Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Sticking Points

http://www.skwigly.co.uk/jeff-chiba-stearns/
The latest Skwigly feature is on a brilliant chap who I got to chat to recently as part of Project Group-Hug, Canadian animator/documentarian Jeff Chiba Stearns. The piece focuses on his short film Yellow Sticky Notes, an extreme-auteur production (it was animated entirely straight-ahead, using Post-Its) that went viral in 2008, as well as its follow-up Yellow Sticky Notes: Canadian Anijam which extended the same production approach to a mass collaboration with every exceptional Canadian animator under the sun - including the likes of Cordell Barker, Janet Perlman, Paul Driessen, Alison Snowden, David Fine and many more. Check out the interview (and watch the films) over on Skwigly.
http://oktruebelievers.com/
While I'm a-blogging I want to mention that on Friday February 7th I'll be exhibiting at my first indie comics fest in a good long while. The True Believers Comic Festival will take place in my old stomping grounds of Cheltenham at the Racecourse and will be open to the public from 11:30am. Please do swing by and say hello, I'll be predictably touting my graphic novel wares in a bid to shift some leftover stock. On sale will be House Guest: The Graphic Novel (with a free DVD of the film), Brain Spillage and of course multiple versions of my 2012 labour-o'-love Throat. I also want to mention that I will be selling the last handful of copies of my 2006 comic anthology That Isn't Funny, You Stupid Child. Once these are gone, they're gone for good (I'll be pulling the eBook editions too).
http://benmitchellblog.blogspot.co.uk/search/label/that%20isn%27t%20funny%20you%20stupid%20child
Not that anyone's asking but there are two main reasons - I'm not that crazy about the overall presentation of the book and, being nearly a decade old, I wouldn't say it's dated terrifically. I'm still proud of the stories in some regard and, at the time, I felt I was being terrifically witty in lampooning all sorts of social taboos and bigotries. It seemed back then that people were getting smarter and more attuned to the role satire can play in pointing out the ludicrousness of intolerance, but I've watched with increasing despair in subsequent years as it's all gone the other way instead. It's less 'political correctness gone mad' (possibly one of the most misused phrases in the English language) than Poe's Law run amok. More to the point - especially as I'm loathe to self-censor in light of recent events - I feel like I've since moved away from my outlook and artistic direction of that time. So if you fancy yourself a Ben Mitchell relic that may or may not serve as an appropriate blackmail tool (for the shite drawings more than anything else) down the line, this'd be your last opportunity to grab it.
Check out the festival as well as the other smashing guests and exhibitors over at oktruebelievers.com - hopefully catch some of you there!

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Babble On

https://soundcloud.com/skwigly/skwigly-podcast-27/download
This first Skwigly podcast of 2015 is up today!
Be sure to stream, download or subscribe to never risk being out of the loop and, rightly, shunned by your betters.
In this episode we have Julia Young's extended chat with Disney veteran and Duet director Glen Keane; Steve Cav and earnest protégé Fiona Stuart-Clark grill the directors of the Oscar-nominated The Boxtrolls (out to buy next week) Graham Annable and Anthony Stacchi; and I dig out my interview with Torill Kove of the NFB on her latest short Me and My Moulton, which is also amongst the Oscar nominees. You can also watch a bit of said interview and get a glimpse of the film itself in one of my Lightbox docs from last year:
 
Elsewhere Steve and myself keep it real whilst recalling such technological game-changers as the Game Boy Printer. Mmmboy, that's good listenin'!

Monday, 19 January 2015

Cabinet Reshuffle

As I expect nobody has noticed, the digital version of The Book of Women is no longer listed on Amazon (you can still buy the physical CD for the foreseeable future). If you're just joining us, that's my last album which came out over four years ago. LOOK AT IT:
All in all it's had a good enough run thus far to keep it available in some digital form, so I've put it up on Bandcamp. This is the latest in a long line of music hosting sites I've haunted like the ghoul I am, starting with the original mp3.com way back in '99, through to Cafepress, MySpace, Createspace and SoundCloud. The latter is still the main place to go for free tracks/exclusives/remixes et al but Bandcamp has the advantage of letting you purchase individual tracks and streaming the album in full. One of many protracted projects of mine has been the gradual remixing/remastering of my back catalogue which was halted when I heard about the new VAT laws for digital distribution in effect this year. Bandcamp seems to have the most streamlined approach to dealing with this so it's very likely I'll reissue all the older stuff digitally through them in the near future as well.
As touched upon last month, a new album called The Birdcage is also in the works and will hopefully be ready by the Spring. To prove I'm not a lying liar here's a sampler of in-progress tracks I put up on my Facebook page a little while back:

