Tuesday, January 29, 2008

FANTASIA thoughts....

Above is the mushroom dance, part of the Nutcracker suite by by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. If you don't own the two volume Fantasia set, go now and buy it(jeez!) . Everyone should own this, the extras alone are worth the cost.

I believe that Fantasia is the most innovative, experimental, groundbreaking, quality, thought provoking, amazing animated feature of all time. It must kill "disney haters" and avant-guard gurus that one of the most experimental and revolutionary pieces of film came from Disney, and furthermore, they actually used Mickey Mouse(the symbol for hollywood and capitalist evil worldwide) in one of the best segments! I friggin' love it. I can hear hundreds of annoyingly artsy animators groaning at the thought. Also, I have to point out how amazing Fantasia 2000 was. I think they did a great job extending the concept into this millennium, it surprises me how little you hear about Fantasia 2000, perhaps, like it's predecessor, it will take a while for it to be truly appreciated.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Great "Star Wars" post by Mark Kennedy...

Mark Kennedy nails it once again, with possibly the best crit of this 70's masterpiece I've ever read. Star Wars is just such a brilliant film in so many ways, and Mark points several things that will really get you thinking about the elements that make quality visual storytelling. "Star Wars" is one of those movies that I think every filmmaker should watch every year. right along with pulp fiction, ET, and the shawshank redemption:)... maybe american history x for the curb stomping scene.

"Most people think a flowery exchange of dialogue between two characters or a long monologue from an actor to the audience is what "great writing" is but I totally disagree. Ninety-five percent of writing is structuring the events of the story correctly so that they are in the right order, build properly and resolve themselves in a satisfying (and hopefully surprising) way" -Mark Kennedy

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Bozzeto's Ravel-Bolero....

My favorite segment of Bruno Bozzeto's Allegro Non Troppo has to be the coke bottle piece done to Maurice Ravel's Bolero. It's one of my favorite pieces of classical music of all time, and it works with Bruno's storytelling perfectly. To those of you who have not seen this piece, relax and enjoy, it's a bit long but totally worth it. The DVD is available on Bruno's site. On a personal note, I was able to spend some time with Bruno two years ago while he was visiting New York, and he's truly an amazing guy, filled with laughs and knows how to "arrive" at a party, although his gaggle of stunningly beautiful italian daughters may have helped a bit.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Influence: Animator and Muralist "Blu"

(image: left is a detail from a Blu mural, right is a psmith painting)I have just recently come upon the work of Blu. It's one of those rare circumstances where another artist is creating very similar images to your own, but neither of you are in contact or even know of each others work (albeit, Blu is certainly more widely known). The obvious thing i'm drawn to about his work is the way he builds larger configurations out of smaller, individual figures, and then puts these pieces in the public view, murals in his case(read importance of scale entry). But I also love the somewhat awkward rendering of his characters, it gives his pieces a level of uncertainty that suggests the outcome of his images are not clear, a brilliant way to be an observationalist (not a word, but you get my jist). after all, what is an observation other than a snippet of time, the result of which is unknown (perhaps predictable, but unknown). furthermore, his animation has that element of "people coming out of people" similar to what I explore in several of my films, especially my film "Drink"(image on right: Drink and a still from Blu's wall mural animation). Another aspect of Blu's work, outside of his murals, is his animation. He is constantly engaged in morphing and breaking apart his characters in a very unschooled(therefore untimed, but it works), raw, smooth, and playful way. Check out his work, most people only know this famous experimental piece of wall painted animation below.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A Rant: The Value of Art....

photo: Michelangelo's Pieta, Leonardo self portrait, Jackson Pollock, John Singer Sargent, Sponge Bob, and Glen Keane's immortalized Beast.
If you stumbled on a material piece of art on the street would you stop to admire it or maybe pick it up? does it provoke serious and quality thought? Is it beautiful (even in a horrific or disturbing sense) Is it made to stand the test of time, will it last? are the materials valuable? is the content timeless, or will it only be understood within the context of what is currently in fashion? Is it created with expert craftsmanship by an artist that knows and has studied the medium? In this way, do we admire the craftsmanship of this piece? Does it add or build upon to a rich tradition of thoughtfulness and quality?
Or, is it pretentious, meaningless, self-indulgent crap that has been deemed important by a cadre of "experts" or critics that obviously know way more than you, setting the importance and price. Or, does it exploit human tendencies to be drawn toward the overtly sexual, controversial, outrageous, or the "candylike shinyness" of new technologies (that often don't look all the great after a while). Is it purely entertainment, meant to be consumed, chewed up and spewed out in a fit of laughter? the only resemblance of aesthetic being it's ability to entertain and charm (has it's place perhaps, but can hardly be viewed as a lofty achievement)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Musician: Karl von Kries and "MASKS"

(photo on left: Karl von Kries and Pat Smith during a visit to Karls studio in Pismo Beach, CA.) Three months ago "Masks" was nearing completion, and then COMPLETELY TRASHED, we can thank Karl von Kries for this. Karl wrote a piece of music which was compelling enough for me to ditch the "man on the street" interview-based concept in favor of an abstract, bizarre, symbolic story. So over a year of hard work and a ton of money wasted. thanks Karl.

