Animation Night 1: Animation Night
What exactly are you looking at here?
I love animated films, short and long, strange and accessible, old and new. And every Thursday, I find out all I can about some animated films from across the world and screen them on Twitch. Here are the results of my devotion...
What exactly are you looking at here?
Animation Night is set to continue! Time to beep and boop with some truly classic anime.
We dive in to the intense visual inventiveness of Studio 4°C.
Not only Japan makes package films. Disney did it, once, against the background of a historic strike… but the Italians had something to say about their dominance.
We find more fascinating short film collections, in an apocalyptic scifi direction. ‘Short Peace’ explores the potential of CG in anime, and the Animatrix sees some of the best animators in Japan absolutely go off.
The Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc evolved a parallel animation tradition, similar and different to what took place in the West. We start with exploring their short films.
Could I do a full movie on Animation Night? Easily, it turned out, and what better to start than, who else, Studio 4°C with a brilliantly stylish story about two traumatised children in a gorgeously dirty city.
How did I turn out this way? Surely much of it has to do with the weird, edgy, ingenious animations of the early Flash scene on Newgrounds. In this Animation Night, a retrospective on independent web animation of all kinds and some of the stars which emerged.
Puella Magi Madoka Magica: Rebellion - a movie of gorgeous choreography and a boldly divisive story. But we’d better get the context first, so this became the first night in which we would marathon three movies in a row…
France may be the only country whose animation output can even come close to rivalling Japan. We make our first encounter Sylvain Chomet and his pigeon-cops and horse-cyclists, the astute and moving Persepolis, and the brilliance of the Gobelins animation school.
Aaah, Masaaki Yuasa! One of the most visually inventive oddballs that the anime industry has ever made, of course we would reach him before long. I start trying my hand at director bios…
Blessed Kyoto Animation, the kindly autarchic bubble that is an exception to every awful rule about the anime industry. We take a look at their history, and particularly, their star director Naoko Yamada.
The brilliant Irish studio Cartoon Saloon burst onto the scene in the 2000s with a gorgeous film taking after illuminated manuscripts, and they only got better… just as long as they stuck to making films about Ireland.
Mamoru Hosoda’s films cut a distinctive style, with fantastic character animation, the iconic use of kagenashi styles, and a direct appeal to the emotions.
Kon is rightly regarded as one of the greatest directors, the meticulous protege of Otomo whose films blend reality and hallucination with frame perfect editing and storyboards that verge on key animation. Let’s have a look at his story…
We take a look at Spanish Animation, which only rarely touches on animation… and when it does, it has a tendency for the serious and artful. We watch unlucky jazz artists in pre-revolutionary Cuba and renowned surrealist Luis Buñuel shooting a documentary in pre-revolutionary Spain, and somehow both have friends called Ramón!
Hideaki Anno - a fascinating character. We begin to build the story of Gainax and Anno before watching his enormous project to thematically answer his best known work. Let’s open the New Gospel…
Two incredibly bombastic, stylish films showing some of the most advanced traditional animation… so what does happen if we set Takeshi Koike and Hiroyuki Imaishi side by side? Let’s give your adrenal gland a workout!
Korean animation is the real backbone of the ‘American’ animation industry, but every now and again, Koreans get to make films for themselves too - and like Korean film in general, the results are often pretty special!
The great shame of animation is how deep its roots lie in minstrelsy. Black people have long faced exclusion and hostility from the industry, but those directors and animators to fight through the many filters have made really bold, stylish films. Eventually, Sony sat up and took notice. Here’s a little cross-section of that very fraught history!
The occasion of the character-packed Pokémon Twilight Wings gave a reason to revisit a childhood favourite! And a chance to finally meet the backstory of a certain surly psychic cat…
There are a great many films about animals, but few enough which really try to portray nature… in all its brutality! Welcome to ‘animal guro night’.
In which I take the theme of jidaigeki - Japanese historical films - to launch into a 7000 word treatise on the economic history of the samurai class and its later reflection in film. Strap in!
