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Annecy 2024 Feature Films in Official Competition Roundup

AWN breaks down the stellar lineup of 12 animated features competing at this year's festival, including ‘Memoir of a Snail’ by Adam Elliot, ‘Rock Bottom' by María Trénor,’ and ‘Savages’ by Claude Barras; the 48th edition of the festival runs June 9-15.

Out of the approximately 100 films submitted this year, 12 have been selected in the Feature Films Official Competition for the 2024 Annecy International Film Festival.

This year’s festival, running June 9-15, is Annecy’s 48th edition, and the official competition selection includes a group of indie animated films that are as innovative and compelling in their narrative and production values as any of the big studio films being showcased and presented during the weeklong festivities.

From puppetry and stop-motion and hybrid 2D/3D animations, there’s plenty to love about these animated feature films, which range from excentric comedies to emotional historical dramas. But, before the official festival kick-off, allow us to offer some insight into the 12 projects, with quotes from the directors and producers along with trailers and even some behind-the-scenes footage. 

Into the Wonderwoods (Angelo Dans la Forêt Mystérieuse) 

Directed by Vincent Paronnaud (Winshluss) and Alexis Ducord, Into the Wonderwoods is a 3D-animated fantastical adventure from France and Luxembourg, produced by Je Suis Bien Content, Gao Shan Pictures, ZEILT productions, Amopix, EV.L Prod and France 3 Cinéma. 

Paronnaud’s adaptation of his comic book Dans la Forêt Sombre et Mystérieuse, published in 2016 and awarded a Pépite d’or at the Sa-lon du Livre Jeunesse de Montreuil, follows 10-year-old character Angelo, who dreams of being an adventurer and zoologist. But the day Angelo and his family hit the road to go to the bedside of his beloved, very sick Grandma, the young boy is suddenly challenged to prove his courage after being forgotten by mistake at a motorway rest area. Angelo decides to cut through the forest to reach Mémé's house when he plunges into a mysterious world inhabited by strange creatures, some friendlier than others.

Check out the trailer:

“It has the same flavors [as the comic] but is made with different ingredients,” said Paronnaud. Reflecting on the origins of the story, he explained. “I had to do a book for Éditions Gallimard, who were expecting a very ‘adult’ book. I said, ‘It’s going to be for children,’ which stunned them. Those who knew my work thought, ‘He’s moving to Gallimard. He’s mellowed out.’ In fact, I would never have drawn this album if I hadn’t had children. I started rereading fairy tales. The book won a Pépite d’or at the Salon du Livre Jeunesse in Montreuil. And when I finished it, I realized that, potentially, it had everything I needed for an adaptation.”

He adds, "The key messages are, never give up. Accept the complexity of our surroundings. Fight against the madmen who abuse their power. Take care of nature and, you'll see, she'll pay us back. And above all, be careful not to forget your child at a rest area.”

Flow 

From Latvian animator Gints Zilbalodis, Flow is produced by Dream Well Studio, Take Five, and Sacrebleu Productions.

The 3D-animated film begins with a cat, who wakes up in a universe invaded by water, where all human life seems to have disappeared. He finds refuge on a boat with a group of other animals. But getting along with them proves to be an even bigger challenge than overcoming a fear of water. The characters will now have to learn to overcome their differences and adapt to the new world that is imposed on them.

Check out this clip shared at the 2024 Cannes Film Festival:

"Making Flow was my first ever experience of working in a team,” shares Zilbalodis. “It was both very exciting and also challenging for me because I was used to working on my own. Much like the main character of the film, this cat who`s used to being very independent, I had to learn how to work together with others.”

The director continues, “We set out to make something quite ambitious. To tell the story without dialogue and let the animal characters behave like real animals. This allowed us to be more expressive and bold with the animation, the music and the cinematography. I`m also very excited to return to Annecy. My previous film Away was very well received there and it really helped us to get Flow made.” 

Ghost Cat Anzu 

Directed by Yoko Kuno and Nobuhiro Yamashita, Ghost Cat Anzu is a rotoscope animated film from Japan and France-based creatives, produced by Shin-Ei Animation Co., Ltd and Miyu Productions.

The story is one of 10 other Miyu Production projects being featured at Annecy this week, and follows 11-year-old Karin, who is abandoned by her father and goes to live with her grandfather, the monk of a small Japanese provincial town. He asks Anzu, his jovial and helpful although quite capricious ghost cat, to watch over Karin. As their spirited personalities collide, sparks fly between Karin and this ghost cat—but it’s only in the beginning.

Check out the trailer, with the live-action-to-animation transition:

“Although rotoscoping is an animation technique that has been around for a long time, it is rarely used today,” explains directors Kuno and Yamashita. “So, why did we choose this technique? Because it captures the actors' breathing, unexpected movements, and interactions. It is this ‘real’ aspect that we sought. The exchanges of glances and the brief silences, which can only occur between living people, are miracles. Drawing them solely from our imagination is extremely difficult. We consider making films to be an ‘observation,’ observing the accuracy of actors' performances, animation, editing, and sound. Rotoscoping, which allows us to have an observant eye throughout the film's production until the final stage, posed a challenge for our team. The moment we realized that this challenge was reflected in the film was when we fully appreciated the richness of cinema.”

The Colors Within (KIMINOIRO) 

Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Naoko Yamada (A Silent Voice, Liz and the Blue Bird) and produced by STORY Inc. and Science SARU Inc. (Scott Pilgrim Takes Off, Inu-Oh), the Japanese 2D/3D hybrid animated feature is a musical drama that centers around high school student Totsuko, who can see others as colors: colors of bliss, excitement, and serenity, plus a color she treasures as her favorite. Kimi, a classmate at her school, gives off the most beautiful color of all. 

Although she doesn’t play an instrument, Totsuko forms a band with Kimi, who dropped out of school but pretends to continue to spare her grandmother, and Rui, a quiet music enthusiast who dreams of composing on analog synthesizers but whose mother expects him to become a doctor. As the trio practice at an old church on a remote island, music brings them together and forms their friendships while also stirring affections. Will they discover their true ‘colors’?

Producer Genki Kawamura’s STORY Inc. (Your Name., Weathering With You, Suzume), is additionally attached to the film for planning and producing. Screenwriter Reiko Yoshida (Ride Your Wave, Violet Evergarden) penned the script, and longtime Science SARU collaborator Kensuke Ushio (Devilman Crybaby, Chainsaw Man, A Silent Voice) composed the score. Frequent Science SARU collaborator Takashi Kojima, who most recently worked with director Yamada on The Heike Story, joined the production as character designer and animation director. GKIDS and Anime Ltd. will theatrically release the film in both its original Japanese language and a new English dubbed version this winter.

Watch the trailer:

“We have long admired Naoko Yamada and her ability to create dazzling, emotional stories out of the everyday concerns of teenagers,” said GKIDS president David Jesteadt. “The Colors Within is her most beautiful film yet, and we are proud to partner with our friends at Anime Ltd. On another soon-to-be classic from Science SARU and Story inc., who are responsible for some of the best anime productions of this new century.”

Anime Ltd. CEO Andrew Partridge adds, “On a personal level, I’ve worked closely with promoting Naoko Yamada’s films before I even founded Anime Ltd., starting with her debut feature film as a part of Scotland Loves Anime. It’s a real pleasure to be bringing her latest work to as wide an audience as possible in Europe.”

The Most Precious of Cargoes 

This emotional 2D animated drama from Belgium and France is directed by Michel Hazanavicius and produced by Ex Nihilo, Les Compagnons du Cinéma, Les Films du Fleuve and StudioCanal.

Adapted from the novel of the same name by Jean-Claude Grumberg, The Most Precious of Cargoes will serve as Annecy’s opening film.

As the story goes, once upon a time, in a big woods, there lived two poor woodcutters. The cold, hunger, poverty, and war everywhere around them made their lives very difficult. One day, one of the woodcutters takes in a baby thrown from one of the many trains that constantly pass through the woods. Protected whatever the cost, this baby, this little merchandise, will change the lives of this woman, her husband, and all those who will cross their path…even the man who threw the baby from the train. The story will reveal the worst, as well as the best, of people’s hearts.

A first look clip from StudioCanal is available to watch, here: 

Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window (Madogiwa no Totto-chan) 

Written and directed by Shinnouske Yakuwa with Yōsuke Suzuki as a co-writer, Totto-Chan: The Little Girl at the Window is produced by Shin-Ei Animation Co., Ltd. This Japanese 2D animated film follows the daily life of little, misunderstood Totto-Chan at the Tomoe school during the Second World War. She understands what racism and intolerance are, and discovers the harsh reality of war as she begins a friendship with a disabled boy at her school.

The film is based on an autobiographical novel of the same title by Tetsuko Kuroyanagi and is the story of Kuroyanagi as a child, whose nickname was ‘Totto.’ The historical drama will be distributed by TOHO. 

Check out the trailer (with and without subtitles):

Memoir of a Snail 

In 1970s Australia, Grace's life is marked by bad luck and loss. So, naturally, she decides to retell her life story to a humble garden snail named Sylvia. Because who wouldn’t talk to a snail to kickstart their mental health?

