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YOU’VE COME A LONG WAY BABY! - KLIK Animation Festival 27 October -1 November 2016 Amsterdam, The Netherlands

KLIK Animation Festival in Amsterdam has come a long way in its 10 year history.  From its beginnings in 2007 as a primarily student festival at the Kriterian Theatre to the 2017 edition at the prestigious Eye Film Institute, KLIK has grown into an important event on the European festival calendar.

KLIK Animation Festival in Amsterdam has come a long way in its 10 year history.  From its beginnings in 2007 as a primarily student festival at the Kriterian Theatre to the 2017 edition at the prestigious Eye Film Institute, KLIK has grown into an important event on the European festival calendar.

The EYE in bright, crisp weather


The person most responsible for this growth is festival director Yvonne van Ulden.  At the opening night of this year’s festival Yvonne announced that she will be stepping down to pursue other projects and devote more time to her family as soon as a new director is named.  Her strong programing and great sense of humor will be missed but she leaves an impressive legacy and a strong team so I am sure that the festival will continue its tradition of excellent film programs and great sense of fun.

Festival director Yvonne Van Ulden

For the 4th year in a row, the KLIK World Domination Award was presented at the opening ceremony.  The award honors an organization, studio, or individual that has helped Dutch Animation take another critical step towards world domination in the past year.  The jury comprised of Claire van Daal of the Netherlands Film Festival, Jolande Junte from VNAP (Association of Dutch Animation Producers), Netherland’s Film Fund’s Peter Lindhout, Lisa Linde Nievld representing the EYE, and Yvonne van Ulden selected Michael Dudok De Wit to receive this year’s honor.  In doing so they said “Michael Dudok De Wit undeniably is the personification of the World Domination Award . . . We treasure him and his work and are proud that such a wonderful animation director has his roots in the Netherlands”.

In 2000, Michael received the Academy Award as well as the BAFTA (The British Academy Award) and the Annecy Grand Prix for his 8 minute 30 second short animation Father and Daughter.  His first animated feature film The Red Turtle has been entered in the 2017 Oscar race for the Best Animated Feature Film.

Micheal Dudok de Wit, winner of the World Domination Award

This year 1,800 films from 80 countries were viewed by the selection committee of which I am proud to be a member.  The 53 films selected for the 6 competition programs were an eclectic and entertaining mix showcasing a wide range of techniques, styles, and themes.  This year the competition programs mixed student and professional films in the same screenings.

One of my favorite films was Digna van der Put’s 4 minute 14 second Parade, a charming hand drawn animation with a darker underside.  Six fanfare flute players on parade provide a timely and timeless look at the parade of life and world history.  As they march, the flute players encounter an entire gamut of parades in every shape and size of costumed pageantry.  Parade was awarded the KLIK Netherlands Award for Emotional Impact and is the Dutch entry in this year’s Oscar Short Animation category.

As I watched Decorado (Scenery) I had a feeling of de ja vu.  Spanish animation director, illustrator, and cartoonist Alberto Vazquez has a unique style that is immediately recognizable.  Decorado, his latest 12 minute film, is created in the same distinctive hand drawn style as his short color animation Bird Boy and its feature length continuation of the Bird Boy saga Psiconautas – The Forgotten Children”.  Vasquez says that the moody black and white Decorado is based on the premise that “The world is a wonderful place, but its characters are disgraceful”.  The two lead characters live in a world that teeters between reality and fiction.  When asked about why he made the film the director said “the film is only a fable, a metaphor about the falsehood of our lives, but with an ironic sense of humor”.  The haunting score by Victor Garcia adds to mysterious atmosphere.

Decorado was selected for the Director’s Fortnight at Cannes this year and also won the audience award at KLIK.  It speaks to the quality of the KLIK audiences that year after year they select hard hitting films such as Decorado and Hisko Hulsings Junkyard (2014) for the Audience Award. Vazques is currently in pre-production on his second animated feature Unicorn Wars.

In his film The Cats, Mexican animator Alejandro Rios begins his story of a street cat that starts a new life with a lonely old man on a sweet note.  The cat believes that he will be surrounded by warmth and care in his new home but neither man nor beast ever knows what terrible secrets lurk behind the closed door to a house.  The 9 minute animation addresses the issues of abuse and dependence in a terrifying way that the film has left a lasting impression on me.

