Thursday, February 26, 2009

From the internets...

  • Nelvana expands the Bakugan empire.
  • Troy Little's Angora Napkin Graphic novel continues to net press for the Teletoon Pilot.
  • Cookie Jar re-ups deal for CBS Saturday morning.
  • Ok, so it looks like we did have a Canadian contingent at the Oscars after all. Chris WIlliams, co-director of Bolt, born in Missouri, raised in Kitchener-Waterloo. Congrats on the nomination Chris!
  • Breakthrough gets noticed. International sales look pretty good. Al-Jazeera!
  • Canadian trio Immaculate Machine have a stop-motion video making the rounds for their tune, "C'mon Sea Legs". Video by Kimberli Persley and Geoffry Tomlin-Hood.

Monday, February 23, 2009

La Maison En Petits Cubes

Here's last night's best animated short Academy Award winner (in two parts), La Maison en Petits Cubes, by Kunio Kato.
Part 1

Part 2

And for an extra treat, Kunio Kato's acceptance speech:

81st annual Academy Awards, Wall-E and Maison en Petits Cubes take home trophies

I guess I should post the winners from last night.
Wall-E took best feature. No huge surprise there, although, for a split second I thought it was going to go to the Panda.
La Maison en Petits Cubes won in the best animated short category. Sadly, I didn't see this one, so I don't feel too qualified to comment. I was glad to see something traditional win, and that the director, Kunio Kato, thanked his pencil.
Presto didn't win. That made me happy. Not that Presto isn't a fun film, but it's a gag film, and a pretty standard one at that. It was nice to seee that the Academy didn't just hand it over to Pixar again.
I love the Animated Short Film category (and the short documentary category). I always feel that this is where the Academy Awards really rewards hard work and dedication. The big categories are all about prestige and politics. These directors are largely little guys, who dedicate themselves, with very little expectation of reward, to the stories they set out to tell. It's cute to see them all spiffed up, more than a little awkward, taking way too long to get to the stage from theire back-row seats and stand in front of the popular kids and get to say their thank yous.
Congrats to the winners.
I'm not going to comment on the 2008 "yearbook" montage of animated features. That was pure bullshit.
Oops, guess I commented.
Also, sorry to see the Canadian contingent absent this year. I hope this means everyone is working on next year's winners.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Canadian Animation Directory, courtesy of the Ottawa International Animation Festival

Well, I've been promising news, and here it is.
We will be havinng an online directory here in Canada for the Canadian animation community. I've been talking with the good folks from the Ottawa International Animation Festival about this very thing. For those of you who don't know, the festival produces a print directory, an invaluable resource, and they do a great job of it. Well, this year, they will be making that directory available online. We're trying it out for a year to determine how well received it is. They've just sent out an email to everyone on their mailing list to go and register. I've posted the body of the email, along with registration instructions, on the directory page. If you want in, and you should, go and register now! There are different listings available, some of which cost a few bucks, but just go register and get your name in there. Once the directory goes live, I'll be providing a direct link from here.
Now GO!!!!
Sign up!
Take a seat at the table with the rest of us miserable sods.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

From the internets...

  • Cookie Jar appoints Brenda Bisner SR Manager of domestic consumer products. Bisner moves from Porchlight. Here too.
  • Nelvana continues to rake in dough with Bakugan licensing. Interesting to see how specific the deals are (AME for hanging underwear).
  • Reshuffling at Amberwood Entertainment. The torch is indeed passing. Congrats guys.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

9th Annual Kingston Canadian Film Festival, Feb25th to Mar1, 2009. Kids animation workshop, and: Vampiro!

