Mt. Head, Krumpet, McDull Big Winners at Annecy

The spirited closing ceremony of the 2003 Annecy Int’l Animation Festival saw a number of quality projects honored with unique, hand-made crystal sculptures but three productions walked off with top honors on Saturday night as the curtain closed on Europe’s biggest showcase of animated works. And while the week saw big premieres of new French features, it was accomplishments from Japan, Hong-Kong and Australia that won the hearts of the various juries.

Taking home the Grand Prix Annecy award was Koji Yamamura’s Oscar-nominated, hand-drawn 10-minute short Atama Yama (Mt. Head). A modern interpretation of the traditional Japanese Rakugo story of the same name, the piece is about a man who eats cherry seeds and later finds a cherry tree growing on top of his head. Soon, tiny people show up to enjoy the tree and torment the man. The bizarre, absurdly humorous and ultimately mind-blowing story is told with ink, paint and pencil on paper with the aid of 2D computer software.

Snatching the most awards was the 23-minute clay animated short Harvie Krumpet from Australian director Adam Benjamin Eliot. Produced and distributed by Melodrama Pictures Pty Ltd. this hilarious biography of an ordinary man seemingly cursed with perpetual bad luck won the Audience Award, the Short Film Special Jury Prize and shared the Press Jury Prize with Canadaian artist Simon Goulet’s brilliant 8-minute splashing paint montage titled Oïo. Eliot was on hand to accept the awards for Krumpet, noting “This is the third time I’ve been here and every time I come I get inspired by the wonderful work I see.”

A special screening of Sylvain Chomet’s Les Triplettes de Belleville may have been the biggest hit with the audience but there was no clear frontrunner in feature film competition, which included five very diverse works with their own special artistic merit. Famed independent animator and jury member Bill Plympton presented the award, noting that it was a tough decision but the jury was unanimous in its vote for Toe Yuen’s My Life as McDull. The slyly funny, personal and introspective film blends cel drawings, pastel on paper, pencil on paper, photos, cut-outs, 3D animation and live action footage to chronicle the everyday hopes and aspirations of a small pig living in Hong-Kong with his mother.

McDull beat out the beautiful and haunting cel animated Danish/French production L’enfant Qui Voulait Être un Ours (The Boy Who Wanted to Be a Bear) from director Jannik Hastrup, Dansk Tegnefilm Prods. and Les Armateurs; Zimbabwe’s first animated feature, The Legend of the Sky Kingdom from director Roger Hawkins and Sunrise Prods; the 3D, oil paint textured L’Uovo (The Egg) from Italian director Dario Picciau and Synthesis Int’l; and France’s first entirely computer animated feature, Kaena, La Prophétie (Kaena, the Prophecy), directed by Chris Delaporte and Pascal Pinon, and produced by Xilam, Studio Canal, Groupe TVA Inc.

In addition to announcing the feature film winner, Plympton treated the audience to a preview of his latest feature, Hair High, which may end up being his biggest commercial hit when it debuts in 2004.

In the short film category, the Jean-Luc Xiberras Award for a first film went to Ignacio Ferreras’ 2D work How to Cope With Death and Everet de Dijan’s CG short Car Craze was honored with Special Distinction.

Producer Cosgrove Hall and distributor Granada Int’l.walked off with Best TV series for the Albie episode “Quick on the Draw,” but the Grand Prix for TV production went to Verte (Green) from French producer Les Films De L’Arlequin and director Serge Elissalde. Distributed by Dargaud Marina, the gorgeously animated 2D show follows the adventures of an 11-year-old girl who is sent to her grandmother’s house learn witchcraft and how to win the affections of a schoolmate. Best TV special was awarded to the 2D Le Roi de la Forêt des Brumes (The King of the Cloud Forest) from French producer Les Films de L’Arlequin and director Jean-Jacques Prunès. Set in the 1930s, the special tells the story of a boy who flees the Sino-Japanese conflict with his uncle and ends up lost in the Himalayas where he is found by a tribe of yetis.

Sick and twisted won the day for projects produced for the internet. Kenn Navarro’s Flash series Happy Tree Friends won Best Internet Series for the episode “Eye Candy.” The Netsurfers Award was awarded to French director Nicolaï Chauvet’s Seigei Sentai Pinpin: Giant Red Poulp Attack (Flash) and Canadian filmmaker Craig Marshal’s Touch Me Now (Flash) won Best Internet Short Film.

Best School or Graduation Film was awarded to Kalina Vutova’s Pastel on paper, pencil on paper and 2D computer animated Sunday Evening from Bulgaria, with Special Distinction going to Aiju Salminen’s, Christer Lindström’s and Aino Ovaskainen’s stop-motion short Treevil from Finland.

For a complete list of winners and more information on the 2003 Annecy Int’l Animation Festival, visit www.annecy.org.