Disney Appoints Andrew Millstein Blue Sky Co-Prez, Clark Spencer Upped to Disney Animation Prez

With the recent addition of Blue Sky Studios to Disney’s portfolio of film studios, The Walt Disney Studios’ Chief Creative Officer and Co-Chairman Alan Horn and Co-Chairman Alan Bergman announced today that Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDAS) President Andrew Millstein and Zootopia producer and longtime creative executive Clark Spencer are stepping into new leadership roles at Disney’s animation studios.

As Blue Sky prepares to build out its upcoming film slate, Millstein will join the studio as Co-President alongside Co-President Robert Baird. Baird will continue to drive the creative direction of the studio reporting to Horn and Bergman, and Millstein will oversee day-to-day operations. Millstein will report to Jim Morris, who will expand his duties with a supervisory role at Blue Sky outside of his role as President, Pixar Animation Studios.

Spencer has been named President, Walt Disney Animation Studios, reporting to Bergman and working alongside WDAS Chief Creative Officer Jennifer Lee, who continues to report to Horn and Bergman.

“We are incredibly proud of the strength and depth of leadership in our animation studios, and Andrew, Clark, and Jim are all exemplars of that. The remarkable success of Walt Disney Animation Studios and Pixar Animation Studios over the past decade is due in large part to the respective leadership of Andrew and Jim and their ability to foster creativity, technology, and culture in equal parts, and we are thrilled that they will be lending their experience to the Blue Sky team along with Robert Baird’s creative guidance,” said Horn and Bergman. “Clark has been an invaluable leader and contributor at Disney Animation, combining exceptional creative and business instincts, and we’re so pleased he will be leading this historic studio in a key role alongside Jennifer Lee.”

A 22-year Disney veteran, Andrew Millstein has served as President of Walt Disney Animation Studios since 2014 and General Manager of WDAS since 2008. Under his leadership, the studio has produced such creative and commercial successes as the Academy Award-winning billion-dollar hits Frozen and Zootopia, as well as Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph, Ralph Breaks the Internet, Big Hero 6 and Moana.

Clark Spencer has been with Disney for nearly 30 years, during which he has produced five Oscar-nominated feature films for Walt Disney Animation Studios. He received both an Academy Award and a Producers Guild Award for Zootopia, as well as a PGA Award for Wreck-It Ralph, and is also the producer of hit films Lilo & Stitch, Bolt and Ralph Breaks the Internet. Spencer began his career at Disney in strategic planning and finance, later overseeing all production and operations at Florida-based Disney Feature Animation as Senior Vice President and General Manager. He earned his MBA in 1990 at Harvard Business School.

Jim Morris has been with Pixar since 2005. As General Manager since 2008 and President since 2014, Morris has overseen a hugely successful and critically acclaimed slate of films that include Wall-E, which he produced, Up, Toy Story 3, Inside Out, Coco and, most recently, Toy Story 4. Prior to joining Pixar, he spent nearly 20 years in executive roles at Lucasfilm.

Animation Magazine

LED Blue Light Poses Eye, Sleep Risks: Report

May 17, 2019 — The blue light in LED lighting used in many consumer products may harm your sleep and pose a risk to your eyes, a new report warns.

Specifically, there is new evidence that this type of light can disturb biological and sleep rhythms and damage the eye‘s retina, according to the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety.

Products with LEDs that produce blue light include the newest flashlights, car headlights and some toys, CNN reported.

The maximum limit on short-term exposure to blue light should be reduced, only low-risk LED devices should be available to consumers, and the luminosity of car headlights should be reduced, the French agency recommended.

It also said that eye protection provided by “anti-blue light” screens, filters and sunglasses varies, and there is no proof that those help preserve sleep rhythms, CNN reported.

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Wise Blue Studios Powers Up ‘Hero Dad’ with Unity Real-Time Animation

Billed as one of the first real-time animated TV series produced with the Unity engine, Spain-based Wise Blue Studios announces Hero Dad — a 26 x 5’ 3D CG comedy aimed at preschoolers.

The bright, bubblegum-hued show centers on a father who, every day after work, comes home and changes into his superhero costume — rain boots, dishwashing gloves, tablecloth cape and a swimsuit over his pants — to care for, play with and teach his curious three-year-old daughter, Miao. The homemade, somewhat clumsy superhero’s adventures always end with an educative rescue by his clever daughter.

Hero Dad is directed by Maxi Valero and Nathalie Martinez, and is being co-produced with local Spanish broadcaster À Punt Mèdia, with the collaboration of the Institut Valencià de Cultura IVC.

Wise Blue Studios is employing groundbreaking technology by utilizing Unity’s real-time rendering technology in the series production. This cutting edge technology allows 4K rendering in real time, and as a result has created a completely innovative, extremely stream-lined workflow for CGI animation. The technical and artistic team at Wise Blue Studios has invested considerable R&D efforts to implement this technology, which up to now has been used in the video game industry, into their production pipeline to take advantage of the best of both worlds.

