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Annecy Plays Pleasantly Along While MIFA Market Abuzz With New Shows

There were many films submitted to the latest Annecy animation festival, now running June 5-10, 2006, along with the MIFA market (June 7-9), in Annecy, France, and loads of screenings but many festival goers are in search of a film that really wows them. The films have been described as abstract, too long, lacking story with only a few, so far, gaining any note, and even those are not generally agreed upon.

Despite the lovely weather in a picturesque resort by the lake, theres been little news and sightings of more than the usual animation celebs, save for the British favorite John Coates, Canadian Marv Newland and a glimpse of Tim Burton, a scheduled guest of the festival who most didnt expect to see until his scheduled talk on Saturday morning. But he made his way through the Rai Italian party on Thursday night, chatting a few moments with fans, posing for photos and generally kicking back in the lawn chairs at the waters edge in a dark corner of the gathering.

Then again, it has been the Italian animators time to shine at the festival along with the sun, during the many tributes and presentations that was brought a raft of who normally never venture much outside their country to be part of the animation scene. They have lots of production, talent and needs to share. The opening night event at Annecy did feature an acknowledgement and standing ovation for Osvaldo Cavandoli who was called to the stage to have a showing of his famous series and has been seen hanging out at the main theater. Opening night also featured the world premiere of French movie, U, directed by Gregoire Solotareff and Serge Elissale, produced by Prima Linea Prods. While there seems to be no general consensus yet on the reaction, most who saw it describe it as quite pretty with some nice character designs and a sweet story.

The energy and participation is remarkably up at the MIFA market, held across the lake at the Imperial Palace. The show floor design is more spread out and cleverly takes attendees in a path to encounter more, small booths, ending up at a comfortable chill out area with improved food services. People are noticeably spending less time milling in the expense bar & terrace area of the hotel and congregating in the chill out space for less cost and a better mingle space, as well as putting them closer to exhibitors to encourage participants to check them out. Buyers also appreciate the buyers club, with its digital library to access shows as well as catch up on screenings they would otherwise miss held across the lake.

Organizations from countries are continuing to rally behind their animators with group booths, press conferences and parties to give their native animators a boost in the global market.

The Emilia-Romangna area of Italy (centering around Bologna) went so far as to present a special conference to introduce press and VIPs to studios and freelance creators with a briefing and screening of their work, showreels and information kits on what is a quite unreported area of prolific production and creativity.

The encouraging news picked up so far is that there are many full-length features in production in Europe and Scandinavia. There are five alone expected to come out of Finland in the next few years. THE EMPORERS SECRET KEISAQRIN SALAISUUS, the first full-length 3D animated-feature produced in Finland (produced by Helsinki filmi Oy), premieres September 2006, driven by a female director, Riina Hytia, (another first for this country and infrequent in the 3D arena). Marc du Pontivice reports his LUCKY LUKE feature at French animation studio Xiliam is being completely produced in-house without subcontracting. Of his 150 animators, 80 are tagged for the features crew. He also pulled together enough financing to keep it in country and without co-producers, enabling him to retain complete control of the production and final product.

Many are looking forward to the second annual Annecy Plus Friday night, an unofficial screening organized by Bill Plympton and Pat Smith of films not selected for competition, in hopes of finding more entertaining shorts. Nik Phelps and the Annecy Sprocket Ensemble will be accompanying with music while Platform Festival has kicked in some sponsorship on the event. Planners are doing it mostly as a fun, social culmination to the week, since many of the works were not actually ready at the submission cutoff.