Monday, November 5, 2007

FESTIVAL: Saturday, November 3rd, 2007

Saturday didn’t have a good start! The movie scheduled to be shown at 9.30 am did not show up and the brave souls that ventured out to the festival at such an early hour… hung-over from an excess of straight animation shots the night before… were destined to be disappointed. However the ever-resourceful and fully-prepared Ken Rowe offered the audience a selection of classic short films or else a re-run of last year’s festival award-winners... the audience was to choose. The previous year’s award-winners were the overwhelming choice and so this impromptu selection was subsequently enjoyed by all.

Ken opening the second day's events. (Sorry about picture quality!)

Next up was another collection of festival entries. The shorts program had some great films in it. One of my favorites from Germany was “My Happy End” by Milen Vitanov. This was a hilarious tale of a dog that makes a friend of his own tail and relates the adventures they have together. The technique was a wonderful mix of drawn animation, cleverly disguised 3D and ingenious cut-out animation effect for the treatment of the dog. Being very monochrome and discretely aesthetic in its visual presentation, this was very much one to savor for me.

A break for lunch.

After the break, yet more festival entries. We were delighted by the amount of films entered into the festival this year… twice as many as last year! This and the enthusiastic attendance by speakers and audience convinces us that a festival devoted primarily to 2D and student films is a thing that will just grow and grow from now on.

The day’s first presenter was Michel Gagne, the incomparable artist and animator who actually hails from reasonably close by... Bellingham, just north of Everett.

Michel and his world made visible.

I have long been a fan of Michel’s work and so I was desperate to get him to appear at our festival this year, which he willingly agreed to do. I have always been in awe or Michel’s “Insanely Twisted Shadow Puppets” material and was delighted for him to show it and explain the fascinating story of how it all came about. Michel also treated us to glimpses of the work that he did on “Quest for Camelot”, “Osmosis Jones” and “The Iron Giant.” (Still one of my favorite movies outside of the classical Disney, Pixar and Miyazaki echelon that is.) However, in addition to these commercially-based offerings, I am always particularly impressed with Michel’s own personal work… namely his first ever film, “Prelude to Eden” (which he showed)...

...and the very latest that he asked us not to talk about. (Although I can say that is related to a certain outstanding jazz festival that occurs in this particular part of the world!) This work proved the inspiration behind director Brad Bird calling to ask Michel to design and animate the ‘food tasting’ sequences in “Ratatouille,” which Michel did so well. He showed us his stage-by-stage process of the material.

Michel explains his process on "Ratatouille."

With other projects that Michel hinted at in the pipeline I am convinced that this amazing artist (and self-confessed ‘compulsive/obsessive’) is going to continue to delight audiences for a long time yet to come!

Sssssh! You didn't get this one from me!

(Speaking of Michel: After the event I learned from him that for the past three years he has disciplined himself to reading one novel a week… ‘art directing’ each one in his mind as he does so. He confided in me that this was his way of preparing himself for his future ‘big’ film project… the details of which he did not reveal. Can’t wait!)

After a one-hour dinner break it was my time to present. I was planning to deliberately
mis-quote from one of Michel Gagne’s Insanely Twisted films by saying… There are two kinds of films, ‘Hollywood’ and the other kind… this talk is all about ‘the other kind’!But the few technical difficulties I encountered with my presentation material at the time snatched the moment away!

Me with this year's festival poster design.

Suffice it to say that I essentially wanted to outline the work and the objectives of The Animaticus Foundation (which I won’t go over right now as much of it is documented elsewhere… I do however want to speak of a vision I have for animation and its expression through the Foundation.

I showed at the festival the same DigiPen PowerPoint presentation I had showed to the school students the previous Thursday, as well as the animation/musical compilation piece I took from the DigiPen freshmen/sophomore work. I explained my pride at being associated with the remarkable program that DigiPen is implementing, as well as working with the amazing faculty that are present in the school. I compared it to the spirit and nature of work being done at the early days of Disney, through CalArts and other initiatives. While most of these students will undoubtedly become ‘movers and shakers’ in the games or 3D-related industries, there are a significant few students who want to seek traditional 2D animation as a career, even though there is no significant 2D industry to support that career right now.

Speaking about the Foundation's 'vision.'

Consequently my vision for the future of The Animaticus Foundation is to harness the very best of these amazingly dedicated DigiPen students, apprenticing them with seasoned master professional animators to produced ground-breaking, non-Hollywood style films that will move the entire art of animation into previously unimagined areas. I likened this to picking-up the artform where Walt left it when he created the magical and inspired “Fantasia.” (Although the plan is not to make another "Fantasia"... but more to harness the potential of art and artistry, film and design, music and choreography into challenging and inspirational stories that lend themselves to all these possibilities.)

It is therefore the ambition of the Foundation to establish a unique alliance between industry and education to create productions of all kinds that are just not possible in any other way. With its 501(c)3 status recently confirmed, it is possible and now plausible for The Animaticus Foundation to attract grants, sponsorship and donations that can help fund this initiative. DigiPen are also actively committed to assisting this process evolving… indeed they were most generously the largest sponsor of the “2D OR NOT 2D Animation Festival” this year! All that remains for the ultimate realization of the projects that are currently under development through the Foundation… and a sympathetic ‘distributor’ to support our efforts and bring our work to the world.

Now, where was I? Oh yes…

Keynote speaker at the event this year was Don Hahn. Roy E. Disney was the keynote speaker last year and so gracious and elegant was he that we felt hard-pressed to follow on where he left off. However, we needn’t have had any fears, as Don Hahn stepped-up to the plate and provided us with an informative, often humorous and totally inspirational presentation of his production process and the marvelous art and imagery that had inspired him in all his years as one of Hollywood’s foremost producers. Nominated for 18 Academy Awards and winner of 2 Golden Globes amongst many other accolades, Don has the distinction of being producer on the first animated film to ever get a “Best Picture” nomination at the Oscars... "The Lion King."

Don captivated the audience with his eloquent presentation.

Yet while superb as producing at the higher end of animated production, Don has also been a great supporter of young talent and the short film, traditionally-animated format too. Consequently at the festival he showed us three of his favorite short films… the most moving of which was “The Chestnut Tree” by young female director Hyun-min Lee, who made the film as a personal and loving tribute to her late mother.

Don Hahn is an intelligent, sensitive and tasteful individual who captivated the audience with his over 400 image presentation and his flowing, inspirational way of speaking. It comes as no surprise therefore that he is a master producer worthy of the name.

He even brought the famous "Nine Old Men" with him!

Don’s more playful nature was reflected in another award-winning short film he presented,Lorenzo.” Hillarious!

As in meeting with Roy E. Disney a year before, I will take so many treasured memories of meeting with Don and talking to a great man with a great passion for art and animation. My heart swelled when he said he was impressed with the work we were doing with students at DigiPen and the aims and ambitions expressed by The Animaticus Foundation. I learned that Don is currently working on a live-action movie and a documentary film. I for one cannot wait to see the results of the efforts of this enthusiastic and passionate man. I would have loved to have worked with him at some stage in my career!

Did anyone notice that Don appeared with Brad Bird I wonder?

Finally, the awards ceremony…

Sadly, with an under-funded, emergent festival such as ours it was just not possible to bring all our award-winners to the presentation from their various locations around the globe. We can but hope to be able to do that in future years however. That said, and in the absence of the majority of the filmmakers, the Merit and Golden Pencilawards were read out by festival director Ken Rowe (and applauded by a very enthusiastic audience) on a one-by-one basis.

The Merit awards are a certificate-based prize we give to films that we consider contain some ‘extra’ form of content or artistry that is worthy of recognition. The 2007 Merit award-winners this year were…

Fish” by HyunJeen Lee.

Alien for Christmas” by Dave Pryor.

The Chestnut Tree” by Hyun-min Lee.

The Librarian from the Black Lagoon” by Galen Fott.

Geirald The 5 Legged Spider” by Sam Rusztyn.

2” by Kim Anderson.

The Intruder” by Alessandro Ceglia.

Lost Utopia” by Mirai Mizue.

My Happy End” by Milen Vitano.

For the Love of God” by Joe Tucker.

The Space Burger” by Sookyoung Choi.

I Am PillowCat” by Elaine Lee.

t.o.m.” by Tom Brown.

Bai Ri Meng (Daydream)” by Jennifer Tippins.

The Tree With The Lights In It” by Jason Harrington.

Movement and Stillness” by Yi-Hsuan Kent Chiu.

everything will be ok” by Don Heartzfeldt.

The “Golden Pencil” awards are presented to the filmmakers who are considered to have made the greatest achievement in their respective categories. The categories in question are “2D Animation”, “Student Film”, “Digital Media” and “All-style Animation”. Within each category we give two awards… “Best film” and “Best Animation in a Film”. The winners of the 2007 “Golden Pencil” awards were…

2D Animation/Best Film: “Lost Utopia.”

2D Animation/Best Animation in a Film: “The Chestnut Tree.”

Hyun-min Lee receives her Golden Pencil for "The Chestnut Tree."

Student Film/ Best Film: “Geirald the 5-Legged Spider.”

Student Film/ Best Animation in a Film: “I am Pillow Cat.:

Digital Media/Best Film: “Fish.”

Digital Media/ Best Animation in a Film: “Movement and Stillness.”

All-style Animation/ Best Film: “Alien for Christmas.”

All-style Animation/ Best Animation in a Film: “My Happy End.”

The “Roy E. Disney Award” is a non-competitive award that The Animaticus Foundation presents to the person (or organization) that is considered as having made considerable contribution to the art of animation. Although not wishing to appear ‘Disney-centric’ (Roy E. Disney himself was presented with the inaugural award last year) we unanimously felt that Don Hahn’s contribution to animation… specifically to traditional 2D animation… demanded that we should present him with the 2007 Roy E. Disney Award”.

Not surprisingly, Don was unexpectedly amazed when we announced this to the audience. However, shock over, he graciously accepted it, not only on his own behalf but also on the behalf of all the artists, technicians and animators who had contributed to the productions he had been involved with.

Don speaking after receiving his award.

And so ended the 2007 “2D OR NOT 2D Animation Festival” for one more year. We are grateful to all the sponsors, volunteers, filmmakers and audience attendees who attended and contributed to it being such a great event. At the same time, I want to offer a huge personal "THANK YOU" to Ken Rowe, the festival director, who put-in so much work and commitment on behalf of the event. Ken's contribution is beyond words and it is totally due to him that the festival is able to occur at all!

The fact that there IS a festival at all is very important to me. It is my fundamental belief that the stronger the festival becomes the stronger the traditional animation industry will be… hence we all hope this is just the beginning of a wonderful journey we might all share in reaching towards new expression and arriving at previously untapped horizons. (We especially hope that “The Frog Princess” lives-up to all our expectations… thereby signaling a renaissance of both the industry and of the artform!)

But then there was our “Gala Event” of course…

It is the tradition of the festival that after the main event is over all presenters, award-winners, festival ticket holders and guests are invited to a Gala Event “Meet ‘n Greet” party upstairs in Everett’s New Historic Theatre. (FYI: They used to call it the ‘Historic Theatre”… which I prefer to use as the building is so old and elegant… but the modern trustees felt that they had to update its name to the "New Everett Theatre." Although it will always be the “Historic Theatre” to me!)

Anyway, attendees chatted and networked, joked and shared contacts… which are the only way we (at the grass roots) are ever going to get this unique and still largely un-tapped medium of traditional 2D animation kick-started again!

Ultimately though it was universally expressed by all attending that this was a wonderful event to be part of and everyone consequently looked forward to coming back next year for the next stage in our inspirational adventure. Me too!


1 comment:

Curtis said...

Sounded like a blast. I cant believe something like this happened so close to home (Bellingham)and I missed it. Next year hopefully.