Plastic Paper Interviews, Previews & Press
From Uptown Magazine April 29, 2010:
Watch the magic unfold
Plastic Paper: Winnipeg’s International Festival of Animated, Illustrated and Puppet Film gives an under-appreciated art form some much-deserved recognition
Plastic Paper, Winnipeg’s International Festival of Animated, Illustrated and Puppet Film, unfolds May 5 to 8 at the Park Theatre. Among the films being screened will be The Secret of Kells, nominated for Best Animated Film at this year’s Oscars.
Guests include Oscar-nominated animator Bill Plympton, who will present an animation master class, as well as puppeteer Heather Henson — daughter of Muppeteer Jim Henson.
Kier-La Janisse of Big Smash! Productions leads Plastic Paper’s crack team of organizers: local filmmakers Clint Enns and Leslie Supnet (herself an animator) as well as Toronto’s Todd Brown.
Personally, Enns is looking forward to the screening of Barry Doupe’s Ponytail, which Janisse declares is “one of the most original films in the festival.” As for Brown, he’s excited about Mamoru Hosoda’s Summer Wars.
“It’s a great film from someone who I believe is a major emerging talent in the world of animation,” Brown says. “It was a pretty complicated process to obtain it — we had to coordinate with companies in both the U.S. and Japan.
“I think the festival’s significance is largely how it brings the sheer variety of animation and related forms to light,” he continues. “The animation we see in the multiplex represents such a small amount of how the medium can be used, and yet it’s all most people ever have the chance to see.
“In North America, animation is still an under-appreciated art form. It’s quite limited — it’s still largely seen as something for kids. But in other parts of the world, things are different.”
“Animation is a weird animal,” Enns says. “It isn’t taken as seriously as arthouse or experimental cinema, but it is often more experimental and deals with more complex themes.”
Plus, Supnet says, animating allows you to work with a minimal crew — which means less constraints and full control.
“Animation,” she says, “is a great medium for control freaks.” Brown adds it enables unlimited imagination, because “drawing something costs nothing.”
Interestingly, there is some debate regarding the respective definitions of animated and illustrated film.
“To me, illustrated film is a rising sub-genre in which flat, 2D images are manipulated without actually animating them,” Brown says. “The wave of ‘motion comics’ coming out is good examples, as is John Bergin’s feature From Inside.
“These projects are drawn but the images don’t really move — only the camera does.”
So how does puppetry fit into the scheme of things?
“I included them because puppetry comes from the same crafty place: you know, very hands-on, labour-intensive and detail-oriented,” Janisse says.
Plus, she wanted any excuse to bring Heather Henson.
- Kenton Smith
From The Winnipeg Free Press May 1, 2010:
Festival aims to draw in animation fans
Organizers pulled a few strings to include puppet fare, too
If you think cartoons are the domain of benign sweetness and light, you might want to meet Kier-La Janisse.
Before she programmed films for Cinematheque and Austin’s Alamo Drafthouse, Janisse of Winnipeg’s Big Smash! Productions, was the brains behinds a notorious Vancouver horror film festival called Cinemuerte. Specializing in transgressive horror movies and thrillers from around the world, it was a labour of love for Janisse that ultimately cost her thousands of dollars of her own money to produce.
Janisse, 37, is putting her money where her heart is once again with Plastic Paper, a festival devoted to the more innocuous (but no less edgy) arts of animation and puppetry.
Co-curating the four-day event with local filmmakers Clint Enns and Leslie Supnet, Janisse brings her passion to the fest, which will see the Winnipeg debut of the Oscar-nominated feature The Secret of Kells and appearances by a cult animator and the scion of a puppeteering legend. And if it all seems a far cry from programming Italian cannibal movies, Janisse suggests otherwise.
“Animated films are more respectable in a certain way, but they get to be a lot more experimental than regular films,” she says. “So you could have something be completely surreal and nonsensical or whatever, but it’s still a more respectable medium.
“And a lot of these films, I’d consider to be experimental.”
On the program:
Seconds Under the Sun (Wednesday May 5 at 8 p.m.)
A program of Japanese animated shorts from 1972 to 2009 curated by Toronto programmer Naomi Hocura. “This is one of the best short-film programs I’ve ever seen,” Janisse says. “With most short-film programs, you get maybe three duds, but I loved everything in her program.” Indeed, all three of Plastic Paper’s programmers were so impressed, they elected to make this the opening night event, with Hocura in attendance.
Handmade Puppet Dreams with Heather Henson (Friday, May 7 at 6:30 p.m.)
The daughter of the late Muppets creator Jim Henson, Heather Henson was invited by Janisse to a special screening of The Muppet Movie at the Alamo Drafthouse a few years back, where Janisse also got to see Hensson’s touring program of short puppet films. “I loved her program and I don’t think I expected to as much as I did,” Janisse says. “It made me a lot more appreciative of puppetry in general.” Henson’s Winnipeg show is a “best-of” four past programs and while “it’s kid-friendly, it’s marketed at adults,” Janisse says. “There’s not a whole lot of silly voices.” Tickets are $10.
The Saturday Morning All-You-Can-Eat-Cereal Cartoon Party (Saturday, May 8 at 10 a.m.)
Janisse revives the tradition she began as a Cinematheque assistant programmer, combining a buffet of breakfast cereals (including hard-to-get cereals purchased in the U.S.) and a program of equally junky retro animation culled from TV shows of yesteryear. Tickets are $12.
Bill Plympton’s Animation Master Class (Saturday, May 8 at 1 p.m.)
Bill Plympton may be an Oscar-nominated animator, but he has a cult following drawn to his oft-surreal spectacles and his off-centre sense of humour. “What I like about his work is that he always uses a pencil and paper and he hand draws everything,” Janisse says. “His feature films normally feature something like 30,000 drawings.” Plympton teaches animation classes in New York City and “he’s going to do a condensed version of the classes as a workshop here,” Janisse says. Admission is $20.
The Secret of Kells (Saturday, May 8 at 4:30 p.m.)
This 75-minute film set in a walled-off Irish abbey during the Middle Ages was nominated for an Oscar in the best animated feature category alongside Up, Coraline, Fantastic Mr. Fox and The Princess and the Frog, and yet never received a meaningful theatrical release. This screening may be the city’s only chance to see it on a big screen before it goes to DVD.
Summer Wars (Saturday, May 8 at 7 p.m.)
You may never have heard of this 2009 Japanese feature, but the anime fantasy about the battle for a virtual world (called Oz, if you please) by Mamoru Hosada is “a way bigger film than we should be able to have,” Janisse asserts. “Mamoru is considered the new Miyazaki.”
- Randall King