Since March, there has been a deluge of stories about how much COVID-19 has impacted artists, but not all artistic disciplines felt the same effects. Animation, for example, can be done from home using software and minimal gear. In fact, the local community has been busy making new work since the pandemic hit.
Does that make animation a quarantine-proof artform? Ryan Von Hagen, programming director for Quickdraw Animation Society (QAS), says the answer is both yes and no. “Yes, animation can be made at three in the morning by yourself under one light, but really where it excels is when people are sharing their human experience and bringing that into the world of animation.”
QAS is one of only two non-profit, member-based animation organizations in the country and has operated since 1984. The member-driven charity offers workspace, gear rentals, education and programming opportunities. The group also organizes the annual Animation Lockdown, where members hole up at QAS for three consecutive days to create new works. This past May, as the 13th Animation Lockdown took place, the name took on a new meaning. Von Hagen says QAS was able to successfully translate the experience to the virtual realm with numerous video meetings throughout the day.
The theme of this year’s Lockdown, “Call to Adventure,” made for interesting results given creators were house-bound throughout the process. Shelf Life by Noah Spencer and My Friend is a Magical Extrovert by Tiffany Sengsavang are great examples of this juxtaposition of inspirations. You can watch all of the Lockdown shorts for free on QAS’ website.
Joanne Fisher, Arielle McCuaig and Tank Standing Buffalo all participated in this year’s Lockdown in various roles, and each of them had works screen on the festival circuit. Standing Buffalo’s RKLSS showed at the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival.
“It was a real Quickdraw success story,” says Von Hagen, noting the classes, scholarships and grants Standing Buffalo received from the organization and through a partnership with Calgary Animated Objects Society. “[RKLSS] is a super personal film about violence he experienced growing up, his time spent in a youth detention centre and what got him out of those struggles.”
QAS has reopened with limited access, and is about to launch GIRAF, its festival of international animated works, online. Programming was still under wraps at press time, but Von Hagen says quarantine-themed works were prevalent in the submissions this year and that QAS has found ways to keep engagement a core part of the festival experience.