venerdì 28 agosto 2015

Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit! A nostalgic tribute

Remember He-Man and the Master of the Universe? Or Thunder, Thunder, Thunder...Thundercats! And of course you remember G.I. Joe and the first Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series... They all had that distinctive 80's design, cool lightnings, blazing cars, amazing acrobatics, futuristic sound effects and enviroments, unlikely animal heroes or incredible gunmen who saved the day against evil warlords.

And what about Super Atomic Ninja Rabbit? Remember that show? NO? Come on... Armored rabbits? Tactitian frog? the fox with the cybernetic arm?

On March 10th 2015 a video surfaced on youtube, posted by Mr.GeekyGod and it looked like a cartoon ripped from the TV through the VHS: the intro boasted an awesome title: listen to this: SUPER TURBO ATOMIC NINJA RABBIT. Mr.GeekyGod asserted he found the video on an old VHS and immediately brought it to youtube, for the world to see this forgotten cartoon. The cartoon featured a Usagi Yojimbo look alike rabbit who could transform in a metal plated ninja and fought along other antropomorphic animals such as a leaping ninja frog and a hybrid monk/grunt bear. Here is the VHS ripped intro.

Turns out that six months prior to the posting of this video, super_bob124 on Retrojunk mentioned this cartoon. And not much afer, baxterstockman1981 linked this model sheet to the forum. 

Plus, the author of the blog Open your eye lyds stated he had bought original cells from the show.

Now if your scratching your head trying to remember this cartoon, stop doing that. It never existed. It's a nostalgic tribute to that era and allt he information popping out misteriously at once is part of a marketing campaing. Super Turbo Atomic Ninja Rabbit was created by Wesley Louis, an animator who worked as an inbetweener on Sylvain Chomet's "The Illusionist" who is now collaborating on various projects. Turns out he found an old comic book he had drawn many years before and decided to turn it into an animation. He found help in the Electric Theatre Collective and The Line Animation and succeded in bringing us a fun and nostalgic tribute to the cartoons who inspired many animators around the world.  Here you can find more about the project, the animators, the background artists.

And here is the HD version of the video.

martedì 14 luglio 2015

Adam "PES" Pesapane, animator and director

PES is a cook. But judging on the ingredients he uses, the food he's preparing is not very inviting: googly eyes, rubik cubes, toys, dice and playdough. But everyday objects become something totally different in his hands: rubberbands become delicious spaghetti, wool becomes tasty tomato sauce and rugby balls become savory cold cuts.

How does he do it? How can something made out of plastic or steel become an inviting dish? It all happens thanks to the magic of stopmotion. The recipes he makes up seem so natural that you almost want to take a bite of what you're seeing on the screen.

Adam Pesapane (1973) received his BA in English Literature at the University of Virginia, but then decided to become a storyteller and he is now a worlwide famous movie director and animator. His style his immediately recognizable. His shorts are all under 2 minutes. He is somewhat able to find the right object with the right shape and color to emulate what he wants. As I mentioned above, his favourite theme is food. After a few shorts that aired in many film festivals around the world, PES went viral in 2008 thanks to Western Spaghetti, his first food-based short. Bon appetit!

His next culinary project was Fresh Guacamole, which was nominated as Best Short Film at the 2013 Academy Awards: it is the shortest film to ever be nominated.

To complete his food trilogy, in 2014, PES released a new short by the title of Submarine Sandwich, have a taste!

PES is now working on two feature films: in March 2012 it was announced that PES would be writing and directing a movie based on the Garbage Pail Kids, the popular 80s trading card game designed to parody the Cabbage Patch Kids.

In September 2012 instead, WIRED magazine reported that PES is working on a movie called "Lost & Found" based on an original idea by PES himself. He's collaborating with Seth Grahame-Smith, writer for "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" and Tim Burton's "Dark Shadows".
Both movies will have his distinctive signature style.

