Monday, 22 November 2010

"No more singing a cappella..."

I'm really pleased to say that recently I had the privilege of being involved in a very nifty mass collaboration for Plymptoons. As I'm a huge Bill Plympton fan you can appreciate that this was something of a dream opportunity and a great excuse to familiarise myself with lots of incredibly talented animators.The project is "Guard Dog Global Jam", a multi-animator shot-by-shot re-imagining of one of Plympton's best shorts, the Oscar-nominated "Guard Dog". Of the chosen applicants, each animator was assigned a shot to reproduce. Mine was a quick cutaway of a mouth gearing up to sneeze.
Concept still

As it was only two seconds I decided to do it on ones (24 frames-per-second as opposed to 12, which is what I usually stick with). The fluidity of movement is really appealing, almost to the point where I'm considering having my next film be an entirely on-ones affair. Composition-wise, the shot combines full animation (the lips) with tweened animation (the teeth), the throat being the background. Here's a quick vid of the various stages, beginning with the original shot as animated by Plympton, then the line test, coloured mouth animation, teeth animation and finally the fully composited shot:

I was also able to jump on board Mike Schneider's incredibly ambitious flicker-frame concept in which a different illustrator tackles each individual frame of his allocated shot.Mine simply resorted to the fabric-texture-with-relief-shadow look I've been pulling out a lot lately, most notably with the Channel 4 project last spring. It's kind of practice for the ever-growing Struwwelpeter music video I'm still working on. Here are some other, more visually adventurous takes on it by some of the other illustrators:
The choking mouth of the first shot is coincidentally apt when considering my ongoing graphic novel project "Throat", the next progress update for which I'll save another entry, however for similarities sake I thought I'd throw up the finalised cover design:
The main artwork has been posted before, but the added bandage/subtitle came from smearing an Ace bandage with hot chocolate mix, blending/warping/blurring the typography to match it and then tweaking the colour to make it look like blood (trust me, it's a far more distressing visual when it's smeared brown). Hopefully it represents the story well, sort of a mix of goofy and grim.
Back to "Guard Dog", I'll leave you with an animatic (consisting of concepts and the odd finished shot) that was recently uploaded to give a preview of the wide range of styles used:

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The Mancunian Candidate

It recently occurred to me that any expectation of "The Naughty List" continuing to do well after the holiday season might be on a par with that old Simpsons episode where Homer buys stock in pumpkins at the beginning of October, expecting it to peak in January. But I'll enjoy it while it lasts. D'oh.On that note, said film will be screened this December at Kino Shorts, an offshoot of the Manchester International Film Festival aka Kinofilm. The event is being held at Greenroom on the 8th, give it a look-see if you're in the area.Another Kinofilm event Toast: Live will be including "House Guest" later this month on the 28th as part of the Animated Shorts screening beginning at 4pm. It takes place at the Antwerp Mansion and seems like a pretty neat day out if you're of artsy ilk, definitely worth checking out. Thanks Mancs! Hope that isn't a slur of some kind...
You can also get tickets to the two Bang! screenings on the same day at the links below:
Bangimation - 6pm
Main Event - 8:30pm
Hell, Nottingham's not that far away from Manchester, right? You can go to both. It'll be a grand day out.
Yep, I got nothing. Uh...not sure how to end this one so I'm just gonna bail-out in a panic.

Friday, 12 November 2010

The Not-So-Fine Print

I recently tweaked some issues with last summer's book release "Brain Spillage". Mainly just to fix the layout and alignment on some pages, but I also took the opportunity to create a downloadable preview sampler to give the world a taste before they commit (not that they'd ever regret purchasing such a marvellous tome, sight unseen).
My bibliography to date, minus a couple of pending reissues.
These samplers are something I've done with all my books, though I don't think I've brought them up on this blog before, except for last xmas when I announced the reissue of "That Isn't Funny, You Stupid Child". So, if you're in a literary mood have a glimpse at:
"The Best of 'Mitchells In England' Volume 1: 1994-1995"
"That Isn't Funny, You Stupid Child"
"House Guest: The Graphic Novel"
"Brain Spillage: Excerpts from the Sketchbooks of Ben Mitchell" Changing the subject, I've been informed that "The Naughty List" will get an additional screening at Bang! on on the 28th, as part of the Bangimation segment. Double your festive pleasure, although hopefully it won't annoy people who go to the main event afterward and have to watch it twice. I was asked to record an intro for the festival which I tried to make succinct and of course ended up a stutterin', mutterin', ramblin' fool. I've given them carte blanche to edit it at will but here's the seemingly unending monologue I sent over:

Of course the virtue of the vid is my SPECTACULAR MOUSTACHE. It is quite possibly the greatest thing I've ever been responsible for, including my illegitimate daughter (oops...said too much). If you'd like to nurture its growth into a 'tache of resplendent beauty, don't forget there's still time to donate to Movember!

Monday, 8 November 2010

Xmas in Movember

More good news! It just spills out of me these days.Another UK festival inclusion for "The Naughty List" will be at Nottingham's Bang! Short Film Festival later on in the month. Bang! was the first festival to accept "House Guest" two years back so I have a lot of fondness for it and am really grateful to be involved again this year! It will be shown as part of the main screening on Sunday 28th, starting 8:30pm.Don't forget, the US debut of the film will be at the Red Stick International Animation Festival which goes from Wednesday 10th to Saturday 13th. It looks like a really exciting festival overall so if you can conceivably make your way to Louisiana by then I'd highly recommend it.Meanwhile I am seriously putting the 'Mo' in Movember as my decision has been made: I'm going full handlebar. Don't all rush me at once, gals...If I raise over £200 I'll actually buy wax and curl it at the ends. So make sure to donate!

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

'Maikos, Mallets & Mo's...

Some early seasonal cheer to go with the premature decorations and mince pies already on sale, plus I suspect that the rest of the world is a veritable cauldron of misery. "The Naughty List" won Best Animation at the Thermaikos Film Festival over the weekend. Hollyness and jollyness!
Of course, if you actively dislike me and the notion of anything I do being well-received bugs you, then I appreciate that might not be the cheeriest news. But then, why would you be reading this? That's just creepy and stalkerish, dude. Knock it off.
Anyway, hugs and kisses to the Thermaikos fellas and everyone who attended and showed some love. I shall be gorging on μεζές in celebration!With bizarrely fortuitous timing I learned via Twitter that the film has also been included as part of the Shepton Mallet Digital Arts Festival, a comparatively local event showcasing digital work (animation, filmmaking, photography and so on) by South Westerners like my doughy self. This is fabtastulous and it means the film will be viewable in its entirety during the course of the festival, so pass it around while you can. My only concern is that, in justifying why it fit the festival criteria, this is what I wrote:
While the film is primarily presented as a comedic, narrative piece, its main theme is the subversion of a known cultural icon, reconfiguring our former notions of it and presenting it in a setting analogous to the stresses and influences of contemporary culture. This redefines and expands its audience and appeal, working hopefully on a visual level for a young audience and a satirical level for an adult audience. The film's simple premise aims to bring a new relevance and familiarity to a long-established holiday institution.
Now, while that's all true, it was late when I worded it and my brain was in pretension overdrive. I completely understand any impulse you might feel to want to punch the smug face of whoever would write such self-aggrandising drivel. Even I want to backhand him, and he's me. Hopefully, juxtaposed against the film itself, people will see some humour in it.
All told it's great exposure, so cheers again, pixelly-sheep-thing! Check it out here.On a closing note, I have made the supreme sacrifice and shaved off my facial hair, which I desperately need to maintain the illusion that my head isn't shaped like an overcooked gnocchi dumpling. This is in preparation for a month of moustache growth, as I'm taking part in this year's Movember to spread awareness for men's health issues. Predominantly prostate cancer, a pernicious fellow that's hit my own family and is probably waiting in the wings for me down the line. If you have the inclination please donate, even if it's just a couple of quid it'll help. Plus you'll be rewarded with the knowledge that for the next month I'll look like a right tit.Well, y'know, more so.