Pixel 6 – Interview: Andreas deja All visit 09.10.2011

Andreas Deja was born in Germany 1957. He moved to the US in 1980 to join Disney. He worked on numerous films and is most noted for creating villains such as Gaston from ‘Beauty and the Beast’, Jafar from ‘Aladdin’ and Scar from ‘The Lion King’. In 2007 he was honored with the Winsor McKay Award.

Back in Germany, what was the very first connection with animation?
There were two moments. One when I was very little. We had a black and white TV in our living room at home and they showed some Walt Disney show. Like The Wonderful World Of Disney dubbed in German. They showed some short clips of Micky Mouse. I was as young as four and my head was completely… I just couldn’t turn my head away. There was something about Micky Mouse and those moving round shapes and forms that just completely captivated me. So that was early on.
And then subsequently I bought Mickey Mouse comic strips and things like that. But I didn’t see my first Disney feature film until I was about eleven. It was Jungle Book and that blew my head away. I thought this is it. So that really got me started.

When came the decision to move to the states?
I decided right there. To work for Disney was the only reason for me to move. What you do is you try. Everybody else tells you you are crazy. Its not gonna happen. Yeah you will go to America and work for Walt Disney, sure you will. You hear that kind of thing throughout the years. But there was something inside of me that said you have to try it anyway even though it seems like an absolutely crazy idea but try it anyway. So I tried and I made contact with the studio. At about 13 or something like that. I asked them questions. I got a response. They told me: ‘go to art school learn the real thing, learn about anatomy and motion and animals and life drawing. That’s the basis of what we do’. It surprised me at first because I thought if you can draw a cartoon character that’s enough. But that’s the last thing they wanted. Actually they specifically said in their letter to me: ‘don’t send any pictures of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck. We can teach you that here. Just become an artist first. Look at the world and learn how to draw. Then show us those kind of things’.

What is the most important character skill of an animator?
That would have to be the acting. Its a combination of drawing and acting. You don’t act things out with your own body like a live actor. But if I had to pick one it would definitely be the acting. If you are a good actor and you can slip into a character and express yourself that way you are already more than half way there. Even if you don’t draw that well. If you have a feeling for entertainment and character that’s it. Some people take acting classes. I never have. But you observe people all the time and you file that away back in your head. Like a little old lady crossing the street or an old man in a cafe sipping his coffee. You just look at these things and you file them away. Sometimes you just might be able to use that you know.

Which quality do you think is the most important quality for a collaborative process? What makes a good result when working in a team?
Oh, that’s a very good question actually. I think the simple short answer would be you have to be able to compromise sometimes. As an artist that’s sometimes not an easy thing. You are so used to maybe as a student doing your vision doing things your way. If you work in a team that doesn’t always work. You have to be able to work with other peoples ideas. I was getting at that a little bit at my talk yesterday. For the character of Mama Odie I had this idea what she should look like. At first I almost fell in love with that and then I had to change and not do that but work with different concepts. That’s just part of teamwork that you have to learn to compromise.

You worked decades in a profession where you sit a lot. What is your practical health advice?
You have to exercise. I am at the gym every day. For a minimum of half an hour if not an hour. You have to. Its just like you say. You don’t exercise you sit and you become sick because you don’t exercise. Especially in Los Angeles we don’t even walk. I mean we drive everywhere. There’s no walking like in the European cities. Its terrible. Luckily there are fitness centers everywhere. So you just have to do it.

For a long time animation was either the great Disney standard you talked about yesterday or a reaction to that. Do you think that’s still the case or can you spot a shift or new tendencies?
When I look at storytelling I can see a lot what Disney tried to do. Basically films you can watch with the whole family. That’ss what studios like Pixar, Dreamworks, Blue Sky are doing.
When it comes to character acting and really eternalizing a character as an animator I think the old guys are still king. They haven’t been surpassed. That was their life. Day and night living these characters and believing that they are real. Overall there is still a standard of developing characters that is theirs. We still have a little bit of catching up to do.

You told us about the compromise in a working process. In which way do you think the business side of the game is limiting the creativity? Do you think films would be better if only artists would be responsible?
Probably not. They wouldn’t get done. If you don’t have deadlines you take forever for a scene. You just give yourself all the time in the world. We did this at ‘The Black Cauldron’ for example. Way back. Which is not a great film to say the least. We had no deadlines. The film was gonna be done when its done. It was gonna come out when it comes out. That’s not necessarily a good thing. If you have a deadline. Hopefully a decent one not driving you crazy. Its actually a good thing. You can aim for that. Plan your scene. You can say: ‘Today on Monday I’m just gonna thumbnail and think about the scene. Tomorrow on Tuesday I’m just gonna do a rough pass. And then Wednesday to Friday I’m gonna finalize it’. It gives you a structure. So I think that’s a good thing.
But if it gets too extreme and you have to work too fast it can choke you. Then you compromise. You lose quality. It can get that way.
At Disney we’ve been pushed to the limit quite a few times. But overall I really have to say that the quality of my work, good or bad, was really my fault. On anything I worked I really couldn’t say: ‘Oh, had they only given me a few more months for the animation, I would have done such a better job’. I really cant say that. They did push us. Some movies more than others. But in the end I would say that I am responsible for what the stuff looks like.

You showed us great examples of what can be done by a studio like Disney. This great standard. For teams and people who are far more limited in resources and time, what do you think is important to focus on when doing a production? Whats are the essentials for a good animation?
Have something to say. Have a good story and rich characters. The rest, the technique is almost secondary. Whether it is computer animation, flash animation or hand drawn, you know, if you don’t have a good story and good characters you don’t really have anything. And that doesn’t really cost that much. Its just being smart about it, being creative about it and really coming up with a statement, with a really good story that is meaningful. You can do it in any kind of medium with any budget.

You admire the old masters. Whats your biggest non Disney influence?
I like a lot of the old ‘Golden Age’ characters. Its funny they came up with this Golden Age thing from 1938 to 1942 for some reason. But its really true. During that time every studio was doing great work. The old Tom and Jerry’s are fantastic. You might not be a fan because its always the same thing cat and mouse but the animation is gorgeous and alive. Popeye in those years. All the characters that were done in these days by any studio are really great.
In terms of going away from Hollywood I like very much what Richard Williams did in the late 60ties throughout the 70ties with his studio in London. The commercials he did and the different techniques he developed is just absolutely breathtaking to me. He doesn’t think so because he did those commercials to finance his big feature. He always thought that that’s something they had to do. But they were all quality jobs. You look at the reels and stuff he did its breathtaking. So innovative and gutsy and wonderful. So that’s an influence. I really like what he did in those years.
And then another non Hollywood film would be by Frédéric Back ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’. Its a very different way of storytelling. Its slow, profound, not funny. Tells a true story. Done with color pencil, dissolves sometimes. Sometimes its not even fully animated. I’m just into all of that film.

Any very current favorites?
I like The Illusionists quite a bit. I really enjoyed that film because it is so different. Somebody pointed out to me: ‘Have you noticed that The Illusionists has no close-ups?’. I haven’t even thought about it but that’s right. It gives it a little bit of a distance you never really are in on the characters but you still always know what they are thinking. You just look at it from a distance. You always see the whole layout, the whole scenery with the characters in them. Its just different but to me it completely worked. To do a whole film without dialogue and still communicate a story is just amazing to me. So that would be the one that I could pinpoint that I really liked.

Any tips for the young animator?
Just what Eric Larson was saying: Observation. Give yourself time to observe. There are so many distractions. If you are constantly on your i-phone its not gonna help you with this. Unless you are researching on YouTube. :D Social networking is good for some things but not for this. You gotta go out there. Nature is still the biggest provider of artistic tools. Looking at real things and basing your work on those will make your work so much richer. You have to observe

Can you tell us anything about your current or next projects?
I posted a style study drawing some weeks ago on my blog. The main characters are gonna be a Siberian tiger and a Russian girl. It has a bit of a message because there are hardly any tigers left in the world. But the essence of the story is not losing tigers but having to let somebody go who you really love because you know that it is best for the person, and in this case creature go. Its the underlying theme of it.
If you have a good theme its actually easier to build a story around. You can hang things on it. Like in ‘Beauty And The Beast’ the theme was: Don’t judge the book by its cover (there could be something else in there). If you have a simple statement like that you can hang all kinds of things on it. Its a solid healthy statement so I was glad that I found that for my film.
The other short film will be a satire. The first film is gonna be about 20 minutes and the other one about 8. So that’s gonna keep me of the streets for a little while.