PES has worked for many commercials. Here is nearly complete playlist. Check out his youtube channel for more videos.

martedì 30 giugno 2015

The smallest and biggest animations in the world

In 2010 Nokia wanted to advertise their new N8 phone in a fresh and creative way. They thought of producing incredible web-commercials that were meant to be the world's smallest and biggest stopmotion animation. So they asked the British Aardman Studios to help them along. Aardman Studios is a famous animation studio specialized in stopmotion: throughout the years, they created top-selling movies and series such as Wallace and Gromit, Chicken Run and Shaun the Sheep.
In the smallest stopmotion animation, we find Dot, a little tiny girl of about 9 mm of height venturing into a little world made of tiny props. It was filmed using CellScope Technology, which transforms your cellphone in a microscope that can magnify things up to 50x.

It was shot with Nokia N8's 12 Megapixel Camera and Carl Zeiss optics.
Here is the animation.

And here is an interesting Making Of for the video where they explain how they got the idea and how they went about to bring it out. They used 3D printers to create the little puppet of Dot and animating every day all day brought them about 4 seconds done at a time.

Nokia also produced the biggest stopmotion animation and it is called Gulp. It stars a fisherman on a boat, sailing an ocean of sand and meeting fish and sea monsters on his way. It also was shot with a Nokia N8, this time set on a crane.
Here is the video.

And here is the corresponding Making Of. This time with 16 hours of work, they get about 20 seconds. They filmed during daytime for the first part of the video; then they filmed during the night to simulate the big fish's dark stomach.

Recently though, the record has been broken. The smallest animation was achieved for another commercial by IBM. The animation was created by moving atoms! Yes, carbon monoxide atoms that were moved using a scanning tunneling microscope. IBM has been conducting a lot of research in the field of atomic data storage and mastered the technique of moving atoms over the years. The animation is called "A boy and his atom" and we can see a little boy playing along with is pet atom. Here is the animation.

And here is how they did it. The background is a piece of copper.

The movie got in the Guinness World Records as the World's Smallest Stop-Motion film.

domenica 28 giugno 2015

The Pixar Theory or About the need of connecting everything

In 2013 Jon Negroni came up with a crazy theory about PIXAR movies. He believes that all movies are connected and take place in the same universe. It's well known that PIXAR likes to leave easter eggs here and there in their movies, and also hints to the next movie coming out. It's also common knowledge that some recurring elements keep surfacing in every PIXAR movie, such as the Pizza Planet Wagon,
 the code A113 (which is actually the classroom where many young animators studied at CalArts)
and the BnL company (Buy N Large).
But going from some simple "inside jokes" to an elaborate thesis such as Negroni's, requires a great amount of imagination. But I have to say that his theory is so well detailed and goes so deep into all movies that it makes it utterly believable.
Negroni's idea originated thanks to a comedy video on where some geeks dicuss the fact that all PIXAR movies are secretly about the apocalypse. After watching the sketch, Negroni started planning out his incredible theory.
It all starts in Brave, where Merida finds out about the will-of-the-wisps, a special magic entity that gives animals and objects human-like life. And there's a mysterious witch that knows of this magic and disappears through wooden doors and knows stuff about the future since she carved the Pizza Planet Truck out of wood.
As you see in the picture, she also carved Sulley from Monsters Inc. The witch supposedly is Boo, the little girl who made friends with monsters Sulley and Mike. According to Negroni, she never settled with the fact of losing Sulley and started mastering the magic of enchanted doors, to travel in different time periods.
The theory then goes on explaining how that the will-of-the-wisps gives people also supernatural powers, which brings us to The Incredibles. In The Incredibles, we meet Buddy, a wannabe superhero who creates sentient robots and invents Zero Point Energy.
Toys start depending on Zero Point Energy and become more and more aware of themselves and at the same time they acknowledge how important the love of humans is important to them. They understand that being abandoned by humans is dangerous for them (Toy Story 2) and a resentment against humanity starts growing among everyday objects.
Animals start changing as well (Finding Nemo, Ratatouille and Up): they become more curious and intelligent and they also feel betrayed by humans, who keep polluting oceans and experimenting on them.
In the meantime, humans go on a self-destructing path, starting huge greedy corporations like BnL, that in time become extremely powerful and also dangerous for the planet. The theory then climaxes and suggests that a war between humans and animals occured, where animals were beaten thanks to the help of machines. The balance on Earth is tipped and humans must escape the planet (Wall-E) leaving Earth populated by machines (Cars and Cars2).
Humans eventually will return on Earth thanks to the little robot Wall-E and they start populating the planet. That is why in A Bug's Life, we see so few humans: it takes place after this catastrophe.
And finally the creatures we see in Monsters University and Monsters Inc are nothing but mutated animals that start living on our planet, born from BnL radiations and human experiments.
To see how Inside-Out fits in this theory click here . We just have to wait to see if The Good Dinosaur can be a piece of the puzzle.

For more insight on this theory, check the official website: The Pixar Theory . It's really well done.
Pixar workers have stated that all of these coincidences are not intentional.

But my point is: why do we feel the need to connect everything? It might be because of the influence of comics and their shared universe. Spider-Man, Wolverine and Captain America all share the same world in comic books. But now that Marvel is creating a Cinematic Universe where all movies are connected just like the comics, everybody seems keen to see coherent universes everywhere. It's become a real obsession. Sometimes directors really try hard to connect their movies: Tarantino has his own Tarantinoverse; Kevin Smith created his own View Askewniverse.
It's probably all inspired by advertising purposes, so fans can spend hours and hours finding how everything is connected.
And here you can find some more shared universes.

sabato 27 giugno 2015

Yarn, Wool and Stop-motion Animation

Recently I've been keeping an eye on yarn-made stopmotion videos; I've developped an interest not only because of my passion for animation but also because, although indirectly, I've been dealing with wool and yarn a lot in the past few years. And the reason is my mother. My mother is a yarn-enthusiast: she has hundreds of different kinds of yarns at home and she is always looking for some new knitting project to accomplish. She started a blog called Knit Viktim where she shares her creations with the world and she's also been organizing workshops all over Italy where yarn-fans like her gather to share ideas and thoughts about wool and knitting. Seeing wool in my house, made me more aware of this material and I've started noticing that a lot of artists have been using yarn to create stopmotion animation. Plus, there's also a good amount of videogames whose design is based on yarn.

Let's start with music videos. I'm gonna mention two videos, that have been released ten years apart.
In 2004, a rockband from New Zealand called Steriogram wanted to bring French director Michel Gondry's distinctive style to the music video for their song "Walkie Talkie Man". Everything in the video is knitted, or made to appear so, including the instruments.
I'm not surprisded that one of the first creative uses of yarn came from Michel Gondry, the same director that brought you The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Be Kind Rewind and The Science of Sleep: three beautiful movies that explore and manipulate "la mise en scène" to create paradoxes and quirky scenes just by using out-of-scale props, unusual fabriques and materials and, of course, imagination.

Here is an entertaining video for the making of the video above. You can see a lot of ladies and young men knitting props for the video.

In more recent times, in 2014, another video was created with yarn. The song is called "Moving On" by British rock band James. Differently from Gondry's, no real actors appear in this music video: just yellow yarn.

The man behind this video is Ainslie Henderson, an eclectic Scottish artist whose art ranges from music to moviemaking to stopmotion animation. His work on the 2013 short movie "The Making of Longbird" earned him a BAFTA (British Academy Film Award).

Even though it doesn't involve yarn, I just want to give a special mention to this music video for the song "Tharsis Sleep" by English metal band Throne.

The lead singer of the band Nicos Livesey also directed the video. It's made entirely with embroidered denim. It took them about 3000 frames and about 45 million stitches sewn onto 200 square metres of denim. The animation was done by drawing each scene directly on the computer and then the frames were converted into stitch format with a software.

Talking about "wolly" videogames instead, there are at least 4 games that I know of that used yarn and wool for their designs. Two of them are by Nintendo and they star two of the most recognizable charaters of their franchise: Kirby and Yoshi.
Kirby's Epic Yarn came out in 2010 and it's a fun, traditional platform videogame for the console Wii. What makes it special is its distinctive design based entirely on yarn, fabric and wool.

The character changes shapes throughout the game in order to complete certain tasks. Some puzzles are solved by thinking in terms of fabric, strings and buttons.

The spiritual successor to this game is Yoshi's Woolly World for WiiU, out this year. The design is entirely based on wool. The character will need to unravel threads, spin wool, pull strings, create props and even change its own structure to get through the level.  Here is the new trailer released at this year's E3. There's even a real wool Yoshi Amiibo that comes with the game. (If you're not familiar with the Amiibo technology, basically they're real toys that the player can use to store data via the console and that can interact on a certain scale with other videogames of the same console).

Here is an interview with the creator of the Yoshi wool Amiibo. 

This instead is an interview with the japanese game designers, who did a lot of research by going to wool and yarn stores in order to get familiar with the materials. If you're particularly into knitting and wool, you have to click here.

At this year's E3, the biggest and most important videogame convention worldwide, one more yarn-based game was announced. It's called Unravel and it tells the story of a little antropomorphic yarn creature. The game tries very hard to emulate the physics of yarn and succeeds beautifully. Here is the trailer.

Finally, there's an iPad game that deserves to be in this post: it's called Voyager and it was made by Ken Amarit of Oh My!Me Studios. The studio actually changed its name to Hand Dye and is now oriented towards "stop-motion wool videogames", as their website states. You can find trailers to similar videogames on their website. Voyager is an action game where you get to be the pilot of a spaceship travelling through the sky. Even the smoke made by the explosions is made with wool.
Here is the trailer for Voyager. 

I probably missed out on some notable examples of wool meeting stopmotion. If you have anything to suggest, comment below!

giovedì 25 giugno 2015

Rabbit and Deer (2013) - 2D and Stopmotion meet and it's beautiful

In 2013 hungarian director Péter Vácz (1988) released a short called Rabbit and Deer. It tells the story of the friendship between the two animals, which is menaced by a terrible discovery: the existence of the third dimension. 

Deer studies geometry and math books.

It starts out as a regular 2D cartoon, with a very graphic style. But after Deer finds out something incredible, reality changes and the movie introduces the stopmotion technique. And it's incredible how the animation technique is absolutely fundamental to the narrative of the movie.The movie goes on exploring the interaction between these two worlds.

The discovery of the third dimension.
The animation begins to merge 2D with stopmotion. The 2D character is animated on a piece of paper that needs to be animated in stop motion. It makes me think of how it would be for us to discover the 5th dimension. How would we perceive? How traumatic could it be? We would see time as we perceive lenght, we could move in the future and in the past at our will. Well, if a short animation makes us think about stuff like that, I call it a success.

2D and stopmotion merge
On the official movie website you can find some stills from the movie and some pictures that document the process and the making of.The short movie was Péter Vácz's graduation project, together with StreamschoolHis works became world renowned and earned him about 120 awards worlwide. Thanks to his art he travelled all over the world and now lives in Berlin. His movies are extremely creative when it comes to both animation techniques and narrative. It feels like a successful try to bring innovation to animation. 

Here is the link to the director's personal website where you can find his works, his BIO and some more information about him.
And here instead is the full movie Rabbit and Deer. Enjoy!
Rabbit and Deer

mercoledì 24 giugno 2015

DDWIWDD - Dan Deacon - “When I Was Done Dying”

Here is an example of successful cooperation for the completion of an experimental animation music video. It first aired on Adult Swim's Off The Air, the anthology television series created by David Hughes of MTV Animation. Dan Deacon is an electronic/indie musician and for his video 9 animators came together to give their personal view of his song.
 In order of apperance the animators are
Jake Fried
Chad VanGaalen
Dimitri Stankowicz
Colin White
Taras Hrabowsky
Anthony Schepperd
Masanobu Hiraoka
Caleb Wood

 To read interviews with Dan Deacon and the animators, head to the Off The Air Tumblr: