A Great Start for Toon Saloon

We’d like to thank everyone who came out Thursday to help make a success of the very first Animation Magazine‘s Toon Saloon. Held at McG’s Irish Pub & Grill in Chatsworth, Calif., the event featured screenings of rare and brand-new stop-motion short films with the filmmakers on hand to discuss their work. We had a good crowd turn out and we hope to have packed house for the next one, which we’ll be announcing soon.

It was a rare treat to have so many talented people in one room. We got to hang out with the Chiodo Bros.’Charlie, Stephen and Edward’, The Screen Novelties triumvirate’Mark Caballero, Seamus Walsh and Chris Finnegan’and animators Kent Burton, Ben Zelkowicz, Jason Hite and Eric Towner. In the audience were other members of the animation community, including Jim Aupperle, who has handled stop-motion effects photography for such B-movie classics as Flesh Gordon, Planet of the Dinosaurs, The Evil Dead II and Robocop 2. His long list of credits also includes Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, Treasure Planet, Hellboy and Disney’s upcoming CG feature Meet the Robinsons.

The evening kicked off with a rare screening of The Beast From the Egg, an epic Super 8 short film made by the Chiodo Bros. when they were just kids. Greatly inspired by Ray Harryhausen’s work on 20 Million Miles to Earth, the film has a tin-foil egg hatching to unleash a rapidly-growing stop-motion monster on an unsuspecting neighborhood. We then watched several Japanese Cup O’ Noodle commercials the guys animated several years ago, followed by their most recent short film, Innards, which was animated by Kent Buton and can be seen in our WAC-O online film festival at www.animationmagazine.net/wac. More info about the Chiodo Bros. can be found at www.chiodobros.com.

We then enjoyed Hite’s debut stop-motion short, Stasis, the first part of science-fiction saga that takes viewers into the bowels of a biomechanical world where deceased humans are kept in cryostasis chambers. Viewers watch as the body of one woman is extracted and invaded by ‘bio-drones,’ which resurrect her as one of their own. He tells us he’s currently working on the second part, and also has a feature in development. Find him on the web at www.hitestudios.com.

Caballero, Walsh and Finnegan then showed their recently finished short, Monster Safari, which serves as a pilot of Nickelodeon. The very funny and brilliantly animated piece has two intrepid cryptozooligists out to prove the existence of the Abominable Snowman, a mythical beast with abominable breath. The guys brought along some animators from the Adult Swim hit show Robot Chicken, which they oversee animation for. Check them out at www.screen-novelties.com.

Next up was Zelkowicz’s incredible sand animation masterpiece, The Erlking (www.theerlking.com), an adaptation of the poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe made by manipulating grains of sand on glass. The painterly film was completed as a thesis film at the California Institute of the Arts under the guidance of such renowned artists as Raimund Krumme and Jules Engel. Zelkowicz revelaed that he is working on another sand animation piece that will be more of a straight narrative.

The musical portion of the program consisted of a music video for the song ‘Do Me, I’m the Best’ by the band Otafuku Rex. Director Eric Towner was on hand for the screening of this mesmerizingly hip piece of work that features stop-motion puppets performing the song and interacting with live-action people on the street. Towner told us this was the first time he had watched the video with an audience and that it was a special treat for him. The video can be seen online at www.otafukurex.com/index.php.

We’d also like to think animator Kelly Mazurowski (Robot Chicken, Morel Orel) for bringing some gems from his personal collection of stop-motion works, including the jaw-dropping Japanese short film Komenako, in which an adorable bear tries to make a stop-motion film in his bedroom and encounters some all-too prevalent technical issues in the process.

Thanks again to all the filmmakers who participated and those who showed up for the rare opportunity to meet and network with these talented individuals. Based on the success of this first effort, we are planning to continue the series and encourage animators from all disciplines to contact us about being part of the fun.