(That You May Never Have Heard Of!)
Note: Posted by Lobell, written by Larry Ruppel
There is a film festival held each year in a storybook-like village that is best described as one of the most magical experiences that can be had for aficionados of animated films. I am referring to the Annecy International Animated Film Festival, which takes place every mid-June on a picturesque lake in French Alps, about half an hours drive from Geneva, Switzerland.
For anyone who is truly enamored with the art of the animated film, this festival should serve as a pilgrimage, an essential, sensory-overloaded journey to be undertaken at least once in one’s lifetime.
As a regular participant, I have seen this event, along with animation’s reach and technology, grow and expand over several decades. The festival originated as an offshoot of the Cannes Film Festival in 1960, and was held bi-annually until 1998. Since then the festival has taken place annually, no doubt a result of the quantum leap in the sheer amount of animation produced every year, an outcome of easily available filmmaking technology.
For those in the animation business (and for those who love animation), the experience of being surrounded by fellow animation professionals, eager students and passionate fans can be quite intoxicating. The festival often seems powered by this intoxication, both cerebral and liquid, and throws in its fantasyland surroundings to complete the otherworldly euphoria that builds over the course of its six-day run.
The extensive choice of films on exhibition includes competitions for best short, feature, student, commercial and television series. Added to that mix are programs of retrospectives, behind-the-scenes, sneak previews, exhibitions, conferences, recruitment sessions, parties and outdoor screenings. The tenor of the festival gets an additional shot in the arm midway through when the real money arrives in the form of studios, producers and distributors, who set up a separate exhibition market and conduct high-powered meetings in Annecy’s fanciest hotels.
Another stimulating aspect of the festival is the honoring of the ever-progressing generations of international talent. New stars of animation are heralded each year, building on the work of their forebears, who are often in attendance or in competition as well as presenting their latest works.
All these goings-on swirling around can seem overwhelming, yet it is the visionary films and filmmakers themselves that remain the pulsating center of the festival. Annecy’s heartfelt celebration of graphic, technical and storytelling cinematic innovation and the creators behind the films is what attracts thousands of attendees to this, the longest running and largest animation festival, year after year.
The festival has followed the progression of frame-by-frame filmmaking from hand drawn and stop-motion craft to computer graphics which have revolutionized our vision of film both animated and live-action, and in the process revolutionized our vision of the world.
The short films presented throughout the festival’s history represent a remarkable window into the international zeitgeist of the times. During the 1960’s, stop-motion puppet films from Eastern Europe dominated the awards, often commenting on their current political climes.
Hand-drawn shorts from Western Europe, Canada and the US began ascending in the 70’s and 80’s. The first computer animated short was awarded in 1987 to Pixar’s seminal “Luxo Jr”.
Most contemporary animated films involve computers to assist in editing, compositing and post-production, even if the overall technique is still stop-motion or hand drawn based on the animator’s preferred medium.
These days no one country or technique dominates the overall selections, although each year one country’s animation is highlighted and celebrated.
This year in the 2016 edition, France is the chosen country.
This year’s festival runs from June 13-18, and will be distinguished by no less than three conferences addressing the myriad challenges inherent in the production of Virtual Reality, the nascent technology that is generating all the buzz right now, and promises to transform the world.
The festival screenings afford a fascinating chance to watch visual and thematic trends unfold before your eyes in beautiful theaters with state-of-the-art projection and sound.
The festival’s website is www.annecy.org/home
Try to be there. You will not regret it.
– Larry Ruppel
Larry Ruppel is a journalist who writes and reports on the subject of animation worldwide. He graduated from Pratt Institute and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts.