Childish Films is an ongoing project I do with Isabelle Harder. We curate and present artistic children’s cinema for the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Film Festival and Library Foundation of Hennepin County. So I’ve spent a lot of time investigating what films are out there in the world for children and have had ample opportunities to notice what tickles their fancy. Kids really ‘get’ stop-motion because it works so well with their imaginations. Stop-motion animators re-imagine ordinary things and transform them, very much like the way kids do when they play. This was the inspiration for the day long program I put together for the Walker happening on March 5 that is all about stop-motion.
My kids have played endlessly with characters they’ve made out of rocks, a roll of tape, even a piece of fluff. We frequently stumble into their dramatic assemblages of small toys adorned with pipe cleaners living in structures of blocks and beads. That’s why we love it when Lincoln Logs float down a river made of yarn in Clyde Peterson‘s music video; and when water droplets are marbles on an organic-looking marble run in Britta Johnson’s experimental short. Stop-motion animators are super patient hard workers, but their ideas seem so playful and their work often feels impulsive—it’s very exciting. Like when Web Crowell had the really great idea to draw countless pictures on paper parasols and see how they come to life; or when members of the Seattle Experimental Animation Team (SEAT) got together to make a space station drawn on a gigantic chalkboard wall; and when Minneapolis filmmaker Phil Harder used his camera to catch two dancers jumping in the air a bazillion times, so we could see them fly.
Kids can experiment with stop-motion themselves at our Animation Station, a project inspired by an artist I met about five years ago named Jean-Luc Slock , who established a studio in Belgium, Atelier Caméra Enfants Admis (Camera Etc), to produce films in collaboration with children from around the world. In their workshops, the artists partner with children on the characters, backgrounds, and sets–and then the kids tell the stories that they animate. The films they make are often surprising, and contain none of the logic and conformity of most adult-made films for children. You can see two works made by Camera Etc. in our shorts program. At the Walker’s Animation Station, Minneapolis animators Katie Maren and Schell Hickel will create an environment for kids to come and have a taste of this hands-on experience.
Once you gain a sense of what it takes to make just a few moments of stop-motion animation, one frame at a time, you can really appreciate the enormity of a truly awesome feature-length stop-motion film. In The Attic by world-renowned Czech animator Jiří Barta, premiered last year at the New York and Chicago International Children’s Film Festivals, and will premiere locally in Minneapolis at the Walker. It’s an epic story about the survival of forgotten toys, and is aesthetically the complete polar opposite from CGI animation. Evoking nostalgia and naiveté as well as subtle humor and a touch of the surreal, Barta’s children’s story is told with characters you could put your hands on – an old teddy, a doll, a button-eared mouse, a lump of clay with a bottle-cap beret and a pencil for a nose. It is set in a familiar attic made magical with vintage objects transformed into dramatic assemblages, where special effects include a vacuum cleaner made into a jet plane, a river of laundry, and elegant birthday parties happening inside of a suitcase. Barta says, “the purpose…is to evoke a sense of creative imagination with the help of improvised games that we all surely knew as children.”
So be sure to join us for the fun and enjoy!
Going to the Movies
Art-Making for the Entire Family: Animation Station, 10 am–3 pm
Star Tribune Foundation Art Lab
Participate in a stop-motion workshop led by animators Schell Hickel and Katie Maren. Children will have the opportunity to create and manipulate characters on an authentic animation set.
Film: Stop-Motion Shorts!, 11 am and 1 pm Cinema
48 minute program, all ages
These films are sure to delight kids and grown-ups alike. Catch a selection of new international and independent stop-motion animation short films.
It Wasn’t a Wolf, Directed by Camera Etc. 2010
In this re-imagining of Little Red Riding Hood, kids take turns to recast the Big Bad Wolf as an elephant, pig, hamster, or piranha!
Waterway, Directed by Britta Johnson 2009
In this short, droplets of water playfully wind their way through a dynamic environment of rocks, roots, and microscopic creatures.
The Egg Race, Directed by Kaisa Penttilä 2009
A pair of pigeons looks out for their newly laid egg as it careens through a crash-course culture race.
Already Gone, Directed by Clyde Peterson 2009
Enter a miniature world in which common objects come to life with whimsy and music.
I’m Hungry, Directed by Camera Etc., 2008,
An arctic story told by French school children about a boy named Ikouk who eats everything he sees and floats off to Japan.
The Flying Lesson, Directed by Phil Harder, Rosane Chamecki, and Andrea Lerner 2008
Let your imagination take flight was you watch winged dancers soar around Brooklyn.
Parasol, Directed by Web Crowell 2008
Thousands of paper parasols become the backdrop for a bicycling dancing adventure.
Price 2.70 Florints, Directed by Ballai Tóth Roland 2009
Wire and tin scraps assemble themselves into a puppet-like character and venture out into the world.
Supper, Directed by Britta Johnson 2007
A glowworm’s kisses turn tin can snails into soup with music composed by Mirah and Spectratone International.
Not Like Any Other Feeling, Directed by Clyde Peterson 2010
A 1960‘s space station launch is re-created in chalk on a huge public art wall by a team of experimental animators in this music video for The Thermals.
Film: In the Attic, Directed by Jiří Barta, 3 pm
Recommended for ages 8 and up, subtitled, 74 minutes
An unforgettable stop-motion animated fairy-tale about a world of old toys in the attic by renowned Czech animator Jiří Barta. Made from an attic’s forgotten detritus, the cast includes a charming teddy bear, the valiant marionette, Sir Handsome, a malleable lump of clay named Schubert, and a well-loved doll named Buttercup who throws daily birthday parties for her friends in an old trunk. When Buttercup is kidnapped by an evil ruler, her friends embark on an epic quest using planes, trains, and ships made of vacuum cleaners, antique toys, and washtubs to rescue her. Full of child-like imagination, clever inventions, exceptionally detailed sets, and captivating action sequences, In the Attic will charm audiences of all ages. Winner, Grand Prize Feature, New York International Children’s Film Festival (2010).
Nostalgia and subtle humor, characteristics found in our old toys and battered junk, are best brought to light through classic animation, which has a long and honored tradition in the Czech Republic. The film offers unlimited possibility for creating a bizarre world filled with dramatic suspense and a surrealistic environment. In addition to the main heroes (old toys, puppets and figurines), live inhabitants of the attic are also found in the film – a tomcat, pigeons, bugs, a live variation of a plaster bust, and the people who live in the house – grandma and a little girl who hang the laundry in the attic and unknowingly set off a harrowing chain of events.
We think that a full-length film for children can enchant with its simplicity, naiveté and unfettered childlike imagination. We believe that this film will find its place among the wonderful computer-animated films, and also in the hearts of an adoring public.
Special thanks to Jagged Edge amd the Minneapolis College of Art and Design for their partnership on this program.