Monday, December 6, 2010

Big in Japan

In the last month, I've watched The Cove and Ponyo - two vastly different movies, but both with a focus on the plight of sea life in Japan. 
I wonder which will make a bigger impact on the world - the animated fantasy or the grim documentary? Or is it too late already?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

And now for something completely different

Pixar continues to impress and inspire me - this video was a great reminder of why I'm telling the story of Khumba. Some differences are on the outside, some on the inside, but whatever it is that makes you different, it is often the very thing that sets you apart... and to steal a line from an old draft of my screenplay: our differences, together, make us stronger. It sure works for Pixar - let's hope the same is true for Triggerfish!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Zambezia takes off - Go Team!!

Last week, we released the Zambezia promo which we completed for the American Film Market and it immediately started flying around online (I know, I know, it's just so hard not to use those bird puns!).
I'm so impressed with what the team at Triggerfish have pulled off with a tiny fraction of the budgets of most other animated films out there and it makes me so excited to see what we'll be able to do with Khumba now that we've learned so much. 

It was a big push from the whole team to get the trailer ready in time but it's been great for everyone to finally be able to show family and friends what we've all been working on for so long. Some longer than others.... It's strange to think that I've been involved in this project for 5 years of my life!

But as I'm learning, it's less about the work, and more about the people that you work with and I'm glad to be surrounded by an incredible team of people.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Karoo Moons

Last month the Khumba pre-production team went on a mini-research trip up to Prince Albert. The vast spaces of the Great Karoo were a welcome change to the computer screen.

Considering the theme of drought (linked to the waning moon) in Khumba's story, it was an auspicious trip with both full moon and rain!


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bo-kaap lights


I spent a few nights in the Bo-kaap recently while I renovate my house. The views of the city are incredible and the changing light on Lions Head gave me a taste of what our 3rd feature film could look like. Inspiring. 


Tuesday, September 28, 2010


I'm a happy chappy, need I say more?

Saturday, September 25, 2010

7-year itch

OK, it's only been 5 years that I've been working on Zambezia (only), but this week, exactly a year since we started full production, the IDC committee meets to decide whether to fund our second feature, Khumba. It will be an unprecedented deal, and obviously a huge amount rides on it, so I wait with bated breath... because I'm feeling the itch.

We had to do a self-portrait awhile back at work and as you might tell, my experience working on Zambezia has mostly been one of re-writing and re-writing. But I have also had an invaluable opportunity to prepare for directing my own feature film. If all goes well, next year this time, it will be in full swing.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Anima Mundi - 6/6

My last day in Rio - the festival was over and the prospect of returning to work put dampen on things. Jess and I did a quick shop for the essential tourist souvenirs and then we said goodbye and she returned to Buenos Aires. And then there were 4 - the group was now just Cordell, Daniel, Maureen and I. We took the tram uphill with Adelya up to Santa Teresa and ended up meeting up with some of the remaining guests, Stephen and his family. Stephen generously treated us all to a tasty lunch (including Piranha soup!)

My camera was stolen out my bag at Joburg airport, so I although I was left with none of my own pics, I will forever be left with happy memories of an incredible city, amazing people - the guests as well as the production crew - and hopefully many opportunities to come.

My heartfelt thanks go out to all the people who included their work in the SA animation showcase, and to the organisers and sponsors of Anima Mundi who made my trip possible. And, lastly, a special thanks to Lea for having the idea to represent all of the incredible talent from SA at such a magical event!


Anima Mundi - 5/6

Besides a quick tour around the Hippie Market (their name for it, not mine), and a quick bite, sunday was mostly spent on Ipanema beach. With the hundreds of people packed onto the beach with their umbrellas and chairs it was pretty much the image I had of Rio before going there. 

I lost my specs somewhere on the beach and incredibly they were found and handed in.
A still from the upcoming animated feature Rio

By the evening, it really felt like things were winding down. Some of the guests had already left, missing out on the awards ceremony. Although, since it was in Portuguese, I only found out the winners when I got back anyway. At least we got to see some of them and I was especially glad to see The Lost Thing since I fell in love with the style when I bought the book in Oz a few years ago. 

Then, in addition to some of the other festival winners, was a cool PSA about... peeing in the shower (yes, encouraging it) and the Brazilian winner (maybe something was lost in translation). One of the more interesting and beautiful pieces was Madagascar, a journey diary - a beautiful watercolour 3d scrapbook-type diary.

