BRACEBRIDGE - Bracebridge will be represented at tonight’s Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto by a hometown boy who has risen to the top of his field.
Local animator nominated for best director.
SUCCESSFULLY FUNNY. Former BMLSS student Brad Ferguson will be honoured by his peers at the Canadian Screen Awards in Toronto tonight. His animated show, Almost Naked Animals, has him up for the best director nod. (Submitted photo)
Brad Ferguson has been nominated for best director for his animated series Almost Naked Animals.
And he says win or lose, he has the Bracebridge community to thank for all its support early in his career.
In particular he sends his thanks to local actress and teacher Robin Clipsham who helped point him toward his dream while he was still at Bracebridge Muskoka Lakes Secondary School.
In his last year at the high school, when he was working at the video store Muskoka Movies and pursuing his love of acting through school plays and Rotary productions like Damn Yankees, she suggested he look into the animation program at Sheridan College. He had been known at school as “the guy who could draw.”
“I owe her so much,” he said of Clipsham. “It never occurred to me that people make cartoons happen as a job.”
The first year he applied to the program, which admits only 100 students from thousands of applicants from all over the world, he didn’t get in.
“Being self-taught, coming from a small town – my first portfolio wasn’t what it needed to be. I had never even heard of life drawing.”
But when he didn’t get in on his first try, it only motivated him to try harder. He spent a year at his job at the video store while he studied life drawing at Chapel Gallery and learned more about animation.
The next year he made it on the waiting list, and on his third try he was admitted.
He still remembers the support and letters of congratulations he received from the customers at the video store who had encouraged him every step of the way.
“If I’m fortunate enough to come home with a trophy on Wednesday, I really want to thank the people of Bracebridge,” he said in a telephone interview on Sunday. “I had so much amazing support.”
He graduated from the animation program at Sheridan in 2001 and has spent the last four years working on his hit show, Almost Naked Animals.
He has now made 104 of the 11-minutes episodes which air on YTV and the Cartoon Network.
“This is my first director’s gig … the first out of the gate. It’s exciting,” he said.
The show, which is geared to six to 11 year olds, takes place at the Banana Cabana. Led by Howie, the fun-loving, hospitality-challenged canine manager, the Banana Cabana is a beachfront resort hotel, and home to mayhem, destruction and all around fun. Joining Howie in his day-to-day pursuit of almost naked bliss are his best friend Octo, a detail-oriented, highly strung front desk clerk; Bunny, a hyperactive, hyper-enthused activities director; Narwhal, an egocentric entertainer who rules the hotel lounge; Sloth, the world’s slowest-moving bellhop; Duck, a blissfully oblivious all-purpose handyanimal; and Piggy, a highly passionate mess cook (and a swine you don’t want to mess with).
“It’s the same old classical story about shaved animals that wear pants and run a tropical hotel,” joked Ferguson. “It’s slapstick comedy and we cram it with as many jokes as possible – we’ve told so many stories. It has those moments that we go to the weird place – when we go weird, we go all out.”
The show has enjoyed international popularity.
“The only market we haven’t broken into is Asia. It’s rewarding to see the jokes you were writing a few months ago translated into German,” said the director.
Attending the awards with Ferguson tonight will be his wife Renée, who was a fellow student at the Bracebridge high school. They live in Barrie and have two children together.