Sunday, March 30, 2008

Oh no, not again...

Emru Townsend has been writing about animation for about as long as I have. Maybe longer. He's an amazing, erudite guy with an interesting take on the whole scene. And now he's battling a blood cancer. He has AML, a form of leukemia that took a friend of mine about three weeks ago. My husband Richie Hass lost his battle with another blood cancer, multiple myeloma, a little more than a week ago.

This is getting way old way quick. Unfortunately because of the strong chance that blood cancer is exacerbated, if not caused, by environmental pollution, we're going to see a lot more of our friends fall to these horrible diseases. These cancers either used to be old people's cancers, or affect the young and old and ignore people in the prime of their lives. Now they are affecting people throughout their lifespans.

What can a bunch of cartoon geeks out there in cyberspace do about this?

1.) If you can give blood, DO. There are likely a lot of people suffering from blood cancers in your hometown who need that blood badly.

2.) Get yourself tissue-typed for bone marrow donation. Emru Townsend does not have a family match, so he has to find a person unrelated to himself with a tissue type match. This is made harder by his ethnicity. Details are on his site. Again, if you can't give blood because of medical reasons you will probably be unable to donate bone marrow, but if you can, you can literally save a life.

3.) Donate money, time or both to some very deserving blood cancer related charities, which are either funding research, helping patients, or both.
Here are some links:
Leukemia and Lymphoma Society:
International Myeloma Foundation:
ThinkCure (City of Hope and LA Children's Hospital)

4.) Keep your eye on this URL: There's a placeholder there now but I'm working on getting some projects going there. I'm looking to make 'em fun as well as have them help raise funds for research and for helping patients.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

OK, this was definitely Oscar-worthy...

One of my favorite animators of all time was Fred Stuhr. Fred was this jumpy adrenaline junkie of a guy, a former competitive skateboarder, who liked fast cars and fast drugs and fast life. Yet somehow or another his attention was held by the infinitely slow process of doing dimensional animation: manipulating puppets in infinitely small increments, frame by frame by frame. His favorite part of the whole process was building things: the puppets, the sets, the vehicles, the props. He literally lived in his studio, surrounded by a miniature back lot of sets for projects he had finished, and projects yet to be finished.

Somehow or another he would blow through these projects fast. He primarily did music videos...Adam from Tool still claims that he directed those two breakthrough videos, Sober and Prison Sex, but a few of us knew better. Alas, this genius wasn't here to last. Fred died way too young in a car crash, before he got a chance to do anything long-form. I showed him a video of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd, the mid-'90s being a time when animated features had to be musicals, and that was a musical that might be in sync with his dark visions. He never made it to that or any other feature. I can't complain about Tim Burton's take on the musical, with Johnny Depp as the perfect live-action choice for the haunted, revenge-obsessed barber. But I wonder what Fred would have done with it had he got the backing and the go-ahead.

But this is not an article about my friend Fred, who met his demise a little more than 10 years ago. It's about another masterful group of dimensional animators, and their creation: Peter and the Wolf, which won for Best Animated Short at the Academy Awards this year. The fact that this was passed up for the Annies is beyond me. As much as I enjoyed Your Friend, The Rat and How To Hook Up Your Home Theatre, I think that this is indeed the finest short I have seen of all screened in 2007.

Unlike Fred's gonzo approach to dimensional animation, the artisans at Se-Ma-For Pictures in Poland and British dimensional animator Suzie Templeton took 5 years to complete the short. Most of the film was done the old fashioned way: hands manipulating handmade puppets. However, CGI was used to create effects that were hard to create by hand in stop-motion time, like fog and floating balloons.

I suspect that this will be re-run on PBS Great Performances. Perhaps, maybe, it could be run as a yearly tradition? It's certainly gorgeous enough and strong enough to stand up to re-running.

One other thing before I wrap this post up: Cartoon Geeks favorite Persepolis will be coming back into theatres in April. This time you will have a choice of languages: the original French and a new English dub where original French voice actors Catherine Deneuve and Chiara Mastroianni will be joined by Iggy Pop, Gena Rowlands, and Sean Penn. It will be initially going into 100 theatres...not a huge release, but 50 times bigger than its initial release in Los Angeles and New York City. Hopefully it will go wider as people get drawn into the little animated movie that could. The DVD will have both versions on it when it is released. When it comes out, people: GO SEE IT. You won't be disappointed.

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