Sheridan attracts some of the top artistic minds to its renowned animation program. Such a hotbed of creativity in one place can be both inspiring and overwhelming for students. It is easy to lose sight of your own unique interests and artistic perspective while exploring other ideas, says award-winning 2015 animation graduate, Melody Wang.
“You are exposed to so many divergent projects; try not to get caught up in what everyone else is doing. Build up your skills at school but keep the original thinking and creative spark that brought you to Sheridan in the first place.”
This strategy certainly worked for Wang who has followed her love of vintage illustration to great success with her final year thesis film. Called “delightfully imaginative animation” by TIFF, The Casebook of Nips & Porkington has landed on the industry’s top film lists and has fans calling for more.A still from the film appears above.
Chronicling the tale of two police officers investigating a crime, The Casebook of Nips & Porkington received the award for Best Animated Student Film of 2015 at the TIFF Top Ten Film Festival. The film is also up for an Annie Award – the Oscars of the animation industry – for Best Student Film.
Joining Wang on the Annie nominee list is fellow 2015 animation graduate Taha Neyestani who received a nod for his short film ed. Ten Sheridan animation students also earned a Best Student Film Annie nomination for Mother.
The Casebook of Nips & Porkington is told through a backdrop of an old newspaper populated by animal characters to great effect, says animation professor Nancy Beiman, one of Wang’s two 4th year mentors. (Professor Bruno Degazio was her other mentor). “The art direction and design make this fantastic location entirely believable, from the very first scene. The excellent character animation and design is equal or superior to much professional animation. There is a ‘twist’ ending that actually draws gasps from the audience.”
Adding to the film’s appeal are the music by Xintong Wang (no relation) and the voice tracks by Elliot Cowan, Elaine Wise and Kirsten Lloyd, says Beiman.
I have always loved Tintin, Calvin and Hobbes, art from ’60s and ’70s, as well as old BBC TV dramas.
Wang created the characters and storyline based on some of her favourite books, films and television series, many from a bygone era. “I have always loved Tintin, Calvin and Hobbes, art from ’60s and ’70s as well as old BBC TV dramas like Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie.”
Despite her penchant for animation and illustration, Wang studied engineering at the University of Toronto before enrolling at Sheridan. Very soon after arriving on campus, she felt at home. “The first week I came to Sheridan I knew I was at the right place with the right people,” says Alberta-born Wang, whose mother is an artist and father is a geophysicist.
Given her film’s success, does she see more cases in store for Nips and Porkington? Wang doesn’t know what the future will bring, but she is currently sifting through ideas to expand her characters.
In the meantime, Wang is further honing her talents at Toronto studio House of Cool as a storyboard artist, along with fellow graduate Taha Neyestani. The duo more than met the studio’s standards for new hires, says Ricardo Curtis, House of Cool’s president and owner, who is also a Sheridan animation graduate. “Everyone has a story to tell but few can tell them well. Melody and Taha are both strong in classical drawing skills and are able to apply those skills to unique and accessible stories. These qualities, along with other unique voices in our story team, enrich the experience as a whole.”