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Friday, June 26, 2015

R´ha (Short Animated Movie)


R´ha [short movie] from Kaleb Lechowski on Vimeo.

R'ha is a great animated short which is technically excellent and also has a quite subtle narrative for a six-minute animation. The visuals and concept were the work of one man - Kaleb Lechowski - which just goes to show you what one man with vision and expertise can do these days. Guys like Lechowski are awesome talents and deserve to have their work seen.


"R'ha" essentially works as a sort of combination of "Star Wars," "The Terminator" with maybe a dash of "Babylon 5." Ok, that is just a name-dropping way of saying that this is a science fiction animated short populated by odd aliens composed with superior execution. If you want the plot boiled down to a 'moral of the story,' it would be something along the lines of 'it pays to be clever.'


I can't help myself, I have to be a bit of a critic and point out a couple of places that could stand improvement (I know, I know, how dare I - well, I dare). The sound is very difficult to understand, especially the first time through. You may have to watch this a couple of times to catch all the dialog, though after you do understand it all, the sound works quite well. The animation also suffers from "dark disease," meaning everything is way too dark as a crutch to make the animation more "realistic." I certainly can excuse these problems due to this being an independent, one-man production. Overall, this gets the big A+, with kudos to the creators.

Written, directed and animated by Kaleb Lechowski (C) Kaleb Lechowski.
Hartmut Zeller - Sound
Dave Masterson - Voice acting
Scott Glassgold / IAM Entertainment - Representation


Thursday, June 25, 2015

Ayn Rand Animated Interview

Ayn Rand (1905-1982) was a well-known Russian émigré whoe became a best-selling author/philosopher. She espoused what might crudely be termed ultra-libertarianism ("Objectivism"). She wrote "Atlas Shrugged" and "The Fountainhead," which were turned into films and Broadway plays, and authored the catchphrase "Who is John Galt." Among many other things, she was a critic of modern architecture and felt that people were responsible for their own actions and welfare and should not rely upon others.

In this recently animated interview from PBS digital studios stemming from February 1959, shortly after publication of the well-received "Atlas Shrugged," Mike Wallace of CBS News presses Ayn on the nature of love and her own marriage and how they fit into her philosophy. He perhaps was trying to pin down an internal contradiction to her philosophy, but if so, he was completely ineffective. Ayn either was well-prepared or intellectually nimble, because she responded with a clear position in accordance with her underlying beliefs that appeared to take Wallace a bit by surprise. It is a smart, snappy interview that remains on a high intellectual plain.

Not everybody is a fan of Objectivism, just as not everyone is a fan of liberalism, conservatism, Marxism, Socialism, and a lot of other 'isms.' However, Rand's philosophy struck a chord with many people, and it remains popular with many people to this day. I will warn you, though, that brilliant as her writing may be, her books (which I have read) are extremely long and dense and often not the most exciting reading even if they are fiction with interesting narratives. She tends, as you would expect, to be polemical and argumentative, which enhances the communication of her ideas perhaps, but at the expense of what some might term 'readability.' However, there also are quite interesting fictional stretches that are captivating for any fiction lover.

" I have no faith at all. I only hold convictions."
- Ayn Rand on February 25, 1959, as told to Mike Wallace

I also have posted other animated interviews by PBS digital studios of celebrities such as Michael Jackson, Kurt Cobain and Bette Davis.

Executive Producer: David Gerlach
Animator: Patrick Smith
Audio Producer: Amy Drozdowska
Colorist: Diana Tantillo


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

An 8-Bit Style Music Video from Mr. Downstairs

For a change of pace from all the NASA and Disney animation I've been posting, below is a funky animated music video from Mr. Downstairs, a Disney Channel kind of band led by Dani Artaud. It is kind of a techno club style that I suppose also could be called a trance or trap sound (if none of that makes any sense to you, the video below probably won't, either). Dani also performs (apparently) under the name Snowblood and had a song with Mystery Skulls called 'Hellbent' in a Zac Efron movie trailer that she was all excited about. So, the girl has got something going on, and good for her.

Dani Artaud
Dani is of Cuban descent and is a proud Gemini. She has a tumblr that she never updates and a Twitter that she does spend time on. You can also catch her on Facebook, of course. Everyone is on Facebook these days.

Below is a retro video they did in 8-bit “Nyan Cat” style to the Mr. Downstairs tune Stranger, Danger (Fast Company Remix). It's not cutting edge animation, but how often are you going to see dolphins playing guitar, anyway?

The whole animated music video thing is completely the thing these days, as these cool cats show.

Anyway, if you are into the club scene, you may hear of Dani at some point. I know, you're probably not into that, and you're like, 'Dani who?'. But, this is what is happening, and that's always good to know, the world is turning and we turn with it.

And if you did watch the video, you got to see dolphins playing guitar, so you got that going for you. If you want to impress someone around the age of 14, tell them you are all about Mr. Downstairs. They'll either give you a blank stare or consider you the coolest cat in town.

Dani and Asia Whiteacre of Mr. Downstairs

Below are a couple of other minimalist videos of theirs, 'Superhero Heart,' if you liked the first one.


Walt Disney at His Storyboards

A Genius at Work

Apropos of nothing, as they say, here are a few shots of Walt Disney with storyboards of some of his famous and perhaps not as famous characters.

Because he became such a legend, it is easy to forget that, at his core, Walt Disney was a phenomenal artist. Mickey Mouse didn't just pop out of the ether, it took talent to come up with that iconic character, and Walt Disney had it. These shots all appear to be, very roughly, circa 1940.


Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Ceres Bright Spots

The Ceres bright spots.

The NASA Dawn spacecraft has been approaching the dwarf planet Ceres, and for once we have an ongoing mystery that nobody can figure out. All of these photos are courtesy of NASA/JPL-Caltech.

The shots on this page were taken from about 4,500 miles (7,200 km), which is pretty close given that there is no atmosphere to obstruct vision. 

There are two bright spots inside a huge crater on Ceres that could be, well, just about anything. The likeliest guesses are that they are salt or ice. However, there are problems with both of those hypotheses.

These shots were taken on Mars in 2008, showing a similar phenomenon. The bright material in both photos was excavated from below the surface and deposited nearby by an impact that year that dug a crater about 26 feet (8 meters) in diameter. The extent of the bright patch was examined by the Compact Reconnaissance Imaging Spectrometer for Mars, an instrument on NASA’s Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter. It determined that that the whiteness was water ice. Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

It appears that something was discharged from the planet from under its surface soil. The spots appear to be elevated above the surface, and that makes no sense at all. But ultimately it will make perfect, boring sense.

Having been through this numerous times, the issue ultimately will be resolved as some kind of rock or mineral or ice - the 'usual suspects.' You know it's coming, everyone wants to believe in Aliens but there is absolutely zero chance that that is what NASA will determine them to be from. 'They' always explain away these anomalies as simple geologic curiosities, and they know what they're talking about. My hunch is that it is some kind of ice from below the surface that at times becomes viewable and somehow achieves temporary stability on the surface. However, while it lasts, this is a fun - and picturesque - mystery that has captured the public's imagination and, truth be told, done NASA a 'world' of good in terms of generating interest in these touristy excursions through the Solar System that, let's face it, have no real tangible value to the common man and woman beyond the 'wow' factor.

Dawn makes its closest approach on 6 June 2015, and if that doesn't resolve the issue, it won't be resolved for quite a long time.

Incidentally, there is a similar anomaly elsewhere in the Solar System, which pretty much seals the issue in terms of the Ceres spots being some kind of natural phenomenon. The other one is at Wunda Crater on Uranus’ crater-blasted moon Umbriel. The 131-mile-wide crater, situated on the moon’s equator, is named for Wunda, a dark spirit in Aboriginal mythology. It is a bright feature about 6 miles (10 km) wide.

Umbriel, showing its white spot.

Umbriel for some reason always reminds me of the Death Star. But, unfortunately for those looking for excitement, it's just a chunk of lifeless rock like everything else.

Below is a computer-generated journey to Ceres.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

'Primordial' - an Otherworldly Animation

Primordial from PeterClark on Vimeo.

'Primordial.' This is a pretty trippy video in more ways than one. Imagine you are an interstellar visitor just minding your own business, and you crash into a deserted planet and - well, things happen. Lots of things! Psychedelic things! And with an interesting end result.

It is not the result that you watch for with a video like this, but the journey. Turn the lights low, have some wine, put it on full screen, and just relax. It will be fine. Quite fine.

According to the artists:
The core of a dark planetoid hosts a primordial soup of microscopic life. Within the neural pathways of these organic compounds, intelligence is born from the primitive drive for survival. Each stage of Primordial has been designed and animated by separate artists and sequentially stitched together as one evolving timeline.
Animation: Jason Kerr / Chris Bjerre / Peter Clark
Title Design: Peter Clark / Wendie Ing
Title Cinematography: Joe Picard
Sound Design: Peter Clark
Vocals: Haley Varacallo


Friday, March 13, 2015

Frozen 2 is On its Way!

Disney Animation's official tweet announcing 'Frozen 2'

Those who are truly captives of the Disney universe surely know that the annual shareholders meeting is held every year in March. Far from a sleepy little confab of wizened old men, it is a big celebration at which news of value to people far and is released. This year, the news was even more exciting that usual.

Well, what do you know, it's March 2015.

Bob Iger, who runs Disney, made the announcement at the meeting that 'Frozen Fever,' an animated short featuring the 'Frozen' characters, debuts in theaters on 13 March 2015 as the lead-in to the new live-action 'Cinderella.' Yes, 'Frozen' and 'Cinderella' on one bill. That, my friends, is known as synergy.

Of more long-term importance, 'Frozen 2,' a sequel to the 2013 'Frozen,' also is on the way. There is no word on when that will be released. I will make a prediction right now, on 12 March 2015 - with no word from the studio itself - that 'Frozen 2' will be released on 7/8 November 2017. At midnight. Unless they run into production difficulties.

You heard it here first.

There also was news about Disney's new Star Wars franchise - and arriving at the same time as 'Frozen' news is probably the only time a new 'Star Wars' film ever comes in second. After the seventh core film is released this December, the follow-up, Star Wars: Episode VIII will come out May 26, 2017. Episode VIII will be written and directed by Rian Johnson (Brick, The Brothers Bloom, Looper). The spin-off is called 'Rogue One' and stars Felicity Jones.