Annecy Film Festival: What is the future of animation?

WEB DESK: From “Super Mario” to “Spider Man,” animation films are among the biggest hits of 2023. But what about the indie underdogs of the art form? The world’s largest animated film festival is showing a wide selection.

Forget Cannes; for fans of animation movies, the French city synonymous with film is Annecy, a beautiful gem nestled between the lake that bears its name and the edge of Alps. What is now the world’s biggest animation film festival has taken place here very year in June since 1960.

This year, the program includes 468 films, featuring huge studio productions, short films and student thesis projects; premieres, sneak peeks and nightly outdoor screenings. Exclusive film demonstrations and a “pride and diversity” program are also set to take place this year.

But this year, the opening of the festival has been overshadowed by a bloody knife attack on children in the city of Annecy. As it became clear that the incident was isolated, and after consultation with the authorities and the mayor of Annecy, the festival officially opened as planned on June 11.

As a sign of support for the families and the victims of the knife attack, the organizers decided to postpone the start of the outdoor screenings until June 12. According to the press release, “The festival screenings will be held under the banner of the values we have always defended: Community, Solidarity and Fraternity.”

More animated films worldwide

“More and more feature films are being produced, and their quality is getting higher and their origins more diverse,” Marcel Jean, artistic director of the festival, told DW. And that is reflected by the official pick of this year’s festival, which includes films from Cameroon, Jordan, Denmark, Hungary, Japan, Canada, China and many other countries.

“This year at the festival, the focus is on Mexican animated films,” Marcel Jean elaborates. “Everyone knows Guillermo del Toro and Jorge R. Gutierrez, but what do people really know about Mexican animated film?” the festival’s website explains.

Festivalgoers will be able to watch numerous new and old Mexican films. Guillermo del Toro will also be in attendance. In addition, two feature films will be shown in the work-in-progress category: “Frankelda y el príncipe de los sustos” and “Batman Azteca: choc de imperios.”

“This is very significant for a country that doesn’t produce very many films,” says Marcel Jean.

Another country that is represented this year with a larger selection of films is Hungary. Four Hungarian films are entering the competition in the two feature film categories. “Among them is ‘Toldi,’ a film by Marcell Jankovics, who died last year,” Marcel Jean elaborates.

‘Mavka,’ a film from Ukraine produced in a bomb shelter – Factory/Everett Collection/picture alliance

‘3D mainly produced by major studios’

“A quick look at the 23 feature films in the official competition shows that the majority are produced in 2D and that stop-motion is well represented,” notes Marcel Jean. “3D remains the preferred technique of the major studios” — such as DreamWorks, Disney and Pixar. Independent filmmakers working with smaller budgets continue to prefer 2D animation, which remains accessible given the resources available to them, he added.

One film in the program stands out in this regard: the Ukrainian 3D film “Mavka: Guardian of the Forest.” It was made during the war in Ukraine and was produced in a bomb shelter.

In its Ukrainian homeland, the animated film by Oleg Malamuzh and Oleksandra Ruban has already attracted over a million viewers to theaters and is the most successful Ukrainian film of all time there. In Germany, it is scheduled for release in September.

The future of animated film

In addition to the screenings of various animated films and the competition, the Annecy Film Festival is also the largest international market for animated films. To this end, it will host presentations on the topics that will rapidly evolve in the animation industry in the coming years, including real-time animation, AI and other new technologies.

The use of virtual reality will also be covered at the festival in lecture series and even a competition section. VR journeys will allow viewers to enter the psyche of a mentally unstable artist, the complicated mind of an anti-abortionist who aborted her child, or a British bomber pilot trying to destroy Gestapo headquarters during World War II.

The Annecy Film Festival runs through June 17, 2023.

This article was originally written in German. –DW

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