Annecy’s Animated French Revolution

Judging from the number of high-quality projects that are unspooling at this year’s edition of the Annecy International Animation Film Festival (June 2-7), you could easily assume that the world was experiencing a toon Renaissance of sorts. In addition to the five titles running in the feature competition – Jannik Hastrup’s The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Bear (Denmark, France), Roger’s Hawkin’s The Legend of the Sky Kingdom (Zimbambwe), Chris Delaporte and Pascal Pinon’s Kaena, the Prophecy (France), Dario Picciau’s The Egg (Italy) and Toe Yuen’s My Life as McDull (Hong Kong) – fest attendees can also sample 50 eclectic short toons from around the world, watch acclaimed TV specials such as Rory Bresnihan’s Ape (Ireland) and Karsten Kiilerich’s Little Wolf’s Book of Badness. We recently caught up with the festival’s artistic director, Serge Bromberg, to get his take on the state of global animation:

Animag: How do this year’s entries compare to previous years?

Serge Bromberg: It is hard to tell. The quality and the diversity is still amazing, the films come from all over the world (we even have a feature film from Zimbabwe), and the artists are just as creative this year than the others. There is, perhaps, a bit more political content, due to the global economic situation and the aftermath of September 11th.

Animag: Do you see any trends in the features arena? What about the shorts?

Bromberg: Believe me, it is just impossible to compare last year’s grand prix for a feature film with any of the five in competition this time. Is there any connection with a film from Zimbabwe made with found objects, Kaena (the most sophisticated computer animation) and The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Bear? The only point in common between all those films is the personality of the authors, their dedication to complete the film they have dreamed, and their talent.

And there is no news on the technological front, except that artists of today like to mix techniques, and offer new, more “daring” visual cocktails. I am amazed that, during the pre-selection, we watched 12 hours of shorts per day for two weeks, and were still asking for more. What should be a burden is, in fact, a constant discovery of new ideas and talents. Which comes back to this credo that a festival is not made by the organizing company, but by the filmmakers themselves. And I believe this year’s edition will be quite full of surprises.

Animag: Do you think it’s easier to create more artistically valid animated projects in Europe that it is in the States? Why?

Bromberg: Actually, dueto the economic situation and the difficulties to find financing and outlets for the films, it is just as tough to produce here and there. But what I know is that something new happened with the war in Iraq: Today, it is hard to produce something politically incorrect, and politics is a word erased from the vocabulary of the broadcasters. And as the understanding of “politically correct” differs from one country to the other, there is films that could be produced here that will be only more difficult to produce in the U.S. And this is unfortunately true both ways.

Animag: Are the computer-generated animated features outnumbering traditionally animated projects at Annecy?

Bromberg: Yes, because films that do not use computer are becoming more rare. And no, because most of the time, computers are only used for coloring, or compositing. For example, Paul Driessen has used only computers in the last five years, but his style has not changed at all, and his films look similar to the time when he used only cels.

3D is a tool, just as cels, pens, paint, etc. And as the new animators come from school where they have learned all these techniques, there is no “new” or “old” technique for them: Each idea, each concept of film has its length, style, animation technique. And if the director chooses the wrong tool he will end with the wrong result, and the film will not work. What is true, however, is that for the first time, we received more films produced on video than films using the good old 16mm and 35mm format. Times change.

Animag: Can you comment on today’s animation world in general? What do you see as silver linings and what are the drawbacks?

Bromberg: There is more diversity and more choice for the audience with access to high-end media than ever before. Of course, we also see less intelligent productions on the television side.

Yet in the flow of productions today, which has been made easier by technology, there is always more and more good things to choose. Animation has become a language in itself, with its rules, its grammar, its style, and its audience. And this audience is growing faster than for any other kind of program.