Sunday, September 30, 2007

Ottawa Animation Festival

I was extremely tired during the Ottawa Festival, so I've decided to only talk about films that I enjoyed even in my exhausted state. It's quite possible that a second viewing would lead me to different conclusions for films I didn't like, so rather than say things I'll later regret, I'll stick to what I liked. I've also reconciled myself to the fact that my taste and that of festival organizer Chris Robinson differ. It's pointless to criticize this year's selection as it was consistent with previous years and will no doubt be consistent with coming years so long as Robinson is making the selection.

The Ottawa Festival is one of the most heavily scheduled events I know of; every time slot now has four events running concurrently. While that pretty much guarantees there will be something of interest every waking moment, it's also a guarantee that you miss things you'd like to see. For the record, I saw three of the five competition screenings, one of the two screenings of films for children, one of four UPA retrospective screenings, and two of the three features. I also attended two panels (one of which I spoke at) and a master class.

I've already praised Perspeolis and Golden Age. In the competition, another favorite film was Lapsus by Juan Pablo Zaramella of Argentina. It's a graphically simple film, black and white with no half-tones, where a nun confronts a dark space. The film is highly inventive and funny, doing a lot with little. You can watch a brief clip of the film here.
Zhiharka by Oleg Usinov of Russia is a fairy tale about a girl trying to avoid being eaten by a fox. The film had great humour and fantastic energy. I'm constantly amazed by the lack of timing in modern animation. This film was expertly timed and really carried the audience along as a result. If you can read Russian, you can find more about the film here. If there's a link to a clip, somebody please let me know.

The UPA screening I attended was the one dedicated to directors. I think that Bobe Cannon is underrated as an animator and as a director. His animation in Robin Hoodlum very stylish and got me thinking about what we've lost in animation. There's no shortage of original design work visible at the Ottawa Festival, but I don't think that there's much in the way of original motion. Certainly, there's little where the quality of movement itself is entertaining in the way that Bobe Cannon routinely animated. I'm pretty sure that he did the fox and the knight here as well as the fox drinking his first cup of tea.

Robin Hoodlum
Uploaded by thadk
Cannon's direction also used movement to entertain. I think that I already linked to Christopher Crumpet, but here it is again. Christopher's walk and his first transformation into a chicken are both fun in and of themselves. Bilgewater's stylized way of moving from pose to pose with no inbetweens is also fun to watch, as is the mother tripping and landing at the dinner table. These things don't take money to do, they just take imagination, but I don't see enough of it these days.


amir avni said...

To my taste "A Country Doctor" by Koji Yamamura, "Madame Tutli-Putli" by Maciek Szczerbowski & Chris Lavis, And "Evevrything Will Be OK" by Don Herztfeldt were also very successful.

They all had a unique sense of storytelling and use of the medium.
I also love Hertzfeldt's short because of it's humane optimism, the sense of humor and hope he brought to a story about crisis and depression. I got up from my seat with a smile.

Michael Sporn said...

Your critique of modern animation couldn't be more valid. With each year things get worse. Animation is suffering enormously. As you indicated, the UPA films did have extraordinarily inventive design, but they were matched with creative and humorous animation by masterful artists. Today we have "wild" and "crazy" design, always trying too hard to be different, but the movement is just that. Always with the snap and pop, rarely with the grace. It's getting hard to find real animation anymore.

David Nethery said...

"These things don't take money to do, they just take imagination."

This should be stamped on the back of the drawing hand of every animator and student/wannabe animator . Well said.

Kevin Langley said...

Did Bill Melendez animate the scene when Bilgewater sees Christopher turn into a chicken for the first time? It reminded me of the animation in the Charlie Brown cartoons.

Cannon is an incredible animator and really underrated. His scenes in Robin Hoodlum are wonderful. How about the opening scene in "The Magic Fluke", now that's really great. Whether he was animating Inki, Spike or the Fox and Crow he animation really stands out. Now matter how stylized the designs are.

Thad K said...

"Robin Hoodlum" was casted mostly by character. Pat Matthews did most of the king and the Crow, Rudy Larriva did the merry men, and Bobe Cannon handled the Fox.

Anonymous said...


We'll always differ in tastes. That seems clear, but I think you come to Ottawa and spend 3-4 weeks watching the submissions. I realize you can only go on what you see, but I find that it frustrating that my programming is judged very often by people who dont regularly attend festivals or see what I see. I mean, that's life, but i think it's important to keep that in mind.

About scheduling. We're not more heavily schedule than any other major festival. When you attract such a diverse crowd, you've got to keep all their tastes in mind.

What is real animation by the way?

Take care,

Anonymous said...

the Christopher Crumpert link is dead, here's a working one: