Thursday, 23 December 2021

Last Orders

In our final Skwigly Animation Podcast episode of 2021 we're delighted to welcome the teams behind some of this holiday season’s most anticipated animation projects. Our prolific contributor Martyn Warren speaks with Jared Bush and Charise Castro Smith, the directors of Disney's Encanto, as well as the film's producer Clark Spencer. We also welcome Jac Hamman and Sarah Scrimgeour, the directors of Magic Light's latest Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler adaptation Superworm which airs 2:30pm Xmas day on BBC1.

Another animated adaptation hitting screens on December 25th is Eagle Eye Drama's take on Terry Pratchett's The Abominable Snow Baby, which airs 7:30pm on Channel 4 following the success of their 2020 animated version of Quentin Blake's Clown; director Massimo Fenati joins us to talk about his career and how the projects came together.

Also discussed in this episode: The recent passing and legacy of respected animation historian Giannalberto Bendazzi, Manchester Animation Festival 2021 event highlights, podcast fanmail, this year’s new South Park specials and the catastrophic reception to the new seasonal stop-motion series Santa Inc. Stream above or clickety-here to download.

If you're after more holiday viewing then it's worth mentioning that the BBC4 documentary Secrets of British Animation was recently repeated, which means it'll be on the ol' iPlayer for the next few weeks. It's a great (if brief) look at what the UK has brought to the table on the animation front, occasionally interrupted by myself and Steve offering up the odd bon mot here and there, so if you missed it the first time around give it a look-see.

A'ight fam, I'm out. See y'all in '22.

Sunday, 12 December 2021

Tidings, possibly of the glad variety

Mother of Christ, this year sure pissed by quickly, didn't it?
It's been a busy time leading to a pretty major December deadline, coupled with a bit of a lull between films of my own, so things have been pretty infrequent on the blog posts front. Somehow you've all managed to get by regardless and I applaud your emotional strength. While 2022 will be a bit busier as far as stuff I can shout about, I'll throw up one more batch of 2021 updates (unless we're able to squeeze in a final Skwigly podcast before the year is through) just to remind y'all I exist.

First up is the Ax Wound Film Festival which has just kicked off and whose full schedule is now available online. If you're based in the US or Canada you can catch Laura-Beth's film The Gift as part of their Short Film + Livestream Block F, which may well feature a director Q&A. This'll kick off 8pm Stateside this Wednesday (15th) and be available through to the 20th.

Another film of Laura-Beth's I was able to elbow my way into was Crafty Witch, a film component of her PhD thesis study at UWE's Centre for Fine Print Research. Having recently screened at major film festivals Encounters, Stop Trik and MAF (with more to come), she presented a behind-the-scenes seminar on the processes involved for the CFPR last week which you can watch above.

On the less-interesting subject of my own films, I've received the wonderful news that Speed will be part of the next Anima Brussels programme, specifically their Animated Night screening. This was the event that gave my preceding film Sunscapades its last major festival sendoff moments before the world went and got itself all pandemic-ey, so it's wonderful to see Speed wrap up its festival journey the same way. While I'm not quite sure of the exact screening date yet, the festival will run from February 25th to March 6th so be sure to follow their socials for updates.

It wouldn't be the holiday season without me pointing out that my book Independent Animation, which some might say is literally the most perfect gift imaginable for the animator, animation enthusiast or sentient human in your life (hell, buy it for the dog to chew on, I don't discriminate), is on sale with a merry ol' 20% off. In fact if you combine that with the special promo code X001 at checkout you'll lop off another holly'n'jolly chunk off the price. All that plus FREE shipping - I mean, I'm pretty sure I just saved Xmas, right? You're welcome. I do it out of love.
Seriously, it's full of amazing people talking about amazing work, you'll dig it. And who knows, it might not be around forever...

