There is no doubt that dragging oneself inside, away from the beautiful Amalfi Coast is hard to do but international visitors at Cartoons on the Bay can find great rewards and fun at its conferences.
Being that one is in Italy, one doesn't really need to discuss Cartoons on the Bay's location, food, hospitality or spirit they are all, of course, fabulous. From the magnificent Amalfi Coast, to the seaside dining, to the staff's warmth, to the wandering, bantering presentations, stage shows and festival director Alfio Bastiancich's constant affable presence, Cartoons on the Bay is a festival unlike any other and distinctly Italian. But one area that I think is seriously overlooked at Cartoons on the Bay, is where the festival shines. Cartoons on the Bay's conferences are a great source of information and idea exchanging. Due to the high calibre of guests, the information is interesting, pertinent and definitely "from the source." While the conferences are always professional, there is a certain casualness to the setting and the intimate number of participants that leads to greater discussions and contacts.
Screenings take place in the Cartoon Village beachfront tent (left) while conferences and panels are held in the Covo dei Saraceni hotel.
The festival is split into two sections. One is the screenings, which take place in the animation Village, a tent set up right on the beach. The other section is the panel discussions and presentations, which take place in the lovely hotel, Covo dei Saraceni. Both venues are in very close proximity, separated by only a short walk along a beach side boardwalk lined with restaurants where you cant go wrong with any dish you choose.
The concerts are not to be missed at Cartoons on the Bay. Musicial guests included Enzo Gragnaniello (left) and the Nuove Tribù Zulu Band.
Why You Should Attend
The festival shows are not to be missed! Every evening a standing room only crowd gathers in the tent to see the evening screening however, the real show is the festival show prior to the screening. From fashion shows, to puppet performances, to the top Italian bands, to operatic performances, one never knows what the festival will have up its sleeve. It is refreshing to attend an animation event where the evening performances are geared toward the locals. Families, couples on dates and local teenagers all crowd in next to studio heads to see what is in store.
Not only are the presentations in Italian (not to worry though, translators are on hand so if you dont speak Italian nothing will be missed), but the varied nature of them add up to a broader arts event. In a week in Positano, one can certainly brush up on what is hip and current in Italy. During the festival show it is good to sit next to a native Italian, because they will point out the famous soap star or singing legend and fill in the background. I think everyone just likes an excuse to visit Positano! The festival show is usually followed by the Italian premiere of a major feature film. While the film is in Italian, there is still entertainment to be had if one doesnt speak the language. Outside awaits several open-air restaurants where one can always find and join other participants a guaranteeed quality time.
Cartoons on the Bay draws together a core group of in the production trenches professionals every year. Most of them are the heads of European studios and networks, however, a small band of North Americans is always present. With such a focused group, it is easy to meet the people and spend time with them leisurely over a meal, or on one of the sunny terraces after a panel. This is not a MIP where everyone is on a schedule of 30-minute meetings. In fact, several times I have rushed to events only to find them postponed 30 minutes and everyone lounging on the terrace, talking and enjoying coffee. At all times, expect the schedule to be a little loose, and, as long as you arent afraid to just walk up to an unknown group of visiting European professionals, you should be fine.
Set in a casual (and exquisitely beautiful) setting, Cartoons on the Bay offers four days of press conferences, discussions and panels. Because the crowd is small and professional, the speakers are relaxed and often the seminars turn into discussions. Several times a year, a panel member will mention a point, which sparks audience members to speak up about their own experience, creating a real discussion, rather than a flat Q&A. The best presentations are ones where the audience is responding to each other, and the panel members, about the issues.
For the past three years, I have been quite impressed with the panel discussions I have attended. Through AWN, I have been fortunate enough to moderate a series of presentations entitled, Focus on the Studios. The studios have included U.S. indies like Wild Brain and Pixar, to Japans Production I.G., to Italian up-and-comers like Rainbow. Three years ago, during the Internet craze, Cartoons on the Bay gathered a world-class panel of experts to discuss this new frontier. While sitting in the audience, looking at the large panel, which included the heads of the worlds leading Internet players, I marveled at how such an elite group had been gathered in such an out of the way little place, for such a select audience. It was a treat.
