TRIBUTE TO ANIMATION LEGEND JIMMY MURAKAMI
Thursday February 20th 2014, 7:43 am
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Jimmy Murakami - 5 June, 1933 - 16 February, 2014
Jimmy Murakami - 5 June, 1933 - 16 February, 2014

On the 16th of February 2014 the animation community lost another brilliant legend with the passing of 80 year old Teruaki “Jimmy” Murakami.  Jimmy leaves such a vast and varied legacy of films and such a complex personal history that it is impossible to sum up his achievements in a few sentences.

Born on 5 June, 1933 in San Jose, California in the United States, Jimmy was a Japanese-American, and at the age of 9 he and his family were interred in a WW II concentration camp along with tens of thousands of other Japanese-Americans living on the West Coast of the United States.  This tragic event left lifelong deep scars and changed his life forever, which was often reflected in his films.

He has said “I was very, very bitter to be an American citizen to be treated this way.  My older sister died in the camp and the rest of us came out pretty bad.”  Jimmy Murakami – Non-Alien, a documentary about this period of Jimmy’s life by Irish film maker Se Merry Doyle premiered at the 2010 Stranger Than Fiction Film Festival in Dublin.

After leaving the camp, the family considered moving to Japan until they found out that the family home there had been bombed to the ground.   They moved to Los Angeles instead, where Jimmy enrolled in Chouinard Art Institute in the 1950’s.  His teachers included Don Graham and Disney Animator Marc Davis.  Chuck Jones was in his night drawing class.

His first professional animation work came when he was hired by UPA Studio to work on The Gerald Boing Boing Show television series and with Fred Crippen on the Ham and Hattie theatrical series.  Jimmy went on to design the big-nosed islanders in the Jamaican Daddy sequence of the Oscar nominated Trees and Jamaican Daddy.

Jimmy’s move to New York City in 1958 was the first stop off of what would become an international career.  In New York City he worked with his former UPA colleague Ernie Pintoff at Pintoff Productions.  Ernie and Jimmy designed the 1959 Oscar nominated short The Violinist.

The next stop on his odyssey was Tokyo to work at Toei Animation.  In an interview Jimmy said “I wanted to find my roots as a Japanese. . . I worked at Toei Animation for a time as a consultant and all they did was give me grief because they wanted me to do everything their way, including using paper-clips for registration instead of pegs, so the picture would be jittery”.  While in Tokyo he also began his other life long career as an artist, selling his first watercolours even if it was, as he said “for negligible money”.  His later watercolours were represented in renowned galleries and exhibitions and painting remained a great pleasure for him.

The next move was to London where Jimmy worked at George Dunning’s TVC studio, directing the 1961 BAFTA winning short Insects.  He returned to Los Angeles in 1965 to launch Murakami-Wolf Productions.  The studio focused primarily on commercial work but Jimmy did find time to make his own personal films such as the Oscar nominated Magic Pear Tree and Annecy Grand Prix winning Breath.

In 1971 he settled in Ireland which was to become his lifelong home.  His first project there was as second unit aerial director on Roger Corman’s The Red Baron.  He went on to direct Battle Beyond the Stars and Humanoids From The Deep for Corman before setting up his own commercial studio, Quateru Films in Dublin.

The studio worked on freelance projects such as the opening sequences of Heavy Metal.  Jimmy’s ultimate desire, though, was to follow his fiercely independent streak and make films the way he wanted to make them.  Murakami’s  philosophy is summed up by Irish animation designer and director Paul Bolger, “When I first met Jimmy in 1989 I asked him how best to apply all I had learned about making animation at Don Bluth Studios and he told me “most (people) use film to make animation when it’s better to use animation to make films”.

Jimmy is best remembered for his role as supervising director on the 1982 The Snowman.  The film, based on the children’s book by Raymond Briggs, premiered on BBC on December 26th and has become a beloved British classic.  The Snowman was nominated for an Oscar.

Briggs and Murakami next collaborated in 1986 on When the Wind Blows based on Briggs’ graphic novel of the same name.  The hand drawn stop-motion film depicting an impending nuclear attack through the eyes of an elderly British couple has become an international classic.  The film also reflects Jimmy’s desire for world peace which was present in so much of his personal work.