Saturday, 6 November 2021

Little November round-up for y'all

I've recently finished jury duties (Animated Series and Animated Films for Children) at Russia's Big Cartoon Festival. This is an event that gave Klementhro a lot of love over the years and it's been great to be involved in a new capacity alongside Irene Sparr and Alexey Alekseev. Main awards for Animated Series went to the exceptional Bluey (Under-12s) and Elliott From Earth (Over-12s) with special mentions to Kiri & Lou and The Story of a Word respectively. Best Animated Film went to Guillaume Lorin's wonderful Vanille with a special mention for Louis' Shoes by Théo Jamin, Kayu Leung, Marion Philippe and Jean-Géraud Blanc.

Elsewhere in the Big Cartoon Festival programme is Laura-Beth's BBC Arts short film The Gift, which is in the special midnight ТОЛЬКО ДЛЯ ЖЕНЩИН (Women Only) programme which will play online November 6th, 7th and 8th.

The Gift
will also be getting itself a screening at the Ax Wound Film Festival, an event focused on horror written/directed by women and non-binary filmmakers (also winner of best festival name since the invention of festivals). This will be an online event going from December 10th-19th, will pop up updates and specifics if I get 'em but in the meantime keep an eye on their socials. I'm pretty confident it'll be a fun one.

Lastly, Speed will be shown as part of Cardiff Animation Festival's series of in-person screenings of their online 2020 program they've been rolling out since things opened up a bit. If you can make it to the Chapter Arts Centre at 4:30pm on November 21st be sure to check out Shorts 3: Heart to see the film alongside some other great work.

Speaking o' work, I have a metric s**t-ton of it to get through so I'd best wrap this up. Stay warm, folks.

Wednesday, 27 October 2021

Heavy on the puppets today

In the latest episode of the Skwigly Animation Podcast we welcome Mikey Please and Dan Ojari to discuss their seasonal Aardman short Robin Robin, coming to Netflix next month. Written by Ojari, Please and Sam Morrison, the short is produced by Helen Argo with Sarah Cox exec producing; it's lovely looking and something wholesome to bung on as the nights grow darker and foreboding-er, so be sure to add it to your watchlists.

Also discussed in this episode: Event highlights from this year’s upcoming Manchester Animation Festival, including feature film presentations My Sunny Maad (dir. Michaela Pavlátová) and Flee (dir. Jonas Poher Rasmussen), The House WIP, Animated Answers featuring Ainslie Henderson, MAF Fellowship Award recipients Jorge R. Gutiérrez and Sandra Equihua’s new series Maya and the Three and the return of the much anticipated/feared Skwigly Animation Quiz.

Stream above or hoarde it for keepsies.

After a long period floating around in distribution limbo Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires (on which I whipped up some old-school, Richard Edlund-esque VFX and made some grunty background noises) will finally be getting itself a UK cinema release. Head over to the film's official site for local showtimes; it'll be around for a week or so from the 29th. If you're not sure what to expect, well, the trailers don't really leave much room for ambiguity:

It's sure to be contentious (I doubt the director would have it any other way) and I have immeasurably fond memories of working on it as well as the wonderful folks I got to know through it. It also boasts some of the strongest stop-motion animation I've ever seen by some of the absolute best in the business; a shame for them, then, that my job was essentially to scribble all over it.

Monday, 27 September 2021

Ben up in everyone's business

It's been a busy few weeks of festive activity with the Encounters Film Festival, whose final week starts today. As has often been the case in recent years I was privileged to host some of the animation Q&A sessions that have been rolled out over the course of the festival. You can give those a watch below should you be so inclined.

Accompanying the presentation of the official selection this year is Reflective Encounters, a series of critical mini-write-ups of the shorts in competition by a variety of journalists and writers including Laura-Beth and myself. If you want to learn more about the films you can have a read of Laura's writings on Joanna Quinn's Affairs of the Art, Michelle and Uri Kranot's The Hangman at Home, Bastien Dubois's Souvenir Souvenir, Mathilde Parquet's Trona PinnaclesDina Velikovskaya's Ties, Daniel Gray's HIDE, Ann Thiel's Shtum, Petra Steptic and Maren Wiese's Jeijay, Yuan Elizabeth Xu's Breaking Bread, Noam Paul's The Quest for Freedom and the Longing for Belonging, Martin McNally's Excerpt, Michael Salkeld's Abstraction and Coffin from Gobelins. Meanwhile I take a look at Marine Blin's What Resonates in Silence, Tomek Ducki's PlantariumKatarzyna Agopsowicz's Prince in a Pastry Shop, Chenghua Yang's Self Scratch, Paul Mas's Precious, Cliona Noonan's Wet and Soppy, Marie Lechevallier's Knot, Claude Cloutier's Bad Seeds, Przemyslaw Swida's Co-Ognition, Yi-Han Jhao's The Frolic and Renee Zhan's Soft Animals

