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Whenever Nik and I travel schools to do our workshops, it’s always interesting to see how each school has set up its curriculum. Recently, we had the pleasure of getting acquainted with the workings of the animation program at the Arts Institute at Bournemouth in Bournemouth, England. I was already familiar with the high quality of the students’ work from festivals such as Annecy and by viewing the 2007 Graduation reel, and was very pleased to receive an invitation to visit the Animation Production Department from Professor Peter Parr and his charming and talented wife Astor. This gave me a chance to find out how their BA (Hons) Animation Program was structured.


The 14th Bradford Animation Festival: English Hospitality and an Excellent Festival Are a Perfect Combination

For much of the audience the highlight was Nick Park in Conversation with Paul Wells. Paul, who is Director of the Animation Academy at Loughborough University and has published widely in the field of animation, was able to put the very shy Park at ease. They sat on stage chatting as if they were in a living room, even though the large hall was packed with fans. Nick talked about lots of things including his interest in animation that started when he was 13, making films in his parents’ attic, the birth of Wallace and Grommet and his recent work, Creature Discomforts, created to help the public see disability in a new light. The program ended with a lengthy question and answer session. He comes across as a very genuine and humorous person. Since Nick is the superstar of British animation, the festival actually had to lock the theatre doors until they could get him out to his car. Otherwise he would have been totally mobbed.



I like to bring promising young animators from all over the world to the attention of my readers. Alex Siqueira is definitely a young animator to watch. He is featured in the new book PURE ANIMATION: Steps to Creation with 57 Cutting Edge Animators by Spencer Drate and Judith Salavetz, with an introduction by J. J. Sedelmaier. This beautifully illustrated book spotlights the innovative, cutting-edge work of 57 established and emerging animators from around the world.

Nik and I first met Alex in 1991 in Porto, Portugal where we were attending a Normand Roger workshop. Whenever we are in Portugal, we try to get together with Alex and I have followed his career with a great deal of interest. His student film, Sopa Fria (Cold Soup) is still one of my favorite pieces of puppet animation.

This year at the Cinanima Animation Festival in Espinho, Portugal Alex and I spent a great deal of time together, usually over food and drink. When Alex asked if he could create an illustration for my blog I was delighted to accept. His very comic drawing of the ANNECY PLUS BAND (Nik, Rolf Bächler and Jesper Fleng) is in the style of a group of illustrations that he is working on for a group exhibit.


HAIRY PONIES and Friends by Sandra Jones and Jamie Badminton

The Perfect Gift for All Of Your Horse Loving Friends

When I met Jamie Badminton at the Annecy International Animation Festival several years ago, the first thing that he did was to pull out his sketch book and show me the characters that he had created for a book that he planned to write and illustrate. At Annecy the following year, I was surprised and delighted when he presented me with a copy of HAIRY PONIES and FRIENDS: A Day at the Races, the first of a proposed series of stories based on the adventures of a young pony named Star and his friends on Hazel House Farm.

HAIRY PONIES is a comedy-adventure book for both boys and girls with plenty of illustrations so that tiny tots and pre-schoolers will want their parents to read it to them over and over. I myself thoroughly enjoyed reading this book about the adventures of Star and his friends.As they developed the story, Jamie and his writing partner, Sandra Jones enlisted the editorial assistance of Paloma Mills, daughter of animators Joanna Quinn and Les Mills. Paloma is an avid equestrian and horse lover, and she gave the two authors knowledgeable feedback from the younger viewpoint.


I am back home in Gent after my odyssey across Europe that took me to festivals in Espinho, Portugal; Bradford, England; Tallinn, Estonia and Rome, Italy. I was also lucky enough to visit major animation studios in Riga, Latvia and invited to give workshops in Riga, Rome, and Bournemouth, England. I flew back and forth across my home country Belgium four times before finally landing again in Brussels.

