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SEPTEMBER 2003

09.30.03
* Stop Motion may possibly be surviving in small pockets or areas, globally .... definitely more Stop Mo in Europe/England and Canada. In USA, we have someone like Brett Piper of Kinetic Image and he has established a niche for himself. of doing direct-to-video movies. He seems to be gaining some underground popularity New Brett Piper Films Apparently, he is very much a Stop Motion advocate & practioner and seems to incorporate it into some of his projects. Not only does he direct, produce but does the actual hands-on Stop Motion too and makes the puppets! Talk about wearing many hats! He is working on an untitled project that will have Stop Motion bugs. In interviews though, he has talked about difficult times dealing with studio suits. I do not think he has ever posted on the SMA.com board but perhaps he is just busy "working". We all know how the internet can sometimes be addictive!

* Remember Don Dohler? At this link, you can go back to memory lane and see all the covers of the Starlog version of Cinemagic magazine.... low cost special effects for hobbyists and it had many Stop Motion topics .... started around 1979. I also have all those issues. Don even had earlier issues of the Original Cinemagic first published in 1972. Don is still kicking around here, also doing niche direct to video movies through his Time Warp Films company. It does not appear that he is involved with any kind of Stop Motion anymore but maybe someone out here can offer Don some Stop Mo production services?!
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09.26.03
* Here is an article Visual FX Trends on TV. Kind of dry, sterile and non-exciting. Bottom line .... budget cutting and ridiculously short production schedules for TV, like it always has been but more (or worse?) in future. How does this relate to Stop Motion? You have to use technology and a plethora of resourcefulness & creativity (stop motionists usually do, but now more critical). With the miracle frame grabber .... a dirt simple technology to the CGI'st, but for us, an incredible boom to the puppet animation art/craft for the last 10 plus years .... we do not necessarily need to invest so much dollars in Hyper-High Tolerance Stop Motion Armatures (Trikfx's coined phrase!) The grabbers aid in smoothing the animation using more basic armatures. Also as you all know, computers & software, now so affordable, can be used for extensive post production, tweaking, special effects enhancement, and especially compositing (lessen the need for many or large miniature sets). Some examples .... I do not know what the budget was for the Davey & Goliath Christmas Special, still in post-production, but they had a very small crew with minimal numbers of puppets and they pulled it off! With the The PJ's, Stop Motion TV series (from the "old" Vinton Studios) somehow accidentally made it as a series in primetime (so rare for any kind of stop mo to invade mainstream), but the budget was incredibly high for each episode and IMO, might have partially contributed to its demise. With those kind of high costs, today, I do not think an animation TV series would even be considered by the "suits". Bottom line #2 ..... computers, fierce competition, tight money/budget, etc. ....and studio/producer suits demanding shorter & shorter production time, faster, cheaper & more of it ....Stop Motion has to find ways to compete (different niche markets too) with the CGI saturation / New World Order!
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09.22.03
* Sometimes I ask myself when I enter video rental stores and browse around, "Somebody must be watching all these direct-to-video B-type genre movies". On the message board there was some discussion about Low Budget Filmmaking. Also, someone just posted a soon to released, B-flick that appears to be campy-retro, The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra It seems that there will be no hi-techy Cgi or Digital heavy special effects, however this one appears to have, too obvious cheesey/cheap special effects (maybe could have been better). This is not going to video/dvd yet, but will first be theatrically released. If you read their FAQ, it was "accidentally" discovered by a Sony Studio "suit". Their marketing is kind of fun & interesting ....sort of similar to Blair Witch Project publicizing campaign, via the internet. Anyway, in today's Formulaic/Homogenized/Cgi-digital/Slick-e-fied mainstream Hollywood Film Biz. I think this is kind of unusual for a major studio. Kudos & Thumbs-up to Sony Pictures for being more daring in offering something "different" to audiences. Speaking of B movies, I was recently contacted by a long time colleague-friend who has done lots of past work in model & stop motion fabrication. We were discussing some technical matters regarding stop motion puppets on a project he is just starting. I think, I can mention it publically because at Fangoria website, their news has announced it. The project that he is involved with is Monster Island which will be an MTV original movie. There was another movie way back in 1981 (with Peter Cushing) by the same name, but that was completely different and not related to MTV's project. Maybe there is some glimmer of hope for Stop Motion and perhaps might make a little bit of a comeback.
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09.19.03
* Historically, when did Stop Motion really start? That is, the actual frame-by-frame animation of something puppet-like. I have my own copy Steven S. Wilson's book, Puppets & People (you can get a used one, only $499.!) and he only mentions why & how the phrase Stop Motion came about but nothing when the technique actually began. Supposedly, Wladislaw Starewicz, Polish born, who lived in Russia, is sometimes credited with first using Stop Motion puppet-type method in The Cameraman's Revenge, around 1912 .... some images here. Then in USA, we have The Humpty Dumpty Circus by Smith & Blackton, which supposedly was released around 1898 or 1914? If you have any information or can clarify this minutial bit of Stop Mo history, I would be curious and feel free to contact me

