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9th CEE ANIMATION FORUM ONLINE April 26 – 29 and May 4-6, 2021

This year CEE online was spread over two weeks. 26 – 29 April was devoted to the pitching competition while the industry events were on 4 – 6 May.


    The CEE (Central and Eastern European) Animation Forum is an event designed to support professional animators with an emphasis on those in Central and Eastern Europe. This year the online event was spread over two weeks. 26 – 29 April was devoted to the pitching competition while the industry events were on 4 – 6 May.

     Pitching forums are an important way for animators to help fund their films, find co-producers and services that Athey need, and a chance to network. CEE is a leading regional pitching, financing, and co-production event aiming at boosting the selected project’s potential, visibility, giving them access to a wider European market. The pitched projects competed for various prizes in the total amount of 15,000 Euros in cash and free scholarships or direct access to prestigious European events such as Cartoon Forum, Cartoon Movie, Cartoon Springboard, Cartoon 360 and/or animation production days. To allow filmmakers to move forward with their projects as well as to enhance their artistic skills, two scholarships to CEE Animation Workshop or Animation Sans Frontieres training programs were also awarded, along with a direct invitation to the residency at Ciclic Animation-Val de Loire.

    Animond Investment Fund For the Development and Production of Animation awarded 2,000 Euros for one selected project along with an offer for that project to be added to the Animond Investment Portfolio. Both ANIMARKT and Kids Kino Industry offered full accreditation to selected projects. So, there was a lot to pitch for. A full list of all of the winning projects is at the end of the article.

  40 projects selected from the 116 submitted were chosen to pitch their films which were in various stages of development. Each pitching team received coaching sessions to help develop cohesive presentations. The coaching began in March with an initial introductory session given by Bonnie Williams, a professional pitching and public speaking coach. Next, each team received two one on one direct online consultations with Williams, Matthieu Darras or Katrin Nandelstadt.

The 5 categories included seven feature films, eleven short films, nine series and television specials, three XR immersive media projects, and ten films in the Rising Star category. New this year at CEE, the Rising Star category is for student projects. It is aimed at increasing the quality of university projects through the challenge of preparing a pitch and experiencing a real market situation. Along with the opportunity to see work by talented young animators, CEE hopes to initiate dialogue between schools with their new category.

The Rising Star award went to Michaela Rezova, a student at the Academy of Art, Architecture, and Design in Prague, Czech Republic. Her animated documentary, Desire to Win, is a stop motion animation of sports sculptures by Czech artist Zdenek Nemecek. Seen as silent witnesses of the previous regime, Michaela plans to bring the artworks to life to tell the story of the now-forgotten sculptor and the difficult period of the previous regime. She plans to use interviews with members of Nemecek’s family, athletes of that period, and art theorists in her film.

Desire to Win

Desire to Win also received an ANIMARKT Award which means I will have an opportunity to talk to Micheala in-depth about her film since I am the pitching coach in Lodz, Poland.

       In the Rising Star competition, I was also impressed by Holes, an autobiographical film by Sofiya Kruglikova. It is about loneliness and the holes it leaves in you. At the age of seventeen, Sofiya left her native Russia and moved to Slovenia. Seventeen is a difficult age to leave all of your friends and everything familiar to you behind. She addressed sadness and loneliness in a beautiful hand-drawn style. She is an exceptionally good illustrator and from what I saw of her pitch her visuals convey a cold loneliness. In her director’s statement, she wrote “loneliness is probably an illness of the twenty-first century. Nowadays people of my age are thinking more and more about inner harmony and sense of life.”


Sofiya graduated from the Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Ljubljana in 2017 with a degree in visual communication. She is currently working on Holes as her Master’s Thesis.

In the short film category, two projects caught my eye. Hello Summer is an eight-minute artistic film for children by Martin Smatana, creator of the multi-award-winning film The Kite. Aimed at five -to-eight-year olds and their families, the film will be stop motion with no dialogue.