In 2002, the discussions brought attention to Italy's struggle to become a greater animating nation. Where else can one hear animation legend Bruno Bozzetto, Alfio and the rest of the Italian animation community discuss Italys need to take greater control of their industrys stake in the international arena? Quality originates from quantity, was Alfios well-taken point. While RAI Trade is one of the festivals main sponsors, people remarked that more money in the broadcasters' budgets needed to be set aside to help promote the production of native animation.
However, the audience took the conversation to the next level by comparing Frances success to what Italy should be working toward. The success of such government sponsored groups as Magelis-Angoulême in France, has some Italians speculating that the government should be investing more in the countrys infrastructure, namely technology that will spur growth. Eve Baron, director of France 3s Youth Department, was also on this panel, offering unique insight and mentioning that there are now roughly 80 animation companies in France, versus, Italys12.
Festival director Alfio Bastiancich's (left) ability to assemble such guests as Paolo Ruffini (center), of RAI and legendary animator Bruno Bozzetto, makes Cartoons on the Bay a special gathering.
This year, 2003, was no different. A large panel discussed the future of adult animation, determining that niche networks like Cartoon Network will have an advantage over major, public networks to showcase such programming properly. Another specifically interesting panel was Eurotoons: The Current State of European Co-production. What a charged topic in this current market! As always, panel members came from a wide variety of countries, so a number of points of view and experiences were exchanged. This topic can be endlessly discussed. Everyone has an opinion about how our world will change to fit smaller license fees, fewer slots and fierce competition. Another topic continued from last year was Toward an Italian Industry: The Role of Institutions. So, one can see that the issues discussed at Cartoons on the Bay are definitely on everyones mind. Being an American, I find it very interesting to listen to Europes producers so candidly discuss their specific issues. It is a mindopener, and I believe in this forum. The participants are less interested in hometown politics and more interested in comparing notes with their colleagues.
Another great resource at Cartoons on the Bay is the video library. All shows that were entered are available to be viewed at personal televisions in the Covo dei Saraceni. Every participant receives a book that lists, with full credits and pictures, all the shows that were entered and are available for viewing. I find this a terrific resource as, quite often, one hears about shows or sees advertisements for shows that are playing in other territories, but never gets the chance to see an actual episode. It is a great opportunity to pick up an armfull of tapes, sit down and watch them. Much like MIPCOM, Jr., it offers the professional a great opportunity to catch up on the competition and see what networks worldwide are buying and airing. One can also catch pilots, shorts and all kinds of other programs. The more you know the better!
Several people attending had entered their shows but not made the competition. While they were there, they could still meet with people and encourage them to view the readily available tape. Several of these visitors received great feedback. I am sure they wouldnt have in a less easy-going atmosphere.
If you are going to attend Cartoons on the Bay, you should try to steal a few extra days from your busy schedule to explore the surrounding area. Nearby is Pompeii, the isle of Capri, Sorrento and more. You can shop for pottery (a favorite past time of mine), or visit the remains of Roman gardens and villas. Cities like Amalfi and others along the coast are just a five euro boat ride away and everyone is happy to help.
Cartoons on the Bay is a leisurely opportunity to connect with select professionals and view the international competitions in the village. There are enough screenings so one can definitely see something new and interesting, but there isnt an overwhelming amount. Moreover, the screenings are varied. They dont just include television animation, but also short films and special presentations, like this years great tribute to Jules Engel, featuring newly restored prints. Gorgeous! Between the screenings and discussions, there is plenty to do but not so much that it makes you crazy worrying that you are missing something. Cartoons on the Bay is a festival clearly focused on business applications but it feels more like a vacation.
Heather Kenyon is director of development for Cartoon Network and based at the studio in lovely downtown Burbank, California. Previously she was editor-in-chief of Animation World Network, a post she held for six years. Heather began her career in cartoons at Hanna-Barbera after graduating with honors from USCs School of Cinema-Television.