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‘Small People with Hats,’ ‘Over the Garden Wall’ Top Ottawa Fest

Student thesis film ‘Small People with Hats’ by Sarina Nihei wins the grand prize for short animation at the 2015 edition of the Ottawa International Animation Festival; Cartoon Network’s Emmy-winning miniseries ‘Over the Garden Wall’ is awarded the grand prize for best animated feature.

‘Small People with Hats’ by 2014 thesis film from Royal College of Art graduate Sarina Nihei.

OTTAWA -- The Ottawa International Animation Festival (OIAF), North America’s leading animation film festival, running September 16-20, has wrapped its 2015 edition. For the first time in the illustrious festival’s 39-year history a student film has been awarded top honors as Small People with Hats, the 2014 thesis film from Royal College of Art graduate Sarina Nihei, wins the Grand Prize for Independent Short Animation.

A freelance animator and illustrator from Japan, Nihei studied animation at Tama Art University in Tokyo where she finished a BA in graphic design in 2012. She graduated from the Royal College of Art in London with an MA in animation in 2014. Nearly seven minutes long, Small People with Hats is a hand-drawn animation with acrylic paints and black pens on paper. The story, which offers a surreal and ironic perspective on the absurdity of society, is about the small people wearing hats who cannot avoid ridiculous situations.

“[Small People with Hats] is a brilliantly written absurd script with a compelling visual picture and sound that successfully interprets a political reality of our time,” commented the short film competition jury.

‘Over the Garden Wall’

Cartoon Network’s critically-acclaimed miniseries Over the Garden Wall was awarded the Grand Prize for Best Animated Feature. The U.S. and South Korean co-production, whose star-studded cast includes Elijah Wood, Christopher Lloyd, Shirley Jones, John Cleese, and Tim Curry, is directed by Adventure Time’s Patrick McHale.

Over The Garden Wall is a classic adventure tale about two young brothers, Wirt and Greg, who find themselves lost in a strange forest. With the help of a bluebird named Beatrice and a nameless frog, Bret and Wirt travel through a magical land of clothed animals and dancing pumpkins on their way home before a mysterious beast catches up with them. Earlier this month, Over The Garden Wall received an Emmy for Outstanding Animated Program.

“The Grand Prize goes to the film that expressed the awe and wonder we felt as kids with a mix of amazement and magic, while realizing that scary things might not be as scary as they seem,” the Competition Feature Jury said in a statement. “For its unbridled romp through the joy and darkness of growing up, the award goes to Patrick McHale’s Over the Garden Wall.”

The complete list of winners is shown below:

Grand Prize for Best Independent Short Animation
Small People with Hats
Sarina Nihei (U.K.)

Grand Prize for Best Animated Feature
Over the Garden Wall
Patrick McHale (U.S., South Korea)

Honorable mention to La Montagne Magique (The Magic Mountain) by Anca Damian.


Cartoon Network Prize for Best Narrative Short Animation
Isand (The Master)
Riho Unt (Estonia)

Prize for Best Experimental/Abstract Animation
The Five Minute Museum
Paul Bush (Switzerland, U.K.)

Prize for Best Undergraduate Animation
Ryan Ines (U.S.)

Walt Disney Animation Prize for Best Graduation Animation
Loop Ring Chop Drink
Nicolas Ménard (U.K.)

Prize for Best Commissioned Animation
Jazz Orgie
Irina Rubina (Germany)

Prize for Best Short Film Made For Children
Compte les moutons (Counting Sheep)
Frits Standaert (France, Belgium)

Prize for Best Animated Series Made for Children
Bird and Bear
Dan and Jason (U.S.)


Award for Best Script
World of Tomorrow
Don Hertzfeldt (U.S.)

Award for Best Design
Loop Ring Chop Drink
Nicolas Ménard (U.K.)

Award for Best Animation Technique
Alateadvuse maja (House of Unconsciousness)
Priit Tender (Estonia)

Award for Best Sound
Small People with Hats
Sarina Nihei (U.K.)


DHX Public Prize
World of Tomorrow
Don Hertzfeldt (U.S.)

Canadian Film Institute Award for Best Canadian Animation
Mynarski chute mortelle (Mynarski Death Plummet)
Matthew Rankin (Canadca)

Honorable mention to Sonámbulo by Theodore Ushev and Focus by Alex Boya.

VIA Rail Prize for Best Canadian Student Animation
Nata MetlU.K.h (Vancouver Film School)

Honorable mention to Religatio by Jaime Giraldo, Vancouver Film School.

Source: Ottawa International Animation Festival

Jennifer Wolfe's picture

Formerly Editor-in-Chief of Animation World Network, Jennifer Wolfe has worked in the Media & Entertainment industry as a writer and PR professional since 2003.