“Pearl Diver” by Norway’s Margrethe Danielsen has swept Spain’s 16th Animayo Gran Canaria Festival awards, making off with the International Grand Jury Prize as well as plaudits for best student short film, stop motion and comedy for adults.

“Pearl Diver” follows three odd couples: a hedgehog that falls in love with a balloon, two oysters anxious to meet; and an Arctic couple drifting apart.

The stop-motion animated short was produced at Volda University College and has already won a string of awards worldwide. Aside from scooping a cash prize of €3,000 ($3,600) and a trophy, “Pearl Diver” qualifies to compete for the Academy Award’s short list of qualifying animated shorts.

Italy’s “Where Night Falls” by Francesco Filippini nabbed the best 3D, best comedy for all ages and best screenplay awards. The short revolves around a boy and his grandmother as they set off on a shamanic journey to discover their roots.

Carmen Cordoba’s 3D/2D hybrid short “Roberto,” about a man who still woos his shy neighbor of 15 years, took home the best Spanish short prize.

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“Roberto” Courtesy of Animayo

“This year the challenge was to hold three events in one: a week-long in-person festival, a virtual one with avatars and an online format with recorded Masterclasses, online screenings and workshops,” said founder-director Damián Perea, adding: “With the expansion of the festival in these three formats, we have reached a record number of 104 guest speakers.”

These included such luminaries as Max Howard, Bill Plympton, Joanna Quinn, Michaela Pavlátová, Craig Miller, Bob Kurtz, Bobby Chiu, Lila Martínez, Signe Baumane, Frank Mosvold, Johny Smith, Rob Sprackling, Atle Blakseth and Pascal Blais, among others

“It has also been a record year in terms of the official competition section, we have received 2,300 films from 70 countries,” Perea pointed out. That’s an uptick from last year’s virtual Animayo, which went 100% online for the first time because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The festival, which encompasses animation, VFX and video gaming, received more than 1,600 submissions in 2020.

The in-person segment was held over May 5-8; the avatar-based virtual event on May 13-15; while the online activities run from May 17 through October.

The festival grows ever more relevant and noteworthy in the animation space as more companies delve into animation, including Netflix, which has been expanding the animation subsidiary it founded in 2018.

Animayo expects to exceed last year’s record number of 45,000 participants as it continues online with master classes, workshops, screenings of the winning shorts and notable ones by Plympton, Pavlátová and La Salle University-Singapore.

Festival counts on the sponsorship of several institutions led by the Cabildo de Gran Canaria, Sociedad de Promoción de Las Palmas de GC, as well as universities and some private companies.

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Palmares Animayo 2021 Courtesy of Animayo

Winning International Shorts:

Grand Jury Award

“Pearl Diver,” Margrethe Danielsen (Norway)

Best Student Short

“Pearl Diver,” Margrethe Danielsen (Norway)

Best 2 D

“The Warm Star,” Anna Kuzina (Russia)

Best 3D

“Where Night Falls,” Francesco Filippini (Italy)

Best Stop Motion

“Pearl Diver,” Margrethe Danielsen (Norway)

Best Script

“Where Night Falls,” Francesco Filippini (Italy)

Best Art Direction

“The Source of the Mountains,” Adrien Communier, Camille Di Dio, Benjamin Francois, Pierre Gorichon, Briag Mallat, Marianne Moisy (France)

Best Comedy for all Ages

“Where Night Falls,” Francesco Filippini (Italy)

Best Comedy for Adults

“Pearl Diver,” Margrethe Danielsen (Norway)

Best Visual Effects

“The Heretic,” Veselin Efremov (Denmark)

Social Awareness ex aequo

“Migrants,” Hugo Caby, Antoine Dupriez, Aubin Kubiak, Lucas Lermytte, Zoé Devise

Social Awareness ex aequo

“Stories from the Inside: Hospital Care for People in Prisons,” Tezo Kyungdon Lee, Magnus Lenneskog, Becky Perryman (UK)

Best Independent Short Film

“The Winter,” Xin Li (Australia)

Best Cinematic Video Game

“The Medium Cinematic Trailer,” Paweł Maślona (Poland)

Children’s Audience Award – My First Festival

“Inkt,” Erik Verkerk, Joost van den Bosch (Netherlands)

Best Spanish Short Film – Animacíon con Ñ

“Roberto,” Carmen Córdoba González