Guillermo del Toro, David Fincher, Henry Selick, and more joined the streamer’s Animation Showcase to rev the crowd, discuss their upcoming animated projects, and champion the power of the medium.
Yesterday at the 61st Annecy International Animation Film Festival, Netflix took to the Théâtre Bonlieu stage to present its expansive and star-packed Animation Showcase.
The event began with an exclusive early look at The Sea Beast, director Chris Williams’ epic sea monster adventure, which makes its streaming debut on July 8.
“When I was a kid, I loved big adventure stories like The Raiders of the Lost Ark, King Kong, and Lawrence of Arabia,” Williams told attendees. “I wanted to make a movie that captured that spirit -- a movie that is forward-looking, and, at the same time, acknowledges its influences in those classic adventure stories.”
Henry Selick, director of Wendell & Wild, appeared via a recorded message to introduce a clip from the film, which stars Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key.
“As a filmmaker, I believe animation isn't a genre unto itself, [but] a way to tell all sorts of stories,” Selick said. “I choose stop-motion animation, which is the oldest type of animation - and in fact, of filmmaking - that there is. Stop-motion is the most magical way to tell stories. It feels like actual magic. That’s why I am going to stick with it, and why the stories I will choose to tell will be told in stop-motion.”
Nora Twomey, director of My Father’s Dragon, joined the event to share stories on making the film with Academy Award-nominated animation studio Cartoon Saloon.
“As a director, the best thing about my job is that I get to guide writers, storyboard [artists], character animators, FX artists, and painters as they build worlds that feel real on an emotional level,” Twomey said. “I witnessed each artist's thought process[, and] the truth behind every hand-drawn frame. We were a team working together, yet often remotely, through challenging circumstances. Each artist craft[ed] a story to help us all feel like we're not alone in this scary world.”
Wendy Rogers, director of The Magician’s Elephant, addressed audiences in a video recorded for the occasion.
“We have been really lucky to be able to make this film at Netflix, because there is no house style, so they’re open to films that don’t fit a mold,” Rogers said. “This film is different from other films. It has a different tone. I am very excited we are able to bring all of the current animation technology and performance and the maturity of this art form into this film.”
Nick Bruno and Troy Quane, co-directors of Nimona, spoke about their animated film, and credited Netflix, Annapurna, and DNEG with helping bring its “techno-medieval world” to life. “This story has everything: punk rock anarchy, murder, comedy, knights, flying cars, shapeshifters, and love,” they added.
Netflix gave a nod to a number of upcoming anime projects as well -- new additions to a category which, according to the company’s estimate, was streamed by about 222 million members over the past year.
Hiroyasu Ishida, director of Drifting Home, revealed his inspiration for the film during a sneak peek. “For the longest time, I feel like I was drawn to the appearance of housing complexes,” Ishida said. “From the very beginning, I was wondering if there was a way of making a story out of the pair of characters, Kosuke and Natsume, and a housing complex setting. I kept brainstorming on paper, [and] came up with a scenario that involved drifting. There was a drawing where I simply placed a single housing complex in the middle of the ocean. It was after this drawing that we were able to decide on the general direction of this project. [Tha]t was the first big step."
Karissa Valencia and Chris Nee - creator and executive producer of the upcoming preschool series Spirit Rangers, respectively - commented on the show’s representation of Native American characters and stories.
“When I first met Karissa, I knew that she was a young, promising and talented storyteller, and when I found out that she was Native American, I knew that we needed her voice and I wanted to know what stories she wanted to tell from her unique point of view,” said Nee.
"Spirit Rangers has been a dream job for me. Not only do I get to make an epic, fantasy show, but I also get to battle those feelings of reassurance that Native kids still deal with today,” added Valencia. “I can't wait for Native kids to see themselves on screen for the first time in a long time in modern space."
Everett Downing, co-creator of the animated sci-fi series My Dad The Bounty Hunter, similarly stressed the importance of his show’s depiction of Black families, and said its inspirations range from “The Last Starfighter, to John Carpenter movies, to The Fifth Element.”
Filmmaker David Fincher also appeared at the event, sharing some thoughts on his directorial debut in animation -- the episode of Love, Death + Robots entitled “Bad Travelling.”
“My hope is that we never get to a point where we have succinctly defined what [Love, Death + Robots] is,” Fincher said. “That would be boring.”
Scott “Kid Cudi” Mescudi, Fletcher Moules, and Maurice Williams all shared the stage to discuss their new television event, Entergalactic, which will premiere on Netflix in September. Conceived by Kid Cudi and Kenya Barris, the show follows two fledgling artists who struggle to find love amidst the chaos of New York City.
“[Entergalactic] is a modern day love story that will make you fall in love all over again,” Kid Cudi said of the show.
As the showcase came to a close, Guillermo del Toro left attendees with an emphatic message while presenting his stop-motion retelling of Pinocchio. “This is the decade where we can drive home the mantra we all know -- that animation is film, animation is not a fucking genre.”