"Rio 2096 – Story of Love

The world’s leading annual animation showcase shifts strategy under new director

Making his debut as artistic director of the Annecy Animation Film Festival, Canadian toon producer Marcel Jean aims to shake things up, giving the fest a more international thrust, while emphasizing live-event programming.

Whereas Annecy’s lineup has traditionally been dominated by American, European and Asian features, this year will showcase titles produced or co-produced by Indian, South African and Brazilian outfits, including Arnab Chaudhuri’s action adventure “Arjun, The Warrior Prince,” Anthony Silverston’s family adventure Khumba and Luiz Bolognesi’s stylish futuristic “Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury.”

“We’re seeing a globalization happening in animation, partly because producers increasingly look to recoup their investment from the international market, and that trend is benefiting the quality of the features that come out of emerging countries,” says Jean, who took over the post from Gallic producer Serge Bromberg following a 14-year-run.

Just five of the 23 titles set to screen in Annecy’s selection hail from Europe — a surprise considering the breadth and diversity of the animation production in such territories as France, the Netherlands and Scandinavia.

“We received fewer submissions from Western Europe this year but we know the animation business is cyclical, so we’re not drawing any alarmist conclusions. European films might make a comeback next year,” Jean says.

In the past, Annecy’s competition lineup has often represented a roundup of the best animation produced any given year, regardless of release date (the fest’s top prize, the Cristal, often goes to toons that have already come and gone from theaters). Jean points out that world premieres constitute nearly half of this year’s lineup, while just one competition title, Enzo d’Alo’s “Pinocchio,” has already opened in France. Both Pixar’s “Monsters University” and Universal’s “Despicable Me 2″ will bow in special screenings.

“Something that characterizes the shift that I’ve tried to make is that very few films have already been released,” he says. “We’re considering changing the eligibility criteria starting next year — the animation market is very mature today and the production volume is rich enough in terms of quality and quantity for us to showcase more and more world premieres going forward.”

Additions to Annecy’s Audience Pleasers

New events under tyro director Marcel Jean include:

  • Animation Off-Limits, a sidebar screening short films that mix techniques and cross toon boundaries.
  • New Resistances sidebar features adult-skewing toons like “Un beau matin,” which deals with topics such as the depiction of totalitarianism in science fiction.
  • Things get animated after dark: “We’ll be playing edgier films at night in the vein of midnight screenings to lure the young crowds that come in big numbers every year,” Jean says.
  • The fest debuts an honorary Cristal, spotlighting Polish animation vet Jerzy Kucia as its first recipient.

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