Monday, November 5, 2007

Festival photographs:

Please note that the preceding photographs were all taken by audience members. The good photos were by Saille Schumacher. The bad ones were most probably by me! Of course, if anyone has any more pics... then we'd all be happy to see them.


FESTIVAL: Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Saturday didn’t have a good start! The movie scheduled to be shown at 9.30 am did not show up and the brave souls that ventured out to the festival at such an early hour… hung-over from an excess of straight animation shots the night before… were destined to be disappointed. However the ever-resourceful and fully-prepared Ken Rowe offered the audience a selection of classic short films or else a re-run of last year’s festival award-winners... the audience was to choose. The previous year’s award-winners were the overwhelming choice and so this impromptu selection was subsequently enjoyed by all.

Ken opening the second day's events. (Sorry about picture quality!)

Next up was another collection of festival entries. The shorts program had some great films in it. One of my favorites from Germany was “My Happy End” by Milen Vitanov. This was a hilarious tale of a dog that makes a friend of his own tail and relates the adventures they have together. The technique was a wonderful mix of drawn animation, cleverly disguised 3D and ingenious cut-out animation effect for the treatment of the dog. Being very monochrome and discretely aesthetic in its visual presentation, this was very much one to savor for me.

A break for lunch.

After the break, yet more festival entries. We were delighted by the amount of films entered into the festival this year… twice as many as last year! This and the enthusiastic attendance by speakers and audience convinces us that a festival devoted primarily to 2D and student films is a thing that will just grow and grow from now on.

The day’s first presenter was Michel Gagne, the incomparable artist and animator who actually hails from reasonably close by... Bellingham, just north of Everett.

Michel and his world made visible.

I have long been a fan of Michel’s work and so I was desperate to get him to appear at our festival this year, which he willingly agreed to do. I have always been in awe or Michel’s “Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppets” material and was delighted for him to show it and explain the fascinating story of how it all came about. Michel also treated us to glimpses of the work that he did on “Quest for Camelot”, “Osmosis Jones” and “The Iron Giant.” (Still one of my favorite movies outside of the classical Disney, Pixar and Miyazaki echelon that is.) However, in addition to these commercially-based offerings, I am always particularly impressed with Michel’s own personal work… namely his first ever film, “Prelude to Eden” (which he showed)...

...and the very latest that he asked us not to talk about. (Although I can say that is related to a certain outstanding jazz festival that occurs in this particular part of the world!) This work proved the inspiration behind director Brad Bird calling to ask Michel to design and animate the ‘food tasting’ sequences in “Ratatouille,” which Michel did so well. He showed us his stage-by-stage process of the material.

Michel explains his process on "Ratatouille."

With other projects that Michel hinted at in the pipeline I am convinced that this amazing artist (and self-confessed ‘compulsive/obsessive’) is going to continue to delight audiences for a long time yet to come!

Sssssh! You didn't get this one from me!

(Speaking of Michel: After the event I learned from him that for the past three years he has disciplined himself to reading one novel a week… ‘art directing’ each one in his mind as he does so. He confided in me that this was his way of preparing himself for his future ‘big’ film project… the details of which he did not reveal. Can’t wait!)

After a one-hour dinner break it was my time to present. I was planning to deliberately
mis-quote from one of Michel Gagne’s Insanely Twisted films by saying… There are two kinds of films, ‘Hollywood’ and the other kind… this talk is all about ‘the other kind’!But the few technical difficulties I encountered with my presentation material at the time snatched the moment away!

Me with this year's festival poster design.

Suffice it to say that I essentially wanted to outline the work and the objectives of The Animaticus Foundation (which I won’t go over right now as much of it is documented elsewhere… I do however want to speak of a vision I have for animation and its expression through the Foundation.

I showed at the festival the same DigiPen PowerPoint presentation I had showed to the school students the previous Thursday, as well as the animation/musical compilation piece I took from the DigiPen freshmen/sophomore work. I explained my pride at being associated with the remarkable program that DigiPen is implementing, as well as working with the amazing faculty that are present in the school. I compared it to the spirit and nature of work being done at the early days of Disney, through CalArts and other initiatives. While most of these students will undoubtedly become ‘movers and shakers’ in the games or 3D-related industries, there are a significant few students who want to seek traditional 2D animation as a career, even though there is no significant 2D industry to support that career right now.

Speaking about the Foundation's 'vision.'

Consequently my vision for the future of The Animaticus Foundation is to harness the very best of these amazingly dedicated DigiPen students, apprenticing them with seasoned master professional animators to produced ground-breaking, non-Hollywood style films that will move the entire art of animation into previously unimagined areas. I likened this to picking-up the artform where Walt left it when he created the magical and inspired “Fantasia.” (Although the plan is not to make another "Fantasia"... but more to harness the potential of art and artistry, film and design, music and choreography into challenging and inspirational stories that lend themselves to all these possibilities.)

It is therefore the ambition of the Foundation to establish a unique alliance between industry and education to create productions of all kinds that are just not possible in any other way. With its 501(c)3 status recently confirmed, it is possible and now plausible for The Animaticus Foundation to attract grants, sponsorship and donations that can help fund this initiative. DigiPen are also actively committed to assisting this process evolving… indeed they were most generously the largest sponsor of the “2D OR NOT 2D Animation Festival” this year! All that remains for the ultimate realization of the projects that are currently under development through the Foundation… and a sympathetic ‘distributor’ to support our efforts and bring our work to the world.

Now, where was I? Oh yes…

Keynote speaker at the event this year was Don Hahn. Roy E. Disney was the keynote speaker last year and so gracious and elegant was he that we felt hard-pressed to follow on where he left off. However, we needn’t have had any fears, as Don Hahn stepped-up to the plate and provided us with an informative, often humorous and totally inspirational presentation of his production process and the marvelous art and imagery that had inspired him in all his years as one of Hollywood’s foremost producers. Nominated for 18 Academy Awards and winner of 2 Golden Globes amongst many other accolades, Don has the distinction of being producer on the first animated film to ever get a “Best Picture” nomination at the Oscars... "The Lion King."

Don captivated the audience with his eloquent presentation.

Yet while superb as producing at the higher end of animated production, Don has also been a great supporter of young talent and the short film, traditionally-animated format too. Consequently at the festival he showed us three of his favorite short films… the most moving of which was “The Chestnut Tree” by young female director Hyun-min Lee, who made the film as a personal and loving tribute to her late mother.

Don Hahn is an intelligent, sensitive and tasteful individual who captivated the audience with his over 400 image presentation and his flowing, inspirational way of speaking. It comes as no surprise therefore that he is a master producer worthy of the name.

He even brought the famous "Nine Old Men" with him!

Don’s more playful nature was reflected in another award-winning short film he presented,Lorenzo.” Hillarious!

As in meeting with Roy E. Disney a year before, I will take so many treasured memories of meeting with Don and talking to a great man with a great passion for art and animation. My heart swelled when he said he was impressed with the work we were doing with students at DigiPen and the aims and ambitions expressed by The Animaticus Foundation. I learned that Don is currently working on a live-action movie and a documentary film. I for one cannot wait to see the results of the efforts of this enthusiastic and passionate man. I would have loved to have worked with him at some stage in my career!

Did anyone notice that Don appeared with Brad Bird I wonder?

Finally, the awards ceremony…

Sadly, with an under-funded, emergent festival such as ours it was just not possible to bring all our award-winners to the presentation from their various locations around the globe. We can but hope to be able to do that in future years however. That said, and in the absence of the majority of the filmmakers, the Merit and Golden Pencilawards were read out by festival director Ken Rowe (and applauded by a very enthusiastic audience) on a one-by-one basis.

The Merit awards are a certificate-based prize we give to films that we consider contain some ‘extra’ form of content or artistry that is worthy of recognition. The 2007 Merit award-winners this year were…

Fish” by HyunJeen Lee.

Alien for Christmas” by Dave Pryor.

The Chestnut Tree” by Hyun-min Lee.

The Librarian from the Black Lagoon” by Galen Fott.

Geirald The 5 Legged Spider” by Sam Rusztyn.

2” by Kim Anderson.

The Intruder” by Alessandro Ceglia.

Lost Utopia” by Mirai Mizue.

My Happy End” by Milen Vitano.

For the Love of God” by Joe Tucker.

The Space Burger” by Sookyoung Choi.

I Am PillowCat” by Elaine Lee.

t.o.m.” by Tom Brown.

Bai Ri Meng (Daydream)” by Jennifer Tippins.

The Tree With The Lights In It” by Jason Harrington.

Movement and Stillness” by Yi-Hsuan Kent Chiu.

everything will be ok” by Don Heartzfeldt.

The “Golden Pencil” awards are presented to the filmmakers who are considered to have made the greatest achievement in their respective categories. The categories in question are “2D Animation”, “Student Film”, “Digital Media” and “All-style Animation”. Within each category we give two awards… “Best film” and “Best Animation in a Film”. The winners of the 2007 “Golden Pencil” awards were…

2D Animation/Best Film: “Lost Utopia.”

