By Nancy Phelps
My first visit to the Fete de l’Anim, 14 through 17 March was full of lovely surprises. It was a real pleasure to meet up again with my good friends Joanna Quinn and her scriptwriter husband Les Mill. They have been busy in their studio in Wales so it’s been a couple of years since I have seen them. It was great to have a few days to catch up on all of their news over meals. Joanna told me that after years of commercial projects she is finally getting down to work on her next Beryl film. I don’t want to give away much about their new film but I will say that after her disastrous “career” with the video camera Beryl has now decided to pursue a career in “fine” art.
I have seen Joanna’s films many times and they still make me laugh and it was so lovely to see them all together on the big screen. Before showing Britannia, her biting satirical account of the rise and fall of British Imperialism represented by the country’s iconic British Bulldog, Joanna said that the film had received the Leonardo Da Vinci award which was presented to her at Buckingham Palace by the Duke of Edinburgh. It was obvious that the Duke had not seen the film when he asked what it was about. Joanna replied “British Imperialism” and the Duke frowned. His aide immediately chimed in “It’s about a Bulldog, sir” and the Duke smiled and said, “Ah, quite all right then.”
During her masterclass, Joanna took us through the steps that she takes to create story boards based on Les’ scripts. She also showed numerous clips from her films and commercials. We also got to see her changes over the years to the bear character in her long running Charmin toilet paper commercials.
Joanna is an entertaining speaker as well as an extremely talented animator. She treated us to many funny stories about her life and career as an independent animator, such as how she draws in front of a window of her home and when she is working on facial expressions for a character she makes faces and looks at them in the reflection in the window. She said that passers-by must think that a crazy lady lives there when they see her.
It was a real treat to get to know Erick Oh. At his masterclass he talked about the path that led him from UCLA film school to his current work at Pixar. He told the packed audience that he was lucky enough to receive a Pixar internship and although a very small number of interns are hired after their apprenticeship, Pixar obviously saw how talented Erick is. In his three years at Pixar he has worked on Cars Two and Brave as well as the soon to be released Monsters University. He showed clips of his work on Brave where he worked primarily on the queen. He also talked a bit about the different departments at the studio and their individual roles in creating Brave.
Erick presented a separate program of his 7 short personal films which are clever, original and showcased his talent as a 2D animator of hand drawn short films. He told us that he was able to afford a large symphonic orchestra to play the music for his film Heart thanks to a $9,000.00 Matt Groening Initiative Award he received while working on the film at UCLA. His most recent short How to Eat Your Apple is an extension of his recent series of illustrations in the form of an animated poem. The surreal film portrayal of human nature and its essence in the circle of life is currently being shown at animation festivals worldwide.
The majority of the talks and screenings were held in Tourcoing, France, but there were also events 15 kilometers away in Lille. The festival provided drivers to take guests back and forth so one morning I went to see Erick Oh’s exhibition entitled His Chamber at the L’Hybride venue in Lille. His drawings show a great depth which reflects his fine art background. The unique style of intricate lines and lack of color except for an occasional red accent or shadow of grey suits his dark inner thoughts and is very far removed from his work at Pixar. Erick says that he tries to draw on his personal work for an hour or so every night because in his words “I do this to survive, otherwise I might go crazy”.
Canadian animator Patrick Bouchard introduced a program of his films beginning with his 1998 student puppet film Jean Levieriste and coming up to his 2012 award winning Bydlo. At his masterclass the Patrick talked about his experiences as a stop motion animator at the NFB (National Film Board of Canada). He went through his approach to storyboarding, set construction, lighting, and animation.
I had never seen Talon d’Argile Iclay (Talon) which Patrick created in 24 hours at the Festival Off-Courts de Trouville. The very short 1 minute film in which clay figures undergo a metamorphosis is the film which Bydlo eventually grew out of. Bydlo is a 9 minute allegory of mankind heading for disaster, a tragic vision inspired by the 5th movement of Mussorgsky’s powerful Pictures at an Exhibition. Last year when I saw Bydlo at Annecy the sound track was not in proper sync with the animation and since the music is a very integral part of the film it lacked the powerful horror and impending doom that I discovered when I saw the film again properly screened.
With programs in the two theatres at the Le Fresnoy complex in Tourcoing and events down the block at Plaine Images/Teinturies running concurrently it was impossible to see everything that I wanted watch. Sadly I missed Dutch Animator Adriaan Lokman’s Master Class. Adriaan and his wife moved to La Grande Server, France in 2004 after his abstract black and white film Bar Code won the Annecy Grand Prix. I know it would have been interesting to hear him speak about his new film Chase which is also winning awards and his current experiments with making 3D animations as well as his experiences working in France.
I was sorry to miss Serge Elissalde’s presentations. The French animator first came to prominence when his 4 minute film The Street Sweeper won the top prize at the prestigious Hiroshima Animation Festival in 1992. He has gone on to be a member of Les Trois Ours (The Three Bears) Production Company as well as teaching at the Angouleme School of Animation.
Another member of Les Trois Ours, Olivier Catherin, is not only a noted producer but also an animation historian who is frequently invited to conduct interviews. During the master classes he kept the discussions flowing with his insightful questions and observations. His talent as an interviewer really showed through in his ability to let guests lead the conversation while making sure that it flowed smoothly.
I really enjoyed the Visual Design Focus Brunch which gave me an opportunity to hear five studio and independent artists talk about their work in the informal atmosphere of the Plaine Images while we dined on sandwiches and pastry. The session was led off by British animator Mikey Yes Please (and yes, he assured me that it really is his name) who screened his film The Eagleman Stag. The 9 minute film takes us from Petrer Eagleman’s childhood to old age as Peter grapples with his realization that the longer we live, the faster time passes.
Mikey showed us detailed pictures of the monochrome models and sets and told us about the creation of the thousands of hand-crafted models and 115 sets as well as the intricate lighting effects. I wish that he had brought a sample of his models so that I could have seen the fine details of his figures. It is easy to understand why The Eagleman Stag which premiered at Sundance in 2011, won a BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts), the British equivalent of the Oscar as well as being short listed for the Oscars. Mikey also gave us a preview of his new short film Marilyn Miller. He developed the script during his 3 month residence in Tokyo and from the short clip that he showed us it looks as if it will be very interesting.
Next up at the Visual Design session were Joris Oprins and Marieke Blaauw, 2 members of the Dutch studio Job, Joris, and Marieke. The studio specializes in illustration, animation, character and toy design as well as creating the music for their projects in house. The trio rose to prominence when they created the music video for well-known Dutch rapper Gers Pardoel‘s mega hit Ik neem me (I resolve). At the session they screened the video which has received over 14 million hits on You Tube.
On opening night we were treated to a selection of films from the best European schools. The film represented by France, The United Kingdom, Germany, the Benelux Countries, and Eastern Europe. The program assured me that short animation in Europe has a bright future. The impression was strengthened when I watched the individual school presentations over the next three days.
A film that stood out in my mind was Dipendenza (Dependance) by Panna Horvath-Molnar and Virag Zomboracz who study at Moholy-Nagy Muveszeti Egyetem (MOME) in Budapest, Hungary. The 13 minute film took the audience into the world of Buba, a sweet, very large but simple-minded worker at a fish factory and his beloved Angela, a fellow factory worker. Angela is fragile and has artistic ambitions. All is well in their happy home until a handsome stranger comes to work at the factory. The black and white line drawings, with small accents of color fits the story perfectly, the character design is charming, and the story of the eternal triangle is told with delightful twists.
I think that Anima Docs are a perfect way to tell personal stories. Ruben Monteiro’s master graduation project from AKA St. Joost in Breda, The Netherlands, O Meu Nome (My Name) certainly tells a compelling story. In an on stage interview Monteiro told the audience that Ruben is an unusual name for a Portuguese man and the film tells the story of how he got his name. His family’s history and the unfortunate events portrayed in his film had dramatically shaped who he is as a person. Later he told me that when he told his relatives that he was going to tell their story on film they strenuously objected and insisted that he leave out certain events. He respected their wishes but to audiences who don’t know all of the details it doesn’t interfere with the story. Ruben used stop-motion with rotoscoped footage and laser-cut silhouettes of each movement which gives the end result an even more personal feel.
The 4 day event brought together animation professionals and students for hands on projects such as the Animation Marathon. 20 teams of 3 students each were given 48 hours to create 10 seconds of animation. Each group started with an image created by noted Belgian animator Raoul Servais. At the end of the 2 days the films were edited together to form a 3 minute film. Each group of students from animation schools throughout Europe were accompanied by a professor from their academy who could advise them but the animation was all the students work.
The closing night festivities started with the presentation of the student’s marathon film. Following the film the students were called to the stage and amid large applause Raoul Servais was brought to the stage for a group photo with the students. I was sitting next to Raoul when the finished film was screened at the closing ceremony and he told me he was very pleased with what the students had done to bring his hand-drawn image to life. You can see what the students created at: ww.Fete-Anima.com.
You didn’t have to be a child to enjoy playing at the Children’s Village in The Imaginarium located in a renovated textile factory building next to the festival office. The 2 floors were crammed full of animation related workshops and activities. From creating basic zoetropes to story boarding, stop-motion or an introduction to 3 D animation the Children’s Village was a bee hive of activity every time I visited. Each area had students and professionals to guide the young people through their animation adventures.
Although the workshops and school presentations were primarily of interest to the animation community, 5 well known Pixar films were screened at The Fresnoy to attract the community. Hopefully between these screenings and the Children’s Village the local people will become curious about future festival screenings and events. There was a nice turn out of local adults with their children at Erick Oh’s Pixar masterclass.
The fun continued late into the night on Friday and Saturday. From 11 P.M. to 4 A.M. a wide array of techno pop and hip hop/electro dj’s and live musicians took to the stage in a cavernous building that is a former postal terminal in Lille. The space was so large that you could dance to the music in the front and still be able to hold a conversation in the bar area. Vibrant visual images were projected by Kiego Izzok (Glowing Bulb), a collective group that grew out of the thriving underground techno scene in Budapest, Hungary. Along with their creative projections in clubs and concerts the group has performed at outdoor festivals in numerous countries. The large crowd of party goers was a mixture of festival participants and local young people. It was a particularly welcome release for the marathon participants since the students had finished their 10 second animations earlier that evening.
The finale of the closing night festivities was 5 recent films produced in France. From Izu Train’s Ceux D’ En Haut (Those Above) based on a Guy du Maupasssant short story The Inn to Octobre Noir (Black October)the films covered a wide range of stories. Cartoonist Aurel and writer Florence Corre based their film on events that occurred on 17 October 1961 in Paris. A peaceful protest against a curfew imposed on Algerian residents by the Parisian Prefect of Police turned violent when the police attacked the predominately Algerian Muslim peaceful demonstrators beating and shooting them without any provocation from the crowd. The appalling slaughter has never been acknowledged by the French government.
Bruno Collet’s touching Son Indochine (It’s Indochina) recounts another dark period in French history. The film is centered around events at a family meal celebrating the grandfather’s birthday. He had served in the French army during the Indo China war. The unwelcome questions from his granddaughter trigger horrible memories, shown in flash backs of the terrible atrocities committed in Indochina during the war.
On a totally different note Czech animator Michaela Pavlatova’s Tram is a delightful look at female sexual desires and eroticism. I have already written about Tram which was produced by Sacrebleu Productions in France. At the party following the screenings I talk to producer Aubane Fillon who told me that Tram is the first part of their project Sexperiences, a collection of short animations about sexual fantiasies as seen through the eyes of different female animators.
The delight of the evening for me was Mademoiselle Kiki Et Les Montparnos (Miss Kiki of Montparnos). Amelie Harrault’s first film tells the story of Mademoiselle Kiki, the muse of many early 20th Century avant-guarde artists. Her rise from being a mere artist’s model to designer, writer, singer, painter and finally the Queen of Montparnasse is told in vivid colors and 2D images that propels the viewer back in time to the heyday of Bohemian French art and café life.
The film’s enjoyable original music is by French composer and musician Oliver Daviaud which captures the feeling of the era. Daviaud also created the scores for The Rabbi’s Cat and Serge Elissaddi’s The Man in the Moon. The 14 ½ minute film was produced by Les Trois Ours and Olivier Catherin was on hand to represent the film. Mademoiselle Kiki is so rich in detail that I am looking forward to watching it again and again.
I owe a big thank you to Sarah Seray who was in charge of guests for inviting me to the Fete De L’Anima and making sure that all of us were so well taken care of. Antoine Manier who is festival co-ordinator, Press Official Sarah Lemarie and all of the staff and volunteers also deserve much praise for making the entire four days flow beautifully. Running a festival in two cities that are 15 kilometers apart is not an easy job and the guest hotel was not within walking distance of the festival so all of this could not have run so smoothly without our tireless drivers who always seemed to be on call from morning until the wee hours.
I hope that I will have the opportunity to visit the Fete De L’Anima again. You can see photos of the festival and discover for yourself the vast array of event that took place at: www.fete-anim.com