It is halloween… which means I am going to ask where the horror genre came from, and then watch one of the best discoveries of Animation Night in Alberto Vasquez’s Birdboy: The Forgotten Children. Along with all sorts of other spooky delights from Yamishibai to Vampire Hunter D!
In the 20th century, we opened the possibility for a whole new kind of miserable death. Naturally this has had a fierce impact on animators - whether recalling the memory of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or living under the shadow of total annihilation.
Chinese animation has a rich history, surviving the Japanese invasion and flourishing in artists like Te Wei under the Hundred Flowers Campaign only to be almost snuffed out in the Cultural Revolution. Yet decades later in the new capitalist China, some truly brilliant studios, trained on outsourcing for the world, have increasingly defined a powerful artistic voice - adjacent to anime but clearly its own thing. Let’s take a look!”
We return once more to the ingenious Masaaki Yuasa, to see if he can make anything sparkle as much as Night Is Short Walk On Girl…
Who were Gainax before the world knew Neon Genesis Evangelion? Very interesting it turns out: let’s go back to the era of Royal Space Force and Gunbuster to see where those otakus from Daicon began.
The bombastic, glorious celebration of virile energy that put Hiroyuki Imaishi on the map! Kick reason to the curb and do the impossible! Unfortunately cramming two very fast-moving cours of TV anime into as many movies turned out to be impossible after all.
Hanukkah came around… and while I know Jewish history is not my bailiwick, it was a fine chance to talk about the animation industry. So let’s find out two challengers to Disney… Jeffrey Katzenberg and Don Bluth, as we watch Dreamworks’s best movie. And also see the Rugrats have a good time!
Back to France, with some odd little movies about men building wooden structures for heterosexual reasons. What happened when Takahata reached out a hand to Dudok de Wit, and who’s the bold new challenger using Blender Grease Pencil at great scale?
It is the firm policy of Animation Night not to celebrate Christmas. Christmas movies are the worst. So we decided to watch some fun 4°C compilations and a classic bit of cyberpunk, Gunnm.
For a very Animation Night new year, we watched one of the greatest animated films ever made. We all know and love Akira, but let’s take a look where it came from!
It is not only Japan that makes its quicky auteurs! Let’s take a look at Genndy Tartakovsky, the master of strong shape composition and limited animation.
Sayo Yamamoto holds the torch for every horny woman who’d like to make a movie. We look at her brilliant interpretation of Lupin III’s femme fatale, her fascinating Watanabe-style story of Brazil, and her sweet gay figure skaters.
I totally failed to actully write anything about Lupin III. For more than a year.
Mamoru Oshii loves to make a slow, meditative philosophical film in a near-future military dystopia… and luckily for him, he was in with the 90s realist animation movement who could realise his vision with aplomb. Let’s take a look back on his story…
Ghost in the Shell is the definitive cyberpunk, and yet nobody can quite agree what tone it should strike. Let’s take a look back at the ways people have spun Masamune Shirow’s embodiment-negotiable future!
Compositing animation with footage of real actors, and making it convincing, is one of the hardest tasks traditional animation can perform… which is why, when it’s done well, the results are quite spectacular. Let’s look back over some of the attempts, from Cool World and Space Jam to the mighty Roger Rabbit.
The second big man of Ghibli, Takahata is a meticulous visionary… but he will certainly make his artists work hard to realise that exacting vision. Let’s roll back the clock and see the early days of the famous duo at Toei and his later experiments at Ghibli.
Returning once more to Satoshi Kon to finish the set: Paprika and Tokyo Godfathers. Do they hold up? To my surprise, it was Tokyo Godfathers that moved me the most!
That horse from Adventure Time is an industry legend, and he was among the exodus of animators to Dreamworks in the 90s. But The Prince of Egypt proves to be a tough act to follow…
The lord of the summer movie, Makoto Shinkai will take a simple doomed romance and wrap it in the most exquisite compositing on film. He was all set to make variants of that film for the rest of his career… but an influx of Ghibli talent turned out to be the vital ingredient he needed to leap to the height of fame.
