It's that time again - the Annecy Film Festival is back with all sorts of outstanding animation.
The Annecy Film Festival brings animators and artists together from all over the world to share incredible projects in one place. This is the oldest animated film festival in the world and still going strong in a new digital frontier.
In the 21st century, Animated projects take all kinds of shapes for all types of people. Animation is not just for children; it can be so much more. Some ideas are best expressed in this medium, where a concept becomes folded into the very fabric of the art or delivery method.
Annecy is the world’s most beloved animated film festival. It recognises the beautiful art that is animation and comes together each year to celebrate it. So let’s take a look at all which has been screened, announced, and discussed at Annecy Festival 2021.
Annecy Film Festival's Spotlight on African Animation
There are few areas in the world up-and-coming as quickly as Africa. A multitude of African countries are developing at an increased rate, culturally, socially, and economically. Seeing this growth, Disney Europe, Middle East, & Africa (EMEA) announced a pair of animated series from African creators, Kizazi Moto: Generation of Fire, Iwájú and Kiff.
“This year’s fest is about celebrating African animation” – Orion Ross, VP of Original Programming and animation, Disney EMEA.
Kizazi Moto: Generation of Fire
Kizazi Moto is a sci-fi anthology series that turns its eye toward the future of Africa through the eyes of the African people. The animation house Triggerfish are producing the 10-part series in Cape Town to air on Disney Plus in 2022.
The beauty of this series is that the objective is to capture the essence of a sci-fi future that is ostensibly African. This does not just refer to the usage of African voice actors in the cast. The unique flavour of the artistic flair, style, mythology, aliens, and more have all been moulded and crafted through the perspective of the African people making this project.
The styles, stories, and themes of this anthology series will differ, episode-to-episode. However, what will remain consistent is that native directors and creators build each piece of this programme. This is not a series of films made for children – it is an empowering delve into African culture through incredible artistic styles that represent the region, designed to be shared with all audiences from around the world.
Kizazi Moto comes from “kizazi cha moto”, – which translates directly into “fire generation”. In a way, this is exactly what the show is looking to capture; the spirit, innovation and passion of African filmmakers. Another notch in the bedpost of the growing genre of Afrofuturism, spurred on by the critically acclaimed Black Panther.
Another show in development by Disney is Iwájú. This upcoming animated television series is also being produced for Disney Plus, in association with the African entertainment company Kugali. The series is set in futuristic Lagos, Nigeria.
There is little knowledge about the plot of Iwájú, although it will look at the future of Africa as a way to explore themes of class, innocence and status quo that currently permeate African society.
What is significant about this upcoming show is that this represents a massive milestone for the Walt Disney Animation Studios. Iwájú is the first wholly original series from this studio – it is a totally new project and not a continuation of a pre-existing film. Disney is putting a great deal of faith in this new project, representing their appreciation for African culture.
Another greenlit animated programme coming from South African creators is Kiff. This is a musical show that is designed for children for release on Disney Channel. The series will follow the optimistic squirrel, Kiff, who always does her best! Although, sometimes, someone’s best efforts don’t always mean that chaos won’t ensue. Kiff and her best friend Barry, a cute and relaxed bunny, get into all kinds of shenanigans in digestible 30-minute episodes, each with original musical numbers.
We think this is an excellent example of a more traditional 2D animated property. While this may seem a little too normal to make a note of, I disagree! The normalcy of this animated programme showcases that African contributions to animation are becoming more commonplace. The world is approaching a point where this just happens. And that is awesome!
Inspiring film from around the world
While Africa is the focus of this year’s Annecy Animation Festival, that isn’t to say that there aren’t incredibly unique animations worldwide. Instead, there are all kinds of animated projects, each carrying signature styles from the hearts and minds of its creators. These showcase the incredible variety and opportunities that animation offers.
Even Mice Belong in Heaven
The enchanting stop-motion animation from directors Denisa Grimmova and Jan Bubenicek tells the story of two mortal enemies who become friends in the afterlife. These two being a fairly mild-mannered fox and a larger-than-life mouse – who both come to a premature end through a prank gone wrong.
This film has something for everyone in its conception. Many audiences will view the stop-motion style as a distinct and engaging animating form. In addition, animation savvy audiences will see the lineage of films that have inspired this one. Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Chicken Run; each of these stop-motion giants played a part in establishing this film, which is clear to see.
The beauty of the stop-motion animation form transcends typical storytelling. Although this film may not reinvent the wheel insofar as plot and characters are concerned, the charm of its art form shines through, regardless. The visual elements of this are stunning, with puppets and 3D CGI melding into something wonderfully unique.
Even Mice Belong in Heaven crosses cultures with its production. The production of this film is a joint venture across various European countries; Czech Republic, France, and Poland.
Écorce | Peel
Even before COVID-19, the Swiss-German illustrator and animation film director Samuel Patthey looked at isolation and loneliness. The short film, Peel, examines aged people in retirement homes to explore themes surrounding ageing and society’s treatment of the eldest of people.
Along with his co-director Silvain Monney, the two directors spent over a year at a Swiss retirement home, drawing images from the day-to-day happenings at the location. The movie aims to encapsulate the microcosm of a retirement home, a world unto itself, isolated from the broader context of society.
The film utilises analogue animation in its design (by this, I mean hand-drawings). The idea was to capture the essence of this place with minimal disturbances and annoyances. Cameras, lighting, filming; would have been detrimental to the authenticity of the scene. Patthey and Monney would go and sketch scenes to be scanned and animated later.
Peel managed to strike the right chord at the Annecy Film Festival. As the film about ageing and death managed to attain the highest award, the festival awards a short film: The Annecy Cristal for a Short Film.
Japan Sinks: 2020
There is a common misconception that animation is for children. Similarly, an unfair association exists between anime and mindless action-based cartoons for teenage boys. These Shōnen anime shows are doubtlessly the most popular genre; this is just a fragment of the storytelling potential of this animation format. It is just the tip of the iceberg.
Japan Sinks: 2020 is an excellent example of the uniqueness held by this medium. The film follows a pair of siblings, the Mutou siblings, as they escape Tokyo after a devastating earthquake hits Japan. The sinking Japanese archipelago makes this task all the more complicated. The two children’s strength to overcome adversity, combined with their affection for their family and friends, is all they have to pull through this natural disaster.
This Netflix original anime series is based on a novel Japan Sinks from the 1970s. Both the anime and book provide significant socio-political insight into Japan, a country situated on a destructive plate boundary resulting in devastating earthquakes throughout Japanese history.
The exploration of the heart of Japan is a centrepiece of this animation. The seriousness of the topic is bound to a heartwarming, inspirational story accentuated through the art direction of the anime. The show goes to some stressful, depressing places yet never falls short of hopefulness in the worst of times.
The Annecy Film Festival 2021 showcased the first episode, which won the Jury Award for the TV series category.
These are our top picks for the best animation at the Annecy Film Festival 2021. Did you watch the show? Join the conversation by dropping us a message on our Twitter account! We will see you all in 2022 for the next one!