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Animator wins prestigious award

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Paul Ullrich still laughs when he talks about the childhood memory that served as the inspiration for his animated film The Bicycle Lesson.

"In 1959 my friend Carl Magnus received his first bicycle lesson from his older brother and sister," Ullrich says, smiling broadly. "I was watching from the window of our cottage in the country, which happened to be at the top of a hill. Well, the bicycle got away."

Ullrich watched as Magnus rocketyed down the hill with his horrified siblings in hot pursuit.

"The road ended at the bottom of the hill where there was a dock in a deep-water harbour — and Carl couldn’t swim," Ullrich, a former graphic artist with the Winnipeg Free Press, says. "Well, we’re still friends and when we talk, the story still comes up. His brother never admitted anything went wrong and I was the only witness."

In The Bicycle Lesson, the story is immortalized and exaggerated for comedic effect. The three-minute animated short recently earned the prestigious Award of Excellence in Filmmaking at the 2010 Canada International Film Festival. Ullrich’s film beat out hundreds of other films from more than two dozen countries.

It’s the latest in a string of successes for Ullrich. He has also created two other animated cartoons, Silence of the Clams and Love Means Never Asking to Shave Your Legs, both of which have earned at least one award. Ullrich says the recognition is appreciated, especially since animation is a labour of love for him that doesn’t pay many bills.

"I think I got $35 for a screening once," he jokes. "I just love 2D, classical animation. I like drawing, I like editing and putting it all together."

Ullrich says the process of creating animated films has changed tremendously since he created his first in 1994.

"Back then if I could finish 15 animation cells in a day, that was pretty fast — now that takes an hour," he says, noting he now has to wear a wrist brace as a result of his long hours at the drawing board. "For The Bicycle Lesson, I drew and inked 1150 drawings and coloured them on computer."

To view The Bicycle Lesson online, visit http://video.aol.co.uk/video-detail/the-bicycle-lesson/3975404776.

ryan.crocker@canstarnews.com

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