At last, my little report on Spark Animation '09 which happened in Vancouver Sept 16-20. I wasn't able to attend the entire festival but I still feel privileged to have had a small part in planning it with the good people who are the Vancouver SIGGRAPH Chapter. It was another roaring success and I think that each year this event will continue to grow bigger and better.
I was present opening night for the industry mixer and premiere screening of The Secret of Kells. This is one of the most beautiful animated films ever made, in terms of...well, everything. The design, the story, the animation, the music, it's all truly awe-inspiring and a treasure to behold, especially on a big screen. The director Tomm Moore and art director Ross Stewart were there to introduce the film, and the following day they gave a very enlightening presentation on how they made it, loaded with exquisite concept art. I got to chat with them a little bit and tell them how much I loved and appreciated their film...it deserves every ounce of support it can get, so if you have the means, SEE IT!!! I've already bought the soundtrack and am eagerly awaiting the DVD to be available in North America.
The following day I was honored to introduce the Coraline presentation by Martin Meunier from Laika, who brought Coraline and a menagerie of other puppet parts with him. Needless to say I was like a kid in a candy store getting to touch, study and pose these. When I hold any stop-motion puppet in my hand, I just have to move the joints and feel like I'm animating them...it becomes a fixation. So it was very hard to put Coraline down.
Martin's presentation, which went on for 3 hours, was fantastic and mind-boggling, with TONS of fantastic production photos and exclusive time-lapse footage of animators at work. The amount of 3D printing done for the film was amazing...it wasn't limited just to the facial animation. Even the VW bug that Coraline and her mother drove around in was meticulously modeled, part by part, in CG, printed on the 3D printer, and pieced together like an intricate model kit. (This was partly so the animators could remove the doors and the hood, animate the puppets, and then snap it all back together again.) All of this and more was great just to learn about, and good resource material for my next book. Martin and the other Laika representative who we brought up for the festival, Mark Shapiro, were also great to chat with and very generous. Many thanks to them for bringing Coraline to Vancouver!
The other presentations I got to see that day were from the Gobelins school, Starz Animation on the making of '9', and of course the making of Secret of Kells. I really liked the Gobelins presentation and the excellent caliber of work done by the students there. '9' was a very short presentation with some interesting visuals and very intriguing information on how they made the film on a tight budget. I haven't seen the film yet but most people who have are saying the visuals are the only major redeeming factor. The trailer has always been a favorite of mine, partly for the integration of the animation with Coheed & Cambria rocking the soundtrack.
The other big highlight for me being a part of Spark was getting to introduce and view the Stop Motion Night double feature of Mary & Max and $9.99 that closed the festival on Sunday night.
Mary & Max is an absolute masterpiece, not only for the emerging renaissance of the stop-motion animated feature, but I dare say for film in general. It is funny, sad, dark, disturbing, emotional, real and beautiful all at the same time, and it is a work of genius in terms of the screenplay, lighting, animation and character development. Adam Elliot deserves any and all praise he gets for this film. The ending is truly touching and a great testament to the power of love and friendship in a dark and confusing world.
$9.99, though not exactly the spiritual dose of inspiration I was expecting after seeing the trailer a long time ago, was also very good. If it had been a live-action film, I likely would have written it off as a film I don't normally enjoy, but the fact that it was animated, and very well I might add, helped to hold my attention throughout. Overall I was glad we were able to bring both of these films to Vancouver and lend our support to them.
Cheers and thanks to all who made Spark Animation happen, and click HERE for more pictures of this fun event. Already looking forward to seeing what Spark 2010 brings to town!