The 1998 Ottawa International Animation Festival: A Nice Mix of Films, Business and Fun

by Deborah Fallows

Improving on the success of the 1996 Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF) was a difficult challenge since the recruiting frenzy for classical animators has since eased, but by no means diminished. Running for 21 years, OIAF claims to be the largest in North America (in terms of film entries), as well as North America's only competitive festival and second largest in the world. Attendance certainly matched, and possibly exceeded, the record established in 1996 (30,000 ticket sales). Weekend passes were sold out and the theater was packed every night. The festival opened September 29 with a glitzy gala screening of Antz and concluded with the traditional Awards Ceremony and closing party on October 4.

Believing that independent animation in Canada is important to the future of the animation industry, Nelvana was pleased to support the festival again financially and increase participation in workshops and panels. Canadian federal, provincial and local government bodies provide 20% of the financing and ticket sales account for 5%, leaving the OIAF to depend on industry sponsors for 75% of the total funding. The future success of the OIAF and independent animation will continue to depend on industry support.

The Films: A Bizarre Mix
Billed as the centerpiece of the festival, the official competition included 83 films, selected from 1,200 entries from more than 40 countries. The competition provided film-goers with an eclectic assortment of experimental, abstract, mixed-media, and limited commercial films, all on the same menu. This mix provided the audience with an opportunity to see films that they might otherwise miss. Many Canadians politely endured the fatiguing number of experimental and abstract films in the mix but later expressed their frustration. Of the experimental films, some were spectacular, while others were simply demonstrations of techniques and difficult to appreciate. Experimental films are interesting if the technique is new like Busby from Anna Henckel-Donners-Marck in Germany. In this brilliant student film, hands were choreographed to resemble a kaleidoscope.

I was disappointed that only five of 83 films in the official competition were Canadian. They were: Linear Dreams, Richard Reeves; AMF's Tiresias, Anne Marie Fleming; Bingo, Chris Landreth; The Three Brothers, Tom Bernier; Natterjack Christmas, Steven Evangelatos and When the Dust Settles, Louise Johnson. Congratulations to the Canadian winners: Richard Reeves' Linear Dreams for the Viacom Canada Prize for Best Canadian Film and Chris Landreth for Bingo which secured Media Prize Best Computer Animation. Could there be another Oscar nomination in store for Chris Landreth?

In addition to the competition there was a range of programming from the flashy opening-night gala screening of Antz to esoteric retrospectives and tributes including: "Before and After Independence: 40 years of Estonian Animation;" "Alexei Karaev: Poetry from the Urals;" "The Ideology of Being: Igor Kovalyov;" and "Angst for the Memories: Stefan Schabenbeck." Mainstream retrospectives included: "Charles Thorson; A Taste of Tashlin;" "Forbidden Animation;" "Acme Filmworks" and the "New Canadian Animation Panorama." Canada enjoys a reputation as a leader in production and technology associated with computer animation, the video market and of course, our long-established history in classical animation. Although the programming in the New Canadian Animation Panorama was a weak reflection of the talent level in Canada, overall the OIAF deserves credit for providing diversity in the programming and taking risks.

Left to right: Paul West, coordinator of Algonquin College Animation/TV Program in Ottawa, Maurice Sherwood of Studio B, Vancouver (showing off the fake teeth that helped him win second place in Klasky Csupo's Austin Powers look-alike contest) and Don Perro, coordinator of Capilano College's Commercial Animation Program in North Vancouver. Photo courtesy of Don Perro.

A Well-Integrated AniMarket
The AniMarket, strategically placed at the theater entrance in the National Arts Centre, meant that industry booths were quite accessible to the film-goers regularly attending the screenings. Other festivals tend to banish industry booths to separate buildings and segregate business from screenings. The conscious decision to integrate the booths within the theater provided Nelvana with an excellent opportunity to screen new projects, meet with potential artistic talent for our 2D and 3D productions and connect with potential production partners. Eager animation students from Miramichi College, Algonquin College, Capilano College and The University of the Arts (Philadelphia) were prominent this year. The AniMarket as usual was well-supported by the Canadian animation industry including Nelvana, Cinar, Walt Disney Animation Canada, Teletoon, Chromacolour, Toon Boom, Dynomight Cartoons, and a variety of animation colleges, like Sheridan, Algonquin, and Centennial. American booths included: PDI/DreamWorks, Pixar and Nickelodeon. Newcomers Hardware Canada Computing, Crater Software (Spain), John Libbey & Company (book publishers from Australia) and EOS Electronic (UK) were welcomed.

Filmmakers, artists, producers and students scope the booths for updates on developments within the industry. The Ottawa AniMarket is open for the full duration of the festival making it the most gruelling and most rewarding in which to participate. Fortunately this year we convinced the "Festival" to delay the opening of the AniMarket to 10:00 a.m. daily. Although the official closing time for the booth was 9:00 p.m., we all agreed to our own closing time of 6:00 p.m. daily. Recruiters do like to have time to see the films and look for potential talent at screenings. We also like coffee and it was nowhere to be found near the National Arts Centre!

At the Funbag party, around the table clockwise, from left: Jay Francis, (Film Roman), Liza-Ann Warren (Warner Bros. Classic & Television Animation/Hanna-Barbera), Richard Mair (Nickelodeon), Marisa Materna (Klasky Csupo), Liz Morton (Natterjack Animation), Lyn Hart (Studio B), Don Perro (Capilano College) and Kathleen Helppie-Shipley (Warner Bros. Classic Animation). Photo courtesy of Don Perro.

Professional Development Workshops and Panel Discussions
Workshops and panels were all well-attended and expanded this year to include the prospering and evolving areas of computer animation and cable networks. Nelvana was pleased to support five workshops/panels and share expertise in production and computer animation technology. One well attended panel was "New Tools of the Trade" with Scott Dyer from Nelvana, and David Plant from Silicon Graphics Canada. The panel brought technical interest to discussions on how Nelvana met the challenge of combining Alias software for modeling with Softimage software for animation.

David Fine and Alison Snowden, creators of Bob and Margaret, were also on hand to discuss the transition from producing a Oscar winning NFB short, Bob's Birthday, to developing a prime time series like Bob and Margaret with Nelvana.

At the top of every student's list were the multiple standing room only workshops on "Preparing a Portfolio." Students greatly appreciated the time and effort displayed by Warner Bros. and Pacific Data Images.

Ottawa Equals Parties?
Who would ever think that Ottawa was the party capital of the world!? Industry support was strong. Even the brisk Northern air did not interfere with the well-celebrated afternoon picnic, sponsored by Warner Bros. In addition, out of the six evenings, there were six parties: Dreamworks/PDI, Dynomight, Funbag, Hardware Canada Computing, Nickelodeon & Klasky Csupo and the finale -- the closing night party. They were all great! If there wasn't a party to your liking, one could always venture to the Chez Ani for a nightcap.

Congratulations Ottawa! Independent animation is alive and the success of the 1996 Festival was clearly matched in 1998.

Read the complete list of
Ottawa award winners in Animation World News, and view more photos from the festival in this issue's Ottawa `98 Scrapbook. Visit the official Ottawa International Animation Festival web site in AWN's Animation Village.

Deborah Fallows is the director of recruiting for Nelvana Limited, based in Toronto.

Note: Readers may contact any Animation World Magazine contributor by sending an e-mail to

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