Thank you for the Interview!
You are welcome! Thank you.

Don’t miss to visit Andreas Deja’s Blog DEJA VIEW!

Pixel 6 – Survey Day 2 All visit 09.10.2011

I was strolling around at this years Pixel 6 conference on computer graphics interviewing some passersby. enjoy :D !

Background: I’m working at Clockstone doing 3D assets and interface design for games.
At Pixel: Guest.
Why are you here: I’ve been here already two years and I liked it a lot. :D
Strongest impression: The Talk of Disney’s Andreas Deja is a remaining impression.
I got very good impulses to enhance the expression of my own figures. Definitely a great inspiration!
Networking: I met a lot of people from companies I already know. They then know other people and everybody gets to know each other. Its always funny to see how small the world is. :D
For Future Pixels: It was great this year! I’d be glad to see a continuation of good people from the industry coming in and being able to show some really interesting stuff.

Background: Education. I’m coming from FH Hagenberg.
At Pixel: I presented the ARS [electonica] film selection on Friday. Today I did a School presentation of Hagenberg together with my colleague Michael Lankes.
Strongest impression: :D I ran head-on into the wardrobe of the academy of sciences. Apparently I’ve not been the only one. That was an acoustic highlight and its still bleeding.
Networking: I already know a lot of people. I don’t live in Vienna. The Pixel is a great opportunity to meet everyone again. That’s always nice. I also made some new contacts.
For Future Pixels: Promoting the education talks a bit better. They were a bit sparsely attended. Maybe instead of a speech it could rather be a discussion.

Background: 2D Animation since 1976.
At Pixel: Guest.
Why are you here: Chris Asked me to come over. I know Andreas [Deja] from working on Roger Rabbit. So it was kind of fun to come.
Strongest impression: I was talking to Christian [De Vita] just before his talk. Storyboard is very important. A lot of directors do the Storyboards themselves cause that’s directing the film. So that was really interesting. And of course Andreas [Deja]. I agree with whatever he said. :D
Networking: I already knew a lot of people also some of my students are here. It was like meeting everyone and having fun together.
For Future Pixels: Yeah more 2D! :D No its great! Its an accurate representation of whats there.

Background: I’m doing my master in media technology at FH St. Pölten specializing on simulation.
At Pixel: I’m Guest.
Why are you here: A friend told me about Pixel. The student ticket was very affordable.
Strongest impression: Coen Klosters presentation of Houdini’s because its dealing with simulation. And of course Eric Mootz was one of my main Interests and a counterpart to Houdini.
Networking: I had the chance to get in contact and talk with Coen Klosters.
For Future Pixels: Basically very cool. Maybe one more day of talks.

Pixel 6 – Interview: Christian De Vita All visit 09.10.2011

Christian De Vita was born in Rome in 1973. He worked on various animation projects like ‘Space Jam’ and Tv series for BBC, CITV and Cartoon Network. He worked as Lead Story artist on Wes Andersons ‘Fantastic MR. Fox and as story artist on Tim Burtons ‘Frankenweenie’.

What sparked your initial interest for comics early on?
I don’t know. I always liked to draw. One of my first memories is drawing. I was the sort of kid you get easily quiet by giving it a paper and a pen. There’s no clear memory where I thought this is what I want to do. I just remember always doing it.

