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The Golden Years of Annecy

John and Faith Hubley
John and Faith Hubley in Annecy

Cima Balser, the wife of animation director Bob Balser, has written a fantastic piece for AWN about the early years of the Annecy International Animation Festival. As much fun as it is to attend the festival nowadays, I can only imagine the excitement of those glory years when one could mingle lakeside with the likes of Bobe Cannon, Chuck Jones, John and Faith Hubley, Pete Burness, Bill Littlejohn, George Dunning, Peter Foldes, Yoji Kuri, and all the other greats of animation that I so admire. Cima’s article is one of my favorite historical reads in recent months, and she offers many wonderful stories about the festival that I’d never heard, such as this one about the Hubleys:

“That was the year that John and Faith Hubley showed their Of Stars and Men. We had noticed that the French audiences were not restrained in any way from showing their regard for each film. As well as wild applause, there were equally loud boos, and worse yet, the sound of stomping feet walking out and slamming the door as loudly as possible.

“Each filmmaker, when their film was projected, was obliged to sit in the balcony box, which we all rapidly named “The Hot Box,” and take a bow — to either applause or boos, and in this case the boos were heartbreaking. John and Faith bowed and then exited as quickly as possible. I still firmly believe this is one of the most important and beautiful animated films ever made, and we tried to assuage their deep disappointment, and assure them this was a film for all time. Alas, it has been forgotten, which is a loss to all of us.”

  • Blasko

    A small consolation for sure, but I certainly haven’t forgotten it. Far from the theatres of Annecy, I first saw the piece as a part of a DVD compilation of Hubley films, and it’s beautiful darknesses and organic forms of constellations and life made me feel like a child discovering the world again. I’ll be showing it to my daughter as well, so the fire of memory for this film isn’t quite extinguished — it’s just smouldering in places here and there. Perhaps one day these films will be rereleased with contextual comments by a qualified historian, and they’ll find a wider audience again.

  • OM

    …It’s a shame that John and Faith didn’t live long enough to fully reap from the knowledge and the realization that the French are not the bastions of quality that they make themselves out to be. After all, how can anyone take seriously the opinions of a nation who *still* think Jerry Lewis is funny?

  • Well, OM, I more or less agree with you, but the French also love Tex Avery. They know quality, they’re just really, really elitist.

  • Thirty years from now wisecracking animation people will be bemoaning how they long for the days when they could sit by the lakeside with the likes of Don Hertzfeldt, Richard Williams, Bill Plympton, Chris Landreth, Nick Park, Chris Hinton and Koji Yamamura.

  • Paul N

    Post a thread about two of the industry’s most revolutionary filmmakers, get petty, cliched France-bashing comments unrelated to the topic. Nice job guys – enjoy your freedom fries.

  • A reader

    I wonder if the Hubleys ever screened one of their many films at Annecy for a more appreciative reception, or was that their only experience?
    Seems to me it’s almost a rite of passage to be booed at a french film festival, whether it’s ay Annecy or Cannes(or both). No “bashing” from here, just know them to be a very involved audience!

    I’m surprised that any of their films would get a less than happy response in Europe-it’s here in the states that they were in a rareified minority of artistic animators in their day.