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On A Desert Island With. . . . Commercial and Visual Effects Artists

Sean Montgomery, Robin Scher and Jason Lee, Mo Willems and Tom Robins.

This month, we picked artists in the field of commercials. Sean Montgomery is an animation director for TOPIX | Mad Dog in Toronto, Canada. His work includes Russell Stover Chocolate "Jelly Gusher," Reactine allergy medication's "Straight to Work" series, and the 'bus crash' scene in The Sweet Hereafter (feature film). Robin Scher and Jason Lee are 3-D animators at Ring of Fire Advanced Media. Their recent work includes a Jennifer Lopez music video. Stephen Price is executive producer for Red Giant Entertainment in Toronto. Mo Willems is a director at Curious Pictures. He is a three time Emmy Award winning writer and animator, and is currently working on a two minute spoof of Quick Draw McGraw and a half hour film about a sheep for Cartoon Network, a few "Suzie Kabloozie" shorts for Sesame Street, and producing a collaborative independent project featuring thirty-three New York animators. Tom Robins is Executive Director/Creative Director at Spontaneous Combustion. His most recent project is packaging for Comedy Central Movie. Sean Montgomery's picks: Animated: 1. Toy Story by John Lasseter. A Bug's Life was prettier and more sophisticated, but Toy Story wins by virtue of being first out of the gate - and raising high the bar over which future computer animated films must jump. Pixar set the standard for what computer animation should do with their short Luxo Jr., and they have yet to disappoint me. 2. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (Disney). Hard to pick just one Disney film, but this is the first one I can remember seeing as a child, and it remains a landmark artistic and animation achievement. 3. Your Face by Bill Plympton and Duck Amuck by Chuck Jones. These two films represent to me what animation does best: the impossible. They tell stories that could simply not be done in any other medium. 4. The Wrong Trousers by Nick Park. Fantastic staging, amazing comedic timing, great characterizations; a wonderful piece of filmmaking, all the more amazing considering the process involved in its creation. 5. The Simpsons (Fox Television). I never get tired of watching old reruns of this show. The writing has remained consistently sharp over its long run. Live-Action: 1. Baraka by Ron Fricke. Like a great painting, this film can reveal something different to every viewer. Its wordless, breathtaking imagery can change the way you view the world. 2. Blade Runner by Ridley Scott, along with James Cameron's Aliens, and David Fincher's Seven, created a dark world of constant rain that speaks to some deep and twisted part of my psyche. 3. Brazil by Terry Gilliam. Gilliam is a uniquely talented director, and he's at his best's such a wonderful concoction. I notice new details every time I watch it. 4. The Empire Strikes Back by Irvin Kershner. Saying it's the best of the trilogy is practically a truism. Seeing it in 1980 was a landmark event in my childhood. 5. The Wizard of Oz by Victor Fleming and (unofficially) King Vidor. I end up watching it at least once a year. Robin Scher and Jason Lee's picks: 1. Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo. 2. A Bug's Life by John Lasseter. 3. Ghost in the Shell by Mamoru Oshii. 4. Robotech (Carl Macek, producer). 5. The Simpsons (Fox Television). 6. Wallace and Grommit by Nick Park. 7. Pinky and the Brain (Warner Bros.). 8. Looney Tunes (Warner Bros.). 9. Wizards by Ralph Bakshi. 10. Anything by Ray Harryhausen. Stephen Price's picks: 1. A Bug's Life by John Lasseter. 2. Aladdin (Disney). 3. Toy Story by John Lasseter. 4. The Wrong Trousers by Nick Park. 5. Akira by Katsuhiro Otomo. 6. Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas by Henry Selick. 7. The Jungle Book (Disney). 8. Fantasia (Disney). 9. A Charlie Brown Christmas (Melendez Productions). 10. The Sinking of the Lusitania by Winsor McCay.

Mo Willems' picks:

Let's assume that fortunately I've landed on a deserted island with VCR's and an ample supply of electricity. Lucky me. You'll notice I mostly dig "cartoons," particularly those by UPA, but I'll go for any animation made with passion, no matter how eccentric. Gerald McBoing Boing by Robert Cannon, UPA. This film is the near perfect example of a film exploring a clever idea and, like a good guest, leaving before it gets tedious. Its deceptive simplicity, charming tone, plethora of visual gags, witty dialog, and silly sound effects make it a joy to watch repeatedly. Most importantly, the light humor coats a serious theme of transforming a handicap into a gift. "Iddy Biddy Beat" and the first "Suzie Kabloozie" bits owe their sensibility to Dr. Suess' inspired poetry in this gem. Rooty Toot Toot by John Hubley, UPA. Chosen for its sublime synthesis of picture, color, design, music and rhyme, which is to say: a really funny, good cartoon! Eleven years ago, when I first saw the bartender's testimony dissolve from court to cafe, I resolved to steal the technique whenever possible. One Froggy Evening by Chuck Jones, Warner Bros. Some of the best animation acting ever. If I were the type who gushed, I'd call it: "Pure animated poetry from the Mark Twain of our age." Come on, who wouldn't want the freedom and talent to produce such a wordless wonder? (Although it's interesting to note that a network would choose as a mascot a frog who refuses to perform in front of the public.) The Telltale Heart by Ted Parmelee, UPA. Frugal with the animation, perhaps, but for mood and texture it can't be beat. The difficult transition from the page to the screen seems effortless thanks to the starkly grandiose design. The Alligator King (Sesame Street). This favorite from childhood stands up to a more mature scrutiny. It's got it all: simplicity in design, great music, timing, and voice. Small wonder the number 7 is the favorite of millions. The Death of Stalinism in Bohemia by Jan Svankmajer. I could have chosen any of this artist's films, but Death strikes me as the guy at his wittiest and most specific. You can hear the sigh of relief at the collapse of Communism spilling into a gasp of confusion. Blah blah blah, it's really cool and mesmerizing. Seven Chances by Buster Keaton. OK, so this one isn't actually animated. But it's got dissolving backgrounds, bouncing rock-slides, gravity defying stunts, and an absurd chase sequence involving 500 women in wedding dresses engulfing suburban LA. This film truly helped define an entire cartoon vocabulary. And Keaton did it better than most of us poor pencil pushers can ever hope to. Ubu by Geoff Dunbar. It's British (although based on the French play by Alfred Jarry), it's from 1980, and it made me want to become an animator. Farce, violence, tragedy and word bubbles penciled in green. Wow. (Anyone who knows how to get a copy, drop me a line.) Words, Words, Words by Michaela Pavlatova. My favorite New Yorker cartoons from the `50s are slightly melancholy, wordless sketches. Here's the animated version, with a simple love story surrounded by the foibles of those whose honeymoon is over. Fantasia (Disney). Say what you want about fluttering butterflies on nymphs' pinkies, this is one kick-ass movie. "Night on Bald Mountain" (the Satanic part) and the Oskar Fischinger inspired animated sound track are favorites. Not to mention that I'm stuck on this deserted island and Fantasia' s like an hour and a half or something... Tony Robins' picks: 1. Jason and the Argonauts by Ray Harryhausen. 2. Toy Story by John Lasseter. 3. Bambi Meets Godzilla by Marv Newland. 4. The Terminator by James Cameron. 5. It Happened One Night by Fank Capra. 6. The Graduate by Mike Nichols. 7. Cinema Paradiso by Giuseppe Tornatore. 8. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick. 9. Zentropa (Europa) by Lars von Trier. 10. Blade Runner by Ridley Scott. Check out the AWN Store for videos of some of these films.

David Kilmer is associate editor of Animation World Magazine.