MADRID  —  It’s no coincidence that Netflix has chosen Annecy, a fairy tale-looking town nestling in the French Alps, to unveil scenes from its first two animated movies; or that Warner Bros. Animation will world premiere at Annecy’s Intl. Animation Film Festival its first Looney Tunes Cartoon; or that Didier Brunner, the doyen of Europe’s art film scene, is announcing a key development deal on a banner new TV series here.

France’s Annecy Animation Film Festival and its Mifa market are animation Hollywood’s home from home,and embraced as passionately by Europep’s industry and creators, 2D and 3D alike. This year they will also provide a stage for the resurgence of Japan as an international toon power, and for the best of Chinese and Latin American animation.

Joining the Annecy Festival market in 2002, Mickaël Marin has witnessed and helped drive this growth, first as head of Mifa, the market, and from last July as CEO of Citia, the Haute Savoie creative industry body with oversight of both the festival and market. Variety caught Marin before the festival to talk about Annecy’s dramatic change this century, and what’s to come:

A basic question. What is attendance tracking at right now, both for the Festival and Mifa? And what do you think are the main two or three factors explaining the figures?

We will more than likely exceed 2018 attendance, which was a record number at 11,700 accreditations. This year should surpass the 12,000 mark. Several factors can be highlighted to explain this figure: For quite a few years Annecy has experienced consistent growth, Japanese animation is in the spotlight this year, which is causing huge excitement; and it is an opulent year for French animation with some highly-anticipated films such as, “I Lost My Body,” “The Swallows of Kabul” and “The Bears Famous Invasion of Sicily.” All top ingredients for an exceptional vintage!

How many years of consecutive growth has Annecy seen?

The overall growth rate is 65% between the 2014 and 2018 editions. Film market Mifa has experienced more than a 100% expansion in 10 years. For us this is a powerful indication that the industry considers Annecy as the world’s leading event.

2019 looks like  a year, at least at first glance, where Annecy has no big Hollywood world premiering animated feature, but significant world premieres, beginning from the U.S. with the first shorts in Warner Bros. Animation’s brand new “Looney Tunes Cartoons” collection and one of Europe’s biggest animated feature films, “Playmobil: The Movie.”

It also has an unprecedented range and number of industry first-ever sneak peeks led by Nickelodeon’s “SpongeBob” anniversary special but taking in company focuses and works in progress, Netflix’s first two animated features, DreamWorks, Disney and Sony’s new animation lineups, WAG’s “Scoob!” and Japan’s “Weathering with You.” Could you comment?

Production cycles for making animated films are very long. We want to take advantage of these constraints by proposing meetings at the various stages of a film’s production. For example, last year we were able to have a Work in Progress of “Spiderman: Into the Spider Verse,” and this year we have a Work in Progress of the highly-anticipated “Weathering With You”. Once we add the program of world or European film premieres to this, you can see that most major films are screened at Annecy in one form or another.

One key change in the animation landscape has been the emergence of global streaming platforms as significant acquisition companies and, ever more production forces. What has been the impact on Annecy in particular and the animation sector in general?

Annecy has always been open to all the industry’s formats and broadcasting platforms. At the end of the ’90s, Annecy was one of the first festivals to create a competitive section for films created for the Internet. We are a showcase for the industry, and therefore our role is to adapt our programming and organization to the sector’s evolution. Platforms will be increasingly more visible at Annecy, and we hope that it will help create opportunities for creators and production companies (such as Netflix’s purchase of “I Lost My Body” in some regions).

Women in Animation and France’s Les Femmes s’animent hold a summit at Annecy on Monday. It comes as, for example, 38% of the pro shorts received by the Annecy selection committee are directed or co directed by women as are 40% of those selected. I wonder about figures for the whole of the festival and Mifa at large. Is there any traction in more women’s presence and can you explain some of the factors explaining the stats?

As early as 2015, by dedicating its edition to women in animation, Annecy took the decision to address this issue head on and be active game changers to shift the boundaries. Last June we signed the 50/50 charter for 2020, and we are once again honored to host the the Women in Animation World Summit.

In the feature film category the figures are still very disheartening, with only 10% of submitted films directed or co-directed by women, and 12% in the Official Selection. On the other hand, they are more encouraging in the Graduation Films category where 64% of the films in the Official Selection are directed or co-directed by women.

We are also trying to increase women’s presence within the numerous meetings we organize at Annecy. In just one year with our decisive action we have increased the percentage of our women speakers from 8% to 30%. We of course want to continue to increase these statistics in the future, and this can only be achieved by constant communication with studios to raise awareness.

You were appointed last July 1 Citia CEO. Can you explain what that means in terms of the Annecy Festival and Mifa, and any new developments you’ve put in place under your mandate?

Alongside Marcel Jean, our artisticddirector, and Véronique Encrenaz, our new head of Mifa, we wanted to rapidly establish evolution that we believe to be indispensable for supporting the participants and maintaining our position as a leader in the sector.

This has prompted a new competitive feature film category at the Festival, Contrechamp, and due to the numerous high-quality virtual reality works the VR category has also become competitive.

The question of the new forms of animated creations has been treated by a transversal approach by creating the XR@Annecy label. This provides programs in the Festival, the Mifa, and in the Meetings that will enable each format to individually define the features of these new creative opportunities.

We have reinforced our serious commitment to the 50/50 charter by welcoming three new women to our selection committee.

Mifa has once again increased in size, up 16% in surface area, to better accommodate and support the professionals. We have also created a new feature “Gap Financing – Meet the Producers” to assist a selection of feature films to complete their financing.

Lastly, I decided when I took up this position to open the Festival to the local public with a dedicated program and easier access. This is a major shift before the opening of the Cité du Cinéma d’Animation in 2023, which will be a permanent location dedicated to this art and open to all.

Beyond forces driving hiked attendance, what do you see as other trends at this year’s Annecy Festival and Mifa?

Animation feature films intended for an adult audience are an undeniably strong trend that is expected to continue. The quality of the virtual reality works is also very promising. Lastly, something we have observed over the last few years is the new territories where animation is emerging, whether in Latin America or in Asia. We also believe in the full potential of the African continent where we are generating collaboration. There are no, or no longer, borders in animation film, and this is the great force behind this industry and its art.