Monday June 30th 2014, 7:17 am
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Annecy 2014 poster by Franck Dion
Annecy 2014 poster by Franck Dion

When I saw French animator and illustrator Franck Dion’s beautiful 2014 Annecy poster I felt it was going to be a good festival this year and it was.   For the first time in its history the festival team choose an animator to design the poster and let’s hope it won’t be the last time. It was also the first time in many years that the sun shone brightly down on the entire six days of the festival. There was no rain, just hot and hotter weather.

The festival got off to a splendid start with the presentation of a Honorary Award to Isao Takahata at the opening night ceremony.  The seventy-seven year old Japanese animator was honoured for his outstanding career and life-long contribution to animation.  His films include Grave of the Fireflies, Pompoko, and My Neighbors Yamadas.  Along with Hayao Miyazaki and the Tokuma Shotem Company he also founded Studio Ghibli.

Following the presentation of the award The Tale of Princess Kaguya, Isao Takahata’s latest film was screened.  The Tale of Princess Kaguya, based on the ancient Japanese folk legend The Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, is the story of a thumbelina sized princess who is found in a bamboo stalk by the bamboo cutter.  She quickly grows into a beautiful young woman that is coveted by the greatest princes in the land who are prepared to face impossible challenges to win her hand.  The beautifully hand drawn film looks like an ancient scroll painting come to life.  G-KIDS has announced that they will handle the US release of the film in the Fall.

The five short competition programs were a very mixed bag for me.  There were some really bright spots but over all I wasn’t that impressed and I heard the same comment from many other people.  A bright spot was the The National Film Board of Canada (NFB)  who consistently produces good films and this year was no exception.  No Fish Where To Go from the French Canadian duo Nicola LeMay and Janice Nadeau made a deep impression on me.  It is about the consequences of intolerance when civil war breaks out as seen through the eyes of a little girl who is forced to leave her home with her family.  Her plight is made even more painful when she has to leave her best friend who belongs to the other clan and her beloved pet fish behind.  The film is even more intense because it begins so gently and builds to a horrific conclusion.

Canadian directors Janice Nadeau and Nicola Lemay at the morning directors' chat
Canadian directors Janice Nadeau and Nicola Lemay at the morning directors’ chat

No Fish Where To Go is beautifully hand drawn by Janice Nadeau and faithfully adopted from a well known  Canadian children’s book of the same name which Ms. Nadeau also illustrated.  Nadeau and Le May received the Fipresci Award which is given by the International Federation of Film Critics at the festival.

Seeing a new film by Latvian animator Vladimir Leschiov is always an event to me because I am a big fan of his work and Rainy Days definitely lived up to my expectations.  His latest film was also produced by Marc Bertrand at the NFB.

Each of his previous films have used a different technique and for his latest film Vladimir employed black tea and ink on paper in muted shades of browns, white, and black to tell the story of an elderly Japanese man who boards a ferry for an unknown island.  As he looks out over the water the falling rain triggers a string of memories.  Rainy Days looks at three pivitol moments in the man’s life when events that should have happened never came to pass, yet change the course of his existence.  The soft, flowing tones of the black tea is the perfect medium to portray the man’s graceful acceptance of fate and his awareness that “all we have is what is”.

Vladimir’s films always have to be watched several times to peel back all of the layers and catch every detail.  As of this writing I have watched the film three times and look forward to several more viewings.

Annecy Artistic Director Marcel Jean is a thoughtful, well prepared interviewer so the morning director’s chats were very informative this.  It was extremely interesting to hear him talk with Mexican animator Pablo Angeles about creating Pickman’s Model  which he based on his favorite H. P. Lovecraft story.  Pablo said that there are very few animation schools in Mexico and almost no financial support for short animation.  He financed his eleven minute film himself and carved the wooden figures and the intricate set at night after working his regular job, devoting every free moment of his life to creating Pickman’s Model .  Pablo is currently searching for financing to make a feature film.

This year there were nine feature films in competition and another nine screened out of competition and twelve screened on the big open air screens in the park and in the courtyard of the Chateau Museum.  Being a big fan of Estonian animation I was looking forward to Mait Laas’ seventy-three minute animated puppet opera Lisa Limone and Maroc Orange: A Rapid Love Story.  On one level the opera sung interchangeably in Estonian, English, French, and Italian by oranges and lemons is a Romeo and Juliet love story but on a far deeper level the film recreates the Lampedusa boat disaster and the plight of refugees fleeing to Europe in search of a better life only to find more misery.

The story deals in a very critical and thought provoking manner with illegal immigration.  It is also the story of impossible love between orange Maroc, a singing boat refugee and lemon girl Lisa who collects singing sea shells and dreams of finding love.  Lisa is also the daughter of a rich businessman who owns a tomato ketchup plantation.

At the press conference Mait was asked why he made the film as an opera in four languages.  He said “That when you go to see an opera you may not understand the language but the emotions are conveyed by the voices.  It is the same with the story of Lisa and Maroc.

The film is also in 3D.  I usually don’t like 3D because it is frequently added just to tack on a higher ticket price, but in this film the 3D is used much more like it was in the 1950’s horror films for special emphasis and suprize.  It worked perfectly.

La, la, la, la, la . . . I left the theatre singing.  I hope that Lisa Limone and Maroc Orange:  A Rapid Love Story will receive the wide audience it deserves so you can all leave the theatre singing too!

Nancy and Mait with some puppets from his film
Nancy and Mait with some puppets from his film

For years the short competition programs were the center piece of the festival.  For the past few years feature films seemed to hog the spotlight but this year there were so many wonderful special programs and exhibits that they were the highlights of the week for me.

A world view of stop-motion animation was a primary focus of the 2014 festival.  The seventeen programs devoted entirely to stop-motion were a mini festival by itself.  The films spanned the entire history of the art form from historical works by such great pioneers in the field as Ladislas Starewitch and Segundo de Choman to entire programs of contemporary Mexican, Estonian, Canadian, and Croatian stop-motion.  Whether you wanted to see an entire program of one person’s work such as a tribute to Bretislav Pojar who won the first Annecy Cristal in 1960 for The Lion and the Song or the contempory genisus Bruce Bickford, or you wanted to explore a body of work from one country or see two programs commerating the centenary of the First World War there was something for everyone.  Pianist Stephan Oliva and clairnetest Jean-Marc Foltz preformed live improvised  musical accompaniment to three films of the great early twentieth century  special effects pioneer Segundo de Chomon  at a special screening.

In conjunction with the stop-motion screenings French animators Julie Nobelen and Bastien Dubois curated a parallel exhibition in the Centre Courier, the main shopping mall in downtown Annecy.  Specially constructed display cases held puppets from classic stop-motion films such as Harvie Krumpet and Oh Willy.  Julie told me that they had been very worried about having the puppets, many of which are old and delicate, shipped so they did a lot of traveling this year personally picking up as many of the puppets as possible themselves.  Large television screens were set up in two locations in the exhibit which run a continuous program of stop-motion film clips and another display explained the basic process of stop-motion animation.

I always make sure that my first screening every year is The Big Sleep to honor those great animators who passed away since the last Annecy.  It is always bitter sweet to watch the films and this year is was especially painful because among those honoured:  Nag Arsorge of Switzerland, Canadian Frederic Back, Xavier Julliot from France and South Korea, Michael Sporn of the US, and French animator Rene Borg, was my dear friend Jimmy Murakami.  Watching his beautiful film Breath which won the 1965 Annecy Grand Prix I still find it hard to believe that I will never see Jimmy’s warm smile again.

As part of the world wide celebration of the great Scottish/Canadian Norman McLaren’s centinnary NFB (National Film Board of Canada) and Annecy joined forces to pay homage to the great man who left his lasting impact on the history of cinema and inspired so many filmmakers world wide.The films in the three programs McLaren Now included films by animators Steven Woloshen, Ryan Larkin, and Paul Bush whose work reflect the influence of McLaren’s films.  Sprinkled through the three programs were films by Norman McLaren.

Canadian director Stephen Woloshen and Lithuanian director Ilya Bereznicka
Canadian director Stephen Woloshen and Lithuanian director Ilya Bereznicka

Over the past thirty years MIFA located adjacent to the Imperial Palace Hotel has become an important part of the festival and a major industry event.  This year over 2,400 industry professionals were at MIFA along with 513 exhibitors and 334 buyers and distributors from 61 countries.

As I went from booth to booth I had the opportunity to see the latest technological innovations in the industry and get an overview of what films companies have just completed along with seeing works in progress.  I was particularly attracted by the beautiful set on display at the Miraclefilm booth for their feature film Little From the Fish Shop, a work in progress at the Czech studio.  I also saw a bit of the film and if the completed project is a lovely as what I saw the completed feature will be a hit.

The set from Little from the Fish Shop
The set from Little from the Fish Shop

MIFA also serves as a discussion platform with Pitching Session and Share With sessions which gave producers the opportunity to meet with potential key investors.  Another important function is the MIFA recruiting sessions where studios have the opportunity to meet new talent and give film makers a chance to present their portfolios to studios.  The numerous conferences open to all MIFA badge holders and the press ranged from The Role of the Web in Diffusing Short Animated Film to Music and Sound Design in Animated Series.

If you go to Annecy to do business or write about the festival the parties are the most important place to be because it is an opportunity to talk to old friends and make new ones.  It is also the place to find out what new projects people have in the works.

The opening night party following the opening ceremony and screening at La Plage is always full of anticipation for the week ahead.  It is also the first real opportunity to see who is at the festival this year.  With the warm evenings this year parties at La Plage were particularly nice because you could sit outside and enjoy a lovely view of the lake.

Juan Carlos Concha from the festival Non-Stop Barcelona and Nancy dancing at the opening night party
Juan Carlos Concha from the festival Non-Stop Barcelona and Nancy dancing at the opening night party

I always look forward to the lavish reception hosted jointly by Stuttgart International Festival of Animated Films (ITFS), MFG Filmforderung Baden-Wurttemberg, FMX, German Films, and the German Short Film Association.  After a brief bus ride down the lake the guests arrive at a lovely restaurant with a lawn reaching down to the lake’s edge.  Tables were scattered around the lawn, the sumptuous  buffet was delicious and drinks flowed.  Dining under the trees is the perfect place to chat with friends and for a couple of hours I can just relax before heading back to the hustle and bussel of the festival.

Wednesday I took a trip to MIFA for the Czech reception where I was treated to delicious spicey sausage and good cold Czech beer.  It was also where I had the chance to meet the people from Miraclefilm and learn about other Czech projects in progress.  Next Nik and I rushed back to the main part of town for the Swiss reception at the Hotel Splendid.  I particularly enjoy this reception because the Swiss Film Commission always presents me with a promotional DVD of their films.  This year’s addition includes Hasta Santiago which earned animator Mauro Carraro the 2014 Annecy Crystal for best first professional film as well as the Sacem Award for origonal music in a film.  I am continually amazed that a small country like Switzerland which has four different languages continually turn out so many high quality animations each year as the 2013/2014 Swiss Shorts DVD proves.

Next we were back off to La Plage for the Nicheloden VIP cocktail party preceding the MIFA opening night party.  At the MIFA opening I had the opportunity to talk to producer Jose Inesta from Mexico.  I really didn’t know a great deal about the state of animation in Mexico and we don’t get to see very much of it at festivals in Europe so I was very interested to hear what he had to say.  Jose told me “Even though the Mexican government prefers to support documentary formats, the animation industry is growing because of the passion of the directors and producers of animation”.  He also said that “The number of independent studios has grown significantly, and the universities are starting to offer animation programs.  Currently there are 10 animated feature films being produced with directors that have been recognized in the international industry like Rene Castillo, Karla Castandeda, Rita Basulto, Pablo Angeles, etc.  There is a lot of hope for the industry and we are looking for producers world wide that might be interested in co-productions with Mexican studios since government funds are limited”.

