Fest goes annual to mixed reviews

Annecy enters head-to-head with Zagreb

ANNECY, France — Depending on who you ask, Annecy’s 22nd Animated Film Festival (May 26 31) and Market (May 28 31) marked the first year of a glorious new tradition of making the fest a yearly event or the first year of flagrant disregard for international fest guidelines.

Until Annecy jumped the gun, Annecy and Zagreb hosted their all-animation fests in alternate years, to hew to the International Animated Film Association’s (ASIFA) regulations which, per Pat Raine Webb of ASIFA in London, “take into account the limited resources of students and independent animators, by never scheduling two events on the Continent closer than four months apart.” Zagreb’s animation fest unspools on June 17, less than three weeks after Annecy.

“It’s a very controversial move,” says Webb. “I know of many fine filmmakers who are boycotting Annecy this year and only submitted their work to Zagreb.” Be that as it may, there was plenty to see at Annecy, with 222 films in the Official Selection.

An explosion of animation worldwide — and particularly in France, where 10 times as many animation professionals are active than just a decade ago (from 200 in 1986 to nearly 2,000 last year) — led to Annecy’s decision to become an annual event, one that fest director Jean-Luc Xiberras considers an unqualified success.

“Although it was far from a foregone conclusion, we pulled it off,” said Xiberras at the closing ceremonies.

At the Market, known as Mifa, the number of participants was up from last year, although many attendees noted the absence of stands repping industry heavyweights such as Disney, Warner, ILM and DreamWorks which were prominent at the 1997 Mifa.

But recruiters from these and European animation studios, large and small, were definitely actively on the prowl for fresh talent.

Small and medium-sized companies were peeved to discover that many key Gallic buyers were skipping Mifa in favor of the L.A. Screenings. For French-lingo buyers, Canada’s “Rencontres des Televisions Francophones” also fell on roughly the same dates this year. Annecy plans to avoid scheduling conflicts by slating the 1999 edition for May 31 June 5.

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