Sunday, June 15, 2008

An amazing week in France

Even though the short films competition wasn’t that strong, this year’s Annecy Festival was one of the best festival experiences ever. The animation community is clearly alive! It was proven that even a discipline like animation has its superstars. Everybody who wanted to get a ticket for Pixar’s Presto premiere (I didn’t get one and thus did not see the film) or the Simpsons Extravaganza (I was lucky this time) knows what I’m talking about. To see people standing in line for several hours “just” to get an autograph by Dick Williams or Matt Groening was quite an unusual experience.

But for me the absolute highlight in any category was John Canemaker’s presentation of The Art and Life of Winsor McCay! It was nothing less than a revelation.
If ever you thought that Gertie the Dinosaur (1914) was just a silly old hat every animation student has to sit through, wait till you see Canemaker presenting it the way it was meant to be shown – as a vaudeville act with live musical accompaniment (Serge Bromberg on the grand piano on stage). Of course the great historian also managed to comment on the historical process at the same time as encouraging the audience to participate in the act.

A day later, there was a so-called Meeting Event where Canemaker not only spoke about difficult subject matter in animation (such as incest, kids with cancer) but also analyzed two sequences from Fantasia (1940). He pointed out in what amazingly little time a great animator could show the thought process of a character very clearly. He also talked about the importance of exaggeration in squash and stretch even in such “realistic” animation like Tytla’s Mountain Devil. While answering questions on all kinds of topics he provided hilarious imitations of Bela Lugosi and Margaret Winkler. He didn’t even lose his patience when a lady in the audience asked a rather complex question and then left the room during the answer to make a phone call.

The Simpsons Extravaganza with hosts Matt Groening and David Silverman was pure entertainment as one can imagine. It started with a standing ovation and ended with a Q&A. Inbetween there were clips and facts galore. I also attended the Pixar Renderman presentation that included a lecture by Doug Sweetland about the “non-computer” work of pre-production at Pixar. A special treat was an improvised screening of the final hand-drawn animatic.

While I have seen all of the short films and student films in competition, I have only seen five features of which I will comment only on Idiots and Angels and the winner Sita sings the Blues.

If I had to prepare just one program of short films based on what I saw in Annecy it would probably look like this:

  1. Tot ou tard 5:00
  2. Like me only better 5:20
  3. La Main de l’Ours 4:30
  4. Meorot 4:20
  5. My Happy End 5:10
  6. Time is running out 6:35
  7. Passe-Vite 2:00
  8. The Bellringer 3:51
  9. City of Lights 4:36
  10. La queue de la souris 4:09
  11. Doxology 6:10
  12. La maison en petits cubes 12:03
  13. Operator 1:50
  14. Death by Scrabble 5:42
  15. KJFG No5 2:10
  16. Skyzhein 13:40

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