Embraced by Hollywood, the world’s premier animation festival still builds as animation becomes a worldwide production phenomenon
Illumination Mac Guff’s “Despicable Me 3,” China, Disney-Pixar’s “Coco” and “The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales” look set to figure among highlights at this week’s edition of France’s thriving Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival, a Mecca for animation companies and creatives from Hollywood and the world over, which just doesn’t stop growing.
In just one sign, its International Animation Film Market (MIFA) will add an extra day, kicking in June 13 and moving from three to four days. MIFA accredited delegate numbers were tracking at 2,900 by last Friday, already up on the final 2016 tally go 2,850, said MIFA head Mickael Marin, who added that he hoped final participation would pass 3,000 for the first time ever. Extending ever more towards Annecy’s lake, exhibition floor space is also up 16%, vs. 2016.
Driven by the increase in animation output in most parts of the world, including Africa, Marin said, delegate numbers have now grown 13 years in a row, since 2005, casting MIFA as a metaphor for the international animation scene at large and one of the most robustly-growing industry events in Europe.
Patrick Eveno, CEO of the Annecy Festival’s Citia organization, added that he expected 5% to 10% growth in Annecy Festival accreditation.
Announced by the Annecy Festival as a world premiere, “Despicable Me 3” continues Chris Meledandri’s close relationship with the French festival which has hosted the bows of the first two parts of the franchise and “Minions” – to a $2.7 billion worldwide box office to date.
Director Lee Unkrich and producer Darla K. Anderson, who previously teamed on “Toy Story 3,” will present, along with co-director Adrian Molina, footage from “Coco” – after its new trailer last week, one question is what new footage they might show – while director Dave Mullins and producer Dana Murray will talk up Pixar short “Lost & fOUnd,” which bowed at March’s SXSW Festival.
“Cars 3” will screen at Annecy on Friday June 16, the same say as its commercial bow in the U.S. Guillermo del Toro host Annecy’s inaugural Mifa Campus, and delivers a keynote, as will Eric Coleman, VP at Disney Television Animation, vet Disney director-animator Glen Keane. Japan’s Go Nagai will present “Mazinger Z,” a new animated feature from the Manga series.
The real sign of Hollywood’s raised ambitions and production volume in animation may be seen most clearly in another keynote, by Kristine Belson, president of Sony Pictures Animation, as well as a studio focus presentation by Allison Abbate, EVP Theatrical Animation at Warner Animation Group.
Showcasing presentations of features and TV shows anywhere from development to near completion, Annecy’s Work in Progress section looks particularly rich this year, with Nora Twomey taking an audience through “The Breadwinner,” the latest from Ireland’s Cartoon Saloon (“The Book of Kells,” which Twomey co-directed; “The Song of the Sea”). Jorge R. Gutierrez, director of the vibrant “The Book of Life,” an eye popping celebration of Mexico’s Day of the Dead and its core beliefs which grossed $100 million worldwide, introduces narrative beats and design from his latest toon feature project,“Kung Fu Space Punch,” produced by Dallas-based Reel FX Animation Studios as part of a longterm deal between Gutierrez and Reel FX.
Annecy opens this year with French-Belgian title “Zombillenium,” already seen at Cannes, a comedic horror movie set in a Halloween theme park staffed by real monsters, adapted by Arthur Pins and Alexis Ducord from Pins’ own raved-about comic book series.
That forms just part, however, of one of the most substantial roll-outs of French animation at Annecy in recent years, with Studiocanal, Folivari, ON Animation Studios. Les Armateurs and Ankama all at the festival with new titles.
One of Europe’s animation drivers, Studiocanal is distributing and selling two titles at Annecy: the awaited, three-part “The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales,” produced by Didier Brunner’s Folivari and co-directed by Benjamin Renner, one of the directors on the Academy Award-nominated “Ernest & Celestine”; and “Petit Vampire,” from Joann Sfar (“Gainsbourg”), produced by Autochenille, which Sfar will present as a Work in Progress.
