originally posted at https://canmom.tumblr.com/post/686597...
Hey friends! It’s the time of week where we watch animation!
Tonight is something of a successor to Animation Night 9: web animators and 48: independent/web animators 2, as well as 99: Love Death and Robots.
For there has indeed been a new chapter of Blur Studio and friends’ animation festival, and I’ve been holding off watching the new entries to enjoy them with you~ There’s also been a new crop of CalArts student films, and I thought it would be fun to dig into those as well, plus show a few more gems of the web. And if that’s not enough of a runtime, I still need to show you Belle after we didn’t have time two weeks ago…
So, Love Death and Robots! Honestly, as much as I have found many entries in this series underwhelming compared to classic package films like Robot Carnival, Memories and Short Peace, and the approach to sexuality and violence frequently unimaginative despite the effort to be shocking, I am glad the series exists. There are very few ways for shortform animation to reach a wide audience, and it is good to see these studios get to make something under their own direction rather than to promote a franchise.
No Robert Valley this time, alas. Hopefully that’s a sign he’s doing some more exciting things elsewhere. We do have some enemies that suggest some fascinating imagery, like Alberto Mielgo’s film Jibaro about a deaf conquistador fighting a siren:
Mielgo directed one of the ‘artier’ entries in the first season, The Witness, in which a man pursues the witness to a murder he committed through a city streets and a sex club, trying very forcefully to explain his innocence. I’m not sure if we knew what to make of it back then; it fell rather awkwardly in the running after Blur Studio’s very goofy and heavy-handed Sonnie’s Edge and the polarising Three Robots, so ‘benefit of the doubt’ was in short supply. Nevertheless, it definitely established that Mielgo has quite the visual library and approach to expression and colour, so I’m looking forward to seeing what he does this time around.
For traditional animation fans, the main attraction this year seems to be Jennifer Yuh Nelson’s film Kill Team Kill, which seems to follow in the footsteps of Studio La Cachette’s film Sucker of Souls in season 1 in seeing (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) a bunch of soldierly types fighting a scary monster. Visually it’s going for a very 80s vibe…
For all that it’s a familiar story, it absolutely is the case that Titmouse have some seriously talented animators, so I’m sure it will have quite a lot of appeal visually. As for Nelson, she’s had quite a career; she’s probably best known for directing the Kung Fu Panda movies at Dreamworks, but the one that jumps out at me is that she was story director for Ralph Bakshi’s bizarre horny sci-fi series Spicy City. Her entry in Season 2 was a dystopian noir film leaning heavily on Blade Runner, about a world of immortals in which a cop shoots anyone found to have kids but has a last-minute change of heart upon finding a nice little family, which was… ok, I can’t really defend that premise on a thematic and metaphorical level, but a fascinating window into some sort of anxiety.
Another promising entry is the cel-shaded CG adaptation of a Swanwick story, The Very Pulse of the Machine, directed by newcomer Emily Dean with Japanese CG studio Polygon Pictures - known for their work with Mamoru Oshii on films like The Sky Crawlers (Animation Night 38) and GitS 2: Innocence (Animation Night 39). As a CG studio, they have a bit of a mixed legacy: I can’t say I love their work on Knights of Sidonia or Ronja, the Robber’s Daughter, but a lot of that might be the pressures of TV animation production so it would be good to see what they can do with more time to work on their animation. The clips of this one definitely look cool, at least!
Also returning is Jerome Chen, who in season 1 directed Sony’s very reserved mil-sf film Lucky 13, which invited you to feel sad about the tragic death of an aeroplane - something which honestly worked a lot better than you’d expect, if only because it was one of the few films that didn’t rely on squick factor to sell its beats. This time around it seems that he’s once again returning to that territory, with a bunch of space marines fighting some kind of eldritch abomination. We’ll see.
Oh and, if you’re one of the side who liked Three Robots last time (and, I’ll admit, I feel like I was too harsh on it), there’s a sequel to that! And, of course, Blur themselves have a lot of entries. In all honesty, I think it will be like the last two seasons: one or two absolutely standout entries and a lot of others that are just so-so, but that’s always the risk you run with original short films, and I’d rather try and fail than not!
For our second block, we’ll be making use of this helpful playlist of every CalArts Character Animation student film this year.
To briefly introduce for those unfamiliar, CalArts in California is one of the most prestigious three international animation schools, alongside Gobelins in France and Sheridan in Canada. All of these schools are ridiculously selective and demanding, but they are also one of the surest routes to a job in the animation industry (typically these days in work like storyboarding and character design). In the past we’ve watched a lot of Gobelins films, but this time let’s take a look at what’s going on in @mogsk‘s neck of the woods~ <3
Like Gobelins, the students make a short film each year; unlike the Gobelins approach where the students generally divide into small teams, at CalArts the rule seems to be that each student makes their own film, typically around 1-2 minutes long, for which they do all the animation (typically not music or voice acting). So the animation may not be as ridiculously polished, but also that means more possibilities for people to try out novel things.
I haven’t yet watched more than a few of them and won’t have time before tonight, but here are a few I’ve enjoyed so far…
Operago by Rayna Buxton: two girls whose design resembles a medieval tapestry battle a gigantic opera singer. Extremely cool visual style and the action choreography is very well handled; not surprisingly this one has been blowing up on Youtube.
After the Rain by Chelsea Yijia Li; a sweet atmospheric animesque film about a migrant returning to see her friend in China. Strong voice acting and direction; I like the bilingual dialogue.
Mahou Shouject. This one’s cute. An egg (or maybe a boymoder…) sees a magic butterfly and does a magical girl transformation sequence.
The Pretty Duckling - fun little musical one, you can see the twist coming but it’s nicely executed.
Also technically another entry for ‘hard vore night’.
Opera by Janelle Feng - this one fully feels like a Gobelins film, and not just because they also made one about performers preparing for a show. Anyway, the dialogue is really strong, and the character animation has a lot of subtlety; those simple eye movements do a lot to expressing the main character’s performance, and it does a great job showing the many different feelings of a group of Chinese opera performers performing for a foreign audience without really knowing on what level their performance is received.
…and with that I’ve reached the video limit for my post, RIP. But do also check out NOHARM_INTRO by Wesley Joseph for some very fun stylised dance animation - not sure if rotoscoped or just closely referenced.
So four our third bloc, we’re going to pick up independent/web animation once again! We have the return of some of our favourite creators, such as Vewn, who just a few days ago dropped another great film about the alienation and omnipresent violence of modernity as experienced by cats:
Felix Colgrave still seems to be hard at work on his next big film Donks, but he made this cool one minute one Nylons about predatory kites and hot air balloons:
I recently learned about the astonishingly well-animated body horror of Jaime R, such as You Lovely Lovers, calling to mind at once Spike and Mike’s Sick and Twisted Festival of Animation and the end of Akira:
Another new one to me is the masterful compozitor Aleksander Sakowski and his studio, who generally makes short science fiction films, but recently made this trailer for the slapfight-themed cyberpunk comic book GodSlap, which has some incredible bits of fight sakuga in the middle of it:
Sakowski Studios is also notable for uh this music video about a dystopian future where robots harvest cum for gaming youtuber cr1tikal’s band; make of that what you will!
After I told her about that, Mogs told me about this short CG film Utsu-Musume Sayuri dir. Takashi Kimura, which for a while was the lowest-rated item on MyAnimeList (and hence got reviewed by said gaming youtuber); despite the fact that it has a ton of visual creativity apparently the content was just too upsetting to people? Honestly I can’t say why this of all things is so despised. So of course we should watch it.
And with that I’m at the video limit again, but my friend sent me this fun five CG minute film by Yohei Kameyama about two girls on a space road trip complete with a whole song and a police chase all calling back to VHS era aesthetics.
That’s probably enough to be going with for tonight, but if you know of anything else impressive, weird, ‘fascinatingly misguided’ or any other way notable in the world of web animation, do let me know and I’ll find a way to slot it in!