Karl von Kries music style is a bit like The Shins getting beaten up by the Afghan Whigs while Radiohead and Jeff Buckley sulk in the shadows. Our first collaboration was on my first film "Drink", and I think the music got more attention than the animation! (photo on right: Karl and Pat recording the sound effects for "Drink" back in 1999) What stands out with Karl is his willingness to experiment and record things that nobody else would, creating atmospheres that match. ie, the music for Drink was fully comprised of sound effects, from yelling to smashing and cracking vegetables. The next film he scored was my 2003 short "Delivery", which was a heck of a lot more traditional in the music sense, but Karl still maintained the bizarre, thoughtful, and perhaps disturbing vibe that was so vital for the context of the film.

For Masks, Karl is at the helm in terms of deciding the pace and timing of the story. The original point of this particular collaboration is that the music will dictate the action. Karl has posted a preview of what to expect on his blog. The story is a tale of exploitation of the weak and the consequences of that ferocious exploitation. In addition, Karl is giving away his 2005 album "Secret Service", check it out at instarmusic.com

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Charles Bargue...insane.

Charles Bargue (1826-1883) created what is probably the most influential and famous series of drawing classes in history. The legendary coursework was created in collaboration with his teacher and mentor, Jean-Léon Gérôme. The book "Charles Bargue, Drawing Course" is probably the best investment a student or pro alike could make, right next to "Illusion of Life". The artwork contained within the book can only be described as stunning and awakening!! it will remind you of the rich history we artists must face if we have the slightest desire to contribute. we truly are tiny specks standing on the shoulder of Colossus! I especially like the ref. to greek art, it's amazing that this type of perfection and craftsmanship was accomplished thousands of years ago. furthermore, the bulk of the book is made up of line studies of figures, especially useful to an animator.

Scene from "Notting Hill" is rad...

Ok, don't laugh at me, or lose respect. I call it like I see it despite what pretentious film snobs say. so open your mind a sec and look at this scene from Notting Hill. It's well shot, well timed, fg and bg used well, also very emotional, and effective for the story. I'm actually a big Hugh Grant fan, as well as a sucker for cheezy chic flicks. The passage of time is always a fun thing to deal with in a film, my favorite part of this clip isn't necessarily the technical part of the changing seasons, but the sense that the characters are moving in time (ie, the pregnant lady in the start is with a new born at the end, and the couple in the start are breaking up at the end) also, you just gotta love that Bill Withers song, a classic.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Solid Drawing is the difference....

Arthur Metcalf, Pat Smith, Amid Amidi, and Noelle Vaccese at Kodak. I had an interesting conversation with Amid over drinks last night. We were talking about the difference between works of art that are generally (and unfortunately) clumped together. I pointed out the difference between Jamie Hewlett and Craig Mccracken (see image below). Craigs work will most likely be dropped by art history, but Jamies will continue because his art is solid and not dependent solely on stylistic principles or trends. I love Warhol, but you can't categorize him with a master painter, just like you can't categorize Hisko Hulsing or Borge Ring with Don Hertzfelt (although, i think don can draw way better than he gives himself credit). This all came up after we attended the Kodak screening put on by Signe Baumane, there were such different films all being appreciated on the same level, which is strange, being that some films are crappy gag driven entertainment(produced in a matter of days), and some are highly crafted art. The highlight of the night was all the ooing and ahhing about how difficult and time consuming rotoscoping in flash is. As my traditional animation buddy Guy Barely would say, "wtf man".

Monday, January 14, 2008

New Neighborhood...

Animators Bill Plympton, Signe Baumane, and Patrick Smith enjoy the smallest house warming party of all time. After over six years of living in Soho, I now call the Lower East Side home! I actually lived on the LES back in 2000, but just for a year. It's changed so much I can't even believe it. So far, the most bizarre thing about the new hood is the uncanny amount of times I bump into people I know. other than that I'm really digging the walk to the tribeca studio every morning through the crowded small streets of China town. This city and it's neighborhoods continue to be a never ending source of inspiration and energy for me.

This poster bothers me....

