If you haven’t heard already, Dennis Tupicoff has written a book about his films and his approach to animated documentaries. The book accompanies 9 of his films, curated and freely available on a Youtube channel.
A little about the book: “Dennis Tupicoff, world-renowned animator, writer, and producer, is an expert on the narrative application of death in animation. Take a journey with Tupicoff as he goes in-depth into the many themes, associations, and practices found in film and especially animation. Life in Death: My Animated Films 1976–2020 explores death as it relates to experience, storytelling, theory, and narrative. The examples in the very readable text are organized into three broad categories: cartoon, documentary, and hybrids of various types.”
Hot off the Press! Cristina Formenti’s new book is the first book to provide an historical insight into the animated documentary.
The publishing wesbite goes on to say: ” Drawing on archival research and textual analysis, it shows how this form, usually believed to be strictly contemporaneous, instead took shape in the 1940s. Cristina Formenti integrates a theoretical and a historical approach in order to shed new light on the animated documentary as a form as well as on the work of renowned studios such as The Walt Disney Studios, Halas & Batchelor, National Film Board of Canada and never before addressed ones, such as Corona Cinematografica. She also highlights the differences and the similarities existing among the animated documentaries created between the 1940s and the mid-1980s and those produced today so as to demonstrate how the latter do not represent a complete otherness in respect to the former, but rather an evolution.”
and the ebook version of The Classical Animated Documentary and Its Contemporary Evolution (Bloomsbury 2022) has now been included in Bloomsbury Collections. So if your library has access to Bloomsbury Collections, you can find it there as well!
AnimatedDocumentary.com are looking forward to getting our hands on a copy!
Every year, London International Animation Festival shows a programme of global documentaries in a specially dedicated screening. In last year’s festival, the selection included a wide range of films, from personal, autobiographical independent short films, to branded content and museum commissions. Many of these films are now available online, so here is a short overview of the programme.
Save Ralph (Spencer Susser, 2021) is a darkly comic mockumentary following a rabbit who “works” in the cosmetics testing industry. With a star-studded cast of voice actors and very high production values, the film has much to admire technically and creatively, and a message that cuts through the humour to leave the viewer feeling very uncomfortable indeed. The film ends with a message from The Humane Society encouraging action to help ban animal testing.
Timeline (Osbert Parker, 2020) is a poetic film commissioned by The Migration Museum. The film weaves together single frames with diverse imagery. From this visual cacophony, the fluctuating image of a single line emerges. This takes us through an abstracted history of migration, from 1620-2020, and beyond, hinting at a possible future of human migration to space. Patterns develop and evolve, punctuated by interjections of stop-motion and mixed media animation. It’s a dynamic piece that stands repeated viewings, as it is easy to miss details on a first watch.
Heart of the Nation (Tribambuka, 2020) is another film commissioned by the migration museum. This is a more explicit narrative focusing on the contribution that migration has made, and continues to make, on the staffing of the British NHS. It focuses on communicating a clear message informatively, attractively, and persuasively, and achieves its aims in this.
The Train Driver (Zuniel Kim, Christian Wittmoser, 2021) examines the psychological impact on a train driver of the six suicides of strangers that he has been caught up in through his job. Simple blue and yellow tinted sequences develop against a black background, offering an elegant counterpoint to the narrator’s words and allowing the audience to focus on the sensitive story he is telling.
In Nature (Marcel Barelli, 2021) takes us to the other end of the spectrum. Using vivid and varied colours alongside a cartoony aesthetic, this film playfully demonstrates diverse manifestations of homosexuality in nature. The film is funny and well-paced, full of excellent visual gags, and does a great job of educating without ever feeling preachy or lecturing.
In the Shadow of the Pines (Anne Koizumi, 2020) is a meditative piece in which a woman reflects on her memories of her Japanese father, and the shame he felt as a child at his culture, character and his job as a school janitor. In the second part of the film, we hear her father’s voice explaining his actions, and how his behaviour was a response to his own traumatic childhood. Finally, we are told that this conversation never really happened; her father died before they could make sense of the past, and of their relationship, together. The film is affecting. Some of the details in the memories are so raw and real that they cut to the bone, and there is a pervasive sense of melancholy throughout.
Only a Child (Simone Giampaolo, 2020) is a well-executed mixed media animation illustrating a speech made by twelve-year old Severn Cullis-Suzuki at a UN summit. She speaks powerfully on the dangers of climate change, pollution, and mass extinction. At the end of the film, we discover that the words were spoken in 1992, a chilling reminder that the urgent call to action they contained was not heeded, and our environmental crisis has deteriorated in the years that have passed since the speech was made. The film is beautifully animated, with a production process that engaged more than 20 animation directors working on separate sections, and it moves gracefully between styles and techniques.
The Chimney Swift (Frédéric Schuld, 2020) is a brooding film, with a script drawn from accounts of ‘Master’ chimney sweepers, who sent small children up chimneys in the Victorian era and who had themselves been sent up chimneys as children. A sketchy and stylised, artistic design approach combined with a flowing animation style creates an immersive viewing experience, while the savagery of the experiences described are still disturbing to hear almost two centuries after they were written down – partly due to the final frame, which reminds us that child labour practices still continue around the world.
Darwin’s Notebook (Georges Schwizgebel, 2020) delves into Charles Darwin’s notebook from 1833. He was aboard the Beagle as the ship travelled to return three kidnapped indigenous Alakaluf people of Tierra del Fuego to their home country. The film flows beautifully from one image to the next, with a painterly style combined with impressive, cinematic camera moves. The film follows the kidnapped people, from their previous life in their homeland through their violent abduction and attempts to replace their own culture with contemporaneous European ideals. When they are returned to their home they are adorned with the clothes and materials of the ‘civilised’ world, but these are soon abandoned. The film ends with a title card stating that the Alakaluf people were ultimately destroyed by western disease, persecution, and the deprivation of their natural resources.
The Torture Letters (Jocie Juritz/Laurence Ralph, 2020) is a New York Times Op-Doc about racism and police violence in Chicago. The voiceover describes the narrator witnessing two young people being stopped-and-searched, an incident which triggers painful memories of his own. The narrator then discusses his research into wider police violence in the city, and tells the stories of Dominique “Damo” Franklin, who was killed at 23 by police taser, and of Andrew Wilson, who in 1989 filed a civil suit which brought down a police commander who had encouraged a culture of torture in custody. The film ends with a broader reflection on discrimination and violence in the US. The film is dense with information, which means it offers more with each viewing, suggesting avenues for further research. The monochrome visuals, moving between literal illustration, symbolic interpretation, and abstract shapes, lead the viewer through the multiple stories.
All Those Sensations in my Belly (Marko Djeska, 2020) tells the story of a young trans woman, her developing identity through childhood and adolescence, and her struggle to find a loving and lasting relationship. The film progresses through a range of visual and animation styles as the lead character moves through stages of life, from the darkest places, to transcendent moments of self-discovery. The sound design adds a strong layer of emotion to the story, ratcheting up the tension at points and at others creating a deep empathy, without resorting to sentimentality. The result is a moving film portraying a complex, vulnerable, resilient, sympathetic and highly relatable character.
One of the striking things about this programme of shorts is how many of the films have strong social and political messages, often accompanied by explicit calls to action. The social issues presented here span discrimination, identity, racism, abuse, migration, climate, mental health, and animal welfare. The creative approaches taken are as broad as the subjects covered, but every film in the selection points clearly to a desire to tell stories that can help us to move toward a better, fairer, and kinder world.
London International Animation Festival (LIAF) is an annual event taking place in November and December across multiple London venues. Full listings for the 2021 festival can be found on the website.
Did you know that the Anidox Lab was involved in the R&D process for the animated documentary Flee?
Here Michelle Kranot gives us some insights into the process of working on animated documentary ideas in the early stages:
“We salute the team of FLEE for their hard work and conviction. ANIDOX are proud to be engaged in the early development of this project, when director Jonas Poher Rasmussen joined our ANIDOX:LAB. We helped him make his first teaser, and ‘matched’ him with the Animation production studio SunCreature. We also followed the process closely and consulted whenever it was useful.
We hope others feel as inspired by this film and as energized as we do – We believe that more filmmakers, artists, journalists and producers will now consider this unique marriage of animation and documentary – and that audiences become more open and curious.
Applications for ANIDOX:LAB 2022 are open until 20.4.22
ANIDOX:LAB is a tailor-made professional training course – for documentary and animation creatives, directors, producers and professionals with an animated documentary project in development.
We offer a series of seminars and consultation sessions running between June and September 2022. For in-depth guidance and a supportive framework. Expand your international network and engage in new collaborations!
The ANIDOX:LAB uniquely addresses visual and immersive animation storytelling. The goal is to pitch a teaser/trailer and build knowledge, network and resources. We focus on collaborative processes, matchmaking, reaching audiences and new ways of working.
The coaching seminars and creative workshops are designed to progress from fine- tuning an initial idea, through visual and narrative development, to a pitch package and a teaser/trailer.
It is a laboratory which brings professionals together to maximize their capacity and cultivate new skills, while developing their respective projects. Teams are encouraged to apply as well as artists working in cross-media, hybrid forms and new technologies.
Select participating ANIDOX:LAB projects have the opportunity to showcase their work at various prestigious international events and festivals.
ANIDOX:LAB is a part of The Animation Workshop / VIA University College’s professional training programme. With support from Creative Europe MEDIA and in partnership with the Danish Film Institute, The Swedish Film institute, Viken Filmsenter, CPH:DOX, Nordisk Panorama and Documentary Campus.