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DECEMBER 2003

12.27.03
* Special Weekend Edition.... It seems that Aardman Studios in Bristol, England may be undergoing some expansion of their operation. They suddenly put out a call and are looking for people and as usual, it seems like this is sort of a rush situation .... applications due by January 31, 2004. They have a number of categories that includes CGI to actual traditional modelmaking and the most unique one of course, is the position Stop Motion Animators! (kind of rare these days) You should know, that they might be flooded with applicants so competition may be fierce. Looks like there might be a glimmer of hope for Stop Motion to survive outside the CGI entrenched USA?? Unfortunately, Stop Motion today, usually does not provide a sustainable income .... you have to kind of adopt a Bohemian Lifestyle and be nomadic to seek work....however .... it is amazing how many worldwide still have a desire or dream to do some Stop Motion and when done well, the public will still enjoy it."Studio Suits" should take note of this and perhaps try not to shove "only CGI" down the audiences throat by saturation .... you know they will get jaded & bored if it's just meaningless "eye-candy". Be original & different and give the public some variety!
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12.26.03
* A TV commercial just now being shown in the USA using Stop Motion for Nike Shoes, The Minotaur of Altanta. Very enjoyable to look at and certainly a break from the ubiquitous CGI. It was done by Screen Novelties, better known for completing Ray Harryhausen's, Tortise and the Hare (50 years later!) It is great that the work was done by a small studio that really cares about Stop Motion and seems commited to it! I wonder though .... Nike now owns the new Vinton Studios and are they still doing Stop Motion in-house or maybe they are not? How come Vinton Studios did not do the commercial? Also, with Tim Burton's, The Corpse Bride, it seems that Vinton is not doing the actual hands-on animation production but serving more as one of the executive producers? Let us hope that Vinton Studios will still pursue Stop Motion at their Portland, Oregon location and does not abandon it. I am here to ask the hard questions that no one asks. It is a dirty job but someone has to do it!
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12.25.03
* From a local paper in Monterery, California, USA, where he lived, Academy Award winner, Wah Ming Chang died Monday, Dec 22. He was 86. Obviously, much of the public will not know of him. He was a very talented and dedicated artist & craftsperson in the pioneering days of animation and special effects. Webster Colcord, a local Bay Area resident animator/artist, this past year was in contact with Wah. If all you newbies that don't know much about the earlier period of special effects you can read a little bit about Wah, here SMA Board

* Flip Books ..... aahhhh yes..... many of us may have dabbled in that. As a kid I did some of it on the corners of boring school text books. Compared to all the gadgetry techy toys today, the old forms of entertainment seems more fun and more stimulating or engaging for the mind and hands-on real tactile skills .... instead of kids (or even adults!) just sitting on their butts in front of computer monitor. There is even the high-tech way to do flip-books in computer and can get complex in making more sophisticated or fancy-shamcy slick flipbooks into an online business ..... but I yearn for the good ol' manual way ofjust actually drawing simple images on real paper/cards. Flip books can be done anywhere, anytime .... just pencil & paper materials! A small sampling here ... 1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - 8
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12.23.03
* I remember before the gaming industry was flooded like it is today with digital-pixelated hyper-steroid-unreality, there were some alternative methods of creating video games using the Stop Motion Animation technique. Anyone remember The Neverhood 1 - 2 - 3 ? Also here in the San Francisco Bay Area, Danger Productions 1 - 2, a small studio that employed many Stop Mo animators (now most doing CGI), did some video games with puppet animation called Clay Fighter . Incidentally, one of the studio's partner, David Bleiman is one of the producers on Corpse Bride. Even I was involved with it ..... Primal Rage 2 (sequel) Admittedly, this was just a microscopic use of Stop Motion in video gaming and it might look old now but Primal Rage was a big hit. IMO, the old standard Stop motion production methods cannot be applied to the current gaming style & look..... just too costly, I think. If using Stop Mo for video games a different production approach & style has to be used. Believe it or not, in the year 2003 there was a video game that used Stop Motion called The Dark Eye. Very stylized Euro-Trnka-like and obviously not meant to compete with the current testotorene laden games for the pimpled face crowds. The review was in '03 it appears this video game made around 1995? I don't understand the disparity of dates.
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12.15.03
* Hot off the Press : MONSTER ROAD, the documentary about Bruce Bickford, is going to premiere at the Slamdance Film Festival in Park City, in January '04. For more information, go to Bright Eye Pictures .... they also have some photos to look at. Not confirmed yet, but there might be a screening this Spring, in San Francisco. We will keep you posted.

