Sept. 28: Noureddin ZarrinKelk, Iranian Animator

Noureddin ZarrinKelk was born into a family of traditional Persian painters and calligraphers. In fact his last name means “Golden Pen” in Persian. But Noureddin, affectionately called Noori, also had a daring eye for adapting modern subjects, and perhaps it was also his fate to reimagine this 13th-century art form in a new light, as Noor means “light.”

He started his career at 16, drawing caricatures for Iranian magazines. After earning a Ph.D. in pharmacology, he worked as an illustrator trying to change the long-held tradition of imageless textbooks in Iran. While working at Iran’s Institute for the Intellectual Development of Children and Young Adults, Noori saw how animated film can engage young audiences. He went to Belgium to study animation with Raoul Servais and was soon making films for children. He has since advanced Iranian animation almost singlehandedly by founding the country’s first animation school in 1974 and Iran’s branch of the International Animated Film Society in 1987.

Noori possesses a special humor which exists in all of his work. In The Mad, Mad, Mad World (1975), he portrays each continent on the globe transforming into a variety of animals barking or squawking at neighboring countries. But Noori is hesitant to speak about Iranian politics. Instead he works to encode profound political and social messages in his films, while sharing the culture and history of his country with a worldwide audience. His films express the need for global peace and understanding.

In his latest film, Bani Adam (2011), he brings together world leaders to recite a poem by 13th-century Persian poet Sa’adi about our common humanity.

Throughout his career, Noureddin ZarrinKelk has helped to find a distinct place for animation and graphic art in the broad field of painting. And Iranian artists are increasingly recognized and received with great respect worldwide, in large part because of Nouredddin’s persistence and hard work.

His creativity in animation and graphics is interwoven with powerful peculiarities of Iranian art and soul, making him one of the most renowned representatives of his country. At the same time, his art, with universal values, designates him as an artist of the world.

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Sept. 21: Toper Taylor, President and Chief Operating Officer of Cookie Jar Entertainment

Among the most respected executives in children’s and family entertainment, Toper co-founded Cookie Jar with Michael Hirsh in 2004. In the company’s brief history Toper has successfully led the development, production, distribution and marketing of six new productions with anchor broadcast destinations in the US. Toper has also built an unparalled worldwide staff, has broken through online with phenomenally successful immersive websites and has forged new partnerships in Europe, Asia and North America.

Prior to founding Cookie Jar, Toper served as president of Nelvana for more than a decade. Under his guidance, Nelvana forged successful home video associations with all the major studios; developed successful toy lines and launched landmark book publishing deals. As a direct result of Toper’s stewardship, Nelvana’s brand-launching track record was unparalleled in the industry, airing over 20 series in the U.S. alone during one broadcast season.

Toper is a graduate of the University of Southern California where he is the co-chairman of the Board of Councilors of the School of Fine Arts and one of the founders of the Television Board of Directors for the School of Cinema-Television.

September 7: Michael Patterson + Candace Reckinger, DADA

Mike Patterson is an experimental film artist and a commercial film director specializing in TV spots and music videos. After graduate studies with Jules Engel at CalArts, Mike was brought to the attention of record executives with his Student Academy Award winning animated short ‘Commuter‘. Employing his unmistakable drawing style, he began his career in music videos in 1985 by animating the epic MTV hit ‘Take On Me’ for A-Ha. He teamed up with his wife Candace Reckinger to direct a string of MTV hits that include, Suzanne Vega’s ‘Luka‘, Sting’s ‘Be Still My Beating Heart‘, Donald Fagen’s ‘Tomorrow’s Girls‘, and Paula Abdul’s ‘Opposites Attract‘, which won the Grammy Award for Best Music Video in 1990, plus videos for seminal Los Angeles punk band, X. Their videos have received MTV, Billboard, MVPA, and American Music Awards, and continue to appear on classic top 100 music video lists.

After nearly a decade in music, Mike shifted his focus to commercials, combining his animation expertise with live action storytelling. From 1993-2002 he directed at Rhythm and Hues Studios working extensively with 2D compositing and 3D animation. As part of a hands-on style, he works as his own storyboard artist, designer, and on-set effects supervisor. He’s directed award-winning spots for Nestle, NBC, FOX, General Mills, and Yoplait, as well as receiving Clios for Intel and Reebok.

In the fall of 2006, Mike’s film ‘Commuter‘ was added into MoMA’s permanent collection along with a number of Patterson/Reckinger music videos. Mike received his BFA from University of Illinois Champaign/Urbana in 1980, and attended the MFA program in experimental animation at CalArts in 1981/84. He remains active as a commercial director and is currently working on an animated short film.

A film artist and director, Candace Reckinger has worked in both the commercial and independent realms blending live action with experimental techniques to produce short films, music videos and commercials. She received her MFA from UCLA and was mentored by pioneer independent director Shirley Clarke. While there, Candace documented legendary punk musician Patti Smith and LA bands “X”, the Screamers, and the Go-Go’s. She has a BFA in painting and animation from the School of Art & Design at University of Illinois Chicago and a second major in anthropology.

Candace won acclaim for her experimental narratives ‘Occupied Territory’ and ‘Clues to Her Whereabouts’ which screened at festivals and showcases throughout Europe and the USA including Cannes’ Directors Fortnight, Melbourne, Lille, Epernay, The Kitchen, the Art Institute of Chicago, Film In the Cities, the Walker Art Center and CalArts. Working with Michael Patterson as a directing & animation team for over 10 years, she directed music videos and commercials combining animation and graphics with live action. Their work netted seven number one clips on MTV as well as top accolades by Rolling Stone, Billboard, MVPA, and the American Music Awards. Her awards include a Grammy for Best Music Video for Paula Abdul’s ‘Opposites Attract’, an MTV ‘Moon Man’ for best Female Video for Susanne Vega’s ‘Luka’, and Women in Film’s Lillian Gish Award for Sting’s ‘Be Still My Beating Heart’. At O Pictures and Rhythm and Hues Studios, Candace co-directed commercials winning a Clio award and a Silver Hugo/Chicago Film Festival. In 2008, the Museum of Modern Art (NY) added six Patterson & Reckinger music videos to their permanent collection.

Candace has taught animation and film production at several universities and currently teaches in the graduate animation program at USC. She is working on an extended project ‘(in search of) Paradise’ and is filming in the Eastern Sierras and Mojave Desert.