     Hello Summer will be based on childhood memories of summer vacations Martin went on with his parents and brother. Before the holiday, they all were full of expectations and always imagined they would have the best time ever. As soon as they arrived at their destination everybody began arguing about what they should do first. They each went their own way but quite quickly they missed each other and met up again to find something to do that they could all agree on.

Hello Summer

The story is very sweet and the animation style of French Riviera Retro fits the story perfectly. Martin believes that children can understand serious situations if they are presented properly. His previous film, The Kite, about his grandfather’s death, was very well received by young children.

In a totally different vein, Dutch director Thijs Koole is a type 1 diabetic. His project Sugar, Blood, Insulin-Diary of a Type 1 Diabetic looks like it will be a very honest film about the emotional experience of living with a potentially deadly disease. He plans an introspective journey through his life from age eighteen when his pancreas gave out, to age thirty-two . Even though the affliction comes with a myriad of challenges Thijs says it is”not all gloom and as with all challenges in life they can teach you a great deal about yourself . . . and others”.

Sugar, Blood Insulin - Diary of aType 1 Diabetic

The 2D hand-drawn film will feature black and white backgrounds with color used only for the main characters. Sugar, Blood, Insulin-Diary of a Type 1 Diabetic sounds like a film that any family with a diabetic member or friend should watch.

When projects pitched in the series and television specials category come to fruition there will be some interesting shows on the small screen. Starting with Hope pitched by French animator Sonia Velvien is planned as a thirteen-episode series about depression. Based on personal stories about real people who fought against depression and won, each episode will start with the person’s life before depression. It will then take the viewer through the battle to conquer this terrible debilitating disease until he/she is finally able to conquer it.

 In the feature film category, one project that fascinated me was Vast Blue Antarctica. The feature film, presented by Director Christos Panagos and Producer Charalambos Mardaritis, will be produced in Cyprus. The animated documentary will focus on Alexander Gautier, a French woodworker who works in the maintenance service for the infrastructure of the French scientific mission in Antarctica. Christos first met Alexander in Cyprus a few months before his initial trip to Antarctica, the only continent with no permanent human habitation or native population. They met again about a month before Alexander’s second trip when he was eager and impatient to return to the cold place as soon as possible and stay as long as he was physically able.

Vast Blue Antarctica

The film will follow Alexander’s train of thought and reflections about running away into the unknown, the vast whiteness of the continent, and his experiences as a worker there. It will also delve into his concept of home, the feeling of being in exile, isolation, loneliness, death, which is always present there, and the purpose of life.

At CEE Vast Blue Antarctica received the audience award. Of the more than one thousand online votes cast the project received two hundred nineteen votes, with the highest voting ratio surpassing4.2 out of a possible 5. The Audience Award is €1000. I am happy to know that there are many more people than just me that want to see the project completed.

The film was also awarded direct access to Cartoon Movie. Created in 1999, Cartoon Movie is a pitching event held yearly in France for feature films.

In the series and television specials category, another project from Cyprus also won. The Olive Branch directed by Magnus Kravik and produced by Maria Pavlou is a 2D animated series about the adventures of three friends growing up on the beautiful Mediterranean island of Cyprus. Amira, Stephano, and Yani enjoy growing up in rural Cyprus. Aimed at the six-to-eleven-year-old age group the series will incorporate folktales, comedy and mystery. Each of the twenty-six episodes aims to give the young friends the ability to strengthen their friendship while slowly growing into their personalities. The Olive Branch was also selected for the Kids Kino Industry Award.

The Olive Branch

Established in 2017, Kids Kino Industry, the industry arm of the Kids Kino International Film Festival in Poland, is an international pitching forum for films and series aimed at the children’s market.

I was not aware of the beautiful tapestries woven by Frida Hansen until I listened to Hilde Kristen Kios’ pitch for her VR project Finding Frida. Hansen (1855 – 1931) was a pioneer in the development of Norwegian textile art. Primarily working in the Art Nouveau style, in 1900 she exhibited her tapestry titled Milky Way at the World’s Fair in Paris where it won a Gold Medal. Frida created large tapestries with literary and floral motifs.

