2013 Ottawa International Animation Festival – Day One

An overriding excuse -I’ve been busy lately.  In bed at 3 am, out a 7 am (or later and earlier) kind of busy.  This, of course, is my own fault.  Trying to accommodate the world.

Multi-week sleep deprivation is a similar sensation to attending a film festival.  A soft cloud develops around your head, sunlight grows a sharpened edge, a long red light seems like a good time for a little nap.  Rollercoaster programming of a good festival, though, will make you angry and elated and raise you out of the even-keeled funk of the working world.

The festival in Ottawa unfurls so that it’s possible to be slowly drawn into the movie-haze unaware, in my current state I hit it in full fog.  The Television Animation Conference precedes the film programming by a day.  This is mostly dull stuff about animation as a product.  Movie making as money making, producing art as though it were manufacturing widgets.  But still, there is always something interesting.  Yesterday that was a panel that included Titmouse impresario Chris Prynowski.  His work as an animator is impressive and his studio produces work that exceeds the quality of any other making series for American television.  As a speaker he’s engaging and articulate.  He’s honest about the process and clearly know what he’s talking about.  A lot of people hide behind abstractions and broad figures when discussing work -it hints at a mere surface understanding of what it takes to make something.  Prynowski’s self-effacing discussion of the top to bottom details of his operation is possibly the most engaging thing I’ve seen at any TAC.


This year the event is being held at the Museum of Nature.  It’s a nice venue.  Cocktail parties surrounded by dinosaurs.

Two screenings in the evening: the French/Belgian feature “Approved for Adoption” and the competition shorts #1.

Approved for Adoption

It might be a new “thing” in European animation, and it’s not a good thing, to “toon shade” CGI models so they look like something from Xtranormal.com.  There was a short in competition that did the same thing.  It’s made even worse by the drawn sequences in the film that are generally pretty attractive (same is true for the short).

For me, the highlight film of the short program was Edmunds Jansons’ “Choir Tour.”  The story is no great shakes but the design and animation are both terrific.



The look utilizes contemporary drawing tools -likely Illustrator or Photoshop or some such thing in a pleasing and expressive fashion.  The animation is idiosyncratic and exploits the design.

Julia Pott’s “The Event” also ran.  There’s a lot to like about this film, and I’ve seen it several times.  It holds up (and in some ways improves) with repeat viewings.  I wish I could pinpoint why it leaves me a little cold.  It’s a good piece, though.  Strange to say, it felt a little out-of-place in the program.  Usually an apocalypse like this would be one of many in a competition selection- last night it felt like the only one.

Joanna Priestley’s “Split Ends” is attractive.  It feels like some of the graphics within it could form the basis of an interesting film.  She’s working in shape and abstraction to the point where they near representation.  Maybe this experiment will get pushed further in a future work.

Ottawa International Animation Festival -Day One

rThUneventful day on Wednesday.

In the morning I tried some Television Animation Conference panels.  Tough going.  Especially the French woman who -with stereotypical chauvinism -asserted that animation would likely not exist today if not for it’s “creation” in France.  A mythical creation that has no proof in the fossil record and would have very little bearing on the development of the art even if some undiscovered film surfaced to bear witness to the Franco-falsehood.

So that kind of bothers me.

Otherwise, a kind of lovely day.

Early dinner with Liesje Kraai, Anna Humphries, Brett Thompson and Morgan Miller

The first screening of the Festival was the feature “Wrinkles”. This four-walled for Oscar eligibility last year and I missed it. It’s a Spanish film about a guy moving into Alzheimer’s who gets sent to an old folks home.

Atypical subject matter for the technique. The illustration style is pleasant -sort of a mid-90s Eurocomic look -and has the potential for expressive and human animation. The whole effort is solid, if too long by 30 minutes.

I was asked to say some words on Tissa David before the shorts competition first screening.

The bit was recorded, though the first sentence or two was chopped off.

Short competition 1 was even. The first two films established a theme of “bodies”. Johanna Rubin’s “Meat + Love” kicked it off. It’s a stop motion film of kissing, the faces formed with cuts of meat and giblets. Disgusting, sure. But smart and charming.

This was followed by Paul Bush’s “Lay Bare”. This is, essentially, a pixellation shot in close ups of several bodies. Birthmarks and moles and belly buttons animation through quick cuts. Also wins you over with charm -but goes on a little too long. A second chapter opens with a baby, full face. The audience let out and audible “Awww”. It was loud, but not loud enough to cover my internal “Ugh”. The filmmaker presents this second part as a heavy-handed thesis, dropping in some text (in a poor, poor typeface -the other theme for the night) to drive home his point. How much more elegant and profound this film would be without that.

Those two films set the tone and the standard for the evening. A program of solid films -about half a little too long, as always; and many with terrible typographic decisions. But all good and possibly made better in context.