By Lia Abbate
Hello again, Ottawa cyber-festers ~
The Animation Conference (TAC) has wrapped up and we are now in our third full day of festing. And I still have to fill you in on all of yesterday’s events. Here we go…
I keep trying to get a picture of Kelly Neall, Managing Director, and Azarin Sohrabkhani, TAC Director, to introduce them to you and send them some appreciation for all of their hard work in getting this organized. The fact is that they are both so busy I could never catch them. I’m not giving up yet. Just know that they are both beautiful women.
TAC ART+BIZ Day Keynote: Craig Bartlett
This morning was all about networking and brunching. Craig Bartlett, creator of Hey Arnold! sent us back into the world with the inspiring story of how he created Arnold during his “unemployed summer of ‘88” out of wanting to animate more plasticene on glass work after finishing the Penny shorts. So he took himself back to “what it felt like to be a kid of about 5” and created a short called “Arnold Escapes From Church”. When he went in to pitch to Mary Harrington at Nickelodeon with the 5 other writers from Rugrats, once they got through what they thought were all their ideas, she asked, “What else have you got?” She saw the short and said, “There’s a series there.”
When Craig described the development of Arnold’s girl nemesis who was secretly in love with him, it was great to hear that Geraldine Laybourne once took him aside and said, “You know, I was Helga.”
As is the case in many of the talks, there were young artists and creators in the crowd who grew up on Craig’s work and wanted to express their appreciation. One of them was Carrie Tupper who singled out the “Helga on the Couch” episode for making the idea of a therapy safe for kids. It really made an impact on her life as well as those of her friends. I made sure to take a picture of them together. Now she’s creating her own animated series, Kamikaze.
Time to head out into the gorgeous sunshine for food, drink, and pumpkin carving. Who knew that it would be 80 degrees in Ottawa? How perfect.
The Festival Friend
It seems that in every festival you go to, no matter how many hundreds of people there are in attendance with venues spread out all over the city, there is always this one person that you keep running into everywhere you go. Ronald Kilbride turns out to be my festival friend this time around. He teaches animation at St. Clair College and he has a group of his students with him for whom he cares a great deal. We spent time during the picnic encouraging them to break out of their shells, to just go out and introduce themselves people. Remember when that was a scary proposition? The goal was to get at least three business cards by the end of the picnic. I left them to their own devices.
Let’s Get Lost. Oh No, Let’s Not.
Another thing that seems to happen in festivals is that moment of overload where you get overwhelmed by the choices, exhausted by all of the interaction and visual stimulation, and then you make some stupid mistake. I wandered into a bookstore post-picnic, confident that my next screening was just down the street. Well, I arrived at the Bytowne Cinema at the appointed time, only to see a packed double-decker bus make its way down the street and continue right past me. I tried the doors. They were locked. I improvised.
Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse in Get a Horse!
Luckily, there were two screenings of this scheduled back-to-back and I made the second one, not without having experienced a nice walking tour across Parliament Hill. The Get a Horse! screening was an absolute thrill. Lauren McMullen, the director, has enough charisma and enthusiasm for five people, and it is no surprise that this perfect meld of 2D and 3D is as engaging and technically excellent as it is after hearing her describe their process. And Eric Goldberg had already won my heart forever when I once walked into the kitchen at a party and he and Caroline Cruickshank were trying to stump each other on by singing a song and asking which Looney Tunes cartoon it was from (it was a draw). Eric is the walking definition of the real thing. Get a Horse! is meant to be seen in a theatre, 3D glasses and all. It’s another reason to get yourself to Frozen when it comes out to catch this at the beginning.
Screening: Pixar’s The Blue Umbrella & A Liar’s Autobiography
A great surprise, Pixar’s Saschka Unseld appeared before us at the beginning of the screening of A Liar’s Autobiography to introduce his short. The inspiration for The Blue Umbrella came from the day he found an abandoned, broken umbrella in the street in San Francisco. Saschka’s hometown in Germany came to mind – he termed it the Seattle of Germany – and so he created a love letter to the rain.
A Liar’s Autobiography is one of those great guilty pleasures on celluloid. A heady mix of humor, sex, and celebrity, this biopic (or is it?) of Graham Chapman is well worth the effort of finding it in the theatre because this is yet another excellent 3D creation. The Python humor is very much in evidence as well as surprising and earned pathos and love.
Screening: The Kids are Alright
The National Gallery was the perfect venue for this compilation of exceptional student films from the festivals archives, an exhibition in and of itself. A few old favorites and some new revelations, they were the perfect way to ease down the day. It left me debating that eternal debate: “Is an artist’s style truly set from the very beginning?” In a few instances, it was alarmingly true.