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“Little Nicholas – Happy As Can Be” scooped this year’s Annecy Animation Festival’s top Cristal Award for best feature, an award which can form a springboard for Oscar nomination, as was the case with “Flee” last year, or “I Want My Body” in 2019.

The biggest winners at Annecy this year, however, was the Festival itself, animation at large and, when it came to movie prizes, France in particular.

‘Little Nicholas – Happy as Can Be’: Annecy Cristal, Best Feature

Directed by Benjamin Massoubre and Amandine Fredon, Annecy’s feature winner is classic French animated feature fare in artistic and industrial confection: 2D, based on a literary source – writer René Goscinny and illustrator Jean-Jacques Sempé’s comic-strip, and featuring famed Gallic IP: Little Nicholas, France’s quintessential schoolboy, who here meets his makers, Goscinny and Sempé.

In industry terms, “Little Nicholas” is produced by Aton Soumache and producer of “The Little Prince,” whose company on “Little Nicholas,” ON Classics, is part of the Mediawan fold. Charades handles world sales rights. David Grumbach’s BAC distributes in France.  Luxembourg’s Bidibul Productions co-produces.

Soumache, Charades and Grumbach are prime movers on France’s animation scene.

“Little Nicholas” may look exquisite at times, but, family fare, packs a more modern pace and focus on entertaining than much arthouse 2D cinema.

Other Main Feature Awards, Led by ’No Dogs Or Italians Allowed’ – Annecy Jury Award, Feature 

The top Cristal for “Little Nicholas” surprised some. “Unicorn Wars,” “Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman” and even “Nayola,” from Portugal’s José Miguel Ribeiro were all talked up during the week as competition frontrunners.

As prizes played out, the artistically ambitious “Blind Willow” – a feature which mixes rotoscoping, 2D and 3D, freely blending short stories from Haruki Murakami – had to settle for a Jury Mention.

Loved by stop-motion fans at Annecy, “No Dogs Or Italians Allowed” – directed by France’s Alain Ughetto and based on the travails of his grandfather, an Italian immigrant – snagged the festival’s Jury Award and a GAN Foundation Award.

Signe Baumane’s gender role farce, “My Love Affair With Marriage,” about a woman suffering throughout her life the pressures of conformist gender typecasting, received a popular Jury Award mention.

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No Dogs or Italians Allowed Foliascope - Les Films du Tambou

2022 Annecy Festival: A Quick Take 

Running June 13-18, the 2022 Annecy International Animation Film Festival issued 13,248 accreditations, including MIFA market badges, 8% up on total attendance in 2019, its prior all-time high.

Such record attendance “simply reflects how important animation film is worldwide: a major art form and an industry with remarkable agility that is constantly developing,” Annecy Director Mickaël Marin declared during Annecy’s closing ceremony.

Reason for that development are legion, expounded by Marin and other analysts as the festival began.

Annecy’s feature competition is only part of a far larger festival and MIFA market. This last week saw the U.S. animation giants come, conmingle, be seen and conquer. That cut multiple ways. World premieres “Minions: The Rise of Gru” and Netflix/Sony Imageworks’ “The Sea Beast” enthused.

In a “Strange World” first look, Disney revealed what seemed to be, from one flirtatious scene unveiled at Annecy, to be the first main queer character of color in its history.

Technique often dazzled, led by “Spiderman: Across The Spider-Verse” new villain, The Spot, who grows from rough character design to fully fleshed out visuals as his evil builds, and the full cinematic force brought to Guillermo del Toro’s “Pinocchio,” in lighting, costume, camera movement, exhibited in never-seen-before footage unveiled at Annecy.

“Animation is not a genre,” Del Toro shouted presenting his first animated feature. When handled by filmmakers such as Del Toro, it becomes full force cinema.

The world’s biggest animation event also marked, it seems, an inflection in platform production as the giants of OTT move from volume production to forging premium series, often based on classic family IP. Amblin/Warner Bros. Animation’s “Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai” proved one gorgeous example. Announced on the cusp of Annecy, Netflix’s European slate is likely to yield others.

Meanwhile, Europe move ever more into adult animation.

Especially for its on-site audience, industry execs and producers, the major excitement at Annecy remained its MIFA pitches and shorts.

Some shorts dazzled: Short-form TV doc “Grandpa and Granny’s Revolution,” seen at the MIFA TV Pitches; “Le Cœur à danser,” a MIFA film pitch; character study and a freak-out thriller “Deep Fake,” part of this year’s Annecy Residency program; of shorts in main competition, “Steakhouse,” a searing domestic drama, section winner “Amok,” a wild psycho-comedy, and “Anxious Body,” knit by Yoshiro Mizushiri’s acute atttention to physical  sensation.

Industry prizes awent to some of the most acclaimed titles at Annecy: “La Calesita,” a warm-hearted homage to community values from Reel FX and Argentina’s Augusto Schillaci; Swiss Marina Rosset’s “The Queen of the Foxes,” a feel-good love parable drawn with stunning, impressionistic water-color backgrounds.

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La Calesita Credit: Reel FX

Annecy 2023: Mexican Animation in the Limelight

In town to present “Pinocchio” for Netflix and satiate his love of animation, Guillermo del Toro had already announced that Mexico will be the guest country at Annecy in 2023. Jorge Gutiérrez, creator of “Maya and the Three,” will design the 2023 festival poster. “Mexican animation is little known and deserves to be the focus of a great national overview,” said Annecy artistic director Marcel Jean.

2022 ANNECY INTL. ANIMATION FILM FESTIVAL OFFICIAL PRIZES

FEATURE FILMS

GAN FOUNDATION AWARD FOR DISTRIBUTION

“No Dogs or Italians Allowed,” (Alain Ughetto, France, Italy, Switzerland)

JURY MENTION

“My Love Affair with Marriage,” (Signe Baumane, Latvia, USA, Luxembourg)

JURY MENTION

“Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman,” (Pierre Foldes, France, Luxembourg, Canada, Netherlands)

JURY AWARD

“No Dogs or Italians Allowed,” (Alain Ughetto, France, Italy, Switzerland)

CRISTAL FOR A FEATURE FILM

“Little Nicholas – Happy as Can Be,” (Amandine Fredon, Benjamin Massoubre, France, Luxembourg)

CONTRECHAMP

CONTRECHAMP JURY DISTINCTION

“Chun Tae-il: A Flame That Lives On,” (Jun-pyo Hong, South Korea)

CONTRECHAMP AWARD

“Ikuta no Kita,” (Koji Yamamura, Japan, France)

SHORT FILMS

AWARD FOR A FIRST FILM

“The Record,” (Jonathan Laskar, Switzerland)

JURY MENTION

“Anxious Body,” (Yoriko Mizushiri, France, Japan)

JURY AWARD

“Steakhouse,” (Spela Cadez, Slovenia, Germany, France)

CRISTAL FOR A SHORT FILM

“Amok,” (Balázs Turai, Hungary, Romania)

GRADUATION FILMS

JURY MENTION

“Mom, What’s up with the Dog?,” (Lola Lefevre, France)

JURY AWARD

“A Dog Under a Bridge,” (Rehoo Tang, China)

CRISTAL FOR A GRADUATION FILM

“Persona,” (Sujin Moon, South Korea)

SHORT FILMS

Animation “Off-Limits”

“OFF-LIMITS” AWARD

“Intersect,” (Dirk Koy, Switzerland)

VR WORKS

JURY MENTION

“Goliath: Playing With Reality,” (Barry Gene Murphy, May Abdalla, United Kingdom, France)

CRISTAL FOR THE BEST VR WORK

“Glimpse,” (Benjamin Cleary, Michael O’Connor, France, Ireland, United Kingdom)

TV AND COMMISSIONED FILMS 

TV Films 

JURY AWARD FOR A TV SPECIAL

“The House,” (Emma de Swaef, Marc James Roels, Niki Lindroth Von Bahr, Paloma Baeza, United Kingdom, U.S.)

JURY AWARD FOR A TV SERIES

“Two Little Birds,” (Alejo Schettini, Alfredo Soderguit, Argentina, Colombia, Uruguay)

CRISTAL FOR A TV PRODUCTION

“My Year of Dicks,” (Sara Gunnarsdottir, U.S.)

Commissioned Films

JURY AWARD FOR A COMMISSIONED FILM

“Aline,” (Wes Anderson, France)

CRISTAL FOR A COMMISSIONED FILM

“Save Ralph,” (Spencer Susser, U.K.)