31 March 2012

Plasticine. Love. Moscow.


If you haven’t done this sort of thing – or felt like doing this – then consider yourself lucky! This is the story of the past, present and future of Mr Plasticine. Poor thing, he has broken up with Ms Plasticine and now spends his days moping around on Facebook looking at pictures of the two of them when they were together.  To make matters worse he then goes and visits the places where they had fun together around their home city of Moscow.

This is a deceptively simple looking piece of stop motion animation by Teeter-totter-tam Animation.  The outdoor shots of Moscow must have been incredibly difficult to do, both because of the people passing by and, of course, that which waits for no one, the time.  Teeter-totter-tam is a creative union, founded by Constantine Konovalov and Irina Neustroeva in Moscow, Russia. They make stop-motion animation and videoart for authors and various commercial projects.Of course, they have a Facebook page too!

Welcome to the Crazy House

When an individual has a vision then often the only way to get any peace of mind is to go for it – no matter what anyone else might think.  So it was with Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga (pictured left). Her dream was to create a house like no other in the world.

Against all the odds, she succeeded.

The Crazy House as it was soon known is in fact called the Hang Nga guesthouse. Situated in the city of Da Lat in the Lam Dong Province of Vietnam, the house began life as a personal project, something which simply had to be done. It was not intended for life as a hotel or a tourist destination in its own right.

Once complete its true potential became evident. The city itself was built as a tourist spa in the 1890s.  Now it had a unique guest house of its own too. Of course, it had cost a lot of money to create and it was the financial burden of building and keeping up the house that persuaded its creator to open it to the public.

As well as more often than not being referred to as crazy, the house takes much of its inspiration from fairy tales.  It looks like a giant tree – somewhere in-between of Tolkien and Disney with more than a dash of Gaudi and Dali thrown in for good measure.

Natural forms abound through the house – more often than not in the form of animals, such as the giraffe and the bear.  Spider webs and cobwebs compete for space in this organic complex. The opposite of rectilinear, the guest house has a bewilderingly maze like feel to it.  If Uncle Walt had taken LSD then he may well have come up with something like this.

Although the creator of the house, Dang Viet Nga trained as an architect she created her final, ultimate fantasy without the aid of any regular architectural strategy (such as blueprints!). Rather she produced painting which reproduced his vision of the place. Then she hired local artisans and crafts people to make her mind’s images come to life.

The ‘tree’ at the center of it all is inspired by the local banyan, a fig tree which grows upon a host, enveloping it slowly but surely with its roots.  To mirror the chaos of nature, the windows too are uneven and there are few if any right angles to be found in the structure.

It is not an easy place to describe. The local People’s Committee, rather nonplused by the building, refers to it as expressionist in their literature.  The local government was against the building for many years, worried about the safety of its structure, not to mention the aesthetics. Da Lat is renowned for its elegant French style villas and boulevards. The Crazy House didn’t quite fit in to their idea of what buildings should look like in this attractive town.

Yet Nga succeeded and eventually the authorities let her have her way. Somewhat Tardis-like, the guest house contains no less than ten themed apartments with each having an animal for its subject. There is a room devoted to the tiger, one for the kangaroo and another for the eagle to name but a few.  Nga, the architect, envisioned them as an homage to the various nationalities that stay there.

For example, the eagle room (above) represents Americans – people Nga describes as big and strong (and who pay around thirty US dollars per person per night to stay here).  On the other hand, there is an ant room for Nga’s own nationality, the Vietnamese and this portrays their hard working characteristics. Nga was often called the mad woman of Da Lat, an appellation to go hand in hand with her crazy house. Perhaps she was not so crazy after all.


First Image - Flickr User Hope Tom


Matrioska


Here is a blast from the past – created by the National Film Board of Canada in back in 1970.  As such you may have seen it before, or at least remember something like it! I certainly do, I would swear that I remember this as a filler between Saturday morning kids' shows when I was a child. The uncertainty, though, adds to the pleasure of this simple stop motion animation as if this is not why I remember it then I have no idea why it is so familiar!

