Annecy, Mon Amour!

In anticipation of the 50th anniversary edition of Annecy, animation luminaries reminisce about the many reasons they fell in love with this remarkable festival.

Philippe Alessandri, CEO Tele Images Kids (a Zodiak Entertainment Company)

“Annecy is a unique, multi-faceted event which brings together the creators and producers of content as a festival, and buyers and sellers of content as a market.”

Michael Dudok de Wit, Animator (Father and Daughter)

‘For me, the unique quality of the Annecy Festival is without doubt the beauty of the town and the lake. I do have a favorite memory, not so much of a striking moment, but more a memory of a feeling: My very first animation festival ever was Annecy in 1975. The festival was much smaller then, and it was held in an old, more intimate theater. I was a young art student, very much in awe of the films. I observed the participants and visitors, and I felt an attraction for these easygoing, relatively unpretentious individuals. I felt at home. I knew with a strong conviction that I wanted to be an animator.’

Adam Elliot, Director (Mary and Max, Harvie Krumpet)

“Annecy for me is like a giant, creative, nourishing and fecund compost heap that I like to immerse myself in as often as possible to enliven, enrich, inspire and reignite my passion for animation and storytelling. Living in such a remote place as Australia, traveling thousands of miles to surround myself with like-minded artists is worth the torturous journey! I have met many of my heroes at Annecy and they have given me the confidence, courage and conviction to keep telling my strange stories. I also go there for the cheese…”

Biren Ghose, General Manager, Paprikaas Interactive Services (Technicolor)

‘MIFA at Annecy is the most ‘elegant’ of all animation markets. It has the ambience, exclusivity, bon homie and expanse that allows people to mix the creative and the business agenda like no other! A ‘hunting ground’ for talent, ideas and new techniques. Being a festival it is several heartbeats ahead of the rest!’

Caroline Leaf, Director (The Street, The Owl Who Married a Goose)

‘I’ve been to Annecy when it was a small festival. I was on the jury in 1979 and my film Two Sisters won the grand prix in 1991. I don’t know the much larger festival that it is today. Back then, when we were tired of looking at films, we jumped in the lake. And besides the films and the lake, there was great food to enjoy. I remember visiting Nicole Salomon’s home and sitting in deck chairs with a drink and with Alexandre Alexeieff and Claire Parker.’

David Michel, General Manager, Marathon Media

‘My best Annecy memory was as a member of the Festival’s jury. Until then, I had primarily been to Annecy for the TV market. Being on the jury allowed me to meet and discover amazing young artists from all over the world. This experience really changed my perspective on the festival.’

Jimmy Murakami, Director (When the Wind Blows, Heavy Metal)

‘I first experienced Annecy when I worked for TV Cartoons with George Dunning many years ago. All the delegates stayed at the Imperial hotel when it was the grand old hotel in Annecy. We all ate together in the dinning room with all the animation filmmakers from all over the world. I was overwhelmed by animators like Trnka from Russia, Lapujade from France, Luzzatti from Italy, McLaren from Canada, Yoji Kuri from Japan’the list goes on. The cinema was over the casino, across the street from the now Bonlieu. I was only a 24-year-old kid and was determined to make a Grand Prix film. When I did in 1967 with Breath, it was a feeling I belonged in Annecy and was accepted among my peers.

‘In the early days, Annecy was the creative hub of the industry and has been for many years. Unfortunately, it became popular as the industry developed more with television projects. Despite its commercial path with the market and many categories of films in competition, Annecy will still have the buzz of the golden years that will always be remembered and is never to be forgotten.’

Marv Newland, Director (Bambi Meets Godzilla, Anijam)

‘An animation elder here in Vancouver, Al Sens, first spoke to me of the circa 1960s Annecy Animation Festival, describing the place as a charming, ancient,
mountain village in the French Alps, filled in those days for one Summer week
every other year with wine soaked animators. After I made Sing Beast Sing
(1980), Paul Driessen encouraged me to enter the film at the 13th edition of the festival.

