Meet 5 of Brooklyn’s Best Animators

Jeff and Rod, hosts of Twillerama Animation Anthology
Calling all cartoon nerds: This Saturday, Williamsburg bar/screening room Videology hosts Twillerama Animation Anthology, showcasing the work of 19 New York City-based animators. The festival’s 2-dimensional hosts–Jeff Twiller, a potbellied house painter/aspiring screenwriter, and Rod Holcomb, a security entrepreneur–are the animated creations of Morgan Miller, who started Twillerama last year. “Jeff Twiller’s an imaginary friend, I guess,” says Miller, who teaches animation at Pratt. “It’s hard for me sometimes to believe he’s not really my friend, since he feels like a real person I can talk to.” The festival offers a rare chance to meet the obsessive creators of some of today’s weirdest fantasy worlds–it’s not often you see a group of animators in the wild, outside their solitary work caves. “Animation is a pretty isolating process,” Miller says. And even with digital advances in the medium, “it’s as tedious as ever, generally. But there’s a sense of community in New York, which can be motivating.” Here, meet five animators behind some of the best new cartoons around, from Adult Swim favorite Aaron Augenblick to self-described former “teen witch” Rose Stark.


AARON AUGENBLICK

If you’ve ever watched Wonder Showzen (MTV), Ugly Americans (Comedy Central), Superjail (Adult Swim), or Golden Age (Comedy Central), you’ve seen Aaron Augenblick’s animation work. Founder of DUMBO-based independent animation facility Augenblick Studios, his latest creation is Golan the Insatiable, a FOX series about a bestial horned warlord who’s banished to earth and befriends a lonely goth girl (voiced by Aubrey Plaza) in a small Minnesota town. As influences, Augenblick cites Fleischer Studios, Ub Iwerks, Tex Avery, Mad Magazine, and Mr. Bill.

Augenblick’s short in Twillerama, “Danger Dan,” is a parody of public service announcements, educational cartoons, and childhood propaganda. The episode above warns viewers about the dangers of eating food that fell on the ground.


ROSE STARK

Before studying animation at Pratt, Rose Stark was a self-described “misfit teen witch” growing up on the Jersey Shore who “hated going to the beach.” Instead, she watched Nicktoons, art films, and Japanese anime, and spent her time making stop motion films with whatever toys she could find lying around. “They were pretty gruesome, usually involving the main character losing all her limbs or being cut in half or something,” Stark says. She found her tribe while studying animation at Pratt–her thesis film, “LGFUAD,” won some festival awards and landed her her first job as a designer, director and animator at Ace and Son Moving Picture Co. “I’ve since come to despise computers, so I’m currently working on a new cutout paper film in my home studio in Queens, while developing some sculpture and other fine art projects,” Stark says.

“The majority of things I’ve animated have been wildy crazy or horribly depressing,” Stark says, in the vein of William Burroughs’ The Wild Boys, Isidore-Lucien Ducasse’s Les Chants de Maldoror, Carl Sandburg’s Rutabaga Stories, painters Peter Saul and James Ensor, and filmmakers David Cronenberg and Kenneth Anger. Her film in Twillerama, “Heila Ormur,”  is “about a man who has his brain eaten by a parasite.”


SIGNE BAUMANE

Born in Latvia and educated in Moscow (she has a BA in philosophy), Signe Baumane cites Eastern European poster art as one of her biggest stylistic influences. “It’s surreal, metaphorical, makes you think and is visually amazing,” she says. Other favorites include Stasys Eidrigevicius, Eastern European animator great Jan Svankmayer, and Bill Plympton. “He taught me to make films on the cheap,” she says. Baumane’s Twillerama short, “Juice,” is part of a series called “Teat Beat of Sex,” which she describes as “a take on sex from a woman’s point of view.” Baumane also recently animated Rocks in My Pockets: A Funny Film About Depression, currently in theatrical release, a story about five depressive women in her family and their quest for sanity in a war-torn world.

 “Going into animation is the best accident that had ever happened to me,” Baumane says. “What interests me in animation is the handmade aspect of it. I’m not interested in the sleekness of CGI images. Give me raw images that reveal truth of human condition and I’m your woman.”

WALLY CHUNG

Winner of this year’s “Spirit of Slamdance” award, Midwest-born, Brooklyn Heights-based Wally Chung works mostly in pen and ink. In his Twillerama short, “The Eater,” “A man has a strange experience that affects the people around him,” as a cryptic Chung puts it.

“I started dabbling in animation when a security guard gave me a super 8mm camera at a restaurant that I used to work at,” Chung says of his introduction to the art form. “Good guy.  Also, my friend and animator, Kirk Howle, had a couple of VHS editing decks, so we collaborated a lot on animations and goofy videos.  Now, I draw on paper, like back in the day, use Dragonframe to import the images into a computer, make the audio myself, squish the two together, output a Quicktime file, and send it out, hoping somebody will watch it.”

CHRISTINE WU

22-year-old Christine Wu, who graduated from Pratt last year and is currently interning for animation god Bill Plympton, is the youngest person featured at Twillerama. Called “Dark Passenger,” her short is “about a monster who can kill with a tap of a tambourine while a cyclops drives off.” Like much of her work, it’s entirely in colored pencil.


Twillerama Animation Anthology happens this Saturday, July 18th, at Videology in Williamsburg. Tickets are $5.

Follow Carey Dunne on Twitter @CareyDunne

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