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The Animation Pimp - Hot Freaks: The New Generation of Canadian Animation

It wouldn’t be a stretch to compare the current Canadian indie animation scene to that of Canadian men’s hockey.

It wouldn’t be a stretch to compare the current Canadian indie animation scene to that of Canadian men’s hockey. It’s frequently said that Canada is so rich with hockey players they could ice two highly competitive Olympic teams. The Canadian animation scene carries similar depth. While the first team is being occupied by Chris Landreth, Theodore Ushev, Wendy Tilby, Amanda Forbis, along with Bruce Alcock, Anne-Marie Fleming, Stephen Woloshen, Pierre Hebert and many others in their prime, there are already a number of emerging stars challenging the veterans. From the rich, diverse, mind pushing work of Malcolm Sutherland through the personal poetry of Elise Simard alongside Oscar-nominated Patrick Doyon and Oscar short lister Jonathan Ng, the present and future of Canadian animation is well on its way to achieving the heights of its extraordinary past.

Gum, Noam Sussman. 2012. 1:00.

I made Gum (the film, not the chewable stuff) in my 4th year at Sheridan College. I am decently happy with it, but looking at it now, it feels old and it’s time for some new material (coming soon, I promise)! I became an animator so I could tell weird quirky stories and it makes me happy to see people react to my work in different ways. It’s great when they laugh, it’s funny when they don’t get it, and it’s interesting when they just hate it.

Le Tiroir et le Corbeau, Frederick Tremblay. 2009. 14:00.

"Le tiroir et le corbeau" is a 2009 coproduction with La Bande Vidéo, financed by the Art Council of Canada. Budget was $9000 and it was shot in 12 days! Few weeks ahead of the shooting, I had abandoned my initial project and decided to try to make a narrative improvised puppet film. It turned out to be quite interesting to tell myself a story day by day, image by image. "Le tiroir et le corbeau" is a starting point to me and somehow, I wish I could go back to that simpleness and softness someday. Too bad I can't work that fast anymore too…

Flocons, Marie-Josee Saint-Pierre. 2014. 2:30.

Created using outtakes—tests—that were done to make the film A Chairy Tale (1957) by master of animation Norman McLaren, Flocons is a black-and-white short set to the music of Tchaikovsky and featuring none other than Canadian filmmaker Claude Jutra, who plays a character imprisoned in the celluloid on which McLaren paints directly. Flocons aims to celebrate the 100th anniversary, in 2014, of Norman McLaren’s birth.  I found this incredible footage while I was working on the research for the film JUTRA.   I made Flocons on a shoestring budget in a couple of weeks.

Seasick, Eva Cvijanovic. 2013. 3:28.

Seasick was born from a series of drawings made on a train ride between Montreal and Toronto, on a cold November day. Making this film was my way of fighting Canadian winter by immersing myself in memories of swimming in the Adriatic sea by the Croatian coast. After premiering in 2013 at TIFF, Seasick has screened at over 20 international and Canadian festivals, including Croatia's own Animafest. It is definitely my most successful film to date and it is a huge pleasure for me to share it with sea lovers everywhere.

Dimanche, Patrick Doyon. 2011. 10:00.

Enfant, j’ai rapidement entretenu une relation acrimonieuse envers le dimanche,  journée gâchée dès la matinée par de mauvaises émissions télé et complètement bousillée par la messe et les visites chez les grands-parents. Heureusement, mon ressentiment envers les dimanches s’est estompé à l’adolescence quand j’ai découvert le football américain. C’était la belle époque des Bills de Buffalo. Je soupçonne même d'avoir pris goût au cinéma en regardant les reportages dramatiques de NFL Films, symphoniquement accompagnés par la musique de Sam Spence. Repose en paix, M. Steve Sabol.

Ballpit, Kyle Mowat. 2012. 1:45.

In my 3rd year of school I found myself constantly drawing and doodling these little worlds of interconnected shapes.

It became really exciting imagining how these little shapes would move and interact and sort of lead you through a world of their own making. The feeling I got when building some really vibrant juicy movement was pretty fulfilling and it seems like that translated pretty well to audiences for the most part.

Nowadays I’m trying to apply some of that same feeling of excitement and semi-spontaneity to more character driven/narrative stuff.

Though, it’s still mostly just about what I think would be fun to make and see.

BALLPIT from kvmowat on Vimeo.

Requiem for Romance, Jonathan Ng. 2012. 7:29.

The film comes from particular emotions, inspired by real-life conversations and jumping rooftop battles that I have personally experienced. Visually, I took from Shanghai water ink animations, martial arts, and melancholic love genres, mixed in with my own approach of even, floaty movement. My film has screened in 55 festivals to date and won awards in Anima Mundi, Whistler, and Animayo. Last year, it advanced to the short list stage of the Oscar race of the animated shorts category, a truly amazing experience. Although, I am satisfied with the film and its reception by audiences, I also see its flaws. I’ve improved since its release, and have moved forward onto new and exciting projects.

I got into animation because it was fun and seemed like a smart decision at the time. Just as quickly as I learned how hard it would be to survive as an animator, I also learned how meaningful and powerful an art form it is. Hand-drawn animation has simultaneously become my passion, obsession, pass-time, career plan, and coping mechanism for all of my many ailments.

Syncing Feeling, Brandon Blommaert. 2012. 2:31.

I was approached by Jim Guthrie to make a video for one of his songs. He basically asked a bunch of people to make videos for a bunch of songs on his new album. I picked a song and made a movie, but a mishap happened along the way, it turned out that due to some miscommunication, another animator already made a video for the song I picked. So I went into panic mode (which is my main mode) and I came up with the idea to get another musician to do a remix of the song. Turns out that while animators seem to enjoy donating there time to projects, musicians often have a hard time doing the same (sorry musicians, I’ve got you in my sights) so I ended up doing the remix myself. I got Jim to give me the original isolated tracks, then I dusted of my DAW and midi synth and I set to slamming out my own remix. Because I had full control over the audio this actually inspired some new ways to augment the animation process that I had already been using.

Success is a hard thing to gauge in this workaday digital world of 'virality' and 'metrics.' Over the past couple of years I have made a bunch of short films with 0 budget and haven't really submitted most of them to festivals due to lack of funds and time, and am a horrible self promoter, (actually, OIAF is the only festival I have time to submit to). Most of my latest films are 'straight to Vimeo'. On Vimeo I guess you can gauge success by counting Views and Likes, so at 2691 views & 164 likes, which is a 5.53% like rate, I can say that this film is not successful. And this isn't even taking into account how many started watching the movie and didn't even make it through the incredibly daunting 2 minutes and 30 seconds. (29,259 loads at 2691 full views = 9.19% full view rate). So it's online and real-world viewership is pretty low.

I guess this is a bleak way to think about success though. Numbers can't really tell us much about something as subjective as a movie about a bunch of wiggling squares. And in all honesty stats are probably ruining culture bit by bit everyday. Something like this is obviously not made for popularity, and actually showing it to people gives me a lot of anxiety because I don't imagine it's what people want.

This style of animation is part of a long running series of tiny animation loops that I have been making for many years and posting online as .gif files. I have made literally hundreds of them in a sort of iterative way. This is the first time I tried to incorporate sound, so I think it is a nice step in a nice direction.

In the end it is kind of just an experiment. My feelings toward experimentation is pretty ambivalent, I don't really think about whether something is going to be good or not, I just want to see what happens when I try different things. Sometimes it might work out, sometimes it might not. Some day I will try to make something perfect, but for now I am just trying things and figuring out what I want, what my perspective is, how I can work animation into my life without becoming a hermit etc...

Paula, Dominic-Etienne Simard. 2012. 10:12.

In the beginning, I had the ambition to make feature films in live action. But since we shall start somewhere else, I shifted to short experimental, with ambitious editing. For me, it was the entryway to animation. The truth is that I never intended to be an animator. Looking back, that surprises me. Directing Paula brought me closer to my early ambitions as a filmmaker, giving me the opportunity to shoot in live action, while still animating.

Cattle Call, Mike Maryniuk & Matt Rankin. 2008.  3:11.

The film was born on a road trip from Winnipeg to Saskatoon. When the filmmakers mistakenly tried to stop for lunch at a cattle stockyard for a burger, they were immediately mesmerized by the light speed linguistics of the auctioneer. They left still hungry, but inspired to make a film that would celebrate cattle auctioneering as Manitoba's official art form. They then pulled into the closest Tim Horton's and ordered two octuple/ octuples (eight sugars/eight creams....4 in the coffee/ 4 on the side). The syrupy caffeine allowed them to enter the headspace of the fast talking auctioneer. They screamed ideas at each other for 10 minutes, just before the inevitable sugar crash they downed the 4oz of cream and entered the mind of the cow, the film was now fully realized.

The End of Pinky, Claire Blanchet. 2013. 8:14.

I first read Heather O’Neill’s short story The End of Pinky in 2008, and dreamed right away of creating an animated adaptation.  I love our movie. I see my mistakes each time but it’s a film universe I love visiting.  One of the things that first drew me to animation was the idea that I could make a movie pretty much on my own.  I’ll always seek out and enjoy that solitary creative time, but my favorite part of filmmaking is invariably the team.  We had a true dream team for Pinky.

La Traversee, Elise Simard. 2010. 4:30.

La Traversée was intended for children. When I was little, I had a book about the hidden worlds you find when you take the long way home. The illustrations were dark, peculiar. I spent a lot of time trying to decipher the feelings they evoked. It was like nothing else we owned at home - it was as though the images existed for me, because of me. I believe this early experience echoes in my work, for communicating through hidden worlds has become a fundamental part of my practice as I seek to create for strangers I will never meet.

Bout, Malcolm Sutherland. 2011. 4:55.

In 2010 I ended up going to professional wrestling events in Tokyo, Mexico City, and Montreal - and prior to that year I'd never been before. It blew my mind to witness this large-scale, theatrical, costumed, heavily ritualized combat - right here in the modern world. I walked away in a trance, it was so hard not to be swept up in it all... it was a beautiful thing. So afterwards I made this film as a kind of homage to that experience. When I watch it now the technician inside of me still finds a lot of faults in the animation, sound, and editing - every film I make I wish I could have had more time and resources, but in the end it is what it is. There are parts I still enjoy, and as some kind of symbol for the primal subconscious roots of animal worship and ritualized combat I think it is interesting… but I think the film pales in comparison to the overwhelming reality of an entire stadium full of frenzied fans and bejeweled wrestlers going through their rehearsed motions.

Git Gob, Philip Eddolls. 2008. 1:00.

Being an animator is hard boo hoo hoo. Git Gob was an idea I had in a sketch book for years. Then I heard about the Hothouse theme that year and I thought it would be a fit. It played a lot of festivals including at OIAF I had a blast. Somebody even made a pumpkin of it at the picnic that year. I'm glad I made it at the NFB. The producers and editor got the idea straight away. In retrospect it was one of the funniest films I have made. Everything just clicked and fell into place.

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.