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"We wanted audiences to feel like they could reach through the screen and touch this world." One of the best stop-motion animation studios is celebrating 15 years this year! Laika Animation originally opened in 2005 and worked on their first feature film Corpse Bride. The first film made entirely by the studio was Coraline, which opened in theaters in 2009. They followed up with four more outstanding stop-motion animated films: ParaNorman in 2012, The Boxtrolls in 2014, Kubo and the Two Strings in 2016, and Missing Link in 2019 - just last year. To celebrate the anniversary, Fandango released a 5-minute long behind-the-scenes celebratory featurette, looking back at their history and their work. I'm a big fan of Laika and almost always enjoy their movies (my personal favorite is still Kubo, also ParaNorman). This wonderful video shows how much work goes into each project and all the people crafting every piece of the production.
Holy turtle! This looks absolutely gorgeous! Lucan Studio, an animation studio based in Cape Town, South Africa, has released an official trailer for an animated series they are developing entirely in-house. The show is called Isaura - an animated kids series set in Mozambique with strong conservation messaging wrapped up in an epic tale of good vs evil. The story is about a young girl who discovers a talisman, which in her possession allows her to become a guardian of the ocean. This definitely has a Studio Ghibli feel to it - and io9 points out the trailer "was created by blending 3D environments, hand-drawn characters, and Unreal Engine." Very impressive. We don't usually feature trailers for shows, but the production quality here is so much better than most animated features we couldn't not share it anyway. In addition to how good it looks, I just love seeing a nice story about cleaning up our oceans, and how heroic it is to really care about nature.
Surprise! Look who's back with something to help make 2020 better! Out of nowhere, beloved Austin, TX-based animation filmmaker Don Hertzfeldt has debuted a teaser trailer for his latest project - World of Tomorrow Episode Three. The full title, as revealed in this trailer, is officially World of Tomorrow Episode Three: The Absent Destinations of David Prime. Which is a reference to Emily Prime from the previous episode. Yes, he's back with another profound World of Tomorrow story to tell - but that's all we know so far! Hertzfeldt tweeted out today that "it's almost time" - which is good to hear. There's no other information currently available, and we don't know when this will arrive or where it will premiere, but this is an enticing tease nonetheless. Especially for any who've been waiting for something new from Hertzfeldt, who debuted his last short film World of Tomorrow Episode Two in 2017. Check out the first teaser below.
"From the first moment… I discovered a whole world of stories and characters inside [of] Vasko's work." Another award-winning animated short has finally made its way online and it's a must watch. Cyclists is an amusing animated short by Croatian animation filmmaker Veljko Popovic, inspired by the art of Vasko Lipovac. This originally premiered at the Annecy Film Festival in 2018, and won Best Short Film that year. The cycling season is nearing its grand finale. During the final race, the two men in the lead are competing for more than the Grand Trophy; they are fighting for the affection of a lady and fulfilment of their erotic fantasies. Meanwhile, the small town prepares for the arrival of a large ocean liner and its dashing captain. Not only is there a unique style to it, the story is also poignant and brutally honest in its depiction of lust. One note: this gets raunchy and is NSFW, with lots of nudity and sex. But that makes it more of a must see.
"I don't think he wants to be a clown, I think he likes what they portray: which is a nice and simple mime of life." What a gorgeous little film. British animation filmmaker Alex Widdowson introduces Music & Clowns perfectly: "My brother, Jamie, has a profound learning disability. Despite being close to nonverbal, he demonstrates charisma, a sharp sense of humour, and emotional sensitivity. I team up with my parents to discuss what it is like caring for someone with Down syndrome. We piece together fragments of insight to gain a sense of his inner life." And the result is something beautiful. There's a variety of animation styles in this, and some seriously funny natural comedy. Alex wants to challenge the stigma of the D word - disability. "I believe people should be able to base life-changing decisions on accurate information. But I also feel that a diagnosis does not reflect my brother’s human worth. This [short] attempts to complement the medical narrative with first-hand stories of what it is like to have someone with Down syndrome." It's worth a watch.
One of the best animated shorts of the decade is now available online. Simbiosis Carnal is a 10-minute animated short made by Spanish animation filmmaker Rocio Alvarez. This premiered at festivals back in 2017, and won tons of awards throughout its run in 2018, and now it's out to watch. "During this animated evocation of the history of desire, the emphasis will be on feminine pleasure, which was for a long time ignored, repressed, and then progressively revealed and liberated. Simbiosis Carnal is a call to the strength of life and to the uninhibited happiness of sexuality in the human being." Featuring original music by the band Why The Eye. It begins as a biological exploration of sexuality and reproduction, then evolves into a study of intimacy and pleasure with humans. It's a remarkably profound illustration of all the good and bad regarding sexuality, and all the controversy and confusion about sex, and all the restrictions modern society has put on (mostly women's) sexuality. Just watch out - this short is NSFW. But it is a must watch anyway.
