About Millie

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I animate, therefore I am a teacher. I teach, therefore I illustrate. I illustrate, therefore I draw on my environment. In drawing on my environment, I am animated!

Friday, October 24, 2014

An Historic Rendez Vous. By Millie Young



The Fine Applied Arts Division (FAA), Animation Production Major played host to an historic moment in their liaison with co- hosts the French Embassy in Thailand and the World Film Festival of Bangkok. On 16th October 2014 at SF World Cinema gathered animation professionals, educators, students and dignitaries from Thailand and France to open the first three day French-Thai Animation Rendez-vous. The Ambassadeur de France en Thaïlande, Monsieur Thierry Viteau, welcomed all and introduced the star of the three day master classes Les Gobelins alumini, former Dreamwork's animator and now an animation film director of his forthcoming feature film 'Mune', Mr. Alexandre Heboyan. Those present were invited to watch the premiere in Thailand of the charming French feature, 'Minuscule - Valley of The Lost Ants' directed by  T. Szabo and H, Giraud, in stereoscopic 3D, a tantalizing experience and one of the five French features in the World Bangkok Film Festival.

            Thailand's animation industry is still in its formative years, spurned on by the success of Khan Klauy in 2006, a further 5 feature films have been released and more are in the making. But the independent filmmaking industry is a challenging one, and Alexandre's experience of both the large scale studio of Dreamworks and the smaller budget and smaller workforce of his experience with 'Mune' served well to answer the questions of the hungry animators here. 

Animators are unusual people, they are the story tellers who break the world down into its minutiae and reveal a fantastical world of their imaginations. Often misunderstood by friends and family, they produce the most incredible films capturing the life of our dreams. The following three days master classes were a chance for students and professionals alike to share, develop and grow in their understanding of making the impossible possible. It was a chance for networking and learning from the experience and extraordinary creativity of Alexandre Heboyan. The experience was epic and exhausting and beyond our initial expectations.

On Friday 17th the Mahidol Learning Centre was full to bursting with students from Sipakorn University, Assumption University, King Mongkut Institute of Technology Ladkrabang, Rangsit University, and Mahidol University International College with a few keen professionals, all keen to learn how to pitch their ideas, sell their story. The seven MUIC Animation Seniors, the first of this year's crop, presented their projects to all 100+ present. Their work demonstrated a wide range of subject matter, style and product and demonstrated the wealth of talent MUIC students have gained during their 4 years studying. All present were hanging on Alexandre's feedback and the additional advice from the Thai industry professionals Mr. ‘Nikki’ Sasapitt Rujirath (BeBoyd CG) and Mr. ‘Boat’ Thawatchai Chunhachai (Picture This Animation).

Alexandre had a lot of useful suggestions and warnings to students to keep the projects within the time boundary, they have just six months, but he was overall very impressed with their diversity and strong stories. He then went on to give insight into the experience of pitching for a feature. His generous and enthusiastic talk fired the audience up ready for the long haul weekend of his Master class.

            On Saturday at TK Park 130 people spent the day gleaning every morsel that Alexandre offered on the character design, preproduction process and further help on pitching for independent film. His experiences with 'Kung Fu Panda' at Dreamworks, his student experience at Les Gobelins and his present work on 'Mune'. The insight into the process for macro and micro projects was incredibly valuable to the students and the Thai Animation Industry professionals. France is the birth place of animation and they maintain a strong cultural identity within their productions but also offer much to the global audiences. Alexandre stressed the importance of learning to design work that appeals, he offered his three golden rules of design:
      Know when it feels right - does the design convey the character's personality?
      Is it original? - within the context of it's own story and for the audience... How is it outstanding?
      Can the audience relate to it? Believe it?

            In his own work, 'Mune' which is released next March 2015, he demonstrated the process and the development giving gems of insight into how an idea develops. This continued on in the Sunday session where 75 more attendees come to learn from the master.  He revealed the issues of developing 2D artwork into the 3D models, his film Mune has many unique characters that mean each needed a newly designed rig... an expensive and time consuming operation. And he offered insights into maintaining budget, where compromise can be found and where to keep the auteur sensibility and design. The audience was keen to ask questions and get into the details they required. Ultimately, he offered that there is no formula, each director must know their own voice and learn to handle the point at which to say ‘approved’. This Rendezvous is a very important part of the journey. He stressed the need for networking as the key to building a strong future for animation students, educators and professionals. Thailand has infinite folk tales and mysteries to share and new creative ideas all seeking a place to burst out onto our screens.

This was the first French Thai animation Rendezvous and the second year of the ASIFA (Association International du Film d'Animation) International Animation Day event at MUIC heralding new opportunities, new networks and opening up creative ideas that can reach the moon (Mune) and beyond.
A big thanks to the French Embassy Thailand, and all the support of the administration, faculty and staff at Mahidol University International College for making this exciting event a Réalité.

Monday, September 22, 2014

French and Thai Animation Rendez Vous 2014

An exciting series of events hosted by The French Embassy Thailand, MUIC and The World Bangkok Film Festival. Featuring animations from France, 'Miniscule', 'The Congress', 'Ernest and Celestine', 'A Cat i n Paris' and 'Tales of the Night' and workshops with Alexandre Heboyan graduate from Les Gobelins and former animator from Dreamworks on films including Kung Fu Panda and Monster vs Aliens".

Thursday 16th October 6.30 Opening events at SFWorld Cinema, Central World Bangkok
Friday 17th October 10.00-17.00 Animation Pitching Master Class at Mahidol University International College call 024410642
Saturday 18th and Sunday 19th October 10.00-17.00 Character Design for Animation Master Class FREE at TK Park Central World
plus film screenings at SFWorld Cinema

Monday, August 25, 2014

Kompin Kemgumnird Interview 25/2/14 (part 5) 'Ideas behind Echo planet (2012)'

contd from: Kantana and the Blue Elephant - interview with Kompin Kemguimnird February 2014

The Art Director, P’ Day from Khan Klauy 1 became the Director for Khan Klauy 2. Meanwhile Kompin was exploring several different ideas and plots which he presented to Kantana. The one that caught their interest was Echo Planet. The original idea was Kompin’s, but through the adaptation and development of the movie the idea changed. Essentially the idea is an environmental concept. This was a theme that had grown in Kompin’s head since University. Originally the idea formed from his reading of the book ‘One Straw Revolution’ by Masanobu Fukuoka (1913-2008), who was a Japanese farmer and philosopher from Shikoku Island (http://www.onestrawrevolution.net/One_Straw_Revolution/Massanobu_Fukuoka.html). The book suggested that the way we are farming nowadays is all wrong and causes further problems in the world, which we then try to solve with chemicals etc which instead add another problem until the problems are really complex. The philosopher suggested that we need not try to resolve the problems, but instead let nature take it’s course; that nature balances and can resolve the problems by itself. That we need to understand nature, and help it to work the balance.
Also he had long been interested in ancient cultures, like Native American people, Tibetan people and Thailand’s hill tribe people. The hill tribe people are Thai, but for many Thai people their culture and language make them appear foreign. They wear different clothes and appear very different which would look great as an animation character. Through documentaries and education programmes he became interested in the possibility of representing hill tribe cultures as protagonists in his film, especially with their understanding of nature and natural resources and animist belief systems. With this in mind he started to develop a character of a young boy who can speak/ communicate directly with nature. The drama of when they come in to contact with the ‘civilised’ cultures. Another influence for the story idea came from Steve Irwin’s nature programmes. Kompin imagined what it would be like if someone like Steve Irwin with his larger than life character met up with the hill tribe people the possibilities would be really cool for storytelling. So initially he created a Steve Irwin like character who owned a TV show called ‘Echo Planet’. And we see him in front of the camera he appears to really love animals, but behind the scenes when the camera stops rolling, he’s all coarse and shouts, ‘Get off me!’ at the animals. So when he comes to Thailand he meets the boy who talks to nature, to the frogs, to the chicken etc. the Steve Irwin character thinks that’s nonsense. But on screen he sets up where the boy is talking to the trees; but all of a sudden he has a heart attack and falls into the water and looses consciousness. But because he is in the water his consciousness/spirit transfers to a fish, angler fish that spits water. So he realises that he is a fish and needs to be able to communicate… with the boy! So he has to get his attention by spitting. Meanwhile his body has been sent back to the US. So they boy has to get his sister who looks after him and is really good at fighting. They then have to find a way to fly to the US to return this man’s spirit to his body. When they get to the US they have to call up Echo’s girlfriend, a Jennifer Aniston type character. They call her, and her assistant, John answers. He is a double crosser and says he will come and pick then up, but he doesn't show up but istead calls immigration. And so the story develops that is has to find a way to get back to his body… and learn to be a better person and understand nature and animals.

So on the first pitch to the bosses at Kantana, they liked the characters a lot but wanted something else for the story. They wanted something that said something more about global warming. The feeling was that this would be a bigger appeal to a wider audience. Something that maybe has the small hilltribe kid influencing the president on Global issues. So Kompin had a lot of work to do to rework the ideas.
In the development Norwa, the girl character becomes a really strong female character out to save the planet. She’s super strong, she fights, she climbs mountains, she stands up for her Grandma, her culture, she has a strong family bond and a sense of right and wrong. She makes Disney’s Frozen just look like another set of romantic princess mush. Norwa is out to save the planet. And no push over US President’s son is going to stop her, nor the United Nations assembly. This is another element of thai-ness that shows up in the film. There is a tradition in novels of tough Thai female characters that are like tom boys.  One was called Dawreuang (ดาวเรือง), which is the name of a flower that is similar to a sunflower but smaller, and she’s a tough girl who lives in a remote part of Thailand, she’s tougher than most guys. The bad guy in it is the son of a wealthy people in the village. He falls in love with her and tries to get her, but she beats him every time, she’s really smart and gets him in trouble all the time. She however is in love with the Governor from the city who normally falls for girly girls. But he really falls for her. http://thaifiction.com/
These tough strong female characters appeal to Kompin and Norwa was always going to be that way. A key moment of this in the final story we see Norwa admonishing Sam, the President of the US’s son, for his disrespectful  attitude and actions toward her appearance (neck rings) and her Grandmother’s spiritual ways.http://www.echo-planet.com/index.php/characters.html

In the end the film did not do well at the box office in Thailand on it’s release in August 2012. The 170 million Baht film (£3 million/ $5.3 million) was shot in 3D stereoscopic and aimed to recoup the money invested, however after just a few weeks it was pulled from the cinemas. The film has had limited success at International Animation film festivals, suffering from the huge competition from the US giant studios, much as many small foreign studios do.
 This is such a shame, the film is very watchable, and entertaining. The underlying theme is a simple green message to switch off the unnecessary electricity. The characters are amusing and offer a different ideology in a refreshing way.  Perhaps it’s my British ideology that loves to support the underdog that makes the film so appealing. Perhaps it’s because the strong female lead offered afresh perspective , a hero that was despite the  Karen long neck, someone like me wanting to believe that I have a right to a say in this world. Either way look out for it. It’s definitely worth a look and  could help ad to the list of films now that have an underlying theme to save our planet.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Kompin Kemgumnird Interview 25/2/14 (part 4) Kantana and the Blue Elephant

contd from  Kompin Kemgumnird Interview 25/2/14 part 3 Blue Skies and home again!

Around 2002 Kompin returned home to Thailand, his visa had run out and his passport was due to expire and the South East Asian economic crisis of 1997 was still having some effect in the region. He got in touch with a group of people who he had worked with at the Studio Corporation. They had all moved to Katana Animation Studios. They were planning to do an animation series, ‘Zon 100%   -  ซน 100% Which means ‘100% Naughty’, there were 22 minute long episodes and 24 episodes in total. 
    "It’s good for training in animation production. You have to take a story and make it work but you don't have to like be too strict on the story, there is room for experimentation and exploring and learning within each episode, so one episode may be better than another, but if the idea is good enough it can go into production. And if there are problems then you can try to do better in the next episode, a kind of work in progress which allowed the crew to learn and develop their skills on the job. Each episode had a different approach, some were action based, which people really enjoyed working on and some are more drama based where they could play around with ideas of character and story."
     At that time the early concept ideas for Khan Kluay, the Blue Elephant had already been established. The writer original idea was writer Khun Dow, (Aummaraporn Phandintong) who spoke with Khun Jarit (the Kantana Animation boss) who has always liked elephants, and he was looking to do any kind of movie with elephants. They spoke about possible ideas for live action and in her research she came across the most famous elephant in Thai history was in the elephant battle สงครามยุทธหัตถี Songkram Yuddhahatthi with King Naresuan.  In Thailand there are many references of the classical pose depicting the two elephants in battle where the kings on top in battle  of King Naresuan above the other at the moment of conquest. A strong visual reminder of the defeat of the Burmese. This is something that is seen and reinforced in education throughout Thai schools. The iniytial ideas were to take the story from the elephants perspective and 'celebrate' the elephants role in the historic events. Elephants are the National animal for the country and hold strong associations with the national pride. Their part in history is reenacted in spectacular shows with live elephants in Surin, Ayutthaya and Bangkok. 
Elephants from Ayutthaya Elephant Kraal reenact the battle

Khun Jarit thought this was a great idea, to focus on the story of the elephant that served the king in Thai History. So at first they looked into doing the idea as live action. They talked with Khun Somphat, P'Ohm from the Ayutthaya Elephant Kraal about the possibility of filming elephants, but it was agreed that this would be really hard to get the elephants to ‘act’ in live action. So they gradually changed the idea towards being done in animation. Initially it was to be a TV series about Khan Kluay, following the story of how he grew up and was raised in the forest by his mum and exploring the questions he has about his father and his relationships with the other elephants, in a kind of a soap opera family story anthropomorphizing the elephant's experiences for the audience to engage with. Offering a kind of fable like morality where you see the bad ‘kids’ who bully him as the underdog character in the forest (hood) but gradually as the story progresses he becomes stronger and becomes the chosen one by the King. 

