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Fopspeen Moving Pictures wins a Big Brass Bell in the Ukraine

Fopspeen Moving Pictures is a small animation studio that packs a punch: Animators Diek Grobler and Charles Badenhorst just returned from the Ukraine, where their short film “Little Bird ABC” received the award for the Best Animation for Children at the prestigious KROK International Animation Festival.

Little Bird's ABC
little bird's abc : play clip  >

Based on the ideas and illustrations from a book by renowned South African children’s book creator, Piet Grobler, the film teaches the ABC by the sounds little birds make, in a fun and playfully wicked way. “Little Birds ABC” was directed by Diek Grobler, with animation by Charles Badenhorst, Diek Grobler and Jansen Lourens. Grobler is surprised with the film’s success: “It was a film we made in a quiet time in the studio, in September 2008, between paying jobs, and we were playing around with techniques. We had to rush a bit towards the end, as Piet wanted to take it to the Berlin Book fair in October 2008. So I always thought I would get back to it and finish it off nicely. The first time I entered it into a festival, I did it as an afterthought to entering one of our other films. “Little Birds” made it into that festival (the other film didn’t), and won us our first international award: The Best Animated film for Children at the Tehran International Animation Festival.

The KROK festival in the Ukraine is regarded by independent animators as the cr_me de la cr_me on the festival circuit. Not glamorous like Annecy or Ottawa, KROK is an animator’s festival; no producers, buyers or even general public – just animators showing their current work to their peers. Legendary filmmakers like Yuri Norstein, Paul Driessen, Pritt Parn, Nick Park, Bill Plympton and such, frequent the event, which is unique in format: a riverboat sailing down the Dnieper river from Kiev to the Black Sea. More than a hundred films are screened in five competition categories, and close to another hundred in panorama screenings and retrospectives. Attendance is by invitation only and the festival enjoys a lot of media coverage in the Ukraine and Russia.

It is the second time that Fopspeen Moving Pictures attend KROK: their 2005 attendance with the stop-motion series “Sanna’s Garden” resulted in Badenhorst being invited to spend three weeks at Aardman Animation in Bristol, where he attended master classes. It is their first Brass Bell though – the festival trophy is an authentic ship’s brass bell – and a big honour for the company. “To be honoured with an award in such company, amongst such distinguished animators is very rewarding and inspiring.”

The success of “Little Bird ABC”, according to Grobler, has a lot to do with the design and the humorous approach. “Piet Grobler’s illustrations are fresh and witty, and we managed to capture that in the animation. It had an aesthetic all of its own and was quite unlike anything else at the festival. It was wonderful to hear the children giggling in the first row AND the adults chuckling at the back.”

The company hope to do more collaborations with Piet Grobler in future. ”Being brothers, we have the same offbeat sense of humour, and an appreciation for subtlety in detail. His work is wonderfully unique and fresh, and his books beg to be animated. We are the perfect company to do it.”

Piet Grobler was a finalist in the ‘Het Goue Penseel’ award for children’s book illustrations in the Netherlands, and pictures from his nominated book “De Ballade van de Dood” is currently on view in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

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top  2009, www.fopspeen.co.za, editor: Diek Grobler

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