Category Archives: animation

Lush Animation of Salman Rushdie’s Luka and the Fire of Life

In my youth I fell for Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children and sometime later Haroun and the Sea of Stories.  Having followed the furor and then read The Satanic Verses I was very moved by Haroun knowing some of the history that caused Rushdie to write it.  I also was enchanted by the lush language, the folkloric play, and the homage to The Wizard of Oz (which Rushdie first wrote about as an article for  The New Yorker and then expanded as a monograph for the British Film Institute).  And while last year’s Luka and the Sea of Fire did not feel as strong as those earlier works I still enjoyed Rushdie’s unique and wild imaginative style.

For me Rushdie’s writing is so much about language and imagery expressed in words so I was fascinated to come across this article in the Guardian about a competition among animation students at London’s Kingston University to come up with a concept for a film from the book.

Students from the University’s faculty of art, design and architecture visited the book’s publisher Random House to meet the author and present their ideas for visual concepts. Four of these concepts were selected to be made into four animations, which then went to a panel of judges including Rushdie and Milan, to whom the book is dedicated, to select an overall winner.

The results are fabulous and may make you want to check out the book if you haven’t already.

The winning video is by Han Byul Lee, Sam Falconer, Irsiz Heathershaw, So Hewi Lee and Dawn Smit

The first runner-up is by Zach Ellams, Moira Lam, Tim O’Leary, Sophie Powell

The second runner-up is by Frank Burgess, Angus Dick, James Lancett, Ben Tobitt, Sean Weston

The third runner-up is by John Balallo, Jun Hyoung Chun, Katie Robson, Yao Xiang


Leave a comment

Filed under animation, Children's Literature

Marcel’s Antecedent Perhaps?

It was a Facebook friend that first introduced me to the charming video Marcel The Shell with Shoes On.  Marcel’s naive-childlike-voice immediately made me remember a 1950s arty children’s movie I’d seen long ago that had real children doing a random voice-over. My lame efforts to track it down — “1950s art film with real kids talking?” — got me zilch.  I tried to forget about it, but the recent resurfacing of Marcel (most recently here and here) kept me scratching.  I thought the filmmakers’ last name  was something like Hubble or Hussey and that the wife was Ruth.  That didn’t work, but I kept fiddling around and, hallelujah, today I found them and it!

It is MoonBird, the 1959 Academy Award winner for animation by John Hubley (who collaborated with his wife Faith —biblical, I got that at least). A good overview of the film by animator Michael Sporn is here and you can view the film itself below. I suppose it isn’t much like Marcel and could be considered a bit precious, but whatever — at least I’m not itching anymore.

Leave a comment

Filed under animation

SLJ’s Day of Dialog

On Tuesday I attended School Library Journal’s Day of Dialog “a free, day-long program where librarians, publishers, authors, and vendors meet to discuss issues that affect the book and library world for children and teens.”  Running in the Javits alongside BEA it was absolutely splendid.  My thanks to SLJ for doing this and congratulations to everyone involved in creating such a stimulating and worthwhile day.  (A special shout-out to my Newbery 2008 bud Luann Toth, SLJ’s book review editor,  as I know she did a lot of the hard work to put these incredible panels together.)

It began with breakfast and I saw many friends of the librarian, reviewer, and publishing sort.  All day long editor-in-chief Brian Kenney and Luann  did a fine job keeping everything on track — ringing an adorable little bell to signal beginnings and ends.  (The only thing I’ve experienced that sort in this world is Mimi Kaden’s kitchen timer at the Harpercollins previews.)

The first panel was “Steampunkery” and since I love the genre it probably was my favorite of the day.  Moderator Cory Doctorow was terrific, asking the sort of questions that got great answers back from the panelists. And wow, what a splendid collection they were — authors Scott Westerfeld and Cherie Priest, and librarian (and self-identified fangirl) Karen Grenke.  Fortunately, rather than my trying to recap it all for you, SLJ filmed it and you can view it for yourself.

Could anyone top that?  Well, the next panel, “Drawing the Line Between Picture Books and Graphic Novels”  was pretty amazing too.  Moderated by Roger Sutton, the panel consisted of David Wiesner (who is working on a graphic novel of his own — don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see it), Laura Vaccaro Seeger (who was fascinating, explaining how the die cuts in her work function in an intriguing animation sort way), George O’Connor (who is doing those cool Greek god books and is pretty god-like himself), Mark Siegel (who has to have a few clones to do all that he does — run FirstSecond and his own work and be a dad and…), and Wendy Lukehart (a really smart and informed DC librarian). Is there a line between picture books and graphic novels?  Not according to this panel.

The luncheon speaker was Cornelia Funke.  I’ve heard her before and she did not disappoint this time.  She spoke about learning from child readers that the character in the Inkworld they most connected to wasn’t a child, but the adult Dustfinger.  And so that gave her the confidence to create an adult protagonist for her new book Reckless.   She spoke with such excitement about this new book world (set in the 19th century — wondered if it too would be steampunk although she didn’t say that) that she got me excited about it too. And then she read the first chapter getting me even MORE excited.  So when they announced there would a drawing for 25 signed copies of ARCs I dropped my card in and was delighted to discovered at the end of the day that I’d won one! (Victoria Stapleton took this photo before I won— I was just holding the book because I wanted it. And then I got it — so thank you, Victoria, Zoe, and the others at LB. )

Interspersed throughout the day were sessions of publisher’s pitching new books.  Short and informative pitches came from Sterling, Sourcebooks, Random House, Penguin, Macmillan, Little Brown, Houghton Mifflin, HarperCollins, Harlequin, Candlewick, and Brilliance Audio. Nicely done, all of you!

