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Cartoon Movie Wrap-Up: Our Complex World Seen Through the Eyes of Artists

Cartoon Movie 2022
The Migrant / Trip to Teulada / Unicorn Wars

Festivals & Events


Cartoon Movie Wrap-Up: Our Complex World Seen Through the Eyes of Artists

Cartoon Movie returned as a live event to Bordeaux for the first time in two years, but the mood was tempered by the ongoing conflict in Ukraine — almost everyone present had colleagues or friends who were directly affected. From the opening keynote speeches to many heartfelt conversations, the plight of the Ukrainian people was foremost in people’s minds. And so when the trailer for the Alberto Vázquez film Unicorn Wars was shown during the preview session on the first morning, depicting an evil army of teddy bears invading a magical forest and slaughtering unicorns, but getting their comeuppance in gruesome hyper-violent ways, there was a big round of applause — a statement about the absurdity of war had never seemed so timely.

Another apt story about refugees was represented by Xilam’s The Migrant, a powerful thriller about a young woman’s journey from war-torn Syria to attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea in search of a better life in Europe. Directed by Kan Muftic, drawing on his personal experience fleeing from war, this looks to be popular with non-animation filmgoers too, especially given the unexpected supernatural twist in the plot.

Not all population displacement comes directly from war, and the French/Italian co-production Trip to Teulada contrasts the Syrian immigrant experience with a lesser known story of forced exile from a part of Sardinia taken over by NATO for military purposes in 1956. The filmmakers have put together watercolor backgrounds with traditional drawn animation to create an affectionate and nostalgic vision of times past.

Cartoon Movie

Mars Express / Little Allan: The Human Antenna / Porcelain Birds

Looking to times future is the much-anticipated Mars Express, Jérémie Périn’s love letter to Blade Runner, Total Recall and everything cool about science fiction. A slick film noir with action and robots, it looks like it won’t disappoint the growing fanbase eager to see it.

A less cerebral take on science fiction is the Danish comedy Little Allan: The Human Antenna, a 3D film which has a lot of jokes and visual gags but also touches on social issues. Directed by Amalie Naesby Fick and adapted from the original book by Line Knutzon and Peter Frodin, this is a family film that will get the audience laughing.

Mixing 3D characters with model backgrounds, Porcelain Birds also received a lot of attention. Aside from the combination of techniques being seamless, creating something that looks like stop-motion but without any limitations, the directing and writing team of Ru Kawahata and Max Porter have crafted a fish-out-of-water story about friendship, with fantasy elements and a dark subplot that will be intriguing and relevant to its young adult target market.

Cartoon Movie

Living Large / My Father’s Secrets / You’re Not the One I Expected

A more traditional stop-motion film, Living Large by Kristina Dufková is a tale of coming of age and self-acceptance, following a 13-year-old boy called Ben who struggles with his weight and the bullying that goes with it. Seeing all his schoolmates begin puberty and changing before his eyes, he tries to fit in better by dieting, which is not really the answer. Based on the book La Vie, En Gros by Mikaël Ollivier, it’s a thought-provoking yet funny film that touches on a lot of subjects close to teenagers and parents alike.

Attendees were also treated to a very early look at the next film from Claude Barras (My Life as a Zucchini), based on the graphic novel by Fabien Toulmé, entitled You’re Not The One I Expected, about a father coming to terms with his newborn daughter’s Down’s syndrome. This stop-motion film is going to tug at the heart-strings.

Another film based on a serious topic, but with an approach and visual style that makes it really accessible, was My Father’s Secrets, about acclaimed Israeli cartoonist and author Michel Kichka’s relationship with his father, a Holocaust survivor who refuses to discuss his horrific experiences in the concentration camps. Seeing it from his children’s point of view, and rendered beautifully in 2D with a crisp graphic novel line, it gives a fresh perspective on a harsh reality.

Cartoon Movie

Magical Friends / Mary Anning / Yuku and the Flower of the Himalayas

Not everything presented at Cartoon Movie is of a heavy subject matter, however, and Rémi Durin and Arnaud Demuynck’s Yuku and the Flower of the Himalayas is simply a joy to watch. Animated using Blender in 3D but with a 2D sensibility, this both looks beautiful and, with a plethora of catchy songs, sounds great too. Unashamedly for kids, and about a mouse who is questing for a flower that brings eternal light, this is pure escapism — although you may not be able to escape from the tunes once they’re in your head.

One of the many strengths of European animation is that it finds and tells stories that you wouldn’t normally be exposed to. Marcel Barelli’s Mary Anning is about the childhood of the eponymous 19th century palaeontologist who was a pioneer in fossil collecting and an expert in her field in a time when women were discouraged from such a career. And in Magical Friends, written and directed by Natalia Malykhina Bratli, we are introduced to a number of lesser known creatures from Norwegian folklore.

Cartoon Movie

Sidi Kaba and the Gateway Home / Nayola (top) / Starseed (bottom) / Sultana’s Dream

From a visual perspective also, Cartoon Movie shines a light on projects that have a look all of their own, from Anca Damian’s psychedelic Starseed to the gritty world of José Miguel Ribeiro’s Nayola. Sidi Kaba and the Gateway Home by Rony Hotin has a fresh and interesting style, which makes its story about slavery even more compelling. A particularly ambitious approach is taken by Isabel Herguera in Sultana’s Dream, which mixes three techniques for different stages in the story — watercolor, cut-out and mehndi.

This year’s Cartoon Movie event highlighted 57 projects from 19 different countries. Overall, there was such a variety of stories and ways of telling them, but also so many voices and perspectives. Yet, you get the feeling that European animation still has so much more to give. And you hope that future world leaders will see some of these films and become more empathetic and compassionate to their fellow human beings as a result.

Andy Blazdell is the CEO of popular animation software CelAction (

You can watch trailers for select projects in Animation Magazine‘s previous posts and read more about the trends and top projects at Cartoon Movie 2022 here.

Pre-recorded pitches are available to watch on the Cartoon Movie digital platform until March 31. Cartoon Movie 2023 will take place March 7-9.


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