KLIK 2010: 5 Non-Stop Days of The Best of Animation

I first met the organizers of the KLIK Animation Festival at the Annecy Animation Festival a couple of years ago and they assured me that their festival is fun, fun, fun. When they invited me to Amsterdam to be on the Short Films and Political Animation jury, I jumped at the opportunity and it did turn out to be some serious fun.

Nancy and Nik. Photo by Marco Reeuwijk (www.marcoreeuwijk.com).

By Nancy Phelps.

I first met the organizers of the KLIK Animation Festival at the Annecy Animation Festival a couple of years ago and they assured me that their festival is fun, fun, fun.  When they invited me to Amsterdam to be on the Short Films and Political Animation jury, I jumped at the opportunity and it did turn out to be some serious fun.  KLIK set out to show lots of fantastic animation and organize a great party four years ago.  This year they received 1100 submissions from 63 different countries.  From this field, 235 films were selected for over 30 programs. 

Outside the theater; photo by Marco Reeuwijk.

The brief Opening Ceremony kicked off with a welcome from Festival Founder and Director Dario van Vree, the premiere of the new festival trailer and a short assortment of animation.  A party with drinks and nibbles aplenty followed.

The festival theme for 2010 was science, and the theatre lobby and bar were decorated with test tubes, Erlenmeyer flasks, and weird scientific constructions were suspended from the ceiling.  One of my favorite screenings was Mad Scientist Parade which paid homage to “all of those demented scientists in lab coats who cackle manically while lightning frames their posture”.  Such gems as The Muppets, featuring Doctors Bunsen and Burners in: Germ Enlarger by Jim Henson and Dexter’s Laboratory:  Dexter’s Rival were screened.  I have been a fan of Genndy Tartakovsky’s brainy Dexter for years but I had never seen this episode where a rival genius comes into Dexter’s life.

Joost van den Bosh and Erik Verkern of Ka-Ching Cartoon Studio in Rotterdam, known to festival goers as the guys in the red fezzes, created a special 3D piece for the program.  We all donned glasses to watch The 3-D Machine as a lab assistant loses control of the dooms day machine in a mad scientists laboratory.

The four programs of International Short Animation provided some delightful surprises.  One of my favorite films was The Little Boy and the Beast by Uwe Heidschoetter and Johannes Weiland.  This sensitive film deals very honestly with the effects of divorce on the entire family from a child’s point of view as a little boy sees both of his parents turning into beasts but feels totally helpless to do anything to change the situation.  The film was created for German Children’s Television Station KIKA at Studio Soi who also made The Gruffalo.

This was my first chance to see John Dilworth’s latest film Rinky Dink. John has combined drawn animation with stop-motion and photo cut-outs to tell this post modern fairy tale about a princess who finds her true love.  John’s films, which are often semi-autobiographical, always make me laugh and Rinky Dink was no exception.

Les Ventres (The Bellies) by Belgian born Philippe Grammaticopoulos who now lives in Paris is a truly unique, off-beat tale of a corporate fat cat who dines on delicious snails until the day he discovers that the tables have turned.  Grammaticopoulos has a very strong design style using cross hatch shading and stark geometry to tell his tale of snails, glut, and self consumption.  Les Ventres was our jury’s choice for Best Short Animation for “its style and story, with strong images, humor and a circular story which leaves space for imagination”.

In addition to judging the short competition my jury got to select the most thought provoking film in the Political Animation Competition.  The program was full of films that articulated a controversial point of view, had a certain ideological slant or expressed a political message or content.  German animator Alexander Lehman’s Cleanternet,  a spoof on Swedish EU Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom’s plan to introduce a website blocking system in Europe, was an example of political content.

Our jury gave the top award to Spin, Max Hattler’s CGI animation of toy soldiers moving in Busby Berkeley patterns reminiscent of Hollywood’s Golden Age of musicals.  Spin turns conflict into spectacle, blurring the lines between destruction and entertainment.

I love boats, any size, any shape and the boat trip the festival arranged for filmmakers, jurors, and guests on the beautiful Amsterdam canals was a special treat for me.  The festival even ordered a perfect day for us to sail, and they provided goodies to nibble and cases of Vedett, the official festival beer.  This was a great way for all of us to get to know each other better in a relaxed, fun way.

