Monday, July 09, 2007

Breaking Stop Mo

Update: I just read it all and these gems are especially eyebrow raising-ly exciting!:

"...[Coraline's] being shot in digital 3-D, an industry first for stop-motion). "Stop-motion is sort of the redheaded stepchild of animation," Travis says. "But it's incredibly beautiful. What we're doing will blow people away."...

"... Just as Coraline traverses two worlds, so too does Travis. "There are things about the company I can't discuss with my friends on the floor," he says. "But the minute I become a suit to the other animators and artists, I lose a huge part of who I am. I don't fit into either world."...

...Travis is more comfortable with that dual role, though, than he was when he joined the board. He's had several years to reflect on the events that turned him and his father into partners. And while being Phil Knight's son can clearly be an albatross, it's hard to ignore the upside. Travis, after all, has come an awfully long way in his nine-year career--far beyond the imagination or reach of a typical animator. Phil created opportunities for his son before he could earn them on his own. Overseeing development of the Laika campus. Hiring the animation department for Jack and Ben [the next special production]. Sitting on the board of directors. Before Laika, Travis had hoped to eventually supervise or direct one day. But nothing like this--and certainly not this fast....

...For all of that, he's grateful. He embraces the responsibility. "If not me, then who?" he says. "These are people's livelihoods we're talking about. I'd much rather be a part of those decisions than leave it up to someone else."...

..."For Laika, Phil instructed Slusher to scour the globe for top talent in … children's book publishing. Slusher brought back Fiona Kenshole, the former publishing director for Oxford University Press Children's Books in London, to scout stories for acquisition. She doesn't have a film background, either, but her connections helped Laika win the rights to the best-seller Here Be Monsters, one of several projects teed up behind Jack and Ben."...

..."Finally, Selick managed to get the script to Focus Features, the art-house arm of Universal. Focus CEO James Schamus, a veteran producer (Brokeback Mountain) and screenwriter (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), thought Coraline stood out. And he thought Laika understood moviemaking in a way few newcomers do. Coraline, says Schamus, "is the most technically and aesthetically advanced movie I've ever worked on--3-D and stop-motion and high definition."...

..."8 a.m. on a Friday, he has already been at work for an hour, hot glue stuck to his fingers, dirt smudged on his jeans. The production takes place in a huge unmarked warehouse. Sealed off from the clamor of hammering and rock 'n' roll, a series of stages is defined by tall black curtains clipped shut. A red light indicates filming is under way. Eight animators (soon to be a couple dozen) are working on various scenes, hoping to please Selick, a famously exacting director."

These photos aren't in the online article. I snapped them for your droll drooling. Fantastic tree. (The caption says that the blue marshmallow peeps are temporary.)

NEWSFLASH!!! A friend just thoughtfully forked over a four-page article in the July/August 07 Fast Company that reports on the daring doo that animator, Travis Knight is engaged in, in Portland. Anyone interested in some behind the curtain dish about a little project called, Coraline?!!!

I haven't stopped to read it through yet, but the piece looks as though it's filled with brutal truths about how nasty even stop mo business can get.

"'I was naive,' Vinton says. 'Definitely naive.' A few years earlier, his stock had been worth more than $20 million; six months later, he was fired from the company he'd founded and given $125,000 in severance. Devastated, he sued Phil and the new board members, including Travis, saying he'd been unfairly forced out. It was all part of Phil's plan, Vinton charged, to hand over the studio to 'his child.' A judge dismissed the suit."

Laika intrigues? Maybe this explains something about Mr. Vinton's appearance the other day at the Stop Mo Expo in LA and some of his motivations to launch his own FreeWill venture? Hmm.

[Rhetorical Q] How can something as cool as stop motion works of art, with the finest practitioners of the craft working on a worthwhile story, be anything other than sheer joy all around?


  1. Anonymous5:20 PM

    [Rhetorical Q] in answer to your [Rhetorical Q]... Isn't it called the Movie Business because it's a money making venture not an artistic endeavour? ;)

  2. [Radical A] It USED to be a business when movies needed fucking studio distribution. New Media Method requires only genuine artistic expression. Studios can fuck off imo.

    I love this discussion. Booya

  3. Anonymous9:30 PM

    :) Having been at the heart of one of the major Studios I can, without hestitation, say that there are things achieved within the studio system that will never (did I say never?) be achieved by a New Media distribution focussed production. *rubs fingers together* Mmmmm, money and the people it attracts!

    New Media distribution fails with its quality of viewing platform and the user defined (read: crap) production values.

  4. This is great. I view money and the people it attracts to be hugely overrated. And you're right about the quality of content currently but the writing's on the wall for me. It's an easy skip to technology matching desire.

