As predicted last week, eeet isss happpening aaa-gain… and the 2004 Melbourne International Animation Festival (June 22 – 27 @ACMI, see www.miaf.net ) is the biggest selection of animations you’ll see all year. Eyeball feast on 100 films from 25 countries, an Estonian surrealist animation focus, a Priit Parn retrospective ( google the genius), a Phil Mulloy Special, a spotlight on animated documentaries, twice the usual number of digital animations and loads of Australian works including ‘Harvey Krumpet’ and the quite delightful ‘Grey Ave’ by Eugene Foo, who speaks now:
What inspired you to transform Melbourne like that?
The idea of these bizarre creatures really began with just several doodles I did over at a friend’s place. The initial sketches were by far a lot more weird and demented – some of which consisted human body parts and features, making them look very disturbing. These random and spontaneous sketches I had done are what I believe to be a combination of fantasy art and surrealism (specifically a sub-group of surrealism called ‘automatism’ – drawing thoughts from the subconcious psyche). I have been doing this for a very long time, but never really saw the potential of it being an animated film, and I certainly didn’t expect it to come in full bloom when I was in Melbourne. Being a foreigner in Melbourne, even the most mundane of urban objects seemed to have a different effect on me compared to when I am back home in Malaysia. Everything seems so ‘alien’ – just the same way these surreal creatures are alien to the real world.
How much did sound influence your visualisation / animation?
Music, I would say is the prime essence of the animated film. In fact, it was the very element that helped me string my ideas together. I used to walk to college in Melbourne listening to Madonna’s song, ‘Frozen’ from her album ‘Ray of Light’. I had this strong affinity to the tempo and beat she had in that piece – very dark and enigmatic. While doing this everytime I went to college, I had my sketches incubating in my head, sort of like waiting for an idea to hatch. I don’t know how, but one day, I just saw the sketches in my head coming to life and moving with the tempo of the music – that was when the core foundation of the idea was born.
What’d you enjoy about the tools & processes you used for ‘Grey Ave’ ?
I used a lot of Adobe Photoshop and Adobe AfterEffects in my film. These softwares were able to cut my time down to almost half compared to if I had done things manually. The texturing and colouration of objects for instance, was done in Photoshop entirely. AfterEffects was used to animate almost all of the creatures and even the walking charcacter. The softwares gave me the results I needed extremely fast and often times even more than satisfactory. Everytime I completed a shot, I get very excited and was eager to go on to the next – wanting to see how each one would look like when I brought bringing mere sketches from a static storyboard to life.
Explain ‘rotoscoping’ in terms of how you used it in your animation?
The only element rotoscoped in the animated film was the walking character – which in fact are footages of me that my housemate helped record. I felt the treatment of the rotoscoped sequences and the irregular shaky lines all incurred a certain mood and feeling I wanted. It made it feel more organic, and a whole lot more personal reason being that it is myself that I see in my film.
What animators are pushing animation ahead these days?
I’ve thought technique and technology was the driving force in the animation world, and feared 2D animation was slipping away with the explosion of 3D animated films like Shrek, and previous Oscar winning shorts like The ChubbChubbs and For the Birds. Nevertheless, it is masters like Koji Yamamura, Hayao Miyazaki and Australia’s very own Adam Elliot (this year’s short animated film Oscar winner) that proved my assumptions wrong. It is the substance and story that is most crucial. In fact, good storylines and substance is being emphasized even more now than ever because stunning imagery has been made so conveniently easy to achieve, the only way a film can stand out from the rest is from the story they each tell.
What projects are you working on now?
My next short animated film is a dark & twisted tale of a biologist whose wife is delivering their first child in a hospital. I also do paintings whenever I have free time from lecturing at a local university here in Malaysia.