“The biggest challenge has been to get the style of a traditional animation series for children, with degraded tones, soft shadows, diffuse lights, etc., and separate this type of image from what we are used to seeing on the screen of a video game,” commented visual development supervisor David Martinez.

The team, also headed by art director Pablo Martín (Pablín Dibujín), feels very satisfied with both the creative result and the enhanced workflow efficiency, and that sentiment is echoed by production manager, Juan Calabuig: “We are very happy regarding both the efficiencies in production and the artistic results.”

While the innovative production process heralds the future of super-streamlined TV animation workflow, at its core are the same storytelling values that have been the anchor for successful projects for decades.

Hero Dad is an innovative series from a technological point of view that allows us a versatility and efficiency that did not previously exist. But it is also an innovative series in the very conception of the theme,” said director and original story creator Valero. “The series is very solid in its philosophical approach but, above all, it is fun! We never lose sight of the fact that children, especially at these ages, learn best by having fun! We have based the series’ educational philosophy on Howard Gardner’s theory of multiple intelligences, which is reflected in the daily trials and tribulations of this family and their comedic adventures.”

“In the end, technology is a vehicle that is at the service of storytelling, and in this series it helps us focus on our story of the life of a single-parent family, where the father takes care of the daughter as they work together to solve the daily challenges, and learn the daily lessons, that every little kid faces in their life,” added co-director and producer Martinez. “By having the father be the primary care-taker parent, the series transmits an integrating message to children, reflecting, from the very heart of the series, both the family diversity of our current society, and the evolution and equalization of male and female roles in contemporary families.”

Animation Magazine

Sara Wikler, Caroline Oustlant Bolster Blue Spirit Feature & TV Teams

Having recruited Muriel Achery to direct its new production label Just Kids (Splat & Harry) in November 2017, 2D/3D animation studio Blue Spirit Group is continuing to develop it production activity with the appointment of two new artistic producers, Sara Wikler and Caroline Oustlant, to its teams. The announcement was made by President Eric Jacquot and CEO Armelle Glorennec ahead of the studio’s participation in Cartoon Movie with its in-development project The Ballad of Yaya.

Sara Wikler is joining the Group as artistic director of the Sinematik label, dedicated to feature films. She will be in charge of developing the company’s forthcoming features and will also join the development of The Ballad of Yaya, the film adapted from the Franco-Chinese graphic novels of the same name published by Fei. Aimed at a broad audience, the first images for the project will be shown at the Cartoon Movie in March.

A graduate of the Université Libre de Bruxelles in Literature and Film, Wikler joined Canal+ in 1998. While there she was in charge of Cinema France acquisitions for 18 years. In 2016, she joined the subsidiary Studiocanal to take charge of artistic coordination of development. Alongside this she worked as an instructor and consultant in writing workshops (Storytelling Institute UCLA/UCA, Femis, Grand Nord, Sélection Bourse Jeunes Producteurs De La Fondation Lagardère).

Caroline Oustlant will be lending her strength to series production efforts at Blue Spirit Productions as Artistic Director of Animated Series Development. She is responsible for initiating new series and supporting projects already in development, including The Borrowers, which received a great reception last September at the Cartoon Forum. This 52 x 11’ series based on the Mary Norton novels is for the 6-11 range.

Oustlant joined children’s channel Canal J in 1990 in the press office before heading up external affairs of children’s channel Lagardère (Canal J, TiJi, Filles TV and Gulli) until 2007. During this whole period she was in charge of “Animation Futures,” a partnership with French animation schools. In 2005 she was a member of the Graduation Films jury at the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. In 2008, she became programming advisor in for Lagardère’s children’s channels. In July 2015, she left the Lagardère Group to dedicate herself to writing scripts for animated series. Over three years, Oustlant wrote for around 20 series.

The Ballad of Yaya, based on the award-winning graphic novels by Jean-Marie OMont, Charlotte Girard, Patrick Marty and Zhao Golo (more than 200,000 copies sold in France), is a hybrid 3D/2D, 75 minute feature for kids 6-12 and families, budgeted at 12-15 million euros. The screen adaptation is being written by Patrick Marty, Céline Ronté and Antoine Schoumsky; director is to be confirmed.

Synopsis: 1937. The inhabitants of Shanghai are preparing to flee the imminent Japanese invasion. Yaya, from a rich family in the French Concession, and Tuduo, a street urchin exploited by the terrible Zhu, were not destined to meet. But when Yaya disobeys her parents to go to a piano competition and finds herself separated from them by the first bombings, Tuduo saves her and helps her escape from the war-stricken city. The two children come together to travel across the country to Hong Kong where Yaya hopes to find her family and give a fitting reward to her new friend.

“With this feature, Blue Spirit Productions is targeting a broad audience through its demanding levels of writing and image quality which is the keystone of its editorial line. This film, which is very ambitious in budget terms, marks a new dynamic in our feature productions. The choice of making 80% of the film in France, in our Angoulême studios, and the remainder in our Montreal studios, guarantees that we will have full control over our production,” said Glorennec, the film’s producer.