After the closing of Quateru Films, Jimmy opened Murakami Films in Dublin.  The studio worked on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Christmas Carol:  The Movie as well as the television series Storykeepers.

Jimmy is regarded as the Founding Father of Irish animation and he will be long remembered not only for his impressive body of work but especially by the younger Irish animators as someone who was always happy to help them.  Paul Young, Irish producer of the Oscar nominated The Secret of Kells remembers “the highlight for Tomm Moore and myself during the various festival events we were lucky enough to attend with The Secret of Kells was a festival in Morocco where we had Jimmy all to ourselves for nearly a week.  We both remember one night under the stars listening to Jimmy – rapt.  He was a spellbinding storyteller, his life made is laugh and cry.  I’ll never forget that night and how warm he was to us”.

Jimmy with Nancy at Annecy 2012
Jimmy with Nancy at Annecy 2012

He was indeed a great storyteller who will be missed by so many of us who had the privilege to spend time with him.  I can’t believe that I will never share another drink with Jimmy while he entertains me with his stories.

At the time of his passing at his home he was preparing his new feature about Hiroshima.  My sympathy goes out to his wife Ethna and their two daughters Dee and Claire on their sudden, unexpected loss.



THE PERFECT HOLIDAY GIFT
Wednesday November 21st 2012, 7:44 am
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It’s hard to believe that November is almost gone and it is time to start thinking about gifts for all of the animation lovers on your list.  Just in time for the holiday season the very talented Australian animator Dennis Tupicoff has released 5 of his most popular award winning films on DVD and BluRay.

Just in case you haven’t had the chance to explore his work you can check it out at:   www.junglepictures.com.au and enjoy!

FIVE ANIMATED FILMS written & directed by Dennis Tupicoff

CHAINSAW
INTO THE DARK
HIS MOTHER’S VOICE
THE DARRA DOGS
DANCE OF DEATH

Total length: 64:00

DVD & BluRay available from:
www.junglepictures.com.au

For the first time: a chance to see these prize-winning 1983-2007 films
collected on DVD and BluRay.

CHAINSAW (2007) 25:00
Frank and Ava Gardner “star” in a chainsaw safety film, and love the rodeo.
But now, ten years later…
Romance is like a chainsaw: a very dangerous beast indeed.

“a beautiful and affecting animated film that weaves… disparate tales into
a film about love, betrayal and man’s command of nature.”
Clare Morgan (Sydney Morning Herald)

INTO THE DARK (2001) 6:00
The mind of a dying man drifts back to the evenings of his childhood.

“a moving, intelligent film that unites life and mortality, man and boy,
and, most powerfully, father and son.”
Chris Robinson - Unsung Heroes of Animation

HIS MOTHER’S VOICE (1997) 14:30
A mother describes how she found out that her son was shot dead. Using an ABC radio interview, this animated film tells its tragic story from two points of view.

“an extraordinarily powerful piece of filmmaking.”
Bill Nichols - Introduction to Documentary

THE DARRA DOGS (1993) 10:00
A collection of warm and disturbing memories from the filmmaker’s childhood
experience with neighbourhood dogs.

“a wonderful animated short… tough and haunting in ways not easily
described.”
Vincent Canby (New York Times)

DANCE OF DEATH (1983) 8:30
An animated satire on television violence, set in a world where the skeletal
Don Death runs a popular variety show called “Dance of Death”. One
night little Sally and her parents get more than they bargained for.

“an uncommon example of black humour well-supported by good taste.”
Giannalberto Bendazzi - Cartoons

DVD & BluRay available from:
www.junglepictures.com.au



THE COFFEE TABLE BOOK OF DOOM by Steven Appleby & Art Lester
Friday August 17th 2012, 7:21 am
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Hard Cover, 224 Pages

Published in UK by Square Peg, A member of the Random House Group

Order on Amazon (co.uk and also .com)  £14.99 (approximately €19)

US Release Date - 25 September, 2012  by Plume, A member of the Penguin Group

Just in case you don’t have enough to worry about, writer Art Lester and artist/cartoonist/animator Steven Appleby have just published their new book, The Coffee Table Book of Doom.

