Fireman, Robbie, Ratz and Other Small-Screen Wonders at Annecy

With so many great films to take in here at the Annecy Int’l Festival of Animation, the TV in my hotel room has seldomly switched on. It’s all in French and German anyway, and I understand very little of either. But since animation is that other international language, I have enjoyed watching the television projects in competition a lot.

This year’s selections represent a wide range of sensibilities and a variety of animation styles. A surprising audience favorite so far has been Atash Neshan (Fireman) from Iran. Directed by Ravanbakhsh Sadeghi and produced and distributed by Saba Animation Company, the CG series centers on a helpful fireman who rescues people when fires break out and accidents happen. In each instance, before riding off into the sunset, our hero sings a song that teaches kids about safety precautions. The computer animation is a little on the rudimentary side, but it’s fun to look at and the show has a silliness, intentional or not, that audiences seem to really respond to.

Another show that struck funny bones is Robbie The Reindeer: Legend of the Lost Tribe, directed by Peter Peake and produced and distributed by BBC Animation, Bristol. This stop-motion special has Robbie happen upon a group of diminutive Vikings living in seclusion. He eventually enlists their help to foil the latest scheme of baddie Blitzen, who is released from jail and has special reindeer games planned for his fellow sleigh-pullers. Great animation and truly funny moments make this film a stand-out. It even manages to get big laughs from moments of all-too-common Star Wars spoofing.

On the 2D side, the Ratz episode "Salut Ma Poule" ("Hi Chick") was also well received. Directed by François Reczulski, produced by Xilam and distributed by Igloo Enterprises, the graphic-style toon has Benny bring a live chicken dinner on board the ship only to have Razmo attempt to set it free by devising various ways of helping it fly.

Among the other 2D stand-outs is Claude Allix’s Marcellin Caillou (Harold Pebble), a special about a young boy who is teased for his constant blushing until he finds a friend in a boy who cannot stop sneezing. The hand-drawn picture book-style animation is beautiful in its simplicity and the characters are very endearing. The special is produced by Storimages and distributed by Darguard Marina.

Two more slates of television projects have yet to screen. Included will be episodes of Cartoon Network’s Home Movies from Soup2Nuts Prods., Nickelodeon’s As Told By Ginger from Klasky Csupo and Martin Matin, produced by Les Cartooneurs Associés, Fantasia Animation, France 3 and TELETOON.