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More From Simon Taylor and the Animation Mentor Program

May 22nd 2009

Hi all! Time certainly flies when you’re having fun. Class 2 went by in a flash with my mentor Jon Collins and now I’m in Class 3 with freelance animator Dana Boadway.

As before, each assignment builds upon what has been learnt previously so this term I’ve been pushing body mechanics further with a heavy lifting assignment, a push and a back flip (based on Donald O’Connor’s “Make ‘em laugh” routine from Singin’ in The Rain). I can’t wait to get into the acting soon but that’s still a few weeks away!

I’m currently in the blocking stage of my back flip animation but I’d like to share something I learnt from my first assignment this term, a heavy lift. When you’re still learning the basics of animation don’t stray too far from your video reference! Exaggerate of course but don’t go doing something almost completely different. My heavy lifting assignment went a little bit wrong because of this as I couldn’t find footage of something heavy enough for what I wanted. I then thought to myself, no problem, I’ll just make it look heavier when it comes to animating it, good grief I shouldn’t have done that! Anyway, lesson learnt and my next assignment came out a lot better.



It is hard to believe that the Monstra Animated Film Festival in Lisbon, Portugal is only 8 years old because each year the festival leaves me with a lifetime of memories.  The 2009 edition (March 9 – 15, 2009) moved downtown from its prevision location so that it could reach more of the community. The experiment worked well, with good-sized audiences for the screenings. The majority of the screenings took place in the lavish Art Deco style Cinema Sao Jorge.  The cinema, built between 1947 and 1950 by the British Rank Organization to showcase their films, was once the largest movie palace on the Iberian Peninsula.
There are records of Chinese residents in Lisbon from as early as 1540 and to honor this segment of the population the Museu do Oriente (Museum of Oriental Art) was opened in the heart of the Asian Community last year.   This year it was the ideal site for respected Japanese abstract animator Maya Yonnesho’s 3-day workshop.  She and a group of students “toured” Lisbon via two wall sized pictographs in the museum, which they used as a starting point to create their film Lisbon Mix which was filmed all over the city.  The finished film, capturing the sights and sounds of the city through Maya and her student’s eyes, was screened on closing night.  Along with a retrospective of Maya’s films there were showings of Chinese animator Li-jun Sun’s Zhang Ga! and Through The Moebus Strip by Clenn Chaika from China and the United States.
The Museu da Marioneta (Puppet Museum) in conjunction with Monstra mounted an extensive exhibit of puppets and sets from Jose Miguel Ribeiro’s new film Passeio De Domingo (Sunday Drive).  There were also drawings and photographs used in the making of the 20-minute film, which was conceived in Lisbon, built in Montemor, filmed in Belgium and France and with post production taking place in the Netherlands.  I especially enjoyed the visual representations at the museum of the route that Jose Miguel traveled as he went to these countries working with different teams of professionals in their three different languages.  It was amazing to see the attention to detail that was taken with each character and set.
I have been anxiously awaiting this film because I am a large fan of his earlier film, The Suspect, which won more International awards than any other Portuguese film up to the present time.  When Nik and I screened The Suspect as part of our Ideas In Animation series our audience was delighted with the puppet animation that tells the story of four people on a train that may have a serial killer on board.  Several years ago Nik and I visited Jose Miguel at his workshop in Montemor and saw the first puppets being created, so I was eager to see the film, which was screened at the closing night ceremony.  Passeio De Domingo lived up to my expectations and I am sure we will all have ample opportunity to see this touching humorous story of a family’s Sunday drive that turns into a road trip.
The Museu da Marioneta also showcased Papirossy, a “lung-drawn” animation and audiovisual installation created by Otto Alder, acclaimed animation historian, documentarian, and co-chairman of HGKL (Hochschule fur Gestaltung und Kunst Luzern) in Luzern, Switzerland.  “Lung-drawn” is a confusing phrase that refers to Otto blowing cigarette smoke onto cardboard which was combined with animation to create an effect which he describes as “an installation that visualizes time through imprinted smoke on cardboard to create an effect where time is frozen, the past stays fixed, and emotions are visualized by integrating animation into a mixed media installation.”  Papirossy is the first lung-drawn animation ever filmed and the installation has traveled worldwide.