German director Thomas Stellmach at the Nickelodian VIP reception before the MIFA opening party
German director Thomas Stellmach at the Nickelodian VIP reception before the MIFA opening party

Jose also told me about animation festivals in Oaxaca and Cuernavaca that he is involved with.  You can find out more information about the festivals and submitting your films on their website:

If elections in the US have “super Tuesday”, Annecy has “super Thursday” which is the ultimate party day.  I am not sure exactly how many receptions there were that day but we had invitations to twelve.  Our day began at La Plage at noon with the Cartoon Network Picnic.  With the very hot sun overhead it was delightful to sit under an umbrella by the lake with a gentle breeze blowing.  The picnic food was delicious and pleantiful.   It was so hot that I even forsook red wine in favour of a nice chilled rose with ice cubes.

The picinic was followed by the Polish party where they had drinks and badminton on the lawn of the MIFA chill out area.  An hour later it was just a few steps across the lawn to the annual Finnamination picnic.  This year we all raised our glasses to toast the 100th Anniversary of Finnish animation.  Of course there was a fabulous multi-tiered cake complete with sparklers to go with our drinks.

Celebrating 100 years of Finnish animation

Celebrating 100 years of Finnish animation

On our way back through MIFA we stopped by the Indian animation reception where we sampled delicious Indian snacks with our drinks.  The Indian delegation came to Annecy prepared to entertain and each guest was presented with a beautiful Indian scarf in rich red or gold.  I also did an all too brief visit to the Russian reception for a quick shot of vodka.  Unfortunately there just wasn’t any opportunity to attend the Irish Party.

Much too soon it was time to catch the festival shuttle bus back to the center of town for the Dutch Party at the Café des Artes on the island.  The café is the unofficial festival café where animators meet for a last nightcap or two on the way back to their hotels.  The Dutch party is always very popular and crowded but sadly after one glass of wine I had to rush off to the Belgian reception at the Hotel Splendid.  I left Nik and the Annecy + Band  where they were entertaining the guests at the Dutch party.

The Annecy+ Band playing at the Dutch party
The Annecy+ Band playing at the Dutch party

At the Belgian party I had a chance to chat with Deb Singleton,  Director of the Bradford Animation Festival (BAF) held at the National Media Museum which is chocked full of film, television, and animation memorable and well worth a visit.  I had heard that the National Media Museum was in danger of being closed as an austerity measure by the British government and I was very happy to learn from Deb that the museum has been spared and is no longer in danger.

I met up with Nik again at the Croatian party a little later.  Torill Kove was there showing off her Moulton bicycle, the star of her new film Me and My Moulton.  The film is about a young girl who wants a bicycle very badly but most of all wants her parents to be like all of the other mothers and fathers.  When she and her two sisters finally do get their bicycle it isn’t a “normal” bike like all of the other kids have with big balloon tires, it’s a Moulton.  For those not up on their bicycles, a Moulton is the small wheeled, expertly engineered  light bike that can be taken apart quickly to take onto trams.  This is the third film in Torill’s semi-autobiographical trillogy, the other two being My Grandmother Ironed the King’s Shirts and the Academy Award winning The Danish Poet.   Me and My Moulton is a charming story that everyone can relate to and brings back memories of our childhood longings that don’t turn out to be exactly what we want when we  got it.

Filmmaker Torrill Kove with her Moulton bicycle
Filmmaker Torrill Kove with her Moulton bicycle

The evening ended with a short bus ride out to Le Bowl for the Illumination MacGuff party.  I didn’t bowl but I did meet an animator from Cypress who is currently getting his Masters Degree in Spain.  It was interesting to hear about the political situation on the island.  Nik and I didn’t make it until the 3 AM end of the party, but it was pretty late when I finally got to bed after a very full day.

The Dreamworks picnic is definitely the place to be on Friday.  Shelly Page, Head of International Outreach for Dreamworks is always the perfect hostess providing us with all the right ingrediants for a picnic including perfect weather.  Everyone who is anyone is at their picnic and it is the perfect networking party with everyone relaxing with food, drink, and good conversation.  This year marked the 10th Anniversary of the picnic and to commerate the event an easel and drawing pad were set up and everyone was invited to draw on it.

Happy 10th birthday, Dreamworks picnic
Happy 10th birthday, Dreamworks picnic

I had not seen Jan Pinkava for quite a while so I was very happy to have an opportunity to catch up with him at the picnic.  He told me that he is now  living in Portland, Oregon where he has been developing MOTO X, the flagship phone of the Google powered handset maker Motorola Mobility.  Moto X turns into a player for a new form of media that combines computer animation and street theatre with virtual reality.  By moving your phone up, down, right, and left you can see the animation with the background of whatever you are looking at so no two people will “create” the same film.  One big difference between most animation on phones is that the films created  on Moto X cannot be recorded or copied.  He gave Nik and I a demonstration and it really does look like fun.

Jan Pinkova demonstrating the Google app MOTOX for Nancy and Daniel Šuljić at the Dreamworks picnic
Jan Pinkova demonstrating the Google app MOTOX for Nancy and Daniel Šuljić at the Dreamworks picnic

On Friday evening Bill Plympton and I hosted our annual Annecy + screening of films that had been rejected by the Annecy selection committee but that Bill and I think deserve to be screened.  Since neither Bill or I live in Annecy or speak fluent French a good location for Annecy + has been a problem.  This year we were lucky to have Carole Martinato join the Annecy + team as our On Site Location Manager and she did a fantastic job, if fact I wonder how we ever did it without her all those years.

The Annecy+ Team - Bill Plympton, Nancy, Carole Martinato and Nik
The Annecy+ Team - Bill Plympton, Nancy, Carole Martinato and Nik

After several years of noise complaints and an encounter with the local gendarmes last year, the problem was finally solved when Benoit Comte who runs Annecy Off on a permanently docked boat offered us Friday night for Annecy +.  It was a great location and I hope it will become our permanent home.   Although I don’t know how many people we had there it was very crowded and the audience was very enthusiastic about the films.  The evening began with the Annecy + Band:  Nik Phelps on horns and reeds,  Rolf Bachler playing percussion, Daniel  Suljic, percussion, violinist Anne Beal, and guitarist Jay Desrosiers entertaining the audience.

The Annecy+ Band playing on the boat
The Annecy+ Band playing on the boat

This year the audience voted Mute directed by Dutch animators Job, Joris, and Marieke as the first place winner.  They received a copy of Giants First Steps, first films by such animation greats as Pete Docter, Nik Park, and Henry Selick among others.  The award was generously donated by Ron Diamond of Acme Filmworks.  Second place was Baby of the Fisher directed by Ivan Maximov of Russia and third place was awarded to The Ledge End of Phil from Irish director Paul I’Muiris.  Congratulations to the winner and thank you to everyone who submitted films to Annecy +.

Saturday afternoon is always set aside for Nik’s and my annual picnic.  Over the years this has grown into a really fun event.  Each year more and more people have gotten into the spirit and this year the Spanish contingent outdid themselves and brought a delicious whole Spanish ham and a traditional Spanish carving machine.

Spanish director Sam Orti carving the Iberian ham at Nik and Nancy's picnic
Spanish director Sam Orti carving the Iberian ham at Nik and Nancy’s picnic

This year a Brazilian animator brought her partner to the picnic who offered haircuts on the spot.  The Annecy + band was joined by other people who brought instruments and there was an abundance of delicious food and drink.

Haircut at the picnic
Haircut at the picnic

Several years ago Joanna Quinn introduced the Rounders Game at the picnic.  Since she has been working on her film for the past few years and hasn’t been at Annecy Jamie Badminton founder of Karrot Animation has taken over organizing what has become known as “The Skwigly Rounders Match” in honor of Skwigly, the UK’s number one on-line animation magazine, because their team members are always active participants of the game.  I don’t quite understand the rules of the game but it has been explained to me as softball for dummies.  Both teams seemed to have a great time playing it.  Joanna always sends the trophy that is presented to the person from the winning team voted most valuable player.

The winning rounders team
The winning rounders team

Whether they are peddling or watching from the shore everyone always looks forward to the annual paddle boat race.  There are no rules except that everyone must go out and around the island in the lake and it is always very funny because everyone has different winning tacits such as jumping from boat to boat or attacking other boats with squirt guns.  Because it was so hot this year several people finished the race in the water.

The paddleboat race, the winners at far left
The paddleboat race, the winners at far left

There are so many parties at Annecy that require an invitation, so ten years ago Nik and I started the picnic where everyone is welcome and we don’t ask who you are.  It’s lovely to see students and top professionals  eating and drinking together while relaxing on the grass.

All too soon it was time for the Saturday night Closing Ceremony.  Before the awards were handed out we were treated to a beautiful homage to Goddard’s classic Breathless created by the amazing and versatile Theo Ushev.  Theo captured Jean Paul Belmondo in his iconic role perfectly.  The film was accompanied live by pianist Stephan Oliva. Mr. Oliva also accompanied a beautiful piece painted on glass especially for the closing ceremony by the noted Swiss animator Georges Schwizgebel.

Joanna Toste, Jean Lic Slock, Nancy, Kristof Serrand, Inni Karin Melbye and Olivier Catherine before the closing ceremony
Joanna Toste, Jean Lic Slock, Nancy, Kristof Serrand, Inni Karin Melbye and Olivier Catherine before the closing ceremony

After the special screenings it was time to get down to the business of handing out the awards.  A complete list of the juries and award winning films is at the end of the article.  I especially want to congratulate Bill and Sandrine Plympton for the Jury Award they received for their feature film Cheatin’. Even if Bill and Sandrine were not good friends I would have a great deal of respect for Bill who has truly earned his title of “King of the Indies” raising all the money to make his own films himself.  I am puzzled by the jury awarding the Grand Prix to Man on a Chair the French/South Korean short film by Dahee Jeong but I have sat on enough juries never to be surprised by who they give awards to.  When the award winning film was announced I really had to think hard to remember what Man on a Chair was like because it didn’t make an impression on me. I was happy to see  Giovanni’s Island, by Japanese animator Mizuho Nishikubo win a Jury Distinction award.  I wrote extensively about the film in my article about the Stuttgart Festival in April.  A complete list of all the winners is at the end of the article.

This year a new ticketing system was inaugurated.  We were all instructed to get tickets on line before the festival however when the appointed day, hour, and minute arrived the system was so overloaded that it took repeated  tries over many hours and in some cases days to get tickets.  After the initial panic people had about the new on-line only ticketing system once the festival began most people seemed to get tickets for every screening that they wanted and by the end of the festival the ticketing problem had become a non-issue.  I enjoyed Annecy 2014 more than I have enjoyed the festival in several years.  I think Marcel Jean has made very positive changes and is beginning to put his personal stamp on the programing and the tone of the festival.   I also want to thank everyone in the press office for all of their assistance to make my job easier also.

The 2015 edition of the Annecy Animation Festival will take place from the 15th through the 20th of June.  Marcel announced that next year the festival will focus on Women in Animation and the spotlight will be on Spanish productions.  He also said that in 2015 repairs to the Bonloeu will be completed and will be the festival home once again after a two year hiatus.   After several past years of dreading Annecy I am actually looking forward to it.  Nik and I will be at the wonderful ANIMATOR ANIMATION AND MUSIC FESTIVAL in Poznan, Poland in July.

