Animation Magazine April #309 - HK Filmart Edition

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BEST ANIMATED FEATURE “ONE OF THE MOST GORGEOUS ANIMATED FILMS EVER MADE.” “UNLIKE ANYTHING AUDIENCES HAVE SEEN BEFORE.”

★★★★

VIBRANT AND HEARTFELT.”

F R O M O S C A R® - W I N N I N G F I L M M A K E R A N D A N I M A T O R G L E N K E A N E

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April 2021

Volume 35, Issue 4, Number 309 Frame-By-Frame

Shorts

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Stuff We Love

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April Animation Planner

A final look at this year’s top Animated Short Oscar contenders

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Features 8

Adventures in Experimental Time

Croatian multimedia artist Dalibor Baric discusses his eccentric and unforgettable film, Accidental Luxuriance of The Translucent Watery Rebus.

Television/Streaming 14

The Past Is a Strange Country!

Bastien Dubois tries to answer a few of questions about his Sundance prize-winning short Souvenir, Souvenir.

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Asian Immersion

Disney’s new feature Raya and the Last Dragon offers a refreshingly independent heroine and a stunning backdrop, inspired by the cultures and countries of Southeast Asia. By Ramin Zahed

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And Then There Were 10

Super-Powered and Sophisticated

Comic-book titan Robert Kirkman and his team create a brightly colored world of superheroes for Amazon’s animated Invincible series. By Ramin Zahed

VFX 29 Tech Reviews Explore new learning experiences with the Stan Winston School and FXPHD. By Todd Sheridan Perry 30

Doing the Locomotion

VFX supervisor Geoff Scott leads us on a tour of the visual highlights of the second season of Snowpiercer. By Trevor Hogg

Day in the Life 32 This month, we try to keep up with director Jun Falkenstein (Stillwater) during a typical, busy day!

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18 Visiting SpongeBob and Friends’ Early Years The creatives team behind the new Kamp Koral show discuss their shiny, new CG-animated baby. By Tom McLean

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Neighborhood Spirits

First-time showrunner Elizabeth Ito shares her creative process and the inspiration behind her new Netflix series City of Ghosts.

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Rabbit Love

A new animated adaptation of The Runaway Bunny hops to HBO Max. By Karen Idelson

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The Beagle Has Landed Again!

Exec producer Mark Evestaff shares a few tidbits about The Snoopy Show, which charts the new adventures of the clever canine on Apple TV+.

Education & Career Guide SG1

Pandemic Academics

Animation programs pivot to a new normal. By Ellen Wolff

SG10 20 Tips on Building a Successful Portfolio By Tom Sito

SG14

International School Listings

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Opportunities SG24

Autonomous Animator

Templates for the win! By Martin Grebing

Cover A: Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon centers on a heroic Southeast Asian warrior who sets out to reunite the people of her land. Cover B: Robert Kirkland’s popular superhero series Invincible makes the leap to Amazon Prime. Filmart Cover: FILM.UA continues to build the magical world of Animagrad’s Mavka. The Forest Song.

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E ditor ’ s N otE

ANIMATION MAGAZINE April 2021

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y the time you have this issue in your hands or reading it on your phone or laptop, the animation streaming wars will have entered a new level. With the arrival of The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run and Kamp Koral on Paramount+, we now have yet another new animation outlet to keep an eye on. Meanwhile, the battle royale between Netflix and Disney+ continues to intensify as each streamer offers new and more impressive original projects and reboots and sequels to past favorites. We also saw a massive announcement by WarnerMedia as it unveiled over 300 hours of content for Cartoon Network and HBO Max, including three new Ben 10 specials (due in April), a new series from Steven Universe writers, a second season of the upcoming Gremlins prequel, a spinoff of Teen Titans Go! and Cartoonito’s Bugs Bunny Builders, a new 2D Thomas & Friends show and a series of musical Tom and Jerry shorts. While many outlets continue to explore the always-inseason children’s animation landscape, others are opting for more adult fare. Although Robert Kirkman’s Invincible series (one of this issue’s two cover stories) can be viewed as a comic-books adaptation, it is clearly different from the usual superhero offerings because it comes from the unique and creative mind of Kirkman, who was also behind another hugely popular adaptation The Walking Dead and its spinoff show. Amazon, which also brought us the critically acclaimed show Undone in 2019, has clearly made a choice to focus on shows that cater to older audiences that appreciate more sophisticated material. Let’s not forget that Apple TV+ has also upped its game by offering gems such as Cartoon Saloon’s award season favorite Wolfwalkers, and new shows such as Central Park, Stillwater, Doug Unplugs and fresh takes on the classic Peanuts, including The Snoopy Show. That show’s exec producer Mark Evestaff was kind enough to answer a few of our questions in this issue, so you won’t want to miss his views on bringing a beloved franchise to animation in 2021. Of course, this month’s other big cover story belongs to Disney’s new courageous heroine, the memorable Southeast Asian warrior of Raya and the Last Dragon. There is something comforting about being able to lose ourselves in a new fantasy world dreamed up by the film’s talented team of writers, artists, directors and technical wizards. The fact that the filmmakers aimed for true cultural diversity and faithful depictions of the traditions and history of the region makes the project even more admirable. You know you’ll be dying to have your own Tuk Tuk plush as soon as you catch the movie on Disney+ this month. After all, who doesn’t want to own a pet pill-bug/armadillo/pug hybrid that is voiced by Alan Tudyk? Ramin Zahed Editor in Chief ramin@animationmagazine.net

Quote of the Month

— Oscar-winning writer/artist/ producer William Joyce (Rise of the Guardians, Meet the Robinsons, Epic, Robots, The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore), who will be directing a new animated adaptation of The Great Gatsby with screenwriter Brian Selznik and DNEG studio.

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President and Publisher: Jean Thoren Accounting: Jan Bayouth EDITORIAL

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Editor in Chief: Ramin Zahed Multimedia Editor: Mercedes Milligan Webmaster: Steven Dietrich Asst. Webmaster: Matthew Keable Tech Reviews Editor: Todd Sheridan Perry Contributors: Martin Grebing, Trevor Hogg, Karen Idelson, Tom McLean, Tom Sito, Ellen Wolff ADVERTISING SALES sales@animationmagazine.net

Sheri Shelton EVENTS Director: Kim Derevlany kim@animationmagazine.net

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“Much of the power of Gatsby comes from the enchantment of Fitzgerald’s prose. He created a vivid dreamscape that, to some degree, has eluded filmmakers since the silent era. The previous film versions were constrained by live action, but innovative animation could finally realize the elusive quality of the novel.”

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GOLDEN GLOBE AWARD ®

NOMINEE

BEST ANIMATED FILM Produced By Mark Swift p.g.a. Directed By Joel Crawford

“A NONSTOP DELIGHT, full of bright, colorful visuals... the animation is top notch.”

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© 2020 DREAMWORKS ANIMATION LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Frame-By-Frame

Stuff We Love The Legend of Korra: The Complete Series The follow-up to Nickelodeon’s animated epic Avatar gets the luxe full series Limited Edition SteelBook treatment this month. Created by Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, Annie and Emmy winner Korra is set 70 years after the first show’s arc and follows the new Avatar as she faces the challenges, duties and responsibilities of her destiny. The four-book collection features new front and back cover art by Caleb Thomas and includes legacy Blu-ray bonus features. Limited to 10,000 copies. [Paramount/Nickelodeon, $98 BD | March 16]

On-Gaku: Our Sound Bored teens pin their hopes on rock ‘n’ roll in Kenji Iwaisawa’s almost entirely self-animated feature about a trio of delinquents on a quest for musical glory, trying to impress their peers and avoid a rival gang on the way. An Annecy selection and OIAF Grand Prize winner, this lo-fi slacker comedy features music by Shintaro Sakamoto and comes with making-of featurette, short films by the director and more bonus riffs. [Shout! Factory, $27 BD | March 9]

Soul One of the most highly praised films of the year and a strong awards season contender, Pete Docter and Kemp Powers’ tale of a not-quite-dead band teacher’s (Jamie Foxx) quest to inspire a spark for life in an unborn soul (Tina Fey) and get back to Earth to fulfill his dreams arrives on a variety of physical platforms today — including exclusive sets from Best Buy (SteelBook) and Target (with ltd. edition gallery book). Heavenly bonus features cover the movie’s music, artistry, technical feats and philosophy, as well as deleted scenes, commentary and more. [Disney, DVD/BD/4K | March 23]

Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive (Second Edition) Industry veteran David B. Levy (currently director of animation for Disney+) revises his comprehensive go-to guide to Toon Town for 2021. Advice from more than 150 top talents — including Brooke Keesling (Bento Box), Mike Hollingsworth (BoJack Horseman), Andrea Fernandez (The Cuphead Show) and Oscar nominee PES (Fresh Guacamole) — will help guide your every step, from getting the most out of school, making yourself marketable, job (or no job) tips and even setting out on your own. Plus, key resources to help you quickly find training, networking and showcase platforms. [Allworth, $20 / $15 ebook | March 2]

The Art of Raya and the Last Dragon Take in the fantastical journey of Disney’s newest heroine and her scaly sidekick in this lush hardcover edition, packed with never-before-seen development art, character sketches, storyboards and color scripts. Kalikolehua Hurley, a cultural relations lead at the studio, and film producer Osnat Shurer author this colorful exploration of Raya’s warrior quest and the fantastical, Southeast Asian-inspired land of Kumandra. Forewords by directors Don Hall and Carlos López Estrada, co-directors Paul Briggs and John Ripa. [Chronicle, $43 | March 16] www.animationmagazine.net

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Ctrl + Art + Dlt Puppet Kit London-based stop-motion animator Jennifer Kidd (Norman Picklestripes, Isle of Dogs) has pivoted her popular hands-on workshops online in These Difficult Times, and now she’s made it even easier for home learners with her Pro Puppet Building Kit. Containing all the physical materials needed to craft your own animatable model at home, the kit also includes access to Kidd’s four-hour Zoom course and online tutorials. [£65-75 including shipping, educational discounts available | control-art-delete.com]

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April Animation Planner 5

The 6th GLAS animation fest showcases the most compelling indie efforts from around the world thru April 11 out of Berkeley, Calif. [glasanimation.com]

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Ghibli’s CGI feature debut Earwig and the Witch is ready to enchant home audiences on Blu-ray and DVD!

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The crew of a multi-generational space migration descend into madness in sci-fi thriller Voyagers, from writer-director Neil Burger (The Illusionist).

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An MMA fighter (Lewis Tan) seeks out Earth’s greatest champions to join in an epic battle for the universe in WB’s bloody Mortal Kombat reboot, in select theaters and on HBO Max today. Watch ASIFA-Hollywood’s 48th Annie Awards online! [annieawards.org]

Jamaica hosts five days of films and informative conference programming at KingstOOn, held virtually this year. Presenters from Disney, Pixar, Sony, HIT, etc. will join the celebration of diversity in animation! [kingstoonfest.com]

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Fans of Leigh Bardugo’s YA fantasy series can watch the peril and spectacle of Shadow and Bone come alive on Netflix today.

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Take a cue from mascot Barbara the octopus and take in some animation self care this week with Poland’s Animocje festival, marking its 10th edition. [animocje.com]

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Sci-fi super powers light up Victorian London in HBO’s The Nevers, about a gang of less-than-prim ladies with unusual abilities on a mission that could change the world.

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Everyone’s favorite pigheaded patriot is back in American Dad! S18, premiering on TBS tonight.

The big day is finally here! Tune in to ABC to watch the 93rd Oscars live and find out which animated feature, short film and VFX spectacle take home the coveted statuette.

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Osamu Dezaki’s romantic historical drama Lady Oscar: The Rose of Versailles gets a lovely remastered Blu-ray release, at last. Collection 1 includes episodes 1-20. DC Animated Movie Universe fans can catch the Nazi-punchin’ latest installment, Justice Society: World War II, on Digital today.

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The virtual edition of the global content confab MIPTV takes place online for five days. [miptv.com]

To get your company’s events and products listed in this monthly calendar, please e-mail edit@animationmagazine.net.

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A Slavic Heroine Spreads Her Wings Animagrad Studio’s much-anticipated feature Mavka. The Forest Song is ready for the global market.

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beautiful Ukrainian wood nymph’s fantastic adventures are at the heart of the upcoming CG-animated feature Mavka. The Forest Song. The lovingly crafted movie, which is produced by Ukrainian media group Film.UA and its subsidiary Animagrad Animation Studio, promises to be quite a cultural event when it is released in theaters in 2022. The film’s producers Iryna Kostyuk and Egor Olesov were kind enough to give us a sneak peek at their exciting new project. Kostyuk and Olesov point out that the film’s key sources of inspiration are Ukrainian and Slavic mythology as well as some of the literary classics of the region, including The Forest Song, a famous poem by Lesya Ukrainka. “Our main character is a unique, complex and powerful female icon that has never been brought out to the world before, especially in animation form, which is universal language,” says Kostyuk. “Mavka is a creature of ancient legends transformed into a symbol of undying love by the genius of poetess Lesya Ukrainka. While the animated movie is rich in Slavic authenticity and charm, we believe that its central plot and themes have universal appeal for audiences of all ages.” Adds Olesov, “Mavka is quite a well-known character in Ukraine. That’s why the power of the brand is huge locally, which allowed us to ink and get out into a nationwide retail numerous licensing deals well in advance of the premier of the actual movie, which is truly a unique

case. Ukraine celebrates Lesya Ukrainka’s 150th birthday nationally in 2021 and this significant cultural event holds a lot of meaning for our team and this project. Thus, a number of events will be held by our team with the support from state institutions such as the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine and State Film Agency.”

The Spirit of Preservation The producers also point out that the film carries out two important missions that are close to their hearts. “One is spotlighting environmental issues in Ukraine, raising aware-

ness of the extinction of endangered species of flora and fauna of the region, some of which are featured in the movie,” says Kostyuk. “The other is exporting the diversity of Ukrainian and Slavic heritage worldwide. This is why our project is supported by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine, the State Film Agency, as well as World Wildlife Fund, Ukraine.” Directed by Oleksandra Ruban and Oleg Malamuzh, the project’s animation is produced mostly at the Animagrad studio in Kyiv. According to the producers, more than 200 people are involved in the production process. The film will Wild Creatures: Inspired by beloved Ukrainian legends and folklore, Mavka. The Forest Song also features lively sidekicks and magical creatures.

‘Our hope is that the audiences worldwide will be inspired to “be like Mavka,” that is, to share her values and adopt her style, which is visually expressed in the combination of themes of nature and authenticity in a modern interpretation.’ — Producers Iryna Kostyuk and Egor Olesov

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certainly have a strong presence at the upcoming European Film Market in Berlin in March as well as other movie events throughout the year such as Cannes and American Film Market. Of course, producing the movie as the world was dealing with the COVID pandemic had its share of challenges. “We don’t have a full-fledged market in Ukraine of modern high-quality 3D animation, so Animagrad studio faces the challenge (as well as the national responsibility) of creating it,” says Olesov. “Producing European and even better quality of animation at a sane cost — is our competitive advantage. The Animagrad strategy is to release our movies both locally and internationally and introduce our series of movies with unique, powerful female characters which are either based on real characters or popular iconic myths. Our first movie The Stolen Princess centered on Mila, the Princess of Kyiv, which we’ll follow up with Mavka, and then we have Roxelana, who saves the world from a global war. Our first movie, The Stolen Princess, has already blazed the trail by being released in more than 50 countries.” The producers also point out that although animation in Ukraine is relatively young, the industry is growing at a rapid pace and shows lots of potential. “Ukrainian studios are successfully working on commercial and festival animation films,” notes Olesov. “Several Ukrainian animation projects, feature films and series have shown quite a lot of promise in recent years both locally and internationally. There are many talented artists in Ukraine and animated content can travel around the world and open up many interesting business and cultural opportunities for Ukraine. We are absolutely open to effective international partnerships and hope that in the near future, we’ll be able to share with the world many

new interesting stories through animation.” Both producers are quite passionate about their film’s environmental message. “One of our goals was to spotlight the issues of deforestation in Ukraine and the extinction of rare animal and plant species,” explains Kostyuk. “To raise awareness, Mavka’s forest will be populated with some animals from endangered list, such as a lynx, bison, a black stork and a brown bear, and some of them play quite a role in the plot. We used real Ukrainian forests as location references for the film. During the script stage, our Mavka team used consultants from WWF Ukraine, who held lectures, workshops and an expedition to forests for our animators, so that the magical forest and its inhabitants in the animated feature felt as authentic and alive as possible.”

Saving the Missing Lynx “We also initiated a long-term charity project titled ‘Save the Lynx!’ in support of the Eurasian lynx and its extinction,” she adds. “The money raised by this campaign, including part of the proceeds from the sale of licensed goods under the Mavka brand, is used to study the population of this rare species. This campaign won a United Nations Global Compact in Ukraine Partnership for Sustainability Award.” Also high on the list of the production’s initiatives is using the movie to spread awareness of Ukrainian culture and literary classics. “We have all the support of the state, which recognizes the importance of the project to the nation as well as its international potential,” notes Kostyuk. “The project has twice received funding from the State Film Agency of Ukraine first in September 2016 and then in October 2020. The state has been helpful throughout this project and a lot of plans are set for 2021 to coincide with the 150th anni-

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versary of The Forest Song’s author.” Special attention has also been paid to the film’s visual language, which celebrates Slavic ornaments, symbols, ancient runes and patterns from Ukrainian embroidery. Experts from the leading ethnographic research institutions of Ukraine (the Department of Folklore Studies of the National University, the Ivan Honchar Museum and the Museum of the History of Ukrainian Fashion) worked with the team to interpret them for the film’s state-ofthe-art 3D CG animation. When all is said and done, the producers would love audiences to feel inspired by their film’s fascinating heroine. “Mavka brings another strong female character into Ukrainian and European animation,” they point out. “Our hope is that the audiences worldwide will be inspired to ‘be like Mavka,’ that is, to share her values and adopt her style, which is visually expressed in the combination of themes of nature and authenticity in a modern interpretation. The animated film’s ability to appeal to a wide family audience was appreciated by international buyers and distributors long before its release. The distribution rights have been acquired by 10 companies covering more than 20 countries in Europe, the Middle East and North Africa. In short, the most exciting thing about our project is that Mavka will give the audience something new — a world that has ever been seen in the world of animation before.” Animagrad/Film.UA Group’s Mavka. The Forest Song will have a strong presence at the European Film Market in Berlin in March. For more info about the movie, visit mavka.ua. www.animationmagazine.net

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Disney’s new feature Raya and the Last Dragon offers a refreshingly independent heroine and a stunning backdrop, inspired by the cultures and countries of Southeast Asia. By Ramin Zahed strong, memorable Southeast Asian heroine is ready to make her mark in the Disney animated feature canon this month. The central figure in the studio’s 59th animated movie, Raya and the Last Dragon, is tasked with finding a legendary dragon and uniting the divided people of her land to save the world from an evil force. Billed as Disney’s first animated feature to have a Southeast Asia-inspired setting, Raya is www.animationmagazine.net

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directed by Oscar-winning studio veteran Don Hall (Big Hero 6, Winnie the Pooh, Moana) and Carlos López Estrada, a Mexican-American director best known for his music videos and the 2018 live-action feature Blindspotting. The lavish pic was produced by Osnat Shurer (Moana) and Peter Del Vecho (Frozen movies, The Princess and the Frog), written by Qui Nguyen and Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians), and features the voice talents of Kelly Marie Tran

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(Raya), Awkwafina (Sisu the dragon), Gemma Chan, Daniel Dae Kim, Sandra Oh, Benedict Wong and Alan Tudyk. Hall, who has worked with Disney since the days of Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove and Brother Bear, says this movie allowed him and his team to explore the concept of unity to fight for a common cause. “There had been some great exploration by the team into the concept of unity and togetherness,” says Hall, april 21

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A Peaceful Warrior: Kelly Marie Tran voices the lead character Raya, who sets out to save her land from the dark forces of evil.

‘It’s a testament to the skill sets of our animation department across the board. The visual style of this film is unlike anything we have ever seen in film animation.’ — Director Don Hall

“but Carlos and I felt that honing in on the trust required to achieve unity would lay a firm groundwork from which to make every decision in our lead character’s journey. This is Raya’s journey of learning to trust after her trust was so deeply broken when she was a

child.” The director says that, like Big Hero Six, Raya touches upon how a big loss affects its main character. “They’re both about a deep subject. But in Raya’s case, it’s about trust. I think that where they differ is the world, actually, to be

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honest with you, and how I think we approached the world. The world of Raya is a world under duress. It’s a world that’s under a considerable amount of existential pressure from these creatures called the Druun. It is a broken world that these characters are trying to put back together.” Hall adds, “We had no real way of knowing that during the making of the film that our own world was going to be put under an incredible amount of existential pressure with the pandemic. It came by surprise with all of us. But how the film kind of mirrors our own experiences in the real world right now has been nothing short of extraordinary, actually.” In Hall’s opinion, the animation in Raya is some of the best the studio has delivered to date. “It’s a testament to the skill sets of our animation department across the board,” he notes. “Of course, story happens on the page before it goes to storyboard form. The level of subtle acting that we feature in this movie is quite impressive. We have several really broad characters, but we also have these subtle, dramatic performances, so they function on both ends of that spectrum. Overall, the visual style of this film is unlike anything we have ever seen in film animation.” www.animationmagazine.net

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he legendary water dragon Sisu (voiced by Awkwafina), who is at the heart of the film’s central drama, plays a big role in Raya’s journey of self-discovery. Nguyen explains, “The East has a very strong love and affection for dragons, but these dragons are very different from what you see in Game of Thrones, for example. They mean luck. They signify life-affirming powers and fortitude, and those aspects were important to expand on since Raya is a Southeast Asian-inspired hero. Sisu is highly revered and super powerful, but at the same time, we wanted to subvert our expectations of what a dragon could be like. So she’s funny. She’s goofy. She trips on herself. She’s new to the world. She’s new to what life is like now. There’s something charming and fun about her, and I think that she’s just a really fun comedic character to follow.” Hall points out, “The importance of water was a huge visual thematic in the film. In terms of Sisu being a water being, a water dragon based on the Nāga, water just became this recurring motif in the film that was extremely important.” “Awkwafina fit the dragon that we were looking for — some combination of wisdom, emotion and humor,” adds Shurer. “She brings all those three things together in some magical potion!”

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‘For me, being Asian American with a Southeast Asian background, it was an opportunity to write a hero that my kids could look at and see that she looked like them, and she looked like their grandparents and their aunts and uncles … and me.’ — Screenwriter Qui Nguyen

While Raya’s world is a magical, fantasy-laden realm, the filmmakers strove to bring as much cultural authenticity as they could to Kumandra. In fact, many of them were inspired by their own family heritage and countries of origin. As Estrada points out, “We’re making a movie that is inspired by the cultures of Southeast Asia, and we want to make sure that when people from the region see this, although Kumandra (Raya’s land) is a made-up place, they can feel the love and respect the team had for the incredible real places that inspired us. We worked hard to make sure that this world we created feels dynamic, that the inspirations affecting the story really come through and that nothing is lost. We want to pay tribute to these cultures that inspired the story and the world of Kumandra.” In fact, several key members of the film’s

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creative team traveled through Laos, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia and Singapore to immerse themselves in these cultures and to reflect their first-hand experiences in the film’s sights and sounds. As co-director Paul Briggs recalls, “I saw, from the people we met and the families we were with, this level of trust — to a person, everyone was so welcoming. They expected us to be there to learn and be respectful, and we were so deeply honored by everyone’s openness and welcoming spirit.” “Of the people we met, everyone had such a deep connection to their village and to their culture,” notes the film’s production designer, Paul A. Felix. “They knew all the old legends and what, aesthetically, everything means, and that’s layered into everything from fabrics to how food is created to how flowers are arranged. There’s a deeper meaning relating to their culture and their village, april 21

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Authentic Characters: The artistic and design teams were inspired by trips they took to Southeast Asian countries as they created the colors, flavors and textures of the film’s various fantasy lands.

which ties into everything that they do.” To make sure they were on the right path, the filmmakers sought insights from a group of anthropologists, architects, dancers, linguists and musicians. According to the producers, these consultants offered assistance to the entire production team to ensure that Raya was grounded in respect for the diverse cultures of Southeast Asia that inspired the film. As Shurer explains, the production team looked for commonalities and recurring designs and themes within the various cultures. “The design of a building or of anything is often reflective of the point of view of the people who are living in the country,” she says. “Many of these things are common to many of the Southeast Asian cultures. It is such a diverse and big and beautiful and rich world that in finding our connection to each area, we leaned very heavily on our Southeast Asia Story Trust, on some of our experts, to help find those connections. In the key creative room itself, we had someone from Malaysia, some-

one from Thailand and somebody with a very strong connection to the Vietnamese heritage. We also have a lot of crew from various parts of the region.” Shurer says the filmmakers also paid special attention to the cuisine and regional food of each of the countries they visited. “Food is something that everyone comes together around. And we realized how visual that is, and how we could lean into it in the movie,” says the producer, who brought the same attention to regional and cultural authenticity to her previous Disney feature, Moana. Hall adds, “When connecting with those within our team who went on the research trips, it was evident that food had to be a fundamental element in the film. As we looked at our film’s theme of trust, we looked at how food is often a way of building trust and togetherness, and how that could be utilized as a thematic through-line.” Shurer concludes, “The need to come together for the greater good, despite our differences,

is something that is top of mind for so many of us. We all are excited to bring out a film that provides a space for that conversation.” Screenwriter Qui Nguyen reflects, “For me, being Asian American with a Southeast Asian background, it was an opportunity to write a hero that my kids could look at and see that she looked like them, and she looked like their grandparents and their aunts and uncles … and me. It is a positive influence in their lives, especially in these very formative years where their self-esteem is being built.” Estrada believes that the film is much more than a fantasy adventure. “It has so much comedy to offer. It has so much action and so many thrills. We really wanted the movie to be unexpected and we really wanted the movie to feel like a breath of fresh air within the genre — and even within Disney Animation.” Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon premieres in select theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on March 5.

Carlos López Estrada

Adele Lim

Osnat Shurer

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Adventures in Experimental Time Travel Croatian multimedia artist Dalibor Baric discusses his eccentric and unforgettable film, Accidental Luxuriance of The Translucent Watery Rebus.

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roatian director Dalibor Baric can’t believe how much attention his innovative experimental feature has been getting over the past few weeks. Ever since the Academy announced that his 2020 feature Accidental Luxuriance of the Translucent Watery Rebus was one of now 26 titles eligible for this year’s Academy Awards, a lot of people have become interested in his pensive sci-fi movie, which uses a wide variety of animation techniques to convey its strange message. Speaking from his home in Zagreb, Baric says he began working on the movie about two years ago and wrapped everything up only a month before the COVID lockdowns. “It was almost as if my movie anticipated the postCOVID atmosphere,” he says. “There is a mention of a quarantine and, at some point, the characters were wearing masks. It’s funny how it all reflects the world now. Originally, I started writing the movie as a way of processing my thoughts, simply as a response to the everyday realities of living in our world and the www.animationmagazine.net

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‘Someone wrote me that my movie overwhelmed them and caused them to contemplate deeply. I think that’s what I was trying to achieve.’ — Director Dalibor Baric

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Fea fact that humanity never learns from the past.” Baric says the writing questioned whether his inner reality matched the exterior world. “It was all the classic questions,” he expands. “What do we know and what don’t we know … Soon, I had a lot of these mostly micro poetic segments. Somehow without thinking too much, this story emerged about this man and a woman who are fugitives from society, and this policeman who is on their trail, which is a familiar movie trope. It was simply a skeleton for me to hang the words and the visuals on.”

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Behind the Mask: Director Dalibor Baric was inspired by some of his favorite French New Wave auteurs and American horror B-movies.

A True Fan of Cinema The director, who also works as a multimedia artist and musician, says he enjoys paying homage to movies that have made an impact on him and his works. In Accidental Luxuriance, keen-eyed film fans will see references to the horror films of Roger Corman, George Romero and David Cronenberg, as well as heavier fare by Jean-Luc Godard and Andrei Tarkovsky. “We grew up with movies so we recognize the distinct language of cinematography,” he notes. “It acts like an apparatus in our brains. I love science fiction B-movies, for example, because they can explore things underneath the surface of their plots. They are labeled as harmless, unserious material, so they have more freedom. They can dig beneath the surface.” The filmmaker says he always feels better after seeing his favorite movies. “They always give me something,” he notes. “For example, I felt richer, safer and better when I watched Hiroshima Mon Amour. So, in the same way, I want to touch filmgoers on a human level. Someone wrote me that my movie overwhelmed them and caused them to contemplate deeply. I think that’s what I was trying to achieve.” Baric says his affection for these low-budget sci-fi movies goes back to his childhood, growing up in a small coastal village. “We had a small theater in town, so I went to the movies a lot,” he recalls. “I saw most of the ‘80s blockbusters, but I also saw a lot of exploitation movies, because they were cheaper to get in town. I grew up with a lot of those movies, but I didn’t understand all of them.” In addition to those low-budget movies, Baric says he loved to read European and American comic books. “I loved Heavy Metal magazine and was crazy about DC and Marvel comics. My first obsession was comic books like Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, long before I got into heavy, slow-burn movies by Ingmar Berman and Tarkovsky!” He picked up his animation and computer skills working at an animation studio in Zagreb. “I worked as an in-betweener, but I also

learned computer graphics and was doing Flash animation. Back then, we thought the Internet was going to open up new possibilities, but then it became systemized. Then I started to experiment with collages, and I felt the need to store all the animation and collages in one place.” According to Baric, he produced his movie for no more than 20,000 euros (about $24,200), using Blender, Photoshop and After Effects. “I am too lazy to do frame-by-frame animation,” he says with a smile. “My animation was basic, so I found several plug-ins to achieve this oil painting look. I also added some rotoscopy and solarization of colors in After Effects. I just don’t like a clean image. I had to add crackles, grains, glitches all throughout the movie. I need the image to shake and tremble all the time. I just can’t stand a clean aesthetic. The same is true in the audio. There are no complete silences. You

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can always hear music, dialog or crackles of a record. Just like you can hear your blood pulsating.” The dynamic filmmaker is pleased that his movie has been able to play in theaters in Croatia despite all the usual COVID restrictions. “There are limited screenings where only 10 or 20 people can be allowed in theaters, in six or seven cities in the country,” he says. “But, now because of the connection to the Oscars, everyone is talking about the movie here. Most people will see it just to check the hype. It is funny that in usual times, the movie would have only got some attention in small animation circles and festivals. But now to see it being talked about by a lot of people fills my cup every day. It’s a small step for humanity, a giant leap for experimental animation!” For more info, visit kaos.hr and facebook.com/ accidentalluxuriance. www.animationmagazine.net

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And Then There Were 10 A final look at this year’s top Animated Short Oscar contenders

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ongrats to the 10 animated shorts that made the Academy Awards’ shortlist. Ninety-six shorts originally qualified in this category. Members of the Short Films and Feature Animation Branch vote to determine the shortlist and the nominees. The nominations will be announced on March 15. This year’s virtual Academy Awards will take place on April 25.

The films, listed in alphabetical order by title, are: Hamer, Joe Wilson; animation director Daniel Sousa Produced by: Hamer, Wilson, Wong-Kalu Synopsis: Kapaemahu reveals the healing power of four mysterious stones on Waikiki Beach— and the legendary transgender spirits within them. Website: kapaemahu.com

Burrow

Burrow (U.S.) Directed by: Madeline Sharafian Produced by: Mike Capbarat Synopsis: A young rabbit sets out to dig the burrow of her dreams — despite not having a clue about what she’s doing. She gets by with a little help from her neighbors. Website: pixar.com/sparkshorts

Opera (U.S.)

If Anything Happens I Love You (U.S.) Directed by: Michael Govier and Will McCormack Produced by: Gary Gilbert, Gerald Chamales Synopsis: This powerful, minimalistic short charts the emotional journey of two parents struggling to overcome the hurt left by the loss of their child in a school shooting. Website: netflix.com

Directed by: Erick Oh Produced by: Beasts and Natives Alike Synopsis: This ambitious 8K size animation installation project portrays human society and history, filled with beauty and absurdity as a never-ending cycle of achievements, wars, servitude and hierarchies. Website: erickoh.com/film#/opera

Genius Loci (France)

Out (U.S.)

Directed by: Adrien Merigeau Produced by: Amaury Ovise Synopsis: One night, a young loner named Reine sees the urban chaos as a mystical oneness that seems alive, like some sort of a guide. Website: adrienmerigeau.com/genius-loci

Directed by: Steven Clay Hunter Produced by: Max Sachar Synopsis: Things taken an unexpected turn when a young gay man who has not come out to his parents swaps brains with his helpful dog. Website: pixar.com/sparkshorts

Kapaemahu (U.S.) Directed by: Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, Dean

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r Shorts The Snail and the Whale

The Snail and the Whale (U.K.) Directed by: Max Lang and Daniel Snaddon Produced by: Martin Pope and Michael Rose Synopsis: Based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s children’s book, this CG-animated special centers on a snail who hitches a lift on a whale’s tail to see the world. The snail feels very small in the big world, but when the whale is beached in a bay, she comes to the rescue! Website: magiclightpictures.com

Traces

Ardèche river gorge, when an animal was painted, it was hunted. Gwel is appointed head of the group of hunters while Karou the painter and his apprentice Lani set off to paint the walls of the great cavern. But they hadn’t counted on meeting a lion. Website: lesfilmsdunord.com/traces upon his magic routine, the two make a big impact on each other’s lives. Website: dreamworks.com

Traces (France) Directed by: Sophie Tavert Macian and Hugo Frassetto Produced by: Arnaud Demuynck; Les Films du Nord Synopsis: About 36,000 years ago in the

Yes-People Directed by: Gísli Darri Halldórsson Produced by: Halldórsson, Arnar Gunnarsson Synopsis: One morning an eclectic mix of people face the everyday battle - such as work, school and dish-washing. As the day progresses, their relationships are tested and ultimately their capacity to cope. Website: caoz.com, magnetfilm.de

Yes-People

To: Gerard (U.S.) Directed by: Taylor Meacham Produced by: Jeff Hermann Synopsis: A sprightly mailman dreams of one day finding his audience as a famous magician. When an inquisitive young girl wanders

The Visual Effects Shortlist:

Soul

Birds of Prey (Warner Bros) Bloodshot (Sony Pictures) Love and Monsters (Paramount) Mank (Netflix) The Midnight Sky (Netflix) Mulan (Disney) The One and Only Ivan (Disney) Soul (Disney-Pixar)

Tenet (Warner Bros.) Welcome to Chechnya (HBO) 27

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The Past Is a Strange Country! Bastien Dubois tries to answer a few of questions about his Sundance prize-winning short Souvenir, Souvenir.

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rench helmer Bastien Dubois’ year started off on a winning note when his latest short Souvenir, Souvenir picked up the Short Film Jury Award: Animation prize at Sundance in January. The autobiographical project is inspired by his grandfather’s experiences of the Algerian War (1954-1962) and how reluctant he was to share the reality of the conflict with his family. Dubois, who made a big splash in 2010 with his Oscar-nominated short Madagascar, a Journey Diary, which was followed up by Cargo Cult in 2013, says he had been wanting to make this project for quite a while now. “I have had questions in my head since I was a kid and decided to make a comic strip based on the idea when I was a teenager,” Dubois tells Animation Magazine. “I knew it would be an animated short around 2005, but I really started to write it in 2011. The project was released in 2020 and I think I spent close to three years to put it all together. Actually, this short is about how I decided to make it — and even how I tried to avoid it. It’s kind of about my attempts to make a movie I really didn’t want to make!” According to Dubois, a lot of people helped him along the way for short periods of time. “I guess it was because the pipeline was chaotic, which was my fault,” he admits. “The edit changed several times, which was my fault, too, and also because I had to hire and work in different regions due to the funding — our budget was about 200,000 euros (about $241,900). We used TVPaint, Adobe (Premiere, After, Photoshop) and Blender. But mostly, we used After Effects.” The director, who is currently working on an animated feature about the late Russian journalist and human rights activist Anna Politkovskaya, says the toughest part of the job was crafting the script. “It was difficult to dig into myself and my memories,” he notes.

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French Snapshot: Bastien Dubois’s prize-winning short reflects on his grandfather’s experiences in the French-Algerian war.

‘I am always telling stories and making films about myself, so I am not sure that this is a behavior I need to encourage!. I swear If I could write fiction, I would do that instead!’ — Director Bastien Dubois

“Staying motivated, overcoming my doubts and jumping to the next step was also tough. Every step of the way … almost every day!” So, which part of the short gave him the most satisfaction? “Well, certainly not my voice!” he responds. “I would say it was working with my grandmother. She did her own voice and I think she was terrific. She passed away two weeks before the film was done. I’m really frustrated that she didn’t get to see it. Otherwise, the sound … I am so happy to have music by Anetha and AVC on board for the audio.” Since Souvenir, Souvenir centers on members of his own family, we had to find out how they all responded to Doubis’ personal take on their shared history. “They had no reactions,” Dubois confesses. “They kept all their emotions deep inside, just like we always do.” When it comes to naming his animation

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idols, Dubois responds with a joke, as expected. “There are no animation heroes!” he laughs. “There are only losers … spending our lives alone in the dark! Seriously, though, I would say Jérémy Clapin, Réka Bucsi, Martina Scarpelli, Sawako Kabuki, Léahn Vivier-Chapas, Chintis Lundgren, Nadja Andrasev, Shoko Hara and Alice Saey are a few of my heroes and heroines.” Of course, we couldn’t let Dubois get away without giving a few helpful tips to shorts directors. “Oh my, I don’t know!” he says. “I am always telling stories and making films about myself, so I am not sure that this is a behavior I need to encourage! Most of my friends are bored. I think if this is your obsession, if there is no other way, why not do it. But, I swear If I could write fiction, I would do that instead!” For more info, visit bastiendubois.com.

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Super-Powered and Sophisticated Comic-book titan Robert Kirkman and his team create a brightly colored world of superheroes for Amazon’s animated Invincible series. By Ramin Zahed

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f you like your animated superheroes to be complicated characters who wear brightly colored spandex costumes, you are going to love the new adaptation of Robert Kirkman’s popular Invincible series, which arrives on Amazon this month. The show, which was created by Kirkman (The Walking Dead) and artists Cory Walker and Ryan Ottley, is based on the hit comic book published by Kirkman’s own Image imprint between 2003 and 2018. This great-looking series follows the adventures of Mark Grayson (voiced by Steven Yeun), a high school student who discovers that he has inherited the superhuman abilities of his powerful extraterrestrial father, Omni-Man (voiced by J.K. Simmons). Kirkman says his new show celebrates the magic of the superhero genre and doesn’t stray away from any of the cool elements that fans of the comic book have fallen for over the years. “It has crazy storylines and offers aspects of the suwww.animationmagazine.net

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perhero world that haven’t been represented in animation,” he says during a recent phone interview. “We really get to see superheroes in a new light, and hopefully we’ll be expanding the genre.” Kirkman, who worked closely with Walker, supervising director Jeff Allen and the team at Skybound Entertainment (The Walking Dead), says he was inspired by retelling his dramatic tale in the one-hour animation format. “There was a ton of figuring out how to best approach the story about this young character as he enters this crazy world of superheroes,” he notes.

“It was a thrilling journey to watch our hero Mark mature and come to his own throughout the eight hours of the first season.”

Parallel Projects Development for the show was started about four years ago at the same time that Kirkman began exploring a live-action feature adaptation of the property with Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg. (The movie version is also moving forward.) He says one of the main challenges of the project was getting an animation studio to commit to a 2D hand-drawn

‘Invincible has crazy storylines and offers aspects of the superhero world that haven’t been represented in animation … We really get to see superheroes in a new light, and hopefully we’ll be expanding the genre.’ — Show creator and exec producer Robert Kirkman

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ream The Spandex Squad: Featuring a top voice cast which includes the likes of Steven Yeun, J.K. Simmons, Mahershala Ali, Mark Hamill, Sandra Oh, Zazie Beetz, Seth Rogen, Gillian Jacobs, Walton Goggins, Andrew Rannels, Jon Hamm and Zachary Quinto, Invincible is set in a complex world of superheroes and villains.

show for that duration. The production found a great partner in Korean studio Maven Image Platform, which has worked on projects such as Harley Quinn and Reign of the Supermen, as well as Japan’s TAP studio (which worked on episode four of the show). Skybound’s Vancouver studio handles the CG effects of the show. “That was a big undertaking, especially since many of the studios around the world are very busy right now,” explains Kirkman. “So it felt like we set out to do the impossible. I can’t say enough about the hard work that all these great animation teams have done to make this happen. That was a very gratifying sight to see.” “Cory Walker and I wrapped up our work on the comic books after 16 years and 144 issues

and we just had to roll into adapting it into an animated series,” recalls Kirkman. “We revisited this world in a new light and got to watch all these amazing characters come to life. I went through a similar process with The Walking Dead, but here we got to work with voice actors and animation to hone it as closely as possible to the comic book.” “We were able to have some high-octane scenes with lots of drama and cool violence,” he notes. “I mean, we get to see heads explode and eyeballs flying around. We also have some truly heartbreaking scenes. We strengthened the narrative by moving some events around and reconstructed subplots so that audiences can see the evolution of the story in a clear way. Fans of the comic books will get the

‘In other animated shows I had worked on, we weren’t allowed to show a character be thrown out of a glass window because that’d be dangerous. So, they would have to be thrown out of an open window, for example.’ — Supervising director Jeff Allen

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scenes they are expecting to see, but there will be lots of twists and turns as we’re expanding on the stories in different ways.”

