Prix Ars Electronica


Ars Electronica Linz & ORF Oberösterreich

Challenge the Audience

Samuel Lord Black, Dietmar Offenhuber, Shuzo John Shiota, Rita Street, Boo Wong

Working on the Computer Animation/Visual Effects Jury of the Prix Ars Electronica is always a compelling mixture of excitement and exhaustion, frustration and relief. This year, jury members Shuzo John Shiota (President of Polygon Picture, Tokyo), Samuel Lord Black (SIGGRAPH 2005 Computer Animation Festival Chair, San Francisco), Boo Wong (Producer for Curious Pictures, New York), Dietmar Offenhuber (Professor at Fachhochschule Hagenberg, Austria) and myself, Rita Street (Managing Director of Radar Cartoons, Los Angeles) were thrilled to see new art works, but exhausted by the amount of art we needed to screen. We were frustrated that we could only give one Golden Nica and, ultimately, relieved that we agreed upon our winner.

After screening almost 500 entries consisting of shorts, commercials, feature film clips and visual effects excerpts, our jury was stumped. We had a feature film and a short film in competition for the Golden Nica. The feature film proved that the most famous CG studio of all time, Pixar, can still—as Dietmar put it—“reinvent the visual language of computer animation.” Yet, the short film by Tomek Baginski was shocking. It was a film none of us expected to see—a film about the psychological tortures of war and the torments of a life dedicated to art.

How to choose between a studio comedy that swept the box office, won the hearts of millions and will serve as an artistic milestone in filmmaking for years to come; and a film made by an individual that challenges audiences to ponder some of the most important questions of life? This was our challenge.

“Pixar’s The Incredibles definitely presented a lot of issues for us,” remembers Shuzo. “For me, and perhaps for many of the jurors, The Incredibles is simply the best CG animation film ever created; perfect in every sense of the word. But how do you compare the likes of The Incredibles with superb individual submissions such as Tomek Baginski’s Fallen Art? How do you give proper accolades to a film that sets benchmarks for all animation films to come? My admission was that The Incredibles was perfection in a pleasant and familiar way, while Fallen Art, with its errors and misgivings, gave me a feeling that was new, albeit somewhat disturbing. In the end, I felt that the Prix is a competition that commends one’s audacity to challenge normal senses, therefore my hat tipped to Fallen Art.” Eventually, our jury unanimously agreed to give the Golden Nica to Fallen Art and one of the two Awards of Distinction to The Incredibles.

As Samuel explains, Baginski’s mindbending story of a group of WWII Pacific Theater soldiers who have lost their minds, Fallen Art is “a stupendous piece. It generates too much conversation and leaves itself open to so much interpretation that it truly qualifies as fine art. The sets, characters, and mostly the music, will forever hold a place in my mind.”

Our additional Award of Distinction went to City Paradise by Gaëlle Denis of Passion Pictures. We watched this film many times and although we still don’t know what it’s really about it, we were all continually enchanted. Perhaps it was the engaging lead character, perhaps it was the music or perhaps it was just magic—whatever, it is definitely something as special as Dietmar explains here: “A mysterious narrative, a highly convincing mixture of different techniques—live action, 3D and 2D animation, all combine to create a unique unconventional design. Concerning the narrative, Sam called it an ‘inverse Lost in Translation’: a Japanese girl, lost in London and scuba diving!” Yes, this year’s Computer Animation/Visual Effects jury definitely took pride in its highly eclectic tastes. We also took away a feeling of great joy. We each got to know four talented professionals and see the best animation in the world—together. And, as Boo so succinctly adds, “It’s good to know that digital tools can be used in such a wide variety of ways to create art and animation.”

Here are the Jury comments on our 12 Honorable Mentions. Please note that Boo was extremely overworked on a deadline at the time of this writing so unable to comment. She did, however, suggest to future Ars Electronica filmmakers submitting work that you should always remember to “speak loudly in your own individual voice!” If you are brave enough to do so, you will definitely catch your jurors’ attention.

Into Pieces (Animation)
Guilherme Marcondes (BR)
“In my opinion, the best of the many collage-type 2D animations we saw—sweet and simple.”
(Dietmar Offenhuber)
“Great designs, strange and simple storytelling. We loved it.”
(Rita Street)

9 (Animation)
Shane Acker (US)
“An amazing piece of work, driven by the vision of one student. We grow attached to the characters even though we only meet them briefly, and I found myself lost in the integration of all the visual
(Samuel Lord Black)

Overtime (Animation)
Oury Atlan / Thibault Berland / Damien Ferrié (Supinfocom, FR)
“A nice turn about of the puppets honoring and ‘puppeteering’ their creator. The characters exude an amazing amount of emotion even though they appear to be so simple. The background animation is wonderful to watch as well.”
(Samuel Lord Black)

Monotreme (Animation)
Koji Yamada (Pixel Animation, JP)
“I loved the design and concept of the piece. Having first seen it in a Japanese competition, I thought it was very un-Japanese and perfect for the Prix Ars Electronica crowd. And it was!”
(Shuzo John Shiota)

Kernseif (Animation)
Alexander Kiesl, Sebastian Stolle (Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg, DE)
“A mundane everyday dialogue in Schwabian dialect put into the mouthes of inappropriately cute characters—a strange mixture and an entertaining student work.”
(Dietmar Offenhuber)

Man OS 1/extraordinateur (Visual Effects)
Roland Seidel, Achim Stiermann (AT)
“This reminded me of how The Flintstones would have implemented a computer. It balances an incredible amount of creativity with simplicity and parody to make something truly memorable.”
(Samuel Lord Black)
“The computer desktop as a theatrical performance (originally made for a shop window in Vienna). The remarkable thing is that all the GUI metaphors we are constantly using like the trash bin, menu bars and tool boxes are understood here in the most literal way. While still looking like a typical Mac OS desktop, every element is physical and manually animated—reverse engineered
(Dietmar Offenhuber)

Takahiro Hayakawa (KansaiTV, BACA-JA Office, JP)
“An abstract animation about spirits. Great syncopation with the music that compliments the generic animation. There is another version of the same piece which is more generic, that I love even more.”
(Shuzo John Shiota)

Van Helsing (Visual Effects)
Ben Snow, Scott Squires, Daniel Jeannette (Industrial Light & Magic, US)
“Truly the best of all the effects we viewed. The character transformations were so believable, I almost found myself questioning if they were real.”
(Samuel Lord Black)

Tokyo City (Animation)
Yusuke Koyanagi (NHK BS-1, Digital Stadium Office, JP)
“The biggest surprise and delight for me was the jury’s acknowledgement of Tokyo City, a piece that blew me away when I first saw it at a competition in Japan, but was convinced that it would not find an audience internationally. I was genuinely impressed by the deep insight of my fellow jurors when they acknowledged its ingenuity, even if it was extremely low-tech, and without subtitles (even though this is a text driven piece). This is an accurate depiction of modern day Tokyo, a place where the main medium of communication is the almighty Ketai (cell phone).”
(Shuzo John Shiota)

Electronic Performers (Animation)
Arnaud Ganzerli / Laurent Bourdoiseau / Jérôme Blanquet (Machine Molle, FR)
“The animation and music mesh together so well, there’s no way to separate them. You can see the music, hear the animation, and feel the two working as one.”
(Samuel Lord Black)

Robots (Animation)
Chris Wedge (Blue Sky Studios, US)
“The non-stop action and smooth animation were a pleasure to watch. The set and character designs reflect the leaps and bounds that computer animation has gone through in the past few years, and lead the way to future developments.”
(Samuel Lord Black)

Bigoudenn Migration (Animation)
Eric Castaing / Alexandre Heboyan / Fafah
Togora (Gobelins, L’école de l’image, FR) “This simple story tugs at your strings and makes you smile. Now we know what really makes nuns fly—waffles!”
(Rita Street)

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