Computer Animation/Film/VFX

Anerkennung - Honorary Mentions


Nikita Diakur (RU)


Inspired by the story Ugly the Cat found on a website featuring wisdom quotes and sad stories, Ugly is a broken simulated short film about a Native American chief and an ugly cat trying to find peace in an evil neighborhood.

Starting as a part-time research for alternative animation methods, Ugly developed into a series of experiments and the above film was partially supported via German film funding (FFA), a Kickstarter campaign, and the help of many creatives who joined the team during the 4-year production period.

Restrictions of all sorts played a huge part during the development of project. Due to a limited budget and to save time the team had to find shortcuts and alternative working methods, many of which contributed to the final look.

The animation in Ugly is a combination of puppeteering and dynamic computer simulation and varies between physically accurate and broken. The Ugly characters are ragdolls built from connected dynamic body parts that can collide with the environment. Traditional animation is non-linear. The animator can tweak and adjust everything by going back and forth between different states of the animation. Thus, he is always in control of the outcome. Contrary, when simulating, the animator gives up control by outsourcing a number of tasks to the computer. The computer executes these tasks based on calculations/algorithms and outputs a linear simulation result. Here, the animator can control the outcome only to a certain degree.

A typical ragdoll test includes a character tumbling down a staircase in a realistic fashion. Unlike most YouTube references, the first Ugly staircase ragdoll test produced unexpected results: instead of tumbling to the bottom of the stairs, the character got stuck in the middle, started trembling, and later exploded into the air. This happened due to initial inexperience with dynamics and inaccuracy or low sampling in the simulation. The result was partly realistic, partly broken, which pretty much suited the Ugly concept, and was taken to the next level during the later production of the film.

In order to enable the characters to interact with the environment, with objects or with each other, the Ugly characters are constructed similar to marionettes. Each dynamic body part is connected to animated controllers via simulated strings. By keyframing or recording the movement of the controllers, it is possible to evoke a specific action.

Animating like this feels like real-life filmmaking - the animator sets the direction and the simulated characters interpret the action similar to real actors. Accordingly, the focus shifts from outcome to process. The animator is left with the challenge to find the right balance between staying in control and leaving enough room for randomness. This means experimenting and being ready to deal with unpredictable or broken results. When animating towards a specific goal, this can be very frustrating. At the same time, the loss of control is liberating and the outcome is spontaneous and always unique.


Nikita Diakur

Nikita Diakur (RU/DE) is a Russian-born filmmaker based in Mainz, Germany. He studied Animation Direction at the Royal College of Art in London, where he produced Fly on the Window that went on to screen at a number of international film festivals including Zagreb, Annecy, and Edinburgh. Nikita Diakur is now making short films influenced by prominent internet stories and animated via the experimental process of computer simulation.

Direction: Redbear Easterman & Nikita Diakur
Music: Enrica Sciandrone, C├ędric Dekowski, Felix Reifenberg
Recording, Mix, Sound Design: Nicolas Martigne, David Kamp/studiokamp
Mastering: Bernd Thurig
Animation Assistance: Gerhard Funk, Phil Maron, Nicolas Trotignon
End Titles: Bastian Schiffer
Assets & FX: Ozan Korkut, Chris Lühning, Mitch Martinez/, Julia Merkschien, Hannes Raff
Associate Producer: Amid Amidi
Production Funding Liaison: Karsten Matern