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The Animation Pimp: Myths and Legends

This time Mr. Pimp is giving you the floor to ask about various rumors and legends about the OIAF over the years.

This time Mr. Pimp is giving you the floor to ask about various rumors and legends about the OIAF over the years.

Sylvain Chomet once told a newspaper that he would never submit his films again to Ottawa because his short about Pigeon was rejected in 1996. Is that true?  

Red Ruffensore, Middlefart, Denmark

Dear Mr. Ruffensore,

Never understood this one. The Pigeon vs. Old Lady thing – or whatever it was called – was submitted in 1996. First off, I was not in charge of selection in those days. Secondly, the film was unfinished. There was no sound and I believe the animation and coloring wasn’t complete. The committee decided that there wasn’t enough there to make a final decision on the film. It was never rejected and the entrants were encouraged to re-submit the film to OIAF 98.

It was frustrating – hell, it was slander – to see Chomet dissing us in the media (in particular a local paper) years later when he was promoting his bicycle film.

Is it true that Walt Disney was going to pull their sponsorship because you didn’t accept Redux Riding Hood for competition and that you told them to piss off?

Beverly Corn-Swallow, Wagga Wagga, Australia

Dear Dame Corn-Swallow,

This was one that I heard a month ago. I’ve no idea where this rumour came from because… well… again…I wasn’t on the selection committee (we didn’t begin changing the selection process until 2000) and…umm… the film was selected for competition. It was a popular film around our office. How that story got turned into this convoluted tale of rejection and hostilities is bizarre. We’ve always had a great relationship with Disney.

Why did you reject Alexander Petrov’s The Old Man and the Sea and was there a fall out from that?

Mike Rotch, Dead Chinaman, Papua New Guinea

Dear Mr. Rotch,

I didn’t reject the film. It was placed into the Canadian Showcase program. The producer felt that was insulting. He explained that the film had won the Oscar and the Grand Prix at Annecy and that Ottawa was seen at the fairy tale ending for the film (which was produced in Canada for this Ernest Hemingway centenary).

Unfortunately, neither my colleagues nor I felt the film was that good. Yes, the oil paint technique was amazing, but the look and tone and adaptation were, frankly, tepid. The film comes off as kitsch, as a nice wall ornament for my Aunt Bumble’s wall. It’s beautiful to look at, but that’s about it.

Still, as I said, we did not reject the film from being screened. It was the producer who withdrew the film.

Did you leave the festival’s longstanding ‘home’ at the National Arts Centre because of money problems? 

Hugh G Rection, Penistone, UK

Dear Master Rection,

Thank you for your question. Money was not an impetus behind us leaving the NAC. It was a series of complicated issues. In 2004, they removed the projection equipment from the theatre we had occupied for years. For a few years we made do with splitting our main venues between the Bytowne Cinema and the NAC Southam Hall (contains about 2000 seats, a bit large for us). This worked for a few years until we found it virtually impossible to get the dates we needed from the NAC (they have events going on year-round). We finally decided to use the Bytowne as our main venue (and I love their cinema and atmosphere. It’s a casual style that suits our character. Plus, their projection quality is outstanding.) and add new venues (e.g. Arts Court Theatre, Museum of Civilization).

There is good news though. We will be back at the NAC for weekends starting this year.

I heard from some drunk animators in Montreal that you caused the NFB to fire their last remaining salaried directors.

Savannah Pooter, Dildo, Newfoundland, Canada

Dear Miss Pooter,

I heard this rumour a few years ago too.

There was a time when I was pretty vocal in public and the media about the state of the NFB. I remember feeling that they were producing safe and p.c. films and that they had full time salaried animators who had clearly become too cozy. I felt that the NFB would be better served by bringing in emerging artists with fresh ideas.

In 2004 – I believe – the NFB announced that they were letting go of their five or so remaining salaried animation directors. It made sense in some ways. It was costly to keep directors on full time and those resources and money could go towards bringing in emerging animators – who’d previously been overlooked by the NFB or who were simply intimidated by the process of submitting their work.

Looking back, it was the right decision. The NFB has been putting out some incredible work in the last ten years. New artists have emerged like Theodore Ushev, Elise Simard, Nicholas Brault, etc…

But, come on, do you really think I have such power and influence? I can’t even get my dogs to stop crapping on the floor. These are the bitter ramblings of delusional animators. It’s much easier to find someone to blame rather than look yourself in the mirror and maybe admit that your work was about as edgy and relevant as Jay Leno’s comedy.

Is it true that you don’t like certain schools?

Rod Kark, French Lick, Indiana, USA

You’re giving me too much credit. Do you think I’ve got a notebook, a black list of schools and animators in it? That’s paranoid thinking. Again, it comes back to what I said earlier… has your school had success at the other major animation festivals? If not, why are you unloading on us? Yes, I know that I’m more visible and accessible than most Artistic Directors, but still, why are you blaming me when no other festival recognized your film either?

Also, despite a constant reminder that the OIAF is among the most difficult festivals to get accepted into (this year we’re almost at 2400 submissions. Maybe 130-150 will be selected for competition and showcase screenings. That means only 6% of the submissions will be accepted.) Good films are rejected all the time. It’s an unfair process and frankly, I loath the idea of films – or any art – having to compete against each other.

So, no I do not like or dislike certain schools. Yes, some schools (RISD, Cal Arts, RCA) might appear in competition more than others, but, hey, that’s cause they’re making solid films.

And again, remember, I’m not making these calls alone. There are 2-3 other voices that have input over what gets selected.

I love all of humanity.

And animals.

Except snakes.

Slimy little bastards.

Is it true that you run the OIAF?

Neil Kelly, Why, Arizona, USA

Dear Ms. Kelly

What a strange name you have? It’s very close to that of someone I work with. Interesting.

Nope. Little known fact. We farm out all the administration, budgeting, hiring, sponsorship and programming work to Malaysian transvestite baseball players and their he/she spouses. When they finish the work, we slip a fin into their undies and set them up with Icelandic businessmen.

Why do you do these bizarre opening speeches? I remember one year you went on stage with a neckbrace and read some poems that a cop wrote. Another year you read a speech that was about a banana festival I was confused. Most people are confused and don’t understand. Other hates it and you.

Sol Bernsome, Taumatawhakatangihangakoauauotamateapokaiwhenuakitanatahu, New Zealand

Dear Sol,

I took over the OIAF in 1996. I gave the standard, generic speech, as did various officials and politicians. I repeated this again – to a lesser degree – in 1998. By 2000, I just felt that we had to change things. Every festival has the same tedious opening. Usually a steady stream of politicians and animation folks go up and give these long-winded cliché speeches. NO ONE likes to sit and listen to them (suspect that very few officials like to write and read them!).  NO ONE believes a single word that is read. They’re little more than hollow, raw-raw ‘win one for the gipper’ pep talks.

I thought it would be fun to play around with it. I’ve brought in a bit of Andy Kaufman influence and over the years really just made fun of traditional opening nights. Often these ‘performances’ are absurd, confusing and meaningless… and I guess that’s kind of the point. The standard openings are, at their core, meaningless as well, so I am essentially mocking them. I also want to give the OIAF a lighter tone. We’re always considered a fun, informal event. I like to keep things light and absurd and fun because, well, life is rather silly.  We don’t need to get all fancy and formal while speaking nothings to the audience.

Sure, some people don’t like what I do occasionally, but that’s okay. I can live with that and so can you. Why people get bent out of shape about my stage presence is beyond me. I figure these are people who walk through the doors fully armed a hate-on for me, so it doesn’t really matter what I do. They’ll still be pissed off.

Why didn’t my film get in?

Randy Hatchett-Gash, Poopoo, Hawaii, USA

Dear Mr. Hatchett-Gash,

Just ‘cause.

There were rumours in Annecy this year that: you were dead; you left the OIAF; that you were in jail; turned to a life of bestiality; taken up with some needy nuns; became a meth drug lord. Are any of these true? 

Phyllis Piehole,St. Marys Church in the Hollow of the White Hazel Near to the Rapid Whirlpool of Llantysilio of the Red Cave, Wales.

Dear Widow Piehole,

Yes, all of them.

 What’s with the “that’s what she said” stuff? It’s easy and lame. Why don’t you try something harder? 

Gerty Mustaine, Fucking, Austria

That’s what she said.

(Merci à Dan Sarto from Whiskey Dick Mountain, Washington State, USA.)

Chris Robinson's picture

A well-known figure in the world of independent animation, writer, author & curator Chris Robinson is the Artistic Director of the Ottawa International Animation Festival.