Harryhausen and Students Animate Annecy

Pressed for time between screenings, I want to quickly give you Animag readers a rundown of Annecy highlights. Opening night, during the first program of animated shorts in competition, the grand theatre at the Bonlieu complex was packed to the gills with a screaming crowd. As always the cheers for the Annecy mascot and theme film were deafening and a total blast. It isn’t often that you get to hear this much raw excitement over animation or the sight of a rabbit. The chants for “La Lapin” are more fun than any sporting event. (Although counting the number of paper airplanes that make it from the back of the house to the front really should be a recognized Olympic competition.) The cheers continued when it was announced that Roy Disney was in the audience to enjoy the films and see the first festival presentation of his exec produced cartoon, Lorenzo. Definitely a highlight of the fest so far, this gorgeous and very funny short is what animation is all about. (Stay tuned next week for my longer interview with director Mike Gabriel.) The other show stopper was definitely Chris Landreth’s Ryan, a psuedo-documentary about the life of animator Ryan Larkin, this CG stunner features a very evolved Landreth style. All the work we have gasped at in the past–in terms of beauty juxtaposed with ugliness–has developed into a new cinematic genius. Landreth not only has a way with storytelling but it’s hard to believe anyone knows his or her way around Alias’ Maya with more poetry.

In other notes, yesterday I had the honor of interviewing the great Ray Harryhausen, here for a special festival retrospective of his work. Again, I’ll post that longer Q&A upon my return, but let me tease you with the following quote. When asked about the everyday challenges of his craft, Harryhusen replied, “Stop-motion animation is hard for some people. James Cameron once told me that he experimented with stop motion in his early days and found it really tedious. I never found it tedious. I found it hypnotic, but then I guess I had a Zeus complex or a Frankenstein complex. Bringing a creature to life, you become like the ancient alchemists trying to make a homunculus, taking a mandrake root and using occult means to breathe life. So, with King Kong, the alchemists were RKO and the laboratorists were Willis O’Brien and Merian Cooper, and the music of Max Steiner, bringing all the elements into the cauldron. Together they made this beautiful humonculus, King Kong.”

And look at the time! King Kong is about to screen in 35mm on the big screen, gotta get in line with all those screaming animation students!