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The 25th birthday celebration edition of the International Trickfilm Festival in Stuttgart, Germany was bigger than ever with an expanded game zone and more than 200 individual events. Running concurrently with the Trickfilm Festival for four days, the FMX Conference on Animation, Effects, Games, and Immersive Media provided an excellent over view of the industries’ present state and even more important its future.  This year FMX was completely sold out with 4,000 visitors who listened to 264 speakers.




     The 25th birthday celebration edition of the International Trickfilm Festival in Stuttgart, Germany was bigger than ever with an expanded game zone and more than 200 individual events.  Of course, the heart of the festival was still the more than 1,000 films which were screened in 8 separate cinemas.

     For me, the highlight of the festival was getting to see Wes Anderson’s amazing new film Isle of Dogs on a big screen in the main theatre.  The film is set on a Japanese Archipelago, 20 years in the future.  An outbreak of snout fever rages in the city of Megasaki and the dog flu threatens to cross-species from dogs to humans.  Mayor Kobayashi institutes a hasty quarantine and orders the expulsion of all dogs - strays and pets alike, to Trash Island.  I don’t want to give away any more of the story for those of you who have not seen Isle of Dogs yet but I will say that it is an excellent story, beautifully animated.

  At the 2018 Berlin International Film Festival, Isle of Dogs was the opening movie,  the first time that a puppet animated film ever opened the predominately live action festival, and it went on to win Anderson the Silver Bear Award for Best Director.

     My enjoyment of the film was heightened even more by the Behind the Scenes presentation given by Isle of Dogs Production Supervisor Angela Poschet.  Angela was brought on board at a very early stage of the production and was one of the first people to read the script in 2015.  She provided us with some fascinating facts and insights; it was fascinating to learn that the fur on the dog puppets is actually made from real sheared animal hair, primarily from alpacas and that each strand of hair was put on to the puppets individually by hand.  The puppets look like real dogs because the fur moves correctly when they move. 

At Angela Poshet's talk

     At the peak of production 700 puppet makers were at work making the over 900 puppets used to create the 57 dog characters in 5 different sizes ranging from oversized to extra small.  All of the effects - water, rain, etc. were done in camera.  In total 44 units shot for 87 weeks to bring this amazing film to the screen.

     Mexico has a long tradition of animated films dating back to its first film, Misueno, made in 1915 by an unknown animator.  After the Golden Age of Mexican cinema from the 1930’s to the 1950’s Mexican cinema faded into the background but now there is a new resurgence, especially in the field of animation.

     I particularly like Mexican animator Sofia Carrillo’s 12'56"film Cerulia.  Sofia, now 38-year-old, wrote the story when she was 17.  Based on the story of two of her grandparents, the film recounts a young girl’s trip back to her childhood home, where her memories won’t let her leave.  Sofia’s attention to detail on the puppets and the house show a real mastery of her art and set the stage for the melancholy feeling of the film.  I have seen Cerulia twice and I am still thinking about it.

     In a completely different vein, the French student film Hybrids takes us into an underwater world where marine life has adapted to the pollution all around it.    Hybrid is the graduation film of 5 students, Florian Brauch, Matthieu Pujol, Kim Tailhades, Yohan Thireau, and Romain Thirion, who study at the French L’ Ecole du Film d’Animation et de l’ Image de Synthèse  in Arles, a computer graphic school focusing on 3D animation.  The idea for the film came as the result of a diving trip where the students found so much trash on the ocean floor that they began to think about how nature could use the pollution to enhance its defenses.  The results are some truly cleverly designed and scary hybrid fish and crabs with bottle cap armor for bodies that show that the students have really mastered computer graphics.  Hybrid was nominated for the prestigious Lotte Reinger Promotional Award for the best graduation film.

     Jon Frickey’s 11'9" 2D film Cat Days is a charming film that both children and adults alike can relate to.  A little Japanese boy feels sick.  His father takes him to a doctor who, after blood tests, announces that the boy is a cat.  This leads to a real identity crisis, but in the end, all’s well that ends well.

     Jon, who is German American, conceived the idea for the film during a few months stay in Kyoto.  The film, set in Japan, has Japanese dialogue with English subtitles.  Jon said that half way through the movie he didn’t know how he was going to handle the language problem because he did not want to make a film set in Japan with everyone speaking English.  His friend Takashi Horiguchi, a Kyoto artist, agreed to come to Hamburg as voice director of the Japanese voice talents.  Three of the voices are children between the ages of 8 to 10 years old from the Japanese School of Homburg and do not speak any German.  Cat Days premiered at the Berlinale in the Generation Section and went on to take home the Grand Prix at the Trickfilm Festival.

Award winners Anna Mantzanares, Jonathan Schwenk, Pauline Ziolkowska and Jon Frickey

     In awarding the Grand Prix to Cat Days the jury said  The film has it all.  It offers many levels of interpretation, it transcends age, has smart humor, offers an honest and sometimes funny perspective on life . . . and it has cats!”  I completely agree with the jury.

     Florence Miailhe is not just a great French animator; she stands in a class by herself worldwide.  She is fascinated with the possibilities animation provides to bring paintings to life and to tell stories with movement and she has developed a unique style of “painted film”.  With small step by step changes to the original image, the drawing is brought to life directly in front of the camera. A program of 8 of her films was screened this year at the Trickfilm Festival.

    Florence’s 1999 film A Summer Night Rendez-vous was awarded the Cesar Award in the Best Short Film category.  The film, set on a summer evening at a small village dance depicts the young and old, children, lovers, drinkers, and troublemakers all coming together for the evening.  In 2006, her film A Neighborhood’s tale received an Honorable Mention at the Cannes Film Festival and in 2015 Florence Miailhe was honored with the Cristal d’ Honneur at the Annecy International Animation Festival.

     At the Work In Progress session producers and directors presented feature length animated film projects to an audience of international professionals.  The three 30 minute presentations ranged from projects in concept stage to films in production.

     Florence presented La Traversee (The Crossing), an 81 minute project that she has been working on for over 10 years.  The genesis of the project is her family who were fugitives from the pogrom in 1905, but Florence said that the film, a mixture of a historic story with a family story, could just as easily be set in many parts of the word today.  In the film 2 youngsters, aged 14 and 15 are separated from their parents as they flee from Eastern to Western Europe and end up in a refugee camp.

Florence Miailhe presenting her new project at Work in Progress

      La Traversee will have 500 to 600 painted on glass images that are inspired by the paintings of Matisse and Duffy.  The audience was shown pictures of Florence and her assistants at work on the paintings for the film.  The budget for the film is a little less than 3 million euros and is slated for completion in 2019.

     Jason and the Nucleonauts is a science fiction, adventure, comedy aimed at the family audience.  Still in the concept stage, Moritz Mayerhofer and Daniel Wichterich, from Germany, envision a film that will combine fun with teaching young audiences (and I imagine not a few adults) about quantum physics.

     In the scenario that Moritz and Daniel presented to the audience, Jason and his mother have just moved to a new city and he is having trouble adjusting and making friends.  When he visits his mother at the nuclear reactor where she works, he accidently causes a malfunction and takes a fast paced journey to the center of the atomic nucleus. 

Reinis Kalnaeliss showing characters from Apple Pie, the King and I

     My favorite project was Apple Pie, the King and I by Reinis Kalnaellis from Latvia.  His new feature film is based on the characters from Reinis’ beautifully hand drawn short film from 2010, When Apples Roll, about a cat and a mouse who share a house.  One day when out picking apples they find a large egg and when it hatches, out pops a baby penguin.  The cat and mouse adore their baby, but in the end the baby is restored to her penguin parents.  She is very happy to see her parents but she is still sad to leave her adopted family.

     Apple Pie, the King and I will reunite the cat, mouse, and penguin girl.  In the new feature film, penguin girl is turning 5 years old and wants to spend her birthday with her old friends cat and mouse.  The film is in production and fully funded.  From the artwork that Reiinis showed the audience in his presentation, Apple Pie, the King and I will be just as beautifully drawn as When Apples Roll.  Although the film is designed for children 4 to 6 years old, I have watched the short film many times and still thoroughly enjoy it, so I am looking forward to seeing the feature film.

