The biannual International Animated Film Festival, held in June in Annecy, France, is regarded by many as the greatest animation show on earth. David Jefferson reports.
Annecy ‘87 may become known as the year of the electronic invasion. Computer and video imagery were there in force, partly reflecting a change in the industry and partly a change in the rules of entry. This year they widened the categories to include ‘2D computer animation’ and ‘3D computer animation’.
The result was a mixed bag of offerings. Dim video projected images were competing for our attention and favours, against the comparable brilliance of film presented on a large cinema screen.
When it came to choosing the award winners, opinion came down firmly on the side of animation created with good old fashioned pencils and paper, wire and glue. With one notable and well deserved exception, computer animation has a long way to go, but more of that later.
Britain was strongly represented in the competition and did very well when it came to collecting awards.
Joanna Quinn won the hearts of everyone, and three awards, with her saucy romp Girls Night Out, in which men play a secondary role to a group of factory women enjoying each others company at the pub.
Another film made from the feminine point of view was The Black Dog by Alison de Vere, which also won three awards. This had a much gentler pace than Joanna Quinn’s film although the heroine was also enjoying a night out. She has an amorous encounter but finds the next morning she is expected to pay for her fun.
In complete contrast the three award-winning films from British male directors dealt with the male dominated areas of war and newspapers. Life after the bomb is no life at all, that is the serious message delivered by When The Wind Blows. The director Jimmy T. Murakanii was awarded the feature film prize.
Phil Austin and Derek Hayes warned about the experimental use of drugs to make soldiers fight harder, in The Victor.
The Guardian “Puppets” by Peter Lord and David Sproxton uses clever figure animation to sell newspapers. It won the commercial prize.
A film from Ireland by Aidan Hickey, An Inside Job, confirmed all our worst fears about a visit to the dentist. It won the fitness and sport prize.
The most popular film at the festival was The Man Who Planted Trees directed and animated by Frédéric Back of Canada. This half- hour tour-dc-force was animated by one man working for five-and-a-half years, and every minute of that work showed on the screen. It tells the story of a simple shepherd who transforms a wilderness into an area of beauty by planting acorns and seeds to create a natural forest.
The style is best described as a moving sketchbook created with coloured pencils. The screen was alive with movement at all times, creating the feeling of windswept hillsides. Later, the windblown trees were explored in all their glory through the seasons. The heart of the story is the unselfish toil of a simple shepherd who dedicated his life to the trees, continuing against all odds.
At the end of the final screening Frédéric Back took a five minute standing ovation. The film was awarded the Prize of the Public and the Grand Prix.
The exceptional computer animation mentioned earlier was Luxo Jr. by John Lasseter of the USA. Lasseter spent five years at the Walt Disney studio before moving on to the Pixar Computer Animation Group and his experience shows in this short film. Two angle poise lamps act out a touching scene, the young lamp having all the vitality and fun associated with a puppy. Lasseter gave a lecture on the background to this film during the Annecy Festival and we plan to print a summary of this in the next issue.
Two other American films won prizes. A trailer for MTV, M – Mollusk by Carl Willat, received the prize for station idents. The Mysterious Tadpole by Michael Sporn, in which a birthday gift to young Louis grows into the Loch Ness monster, was awarded the prize for family entertainment.
The following interviews were conducted at press conferences held during the Annecy Festival. The questions were put by members of the audience. The biographical notes are from the official Annecy ‘87 programme booklet. We will be covering more of the films and filmmakers in the next issue.
Girls Night Out – Joanna Quinn
It is Beryl’s birthday, and her workmates take her out for a drink at a pub which has a male stripper.
The director, Joanna Quinn, was born in 1962 in Birmingham, England. She studied at Middlesex Polytechnic in London and has been a member of Chapter Film Workshop in Cardiff since 1985.