Founded in 2004, Blue Spirit Productions creates animated series and films at its studios in Paris, Angoulême and Montreal. Series include The Mysterious Cities of Gold (season 3 in production for France TV), Loopdidoo (5 seasons), UFO (2 seasons), Little Chicks, and original creations Alice & Lewis (in production) and Arthur & the children of the round table (for Canal+ and SWR). The studio has worked on acclaimed animated features including The Painting by Jean-François Laguionie (César nominated in 2012) and My Life as a Zucchini by Claude Barras (César for Best Animated Film and Best Adaptation in 2017; Annecy Cristal and Audience Award in 2016; Emile Award; Oscar, Golden Globe & BAFTA nominee). In addition to The Ballad of Yaya through Sinematik, Blue Spirit is currently working on Laguionie’s next film, The Prince’s Voyage (co-directed with Xavier Picard) coming in late 2019/early 2020.

Learn more at

The Ballad of Yaya

The Ballad of Yaya

Animation Magazine

‘North of Blue,’ ‘Floreana’ Top LA Animation Fest Winners

The LA Animation Festival held its awards evening on Sunday at The Mayflower Club, presenting awards across filmmaking and craft categories including. Louis Morton’s experimental film Floreana was named Best of the Fest, while renowned independent experimental filmmaker Joanna Priestley’s North of Blue took Best Feature, and Best Comedy went to Oscar-winning Canadian duo Alison Snowden and David Fine for Animal Behaviour.

Several of the main categories were sponsored by Toon Boom, the popular animation software. The ceremony evening was also used to raise money and awareness for Women in Animation.

The festival also Honored Evette Vargas, for her “Pioneering Work in VR”, a Sangaria Ramune-sponsored Award for Excellence went to animator-composer Ed Skudder for his music video Tectonic, and a Humanitarian Award in animated documentary was bestowed on Land of the Free?, a group project from Sheila Sofian’s USC Documentary Animation class.

Festival Honoree and Titmouse co-founder Chris Prynoski received his Award for “Pioneering Work in Animation” during the festival’s opening night.

The main category winners are below; a complete list can be found online.

Pioneering Work in Animation – Chris Prynoski (Honoree)
Pioneering Work in VR – Evette Vargas (Honoree)
Best of the FestFloreana (USA) Louis Morton
Best FeatureNorth of Blue (USA) Joanna Priestley
Best Comedy Animal Behaviour (Canada) Alison Snowden & David Fine
Best Motion Graphics Equipoise (USA) Simo Liu
Best Short from a Series Lullaby Theories: A Secret (USA) Jonathan Lacocque
Best Short from a Series 2nd Place & Black & White (Croatia) Darko Bakliza
Best Documentary New York City Sketchbook (USA) Willy Hartland
Best Character-Based Little Bandits (USA) Alex Avagimian
Best Experimental Floreana (USA) Louis Morton
Best Music Video – “Emulate” Okay Kaya (USA) Daniel Zvereff
Award of Excellence (Presented by Sangaria Ramune) Tectonic (USA) Ed Skudder
Innovator Award – Evette Vargas
Humanitarian Award Land of the Free (USA) USC Documentary Animation Production class: Alissa Michelle Brasington, Liam Campbell, Brian Cawley, Lakota DodgingHorse, Ken Egu, C. Leigh Goldsmith, Haley Hudkins, Hannah Kreiswirth, Kaitlyn Leewing, Sequoyah Madison, Molly Murphy, Patrice Pinardo, Chenglin Xie
Best Direction Animal Behaviour (Canada) Alison Snowden & David Fine
Best StoryThe Magical Mystery of Musigny (USA) Emmett Goodman
Best Character Design Happy Foot vs. Sad Foot (USA) Mike Hollingsworth
Best Art Direction Unexpected Discoveries (USA) James Mabery
Best Design Diving in a Sea of Light (USA) Micah Buzan
Best Children’s Animation 1st PlaceMi Abuelita (Guatemala) Giselle Pérez

LAAF festival sponsors are Sangaria Ramune, P4STV, Octopie, Toon Boom, Bang Zoom!; event sponsors are Tito’s Handmade Vodka, Yolo Rum, Leese Fitch Wines, Asombrosa Tequila, Gehricke Wines

Photography by Sean Eric Pavon – XP Photography

Animation Magazine

Final US Trailer for ‘Liz and the Blue Bird’ Takes Flight

ELEVEN ARTS Anime Studio has released the final regional trailer for the coming-of-age anime drama Liz and the Blue Bird ahead of its U.S. release on November 9. Advance tickets are available now at participating theaters.

Eleven Arts is also offering special sneak previews of the movie in Austin and Los Angeles this week. You can find out the exact days and times here:


Synopsis: Mizore Yoroizuka plays the oboe, and Nozomi Kasaki plays the flute in the Kita Uji High School concert band. As seniors, this will be their last competition together, and the selected piece “Liz and the Blue Bird” features a duet for the oboe and flute. “This piece reminds me of us.” Nozomi says cheerfully, while Mizore’s usual happiness to play with Nozomi is tinged with the dread of their inevitable parting. By all accounts the girls are best friends, but the oboe and flute duet sounds disjointed, as if underscoring a growing distance between them. Talk of college creates a small rift in their relationship, as the story evolves to reveal a shocking and emotional conclusion.

The film is directed by A Silent Voice helmer Naoko Yamada, who teamed up once again with screenwriter Reiko Yoshida, character designer Futoshi Nishiya, cinematographer Kazuya Takao, production designer Mutsuo Shinohara, sound designer Yota Tsuruoka and composer Kensuke Ushio. Liz and the Blue Bird is produced by Kyoto Animation, based on the Sound! Euphonium novel series by Ayano Takeda.

Animation Magazine

Eleven Arts Sets ‘Maquia’ & ‘Liz and the Blue Bird’ for LA Femme Fest

Two beautiful, emotional anime features will be screening at the LA Femme International Film Festival this weekend (Oct. 11-14), thanks to event sponsor ELEVEN ARTS Anime Studio. A special showing of award-winning movie Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms will be held Friday, Oct. 12 at 6 p.m., and an in-competition screening of LIz and the Blue Bird is set for Sunday, Oct. 14 at 12 p.m. Both films will play at LA Live’s Regal Theater Stadium 14

Founded in 2005, the LA Femme International Film Festival is a premier festival that focuses on platforming women filmmakers and works “by women, for everyone.” Tickets available at

“We could not be prouder to have these two incredibly powerful titles screen at the LA Femme. Director Mari Okada and director Naoko Yamada are incredible women whose work continues to shape the anime industry. We are honored to be bringing the films to this festival and to the broader North American audience,” says Ko Mori, President and CEO of ELEVEN ARTS Anime Studio.

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms is the directorial debut of renowned screenwriter Mari Okada. The film dives into the dilemmas of motherhood, adolescence, femininity, and leadership. Okada wraps all these poignant themes into a sweeping epic with well-developed characters, emotional gravitas, stunning visuals, and an exhilarating score by composer Kenji Kawai (Ghost in the Shell animated movie and sequel). The film, hot off its initial February release, quickly made its way across the globe to premiere at the Glasgow Film Festival, where it captivated audiences. Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms also won the Best Animated Film Award at Shanghai International Film Festival.

An Official Selection of the festival, Liz and the Blue Bird is a coming-of-age story from Naoko Yamada, the director of A Silent Voice. ELEVEN ARTS Anime Studio has set November 9, 2018, as the theatrical release for the film. The film made its premiere at Anime Expo in the U.S. and will screen with the original Japanese dialogue and English subtitles.

Liz and the Blue Bird

Liz and the Blue Bird

Animation Magazine

12 Questions for ‘North of Blue’ Writer-Director Joanna Priestley

12 Questions for ‘North of Blue’ Writer-Director Joanna Priestley

Next month, indie animation artist Joanna Priestley’s latest project North of Blue debuts at the Ottawa International Animation Festival. The dynamic 61-minute-long abstract animated piece was nominated for a Cristal Award at Annecy and marks a new chapter for the Portland, Oregon-based artist, who is best known for acclaimed shorts such as Voices, She-Bop, Utopia Parkway and All My Relations. Joanna was gracious enough to answer some of our burning questions about her splashy new feature:

What was the inspiration for this work?

North of Blue began in February 2012 when I was invited to be filmmaker-in-residence for a month at the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture in Dawson City, Yukon, Canada. I photographed the environment and began animating snow, ice, braided rivers, spindly trees and crows. I layered images and experimented with using photos as long, horizontal backgrounds that I could pan under the animation. The views of this vast wilderness dotted with jagged white peaks, tiny black trees and lakes of turquoise ice were completely mesmerizing. I fell under the spell of the far north and this journey was a major influence on North of Blue.

After a month in the Yukon, I returned to my studio in Portland, Oregon and struggled to make sense of what I had created. I kept adding new animation and moving scenes around but nothing worked and nothing coalesced. I finally abandoned the project. I returned to it months later and began by removing all the browns and greens and reducing the palette to blue, white and black. I deconstructed the animation by extracting small elements from semi-realistic scenes and combining them into new compositions. Suddenly it became an abstract film and I continued to pare down each scene to only lines and shapes, like simple blue balls and abstract totemic aggregations.

What prompted you to make an abstract animated feature?

I started experimenting with abstract animation in 1984, in the first computer animation class at Cal Arts, taught by Vibeke Sorensen. One of my graduation films, Jade Leaf, was the first computer film made there. I went on to make five more abstract short films and an abstract iOS app (Clam Bake). The app had the biggest influence on North of Blue because I found that the repetition of simple geometric shapes could surprise the player/viewer with increasingly strange metamorphoses. I used seven scenes of transforming blue balls as a repetitive anchor in North of Blue. The original title-in-progress was Blue Balls.

Discarding representation in my work has increased the joy level of my animation. When we see objects, we often subconsciously label them and that creates a familiarity that can shut down further visual and intellectual exploration. Abstract animation cannot be labelled and categorized by the brain. This puts off some people and they are not willing to look at it. If you’re willing to relax into North of Blue and just look, I think you will be surprised.

Which animation tools did you use to create the animation, and how long did it take to make?

North of Blue contains about 43,250 drawings and it took six years to make. I used Adobe Animate for the animation and drew everything by hand with a digital stylus on a medium sized Wacom tablet. After animation and editing were complete, digital artist Brian Kinkley used Synthetik Software’s Studio Artist 4.0 for the paint effects. Brian also designed and animated the title sequence.

What do you love about the final results?

The first time I saw North of Blue on a huge screen with an excellent Dolby Surround sound system, at the Hollywood Theatre in Portland, I was shocked with how immersive the experience was. I had only seen the film on a small screen. A couple of sections put me in an altered state and after the show, many people told me that it was like a drug trip and that they experienced a trance state while watching it.

Can you address the design influences on North of Blue?

While working on North of Blue, I attended a lecture about Hilma af Klint, the Swedish abstract painter who lived from 1862 to 1944. She has been excluded from art history, and she was a new discovery for me. Af Klint made over 1400 paintings and 26,000 drawings and she was the first abstract, non-Chinese painter, even though Google continues to attribute that title to Wassily Kandinsky and abstraction in Chinese painting goes back to the 12th century. I was profoundly inspired by af Klint’s large, colorful paintings and the mathematical and mystical elements of her compositions.

I was also influenced by several pioneer abstract animators. Mary Ellen Bute (1906 –1983, USA) directed and animated 14 films and developed an oscilloscope to use for drawing. Oskar Fischinger and Jules Engel (my mentor at Cal Arts) are two important abstract artists and friends who both worked on Disney’s Fantasia. Abstract painter Piet Mondrian (1872 – 1944, Holland) was a major influence on the palette and the compositional structure of several scenes in North of Blue, especially his work with black grids and primary colors. I also researched blue and white classical Delftware.

Music always plays an integral role in your work. Can you tell us a little bit about the music for North of Blue?

I was thrilled when composer Jamie Haggerty threw himself into this project. We worked together on three of my earlier films: Dew Line (2005), Relative Orbits (2004, documentary) and Utopia Parkway (1997). I had to wait for him to retire to work with him again. Jamie is a true Renaissance man: composer, sound designer, animator and editor. It took him 11 months to compose the music and complete the sound design for North of Blue, using Ableton Live and Pro Tools.

Most of the music was composed to picture and I truly loved everything Jamie came up with. Fragments of his music would become ear worms that played in my head for days — always a good sign. I animated four sections of the film to temp music by Seth Norman, and Jamie did a brilliant job of matching the rhythm and mood of those sections. Jamie also did the sound design and Chris Barber assisted with wonderful sound effects. Jamie and I collaborated during the mix, but I had very minor input, occasionally asking if we could reduce layers and simplify an area to match the starkness of a scene. I like dubstep and I begged him to add big bass drops, which he wisely limited to two.

What was your ballpark budget?

The budget was around $ 19,000. Most of that was for sound and compositing and it does not include my salary or studio rent. The expenses were spread over six years so it was affordable. I paid $ 2160 ($ 30/month for six years) to use Adobe Animate and Photoshop and, as Brian Kinkley says, we are all Adobe sharecroppers.

After making about 27 amazing animated shorts over the past three decades, how do you keep finding new inspirations to create your art?

Inspiration is not a problem for me because I am inspired by so many things. For All My Relations (1990), I spent a lot of time in the filthy, potholed street next to my studio, picking up trash to make frames for the animation. Those smashed screws and giant cigarette butts look interesting onscreen. Nearly everything in Dawson City, Yukon was inspiring: people, plants, parkas, landscape, frozen rivers, birds, dog teams, weather, architecture, Dänojà Zho Cultural Centre, library display of children’s art, ice crystals in street puddles… Looking carefully when traveling is good for inspiration. I always carry a small sketchbook, make notes and drawings and take photos.

How is your methodology different for a long-format project?

Working on a short film is like a lovely hike in the woods. Working on North of Blue was like hiking the Pacific Crest Trail with side trips. It was a deeply joyful process and it felt like an extension of being under the spell of the far north. Every morning as I arrived at my studio, I had this delicious, expansive feeling of being in a vast, wild landscape, with all the time in the world to explore new territory and experiment with unfamiliar imagery. Intriguing challenges in design, composition and content emerged organically and many became new strands of inquiry that resulted in scenes that surprised me.

I usually do a storyboard for a short film, but I did not do one for North of Blue. As the film got longer, I made a large wall of images to organize all of the scenes. It contained a small island of images from tests and experiments that did not fit anywhere. I enjoyed working alone but was lucky to have four interns who worked with me for two months each and I was inspired by their energy and creativity. I have had amazing luck with interns who have found their way to my studio.

My longtime collaboration with brilliant digital effects artist Brian Kinkley was also a fun and energizing part of the process. Brian generated a lovely new look for the film. North of Blue required a long term commitment from my dear friends who did the sound and compositing. It is much easier to do a short film if you are free lance and working on other projects at the same time.

What is your take on the state of animation today?

It is very exciting that many women are making animated features. I absolutely loved The Breadwinner (2017) by Nora Twomey and Seder-Masochism (2018) by Nina Paley.

What is your go-to advice for people who want to make personal animated art—rather than work in studio factories?

The most interesting animated films are by individual artists and their work inspires the animation and advertising industries. Go online (or to film festivals) and look at lots of films by PEZ, Regina Pessoa, Michaela Pavlatova, Nina Paley, Chintis Lundgren, Steven Subotnick, Joan Gratz, BLU, Konstantin Bronzit, Janet Perlman, Marv Newland, Candy Kugel, Alison Snowden & David Fine and Wendy Tilby & Amanda Forbis. Then make a personal film about something that you are passionate about. Enter and go to lots of film festivals. The best ones are free to enter. Set up your own screenings at nightclubs, bars and art galleries if you don’t get into film festivals. Keep in mind that making a film can jump start your commercial animation career but it won’t make money, so keep your day job. Don’t get discouraged and keep making films.

How about some tips for surviving the coming apocalypse/World War Three?

It is important to be as creative as possible, especially in the face of despair over the failure of humanity and possible demise of the human race. Finding joy and nourishment in creative expression and making things is essential and sharing your work can inspire many other people. I immerse myself in creativity by going to see friend’s shows, visiting lots of art and science museums and watching theater, movies and media. My husband, Paul Harrod, was production designer of Isle of Dogs for two years, and it gave me the opportunity to spend months in London visiting their wonderful museums (faves: Tate Modern, Victoria and Albert Museum, Sir John Soane’s Museum, Dulwich Picture Gallery and Barbican Art Gallery). Paul’s long absence gave me extra time to finish North of Blue, but I deeply missed having my best critic around.

How would you describe North of Blue to someone in order to make them want to see it really badly?

Stretch your head by diving into a lush, color-crazed, immersive, relaxing abstract feature. It will rock your world and lower your blood pressure!

See more of Joanna Priestley’s work at

Joanna Priestley

Joanna Priestley

Animation Magazine

CBC/Radio-Canada Greenlights ‘Big Blue’ from Guru

Big Blue

Toronto-based Guru Studio — kids’ entertainment shop behind PAW Patrol, Ever After High, True and the Rainbow Kingdom, two-time Emmy-nominated Justin Time and Oscar-nominated feature The Breadwinner — has been given the greenlight by CBC/Radio-Canada to produce Big Blue (52 x 11’), a new animated series for kids 5-9. The comedy-adventure will debut on CBC Kids and ICI Radio-Canada Télé in 2020.

“CBC/Radio-Canada is the perfect broadcast partner for Big Blue and the CBC Kids team is a blast to work with!” said Frank Falcone, President and Executive Creative Director of Guru Studio.

“We are thrilled to partner with Guru Studio to bring Canadian audiences this visually remarkable series that will inspire kids to make their world a better place,” said Sally Catto, General Manager, Programming, CBC.

Created by Gyimah Gariba, Big Blue follows sibling underwater adventurers Lettie and Lemo who lead a quirky submarine crew — with a magical ocean fairy stowaway named Bacon Berry — on a mission to explore and protect the denizens of a vast ocean-covered planet. Together, they just might unravel the mysterious secrets of their underwater universe.

“We know kids will love this smart funny show in which our characters uncover the mysteries of a vast ocean-covered planet across a season arc,” said Marie McCann, Senior Director, CBC Kids.

“Gyimah’s vision for this series has created a show with universal appeal and charm packed with comedy and high-stakes adventure,” said Rachel Marcus, Development Executive at Guru Studio.

Gyimah Gariba, a Ghanaian Canadian, was named by Forbes as one of the “15 Young African Creatives Rebranding Africa” in 2015 and has amassed a large social media and celebrity following for his distinctive visual artwork.

Big Blue was developed with CBC Kids and veteran creator Jason Hopley, whose credits include Wandering Wenda and You and Me. For CBC, Sally Catto is General Manager, Programming; Marie McCann is Senior Director, CBC Kids; and Drew Mullin is Executive in Charge of Production. Guru Studio is currently seeking international co-production partners for participation in the series.

Big Blue

Big Blue

Animation Magazine

Chilemonos Fest to Honor Blue Sky Director Carlos Saldanha

Carlos Saldanha

Carlos Saldanha

The Chilemonos International Animation Festival will be bestowing its “Iconic Director” award on Carlos Saldanha, the Brazilian-born filmmaker behind many of Blue Sky Studios’ international hits. The two-time Oscar nominee will be attending the seventh edition of Chilemonos in Santiago, May 8-12.

Saldanha is being honored for his stature as one of the most influential directors of the past decade in Latin America and around the world. Known for beloved films such as Ice Age (2002), Robots (2005), Rio (2011) and most recently, the Oscar-nominated Ferdinand (2017), the director will present a Master Class covering the production process at Blue Sky and his experience in the Hollywood animation industry, “From Ice Age to Ferdinand.”

Blue Sky Studios evolved from a small indie shop into a 20th Century Fox partner and one of the biggest brands in the animated features business, with seven feature films its library and a global income close to $ 3.5 billion.

Saldanha will receive the Iconic Director award on Saturday, May 12 at 10 a.m. in the Centro Cultural Gabriela Mistral. Previous recipients include Shinichiro Watanabe, Peter Lord, Mark Shapiro and Yoshihiro Shimizu.

Chilemonos will celebrate the honoree by presenting several of his films at venues around the country, including Robots, Ice Age, Rio and Ferdinand. Additional highlights of the festival’s screening program include the feature films Early Man by Nick Park, Oscar nominee Loving Vincent by Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, and Ethel and Ernest by Roger Mainwood in its national premiere.

The festivities will also include exhibitions, competitions, master classes, workshops, discussions and more.

Follow announcements from the festival on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter @Chilemonos.



Carlos Saldanha

Carlos Saldanha

Animation Magazine

Blue Moon Founder Wants to Create THC-Infused Craft Beer

Keith Villa was working at Coors Brewing in 1995 when he created an unfiltered, Belgian-style beer that became the inspiration for the Blue Moon Brewing Company, which got its start as a special division in Golden and soon spread to locations at Coors Field and then RiNo. When the brewmaster retired from what’s now MolsonCoors early this year, he hinted that he had a plan to create a new beverage with “cutting-edge” ingredients.

And now we know what those are: Villa and his wife, Jodi, have partnered with an established Colorado cannabis extraction lab to start Ceria Beverages, a new line of THC-infused drinks with the “same onset time as alcohol,” according to a press release announcing the company’s launch.

Using technology from its partnership with Ebbu, an extraction lab known for its water-infusing technologies, Villa promises that his new drink will be “brewed just like an alcoholic craft beer” in order to maintain a beer taste and aroma, but any alcohol will be removed before the liquid is infused with THC. In Colorado, it’s illegal for any brewery or licensed cannabis infused-product manufacturer to make a beverage with both alcohol and THC.

“I’m ready to introduce another high-impact brand to the industry again, this time with a new line of custom cannabis-infused craft beers,” Villa says in the announcement. “Today, the opportunity and the demand are here, inviting Americans to enjoy a more social way of consuming cannabis — by drinking rather than by smoking it or through ingestion of edibles.”

New Belgium Brewing and Dads & Dudes Breweria have both made headlines in the past with their CBD-infused and hemp-infused brews, but Ceria maintains that this creation is unique because it will be the first drink to be brewed like a beer without losing the THC. And with terpenes — plant compounds that affect the smell, taste and way your body reacts to THC — also heavily present in hops, the possibilities of mixing the two are exciting.

“We have always loved what Keith stands for — great-tasting mainstream beers that really kickstarted the entire craft beer movement,” Ebbu CEO Jon Cooper says in the announcement. “We are honored and thrilled to partner with Keith, Jodi and CERIA to bring this groundbreaking new product to cannabis consumers in legalized states.”

The Villas named Ceria after the university campus in Brussels, Belgium, where Keith received a doctorate in brewing science. Naturally, Keith will be the brewmaster for the company, while Jodi will serve as CEO. The drinks will only be sold in cannabis dispensaries, not breweries. There’s no solid distribution date yet; a spokeswoman for Ceria says she expects them to be on store shelves “later this year.”

Toke of the Town

Why Colorado Tokers Love Blue Dragon

Combatting the stoner stereotype is the rage these days, and I’m all for it. Having moms and working professionals come out of the closet, hitting vape pens and microdosing edibles to kick ass and relax without the Cheetos, is great for diversifying the consumer image. But sometimes I just want to get giggly-baked, eat chicken nuggets and laugh at poop jokes, and I’m not afraid to admit it.

I’ve found that potent hybrids create the best shit-eating grins and munchies without causing anxiety, and Blue Dragon is a definite contender. The hybrid’s illustrious lineage will make most tokers wonder why the melding didn’t happen sooner: It was bred with Blueberry and Sour Diesel, resulting in a funky, tart blend of rubbery sweetness that’s sure to pucker mouths and glaze eyelids a few times over. Blueberry is a sweet, doughy indica with a syrupy overtone, while Sour Diesel’s gassy, skunky notes have been leaking out of pockets and exposing amateur stoners for decades. The clash of these two distinct flavors makes it harder to recognize all of Blue Dragon’s subtle intricacies, as its powerful parents don’t mix as well as other hybrids with classic genetics — like, say, Girl Scout Cookies. Still, anyone who likes doughy, tart strains would appreciate Blue Dragon’s sweet sourdough taste: You’ll get some berry aspects, but none of those heavy, syrupy characteristics that Blueberry’s known for.

