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

The Old Man and the Sea - Animated

Perhaps Ernest Hemingway's greatest novel, The Old Man and the Sea tells of the epic struggle between Santiago, an old Cuban fisherman and a giant marlin he is determined to catch.  Yet Santiago has gone without catching a single fish for over eighty days, something which the superstitious fishermen believe makes him unlucky.  His young apprentice Manolin is forbidden to join him at sea lest he be drowned and so the old man sets out alone.

The rest of the novel deals with the day’s long struggle between Santiago and the marlin.  This stop motion short by Marcel Schindler beautifully documents this epic clash between the fisherman and his quarry.  The design is by Hagen Reiling - fantastic and evocative artwork - and the music provided by Awolnation and their song Sail.  Altogether a wonderful twenty first century version of a classic of the 1950s.


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!

30 March 2012

The Coolest Doorway in Paris

It is something of a feat to be the coolest example of anything in Paris, which could certainly be a contender for the coolest city in the world regardless.  Yet the door which opens up to number 29 Avenue Rapp is, we believe, the coolest door in Paris. See if you agree.

Situated in the 7th district of Paris, Avenue Rapp was named after the famous French General, Jean Rapp, who distinguished himself in the Egyptian Campaign of 1801.  However, number 29 - or the Lavirotte Building as it is known – is a lasting testament to its creator, architect Jules Aimé Lavirotte.

Lavirotte’s work is flamboyant to say the least and is perhaps the epitome of the free spirit of the art nouveau movement.  It is not surprising that his facade for number 29 won him several prizes when it was built in 1901. Even by the standards of the day, this is lavish.

Although Lavirotte was responsible for the entire building, he did not, however, produce the doorway. The exotic and somewhat ostentatious frame was designed by sculptor Jean-Baptiste Larrive, and sculpted by a quartet - Sporrer, Firmin-Marcelin Michelet, and Alfred Jean Halou.

Looking every inch as if it should be the doorway in to the domicile of some vampire protagonist of an Anne Rice novel, the entrance to number 29 Avenue Rapp is an exquisite example of an art movement in full flow. The coolest doorway in Paris? We think so!

First Image - Flickr User stevecadman

These Are Not the Tribbles...

Image Credit San_Diego_Shooter

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?


Escalade is a very funny animated short which says something quite profound about human nature at the same time.  Natural competition is one thing, as is the survival of the fittest, but when it is taken to extreme it can have consequences which were not foreseen but should have been.   You could say that this animation is a visual metaphor – and you could interpret it as being about two neighbors or if you want to be a little deeper then it could be an arms race, or even a warning about the danger of ignoring issues of sustainability.

Escalade was created by Birdo Studio who are based in Brazil (not that it matters where people are based in the internet age!). It was formed in 2005 by the creative duo Luciana Eguti and Paulo Muppet. Their objective is to craft wonderful and visually exhilarating storytelling through digital animation, meaningful characters and a lot of fun.

24 March 2012

Childhood of a Circle

Archibald may not be recognizable as any animal that we know – he is something like a pointy nosed blue polar bear – but that doesn’t really matter. What is important is that he is lonely and bored. Even though he lives in a world where everything is provided he is still on his own.  Then, one day something strange happens – a circle arrives in his domain and as they say, things are never the same again.

This is something of a treat if you like your animation a little to the left (or perhaps a lot!) of Disney and its ilk.  Created by Kadavre Exquis it is wonderfully made, enigmatic, piece of animation.  Its look and feel is to be cherished as much as the story it tells.  All told, it’s simply wonderful.
Amung Feedjit
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