Friday, 16 January 2015

Nom Nom Noms

The Oscar and BAFTA nominations for 2015 have now both been announced, which I've taken as a cue for a bit of reflection on some films of note.
Leading the charge are Dice and Robert of Tonko House, whose film The Dam Keeper is an astounding concept-art-come-to-life piece of work. If asked to put together a 'Top 10' list of the best films of the past year it'd easily be amongst them. Proof of which is viewable at Revue 24 Images, for which I (along with numerous other more accomplished critics and curators) was asked to put together a 'Top 10' list of the best films of the past year. See, I zigged when you thought I was gonna...well, zig probably.
If your clicking finger is broken then the other films I picked are:

The lists were compiled by Marco de Blois who, amongst other laudable animation-related activities, is the main programmer for Quebec's Sommets du Cinéma d’Animation. As this Cartoon Brew article makes clear, one thing I can't be accused of is going with the crowd. That being said, many of the other critics' favourites would easily make my top 20 (also some folks cheated a bit and picked films from the year before, but what am I, the list police?). In fact, for the sake of why-the-hell-not, here's my next ten favourites of last year:
Submarine Sandwich (Dir. PES - this one would've made the original list but was released just after)
Monkey Love Experiments
(Dir. Will Anderson, Ainslie Henderson)

Give those all some investigation, my lovelies. Anyway, our first Lightbox of 2015 is on the making of The Dam Keeper. Seriously, if you haven't come across this film yet at all, treat yourself to a peek here:

You can also hear more from Rob and Dice in episode 25 of the Skwigly Podcast.
Also in the running are Daisy Jacobs, Joris Oprins, Disney with Feast and, happily, Torill Kove of the NFB, who I interviewed during the production of the film.
Aside from the comparatively indie Song of the Sea, the feature film noms were all fairly predictable. Though I'm not so up-in-arms about The Lego Movie being ignored I would've loved to see Bill Plympton's Cheatin' and Signe Baumane's Rocks In My Pockets in with a shot. Que cera cera. Fortunately this arrived today so I can start my weekend off right:
http://www.skwigly.co.uk/cheatin-review/
Going back to the shorts, Alan Holly's Coda really stood out to me last year and I urge everyone to keep their eyes open for it:
That this film and Glen Keane's Duet (admittedly more successful as an interactive experience) didn't make the nominations is a massive shame - I've yet to see Plympton's Footprints but I'm sure I'd feel similarly - massive kudos to them at any rate for getting shortlisted.
Also worth mentioning that amongst the BAFTA noms was Will and Ainslie's Monkey Love Experiments, which has already won itself a Scottish BAFTA but one more wouldn't hurt.

Fantastic stuff from those two, though this one will probably remain my favourite for a good long while:

Monday, 29 December 2014

Chocolate Substitute

http://skwigly.co.uk
Our Skwigly advent calendar has wrapped up for another year, and what a thing of beauty it has become!
Here's another sampling of brilliant contributions:
Tanya Scott
Ross Butter and Louis Hudson
Rok Predin
Blue Zoo
Charlie Miller
Elliot Crutchley
Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

Massive gratitude again to everyone who took the time! Until next year, boys and gals.

Wednesday, 24 December 2014

Season Song

"Ew, why's that prick buggering up my lovely song?"
Happy allocated-family-togetherness week, m'lovelies! Here's hoping you have a tolerable time with you and yours this season. In lieu of a scrapped plan to put up some free downloadable EPs I've cleaned up my live recording of Danny Elfman's "La Canzone di Sally"/"Sally's Song" (from Nightmare Before Christmas) from the other week and made it downloadable between now and the new year as a sort unofficial Christmas single. Obviously I didn't write it so can't sell it, but should you feel so inclined give it a download here!

Monday, 22 December 2014

Latest Lightboxery

https://vimeo.com/114938649
I mentioned last week that we would put up an extended version of Julia Young's brilliant interview with Disney legend Glen Keane. Here it be!
This is the first episode of what I've lazily dubbed Lightbox Plus (because, y'know, it's Lightbox with extra bits), a series I expect will be less regular than the standard Lightbox episodes and exclusive to our Vimeo channel. Don't forget we have another interview with Glen about his pre-Duet Disney years in the latest podcast (which you can download here).
Meanwhile the latest regular Lightbox features Seb Burnett, Creative Director of Rumpus Animation, talking about the previously mentioned Bertram Fiddle game. There are still some e-shopping days left and I suspect it would make the perfect cheap-as-chips gift for the indie point-and-click retro-gaming/Victorian era enthusiast in your life. So long as they have an iOS device. Have a watch below:
Learn more about the game at the Bertram Fiddle website. Look at me, brimming with seasonal altruism (in the self-serving-because-I'm-in-it sense).

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Merry Christmas to Me

Thought I'd treat myself to a little early Christmas present:
The physical copies of this one are very limited Record Store Day 'Black Friday' exclusives that didn't make it to UK stores. Luckily I managed to snag one kindly listed on the 'Bay without being horribly extorted. It's probably not a surprise that I'd be an avid Faith No More collector. In truth I don't think I've ever brought up the extent of it on here because it's sorta kinda sorta maybe a bit of a mental illness. To give a bit of a Jack-Torrence's-wife-reading-his-manuscript-for-the-first-time peek, this is an outdated photograph of how many copies of this album I own (but look carefully, they all have slight differences! Slight! Differences!):
So what was I gonna do, not find a way of getting my hands on the first vinyl 7" single they've released since 1992 (I am, of course, not counting promo releases and their 7x7" special extended edition of King For A Day, Fool For A Lifetime, because that would be daft)?
As these panels from Throat indicate, I know I'm sick. BUT I NEVER WANNA GET BETTER.
So go, be with your brothers. They've been waiting 22 years.
The remix is pretty damn good, too.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Leaders of Men

https://soundcloud.com/skwigly/skwigly-podcast-26/download
Last Skwigly Animation Podcast of 2014!
No holiday play this year but I'm sure some of your Christmasses won't be completely ruined as a consequence. What more than makes up for it are the fantastic guests we have, and this episode's line-up is very esteemed indeed. In fact I think we all got time with a personal hero: Katie Steed talks to Glen Keane about his pre-Duet Disney career with some fantastic insight into the artistic theory and skill applied to his iconic characters such as the Beast, Aladdin, Tarzan, Pocahontas and Ariel; Steve Henderson brings Aardman's Peter Lord back (he was, if you recall, our very first major guest which really gave us credibility right out of the gate) to discuss the modern revival of his own iconic creation Morph; and I talk to indie genius PES about his fantastic stop-mo/pixilation creations, from Roof Sex to Submarine Sandwich (his latest, concluding the 'Food Trilogy' after Western Spaghetti and Fresh Guacamole).
I say this about a lot of them but this episode was another massive pleasure to put together. Stringing it all together Steve and I discuss upcoming features, Oscar predictions, animation 'celebrities', the oh-so-obvious Morph/South Park connection and we learn about Steve's 'incident' with Simpsons creator Matt Groening.
Download or stream over three hours of animation verbosity to stuff in your stocking! Don't say we don't spoil ya. For more goodness and to catch up on earlier episodes you can also of course subscribe on iTunes.
On a subject that could not be more unrelated if it tried, here's a clearer audio recording of one of Faith No More's new tracks, from a spontaneous live show they held at Amoeba Records on Record Store Day.

I am chomping at the goddamn bit to hear the studio version. Spontaneous Christmas EP, chaps?
What? You never know, they might be reading this.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

First Wave

What do all these people have in common? Apart from being generally amazing, I now owe them all a pint or several.
 
Quarter of the way there. Watch this space, friends.