As you laugh your way to your fallout shelter germ mask firmly in place, Lester and Appleby alert you to everything from religious and political doom to medical and technological catastrophe and beyond.

But never fear, they also give us a glimmer of hope by reminding us of many of the impending doomsayers’ predictions that have never materialized.  Remember Y2K and the fundamentalist preachers who were so confident that the world will end that they have even predicted the exact dates and times?  So far they have been wrong . . . but as The Coffee Table Book of Doom reminds us - it can always happen.

The black humor in the book make it a worthy read, and the pair have done their homework so the facts and data are frighteningly accurate.  You’ll learn a lot about Eco Doom, Geographical Doom, and the ever popular Alien Invasion while having a hearty laugh.

The page numbers count down from page 199 to 0 and the final chapter beginning on page 27 give us suggestions for living with doom.  Such tips as what to tell your children, how to spend your last 24 hours on Earth, and the meaning of doom will make sure that you are well prepared no matter which doom you meet.

Art and Steven are the perfect pair to alert us to impending disaster.  In his words, Art Lester “reluctantly grew up in the American South” which is enough to prepare anyone for doom.  After a career as a successful journalist, he is now a Unitarian Minister in London, which should give him plenty of firsthand knowledge of doom and gloom.

Steven Appleby is the author of the internationally acclaimed Captain Star comic and the creator of a  series, Small Birds Singing, which ran for 8 years in The London Times about the unusually surreal doings of the occupants of an English country house which has now been turned into a series of delightful animated films by Steven and his cousin Linda McCarthy.

You should run right out and pick up a copy of The Coffee Table Book of Doom, and the sooner the better.  After all, you can’t be sure that you will even have time to finish reading it before the end comes.



ANIMATORS how did you do that? By Tobias Wengert
Monday September 05th 2011, 11:37 am
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If you have ever watched an animated film and wondered “How did they do that?” then Tobias Wengert’s  ANIMATORS how did they do that? is the book for you.  Wengert has transcribed in print his conversations with twelve diverse members of the Stuttgart, Germany animation community who reveal the secret techniques behind the magical images they create.


Jakob Schuh and Max Lang of Studio Soi reveal how they took The Gruffalo, a well known children’s book, which takes five minutes for a parent to read to their child and turned it into a 27 minute film.  The creators of the picture book, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, gave tips to the directors on hidden elements in the book that could be expanded into additional plot lines.  The book illustrations include references to the squirrel family, so Jacob and Max expanded a story line from those visual references.

The seventeen pages in the book devoted to The Gruffalo cover every aspect of the film’s creation from character and story development to the polystyrene, plaster, silicon, and paint techniques used to construct the complex sets.  The entire process is beautifully illustrated with original character sketches, taking the read from storyboards, preliminary sketches and facial expressions to the finished film.  I have enjoyed watching The Gruffalo many times and these discussions of the production techniques used will increase my enjoyment the next time that I watch it.

Several independent animators explain their motivation to create projects that follow their own rules rather than having to adapt to other peoples requirements.  LebensAder (Lifeline), Angela Steffen’s final year diploma project, was driven by very personal motives.  The simple act of picking up a leaf on the street triggered the start of Angela’s artistic process to understand her father’s cancer diagnosis.  She wanted to bring the beautiful leaf home with her but in turning it over she saw that the other side was covered with eczema as if the tree had cancer.  Using the leaf veins to represent the life line on a hand, the first part of the beautifully hand drawn film depicts life – the healthy side of the leaf.  The second half of the film shows the dark side – sickness.

Concept image from Lebensader
Concept image from Lebensader

Since 1989 Studio Film Bilder has been creating commercially successful projects such as the extremely popular television series Tom & Das Erdbeer Marmelade Brot Mit Hig (TOM)) and The Bunjies. At the same time the studio encourages its multi talented group of animators to create their own original projects which Film Bilder produces.  Anyone who has seen Andreas Hykade’s Love & Theft, the sensitive works of Gil Alkabetz or Phil Mulloy’s provocative films can attest to the many sides of Studio Film Bilder.

At the extreme other end of the spectrum are advertisements created by the VFX Team at Unexpected.  The team produced the Snickers Candy Bar Don’t Stop ad campaign for the Russian market which has proven to be the most successful campaign run by Snickers since the candy was introduced in Russia.

In their interview the team stress how important the initial planning is to them and  they take us behind the scenes to show us how they develop their fantastic robotic characters and bring their commercials in on time within their often limited budgets.  Even if you are not particularly interested in the high tech side of commercial making, the conversation with the guys from VFX makes fascinating reading.

Much of the credit for the rise of the state of Baden-Wurttemberg  as a leader in animation and visual effects goes to the Baden-Wurttemberg Film Academy in Ludwigsburg.  The Academy’s Institute for Animation, Visual Effects, and Digital Postproduction has become one of the world’s most important training establishments.

The school’s alumni boast such distinguished names as Andreas Hykade and Volker Engel.  Andreas’ award winning films such as The Runt and Love & Theft need no introduction.  Volker’s name is familiar to fans of Hollywood Blockbusters.  In 1997 he won the Oscar for best visual effects for Independence Day.

The current roster of the Academy’s teaching staff includes Thomas Meyer-Hermann, head of the renowned Studio Film Bilder, Gil Alkabetz, and Andreas Hykade.  Volker Engle also taught there before moving to Southern California.

Each year the Stuttgart Trickfilm Festival draws the top names in animation to screen their films, give workshops and retrospectives to packed audiences.  Trickfilm Festival has become one of the most important Europe’s most important animation celebrations.   Running concurrent to the festival is the FMX Conference on Animation, Effects, Games and Interactive Media.  FMX has become the foremost European conference on the creation, production, and distribution of digital entertainment.

Even if you are already familiar with the rich trove of talent in the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, Tobias Wengert’s ANIMATORS how did you do that? is a fascinating in depth look into the studios and animators with interviews that tell us how they do it in their own words.

The 150 page book is lavishly illustrated with the text on alternate pages in English and German.  This is a book that anyone interested in animation will enjoy and if you have an animator on your holiday gift list this is a perfect present.

To order the book visit:   www.siwa-webshop.de      Also available in German Bookstores

Price:  30 Euros

150 pages                 Fully illustrated       Format  280×10mm                  Hardcover

Text in German and English on alternate pages



DARCY PRENDERGAST SCORES ANOTHER HIT WITH “RIPPLED”
Sunday May 01st 2011, 10:48 am
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Australian animator Darcy Prendergast’s 2009 music video for the All India Radio track Lucky was a true feast for the eyes.  The video used glow stick with long-exposure techniques to create the effect of moving neon.  The first time I saw Lucky I was amazed with the fluid motion and brilliant colors and obviously I wasn’t the only one because the You Tube/Guggenheim judges short listed it in their 2010 video competition.

After six months of work, Darcy has created Rippled for All India Radio’s new album.  For his new video Darcy takes the techniques he invented for his first music video and expands and refines them.  He captured the images in-camera and brought them to life with precise frame by frame attention to detail.

Darcy and his long time best friend Ash Nicholls have launched a new studio OYW (Oh Yeah Wow) which should prove to be a powerhouse in Australian animation, gaming, and design.  OYW not only combines the immense talents of Prendergast and Nicholls but also brings together twenty of Melbourne’s most creative minds under one roof.

You can view all of Darcy’s animations and various movie projects at    www.youtube.com/darcyprendergast

Check out OYW’s new website at:   www.ohyeahwow.com/

For more details on OYW or better yet to give them some work contact:

darcy@ohyeahwow.com     or    ash@ohyeahwow.com



Interview with Nik Phelps, Nancy Denney-Phelps & Alexey Alexeev
Monday March 21st 2011, 7:29 am
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Nancy, Nik, and The Animation Conversation guys - Will Ashurst, Morten Overlie, and Erlend Dal Sakshaug.  Unfortunately, Alexey had to leave to catch his plane.
While we were at the wonderful Fredrikstad Animation in Fredrikstad, Norway the Animation Conversation Pod Cast guys did a breakfast interview with Alexey Alexeev, Nik, and me.  Nik and Alexey also play some music during the interview.

The Pod Cast guys have a unique and interesting approach to interviewing - they buy their guests a bottle of their favorite alcholic beverage (or in our case a couple bottles of red wine) and the interview continues until the bottle is empty.  Pour yourself a BIG glass of your drink of choice, then sit back and enjoy three old friends talking about everything under the sun.

Other animation luminaries you can  listen to on their site include Paul Dutton, Don Hahn, Ralph Eggleston and Tomm Moore.

Their site is:   www.animationconversation.com/



DUSTIN GRELLA’S ANIMATION HOT LINE
Wednesday February 09th 2011, 5:31 am
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Anyone who has been at animation festivals in the past year has probably seen Dustin Grella’s moving film Prayer For Peace.  His very personal animation has won numerous awards world wide culminating this past October with the 2010 Walt Disney Animation Studio award for Best Student Film at the Ottawa International Animation Festival.

Dustin Grella hard at work
Dustin Grella hard at work

Now Dustin has launched a new project called The Animation Hot Line.  During the month of  February,and perhaps even longer if the response is good, Dustin has set up a voice mail service where anyone can leave a message.  He will select messages to animate, trying to do one short strip a day.

The hot line is just not for animators, everyone  is welcome to leave a message but there are a few simple rules.  All messages must be under thirty seconds, preferably around ten or fifteen seconds long.  You can say a few  you overheard.  It can even be a secret that you don’t want anyone to know or something that bothers you.

The message does not have to be in English so callers can speak in their native language.   You can call more than once a day at any hour of the day or night.   All messages will be anonymous unless you leave a name and want to be acknowledged.

Dustin has set up a Skype account under the name:

animationhotline

It is all one word and can be called for free via Skype from anywhere in the world.  That means calls from Europe, Asia, anywhere in the world is toll free.
You can also call the animation hot line number:
212/ 683-2490

Dustin has sat up the site on Vimeo.com  at:

http://vimeo.com/channels/animationhotline

So put his number in your speed dial and then check the site regularly to see what Dustin has drawn.



THE HUNGARIAN POST MODERN WORLD OF GYORGY KOVASZNAI
Sunday February 06th 2011, 8:03 am
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I was not familiar with the Hungarian animator, writer, and painter Gyorgy Kovasznai until I met animation historian and curator Brigitta Ivanyi-Bitter.  We sat on the jury of Animator Animation Festival in Poznan, Poland together last year.  She gave me a copy of her beautiful book about Kovasznai’s life and work.  It is based on her three years of research that culminated in the large-scale retrospective of his work at the Hungarian National Gallery in Budapest in 2010.  Her book is a companion to the exhibition.

Self portrait
Self portrait

Born in 1934, Kovasznai lived and worked from the late 50’s until his death in 1983, one of the most politically charged periods in modern Hungary.  His films and paintings mirrored the disillusion with the People’s Republic of Hungary and its Soviet imposed policies that ultimately let to the 1956 Hungarian Revolution.

Working at Pannonia Film Studio, the animation arm of the Hungarian Film Corporation, Kovasznai translated the bold images and bright colors of his paintings to the screen in cut outs and collage techniques.  In addition to 26 short films, he completed one feature film, Bubble Bath:  A Musical Special-Effect Film to the Rhythm of a Heart BeatHe was at work on a second feature when he passed away at the age of 40 from Leukemia.

Kovasznai at work
Kovasznai at work

Gyorgy often worked in collaboration with his friend and fellow painter Dezso Korniss.  In 1963 the pair made Monologue using paper cut outs and collage techniques.  Pannonia Studio had difficulty obtaining permission from the government censors to release the film because they did not understand his work; it didn’t fit into the usual boundaries of animation.  To quote art historian Andras Renyi “Kovasznai’s actual aspiration was to animate painting, which involves a completely different type of work than that of an animation artist in general.”  The film was eventually allowed to premier in Budapest where it was well received by the audience.

