Today, as part of Cartoon Brew’s Student Animation Festival, we’re delighted to present Ballpit by Kyle Mowat of Canada’s Sheridan College. What begins in pure abstraction slowly reveals itself to be an evolutionary tale–albeit an unconventional evolution that blends organic materials with the mechanical. The film could be dissected, but the total effect is what makes it memorable. Ballpit delights the eyes and yields visual suprises at every turn. The riot of color, the patterns of shapes, the rhythms of movement–it is the joyous possibilities of animation distilled into 90 seconds.

Continue reading for comments from the filmmaker Kyle Mowat:

The idea came out of some sketchbook work of mine. I was doing a lot of explorations of vague organics and eventually they started looking like microscopic systems of a surreal sort. I made drawings and paintings of these things, using a bunch of different mediums and such. I knew I wanted to focus my short on how these things may move, form and interact and I ended up using some loose concepts of natural selection as a framework for that. I distilled it into two “forces”; organic life and more generally geology, things like gradual changes in the environment, natural disasters etc. The ball shapes and the block shapes came to represent the two forces,respectively.

I did everything for the film digitally. Animation was all in Flash, the backgrounds Photoshop and all the compositing and such was done mostly in After Effects with a bit of Premiere for later.

The biggest challenge was probably finding the look for the short. The initial concepts were way too elaborate to really use in full. I needed to distill them into something simple, usable and cohesive while still having them function in the way I initially intended. This process went on well into the animation stage; I was often re-designing things as I animated them. It was a difficult position to be in sometimes.

I was looking at a lot of books on coral reefs and deep ocean life while working on the film. There’s some crazy stuff down there. I watched at a bunch of films by guys like Norman Mclaren and Charles and Ray Eames. Mostly for ideas about pacing a film that isn’t necessarily carried by its stories but more by its visual elements. Some other things that inspired me: the work of Moebius, the giant baby from Akira, the band Ponytail, and, of course, my peers and fellow students who helped create an amazing creative atmosphere to work in.

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The Cartoon Brew Student Animation Festival is made possible by the generosity of our presenting sponsor JibJab.

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