Friday, November 30, 2007

Music for Flea Circus

Whilst searching for fleas and circuses, I came across a synopsis for a schools musical called Circus Mystique. The website had some samples of the music which I listened to and liked the style of. So I wrote to them with some thoughts about how the flea film could use music.

The composer of Circus Mystique, Daniel Laubacher has agreed to look into some music for the flea circus film. He is enthusiastic about the challenge and is happy to work on the project.
Daniel Laubacher
Given that Daniel is Swiss, that makes the Flea Circus even more of an international collaboration, adding to the existing Scottish, French, Laotian and English voice actors and CGI modeller from Singapore and the US along with myself from the UK. This project is really demonstrating how the internet can be used for connecting people together from all walks of life.

Perhaps it's time to look into "Designing Sound for Animation" and see how we can best make use of sound to build the suspense and excitement of the different acts.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Animate! at Whitechapel

The Whitechapel Art Gallery is screening the films of Jean-Gabriel Périot and 6 new films from Animate!, this year's Animate! artists are Andy Martin, David Alexander Anderson, Let Me Feel Your Finger First, Mark Simon Hewis, Semiconductor and Thomson & Craighead.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Film Festivals

Later this week is the Encounters Short Film Festival in Bristol. The Festival, is now in its 13th edition and takes place from 21-25 November. There will be screenings, interviews, panel sessions, master classes, a film school and on Thursday 22nd, an Animation Symposium.
The Encounters Short Film Festival is launching a dedicated channel on Babelgum. From November 21st internet viewers will be able to watch material uploaded from the Encounters Film Festival for free, by downloading the Babelgum viewer.

Babelgum is also hosting it's own online film festival with Spike Lee named honorary Judge of Jury. Beginning 15 February 2008, submitted films will be showcased on the Babelgum Online Film Festival Channel, where the public will be able to rate each film. A prize of €20,000 will be awarded to winners in each of the six categories: The Babelgum Looking for Genius Award, The Babelgum Short Film Award, The Babelgum Documentary Award, The Babelgum Animation Award, The Babelgum Social/Environment Award and The Babelgum Spot/Advertising Award.

Babelgum is a free on-demand TV over the Internet that lets you watch whatever you want, whenever you want as often as you want. Content is uploaded by professional film makers.

Swansea Animation days is also soon, this International Animation, Games and SFX Conference runs from Monday 26th till Friday 30th November. "SAND includes conference sessions on games, procedural animation, films, post production techniques, TV commercials, motion capture, also with animation screenings from around the world, professional sector workshops and business seminar". Guest speakers include Apurva Shah, Effects Supervisor from Pixar Animation Studios and Shelley Page, Head of International Outreach from DreamWorks Animation. Workshops will be held on the topics of Acting For Animators,
Scriptwriting, Charac'ature Animation , Character Development and Claymation.

Along side the conference will be an exhibition at Taliesin Arts Centre, Swansea.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Barton Hill Animation Festival call for work

The Barton Hill Animation Festival is now in it's third year. It consists of animation workshops and a cinema showing both amateur and professional films.

Following a successful event for 2007 the festival is now looking for submissions for the 3rd Barton Hill Animation Festival in Bristol on Sunday 16th March 2008.

If you would like to submit a short animation, please send them as either AVI or MOV files on DVD. Please send your animations to:

Sarah Winch
Community at Heart
Wellspring Healthy Living Centre
Beam Street
Barton Hill
Bristol BS5 9QY

Unfortunately they are unable to return any of the work received unless specifically requested.

Deadline for submissions: 31st January 2008

For more details about Commiunity at Heart visit

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Once upon a paperbag

As part of the Brighton Digital Festival, the animation event organisers Paperbag have organised "a night of the best animated shorts around, interspersed with live local musical talent".

18 Nov 2007, 19:30
Manchester Street
United Kingdom

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


I've managed to see Pixar /Disney's latest film, Ratatouille and I must tell you it is excellent. It's not just me that thinks that, the film has already been shorted listed as one of 12 animated films for this years Academy awards for animation. Because of the quality of the film I've decided to include a more in depth blog article than usual. There are a few spoilers in here so if you've not yet seen the film (or DVD) then look away now.

The rats are the key characters in the film with brothers Remy and Emile providing the setup for the story at the beginning of the film and soon the screen is full of scurrying rats. Unfortunately for Pixar, Eadweard Mybridge did not include rats in his Animals in Motion so the animators such as Mark Walsh had to record their own clips of rats eating, sniffing, climbing and crawling. Under Brad Bird's guidance they have skillfully blended these 'rat-isms,' with more human characteristics required for the character scenes. As well as great movement these rats have a fantastic appearance, Pixar have demonstrated that hair and fur are no longer a limitation for computer animation. When water is added into the mix it should have been impossible but the animators and shading experts have also perfected the "drowned rat" look.

One of the major concern of a film about rats in the kitchen must be the hygiene issue. Remy explains this to his brother who is confused why any rat would want to walk on just two legs. When the family of rats help out with the cooking there is a very humorous scene where they are all washed in the dishwasher.

For more details about the design challenges of rats see the cinematical visit to pixar.

The other characters are also fleshed out in detail in terms of their positions in the kitchen and backgrounds. My particular favourites are the critic played by Peter O Toole and the mad head chef Skinner who reminded me of Inspector Drefus from the Pink Pather films. The bulbous waiter also reminded me of the Monty Python, Mr Creosote character.

One of the stars of the film is the food and Pixar have ensured that it's treated with as much skill as the characters. The sheer variety and details of the food is incredible. The food is chopped, prepared, cooked and tasted by the chefs and rats and the kitchen and store rooms are full of it.

The film has some excellent cinematography so it was not surprising to learn that the director of photography and lighting Sharon Calahan and production designer Harley Jessup has spent lots of time researching Paris and films such as Amelie, Bon Voyage and An American in Paris

One clever technique which is close to my heart is the use of a shallow depth of field. This is used when in dark world of the rats and contrasted with the sharp focus of the world of the humans and outside scenes around Paris.

Games, Merchandising and DVD Releases

When I saw the sequence in the sewer when Remy's boat goes over the rapids I had two imediate thoughts. The first was that it reminded me of the Dragon's Lair game from the 1980s and the second is that was definately going to be in the game version. There are in fact a range of games associated with this film including ones specially designed for the Nintendo DS.

Mattel who did the toys for films such as Cars are also making Ratatouille games such as a mouse trap variation and a selection of plushies and figurines.

Even before I saw this film, the DVD versions were being released in the USA and Australia. Unfortunately there is no sign of a UK DVD arriving in time for Christmas.

My showing of Ratatouille came with a short "B-movie" - Lifted. This space film looks a young alien and the problems of abducting a sleeping farmer from his house. The team have also produced a short about Rats, "Your Friend the Rat" a 2D educational piece covering everything you want to know about rats. "Your Friend the Rat" also includes sections in Stop Motion and Chalk animation based on production sketches.

Script and trailers

The film starts by a little old ladies house with the family of rats scavenging for food. Remy is experimenting with blending foods and his brother Emile eats that and anything else he can get his paws on. Following a fight at the house the rats escape by river. Their preprepared collection of vessels reminded me of Mrs Frisby and the Rats of NIMH. In the confusion Remy is separated from the family and navigates through the sewers and passages with the ghost of his favourite chef Auguste Gusteau to guide him. He finds himself in Paris at Gusteau's old restaurant. Here, he fixes a soup messed up by Linguini who is working as a cleaner in the kitchen. Gusteau acts as a mentor and conscious to Remy. Linguini is made an apprentice chef and remote controlled by Remy, he cooks up some excellent food, much to the anger of head chef Skinner. Their partnership causes the restaurant to flourish and comes under the attentions of a famous critic. The story weaves in love, betrayal, conflicts between family and career and corruption between the chefs and rats and climaxes in a crazy conclusion which has to be seen to be believed.

Trailers for the film can be seen on the Pixar site or the Apple site.

Director: Brad Bird
Produced by Brad Lewis
Executive Producers: John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton
Associate Producer: Galyn Susman
Original Story: Jan Pinkava, Jim Capobianco, Brad Bird
Music: Michael Giacchino
Story Supervisor: Mark Andrews
Film Editor: Darren Holmes
Supervising Technical Director: Michael Fong
Production Designer: Harley Jessup
Supervising Animators: Dylan Brown, Mark Walsh
Director of Photography/Lighting: Sharon Calahan
Director of Photography/Camera: Robert Anderson
Character Design: Jason Deamer, Greg Dykstra, Carter Goodrich, Dan Lee
Character Supervisor: Brian Green
Sets Art Director: Robert Kondo
Sets Supervisor: David Eisenmann
Shading Art Director: Belinda Van Valkenburg
Shading Supervisor: Daniel McCoy
Global Technology Supervisor: William Reeves
Effects Supervisor: Apurva Shah
Simulation Supervisor: Christine Waggoner
Groom Supervisor: Sanjay Bakshi
Crowds Supervisor: Ziah Sarah Fogel
Production Manager: Nicole Paradis Grindle
Sound Designer: Randy Thom


Remy: Patton Oswalt
Linguini: Lou Romano
Colette: Janeane Garafalo
Skinner: Ian Holm
Emile: Peter Sohn
Django: Brian Dennehy
Auguste Gusteau: Brad Garrett
Antono Ego: Peter O'Toole

Git: Jake Steinfeld
French Waiter: Brad Bird
Horst: Will Arnett
Lalo & Francois: Julius Callahan
Larousse: James Remar
Mustafa: John Ratzenberger
Lawyer (Talon Labarthe): Teddy Newton
Pompidou & Health Inspector: Tony Fucile
Ambrister Minion: Brad Bird
Narrator: Laurent Spelvogel


Imagine Magazine speculates on how rats might be the next turtles.

Other Reviews

Dante Kleinberg's look at Plot, Character, Theme and Execution.
James R Hull ponders why the film seems too long and looks at Time lock and Option lock plots.

Final fact

The Secret of NIMH was produced by ExDisney Don Bluth who also did the graphics for Dragon's lair.

Monday, November 12, 2007

New Creature Comforts

Aardman's latest creature comforts is made for Leonard Cheshire Disability charity. Leonard Cheshire provides services for disabled people and campaigns for their rights and have provided input for Aardman to create a range of new characters including Spud the Slug, Peg the Hedgehog and Flash the Sausage Dog. The characters explain some of the prejudices that are still common in the UK and are all voiced by real disabled people. The director Steve Harding-Hill described working with disabled people as being incredibly satisfying.

The Creature Discomforts characters appear in adverts that will be seen online, in magazines, at bus stops and on the Tube from this Thursday.

The aptly named "Creature Discomforts" series is previewed online and can be seen in full in the spring of 2008.