Thursday August 27th 2009, 4:41 am
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 David Silverman is not only very talented but he is a very entertaining speaker who will keep you laughing while you learn.  My friend David is also a very hot tuba player and whenever he and Nik are in the same place they always find plenty of time to play music together.  Any time you have a chance to hear David speak don’t miss it and if you’re lucky he may even play a bit of tuba!

Nik and David Silverman
Nik and David Silverman


Industry professionals planning to attend the 2009 Television Animation Conference (TAC) will want to order their passes soon so not to miss this year’s keynote speaker lineup.  David Silverman, best known for directing numerous episodes of The Simpsons as well as The Simpsons Movie, and Josh Selig, founder and president of Little Airplane Productions, Inc. will headline this year’s Conference and provide their unique insight into the world of animation. 

TAC takes place October 14-15 at the elegant Chateau Laurier hotel in Ottawa.  Running alongside the Ottawa International Animation Festival, this annual event attracts animation professionals in content creation, production, distribution and marketing.  TAC ‘09 is shaping up to be one the industry won’t want to miss.  Passes sell out every year, so don’t wait to register.

“We are excited and honoured to announce that Selig and Silverman will be on hand to present at this year’s Conference”, says TAC Director, Azarin Sohrabkhani. “Their expertise and success speaks for itself and it’s a real privilege to have them as our keynote speakers.”

Opening the conference is Josh Selig.  Josh started his career as a preschooler on Sesame Street, returning many years later as a writer, and worked his way up the ladder to producer.  He has won ten Emmy® awards as a member of the writing team for Sesame Street, and founded Little Airplane Productions, Inc. in 1999.  Some of his many accomplishments include creating and producing the critically acclaimed series “The Wonder Pets!”, as well as “Oobi!”,Go, Baby!” and “3rd & Bird”.

The second day of the event will start off with David Silverman. Much of David’s career has revolved around The Simpsons.  He started out directing the shorts on the Tracy Ullman Show which eventually led to directing the first episodes when it became a series.  He is largely credited with creating the rules for drawing The Simpsons and is considered one of the most instrumental behind-the-scenes craftsmen of the sitcom family.  David became Producer as well as Supervising Animation Director for the series, directing 22 episodes and winning four Emmys® along the way.  Other directing credits include the highly successful The Simpsons Movie (2007), DreamWorks’ The Road to El Dorado (2000), and Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. (2001).

Always entertaining and worthwhile, there’s no doubt this year will be bigger and better. Last year TAC featured Robot Chicken creators Seth Green and Matt Senreich.  About TAC

The Television Animation Conference is an animation business forum designed for professionals in content creation, development, production, distribution and marketing. TAC brings together key players in North America and international markets and provides a forum for active networking, practical information exchange, and trade in a comfortable and intimate environment.  TAC ‘09 will be held October 14-15 in Ottawa. 

For more information about TAC, please visit  You can contact Conference Director Azarin Sohrabkhani at:

More from Simon Taylor and the Animation Mentor Program
Thursday August 27th 2009, 4:09 am
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Here is another installment from Simon Taylor and his experiences with the Animation Mentor Program.  Congratulations to Simon on being hired by Impossible TV in London.  I have really enjoyed watching Simon’s  growth from a participate in the Young Animators Festival in Bradford, England to a working animator and believe that we will hear more from Simon in the future.

Time’s flying past at Animation Mentor and a lot has happened since my last blog entry. I’m now in Class 4 “Introduction to Acting” and on top of that have just started my first full-time animation job at Impossible TV in London. This is going to give me an entirely new perspective on the course as I’m really going to have to manage my time well. Luckily I’m on a bit of a roll with my current assignment which always helps although it doesn’t seem to happen anywhere near as often as I’d like!

Class 3 went well over all and I learnt a lot from my mentor Dana Boadway. AM’s new syllabus where they have two terms instead of one on body mechanics really helped as well. When the acting term started I thought to myself, right, I’ve had two terms of body mechanics so I’ll do something a little physically simpler, so of course I decided to do an assignment where my character dances into shot singing, does a twirl and falls onto a sofa! Clever me! This assignment goes into next term where we’ll then finish it off with facial animation. If you’d like to see my current work in progress you can see it here:
My mentor for this term is veteran Disney animator T. Dan Hofstedt. It’s been fascinating learning from someone who worked on so many of the films I grew up watching such as Aladdin, The Lion King, Hercules, Tarzan, to name but a few. We’re of course learning a lot from the lectures as well with this week’s being about eyes, there was also a Q&A about Up which unfortunately clashed with my first day at work. Waking up at 4am for the Q&A probably wouldn’t have helped my state of alertness!

