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Bee on flower violence: a discussion with Dale Hayward

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Above: In court, the bee will claim the flower was ‘dressed sexy’.

Dale Hayward is responsible for the single most disturbing animation involving a sunflower in the history of the universe. The Flower is also a hilarious and unexpected inversion of DIY stop-motion, which tends towards towards the twee. The animator chatted with Crackle about the sexual politics of pollination, drawing naked ladies, and loving plants.

Crackle: What’s your background? How did you get into animation/stop-motion?

Dale Hayward: I went to school for classical animation in Toronto, at a place that focuses a ton on the “traditional” skills of drawing; they really enhanced my passion for drawing. when I graduated, there was no work in the city other than in Flash. Luckily I got to do a test for Cuppa Coffee [Animation] in stop-mo, [then] two Sunday afternoons later I was hired and worked there for about 5 years, animating, doing some sculpting and then directing.

Crackle: The Flower had the unique effect on me of making me feel really bad for flowers. Do sunflowers really bug you, or did this video come from some deep-seated empathy you’ve got for plant life?

DH: Heh, that’s exactly the effect we want you to have. Plants are actually one of my other passions (we live with about 70), so I guess there’s empathy there, and wanting to use them in films is a daily occurrence. When creating the puppets for [The Flower], Sylvie (my girlfriend) and I used a lot of crap that was already in our place, focusing a theme [around] the stuff we used, i.e., the bee had hard metal things (bolts, wires, clamps) and the flower had more organic-y, softer things (towels, clay, rubber).

Crackle: So I definitely never thought of pollination as a sexual-assault scenario before. Did you just happen to see an over-eager wasp, or what? How did this occur to you?

DH: Phil (the co-director) and I had come up with a ton of short film ideas, but all of them were way too ambitious or just not practical to complete with our budget, which was about $1.23. So over a coffee we broke a story down its ultimate basics: a flower, he’s singing, bee comes by and screws him in the eye, end of story. It’s really just the typical elements to all stories. [Ed: I hadn't noticed the bee-rape subtext in all stories, but hey, symbolism is a fine art.]

Crackle: What was the overall aesthetic you were shooting for in The Flower? I got Old-Disney-meets-Hostel.

DH: Our love for old film/music/animation and then drench it in ridiculous sauce.

Crackle: Can you talk about the technical aspects of making The Flower? How did you achieve the old-timey, bad-film-stock look?

DH: [It was] shot table-top with my Nikon d80, Imac with Framethief, fixed up and then timed with After Effects. [There were a] couple days of boarding/ideas/recording, about a week to make the puppets, [a] couple more days for setup, [then we] shot it over two and a half days. Then [there was] about another week of added stuff and rendering, in total about 3 weeks give or take.

The overall grain was a few colour tweaks and mainly a self-made series of about 30 grainy frames, both black and white in Photoshop. I cant stand presets – [they're] like poop in your mug.

Crackle: So, I noticed on your blog that your warm-up drawings are often naked chicas. Is drawing the female form good for the creative, ahem, juices?

DH: Definitely; the only thing harder than drawing women is drawing a woman with another woman, so why not challenge [yourself] and have a good excuse for staring at the much fairer sex?

Crackle: What projects are you working on now?

DH: I’m really working on this thing called relaxing, but I seem to suck at it. I just finished making a music video with Sylvie called “Auburn fades away” for Li’ Andy. I’m at the national film board of Canada again animating a sequence with a friend of mine for a film celebrating Québec’s 400 year anniversary. The film is all in stereoscopic vision! Which is a big smart sounding word for imax type 3d. It’s really weird and crazy dealing with the third dimension; it doesn’t let you cheat as much. I’m also very close to starting the next installment of pleasurable pain with the flower. For this one I ordered an extra ten bottles of awkward giggles. Higher budget this time.

Check out Dale Hayward’s blog.

Animal Planet: Whimsical Edition

Everyone loves Planet Earth, with good reason, but there is one glaring omission in the hard work of the good people at the Discovery Channel. Here then, a documentary-style examination of the habitat, territorial conflicts, predators, and feeding habits of the Unicorn, or the neon horse at it’s known to some cultures.

Plenty more from This World creator fishbot at deviantART.

Dart-throwing monsters are resistant to change

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The lesson of Darts in the Snow: don’t ruffle feathers. Or, don’t interrupt a chain of monsters from throwing darts into each other’s butts. Both pretty universal messages.

Creator Alexei Kharitidi’s bio, from Little Animation Inc.:

Oscar nominee Alexei Kharitidi graduated from the Advanced Institute For Scriptwriters & Film Directors in Moscow, the very best school for filmmakers in Russia. His short animated films have participated in and won prizes at many prestigious festivals including Cannes, Annecy, Hiroshima, Ottawa, and his film “Gagarin” won the GOLDEN PALM in short film competition in Cannes in 1995 and was nominated for an Academy Award in 1996.

Carnage in candyland

As saccharine as a pack of Skittles, Goobees is also bitingly morbid – a sweet sucker with an Atomic sour center. It recognizes that the Pixar look can be hilariously played against itself given a dark tone. And so, a war among the sweets:

The story behind Goobees:

“Goobees” was created by four graduate students in the Texas A&M Viz Lab, over the course of a year and a half. All four students share directing and producing credits.

For more on the Goobees team, check out the website.

Radiohead: “we will judge your cartoon”

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Everyone always kind of assumed Radiohead loved cartoons because of the epic, weird, hilarious, and brilliant animated video for their 1997 song Paranoid Android. Now the proof: in conjunction with Aniboom, the living legends are judging an online animation contest. Caught you, Radiohead!

