From the shores of enchanting Rio to Sao Paulo’s urban hustle and bustle, I was lucky enough to attend Brazil’s 2008 Anima Mundi festival. This is the only festival I know about that starts in one city for a week and then moves to another town for another week of festivities. While this makes it one of the longest festivals, I think most people would want it to last even a little longer.
The amount of screenings at Anima Mundi is impressive. Furthermore, the selection is very varied making for great viewing. When one attends a number of festivals the same films usually get repeated a number of times so that by the end of the year one feels as if they have seen half the films already. Not the case here! The films were varied in their country of origin but also in quality – some being from small workshops and others from the biggest of studios. However, they were all entertaining and interesting. A great selection indeed!
Japan’s Pika Pika was another special guest that added to the festival events, popping up throughout both weeks to charm and enchant the audience with their unique technique of animating using light exposed directly on video and immediately played back. Seeing them in action is amazing. It is always fantastic to watch people, unfamiliar with the duo, slowly realize what they are doing. They draw an image, and play it back, draw another image and play it back, slowly the crowd realizes that they are watching animation take place like they’ve never seen before. The energy invariably goes from a confused, “What are these people doing?” to, “Oh my gosh! Have you seen what these people are doing!?!” The crowd loved them in Brazil.
Sao Paulo also featured the Anima Forum. This event pulls together studio owners, government officials and others interested in the growth of the commercial animation industry in South America. While I gave the keynote at this event speaking on the state of the international market and how to best enter the fray, I found the other panels to be really interesting as they covered information about new funding schemes, co-production agreements between the countries and each South American nations’ internal funding organizations and incentives. For instance, did you know that in Brazil it is easier to get a feature financed than a television pilot? If you are looking for a crash course in who is who in South America and how it all works…this is a great two-day, concentrated event.
A wonderfully unique feature of Anima Mundi is its dedication to the people of Rio and Sao Paulo. Whereas other festivals invest in bringing the films’ directors to the fest, Anima Mundi puts their resources into introductory animation workshops and classes, focusing on local children and young people. It is so much fun to watch! Groups of teenagers and children sit down to create everything from stop-motion animation featuring colorful clay models to pixilation showcasing wild wigs and funny outfits. To me, this really summed up the Brazilian experience. I don’t know what I was expecting Brazil to be, but what I found was a delightful country surging forward onto the world market. Likewise, at Anima Mundi, the halls were bursting with people and energy as everyone took part in creating their own animation and experiencing the magic of seeing objects come to life. It really gives this festival its own unique flavor and charm. Animation here is not an “art” featured in darkened and hushed theaters for an elite few – it is several concurrent screenings located around halls crowded with people learning and delighting in animations very creation. It is fun and alive and so very, very refreshing. Is it any wonder that animation from these cities is coming to the international markets?
With central locations, endless screenings and a friendly and warm atmosphere, Anima Mundi was a great two weeks. I even suggest staying a little longer and making sure you have time to see the country’s jaw dropping sights. As even though the festival is held in winter, there was only one chilly night and in fact, in Rio, we all slipped away for a day at the beach! Now really…what could be better?
Heather Kenyon is a consultant specializing in the development and production of animation. For five years, she worked at Cartoon Network, where she was the Senior Director of Development, Original Series, leading the development of all series for children 6 – 11 years of age. She is also the former editor-in-chief of Animation World Network.