Feature: Seattle's Indie Animator Stefan Gruber

Stefan Gruber takes his flights of fancy from yard to yard

Category: seattlepi.com teaser headlines


More Seattle animators:
Webster Cromwell
Britta Johnson
Tess Martin
Clyde Petersen

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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INFLUENCES: In addition to Jules Engel, his list includes acclaimed animator Ruth Hayes, now on the faculty at Evergreen College. “I grew up staring at her flipbooks.” Also, janitors: “Custodians have been huge in my life—guys who have the time to really think things through.” ON FEATURE-LENGTH ANIMATED FILMS: “There is not a Miyazaki film [My Neighbor Totoro; Spirited Away] that isn’t a masterpiece. But Fantastic Mr. Fox is the best animated feature film ever.” REGARDING CGI (computer generated imagery): “It’s intriguing…it’s fast. But it’s much closer to puppetry than animation. It’s more like pulling strings.” SEE FOR YOURSELF: Watch Gruber’s films at stefangruber.com or invite him to do a screening in your backyard this spring.

Spend even a brief time in Seattle’s short-film animation scene and you’ll soon be able to recognize the work of Stefan Gruber—sweet, cartoony, hand-drawn films with telltale musicality and colorful dreamscapes populated with pulsating creatures that flap, float and fly with an appealing wiggle. “I like the short animated film format,” Gruber says, “because it’s a more potent vehicle for a message.” In his case, the message is often “the liberation of human emotions,” which manifests itself in oppressed creatures that are eventually freed by an external force.

Gruber, 34, has received numerous grants to make art and is a bit of an organizer among fellow animators. In 2002 he founded the Seattle Experimental Animation Team (SEAT), a group of animators working on artistic projects that meets weekly to inspire each other to keep at it. (Animation is notoriously slow-going: “Working for five hours can get you a couple seconds of film,” he notes.)

As a kid growing up in Green Lake, Gruber (now based in the Central District) was exposed to art early. His mother, a modern dancer at Cornish College, took him to rehearsals—an influence evident in the fluidity of his films and in his collaborative dance/film projects with several local modern dance companies. His mother’s dance partner was also an oil painter who taugh