Gobelins Students’ Films At Annecy Animation Festival – 8th June

Ye it’s that time of year again, when the 2nd year students of the Gobelins School of Communication in Paris put their films on show at the Annecy Animation Festival.

The students work in small crews, concentrating only on the production of their group film. No essays, dissertations or other academic distractions. There is intense competition for places on the course; most of the applicants are already proficient animators.

The Annecy shorrts films are made to a very high standard, and are typically 60 – 90 seconds long. One was nominated for an Oscar last year.

The films are released one per day, to be shown at the beginning of each session of screenings. The first to appear this year is the story of a lamplighter in a tropical glasshouse who is beguiled by mysterious sprites. It’s called “Monstera deliciosa”, which is the botanic name for the Swiss Cheese Plant.

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(Click these pictures for the big versions, please)

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I love the beautiful treatment of the backgrounds in this film

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There’s some very daring character design on view.

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Someone took great care with the layouts and compositions.

Crew members are: Jérémy Macedo, Julien Perron, Ornélie Prioul, Rémi Salmon.

Here’s the link. (Requires QuickTime)

Another Gobelins post tomorrow, no doubt…

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Wall To Wall Wallpaper

If there’s any truth in the slugline of this blog: “The Art that feeds animation“, then I think these images of historic wallpapers are excellent examples of the aesthetic river that has flowed uninterrupted into the deep pool of animation art.

Paper Panoramas

This post focuses on a small but important product of the wallpaper industry in France from just before the beginning of the 18th Century. Shortly after the French revolution (1789) when a new monied bourgeoisie emerged, the wallpaper industry began to offer some novel wall coverings that were an immense change from the simple repeat pattern papers that their customers were used to.

Their inspiration is believed to have been the large painted Chinese screens that were beginning to be imported into Europe.

The art form that arose from this combination of cultural influence, an emerging market and a new mass production attitude to traditional art, was the panoramic wallpaper. It provided an (almost) instant gigantic 360 degree mural painting of endless exotic vistas. It was a sensation.

The panoramics formed only a small percentage of the wallpaper factories output, but they upheld the brand values of the time, much as couture fashion collections drive the sales of ready to wear clothes in the high street today.

They were far too expensive for the common man, and they required some novel manufacturing techniques to produce them profitably.

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(Click these images to enlarge them, as usual)
This section of a panoramic is from a huge set called “Eldorado” that was designed by Eugéne Ehrmann, Georges Zipélius and Joseph Fuchs for the Zuber company of Rixheim, Alsace, France, in 1849.

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The pictures below will give you an idea of the scale of these mural size wallpapers, even though they have been insensitively butchered cropped to fit the low ceiling of this room in a house in Birmingham, Alabama. (USA)

If you have the money, you can still buy these panels from Zuber, the original manufacturer, and still in business. Prices start at around 30,000 dollars.

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Compare the photo below with the printed image at the top of this post –

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Several technologies have contributed to the manufacture of wallpaper. The earliest technique1 was to print with inked wooden blocks using a simple registration system to apply the colours accurately in a repeatable way.

The woodblock printing process is very labour intensive.

It starts with the designer producing a full size painting. The painting is transferred bit by bit onto pear wood faced wooden blocks. Each block must be carved so as to transfer a different area of colour. The 1000 or more blocks needed for just one scenic could take 20 engravers close to a year to complete.

The softly gradated skies were painted by hand using large blender brushes.

Given that the number of wooden blocks was large, and that they needed to be applied with exactly the right colours and strictly in the correct sequence, it was small wonder that some of the printers went mad. A dozen copies of a popular panoramic would take up to a year to print.

More pictures:

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The Japanese Garden, designed by Victor Potterlet in 1861

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Hindustan, designed by Antoine Pierre Mongin in 1807

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Isola Bella, by Eugéne Ehrmann, Georges Zipélius and Joseph Fuchs.

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Isola Bella, by Eugéne Ehrmann, Georges Zipélius and Joseph Fuchs.

You can see some ingenious cheats in this sample, used to try and reduce the amount of labour involved in producing these huge handmade prints. Have a look for all the clever repeats in this conservatory window below, and how they have been integrated into the unrepeated elements.

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Consevatory Window, printed by the Jules Desfosse company.

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Trompe L’oeuil Ceiling, by Zuber
This cunning design could be extended with sideways insert panels to achieve a race track plan.

These last two pictures are from a panoramic by the Zuber company, called “Views of Brazil”. Design by Jean Julien Deltil in 1828

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The caption reads “The Virgin Forests” and shows indigenous naked rainforest people engaged in hunting pursuits.

This last picture below uncannily prophesies the later arrival of Northern farmers who want to cut down the rainforest and introduce cattle for the lucrative burger trade. 2 You can see the cattle eagerly rushing in from the left.

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If you take the time to feast your eyes on these wonderful pictures, you’ll soon recognise similar elements shared by these decorative printed panels and the scenic compositions that typify the backgrounds seen in animated feature films.

  • Stereotyping of locations
  • Simplified colour schemes
  • Bold shapes
  • High chromatic content
  • No obvious focus point

In their time, these panoramas were all enveloping in their sensual richness and highly exotic too. They fed into people’s desire for the mysterious and the fantastic; just like cinema, really.