While my stalwart husband Nik worked away composing music in cold and sleety Gent, I spent 5 through 11 November in Espinho, Portugal. Espinho is a charming fishing town located on the Atlantic Ocean, with long sandy beaches and plenty of sun. As my good friend, Russian animator Leon Estrin once told me “Sometimes it happens, several days could give you years of memories”, and this festival has certainly given me that. Evenings spent with Leon, Jimmy Murakami, and Ginger Gibbons sitting at a beachfront café drinking and talking, or basking in the sun watching the from the little fisherman’s bar at the far end of the beach the sardine boats come in. These are memories that will never fade. One very late night as Leon was walking me back to my hotel, we happened upon the young festival staff members playing football on the beach, and their sheer joy and enthusiasm was contagious as we sat on the beach wall and watched the game. All of the festival guests took advantage of the opportunity to enjoy traditional three and four hour lunches and dinners of the exquisite Portuguese cuisine and to heartily drink the delicious and inexpensive red wine.



The 34th Flanders International Film Festival held in Gent, Belgium (October 9 – 20) primarily celebrates film music’s relation to the visual language of film. That said, it also includes some fine animation, including two of the thirteen short films nominated for the 2007 European Film Awards (PRIX UIP). Each of the 13 films in this competition had already won a PRIX UIP award of €2000.00 at one of the major European festivals, and the winner will be announced on 1 December in Berlin and awarded a €10,000.00 grand prize.

One of the two contenders is Joanna Quinn’s delightful Dreams and Desires – Family Ties, which has already garnered the Grand Prix at several festivals such as Annecy and Zagreb. It qualified for the PRIX UIP by capturing the prize at Tampere International Film Festival in Tampere, Finland. I have written extensively about Beryl, the heroine of the film, and her whimsical screwball adventures in several previous articles, so I won’t repeat myself, except to say that the film gets better with each viewing. Nik and I did get to spend a lovely afternoon with Joanna and her scriptwriter husband Les Mills while they were here for the Festival and my next article will be an interview that I did with these two very talented and fun people. Joanna and Les also were gracious enough to take time out from their busy festival schedule to give a short Saturday morning master class at KASK School for the advanced students


Kiev Weekly Interview with Nik and Nancy

While Nik and I were in Kiev for the KROK International Festival of Animation we were interviewed by Dmytro Ivanov for the KIEV WEEKLY. The article can be read in either English and Ukrainian at the web address listed below. The photo was taken while our boat was docked in Yalta.


“What’s Cooking?”

I am in Switzerland, as a lecturer at Art & Design branch of the Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (Hochschule Luzern, formerly HGK Lucerne School of Art and Design), staying in Zurich with my dear friend Rolf Bächler. This is the second time Rolf and I have taught a course together titled “What’s Cooking?” which we created last year for the newly introduced Design Management class. As the first instructors at the beginning of the studies, our task is team building while exposing the new group of students to a real-life management and design assignment.

In the process of this project, the group must define what needs to be done, break into small task groups to execute the duties and yet work as a total team to complete the task.In a morning lecture, Rolf and I outline the task, but after that we are only there to give advice when we are asked for it, and jump in if we see that anything is going terribly wrong. We want the students to set up their own structure, think and plan through the process and execute every task themselves.


KROK 2007

The KROK 2007 International Animated Film Festival, held this year in the Ukraine, was a tribute to the brilliant Russian animator Alexander Tatarsky who died unexpectedly in July. Many of the festival attendees were still in a state of shock, so it was a bittersweet event. The opening night of the festival was highlighted by a special tribute to the great director. The second night the evening was devoted to a retrospective of his films, followed by “Recalling Sascha,” a memorial which gave friends and colleagues a chance to tell humorous and touching stories about the beloved filmmaker, and to laugh a lot, just as Tatarsky would have wanted since he loved to laugh, often pulling practical jokes and fond of playing with his beloved collection of toys and doll. The decision not to translate the events of the evening into English was completely correct because it would have broken the mood. I was lucky enough to have a translator sitting close by, filling me in, so that I did not have to miss out on the joy and sadness of the evening. On closing night the children’s film project, a film traditionally made by the young people on board the ship, was an homage to the much loved Tatarsky.


This year’s celebration of animation was held 25 September through 6 October aboard the cruise ship Taras Shevchenko, sailing from Odessa to Kiev on the Black Sea and the Dneiper River. Festival participants met the first evening at the KROK office in Kiev and took the night train to Odessa. As my frequent readers know, I love train travel, and so these overnight trips in Russia and the Ukraine are always a big treat for me. These train trips always involve food, plenty of drink and sometimes live music, giving us a chance to see old friends and to meet new animators in a more intimate setting than the boat, if such is possible. We held a party in our compartment and when I finally couldn't keep my eyes open any longer and succumbed to slumber, the party was still going on. When I awoke, I found the same folks sitting in the same places in our compartment. What a perfect beginning to another memorable trip!