Milky Way

She was a pioneer at a time when the woman’s rights movement in Europe was gaining momentum. In 1893 she wove a large-scale tapestry titled Dandelion which was commissioned by the Norwegian Association for Women’s Rights for the Chicago World’s Fair. The symbolic motif depicts a woman in the middle surrounded by women bearing dandelions in bud, bloom, and seed. The tapestry became an important work of art for the early women’s movement and an expression of Norwegian women’s struggle against oppression.

In awarding the VR Award to Hilde Kristen Kios the jury stated “Considerable thought has been given to the role of the audience in the story and to incorporating meaningful interactivity to add to the magic. Taking the aesthetic lead from Frida’s tapestries will allow people to dive deep inside her art and mind”; I agree with them and am looking forward to the finished project which I think will be a work of art itself.

I find her work as fascinating as it is beautiful. If you are not familiar with “the other Frida” do check out Frida Hansen’s tapestries.

The jury award-winning projects along with the Audience Award-winning project will be presented at a special CEE animation pitching presentation which will be part of the official MIFA 2021 program.

Although the online version of CEE limited personal connections, the organizers met their goal of creating a space for networking and exchanging information. Following the pitching sessions on all three days, CEE attendees could take advantage of the online one-on-one meetings. You could book a 20-minute meeting with as many registered participants as you like. This offered an excellent opportunity to find co-producers, world sales agents, broadcasters, streaming platforms, distributors, representatives of public funds, and financiers by presenting a project personally.

Unfortunately, I was not able to watch as much of the three Industrial Days as I would have liked. I did watch the first day’s presentation given by Maria Silvia Gatta, Policy Officer in the EU Commission. She talked about the new programming scheme for the MEDIA sub-program Creative Europe. MEDIA provides funding for the development, promotion, and distribution of European film and animation worldwide. A separate panel discussion then focused on regional funding possibilities for animated projects.

Even Mice Belong in Heaven

The most exciting event of Industry Days for me was the presentation of the long-awaited feature film Even Mice Belong in Heaven. The 87-minute film is based on the book by the award-winning Czech author Iva Prochazkova. The story revolves around two mortal enemies, a little mouse and a fox, who after an unfortunate accident meet in animal heaven and become best friends. The puppet animation film directed by Denisa Grimmova and Jan Bubenicek is a Czech, French, Polish, and Slovakian co-production. The film is slated for an Autumn/Winter 2021 release.

A perfect example of the importance and benefits of participating in CEE is the feature film project Of Unwanted Things and People. The project was initiated by three producers from the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Slovenia who became friends over several years of meeting annually at CEE. They were later joined by a French producer. Their idea is to make a puppet stop motion film in the best tradition of Central European animation. The result is Of Unwanted People and Things which is currently in production with an estimated release date of 2023.

Of Unwanted People and Things

Based on a book of short stories by the Czech writer Arnost Goldflam, the film is divided into four interconnected stories. Each segment is directed by a different person from the four coproducing countries.

The story is about an older man who finds a discarded hat where fantastic monsters used to live, two orphans and their strange aunt who turns into a cat when no one is looking at her. There is also a lonely man who knows how to fly and he becomes King of the Birds.

I first became aware of the project when it was initially pitched at CEE a few years ago. I was impressed with the images they showed us and the story as they pitched it. I was happy to see their presentation during this year’s Industry Days and to learn that the estimated release date is 2023. I am looking forward to watching what I think will be a beautiful film.

The final event of Industry Days was the awards ceremony.

CEE Animation is supported by the Creative Europe – MEDIA Program of the European Union and co-funded by state funds and foundations and professional organizations from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.

I want to thank Marta Jallageas, CEE Animation Public Relations Manager, for inviting me to attend the Forum again this year and hope that next year we will all be able to be there in person.

