29 July 2011

Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty

Once upon a time there was a sweet old lady, who used to tell her grand daughter charming, sweet fairy tales with happy endings every evening.  Then, there was Granny O'Grimm, an embittered old Irish woman who would tell her own version of fairy tales.

Dark, wickedly funny and beautifully made, this six minute animation was nominated for an Oscar for Best Animated Short in 2009 - as well as winning a number of prestigious prizes in its own right. If you like the idea of a lovely bedside story becoming a hilarious rant against the unfairness of old age in general, then you will love this.

The film was directed by Nicky Phelan, produced by Darragh O'Connell and written/voiced by Kathleen O'Rourke (left). Brown Bag Films is an animation studio based in Dublin (Ireland!). They also have a cool blog here.

It was Established in 1994 by Cathal Gaffney and Darragh O'Connell.  Brown Bag Films produce 3D character animation, including short films, features and TV series for international markets. The studio is multi-award-winning.

Ever Wondered How Wind Turbines Stay in Place?

A sea based marine farm of wind turbines can be a magnificent or most depressing sight, depending on your point of view.  Yet have you ever wondered how the wind turbines manage to stand so rigidly straight all the time.  After all, when have you ever heard of one toppling over?

The answer is in the foundations.  They are huge.  The first pictures here show specialists from the engineering firm of Bilfinger Berger hard at work in the middle of the Baltic Sea.  There a wind farm of 90 turbines is being assembled and in order to ensure they stay upright their foundations must be extremely heavy.  The size is just incredible.

The next two pictures show the rig Rambiz in the process of lowering the foundations of wind turbines at sea near Oostende.

Here you get an even better idea about just how large these foundations must be to do their job.

If you need to put the sheer size of these monstrous foundations in to context, take a look at what they have to support.  Here, parts of a wind turbine are transported through the English town of Edenfield.  Yes, they are the rotor blades you can see.

The Hobbit in Under 2 Minutes

If you are too busy lazy to read thebook and are listlessly waiting the never ending wait for the Peter Jackson movie version, perhaps you might want to consider filling your Tolkien knowledge in with this short animation by Declan Moran of The Brothers Grim and Grimy

It isn't quite like the Wikipedia entry either.  Described by Moran as Valley Girl + Hobbit + Lebowski = Most Concise Summary Ever, that pretty much gives you an idea about how you are going to spend the next two minutes.

As such, you are either going to love this or despise it with a passion.  You can guess my feelings by its presence on Kuriositas - though I must admit to being a fan of Moran's earlier work Dante's Inferno in Under 2 Minutes. It has spiked my interest in the book once again, so much that I can feel a scurry to the book shelves coming on...

28 July 2011

Dragonboy Wins Gold Medal at Student Academy Awards

Last year we brought you the marvelous animation Dragonboy, which was created by three Academy of Art University students. Created as a collaborative thesis by Bernardo Warman, Shaofu Zhang and Lisa Allen (pictured above) the animation was entered for the Student Academy Awards, which is conducted by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is now in its 38th year.

You may have guessed (from the title of this post alone!) that these alum of the Academy of Arts University, located in San Francisco went on to win a Gold Medal for Dragonboy in the Student Academy Awards in Animation.  This is no mean feat - past winners have included such global names as Spike Lee and Robert Zemeckis. The team at Kuriositas would like to extend our heartfelt congratulations to the talented trio who will no doubt go on to great things in their chosen field.

The Academy of Art University has an interview with the Gold Medal winners over at their website in which they talk about their work and what they are doing since graduation.  In the meantime, are you scratching your head about the animated short movie which won them their prize? It was one of our very favorites from last year.

If you are new to Kuriositas, then it is the story of one little guy, whose moment in the spotlight in the school play will stay with him forever. This charming animation covers a lot of what you might expect from the yearly Christmas performance.  A knight. A princess. A dragon. Three little kids. And an epic battle for love and honor.

Once again, congratulations to Bernardo Warman, Shaofu Zhang and Lisa Allen.


The Strange Elegance of the Giraffe-Necked Antelope

In Somalia the Giraffe-Necked Antelope is known as a Gerenuk, which means neck like a giraffe and you certainly have to admit - that is some neck they have on them! The only species in its genus, it is effectively all alone in the world, unique but sadly under threat like so many other large mammals in Africa.Over at the Ark in Space there is a feature about this charming yet curiously shaped animal.

