Two Friends animated short, Unreal Engine for free, 2015 Grand National animation, Freeze! stop-frame 3D installation, Aardman Animation Shaun The Sheep film

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Two Friends struggle to survive in a darkly dystopian world without women

Two Friends animation by Paw Charlie RavnTwo Friends is an award winning animated short about Albert and Jonas, a pair of orphans struggling to survive in a world devoid of women and children. Set in a dystopian wasteland Danish director Paw Charlie Ravn has created a beautifully bleak post-apocalyptic landscape that juxtaposes the tender tale of two friends struggling to survive against a race of men who have been transformed into monsters driven solely, it seems, by their brutal sexual urges.

The opening narrative explains that a decade before the events portrayed a mysterious disease killed off all the women and children and transformed the men into zombie-like beasts. When Albert finds a discarded doll he asks Jonas: "Is it true that one day a girl will come to save the world?" a hint at how the plot is to develop.

Ravn's piece (co-written with Anna Bro) is both compelling and ambiguous and appears to be deliberately open to the interpretation of the viewer. The hand drawn characters exist in the epic classical architecture of an abandoned city. The fact that the buildings have not fallen into decay enforces the sense that the mysterious disease and the death of all the women and children was in the not too distant past.

This is a beautifully produced, if disturbing, animation. A quick look at the message boards and it seems that most people agree with us that this eight-minute short needs to be turned into a full length film.

Unreal Engine showcases real-time rendering capabilities with animated short

At the beginning of March Epic Games announced that its groundbreaking suite of game development tools, the Unreal Engine, is now available to anyone for free. For the uninitiated the Unreal Engine is a tool used by many game developers to produce everything from simple apps to high end virtual reality. The system saves programmers the expense and time of having to create aspects such as lighting, shading, shadows, textures, motion blur and movement.

The Unreal Engine 4 has now been released along with an animated short film entitled A Boy And His Kite, which showcases just what the suite of tools is capable of. What makes the animation outstanding is that each frame was rendered in real time on a single computer, something unimaginable just a few years ago. The film follows a boy chasing his kite through a windswept valley. Although obviously a marketing tool to illustrate what Unreal is capable of, like cinematic depth of field and fully dynamic direct and indirect illumination, A Boy And His Kite also stands up as a neat parable concluding with the strapline "If you love something, set it free".

Channel 4 promotes the 2015 Grand National with Disneyesque spot

Channel 4 is celebrating the lead up to this year's Grand National with an epic animation that could have been created by Disney. The minute-long spot takes its cue from Hans Christian Andersen's children's classic The Ugly Duckling and tells the tale of a unicorn foal who, because his wings are underdeveloped, has to learn to run fast to keep up with the winged herd. Shunned by the other brightly coloured unicorns our hero finally overtakes his haughty companions and leaps from his mythical world through the clouds to land on the Aintree Racecourse as a participant in the world’s most famous steeplechase.

Jack Croft and Stacey Bird of 4Creative came up with the idea. Croft explained to Creative Review that: "Because the last two spots [for the 2013 and 2014 Grand Nationals] were really amazing, there's a real need to do something different, but stay at the same standard. You feel like you're putting it all on the line a little bit." Entitled The Outsider the spot will run up until the event which starts on 9 April 2015.

Stop motion process illustrated through 3D printed installation

Freeze! stop-frame animation installationA Utrecht-based animation studio has come up with a novel way of illustrating the stop-frame film-making process. In Freeze! one hundred frames of animation have literally been frozen in time in a complex 3D installation. This allows viewers to see how objects like the ball is made to bounce, and how the cup breaks, in precisely the way the individual frames would have looked on the computer screen as the team composited them.

The one minute short features an odd looking, vaguely humanoid character, who begins as a 2D drawing and emerges from the paper to wreak havoc in a 3D world. Our hero runs across a table top knocking objects over before swinging on a light bulb, bouncing off a picture on the wall, and ending up imprisoned in a jar on a shelf.

Job, Joris & Marieke, the creators of Freeze! explain: "The whole animation is made in CGI, and we used a 3D printer to print each frame. The result is a weird string of characters in different poses. This explains the principles of animation beautifully, without a single bit actually moving. It is a static installation: a frozen moment. If you look closely, you can figure out what happened on that table."

The installation is currently being shown at the Move On...! animation exhibition in Amsterdam.

Shaun The Sheep given greater freedom under StudioCanal

Behind the scenes Aardman Animation Shaun The Sheep filmAardman Animation, the Bristol-based creators of Wallace and Gromit, are about to unleash Shaun the Sheep on the big screen. This is the sixth feature length animation to be released by the studio, but the first to be backed by StudioCanal, the French production and distribution powerhouse. Previously the Aardman features had been produced under DreamWorks Animation and Sony Pictures Animation.

Some have criticised the involvement of the big American studios for diluting what is essentially a very quirky British institution in an effort to penetrate the US market. Creator of the Shaun the Sheep Movie Richard Starzak said in an interview that: "Having a bit more freedom, to not worry about Middle America, was quite liberating, I think."

The plot of the Shaun the Sheep Movie follows the eponymous hero and his flock of friends as they leave Mossy Bottom Farm for the Big City in order to find their visually impaired, amnesia suffering farmer. Without giving too much away it is safe to say that the characters get up to all sorts of ludicrous Buster Keatonesque shenanigans that will delight both children and adults in equal measures.

Co-directing with Starzak is Mark Burton, who cut his teeth on comedy shows like Spitting Image. The partnership and the involvement of StudioCanal means the naughtiness of the latest offering from Aardman has been ratcheted up a notch - and that's a good thing.

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