The Electronic Theater preshow was a massive interactive motion capture event.
- photo by Lora Oehlberg

SIGGRAPH 2004 Electronic Theater

This year’s Electronic Theater had a varied smorgasbord of interesting shorts. From the usual demo reels from the big studios, to poignant and sentimental animations, weird or hilarious works, to gratuitous goop and millions of falling lawn chairs, the selection was unique to say the least. Above all the biggest surprise event of the year was the opening act: a huge interactive audience participation game involving giant inflated motion capture balls which the audience bounced up and down like beach balls while trying to hit virtual targets as seen on the theater screen. I think we must have set some record for largest interactive virtual game with live audience participation.

Sejong Park's Birthday Boy
- photo courtesy of SIGGRAPH

The two award winning pieces were the most memorable. Sejong Park’s Birthday Boy, about a young Korean boy playing in isolation, against the backdrop of a small village during the Korean War was able to capture the innocence of childhood, the devastation of war, and a deep feeling of isolation. The piece won for Best Animated Short in the program. The other winner, Ryan by Chris Landreth, won the Jury Award for his “animated documentary,” an inventive and groundbreaking concept where he took a tape recorded conversation he had with a former Academy Award nominated animator, Ryan Larkin, who was now down on his luck. The film was especially moving in that Landreth completely rendered himself and Larkin in CG with metaphorical wounds symbolizing the anguish and deterioration of their psyche. The short reminded me of one of my favorite films of the past year American Splendor, as well as Waking Life in it’s surreal use of animated symbolism. The extended version screened in the Computer Animation Theater was even better.

Chris Landreth's Ryan
- photo courtesy of SIGGRAPH

Some other interesting pieces from the program included the incredibly vivid and detailed Innoncence: Ghost in the Shell. The clip was a beautiful and stunning visual of a futuristic Japanese street festival/ parade taken from the much awaited sequel to the popular anime.

Frederic Mayer's Cortex Academy
- photo courtesy of SIGGRAPH

Some of the more humorous pieces included Pixar’s Boundin’, Attack of the Sheep by student animator Jessica Scott, and Cortex Academy by Frederic Mayer. Pixar has always found a way to take deep human emotions and weave them into wonderfully humorous and playful stories. This one deals with a sheep losing its wool, as is about fitting in and accepting yourself for who you are. Scott’s Sheep was a simple little animation that reminds you how boring calculus really was. A girl's sheep doodles start to eat up her notes so she finds creative ways to draw torture methods for finishing them off. Cortex Academy was from France was probably the funniest of the program. It was nothing new technically, but it used visual and scripted humor poignantly to take us into an imaginary world within our minds as different parts of a man's brain dealing with learning that his girlfriend has cheated on him.

The new Radiohead music video for "Go to Sleep" by Alex Rutherford
- photo courtesy of SIGGRAPH

A few other works of note were the Radiohead music video Go to Sleep as a polygonized Thom Yorke sings to a polygon city with buildings collapsing around him. The Onimusha 3 intro was great and Aardman Animations annual entry of BBC PSA’s, where they animated CG bookworms to recorded reviews of classic literary works. In all this year’s Electronic Theater program was a varied selection of some of the best CG animated work of the past year.







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Last updated 8/13/04.

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