Friday, 22 August 2014

Group Hug, Everybody!

Two very lovely occurrences worth bringing up have...uh...occurred this week. The first is the news that, after several months of development, pitches and meetings I haven't been in the room for, Project Group-Hug appears to be going ahead! Hurrah! Of course, naturally this means I can tell you what it's all going to be about. But I'm not gonna.
What I will say is it's all set to come together toward the end of 2015 and be out in the world sometime the following year, so try to stay awake until then.
Far more important news came in the form of this tweet which went up the other day:
Regrettably I'd say this removes the foolish hope that Faith No More would have snuck out a surprise new LP before my birthday in October, but it's still a potentially brilliant development nonetheless. In the meantime I'll have to keep myself satisfied with this lovely video by Vincent Forcier for Mr. Patton's other band Tomahawk:
Puppet Patton is the shiz, yo.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Glory Box

After a short summer break I've resumed Lightbox, the Skwigly series of animation mini-docs I'm producing for our fledgling YouTube Channel. To get you up to speed here's Laura-Beth's exclusive interview with Ben Bocquelet, creator of the bizarrely endearing (or endearingly bizarre, either work) Cartoon Network series The Amazing World of Gumball.
Also in the lead-up to this year's Encounters festival, this week's episode features a chat with their 2013 jury member, special guest and great filmmaker all-around, Isabelle Favez.

Isabelle's work includes the shorts Valise, Tarte aux Pommes and my personal favourite Au Coeur de l'Hiver which accommodates my guilty penchant for cute cartoon things scampering about. They're also pretty chucklesome so if you manage to track them down they're worth the effort.
Don't forget to subscribe on YouTube to catch each new episode, plenty more a-comin'!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Abandoned Language
What's new, folks? How about this latest episode of the Skwigly Podcast, eh? Out today, full of goodness, from my hard drive to your awaiting earholes. Don't say I never do nothin' for ya.
I'm happy to say that, over two years in, putting these together is still quite exciting, especially with such high-caliber guests. In this episode we have Bonnie Arnold from Dreamworks, producer of the How To Train Your Dragon movies, Toy Story and, rather awesomely, The Addams Family. The good version of The Addams Family. Also from the world of Dragons we have an extended version of our chat with Dean DeBlois which featured on the last episode of Lightbox. On top of this Laura-Beth talks to Disney talents Patrick Osborne, Kristina Reed and Jeff Turley, director, producer and designer respectively of the upcoming short Feast which we managed to get a look at in Annecy.
Meanwhile, in a less traffic-heavy corner of SoundCloud, I've bunged up an old track from an obscure LP I worked on under the moniker Silverfish. I don't think I've ever brought that particular project up on here as it was slap-bang in the middle of my MA and I did a pretty crappy job on the production. The album was made up of two soundscape EPs The Bug Chaser and The Gift Giver, shmushed together. It has a mix of songs and noise pieces generally darker and less marketable than my Struwwelpeter albums and I never felt that motivated to push it, only knocking out fifty self-pressed copies to give away at shows. Listening back I reckon it actually has potential to be quite an interesting little record if I took some proper time redoing the production. This track is my first such experiment in that regard, one of the more 'song'-type songs which always been fun to sing live. I sprinkled some Reason magic over it and it makes a world of difference. Have a listen:
Just for the record, the above is as 'radio-friendly' as the album gets.
Lastly, this week is crunch-week as far as Project Group-Hug goes, so any of you out there who might wish me well (for whatever baffling-yet-appreciated reason) do keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, 31 July 2014


What, you never seen two celebrities chippin' about or sumthin'? Tssst.
This is myself and Lyle 'Chip' Chipperson, international sensation. After a superlative set of his in Montreal this past weekend I managed to get a quick snap with the brilliant comedian and performer Jim Norton, known for his standup, The Opie and Anthony Show and, of course, this animation I did back in 2011:

