Annecy 2013: How I Learned to Stop Worrying About Commercialism and Love the Festival
I think that Subconscious Password was clearly the most creative film at the festival this year. I was very pleased to see that Chris took home the coveted crystal for Best Short Animation. When his name was announced he looked totally amazed and surprised. The film produced by Marcy Page of the National Film Board of Canada and Toronto’s Mark Smith of Copper Heart Production is another example in a long line of award winning films that shows what a brilliant, creative asset Marcy is to NFB.
The daily Features At Noon press conferences was an opportunity to listen to directors and animators talk about their films. I have seen the wonderful Spanish feature film O Apostolo twice and thoroughly enjoyed it both times. The story of an escaped convict who tries to retrieve his hidden loot in a remote village where he had stashed it years before is delightfully macabre.
I was fascinated to finally get to see O Apostolo’s extremely detailed puppets up close and listen to director Fernando Cortizo Rodriguez and Executive Producer Isabel Ray Sastre speak about the making of the film. O Apostolo was made with puppets and no computer animation at all. All of the backgrounds were hand constructed. The score by Phillip Glass added just the right rich, sinister undertones to the film without dominating it.
Although the film is not based on any one true anecdote, the 3-D stop motion feature combines folklore, traditions and the history of Northern Spain. Sinister old people, odd disappearances, spirits, a strange parish priest, and even the archpriest of Santiago de Compostela come together in a tale full of humor, terror, and fantasy. It was definitely made for adults. It will be released in Spain and across Latin America in 2014. Sadly, as often happens with intelligent adult animation the film has no U.S. distributor so far.
Each year I begin my visit to Annecy with The Big Sleep, a screening that honors our colleagues who have passed away since the last Annecy. During the past 12 months we lost 9 great talents from the world of animation. Tribute was paid to Czech puppet master Bretislav Pojar; Feodor Khitruk, an important figure in post war Soviet cinema, known to generations of Russian children as the creator of the Soviet version of Winnie-the-Pooh; Gerrit Van Dijk, Dutch pioneer animator and inspiration to a countless number of younger animators; Dave Borthwik of Great Britain whose feature The Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb won numerous awards and Hungarian master of drawn animation Csaba Varga.
We also lost Leif Marcussen, Danish master of experimental animation and British producer John Coates who produced the great classic When the Wind Blows which addresses a nuclear attack on the British Isles along with many other memorable films. The brilliant British animator Bob Godfrey, much loved for his joie de vive and wicked sense of humor, left us with so many memorable films in his 92 years on earth. Run Wake of Great Britain left us far too soon at the age of 47. Although he only made 3 films, his 2005 Rabbit is already a classic. These animation greats may not be with us any longer but they will live on in the many beautiful films they have left us.
This year the festival spotlight was on Polish animaton. I was so happy to see my old friend Jerzy Kucia who was honoured by the festival with a Special Crystal Award for Life Time Achievement. Jerzy brings together music and drawing to create very lyrical films such as his 1979 Reflections, a film rich in ironic thoughts on life, rivalry, and senseless fighting. The film was chosen by a panel of animation experts as one of the 50 most outstanding films created during ASIFA’s first half century of existence.
The 3 programs devoted to Polish animation encompassed a broad range of styles, topics, and animators. In his 1973 film Plamuz, Zbigniew Rybczynski used rotoscoping to create a visual equivalent of a piece of jazz. Zbigniew has won numerous awards including an Oscar for Tango in 1982. Damian Nenow’s Paths of Hate is at the other end of the viewing spectrum. The 2010 exploration of what pushes people into the abyss of blind hate, fury, and rage was short listed for an Oscar, honoured at Annecy with a Special Distinction Award, and was named Best of Show at SIGGRAPH 2011.
Since 1985 ASIFA (Association Internationale de Film d’Animation) has given an annual award to an individual or organization that has made a significant and innovative contribution to the promotion and/ or preservation of animation. This year the prize was awarded to Italian animator Bruno Bozzetto. Bruno’s 1976 Allegro Non Troppo, which featured 6 pieces of classical music in an adult parody of Disney’s Fantasia, is considered an animation classic. My personal favourite of Bruno’s films is Europe vs. Italy which is an extremely humorous and clever commentary on European versus Italian Sociocultural attributes.
Bruno’s award was a framed drawing created especially for him by Tyrus Wong, a 102 year old animator who worked on Walt Disney’s classic Bambi, one of Bozzetto’s favourite films. The award was presented to Bruno on stage and was followed by a screening of Allegro Non Troppo.
I am still not sure what to think about the "special premier"of Disney’s new theatrical short Get A Horse. The audience was told that this was a never before seen short starring Mickey Mouse and featuring the voice of Walt Disney himself as Mickey. The black and white hand drawn short features Mickey, his long suffering girlfriend Minnie, Horrace Horsecollar, and Clarabelle Cow on a musical wagon ride.
Director Lauren MacMullen who conceived the idea of bringing Mickey back to life, began the presentation with a talk about the discovery of the old story board for the unfinished Mickey Mouse short Get A Horse. This was followed by a screening of pristine prints of two classic Mickey’s Plane Crazy and Steam Boat Willie.
Get A Horse purports to start out as an actual 1928 Disney cartoon that had been “forgotten” for years but a little way into the film a full color, 3D rendered Mickey appears. From then on the film mixes classic 1920’s style hand drawn animation with modern 3D effects. To achieve the 1928 look aging and blur filters were added for the CG part and new models were created that were faithful to the 1928 character designs.
After the film, legendary Disney animator Eric Goldberg took center stage to share his encyclopedic knowledge of Mickey’s early years. As the audience watched him draw it was obvious that he was able to create “authentic” images of Mickey. His drawing, the emphasis that MacMullen kept putting on the yellow aging of the drawing paper and the old style peg board paper along with Disney Studio being very coy about the film’s origins make me think that the entire film is a hoax, but if it is does it really matter? The film is fun and it was nice to see Mickey and friends on the big screen again. Get A Horse will open in theatres later this year in front of Frozen.