     To commemorate the 25th anniversary of the festival, there was a very special screening featuring a selection of 10 films that won either the festival Grand Prix or awards from the state of Baden-Wurttemberg and the city of Stuttgart.  The 2 ½ hour program featured such classic films as The Quay Brothers Street of  Crocodiles (1986), Hotel E by Pritt Parn (1992) and Jerzy Kucia’s Tuning Instruments (2000) along with Simone Massi’s moving The Memory of Dogs (2006) and Koji Yamamura’s Franz Kafka’s A Country Doctor (2007).  A lovely surprise was the creation, just for the festival, of a special digital version of An Ordinary Morning.  Michel Gauthier’s film was the first film to win an award at the Trickfilm Festival in 1982.

Dieter Kraub, Ulrich Wegenast and Dittmar Lumpp reminicing at the 25th birthday party

     No birthday would be complete without a celebration, and at the 25th edition party, there was no cake but plenty of champagne to toast the festival with.  Among the longtime friends of the festival invited to share their memories were Professor Otto Alder who was the festival organizer for the 4th, 5th, and 6th editions of the festival, as well as Bill Plympton and David Silverman who have both attended the festival multiple times.  The affair was hosted by festival co-directors Ulrich Wegenast and Dieter Kraub along with former director Dittmar Lumpp.  A lovely 200 page book full of 25 years of Trickfilm festival memories was given to each guest.

Otto Alder at the 25th birthday Celebration

     Studio Filmbilder is known for producing excellent films by such first rate animators as Phil Mulloy, Andreas Hykade, and Gil Alkabetz.  At the festival Filmbilder presented their latest project, Animanimals by Julia Ocker.  Animanimals are animals with small, humorous quirks.  In the 26 separate 4 minute episodes, animals find themselves in all sorts of funny circumstances.  In one episode a zebra’s stripes get mixed up and in another one an octopus wants to bake a peach cake but one of its arms has other ideas.  As each animal looks for a solution to their dilemma they learn a little lesson about life.

     Although the series is designed for the 4 year old and up audience the Animanimals screening was full of parents with their young children and all ages, young and old, were laughing at the very humorous films.  The successful non-dialogue series is not only running on German television but has been picked up for distribution throughout Europe as well as by buyers in India, China, New Zealand, Russia, Canada, and Taiwan.  Animanimals received the 2018 Trickfilm Festival award for Best German TV Series.  You can learn more about Animanimals and all of Studio Filmbilder’s other projects at:

     The Filmakademie Baden-Wurttenberg gave a very impressive 4 hour presentation of work by their students.  All levels of work from beginning Design 1 and 2 classes up to the more advanced 3rd year and Diploma projects were screened.  The program showcased all animation and media techniques and styles.  I was particularly impressed with the work by the 1st and 2nd year students, which were very advanced and much more polished that what I usually see from beginning students.  In their beginning Cinematic Design basic studies the students are expected to develop short films in unusual and unique narratives while taking into consideration many formal approaches.

     The half hour break was an opportunity to meet, over drinks, with the students who had presented their films.  The second part of the program, devoted to 3rd year and diploma students, offered some delightful surprises.  One particularly clever project was Albert Einstein is Alive.  In the 3 part mini-series (each one under 1 minute) Einstein wonders about humanity, tries to get the hang of his smart phone, and in the final installment throws over his theory of relativity.

     The project was conceived by Christian Muller, Volker Helzle, Leszek Plichta, and Kai Gotz to try to determine how convincing human faces can be created digitally and how they can be applied across animation, VFX, and interactive media.  The research program was initiated by the university’s Research and Development Department.

     In a totally different vein, Iranian student Malaeke Farhang Adib used 2D computer and mixed media to create Fuse.  Malaeke’s diploma film is based on an old Persian story about a mouse that is trapped in a box.  A group of men are gathered around the box debating how to kill the little mouse.  Each man tries to outdo the other’s increasingly sadistic fantasies of how to do the little fellow in.  The very unexpected end of the movie, worthy of a Bill Plympton style gag, will leave you laughing very hard.  Malaeke managed to secure Nick Cave to create the voice for one of her characters and used the voice of her professor Andreas Hykade for the voice of another one.  Fuse was nominated for the Lotte Reinger Promotional Award.

