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Oct 032014
 
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korra (1)by Gene Turnbow, station manager

In a world where movie ideas are derived from computer games that have no plot whatsoever, such as Tetris  and the recently announced movie about Microsoft’s new acquisition Minecraft, it’s refreshing when something actually worth watching happens.  Tonight we get a double feature!

First, it’s The Legend of Korra, the animated series follow-on to the wildly popular Nickolodeon series The Last Airbender. Unfortunately the series has been cancelled, meaning it’s lost its air time schedule position on Nickolodeon. However, in a strange twist of fate, unlike what Cartoon Network did with Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Young Justice, by the time Nickolodeon Animation Studios got the word that their show had been cancelled they were already most of the way through production on Book 4: Balance. Instead of just flushing all that work, they decided to put it all online instead, one episode per week.  Perhaps online viewing really is replacing cable television – this is newsworthy in and of itself.

The first new episode appears today, and it looks very intriguing. Three years have passed since the last season. The kids have grown up a lot, and Korra has cut her hair.  There are winged suits that make airbenders resemble flying squirrels.  But that’s all superficial, and you’ll just have to watch it to see what happens.

star-wars-rebels-premiere-1536x864-428036123048The other show that it seems like half the geek world is buzzing about is the new animated series Star Wars: Rebels which debuts at 9 p.m. on the Disney Channel this evening.  The Star Wars universe is broadly expanded in these new tales of what happened after the Clone Wars, but before the Rebellion.  Gone is the grand sweeping story arc of the old Republic versus the Jedi, to be replaced with very personal stories about a band of misfits who have their own battles to fight.  It’s well written, blends well with the rest of the Star Wars universe, and it is probably the single most squee-worthy thing to happen on television this year other than the new CW series The Flash series that premieres this coming Tuesday.

And now if you don’t mind, there’s a pile of Fig Newtons, a couple of tall glasses of milk and a couple of brand new shows waiting for us in the living room.

This is gonna be good.

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Sep 302014
 
Chris Jone's 'Ed'
Say hello to Ed the Head. Ed is an animation project by accomplished Lightwave animator Chris Jones of Australia. He got his degree from Swinburne University of Technology and began as an illustrator of children’s books, before becoming an animator for the game company Infogrames.

Ed started as a rigging experiment, but Chris couldn’t resist adding textures and detailing.

The danger of animating human beings is two-fold. First, it’s hard to do it convincingly, because we are so familiar with what human beings are supposed to look like that even the slightest error will be spotted. Getting this close to the illusion is just begging for trouble. Fail in any respect, the appearance, the fine hairs on the skin, the way it moves, and the viewer becomes suddenly aware of being deceived, and what seemed magical becomes creepy. Secondly, it raises the question of what happens to the human actor in the equation if a simulacrum can be created in such convincing precision.

Is the time of flesh and blood actors over? An actor is still needed to deliver a performance. In the case of Ed here, that actor happens to be the animator, but we’re talking about the traditional plank-and-a-passion kind of acting here. To be honest, we don’t think there’s that much to worry about. While an animator can create a performance, it’s a tedious, laborious process, and it depends on somebody with a very high degree of technical ability that few possess in addition to fine acting ability. Surprisingly few animators have the kind of ability that Chris Jones demonstrates in today’s video. No, acting still requires, for the most part, actual actors.

It does not necessarily follow that acting will still require that the actors look good on camera, though. Actors will still be needed, but their voices and performances can now be lent to computer animated creations. Of course, getting a human being on screen acting is still going to be most easily done by pointing a camera at an actor. The difference between doing that and executing the technical incantations necessary to join a human’s performance with a computer animated avatar will still heavily favor the human actor, and probably will for a very long time to come.

That said, what Chris Jones did here is still shockingly cool to watch.  With some care, it’s clearly possible to avoid a visit to Uncanny Valley.

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Sep 252014
 
Big_Hero_6_(film)_poster

We realize this probably won’t be the last trailer we see for Disney’s Big Hero 6, but we’re looking forward to seeing this so much that we just can’t resist sharing it with you. It’s based very loosely on a relatively obscure Marvel Comics title from 1998, with nearly the entire storyline being rewritten. Purists will be disappointed, but there’s little ground for grumbling, really, because this treatment has almost nothing to do with the original book. The story revolves around a 14-year-old robotics prodigy named Hiro who lives in the fictional city San Fransokyo. It’s still about a team of superheroes, though, and in this new trailer we get to see them suit up, and we learn a little more about Beymax, a medical robot created by Hiro’s elder brother.

It’s also the first collaboration between Disney Animation and Marvel Studios since Disney bought Marvel in 2009. While every bit as bright and light hearted as other Disney films, it does deal with some rather heavy emotional themes. It looks like nothing Disney has ever done before, and separates itself even further from the usual Disney fare by not being a musical.

If you want to listen to the theme music for the movie, go to the official web site. It’s about as epic as the score for The Avengers.  

Ryan Potter plays Hiro Hamada. Beymax is voiced by Scott Adsit. Big Hero 6 releases in the United States on November 7, 2014. U.K. residents don’t get to see it until January 15. We have no idea why they have to wait that long, and a delay like this between the U.S. release and the U.K. release is very unusual.

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Sep 132014
 
Monstro

Today at 9PM Pacific, tune in to Krypton Radio to hear veteran animation director Christopher Dante Romano speak with us about his new short subject, MONSTRO!.

Written and directed by Christopher Romano, MONSTRO! is a 10 minute, computer animated film starring Pili Montilla. The film was created using the advanced visual effects software called Houdini. Rigging and animation; hair, cloth, water, and smoke, lighting and rendering were all done in Houdini. In fact, every shot was rendered using Houdini Mantra in one pass, with depth of field and motion blur calculated at render time. All with a small crew that never numbered more than 3 animators at any moment.

Romano studied painting in school, but fell into the emerging world of computer animation shortly after graduation. He worked on The Amazing Spider-Man, X-Men 2, Serenity, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Tron:Legacy,  and many other films as animator, lighter and FX artist.  His first independent films appeared on MTV’s Cartoon Sushi, on retail video, and in multiple film festivals. As a commercial director at DUCK, his anime-style spot KCRW Timebomb grabbed the attention of development executives. When looking to create MONSTRO!, Romano turned to Side Effects and Houdini to help facilitate his vision.

“I wanted to create a film with an adorable, stop motion feel. Something that looked smaller in scale and felt nostalgic. Very tilt-shift. And I wanted the production to be top notch. Using Houdini was a no brainer,” says Romano. “I’m very familiar with Houdini’s tools and procedural workflow. Once the edit came together, I knew I could easily keep adding more – more cloth, more hair, more water and more smoke. I could do whatever I wanted.”

Watch the trailer.  MONSTRO! is a sort of love letter to cheesy sci-fi of the 1950’s as well as stop motion animated classics like Mad Monster Party.  It’s is a love story of monstrous proportions.

 

Oh yeah, Chris.  I went there.

 

Monstro has already one a cluster of awards in animation film festivals, and is making appearances in more festivals and at major pop culture conventions all over the country.  Digital distribution is planned.

Susan Fox and Gene Turnbow host.

Chris Romano runs an animation company called Toonlet Animation:

If you miss tonight’s broadcast, it airs again on Sunday at 4PM Pacific, and at additional times throughout the week.  See our What’s On When schedule page for details.

The Event Horizon – it’s Sci-Fi for your Wifi.

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Aug 252014
 

 

Tim Burtonby Hannah Carter, contributing writer

Tim Burton, director, producer, artist, writer, and poet, turns 56 today. The California native was born in Burbank in 1958. He attended Burbank High School and went on to California Institute of the Arts, where he studied character animation.

Burton started making stop motion films at a relatively young age. One of his oldest known films is The Island of Doctor Agor, which he made when he was only 13. He continued making short films into his college years, including Stalk of the Celery Monster and King and Octopus.

Burton has created countless original characters in his drawings, paintings, poems, stories, shorts, and full-length films. He has also re-imagined such beloved classics as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland.

A popular theory among Burton fans

A popular theory among Burton fans

In the 1980s, Burton decided to tackle the film adaptation of the Batman comics. He directed both Batman (released in 1989) and Batman Returns (released in 1992). The original script Burton got for Batman was more akin to the campy 1960s television series than he cared for. He wanted to add depth and gravitas to Batman’s story, giving Bruce Wayne a more psychologically complex character. This opened the door for the complexity and darkness woven into Bruce Wayne’s personality in the Batman Begins franchise, qualities that many fans have come to love even more than the silly antics in the original television series.