Khun Auchura was a producer at Kantana now and knew Kompin from their earlier work at the Studio Corporation she knew that his experience at Blue Sky was coming to an end, so asked him to join in. The last, and only,  animated feature film in Thailand at that time was ‘The Adventures of Sudsakon’ made in 1977. The studio decided to change the story into a feature movie; a move which  was both innovative and a huge risk for Kanatana. Once the Zon series came to an end the studio they started to gear up to making the feature film.  Kompin was given the script and in it he saw both opportunity, but he also saw a lot of trouble too! He knew from his recent experience at Blue Sky that the feature business is tough! He told Khun Auchura it would be really tough to make, partly because at that time he was thinking about a realistic look. Initially he had thought it would have to be realistic because they would need to deal with the King (King Naresuan) and it would be really hard (socially and ideologically) to picture the King as a cartoon, especially in Thailand where the King is worshiped and revered as a God and so the visualizing as cartoon would be deemed inappropriate by many in the community. Thailand has a Lese majeste law which upholds and maintains no criticism or dissent about the monarchy. So this would make the job very hard.
Also he recognised from his work on Ice Age it  had been hard enough to animate just one elephant/mammoth Manny, but in this story there are many elephants and they are really difficult to animate. They have a really big body and head, but a really tiny eyes. So when animators try to add expression into character's they usually use the and hand gesture, but elephants are four legged large bodies and small eyes,  so the hand and body gesture is hard too but they do have a trunk! So sometimes you can use the trunk for the gesture, but if you use the trunk all the time it ends up looking weird. You have to express through the eye and the eyebrow, but because they are so small and far apart from each other it’s difficult to make expression clear. In Ice Age the job of character animation was easier, there were alternatives: there was the sloth and the tiger, the baby, all with so many things you can explore to get the story across through the various characters, but in Khan Kluay there was only elephants – every main character was an elephant, so it would be more than ten times harder! They worked in the first attempt at the character design which went towards a very cartoony look so they can build in the possibility to play more with gesture, like adding bouncing and body gesture and have funny facial expression.

Some foreigners with the expertise were needed to help the studio work on a feature film. So  people were hired, many of whom were also Cal Arts alumini, including Tod Polsen who initally came in to help direct the project and develop the design and Evan Spiliotopoulos who worked on the English version of the script and few other people working on character design and the 2D animation. Although none of them had worked on a full feature film they were highly skilled and helped train and teach the whole Thai team the production process from the developing of ideas through the production pipeline and planning and the scheduling. Being a feature film tthis opened the very necessary financial  possibility to widen the audience into an international appeal. They all needed to work and learn together.  

Initially Tod developed a trailer to try to get some European investment.


They spent a year working on and developing the story, story board, and character design, set designs, and with their influences the versions of the story developed from the original historical account and the soap opera structure that  had been developing into a fuller character driven narrative. 

It maintained a sense of the original, but when they had screenings with the producers and backers several times during the work in progress the feedback and comments were very tough from the boss and executive producers and Thai friends. They felt it did not look ‘Thai’, which is a tough comment. There is such a lot of work involved and then from the producers such a huge pressure and president to set on the Thai identity. So this was really a very hard time in the films progression. The big question being what is ‘Thai’?

            Kompin suggests ‘Our culture is mix and match – you only have to look at Thai food the deserts like Thong Yod  - but if you look back in history it originated from the Portuguese, it's not Thai at all, it is an adaptation. The Kwai Tioew noodles are Chinese. So all kinds of Thai traditional foods are all influenced from our neighbours elsewhere. So it makes it hard to pinpoint the Thai identity. So when the comment came that the film was not Thai enough, it was tough for me. I was not involved in the project at that time so it was hard for me to tell what part was Thai what part was not. Or why the Thai-ness is not there.’

The designer, Tod Polsen,  had worked really hard to identify the elements of design to capture Thai culture. Tod is really good at being able to go to another culture and look at the accent of the culture and then simplify it and interpret it into design for animation and reflect the culture. The details of the swords demonstrating the subtle differences between the warring factions of the Burmese and the Thai. But it was something at the heart of the story, that maybe was not there yet in terms of Thainess. 

Tod was fully aware about the Thai cultural deference to the King, and he thus had tried to avoid dwelling on scenes involving the King. He had focused more on the elephants stories and their interactions, especially as it was Khan Kluay’s story. So the part with the war scenes, he had cut shorter and focused more into the elephant’s point of view.  In Thai historical dramas like the King Naresuan  films there seems, from a western perspective, a high content of violence an a focus on the waring action. Which by Western standards may seem inappropriate for children's audiences yet one can usually see a high turn out of families and children viewing the graphic actions. However the cinema ratings and censorship rules in Thailand have less emphasis on violence. It was felt the narrative did not show the Thai perspective enough. The Thai national and cultural relationship with (their version) of the historical past is ingrained into the cultural psyche from very early on, and so the events of the Ayutthaya war, defending (and building) of the kingdom, needs to be depicted in such a way as to be reinforcing the ideology of the events, the loyalty to the King and the understanding of the sacrifices made by past Kings in order to demonstarte it’s strength of Thai people as recognised in the eyes of the people today. In Thailand there are layers and layers of cultural reinforcements of the roles of past historical events, in particular of King Naresuan, seen in amulets worn, posters displayed in homes, street names, statues and in the main stream media, especially Film. The stories depicted never question the roles of the characters who rarley are depicted with the hero's character flaws as seen in the hero's journey narrative favoured in the West, nor are there analysis of the reality of events, but they are reenacted to maintain the enigma of the King, which is accepted in the culture. Unlike the West which appears often to delight in establishing as much dirt on it’s own past as possible. Within the culture there is a seemingly natural understanding of protocol of deference often so subtle that can be missed by outsiders eyes; and usually our clumsy indifference is passed over easily by Thai's who happily accept the complexity of ceremony they live by.
Comparably in Memoirs of a Geisha the story of a Japanese Geisha, the film reads clearly to outsider’s eyes, but to Japanese they can see the main character is Chinese not Japanese. Or in the for Thailand contreversial, Yul Brenor’s depiction of the King of Siam in the ‘King and I’, 

