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Ottawa Festival Wrap-up

The Ottawa International Animation Festival concluded last night with its award ceremony honoring some of best animation of the year.

Stephen Irwin‘s Moxie (trailer above) won the Grand Prize for Independent Short. Phil Mulloy‘s controversial Buried But Not Dead won the big prize for Best Animated Feature (see my opinion of it below).

Other awards of note include: Best Student Grand Prize to Jason Carpenter’s The Renter; Best Commissioned Film to Intel The Chase; Best Animation School Showreel to Israel’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design; and Best Graduate Animation to Eamonn O’Neill’s I’m Fine Thanks (see trailer below). Click here for the full list of winners.

Festival highlights for me were the tributes to Aaron Augenblick, Pen Ward and Thurop Van Orman, which were both highly entertaining and somewhat educational (hat tip to Pen for showing Rebecca Sugar’s Singles off of Cartoon Brew TV); John Canemaker’s incredible heart-felt tribute/talk for Joe Grant and Joe Ranft; Pixar’s Enrico Casarosa screening and discussing (in wonderful detail) his new short La Luna (which will be released with Brave next year); Disney’s screening of both The Ballad of Nessie and Winnie The Pooh with animator Mark Henn and Pooh directors Steve Anderson and Don Hall on hand to answer all questions; and Brandon Oldenburg’s whimsical presentation on the making of The Fantastic Flying Books of Morris Lesmore.

I watched all four feature films in competition: Chico and Rita is a beautiful film, grown up film based around the world of jazz of the 40s and 50s. Not exactly sure what technique is used here, but if its rotoscope, its one of the best uses of the form I’ve ever seen.

Mati Kutt’s Taevalaul (Sky Song) is an amazing non-narrative sci-fi/fantasy stop motion film (45 minutes) in the Brothers Quay tradition. Hilarious in parts, thought provoking throughout. Might be my favorite film of the week.

Colorful by Keiichi Hara presents important themes – like suicide, teen prostitution, reincarnation, bullying and dysfunctional families – in his compelling anime feature. I liked the film and its story, but it is told at a snail’s pace (126 mins!), and despite a fantasy premise concerning an angel there is nothing in this film that couldn’t have been said perhaps better in live action.

Dead But Not Buried I hated. I actually admire the shorts of Phil Mulloy, but this feature is a continuation of his previous Mr. Christie film. Talking heads in silhouette may be fine for 12 minutes on Adult Swim, but 80 minutes (twice) is too much to take.

As for the rest of the fest, I had a blast. Met many Brew readers, saw many old friends. I screened a bunch of violent cartoons at several venues and did a CBC radio show on Saturday morning to promote the screenings. You can listen to it here:

At the picnic Friday afternoon (above), left to right: Yvette Kaplan, me, Tom Knott, Steve Stanchfield, Mark Mayerson.

And finally, a strange taste of Chris Robinson’s late-night festival programming: a mock panel discussing the history of animation held on Thursday night, featured this piece (below) written and animated by Morgan Miller (“Teela“) and Josh Kleefeld. Here, they discuss the history of animated short films and the Ottawa Animation Festival’s role in fostering the medium.

  • I didn’t see Phil Mulloy’s feature, but I agree the choices of the jury. Moxie, Blanche Fraise, The Renter, I’m Fine Thanks are great films.

  • Al

    Is the full list of winners available anywhere yet?

  • Upstanding Citizen

    I had no problem with the pacing in Colorful. Can’t even register a counterargument on that level, since the possibility of having an issue with it never even registered with me.

    I’m also going to state that the whole “animation vs. live-action” complaint is a dubious one for me. I would have liked to have seen more pronounced character animation, but at no point did I think the film needed live-action. It did just fine expressing itself as animation, and switching the mediums would have been a different experience.

    Quite fond of that film, actually, and I wish more studio animators would follow its lead in taking a more realistic, issue-driven approach.

  • Saturnome

    I though Colorful’s pace was just right (some scenes after the train history sequence may be an exception, but it’s minor), it’s a very nice film but it doesn’t really stand out. Other than that it was way too hard to see everything in a single week-end, I wish I had nothing to do with my life. I went to see the tribute to Aaron Augenblick, Two guys named Joe, Winnie the Pooh + The Ballad of Nessie, The Making-of Pixar’s La Luna (amazing!)… Cartoon Fight Club too :)

  • Jason Orrill

    Your thoughts on “Dead” echoed mine exactly. I wasn’t aware of the other films in the series, or I probably would have skipped it. I somehow managed to miss most of the award winners, so I’ll have to try and find those online. The big surprise for me in the festival was the dearth of 3D animated films, given their prominence elsewhere. Is that typical?

  • Dean

    This was the first animation festival I ever went to.
    I was sitting on the fence about going. I work in IT; animation is just a hobby for me, so I wasn’t sure how I would like it. In the end I decided to go at the last minute and booked everything up the Saturday before the festival (which probably means I spent more on things than I should have).

    Overall, I enjoyed it a lot and would highly recommend people to go next year who are sitting on the fence. I had to leave early on Sunday for work, so I didn’t get to do as much as I would have liked, but I squeezed in 12 showings – all 4 films, 5 short competitions, 2 International showcases and the Canadian Showcase.

    There were the odd shorts that I didn’t care for, but they only last a few minutes and then you are on to something else cool. I don’t know if I would have picked the same winners, but overall everything was pretty good. It would be pretty hard to pick the winners because all the movies and shorts were mostly quite different from eachother.

    Anyway, again – highly recommended for people to make the trip next year.

  • Jack

    I enjoy Ottawa alot, there are always good films, but their selection of films and judging leaves a lot to be desired.

    I find the showcases to be a mix bag. I understand I will not like everything and that is why I will continue to go each year, having to take the good with the bad and scratching my head at the ugly.

    • Chris Robinson


  • Cath

    Really want to watch “I’m Fine Thanks.” Love the colors and design!

  • There were so many great animations there (this was my first time attending). I do have to say I dont agree with the judges on many accounts, and really after going to the party screening of the rejected ones, there were some in there that definitely were better than the ones that won.
    It was obvious that some where chosen because of who they were affiliated with and got funding from.
    But getting to drink with and talk to Aaron Augenblick, Pen Ward, Thurop Van Orman, Jan Pinkava, Dino Stamatopolous, and Wendy Tilby made it totally worth it. These guys are rock stars and I got to interview some for my podcast!
    Also it was really cool to meet Jerry!

    • “It was obvious that some where chosen because of who they were affiliated with and got funding from.”

      Care to elaborate?

      • Id rather not name any specifically, but there were accepted films that were funded by certain film groups, art collectives, or grants that I doubt would have gotten in if that were not on the credits. By that I mean they were not nearly as artistically nor technically impressive as some student work that was not accepted (I did not enter a film at all just to clarify).
        Still though, even those I am referring to were really well done, dont get me wrong…

      • Chris Robinson

        Are you talking about selection or the judge’s winners picks? Either way, remember we have categories. Students compete against students – even if all the films are shown together in the screenings.

        If you’re talking about the selection itself..well.. unless you’ve seen all 2000 plus submissions, you’re making some pretty mighty assumptions.

  • Lee

    i dont know why but i really liked the history of animation short, I couldnt stop watching, thanks for posting it! I didn’t get to attend the festival this year.

  • Yeah, umm… anyone else have a HUGE problem with the blatant sexism presented in ‘Colorful’? Yes, I am a woman living in a post-feministic North America, but holy cow. How can anyone critique this film and only find fault with the running time?