THE THIRD OSLO ANIMATION FESTIVAL
a special report by the Festival's Vibeke Christensen.
The Nordic Animation competition, held April 25-28, 1996, was attended by over 3,000 people, with over 800 coming to a special children's day featuring screenings and workshops. For the first time, the Festival included a competition category for Nordic and Baltic countries, and included 45 films. The members of our jury were: Paul Driessen from the Netherlands, Marv Newland from Canada, Bettina Bjrnberg from Finland, Abby Terkuhle from USA, Alexander Tatarsky from Russia and Turid Versveen from Norway. The prize winners were:
Special Jury Prize: Little Lilly (Mati Kutt, Estonia). The prize was given for the film's beautiful, inventive and surreal imagery, as well as its painterly, strong visual style. The jury liked its combination of background and foreground. They felt its mood was striking and was personal and showed a unique point of view. They commented on the original storytelling by noting that, the film has a unique and individual narrative structure. It uses a fractured structure, yet tells its story well. The jury also pointed out that it was not dependent on dialogue to tell its story, and that the visuals alone communicated everything clearly.
Best Commercial: Linetest (Jonas Dalbeck/Stig Bergquist, Sweden). In evaluating this category, the jury was initially undecided regarding the criteria for a prize winning commercial. Should the idea be considered at all?... or only the execution (or animation), since the ideas in this case often are dictated by someone other than the artist. They felt that most of the commercials included in the competition category were too conventional; they noted that although they felt that they were well produced and technically well done, but that they did not necessarily communicate a product or message well. Only one entry seemed to combine all that is necessary to make a strong enough statement, i.e., Linetest, which they felt combined a good idea with good execution. The jury felt it was beautifully timed, had good animation, and worked excellently as an informative commercial using a style that will appeal to a certain segment of the population, and a situation that clearly illustrates the intended message.
Best First Film: Processor (Jan Otto Ertesvg, Norway). The jury greatly appreciated seeing an experimental film as a debut film. They mentioned that this is the stage where an artist should be experimenting, in order to find his or her
own style. They also acknowledged the importance of this stage, in that animators
eventually must take things like clients and money into consideration. They chose Processor because it shows that the artist has a great understanding of film, and explores in a simple way the possibilities of the medium. The film is a good combination of video technology and old fashioned materials, i.e., paper. The jury also remarked that the sound and image were well put together, that they
seemed "made for each other." They felt it was obvious the artist had a vision of what he wanted to do, and used simple technology to create it. The jury noted that it was a brave and successful experiment, that showed an understanding of the arts and of film.
Grand Prize: 1895 (Priit Pärn/Janno Poldma, Estonia). First of all, the jury unanimously felt that this was the obvious and easy choice as best film--the film stands in a class by itself, noting its originality, good design, strong style and its joining of powerful images with humor. They praised the fact that the film demands something from its audience. It is complex in what it is communicating, in terms of both style and idea. "We think the Lumière Brothers would be happy with this film."
Audience Prize: Narverfredag (Friday Night Fever) (Christopher Nielsen, Norway).
The following films received special mention in Marv Newland's summary from the Jury: Leikr (Journey Towards Light) (Runi Langum, Norway), Mons the Cat (Piotr Sapegin, Norway) and Daughter of the Sun (Anita Killi, Norway).
Film Roman to Go Public. The North Hollywood-based studio, best known for its work on such TV shows as Garfield & Friends, The Simpsons and The Critic, announced that it will soon be making its initial public stock offering of 3.6 million shares, with existing shareholders possibly selling an additional 185,000 shares. The company, founded by former Bill Melendez director Phil Roman in 1984, thus joins such other North American independent animation houses as Nelvana and Cinar in going public.
Disney and McDonald's Finalize Cross-Promotional Agreement. The Walt Disney Company and the McDonald's Corporation announced the decade-long agreement, which makes the international restaurant chain Disney's primary promotional partners. As a result, McDonald's will have exclusive rights to include toys from the latest Disney films, videos and TV shows in their kids meals. For the past few years, the rival Burger King chain had greatly expanded its market share through its tie ins with such Disney blockbusters as The Lion King, Pocahontas and the upcoming The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
Japan's Gaga Communications Enters Feature Animation. The film, The Voltage Fighters "Gowcaizer," is based on the popular computer game released last fall by Techno Japan. Gaga, which produces films for both the theatrical and home video markets, will utilize its "its expanded mixed-media release pattern" for Gowcaizer.
