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Chicago Animator Chris Sullivan Racks Up Awards & Reviews for “Consuming Spirits”

February 12, 2013 | By | Add a Comment

Chris Sullivan

Chris Sullivan‘s feature-length, animated film, Consuming Spirits, took him 15 years to complete. Finally finished, Consuming Spirits is now receiving rave reviews and prestigious awards from around the country, but before all of that, our DIY Film Magazine contributors Wei-Hsuan Vicky Yen and Emily Morris were able to spend time with Sullivan to discuss this tremendous undertaking. As a fellow artist and animator, and a former student of Sullivan’s, Yen shed some light on the origins of this grim, human story:

The first challenge Chicago-based animator Chris Sullivan gave himself as an artist is bringing elements from his personal life into his art making. Although Sullivan might not be intentionally making autobiographical stories, personal influences are embedded in his work…. I believe every artist is deeply influenced by his or her childhood experience. The deepest memories form the beliefs that carry through an artist’s art practices. In Unsung Heroes of Animation by Chris Robinson, the author interviews animators and introduces the readers to the personal background stories of the animators; somehow he also reveals the secret places that are hidden inside all the artists’ hearts. Read the full article here.

Sullivan not only can create a deeply resonating story, but equally masterful visuals and sound, as DIY Film Magazine contributor Emily Morris explains:

Sullivan blends animation techniques not unlike a modern artist mixes mediums on a canvas. Stop motion clay, hand-drawn cut outs, manipulated old photographs and pencil drawings all appear together exquisitely. Even for viewers unfamiliar with the animation process, it’s plain to see why these scenes took meticulous effort and time.

While he had help with animation and voicing, Sullivan was the lead animator, director, writer and even added his own music to the haunting soundtrack. Read the full article here.

Who else is raving about Consuming Spirits? 

“It weaves a complicated, intoxicating spell and sets the mind running in several directions at once, not all of them toward happy places. The fact that these realms are represented in exaggerated, often comical pictures does not make them less disturbing, but it does create a sense of enchantment that turns bad feelings inside out. This movie is sometimes a downer, but it’s also a wonder.”
New York Times’ A. O. Scott, Read the full article here.

“The entire world [Sullivan's] built is constructed of ugliness shot through with moments of unexpected beauty, like the light that shines through the stained glass at the convent, or the sinuous grace of Sullivan’s pencil-sketched dream sequences.”
NPR’s Ian BuckwalterRead the full article here.

“The pic contains a good dose of darkly funny, often cynical dialogue and droll sight gags that give viewers something to savor as they try to connect the dots and make sense of the sprawling Appalachian microcosm…. But as the web slowly reveals itself, laughs are gradually replaced by a seriousness of tone and an underlying feeling of unpleasantness that signals these hand-drawn or cutout 2D characters have reached a critical mass of emotional weight.”
Variety’s Boyd van Hoeij, Read the full article here. 

“This is the rare animated feature whose subtext is as rich as its sensuality, even if the latter is so often fixated on the putrid. Sullivan’s mature willingness to confront ugliness head-on while so fearlessly following the stray, inebriated thoughts of his characters makes Consuming Spirits not only a monstrous visual achievement, but one of the most uniquely humanistic animated features of all time.”
Slate Magazine’s Joseph Jon Lanthier, Read the full article here.

“Over the course of its 135-minute run time, the film comes together into a single, powerful narrative based around the bitter longing for love and the disappointment when it isn’t reciprocated in the right ways, or to the right degrees.”
–A.V. Club’s Tasha Robinson, Read the full article here.

Consuming Spirits has also garnered Sullivan awards such as the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation Grant, the Rockefeller Foundation grant, and a Creative Capital Grant in 2012. Sullivan also received the Chicago Award at the 2012 Chicago International Film Festival.

CONSUMING SPIRITS (trailer) by Chris Sullivan from chris sullivan animation on Vimeo.

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