ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.03 - JUNE 2000

The Zagreb World Festival Of Animated Films: On The Eve Of Zagreb 2000
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From the left: John Hubley, Frank Thomas, Fedor Khitruk, Dusan Vukotic, Zelimir Matko, Bob Godfrey and Bretislav Pojar.

Our History
In the 28 years of the festival’s history, a great number of famous authors from world animation have been guests.

At the first festival, Walter Lantz, Friz Freling, William Hanna, Joseph Barbera, Stephen Bosustow and Chuck Jones took part in their retrospectives. The members of the first selection committee were Gianni Rondolino (Italy), Daniel Szczechura (Poland) and Pavao Stalter (Yugoslavia). The members of the first jury were Jiri Brdeka (Czechoslovakia), Fyodor Khitruk (USSR), David Hilberman (USA), Marcel Jankovics (Hungary), Manuel Otero (France) and Dusan Vukotic (Yugoslavia).

The second Zagreb Festival (1974) was held in the newly-built Concert Hall Vatroslav Lisinski (with 2000 seats), which still serves as the festival’s location. The special event of that year’s festival was the big Walt Disney retrospective, which brought one of the veterans of animation, Frank Thomas, to Zagreb.

Vatroslav Lisinski Hall in Zagreb where the World Festival is held.

Zagreb ‘74.

In 1976 the Zagreb World Festival of Animated Film was not held due to changes in the ASIFA festival calendar. After having decided that the main animation festivals in Annecy, Mamaia and Zagreb should be held triennially, Mamaia organizers decided not to continue, so none of the three festivals were held that year. In 1977 the spring biennial cycle of Annecy and Zagreb was continued, but without Mamaia.

Zagreb 1980 will be remembered as the world’s first film festival to host an official delegation of Chinese film artists (The Shanghai Studio) after the infamous Cultural Revolution.

In spite of the strict rules that all prizes must be awarded, Zagreb’s 1982 jury came to the bold but objective decision not to award the Grand Prix, which set a kind of precedent among the world’s film festivals. Special attention was given to the world promotion of the book Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, whose authors, Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, Disney studio veterans, were guests of honour at the festival.

The seventh festival -- Zagreb 1986 -- will be remembered for the inauguration of the Life Achievement Award. At that time, it was logical for the first laureate to be Norman McLaren who, according to many, is the greatest name in artistic animated films. Due to old age and illness, he was unable to attend the festival, so the prize was handed in his absence to his lifelong associate, Grant Munroe. On the last night of the festival, a direct telephone link to Montreal was established. Josko Marusic, the president of the Programme Board, talked to the laureate (McLaren) from the stage, which was transmitted to the audience and hall guests. McLaren greeted all those present and saluted Zagreb, which he unfortunately was never able to visit as he died half a year later.

A shot of 1988’s successful festival.

In 1988, the festival took place for the first time in two cinema halls in the very centre of town, which created a change in the festival atmosphere. That year the Life Achievement Award was given to the laureate Chuck Jones in one of the city squares, in front of a great number of people. Karel Zeman, a Czech cinematography veteran, and Jim Henson, the creator of Sesame Street and The Muppets, were both on the official jury. The latter had come to Zagreb in 1972 to receive his first international prize for Rocks Number 12. Both of them died shortly after the festival.

Zagreb 1990 was probably the world’s only film festival that was prepared in one state (Yugoslavia) and held in another (Croatia).

The tenth world festival of animated film -- Zagreb 1992 -- was held in a new state, organized by a new team and with a new Festival Council. It was held in unusual war conditions after the break-up of federal Yugoslavia. Many international guests declined their invitations, but not Bob Godfrey, who has been a regularly attendee of the festival. That year he came to receive his Life Achievement Award.

At the eleventh festival in 1994, the participants experienced the howling of an air-raid alarm during an afternoon screening. It was soon learnt that the alarm had been set off by mistake. This was the last Zagreb wartime festival.

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