Looney Toons meets Miyazaki, featuring the adventures of a daffy duck, cack-handed rabbit, weedy fox and very sensible pig, not that it does him much good, “The Big Bad Fox” hits Annecy for a one-off special event screening as one of the most buzzed-up of its premieres.
There is also good word-of-mouth on the Celluloid Dreams-sold “Mutafukaz,” another French world premiere and flagship feature from Ankama, the Gallic gaming-comic-book company best known for MMORPGs “Wakfu” and “Dofus” franchises. Co-produced by Japan’s 4ºC Studios, and adapting comic-books from France’s Guillaume “Run” Renard, who helms with Japan’s Shoujirou Nishimi, a trailer suggests the movie channels the aesthetics of Nishimi’s “Batman: Gotham Knight” and 4ºC Studios “Tekkon Kinkreet” into a sci-fi action movie with current social point and a mash-up of three teen deadbeats in a Latino barrio of Dark Meat City, a dystopic version of L.A. populated by monstrous men in black, Shakespeare-quoting street gang leaders and messianic Mexican wrestlers.
Also new is “Tall Tales: The Magical Garden of Antoon Krings,” the latest animated feature from French animation leader ON Animation Studios (“The Little Prince,” “Playmobil”) headed by Aton Soumache and Dimitri Rassam. A classic French animation company, Les Armateurs will present in WIP TV “Un Homme est mort,” set in 1950 France as a man is killed during industrial action, which is set to air on prestigious TV network Arte France.
France’s CNC film-TV board reported this month that French animated feature production rose from three films in 2015 to 10 in 2016, thanks to new CNC incentives which also encouraged producers to relocate their production to France. France’s Animated Feature Producers Union (SPFA) reported that animation sector employees’ total income will rise 30% in the next few years – one indication of growth in a key international market which for the last 20 years has helped drive growth in the sector in Europe.
This year’s Annecy Fest should, however, have belonged to China, Annecy’s 2017 guest country and, as such, the subject of a major multi-part retrospective and exhibition as the biggest Chinese delegation ever hits Annecy’s MIFA market and Chinese companies, once peripheral players on the animation scene, are now boarding animated features as major co-producers or paying good-to-top dollar for rights to China.
The guest country tribute will inevitably be shadowed by the Annecy Festival’s being forced to pull Chinese competition title “Have a New Day,” Liu Jian’s stylish hitman movie, at its producer’s request, and after Chinese authorities refused to grant the film an exit visa. Why a title which played in competition at the 2017 Berlinale should be barred from competing at Annecy is a moot and unanswered question.
There will be large curiosity to see the progress made by Chris Appelhans on “Wish Dragon,” which is fully-funded by Chris Bremble’s Beijing-based VFX house Base FX.
Annecy’s Works in Progress section and ever-more consolidated MIFA Pitching Sessions promise other delights such as TV series “Ella, Oscar & Hoo,” created by Oscar-winning Michael Dudok de Wit, and half-hour movie “The Tales of the Hedgehog,” mixing a social-issue background and exquisite sets, from Academy Award nominated Alain Gagnol and Jean-Loup Felicoli (“A Cat in Paris”).
One U.S. title, Blue Dream Studios’ “Animal Crackers” – directed by Scott Christian Sava, Tony Bancrofta and Jaime Maestro – plays in Annecy Competition, as does British animated feature “Ethel & Ernest,” from Roger Mainwood, based on the latest Raymond Briggs story, here about his parents, voiced by Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn.
Another Annecy competition title, Naoko Yamada’s “My Silent Voice,” turns about a man who sets out to atone for bullying other students when a child. It has been appreciated on foreign release for its full-blown sentiment.
Also from Japan are “Lu Over the Wall,” turning on a middle-school student who meets a mermaid, that marks the first animated film based on an original story from Masaaki Yuasa (“Ping Pong”); and “In This Corner of the World,” from Japan’’s Sunao Katabuchi (“Mai Mai Miracle”), released last November in Japan.