How far are we from this kind of future? Much closer than you might think… Change Return is a funky animated short film made by filmmaker Robert Findlay and it's only 5 mins long. Set in an underground city in the near future, where services such as healthcare and law enforcement are delegated to local vending machines, a man finds a crafty way to buy a cheap meal. That's all you need to know going in - the best part of this is watching how it all plays out. It's impressive that this was made entirely independently by one guy. As always, just goes to show animated shorts are always some of the most creative and innovative. This is so good I didn't want it to end, I'd watch an entire film set in this world. Reminds me of Buy n Large in Wall-E.
Empathy always makes a difference. This superb stop-motion animated short film Tokri, aka The Basket, comes from an animation studio in India. The film is about a young girl who decides to make baskets and sell them on the street in Mumbai in hopes of making money so she can repair her father's broken pocket watch. Featuring a music selection of Bollywood songs. Animation filmmaker Suresh Eriyat was inspired after he had an encounter with a basket seller and shooed her away, only to think later about how he doesn't know what her life is or why she needs a bit of money for peace at home. Hand-made stop-motion animation is always nice to see. "Suresh wished to revive the popularity of clay animation through this film. Although clay animation is known to be a painstaking process… it's an art that gives life to inanimate objects, bringing with it an energy on screen that shines through, one frame at a time." A lovely father-daughter story that challenges us to think about other people's lives in a way we might not think of at first. View the film below.
Get ready for a mind-bending 6-minute journey. A Mind Sang is Vimeo's "Staff Pick Award" winner from this year's Annecy Film Festival for animation. Made by Portuguese filmmaker Vier Nev, the entrancing animated film is about perception, rebirth and transformation. That's really the only good way to describe it, because it's an immersive and deeply engaging film where various images blend and transform. "Animating every sequence took a couple of months because I was animating by myself in between other projects. The animation process was a mix of 2D digital animation and 3D animated references," Vier explains to Vimeo. It's so hypnotizing to watch this, trying to figure out if you can see all the various images and shapes packed into each frame and each transition. I also like the simple colors. "Initially, the film was going to be entirely black and white but I found that there was no good reason not to use color to bring more life into the film."
This short film originally premiered in 2018, and won the Best Short Film award at the Annecy Film Festival that year. After two years it's finally online and I am more than happy to share it! One of the best and most creative animated shorts I've ever seen. Bloeistraat 11 (which translates to Bloomstreet 11 in English) is made by Dutch filmmaker Nienke Deutz based in Rotterdam. The film is about best friends spending their last summer holiday of childhood amusing themselves around the house. As summer progresses their bodies start to morph and shift and an awkwardness descends on their friendship. Puberty seems determined to interrupt their bond. I absolutely love the visual style of this - using transparent sheeting to animate the characters interacting with a stop-motion-esque tiny set. A one-of-a-kind film - the story and the technique.
"Mega is going to help me!" Blue Fox Ent. has released an official US trailer for an indie French animated film titled SamSam, a sci-fi adventure for the whole family. SamSam appears to have it all: his own flying saucer and great family and friends. But the one thing he has yet to attain are actual superpowers. But he's soon about to figure them out – while learning what it really takes to fight monsters and how many ways there are to be a hero. Developed by animation studio Folivari (Ernest & Célestine, The Big Bad Fox & Other Tales), this is adapted from the TV series by the same director who created it. Featuring the voices of Isaac Lobé-Lebel, Lior Chabbat, Jérémy Prévost, Sébastien Desjours, Léopold Vom Dorp, Victoire Pauwels, Léovanie Raud, Simon Brunner, and Françoise Pavy. The US release includes an English dub as well. This looks a bit cheesy but also visually unique, which certainly piques my interest. Check it out.
"Music is life! You just need to know where to look." There's another lovely new 60-second promo trailer for Pixar's Soul to watch. It was debuted this weekend at the Essence Festival of Culture in New Orleans - and a Zoom Q&A with the filmmakers from that event is also included below. Soul is about a jazz musician who has lost his passion for music is transported out of his body and must find his way back with the help of an infant soul learning about herself. Featuring the voices of Jamie Foxx as Joe Gardner, Tina Fey as "22", Daveed Diggs, Phylicia Rashad, and Ahmir-Khalib Thompson. This brief new trailer also features the song "Parting Ways", which was written, produced and performed by Cody Chesnutt. Dr. Johnnetta Betsch Cole worked as a cultural consultant on the film, and musician Jon Batiste wrote original jazz songs for it. The full-length trailer debuted in March earlier this year, and the new Pixar movie is now scheduled for release in November. This really looks like it's going to be the best ever, doesn't it? Can't wait to watch.