You can learn more about CEE at:



Jury: Anca Damian, Pierre Mazars, and Tonje Skar Reiersen

     Winner: Birds Don’t Look Back – Director, Nadia Nackle; Producer, Sebastien Onomo, Special Touch Studio – France

     Special Mention: Dreamworld – Directors and Producers, Veljko and Milivoj Popovic – Croatia

     Special Mention: Senior Crush – Director, Orsolya Richolm; Producer, Andrea Ausztrics, U Lab Kft – Hungary


Jury: Claudia Cazzato, Albert Hanan Kaminski, RichardLutterbeck

     Winner: The Olive Branch -Director, Magnus Kravik; Producer, Maria Pavlou, Pixel giants – Cypress

     Special Mention: What the Old Moon Tells – Director, Eliza Plocieniak-Alvarez; Producer, Carol  Ratajczak, Blaue Pampelmuse – Germany

     Special Mention: Starting With Hope – Director, Sonia Velvien; Producer, Keota Dengmanara,  Moukda Production – France


Jury: Nikki Loke, Richard Valk, Wim Vanacker

     Winner: Ibis- Directors, Maria Burgues, Enric Sant; Proiducer Maria Burgues, Bliss Pictures – Spain

     Special Mention: Patrick in Town – Directors, Eszter Sandor, Valentina Huckova; Producer, Valentina Huckova,Young Glass Noodle – Slovakia


Jury: Mike Jelinek, Zillah Watson, Xinran Yuan

     Winner: Finding Frida- Directior, Hilde Kristin Kjos; Producer,Bojrn-Morten Nerland, Stargate Media AS – Norway


Jury: Torben Meier, Lana Tankosa Nikolic, Joseph Wallace

     Winner: Desire to Win – Director, Michaela Rezova; Producer, Zuzana Bukovinska, Academy of Arts, Architecture, & Design – Prague, Czech Republic

     Special Mention: The Last Drop – Director, Anna Tokes; Producer, Jozsef Fulop, Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design Budapest MOME _ Hungary


     Winner: Vast Blue Antarctica – Director, Christos Panagos; Producer, Charalambos Margaritis, Kimonos Animation Studio – Cypress


   Winner: Dreamworld – Directors, Veljko & Milivoj Popovic; Producers, Veljko & Milivoj Popovic, Prime Render d.o.o. – Croatia


     Winner: Kurent – Director, Miha Reja; Producer, Bostjan Potokar, School of the Arts, University of Nova Gorica – Slovenia

CARTOON MOVIE – Direct Access

     Winner: Dreamworld – Directors, Veljko & Milivoj Popovic; Producers, Veljko & Milivoj Popovic, Prime Render d.o.o. – Croatia

     Winner: Vast Blue Antarctica- Director, Christos Panagos; Producer, Charalambos Margaritis, Kimonos Animation Studio – Cypress

CARTOON FORUM – Direct Access

     Winner: Robot and the Martians – Director, Tomasz Niedzwiedz; Producer, Tomasz Paziewski, Badi Badi – Poland


     Winner: Rosie and Sapphire – Director, Anna Katalin Liovrity; Producer, Balint Gelley, CUB Animation – Hungary

     Winner: Senior Crush – Director, Orsolya Richolm, Producer, Andrea Ausztrics, ULab Kft – Hungary


    Winner: Electra.A Poem – Director, Daria Kashcheeva, Producer, Zuzana Krivkova, MAUR Film – Czech Republic


     Winner: The Olive Branch – Director, Magnus Kravik; Producer, Maria Pavlou, Pixel giants – Cypress


     Winner: The Olive Branch – Director, Magnus Kravik; Producer, Maria Pavlou, Pixel giants – Cypress


     Winner: The Icebreakers – Director, Ignas Meilunas; Producers, Juste Beniusyte, Kadru Skyrius – Lithuania

     Winner: Desire to Win – Michaela Rezova; Producer, Zuzana Bukovinska, Academy of the Arts, Architecture & Design in Prague – Czech Republic