About a week ago, I strapped my backpack on, packed my duffle bag (and some food), and hopped on a van with 7 other students and our animation professor and headed north across the border to Ottawa, Canada. I was lucky enough last year to have also gone on the same trip/adventures to the Ottawa International Animation Festival, and this year was no different. First off, it was so refreshing to just be away from all the mundane routines of life, but to be able to fill up those same time consuming so much animation and art was truly inspiring. The following is just a recap of my time there this year, accompanied with some photos for a visual experience.
The festival ran from a Wednesday night to a Sunday, and both years, we’ve gotten the weekend passes, which technically doesn’t start until 3PM on Friday. Unfortunately, one of the things I really wanted to attend (Behind the Scenes of the new movie “Boxtrolls”) took place early Thursday, so we didn’t get a chance to see that. Friday morning, my friend Andrew and I initially were just going to hang around until our passes started, but then in the middle of the morning I had gotten a text from my professor that he was at one of the shorts competition screening, so Andrew and I figured, why not? I am actually very happy that we made that decision, there were a lot of great shorts from that block, a few which went on to win the audience awards.
Shorts Competition 4
“Totem” was one of the shorts from that block that went on to win the honorable mention for best experimental short. It was a visually stunning piece that had so much going on, but at the same time was shape-shifting and changing so subtly that by the time the last few frames was up on the screen, I remember thinking to myself, “Wait, what the hell? How did we get here?”
“Me and My Moulton” (trailer below), was another short from this block. It’s an endearing narrative piece about a girl and her sisters’ dream to have a bicycle, and the odd challenges of life that come with having modern architects as parents.
Later in the afternoon, I went to check out the Canadian showcase that was playing at the theater in the National Gallery. Initially I had wanted to check out the International Student Showcase, but after a long (but delicious) lunch, I changed my mind since the Canadian showcase screening was much closer. Boy was I glad that’s how things turned out.
When I watched “Improvisation no. 1: Cumulative Loops”, all of a sudden I became so aware of the special relationship that animation has with music. It does not exist it other genre/forms, and while most of the time it also appears in experimental films, there’s something so captivating and different about the relationship between an animated piece and the sound/music that it’s put to.
My favorite short by far from this entire trip also was a part of the Canadian showcase (hence I was so glad that I didn’t skip this one). “Le Puits (The Well)” was made by Phil Vaucher of Montreal. It is a beautiful film that’s made with colored salt on glass (so thinking about the work and effort that was put into this piece was just so mind-blowing on its own). Not only was the mode/visuals so compelling, but it had such a great narrative attached to it as well. Beginning from the first frame of the short, I was so wide-eyed. By the time the credits came up, I literally felt like I wanted to cry. The short itself is not up online anywhere, but definitely check out his previous work that was also made with the same style/technique.
Saturday – Professional Development workshop
Most of us basically spent almost the entirety of Saturday sitting inside a church (or an arts center?) at the professional development workshops. This was definitely a highlight of the day. We got to see the new Pixar and Disney shorts, “Lava” and “Feast”, and got the chance to hear the director talk about their experiences. Like “Paper Man”, “Feast” was created with a mix of 2D and 3D animation. Hearing Patrick describe the production process was gave me so much admiration for these guys and the work that they do. Sometimes it’s easy to look back and wonder whether any of the work that we do is worth anything. But for the beautiful sake of storytelling, a lot of us get suckered back into the grueling process of reaping so much than what we sow for the moments when we get to share it with an audience. I was able to get signed posters for both shorts, and I’m excited to see them in theaters again when they play in front of the upcoming Pixar and Disney features. John Muskers and Ron Clements, veterans of Disney Animation studio also came for a Q&A. They’ve worked on films from “The Little Mermaid”, to “Aladdin”, “Treasure Island”, “Hercules”, and “The Princess and the Frog”. I got to ask the last question during the Q&A part, and I asked them to describe the process of animating the genie for Robin Williams and what that was like; knowing how incredibly talented he was, how on earth did they manage to animated a character for such an animated individual? I was happy to hear how great they thought the question was, and they entertained us with stories and accounts of what working on “Aladdin” was like, and especially on what it was like working with Williams. Throughout the day’s workshops, I all of a sudden remembered an idea for an animated short my friend Karen and I had developed a year about a bookworm and started a brief sketch and storyboard. Not sure how far it’s actually gonna go this time around, but we’ll give it another year and see where we end up.
We headed out from Ottawa midday on Sunday, after Tyler and I spent the morning at The Ministry of Coffee, a coffee shop she’s been spending her mornings at. It was a great trip, and I feel so lucky to have gotten the chance to journey to it twice. It was definitely very inspiring, and I came back to my apartment Sunday night feeling so encouraged and inspired to keep chugging away. When I first entered college, I wanted to pursue animation. Somewhere along the way the last 4 years, I seem to have gotten lost in the midst of so many other interests. But this has been just what I needed to restore the childlike dream. Until next time Ottawa!