29 March 2011

Intelligence Test

Douglas Adams was right. More often than not we discover that we are not necessarily the brightest of animals on the planet. Here a scientist tries – somewhat vainly – to get a chimp to perform a few tests in order to measure his intelligence. He gets a little more than he bargained for. There is a moral to this story, somewhere!

This short but very funny animation was created by Lee Daniels, an independent Illustrator, animator, and all round graphic design professional with a sense of humor. It was created using the Adobe CS5 Master Collection, After Effects, Premiere, Illustrator, and our old friend Photoshop.

27 March 2011

Store in a Dry, Cool Place

The Girl & the Horse

A small girl is crying because there is a hole in her stomach, suddenly a mysterious horse appears and things begin to change…

This lovely animation was created by award winning director Rebecca Manley who was with Slinky Pictures from 2003-2010. She works in a variety of areas including TV, film and commercials and is also an experienced art director, animator, designer, and model-maker.

Her films have been screened at countless national and international festivals including The New York Children's Film Festival, Melbourne International Film Festival, Indie Lisboa Portugal, Sputnik Kino Berlin, The Big Cartoon festival Moscow, Rushes Soho Shorts and the Edinburgh festival.

The Girl & the Horse was also shown at the National Gallery London, in conjunction with the 'Stubbs and the Horse' Exhibition. The film was nominated for Best Music and the Public Choice Award at the British Animation Awards 2004. Her first commercial, for Carte Noire coffee, 'Steam' was long-listed for Best Craft and nominated in the Public Choice category at the British Animation Awards 2006.


This short animation represents a very personal project for its creator, Freek van Haagen, dealing with a subject matter that has been part of his life for a long time.  It represents an abstract dream – or perhaps memory – of a boy and his mother.

I think that perhaps of the multitude of expensive (and often tiresomely repetitive) road safety films that we see, a major channel should take this animation and show it at prime time.

I am almost certain it would have a huge impact.

26 March 2011

Leonard Nimoy is 80 so Let’s go Back to the Eighties!

Happy 80th birthday Leonard Nimoy!  To celebrate the entry of one of the planet’s most recognisable actors in to his eighties, we are happy to take you back a few years to show you an interview Leonard Nimoy had with the legendary Bobbie Wygant. 

We thought it would be a good idea, now that Nimoy is in his eighties, to take you back to the future, as it were - to 1982.  This interview was conducted on the release of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan.  This was at the point when the whole is Spock dead debate was goint at full throttle.

It is quite an eye opener at some points - but what makes our eyes really open wide is the amazing suit and tie combo that Nimoy is wearing.  Super cool eighties guy!  The world may have been a mess but Mr Nimoy’s tailoring was perfect!

Mechanical Sympathy

When Tom McDermott was given a brief for his dissertation to create, using stop motion animation techniques, a short movie which would breathe new life in to an inanimate object. So, then he almost perversely chose to capture the last minutes of life of the inanimate object of his choice. The result is Mechanical Sympathy, created in five weeks and using 6,300 individual photographs.

Creating something like this is something of a knack – as it is difficult to judge whether or not the inanimate object will truly have a life of its own until it is almost too late to go back and start again. Fortunately, the risk pays off marvellously here with the use of an old reel to reel tape recorder a complete blinder. The story too is told with great pathos so that by the end you are almost ready to get the hankies out. Well, perhaps not but this is still a sterling piece of stop motion animation - and you just can't beat a soundtrack by the Electric Light Orchestra!

James Watt's Workshop

When asked who the most influential British inventor ever was a lot of people will answer with a single name – James Watt.  After all, his steam condenser did, effectively, kick start the Industrial Revolution. When he died in 1819 his workshop near Birmingham (the one in the United Kingdom) was preserved and this legendary magical retreat became a magnet for pilgrims.

However, the house in which his attic study was situated became due for demolition ninety years ago.  Fortunately the Science Museum stepped in and bought the workshop in its entirety – over 8,000 pieces.  Now they have restored it and it has taken pride of place in the museum. It is hoped that a new generation of inventors will be inspired by his visions – of a machine that could copy sculptures and another that could copy letters as well as by the sheer ambience of his workplace.

The exhibition, Head Room, opened on March 23 (more details here) but you may not, however, be able to get to London any time soon.  So, the Science Museum has enlisted the help of animator and artist Leo Bridle. Bridle was asked to take in the vast amount of artifacts left behind by Watt and to give an artist’s reaction to this amazing collection.  This glorious animation is what he made of the 8430 objects that make up the new exhibition.  Although you can see it in situ, the Science Museum has kindly released it on to the interweb so that those who cannot be there can enjoy the artist’s response to the inventor’s retreat.

