Annie Awards Being Streamed Live

Annie AwardASIFA-Hollywood’s annual Annie Awards ceremony, being held at UCLA’s Royce Hall tomorrow (February 4th) at 7:00 pm PST, will be streamed live. It may or may not, as ASIFA-Hollywood would have it, “Animation’s Highest Honor,” it is certainly the most important in the United States outside of the Oscars, and certainly among the most important social events for the L.A. animation community.

Anyway, if you are interested, you can view it  live at The Animation Guild’s blog and AniMazSpot website.

Two Films Added to the New UK Memory of the World Register

The Life Story of David Lloyd George
The young David Lloyd George’s dream of David and Goliath in Maurice Elvey’s The Life Story of David

The Life Story of David Lloyd George Main TitleOn July 14th, the UK’s National Commission for UNESCO announced the 10 items and collections to be included in its first UK Memory of the World Register, which follows in the footsteps of  UNESCO’s worldwide Memory of the World Programme, which I previously posted about here. Included are two films, both rather obscure — one because of its subject matter and the other because it was a film that was never shown publicly and believed to be lost. The latter is Maurice Elvey’s The Life Story of David Lloyd George (1918),  a biography of the British prime minister, which was repressed and presumed destroyed; the latter is  St Kilda, Britain’s Loneliest Isle (1928), a documentary of  life on a island in the Hebrides that was soon to vanish.

Luke McKernan provides a fascinating rundown of the history of Elvey’s film on The Bioscope, his invaluable blog about silent movies. He notes that the film has

a remarkable history of idealism, political intrigue, slander, subterfuge, disappearance, rediscovery and restoration. The Life Story of David Lloyd George was made in 1918, vanished before any cinema audience had a chance to see it, and re-emerged to astonished acclaim in 1994. Its place must be in virtual history rather than actual film history, because its story is one of if onlys and maybes. But what a story it is.

The 152-minute film is available on DVD from The National Library of Wales here and includes 47 minutes of extras, including an interview with ace film historian Kevin Brownlow.

As to St Kilda, it is

A filmed voyage by steamer from Glasgow to St Kilda, containing scenes of the ports en-route and life of the population on St Kilda. Research supports the conclusion that the scenes on the island of Hirta were taken in May 1923, with footage of the voyage from Glasgow out to St Kilda shot later, c. 1928. The film was made on the eve of the evacuation of St Kilda, August 1930, and with it the end of two millennia of human habitation on the island.

The film can be seen on YouTube in two parts (part 1 is embedded above), though you can also see in one sitting on the Scottish Screen Archive site here, which contains additional information on St Kilda.

Meanwhile …

In preparing for this post, I checked UNESCO’s Memory of the World site and discovered its list of Current Nominations, which include a number of film-related items. These include the EYE Film Instituut Nederland’s Desmet Collection, that includes “films, company documents, posters and film stills from the 1910’s” collected by Jean Desmet and Rossellini 77 Triptych, about Roberto Rossellini’s final project. Others include the Audiovisual Collection of Max Stahl, which includes material relating to the founding of Timor Leste, the Thor Heyerdahl Archives (Heyerdahl, the 20th century explorer, made Kon-Tiki (1950),one of the most popular post-war documentaries), and Collection of note manuscripts and film music of Composer Aram Khachaturian.

Thanks to The Bioscope, from whose site I cribbed the frame grab at the top from The Life Story of David Lloyd George.

Are New Oscar Rules for Mocap a Power Grab?

I’m writing this from Edinburgh, Scotland, where my wife and I have been enjoying a really wonderful Society for Animation Studies conference. A full report will follow when I get back home, but I can’t help responding to the Motion Picture Academy’s new rules for defining what is animation (see press release here), which states in part that,

a sentence regarding motion capture was added to clarify the definition of an animated film. The language now reads: “An animated feature film is defined as a motion picture with a running time of greater than 40 minutes, in which movement and characters’ performances are created using a frame-by-frame technique. Motion capture by itself is not an animation technique. In addition, a significant number of the major characters must be animated, and animation must figure in no less than 75 percent of the picture’s running time.”

It was mentioned during one of the conference’s many discussions of motion capture and drew some incredulous responses from the packed room (the person reporting it wasn’t sure if it was correct), but a comment by Sheridan Institute of Technology’s Tony Tarantini made around this time about James Cameron’s assertion that there’s no animation in Avatar is worth reporting. He basically felt that at a time when animation is becoming the dominant mode of production, Cameron is try to take it [the field] away from animators.

In the paper my wife Vickie and I gave yesterday, we discussed how live-action directors, like Cameron, liked motion capture because it enabled them to do animation in a way similar to the way they film live-action (i.e., they direct actors instead of animators). For whatever reason, he does not want to see himself as an animation filmmaker and I suspect the new rules regarding motion capture were added in part to assuage people like him; it would also please Pixar, DreamWorks Animation and Blue Sky, as it would reduce possible future Oscar competition. (Needless to say, I feel motion capture is animation.)

In a discussion about the new rules at Cartoon Brew, a number of people felt that motion capture films could still be considered animation if the data was finished by animators frame-by-frame, while Ryan McCulloch asked whether this would disqualify Happy Feet, which won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature several years ago (I believe it was the same year that another mocap film, Monster House was also nominated)? And the ever sane Floyd Norman said, “This is only going to get crazier.”