Black and white photo of a man with a shaven head in silky Asian garb; his chest is exposed and his feet are bare; he stands with hands on hips, glowering at the camera
Yul Brenor in the role of King Mongkut

which understandably caused offense and bore no resemblance to the Thai cultural understanding of the King Mongkut or the story. 
King Mongkut with one of his wives and some of his children

King Mongkut and his son Prince Chulalongkorn

Things may look or appear similar, but when you know the protocol codes, signals, body language and gestures of a culture the wrong sequencing, or positioning can stand out. Kompin decided to change some of the emphasis in the story in particular the part where Khan Kluay meets the King for the first time. Previously Khan Kluay and the king had not seen each other until he was grown up and went to the ‘boot camp’ to train and was picked to work with the King. So by bringing them together when they were both younger he was able to establish a through line in the plot that established  the magical presence of the King to the elephant. This reflects the Thai Buddhist concept that all creatures would come to no harm with Buddha and the King, who holds the same enigma of character of God in Thai culture. So in the scene Khan Kluay arrives all frustrated and nervous and he comes to see the young Prince he becomes all calm in his presence. Jai yen yen. 


The scene is quintessentially Thai demonstrating the magical power of the King’s presence to calm the heart of the elephant. A scene where you have to feel it, feel the calm. This scene is then reinforced later when the elephant gets crazy, his mum has been captured, every thing has gone crazy and the King came and touched him, in a link moment which reinforced the earlier moment and sets up their linked destiny together. 

The Thai crew working on the film, when they design a shot, even when following the international design, they were automatically adhering to the Thai-ness. Setting the King above the elephant. They also helped in the setting of the scenery and environment especially with the foliage. They knew intrinsically what plants are from here so they are reflecting the indigenous environment more accurately.

When Khan Kluay was completed the boss wanted to follow on with a sequel, ‘Khan Kluay 2’, but Kompin did not want to continue with that.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Kompin Kemgumnird Interview 25/2/14 (part 3) Blue Skies and home again!

contd from
 Interview with Kompin Kemgumnird 25/2/14 (part 2) First jobs, Cal Arts and on to Disney!

The move to Blue Sky Studio

He worked on Tarzan around one year, and stayed at Disney for two years and then there became problems with his visa again so he had to quit. It is part of the downside of 2D Animation that it is slowing down and the priority in the US is for citizens. So he left and went on an adventure with his animation teacher from Cal Arts, Mike Nguyen. Mike asked if Kompin might want to accompany him driving from LA to New York. And he thought, that’s a good opportunity and so he took a vacation from Disney and went with his brother and Mike driving for a week from coast to coast. The drove from LA up the coast sight seeing, to Mount Rushmore,
also the statue for Crazy Horse, the Native American monument

            Then we went to New York, I went to Blue Sky studio to show them what I can do. At that time, just before then, they were just a small studio working on commercials. But when I visited they had just won the Oscar for the animation short called, “Bunny” and that gave them the opportunity to do a feature film. They were working on ‘Ice Age’ for Fox entertainment. 

So the studio was expanding, so it was good timing for Kompin. So he was employed as an animator working in a team of 20 animators, and we animated everything in the scenes. Unlike at Disney, in the 2D feature film studio system, where you are assigned to one particular character, in a crew and you just work on that one character throughout the film. But at Blue Sky we were working on 3D Computer generated animation you work through whole scenes and whatever characters are in the scenes you have got to animate them. In the film he worked on a lot of scenes, not the most exciting or challenging ones, the okay scenes, not long ones because they tend to give the hard ones to the Senior animators. 

I enjoyed working on the opening sequence with the squirrel character “Scrat” that ran around with the acorn. I did a couple of the shots. That’s the thing about working as a team, you are part of the group and one shot is connected to another so no one is the ‘auteur’ no one scene is yours like when you are working on your own short film. I learned a lot from all of them, I see how over their shoulders they work on particular problems, how other people are working. I have my own way to approach it but when there is a group like this we combine. Some people can crank out the scenes really quickly and really good, so I have to go and ask them how did they do that? You can learn a lot from that.

So after ‘Ice Age’ was completed they laid off 70 of the staff from the production, and as a foreigner I was one of them. They were not sure at that time if the movie was going to be successful or not. They (Fox Entertainment) had frozen the budget for the second and third films, when Blue Sky had initially signed up with Fox it had been for 3 projects, but because of what was happening in the industry at that time, another studio, a 2D studio in Arizona Don Bluth, their first movie, ‘Anastasia’  had been kind of successful, not sky rocket successful but good enough, but a follow up animated feature film ‘Titan A.E’ was a big flop so Fox had pulled the funding on the fourth film in the contract, ‘Africa’. Which affect the contract with Blue Sky as Fox had become cautious with the multiple film contracts. So Blue Sky had to prove the potential of the first film before funding for further features was secured. Therefore they could not keep employing everyone and let the 70 people go. Ironically on it’s release in 2002 it was the highest grossing animated feature film that year and has gone on to become the second highest grossing animated franchise of all time.