Looch Muñoz Sessarego and Nancy cruising on the Amstel.

Friday, the festival emphasized music with the Dutch premier of film Deconstructing Dad, the documentary about Raymond Scott by his son, Stanley Warnow, and a presentation about music and animation by Nik and I. Last but not least, Nik and Dutch musician  Teije te Maat played music in the spirit of Raymond Scott in the festival bar to round out the evening.

Deconstructing Dad is an intimate look at the legendary composer, musician, and inventor Raymond Scott.  Known to many as the composer of the Warner Brothers classic Looney Toons animation, he was also a staple of early television with his weekly appearance as bandleader on Your Hit Parade, as well as a pioneer in electronic music.  As the builder of a “simultaneous composition and performance machine” called Electronium, Scott was an inspiration to Robert Moog, inventor of the Moog Synthesizer.  A host of people as diverse as Star Wars composer John Williams and DJ Spooky appeared on screen to talk about Raymond’s influence on their music.   Scott’s compositions has been given a resurgence through Ren and Stimpy, Duckman, and Animaniacs.  

Deconstructing Dad is a fascinating portrait of a complex genius but I felt that a bit too much of the film was devoted to the axes that Warnow had to grind against his father.  The film publicity says that “the film is at its core a story about a son reconnecting with his father”.

There were special little treats in store at late night screenings. During the Ren and Stempy Tribute Night several Dutch animation professionals and comic artists presented a collection of their favorite scenes from the show and explain how the cartoon changed their lives.  The festive event included a karaoke sing-along with the Log Song and Happy-Happy Joy-Joy.  Next year I think a Happy Tree Friends tribute would be most in keeping with the spirit of the event.Midnight Madness screened films that the KLIK programming team said “warped our fragile little minds”.  I got a lot of laughs watching films that were so off the wall and unhinged that no other festival would ever think of programming them.  This midnight screening definitely needed to be accompanied by a good beer.

A very special treat for me was getting to know my fellow juror and renowned puppet animator Eric Steegstra and his charming wife Pauline.  Eric told me that he has been enchanted by marionettes since he was a small boy when he would give puppet shows for the neighborhood children in his backyard.  This award winning puppeteer has taken his art form to a new level with his delicately intricate puppet films Metro and Rif (Reef).

Rif  is a magical underwater experience exploring the world of translucent deep sea creatures with two deep sea divers.  One particularly beautiful sequence involves the divers in an intricate water ballet with 2 large man-of-wars.   Along with Eric, three other puppeteers were required to complete the incredible labor-intensive and delicate manipulation of the numerous strings.  In another sequence, hundreds of tiny silver fish school in a shimmering spiral that was so life-like that I became totally absorbed in the visual effect, and forgot to notice the strings attached to the tiny figures.

Metro takes place after a football match as rioting hooligans pour out of a stadium and into the city streets ready to do battle with the each other and the police.  Eric told me that when he decided to make the film to enter in a competition about football that he had never been to a game before.  To achieve the rich, realistic soundtrack, he attended several games sitting in a different area each time and recording the sounds.  The realistic roar of the crowd, the sewn puppets and the clever sets give the film a very distinctive feel, capturing the football atmosphere completely.

As a part of the special Presentations Program, Eric screened his two films and talked about his process. He and his wife are hard at work on their next project, Notre Dame, a new look at a classic story.  I hope that his films will appear at more animation festivals so that a wide audience can enjoy his wonderful works.

There were two other free workshops.  On the Frontier was presented by Tommy Pallotta and Baschz.  Pallotta talked about his career as a producer of Richard Linklater’s films and his own work as producer of such art house hits as Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly.  He also told us about his latest project, Collapsers, a cross between an online game, an awareness campaign, and a documentary.  Baschz, a Dutch street and media artist, who recently made a social media artwork/animated film also related his experiences working on the project/interactive Selfcontrolfreak Masterpiece 2.0.

Animation historian Thomas Weynants from Gent took us back in time to the first appearance of Proto Animation that popped up during the 19th Century and the animation oriented machines from that era.  In keeping with the theme of his workshop there was a giant working 3D Zoetrope in the festival bar.  Several animators created special Zoetrope loops for festival goers viewing pleasure.

Film collector and animator Roloff de Jue dipped into his collection to put together A is for Animation, E is for Education, a program of hilarious and “educational” films.  In the relatively tame Jiminy Cricket:  You and your Five Senses our favorite insect delivers pertinent facts about what else, but you and your five senses.  The short was made in 1955 as part of an educational series that originally aired on the Mickey Mouse television series.

The most bizarre film on the program VD Attack Plan where the Disney Studios attacked that most un-Disney of subjects, Venereal Diseases. The 1973 film, directed by Les Clark, one of the Disney “nine old men” and animated by Charlie Downs, is full of questionable facts and information.

Two of the child friendly programs both had a slight twist.  The first program was made up of films that had no dialogue, perfect for the youngest children who couldn’t read Dutch sub-titles, and non-Dutch speaking kids like me who still struggle with learning the language.   The second program hearkened back to the silent film era with all of the films from around the world being dubbed live in front of the audience by Dutch animator and comic Remco Polman.

The Nickelodeon Kids Program showcased some of the best episodes of some of my favorite shows.  I try to catch Nick Park’s Shaun the Sheep series on BBC every afternoon and seeing a beloved episode on the big screen was a rare treat.  In Fleeced, my favorite flock of sheep decides that instead of getting shorn by the farmhand they will get a collective makeover of fancy hair cuts in the city beauty salon.  No Nickelodeon program would be complete without a thirty minute Sponge Bob Squarepants segment.  The program was rounded out with Fanboy and Chum Chum and The Fairly Odd Parents.  Two family friendly features, Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs and The Secret of Nimh rounded out the family fare.

Unfortunately with three screening rooms often showing films simultaneously it was impossible to do and see everything.  I missed all of the three International Student Competitions and the Design Animation Competition but I was told by several friends that the programs were good.  Sadly I also missed the New Holland screening of new short films from the Low Country.

Throughout the five days of the festival the bar and theatre foyer were the site of activities and workshops.  The Dutch company Xsens gave a motion capture demonstration of their new state of the art technology.  Animator Cage gave festival goers a chance to watch animators in their natural habitat, a small cage.  Animators were locked in for two hour shifts during which they animated.  Over the course of the festival we could watch renowned Japanese animator Akinori Oishi paint a mural.

Two Pixilation Workshops were given. With the Animation Machine, anyone could make a stop motion film in a matter of minutes and have it posted on the internet the minute it was completed for all the world to see. Every time I walked past the Animation Machine it was a hive of activity with “animators” searching through the piles of toy figurines and props to create their masterpiece.

The bar tables were covered in white paper with markers scattered about to encourage drawing and if sculpture was more your thing there was the Cotton Candy Sculpture Contest which needs no explanation.  The festival loves animation AND beer and they found a unique way to bring the two together.  In collaboration with the Vedett Brewery bottles of beer with unique single-frame images of the new Dutch short film Pecker on the label.  Festival goers could recreate the storyboard or mix and match labels to create their own storyboard.  Director Erik van Schaaik and the rest of the crew were around and about to sign the labels turning them into instant collectables.

KLIK has its roots in the now defunct KLIT festival which was organized in Gent, Belgium in 2004 and 2005 by students at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.  When one of the organizers returned home to Amsterdam, KLIK was born in 2007.  The festival is held at the Kriterion Cinema which is located across the street from the University of Amsterdam and although there are plenty of programs for all ages it is mainly students that turn out to pack the screening rooms and then go to the lobby bar to discuss the combination of science and animation.

In keeping with the science theme of the festival, three graduate students organized Animating Science:  Visualizing Content, a daylong symposium across from the theatre at the University to discuss the combination of science and animation.  Seven speakers from such diverse fields as astrophysics, philosophy, and animation delved into such topics as “How we get immersed in Animated Emotions” and “Animation as a Tool for Scientists”.

Madam Mad Scientist and her young protégée were on hand throughout the festival to inspire our wackiest scientific thoughts and creations in the theatre foyer Make Animation area.  They introduced programs on stage and contributed to the general atmosphere of fun. 

Madame Mad Scientist and her assistant.

Even though KLIK is about fun, it does not lose sight of the power of animation to do good.  The festival supports the Mopti Foundation.  Mopti is a city in the West-African country of Mali, near the Sahara Desert Border.  Willem Snapper left the Netherlands three years ago for Mopti to set up the foundation to aid the local population in installing irrigation systems and cultivating communal gardens.   There is no cinema in the region but Willem screens film in his back yard each week.

For the past three years KLIK has put together a program for the Foundation to show.  The local jury and Mopti film goers voted for their favorite film.  This year they selected The Lady and the Grim Reaper by Javier Reico Garcia of Spain as their favorite film.  The KLIK Mopti Award was announced during the closing night ceremony by Willem Snapper via live broadcast from Mopti.

On closing night the Commissioned Films and Design Award Jury took to the stage to announce their decisions.  The jury was comprised of acclaimed multi talented Dutch director, composer, animator, illustrator (and much more) Rosto, Michael Minneboo, a freelance journalist, video director, and editor specializing in pop culture, and Tommy Pallatto who blends technology with filmmaking, animation and interactivity. 

Nancy and Rosto.

The International Short Animation Competition Jury consisted of award winning Dutch puppeteer Eric Steegstra, Fons Schiedon, Dutch director and designer who now lives in Berlin, and me.  A complete list of all winning films is at the end of the article.  To conclude the evening’s festivities, KLIK founder and Creative Director Dario van Vree announced that he was taking a hiatus from his festival duties to work on his own film at long last.  He has left all of his duties in the capable hands of his fellow Creative Director Yvonne Van Ulden, but Dario did assure us that he would remain an active participant in KLIK.  The ceremony was followed by a rip-roaring party that lasted into the wee hours of the night.  I can’t thank the festival enough for inviting me to be a juror and give a hearty thank you to all of the staff and volunteers to did everything possible to make my trip a success.  A very special thank you goes to Lucy van Kleef who was our special jury angel, making sure that all of our special needs were taken care of so that we could concentrate on viewing the films. 

Yvonne Van Ulden and Nancy.

Although Amsterdam is their home, KLIK has begun to take their blend of fun and quality animation out into the world.  This year there will be a Russian Award decided by KLIK audiences in Moscow and Vladivostok.  Programs have also been screened in Tartu, Estonia and Turin, Italy so be on the lookout for KLIK where ever you live.With 6,300 festival visitors this year, KLIK Animation Festival looks set to “KLIK ON!”  and continue to reach an even wider audience. 

The famous KLIK Klikkers, festival mascots; photo by Marco Reeuwijk.

After a glorious week in Amsterdam it was time to go to the Borders Region of England for the wedding of two animator friends.  As if there were not memories enough, the festival arranged for Nik and I to take the overnight ferry from Amsterdam to Newcastle with a deck side cabin at the front of the boat with a perfect view.  On to England and more adventures. . .

KLIK AWARDS

BEST INTERNATIONAL SHORT FILM:  Les Ventres (The Bellies)  - Philippe Grammaticopoulos, France – Son of Godzilla Award, 1000 Euros and a software package from ToonBooomHONORABLE MENTION 1:  The Wonder Hospital – Beomsik Shimbe Shim, United States – Take 5 Softwear PackageHONORABLE MENTION 2:  The Little Boy and the Beast – Uwe Heidschoetter & Johannes Weiland, GermanyBEST INTERNATION STUDENT FILM (Awarded By The Audience):  Things You’d Better Not Mix Up – Joost Lieuwma, Netherlands – Son of Godzilla Award, 750 Euros, and a Take 5 Software PackageHONORABLE MENTION 1:  The Little Boy and the Beast – Uwe Heidschoetter & Johannes Weiland, Germany – Take 5 Software PackageHONORABLE MENTION 2:  Madagascar, A Journey Diary – Bastien Dubois, FranceBEST COMMISSIONED ANIMATION FILM:  Diesel – Safe for Work Fruity Porn – The Viral Factory, United Kingdom – Toon Boom Softwear Package

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