By Liam Berti
Not many people can say their crowning achievement is creating a flying flock of fish for an Oscar-nominated motion picture.
But for Ian Blum, a graduate of Algonquin’s animation program and a West Coast resident, the dream of working on a world-renowned film has become a reality with the 2012 release of Life of Pi.
Blum worked as an animation supervisor for the blockbuster film, where he oversaw a team of animators that were in charge of creating the visual experience that has gained mass attention.
Film critic Roger Ebert referred to the movie as “a landmark of visual mastery,” while the Express Tribune claimed “some of the scenes are extraordinary to look at, especially those involving marine life in visually intoxicating colors.”
“I could see that it was a cool show and I could tell it would turn out the way it did by the research and development that went into it,” said Blum. “Everyone was really excited early on and everyone knew we were putting the best people on the crew, so right from the get go we were aiming for it to look the way it did.”
The film, which releases on DVD this March, has been nominated for 11 Academy Awards, with Best Visual Effects being the one category that Blum will be watching very closely. Blum credits working with the film’s director, Ang Lee, for the success of the project. Lee was also nominated for Best Director at the Oscars.
“You don’t always get the chance to hear from the director directly or meet with him,” said Blum. “But with Ang, we were always in meetings, so it was cool to see how that side of things works and that’s what made this experience stand out.”
While Life of Pi was Blum’s most recently completed project, he boasts a resume that includes working on such Hollywood hits as: X-Men: First Class, Alice in Wonderland, Alvin and the Chipmunks 3 and The Incredible Hulk, to name a few. But despite the extensive portfolio, Blum insisted that his most recent project was his best work so far.
“It is one of those rare computer graphic movies that is groundbreaking and the best that’s been done to date,” said Blum. “A lot of films I’ve worked on, the story isn’t that good, but having a good story and a good director is what made this one stand out.”
After graduating from the college’s animation program in 1995, Blum immediately entered the field and began animating Canadian children’s television shows. The Gatineau, Que., native recently moved to Vancouver from Los Angeles to work as an animation supervisor on Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters and while he doesn’t get the chance to visit home too often, he credits Algonquin for laying the foundation of his career and getting him started.
“To me, going to the school served the purpose of finding work and getting you ready and helping you find your first job,” said Blum. “When you’re young like that, you don’t really know how to get into the business, so it helped me a lot.”
Since entering the field, Blum has continued to take on bigger projects and evolve his responsibilities, finally getting the chance to work on the big productions that he always had his eyes on.
“It was always my goal to work on big films like this,” said Blum. “I was always impressed with the big movies and the best work being done, so my goal was always to get to that level. I was always a bit of a dreamer.”