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PLATFORM : A Review

Festival inspires an animated crowd: DAY 2 By Sam Niemann
Who better to report on the debut of the major new animation festival in Portland, Oregon than an animator from Portland.  I asked some friends up at renowned animation house RENEGADE ANIMATION if they'd drop in to see what all the hubbub was about, and got back more than expected. 

Veteran animator Sam Niemann started a journal which he's allowed me to reprint here.

To find out more about RENEGADE ANIMATION, check out their website at http://www.renegadeanimation.com.  To read about their new digs in Portland, check out the previous Animation Artist article here:    -Ko Maruyama



Susanna Luck / Animator
This is Susanna Luck, recognized at a coffee shop. Former hand drawn Effects Animator for Dreamworks (before they they made boring films and then decided people don't like hand drawn animation), currently a freelancer here in Portland. We had a fun, spirited, alternately optimistic/bitter discussion about the past and current state of our industry.

I needed to catch up on my work yesterday so I had to skip most of the festival's festivities. I guess by about 11:00 at night I was feeling caught up (with work if not sleep) so I managed to catch "Cartoons from Hell!" presented by Independent Animator Patrick Smith. Loved it! And since it's the only thing I saw yesterday I'm going to report the hell out of it.

The show was a collection of nine of Pat's favorite cartoons with a sharp edge or a dark side.





The stand out of the program in my opinion was "Seventeen" (2003) by Hisko Hulsing, a Dutch animator. It's the story of a young roofer who falls in love with a prostitute with disastrous results. Beautifully art directed, wonderful full and fluid 2D animation, and some remarkable technique. There are a couple camera moves that seem to be from a 2 field to a 900 field and back without any visible change in resolution. How'd he do that?

Also presented was the premiere of Bill Plympton's new short, "Shut Eye Hotel" which represents a departure for Plympton in a couple of ways. For one thing it's something of a noir. Literally, in the sense that it's for the most part made up of black and white pencil drawings (with occasional splashes of red!) and also noir in the sense that it's a murder mystery. It also demonstrates Plympton's first use of CG animation. He was asked about that at the Q and A segment. "It was too expensive, took too long and I'm never going to do it again." he said.

Also in the "darkly comic" category was Don Hertzfeldt's hilariously bitter "Ah, L'amour", and a collection of student vignettes called "25 ways to Die". What a great concept for an animation jam!

In the "just plain creepy" category were two stop motion animations; "Loom" and "The Box Man". Not my favorite cartoons just because that's not my thing, but both examples of incredibly accomplished and subtle stop motion animation, and I was effectively creeped out.

There was "Son of Satan" by JJ Villard, who has a unique, rough but charming style that makes you think, "I want to make a film like that, it looks fun and easy!" But you don't, do you? Because to do it like JJ Villard you'd have to stay angry for an extended period, which comes naturally to him.

The show opened with the overrated "Fifty Percent Grey" and closed with Patrick Smith's own "Puppet" which is my new favorite Pat Smith cartoon. The animation feels crisper to me than earlier cartoons (which probably doesn't make any sense. How about: more naturalistic but maintains its DIY charm? Or: surreal but grounded.), and features a remarkable original orchestral score.

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Sam Niemann is an animator at the award winning RENEGADE ANIMATION studios, and is currently working in their Portland, Oregon offices(www.renegadeanimation.com.). To view some of his personal work, visit www.niemannworks.com
Related Keywords:event, platform animation festival, portland oregon

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