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Oscars 2023: And the Concordia nominees are…

Discover the Academy Award hopefuls who share ties with the university
February 7, 2023
By Daniel Bartlett, BA 08

A woman adjusts a stop-motion figure on the set of Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio Former Concordia student Peggy Arel describes her time working on Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio as an adventure.

Oscar season is in full swing and several films with Concordia connections are up for Hollywood's top prizes.

The 95th Academy Awards will take place March 12 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California.

Meet the Concordians — all from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema — whose films are vying for Oscar gold.

A man with glasses and a short grey beard wears a checkered shirt David Christensen, BFA 89

Lucky number 77

In The Flying Sailor, directors Amanda Forbis and Wendy Tilby tell the remarkable true story of a man blown two kilometres through the air after two ships collided in the Halifax Harbour in 1917. The seven-minute animated short is the 77th production by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB) to receive an Oscar nomination.

For the film’s producer, David Christensen, BFA 89, the academy’s recognition is both flattering and cause for celebration. He is also quick to point out that it’s the work and artistry of Forbis and Tilby — the latter formerly taught in Concordia’s Film Animation program — that is being recognized.

“I have the good happenstance to be their producer on the film and to have been swept up by their artistry as well,” Christensen says.

He notes that another important aspect of the film is that it was produced by the NFB, Canada’s public film and digital media producer and distributor.

“Canadians funded The Flying Sailor, and I hope they are proud of the work that Wendy and Amanda have done,” adds Christensen.

A man in a checkered suit wears glasses and looks at the camera Luigi Allemano

From the Oscars to Sundance

Christensen isn’t the only Concordian who worked on The Flying Sailor. For the film’s original music and sound design, the production team turned to Luigi Allemano, associate professor and area head for the Film Animation program.

Like Christensen, Allemano credits Forbis and Tilby — who he refers to as “Canada’s preeminent animation filmmaking duo” — for the film’s success. He also echoes the importance of the NFB as a unique, creative animation institution in contemporary cinema.

“On a personal level, to have my music and sound design in a film that receives an Oscar nomination is deeply gratifying,” Allemano says.

His work on the film has also received the attention of Sundance, where it is being featured in the film festival’s 2023 Composer Spotlight.

“I hope my work might serve as inspiration to our film animation students,” Allemano says. “Animation as an audio-visual artform is full of potential, and one need not limit oneself to the visual aspect only.”

Two people in masks stand on the set of a film and wave at the camera Guillermo del Toro and Peggy Arel

Animators as actors

In the best animated feature category, Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio has emerged as the early frontrunner. The film is also the third movie Peggy Arel — a stop-motion animator and former Concordia student — has worked on to be nominated for an Academy Award, following Missing Link in 2019 and Anomalisa in 2016.

“I feel very proud of all the artists I worked with on each project,” she says. “The puppet builders, riggers, set dresser and lighting and camera crew create a world that brings us incredible inspiration.”

Arel describes her time working on Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio as an adventure in which she lived a lot of emotions next to many incredible artists. She also says working for del Toro was a great experience because he takes the time to listen to his animation team.

“Working for a director that does a lot of live action is very different. They think differently. The animators are their actors,” Arel explains. “You may notice that we come before the voice actors in the film’s credits. What we do means a lot to Guillermo.”


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