CalArts Character Animation Producers’ Show Highlights A New Crop of Talent

“It’s so weird seeing everyone cleaned up,” joked Dan Hansen, director of CalArts’ Character Animation Program, as he took the stage for remarks at the 2013 Producers’ Show held last Wednesday night  (May 8) at the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences in North Hollywood, Calif. While the students came dressed to impress, even more impressive was the slate of 23 films that highlighted the hard work, technical expertise and storytelling talents of the student filmmakers.

Brad Bird (Film/Video BFA 76), director of The Iron GiantThe Incredibles, Ratatouille and Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol was the evening’s guest of honor. He spoke about his own student Producers’ show and his start as a professional animator. “This was a clandestine, almost vanishing art form… It was kind of at death’s door, coughing up blood when we got around to doing it. But now animation’s hip and kind of in a golden time, so take advantage of it.”

Of his time at CalArts, Bird said, “It was really the first place where I actually got to talk to other people who had opinions about all this stuff that had been in my mind… It is a special time. You won’t know that now, but you will know it later. And a lot of the people that you’ll meet at this school will go on to do really cool things and you’ll have this in common. That’s rare and it’s special.”

Bird was presented with three CalArts baseball caps, a riff off a photograph of him wearing one while walking with Tom Cruise on the set of Mission: Impossible—Ghost Protocol. He proceeded to wear and switch one after the other, and had the evening’s award winners wear one as they accepted their awards.

The Peers’ Pick Award was given to John Kim’s The Sugar Bugs, a story about a tribe of bugs waging war against an evil dentist. Kim accepted his award and a CalArts cap from Bird (and asked if he could keep it. Bird replied, “Nooooo”). Kim expressed heartfelt thanks to his classmates. The Walter and Gracie Lantz Animation Prize, better known as the Woody Award, went to Jacob Streilein’s Punctuwool, a film about a cloud-sheep that rebels against its boss’s all-work-no-play management style.

Below is Jacob Streilein’s Punctuwool.

Punctuwool from Jacob Streilein on Vimeo.

While the showcased films varied in style, some common themes emerged. Romantic love, of course, was well-represented onscreen in Janine Chan’s SunBurn, Matthew Yang’s You Imagined, Hyojin Bae’s Puppy Love and Benjamin P. Carow’s Night of the Living Bad Brains. Other titles focused on family and aging, such as Sun Jae Lee’s Timber., Helene Leroux’ Floating in my mind, Seth Boyden’s Momma’s Boy and Madeline Sharafian’s Omelette. A handful of films touched on political issues, from animal rights in Toniko Pantoja’s Wolfsong and Jason Reicher’s King Kababa and the Knight, to feminism in Melanie Atwater’s Moon Goddess.

At the reception following the screenings, students hobnobbed with each other and CalArts alumni and animation greats, including Wreck-it Ralph director Rich Moore (Film/Video BFA 87), Brave co-director Mark Andrews (Film/Video BFA 93) and The Little Mermaid writer and director John Musker (Film/Video BFA 77). Cartoon Network‘s Curtis Lelash and Nate Funaro, Nickelodeon‘s Karen Kirkland, Rich Magallanes and Eric Robles and Blizzard Entertainment‘s Tad Leckman and Bob Nicoll were also present at the show.

We posted a slideshow of photos from the event, above. To see more photos, visit the CalArts Character Animation Facebook page. Below is John Kim’s The Sugar Bugs.

The Sugar Bugs from John Kim on Vimeo.

Related: Films Announced for 2013 Character Animation Producers Show.

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