First Peek at ‘Secret of Kells’ Director, Tomm Moore’s New Film: ‘Song of the Sea’
April 25, 2010, 1:05 am
Filed under: Films, GKIDS, Interviews | Tags: , , , ,

Tonight I had another long conversation with GKIDS’ Director of Distribution, Dave Jesteadt. During which, he talked openly about the creative vision of ‘Kells’ and how Director Tomm Moore came up with his now signature animation style. While Moore and his company Cartoon Saloon aren’t, by any means, limited to one style of animation, they did decide for their next film, to continue with a 2D, heavily geometric aesthetic.

Another common theme with “Kells” and Moore’s new film, “Song of the Sea”: It is another mythical tale based upon Irish folklore. This time, instead of the Book of Kells, “Song of the Sea” centers around the last young selkie’s, journey home. According to Irish legend, selkies are part human, part seal sea creatures.

For a little taste of “Song of the Sea” check out the teaser trailer below. Note the strong stylistic similarities the trailer’s look and the look of “Kells.”


‘Janie & Jerome’: Producer Eric Weil’s exercise in Storytelling

Eric Weil is an Emmy-Winning producer and indie kids’ filmmaker who has been teaching Storytelling at the School of Visual Arts for six years now. Select shorts from Weil’s seven-part Sesame Workshop series, ‘Janie & Jerome,’ were featured at festivals like the Tribeca Film Festival and the BAMKids Festival in 2005.

During our chat, Weil explained that the idea for ‘Janie’ came from a dream his younger sister described to him when they were growing up. She described her dreams as “movies coming out of her pillow.” Thus the idea for Janie, a little girl that dreams in movie strip pictures, was born.

‘Janie & Jerome’s’ crayon-drawn style was a distinct choice that Weil made as a storytelling strategy. “It was what was true to that world,” he said. See ‘Janie & Jerome’ short, ‘Rain,’ below:

PBS Executive, Linda Simensky’s Favorite Indie Animated Shorts

This past Friday, I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the key women responsible for shaping my childhood, and in effect instigating my long and unwavering love affair with television. Of course, I didn’t tell her all this over the phone. Instead, I opted to give her a meek thank you for her years of work in children’s animation, in efforts to preserve some semblance of professionalism–I don’t think it worked.

Linda Simensky has held distinguished executive positions in the children’s television industry for more than 20 years. First, she worked her way up at Nickelodeon during the 80’s and 90’s, starting in the programming department and eventually moving into animation. During her nine-year tenure at Nick, she was responsible for overseeing the production of shows like ‘Doug‘ (the good, pre-Disney version) ‘Rocko’s Modern Life’ and ‘Hey Arnold.’

Around the time of ‘Hey Arnold,’ Simensky left Nick after being appointed Director of Programming of Cartoon Network. At Cartoon Network she worked on other memorable shows including ‘Dexter’s Laboratory‘ and ‘Powerpuff Girls.‘ Talk about 90’s cartoon royalty.

Since 2003, Simensky has been overseeing popular preschool and elementary, curriculum-based programming like ‘Sid the Science Kid‘ and ‘WordGirl’ as the Senior Director of Children’s Programming at PBS.

During our chat, Simenski highlighted three independent animated short films from the National Film Board of Canada that had a signficant impact on her view of animation:

1. The Cat Came Back (1988)

This hilarious OscarĀ®-nominated animation is based on the century-old folk song of the same name. Old Mr. Johnson makes increasingly manic attempts to rid himself of a little yellow cat that just won’t stay away… Also won the 1989 Genie Award for best animated short film.

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Discovering the Legend Behind the Book of Kells
April 9, 2010, 2:05 pm
Filed under: Films, GKIDS, History | Tags: , , , , ,

Throughout my continuing research into the world of children’s films and animation, I am happy to report that I have been finding a boatload of positive publicity surrounding one of my key subjects, “The Secret of Kells.” This is, of course, no surprise considering the film’s very recent Academy Award nomination and the almost fairytale story of how it beat out other industry giants for said nomination. The New York Times, LA Times, and a slew of bloggers have all raved on about the film.

After finally getting my eager hands on a copy of ‘Kells’ in preparation for my upcoming interview with Director, Tomm Moore, I have to say, I don’t disagree with all the hype. ‘Kells’ is something truly amazing to look at. Its intoxicating colors and animation style immediately hook the viewer in, and its cast of memorable characters like Aisling, the enchanting part wolf-girl, pixie and the story’s hero, brave young orphan Brendan make the film an easy emotional investment.

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Animated Shorts: ‘Wolf Daddy’

“Wolf Daddy” is an award-winning Korean animated short featured on the GKIDS website. Produced in 2005, it’s the story of a well-meaning wolf novelist who hides away in a countryside home only to be interrupted by his rapidly growing, unusual family.

This film is an example of the types of “artsy films for kids” Dave Jesteadt looks for when screening for the New York International Children’s Film Festival.

An Introduction to ‘The Secret of Kells’
March 30, 2010, 1:26 am
Filed under: Films, GKIDS | Tags: , , ,

Here’s a first taste of GKID’S Oscar-nominated film “The Secret of Kells”:

“Kells” is the story about a young boy who must fight a slew of mythical creatures to find the key to completing the legendary Book of Kells. What set this film apart from its contemporary counterparts was its non-conventional choice in animation-the New York Times called the film a “hand-drawn labor of love.”

The “Kells” Oscar night spot:

More details on “The Secret of Kells” to come…

The Best of Non-Indie Animated Movies
March 29, 2010, 3:50 am
Filed under: Films, GKIDS, Interviews | Tags: , , , , ,

Last Thursday I had my first of what I hope to be many chats with Dave Jesteadt, Director of Distribution and Jack-of-All-Trades at GKIDS, a children’s independent film distribution company. GKIDS is the distribution partner of the New York International Childern’s Film Festival, a festival that has taken place every spring for the past decade. The film festival’s primary mission is to bring compelling cinematic works to children from the ages of 3 to 18.

Though GKIDS as a separate distribution entity isĀ  a much younger venture than its parent festival, this year was a banner year for the fledgling company. Its film “The Secret of Kells” brought GKIDS their very first (and surprise) Oscar nomination for “Best Animated Feature” alongside animation heavyweights “Up,” “Coraline” and “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”

So just weeks after Jesteadt’s first taste of Oscar glory, we talked for about two hours about the world of children’s films, the allure of Pixar, and the best and worst of today’s animation. Here were Jesteadt’s picks for his favorite non-independent children’s films of present:

3. Wall-E (2008)

2. Ratatouille (2007)

1. Up (2009)

Although Pixar may seem like one of GKIDS’ main competitors, Jesteadt can’t deny the quality and gusto of their most recent works. He says just the fact that Pixar was able to use an angry old man as their main character in “Up,” speaks volumes for the evolving state of children’s animation.