Made in Abyss is harrowing, and my problematicest fave. Perfectly adapted by Kinema Citrus, it’s an intensely emotional story of children on a pilgrimage to the strange unknown in a world determined to brutalise them… and a real fire test of the theory of ‘libidinal investment’.
We return to Chinese animation, and find another fantastic hidden gem with the incredible dystopian Da Hu Fa, along with the most spectacular sakuga of Fog Hill… and watch Nezha’s bratty childhood in some quite exceptional mythologically oriented CG.
Hosoda continues to inject oodles of charm into every kind of family relationship.
We once again sail the information superhighway. Some of our faves have new work out, and meanwhile there’s plenty of classics to explore, especially with the help of my dear fwiends!
What is the future of animation? Somehow a unity of traditional and digital, but the possibilities are still being enthusiastically explored. Klaus sees old Disney full animation put through a new pipeline, but its story takes many a dubious turn… while Wolfwalkers is Cartoon Saloon’s strongest film yet, facing the legacy of Cromwell with beautiful composition.
From claymation to pixilation, arranging objects in space and time has since the start been a core method of animation, and yet I said little about it! Here, we remedy that, and dive into the history before enjoying the defining works of Švankmajer and Aardman…
A ‘Wound Story’ surely appeals to the girl who’s discovered her love of ero-guro, but what is this whole Monogatari business? Let’s ask kVin-sama to teach us the history of the extremely self-aware franchise that put Team Shinbo on the map.
Animation Night finishes its first year, something I’d never imagined possible! Let’s look back on where we’ve been, and finally give Aeon Flux and Tekkonkinkreet the love they deserve.
Katsuhiro Otomo will forever stand as the man who directed Akira, but can his later Steamboy hold a candle? And how will Rintaro, the oldest-school Madhouse auteur, take on Otomo’s script in Metropolis?
Science-fiction metaphors for adolescence are the heart of Gainax, and FLCL stands as their most experimental. Indie music, robots, glorious sakuga and the debut of Hiroyuki Imaishi.
Disney Disney Disney. Oh you fuckers. But at the tail end of the Renaissance, they were a lot more inventive than they are today. Not every such film worked, but all hold interest!
We were long overdue for more KyoAni, but finding a way to fit into Animation Night was always a puzzle. But seeing the K-on! girls come to my home city is an experience, and then Violet Evergarden astounded us with its beauty.
So taken was I with Violet Evergarden that I scheduled another week of it. Alas, it couldn’t carry it the full distance!
It’s Annecy week! What short films do the best in animation have to show?
Yasuhiro Yoshiura is almost a chameleon director - each of his works seems to perfectly reflect its era. A robot café and a world where some people fall upwards await…
Oh, what a humble eroge can spawn. The Fate franchise, and the larger ‘Nasuverse’, is sprawling and byzantine, but Ufotable’s adaptations offer a very polished entry point. We get together to feel Heaven…
There’s shōnen anime… and then there’s One Piece, standing in a class of its own. The grand pirate adventure story owes a lot to its endlessly changing travelogue structure; in the hands of Toei, has spawned innumerable adaptations over its enormous run. I had a friend who’s a fan pick out a suitable set for an outsider to enjoy.
Hello friends! It’s that time of the week.
Ralph Bakshi is perhaps never going to escape being the man who brought sex and drugs to American animation, but much of his career was instead spent experimenting with rotoscopy for high fantasy. Let’s have a look at wizards with guns and chanting orcs…
Soft power and giant robots, and the birth of the Itano Circus. Animation Night starts getting roboty with ‘yak de culture’…
From the days of Fleischer, drawing directly from live action film has gone in and out of style. Yet done well, it can lend a fascinatingly uncanny sense of constructedness to what might pass unnoticed… let’s take a look at its history!
The fourth Rebuild film came out. How could I not hold a watch party?
Jutsu, frogs and shuriken… a group of spies with a long shadow. Ninja films can be very goofy but they certainly are a stylistic lineage worth investigating!
Brazil is a land with a bloody history and beautiful art. In the hands of Walter, the latter is the focus; in the hands of Brazilian animators, there is a great deal to say about the former, with some really exceptionally brilliant films.
