Mar 28, 2017
Please contact us
or breaking news
Breaking News by Bay Area Animators
by Karl Cohen
Crying a River of Tears is how Sita, from Bay Area’s Nina Paley, sings her blues. photo courtesy N. Paley
Nina Paley's Sita Sings the Blues, called the greatest break-up story ever told, has found theatrical distribution in the US. Indeed, Sita opens at the Red Vic on Haight St., May 8 - 12. "I'm thrilled that Sita is going to be at the Red Vic, one of my favorite SF theaters... I feel so triumphant!" said Paley. Her distributor is GKIDS in the east and west of the Mississippi Shadow Distribution. Shadow made a huge hit out of The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill. Just hours before this column went to press we learned Sita Sings the Blues was awarded the grand jury prize for narrative features at the seventh annual Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles.
• Two Bay Area giants have received lifetime achievement awards: First, the Visual Effects Society gave Phil Tippett their Georges Melies Award in February for his pioneering work. Tippett became know for his stop-motion work on Star Wars. He has worked on subsequent Star Wars films, Starship Troopers, Jurassic Park, Dragonslayer, The Haunting, The Spiderwick Chronicles, the three RoboCop features, and dozens of other productions.
Lonely little Wall-E won Pixar not only an Oscar but many more awards. photo courtesy Pixar
Second, the Venice Film Festival is honoring Pixar's John Lasseter in September with their 2009 Golden Lion Award. He is a co-founder of the company and has been the force behind their uninterrupted string of successes, including Toy Story, The Incredibles, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., Cars, Finding Nemo, and Ratatouille.
• Pixar's Wall-E not only won an Oscar this year, it also won 18 other major awards. It has taken top prizes at the British Academy Awards, at the Golden Globes, and from several critics' associations and festivals in Hollywood, New York, Boston, Toronto, Chicago, Las Vegas, and other cities.
• Pixar's Up will have its world premiere in 3D as the opening night feature of the 62nd Cannes Film Festival. The adventure story, directed by Pete Docter and Bob Peterson, is about an old man who ties balloons to his house and flies away to South America with a young boy as a stowaway. It opens May 29. Gary Meyer, who runs the Balboa Theater, saw the first part at ShoWest in Las Vegas. He says that if the rest is as good, it will be Pixar's best film to date.
• PDI/DreamWorks Animation and Scott Kravitz are Annie award winners. (The Annies are the Oscars of animation.) Kung Fu Panda, animated in the Bay Area by PDI/DreamWorks and by their sister studio in LA, won all 10 prizes in the feature categories (best feature, best animated effects, character animation, character design, directing, music, production design, storyboards, voice acting, and writing). The panda's video game also won a prize.
The Annie for Best Animated Television Commercial went to United Airlines "Heart" from Duck Studios. The ad was directed by Jamie Caliri and animated by Scott Kravitz, who lives in San Francisco, and Eileen Kolhep, who lives in NY.
Gene Hamm gets flowers to tell his tale of eco-woe in The True Story of Valentine’s Flowers. photo courtesy G. Hamm
• Animation on Display, an annual anime and pop culture festival, invited local animation producer and writer Ken Pontac to be one of their star guests. The event, also known as the San Francisco Animation Convention, attracts an unusual crowd. Many of are quite young and wear elaborate costumes, hoping to win prizes at the "cosplay" costume contest. The festival's Website, written with unusual flare, says "Ken Pontac recently completed writing dialog for Sega's ultra-violent game MadWorld - dialog that would almost certainly damn him to an eternity in hell if his previous work for Happy Tree Friends had not already done so." Pontac is currently writing an action/adventure show called Matt Hatter Chronicles for a British producer. "It has monsters and magic and all sorts of otherworldly fun," he says. "I love writing this kind of thing."
• Gene Hamm has completed a strong, ecologically sound cartoon for a plant store. Gene created both the animation and music for Shocking True Story of Valentine's Flowers, a short about how un-cool it is to buy imported cut flowers (the process releases poisons into the environment). It was made for a green company, GivingPlants.com. In its first week on YouTube, it had 79,000 hits.
• Wildbrain has opened a studio in LA to produce future episodes of Yo Gabba Gabba. Marge Dean, the company's general manager, says the growth of Wildbrain's work-for-hire business, as well as its own production slate, led to the decision to open an LA outpost. The company is working on an animated series called Team Smithereen; is developing Bubble Guppies, an animated variety show for Nickelodeon; has a live-action/animated feature film in development through Paramount (based on Kidrobot toys); and is developing a Yo Gabba Gabba feature, plus a pilot for 20th Century Fox that stars Jeff Foxworthy. Chris Staples and Michelle Papandrew (Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends) head the LA studio.
Other news from Wildbrain includes the addition of Josh Book, who developed the CG department at Nickelodeon, as the new supervisor of CG animation. Wildbrain's San Francisco operation continues to serve as their primary hub.
• Chelsea Walton is providing animation for a documentary directed and produced by Laura J. Lukitsch, The Beard Club - a celebration of facial hair that explores the many ways it is used to convey status, to indicate group identity, and to profile and discriminate against people.
• Nick Fox-Greg, who lives in Toronto and comes to the Bay Area twice a year for work, is working on Interregnum, an animated short film commissioned by Bravo. It's about the guy believed to be history's first computer hacker. Fox-Greg's new short The Orange, about an orange that rules the world, can be seen at:
, or CineSource's CineClips.
• The ASIFA-SF blog, aka the Cable Car Cartoon, just celebrated its first anniversary and 100th blog entry. Blogmaster Joe Sikoryak asks, "Where did the time go? Probably lost in a dark theater somewhere, but the official blog of ASIFA-SF is going strong and will continue to spotlight the local animation scene for a long time to come." Check it out every now and then:
• The San Francisco International Film Festival organized an unusual program of experimental animation for adults, which will play at the Kabuki May 4 at 1:00pm and May 6th at 2:00pm. Photograph of Jesus by England's Laurie Hill is a comedy about unusual requests to a photography archive - including "Please send a photograph of Jesus." Also in the program are Lies by Sweden's Jonas Odell, The Heart of Amos Klein by Israelis Michal and Uri Kranot, and 3 other works.
• At the SF Museum of Modern art, an exhibition entitled "William Kentridge: Five Themes" comprehensively surveys the South African artist's work. It features more than 75 pieces in a range of media, including animated films, drawings, prints, theater models, sculptures, and books.
• This fall, the Disney Family Museum will open in the Presidio. National magazines and newspapers are excited about what Diana Disney Miller, Disney's oldest daughter, and other family members are creating to honor Walt. The exhibits will provide a lot more information than the glossy picture of the man presented at Disneyland. It will try to provide a balanced view, less biased than many of the books about his life. Housed in two old buildings of the Presidio, the space should be comfortable and big enough for lots of displays covering his extraordinary life. There will be over 200 video displays and a 120-seat screening area, plus a café and shop. About $112 million has been spent on the project, and Richard Benefield, formerly of Harvard's University Art Museums, is its first director.
• The Cartoon Art Museum is mourning the loss of Rod Gilchrist, their executive director. Rod, who was 58, died of brain cancer on Feb. 26. He headed the museum for 11 years, including some financially difficult times. He oversaw their move from a hard-to-find upstairs location to their present large storefront space on Mission near New Montgomery. He built up the museum's programs, using an excellent small staff, devoted volunteers, and a dedicated board. He oversaw years of really varied programming and exhibits that honored work from Disney, Pixar, and other animation studios. An excellent show on the making of Coraline ended in February.
One of the museum's current shows, focusing on the making of Watchmen, follows the feature from Dave Gibbons' conceptual sketches through to his completed artwork and actual props and costumes used in the film. The exhibit also includes original art from the graphic novel the movie is based on.
• And last but not least, don't forget: There's still time to see the Golden Gate Bridge destroyed in Monsters vs Aliens. It's exactly what you expect from DreamWorks in terms of silly fun. But the thrills are much better at theaters showing it in 3D.
Posted on Sep 21, 2010 - 05:02 PM