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TAAFI in a Nutshell

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TAAFI in a Nutshell

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The third annual Toronto Animation Arts Festival International (or TAAFI) continued the lively festivities and love for the craft of animation with many screenings and panels throughout the event. The number of guests were impressive and the installation of an Arts Market was an excellent idea that allowed one to further appreciate the immense talent that every artist holds.

The main event at TAAFI this year was the presence of Dan Povenmire and Jeff “Swampy” Marsh, the creators of Disney’s successful animated series Phineas & Ferb which helped to launch a new golden age of television animation. Their keynote panel “16 Years to Air: Phineas & Ferb”, a fantastic discussion on how they met on The Simpsons, served as storyboard artists and songwriters on Rocko’s Modern Life and eventually got the chance to put their long-gestating creation on the screen. They were funny and quick-witted on-stage and gave an inspiring overview about the process of pitching the series to various networks and befitting the title characters of Phineas & Ferb, their laidback attitude towards studio executives. Later on, they participated in a panel about voice-acting (Povenmire voices the “evil” scientist Dr. Doofenshmirtz and Marsh provides the vocals for OWCA head Major Monogram) and on Sunday, screened the newest episode, appropriately related to Father’s Day. Their genuine enthusiasm for creating the adventures of these two inventive boys and their secret agent platypus Perry is still evident on the show itself and in their friendly personalities. Povenmire and Marsh are currently putting the finishing touches on a Star Wars special which places their characters into George Lucas’s beloved franchise, which is sure to be one of their best episodes yet.

Kris Pearn, one of Sony Pictures Animation’s top story artists, was at TAAFI to discuss his work directing Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. Showing the progress of the wonderfully creative sequel from the initial idea to character designs to the final animation, “Like Comics: Storyboarding Cloudy 2” was a very educational presentation that nicely showcases the hard work and dedication that goes into making any animated feature. The inspiration behind the adorable foodimals and the careful planning in creating Chester V’s rubbery limbs was especially amazing to see explored in such detail. It is not hard to see why Sony Animation’s productions tend to be extremely creative and willing to take full advantage of the animated medium.

Jessica Borutski was on hand to discuss “Redesigning Bugs Bunny” for the recent Looney Tunes Show that aired for two seasons on Cartoon Network. Going through the many character designs and model sheets she created for the series, it was a fascinating look at the development of retooling classic animated characters for the current generation. It’s evident from this presentation alone how much she cared about making sure the Looney Tunes were done properly while still doing the necessary updates. And in the case of Lola Bunny’s shift from token female love interest to crazy stalker girlfriend, even improving a couple of characters. Her next Looney Tunes project Wabbit sounds like it will be a return to their roots as it is being directed and storyboarded not unlike how legends such as Friz Freleng and Chuck Jones made cartoons during the days of Termite Terrace.

The Canadian movie The Nut Job started the animation of 2014 on a solid note and director Peter Lepeniotis was at TAAFI to talk about expanding his short film Surly Squirrel into a feature film with studio financing and the talented crew at ToonBox. While the film may have been slightly changed from his initial vision, there were still elements of his intended adult audience in the final product and the sequel appears to be bigger and better than its predecessor. For a first feature at ToonBox, they are off to a strong start and should be having even more success in the future.

Among the shorts and opening night film Jack and the Cuckoo-Clock Heart I reported on last week, TAAFI also screened Bill Plympton’s newest film Cheatin’. As is typical of Plympton, the whole movie was animated by himself and he injects it with plenty of bizarre humour. The story of a hilarious misunderstanding with a couple trying to punish the other goes in a lot of unexpected and funny directions. Even though there is no dialogue, the whole tale is easy to follow and the animation has some brilliant visual imagery. Cheatin’ has been travelling through the festival circuit around the world and it was great to see it brought to TAAFI.

One of the highlights of TAAFI was the Arts Market, in which many talented artists gathered to showcase their work and talk to interested buyers and fans. Stephen Silver, the character designer for Kim Possible and Clerks: The Animated Series, was there to give pointers to aspiring artists, Scott Caple showcased his excellent layout work for such big movies as The Hunchback of Notre Dame and The Incredibles and even studios presented their staple of shows. Mercury Filmworks especially stood out with a sneak preview of The Lion Guard, a Lion King television series they are animating for Disney Junior. From that one scene they showed, it looks like they have captured the spirit and the look of the Disney blockbuster to a tee. All of these events, among many others, is showing how much TAAFI is growing every year. In their third edition, they have already proven to be one of the best events one can attend in Toronto every summer and a must for any animation fan.

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By: Stefan Ellison

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