But while Blue Dragon’s genetic clash makes for a tasty smoke, I’m not quite sold on the high. Some hybrids have a balance of indica and sativa effects throughout, while others start with a sativa rush and end with an indica comedown. Count Blue Dragon among the latter, but that indica comedown is more like a cliff. The initial euphoria met my standards for a relaxed, giggly high, upping my visceral intake while my body pulsated with waves of relaxation. Those warm waves soon became exhausting, however; my concentration waned, and after 45 minutes I couldn’t stop yawning — which is quick for someone with my tolerance.

Blue Dragon is currently available at DANK dispensary, as well as at several other pot shops around town as a concentrate from Harmony Extracts. Purple Dragon, which pairs Blue Dragon with Purple Erkle for a more indica-heavy version of the strain, is also sold around Colorado.

Looks: Blue Dragon has round, fluffy buds that range from circular to cone-shaped. Its forest-green color can have occasional shades of blue or violet, with a sparkling coat of trichomes that contrasts well against the dark calyxes.

Smell: Sweet biscuit notes and intense sour ones create a sourdough aroma with a gassy after-scent. Although subtle, smells of berries and orange slowly swell up in the pits of your nostrils when the buds are pinched.

Flavor: Blue Dragon is a little spicy and floral up front, but a strong Diesel aftertaste can cloak the sides of your tongue for over an hour after smoking. Blueberry’s doughy flavors shine through more than its berry sweetness, but a joint will showcase both well enough.

Effects: While the strain’s initial uplifting effects might fool users into continually smoking it or expecting an all-day rush, that spike will turn into a calm state of stupidity very quickly. The bubbly euphoria, while short-lived, makes this a great nighttime strain if you’re prepared to fall asleep soon.

Home grower’s take: “I first started noticing this around ten years ago, maybe less, and I’ll swoop up some clones from time to time. I’ve heard of cuts with Blue Rhino genetics and others with Blue Dream, but I’m pretty sure those are bullshit, at least out here. I flower mine for nine weeks but have thought about going ten and flushing for that last one, because I’ve never been huge on its flavor. The color is magnificent, though: beautifully dark, with those purple-blue colors spotted here and there. The trichomes almost make it look wet in certain shades of light.”

Is there a strain you’d like to see profiled? E-mail

Toke of the Town

Watch: Blue Zoo Paints a Picturesque Life Journey in ‘Via’


Award-winning London-based studio Blue Zoo Animation released a poignant new short film which takes viewers to visit a series of stunning, painterly landscapes serving as vista points along a life’s journey. Directed by concept artist Izzy Burton, who also created the gorgeous environment designs, Via takes inspiration from a poem by Rachel Cladingbowl to tell a story that follows the physical and metaphorical progress of one man’s life.

“For me, it is a poem about the complexities of the human journey; a path both rocky and smooth with unforeseen obstacles to overcome. Indeed, some obstacles can seem so huge that we think we will never cope at all, yet somehow we can still come out the other side, smiling again,” said Cladingbowl.

The filmmakers used the short as an experiment in animated storytelling. The characters’ faces are never seen, but they communicate feeling and emotion through movement and posing alone. “Via” meaning “way” or “road” in Latin, and connoting “by way of” in modern language, the story is about appreciating all of life’s moments, good and bad, with the “bigger picture” represented by the vast and beautiful environments the characters move through. These settings were inspired by Burton’s time spent in America, and her love of nature.

“When I feel overwhelmed with life, the world around me provides some type of healing; I love to go stand by the river in London or at the end of my garden at my family home and take in how beautiful the world is and how lucky I am to be a part of it, and it truly makes me so happy,” said Burton.

The visual storytelling is further enriched by the use of symbolism and color. A ball is passed from scene to scene, ending up with the man’s son. The time of day changes as the film goes on. When the couple are alone, the scene is deserted to keep the focus on their relationship. Sepia tones creep in as memories seem to fade, and the world brightens when the son is on screen.

“My work has always been described as whimsical and poetic, and I think that’s why I ended up finding a poem to narrate the story. I wanted my love for environment painting to assist the story, and see how we could tell an emotional tale using such small characters with no facial expressions,” Burton added. “It was a great challenge and I hope we’ve managed to make a film that evokes some emotion in the viewer!”

Burton has worked as a concept artist at Blue Zoo Animation since 2015, when she graduated from Bournemouth University. Her mostly nature- and landscape-focused work is inspired by growing up in the English countryside.

The studio was founded in 2000 by Adam Shaw, Tom Box and Oli Hyatt. Learn more at

VIA from Blue Zoo on Vimeo.











Animation Magazine