ANIMA BRUSSELS 2009 February 20 – 28; A Festival Close to Home and Heart

Ever since I moved to Belgium I always look forward to ANIMA BRUSSELS each February. The festival is only a half hour train ride from my front door, and it always marks the beginning of Spring to me.  Best of all, it is a wonderful opportunity to see a great deal of Belgian animation.Opening night got off on a high note with a screening of Hayao Miyazaki’s beautiful new film Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea.  I had previously seen Ponyo on opening night of the Anilogue Festival in Budapest but was very glad to have another chance to see this lovely film a second time.  There are so many layers and textures that, as with all of Miyazaki’s films, you can watch it over and over discovering new things each time.


I have written about the Art Institute at Bournemouth and their exceptional animation program before.  Peter Parr, Reader in Animation and his colleagues consistently produce award winning students who find good places in the animation industry when they graduate.  Peter and his colleagues have plenty to be proud of this year.

Graduates Geoff King and Beth Witchells took home multiple honors for The Great Race, winning The Royal Television Society Award and a £500 award at Animated Exeter.  Richard Williams presented them with his DVD Animator’s Survival Kit as their award at Animated Encounters.

Fish by Dennis Constantinou and Chara Sottou picked up the Best Student 2D Animation Award at Animex and was also a Royal Television Award nominee.  IO, created by Alex Wad, Robert Nelson, and James Swindells was also nominated for the Royal Television Society Awards where it was gained a Special Jury Mention.


An Online Animation Mentor Program

When Simon Taylor, a young British animator, first told me about the Online Animation Mentor Program I was anxious to learn how it worked first hand. For the last few months I have followed Simon's progress.  As he told me more and more about the program I realized that many of you might not be aware of this on-line opportunity and so I have asked Simon to write about his adventure.  Whenever Simon feels that he has something to say and has the time, more installments of his adventure will appear here.

Good morning, afternoon and evening fellow wanderers of the Internet.  My name is Simon Taylor, I'm an animation student and I've been invited by Nancy to share with you my experiences at the online animation school Animation Mentor. Just to give as brief an intro as possible about myself, I've been animating in one shape or form since a very early age. From 2001 to 2006, I was entering films into the Co?Op Young Film?Makers Festivals, which really gave me the enthusiasm to keep pushing myself to get better and is how I came into contact with Nancy.


I Suggest That You Check This Symposium Out

My friend, Otto Alder, Co Head of the Animation Department at Lucerne International Animation Academy, is organizing a symposium primarily directed at researchers, lecturers and students in the field of media.  He would like to encourage an environment for a theoretical debate about animation as an art form.  He has assembled an impressive roster of support from some of the top names in the field of animation.

Lucerne International Animation Academy 8-12 of December 2009

The institute Design of Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts will organise the first Lucerne International Animation Academy from the 8–12 of December 2009. The goal of this Symposium is to encourage a theoretical debate about current and historical questions of animation as an independent form of the “Moving Picture Production” in Switzerland.



Seems like I have been writing too many obituaries in the last few month and even though losing dear human friends is very painful, sometimes the loss of a treasured company is just as sad.Any of us who lived in the Bay Area during the heyday of the Orphanage has fond memories of the great work they created and the exciting young animators who were given the chance to cut their teeth and expand their wings.

Today I had the heart-wrenching task of joining my co-founders Scott Stewart and Jonathan Rothbart in announcing that The Orphanage will be suspending operations indefinitely. We started the company ten years ago, tripled in size each year for our first three years, and worked on some of the biggest and best effects movies made. We produced shorts and even features, we spawned a commercial division and an animation company, and we hung out in the halls with Frank Miller, Ethan Hawke, and M.C. Hammer. We did DI before it was called DI, we gave birth to Magic Bullet, and we did really, really good work.


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: