CELEBRATING TEN YEARS OF ANIMATION AND LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NEXT TEN!
Wednesday April 16th 2014, 8:12 am
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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: 

www.fete-anim.com/en/programme/marathon-de-lanim.html

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 www.fete-anim.com 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: http://anibar.com/2013/En/media/news/178/ 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 (www.arsenalet.dk).

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: http://www.animationsfestival.dk/newsslider/slide-2.aspx - 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: http://www.varnafest.org/regulations-2014//

Entry forms can be downloaded at: http://www.varnafest.org/wfaf2014/entry-form/

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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A PERFECT BEGINNING TO THE FESTIVAL SEASON

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:

www.clemenskogler.net/photovideo 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: www.animafestival.be


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

NATIONAL COMPETITION

 

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



Call for Entries: Festival of European Student Animation in Belgrade, Serbia
Wednesday March 19th 2014, 12:55 pm
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ABOUT THE FESTIVAL, Initiated by the Public Enterprise “Belgrade Fortress”,

FESA – Festival of European Student Animation, was established in 2012 under the auspices of the Serbian Ministry for Culture.

The main goal of the festival is to promote the art of animation in the European countries and to create conditions that will enable the younger generation to conquer new concepts and new technologies.

The Festival of European Student Animation will be held on August 30th and 31st, 2014.

The Festival comprises of Students’ Competition programme (film schools and single student authors)

This year’s competition themes are WAR and PEACE - in the widest sense of the terms.

ADMISSION CONDITIONS

Only animated films/works of European production not longer than 30 minutes will be accepted (using classical frame by frame or computer animation techniques, or combining live action and animation (Animation being the primary media).

Works completed in this Millenium will be considered eligible for this year’s festival.

Works coming from Non European Countries cannot be accepted for competition, but can be screened at the festival

if chosen by the Pre-Selection Committee.

One author can submit more than one film according to the festival rules.

There is no entry fee.

ENTRIES AND REGISTRATION

For Pre-Selection films must be sent only in MP4, AVI or MOV format.

The ENTRY FORM – please download from the festival website:

http://www.beogradskatvrdjava.co.rs/FESA-2014—Prijava-za-festival_4273-80_1983 and send by e-mail to – fesafestival@gmail.com

The Entry Form must be sent together with:

– digital copy of the film for Pre-Selection,

– two or more stills from the film (6 cm width, 300 dpi),

– film synopsis (maximum 500 characters)

– photo of the author,

– brief biography of the author and filmography.

Deadline for submission is July 21st 2014

Digital copies sent for selection and competition will be kept in the Festival’s archive.

PRE-SELECTION COMMITTEE AND THE JURY

The Pre-Selection Committee consists of two members from Serbia and the Artistic Director of the Festival.

The Official International Award Jury for the Student Competition consists of three members, professors, theorists or animation artists from the European countries:

The Participants will be informed about the results of Pre-Selection by e-mail before August 20th 2013.

AWARDS

The following official Festival Awards will be granted by the International Jury:

1. Prize of the festival for the Best Student Film

2. Special Jury Award

The International Jury is also free to award 3 special diplomas by their own choice.

All the awards must be granted.

SUBTITLING

All the films need to have English subtitles incorporated, except if the spoken language in the film is English.

ACCEPTANCE OF RULES

Participation in the FESA (sending films for Pre-Selection and signing the Entry Form) implies unconditional acceptance of the terms and conditions set forth in these Regulations. Films once applied for the festival cannot be withdrawn.

The Festival confirms that all the authors’ rights, clearly indicated in the Entry Form, will be guaranteed.



Animatricks Festival’s Call for Entries
Monday December 16th 2013, 12:31 pm
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Festival logo
Festival logo

COMPETITION FOR ANIMATED SHORT FILMS

16 DECEMBER 2013

Animatricks Festival is launching its 2014 Call for Entries, inviting filmmakers around the world to submit their animated short films. International competition is arranged now for the first time alongside with the traditional competition for the best Finnish animated shorts. The prize for the international winner is 3000 euros. The festival takes place 25–27 April 2014 in Helsinki, Finland. Submission is open until 31 January 2014.

Animatricks is a cozy three-day festival and a meeting point for animation professionals and fans, held in the heart of Helsinki. Animatricks has been presenting new Finnish animation and selections of international tops since the year 2000 and has awarded Finnish animation since 2005. In 2014 Animatricks extends and opens an international competition. The competition is sponsored by Rovio Entertainment, media company and creator of the globally successful Angry Birds.

Qualifications and prizes

Animatricks wants to share the wonders of animation and show stories that cannot be told in any other art form. We are looking for films with unique storytelling, style and technique.

International productions chosen to participate will be screened in the International Shorts Competition Category. Films can be maximum 30 minutes long animated films or music videos completed after 1 February 2013. Educational or commercial films are not accepted. Minimum 70% of the film duration must be animation.

Festival jury chooses the most inspiring international and Finnish short animations of the year from the competition films. The best international animation will be awarded with 3000 euros and the best Finnish with 1000 euros, both prizes are sponsored by Rovio Entertainment . The awards are granted to the directors.

Submission

Submission is open until 31 January 2014. In order to submit your film, please read the rules and regulations on www.animatricks.net/festival/submission. You will also find the online entry form there.

Welcome aboard!

P.s. Not familiar with Finnish animation? Take a peek at the previous festival winners and many others at Animatricks Screen, a freshly opened animation online treasury.



KLICKING BACK TO THE FABULOUS ‘50’S AT THE KLIK AMSTERDAM FESTIVAL OF ANIMATION
Tuesday December 10th 2013, 3:29 pm
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12-17 November 2013 - Eye Film Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

KLIK 2013
KLIK 2013
View of the Eye Theater from the ferry
View of the Eye Theater from the ferry

This year KLIK, the Amsterdam Festival of Animation, took us back to the fabulous Cartoon Modern era and the classic designs of the 1950’s.  The retro theme was also seen in the vintage furniture and accessories in the special upstairs KLIK Lobby at the Eye.  We sat on the furniture and could play the vintage games and read the magazines as we talked and drank in our ’50 living room.

Relaxing in the retro lobby
Relaxing in the retro lobby

This year’s guest curator was Amid Amidi whose book Cartoon Modern: Style and Design in Fifties Animation was the inspiration for the theme.  Along with writing numerous books, he is also the editor-in-chief at the animation web site Cartoon Brew.  Amid introduced Cartoon Modern, The Essentials a program with films by such legends as John Hubley and Tex Avery as well as the Disney “educational music” short Toot, Whistle, Plunk, and Boom animated by the great Ward Kimball.  This was the first animated short to be filmed in Cinemascope and stereophonic sound and it won the 1954 Academy Award for Best Animated Short.  Every time Nik and I watch the film, Nik points out the numerous musical misinformation that the film contains, such as everyone magically playing their instruments left handed and the backwards trumpet, but I enjoy seeing it over and over and the film always receives lots of laughs from audiences who love all of the sight gags.

Nancy and Amid Amidi
Nancy and Amid Amidi

In the six Cartoon Modern programs I had the opportunity to see many old favorites.  I also learned about the Cartoon Modern movement in the Netherlands in the 1950’s and ‘60’s   and the Contemporary Cartoon Modern program showed us that the legacy of the 1950’s is still very much alive.

