Saturday, February 14, 2015

DreamWorks Layoffs - What Does It All Mean?

DreamWorks - big layoffs
At the end of Januaury DreamWorks announced big layoffs in their animation division, bad enough for the Los Angeles based artists who were laid off, but a disaster for Bay Area studio PDI, which is now to be closed.  PDI, for those who don't know, created ANTZ, the first non-Pixar CG animated feature film to reach the big screen. So, what does all this mean for our industry?

Friday, January 30, 2015

Animator's Survival Kit Now Released for iBooks

Animator's Survival Kit - now on iBooks
Faber and Faber has just announced the launch of the Animator's Survival Kit for iBooks.  The new edition brings together the complete 'Expanded Edition' of The Animator's Survival Kit with over 100 animated examples from The Animator's Survival Kit Animated DVD box set. It will be available globally, priced at £19.99/$28.99.  What does this mean for students of animation? It means you can now use the ASK on your Mac laptop - you don't need an iPad.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

The World's First Online MA in Animation

I teach animation at a university in the UK, and my superiors are forever nagging me about the need to get an MA in my subject area. Trouble is, I need something I can do online, so I don't have to give up my day job.  But try looking around for something suitable, and there isn't anything out there. Which got me thinking - why not create one? Why not create the world's first MA in animation, completely online?  And, best of all, we could use the content from my online school - Animation Apprentice - and make it a course that would actually teach students how to animate. Properly.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Nassos Vakalis Talks about "Dinner For Few", and Reveals the Secrets of Entering and Winning Festivals

Dinner for Few
Nassos Vakalis' film “Dinner for Few” has been entering and winning festivals all over the world. We asked Nassos, who by day is a storyboard artist at DreamWorks, to explain the secrets of entering and winning film competitions. What does it make to make a success of a short film project?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Today, We Are All Charlie Hebdo

Paul Shardlow, art director and friend of FLiP,  expresses our feelings perfectly
Today at FLiP we stand shoulder to shoulder with our French colleagues to uphold the right of all artists and cartoonists to speak their mind and express their views regardless of who might be offended. Cartoonists are not used to being murder victims.  Our hearts go out to the victims themselves, and the families of those who were murdered in the course of doing their jobs, fighting to the last for freedom of speech.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Natasha Sutton-Williams Presents "Freud, The Musical"

Freud - The Musical
Natasha Sutton-Williams presents "Freud, The Musical", opening in London this weekend. The show is described as  "A One Woman Show about Sex, Madness and Medicine", and plays at The Space Theatre on Westferry Road for three nights only. Natasha is the youngest daughter of animator Richard Williams, now embarking on her own career as a writer, actor and performer.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's Resolutions for Animators

What should an animator's new year's resolutions be? Animation is a huge and growing business, a far cry from the cottage industry it used to be even twenty years ago. But it is a competitive world, and good animators need to be smart to stay on top of their game. So here's a checklist for some simple ways to maintain your edge in 2015

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Merry Christmas from the REAL Tiny Tim

Spot the Difference
Way back in 1971 my Dad's animation studio at no. 13 Soho Square in London took on their biggest project yet - a TV adaptation of Charles Dickens'  A Christmas Carol. The twenty-two minute TV special was produced by Chuck Jones and many scenes were animated by Ken Harris, one of Chuck's star animators from Road Runner days. Other animators included Grim Natwick and Emery Hawkins.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

What Does It Take To Become a Successful Character Designer? - Luis Grane Explains

BoxTrolls - designs by Luis Grane

Luis Grane is an animator and character designer whose work can be seen on dozens of animated films including Prince of EqyptHotel Transylvania, Ratatouille, and Open Season. Most recently he did character design work for The Box Trolls, recently released worldwide in theatres. FLiP asked him to talk about the work of a character designer at a big studio - and how the heck you get there in the first place.

Monday, October 27, 2014

What Makes a Great Animator? A Personal View from Mike Nguyen

Korean Goshawk - animation by Mike Nguyen
Mike Nguyen is a veteran animator who has worked on many classic Hollywood feature films such as "Beauty and The Beast" and "Space Jam".  He was a lead animator on Brad Bird's classic "The Iron Giant" and also on "Osmosis Jones", and has been working for a number of years on his own independent animated feature film  "My Little World".  FLiP asked him to talk about what makes a great animator.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

The World of Free - How Can Freelance Artists Survive in Modern Digital Media? Garrett Gilchrist Explains

Freelance artists, especially those just starting out, often feel like everyone wants stuff done for free. Unpaid internships, free work "to get your name out there", or payment deferred "until the project gets financed" - such are the perils of the modern digital economy. Garrett Gilchrist has been working as an independent artist, writer and filmmaker for twenty years, and is best known for his "Recobbled Cut" of Richard Williams' unfinished animated feature The Thief and the Cobbler. In this interview he talks about what is wrong with modern digital media, how the "World of Free" came about - and what can be done about it.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

SONG OF THE SEA: Not Quite a Review - by Steve Burch

Song of The Sea premiered in London on Sunday Night
It is not often that you get a European animated feature released. It is not often that you get an animated movie, be it a short or feature length, that is an absolute delight to watch. Song of the Sea is both of these. Directed by Academy award-nominated filmmaker Tomm Moore and released by Cartoon Saloon, the movie Song of the Sea transports you into an astounding multi layered magical world, filled with a wonderful collection of Irish human and fairy folk lore characters, whose personalities both unfold and grow richer as the tale develops.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Mikkel Brons-Frandsen Launches His Free Game "Look"

Look byMikkel Brons-Frandsen
Mikkel Brøns-Frandsen is one of a number of talented students to have graduated from the excellent Animation Workshop in Denmark in recent years. Mikkel has just released a free new game for the PC, titled "Look - an Interactive Poem". FLiP asked him to talk about the game and how it came about. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Happy Birthday Pete Western! - as Drawn by Comic legend Mike Western

Happy Birthday Pete!
Today is the birthday of animator and director Pete Western, and here at FLiP we thought we would share some of the hand-drawn cards sent to him by his illustrator father Mike Western over the years. They serve as snapshots through the decades from the 70s to the noughties. I have know Pete for almost 30 years - we first met on Who Framed Roger Rabbit? - but I had no idea his dad was a famous comic book artist. More than that, I recognise Mike Western's style from the war comics that I and my friends read avidly as a child, re-fighting WW2 in our living rooms with plastic soldiers and hand-painted Spitfires.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Remembering Donna

Remembering Donna
Readers of FLiP may have noticed that Steve, FliP's founder and the authentic voice of this blog, hasn't posted much lately. Steve lost his wife Donna to cancer earlier this year, and blogging hasn't been high on his list of priorities since then. Donna may not be with us, but she is certainly not forgotten. Steve recently unveiled a memorial to her at the skate park that she was so much responsible for - taking on the burden of mayoral office in a small town to try to make things better for her local community.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Submit your Indie Film Project now to Cartoon Movie

Cartoon Movie 2014
The Deadline to submit a feature film project to Cartoon Movie is 26 November 2014. Are you looking for co-producers, financing and distributors for your animated feature film project? If so, you should submit it to Cartoon Movie! If your film gets selected, you will be able to pitch it to almost 1,000 animation and industry professionals from forty countries. Present at Cartoon Movie are 200 buyers, including 120 distributors & sales agents.

Monday, September 15, 2014


KAHLIL GIBRAN’S THE PROPHET played at Tiff on Friday night at the gorgeous Winter Garden Theatre. This film, which was produced by Salma Hayek and directed by Roger Allers, has no distribution at present. I hope that this is rectified since it certainly should be seen by larger audiences. It uses a FANTASIA like construction with animated sequences illustrating Gibran’s poetry in a wide variety of styles. The original book of poetry had a very slight setting where AlMustafa is addressing the people of Orphalese before taking ship for home. In the film the linking narrative, written by Roger Allers, has a dark undertone. It involves Almitra, a wild little girl, her mother Kamila, and Halim, a Turkish guard who befriend the imprisoned poet Mustafa, who may or may not be returning home on his ship.
The story is well directed, with animation produced at Bardel Animation, Vancouver. I was amused to see that I recognized Nik Ranieri’s animation long before I read the credits. It was also nice to see other old friends from Disney working on this picture…along with a few of our Sheridan grads!
The art direction is extremely varied and most of it is outstanding. I was particularly impressed with Michael Socha’s opening sequence, which beautifully illustrated the meaning of the poem in a stunning technique. Tomm Moore’s and Bill Plympton’s sequences also nicely illustrated the subject matter and displayed their characteristic styles. One or two sequences were less interesting to me but all were a refreshing change from mass produced ‘franchise’ films, and the ending was genuinely moving. You care about what happens to Mustafa. I hope that some distributor cares about this movie enough to take a risk on it. It will do well in festivals and ‘art houses’—and maybe more, if people get a chance to see it. That theatre was packed to the rafters!