AWN launches my new blog

AWN has invited me a initiate a weekly blog space on their web site. I will primarily write short reviews of animations that I like, interviews with animators, my observations about the animation world and of course, my usual long articles about festivals that I attend. Any of you who have been reading my articles for the past few years know that I will also throw in whatever is on my mind when I am writing along with observations about my life in Europe. The powers that be at AWN say that it will take a little bit of time to convert my e-mail list to my blog spot so until then you will continue to receive my musings direct from me.

I will be happy to receive comments from any readers as well as question and of course I expect to get e-mails from those who don't agree with what I say. I welcome all of the above.

My first two entries will be my article about KROK 2007 and an interview with Joanna Quinn and Les Mills when they visit Gent this weekend.

31st Annecy International Festival of Animation


I don't know if it's that I have finally accepted the fact that the Annecy International Festival of Animation

is about money and big business or simply that I got to spend some time with so many good friends that I don't get to see often enough, but I did have the best time I've had in years at the 31st Annecy International Festival of Animation held in Annecy, France this June 11th through the 16th. From the moment Nik and I arrived on Sunday evening until we headed home to Gent, Belgium the next Sunday afternoon, I couldn't walk down the main street, sit on the patio in front of the Leffe Bar, or walk through the Festival center at Bonlieu without running into people that I was delighted to see.


Nik and Nancy have a new family member!

As most of you know Nik and I lost our beloved 15 year old Dalmatian Kirby earlier this year and he was soon followed to dog heaven by our equally beloved 15 year old Molly. It was very painful for us to lose both of them so close together but we are dog people and we knew that somewhere down the road there would be another dog that needed a good home and a lot of love. We had planned not to even think about a dog until after we returned from KROK in the Ukraine in early October but low but as we all know life does not always go the way we plan.

Last Sunday Nik and I saw a sign on a tree in a little park near our house for a homeless 4 year old West Highland Terrier that was free but must be taken before the next day or it would be go to the pound. It turned out that his mistress is dead, the master is in jail and their two sons put the dog out on the street. The family that took him in after a week on the streets already have 2 Skiperkeys and couldn't keep a third dog but they did take him to a vet to be checked out and an implanted chip was found. The vet tracked down the children who said that they didn't want anything to do with their father, the dog, or anything that the father had ever touched! Please do not write for more details -- we don't have any and don't really want to know what happened.



Dear Friends:

For any of our animator friends who will be at Annecy please save Friday evening for ANNECY PLUS which I have programmed this year. The attached poster and press release gives all the details. If you are not part of our animation community you can skip this message.

Warm Regards,



Le Venitien Bar and Lounge Square de l’ Eveche
(by the canal, less than 500 meters from the Bon Lieu)



Dear Animators:

This year Bill Plympton will be attending THE PLATFORM FESTIVAL OF ANIMATION in Portland, Oregon instead of The Annecy Festival of Animation. Bill has asked Nik, Jonas Raeber and myself to carry on the ANNECY PLUS tradition that he started two years ago. If you had a piece of work rejected by Annecy please send it to us so that we can consider screening it at the ANNECY PLUS show.

We are now into day 15 of a postal strike in Gent and no one is sure how long the strike will last so it is best to send DVD's via UPS or Fed Ex to:

Nancy Denney-Phelps

Donkersteeg 31

B-9000 Gent Belgium

We will be leaving for Annecy on 8 June so please send your work right away!!!


Nancy's article about AnimaBasauri 3 in Spain, with pictures.

Hi friends,

Here are my impressions of the third year of a wonderful festival that takes place in Basauri, Spain, near Bilbo in April.

Love to everyone,

by Nancy Denney-Phelps

Like last year, a highlight was the chance to see animation from Spain, Mexico and South America, films that are rarely seen in other festivals. Of the 74 shorts that I watched, 19 were from Spain, 3 were from Brazil, and Mexico and Chile each had 1 film. I particularly enjoyed Ugly’s Night, Manuel Gonzalez Mauricio’s new take on boy meets girl, depicting two disfigured people who meet and fall in love.


