In thirty seconds and re-enacted by bunnies

Saturday, 23 October 2004 — 2:14pm | Animation, Film

It has been a sparse week for updates to this website, and not for lack of material. Perhaps it is time to catch up, as leaving a blog for dead or comatose is unhealthy in its own way.

Just the other day, my English professor spoke about the writing process in the context of a paper that was due in his class. His prescription for serious writers, and a sound one that is too often ignored for practical reasons, is to take the same approach to the craft as would a concert musician; you can’t expect to practice it less than two or three hours a day, every day, and expect to score well on your ARCT Performer’s – not that I’m speaking from experience or anything.

And it is on that note that I want to introduce one of the selections I watched in the Ottawa International Animation Festival presentation Monday night, Sonya Kravtsova’s “A Musical Shop.” This 12-minute short, done in cut-outs, took the prize in the Films Made for Children category. In it are two grasshoppers who run a music shop. The story concerns a mother fly and her twin boys who come into the shop one day looking for just the right instrument. One of the grasshoppers plays a joyful spring melody on a violin and all around him, flowers bloom and all the world comes to life. But the mother fly buys the violin with the expectation that her children can play it just as well; when they wreak havoc on their surroundings at a concert the next day (flowers wilt and so on and so forth), she blames the instrument and demands another.

Internet animation was very well represented this year, and the fact that they now have several prizes dedicated to it speaks to an acceptance of that mode of delivery. Seeing some of these Flash animations projected – from a DVD source, of course, not 35mm prints or anything fancy like that – provides them with a towering scale that absorbs you. Everybody on the continent has seen “This Land,” of course, but how about a political satire of an entirely more subversive nature, Sergey Aniskov’s “Candy Venery”? And then there’s “The Shining in 30 Seconds, Re-enacted by Bunnies” – an entry representing an entire series of similar Flash toons by Jennifer Shiman.

It was a pleasure to watch one of the best opening credit sequences in recent years on the big screen again, which won in the Station Identification / Title Sequence category – I speak of none other than the chase in a shadowy labyrinth of names at the beginning of Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. The recipient of the Cartoon Public Prize, “The Crab’s Revolution” (“La revolution des crabes”) a 2D monochrome computer animation about a certain species of crabs that can only walk in one direction, was a delightful absurdity. The Music Video winner was for Prudence’s “À tort ou à raison,” sung by faces that appear in tic-tac-toe circles on a table stained with spilt red wine. It’s a good song to begin with, but you know how difficult Francophone albums are to come by.

My favourite piece in the mix, though, is without a doubt “Saddam and Osama,” a television special by David Wachtenheim and Robert Marianetti that everybody should seek out in hopes of experiencing. It is a Saturday morning cartoon spoof made for the “Abu Dhabi Network for Kids” whose titular characters evade the evil oncoming American forces with their super transformative powers. At one point it is interrupted by a commercial for the perennial children’s toy of the region, rocks. (Collect them all.) As one of the characters says – in Arabic, subtitled – it’s infidel-icious.

No mention of this year’s festival winners would be complete without some discussion of Canadian Maya expert Chris Landreth’s Grand Prix-winning short film “Ryan.” A 14-minute, 3D-rendered documentary about Landreth’s own encounter with animation legend Ryan Larkin, who has since become a panhandler on the streets of Montreal, “Ryan” is something really special. Far from merely resorting to a photorealistic emulation of the characters’ real selves, the film develops an entirely new style of expression that Landreth calls psychorealism – where a persona’s emotional state of mind is physically manifested on his exterior. So Ryan, a fragile artist who has descended from Oscar nominee to gentleman beggar, appears as a precarious frame of a man that reflects that fragility.

You really have to see it to know what in the hey I’m talking about.

In the meantime, as far as animated shorts go, I’m really looking forward to seeing “Boundin’.” Nominated for an Animated Short Oscar last year, this will be the opener that will precede The Incredibles when it opens in two weeks (alongside, I might add, the teaser trailer to Revenge of the Sith). As a fan of everything Aardman I should also get a hold of some Creature Comforts DVDs, should they be available in Region 1 (which I doubt). The episode “Cats or Dogs?” was another prize-winner in Ottawa, and I miss seeing it already.

Speaking of Aardman, does anyone know what happened to The Curse of the Wererabbit?

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