A Die-Hard Fan at the Helm Invincible’s supervising director Jeff Allen says he was a huge fan of the comic-book series from the very first issue. “I loved both the writing and the art, and was totally blown away by it,” says Allen, a TV animation biz veteran whose directing credits include Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man and Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue. “I collected every issue all the way to the final one, and when they came up with the hardcover volume and compendiums, I bought them, too! I’d keep reading them again and started from the beginning, too. I’ve read parts of it thousands of times!” Allen says not having to talk down to the younger audiences of the show has been a very liberating experience. “In other animated shows I had worked on, we weren’t allowed to show a character be thrown out of a glass window because that’d be dangerous, so they would have to be thrown out of an open winwww.animationmagazine.net

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ream High School Hijinx: Teenager Mark Grayson (Steven Yeun) realizes his newly developed superpowers come with a litany of problems and responsibilities. Left, his father Omni-Man (J.K. Simmons) is one of the show’s most complex characters.

dow, for example,” he explains. “We can also point a gun at the camera, which isn’t allowed in other animated shows. The scripts are all well-written and intelligent and there’s a rewarding overarching storyline for the whole show. Not only do I get to work on an adultthemed superhero show, it’s one that is near and dear to my heart.” On a purely visual level, the show adheres to what audiences are expected to see in a superhero comic adaptation, but as Allen points out, the grown-up elements definitely push the envelope. “Corey Walker, who co-created the comic-book with Robert, is our character designer — so it looks like he drew the whole show,” he notes. “It’s a brightly colored superhero cartoon, but there’s the juxtaposition with blood and gore. I don’t want to spoil anything, but things get bloodier and darker as the season progresses. Even our title cards get bloodier with each episode!” Thematically, the show’s subject matter is also deeper and darker. Allen says the heart of Invincible is Mark’s difficult journey as he has to decide what kind of a superhero he wants to be. “We have 140 issues to delve in, and hopefully we can tell a lot of wonderful stuff as we explore every nook and cranny of the comic books,” he says. “It’s a lot different than adapting source material to a movie, which means you have to compact the story down into two hours. We can take our time.” When asked about the target audience for the series, Allen says it’s definitely PG-13. “My daughter just turned 13 and I ask myself, will she be watching the show with us? Her friends are big Walking Dead fans. But when I think about myself when I was 10, my friends and I would be so happy to watch a show like this!”

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From Studio to Bedroom Of course, like many other TV creatives, Allen and his team had to deal with the COVID pandemic and the adjustments necessary to work from home. But since many of the 220 people working on the show were based in studios in Vancouver, Korea and Japan, it was a smoother transition than most. “I don’t miss commuting to work,” he says. “Editing was a little rough in the beginning, but Evercast [the remote collaboration platform] took care of that. I think it ended up working out better for the production. Everyone was more productive and we got a lot more done. For me, especially, since at home my office is right next to my bed! But I do miss interacting with people and sitting in the edit room.”

Heroes in Spandex What Allen is especially pleased about is the show’s all-out devotion to telling a good story. “I love the feeling of this world of superheroes that Robert has created,” he explains. “I love the brightly colored spandex costumes they wear. Plus, it’s a great coming-of-age story about our main character, and it doesn’t exactly go in the direction you’d expect it to go. Robert wrote the first and the final (eighth) episode of the season, and we really wanted to knock it out of the park. I am really proud of what we did, and I really want to do better in Season Two!” As a kid, Allen loved reading comic books and watching Tom and Jerry cartoons, Thundarr the Barbarian and The Herculoids on TV. He says he grew up wanting to be a comicbook artist for Marvel and to be a film director. Directing animated shows like Invincible has allowed him to combine both of his dreams. He also mentions that working with a comicbook icon like Kirkman has been a real thrill.

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“He is very laid-back, extremely funny and no-nonsense, and he tells you straight out if he doesn’t like something or thinks something is a stupid idea,” admits Allen. “He is always filled with ideas. I remember sitting in a room with him and our composer, and I got a little starstruck. My main goal was to make him and Cory happy. Of course, things go wrong — but when things work, you feel like this weight has been lifted off your shoulders. Do you remember in the movie Interstellar, when Matthew McConaughey is watching the video of his adult daughter and he’s bawling? That’s what I was doing, when everything was right and we didn’t need any retakes!” Kirkman mentions that shows like The Transformers and G.I. Joe were big touchstones of his childhood, and he recognizes the power animated worlds can have on young minds. “I wasn’t the only one who rushed home from high school to watch Batman: The Animated Series on TV,” he notes. “I also love Ninja Scroll, Vampire Hunter D. and the Akira movie. It’s been absolutely amazing to watch these massive streaming platforms finally recognize the values of storytelling and what adult animation is on the cusp of being able to do. Anime fans have been watching this stuff for years and know what the medium is capable of.” For Kirkman and his team, Invincible is a harbinger of the next wave of superhero shows on the small screen. “We are going to see insane spectacle and crazy action-packed adult animation dominating the streaming landscape in the near future,” he predicts. “Those movies and adult animation appeal to the same audience, and streaming platforms are recognizing this. It’s a new era.” Invincible premieres on Amazon Prime on March 26. New episodes arrive weekly on Fridays. april 21

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Visiting SpongeBob and Friends’ Early Years The creatives team behind the new Kamp Koral show discuss their shiny, new CG-animated baby. By Tom McLean

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fter more than two decades ruling the airwaves from his undersea bromeliad home, SpongeBob SquarePants is finally getting a spinoff show that will give viewers a fuller understanding of their porous pal’s misspent youth. Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years debuts its 13-episode first season March 4 on the new Paramount+ streaming service, the same day that the feature that inspired it — The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run — gets its U.S. debut on the same service. Loyal SpongeBob viewers will be glad to know that the original’s creative hands are also guiding Kamp Koral, which is co-executive produced by Marc Ceccarelli, Vincent Waller and Jennie Monica, and reunites original series voice cast members Tom Kenny as SpongeBob, Bill Fagerbakke as Patrick, Rodger Bumpass as Squidward, Clancy Brown as Mr. Krabs, Carolyn Lawrence as Sandy and Mr. Lawrence as Plankton. The CG-animated show puts younger versions of these classic characters into the pressure cooker of summer camp, providing new creative opportunities for the show’s veteran creators. www.animationmagazine.net

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“The nice thing about camp is that it’s an entirely different world with an entirely different set of dials and whistles we can use on SpongeBob,” says Waller. “We were also able to introduce some new characters into this world, too, that allowed us more weird or different dynamics than we usually do,” says Ceccarelli. “It’s like a jumpstart to our creativity, putting somebody in a different space like that.”

Return of the Comedy Champs Ceccarelli and Waller wanted the show to retain the broad appeal and quality of the original series, and wanted to steer clear of being perceived as a “babies” version of the show. So while Sponge on the Run used child actors for the younger versions of SpongeBob and pals, the original series cast returned for

Kamp Koral. Waller says there was some trepidation among the cast at first about the idea, but once they read the scripts and saw the visuals, they were all in. “They’re like, ‘Okay, all right, we’re doing the same thing, it’s just shaped a little bit different and fun to look at in a different way,’” he says. “Some of them are aging themselves down vocally and a few of the other ones we do a little bit of pitch magic to them, to get them into a younger-ish sort of area — but it’s still our comedy actors, you know, being able to do the kind of comedy that we’re used to doing with them,” says Ceccarelli. The premise puts the characters into what Ceccarelli describes as a bit of a pressure cooker. “All the kids are kind of trapped in the same environment,” he says. “Especially our

‘We were also able to introduce some new characters into this world, too, that allowed us more weird or different dynamics than we usually do … It’s like a jumpstart to our creativity, putting somebody in a different space like that.’ — Exec producer Marc Ceccarelli

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ream leads — we put them all in the same cabin.” Outside the camp, there are some wild hillbilly type characters, including narwhal siblings Nobby and Narlene, voiced respectively by Carlos Alazraqui and Kate Higgins. Ceccarelli describes them as tricksters: “They come in and are constantly messing with the kids, but the kids love them because they’re so genuine.” Rodger Bumpass, who voices Squidward, says there was some discussion early on about whether the actors would try to pitch up their voices. “But we decided that we would just do our regular acting for the characters, and that helps us,” he says. Kamp Koral casts Squidward as a junior counselor, which plays perfectly to the character’s foibles. “He’s in something of a position of authority, as opposed to his position at the Krusty Krab, and being ever so slightly older than the rest of the kids, he gets to wield his power over them, and basically it just translates as another arena for his frustration,” says Bumpass. “It’s a wonderful consistency with the performance of Squidward from the classic show, but with nuances that helped me spread my wings as far as different things to do in this show.” Kamp Koral deviates from the original by using CG animation instead of traditional 2D. Waller says he was nervous about the quality of CG animation going into the project, but his concerns were put to rest by the quality of

“That’s really opened up all kinds of possibilities to try and get some of the bigger, cartoonier types of expressions and movements that we love to do in the 2D show,” Ceccarelli says.

Bigger Elasticity

work produced by the show’s India-based crew at Technicolor. “As soon as I saw what we’d cobbled together with our new amazing crew — SpongeBob and Patrick standing in their cabin, at their camp — I wanted to go and sit in that cabin, I wanted to go and smell that wood. I wanted to go be there,” he says. “I’ve actually been surprised at how much of the aesthetics of 2D that we love, that we’ve been able to actually port over to the CG world,” says Ceccarelli. Technology allows the show’s animators to sculpt and alter digital models themselves, where previously the same effect would have required the construction of new or specialized models.

Younger and Sillier: Tom Kenny and Bill Fagerbakke voice younger versions of SpongeBob and Patrick in the new show Kamp Koral: SpongeBob’s Under Years.

Ceccarelli lauds the animators’ ability to translate the look and feel of the original into CG. “We’re trying to have the same sort of crazy, wild posing that you get in the regular 2D show,” he says. ”It’s gonna look a lot different than a lot of CG shows out there, because our models are so elastic, and we do so much with them in an attempt to bring a lot of the same kind of humor out of the visuals.” Bumpass says he loves the nuances that come from the CG style, citing a moment where Squidward has an Ed Norton from The Honeymooners moment in which he prepares to play a horn by readying his mouth with exaggerated lip movements that looked great and gave him a chance to play with sound. “They just go on into abstraction about it and I love those beats,” he says. Incorporating unusual and low-tech effects is a hallmark of the original series, and continues with Kamp Koral. “Don’t be surprised if everybody turns into a puppet in one scene, or there’s a live-action person matted into an episode where you wouldn’t expect them to be,” says Ceccarelli. ”We’re always trying to find ways of making it funkier and more multimedia.” But at the end of the day, what makes Kamp Koral work is the same thing that makes the original SpongeBob SquarePants work: Making kids and adults laugh. “We want your parents to be able to sit next to you and watch it and laugh,” says Waller. “Maybe they get a different joke than you do, but they’re laughing at the same time you’re laughing.” Kamp Koral premieres on the new Paramount+ streaming service on March 4.

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Neighborhood Spirits First-time showrunner Elizabeth Ito shares her creative process and the inspiration behind her new Netflix series City of Ghosts. Elizabeth Ito

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f you’ve been looking for a beautifully imagined, smart and thoughtful new animated children’s show, your prayers have been answered in the form of Elizabeth Ito’s City of Ghosts, which premieres this month on Netflix. The new offering is a clever, documentary-style hybrid animation series in which a group of kids discover stories around their city by communicating directly with the ghosts who inhabit it. Ito, an Emmy-winning director and writer on Adventure Time and creator of the short Welcome to My Life who has also worked on Phineas and Ferb, Hotel Transylvania, Bee Movie, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2, was kind enough to answer a few of our questions about her new project: Animag: Congrats on your fantastic new show. Can you tell us a little bit about how it all came to be? Elizabeth Ito: It feels like it was a lifetime ago. A couple of years ago, when I was brought into Netflix, I thought we were going to make my 2014 short Welcome to My Life into something bigger, but that property was tied up with Cartoon Network. So, they asked me to come up with anwww.animationmagazine.net

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other idea that I would be as interested in. I was thinking about how many neighborhoods in Los Angeles are changing and noticing how things are disappearing, whitewashed and gentrified. I also have two small kids, and wanted to create a calmer show — something for more introverted, quieter people! That’s how I came up with the idea for City of Ghosts, which explores the history that exists in L.A. from the perspective of these intuitive kids. My mandate was to come up with something I couldn’t do anywhere else. So it was both exciting and scary! Have your own kids seen the show? Yes; they are four and six years old. They’ve seen all the episodes and know different lines from the show. For me, the best part is that they like it! Not only does the show look quite different from other children’s shows, its writing process is quite original, too. Can you tell us a little bit about that? When I first started, I wanted to explore how to write something that was a mix of fiction and non-fiction, but we don’t do that often in chil-

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dren’s animation. So I wanted to get somebody who came from the documentary side. Joanne Shen is a friend of mine from CalArts who is married to a documentary producer-writer, so I called her on a whim. I had to find out how to incorporate that into the show, and build a team and build a template that would work. She was one of the first people that came onboard. Then we had to figure out our pipeline and the schedule for what we were doing. The next person I contacted was Jenny Yang, who is a comedy writer who worked for The Daily Show. I reached out to her because she knows a lot about issues that are going on in the city. That’s when I found out that she has a background in urban planning and policy and studied it at UCLA. We worked with her on a couple of sessions where we discussed the overall issues in the city. We tried to stay away from really volatile issues. I wanted the stories to focus on appreciating different cultures. We didn’t want parents not to watch it. We also wanted to veer towards something that kids would want to watch, and we wanted to be informed enough to discuss the particular subjects in each episode. april 21

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ream You were one of the first projects launched at the then-new Netflix Animation studio in Hollywood, right? At first, we were set up on the space on Sunset Boulevard, down the street from big studio offices. It was a great learning experience for me. We had to set up this office for all these creators. Nothing was built yet, and little by little Netflix started to grow. I actually prefer working in a smaller space with a smaller crew. It made me learn a lot about what I thrive on and how to build a crew that works well with me. We were one of the smallest teams. I could count all the board artists and directors on my two hands. It helped us work very efficiently. Of course, we only had six episodes to produce. Which other animation studios did you work with on the show? I worked very closely with my husband’s [Kevin Dart] studio Chromosphere and the French animation studio TeamTO (Mighty Mike, PJ Masks), which I worked with on Welcome to My Life. I had a great experience with them and they’re stylistically parallel to how I like to work. For the overall look of the show, we knew we wanted to have live-action backgrounds. It was fun to come up with this new process with Chromosphere. We would meet with people that we’d want to interview in different neighborhoods … Leimert Park, Boyle Heights, Venice, Santa Monica, Koreatown, Chinatown, Little Tokyo, Highland Park, Echo Park. Some were real places, and some were made up or composites. Can you tell us about the various animation tools you used to create the visuals? We explored different tools; there’s so much out there. When I was at Sony, they were using new technology that helped plan the lighting for a 3D character in a real place. It would be great to know that there is the possibility that we can do this. But we had to strike a balance between what would be cool versus how much we could afford. We looked at modeling things in Quill in the VR space, but we didn’t do it in the end because they were too technical or cost too much to do. The nice thing was that Chromosphere figured out a pipeline which allowed us to do compositing after we were done. We used Maya and After Effects and some proprietary tools.

An Urban Homage: Elizabeth Ito and her team used real-life locations around Los Angeles to capture the authentic feel of the city’s various neighborhoods and diverse communities.

How did the production deal with the city’s COVID-19 restrictions? We were lucky because all of the stuff that needed in-person interactions like the photo shoots and records were finished on the last week before people were told to stay home. The timing was just like Indiana Jones grabbing his hat from under a shutting door in the very last moment! Of course, the post process was tricky, too. Normally you can just go over the material and ask them to adjust certain things. If you haven’t met with them or worked with them before, it’s not easy when your first interaction is giving written notes or doing it over the phone. I’m really glad that we weren’t figuring out the story notions, tweaking the animatics or writing the show remotely, because it’s easy to miscommunicate CONTINUED ON PAGE 23

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Rabbit Love A new animated adaptation of The Runaway Bunny hops to HBO Max. By Karen Idelson

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argaret Wise Brown’s lyrical and popular children’s book The Runaway Bunny tells the story of a baby bunny who desperately wants to break free and see the outside world. The nearly 80-year-old book features iconic illustrations by Clement Hurd and has been namechecked on classic TV shows like Cheers for its ability to make even the most hardhearted of adults break

down in tears. Nevertheless, the book’s plot is simple and doesn’t feature the kinds of twists and turns that might entice most filmmakers to adapt it for the screen. The creatives who jump on board would have to find a way to fill in the story without pulling the tale too far off track. Enter director/producer Amy Schatz and director of animation Maciek Albrecht,

the Emmy-winning creative team behind the Classical Baby series and the Good Night Moon & Other Sleepytime Tales special “It’s a classic book and we set out to actually bring the book itself to life,” says Schatz. “The goal was to try to figure out how to make a film which was inspired by and actually captures the illustration, style and the poetry of the book. The challenge was really that it’s a picture book, and it takes maybe 10 minutes to read. So, the main question was, how do you make a film that brings to life a short picture book that’s really a quiet little story, a moment in time, an interaction between a mother bunny and her baby bunny playing in a field of grass? When you have something so beloved, and so classic, you have to make sure you get it right. Our goal was to stay as true to the tone and quality of the book, but to expand it and bring it to life as a film.”

A Musical Tale Schatz brought in a cast of skilled vocal performers. Since the book itself already had a kind of ephemeral quality, the director also decided that music would be a powerful way to preserve the feeling of the book while giving the story and animation a chance to expand. The soundtrack features songs by many

A Mother’s Day: HBO Max’s new animated special brings Margaret Wise Brown’s ode to motherhood to animated life.

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ream A-list singer-songwriters. Ziggy Marley recorded “What a Wonderful World”; Mariah Carey updated her classic “Always Be My Baby”; Rufus Wainwright performs a lullaby called “Goodnight, My Angel”; Kelly Rowland is featured on “Make You Feel My Love”; and Rosanne Cash sings “You Are My Sunshine,” which was a hit for her father. Tracee Ellis Ross narrates the story. “They all did it in their home studios and we were lucky to get them to do it,” says Schatz. With the look of the book in mind, Albrecht went on a search for animators who had a skill and affinity for hand-drawn animation. His search led him to every corner of the planet. There were crew members from Poland, Vermont, California, Turkey, Russia, the Philippines and Colombia as well as other locations. And after carefully analyzing the original bunny drawings of the book, he also discovered there were certain differences between the bunnies from page to page. Albrecht and Schatz found that when they followed the look of actual bunnies too close-

ly, the eyes of the bunnies made the facial characteristics of the animals look mean or angry, so they worked on preserving the look of the original illustrations. While some other elements in the adaptation were not entirely hand drawn, all the bunnies were. “We had about 10 animators from all over the world,” says Albrecht. “It’s a very difficult thing to find someone who can do something like this. And everybody has their own way of drawing. I think it still has the same spirit as the book, having some differences from sequence to sequence. It has a little imperfection. This was such an incredible opportunity to go back to hand-drawn animation. The

I thought that would be interesting. On the first day, I was really scared, but I loved that animation combined so many different things: writing, music and drawing.

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When did you realize you wanted to work in animation? When I was in high school, all my friends were doing academic summer programs, but I applied to the California State Summer School for the Arts. They had all these different kinds of art you could study, and I picked animation because

What do you hope audiences will take away from your show? I am so excited for people to see it. I hope they feel they really learn something new, something that they didn’t know before, in an entertaining way. I also hope they find a story that they can relate to and that they see themselves represented on TV. That they see someone that reminds them of themselves. The biggest thing is that I hope families feel that they can watch this show together and laugh and talk about it. You’ve been one of the vocal champions of hav-

City of Ghosts debuts on Netflix on March 5.

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The Runaway Bunny premieres on HBO Max on March 25.

ing diversity in animation both on the screen and behind it. What is your take on the progressive climate in 2021? I am really excited about the diversity in animation today. It’s interesting because Mister Rogers is someone who has emerged as everyone’s favorite dude now. There is this feeling of appreciation for this fundamental caring attitude that he had. That’s what we want to show people: How to be gentle and understand our feelings. I’m excited to be in the position that I am currently. It hits home with me as I also have two kids at home myself. I feel that kids deserve more respect, especially when I think of some of the children’s programming of my youth, which was about selling us toys. I mean, they were sort of entertaining us. You could show us any over-the-top, loud garbage, and we would be drawn to it as kids. I am excited that it’s not about that anymore and kids are able to judge content just as we are as adults. Sure, there are times that you just want to watch something trashy. It’s fine to have that as long as we have the other stuff, too, which is what I enjoy making — material that is deep, personal and a calming force and not about driving people to buy stuff. The more I can be part of that, the better I feel about what I’m putting out there and doing for my own kids.