    It isn't that New Media competes with old, it rather renders it moot.

    You say you were in the old studio system. Why'd you leave?

  5. Anonymous11:39 PM

    It is!

    I'm not sure I agree with that, the studios use the film professionals with the best and most desired reputations and accordingly the highest pay packets. Studios will, more often than not, be packed to the rafters with the most brilliant people in their choosen fields. It's a wonderful place to work. It's not their fault that a production loses its way... The 2nd and 3rd Matrix films and the 3 new Star Wars films spring to readily to mind as some of the brightest groups of people I've worked with on ultimately terrible films.

    I agree with your views on the technological side of New Media, but I think the jury is still out on whether the media creators are going to have the skills to produce well rounded pieces, ie. effectively combining visual and emotional elements that enhance each other. It's a hard thing to get the right Actors, Directors, Producers and Production crew together in one place that can do it.

    Where I see New Media is as a place where young professional filmmakers can sharpen their skills and make a name for themselves and their production ideas. Content delivery won't always take place in the cinema, which will go the way of the drive-in, but the production side of film will always be controlled and organised by groups with vested interests.

    I worked for Fox (the Studio complex not the production house) in Sydney. Our department was outsourced.

  6. Thanks for the thoughtful take, Rich.

    I do see it differently, for whatever it's worth.

    Movies, as such, the creations you describe as;

    "effectively combining visual and emotional elements that enhance each other... Actors, Directors, Producers and Production crew in one place"

    can go on forever as they are for all I care. I'm talking not only about mere new modes of delivery, but also new forms of content.

    I see New Media as not only based on "Peer to Peer" connection, like we're doing right now, but also unrelated to the forms of entertainment we think of currently. This is how I see it.

    Bubs--no Hubs. (a new t-shirt?)

    Interesting times indeed.

  7. ...And to me, it is ENTIRELY the talented people's fault that the big studio productions go in the crapper. Why? because they knew the creative concessions they were making were garbage as they took it on. They made the high pay packet more important than their artistic integrity. For what? A lot of money? I don't get the appeal. But I'm weird like that.

    Shortly, with a bit of luck, that will no longer be a necessary compromise.

    Don't listen to my pre-menstrual rambles, I could easily be living on the streets with my attitude about money.

  8. Anonymous4:10 PM

    Ha! Off to the streets with you then! :)

    It's only partially the fault of the production crew. I've found it more to be about the hierarchy within the production that causes such problems on large films. A director and producer instruct a group of say 8 or 9 people who in turn instruct their groups of people who sometimes then instruct their groups. It's the absolute hardest thing in film to maintain the singular vision. Especially when the different departments don't talk for one reason or another.

    I've seen it go both ways. Everyone working in perfect harmony with the films idea and on other films everyone is more interested in politicking between departments and the vision gets lost.

    I think what you are talking about is something like the 2/3 Matrix films. Where it took the Wachowski boys 6-7years to come up with the idea for the first film but they made the next two in 18 months because they were offered an extraordinary amount of money. They shouldn't have done the sequels based on that motivation.

  9. So far, I have been spared.

    Yes! Fundamental motivations! Exactly! Intention, character, freedom.

    I guess if the director's (in film or theater) vision is inspired and strong enough, the rest of the team can rise to it and execute it for them.

    Doesn't everyone want to make their own vision though?

  10. Anonymous11:04 PM

    "everyone want to make their own vision though?" Not really, I've met many people who are completely satisfied with being told what to do and how to do it. They know that about themselves and thrive on the challenge of being able to work towards other peoples ideals.

    Personally, I think that's a kind of death.

  11. You mean you know talented people, who can sculpt or draw, etc. who are happy to only ever render other people's things? Wow. If a director were inspiringly talented it would be cool to contribute to a wonderful result. I can see that. But ever ever? What if they were given space and time to make something of their own? Like you're doing.

  12. Anonymous5:31 PM

    Absolutely. It's a little sad I know. But some creatives are reliant on other peoples ideas to get them working. Two of my closest mates are like that, both wonderful artists (a French story-boarder, and a Polish 3D animator) who have no compunction in admitting they have no idea of what their own art would be and no interest in trying to find out.

    Hmmm, think about that, maybe it's that storytelling is it's own art-form and completely separate from whatever other talents a person has.

  13. That is amazing! I never considered that before, Rich. Stories go hand in glove with visuals for me. I'm constantly thinking in terms of narratives.

    Philosophical deas, observations about life, concepts/metaphors jump into various expressions of words and pictures all on their own, naturally, always have.

    I'd make Halfland out of mud if I had nothing else. I might craft something for someone else's aims for pay, but I've always had my own art that intensely pressures to come out after hours.


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