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Behind the scenes: Trojan Horse was a Unicorn

By Henry Winchester

Web: http://www.trojan-unicorn.com (will open in new window)

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Date Added: 14th August 2013

This September, thousands of artists will descend on Portugal's Tróia peninsula for a one-of-a-kind festival. We chat to its organizers about what to expect.


Adding a date to the international CG artist community's collective diary is always going to be a tough call. The pressure of mounting deadlines, polishing portfolios and mastering new skills takes up enough time, but Trojan Horse was a Unicorn's co-directors André Luis and Nuno Rivotti felt that they had an interesting enough idea to capture the attention of anyone who's ever picked up a stylus or fired up 3ds Max.

The notion of the festival is to create a more laid-back and fun event in an inspirational setting, where artists and attendees are free to interact and explore their creativity. The fact that it's got an amazing line-up of guests helps too. We sat down with Luis and Rivotti to discuss their approach to creating a brand new festival - as well as their love of fresh seafood.

Naming games

The most attention-grabbing element of Trojan Horse was a Unicorn is its playful title. It certainly paints an interesting picture in the mind - one of rainbows and Nyan Cats rather than classically-sculpted Mediterranean heroes.

"We wanted something completely disruptive and creative," says Luis. "We definitely didn't want to sound serious or institutional," continues Rivotti. "We wanted something different, crazy, something that could surprise us all."

Part of the inspiration for the festival's name comes from its location: the Portuguese peninsula of Tróia. It's a world away from the stuffy conference centers and exhibition halls of similar festivals and events; Tróia's described by Nuno as "an isolated paradise," with "great food and wine that will make you want to stay longer than expected."

So as well as experiencing a meeting of some of the greatest minds in the industry, attendees will be able to try their hands at water sports or relax with a beer on the beach.

Isolated paradise

This isolation also gives the festival a unique atmosphere, more akin to an intimate music festival than a corporate event. Whereas speakers are usually afforded a VIP status, appearing on stage and then quietly retiring to their hotel room, here they'll mingle with attendees.

"People will always be close by and in eyesight distance of the speakers and other visitors," says Nuno. "That is due to the venue properties - there is nothing else around Tróia, it's a natural resort with water and sand around it."

It's an impressive line-up of speakers, stretching across 2D and 3D artists and bringing together heroes of cinematic visual effects, video games and illustration. From the Hollywood sector Industrial Light and Magic's art director Aaron McBride will rub shoulders with Pixar's senior animator Andrew Schmidt and technical director Holly Lloyd, Sony Imageworks' In-Ah Roediger and Framestore's Alexis Wajsbrot.

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When you're not listening to some of the coolest people in the industry talk about interesting things, you'll be able to walk down here

Avid gamers will also enjoy an inside peak at the industry. Iana Schirmer from Sixmorevodka will offer advice on character design, while Crytek's Peter Gornstein, Ubisoft's Raphael LaCoste and Blizzard's Mathias Verhasselt will show how to make the perfect in-game cutscene. Industry legend Kemp Remillard (Massive Black) will also be on hand to lend his expertise on creating industrial vehicles for video games.

"We will only stop to rest and sleep to attend the next day"

The big guns

It's astonishing that so many grand speakers would be interested in something so fresh and new, and Luis and Rivotti struggled to attract them to begin with. "It wasn't easy, I can tell you that much," says Luis. The team pulled together an advisory board of established artists who could use their clout to persuade important people to attend. "I'll be forever grateful to those who accepted this challenge and especially our advisory board members," he says.

On the board are visual artist Loic Zimmerman, Pixar contributor and documentary maker Afonso Salcedo, character artist and 3D illustrator José Alves da Silva and award-winning illustrator Serge Birault, with the latter three each giving talks.

Of course, the exotic location was a big help in getting hugely busy people to commit. "Just look at the photos of Tróia," Luis points out. "Who wouldn't want to spend a whole week there?"

"Non-established artists who want to be the next Kemp Remillard or Serge Birault are also catered for"

Views like this make a nice change from the industrial wastelands we usually see from our cheap hotels at similar conferences

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Behind the scenes: Trojan Horse was a Unicorn

This September, thousands of artists will descend on Portugal's Tróia peninsula for a one-of-a-kind festival. We chat to its organizers about what to exp...

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