A couple of weeks ago I went to my first Animation Mentor gathering in London. It was great meeting so many fellow AMers and everything suddenly felt a lot more real and in a strange sort of way almost like meeting somebody famous off TV when we’ve only ever seen each other on webcams. Who’d have thought we all had backs to our heads! We met up in Hyde Park, chatted, shared Pringles, moved to a pub, chatted lots more, I got told about the benefits of Twitter and then a couple of us went to see Ice Age 3 in the evening, sadly the 3D wasn’t working, which was the first time I’d ever seen that happen. I need to think of something pricey to go and see now that I have a London-price complimentary ticket! I can’t wait to meet up with everybody again, which should be soon as Up is finally released over here in October!

I suppose I should probably go to sleep now, it’s bizarre getting used to a “normal” sleep pattern again and working Monday to Friday, it’s been years since I last did that! Maybe I’ll even manage not to trip over the same paving stone just outside of London Bridge station that I managed to forget about every day last week! I’m really looking forward to week two though, it’s a great environment and we’re a surprisingly small team, reminds me of doing our group animation projects at University last year. Been good fun so far.

All the best!

Animafrik Animation Festival - 5 to 9 October, 2009 at Accra, Ghana
Sunday August 23rd 2009, 10:55 am
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Until I became friends with Mohamed Ghazala, ASIFA International Board member from Egypt, I did not know nearly as much as I should about animation in Africa.  I had seen work from Burkina Faso and South Africa and I knew the most prominate names such as The Frenkel Brothers who made the first Egyptian animation over 70 years ago and Moustapha Alassane who is considered the father of African animation but I would have been hard pressed to write about animation activity in that vast continent.


I hope that Animafrik Animation Festival will help to give a higher profile to African Animation.  The Festival is seeking to promote art and animation from Africa as well as black animators world wide. They will also host regional film tours throughout the month of October 2009

In co-operation with Alliance Francaise, Accra and ASIFA Egypt, the festival plans to help the African animation industry grow with screenings and workshops.  Animafrik will host (in English and French) a children’s animation workshop, a 2 day introduction to animation and a round table discussion on “Prospect and Challenges of the Animation Industry in Africa” along with programs on creative use of technology.

The deadline for submitting DVDs is approaching, but there is still time to send your work.  Mohamed has assured me that all films will be treated under the strict guidelines set down by ASIFA.

Submission Deadline:  August 31, 2009

Send To:  Courier:  Animafrik Festival

No. 5 Anowa Link

Tesano, Accra, Ghana

Or Mail To:         P.O.  Box KN 150

Kaneshie, Accra, Ghana

For more details visit their web site:

ANIMAFEST ZAGREB 2009 - Much Sweeter The Second Time Around
Wednesday August 19th 2009, 4:32 am
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When Nik and I accepted our invitation to attend the 19th edition of the World Festival of Animated Film in Zagreb, Croatia I was curious to see if they had learned from their mistakes and had returned Animafest to its former place as one of the most prestigious animation festivals in the world.  I had been very critical of the festival the year before when a new, younger, inexperienced staff replaced long time Festival Director Margit Anatauer, affectionately known as Buba.  I am very happy to report that Animafest Zagreb has regained its place of honor.
Animafest 2009 did everything right and then some.  The premiere screenings were held in the beautiful old Kino Europa with on stage interviews for all animators who were present.  Animators were given hospitality for the entire festival, not just for three day as happened last year, and there were daily interviews with animators, directors and film guests. Igor Prassel conducted them at the French Cutural Institute and they were well attended.  Igor knows how to ask the right questions  and then give the interviewee space to answer, while keeping the conversation on track.