Engage Signs Exclusive Content Deal With Interworld Productions. Engage Games Online has announced that it has entered into an agreement with Interworld Productions to distribute the company's "online multi-player games." The first two titles to be released under the agreement will be Rolemaster: Megaßstorm (based on the series created by "paper game publisher" Iron Crown Enterprises) and Splatterball (a version of Paintball). The games, which will be available on Windows 95, will accommodate up to 40 and 20 players respectively.
Shadbolt's Paintings areTouched Alive by Vancouver animator: Filmmaker Stephen Arthur has animated a series of 30 paintings by 87-year-old Canadian painter Jack Shadbolt in a short film titled Touched Alive:The Masque of Desire and Doom. While Shadbolt is critical of popular animation, he has entrusted Arthur to do "a serious and original job" of his paintings. Arthur, who used a "consumer-level personal computer" to make the film, holds graduate degrees in both film production and brain physiology.
E3: NEWS AND COMMENTARYSome Thoughts on E3: The second edition of E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) the major video/computer game expo was held in the Los Angeles Convention Center, May 16-18, 1996. Presented by the Interactive Digital Software Association, the trade show was bursting at its seams and often resembled a giant penny arcade, with game freaks grossing out on the latest from Nintendo, Sega and 3DO, seemingly oblivious to the fact that they were supposed to be there on business.
An instant success in its premiere outing last year, it has now outgrown its L.A. venue, and will be moving on to Atlanta, which boasts larger facilities. While some game/interactive producers may be less than happy with the move away from Hollywood, one supposes this is the price of success.
For many, the big news was the long awaited debut of Nintendo's new 64 bit cartridge game system (Nintendo 64) and of new games such as Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire, along with Super Mario 64. The latter really seemed to impress many visitors, though I really couldn't see what was so special about Mario running at high speed through a rather primitive 3D environment. But then again, the game's the thing and with memories of what Welltris did to my carpal tunnel syndrome, I was not about to tempt fate. (The Beavis and Butt-Head CD-ROM, at the Viacom New Media booth, with Beavis (or is it Butt-Head) lobbing globules of saliva off the roof of their high school was more my style.) Anyway, why be a spoilsport and let Nintendo and the twilight of cartridge game systems have its due.
Also creating some buzz, this time among animation types, was the preview of the clay animated CD-ROM, The Neverhood Chronicles (Neverhood), created by Douglas TenNapel, to be one of the first releases from DreamWorks Interactive. TenNapel, whose previous games include Genesis J-Park and Ren and Stimpy's Invention, is perhaps best known as being the creator of the Earthworm Jim character. The latter was spun off into a animated TV series produced by Universal Cartoon Studios for the WB Kids. Given DreamWorks' strong commitment to traditional animation, it may very well also get serious consideration for making the jump from Windows 95 to the boob tube.
Our resident animator, Wendy Jackson, went gaga over the new Simpsons CD-ROM due out at summer's end. She notes that, "It enables you to create original animation with all The Simpsons ' characters, with your own scenarios. It's not a game, but it's real cool. It's really putting the interactive in the interactive."
DVD (Digital Video Disk) was also on a lot of people's mind, although it could only be sampled in a small aerie in the Philips Media booth. This, if you haven't heard, is designed to be a replacement for CDs, CD-ROMs and laserdiscs. With at least four times the capacity of CD-ROMs, it is also being hailed as a replacement for video tape in the home video market. More than one wag suggested that, as far as the game market goes, it was strictly an interim technology, given the thrust of the industry to multiplayer online games. The only thing holding it back, it is said, is a lack of "bandwidth."
While new online, multiplayer games are already beginning to proliferate, I somehow do not think that the onset of larger capacity cable modems (or whatever) will obviate the need for devices like DVD players. All the hype surrounding the online gaming concept is one of those ideas which, like the 500 channel cable systems popular a few years back, seems just a bit overblown and perhaps a bit premature.
E3 Announcements ... Not surprisingly, there were a whole slew of new titles announced at E3, including the de rigueur online games. What follows is a sampling of some new titles that feature animation of some sort or another:
Pajama Sam's Room in No Need to Hide When It's Dark Outside.