I don't get offended. being offended is for the weak and unsure. but there's something basically wrong with the movie posters covering nyc right now, for the film "Cloverfield". I love disaster flicks as much as the next fella, but this imagery is too reminiscent(and exploitive) of that sept. day that still looms in my, and every other new yorkers mind. those of us who stood on rooftops and witnessed the unthinkable. unclaimed cars and airplane parts, there is still plaster debris wedged into the corners of the studios fire escape. so why does a filmmaker feel the need to depict ground zero in ashes again? this blog says it better than i can. and also, a great article in the New York Times. I don't mind movies that depict the destruction of NYC, it's just that this one happens to use the exact location of the attacks. or maybe i should just chill out and realize that it's only entertainment. The Boston Globe said it best:

“The best thing for New York might be the sight of King Kong tramping through the streets of Manhattan on his way to a fateful appointment at the top of the Empire State Building,” Mr. Page wrote. “For if there is one thing that symbolizes New York’s pre-eminence, it is that so many still want to imagine the city’s end.”

Friday, January 11, 2008

Why Skate Culture is Important...

psmith frontside at the "dept of skateboarding" bowl in PDX, during Platform Animation Festival. Around the time competition screenings were being shown.

The doc "Dogtown and Z-Boys" is a key film to understand why skateboarding is important. Skating has had a major impact on the contemporary world. Overstated? I think I can hear laughter. Culture and skating have been fused since the Z Boys(a group of skaters in the 70's) chose not to follow conventions of a typical sport. They added a rebellious punk aspect that just wasn't there. To them it was a lifestyle, like art or surfing, or rock and roll. Rollerskating didn't have a group like the Z Boys, and look where that ended up.

Every time I go to an animation festival i think about this, i mean, what a bunch of dorks! (gen. speaking of course), talking about pitching, and sponge bob. Why don't animators talk about Sargent, Stravinsky, Keaton or Kubrick, or the stones? This is why I dig animators like Hisko Hulsing and Danny Antonucci, these guys are real artists. Fully engaged in a culture while working incredibly hard to impact art history. These guys, like the Z boys, know whats up, they're just naturally just cool.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

"Delivery" reality in animation...

"This is a wordless and darkly comic piece that turns no action longueurs into the heartbeat of a diabolical comic timing, deftly rendering suspense out of the spaces between movements and expressions."-Animation World Magazine.
If an anvil falls on the head of one of my characters, that character WILL DIE. Furthermore, there will be repercussions of that death, regret, rage, or sadness. So many animated concepts get lost in the "unreal", from talking animals to fairy dust, animation needs a jolt of reality. I've posted my 2003 film "Delivery" HERE to hammer in my point (it's for sale on my site, this is a freebie for you bloggers. it's not even on youtube!). The first version was very graphic when the brother is murdered, lots of blood, and even a dangling spine. I redid it with a somewhat bloodness neck snap, and it became even more twisted and sick than all the blood could have accomplished. "Delivery" premiered at the Slamdance film festival in Park City, 2003, and was a winner at the 2003 ASIFA-East Animation Festival(Association Internationale du Film d' Animation).

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

One of my Favorite Blogs...

Mark Kennedy must have one of the most useful blogs on the internet today (well.. for an animator anyway). I constantly link to it and refer to it when I teach, and I lap up his knowledge of everything from design, to layout, to really anything animation. Mark is a storyboard artist with extensive experience and currently works in Los Angeles. Check his blog out, it's called "Temple of the Seven Golden Camels".

Monday, January 7, 2008

Influence: Mike Smith, Natural Born Killers...

"We ain't gonna murder anybody on our wedding day"

One of my earliest exposures to cool, more independently styled animation was seeing this and other lightning fast clips used in "Natural Born Killers", by Mike Smith. Mike knows a heck of a lot about how to light and color drawn animation, which comes off really well with this twisty "the wall" style clip. But don't blink! it's over really quick.

I was obsessed with this comic oriented sequence for "Tank Girl", but now when I look at it, it doesn't quite hold up, especially if you compare it with the more recent Hewlett designed animation like the Gorillaz. although, i still love the outrageous MTV look to it, and again, the color is fantastic. It's a really solid nice piece of work by Mike Smith.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Secrets from "Illusion of Life" Book.

Not many people have noticed the several pages of notes in that back of "Illusion of Life" book by Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. I've posted them here: page 545, 546, 547, 549, 550 for those freaks out there that don't own at least one copy of that book. they're notes from Ham Luske and Bill Tytla, and can be very helpful. I first read it when i was looking into what Disney guys call the "moving hold", something that's not covered very well in the general text of the book itself, or any other book for that matter. anyway, enjoy. thanks to Anthony the intern for scanning these.

Friday, January 4, 2008

New Year, New Beginnings...

Photo: Patrick at the lighthouse near his home in Montauk on the last day of 2007.

Those of you who know me are probably aware that I've had a tough several months, and it's nothing I want to get into. But, a new year, moving on past a lot of stuff. A few thoughts: Work is the most important thing in life, and some of us seem to be good at doing little else. Art is the language of the soul, and I feel fortunate to call it my purpose. If you combine a purpose for living with dedicated hard work, you truly have the possibility to accomplish something real, so that's how it'll be. Happy 2008 everyone!- Patrick