Animation Highlight: Somewhere Down the Line

Julien Regnard was the Head of Story on The Breadwinner. During Nora Twomey’s Q&A last month, she mentioned his short film “Somewhere Down The Line”

Julien is a film director, storyboard, layout and background artist for
animation productions. He has worked with Cartoon Saloon for 5 years. Somewhere Down The Line is a film he wrote and directed and has been screened and awarded in various international festivals. 

You can learn more about Julien by visiting his site julienregnard.com

"Somewhere Down the Line follows a man’s life, loves and losses, shown through the exchanges he has with the passengers in his car."

The Type of Animation I Want More Of

It’s safe to say that over the last 5-7 years we have seen an increase in diversity in the visual art and animation world. With the help of social media platforms such as deviantart, behance, tumblr, patreon, instagram and twitter it is now much easier to find POC artists and artwork depicting POC subjects. As for animation, we have slowly but surely been getting more diverse characters in the forefront as well as female lead characters with stories independent of a love interest.

A few years ago the Black Comic Book Festival started in Harlem. It has since grown to become a one stop resource for independent artists, comics, illustrators and writers to showcase their work and for consumers seeking representation and an opportunity to obtain a variety of work.  

Through the Black Comic Book Festival specifically, yet not to exclude other comic conventions I’m able to see POC and Black women in fantasy and sci-fi worlds that we are so often let out of. I see Black men and other men of color represented as more than the usual thug or comedic relief sidekick.

Unfortunately animation does not move as quickly. Most feature film animations can take anywhere from 3-5 years to be made IF it is lucky enough. With animation it has been very hard for POC and women to lead such projects because IF they fail they could ruin the chances of future creators to make films. Peter Ramsey was the first Black director for a feature film animation (Rise of The Guardians) and according to Dreamworks’ standards it was a “flop”. This I’m sure has stalled the possibilities for other Black people to lead such projects. Brenda Chapman who started off as the director for Brave and was later replaced by Mark Andrews has been the closest to thing to a female director for  feature animation this country has experienced.

We have seen in film and tv that having more women, people of color and LGBTQ individuals spearheading projects as directors and creators offers us genuine voices for characters who are often written by people that are detached from what they are writing and who they are writing for. We have long been in a space as consumers where we are tired of the lack of innovation in storytelling. We have grown tired to the same narratives. We see with independent web series, programming for platforms like Netflix, Hulu and even the new programming for primetime TV that viewers are tuning in to shows that have more diverse and multifaceted characters and more dynamic stories.

Though animation in this country is often marketed to kids, we can include the desire for more diversity in shows such as Family Guy, Archer, even Rick & Morty at this time. We can look at a show like Steven Universe and see how its inclusivity makes the show function and successful that has been obtained in part to that. Be it for kids or adults, that's the kind of animation I'd want more of. 


 

Movie Review: The Breadwinner

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The Breadwinner is a 2017 Canadian-Irish-Luxembourgian adult animated drama film by Cartoon Saloon directed by Nora Twomey and executive produced by Mimi Polk Gitlin and Angelina Jolie. Based on the best-selling novel by Deborah Ellis, the film was released on November 17, 2017 - Wikipedia

Parvana is an 11-year-old girl growing up under the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001. When her father is wrongfully arrested, Parvana cuts off her hair and dresses like a boy in order to support her family. Working alongside her friend Shauzia, Parvana discovers a new world of freedom-and danger. With undaunted courage, Parvana draws strength from the fantastical stories she invents, as she embarks on a quest to find her father and reunite her family. - IMDB

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I was fortunate enough to have been able to attend two of Nora's Q&A's the day of the film's release, one at work and another at the IFC Center here in NYC. In this post I'll be recapping some of the things that Nora shared.

The original author of the novel, Deborah Ellis was involved with every draft of the screenplay. Deborah encouraged Nora to “think of the novel and the film as two different candles and the flame being Parvana going form one to the other and allowing the flame to be as different as it needed to be”. Nora shared that she enjoyed working with screenwriter, Anita Doron because she knew that Anita was visualizing the film as she was writing. This was especially important since the original screenplay was written with the intentions of The Breadwinner being a live action film. 

Nora expressed that it was challenging trying to create common ground between Parvana, an Afghan girl and Western girls. Young girls like Parvana would not make as much eye contact as Western girls because it would have been seen as confrontational in certain areas. Throughout this film we get to see the shift in power dynamics with Parvana and her sister. When she becomes a boy her status changes and and she begins to challenge her older sister and even her mother. In some ways Parvana is neither a boy or a girl. We learn that it is not ultimately about gender. I appreciated the way the characters were handled. They felt real and were very vulnerable. 

When it comes to the visual look of the film, Nora did not want to flatten out the compositions as Cartoon Saloon is known to do in the previous films. In every scene characters faces, their eye direction and how they use their eyes to talk took dominance instead of the composition of the scenery. They also deviated from using water colors as they have with The Secret of Kells and Song of the Sea and used acrylic instead. This allowed them achieve the desired look that was much less saturated and didn’t impose too much on the characters themselves. Since cameras were banned in Qatar it was hard for the team to find visual reference. They had to rely on the testimony of people who had been there at the time but have since left. 

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Nora worked with story artist Julien Regnard to visually achieve saying the most with the least be it with the lines, the performance of the characters or the lines of dialogue. Unlike many other animated films it was important to Nora to have one artist produce the animatic of the film from the very beginning. This insured that they had Parvana and the story correct. Once the animatic was in good standing they added 4 - 5 more artist to flesh out the film.

With this film, you could always hear elements that were off screen that we never actually got to see. Nora chose to do this to help the audience feel more immersed in this world. The studio was able to complete all of the  voice recordings in 5 days, which to my experience is impressive and seems unheard of for a feature film animated movie. They ended up recording more dialogue than the needed and this gave them the coverage and liberty to use as much dialogue to form the characters.

What was also impressive to me was that Nora, along with the help of one of the production mangers would act out all of the scenes in the film. She made sure that she communicated as much as she could so that the animators would have a baseline of what was to be expected. From here the animators can embellish the performance or offer better suggestions. 

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Despite being a cartoon, this film is not the typical cookie cutter, wacky, happy go lucky animated movie many of us are accustomed to seeing. There are suspenseful moments and captivating story points that do not undermine a child's ability to comprehend the subject matter, nor is it "too childish" for adults. I highly recommend this film to anyone that can appreciate a good dramatic narrative. 

The Breadwinner is currently being screened in NYC at the IFC Center ( you can view tickets here ). For all other cities in the U.S visit GKids.com It will be shown on TV in Afghanistan next year and will be dubbed in their respective language as well as being shown in Qatar’s upcoming Children’s Film Festival. 

View the official movie trailer below. Also check out my previous post about my visit to Cartoon Saloon in Ireland

* All rights to the images belong to Cartoon Saloon *

Animation Highlight: Dear Basketball

One of the many perks of working at a major animation studios is that the company more often than not will provide various animation and film screenings during our lunch breaks or after work throughout the year.

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The Animation Show of Shows has "selected the best in animated short films from the world’s most renowned animation festivals and presented them at the major animation studios to inspire their animators and directors

Ron Diamond created the annual Animation Show of Shows as a way of bringing the year’s best shorts, selected from festivals around the world, to industry professionals who might not otherwise have an opportunity to see them." - As stated on the Animation Show of Shows website.

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This week I was able to see the Kobe Bryant short animated film "Dear Basketball" when the Animation Show of Shows was screened at my job. Animated by the infamous Glen Keane it is is visually captivating. The movements are rhythmic, the transitions are fluid. Paired with the music of composer John Williams and the narration from Kobe himself this was truly a beautiful and poetic short film. 

The film is Kobe's ode to basketball and I believe many boys, Black boys, Black men will hear and see parts of themselves in this visual representation. Check out the video below where Kobe narratates in front of a live orchestra while the film is screened for the audience. You'll be able to see come clips of the short. 

Kobe Bryan receiting "Dear Basketball" at Hollywood Bowl 9/1/17

#Inktober2017 - Week 4

Recap of the last week of Inktober. I'm very happy to have participated and completed it this year.

#Inktober2017 - Week 3

color has found its way back!

#Inktober2017 - Week 2

Less color this week