For the second annual Palm Springs Intl. Animation Festival and Expo, attendees will have a truly immersive experience, as the event will partner with Comic Con Palm Springs and add interactive elements to the screenings.
Festival director Brian Neil Hoff says the idea was to take what fascinates him about animation — the multiple styles and new technologies that bring characters to life — and incorporate that into his festival though virtual reality and spaces that connect to the films. He hopes these additions help the film-loving community in Palm Springs learn more about the animation industry and movies and shorts from around the world.
Following the PSIAF’s debut in 2017, Hoff met with Christopher Spellman, Comic Con Palm Springs founder and executive producer, and the two decided to collaborate — Hoff would select the films while Spellman managed combining his Comic Con with the animation event. Spellman calls the collaboration a “geeky SXSW” and explains that the thematic experiences he creates for Comic Con will be applied to some of the films.
For the screening of “Mission Kathmandu: The Adventures of Nelly & Simon,” a movie that takes place in the chilly Himalayas, Hoff says they plan to use a snow machine, serve ice cream, and possibly have a few abominable snowmen to transport attendees into the winter film. Spellman says that they are also “looking at adding some of the celebrities [and] artists that are attending the Comic Con to come and speak or do a panel” for the fans.
The festival and expo, which runs from Aug. 22 to 25 at the Palm Springs Air Museum, has an official selection of about 10 diverse features. “Our festival is different from others ones in that we’re looking for not only the world’s best work, but we’re also looking for what’s going to make our festival stand out as revolutionary and new,” Hoff says. He hope the event can develop into “the Sundance of animation.”
Hoff came up with the idea for the PSIAF about nine years ago. He had been mentoring students and teaching seminars about animation, while also meeting with producers to plan the festival. He built a following and eventually graduate students, independent animation companies and creators from around the world submitted films and shorts to be entered into his festival. For the first year, Hoff says around 3,000 people from more than 100 countries sent submissions.
“We’ve been taking submissions since January and it’s really interesting [to see] the content we have at the festival this year and how it sort of speaks to the world today,” Hoff says.
“I think it’s vital that we celebrate all [animation] and the different styles and the different stories, everything together, because it’s a reflection of our future. The festival has organically grown on the work that’s brought to it.”
He wants the event to be both inclusive and charitable. Those who attend the festival’s screening of Wes Anderson’s “Isle of Dogs” can bring cans of canine food to donate to the local animal rescue. Hoff says there will be a special event for the World War I-set animated film “Sgt. Stubby: An American Hero,” with veterans and military families invited to the screening. The festival will also feature the U.S. premiere of the stop-motion film “Hoffmaniada,” an adventure pic called “Marnie’s World,” and an animated documentary titled “Wall.”
As young as the festival is, Hoff notes that some filmmakers have achieved recognition from PSIAF. Hoff mentions that Paloma Baeza, who directed last year’s animated short “Poles Apart,” landed a production deal with TriStar Pictures. He also notes that oil-painted feature “Loving Vincent” screened at the 2017 PSIAF, going on to become an Oscar nominee.
Hoff hopes the awareness and success of the festival continues so that he can expand the event and make it even more inclusive. He says he is working with women in animation to do a panel, and the festival already has an LGBT category. The PSIAF also presents Academy of Dream Awards, which celebrate disabled animators and their films.