ANNECY, France — “Animal Crackers,” “The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales” and “The Breadwinner” proved to be three standouts among titles at a hugely hectic 2017 Annecy Animation Film Festival which is now taking its brand and the quality auteur-driven animated fare it champions on the road.
Here are 10 Takeaways from this year’s edition:
1.THE WINNERS: ‘ANIMAL CRACKERS’
Competing at Annecy, zany circus comedy “Animal Crackers” boasted a star-studded line-up: How it would perform, however, was anybody’s guess. It proved one of the greatest shows on Annecy’s earth, Variety’s Chief Film Critic Peter Debruge announcing a “delightfully inventive, frequently hilarious animated feature.“ The movie, he mused, suggested “an obvious recipe, but one that too few independent animation companies follow: If you lack the resources to compete with the big boys, put your effort into the writing (and the voices who bring that screenplay to life), which is how “Ice Age” and “Despicable Me” came to be such blockbuster franchises.”
2. ANNECY – AND THE ANIMATION SECTION AT LARGE – SURGES ON
France’s Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival surges on. Accreditations – not attendance – surged past 10,000 this year, for the first time ever; Upping from three-to-four days and adding a Mifa Campus, Annecy’s International Animation Film Market (MIFA) moved past 3,000. To put that in perspective, the Cannes Marché du Film this year hit an all-time record of 12,324 accredited participants. put that down to the explosion of animation around the globe, said MIFA head Mickael Marin. Here, the final frontiers are China and Africa.
3.GKIDS, ANNECY, VARIETY: EXPORTING ONE ANIMATION REVOLUTION TO L.A.
In her keynote, Kristine Belson, Sony Pictures Animation president, recalls that after growing up with a mother who “turned up her nose,” at animation, she discovered the medium late in life, watching the films of Hayao Miyazaki with her small children, “I had my daughter and littler son and I was so entranced and blown away by the beauty in these movies.,” From this October, Gkids, Annecy and Variety will launch a three day animation fest in Los Angeles, Animation is Film, with a highly curated selection of quality auteur-driven movies which have changed careers and with that lives. The world has dozens of toon tests. Few will have the drawing power and track record of Gkids and Annecy to attract the very best in animation and animators to what, strategically slated in the Oscar season, also looks like an obvious Academy Award springboard. Annecy will also launch an Annecy Asia Festival in Seoul from September 2019.
4.WOMEN IN ANIMATION – A WORK IN PROGRESS
Women in Animation (WIA) held its first Summit at Annecy. Panels, such as Exploring Unconscious Bias from Walt Disney Studios’ Julie Ann Crommett, tackled metaphorical bulls by the horns. Some progress is being made. As Annecy’s artistic director Marcel Jean pointed out, six movies in or out of competition this year were directed by women (including its highest-profile competition entry, “Loving Vincent,” from which received a 10-minute standing O. at Annecy). Hard facts suggest any gender balance has a way to go. In a leadership category, the percentage of women employed in an producer or showrunner capacity edged up from 8% in 2006 to 14% in 2017, according to the Animation Guild.
5.THE GREAT GUILLERMO DEL TORO
Annecy saw Guillermo del Toro deliver a fast-talking sage and forceful masterclass at the MIFA Campus which few attendees will forget. Pre-Annecy caught Del Toro in Paris tutoring students at its Gobelins film school, and dragging in friends – Jorge Gutierrez, for example – for impromptu masterclasses. Variety, or at least its Annecy reporters crew, take their collective hat off to a filmmaker who spends much of his career not pursuing his career but trying to help others pursue theirs.
6. OTHER WINNERS: ‘THE BIG BAD FOX AND OTHER TALES,’ ‘THE BREADWINNER’
A stereotype-busting paen to parenthood and Looney Toons meets Miyazaki, produced by Didier Brunner’s Folivari and sold by Studiocanal, “The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales” one of the Festival’s warmest receptions at its world premiere on Thursday. Ireland’s Nora Towney didn’t get all the recognition she deserved for co-directing with Tom Moore’s Oscar nominated “The Secret of Kells.” Again produced by Cartoon Saloon, “The Breadwinner” puts Towney stage front and center in her first solo feature as a director. A Work in Progress presentation at Annecy drilled down on the minute care taken by the film’s technical and art director to make a movie which immerses the spectator in a world, caught in an naturalistic fashion, which is harsh and intimidating though not without a natural beauty.
“For me, the main takeway from Annecy – and indeed the theme of the year – is that China has arrived. We’ve seen Chinese studios and buyers for some time, but they didn’t play a key role,” said David Michel at Paris-based Cottonwood Media. He went on: “What’s really changed the game is the series Super Wings, a Chinese show, with a U.S. producer on board. It’s been a massive success everywhere. Since then, a lot of Chinese animation companies and producers are actively looking for foreign IPs and pre-buys.” On the downside, the Annecy Festival was forced to pull Chines competition contender “Have a Nice Day,” after it was refused a work permit.
8.THE HONEYMOON IS OVER
Fired up by Hollywood studios, China, Netflix and French incentives, cartoon production worldwide may be reaching peak animation, Michel suggested. That of course has a downside: Any animation, even high-end Hollywood animated features bow in an increasingly crowded market. In international, outside France, nearly all governments treat animation as if it were live action’s younger brother, failing to develop specific support systems, said Spanish producer Manuel Cristobal.
9.TALENT TO TRACK
An existential musical, set on a lonely planet of humans with animal heads, “The Burden,” from Sweden’s Niki Lindroth von Bahr, was sparking buzz at Annecy off its Cannes Directors’ Fortnight bow. The first of four part, set at a Long-Stay Hotel was Ingmar Bergman meets Terry Gilliam: Human figures with carp fish heads singing plaintively about the complexities of relationships. Another notable short, “Radio Dolores,” is a beautifully-bleak Finnish claymation about a young busker, the son of two Finnish socialists, who steals into Franco’s post-civil war Spain after his mother’s death with hopes of finding his long since departed father. French short “Negative Space,” from Max Porter and Ru Kuwahata, turns on a young son and timid, hardworking father who find a way to bond with the son packing his father’s suitcase when he travels for work. When his father gets to a hotel he send back a message with just one word, about the packing: “Perfect.” It’s a strange way for a father and son to express their love for each other, but no less of love for that.
10.DEATH TRENDS WELL: ‘COCO’ & ‘BOOK OF LIFE 2’
Pixar’s Day of the Dead-set “Coco” went down a storm at Annecy, as did the announcement by Jorge R. Gutierrez and Reel FX that they are moving forward on a “The Book of Life 2.”
Jamie Lang contributed to this article
ANNECY 2017 INTL. ANIMATION FILM FESTIVAL: SPECIAL PRIZES
Annecy’s major Cristal Award is announced this Saturday June 17 night. A slew of special or sponsor prizes went down Friday evening. Studiocanal’s “Little Vampire,” from Joann Sfar, won from France’s one of two prizes for its production house Autochenille. The major Special Prizes plaudits:
FESTIVALS CONNEXION AWARD – RÉGION AUVERGNE-RHÔNE-ALPES / IN PARTNERSHIP WITH LUMIÈRES NUMÉRIQUES & PILON CINÉMA
“Nothing Happens,” Uri Kranot, Michelle Kranot (Denmark, France)
JUNIOR JURY AWARD FOR A GRADUATION FILM
“What a Peaceful Day,” Eden (Kai-Hsun) Chan, (Taiwan)
JUNIOR JURY AWARD FOR A SHORT FILM
“Valley of White Birds,” Cloud Yang (China)
YOUNG AUDIENCE AWARD
“Hedgehog’s Home,” Eva Cvijanović (Canada, Croatia)
“Negative Space,” Max Porter, Ru Kuwahata (France)
BEST ORIGINAL MUSIC AWARD FOR A SHORT FILM, SPONSORED BY THE SACEM
“Radio Dolores,” Katariina Lillqvist, Kusti Vuorinen (Finland)
GAN FOUNDATION AWARD FOR DISTRIBUTION
“Petit Vampire,” Joann Sfar (France)
CANAL+ CREATIVE AID AWARD FOR A SHORT FILM
“The Ogre,” Laurène Braibant (France)
ANDRÉ-MARTIN AWARD FOR A 2016 FRENCH FEATURE FILM
“The Girl Without Hands,” Sébastien Laudenbach (France)
ANDRÉ-MARTIN AWARD FOR A FRENCH SHORT FILM
ANDRÉ-MARTIN SPECIAL DISTINCTION FOR A FRENCH SHORT FILM
CITY OF ANNECY AWARD
“The Fish Curry,” Abhishek Verma (India)