Tag Archives: animation


Ryan by Chris Landreth

This is an exceptional animated tribute by one animator, Chris Landreth, to another, Ryan Larkin, who he met at a rehab facility. 30 years ago, Ryan Larkin produced some of the most influential animated films of his time.

Chris Landreth made this animation video in a style he terms psychological realism. Which is a very good description. The style is about depicting the psychological realism vs. base material realism.

But even that’s not important. What is important is that this little short is…. unbearbly touching. I doubt you will see anything else today that can compare to this, or come close.

Watch it.

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Posted by on March 6, 2013 in Uncategorized


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5 Classics of Soviet Era Animation (To Russia With Love)

Dear Russian Steampunk Opera People,

I love you. We at the Steampunk Opera love you. You deserve a post that rubs up against your leg and purrs.

The last night of performance a woman named Natasha showed up with gifts from several people who live in Russia and apparently really enjoy the steampunk opera. There was a gingerbread man, whole bunch of chocolate, a DVD of a Russian rock opera, notes of kindness and pictures.

I know at least one of these people is a fan of animation. Well, in Pittsburgh where i grew up there was this little, tiny local channel that every winter would play all these Russian cartoons. I didn’t know they were Russian until years later. These cartoons made a huge impact on me as a kid.They had a feel that the cartoons i was normally surrounded with didn’t have.

My guess is since the TV station was a tiny little local one, much of its programming was up to whoever worked there. It was this same station where a little later i was to discover Monty Python and Blake’s 7. I bet a Russian immigrant worked there and put all these on. I’ve since learned that most of these are classics of old Soviet animation (and by “since: i mean today when i was tracking them down) and perhaps favorites of his childhood.

I’ve tracked down a few of them i can remember and presented them here. How does this possibly thank these kind people? it doesn’t, but it suggests that we all sit here together on a winter’s night, watch some old cartoons and drink some kind of warm, spiced wine.

1. The Snow Queen

The best thing to do in a list post like this is to play shorts. And i have shorts. Full length movies are  a bad idea because no one is going to actually sit through them. However, The Snow Queen was a major, MAJOR influence on me as a child. SO major, when i grew up i made a song/story cycle in homage to it. So i HAVE to post it and it has to come first. This cartoon was a big deal for me. (also note the utter ripping off of Jiminy Cricket)

2. Tales of the Fisherman And The Fish

I mean come on, just LOOK at this thing. It was made in the 1950s and yet 60 years later it STILL look utterly amazing. As it turns out,  animation studios of the stalin era were pressured to use a rotoscoping method of animation (tracing over live footage). This caused a dwindle in creatively with different styles, but an absolute mastery of the technique which i think this film shows.

3. Story Of One Crime

So after Stalin’s death, Krushchev came in with a new broom and changes in the many of the arts began to sweep across Russian culture. Thus it came to pass that Russian animators began to start experimenting with new styles, which resulted in this classic.

4. Zhil-byl pyos (There Once Was a Dog)

It’s really sweet. A dog and wolf help each other out. Apparently it’s based on a Ukranian folk tale. An interesting aspect for me is the singing that happens towards the end, a style that living in Serbia, i hear a lot but which then was just weird.

5. If i was doing this for history i would have included Hedgehog In The Fog, but since i’m doing this for persoanl reasons, i’m including another full length movie from the era of classic Russian animation. The Humpbacked Horse or Конек-горбунок.

It’s GORGEOUS, i remember it fondly from that TV station playing it every December, it’s my wife’s favorite cartoon EVER (she grew up in Yugoslavia where it was a staple) and my 4 year old is begging me to watch it. So we end with it.

SO there you go my Russian friends, love from me to all of you.

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Posted by on December 5, 2012 in Uncategorized



Please Say Something

On the subject of animated shorts, i present to you the greatest thing you will see all month.

I am in awe of this. For one, the style is utterly original. It’s truly something new and unique. The storytelling is daring. The story itself is a lot like a repeated kick to the groin of your heart, but i would be lying if i said i wasn’t effected by it. It’s not flippant, i’ll tell you that.

It’s made by Irish film maker David O’Reilly. If you like this you can check out his Vimeo page.

And now for something completely different:

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Posted by on August 31, 2012 in Uncategorized


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Destino: The Walt Disney/Salvador Dali Collaboration

You might think i’m being facetious, maybe i have an animated video that just LOOKS like what a Disney/Dali collaboration would look like, but no, i kid thee not. In 1946 they worked together on a video for the Fantasia movie that never got fully finished and released.

In 2003 Disney finished it, using the material already made, the copious notes, and Dali’s storyboards.

It is called Destino and i assure you, it looks EXACTLY like what you would picture a Disney/Dali collaboration would look like. Music is by Mexican songwriter Armando Dominguez and performed by Dora Luz.

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Posted by on August 30, 2012 in Uncategorized


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The Question

So clearly we’re on a silhouette animation kick here. Let’s stay on this just a hair longer.

After yesterday’s example of Lotte Reiniger pioneering the style in the west, let’s see how it looks today.

I offer this up as a jaw droppingly well done example. Visually, it’s utterly incredible. The story is simple, the point is how it’s told.

Direction, Illustration, and Animation by Jesse Bond.

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Posted by on January 14, 2012 in Uncategorized


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The Silhouette Animation of Lotte Reiniger

One of the most iconic works to come out of steampunk culture has been the short film Jasper Morello, which uses silhouette puppetry as its style. Recently we just showed a very lovely short film ‘The Invention Of Love‘ which also uses the same technique.

It is only fitting therefore that we take a look at the undisputed master of the silhouette puppet movie: Lotte Reiniger.

Ms. Reiniger was born in Berlin in 1899. As a child she fell in love with Chinese silhouette puppetry, but then as a teenager with the German Expressionism film explosion. Her combination of these two forms defines her work.

She began making her mark in the 20s during the great and astonishing Weimar Era of Germany. She made a feature length animated film The Adventures of Prince Achmed in 1923, which is a conglomeration of tales from 1001 Arabian Nights. It is also worth mentioning that anyone who tells you Walt Disney made the first feature length animated film, with Snow White in 1937, they are wrong. Ms. Reiniger did it first 14 years earlier. (Disney made the first feature animated film using cels. You can say that.)

The Adventures of Prince Achmed is the oldest animated film which has surviving fragments. In its entirety however, it did not survive WWII. Here’s a snippet from the 1923 film:

WWII was brutal for Ms. Reiniger and her husband Carl Koch. They were involved in leftist politics and in 1933 decided to get out of Germany to escape the Nazi Party. However, no country would have them as permanent residents, so for 6 years they went from country to country staying only as long as their visitor visa would permit. Finally they had no choice but to go back to Germany to wait out the worst of the war.

In 1949 she and her husband finally moved to London. The 50s are where she left her permanent mark on the world. She was commissioned by an American company to make a series of fairy tales based on the Grimm stories. These became instant classics and anyone you talk to today who saw them as children will swoon with adoration.

Nowadays of course the silhouette puppet style is achieved using computers,. but interestingly it does live on and as Jasper Morello shows, continues to dazzle and inspire. Lotte Reiniger is of course responsible for this style having a cinematic life in the west, not to mention the absolute brilliance of her work remains awe inspiring.

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Posted by on January 13, 2012 in Uncategorized


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The Invention Of Love

Quite beautifully rendered shadow play-esque animation. Obviously inspired by Jasper Morello.

Happy New Year everybody.

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Posted by on December 31, 2011 in Uncategorized


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Sun Day

This is a wonderful, wonderful animated short by a third year film group from Sheridan College.

A young boy and his sister, alone on a cold moon, experience light for their first time.

Sun Day from Derek Spencer on Vimeo.

It is a collaborative effort of 8 months between Sean Calligan, Jen Bamford, Hail Kim, Nosa Ott, Cassandra Piesz, Morghan Peressini, Vanessa Stefaniuk, Derek Spencer, and Eddie West. Bravo, people. Bravo.

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Posted by on May 15, 2011 in Uncategorized


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The Mysterious Explorations of Jasper Morello

Since the day i began this blog (way back in the ancient days of a month ago), i have intended to feature this video. And as giulas41 pointed out on the Jasper The Dead Guy Guy post,  there is another Jasper in the steampunk mythos (which is no coincidence. I named Jasper in the opera after Jasper Morello in the video as an homage. The character is entirely different, but many will connect the name and get the tip of the hat). Thus, i figure it is high time we get around to showcasing one of the most awesome videos you’re going to see on the net.

I’ll give some more detail after the film. Just watch it. Seriously. It’s long for internet vids, 2o minutes, so make some tea, coffee, grab a beer and relax, because it is WELL worth it.

Please tell me you watched it. Drop dead awesome, right?

This is actually the first of 4 planned films, the other 3 of which are up and coming. It’s written by Mark Shirrefs and directed by Anthony  Lucas.

The animation style is that of Indonesian Shadow Puppetry, or Wayang (which is Indonesian for both shadow and theater). I could and should do an entire post on just Wayang, but here’s an awesome factoid:

Developed during the first millenium in Indonesia, it featured static puppets and was used heavily by Hindus to spread their religious stories across the land. When the Muslims came, they forbid themselves from watching it as it showed  God and gods in human form which is forbidden to see.

King Raden Patah of Java, however, really wanted to watch a performance. When the Muslim religious leaders refused him, a compromise was suggested, in which he could view the shadows of the figures. Viewing the shadows of the figures instead of the actual figures was acceptable. He watched it, loved it, and a genre was birthed.

Jasper Morello is of course a little more modern. All the objects are made out of various materials, including and especially cardboard, then scanned into a computer and manipulated in Photoshop.

All of the backgrounds are 2D. The 3D effect is made by combining numerous 2D backgrounds and then using variations of blurring to achieve illusions of depth.

As you can see for yourself, this is an extraordinary work of animation, and i am dying to see the next 3 sequels in the quartet.


Posted by on February 12, 2011 in Uncategorized


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