Animation Festival Bristol ‘89

By David Jefferson

The biennial International Animation Festival Bristol took place in November 1989. It is the second time the Festival has been held in Bristol and this year’s event was the best yet in terms of attendance and interesting events.

The theme of the festival was ‘Tricks of the Trade’. This central theme was developed by a number of workshops, lectures, seminars and an exhibition, as well as a superb choice of film programmes. The festival director, Irene Kotlarz and her team are to be congratulated on getting it just right. All the season tickets were sold by the first day and the cinemas in the Watershed Media Centre and the Arnolfmi Gallery played to packed houses.

Among my favourite film programmes was ‘The Alison de Vere Story’ which presented a retrospective of this talented British animator. Alison attended the screening and spoke modestly of her work which has won numerous accolades at festivals around the world.

A programme entitled ‘New From Abroad’ brought together some interesting work. Pencil Test was made on an Apple Macintosh II computer by Nancy Tague and Ken Turkowski, USA. The film follows the adventures of a pencil that comes to life, and is a fine demonstration of how far ‘office’ computers have evolved in graphic ability. In and Out by David Fine and Alison Snowden, Canada, is a beautiful slice of life symbolized by a man and woman on a wedding cake. The birth to grave story is told with gentle humour, understanding and an optimistic view of marriage. Balance by Wolfgang Lauenstein and Christof Lauenstein, West Germany, is a puppet film that creates an incredible amount of suspense. Five men stand on a floating platform, where the slightest move causes the platform to tip and weight must be redistributed to keep it level. When a mysterious trunk is landed on the platform a game of balance and counterbalance ensues as each person tries to gain possession of it. Amerlock by Jacques-Remy Girerd, France uses plasticine animation to poke fun at the great legends of the United States. The Writer by Paul Driessen, Netherlands, creates a pictorial universe where death strikes with the regular thump of the Grim Reaper’s scythe. Stylish animation and sound effects combine as an old man writes his story in the shadow of his fate.

Amerlock by Jacques-Remy Girerd.

Student animation was presented in two programmes entitled ‘The Final Year 1 & 2’. I enjoyed the vitality of Egoli by Karen Kelly, RCA, which used paint and pastel on a black background to tell of the suffering of African gold miners. On The Rail To Europe by Sarah Kennedy, RCA, used puppets to tell the rude adventures of two girls on holiday in Spain. Little Deuce Coupe by Simon Gasgin, Middlesex Poly, is a puppet film set in the 60s mid-West, which recreates the atmosphere of American youth films. A college boy races his car against that of the local bully to impress a girl.

Ahira by Kitsubiro Otomo, Japan.

The feature film Akira by Kitsuhiro Otomo, Japan, was shown six times during the festival and created a cult following as the week progressed. Realistic comic style animation depicts the adventures of young motorcycle gang in a futuristic Tokyo. The action is fast and the storyline very adult.

A superb exhibition was staged in the Watershed Gallery where a puppet animation studio was recreated by Aardman animation. It was so good I would suggest it deserves to be on permanent display in one of Britain’s media museums. Also on display, a scale model of a school interior, used by Snapper at MGMM on their latest Smarties commercial. A continuously repeating video of the commercial allowed one to see how live action camerawork was combined with computer generated animation.

A very constructive trade show put the emphasis on live demonstrations of equipment and services. Chromacolour, EOS Electronics and International IMC Ltd were each demonstrating the respective merits of their computerised line test equipment. Films of Bristol gave an impressive demonstration of sound track laying using their £250,000 Synclavier music system. On the Sullivan Bluth Studios Ireland Ltd. stand Veronica Carroll of Public Relations and Annabelle Conway of Personnel, were working to recruit both animators and customers for the studio.

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