Okay, so the title might be a mouthful, but what better way to recap the last of the festivals I went to last year, while also inviting future speculation on the 2017 Academy Awards coming up soon? Past meets future!
The festival I speak of is the World Animation Celebration. Taking place last October, it was the second festival in which my film 'When Comes the Rain' was screening, and was both a great hub of mainstream industry activity and a diverse showcase of indie animators. It was presented by Animation Libation Studios and Animation Magazine and held at Sony Pictures in Culver City, CA. Lots of events, a great location, and over 100 animated shorts from over 45 different countries! Plus an after party with free pizza and wine - what more could you ask for? My film screened as part of the digital 2D block, and it was a real pleasure meeting and talking with fellow animators and students.
One of the highlights was an illuminating panel on the book Ink & Paint: The Women of Walt Disney’s Animation, with its award-winning author Mindy Johnson. While there are many heroines of animation's history (Lotte Reiniger, Mary Blair, and Faith Hubley come to mind) I'll bet even fewer would know just how pivotal a role women artists played in the early days of Disney animation, and how much behind-the-scenes creative control they exerted. The panel (and book) shines a much needed light on this page in history, in an industry still dominated by men. Check it out, and get informed!
Another highlight was a screening of Disney legend Glen Keane's new short Dear Basketball, and a panel on the production of the film. Narrated and produced by Kobe Bryant, the short serves as Bryant's love letter to his sport, his lifelong passion, and his thoughts about retiring and stepping off the court. The short was met with a standing ovation, and while I personally couldn't care less about Kobe and professional basketball, it was quite inspiring hearing Keane speak about his creative journey, transitioning from Disney and into the independent world. Somewhat fitting that Kobe's retirement and Keane's Disney departure sort of mirrored one another in terms of passion and vocation. Needless to say it was no surprise that it won best 2D short at the festival, and would later go on to win best short at the Annie's, AND receive an Oscar nomination, given the widespread attention it has since garnered.
Since then, however, the short has also received its share of controversy amidst the #MeToo and #Time'sUp movements. These are indeed changing times throughout the industry, and while Dear Basketball may very well serve as one more example that must be answered for amidst the reckoning, it's no small comfort that Mindy Johnson and her Ink & Paint book stand in stark contrast to our male-dominated landscape, and could serve as a history-based rallying cry on behalf of women for visibility, representation, and equality.
But despite the Oscar buzz around Dear Basketball, there are certainly other nominees (more) worthy of praise in my opinion. Check back soon where I'll elaborate on the other Animation Oscar contenders, and provide my oh so meaningless predictions!