KLIK Awards

Along with the 6 animated shorts competition programs, the festival also awards Animated Documentaries, Political Shorts, Best Film in the Dutch Panorama, Animated Music Video, and Animation for Hire categories.  There is also an award given in the Emerging Nations category.  This program screened 12 films from countries that are not usually represented at festivals, such as Kazakhstan, Myanmar, and Kenya.  Young film goers aged 5 to 12   selected Alike by Daniel Martinez and Lara and Rafael Cano Mendez to receive the Young Audience Award.  The film, about a father who tries to teach his son the right way to behave in a very busy world only to discover that there is more than one way to live which is right, has won numerous audience awards and was nominated for the 2016 Cartoon d’Or award.  A complete list of all winning films is at the end of the article.

This year’s festival theme, The World We Live In, gave festival goers the opportunity to roam freely through an eclectic range of landscapes from all over the world, take a closer look at cities spotlighting details we might overlook in our busy everyday lives, and enter a world of strange creatures and landscapes.  The One With Nature/Making It Work screening focused on the many ways that humans and nature come together and clash, trying to co-exist on the same planet.  The program included such classics as Nino Christen’s L’Ile Noire about deforestation and Bill Plympton’s The Cow Who Wanted To Be A Hamburger.

To further discover The World We Live In there was a night time bike ride through North Amsterdam on two evenings.  Along the route at three different locations a short film was screened.  The film was selected to blend in with the surroundings to give a total visual experience.

Virtual Reality continues to open up new avenues of animated storytelling.  This year KLIK offered the opportunity to experience a variety of projects on Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Cardboards ranging from a 360 degree story about a young girl’s frustration as she tries to dodge the rain to being right in the middle of a dream-like journey from one world to the next.  Visitors could try on different models of goggles and let themselves be transported to new worlds where they could roam freely.

For several years KLIK has presented programs specifically designed for the Dutch animation industry.  How To Tell A Story In Virtual Reality with 3D specialist Lars Scholten delved into the particular challenges that a 360 degree production presents.  Lars walked the participants through what tools are available as well as demonstrating how to make a VR animation with Maxon Cinema 4D.  The audience could also try the software at the Strongbox demo set up and see their results immediately with VR goggles. the KLIK tent

A new addition to the festival this year was the KLIK café, a large tent erected at the foot of the steps to the EYE.  The café was the ideal place to meet friends for a drink or have a light snack while listening to a variety of talks such as the Filmmakers Talk Show.  Animation expert Hans Walther carried on interviews with international filmmakers following their screenings.  A copyright workshop offered film makers help winding their way through the minefield of rules and regulations of copyright procedures.  Attorney Frank Melis talked about the specifics of Dutch copyright laws specific to the field of animation as well as discussing the exceptions to the rules.

It was possible to have 20 minute one on one meetings with various successful directors, studios, producers, unions, and funders.  The professionals answered questions, listened to script ideas, and gave advice on individual projects.

The Debutante Ball: Class Of 2016 put the spotlight on the class of 2016 Dutch animation graduates.  Recent graduates from universities throughout The Netherlands presented their one minute show reels.  A reception followed where you could meet the new crop of graduates over a drink. Americ Kevin with Roloff de Jeu

Special guest Aymeric Kevin graduated from Gobelins and is currently based in Japan.  He uses his digital painting skills to work as an illustrator as well as a visual development and background artist.  As background director on such shows as Ping Pong, Space Dandy, the short Kickheart, and the Adventure Time episode Food Chain, Aymeric has worked in a range of visual styles for productions based in North America, Europe, and Japan.  During his presentation at the festival, Bringing Background Art Forward, Aymeric shared his processes, discussed the background industry’s unsung heroes, and concepts that he believes make backgrounds memorable.  Aymeric Kevin also presented a program of Japanese Animated Awesomeness.  The shorts, some of them showcasing Kevin’s work, presented a wide array of experimental Anime which looked amazing on the big screen.

Over the course of a 20 year career in Hollywood, Dutch animator Piet Kroon has directed Osmosis Jones, written and developed a wide range of projects and worked on such box office hits as Despicable Me, Iron Giant, and Rio 1 and 2.  At his Artist In Focus presentation, Piet gave an insider’s look at the process of creating a feature animation story.  He showed sequences from Shrek 2 and talks about how he forms ideas as well as how those ideas find their final form in what is often a process of trial and error.

I have always been a fan of The Powerpuff Girls, so when I heard that Cartoon Network was launching  a series of all new episodes I was worried that the new executive producers, Nick Jennings and Bob Boyle, would make a lot of wrong changes and that it would not be the series that I know and love, especially since original creator Craig McCracken was not involved.   At the 90 minute Powerpuff Girls program I saw several new episodes along with some of the original shows.  I am happy to say that I delightfully surprised to discover that the new episodes are even better than the old ones when it comes to the animation and storylines but I was disappointed that the familiar voices of Blossom, Bubbles, and Buttercup have been replaced.  It was disturbing to  find out that the original voice over artists were not even approached to reprise their roles in the new series since all three are still working in the industry. Dutch Sesame Street characters

We all know Sesame Street but we don’t usually think about how different the characters look in different  countries.  The Dutch version of this venerable children’s show features Pino, a big blue bird, his friend Tommie, a rather dog like creature, and a pig that bears no resemblance to Miss Piggy.  To celebrate the show’s 40th anniversary a selection of clips from the beloved program took us through the development of the characters from their inception to the forms that Dutch children know today.  Although there were plenty of children in the KLIK tent for the presentation a large group of adults also relived their childhood.  

Along with the screenings and special programs, KLIK means fun, and the place to go for fun was the KLIK tent.  For 2 days the Dutch artist duo of Nou and Herkauw invited us to help create our own fantastic landscapes with Play Mais.  In case you are not familiar with Play Mais, it is made from corn grits and water colored with food coloring.  When the small pieces are dampened with a little water they stick together creating all sorts of fantastic shapes.  A little train with a camera on it ran through the landscape on a track as “architects” of all ages created castles, magic mountains, and fanciful creatures.  The ever changing landscape was projected on a big screen in the tent. Mathijs Stegink cheering on the landscape creators in the tent

Mathijs Stegink, master of cardboard art and all things fun, led a Happy Background Painting session in the tent.  You could get your hands dirty creating your own backgrounds.  He also led the Straight-On-Film Jam where everyone drew one second of film directly on a strip of celluloid using a variety of styles and techniques.  The collective results were pasted together and the resulting film projected on the screen in the tent a la Exquisite Corpse fashion.

Midnight Madness is a KLIK tradition.  When the late night mix of film and fun began it screened films that had been submitted to KLIK that were beyond belief, often causing the selection committee to say “I can’t believe anyone made that!”  It was an audience participant event with people yelling out “speed the film up, slow it down, or play it backwards”.  There was also beer delivered to your theatre seat by the alert “waiters”.

This year the original organizers, Mathijs Stegink and Luuk van Huet were joined by KLIK Chief Programmer Tunde Vollenbroek and Lae Schafer for what was more of a formal performance with 19 films than an audience participation event.  The first 20 minutes were taken up with the audience seated on the floor witnessing the comically dark ritual of the mystically garbed presenters getting ready for the show and announcing the rules of the show (the removable seating had all been pushed back into its storage position). All fine so far – we were looking forward to the picnic setting. Then, the audience was told to move up front so the seats could all be replaced.  This broke up some of the audience groupings as people milled about to find seating.  There was little chance for audience participation, and one of the films screened was a film from one of the competition programs.  I think that if a film is good enough to be screened in a competition program it should not quality to be ridiculed at Midnight Madness.  The organizers were determined to plow through all 19 films even when it was obvious that the program had run way overtime and most of the audience was ready to leave.  Thank goodness, at least the beer deliveries were still available.  I hope that next year Midnight Madness will go back to its old format. Nancy and Tunde Vollenbrock

All in all though, it was a wonderful festival, and I must thank Yvonne van Ulden, Tunde Vollenbroek, and the entire KLIK staff and volunteers for make my six day stay at the festival so lovely.  A big thank you also goes to Dot Janson for finding the fantastic houseboat where Nik, Dot, and I stayed during the festival.  It was close to the festival site and one of the best places I have ever stayed at a festival. 

Next year the festival will be held at The Eye on the 17th through the 22nd of October.  You can learn more about KLIK at:


Award for Best Animated Short 2016: Child Dream by Christophe Gerard

Award for Best Animated Student Short 2016: Party by Daniel Barany Award for Best Voices in a Commissioned Animation: Seed Matters by Buck

Award for Best Commissioned Animation 2016: Slack by Nexus, Smith & Foulkes

Award for Best Animated Music Video 2016: De Staat - Witch Doctor by Studio Smack, Floris Kaayk

Award for Best Animated Short from an Emerging Animation Nation 2016: My Life I don't Want by Nyan Kyal ay

Award for Best Political Animated Short 2016: Mrs. Metro by Aggelos Papantaniou

Award for Best Animated Documentary 2016: Tough by Jennifer Zheng

NL Award for Massive Laughs 2016: Marketed Collecting - Daukante Subaciute

NL Award for Good Looks 2016: Pregnant by Mascha Halberstad

NL Award for Emotional Impact 2016: Parade by Digna van der Put

Amsterdam Audience Award 2016: Decorado by Alberto Vazquez