Destination: Animation

With numerous premieres, world-class panels and programs, the 2009 edition of the Annecy Festival and Market promises to be one of the most exciting animation events in recent memory.

The fortunate travelers who visit Annecy this month (June 8-13) will get a chance to enjoy a lot more than wonderful meals at lake-side restaurants and to leave gloomy economic news behind them at home. The 2009 edition of Annecy’s world-class animation festival promises to be another memorable celebration of the art form, packed with screenings of some of the world’s best shorts, TV projects, features, panels and exhibits planned to inspire and entertain fans and professionals alike.

‘It’s always very difficult to summarize the evolution of a festival from one year to the next,’ says Serge Bromberg, Annecy’s artistic director. ‘It’s like asking the captain of a huge steamship heading north will be heading in the next five minutes.’

Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death

With over 6700 attendees, 500 films from 63 different countries included this year, Bromberg says the goal is to continue the traditions of the past while exploring new trends and territories. ‘We have more films, more diversity, more feature-length projects,’ he notes. ‘The global economic crisis has not impacted the films we’ve seen yet, which is normal considering the time it takes to produce an animated short. Of course, we have five stereoscopic 3-D film presentations’and more digital projectors in the theaters to allow more 3-D screenings in the future.’

BLU’s Muto

Many are drawn to the beautiful Southeastern French town not only because of its top-notch events and screenings, but also for the general mood of the festival. ‘Annecy has something more of a celebration than just a festival feel to it,’ says Phillip Hunt, Studio AKA’s creative director whose beautifully animated TV special Lost and Found is running in the competition this year. ‘Although the competition provides a focus for approval and recognition, the main event is always the experience of screening your work in front of an audience who can be incredibly passionate in their response, and vocal too!’

Hunt’s fondness for the event extends to the picturesque town that hosts the festival. ‘The location and ambiance of the town and the lake certainly help to create a feeling that you are transported out of everyday studio life for a while and the gathering of so may animation creators from so many different fields within the medium is never less than fascinating,’ he notes. ‘I think many festivals have a unique signature and attitude which makes them a delight to attend, and Annecy is no exception, I’ve screened both student work and professional works in the festival and I’m nervous as hell ever!’

The Must List for 2009

‘ Take in some of the very eccentric European animated features that may never get wide releases. We’re talking small eccentric titles such as Sunshine Barry and the Disco Worms, Journey to Saturn, A Town Called Panic and Edison and Leo.

‘ The festival’s Works in Progress program allows you to check out some of the exciting new projects in the global toon pipeline. This year, you can find out more about cool new movies such as Joan Sfar and Antoine Delesvaux’s The Rabbi’s Cat, Chris Miller and Phil Lord’s Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs and Antoine Charreyron’s French epic The Night of the Children Kings to name a few.

‘ Be the first to learn about the exciting new incarnation of Gepetto’s famous wooden son in a behind-the-scenes discussion of Enzo d’Alo’s upcoming new movie, A Puppet Named Pinocchio.

‘ Check out the visual splendors of some of the art behind animated gems from Pixar (Up, Ratatouille), Studio Ghibli (Ponyo) and LAIKA (Coraline). There’s even a whole exhibit devoted to everyone’s favorite yellow optimist, SpongeBob SquarePants, who is celebrating his 10th anniversary this year!

‘ You haven’t really lived until you’ve seen a big animated feature projected on huge outdoor screen on a gentle spring night. Among the timeless classics getting the open-air treatment this year are Who Framed Roger Rabbit, The Three Robbers and James and the Giant Peach.

‘ Brush up on your knowledge of German animation in a special program devoted to the country’s artistic legacy. Another esoteric focus charts the interesting relationship between animation and dance. There’s a lot more to this than the dancing hippos of Fantasia!

‘ One of the best things about the festival is to take in a program of shorts and discover an obscure little gem made by an undiscovered talent. Another reason is to re-connect with the works of animators that you have loved and respected for years. Some of the ones to put on your list: Nick Park’s Wallace & Gromit: A Matter of Loaf and Death, Marc Craste’s Varmints, Cordell Barker’s Runaway, PES’s Western Spaghetti, Georges Schwizgebel’s Retouches, Osbert Parker’s Yours Truly, Chris Landreth’s The Spine, Jean-Christophe Lie’s L’Homme a la Gordini, Izu Troin’s The Wordcutter and BLU’s Muto.

‘ Keep your eyes peeled for toon world celebrity sightings late at night at the Scotch Bar or sitting by one of those fantastic cafes by the canals. The fellow drawing on the napkin at the table next to you could very well be Stephen Hillenburg, Bill Plympton, Rob Letterman, Henry Selick or Adam Elliot. Who knows’maybe even Brad Bird will autograph your baguette if you ask nicely.

Long Live Long-Format!

The following movies are part of the Annecy 2009′s Official Feature Selection Lineup. Thanks to journalist Monica Tasciotti for organizing this stellar schedule:

Battle for Terra (director: Aristomenis Tsirbas)

Boogie, el Aceitoso (dir: Gustavo Cova)

Brendan and the Secret of Kells (dir: Tomm Moore, Nora Twomey)

Coraline (dir: Henry Selick)

The Story of Mr. Sorry (dir: In-keun Kwak, Il-hyun Kim, Ji-na Ryu, Eun-mi Lee

Kurt Turns Evil (dir: Rasmus A. Silversten)

Mary and Max (dir: Adam Elliot)

Monsters vs. Aliens (dir:Rob Letterman, Conrad Vernon)

My Dog Tulip (dir: Paul and Sandra Fierlinger)