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Bay Area Summer Animation News
by Karl Cohen
An animated short film by Perry Chen, Kevin Sean Michaels and Bill Plympton and narrated by Ingrid Pitt. photo: courtesy K. Cohen
ASIFA's Spring Animation Festival a Hit
After holding their annual animation festival, local animation mavens were pleasantly surprised by the plethora of fine work by very young artists. We rarely see animation by kids but, along with college students and adults working independently, it turns out there are lots of young artists discovering their animation abilities.
In fact there were so many festival entries this year in ASIFA-SF’s Spring Festival (ASIFA-SF is the Bay Area’s chapter of the international animation association) that not all of them could be shown at the June screening. As a result everybody is invited to see the second part of this free event, Friday, July 20, 7:15 PM at the Exploratorium’s McBean Theatre. Work by independent animators and professionals will also be shown.
The first evening’s biggest surprises were works animated by young people. They included “Ingrid Pitt” by Perry Chen (age 11), “Mr. Raidrop” by Dani Bowman (age 17), Trevor Cartmill-Endow’s show reel (“Just Say No to Fur” and other shorts), plus entries from the BAYCAT’s after school animation program run by Tim Harrington in the Hunters Point-Bay View districts and work from Alchemia in Marin County, mentored by Gene Hamm.
Perry Chen’s film was mentored by Bill Plympton, America’s most famous independent animator. While Perry’s animation has the naive look the producers of “Ingrid Pitt” wanted, the rest of the film was crafted by seasoned professionals. The story is about a horrific experience in the life of Ingrid Pitt that began when she was eight.
Bill Plympton, one of the most famous indie animators in the country, with his young associate Perry Chen. photo: courtesy B. Plympton
The deeply moving emotional narration by Ingrid includes her escape from a Holocaust death camp in 1945 with her mother. Ingrid, who later became a film star in Europe, narrated her story before she died in 2010. The film has won several festival awards and considerable recognition for Perry.
“Mr. Raindrop” displays Dani Bowman’s impressive skills as an animator. He is competent enough to complete a polished professional looking film with a strong narration track. It is based on a well-written children’s book. Perry and Dani are friends who live in the San Diego area.
Tim Harrington’s students in San Francisco have produced films that are delightful displays of kids’ talents and sensibilities without an overlay of adult influence. Gwydion Brain’s “Build-a-Baby Workshop” was so funny that the audience gave it the evening’s "Excellence in Humor" award. Trevor Cartmill-Endow, a high school student who creates animation independently and has been a student assistant at BAYCAT, presented a reel of his shorts that shows off his ability to communicate with the medium.
The Alchemia reel demonstrates that Hamm’s students have a wonderful enthusiasm, sense of humor and ability to create short works. His students combine simple animation techniques with live action footage to create film magic.
After seeing the young animators’ segment of the festival I felt that offering kids a chance to express themselves through animation should be encouraged. I was expecting to see lots of dumb juvenile shorts of things being blowing up or of monsters running amuck. Instead I was impressed with the maturity and talents of the young artists. The festival will present each of these artists an award of merit certificate.
Next month this column will cover the excellent films shown by students from San Francisco State and San Jose State along with work by independent and professional animators. We will also announce the winner of the Best in Show prize.
The publicity for 'Brave', Pixar's first film featuring a female protagonist, now at number one. photo: courtesy Pixar
Brave Opens to Positive Reviews
“Pixar's 13th feature plays it safe and old-fashioned rather than risky and adventurous…" says The Hollywood Reporter, although it admits "The season's latest feature is destined to boost the demand for kids' archery lessons.” Meanwhile, Variety says this film is in part about a mother-daughter relationship. It “packs a level of poignancy on par with such beloved male-bonding classics as ‘Finding Nemo’.”
Althoiugh the advance reviews from film festivals suggest the film lacks some of the unique Pixar sensibilities and touches, it will certainly delight old-time Disney fans. They suggest Pixar has their 13th animated hit even though it is a throwback to the world of princesses, kings, queens, witches and evil spells. I also expect Pixar’s young feisty princess will charm the American public, resulting in impressive box office results.
Indeed, as of June 24th, "Brave" was doing better than expected, taking the number one slot in the crowded summer field that included DreamWorks' "Madagascar 3". While some have suggested that Pixar had lost its golden touch, after "John Carter" and "Cars 2" were trashed by the critics, "Brave", Pixar's lucky thirteenth feature and first to feature a female protagonist, seems to be attracting boy viewers as well as critics, and will restore the luster.
Dolby Introduces New Immersive Sound
The Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles premiere's the company's new immersive sound, ATMOS, at its showing of Pixar's "Brave." The Film as also in Dolby 3D. The new sound system instillation crew was headed by seven-time Oscar winning sound designer and re-recording mixer Gary Rydstrom, and with additional help from sound re-recording mixer Will Files.
Additionally, 14 theatres in the North America are showing “Brave” in the new Dolby Atmos format including the AMC Van Ness 14 in San Francisco. The sound system can be used in theatres of any size, but the Dolby Theatre in LA is probably the most challenging setup, as the auditorium covers 180,000 sq. feet of space and boasts an 86 ft. high ceiling.
Atmos creates a lifelike sound experience by lining speakers along the theatre’s front, rear and side walls, as well as overhead. It can play up to 128 channels of sound at once. In contrast, today’s widely-used Dolby 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound systems use five channels and seven channels (plus a subwoofer) respectively.
The publicity for 'Madascar 3', the DreamWorks piece, also create largely in N. Cal and also recently at number one until deposed by Pixar. photo: courtesy Pixar
Madagascar 3 Opens at Number One
Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted opened to good review and in the number one box office spot, although eventually ceded that to "Brave". Made by PDI/DreamWorks in the Bay Area and by DreamWorks Animation in LA, “Madagascar 3” grossed $60.4 in the US its first weekend. Overseas, where competition was fierce, it dominated the market with a stellar $75.5 million in 28 markets. The worldwide opening weekend total was $135.9 million. It was DreamWorks best opening since “Shrek Forever After” in 2010. “The Hollywood Reporter” declared “Madagascar 3” is “another win for the successful franchise, and is benefiting from the pent-up demand for family product.”
“Rotten Tomatoes” gave it a 76% rating based on published reviews and an 82% based on fan comments. (They read 80 reviews of which 59 were fresh and 21 rotten.) The website calls it “dazzlingly colorful and frenetic… silly enough for young kids, but boasts enough surprising smarts to engage parents along the way.” The “SF Chronicle” review called the film “completely irrational” and says its flights of fancy are snappy, witty and full of “creative gusto.” It added that the gags and jokes come at you so quickly “that you'll probably miss half of them.”
On the 10th day of its run, Sunday, July 17, “Box Office Mojo” reported the film’s worldwide gross was $278 million and the film’s production budget was $145 million. Bravo!
Kennedy to Co-Chair Lucasfilm
George Lucas is planning his retirement from the company he founded in 1971. He plans to focus more time on directing and making movies. Under the transition Lucas will become co-chairman of the board of Lucasfilm and continue as CEO. Micheline Chau will remain as president and COO and continue to focus on the day-to-day operations of the business while Kathleen Kennedy, and old hand who produced the "Jurassic Park" films, and "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" for Spielberg and is considered the second-most successful film producer after him, will become co-chair.
Posted on Jun 25, 2012 - 10:47 PM