Today's international animation festivals traditionally started in 1960 in Annecy, France; the same time and place also saw the birth of L'Association Internationale du Film d'Animation (ASIFA), the international animator's organization which now serves as the sanctioning body for the major festivals.
It is important to remember that both organizations were conceived and nurtured in a world where animation was largely a marginal activity vis-à-vis the film and television industries. For instance, in the United States, the glory days of Hollywood's Golden Age were mostly past, with the spectacle of inexpensive, Saturday morning animation threatening to take the raison d'être of animation as we knew it away.
But animation of a different sort was starting to appear around the world. Not content to produce pale imitations of Disney, a small but significant number of individuals and studios went their own ways. It was the works of these individuals and studios that found their home in festivals like Annecy and often dominated ASIFA on both an international and local level.
Today, animation is no longer a marginal activity. In the commercial world, it is fast being absorbed into the mainstream of the global entertainment industry. As such, animation is growing at a pace and breadth unheard of before. A part of this expansion is due to animation riding the coattails of a worldwide boom in film and television that has resulted from an increasing number of movie theaters and television outlets (both terrestrial and satellite); another part is due to the increasing popularity of animation, ranging from theatrical features to video games.
Some veteran observers warn of the disastrous consequences if one or more of the new feature animation operations that the Hollywood studios are building in the Disney mold collapses. However, it seems unlikely that such an event will necessarily be catastrophic. After all, the American industry survived when NBC stopped programming Saturday morning animation in 1992 without a whimper, and looks to do the same when CBS follows suit later this year.
If the market for Disney-style musical extravaganzas diminishes (as it has to a certain degree over the past few years), there is little reason not to believe that other genres will not come to the fore. After all, Toy Story, Space JamBeavis and Butt-head Do America are all basically straight comedies; in addition, the surprising success at the box office of the Beavis and Butt-head film gives the lie to the assumption that only animated features aimed at a family audience can make money. And as the following statistics that the National Association of Television Program Executives (NATPE) proclaims, in advertising for its 1st Annual Animation & Special Effects Expo, the animation industry is a lot broader than ever. To wit, they note that:
"The Digital Visual Effects business [which uses animation technology and talent] is doubling every year. Computer Video Games account for $1 billion in sales each year. Animation Production and Distribution for television is growing at upwards of 500-900% per year. With CD-ROM capabilities, 3-D and 2-D Character Animation is becoming a multi-billion dollar market. Roughly half of the movies released in 1995 utilized digital visuals of some sort, while 90% used digitally recorded sound. This contrasts with "maybe" 10% for each category in 1993. . . . Animated Feature Film grosses exceed $2 billion over the past ten years.