The matrioska, or Russian Doll, is a tradition going back to 1890 when it was invented. The trick is to get as many hollow dolls as possible, one inside the other – it can be as many as you like, the only rule being that the number has to be odd.

This is a very cool animation. It may seem a little clunky to our eyes now, being over forty years old but I love the way that the dolls keep their Russian reserve throughout, even when the smallest one can’t quite get the steps right!

25 March 2012

Wrecking Crew Orchestra


The Wrecking Crew Orchestra come from Japan and collectively they have done something quite spectacular with their dance routines.  Instead of the usual eight men on stage we have a cross between Tron and a zoetrope.  While they dance they wear electroluminescent light suits.

Take the perfect synchronization of their dance routines and the latest electronic wizadry and what you get is a simply awesome combination.  This is a straightforward film, shot from the front – what you see is happening is unedited and performed before a live studio audience.

The Doctor is Who?

Having had no luck with Lucy van Pelt, Charlie Brown searches for a new counselor. Again...

and again....

and again....

and again.

Image Credits Flickr User JD Hancock

Sleeping Betty


Here is a modern(ish) take on an old story.  Betty is fast asleep and no one can wake her up despite their best attempts.  So, the king has no choice than to send for a prince (based on a certain HRH Prince Charles by the looks) in the hope that he will be able to awaken Sleeping Betty with a kiss.

This very funny romp is brought to us by the National Film Board of Canada and is, to be honest, a joy to behold. As with any animation there is usually one stand out character and for me this has to be the prince’s horse.  He manages to effortlessly steal virtually every single scene that he is in. Oh and as this is not a traditional retelling, you know not to expect a conventional ending, don’t you?

24 March 2012

Mimefield


There are residual traces of the Second World War throughout Europe but one which is rarely highlighted in the media is the issue of the mime fields left behind after the conflict. Here a brave reporter from the ENN News Network takes his life in to his own hands to find out more about this problematic subject....

You may have already guessed (probably by the title) that someone’s tongue is well and truly in his cheek.  This very funny short is brought to you by the chaps over at Two Trick Pony.  If you want more then I would strongly suggest you visit their YouTube Channel – and you can also show your appreciation of their comedy prowess by clicking on that thumbs up button over at their Facebook page.

18 March 2012

Awaken


The idea behind Awaken is that there is an ecosystem inside each of us which can awaken an ecosystem in nature.  As far as the natural world and our own are becoming more and more disconnected there are parallels between human well being and nature. This remarkable animation by Doug Chang is a visual metaphor for the balance that can be struck when our own ecosystems and that of nature achieve a certain harmony.

...And if that has raised an eyebrow, then that’s as may be.  Whatever the case what I am sure that you will agree with is the fact that this is a visually stunning piece made by an exceptional animator!

Beat


A world of work, regimented, controlled and all conducted in tidy little boxes – literally!  This is the starting point of Or Bar-El’s graduation film from the Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design. As such it was his first attempt at 3D animation – which means this is something of a triumph!

16 March 2012

NASA Orion Exploration Flight Test 1 - 2014


Would you like to see the future? This marvelous animated simulation depicts the proposed test flight of the NASA Orion spacecraft in 2014.

During the test, which is called Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1), Orion will launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida, perform two orbits and reach an altitude higher than any achieved by a spacecraft intended for human use since 1973.

Then it will re-enter and land in the Pacific Ocean off the west coast of the United States. The narration here is by Jay Estes, the Deputy for flight test integration in the Orion program.

14 March 2012

Digital Stars by Kaneda

Alessandro Pautasso aka Kaneda has a great feel for color. As a graphic designer and illustrator his specialty lies in vector art and mixed media.  These stunning works are from his latest series – I hope your jaw is as slack as mine when I first saw them!

You can see a number of famous faces here (the series includes portraits of John Wayne, Greta Garbo, Humphrey Bogart, Marilyn Monroe and many others). In each the faces are broken down in to abstract geometric shapes with strong bright colors and trying to revive the colors of the past.

You can take a look at many more of Kaneda’s works on his Flickr Photostream.  Alternatively, take a look at his official site, No Surprises or indeed his Facebook page.  Have fun!

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