The final panel of the day was “The Care and Feeding of Tweens.” Moderated by Vicky Smith, the panel consisted of Rebecca Stead, Tim Green, Gennifer Choldenko, Robie H. Harris, and Lisa von Drasek (superstar librarian at Bank Street College).  Lots of wonderful talk about what are tweens, who created the title (marketers), and what means most — the kids themselves.

The day ended with cocktails, book signings, and lots of schmoozing.  A truly excellent day — again my thanks and congratulations to all involved.

Leave a comment

Filed under animation, Children's Literature, graphic novel

Meanwhile in Space…

via Vulture.


Filed under animation

The Intriguing James Proimos

I was introduced to this picture book at a Little Brown publisher’s preview some time back and was instantly charmed.  It is indeed seven-year-old Paulie Pastrami’s efforts to achieve world peace. Starting small by being kind to animals, reading to trees, and apologizing to his sister, Paulie aims higher and, after discovering the peaceful properties of cupcakes, takes off with a van full of them to achieve his goal.  It works wonderfully well with fourth graders who relish the witty text and  illustrations, but I suspect the gentle tone would make it accessible to younger children too.

Having so enjoyed Paulie’s quest I became a facebook friend with its creator and last year received periodic requests to vote for Patricia Von Pleasantsquirrel. More recently the updates have been all about Stunt Frog (yesterday’s is “Join the frog. Save the world.”) which is one cool little Nickelodeon short (also featured by Betsy Bird today). Its creators James Proimos and Carlson Bull are co-founders of Shiny Pear which “… creates books, directs animation, and designs characters you want to take home with you.”  Based on the little I know of their work so far, I do want to take more of it home!  Say, more episodes of Stunt Frog — will there be any?


Filed under animation

The Pura Belpré Award Celebration with Yuyi Morales’ Special Treat

I had always heard that the Pura Belpré Award Celebration was wonderful so this year I went and, yes it was!  The room was festively decorated, the presentations and speeches were moving, and it ended with a completely delightful dance performance by a troupe of little girls.

The highlight of the afternoon for me was the vivacious and talented Yuyi Morales who received an honor for the writing and the medal for the illustration of her charming alphabet book, Just in Case.


At the end of her acceptance speech she presented the following video. Enjoy!


Filed under animation, Art, Children's Literature

Mo Willems Goes to High School

Sit Down, Shut Up, a new animated series set in a high school premiering tonight on Fox, has an interesting pedigree. According to this article, after seeing a copy of Knuffle Bunny in a bookstore, the show’s creator, Mitch Hurwitz brought Mo Willems into the project.

Hurwitz may or may not have been aware of Willems’ track record as an animation producer and scripter (The Off Beats, Sheep in the Big City, Codename: Kids Next Door) before moving onto a new career as a children’s book author and illustrator. Knuffle Bunny itself had been turned into a cartoon short using the same technique of drawn characters atop photographic backgrounds, but Willems’ sharp-edged character designs also caught Hurwitz’ eye.

“I got in touch with Mo, and he actually designed [SDSU‘s] characters. He has asked that the show not be represented as Mo Willems’ show, because he’s like the number one picture book guy and there’s a lot of inappropriate stuff for kids. There’s a lot of stuff that’s inappropriate I think even for Will Forte.”

These excerpts from the show give you an even better sense of Mo’s distinctive style.  I have to say, despite Mo’s visual style and all those Arrested Development folk (loved that show), the bits I’ve seen so far are not wowing me, but hopefully the full show works better for me.

Leave a comment

Filed under animation

Distressed Metal


Thanks to Karyn Silverman for pointing out an intriguing steampunk competition.

Leave a comment

Filed under animation, Film

That’s All: Sita Sings the Blues


I’d been hearing great things about Nina Paley’s animated film, Sita Sings the Blues and now, having seen it for myself, I agree with all the accolades.   And you can see it as I did streamed online here thanks to my local public television station, Channel 13. Paley threads her own sad story of a failing marriage in and around Sita’s tragic story as told in the Indian epic  Ramayana. Paley uses all sorts of animation techniques (some harking back to the earliest years of animation), story telling styles (say using three shadow-puppet narrators to fill in the details of Sita’s story — each trying to remember and help the others remember it too), and music (the 1920’s jazz vocals of Annette Hanshaw as well as more contemporary Indian music).  The film is witty, funny, and moving.  Highly recommended.

Here’s the trailer:


Filed under animation

Hayao Miyazaki’s New Movie

Who knew that Miyazaki had a new movie coming out? You did? Oh. Whatever.

So New York Magazine’s Vulture — Entertainment & Culture Blog has all sorts of stuff about Gake no Ue no Ponyo (Ponyo on the Cliff by the Sea) which is evidently for very young children.


Filed under animation, Movies