Saw that this event is coming up.
It's a new one for me and seems to be geared towards live-action. Nice to see, though, that the NFB is doing a kids animation workshop. Question: Do they do animation workshops for adult too? Animation is pretty tricky. I know a lot of adults who work pretty hard to make some of their own. Why are these workshops always for kids? Do medical symposiums have brain surgery workshops for kids? Is that analogy accurate?
When looking at the profile given to animation in this festival, it's easy to see how we're perceived. The film festival is for "serious" live action features. They show off locally-produced short films (also live-action) before the feature screenings, which is an idea I LURVE, by the way. And for the kids... and animation workshop.
Now, I have a 7 year-old daughter. I have a couple neices and nephews, and have a lot of kids around in general. Know what the favourite gift for more than a few of these kids was this year? Digital video cameras.
These kids love making movies!
Making LIVE ACTION movies.
They are largely hilarious and terrible.
But they love making them. None of these kids were begging their parents for lightboxes, Harmony software or even flipbooks. Live action is immediate. Kids point and shoot and get to laugh at themselves. Animation is deliberate, precise, and time consuming. But it's a "kid's medium". Welcome to the continued sidelining of the medium.
But we do it to ourselves too. We have our own festivals, which I love. But why is this? Don't our films stack up against our live-action counterparts? How many of you out there submit your films to live-action festivals? Better representation in the entries might lead to better representation in the categories, and perhaps, better representation in the winner's circle.
Yes, submit your films to the Ottawa Festival. Submit them to animation festivals everywhere! If you an afford it. But throw your name into other arenas too.
Upon close inspection, there does appear to be some form of drawn imagery in at least one of the films in the shorts package. So some one made some animation "serious" enough for real filmgoers to watch less than 12 minutes of it.

If you are in Kingston during these dates though, go see Vampiro! I caught a screening here in Ottawa a while back and this movie absolutley ruined the Wrestler for me.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tokyo International Anime Fair (TAF), March 18 - 21

This came in today via the Ottawa International Animation Festival.

TOKYO INTERNATIONAL ANIME FAIR 2009 (TAF) Tokyo Big Sight (March 18-21) Be a part of the Tokyo International Anime Fair 2009 to be held from March 18-21, 2009. This is your opportunity to network with close to 300 companies from Japan’s dynamic animation industry. Take advantage of the Canadian Booth at TAF 2009 to demonstrate your company’s creative products and services in one of the world’s hottest animation markets! The Tokyo Anime Fair (TAF), a four day annual event launched in 2002 is a high profile animation event opened to both trade (first two days) and the general public (last two days). Last year, 289 companies - including 79 from abroad participated in the event which drew more than 120,000 people including more than 20,000 trade visitors during the two business days. When it comes to visitors, the event is also known to draw buyers from a number of countries such as China, Korea and Taiwan. For companies in the animation production field or the animation technology or services sector, TAF presents an excellent opportunity to meet important players from the Animation world, including broadcasters, animation production firms or distributors. For more details on the TAF, please see the official Tokyo Anime Fair Website at . This year, the Embassy has secured space for a small scale Canada booth (18 m2) at the venue. This limited space will comprise a reception desk, a meeting area and an audiovisual corner. Some wall space may also be available for the use of posters. We invite Canadian companies interested in promoting themselves to a Japanese and Asian audience to join us to display and use their promotional and audiovisual material. Canadian companies already scheduled to attend the event, or interested in doing so, are welcome to use the Canada booth as their base during the four day event as delegates. This will provide participants with an opportunity to reach out to an audience of contacts from the Japanese animation industry. If unable to attend TAF, companies are welcome to send us promotional or audio-visual material for display on their behalf. As a participating delegate (CDN $250 participation fee), you will have: - exhibitor status (but no booth) at the Canada booth; - an exhibitor pass; - access to a common space at the Canada booth; - an opportunity to present your brochures at the booth, and to have your audio-visual material presented; For those companies interested in joining us, we would ask that you advise us of your participation no later than this Friday, Feb. 21. Once confirmation of your participation is received, we will provide you with more detailed instructions concerning payment of the participation fee. Contact: Pierre Delorme Trade Commissioner Embassy of Canada 7-3-38 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8503, Japan Tel: (+ 81-3) 5412-6232 Fax: (+81-3) 5412- 6250 email:

This would be great to go to.
I'm curious if the readership has ever taken advantage of these types of events or trade missions. I know how beneficial they have been in other times and other industries. When India opened up as a destination for service work, these kinds of opportunities lead to a lot of work between Canadian companies and studios over there. Now, Japan is obviously a very different market, but do you think having a poster up of your latest creation could net some interest? As always, any input and feedback is welcome.
I'm not an anime guy, but I still think this would be a gas.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

From the internets...

