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Nik and I just received word that German Director Andy Kaiser's animated film, FRIENDLY FIRE has been accepted for the TRICKFILM FESTIVAL, May 5 through 10 in Stuttgart, Germany. This is a major festival and we are very excited. Nik created the music and we send congratulations to Andy, Cadi Catlow, and all of the other people involved in this wonderful film about the horrors of war. If you are planning on attending the Festival be sure not to miss FRIENDLY FIRE.


ANIMA 2009 February 20 through the 28th Brussels, Belgium

I always look forward to ANIMA BRUSSELS , not just because it is in Brussels which is only a 30 minute train ride from my home in Gent, but because it is a wonderful opportunity to see a wide array of animation.  The Festival, housed in the beautiful Art Deco Flagey building, takes place February 20 through the 28th, Carnival week vacation in the city, and features programs for all ages.From Hayao Miyazaki’s new masterpiece,  Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea, which I was lucky enough to see earlier this year to a tribute to American film maker Ralph Bakshi there will be something for everyone at ANIMA BRUSSELS.   Bakshi created the first X rated animated film with his 1972 adaptation of R. Crumb’s emblematic underground comic strip Fritz the Cat.


ARSENALS Film Festival - 12 through 21 September 2008

Riga, Latvia is one of my favorite cities.  The Daugava River running through the center of the city before it reaches the Baltic Sea makes it a wonderful city to walk through.  Riga is a historians delight, full of architecture that reflects the diversity of cultures, from the 12th Century German conquest and art nouveau delights to 1991, when the country won independence from the former Soviet Union.  The architecture of the Soviet period is still interesting to give you a feel of how the city was when it was still part of the Soviet Block.

Sergei Eisenstein was born in Riga and his father, a famous architect, designed many of the beautiful art nouveau buildings.  The city reminds me very much of St. Petersburg.  It has the same beautiful yellow and rose hues of paint and when the sun light hits at the right angle the city glows – sort of like those evenings in San Francisco when the sunset hits the windows of the buildings and they glow golden.


Monstra 2009

MONSTRA ANIMATION FESTIVAL in Lisbon, Portugal is an event that Nik and I always look forward to.  This year the festival has moved dates from mid-May to the 9th through 15th of March.

The 2009 competition is open to feature films completed after January 1,2007 and student works made after January 1, 2008.

The festival treats work with the utmost respect and screening at the lovely, modern theatre are of the highest quality.  Nik and I have been invited to be guests at the festival again this year and I can whole heartedly encourage all feature film makers and those with student works fitting the qualifications to enter their film.

You can contact the festival for complete regulations and an application at:
The deadline for submission is January 15, 2009. They accept DVD, VHS or mini-DV for selection purposes.


16th International Trickfilm Festival - Stuttgart 2009

In 2008 Nik and I were guests at the 15th International Trickfilm Festival in Stuttgart.  We were invited to give a presentation of music for animation and Nik played on the big outdoor stage before SITA SINGS THE BLUES was screened as well as in the festival cafe.
I would encourage everyone to enter their film in this festival.  Your work will be treated with respect and if you are lucky enough to be able to attend you will be treated to lovely hospitality by a friendly, hard working staff.  You can also refer back to my article posted earlier this year for more details of our visit and some festival photos.

Just as an aside, the Stuttgart Festival staff throw one of the best parties at the Annecy Animation Festival which you can read about in my article about that festival.

workshops Blogs


The beautiful mountain town of Monodendri, Ioannina, Greece was the perfect setting for the 2nd annual Animart. From July 13 through the 20th, 54 college age students and 6 professionals from the world of animation gathered in the picturesque village for workshops ranging from clay animation, hand drawn cartoon animation and Maya to sound design and composing music for animation. Vassilis Boutos, director of the European Animation Center, is the organizer and energy behind Animart.

Students from three different South Eastern European countries completed very creative films. Participants were not required to have any prior animation experiences, but with a combination of excellent instructors and some hard work by the students, everyone had a sense of accomplishment at the end of the week.



I arrived back home after a week at the ARSENALS Film Festival in Riga, Latvia followed by another week teaching in Luzerne, Switzerland to find e-mails from Adam Elliott and Melonie Coombs, Karl Cohen, and Merlin Crossingham.  All of them had exciting news that I want to share with my readers so please read the three new articles and enjoy.


Adam Elliot and Melonie Coombs Offer A sneak Peek at MARY AND MAX

While post production continues, viewers around the world are getting a seek
preview of the new feature film clay animation production from the Academy
Award winning team behind HARVIE KRUMPET. MARY AND MAX has been made in
Melbourne Australia, filmed over 57 weeks. The large team of set and model
builders, armature designers and sculptors have build over 1500 sets, props
and characters and now with actual production complete Writer, Director and
Designer Adam Elliot is welcoming the opportunity to share with you a sneak
peek at the world of MARY AND MAX.

