed in 1663 as a military enclave which could easily be defended against Swedish invaders.  The narrow cobblestone streets are lined with picturesque 17th Century buildings, many of which are home to artists and craftsmen who live and work within the city’s walls.  Old Town is the best preserved fortress town in Scandinavia and although the 330 permanent residents are invaded every summer by thousands of tourists, the town has managed to avoid becoming one large tourist trap as so often happens to many “historic old cities”.  After a short ferry ride back across the river and a leisurely stroll through Fredrikstad we were back at the festival and ready to see more animation.

Foreign Guests in Old Town
Foreign Guests in Old Town

I urge anyone who is invited to the Fredrikstad Animation Festival to attend.  Not only did I have the opportunity to watch many Scandinavian films that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise,  I also got to eat all of the pickled herring and beets for breakfast that I wanted and meet many warm, wonderful people.
On Monday Nik headed back to Belgium to go back to work on music and I went on to Tallinn, Estonia for the Black Nights Animation Festival.  Since Kasper Janice was not in Fredrikstad to receive his Grand Prix award for the wonderful Crocodile I had the honor of carrying it to Tallinn to present it to him at Black Nights.  More about my adventures in Estonia next.
To learn more about the Fredrikstad Animation Festival visit their web site:
Best Nordic-Baltic Student Film - Space Monkeys by Jan Rahbek, Denmark
Jury Justification:  “Action filled, full of humor and a warm finish.  A very impressive student film.”
Best Nordic-Baltic Comissioned Film – Jenkki Professional Tooth by Jalmari Helander, Finland
Jury Justification”  “A funny and sympathetic film about taking care of his teeth as if they were your pets.  For an original idea and good implementation.”
Best Nordic-Baltic Short Film – Angry Man by Anita Killi, Norway
Jury Justification:  “A dark theme told in a naive, but very wise way.  An important film for all ages that gives us a solution”.
Special Mention – Birth by Signe Baumane, Latvia
Jury Justification:  “Talks about anxiety about birth and motherhood illustrated with clever use of animation.”
Special Mention – Consoul by Lasse Gjeertsen, Norway
Jury Justification: “Consoul uses restrictions and conventions from an 8-bit computer game to reflect on the limitations and conventions of everyday life.  A thoroughly enjoyable and pointed film, which gives a new meaning to many lives and other dimensions.”
Golden Gunnar Grand Prix – Crocodile by Kaspar Janice, Estonia
Jury Justification:  “A funny film about loss and pain with a reptilian theme.  The innovative animation takes everyday life to a higher level”.
Audience Award – Angry Man by Anita Killi, Norway
Innovations Award – Fanthomas by Qvisten Animation, Norway for the Website Fanthomas
Jury Justification: “A new Norwegian animated series which has inspired the Board of the Norwegian Animation Forum to hand out an award for innovation in animation.”
Life Time Achievement Award – Inni Karine Melbye, Norway
Given by the Board of Norwegian Animation Forum – “As a modern Niels Klim you have explored Nazare worlds.  You have been essential in bringing International Animation to the Nordic countries and Nordic Animation to the world.  And your art and movies have entertained us for decades.  Thank you.”

HAPPY 2010
Tuesday January 05th 2010, 8:57 am
Filed under: Festivals
Comments Off

Happy 2010 to all my readers.  I hope this year brings us all lots of animated adventures and good work for all.  Hope you enjoy Simon Taylor’s latest adventures in the Animation Mentor Program.

Tuesday January 05th 2010, 8:53 am
Filed under: Festivals
Comments Off

Greetings one and all!

So as I wander into the final week of my penultimate term at Animation Mentor I thought this would be a good moment for a blog entry. I’m currently on the train on my way to work typing this on my phone though so I will do my best to quality control my mistypings and bizarre predictive text choices! Trains are brilliant places to observe people, there are certainly a few poses and character traits that I’m going to save for a future shot! Although right now there appears to be mainly varations on sleeping. The evening rush hour is great too, pleanty of variations of walks and runs! These are definitely my new favourite source of inspiration. I’ve also recently started accumulating footage for my own video reference library and I’ve discovered a brilliant source is the news as you get (most of the time) 100% natural moments from people.

As I had anticipated (and pleanty of people warned me!) working as a full time animator and Animation Mentor student at the same time has proved tough, although so far it’s been doable. I’m not feeling burned out by constantly animating either, in fact I feel even more enthusiastic about it, everything feels more real now that I can say I’m working as an animator! I think it may also help that the animation I do at work is a different style to that of AM so I get some variation. Hopefully soonish I’ll be able to upload some clips of what I’ve been working on for the last few months.

Our Christmastime AM gathering in London was last weekend which was good fun as always. We saw James Cameron’s “Avatar”. This was the first live action 3D film I’d seen with the current 3D technology and personally, although I found the visuals absolutely stunning, I was left unimpressed (and mildly headachey!) by the 3D.

In other news, the other week I was lucky enough to see a blogger’s preview of Disney’s new film “The Princess & The Frog” at Disney HQ in London. Most of the world will be able to see this over Christmas but we don’t get it over here in the UK until February, so it was a real privilege! Everybody in the audience absolutely loved it, it was so good to have Disney back doing 2D again and of course it was fun to see my Class 4 mentor T.Dan Hofstedt in the credits. The film really proved what a mistake it was to shut down 2D animation. The story, songs and characters were all first class, it brought back such fond memories of being a little boy, seeing films like Aladdin and Beauty and The Beast in the cinema. It felt like they had infused the film with the spirit of everyone’s favourite Disney moments but created something completely new, I hope it does well.

Anyway, I’m looking forward to a little bit of rest from animating for the next week and a bit and then I’m back at Animation Mentor for my final term as well as Impossible TV to start on a new series. I suppose I had better get off the train now as my station’s coming up!
Happy New Year!