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Between Business and Pleasure: A Preview of Annecy '02

Heading to Annecy? Wondering if you should? Tina Paas outlines the many exciting screenings, panels, tributes and business opportunities that are in store.

paasannecy01.jpg The rarely seen work of Eva and Jan Svankmajer will be on view in a special exhibition entitled "Mouth to Mouth." Seen here is the striking Les Possibilités du dialogue (1987) © Athanor.

In 1952, John Coates found himself stranded for a week in Annecy with a hot date. The long-time producer at TVC (creators of The Yellow Submarine and The Snowman) was on 3-month tour of Europe when...

"Oh, it's a long story," chuckles Coates.

Let's just say that the town, with its picturesque lake, worked its magic and has left him to this day with "a special, funny, romantic feeling." Eight years later, the Annecy International Animated Film Festival was born beside that very same lake and Coates has been returning ever since. Along with the innumerable screenings, trade and job fairs, exhibits, conferences, parties and ceremonies taking place from June 3 - 8, the seasoned guest will be celebrating 45 years of TVC and an equally lengthy attendance record at Annecy. "Annecy is like a family reunion among filmmakers, animation buffs, producers, broadcasters and publishers," says Serge Bromberg.



A whopping 1,424 films were submitted this year for consideration, up by nearly 200 from last year. Of these, 246 films have been selected for competition the largest portion from France, followed by the U.K., U.S., Germany and Canada. With nearly half of the shorts and features being first-time films and the largest portion of the competition devoted to School & Graduation Films, the festival not only provides a venue for up-and-coming filmmakers but also various opportunities for discussion and networking (such as the MIFA, the Animation and Multimedia Job Fair and the daily informal breakfast meetings with filmmakers at the Bistro Romain). The festival also provides a showcase of the latest tools of the trade: two new Internet categories have been added to the competition (Short Film and Series), as well as a democratic "Net Surfer's Award" to be judged online by the public.

This year also marks a record, of sorts, for Australian films in competition with 6 films in the short film competition alone, putting them second only to the U.K. Of the select finalists is Anthony Lucas' Holding Your Breath (2001), which premieres in the Cannes official competition this week before making its way to Annecy. Lucas' latest film, part of a series aptly entitled The Shadowlands, features silhouetted figures set against deeply textured cityscapes and uses a series of half-tales (accompanied by frank narration) to explore the shady side of life in an industrial town. Lucas, who has been making short films for nearly 20 years, notes that independent animation is on the rise in Australia, thanks in part to support from various government programs. In fact, all of the films in this year's competition came from an initiative launched by the Australian Film Commission and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS). After a bit of an Annecy hiatus, Lucas will be attending the festival this year, pitching projects at MIFA and taking in the local festival scenery: "Went to Annecy before in 1995. Love the French thing. They have heaps of style."

paasannecy03.jpgpaasannecy04.jpgÀ l'affût dans la forêt (1966) by Jiri Brdeka and Le Manteau angélique (1948) by Eduard Hofman are included in the Tribute to Czech & Slovak Animation special program. © Kratkyfilm.

Special Programmes

Alongside the competition screenings is a series of programmes that run the gamut from tributes to the masters, both living and recently departed, to the exploration of formal and stylistic techniques, to humour and even a bit of naughty animation. A headliner this year is the "Tribute to Czech & Slovak Animation," with nearly a dozen special programmes, guests (including honorary Annecy president Bretislav Pojar), and conferences. Be sure not to miss the special exhibition, "Svankmajer E&J, Mouth to Mouth," held in the Castle-Museum a rare chance to see engravings, collages, sculptures and paintings by the prolific duo Eva and Jan Svankmajer.

An exhibit is also planned to showcase the work of Paul Driessen, the focus of many a retrospective. The tribute, a unique co-production between the Holland Animation Film Festival (HAFF) and Annecy, includes films, a documentary and a special publication. "What I find exciting is that two festivals are working together instead of competing," says Gerben Schermer, artistic director of HAFF, and an Annecy attendee since the late '80s. What does he look forward to upon arriving? Somewhat nervously, Schermer replies: " I look forward to having the book in my hands."

paasannecy05.jpgpaasannecy06.jpgQuelquechose d'Alice (1987) is another work presented in the Eve and Jan Svankmajer tribute. © Athanor. HAFF and Annecy join forces to present Paul Driessen's work. The retrospective will include The Boy who Saw the Iceberg (2000). © ONF/NFB.

Following in the footsteps of last year's popular 3D program, Annecy presents "50 Years of CinemaScope," which originally premiered at The Ottawa '94 International Animation Festival (and most recently screened at MOMA on May 17-18). Curated by noted animation historian Jerry Beck, the program focuses on the pioneering shorts of the late '50s, when the wide expanses of Scope and the 'realistic' depth of 3D were used to lure a TV-enthralled public back into theatres. A representative example from the program is Disney's Academy Award-winning Toot, Whistle, Plunk and Boom (C. August Nichols & Ward Kimball, 1953), the very first animated film to experiment with CinemaScope. "A lot of the studios designed these films with the action in the middle and superfluous animation on the sides, for eventual TV viewing," explains Beck. However, Disney opted for a 'no holds barred' approach by using every possible inch of the screen; the results were innovative and far from chaotic. Beck points out that the clever use of lighting, timing, dissolves and fades deftly leads the eye "just like at an attraction at Disneyland." This program offers a rare chance to view films like Toot... in their original format, before they were reduced in size and quality by the paltry pan & scan method used for television. "It's a great follow-up to the 3D program Serge Bromberg assembled last year. Also it may inspire animators to try something beyond the limitations of traditional screen space."



More than 900 companies and 5,600 industry professionals will gather at the Imperial Palace from June 5 8 for the 2002 edition of MIFA. This year the fresh mountain air carries the sweet aroma of new technologies with the presence of various Flash animators and Web content tools and service companies, as well as several conferences on the booming gaming industry, Flash animation and fascinating features for the future.

MIFA will also welcome the Philippines to the market this year. "The Philippines are emerging as professionals on par with other Asian service companies," says Vincent Ferri, MIFA's manager. "Many of these studios are growing very fast thanks to government support. It is their first participation with a booth and I'm glad they can share their know-how with the rest of the world." The influx of Philippino companies this year is due to the efforts of the Center for International Trade Expositions & Mission (CITEM), which sponsored the booth and encouraged many of the country's smaller companies to attend. In total, 6 Philippino companies will be represented at the CITEM booth. Philippine Animation Studio, Inc. (PASI), a full service animation facility, has had a presence at Annecy since 1996. "It is a wonderful place to network with the animation community and see what is going on with new and established filmmakers at the festival," says Frank Saperstein, PASI's executive producer and creative director. "It is very different from NATPE and MIPCOM because it is focused on animation, therefore it is much easier to run into people directly relevant to our business. The Festival also gives it a more artistic flavor and sense of community. The setting of Annecy is beautiful and more relaxed than at other trade shows or markets."

One of the mischievous cows, which serves as Annecy's mascot this year. © CICA.

One of the mischievous cows, which serves as Annecy's mascot this year. © CICA.


An overwhelming list of festival events...and still more surprises in store: "Lots and lots of surprises to come," says Catherine Puthod, Annecy's publications editor. "The Bonlieu Forum will be invaded by a pyramid of very mischievous cows..." (??!) And you never know what to expect at the closing ceremonies. "It's all very secret at the moment, but it will be along the theme of Circuses..."

Annecy promises to be all that, plus a TVC paddle boat race lead by John Coates. 50 years later, you can still find him by the lake.

Tina Paas is the assistant director & programmer for the Ottawa International Animation Festival and co-creator of the new Canadian Animation Directory. She is also the associate editor of ASIFA International Magazine.