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Keep it in Motion - Classic Animation Revisited: 'Crossing the Stream'

Every Thursday, Chris Robinson takes a look at films from animation’s past. This week screens Skip Battaglia's serene Crossing the Stream.

From his name to life and films, everything about Rochester animator Skip Battaglia speaks movement. Battaglia, an avid hiker and runner, is the perennial traveller, always moving, searching, finding and feeling. His films reflect this hunger for movement and new perspectives. In Battaglia’s world, to stand still is to stagnate and to die. To move is to be eternally in motion, mentally, spiritually and physically. When we move, we learn to see differently and become more in sync with our environment.

The premise of Battaglia’s masterpiece, Crossing the Stream (2006) is as simple as they come. A man takes his horse across a stream. Yet, within that simple story is a magnificent, mind-blowing evocation of movement and spirituality. As the man and the horse hit the water, Battaglia takes us on a stoner/Zen trip. All consciousness is lost. Accompanied by the sounds of water and Tibetan singing bowls, water, animal, man, artist and viewer become one. It’s like those moments when you’re jogging (or driving for your slackers) and you’ve run about half a mile, when you suddenly seem to awaken and can’t really remember the last half mile because you’re at one with the movement and rhythm of your body. This is the experience of watching the scene in Crossing the Stream. As though hypnotized, you don’t even realize it’s happened until it’s over. In the end, the man and the horse walk on and you wonder what the fuck that was all about and can we do it again, please?

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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.