Elwood H. Smith
Favorite Animation Part 1
APRIL 9, 2006
I've been watching animated movies since I was a kid, but I've been fully immersed in it now for only a couple of years. One of my favorite vintage animators is Ub Iwerks, the guy who created the earliest B&W Walt Disney films--you know, those wonderful, rubber-legged people and animals. I may discuss that later on, but for right now, I want to talk about a couple of animators who completely turned my idea of animation on its head.
La Piccola Russia - Gianluigi Toccafondo
I love traditional animation and some current 3D animation, but here's an artist who touched the very deepest part of my soul. When I saw Gianluigi Toccafondo's "La Piccola Russia" at the 2004 Ottawa International Film Festival (my first animation festival) I was blown out of the water. I saw many fine films, but La Piccola Russia is otherworldly. I have several short animations on my website, but lately I've been trying to stretch and head outside the normal range of what's usually called animation. Gianluigi opened the door wide for me. I'm a long way from discovering my own voice as an animator, but I'm plugging away. I saw Toccofondo's masterpiece twice at the festival on the big screen, but it is not available right now except at the festivals. I contacted Toccafondo and he graciously sent me a DVD, but for now, the only way to view it is a low res version here:
La Piccola Russia
Also, you can see some of his more commercial work on the Acme Films site:
I find even that stuff remarkably original.
In case you are interested, here's some random information on Toccafondo from web translations (he speaks only Italian) and other sources I've managed to dig up:
In 1989 Gianluigi created his first film, a 2 minute animation, with 1200 small drawings of stills from a Buster Keaton film. He Xeroxed and altered the images, sometimes stretching and distorting them and then painting on the copies before assembling them into a movie. So far I don't know how exactly he extracts his images or what software he uses for editing the final assembly of images.
Gianluigi created two animated shorts, La Pista in 1991 and La Pista dei Maiale in 1992. In 1993, he made a breakthrough with "Le Criminel", a French produced animated short for Sept/Arte. It was shown at the Venice Cinema Festival and was picked up by numerous television networks.
In 1999, he created a 6 minute animation based on Collodi's "Pinocchio", a "surprising outbreak of warm colors and fantastic forms and a truly wonderful Pinocchio".
He created an animated short for the occasion of the 25th anniversary of (the celebrated film director) Pier Paolo Passolini's death.
Other films by Toccafondo include groundbreaking spots for various festivals and movie theaters in Venice and European advertising agencies.
Toccafondo has also created illustrations for Italian publications including Mondadori, Eunadi, Fandango, Linea d'Ombra, Lo straniero and Telema Internazionale.
My other favorite animator right now is Chris Hinton. I discovered his work through my old pal Bill Plympton. Here's Bill's site--he has a wonderul zany style and a wacky sense of humor:
Hinton was a big influence on two of my animations on my site, in particular, The Little Green Monkey. Close, but no cigar.
I had the good fortune to meet and have dinner with Hinton at the Ottawa Festival. He & I had talked on the phone several times & he was very generous, sharing his vast knowledge with me. His animation, "Nibbles" was up for an Oscar two years ago, though he didn't win. If you're interested in seeing his stuff, including a clip from his short film, "Nibbles" you can go Acme Films:
To find Chris' work, go to "Directors" on the upper left & then click on Chris Hinton. Nibbles is the opening clip.
Also, I need to let you know about another wonderful animator I discovered while combing the Web. Her name is Michaela Pavlátová and I found her on the Wildbrain website (in San Francisco). She works half the year in San Francisco and half in Prague. The Wildbrain site features many top-notch animators, but Michaela especially, caught my eye with her imaginative use of a variety of materials. I dug around the web and found her personal site. Man, is it personal. On the site, she eschews the variety approach to animation, using mainly Flash. Simply, but effectively.
Her personal site done in Flash:
I especially like the variety of animation approaches shown in a QuickTime
movie in her "Montage" on the Wildbrain site:
Her name is listed in the "Directors" list, second from last.
And, finally, below is the link to a strange, wonderfully inventive website--Conclave Obscurum. It is one of my biggest inspirations right now (along with Hinton and Toccafondo) as I'm trying to puzzle out how to approach my new animation. The site seems to be the creation of a Russian artist with a keen interest in web design who knows how to use Flash (and, I'm sure other media tricks) to create those nifty results. His drawings aren't (in my estimation) the very best, but his creative mind and the way he uses his art is first rate. The web world he's created is incredibly mysterious & the way he breaks up his page knocks me out, with those things suddenly appearing and disappearing as strange sound effects & musical loops burble on. It's not your average website & not intuitive, but I really enjoy probing the landscape, unearthing his disquieting imagery. That dreamlike mood is exactly what I'm hoping to achieve with my new project.