Portrait of Nikola Tesla

This fantastic piece of street art was captured at the Abode of Chaos. The building, situated near Lyons in France is a living sum of almost three thousand artworks. This amazing work shows the inventor, mechanical engineer, and electrical engineer Nikola Tesla at around the age of 35 in the year 1890.  As such it shows him a year or two after he would have started to investigate something that would later be known as X-rays. It was also at the time Tesla demonstrated wireless energy transmission - as early as 1891.

The Road to Damascus

Sometimes, when racism and bigotry are in your face you have to confront them head on.  Mostly, though, they can be outclassed in a few moments with reasoned argument, quiet but persistent refusal to be put down and a choice word in your own language.

The Road to Damascus (love the irony of the title) shows us a very short converstion between two police officers in a pub.  In this short film by Ian Gamester the senior (white) police officer discusses the reasons for his colleague’s ease of entry in to the force.  Watch it until the very end – it had me in fits of laughter.

The film features Henri Khoury as Nazari and Julian Rivett as Johnson. 

The Giants of Nantes

From Friday 27 to Sunday, May 29, 2011, a huge crowd followed the adventures of the giants of Royal de Luxe in the streets of Nantes, France.

The little girl and the giant go on their adventures and the people of Nantes gape in astonishment.

The amazing spectacle was caught on film by FKY, a graphics designer based in the city. The opportunity for this sort of awesome footage does not happen very often!

Royal de Luxe is a French mechanical marionette street theatre company.

They were founded in 1979 by Jean Luc Courcoult. Based in Nantes, the company has performed in France, Belgium, England, Germany, Iceland, Chile, Australia and Mexico.

Satin Dollz - Whatever Lola Wants

There’s nothing quite like a little burlesque on any day of the week but if you are in the mood for a lot then may I suggest you press the play button on the video above? The 10 strong bevy of beauties that is the Satin Dollz perform Whatever Lola Wants with some relish – not to mention something of an air of satisfaction.

No wonder – the whole lavish extravaganza cost less than $2000.

On a budget which might make a meat bra for the likes of Lady Gaga, Dan Blank has directed this at once laid back yet delirious homage to the age of MGM musicals, pin-ups and Tex Avery (cast your mind back if you can to Red Hot Riding Hood).

Shot on a Canon 7-D, Blank then used After Effects, Cinema 4D (and a whole lot of elbow grease and polish) to produce this extremely cool yet seductive video.

You can see how he created this amazing looking video on a shoestring budget here –  imagine what he could do with a budget of similar size to one of Missy Elliot’s videos in their financially out of control moments.

Dan Blank is a Writer, Designer, Motion Graphics Artist, Animator, Compositor, Cinematographer, Sculptor, Illustrator, Stop-motion Animator, Gourmand, Raconteur, Photographer, Voice Actor, and generalist.

He also makes ice cream.

Of course this video wouldn’t look quite so good without the presence of the rather gorgeous looking Satin Dollz themselves, including Makinna Ridgway who is pictured left, who is Monique in the Dollz.   Formed in 2006 these lovely ladies sing, dance and simply charm themselves (and others) through the golden age of stage and movie musicals, from the 30s to the 50s.   

Their own website is worth a gander or two too!

27 July 2011

The Big Yellow Rabbit of Örebro

A Big Yellow Rabbit has invaded a Swedish city.  There he is, above, relaxing in his new home. It may not be a surprise to hear, however, that this piece of installation art has split the local community down the middle. Yet love it or hate it, the Big Yellow Rabbit of Örebro in Sweden demands attention.

The town is in the middle of its annual open art festival and among many others this year it attracted Dutch artist Florentijn Hofman who already has something of a reputation for the sensation that his art creates. Made from wood and painstakingly constructed over a number of days, Hofman’s big yellow rabbit has attracted many fans.

It has, on the other hand, attracted the ire of some locals who resent the fact that the historic center of their town has been taken over by a fifty foot high, thirty foot long rabbit. They feel that the art on display should enhance Örebro and feel that the rabbit simply does not do that.  Plus it was pricey, costing US$20,000. It may not be my money but I think the Big Yellow Rabbit is huge fun (literally) and worth every krona.

The BYR (as perhaps we should call it!) will not be there forever – the festival lasts for a month and after that the rabbit will disappear from the town.  Until then the townsfolk have a new attraction to look forward to seeing every day or something to avoid for the duration.  At least the festival has 1,000 other (albeit smaller) exhibits from which to chose a favorite.

So, what do you think of the Big Yellow Rabbit? Let us know!

Alternative Movie Posters by Traumatron

When we came across these great alternative movie posters (which would even make fantastic book covers too) by Flickr User Traumatron Illustration then we had to share them with you.  They are a very cool take on what the posters for these movies might have looked like had a darker imagination been at work perhaps. If you would like to see more of Traumatron’s work then use this link to get to their Flickr Photostream. Oh and before you point it out, we know that The Prisoner was not a movie but it was so good we just had to slip it in here - for good measure!

26 July 2011

Prisoner 4100

This miserable looking little boy is Prisoner 4100.  The picture was taken in 1872 after his arrest for stealing rabbits.  Young George Davey as he was known was ten years old.  He was sentenced to a month’s hard labour. If he were still alive today he would be 149 years old.

Memories of London

If you live or have ever visited London you will know what a busy and vibrant place it is in the twentieth century.  Of course, it has been like that for centuries – we have pictures and engravings which prove just that.

Yet with the advent of the moving picture, organisations like the BBC were able to begin recording the English capital on film.

In this – memories of London – we see the city in black and white, but the scenes of the place from the fifties and sixties show that in some ways the place hasn’t changed a bit. 

However, in terms of fashion perhaps we can be satisfied that we have moved on a little!


Sometimes, it must be acknowledged, life can get a little strange. Perhaps not for long but odd and peculiar things happen each and every day.

The denizens of this particular city are about to experience a little surreality all of their own.

This enigmatic short film by Falco Tilgner is perhaps a reminder that even at its most mundane and every day, life can be a little surreal!

25 July 2011

The Curious Tale of Denishawn

Or how two people managed to continuously take their clothes off in public throughout the 1920s and get away with it.

In 1915 a pair of newlyweds formed a company that was to become instrumental in the formation of modern dance as a genre. This odd pairing was to become infamous for performing in as little clothing as possible as much for their revolutionary dance styles. Quite a trick in the early part of the twentieth century.

To our own twenty first century eyes, of course, pictures like this seem fairly tame but at the time they were quite outrageous. Society was still in the process of unburdening itself of the shackles of Victorian morality and this combination of bare flesh and sensuality would have been seen in many quarters as more than outrageous. In fact, were it not for their ingenuity the couple may well have seen themselves in court on charges of promoting pornography. Who were they and how did they get away with it?

The sensuality of this 1915 shot of Ruth St Denis, almost one hundred years old, is still something that can be described as simply erotic. Her head flung back in abandon, her clothes dripping wet, this foreshadows the glamour photography of the fifties. However risqué it may not have seemed in the time of Monroe, during the First World War this was as explicit as photography could get without being illegal. St Denis was born in 1879 and the inspiration for her exotic dances came about, so legend has it, when she saw a picture of the Egyptian goddess Isis on a cigarette ad. This eureka moment would lead to a lifetime of progressive work in the field of dance. However, she would need a partner to get things done.

Enter Ted Shawn, pictured above in 1917. To say that he was an exhibitionist would be something of an understatement and throughout his professional career he would grasp any possible opportunity to get his kit off. Born Edwin Myers Shawn in Kansas City in 1891 his original life plan was, ironically considering his future career, to become a minister. From a man of the cloth to a man without in a single bound, it was illness that led Shawn to his own revelatory moment and his discovery of dance as his life long passion. While at the University of Denver he suffered from diphtheria which at the time killed up to fifteen thousand people a year in the USA. To help rebuild his muscles after his long illness he took to dance. And never really looked back.

They married in 1914 and not long after that they opened their dance school, Denishawn, in Los Angeles. It was here that they would rehearse and choreograph many of the Vaudeville pieces that would make them famous and enable them to tour the United States with their own particular form of dance. There was a problem with the marriage from day one. Shawn was a gay man. During this period of history it was not uncommon at all for gay men to marry, in fact it was the norm. They would commonly hide their sexuality from their spouse or, in this particular case, use their union as a form of artistic marriage and to express themselves through dance. It takes two, sometimes, but the marriage was not always a happy one.

The Denishawn Company ran for seventeen years and during this time toured extensively across the United States, the pair becoming rightly famous. The titles of their performances speak volumes for the eroticism and sensuality that was an integral part of their work. Were it not for this element of foreignness, their routines would likely have been banned. Les Mysteres Dionysiaques, Xochitl and Julnar of the Sea are three of the names of their interpretive dance movements which Shawn choreographed. It was, however, his interest in male dance that would eventually see the end of Denishawn. His summer school session became somewhat well known within the finger on lip gay circles of the time.

Every movement needs a name for its art and that of Denishawn was no exception. It was called the Principle of Music Visualization and without these pioneers modern dance as we know it would probably not exist. Music Visualization is a concept that to us (so used to it) seems as old as the hills, but what St Denis and Shawn established was the concept that required dances to make equivalent moves to the structural shape of music itself. In 1916 and 1917 Shawn developed these techniques in the training rooms of the Denishawn schools. Soon after that St Denis showed these techniques to the public – baffled at first but soon appreciative.

As well as being famous and notable performers in their own rights, St Denis and Shawn would also help to produce some of the stalwarts of American modern dance of the next generations. Martha Graham was a student, who would go on to be called the Dancer of the Century by Time magazine in 1988. She was the first dancer to perform at the White House, the first to travel abroad as a cultural ambassador for the USA and indeed the first ever to receive the Medal of Freedom. Below you can see her and Ted looking good on the dancefloor.

Doris Humphrey, whose choreographic creations are still widely performed today, was also a Denishawn pupil. There was also Charles Weidman whose vision of a uniquely American form of modern dance was further developed by his own students, Jack Cole and Jose Limon. Cole's own student and disciple Bob Fosse, the famously innovative dancer and choreographer, would go on to win an Academy Award for his direction of Cabaret. Although they had no children of their own the dance lineage of St Denis and Shawn is simply astounding, with most modern dance greats having a direct debt of thanks to their pioneering work.

The Denishawn experiment came to an end in 1933. Its demise can be attributed as much to problems in their marriage as to the collapse of the world economy at the time. Both of them were destined to thrive on their own, however. Ruth St Denis founded the dance program at Adelphi University in 1938. This was one of the very few dance departments at American universities at the time and in itself was considered a progressive and liberal move. It remains today a cornerstone of the Adelphi’s Department of Performing Arts. She was still an innovator in bringing new arts to America in the nineteen sixties. In 1963 she brought the first full length (eight hours of it!) Balinese Shadow Puppet Play to the US.

Her once husband went on to form Ted Shawn and His Men Dancers. Shawn wanted to increase the awareness in the US of the importance of male dancers and it was with this group that Shawn pushed the boundaries of single sex dance to, some would argue, extremes. It could be argued that his choreography was simply a huge excuse to get naked or near naked men on to the stage but it cannot be argued that his productions were anything but way ahead of their time. Ponca Indian Dance and Sinhalese Devil Dance were two of the many productions he managed to stage during this period. He finally found happiness, too, with one of his dancers, Barton Mumaw, a relationship which lasted seventeen years.

Alongside his new dance company, Shawn created Jacob’s Pillow which was a combination of a dance school with theater and a retreat. The small scale beginnings soon became a yearly festival which continues to this day. It is renowned a place where anyone can come and perform without bias and restriction which was a freedom that Shawn enjoyed (at times) and wanted to share with others.

His last performance saw him reunited at Jacob’s Pillow with his once wife and partner, Ruth Saint Denis. Performed in the Theater named after him, Siddhas of the Upper Air saw the pair come back together on the boards for the first time in many years. After all the years and all the differences, they danced together on their fiftieth anniversary in a special performance in New York. St Denis passed away in 1968 and Shawn followed her to the great dance stage in the sky four years later. Although few have heard of them now, their contribution to modern dance is such that dance as we know it would not have come in to existence without them. For that, as they dance away in to infinity, we owe them our thanks.