Pen Ward, Aaron Augenblick and Thurop van Orman

I’ve attended my fair share of foreign animation festivals over the years, and have always bemoaned the lack of Los Angeles industry artists at these gatherings. In Annecy artists from throughout Europe’s animation industry show up, in Ottawa a sizable lot from the New York and Toronto industry attend, but artists from Los Angeles have been conspicuously absent at every animation festival I’ve ever attended. There might be a few stragglers, but undoubtedly they’ll be outnumbered by the LA-based development and creative execs, who pounce on any opportunity for a free “business” trip.

The apathy of LA industry artists is historical. During the legendary 1967 Montreal animation expo, which was one of the great all-time gatherings of animation talent, only one Disney animator who had worked on Dumbo and was still employed at the company, took the time to attend the screening of that film. It was, of course, the studio’s most creatively curious artist, Ward Kimball.

This all leads up to some positively encouraging news. Browsing through the schedule for the upcoming Ottawa International Animation Festival, I noticed that not only are Adventure Time and Flapjack being shown in competition screenings , the creators of both shows–Pen Ward (top photo, left) and Thurop Van Orman (r.)–will attend and participate in a discussion about their work. This interaction between Los Angeles animators and the much larger world of animation beyond the San Fernando Valley doesn’t happen nearly often enough. Considering how relatively inexpensive it is to attend one of these festivals versus the mind-expanding benefits of meeting like-minded artists and seeing innovative new animation, I’m surprised that more studios don’t encourage and finance these trips for their employees. It would certainly be a wiser investment than shipping a cartload of executives to each festival.

The appearance of Ward and Van Orman isn’t the only TV-centric event at Ottawa either. Aaron Augenblick (top photo, center) who runs Brooklyn-based Augenblick Studios (Superjail!, Wonder Showzen, Ugly Americans) will be presenting a retrospective of his work. The program isn’t exclusively TV-related, but Augenblick is best known nowadays for his studio’s consistently high quality TV output, which is no small accomplishment.

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