The website features the story synopsis and character outlines, as well as
images from the film. The site also features links to all our partners and
details on our cast and crew. Also for fans of stop motion animation there
is a wealth of behind the scenes details including "Making of Mary and Max

and webisodes "that reveal the ugly truth" about the production, as well as a
news and comments page for your thoughts and of course a shop!


Karl Cohen Wins ASIFA Prize

As a fellow member of ASIFA/San Francisco and a friend of Karl Cohen's for many years I am thrilled that he has received the 2008 ASIFA Laureate Award.  Karl, a true Renaissance Man of animation, is a historian, notable collector of animated films, and author of many authoritative articles published in periodicals throughout the world.  He is a professor of animation history at  San Francisco State University and the author of Forbidden Animation :  Censored Cartoons and Black Listed Animators in America.  Last, but not least, he has been the President and guiding light of ASIFA/San Francisco for over over two decades.  The ASIFA/San Francisco newsletter, which Karl edits and is the primary writer, is read by animation fans around the world for the wealth of information that he gathers each month.



I first met Merlin Crossingham when Wallace and Gromit invited him to accompany them to the wonderful Russian/Ukrainian animation festival that takes place each year on a cruise ship.  The three of them had the cabin across from Nik and I and in the course of the voyage we all became on first name basis.


Merlin was the second unit director on Curse of the Were Rabbit and also a key animator. Since then he has co-directed a series of Creature Comforts for CBS. It is nominated for an Emmy, and so he will be off to LA at the weekend for the awards. Recently he has also been directing stop motion commercials for Aardman. Currently he is supervising the animation on the latest Wallace and Gromit.  Merlin told me that it is “A half-hour special for Christmas this year, but not a Christmas-y story though, it’s a bread based murder mystery. Wallace and Gromit in 'A Matter of Loaf and Death”.


One thousand feet up, things are not as they should be……

Two men, one crane and a very big box.


Crained was created to fill a week in the life of two animators, shot with plasticine on glass in HD. In order to make an animated film in five days some rules were laid down. Shoot with whatever was to hand, shoot fast and blind (no video assist), and to live with whatever came out at the end.Cained is as close to guerrilla film making as animation can be.


Merlin has thrown down the gauntlet to any other animators who have a week of free time on their hands and are crazy enough to want to stay in the studio instead of going on holiday. 


To enjoy the fruits of their labor, visit:





Monstra is a very civilized festival. During the day there were screenings for local school children. At the beginning of the second week competition screenings started, but not until 19h00 (7:00 PM). The seven competition sessions were packed full of such crowd pleasers as The Tale of How by the Black Heart Gang, Ree Treweek, Jannes Hendrikz, and Markus Smit, a trio of South African animators who call themselves a collective and Estonian animators Jellena Girlin and Mari-Liis Bassovskaja’s The Dress. Both of these films have won awards at several major festivals. There were also new treasures to discover, like award winning animator Koji Yamamura’s latest film A Child’s Metaphysics. Koji’s view of the serious business of childhood has both humor and sadness as he deals with the pitfalls and joys of being a child.


Annecy 2008: A Truly Feature Festival

When I first learned that the 2008 Annecy Festival of Animation (9 – 14 June in Annecy, France) was spotlighting feature films I was quite apprehensive. An animated feature has to be really good to make me want to stay in my seat for an hour and a half without falling asleep or wishing that it was over, but I was in for a pleasant surprise at the festival this year. Of 40 features submitted to the selection committee, 9 were placed in competition, 12 screened out of competition, and 3 were shown as special premiers. It was a fine selection and the subject matter and styles were so varied that there was something to please everyone.

Nina Paley’s brilliant musical adaptation of the Indian epic Ramayana, Sita Sings the Blues, was an instant crowd pleaser. Drawing the film together with songs from the 1920’s songstress Annette Hanshaw, including the poignant Mean to Me, Nina tells the legend of the Indian god Rama from Sita’s point of view. Nina also weaves her own personal story of her husband’s mid-life crisis and subsequent dumping of her via e-mail throughout what she refers to as “the greatest break-up story ever told”.



Far and away the best parts of the festival for me were the special programs. Anima Docs alone was well worth the entire trip to the festival. Curated by Erik van Durnen and Gerben Schermer for the International Documentary Film Festival 2007 in Amsterdam, the five programs give us a chance to decide for ourselves if the animated documentary is fiction posing as reality or not.

Winsor McCay’s 1916 Sinking of the Lusitania is an obvious propaganda piece designed to stir up anti-German sentiments during WW I. At the other end of the spectrum, in Springtime in Sant Ponc (2007) Swiss animators Eugenia Mumenthaler and David Epiney recorded the results of a drawing workshop for mentally handicapped people. It gives a glimpse into their thoughts and fears via animation.



MONSTRA, Lisbon Animated Film Festival (May 8 -18 in Portugal) is indeed a monster of a festival. For 11 days the festival brought together the cream of United Kingdom animators for a salute to British Animation along with quality competition programs. The British segment included workshops and retrospectives honoring Paul Bush, Phil Malloy, the Brothers Quay, Vera Neubauer and many other artists.

The American born identical twins Stephen and Timothy have lived in England for so long (since 1978) that they are considered an important fixture on the British film scene. Their highly surreal films are full of personal and distinctive imagery that can be disturbing and riveting at the same time. Two retrospectives of their work were screened.


ANIMART ’08 in Monodendri, Ioannina, Greece

The 2nd ANIMART, a summer meeting about animation and related arts, will be held 13 through 20 July in Monodendri, near Ioannina, Greece. 2008 is the Year of Intercultural Dialogue and so workshops and programs will be presented by many leading professionals from around the world.

Workshops will include clay animation conducted by Rony Oren from Israel; animator and ex libris creator extraordinaire Rastko Ciric of Serbia will lead the Cartoon Animation workshop and Portugal’s Fernando Galrito will lead participants through “The Draw and the Pixilation”.

Mohamed Ghazala of Egypt will give us a glimpse into Egyptian and African animation, and Nik and I will talk about the history of music through animation. Nik and Rastko will reprise their musical act in the amphitheatre with a moonlight concert featuring what else? - Moon songs!



As I watched noted director and film critic Natalia Lukinyk's touching moving documentary film Alexander Tatarsky, Or How To Embrace The Immense . . . I found it hard to believe that it has been almost a year since one of the biggest hearts in Russian animation stopped beating. Natalia's touching celluloid portrait began as part of her new trilogy of films about creative Russian and Ukrainian artists in three different fields titled The Restless Talents. Sadly the film was completed as a labor of love after the untimely death of her close friend.

Natalia gives us a warm and insightful view into the early life that shaped a true artistic genius. Humorous moments of Alexander playing with his beloved toy collection which he said every grown-up child needed and pictures of him with his dogs and cats that played an important part in his life from early childhood show one side of this very complex man. Most beautiful of all are the pictures of him with his wife and of him holding his young son at home in Moscow.The great director and animator went on to found Pilot Studios, the first private animation studio in the new Russia, turning it into one of the world's leading animation studios. Pilot is world renowned, winning awards at festivals the world over and mentoring several decades of animators and script writers that now work in all corners of the world. Speaking of his dear friend and colleague at Pilot, Valentin Telegin said "He took up a flag and led the troops." This quote complete summarizes the great man's life.



My spring festival season got off to a great start in Stuttgart, Germany at the 15th INTERNATIONAL TRICKFILM FESTIVAL OF ANIMATED FILMS, May 1 through the 6th. For Nik and me the big event of the week was to finally get to see the entire 82 minutes of Nina Paley’s wonderful feature film SITA SINGS THE BLUES. Although Nik composed and performed the intermission music for the film we had only seen segments and we were very curious about how Nina would fit the pieces together. Her use of three Indian voices in an unscripted conversation about the Sita legend worked beautifully to connect the action sequences. The fact that the voices were disagreeing about how they believe the history of Sita and Rama should be told was a perfect counterpoint to the 1920’s Annette Hanshaw vocals that accent both Sita and Nina’s stories. SITA SINGS THE BLUES was screened in the festival theaters and also on the gigantic out door beer garden screen to an enthusiastic crowd of hundreds. Prior to the screening Nik played music from the film to set the mood.


Exciting Annecy Headline!!!

Nik and I have just returned from the Annecy International Animation Festival where the Cristal for the Best Feature Film was won by Nina Paley for SITA SINGS THE BLUES. Nik and I are so thrilled for Nina who put five years of work into making this remarkable film all by herself, and we are so glad that she will be able to have a social life again!



hosted a lovely brunch for the ASIFA members at the festival. Buba (former head of ANIMAFEST ZAGREB and Vice President of ASIFA Croatia) and Vesna Dovnikovic (Secretary of ASIFA International) brought tasty and powerful traditional Croatian liquors which truly added to the festive air of the party. A good time was had by everyone.

The big event of the day was the awards ceremony and I believe that the juries did an excellent job, so without further ado the winners are . . .


Jury: Joanna Quinn (Great Britain), Moustapha Alassane (Niger), Caroline Leaf (USA/Canada/Great Britain), Igor Kovaljov (Russia/USA) and Danijel Suljic (Croatia)

GRAND PRIZE (best short film in the festival) - festival statue, cash award of 2.500 Euros, and honorary presidency at the next festival



The ANIMAFEST staff planned a trip to the country with a picnic for festival guests, but sadly it had to be canceled due to rain. Instead that hosted a lovely and delicious lunch for us all at a near by restaurant. It would have been a great treat to take a drive in the country - but since the rain came down in buckets it was very wise of them to change plans.

Wednesday highlights included a retrospective of Joanna Quinn's wonderful work and World Classics selected by Clare Kitson which included such great films as What's Opera Doc? and Raoul Servais' Harpya. For those who heard her speak the day before about Yuri Norstein and his wonderful film Tale of Tales, but hadn't had the opportunity to see the film, she included it in her program.