Prix Ars Electronica


ORF Oberösterreich

Equipment, Money ... or Talent?

Mickey McGovern

The jury consisted of Chris Wedge, Animation Director and Owner of Blue Sky Studios, Mitch Mitchell, Director of Special Effects at The Moving Picture Company, Rolf Herken, President and Director of R & D of Mental Images, Michael Wahrmann, - and myself, Mickey McGovern, Executive Producer of Millfilm, Ltd.

We looked at the submissions with the intention of awarding a first prize, two second prizes and 12 honourable mentions for advancing the science of technology in animation. We chose to look at this advance, not only with respect to technology but also in art.

It was daunting because we had 179 entries to look at in three days and we had to narrow this down to 15. The other question was the strong representation of Industrial Light and Magic. They had entered 7 of their films into the competition. ILM has been working in digital visual effects for over 20 years. They're extremely competent in this area. There were other companies represented who produced digital visual effects and there were student entries as well. But no one has the scope of money, talent, equipment, art direction and management as ILM does. It was a bit of a worry that the competition felt heavily in ILM's favour.

In spite of this we managed, after the first look through, to narrow the field to 45 possibilities. We now had 45 entries that were story and character driven, had messages, showed artistic abilities, were very interesting to watch, were though provoking and creative, and portrayed ideas in intriguing ways. They achieved this with computer technology. Art by math.

We awarded first prize to Scott Squires at ILM for "Dragonheart". The work comes from a feature film in which a computer generated dragon interacts with a live actor. The dragon moves realistically (which I can't prove because I've never seen a dragon but if I imagine a dragon it moves like this one). The dragon has very well integrated scales, textures, colours, features and snorts fire in a way that is believable. It speaks and it's mouth moves in sync to the dialogue. It has facial expressions and a twinkle in its eye like Sean Connery. It breathes. It has spirit. To make the whole thing more difficult for Scott Squires and his crew, the dragon interacts with water. Water doesn't scale, it drips, it splashes, it clings, it's wet and we know what it looks like and how it acts. You can't fool us there. Draco, the dragon is an incredible, beautiful and amazing work of art.

The second prize went to Chris Wedge for "Joe's Appartment". This small, independent feature film has dancing and singing cockroaches in a Busby Berkeley style. They are hilarious personalities. They are beautifully rendered so they appear photoreal. I mean they looked like real cockroaches who have been taught to sing, dance and give inspiring speeches. They completely captivate you and draw you in as they sing and dance around a "funky towel" and then dive into a toilet like Esther Williams in a production number.

We had 13 honourable mentions because we couldn't come to a unanimous decision about the other second place. We were torn between some strong performance pieces with wonderful writing, beautiful digital images, examples of creative story telling and the way characters were presented. There was a variety of intriguing styles that were all accomplished by computer graphic technology.

I hope that next year there are more submissions from every possible source. I know that the judging will be more difficult because the level of quality is getting higher every year. ILM is one of the major reasons that the level of quality is getting higher because they endeavour to top themselves with every film they do.

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