Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Fantasy, desire, libido and the mechanics of tramway operation
Today myself and Laura-Beth are launching the first of a brand new podcast series over on Skwigly. Titled Intimate Animation, the plan is for it to start life as a six (or ten, we'll see how it goes) part miniseries that will go up on alternate weeks to the regular podcast I do with Steve. Expanding the podcasts to separate series is something we'd passively planned on doing since day one so I'm glad this is finally in motion, it should pave the way for a handful of other additional podcast series we've been developing that'll focus on other specific areas within animation.
This first new venture came from our mutual enthusiasm for animation that takes on themes of love, relationships and sexuality, sometimes way more effectively than live-action is able to. Some of you may recall - or even came along to - our Skwigly/CineMe event Love, Lust and Libido a couple years back, which collected together a whole host of films that prove that point, so there's a wealth of discussion material off the bat.
Structurally it'll be quite similar to the main podcast (at least to begin with) as far as combining discussion and interview segments. We've got a pretty long list of potential case studies and figured we'd kick things off by digging out a previously-unheard (in full) interview with Michaela Pavlátová, director of some superb films including the Annecy Cristal-winning Tram. Stream below or direct download here.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Something stinky this way comes...
For the latest episode of the Skwigly Animation Podcast I've put together an earnest celebration of the groundbreaking Nicktoon classic The Ren and Stimpy Show which debuted 25 years ago this month. Now enjoying a repeat run as part of Nickelodeon’s The Splat line-up, the series changed the landscape of TV animation forever, paving the way for animated series production to return to its creator and art-driven roots. This is something I've wanted to do for a long time and, while I've certainly never been shy about expressing my love for the show, this anniversary seemed like the most fitting excuse to put together a tribute and try to get some of my absolute favourite people on the horn. Two of the earliest podcast guests were Ren and Stimpy themselves - series creator John Kricfalusi (who played Ren in the first two seasons and the revival series in 2003) and voice performer Billy West, (later of Futurama fame, who played Stimpy throughout the original run and Ren in seasons 3-5) and so I've included snippets of their earlier appearances, but on top of that this episode features brand new interviews with key show talent:
Jim Gomez (Writer/Layout Artist)
Described recently by series co-creator Bob Camp as “the unsung hero of Ren and Stimpy", Jim’s early work on the show involved character creation and layouts before ultimately settling into writing and story. Subsequent to the show Jim has worked in voice directing and The Billy West Podcast which he co-hosts.
Stephen DeStefano (Storyboard/Layout Artist)
Stephen’s work on the series spanned several areas from background design to storyboards and layout. Stephen would work on the show throughout its run, cutting his teeth during the show’s Spumco era, returning during the Games era and as a freelancer for the final season. Since Ren and Stimpy he has worked on productions including Venture Bros, Storycorps, Sym-Bionic Titan, Paul Rudish’s new Mickey Mouse shorts and Genndy Tartakovsky’s Hotel Transylvania 2. He has also been the official artist for Popeye for over 20 years and has worked on some fantastic comics including fellow Ren and Stimpy artist Bill Wray's warped anthology Hellboy Jr and Lucky In Love with George Chieffet .
Bob Jaques (Animation director, Carbunkle Cartoons)
Along with partner Kelly Armstrong, Bob/Carbunkle was responsible for what would undoubtedly be considered some of the first three seasons strongest and most memorable animated sequences. I mean, for chrissakes, look at how great this stuff is:
And while we're at it, check out Kelly's amazing scenes as well:
With a particular gift for timing, Bob has worked on subsequent John K/Spumco productions Boo Boo Runs Wild and the 2003 Ren & Stimpy revival Adult Party Cartoon, as well as more recent productions including Robotboy, The Haunted World of El Superbeasto, Uncle Grandpa and Spongebob.
Also myself and Steve traipse down memory lane happily and joyously as we recall our personal highlights of the show as well as discussing its impact and legacy (Steve also offers up the best theory I've heard thus far for why Cans Without Labels has taken so long). All being well we should be hearing more from the above and other artists on Skwigly in the not-too-distant future, so keep 'em peeled. Other artists to check out who I absolutely would've loved to include but ultimately couldn't for reasons of scheduling, nil web presence or understandable reluctance (the show is one of the most notoriously troubled in TV production history and the word 'traumatised' came up more than once) include Bob Camp, Scott Wills, Lynne Naylor, Chris Reccardi, and the aforementioned Bill Wray among many others.
Stream below, subscribe or direct download:
Special thanks to Thad Komorowski for his advice and assistance in getting this episode together. His book Sick Little Monkeys, a brilliant account of how the show came together and the dramas therein, should have an updated second edition on its way soon, but in the meantime you can have a read of my review of the original.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Summer Nights

Some general updates to keep you lovely bunch up to speed.
Firstly I'm really happy to see that mine and Laura-Beth's recent coverage of the stop-mo segments of The Little Prince caught the attention of the film's director Mark Osborne:
Even this many years in, it's still very validating to see people appreciate what it is we set out to do and I'm very proud to have been among the outlets for the team to discuss their process. If you didn't catch the episode you can give it a download here!
Montrealites - don't forget that Animaze kicks off today! Be sure to swing by the Museum of Fine Arts (Maxwell Cummings Auditorium) for Friday's 3pm Human Nature screening and catch Klementhro alongside some smashing films, or check out the full festival programme to see the other nifty stuff they have going on over the weekend.
From September on it's looking like a very busy few months for the film as far as international screenings go - between tours, festivals and special events my buddy Klementhro will be pestering audiences all over the globe through November. The furthest away looks to be Brazil's Anima Mundi who today announced their official selection and it looks like the adorable, paddle-dependent fool cut the mustard! This will be my third Anima Mundi inclusion so much love to the programmers. The event is set to take place in Rio de Janeiro late October and São Paulo early November, will keep you all posted.
In the more-immediate future, following the aforementioned Busho Festival in Hungary on September 3rd the film will get probably its quirkiest screening as part of the Fantoche International Animation Film Festival's Bagno Popolare 'spa film programme' on the 8th and 9th at 9pm. This will see a variety of water-themed films projected by a thermally heated outdoor pool - The Bäderquartier - where viewers/bathers can relax and unwind. Other great films include Julia Pott's Belly, Tomek Ducki's Baths and Thomas Stellmach/Maja Oschmann's exquisite Virtuos Virtuell, one of the major case studies included in my new book Independent Animation.
On that note, a few of you who pre-ordered it or ordered it when it first came out have been wondering when it will arrive - I'm still trying to determine that, but having made some enquiries the general consensus seems to be that the UK street date (good gracious, aren't I hip?) for the book is August 29th, for those who like to buy their books the traditional way. You can of course buy it online from all good retailers and the CRC website itself. So the date retailers are listing may be an indicator of when copies are being dispatched but if I learn any more concrete information I'll be sure to let you know.
Also just a reminder that I'll be speaking about the book and other related animationey outpourings at Animation Super Grill at Cardiff's KIN+ILK September 3rd. There's still time to pick up tickets and I've gleaned that thanks to some recent sponsorship the early bird price has been frozen, so considering the variety of events on offer it's a steal! The following Monday (5th) I'll also be talking about the book at the monthly local meetup Bring Your Own Animation Bristol. There's a lot of discussion points in the book so I'll be aiming to make each presentation unique for those of you who might be able to make both. The night will kick off at 7:30pm at The Lazy Dog, it's a great excuse to show off new animation work for feedback and Jake Hobbs from Wonky (who also helped out with the book) will be speaking as well. Check out their event page for more info and hope to see some of you there!
On a completely separate subject I wanted to leave you all with an old live recording from about five years back where I growl my way through a stab at Faith No More's deep track 'Why Do You Bother'. I've dug this out in honour of tomorrow's re-release of the band's long-OOP debut album We Care A Lot that the song appears on. Originally released 31 years ago before they were signed to a major label, this record often gets overlooked - I myself might not have gotten wind of it had its 10-year-delayed CD release not occurred pretty much exactly as I was getting into the band back in 1995. Even though it's always felt more like a collection of demos from a production standpoint, there are clearly moments of genius throughout, and this song has always been one of my all-time favourites of their entire back catalogue.
Even cooler is that this week they're doing a couple of celebratory shows with Chuck Mosley, the vocalist for their first two albums who's always been (unfairly) in eventual replacement Mike Patton's shadow - but then, isn't everybody? So after you've heard my warbly attempt I'm sure they'll show you how it's really done. Check out the live stream tonight on their Facebook page.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Animation Royalty
In the latest episode of the Skwigly Animation Podcast Laura-Beth and I meet the team behind the stunning stop-motion sequences of Mark Osborne’s recent animated adaptation The Little Prince:
Anthony Scott (Lead Animator), whose tremendous stop-motion credits include The Nightmare Before Christmas, James and the Giant Peach, Coraline, Corpse Bride and ParaNorman; Corinne Merrell (Art Director), who comes from a background in architecture and stage design and gradually made the move to Art Direction and Production/Set Design for animation, music videos and documentaries; Jamie Caliri (Creative Director) whose animated titles sequence for Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events kick-started a tremendous career that has since seen him work on award-winning projects including the music video The Rifle’s Spiral (The Shins); and Alexander Juhasz (Character Designer/Production Designer) who's worked alongside Jamie on numerous animation projects since 2007. Alexander was also responsible for the design of the titular book in the multi-award-winning 2014 Australian horror film The Babadook, directed by Jennifer Kent.
The Little Prince landed on Netflix last week, effectively updating the classic tale through a mix of CG and traditional stop-motion approaches, the latter being responsible for the more direct adaptations of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s original story. For us these scenes were the hands-down highlight of the film so it was a real treat to get to speak to everyone at such short notice.
Also in this episode Steve and I discuss our atypical remembrances of reading The Little Prince, less enticing animated Netflix offerings, My Life as a Courgette’s Oscar potential in the Foreign Language category, how The Simpsons lambasting Donald Trump only serves his purposes and Guillermo del Toro’s glorious penchant for death.
You can stream the podcast via Skwigly (and also check out some nice BTS pics courtesy of Corinne) or direct download.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Whens and Wheres

Screening updates! Here are the next stops for weary world traveler Klementhro:
The film's Canadian debut will take place at the Montreal Museum of Fine Art as part of the Animaze Animation Festival's screening Human Nature on Friday August 19th at 3pm. It's among some excellent work including Peter Baynton's Weather the Storm and recent podcast guest Joe Brumm's The Meek. You can buy single screening tickets (or full festival passes if you fancy making a proper long weekend of it) here.
A couple weeks later it will be part of the International Animation Panorama at Busho Vision 12: The Budapest Short International Film Festival over in Hungary. The screening takes place at Örökmozgó Filmmúzeum, beginning at 4:30pm September 3rd, so mosey on over if you find yourselves in Budapest that day. The lovely folks at Busho screened my first film House Guest way back in 2009, so much love and warm hugs for having me back, so to speak.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Well, that was unexpected...

So, a bit of surprise news for today - some of you may already know (because, let's be honest, if you've seen me in person over the last seven months I haven't shut up about it) that I was supposed to have a book out in September. As it turns out this is no longer happening...

...Because it's coming out next week! Ta-da!
