NCanada’s capital comes alive with cutting-edge artistry at the Ottawa International Animation Festival,
orth America’s largest dedicated animation festival will once again prove one of the fall season’s crowning jewels this year. The 2015 edition of this Oscar-qualifying event will present 79 films representing 23 countries, painstakingly curated from over 2,000 worthy submissions to the competition categories. In addition, the Showcase programs will offer up an additional 69 multifaceted animated gems. “This was without doubt one of the strongest years I can recall”, said Artistic Director Chris Robinson upon the big programming reveal. “The quality of almost every category was high. We could have easily added another one or two competition screenings. Animators continue to prove that animation is the summit of all arts. I’m really excited to see how audiences – and juries – react to this year’s diverse group of works.”
Some of the can’t-miss highlights Robinson tags for visitors are recent masterpieces from established filmmakers like Theodore Ushev ( Sonambulo), Adam Elliot ( Ernie Biscuits), Don Hertzfeldt ( World of Tomorrow), Ely Dagher ( Waves ‘ 98, winner of the Cannes Palme d’Or), Sylvain Chomet ( Simpsons Couch Gag and Stromae: Carmen) and Dutch creative team Job, Joris & Marieke ( 2014 Oscar nominee A Single Life).
Poster-Perfect This year’s colorful, collage-inspire poster design for OAIF comes from the inventive minds at animation collective HUT. The geographically dispersed talents of Caleb Wood, Derick Wycherly, Ted Wiggin, Africanus Okokon and Dylan Hayes came together at the festival last year for live, on-site animation production -- the fruits of which can be seen in the Flukes and Tatters film installation making its premiere at this year’s event.
Please, Judge Me Ottawa once again attracts an interesting mix of industry pros to the illustrious judges’ panel this year, plus a few eclectic surprises. NFB animation producer Maral Mohammadian ( The Weatherman and the Shadowboxer), Pixar veteran Saschka Unseld ( director, The Blue Umbrella; creative director, Passion Pictures) and festival curator Yiorgos Tsangaris ( founder/artistic director, Countryside Animafest Cyprus) are joined by director, musician and writer Kaspar Jancis ( Weitzenberg Street, Marathon, Crocodile) and local animator, director and ice sculptor Chris Dainty ( co-founder, Dainty Productions).
The World Featured In addition to five short film competitions, plus the Canadian Student, Short Film for Kids and Series for Kids contests, attendees can take in a quartet of unique features. Anca Damian’s The Magic Mountain ( Wed. and Sat., 7 p.m.) is a mixed-media docudrama that tells the true story of Adam Jacek Winkler, a Polish refugee who flees to Paris in the ‘60s and later finds himself heading to war in Afghanistan ( Romania/ France/ Poland). Sam Orti’s clay-animated Possessed is a darkly hilarious horror-comedy about a widowed flamenco dancer and her demonically-inclined son ( Spain). Simon Rouby’s first feature Adama uses dreamlike CG to weave the story of its 12-year-old hero who sets out from his West African village to find his older brother, traveling through war-torn Europe to the hell of the frontlines to free him ( France). And from Cartoon Network U.S., the illustrative beauty of Patrick McHale’s fantasy adventure Over the Garden Wall is presented to full effect on the big screen -- be sure to take it in before catching the behind-the-scenes talk at Professional Development Day.
by Karel Zeman
Surfing, sharks and samurai are more than three random words from the same section of the dictionary to Tero Hollo, they are the keys to creating Samurai Sharks, the animated action-adventure show he’s always wanted to see.
“I think I’ve actually been developing this property since I was a kid, and waiting for the right time to bring it to life,” says Hollo, founder and director of original IP for the Ottawa-based animation company Victory Arts. “With our Air Crafters development at TVO Kids coming to an end, it was a blast to age up a bit and do the action show I’ve always been dreaming of.”
Samurai Sharks is set on a distant water planet full of bio-illuminated ocean creatures and aquatic life. To this world is transported a pair of surfing-loving boys from Earth, Kai and Fin, who instantly fall in love with a planet that has nothing but waves. They connect with energy eels on the new planet, and they — along with their surfboards — transform into heroes with suits of samurai-influenced shark armor.
The series has a comedic undertone, with Fin and Kai’s relationship more aptly described as “frenemies,” Hollo says. Having been tied in a surfing contest when they were swept away from Earth, the pair are extremely competitive and constantly trying to outperform and outdo each other — even when performing a rescue. Rival surfers Kai and Fin must learn to work together when they are zapped into a lush oceanic world and become its heroes.
Into all of this comes an epic villain, who wants to control the planet and its huge water giants and is trying to figure out which planet his young surfer opponents came from.
Before writing the pilot script or even designing the characters, Hollo designed the entire water world complete with underwater continental zones, civilizations and a working ecosystem. He also created a fully co-habitable collective of creatures and broke out how each species works with or against the others.
Hollo says he’s definitely proud of the dialogue for the show. “It is fresh, unique and different,” he says.
Inspired by watching his daughter and nephew smash together Transformers and Barbie dolls in the back-yard pool, Hollo says he clearly envisions a strong toy element to the Samurai Sharks. “This is the creative play figure I never had and always wanted as a kid,” he says.
Victory Arts is serving as the executive producer on the show, planned as 26 halfhour episodes. There is early interest from a French-language broadcaster and high-profile production companies. Hollo also is meeting with broadcasters, distributors, investors, production studios and toy and licensing agencies in search of the right partners.
“Finding the right toy company is going to be very important as we want to ensure there is a strong connection with the toy and the series together,” he says. [