During the talk you mentioned your favorite Italian comic artist who lead you towards studying film. Whats his name?
Aah. There is different ones. I used to like Claudio Villa who did covers for Tex Willer which is an Italian Western Comic. In Italy Western and Cowboys were quite popular in the 50ies and 60ties.
When I grew up and got into my teenage years the same publishing house started making horror comics and it was around that time that I really got into horror films. I was quite happy that my education in Horror comic books and films came full circle when I was just working for Tim [Burton]. I could draw out of a good pool of reference and research! I like to call it research now but at the time my teachers used to call it wasting time. :D

You mentioned that during the Mr. Fox production in Paris you didn’t see your wife and son. I am interested in how do you organize a private life in such a global industry? How do you even get to have a wife and son?
:D well luckily… I don’t know. I kidnapped a woman and forced her to have my children! :D actually my wife worked in an animation studio. She works in musical theater as a singer and dancer and was temping there. That’s how we met.
It is quite complicated at times having a social life while working on films because of the time issue in terms of the hours you keep and having to travel a lot. So if I can I like to travel with my family. But sometimes I cant so I have to give myself more to the job. But with Fantastic Mr. Fox we were going backwards and forwards every week. I could go home at the weekend and then go back to Paris. You know, I like to say that I was away for a year but its for comic effect more than anything.

You worked with directors like Wes Anderson and Tim Burton who have such a specific view of the film. How do you deal with that? Do you see yourself as a translator? Is there a point where you need to do a own project?
It does really depend on the director. When you work with directors like Wes and Tim that have an extremely clear view and also visual style I treat the job and consider myself purely a conduit for their work. I have to aid the director in what he wants. If the directors have a point where they are open to suggestions then obviously am able to make suggestions, pitch ideas, try different things you know maybe storyboard a scene in a way the director has not thought and then pitch it to him.
But they had such a clear view of what they wanted that sometimes I’m just more like a tool for them to translate what they want on the screen. If I work with directors that allow me the freedom to come up with concepts and ideas, which I have done in the past, then I do that. And You work with the story team as well. I mean its not a very intuitive thing. When you take your scene away do it and then pitch it. You talk with the other artists because you are all working on the same film. So everyone has to be in line drawing, visualizing the story and using the same editing style and the same camera angles and the same lensing choices as everybody else. So its a very communal sort of situation. If I am story boarding by myself on a commercial or I am directing something then it becomes more like I’m in charge I want this to happen.

So just to be clear, are you doing any kind of really private own projects? Is there some totally own agenda on the side as a balance?
Well I have my own company and we do commercials and music videos. We’ve been writing our own concepts for television. We pitched our shows to Disney and Cartoon network and we’ve recently been to Cartoon Forum to pitch one of our shows and we have much bit of interest on it. The company is called One Hand Clapping. We started writing together because we wanted to start making our own ideas our own concepts. That’s kind of a direction that I go to. It has been great working for other directors but that’s now taking me to the point where I want, we want to do, work on and direct our own projects. So hopefully I get a chance in the next year to do that.

You worked on animation films which are a lot like real life films. From a story artists point of view where is the difference between working on a project focusing on a real life approach towards working on a more animation aware project?
Obviously each project is different you tackle it in different ways. I really like projects which are pure animation. Where the fun comes from the animation itself. But personally because I am more interested in story and character I don’t really see a big difference between working on an animated film or a live action film or a live action TV series or an animated one. For me the most important thing is story and character. If those are believable the medium you use, weather its animation, stop motion or live action, to me is unimportant. Every different genre has their own sort of aspect I enjoy working in. because I am more involved in the actual story, storytelling and characters the medium we use sort of comes as secondary to the story itself.
I’m really big into comedy as well so if it could be like a humorous funny project then obviously a director like Wes has his own humor different to Tim’s. Those are aspects that interest me more than the actual genre I am working in.

How big is the influence of financiers? How do you deal with it?
That’s a tough question. I like to think that I never have to deal with that side of the business. But the more and more I get into the running of a company and developing my own projects the more we have to become educated with the business side of animation. I would love just to be able to sit in my studio and draw a day and be able to draw a TV series. But unfortunately the more I enter the directing side, the producers side of making projects, the more I have to deal with the business side. That can sometimes affect the storytelling as well. As I mentioned in my presentation I don’t just pitch to the director. I pitch to the producers as well because obviously the budget has a constraint on what you can achieve.
I tend to not restrain myself when I storyboard. If the director tells me to storyboard something that I know deep down is impossible because there’s no budget I still storyboard that. Its not down to me to tell the director that we cant do that. Its down to the producer. Then they can have a little chat and we can come up with an idea that has the same emotion of the scene that I story boarded but on a much lesser sort of financial scale.

Can you provide any practical health tips for people who would find themselves in situations where they would sit a year on a 16th century french chair?
:D Go to regular physio sessions and try to get your back straight. Or… plenty of french wine! :D

Whats your next projects after Frankenweenie?
I’m working in Paris again on a cartoon network TV series as head of story for a company called TeamTo

Do you have the same hotel room again?
:D no, luckily this time I have an apartment.

What is your favorite comic? You can choose between the categories ‘all time’ and ‘recent discovery’.
I cant choose that! Its too difficult. Its like saying whats your favorite song or whats your favorite film.

You could also name three which pop up in your head.
For different reasons: Dylan Dog. When I started to move away from my childhood comics reading more grown up things Dylan Dog was one of the first comics that I read which were really character driven. I would pick that because It was such a big part of my teenage years. Spiderman. Because its the main super hero comic that I have read from when I was really young.
And anything by Alan Moore or Grant Morrison purely for the writing. They are two guys which I really admire when it comes to the fantasy in the worlds that they write about. They are so believable even though they could be Si-fi, complete works of fiction.

Any recent discoveries?
I’m trying to read french comics to learn french. I haven’t discovered one that I am truly in love with. Purely because I am forcing myself to read them in french. I am struggling to read the stories.

Any advice for the young story artist?
Don’t do it. :D no, just keep doing it. Just keep drawing and sketching stories. Look at films, look at TV series,s look at commercials, look at anything that gives you inspiration. Anything that you can draw upon in terms of storytelling and visualizing a story. Different art forms. Anything that’s inspiring really. Just keep looking, story boarding and re-story boarding.
Story boarding for me is like writing in pictures. You draw from many influences. I loved horror and horror comic books when I was a kid and now that helps me in working in films that have the aspects of it. Just keep at it. If you are good enough you will eventually be lucky enough to get the job you want. Motivation and drive.

Thank you for the interview!
Thank you. You are welcome.

Visit Christian De Vita’s blog STORYBORDISTA!
As Well as the One Hand Clapping website.

Pixel 6 – Pixel Battle All visit 08.10.2011

Last year I’ve been the first time at the Pixel battle. I really like the event. Two people given a common theme are synchronously working live. The whole idea is to make a work situation and individual approaches visible. So there is no winner at the end. The disciplines this year were concept art, sculpting and Animation. I thought it would be cool to document this event and gave it a shot.

Battle #1 ‘Nosferatu’ CONCEPT ART

Phillipp Comarella (pc)

PC is working in Photoshop. A quick start originates a head and a body shape. After adding a Hand PC begins right away with the background. The whole thing seems to be moving towards a high contrast comic look with strong blacks.

PC shades the face with thin strokes producing beautiful textures. The background on the right is completed. Some bats are added. Another silhouette emerges in the back opening room to the drawing. the second hand is defined.

The second eye is molded out of the shadow. The characters right leg is corrected fixing the center of gravity. As final touch PC is adding some typography which evokes poster associations.
The black and white high contrast style corresponds pretty well with the overall topic film.

Tim Maresch (TM)

TM is working in Photoshop. A ruff doodle describes the base forms with a bunch of quick lines.
The opacity of the doodle layer is set down. A more defined outline layer is drawn above.
Again the opacity of the previous layers is put down.

Now TM is adding a ruff shading layer by starting with a middle Grey tone and gradually working out lights and shadows. Above that hes adding yet another even more defined outline layer. TM is presenting a very nice working method. By adding pass after pass hes bringing more and more information into the picture.

He’s testing a background layer starting with a dark Grey around the character brightening towards the edges. But he’s dismissing it. A clean up around silhouette and further definition of shades and edges is the final move. The output is a very nice sort of wacky cartoony styled outlined Nosferatu character.

Battle #2 ‘Robocop’ Sculpting – Pro consultant: Raimund Schumacher

Mason Doran (MD)

MD is starting by downloading a mesh from the web and retouching it in Maya. He’s starting Mudbox and imports the mesh as well as a reference picture. From what is seen on the reference picture one might come to the conclusion that the task MD chose for himself might be pretty difficult for 30 minutes.

He starts to model the face. A mask is used to extrude it. After that he starts altering bigger volumes all around the body. Details are sculpted in one after the other jumping back and forth between different regions using the brush tools and masks.

Some shapes emerge just to be smoothed out right away. At the End MD is testing various materials till he settles with the one closest to the reference picture.

Hector Moran (HM)

HM is opening Z-Brush and starting to work on the male standard mesh with the clay brush. By jumping between low res high res hes able to quickly define an overall body shape and some more detailed topography.

He’s tarting to draw a mask which is supporting the details. Varying shapes are defined. He’s really taking his time with the mask. He is applying details globally by extruding the mask. The clearly structured workflow shows a lot of routine.

Finally MD is sharpening the edges and improving the details of single shapes. He adds a metal material and is done.

Battle #3 ‘Western Duel’ Animation – Pro consultant: Thanos Kousis

Timo Berg (TB)

TB is working in Maya using the Bishop Rig of Animation Mentor. He uses Fk on the arms and Ik on the body.

TB is working very straight forward concentrating on the overall action and body mechanics gradually building up drastic change. First one grasps a step sidewards being animated. One of the following poses then gives away an impact on the body as being hit by a bullet.

At this moment it becomes clear that the two contestants previously split roles. TB is doing the being killed part of the Duel. Very nice collaborative moment. TB continues his Animation till a nice step to the side, sudden impact and forceful toss are displayed in a Playblast.

Alexiss Memmott (AM)

AM is working in Maya using the Bishop Rig of Animation Mentor. She uses Ik on the arms Fk on the body.

AM’s approach seems to be a stylistic one. She subtly adds character building secondary animation and perfects each single pose before moving to the next one. One sees a lot of animation done for the facial expressions. Then one pose shows a finger which is aiming as if it were a gun.

At this moment it becomes clear that the two contestants previously split roles. AM does the killer part of the Duel. Very nice collaborative moment. AM seems to have problems with the Shortcuts and unfortunately does not finish her animation.

Battle #4 ‘Ninja Turtles’ Concept Art

Heri Irawan (HI)

HI is painting in Photoshop. He starts drawing with a tilted brush. 50% opacity or below. With quite thick strokes he builds up a ruff base shape. He is decreasing the opacity of the base shape. On a new layer he substantializes form, anatomy and clothing with the very same brush.

He merges layers and introduces a slight correction of the left arm using the select tools. The silhouette is cleaned up with black and white. Using the brush he is further modeling shapes and smoothing out certain areas. HI works split screen. While one window is zoomed in the other one always shows an overall image.

He adds details and patterns. Color is brought in by overlay layers. HI repeatedly creates new layers and always merges the result as soon as it is appealing to him. From the stick and the purple mask the Ninja Turtles connoisseur recognizes Donatello. He finishes off by adding a yellowish shine from above, a blueish from below and some details and texture.

Emre Duran (ED)

The right beamer frame changes into a live camera output. ED chose to work analog and starts to sketch with a mechanical pencil on paper. The outlines are then worked over with a graphite pen.

Some ruff graphite shading is added. ED is bringing in transparent paper and starts to trace the outlines with the mechanical pencil. Its a good reminder that you can use layers too when working analog. The motive shows a turtle bursting out of an egg which is scaring a crab.

From the sword the Ninja Turtles connoisseur recognizes Leonardo. ED adds details and applies graphite shading by drawing and smearing. As a final touch he sets highlights to his picture by erasing.

Pixel 6 – Survey Day 1 All visit 08.10.2011

I was strolling around at this years Pixel 6 conference on computer graphics interviewing some passersby. enjoy :D !

Background: I work at Framestore in London.
At Pixel: I am lecturer. Tomorrow I’m doing a talk on Framestores commercial production.
Strongest impression: Andreas Deja was impressing. His background and his talk were really exciting. For me interesting in particular was also the Bakery talk. Generally I like the rich and diverse offer of technical and creative talks.
Networking: I haven’t talked with a lot of people yet but I am looking forward to the Pixel party for that matter.
For Future Pixels: It’s too early for that. Ask me tomorrow.

Background: I’ve been schooled at HTL and SAE. Currently I am studying medicine.
At Pixel: I am a Guest.
Why are you here: I was attending some years ago. I really liked it then, so I thought I pop in again.
Strongest impression: During Andreas Deja’s talk the penny has dropped for me. Its just like building machines in the HTL. If you see it moving in your head you can start finishing it.
Networking: Not yet.
For Future Pixels: I like it just how it is.

Background: I started working in animation three years ago. Mainly TV-shows and commercials. And I am taking part in the Animation Mentor course.
At Pixel: I come here to enjoy the festival.
Why are you here: I live in Paris and its not very far. It was a good occasion to visit Vienna and meet some friends who were coming too.
Strongest impression: Andreas Deja gave some great advise during his speech. I think it will help to improve my animation skills. It was really nice to watch. I felt like a kid.
Networking: I met some people who are also on Animation Mentor. I met them just online before. Pixel was a great occasion to meet up in real life.
For Future Pixels: Maybe it could get longer than two days.

Background: I am a media IT student.
At Pixel: I am responsible for the websites and help with the ticketing.
Why are you here: I like the idea because you don’t necessarily associate Austria with computer graphics right away. I am interested in the matter myself so I was motivated to support the initiative.
Strongest impression: Pretty full. We are all on the limit of our capacities. :D
Networking: Mainly I have an intense connection with the whole team. You are often seen as the scapegoat if you work at the check-in having to deliver bad news sometimes.
For Future Pixels: The check-in should be faster. We will organize this better in the next year.

Neuer Österreichischer Trickfilm All visit 17.08.2011

new enthusiasm is rocking the Austrian animation scene

Accompanied by Wagi, I visited the guys of ‘Neuer Österreichischer Trickfilm’ in their studio at the Gasometer in Vienna. Benjamin Swiczinsky, Johannes Schiesl and Conrad Tambour studied at Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg. Their graduation in 2011 was followed by a public presentation of their works and agenda.

MRT: This summer you went public in a very professional way, generating some media attention. (Kickoff event in Filmcasino, interview at radio Ö1, speeches, articles online and print). How did you proceed? Were there difficulties or support?
NeueÖsterreichischeTrickfilmer(NÖT): The organization was done by ourselves. The preparation took about a year. Starting point were our combined contacts. The whole thing then spread through contacts of our actors, friends, friends of friends and so on. Benjamin’s short journalism studies helped by approaching the press. The financing was part own money part sponsors. Some support was surprising while other expected support did not happen at all. In general though we got good responses. Probably because we focused on our vision of ‘Neuer Österreichischer Trickfilm’ (new Austrian Animated Cartoon).

MRT: Is the New Austrian Animated Cartoon a Cartoon done by Austrians or a Cartoon telling Austrian Stories?
NÖT: Ideally both. Our main focus however is the content. Stories can be told best when the narrator is familiar with the material. We are seeing the big storytelling potential of our environment which, for the main part of our lives, is and was Austria. We would like Vienna to be integrated in the European animation network. There is improvement necessary in terms of funding and education facilities. It’s important to establish a scene. There is a lot of talent in Austria but mainly everyone is working on his own without too much connection. A functioning Network is crucial for a vital Animation industry.

MRT: Just to clear things up: Is ‘Neuer Österreichischer Trickfilm’ in any way nationalistically motivated, trying to exclude non Austrian content?
NÖT: Not at all. It’s quite the opposite! We don’t want to reinforce any nationalisms or touristic Austria images. NÖT is about a new approach towards animated Cartoon. Our audience is European and Global. We don’t want to produce sterile globalized content which tries to appeal to everyone but ends up not being appreciated at all. The focus on Austrian stories is a way to guarantee AUTENTICITY on a global market. For us a positive example is the Danish film ‘Terkel in Trouble’.

MRT: Is there an international Audience interested in Austrian (animated) stories?
NÖT:Some stories that could happen anywhere are set in Austria. Other Stories deal with very specific Topics. The historic film ‘Heldenkanzler’ is an example. Its important to narrate those stories in a way which allows an international audience to understand and relate to them without having any previous knowledge about the topic.