Far too often when I see a film that I saw and loved years ago it turns out to be a big disappointment, but the UPA feature Gay Pur-ee” was as wonderful as the first time I saw it on the big screen when it was released in 1962.  Judy Garland in her only animated film role was the perfect voice for the lovely, pampered house cat Mewsette, and Robert Goulet in his first film role brought the champion mouser Jaune Tom, who is in love with Mewsette, to life.  The sequence of paintings of Mewsette in the styles of various famous artists such as Lautrec, Henri Rousseau, and Picasso is a delight for anyone who knows art history.  Gay Pur-ee was 85 minutes of purr-fect pleasure for me.

In keeping with this year’s theme a group of HKU (University of the Arts in Utrecht) students created an intermission piece based on the original 1950’s “Let’s All Go to the Lobby” theme which was shown after each screening at the festival.  I can remember when every theatre had double features and that cheery little ditty sent the audience out to the lobby to get popcorn, JuJubes, and a Coke.  The Klik audiences couldn’t help going out of the screenings singing “Let’s All Go to the Lobby and Get Ourselves a Drink”.   The trailer is so well done and popular that even though the theme will change next year I hope that the festival will still end each screening with this little crowd pleaser.

Opening night festivities began on the expansive stair case of the Eye, as Puck van Dijk and Mark Thewessen set the scene for the KLIK theme by taking us back to the All American Family of the ‘50’s and the fear of the Atomic Bomb with their skit Duck and Cover.  Then we entered the screening room.

At the Opening Ceremony the audience was given a preview of what lay ahead for us in the six Competition Programs with the screening of Soeur et frere (Sister and Brother) by French animator Marie Vieillevie.  She has created a beautifully paced 2D coming of age story that captures the mystery and complex feelings of growing up.  I’ve seen Soeur et frère several times and I appreciate that the film doesn’t wrap everything into a neat ending. Instead she leaves you wondering about what will happen to the two of them next.

Two awards were also handed out at the ceremony.   KLIK took another leap toward world domination by Dutch animation with the brand new KLIK! World Domination Award.  The trophy honors an individual, organization, or studio that has helped Dutch animation take another critical step toward world domination.  The jury of Dutch film industry professionals bestowed the honor on Erik-Jan de Boer.  Originally from the Netherlands, de Boer now lives in Los Angeles where he worked for the now sadly defunct Rhythm and Hues Studio.  Last year he won the Oscar for Best Visual Effects for his amazing work on Life of Pi.  He now works at Method Studio in Los Angeles.

The Mopti Audience Award took the audience half way around the world via video to the city of Mopti in the West African country of Mali located near the border of the Sahara.  Dutchman Willem Snapper who has lived there for several years, started the Mopti Foundation with the goal to bring relief and aid to the local population.  He does this by creating gardens with irrigation systems so fruits and vegetables can be grown in this extremely arid area.  KLIK believes that you can do good and have fun at the same time.  There is a donation box at the front desk will all of the proceeds going to the Mopti Foundation.

Mopti opening night crowd shot, shown on the screen on closing night
Mopti opening night crowd shot, shown on the screen on closing night

Willem also screens a film in his back yard every month.  The nearest cinema is hundreds of kilometers away so the monthly event is always a big event attracting as many as 300 people.  Each year KLIK puts together a special program for Mopti and a trophy is awarded to the film that the audience votes as their favorite.  The 2013 winner was The Solitary Pier by Jack Shih from Taiwan.  The film, which also screened in the festival competition program, is about a fisherman who lives alone on a solitary pier with his dog and turtle until his life is changed by a visit from a young lady and the appearance of a massive fish that is devouring the local fish population.  The battle between the fisherman and the fish has some excellent special effects.

MC Roloff De Jeu always loves to play the organ at the opening and closing ceremonies
MC Roloff De Jeu always loves to play the organ at the opening and closing ceremonies

KLIK likes to keep things short and sweet with no long, drawn out opening ceremonies.  After the film and awards it was time to go to the lobby for a welcoming drink.

KLIK downstairs decorations
KLIK downstairs decorations


I did not want to miss the three KLIK for Kids screenings on Sunday morning.  Aside from showing such wonderful films as Room on the Broom and Rabbit and Deer the first two programs designed for children aged four to six and six to nine years old respectively featured live Dutch voice overs by professional actors Remco Lee Polman of Mooves Studio and Gio van Vugt.

Members of the KLIK for Kids audience voted Forever Mine winner of the Young Audience Award.  The seven minute 3-D film by Dutch animator Michael Visser is about two mimes fighting for the romantic attention of a young Goth girl who runs the House of Horrors at the Fairground.  As they begin to try to bluff each other with their creative mime, their performance deteriorates into a fight to the death.

I was charmed by Good Night, Carola from German director Alexandra Schatz.  Based on a children’s picture book by Jokob Hein and Kurt Kroener, Carola is a fearless little girl who is not frightened by anything.  She isn’t even surprised when she finds a monster hiding under her bed, in fact she is delighted with this new friend, who is upset because he thinks that Carola should be afraid of him.  The beautiful hand drawn film has one of my favorite lines, “She who is not afraid has more time to play”.  That has become my motto.

For the inner kid in all of us who has fond memories of hours spent  in front of the television watching Dexter’s Laboratory, Cow and Chicken, and of course The Powerpuff Girls the Cartoon Network Originals program was a must.  Not only could we relive golden television memories on the big screen, there was The Powerpuff Girls cosplay act and a special Q and A with Paul Rudish, director, storyborder, writer, and art director of The Powerpuff Girls and Dexter’s Laboratory.  But that’s not all folks - everyone in the audience received a Cartoon Network original T-Shirt.

For Comedy Central fans there was the Comedy Central Battle of the Fans.  Fans of South Park, Family Guy, and Futurama joined forces to fight for their series’ running gags, serenade their favorite series most beautifully, and diss the other two series into oblivion to help their series win the Comedy Central Fan Award.  For the fan that knew the most during the pub quiz there was a well-stocked goodie bag as a reward.

While others relived their memories with Cartoon Network and Comedy Central I relived my own memories for 90 minutes at Midnight Madness. As a member of the KLIK selection committee this year the golden moments of “What was that person thinking?”  came vividly back to life as Mathijs Stegnik and Luuk van Huet hosted some of the weirdest and most baffling, beyond even bad, films that were submitted to KLIK.

 Midnight Madness under the guiding hand of Luuk Van Huët with an assist by Mathijs Stegink
Midnight Madness under the guiding hand of Luuk Van Huët with an assist by Mathijs Stegink

On Friday there was an opportunity for members of the Dutch animation community to network and attend panel discussions, presentations by professionals who shared their tips and tricks with the audience, and screenings.  The sessions ranged from Creating the Feature Film Pim & Pom, based on a Dutch children’s book to five Low Country animators sharing the knowledge they acquired the hard way while getting their series’ started.  Ryan Honey, Executive Creative Director of Studio Buck, a design driven production company based in Los Angeles and New York, vented about life in the commercial animation industry.  The afternoon culminated with Debutante Ball, a screening of films by the next generation of Dutch animators, where the graduating class of 2013 HBO Studies presented their one minute show reels.

Last year Israeli director Ari Folman, who garnered an Oscar nomination for his critically acclaimed feature film Waltz With Bashir, premiered his latest film The Congress at the Cannes Film Festival.  The story, adopted from the legendary sci-fi novel The Futurological Congress by Polish writer Stanislev Lem, revolves around an aging, out of work actress who accepts her final job, preserving her digital image for a Hollywood studio.  The feature length film combines live action and psychedelic animation and features Robin Wright, Paul Giamatti, Jon Hamm, and Harvey Keitel.  The Congress was so full of visual images that I need to watch it again before I can make up my mind how I feel about it.  The film already has a North American distributor, so many of you will soon have the opportunity to make up your own mind about the film.

I was very curious to see Persistence of Vision and The Thief and the Cobbler:  Recobbled Cut which followed it.  I’m sure that everyone knows the tragic tale of three time Oscar winner Richard Williams’ legendary The Thief and the Cobbler which has become known as the greatest animated film never made. Film maker Kevin Schreck has collected rare archival footage, interviews with animators and artists who worked with Williams, and pieces of animation that were completed to tell the heart breaking story of this ill-fated project.  It was particularly fascinating to see the footage of such legends Roy Naisbitt, Art Babbitt and Ken Harris   along will Williams himself at work on the film.  I am very glad that I was able to see this fascinating slice of film history which should be a must see for any animation fan.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to enjoy The Thief and Cobbler: Recobbled Cut, but I was completely enthralled by the restoration of this unfinished masterpiece.  Even though the difference between the beautiful, original work and the recreated sequences is very evident, Garret Gilchrist has cut together many of the old existing scenes with newly created footage to bring the film closer to its original form.  Gilchrist, a lifelong Richard Williams fan, has restored the entire film frame by frame in Photoshop, After Effects, Final Cut Pro, and other programs to recreate scenes that were never animated.  He also removed dirt and splices.  Garret says that he did not undertake this project for any financial gain but as a labor of love, and when word got out about his project animators who had worked on the film came forward with rare original art work that they had saved. Don’t expect to see Williams’ masterpiece as he intended it to look, but it is definitely worth it to see the beautiful original footage.

Last year I spent an afternoon at the Script Dating session and I felt that it was definitely time well spent so I went back again this year and I was definitely not disappointed that I did.  The intensive workshop is designed to give script writers and animators the opportunity to bounce their ideas off the rest of the group and get constructive feedback.  Session leader Matthew Curlewis, a professional script advisor, also gave each participant detailed, personal advice.  The only strict rule of the session is that what is said in the group stays in the group so I can’t talk about any of the projects but I can say that last year’s session helped me get on track with my personal project and the advice that I received this year has helped me to refine details and fine tune my project.  Whether you are still in the formative stage or you think that your project just needs a little fine tuning, I strongly recommend that you spend an afternoon Script Dating next year.

Not all of the excitement took place in the screening rooms.  On Saturday afternoon the upstairs Eye Arena came alive with the sock puppet sweatshop where you could create your own personal sock friend at tables piled high with yarn, sequins, and assorted bits and pieces plus hot glue guns and needle and thread.  Organized by those fun loving guys from Cardboard.com who brought us Robot Wars last year, the sock puppets were a great hit this year because everyone could join in and there were some wonderful creations indeed.  After a busy afternoon of creating there was a sock puppet party which featured sock puppet arm wrestling.

The sock puppet workshop
The sock puppet workshop

 

Nik showing off his sock friend
Nik showing off his sock friend
Sock friends waiting for the sock wrestling contest
Sock friends waiting for the sock wrestling contest
Rebekah Villon, ASIFA Portland Int. Board member with sock friend
Rebekah Villon, ASIFA Portland Int. Board member with sock friend

The 6 day festival gave the record number 9139 visitors the opportunity to see more than fifty screening and events.  The state of the art Eye Film Institute was transformed into a retro wonderland.  Along with adding an extra day, KLIK also included a café and a screening room in the Toren building next door, which extended the growing festival to two buildings this year.   At the Fabulous Fifties Party you could dance the night away. KLIK! KLIK! Boom featured loud music and your chance to lose your voice shouting over the noise at your friends.

Last year Sahar Demnati created the wonderful blue KLIKBot costume and the roving robot became an instant hit.  This year she added a larger than life box of popcorn and a life sized cotton candy costume to join the robot in his wonderings around the Eye.  If the costumes make your mouth water for the real thing you could get all of the free cotton candy you could eat from the volunteer manned cotton candy machine in the lobby.  I hope that next year the festival will add a popcorn machine because there is no cotton candy in the Let’s All Go To the Lobby trailer but there is definitely popcorn.  Let’s face it, we can only eat so much of the gooey pink stuff but I for one count popcorn as one of my basic food groups.

Cotton Candy handing out Oreos after the Cartoon Modern screening
Cotton Candy handing out Oreos after the Cartoon Modern screening

 

KLIKbot and friend
KLIKbot and friend

Each year I look forward to the KLIK boat trip for guests.  Two and a half hours on a beautiful long boat cruising the picturesque Amsterdam canals is my idea of heaven.  All of the guests are so busy at the festival so this is always the ideal opportunity to get time to have individual conversations.  To add to the fun there was plenty of delicious food and drink proving that the KLIK staff really knows how to treat their guests.

Guests on the boat trip
Guests on the boat trip

All too soon it was time for the closing ceremony where the juries revealed their decisions.  The International Jury was made up of Dutch freelance journalist Kees Driessen, curator at the Tuskanac Cinema in Zagreb, Croation Vanja Hraste, and French author Sylvain Quement.  Student, For Hire, Political, and 3-D Films were judged by Kirsten Ruber, director of Go Shorts Festival in the Netherlands, French digital expert Guillaume Castagne, and Ryan Honey, co-founder of Studio Buck.  A complete list of the winning films is at the end of this article.  After the awards were announced the audience had the chance to relive the  highlights of the week with a Best of KLIK 2013 screening.

This year KLIK managing director Yvonne Van Ulder and her partner Paul van Straten had their own project to manage during the festival.  A few days before the opening of the festival, Yvonne gave birth to a baby boy.  Congratulations to the proud parents and a hearty welcome to Finn van Straten, the newest member of the KLIK staff.  Unfortunately I was in a screening when Yvonne and Finn made a brief appearance at the Eye but Nik got to see them and said that Finn is adorable.

Nancy and Erik van Druen, Interim Festival Co-ordinator
Nancy and Erik van Druen, Interim Festival Co-ordinator

Erik van Drunen, former programmer at the Holland Animation Festival in Utrecht and a noted animation expert, stepped in as Interim Festival Co-ordinator and he did an outstanding job of filling some very big shoes.  The entire KLIK staff also did a marvellous job of making sure the 6 days ran smoothly.  A special round of applause must go to programmer Tünde Vollenbrock who came up with the Cartoon Modern theme and worked tirelessly to put together the six special 1950’s screenings.  I know that it took Tünde a great deal of work to locate some of the prints.  Who would have guessed that finding a 35 mm print of Gay Purr-ee would turn out to be a big problem.  Even Warner Bros. who released the UPA film didn’t have a copy in their vault.

Supergirl Tünde Vollenbrock, Program Head-Cheese
Supergirl Tünde Vollenbrock, Program Head-Cheese

Last but not least, a big thank-you goes to the tireless KLIK volunteers who did everything from manning the entry desk to taking turns at the cotton candy machine, wearing the robot, cotton candy and popcorn costumes, and handing out ballots at the screenings.  Nik and I also owe a special debt of gratitude to Anja Bakker who invited us to stay in her lovely apartment during the festival.

Congratulations to everyone who helped to make KLIK 2013 such a great success.  I am already looking forward to what surprises KLIK 2014 will have in store for us.

There was so much packed into the six day festival that I could write pages about this wonderful event and I had to touch what were the highlights for me but to read more, see lots of photos from this year and learn how your film can be submitted to KLIK 2014 go to:  www.KLIKAMSTERDAM.nl

See you next year!
See you next year!

KLIK! 2013 JURY AWARDS and JURY STATEMENTS

KLIK! AWARD FOR BEST ANIMATED SHORT

TOTO, Zbigniew Czapla, Warsztat Filmowy, PL, 2013, 12:00

In a competition of very different animated shorts from all over the world, in a wide variety of styles, mediums and genres, the winner of the KLIK! Award for best animated short hit us with beautiful and extremely original visuals. With a painterly style, a free-moving camera and a narrative which uses color, abstraction and movement to tell a serious story, our winner convinced us in a field of strong contenders.  A mother’s loss is an animator’s gain.

Vanja Hraste (CR), Kees Driessen (NL), Guillaume Castagné (FR)

KLIK! AWARD FOR BEST ANIMATED STUDENT SHORT

HELPIMAN, Aisha Madu, HKU University of the Arts Utrecht, NL, 2011, 2:57

The most original film in the selection had a good balance between narrative approach and shape work. Tempered animation, with a unique look and approach. This piece incorporated several influences but combined them to create a truly original result.

Ryan Honey (US), Kirsten Ruber(NL), Sylvain Quément(FR)

KLIK! AWARD FOR BEST 3-D STEREOSCOPIC ANIMATED SHORT

ENDTRIP, Olivier Ballast, Koen de Mol, Rick Franssen, HKU University of the Arts Utrecht, NL, 2013, 5:10

This was an unique film, that takes the viewer on an abstract journey, using stereoscopic technology to enhance the experience. The only thing we would ask is that the film makers include some penises to counter the journey through the boobs.

Ryan Honey (US), Kirsten Ruber(NL), Sylvain Quément(FR)

KLIK! AWARD FOR BEST POLITICAL ANIMATED SHORT FILM

LIVE // LOVE // LIKE & SHARE, Eno Swinnen, KASK, BE, 2013, 8:06

This is a laboratory film. We appreciate that it talks about the present times, without forcing a certain opinion. Even if the drawing style is not completely original, the combination of all the elements in this film make it unique and engaging.

Ryan Honey (US), Kirsten Ruber(NL), Sylvain Quément(FR

KLIK! AWARD FOR BEST COMMISSIONED ANIMATION

VITRA SILENT WALL, Dustin Rees, CH, 2012, 1:11

A timeless film, well-balanced and elegant. It is classic but with a strong graphic design. A perfectly intricate relationship with the product. This is a smart, unique commercial that respects the viewer’s intellect.

Ryan Honey (US), Kirsten Ruber(NL), Sylvain Quément(FR)

World Domination Award & Mopti Award

KLIK! WORLD DOMINATION AWARD: Erik-Jan de Boer

MOPTI AWARD

SOLITARY PIER, Jack Shih, Red Alien Studio, Taiwan, 2013, 13:45

TOON BOOM AUDIENCE AWARD

RABBIT AND DEER, Péter Vacz, Moholy-Nagy University of Arts and Design, HU, 2013, 16:15

TOON BOOM YOUNG AUDIENCE AWARD

FOREVER MIME, Michael Visser, il Luster Films, NL, 2013, 7:00



FESTIVAL INTERNATIONAL du COURT METRAGE Lille, France – 9 to 13 October 2013
Sunday November 10th 2013, 5:58 am
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MIXING ANIMATION AND LIVE ACTION FILMS MAKES A TASTY FEAST FOR THE EYES

Festival logo
Festival logo

I was delighted when the Festival International du Court Metrage in Lille, France invited me to be on their jury this year.  Nik and I had been to the festival last year to present a program on the history of animation and I had enjoyed the opportunity to see the live action short films in competition as well as the animation competitions which were in separate programs.

This year the festival made the jury’s job interesting and challenging by dividing the competition screenings into 3 International and 2 National (French) programs with live action and animation screened together in both categories.  I thought that it was going to be difficult to judge both types of films in one program, like comparing apples and oranges, but good film is good film no matter what format it immediately stands out.

Aside from doing our jury duty together I really enjoyed spending time with my fellow jurors.  I already knew British animation director Emma Burch, who I met last year when her first short film Being Bradford Dillman won the L’ Hybride Audience Award at the festival.  I had never met our fellow juror Herve Le Phuez, film programmer for the International French Speaking Film Festival in Namur, Belgium.  He is very charming and knowledgeable about film.  Our jury discussions after each screening were actually a pleasure as the screenings gave us a lot to talk about.

Nancy, Herve Le Phuez, Emma Burch and festival organizer Julie Charnay
Nancy, Herve Le Phuez, Emma Burch and festival organizer Julie Charnay

The quality of programming was very high this year.  There were films that I had seen and enjoyed before, such as the delightful Mademoiselle Kiki of Montparnos.   When we arrived at our final decision we awarded the Best National Film Award to Mademoiselle Kiki stating that the film completely captured the French spirit and that the richness of the different styles perfectly represents the historic persons who were part of Kiki’s life.  She was someone all three of us wanted to know more about.

There were also many new surprises.  Les Lezards (The Lizards) by French director Vincent Mariatte was a delightful live action film.  I could not help but fall in love with the two loveable losers, Leon and Bruno, who are waiting in a Turkish bath house where Leon has arranged to meet a girl he met on the internet.  The use of black and white perfectly captures the expressions on the faces of the two lead characters, played by Vincent Macaigne and Benoit Forgeurd. I was told that Macaigne is the face of the fresh new wave of French cinema and a very popular film star.  I don’t want to give away the plot of the film because it is worth seeing.   The expression on the two characters faces at the end of the film is priceless.  We awarded Les Lezards a Special Mention in the National Competition.

No matter how excellent a live action film is, animation is still my first love and there was a wide variety of entertaining animation.  The Mystery of Malakka Mountain (Tajemnica Gory Malakka) by Polish animator Jakub Wronski is about a boy growing up and the need to know the truth about his missing flying father, an aviation hero.  What I liked even more than the story was the intriguing stylized look of the film a-la the style of German-American Pop Artist Richard Lindner.

Hungarian animator Peter Vacz’s Rabbit and Deer (Nyuszi Es Oz) brought a smile to my face.  It is a charming film about the friendship between two loveable characters whose peculiar dilemma leads to a bittersweet end.  The opposition of the simple hand drawn style and the 3-D puppet animation worked perfectly to illustrate the rabbit and deer’s radically changed situation.  The film is engaging to both children and adults and we selected it as the award winner of the Young Audience from 5 to 8 years old award.  In our jury statement we said that “we chose this film for its clever combination of 2D and 3D animation which helped us find our inner child”.