Nik and Igor Prassel
Nik and Igor Prassel

In odd numbered years feature films take center stage.  I had already seen  and written about most of the 10 feature films in competition, such as Bill Plympton’s Idiots and Angels, Tatia Rosenthal’s $9.99,  Adam Elliot’s Mary and Max and of course Nina Paley’s masterful achievement Sita Sings The Blues.  Nik introduced Sita on stage at both of its screenings.
Luckily there were two surprises for me. Argentinean Gustavo Cova’s  Boogie, el Aceitoso is based on a character created by the late cartoonist and writer Roberto Fontanarrosa.  Hit Man Boogie, who Fontanarrosa created as a Dirty Harry parody, is the best hit man in the city.  Unlikable and out of touch with reality, Boogie is a sexist brute, a violent racist and a feared hired assassin.  The film, definitely not for children, provides a lethal dose of irony and such extreme violence that it becomes impossible not to laugh. There is also a strong Anti-American, anti-Imperalism message that will probably not make it a runaway hit in the US.
Boogie, el Aceitoso is a perfect showcase for Cova’s vast expertise in mixing visual effects and animation, combining paper cut-outs with 2D and 3D animation.  In Argentina, Gustavo is known as a pioneer in new animation techniques and he has previously created a 3D children’s series, a successful adult TV series, and a satirical series shown all over Latin America.
I was looking forward to seeing Mia et le Migou (Mia and the Migou) Jacques-Remy Girerd’s latest film because I loved his 2001 Raining Cats and Frogs.  Unfortunately this film, the story of a 10 year old South American girl’s search for her often absent father who is working on a  construction project in a tropical forest doesn’t have the same sparkle and charm that his earlier work has. Girerd’s script is a nice story of Mia’s journey through the forest in search of her father and her discovery of the true force and spirit of nature, particularly the Migou’s,  custodians of a strange magical tree.  Delicate drawing and fine art work were sadly lacking and the film left me with the impression that it was a rushed and unfinished project.  Unlike the playful and rich music that composer Serge Besset wrote for Raining Cats and Frogs, the score for this film seems a bit lacking in style and often did not fit the moods and feelings of the images.
Jacques-Remy Girerd, founder of the legendary Folimage Studio in Valencia, France, did give a fascinating and lively interview at the Director’s Chat  the day after the initial screening.  He kept the audience laughing throughout with his stories about how having a family has influenced his desire to make films for young people.  Even if I can’t recommend Mia et la Migou, I can definitely say you should not miss any opportunity to hear Jacques-Remy speak.

Jacques Remy-Girerd at his interview
Jacques Remy-Girerd at his interview

Six feature films were screened out of competition in the World Panorama program.  Four films, including A Town Called Panic, the Belgian feature which opened Annecy the next week, were at late night screenings which was billed as “Samurais, cowboys and Indians, blood, panic, phobias, madness, and eccentricity without restriction” There was definitely something for everyone.
Michel Ocelot, who won the 2007 Grand Prix with his visually stunning Azur et Asmar, was invited to return as the 2009 Honorary Festival President.  Although I have seen most of his films individually, it was a rare privilege to see a retrospective of his work.
Ocelot’s three feature films, Kirikou and the Sorceress (which won a 1999 Annecy Crystal), Kirikou and the Wild Beasts, and Azur et Asmar  show the strong influence of Africa from his upbringing in Guinea from the age of 6 to 12 years old.  The program of eight shorts featured five films made with the cut-out silhouette technique very similar to that used by Lotte Reiniger in her 1926 Adventures of Prince Achmed.  My favorite film, The Three Inventors (1980) uses delicate white paper cutouts that create the illusion of a film made out of lace to tell the tale of how society treats two creative inventors and their little inventor daughter.
Two programs for young people were aimed at different age groups.  Space and Energy, aimed at a very young audience showcases the wide world around us through such films as Gil Alkabetz’s multiple award winner A Sunny Day and Reinis Kalnaellis’ very sweet When Apples Roll.  The second program,  My Body  and Me(Dia), was presented in co-operation with the New York International Children’s Film Festival .  It deals with  changes in the adolescent body to help pre teens and teens break taboos and widen their horizons.
Animafest 2nd Regional Pitching Forum was really interesting.  It is aimed at helping animation professionals in the production and distribution of animated films in Central and Eastern Europe. The well attended event was packed full of such workshops as “How to Pitch A Film” and “How to Finance Animation Cinema in Europe”.  One attendee that I spoke to told me that he felt the three day event had been very well worth his time, especially “Case Studies” which presented the status of two feature film projects that were pitched last year.
Erik Novak (The District) brought the group up to date on the progress of  Egill, The Last Pagan, his joint Hungarian/Icelandic/Polish co-production.  Over breakfast one morning my old friend Erik told me that Egill has a unique visual style.  Instead of traditional puppets or live performers, the film is being made with both stop-motion and motion capture. His armatures are equipped with LED markers and digital cameras record the positions of the LED’s.  The data produced is transferred to traditional 3D programs and only minor corrections are necessary.
The highlight of the Pitching Forum was the opportunity for 6 producers from Central and Eastern Europe to present their projects to an International Jury, composed of French Producer Valerie Schermann, Luca Raffaelli, Artistic Director of I Castelli Animati in Italy, and Izabela Rieben, Director of Animated Film Acquisition, Television Suisse.  At their discretion, the jury can award 3000 Euros as financial support to the best regional project presentation.  The winner, Heart in the Wall, a Polish/Swiss/South Korean co-production was announced at the Saturday Award Ceremony.  A Special Jury Mention  was awarded to the Czech Republic production Tales From Gingerland.
Adding special flavor to the festival this year were four special trailers, two of which were created by the very talented Alexei Alexeev.  Bill Plympton also gave a masterclass to a sold out audience.

Bill Plympton at his workshop
Bill Plympton at his workshop

There were three exhibitions definitely worth a visit.  The French Cultural Institute Mediatheque hosted Michel Ocelot’s Hidden Treasure.  Sketches, animatics, storyboards, set designs, and graphic research were displayed along with production stages of his short films.
The historic Lotrocak Tower, which was once part of a gate to the  walled city of Zagreb which was closed every evening when the evening bell rang, was the perfect setting for the Fear(s) of the Dark – From Drawing to Animation exhibition.  The narrow circular stairway and ancient stone walls added to the eerie effect of art work from this animated horror film.  The exhibition followed the developmental process of the film through original drawings, storyboards, sketches, silkscreened posters, and video material.
The exhibit that I enjoyed the most was the collection of drawings, sketches, and frame enlargements from Olga and Pritt Parn’s latest film, Life Without Gabriella Ferri.  I am a big fan of this film  and it was a delight to have an opportunity to look at the fanciful drawings at leisure.  The beautifully framed  originals were for sale at very reasonable prices.  Nik and I had a very difficult time not taking our favorite home with us but unfortunately we just don’t have a bare inch of wall space.

At Priit and Olga's Exhibit
At Priit and Olga’s Exhibit

Last year one of the biggest things missing from the festival was a central meeting place.  This year the centrally located café/club Appartment was the perfect answer.  With three large rooms and a lovely outdoor deck  there was plenty of room for all of us.  The bar even took the food coupons which Animafest was most generous to give us. On several occasions Nik  and Alexei Alexeev on clarinet and guitar, two thirds of the Annecy Plus Band this year, got warmed up  for the following week in France by playing for all of us late into the night.

Nik and Alexei Alexeev
Nik and Alexei Alexeev

There were lots of little nice touches to this year’s festival.  The festival staff invited all guests to  several delicious sit down lunches  and this year  there were enough chairs for everyone to sit down at once. Each guest was given a white t-shirt with a basic design on it.  We were invited to customize and embellish our shirts with the magic markers that were provided in the theatre lobby.  One of my very favorite touches was all the complementary (savory, not sweet) popcorn that you could eat at the main theatre bar.  A very sweet touch from the festival staff was the lovely lavender plant that appeared in our hotel room.  I’m afraid that most of the guests left them in the rooms but I hand carried ours on the plane to Annecy and then on home to Gent.  It is now thriving and blooming in my garden as a permanent memory of a lovely week.
Zagreb is a beautiful, historic city which I have really enjoyed exploring on past visits to Animafest, This year the festival was so full of wonderful things to see that I only had time for one trip to the outdoor market to buy delicious local honey and fresh cherries.
All too soon Saturday arrived and It was time for the awards ceremony.  This year the closing ceremony was very clever, short and fun.  It opened with one of Alexi Alexeev’s festival trailers and then  Alexi, wearing a top hat, was introduced on stage while images of his characters were projected onto his shirt and on to the clothes of the festival heads, (and on the screen and the stage apron as well).  Long speeches were avoided; the juries kept their statements brief, and the awards handed out in rapid succession. (full list of the winners appears at the end of the article).  Michel Ocelot received a standing ovation when he was called to the stage to be honored as the Honorary President of the 2009 Animafest.

The Market
The Market

Immediately following the ceremony, Barry and the Disco Worm was screened.  I had seen Danish animator Thomas Borch Nielsen’s film at Anima Basauri, where it  won the Best Feature Film Award and it turned out to be a thoroughly delightful experience.  I must admit that when I heard the title I expected the worst, but the irrepressible earthworm Barry, who dreams of being a disco star, had me wanting to dance in the theatre isle to the rhythm of ‘70’s disco hits. I have a feeling that I was not the only one the only one who felt the urge to dance.
Amid ample food and drink we recalled lovely memories of our week in Zagreb at the closing night party at The Apartment. At the end of the night it was nice to know that many of us would see each other the next day in Annecy.
Nik and I can’t thank  the Festival enough for their warm hospitality, especially Sanja Zanki who was in charge of hospitality and Ana Cvitas, head of the press office.  They did everything possible to provide me with any information that I asked for and helped to make my job so pleasant and easy.  I am so happy to be able to write positive words about ANIMAFEST 2009 and look forward to returning next year for Animafest 2010/short film edition.
Short films can be submitted to the 2010 edition, June 1 through 6, before January 31, 2010.

Visit the festival website at:

Contact them at:

ANIMAFEST Zagreb Award Winning Films

International Jury:  Lotta Geffenblad, Swedish animator; Jia Duan, Professor Beijing Film Academy, Beijing, China; and Dubravko Matakovic, free lance artist and animator, Zagreb.
Grand Prix –The Marbel Z and 3000.00 Euros:
Waltz With Bashir – Ari Folman

Special Mentions:
The Secret of Kells – Tomm Moore and Nora Twomey
Life Without Gabriella Ferri – Pritt and Olga Parn
Mary  and Max – Adam Elliot

Pitching Forum Jury:
Izabela Marie Rieben – Director of Animated Film Acquisitans at Television Suisse; Valerie Schermann – French Producer; and Luca Raffaelli – Director I Castelli Animati, Italy
Golden Zagreb Award and 3,000.00 Euros:
Heart in the Wall – Balbina Bruszewska
Special Mention:
Tales From Gingerland – Tomas Hubacek
Audience Award Mr. M:
Mary and Max – Adam Elliot

Tuesday August 18th 2009, 2:19 pm
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Melodrama Pictures has announced that the award winning film Mary and Max by the Academy Award winning Australian director Adam Elliot (Harvie Krumpet) will be released on the Sundance Select on-demand platform of Sundance Channel.  Beginning on October 14 Mary and Max will be available on the on-demand platform of major US cable operators including Comcast, Cox and Cablevision.  The film will also have an Academy Award quilifying release in Los Angeles which will make it eligible for this years Academy Awards.

A feature-length claymation animation film, Mary and Max opened the 2009 Sundance Film Festival. With voices by Philip Seymour Hoffman, Toni Collette, Eric Bana and Barry Humphries, the film tells the story of a 20-year pen-pal friendship between two very different people: Mary Dinkle, a lonely 8-year-old girl living in the suburbs of Melbourne and Max Horowitz, a 44-year-old Jewish man living an isolated life in New York City. The film is a triumph of emotion, insight and eccentricity – a complete delight.  In May, the film shared the Grand Cristal Best Feature award at the prestigous Annecy Animation Festival with Henry Selick’s  Caroline.

Robert Redford and director Adam Elliot at the premiere of Mary and Max
Robert Redford and director Adam Elliot at the premiere of Mary and Max

Sundance Select will be a platform for documentary and world cinema debuting on  Sundance Select August 26th with Spike Lee’s Passing Strange The Movie which premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival.  Initially the venue will feature one new film a month on-demand  with plans to increase to 2 offerings a month.

Under the creative direction of Robert Redford, Sundance Channel advertises itself as the television destination for independent-minded viewers seeking something different. Sundance Channel offers audiences a diverse selection of films, documentaries, and original programs, all unedited and commercial free.  Launched in 1996, Sundance Channel is a subsidiary of Rainbow Media Holdings LLC. Sundance Channel operates independently of the non-profit Sundance Institute and the Sundance Film Festival, but shares the overall Sundance mission of encouraging artistic freedom of expression. Sundance Channel’s website address is

You can visit Mary and Max at their website

3RD KLIK! Amsterdam Animation Festival
Thursday August 13th 2009, 10:14 am
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KLIK! 2009
KLIK! 2009

The 3RD KLIK! Amsterdam Animation Festival - back, as the organizers say “with a vengeance”, will be held from the 17th to  the 20th of September in - yes, you guessed it, Amsterdam.

From a humble but spirited beginning, the festival has blossemed into an International Competition with a separate Student Competition, and will be made up of over 700 films from 50 countries this year.

Alongside the competition programs, the festival will also spotlight the power of animation as an adult art form with 2 special themes:  Political Animation and Erotic Animation.  A special award for the best politically motivated film is also new this year.

American film historian Dennis Nybeck, already familiar to many animation fans on both sides of the Atlantic, will present special programs from his vast collection of vintage films, and a compilation of Brazilian animation will put this year’s featured country in the spotlight.

Phil Mulloy, that irrepresssible master of animated black humor, will head the International Competition Jury.  Phil will also give a workshop as well as presenting a retrospective of his impressive body of work.  Following a festival tradition the Student Competition Award winner will be selected by the audience vote.

The KLIK! Festival has its roots in its sister festival the KLIT! Multimedia Festival based in Gent, Belgium, which was organized by animation students at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts.  When one of the organizers returned to his Amsterdam roots, he planted the seeds for a sister festival in The Netherlands and KLIK! was born.

The organizer’s mission statement on their web site says: “KLIK! sets out to show that animation is the most vital and widespread cultural phenomenon known to man, and we’re more than happy to show you!”

I am just trying to tweak the readers’ interest because there is so much more going on during the 4 days than what I have written about.  You can get the festival schedule and lots more information by visiting KLIK’S web site:

you can contact the festival at:

I have followed the KLIK! festival since its beginning, wishing it success but also hoping that the festival would not lose its irreverant and edgy character along the way.  So far, so good!

Another Good Reason To Come to Gent, Belgium in October
Sunday August 02nd 2009, 1:54 am
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The 36th Edition of Flanders International Film Festival Gent, Belgium October 6 through 17, 2009 will feature Anime as part of it’s salute to the world of Asian cinema. A highlight of the festival will be a retrospective from the renowned Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli founded in 1985 by directors Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata . Miyazaki, the creative force behind many of Studio Ghibi’s films, has been able to transcend cultural boundaries with his themes of ethics, pacifism, and the relationship between humans and nature and his films are as well loved in the West as they are in Asia. The films by Hayao Miyazaki to be screened at the festival are: Castle in the Sky (1986), Spirited Away (2001), Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), and Ponyo On the Cliff By te Sea (2008). I must admit that I am sad to see that Porco Rosso, my personal favorite, won’t be shown. I would love a chance to see the mighty pig fly across the big screen again.

My Neighbor Totoro, by Hayao Miyazaki (1988) - on exhibit from October 9 in the Caermers Convent
My Neighbor Totoro, by Hayao Miyazaki (1988) - on exhibit from October 9 in the Caermers Convent

Each year along with the 12 days of screenings the festival mounts an exhibition at the Carmelite Friary - Provincial Center of Art and Culture. This year’s Anime exhibit will feature 100’s of original drawings, 3D objects, and film clips from such internationally renowned films as Akira, Princess Mononoke and Osamu’s classic Astro Boy character, and computer games such as Final Fantasy and Pokeman. Over the past few years the Flanders International Film Festival has screened an increasing amount of animation. Last year both Bill Plympton’s Idiots and Angels and Nina Paley’s Sita Sings the Blues were screened, and Nik was invited to introduce Sita when it was shown. There was also a limited selection of short animated films screened before some of the films in competition. Now that more adult, serious animated films are being produced I hope that the festival will continue this trend and I encourage animators to submit their work. To find out more about the festival, rules for entry, and other special events that will take place during the festival go to: