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KLIK’S 10th ANNIVERSARY EDITION IS SERIOUS FUN! 17 – 22 October 2017 Amsterdam, The Netherlands

The opening night ceremony began in true KLIK fashion with guests being given armfuls of blown up tube balloons.  We were told to connect them to the people sitting on either side of us and in the end the theatre became one long chain of balloons with lots of silly balloon hats too.

Even though the theme for the 10th Anniversary edition of the festival was Never Grow Up, KLIK has definitely grown into a proper festival.  When the festival was launched in 2007 there were just 250 guests, most of them animation students.  This year more than 8,000 people attended during the six days of the festival held at the Eye, the home of the prestigious Dutch Film Institute.

The opening night ceremony began in true KLIK fashion with guests being given armfuls of blown up tube balloons.  We were told to connect them to the people sitting on either side of us and in the end the theatre became one long chain of balloons with lots of silly balloon hats too.

KLIK opening night audience linking together

After the balloons were cleared away we all got our first look at the 2017 KLIK trailer.  The clever piece, created as collaboration between several Dutch animation studios, was a nostalgic homage to shows and films that many of us grew up with from Steamboat Willie to Looney Tunes, Pokemon, Transformers, Dragon Ball Z, The Lion King, and many other classic characters.  The main character, Klikbert the Klikker ran through the many different styles and settings to finally make it to the KLIK Festival. 

For the last five years KLIK has presented The World Domination Award at the opening ceremony.  The award honors an organization, studio, or individual that has helped Dutch animation take another big step towards ruling our solar system (at least as far as animation is concerned).  The 2017 top nominees were the open software source Blender, Ka-Ching Cartoons run by independent animators Joost van den Bosch and Erik Verkerk, and writer, director, and producer Arthur van Merwijk.  The 2017 World Domination Award went to Blender and was accepted by its founder Toon Roosendaal.  Blender and Toon join a very distinguished list of World Domination Award winners that include Erik-Jan de Boer, Michael Dudok de Wit, and Bruno Felix.

The quality of the animated short category was extremely high.  Unlike most festivals, student and professional short films are shown together in seven competition screenings,  which I find refreshing.  Students often take more creative risks than their professional counterparts do and are not so hemmed in by time and money constraints.  Student films are also eligible for the Grand Prix award. 

Jorn Leeuwerink’s Flower Found, which won the Best Student Short Film Award, is definitely strong enough to compete on equal footing with professional films.  The 6 minute 46 second film starts off with a little mouse going to water his flower which he has been lovingly tending, only to find that his flower has disappeared.  As he goes on a hunt to find his missing flower he is joined by all of his forest friends.  The film starts out like a light hearted romp set to delightful music composed by Bryan Teoh.  It doesn’t give the viewer a clue about the gruesome end to the film which is a strong political comment on the current state of affairs where wild accusations are too often thrown without proof leading to disastrous consequences.

Leeuwerink’s 2014 short animation The Sheep Shop, was also very political, dealing with workers in sweatshops.  He graduated in 2017 from HKU University of the Arts Utrecht in The Netherlands.  I am sure that we will be seeing more excellent films from this talented young man as he begins his professional career. 

Another student film in competition that has been winning awards at European festivals is Sog.  The 10 minute 14 second puppet and 3D computer film by Jonatan Schwenk from Germany was awarded the student film Crystal at Annecy in 2017.  The film is about a school of fish that are stuck high up in a grove of old trees after a flood.  Their screams for help as they are dying enrage a group of nearby cave dwellers who set about trying to kill the fish.  Jonatan said that he did not set out to make a film about refugees but as work on the film progressed the refugee crisis in Europe was in the news headlines.  “The fish came to represent non-native beings in a world where they got stuck unintentionally and where they could hardly survive without help” Jonatan said.

The KLIK Grand Prix was awarded to Ru Kuwahata and Max Porter for Negative Space.  The beautifully animated stop-motion film is about a boy whose father is constantly traveling on business trips and the boy doesn’t feel close to him.  He finally connects with his father at the realization that the greatest gift his father has given him is teaching him how to pack.  The film is based on a short poem by Ron Koertge.

Ru said that the film had a very personal meaning to her because when she was growing up her father was a pilot and she remembers watching him pack his bag over and over.   That knowledge must have come in handy while making Negative Space.  Ru and Max live in Baltimore but the film was produced in France so the detailed set and all of the delicate props had to be packed up and shipped back and forth across the Atlantic several times.  As with their three previous film, Perfect Houseguest, Between Times, and Something Left, Something Taken, the pair has created intricate, detailed sets that transport the viewer into their world of interesting characters.

The Animated Shorts jury deliberating: L-R Jerrica Cleland, Hisko Hulsing and Greg Lawson

Along with the short film competition there were eight other competition categories as well as an Audience Award, awards for the Best Voice in a Commissioned Film, awards selected by young audiences in three different age groups, and three prizes specifically for Dutch films.  Several categories such as Best Funny and Trippy Toon, Best Animation for Art Lovers, and Best Animated Short from an Emerging Nation are not found at any other festival. They are part of what makes KLIK such a unique and fun event.

The Emerging Nations category is for films from countries that are not known for their animated films.  Mandi, the Little Cockroach by Martanoemi Noriega from Panama definitely belongs in that category.  Panama has a very small film industry, has no minister of culture, and Mandi, the Little Cockroach is the only animated film made in Panama in the last four or five years.

The film is a retelling of a very famous children’s story with a new twist at the end.  In the original story a cockroach is cleaning her house and she finds a coin.  She starts to think about what she can do with her new found riches.  She decides to spend it on a beauty makeover so that she can find a husband.  Martanoemi said that this is not the message that she wants to send to young girls.  She wants to show them that there is a whole world of wonderful possibilities with things that they can do besides thinking that they can only find a husband.  At first Mandi thinks about a trip to a beauty parlor and going on the “Your Hubby” television show but in the end she decides to take a holiday with her riches.  The puppet Mandi is cleverly constructed out of cardboard, as is her house.  In contrast, the television game show sequences are traditional animation.  The 9 minute 10 second film also features Panamanian musicians on the sound track.  What Mandi, the Little Cockroach lacks in European sophistication, it makes up for with a good story that is cleverly told, primarily using cardboard and other ordinary items that often end up in the landfill. 

Martanoemi Noriega, Tomás Cortés-Rosselot and Mandi, the Little Cockroach

Martanoemi was at KLIK with her co-director Tomás Cortés-Rosselot, who told me that his production company, Cine Animal in Panama City, is making an animated feature film.  El Brujo (The Sorcerer) explores the strange universe created by one of the most prolific Panamanian contemporary artists, Julio Zachrisson.  For six decades Zachrisson, who is now ninety years old, blind and has lived in Spain since 1961, created etchings, drypoint, lithographs, and woodcuts that tell stories, mock traditions, and criticize society.  He peopled his world with monsters, witches, and grotesque figures drawn from Panamanian urban folklore, Spanish literature, classical mythology, and his personal experiences.

  The film is about a flying bull that suffers an accident and falls into an abyss.  His downfall is interrupted by a sorcerer who sends the bull on a journey through Zachrisson’s universe.  The engravings are being brought to life by Polish animator Kajetan Obarski who lives in Amsterdam.  El Brujo has been in production for five years and this fascinating sounding film is about a year from completion.

Revolting Rhymes, Roald Dahl’s wickedly witty and delightful collection of comic fairy tale verse for children has been turned into an equally witty and clever film that delights both children and adults.  Jakob Schuh, James Lachauer, and Bin-Han To’s film was produced in two parts for the BBC as part of their 2016 special Christmas programing.  It has gone on to be a festival favorite.  It also won both the Best TV/Broadcast Production and Best Character Animation in a TV/Broadcast Award at the European Animation Awards Ceremony in December.

Nancy with Jakob Schuh

Revolting Rhymes takes the classic fairy tales of Little Red Riding Hood,Snow White, The 3 Little Pigs, Jack in the Beanstalk, and Cinderella and mixes them all together with a mischievous twist to create a fantastic story while staying true to Dahl’s original rhymes.  Produced by Magic Light Pictures in Berlin and Triggerfish Animation Studio in Cape Town, Jakob Schuh and Bin-Han To presented a Master Class for a small group at the festival where they talked about the problems posed by working in Germany and South Africa simultaneously.  They also talked about the difficult process of taking such a beloved book as Revolting Rhymes and turning it into a two part animated film.  Both Schuh and To have a great sense of humor and listening to them talk at the informal gathering you could see that they are good friends as well as colleagues.

Bin-Han To and Jakob Schuh showing the evolution of the wolf character in Revolting Rhymes

In keeping with this year’s theme, Never Grow Up, a series of compilation screenings explored the expectations and experiences that come with age.  The Kids Are Alright looked at the world through the eyes of a child.  The twelve films in the program ranged from Robert Cannon’s delightful Christopher Crumpet’s Playmate, about a boy and his imaginary elephant, to Anita Killi’s moving Angry Man which deals with domestic abuse.  At the other end of the spectrum the Old Is the New Young program looked at people who refuse to allow their age to dictate their choices and start making unique decisions of their own.

If there is one feature film that embodies this year’s theme it is Wrinkles.  Directed by Spaniard Ignacio Ferreras and based on a graphic novel by Paco Roca, the story follows Emilio, a retired bank manager whose son puts him in an assisted living home when he develops signs of Alzheimer’s.  Despite the bleak picture that the film paints of care homes, the characters are so warm and loveable that there are lots of moments that make you laugh.  If you leave the theatre with a tear in your eye there will also be a smile on your face.

Tünde Vollenbroek introducing the Cartoon Network extravaganza

KLIK is a master at creating special events and the Cartoon Network – Adventure Time programs were definitely special.  The first program, presented by Tunde Vollenbroek, began with a screening of four episodes of Adventure Time, featuring two of my favorite Cartoon Network friends, twelve year old Finn and his inseparable adopted brother, the dog Jake.  Following the screening there was a Skype chat with Adventure Time executive producer and show runner Adam Muto.  It has been announced that this tenth season which premiered in September 2017 and will conclude sometime in 2018 will be the final season of the popular show.  Muto expressed his sadness at the end of an era but also said that he is looking forward to some rest and family time after his exhausting work on the series.  He went on to outline what it takes to produce each eleven minute episode of Adventure Time.  Animation students who think that working on a television series is a piece of cake should listen to Muto talk about  the long, exhausting hours that goes into creating each episode.

Adventure Time’s Adam Muto

The second Cartoon Network special consisted of back to back screenings of the recent eight part Adventure Time:  Islands.  The miniseries sees Finn, Jake, BMO, and Susan Strong go on a maritime voyage to finally uncover the mystery surrounding the final fate of the human race.  Islands Part 4:  Imaginary Resources earned Adventure Time its seventh Emmy in 2017.  Cartoon Network generously provided lots of hats, notebooks and Jake and Finn pillows that were given away to members of the audience during the two screenings.  To win a pillow, audience members vied with each other at the front of the theatre to see who could recreate the dance done by James Baxter the Horse in one of the Adventure Time episodes that had been screened.

Doing the James Baxter the Horse dance

Not everything at KLIK is fun and games.  There is always time for a serious, hard hitting film and German-Iranian film maker Ali Soozandeh’s Tehran Taboo is certainly that.  The lives of several strong willed women and a young musician intersect in this story about the hypocrisies of modern Iranian society where sex, drugs, and corruption coexist with strict religious laws.  Aside from shock value and sharp social commentary, the film has the look of a moving graphic novel, combining rotoscoping and motion capture.  Tehran Taboo is a very adult film that you won’t soon forget.

Mexican animator Aria Covamonas paired his clever cut out animation with Camille Saint-Saens’ The Carnival of the Animals. It was accompanied by the Seattle Youth Orchestra’s performance of Saint-Saens’ musical suite.  A series of funny, surreal animated stories are paired with the fourteen movements of the suite.  Each movement stars a different animal, from the regal lion to the slowest tortoise.  The entire twenty minute film is a treat for the eyes and ears.

KLIK Industry has become an important place where the Dutch animation industry can share knowledge, celebrate success stories, and unite the countries’ animation community.

  Debutante Ball gave 31 new Dutch university graduates the opportunity to introduce themselves individually, give a brief list of their specialties, and present their show reel.  The festival gave out a sheet with a head shot, email address, and the specializations of each graduate to make it much easier to meet them at the reception following the presentation.

The Consultation Hours offered 20 minute one on one consultations with a professional.  It was possible to work on your script with a script coach or get advice from an expert on how to get your short film started.  This year the festival introduced Netherlands Industry Yearbook.  The presentations covered six of the biggest projects that left their mark on the Dutch animation industry.

The Talks With the Filmmakers, hosted by Hans Walther, are always important and enlightening.  For those who could not attend KLIK in person this year they can still listen to the recorded chats with the animators at:

KLIK is always guaranteed to provide a lot of fun.  The Disney Sing Along musical celebration had something for everyone.  Songs ranged from Moana, Frozen, Jungle Book, and The Jungle Book to some earlier favorites led by popular vlogger Yvar de Droot and voice actress Fe van Kessel.  The audience was encouraged to come dressed as their favorite Disney character.  To add to the fun atmosphere local cosplayers portrayed Cruella de Vil, Tinker Bell, Anna, and Rapunzel.  The sing along welcomed all ages and what the group lacked in musical virtuosity was made up in pure fun.

Mathijs Stegink leading us through Midlife Mindfulness

     Midnight Madness, that drunken, chaotic, debauchery that celebrates all things of bad taste in animated film has become a KLIK tradition.  This year, in keeping with the Never Grow Up theme Midnight Madness founders Mathijs Sttegink and Luuk van Huet presented us with Midelife Mindfulness billed as a “contemplative journey to our inner selves with the help of meditative animation”.  As we entered the theatre we were given a third eye.  There was even a short “yoga session” led by programmer Tunde Vollenbroek and the audience was given tea instead of beer. Personally, I missed the beer.

Tünde Vollenbroek leading the audience in Mindful Yoga

     In the EYE Arena area festival goers could try their hand at Cuphead, a run and gun video game that was released in September 2017.  The run and gun game is heavily influenced by 1930’s cartoon characters like Betty Boop and Popeye.  The visuals and audio were created using the same techniques of the era, such as hand drawn cel animation, watercolor backgrounds and an original jazz sound track.  Cuphead was created by Studio MDHR.

Playing Cuphead

     It wouldn’t be KLIK without a party.  This year the 10th anniversary of the festival coincided with the birthday of Dario van Vree, one half of the original KLIK founding team so it was a double celebration.  This was the perfect excuse for a party complete with dancing, drinks, and lots of fun late into the night. The KLIK bar upstairs in the EYE was the place to meet friends and create impromptu parties.   

Nancy with KLIK’s co-founders Dario Van Vree and Luuk van Huet at the KLIK Birthday Nostalgia – both KLIK’s and Dario’s birthday!

All too soon it was time for the closing ceremony.  A list of the entire award winning films is at the end of the article.  Yvonne van Ulden officially stepped down as festival director last year but she was still around to offer advice and assistance to Bram Kranendonk, the new festival director and longtime KLIK staffer Marion Poeth, Festival coordinator.  Transitioning from one festival director to another is always difficult but Bram did an excellent job in his new role.  KLIK is in good hands and will continue to be the high quality, fun festival that it has grown to be.  Happy 10th Birthday KLIK and here’s the next 10 years. 

Celebrating 10 years of KLIK

You can read more about the festival at:            

The Franki Awards

Award Winners:

Best Animated Short 2017: Negative Space by Max Porter & Ru Kuwahata

Best Animated Student Short 2017, [Powered by Cartoon Network]: Flower Found! by Jorn Leeuwerink

Best Commissioned Animation 2017: Spectacle of the Real – Hulk Limbo, Inc.

Best Animated Music Video 2017, [Powered by XITE]: Mark Lotterman - Happy by Alice Saey

Best Animated Documentary 2017: Broken – The Women's Prison at Hoheneck by ​Volker Schlecht & Alexander Alexander

Best Animated Virtual Reality 2017: In Memory by Bob Los

Best Animated Short by an Emerging Animation Nation 2017: AYNY by Ahmad Saleh

Best Animated Political Short 2017: Life Cycles by Ross Hogg

Best Funny & Trippy Toon 2017: Wrestler by Kwak Kihyuk

Best Animation for Art Lovers 2017: Extrapolate by Johan Rijpma

NL Award for Craftsmanship 2017: Cuckoo by Michaël Veerman

NL Award for Good Looks 2017: Scrambled by Bastiaan Schravendeel

NL Award for Emotional Impact 2017: Bei Mir Bist Du Schön by Bouwine Pool

Best Voices in a Commissioned Animation 2017, [Powered by]: Girl Effect (.org) – Invisible Barriers by Mustashrik Mahbub

Audience Award 2017: Yin by Nicolas Fong

Young Audience Award Kids 3 - 5: The Sled by Olesya Shchukina

Young Audience Award Kids 6 - 9: Jubile by C. Piogé, C. Soudet, M. Duvert, M. El Kadiri, A. Marmion

Young Audience Award Kids 10 - 12: Short but Sweet by Junaid Chundrigar