I am a strong believer in the power of animated docs to tell difficult stories that would be too painful in live action.  Swiss animators Sam and Fred Guillaume have given life to the often silent voice of the homeless in La Nuit De L’Ours (The Night of the Bear).  The Guillaumes put the voices of homeless people telling their own stories of how they ended up living on the street into the bodies of animals who come to the bear’s home every night for a hot meal and a bed.  The film touched me and I am happy to say that the audience shared my feelings.  Far too often the Audience Award goes to a short funny film, but the audience in Lille showed their taste and sensitivity by awarding The Night of the Bear the Audience Choice Award.

One other live action film really deserves a mention.  The Mass of Men by British director Gabriel Gauchet was inspired by the 2011 London riots and the government’s response to the frustration and disillusionment of the masses of unemployed trapped in the rules of the uncaring system. In this dark comedy, Richard arrives three minutes late for his job center appointment and his case worker, trapped in the rigid rules of the system, has no choice but to penalize him with a week’s suspension of his benefit check.  A frustrated Richard gets help from an unexpected event and in the end he decides to take matters into his own hands.  All during the festival this powerful portrayal of a terrible indignity suffered by people throughout the world kept coming back to mind.  My fellow jurors were also moved by the film and we awarded it the International Grand Prix.

One of the highlights of the festival each year is Animation Night.  For nine hours from 9 PM to 6 AM the historic Sebastopol Theatre floor and two balconies were packed with over 1,200 animation fans that were treated to a wide selection of shorts and video clips ranging from the sublime to the absurd.   Throughout the night three feature films were screened, Frankenweenie, the beautifully done Spanish puppet animation O Apostolo, and to finish off the night Amer Beton, Michael Arias’ 2006 adaptation of the Japanese comic  by Taiyo Matsumoto. This year Anima’est in Bucarest, who also presents a similar night of animation at their festival, was invited to program three hours of Animated Nights.

People arrived with their pillows and blankets ready for a night of fun viewing.  Breakfast was served to the hardy survivors at dawn.  For the price of 15 Euros (10 Euros for students) nine hours of animation and breakfast is a great bargain and worth a trip to the festival even if you didn’t see any other program.  It is also an excellent way for the festival to build audiences for their competition programs.

Midnight outside the San Sebastopol theater between Night of Animation shows
Midnight outside the San Sebastopol theater between Night of Animation shows

On Friday morning there was the Innovative Tools for Visual and Media Literacy.  The half day event of talks and demonstrations featured European designers of visual literacy tools such as serious games, web platforms, software, touch tablets, etc. as well as university professors, consultants, and representatives of French and European public organizations such as the British Film Institute.  The event attracted a large crowd and gave professionals and students an opportunity to ask questions and exchange ideas.

The festival wasn’t all about watching and listening.  The 48 Hour short film marathon gave teams of students the opportunity to be creative.  This year’s theme Laws of Gravity was randomly picked out of a hat at 6:30 Friday evening.  Each team had two days to make a short film of no less than four minutes.  The films were screened for the public on Sunday evening.  The winning film was selected by a panel of professionals from various branches of the animation world.

Last year I thought that it was a shame that we were not given an opportunity to meet the film makers who were at the festival.  This year The Brunch solved that problem.  Sunday morning over a lovely selection of fruit, cheese, a croissant, and delicious paté the film makers were interviewed and the audience was given the opportunity to ask them questions.  I was particularly interested to hear what French film maker Caroline Poggi had to say about her live action film Chiens (Dogs).

When I saw Caroline’s 24 minute film set in the mountains of Corsica in the National Competition program I thought that the film was visually stunning. It’s a fascinating picture about a young man living alone with his dogs in a remote mountain cabin, however I still don’t understand the  shocking ending of the film and I’m sorry to say that Caroline’s interview didn’t shed any light on the ending nor did I have a chance to talk to her privately.  I don’t want to give the ending away but, I am still thinking about the film and am as confused as when I saw it.

At the awards ceremony I was amazed to hear the Young Jury announce that their special mention award went to Chiens.  I am sorry that I did not have the opportunity to talk to them about their choice after the ceremony.  The young jury was made up of school students from Lille and its twin city Esch-Sur-Alzette, Luxembourg and I heard that they had quite heated discussions about the films and it took quite a while for them to reach a decision.

After the evening screenings at L’Hybride the comfy couches that are the theatre seats were replaced with canvas reclining chairs for an interactive project created by the Collective/1 Minute 69 during their spring residency at L’Hybride.  The audience was given laser pointers which we aimed at various points around the room while a video streamed on two walls.  There was also an installation in an alcove on the third wall.  When a laser beam hit a correct point it would change the action on the video or reveal hidden things in the alcove installation.  It was great fun to sit in the beach chairs and be part of the experience bringing hidden images to life.

L'Hybride screening room
L’Hybride screening room
Digital Stories interactive presentation
Digital Stories interactive presentation

The main part of the festival takes place in two locations.  L’Hybride is a music, art, and film venue with a homey feel and friendly bartenders.  Gare Saint Savuers is a former train station that has been converted into an arts and events space.  The renovated complex is also home to a trendy hotel, café, and exhibition space.  Although Gare Saint Savuers lacks the cozy charm of L’Hybride, it does have an excellent screening room.

The professional jury on the grounds of Gare Saint Sauveur. L to R - Nancy, Herve Le Phuez and Emma Burch
The professional jury on the grounds of Gare Saint Sauveur. L to R - Nancy, Herve Le Phuez and Emma Burch

Last year the Closing Ceremony was held at the Sebastopol Theatre and was immediately followed by Animated Nights.  This year the all night event was held on a separate evening at the Gare Saint Savuers theater.  This was much better because last year even though the winners were presented their awards on the stage of the beautiful theatre and a film clip was screened, they were lost in the shuffle of a theatre full of people who were waiting for the “main event”.  Unfortunately, unlike last year, none of the winning filmmakers were physically present this year but they all sent video thank-yous and the ceremony felt like the standalone event it deserves to be.  A full list of the award winners appears at the end of the article.

The young jury at the Gare Saint Suaveur theater
The young jury at the Gare Saint Suaveur theater

The International Short Film Festival is organized by Les Rencotres Audiovisuelles which is dedicated to show-casing independent film, visual creations, and digital arts.  They also develop educational projects in schools.  CineSoup is their short film traveling program.  They also have Thursday through Sunday screenings at L’Hybride year round as well as offering digital residencies.  In addition to the short film festival they also put on Animation Fest held both in Lille and  in the nearby city of Tourcoing which brings professionals in the animation and digital arts together with animation students from throughout Europe.

I cannot thank Festival director Julie Charnay enough for inviting me to be part of the festival this year.  She and her fantastic staff were so kind and the hospitality was so generous.  A special thank you goes to Cyril Mouthier who made sure that the jury was always on time and arranged for us to have a driver whenever we needed one. Last but not least was the large army of volunteers who were always there to help in any way they could. I have served on many juries and this festival gave me one of the clearest, easy to follow schedules of when and where I had to be along with an easy to use jury book which I appreciated.  I have served on some juries where they give you a pad of paper, and that’s it.

I came home with such lovely memories of the festival and urge anyone who is invited to accept.  You will have a wonderful time at an exciting festival in a beautiful town.  You can visit the festival’s website for more information at:

www.festivalducourt-Lille.com

AWARDS

Professional Jury:  Emma Burch, Herve La Phuez, and Nancy Denney-Phelps

GRAND PRIX NATIONAL – 3 days of sound post production provided by Le Fresnoy

Mademoiselle Kiki et les Montparnasse (Madam Kiki of Montparnasse)  - Amelie Harrault, France

SPECIAL MENTION (NATIONAL)

Les Lezards (The Lizards) –Vincent Mariette, France

GRAND PRIX INTERNATIONAL -3.000 Euros in material rental (cameras and machinery) provided by Next Shot

The Mass of Men (La masse des homes) – Gabriel Gauchet, Great Britian

SPECIAL MENTIONS (International)

Sevilla – Bram Schouw, The Netherlands

GRAND PRIX JUNENE PUBLIC (Films for the Young Audience) – Funding worth 1.000 Euros provided by Pictanovo

Nyuszi es Oz (Rabbit and Deer) – Peter Vacz, Hungary

SPECIAL MENTION IN FILMS FOR THE YOUNG AUDIENCE

Merci mon chien (A Dog’s Life) – Julie Rembauville and Nicolas Bianco-Levrin, France

PRIX DU PUBLIC – 1.500 Euros in equipment provided by Key Grip Systems

La Nuit de l’Ours (The Night of the Bear) – Sam snd Fred Guillaume, Switzerland

Young Jury:  Made up of young people from Lille and its twin city Esch-sur-Alzette

PRIX DU JURY JEUNE (Young Jury Award) – 3.000 euros of equipment rental provided by CinePL

Penny Dreadful – Shane Atkinson, United States

SPECIAL MENTION DU JURY JEUNE (Special Mention of the Young Jury)

Chiens (Dogs) – Philippe Gamer, France

PRIX DU JEUNE PUBLIC (PRIZE OF THE YOUNG AUDIENCE0

Der Klein Vogel und das Blatt (The Little Bird and the Leaf) – Lena von Dohren, Switzerland

PRIX DES TRES COURTS (BEST VERY SHORT FILM)

The Chase –Philippe Gamer, France

LE CHOIX DU PUBLIC DE L’HYBRIDE (AWARD FROM THE L’HYBRIDE AUDIENCE)

Memorable Moi (Remember Me) ­Jean-Francois Asselin, Canada

 



CELEBRATING 20 YEARS OF KROKING DOWN THE RIVER: KROK International Animation Film Festival 1 - 10 September, 2013 - Odessa to Kiev, Ukraine on the MS Dnieper Star
Monday October 21st 2013, 9:49 am
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KROK International Animated Film Festival celebrated its 20th birthday this year and oh what a nine-day birthday party it was!  Breaking with the usual festival tradition of showing the first competition program at a theatre followed by a welcome dinner on the ship on opening night, we were taken to a beach club overlooking the Black Sea in Odessa.   From the moment we arrived at the opening ceremony at the beautiful Otrada Beach Club, I knew that it was going to be a special year.

The KROK banner on our boat
The KROK banner on our boat

There were welcome speeches and a special salute by Yuri Norshtein to Edward Nazarov, Russian president of the festival who was sadly unable to sail with us this year.  Then came a live demonstration of the unique art of Hungarian sand animator Ferenc Cako, a member of the jury this year.  This was followed by a screening of the French feature film The Day of the Crows directed by Jean-Christopher Dessaint, and a sumptuous feast served under the stars on the club’s lawn.
KROK was not the only one celebrating a birthday this year.  The renowned Pilot Studio, the first independent Soviet Film Studio, is 25 years old this year.  The retrospective screening “Pilot Studio is 25 Years Old — A story of success, struggle, and creation . . .” paid tribute to the legion of films that the studio has produced and the man whose vision and stubborn determination created this great studio again all odds, Alexander Tatarsky.

Alexander brought together a group of talented, like-minded animators to create Pilot’s first film Lift 1 as well as Igor Kovalev’s classic Kafkaesque Hen His Wife.  Working in a dilapidated church under very difficult conditions, the studio fostered young talent and built up a stunning body of post-perestroika films.

Tatarsky’s greatest legacy is The Pile of Gems project, a series of short animations based on fairy tales from all of the former Soviet Union’s many diverse regions.  Launched in 2004 the films are made in different styles by various top Russian and Ukrainian animators.  To date Pilot has released more than 60 of these delightful films that continue to win awards at festivals around the world.

Sadly, Alexander Tatarsky is not here to see the success of his beloved Pile of Gems project because he unexpectedly passed away in 2007, but his spirit and love of life lives on in the films that Pilot Studio continues to create. Tatarsky was known for his immense sense of humor and each year since his passing, the KROK festival presents The Plasticine Crow trophy in his honor to the most humorous film at the festival. The trophy is names after Alexander’s classic 1981 animation The Plasticine Crow, which won numerous awards.

Following the screening of a selection of Pilot short animation’s, film historian Natalia Lukinykh’s moving 2008  documentary Alexander Tatarsky — How to Embrace the Immense was shown. Natalia’s film is part of her The Restless Talents documentary series.  Last but not least a group of past and present Pilot studio creators came to the front to say a few words.

Pilot Studios directors celebrating 25 years of memories with  the audience
Pilot Studios directors celebrating 25 years of memories with the audience

For the last two decades the Shar Studio has earned the reputation as the strongest Russian school of animation.  The school grew out of the workshop for scriptwriters and directors conducted by such well known animators as Edward Nazarov, Yuriy Norstein, Fedor Khitruk, and Andrey Khrzhanovsky. Current leaders of Russian animation such as Alexander Petrov, Ivan Maximov, and Mikhail Aldashin received their training at the workshop. In the early ‘90’s Shar school-studio was born on the premise of parallel production of new films by experienced professionals and student’s works created during the 2 year course. In the last 2 decades, Shar Studio has earned the reputation as the most important Russian national school of animation and their faculty and students’ films have won more than 50 awards world-wide. One of my favourite films Caution, the Doors Are Opening was created at the school in 2005 by Anastasia Zhuravleva when she was a student of Ivan Maximov, and was included in the school’s retrospective screening. This clever film was made using ordinary things that are found in every home’s sewing basket such as buttons, safety pins and a thimble to tell the story of 24 hours in a Moscow subway station. The 12 films screened were made between 1995 and 2011, and included A Mermaid made in 1996 by Alexander Petrov.

Animated propaganda films have always fascinated me, and I was really looking forward to the Animated Propaganda program of early Ukrainian/Soviet animation. Early avant-garde animated films of the 1920’s were influenced by constructivism and technological experimentation and covered such timely topics as disarmament, social construction, and bureaucracy. Beginning in 1927, animation advertisements, as they were called, were screened prior to a feature film and were often animated in the style of a newsreel, as in The Tale of General Disarmament. The Post paid homage to the organization and perseverance of the Soviet postal service to deliver a letter no matter what obstacles stood in the way and to the valour of the men who delivered the mail.

I was fascinated by Dripreistan, a 1927 propaganda film about the building of the Dnieper Hydroelectric Station. The film used animation to show the flooding of the towns behind the dam when it was built. The flooding resulted in the building of a massive set of three chambered locks almost 2 kilometers long, which made navigation by large boats on the river possible. Our boat passed through these locks on our way up the river and it was a very impressive sight indeed.

This year the festival selection committee did an exceptional job, and there were so many wonderful films to watch that I can’t possibly write about them all. One of my favorites was My Mum Is an Aeroplane, by Russian animator Julia Aronova.  The colourful hand drawn celebration of the diversity of mothers is very humorous and touching at the same time. The narrative is told in poetic form and Julia told me that the poem was written by Sasha Nochin, a strolling musician with the band Pakava It, based on a story which Julia wrote. I often find the voice of a very young child narrating a film to be annoying, but the voice of the 5 year old boy who narrates this film fits perfectly. I understand that a different child’s voice was used on the US version and I hope it has the same magic quality that the original voice has. My Mum Is an Aeroplane was awarded the Tatarsky Plasticine Crow award for its original humor.

Dutch animator Kris Genijn’s History of Pets is a black humoured trip down memory lane as the narrator recalls all the childhood pets who met their end under most curious circumstances. The film brought back memories to me of the many four legged and reptilian members in my household that I have known and loved over the years.

One of the things that I appreciate about KROK is the opportunity to see not only Russian and Ukrainian animation but films from countries that are not screened often at other festivals such as Moldova, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. DIJ Death Fails created at Simpals Studio in Moldova by Dmitry Voloshin is about a truck driver who falls asleep at the wheel and ends up in the hospital. The grim reaper arrives immediately but as the computer animated film shows, being the Angel of Death isn’t always easy. The film is a pilot for a planned series.

Ukrainian animator Vladimir Goncharov’s Lita Moi took me into the world of renowned Ukrainian folk artist Maria Primachenko. Maria spent her entire life in a very small village but she transformed her world into a colourful fantasy of naive art. Lita Moi, based on Maria’s vivid images, brought life to her paintings, which I saw several years ago in Kiev at the National Museum of Ukranian Folk Art.

In Sherlock Holmes and the Little Chimney Sweeps Ukraine animator Aleklsandr Boubnov has brought the familiar characters of the great detective, his devoted companion Dr Watson and the whole crew that frequented 221B Baker Street to life in a new case that begins with a mysterious explosion of the Admiralty Office fireplace and the theft of classified documents from the safe. I think that it is always chancy when you try to bring really iconic characters that everyone knows to life and I was a bit sceptical about the 34 minute film, but I ended up being totally charmed by it. The cut out animation gave the characters a unique look rather than trying to make them look lifelike and the story was original and charming. A friend who worked on the project told me that Aleksandr made the film as a pilot for a TV series and I think it would definitely be an entertaining show.

I was enthralled by Youri Tcherenkov’s Father Frismas (Le Pere Frimas). Pere Frimas lives on the very top of the highest mountain in the Alps and he controls when and how much snow will fall. Every year he makes sure that the snow covers everything and then suddenly one year nothing happened as usual. The drawn animation is full of delightful characters, two and four legged, and the intricate back ground art was the perfect touch. The 26 minute film was made for French television and at KROK it won the top award in the Films for Children category.

When we weren’t watching films there were plenty of other programs taking place. Coffee Chats with the directors gave everyone a chance to listen to the creators talk about their film and to ask them questions. The 2 hours I spent in the creative presentation by US producer and script writer Charles Swenson titled “US/International Storytelling for Animated Film and Television” was time well spent. Charles who has received an Oscar nomination and won an Emmy for The Rugrats certainly knows what he is talking about when it comes to scriptwriting. He has the added distinction to have not only worked in Hollywood, but also at Pilot Studio where he was the writer and producer of Bookashkis. The 2002 film, directed by Mikhail Aldashin, won numerous awards internationally. Charles is now primarily spending his time painting and when he showed me photos of a number of his canvases, I was quite impressed. You can check out his paintings on this website:   charlesgswenson.com

It was great to spend time with my old friends Marcy Page and Normand Roger. Marcy, a Senior producer at the National Film Board of Canada, has been responsible for so many award winning films such as The Danish Poet, Madam Tutli-Putli, and Ryan to name just a few, so I welcomed the opportunity to hear her presentation “Stories From The NFB:  Confessions of a Producer”. Being quite the lady, Marcy didn’t have any really scandalous confessions, but she did tell some amusing stories about her adventures at NFB and showed us some wonderful films. Normand gave a Composer’s Masterclass focusing on sound and music in animation.

Renowned film composer Normand Roger serenading us
Renowned film composer Normand Roger serenading us

As always at the festival there were several dogs and children on board. The young people were kept busy at their own workshop where, with the assistance of professional animators, the future animators created a film which was screened at the closing night ceremony.

Russian artist Gosha Likhovetsky helping young animators in the workshop
Russian artist Gosha Likhovetsky helping young animators in the workshop

Of course KROK is not all about watching film. There is plenty of time for fun, dancing on the top deck, and just watching the world go by from a deck chair as we drifted up the river. Late at night the action was on the top deck where there was music, dancing and lots of drink. One of the nicest customs at KROK is the tradition of bringing out food to share with everyone late at night, which is important because I have learned that when drinking vodka you need to eat a bite or two after each drink. One night the Swiss contingent threw a fondue party on the top deck complete with fondue pot. Some nights the screening room was turned into the Re-Animation Club where different people performed and every night you could find groups of people gathered in the public areas inside playing music, singing and talking.

Russian director Ivan Maximov DJ-ing on the top deck
Russian director Ivan Maximov DJ-ing on the top deck

 

French director Bastien Dubois and Nancy
French director Bastien Dubois and Nancy
Russian director Svetlana Andrianova with Nancy
Russian director Svetlana Andrianova with Nancy
Polish directors Izabela Plucinska and Marcin Gizycki with his wife, Agnieszka Gizycka
Polish directors Izabela Plucinska and Marcin Gizycki with his wife, Agnieszka Gizycka
Ferenc Cako takes a break from jury duty to relax on the top deck in Sebastopol harbor
Ferenc Cako takes a break from jury duty to relax on the top deck in Sebastopol harbor
Estonian director Hardi Volmer and Nancy
Estonian director Hardi Volmer and Nancy

When you begin to see groups of people with their heads together and they stop talking when anyone approaches you know that Carnival night is getting near. Carnival is a high point of the social life on the boat when everyone dresses up and performs for each other. Right after dinner on the appointed night people start to scurry all over searching for props and costume material and strange noises come from behind cabin doors as acts are rehearsed. I was a part of a six person group along with Karin Vandenrydt, programmer at Anima Brussels, Noemie Marsily and Carl Roosens from Brussels who were at KROK with their lovely film Around the Lake, Dutch animator Kris Genijn, whose History of Pets made me smile, and Mukund Bhalkeghare from Studio Eeksaurus in India. This year the carnival theme was Noah’s Ark and we brought Noah’s Ark Restaurant to life parading the regulations posted outside our shipboard restaurant such as “No outside beverages in the dining room” and the “do not change your table” rule. Mukund skilfully played a waiter and the rest of us were various unruly animals.  To add to the effect the ship’s restaurant kindly loaned us table clothes and plates and the restaurant staff who came to Carnival got a hearty laugh out of our performance. Performances at Carnival are always one of those “you had to be there to see it” events. The audience and Carnival jury thought that we were quite funny and we were lucky enough to win a very fitting prize of a whole watermelon, dried fish, and cans of beer which we took to the top deck to share with everyone later that night.

