The first annual SPARK Animation Festival was held over the past five days in Vancouver. Organized by our local ACM SIGGRAPH chapter, the event experienced a steady, high attendance and great reviews from those who attended the various panels and screenings.
SPARK’s opening event was an informal question and answer session with Mark Osborne and John Stevenson, co-directors of the Dreamworks animated feature Kung Fu Panda. Through a series of questions led by moderator Glenn Entis, the directors divulged how the film’s artists created animation which not only respected the Chinese culture, it remained true to real-life Kung Fu. In order to help understand the discipline and movement of martial arts, the studio team was led through a grueling five hour instructional session by wushu instructor Eric Chen. Further insight was gained regarding the teamwork, development milestones and philosophies behind Kung Fu Panda were shared with the audience, making it an enjoyable learning experience for all who attended. The panel discussion was followed with a special screening of Kung Fu Panda, which turned out to be a very well-done animation with a simple message – it doesn’t matter who you are, you have it within you to become your own hero.
The entire SPARK Festival was filled with a great mixture of fun, education and social networking. Other
discussion panels included presentations by the directors of Horton Hears a Who, Jimmy Hayward and Steve Martino. A combined panel on Friday afternoon involved all four animation directors (Hayward, Martino, Osborne and Stevenson) and was said to be the best panel of the entire festival.
Other panels included Animation in Games, which covered such areas as photo-real, gameplay responsiveness and believable animation. Moderated by Ian Lloyd of EA Games, the panel members included Brett Pascal (Propaganda Games), Gabriel Meija (Independent), and Wayne Gilbert of EA Black Box. Other areas discussed included the aesthetics of caricatured motion as well as issues pertaining to technical and production development.
Prospective studio owners were able to get an inside look at does and don’ts in regards to developing and building a new studio. Two panels were directly related to the new studio climate in our growing local industry. Paul Harrod of BENT Image Lab presented a discussion regarding independent studios and their ability to adapt to different projects while maintaining their creative levels and small sizes. This was followed by a panel presentation on the pros and cons of building a new animation studio in Vancouver led by Bruce Alcock (Global Mechanic), Tai Keattivanichily (Monkey Paw), Chuck Johnson (Nerd Corps) and Kirsten Newlands (Studio B). They explored the current industry climate as well as building a client base, along with all of the details which must go into the planning and equipping of a new studio.
Behind-the-scenes looks were given in two separate panels, one on the making of Kung Fu Panda with Alex Parkinson and Markus Manninen from Dreamworks, and the other on Wall-E, given by Paul Topolos from Pixar. Other topics covered at SPARK were The Best of the Web, which took a look at the growing proliferation of animation work released directly to the internet; Moving Forward In Animation by Looking at the Past with author Ed Hooks studied the power of storytelling in animation and what animators can do to provide their audiences with more than just an entertaining experience. This was followed by Surviving as an Independent Animator and featured Joanna Priestley, Martin Rose (NFB), Marv Newland and Mike Grimshaw, who all shared their experiences and challenges in the animation industry. The Women In Animation panel which was moderated by Emily Carr’s Leslie Bishko featured Anne Denman (Studio B), Barbara Dawson and Jericca Cleland from Rainmaker and Joanna Priestley (Independent). This panel looked at the accomplishments and continuing challenges of women who work in the animation industry.
The animated works which were featured in screenings during the festival included The Worst Cartoons Ever with Jerry Beck (Cartoon Brew), The Pixar Story, The Best of SIGGRAPH 2008, Allegro non Troppo, Horton Hears a Who, Kung Fu Panda, Idiots and Angels, and Marv Newland Retrospective with industry veteran Marv Newland.
If you missed this year’s Animation Festival, you should make plans to attend in 2009. You can also make a note to check back here very soon for an announcement regarding the 2009 SPARK VFX Film Festival which is coming up in January.
As a member of the ACM SIGGRAPH Vancouver Chapter, I would like to add my own thank you to the sponsors of the first SPARK Animation Festival: