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‘Horses,’ ‘Nuts!’ ‘Stations’ Make Annecy Competition Cut

Aardman’s Peter Lord, David Sproxton receive the 2016 MIFA & Variety Animation Personality of the Year Award

Ann Marie Fleming’s “Window Horses,” Penny Lane’s “Nuts!” and Sang-ho Yeon’s “Seoul Station” will screen at 2016’s nine-feature competition of the Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival, commonly regarded as the most important animation event in the world.

In potential highlights, Guillermo del Toro will deliver a masterclass, unveiling unseen footage of “Trollhunters”; Aardman Animation founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton receive the 2016 MIFA & Variety Animation Personality of the Year Award. The Festival will also for the first time devote a major focus to France’s animation scene.

An Annecy regular, Sang-ho Yeon, a Fantasporto and Sitges winner with “Saibi” and “Dwae-ji-ui wang,” competes with “Seoul Station,” a Studio Dadashow and Finecut South Korea production. Horror and social realism blend in the tale of a homeless who first shows strange symptoms then unleashes chaos and a zombie outbreak. Finecut handles world sales.

Also targeting adult auds and produced by U.S. digital media brand Cartuna, Penny Lane’s documentary “Nuts!” was a Special Jury Award winner for Editing at this year’s Sundance Festival. “Nuts! turns on a Kansas doctor who in 1917 discovered that he could cure impotence by transplanting goat testicles into men. Amazon picked up the SVOD rights in February. Submarine Entertainment reps international.

Directed by Ann Marie Fleming (“I Was a Child of Holocaust Survivors”), in “Window Horses” Rosie Ming, a young Canadian poet travels to Iran to perform at a poetry festival. There, she will learn the truth about her father. “Horses” is a Canadian production crowd-funded through Indiegogo. Sandra Oh and Ellen Page are part of its voice cast.

Otherwise, Annecy’s 2016 Official Selection competition ranges wide geographically, an indication that animated feature production is a building phenomenon over much of the world.

From Spain, Pedro Rivero and Alberto Vázquez’s “Psiconautas, The Forgotten Children,” produced by Zircozine and Basque Films, adapts the same-titled comic book about two teenagers escaping from an island devastated by an ecological catastrophe. “Psiconautas” spins off Vázquez and Rivero’s short “Birdboy”, in competition at Annecy in 2011.

Directed by Leanne Pooley, whose credits include Toronto player “Beyond the Edge,” “25 April,” is produced by New Zealand’s Matthew Metcalfe for General Film Corporation and sold by K5 Intl. “25 April” is an animated docudrama on the tragic World War I Battle of Gallipoli, where thousands of Australians and New Zealanders died.

Directed by Jean-François Pouliot and François Brisson, Sundance’s player “Snowtime!” is a reversion of French-Canadian family film classic “The Dog Who Stopped the War.” Produced by Canada’s CarpeDiem Film & TV Inc., “Snowtime!” it proved a major Quebec hit last year. Sola Media GMBH handles sales.

“La jeune fille sans mains” (The Girl Without Hands) marks the anticipated feature debut of French shorts director Sébastien Laudenbach (“Des câlins dans les cuisines”), inspired by a lesser-known brothers Grimm tale and single-handedly made by Laudenbach. France’s Les Films Sauvages produces.

A Switzerland-France co-production from Blue Spirit Productions, Rita Productions and Gebeka Films, in “My Life As a Courgette” is already well-known to Annecy, having snagged its Work in Progress prize last year. World premiering at next month’s Directors’ Fortnight and a sales hit for Paris-based Indie Sales, it sees producer-director Claude Barras (“Au pays des têtes”) make his feature debut with the story of 10-year-old boy Zucchini, who ends up in an orphanage after his mother’s death.

Russian animation is repped by Maxim Volkov’s “Sheep And Wolves,” from Moscow studio Wizart. It kicks off depicting the restful way of life of a flock of sheep, suddenly menaced by a gang of wolves in a magical land of ancient traditions.

The 2016 Honorary Cristal will be granted to French producer Didier Brunner, one of the foundes of modern European animation, producing iconic works as Michel Ocelot’s “Kirikou” feature trilogy or “Ernest and Celestine,” proving that an audience existed for upscale ambitiously artistic animation. Producing films which have been nominated for four Academy Awards, Brunner has teamed with Julianne Films’ Jean-Charles Ostorero to produce Himalayan epic “The Summit of the Gods.”

The Annecy Festival received this year a record number of submissions –almost 2,700–, a hundred more than last year’s. In total, 236 animated features made the cut for the official lineup.

The Annecy completion jury includes composer Bruno Coulais, Tiphaine de Raguenel, France 4’s head of children and producer-writer-director Sarah Smith (“Arthur Christmas”).

On the short juries are writer-director Brenda Chapman, “L’Express” culture editor Eric Libiot, and producer Shuzo John Shiota.

Annecs France Spotlight will feature 14 programs and four documentaries capturing France as it is perceived from abroad.

One program, The Classics’ Classics, curated by Giannalberto Bendazzi, includes Émile Cohl’s “Fantasmagorie” (1908) and Paul Grimault’s “The Little Soldier” (1947); View from Hollywood takes in Arthur de Pins 2004 “The Crab Revolution” and Michaël Dudok’s 1994 “The Monk and the Fish”; Small Screen Giants, selected by Marcel Jean, features Serge Danot’s “The Magic Roundabout” (1964), Jacques Rouxel’s “Les Shadoks” (1968), and Paul Leluc and Delphine Maury’s “The Long Long Holiday” (2015).

Sidebar Shelley Page Selection features works from animation schools such as “The Mouse’s Tale” (La Poudrière, 2007), “WindMills,”  (l’École George Méliès, 2011), and “Three Small Stitches”  (Gobelins School, L’école de l’image, 2010).

Eleven feature play out of competition including Mehmet Kurtulus and Ayse Ünal’s “Bad Cat” (Turkey), Ayman Jamal, Khurram H. Alavi’s “Bilal” (United Arab Emirates), and Enrique Gato’s “Capture The Flag” (Spain).

Fest will feature a keynote from Lord and Sproxton, a second one from Eamonn Butler, director and head of animation at the U.K.’s Cinesite studios. Both are moderated by Variety’s chief international critic Peter Debruge. Patrice Carré from Le Film Français will moderate a third keynote, delivered by French studio Ankama CEO Anthony Roux.

John Hopewell contributed to this report

The 2016 Annecy Intl. Animation Film Festival runs June 13-18

OFFICIAL SELECTION, FILMS IN COMPETITION

“Seoul Station,” (South Korea)

“Nuts!,” U.S.

“Window Horses,” (Canada)

“Psiconautas, The Forgotten Children,” (Spain)

“25 April,” (New Zealand)

“Snowtime!,” (Canada)

“La jeune fille sans mains,” (France)

My Life as a Courgette,” (Switzerland-France)

“Sheep And Wolves,” (Russia)

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