Annecy 2014 prizewinners:


Cristal for a Feature Film

O menino e o mundo > Le Garçon et le Monde > The Boy and the World - Alê Abreu Brazil, FILMe De PAPeL

Cristal for a Short Film

Man on the Chair - Dahee Jeong France, South Korea,SACREBLEU PRODUCTIONS

Cristal for a TV Production  En sortant de l’école “Tant de forêts”  - Burcu Sankur, Goeffrey Godet France, TANT MIEUX PROD

Cristal for a Commissioned Film

Nepia “Tissue Animals” - Fuyu Arai, Japan, ROBOT COMMUNICATIONS, INC.

Cristal for a Graduation Film

The Bigger Picture - Daisy Jacobs Great Britain, nFTS


Jury Award

Cheatin’ > Les Amants électriques - Bill Plympton USA, PLyMPTOOnS

Jury Distinction

Giovanni no Shima > L’Île de Giovanni > Giovanni’s Island - Mizuho Nishikubo Japan, PRODUCTION I.G

Audience Award

O menino e o mundo > Le Garçon et le Monde > The Boy and the World - Alê Abreu Brazil, FILMe De PAPeL


Jury Award

Patch - Gerd Gockell Germany, Switzerland, ANIGRAF

“Jean-Luc Xiberras” Award for a First Film

Hasta Santiago - Mauro Carraro France, Switzerland nADASDy  FILM

Jury Distinction

Histoires de bus > Bus Stories - TALI Canada, OnF

Jury Distinction

La testa tra le nuvole > La Tête dans les nuages > Absent Minded - Roberto Catani Italy, OTTOMAnI A.c.

Audience Award

La Petite Casserole d’Anatole > Anatole’s Little Saucepan - Éric Montchaud France,JPL FILMS



“Off-Limits” Award

Corps étrangers > Foreign Bodies - Nicolas Brault canada


Jury Award for a TV Series

Tumble Leaf “Kite” - Drew Hodges USA,BIX PIX ENTERTAINMENT

Jury Award for a TV Special

Le Parfum de la carotte > The Scent of Carrots - Rémi Durin, Arnaud Demuynck France, Belgium, Switzerland LES FILMS DU NORD


Jury Award

Peau “Instant T” - Perrine Faillet France PEAUMUSIC


Jury Award

An Adventurous Afternoon - Ines Christine Geisser, Kirsten Carina Geisser  Germany, KUNSTHOCHSCHULE KASSEL

Jury Distinction The Age of Curious Luca Toth Great Britain, RCA


Festivals Connexion Award – Région Rhône-Alpes with Lumières Numériques

Through the Hawthorn - Anna Benner, Pia Borg, Gemma Burditt Great Britain, LIKELY STORY

Junior Jury Award for a Graduation Film

Interview > Entrevue Mikkel Okholm Denmark, THE ANIMATION WORKSHOP

Junior Jury Award for a Short Film

Histoires de bus > Bus Stories - TALI Canada, OnF

Fipresci Award

Nul poisson où aller > No Fish Where to Go - Nicola Lemay, Janice Nadeau Canada, OnF

“Gan Foundation Aid for Distribution” for a Work in Progress Award


KLIK! Amsterdam Animation Festival - Call for entries
Thursday June 19th 2014, 7:50 am
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KLIK! 2014
KLIK! 2014

INTERNATIONAL TRICKFILM FESTIVAL 22 – 27 April, 2014 Stuttgart, Germany And FMX Conference on Animation, Effects, Games, and Technology 22 – 25 April, 2014 Stuttgart, Germany
Saturday May 24th 2014, 4:48 am
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ITFS 2014
ITFS 2014

After last year’s 20th Anniversary celebration, I didn’t think that the 2014 edition of the International Trickfilm Festival in Stuttgart, Germany could surpass the 2013 festival but it certainly did.  Even though the festival is one of the most important in the world with over 85,000 visitors this year, it has not lost its warm, hospitable feeling for the guests.  That’s why so many of the world’s best animators are happy to come to ITFS to give a wide range of workshops and presentations.

Festival sirector Uli Wegenast with the jury members
Festival sirector Uli Wegenast with the jury members

Chris Landreth is everywhere this year.  I had spent time with him last month at the festival in Tourcoing, France and it was fun to be with him again here.  His wonderful film Subconscious Password was in competition and he also presented a program, screening of his films and talking about them.  Subconscious Password is a mind-bending romp and extremely funny until you think about how often you are confronted by someone who obviously knows you and you have no idea who they are.

Chris Landreth and Nancy mugging for the cameras on the red carpet
Chris Landreth and Nancy mugging for the cameras on the red carpet

I was very happy to get to talk to Michelle and Uri Kranot.  Michelle was on the Cartoon for Kids jury while Uri served on the Young Animation jury.  They also presented their newest film Hollow Land, an excellent cutout and mixed medium film which was screened as part of the first competition program.  The film deals with feelings of displacement and being a stranger in a strange land that many immigrants feel when they move to another country in search of a better life.  Hollow Land was short listed for the Oscars in 2013 and has won numerous awards at festivals worldwide.

They were very busy but they took time out to sit down with me and tell me about The Hollow Land Experience.  The talented couple have created an audience inter-active installation to “explore the possibilities and expel the boundaries between theatre and animation, fiction and realism, transforming a screen based experience into a physical one”.  Participants are given masks and costumes representing the two characters in the film as they enter the “animated rooms” which are created by multi-angled projections which change rapidly as the masked participants explore them.  The blind “explorers” do not realize that there is one actor among them who leads them through the experience and hands them props such as toilet plungers to put on their heads.  There is also an audience watching all of the activity much like old time residents of a city would watch newcomers. The installation was conceived at the Open Workshop in Viborg where they are both artists-in-residence.  They said that it is expensive to install but they hope to be able to present it at animation festivals and in museums.  You can see a small excerpt about the project on their website:

Max Howard always gives entertaining workshops that are packed full of information on how to succinctly create and pitch a story.  He has created and run studios for Disney worldwide and presided over Warner Brothers Feature Animation.  Max is currently producing a series of animated feature films, and he definitely knows what he is talking about.  Max was also on the feature film jury.

Max Howard and Nancy

Max Howard and Nancy

Although I have been a long-time admirer of animator Jannik Hastrup this was my first opportunity to meet the man considered to be the most successful animator in Denmark.  For over 5 decades his work has won numerous awards.  Beginning with his 1967 television series “Cirkeline” his work has alternately delighted and upset people.  In the 1970’s his films became much more political and controversial with the nine part series The History Book, an animated documentation and Marxist rewriting of history.  After several successful feature length animation films with his production company, Tegnefilm, Hastrup is revisiting Cirkeline to make a feature length animation titled Cirkeline – Big City Mice.  Jannik served on the feature film jury at the festival.

There was no question that the talented and inventive Estonian animator Rao Heidmets’ workshop How to Make Your Story Crazy Enough would be fun.  Anyone who has seen Rao’s films such as  Inherent Obligations which was awarded the 2009 Grand Prix at the Ottawa International Animation Festival knows that Rao is the perfect person to show animators how to channel their inner crazy self and transfer it to the screen.  Workshop participants were instructed to bring paper and pencils and be ready to draw.

In a separate program Rao presented seven of his films including his 1988 The Theatre Papa Carlo which he filmed with fellow Estonian Priit Parn.  Using life sized puppets the two renowned animators explored the collapse of a totalitarian system and the path to freedom.  The pair won the Grand Prix at the Cinanima International Film Festival in Espinho, Portugal and a nomination for the Palm D’ Or in Cannes.

Nancy, Estonian animator Rao Heidmets and Nik
Nancy, Estonian animator Rao Heidmets and Nik

Rao was on the Short Film Competition Jury along with the delightfully droll London born Paul Bush.  Paul’s films are always fascinating and very different from each other.  He uses such a wide variety of techniques and styles as his two programs at the festival demonstrated.   The first program was a selection of his short films. From the 1995 Furniture Poetry which has been called “an object lesson in the fecundity of things” to the outrageously funny Busby Berkeley’s Tribute To Mae West, Paul’s very fitting sexually explicit tribute to the sex goddess there was something to delight and/or offend everyone.  Mae would have loved her tribute!

The following day we got to see Paul’s recently completed first feature film Babeldom.  The 81 minute film is described as a hallucinatory portrait of a futuristic city, a science fiction documentary assembled from film shot in modern cities around the world combined with the most recent research in science, technology, and architecture.

Each year the festival invites a noted animator to select a series of films for the Best of Animation screenings.  This year Israeli animator and historian Tsvika Oren curated 4 programs of his favorite films.  The 44 films Tsvika selected contained many gems.  With entries ranging from Norwegian animator Pjotr Sapegin’s 1999 Snails to the 2011 multi-award winning Oh Willy by Emma de Swaef and Marc James Roels, it was possible to see many great moments of short animation history over 4 days.  The only 2 caveats placed on Tsvika’s selection was that the films could not have been previously shown in a Stuttgart “best of” program, and that the festival could locate a good print of the film.

The International Competition is still the focal point of the festival.  I made it a point to see of all 5 competition screenings and was rewarded with excellent films ranging from very serious to hilarious.  For the past several years the festival has interspersed the first competition program among speeches by local dignitaries at the Opening Night ceremony.  This is a wonderful idea because it insures that the local guests will not just speak and run as so often happens at festival opening ceremonies.  They actually  see some of the excellent films in competition.

Sandrine and Bill Plympton
Sandrine and Bill Plympton

The program was definitely not packed full of amusing 1 minute films.  Along with Michelle and Uri Kranot’s Hollow Land French animator Augusto Zanovello’s Women’s Letter’s took us to the battle fields of WWI.  Tribute is being paid all over Europe and Great Britain to soldiers who lost their lives in terrible conflict on this 100th anniversary year, and the film is a fitting statement of the horrors of war.

The most hard-hitting of all of the opening night films was I Love Hooligans.  Dutch film maker Jan-Dirk Bouw used the animated doc format to take the viewer into the world of a homosexual football hooligan.  The film is a true story of a young man who lives for football (soccer for those in the United States) and his club while keeping his sexual orientation a well-kept secret from his mates.  As I listened to the disguised voice of the young man tell his story, the anguish that he feels living in two such opposite worlds is obvious.  The film doesn’t give any answers as to how the young man will ever come to terms with the world he lives in with his club mates who he has grown up with and his desire to have a good relationship with another mate.  His final plea to “die in the arms of his loved one” left me with a lot to think about.  Opening night concluded with Chris Landreth Subconscious Password. 

Long-time opening night master of ceremony Markus Brock did an excellent job of moving the program along and not letting anyone speak too long.  He has a lot of experience - when he is not presiding over the festival’s opening and closing night ceremonies he is a presenter on German television.

Festival co-directors Dittmar Lumpp and Uli Wegenast at Opening Night with MC Markus Brock
Festival co-directors Dittmar Lumpp and Uli Wegenast at Opening Night with MC Markus Brock

The remaining 4 Short Film Competition programs also contained outstanding films.  Three young directors, Anna Benner, Pia Borg, and Gemma Burditt combined their talents to pose the question when one person’s reality is in a different dimension from another person, can these two realities ever meet?  In Through the Hawthorn the trio of directors used 3 split screens and three characters to show a psychiatric session from the point of view of a psychiatrist, a young schizophrenic patient, and his mother.  Each of the three directors took a different character and worked separately in their own studio but the finished film came together perfectly.  The jury agreed with me and awarded Through the Hawthorn the Grand Prix proving that anima docs are the perfect medium to tell a story that would be too painful to watch in a live action film for both the audience and the subjects.