Produced by Australia’s Arenamedia, Memoir of a Snail is part of a much larger stop-motion claymation project from Academy Award-winning animation writer and director Adam Elliot (Harvie Krumpet) who, for years, has catalogued stories of his own life in stop-motion animation videos. 

Here’s a segment of Elliot’s original stop-motions from the University of Melbourn’s VCA Film & Television YouTube channel:

In Memoir of a Snail, the story focuses on Grace Pudel, a lonely misfit with an affinity for collecting ornamental snails and an intense love for books. As she talks with her new snail friend Sylvia, viewers learn Grace’s mother died in childbirth, leading to Grace and her twin brother Gilbert being raised by their father Percy, a former paraplegic juggler and alcoholic. Despite a life filled with love, tragedy still strikes when Percy dies in his sleep. Gilbert and Grace are then forcibly separated and sent to two different homes. Grace falls into a spiral of anxiety and angst until she strikes up an enduring friendship with an elderly eccentric woman named Pinky, who is full of grit and lust for life. The rest of the story Sylvia is keeping to herself until the Annecy screening. 

Memoir of A Snail has been an eight-year project and is part seven of my trilogy of trilogies,” shares Elliot. “I have always been fascinated by people’s collections and when does a collection become a hoard? My film is about a lonely hoarder of ornamental snails and the journey she takes to overcome her trauma and escape from her shell. I hope people can relate to Grace, empathize with her and share her moments of loss and joy."

Rock Bottom 

Inspired by the poignant music and tumultuous life of Robert Wyatt, the animated film Rock Bottom is directed by Spanish filmmaker María Trénor and produced by Alba Sotorra, Jaibo Films and GS Animation. 

Through the music of Wyatt, the rotoscoped, 2D-animated film portrays the romance between Bob, a famous rock musician, and Alif, a talented visual artist. Together, they dive into the creative vortex of the 70s hippie culture in Mallorca and New York. The film explores the euphoria and anguish of artistic creation, the unconscious allure of drugs, the disenchantment with routine and the complexity of love relations.

Trénor, also the screenwriter and animator, delivers a musical drama visually true to the underground and surreal aesthetic of the early 70s. Influenced by artists like Mati Klarwein, Maya Deren, Barbara Rubin, and Shirley Clarke, Rock Bottom avoids the typical visual stereotypes of the hippie movement for a more authentic and profound depiction of this revolutionary era. 

"Making Rock Bottom was an extraordinary journey through Robert Wyatt's music and personal history,” says Trénor. “This film attempts to capture the essence of his artistic and personal experience, translating into images and narrative the emotional highs and lows of his life. Each scene, each note in this film, seeks to immerse viewers in a world where music is not just heard but felt and experienced. We hope this film will deeply resonate with all those who, like Bob, have navigated the tumultuous waters of creation and personal transformation."

Savages (Sauvages) 

From Oscar-nominated and Annecy Cristal-winning My Life as a Zucchini’s Swiss animation director, producer, and writer Claude Barras Savages comes his next big puppet stop-motion feature endeavor. 

Produced by Nadasdy Film, Haut et Court and Panique !, the ecology-focused adventure takes places in Borneo, near the tropical forest. Character Kéria takes in a baby orangutan on the plantation where her father works. At the same time, Selaï, his cousin, comes to find refuge with them to escape the conflict between his nomadic family and the logging companies. 

Together, Kéria, Selaï and the baby monkey named Oshi will then brave all obstacles to fight against the destruction of the forest.

Check out these behind-the-scenes looks at the film: 

A Boat in the Garden (Slocum et moi) 

The semi-autobiographical story from 84-year-old French animator Jean-François Laguionie, concludes the author’s whole filmography, giving the keys and rounding up all his thematics. Laguionie’s first film was a short titled La Demoiselle et le Violoncelliste, released in 1965. Since then, he has produced roughly 10 additional films and, according to Melusine Productions’ Fabien Renelli, is “one of the last grand masters of French animation.”

A Boat in the Garden is an intimate story of a boy growing up, an evocation of how the relation builds up inside the family, especially towards the father, so that the boy can define his own personality, being intrigued by the navigator Slocum and the obsession of reproducing his boat in the family house garden,” says Renelli. “If Laguionie’s Louise by the Shore was the 'mother' aspect, A Boat in the Garden is the ‘father’ one.”