2D Animation/Best Animation in a Film: “The Chestnut Tree.”

Hyun-min Lee receives her Golden Pencil for "The Chestnut Tree."

Student Film/ Best Film: “Geirald the 5-Legged Spider.”

Student Film/ Best Animation in a Film: “I am Pillow Cat.:

Digital Media/Best Film: “Fish.”

Digital Media/ Best Animation in a Film: “Movement and Stillness.”

All-style Animation/ Best Film: “Alien for Christmas.”

All-style Animation/ Best Animation in a Film: “My Happy End.”

The “Roy E. Disney Award” is a non-competitive award that The Animaticus Foundation presents to the person (or organization) that is considered as having made considerable contribution to the art of animation. Although not wishing to appear ‘Disney-centric’ (Roy E. Disney himself was presented with the inaugural award last year) we unanimously felt that Don Hahn’s contribution to animation… specifically to traditional 2D animation… demanded that we should present him with the 2007 Roy E. Disney Award”.

Not surprisingly, Don was unexpectedly amazed when we announced this to the audience. However, shock over, he graciously accepted it, not only on his own behalf but also on the behalf of all the artists, technicians and animators who had contributed to the productions he had been involved with.

Don speaking after receiving his award.

And so ended the 2007 “2D OR NOT 2D Animation Festival” for one more year. We are grateful to all the sponsors, volunteers, filmmakers and audience attendees who attended and contributed to it being such a great event. At the same time, I want to offer a huge personal "THANK YOU" to Ken Rowe, the festival director, who put-in so much work and commitment on behalf of the event. Ken's contribution is beyond words and it is totally due to him that the festival is able to occur at all!

The fact that there IS a festival at all is very important to me. It is my fundamental belief that the stronger the festival becomes the stronger the traditional animation industry will be… hence we all hope this is just the beginning of a wonderful journey we might all share in reaching towards new expression and arriving at previously untapped horizons. (We especially hope that “The Frog Princess” lives-up to all our expectations… thereby signaling a renaissance of both the industry and of the artform!)

But then there was our “Gala Event” of course…

It is the tradition of the festival that after the main event is over all presenters, award-winners, festival ticket holders and guests are invited to a Gala Event “Meet ‘n Greet” party upstairs in Everett’s New Historic Theatre. (FYI: They used to call it the ‘Historic Theatre”… which I prefer to use as the building is so old and elegant… but the modern trustees felt that they had to update its name to the "New Everett Theatre." Although it will always be the “Historic Theatre” to me!)

Anyway, attendees chatted and networked, joked and shared contacts… which are the only way we (at the grass roots) are ever going to get this unique and still largely un-tapped medium of traditional 2D animation kick-started again!

Ultimately though it was universally expressed by all attending that this was a wonderful event to be part of and everyone consequently looked forward to coming back next year for the next stage in our inspirational adventure. Me too!


FESTIVAL: Friday, November 2nd 2007

After much preparation and anticipation (and together with a certain amount of nervousness!) the festival eventually kicked-off at 7.00 pm. Pretty much the whole of the evening was devoted to the theme of ‘women in animation,’ as I felt that the contribution that women made to animation has rarely been acknowledged (let alone encouraged in the dark and distant past by many of the major animation studios).

Guests of honor ~ Nancy Beiman, Kathie Flood and Kureha Yokoo.

Consequently, our first showing of festival competition entries was entirely made-up of animated films created by women… with some amazing work amongst them I would add!

To launch the entire “Girls Night In (Animation)” event I could think of no-one better than Nancy Beiman. Nancy had spoken at the festival last year and delighted the audience with her amusing and thoroughly fascinating presentation. (That coupled with the fact that she is a mine on information on the subject of animation at large… and women in animation in particular… and that she is both one of the best teachers of animation, as well as being a top professional animator who has worked at Disney and Warner Brothers among others, made her perfect for the job.)

Nancy with one of her early concept designs for Disney's "Hercules."

Needless to say Nancy didn’t disappoint. Her presentation of her own life and times at Disney, with much of the previously unseen development artwork she had created for such films as “Hercules” and “Treasure Planet,” gave us all a unique insight into a unique (and very amusing at times) woman’s life as an animator at the very top of the totem pole. Nancy also talked of her earlier days at Cal Arts where she showed a rare photo of her fellow classmates there… including a certain John Lasseter and Brad Bird! (Other fellow student,
Tim Burton, was not revealed in the picture as he was a year below them all.)

Young Nancy (top right) with her infamous classmates!