* Alliance Atlantis Cutting Production Jobs In Canada .....they are a production company overseeing many projects and one of them was a Stop Motion TV Series called Henry's World. They began this project early in '03. It looks like it may be no more. Another very well known studio in Canada, CuppaCoffee, actually did the first few seasons of Henry's World before Alliance Atlantis took over. Maybe it takes a special kind of commitment by a studio to devote to the specialty of Stop Motion and Cuppa Coffee seems to have a knack for it! I just received this information from one of my sources: "The studio has hit a home-run according to Disney, with Jo Jo's Circus breaking all records with pre-schoolers. This is PlayHouse Disney's number one show and it is Stop-Motion. Cuppa Coffee is rolling straight into Season Two of the show. It is also halfway through a show for AMC/Blueprint called The Wrong Coast, a celebrity spoof show a la "Entertainment Tonight". Pre-production has started on A Very Barry Christmas rumored to air on NBC - Christmas 2004. Directed by Aussie legend, Andrew Horne (Leunig) In development, are two more Stop-Motion series, AND, more than just rumor, Cuppa Coffee studio head, Adam Shaheen is putting together a deal for a Feature Film. Stop Motion is clearly alive and well in Canada. They also have two other series about to hit production, but this is believed to be 2D traditional animation"
LIO Comment ....
Cuppa Coffee seems to be smoking hot now and starting to kick some Stop Motion Ass! Perhaps Cuppa Coffee studio bosses sees a "niche" here and realizes that the public might be Cgi'd to death or just maybe getting jaded with digital-pixel world domination!
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12.11.03
* For beginners interested in Stop Motion it can be confusing trying to choose what you need just to do simple test animations or for just practicing. The most common way now for do-it-yourself stop motion, is, using a computer, animation capture software and some kind of camera (webcam, camcorder, or digital still cam). I am not an expert in animation software but I attempted awhile ago to do my own explanation & cursory review of stop motion capture programs. Even what I wrote may be confusing to neophytes. Well, I will now try the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). Here is what I think is the most easiet & user friendly animation software/system for beginners Xipster Instant Animator. At a convention, I met the creators of this software and they gave an energetic brief talk and demonstration. It has one of the most user friendly interfaces .... the program is designed so you only need to shoot twelve frames for one second of animation (instead of 24 or 30 frames per second). This is called "shooting on two's" and that's how I learned .... you can work fast and learn the general animation principles more quickly. The program allows you to flip back & forth one frame and compare it to the live image for checking the movements. Xipster has a very good & detailed online help & documentation. It primarily works with USB connected Webcams (about 320 x 240 image size) so one does not need a video capture card. It's PC & Mac compatible. Not only will Instant Animator help you learn animation but you can also add sounds & titles within the software and complete a very quick animation short story. The instant feedback is most important to help encourage beginners. If you are parent or teacher, what a fantastic tool to get kids started in animation .... it is even good for beginning Old Kids! As I stated, IMO, I think Instant Animator, is one of the better introductory animation software programs .... it is not only for Stop Motion but other animation methods .... pixelation, cutout, and drawn 2d. If you have any questions before you buy, you can phone or email them. So .... check-out the entire Xipster website. I think their site is well designed with lots of energy & enthusiasm and very simply explains Instant Animator so the general public can understand it. Now....please do not ask if it is free. Let's not be cheap here. People designed this software and it is a useful product that you will get value from. So cough up the dollars ..... It's only $54.95. They have a Lite Trial Xipster for you to test. What you are paying for is the simplicity & very user-friendly interface. You can get other programs maybe for about the same with more complex features but they are not perhaps as user friendly. When you feel confident with animation you can then graduate and attempt more advanced animation or use other animation programs.
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12.04.03
* Attention Stop Motionists! This just posted on SMA message board. To me, this seems like a unique concept called The 10 Second Club. A monthly character animation competition. All styles .... right now it looks like mostly CGI. The look does not have to be polished so you don't have to be a pro to enter. I think if more Stop Motion people enter this, we can blow the socks off Cgi. Good practice for you ....just make up a quick scene and animate to dialogue/sound effects and shoot against black background. You have to read their rules and I am not sure how you post movie on their site so you need to know something about that. You can get more info here 10SecondClub Forum