On the closing day, I drank more wine than ever before in my life, two full glasses. This happened in a rowboat under the hot sun out on Lake Annecy. It led to leaping off of the top platform of the diving tower at Le Plage in my underwear,
twice. After we returned to shore I put on fresh underwear and prepared to
attend the later Closing Awards Ceremony. This is before the Bonlieu Theatre was
built and the screenings took place right next to the lake in the long ago
destroyed Casino. As I approached this charming and historical building, a few
friends were exiting the early closing ceremony and in loud voices cried out, “Marv, hurry inside, they are waiting, you have won a prize!” It was the Prize for Best Children’s Film for an animated film starring a lime green beast singing the Blues tune “I’m Mad” to a comatose dog. Not only had the wines of the region had their way with me, they had caused the jury to become entirely drunk.

Annecy is the oldest, largest and best-located animation festival in the world. It is always an adventure. Some of the best and craziest times of my life have
been spent there with some of the best and craziest people I know on Earth.’

Michel Ocelot, Filmmaker (Azur and Asmar, Kirikou and the Wild Beasts) and Founder, Studio O

‘I first heard of the Annecy festival when I was a student in Los Angeles, in 1968. The great animators I met there were doing commercials for a living, and a secret short film for Annecy. So when I came back to France, I went to this festival, and have never missed an installment of this family world gathering for years and years. The connection evolved with my being on the board of the festival, and later on the board of ASIFA (this international animation association was founded at the same time and by about the same persons as the Annecy festival, and was closely connected). I grew up with this festival, learned some of my craft there, started great friendships there’and in other places, as this example of a festival devoted to a then widely unknown activity was followed by other valiant people, in Zagreb, Hiroshima and Ottawa, among other cities.’

[He submitted a sketch of the city, caption: 'During my first Annecy festivals, I wasn't good at meeting people, and I had time to go round the lovely city and draw it...']

Manuel Otero, Animator (Les Boulugres)

‘I was a participant at the first edition of the Festival. I worked as a graphic artist and helped with the preparation of the exhibits at the Chateau Museum. I inscribed Alexe’eff’s name above his pinscreen and Jiri Trnka’s on the side of the puppet from Brave Soldier Chveik. The big reward came at night as we watched the latest films from all corners of the world. Then we went out for drinks sitting by the street lamps along the lake. We chatted on the last riverboat of the evening, as it wove a trail of smoke behind it.’

Ishu Patel, Director (Paradise, The Bead Game)

‘I’ve been going to Annecy since 1974, attending the Festival at least six times. Initially it was a small, intimate Festival with a small venue near the lake and was a great meeting place for animators and artists. There I met many outstanding animation filmmakers from around the world, and some of them became my lifetime friends. Although the venue is enlarged and the Festival has grown a lot bigger and the commercial side of animation has been added, it is still essentially a wonderful meeting place for animators and artists. It’s a well organized festival, which is most generous to animators and still values artistic integrity in the medium. This is why anyone connected to animation will always be connected to Annecy.

‘In 1979 my film Afterlife won the Grand Prix at Annecy. What a thrill for an upcoming animator. But when, during the award ceremony at the Castle, I accepted the award’a large, beautiful bronze disk with the image of Trnka on it’the disk slipped out of its trophy case and rolled like a tire across the stage and into the audience. Embarrassing, but everyone had a good laugh! I wish a long and successful life to the Annecy Festival for the sake of new aspiring animation filmmakers making animation history.’

Alexandre Petrov, Filmmaker (The Old Man and the Sea)

‘I have been working in animation since 1981, after graduating from the Moscow Film Institute. My initial profession was art director and for a couple of years I was working on the project of my friends who were directors. And I liked it. But then I decided to become a director myself, and for more than 20 years I’ve been under the control of only one director: myself. I like it less, but it is too late to change anything.

When it comes to favorites, I always mention Yuri Norstein and Fr’d'ric Back. The art of those two enriched the language of animation, created a new direction, which I try to follow: poetic cinema.

I know the Annecy festival is the most representative and crowd-attractive, and is proud of it. I also know that it is one of the oldest, but I was surprised to find out that it is 50 years old. It is hard to imagine how many people and films were a part of this life, and how priorities and technologies have changed. I would like to congratulate the festival on such a great occasion, and thankfully remember those who founded a small festival, which now is an international forum.’

Bill Plympton, Filmmaker (Guard Dog, I Married a Strange Person, Mutant Aliens, Idiots and Angels)

‘Here are my reasons for loving Annecy:

1. Films: The best animated shorts and features from around the world.

2. Filmmakers: A-list filmmakers’sit down at dinner and you bump elbows

with the likes of Marv Newland, Nick Park, Joanna Quinn or even Bill Plympton…

3. Location: Beautiful French Alps next to the gorgeous Lac D’Annecy surround the tiny medieval village of Annecy, as swans glide through the crystal-clear canals, next to great restaurants.

