Monday, March 30, 2015

Sheridan Industry Day 2015 Trailer

Some students have inadvertently been left out, so there may be an updated version coming.  If so, I'll replace this version.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Heritage Animation Art Auction

Heritage is running an animation art auction and you can see the complete, illustrated catalog here.

The art that is in this catalog is increasingly limited to the nostalgia market.  People growing up now will see this material as old fashioned and they don't have equivalent art to buy from the shows they grew up watching.

There was a time when animation art auctions were common, but since the field has gone digital, whether 2D or 3D, there is no longer any original art to sell.  The art that goes into pre-production is generally now available in the books that seem to accompany every animated release.  However, the animation business has lost a revenue stream and they seem to have lost interest in the high end collectibles market.

I don't follow the collectibles market closely, but is Disney still putting out limited editions and expensive pieces?  With DreamWorks diversifying and looking for revenue wherever it can, I'm surprised that they haven't tried to develop this market.  With cgi and 3D printing, I can see a market for turning out limited edition figurines that are actual poses from films.  The characters from the How to Train Your Dragon films seem a natural for this.

It will be interesting to see if animation art returns to being a small, esoteric piece of the art market or if studios figure out a way to get back into it in a big way.  If it remains a nostalgia item, it will eventually have its customer base die off.

Pete Docter in Toronto

Pete Docter was at the TIFF Bell Lightbox on Monday, March 23, starting the publicity rounds for his next film Inside Out.  He was interviewed on stage by film critic Richard Crouse in front of a sold out audience.  Crouse took Docter through his career and asked some very naive questions about animation, but Docter handled himself well.  At the end of the session, the opening to Inside Out was screened.  It is unquestionably a Pixar film in design and tone and it has the strong emotional core of Docter's earlier films.

This was followed by Docter introducing a screening of Up.

On Tuesday, Docter appeared on Q, the CBC radio arts program.  He covered much of the same material as he did with Crouse, and you can listen to the segment here.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Michael Sporn Remembered

Journalist and animation historian Thad Komorowski put together a segment on Michael Sporn for the WBGO Journal on March 6.  It includes short interviews with animators John Canemaker, Ray Kosarin, actress and Michael's widow Heide Stallings and a brief quote from me.

Michael has been gone more than a year now, and I still find myself missing him every time I see a new film or hear a new bit of industry news.  Michael's views were always interesting and hearing them often sharpened my own views.  Had he lived, I'm sure right now I'd be hearing stories about the production of his first feature based on Edgar Allen Poe's life and stories.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

New CRTC Rules

The world of television is changing rapidly and the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission is attempting to catch up.  It set forth new rules today and while the new rules do not mention animation specifically, they will undoubtedly affect animation production.

Where in the past, specialty channels (which include channels like YTV and Teletoon) had individual requirements for the amount of Canadian content they ran, now all specialty channels will have the same requirement to run Canadian content 35% of the time.  I can't find YTV's former requirement, but Teletoon's was 60%.  They can now run considerably less Canadian programming.

While the CRTC has mandated that broadcasters must spend the same dollar amount as before, reducing the requirements for Canadian shows means fewer shows with higher budgets.  This may be a problem for studios that don't own broadcast outlets.  Nelvana and DHX are well positioned, as they will undoubtedly favour themselves with higher budgets rather than have their channels purchasing more expensive shows from other Canadian studios. If Nelvana subcontracts, will their subcontractors see any of the increased budgets or will the the subcontract budgets remain the same with any increase staying with Nelvana?

I'm afraid that these new rules will put the squeeze on smaller studios that rely on broadcasters and cable channels for their sales.  Can Netflix or Amazon take up the slack?  If not, there's a chance that we're going to see less production in the near future. 

The Canadian TV animation industry is presently as large as it has ever been.  At Sheridan, we are being approached by studios that are trying to get a jump on Industry Day and hire students before they graduate.  Those of us who have been around for awhile have wondered how long the industry expansion can continue.  It's possible that these new rules, put in place to improve quality and give broadcasters more flexibility, may not be good for Canadian animation. 

Monday, February 23, 2015

My post-Oscar Thought

I wish the media paid as much attention to the Nobel prizes in science and medicine as it does to the Academy Awards.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Toon Talks Podcast

Friend Jim Caswell pointed me to a podcast featuring animator Charlie Bonifacio.  It's the latest episode of the Toon Talks podcast, hosted by an animation professional named Sandra.  I don't know if she's choosing to keep her last name secret or if it's an oversight.

In any case, besides being an excellent draftsman and animator, Bonifacio is highly articulate.  I've listened to his episode and look forward to hearing the others in this series, which feature people like Mark Henn, Carlos Baena, Tomm Moore and Sergio Pablos.

Friday, January 30, 2015

Twice Upon a Time

On Saturday night at 2:15 A.M. Eastern Time (really early Sunday morning), Turner Classic Movies will run a genuine rarity.  Twice Upon a Time (1983) is an animated feature that uses backlit translucent cut-outs in stop motion produced by George Lucas and directed by John Korty and Charles Swenson.  The film has never been on DVD and rarely runs on television.

The film features voice work by Lorenzo Music and Paul Frees.  There are many names in the crew recognizable from other work, such as David Fincher (who did special effects), Henry Selick, Kaj Pindal, and John Van Vliet.

TCM's blog Movie Morlocks discusses the career of John Korty and the circumstances surrounding the making of the film.   Ward Jenkins collects a bunch of YouTube clips and interviews Harley Jessup, the art director of the film.

The 1980s were an odd decade for animation.  Disney was rebuilding, Don Bluth was attempting to overtake them and Bakshi was in his rotoscope period.  The decade also saw lots of independent animated features that were interesting but failed to have much box office success.  It wasn't until the later '80s, when Disney got back on track and Spielberg got involved with animation that a new normal was established.  Prior to that, films like Twice Upon a Time, Heavy Metal, Grendel Grendel Grendel, The Plague Dogs, Rock and Rule, The Adventures of Mark Twain and When the Wind Blows were looking to take animation in new directions, but due to inexperience and audience prejudices, they failed.

While these films had small, but professional budgets, this kind of film is made today on a shoestring by independents like Bill Plympton, Nina Paley and Signe Baumane.  If those types of films are interesting to you, take a look at Twice Upon a Time.