French fest gets Italian accent

Scouts on the lookout for up-and-coming talent at Annecy

The Intl. Animated Film Festival at Annecy — a town dubbed the French Venice for its winding canals and medieval architecture — has an appropriately Mediterranean flavor this year, with nine of the fest’s programs paying tribute to Italian animation.

Serge Bromberg, the fest’s artistic director since 1999, is particularly excited by the prospect of screening a restored version of Italy’s first-ever color animated feature, “I fratelli Dinamite” (1949) as well as receiving a visit from Osvaldo Cavandoli, the Italian maverick whose series “La linea,” about a bad-tempered little man, built a huge cult following during the 1970s.

For the first time in more than 45 years of existence, the festival will unveil a list of the top 100 animated shorts of all time. The list, which is sponsored by Variety, was whittled down from 900 shorts by 30 worldwide specialists and will be announced on the final day of the fest.

Meanwhile MIFA (the Intl. Animated Film Market), which started in 1983, is still a key date in the calendar for European companies.

“Annecy is important because, contrary to the more commercial markets for animation (i.e. NATPE, etc.), it is primarily a creative market,” says David Michel, general manager of Paris-based Marathon Media, the TV company behind hit shows like “Totally Spies” and “Martin Mystery.”

“This year’s Annecy is particularly significant for us because it gives us the opportunity to premiere our new show, ‘Team Galaxy,’ before an audience of 300 kids,” Michel adds.

Meanwhile, an increasing number of international studios — among them Disney, Pixar, Sony and DreamWorks — have scouts on the lookout for up-and-coming talent.

“I’d say about half of those attending are students; they come from all over the world,” says Kristof Serrand, animation supervisor at DreamWorks. “So it gives us a chance to have a look at their portfolios and find out who are going to be the future stars of animation.”

For Bromberg, the challenge is keeping pace with the ever-changing developments in the world of animation.

“In 1999, there were 10 animation films that studios produced throughout the world; today there must be at least 50,” he says. “It’s becoming harder and harder for me to choose what we’re going to show.”

This year 213 pics selected from 35 countries are screening in the fest’s different competitions.

Out of competition there are several world premieres, including the first screening of Sony’s “Monster House” as well as kid-friendly Gallic pics like “U” (which opens the fest) and “Piccolo, Saxo & Company.”

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