However at that point Kompin chose to move back to LA to work with Mike Nguyen, his animation teacher from Cal Arts he was also an animation supervisor in a major studio and he had always wanted to do his own film. He owned a studio called July Films (http://www.julyfilms.com/  and  http://julyfilms.com/blog/ ). He felt at that time that the major studios in the US had too much management and less input from the artists, and whenever there were problems financially the artists were let go first. And in a dream world artists come together and for a small amount of money we just produce films together… 
This model is somewhat more true perhaps in the UK where smaller studios develop work in the commercial world and within studios they have a ‘stable’ of high quality directors with opportunities for individuals to develop their own individual works, often supported through the Arts Council of Great Britain which is funded through the National Lottery system. This has allowed individual animators to develop personal portefolios within studios as well as supporting each other. Often including works which have gone on to win Oscars  Eg Tandem Films http://www.tandemfilms.com/  Daniel Greaves won the Oscar for his short film ‘Manipulation’ ‘Manipulation’ Daniel Greaves | Tandem  in 1991, plus other successes such as Simon Tolfield of ‘Simon’s Cat’ (http://www.simonscat.com/ ). Passion Pictures http://www.passion-pictures.com/ whose talents include Sam Fell (‘ParaNorman’ ‘The Tale of Desperaux’and ‘Flushed Away) and Astley Baker Davies  http://www.astleybakerdavies.com/ makers of ‘Peppa Pig’, ‘The Big Knights’ and ‘Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom’. Much of the success in the UK came down to the investments made by Channel Four and their commitment to producing and screening cutting edge animation, much of which was through the actions of Claire Kitson.  Clare Kitson scheduled animation programmes at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the early 70s and was a programmer at the National Film Theatre in the 80s. From 1989 to 1999 she commissioned Channel 4’s animation. (http://www.parliamenthillpublishing.co.uk/british-animation-the-channel-4-factor/clare-kitson/ )

So it was in a similar vein that Mike Nguyen had an idea to set up a team of students each of them working on a chunks of three minutes long each, then if you’ve got 10 people working on the notion that if you’re doing a short film of three minutes it can take four months each, then you will have from those ten people in eight months a feature film. However the idea is does have it’s problems, because those ten people all have to come and they share the same equipment and then how do you blend together all these separate ideas into one movie. We did very well considering many were artists right from school they have a tendency to not be so focussed in to work as much as living their life, they enjoy to spend a lot of free time instead of focussing on the deadline. So the project was expanding and expanding both in deadlines and in the focus of the feature. It’s really good to do something like this, it opens up something different (creatively). Kompin suggested they could get a group to come and set up in Thailand, we could rent a place next to the beach and have a resident cook to provide good food and do the animation by the beach! With the Thai currency we could produce animation by the beach and finish it on time! But of course there is the danger that they are by the beach… and the temptation of the sun, sea and the bars…inspiration? But we still haven’t finished the movie – because there was at that time the economic crisis. The basic funds came from a company in Korea and at that time in the middle of the production the money crisis around South East Asia hit hard so they didn't have enough funds so they had to stop the project and do something else…but my teacher Mike he continues to work on the animation, it’s a hand drawn animation, the rough animation’s all done and the clean up around 80% is done. Similarly the colouring is nearly done. Right now he’s teaching in Korea and is trying to finish the film. But at that time Kompin decided to come back home to Thailand.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Films watched in Animation Studio 2 29/4/14

The 1st year class was  looking at Bouncing Balls
The basic principles of
  • Arc
  • Timing
  • Stretch and Squash
  • Pose to pose key frames
What is it made of? How heavy? How big?
What is it bouncing against?
Is there gravity?

Manipulation Daniel Greaves
 ‘Manipulation’ Daniel Greaves | Tandem

Laughing Moon  Kiyoshi Nishimoto

Rabbit Rabbit Daniel Greaves
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QUK0KChCiLc  http://www.youtube.com/user/tandem

Little Wolf An Vrombaut

Rockin' and Rollin' Daniel Greaves  ‘Rockin’ & Rollin’ Daniel Greaves | Tandem

Luxor Jr John Lasseter

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Interview with Kompin Kemgumnird 25/2/14 (part 2) First jobs, Cal Arts and on to Disney!

contd from Interview with Kompin Kemgumnird 25/2/14 [Part1] 

