Animation Festival Bristol ‘89 – Page 2

A stand representing ASIFA and also John Halas’s video collection of ‘Animation Classics’ was manned by Pat Webb. Pat managed to see a few films in between her stint on the stand and spoke enthusiastically about a programme entitled ‘The UK Corral’:

“An excellent batch of new British films in contrasting styles: Richard Ollive’s lyrical graphics in The Night Visitors was lovely to look at, David Anderson’s Deadsy brought to life my worst nightmares, Nick Park’s brilliant interviews in Creature Comforts with zoo inmates making their poignant comments on life behind bars, Feet of Song, Erika Russell’s sleek combination of African rhythms with exquisitely timed graphics. Another Aardman production in the ‘Lip Synch’ series, War Story with an old boy’s narrative of World War 2 and his exploits in a house with a sloping floor was hilarious.”

Creature Comforts by Nick Park.

A series of ITV lectures included newspaper cartoonist Steve Bell, who drew a strip ‘off the top of his head’ and showed a responsive audience strips the Guardian wouldn’t print. John Coates, of TV Cartoons gave some useful advice about production and fundraising for animation. His secret seems to be to produce a very comprehensive animatic.

A highlight of the festival was ‘The Norman McLaren Memorial Lecture’ given by John Lasseter. The event was a sell-out from the beginning of the week and a packed house gave John Lasseter star status. Pencil animation films from his student days at Cal Arts demonstrated an early mastery of the animation process and a passion for lamps. Both were put to good use in his computer animation of Anglepoise lamps in Luxo Jr. He concluded the lecture with his latest film Knickknack which is superb. It tells the story of a snowman in a water-filled paperweight who lusts after a bikini clad plastic girl further along the shelf, but try as he may he can’t escape his dome.

Canadian animator, Frederic Back, introduced a retrospective of his work. He is a humble and dedicated man, not unlike the hero of his brilliant film The Man Who Planted Trees which won an Oscar in 1988.

The festival published a daily bulletin edited by Jeremy Clark (a regular contributer to Animator magazine) and in order to give a flavour of the event we are reprinting the following extracts.

Tin Toy by John Lasseter.

John Lasseter, who has been wandering around the festival carrying his young son, was asked whether the infant was the inspiration for the computer generated child in his remarkable short Tin Toy. “Actually,” he replied, “it was the other way round. This one here came second.”

Nick Park’s Creature Comforts, one of Aardman Animations’ ‘Armchair Theatre’ pieces for Channel Four, was premiered to great acclaim. Another of Nick’s films featured in the festival is A Grand Day Out which was six years in the making. Peter Lord, of Bristol based Aardman, was heard to comment that one of the reasons for Nick’s success was the huge size of his name on the titles, as against the comparatively smaller size of Richard “Golly” Goleszowski’s name on another film in the series entitled Ident.

Creatures of Fantasy animator Ray Harryhausen was seen swapping notes with Moving Picture Company’s motion control operator John Swinnerton, who delivered a lecture on motion control at the festival. Motion control, for the uninitiated, is a means of controlling camera movement on model shoots both in real time and stop frame; the system was used on MPCs ever popular ‘Monkey Business’, on which John animated a version of King Kong, the movie which inspired Harryhausen.

Following the screening of his retrospective, Kihachiro Kawamoto was asked whether he shot his extraordinary drawn puppet animation composites on a flat or a vertical set up. (the standard camera set up used for shooting flat animation, the rostrum camera consists of a camera looking down on a tabletop). The animator replied that if you could see the legs, that shot was filmed horizontally. For close ups where you only see heads, the set-ups are vertical.
David Fine and Alison Snowdon’s new film, In and Out, is about “the seven ages of man,” according to Alison. “It’s a negative journey through life.” David adds, “It’s about this – or any — person growing up, it is a humourous piece which is also dark.” I couldn’t resist asking Alison whether, like the little old lady in their previous film, George and Rosemary, she spends much time dragging little old men in off the street. She denied the suggestion, claiming her doctor wouldn’t allow it.

A number of workshops were held during the festival. Martin Rieser was astonished at the quality and quickness of students in the masterclass he led together with Len Breen and John Lasseter. The students’ project Noah’s Ark went well once such problems as hippos with imploding heads were solved.

Workshops held by Harlequin were attended by a huge range of people, from German exchange students to children with special needs to animation students.

Jane Aaron led a students’ workshop using animation in live environments shot on video. Jane’s comments, “Enthusiastic students, a good time and a new experience.” She is looking forward to the next festival.

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Printed in Animator Issue 26 (Spring 1990)