Fresh from the Festivals: August 2000's Film Reviews

by Maureen Furniss

Within the world of animation, most experimentation occurs within short format productions, whether they be high budgeted commercials, low budgeted independent shorts, or something in between. The growing number of short film festivals around the world attest to the vitality of these works, but there are few other venues for exhibition of them or even written reviews. As a result, distribution tends to be difficult and irregular. On a regular basis, Animation World Magazine will highlight some of the most interesting with short descriptive overviews.

Oil and Vinegar (1999), 3 min., directed by Mike Blum, USA. Info: Mike Blum, Pipsqueak Films, 5711 Vesper Ave., Van Nuys, CA 91411, USA. Tel: 1-818-526-3670. Fax: 1-425-944-6225. E-mail: Web: .

Brahm's Lullaby, 2 min., directed by Maciek Albrecht, USA. Info: The Ink Tank, 2 West 47th Street, New York, NY 10036, USA. Tel: 1-212-869-1630. Fax: 1-212-764-4169.

Sheep in the Big City "Chapter 2: Sheep on the Lam," 7 min., directed by Mo Willems, USA. Info: Curious Pictures, 440 Lafayette St., New York, NY 10003, USA. Tel: 1-212-674-1400. Fax: 1-212-674-0081. Web:

Hello, Dolly!, 3 min., directed by Mariko Hoshi, USA. Info:

Atlas Gets a Drink (1999), 3.5 min., directed by Michael Overbeck, USA. Info: Michael Overbeck, 39 Evergreen St., Providence, RI 02906, USA. Tel: 1-401-421-6529. E-mail:

If you have the QuickTime plug-in, you can view a clip from each film by simply clicking the image.

Oil and Vinegar. © Mike Blum.
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Oil and Vinegar
Oil & Vinegar tells a tragic tale of love between two condiments: oil and vinegar. The story itself is filled with hyperbole, as director Mike Blum parodies Hollywood clichés of romance on screen. A libretto, composed by Seve Kutay and sung in Italian, adds to the dramatic flourish of the 3-minute computer-animated film.

The project was created as an 'after hours' animated short at Walt Disney Feature Animation, where Blum currently works as Senior Development Software Engineer. Though not officially sanctioned by Disney, the project functioned as an opportunity for not only software research and development, but also employee training. Blum explains that a number of relatively inexperienced artists at the company volunteered to assist so they could learn the software, providing some of them with opportunities for advancement. Among the applications used were Maya for layout, modeling and animation and Renderman for shading, in addition to proprietary products.

Using an all-volunteer crew, the production was completed in nine months -- and only because Blum found ways of streamlining the work. For example, he reused backgrounds from his previous directorial effort, Salad Bowl . . . A Carrot's Tale (1998), which also took place in a kitchen. Because the volunteers tended to shift in and out of the crew, Blum was compelled to create a very tightly storyboarded project that changed little while it was in production. In order to train traditional effects animators on a computer in a short amount of time, he architected a special system, which he presented at SIGGRAPH this year in a session entitled "Timing Chart: Timing Animation via Traditional Methods."

Brahm's Lullaby. © The Ink Tank.
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Brahm's Lullaby
This lovely, soothing work of animation is not only ideal for young audiences, but also beautiful to behold for older viewers -- it is no surprise that its director, Polish animator Maciek Albrecht, won an Emmy for its animation design. Working with mixed media, including cut-outs, clay and traditional animation, Albrecht created this film and others for the Home Box Office (HBO) cable network. He also has produced animated productions and commercials for Children's Television Workshop, PBS, and others, and his illustrations have appeared in a variety of publications, including The Atlantic Monthly, GQ and Rolling Stone. Since 1983, Albrecht has worked at The Ink Tank in New York, which is directed by renowned illustrator and director R.O. Blechman.

In a way it is hard to describe what makes Albrecht's film work so well. Certainly, the singing of Aaron Neville, which is in English, adds significantly to its success. But the placid expressions of a lady bug, a little snail, a family of raccoons, and other small creatures and the continual metamorphosis from one to another also add to the total effect. I couldn't help but smile as I watched this film over and over again. It's a wonderful example of the visualization of music and altogether delightful. I hope this is the universe my children inhabit each night as they drift off to sleep.


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