Saturday, December 13, 2014

Women Animators: Martha Goldman Sigall (1917-2014)


Earlier today, Martha Goldman Sigall passed away of natural causes. There is nothing I could write that would top what her friend and animation historian Jerry Beck has posted on his blog "Animation Scoop". So, I encourage everyone to follow this link and read about her extraordinary life in animation.

I'm truly sorry to see Ms. Sigall leave us. My condolences to her family and friends.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Joanna Quinn named 2013 ASIFA Laureate Recipient

Congratulations to Joanna Quinn for being the 2013 ASIFA Laureate Recipient.

Nancy Denny-Phelps, Joanna Quinn
and Barry Purvis (r to l).
From the ASIFA International webpage:

"Each year ASIFA honours a person who has made a significant contribution to animation over an extended period of time."

According to ASIFA International President Ed Desroches, the award for the previous year is usually presented to the recipient at the Annecy Animation Festival in June, however, this year it was presented at the 2014 Bradford Animation Festival in the United Kingdom. Very appropriate as this particular year, one that saw the posthumous 100th birthday of the U.K.'s Joy Batchelor, the BAF had performed a short poll about the changing expectations on women in animation/gaming. You can see the results in the article "Who leads the way for the modern, adventurous and intelligent animated female characters?" on their website.

You can read more about Joanna's career and the award on the ASIFA International website in an article written by Nancy Denny-Phelps at the following link.

Joanna's website is located at Beryl Productions International Ltd and contains more about Joanna, her husband Les Mills, and their films. Worthy of note is the series of online interviews and articles about Joanna under the "Publications & Press" link. Great information for researchers! ;)

* photo from the ASIFA website.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Bee and Puppycat series premiere on November 6th


Only two more days until the series premiere of "Bee and Puppycat", created by Natasha Allegri. I'll admit, much like "Bravest Warriors", when I first watched the show, I didn't get it. Liked the wit and the character designs, but just didn't get it.

And then I heard Natasha talk about her show at the Toronto Animated Arts Festival International, what it was like to be a show creator, how the Kickstarter campaign surpassed all expectations, and now she's got a series... and I still didn't get it. Eh, had the same problem with "Bravest Warriors" when it came out. So I watched the pilot ten more times.

I still don't get the show, but it really grows on you and, much like the phrase "I am Catbug", I started hearing "you took too long, now your candy's gone... that's what happened" every time I'm standing in the checkout line at the supermarket. So now I'm looking forward to the "Bee and Puppycat" series premiere on Thursday, November 6th at Frederator Studios' Cartoon Hangover YouTube channel.

Now if I can only stop binge watching the previous seasons of "Bravest Warriors" looking for Catbug...

If you haven't seen the pilot yet, watch it below before Thursday!


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Women Animators: Auril Thompson (1917 - 2014)

Auril Thompson
On October 3rd, artist and animator Auril Thompson passed away at the age of 97. As was stated on the Women in Animation Facebook post:

"Her career of over fifty years spanned working in Walter Lantz’s building, at Jay Ward’s studio, at Disney, at MGM and in her own ink and paint studio. She collaborated with notables including John Hubley and Chuck Jones..."

For those who are interested in learning a little more about this extraordinary woman of animation, Soraya Fallah produced a short documentary on her life for World's Women for Life back in 2010.

Part One:


Part Two:


Part Three:

And between IMDB and the Internet Animation Database, a partial filmography of her career can be constructed below:

1963
- The Great Rights

1964
- The Hangman
- William Tell Ink and Paint
- Moby Dick Ink and Paint
- Don Quixote de la Mancha

1965
- Snow White
- Rip Van Winkle Ink and Paint
- Don Quixote de la Mancha
- King Arthur Ink and Paint
- The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo
- Mr. Magoo's Dick Tracy and the Mob
- Mr. Magoo's Rip Van Winkle
- The Man from Button Willo

1970
- The Phantom Tollbooth

1980
- Animalympics

1982
- TRON

1991
- Rover Dangerfield


* Photo of Auril Thompson from Women in Animation Facebook post.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Animated News: Kirsten Lepore interviewed on Skwigly

Kristen Lepore
Just in case you missed it, on March 19th, Laura Beth Cowley interviewed stop-motion animator Kirsten Lepore for Skwigly Online Animation Magazine.

Chock full of information on her process and punctuated by her short films (streamed through Vimeo), this interview is an inspirational resource for animators who are straddling the line between producing personal works of art and commercial art for clients.

Excerpts from the audio interview can be read on the Skwigly website at the following link. And the full audio interview can be heard in the second half of their audio podcast found at the following link. Kristen's interview begins around time marker 48:20 (after a short introduction).

Additionally, you can view more of Kristen's films (both personal and for clients) on her website at www.kristenlepore.com.

* photo from Skwigly Online Magazine article: http://www.skwigly.co.uk/interview-director-animator-kirsten-lepore/.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

"Rocks in my Pockets" Opens in the United States

Signe in Latvia
After a successful showing in her native Lativa, animator Signe Baumane has brought her first feature-length animated film to North America.

Starting today, September 3rd, and running until September 11th, Rocks In My Pockets will be screening at the IFC Center in New York. As a bonus, Signe will be in attendance for each screening and after four of them, Signe will hold an official Q&A session.

For those who would like to see her film, Signe is hosting a page with all of her North American screenings here.

And if you'd like to know more about Signe's film, you can read a review on the NY Times website as well as visit Signe's website for Rocks In My Pockets. Additionally, Tunde Vollenbroek has just posted his review on Cartoon Brew.

The official trailer for Rocks In My Pockets is below.



* image and video copyright Signe Baumane

Monday, August 25, 2014

Women in Animation Summer News Update #1

Well, just because I've been on a break over the Summer festival season doesn't mean that the industry has slowed down any. So, here's a couple news updates over the past couple months that you might have missed.



1. Medusa to be directed by Lauren Faust
Back in June, Sony pictures announced that they will be producing an animated film based on the Greek mythological character "Medusa" and directed by Lauren Faust, the woman who masterminded the relaunch of Hasbro's My Little Pony franchise. More info can be found at the following Animation Magazine article: "SPA Buys ‘Medusa’; Lauren Faust to Direct".


2. Dawn Brown and crew hard at work on House of Monsters: the stop-motion web series
As per the two latest updates from Dawn Brown, they've finished the lab set and are hard at work on the village set. Best of all, they just received a new 3d printer for creating puppets. If you'd like to follow their progress, be sure to like their Facebook page for more updates.

Christina Miller
3. Christina Miller new President and General Manager at Turner Broadcasting
Back on July 16th, Animation Magazine reported that the former SVP for Cartoon Network Enterprises and former SVP of brand licensing for HIT Entertainment is now in charge of Cartoon Network, Adult Swim, and Boomerang. You can read the entire article here.

4. Women In Animation launches mentoring pilot program
This summer, the international organization "Women In Animation" launched a program in the Greater Los Angeles area designed to educate and support women animators in their careers. While the deadline for applicants has passed as of last Friday, if the pilot program is successful, plans are in the works to extend this program in other WIA chapters. More on the program can be read in the following Animation Magazine article: WIA Launches Mentoring Pilot Program.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Animated Thoughts "A History of Women in Animation: Mothers of a Medium"

Recently, an article was published on the Mary Sue by my friend Carrie Tupper regarding the history of women working in the field of animation. In looking at her article, it became very clear that she and I have run across a lot of the same websites and have encountered a lot of the same frustrations on validating information. I agree wholeheartedly about how difficult it is to find reliable information on women animators. The info is out there, but it is spread out among many disparate sources. To that end, I have an entire bookcase dedicated to books, journals, magazines, and binders of printed out internet articles that attest to how scattered this information is--many of the books only have a couple sentences of valuable information. But, getting back to the article, after contacting Carrie, I have some extra information from my own research that others may find edifying and it really illustrates the difficulty in researching this subject.

1. The Lotte Reiniger controversy:
There is some evidence that Argentinian Quirino Cristiani created two earlier feature-length animated films, however, no copies are known to still exist. So without any reliable records to confirm Cristiani's films, for my money Lotte Reiniger still holds the record for the first feature-length animated film ever created or at least the oldest feature-length animated film that we still have copies of. But, as much as we would all like to say that Ms. Reiniger created the first feature-length animated film and put the subject to rest once and for all, the possibility that she was the second cannot be dismissed out of hand just yet. The Quirino Cristiani claims need to be investigated in greater depth before we hand the title to Ms. Reiniger (granted, it's one that I personally hope she receives once all the dust settles).

2. A Picture of Lillian Friedman Astor:
Here's a picture of Ms. Friedman Astor, it's on page 65 of Shamus Culhane's book "Talking Animals and Other People", 1986. After finally tracking down a used copy of this long out-of-print book (thank you Amazon.com), I only found two pages out of 463 that reference Lillian!

Lillian Friedman Astor

3. Kazuko Nakamura
When you look for information on women in the Japanese animation industry, you then have to add the complexity of dealing with a foreign language. This one is pretty minor, but my research indicates that Kazuko Nakamura started at Nichido Studios in 1956 around the time Nichido was bought out and became a subsidiary of Toei Dōga. A minor quibble to be sure, but for a forensic animator like myself, still worthy of further investigation to nail down that fact once and for all.

4. Reiko Okuyama
For those interested in learning more about Reiko Okuyama's career--and what the anime industry was like for her back in the fifties and sixties--I recommend Jonathan Clements' recently published book "Anime: A History", specifically chapters 5 and 7 and the footnotes from chapter 5. There are some really great nuggets of information to be mined from Mr. Clements' research regarding the life and times of Reiko Okuyama. However, if you only want the info on her, I recommend checking out the book from a library instead of buying it outright as Clements' book is 250 pages and only a handful of them reference her directly.

5. Brenda Banks
Carrie's article makes the claim that Brenda Banks was the first female African-American animator--a belief that I held up until recently. After spending months mining for data, I was able to find information that now leads me to believe that the title is currently a three-way tie between Brenda Banks, Jackie Banks, and Dr. Ayoka Chenzira. Using sources that include personal webpages, web forums, IMDB, and the Ralph Bakshi interview, I found dates ranging from the late sixties to the early seventies.

Furthermore, the Ralph Bakshi interview directly contradicts the IMDB entry for Brenda Banks. If IMDB is right, then Brenda may indeed be the first female African American animator. If Bakshi is right, then she may not have been. And then we have to deal with the references that Jackie Banks worked for Bob Clampett as well as Dr. Chenzira's claims to have been experimenting with animation in her personal films back in 1971. So, further research is necessary to break this three-way tie--research that I'm working on, but it's very slow going. And unfortunately, Jackie Banks died back in 1995. So it does raise the complexity of further study. On the bright side, Dr. Chenzira is still teaching at Spelman College and I have a lead on where Brenda Banks is currently residing, so hopefully, the answer to who was the first female African-American animator will be conclusively determined in the future.

And one minor issue:
The article as written, ah, well Carrie's ironic sense of humor comes through and adds a tone that may come off as a little divisive to people who don't know her. At the last Ottawa International Animation Festival, I had the privilege of sharing a wonderful dinner with Carrie (and her husband Alan). They're both very warm, funny, and welcoming so I hope that her injections of sarcasm here and there do not diminish the credibility that her work has as a scholarly article. The industry as a whole needs more people with an interest in collecting and disseminating this information.

My personal belief is that it's extremely important to share how difficult it was for women working in the field of animation, especially back during the "golden age" (and in many cases still today). This fact is driven home when you sift through volumes of data written by authors who may not have known or even cared to write about what struggles women faced when starting out in this industry, or chose to gloss over the facts or give them a 'boys will be boys' spin on things. It's very easy find yourself wondering if things are actually getting any better (see Carrie's next article for more on that question). So at times like this, I like to keep in mind a quote from Rita Street about why she opened up WiA's membership to men:

"To help break the glass ceiling in animation for female artists, we would embrace the opposite sex and prove that together we could rise above issues of gender, race and handicaps."
'Women In Animation: Changing the World: Person by Person, Cel by Cel' by Rita Street
Animation World Network Magazine 1.2, May 1996
(emphasis mine)

The History of Women in Animation is a tough subject to discuss due in no large part to the passionate nature of the issues that are raised especially when compounded by the dearth of reliable information--and it holds within itself the potential to be very divisive. Carrie did a great service to the topic by posting parts of both the infamous Disney rejection letter as well as the direct quote from one of Walt's speeches at the beginning of her article showing that history is never as clear cut as we would like it to be.

All in all, the article is an excellent starting point for further research on the subject--especially for students. I agree completely with Carrie when she stated that women animators need to step forward and take credit for their triumphs (it would definitely make my research into the topic easier *grin*). Having had the opportunity to read a preview copy of Carrie's next article (and add a little information of my own) where she discusses more contemporary female animators, I can say that you're all in for a real treat!

And if you have the chance, while waiting for her next article to go live, check out Carrie and Alan's personal animation project: Kamikaze.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Animated Updates: "Rocks In My Pockets"


This morning on Facebook, Signe Baumane announced that her first (but hopefully not last) feature-length animated film Rocks In My Pockets will have it's world premiere at the 49th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival. Rocks In My Pockets will be shown at the festival on Monday July 7th, 2014, at 8:00 p.m. in the Grand Hall. Her film also has the distinction of being the first ever animated feature film shown at the Karlovy Vary festival.



UPDATE 06/04/2014: Signe just announced on Facebook that New Europe Film Sales has picked up Rocks In My Pockets for distribution outside the North American market.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Animated Stories: Lynn Ferguson - the Moth Radio Hour

Lynn Ferguson and 'Mac' the chicken*

So back in September 2013, Lynn Ferguson gave a talk for the Moth Radio Hour and it was just added to their website last week. In this particular talk, Lynn relates a story about her experience of getting pregnant for the first time at the age of 37. What does this have to do with animation? Well, once you hear that rich scots burr, you'll recognize Lynn as the voice of brainy, bespectacled chicken 'Mac' from Aardman Animations' film "Chicken Run". Hers is not a story about animation per se, but it's a great story nonetheless told by a master storyteller and performer.

Lynn Ferguson's talk can be heard at the following link: http://themoth.org/posts/stories/before-Fergus.

*images are from Lynn Ferguson's website and Aardman Animation's website and are copyright their respective authors.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Animated News: Joy Batchelor at the Barbican

So back on April 13th, the Barbican Art Centre held a event on the career of Joy Batchelor as part of the Bird's Eye Festival.

The event "Joy Batchelor - An Animated Life" apparently showcased clips from films that Joy had a hand in during her time as the co-owner of the British animation studio 'Halas and Batchelor', followed by a panel discussion.

Well, Joy's daughter Vivien Halas has recently released two videos on her YouTube channel from this event. The first is a two minute introduction to the screening and the second is the almost hour-long panel discussion of Joy's career and influence featuring Brian Sibley, Clare Kitson, Jes Stewart and Vivien Halas--all contributors to the book "A Moving Image".

The introduction is below, and the panel discussion follows.





During this event, they released the book on Joy Batchelor's life and career titled: "A Moving Image - Joy Batchelor 1914-91 - Artist, Writer and Animator".


I recently bought my copy via Amazon for $25.23, which included the cost of shipping the book overseas. Amazon apparently doesn't have these in stock here in the USA, however they're being sold from a third-party seller in the UK. I can attest to the fact that the price was more than fair, the packaging excellent, and the shipping time was very fast (from the UK to Michigan).

While I've only just started reading it, I can state that it's a lovely book with a clean, easy-to-read presentation of Joy's history filled with her illustrations and pictures from her animations. The book is basically a collection of six essays written by six different authors--including Vivien Halas--that cover Joy's life and times. I'm not finished devouring this book yet, so I'd rather not go into too much detail, but suffice it to say, one of the things that I really appreciate is that on pages 80 to 84, Vivien has included a filmography/spreadsheet of Joy's body of work that details what role she played on each film production.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Animated News: Joy Batchelor's 100th Birthday

Joy Batchelor
100 years ago today, on May 12, 1914, Joy Batchelor was born. To commemorate this event, Skwigly Online Magazine has put together a wonderful article that collects photos of Joy, some shorts that she produced, a list of screenings of Joy's work, a link to the new 'A Moving Image: Joy Batchelor' book, and a short film produced by her daughter Vivian Halas and London Animation Club member Martin Pickles.

The video, 'Ode to Joy', is only four minutes long, but is a fantastic introduction to Joy's career in animation.

You can find the article here on their website:
http://www.skwigly.co.uk/happy-100th-birthday-joy-batchelor-ode-joy/

If you have a chance, it's well worth a look.



* photo from BFI website:
http://www.bfi.org.uk/news-opinion/news-bfi/features/born-1914-seven-great-filmmakers

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Animated Events: Women in Animation "the Game Show" panel

Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to speak to a room of sixteen girls and eight guys about the history of women working in the field of animation.

Every year, I attend Shuto Con, the anime and Japanese culture convention here in Lansing, Michigan. Usually when I'm not spending money in the dealer room, I drift from lecture to lecture learning new tips and tricks about digital art, exploring some facet of Japanese culture, trying out new anime shows, or just having a good time photographing any ingenious cosplayers that catch my eye.

However, as I had been encouraged to speak at previous cons by the owner, this year I decided to toss my hat into the ring with a topic that I've been researching for several years: the history of women working in the field of animation.

I'm very fortunate that the con organizers are flexible regarding what seminar topics they allow people to speak on. They don't stick to a strict 'Japan only' philosophy as the resulting variety helps distinguish them from the other anime cons--both large and small--that are here in Michigan.

Shortly after the seminar topic was proposed to and accepted by the convention, I put out some feelers on their Facebook page to get a sense of how well an event like this would be received. Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised by the number of girls (and guys) who responded positively. Two short months later found me standing in front of a group of people eager to learn.


In order to liven up what could have been a very dry lecture, I decided to go with a game show format. The audience was asked three questions about a woman animator (both historical and contemporary), her career, and/or elements of work she was involved in that made it into popular culture. At the end of each animator's section, I'd recite two or three quick sentences about the animator that expounded upon the information presented in the questions.


In order to encourage audience participation, I relied upon advice from my mother when she said: 'chocolate is the great motivator!' People who answered questions correctly received a snack-sized Hershey bar as their prize. And people who answered questions incorrectly received a fireball jawbreaker. In reality, I just wanted to remove the stigma of being wrong and encourage everyone to participate and take a chance on answering a question even if they weren't sure that it was the correct answer.

The awesome people who showed up to learn about women in animation!

When asked about the projected attendance numbers for this event, I gave a very optimistic 'twenty to thirty' people, figuring that I'd probably only have ten or twelve people showing up, including my four friends who would be there just to support me. I was very pleasantly surprised when an additional twenty people showed up and I received messages from a couple girls who said they wanted to attend but couldn't due to scheduling issues.

The seminar only lasted forty-five minutes (not including five minutes for Q&A), but I was able to cover twenty-five animators and touch on some notable elements of their careers and background. And when the lecture was over, eighteen of the attendees stuck around to watch a screening of animated short films that were either produced by women animators or had women animators working on the films--like Lillian Friedman Astor, the first woman to work as an animator for an East Coast studio or Lynn Dana Wilton's cut-out animation "(re)Cycle".

This being my first time presenting this lecture, it went over far better than I had hoped. And as I have been gathering copious amounts of information on women animators, you can be sure that I'll be shuffling the line-up and proposing this panel for next year's con.

Oh, and for those who attended, the following are the questions that were raised in the panel for which I did not have immediate answers for:

1. Will Vinton, spells his name with two letter l's not one (source: http://willvinton.net/).

2. Magic Boy (Japanese title: Shônen Sarutobi Sasuke) was produced in 1959 by Tōei Dōga (not Mushi Pro) and released in Japan. It was re-released in 1961 by MGM in the United States (source: http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/early-anime-features-1958-1960).

3. The longest running television animation series in history is Sazae-san ("Mrs. Sazae"). Sazae-san has been running continuously for over 43 years. According to animation historian Fred Patten, this translates into "more than 2,300 half-hour shows (shows are split into three segments so there are over 6800 shorts made)." (source: http://cartoonresearch.com/index.php/the-longest-running-tv-cartoon-ever/).

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Animated Events: Women in Stop Motion Animation


If you're in New York this week, on Tuesday night at 7 p.m., ASIFA East and the School of Visual Arts will be hosting a panel discussion on 'Women in Stop Motion Animation.'

From the ASIFA East Facebook event:

"ASIFA-East presents a panel discussion with 6 innovative artists in the field of stop motion. Our guests include

Lisa Barnstone (“Celebrity Deathmath”),
Noella Borie (“The Face Shop”),
Alba E Garcia-Rivas (“Time/Space Reflections”),
Samantha Gurry (independent),
Liesje Kraai (“They Might Be Giants”), and
Alisa Stern (“Dr. Puppet”).

The panel will be moderated by Careese Singh (CBS College Sports Network) and has been organized by Robert Lyons (Media Arts Prof. at Univ. of Arts, PA).

Each artist will give a little presentation on their work, and there will be plenty of time for questions. Join us for an unique opportunity to learn more about the challenges women might face in the workplace, and to learn about the secret magic of stop-motion. 4/22 SVA Rm 502 7pm"

This event is located in Room 502 at the School of Visual Arts
209 East 23rd Street
New York, New York 10010

More information can be found on the ASIFA East website at: http://www.asifaeast.com/asifa-east-presents-women-in-stop-motion/. And if you're planning on being there, feel free to RSVP on their Facebook event page.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Kickstarter Project: "House of Monsters" update #2

With five hours to spare, Dawn Brown has made her Kickstarter goal!! House of Monsters will receive the $20,000 that it needs to produce their stop-motion web series!!

Thank you to everyone out there who took the time (and money) to support this animation project.

Kickstarter Project: "House of Monsters" update



It's the last day of Dawn Brown's "House of Monsters" web series Kickstarter campaign and she's only $1916 away from meeting her $20,000 goal to bring this series to life! I've upped my pledge amount to the $25 level in order to help Dawn meet her goal. If you're as interested as I am in helping women animators tell their stories, please consider making a pledge if you haven't already or upping your pledge if you can. Every little bit helps, even $1. If we all work together, we can help bring original content produced by women animators to the screen.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Animated News: Joy Batchelor - 'A Moving Image'

On April 7th, Cartoon Brew published an article about the Barbicon art centre's event focusing on the career of Joy Batchelor that happens on Sunday, April 13th as part of the Bird's Eye Festival.

Now most of us who live across the pond will miss out on this celebration of the woman who co-founded one of the largest animation studios in Great Britain (Halas and Batchelor). But fortunately, a new book about Joy Batchelor will be published on May 15th, 2014 titled: "A Moving Image: Joy Batchelor 1914-1991: Artist, Writer and Animator".


While attendees of this event will have the opportunity to purchase advance copies, the rest of us will have to wait until after May 15th to get ours. Currently, Amazon UK is accepting pre-orders and it appears that Amazon US may be taking pre-orders after April 17th, if I'm reading their website correctly.

Co-authored by Vivian Halas (Joy and John's daughter), this book clocks in at 100 pages and is priced at a very reasonable 20 pounds (approximately $33.50 USD), the book can be pre-ordered via the following links: Amazon UK or Amazon US.

The description of this book on the Amazon UK website is as follows:

"Joy Batchelor, Britain's most important woman in animation history, this celebrates her work, her life and her legacy. Her forty year career as first an animator, then, writer, producer, director and joint creative head at what was one of the biggest animation studios in Western Europe, has never been matched. Joy Batchelor was also a teacher and an internationally recognised authority on the global animation scene.

'Halas and Batchelor gave us all the lead. In our early days at Aardman we could only dream of aspiring to their stature. In their heyday, the studio was renowned for innovation and creative ambition, always experimenting with technique, form and style. At the heart of the company, Joy Batchelor's writing, direction and design, especially on Animal Farm, has earned her status as one of the true pioneers of British animation.' - Peter Lord Aardman Animation

'Joy Batchelor was one half of the celebrated/famous animation studio, Halas and Batchelor, responsible for over forty years of ground breaking animated films, including the first British cartoon feature, Animal Farm. This is the story of the life and work of one of animation's unsung heroines.' - Brian Sibley Author, broadcaster and film critic."

So keep your eyes open for this one and check the Amazon US link on (or after) April 17th unless you don't mind paying for the overseas shipping.

Additionally, "Halas & Batchelor Cartoons: An Animated History" also co-authored by Vivian Halas is still available on Amazon (both UK and US).


And lastly, Skwigly Online Magazine has an interview with Vivian Halas in their latest podcast where she discusses the history of the Halas & Batchelor animation studio. The podcast (#20 released on 3/31/2014) is accessible via iTunes or on their website. The Halas & Batchelor section starts around the 1:41:38 mark.

So if you're interested in the history of UK animation and specifically that of this very talented woman animator and businesswoman, consider adding the two books listed above to your collection.

Special thanks to Neil Emmett of Cartoon Brew for bringing this book to my attention.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Kickstarter Project: "House of Monsters"

Here's another chance to support a woman filmmaker who's bringing a personal project to life outside of the studio system. Back in 2012, Dawn Brown created a stop-motion film in the spirit of Rankin/Bass called "House of Monsters" which proved itself as a real crowd pleaser in the festival circuit. Well, now she's back with plans for a whole webseries and you can help bring this project to life.


If you've read any of my posts and interviews over the years, you know how exciting it is to see another woman animator take the bull by the horns by starting her own production company, then forging ahead on her own projects--bringing her own unique voice and vision to the screen!

A concept artist for such projects as "Pirates of the Caribbean" and "Avatar the Last Airbender" with a career spanning twenty years, Dawn founded 'the Monster Shop' to create her original short and has now set up a Kickstarter page to promote her web series. As of this post, she's half-way to her goal of $20,000 with has 21 days left to go.

One of the cool things that Dawn has set up in her rewards is posting production updates. So, for a minimum donation of $1, you can get a sneak peek into her production process as she creates her web series. Already on the Kickstarter page is a video showing how she creates a head for one of her stop-motion puppets. While not a production class in and of itself (nor is it meant to be), there's always something to be learned by observing how other filmmakers plan and produce their films.

For a modest $10 pledge, you can get a (physical) skeleton key along with a code for the first episode's digital download--including all the production updates. However, there are currently 16 levels of pledge support left that provide more rewards for those who would like to contribute to this project. Among them are t-shirts, art prints, and a faux bronze maquette, all the way to your very own stop-motion puppet made in your likeness (if you so choose).

I encourage everyone to view the video above to see the details about Dawn's project, if you haven't already, and then visit her Kickstarter campaign page for samples of her artwork.

If it strikes a chord with you, please consider making a pledge and support this talented woman in animation.


And if you need a little help deciding at what level you'd like to support this project, check out her original House of Monsters short below.


* All Images and videos used in this post are copyright Dawn Brown and used with permission.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Animated News: Lauren MacMullan and Dorothy McKim interviewed

Lauren MacMullan and Eric Goldberg
OIAF 2013
Just in case you missed it, Disney has posted an interview with "Get A Horse" animated short creators Lauren MacMullan, Dorothy McKim, Eric Goldberg, and Adam Green on the Disney Insider blog earlier this month.

Clocking in at almost four minutes long, among other things, the video discusses the challenges of editing Walt's dialog from previous recordings or 2D and 3D animation crews working together to make the two different visual sequences mesh seamlessly.

The video can be viewed at the following link: http://blogs.disney.com/insider/articles/2014/02/25/meet-the-creators-of-get-a-horse/.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Animated Events: WiA Directors Panel

It's a good weekend for panel discussions.

On Sunday night, March 9th, Women in Animation will be hosting a panel of woman Directors followed by a selection of animated shorts.

Panel attendees will be:


The panel will be held at:

The Cinefamily
611 N. Fairfax Ave.
Los Angeles, CA

The panel starts at 7 p.m. with seating starting at 6:30 p.m.

This event is open to the public. Tickets are:
 $12 for the public,
 $8 for WIA Members,
 and free for Cinefamily members.

Tickets can be obtained through the Cinefamily website at the following link.

More information on this panel (including the list of films shown) can be found at the following sites:

Women in Animation

Animation Magazine

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Animated Events: Women in Animation panel at the Fusion Film Festival

Sorry about the late notice, but I was just informed by NY animator Candy Kugel that on Friday, March 7th at New York University, the Fusion Film Festival will be hosting a panel discussion on Women in Animation.

What: Women in Animation panel discussion and screening
When: Friday, March 7th at 7 p.m.
Where: NYU Tisch, Theater 006
             New York University

Speakers in attendance will be:

  • DEBRA SOLOMON (animator and producer, creator of The Lizzie McGuire Movie)
  • CANDY KUGEL (Emmy Award winning designer, director, and principal producer of TV specials and commercials at Buzzco Associates)
  • DENISE ROTTINA (production manager, Blue Sky Studios)
  • JENNIFER OXLEY (co-creator of PBS’s Peg + Cat, former creative director of Nick Jr.’s The Wonder Pets, and an NYU Animation alum)1
The event is free and open to the public, however, seating is limited and provided on a first-come, first-seated basis. So you're going to attend this panel discussion--and I hope you do--be sure to arrive early in order to get a seat.

Additional information and directions can be found on their website at: www.fusionfilmfestival.com/events/ and www.fusionfilmfestival.com/contact/.

Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend as I'm in Michigan, so if any of you attend, please feel free to send an e-mail and let everyone know how the event was.

1. Source for info and image: Fusion Film Festival website - http://www.fusionfilmfestival.com/events/

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Animated News: Brenda Chapman and TED

Brenda Chapman at the Annie Awards
On February 8th, as part of the TED series of lectures, writer and director Brenda Chapman talked about her career, the portrayal of women in Disney/Pixar animated films, and how their roles, character development, and life goals have changed over the years--due in no small part to her involvement in the storytelling process.


(Special thanks to Jerry Beck's Animation Scoop)

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Animated News: Nancy Beiman on NPR

Nancy Beiman (source: LinkedIn)
Working off of the Vanity Fair article on a group of graduates from CalArts' animation program in the 1970's--which included such notable animators as Tim Burton, Brad Bird, John Lasseter, and Disney's first female animation supervisor: Nancy Beiman--on Sunday, February 16th, National Public Radio posted an interview with Ms.Beiman on their website.

You can read the transcript on their website, however I highly encourage readers to listen to the entire interview with Ms. Beiman by either streaming audio or downloading the audio file off of the same page. During the interview, Ms. Beiman provides some insights on what it was like to be one of the few women studying to be an animator at CalArts at that time.

While only five-and-a-half minutes long, Ms. Beiman's interview is worth listening to for any girl who in interested in pursuing a career in animation. Starting at time marker 1:50, she discusses not just some of the male-centric humor she endured with grace (and countering with humor of her own), but also the hard work involved in learning the trade of animation with some notes on what she did to succeed in her field.

Ms. Beiman has published two books: "Prepare to Board: Creating Story and Characters for Animated Features and Shorts" (now in its second edition), and "Animated Performance: Bringing Imaginary Animal, Human and Fantasy Characters to Life". While I haven't yet read "Animated Performance", in my not-so-humble opinion, "Prepare to Board' is a must-read for any serious animation student.

For those who only wish to listen to the NPR interview, I've embedded NPR's Media Player below.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Animated Updates: Rocks in my Pockets

For those waiting patiently for Signe Baumane to release her film 'Rocks in my Pockets', according to Signe's last update, she finished the theatrical trailer and is looking to premiere her film in Spring 2014.

Signe and I in Toronto where she showed
the first clip from her film 'Rocks in my Pockets'

For those who don't know what her film is about, Signe has posted the following description on her brand new website:

'"Rocks In My Pockets" is a story of mystery and redemption. The film is based on true events involving the women of my family, including myself, and our battles with madness. It raises questions of how much family genetics determine who we are and if it is possible to outsmart one's own DNA.'

She has also released the theatrical trailer on YouTube, which you can view below:



Additionally, on her website, Signe has started to introduce her characters and their stories. The first short video is "Anna" and can be viewed on her website's main page under the trailer.

Then, over on the 'Meet Signe' page, Signe has posted an introductory video where she talks about her motivations for researching her family history and eventually making 'Rocks in my Pockets". While watching this video, take a close look at the set that Signe is standing on. In it, you can see that the backgrounds for her film are all these miniature paper mache sets over which she has composited her hand-drawn character animations.

Probably the most interesting section for me, and any of you who love to know the nuts-and-bolts of creating an animated film, is the 'Process' page where Signe shows how she made her film.

Signe Baumane has joined a rare group of women animators, including Lotte Reiniger and Nina Paley, who have created their own feature-length animated films. So if you'd like to receive updates on the progress of her film as it nears distribution, I recommend signing up to be on her e-mailing list, which can be found at the top of her website.

And don't forget, I interviewed Signe in 2013 for my yearly series on International Women's Month. You can read that interview on this website at the following link.

Spring can't arrive soon enough!

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Animated News: Michaela Pavlátová interviewed on Skwigly

Michaela Pavlátová
Near the end of January, Skwigly Online Magazine posted animator Laura-Beth Cowley's interview with Michaela Pavlátová. Ms. Pavlátová is the director/animator of animated short films like "Carnival of Animals" and most recently the award winning "Tram", her bawdy tale of fantasy and romance on a street car. The interview can be found on the Skwigly website at the following link.

Additionally, Skwigly interviewed Ms. Pavlátová back in November at the Bradford Animation Festival and posted a mini-podcast of that interview on their website at the following link.

Ms. Michaela Pavlátová has posted trailers to the rest of her animations on her website, and you can see the trailer she created for "Tram" below.



Please Note: as some of Ms. Pavlátová's films contain some adult imagery, some of the videos and pictures on her website (including the trailer above) may be NSFW.

* image used from Michaela Pavlátová entry in Wikipedia.org

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Animated News: Joanna Quinn video interview on Skwigly!

On December 20th, Skwigly Online Animation Magazine posted a video interview with Joanna Quinn where she discussed how she created the Bradford Animation Festival trailer.



Additionally, in their article, Skwigly linked to a podcast interview that they did with Ms. Quinn at BAF back in November.

The video and audio interviews can be found on the Skwigly website at the following link and you can see the trailer she created for BAF right here.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Animated Events: Women in Animation NYC at the Kidscreen Summit

If you're going to be in New York city for the Kidscreen Summit, be sure to save an evening for the Women in Animation networking party.

Details from their e-mail is as follows:


Women In Animation NYC Proudly Hosts
February 2014 Networking Party
During Kidscreen Summit in New York City

Join Women In Animation (WIA) on February 11th to learn more about our organization and to meet notable animation industry producers, directors and executives, as well as network with friends old and new. WIA will provide food and a cash bar will be available.

The first 100 guests to arrive will receive a copy of Dr. Seuss’s The Cat in the Hat Hurray It’s Valentine’s Day DVD, courtesy of NCircle Entertainment, and guests will have the opportunity to participate in a raffle with special prizes, including a private tour for two of The Jim Henson Company’s New York-based studio. Animation Magazine is generously donating a digital subscription to everyone in attendance.

Thank you to WIA’s supportive event sponsors: Shotgun Software, ToonBoom, The Jim Henson Company, NCircle Entertainment! and Animation Magazine.

Where: Iguana, 240 West 54th Street
       (Between 8th Ave and Broadway)
When: Tuesday February 11th from 6:30pm to 9:30pm

All are welcome! Men and women alike!

Please RSVP by February 7, 2014 at http://whoozin.com/WUU-MMW-XXYW.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Animator's Showcase: Corrie Francis Parks

Corrie Francis Parks
Following in the footsteps of the first sand animator, Caroline Leaf, but not afraid to make the technique her own through the integration of modern technology, Corrie Francis Parks has created a sand animation called "A Tangled Tale". Having made its way through the festival circuit which includes the Annecy International Animation Festival--the largest and oldest animation festival in the world--her award winning film is now available for viewing on the Internet.

I had the opportunity to chat with Corrie via e-mail a month ago about her experiences in animation and her game-changing film that blends digital and traditional tools: 'A Tangled Tale'.

Q: How much does experimentation with different media factor into your filmmaking? Put another way, do you find yourself coming up with an idea and then figuring out how to do it using sand animation, or do you just start with a blank pane of glass, a handful of sand, and then play while waiting for the happy accidents to teach you something new that you can integrate into your filmmaking process?

A: When I was first starting out with sand, I did a lot of experimenting. I would spend hours trying out different methods of shaping sand and figuring out how to make it move. My first sand film, "Tracks" came directly out of these experiments. The animals seemed to break free of the amorphous piles of sand and just want to run all over. So I definitely built "Tracks" up from the happy accidents I discovered during that time.

Now that I have worked a lot with sand, it sometimes work the other way. Having an idea in mind gives me a starting point for further experimentation. In some of my recent commissioned works, I have made it a goal to incorporate sand somehow, even though the concept may not necessarily make that the obvious choice of technique. This sort of puts me back at that initial stage of exploration again, and that's how I can push the technique further.

My goal at the moment is to play with different types of "sandy" materials. I have a sculptor friend who gave me a bag of his leftover marble dust from all his polishing, and a student gave me a jar of sand from Lake Michigan. I tried animating sugar in one workshop, because we didn't have any sand available, and it gave me a plethora of new ideas. So I never am very far from experimenting with materials.

Q: When you made the decision to work with sand animation, were you influenced by the works of silhouette artists like Lotte Reiniger or sand animators like Caroline Leaf--or even more experimental animators like Claire Parker and Alexandre Alexeïeff (pinscreen animation)?

A: Caroline Leaf's work has been a huge influence. When I was in high school I went to a summer animation camp (CSSSA) at CalArts and at the time, my head was only full of Disney characters. The films they showed us absolutely blew my mind. Norman McLaren, Ishu Patel, Frederick Back and of course, Caroline Leaf. Her work taught me to think of materials as part of the story - that they are intimately connected and as visually powerful as the drawings that serve as their foundation. I have had professors both in undergrad and grad school that have encouraged me to play with a lot of techniques, which cultivated an experimental way of thinking. Each of my films from that era has a different look - and only one of them is sand. When you are in school you don't have the luxury of spending an insane amount of time working with a particular material because you have deadlines and parameters for your work. Now that I have been working with sand for several years I can see its potential both as a stand-alone technique and in combination with other techniques. To borrow a phrase from another animator friend, "A Tangled Tale" is definitely a "research film" in my mind. I still feel like I have a long way to go before I consider myself a master of sand animation and I look to those early experimental animators as inspiration to keep pushing the boundaries further.


A Tangled Tale from corrie francis parks on Vimeo.

Q: Sand animation carries restrictions, much like any 2d medium--most notably a lack of three-dimensionality in scenes as well as characters who are locked into silhouette. Do you find that these restrictions limit you as a filmmaker or does it help your focus on what's really important in your story? Do you ever find yourself thinking 'arrgh, I could do this really cool scene if only I was using cel animation instead of sand?'

A: Well, the main thing I catch myself thinking is "I could do this so much faster if I was drawing!" I don't mind the flatness of sand - I tend to think that way when I do drawn animation as well - crazy perspective shots were never my style. The limitations make me pay much more attention to the texture of the sand and the fluidity of its movement. I am a big proponent of limitations in my working methods. If I find myself struggling with something in an art project, I will create a set of rules to follow - like limiting my color palette or using only one type of brush - so I think the limitations of sand are an asset for me.

In A Tangled Tale, I was really struggling with how to create a dimensional feeling to the water without making the environment feel too CG. Most of the camera movements are along that 2D plane until the climactic scene at the end where the perspective shifts mid-shot. That was a very intentional moment which visually reinforces what's going on in the story.

Q: You funded your film through a variety of sources: grants, donations, Kickstarter, etc. How has crowdfunding changed the way you go about financing your films?

