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Thursday, September 29, 2005

Ottawa: Day 1

Ah, Ottawa... The first time I visited this city was in 2000 for the very same festival. Joe Paradise was nominated in the "new" internet category. Even though I didn't end up winning, I had a great time being immersed in an animation community that was outside of Hollywood. So when I found out "Mole in the City" was nominated this year, I had to try and attend again.

We took a redeye flight out of San Francisco on Wednesday which passed through Atlanta. When we boarded our small commuter jet to Ottawa, I noticed that sitting directly across from me in the aisle was someone who looked a lot like Ward Jenkins (of Ward-O-Matic and Drawn!). I only recognized him from pictures he's posted of himself on his blog. "Is your name, Ward?" "Yeaahhhh..." he tentatively replied. "I'm Roque from Ghostbot!" Before I left, I had exchanged a couple of emails with him so that we could try and meet up. Needless to say we were both shocked that we ended up sitting on the same plane right next to each other. We spent the next 2 or so hours introducing ourselves and talking about this weird blog culture.

When we arrived at the airport, Sonia and I were given the treat of being harrassed by Customs. I'm not sure if we fit the profile of terrorists, but it was definitely the worst experience I've ever had with Immigration. At one point the officer had our laptop turned on and was opening up random jpegs in Photoshop. Once he found out we were there for the festival, he asked if we were "selling violence". I thought that was such a bizarre question, but it was a good thing we weren't actually selling Happy Tree Friends merchandise...just competing with it.

Once we arrived downtown, I instantly felt the difference in culture between coasts. The city felt familiar with its calm, quaint, semi-Euro flavor (must be the architecture and French signs). Some parts reminded me of New England.

We dropped off our bags at the hotel and went to the Arts Court building (for all you RISD alumn, it reminds me a lot of the Waterman building) to register and get our passes. They had a certificate for each filmmaker who was nominated. True to the story of my life, my name was misspelled and I had to return the "Rogue Ballesteros" certificate and request a new one.

We grabbed a quick bite to eat on Elgin Street before heading back to the hotel for a catnap. After checking the schedule, I knew I only had enough bandwidth left to catch a screening of Empress Chung, a Korean film that was in the feature competition.

It's obvious that the director was influenced by American feature animation - more specifically films produced by Disney. Now what era of Disney he was drawing from was the big question. At first, comparisons to Mulan could be made because of the Asian style and setting of the film.

Yet as the film progressed, you could see references to older films like The Little Mermaid, Pinocchio, and Snow White, especially in the characterizations and story beats. I'm not sure if the story translated well to a predominantly Western audience either. There seemed to be cultural concepts that came across as awkward and silly to us, when I'm sure in Korea they might have been totally acceptable and understood. I do feel like they spent extra care in maintaining the appeal of the main character, Shim Chung, however she was crying for more than half of the movie.

Some of the secondary characters - Pengduk, Pengduk's mom, Minister Yierunee - had a unique Asian caricature look which was interesting to see, yet sometimes I felt like there wasn't one unifying art style.

All the animals seemed like they were from different planets (the naked-Smurf turtle freaked me out) and I was really weirded out by their voice casting (either they could speak like humans or they sounded like humans making cliched animal noises).

I fell asleep in the middle of the film but I didn't feel like I missed anything. One of my favorite moments was when the Emperor had posters put up inviting all the blind people to come eat at the castle. Somehow they all arrived ok so I guess the directions must have been top-notch...

Before and after each screening, they would show slides of the different upcoming events. I was lucky to have my camera out when they flashed the New Media Competition slide.


Blogger Ward Jenkins said...

Very cool, Roque. I'm currently working on the first installment of my Ottawa trip. There was so much going on, it's hard to figure out how to put it all into words. And it's funny how you got our initial meeting down, as it's exactly how I typed it up in my (soon-to-be) post! Funny stuff.

12:12 PM  
Blogger Alan said...

Thanks for the thorough post Roq. Can't wait to see some more images from the outside world.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Well, that's what you get for having a funky name, Roguewque!

8:04 AM  

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