Sunday, November 16, 2008

2D or not 2D Animation Festival - Seattle 2008

Friday November 14, Calvin Leduc and I traveled down to Seattle for the opening screenings of the 3rd annual 2D or not 2D Animation Festival. We made really good time driving and got into town mid-afternoon, so we walked around town a bit to get our bearings and get some exercise, seeing as how we were sitting in the car for 3 hours and would be sitting in a theater for most of the weekend.

I commented to Calvin that most times when I come down to Seattle it makes sense to me why they chose this area to shoot Twin Peaks. There is a vibe to the place that just seems surreal and creepy sometimes.

Where else can you find a bar & grill with a big scary clown head?

Or a school for girls that is apparently represented by someone doing aerobics, a phone, an eagle, a pencil sharpener and a minotaur...

...and has a row of dead rubber chickens in its window?

Anyway, the festival is being held at the Pacific Science Center on their Imax theater. Some of the first people we encountered were James Baker and Joe Haidar, former colleagues of Calvin's from his days at Disney Feature Animation. They have a film playing in the festival which we got to see that night, called Animated American, a live-action short with 2D animation characters composited in, 'Roger Rabbit' style.

Really good production values and great animation, and the film has already won some prizes in the festival circuit. Really nice was fun to hang out with them throughout the weekend.

The first screening had some good stuff, in particular a clay animation mockumentary called Token Hunchback (interviews with an actor who always plays Igor), a cute CG short called Abridged (where two towers of a bridge fall in love), and a wacky Flash film Last Time in Clerkenwell (which sticks in your head long after you've seen it)

Then was a presentation by Dean Yeagle about his life and works. Dean started his career in animation with people like Jack Zander, Emery Hawkins, and Preston Blair, so those stories were great to hear. He centered most of his presentation on his famous Mandy character and the books he's created about her. I had seen some of his work online before and it was nice to see much more of it and learn about the man behind the art. He's an amazing talent.

Following was the second screening of films, some of which were experimental and abstract in nature. I particularly liked Endless Tunnel (trippy abstract piece dealing with paper cutouts), The Cave: Adaptation of Plato's Allegory in Clay (a stop-motion myth), The Owl House (brilliantly done stop-motion pantomime piece of a blind old woman living in a house in the woods)...

Farewell (beautifully drawn and rendered film of a fairy and butterfly, reminiscent of animation from Pink Floyd The Wall), and the most entertaining film by far was Chicken Cowboy, which really can't be described but has to be seen to be believed. It's basically a surreal tale of a western showdown between a gang of human cowboy villains and a chicken cowboy with his horse who barks like a dog and is attached to his beloved toaster.

Just a little snip...

Absolutely brilliant.

And now, Saturday in Seattle!

First big event of the next day was a presentation by Peter Moehrle about his painting and artwork for films like Rock and Rule, Ice Age, and Lilo & Stitch, to name a few. His art was amazing to see, especially on a huge screen in the Laser Dome.

The program went overtime a little bit due to some technical issues, but I was able to zip down to the other theater to catch most of the next presentation by Don Hahn, who was showcasing a program of rare Disney shorts. I got in at the tail-end of Der Feuhrer's Face but got to see again a few films that Don showed at last year's festival(Lorenzo and Little Match Girl, plus How to Hook Up your Home Theater) and also two that I had never seen: Destino and One by One. I was totally enthralled by them both...One by One I never even knew they made into a film, but I know the song from the Rhythm of the Pride Lands album. Pretty great stuff and very inspiring, all of it!!!

Next on the docket was concept art for Guild Wars by art director Daniel Dociu, which was pretty amazing to marvel at as he took questions from the small informal crowd. I'm not a big gamer by any means, but I'm trying to educate myself more on the work that goes into creating them. I certainly appreciate the level of artistry that goes into them these days, and Daniel's work was definitely worth checking out for the atmosphere and imagination alone. The sci-fi geek in me was intrigued and impressed.

