Animation students nominated for Annie Awards
BY JANA GREGORIO
A mother is pushed to the limit. She struggles to balance daily tasks alone, from hanging laundry to tending to a crying child. Different problems arise, one after the other, until she can’t take it any longer. She is stretched so thin. She breaks apart.
This is the premise behind Mother, an Annie Award-nominated short film created by current fourth-year Sheridan Animation students.
The group of 10 – who call themselves Studio Kokorosh – are Rui Hao, Stephanie Chiew, Ana Gomez, David Du, Joan Chung, Nick Nason, Matthew Fazari, Dadi Wang, Seeyun Lee and Jessica Jing. They produced the film in their third year as a mandated project for the program.
The idea for Mother came after Joan Chung spoke to her mom about the project. Her mom began telling Chung stories about her grandmother in Korea.
“The film is mostly about juggling from a mother’s perspective,” said Chung, one of the production managers of the project. “The main point being you have to juggle career with family, with emotional stability and mental stability and growth.”
Chung’s grandparents met around the time of the Korean War. Raising children during this tough time put a lot of strain on her grandmother as she struggled to balance working odd jobs while being the glue that held the family together. The team wanted to highlight this struggle to show how far some parents stretch themselves when trying to take care of the whole family.
“The chores [in the film] are not only physical representations, it doesn’t have to be those things that stress a parent out. It could be stressors that happen in their mind,” said Nick Nason, one of the heads of animation and design. “We wanted to make it more symbolic.”
To see that students, well 10 of them who worked on Mother, haven’t even graduated yet and are already nominated for this top industry award, it’s incredibly inspirational and motivating.
Nine other Sheridan alumni also have Annie nominations for their work on popular television and movie productions such as Inside Out, Gravity Falls and Hotel Transylvania 2.
“Never before had we had 21 students and alumni nominated for the Annies in one year, so it’s very exciting,” said Jennifer Clarke, Sheridan’s alumni manager.
She says the nominations go beyond animation students and affects the Sheridan community as well.
“To see that students, well 10 of them who worked on Mother, haven’t even graduated yet and are already nominated for this top industry award, it’s incredibly inspirational and motivating,” she said.
What began as a small ceremony 43 years ago that gave out only one award has turned into a show with more than 30 awards for production categories.
The Annies are now considered the animation industry’s top honour with a black tie reception and ceremony held every year, complete with an after party. It’s become a regular part of awards season, joining the likes of the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes.
“We’re the only major awards [to solely recognize animation]. We’re kind of looked at as the Oscars of animation,” said Frank Glastone, the executive director at ASIFA-Hollywood, a non-profit organization that hosts the Annie Awards.
Mark Mayerson, coordinator for the Bachelor of Animation program, says the Annies are a great place for the nominees to network with industry professionals.
“It’s great publicity for those students. They hope someone from one of the studios down there is looking at the film thinking, ‘We’d like to hire this person,’ ” he said.
A big part Mother’s success was credited to the group’s chemistry. They knew each other’s strengths and weaknesses and split the tasks accordingly. In between laughs and inside jokes, they looked like a group that has been working together for years.
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“We all got along pretty well since the beginning,” said Ana Campos, one of the storyboard editors. “We all wanted the film to be the best it could be.”
All their hard work has culminated with a recognition many students aspire to achieve.
But the road to get there wasn’t always easy.
The team worked tirelessly on Mother for eight months, constantly changing their designs and story.
Their mentor, Tony Tarantini, a professor of animation, helped them narrow down their ideas and iron out details.
“He would say what was important and what to focus on. We came together to figure out important points and what message we wanted to portray,” said Stephanie Chiew, another production manager.
It took four months out of the eight to make the script and storyboard. After storyboarding, they created the initial concept and artwork and figured out how they wanted the film to look.
The art style of Mother was inspired by traditional Japanese and Korean paintings, more specifically the art style of Japanese artist Hokusai. The flat look of the background came from the Irish animated film Song of the Sea.
The result was a film with a soft and tranquil feel, heightened by the accompanying acoustic soundtrack composed by Matthew Fazari.
“Because [the music] was just me and my guitar and hand drums, it was more organic, it fit the film. It needed something rootsy. I was very happy to be able to make something that matched the film and that was appropriate,” he said.
With the help of the animation faculty, the group members booked a trip to Los Angeles where they plan to maximize their opportunities and network with industry professionals.
The Annie Awards ceremony will be held on Feb. 6.