Feature: Seattle's Indie Animator Webster Cromwell

Local artist Webster Cromwell proves that creativity travels at the speed of 12 frames per second

Category: seattlepi.com teaser headlines


More Seattle animators:
Clyde Petersen

Britta Johnson
Stefan Gruber
Tess Martin

Thursday, March 4 at 8 p.m.,  Zeitgeist Coffee 

Seattle animators are bucking the computer animation trend, using lo-fi techniques to create lovely little films. See for yourself at the (free!) Local Animation Showcase, featuring work by the artists profiled in the March issue of Seattle magazine (Stefan Gruber, Tess Martin, Britta Johnson, Webster Crowell and Clyde Petersen) as well as a few fellow animators
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WHY ANIMATION? “It’s the best tool I’ve found to create living, idealized replicas of the world as I’d like it to be—a spinning mess of dancing bicycles, atomic insects, acerbic glances and rocket men.” INSPIRATION: “I am inspired by Hardwick’s Hardware [on Roosevelt Avenue], alleys, rooftops, decaying cities, Victorian society and film noir, among other things. NOW IN PROGRESS: "An ongoing project titled Last Call [find it on YouTube by searching “last call crowell”]. “I used to rent an apartment over a loud, bad bar. I got sick of ranting about the noise and decided to put the microphone out the window at 2 a.m. and record the sounds of people screaming, vomiting, etc. Then I animated the characters. Each episode takes about 12 hours to animate.” SEE FOR YOURSELF: Explore Crowell’s films at panicbuttonpictures.com.

“Animation appeals to me because it’s an art form where you can lock yourself in a room and come out six months later with a finished product,” says 37-year-old animator Webster Crowell. Crowell is speaking theoretically; his recent effort, the nine-minute Parasol, actually took two and a half years to complete—which isn’t a lot of time considering it’s made up of more than 6,000 painstakingly hand-drawn images (and innumerable paper parasols) spun together at 12 frames per second; they tell a charming tale that is at once a love story and also a paean to Crowell’s admiration for the bicycle. The short film won Best Design at the New York Animation Block Party in 2009 and screened in January at Animated Art—the Northwest Film Forum’s animated short film showcase. Honored with a Stranger Genius Award in 2003, Crowell’s impressive, extensive body of work includes short films for local art institutions such as On the Boards, Annex Theatre and Grand Illusion Cinema, as well as Borrowing Time (2004), a stop-motion animated feature-length homage to outdated sci-fi movies, aliens, atomic insects and evil skeletons.

Originally from Illinois, Crowell moved to Seattle in 1996. He has a degree in film and video, but taught himself to animate, he says, “because it’s a satisfying way to tell the stories I want to tell, and also because it’s the kind of f