Chris O'Neill - winner of the Festival's Golden Baton Award (l-r), Stephen Beck, Stacey Simmons (director, Red Stick Animation Festival)
Saturday morning. Sitting in P.J.’s, the coffee shop around the corner from the Shaw Center. Except for a handful of sessions today, Red Stick ended Friday night with the awarding of the Golden Baton. The winner (of the three candidates discussed yesterday) was Chris O’Neill’s elegiac (how many times to you get a chance to use that word?) Lilac Wine. Earlier in the fest O’Neill had described his video as the remembrance of loved one who was no longer around, whether via the end of a love affair, or death.
It was an appropriate theme sadly: Red Stick’s annual Lifetime Award was a posthumous one this year, given to DreamWorks and Disney animator Pres Romanillos. Romanillos, responsible for characters like Spirit’s Little Creek, Pocahontas, and Mulan bad guy Hun Shan-Yu, fell to leukemia in July. The collective sense of grief in the room was palpable, with presenter Scott Johnston audibly tearing up when describing Romanillos’ “passion and generosity…he was in touch with something deeper than everyone sees normally.” Glen Keane appeared via video standing in front of Romanillos’ animation table. His sadness was visible too, in an extended, heartfelt (and obviously spontaneous) remembrance of the artist he had mentored, describing Romanillos’ talent and unbridled creativity. (“We had to hold back his desire to detail every drawing – it was like trying to restrain wild horses.”) Romanillos’ widow Jeanine accepted the award in his memory.