Apparently there are a lot of Labenese people in Rio so we had an "Arab" dinner at a beautiful spot under JC with the lights of the city reflected in the water next to us. A few Caipirinhas later, I didn't quite get to say my proper  goodbyes as our group reduced even further.


Anima Mundi - 4/6

Work's been crazy so it's taking me awhile to finish this off... Anyways here is day 4:
Still drunk (see day 3/6), I stumbled down early to meet the others. We were meant to go up the big JC, but (luckily) it was cloudy so I could go back to bed. Lack of sleep and jetlag was catching up, big time. Even after a little more shut-eye, it took  crossing the double 3-lane road to copacabana beach back and forth a few times, before we finally re-fueled with a refreshing coconut drink. Mmmm.  

Another massive lunch (an all-you-can-eat buffet) was the last thing any of us were really in the mood for, but none of us were in any state to initiate anything else and it was fun nevertheless. 

Stephen Hillenburg gave another talk that night which was great because he made sure to entertain us with new insights and different clips of Spongebob (known as "Bobbyspongy" in Brazil).  After some great audience questions, everyone crowded around for signatures and photos with him. 

After the fun of the night before, the official festival party was a bit of an anti-climax, but we still had fun drinking and dancing and ...yes, I'm noticing a trend here too.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Baby stripes

Friday at work, we had a surprise baby shower for my business partner Mike and his wife Kate. He had to guess who the present was from by the baby picture attached. 

This was the only one I could find of myself. He didn't guess at first. But then I realised there was a clue - it seems I've been obsessed with stripes from an early age. 

Mood painting for Khumba by Daniel Clarke


Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Anima Mundi - 3/6

(Read Day 1 and Day 2 of my Anima Mundi experience.)

On my third day in Rio, the morning session was going to be in Portuguese, so after a lie-in, the usual hotel buffet and a quick swim on Copacabana beach, Daniel Greaves and I took a trip up Sugar loaf. 

sketch © Daniel Greaves

As we'd say in Zambezia, it was amah-zing! Perfect weather, and it was great to spend time chatting to Daniel surrounded by the incredible view. Madi Piller (head of Toronto Animated Image Society) and Alberto Iglesias from Filmax also joined us. Once we'd had our fill of the sights, we then filled our bellies with a massive lunch in an old area near the base of sugar loaf. 

That night Daniel gave his talk and we got to see his Oscar-winning short Manipulation as well as a number of other fantastic clips from his short films and adverts.


Afterwards, we were all taken to a 3-story antique shop by day, buzzing restaurant by night. The obligatory caipirinhas combined with some great live music ended up in a raucous evening that ended up in me breaking my camera. Face, bothered?


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Anima Mundi - 2/6

Day 2 began with a masterclass by multiple award winner Andy Malcolm a foley artist with over four hundred films to his name. An avid Lewis Carrol fan, Andy showed us some clips from Alice in Wonderland that showed the subtleties of his work on the film. He even brought along the well-worn shoes he used to make Alice walk - a pair of women's shoes cut open and covered in duct tape.

Although it can't help a bad script, sound is so crucial in animation. But through audience participation putting foley sounds to a live action and an animated clip Andy inspired us to see that you can do it yourself - and it's fun! 

One of the natural talents from the audience - especially with his perfectly timed rooster crow - was Meton Joffily. A Brazilian graffiti artist, Meton later showed me his incredible pitch package for an animated series he's developed.

illustration by Meton

After a late, two-hour long lunch (both of which I was to discover is the norm) I went to meet my sister Jess who flew up from Buenos Aires to join me for the weekend. Although not from the world of animation, even she enjoyed the evening's talk by two-time Oscar nominee Cordell Barker from Winnipeg, Canada. 

My first introduction to Cordell's work was at Annecy last year where he won a prize for Runaway.

