Giannalberto Bendazzi reports on the second annual gathering in Amalfi.
The second edition of Cartoons on the Bay, the only festival in the world devoted entirely to television animation, took place last month (April 5-9) on the picturesque southern Italian coast of Amalfi, near Naples. Only in its second year, this festival has become an important event for the animation world. It is at once a cultural event for animators, filmmakers, executives, animation critics and historians, a privileged circle for discussing the everlasting moral, psychological and educational issues surrounding television and children; and, perhaps most importantly, an occasion for showing the little known treasures of the history of animation to a hungry public.
The professional attendance was mainly from Italy, with a mix of European and American executives participating in the seminars. It was also a treat to have the presence of animation master Jimmy Teru Murakami (When the Wind Blows) visiting from Ireland. Italians Bruno Bozzetto, Guido Manuli, Giuseppe Laganá, Pierluigi De Mas, Marco Pagot and Enzo D'Alò were all present, wise-cracking and discussing their new projects. Bruno Bozzetto confessed that he is thinking of developing a new feature film, his first since Allegro non Troppo in 1978.
As is the case with many animation festivals, there are usually more events going on than any one person can keep up with. The 58 films in competition and 56 in showcase were screened in the evocative, although somewhat freezing setting of the ancient Arsenali (shipyards) hall, while the programs of animation previews and live-action TV productions for children took place in the nearby village of Maiori. Meanwhile, a program on music and cartoons was being presented in Salerno, the biggest town of the area. My feeling is that the festival would have been better if it had been more localized. But it is nevertheless true that this inherent flaw is also the charm of the festival.
An important aspect of Cartoons on the Bay is its many conferences and seminars, which were mainly devoted to "children and television," the theme of this festival. Also of interest were the seminars "Scaling the Height of Animation," which discussed the limits of animation market, and "Writing for Animation", a professional seminar for animation scriptwriters.
And The Pulcinella Goes To. . . .
The international jury was comprised of Marc du Pontavice of Gaumont Multimedia in France, Robby London of DIC Entertainment in USA, Theresa Plummer-Andrews of BBC Childrens Programmes in U.K., Michael Schaak of Trickompany Filmproduktion in Germany, and Alessandra Valeri Manera of Mediaset Networks in Italy.
Of the 58 films in competition, the top prizes were awarded to Rotten Ralph by John Matthews of USA for the Best Childrens Series category, and to Link by Tapani Knuutila of Canada for the Best Adult Series category. These were two well-deserved prizes, according to the general opinion of the festivalgoers, who generally agreed about the rest of the prizes as well. The Sun is a Yellow Giraffe by Finland's Elmer Diktonus of the Epidem studio brought home both the UNICEF Award and the Silver Pulcinella for Best European Series, while Moscow-based Christmas Films' Testament: The Bible in Animation, directed by Aida Ziablikova, was awarded both the Silver Pulcinella for Best TV Movie and a special mention for Best Direction. The four other films awarded Silver Pulcinellas were Cosgrove Hall's (U.K.) Brambly Hedge for Technical Innovation, Hanna Barbera's (USA) Dexter's Laboratory for Best Script, Grand Slamm's (U.K.) Percy the Park Keeper for Best Series for Infants and Walt Disney's (USA) The Lion King's Timon & Pumba for All Audiences.
My favorites which were not awarded prizes include Hanna Barbera's Cow and Chicken, by David Feiss and Robert Alvarez, Nickelodeon's Rocko's Modern Life by Robert McNally-Scull, Warner Bros.' Superman by Toshihiko Masuda, which is very faithful to the original comic strip and very well modernized.
Everyone was eager to see the preview Disney's latest feature film, Hercules, produced by Alice Dewey, and directed by John Musker and Ron Clements (The Little Mermaid, The Lion King.) Roy Conly from Disney's Paris studio introduced the show, explaining who was who and what was going on between the fragments screened. Ultimately, the preview left most of us guessing what the actual film will look like when it premieres in June! One thing is certain about Hercules, though. . . . the film's Greek heroine, Megara (her friends call her "Meg") is saucier and more down to earth than any preceding Disney princess.
Other feature film screenings included Japanese Osamu Dezaki's Black Jack, a film adapted from the comic strip character created by the late Osamu Tezuka, and German Trickompany's Werner, Eat My Dust, the film that's making history for out-grossing Disney's Hunchback of Notre Dame in the German domestic market.
Enzo D'Alò, who sold his La Freccia Azzurra animated feature film to Miramax for distribution in the U.S. and U.K., is preparing two new animated features. Coming for Christmas 1998 is Storia di una gabbianella e del gatto che le insegnò a volare, or, Story of a Little Seagull and of the Cat Who Taught Her How to Fly a film adapted from the novel by Luis Sepulveda. And for Christmas 1999, d' Alo is working on a new animated Pinocchio.
Keywords: Quantity and Quality
Of all of the events during the week, there are two positive observations I am taking from these Amalfi days. As far as quantity is concerned, animation today looks like "the promised land" for employment. Animated fare today accounts for 25% of global audiovisual output, and during the last four years, worldwide animation production has increased 600%. In 1996, Europe produced 750 hours of animation, twelve times the output of 60 hours in 1986. Secondly, the increased quantity is also of increased quality than before. Or, at least it is much more creative, brilliant and stimulating than one might expect from a globalized market which could have aimed at the lowest common denominator in order to please everyone's tastes. Kate Fawkes, executive producer of Britain's HIT Entertainment, summed it up well when she said to The Hollywood Reporter, "Broadcasters now have so many years worth of junk to recycle, that they are much more interested in quality."
The Italian Animation Industry
After many years of honorable but fragile craft, Italian animation is blossoming into an industry. The public broadcaster RAI, which, through its acquisitions branch, SACIS, is the actual backer/organizer of Cartoons on the Bay, has set a schedule for financing pilots and series. Some of them already in production are Albert the Wolf developed from the comic strip Silver, and directed by Giuseppe Laganà. . . . La Pimpa, developed from the comic strip Altan, and directed by Enzo D'Alò. . . . and Sandokan, developed from the novels by Salgari, and directed by Marco Pagot.
Many other Italian animators and cartoonists are at work. Franco Bianco, a young director, Guido Favaro and Francesco Artibani, scriptwriters, and Luigi Zollo, producer, are creating a pilot, Giak and Zac, the story of two crazy and inconsequent detectives. It is funny, fresh and features a perfect timing. The now privately-owned broadcaster Mediaset has announced projects for financing animation series, good news because it will avoid any monopoly, very dangerous for the many old and new firms that are developing and investing into hardware and teaching. Among them I must mention Laterna Magica, the producer of La Freccia Azzurra, which has invested over $590,000.00 in training new animation professionals. Back to RAI, whose 1997 investment into independent cinema is roughly 50 billion lire (a little less than 3 billion dollars.) Of these monies, 14 billion (approximately $823,600.00) will be devoted to animation. RAI executives estimate that in one or two years, the annual Italian output of animation should match Britain's or Germany's, at about 200 hours.
Discussions of turning Cartoons on the Bay into an official market such as MIP or MIFA have been put away for now, with an agreement between SACIS and MIFED, the famous Italian film market. SACIS will instead organize an animation "pavilion"-type exhibition package and screening program at the 64th MIFED film market in Milan October 19-24.
Giannalberto Bendazzi, a frequent contributor to Animation World Magazine, is a Milan-based film historian and critic whose own history of animation, Cartoons: One Hundred Years of Cinema Animation, was published in the US by Indiana University Press and in the UK by John Libbey. His other books on animation include Topoline e poi (1978), Due voite l'oceana (1983) and Il movimento creato (1993, with Guido Michelone).