* Finally we got some information about a live action movie that is being directed by Wes Anderson and starring the comic-actor Bill Murray. It will have some Stop Motion underwater creatures and these effects will be directed by Henry Selick The Life Aquatic

* Regarding the currently released movie ELF, I ask again, Why are there NO photos available of the Stop Mo puppet characters? Why all the secrecy? Someone sent me this behind the scenes info about the Stop Motion animators who worked on it: ** Apparently Teresa Drilling (who worked on the Vinton "Claymation Christmas" and "Meet the Raisins" specials, as well as "Chicken Run") animated all of the shots of a snowman character (Leon the Snowman, voiced by musician Leon Redbone), attempting to paralell Sam the Snowman from "Rudolph," complete with jerky movements. Musa Brooker (whose work I'm unfamiliar with, but a Google search reveals that Brooker worked on "Celebrity Deathmatch") is listed as working on "various arctic critters, including a puffin, a polar bear, Narwhal whale, and some mischievous little trolls that are animated more in the Harryhausen style." Kent Burton (who you probably worked with on "Nightmare Before Christmas" and/or Gumby) animated framing scenes of a  storybook opening and closing (ala so many Disney films), apparently more than 2,000 frames were required. Sadly, the only photos accompanying the article in this magazine are of Will Ferrell. None of the actual puppet characters, which is disappointing. As you said, not sure why these images aren't being made available. Still, hope this might prove interesting to yourself and the site's readers**

* Saturday, December 6 on the ABC Family Channel....
Rankin Bass Stop Motion Marathon
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12.01.03
* Oh hell, it's December already and now the media hype and bombardment on our senses to get all of us stressed out about the Holidays. You noticed that it gets crazier out there in the streets? More traffic and people just more frantic and like obedient Automatons, immersing themselves in all this madness of the season which does not make it, a supposedly peaceful time. I could rant on but I will let others do it. Here are some sample links 1 - 2 - 3 You see, it's not just me, but much of the public Do Not enjoy this yearly ritual and most just "go along" with a fake smile and get high blood pressure, migraines, depressed, etc.

* Do I hear $100. , $150., $250., $375. or more?! Come on .... what will you give me for this piece of Stop Motion history? What am I jabbering about? Jim Danforth animator, auteur, eclectic artist, matte painter, and the list goes on. Well .... on Ebay, he is offering an original crab puppet from When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth The movie is slow but Jim's work Ruled the Special Effects Biz at the time, and he should have received an Oscar. For me, the giant crab sequences have got to be one of the most realistic (in a surreal way) special effects and state-of-the-art for that time. Just beautifully designed & superbely executed, done the good old fashioned way, before the studios became pixel-digital addicted. Stop Mo Crab Puppet Peter Jackson .... here's something for your collection!

* Sometimes I have previously mentioned the New World CGI Order ....well .... a big story here Roy Disney Quits (Roy is Walt Disney's nephew) It seems now, that Michael Eisner will be Supreme Godfather of the Disney Empire. How is this related to Stop Motion? Well, like I have said before in my comments, Stop Motion is accustomed to getting screwed by mainstream biz, but now, 2D traditional animators are getting a big time screw job as it seems, the Disney Powers-that-be, want to completely erase Disney's roots and dump 2D animation down the toilet. Even though the recently released Disney 2D feature, Brother Bear is doing good at the box office, the Mouse-A-Nators are halting in-progress 2D features. There is a bad climate in the air ..... Digital Pixel Homogenization ..... where nothing is real


 

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