The Annecy Animation festival continues to grow. David Jefferson reports on some of the films shown and the developments in computer technology.
The Annecy animation festival is regarded by many as one of the best in the world, certainly it must have the most picturesque setting of any film festival. Annecy is a lakeside holiday resort, surrounded by snow capped mountains, it is the perfect antidote to sitting in a darkened cinema watching animated films. Held every two years, the festival continues to grow and in some ways becomes more impersonal. However, it also comes up with some interesting innovations to offset this growth – this time it was nightly film shows in the park. A giant screen was set up on the lawn opposite the Bonlieu Centre which housed the festival. Each night as darkness fell a free film show of festival and out-of-festival films were screened.
The festival receives more entries each year and this time 997 films were screened for the three Selection Committees. There were 333 films selected for the competition and panorama including, for the first time, 85 commissioned films and TV films.
The Grand Prix went to Le Fleuve aux Grandes Eaux (The Mighty River) by Frédéric Back of Canada. This is the story of the Saint Lawrence river, the role it played in the history of Canada and the problems imposed on it by modern industrial life. When asked if the film might be a little long for the subject matter at 24-minutes Frédéric Back said, “Initially the film was going to be fifteen-minutes but people kept saying you should say this too, and add that, so it grew. It is not exactly a documentary it is an essay.”
The Special Jury Prize went to The Village by Mark Baker of the UK. This shows a few days in the life of an isolated village which viewed from the outside is a picture of peace and tranquillity. But the reality behind the scenes is slowly revealed.
Little Wolf by An Vrombaut of UK was awarded the Best First Film Prize and the Ministry of Agriculture Prize. It is the story about the moon, a pack of howling wolves and an eccentric sheep.
Best Feature Film prize was awarded to Porco Rosso by Hayao Miyazaki of Japan. This is a tale of chivalry in the skies above the Adriatic Sea as Porco Rosso fights the infamous sky pirate Curtis to prove his love. Hayao Miyazaki was born in 1941 in Tokyo where his father was in charge of an airplane factory. Hayao began his animation career in television and has now directed six features that made him a star in his own country. He was given a tribute at the festival with three of his films being shown. Many scenes in his films feature strange flying machines.
For the past ten years Annecy has charted the progress of computer animation. This year they created a whole exhibition which demonstrated and explained the methods and equipment being used in major animation studios. The exhibition was housed in the Chateau Museum of Annecy and continued throughout the summer to allow the many tourists who visit the town an insight into the technology that has changed the look of their TV screens.
In a seminar on computer animation Bill Kroyer, of Kroyer Films – USA, spoke about the production of Fern gully – The Last Rain Forest It is a story about the rain forests in Australia so to get background detail for the film they took the crew to the rain forest. Fern gully was conceived as a traditional style animated cartoon film although they used about 40,000 frames of computer animation. They did a portion of the movie with digital ink and paint, this was a two minute song sequence called the Batty Rap. They did the song late in the film and it had to go through quickly. They felt this was an ideal opportunity to try something different so they used an outside company to do the digital ink and paint. Bill Kroyer said the results were pretty close to the traditional ink and paint but they could see the difference. They are still working out how they are going to move into the digital arena because they believe it is the way things are going to go. “Right now it is difficult to find a system that will do a whole movie at that kind of quality, with the kind of money and production schedule most people have,” said Bill.
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