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The Animation Pimp Goes to the 2023 Oscars

AWN’s long-time resident provocateur, Ottawa Animation Festival artistic director Chris Robinson, gets the directors behind this year’s Best Animated Short nominees - ‘The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse,’ ‘The Flying Sailor,’ ‘Ice Merchants,’ ‘My Year of Dicks,’ and ‘An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It’ - to share their insightful answers to his anything but standard - and a bit inane - questions.

It’s Oscars time of the year again when we cut and paste a gaggle of questions and present them to this year’s line-up of Best Animated Short Nominees. Seriously though, we figured that every possible angle has already been gurgitated and re-gurged so often that we might as well take a different route, one infinitely more provocative, borderline brilliant, and irrefutably silly.

Already forgot who’s nominated? Never fear: here’s the list of bridesmaids for this year’s Oscars:

  • Ice Merchants, João Gonzalez, Bruno Caetano
  • The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, Charlie Mackesy, Matthew Freud
  • The Flying Sailor, Amanda Forbis & Wendy Tilby
  • My Year of Dicks, Sara Gunnarsdóttir, Pamela Ribon
  • An Ostrich Told Me the World is Fake and I Think I Believe It, Lachlan Pendragon

So, let's get down to business...

Why is it so special to be nominated for an Oscar versus winning at a Festival where the competition is much fiercer?

João Gonzalez: I believe that the Oscars have that “mediatic” effect that reaches out to broader audiences, mostly because everyone, even outside our industry, has heard about the Oscars. For us (independent authors) I think we see it as an exciting opportunity to share our work and make it be seen by the general public that, sadly, would never hear about these great authorial films otherwise. 

Pamela Ribon: I don’t know, Chris, this felt pretty fierce. There were eighty short films that qualified for consideration! In all honesty, we’ve had so much support from film festivals and wouldn’t want to compare the two. Film festivals create community and are the first to support new works, inviting filmmakers to travel the world to meet and share with each other our experiences and art. It’s because of this support that we were able to be eligible for Academy consideration (Thank you, Raindance!), which opens up different opportunities with its global spotlight. We haven’t taken a single festival or consideration for granted.

Charlie Mackesy: To be honest it’s extraordinary to be nominated for anything at all. I’ll always be surprised and extremely grateful.

Lachlan Pendragon: I think the Oscar nomination is recognizable to people, especially outside the industry, whereas winning at a festival, I find myself having to explain the significance more to friends and family.

Amanda Forbis & Wendy Tilby: We’ve often wondered the same thing! We suspect it’s because animation festivals are not on TV.

There’s often been hearsay that Academy voters outside of the animation community don't even watch the animation shorts and often just check off any film made by a name they recognize. If that’s true, does it spoil the experience, or do you just take what you can get?

JG: I believe and hope that all the members who vote in this category have seen all the short films! Either way, for us, this is already quite a surreal and privileged honor since it brought a lot of awareness in Portugal Media about what has been done in this country at such a high level, for such a long time, in the field of animation. We were honored to share the shortlist with another Portuguese film (brilliant film), The Garbage Man by Laura Gonçalves. It was the first time in Portuguese animation history that we had two films shortlisted in the same year! 

CM: I’m sure all the nominated films are wonderful, it’s a pity they don’t watch them, but I’m sure enough people do.

Sara Gunnarsdóttir: Up to now, most people outside of animation have had this old-fashioned idea of animation as kid's cartoons, which is what it has been in the mainstream for so long. But this is changing, and I want to believe that Academy members are becoming more respectful of the medium. I feel like that is happening in general, that animation is inching more towards the respect it deserves as an art form. 

PR: Chris, why are you trying to bring us down? Who hurt you, buddy?

AF and WT: In the immortal words of Trooper, also known as “Canada’s Party Band,” (active 1975–present): We're here for a good time, not a long time, so have a good time, the sun can’t shine every day.” Or, in their equally immortal words: Raise a little Hell, raise a little Hell. Raise a little Hell!”

LP: Well, my film wasn't made by a recognizable name or studio. So, it doesn't spoil the experience for me. And I think with the Academy Screening Room; it's easier than ever to watch them.

Aside from feelings of pride from assorted family members you haven’t heard from in years, what do you think the Oscar nomination will bring you in the future.

JG: If I can keep supporting myself by doing films, I’ll be happy! The Oscars may help me continue doing what I love to do! I hope my life doesn’t change too much in other ways. I like my quiet life right now.

CM: I don’t know what it might bring me, but I love the idea that more people might see the film, and perhaps feel encouraged by it.

SG: It’s already opened up so many doors, and I know it will continue to do so. 


AF and WT: We hope to come away with some dazzling anecdotes and maybe a selfie with Bill Nighy. We may even benefit from that mysterious, possibly unwarranted credibility a nomination brings.

LP: In the short-term future, it's like a license to chat with people you wouldn't normally get to talk to. But in the longer term, it's something that I hope will support my efforts toward future projects.

Who was the first person you called (or responded to) when you got the news, and why that person?

JG: I was fortunate to share this moment with the whole film’s team (through a Zoom video call) and my family. As soon as the name came out in the livestream, my phone got flooded with calls from national media, and I spent 4 hours right away just answering questions. But as soon as that was done, I messaged all my friends so we could celebrate at our local bar.

CM: I was with the people who I would have called, who’ve been part of the journey, but then afterwards I went to see my mother who’s 90, and I told her because she can’t use the phone. Because she’s been part of the journey for the longest.

SG: I was sitting with my husband, Ethan Clarke, then immediately called my mom. After that, Jeanette, our producer. 

PR: I was sitting with my mom, kid, husband, my cousins (on Zoom), my sister (waiting by her phone), and my dog. I can’t remember a time I had that much family around me for an announcement, and I will never forget that. I felt very loved.

AF and WT: At 6:30 a.m. MST, we weren’t sure calls to loved ones would be appreciated. Besides, before we even had a chance to let it sink in, a reporter called, and we launched into five hours of interviews.

LP: The people I told were asleep when the nominees were announced. So, they got back to me in the morning. I let my Mum know first, though, because I'm a good son.

Finally, a very difficult and controversial question: who will you wear to the ceremony?

LP: Yes, I will definitely know the answer to this at some point soon. I guess it's a surprise for now.

JG: Still too soon, too difficult, and controversial for me to respond!

AF and WT:  How do you even DO that??

SG: An Icelandic designer, who is also a friend, is gonna make me a dress. Her name is Ýr Þrastardóttir, and her label is called ANOTHER CREATION. 

PR: I will ask Sara to ask Björk to loan me something.

CM: I don’t usually wear people, I wear clothes.

Thanks to all the nominees for being good sports. The Academy Award winners will be announced on Sunday, March 12th, during a 16-hour screening filled with heartfelt references to world events. Oh, and goodness gracious, the animation winners will be televised live!

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.