Who are some of your biggest animation influences? I have been watching Miyazaki movies forever. When I think about children’s programming that I admire, Jim Henson comes to mind immediately. He was this brilliant, creative spirit that made so many things that inspired my imagination and formed my sense of humor. Then, there are experimental animators like Norman McLaren and Oskar Fischinger. I also think Michel Gondry’s music videos are so clever.

when you’re doing it over the Internet.

biggest part was organization, how to actually do it, trying to get everybody working online (because of COVID).” “Like any great children’s book, this one has deep messages for us,” says Schatz. “It’s about childhood. It’s about growing up. It’s about becoming independent. It’s about parenting and about love. And it’s a really timeless story about unconditional love, about how a child wants to test his or her independence and about a parent saying, ‘I’ll be here for you through thick and thin.’ It has this message of, ‘I will always be there for you, no matter where you go. And no matter what you do, I’ll be there.’ I think we always want to put stuff into the world for kids and for all of us that has some deep meaning to it. Especially during our times, having something beautiful to put into the world when it’s been such a difficult year. It was particularly meaningful to have this project, which is full of just a kind of gentleness.”

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The Beagle Has Landed Again! Exec producer Mark Evestaff shares a few tidbits about The Snoopy Show, which charts the new adventures of the clever canine on Apple TV+.

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eanuts fans took a deep sigh of relief when The Snoopy Show joined the colorful lineup of animated fare on Apple TV+ in February. The new Peanuts/WildBrain co-pro follows in the pawprints of the Daytime Emmy-winning Peanuts in Space: Secrets of Apollo 10 and the Emmynominated Snoopy in Space, two previous projects which re-introduced Charles M. Schulz’s beloved beagle and his friends to the streamer recently. As series showrunner and exec producer Mark Evestaff tells us, WildBrain acquired the rights to produce new Peanuts content in 2017. Stephanie Betts, the studio’s exec VP of content and current series, was tasked with building a team to develop some ideas for shows. So, she brought in Evestaff, executive story editor Alex Galatis, director Rob “Boots” Boutilier and creative consultant Kris Pearn (The Willoughbys) to work on the property. “Charles Schulz drew almost 18,000 Peanuts comic strips over 50 years — what popular culture professor Robert Thompson called ‘arguably the longest story ever told by one human being,’” notes Evestaff. “That wealth of strips became our main source of inspiration. After digging back in, it became clear there were so many Snoopy stories left to tell. His unique perspective, wild imagination and outsized personality were just too much to ignore. As we continued to develop the show, the panels from the comic strip became our foundation, constantly informing our storytelling, art direction and character development.” www.animationmagazine.net

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The Pooch’s Perspective Evestaff, whose previous TV credits include Snoopy in Space, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Rocket Monkeys, says there are various ways in which the new animated take is different from previous adaptations of the beloved pooch. “We all love the classic Peanuts specials, but we really wanted to find a different angle into Schulz’s world,” he explains. “Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang still play a big role, but making our show more Snoopy-centric means that we won’t always be anchored to the neighborhood. Focusing on this perspective has allowed us to carve a path that isn’t simply trying to emulate the specials.” According to the producer, because the “World Famous Beagle” has gone so many places and done so many things, they had more flexibility in the kinds of stories they have been able to tell. Evestaff notes, “We can fly around in Snoopy’s imagination, head out on a Beagle Scout adventure or visit Snoopy’s brother Spike in Needles, California. Our shows are also much shorter than the specials, with three sevenminute shows packaged together to make up one episode — a bit more aligned with the feeling of reading a daily strip.” The productions’ animation is produced at WildBrain Studios in Vancouver, Canada, using Toon Boom’s Harmony software. “Over 120 talented artists and production staff who have gone

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beyond their job description and poured their hearts into creating this show,” says Evestaff. To develop the right visuals for the show, directors Ridd Sorensen, Behzad Mansoori-Dara and Steve Evangelatos worked closely with art director Joseph Holt to create the look and feel of the show. “For the locations, it was important to honor the past, but we also made sure it felt updated,” says the producer. “Joseph started with the linework, looking at the kinds of pens and tips Mr. Schulz used to ink the strip. Then he applied a brighter palette and used complex textures to get more depth. He also integrated an offset look where the line work and color are slightly off in terms of registration. This made it reminiscent of the Sunday strips which were always in color.” Series director Boutilier and his team were responsible for the show’s faithful design, which captured the quintessential look of the comic strip’s delightful characters. “They went to painstaking lengths to ensure the characters were on model and moved true to form,” says Evestaff. “This wasn’t easy, considering part of the charm of Mr. Schulz’s work is that these characters evolved over time and were not always drawn the same way. Also, because they’re pulled from a comic strip, the turnarounds don’t always make sense. Schulz was a cartoonist, but he was also a great designer. He always went for the best pose, and didn’t worry too much april 21

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ream Good Grief! They’re All Back: The Snoopy Show revisits the world of the imaginative beagle as well as many of the strip’s favorite characters, including (pictured on top) Charlie Brown, Linus, Franklin, Marcie, Sally and Pig Pen and Lucy (below).

about how the character got into those poses. Our team worries about that a lot!” The team at WildBrain also worked closely with Creative Associates, the company that oversees all things Peanuts with an emphasis on preserving Schulz’s legacy. “That includes the Schulz family, along with CCO Paige Braddock and her team of artists,” says the producer. “We worked together on many stages of production including scripts, animatics, design and animation. It’s been a great partnership and has really grounded the show in the spirit of the original strip.” One of the production’s biggest challenges was getting the big team of artists and production staff working from home in under a week after the COVID lockdown orders went into effect last year. “Our producer Kimberly Small did a remarkable job keeping the show on track through constantly changing circumstances, always managing to put the team and creative first while also somehow staying on schedule and on budget,” says Evestaff. “We know how fortunate we are to work in this industry, on such an iconic brand. We also understand that in these challenging times there’s the added responsibility of more eyes on screens, and the need for more joy and thoughtfulness in the content we produce.”

In Praise of Schulz’s Genius The showrunner says one of the reasons Peanuts continues to attract new generations of fans each year is because Schulz was brilliant at distilling human (and beagle) shapes down to their most essential forms. “This simplified approach was very different for its time, when other comic artists were focused on more realistic or graphic renderings,” he points out. “The massive heads and cartoony proportions meant there was plenty of room for an endless array of expressions.

‘Charles Schulz drew almost 18,000 Peanuts comic strips over 50 years. After digging back in, it became clear there were so many Snoopy stories left to tell.’ — Showrunner/exec producer Mark Evestaff

The result, taking years to perfect, was deceptively simple. Snoopy alone went through a number of transformations before he first stood on two legs and stepped into his happy dance.” He adds, however, that it wasn’t just the character visuals that set a new standard. What the young cast of characters said was also groundbreaking: “A kid questioning their place in the world, or coming to grips with big, existential questions, weren’t familiar themes at the time,” says Evestaff. “They still aren’t. I believe that’s a big part of what gives these characters such great emotional depth and a sense of timelessness.” Looking back at all the work that resulted in a well-received new show, Evestaff says it’s been a dream come true to work with these characters. “WildBrain and Apple TV+ knew the importance of getting this right and put the re-

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sources and support behind it. My hope is that we can encourage a new generation to tune in and connect with Peanuts in the same way audiences have for over 70 years now.” Of course, we have to ask Evestaff about his favorite character! “Good Ol’ Charlie Brown!,” he replies. “I love how much he wants to win, but he’s just too good at losing. I suspect every culture throughout time has had a Charlie Brown among their ranks. Who hasn’t been a Charlie Brown themselves at some point? But even after all that failure and rejection, Charlie Brown never gives up. Not on his kite, his team — and especially not on his dog. Without this ‘round headed kid’ bringing him supper, we wouldn’t have Snoopy. And without Snoopy, we wouldn’t have a show!” You can stream The Snoopy Show, Snoopy in Space and Peanuts in Space on Apple TV+. www.animationmagazine.net

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VFX VFX

Tech Reviews L

Stan Winston School of Character Arts

et’s step away from strictly animation and visual effects, at least from a digital perspective, and turn to the practical side of things: The special effects, the creatures, the miniatures and the puppets. In this world of CG domination, we sometimes lose track of our brothers and sisters who make things for real. These exceptionally talented artists have skills that have been groomed through apprenticeships and experience.

So, where would you go to learn these skills? If you go down to Best Buy and buy a computer, you have taken your first step to being a digital artist. All that is required now is 10,000 hours working on the computer. To actually fabricate a thing, there is a lot more involved. There is clay, silicone, machining metal, armature forging, and just so much more than popping open ZBrush and starting to sculpt. Fortunately, the late Stan Winston — one of the kings of practical effects — has a namesake online School of Character Arts, which has hundreds of hours of training material covering everything from design to prosthetics to animatronics to wigs(!) to sculpting and beyond. The courses are taught by people who are actually doing it in films and television, and who are using the latest techniques. The brain trust is vast. Similar to something like Pluralsight, you can search around for the exact tutorial you are looking for, but the real power lies in the Pathways, where you are led through a series of courses as a deep dive into a particular subject: Design, Fabrication, Eyes, Teeth, Mold Making, Model Making, Filmmaking, etc. I love this approach because you are learning it as a skill and a craft, rather than simply solving a problem. Additionally, the community on the School’s

site is active and and very responsive. The instructors interact with the students when they have questions. The students interact with each other. So, the knowledge isn’t coming strictly from the tutorials: You are getting feedback from your peers, just like school. In fact, I am a member of the School not because I want to change my career and be a special effects (as opposed to visual effects) artist, but rather because I need to know what these guys can (and cannot) do, so that we can work together to benefit from each other’s strengths. The knowledge also allows me to understand the language of their world so I can better communicate. For those on the digital side of things, you can learn a lot from actually making real things. Sculpting in clay gives you more understanding when sculpting in ZBrush. Designing wigs provides insight into grooming hair in XGen. Fabricating real clothes helps Marvelous Designer artists. Painting real miniatures helps texture artists. Not to mention how digital models work with 3D printers that provide pieces for the fabrication of special effects stuff, as well as the computer assistance when designing animatronics. There is much to learn! Website: stanwinstonschool.com Price: $19.99 (basic monthly), $59.99 (premium monthly), $359.94 (yearly)

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The courses are all taught by instructors who have been in and are still in the industry, using the same techniques in actual production workflows that they are teaching you. My favorite is probably Victor Perez, a VFX supervisor in Mexico whose knowledge is deep and his presentation is expansive. If you want to know more about pulling greenscreens than just throwing on a keylight and sampling the color, Victor explains not just what tools to use, but why — on a mathematical level — you choose to use those tools. And this kind of approach spans the courses — it’s not just about the how, it’s about the why. Yes, the content is fantastic. Your FXPHD subscription provides you with a VPN license to many of the software packages you are learning about. Houdini and NukeX (as well as most other software) hold a hefty price tag if you are just starting to learn and you aren’t yet making money with your skillset. FXPHD provides you with the tools to learn. There are plenty of training sites on the internet, but I can’t think of any off the top of my head that provides this kind of benefit.

FXPHD

t’s been a good five years since I’ve last done a review on FXPHD, and I have continued to be a paying member since then because I feel that the content is so good for VFX artists who are trying to up their game. FXPHD works on a subscription model, where you have access to nearly all of the courses at any time for a monthly fee. These courses range from relative beginners to artists who have been in the field for years. And they span across a plethora of techniques (compositing, modeling, sculpting, animation, FX, environments, matte painting, editing, tracking, you name it) and across even more software packages (Maya, Nuke, Houdini, Cinema 4D, After Effects, ZBrush, Photoshop, Katana, Clarisse, RenderMan, etc., etc.,etc.). There are also deep-dive masterclasses for Color Grading in Resolve for an additional cost. But believe me, they are worth it. Frankly, I feel that every VFX artist should go through at least a rudimentary course in color grading.

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by Todd Sheridan Perry

Recently, I supervised a 360 video shoot, which I knew nothing about. FXPHD was my first stop to get up and running on the techniques before the project got underway and I needed to at least look like I knew what I was doing. One of the courses partially taught by VFX veteran Scott Squires. (Look him up! He’s done a few things.) So whether you are just starting out, or whether you are a years-long veteran, the industry never stops changing, and we never stop learning. FXPHD has been and will continue to be one of my primary sources to keep my skill set ahead of the curve. Website: fxphd.com Price: Starting $79.99 (monthly) Todd Sheridan Perry is an award-winning VFX supervisor and digital artist whose credits include Black Panther, Avengers: Age of Ultron and The Christmas Chronicles. You can reach him at todd@teaspoonvfx.com. www.animationmagazine.net

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Doing the Locomotion VFX supervisor Geoff Scott leads us on a tour of the visual highlights of the second season of Snowpiercer. By Trevor Hogg

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he political and social implications of the class structure as well as the impact of global warming are the prevailing themes in the post-apocalyptic French graphic novel Le Transperceneige (Snowpiercer) by Jacques Lob and Jean-Marc Rochette. The events of the book, Bong Joon-ho’s 2013 English-language feature adaptation and the TNT/Netflix series version (which debuted in 2020) take place onboard a high-speed train consisting of 1,001 cars and 3,000 passengers representing the remains of humanity travelling through a frozen world. The VFX team working on the second season of the series were tasked with exploring more of the wintry landscape of the project, leading to the number of visual effects shots being doubled to 2,400. “In the first season, we were cautious and used our exterior train shots mostly for establishers,” explains production VFX supervisor Geoff Scott (Wynonna Earp), who worked once again with exec producer Graeme Manson (Orphan Black). “Sometimes there would be a stowww.animationmagazine.net

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ry-driven event, like the avalanche in Episode 102. You would have the stuff happening underneath the train in Episode 106. And at the end of Episode 110, with Big Alice’s connector car. Aside from that, our story was more about the people inside the train. We’re doing a lot more with the outside in Season Two.” The lion’s share of the VFX centered on the window shots, which inadvertently enabled Scott to overcome a phobia. “At the end of Season One, I spent two days in a helicopter flying in and around the Rockies to get profiles of the mountains,” recalls Scott. “Years ago, on another show, I almost fell off a building, and since then I’ve been afraid of heights. Now, I’m good with heights again! We have a lot of plate elements. We basically had a rolling environment that we could render 270 degrees. We also took pieces of CG environments and handed them to our internal team to composite. These little chunks were rendered at 8K and popped into the windows as a soft-focus-backgrounds. We would build environ-

ments specific to the shots and set up specific cameras.”

No Denying Climate Change Throughout the series, viewers will discover that the Earth is going through yet another climate change. “There are subtle things that we are doing in the sequences,” states Scott. “You will notice that we’re having more snow in the atmosphere than in Season One.” The overlap in production between Seasons One and Two also enabled the team to make story continuity corrections. “We actually went back to Season One and removed 90 percent of the snow floating through the air so it felt more like snow that had been kicked up by Snowpiercer and Big Alice,” says Scott. “Because we had the luxury of still having those shots open in progress, we were able to quickly fix a problem that would have had people going, ‘I saw snow in Season One.’” A close-up shot of a snowflake serves as a visual transition. “Because more loose snow is

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VFX VFX and out of windows. We ended up adding quite a bit more snow flurries to give a sense that you’re moving through space with the train. That was an element I was glad we are using as much as we are. It also helps to tell the story that there is snow in the air.”

Silver Express: The new season of Snowpiercer offers many visually stunning sequences, including full shots of the mysterious train as it traverses the curvature of the Earth.

A Signature Character

‘Years ago, on another show, I almost fell off a building and since then I’ve been afraid of heights. Now, I’m good with heights again! We have a lot of plate elements. We basically had a rolling environment that we could render 270 degrees.’ — Production VFX supervisor Geoff Scott

around, there are implications that it has snowed in areas, and snow has blown and drifted,” notes Scott. “It’s not a character per se, but we’re reenforcing the story that there is something going on.” It was important to give a sense of what life used to be like in the outside world. “We wanted to find ways to incorporate the environment, not just as a, ‘Look there is a thing over there.’ But to actually shoot through it. It’s not just something on the horizon. It’s like we are here. Toward the end of Episode 201, we’re in an industrial farming complex. You can see a car sticking out here, and a piece of a tractor and a house. It also helps to show what a dead world Snowpiercer is living in.” The new season also showcases an interesting weather tracking device that allowed for a creative first for the series. “It’s the first time you can actually see the entirety of Snowpiercer in a shot,” offers Scott. “Snowpiercer goes around the curvature of the Earth. Now we

have added a couple of kilometres on the back of her [with Big Alice], it’s even more. We figured out last year how high in the air we needed to be to see the end without any atmosphere. We are exactly 35,000 feet in the air and on a GoPro 8mm lens to give the curve feeling. We’re about the height of a passenger airplane. Then you get that little silver line of the entirety of Snowpiercer.” According to the VFX supe, conveying the proper size, scale and speed of the train was critical. “If Snowpiercer goes too fast then it looks like a miniature,” remarks Scott. “If it goes too slow, it loses its power. We took a lot of what we designed last year and asked, ‘What do we think works in Season One? Let’s make sure that we continue with that.’ We also worked with a new producing director, Christoph Schrewe [Berlin Station], and his shot aesthetic presented different opportunities where we were able to be higher, and come in

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“There was an aesthetic that I always liked which was the diesel pump which has that 1930s, 1940s and 1950s aesthetic,” states Scott. “There was one locomotive in particular called The Mercury that I really liked. That is actually a throwback to the graphic novel which has a similar bold nose shape to it. Our design team in Toronto played around with ideas. Then, I hired concept artist Alex Nice and his first pass was almost perfectly the train. We subsequently designed each car for the exterior like a luxury dreamliner with a vintage quality look.” The season also includes a second train which carries the mysterious industrialist Joseph Wilford (Sean Bean), who seeks to reclaim Snowpiercer. “When it came to Big Alice, we always knew that she was lurking in the background,” says Scott. “The connector car was designed as a windowless Snowpiercer and we put the big W onto it; that was how we could echo there and also hide the fangtooth opening grabbing mechanism. I love that marketing keeps using that shot. For the exterior, we went to our concept artist Alex Nice and said, ‘What we need is a bigger, more powerful prototype engine. It has to have a similar aesthetic to Snowpiercer. The design key words we have been given are: boxy, big, and barn.’ We widened it out and added a couple of more windows. We handed our exterior to our production designer Stephen Geaghan [Another Life] and he had to retrofit all of the interior windows.” Scott points out that audiences will see a variety of new cars throughout the season. “We have a car that comes into Episode 209 that is a bit fantastical,” reveals Scott. “The aquarium car makes an appearance again and it looks even better this season. In Episode 210, there is a sequence that I want to be in the room when people see it for the first time. I’m happy to be back for a third season and to see where we end up. I’ve got the first couple of scripts and they’re crazy exciting.” As for the fate of Sean Bean, who is known for his numerous death scenes in TV shows and movies, Scott is tight-lipped. He responds, “You have to watch the show!” Snowpiercer Season 2 airs Mondays at 9 p.m. (ET), 8 p.m. (CT) on TNT and Tuesdays on Netflix. www.animationmagazine.net

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A D Ay I n T he L Ife Jun Falkenstein, an acclaimed animation director and storyboard artist, who has worked on movies such as Tigger Movie, 9 and The Lion King, is currently directing the popular new show Stillwater (Gaumont/Apple TV+). We were thrilled when she invited us to share a typical day in her busy life:

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Good morning! It’s time for coffee while downloading all the dailies. The pandemic sure has changed the way we work.

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Checking in to see if the kid has gotten to school on time. Oh, she has – good!

4 3 Morning breakfast grab by Taro the dog.

5 Time for lighting and color dailies review. They look great! Do we have any notes?

Lunchtime walk: My goal is to get some exercise and vitamin D. Taro’s goal is to pee in the greatest number of locations possible.

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7 Time for a very serious and important meeting with series producer Cary Silver. Trust us, it’s very serious.

Quick! I must do my animation notes before the end of the day!

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Dinnertime is usually the only meal the family eats all together. Hey, we’re busy!

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Gotta keep my performance bass playing chops up, because someday the pandemic will end. Right?

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A D Ay I n T he L Ife

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A D Ay I n T he L Ife

Cartoon Forum

20-23 September 2021 Occitanie / Pyrénées-Méditerranée

The European co-production forum for animated TV series > Over 950 animation professionals from 40 countries > Incl. 260 broadcasters and investors > Find co-producers, distributors and financing > Project submission: 10 May

www.cartoon-media.eu

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