Through the Hawthorne
Through the Hawthorne

Russian animator Svetlana Filippova has created some of my favorite films such as Where Dogs Go to Die and Three Love Stories both previously screened at Stuttgart festivals.  Her latest film Brut is equally engaging.   In her new film the Nazi’s rise to power is seen through the eyes of Brutus, a gentle and well loved dog.  When the Nazis decree that no Jew can own a pet, Brutus’s mistress is forced to turn him into a collection center.  Brutus is forced to face the harsh realities of a changing world and concludes that “it’s a pity that we dogs cannot talk about anything to people, otherwise we would tell them to recognize the smell of good and evil”.  Svetlana has adapted her hand drawn film from a story by Ludvik Askenazy titled Brutus.

Russian animator Svetlana Filippova and Nancy
Russian animator Svetlana Filippova and Nancy

The competition programs were not just made up of serious films.  There were plenty of very funny films also.  Daniel Moshel must have a very active imagination and a full You Tube life to have created MeTube:  August Sings Carmen “Habanera”.  The 4 minute film is a very funny homage to the thousands of You Tube users and video bloggers, gifted and not so gifted alike, who tirelessly self-promote on the internet.  This tribute-to-bad-taste version of Bizet’s Habanera from Carmen was created as a music video for Swiss opera tenor August Schram and won the 2013 German Video award in the EPIC category.  The film also screened at Sundance this year.  You can watch it at:

With so much happening at the festival, committing a big block of time to see a feature film can be a gamble but I am very glad that I saw Giovanni’s Island by Japanese animator Mizuho Nishikubo.  Based on a true story, the film takes place after WW II on the tiny Japanese island of Shikotan which is occupied by the Soviet Union.  Although it was forbidden for the Japanese families to have anything to do with the Russian families stationed on the island a young Russian girl and a Japanese boy become close friends.

The story of the occupation of the island, the eventual deportation of the Japanese residents to a Russian internment camp, and the many trials the internees faced before finally returning to Japan proper are seen through the eyes of two young brothers, Giovanni and Campanello  and their young Russian friend Tanya.  The hand drawn film is not only a historical drama but a touching story of people caught up in the aftermath of war.

With over 200 individual events and 1,000 films to choose from, making decisions about what to see and do is difficult and you are always going to miss something but I made sure not to miss Studio Filmbilder’s 25th Anniversary party.  Founder Thomas Meyer Hermann told the story of the renowned Stuttgart animation studio from its beginning to the present with a peak into the future using photos of many of the well-known animators who have worked at Studio Filmbilder.  He also treated us to excerpts of commercial and artistic projects that have won the studio more than 130 festival prizes world-wide.

25 Years!

25 Years!

As a finale, Thomas, the real life Tom of the studio’s acclaimed 52 part television series Tom and the Slice of Bread With Strawberry Jam and Honey, called all past and present people who have contributed to the innovative studio’s success to the stage and it was quite an impressive group.  Eight other studios from around the world including Laika from Portland, Oregon and SE-MA-FOR in Lodz, Poland also gave presentations and showcased their recent projects.

Andreas Hykade and Thomas Meyer Hermann at the Studio Filmbilder Anniversary event
Andreas Hykade and Thomas Meyer Hermann at the Studio Filmbilder Anniversary event

Each year an important part of the festival is the school presentations.  Along with German universities, representatives from as far away as the Tokyo University of the Arts and Mishar For Art College in Tel Aviv, gave presentations about the educational opportunities at the schools and screened examples of their student’s work.

Priit Parn travelled from Tallinn, Estonia to present the Estonian Academy of Arts which is celebrating 100 years of uninterrupted teaching this year.  The Academy boasts some of the biggest names in Estonian animation on its faculty such as Priit Parn, Olga Parn and Ulo Pikkov and continues to turn out students who go on to make their mark as professional animators.

After my memorable trip to Beirut last year to visit the Beirut Animated Festival I was delighted to learn that the festival would give a presentation of animation in Beirut and the Arab world.  Even though this region produces some excellent animated films they are seldom seen at festivals in Europe.  I was also looking forward to catching up on news from Beirut with festival director Sarra Maali who was presenting the program.  Unfortunately Sarra could not get a visa in time to be in Stuttgart.  Her insights would have added a lot to the program of short films that were shown.

In the last few years the Animation Co-production Forum has become an important resource for young directors, animators, and producers from the Arab world to connect with German studios to encourage co-productions.  The forum offers workshops and lectures followed by a pitching contest.  The winner of the pitching contest is automatically nominated for the film prize of the Robert Bosch Stiftung  Foundation for International co-production.

For a break from “serious” film viewing Friday night was Animation Horror Night.  Curator Mihai Mitrica put together 2 programs packed with zombies, a teddy bear serial killer and Canis directed by Marc Riba and Anna Sollanas.  The Spanish duo have a knack for telling very chilling stories and are real masters of puppet horror animation.  Their 2010 film The Twin Girls of Sunset Beach, which was based on a true story, gives me shivers every time I think about it. a Canis,also screened in the competition, is the stuff nightmares are made of.  I am curious to know if this story about a  menacing pack of stray dogs is based on a true event.

Along with watching animation in the screening rooms the festival offered many other special attractions aimed at the local community.  Every year the large central park is transformed into a beer garden, screening arena, and  for the second time a gaming area.  The massive LED cinema screen is the focal point of the area.  In bright sunshine the screen looks as clear and sharp as it does at night.  All afternoon the festival ran free programs of short films from past festivals to a large crowd ranging from office workers taking a lunch break to entire families enjoying the animation in the beautiful Spring sunshine.  At night the big screen lit up with a free feature film designed for the entire family.  Every evening the park was packed full with local families sitting on blankets to watch recent films such as Monsters University and The Smurf Movie.  For those who didn’t bring their own picnic a wide variety of delicious food and beer were available in the beer garden.

After its successful premier at the festival last year, the Let’s Play game zone in the festival park returned to offer the opportunity for gamers of all ages and levels of experience to try their hand at numerous indie games and to attend a variety of workshops.  This year the game zone expanded to include educational talks and Gamestorm’s Battle of the Bands.  Everyone was welcome to register as a rock band, choose their rock outfits, and play the Xbox game Rockband on stage at the Club Zentral.  The object was to beat the high score and win over the adoration of the audience and jury.  You could watch 7 graffiti artists, 4 from Stuttgart and 3 internationals spray paint live on a 6×6x6 meters cube in the game zone also.

Graffiti artists at work in the Game Zone
Graffiti artists at work in the Game Zone
Young gamers playing in the game zone
Young gamers playing in the game zone

After last year’s move to the Mercedes-Benz Museum the majority of the Tricks for Kids screenings returned to the downtown screening rooms along with the Cartoons for Teens and Young Animation Programs.  Tricks for Kids 4 programs offered a wide variety of films ranging from last year’s Academy Award winning film Mr. Hublot by Alexandre Espigares and Laurent Witz to the delightful My Mum is an Airplane animated by Yulia Aronova from Russia.  At the Cartoons for Teens 3 programs you could watch a musical guide for children facing the undead in Pedro Santasmarinas’ Zombies4Kids . 

Along with the Tricks for Kids screenings there were workshops in several different locations.  At the Mercedes Benz Museums young animators 6 years old and up could work under the direction of a professional animator to tell their own stories and 8 year olds worked with animators to make their own short animations using various techniques such as cut out animation, sand or clay.

In the zoological gardens, zoo pedagogue Saline Ratzel told funny animal stories that youngsters could bring to life with the assistance of a mobile animation team using scissors, paper, and clay to create a stop motion film.

The Children’s Museum featured an interactive exhibit of Russian Fairy Tales.  Youngsters acting as reporters took pictures and used them to make an animated film report on what they saw that was shown in the Metropol Kino.

I like to watch programs of student animation because they frequently have very original ideas.  University is also the only time many of them will ever be free to do whatever they want without a client to please or short deadlines pressing down on them.  The four Programs of Young Animation I saw at the festival proved that the future of animation is assured by the present crop of animation students.  Luiz Stockler took the Lotte Reinger Promotion Award home to Great Britain for Home, which she made at the Royal College of Art.

IOA, the story of a vowel reciting machine who leads a miserable existence at the hands of a despotic singing teacher, is a clever puppet animation made at the Hochschule in Luzern, Switzerland by Gabriel Mohring.  Anyone who has ever been to a dog show will have to laugh at Oh My Dog!    Chloe Alliez’s funny tail (pardon the pun) of best of breed winners contending to be named top dog was made at  the Ecole nationale superieure des arts visuels de La Cambre, Belgium.

Nik and I attended the German Animation Screenplay Awards which took place at the beautiful White Hall of the New Castle.  The 2,500 Euro Screenplay award was given to Late Igal under der Wasserstein (Lotte Hedgehog and the Water Stone) written by Andrea Deppert and Martin Behnke.  A highlight of the ceremony was the voice over actor and audio book narrator Anna Thalbach who read excerpts from the nominated screen plays.

At the same ceremony the award for the Best Animated Children’s Series was given to Mic Graves for The Amazing World of Gumball – The Hero.  The jury said that they choose that film” because of its highly original visual style, its wacky, energetic comedic timing and its heart-warming story that appeals to both kids and adults”.  A reception followed the ceremony which gave me a chance to really appreciate the beautiful New Castle which was used as a festival venue for the first time this year.  The awards event opened the 2 day Animation Production Days, a business platform for the international animation industry.

Anna Thalbach was also a nominee for the German Voice Actor Award.  The award for the best original voice actor /dubbing artist in an animated feature was awarded on the next evening to Josefine Preub for her performance as Mary Kay in Epic.

Each afternoon the Animator’s Talks gave the audience the opportunity to hear the short film animators from the previous day’s competition screening talk about their films and ask questions.  The sessions hosted by animator and actress Anna Henckel-Donnersmarch are always informative with the film makers revealing behind the scenes stories about their films.  The final two days of chats were hosted by the witty and charming children’s book author Theo De Marcousin whose credits include Oscar y Fiu which he collaborated on with noted Dutch animator Michael Dudok de Wit.  De Wit was awarded the Oscar, a BAFTA, and the Annecy Grand Prix along with many other prestigious awards in 2000 for his classic short animation Father and Daughter.

Directors' chat, L to R Chris Landreth, Anna Henckel-Donnersmarch, Michelle Kranot and Joost Lieuwma
Directors’ chat, L to R Chris Landreth, Anna Henckel-Donnersmarch, Michelle Kranot and Joost Lieuwma

There was plenty of time to socialize and catch up with friends at the numerous receptions and parties.  One of the lovely features of the Trickfilm Festival is that all festival guests, professionals and students alike, are invited to all of the parties.  On two evenings festival Managing Director Dittmar Lumpp arranged for Nik to play with students from the jazz program at the music academy, which added to the party atmosphere.  Nik was delighted with the high quality of the students’ playing and looks forward to doing it again next year.

Nik with the band at the jazz concert at Café Le Théâtre, the festival cafe
Nik with the band at the jazz concert at Café Le Théâtre, the festival cafe

The festival was so packed with film and events that the six days flew by.  All too soon the closing night award ceremony and party rolled around.  A complete list of all of the winning films is at the end of the article. If I could only attend one major festival a year it would be the Stuttgart International Trickfilm Festival not only because of the quality and quantity of the programs but also for the friendly, welcoming atmosphere the entire festival staff create.

Juan Pablo Zaramella and Nancy catching up at Café Le Théâtre
Juan Pablo Zaramella and Nancy catching up at Café Le Théâtre

The list of thank-you’s Nik and I want to give to the festival is endless but a very special thank you goes out to the tireless Senior Programmer and dear friend Andrea Bauer and her wonderful staff for their efforts to make our visit to the festival so enjoyable every year.  Also, we must thank Nora Hieronymus and Madeleine Jeschke in the press office who answered my endless questions and made my job so easy.  Once again this year Managing Directors Ulrich Wegenast and  Dittmar Lumpp out did themselves to create a wonderful festival.  The 2015 edition of the festival will be held from the 5th through the 10th of May.  You can read more about the festival and see a short film documenting each day of the festival in pictures at:

Awardees ITFS 2014

15.000 euros, sponsored by the State of Baden-Wuerttemberg and the City of Stuttgart
“Through the Hawthorn…“
United Kingdom 2013
Anna Benner, Pia Borg, Gemma Burditt

Lotte Reiniger Promotion Award for Animated Film

10.000 euros, sponsored by MFG Film Funding Baden-Wuerttemberg
United Kingdom 2012
Luiz Stockler
Royal College of Art

SWR Audience Award

6.000 euros
“Mr Hublot”
Luxembourg 2013
Alexandre Espigares, Laurent Witz**********YOUNG ANIMATIONAward for the best student film
2.500 euros, sponsored by Landesanstalt für Kommunikation Baden-Wuerttemberg (LfK) and MFG Film Funding Baden-Wuerttemberg
“The Shirley Temple”
United Kingdom 2013
Daniela Sherer
Royal College of Art

Special Mention

“The Age of Curious”
United Kingdom 2013
Luca Toth
Royal College of Art

“Matzofim” / “Floats”

Israel 2013
Idan Barzilay, Mor Israeli
Bezalel Academy of Arts & Design**********ANIMOVIE
Award for the best animated feature film

“Kotonoha no Niwa“ / “The Garden of Words”
Japan 2013
Makoto Shinkai**********
Award for the best children’s animated short film

4.000 euros, supported by Studio 100 Media GmbH
“L´Automne de Pougne” / “Poppety in the Fall”
France 2012
Pierre-Luc Granjon, Antoine LanciauxSpecial Mention
“The Dam Keeper”
USA 2013
Robert Kondo, Dice TsutsumiAward for the best animated series for children
“The Amazing World of Gumball: The Hero“
United Kingdom 2012
Mic Graves **********

Award for the best animation for youths

2.500 euros, sponsored by Nippon Art GmbH and AV Visionen GmbH.
“Milles-pattes et crapaud” / “The Centipede and the Toad”
Anna Khmelevskaya
France 2013Special Mention
Les deux vies de Nate Hill “/ “The Two Lives of Nate Hill”
France 2013
Jeanne Joseph**********

5.000 euros, sponsored by TELE 5
“Pommes Frites”
Netherlands 2013
Balder Westein


Awards for the best applied animation in the fields of advertising, technology and spatial communication
Sponsored by Animation Media Cluster Region Stuttgart, Daimler AG, U.I. Lapp GmbH

Main prize
2.500 euros, sponsored by Animation Media Cluster Region Stuttgart
Vodafone “Add Power“
Germany 2013
Sebastian Strasser, Radical Media

Category Advertising

BBC Winter Olympics “Nature“
United Kingdom 2013
Tomek Baginski, Stink (Juice)

Category Technology
Watch Dogs “Exposed”
Hungary 2013
Istvan Zorkóczy, Digic Pictures

Category Spatial Communication

Frankfurt Book Fair “While you were Sleeping”
New Zealand 2012
Mike Mizrahi, Marie Adams, Inside Out Productions

Category Special Award of Daimler AG: “Future needs Derivation – Individual Mobility”
2.500 euros, sponsored by Daimler AG
“1900 - 2000”
France 2013
Caroline Le Duff, Gabrielle Locre, Agathe Pillot, Armelle Renac, Benoît Berthe, Vivien Risser, Supinfocom

Category Special Prize Lapp Connected Award
2.500 euros, sponsored by U.I. Lapp GmbH
Netherlands 2013
Quentin Haberham, HKU Hilversum


Live competition award
“A Horse Throat“
Jenna Marks, David Barlow-Krelina (Canada)
In co-operation with M.A.R.K. 13, Landesanstalt für Kommunikation (LFK)

and MFG Film Funding Baden-Wuerttemberg

Special Mention

Islam Mazhar, Ahmad Abdelhameed (Egypt)


2.500 euros, sponsored by Telepool GmbH
“Latte Igel und der Wasserstein“ by Andrea Deppert and Martin Behnke



Josefine Preuß as Mary Katherine (M.K.), “Epic“
FOX, USA 2013


COMPETITION FOR PROJECTS Arab Animation Forum 2014 in cooperation with the Robert Bosch Stiftung

„Clean up the living-room we’ve got visitors coming“
Ghassan Halawani (Libanon)

Special Mention
„Great- Grandmother“
Alyaa Musa (Sudan)


FMX 2014 – Conference on Animation, Effects, Games, and Transmedia

April 22 through 25, Stuttgart, Germany

KLIK programmer Tünde Vollenbroek and Nancy outside FMX

KLIK programmer Tünde Vollenbroek and Nancy outside FMX

Even though my primary reason for coming to Stuttgart is the International Trickfilm Festival I always make time for several visits to the 4 day FMX Conference on Animation, Effects, Games, and Transmedia which runs concurrently with the festival just a few blocks away.  Over the past few years FMX has become one of the most renowned industry events for digital media.  This year’s slogan “A Realtime Experience” offered an international platform for artists and scientists, professionals and students to discuss the latest developments and models of the future as well as the latest in technology.

Trying out a game at FMX
Trying out a game at FMX

Each year FMX continues to grow in importance as well as size.  This year there were 260 speakers from 22 countries as well as 24 companies in the recruiting hub, 22 workshops, and master classes.   Over the 4 days of FMX the 3,000 people a day who attended had the opportunity to hear such respected figures as Andy Serkis, among the world’s first and foremost performance capture pioneers.  During his keynote speech Serkis presented yet unseen footage from Dawn of the Planet of the Apes..

President of Animation, Digital Production, and Special Effects at Warner Brothers pictures Chris De Faria talked about his experiences producing the 7 time Oscar winning film Gravity.  The list of illustrious names speaking at FMX went on and on.

Well-known faces on the animation festival scene were also present.  Ed Hooks, the pioneer of acting training for animators (as opposed to stage and movie actors), who wrote the definitive book on the subject Acting for Animators, gave a master class on the subject.

Chris Landreth took time off from the festival to give a presentation on facial animation, a technique that he so capably used in his Oscar winning short film Ryan.  Chris’ one hour presentation focused on realistic animation of human faces and he showed his audience how to observe, draw, act, and animate a believable face performance.  One animator I spoke to after the  presentation told me that he learned more in that hour about animating faces than he had learned in all of his time in animation school.

I really enjoyed visiting the Market Place where 36 companies and R & D projects showed off their latest innovations.  In the Market Place I was very happy to meet the team from Chimney Publishing.  They gave me a copy of Chimney’s Top100 European Film Funds – The Guide to European Financing.  The extremely accurate and up to date book is an indispensable aid for European animators and producers looking for co-production money.  I’ve already written a review of the book which you can read on my AWN blog at:

And check out more about the book at:

During the press tour of FMX ,   I was very fascinated to see the San Francisco company Bot & Dolly’s exhibit.  The team demonstrated their Iris robotic system and told me that Iris had opened up new creative frontiers for film photography.  They also said that without the Bot & Dolly robot the breath-taking weightless scenes in Gravity would have been impossible to film.  I still don’t understand how it works but it looked impressive.

The Bot & Dolly exhibit at FMX

The Bot & Dolly exhibit at FMX

This year there were 21 schools from 9 different countries with booths in the schools area which presented their animation schools programs and showcased their student’s work.  Several schools also participated in the FMX open screenings.

The Interactive Graphic Novels exhibition Moving Pictures demonstrated the diversity of interactive novels with 7 projects exemplifying the coming together of comics, movies, games, and animation.  The freely suspended and rotatable exhibit allows the visitors to immerse themselves into the interactive concept so that they could get insights into the different stages of development which form the basis of an interactive graphic novel.  The exhibition was designed by Studio Werkberict located in Ludwigsburg, part of the Baden-Württemberg area, which is the center for German animation.

Technology is definitely the main focus but there are always things that interest me and I learn a lot at FMX.  I was told that this year that attendance at FMX by women was up to 32% of the overall attendees and female students comprised 38% of the audience.  This reflects the growing presence of women in the visual effects industry.

Next year FMX will take place on 5 through 8 May.  You can read all about FMX 2014 and watch a short video of the festival at:

Thank you to Marie Ketzscher who led the press tour and was generous enough to share her time and knowledge with me.  Head of FMX Renate Haegele and his entire team are to be congratulated for putting on such an impressive and well run conference.

Call for Animation - KLIK 2014 and Animatiedagen 2014
Sunday May 18th 2014, 2:55 pm
Filed under: Festivals
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Here is just a hint of the many fun things to do at the KLIK Festival!

Monday May 05th 2014, 3:34 am
Filed under: Educational
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Whether you are a seasoned professional with a track record or making your first film finding your way through the co-production maze is difficult.  This year at FMX in Stuttgart, Germany (22 to 25 April) I came across Chimney’s Top 100 European Film Funds (The Gateway to European Financing)   This book is an invaluable tool for any animator who is looking for co-production and funding opportunities in Europe.

The 175 page book is organized by country, from Armenia to the United Kingdom, and in countries with several diverse regions such as France, the regions are subdivided into regional funding opportunities.  Vital information, including available tax shelters, VAT percentage and requirements, and co-production treaties are listed along with contact information.  The glossary demystifies terms such as soft money and pari passu and the through indexes list funds by countries, alphabetically, and funding levels.  Chimney plans to publish a yearly update to keep information current, and in the next year is planning to create an app with all the information in digital form.

The information in Chimney’s Top 100 European Film Funds was gathered by Chimney’s team during extensive research and through contact with representatives of various organizations.  I showed the book to several friends from the Netherlands, Germany, and France at the Trickfilm Festival in Stuttgart and they all said that the information for their country was very thorough and accurate.

Editor Fredrik Zander, head of Art and Entertainment at Chimney Group is responsible for international feature film production and TV series.  His numerous credits include such well known projects as helping Malik Bendjelloul finish his Oscar winning Searching For Sugarman, so he knows first-hand the value to have all of this information under one cover.

For more information about the book contact:

Fredrik Zander at


Marta Kardach, International Marketing coordinator at

The book is available online at Amazon:

Purchase price:  29.95 Euros

Wednesday April 16th 2014, 8:12 am
Filed under: Festivals
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     Fete De L’Anim     Tourcoing, Lille, and Roubaix France     20-23 March 2014

This year Fete De L’Anim celebrated ten years of bringing animation to Tourcoing and the surrounding towns. The event not only had a fine selection of films,  it was an important meeting place for animation professionals and students from top European animation schools to exchange knowledge and ideas.

Kristof Serrand, Supervising Animator at Dream Works was this year’s guest of honor.  His presentation “Trade Secrets:  How to Train Your Dragon Trilogy” was excellent.  As one of the key players working on the trilogy and someone who has successfully made the transition from 2D to 3D, Kristof is well qualified to take the packed audience behind the scenes and show us a lot about the conception and making of the films.  Besides being an extremely talented person he is also very charming.  Unfortunately I missed the first two days of L’Anim so I could not attend his first Master Class.

Translator Benoit Fermin, Kristof Serrand and Nancy
Translator Benoit Fermin, Kristof Serrand and Nancy

The Fete also featured five other master classes by well-known names in the animation world:  Franck Dion, Suzie Templeton, Rosto, Andreas Hykade, and Chris Landreth.  British animator Suzie screened her three films Stanley, Dog, and the Academy Award winning Peter and the Wolf.  I am particularly fond of Dog which was her2001 graduation project from the Royal College of Art. The story about a young boy who is grieving for his dead mother, won the BAFTA award for short animation in 2002.  She talked about her love of puppet animation and showed the audience the wolf and grandfather puppets from her Oscar winning film.

Suzie Templeton with her Grandfather puppet from Peter and the Wolf
Suzie Templeton with her Grandfather puppet from Peter and the Wolf

I had just spent time with Franck Dion at Anima Brussels where he displayed a room full of his amazing illustrations.  During his master class Franck screened his 2004 L’Inventaire Fantome (Phantom Inventory), Monsieur Cok (Mister Cok), 2008 and his latest film Edmond etait un Ane (Edmond Was A Donkey) which he made in 2012 with the NFB.  This memorable film won the Canadian animator numerous well deserved awards worldwide.  The 3D animation is not only beautiful to watch, but the story of Edmond’s struggle to overcome the social pressures of conformity to just be himself is one that everyone can relate to.  Franck told the audience that he had been an actor and set designer and ended his chat by giving the audience a look at the official Annecy 2014 poster which he designed.

Olivier Catherine and Franck Dion
Olivier Catherine and Franck Dion

I have been a big fan of German animator Andreas Hykade’s work since I first saw his 2000 film Ring of Fire.  It turns out that this intense sexually charged film was born out of a true incident involving him, his best friend, and his best friend’s  girl.  My personal favorite film by Andreas is The Runt (2006) which he told us is also partially autobiographical.  The animator’s father and uncle raised rabbits for market just like the father and uncle in The Runt.  I have watched this film many times and it always brings back memories of my childhood growing up on a farm.

Olivier and Andreas Hykade
Olivier and Andreas Hykade

His 2009 Love and Theft won numerous awards.  The fast paced drawings contain many familiar faces such as Ryan Larkin, Betty Boop, and Hitler  as well as many others all  morphing into each other at an ever increasing pace until they reach an intense peak and then slowly takes the viewer back down again.  The music composed by Heiko Maile heightens the entire roller coaster effect and I think that it is one of the most perfect parings of animation and music that I have ever seen.

The final master class that I saw brought Chris Landreth to the stage.  I have seen Ryan, which won the Academy Award in 2004, The Spine which Chris made in 2009, and the hilarious Subconscious Password  which won the Annecy Grand Prix last year but I can’t remember ever seeing The End and Bingo, his first two films, before.

Nancy abd Chris Landreth at the Imaginarium
Nancy abd Chris Landreth at the Imaginarium

Chris made The End in 1995 while working at Alias/Wavefront (now Autodesk) to test out new facial animation software that the company was developing.  The End turned into a 1995 Oscar nominated film and was the beginning of what is now a very illustrious animation career.

In 1998 Chris made Bingo while he was working with a group of people to create the animation software package called Maya.  He told the audience that “I did this film in an attempt to dispel my lifelong fear of clowns.  It didn’t work!”  The film may not have exorcised his fear of clowns but Bingo did win the 1998 Canadian Genie Award for the Best Animated Short Film.

Unfortunately I missed the Master Class given by the multi-talented Rosto from the Netherlands.  His films and music videos have won numerous awards.  Lonely Bones which is the second of a tetralogy of short films Rosto plans to make featuring the band Thee Wreckers who he performs with won the 2013 Grand Prix at Ottawa this year.  Luckily I have seen all of his films that he screened and have heard him speak several times but I always discover new things every time I watch his films.

Most of the master classes were hosted by Olivier Catherin, who is a delightful and very knowledgeable interviewer.  He made the master class chats flow smoothly, asking interesting questions and even more important he gave his guest an opportunity to answer them fully.  He also made each guest feel at ease and gave the audience the feeling that we were being allowed to ease drop on a conversation between two friends.  Olivier is also one of Les 3 Ours production studio, where he has been responsible for producing such award winning short animations as Mademoiselle Kiki of Montparnasse and Betty’s Blues.

Kristof Serrand’s Master Classes were hosted by Marcel Villoing, retired deputy director at the renowned French school Gobelins’ Paris branch.  Festival director Julie Charnay took time out from her other festival duties to take to the stage with Suzie Templeton.

Equally as important as the master classes are the presentations of student films from a number of European animation schools.  This year schools from five regions were represented:  France, Germany and German speaking Switzerland, Eastern Europe, Benelux, and the United Kingdom.  For the students who came to the festival from all over Europe to participate in the special events the school presentations were not their main focus.  The Master Class presentations, the Marathon, Graphic Battle sessions and the opportunity to meet with producers and  studio representatives  to find out about future career opportunities kept them very busy.

From the 19th to the 21st of March five teams of students from European animation schools along with their professors participated in the Marathon de L’Anim.  Each team was given the same starting image which was created by Franck Dion this year.  Using this image as their starting and ending points they then had 3 days to create ten seconds of animation.  At the end of the marathon, festival staff edited the films together and the result of the student’s hard work was screened on closing night.  You can see the entire piece at:

Franck Dion with the Marathon participants at the closing ceremony

Franck Dion with the Marathon participants at the closing ceremony

Talent Connections gave students an opportunity to “speed date” with producers and studios located in Northern France and Flanders.  Representatives from eleven different studios met briefly with each student individually to answer questions, offer career advice, and talk about the recruitment opportunities and process with their studio.

Last year I enjoyed watching the Graphic Battle session and it was so popular that it was expanded to two sessions this year.  One day was devoted to the 2D competition, and 3D was on the next day.  Pairs of contestants were given twenty minutes to create a character with nothing but a graphic tablet and their imagination and talent.  The votes of the audience and the jury determined the finalists who once again faced off in pairs to determine the winners of each session.  The second place winners in both categories received Storyboard Pro soft wear donated by Toon Boom.  The top winners selected by the juries of both categories were awarded Animate Pro as well as Storyboard Pro from Toon Boom.  The 3D winner will also be invited to be a member of the Grafik Battle 2015 jury.  This year’s 2D jury members were comics author Virginie Vidal and artistic director Luciano Lepinay, and animation directors Carlos de Carval and Tanguy de Kermel selected the 3D winners.

The Focus on Visual Design programs presented an opportunity for studios and individual artists to give the audience a close up look at their histories and how they arrived at where they are today.  They also showed off their newest music videos, commercials, and short films.

I especially enjoyed the very informative presentation by the award winning German design studio, Polynoid.  It was begun in 2007 by a group of students at Ludwigsburg Film Academy in Baden-Wurttemberg as a platform to make their own films and visual experiments and as their success grew they finally moved to Berlin.  As their relaxed presentation showed they have retained their original free independent spirit but now have the resources of a full production studio.  Examples of 3D work on commercials usually don’t excite me but the innovative work that they showed us for such clients as Nike, Invinite, and MTV was definitely impressive.

The festival does not have the usual film competitions but focuses on giving students opportunities to interact with professionals and also makes a point of reaching out to the community with screenings of current animated features.  This year the festival offered screenings and activities not only in Tourcoing but to the surrounding communities of Lille and Roubaix.  15,000 people attended the four day festival.

At Le Fresnoy in Tourcoing the theatre was packed with an excited young audience and their parents where they could see six popular Dream Works films.  When How to Train Your Dragon was shown the audience got an added treat when Kristof Serrand popped over from the screening room next door where he was giving his master class to introduce the film.

In the nearby towns of Roubaix and Lille, theatres showed some of the latest independent animation features including Ernest and Celestine and Bill Plympton’s latest feature film Cheatin’.

The Imaginarium in Tourcoing is a hands on children’s museum that is open year round.  During the festival it becomes even more animated when volunteers from various animation studios set up interactive areas where young film makers can try their hand at creating storyboards, making flip books, and work in 3D Motion Capture, as well as exploring numerous other film related activities throughout the two floors.

Exploring animation at the Imaginarium
Exploring animation at the Imaginarium

This year the festival arranged short screenings in the Imaginarium with a program geared to three year olds and an entire stop motion screening for 5 year olds.  For the older set, eight years and up, their program showed a variety of techniques.  My favorite shorts screening was made up of 9 films spanning the history of animation from 1877’s Vues Pour Praxinoscope and Emile Cohl’s 1908 Fantasmagorie to the film Gaz De France: Le Crochet Chez Les Coqs made in 1938.

On Saturday night the festival provided drivers to take guests to Lille for the Electro-Animated Party.  From 11 PM until 4 AM the massive old post office came alive with music provided by four different DJ’s throughout the night for dancing.  Berlin duo Tikul and Jendrek known as Pussykrew created a constantly changing visual installation which brought the gray concrete walls of the building to life with colors and images.

I congratulate Festival Director Julie Charnay and her entire staff for another very successful festival.  I really appreciate everything that guest co-ordinator Cyril Mouthier did to make our visit run so smoothly and send a very special thank you to the tireless drivers who were always there to make sure that all of the guests got to and from everywhere that we wanted to go.  Excellent translations, via headphones, were provided by Benoit Firmin and Marie Aurelie.  I met Benoit briefly last year but I really enjoyed getting to know him over several delicious meals we shared at the Festival café set up especially for the guests, staff, and volunteers.  I am already looking forward to the 2015 edition of the event which I am sure will hold many new treats.

Franck Dion and Nancy
Franck Dion and Nancy

Throughout the year Julie and her staff at Rencontres Audiovisuelles continue to bring short films, animation, and workshops to the Northern reaches of the Calais area as well as producing the short film festival in Lille in October.  You can read more about Fete de L’Anim and all of the other events the Rencontres Audiovisuelles put on at as well as reading more about Fete De L’Anim.

Call for Entries, Anibar 2014 in Peja, Kosovo
Wednesday April 16th 2014, 6:14 am
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Call for entries!

Anibar International Animation Festival is pleased to announce its worldwide call for entries for its 2014 festival, taking place the 5th to 10th of August, in the city of Peja. Regulations and a link to the online application form is available at: here

Animation filmmakers are invited to submit their work to compete in three main categories:

The Eye for Best International Animation,

The Eye for Best Balkan Animation and

The Eye for Best Student Animation

Open Call - Viborg Animation Festival 2014
Tuesday April 08th 2014, 12:14 pm
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Looking for innovative experiments: Animation-based visuals for a live concert with Danish rock band Magtens Korridorer.

As part of the Viborg Animation Festival 2014, October 3rd – 5th (more on the 2012 edition at this very site), a concert performance with Danish rock favorites Magtens Korridorer and animation-based visuals will take place in intimate Viborg venue Paletten (capacity 500).

We’re looking for a different kind of live music experience, one that plays around with the relationship between music, band, visuals and/or audience.

Your job will be to come up with an innovative and interesting concept for the visuals, which can be executed within a budget of 200.000 DKR (roughly 27.000 euros). Everything from projection mapping to inflatable dolls may be incorporated – the only requirement is that a not insubstantial amount of the 200.000 must be set aside for animated visuals and that these will be produced in the Viborg animation cluster Arsenalet (

Magtens Korridorer will be allowed to use elements of the visuals for a music video and to incorporate them on their winter tour 2014/15. Any further use must be cleared with you and Viborg Animation Festival.

