Dia de los Muertos – Short Film

Here in the US, the day after Halloween seems to be reserved for laying around in a candy coma and scooping up rotting pumpkin off the front stoop. But for our neighbors to the south, today is one of three days devoted to the remembrance of family who have died, the holiday Día de Muertos.

This lovingly crafted short film by HouseSpecial’s Kirk Kelley is a great way to dive into the holiday. Each scene is beautifully lit and evocatively shot, as the reflective mood that begins the short seamlessly gives way to the (pardon the pun) liveliness of the dead’s celebration. I also love how richly textured this short is, with every stone, candle and bone taking on unique qualities of their own.

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“I started to do stop-motion when I was a kid. You take a Super 8 and make some models, and move, click, move, click. All that. I love all forms of animation, but there is something unique and special to stop-motion: it’s more real and the set is lit like a set. But I think it’s also a kind of lonely and dark thing to want to do.”

— Tim Burton

Fall Film Preview 2015

It’s that time again, dear reader. Fall is officially upon us, and with it the another big season for animated feature films. I know that fall is officially here, not just by my calendar, but by the lament of my 9-year-old neighbor that her teacher actually gave her homework this week. Teachers instinctually know when the torpor caused by the summer heat should give way to the deeper thinking that becomes possible with cooler weather (or, at least, that is my explanation); filmmakers, too, seem to follow this logic, as the high-octane summer blockbusters give way to the more staid, award-seeking dramas of the fall.

Luckily, this fall also has a wide variety of visually engaging, heartstring-tugging, laugh-inducing animated films coming to the theaters. Here are the ones to look out for: Continue reading

Summer 2015 Animated Features Preview

Well, animation fans, summer is finally here; perhaps not strictly according to the calendar, but at least according to the thermometer outside my house, which means it’s time to take refuge from the heat in an air conditioned theater and enjoy a few good animated features. While last summer’s feature animation lineup was relatively sparse, with only How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Planes 2 making their theatrical debut over the warmer months, this summer is a little more packed, with four to five features being released this summer (depending on if you’re reading this from the UK or the US). Here’s what to look out for this summer when looking to beat the heat at your local cinema: Summer2015

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Häagen-Dazs “Maker Street” — Ad

I love a good animated advertisement.

I know, I know — these days that seems a bit like saying I like wet water, since every commercial on TV now seems to have a significant amount of animated/CG content. But that’s not what I really mean here. I’m talking about fully animated ads, the kind that invent a magical world where baby polar bears play (and drink coke) and cookies are made by exploding chocolate chip volcanos. Those are the commercials I still remember from my childhood (even if I often forget the product they were selling), and I still enjoy seeing some of the better ones that make it on the air now.

Of course, the operative word in my declaration is that I enjoy good animated ads. There are many places that crank out the cheapest CG character they can get and use that gimmick in place of paying for any good ideas or actors (yes, I’m looking at you “The General” insurance ad). The good ads, though, take time to create any impressive and cohesive space that reifies the commercial’s pitch and makes you want  to keep paying attention even if you already have an opinion on the product.

This Häagen-Dazs “Maker Street” commercial is a great example  what makes a good animated ad. It takes a simple theme and adds a fun and expressive color palate, impeccable stop motion (and adds to the “artisan” theme of the ad), and makes the whole thing enjoyable to watch. Not surprisingly, this is another one from the HouseSpecial studio (whose work I have covered before), a company that has a great track record of making these high-quality, artistic ads.

Head Over Heels — Short Film

It has been a while since I posted; the combination of the winter doldrums and a hectic St. Patrick’s Day schedule (as part of my alter ego as a mild mannered Irish Dance coach) has sapped my energy the last few weeks. This week’s short film, though, is sure to snap anyone out of that Spring-Can’t-Come-Fast-Enough malaise that is so common this time of year. Directed by Timothy Reckart, Head Over Heels is a wonderfully inventive stop motion animated short about a couple who have grown apart over the years; she lives on the ceiling while he lives on the floor (or is it the other way around?) and they just can’t seem to see eye to eye any longer.

Head Over Heels garnered an impressive array of awards during its time on the festival circuit, including an Annie Award for Best Student Film, the Cartoon D’Or  for Best European Animated Short (2013), and was nominated for an Academy Award. It’s easy to see why — the story is wonderful and the range of emotions acted by the characters are incredibly (sometimes painfully) real. The ending had me crying into my morning coffee.

After watching the film, definitely wander over to Reckart’s website, which functions as an online DVD, with special features such as film commentary, the original trailer, and an “upside-down” version of the film.

Winter/Spring Animated Film Preview 2015

Happy New Year, animation lovers! ‘Tis the season to start looking forward, which — to me — means it’s time to start getting excited over the new animated films being unveiled in the late winter-sping portion of 2015 (is it just me, or does Hollywood seem to work in trimesters?). While last fall’s films were showpieces (fall seems to be the time to get out the award-garnering works), the line-up for this season falls more along the predictably enjoyable side of the animation spectrum; they probably won’t win an Oscar, but they’ll give you and your family a good laugh after a week of being snowed in together.

Here are the films to look for this season:

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