He's lost a lot of weight since then (from "gahn t'the jahm'n ate'n beh-tehr") so if I ever have time to do another one I'll have to redesign his character to have a neck.
O&A has been a background staple of my working life since 2008 and, as some may be aware, it appears to be no more after Anthony Cumia fell prey to the media hypocrisies they've so astutely ridiculed over the years and got his over-passionately-tweeting self fired. I could rant about it but many others have voiced my exact issues with far more articulacy and wit than I could, especially magical man-giant and all-around top bloke Penn Jillette:
Sad times. But I got to meet Chip regardless, and Ant's starting a new show on August 4th which I expect will be pretty decent, so the world appears to still be turning.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Still Skwiglin'

Just a quick fumble to keep you all appraised of some Skwigly updates.
The latest episode of Lightbox is now up and features the amiably amiable Dean DeBlois, director of How to Train Your Dragon 2. I'm more of a casual Dreamworks fan and, while I certainly enjoyed the first film, the sequel is a genuinely solid, witty piece of work which I'd definitely recommend checking out when it opens in the UK tomorrow.
There's also more Annecy 2014 coverage I haven't yet mentioned on here, have a read of some of the short film highlights and special events. Also the first piece from our time with Cartoon Network is up, wherein Laura-Beth chats to Ben Bocquelet, creator of The Amazing World of Gumball. Laura-Beth has also stepped up to design and animate this month's site banner:
These are getting to be a really nice way of engaging out writers and readers alike. You can check out an archive of prior banners here, including two personal favourites by Rumpus:
...and Sophie Klevenow:
Both of whom fall firmly into the category of people I periodically have to fight the urge to call up and say how awesome I think they are, mainly because it'd doubtless creep them out.
Some news to end on is that I've been told that Project Group-Hug is in the final stage before getting the go-ahead or not. As I've never elaborated on what it even is I appreciate that any interest in said news is probably less than nil. But it's worth keeping tabs on should it proceed. And if you never hear of it again...well, consider it a massive, derision-worthy failure. If I can offer you all nothing else than schadenfreude it's surely the least I can do.

Monday, 7 July 2014

"You don't feel it after awhile; You take the beating."

Holy effing moly, did I take a beating on Friday. While I'd planned to watch all the BST acts from afar, my overzealous enthusiasm in the moment planted me pretty much bang in the middle of the mosh pit for the first five hours. So the main thing I've taken away from the experience is: Yep, I am too old for that shiz (also for using words like 'shiz', but let's stay focused). True, it did take me back to them halcyon days of going apeshit at the Astoria and Mean Fiddler, but that was when I was young and foolish and didn't carry valuables; Nowadays nothing puts the fear into an old prick like me than the possibility of a mildly-scratched HTC display. Cold sweats just thinking about it. Brrr.
As for the day itself, bruises aside it ruled. Lemmy and his bulge were on fine form, Ozzy and the rest of Sabbath absolutely killed it, Soundgarden were nice enough to play all of Superunknown and there also.
But Faith No More were obviously who I came for above all else, and they were utterly goddamn blistering. Of the four shows I've now seen them do, it could very well be the tightest, it's just a shame that as openers they only got an hour slot. The setlist kept to mainly tried-and-tested live classics, the only song I'd not previously seen performed being the unexpected deep track Zombie Eaters which they opened with. Also peppered throughout were all-time personal favourites Midlife Crisis, Caffeine, Everything's Ruined, We Care A Lot, The Gentle Art of Making Enemies and King For A Day. Oh, and there were the new songs they threw in near the end. The first new songs written in years, which they debuted for what I can only assume was my benefit. No biggie, whatevs. Jeez, chillax, yo.
In truth I think I experienced what women in the olden days referred to as 'the vapours'.
Being the quintet of mischievous cockteases they're known to be, there've been no subsequent updates as to what this indicates, but predictably I've been obsessing over the new material, this one in particular:
Whether or not it's a work in progress, I love it. It brings to mind moments of Perfect Crime, What A Day, Digging The Grave, even the pre-Patton days of Introduce Yourself. I am over the freakin' moon. Along with the mysterious song Matador, which debuted in 2011, this now makes for three new songs in five years of being back together. Another couple years and we might have ourselves an EP, people!
Now to not move for several weeks while my bones knit. In the meantime I'll leave you with some Faith No Moreoke:

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Where am I? And how can I leave?

Criminey, a month-plus of radio silence. Surely bliss for the blogosphere?
Well, here I am again. Reconcile yourself with that and tough it out, friends.
The end of this week should mark a return to a life where I have more time available in the day than the scant few minutes in which to graze or micturate the last couple of months have allowed. On top of animation work I've been dealing with all sorts of exciting Skwigly diddlywotsits, unnecessary Throat (the book, not my actual throat) concerns, organising some special music events and the most needlessly protracted flatmove imaginable - especially considering it's within the same building. On top of all this I've also been in the final stages of getting something I'll refer to as "Project Group-Hug" off the ground. Based on a meeting I had last week things are looking good and, if it happens, it'll be something pretty damned amazing, so think warm gooey thoughts and spray them in my general direction.
Going back to the Skwigly diddlywotsits, here's a round-up:
Meeting celebs
Myself and Laura-Beth went over to Annecy the other week for the Sunniest Animation Festival Ever (thank Christ it was by a lake or our UK-acclimated selves would've snapped before the week was through). Predictably it was superb and, while I was a little nonplussed with a good deal of the competition selection, the special events and industry gatherings were spectacular. Stay tuned for some in-depth coverage of new developments from Dreamworks, Disney, the NFB and Cartoon Network to name a few. In the meantime here's some festival coverage to sink your toothies into:
Latest podcast featuring: Greg MacLeod (of the Bros. MacLeod) on his and brother Myles's recent films 365, Isle of Spagg and the upcoming Marfa; Jackie Cockle, whose work as an animator and director spans some of the most prominent stop-motion TV productions in the UK, such as Pingu and Timmy Time. Also included is some of the panel discussion I recently participated in alongside Dani Abram, Jane Davies, Gareth Cavanagh and Kerry Dyer. Download, subscribe and/or stream!
The Lightbox series of mini-docs which started up back in May has been going strong. If you haven't subscribed yet, you can do so here and catch up with what's gone up so far:

Other new interviews of the written variety include Anita Kwiatkowska-Naqvi, whose pregnancy-themed film Ab Ovo is one of my absolute favourites from the festival circuit last year. Also as part of our Producing Animation series of articles I was able to chat with Annecy's current Artistic Director Marcel Jean on his prior career as an Animation Producer. Some really nice insights here, especially on transitioning from directing to producing.

It's nice to look at the above as some evidence that I have actually been being productive for the last little while. In truth I've been in a bit of a stress blur with the move, and my absence from this blog has been substituted with endless moaning at friends and family with each dull development and setback. What's given me tremendous perspective is just how good I have it as far as support from all directions when seas get choppy. Plus I've lost about 12lbs since I started flathunting, which I guess is a silver-lining. That and the new place is bloody lovely, so I have to concede it really was worth it.
Always darkest before the dawn, and July is also looking to be an exciting month ahead for fanboy reasons. You see, as a longtime David Lynch enthusiast, every two years or so I put myself through the strange dual pleasure/torture of watching a now-very-old show called Twin Peaks. Probably it doesn't need an introduction, it being such a staple of pop culture - it arguably did more for the landscape of television in the 90s than David Chase did with The Sopranos over a decade later. The difference being that, while I can think of *maybe* two episodes of Sopranos that didn't do it for me, at least a third of the episodes of Peaks are borderline unwatchable. It's one of the biggest and most well-known laments of the Lynch fan, that a show which starts off so brilliantly devolves so quickly (in all there are only thirty episodes, the first ten of which are pretty much faultless).
I suppose I'm really more a fan of Fire Walk With Me, the much-maligned movie prequel made after the show which resolves virtually none of the cliffhangers that remained when the series was canceled. Knowing nothing about the premise other than Mike Patton once covered the theme song and that it was a prequel, I figured it'd be a safe bet to start with it and then embark on the show if I liked what I saw. It was 2002 and my Lynch fandom was still in its early stages, you see. Of course, had I known then that the concept of time is treated very loosely in the otherworldly Black Lodge and that its being chronologically a prequel doesn't mean jack shit in terms of fully understanding what's going on - or, more crucially, that the show itself is a goddamned whodunit and so by watching the murder happen beforehand would undermine the whole mystery aspect of the show - I might have tracked down the series first. But then I wonder if I would have liked the film as much that way around, or if I would've even made it past the midway point of season two at all.
In truth, having not seen the show makes Fire Walk With Me a classic standalone David Lynch film, and easily my favourite. While a lot bears explaining, that's also the case with Lost Highway and Mulhulland Drive and, in the same respect, contributes to its appeal as a film to be dissected and pored over with all the time you thought you'd be spending having sex because, after all, it's your first year in college and you don't assume that the only intermittent play you'll get is from that one recent-divorcee townie wracked with Catholic guilt who you met at such-and-such's house party.
Ah, Gabrielle. I don't want to think too hard about how old she must be now. But I digress.
The genius of Fire Walk With Me is that, from a story perspective, it does actually flow perfectly into the events of the show. The pilot episode and first season, while more conventionally structured and far less intense, very much feel like they're carrying on the story, albeit with a sudden change of hairstyles all round. Knowing who the murderer is while everyone else is trying to work it out makes it a satisfying watch for entirely different reasons than it would've been when originally broadcast. A lot of confusing aspects of the film, mainly the backstories of characters we know nothing about having not seen the show are expanded on, though some aren't; A decade later I remain disappointed that Kiefer Sutherland, Chris Isaac, Harry Dean Stanton and David Bowie's characters, all created for FWWM, never show up in the series. It makes the more bafflingly lazy storylines introduced in the later episodes all the more frustrating. Also the frustrations a lot of the fans of the show must have felt when watching the movie can only be appreciated in hindsight; Looking back it must have been a bit jarring that a lot of the main characters - Ben and Audrey Horne, Sherriff Truman, Josie Packard, Pete Martell et al - don't show up at all. Plus one major character is completely redefined when, in FWWM, they commit a murder of their own, one which they're never held accountable for in the series.
Granted the show does pick up near the end. Were it not for needlessly hammy dialogue and a penchant for pantomimey theatrics, Windom Earle might have had potential as a villain. And the last episode is one of the most amazing things I've seen on television - though it's clearly of its time, nothing has quite matched what Lynch achieved with the Black Lodge sequence. Plus it isn't until the very end that the mythology on which most of FWWM is based is properly introduced. Basically if you threw the whole series into Final Cut, lanced out five or so hours of weak subplots and cheesey moments, you'd have an amazing overall story (surely some geek out there has done this already?).
One of the big white whales for Lynch geeks like me has been the promise that somewhere there exists literally hours of footage shot for FWWM that didn't make it into the final edit, chiefly vignettes involving characters from the series that otherwise don't make an appearance. Various versions of the film's script include these and, overall, it reads like a more cohesive Inland Empire, one bound within the Twin Peaks universe. Omitting the scenes made sense to keep the film about Laura Palmer's battle with the demonic BOB, but for devotees of the show like myself who realistically assumed it wouldn't return, these scenes have been something of a holy grail. Last month, over 11 years after I first became fascinated with the movie (and over twenty for those who were there at the time), this appeared:
I'd always hoped they'd see the light of day but assumed it would be in a dusty, found in a vault somewhere, low-resolution state that most deleted scenes from old movies show up as.
This shit looks fucking amazing.
It's like watching a trailer for an entirely new film in which the main cast have managed to sidestep twenty years of aging (and, in some sad instances, death). And we're being told they've put nearly 90 minutes of it together. I am a happy little cinephile, my friends.
If that weren't enough, something popped up on Twitter last month that got my attention:
What. The actual fuck. Does THAT mean? I asks ya...
If Faith No More start producing new music (a conclusion I don't want to set myself up for the disappointment of not being the case but that a lot of music news outlets have drawn) the same month that the deleted scenes from Fire Walk With Me are released...holy shit, we could just call it: 2014 wins. It'll be an amazing day regardless but when I see them on 4th there might very well be some indication of what exactly is going on. In the meantime I'm watching their Twitter feed like a fucking hawk.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Content Providers
This week on Skwigly we have a nice, stodgy clump of new content to rub into your ears and eyes. Firstly there's a slightly overdue new podcast featuring special guest Tim Searle, currently working on Mr. Bean whose other credits include Warren United, 2DTV, I Am Not An Animal and Have I Got News For You. Also on the podcast Laura-Beth chats to up-and-comer (well, to an extent he's both upped and come, but I'm sure there's plenty more upping and coming ahead for the fellow) Eamonn o'Neill on his work including I'm Fine Thanks and Left, while Steve and I keep things topical by giving The Return of Jafar the dressing down it deserves.
I'm also happy to say that this week sees the launch of a new video strand which we'll be hosting on our thus-far-underused YouTube channel. Dubbed Lightbox, it will serve as a series of mini-documentaries on all things animation. As with the site itself, this will span TV shows, interviews, major feature films, independent projects, behind-the-scenes goodness, all that jazz.
The first few weeks will mainly consist of videos we've already showcased in some way or other, after which we'll be keeping them as their own separate thing, with our Vimeo channel reserved for longer-form content like documentaries and such.
Fine young panelists
On a not-entirely-unrelated note, the Bristol Comic Expo panel events I participated in over the weekend were a success, so thanks again to Dani Abram for the invite and getting it all sorted. We managed to get it recorded so there's a good chance some of it will materialise in some form or other soon.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Geeks Like Me
It's been another dry spell on the blogging front. As predicted a while back, things have been busier than ever (with some extra, unanticipated time drains thrown in) but I'm cautiously optimistic life will return to relative normalcy late June/July. In the meantime here's a quick note to say I've been invited to participate in two animation-themed panels at this year's Bristol Comic Expo. They start at 1pm this Saturday (the 10th), the first one is on working in animation which I'll be on the panel for, the second's on Bristol animation studios which I'll be presenting. Lots of other talented folk will be there, including animation stalwarts Rumpus, Upstart Thunder and Wildseed. If you're in Bristol and fancy swinging by that'd be mighty delightful, more info including tickets and venue can be found here.
I've been to the con a bunch of times (in fact it was the first place I exhibited Throat mere days after its printing) and there's always lots of interesting stuff to attend and rummage through, I have however been told that this year it's advance booking only so if you're up for it make sure you get your passes online beforehand.
Much gracias to Dani for the invitation and getting it all organised.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

A Wee Springtime Roundup

Like most Canadians with dignity and self-regard, I'm still reeling from the tragic news of Pauline Marois bowing out. Always a sad day when you see the back of level-headed charmers like her.
While one of the low points of my recent Montreal visit was learning just how terrifying the degree to which certain brands of separatist nonsense had been tolerated, it did remind me that my actual reason for being there was to focus on the more positive state of the arts over there. The initial plan was to put together a Skwigly documentary on the National Film Board of Canada based on their proposed 2014 animation output, but in the intervening four months some of their plans have been shuffled around a bit, so I'm currently rethinking the best way to get the footage out there. As a number of their upcoming films are now all set to debut months apart I'm thinking something more episodic and filmmaker-specific would best suit, so stay tuned.
In the meantime some of the written NFB director interviews are already up, such as Claire Blanchet who directed the fabulous film noir short The End of Pinky, adapted from a short story by Heather o'Neill and which uses 3D stereoscopy to amazing effect; As well as fellow up-and-comer Emmanuelle Loslier, whose own short Inspector Street evokes the surreal humour of Jan Svankmajer, Walerian Borowczyk and PES, amongst others. I also teamed up with Laura-Beth for an interview with Theodore Ushev on his fabulous Gloria Victoria, the final installment in his 20th Century Trilogy, and got a chance to speak with Michelle Kranot, co-director of the fabulous Hollow Land, a story of misjudged assimilation which marries 2D theory with stop-motion puppets.
Most recently is an exclusive chat with current NFB Executive Producer Michael Fukushima, a supremely friendly and well-dressed fellow who I feel very privileged to have gotten some time with. There are many more similar interviews in the chamber which will hopefully be up soon, not to mention part two of our 2013 Festival Special which is sitting in After Effects, ready to be rendered out. I'm just waiting on some final permissions for footage so knock wood it won't be much longer.
Lastly, for all you consumers out there who, much like myself, still have that lingering impulse to keep your cultural interests on display in big lovely boxes, I've put up a review of the NFB's spectacular DVD set Norman McLaren: The Master's Edition which puts together seven discs' worth of films and documentaries. The set's a few years old now but given that April is the kick-off month of numerous McLaren centenary celebrations it seemed worth a nod.