A Tribute to René Magritte

If you are, like me, a fan of the Belgian surrealist artist René Magritte then you will most probably find this very enjoyable.  I have always thought that many of his paintings would lend themselves very well to animation and was really pleased to discover this short animation which does it so wonderfully and with an obvious adoration of the original material.

You will find a number of Magritte’s well known works here, including Memory, Two Mysteries and one of my own personal favourites, Time Transfixed.  Enjoy!

21 March 2011

Even After All This Time...

The Hosts

Short and sweet and at under a minute long, The Hosts deals with what happens when eyes meet across a room and figure something out that probably the rest of the planet don’t know anything about.

So, a date is on the cards.  Sure, sometimes you just have to switch off and let yourself out of your shell! This animated short by Juan Correa says everything it needs to in less than sixty seconds.  And so be it!


Artificial Intelligence this ain’t.  A young boy longs for company, his parents are always rowing and he believe the hype that the new robot helper come play mate, Blinky, will help heal the rift between his parents and that his home life will return to the happy situation it once was.

Of course, things never go quite to plan and soon the boy tires of his new robot pal.  Yet, you should never misuse a robot – you never know quite what will happen when conflicting orders are given... Trust me, you are going to see a number of Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics broken here.

This is a great short film, written & Directed by Ruairi Robinson.  It stars Max Records  who you may recognize from Where The Wild Things Are.  The cinematography is done by Macgregor and the music by Ólafur Arnalds, courtesy of Erased Tapes.

This may not be quite what you expect…

The Aurora Borealis - Spectacular Time Lapse Video

Terje Sorgjerd – a landscape photographer from Norway - spent several weeks shooting the phenomenon that is the aurora borealis.  Here, it is captured in all of its glory at Kirkenes and Pas National Park bordering Russia.  At 70 degree north and 30 degrees east and with temperatures around -25 Celsius Sorgjerd insists that it was all good fun. Rather him than me!

However, the results are amazing. This is quite a spectacular piece of time lapse video work and rivals anything that I have seen on various science programmes, even those produced by the hallowed British Broadcasting Corporation.  It captures the aurora in all of its breathtaking beauty and – a definite plus – puts them alongside one of my favourite movies soundtracks, Now We Are Free from Gladiator.

Short, but perfect.  Go full screen and take it all in.

20 March 2011

Mr and Mrs Vader

Just when you think that the universe is safe then one of the greatest arch villains of all time, Darth Vader – goes and gets himself hitched.  Now this is the second time he has been married, if you count that liaison with rather unfortunate consequences between a young Jedi known then as Anakin Skywalker and the beautiful Padmé Amidala.  Plus of course if twins run in the family then the universe may be in even greater peril than we had hitherto imagined.

Seriously – or not – this very cool photo was taken at DragonCon 2008. 

What is Neocolonialism?

There is a war of words going on at the moment – between the supporters of General Gaddafi and (it seems) the rest of the world and one word is being bandied about a great deal – colonialism. Gaddafi and his cronies are accusing those countries now involved in the no fly zone of just that.

Yet they are not the only critics. Many people are suggesting that the only reason there is a no fly zone is because the nation has oil – a point which is difficult to disprove because, well, it has. One can only make the point that the humanitarian suffering is so great in Libya at the moment that something is needed. Yet is it colonialism, whichever side you are on?

Perhaps the best word Gaddafi could have used should have been neo-colonialism – a term which was traditionally used to describe the involvement of former colonial powers to keep control of their former colonies after independence. Whether you agree with his opinion is up to you but there is a new threat of neo-colonialism hanging over the African continent.  The term has now been extended somewhat to include nations which previously had no control over a country gaining influence over it: indeed it often gains that control with the collusion of the government of that very nation. The real danger for the African nations is quite possibly being sold down the river by their own governments.

Take the example of Ethiopia – and this is happening all over the continent. Vast swathes of land are being acquired for use by various Asian nations. You can argue what came first – the chicken or the egg – what coerced the African governments to agree to the leasing out of their land to foreign powers with little benefit to their own people? On the other hand the action of these countries (such as China and India) seems to fall short of what might be described as ethical. Africa is in danger of being leased out of existence.

19 March 2011

Slow Day at the Office

Times are tough and many of us are having to take on work that we would not ordinarily consider. Yet this cool cat seems to be ready for business, recession or no.  It could have been the opportunity he has been looking throughout his nine lives. Mind you, if his tip jar is anything to go by, trade has been rather slow of late.  Perhaps it’s time this guy reconsiders his future working prospects?


Space 1999 - Message From Moonbase Alpha

Those of you of a certain age (perhaps I should say vintage) will remember the science fiction TV show Space 1999 – the adventures of a group of people blasted out of earth’s orbit on Moonbase Alpha due to a massive nuclear explosion.  The show ran for two series and became, like Star Trek, more popular after its demise than during its original run.

One of my favorite characters was that of Sandra Benes, who was played by Zienia Merton.  She was a kind of barometer for what was happening and spent a deal of her time sobbing and screaming and looking generally bewildered but I thought that she was rather pretty!

Which brings us to this, essentially, fan made video.  Message from Moonbase Alpha was originally shown at a convention in Los Angeles – remarkably enough on the very day that the fictional moon was to break away from the earth’s orbit – 13 September 1999.

So, yes, it is quite old but when I came across it on YouTube I just had to share it.  It is a wonderful coda for a TV series that abruptly ended at the end of its second season.  Surprisingly, for what is ostensibly a fan made film, the short seven minute talking head features none other than Zienia Merton herself.  Not only that, it was written by Johnny Byrne, the original script writer for the show.

If you remember the TV series, go get a handkerchief.  You may need it. No, you will need it.

18 March 2011

Extreme Super-Moon

Saturday 19 March is one of those evenings that sky gazers have been anticipating for a long time. A rare lunar phenomenon is about to happen. You may not even notice it yourself if you are simply a casual observer but tomorrow night the moon will appear larger and brighter than normal.

The moon has not been this close to the Earth for eighteen years. Some astrologists refer to this as a super-moon but there are even those who are calling tomorrow night’s moon an extreme super-moon because the moon will also be at the fullest part of its sequence. The real name for the term is rather different – astrological purists refer to it as a lunar perigree.

For many this is the opportunity to gaze in awe at the beauty of our lonely satellite. However, there are the doomsayers too. They maintain that when the moon is at its closest to us then the increased gravitational pull of the moon does strange things to the Earth. Many are already pointing a finger towards Japan and blaming the perigree for the earthquake and tsunami disaster there.

A number of astrologers have also made dire predictions for tomorrow evening, from further earthquakes to huge storms and tides. Other historical weather anomalies and associated disasters (in human terms) have also been blamed on super-moons. Astrologers and astronomers are, however, quite different beats. The bulk of the scientific world is sceptical and says that there is one important thing missing before people assume the moon is causing these disasters: cold hard evidence.

As the moon’s orbit around the earth is elliptical the difference between its furthest and nearest points would, at first glance, be cause for concern (and if the distance between the two happened overnight it would most certainly be a time to, well, panic). 254,000 miles is the furthest the moon is ever away from the earth. At is closest it is still 220,000 miles away but that means that it is closer to us by 34,000 miles. That is some distance – and perhaps you can see why astrologers take the perigree as a time for disaster to occur.

While it is true that tidal forces increase by about fifteen percent during a lunar perigree that does not mean that tides will be higher by the same percentage. The average perigree tidal rise is around an inch – nothing much to throw your arms up in horror there, then! In fact the dire effects that the moon is said to have on the weather during its perigree are largely a creation of the blogosphere. Here at Kuriositas we are happy to stand up and be counted when it comes to debunking what amounts to lunatic lunar conspiracy theory!

Just in case you do believe the ‘theories’ and think that the recent Japanese earthquake was caused by the moon, consider this. When the earthquake happened the moon was at its furthest point away from us – at what is called the lunar apogee. Now, I’m not a rocket scientist (more of a space cadet in truth), but...

However, and there is some irony here – there is some evidence to suggest that in fact the Earth is responsible for earthquakes on the moon. There was research done by NASA in the 1970s and they came to that very conclusion. So, Commander John Koenig would have to choose the site for Moonbase Alpha very carefully.
So, myth debunked – but it does give us a great excuse to reproduce these marvellous pictures!

17 March 2011

The World is Obsessed with Facebook

That statement in itself has become obvious, but do you want to share some really scary statistics?  Then take a look at this extremely well made animated infographic by Alex Trimpe.  You may have thought that Facebook had taken over the world already – this will not put your mind at rest that it hasn’t.  The conquest is almost complete.

