Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Obscure Namesakes #17

Obscure Namesakes #16

Monday, November 25, 2013

Best of Annecy Program at SVA

As you all know, the Annecy Animation Festival in France is my favorite festival in all the world.  They have the best films, the best audiences and the greatest location.

Well, luckily for you, the artistic director of Annecy, Marcel Jean, will be in New York City to present the Best of the Annecy Festival of 2013.

So if you want to see the coolest animation in the world, come to the SVA theater on Tuesday, November 26 at 6:30 pm.  The theater is located at 333 West 23rd St. in Manhattan.

Bring your friends - and I'll see you there!


Friday, November 22, 2013

Cucalorus Film Festival

In the past, I've always enjoyed having my films shown at the Cucalorus Film Festival.  They've always been fun to talk to and communicate with.  So when they invited me to visit the festival in Wilmington, North Carolina, I thought it would be a fun weekend.  In fact, they promised me a "wild weekend" of sorts.

The problems began when I was picked up at the airport.  The driver handed me a program, and then dumped me at the hotel, with no explanation or guidance.  OK, I figured there must be a welcome bag or orientation packet in my hotel room...

No, nothing.  What to do now?  No one called about what I should do.  OK, maybe I'll run into someone on the street.  (It's a small but historic town on the Cape Fear River.)  Fortunately, I found someone with a badge, and he directed me to the check-in area.  But once I checked in, I was again met with indifference.

Maybe I'm spoiled, but usually when I attend a film festival, people are happy to see me and get very excited.  Here, it was like I was a bum off the street.  Where's the famous Southern hospitality?  There was no orientation or welcome.  Only later, by accident, did I find the filmmakers' lounge.  It was like they were trying to keep it a secret from me.

And then when my screening came up, they weren't sure whether they wanted to introduce me.  What?!  They flew me there, put me up in a hotel, and then didn't want me to talk to the audience?  That's crazy!  Finally, they relented and let me appear on stage. 

I point all this out not to criticize Cucalorus, but as more of a "what not to do" if you're running a film festival.  The films and the filmmakers are the reasons that people come to a festival.  So it really behooves the organizers to show some hospitality to the visiting guests.

I just hope my bad experiences at Cucalorus were unique to me.  Unfortunately I have to give this year's Cucalorus a C-.


                                         The U.S.S. North Carolina, on the Cape Fear river,
                                                          right across from my hotel

Obscure Namesakes #15

Obscure Namesakes #14

Friday, November 15, 2013

Fredrikstad Animation Festival

A number of years ago, Biljana Labovic, my producer at the time, visited the animation festival in Fredrikstad, Norway, and came back raving about the fun she had.  So, when CHEATIN' was invited, I decided to check it out.

In general, I had fun - the audiences were great, with packed houses, and the food was great too.  But the mystery to me was the empty streets.  The cinema was right downtown with all the shops, yet the streets were empty.  Strange.

But there were two highlights for me - the seminars featured some very exciting artists - Benjame Renner, the director of "Ernest and Celestine" gave a fantastic presentation that featured pencil tests, character designs, color models and finished animation.  It was a super show for a super film.

Then, Tomm Moore showed backgrounds and animation from his upcoming feature "The Song of the Sea", and the artwork just blew me away. 

If the story can be half as powerful as the artwork, it's going to be a masterpiece.  His previous feature "The Secret of Kells" was also a brilliant film.  So I look forward to seeing his new feature next year.


Obscure Namesakes #13

Obscure Namesakes #12

Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Good news, we've finally wrapped production on my newest feature film, CHEATIN'.

I know, I've said that before, but this time it's final.  Hollywood filmmakers say you never finish a film, you just give up on it.  And I think that's true - I could work on CHEATIN' for another three years, trying to make it as perfect as possible - but I simply don't have the time or the money, and quite frankly, I'm a little tired of the film.  I want to move on to more exciting projects.

However, if some big distributor buys the film and pays me to make a few changes, I could be persuaded to jump back in there.

So, we're now in the process of entering festivals and trying to pick up distribution.  I really believe this film is something different and unique.  It's the film America is waiting to see.

I'll give you more information and screening dates as they develop.



Friday, November 8, 2013


I just saw the new Disney animated film "Frozen", directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, and I wasn't impressed.  It's loosely taken from the Hans Christian Andersen story "The Snow Queen", but they forgot the story.  I was never really caught up in the characters or the plot.

The problem starts in the beginning of the film, when the youngest daughter of the King and Queen has an accident, brought about by her older sister, who somehow has magic powers with ice.  They're taken to the troll village, which looks suspiciously similar to the bear clearing from "Brave", and there the head troll mentions some kind of magic mumbo-jumbo that the two sisters can never meet until one becomes Queen.

This setup for the story is all based on these troll rules, that I never quite understood.  So, as the film progressed, all their motivations seemed foggy and confused.

Also, the two male suitors for the younger sister, Anna, seemed almost interchangeable, so I was never sure who I was watching.  That problem could easily have been fixed with better character design.

I did, however, enjoy the acting and animation of the two lead female characters, Anna and Elsa.  Their body movements and character designs were enchanting.

People have raved about the backgrounds and settings - however, when compared to the lovely settings of "Tangled" or "How to Train Your Dragon", they fall way short.

Another minus was the insipid music - straight out of Broadway show tunes.  They must now be organizing a lavish Broadway version of this.  But why can't they use more original music, something that's fresh and from the area?

Of course, as a Disney film you must go see it, but all in all, I can only give it a C+.


Obscure Namesakes #11

Obscure Namesakes #10

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kurt Cobain and Jerry Garcia..

More episodes from PBS's Blank on Blank series I've been doing for while now..  We played around with Jerry and threw in some color, still fairly limited stuff, but really fun to draw! Picked up a nice review from Slate, also Rolling stone (for both these episodes).

Kurt Cobain was done a few weeks ago, I forgot to post in on SJ. Enjoy.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Oscar Animated Shorts Screening

One of the benefits of being an Academy member is the power to help select the Oscar-nominated short films, and (along with all of the other members of the animation branch), the eventual winner.

About 20 of the New York and Canadian members met at the Academy's screening room last weekend, to watch 56 Oscar-eligible animated shorts over two days.

It was a great opportunity to catch up with old friends and talk about animation. Of course, when you have 56 films from all over the world, there could be a bunch of duds, but all in all, the quality of the films presented this year was quite high.

Here is my list of the films that I think will be "shortlisted", and thus eligible for the final list of 5 nominated films:

                                       "Subconscious Password", directed by Chris Landreth

                           "Get a Horse" from Disney Studios, directed by Lauren MacMullan

                                                     "Feral", directed by Daniel Souza

                                                     "Gambo", directed by Hiroaki Ando

                                         "Hollow Land", directed by Michelle + Uri Kranot

                                         "Kick-Heart", directed by the great Masaaki Yuasa

                                                     "Pandas", directed by Matus Vitar

                                 "The Blue Umbrella" from Pixar, directed by Saschka Unseld

                             "Mr. Hublot", directed by Laurent Witz and Alexandre Espigares

                                              "The Missing Scarf", directed by Eoin Duffy

Of course, my animated short "Drunker Than a Skunk" is also competing for a nomination, but it's a tough challenge because a lot of these films have million-dollar budgets, and "Drunker" cost me only about $3,000 out of pocket and was made with a ball-point pen.

So, watch the media, we should get the Short List soon.