France’s Annecy International Animation Film Festival, the leading global get-together for all things animation, has unveiled the lineup for this year’s Work in Progress section, among the most highly anticipated events of the world’s animation calendar. When a physical event is possible, lines begin to form early in the morning as fans of the high-profile projects hope to get into the limited seating available at the Salle Pierre Lamy.
A barometer for future standout awards and/or box office success, recent high-profile projects featured at Annecy’s Work in Progress include Sony Pictures Entertainment’s Oscar-winner “Spiderman: Into the Spider-Verse” and Oscar nominees in Netflix’s “Klaus” and “Over the Moon,” Cartoon Saloon’s “Wolfwalkers,” Claude Barras’ “My Life as a Zucchini,” Stéphane Aubier and Vincent Patar’s “Ernest & Celestine,” Michael Dudok de Wit’s “The Red Turtle” and Dean DeBlois’ “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”
Brazilian animation hit its stride in 2013-14 when Luis Bolognesi’s “Rio 2096: A Story of Love and Fury” and Alê Abreu’s “The Boy and the World” took the Annecy Cristal for a best feature film in back-to-back years, among an astonishing haul of other prizes including Oscar and Annie nominations. Abreu will be back at Annecy this year with his latest WIP “Perlimps,” a colorful fairy tale produced by Buriti Filmes.
Oscar, Bafta and Annie-nominated filmmaker Dorota Kobiela was the talk of the town in 2017 when “Loving Vincent” dominated the headlines at Annecy for its literal every frame a painting production before winning the Audience Award and going on to Oscar, Bafta and Annie nominations. This time around, Kobiela brings “The Peasants,” made with a mix of rotoscoping and painting on canvas produced out of Poland, Serbia and Lithuania. New Europe Film Sales is handling international sales.
Spain’s Alberto Vázquez has been a regular at Annecy over the past decade after his short film “Birdboy” played in competition in 2011, with that short eventually inspiring his 2016 competition feature “Birdboy: The Forgotten Children.” Sticking with that winning formula, Vázquez will be back this year with his upcoming feature “Unicorn Wars,” a feature update to 2014 short film competition player “Unicorn Blood.” Last year Vázquez won his first Annecy prize when his short “Homeless Home” took the Jury Award.
Amandine Fredon and Benjamin Massoubre’s “Little Nicholas” is a 2D animated feature produced by Aton Soumache at ON Kids & Family (“The Little Prince”), a Mediawan Group company, and Lilian Eche and Christel Henon at Bidibul Productions. Standout French sales agent Charades will handle international and domestic sales, and in March, Variety announced that Adrian Politowski’s Align had boarded the production as co-financiers.
French gaming and animation producer Ankama, a regular at Annecy with one of the most trafficked booths at the festival’s accompanying MIFA market, will present “Princess Dragon,” a 2D animated fairy tale which shifts wildly from the company’s 2017’s hip-hop fueled hit “Mutafukaz.”
Les Films d’ici, Katuh Studio and BAC Cinéma back Iranian filmmaker Sepideh Farsi’s “The Siren,” set in Abadan in 1980 as the Iranian oil industry was facing an Iraqi siege. The film follows teenager Omid who cares for his grandmother while waiting for his elder brother to return home from the frontlines. BAC Films is handling distribution.
Jeremie Perin’s French sci-fi anime feature “Mars Express” was first presented at Cartoon Movie in 2019, making a major impact with a brief trailer that has fans buzzing ahead of its Annecy WIP presentation. Co-produced by Everybody on Deck, EV.L prod, Plume Finance and France 3 Cinéma, the film follows two detectives trying to save a young student with assassins on her heels.
Portugal’s José Miguel Ribeiro has twice featured in Annecy’s main competition, in 2005 with “Abraço do Vento” and in 2010 with “A Journey to Cape Verde.” This year, the filmmaker returns with his latest project “Nayola,” a co-production between Praça Filmes, S.O.I.L., JPL Films and il Luster based on Award-winning writers Mia Couto and José Eduardo Agualusa’s “The Black Box.”
Using rotoscoping and a mix of 2D and 3D animation techniques, “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman,” from Pierre Földes is a surreal trip of self-realization as its characters reluctantly uncover truths they’ve been hiding from themselves. Cinéma Defacto, Miyu Productions co-produce, with The Match Factory handling international sales.
Streaming platforms have instigated an historic boom in demand for animated series as cartoons help limit churn by appealing to the kids and family subscribers, while also offering up specialized adult content for a demanding audience that has grown massively over the past several years. Annecy has responded to that demand in kind and features four series in this year’s WIP section.
Once again, this year Netflix will cast a large shadow over Annecy. The streamer brings three of the four series participating in this year’s WIP section and will undoubtedly be involved in several other areas of the program when final details are announced. Netflix is also presenting the section’s only short film in “Robin Robin” from Dan Ojari and Mikey Please, produced by legendary U.K. stop-motion studio Aardman Animation.
Co-produced with Oscar-nominated animation producers Nexus Studio (“This Way Up”), Netflix will present its three-part dark comedy “The House,” with each part directed by a standout filmmaker or filmmaking team. Chapters will be directed by Belgian filmmakers Emma de Swaef and Marc James Roles, whose recent stop-motion film “This Magnificent Cake!” wowed at Directors’ Fortnight in 2018 and won best short at that year’s Annecy, Clermont Ferrand and Toronto festivals; and two 2018 Variety Animators to Watch alumni in Sweden’s Niki Lindroth von Bahr, who won a Cristal with her 2017 short film “The Burden,” and Paloma Baeza, a Bafta and Annie-winner with her short, “Poles Apart.”
Among Annecy’s most popular draws, Emmy-winning “El Tigre” and “The Book of Life” director Jorge Gutiérrez is bringing his hugely anticipated Netflix limited series “Maya and the Three.” Based on traditional Mesoamerican mythology, “Maya” unspools in a newly created world of Gutiérrez’s own making and follows a warrior princess trying to recruit legendary warriors to help save all mankind.
Stemming from a first-look deal between Netflix and comic publishers Dark Horse Entertainment, “Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles” is a 3D CGI series co-production between Gaumont, Atomic Monster and Dark Horse, based on the “Usagi Yojimbo” books.
Avoiding a Netflix monopoly on the series WIP lineup, Adult Swim/Toonami and Crunchyroll will present “Fena: Pirate Princess,” a 2D anime series from Kazuto Nakazawa. The series is an entirely new IP which will be animated by legendary studio Production IG, makers of standout productions such as “Ghost in the Shell,” “Guilty Crown” and “Psycho-Pass.”
In 2019 Annecy fully embraced the virtual and augmented reality industries with the introduction of XR@Annecy, and this year two XR projects will present as works in progress. Anne-Lise Koelher and Eric Serre’s “Immersion, Augmented Nature” is an all-ages augmented reality experience produced by Les Fées Spéciales, while Jonathan Astruc will give an early look at his upcoming “Ascenders.”
2021 ANNECY WORK IN PROGRESS
“The Siren,” (Sepideh Farsi, France, Germany, Luxemburg, Belgium)
“Mars Express,” (Jérémie Périn, France)
“Unicorn Wars,” (Alberto Vázquez, Spain, France)
“Little Nicholas,” (Amandine Fredon, Benjamin Massoubre, France, Luxembourg)
“Princess Dragon,” (Anthony Roux, Jean-Jacques Denis)
“Nayola,” (José Miguel Ribeiro, Portugal, Belgium, France, Netherlands)
“Perlimps,” (Alê Abreu, Brazil)
“The Peasants,” (Dorota Kobiela, Poland, Serbia, Lituania)
“Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman,” (Pierre Földes, France, Canada, Netherlands, Luxembourg)
“Pirate Princess,” (Kazuto Nakazawa, U.S., Japan)
“Maya and the Three,” (Jorge Gutiérrez, U.S.)
“The House,” (Emma de Swaef, Marc James Roels, Niki Lindroth von Bahr, Paloma Baeza, U.K., U.S.)
“Samurai Rabbit: The Usagi Chronicles,” (Khang Le, U.S., France)
“Robin, Robin,” (Dan Ojari, Mikey Please, U.K., U.S.)
XR: DISCOVERING NEW TERRITORIES
“Immersion, Augmented Nature,” (Anne-Lise Koelher and Eric Serre, France)
“Ascenders,” (Jonathan Astruc, France)