Yet anyone who knows history knows that empires rise and fall, right? Right?


13 March 2011

A Pawful of Dollars

I was thinking only the other day that Quentin Tarantino had been rather quiet on the movie making front recently.  I needn’t have worried, as here is his latest production in its entirety.  OK, it isn’t by Mr Tarantino but it is reminiscent in a way, being full, as it is, of violence, criminality and bad language.

Sure, the action is conducted by a trio of stuffed toys and the bad language is uttered in their own unique language but that just makes A Pawful of Dollars even more irresistible.   Created by Martin Törnros and a team of animators I had to say I chuckled my way throughout.  There are more than a few movie references in this three minute wonder that you will recognize without being a movie buf and it is all done with an incredible and infectious sense of fun.

Suspended Animation

This is an incredibly and powerfully moving social documentary come drama. A young woman sits down and writes a desperate letter to a friend. What follows is a remarkable talking head style spoken essay on the nature and power of racism, both institutionalized by the media and channeled through the individual in its thrall.

Beautifully composed, produced, directed, and edited by Ada Elechi and shot by Megan Blackburn, this short film has the power to move simply by its grace, eloquence and understated production. There is no anger in this, or indeed judgment but it speaks volumes about the pressures under which minorities live. I was utterly taken aback by the power of this film and the beautiful way in which it was written and presented.

Alechi was born in Nigeria and lived there and in the Netherlands until she studied in the US, at Belmont University in Nashville where she graduated with a BA in Journalism. Since then she has worked for Guernica Magazine and as a publicist for the NY Writers Coalition. With a passion for documenting African stories and histories that would otherwise go unnoticed, Elechi is someone to watch out for if Suspended Animation is anything to go by.

Katowice - Cool Time-Lapse Video

Katowice is one of those cities that many, unless they live in Poland or the surrounding countries, have perhaps vaguely heard of but could not give much if any detail about. That’s a shame because this city, home to two million people, is really a pretty cool place. So it was with something approaching delight that I came across this amazing time-lapse footage of the city made by Velour.

It does get off to a slowish start but hang on in there – by the time you get to forty seconds you really begin to get a feel for the place. This film not only allows you to get a great impression of the city it is filmed in a kind of tilt shift manner which renders its inhabitants as small as ants.

Katowice is a center of culture, science, transportation and business in southern Poland and is located in the historical region of Silesia. It is slap bang in the middle of the largest conurbation in Poland and owes its size mostly to the development of mining and metallurgical industries in the in the nineteenth century. This time-lapse video shows the variety of architecture of the place as well as its busy, bustling nature beautifully. Enjoy!

Up! And Away at the British Balloon Festival

Image Credit Flickr User Peter II
Up! has quickly become one of the all time favorite animated films for many people and its popularity is reflected in the unusual places that references to it pop up – sometimes literally.  You might perhaps expect an imitator to make an appearance as a hot air balloon.  Not ones to disappoint the folks at the British balloon fiesta were happy to oblige this unconscious expectation. 
Image Credit Flickr User PeterPi
It really is a clever facsimile as well, with the canvas of the balloon produced as a myriad of smaller balloons.  However, what really makes it an effective tromp l’oeil are the three dimensional objects protruding from its shape, sticking out from the main body of the balloon in much the way it did in the Pixar movie. 
Image Credit Flickr Usermattbut4950
Image Credit Flicrk User mattbuck4950 
Image Credit Flickr User MattBuck4950 
If you haven’t seen the movie it is about an old widower, Carl, who sets off to pursue the dream he and his wife shared, to visit Paradise Falls in South America.  He chooses an unusual method to get there, by making the house he and his wife shared happily for many years in to a hot air balloon, unwittingly carrying a young boy, Russell, with him. 
Image Credit Flickr User PeterPi 
That is just the start of their adventures.  If you haven’t seen it – you don’t know what you’re missing.  The first twenty of so minutes of Up! which shows a montage of Carl and his wife Ellie’s life together is worth the price of the DVD alone. 
Image Credit Flickr User MattBuck4950
Image Credit Flickr User PeterPi
Image Credit Flickr User MattBuck4950   
One can only imagine the dreams of those inside this particular version of the Up! house as they set off on their own adventure.  Perhaps their destination is not quite as far as South America but needless to say they will have set alight the imagination of many a child (both little legged and disguised as an adult) at the site of their creation

Image Credit MattBuck4950 
A close inspection, of course, and the game is up but there is still no denying the cleverness of the idea and the skill used in its execution.