Took me a few days to recover from my Coraline obsession. Thanks for indulging it.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Coraline opening weekend! updated sunday

According to Box Office Mojo, Coraline has made over 16 million so far this weekend. A decent showing. Not exactly a blockbuster, but I think this should do the trick. We could have a sleeper on our hands. I'm going this afternoon.

Tamu Townsend took TEN friends!!!
Great job Tamu!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Rollbots premiere

Had the pleasure of catching the world premiere of Amberwood Entertainment's "Rollbots" this past Sunday. The gang at Amberwood provided much hoopla for what will most assuredly be a big ole hit. About 500 people converged on a theatre at the Museum of Civilization where we were wined and dined on free pizza, slightly burnt cookies and plenty of soda pop. The event was emcee'd by one of YTV's hosts, who did a good job pumping up the kids in the audience, despite some technical difficulties at first.
This was the first episode in the series, which will be on this weekend on YTV, and really, Amberwood has a hit on it's hands. The story is very similar in tone to the original Reboot episodes. Lots of fun action, easily identifiable characters, a nasty villain with some bufoonish henchbots. It's fast and loud and kids are gonna eat it up.
Talk among the crowd is that there's a Mattel deal, so expect the merch on this sucker to be everywhere.
Personally, I found the event enjoyable, with lots of local animation types in attendance. I didn't feel like pressing too much flesh, but got to say hi to some old friends. My daughter had fun, so that's cool. What I found really interesting is what this says for Amberwood. For the most part, the company has been milking the same stable of shows created by Gerald Tripp 15 years ago. They took a stab at something slightly different a few years back with Zero-Man, which I found, quite frankly, terrible. But this is something new for them. Sheldon Wiseman, Mr Amberwood himself, was there, but he didn't take a bow for this production. Instead, his son Jonathan, Supervising Producer Craig Young, the show's creator McM, and a few others whose names I didn't write down (apologies!) where given the spotlight. This felt like a passing of the torch to me.
Good job guys. And good luck.
(Pics provided by Craig Young, more over in his Facebook album)
McM shares his thoughts on the event here.

Canadian Animation Rumour-Mill

Some information came across my desk last week about a new studio maybe opening up in Kanata, a suburb of Ottawa. Now, Ottawa's seen a few changes the last couple of years: Funbag's demise, Amberwood has scaled back to more of a production office, farming out the actual work on their shows. Mercury is going strong, Pip seems to keep busy, Boomstone I'm not too sure about, Fuel employs a lot of happy artists, now we've also got Big Jump grabbing up service work, and late last year March Entertainment opened up a small satellite studio out in Kanata. My first instinct that this might be an expansion of the March operation. But I've been told different. Perhaps I should have been paying closer attention to the Animators For Hire listings at the Animation Festival these past few years. A little more vague in 2008, so maybe I can't be blamed for the oversight.
Shame about it being out in Kanata. Our animators are somewhat centrally located, so there will have to be some commutes. Still, a big addition to our little community.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More Coraline stuff, updated with review from our pal, Barry Sanders

I apologize for the hastily written review for Coraline. Here are some better ones:
  • From FPS magazine's newest contributor, A. Murphy-Hiscock. This is a great review, very thorough, well-written, a good read about a great movie.
  • From our pal Dominic Von Riedemann at, not a review, but an interview with author Neil Gaiman. Nice one.