Nancy's Carnival group getting ready to go on stage
Nancy’s Carnival group getting ready to go on stage

There were group excursions at various ports of call but since I have been on this trip several times I opted for my own adventures. KROK means step in Russian and this year our boat, the MS Dnieper, left from Odessa as we began our steps up to Kiev. No matter how many times I have been there I always have my picture taken on the 192 stairs of the Odessa Steps which Eisenstein made famous in his classic film Battleship Potemkin.

Karin Vandenrydt, programmer at Anima Brussels with Nancy on the Odessa Steps
Karin Vandenrydt, programmer at Anima Brussels with Nancy on the Odessa Steps

 Odessa more than deserves its nickname of The Pearl of the Black Sea. The wide boulevards are lined with sycamore and chestnut trees and the beautiful classic architecture make an elegant impression. Odessa has a massive outdoor market full of all sorts of unexpected treasurers. On every visit I get a pair of thick woollen socks made by the Bubas who sit in their stalls knitting which I use inside my winter slippers. All through the cold months I think of sunny Odessa as I put on my slippers. I was also glad to see that our favorite Mexican restaurant was still there because they make some of the best Mexican food I have eaten in Europe.

Sailing into Sebastopol’s elegant harbour is always breath taking. During the Soviet era Sebastopol, home to the Soviet navy, was closed to non-residents who had to apply to the authorities for temporary visitor’s permits to enter the city. Now it is a prime holiday destination and as you stroll the broad main street, you hear a wide variety of languages spoken.

The Ukrainian Naval Band serenaded our boat when we arrived in Sebastopol
The Ukrainian Naval Band serenaded our boat when we arrived in Sebastopol
On the deck, KROKers enjoying the Naval Band
On the deck, KROKers enjoying the Naval Band
David Cherkassky, Ukrainian President of KROK at the Sebastopol harbor
David Cherkassky, Ukrainian President of KROK at the Sebastopol harbor

Once again this year I took the local bus out to the old Greek ruins where my favourite beach is located. As I walk through the ruins of Chersones it always amazes me to realize that the tile work I am walking over is more than 2,500 years old. This year the weather was cool and windy but I did brave the elements for a quick dip in the Black Sea.

Visits to ports are fun but I enjoy it even more when our boat sails out of Sebastopol and we leave the Black Sea to sail up the Dnieper River. The stops at ports are fewer and shorter so we are all together creating our own fun every evening.

Sailing into Kiev was a bittersweet moment. As the giant titanium Motherland statue followed by the golden domes of the Kiev Perchersk Lavra came into view, it meant that another year of KROK was almost over; but a day in the beautiful city of Kiev lay ahead before the closing ceremony that evening. The ceremony was held at the House of Cinema where the Ukrainian office of KROK is located.

The ceremony began with the screening of the young people’s film. Then came a documentary of our 9 day adventure made by videographer Igor Koziyanchuk. Igor seemed to be everywhere on board, catching everything with his camera and it was delightful to relive our adventure there on the screen. The film will be shown again next year at the Opening Ceremony of KROK 2014. Hungarian sand artist Ferenc Cako also gave us another live demonstration of his fascinating art of sand animation.

KROK bells waiting to be awarded to the winners
KROK bells waiting to be awarded to the winners

Finally it was time for the jury to take the stage to announce their decisions to the audience full of animators and dignitaries. This year’s jury was composed of Evgueni Delioussine, Russian born director who now lives in the United States; Ukrainian director Stepan Koval; Maria Mouat, Russian Director; Estonian cameraman and scriptwriter Janno Poldma; and Hungarian animator and sand animation master Ferenc Cako. The 2013 Grand Prix was awarded to Feral by Daniel Sousa from the United States. A complete list of all of the winning films is at the end of this article.

Nancy toasts Swiss director Dustin Reese on his win in the 5 to 10 minute film catagory
Nancy toasts Swiss director Dustin Reese on his win in the 5 to 10 minute film catagory

Following the ceremony we returned to the boat for our farewell feast. Amidst all of the delicacies we were served, including the eating of the traditional Chicken Kiev in Kiev and copious amounts of vodka and wine, we partied the night away with no one wanting to remember that it would be our last night together.

It is said that the friends that you make at KROK are your friends for life and after many years sailing on the KROK boat I know that this is very true. I never think of it as goodbye to everyone but just see you soon, and I am already looking forward to KROK 2014 which will be the student year sailing in Russia. You can learn more about KROK International Animation Festival on their website:     www.krokfestival.com

Jury Awards

The International Jury Committee consisting of Ferenc Cako (Hungary) – The Head of the Jury Committee, Janno Põldma (Estonia), Maria Mouat (Russia), Stepan Koval (Ukraine), Evgueni Delioussine (USA)

The Awards:

In the category “Films up to 5 minutes”:

- Diploma “For the tragic comedy in 3D” – to “Dji. Death Fails”, director Dmitry Voloshin (Moldova);

- Diploma “For the daintiness of the style” to “Choir Tour”, director Edmunds Jansons (Latvia;

- Diploma “For proving that the size doesn’t matter” to “A Different Perspective”, director Chris O’Hara (Ireland);

- Prize in the category – to “I Saw Mice Burying a Cat”, director Dmitry Geller (Russia, China).

In the category “Films of 5 – 10 minutes”:

- Diploma “For the exquisite attention towards the Most Intimate” to “Lay Bare”, director Paul Bush (Great Britain);

- Diploma “For having created her own “Taj Mahal”” to “Chinti”, director Nataliya Mirzoyan (Russia);

- Prize in the category – to “Borderline”, director Dustin Rees (Switzerland).

 

In the category “Films of 10 – 50 minutes”:

- Diploma “For a new approach to the interpretation of a classical detective story” to “Sherlock Holmes and Little Chimney Sweeps”, director Aleksandr  Bubnov (Ukraine);

- Diploma for “For the artistic and airy presentation of the sombre topic” to “One for the Road”, director Lander Ceuppens (Belgium);

- Prize in the category – to “Mother and Son”, director Andrey Ushakov (Russia).

 

In the category “Films for Children”:

- Diploma “For the non-boring education” to “The Old Piano Fairy-Tails. Bach”, director Elena Petkevich (Russia, Belarus);

- Prize in the category and $4000 - to “Father Frismas”, director Youri Tcherenkov (France).

In the category “Applied and commissioned animation”:

- Diploma “For the ironic look at the contemporary art” to “The Erarta Museum Advertising”, director Dmitriy Vysotskiy (Russia);

- Diploma “For the best presentation of the folk song… “Once when I served my landlord”” to “Once When I Served My Dear Landlord”, director Mikhail Tumelya (Belarus);

- Prize in the category – to “Shape”, directors Katarzyna Kijek, Przemyslaw Adamski (Poland, Japan).

- Special jury prize “For the expressiveness of the cinematic style” to “Palmipedarium”, director Jeremy Clapin (France);

- Special jury prize “For the streetcar called “Desire”” to “Tram”, director Michaela Pavlatova (France);

- Special jury prize “For the First Professional Film” and 5000$ to “To Santiago”, director Mauro Carraro (Switzerland);

- Special Alexander Tatarskiy prize “The Plasticine Crow” – “Virtuoso Pilot” and 8000$ to “My Mum Is an Aeroplane”, director Julia Aronova (Russia).

- Grand Prix and $10,000 to “Feral”, director Daniel Sousa (USA).