In fact, I believe that it’s the very cinematic quality of these panning printed landscapes that so strongly appealed to my animation eye.

I’d contend that these 18th and 19th century artefacts qualify as clear cut precursors to the dominant 20th century animation aesthetic. I’ll try and pull up a few examples and show them here. Please share your thoughts and links in the comment box.

The Wallpaper Museum.
Massive list of historical wallpaper info. (Take a reel of cotton with you!)

Footnotes for this post:____________________________________
  1. From around 1740. []
  2. Just kidding! []

Tony Trimmer – Greenpeace Short: “Coal Finger”

Tony Trimmer has collaborated with Blue Zoo to produce this timely and tongue-in-cheeky viral for Greenpeace UK.

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My name is Green…. Graverson Green. (Click to enlarge, as usual)

Greenpeace states:

We’ve unleashed our own special agent Graverson Green to expose the plot of Coalfinger and his carbon cronies who are planning to cover the world in coal-fired power stations and destroy the climate in Operation Browncloud.

Coalfinger, played by Brian Blessed (Black Adder, Flash Gordon) is scheming to bring the first new coal plant online in Kingsnorth Kent. Can Green played by David Mitchell (C4´s Peep Show) and his glamorous assistant Katrina Hurkane stop their dastardly plans? Is a top secret hideout involved? Are there plenty of double entendres? Watch the film to find out.

Tony contributed the character designs and was the consultant for the production which was achieved with Maya.

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Coalfinger and his Famous Finger.

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Kebab time!

Follow this link to see the film.


Unintended Consequences: ID Cards’ Contribution To Domestic Violence

There’s an interesting interplay of various brands of fear at work in this video. Would it work better without the sinister background drone? Will life be better for women with vindictive ex-partners?

Link to NO2ID
Link to Women’s Aid

(Via The Daily Irrelevant)


Animated Characters Re-animated

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(Click to enlarge ) Homer Simpson re-animated by Pixeloo

It becomes more and more difficult to draw a clear line between animation and reality, especially when artists like Pixeloo keep pushing fantasy figures (like Homer here) back over the fantasy / reality border.
Pixeloo is a Photoshop expert by day, who spends a lot of his leisure time “untooning” cartoon characters.

His re-interpretation of Jessica Rabbit from “Who Framed Roger Rabbit?” is extraordinary –

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Jessica Rabbit untooned by Pixeloo
See how Pixeloo paints her here.

Long time computer games performer, Mario, gets a reality shower in the piece below, and below that there’s a visual comparison of Mario in his low poly guise, and his slightly more lived-in Pixeloo untooned look.

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Mario The Plumber, star of 200+ computer games, looking a little worse for wear.

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Which one is more real?

This last one is truly spooky. Please click the thumbnail image to reveal the full creepiness of Stewie from Family Guy. *shudder*

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Now, back to reality please.

£25,000 Prize Waiting – Only Figurative Painters Need Apply

The Mall Galleries, London, are waiting for the public’s vote in order to decide the winner of The Threadneedle Figurative Painting Prize.

From an initial pool of 2,700 entries, 71 pictures have now been selected for final judging, with 7 works shortlisted for the prize. The final decision rests with the public, though, who can vote for their favourite until 12:00 noon on the 3rd of September, 2008.

As a bonus, all the works chosen for the exhibition are eligible to win the £10,000 Federation of British Artists Selectors´ Choice, which means a possible pot of thirty five grand to the winner, because there’s no bar to winning both prizes.

I’ve picked a few pictures that caught my eye (below), but why not click over to the exhibition and get voting for your own favourite?

Please click these thumbnail images to enlarge them.
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Paul Brason: “Eighteen”

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Nick Pace: “Off Road SUV”

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Tai Shan Schierenberg: “Self Portrait”

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Nina Murdoch: “Untitled”

The winner of the 2008 Threadneedle Figurative Prize will be announced at an Awards ceremony on the evening of Wednesday 3 September and will be posted on their website.

The winner of the competition was Nina Murdoch, with this last image.
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With Friends Like This… (Updated)

Who needs enemies?

Just seven pages long but classified as “UK Top Secret”, this latest intelligence assessment on al-Qaeda is so sensitive that every document is numbered and marked “for UK/US/Canadian and Australian eyes only”, according to our correspondent.

According to reports, this document may have contained details of names of individuals or locations which might have been useful to Britain’s enemies.

However, it appears that in a serious breach of the rules, the papers were taken out of Whitehall by an unnamed official and left in an orange cardboard envelope on the seat of a Surrey-bound train from London Waterloo on Tuesday.

Update: Amazingly, there were some other secret documents travelling on a train in the opposite direction on the same day! Read the story here.

And wait! There’s more:
November ’07: Discs containing child benefit records of 25m people lost
December ’07: Driving Standards Agency contractor loses records of 3m people
January ’08: 600,000 details of would-be recruits lost by Naval officer

… And this lot want to introduce a database that holds the most detailed identity information about every single citizen of this country….

There’s an opportunity to tell them what you think of their National Identity theft Register here.