More info and some Magtens Korridorer songs to get a sense of the style of the sounds and visuals of the band:here: - mail and ask if you have any questions at all!

Varnafest 2014: 10 through 14 September, Bulgaria
Thursday March 27th 2014, 10:25 am
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Regulations for entering are at:

Entry forms can be downloaded at:

Entry deadline is 10 June!

ANIMA – The Brussels Animation Film Festival - 28 February through 9 March 2014 - Brussels, Belgium
Tuesday March 25th 2014, 12:19 pm
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Anima 2014
Anima 2014

The 33rd edition of ANIMA Brussels, 28 February through 9 March 2014 took a giant step toward becoming a world class animation festival this year when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences bestowed qualifying status on ANIMA.  Joining such renowned festivals as Annecy and Zagreb, ANIMA’s Grand Prix winning short film Futon by Japanese animator Yoriko Mizushirl has now officially qualified for the 2014 Oscar race.

Yoriko utilizes the traditional Japanese mattress, a futon, to take the audience into the dream fantasy world between consciousness and sleep.  While wrapped up in her futon the young girl in the film sinks into thoughts of life’s pleasurable waking hours – a piece of sushi, warm covers, a stretch of her body are all portrayed in sensual images using a soft color pallet.  A complete list of all of the winning films is at the end of the article.

This year the Short Animation Competition programs were very strong.  Of course the screenings can only be as good as the films that are submitted to a festival but a lot also depends upon who selects the films and how the programs are put together.

I have seen Spela Cadez’s beautifully intricate puppet animation Boles several times and I am always touched by this tale of loneliness and the creative process.  Adapted from the Maksim Gorky’s short story Her Lover, Boles is the story of a struggling young writer and his next door neighbor, a prostitute, both of whom long to escape their miserable existences in the poor neighborhood.

Spela lives in Slovenia but grew up in the former Yugoslavia.  The influences of her Eastern European background are reflected in the exquisite detail and craftsmanship of her puppets.  Boles received ANIMA’s Audience Award.

When I saw Wind by German animator Robert Lobel I told the friend that I was sitting with that the film was a winner and I was correct.  The jury selected Lobel’s film as the Best Student Film.  The story of the daily life of people living in an extremely windy place is well animated with a clever story and at 4 minutes the film is the perfect length.

Sil Colson was able to capture the frustration that a dyslexic child feels in the 2‘ 32“ film Dysilexie.  The film touched me personally since I am dyslexic and have felt the same sense of frustration the child in the film feels when trying to read and write. I am sure that most in the audience didn’t give a second thought to this little film but I hope that it will be shown to young people with this problem, who are often told by frustrated teachers and parents that they are stupid and dumb because they can’t learn to spell properly and read very slowly. It could help them understand that they are not stupid and that they can have other special talents.  They are in good company with fellow suffers Thomas Edison, Albert Einstein, and Walt Disney, as well as so many other people who have gone on to lead creative lives.

Choir Tour by Latvian animator Leva Vaickovska takes the audience on tour with a famous boy’s choir who escapes from their conductor’s firm grasp while on a tour of Seoul, Korea.  The mad chase up and down the hotel’s glass elevators brought laughter from the audience with memories of our own youthful pranks, as the conductor tries to corral her young charges.

ANIMA got off to a grand start with the Opening Night screening of Hayao Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises.  I had been looking forward to seeing the film because I have spent so many pleasurable hours in the past watching his beautiful animation and I was not disappointed.  The Wind Rises is the story of Jiro Horikoshi who from a young age loved airplanes but due to bad eyesight could not fly a plane himself.  Inspired by the Italian aircraft designer Caproni, Jiro becomes an aeronautics engineer who designs the Mitsubishi A6M “Zero”fighter plane which was used by the Japanese Air Force during World War II.

The film is also Miyazaki’s first adult love story.  Although the film has all of the beautiful, delicate art work we have come to expect from one of his films, this epic tale of love, perseverance, and facing the challenge of living and making choices in a turbulent world is definitely not for children.

I have heard that many people, including the Japanese government, were displeased with the film because they felt that it reflected Japan’s ambivalence about its war time past.  If you go into the theatre expecting a typical Miyakai story full of mysticism and dashing young heroines you will also probably be disappointed.  But as his self-proclaimed last film, it is obvious that The Wind Rises is a very personal story that Miyazaki really wanted to tell and given the beautiful body of work he has created, Hayao Miyazaki has earned the right to create any film that he wants to make.  I thoroughly enjoyed the film and look forward to seeing it again so that I can catch more of the beautiful details in the drawings.

This year there were 15 feature films for the adult audience.  It was my first opportunity to see Bill Plympton’s recently completed Cheatin’ and at 78 minutes of hand drawn and colored  animation it is quite an achievement by the undisputed king of Indy Animation, who storyboards, draws, directs, and finances his films practically single handed.  It is his most adult love story to date, mixing passion, jealousy, love, and hate to tell the story of two people who fall in love after a carnival bumper car collision.  Fans of Bill’s work will love Cheatin’.

In Bill’s 6 hour Master Class at ANIMA, he gave a lot of good advice to the young animators who aspire to be independent animators as well as demonstrating how he creates and develops his characters and finances his films.  He also shared news about his new projects and took all of the time necessary to meet his fans and draw a personal drawing for each one.

Bill Plympton reveals all at his master class
Bill Plympton reveals all at his master class

I finally had the chance to see Consuming Spirits and it was definitely an experience.  Christopher Sullivan spent 15 years creating his magnum opus.  The characters were hand drawn on layers of glass which were moved with the aid of needles and pins.  The 125 minute film also combines cut out animation, pencil drawings, collage, and stop motion.  For the first 45 minutes of the film I sat in the theater wondering  what was going on up on the screen but was  so totally enthralled by the look of the film that I couldn’t think about leaving.  Finally I had the ah-ha moment when the story of family secrets, sexual longing, and small town ennui all fell into place.  I’m really glad that I stayed until the end of the film instead of leaving as several people did because this dark, painful fantasy is well worth the effort that it takes to watch it. This film is definitely not for children.

When Tante Hilda! was announced as the closing night film I was very excited.  I loved noted French director Jacques-Remy Girerd’s last film Raining Cats and Frogs, and Studio Folimage is known for the high quality of their animation.  Sadly I was very disappointed with Tante Hilda!

Girerd and Benoit Chieux spent 7 years creating their ecological story of the ravages of pesticides and the dangers of Multi-National Corporations in a society where big business and greed is destroying the balance of nature.  This is a very worthwhile message to be sure, incorporating sentiments that I certainly share.  The backgrounds are truly beautiful and I could have watched them without anything think else in the film to distract from them.  I didn’t like the character designs, which looked out of place in the superbly drawn backgrounds.  I didn’t care so much for the nature loving Tante Hilda, much less the rest of her family and the villains were too predictable acting.    The villainess reminded me of a fat Cruella d’Ville, and not in a good way.  Even though the film was only 85 minutes long it seemed to drag on forever.  Several other members of the audience expressed the same sentiments at the closing night party which followed the screening.  I don’t think the film will change the mind of anyone in favor of genetic engineering but hopefully it will reach young audiences and teach them about this ever growing problem.

ANIMA Brussels takes place during the Carnival Week school holiday and the morning and early afternoons were devoted to children’s programs.  With the upcoming release of the first Shaun the Sheep feature film by Aardman Studios it was very fitting that the Aardman Mania program featured my favorite sheep. I am continually amused by the blundering farmer and his long suffering dog, Bitzer, the brains of the outfit, and his flock of intelligent sheep.  My dog (who has excellent taste in animation) and I both love the Shaun the Sheep show that airs daily on BBC so I am looking forward to the feature as much as any other child.  Along with Shaun the Sheep, there was also a 22 segment from Timmy Time, starring the baby of the farmer’s flock.

There is something really delightful to me about sitting in a dark theater full of toddlers and their parents as we watch a program with no dialogue or subtitles, designed specifically to be their first cinema experience.  The youngsters sat enthralled as they watched 6 episodes of Stip & Vlek.  The two curious and inventive rabbits, one covered in spots and with other one with big splotches, created by Swedish animators Lotta and Uzi Geffenblad brought a lot of laughter in all the right places from the young audience, who otherwise sat quietly in their seats staring at the screen in rapt attention.

I went to see Loulou, The Incredible Secret because it had just won a Caesar in the Best Animation category.  The Caesar is the French equivalent of the Oscar and I was curious about the film.  It turned out to be a lovely story about a wolf, Louie, and his best friend Tom, a rabbit, who have been inseparable since childhood.  Louie, nicknamed Loulou, has always thought that he was an orphan until a gypsy tells him that his mother is still alive.  The 2 friends set out in search of her and arrive in Wolfenberg, Land of the Wolves, in the middle of the Festival de Carne, the annual meeting of the world’s largest carnivores.  As the friends search for the secret of Loulou’s birth we wonder if their friendship will survive in a land where herbivores end up as the day’s main dish on the dinner table.

Directed by Eric Omond, the French-Belgian co-production is based on a 1980’s comic book by the Lebanese illustrator Gregorie Solotareff.  Although Loulou is designed for younger audiences I was totally charmed by the story, the lovely art work, and I was humming the music as I left the screening room with a theatre full of happy youngsters.

I didn’t expect much from Minuscle –Valley of the Ants because ads for the films theatrical release were at every bus stop in Belgium.  It turned out to be a delightful surprise.  The film by Tomas Szabo and Helene Giraud, daughter of Jean Giraud, known as Moebius, is an offshoot of their popular television series Minuscule, which gives a bird’s eye view of insects’ daily lives.  The film’s 3D  CGI characters are set against breath-taking natural  scenery.  The film’s backgrounds were shot in the beautiful Mercantour and Ecrins National Parks in Southern France.  The story is set in the peaceful forest where the remains of a picnic triggers a ruthless war between rival ant colonies who are obsessed with taking home the same prize – a box of sugar cubes.  The hero is a young lady bug who has been separated from his family.  He befriends a black ant and helps him save his colony from the horrible red ants.

I realize that the plot synopsis doesn’t sound appealing to anyone over 12 years of age but with no dialogue, just insect sounds, you are not forced to sit through the banal dialogue we have all gotten used to in so many animated features and if the background scenery isn’t enough to keep any adult entertained you can watch for the clever homages within the film to classic films such as Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Close Kinds, and Psycho. 

After watching the films youngsters had the opportunity to see how animated films are made and to try their hand at animation at the workshop for 5 to 12 year olds, organized by Zorobabel, the acclaimed Brussels collective, and Kidscam.  Also creative people at the face painting table in the lobby were turning the youngest cinema goers into cats and ladybugs.

Along with all of the screenings this edition of ANIMA was full of special events and guests, such as Irish animator Tomm Moore, the Oscar nominated director of Brendon and the Secret of Kells who gave the audience a preview of his new feature Song of the Seas.  It looks every bit as beautiful as his first film and is inspired by Irish folklore and the legend of the Selkies, mythological creatures that are part seal, part human.  The story revolves around a brother and sister who are forced to leave their home by the sea to live with their grandmother following their mother’s mysterious disappearance.  Tomm said that the music is a very important part of the film which is set on the Dingle Penlinsula on the West Coast of Ireland and that much of the impact of the film is carried by the music.  I am looking forward to seeing Song of the Sea which has a projected release date of November/December of this year.