The Big Screen in the festival garden

     In what has become a festival tradition, the open-air opera matinee took place on Sunday morning on the big screen in the festival garden.  The opera presentation is a joint project between the festival and Stuttgart Opera.  This year’s screening was a prerecording of the opera’s production of Don Giovanni composed by Mozart.

     Before the opera was screened a 6' 5" animated short film created by Studio Seufz from Ludwigsburg was shown.  Made especially for this production, the animated short told the audience about the youth of the now 70 year old Don Pasquale.  The animated short film was presented as an integral part of the opera production during the overture and made an encore appearance during the Serenade when Don Passquale remembers these crucial moments of his life as in a dream.

At the Kunstmuseum

     This year the Gamezone was expanded to two new venues along with the activities in the festival garden.  At the Kunstmuseum (Contemporary Arts Museum) several universities, from as far afield as Melbourne and Helsinki, presented their student’s newly developed games.

     Two professional installations were also located in the museum.  Barcelona artist Natalia Carminati developed the game Pac-Art which adopts the principle of the famous video game but transforms its characters and key graphic elements into an art game.  Pac-Man and the ghosts chasing him become artists and the special objects that he has to eat to get points are famous works of contemporary art such as Andy Warhol’s Campbell’s Soup Can.

     Michelle and Uri Karot’s Nothing Happens VR project was also installed in the museum.  I have written about the project before so all I will say about it is if you have the opportunity to experience Nothing Happens be sure and do it.

     The Games Pavilion Lichtwolke explored the connection between computer games and architecture with experts from the fields of architecture, game studies, and game design.  Along with the presentations, demonstrations, and round table discussions, there were games for playing that merged games with architecture.  A particularly good example of this was SimCity where, with an isometric representation, the player looks down on the world to be built and assigns functions to certain areas.  As urban density increases, problems become more complex because all of the urban infrastructure influences other parts of the infrastructure.  The aim is to manage a successful city where people want to live.

The Lichtwolke

The Lichtwolk at night

     The Lichtwolke itself is a fascinating structure.  The large (more than 200 m2) inflatable temporary structure was designed by students at the Stuttgart State Academy of Art and Design and Stuttgart Technology University of Applied Sciences.  The doughnut shaped building was particularly impressive at night when it was lit up in a rotating array of vividly bright colors.

THE BLOWHARDS - Nik and David Silverman

     Even though the festival was so large this year that it was impossible to see and do everything, there was still time for fun.  When David Silverman wasn’t busy drawing Simpson characters and signing autographs for fans or presenting The Other World of the Simpsons on the main theatre, he and Nik could be found playing music around the festival café.  Known as The Blowhards, the tuba/clarinet/saxophone duo played traditional Dixieland jazz to early American animation in the evenings on the stage at the festival cafe.

     Running concurrently with the Trickfilm Festival for four days, the FMX Conference on Animation, Effects, Games, and Immersive Media provided an excellent over view of the industries’ present state and even more important its future.  This year FMX was completely sold out with 4,000 visitors who listened to 264 speakers.  The 2018 central theme of FMX, Creating Worlds, placed special emphasis on the creation of intellectual property (IP).  Presentations were designed to look beyond the production and technological aspects of media and entertainment to explore all facets of the creative process, from the initial creative spark to the building and marketing of an IP.

     Being a great Shaun the Sheep fan one of my favorite FMX presentations was Shaun the Sheep and World Domination.  Aardman Animation co-founder David Sproxton related how Shaun the Sheep went from being a minor character in Wallace and Grommit to becoming a global franchise in 10 years.  It has even spun off Timmy Time in 2009 for the preschool audience.  I am very excited that a new Shaun the Sheep feature film is in the works.  One of the real joys of Aardman Studio’s films is that even with all of the modern bells and whistles now available to animators the studio sticks to their tried and true Claymation style and to telling good entertaining stories.

