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The 2016 Annecy International Animated Film Festival: What You Need to Know!

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(WRITER’S NOTE: The following is a long and detailed description of upcoming events at Annecy 2016. It’s less of an article and more of a brochure/booklet. If you just want a basic rundown of the major stuff, check out Max’s article in this link).

Introduction

It’s huge. It’s massive. It’s brain-breaking. It’s the closest thing that animation will ever get to having its own version of next month’s San Diego Comic-Con.

Yes, I’m talking about the Annecy International Animated Film Festival. One of the largest festival events in the world dedicated to the craft of animation. An event where, for one week in June, the entire animation industry descends upon a small lakeside town in Southeastern France for a cavalcade of screenings, competitions, keynote speeches, seminars, signings, work-in-progress panels, masterclass panels, themed programs, and much more.

Simply put, there will be a LOT going during Annecy 2016. Admittedly, more than me and Max might be able to cover as part of our coverage during the event. But whether or not you will be attending the event or keeping up with the news at home, this article should serves as an excellent primer for what’s to come this week.

Annecy’s History

First, a brief history lesson. The Annecy International Animated Film Festival first originated in 1960 (56 years ago) as the brainchild of a then-active film club from Savoie. Initially, the festival was held once every two years until 1998, when it became an annual event.

In 1985, the international animation film market (or MIFA) was established with help from Jack Lang, a French politician and former Minister of Culture. The 80’s in general was a time of great change for Annecy, as a newly-installed French government, changes to the festival and its film selection process and the arrival of new formats meant that Annecy would be pushed to the forefront of a strengthening market for global animation. Throughout the 80’s and into the 90’s, this led to a growth in participants and film submissions, a rise in the number of visiting professionals, an increase in media coverage, and the arrival of American film studios like Disney and Warner Bros.

In the 2000’s, Annecy would continue to flourish and develop into the festival event that we know it to be today. Once only a showcase for local talent, Annecy would evolve to become a melting pot celebration of all forms of animation. Two pivotal moments during this era proved as such: Roy Disney’s invitation as the honorary president for the festival’s 40th birthday, and the introduction of internet content as a category for selection in 2002.

French Animation: A Retrospective

Well then, now that we got the lesson squared out the way, let’s dive straight into the major events for Annecy 2016.

Each year, the festival honors a different country’s animation output as part of its programming. This year, Annecy will put a spotlight on itself for the first time ever as it hosts a 12-part retrospective on French animation. Having recruited a dozen different programmers to curate the event, the retrospective – titled “French Animation: The Mirror Effect” – will be themed around the different perceptions of French animation, as reflected by the contrasting visions of the programmers. Thematically, the event is designed to be “a reflection of how the rest of the world sees [French animation]…mirrors and prisms to present a fragmented and colorful kaleidoscopic image of animated filmmaking in France.”

The retrospective will draw upon the country’s rich history in TV animation, studios, independent filmmakers, and student projects. The event will take place throughout the week.

Screenings and First Looks

Of course, what would a film festival be without the screenings. At Annecy 2016, there’s plenty of them, both in-competition and out-of-competition. From full-length features to sneak previews of upcoming films, there’s a wide variety of content to be seen. For those attending in person, here’s a look at some of the biggest attractions.

Before the film hits theaters on July 22, you can catch an extended first look at Ice Age: Collision Course, presented by Blue Sky Studios and hosted by director Mike Thurmeier and producer Lori Forte, who will explain how they have expanded the Ice Age world with new characters and more over-the-top scenarios. (This event will be held on Tuesday, June 14 at the Pathe Gaumont theater).

In an Annecy Festival exclusive, Walt Disney Animation Studios will present never-before-seen footage from the upcoming animated fantasy musical Moana. The renowned directing duo of Jon Musker and Ron Clements will host the event.

Also premiering at the event is Inner Workings, the short film that will precede Moana and the directorial debut of Big Hero 6 and Wreck-It Ralph story artist Leo Matsuda, who will present the film alongside producer Sean Lurie. Created by a small team at WDAS and animated in a unique style that blends hand-drawn and CG animation, Inner Workings is already bound to be the next showstopper in Disney’s ongoing round of experimental short subjects. (This event will be held on Friday, June 17 at the Bonlieu Scene Nationale theater).

Animator Chris Prynoski (Megas XLR, Metalpocalypse, Motorcity) and his production company Titmouse will have a sizable presence at Annecy 2016, especially as they will use the event to promote what will be their first R-rated feature film effort.

For two days, Titmouse will host the first European premiere screening of Nerdland, a bizarre buddy-comedy focusing on the antics of 30-year-olds Elliot (Patton Oswalt) and John (Paul Rudd), the former an aspiring screenwriter and the latter an aspiring actor, as they go on an adventure to achieve their dreams of Hollywood stardom in a warped version of LA. Originating from a screenplay by Andrew Kevin Walker and directed by Chris Prynoski himself, Nerdland is a don’t-miss event for both Titmouse faithfuls and fans of indie animation in general. (This event will be held on Tuesday, June 14 at the Bonlieu Scene Nationale theater, and again on Wednesday, June 15 at the Bonlieu Theater (small room). It’s worth noting that this event is for mature audiences only.)

Illumination Entertainment held its world premiere of Minions at Annecy 2015, weeks before it landed in theaters on July 10. This year, the NBCUniversal-owned animation unit is repeating that strategy with another offering. The Secret Life of Pets will hold its world premiere at Annecy 2016, well before the film launches into the cineplex on July 8. Directors Chris Renaud and Yarrow Cheney will host the screening.

This event will be held on Thursday, June 16 at the Bonlieu Scene Nationale theater.

Open-Air Screenings

Another key staple of Annecy are the open-air screenings, where you can experience an animated movie or short film on the Paquier lawn in an outdoors environment with the rest of the crowd (think drive-in screenings, but without cars). The films screening this year are: April and the Extrodinary World, DOFUS – Book 1: Julith, Finding Nemo, Ice Age, Mune: Guardian of the Moon, Boy and the Beast, The Triplets of Belleville, and Zootopia are just a few of the films that will be shown over the course of the week.

Signing Sessions

Signings are a major part of big events like San Diego Comic-Con. Likewise, Annecy 2016 will have its own span of signing sessions throughout the week, featuring big names from across the wide spectrum of the animation industry. All of them will take place at the Bonlieu-Forum Center. Some of these signings are as follows.

Monday, June 13 (today)

Robot Chicken architects Zeb Wells, Matthew Senreich, and Tom Root will have a signing session.

Tuesday, June 14

Kendal Cronkhite, production designer on DreamWorks Animation’s Trolls, will have a signing session. More Annecy info on Trolls later.

Michael Thurmeier and Lori Forte (Ice Age: Collision Course) will have a signing session.

Wednesday, June 15

Genre filmmaker Guillermo Del Toro (Trollhunters) will drop by on Wednesday, June 15 for a signing session. More Annecy info on Trollhunters later.

Peter Lord and David Sproxton (of Aardman fame) will host a signing on Wednesday, June 15. More Annecy info on their event later.

Brad Lewis, producer of Warner Animation Group’s upcoming film Storks, will have a signing session on Wednesday, June 15. More Annecy info on Storks later.

Thursday, June 16

Tom McGrath, director of DreamWorks Animation’s upcoming film The Boss Baby, will have a signing session on Thursday, June 16. More Annecy info on The Boss Baby later.

Friday, June 17

Director Andrew Stanton and Producer Lindsey Collins (Finding Dory) will do a signing session.

Chris Prynoski and Antonio Canobbio (Nerdland) will have a signing session.

Jon Musker and Ron Clements (Moana) will have a signing session.

Leo Matsuda and Sean Lurie (Inner Workings) will have a signing session.

Work-In-Progress Sessions

If Annecy 2016 is the animation industry’s San Diego Comic-Con, then the work-in-progress sessions are the festival’s big panel sessions (as are MIFA’s Focus Studio sessions, but we’ll get to those later). A relatively new feature of the festival (started in 2014), you not only get to learn more about that upcoming animated movie you’re so excited about, but you also get to experience an intimate deep-dive into the production process of an animated film, using said animated film as a physical reference.

This year, DreamWorks Animation joins the pack with a work-in-progress panel centered around their upcoming film Trolls. Production designer Kendal Cronkhite will be the speaker.

Another hotly anticipated project (at least internationally) will also be presented with a work-in-progress session: Zombillenuim, the animated adaptation of French artist and animator Arthur de Pins’ comic series of the same name. He, along with producer Henri Magalon and writer Alexis Ducord will serve as speakers.

New this year is the addition of work-in-progress panels based on upcoming animated TV shows.

The biggest attraction of that juncture is the upcoming Adult Swim reboot of Samurai Jack, with whom creator Genndy Tartakovsky is bringing to Annecy 2016 as speaker for its work-in-progress session.

Fans of the watercolor-style renderings of Earnest and Celestine will also be delighted to hear that that film’s co-director will bring his newest project The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales to Annecy 2016 with producers Didier Brunner and Damien Brunner as speakers.

Masterclasses

Masterclasses are, in many ways, the meat and potatoes of Annecy 2016. It’s where aspiring professionals in the field can get up close and personal with a seasoned veteran as he or she speaks their mind on subjects related to the field of animation.

In terms of big attractions, you can’t get any bigger than this: a masterclass hosted by legendary cartoonist John Kricfalusi (or John K.), the man who pioneered ‘creator-driven’ cartoons in the late 80’s and early 90’s with Migthty Mouse and Ren & Stimpy, and redefined what modern animation could look like. During the presentation, Kricfalusi will premiere footage from his Kickstarter-funded short film Cans Without Labels, as well as showcasing a number of rarely-seen cartoons directed. He will also talk about (and show clips from) his influences for being an cartoonist. This masterclass will be presented by Marcel Jean, the festival’s artistic director. (This event will be held on Friday, June 17 at the Bonlieu Theater (small room)).

(NOTE: Kricfalusi announced last-minute that Cans Without Labels won’t be ready in time for the presentation).

Another big showstopper of a masterclass will be one delivered by a giant of genre filmmaking and storytelling: Guillermo Del Toro. Presented by Variety’s chief film critic Peter Debruge, Del Toro will reflect on his prolific career in film, television, and books. The presentation will eventually be capped off with a first look at footage from the upcoming DWA-Netflix series Trollhunters. (This event will be held on Wednesday, June 15 at the Bonlieu Scene Nationale theater).

Keynotes

Everyone loves a good keynote speech, right? Good, because there are going to be plenty of those at Annecy 2016. Again, another ‘meat and potatoes’ part of the festival where you get to hear the stories of the pros and their rise in the industry from their own perspective, as well as their thoughts on where the industry is today and where it may be headed tomorrow.

Aardman turns 40 this year, and co-founders Peter Lord and David Sproxton celebrate the occasion by hosting a keynote speech that retraces a long and illustrious journey for them and their company, from when they first began their animating partnership in school, to where they are right now. A must-see event for any stop-motion fan! (This event is moderated by Variety’s Peter Debruge and is being held at the Bonlieu Theater (small room) on Tuesday June 14).

Few animation companies do mutli-media franchising quite like Ankama. Their latest project, DOFUS – Book 1: Julith is not just an animated movie. It is also a comic book, an art book, a board game, and it originates from their online MMO, where you can access exclusive links and content related to the movie.

Ankama’s co-founder and CEO, Anthony Roux, will hold a keynote that talks about the recent release of DOFUS – Book 1: Julith, the company’s transmedia strategy and how they balance marketing and creativity, in addition to writing a video game movie that appeals to general audiences without betraying the longtime fans. The event is moderated by Patrice Carre, a journalist for the weekly film magazine Le Film Francais (or The French Film). (The event will be held at the Bonlieu Theater (small room)).

MIFA

Before we get into other major events (and yes, there are more, particularly from the big studios), let’s take a detour to talk about another big thing that’s happening. MIFA is an animation market that runs alongside the festival (June 15 to June 17). It is the single biggest platform in the world for aspiring students to show off their work and it is the largest and greatest opportunity for studios to discover rising talents and future stars in the world of animation. Out of the 8,000 people who will be attending Annecy 2016, over 2,700 are scheduled to attend MIFA, among them 555 exhibitors from 63 countries.

At MIFA, you can organize or apply for recruitment sessions (I believe Pixar and DreamWorks Animation will be doing some hiring rounds!). They also have what’s called a ‘video library’, where prospective buyers can screen content and have a direct contact with content producers, who in turn can analyze viewing figures and find out what distributors think about their productions.

Like with Annecy, there is plenty to do at MIFA. Pitch sessions are where content makers can directly present their unfinished projects to buyers for distribution and funding. Focus Studio sessions are where participants can find out about the creative and technical process of working within the studio system. There are also special events with industry professionals, press conferences with French animation studios and youth channels for major TV groups, and much, much more. If you are a studio looking to groom the next generation of animation giants or you are somebody who wants to be the next animation giant, this is the place to be.

Focus Studio panels

Believe it or not, there is more stuff that will be happening at Annecy 2016. As we’ve seen earlier, most of the major studios will be out in full force this week (DreamWorks Animation and Pixar in particular will have a massive presence) Those Focus Studio sessions I talked about earlier? That appears to be where most of those studios will discuss their upcoming projects and the process behind making them. So as far as that stuff is concerned, here’s a look at what else will be going on at Annecy 2016 (all of these events will take place at the Salle Piere Lamy theater).

Ever since The LEGO Movie in 2014, Warner Animation Group has quickly risen to become one of the most exciting new studios in feature animation. For their first major appearance at the festival, WAG will bring their upcoming animated feature Storks to Annecy 2016, where producer Brad Lewis will present an exclusive first look at footage from the film. (The event takes place on Tuesday, June 14.)

One of DreamWorks Animation’s upcoming 2017 features is The Boss Baby, an adaptation of Marla Frazee’s award-winning children’s book and starring Alec Baldwin as the title character. Director Tom McGrath will discuss the story process and artistic development of the film, described as a fantastical comedy about a very ‘bossy’ new member of an ordinary family. The event will take place on Thursday, June 16.

Patricia Hidalgo is the SVP (senior vice-president) and the Chief Content and Creative Officer of Kids EMEA and International Kids Strategy at Turner Broadcasting Stystem’s European branch. Tramm Wigzell is the Vice-President of Multi-Platform Development at Cartoon Network Studios. Together, with Haley Mancini (staff writer on the new Powerpuff Girls) and animator Kyle Carrozza (Mighty Magiswords), they will bring three of Cartoon Network’s biggest shows to Annecy 2016. Mancini and Carrozza will dicuss the creative process behind their respective shows, followed by a sneak peak at the making of the Ben 10 reboot. (This event will occur on Thursday, June 16).

Nickelodeon is another TV animation giant that will join the fray, but they won’t be showing bringing any of their current or upcoming shows. Instead, Nina Hahn (SVP of development at Nickelodeon International) and James Stephenson (Head of Animation and Games) will have a candid discussion on the creative, technical, and business aspects of how Nickelodeon develops and produces content for kids around the globe. (This event will occur on Wednesday, June 15).

Of course, you can’t talk about a wave of major studios holding major events at Annecy 2016 without mentioning Walt Disney Animation Studios. For their Focus Studio session, a group of animators, artists, and creative thinkers will provide a glimpse into daily life at WDAS as they continuously work in concert to bring your favorite stories and characters to life. (This event is scheduled for Tuesday, June 14.)

In Summary + Extra Resources and Links

That’s about it for all of the big stuff that’s happening at Annecy 2016. But keep in mind: this still isn’t everything. What I’ve written so far doesn’t even account for the massive volume of indie/international stuff that will also be held during the festival. That’s not a bad thing, as it just goes to show you how far Annecy has come since 1960 and how much it will continue to grow and evolve in the years to come, especially as animation is now starting to gain recognition as a profitable sector of the entertainment world.

If you are attending Annecy 2016 in person, I urge you to stay safe, have fun, and enjoy all the good stuff that this festival has to offer, whether you are a fan of the major studios or a follower of indie icons! Be sure to check the official website for more info on times, scheduling, and locations.

For those at home, our coverage of Annecy 2016 begins today. Be sure to follow this link for news and reports as they come throughout the week! Be sure to also check this link for live coverage straight out of the festival (with photos, drawings, videos, and more).

What do you think? Are you going to follow along with us for Annecy 2016? What event are you looking forward to the most?

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About Brandon Smith

Brandon is your average nerd with a love for nerdy things (games, comics, anime/manga, etc.). He also loves reading and writing and plans to be an author someday. For now, he writes with passion and curiosity about the world of animation. He lives with his family in North Carolina and is currently attending college.