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Ottawa International Animation Festival 2009: Day 1: Brisk Start

OIAF 2009 got off to a brisk start in equally brisk Ottawa weather of just 5°C or 41°F.

Provocative Ottawa 09 poster.

OIAF 2009 got off to a brisk start in equally brisk Ottawa weather of just 5°C or 41°F.

Still, it was toasty inside the Chateau Laurier hotel, where the 6th annual Television Animation Conference (TAC) got underway. Ottawa mayor Larry O’Brien made opening remarks at the TAC breakfast, welcoming delegates to the sold-out conference and remarking on the growth of the animation industry and inviting more animation companies to set up shop here.

TAC’s Day 1 keynote speaker, Josh Selig, founder and president of NYC-based Little Airplane Productions, spoke to the capacity crowd about creating personal projects that animators “want to do and are born to do” rather than those “that networks want to buy.”

This philosophy has proved a winning one for Selig, who has created such series as The Wonder Pets! (Nick Jr.) and 3rd & Bird (BBC and Treehouse, Canada).

During his TAC keynote, Selig screened a new Little Airplane project, Small Potatoes, which featured some very cute potatoes singing about the power of imagination. The concept was recently shopped at MIP, and Selig tells AWN, “I have a buyer for that show.”

Selig described a little of Small Potatoes animation style. “We used photo puppetry for The Wonder Pets! but we sculpted the potatoes and animated them in after effects,” he says. When creating Small Potatoes, Selig fused writing the script and writing the music, which is all recorded in-house at Little Airplane.

Selig also noted that he started pitching another preschool series, at Cannes: “It’s called Jo B. G. Raffe!” Selig says. “It’s about two best friends who are the co-hosts of their own kids’ show, and their adventures take them to exotic locales.” That series features an in-house style dubbed “stuffed toy animation.”

Little Airplane Prods. founder Josh Selig.

And while Little Airplane has focused on preschool television series, the company ahs not ruled out features – family features, of course. The company is also looking into publishing its own books for children.

This was Selig’s first visit to TAC, but he noted that he plans to “spend more time in Canada” to develop a Toronto-based project.

International Attendance Again this year, OIAF and TAC have attracted international delegates, such as Eliana Russi, executive manager of Brazilian TV Producers (“She’s the Queen of cultivating Brazilian animation,” Selig says) and Zahin Hasan, managing director of Toon Bangla Limited.

Hasan is attending TAC to promote his Bangladesh-based studio’s 2D animation work as well as a 12-minute hand-drawn short-in-progress called Attack of the Man-Eating Chickens. “This will be in Bengali with English subtitles,” Hasan says. When prodded why chickens were chosen for the theme, Hasan replied, “Our family owns a chicken farm and an animation studio. We were looking for a good story and it seemed to work.”

It’s always wise to write what you know. Toon Bangla’s short is scheduled to be out in December.

Museum Musings

While TAC is firmly situated at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa, many of OIAF’s events are taking place at other venues, including the Arts Court, ByTowne Cinema, Club SAW, Empire Theatres, Metropolitain Brasserie, Parliament Ultra Club, Strathcona Park, Galerie La Petit Mort Gallery, the National Gallery of Canada -- and across the river at the Museum of Civilization.

Public Service Alliance of Canada union members picket the museum’s entrances.

Kelly Neal, Managing Director, OIAF, comments: “The Festival has a great relationship with the staff at the Museum of Civilization. They have a fantastic team there and we hope that this dispute is resolved quickly. We have been in touch with the union that represents the workers and we are doing everything we can to support them. Festival goers can pick up a sticker showing their support and can choose not to visit the Museum itself before and after screenings.”

“Because the Museum is sponsoring our event, financial support to the corporation is limited. Festival goers will be able to cross the picket line,” Neal says.

Janet Hetherington is a writer and cartoonist who shares a studio on Ottawa with artist Ronn Sutton and a ginger cat, Heidi.