Tim Burton’s ability to flawlessly blend the macabre, the melancholy, and the gruesome with beauty, love, and laughter has made him world famous. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art dedicated an exhibition hall, outdoor space, and an entire gift shop to Burton’s art, stories, characters, and movies (pictures in the slideshow below). There is an endless supply of groups, websites, fan art, fan fiction, fan-made characters, and cosplay guides dedicated to Tim Burton’s characters, from the well-known to the more obscure. There are even fan theories about the characters in Burton’s stop-motion films. One in particular is that Frankenweenie (2012), Corpse Bride (2005), and The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) are all one story.  This lines up with a quote from Tim Burton himself: “Every story has a beginning, a middle, and an end. Not necessarily in that order.”

We at Krypton Radio wish Tim Burton a very happy birthday and many more years of fantastic creativity to come!

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Jul 252014
 
Bill Plimpton discusses his current work, 'Cheatin' at a panel at Comic Con 2014. Photo by Zoe Simsay.

Bill Plimpton discusses his current work, ‘Cheatin’ at a panel at Comic Con 2014. Photo by Zoe Simsay.

by Aly Runke, contributing writer

Krypton radio DJ, Willow Leafstorm has been able to catch some amazing interviews this weekend at SDCC, including animator Bill Plympton on Thursday afternoon. Plympton is a big advocate for breaking animation out of being a exclusively a kid’s genre.

He was born in Portland Oregon on April 30, 1946. He blames the rainy weather of his hometown for helping to nourish his love of drawing. Early in his career, his cartoons were featured in magazines and newspapers such as The New York Times, Vogue, Rolling Stones, Vanity Fair, and he even did his own political cartoon for a few year, published countrywide. Despite success in the illustrating field Plympton always wanted to be an animator and had such heroes as Walt Disney. He worked on the animated film Boomtown first but, he told Leafstorm, it was his film Your Face that made him “able to quit print…[and] go full time into animation.” Your Face even got an Oscar Nomination.

Plympton also spoke with Leafstorm about his new film, Cheatin, which comes out in L.A. on August 15, 2014. Plympton says it will be a dark, almost noir, romantic animated feature, a “typical Bill Plympton film,” he adds good-naturedly. Cheatin will premiere at the Downtown L.A. Independent Cinema and everyone who attends will get the chance to have Plympton draw them a quick sketch so go quickly and mark your calendars. Plympton also expects that Cheatin “will break the stereotype that animation is only for kids.”

This seems to be a campaign in which Plympton has much at stake. He is one animator fighting to show distributors that not every animated feature needs to be targeted at children, and he gets offended when distributors are offended by his films. He tells Leafstorm with a tired and exasperated tone, “I loved animation when I was a kid, why can’t I love animation as an adult and see adult ideas, adult topics, adult passion portrayed in animation? And that ‘s what I want to do with Cheatin.”

Cheatin isn’t his only project; Plympton has also started work on a film called Revengeance with Jim Lujan. He didn’t reveal much but he did say that the characterization was finished and that he would be working on storyboards and animating soon.

After hearing about Plympton’s work on Cheatin, it’s obvious that he is a very passionate man who loves his work and Leafstorm delved deeper into this love. What other films or cartoons does he love? Plympton listed off several movies, including some our younger generation will be familiar with: Tangled, How to Train your Dragon, Dumbo, and SpongeBob Squarepants, as well as some more projects geared toward adults, such as Yellow Submarine and Archer. These are pretty big compliments from a guy who has worked on 40 animated projects and three live feature films, as well as 14 episodes of America’s much-loved show, The Simpsons.

Of course after learning more about what Plympton was working on and about his favorites, Leafstorm asked about his animation process. Plympton said that he tends to be able to work on animation rather quickly, getting five to six shots done in a day. That adds up to about a minute of animation completed in a week, which seems insane to most of us. At the end of the day, animation is a time-consuming art, whether it’s done digitally or with pencil and paper. As to Plympton’s animation preferences, he says he’s done it all. He started with pencil and then dabbled a bit form there. His favorite method is more old-fashioned, right where he started with pencil and paper.

The animated feature, The Tune, was Plympton’s first full-length feature, but which is his favorite? Plympton said that working on Cheatin was fun and exciting but his favorite was I Married a Stranger, which came out in 1997. In all seriousness, he told Leafstorm that I Married a Stranger was his favorite for three reasons: “It’s very bizarre and violent and [has] lots of sex.” It would seem that I Married a Stranger goes right up there with Plympton’s other films made to break the animation is for children mold.

Plympton ended by saying he hopes to see everyone at the viewing of Cheatin, and he’s ready for a full weekend at San Diego Comic-Con.

What do you think about animated film and television built around adult themes? Sound off in comments or on our Facebook page!

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