Hot Docs, Smallpox, and Robots

It’s been a busy time here at Together, and we’re so happy with the projects that have been coming our way.

Hot Docs!


You may already know about the effects of sugar on the human body, perhaps from articles or science videos, but you may not know about the efforts of the sugar industry to cover up the research on sugar consumption. Nick and Hector created the animated segments for a terrific new Canadian documentary called Sugar Coated from director Michèle Hozer. Sugar Coated, which screens at this year’s Hot Docs (the Canadian International Documentary Festival), exposes sugar industry tactics and the effects of these tactics on public health.  Sugar Coated premieres April 25th, 2015 at Hart House in Toronto. Other screening times, tickets and passes can be found here. Hope to see you at the theatre!




Yes, this terrifying and once ubiquitous disease was the topic of a recent TED-Ed video from Research Project Manager Julie Garon and Professor Walter A. Orenstein (both at Emory University) about the eradication of disease. Smallpox was a unique virus in that its mode of transmission made it possible for humans to track and contain its spread. Once a vaccine was available, world-wide efforts were able, over many decades, to eradicate it from our lives. It’s a fascinating story and you should check the video out: TED-Ed: How to a Eradicate Disease

If you’re interested in learning more, the History of Vaccines site from the College of Physicians of Philadelphia has a rather comprehensive timeline of smallpox, along with some great interviews about the latter days of the world-wide eradication efforts.



Published today was another TED-Ed video we worked on, which showcased some pretty cool robots who play music…that they come up with themselves. Professor Gil Weinberg and Ph.D. candidate Mason Bretan at Georgia Tech’s Center for Music Technology created a lesson about robot creativity. By applying genetic algorithms, they’ve made it possible for robots to improvise musically with human musicians. But are these robots really being creative? Will they pass the Lovelace test? Watch the video to see what you think: TED-Ed: Can Robots be Creative?



Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp, and the solemn occasion was marked with various memorials around the world.

For Holocaust Education Week in 2014, we were asked to help depict some of the memoirs of Holocaust survivors who ended up immigrating to Canada. These survivor accounts have been collected and published by the Azrieli Foundation as the Azrieli Series of Holocaust Survivor Memoirs, and they are provided free of charge to schools and libraries. As an educational resource, some of the memoirs also have accompanying short films; intimate portraits of survivors speaking on camera about their lives and reading from their memoirs.

Riddle Films contacted us to provide the animation sequences on four of these short films. We brought on the talented Nat Janin to help us out on two of the four films, where her style seemed more suited to the tone of the memoir. Read More


Paper on Screen

It’s a good season for paper.

People still send out traditonal cards with handwritten messages. Children still make paper chains to wrap around trees. Gifts are wrapped and parcels are packaged, addressed, and stamped.

Even through digital media, paper evokes its tactile properties and brings to the digital world a hand-made, patient quality. Consider these two projects that we recently discovered:

The first is a beautiful film by Kelli Anderson.The multi-talented artist/designer was commissioned to animate NPR’s report, “Talking While Female”. The report is about the prejudices women on radio experience based on how their voices are perceived.

Read More


Torill Kove and her Moulton

Cartoon Brew has shared their list of short animated films they think are pretty good contenders to be shortlisted for Academy Awards for 2015. It’s a great list that includes trailers for all the films. One of those films is Me and My Moulton by Academy Award-winner Torill Kove. She won the award for her film The Danish Poet, a lovely meditation on chance and interconnectedness. Kove also created the heartwarming film, My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts, a wry look at how family histories are passed on and intertwined within larger historical contexts.

Me and My Moulton screened at the Ottawa International Animation Festival and at TIFF2014 . It is, like her other films, sweet, poignant and beautifully drawn and animated. Me and My Moulton is an autobiographical tale of 3 little sisters who have a unique POV on what it means to be just a little different in a homegenic society.

Around the recent screenings, Kove did some interviews and also wrote about her interesting transition into animation and the trickier aspects of writing personal stories in a HuffPo post.

In an interview on Indiewire, Kove noted:

My parents told me they knew they made lots of mistakes raising us, but that they did their best. Most parents will say something like that at some point, and they are usually right. But I think children also do their best while being raised. Finding family “happiness” is a fine balancing act.

That sentiment is perfectly captured in the film and with the universality of parent-child family dynamics, it’s pretty much a crowd-pleaser.

This interview at the Canadian Animation Blog goes into a bit more detail about modernist design in Kove’s childhood and in the film.

For now, Me and My Moulton is continuing on the festival circuit, but we suspect it will eventually be available (either free, or for purchase) on the NFB page.


Helicopter Canada

Helicopter Canada by Eugene Boyko, National Film Board of Canada

Today we’re inspired by the NFB’s Moment of the Week in honour of Canada Day!

1967 was the Centennial Year of Canada’s confederation, and the film Helicopter Canada, created in 1966, was released just in time to be the official centennial film. The documentary was shot in the days long before consumer devices like GoPro were available, so director Eugene Boyko created a special brace to hold both him and a (Panavision-provided) CinemaScope camera in an Alouette II helicopter. He logged 540 hours in the air, and eventually put together an impressive 50-minute film that allowed Canadians to see their country from above, from coast to coast, for what was probably the first time. An Edmonton Journal article from a 1967 screening in Ottawa noted:

The ability of the chopper to roll with the Bluenose II and hover yards above the lip of Niagara Falls left the audience here reeling.

In the first 2 minutes, the film clearly show its age as it jocularly refers to 100-year-old Canada as “the old girl” and then refers to people who are apparently not Native Canadians with “these are Canadian natives”. But, progress aside, the film is generally good-humoured and functions now like a kind of time-capsule of Canada in ’67. Footage of maritime villages leaves us with a nostalgia for a coast and a community that will never be quite like that again. Some of the widescreen footage foretells the later industrial photographic work of Burtynsky. Other highlights include an unfinished City Hall (at 20:43), an oil pipeline in a more hopeful and earnest age (24:44), and pelikans in Saskatchewan (38:37)! Not to mention pulp mills, apple orchards, and beautiful winter vistas.

With a so much land area and such a small population even today, a film like Helicopter Canada is still a great way for Canadians, both naturalized and born here, to see our enormous country. Well, this film and maybe a road trip, or a Via Rail journey.