Thanks and Links from Nancy

Nik and I want to thank everyone who sent us such lovely e-mails of condolances about Kirby's passing -- they have made us feel so much better but even though we miss him terribly he did live to a ripe old Dalmation age and spent the last year touring Europe with us (he could bark very expertily in Flemish which is more than we can do).

Through the miracle of modern computers I will be reading my story about my train trip to Russia on the radio show TALES FROM THE EARTH, KUSF 90.3 FM on Wednesday, April 11 at 7:30 PM (San Francisco time -- everyone else has to do the time conversions if they want to hear it). For more information visit - web cast and iTunes. The guest the week before me is poet Laurence Ferlinghetti.


Sad News and Good News

Our beloved Dalmatian Kirby passed away last night. All of you who knew him know how much we loved him and how much he will be missed.

As in all things with the bad comes the good. We have received our official Belgian residence and work permits so we are legally Belgian. Now we begin the long hard task of learning Flemish.

As we near the first Anniversary of the beginning of our new life we will soon send out an account of our adventures in Europe.

Nik and Nancy


Our trip to Espinho, Portugal

Dear Friends:

This article is about our trip to the CINANIMA Animation Festival in
Espinho, Portugal in November. Tomorrow I leave for my last week of
teaching in Lucerne, Switzerland and a short visit with my son in Munich.
In a few weeks I will write a long update about our (very happy) life here
Gent and the adventures and mysteries of our first holiday season here.

Warmest Regards,


If an animator friendly festival with excellent screening conditions and top notch animation is not enough for you, then you need to go to Cinanima, 6 through 12 November in Espinho, Portugal. Added to all of the above was the beautiful beach right outside of our hotel room with warm water and after the cold weather I had just left in Switzerland it was sometimes difficult to go into the screening room. The 30th Anniversary of the Festival offered so many delights that my efforts were well rewarded.


Composer Nik Phelps; filmmakers - music for your film!

Nik and Nancy Phelps have finally completed their relocation to Gent,
Belgium, and the new music studio is set up and ready to go. We now have
the cherished Belgian work permit, and will be taking on new projects
starting after the new year.

Nik has just finished music for Nina Paley's upcoming feature, Sita Sings
the Blues, is currently working on animation projects for animators Lance
Taylor in Canada, and Jordie Doubt in Switzerland, and will be providing
music for the politically topical website of John Grimes and Robin Chin in
the United States ( ) We are currently putting together our
spring 2007 production schedule, so contact us now for music for your
animation, documentary, or film project. You may not think that original
music is affordable, but you will be surprised. Ask us about our reasonable
rates and check out our web site at



To all our American Friends we wish you a


To everyone who is gathering at Tracy and Richard's to carry on a long


AND . . . to the rest of our friends around the world we raise a glass to
you all




Nik, Nancy, Kirby and Molly have a home

Dear friends

Great news!!!

As of 1 October Nik, Nancy, Kirby and Molly have a home!!!!

We are in the very center of Gent in a VERY tiny house (yes, that's right we
actually found a house) with a private patio no less.

We invite you all to come visit us but no more than two people at a time
because any more than that will have to sleep in the bath tub (yes, we have
the luxury of a bath tub)

Please continue to write us at our post office box.

Pictures included . . .


Nik, Nancy, Molly and Kirby


KROK International Festival of Animation

Well, dear friends, here is what hapened at KROK after I finally arrived on
the boat -- it was smooth sailing from then on. I also do discuess the
animation least you think that I was not in the screening room.

I hope this gives you a little flavor of this unique Animation Festival.




The KROK International Festival of Animation is my favorite annual event.
Each year it is a seagoing experience in which 200 animators from around the
world spend 14 days steaming down rivers while watching animation and having
the opportunity to make truly lasting friendships. It alternates between
being held in Russia and Ukraine. This year participants gathered in Moscow
on August 7 at the Dom Kino, home of the Russian Filmmakers Union, for the
overnight bus ride to Nizhniy Novgorod. There they boarded the river cruiser
Marshall Zhukov to watch animation, eat, drink, to dance under the stars
until sunrise, and to have far too much fun!