Nancy’s whole entrancing presentation was brought to a close by the showing of her first-ever independent film from 1983, “Your Feet’s Too Big,” choreographed to the great Fats Waller song of the same name.

Following rapturous applause, Nancy held the stage to present the next speaker… Microsoft games producer, Kathie Flood. Kathie guided everyone through a side-by-side comparison of ‘games production versus film production’ and we were intrigued to discover the overlapping approaches we all shared and the ones that were very dissimilar indeed.

Kathie at the podium.

Kathie is a fabulous person. I got to know her when she attended my traditional animation classes at the Henry Cogswell College (now sadly defunct) and was an excellent student (although she readily admitted to me that her drawing skills were not amongst the best!) She actually took the class as in her role of game producer she was often dealing with 2D animators who would techno-speak things that were going over her head. (Her expertise was naturally in the 3D world.) So, in order to be better at her job she actually undertook the entire course with me (producing some respectable animation in the process!) and emerged as a much more accomplished and experienced games producer as a result.

Kathie, a person of many skills, also plays drums for a local band!

Kathie rounded-off her presentation by showing the trailer from the latest game she’s produced for the Microsoft Game Studios for the XBOX 360… a car race thriller that crosses many continents, “Project Gotham Racing 4.” Kathie assured us that the trailer contained nothing but 100% un-doctored action from the game itself, causing the audience to be totally blown-away by the realistic and yet breathtaking visuals that transport (at extreme high speed) the player as they race through all the major city streets around the world!

The final presenter of the evening was Pixar animator “Kureha Yokoo.” Kureha never intended to be an animator until she inadvertently saw “Toy Story” one day. It was love at first sight and from that moment on she decided she wanted to learn animation and be a Pixar animator. She enrolled in a local school and upon graduation was given the position of ‘crowd animator’ for the film “Bugs Life.”

Kureha speaking.

Kureha has subsequently worked on every Pixar film since, culminated with “The Incredibles” and more recently “Ratatouille.” She showed the progression reel of the Ratatouille animation she did for one of my favorite moments in the picture… where Emile first kisses Colette in the street, when she was about to Mace him. Kureha explained her step-by-step process of creating the scene… from blocking-out to its final render. I was so captivated by the sensitivity, humor and yet total believability of the emotions exhibited by the characters at this transitional moment in the picture when I first saw it but never realized until this moment that Kureha was actually the creator of this magical moment.

Referring to the theme ‘women in animation,’ Kureha almost brought the house down when following a showing of a famous picture of Disney’s “Nine Old Men,” she screened a much more contemporary picture of Pixar’s “Nine Young Gals”… a collection of young and highly talented female animators who currently contribute so much to the Pixar magic.

Kureha relaxes after her absorbing presentation.

Following these three absorbing presenters (and in keeping with the themes of the evening) I introduced one of my favorite British films… “The Snowman”… directed by the late Diane Jackson. I was directing and animating at the Richard Williams studio in London when this film came out, shortly after Dick’s own Oscar triumph of the time, “A Christmas Carol.” Consequently it was a delight (and yet a huge surprise) in those days when another British studio was nominated for an Academy Award. “The Snowman” didn’t actually (sadly) win the award that year but it had a huge impact on the international scene at the time… being that there is no dialogue in the 26 minute film, it contained nothing but individual pencil-shaded drawings throughout, and the sole but climatic song in the film, “Walking in the Air” (composed and arranged by a friend of mine, Howard Blake) hit the ‘Number 1’ slot in the UK charts for many weeks at the time of the film’s TV premiere. I therefore felt that the audience deserved to see a non-theatrical animated ‘classic’ such as this, directed by an accomplished woman director from Europe.

The evening was rounded-off by a late showing of some of the more bizarre, adult and experimental films that were entered into the festival competition. Although I have to admit that many of these are not among my favorite entries, I do believe it is very important to me that ALL directors and animators find a public place for their work if it is good enough, and therefore my festival director, Ken Rowe, and I were happy to support these filmmakers in this way. Anyone who spends months… maybe years… of labor in bringing their imagination to life through the art of animation deserves respect and recognition from their peers, regardless of style or subject matter. The screenings of these films had to be late however as we were trying to avoid young children seeing much of the subject material they contained, which was clearly not suitable for most young eyes to see.

At around midnight we finally closed the doors on the last departing audience member and breathed a huge sigh of relief that we had survived the first real day of the event. All had gone to plan and everyone seemed to have left with big smiles on their faces and lots of “thanks for staging this fabulous event” on their lips. It made us feel good after all the hard work that had been put in by all concerned… especially by Ken Rowe who had worked harder than anyone to ensure that this year’s festival proved to be the success is was already appearing to be. However tomorrow was another day. So we dragged our weary bones home, to sleep and perchance to dream of an equally successfully day to come.


Sunday, November 4, 2007

FESTIVAL: Thursday, November 1st 2007

The first day of the festival was entirely dedicated to an invitation schools event, where local young students were given a showing of previous award-winning student films at the festival and then shown some of the 'principles of animation' demonstrated by myself and professional animator, Linda Spain. The ulterior motive was to prepare them well for our “Flipbook Competition," where school students of all ages are invited to create a "flipbook" of their own by December and submit it to us for consideration. The best flipbooks we view at the lower, middle and high school level will win one of my signed books on animation, plus a copy of The Animaticus Foundation “Showreel and Archive Reel” DVDs. The winners will be announced on the Animaticus website ( in January when we will screen the winning flipbooks for all to see.

The second part of this event was the presentation of the programs offered by VanArts in Vancouver, CA ( and the DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, WA ( The first presentation was given by VanArt's Ken Priebe (see his log from the festival at and the second by myself for DigiPen.

I explained how DigiPen was probably the "best animation school in the country" right now… except that "the country doesn’t actually know it yet!" (As we currently don’t have any graduates to boast of!) The reason for this that the four-year, BFA course in Animation Production is a new course and therefore its first generation of graduates will not occur till the end of the spring term 2008, However, to back-up my assertion I screened a PowerPoint presentation of Freshman/Sophomore traditional artwork (drawing/painting/character design/digital art) which seemed to blow everyone away with its quality.

(Indeed, two weeks earlier we had shown the work to visiting guest, Jeffrey Smith, from the Art Center in California, and was significantly impressed with the quality of the work our animation students were producing in comparison to his own traditional art students.

The DigiPen philosophy is to teach student to be "traditionally-trained" artists first and foremost, then we build the animation skills onto this classic-based foundation afterwards. (The philosophy that anyone can learn to push buttons on a computer no-one will make the technology work to its uppermost potential unless it is being used by a true artist!) Students at DigiPen are immersed in the classical knowledge of "anatomy", "life drawing," "color theory" and "perspective" in their first formative years at DigiPen... as well as being introduced to intensive courses in "2D animation" and be expected to produce 50 pages of sketchbook work each week ON TOP of all their class homework assignments! In fact, DigiPen students don’t touch a computer in the entire first year, except to log-on for their grades and assignment work.

After the PowerPoint show I screened an edited selection of the animation work of the same students… which led one prospective students to tell me after the event that he was now too intimidated to apply because of the 'fantastic' standards the student work was showing. I reminded him that each and every one of the students whose work he had seen would have felt the same before entering the school, as none of them has any significant art skills at that time! (They had to be taught these by the fantastic faculty that DigiPen has within its program.) I also suggested that he shouldn’t be in fear of ‘greatness’ because if he was he will never be ‘great!’

The final thing I left all the school students with was the advice that whatever school they were considering for their future education, they should not respect ‘reputations’ regarding a school’s name for example, but look at the faculty that the school has at its disposal and how accomplished these faculty are professionally in the disciplines they are teaching students about.(I.e. All schools are only as good as their faculty!) I am therefore very proud to be "Chair of the Art and Animation Department" at DigiPen.



Phew... what a weekend! What a wonderful set of presenters and what an amazing variety of audience attendees we’ve had at this year's annual “2D OR NOT 2D Animation Festival” in Everett, WA.

The festival is hosted by “The Animaticus Foundation”… a non-profit organization I established to 'pr
eserve', 'teach' and 'evolve' the art of traditional animation this digital age.


Not that I’ve got anything against digital animation of course. Indeed, I love it (at least, the best of the best of it!) whether its "2D", "3D", "Claymation" or "Cut-out." Its just that with the ludicrous suggestion that Michael Eisner made a few year's ago, that 2D animation is ‘dead,’ I just HAD to do something to speak-out to the little guy… the smaller-scale artist who loves to draw, to make their drawings come alive and speak to the world through their movies. This is why The Animaticus Foundation was born. It is also why the “2D OR NOT 2D Animation Festival” was conceived... to celebrate the work of all those animators out there who, like me, had the passion and the tenacity to make their own independent films in a challenging environment.

Animation is not an easy art (and who amongst us ever said it was!) But these days it really is tough to stay in there and complete that trip of imagination we all embark on… especially when every frame and every moving image has to be manually drawn! Anyway, that’s the back story of how the Festival, and the Foundation came about. Now read on below about our second-ever event which just finished this weekend…