Produced by Melusine Productions/Studio 352 along with JPL Films, the film takes place at the beginning of the 1950s, on the banks of the Marne. François, a young boy of 11, discovered with interest that his parents were beginning, in the small family garden, the construction of a boat, a replica of the sailboat of the famous sailor Joshua Slocum. Over the years, in post-war France, young François will move from adolescence to adulthood. As the boat is built, while taking a tender and poetic look at his mother and father, the young boy will begin his own adventure, one that will lead him on the path of his passions, the sea and drawing.

The Imaginary

From Japan’s Studio Ponoc comes a story by the renowned Yoshiyuki Momose (Spirited Away) about an imaginary boy and a lonely girl on the adventure of a lifetime. 

Amanda and her mother Lizzie find themselves with only a small, struggling bookstore, accompanied by a boy named Rudger, who lives in the attic. Rudger isn’t real. He is a figment of Amandaʼs imagination, visible only to Amanda’s lonely gaze and whom she created to share her thrilling make-believe adventures. But when Rudger, suddenly alone, arrives in the Town of Imaginary Friends, where they live and find work, he faces a mysterious threat.

Based on the beloved and award-winning novel of the same name by A.F. Harrold, The Imaginary is an unforgettable adventure of love, loss, and the healing power of imagination.

The groundbreaking, hand-drawn, odyssey of Rudger and his friends as they embark on an unseen quest to save their family and loved ones is heightened by first-of-their-kind

techniques of light and shadow. It is also Studio Ponoc's first full-length animated film since Mary and the Witch's Flower (2017).

Check out the trailer:

"Imaginary friends – Imaginaries – are a part of children's imagination, and imagination is an ability born in childhood that equips children to begin to understand and start to accept the world around them,” notes director Momose. “As we learn facts through experience and study, and as we ask ourselves questions, we use our imagination to fill in missing pieces and formulate hypotheses. Sometimes imagination is fun, and sometimes it is scary. Imaginaries operate as our friendly advisors, agreeing and disagreeing with our opinions as we form them. I believe that Imaginaries are good companions for children during their period of human development. But, they disappear when the child stops imagining and forgets it. It is a very cruel and sad setting, but, then again, there are many such absurdities in our daily lives.”

Producer Yoshiaki Nishimura adds, “The existence of Imaginaries attracted me for three strong reasons. First, Imaginaries can express what we understood as children but have forgotten as adults, just as Saint Exupéry famously said, ‘It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.’ Second, Imaginaries are not born – and do not die – of their own will, and their lives are very short, just like our own ephemeral lives. I was convinced that if we could make a film in which we embrace the lives of Imaginaries, we could also present our own ephemeral lives that, although filled with difficulties, are worth living. Third, I felt that the existence of Imaginaries is the very essence of an animated film. To depict our Imaginaries as true beings, who to adults are nothing but lies, is the same as depicting our filmmakers’ desire to tell the truth about the world through the fiction of an animated film.”

The Storm 

Written and directed by Yang Zhigang, known as “Busifan,” The Storm is Produced by CMC Pictures China and is an immersive experience that invites audiences to explore the intricacies of Chinese culture and mythology.

Busifan, the Chinese director acclaimed for his innovative and poetic approach to animation, returns with this ambitious and spellbinding animated film that follows Daguzi, a poor young man of 27 who finds a child named Mantou drifting on the shore and decides to adopt him. To give Mantou a better future, Daguzi takes the child to the Bay of the Great Dragon to unearth the treasures of a mysterious black ship. Many legends and traditions surround this region, and the arrival of this enigmatic ship plunges these two protagonists into strange situations where Daguzi falls victim to a fantastical creature that gradually transforms him into a monster. Mantou is determined to find an antidote to save Daguzi and prove that he is a good father.

The Storm transports viewers into a dreamlike world where natural elements come to life to tell a story as profound as it is emotional. Inspired by the rich tradition of Chinese animation, Busifan blends modern techniques with classical influences to create a visually stunning and narratively captivating 2D and 3D computer animated world.

Watch the trailer:

“Creating The Storm was both a personal and artistic adventure,” shares Busifan. “Through this film, I wanted to take viewers on an immersive journey into the heart of Chinese culture and mythology, while exploring universal themes such as family, courage and resilience. I hope this film will touch the hearts, and spark the imaginations, of everyone who watches it.”

Frédéric Puech, the film’s co-distributor, added: “We are delighted to be presenting The Storm, a vibrant and visually captivating 2D animated feature, at Annecy. Director Busifan demonstrates incredible visual talent, creating a breathtaking fantasy world. This film marks a new stage for Chinese animation and introduces an international audience to one of its greatest talents.”

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Victoria Davis is a full-time, freelance journalist and part-time Otaku with an affinity for all things anime. She's reported on numerous stories from activist news to entertainment. Find more about her work at victoriadavisdepiction.com.