    I've started a Facebook event to try to get people out to this movie. This movie isn't Canadian, but it's worth supporting. I've been gushing about it, but this is the kind of film that deserves our support. Go see it, bring your friends. Opening weekend box office is, sadly, oh so critical to a film these days. It generates word of mouth, it gets the distibutor behind further marketing, which really gives a movie a shot. Laika isn't a service studio, how this film performs will determine whether or not they get to make more. So many shitty movies are getting made these days, why not put your dollars behind a good one?
UPDATE: Toronto-based compadre Barry Sanders saw the movie last night with Neil Gaiman himself, I understand they're BFFs now. What did Barry think? (spoilerish near the end)

Several reviews of Coraline preview screenings have been popping up online so normally I wouldn’t have much to add, but I had the good fortune to attend a very special Monday night advance viewing in Toronto with Neil Gaiman himself in attendance for a short Q&A.
Firstly, the film itself is excellent. Gaiman and Selick do an outstanding job walking the tightrope between their own mad worlds and a broader accessibility without giving in to the temptation to appease everyone. As an animator I was often awe struck by the believability and subtlety of Coraline’s motion and emotion.
As an outsider Gaiman was obviously really jazzed at the opportunity to observe the stop motion process and so he was able to pass on a surprising amount during the Q&A. It turns out the stereoscopic 3D effect was done not with a dual camera rig but with a single camera on a mechanism that would swing the camera from left to right taking two successive shots, one for each view angle.
Selick tried to use the stereoscopic effect to separate Coraline’s two realities with varying degrees of success. All the “real world” sets were built foreshortened (ie: a room that appears 25’ long is actually only 5’) while the fantasy world sets were overcranked so that it would feel deeper, richer and more real than reality.
Gaiman sternly warned us that the window of opportunity to see Coraline in full 3D will be a short one. The Jonas Bros. 3D concert film will be opening 3 weeks after Coraline and it will be snapping up all the theatres that are capable of 3D projection. My sorrow at that news knows no bounds. Seize the opportunity while you can and make a Jonas cry.
There were a lot of questions about the ways in which the movie script diverted from the book and the lack of Dave McKean’s artistic influence on the design of the film. Neil pointed out that in fact he took the first draft of the story to Selick long before he involved McKean in the version that was eventually published. So in many ways the Gaiman/Selick vision of Coraline is the original one, it just took 9 years to bring it to audiences.
Lastly if you see this film and I recommend you do, stay to the end of the credits for 2 reasons. The last text you see says, “For those in the know: JerkWad” which will be the secret online code for the Coraline web site. It will let you buy a pair of limited edition Coraline sneakers decorated with buttons. Only 1000 will be made. But of more interest to me the last thing you see is an animated sequence before the blue screen and support rigs were removed so you can get a real sense of what it takes to make a single beautiful shot.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Coraline Review

I managed to snag some advance tickets to Coraline.
Please go see this movie.
I will keep this review brief and spoiler-free.
Henry Selick and the crew at Laika have made a truly beautiful film. It dosn't condescend, is genuinely funny, and is a feast for the eyes. The musical numbers are completely non-gratuitous. I was so thoroughly pleased to have seen this film.
There was a moment for me, while watching this movie, in the middle of a musical number, that I imagined what it must have been like for the folks who worked on it, after a a long production schedule, to have all sat down together for their first sreeening of the finished piece. How proud they must be of this film. Laika's been laying off since production wrapped, and each of these people will go on to other projects, but damn! To have been involved in this can't be anything other than a career high.
Laika needs to make more movies like this. This movie needs to sell tickets. It opens next weekend and the marketing has not been too great. Please, take a friend or four and go see this movie.
A word of caution, this movie is not for all children. Exercise some judgement regardinng your own child. There are some pretty scary bits in here, but it's beautiful. I would be surprised if I see an animated film this year that is superior.


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