The pair worked together again on the 1964 experimental animation Young Man Playing the Guitar at the Old Masters Gallery.  This film was the only animation produced by Pannonia Films to be banned during the Socialist regime.

His 1964 Metamorphoses won the Gold Ducat Award at the Mannheim Film Festival.  He gained international recognition when it won the Festival Prize at the Miskolc Short Film Festival, which helped to ease pressure from the censors.

Kovasznai spent much of his life questioning the situation of the proletariat and moral issues about a career as an artist.  He studied painting for two years at the Hungarian Academy of Fine Arts before dropping out.  He later wrote, “I left because I thought the teachers were untalented and the atmosphere was dull.”  His next two years were spent working in coal mines, to avoid compulsory military service.

Returning to Budapest he worked in a shipyard and, subsequently at a Bakelite factory.  During this period he created The Miner series – Paintings that were eventually used in his 1965 film The Joy of LightBased upon his memories of life at the socialist mine works, the sound track for the film was made from his recordings of the words his fellow miners.

Cell from This is Just Fashion, 1976
Cell from This is Just Fashion, 1976

In addition to animation and painting, Kovasznai was a prolific writer, leaving a sizeable literary output.  He wrote ten plays, several short stories and two novels, one of which, Times, was autobiographical.  Traveling in the underground literary and artistic circles he presented his writings at reading events organized secretly in private apartments, worked with illegal theatre groups, and directed his plays in private performances as well as taking part in private gatherings to listen to new classical and popular music from the West, all of which were illegal activities banned by the Soviet regime.

Brigitta Ivanyi-Bitter’s book is a must for anyone interested in Post Modern Art and Animation in Hungary.  The 332 page book is packed full of beautiful full color reproductions of Kovasznai’s paintings and film stills as well as photographs tracing his life from childhood to pictures taken of friends who gathered at the Feszek Artists’ Club for the Kovasznai banquet and commemorative evening in 1992.  The English translation is excellent and makes for a very smooth read.  The foreword written by Lorand Hegyi, one of Europe’s foremost curators and art historians, sets the stage for Brigitta’s analysis of the artist’s life and work.

After reading about Gyorgy’s life and work, the 3 DVD’s included in the book bring it all to life.  Included on the Short Films, 1963-1982 are a selection of works, including Young Man Playing Guitar at the Old Masters Gallery, the 1964 film that was banned by the Hungarian censors, and his last film Reportrait, completed in 1982.  A separate DVD contains the 1980 feature length film Bubble Bath:  A Musical Special-Effects Film to the Rhythm of a Heartbeat.   The third DVD contains the 2010 documentary by artist and director Igor Lazin is a formal analysis of the 1992 anima verite Reportrait by colleagues and contemporaries of Kovasznai.  It also contains a CD ROM with all of the digital reproductions from the book.

Twenty pages of appendices include a chronological biography and detailed filmography.  A complete listing of Gyorgy’s writings is divided into plays, novels, poetry and film scripts for easy cross-referencing.  Also included in this section are essays and studies, published criticisms and published essays.  Brigitta has also included a very detailed bibliography of publications that she used in her research.  For me the alphabetical glossary description of friends and colleagues who appear in the book was extremely useful.

For a firsthand look at Kovasznai’s work visit the English language website:  http://www.kovasznaigyorgy.hu/en/ which has a gallery of art work and biographical time line as well as  a section on Gyorgy’s writings  where you can hear an audio recording of his 1959 play in four acts, Conquesting the Mars.