For the sake of the holy Sex Number, a six thousand word exegesis of the history of sexuality in animation and 20th-century Japan.
Hayao Miyazaki, you know who he is. And you know if I was to talk about him, I’d start at the veeeeery beginning.
Ahoy friends! It is Thursday once again. I am running late for Animation Night. Novel…
Good Thursday my friends! Apologies for the lack of Toku Tuesday this week, for various reasons I had to clean most of the carpets in my house with a carpet shampoo machine and that took basically all of my time. But no more on that.
Disney did an Animatrix, and that gives me a reason to talk about where Star Wars came from.
I was a huge fan of 4°C, the masters of experimental animation, well before I actually knew who they were…
In my lifetime, I’ve an entirely new art form rise from a few janky experiments to dominate the animation industry. So… how did computer graphics come to be?
America’s outsourcing experts, and the delightful fantasy films they made in the 1970s…
Once again, Halloween is upon us! This time I bring Korean zombie drama, Production I.G. realism, and an ero-guro classic, but don’t worry, we don’t neglect Yamishibai either!
I have been an enthusiastic user of Blender, the free open-source 3D animation suite, since I was a tiny little babby. And every year or so, the Blender Foundation made a short film to push the limits of the software. Let’s take a look at what they’ve done!
I was in Northern Ireland, and it turns out Northern Ireland is home to an incredibly talented animator who remains far too obscure. Let’s shine a spotlight on John McCloskey, the brilliant solo animator!
The Godfather of Manga, and creator of TV anime to boot, but Tezuka’s passion project was a massive arc of historical tragedy: the Phoenix series, which has been adapted by many big names beside Osamu himself!
One of the core scriptwriters of anime, renowned for the powerful emotional touches she would bring, at last steps into the director’s chair. Her ambitious project would stretch PA Works, but they rose to the occasion with aplomb…
We don’t visit the Americans very much here, do we? But a visit to California provided a chance to tell the story of Chuck Jones, the actor with a pencil and master of the visual gag…
Throughout his long, long career, Osamu Tezuka directed many works of short experimental animation, in an endless array of genres and styles, from Tales of a Street Corner to Jumping. In this Animation Night, we take the tour!
Oh, Walter. What you have wrought! Can we put aside hagiography and still tell your story?
Motion Capture! It’s like rotoscoping but with numbers! Where did this technique come from? It’s older than you might think! So pull up your tasty plasma and let’s take a dive down the Uncanny Valley…
England may be a terrible place, forever teetering on the edge of fascism, but not everyone here is an enemy of life itself. Let’s look at some of the most searingly critical animated films this little island has ever had turned against it!
The Annecy International Animated Film Festival, bless it, likes to celebrate a certain sort of film. Let’s take a look at two bittersweet films about institutionalised life, for the very young and very old!
Moeagare Gandamu! Animation Night takes a tentative dip into the vast ocean of Gundams, with the story of an ensign who really wants everyone to stop killing each other, please and thank you!
There is far more to Don Hertzfeldt than Rejected, classic as it may be. Brilliantly inventive far-future existentialism and moving pictures of suffering… all accomplished with the same hand-drawn stick figures.
Jonni Phillips is like one degree of separation from me, which is crazy. So’s her animation, and the occasion of the release of Barber Westchester was a perfect opportunity to watch it through! UFO cults and ennui; I think California does something to people.
Naoko Yamada left KyoAni to go to Science Saru, adapting a renowned national epic of Buddhist impermanence and the mighty falling with her inimitable grounded lens. Having not learned my lesson from Violet Evergarden, I tried to have us watch it all in one go!
What if the Takarazuka Revue had secret musical swordfights to determine the Top Star? Ikuhara’s protege Tomohiro Fukuhara dares to ask this all-important question, and the lesbians rejoice!
Giant blue people keeping human pets and daring to adapt the Humanoides: tonight, the story of the brilliant René Laloux.
In 1981, Tomino declared his anti-war robot drama would open a New Anime Century, and there was almost a riot. More than thirty years later, another war had just broken out. I felt compelled to talk about art and war.
Osamu Dezaki is one of the most influential anime directors to ever live, yet far less widely known than the other Osamu. Let’s try and remedy that!
Sometimes your dad just buys you a world-class stop motion animation studio. Where did Laika suddenly spring from?
Haruko Ichikawa wrote a beautifully composed Buddhist tragedy of gemstone people in a faraway future. Could such a work be adapted? Indeed it could, but it required a great deal of boldness and a very unusual studio…
Continuing the “one cour in a night” approach, and also continuing the Buddhist monk theme, it’s Toei’s inventive love letter to Kyoto and its history!
The VFX and game trailer industry came together for the director of Blur Studio, to outdo Heavy Metal and flood Netflix with animated titties and gore. What gems can be found in this odd sci-fi mixed bag?
We celebrate one hundred Animation Nights by picking up the Ghibli story and watching, at last, Miyazaki’s magisterial Princess Mononoke and Takahata’s beautiful and moving ink wash-styled The Tale of Princess Kaguya, alongside the delightful series of poem-shorts in Winter Days. But as great as the famous duo may be, don’t think I’m letting them off the hook…
The release of the hauntingly gorgeous The Girl From The Other Side: Siúil, a Rún brings us to look back at one of Production I.G.’s most successful offshoots… who are also the people who made Attack on Titan. Ripping open the can of worms in 3, 2, 1…
Chinese animation continues to be spectacular, yet as a recent AniObsessive article relates, it seems it will never be enough for China’s people. But more than just technically impressive, these films have a fascinating spirit…
Eighties anime has a distinctive look, and much of that comes down to the eagerly indulgent pencil of tokusatsu lover Toshiki Hirano, who set the ball rolling adapting, what else, robot idols and lesbian invaders right from the pages of Lemon People…
Animation Night celebrates its two year anniversary! Here’s where we’ve been in the last year…
Exceptional technical skilled applied to content defined mostly by its gleeful vulgarity. Can it work? We take a look at Imaishi’s directorial debut in Dead Leaves, and the oddball 4°c-Ankara collaboration Mutafukaz…
Haibane Renmei is the most truthful portrayal of grief I have seen, gentle and yet painfully real. It was also the favourite anime of my dear friend Fall, who I have lost. Let’s watch it together and remember her.
Mamoru Hosoda got his start making franchise films at Toei… in particular, doing a great deal to define Digimon. The result was a pair of artful short films, and a set of themes he’d come back to again and again once he made it independent…
Have we done every bit of animation related to Buddhism? Not remotely. Tonight we look at a somewhat awkward attempt to tackle mighty Tezuka’s grand manga about the Buddha, and then a remarkable ‘gekimation’ body horror film by the mysterious Ujicha…
A night to enjoy short films of many flavours. The lavish third season of Love Death and Robots has more hits than misses and a couple of real standouts; web animators continue to keep it weird and stylish… and to wrap up, we take a deep dive into the year-long efforts of this year’s CalArts cohort…
In 1988, Studio Ghibli dropped their third and fourth films as a back to back pair… the quietly devastating war film Grave of the Fireflies and the joyful My Neighbour Totoro. At first glance, it’s hard to imagine a stranger pairing… and yet they have surprising commonalities!
Returning to the world of independent animation for one of its old guard: the densely packed visual puns and odd morphing animations of implausibly prolific Bill Plympton…
After being unable to show ‘Belle’ on Animation Night 107, I finally got the chance. Alas, it didn’t quite live up to expectations. But at least we got to see some obscure CG gems from Hosoda’s time at Toei!
At last we check out the work of renowned bandes desinées author Joann Sfar after his turn to animation… particularly the charming tale of a talking cat who wants to convert to Judaism in 1920s French-controlled Algeria.
Mamoru Oshii casts a long shadow, but he produced wonderful things even at the beginning. Tonight we visit the tense political space drama of the very first OVA Dallos, and the landmark sci-fi comedy series that opened the 80s…
In which Animation Night visits a distinctive Croatian animator, and debuts an original English fansub of his second film!