Stationary road rage

Parking in New York City, San Francisco, Chicago is like panning for gold in the 1800s: you might get lucky and strike it rich, but the odds are you’re just going to get more and more bitter and wonder why you left your home in the first place. Here are some tips to help you avoid genocidal rage, a common consequence of parking in these cities:

Emergency 411 Finding Parking is from Tim Heiderich.

Julia Pott has got a crush on animation

Julia Pott created one of the most original and endearing short animations we’ve ever seen on Crackle. My First Crush is the collected stories of the first infatuations of a handful of Brits, told by the wistful people themselves, who are animated as a variety of fauna. Watch it below:

We knew we had to ask Pott all about her hilarious, touching, and totally unique short. It turns out she’s a recent University (as the wild English call college) grad who is a lovely, accommodating, effusive interviewee. Enjoy:

Crackle: How did you first get into animation? Is it something you’ve always wanted to do?

JP: When I was younger, my main ambition in life was to work for Disney. Well, actually, my first main ambition was to be a balloon, but by the time I’d wised up by the age of 5 I realised Disney was where I wanted to be; however, I never put two and two together and realized that working at Disney meant being an animator. I have always been a visual person and I have always wanted to pursue a career in art in any form. I think that form was always animation, even if I wasn’t aware of it. When I was doing foundation at Chelsea College of Art one of my tutors pointed out to me that all of my drawings were done in sequence, and [asked if] I had ever considered going into animation. That’s when it clicked that [animation] was the right path for me.

Crackle: My First Crush has got such a distinctive style—do you think of this as your personal style, or just one that you adopted for the purposes of the short?

Julia Pott: I definitely work in a specific style, in both my illustration and animation endeavours, and it is reflected in My First Crush. However, I did simplify the characters somewhat to make the animation easier to accomplish and also to make the film more aesthetically pleasing. As it was the first animated short I designed and directed single-handedly, it established my style as an animator.

Crackle: What was your inspiration for My First Crush—how did you get the idea in general, and how did you decide on your people-as-animals approach?

JP: My inspiration for this film came from personal experience. At the time of its development I was just beginning the first stages of a relationship and it sparked thoughts in me about how frustrating the first stages of attraction can be, with all the uncertainty and infatuation that goes along with it. My original idea was to develop an abstract piece about the awkwardness of first liking someone, and the interviews were originally just research for the piece. I had not intended to use narrative in my film but the dialogue was so true and relatable that it developed into several narratives about peoples’ individual journeys and experiences – I felt it got my point across in a more successful way. My original idea was non-narrative with animals so it seemed like a natural progression, once I chose to use the interviews, that the voices should be narrated by the peoples’ animal counterparts. I paired each animal with an unlikely partner to exemplify the randomness of love and how it is the connection of personalities and not your background that attracts you to someone.

Crackle: How did you choose the animals for each voice? Was it something in the quality of the individual voice, or something that each person actually said?

JP: The animals were chosen based on what was said by each individual person. For example, when choosing a character for Steve Bowler it seemed obvious to me to make him a bloodhound because of his obsession with how [his crush] smelled. Similarly, with the shark character I felt it would be interesting to use a menacing species to portray a story of shyness and awkward humour. All of the characters have been matched mainly based on what they have said, even if the connection seems somewhat vague to the viewer.

Crackle: Are these real stories? Who is telling them—your friends? Was it hard to get them to open up?

JP: These are completely genuine stories. I interviewed about 30 people in total, ranging from my housemates to my sister’s housemates to an acting troupe in my home village. I am naturally quite a shy person so the main challenge for me was getting people to open up to someone who was clearly very nervous. The final voices are mainly that of the Shenley Drama Group, a bunch of amateur performers who were happy to disclose their most personal anecdotes (except the pony, who was a friend from university who provided a story of heartache, something that the film was missing until just before it went into the final animation stage). The sound edit went through so many stages before it was finalised, and a lot of stories [were] cut at the last minute. [One was] about a boy who would play the theme from Titanic on a walkman everyday to the girl he loved whilst reading poetry that he wrote in the hopes that she would one day return his affections.

Crackle: Who was your first crush, and what animals would he (or she, not to presume anything) and you be in My First Crush?

JP: My first crush was my friend’s older brother, as I’m sure a lot of first crushes are! He used to tease me and bully me a lot and I thought he was the best thing that ever happened. I found my diary from that period in my life recently and I sound absolutely infatuated with him. It was literally all-consuming. I suppose perhaps we would be quite a mismatch of animals, like the bird and the polar bear, because when I ran into him later in life it was clearly never meant to be and it was just because of the circumstances at the time that I was so obsessed with him.

Crackle: Who are the three most crush-worthy animated characters of all time?

JP: That’s a great question! I think everyone has a secret crush on some pretty shameful animated leading men or women. I personally don’t have a crush on this lady but Jessica Rabbit would definitely have to be one of them. I am still fascinated by how they made her dress so unbelievably sparkly in Who Framed Roger Rabbit and she is probably the sexiest women around in both the animated and real world. As for male leads, I would have to say that I have always had a soft spot for the boy in Anastasia; he has a somewhat Hugh Grant-esque quality about him that I loved when I was younger. The second would have to be Prince Phillip from Sleeping Beauty; that whole film is so beautiful and I think he blends in pretty well… although I don’t see it so much now as I did back when I was young and impressionable! For my final crush, would it be wrong to say grown-up Simba in the Lion King? [Ed: Only if it's wrong for us to say grown-up Nala in the Lion King. That kitten's got claws!]

Crackle: Your website says you’re being shown at SXSW—is My First Crush being shown?

JP: Yes, My First Crush is being shown. It is really quite exciting that the film is getting so much exposure; never could I have imagined that it would be so popular! It has really made me very happy.

Watch more animation on Crackle.

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