Four Ottawa artists nominated for Daytime Emmys

Four artists from Ottawa have picked up nominations for Daytime Emmys. They are: Craig Young and Mike Milligan who were nominated for their work on the animated pre-school series Justin Time Go! which can be seen on Netflix and the Disney Jr. Canada network; Matt Ouimet and David Burns who are nominated for  Outstanding Music Direction and Composition for the animated comedy, Pig Goat Banana Cricket seen on Nickelodeon. One of the four, Craig Young, answered some questions emailed by ARTSFILE’s Peter Robb. The Emmys will be handed out April 30.

Q. You have had some good news. Tell me about it?

A. I was sitting on a beach in Mexico last week, slurping back a Miami Vice, when I received news: My writing partner and I (Michael Milligan) had been nominated for a Daytime Emmy. I thought for sure it was some sort of terrible mistake, and had to ask our agent to triple check. It took about two days before I was willing to believe it. … I’m still not 100 per cent convinced.

Q. What are you nominated for?

A. We (along with our writing colleagues: Jiro Okada, James R. Backshall, Jeff Sweeney, and John van Bruggen) were nominated for the preschool series, Justin Time GO! It’s a Canadian series, created by Brandon James Scott and produced by Guru Studio in Toronto. It’s about a little boy named Justin and his shape-shifting pal, Squidgy, who tackle everyday problems through their imaginary adventures.

Q. I understand some of your buddies have been nominated too? Tell me about that and them.

A. Matt Ouimet and David Burns, were also nominated for a completely different category – Outstanding Music Direction and Composition for the animated comedy, Pig Goat Banana Cricket (Nickelodeon). Both are phenomenal musicians. … (It’s) surreal that we were all nominated at the same time.

Q. You go way back with these guys. Tell me about the relationship? Where did it start?

A. David Burns and I worked together in 2000 on an animated series called The Untalkative Bunny (Teletoon). David was (and still is) working with Bartmart Audio, and helped compose all the music for that series. I remember being blown away by how he could emulate any style or genre we wanted.

Michael Milligan (who prefers to go by MCM) and I met back in 2006. I helped produce his first 3D animated series, Rollbots, for YTV. We shared the same kind of twisted humour. We started writing scripts together for that series, and things snowballed from there. Michael’s one of the lucky (unlucky?) few who was actually born to be a writer. … He inspired me to leave my job producing and (to) begin writing full-time. While we don’t partner up on every show, he’s definitely the person I turn to when something big comes up.

Matt Ouimet and I met at the House of Targ, a few years back. It was a random encounter. where the conversation bounced from male pregnancy to butt yodelling. Needless to say, we hit it off without even realizing we both worked in the same industry. After listening to the work he did on Pig Goat Banana Cricket and Bagel and Becky, it’s not at all surprising to me that Matt was nominated.

Q. The fact that these nominations came for four guys who live and work in Ottawa speaks to the development of the animation industry in town. Can you speak about that?

A. The animation talent in this town is cuckoo-bananas. For location design on Toot and Puddle, Dave Merritt brought home an Emmy home to Ottawa a few years back, as did Graham MacDonald for his work on Disney’s Mickey Mouse shorts in 2014. Dave Cooper’s recently had two huge shows made (Pig Goat Banana Cricket, and The Bagel and Becky Show) … that all happened in the same year. Nick Cross worked out of Ottawa for the better part of two decades, and went on to win two Primetime Emmy’s for Cartoon Network’s Over the Garden Wall. Mike Geiger‘s Winston Steinburger and Sir Dudley Ding Dong animated series sells all over the world. Phil Ivanusic is another Ottawa writer, making his own series and most recently a feature film.

Then there are the animation studios here, which are second to none: Jam Filled is run by three of the best guys in the business, making shows for Nickelodeon, along with their own hit series. Big Jump Entertainment have produced a slew of massive primetime series, including F is For Family. Mercury Filmworks has been killing it on Disney shows (check out the new Tangled series ), PIP animation‘s working on Margaret Atwood’s Wandering Wenda, and Amberwood Entertainment’s, The Magic Hockey Skates, has been a perennial Christmas hit since it first aired back in 2012. The Kratts Brothers animated series, Wild Kratts, has received multiple Emmy nominations over recent years, and Fuel Industries is one of the world leaders in game apps.The talent that fills each studio is world class, and they’re all right here in our backyard.

Q. Who are you guys?

A. I’ve worked in animation since 1998, where I started off by volunteering to get some animation experience …of which I had zero.  That went on for about five months before it turned into a paying gig. I went from production assistant, to manager, eventually working my way up to producer. Never considered script writing until I started fixing scripts with Michael and discovered that it was a passion. I’ve been freelance writing for a few years and have had the fortune to work on some pretty great shows. I currently live in Westboro with my love, Jennilee Murray (who I also just started writing with) and our badass pekingese, Charles Bronson.

MCM is an author and screenwriter. He got his start creating and writing the award-winning animated series RollBots (YTV/4Kids), about robots that transform into marbles and race on sky-bound rollercoaster tracks. He’s also the co-creator (with Craig Young and Cory Morrison) of the preschool series Shutterbugs (TVOKids/Knowledge), as well as the internet fable The Pig and the Box, downloaded more than two million times in over a dozen languages. In 2011, he was invited to “perform” his third livewritten novel at the Vooruit arts centre in Ghent, Belgium, creating an 80,000-word thriller in realtime, broadcast on the internet to an audience of tens of thousands, using input from the audience to influence the story. He and his writing partner, Craig Young, have also written for the TV series Justin Time (Disney/Netflix), Ollie: The Boy Who Became What He Ate (CBC), True and the Rainbow Kingdom (TVOKids/Netflix), Worry Eaters (Hahn Film), and story edited the series Terrific Trucks for NBC/Sprout. In his spare time, MCM merges code and fiction, like the app-based Dirt (iOS/Android) — a mystery told in texts and photos. He lives in Ottawa with his wife and two daughters, and a cat who wakes him up at 2 a.m. to look at socks.

Matt Ouimet is musician and composer from Ottawa. As a sideman or studio accomplice he has worked with artists such as: Jeremy Fisher, Hawksley Workman, Craig Cardiff and Kellylee Evans. He has also toured Canada by train, plane, and stinky band vans. As a composer in animation his work can be heard around the globe via Nickelodeon, Teletoon, and BBC Worldwide.

David Burns is an accomplished and experienced composer who has written the scores for more than 800 episodes of television and film.He is a multi-instrumentalist whose specialty is creating hybrid scores using a blend of played instruments and sample technologies. David studied piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto.

Q. When do you find out if you have won?

A. April 30. We’re against some ridiculously steep competition, so I’m certainly not getting my hopes up. Just to be mentioned in the same breath as the series and talent being recognized this year is more than I could have ever dreamed of.

Q.Have you been nominated before? Won before?

A. I’ve been nominated for two Canadian Screen Awards before (best animated program or series for The Magic Hockey Skates and best preschool program or series for Rob the Robot), but both were for my role as a producer. This is the first writing nomination I’ve received … kind of a crazy way to start.

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.