Renee also joins us for the latest episode of our Skwigly podcast Intimate Animation. Since beginning her animation studies at Harvard University, her films also include the Sundance Jury Award-winning Reneepoptosis (recently released online) and last year’s National Film and Television School mini-epic O Black Hole. Give it a listen below - or a download, whatever melts your butter.

Also discussed in this episode - more Encounters highlights including some of our Reflective Encounters focuses as well as the Animated Encounters Grand Prix winner Farce (dir. Robin Jensen), the Best of British Animation Award winner Eating in the Dark (Dir. Inari Sirola), Annah la Javanaise (dir. Fatimah Tobing Rony), Günter Falls In Love (dir. Josephine Lohoar Self), Love is Just a Death Away (dir. Bára Anna Stejskalová), Sweet Nothing (dir. Joana Fischer/Marie Kenov) and Granny’s Sexual Life (dir. Urška Djukić) plus recent work from Henriette Reitz, Christa Jarrold and Future Power Station.

In our latest episode of Animation One-To-Ones earlier in the month I also met Marie Valade, whose film Lolos (Boobs) is screening at part of the Encounters Late Lounge programme. Both equally poignant and witty, the film sees a young woman drawn in ink who is forced to deal with paper breasts that appear on her chest, leading her into increasingly unusual situations that reveal her deepest anxieties. We also discuss Marie's work as co-director of Festival Stop Motion Montreal, whose fifteenth edition just wrapped. You can watch the video above (don't forget to subscribe to our channel so as not to miss future episodes) or stream/download the audio podcast version.

If you're in a reading mood you might also want to check out my written interview with Ida Melum, whose NFTS grad film Night of the Living Dread is screening in both the animation and comedy programmes. The film - in which we follow the nighttime tribulations of Ruby, a young scientist whose attempts at sleep are obfuscated by an ever-relatable onslaught of embarrassing memories - brings Ida’s gift for storytelling, observational comedy and adventurous set pieces together with a full team of talented artists. She's definitely one to watch out for.

The Manchester Animation Festival has revealed its 2021 programme and with it the rather splendid news that Laura-Beth's latest film Crafty Witch (on which I made some noises and tickled some ivories) will be part of their MAFter Dark screening. This will take place in-venue at HOME 8:30pm on November 17th and online an hour later. The day before, festivalgoers can virtually join Steve and I for another edition of our rage-inducing Skwigly Quiz. That'll be at 9:30pm on the 16th so hope to see some of your lovely faces in those Zoom windows. Grab your passes from noon tomorrow!

You can catch Crafty Witch before then - this week, in fact - if you happen to be hanging out in Maribor, Slovenia where the 11th StopTrik International Film Festival is about to kick off. The film will be screening this Thursday at 3pm in the Big Hall at the Vetrinj Mansion as part of the festival's Panorama programme. Don't forget it's also part of the Encounters programme for the next couple days if you happen to have a pass for that.

Look, I went full circle; I'm smooth like that.

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Seriously, where's the butter?

Well hey there, gang. Hope your August has been positively majestic.
Been a quiet spell for Speed but we've got ourselves a couple September screenings comin' up. First up is the 16th edition of Breda's BUT B-Movie, Underground & Trash Film Festival over in the Netherlands. I've always had a soft spot for these folks going back to when they screened my old student short House Guest in 2009; more recently they gave my 2018 gore-fest Sunscapades an airing and it's reassuring to know that, six films in, I'm still pretty trashy. This looks like a hybrid festival and Speed will be part of the Shorts Block 2: Mean Girls with the physical screening taking place September 5th 7:30pm at the Nieuwe Veste arts centre. Alas the online program is only available to locations in the Netherlands, but if you're so geographically blessed you can find out more at their website.