A: It has made it possible for me to make films that are at a professional level. Since I work as a freelancer, I strongly believe that trained, skilled artists should get paid a fair market rate for their work. Anything that I would want for myself, I want to offer to my team. I don't think I would have made this film without Kickstarter because I would not have felt right asking people to donate their time. Some people did without me asking and others offered me reduced rates because they believed in the project and that was amazing, but it was their impetus not pressure from me and that is what makes the film feel so polished and professional. The effect snowballs because when there are so many people invested in it, I make a better film and when the film is great, other people want to jump on board. The Montana Film Office gave me a very nice travel grant to take the film to festivals and other festivals have noticed it and wanted to promote it.

Q: From the perspective of a woman animator, what do you think is the most important thing that authority figures (parents/teachers/professors) can do to encourage girls who are considering a career in animation?

A: I wish someone had made me sit down and learn a basics of how business and accounting works! This is probably NOT what any young animator wants to hear from their parents/teachers/professors. I certainly didn't listen to mine when they gave me good advice. The animation industry is changing. A lot of the work is moving to small, boutique studios as the big studios ship out overseas. So having some good business sense will be important whether you are going to start your own studio or work at someone else's. When I was in college, I interned at a small studio in New York and I was sure I would never want the stress of running my own business. Yet here I am, balancing budgets and pitching to clients in between the actual moments I'm animating. Having those skills is what enables me to do the work I really want to do - playing in the sandbox!

*  *  *

Readers interested in the nuts-and-bolts of Corrie's animation process will enjoy viewing the following video. Corrie has posted a 'Making of' video that she recorded over the span of producing 'A Tangled Tale'.


Making Of - A Tangled Tale from corrie francis parks on Vimeo.

Another of Corrie's animations that showcases her sand animation technique is "Snow", an animated Christmas card that she produced.



Corrie's website and blog are located at: www.corriefrancis.com and corriefrancis.blogspot.com respectively. She has created a website for her film "A Tangled Tale" located at: www.atangledtalefilm.com. And you can follow her on Twitter at: @CorrieFrancis (https://twitter.com/CorrieFrancis)

You can view other animations that Corrie has produced throughout her career on her YouTube channel. Additionally, you can purchase copies of "A Tangled Tale" on DVD, which includes the making of video as well as several of Corrie's other sand animated films. Her webstore is located at: atangledtale.bigcartel.com.

Lastly, Corrie just published a short piece on "animationstudies 2.0", the official blog for the Society for Animation Studies, where she presents her film and discusses her filmmaking process. You can read it here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Animated Events: WiA's Meet the creators of Disney's Frozen

If you're in the Burbank, California area tomorrow night, Women in Animation has put together a special program for its members entitled "Frozen: An Evening With the Filmmakers".

According to Animation Magazine:

"Moderated by Walt Disney Animation Studio’s head of creative affairs Maggie Malone and featuring the movie’s filmmakers, including director Jennifer Lee; assistant art director Lisa Keene; animation supe Becky Bresee; look supervisor Michelle Robinson, production supervisor Jessica Julius; associate producer Aimee Scribner; and visual development artist Brittney Lee."

The whole article can be read here.

Seating is limited and is only open to WiA members so if you're not currently a member of Women in Animation, you still have a short time to join and receive your invitation to this event. You can join WiA online at their website: www.womeninanimation.org.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Animated News: Walt Disney Speech Controversy

Walt Disney
I first heard about the anti-Disney comments made by Meryl Streep when an article by Animation Magazine showed up in my e-mail's inbox the other day. At this point, I'm sure we've all heard about Meryl Streep's speech at the National Board of Review gala last Tuesday where she made some remarks about Walt Disney being a misogynist and an anti-Semite. If you haven't, go ahead and check out the Animation Magazine article for a quick summary--I'll wait.

Now rather than immediately react based upon excerpts from a speech and a blog post, I recommend first reading what she said at the event. After looking around on the Internet, I believe her speech is presented in its entirety on this Vanity Fair website article.

Next, the following are two rebuttal articles, the first from Floyd Norman, an African-American man who worked for, and knew, Walt Disney personally; the second is a point-by-point, "fact-checking" article from Amid Amidi, the owner/editor-in-chief of Cartoon Brew who, according to him, is the "family-approved biographer of Ward Kimball". You can read Mr. Norman's article here, and Mr. Amidi's article here.

Reading through the comments on this issue, there's a lot of vitriol being thrown about between the two camps. Personally, I carry very strong opinions on a great number of subjects and this one is no different, so it would be very easy of me to jump on the bandwagon and make a statement on what was said at the event--as well as what was written in the two rebuttal articles. However, I don't want to influence anyone's opinion either way on this subject. Rather, it is my hope that instead of getting caught up in the maelstrom of personal and public opinion, everyone would first read Ms. Streep's speech then read the rebuttal articles linked to in this blog post. Once you've done so, use them as a springboard to do your own research into the issues raised and come to your own conclusions regarding the validity (or lack thereof) of Ms. Streep's statements about Walt Disney.

No matter who you agree with, freedom of thought is the only real freedom we have. So do your homework and then, to paraphrase 'Brian', "think for yourselves!"

* image from Wikipedia entry on Walt Disney.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Animated News: Frozen earns over $600M in the box office


Anna and Elsa
According to Animation Magazine, this weekend Disney's 'Frozen' brought it's worldwide take to $639.9 million. As reported by Ramin Zahed, directed by Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, 'Frozen' is now the second most successful Disney animated film--second only to the 'Lion King'. You can read his article here on the Animation Magazine website. If you haven't seen it yet, take a look a the trailer below to see a glimpse of what you're missing.



And then follow it up with my favorite sequence from 'Frozen'.



I'll be honest, I really don't like musicals so whenever characters start singing in animated films, my teeth start to grind, but this sequence was just spectacular! Mandy Moore set a really high bar with some of her songs in 'Tangled', but Idina Menzel is well on her way to making "Let It Go" one of those iconic Disney songs.

 
* image linked to from Animation Magazine's article:
"'Frozen' Takes Top Spot, Hits $600 Million Mark", January 5, 2014.
http://www.animationmagazine.net/features/frozen-takes-top-spot-hits-600-million-mark/