David Sproxton speaking at FMX (photo Dominique Brewing and Luzie Marquardt)

     Nik was a member of the panel on Winning Strategies for Developing and Protecting Your Intellectual Property, moderated by the noted actor and teacher of voice acting for animation Ed Hooks.  In this day of YouTube and everything becoming instantly available on the internet, protecting your IP is a very important, but seldom discussed topic.  The other members of the panel were Brian Gabriel, animator and attorney who writes a legal column for Cartoon Brew; director, writer, and producer Saschka Unseld; independent animator Reka Bucsi; and Julia Ocker, animator at Studio Filmbilder.  The hour and fifteen minute panel discussion brought out some very interesting opinions.  The three older members of the panel, Brian, Ed, and Nik, felt that protecting your IP and keeping a close watch for any infringement or illegal use is very important, and the three younger participants did not think that it was worth worrying about. Reka told of someone who took one of her films and put it on YouTube with the credits changed and with their name on it and she wasn’t terrifically upset about it, but did asked them to take it down.  Nik did point out that none of the three younger animators had had to put children through college yet.  I’ll be interested to see if their opinions change in a few years.  This is a topic that needs much more than just one panel discussion and I hope FMX and other forums will continue to address this topic.

The Winning Strategies IP panel - Brian Gabriel, Julia Ocker, Reka Bucsi, Nik Phelps, Dashka Unseld and Ed Hooks

     Along with all of the presentations, round table discussions, and workshops, there was the very active Market Place which brought together experienced and aspiring hardware and software companies, projects, and institutions.  The Market Place was both a showcase and a networking hub where current industry trends were presented and discussed.  This year products and techniques ranging from motion capture systems to software for 3D painting were displayed as well as new lighting and rendering techniques.

     In the School Campus area, the educational fair for FMX, media design and technology schools from throughout Europe presented their curriculum.  Potential students had the opportunity to meet lecturers, alumni, and current students to get firsthand information about the schools they might be interested in attending and perhaps even discover a school that they had not considered before.

     At the Recruiting Hub more than 2 dozen companies in the fields of animation, VFX, visualization, and virtual reality gave young professionals the opportunity to present their portfolios and meet face to face with recruiters who were at FMX looking for new talent for their latest projects.

Nik and Andreas Hykade

      FMX 2018 can best be summed up by Professor Andreas Hykade, FMX Conference Chair who said “FMX 2018 was a complete success!  Under the theme Creating Worlds we were able to show through first-class conference contributions how igniting ideas can develop into inventions of great artistic and economic sustainability”.

     My week at the Trickfilm Festival always seems to fly by and I am already looking forward to next year.  I must whole heartedly thank Andrea Bauer, Head Programmer, and her wonderful staff for all of their help in making our trip to the festival so enjoyable and easy. They were always there to answer questions and solve problems.  I also owe a debt of gratitude to Nora Hieronymus, in the FMX Press and Public Relations Office for making sure that I was kept up to date on important events.

     There is a complete list of all of the winning films from the festival at the end of the article.  The International Trickfilm Festival will take place next year from 30 April to 5 May and FMX will run from 30 April to 3 May.

     You can find out more about the festival at:

      FMX information is at:  

Prize winners of the 25th Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Film 2018

International competition

Grand Prix

15,000 euros funded by the state of Baden-Württemberg and the city of Stuttgart   


Cat Days

Director: Jon Frickey

Producers: Jon Frickey, Takashi Horiguchi

Germany, Japan 2017, 11:09 min.

Jury statement: “The five of us agreed fairly quickly on this year´s winner. The film we're awarding has it all: It offers many levels of interpretation, it transcends age, has smart humor, offers an honest and sometimes funny child´s perspective on life…and it has cats! We all felt that it´s hard to make something this level of complexity feel that effortless. The winner of this year´s International Competition is CAT DAYS by Jon Frickey.”

Special Mention

(Fool Time) JOB                          

Director: Gilles Cuvelier

Produzent/Producer: Richard Van Den Boom

Produktion/Production: Papy3D Productions

France 2017, 16:31 min.

Lotte Reiniger Award for animation film

10,000 Euro funded by the MFG Film Promotion Baden-Württemberg                                            


Director: Anna Mantzaris

School: Royal College of Art

Great Britain 2017, 2:19 min.