Later in the month will see the 10th anniversary edition of FIFIGROT Festival du Film Grolandais over in in Toulouse, France. Speed can be seen in Au bon moment as part of their Bar-Bars Cine-Bistrot et concert programme on the 24th September 8:30pm at O Bohem. Check out their full programme here.

In our latest episode of Intimate Animation Laura-Beth catches up with Will Anderson, whose film Betty was just released online this month following a festival run including screenings at Pictoplasma, Encounters, Animafest Zagreb, GLAS and PÖFF Shorts as well as a BAFTA Scotland win and Scottish Short Film Award at the Glasgow Short Film Festival. As with all of Will's films it's funny and unique as well as being genuinely quite touching. This was one of my favourites of the last couple years and I was privileged to get to screen it as part of Cardiff Animation Nights back in March - definitely give it a watch and have a read of Laura-Beth's longer interview from around this time last year.
Also discussed in this episode: The evolution of Lisa Hanawalt's Tuca and Bertie having moved to Adult Swim for its second season, BlinkInk's E4 miniseries Blind Love on First Date Island, Adeena Grubb's stop-mo short Dating is Shit, Sacha Beely/Strange Beast's animated Gillette spot A Song For Pubes and Diablo Cody's inscrutable “sexying up” of The Powerpuff Girls. Stream above or download 'ere, why doncha?

Lastly it's worth a mention that my book Independent Animation is again available to nab at 20% off as part of the publisher's Social Science sale. In fact for the next little while you can whack that discount all the way up to 40% if you enter the promo code X001 at checkout. Not too shabby, eh? You have to buy it from Routledge, mind, but they cover your shipping so why the ever-lovin'-heck wouldn't you?

Monday, 2 August 2021

Festivities approach...

You like films? Of course you do, you're not a creep. In celebration of liking films and not being a creep then, I bring you the news that the Encounters Short Film Festival have unveiled their Official Selection and, having been a little more involved on the animation preselection side of things than usual this time around, I can attest it's a belter of a line-up. Among some of my personal highlights to watch out for are Marine Blin's What Resonates in Silence, Marie Valade's Lolos, Ida Melum's Night of the Living Dread, Renee Zhan's Soft Animals, Marnik Loysen's Brunch, Urška Djukić's Granny's Sexual Life, Michael Cusack's The Better Angels and Franck Dion's Under the Skin, the Bark as well as work by recent Skwigly interviewees Joanna Quinn (Affairs of the Art), Anna Ginsburg (A Love Hate Relationship), Claude Cloutier (Bad Seeds), Cliona Noonan (Wet & Soppy), Michelle Kranot (The Hangman at Home) and Daniel Gray (Hide).

While I had to recuse myself from selecting it personally (although I would've without hesitation or the tiniest pang of guilt) I'm pleased to see that Laura-Beth's new film Crafty Witch will also be among the selection. I did the post-production on this one but it's the brilliant concept and process Laura-Beth came up with, along with some fantastic animation pre-vis from retro whizkid Sam Shaw, that really makes it.

This year's edition of Encounters will take place online through the entire month of September and you can grab your festival passes here. Fingers crossed there may be some physical events also, so watch this space.

Another event I'll be pitching in on is the British Animation Awards which has opened the Call for Entries for its next edition that will take place March 10th 2022. Be sure to get your new work submitted by October 29th if it falls into any of the following categories:

  • Best Undergraduate Student
  • Film Best Postgraduate Student Film
  • Best Short Film
  • Best Design
  • Best Voice Performance
  • Best Use of Sound
  • Best Music Video
  • Best Children’s Pre-school Series
  • Best Long Form Animation
  • Best Children’s Series
  • Best Animation in a Commercial
  • Writers Award
  • Best Original Music
  • Social Good Award
  • Best Immersive Animation
  • Lamb Award
  • Cutting-Edge Award
  • Factual Award
  • Wildcard Award (new for 2022)

The BAAs will also present their Public Choice category – for which audiences can vote – in the lead-up to the ceremony.

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Update (nah, that isn't satisfying)

Hi there folks, it's been a minute. In fact I don't think I've ever gone over a month without finding some excuse to talk about myself on here. So, y'know, time to overcompensate. 
Over in Skwiglyville we have ourselves a new, (mostly) Annecy-focused episode of the Skwigly Animation Podcast featuring animation royalty Joanna Quinn. Joanna's been one of our biggest supporters in every respect since the earliest days of Skwigly and we've been eagerly waiting for an excuse to bring her on the podcast (although she has appeared previously on a podcast minisode from back in the days of BAF) since before it even started, so what better than to discuss hers and Les Mills's long-gestating new Beryl film Affairs of the Art? On top of receiving the Special Jury Distinction for Direction at Annecy the film, co-produced by the NFB, has won awards at Clermont Ferrand, Animafest Zagreb and Kaboom among others and is easily one of the most technically stunning films doing the rounds this year. Download link here or stream it below:
Also discussed in this episode are Annecy shorts highlights, Mikey Please and Dan Ojari's upcoming Aardman/Netflix special Robin Robin, Erick Oh‘s immersive short Namoo, Marq Evans’s Will Vinton documentary ClayDream, Alberto Vázquez‘s Unicorn Wars, Jorge Gutierrez’s Maya and the Three, Netflix’s adult animation slate including the stop-motion anthology series The House and the announcement of Robert Morgan's feature film debut Stopmotion.

Our new interview series Animation One-To-Ones is coming along nicely with our latest episode welcoming back the uniquely wonderful Anna Ginsburg, who previously appeared on Intimate Animation to discuss her film Private Parts. Since then she has done some brilliant work including What Is Beauty? for CNN, A Love Hate Relationship for Breast Cancer Now (which recently screened as part of Annecy's Commissioned Films programme) and Typically for Bloody Good Period alongside fellow Intimate Animation alum Caitlin McCarthy. You can download the podcast here or watch below:
We have a whole bunch more of these planned for the foreseeable, so to be sure that you don't miss any you might want to go ahead and subscribe to our YouTube channel.

We also have the tenth and, for the time being, final episode of Visible in Visuals up on the site, in which organisers Tanya Scott and Hodan Abdi discuss what progress has been made and what still needs to be done with a panel of contributors - Bimpe Alliu, Mohamed Orekan and Paula Poveda-Urrutia - who were instrumental in getting the series off the ground. Download forevs or stream to your heart's content:
It's been a real privilege to have been able to give this series a podcast platform through Skwigly and if you've not yet listened I strongly urge you do so. Fingers crossed that it will continue in some form once they've had a regroup as there are many more discussions that I'm sure need to be had.

If you're in more of a readin' mood than a listenin' mood then prepare to be effervescent with excitement that my book Independent Animation: Developing, Producing and Distributing Your Animated Films is available at 20% off until August 1st as part of the Routledge/CRC mid-year sale. Another CRC book worth checking out is Andrijana Ružić's Michael Dudok de Wit: A Life in Animation, a thoroughly-researched overview of the director's filmography and working process that I enjoyed a great deal (you can read my full review here). There are also a couple of recent interviews you might want to check out, including my catch-ups with Claude Cloutier (Bad Seeds) and Michelle Kranot (The Hangman at Home/We Are at Home), who have both made stunning new work worth keeping your eyes open for.