Tomm Moore beaming as he talks about his new film
Tomm Moore beaming as he talks about his new film

The only complaint I have heard about ANIMA Brussels from foreign guests is that if you do not speak French or Flemish then you cannot understand much of what is being said at lecture presentations.  I realize that the festival is held in a predominately French speaking city in the Flemish region of Belgium.  Now that the festival is welcoming more and more foreign guests and now that ANIMA is an Oscar qualifying festival, the number of foreign guest animators and festival programmers will certainly increase. It will be interesting to see if the festival will join the number of other international animation festivals that incorporate more usage of English in their adult programs. That said, I must compliment the festival on their warm and generous hospitality that they give to all foreign guests.

Moscow  animation historian Natalia Lukinykh and Nancy
Moscow animation historian Natalia Lukinykh and Nancy

Language was definitely a problem during the Animation in Central Africa program, which had many English speaking guests in the audience (many of them festival programmers from other countries).  There is so little animation from this region of Africa shown in Europe that it was an important presentation for us to see and understand but sadly much that was said was not understood by some of us in the audience.

Jean-Michel Kibushi, a film maker and founder of the Malembe Maa Studio in the Democratic Republic of Congo, spoke only in French and so were the films he presented.  Guido Convents, a historian specializing in colonial and contemporary films from Central and Southern Africa also spoke French until it was pointed out to him halfway through his presentation that there were several English speakers in the audience.  He was then kind enough to make some of his comments in both languages.

28 July, 2014 marks the 100 year anniversary of the beginning of the Great War.  The 9 films in the 14-18 program honored the forgotten who died during the 4 years of the war.  The tragic Lettres de femmes (Women’s Letters) by French animator August Zanovello depicts the horrors of life on the battlefield through the eyes of an inventive field doctor who uses letters from home to patch up the wounded when bandages have run out.

Dave Urwin of Great Britian adapted Micheal Foreman’s bestselling book about 3 English boys who left their idyllic country lives to fight in the trenches of World War I.  War Game shows a lighter moment in the war when on Christmas Day the shooting stopped and a soccer match was played between the German and British soldiers.  Numerous similar events have been recorded in the history of the war. The 14-18 program covered a wide range of emotions from irony to anger.  This tribute to the victums of this horrific war is a joint project of ANIMA Brussels, Annecy, and Trickfilm Festival Stuttgart.

Theodore Ushev was present to introduce a retrospective of his amazing body of work.  Theodore has become one of the most prominent animators on the festival scene winning numerous awards worldwide.  Theodore’s films are always dense and layered, usually dealing with dark, painful subjects that require repeated viewings to reveal all of the layers but they are certainly worth the multiple viewings they need.

Last year his powerful Victoria Gloria, third film in his of trilogy that includes Tower Bowher and Drux Flux, was screened at the Poznan, Poland Animator Music and Animation Festival with the score, Shostakovich’s Leningrad Symphony, performed live to the film by a symphony orchestra.

Thomas Renoldner, Austrian animator, lecturer and leader of the animation studio at the Academy of Fine Arts in Vienna introduced his program of Austrian Post Avant-Garde Animation, Austria 2009-2014.   Over dinner Thomas told me that “Austria is mainly famous for its avant-garde film history starting in 1970. A strong animation production comparable to other European countries never existed, but since the 1980’s, after famous Austrian painter Maria Lassnig founded the Studio for Experimental Animation at the Academy of Applied Arts, a movement of radical personal and experimental animated film started. This independent animation scene represented the spirit of a ‘post modern’ art concept of the 1980’s, being rather skeptical of classical avant-garde.  Today many animation artists are more interested in an openness to very different strategies, including besides experimentation also pop-culture and entertainment, which hopefully explains the term Post Avant-garde Animation.”
The program included Thomas’ most recent film Sunny Afternoon, which he describes as “the confrontation of ‘kind of’ an Avant-guard film with ‘kind of’ a music video.  The film is a self-portrait of Thomas in a chair and it uses footage of Thomas and that chair filmed over a number of years, so in 6 minutes and 50 seconds we watch Thomas age.

A film that really stayed with me from that program is Clemens Kogler’s 2010 Stuck in a Groove.  With the aid of a tool he calls a phono video, which consists of a turn table, video mixers, and pressed vinyl, Clemens animates images of famous people in real time while a male narrator’s voice recites the effects of Nietzschean idea of eternal return on the sound track.  I really suggest that you check out the film at: to fully understand the process which is difficult to describe.

2014 marks the 20th anniversary of Zorobabel, a unique Brussels animation collective that produces short animated films.  They are also known for their animation workshops for children, teenagers, and adults including the basic workshop for children that they create at ANIMA Brussels every year.  The collective is equally well known for its “collective workshops” where people from all walks of life work alongside professional animators to work on films under the guidance of a professional director. The finished film is then entered into festival competitions.  The collective prides itself on giving a voice to stories by and about people from minority communities who do not normally have a way to tell their stories.  If you want to know about the wonderful work Zorobabel does visit their web site: www.zorobabel,be A screening of the collective’s work was followed by an anniversary party where we all raised a glass in toast to another successful 20 years of Zorobabel.

The Open Screening evening provided any Belgian animator an opportunity to show their film under professional screening conditions.  The Pechakucha session was a wonderful chance to preview what Belgian professionals are working on.  Each presenter was allowed 6 minutes and 20 seconds to present their projects and story boards in 20 pictures.  Each image was projected for just 20 seconds while the animator was speaking.

A presentation by Laurent Duvault, International audiovisual development director at Media Participations screened several pilots and adaption projects in development.  Media Participants is a Franco-Belgian Comix publisher, and commix-to-animation has become big business in theaters, and even more so on the small screen.  I love comix and graphic novels so it was fascinating to learn more about the process of taking characters from the printed page to film.

Animated Nights provided hours and hours of animation from Saturday night into the wee hours of Sunday morning.  The films, ranging from 30 seconds to 20 minutes, represented the good, the bad, and the downright ugly of animation.  There was something to offend everyone.  Every hour or so there was an intermission for the audience to go to the bar, munch on some crapes, and be entertained by the live combo and DJ playing in the downstairs lobby.  Animated Nights is a fun way for the festival to reach a young audience who want to party and have fun on a Saturday night.  Hopefully some of them will take home a festival program and come back to watch some of the other programs.

This year’s International Competition Jury was quite an illustrious group of animators.  It was comprised of three of my good friends, Belgian animator Emma De Swaef (Oh Willy), from Canada animator/illustrator Franck Dion (Edmond Was a Donkey), and Juan Pable Zaramella (Luminaris) from Argentina.  When they were not busy with jury duty it was obvious that they enjoyed each other’s company and it was great fun for me to hang out with these three very talented people, each of whom have a great sense of humor.

The Jury - Emma Deswaef, Franck Dion and Juan Pablo Zaramella with their self portrait

The Jury - Emma Deswaef, Franck Dion and Juan Pablo Zaramella with their self portrait


Juan Pablo Zaramella creating yet another masterpiece
Juan Pablo Zaramella creating yet another masterpiece

Along with being a prolific animator, Franck Dion is also an amazing illustrator.  I was delighted that the festival had an exhibition of his eloquently dream-like illustrations which I have never had the opportunity to see before.  The pictures showed the same off-beat humorous style as his films but with an even more dream like quality.  The pleasure that he finds in losing himself in drawing is very obvious in his illustrations.  Franck was invited to design the 2014 poster for the Annecy Festival and when asked why he choose the image of Capricorn he said “It’s the layout of Annecy, situated between lake and mountains, that inspired the idea of Capricorn, this fabulous half goat, half fish . . .” Come June everyone attending Annecy will have the opportunity to enjoy Franck’s beautiful work on posters throughout the city.

Franck Dion with his paintings at his exhibition
Franck Dion with his paintings at his exhibition

This year ANIMA coordinators Doris Cleven and Philippe Moins have put together another wonderful festival full of so many fabulous programs that it was impossible to see everything much less write about it all in one article.  A special thank you goes to Francoise Cathala, Karin Vandenrydt, and Noemie Meert, who did so much to make my job of writing about the festival easy and fun.  Even though the trio were so busy taking care of foreign guests and tending to the juries while doing a million other things at once they were always happy to answer my questions or tip me off to something I should be sure to see.  A big bravo goes to the entire ANIMA staff and the large army of volunteers who were always ready to help everyone.

Fabrice Douchy, Festival programmer Francoise Cathala and Nancy
Fabrice Douchy, Festival programmer Francoise Cathala and Nancy

Festival programmer Karin Vandenrydt and Nancy
Festival programmer Karin Vandenrydt and Nancy

Every year I am in awe of the job done by the lovely and talented Mistress of Ceremonies Stephanie Coerten as she runs between screening rooms to introduce programs and interview guests on stage.  She never seems to be out of energy even on a day after a very late night of introducing programs before each round of Animated Nights.

Festival presenter Stephanie Coerten with Festival coordinators Doris Cleven and Philippe Moins
Festival presenter Stephanie Coerten with Festival coordinators Doris Cleven and Philippe Moins

The 34th edition of ANIMA will be held next year from 13 to 22 February 2015.  To read more about this year’s event or get information about submitting your film to the next edition visit the ANIMA Brussels web site:

Jury Awards:


Grand Prix Anima 2014, provided by the Brussels-Capital Region (2500 €)

Futon by Yoriko Mizushiri - Japan

Special mention: Marcel, King of Tervuren by Tom Schroeder - USA

Anima 2014 Award for Best Student Short Film, provided by Toon Boom
(Toon Boom Harmony Autonome and Storyboard Pro software licences)

Wind by Robert Löbel - Germany

Special mention: Somewhere by Nicolas Ménard - UK

Anima 2014 Award for Best Children’s Short Film, by the Radio Bobo-jury

Le Père Frimas by Youri Tcherenkov - France

Audience Awards:


Audience Award for Best Short Film, provided by Fluxys (2.500 €)

Boles by Spela Cadez - Slovenia/Germany

Audience Award for Best Animated Feature, provided by FedEx
(FedEx credit, worth 2.500 €)

L’Arte della Felicità by Alessandro Rak - Italy

Audience Award for Best Children’s Animated Feature

Ma Maman est en Amérique et elle a rencontré Buffalo Bill by Marc Boréal et Thibaut Chatel - France/Luxembourg

Audience Award for Best Children’s Short Film

The Snowman and the Snowdog by Hilary Audus - UK

Animation Night Audience Award for Best Short Film

Rollin’ Safari by Kyra Buschor, Anna Habermehl, Constantin Päplow

Partners Awards:

BeTV Award for Best Animated Feature (Achat de droits de diffusion)

Cheatin’ by Bill Plympton - USA



Jury Awards:

Grand Prix of the Fédération Wallonie-Bruxelles (2500 €)

Autour du Lac by Noémie Marsily et Carl Roosens

Special mention: Diamant by Kris Mergan et Geert Vandenbroele

SABAM Award (2.500 €)

La Buche de Noël by Vincent Patar et Stéphane Aubier

SACD Award (2.500 €)

Mia by Wouter Bongaerts

TVPaint Award for Best Belgian Student Short Film (TVPaint software licence)

Rêves de Brume by Sophie Racine

Partners Awards:

BeTv Award (1.500 € including acquisition of broadcasting rights)

850 meters by Joeri Christiaen

RTBF - La Trois Award (acquisition of broadcasting rights)

Rêves de Brume by Sophie Racine

Cinergie Award (Electronic Press Kit)

Rêves de Brume by Sophie Racine