Festival Report: Italy’s BergamoTOONS a Celebration of Laughter

bergamo-toons-150

The month of June ended on an animated note in northern Italy thanks to the inaugural edition of the BergamoTOONS Festival, which became “the world capital of cartoons” from June 22-24. A packed program of 39 events conceived by festival director Federico Fiecconi spread across the historic Lombardi town, offering free symposiums, screenings, events and exhibitions dedicated to animation. The event’s homebase at the University of Bergamo anchored the festival with introductory sessions, workshops and masterclasses for aspiring animators.

Animation Magazine’s publisher Jean Thoren was in attendance as a Special Guest and opening speaker at the BergamoTOONS conference. The magazine’s 30th anniversary was marked with a celebratory cocktail party.

Delivering the keynote address was Guest of Honor David Silverman, who directed the very first episodes of Matt Groening’s The Simpsons on The Tracey Ullman Show (1987). “We could not hope for a better guest of honor for the kick-off edition of BergamoTOONS.“David Silverman embodies, like no other, the key aspects of animation that we want to celebrate at the BergamoTOONS: an unbridled charge of irreverent and transgressive spectacularity,” said Fiecconi.

In addition to his animation career — in which he continues to direct for Simpsons having helmed The Simpsons Movie and co-directed Monsters, Inc. — Silverman is an accomplished musician who delighted attendees with an opening concert “Jammin’ The Simpson Way,” joining the Vent Symphony Orchestra to play scores from famous animated films. Silverman’s famous tuba reappeared for the closing Cartoon Party, where he played with the Claudio Angeleri Jazz Quartet.

Simpsons-mania was all over Bergamo, from a free outdoor screening of The Simpsons Movie (2007), projected onto the UNESCO World Heritage Site listed Venetian walls; to Friday’s “The Simpsons Day” festivities — “The Phenomenon of The Simpsons” panel with Silverman and Bolognese animator Silvia Pompei, “The Art Behind the Scenes of The Simpsons” exhibition, and The Simpsons: Silverman’s Marathon hand-picked screening in honor of the show’s 30th anniversary.

A common thematic thread of “humor” ran through the festival — a trait shared with acclaimed director and cartoonist Bruno Bozzetto, who serves as Honorary Chairman of the BergamoToons association. The Italian toon legend was celebrated with a gala presentation of his newly restored feature masterpiece, Allegro non troppo (1976) in the Donizetti Theater (where the original live-action scenes were filmed) which packed the house with a 500-person, sold-out audience. The modern art gallery GAMeC, meanwhile, hosted an original concept and production art exhibit, “Allegro, it’s animated art!,” followed by a screening of Marco Bonfanti’s documentary, Bozzetto non troppo (2016).

The Donizetti Theatre was also the venue for an artistic mash-up which highlighted the works of Italian-Bavarian cartoonist Joshua Held, featuring original animations created for the comic opera The Barber of Seville and The Journey to Reims.

In addition to The Simpsons and Animation Magazine’s milestones, the first BergamoTOONS toasted the 70th anniversary of Warner Brothers’ Daffy Duck, and the 50th anniversary of clever Croatian character, Professor Balthazar. Luckily, the evening TOONS Pub gatherings offered glasses to clink in their honor,  as well as food and live cartooning and animation demonstrations for late night entertainment.

The festival was capped by the presentation of awards to Special Guests Joshua Held, Silvia Pompei and Jean Thoren, Guest of Honor 2017 David Silverman, and Paolo Franco, President of Uniacque, who received the festival board’s prize for a company able to communicate effectively through the “language of animation.”