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HBO Max’s “Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai” is set for a world premiere at the Annecy International Animation Film Festival on June 13. 

Produced by Amblin Television in association with Warner Bros. Animation, the highly awaited animated prequel series to the now classic film franchise will see its first episode bow at Annecy’s biggest auditorium, the lakeside Bonlieu’s Grande Salle. 

The world premiere will be attended by executive producers Tze Chun and Brendan Hay, along with Joe Dante, director of the “Gremlins” films and consulting producer for the series. They will participate in a post screening Q&A discussion about the making of the 10-part half hour series. 

An award-winning American film and TV writer, director, producer and showrunner, Tze (pronounced “Z”) Chun, founder of TKO Studios, a graphic novel and book publisher, also serves as series showrunner and wrote the series. An Emmy-nominated television writer, Hay served as executive producer and showrunner on “Dawn of the Croods” and “Harvey Girls Forever!,” which are both from DreamWorks Animation/Netflix. He was also head writer on Lucasfilm Animation’s animated comedy series “Star Wars Detours.”

In production since at least Feb. 2021, when Variety unveiled the series, the series plotline and voicecast has been announced: A period piece set in 1920s Shanghai, it reveals how a 10-year-old Sam Wing – who becomes the future shop owner Mr. Wing in the 1984 movie – met the young Mogwai called Gizmo. They strike up a lifelong friendship as Wing attempts to return Gizmo to his family, encountering and sometimes battling colorful monsters and spirits from Chinese folklore. Meanwhile, the two and street thief Elle are pursued by a power-hungry industrialist and his growing army of evil Gremlins. 

The announcement that “Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai” will air not only on HBO Max but also Cartoon Network, plus a first image (see above) of a very young, fresh-faced Gizmo playing on a rolling device, has fuelled speculation that the series may be more specifically kid friendly than the movies. Whether that is true could well now be revealed at Annecy. 

“Gremlins: Secrets of the Mogwai” marks the second big world premiere to be confirmed for this year’s Annecy Animation Festival after it announced on Monday that Universal/Illumination’s “Minions: The Rise of Gru” will debut at Annecy, opening the festival on June 13. 

Many more big announcements can be expected in the next few weeks, Mikaël Marin, CEO of Annecy Fest organizer Citia, told Variety, confirming that Annecy, after a totally online 2020 edition and hybrid 2021 event, will be back to a fully on-site festival this year where competition titles, masterclasses and works in progress unveils will only be accessible to in-person audiences attending Annecy. 

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Annecy International Animation Film Festival 2022 Courtesy of Annecy

China No-Show, but Annecy is Currently Shaping Up for a Vibrant 2022 Rebound

As things stand, this year’s Annecy looks to be shaping up as a vibrant event even if attendance levels are already being affected by new COVID-19 outbreaks in China and Hong Kong, and Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine.

To date, most countries have confirmed their pavilions except for China, Marin told Variety. Russian state organizations will not be welcome at Annecy, he added. 

Despite the loss of most delegates from the biggest economy on Earth, however, exhibition floor space reserved at Annecy is already up to 7,000 square meters, not much down on 2019’s all-time record of 8,000, said Véronique Encrenaz, head of the MIFA market. 

Attendance is tracking for some 10,000 festival or MIFA accredited delegates for this year’s edition, compared with 12,300 in 2019. 

Several factors explain Annecy’s rebound. The basic fundamentals driving the growth in the world’s animation business from the turn of the century have not slackened, despite the pandemic: The studios and now streaming platforms are creating an ever escalating demand for animation; around the world, more countries are producing ever more content, Marin said.

Many studios and some countries – Canada, the U.K., Spain, for example – look set to send larger delegations, in part because the demand for recruitment is stepping up. Annecy hotels are already full, said Marin. 

Coming out of a pandemic, there’s a huge number of projects and shows that need to be pitched at Annecy.

“There are countries which are still battling COVID. We still don’t know how Brazil will manage this year, for example,” said Ecrenaz. 

She added: “On the other hand, we have countries that have expanded so much because of content but haven’t spent so much. Two years without travelling. So now they want to spend a lot, they want to send their teams, the entire company, to enjoy events.”

Annecy’s battle remains, however, “to find a way to help every kind of movie and show the diversity of animation,” Marin argued, citing Denmark’s “Flee.” The now three-time Oscar-nominated animated doc was showcased as a project and then work in progress at Annecy before it won the festival’s top Crystal Award last year. 

“We don’t have a red carpet but we have diversity, creation, new countries. That’s our red carpet and what we can give to the animation community and to the world,” said Marin. 

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Veronique Ecrenaz, Mickael Marin Courtesy of ANNECY & MIFA