Animation Nation, which celebrates animated films, returns after five-year absence

Mary And Max describes the pen-pal relationship between Mary, an Australian girl neglected at home and bullied at school, and Max, an overweight New Yorker on the autistic spectrum.
Mary And Max describes the pen-pal relationship between Mary, an Australian girl neglected at home and bullied at school, and Max, an overweight New Yorker on the autistic spectrum.PHOTO: ADAM ELLIOT
Boy And The World, from Brazil, has been nominated this year for an Oscar in the Best Animated Film category.
Boy And The World, from Brazil, has been nominated this year for an Oscar in the Best Animated Film category.PHOTO: ELO COMPANY

Animation Nation 2016 returns after five years and will screen all of Australian film-maker Adam Elliot's claymation films

Australian film-maker Adam Elliot does something few in his profession do: He makes animation films for grown-ups.

The 44-year-old is unapologetic about it; he would not even describe his claymation films - bittersweet portraits of oddballs he calls "clayographies" - as family-friendly entertainment.

"It's good to be different," he tells The Straits Times on the telephone from his home base in Melbourne.

"There are many wonderful animated series out there for kids and parents can take them. Pixar are wonderful masters of telling stories for both adults and children," he says, naming the studio behind Finding Dory (2016).

Elliot, the man behind Academy Award-winning short film Harvie Krumpet (2003) and the critically acclaimed feature Mary And Max (2009), states that he has found his niche, one that allows him to stand out from the pack.

  • BOOK IT / ANIMATION NATION 2016

  • WHERE: The Projector, Level 5, Golden Mile Tower, 6001 Beach Road; *Scape Gallery, Level 5, 2 Orchard Link; and Alliance Francaise, 1 Sarkies Road

    WHEN: Oct 13 to 16, various times

    ADMISSION: $5 to $16

    INFO: sfs.org.sg/animation

Claymation is the art of creating characters in clay, which are made to move using stop-motion animation.

"There is a real market for adult animation. I learnt that years ago and I realised it's good to have a point of difference and create stories for a specific audience," he says.

Singapore audiences will have a chance to hear him speak and ask him questions after the screenings of his films at the Animation Nation 2016 festival, which opens on Oct 13.

Organised by the Singapore Film Society, the event will screen all five of Elliot's short works, including Harvie Krumpet and his latest short, Ernie Biscuit (2015), receiving its South-east Asian premiere.

Elliot's feature Mary And Max (NC16, 93 minutes), voiced by Barry Humphries, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toni Collette, will be shown in a separate screening. The drama-comedy describes the pen-pal relationship between Mary, an Australian girl neglected at home and bullied at school, and Max, an overweight New Yorker on the autistic spectrum.

Animation Nation returns after a five-year hiatus. Festival director Michael Lim, 43, says the break was "due to the previous festival team having a change in direction and also finding it harder to find sponsors".

But the new team aims  to make the animation festival a yearly affair.

Mr Lim says: "I hope to grow it, if we can get more support and sponsors. It's critical to see how strong this year's response is."

The festival's opening film is a wordless work from Brazil, Boy And The World (PG, 83 minutes), nominated this year for an Oscar in the Best Animated Film category.

Drawn in a bright, child-like art style, it details the adventures of a boy who leaves his village.

The event will close with another wordless feature,The Red Turtle (PG, 82 minutes). A joint production of European arthouse studio Wild Bunch and Japan's renowned Studio Ghibli (Spirited Away, 2001), it is about a castaway on an island who tries to escape, but is always thwarted by a mysterious red turtle. The film won the Un Certain Regard Special Prize at this year's Cannes Film Festival.

Local animators are featured in the SG Animated Shorts Showcase, among them Chen Yi Xi, 25. He is leader of the Nanyang Technological University team that produced the short Jalan To The West, a cartoon take on the frustrations commuters face when riding the MRT.

It riffs on crowds, smells and obnoxious sleepers and is based on Chen's experiences as a student commuting to NTU, which is in the far west of the island, from his home in the east, in Marine Parade.

The dialogue-free short, done as part of his final-year project, is one of 12 films selected for the local showcase and draws influences from all over the world.

Chen, son of actor Edmund Chen and actress Xiang Yun, now a computer graphics artist in a games company, says: "There is the crude exaggeration of facial expressions from Japanese anime but, on the other hand, we have a Western style too - it's goofy, things stretch and squash like in Tom And Jerry."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2016, with the headline 'Animation for adults'. Print Edition | Subscribe