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Little Frog with Big Dreams

At San Diego Comic Con we came across the works of Shelley Daniels Lekven and her new book Lily Pond. Here’s what her web site says about it: “Elaborate illustrations and fabulous frogs fill this charming picture book about a little frog’s daydreams and hopes for her future. The scenes were created from colored modeling clay by Shelley Daniels Lekven, a character sculptor on The Nightmare Before Christmas and Toy Story and sculpting supervisor on James & the Giant Peach.” And speaking of (two of!) those movies, here’s what director Henry Selick had to say: “On the eve of her eighth birthday, a young frog dreams of her future in Shelley Daniels Lekven’s new book, Lily Pond. Ms. Lekven’s remarkable illustrations – all sculpted by her hand in colored clay – are eye-opening works of wonder and imagination that should make this sweet tale a children’s book classic.” After a successful Kickstarter, Lily Pond is available from Claytown Press. The web site has a video about how the book was made, too.

image c. 2018 Claytown Press

Scruffy Puppies to the Rescue

Scruffy Puppies is a full-color science-fiction adventure come created by Brent Trembath (and friends). It’s available now on Comixology. “In the future where humans and mutant animals alike walk the earth… Armor and his pack of Scruffy Puppies are ambushed in a back alley for reasons they can’t comprehend. Power struggles and inner strife underlie the coming of an impending threat.” And that’s just the first issue! The web site has much more information.

image c. 2018 by Brent Trembath

Real Life Needs A Little Magic

Another illustrator we came across at San Diego Comic Con. Ash Evans is an artist and designer who refers to her work as “The Art of Happiness”. Steeped in fantasy, her paintings feature not just animals in general but special creatures like Fortuna the Cat, the Mewnicorns, the Zodicats, and the Kit-teas. (Yes, there’s a feline theme going here!) All of these are available as prints and a variety of other products you can find at her wet site.

image c. 2018 by Ash Evans

Animals on the High Seas

At San Diego Comic Con we came across an artist named Krister Eide. According to her web site, “When he’s not drawing or painting, he helps injured animals return to health at a wildlife rehabilitation center.” We like that! Her Etsy Store has several of her illustrations on cups, prints, and other items, but the web site also has illustrations from her “passion project”: An all-animal version of Jules’ Verne’s classic 20,ooo Leagues Under The Sea. Let’s “sea” where that goes…!

image c. 2018 by Krister Eide

It’s Good To Have A Friend

And more, this time from both Animation Magazine and Variety: “Russia’s animation powerhouse Riki Group has teamed up with New York’s 3 Beep to work on the upcoming CG-animated feature My Friend Finnick. The comedy, which was presented at Cartoon Movie this year, follows the adventures of a ten-year-old American girl who moves with her family to Scotland and befriends a Finn, a magical and mischievous spirit who lives in her new house. When the young girl goes missing. the Finn sets out to rescue her, but in doing so he puts himself in danger. The movie, which is budgeted at $7 million, is in development, and is due to be released in 2020. It is being directed by Riki’s Denis Chernov (Kikoriki movies) and written by Chernov, Tatyana Belova and 3 Beep’s Tim Werenko (Pokemon, The Winx Club, Snow Queen 3).” Fortunately for us, Riki Group has been getting better at securing distribution in North America.

image c. 2018 Riki Group

Talking to Animals Empowers

Here’s an interesting story. Animation Magazine guided us to Miss Camel, a new animated feature. Deadline reported it like this: “Wadjda writer-director Haifaa Al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia’s trailblazing first female filmmaker, is setting up female empowerment animation Miss Camel at LA-based animation hub ShadowMachine, producer of Netflix’s Bojack Horseman and Cartoon Network’s Robot ChickenMiss Camel, the story of a Saudi teen named Hayla who will do anything to escape her arranged marriage and fulfil her goal of attending art school outside of Saudi Arabia, won the IWC Filmmaker Award, worth $100,000, at the Dubai International Film Festival in December… According to the film’s synopsis, while scheming to make her way to the in-person interviews for the art college in a neighboring Gulf state, Hayla makes a startling discovery at her cousin’s wedding: She can talk to animals.” No more news yet, but we’ll let you know as soon as we do when the film is set to be released!

image c. 2018 GoodFreePhotos.com

And They Can Talk To Him… and Her

Another obscure animated feature we found through Animation Magazine — this one from Latvia, of all places. Jacob, Mimmi, and the Talking Dogs is a new feature film from Atomart Studios, directed by Edmunds Jansons. It’s based on the book Dog Town by Luīze Pastore, and animated in an interesting combination of cut-out style and 2D CGI. “When Dad brings Jacob to spend summer in one of the city’s suburbs, the boy not only discovers an environment never seen before, becomes acquainted with his cousin, the smarty-boots Mimmi, and his uncle, the former seaman Eagle, but also makes friends with Boss, the leader of a horde of talking homeless dogs. Will Jacob and Mimmi succeed to make friends and together with the talking dogs rescue the place from the rich Lord Pie who has plans to convert the romantic wooden house neighbourhood into an impersonal glass skyscraper area?” The official web site has clips in the original Latvian, but there’s an English language trailer up on Vimeo too.

image c. 2018 Atomart Studios

Not One But Two Dragon Films

We missed the announcements of these animated films last year, but now we’ve found them thanks to Animation Magazine. Both are adaptations of popular children’s literature, and both of them are international co-productions. Dragonkeeper (based on a series of books by Carole Wilkinson) comes to us from China Film Group and Spain’s Dragoia Media.  According to Variety, “Set during the Han Dynasty in a magic, epic and classic China… the first Dragonkeeper installment turns on the adventures of Ping, a slave girl so humble that she thinks she doesn’t deserve a name. Yet she finds the courage to become a true Dragonkeeper, helping the ancient last imperial dragon, Long Danzi, in its quest to transport a dragon egg across China to the coast, the only place it can hatch.” Then there’s Dragon Rider, based on the book by Cornelia Funke (Inkheart) and produced in cooperation between Germany and the UK. (It’s being adapted by Johnny Smith, writer for the original Gnomeo & Juliet.) Again, from Variety: “High-end by European standards, the 3D children’s fantasy adventure turns on Firedrake, a young silver dragon, Sorrel, a mountain brownie, and Ben, a human orphan who search among the highest Himalayas for the Rim of Heaven, which can offer sanctuary for Firedrake’s kin, whose valley is made uninhabitable by a dam.” No word yet on a planned release date for either film.

image c. 2018 Dragoia Media

Little Dino Lost

The June/July issue of Animation Magazine features a huge list of upcoming animated films in production all over the world. Including one from Poland: “Human Ark, one of Poland’s leading animation studios, has launched a new animation test for its new animated feature comedy Diplodocus. The movie is a family comedy inspired by classic 1980s comic books by the cult Polish author Tadeusz Baranowski, which have sold over 2.5 million copies. It tells the epic adventure of a little dinosaur, who has to find his missing parents and discovers that he actually lives inside of a comic book. The project is the second feature-length animated film by Wojtek Wawszczyk (George the Hedgehog), who also wrote the script in collaboration with Mark Palmer (The Penguins of Madagascar, Monsters vs. Aliens, and Kim Possible). Set for completion in 2020, the movie is the biggest 3D CGI production for children ever produced in Poland.” The article in Animation features several illustrations from the film, and Human Ark has also produced a promo clip on Vimeo.

image c. 2018 Human Ark