I recently returned from another foray into that crazy bilingual animation nation of Canada. The Ottawa International Animation Festival is an amazing collection of (mostly) independent short animations, peppered with a variety of lectures, panels, workshops and parties. I had a blast last year and was looking forward to the fest all year. This year was a great time as well, but I didnt find quite as many amazingly inspiring pieces. There were a few though!
Friday, September 23
I made the 5 hour drive with four of my animator friends from RIT here in Rochester, NY. We arrived just in time to catch a showing of the winning feature, “The District.” This is a Hungarian film with English subtitles done in a 3D cut-out style. There was a combination of awful “animation” and sloppy motion capture. The film was obnoxious, offensive, ugly, and poorly animated.
After that we caught Short Competition 3. The highlight of this set was JJ Villard’s “Chestnuts Icelolly”. I enjoyed this piece immensely more than “Son of Satan” which was Villard’s film that showed last year at Ottawa. Oh those crazy CalArts kids! Also, Tomek Baginski’s “Fallen Art” was screened, which I had already seen at The Animation Show, but enjoyed again. Amazing modeling and texturing and concept. This was also the block that featured “Even Odd Even”…an experimental film from Austria that consisted of flashing black and white blobs. I wanted to rip my eyes out after seven minutes of that. After some food we checked out a fancy party where I met some lady from Cartoon Network and the guy who publishes Animation World Network! Good times.
Saturday, September 24
After getting about 3 hours of sleep on Friday night we all woke up for a class on “Kids, Cartoons, and Hero Culture” which was unfortunately full. We instead listened to a rather boring and uninformative talk on Production Pipelines. Next we checked out “DIY: Pioneers of Independent Canadian Animation”…which I thought would be a treasure trove of great NFB shorts that I love. But NO. It was a collection of mostly experimental shorts that put me to sleep. So we left that block early and got some food, then we went to the Pink Panther shorts collection. These were a lot of fun after watching an hour of experimental shorts. (Then again, eating rusty nails is more fun than that as well.) While my friends went for a nap I stayed at the NAC for Short Competition 4. This is where they showed “The Old Crocodile.” This short was awesome! It featured a crotchety old crocodile who falls in love with an octopus and can’t help but eat her. Also screened was “Dying of Love” about two parrots reminiscing in their cage. Interesting piece with some fun animation. After some dinner I attended the Pee Wee Herman’s Playhouse animation collection. What a fun batch of stuff…and the memories! They all came flooding back. The dinosaurs in the wall and the food in the fridge…I need to get those DVD’s.
Unfortunately I had to miss Jerry Beck’s “Worst Cartoons Ever” while I was at PeeWee…I hear they were hilarious. (I did catch a small bit of some of it…wild stuff.) Last on Saturday night was Short Competition 5…I loved the Honda Grrr spot. I hated Tick-Tack. (Is it just me or was there waaaay too much creepy sexual stuff at this fest?) The Mysterious Geographic Explorations of Jasper Morello was fantastic. Absolutely beautiful cut-out style mixing CG and stop motion. (26 minutes tho…hardly a short!) Die Toten Hosen (that whale one) was really neat. And last of all was Don Hertzfeldt’s meaning of life. Ward sums it up pretty well in his post about Ottawa. I am a huge Hertzfeldt fan but this film is ridiculously pretentious and not nearly as funny as his other work. Sigh.
The party on Saturday night was a blast. (Even though the guy in front of me got the LAST free drink ticket…) A really cool bar and a giant throng of animators dancing and watching cartoons! I had no idea animators could be so fun.
Sunday, September 25
After getting another 3 hours of sleep, Brittney and I woke up for the masterclass with Michael Dudok de Wit. And I am so happy we did! Dudok de Wit is a fantastic animator…he made “The Monk and the Fish” as well as “Father and Daughter.” He is an Oscar winner and former employee of Disney. His work is so soft and subtle and funny and beautiful. European with a strong Eastern overtone. Very happy I got to see him in person and hear his thoughts on creativity and the way he works. Probably the best part of the entire trip.
I had lunch with Lorelei Pepi, one of my old professors and a winner at Ottawa a few years back. It was great to see her. Next we checked out the Kids Competition…where I had heard that Henry Sellick was going to be introducing his CG short, Moongirl. But NO. He couldn’t make it I guess. There was a slew of people they introduced as being there and then weren’t – rather dissapointing. I enjoyed the short from “My Life as a Teenage Robot” as well as the insane episode of “Kids Next Door” which was a take on one of the shorts from the Animatrix. The last thing we saw was the Canadian Showcase, which started off great with “I Like Pandas,” by Jessica Borutski. The rest of these shorts were mediocre, and culminated in the scary crap that is “Can You Love Me.” What was this film doing in an animation festival? There was about 2 seconds of crappy scratch on film. Otherwise it was a twisted wierd documentary type story that I really didn’t need to hear. Not a great way to end the fest.
Overall, I enjoyed the festival. I have a feeling I missed out on some of the better events, but its hard to know what’s going to be worth seeing. Here’s some random pictures to enjoy!
The RIT gang at the National Gallery. (From L to R – Brittney Lee, Dave Suroviec, Joe Daniels, Bill Robinson (me!) and Jed Mitchell)
Ottawa is pretty!