Below are 10 films that I believe shows 2013 to have been a great year for animated film. As the majority of work I watch at festivals and online tends to be animation, I‘m keeping strictly to the medium with my review of the year and am avoiding straying into the realms of artists’ film or live action. For impartiality I omitted any films that I had a hand in producing, though if I do say so myself these Secret Monsters are jolly good. My list features a mix of 3D experiments, films made for television, gallery works, graduation films, and experimental pieces. Enjoy!
1. Subconscious Password, Chris Landreth
Ever since I first experienced Landreth’s Ryan I’ve been a keen follower of his work. I had the pleasure of watching this film in super stereoscopic 3D at the London International Animation earlier this year, and it certainly felt like the first 3D film I’ve seen where the stereoscopic depth effect felt more than just visual garnish. Look out for it at a 3D screening near you.
2. Yamasuki Yamazaki, Shishi Yamazaki
As the saying goes, ‘I’ll have what she’s having’. Shishi Yamazaki shows what it’s like to be insanely happy in this lively film. Love the use of vibrant watercolours, the 70s soundtrack, and the joys of dancing about in your pants captured in this film.
3. Invocation, Robert Morgan
Always one for a good horror story, the man who brought the world the delights of The Cat with Hands and Bobby Yeah, brings to life deadly creations through the power of stop motion in this nightmarish gem. In some ways this feels like the opening scene of something longer but it seems Morgan was content to make this a standalone short after the intensive production period Bobby Yeah took to make – all that blood, sweat and toenails.
4. 1975, Wrik Mead
This 50 minute autobiographical animation was made by Canadian filmmaker Wrik Mead, who has made more than 50 films that each include an element of animation. Hand drawn animation 1975 recalls Wrik’s world at 13 when he began making animation, and observes key moments from his personal memories that year. The work premiered at the Payne Shurvell gallery in east London in September.
Watch it here on Vimeo.
5. The Age of Curious, Luca Toth
First spotted at the Royal College of Art animation graduate showcase. I particularly enjoyed Luca Toth’s delightfully grotesque looking family of characters. Something of a coming of age tale, the young folk embark on a bizarre after dinner journey into a mythical land via something resembling Cousin Itt.
6. Maggie’s Last Party, David Wilson
This year saw the death of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. A more light hearted tribute to the Iron Lady than chart topping Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead, Wilson has used his signature psychedelic looping style to bring to life V.I.M.’s 90s acid house classic, Maggie’s Last Party. All together now: ‘rave, rave, rave, murder’.
Here it is on the Random Acts site.
7. Small Wonders, Katie Goodwin
Another stereoscopic 3D film in the mix (though admittedly I’ve only seen it in its entirety in glorious 2D). Small Wonders is an abstract film that examines the microorganisms living in the surface water of lakes and ponds. The film draws on microbiologist Terence Preston footage and his recollections of discoveries made in how amoebas move, illustrated with archival footage of people enjoying water based leisure pursuits.
8. Down Into Nothing, Jake Fried
Boston based artist Jake Fried produces complex hand drawn animations that draw you into the ever changing, densely layered scenes, filled with extraordinary landscapes and symbols. Fried is one of many fantastic experimental artists that you can experience at the excellent Eyeworks Festival in Chicago.
9. Ghost Stories, Late Night Work Club
I’m a big fan of an anthology film, a form which works particularly well for the horror genre to showcase the talents of different directors. So I was rather excited to discover that a group of independent animators from across the globe had decided to make a ghost story themed film, late at night, outside of their day jobs, and to share it for free on the internet. In 38 minutes LNWC presents 11 distinctive shorts by the likes of Caleb Wood, Louise Bagnall, Conor Finnegan and Eamonn O’Neill. It’s a treat.
10. Obida (The Wound), Anna Budanova
Now for something of a dark tale, with a beautifully muted colour scheme. This film by Russian filmmaker Ana Budanova is a cautionary tale looking at the effects of allowing your resentments to control your life; anthropomorphised here into a cute creature that feeds on bad feelings.
One film I am eagerly anticipating the release of in 2014 is The Obvious Child by Stephen Irwin, inventor of such challenging animations as The Black Dog’s Progress and Moxie. I’ve been fortunate enough to have set eyes on the film as it’s been developing and am confident that this will be another award winner for Irwin. Its premiere will be at Sundance in January, watch this space…