The Winsor McCay award, presented at ASIFA-Hollywood’s (The International Animated Film Society,) annual Annie Awards, is perhaps the highest honour that can be bestowed upon an animator. It is a lifetime achievement award, recognizing an artist or artist collective’s momentous contribution to animation.
At the 2018 Annie Awards, Emily Carr alumnae Amanda Forbis (1988) and Wendy Tilby (1986) joined the ranks of household names such as Max and Dave Fleischer, Bill Hanna and Joe Barbera, Tim Burton, Matt Groening, Chuck Jones, and Walt Disney in becoming recipients of this prestigious award.
Forbis and Tilby are a formidable team. Illustrators, filmmakers, storytellers, but primarily animators, the duo have received over 30 international awards, including the Palme D’Or at Cannes, a Genie Award, and the Grand Prix at Annecy, Zagreb and Hiroshima International Animation Festivals. Tilby and Forbis have also been nominated for both an Emmy and an Oscar®.
We called Wendy Tilby and Amanda Forbis to chat about this most recent accomplishment. Both Tilby and Forbis agreed that of all of the accolades they could have gotten, the Winsor McCay was among the most meaningful; because while many film awards have categories for animation, the Annie Awards are about animation from top to bottom. To win an award from people who study animation as an art form all its own packs an extra punch. When we asked them how they felt upon learning they had won, they described the feeling as “a giddy thrill.”
“It really ignites the imposter syndrome,” Tilby joked.
Given their great success with short films, Tilby and Forbis are often asked if they’re planning to make a feature length film. The quick answer is no; the animators are devoted to short films. Their love of the medium stems from many sources. First, Forbis and Tilby are fans of how little room for excess there is in short films. Short films are about action: everything in a short story must serve the plot. Secondly, when one is working on a short animated film, creators have a direct say in all aspects of the creative process: sound design, story, structure, and visuals. A third benefit is the ability to work with a small, more intimate team.
Despite their obvious and remarkable talent for film, when the pair attended Emily Carr University of Art + Design in the 80s, neither knew that filmmaking would end up being their passion. It was only after taking a class with Sandy Wilson that Forbis knew that film was what she wanted to pursue.
Prior to their education, most of their experiences with animation were with Saturday morning cartoons. At Emily Carr University, they were introduced to a variety of animation styles, they underwent a major shift toward viewing animation as Art.
“The Emily Carr animation program was so hugely formative,” said Forbis. “It was a revelation.”
It is clear that the duo found their calling. From short film, to illustration, to commercials, their whimsical and moving animation has left a profound mark on the landscape of animation. The pair is working on a new short film inspired by the Halifax explosion of 1917, the maritime disaster. In the meantime, visit Tilby and Forbis at http://www.tilbyforbis.com/ and experience firsthand why the creative team of Tilby and Forbis have joined the illustrious list of Winsor McCay award winners.