© Humongous Entertainment
Humongous Entertainment, which specializes in interactive animation for children, unveiled their newest character, Pajama Sam, who stars in No Need to Hide When It's Dark Outside., as part of the company's Junior Adventures line of CD-ROMs. Due out in September, deals with Sam's attempts to overcome his fear of the dark. The company also launched its Junior Arcade line of "nonviolent" action games for youngsters, including Putt-Putt and Pep's Balloon-O-Rama., Putt and Pep's Dog on a Stick, Freddi Fish and Luther's Water Worries and Freddi Fish and Luther's Maze Madness, which are all due out later this year.
Microsoft, which was crowing about how its Windows 95 operating system is becoming "the gaming platform choice for 1996," previewed several games at E3. These included: Deadly Tide (a futuristic, "high-speed underwater action-thriller" developed by Rainbow Studios and TRG3, featuring 3-D graphics); developer Terminal Reality has come up with Hellbender (a sci-fi shoot-em-up between "the evil Bion aggressors and The Coalition of Independent Planets) and Monster Track Madness (a truck-racing simulation); and The Condemned (a futuristic TV game show from Gray Matter, where prisoners battle each other for freedom). It will also be releasing the newest installment of its Magic School Bus series done with Scholastic, The Magic Schoolbus Explores Inside the Earth. In addition, Microsoft will be coming out with a PC version of GEX, the comic console game, and Microsoft Flight Simulator for Windows 95, the newest incarnation of the classic simulation game.
Philips Media, fresh from its announcement "to jointly develop and market CD-ROM software titles for children" with the Children's Television Workshop, took the opportunity to show off Down in the Dumps, which was developed by France's HaïKu Studios. The London Effects and Animation Award nominee attempts to mix adult humor and slapstick with the game play, which involves a family of eccentric, thumb-sized extraterrestrials who land in "a stinking dump" on planet Earth.
Virgin Interactive Entertainment, noted for such CD-ROM classics as The 7th Guest, previewed a number of titles for a variety of platforms. Very prominently displayed was Toonstruck, a CD-ROM game combining live-action and animation from its Burst division; it stars Christopher Lloyd (as an animator on the Saturday morning Fluffy Fluffy Bun Bun Show) and the voice talents of Dan Castallanetta, Tim Curry, David Ogden Stiers and Dom DeLuise. In the action adventure category, it showed off Heart of Darkness, from Paris-based Amazing Studio, as well as new entries in the Command & Conquer real-time strategy game series (Command & Conquer: Red Alert ) and the Lands of Lore: adventure/role playing games (Lands of Lore: Guardians of Destiny ). For children, Virgin showed the latest of the Spot video games based on the popular children's books, Spot Goes to Hollywood.
Activision said it had signed a representation agreement for its best-selling Pitfall franchise with The Rothman Agency for developing possible television, video and comic book projects, though it initially intends to focus its efforts on getting an animated TV series off the ground. In the meantime, it showcased a bunch of new game titles at E3, including: Hyperblade, a real time, multiplayer item that features futuristic versions of such sports as hockey, lacrosse and speed skating; Interstate '76, a combat simulation game where players face off against a gang of auto mercenaries; Blast Chamber, where players must stay one step ahead of their opponents maneuvering through a maze of obstacles; Time Commando, where players become virus exterminators thrown into a time warp caused by a computer virus; and The Elk Moon Murder, a detective story set in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Virgil Reality - The Study (left) and Cold Blooded (right)
© 7th Level
Former Don Bluth animator Dan Kuenster gets credit for strutting his stuff in The Great Math Adventure starring Howie Mandel, the latest in the Lil' Howie's Fun House series from 7th Level. Mandel as usual provides the voice of Lil' Howie and gets producer credit. Also previewed was The Universe According to Virgil, which features Charles Fleischer (the voice of Roger Rabbit) as a German scientist who goes over volumes of information specifically from the Columbia Encyclopedia, and Cold Blooded, an action-adventure game about half-mutilated universe threatened by a tug-of-war between warring gods.
Dr. Suess' widow (Audrey Geisel) was present at the Living Books booth to give a send off to the interactive version of her husband's Green Eggs and Ham:, which is slated for an early fall release. ... Bullfrog Productions previewed Dungeon Keeper, where players assume the role of the sinister title character, who is presented their version of a "360 degree fully-rotational, texture mapped" environment. ... Finally, while MGM Interactive was showing off its Babes in Toyland CD-ROM (based on its upcoming direct-to-video feature), Disney Interactive was doing the same for its Disney's Animated Storybook, The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Disney Activity Center, Toy Story.