The New York International Children’s Film Festival is quickly becoming a stage setter for independent and international animated films here in the U.S. This fact has never been more evident than in this year’s slate, which is being presented in New York City from February 27-March 22.
Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet (Roger Allers, Tomm Moore): The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran, is among the most popular volumes of poetry ever written, selling over 100 million copies in forty languages since its publication in 1923. The timeless verses have been given enchanting new form in this painterly cinematic adventure about freedom and the power of human expression. Written and directed by Roger Allers (The Lion King), the film intersperses Gibran’s elegant verses with stunning animated sequences by Festival favorite filmmakers Tomm Moore (The Secret of Kells), Nina Paley (Sita Sings the Blues), Bill Plympton (Guide Dog), and a host of award-winning animators from around the world. Featuring the voices of Liam Neeson, Salma Hayak, and Quvenzhané Wallis, and music from Damien Rice, Glen Hansard, and Yo-Yo Ma.
Best of Aardman Shorts
Wallace and Gromit Shorts
The King and the Mockingbird (Re-Mastered)
Feature Films with Multiple Screenings
Hocus Pocus Alfie Atkins: Academy Award® winning director Torill Kove’s first feature film is a refreshingly warm and intimate tale based on beloved children’s book character Alfie Atkins. Seven-year-old Alfie dreams of owning a dog, but his father insists that he is too small for such a big responsibility. Undaunted, Alfie finds an unlikely ally in George, a kindly magician who performs tricks for the neighborhood kids and has just adopted a puppy of his own. Lovingly animated with thoughtful, honest character interactions, Hocus Pocus offers an emotionally and visually rich cinema experience for audiences of all ages.
Jellyfish Eyes (Live Action and Animation): Pop art superstar Takashi Murakami makes his feature film debut with a campy, genre-defying adventure that mixes lo-fi Japanese disaster movie, new kid-on-the-block coming-of-age story, and Pokémon-style anime with a delirious abundance of wonderfully imagined magical creatures. Setting Murukami’s fantastical animated designs in an otherwise live action film, Jellyfish Eyes tells the story of Masashi, a young boy who moves to a sleepy town in the Japanese countryside in the wake of a natural disaster.
Moomins in the Riviera: Sixty years ago, when Finnish author and illustrator Tove Jansson launched the Moomin comic strip, little did she know it would reach 20 million daily readers in more than 40 countries. In celebration of her 100th birthday, French director Xavier Picard brings Jansson’s carefree and adventurous Moomin family to life. With delicately animated characters set within beautifully designed and colored backgrounds, the comic’s traipsing story lines are translated to the screen with just the right amount of absurdity and humor.
Mune (3D): A world of wonder, magic and mythology is the setting in this sumptuously animated CGI adventure about a land divided between the realms of day and night. As legend has it, the first Guardian of the Sun threw a harpoon into the cosmos and roped the sun to bring light and warmth to all of humanity. Then the Guardian of the Moon lured the moon to the Land of Darkness to provide a balance to the sun and supply the world with dreams. At a momentous ceremony to appoint the two new guardians, an accident seems to occur; the heir apparent is passed over, and the title Guardian of the Moon is bestowed on the waif-like Mune, a small and frightened forest faun who seems wholly unprepared to take on such a weighty responsibility.
Satellite Girl and Milk Cow: Festival award-winning Wolf Daddy director Chang Hyung-yun has created a wholly original, exuberantly outrageous, sci-fi love story unlike anything before it. An orbiting, out-of-commission female satellite picks up a lovelorn pop song on its radio antenna and descends to Earth to try to discover who could be the source of such heartfelt emotions. On the way, it is transformed into the titular Satellite Girl, complete with Astroboy-like rocket shoes and weapon-firing limbs, while the balladeer in question — a loser twenty-something playing at an open mic in a coffee shop — meets the fate that befalls all broken-hearted lovers: he is turned into a farm animal (albeit one who can walk around in a poorly-fitting human suit).
Wolfy, The Incredible Secret: Though they’re from opposite ends of the food chain, Wolfy and Tom (a wolf and rabbit, respectively) are best friends. Wolfy has always believed he was an orphan, until one day a gypsy tells him that his mother is still alive in the distant dynasty of Wolfenberg, Land of the Wolves. Despite his fear, Tom agrees to accompany his friend as they venture far from their peaceful countryside home. They arrive in the midst of Carne Festival— a grand meeting of the world’s most renowned carnivores — and Wolfy’s quest for self-discovery quickly turns into Tom’s quest for survival. This beautifully animated film is based on the wildly popular French children’s book series LouLou from writer and director Grégoire Solotareff.
These are only a few of the films that will be screened at the New York International Children’s Film Festival, tickets for which you can find online, though some events have been sold out. Seeing as how only a small percentage of films get distribution deals via festivals, this is an incredible opportunity to check out these lesser known independent and international films.
If you were to choose one of these films for distribution, which would it be? Will you be attending the festival?
Mayra Amaya is a Theater graduate from Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ where she also learned filmmaking. Amaya now resides in Brooklyn, NY where she works as an actor, writer and sandwich maker. You can follow her on Twitter (@amayasunwizard).