This has been an immense labour of love and in a lot of respects the culmination of several incredibly gratifying years as part of the Skwigly management team. It is about, as the title suggests, independent and auteur animated filmmaking in today's climate, compiling 50+ interviews and a multitude of case studies where artists have relied on, primarily, their own resourcefulness to get their films made, oftentimes pushing several envelopes along the way. Part textbook, part cultural study, my hope is that there's enough here to appeal to both animation enthusiasts and those wishing to take the plunge (or already have and are looking for fresh inspiration for the next project) themselves. As this blog and my work with Skwigly indicates, this is obviously a subject I've been passionate about for a long time and it's driven my own work in many respects. In truth it was writing this book that inspired me to break the dam and finally finish a fourth film that's already paddled its way around the world (with a fifth, 'proper' film already brewing). For their invaluable time, insight, encouragement and overall assistance I want to extend the warmest gratitude to the book's interview subjects Adam Elliot, Signe Baumane, Jeff Chiba Stearns, Ant Blades, Kieran Argo, Bjørn-Erik Aschim, Sam Taylor, Philip Brookes, Elliot Cowan, Emma Burch, Seb Burnett, Joe Wood, Dan Emmerson, Adam Wells, Michael Frei, Robert Morgan, Daniel Greaves, Alex Grigg, Jake Hobbs, Ruth Lingford, Daniel Gray, Melissa Johnson, Robertino Zambrano, Dice Tsutsumi, Robert Kondo, Kirsten Lepore, Aidan McAteer, Tony Johnson, Sam Morrison, Jonti Picking, Bill Plympton, Mike Rauch, Tim Rauch, Doug TenNapel, Nina Paley, Adam Pesapane, Sarah Phelps, Benjamin Arcand, Rosto, Chris Shepherd, Thomas Stellmach, Matthew Walker, Tünde Vollenbroek, Jason Sondhi, Aaron Wood, Andy Martin and Garrett Michael Davis (at this point I'm sure you can appreciate why the working title was Project Group-Hug).
Damn fine folks, the lot of 'em
The book also draws on prior Skwigly interviews with Peter Lord, Nick Park, Don Hertzfeldt, Greg McLeod, Steven Woloshen and John Kricfalusi, not to mention how much is owed to those who helped out, primarily my technical editor Katie Steed, the brilliant Corrie Francis Parks (who also recently wrote her own book and played a role in getting the whole project off the ground), Julia Young who lent a helping hand with interview transcripts, Lauren Mattos, Haley Swann, Sean Connelly and the rest of the team at Taylor and Francis. Of course it has to be said that without the tremendous support of a sea of ever-brilliant friends and family it couldn't have come together at all, so a million thanks to all of you who put up with me.
Supplementing the book will be a whole heap of new content that will go online via Skwigly to keep up with the talents involved as well as others cut from a similar cloth, plus special events and other good stuff being cooked up. Be sure to check out the site as well as my Facebook page for future updates.
While I didn't design the front cover myself, here are some mockups I had done around the time of the manuscript submission using images provided by some of the talent involved:
This is a promo image from Rosto's Splintertime that I fell in love with, but ultimately it would be better suited to a book about...well, Rosto.
Image from Everything I Can See From Here by The Line
Another Rosto image, this time from Lonely Bones
There were a few variations on this layout with different arrays of stills (this one features Kirsten Lepore's Move Mountain, Bill Plympton's Cheatin', PES's Submarine Sandwich and Tonko House's The Dam Keeper) but from a marketing perspective erring on the side of simplicity with just one made more sense.
Image from Adam Elliot's Ernie Biscuit
Ernie again
As you can see, the last one is the most similar to the cover image they're going with (see the top of this post) and is from Adam Elliot's first venture into indie territory following such acclaimed work as the Oscar-winning Harvie Krumpet and the gorgeous feature film Mary and Max. Readers of this blog will know I'm a huge Adam Elliot fan and am delighted that the publishers have gone with his work as a cover (it's also fitting as his work, wisdom and creative approaches are perhaps the most prominently featured throughout the book).
The book is currently scheduled for release August 8th (this Monday) and can be pre-ordered now from all reputable retailers, though you're probably best off going through the CRC Press site directly.