In the director’s chair
Growing up in Richmond Hill, Rob Silvestri spent his childhood watching cartoons and now he’s making them.
The classic warner Brothers characters were his favourites — especially wile E. Coyote who always went to absurd lengths to try and catch his arch nemesis, the Road Runner.
Two years ago when Rob was given the opportunity to direct his first animated short film for Canadian animation studio Arc Productions, he drew on the cartoons of his childhood to develop his own memorable character — a hungry little pig named Ormie. All Ormie wants is to eat the cookies that are out of his reach on top of a refrigerator, so he tries everything he can think of to get them but is constantly foiled. Rob’s short was an instant hit with audiences and critics alike, receiving eight film festival awards. Ormie has now been optioned by Alcon Entertainment with plans to develop it into a feature film. It’s truly a remarkable accomplishment for Rob whose star has continued to rise since graduating from Seneca’s 3D Animation program.
“The very first Ormie was at Seneca,” Rob says. “I just wanted to create a fun character that I could use for my demo reel. I kept drawing him and coming up with new ideas and he just wouldn’t go away.”
For the last five years, Rob has been working as a senior animator and director for Arc Productions. He started at the company on a one-year contract after his professor presented Rob’s demo reel to management. They were impressed with what they saw and put Rob right to work on the animated TV series Chop Socky Chooks and the feature Veggie Tales: The Pirates who Don’t Do Anything. Once his contract ended Rob was given a full-time position as an animator and shortly after he started working on Ormie.
Rob asked his bosses if he could recruit some talented student animators from Seneca to work on the short. They agreed and nine students from Seneca’ Summer Animation Institute lent their talents to Rob’s project for three months.
“They just blew it out of the water,” Rob says. “They did about 60 per cent of the animation on it. They really worked hard and it was an honour to work with them.”
Rob says many of the students who worked on Ormie went on to be hired based on the work they did for the project. In Rob’s case, Ormie has given him the opportunity to direct more. Most recently, he directed the pilot for a potential series entitled “lite Sprites” and has now been selected to direct a special for the popular animated television program, Thomas and Friends.
“Ormie has become a directing showpiece,” Rob says. “It has created some awareness, which is nice. I’ve received e-mails from animators from other studios who say, ‘I love your short.’ It’s such a compliment and it has opened up many opportunities.”
- Gnomeo & Juliet (animator) 2011
- Ormie (director and writer) 2010
- 9 (animator) 2009
- Skylight (animator) 2009
- The Pirates Who Don’t do Anything: A Veggie Tales Movie (animator) 2008
Note: Ormie image courtesy of ARC Productions/Rob Silvestri image courtesy of Paul Stodolny.