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Saturday, January 15, 2011

Indie Animation and The Future

First the good news: It's now possible to make an animated feature film by yourself without losing your shirt. In fact it has been for some time now, as Bill Plympton could tell you.
Bill has been joined by Nina Paley and Paul and Sandra Fierlinger. Each artist works in a different medium; Plympton draws on paper, the Fierlingers draw on the computer, and Paley is a master of Flash animation.
The films are doing well. Bill Plympton's IDIOTS AND ANGELS, which I feel is the best of his features, is playing in roadshow engagements. Nina Paley's SITA SINGS THE BLUES is getting rave reviews and is doing well in theatrical and digital distribution. The Fierlinger's MY DOG TULIP, though only in 'platform' release, is also getting good press.
The big-budget-by-European-standards THE ILLUSIONIST by Sylvain Chomet is nearly certain to have an Oscar nomination this year, as Tomm Moore's THE SECRET OF KELLS did last year.
All in all, this is a good thing, and I hope that more artists join the ranks of independent feature/featurette producers in the coming year.
Of the big budget films out this year, I rate DreamWorks' HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON highest. I enjoyed it immensely, it was beautifully directed and designed, the dragons were fantastic, and if the world was just, it would be nominated for best cinematography along with the live action pictures. I haven't seen chiaroscuro like that since PINOCCHIO. It's also the only 3D film I've seen that really used that medium well.
Will the modestly budgeted indie features indicate a new direction to the big producers? A film's quality doesn't necessarily correspond to its cost. Animated features with overblown budgets fail at the boxoffice not because they aren't popular, but because they don't make enough to cover their negative cost (which if you don't know, is double the production cost.) Some are grotesquely overproduced. Lower budgeted productions with good stories and interesting design would entertain audiences and make a good profit--IF the right people were in charge. The example of the independent animators can help the lions of animation as well as the mice.


Brett W. McCoy said...

I find myself liking the low budget indie efforts more and more (live action and animated) and can barely sit through the 1/2 billion dollar Hollywood blockbusters. Most of the latter is just spectacularly photographed crap. I've heard a lot of good stuff about "How to Train Your Dragon" and I've always liked the design work by Chris Sanders.

Shrub said...

Hey Nancy,

I completely agree that indie animation is becoming the next big successful thing, and I have to say that it's not just animation, but film and gaming as well. Just look at minecraft, a game done in javascript by one guy for about a year and a half- now a huge success with over a million copies sold.

As a flash animator myself, it's easy to see how powerful a tool the internet is for promoting independent projects, as flash games and shorts have become a major aspect of entertainment on the web. I personally use to host my short films and projects, and I'm seeing it as the easier alternative to offline promotion. It seems that the big shots of entertainment are being swallowed up in the success of the little projects.

Anywho, that's my schpeel! Thanks for the interesting post.

PS: I'm a student in the Etobicoke school of the arts film program, and we're all really excited about you coming in to talk to us! Thanks for your time.

Nancy said...

Hey Brett, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON is the best of the big budget features this year, though DESPICABLE ME is also fun. DRAGON has the wonderful dragons of course...but I also thought it was the best 3D movie I'd really made me feel I was in a Viking Great Hall watching the characters. There were some problems with the climax of the film, but otherwise, it was very good. And it should be nominated for Best has great lighting and staging.

Nancy said...

Hey Shrub, see you Wednesday!

Floyd Norman said...

"Dragon" was also my favorite animated film last year, although I was surprised by "Despicable Me."

"Toy Story3" has a lock on the Oscar, however. Business as usual.

Krystal said...

Hi Nancy, I just listened to your interview on the Man v Art podcast. Inspirational stuff! I've been itching to make more short films since getting a day job in an animation studio and listening to you lovingly talk about shorts was like a big poke in the ribs. So thanks for that!

Floyd Norman said...

While I admire independent filmmakers, their efforts often go unrewarded. It's just too difficult to make any real money without access to a solid market.

My partners and I have struggled for years, and we've found that making the film is usually the easiest part of the process. Funding, marketing and distribution is often a nightmare.