Selected for Cannes Critics’ Week, Ali Soozandeh’s “Tehran Taboo” delivers a politically trenchant look at contemporary Tehran life and, especially, the lack of freedom suffered by women. Also making the Annecy competition cut, “Big Fish & Begoña” is a Chinese fantasy film directed by Liang Xuan and Zhang Chun.
Some competition titles, such as “In This Corner of the World” which Variety called “beguiling anime,” have had a critical reception. Many titles, especially out of competition, such as Mexico’s “Ana and Bruno,” hit Annecy brand new.
The most talked about of Annecy titles may well be “Loving Vincent,” from Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman, which Edward Noeltner’s CMG has pre-sold fulsomely, partly because of its technique – it’s fully painted in the style go Van Gogh, and also its focus: an investigation into the painter’s suicide. Sparking multiple special events which play out over Annecy, “Loving Vincent’s” multiple screenings sold out rapidly when tickets went online last week.
The fact that “Tadeo Jones 2, and the Secret of King Midas” is tipped to become one of if not the highest-grossing film release in Spain this year is another sign of how animation around the world is no longer a local production afterthought.
The Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival runs June 12-17.
“Animal Crackers,” (Tony Bancroft, Scott Christian Sava, Jaime Maestro, U.S., Spain, China)
“A Silent Voice,” (Naoko Yamada, Japan)
“Big Fish & Begonia,” (Xuan Liang, Chun Zhang, China)
“Ethel and Ernest,” (Roger Mainwood, U.K.)
“In This Corner of the World,” (Sunao Katabuchi, Japan)
“Loving Vincent,” (Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman, Poland, U.K.)
“Lu Over the Wall,” (Masaaki Yuasa, Japan)
“Tehran Taboo,” (Ali Soozandeh, Germany)
“Zombillenium,” (Arthur de Pins, Alexis Ducord, Belgium, France)
OUT OF COMPETITION
“1917 – The Real October,” (Katrin Rothe, Germany)
“Ana y Bruno,” (Carlos Carrera, Mexico)
“Ancien and the Magic Tablet,” (Kenji Kamiyama, Japan)
“Deep,” (Julio Soto, Spain)
“I’ll Just Live in Bando,” (Yong Sun Lee, South Korea)
“In the Forest of Huckybucky,” (Rasmus A. Sivertsen, Norway)
“Little Heroes,” (Juan Pablo Buscarini, Venezuela)
“Lost in the Moonlight,” (Hyun-joo Kim, South Korea)
“Richard the Stork,” (Reza Memari, Toby Genkel, Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, Norway)
“Rudolph the Black Cat,” (Kunihiko Yuyama, Motonori Sakakibara, Japan
“Tadeo Jones 2, and the Secret of King Midas,” (Enrique Gato Borregán, David Alonso, Spain)
“Tea Pets,” (Gary Wang, China)
“The Man Who Knew 75 Languages,” (Anne Magnussen, Pawel Debski, Norway)
ANNECY INTL. ANIMATION FESTIVAL, MIFA MARKET, JUNE 12-17, 2017: SOME HIGHLIGHTS
The 2017 Annecy Festival is by far, in terms of the number of events staged, is busiest ever. Just some, and certainly not all, of the events, screenings, panels and keynotes which, on paper, could prove highlights:
MONDAY, JUNE 12
9:30 am Julie Ann Crommett, VP, multicultural strategies, Walt Disney Studios, kicks off a first-ever Women in Animation World Summit at Annecy, taking one bull by the horns: Unconscious bias.
10.30 am WIA World Summit: How Are We Getting There?
3:00 pm European Animation Awards press conference: An update on 2017’s first ever Emile Awards, announcing its date, place, and categories.
3:00 pm What’s cutting edge from young Chinese animators? Find out at a special program, Guest Country China: The Best Shorts From Schools
8:30 pm Arthur de Pins and Alexis Ducord’s horror theme-park themed “Zombillenium,” sold by UDI, opens the 2017 Annecy Intl. Animation Festival.
10:15 pm Nickelodeon offers Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles short “Strike Hard.”
TUESDAY, JUNE 13
9.00 am Stalwart “Ice Age” director-producer Carlos Saldanha, director of upcoming “Ferdinand,” is interviewed by Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debuge as Annecy’s MIFA Campus kicks into gear.
9:30 Work in Progress sneak peek of “The Breadwinner,” the first solo feature of Nora Twomey (“The Secret of Kells”), lead-produced by Cartoon Saloon, exec produced by Angelina Jolie, distributed in the U.S. by Gkids, and one of the most awaited of animation art films of 2017-18.
10.30 Andimation: A come-meet for young Andes-country animation talent.
11.00 Annecy Asia Festival in Seoul announcement.
11.15 Base FX’s China-set “Aladdin” update “Wish Dragon,” a key U.S.-Chna animation movie unveiled at a Work in Progress by director Chris Appelhans.
12:00 noon Official presentation of the exhibition, An Animated Tour de France: Spotlight on Sacrebleu Productions. A profile of the Paris animation studio which has moved from Annecy (“Man on the Chair”) and Cesar-prized (“Sunday Lunch”) shorts to Rémi Chayé’s “Long Way North,” an Annecy Audience Award winner in 2015.
2: 00 pm The great Guillermo del Toro converses about DreamWorks Animation’s “Trollhunters,” inter alia, with Variety’s Peter Debruge.
4:00 pm Directed by Dorota Kobiela (“Little Postman”) and Hugh Welchman, producer of “Peter and the Wolf,” “Loving Vincent” world premieres at Annecy.
4:00 pm TeamTo announces a new – and inspiring – affirmative action animation school.
6:00 pm World premiere of sequel “Tadeo Jones 2, and the Secret of King Midas,” distributed worldwide by Paramount, backed by Telecinco Cinema and Telefonica, and one of Spain’s biggest toon bows for 2017.
6:45 pm Disney Television Animation’s inaugural Annecy press conference, with Eric Coleman, Helene Etzi and Orion Ross talking DTA’s industry philosophy and upcoming slate.
7:00 pm Walt Disney Feature animation vet Glen Keane talks about ho animation has evolved in keynote speech Thinking Like a Child: Embracing Change in an Ever-Evolving Art Form, and showcases “Dear Basketball,” made with Kobe Bryant and John Williams.
8:30 pm France’s Ankama and Japan’s Studio 4ºC world premiere “Mutafukaz,” adapting the cult comic book by
Guillaume “Run” Renard.
8:15 pm: Mifa & Variety’s Animation Personality of the Year Award presented to Gkids’ Eric Beckman and Gebeka’s Marc Bonny.
WEDNESDAY, JUNE 14
9:30 am Clash of the Titans: Japanese mega-studio Toho’s take on “Godzilla,” its first run at the beast, as revealed by first footage directed by Kobun Shizuno and Hiroyuki Seshita.
10:00 am VR demo unveil of Jorge Gutierrez’s “Son of Jaguar,” part of Google Stories.
11.00 am Mifa Pitches: Feature Films Six animated feature projects, two from France, one a piece from Colombia, U.K., Russia and Portugal, whose themes – child soldiers, broken families, breast cancer, British imperialism – suggest that world cinema animation these days in anything but escapist entertainment.
11.00 Illumination MacGuff CEO Jacques Bled reviews current productions.
11.15 am French director Joann Sfar (“The Rabbi’s Cat”) and producer Antoine Delesvaux introduce “Little Vampire,” an Annecy WIP.
2:00 pm “A Man is Dead” Classic French animation house Les Armateurs unveils in Work in Progress its TV movie, “A Man is Dead,” a take on industry action in the port of Brest in 1950, where police shoot at demonstrators and one man dies. An original enterprise.
2:30 Setting the Course for a European Animation Plan European producers discuss a way forward for the sector.
4:00 pm Anatomy of a Studio: Mikros Image French animation studio sets out its plans for the future
4:30 pm Oriental DreamWorks and Light Chaser Animation Studios execs debate opportunities and challenges of china’s animation market.
6:00 pm The latest from “The Little Prince” producer On Pictures, “Tall Tales from the Magical Garden of Antoon Krings,” a tiny-tots targeting adventure.
6:30 Walt Disney Television Animation’s SVP Eric Coleman delivers a keynote speech
6:45 pm France Televisions presents its 2017-18 lineup.
8:30 pm The big one, the world premiere with creator-director Pierre Coffin in tow, of Universal’s “Despicable Me 3,” from Illumination MacGuff, at Annecy, where the first installment was unveiled in 2010, launching a (to date) $2.7 billion theatrical franchise.
THURSDAY, JUNE 15
9:30 am “Kung Fu Space Punch,” in Work in Progress, from Reel FX and Jorge R. Gutierrez, who broke out with “The Book of Life.” A “funny mash-up of ‘90s Kung Fu films, Spaghetti Westerns of the ‘60s, and the epic space adventures of the ‘70s, ‘80s and today, according to Gutierrez. Awaited.
9:30 am Canary Islands: The Next Hotspot for Animation? No part of Spain offers more advantageous tax breaks for international shoots. Six animation studios discuss how to leverage them to work with the Canaries.
10.00 am Mifa Pitches: TV Specials and Series, featuring the exquisite “The Tales of the Hedgehog.”
11.15 Work in Progress: “Tito and the Birds.” Brazilian animation topped Annecy two years in a row, with 2012’s “Rio 2096 – A Story of Love and Fury” and “The Boy and the World.” In line with the latter, “Tito and the Birds” features impressionistic animation and social relevance, here media fear-mongering.
11.45 am France’s Lagardere Active details new Gulli, Canal J and TiJi projects, and investment policy for its youth channels.
4:00 pm “Captain Underpants – The First Epic Movie” DreamWork Animation’s latest play, which grossed a $23.5 million opening weekend from June 4, playing overwhelmingly to 7-12s, low for DWA, but not so bad given the relatively low budget.
6:00 pm Canal Plus Family outlines new programs.
6:30 pm Kristine Belson, president of Sony Pictures Animation, shares her vision for the studio as it ramps up production
8:30 pm World premiere with directors Benjamin Renner and Patrick Isbert in attendance, of “The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales,” the latest from Didier Brunner’s Folivari, which from the trailers at least, looks like painterly, upscale animal fable fun.
FRIDAY, JUNE 16
10.00 am Annecy’s now traditional Disney-Pixar unveil. Daria K. Anderson and Adrian Molina screen “exclusive footage,” the Annecy Festival has announced, from Pixar’s “Coco,” one of its two bows in 2017, while Dave Mullins and producer Dave Murray present “LOU,” which premiered at South by Southwest.
10.00 am MIFA Pitches: Transmedia France and Spain dominate with two projects each, including philosophy themed “Philo 3000” and “Dino Games,” from “Memoirs of a Man in Pajamas” Carlos Fernandez
11.15 Paris-based sales company Indie Sales handled “My Life as a Courgette.” Now it’s alighted on “Zero Impunity,” a research/activist animated documentary to end impunity for sexual violence in armed conflicts,” presented in Annecy’s WIP strand.
4:00 pm Warner Animation Group made its first big splash at Annecy last year, sneak peeking its fast-building slate. Now WAG is back, with EVP Alison Abbate offering a special look at “The Lego Ninjago Movie” and WAG’s upcoming production.
4:30 pm Nickelodeon creators Joe Murray (“Rocko’s Modern Life”) and Robert Scull (“Bubble Guppies”) team to discuss their artistic journeys. Sneak peek of “Rocko’s Modern Life.”
SATURDAY, JUNE 17
8:30 pm Closing ceremony with 2017 Annecy Fest prizes announcement and the world premiere of Genndy Tartakovsky’s “Hotel Transylvania“ short film spinoff “Puppy!”” Swiss animator George Schwizegebel receives an Annecy Honorary Cristal.