After  Kompin Kemgumnird graduated from Silapakorn University he went to the medium sized company, the Studio Corporation they can claim they were the first company who bought computers in Thailand. They are still in operation today but no longer do CG but are working more on Television Production work, renting the stage for TV shows and all kinds of video production and editing suite and broadcast equipment. At that time they were expanding and the manager Khun Thitipat, wanted to be the first place to have a CG house in Thailand for the TV and Film Industry. So he had bought the first Silicon Graphics computers for the job with Matisse the cutting edge technology of the time into Thailand. At the time the equipment was extremely expensive at about 10,000,000 baht ($150-200,000)per machine. The company at that time wasn’t really the number one in the market but by bringing the computers, it brought about the fortune of the company. P’ Dtum (Khun Auchara) was the producer at Studio Corporation at that time and she interviewed Kompin by phone. She had already been abroad to study Animation in Rochester Intitute of Technology and then returned to Thailand to work initially for A and A Network and then for the Studio Corporation. She asked Kompin if he had background in computers or anything…he said "no…." and he told her that 
"I can learn fast, just teach me.” 
And at that time she didn’t have much choice there was few others in Thailand with the skills, and they would have had to study abroad to get the knowledge.
People in the industry in Thailand were being inspired from outside, foreign animation works. they were inspired by what they saw and tried to figure out what to do. The people who were working in the Thai animation industry were the super geeks. Like Ajarn Piyut director of Sudsakorn, the first Thai person who really dedicated himself to creating animation. He invented his own version of the Oxberry machine by himself. He didn't have the money to buy it so he would get like the regular cinematography camera and created a machine where he can pan and zoom and do all kinds of mechanical stuff by himself and his friend. In the mid to late 1980’s early 1990’s the animation industry in the UK was starting to boom. Channel Four began funding animation, The Arts Council and BBC2 were all commissioning works and screening them. Richard Williams made 'Who framed Roger Rabbit', 1988, TVC produced films like the Jimmy Murakami with Dianne Jackson 'the Snowman', 1982, which still get regular screening each year at Christmas  and 'When the Wind Blows' 1986. The industry was booming so there were animation degree courses popping up everywhere. All over the world there was a boom in animation productions and people studying animation Perhaps caused by an economical accessiblilty to the technology and the rise of the intel technology.
“I think that [attitude] is a good reflection on me; what we did was we tried to learn how other people tried to solve the problems outside of the country and then look around at what we have and kind of come up with the idea to do it ourselves”
In Thailand still today there are still outdoor traveling cinemas. Often put on by the Wat’s during special festivals. The projectors are the huge industrial sized 35mm projectors. They set up along the streets and screen old films.

As a child Kompin also experienced this.
“I loved that moment It comes on many occasions like new year especially in the temple, sometimes at funerals. So they have the big screens. And in remote [areas] they have people who travel to show the movie and they sell products, like medicines, they use the opportunity of getting whole village together as a chance to promote the drugs and offer health care opportunities. They get financial benefits from this, it is not altruistic the do it for profit!"
So when they came he would spend half the night there, each time they came he would ask his mum to go there. Sometimes I would fall asleep right in front for the projection.

Millie: So when you started working at Studio Corporation  what kind of jobs were you doing, what animation did you work on? 
" I started on 2D Animation. When I graduated I had done one animation project. It was 50% live action and 50% 2D animation. It’s about Vincent Van Gogh. A music video with music by Don Maclean."
The work was mainly commercials and adverts for television. After working for 3 years at Studio Corporation Kompin found he was struggling in the work. He couldn't produce better work, it was challenging but what we produce at the studio it’s recognisable that it comes from the studio corporation. There was a recognisable style, but it had something more to do what we did maybe right or a bit wrong, especially in a timing sense and Kompin thought that he really wanted to dig into it(the process) more and learn more how to do it better. So at that timeamny of the people, friends from the studio, decided to move on to Kantana Animation. Who were also starting to expand from TV Soap operas into CG special effects and  animation production. They begun producing computer animation and were also expanding in a visionary way including starting the Oriental Post  a post production facility in1998 .  They aimed to be a hub of post production in South east Asia.
But Kompin decided at that time he wanted to go and learn more and expand his own knowledge and experience and go on a journey to find something else… he didn’t know what but felt he needed something else.  So he learned about CalArts. Through a friend who had been there and studied in the Graphic department, he came back to Thailand, and they met through work and he suggested that if you really want to study animation, then that is the place to go! So he asked him to write a letter of recommendation, which he did. Kompin applied to only one school, cal Arts, he didn’t look for anything else. So if they hadn’t accepted him he may have given up. So after waiting a further two years to save money to be able to go, and 5 years working at Studio Corporation he sent his animation thesis on Van Gogh and a showreel of the commercials he had done for studio corporation. The commercials were crap [his words!] even though they had used expensive machines to produce it for some reason it lacked spirit when compared with the personal film. He was lucky. It was three years after the Lion King directed by Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff, 1994 came out (famously the pivotal film in Disney’s 2D fortunes being the highest grossing 2d Animation feature film) and this had created a big boom in Hollywood animation, so that year he applied so many people applied around 3000 from all over the world and they accept only 70 people.  His professor from Cal Arts remembered him from his personal film, even though he couldn't remember Kompin’s name, he remembered the work that is really powerful.

He went into CalArts into the first year of another Bachelor degree, not masters, because he wanted to do character animation and Cal Arts only has one department that has a master’s degree and that is experiemental. So he had to restudy everything over again. He could have asked to skip to the second or third year, but he didn't want to, he wanted to learn all the basics again. Except one class where he went to the class and he wasn't happy, Perspective, which he has been taught at Silapakorn University who taught him really great perspective and this class was less intensive. He was able to transfer all his critical study classes. So he was able to just choose that classes he really wanted. Even the English classes, whereas other schools have compulsory English classes for foreign students and they need to pass ESL tests he was able to bypass and just choose the classes he really wanted and he feels he learned his English better that way, by need rather than by force.
In the end he only had enough money to go to CalArts for one year. It’s so expensive, especially for international students, and his sponsor was his Aunt who lives in Seattle and he felt he could only accept for one year’s support. So he went to school for one year and then he planned to look for a job.  So he focussed really hard in school to get better and to get picked by the studio, especially Disney. 
But after one year he found out that Disney are not interested to look at the first year students work. They only look at the work of 3rd and 4th year students and he couldn’t afford to stay until the fourth year as a student to show them his portefolio. So he had to shift his focus to somewhere else to get work where, as a foreigner you have to have a lawyer help you to get the greencard (work permit)and a company not only have to like you they have to prove they need you (over and above an American). So that means your work has to be really outstanding from other people. So he really focussed himself to do the best in his first year project. So he put his work out there and got about 20 offers for interview from showing is portefolio at the jobfair that CalArts hosts for their students. 
Unfortunatley all turned him down, because he was international and the green card was an issue. There was one small company that said we can do the paperwork for you but they could not pay - so it would be an internship… which is a good idea, but who couldn't afford to do that., to live in Hollywood with no income! 
Luckily after he finished his first year film, Kompin's hard work paid off because there were three big companies that id eventually called him back to interview him Disney, Blue Sky Studio and ILM. During the job fair they had refused to look at the work as he was a first year student. But his film was chosen to feature in the producer show screening which is an hour and half programme of the pick of the best of the year selected by the instructors from the 8 hour long screening of all the year’s work! The selected films are shown in down town LA and Cal Arts invite all the producers to come along. From that event two studio’s selected his work, Disney and Blue Sky were really interested and asked for his portefolio. Disney accepted him onto their training programme and they wanted him to help work on the film, Hercules(1997). But after a short while he was brought into the office and told they couldn't keep him because of union regulations. Which was annoying at the time as Blue Sky had also made an offer which he'd turned down after he had checked whether they would be a problem, which they ahd said there wasn't. For Blue Sky at that time it would have been easier as the US were specifically offering visa help to skilled workers especially in Computer technology. So in the end Disney asked if he was willing to go back to school and they would give him a full scholarship. So that was a great solution! He told them he would need two more years to finish the degree. That way after the two years they could apply for the practical training visa, which was a better solution for all. The school also supported him financially so he was able to stay without spending any more.
So he spent another two years at Cal Arts and produced two more films. And finally joined Disney to work on Tarzan (1999) as the inbetween artist on the character Kala.

Working at Disney Studios was like working with the all stars!
‘There are the most amazing artists there. I learned a lot from observing them, not so much from the work I was doing, which was as a clean up artist producing the final drawings for the screens. There are a lot of people who do that and are really good. And I was really good at that too, but my heart was really more that I wanted to do the animation. Like the rough animation, or planning the action. I’m not too much of the drawing geek, I can do it good enough, and to be good in your job you have to be really good but if you are really good they really want you to stay in that position and grow up, and you never become the animator. So I try to find my way to another department by doing rough animation, I took some tests but it’s really hard to get to do that. They also provide mentoring [in Disney] like one guy his name is Oliver Thomas, he’s not like a superstar yet, but he’s really good. He’s from Canada. They put me under his wing, by my visa was being attached to him, so as another foreigner he has an O1 visa and I had an O2 visa, and so I became Oliver’s assistant for some reason. And when he saw my work he volunteered to help me to get better at animation. So I would visit him every week. Show my stuff, and get better. And I also like the work of Andreas Deja (http://andreasdeja.blogspot.com/), he’s really really really good, another graduate from CalArts. He was the lead animator for Jaffar in Aladdin and Scar in The Lion King. Before I get to know him well he moved to Orlando in Florida to work on the lead character, Lilo from Lilo and Stitch. But I got to show him my portefolio and he really liked it, but too bad that he then had to go far away. There were a lot of people there like Glen Keane. While I was working on Tarzan he wasn’t there, he was in France, but after that project finished he moved back and was working on the Treasure Planet. So I got to see him a couple of times. And another person who stood out was Nancy Beiman, she was classmates with Glen Keane.http://www.skwigly.co.uk/an-interview-with-nancy-beiman/  

 © Nancy Beiman 2010 from her book “Animated Performance”

Right now she’s in Canada, teaching Storyboarding to students at Sheridan College.