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Tonight, for the first time in the 39-year-history of the Ottawa International Animation Festival, a student film received the festival’s top honor.

Sarina Nihei’s Small People with Hats, a 2014 graduation film from the Royal College of Art, that achieved the historic first, winning the festival’s grand prize for independent short animation. Nihei’s film has garnered plenty of praise while on the festival circuit, including honors at Holland Animation Film Festival, Anim’est, and Primanima, among others. Nihei’s short also won an award in Ottawa tonight for best sound.

Ottawa grand prize winner  Sarina Nihei posing with her award this afternoon. (Photo: James Park)
Ottawa grand prize winner Sarina Nihei posing with her award this afternoon. (Photo: James Park)

Patrick McHale’s Cartoon Network mini-series Over the Garden Wall, which won three Emmys last week, continued its winning streak by taking Ottawa’s grand prize for animated feature. It should be noted that Ottawa screened an inexplicably small number of features in its feature competition, with just four films competing this year. The majority of animation festivals that have a feature category screen five or more films.

Don Hertzfeldt’s unstoppable World of Tomorrow picked up two awards — best script and public prize. Nicolas Ménard’s Loop Ring Chop Drink (previously featured on Cartoon Brew) topped the graduation film and best design categories. Nata Metlukh’s Fears, a student film from Vancouver Film School that was also showcased on Cartoon Brew, won the prize for best Canadian student animation.

Three different juries made the final decisions. The Competition Short Jury was comprised of Kaspar Jancis (Estonia), Leah Shore (USA), and Yiorgos Tsangaris (Cyprus). The Competition Feature Jury included Chris Dainty (Canada), Maral Mohammadian (Canada), and Saschka Unseld (USA). The Competition Kids Jury was comprised of unnamed Ottawa-area children.

A complete list of winners is below:

Grand Prize for Best Independent Short Animation
Small People with Hats
Sarina Nihei (UK)

Competition Short Jury statement: “[Small People with Hats] is a brilliantly written absurd script with a compelling visual picture and sound that successfully interprets a political reality of our time.”

Grand Prize for Best Animated Feature
Over the Garden Wall
Patrick McHale (USA, South Korea)

Competition Feature Jury statement: “The Grand Prize goes to the film that expressed the awe and wonder we felt as kids with a mix of amazement and magic, while realizing that scary things might not be as scary as they seem. For its unbridled romp through the joy and darkness of growing up, the award goes to Patrick McHale’s Over the Garden Wall.

Honorable mention to La Montagne Magique (The Magic Mountain) by Anca Damian.


Cartoon Network Prize for Best Narrative Short Animation
Isand (The Master)
Riho Unt (Estonia)

Prize for Best Experimental/Abstract Animation
The Five Minute Museum
Paul Bush (Switzerland, UK)

Prize for Best Undergraduate Animation
Ryan Ines (USA)

Walt Disney Animation Prize for Best Graduation Animation
Loop Ring Chop Drink
Nicolas Ménard (UK)

Prize for Best Commissioned Animation
Jazz Orgie
Irina Rubina (Germany)

Prize for Best Short Film Made For Children
Compte les moutons (Counting Sheep)
Frits Standaert (France, Belgium)

Prize for Best Animated Series Made for Children
Bird and Bear
Dan and Jason (USA)


Award for Best Script
World of Tomorrow
Don Hertzfeldt (USA)

Award for Best Design
Loop Ring Chop Drink
Nicolas Ménard (UK)

Award for Best Animation Technique
Alateadvuse maja (House of Unconsciousness)
Priit Tender (Estonia)

Award for Best Sound
Small People With Hats
Sarina Nihei (UK)


DHX Public Prize
World of Tomorrow
Don Hertzfeldt (USA)

Canadian Film Institute Award for Best Canadian Animation
Mynarski chute mortelle (Mynarski Death Plummet)
Matthew Rankin (Canadca)

Honorable mention to Sonámbulo by Theodore Ushev and Focus by Alex Boya.

VIA Rail Prize for Best Canadian Student Animation
Nata Metlukh (Vancouver Film School)

Honorable mention to Religatio by Jaime Giraldo, Vancouver Film School.

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