Prix Ars Electronica


ORF Oberösterreich

Statement of the Computer Animation Jury

Our decision to award the Golden Nica to John Lasseter and his team at Pixar, the makers of "Toy Story", the first entirely computer generated feature film, is not only on based on the film's extraordinary importance for the entire area of computer animation, but also because this film is undoubtedly one of the milestones in the history of movie making as a whole. The successful completion of "Toy Story" will forever mark the growing-up of 30 computer animation. Henceforth it will be considered as a mainstream production tool in the same way that 2D animation established itself as such in the past. A similar transition happened in film history when Walt Disney decided to move beyond animated shorts to make the first feature animated film: "Snow White".

Indeed, "Toy Story" does not deserve the prize solely on the basis of the significant technical achievements and the immense amount of work which were required for the successful completion of this ambitious project. It also deserves the prize because of its unique and multifaceted story, its extraordinary dramatic structure and, finally, because of the enormous talent which went into every minuscule detail of the creation and technical realization of its images, which is clearly evident in the submitted selected short excerpt from the whole work.

BUF Compagnie was the Cinderella company of the Prix Ars Electronica 96. Creative imagination, style, fun, and technical virtuosity and innovation were all combined into three great projects. Two of them won the awards of distinction, one an honorary mention.

The awards of distinction go to "City of lost children" and to "Like a Rolling Stone". They clearly represent the highest level of excellence that has been be achieved today with respect to the integration of computer generated effects into traditional film. Where "Toy Story" is entirely made by using computer graphics, the pieces from BUF each use it in a unique and fascinating way to bolster up conventional production.

At first, "Like a Rolling Stone" appears to be a straightforward morph piece. But as it proceeds, it becomes clear that this is an excellent short film on top of technique that appears deceptively simple. We felt that this piece captured the essence of the song that it was portraying. It really illustrates the dis-orientation and the world view in every respect of the main character of the Rolling Stones' song where everything is increasingly out of normal perspective.

"City of Lost Children" demonstrates similar excellence in the more traditional domain of 3D computer animation and visual effects for a landmark feature film. The rendering and overall integration of computer animation with five action is defining the current state of the art. The effects of "City of Lost Children" are almost invisible as effects, but they are highly visible in terms of the affect that they produce in the audience. Both in technical quality and in production value these two works are way ahead of almost anything else the jury has seen.

The Jury deliberately decided to restrict the group of works that should be awarded an honorary mention to those high quality pieces that were not awarded the first three prizes, but were of close enough quality to have been considered. Therefore, only a total of eight rather than the possible twelve submissions were finally selected. "The Visible Human Project" is an example of a scientific application being of extraordinary usefulness beyond the moment of its creation. It provides a database hat can be used for many years and hopefully to the advantage of humanity.

This year, James Duesing presented with "The Law of Averages" a visual stream of consciousness type of narration. Although the film tells a, complete and complex story, it was produced on a very low budget with fairly simple technical epuipment. Furthermore, it was accomplished with a high degree of sophistication in employing its limitations for the sake of the story and the unique style of the work. This in itself represents a major achievement.

The "Boxer Trailer", made by Pierre Lachapelle, shows animation and rendering of the quality of "Toy Story", but with a style which is different from mainstream Hollywood and that hopefully bodes well for the future.

Another significant exercise in 30 animation style and technique is "Period" by Philippe Billion from Ex Machina. The overall visual quality which was achieved in this draft clearly deserves an honorary mention.

Christian Boustani's "Cities of the Past" is a wonderful example of the way in which atmosphere can be created using computers. It has a painterly sense which illustrates another amazing direction in which computers can take us. "Homer Simpson" is as great as a comment on computer graphics as it is in making use of it. We particularly like the way the 30 computer graphics catch the feelings and personalities of the two-dimensional conventional animation. It also shows how you can again, as in "Toy Story", use computer graphics to be funny, although in a more subversive way.

"Jumanji", coming from ILM-Studios, is a stunning technical exercise. If there had not been "Toy Story" we would certainly have seen it up in the top three. The integration of the effects and the using of the effects to create otherwise impossible situations is truly fantastic and professional.

Finally, the "Amnesty International" piece done by Arnauld Lamorlette of BUF Compagnie, is an amazing integration of computer graphics into live action. It is used to extend and comment on live action, real footage, for a political purpose. It is awarded an honorary mention not only for its technical excellence, but also as an example for the use of computer graphics in a more intellectual context, rather than for purely visual or entertainment purposes.

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