Since my last post I actually clocked that the end of April marked ten years of my involvement with Skwigly, beginning with my first book review of Bill Plympton's autobiography, followed shortly after by an interview with the man himself. I hadn't planned on doing more for the site (much less one day taking it over) and, given how crucial discovering his work had been to my switch of career direction from graphics to animation and films, meeting Bill felt at the time like everything coming full circle. But, as is often the case in life, it turned out to be the beginning of something far grander. The current team would eventually take it over a couple years later and I'm hugely proud of what we've grown it into and the wealth of relationships that have branched out from it. I posted up a bunch of memories that stood out over on my Instagram including crossing paths with other inspirational figures Joanna QuinnSigne BaumanePeter Lord, Billy West, Rosto, Richard Williams, Tomm Moore and some previously unseen footage of chats with Adam Elliot (another crucial artist who helped shape my career direction) and a then up-and-coming Rebecca Sugar, not to mention the ongoing relationships with organisations such as the NFB and Cardiff Animation Festival and some unexpected excuses to sit down with folks outside of the animation sphere like Kaada, Charlie Kaufman and Caroline Thompson.
The fact of the matter is that's just the tip of the iceberg and there are a ton of other wonderful memories I didn't have time to post up, such as organising an interview and fan Q&A with legendary Jan Švankmajer; speaking with inspirational talents Bob Jaques, Stephen DeStefano and Jim Gomez for a Ren & Stimpy special; literally hundreds of chats with artists whose work I love (see the big ol' list under Skwigly Interviews on the right there); getting to bring on my amazing friends who've been smashing it like Jo, Jane, Lauren, David, Phil, Mary and Matt; driving folks nuts with Steve's MAF quizzes; interviews conducted in lightning storms; bringing my dad on the podcast to chat about his work on Yellow Submarine; curating programmes for Encounters, BAF, MAF, CAN and CineMe; working with other festivals including Animafest Zagreb, ITFS Stuttgart, DAFF and Anima; appearing on TV to talk about dirty cartoons with Steve; teaching the world to sing in Brussels; teaching the world to sing in Manchester; even being stranded in Geneva waiting for a bus to Annecy after my flight from Bristol was delayed by 4+ hours has, by virtue of the folks I met along the way, become a fond memory...just about.
It isn't all roses though and unfortunately doing this kind of work means you occasionally encounter the odd nutjob or angry little raging bellend. And sometimes someone you admire when you first meet/interview them turns out to be, well, not so admirable. While those stories do make for better anecdotes, I'll save them for me memoirs. What is clear is that those instances are completely eclipsed by the comparative wealth of joyful moments and that's an important thing to hold onto. 
More important than anything else is that it was through running Skwigly that I met my favourite lady person Laura-Beth when she came on board as a contributor and eventually our main Features Writer. I'd never have suspected that indulging what started as a hobby for niche animation journalism would have brought somebody so wonderful into my life and she continues to surprise, impress and inspire me every day.
Fun fact: our marriage was such a legendary event within the animation world that acclaimed director Wes Anderson included a replica of our wedding venue in his stop-motion adaptation of Fantastic Mr. Fox...nine years previously.
Now go follow her Insta if you haven't yet because it's much more interesting than mine. 

Friday, 30 April 2021

I really hate coming up with names for these updates. I think I'm just going to call them all 'Update' from now on.

In the latest episode of our new Skwigly podcast/video series Animation One-To-Ones Laura-Beth meets Mike Rianda, writer/director of the new Netflix film The Mitchells vs. The Machines. If it hasn't come across your radar yet I'd recommend this as definitely being among the better animated features of the year. You can download the podcast here or watch below:

If you haven't caught the previous episodes of Animation One-To-Ones be sure to take a peek at Steve's interviews with Erick Oh and BAFTA-winner Maryam Mohajer. There's a bunch more to come so why not go ahead and subscribe to our YouTube channel to not miss out.

Some festival news - as hoped, Montreal's Sommets du Cinéma d'Animation will be holding physical screenings for their online 2020 programme (that included Speed) now that restrictions are easing off over there. The film remains part of the International Competition of Very Short Films screening that takes place at 7pm on Monday May 17th and then again at 7pm on Sunday May 23rd. As there is limited capacity both screenings will take place simultaneously in the Salle de projection principale and Salle Fernand-Seguin at the Cinémathèque québécoise

Lastly the Brazilian preschool series Lendas Animadas on which Laura-Beth and I animated is going to be broadcast as part of ANIMAÍ on the Brazilian channel VRT from tomorrow (May 1st) 1pm. Four episodes will be viewable internationally until May 8th via Nordestina Play including Laura-Beth's Iemanjá - A Rainha do Mar and two I worked on - Maní - A Lenda da Mandioca and O Jabuti e a Fruta. There's no English language translation as far as I can tell so be sure to brush up on your Portuguese.