Annecy 2010: Celebrating 50 Years
I wish that I had been able to see all four documentary programs. The most talked about film was the European premier of Waking Sleeping Beauty. Even more fascinating to me was O Galop, a documentary retracing the life and works of Marius Rossillon aka O Galop. A contemporary of Emile Cohl, O'Galop was the little known creator of the world famous Michelin Man, but he created so much more than just his well known. He was a great animation pioneer as well as a poster artist and illustrator for the press.
Fascinated by movement, O'Galop made some 40 animated films that led to projects for such international heavyweights as Benjamin Rabier, Ub Iwerks, and Walt Disney. He used his talent and knowledge to work in a wide range of techniques from animating frame by frame images and painting on glass to magic lantern slides. I was so pleased to discover this little known chapter of French animation history.
As befits a 50th anniversary, the festival invited 50 famous personalities from the animation world to help celebrate. From Richard Williams to Nick Park, you could hardly walk through the Bonleiu (festival headquarters) without running into old friends and seeing famous faces. Every day great talents such as George Schwartzgabel, Bill Plympton and Alexei Alexeev sat at the festival boutique signing copies of Creators & Creatures. The beautiful 256-page bilingual French-English book published by the festival for the anniversary is a collection of behind the scenes looks into the creative process of 50 of the world's greatest animators. This visual panorama of the art of animation is well worth the 39 Euro price. I haven't been able to find out how to order it on line yet but as soon as I do I will put it on my blog.
The Making of series was designed to give the audience a glimpse into the individual creative process and an opportunity to ask questions of some of the most creative minds. Renowned French animator Michel Ocelot took us on his journey from creating his magical 3D feature Azur and Asmar to the 18 months that he spent making 11 episodes of his new series Dragons and Princesses, which earned a Special Award for a TV series. The journey from making a feature film to a series is hard enough, but even more difficult when there is little money, equipment or help. Michel, a born story teller, shared many valuable lessons with a packed audience.
The hottest ticket on Thursday was the Simpsons Extravanga 2. To help create his very special event with Simpson masterminds David Silverman and Matt Groening, Serge Bromberg enlisted the aid of Peter Lord and David Sproxton (Aardman Animation Studios) to create special animation footage. David and Matt had lots of new stories to tell about Springfield's "first family" along with hilarious behind the scenes glimpses. Even David and Matt were surprised by the "new look" Peter and David gave to the world's most recognizable family. The filled to overflowing audience showed their appreciation for a fun filled evening with roars of laughter and long, loud applause.
This year the festival honored Argentina, a country with a rich animation tradition. Two programs of short animation were screened as well as a program of 22 very short films by Juan Pablo Zaramella. At 38, Zaramella has received international recognition for his work. Two feature films, Oily Boogie and Mercano, the Martian were also shown. I also received a trailer for Anima Buenos Aires, a feature film that is in production. According to the press material, the film will reveal the hidden soul of Buenos Aires in four episodes with tango and music as the thread that ties it all together. If the completed film is as interesting and well done as the trailer it should be a big hit at festivals.
The Argentine delegation threw a tango party at Le Bowl, a nearby bowling complex, where I received a tango lesson from Chilean animator Luciano Munoz Sessarego. After a massive buffet and ample drinks, the guests could bowl and dance the night away. The Argentines definitely brought the Latin American spirit to Annecy that night.
When not watching film, my days and nights were packed with events. Each year I look forward to the German Animation Party on Tuesday. This year the setting was L'Oasis Auberge de Bessard in Sevier, a 15-minute bus ride around the lake. The best part of this party is that it is always so relaxed with people sitting at the tables scattered around the lawn chatting. We were treated to a lovely buffet with copious amounts of good beer and wine.
To add to the festive air, the Plus Annecy Band played. This year, Nik on horns and Rolf Bächler playing drums were joined by part of our KROK band, with Alexei Alexeev on guitar, and Mikhail Aldashin playing percussion, as well as Veljko Popvic helping to keep the beat on percussion. Danas Berznitsky, a new addition to the band, joined in on the Jews Harp. The band was joined for a couple numbers by special guest star on drums: Ulrich Wegenast, artistic managing director of the Stuttgart Trickfilm Festival. It turns out that he used to be a drummer for a punk band and he has not lost his touch.
I had the chance to spend a few hours with my old friend Greg Lawson from Amsterdam. We had not seen each other for a while but the last time we talked he had said that he wanted to change the direction of his work. His former company, Lawson and What's His Name, was best known for its innovative commercial work and Safe Sex trilogy. Greg told me that he has launched a new company, Lawson Extremely Limited, and wants to get back to animating and creating more personal work. He looked much happier and more relaxed than I have seen him look in years and this is excellent news to all of us who admire Greg and his work.