* Sooooo .....Portland, Oregon USA, I have heard , is like a Ghost Town with regards to Animation and just general employment (in other work trades) is not good. This article You can't keep a good toon 'town down acknowledges the animation downturn aspect but attempts to put a slightly positive spin and cites only few companies getting some animation-type work. It may be kind of depressing, but hopefully things might turnaround or improve for Portland. I also heard in the past, from ex-Vinton people, that the old Vinton Studios eventually got overpriced or expensive. So that is something to consider; if possible, make Stop Motion more cost-effective as an incentive to lure the "suits". Stop Mo has to compete with the ubiquitous & dominating CGI Beast!
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09.16.03
* There will be a new Creature Comforts TV Series based on Aardman's Oscar winning short of some years ago. Unfortunately, USA seems to be mostly overtaken by Cel or Cgi animation and I wonder if we will ever get opportunity to see it here (hopefully on cable, someday?). It will supposedly be released on DVD but that could be a long wait for us, as the yet to be made series might have to make its run on broadcast TV first, then afterwards, on DVD. As I reported here some months ago, thanks to some of my underground contacts, here is news, Cuppa Coffee on a Roll about various Canadian created Stop Motion. Stop Mo lives on! (but not in USA). This studio Les Armateurs is in France..... they do Cel & Cgi but I am not sure, when you go to the link and click on Prince & Princesses, if that is Stop Motion or maybe Cut-Out animation? Very stylized and unique looking. At first, I thought studio name in English, meant The Armatures, ...... wrong! The translation is, Ship-Owners.
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09.13.03
* Special Weekend News Edition ....SMA message board member, Trikfx aka Ted Sydor , a frequent contributor, sharing his knowledge, tips, advice, cogent observations & philosophies .... has intimate knowledge about the Czechoslovakian animation scene. He hung out there for awhile and apprenticed at the Czech puppet animation studios. The feeling I get, from casual talks with Ted.... Stop Motion seems to have more respectibility and appreciated over there. The lifestyle or pace there might possibly not be so intense as the USA here, where our senses are constantly assaulted by media/entertainment and we're always distracted or have minimal attention span?? The Czechs perhaps are able to be a little more laid back and able to Stop & Smell the Roses? Anyway, here is an interesting in-depth article Czech Animation: Two Perspectives
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09.11.03
* 9/11 New York .... 2 years later. Obviously, extremely painful for the surviving family & friends of the victims that lost their lives. What else can one say except our heartfelt & deepest condolences goes out to all of them. As a symbol, I respect our American Flag, however, the government bureaucrats/politicians, I do not have much confidence in. Addendum, 09.13.03: When I re-read my little rant here a few days later, I decided to edit it & remove most of it because maybe it was getting to be somewhat personal (my feelings) or political, and straying away from the intention of this website. I will try to keep in focus but sometimes it is hard to ignore Societal & World events, problems, etc. because to me, everything appears to be accelerating much more quickly towards a not-so-positive direction .... almost Biblical / Nostradamus-like.
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09.09.03
* Vinton Studios goes to Knight .... that is the latest. Because Vinton Studios was in such poor financial shape, Knight is paying Vinton less than $60,000 for Will's 46% controlling interest. 27 years Will Vinton has had that Studio and such a paltry sum he gets. Pretty sad end that the studio collapsed in the market & could not survive for whatever wrong choices or decisions were made during the old Vinton Studio's last days of existence. I think Will still has a lawsuit against Knight, too. Probably, Will would have gotten a little more compensation if he did not sue Knight.

* AWN reports Bravo TV cable network will be airing a two hour special The Animated Century (scroll down & you'll see it). It looks like it will mostly cover Cel Animation but might have some mention of Stop Motion with reference to Jiri Trnka. I am not sure if Willis Obrien or Ray Harryhausen will be given any credit. The special is two hours long, on September 26, 03, starting 8PM and will be repeated a few times that night. If you do see this show, let me know if it was good, bad, or whatever. Better yet, you can post on SMA message board. I do not have cable TV anymore. If I did, then that is another excuse for me to procrastinate and not focus on my own projects.
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09.05.03
* Let us go back in time during the era, before the New CGI World Order domination (well not yet). Any older visitors/readers might remember Flesh Gordon (1972). It is hard to believe this movie was made about 31 years ago! You can read about it there and find some images. A few, now veteran special effects people worked on that. It seems mild today and pehaps not really in the porn category anymore .... more like an R rating. Then there was the not so well known sequel, Flesh Gordon 2 / Review (1990). There also appears to have been some Stop Motion in the sequel? There are some images there too .... Flesh laying a karate foot kick on a cartoony Stop Mo Creature and also, a Stop Mo Ape relieving himself on top of a tall building! I wonder who did the special effects for FG2? Also, let us not forget about the cult classic (not quite), Starcrash (1979) with special effects done by the Italian born arteest, Armando Valcauda. Here is another link Starcrash / Review. Some reading and images for you there too ..... click on all the links for articles. Enjoy ( I think)
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09.02.03
* As I have sometimes commented before, Stop Motion has always seemed to have more of a "life" or popularity outside the USA. Cosgrove Hall in the UK has been around since 1976 .... a major animation house over there. Throughout their history (you can read about it at their site), they have used much Stop Motion and also do Cel animation. Here is a news article about the comeback of Postman Pat's Return, apparently it was a popular animation show.

* Aardman Animation another big animation player in England, has apparently been getting into CGI work. They will be doing commercials for the Europeon market Mr. Pratt Commercials promoting adhesive products. According to article, it seems like this will computer animated. Too bad. I guess it is the the "suits" (ad agencies/producers) pushing for the trendy CGI stuff.


 

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