Fantasy and the odd reign at 8th Toon Market

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Above: A still frame from Renelle Williams’ The Tuff Puff. Image courtesy Renelle Williams. Click on image thumbnails to enlarge.

There was a lot of curious and downright hallucinatory work on show at last Friday’s Toon Market, the annual screening of student work by the UTT Animation Studies Programme.

The students particpated in a two-year intensive programme toward a Diploma in Digital Media Studies at UTT.

Camille Selvon-Abrahams addresses the audience at the presentation of animation student work, Toon Market. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

For course founder Camille Selvon-Abrahams who spoke before the presentation of work, the challenge for the nine-year-old programme is to keep up with fast moving technology in the field, even as it works to sign memorandums of understanding and forge partnerships with professional organisations and producing shops around the world.

Eighty students have been trained since the course was founded, with students going on to found their own producing businesses and to work in specialist media services.

Graduates have succeeded in fielding two projects in the Global Services Programme that debuted in T&T this year.

Professor Ken Julien, founder of both the UTT and the Animation programme, spoke at the presentation, remarking on what he described as “islands blessed with young people of talent.”

“Resources are just there,” Julien said.

“How do we create an environment in which they can blossom? Our talent takes time to show itself. It takes time, it takes patience; it takes training.”

A still from Stephon Thomas’ The Fallen. Image courtesy the UTT Animation Department.

The twelve short films, most running around two to four minutes long bore the flaws of early student work, with scrappy storytelling jockeying with overly heavy visual influences as distractions from efforts that were bustling with passion and imagination.

Brandon Phillip’s Shibonick and Rebecca Ottley’s Lachanophobia were laden with Japanese Manga influences, while Gregg Salina and Morgan Loe’s manic Spic, Spice and Everything Nice managed to merge modern late night cartooning anti-art with trippy hints of Yellow Submarine psychedelia.

Renelle Williams at her project booth after the screening. Students set up booths with keepsakes for sale and background information about their projects as part of the screening exercise. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

Makaeda Primus’ Big Catch sported a distinctively edgy, bristling art style that perfectly complemented the rather hairy and unhinged character she put out to sea in every possible way.

Showdown in Downtown was the only work that attempted linear narrative storytelling, putting two unlikely Independence Square protagonists into conflict as traditional line art characters gliding through a richly textured cartoon representation of downtown Port-of-Spain.

Three films proved particularly compelling in their compactness of both storytelling and visual style.

Stephon Thomas took the audience polled People’s Choice Best Animation Student Award with an involved and admirably drawn animation of Halo-style troopers battling to take control of a spaceship.

Stephon Thomas with his best student award after the screenings. Photo by Mark Lyndersay.

Thomas’ romance with dystopian futurism gave The Fallen a bold and aggressive look and he managed to pack a resonant and intricate storyline that advanced without a single word into just a few minutes.

Alan Wong’s evocative meditation on a bird that just can’t seem to fly was all heart and delicately beautiful aspiration while Renelle Williams’ The Tuff Puff resonated with anyone who’s wrestled with a girl child’s rambunctious and kinky hairdo.

With a direct, traditional animation style, one of the most straightforwardly cartoony works of the evening, Williams crafted a short, intensely human recollection of a fro run amok.

If you missed this standing room only event, the films will be shown again later this year as part of the annual Animae Caribe celebration of local animation.