WAGI: Was it a coincidence that all of your graduationfilms have ‘Austrian’ stories?
NÖT: Yes, we independently chose stories rooted in Austria for our films. Later during the production process a common agenda emerged. We were even referred to as „the Austrians“ while studying in Germany. We want to ad that this was a very positive label. Austria is generally perceived very positively in Germany. So are Austrian topics. Interestingly the other way around some sort of little brother complex seems to be going on.

MRT: Does ‘Neuer Österreichischer Trickfilm’ include a stylistic definition?
NÖT: No. The technique should not be in the foreground. We are not going to produce all our films tinted blue or prefer either 2D or 3D. The technique has to match the story told!

MRT: What’s your desired Format?
NÖT: Our long term goal is an Austrian feature length Film. The development takes long. The costs are high. But trough movies and DVD sales it makes economically more sense. Shorts are good to test new things and can be published to stay on the scene. But there’s generally little to no money in shorts. Series are another format interesting for us.

MRT: How is your economical orientation?
NÖT: Of course we do commercial work to survive. Mainly for the ad industry or music videos. But our clear focus is on developing original content. It is important that there is enough time for that.

MRT: You are just opening your headquarters in Vienna. How do you evaluate the production environment in terms of facilities, institutions or scene?
NÖT: There’s little infrastructure. Mostly Vfx service providers for the Ad industry. Very little in terms of character animation. At the moment our contacts to Germany come in very handy. We use facilities there and work together with a partner studio. In the long run we are looking for collaborations with facilities on the spot. But that doesn’t mean that we are aiming to cut our international connections in order to produce in an Austrian cocoon. In European animation production involvement of 3 different Countries is very usual. There are no city sized facilities as in the US. International collaboration is a benefit.

MRT: What’s your current organizational structure?
NÖT: At the moment we are a group of three people with a common agenda. We have not founded a company yet. We have some Projects in development and there’s talks going on with Production companies and Ad-agencies. Soon we will know which projects will start in autumn. It’s a thrilling time. We think its best to make any structure dependent of what project we will do. Most likely it will be a Gmbh.

WAGI: Will you work as three directors on all of your projects?
NÖT: At the moment everyone is developing his own project and one series project is developed by all of us. We are not planning to direct whatever project will be realized as team of three. That would be too confusing for everyone. Two directors are found often in animation though. Especially when production takes place simultaneously on two different locations or if one does specifically animation direction. We worked in Studios and witnessed how other people work together with flexible positions in one studio. The positions are assigned by ones specialty. Or the person who did the script is directing.

MRT: Obligatory question: what are your favorite Animation Films or Artists?
NÖT: We might answer that question individually.
CONRAD: M favorite Animation Feature is ‘Ratatouille’. I also like to watch ‘Land before Time’. Favorite shorts are ‘Bunny’ and ‘Hessi James’. Generally i watch more live action than animation.
JOHANNES: I like Brad Bird’s work e.g. ‘The Incredibles’. One of the Features which excited me most was ‘Mary and Max’ by Adam Elliot. One of my favorite Shorts is the Australian film ‘Flatworld’.
BENJAMIN: I am very interested in the new wave of animation films targeting a grown up audience. With films like ‘Mary and Max’, ‘Persepolis’ by Marjane Satrapi. Previous Animation films were mostly a copy or reaction (‘Fritz the Cat’) to Disney.
JOHANNES: ‘Waltz with Bashir’ or ‘Les Triplettes de Belleville’ are additional examples. It’s very positive that those films reach a broad public and get wide acceptance.

We continue discussing some negative examples and analyze two major problems.In feature film animations investors are often not willing to take a risk. They want a secure investment and attempt to influence productions in order to get a result ‘that works’. An example for such an ultimately ruined film is ‘Konferenz der Tiere’.In Austria television stopped being original somewhere between the 70ies and 80ies. Current productions are either reality social porn or copies of American content.

Those facts given, it is refreshing to see young people with idealism, taking the quest of producing own content as well as themselves seriously. Go ‘Neuer Österreichischer Trickfilm’!
Visit their WEBSITE or watch their FILMS!