The lovely coffee table sized book is priced at $56.00 USD or 43 Euros >TO ORDER e-mail:  info@kovasznaigyorgy



MATI KUTT – TREASURE OF ESTONIAN ANIMATION – HONORED AT THE ASTA PARIM AWARDS
Wednesday January 12th 2011, 9:09 am
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Mati Kutt receiving his Asta Parim Film Award award
Mati Kutt receiving his Asta Parim Film Award award

Estonian animators are always in the fore front of creativity on the International Animation scene.  New films by Priit Parn, Kasper Jancis, Rao Heidments, Mati Kutt, and Hardi Volmer frequently win top awards at animation festivals worldwide, so the competition for an award at the Estonian Asta Parim Film Awards is very stiff.  The awards honor the best of the best of the country’s film and animation each year.
On 5 January 2011 the Asta Parim lauded the remarkable talents of Mati Kutt with the prestigious Eesti Filmiajakirjanike Uhing (Estonian Film Journalist’s Union Award) for his latest film Taevalaul (Heaven Song).  The statuette was accompanied by a €2000 award.
The 45 minute stop motion film is an ode to all of us who want to fly and described as a “philosophical journey through time and eras, people and their behavior and thoughts. . .” about the human mind, ego, superegos, and id.  Kutt believes that Freud was more a writer than a philosopher. Freud called the brain “the theater where different plays are enacted on several stages and only one scene is enlightened”.  In Taebalaul these plays are shown in the human brain.
In presenting the award to Mati the jury statement called the highly creative and imaginative animation “A film that exceeds the gravitational force of the Surrealists and rises to the heights. . .”  In 2009 while I was attending Animated Nights, Mati took me on a tour of his workshop in the prestigious Nuku Film Studio and I had an opportunity to see his storyboard and some of the characters for the film.  I have been a big fan of his work for quite a while and so I have been looking forward to seeing his latest film.
Taevalaul premiered in Tallinn, Estonia on opening night of the Animated Dreams Animation Festival, 19 November 2010 to an enthusiastic packed house. I am sure that this amazing film will play at festivals this year so we’ll all have a chance to see and enjoy it.

image from Taebalaul
image from Taebalaul

There is a black cloud hovering over the award however, which is the sad news that Nuku Film (Nuku means puppet in Estonian) is in a very dangerous financial state.  The prestigious Nuku Film studio is the home to many extremely talented animators and is a major force in the stop motion and puppet animation world. They have also traditionally given many young animators a chance to hone their craft working with top professionals. Now their funding has been cut by 15% in 2011 and their reserve savings are greatly reduced.   The entire team was forced to take a three week unpaid leave recently.
To add to the financial woes, their spacious studio located in an old factory building which made socks during the Soviet era has been sold and it is feared that the new owner will raise the rent considerably, out of the renowned studio’s reach. Iwasfortunate enough to be at Animated Dreams for the 50th Anniversary of Nuku Films two years ago.  At the cabbage, black bread and vodka studio party in celebration of the mile stone I was fortunate enough to see the larger than life puppets that they had created for one of my favorite animations The Brothers Bearheart directed by Riho Unt along with many of their other sets, puppets and shelves full of awards.  It would be a tragic loss not only to Estonia but to all lovers of high quality animation if Nuku Film Studio was forced to close.


DARCY PRENDERGAST’S “LUCKY” SHORT LISTED FOR GUGGENHEIN MUSEUM EXHIBITION
Friday October 01st 2010, 9:17 am
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Australian animator Darcy Prendergast’s music video Lucky has been short listed for an opportunity to screen at the world famous Guggenhein Museum in New York City as part of a new exhibition run in conjunction with YouTube.

Whittled down from 23,000 entries, Lucky is among the 125 films in the running for a spot in the new exhibition.  Already earning 380,000 on-line hits, Darcy’s animated piece was produced in collaboration with the Melbourne band “All India Radio”.

Lucky was created using a long exposure technique where Prendergast and his team drew in the sky with glow sticks or colored torches, similar to writing your name in the sky with sparklers.  One 25 second exposure gives you one image.  The process was repeated hundreds of times to form a sequence.

Lucky has already won awards worldwide.  At home In Australia the film won best animated video at St. Kilda Film Festival and three separate nominations at the ATOM awards.

Until this  film Darcy has been working in claymation.  I have been watching his work ever since his name caught my eye in the credits for Mary & Max and with this move into a totally different he has proved that he is not only a talented young animator but very versatile as well.

If you haven’t had the pleasure of seeing Lucky on the big screen you can watch it at:

www.youtube.com/darcyprendergast

You can contact Darcy at:

darcy.prendergast@gmail.com