For the third time, we return to find some gems of the indie web scene… as well as some that blurs the line between studio and independent, in the strange new world of the Patreon-funded web series.
The ‘realist’ movement in anime that prevailed in the 90s is a particularly fascination for me, so let’s dig up two slightly obscure entries in their canon: a fun chaotic robot film of Otomo, and a beautiful expression of character acting from the height of the movement in Junkers Come Here.
Have I ever told you the story of Darth Williams the Obsessive? In which we at last look into the story of Richard Williams, his adoration for animators past, and the tragedy that befell when he tried to surpass senpai…
Rotoscoping is hard! But in the late 90s, MIT researcher turned animator Bob Sabiston invented a program to make it easier. Yet to really see it sing, we needed the harrowing experiences of Philip K Dick… and a lot of animator crunch.
Exploring the other strange gems from the unique experimental-animation programming block that once brought us Aeon Flux.
An OVA of towering importance in the history of animation… if you ask sakuga fans, anyway. With wildly varied styles, The Hakkenden relates the ancient story of a group of special dog boys in Feudal Japan.
Two summer movies, each interesting in their own right. Pompo, the Cinéphile channels the emotional struggles of the director responsible for the God Eater debacle into an amusing film about filmmaking; Bubble takes a sekaikei story as an excuse for flashy parkour.
A modern take on the Universal Century as a tense spy film. Robots and terrorism and running in the dark.
Peter Chung’s Aeon Flux was the seed that grew into Animation Night, but luckily it’s not the only time Chung could find a channel for his unique style…
It’s been a long time since we visited France, so let’s finish off our list of Sylvain Chomet and take a proper look at Wakfu… before getting into our real gem, The Summit of the Gods!
Author ‘Project Itoh’ went from being an insightful Metal Gear fan to a close friend of Hideo Kojima and then, despite fighting cancer the entire time, built a career as a fascinating science fiction author. Six years after his abrupt, tragic death in 2009, Noitamina celebrated him in a trio of works by different directors and studios. Let’s tell the story…
What if you could, you know, go inside the computer? What if a program was just a little guy? Such an idea is a natural fit for animation, so let’s celebrate two to the power of seven to visit Tron, Reboot and their fellows…
The third Animation Night halloween! We go back to the splendidly grotesque ‘gekimation’ of Ujicha, scratch our vampire itch with Hellsing, and then throw ourselves into stop motion with the fascinating surreal oddity Tom Thumb and the magnificently bleak thirty year dream of Phil Tippett’s Mad God.
Good old Hayao disliked war almost as much as he loved aeroplanes. Especially aeroplanes used to fight wars… With Starting Point in hand, let’s have a look at how he tried to work through the contradictions, in both 1992 and 2013.
A follow-up to Animation Night 125, in which we watched the remainder of Rintaro, Yoshinori Kanemori and Peter Chung’s hellenistic sci-fi epic Alexander Senki.
In which we take another visit to Makoto Shinkai, the man who set the tone for anime compositing in the 2010s, and see some of the most beautiful water ever drawn.
In the year 2000, Disney and Dreamworks raced to finished their duelling mesoamerican emperor movies. Neither especially successful, The Emperor’s New Groove and The Road to El Dorado were later hailed as forgotten gems. Do they really stand the test of time?
Rintaro, the great sci-fi director whose career spans the history of anime. Naturally that includes many OVAs, adapting austere, dark stories of murderous siblings and a century-long wizard war…
Once again, we gather for films that are short. A new crop of Gobelins, a glance over Pixar, and independent web animators new and old…
Thanks to Animation Obsessive, we get a chance to learn about the influential Zagreb School, who spun UPA style into a unique and quirky ‘reduced animation’.
Back into the past of Japan, or fantasy worlds that are kind of like it. Three very different films: traditional and CG, grounded and fantastical, naturalistic and fable-like…
Guillermo Del Toro turned to animation, directing a beautiful stop-motion Pinocchio set in fascist Italy. A perfect opportunity, then, to place it alongside the Disney one…
The great realist animator Hiroyuki Okiura has turned to animation direction, and then direction, just a couple of times. Each one was memorable…