4. Artistic Director: Serge Bromberg, a true showman who sees every film

entered, has a great sense of humor and truly loves animation.

5. The Audience: The French fans are very vociferous in their taste’

if they don’t like your film, they throw paper balls and spit at you’

yet if they like the film, you’re a God!’

Joanna Priestley, Director (Missed Aches, All My Relations, Utopia Parkway)

‘Annecy is the largest and most important animation festival in the world. The town is gorgeous. The lake is stunning. The food is fabulous. The screenings are well-curated and nicely presented. I vividly remember one year when there was complete and utter confusion onstage during the awards ceremony, but for the most part this is a splendid festival.’

Eric Riewer, International Relations Manager, Gobelins l”cole de l’image

’2010 marks not only the 50th anniversary of the International Animated Film Festival of Annecy, but also the 25th anniversary of a rewarding collaboration between the festival and Gobelins, l”cole de l’image, school of applied arts, print and digital media affiliated to the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Since 1985, the animation students at Gobelins have worked in teams to make the short films that introduce the daily festival screening. Much like the overtures of operas, these films must accompany the raising of the curtain and captivate the audience’s attention for the show to follow, one that will present the art of animation in all its splendor and variety. This has been a valuable and precious partnership that allows Gobelins students to show both their talent and their love of animation to the professionals and festival-goers from around the world who gather each June in Annecy to compose a truly global village animated by a passion for this singular form of artistic expression. Long may the show go on!’

Tom Sito, Animator, Animation Historian and Teacher

‘During my closing years at Filmation, Pat and I completed a short film entitled Propagandance. It was accepted into the 1987 year for the Panorama section of the festival. I was nervous, because I noticed if the Annecy audience didn’t like your film, they let you know. They whistled and hooted and shouted ‘merde!’ at the film before mine. As my film ran, the audience laughed at the right parts and cheered at the end. That was success enough for me. That was the year Fr’d'ric Back’s The Man Who Planted Trees won the grand prize. We were in the audience when the film debuted. Our French wasn’t that good yet, but we understood the images perfectly and floated on the music, as well as Phillipe Noiret’s sonorous narration. As it ended the entire audience were on their feet weeping and cheering. Next day at lunch we shared a raclette wheel with Fr’d'ric Back and writer Charles Solomon. We’ve gone back to Annecy several times since then.

‘The fun of Annecy was being part of the global animation community. Animators came from all over the world, you recognized them as animators from our common stooped shoulders, shiny bottomed baggy pants and hollow eyes from too much time staring into screens and light-boxes. We sat around at the little bistro in front of the Bonlieu Centre, sipping C’tes Du Rh’ne with legendary animators like B’rge Ring, Paul Driessen, Kihachiro Kawamoto, Oscar Grillo and Joanna Quinn. At the ASIFA open house, you tried to get there before all the duty-free Slivovitz was drunk up. We hired a car and gave June Foray a lift from Geneva and drove Marc Davis around Lake Annecy to do some sightseeing between events. Bob Kurtz and I enjoyed a particular local specialty, which was a sliced filet of duck breast topped with a Dijon sauce. They called it margret de canard, but Bob called it Margaret the Duck. A new character! Bonne Anniversaire, Annecy Festival! We will dream of you until we return once more!’

Gunnar Str’m, Animation Professor and Film Historian, Volda University College, Norway

‘Films, Friends and Festivity! The Annecy festival has made my life richer. It has both expanded and focused my horizons. Thank you all!’

TATA Elxsi Limited, India

‘The key difference between Annecy and some other similar events is that Annecy is not a cold, overcrowded, tumultuous networking venue but is an environment where relationships can be built and business discussions can be held in a tranquil and warm setting. Annecy’it’s really personal! We look forward to Annecy 2010 and wish the organizers and the animation community a stellar year ahead.”

Will Vinton, Animator (Closed Mondays, Claymation Easter, The PJs)

‘What makes Annecy one of the best animation festivals is the great collections of films and filmmakers it draws. What makes it the best festival is its amazing location!’