No it’s not a new catch phrase uttered by Noam Chomsky or Ralph Nader, it's this year’s program themes for the Computer Animation Theater. The four themes of Paraphernalia, Magic, Commercial/VFX, and Twisted grouped a wide variety of animated shorts and visual effects clips into semi-organized collections. Another interesting decision was to offer abbreviated versions of the best shorts screened at the Electronic Theater and show the full versions in various different programs throughout the Animation Theater. I liked this idea, since it gave me an opportunity to see works like Ryan and Frank multiple times.
Rockfish was just one of the shortened Electronic Theater selections that were screened in their entirety at the Computer Animation Theater - photo courtesy of SIGGRAPH
The Jury Award winning Ryan as well as the Best Animated Short Birthday Boy had special artist sessions where they were screened again with a full intro by the artists involved. In these sessions I was surprised to learn that for Sejong Park, the creator of Birthday Boy, this award winning effort was his very first attempt at 3D animation and he was learning the programs as he created the incredibly beautiful work. Another interesting technical note on the short, was that much of the color and detail was done using matte painting in Photoshop and compositing in Flame rather than being run through the rendering cycle, and seemed to work extremely well in giving the work a 2D feel. Ryan filmmaker Chris Landreth is a SIGGRAPH veteran, having entries in ’95 as well as ’98. His genre of interest is “psychorealism” creating a realm within a metaphorical reality. It’s an offshoot of surrealism and originated in painting, but in recent years has made it’s wade into the animation medium with the work of Bob Sabiston, Tommy Pallota, Paul Fierlinger, and Ellie Lee. Ryan takes this concept to the next level by parlaying this technique into the CG arena. The result is a poignant “animated-documentary” that creates a swirling world of visual symbolism grounded with realism.
The Computer Animation Theater had numerous other highlights, many of which could have just as well been selected for the Electronic Theater. Some of my favorite selections from the Paraphernalia program were Pfffirate, a hilarious short following these inflated little characters trying not to get popped, and a trailer for the upcoming film Kitaro The Movie. The Magic program mostly had cute or funny little shorts like the Painter, about a robot who likes to draw and finds a genie, and the God, a slightly offensive hilarious short depicting a statue of a deity try to swat a fly with it’s six arms. My favorite program was the Commercial/ VFX set which included some of the most inventive commercials I’ve seen in a while, from HP’s Hockney-inspired You spot of video sequences composed of numerous photographed video sequences within it, to the Cure’s Pictures of You; Drift an alcohol animated commercial that looks like reminds me of silhouetted puppet shows; Anthem’s animated short in the same style as the Shin’s Chutes Too Narrow album cover; BMW’s X3 commercial which takes the split screen environment shot to the next level; and several Nike commercials made by Fight Club director David Fincher. Pieces in the Twisted program were just downright… well… twisted. There’s nothing like a whole lot of gratuitous violence to get the day going. Sucker, begins with two seemingly cute little characters with one sucking on a candy cane, when jealous and excessive violence erupts. The Dahucapra Rupidahu is close cousin to the mountainous antelopes, except have evolved for their environment by having two legs shorter on their left side; consequently they are easily vulnerable to getting tipped to getting tipped over and falling off the mountain side, as this mockumentary nature video shows.
The little girls of Sucker aren't as innocent as they look. - photo courtesy of SIGGRAPH
Overall the Computer Animation Program was quite entertaining with it’s wide variety of shorts which managed to be humorous, deeply involving, and creatively inventive.