SWR Audience Award

Negative Space                        

Director: Ru Kuwahata, Max Porter

Producers: Edwina Liard, Jean-Louis Padis, Nidia Santiago

Production: Ikki Films

France 2017, 5:30

Young Animation – Award for the best student film

2,500 euros funded by the Landesanstalt für Kommunikation Baden-Württemberg (LfK) and MFG

Film Funding Baden-Württemberg



Director: Jonatan Schwenk

Producer: Jonatan Schwenk

School: Kunsthochschule Kassel

Germany 2017, 10:14 min.

Statement of the jury: “We were impressed with the general quality of all films in the programme. Congratulations to all participants. We chose to award a powerful story, that delivers an important social message: a reflection of nowadays society. Impeccable execution, a courageous and harmonic use of several animation techniques makes this film a compelling and outstanding work.

Congratulations – SOG.“

Special Mention


Director: Kiana Naghshineh

Producers: Mareike Keller, Malte Stehr

School: Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg – Animationsinstitut

Germany 2017, 3:45 min.

The FANtastic Prize

1,000 euros, funded by the Animation Family, the most loyal fans of ITFS              


O Matko!                       

Oh Mother!

Director: Paulina Ziolkowska

Producers: Piotr Furmankiewicz, Mateusz Michalak

Production: FUMI STUDIO 

School: The Polish National Film, Television and Theatre School – Lodz Film School

Poland 2017, 12:49 min.

Special Mention                        


Director: Xue En Ge

School: Nanyang Technological University

Singapore 2017, 3:52 min.




Coco’s Day

Director: Tatiana Moshkova

Producers: Mikhail Aldashin, Boris Mashkovtsev

Russia 2017, 4:20 min.

Statement of the Children`s Jury:

„….because the film reflects every day life of children“. (Luise)

„….because the film is very imaginative and invites you to dream”.  (Anni)

….“because it is realistic, not every kid likes Brussels sprouts“. (Fanny)

Special Mention                        

Le Vent dans les roseaux                       

The Wind in the Reeds      

Director: Arnaud Demuynck, Nicolas Liguori

Producer: Arnaud  Demuynck

Production: Les Films du Nord

France, Switzerland 2016, 26:37 min.

Tricks For Kids – Preis für die beste Animationsserie für Kinder national

National, MIP Junior 2018

Animanimals – Sloth

Germany, 2018, 4:00 Min.

Director:  Julia Ocker

Production: Studio FILM BILDER

International, MIP Junior 2018

Hey Duggee – The Tadpole Badge

Great Britain, 2016, 7:00 Min.

Director: Grant Orchard

Production: Studio Aka



Director: Florian Brauch, Matthieu Pujol, Kim Tailhades, Yohan Thireau, Romain Thirion

School: MoPA

France 2017, 6:22 min.



Xing Fu Lu Shang                       

On Happiness Road

Director: Hsin-Yin Sung

Producer: Sylvia Feng

Production: On Happiness Road Productions Ltd.

Taiwan 2017, 110 min.

Statement of the Jury: „We liked the visual style and creative approach which got us immediately into the enchanting coming-of-age story of a young girl growing up in Taiwanese contemporary history. On Happiness Road is a universal tale about family roots, compelling and beautifully told through its captivating animation.“

Trickstar Business Award

7,500 € endowed, sponsored by the Stuttgart region

Project “House of Broken Hearts” von Tünde Vollenbroek

Production: Studio Pupil

The Netherlands

Statement of the jury: “ The jury was impressed by the project concept with its various possibilities for exploitation. Exploitation of the project is promising and feasible as a web series or short film on TV, on social media channels, as a mini-game or comic book, etc.”

German Screenplay Award

2,500 euros funded by Telepool GmbH

Peterchens Mondfahrt

Authors: Ali Samadi Ahadi and Arne Nolting

German Voice Actor Award


Axel Prahl fort he role of „Old Bill“ in the film “Capt`n Sharky”

Special Mention

Jochen Kuhn and Eric Hanson for „Painting in motion“