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Saturday Nights, Animated

By: Simon Husted

Michael Langan knows very well how sometimes film festivals can result in unique opportunities.

In 2007, Langan had an exciting day when his film, Doxology, was showcased at the Ottawa Animation Festival. Doxology,  which he created for his senior year thesis at Rhode Island School of Design and won Best Undergraduate Film at the show, is a compilation of several wacky experiments that utilize still photography to generate stop motion animation. Even more amazing, at the end of the festival he was approached by Michelle Higa, an author at Higa was blown away by Langan’s work and posted a stellar article on Motionographer’s website. The exposure, Langan said, caught the eyes of many people including European automobile giant, Skoda, which is based in the Czech Republic. A short time later, Langan, who works in the advertising industry, found himself on a flight to Barcelona to lead the production of a Skoda Superb commercial, which was inspired by the Auto Tango portion of Doxology.

“You never know who might see your work,” said Langan, who resides in Boston. “A month later, someone important might contact you.”

short inset two.jpgAbove images from Juicey by Dax Norman

Although it’s a remarkable story, Jax Deluca, programming director at Squeaky Wheel, said it’s only one of hundreds of stories that are made possible thanks to film festivals. Film festivals and especially ones that are filled with animated shorts offer more than just a fun time for guests. Filmmakers and festival organizers alike agree that festivals are significant social networking events–for the filmmakers as much for the viewers.

Squeaky Wheel is organizing the last two Saturday nights of July for animation enthusiasts as each new day counts down to the Seventh Annual Outdoor Animation Festival, July 24th and July 31st, 8 p.m. at Days Park.
The Outdoor Animation Festival this year is divided up into two different parts. The first night, The Great Disaster, on July 24th will feature films collected from animators around the world. All of the animated shorts that night will reflect the festival title’s theme, The Great Disaster.

“This was out first time doing a theme but it was fun putting a program of works around one,” Deluca said.

Langan’s most recent work, Dahlia will also be featured in the festival. He’s not the only star animator however. Dax Norman,  who since began creating animated shorts after graduating from Florida’s Ringling College of Art and Design two years ago, has created more than 20 pieces of animation using painted frames. Every piece he has created has a similar abstract style that holds designs, patterns and most times entire drawings inside each character or thing he draws. A viewer could watch the same animated piece of Norman’s several times and find new things inside the piece. It’s quite umm…intoxicating…for lack of a better word.

“I have a lot of fun making my own ideas,” said Norman, adding that he does a lot of his work on the spare time when his daughter and wife are asleep.

short inset one.jpg–Above images of MorphMushMash (left) and This Side Up (right)

Squeaky Wheel will be showcasing one of Norman’s animated shorts Juicey during The Great Disaster, July 24th. Norman’s work on Juicey earned him first place in a contest against 50 contenders. As a result the animated short is now a music video for Rafter, an uprising national rock band that has so far produced six albums.
In whole, a healthy mix of different types of animation will be featured during The Great Disaster–from 16mm hand painted animation to pen and ink, to penciled, to stop motion photography and even some computer generated animation. 

The following week’s festival features a more narrow class of animation however–stop motion. The Stop & Go: Stop Motion Animation Festival is a program that’s traveling around cities in the United States. This is the first time the program, curetted by San Francisco animator and artist Sarah Klein, will be showcased in Buffalo. As anyone might have guessed, all 22 animated shorts will strictly be stop motion animated.

In prior years, the Outdoor Animation Festival would play the same program the second week as it played the first week.

“It’ll be really exciting because (The Stop & Go) is all stop motion curated by someone else so we’ll be showing even more variety of work during the festival,” Deluca said.

The additions to the Outdoor Animation Festival don’t stop with an all new program this year though. As Queenseyes pointed out last month, James Karagiannis and his Ice Cream cycle has joined up with Squeaky Wheel to present the Ice Cream Cycle Film Contest. The competition, which will reward $300 to the production team who filmed the best short movie centered around Karagiannis’ ice cream cycle, will correspond with the two dates of the outdoor animation festival. All video submissions for the contest will be due July 24th following The Great Disaster at Day’s Park. A cast of judges will then during the week score each submission and the top three submissions will be played July 31st following the Stop & Go part of the festival. Immediately following that, the winning production team will be announced.


Simon Husted is a South
Buffalo-born journalism student studying at Kent State University in
Ohio. This summer, Simon is back home and contributing to

Images courtesy of Squeaky Wheel. Lead image depicts a frame from Dahlia by Michael Langan

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