A surprisingly good-natured and amiable man, Cordell showed us the films that had the most influence on him as well as his own three prize-winning films where the influence could be seen - but each time still resulted in a highly original and entertaining film. I was glad to finally see his first film The Cat Came Back and I was also pleased with myself to spot one of the hidden messages which he flashes in his films. And I have to say it again, but what a nice man.

sketch © Cordell Barker

The more all of us hung out - yes, that night was accompanies with a few rounds of caipirinhas - the more I realised these are my type of people and that small talk doesn't always have to be difficult. OK, maybe that was just the caipirinhas talking. 

pic courtesy Madi Piller - from left: Daniel Greaves, Maureen Furniss (CalArts), Andy Malcolm, Stephanie Betts (DHX media), Pierina, me, Jess, Cordell, Jordi Grangel.


Monday, August 2, 2010

Anima Mundi - 1/6

After a looong flight from CT, I was picked up by Pierina who - along with Tania, Veronica and Adelya - proved to be an invaluable guide throughout my time in Rio. Since I landed at night, however I only realised quite how lucky I was when I woke up and peeked out my hotel room window to see the sun rise over Copacabana and the distinctive Sugarloaf mountain. Wow. Cape Town, but better.

View from our hotel room - photo by Jess

One massive buffet breakfast later, I went to the first in a series of master-classes. Unfortunately there was no English translation, but Jordi Grangel - one of the brothers of Barcelona's Grangel Studios - gave a fantastic presentation of character and production design work from Tim Burton's Corpse Bride.

It was incredible to see the attention to detail and to see how precisely the drawings were translated into 3-dimensional models. The quality of work was truly amazing and it's no doubt why Dreamworks uses them on all of their features too.

While I waited for the next talk, I looked around a fantastic exhibition by Ziraldo in the cultural centre - a grand old bank where everything takes place. I'd never heard of him, but he is apparently a well-known Brazilian artist, author and comic illustrator who has been active for several decades. This exhibition featured some really funny pop art-style paintings of various superheroes in amusing scenes.

I also met with Lea Zagury, one of the four directors of the festival. It was great to finally chat face-to-face after meeting through Facebook of all places. Originally an animator, Lea could see that what we are doing at Animation SA is what the team at Anima Mundi did a few years ago - and looking at the festival now - it was inspiring!

Lea introducing Stephen

The second talk was a question and answer session with Stephen Hillenburg - creator of Spongebob Squarepants. I knew all my colleagues would be so envious hearing about the originations of Spongebob, but hopefully they'll get to hear it for themselves as Stephen has said he'd be interested in coming out to Cape Town with his family in the future!

After a quick hotel stop to change I was shuttled off to a massive movie theatre to introduce the SA animation showcase. I had no idea what to expect and pessimistically wondered what would happen if no one pitched? But I was pleasantly surprised by the turn-out (it was full!) and they all seemed impressed by the showcase - one journalist I later spoke to said it was her favourite :)

A page from the catalogue

So, my job already done on the first day, I could then relax at the networking dinner hosted by Andre Breitman of 2DLab. It was good to meet some of the other internationals in the group as well as those in the Brazilian industry, most notably Guilherme Marcondes the talent behind Tyger, the only Brazilian animation I'd heard of before (check out some of his videos here).

After a long day - with jet lag to boot - I was in need of sleep, but as I was soon to find out, this would be the norm, and besides, a couple caipirinhas really do the trick.

 sketch © Guilherme Marcondes


Anima Mundi - Rio in 6 days

Last week I had the privilege of attending Anima Mundi animation festival in beautiful Rio de Janiero. I've only been to one festival before (check my blog on Annecy here), but this experience was in a different league and I think it'll be difficult to top... This time, I was invited as a guest of the festival as a representative of Animation SA after putting together a South African showcase which highlighted some of the best animated work from the last 2 decades (thanks to Michel for all the edit work!) 

I figured the best way to get my experience across is to break it down day-by-day, so read on:

Monday, June 28, 2010

Just another average Joe

A short story I wrote a few years ago. Illustrations by Alex Noble using watercolour and ink on Fabriano paper.

Joe was like any other typical 10-year-old boy. Well, he wasn’t exactly like every other boy, because he was the exact average of all the other 10-year-old boys put together. In fact, if you put all the ten year old boys in the world into a giant mixer, they would probably all come out looking exactly like Joe.

There was something always niggling inside of Joe, and he didn’t know what it was until one day at school, he overheard Suzy talking about him to some of the other girls. He happened to be walking past the tuck shop just as porky Polly said:
“And Joe, what about Joe?”
Polly actually had a bit of a crush on Joe. He remembered that time she offered him some of her chocolate ├ęclair after she had already taken a bite out of it. The chocolate was smeared all over her mouth.
“You know, he’s got brown hair, brown eyes, uhh…you know. He’s ...”
“Oh yeah, him. He’s OK. Kinda average.”
And that’s when it hit him, that niggling thing inside him ….
“That’s it!” Joe thought to himself. “I’m average!”

With the high divorce rate nowadays, you might think Joe’s parents would be divorced, but they were still together, and he had a sister 2 years younger than him – overall, a typical nuclear family. He was of average height, average weight, average intelligence. Nothing about him stood out. His eyes were brown, his hair was brown, he had a nice smile… friendly… but nothing special. Basically, you would be hard-pressed to describe him, except to say he has 2 ears, 2 eyes, a nose and a mouth. Just like every other little boy. (Well there was that one boy Jimmy who had lost an eye when he threw a stone up in the air and it landed on him, but that doesn’t really count, now does it?)

No one really expected much of Joe – even his report card was filled with the response “average” from his teachers in each subject. You could see some of them were leaning towards saying something special about him, but something would always hold them back from saying that he was even just that little bit above average.

Joe was not particularly witty, nor was he dull. He had a small group of friends, but he wasn’t exactly popular, unlike Suzy, who had all the boys trying to see up her dress every break-time and whistling as she walked past. Joe quite liked Suzy too, and from the day he overheard her, no matter what Joe tried to do to exceed, his average-ness just stared at him in the face. In the school cross-country, he came bang in the middle, even though he had tried training every weekend before. The next time, he tried to walk the whole way, but somehow half the team took a wrong turn and came in just behind him. When everyone got their report cards, Joe was angry to see that his marks were all exactly the same as the class average. And on the school photo day, Joe was smack bang in the middle of the row even though he had measured himself the day before and was an extra 10 cm on the wooden palm tree in his bedroom!

Every night Joe would sit up in his bed after his mom left and rack his brains. What could he do to be better? What could he do to break out of his mould? But he just couldn’t think of a single thing. Then one day, he came across a baby bird that had fallen out of a tree and was breathing its last sighs of life. That's when he realised there was one thing that he could do to be different from the other kids. He knew of a very tall tree in the park, and he liked climbing trees. It was one thing he could do well. Well, pretty well… ok, maybe just average.

Sadly, what Joe didn’t realize in his short little life (below average in fact) is that everyone is different, and it’s actually quite rare to be average - he was the only one, he was one of a kind. And if you ever feel different to everybody else and wish to be normal like them, just remember you are lucky not be just another average Joe.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

The Slipper Cycle

On Friday night I ended up at a dinner in the house where I made The Slipper Cycle, so it sure brought back some memories. I spent a year making the film while I worked nights as a waiter, so I had the whole set sitting at the bottom of my bed for all that time.

The film is still getting around - it showed in a programme of African animation at Stuttgart a couple weeks ago and will show at Anima Mundi next month as well. I watched it again - and boy it's rough. But as my first film I'm still proud of the accomplishment.

I was originally going to call it "Through Hell and High Waters" to try and link it to the theme of marriage, but I'm kinda glad I didn't.

Because I didn't study animation, I used the project as way to learn the whole process...

...from storyboard to final film.
I used one of the earliest canon digital cameras to shoot it and my bedside light to light it. Like I said, rough.

Shaun the Sheep was a useful reference.


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sam... Early development

The image of a sad girl sitting at a table with a dog just peaking over it was a strong one that I remembered from a dream. In the dream, my friend Sam had given me a book with this image on the cover of it. I think "Sam had never seen her look so sad' was the title of the book, but I may have come up with that later. 

I was immediately inspired to try and capture that image in my head and the rest of the concept expanded from there.  First I wondered why she was sad, but then realised it didn't matter why. I was more interested in what Sam could do to help her.

I tried working with watercolours. It was hard.

My drawing skills are also a little... sketchy :)


Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sam had never seen her look so sad

Here is the little book I made from my animation - for those of you who've seen it but needed words to make sense of it :)

I originally intended to use voiceover, but then felt it was clear enough without it and besides, it would have spoilt Ben Amato's beautiful music. I only printed two copies and gave both away as presents.

I dedicated this book to my baby sister Noa.