After this was a much-needed lunch break at 2:00, over at the nearby food court with Calvin, Jim Baker and Joe Haidar, conversing about animation over burgers. Next was Don Hahn again, presenting about the ideas behind his new book, The Alchemy of Animation. Don is an amazing presenter and always has incredible artistic complements to his talks. Especially rare and precious to me were some behind-the-scenes clips of the Nightmare puppet vault and Mike Belzer animating a scene with Jack and Oogie Boogie. Drool drool...

I got a signed copy of his book for myself and one for the VanArts library. It was really nice to see Don again and talk with him. While on the subject, I must back-track a bit to post an incredible film he produced, which showed at last year's festival (and won an award too!) I've been wanting to see this film again ever since, so I'm thrilled that it's finally online. This is one of the most beautiful films I've ever seen, The Chestnut Tree by Hyun-min Lee.

So after Don's presentation we had to zip back to the other theater (sure needed some breaks scheduled in between presentations, I tell ya...) to see Barry Cook, director of Mulan and current resident director at Laika. It started with a screening of Roger Rabbit's Trail Mix-Up short, which he also directed. I liked his presentation, which was something he had prepared for another conference, all about good storytelling. He included some entertaining clips, from Mulan and even the classic Mighty Mouse skit by Andy Kaufman, which I realized is also good animation reference!

NEXT was the third program of short films...a mixed bag as always, but of particular interest to me were The Tortoise and the Coyote (classic hand-drawn animation), Max's Words (by my friend Galen Fott)...

...Broken Rainbow (not sure if it's a good film or not, but it's an absolutely messed-up acid trip experience...check it out here if you're in the right mood for it, but be warned, it doesn't make any sense.), a great Italian stop-motion film called Lupo Dentro, and Again & Again, a neat experimental music video that's worth checking out here.

My favorite short of this program, and one of my favorites from the whole festival, was this one by Zach Parrish, Carried Away. I felt it really took advantage of the medium and told a fanciful story that made me feel like a kid. I appreciate (or sometimes just accept) all kinds of different films for what they are, but I love going to festivals partly to seek out gems like this that make me feel glad to be alive.

After the screening we grabbed a quick bite and came back for the award winners, which included Joe and James' Animated American film...congrats guys! Also we got to see a video of Tony White presenting the Roy E. Disney award to Dick Williams at Digipen a few days prior, and that was pretty amazing to see in the wake of meeting him as well.

The evening concluded with a Gala event that included a performance by Hummie Mann's Pontiac Bay Orchestra, a mentoring orchestra that mixes youth and adults. They did a really nice program of music from animation & film, everything from Fantasia to Narnia to Charlie Brown.

I congratulate my good friend Tony White (and his comrades Ken Rowe & Saille Shumacher) for pulling all the stops on another great festival to celebrate the art of animation. The turn-out was very good and everything was certainly on a bigger scale than last year. There was a slightly different vibe comparatively...being in the small town of Everett vs. downtown Seattle certainly gave it a different feeling overall. Overall I think the different vibe came from some of the casual conversations we had with some of the students and seemed that many were being hard-hit by financial worries, lay-offs, and other nervous tales about the state of the industry & economy at present. As an outsider from across the border, it was a different America even a year later. Even though we fully enjoyed ourselves and got to see some inspiring work, there was a somber vibe too, just based on how things are in this twilight period of post-election uncertainty and unrest.

This morning before Cal and I left our hotel to head back to BC, this was the view outside our window, which I think sums things up poetically, both for the state of our world, the state of our industry for the art of animation we came here to support. It's a bit foggy, but the light is still there seeking an opening to shine.


Nancy said...

Dear Ken,

Great post. I'm sorry I couldn't attend this year.
Did VanArts have any films entered in the festival?
Please give my best to Cal and everyone there for me.

Nicole Standard said...

looks like a great festival, I hope to attend next year :) Thanks for the post.

jriggity said...

Thanks a bunch for the write up man!


David Morris said...

This festival will be very creative to explore the animation world. I really enjoy the information they have shared about the 2D animation. Still, there is a majority that likes the 2D animation as compare to the 3D animation. 2d animation video - VideoJeeves

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