KAHLIL GIBRAN’S THE PROPHET played at Tiff on Friday night at the gorgeous Winter Garden Theatre. This film, which was produced by Salma Hayek and directed by Roger Allers, has no distribution at present. I hope that this is rectified since it certainly should be seen by larger audiences. It uses a FANTASIA like construction with animated sequences illustrating Gibran’s poetry in a wide variety of styles. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

What Makes a Great Animator? James Chiang Explains

The animator who brought you surfing penguins
Animator, Director and artist James "JC" Chiang has worked as an animator on many feature films including Robots, Ice Age - The Meltdown, Surf's Up and Open Season, and was animation director on the 2008 Veggie Tales movie. He teaches animation at Animation Mentor, and is a fine artist in his own right. We asked him to talk about what, exactly, makes a great animator.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Director Frank Gladstone talks about his new film "Hero of Color City"

Frank Gladstone is a producer, director, animation entrepreneur and the Executive Director of ASIFA Hollywood, the organisation that hosts the annual ANNIE awards - the "animation Oscars". Frank has just finished directing his first feature length animated film, The Hero of Color City, which will be released in cinemas in October. In a Skype interview (a first for FLiP!) we asked him to talk about the challenges of directing an indie animated film and bringing it to the screen.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Timo Vuorensola, Director of Iron Sky, explains Crowd Funding for Beginners

Timo Vuorensola, director of Iron Sky, gave a lecture at Closing The Gap, a European conference on film financing, explaining how to crowd fund an independent feature film. Iron Sky was initially funded through online sources, and later on secured more conventional funding on the back of the crowd-sourced contributions. Timo explained how he pulled off such an ambitious and successful project by starting an online fan base to help make his film.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

THE STRESSFUL ADVENTURES OF BOXHEAD AND ROUNDHEAD: Independent Animated Feature made (almost literally) on a Shoestring

The computer has not only made it possible to animate in three or four dimensions, it's eliminated a great deal of the repetitive work associated with drawn animation and made it possible for independents and students to have production values that once were only the provenance of very high budget features. It's amazing to consider that THE STRESSFUL ADVENTURES OF BOXHEAD AND ROUNDHEAD, a new independent animated feature from animator/instructor Elliot Cowan, had a smaller budget than many animated commercials.
The gorgeous art direction  by Elliot Cowan and Neil Campbell Ross gives the film a stylish look that does not resemble that of other films. The animation style, which is simultaneously whip-like and rubbery, perfectly suits the story of the commercialization of art and the drawbacks of living in the city--and also living in the country.
Boxhead and Roundhead are two friends who live in a small country shack menaced by carnivores, one of whom is the size of a small building.
When the city shoots a garbage projectile too far and destroys their home, the two friends travel there to seek redress. On the way Roundhead explores the arts while Boxhead endures a demeaning 'day job'. 
The film's message is that it isn't hard work that guarantees success; and it also isn't art. Boxhead and Roundhead are a 21st century Laurel and Hardy who seem destined to fail at even the simplest tasks. 
The music by the Gadflys was well chosen and the voice work by Elliot Cowan (as most of the characters) and his cast was excellent. I did find the music mixed a little high at some points, and since the film is very dialogue-heavy this sometimes interfered; but it was easy to follow the story.
The Stressful Adventures of Boxhead and Roundhead took two years to make and was partially funded by the Romanian film office.  It premièred at the Melbourne Animation Festival in 2014. Animators contemplating making an independent feature (and there are more of them than ever before) should watch this film and read Elliot's entries on his blog describing how it was done.  It's also a lot of fun to read.
Congratulations, Elliot...and I hope to see this film on the big screen soon.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Why Students Need to Fail

Jason Thompson
At the recent SAS (Society of Animation Studies) conference in Toronto, Sheridan professor Jason Thompson gave a brief but fascinating talk on "Why our students need to fail". Citing the book by Guy Claxton What is the point of school?, Jason argued that school is important because of eight critical things that students must learn:

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Do students need to go to university to learn to animate?

The TAAFI Education Panel
On Monday 16 June TAAFI - the Toronto Animation Art Festival International - hosted a panel talk on the subject of  “An Animation Education”. The sub-title of the talk was “Do you need to go to university to learn animation?”. In other words, given all the opportunities now available to study online, should  students still commit to the expense and time of a full undergraduate education?

On the panel to discuss the question were Richard Arroyo – head of Games at,  Mark Jones, chair, School of Creative Arts, Aubrey Mintz, Head of Animation, California State University Long Beach, Brooke Keesling, Manager, Animation Talent, and Tony Tarantini, Sheridan College Professor of Animation. The first question was this:

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Story Masterclass with Frank Gladstone in London on 16th August - just £6!

Lupus films, the folks who brought you The Snowman and The Snowdog, are running a one day masterclass with animation industry veteran Frank Gladstone on August 16th in London - for just £6. Anyone who is serious about story telling in animation should attend - I'll most likely be there myself, furiously taking notes. Frank is a world-class talent whose credits include some of the biggest hits in animation history. I attended his month-long story seminar at Lupus last year. Full details below:

Monday, July 14, 2014

T Dan Hofstedt reveals The Secret of Animation

T. Dan Hofstedt - animation supremo
My old friend and former kumrad at Disney animation, T Dan Hofsted, recently posted at Facebook a reply to a student asking how to become an animator. T Dan is one of the best animators I know, a veteran of countless Disney hits including The Lion King, Pocahontas, Hercules and Mulan, so he ought to know a thing or two about how to make it as an animator. Here is what he wrote: