Thursday, September 12, 2013

This Ain't Your Grandma's Animation, Kids!

This is a pretty rad year for the Vanguard Programme on account of the fact that two animated films are being featured: Asphalt Watches and The Fake. That's one more than one! Amazing! Some people might think that animated films are just for children but, hey, adults love animated films too. And there are animated films that are geared toward children and ones that are most definitely--definitely!--not. To celebrate our love of animation, we've put together a little list of some of our favourite "off-beat" animators and animations. This ain't your grandma's animation, kids! Whatever that means.

Don Hertzfeldt

If nobody has shouted, "My spoon is too big!" at you yet, then you clearly aren't hanging out with the right people. Hertzfeldt's animation is most often hand-drawn stick figures and features very dark humour. He is most known Rejected, an animated short that Hertzfeldt presented as a reel of rejected commercial work from the fictional Family Learning Channel. The short went on to win a million-bajillion (really) awards and was even nominated for an Academy Award. Most importantly, it's given us all a reason to shout, "I AM A BANANA!" More recently, Hertzfeldt released It's Such A Beautiful Day, a feature length animated film comprised of the three chapters of his trilogy that had been released in year's prior to great reviews and even more millions of billions of awards. If you haven't seen it yet, we insist you purchase yourself a copy to watch immediately. The film follows a delightful little stick figure named Bill. Bill is not doing alright though; he's losing his mind. We promise you'll never look at supermarket produce the same way ever again.

The makers of these are the right people ~The Editor.

A Town Called Panic (Panique au Village)

If bananas and spoons aren't weird enough for you, how about a stop-motion animated series about Cowboy, Horse, and Indian as they're going about their daily lives in a small rural town. As you probably guessed Cowboy is a cowboy and Horse is a horse and, yeah, you get the idea. The series, out of Belgium, is a sort of stop-motion animation called puppetoon. The difference between classic stop-motion and puppetoon is that in the latter, the puppets don't have moving parts and therefore many are needed to create the animation. In 2009, a spinoff feature-length film premiered at Cannes Film Festival, later at the Toronto International Film Festival's Midnight Madness Programme, and won the Audience Award at Fantastic Fest. Obviously Cannes knew what was what as there is nothing more adorable than a horse taking a shower.

Fun facts: it took almost 260 days and 1500 plastic toys to create the 75 minute film.

Jiří Barta

Since we're on a roll with stop-motion animation, we bring you now to Jiří Barta, a Czech stop-motion animator. He is known for his distinctive art design. In 1983 his short film The Vanished World of Gloves (Zaniklý svet rukavic) gained attention for its multiple styles of animation and use of gloves to tell the actual history of film. The Pied Piper of Hamelin (1986) was an adaption on the classic tale. Shot using wooden puppets, the feature length film is a darker, almost grotesque, telling of the classic and was artistically inspired by German Expressionism. It screened in the Un Certain Regard category at the 1986 Cannes Film Festival. After attempting to fund a feature length film in the 1990s, Barta released a stop-motion family-friendly film called Toys in the Attic (Na půdě aneb Kdo má dneska narozeniny?). It was very well-received and won awards at many of the festivals where it screened.

Brothers Quay

What's better than one animator? Twin brother animators! Yeah! Stephen and Timothy Quay, who go by Brothers Quay, are stop-motion animators. Their films are known for being dark and moody and often feature puppets made from assorted doll parts. CREEPY. Their best known work might be their 1986 short film Street of Crocodiles, which was nominated for the Palme D'Or for Animated Short Film at the Cannes Film Festival. More notably, director Terry Gilliam named it one of the top ten best animated films of all time. The brothers' keen artistic eye has lead them to production design for stage and opera productions and even got them a Tony nomination and a Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Set Design for the 1998 revival of The Chairs.

Hayao Miyazaki

We can't talk about animation without mentioning Hayao Miyazaki. Especially given that The Fake director Yeon Sang-ho lists him as an inspiration. If you don't recognize Miyazaki's name right away, perhaps you'll recognize the name of the animation studio he cofounded: Studio Ghibli. Miyazaki was considered a master animator and storyteller for years in Japan, winning awards for films like My Neighbor Totoro and Kiki's Delivery Service, but it wasn't until the release of 1997's Princess Mononoke in the United States by Mirimax that he started to gain attention state-side. Princess Mononoke was the first animated film to win Best Film from the Awards of the Japanese Academy. After Princess Mononoke, everybody and their grandmother was all over Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli--with good reason. Miyazaki went on to create 2001's acclaimed hit Spirited Away, 2004's Howl's Moving Castle, and 2008's Ponyo. If you haven't seen at least one of these, just stop right now and fix that. Miyazaki, much to the disappointment of the entire world (seriously) recently announced his retirement and that his last film will be The Wind Rises.

Satoshi Kon

Yeun Sangho (director of The Fake) cited Hayao Miyazaki as an influence, but he also is influenced by the work of Satoshi Kon. Kon died in 2010 at the very young age of 46, but he left an amazing body of work behind, including: Perfect Blue (1998), Millennium Actress (2001), Tokyo Godfathers (2003) (an adaptation of the Western, Three Godfathers), and Paprika (2006) and the anime tv series, Paranoia Agent (2004). Impressive, given his age, and also tragic, given his age. Kon got his start working in manga, moved into scriptwriting for animators like Katsuhiro Otomo (Akira) before directing his own stories. Kon's films capture the often indistinguishable line between the internal and external worlds of his characters.

Now, some of these might not be "off-beat" enough for everyone (although we find the Quay Brothers' dolls just down-right terrifying), but we're hoping this little taste of off-beat/interesting/different/whatever animation has gotten you interested in exploring the wide, wonderful world of animation. And you know what a good place to start is? With the Festival's Asphalt Watches and The Fake. (YES! Five points to Vanguard for the best segue ever!)

ASPHALT WATCHES Screening Times:
Thursday, Sept 12th, 8:45 PM SCOTIABANK 13

Friday, Sept 13th, 2:15 PM SCOTIABANK 4

THE FAKE Screening Times:

Friday, Sept 13th, 3:00 PM SCOTIABANK 3

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